Thursday, December 29, 2011


This year, we

  • decorated
  • visited Bethlehem and finally saw the Christmas camel (hurumph)
  • had Grandma visit us
  • went to a movie with the whole gang and sat through the whole thing
  • Christmased (with friends) on Thursday
  • and Christmased some more (at Grandpa and Grandma's) on Friday
  • and Christmased some more (at our house) on Saturday
  • and went to church in the morning and then at night and then Christmased some more (stockings) on Sunday
  • wrestled
  • crafted
  • napped (at least, Maverick did)
  • determined it is, in fact, impossible to get a decent group picture
  • drove Grandma to the airport in Richmond on Monday
  • visited the Richmond Goodwill (where we made $1.00 after buying our purchases and having a man from a large family hand Gideon a wad of money and refuse to take it back) and Trader Joe's (I'm glad we don't have a Trader Joe's or Whole Foods makes them ***so fun*** to visit)
  • undecorated right away on Tuesday (aaack!!! Get this stuff out of here!!!)
  • learned new games and skills to accompany new gifts
  • and are getting back into the routine.
Two new subjects arrive via post tomorrow, and then the children will be back in the land of learning. Because schoolbooks=learning, right?

I think my favorite things from this year were having Ethan's mom here, our late-night struggling through gift choices for my side of the family (Amazon's listmania was a lifesaver!), my brother's sauerbraten (my mouth waters at just the thought of it),  and having the children draw names for present-giving. We've traditionally done the Dollar Store or say-it's-from-the-whole-gang routes, but this year we told them they would draw names. They loved the idea. We hit Target, divided into three groups with Ethan, his mother, and myself as the heads, and tried to avoid each other in the toy aisles. The children were deliberate and careful in their choosing, and the anticipation of receiving their own special gift was fun to watch. (Also, they kept their secrets! Amazing!)

Ethan's mom set up gift-wrapping shop in her room, and the children had their gifts wrapped soon after we got home. Miriam (6) made her own tag for Eden (4) (shown above).

It was a good, full Christmas. I dealt with my usual humbugness (only slightly vocally) and enjoyed the music and the lights and the excitement of the children.

And now I'm listening to pasta boil on the stove, children gleefully throwing blocks down the hallway, and Salem chatting away on her new "cell phone." The starlings and house finches and cardinals are flitting around the suet cage just outside the window, and I know what we're having for supper.

I'm a very contented mama.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


I grew up with a salad at every meal. And I hated it. Probably this was due in part to the fact that I was the designated salad-maker. Chop the carrots, shred the cheese, find the sliced almonds. Like the ever-constant glass of milk, salad was enough to make me gag. That feeling still lingers, and it is the rare meal at our house that includes a salad. Baked broccoli, yes. Sauteed carrots, sure. But very few salads.

So today, after feeling sluggish/guilty/fat/squooshy/generally-irritated-by-the-fact-that-it-was-*already*-lunchtime, I got Lily's help and we made a huge salad. So easy: Romaine, chopped carrots, chopped celery, chopped apple, chopped cheddar, and all the leftover pork. Two choices of dressings: Ranch and Roasted Red Pepper Italian with Parmesan (which means, of course, there is hardly any Ranch left and plenty of the other. But that's fine with me!).

The kids licked their bowls clean, several asking for seconds. Jonathan (3), our resident gagger, declared, "Mama, you make bee-licious food. I love this."

Not salad.

Thereby re-confirming the fact that what you withhold from children will become precious to them.

And perhaps they will still have room for this afternoon's chocolate peppermint sandwich cookies.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December Doings...

Crafting. Those of you who know me know I hate crafts. It's not just that I hate the mess it makes (although that's mostly it); I also, for the most part, just hate CRAFTS. I'm not impressed by scrapbooking, 1001 uses for toilet paper rolls, or glue-and-glitter kindergarten configurations. This is why I homeschool: so I don't have to deal with schoolmade ornaments that you have to try to simultaneously proudly display and discreetly hide. I am not even remotely tempted by the Cricut or Silhouette. (Mom, I know these terms are foreign to you. It's genetic.)


I do enjoy decorating (and Karen, YES, someday I will actually hang pictures on my walls). I also find knitting (or, as Ethan correctly points out, more usually unknitting), crocheting, and machine-less (because I don't own one) sewing to be relaxing, in an exasperating sort of way. And it's a change of season, and December and all that. So we've pulled out some crafts that passed my test:

  1. Costs exactly nothing (or nearly)
  2. Takes less than 1/2 hour
  3. Can be cleaned up in less time than it took to make it
  4. Looks harder than it is
  5. Is not something I can buy at Walmart or Michael's for cheaper.
So far, these have passed:

Finnish stars, for the living room and sitting room windows
Winter hat garland (made from toilet paper tube and yarn - HA!)
And next on the list are gingerbread ornament garlands (the dough is in the freezer now), snowflakes, and picture frames.

