let the children play

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“There is a little danger in these days of much educational effort that our children’s play should be crowded out, or, what is from our present point of view the same thing, should be prescribed for and arranged until there is no more freedom of choice about play than about work.  We do not say a word against the educational value of games (such as football, basketball, etc.)… But organised games are not play in the sense we have in view.  Boys and girls must have time to invent episodes, carry on adventures, live heroic lives, lay sieges and carry forts, even if the fortress be an old armchair; and in these affairs the elders must neither meddle nor make.”  -Charlotte Mason (quoted in For the Children’s Sake)

“There are many reasons why children have been reduced to a point where they don’t play with joy, initiative, and creativity.  Often so far as their personality is concerned they are wheelchair cripples, too disabled even for crutches.  Restorative actions means scheduling time, time which is not obviously “improving.”…Certain factors encourage play.  It is often easier home-based than institution-based.  There should be space, and lots of free time.  Children need to be outdoors (for hours).  They need to make noise, mess, and to have access to raw materials (old clothes for costumes, hats, tables to turn into camps, etc.).  They need privacy from intruding adults, but they need interested support in quarrels, thinking of another way around a problem, providing food, and, at the end, bringing the children tactfully back into the world where supper is ready, the camp has to be packed up, children are tired and ready for the soothing routine of evening stories.”
-Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, For the Children’s Sake

Our home days are my favorite days, “home days” meaning the days we aren’t running around doing errands, restocking our various shelves or visiting with friends.  We love all of that, too, but we always try to have some uninterrupted hours outside, too.  One rainy days, we go hunting for puddles and momma gears up mentally for a tub full of muddy, sodden boots and clothes for laundering.  There are things that matter far more than a perfectly tidy home.  I heard a quote on the radio this week that a perfectly tidy home is a sign of a life misspent.  Maybe I’m just comforting myself with those words, but it is a comfort.  Of course, I dream of a perfectly kept home, and there is a great value in a tidy and relatively neat home for providing structure, refuge, and sanity for the family.  But there are more important things at stake than a handful of stray crumbs, cheerios stuck to placemats, laundry heaped clean in a basket.  Children are growing up day by day.  They need affection, affirmation, encouragement.  They need eye contact.  They need to be unhurried.  They need spontaneity, curiosity, exploration, dirt and discovery.

And the reality is us adults need all of that, too.  Having children is a very good thing for us “grown ups.”  It is helping me to be a child again, to remember what a world full of wonder we live in.  It is bringing laughter and silliness again, where once maturity and sensibility was so prized.  It is teaching me, as C.S. Lewis wrote to his goddaughter in the dedication of his book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, that I am “finally old enough for fairy stories again.”  And I’m so glad.

I’m only learning, though, and often regress.  I’m thankful for these words from For the Children’s Sake, and find myself reminded that children are born learners.  Its often our systems and programming that bore them to death and teach them amiss that learning is a tiresome, bothersome endeavor.  The reality is that if we take them out into the natural world, which is so full to the brim with curiosities, beauty, ugliness, creativity, function, pain, and philosophy, they are sure to find things that spark their wonder, and we can stoke the embers of that wonder into flame.  We do that by getting down with them, exclaiming with wonder over their discoveries, asking questions and prompting their thought, finding books and videos that explore the matter further.

The geese on our nearby pond are nesting, and we just happened to check out a book from the library all about geese families.  We have been checking the geese every day if we can, whether walking to the lake, or hoping on our bikes after dinner in the dusky evening to see if any goslings have hatched.  I am learning wonder again, over things so small and things that didn’t matter much to me before.  I am learning to notice again, to wonder and to find ways to see the glory of God on display in these small and simple things He has seen fit to fill the world with.

“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,
in the things that have been made.”

Romans 1:20

getting out

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Oh, North Carolina in spring, you steal my heart.  That surreal bright green is creeping up the hillsides, popping everywhere.  We’ve been gleefully spending most free afternoons outside, riding bikes, drawing with chalk, playing “bubbles,” as the kids call it (when I make bubbles for them to run through and catch).

