Thursday, July 28, 2016


Last month, Grandma-Grandma came to visit.

She's my husband's father's mother. And in true Allison tradition, everyone calls her "Grandma-Grandma," because isn't that what everyone calls their great-grandmother?

The children with Grandma-Grandma, and also Grandma

Everyone here does.

She's a spunky, cute little thing. She has this infectious love of history and family connections and can make you laugh in spite of yourself when she says the most unexpected things.

Grandma-Grandma and Ethan, in Grandma's house

She's also an incurable flirt. When Grandma (Marlys) and I went with Grandma-Grandma to the Depot Grille, she flirted nonstop with our in-his-20's waiter, telling him she was going to pack him up in her carry-on and take him back to Oregon. Marlys and I played with our food and smiled apologetically.

The waiter brought Grandma-Grandma a complimentary huge dessert and three forks and told her, "I like you. I really like you!"

Grandma-Grandma and Ben, at Grandma's house

But of course! 

I don't know anybody who doesn't.

We all love you, Grandma-Grandma. Come back soon, and bring your stories.

And happiest of birthdays to you! We're so glad you were born.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Rhythm

Planning is not for the faint of heart. And usually, it's not for me, either. But as we contemplated the coming school year with eleven children needing to be fed and laundered, a twelfth child joining them, a teen entering the high school years, and various and sundry chores and sicknesses and outside duties making their siren calls...

it became abundantly clear that some sort of schedule/routine/rhythm/PLAN is in order.

That sounds so neat, so structured.

I'm not sure whether I had truly grasped the work and disorder and chaos involved in creating a routine for this tribe of kids. It's a mess! First there is the school planning -- who will do what. Then there is the logistics planning -- what will be done where and when. And then there are the 3yo and the 1yo and the coming newborn, who are the living, breathing, crying wrenches in the works.

It's enough to throw one into a panic, or at least an extended nap.

But then I re-read this:
When planning routines, priority must be given to the most important things. The person matters (be it child, husband/wife, or friend). We’ll need time to talk, read, relax, and work together. Our relationship with God matters. Where is the time to be found for that? I am a part of this creation. Where will I find time to get out and enjoy nature? There is too much work to be done, and I am finite. I need to accept that reality, and plan the time and priorities carefully.
~ Susan Schaeffer Macauley, For the Children's Sake

and also this:
We ought to do so much for our children, and are able to do so much for them, that we begin to think everything rests with us and that we should never intermit for a moment our conscious action on the young minds and hearts about us. Our endeavours become fussy and restless. We are too much with our children, ‘late and soon.’ We try to dominate them too much, even when we fail to govern, and we are unable to perceive that wise and purposeful letting alone is the best part of education.

~ Charlotte Mason, School Education

and then, also, this:

If mothers could learn to do for themselves what they do for their children when these are overdone, we should have happier households. Let the mother go out to play! If she would only have courage to let everything go when life becomes too tense, and just take a day, or half a day, out in the fields, or with a favourite book, or in a picture gallery looking long and well at just two or three pictures, or in bed, without the children, life would go on far more happily for both children and parents. The mother would be able to hold herself in 'wise passiveness,' and would not fret her children by continual interference, even of hand or eye––she would let them be.

 ~ Charlotte Mason, School Education

and my morning readings, which this week have been in Ecclesiastes, where Solomon again and again urges that the hand of God gives pleasure in your toil.

And that got me to thinking.

  1. I need to schedule Rest/Outside Time. I really, really need to view the REST and the OUTDOORS as necessary components of our day. Seriously. Our health and well-being demand it.
  2. I need to be so careful about our margins. If I do not give myself margins throughout the day, I will drive myself and everyone else crazy. Margins, I think, are what will make a schedule/routine doable for me. Block scheduling is one thing that will greatly help *me* with this, as the time it takes to get stuff out/set up/etc. is minimized due to having to do it only 2-3x a week (or so) instead of every day.
  3. If I cannot figure out workable margins, then I have too much going on. I will have to scale back. Too much of a good thing is still too much and ruins the good thing. So if meals are taking me too long, I will have to figure out how to simplify them even further. If history is taking too long, I will have to figure out the priorities (for me, the living book portion) and cut out the rest.
  4. Especially for my youngers, there is no real need to get history done in one year or all the literature done in one year, etc. I may try doing a timed lesson with them instead of trying to get through such-and-such material, especially as I have varying ages and can never predict what questions will arise/what explaining will need to happen.
  5. The goal of this year for me is to help my children grow in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and to help them glorify God and enjoy Him forever. If my attitude is a harried, frustrated one; if I cannot speak with kindness and wisdom on my tongue; if I have no time to seek the Lord first in my day...then I am in error and must adjust the routine accordingly.

