Monday, May 30, 2011


Is that what you call spring when it's acting more like summer?
You should.

Is that what you call me when I don't act at all because I'm too hazy, hot, and humid?

You should not.

I can think of a million and eight reasons (OK, that's way too many and there's no way I'm thinking that many thoughts on a day like today...but I CAN think of eight and if I try real hard I might even get their names right) why I find it impossible to put away laundry or keep the kitchen floor clean or finally put away  the baby gate that has not been used for three months and never used effectively.

It's just not that sort of a day/week/month.

It's the sort of a day when you sit outside, listening to your husband finish the trim on the chicken coop while you knit/unknit the same 8 rows three times before you figure out a way to convincingly fudge that tricky row. And the sweat from the unceasing sun drips down your back and you feel that you must have really done some sort of work that counts because you have the sweat to prove it!

Why do I have time to knit/unknit 8 rows but not time to put obsolete baby gates away?
You ask too many questions.

This weekend we had an overnight guest. Overnight guests always make me aware of how ... odd ... and lazy ... and random our household must seem. (Only seem, of course. Of course!) There is the inevitable clash between the way things work here and the way they work in the rest of the world, a clash of which I am usually happily oblivious. (Did you swallow the end of that last sentence? I can't keep it down!)

I don't know why, but I am always at my messiest when we have overnight guests. This is more than just a convenient excuse; it's also the truth! I don't know if it's because my subconscious relies on the extra hands for help or if it's that I figure they've seen the real us so why bother with the pretense of order or if it's the business of entertaining.

And I pondered all of this as I sat and knit and unknit and sweated. sweat a regular verb or irregular?

There's just only so much time in a day. And maybe that's part of it. Maybe I don't want my guests to see me picking up dawn to dusk and yelling at kids to finish your chores finish your chores finish your chores and calling my husband to say, "Your kids are driving me crazy!" and threatening that you are not eating ANYTHING AT ALL until that trash is taken out!

Maybe instead of doing away with the pretense, I am fully engaging it: I want you to think that none of this external stuff is important to me. I want you to think that my children have a perfectly happy mother who can sidestep the clutter and sing through the whining.

Hmm. I do believe I'll ponder that for the next eight rows of knitting. You know, right after I put that gate away.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

{pretty, happy, funny, real}: May 19

Our friend Jim took this a few weeks ago at $0.31 Scoop Night at Baskin Robbins (which, as it turns out, is almost a mandatory church event).

He took it with his iphone and called it "News Update" (he's funny like that - just ask his wife).

I think Ethan might be on to something with his makeshift high chairs: just throw the top (free) newspaper away, and it's all clean!

For more photos of everyday life, visit


Monday, May 16, 2011

Where troubles melt like lemon drops away above the chimney tops

...That's where you'll find me... (anyone else hear Judy Garland?)

Last evening, after Ethan got home from evening worship but before we were joined by a sick Benjamin (and later, a sick Salem), the two of us sat out on the front porch to enjoy some chai and some serenity. It wasn't yet dusk, and the sky was dramatic.

While all of those views were from the front/right side, to the left we had this:

Can you see the raindrops next to the tree?
And in the back, this:

All of those were taken simultaneously. Well, as simultaneously as they can be when you take them one at a time.

Then Ethan manned the camera, actually stepping off of the porch.

Oh, my goodness! What is that? Is that really, truly, an almost-finished coop?
Why yes, yes it is. And also, a rainbow.

I see it! I see it! The almost-finished coop! (If only it would stop raining!)
And also, the grass. But who can mow when there's the coop to finish?
And also, the double rainbow.

Can you see the double?

And then several children joined us to say that Ben (9) was feeling terrible, and then Ben joined us, and then Salem (15 mos.) joined us (also sick), and then Edee (2) ran out to tell me that her head still hurt where the knots are on her head from falling off the bench. Two of her knots are indeed from her fall, but the last knot (under her ear, and not where she hit) I'm pretty sure is a swollen lymph node. And Miriam (5) is complaining that every time she sneezes, her loose tooth hurts.

So truly, our twenty minutes on the porch (well, and Ethan's five minutes off) represented the calm before the storm.

I think I'll cancel school for today (because that sounds more responsible than just letting it happen) and focus on getting laundry done and doing lots of read-alouds. Oooh, and we also have "The Waltons"!

But first, I'm going to rustle up some breakfast and then take a little nap.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Benjamin, Tonight

Convalescing with a newly thrifted Beverly Cleary, an orange popsicle,
and the chaser: homemade eggnog (Grandma E's recipe)

The children and I stayed home from evening worship after Benjamin kept heading downhill this afternoon. First his throat hurt, then he was achy, then he didn't want to move his head.

