Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Rose Sharon

Rose Sharon Allison
September 21, 2018
12:33 PM
8 lbs., 12 oz.

Yes, she is almost five months old. And yes, I know this is the first mention I've made of her on here. But it's only because she is so very wonderful and cuddly and a wee bit demanding and fits into this family perfectly. Which is to say, my days are very, very, very, very full.

In the best sort of way, of course!

Her actual birth was … forgettable, to be frank. And, might I add, that is the best kind of birth to have. I was not traumatized from it, there were no lingering complications, and I cannot for the life of me remember the details of the birth as much as I can remember the obligatory post-birth Outback Steakhouse steak, which we devoured in the hospital room with the REAL SILVERWARE we remembered to pack from the house! (Eating an Outback steak with a plastic fork is a definite downer.)

I do remember the day before, however. My water had broken the night before, on Wednesday. Thursday I announced, "Today we walk! We will have this baby!" and Ethan and I left the Older Children in charge with plenty to eat and went walking. We started at the Star Trail, and then walked the Verona Trail, and then we headed down the road to try BBQ at a campground we had heard recommended from a man in line at another BBQ joint. This is the campground with a million pet rabbits who ate the pieces of bun I threw at them. This is also the campground where our GPS took leave of its senses.

After the brief lunch, we headed up the mountains, past a freshly dead timber rattlesnake, to hike part of the Appalachian Trail, which we did.

There were a few overnight hikers who were excitedly starting their hikes from our trail, and we quickly moved to the side while they laughed and sang out and hiked their packs higher on their backs. I hiked my belly up and declared, "This is probably enough of this" and turned back to head back to the car. It took us about two minutes to make it back to the parking lot. Does that count as hiking? It is probably more correct to say I set foot on the Appalachian Trail that day.

Then we walked around the Humpback Rocks Farm and imagined trying to do things with our family way back when -- laundry washing and drying, raising all our own food, making all our own hard cider. My life was looking decidedly easier.

It was a beautiful day. It was a wonderful, long, leisurely, special date. It will be forever implanted (I hope) in my mind -- it is rare that I "live in the moment" -- but I was so fully aware of the fact that our family was about to change, and my normal pre-birth fears and sense of overwhelm were being successfully suppressed by the knowledge that this, too, would pass, and a wonderful family awaited this newest one and would do above and beyond what I needed.

We continued to find little places to pull over and admire God's creation, marveling at the many butterflies and the vulture airing its wings on a rock overlooking the ranges of mountains. It was spectacular. And I kept thinking, "God made all of this! It all declares His glory! And so, Little One, will you! And that is just incredible."

And the next day, when the contractions were hard and strong, we headed to the hospital. Of course, there was not a single contraction the whole way there, so we turned around in the parking lot and headed to the Star Trail to walk some more. We walked, and then we headed to Aldi's for easy foods for the kids and then drove home, and then we decided to wait until the regularly scheduled doctor's appointment at 11:30. At the appointment, the doctor and nurse were making bets as to how far along I was. The doctor said a 6, the nurse said a 4, and Ethan said an 8. He was closest, of course. I was at a 9, so they sent me over to the hospital; and I honestly remember very little after that, until hearing, "It's a girl!"

Ethan had put his order in for another girl. She fits the bill beautifully. She twists my hair around her fists while she nurses, and she squawks her opinions loudly, and she has the best whole-face smile in the world.

She has these gorgeous, dark, intense brown eyes and looks exactly like Lily (15) did at that age. It's so wonderful to hold a mini-Lily! My two flower-girls -- Lily and Rose -- most certainly belong together.

And so do all the rest of them. The Lord has most certainly hedged me behind and before, and laid His hand upon me (Ps. 139:5). And I am so very thankful, and my days are so very full, and it is all so very, very good.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

First Day Hike

It has been one of my goals to get Outside as a family more -- farther than the backyard. We used to be Out all the time. Lately (as in, the last few years), it has been not-so-much. I was frustrated by this, but then I had one of those Plain as Day insights hit me a few weeks ago: it is a huge effort to just do daily life with this large of a group. It doesn't always feel like a huge effort, but that is due to being blessed with a spouse and children who seem to have an endless supply of good humor.

The reality is, many days there is also an endless supply of dirty laundry, meals that must be cooked, and groceries that must be stocked.

There was something comforting in that realization.

So then I could move on.

Virginia State Parks are free on January 1. "That's it!" I declared. "We are going to go to a state park on New Year's!"

No one cheered.

The predicted high was 21 degrees, we have two dedicated nappers who most certainly would be missing their naps, and there is always the issue of What to Eat.

But I was not going to be thwarted. I threw some ham-and-cheese sandwiches in the oven, Miriam (12) put together some trail mix baggies, and Ada (5) and Zebby (4) helped me make S'mores Brownies (proving, once again, that Ashley English and I are from different worlds. She is from a world where you make S'mores Brownies for a winter picnic and then photograph them for a book whose genre is probably best described as Escapism. I am from a world where you should be anticipating the innate problems in making brownies with sticky marshmallows on top to be eaten in a van and nowhere near a sink. I think I gain a point for packing forks but lose about twenty for entertaining the idea at all and another forty for carrying through).