And then, just like that...I can breathe again. The daily rhythms are still being made, the simplified menus are being configured, the checklists and reminders are finding their places. But included in them is a sense of peace, not of urgency and fretfulness.

There is a place for Rest.

And that is sweet.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Rock-a-Bye Baby

(There is a video embedded in this post. Email subscribers may need to click over.)

Monday, July 25, 2016

I-Just-Want-to-Nap-All-Day Week

Today marked the official start to I-Just-Want-to-Nap-All-Day Week. As in, I said to Ethan, "I just want to nap all day."

And he said, "Well, yes. This is I-Just-Want-to-Nap-All-Day Week."

Some people call it the week of Vacation Bible School.

We call it like it is.

It's not even like I'm doing anything for VBS. I'm not. I was going to, and then along about April (hello, first trimester) I thought, "What in the world am I thinking? I can't handle basic life, let alone devoting an entire week of mornings to being out of the house and chipper among children. I will be miserable, and everyone around me will be miserable."

So I backed out of helping. I would feel bad about that, except I just can't muster the energy. Besides, Ben (14) offered to teach the preschoolers, and everyone knows a 6'4"(?) 14-year old boy way beats his 5'9" 30-mumble-year old mother. Especially when said 30+ person is mother to two of said preschoolers.

Zebby (3) and Ben (14)
So, see? I'm not even doing anything. My job is to make sure the laundry gets done and meals are plentiful (by the way, thanks for dinner tonight, Sweetie).

The mornings start early, with nervous older children who double- and triple-check to make sure they have everything they need and excited younger children who "cannot WAIT for GPS/UPS/BBS/Whatever-it's-called!" Karen picks up the oldest four at 8:15AM so they can do whatever they need to do as teacher/aides, we make sure the next six down are there by 9:00AM as participants, and then the 13mo gets to spend the morning with Mama. (Doesn't that sound cozy? "The baby gets to spend the morning with her mother." Perhaps I should remind you that this child is used to having at least TEN people to bossily fuss at and demand attention and applause from, and now this child must be content with just her mother. These are trying times.)

At noon, the six partipants get picked up, Karen drops the oldest four off a little after that; and we eat and hear about the day's adventures and misadventures and nap and pretty much lie around the rest of the day.

It's just exhausting.

Miriam and Abraham (11). She's doing Nursery Work this week and plays a hawk in the skit; he is the Recreation Assistant and plays Terry the Turtle.
Eve (13 mos.) with Lily (12). Lily is helping with one of the classes and plays Brittany Butterfly in the skit; Eve is an absolute pudge who must be squeezed all of the time and is a terror if you are far away from her sheepskin-lined bed.
We're only one day in, and when we picked up Ben and Abe from their Trail Life meeting at 8:20 tonight, Ben said, "I'm ready for bed."

Me, too. I'm getting tireder just thinking about all I am not doing this week. Maybe tomorrow I can catch at least a couple of naps.

These are chickens. I don't know their names. Chickens are dumb; and no, they can't come in, even if it's raining. Go away, chickens.

Friday, July 22, 2016


Six is... when some real scary things start to happen to your body, it's around then that your teeth start coming a-loose in your mouth.... At first you think it's kind of funny, but the tooth keeps getting looser and looser and one day, in the middle of pushing the tooth back and forth and squinching your eyes shut, you pull it clean out.... You tell some adult about what's happening but all they do is say it's normal. You can't be too sure, though, 'cause it shakes you up a whole lot more than grown folks think it does when perfectly good parts of your body commence to loosening up and falling off of you.
Unless you're as stupid as a lamppost you've got to wonder what's coming off next, your arm? Your leg? Your neck? Every morning when you wake up it seems a lot of your parts aren't stuck on as good as they used to be.
~Christopher Paul Curtis, Bud, Not Buddy 
Salem, who is (surprise!) Six. And here is proof.