Now (9:30 PM), he's on the sitting room couch, enjoying the rare privilege of an entire couch to himself without others jostling and clamoring for his treats.

Only I'm not sure how much he's actually enjoying it. His throat hurts, and so does everything else.

Even so, he managed to garble out, "But I don't want to be pitiful. I want to be helpful."

I don't want him pitiful, either! But I do believe he's in for a little pampering.

Monday, May 9, 2011

"Annual" picture

Every Mothers' Day, I ask Ethan to take my picture with however many kids there are that year.

Usually, I get sick and tired of rounding up kids and trying to have people simultaneously smile AND keep their fingers out of their noses. (Plus, I hate having my picture taken.) So more times than not, I give up in disgust before the picture has actually been taken and mutter a "Maybe next year."

This year, I asked, Ethan pointed the camera, and the kids kept their hands away from their faces.

Do note, however, that Salem is pulling Miriam's hair.

In next year's picture, my hair will be longer, my face will be thinner, and everyone will look at the camera.

At least, that's my annual resolution. HA!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


The air has been fresh and clean, the dandelions have been growing like...weeds, and things have finally started to slow down.

Not that things are ever truly slow around here. And if they are, there's usually a bad reason for it. me just pull this out of the air here...six kids gathered around a dead blackbird. In the living room.

But as things have whirled around me, occasionally slowing to remind me that, "Mama? You have a huge nose!" (the 2-yr. old), I have done my own whirling. And finally, yes, even slowing.

So much of my day is urgent stuff. The cats "went" outside their litter box. The dog threw up orange curry. The babies are stinky and one of them has pulled his own diaper off. No one can go into the laundry room, because everyone's eyes are watering from the smell of rabbit pee. And also, what's for dinner? (And please don't say spaghetti.)

But a lot of my day is also urgent stuff of my own doing. There must be no dirty clothes! All dishes must be put away! No loose papers should be on the floor! WHO KEEPS SPREADING BLANKETS AND PIANO BOOKS ALL OVER THE SITTING ROOM? THIS IS NOT YOUR PLAYROOM! We must have fine cuisine at every meal! (And if we don't, it must be because I spent all day searching for the perfect recipe.)

I revisit these thoughts of my own self-imposed regulations often. Sometimes I remember that these are emergencies of my own making; sometimes Ethan reminds me. And I'm glad.

It helps me to remember that this is NOT the person I want to be. I don't want to be the mother that never had time for anything fun because anything fun was messy. I don't want to spend hours fuming over misplaced shoes and slimy sippy cups (so THAT'S where those have been for the past three weeks!) and melted crayons.

It's time to unsubscribe from all those pretty blogs that congratulate the aproned mother with dinner ready and the newly crafted table runner freshly pressed. I don't need any more pressure to be a Stepford wife with Christian music playing in the background. My husband is no more fulfilled at the end of a day when he sits down to a full dinner and a martyred wife. He'd much rather stumble over crayons and Cheerios to fall into my happy arms than walk briskly into a sterile room where I glare at him for leaving his shoes on in the house.

The point for me to remember is that I so easily trade the important things of this life for the unimportant distractions. And really? Bathrooms, kitchen floors, refrigerator doors, and hampers are all distractions. So are curtains, slipcovers, and wall hangings.

"But Ozzie, underneath that organic cotton tea towel are freshly-formed loaves of whole wheat bread from flour I ground myself!"
"So what, Harriet? So what?"

I'm not saying slobs are holy. I'm just saying they are not by definition unholy.

And I'm saying I'm glad God doesn't look at any of that when He looks at me. I've been memorizing Colossians with six other women in our church, and I'm so struck by the gifts God has given us. Funny --clean baseboards, level curtain rods, and creative menus are not mentioned (although, granted, we're only in chapter 2. But I'm willing to wager they're not going to come up in chapters 3 or 4, either). Endurance, patience with joy, inheritance of the saints in light, hope of the gospel. That's the language of the Scriptures.

I'm glad most of my emergencies are self-imposed. I can self-dispose of them. My husband doesn't ask me to do anything further than love God and love him. He wants me to smile and look him in the eyes and be wholehearted.

And what does God want from me? To do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:7-9, ESV).

And even that, even that, He empowers me to do. I can't do it. So He does it through me.

There are no emergencies in God's kingdom. It doesn't suffer from the tyranny of the urgent.

And THAT truly leaves me whirling.
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