I am slowly and carefully finding my way back to thinking about our upcoming school year.

I am still trying to process why I ended the year so very tired.  Things were fine.  School ended.  We tested.  And then I sort of shut down.  I was completely exhausted.  I was weepy and discouraged and just overall felt very low.  People asked how I was doing-- a basic, "Hey, how are you?" and as I began to answer "Great, fine!" my eyes would immediately fill up with tears.  Isn't that strange?  It's not like me at all.  And there was no reason for it, really-- it wasn't a difficult school year.  We ended well.  It was all very normal.

But I felt thoroughly weary.

Mark prayed for me, my mom prayed for me, I tried to pray for me.  I read my Bible but found it difficult to pray.  Somehow I knew God wanted me to speak the Word.  So when I read my Bible, I began reading it out loud.  And I was intentional about playing worship music and instead of merely listening, I forced myself to sing along.  God really ministered to me through that- through speaking His words aloud.

And I've spent the last two months pretending that I don't have a school year to plan.  I haven't made notes or lists.  I haven't looked at any of my previous notes or lists.  I've read very few books.  I've been online less and have watched very few shows/movies.  I've slept more.  I've knitted.  I've planted.  I've weeded.  I've baked.  I've hung laundry on the line.  I've had long conversations with Mark.  We've had picnic lunches in the yard, blanket all spread out, sitting cross-legged in the sun.  I've cut flowers from the yard and brought them indoors, making sure to always have vases full of flowers inside.  I've lit candles.  I've sent letters.  I had two free evenings- Mark was camping- and I made some cards.  I sewed a little.  I made homemade laundry soap again.  I sat outside and drew.  I've canned.  I painted.  I've checked out books on typography and practiced hand-lettering. I've listened to more music. I've done little redecorating projects around the house- I put up a bunting over the mantel and recovered our piano bench.  I've worked in the yard- nearly every day.  I've simply sat and watched the kids play.   We've all danced together in the kitchen.  We've read stories and colored together.

God has given me great rest through all of these things.

I have had time to pay attention to the beauty around me.  I have delighted in it.  I've been so much more present with the kids- seeking to pay attention.  Being fully in the moment with them as they're speaking or sitting with me.  Just resting in that moment, cherishing it- as Adelia sits in my lap: feeling the weight of her body and smelling her hair and really hearing her, really listening.  Not thinking "Okay, this and then I've got to get up and do that."  Or when Isaac is telling me his dream or about the book he's reading.  So often I am busy DOING something else that I'm actually thinking about the dishes I'm washing or what needs to be done next, and I tune him out and sort of nod and say mmmhmmm, but I don't really hear him.  He'll walk away and I could maybe give you a few words of what he said but I wasn't truly paying attention.  I don't want to be like that.  I want him to grow up confident in the knowledge that I care about what he says, that I am one who will pay attention.  So lately I have been trying to understand what he's talking about, to really tune in to the sequence of events he's sharing, and also to consider why he chooses that part to tell me about, what is it in that story or character that appeals to my boy?


Now it's planning time again, and I approach it cautiously and prayerfully- wanting to figure out a way to maintain this sense of rest as we move ahead into the school year.  How can I shed that sense of hurry-up-and-get-to-the-next-thing as we move through our school day?  How can I keep creativity in my life; in all of our lives?  That's one thing God has reminded me of in this season of rest: expressing myself creatively is important: making things is part of who I am; it's how God has made me, and I find joy in those pursuits.  But how do I tuck that into our days?  How can I continue to be fully present with the kids when the demands of school are upon us, when everyone is asking me a question at the same time, and when there is a load of laundry to do and a phone call to make and something to copy and things to clean and dinner to make?  Even typing that previous sentence makes me a little tearful-- just thinking about being in that season again- of constant need and constant demands on me.  Mark has already expressed that he wants to have more of a role in our schooling this year, and I need that and welcome it.  I feel like I'm going in fully dependent on God to sustain me and to guide us in every thing.  And that's a really good place to begin.
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One other note that is purely blog-related:  I am going to turn the comments off for a season.  
[This post will still have the commenting option, but future posts will not.]  I've thought about doing this many times over the years, but have never taken the plunge.  But I think doing so will free me to write without wondering about the response I may or may not get; to write for the pure pleasure of it, rather than thinking of it as a post to get just right for whoever the "audience" is that may be reading here.  So I'm trying it for awhile.  I can always be reached via email, and that link is on the sidebar where it says "I would love to hear from you!"  I do love to hear from you.

Sweet Peas

Several months ago I told Mark that one of my goals this summer was to add beauty to our backyard.  Our first big project was our cottage side-yard, and we're still in process on our other big project (picket fence around the garden), but one of my smaller to-do items was to grow some sweet peas up the chicken wire that borders our back garden (containing pumpkins and squash).  I am happy to report that I can now check that off my list.

THEN: These little plants began as seeds on my back porch, and this picture shows them probably two weeks after transplanting.
NOW: Cheery, colorful sweet peas that make me happy.