But I'm spending an awful lot of time yakking it up about a topic I find cumbersome, so let's move along.

Renovating. In this case, you of course should understand that the predicate of the immediately preceding heading is "Is," and the subject is "Ethan." First off -- the kitchen floor. He's been sanding the edges when he has time, researching what kind of dye/finish to use, and scheduling it in for sometime in January (after holiday madness, when we can afford to be out of the kitchen for a few days).

Also, there is the Sitting Room. This room has been the most wasted space in the entire house, which is sad, considering we can't really afford to waste any space. So we finally took out the massive couch (a freebie that the cats had shredded to bits and the kids use as a trampoline, throwing cushions everywhere). It's going to be an office/schoolroom/guest room. The room already looks 100x better without that stupid beige curved monstrosity in there, although the kids asked, "Do we still have to call it the Sitting Room if we don't actually have anything to sit on?" I pointed out that we started calling it the Sitting Room before it had a couch, and this was in objection to their calling it the Roughhouse Room. And also, they can sit on the floor just fine. And Note to Self: calling it the Sitting Room seems to have changed their activity in there not one iota. Or one somersault.

As Ethan's mom arrives in 11 days, we (read: Ethan) have also been working on finding a door, cutting it down to fit the character and sag of this 1846 house, painting it, and hanging it. Because probably a guest room should have a door.

Going. Well, technically, just Abraham and Ethan. Because in July, Ethan's mom took the four oldest kids to the movies. Abraham got sick in the parking lot, she brought him back, and she and the others caught the next show. "We'll take you," we said. "You will still get to go to the theater when you get better."

And so, five months later, we made good on that promise.

Now that I look at it, squinting and smiling and resting your hands on your son's shoulders kind of makes it look like you're strangling him. Huh. Maybe I should not have insisted that you face the sun head-on. Whatever.
Thrifting. I live with the thrift store king. Ethan can go into a thrift store, scout it out in 2 minutes, and determine whether there is anything worthwhile. And by worthwhile, I mean a really cool, unique piece of furniture for less than the cost of a pack of paper plates.

I have the knack of spending 45 minutes in a thrift store and emerging with something that will not fit, which is usually a blessing because nine times out of ten it is something no one wants to walk around with anyone wearing, anyway. (I never do seem to be able to locate that line between fashionable and absurd. I hit absurd every time.)

But...the past few times we have both gone in? JACKPOT! Bowls ($0.25 each) that match the ones we already have! A $2.50 moka pot! A huge $5 bag of Christmas-y material for ((gulp)) crafts! Solar Christmas lights (so the chicken coop can have a lit wreath). And...this baby.

It's a deer. Gideon is probably growling at it, because, according to him, that is what deer do. We have four that live in the field across from us. "GROWL, GROWL, GROWL, GROWL." Every time we pass lit Christmas deer in people's yards: "GROWL, GROWL, GROWL, GROWL, GROWL, GROWL, GROWL." But he's only 22 mos., and he can't hear me correcting him, especially not over his growling.
Chasing Chickens

Gideon chases them like this:

And then they really do run.

Pinching, Squeezing, Kissing.

Because, really, cheeks are everywhere!!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

{pretty, happy, funny, real}: Nov. 17

So, yes. I'm joining in on yesterday's linky. I'm a day behind. However, I am also a dollar short, so at least I am keeping the old sayings going.

But here I am.

Confession: this post is picture-heavy. I don't scrapbook, so I'm afraid that if I didn't post these, I would lose them forever. And I probably would.


The newly EIGHT-year old, enjoying a card from a gracious churchmember.

The backyard, in the snow of Oct. 29. (What? So what if I'm just posting this...
it hasn't even been a month since then!)

Moss among the fall leaves on a recent mountain walk.


Miriam, crafting

Gideon and Lily

Let me tell you what is so happy about the previous two pictures. This: where was I? Napping. Where was Ethan? Running errands. All by themselves, these four five (oops, forgot to count the photographers!) found coats and shoes (although they are not all wearing them in these pics), built a snowman, outfitted a snowman, found my camera, and took pictures just in case the snowman melted before I woke (!!!). A snow outing that did not involve me??!! GLORIOUS!!!


Gideon peering into Ethan's coffee mug. Also, Gideon drooling into Ethan's mug. I think that's funny.

Ben and Lily enjoying Calvin and Hobbes. Lily's page was a little funnier than Ben's.

Miriam on the ramp the kids built. Catch some air, Mimi! Quick!


Today was Lily's birthday (and I was on time for that). This is Salem (21 mos.) enjoying Lily opening her presents. (There is a video embedded in this post. Email subscribers may have to click over.)

