Tuesday 30 July 2013

What I Am Into - July 2013

What I Am Into :: JULY 2013

Oh July. I want to kiss you and hug you and never let you go. Thanks for being awesome, July.

On My Nightstand:

My lovely parents-in-law gave the husband and I Kobo Touch eReaders for our birthdays. (Yes, birthday. I'm 30 now. Let's just pretend that didn't happen, mkay?) So then came the Big Question: What would be the first book to grace my lovely new eReader?

I mean, my love affair with books began when I was just a wee little girl. I lived my childhood in other worlds thanks to my precious books. My dad would crack jokes about how he could drop a bomb next to my head and I wouldn't even notice, so ever-engrossed in a book was I. I worked in a library for seven years and have never loved a job more. So. Like I said. Big Question.

I feel like the answer to that question deserves a drumroll.


And congratulations to Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt!

Sure, it's a young adult book. It's also one of the best books I have ever read. It was one of my teenage self's favourites and one of the few books that I have read over and over. It was simply wonderful to immerse myself in that story again this month, and it was no surprise to me when the second in the series, Dicey's Song, soon became the second book on my eReader. I quickly finished that one as well and, for the sake of my bank account, am trying to hold off on purchasing the rest of the series for a little while.

I also enjoyed reading through Wild Goslings: Engaging with kids in the mysteries of God by Brandy Walker. It was full of hope and truth and authenticity and I loved it. I especially love that I'm seeing more of this sort of thing, this willingness to invite children to truly experience God rather than simply be spoon-fed moral lessons from a variety of Bible stories, unnaturally and unhelpfully separated from any cohesive and holistic overarching Story. But that's another soapbox for another time.

On the screen:

We discovered BBC's Sherlock Holmes series this month and are eagerly catching up on past episodes of that. It is so nice to have something witty and interesting to watch in the evenings, while our other favourite shows are taking a break for the summer. Of course, with only six episodes to watch, it won't keep us occupied for long, but it's thoroughly satisfying while it lasts.

In My Kitchen:

Boring boring boring. Lots of hamburgers and salmon burgers and sausages on the grill. I'm feeling thoroughly uninspired. If you have a favourite summer dish you want to share in the comments, my fried brain will thank you profusely.

In My Ears:

The boy made his very first mixed CD last fall. Well, he's gone and made another one, and it amuses me every bit as much as the first one. I must admit, that shift between track 4 (The Beatles' Twist and Shout) and Track 5 (Wee Sing's Triceratops) is rather jarring, but aside from that, it's quite fun to listen to. (The husband disagrees, however; there's entirely too much Christmas music included for his liking.)

What I'm Looking Forward to in August:

Half of our month will be spent travelling. We'll drive nearly 900 km to visit my in-laws for several days, drive back home, and then the kids and I will head out three days later on a 2300 km drive to surprise my mother with a short visit for her birthday. We'll take our time driving those same 2300 km back home, though, stopping to spend some time in Drumheller on the way. Known as the "dinosaur capital of the world", it's unsurprising that it's one of the boys' favourite places to visit. And all those beautiful mountains we get to drive through? They make the drive worth it all on their own.

Well, friends, that is What I've Been Into this past month. What about you?

Linking up to What I'm Into with HopefulLeigh...

Monday 29 July 2013

Embracing our homeschooling freedom...but not all at once.

You'll pardon, I hope, the crickets chirping around here this month. It's just that big changes have meant big opportunities and we are soaking them up like a sponge in water.

First, our weeks are suddenly wide open. For the past three years, we have had the privilege of caring for another child during the week. It was a unique season for us - good and busy and exhausting and so much more. But this season has, as they do, come to an end, and now we find ourselves settling into a new routine.

Second, we've made some educational changes that have allowed us to embrace our unschooling nature in a way we couldn't fully do so last year. We had chosen to enroll the boy in a home learners' distributed learning program for kindergarten. The program was fine and we made it through the year without any difficulty, but it was an unnecessary frustration to try to document all of the beautiful learning experiences that arose so naturally throughout our days. This year, we have chosen instead to register as fully independent homeschoolers. This better fits our educational philosophies and desires, giving us a renewed and lovely sense of freedom and joy in our learning.

Third, it's summer! Opportunities are always in abundance during this time of the year.

All of this combined means we've been on a bit of freedom high. We do what we want, when we want, for as long as we want, wherever we want! We aren't limited by childcare responsibilities or school demands or even weather.

