Monthly Archives: April 2011

Serene Saturdays #13

The year that we moved to New England, we walked into our new home on June 1st.  We missed the April/May splendor that is spring.  I spent the first year not having any idea what this region was capable of producing.  I was ignorant as to what most of the plants around me were, and I was unaware that we had a lilac bush in our backyard.

We had lilac bushes in our neighborhood in Texas.  Each spring I sniffed them out and spent hours in their presence.  I always joked with my family that I was going to take a sleeping bag and sleep under one as it was blooming.  The smell is as close to perfect to me as is possible.  Not the counterfeit lilac smell put in perfumes and candles – those are offensive.  But the real thing, a real lilac bush?  No one can beat that.

Maybe it is because the scent is available for such a short time each year.  Maybe it is because it comes in such a beautiful purple package.  Whatever the case, after the first petals of spring have started to drop off the other shrubs and trees, I still have the anticipation of getting to spend hours – that surely could be put to better use elsewhere – standing by my lilac bush and sniffing.

It is still a little early to be celebrating the lilacs, and I’m sure you’ll see more of them later this week, but they’re just about to bloom!

In the meantime, here is what I have been thankful for this week:

Obviously – blooming trees/flowers/shrubs.

My kids having a “kid meeting” and deciding to do a Bible study together.

Crystal Light Peach Iced Tea.

Being able to do school outside on the porch.

Transplanting my-very-own-from-seeds tomatoes and leeks.

I hope that this week finds you anticipating something yummy, even if it is only as big as a flowering shrub.

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A Little More Spring

I must indulge myself a little more.  I can’t let this season pass by without documenting the elements of it that bring me such joy.  Traveling through this season brings a replenishment to me that very few things can.  The mundane tasks of the day are anticipated instead of dreaded because of the sites I’ll see along the way.  It changes everything.

Every day I am the transportation to and from school for a dear 1st grade girl – the daughter of our neighbors, and for whom we nanny their infant son.  Along the route to her school is an amazing Magnolia tree.  At every stage it has taken my breath away, so earlier this week, I left our house leaving time to take pictures of the tree.  I brought my youngest with me, and we snapped all kinds of photos to remind ourselves of its beauty long after the petals have fallen.

There are many things that announce the arrival of spring in our neighborhood. One of them is the noise of racing dirt bikes.  Another is the blasting of rap from the passing cars with their windows rolled down.

However, one of the more pleasant things that heralds the arrival of spring are beautiful forsythia plants.  They bloom a spectacular yellow flower much in advance of all else that blossoms, and that is enough to light the fire of anticipation of warmer temps.  The house next to the amazing Magnolia tree had a row of forsylthia.  I couldn’t resist…

And then, my most surprising gift from spring this year are my seedlings.  For the past 4 years, I have attempted to grow tomatoes and peppers from seed – and every year they germinate, sprout, and wilt.  And then I go to a green-thumbed neighbor who always starts from seed more plants than she’ll actually need, and get some from her.  Most of my success in my little garden has come from this generous neighbor.

However, this year, for some miraculous reason, my seedlings have taken off!  I planted heirloom tomatoes, peppers, and leeks.

They’re thriving!  I am going to transplant them later today (which, in all honesty, might turn into later tomorrow or later this weekend…) and see if I can get them to weather the transition.   With food prices what they are this year, I am really eager to see if we can eat even more out of our garden.  This is a good start!

One last view…the little tree in front of our house (Japanese Cherry I believe) is just about to fully bloom.  However, I caught some of the “anticipation” shots that I love.  I’ll leave you with these today.

Have a great day!

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SPRING!!!

I love spring!

I love the rebirth.  I love the anticipation of being outdoors more.  I love, love, love all of the plants that flower!


When we moved to the northeast, I had a paradigm shift regarding seasons.  We moved from Texas, which has two seasons:  hot and really hot.  And while there are a few cold days, a few ice storms, and a few snowy days, they pass quickly.  A snowman made one day is a puddle the next. 

Whereas, in the northeast, winter is a season of real endings – real death.  Trees really go dormant.  Grass really dies.  The whole landscape changes. For a long time.  And this year, for a long, long, long time…

I think that is why the birth of spring is so stunning.  Before moving here, I didn’t know that there were so many flowering trees in creation.  I didn’t notice the spectacular shrubs that flower like fireworks.  A simple drive around the neighborhood is reason for ooohs and aaaahs.  My kids weary of me suddenly shouting, “Oh, look at THAT tree!”  Or, “Look at the buds!  They are just about to open!”   Or, “Oh my gosh, look over there!”  “Can you believe this neighborhood?  Look at all of the colors!”

In this season, I talk in exclamations.

