a summer rhythm

DSC_0033DSC_0036DSC_0041DSC_0045DSC_0046DSC_0003DSC_0005 (1)DSC_0005DSC_0048DSC_0050DSC_0054DSC_0009DSC_0012DSC_0013DSC_0002DSC_0022DSC_0025DSC_00280DSC_0027

We have finished up another year of school and it feels so good to do so!  Last week was our first full week off.  I found myself both happy with the wide open free schedule and also feeling a bit odd/paralyzed without our usual rhythms to ground the day.  I mean, there are some structures that remain in place, of course, like quiet times after lunch, morning and evening devotional time and such.  Last summer I remember hoping to do a lot of reading and hiking in the summer, yet finding that it got sort of choked out as we weren’t super intentional about it.  So I came up with a little loose and easy summer plan, because that’s about all I can handle.  Something very simple, flexible, and attainable, with the goal of providing space and motivation to do those summer things we don’t want to miss out on.  (If you follow me on instagram you’ve seen me sharing a snippet of our daily rhythm in my stories for the last week.)

It all just sort of came to me the other day, so I wrote down the few major things I want to accomplish each week with the kiddos, the things I hope to emphasize this summer.  I’m trying it out and the children are loving it so far.  The part of me that likes to just have the freedom to do whatever we feel like each day is revolting just a tiny bit, but at the same time, I know we can toss the schedule out of the window when we need to.  (Like this week, when we are busy prepping and packing for a sort of big trip coming up this weekend.)

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to share my little idea/venture here with you in case anyone else would be helped by it, or spurred on to try your own little summer rhythm.  On weekday mornings we have been having “morning time” after breakfast, where we do some bible reading, singing, and catechism questions.  I’ve put together little simple binders for each of the children to compile the hymns we are learning (one a month), and anything else we are memorizing or using during this time.  After morning time is over, we are implementing our “morning focus,” each day centered around one theme.  After lunch it is quiet time for the older kids and nap time for the younger two, and the rest of the afternoon is generally free play time, because I firmly believe children need hours of open play/free time daily without the management of their every minute by an adult.

Sunday: worship + rest

This is pretty self-explanatory, but this day is devoted to worshipping with our church family and spending the rest of the day resting.  Rest could look like getting outside for a hike, or it could look like being lazy at home.  Whatever is needed.  For me, it usually means leaving the laundry unfolded and trying to minimize my time in the kitchen, while giving myself permission to take extra time to knit, read, nap, or get outside.

Monday: tend to home

Mondays are days my mind is usually busy with catching up on housework, bills, and such, after taking a rest day on Sunday.  I’d like to pull the kids into helping more with house work/chores and help us all to remember that tending to our home helps to ground us and gives us a nice place to come home to after our fun outings.  Part of life is setting aside a little bit of time to care for what has been entrusted to us, and I think making this our morning goal on Monday helps me feel more free mentally to do other activities during the week.

Tuesday: read

During this time, we just loaf around and enjoy either independent reading time with some music playing, or I will read to the children.

Wednesday: create

Making time for art, hand crafts, baking — these are things that so easily get choked out of our week during the school year because schoolwork and household chores take longer than expected.  Setting aside a morning devoted to the theme of MAKING something together is really freeing for me, to feel like we have time and room to do so.  The kids absolutely love when I pull out paints, or invite them to bake cookies with me.  I plan to do a fun little “knitting class,” embroidery, writing haiku, or woodworking project with them, too.  (I have really enjoyed using this book as a help for seasonal craft ideas to do together that are simple, like leaf pressing, rolling candles, etc.)  Also, just letting them tell me how they’d like to be creative.  I think it’s important to stir up all of our creative juices over the summer!

Thursday: serve

During this day we look for ways to serve one another and hopefully also serve our neighbors or community in some way.  This one requires a bit more forethought and planning for me potentially, and pushes us all a bit out of our comfort zone.  Last week we took cookies to a neighbor, recently we did a neighborhood road clean-up, and we’ll see what other little ways we can find to serve those around us and reach outside of our home a bit.  Maybe we’ll deliver vegetables and flowers from our garden to neighbors, take a meal to someone in need, or offer to help a neighbor with a yard work project.

