Monday, September 12, 2016

September, in part...

 September! Oh glorious September!! You have been so, so good and full of beauty! 

What a kick-off to the month to be in one of our favorite places, Acadia National Park in Maine. Now that is a glorious place in itself. Raw beauty and wonder that makes my heart sing. A week spent hiking and climbing rocks and traversing the beautiful terrain. Having no obligations other than to eat, sleep, and do whatever we pleased. I do miss waking in the morning before everyone else, pouring a cup of coffee and enjoying my Bible reading in complete solitude with only the birds in the trees to accompany me. 

And then it was so good to return to our cozy little home here in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania. It's always so good to go away, but it's also just as nice to come home. Home to the familiar and the routine, invigorated and ready to conquer the world one laundry basket and school lesson at a time.

We came home and had two days to gear up for the new school year. I had done all of the major prepping before we had left, so I just had a few ends to tidy up for our start. And then I had major first-day-of-school jitters, more than I've ever had before. Gosh, I felt like I was back in school myself. I think it was just all the emotions bundled up and tied tight. I'm telling you, homeschooling is not easy. It's no small thing to feel the weight of your children's educations on your shoulders. Normally I'm pretty good with shrugging that off and going with the flow, but, boy, this year has been a bit different. Perhaps it's because Ian is in seventh grade, and I feel like we need to step up the game a bit more. (And perhaps I, like every other homeschool mom, am just hard on myself and want to try my darndest not to screw my children up.) 

Whatever the reason, the first day came and went, and fairly smoothly at that. So now we're in our second week and trying to find a rhythm that will fit our family this year. That will come. It always does.

In the midst of all of this, Ian turned thirteen! Another teenager. We celebrated in a low-key way, per his request, with a campfire and cookout for the five of us followed by a game of Settlers of Catan. I made key lime pie, also per the birthday boy's request, which was quite yummy and vegan and gluten free to boot. It was a great, simple celebration. We have Sergei's coming up the end of this month. He's going to be twenty! What?! Really? Twenty?

And this morning was the perfect autumn morning. There was a slight crispness in the air that was just enough to warrant some of my handmade woolens being put to use when I went out to tend to the animals. Just a hat and scarf. And then it warmed up to around eighty which was marvelous. And the sun was out! Yes, these days of yours, September, have been stunning!

Monday, August 22, 2016

in the kitchen together

In all honesty, I'm a true procrastinator at heart. I work much better, much more efficiently when I have a clear and looming deadline. I'm the type of person that finds setting a timer for thirty minutes helps me to stay more focused on tasks and chores because I push myself to work hard to get as much done as I can in that short period of time. It's the way God wired me, I suppose. Sometimes it drives Brad a little crazy, but I always get things done and get them done well. And the looming deadline invigorates me a bit and pushes me to do my best.

However, this procrastination also carries over into the kitchen and meal-making. I would get an "F" in meal-planning if I was graded. Oh gosh. And this is the one area where I find my procrastinating spirit to lead to a bit of stress. All I can say is thank goodness for the auto defrost option on my microwave! 

So one of my goals this coming fall (and coming school year) is to start meal-planning again. I have always enjoyed the mental freedom that has come from having a plan when it comes to meals. I suppose I just haven't disciplined myself enough to actually make it a habit. However, it's such a WONDERFUL feeling at 4:00 p.m. on a weekday to know that dinner is already planned and probably already started or even in the crock pot almost ready to be eaten. 

My kids, at ages 13 and 10, love to cook and bake. It's something that they've always seen me do, and I've let them have reigns in the kitchen since an early age. In my mind, it's one of the most important life skills I can pass on to my kids ~ the skill of feeding oneself. And not only feeding oneself, but feeding oneself good, wholesome, home-cooked meals. 

My problem as a kitchen procrastinator, though, is that when I've waited until the last possible minute to start a dinner that I'm not even sure what it's going to be, I don't have the patience for the kids in the kitchen with me. I want to get in there, have all the room to move around, and crank out whatever I'm making. And sometimes I don't even know what I'm making until it hits the kitchen table and is done. 

But, I'm totally robbing my kids and myself of some special, very productive time together as well as some really awesome learning experiences approaching meal-time this way. And it's all because I'm too lazy to do a little planning ahead of time. 

This past Saturday, Ian and I went to the garden together and picked a bunch of veggies to use to make dinner. The kids and I then husked the corn together and spent an hour chopping, mixing, sauteing, and prepping our dinner. When we pulled the stuffed green peppers out of the oven two hours later, there was a great satisfaction felt around the table that night. We had worked together from start to finish. And on top of that, most of the food was from our garden. 

I was reflecting on this later that evening. We had so much fun together. The kids kept saying how much they loved cooking with me and how they want to do it more often. And, I really do swear, that food tasted so much better knowing that we made it together. 

So this is one of my goals this new school year. I'm going to work on disciplining myself to meal-plan again, and I'm going to work more group cooking sessions into our schedule. Not only does this enable some really great quality time with my kids, but it's also equipping them for their future when they leave home.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

an essay on home

I love home. 

What does home mean to me? What image do I conjure up in my mind when I think of home? 

I imagine a cozy, quaint place that is warm, beautiful but simple. A place where love flows freely. A place where words of encouragement are spoken and life is breathed into those who enter. 

I imagine a place where the dwellers feel free to be themselves. Guards can be dropped. Feet can be kicked back. Weary bodies can toss themselves onto the sofa and cozy up under a well-worn quilt. 

A place where laughter is real. Where learning happens all of the time. Where good thoughts are shared and discussed. Where life is lived fully and where joy prevails.

This is what I strive for, this is what I want for our home. And me, as a wife and mother, well, I have such an awesome opportunity to influence the atmosphere of our home. This is my office. This is my place of work. This is my opportunity to shine as I foster an environment that encourages growth physically, mentally, and spiritually for my family and all who visit. 

What an awesome privilege that is! 

So instead of complaining about the never-ending laundry, I need to thank God for the healthy bodies that wear all of that clothing.

Instead of dreading washing the dishes again, I need to praise God for the food He has so graciously and extravagantly provided. The food that fills those plates three times a day, that fills our bellies full. 

And the messes that scatter so easily around the house? Oh those can test me. But those little messes were made by the ones that are dearest to my heart. I want to be thankful that I have these beautiful children who are healthy enough to be up and making messes. And I need to be thankful that I have the opportunity to teach my children to be responsible, clean-up after themselves, and contribute to our home's well-being. 

I enjoy home. I enjoy keeping my home. I used to think that it was sinful to want a beautiful home (note that I do not mean large, filled with extravagant things, or magazine-worthy) for my family. But I now realize that God put that creative desire within me, that love for beauty, the attention to the aesthetics. God made me that way. And, of course, I could use those desires in sinful ways, but I can also choose to embrace them and make my home a dwelling that quenches the thirst of dry souls, that replenishes the spiritual tanks of those who enter, that inspires others to seek the beautiful and simple things of God. 

I am so thankful that God has enabled me to be a keeper of my home. I am thankful that He has shown me the importance of making our home a shelter to my family and others.

Lord, open my eyes up to the great privilege You have blessed me with to be a keeper of our home. Thank you for our home. Thank you for those that fill it. May it be used for Your glory, and may all who enter feel surrounded by Your love and grace.