We. Are. Free.


But. (There's always a but.)

With all this time and fun and opportunity, I'm finding myself on the verge of overwhelm. I want to READ ALL THE BOOKS! and VISIT ALL THE PLACES! and DO ALL THE THINGS! right now, today, hurry hurry hurry!

But I can't.

We can't do everything today.

We can't do everything this year.

And therein lies both the joy and challenge of this homeschooling life we have chosen. The opportunities in front of us each day are so extensive, so deliciously tempting, that I can start to feel a bit panicky. If we do this then we can't do that, and the other thing will have to wait too. If we take on this activity then we give up that opportunity. If we spend our time this way then we can't spend it another way. How do we choose from such an opportunity buffet?

Coming down off this month-long freedom high, I find myself in need of the reminder to simply breathe and embrace the moment at hand. Read this book, the rest will wait. Go to this park, don't worry about the other ones. Sing this song, others will follow. One thing at a time.

As for how to choose? Choose peace. If it invites stress into our lives, it's likely the wrong choice for our family. And when all the options are so good, we really can't go wrong, now can we?

As we move on with our summer, this is the lesson I take with me: Embrace that joyous freedom...but don't try to embrace it all once.

One thing at a time.

Saturday 20 July 2013

Weekend Reading {vol. 102}

Teach Your Children They Are Whole by Elizabeth Esther
When I teach my children the Gospel, I don’t start with: “You are bad, therefore you need Jesus.” I start with: “Before you were born, God loved you.” I start with God’s love and I end with God’s love.

I teach my children they are whole, deeply whole. I teach them they were beautifully created in the image of God. I teach them they are unconditionally loved and cherished—no matter what they do or don’t do. I teach them to be lighthearted, easeful, resting in full assurance that they are loved. I teach them that and nothing and nobody can separate them from the love of Christ.

I teach them this way because I know, sooner or later, life will catch up to them, as life always does. There will be sorrows, disappointments, setbacks and obstacles. However, if they are deeply rooted in the love of God, they will not be moved. They will not be tossed to and fro.

On Abortion: The Day I Owned What I Believe by Shelly Miller
Sometimes we avoid pain at all costs because we think living with disappointment might be easier than feeling it. Circumventing pain and numbing it isn’t the remedy or short cut toward a fulfilled life. Ask anyone who’s done it.

On Being Approached by Three Young Black Men by Shawn Smucker
As we passed the three young men on their way home from the pool, I made eye contact with the one walking at the back. He wore small, round glasses and his flip-flops scratched along the pavement. He had kind eyes. He waved hesitantly as I drove past, and I lifted my hand and waved back. Both of our heads turned towards each other, two moons passing in opposite orbits.

He could be a hero, I thought to myself. He could be a hero like Temar Boggs. And then blood rushed to my face because I realized I had never thought that before; I have never driven past a young black man on the street and thought, He could be a hero.

What to Do When You May or May Not be a Control Freak by Mark Buchanan
These two things – control and self-control – stand at opposite ends of the maturity spectrum.

The toddler was a live-action reel of a fierce effort to control his mother. And he was a spectacle of immaturity.

The mom was a breathtaking portrait of impeccable self-control. And she was the epitome of maturity.

The New Testament has 16 separate exhortations to be self-controlled. It’s a major theme. So the wise heed that, and work with the Holy Spirit to get a grip on themselves. They receive the comfort, the rebuke, the strength, and the instruction of God himself to discipline their thoughts, emotions, attitudes, and actions.

They give up trying to control others and step up being in control of themselves.

Thursday 18 July 2013

This is not what I intended to write today.

I had a post half-written last night, pounded out in a few minutes when despair and hope crashed into each other. I wrote of injustices and tragedies and how did we get so wrong. I wrote of hope, of wolves lying down with lambs, swords beaten into plowshares, no more fighting or war or pain. I wrote of being caught in the middle and always wrestling to hold onto that beautiful hope when despair looms so much nearer and larger, when it feels like hope is running through my fingers like so much water.

But tonight I was nursing my baby girl to sleep, and those words suddenly felt unnecessary. I don't want to add to the shouting. I don't need to point out injustice and pain when we can all see it plain as day, every day, even if we don't all see it in the same things.

In short, hold tight to hope, dear hearts, because that age of peace and love is to come, and we can see glimpses of it even here, bright shining moments of beauty and tenderness and awe and hope. And that's all I'll say about that.