For more photos of everyday life, visit


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

It's the Little Things

Tonight, while Ethan was at prayer meeting, I sat on the floor at the end of my bed and sorted socks. Kids were dashing in and out of my room, completing one task and rushing back in for the next (or a reminder..."What was I supposed to do again?"). Jonathan (3) sat next to me on the floor and chatted away, absent-mindedly rolling pairs of mismatched socks.

I decided he needed a new task. "Go get me a book to read to you," I said. I don't think he was the one who hurried downstairs and picked out The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies; but whoever it was, I found myself holding the detached cover in one hand and the rest of the book in the other, trying to figure out from the torn first page the ending to the first line of the italicized lesson.

We finished the book (thankfully without any more torn pages), and the kids begged for another. "Just one more! Just one more!" they chanted. (It does occur to me now that the entire lesson of the book may have gone unheeded.)

"No, no," I said. "We'll have time to read tomorrow."

"Mom? Could I read to them a little before bed?" asked Benjamin. "I mean, if they want me to."

Everyone loudly agreed, and I succumbed. I unrolled Jonathan's pile of socks and started re-matching, expecting to hear Ben's voice on the bed behind me reading The Seven Silly Eaters, our current favorite picture book.

Instead, I heard his voice, clear and unrushed:

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, 'and what is the use of a book,' thought Alice 'without pictures or conversation?'

He continued to read, giving the appropriate lagomorphic voice to Alice in Wonderland's White Rabbit and a convincing young girl's to Alice's lengthy soliloquy.

I was enchanted.

The children were enchanted.

It was so sweet, so tender, so fleeting. The chapter ended, everyone begged for more, and Ben sternly said, "That was quite a long enough chapter. It'll give you something to look forward to tomorrow. Let's get in bed. I'll pray for the boys, and Lily can pray for the girls."

He's ten now, this oldest of ours. Sometimes he's an exasperating ten, with a Tom Sawyerish knack for turning his chores into envied tasks: "I LOVE doing the kitty litter. It's fun to see how many treasures are in there!" and a propensity for martyrdom (do not ask my husband where he gets this).

But sometimes, many times, he causes a freeze-frame in all of the harriedness. Something he does or says jars me from the rushing and slows me down or time down or both for just a second.

I don't always notice. I probably don't even usually notice.

But tonight I did. And I cherished it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fall Foliage Trip

Last Friday, in lieu of our regularly scheduled program (which was a trip to my parents' to celebrate my brother's birthday), we stayed home.

Well, we really didn't stay home. But we stayed away.

Four sets of pink eye (Salem, Gideon, Jonathan, and Eden) kept us from just about every social function last week. That meant we were spending a lot of time at home comparing shades of pink ("Would you call that salmon? Or peach? Gideon's are crimson!"). Pink eye is such a dumb thing...besides demonic eyes and sniffly noses, there's little to slow the stricken down. So they are running around the house, sneezing contagion upon whomever is within range, and whining incessantly. (In good health, there's just the running and whining.)

And I had had enough. No way was I going to spend Ethan's day off doing the usual (laundrymealslaundrymealslaundrymealslaundrymeals), but we couldn't go anywhere populated for fear of spreading this virus. (Well, honestly, I could have cared less about spreading it amongst strangers but Gideon's eyes were so demon-possessed looking there would have been no way to hide our irresponsibility.)

Ethan to the rescue! "Want to go for a drive?" he asked. And, as always, because I am always looking for a reason not to be doing laundrymealslaundrymealslaundrymealslaundrymeals, I said a hearty,


It almost rhymes.

And we took a little fall foliage drive.

I guess it's a family tradition now. This is the second year we've driven to Crabtree Falls in its autumnal splendor, and I hope we continue every year.

This is how you know you're on a good road:

  1. GPS routing is not advised.
  2. The post office meeting is at the Baptist church.
  3. The road is too bumpy to take a decent picture.
Also, the last store you pass (about 20 minutes after the one before it) is a restaurant/general store/bait stop/potty stop/place to buy gum-chocolate-wine-sharp cheese-twizzlers-local cookbooks-quilts-cast iron pans/place to gut your fish.

Y'all, it's that good. It looks like a lodge, and the restrooms are CLEAN. I want to live there.

But back to the Falls. We opted to walk to them and enjoy the beautiful crisp air.

This is how you know you're on a good trail:

There is a "MANDA DIANE WILL YOU MARRY ME?" sign on the path.

See? Everyone wanted to read the sign.

Sidenote: Ethan wants this tree for a beam - 

But back to the leaves. Everyone, hold them in front of your face! Those of you with pink eye, make sure you hold it in front of your eyes!

And then we saw some of the Falls.

But this was the view I kept watching:

You all are so gorgeous! Can I take you home with me?

Wait. I have to take you home with me?

I know, I know. But Papa will make it all better. He always does.

But goodness, I love this gang. I love that man and all our offspring.

And I sure did love getting out of the house.
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