And yes, the fall in New England is spectacular, too.  It is a honeymoon/vacation destination that is booked for years in advance.  I get that.  But for those of us who live here, while we take day trips to look at the leaves (and there are lots of exclamations shouted during those beautiful moments, too), it also signals the end of nature’s beauty for another year.  It is followed by the downward drop of temperatures and the hibernation of a people who were spoiled by beautiful sunny days, beaches, and a mostly-bug-free season of grilling out.

So, I breathe in every day of spring, and I make intentional trips, or purposely go out of my way, to watch the progress of various trees in their stages of blooming.

A couple of years ago, I also contributed to the beauty of the area.

When we moved to our home in the northeast, there was no landscaping.  The area in front of our home was nothing but dirt.  Up until that point, I had never explored the gardner in me.  I had never eaten a vegetable that I had grown, nor taken pleasure in the flowers of a plant that I had nurtured.  And now I found myself needing to spruce up our front yard.

I began by researching what plants grow well in our temperature zone.  I mapped out a design, priced it out, planned what shrubs would go well within the design, decided what stones we should use to outline the area, picked out what grass we should plant, and then got to work making it happen (which meant getting my husband, my kids, and a dear friend in on the manual labor of the project).

The shrubs I picked were evergreen, flower in the spring (of course!), and hearty.  One was a Japanese Andromeda, and the other was a Rhododendron with bright pink flowers.

The joy that I get from watching other peoples’ trees and shrubs bloom is NOTHING compared to watching my own shrubs bloom.  Anticipation mounts within me as if I was birthing a child.  And the attention given to each stage of growth borders on obsession. I study them.  I rejoice in the slightest bud.  I celebrate when the pink in the bud starts to show.  And then it is an all-out party when the flower presents itself!

Little trivia:  the picture acting as a header to my blog were last year’s blooms of the rhododendron that I planted in our front yard.  In a little tiny way, it was my attempt at creating a fair haven in our lives and neighborhood.

There are a lot of spiritual parallels you can make about watching a plant flower, and maybe even a lot of parenting parallels could be made – but this post is simply about me, spring, and flowering plants.  It does my soul good.  It brings hope and encouragement to me.  I hope it does the same for you!

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Serene Saturdays #12

 

Happy Easter to all of my dear friends who celebrate the holiday! 

Last night my family and I went to a Good Friday service.  It awakened something in me that, up until then, was shutting out the import of this holiday.  I’m not sure what it was, but I left there so grateful that we’d gone, and so ready for tomorrow (Sunday). 

After church and lunch tomorrow, my family and a dozen or so others in my neighborhood, will gather at our park to throw an Easter Egg Hunt for the kids in our area.  We have done this over the last several years to bring families together and to bless the kids.

My home is in an innercity area, complete with the projects being 3 blocks away.  I have seen many changes in this area over the last several years, but there is still so much need, and everyone needs a safe place to gather to celebrate family.  That is what we are going to do tomorrow.  We anticipate about 100 kids and 1,000 eggs of candy.  Pray it doesn’t rain!

Here is what I’m thankful for this week:

A financial breakthrough in my husband’s business!

Friends helping me secure a new computer!

A week of mental recooperation.

Flowering shrubs and trees.

Spring cleaning in our home. 

However you choose to spend this Easter Sunday,  I pray that you enter into this next week refilled, and that you find this coming week full of new beginnings.

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A Typical Day

The title of this post seems a little silly, because we rarely have a “typical” day; however, we do have a schedule, we do have a routine, and I do have it as a goal to accomplish certain things within the school year.  While I have absolutely no problem with unschooling (the philosophy of eduation that believes that there is more to be captured by living a full, creative, exploring lifestyle with learning happening through natural life experiences, child directed play, and household/work experience rather than a more traditional school curriculum), we use textbooks and have a syllabus for each subject. 

Before I list out our schedule, I should also begin by saying that we made a commitment this year to nanny for our neighbor’s kids.  That involves before/after school transportation and care for their 6 year old, and fulltime care for their infant son.  He was 2 months when we began, and is now 9 months.  Therefore, this year we’ve altered our beginning and ending times of our school schedule to facilitate their schedules and care.

At the beginning of each school year, I map out a daily subject schedule, complete with the amount of time to be spent on each subject.  For the first few weeks, we follow it quite religiously.  Then adjustments are made based on the actual time it takes for some subjects to be completed.  Also, considerations are heavily made based on whether a child needs teacher direction on a subject.  For example, if my eldest needs help with  math, then I schedule subjects for the other kids that don’t need teacher direction, like typing or handwriting. 

Our day, for the kids, begins at 9:30.  We follow half hour individual school subjects until 11:00, at which time we switch to “couch subjects”.  Couch subjects are Bible, history, and geography that we all do together.  Typically, these subjects are read to them, or in the case of geography, we break into groups of 2 and work together.   This year, we have been studying the westward expansion period of early US History. 