It didn't really matter. The food issue was conquered, and that was the main thing. We would not starve to death on the 45-minute drive to the Natural Bridge. I scarfed down my usual "Breakfast Lunch": two fried eggs with ham and a cranberry muffin, we packed the water bottles and the dog and some low-carb shortbread cookies and the rest of the food, bundled everyone up and then added some more bundling, and headed out.

It was so worth it. Even though the "hike" ended at the bridge (icicles hanging from it prevented the rangers from letting people pass under it), the chance to Do Something Else with the family was golden. (It was at about this spot pictured above that we saw a black lab whose owner said exasperatingly, "Calm down. What is WITH you, Maverick??" at which point I had to ask if her dog's name was Maverick, because that is our dog's name, too...and I think our Maverick was as confused as I was!)

Eve, 2

Zebby, 4

River, 1

Lily (14) caught Ethan sneaking a picture
One of the perks of getting Out, I must admit, is that it is more fun to embarrass your children. When Jonathan (9) saw Ethan's hat, he said, "I guess Papa's job is to make me not feel so silly."

"Oh, yeah?" said Ethan. "What if I do this? Come here, my boy." And then he did this, and I snapped the picture.

And I loved every bit of it. I loved the cold, I loved the napping little one, I loved the warmth when we got in from the cold, I loved that the gift shop featured the artisan who made Ben's mug that I broke a year ago so that I could finally replace it, I loved meeting another canine Maverick, I loved the stubborn, independent two-year old insisting on pushing her own stroller.

(Well, OK. I did not love our Maverick peeing on the signpost just inside of the building, right before you get out to the trail. Maverick, that was incredibly stupid. And also, hurry on up and get out of here before anyone notices.)

It was invigorating, and exasperating (Maverick and sticky brownies and stubborn stroller-pusher), and altogether lovely.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

First Days of School

"Thank goodness I was never sent to school;
it would have rubbed off some of the originality."
~Beatrix Potter

This morning has been quiet. River (9 mos.) was up at 6:00, but she has already had a diaper change, nursed, and gone back to sleep. I have relished the silence, reading my English countryside book and sipping a now-lukewarm coffee in the grey light of this misty, drizzly morning, listening to the buses drive down our own wet countryside road on their way to the school down the lane.

River, at Saturday's church pool party. A fitting end to summer!

We started school yesterday. I faced the new year with a mix of eagerness and dread. I am always overwhelmed by the sheer logistics of this thing called school. Too easily, I succumb to the weight of the realities of life...those things called children, and laundry, and meals, and doctor's appointments, and dog food.


Yesterday was delightful. It was a mad rush of things, trying to quickly explain which books were whose and what was expected while also getting the ripped paper out of River's mouth and for heaven's sake, Older Children, GET OUT OF BED!!!

Things did seem to move right along once we tackled the getting out of bed part. Funny, that.

I absolutely love this mix of kids. But NOT, I must admit, their week's worth of dirty laundry from camp.

Despite my complete expectations that there would be complaints and mutiny among the ranks (as we say, "If they are complaining, it does not mean we're doing something wrong. It just means they're still alive"), there was not any. The children were excited by the new books and attentive during the readings (both mine and theirs) and careful to keep on-task.

There is, I must admit, a contagious excitement that comes with freshly sharpened pencils and a sense of Things That Must Be Done.

A waning excitement, I am sure, but excitement nonetheless!

And now Ada (5) is here, waving my days-old birthday balloon and wearing Gideon's bowler hat, Eden (10) is reading Beatrix Potter to Eve (2) and Zebby (4), and Lily's Baked Oatmeal is ready on the stove (a perk of homeschooling: you can say, "Preparing breakfast for the next day is part of your 'Culinary Studies' class each afternoon..."), and my mug most definitely needs a refill.

School days are here again!

This is a poem my mother used to say often.  I don't know why. But it is the first poem I teach my children each school year.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Yakkity yak

Sunday, I was rummaging through the church refrigerator trying to find some cream for my coffee, when I landed upon a suspect mound of butter on a plate from who-knows-what and who-knows-when. I stirred some of it into my coffee and turned to go.

"You know," said Kenley, watching me, "we had some friends who were missionaries in Tibet. They shared some Tibetan tea with us when they were in the States. They put butter in their tea, only it was yak butter. They packed a whole bag full of yak butter to bring back here with them. They loved the stuff. So I have had some, but....eh...."

"YAK butter?" I asked. "Did it taste gamey?"

"No," he responded. "More like...well..."

"Rancid?" I prodded.

"Yes. A little bit rancid."

And that was pretty much it. I think I got distracted by some child, and then there were other children to scoot along their way to Sunday School.