The kids are becoming such little buddies, creating such a little culture all their own.  I remember in my high school/college years I used to babysit for this family that I adored.  They had six children, and they had such a unique and fun little family culture.  The kids played these incredibly imaginative games, and I remember watching them with this acute longing to have a family dynamic like this, with children who love each other like this, who create their own beautiful little world together.  I am starting to see it unfold between these three and it is heart-melting.  I love catching them in their games.  Noah and Philippa have this bond playing ball together.  One of them sits on the bottom of the stairs, throws the ball into the play room, the other runs around and chases it, while they both kill themselves laughing.  The other day I found all three of them on the couch trying to suck their fingers and twirl their hair like Phoebe does, in a row.  Both Noah and Phoebe have this tenderness with Philippa, and lately I’m catching them holding hands with her and walking.  Now of course, they all fight and hurt one another sometimes, but we keep teaching and nudging and trying again, and we are seeing more kindness grow.  Even momma and daddy are working on gentleness and kindness.  These lessons are learned over and over again, even as adults, because our natural inclination is to be selfish and often we are most unkind when we feel someone infringing on our space or desires.

Sunday was a gorgeous day here in the 80s so we retreated to the mountains, looking for a spot to let the kids explore and play in the water.  We went up to a popular area on the parkway, Graveyard Fields, and played in the stream there.  Brandon helped the older two with fishing.  I tried to sit and knit for a few minutes but was quickly seen by Philippa who ran to me (totally soaked through) to snuggle, so that was that.  I must have sighed with a hint of frustration (even though I adore her snuggles!) because Brandon looked at me with a smirk and said, “Stressful relaxing, isn’t it?”  YES.  It is so stressful sometimes just to try and go somewhere to relax as a family.  Philippa insisted on “watkin” (walking) herself the whole time.  They really are all such excellent hikers, and they love our Sunday adventures.  Sometimes it feels like more effort than it’s worth to pack everyone up and get out into the mountains somewhere, especially with Brandon working long hours lately.  But it’s good to just get away from our regular life for just a little bit sometimes.

I just wanted to say thank you to those of you who are reading along.  It really means a lot to me that you’re here and just know I love hearing from you!  I hope you have a happy and blessed weekend, wherever you are.

christmas day


This was probably our favorite Christmas with the kids thus far.  Whereas last year all of us cried at some point on Christmas morning and the children kept fighting over gifts, this year everyone seemed relaxed and content.  I got up a good bit earlier than the kids to make our breakfast cake, enjoyed some time alone with coffee and candlelight and the Lord, and just savored that holy quiet anticipation waiting for the house to wake up.  Soon the patter of feet running down the hallway, squeals and giggles and snuggles.  We let the kids open their stockings right away, which was really fun.  Phoebe tried on her socks that I had knit for her for the first time which was so awesome for me to finally see them on her and see how they fit!  Brandon read the Christmas story, and we ate our Blueberry Yogurt Morning Cake (thanks to Shauna Niequist’s recipe, adapted to be gluten-free) with eggs + sausage, and sang happy birthday to Jesus.  The kids truly love doing that.

After breakfast we opened the gifts under the tree and just took our time.  They got a lot of books this year, mainly, plus one bigger item and a couple of hand knits and clothing items.  Family members also contributed some of their gifts.  I bought Brandon some new jeans + boots, and a woodburning kit.  He bought me a beautiful bracelet (which I adore), a book I have been wanting, cozy socks, and some knitting supplies (a yarn bowl + wooden needles)!  We headed out for a walk and bike ride, then B + I snuggled and watched a movie (and I knitted) while the kids took naps.  After they woke up we headed to my parents house (10 min away) to gather with family, open some presents there together and have dinner.  It was maybe one of my favorite times together, singing Christmas songs with my brother leading us in worship + piano playing.  My parents always make the most amazing celebratory meals, and we were not disappointed!

It was a sweet day of worship and pouring out love on each other.  It was simple + extravagant at the same time.  For some reason it’s hard to achieve that, I feel, to worship our God and love one another extravagantly, and yet to keep the gifts simple.   It’s a battle to keep our focus on celebrating the greatest gift of all, which is Christ.  We fail in one way or another every year, but still, even knowing our frail and broken nature, He offers Himself to us afresh each year.

I hope you had a very Merry Christmas with your loved ones + that you have a blessed and happy New Year!  Thanks so much for reading along here with our little family.  You truly bless me!