We picked blueberries this week.

Audra picked 14 berries (exactly: she counted) and then declared that I should fill up her bucket while she ate her snack in the shade.  Adelia wandered the row and crammed blueberries into her mouth but not so much into her bucket.  She also wanted me to fill her bucket.  Isaias sat in the shade of the blueberry bushes and ate blueberries the.entire.time.  I did not look at him once without seeing his mouth full.  My stomach hurt just looking at him.  But he was also (somehow) a hearty picker, so I was grateful.  Isaac was hot (it was awfully warm) and picked about 1/5 of a bucket but insisted it was more like 1/3.  :)  Ella picked steadily and cheerfully the entire time and about matched my own picking speed.  She won't eat a one but she loves to pick!

Washed blueberries on the table


This morning I was in the garden early, picking green beans and rhubarb.

With the rhubarb, I canned some jam:
4 jars of Rhubarb-Lemon jam, using this recipe.
4 jars of Blueberry-Rhubarb jam, adapting the above recipe.

I've been diligently recording everything in our Garden Notebook this year- which will be SO helpful come next year!- and these jars will be added to what I've already preserved this summer, listed below:
14 jars of Strawberry freezer jam
10 jars of Strawberry-Rhubarb jam, canned
13 jars of Raspberry freezer jam
4 jars of Peach-Raspberry freezer jam
Still to come: more Rhubarb jam and Blackberry jam.  Mmm!

I also canned 4 quarts of Dilly Beans today, using my mother-in-law's recipe, below:


Dilly Beans

For each quart-sized jar:
4 cloves garlic
4 heads of dill
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

2 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 cups vinegar
2 T salt
*the above will cover 2 quarts of beans, so adjust accordingly

Pour over beans, process in canner for 10 min.

These were my Dilly Bean helpers:
Proud dill farmer, and adder of garlic and dill to jars

Snipper and overall canning assistant, which included encouragement whenever there was a stressful moment.

Oh! And last week we canned 9 pints of green beans.  (Much more to come, judging by our garden.)
Audra, proudly cutting beans (into itty-bitty sizes) ;)

Narration from a four-year-old

We're not schooling through the summer, but we do continue narrating after we've read something.  I begin with one child, let them talk for a minute or two, and then call on another child to pick up where they left off.  We're reading about Abram.  Yesterday, I began with this passage from Hurlbut's Story of the Bible:
He journeyed far up the great river Euphrates to the mountain region, until he came to a place called Haran, in a country called Mesopotamia.  The word Mesopotamia means "Between the rivers"; and this country was between the two great rivers Tigris and Euphrates.
I read several other paragraphs, and then it was time for narration.  I wrote a few of the words on the dry erase board: Euphrates, Haran, Mesopotamia- to help the kids recall the trickier words.

I asked Audra (4) to start.  This is what she said:
"Well.  There was this big bird...."
I must have looked puzzled because she stopped, mid-narration.  I was thinking that generally she listens so well and is actually able to retell what we read fairly accurately, but figured she must be being silly-- and yet, the look on her face was so earnest (not a silly look at all), so I was puzzled.  Finally I said, "Well, honey.  There wasn't a bird in this story."

My astute eight-year-old (Isaias) didn't miss a beat and said:  "I know what she's talking about, mommy.  She's talking about Haran.  You know: the bird?  A heron?"  


"Oh, honey.  Now mommy understands.  Good job!  It is the same sounding word, but the Haran in this story is a place, not a bird."

Satisfied, she continued her narration:
"...and there was a river with tigers there!"
(Tigers = Tigris) :)

I love four-year-olds.

Tickets: a good tool for us

A few months ago I first mentioned the ticket system we've been using.  It has been working really well for us, so I'm going to share a little more about how it has worked in our home.

A recent picture of our fridge
The ticket method originated with John Rosemond.  Here is his description of the way the system should work:
List no more than three specific misbehaviors on an index card (e.g. throwing tantrums, refusing to obey first-time instructions, being mean to the dog). Those are the misbehaviors you are targeting for elimination. Post that list on the refrigerator. Using a magnetic clip, clip a certain number of ticket-shaped (e.g. 2 inches by 5 inches) pieces of colored construction paper to the refrigerator, above the target behavior list. The child begins every day with, say, five tickets. Every time she produces one of her target behaviors, the parent points that out and removes a ticket. The first four tickets are “free.” They are the child’s “margin of error” for any given day. When the child loses her fifth (last) ticket, she spends the remainder of the day in her room (first reduce the room’s entertainment value) and goes to bed at least an hour early. As the child’s behavior improves, losing fewer and fewer tickets per day, reduce the margin of error gradually, but to no less than two. Or, keep the same number of tickets but add more target behaviors. Eventually, eliminate the system altogether.
We began this system with our 5-year-old, then added tickets for our 8-year-old, then added tickets for our 9-year-old.