Because tonight, I was nursing my baby girl. I was nursing her and she stopped and looked up at me, twinkle in her eye, as she stuck out her tongue as far as it could go. I stuck mine out in return and we laughed and laughed and it felt like the most important thing right then, she and I sticking our tongues out at each other and laughing. Thinking and worrying and ranting won't change hearts or erase injustices, but laughing with my baby girl? I can do that. I can pray she will carry that laughter with her into the world as she grows, and maybe there will be just a few less injustices, just a little less pain in the world because of it. Maybe. Hope.

That's why I'm not writing today about all that is wrong with this world, in case you didn't already know about it. I erased those words because I wanted to write about laughing with my baby girl, about how that laughter shines rays of love and light through the wrongness and darkness around us.

There is good here. There is good to come.

I guess that's pretty much hope in a nutshell.

Saturday 13 July 2013

Weekend Reading {vol. 101}

On Loneliness: A Letter to My Children by Rebecca Reynolds
By loneliness, I do not mean friendlessness, for loneliness and friendlessness are not the same. Most of life will give you a friend or two somewhere or other. What I mean is that there is sort of loneliness that exists even among friends, among brothers and sisters, even in a world where Aslan appears and disappears in the checkered shade. Among good things, among good people, among warm food and bright rooms there are still those of us who live with a sense that somehow something is missing.

Loneliness forces us into the presence of the soundless symphony of the Divine, so that we might learn to hear the songs of a distant land. It stretches us larger so that we might have more room for a God the world has painted far too small. It shows us an ache the size of the heavens, an ache that was given to be filled.

Our wants are not too great, but too small. So, do not fear. There is an answer for the sadness in you, though you will only find it a bit at a time. Without it, you are wise to be a bit unsettled. Be content. Be also ravenous. What you long for is here already. What you long for is coming still.

Caring for the Right Thing at the Right Time by Jason Gray
A part of my problem is that sometimes I care about the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Sometimes I care about fairness instead of generosity.

Sometimes I care about someone else’s theological accuracy when quiet listening would be better.

In this particular instance I was caring more about the quality of a film than I was caring about the quality of a conversation with my son.

Consequently I failed to recognize a more subtle and significant beauty that was being offered to me: the beauty of my son sharing his simple desire to see a movie — one that reminded him of fond memories of his childhood.

In that moment I had also been offered a chance to create something beautiful myself: a generous response with the power to foster a culture of kindness, grace, and intimacy in our home.

Encourage somebody! by Karen Campbell
When we encourage someone, we seek to further their faith in seeing their goals met, offering them hope for what lies ahead. All the while we are coming alongside them, caring for their various needs. Since we know that nurture, for parents, includes being involved in the whole training and education of children, including the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual, we also know that our encouragement in each of these areas of their lives is crucial.

Do you approach your children with a glass is half full attitude or a glass is half empty attitude when it comes to their lives? Do they know you are their greatest fan?

Who can you come alongside today? Who needs a cup of cold water and a kind word?

Exalting the moment of conversion over the way of conversion {and why BOTH are needed} by Elizabeth Esther
It’s not that I lacked moments of conversion. I came to Jesus starting at age four and asked Him into my heart at least a dozen times throughout my childhood. It’s just that I never had The Defining Moment wherein I was ushered from darkness to light in a blinding flash. Rather, my moments of conversion seemed to lead to a way of conversion, a road of conversion, a journey of “working out my salvation.”

Certainly there is a Biblical basis for the Big Moment of Conversion; witness Saul on the road to Damascus, being struck blind, his conversion so dramatic he changed his name to Paul. But I think we do the Gospel an injustice by over-emphasizing a Moment of Conversion over The Way of Conversion. Especially for those of us raised from infancy in the faith, our relationship with God may look more like a Journey of Conversion, more akin to the growing brightness of a dawning day.

Friday 5 July 2013

List maker

The boy has inherited my love for lists, as evidenced by his now-nightly habit of drawing up a to-do list for the following day. The lists make for such an interesting peek into his brain. Reading them has become one of my favourite parts of the evening.

He begins by asking me if I have any plans or things that need to be done, and those things are written down first. Crafts are featured on every list, without fail. Our current read-aloud, The Boxcar Children, is usually included, as well as various other activities as he sees fit. The edges are decorated with birds and people and race cars, because why not?