That very afternoon, I was all hunkered down for a nap with a delicious book in my very favorite series ever (thank you, Mom). And, would-you-believe-this, and yes-I-poked-Ethan-and-made-him-listen, on page 93, half a page in to my reading, THIS is what I read:
'Is this the milk?' queried Betty, sniffing at a small jug. 'Smells a bit off to me.'
'Oh, that will do, dear. I really don't mind it slightly cheesy. After all, the Tibetans always use rancid milk in their tea -- and yak's milk at that.'
'I think I'll have mine black,' said Betty, and the two settled happily at the kitchen table for ten minutes' gossip about the newcomers to Thrush Green.
(Friends at Thrush Green, p. 93) 

And of course I brought the book to evening worship to show Kenley.

And now I'm showing you.

Monday, May 8, 2017


Chantrelle Dimarco says she loves to create areas of "wild wonder" in everyday locales for Teague and Finley.

"It will spark their imaginations, calm their hearts, and create a space of everyday joy."

This husband of mine. The previous is an email he sent me, proving that even he can pose as a thirty-something eco-conscious minimalist mother of two from New York City.

When really, this. The wider view:

So I suppose that does make me feel better. We do have the necessary components for minimalism. They are just hiding behind all the stuff.

Friday, May 5, 2017


I was reading an eye candy of a book yesterday. The genre was my kind of escapism: a primer of sorts on eco-conscious minimalism and simplicity, written by a mother of two in her early thirties who lives in New York City.

It is a gorgeous book. Her tidy teensy apartment has no plastic, no disposables, no junk.

In one of the pictures, there are two beautiful white bowls of berries (one of blueberries, one of strawberries) placed on a linen towel. The caption reads, "I find that keeping bowls of fruit out on the kitchen table means they actually get devoured instead of shriveling up in the fridge."

It was such a pretty picture.

So yesterday, instead of slicing half a pound of strawberries into minuscule pieces and creating a glaze to go on top of shortcake, which is my usual route, I decided to cut two pounds into slices and put them in our painted strawberry enamel bowl to generously share with my family. The strawberries were not purchased at the farmer's market, they were not carried home in a cloth bag, and they were not de-leaved with a wooden-handled artisan knife. But they were placed, in a bowl, out in the open. I felt a kinship with the younger, suaver, trendier author.

Halfway through our meal, I asked the other side of the table to pass down the strawberries. "There are no more strawberries," they said. Three of us still had not gotten any. 

It is when you need a mid-meal shopping trip that you realize the shortcomings and dystopianism of minimalism in a family of fourteen.

I should also mention that there is a blatant oxymoronish tint to it all, too.

Ethan was not surprised. After all, two pounds of strawberries divided between thirteen eating people is less than generous. And he was also not surprised that, on our second grocery trip of the day, we picked up more strawberries.

"You know," he said, in response to my exasperation, "if you were discerning about which teensy corners of our house to photo and crop and embellish and post online, you could have people believing you were a mother of two in your early thirties in New York City."

No. No. I never could.

I should have paid more attention to what the author said. "I find that keeping bowls of fruit out on the kitchen table means they actually get devoured instead of shriveling up in the fridge." That is exactly what happened. Set on the other side of the table, that is exactly what happened. My side of the table never saw those strawberries.

This is exactly why I do not keep bowls of fruit out on the kitchen table.

Lesson learned, I think. And here is the lesson: mother-of-twelve trying to re-enact mother-of-two's tale of eco-conscious minimalistic simplicity is perhaps enacting quite another genre: FICTION. And bad fiction, at that. Hungry, exasperated, frustrated bad fiction.

In other news, photos from the past few months. Not cropped, not embellished, not eco-friendly. I just don't have the time, and also I'm hungry.

River, Eve, and Grandma Allison on Easter

Trying to gather the masses for a family picture the day of River's baptism (February)

Ah. There we all are. All grandparents and children accounted for!

Gwendolyn, our Outdoor Cat AHEM, with Maverick.
Gwendolyn, our Outdoor Cat AHEM, again.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

And how it really went...

There is a reason I don't do to-do lists. And the reason is that they never get to-done. That leaves one feeling slightly deflated. For instance, if I look at this--

Today's List:
--well, all I see is what didn't happen today.


a Done List is much more satisfying.

  • Clean Eve's room (storage room)
  • Pinecones lightly dipped in white paint for garlands for the windows.
  • Cinnamon rolls for Sunday
  • Gingerbread
  • Chocolate Panforte
  • Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
  • Walked for 2 miles with 11yo daughter
  • Found 11yo son's long-lost Trail Life handbook
  • Listened to 13yo daughter teach 15yo son how to sew stockings, and admired five fresh-off-the-sewing-machine stockings made from dress shirts their father no longer wanted
  • Washed kitchen blinds
Because the reality is, even on these festive preparation days, people still have to eat their regular meals and wash their regular clothes. The baby still needs to nurse, and the next baby up still needs attention and ticklings and naptime.

So my house is only marginally cleaner than it was this morning; and while it certainly smells better, that smell reminds me of the tidying the kitchen still needs. There are crafting bits and pieces here and there and everywhere, and there's dog hair and random books and random pieces of clothing.

But now the children are in bed, and they were all fed today (three cheers for frozen food!!!), they were all bathed today (three cheers for Saturday night!!!), and they are all present and accounted for.

And Papa is home, the dog is snoring on the couch, and the kitty on the front porch has her little heated house plugged in.

So all is right with my world!
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