We began by sitting each child down individually and briefly discussing the behaviors we were specifically working to change.  Then we explained the system: they would get so many tickets per day (we did 3 tickets for the older kids, 5 for our younger).  Each time ___{insert identified misbehavior here}___ happens, we will remove a ticket from the fridge, then when the tickets are all gone, this (see below) is what will happen. 

I was hesitant to send a child to their room for the rest of the day, as John Rosemond suggests.  Um.  That seemed so-- extreme.  I feared that it would result in a huge battle with a yelling/crying child in their room all day long.  And it would be a battle I would have to face alone (since Mark is at work), and I didn't really want to be dealing with that all day on top of everything else that goes on around here.

So in the beginning-- which we'll call Phase 1-- we said when the tickets were all gone, the child would have to go to bed one hour early (thus missing daddy's evening read-aloud time, which is a highlight in our home.)  This happened only a few times until we realized that this wasn't much of a punishment.  One hour early simply meant that the child would fall asleep one hour early (rather than the "I'm missing out due to my behavior" thoughts we hoped would occur), and of course- thus waking up an hour earlier the next morning, which isn't always super handy.  So we launched Phase 2, and that's where we've stayed.  When the specified amount of tickets are gone, the child spends one hour in his/her room, immediately.  I set the timer.  Then the child gets one more ticket after that.  If he/she loses that ticket, they need to be on their bed for the rest of the day.  The on-their-bed-for-the-rest-of-the-day deal has only happened with one child, and only three times in as many months.  And it has not been the traumatic event I thought it would be. 

We're now down to three tickets for even our youngest (5-year-old) child, and we aren't using tickets for our 9-year-old anymore.  The behaviors that we began the system for are definitely improved.   I've been thankful for this system in our home!


One of my summer joys-- so far-- is making tiny batches of raspberry jam from the raspberries growing in our own yard.

Last week I started picking and then looked at what I'd gathered and thought: "This might even be enough to make some jam!" When I checked the recipe and realized that I needed 3 1/4 cups (I had a little more than 2 cups) I was not to be deterred.  I would just make a half batch!  Then I realized that it was supposed to be 3 1/4 cups of crushed berries, which was a bit of a problem. By that time Ella was on my little mission with me and she headed back out to the bushes and picked anything remotely ripe so that we could make our half-batch of raspberry jam.  And we did.  I think it resulted in only three very small jars of jam, but those three jars made me happier than any other jam I've ever made- because we didn't even have to drive to the U-Pick raspberry fields! 

We came home from camping over the weekend and I realized that:
a) No one had picked our bushes for two days, and
b) My kids hadn't been out to pick (eat) the berries since we'd been back.

So I had enough for a full batch.

Then yesterday Ella picked a bunch of berries again and when she showed me her bowlful, I happily exclaimed that we could make another full batch.  And we did. 

I'm pretty happy that my kids are free to graze on our raspberries and I can get some jam made, too.

[Our camera is broken, hence the no-photo post.]

Read aloud: The Hiding Place (Part 2)

{More on our current read-aloud, The Hiding Place.}

As I sit with this book in my hands, it is a certain thing that I will get all teary at some point during the reading.  The kids: "Mommy, are you crying?"  It doesn't even have to be a sad part, I just get weepy.  (I was this way when we read about George Muller, too.  These dear saints that have gone before us- George Muller, Corrie ten Boom and the whole ten Boom family, and others, too-- their lives, their stories-- challenge me and encourage me to love Jesus more fully and with greater faith.)

One of the (many) things I love about reading aloud are the discussions that come up as we read.  So far as we've read The Hiding Place we've discussed:

- Hospitality: the ten Boom home was a place of community for so many people.  They welcomed each and every person who walked through their door.  They served them tea and food- even when they had little to spare.  They were accepting and genuine in their care for others.  What can we learn from their example of hospitality?  How can we welcome friends and- more challenging, for us- strangers-- into our home?
- Honesty:  Nollie speaks the truth to the Gestapo agents, but Corrie lies.  How is it that both sisters loved God but chose differently in this area?  And God used them both.  That led to the question of "What would you do?" 
- Kindness and sacrificial love:  Mama and her girls, taking meals to their needy neighbors. Mama sending notes of encouragement- even when she could no longer speak herself. The whole ten Boom family- providing a home for Jews and risking their own lives (willingly, gladly) in the process.  A nurse who secretly asks Corrie if there is anything she can do, and then slips Corrie a package containing soap and Scripture that she could take back to prison with her. Nollie's care package to Corrie in prison.  There are so many examples of kindnesses and we've talked through so many of them- noting the risks taken and how those acts of kindness ministered to people.
- Choosing to do what was right and God-honoring in the face of evil. Even though so many others were silent or unwilling, the ten Booms resolutely chose to love and risk everything because they feared God more than men:  Firing Otto- the employee that was cruel to the old clock-mender Christoffels. Finding homes for so many Jews, and hiding them in their own home. Again- what would you do?  Would you be one who would speak or act if someone was being cruel to another?

So many other things, too- but those are the big ones.  And we're only about two-thirds of the way through the book!