Today's list, shared with his permission, explanations in italics:

meat pizza-
(we need to pick up chicken and prepare a pizza crust for our Friday night pizza and a movie)
crafs (crafts)
oragame (origami is one of his current passions)
tooth past (the kids are running out of tooth paste and the boy is very worried about this)
(this made me laugh so hard; I'm going to add it to every list I ever make from this day forward)
tran tracks
(movie; all the extra o's are a cow joke)
nock nock (oh boy, a knock-knock joke!)
who's their (apparently it's time to review their/there/they're, because I WILL NOT raise a child who uses those words incorrectly)
pizza who
pizza man

One of my favourite lists, also shared with permission:

box car childrin
go houm
(go home after getting milk)
send a letr to robee (his friend)
doo crafs
go to sleep
dont be bad so i can reed books and have moosic
(oh, the laughter upon seeing this on his to-do list; our little night owl is usually allowed to read books and listen to music after his little brother falls asleep, but if he's had a difficult day or been disruptive while his brother tries to fall asleep, then he needs to go right to bed in hopes of getting a bit of extra sleep)
end (almost every list of his ends this way; I love it)

Take-away lesson for the day? Always add "fun" to your to-do list.


Wednesday 3 July 2013

Three point five

You, my sweet middle child, grew in my womb for a full extra week, emerging only a small handful of days before Christmas. You do like to do things on your own timetable, don't you? Slow to warm up, you prefer to play quietly on the floor near me rather than join group activities. But when you're ready, you dive in wholly, and your laughter and shrieks rise above the rest of the noise.

It's hard, though, to fully celebrate you when the rest of our community is neck-deep in carols and gifts and good Christmas cheer. So we tried something different this year, didn't we? Three and a half seemed like a perfect place for a celebration, and celebrate we did.

You shared your Daddy's birthday this year and it was as exciting for you as it was relieving for him, that man who prefers anything but the spotlight. You chose sushi for lunch (no one was surprised) while Daddy requested ribs and rice for dinner. We had a delicious berry crumble in lieu of a more traditional cake, served warm out of the oven with the mandatory scoop of vanilla ice cream.

You love animals, zoos, and Duplos, and your shriek of excitement when you opened your Duplo zoo was truly delightful. You loved, too, your king's robe and crown, the perfect complement to your knight outfit and dragon cape. Your brother proved how well he knows you when he chose a Schleich sea lion; you wanted a bath immediately so it could go swimming with you in the tub.

There is nothing quite like watching you and your brother grow up together. There are moments of sibling squabbles, of course, but usually the two of you are best friends, lost together in whatever imaginary tale you are weaving on the living room floor. Cities, castles, forts; families, animals, cops-and-robbers; fantasy, truth, and a larger-than-life mixture of the two. You giggle quietly together after the lights are turned out at night; you comfort each other after difficult moments.

No one else, ever, will know what it was for you two to grow up together. No one else, ever, will have this pool of shared experiences. What you two have is unique and important and I pray you will always cherish it dearly, and I pray the same for the unique relationships that will continue to blossom between you two and your baby sister as she grows - and any siblings that may come in the years ahead.

You have so many hopes for your future. You want to be a "hockey man" and a "construction site-er" and a "baker" all at once. Your days are filled with hockey and dump trucks and cries of "I want to help!" whenever I begin to prepare a meal. You are loud - so loud - and passionate and beautiful and frustrating and tender and loud and snuggly and loud. Your needs are not your brother's needs and I have had to grow to meet you where you are, a unique creation of God. It hasn't been easy but thank you for stretching me.

You're already asking the hard questions and I delight to see you growing in three-year-old wisdom. Whenever we don't know something, you are quick to remind us "but God knows!", and you are so very right, my love. He knows. And He loves you so perfectly and completely, forever and always. Don't stop asking those hard questions, and don't stop trusting that God holds the answers that remain beyond our grasp.

You with the big eyes and the long lashes and the oh-so-serious expression, I love you. Forever and always.


Tuesday 2 July 2013

What I Am Into - June 2013

What I Am Into :: JUNE 2013

May felt like it dragged on, but June - I'm convinced of it - just started a couple of weeks ago. It was a very full month, but here is what I managed to slip into the margins amidst all the activities:

On My Nightstand:

I basically devoured Ami McKay's The Virgin Cure, silently wept that it was over, and consoled myself with a third read-through of her first book, The Birth House. And then I sniffled a bit when that one was over too. Good books, people. Good books.