Thursday, July 21, 2016


Ada (4): In Sunday School, we talked about when the snake told Eve and Satan to eat the apple and then they did and then Eve was bad so she told Adam to eat the apple and then he did and he was bad and so Adam and Eve and Satan hided in the garden but God knew where they hided. Oh, and also, Mama, the picture showed a little part of their bottoms. But just a little part. It was OK.

Me: Well, you're almost right. The serpent told Eve to eat the fruit, and she and Adam did and then they hid from the Lord.

Ada: Which is exactly what I just said.

Ada: Papa, I just feel like I understand everything.
Ethan: You are so much like your mother.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Two weeks ago, after having a 21-week ultrasound and meeting with the person known hereabouts (that is, in my mind) as Midwife Plague, whom I usually avoid like ... you know ... a Level 2 ultrasound was scheduled for the Fetal Care Unit at the Children's Hospital in Charlottesville.

At that meeting two weeks ago, Midwife Plague, ever enjoying her role as Bearer of Potentially Bad and Disruptive News, put on her best "I've never had children and this is why" face and proceeded to tell me that

  1. The baby has a cyst on its brain.
  2. There is excess amniotic fluid (polyhydramnios), and
  3. You are old and have lots of children. What else did you expect?
She suspected that a) it could be nothing, but b) it was more likely something, esp. because of the aforementioned no. 3. The "something" she suspected and I should ready myself for was one of the Trisomies -- Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome), Trisomy 18 (Edwards' syndrome), or Trisomy 13 (Patau syndrome).

I agreed to scheduling a Level 2 ultrasound and perhaps meeting with a genetic counselor and then drove straight to Ethan's office, sat down, and cried, saying, "There's nothing wrong. Ignore my crying. There's probably nothing wrong." I told him I was NOT going to google anything and then went home, only to have him call and say, "Maybe you should google it...I've looked it up and I think she's wrong." He found more and more evidence to put his mind at ease while I found more and more to put me on edge.

The next two weeks were spent praying, and reading my Bible, and being thoroughly irritated with Midwife Plague's bedside manner (which had also thoroughly irritated me when she was the attendant at Zeb's birth), and praying some more, and pleading, "Make me a willing servant, and Thy will be done, but please be merciful in Thy will," and not sleeping very well.

And then yesterday came. Ethan and I drove to the hospital, sat in the darkened ultrasound room, and tried to decipher the ultrasound pictures and the sonographer's poker face.

When the doctor came in and said, "Your baby looks perfect. I see absolutely nothing concerning in any way. Your fluid levels are normal; there is no cyst...and if I did see a cyst, it wouldn't concern me because as our ultrasound equipment gets better and better, we are seeing more and more of them...everything looks wonderful..." well, there just are not words for the relief and shock that overwhelmed me.

All that was left to do was celebrate. We took a 15-minute tromp through Whole Foods (because 15 minutes of pretentious cloth bag-carting yuppies and mothers who will. not. stop. talking. to their disobedient long-haired little boys is about all I can handle, plus, there's that whole "we love our crystal stick deodorants and raw garlic salves and should we pick up more patchouli?" smell that overwhelms the pregnant nose). Then we pranced through World Market, picking up a whopping two items: Red Curry potato chips and some dark chocolate with mango and coconut. We tried out Karen's wonderful suggestion for a restaurant: the Mediterranean Mezeh (and to my sister, Rebecca: GO THERE!). I had the lamb and Ethan had the steak and we could probably eat there every night of our lives and still want more.

Then there was Williams-Sonoma, because everyone needs a good laugh in an air-conditioned pristinely white "I'll take the copper KitchenAid and you take the strawberry huller-and-slicer" environment.

And finally, a coffee and a pastry to nourish us on our way home.

My belly was (more than) full, my heart was so light, and in my purse were eleven copies of the profile of another little Allison Stinker, because the doctor said every sibling should get his/her own picture.

I know these things don't look like much. I'm always saying I can never tell whether it's a baby or a pending weather alert. 

But this...all eleven copies of this ultrasound picture and all eleven real-life copies asking about a reminder to me. He is faithful, and He has been merciful, and this would be true even were the outcome different.

I give thanks for that solace.

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