At 12:00, two of the kids go to the kitchen and prepare lunch for us, while the other two continue in their studies for another half hour.  The kids trade off cooking, every other day.  Most of the time, I am in the kitchen with them giving direction and guidance to the meal. 

After lunch, we continue with half hour individual subjects, wrapping up school time at 2:30.

The rest of the afternoon is spent with the little girl that we watch, doing activities with her.  Their parents pick them up at 5:00, at which time we either run errands or get supper ready.  

One evening a week, my sons are tutored in Spanish.  Every other week, my kids meet with mentors who are coaching them in specific areas (innovation, computer graphics, life skills), mostly through the kind-heartedness of people in my husband’s business.  And, of course, the girls are heavily involved in dance, and the boys are equally invested in Boy Scouts and Young Life. 

With my eldest making decisions regarding college, every minute is precious, every minute holds the potential of future, and every minute reminds me that this time is slipping away.  I am thoroughly loving my kids, who they are, and where we are in their educational process.  There are definitely things I would’ve changed along the way, but as we stand right now, the future looks amazing.

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Our Family Ways (1)

Our family has a set of beliefs that we attempt to have shape our behavior.  These beliefs guide us and keep us in check when we are either at a loss as to how to behave, or when our patience gets thin and we are tempted to be selfish and behave poorly. 

The teaching and studying about these beliefs has become a part of our school day.  I think that it is equally important to leave school years with a strong character as it is to leave academically prepared.  In our home, character is blatantly taught and developed. 

The primary resource that we use for this is a devotional guide called Our 24 Family Ways written by a man named Clay Clarkson.  I have been a fan of the Clarkson family for years, and when they published this devotional, I immediately adapted it for our family’s use. 

 I thought I’d spend a few posts using this guide as a springboard for “conversation” about what we are requiring of ourselves and our families.

Our first Family Way is:  We love and obey our Lord Jesus Christ with wholehearted devotion.

Matthew 22:37 – 38  “Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.”  (NIV)

Everything for us begins here.  Who do we believe God is, who do we believe we are, what does He say about us, and in light of that, how do we live?  The answers to those questions lead us to the conclusion that our first mission/goal is to love and obey God. 

If someone could observe your life for a day, how would they know what is really important to you?  What would they see?  What does it mean to have “wholehearted devotion”? 

If you were to have the ear of a future king, what advice would you want to give him?  In I Chronicles 28:8 – 10, David has called together all the leaders of Israel to pass the torch of leadership to his son, Solomon.  The advice that he gives him is to seek and serve the Lord wholeheartedly.

What is the relationship between loving Jesus and obeying Him?  What are the “commands” of Jesus? 

From Deuteronomy 5:28 – 33, as Israel prepares to enter the Promised Land, Moses recalls what God said at Mt. Sinai 40 years before, and reminds the people to fear God, to serve Him, and obey Him

What we do with this devotional is to memorize both the family way and the scripture (Matthew 22: 37 – 38) and then to discuss the questions that I listed.  Of course, many other conversations are birthed along the way as we wrestle with what this means for our lives. 

Because this is a foundational principle upon which all others are built, we refer back to this one on a regular basis.  I believe that eternal works can’t result from our lives unless we are committed to loving, obeying, and wholeheartedly being devoted to God. 

To what are you devoted?  Whom are you obeying?  Take a little bit of time this week to answer those questions for yourself.  And then feel free to respond back with ways that you demonstrate that devotion.  I’d be eager to hear what a variety of faith walks look like!

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Serene Sunday?

 I guess when your computer doesn’t cooperate on Saturday when you’re ready to write (I sat and wrestled with it for 2 1/2 hours!), Serene Saturdays becomes Serene Sunday – with much less serenity. 

My computer is slowly dying, which is problematic for someone trying to blog.  It chooses when its going to work – and it is choosing to work less and less frequently.  Even as I type right now, it is drifting in and out. 

To its credit, it IS a couple of years old, which is like dog years in computer technology.  And, it is a Gateway, which I wouldn’t purchase again.  (Sorry Gateway…)

Anyway, I’ll try to get this post published today, and if I miss a day or so in the future, please know that the elderly machine upon which I am recording my thoughts chose to not wake up that day.  I’ll try to not get frustrated if I know that you all are being patient with me. 

So, here is what I’m thankful for this week:

The coming week being spring break, which means no dance/Boy Scouts/school activities.  Woo hoo!

Beautiful weather.  Even a night of strong storms means that we wake up to more beautiful grass and trees.

A tax refund coming.  Not huge, but at least we’re not paying!

The reverence and spirituality that is Holy Week.

Spring cleaning.

Have a blessed week, and may all of your technology last longer than its warranty!

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