I started reading Sally and Clay Clarkson's Educating the WholeHearted Child. I've waited a loooong time to read this book, so I was a bit disappointed that the first few chapters, at least, weren't quite what I had hoped for. Still, there's a lot more book to get through and I expect there will be several gems of wisdom throughout.

I set aside the Clarksons' book to read L.R. Knost's Whispers Through Time, which was a lovely little book. I appreciate such books for their ability to refocus my heart when I've fallen into sloppy patterns and bad habits in my parenting.

Once I finished that book, I eagerly started on Gretchen Wolff Pritchard's Offering the Gospel to Children. I am so in love with everything about this book. So in love. And learning so so much. And I have now hit my quota of "so's" for the rest of this post. But seriously. Every chapter has at least one paragraph that makes me think OH MY YES THAT IS IT EXACTLY I LOVE YOU GRETCHEN PRITCHARD THANK YOU. I am about halfway through and quite looking forward to seeing what else she has to offer in the second half.

On the screen:

My husband has been on a bit of a streak as far as recommending awesome movies goes.

First up was Argo, which oh my goodness, I didn't even know this happened. What an amazing story, and the movie did such an excellent job recreating the events. After reading more about it, my only disappointment was the minimization of Canada's role in the rescue, but really, it's neither surprising nor a particularly big deal.

Next was Looper. It took the husband a bit of work to sell me on this one, but in the end it was nothing like either of us expected and we loved it. It was violent and brutal but also thought-provoking and tender. He chooses well, that man of mine.

Last was Silver Linings Playbook, which required that I apologize to my husband for doubting him again. When he first suggested it, I read the summary and said nuh-uh, too heavy, too sensitive, give me something lighter. But then Sarah said it was beautiful and I said hey husband, we gotta watch this movie! and he said what, the one you refused to watch with me last week? and I said oh...yeah. Sorry. Anyway. We watched it and it was indeed beautiful and messy and heavy and funny and I loved it to absolute pieces.

In My Kitchen:

I'm still salivating over some ridiculously good beef sandwiches I made at the start of the month. I put a roast in the crock pot with some sliced onions, diced green pepper, beef stock, and black pepper, then went out for the day. I picked up some Portuguese buns at the bakery on my way home. I sliced the buns, buttered them, sprinkled them with garlic powder, and broiled them in the oven for a couple of minutes. I made a basic cheese sauce and sliced the beef, then served it all as sandwiches with the broth on the side for dipping. They were amazing.

Much of this month was devoted to strawberries. We picked 25 lbs of them from a local u-pick, so there was a lot of strawberry processing going on. The best ones were frozen, some whole, some sliced. The worst ones were turned into several jars of strawberry freezer jam. Many many of them were eaten as is, and the last of them became part of a berry crumble for the husband's birthday. Mmm mmm strawberries.

In My Ears:

Apparently this was the month of the soundtrack. Did you know, for instance, that Call the Midwife has an album? I was thrilled to discover it, and the kids now sing all sorts of glorious 50's songs as we're driving. It also includes several of the nuns' hymns/chants, which my Anglican self absolutely dies over every time. Before the Ending of the Day is one of my new favourites.

The husband, who doesn't appreciate Call the Midwife or 50's music quite the way I do, asked if there were Doctor Who soundtracks, because that was something he could definitely get behind. Turns out, there are! We picked seasons 5 and 6 (because the husband practically bounces in his seat whenever that eleventh Doctor music starts playing). They're very enjoyable to listen to. Not quite the bouncy fun of 50's music, but lovely in a more classical sort of way.

What I'm Looking Forward to in July:

I'll tell you what I'm not necessarily looking forward to: the big 3-0. Yes, I'm turning 30, and I haven't decided how I feel about that yet. But! Since it was the husband's birthday yesterday, I get a full eleven days in which to mock him mercilessly, the old man. Don't worry, he'll repay me when I catch up on my own birthday.

Well, friends, that is What I've Been Into this past month. What about you?

Linking up to What I'm Into with HopefulLeigh...

Monday 1 July 2013

A Song of Peace

This is my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine.
But other hearts in other lands are beating,
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
Oh hear my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.

This is my prayer, O Lord of all earth's kingdoms:
Thy kingdom come, on earth thy will be done.
Let Christ be lifted up till all shall serve him,
And hearts united learn to live as one.
O hear my prayer, thou God of all the nations;
Myself I give thee, let thy will be done.

-Lloyd Stone, 1934

To my fellow Canadians, happy Canada Day!