Friday: explore + play

I for sure want to make hiking, river splashing, or pool time a weekly event at minimum this summer, so this day is for those sorts of adventures.  Of course, if the weather is better for a hike on a day other than Friday we can just switch things around.

Saturday: connect

We often do house projects, yard work, grocery shopping and errands on Saturday, but I’m hoping we can remember that Saturdays are a really good day to connect all together since Daddy is home for the day usually.  So our aim is to do something that day to connect even in the midst of the work we also need to accomplish, whether its play a game together, picnic, walk, ride bikes, hike, visit the farmers market, etc.

So, we are trying it out and doing it without a lot of pressure or guilt.  I’m hoping it helps give us room to squeeze in all the fun things we want to do this summer.  It has been helpful so far!  Do share any fun ideas you may have or ways you’re trying to be intentional this summer to enjoy time together and make time for the things that matter to your family.  And if you’re thinking of trying out something similar, let me know how it goes!

no big plans

DSC_0001DSC_0002DSC_0003 (1)DSC_0004DSC_0005DSC_0007DSC_0009DSC_0012DSC_0015DSC_0018DSC_0023DSC_0027DSC_0297DSC_0300DSC_0305DSC_0306DSC_0310DSC_0311DSC_0312DSC_0313DSC_0315DSC_0317DSC_0318DSC_0321DSC_0322DSC_0324DSC_0326DSC_0329DSC_0338DSC_0333DSC_0336DSC_0340DSC_0342DSC_0346

Quite a few people have asked me over the last few months if we have any big plans for summer.  I was sitting in a dentist’s chair last week and she asked me about summer plans, and when I said no, not really, she looked truly puzzled and like she maybe felt a little sorry for me.  Any big summer plans?  Fun trips scheduled?  I had hoped to make a checklist on our kitchen chalkboard for our summer goals, but really we don’t have much on the agenda and I think that’s the point.  I feel a bit small and a bit simple but these are our big summer plans: being home, watching things grow.  Having time together.  Swimming at my parent’s neighborhood pool or in a river nearby.  Hiking, camping.  Catching fireflies.  Trying out the pop-up camper in our backyard, then taking it out on the road.  Enjoying the afternoon storms.  Watching tomatoes ripen on the vine, swiss chard push up from seed.  Reading together.  Yarn, pulling through fingers.  Quieting.  Regrouping for a new school year.  Letting there be long stretches of unplanned day, enough time for some boredom even.  Don’t such fascinating discoveries and creativities come out of a little boredom?  Also, the not-as-fun essentials of some medical appointments for the kids, learning about some changes we will have to make in our schooling with phoebe, working on house projects that are neglected during the busyness of school.

A homeschooling family of six on one income makes for tight years (financially) especially with the special dietary and medical expenses we face.  Truth is, we are happy to make the sacrifice to be together and enjoy these little years and raise our brood.  It is the main reason I homeschool: time together.  It is costly in the sense that we do have great limitations, but I do so hope and believe we can still make great memories together with our family even with our simple summer of no plans.  (Of course, don’t misunderstand me.  We are so imperfect and the proximity can often cause us to grate on one another.)

Brandon is working some Saturdays to help pay for the new AC unit we will have to soon buy, so it was a bit glum this weekend without him.  Then he called on his way home Saturday and said he wanted to put up the pop-up camper and have the kids sleep in it for the first time.  It was stormy and cool and the perfect evening to do so, and the kids had such a blast.  I opted to sleep inside with baby wren which was a bit of a treat for me, too (a quiet house!)

I read the other day that the word Sabbath literally means “to stop,” and so we try to plan some time into our weekend where we cease.  Where the work sits untended, the laundry stays in the basket and wrinkles, and we allow ourselves to just be.  To rest and to even be a little bored and agitated with the slowness of the pace and “unproductivity” of the day.  It reveals to me how much I mix my sense of accomplishment with my sense of worth, how much I need to produce in order to feel worthwhile.  The permission to rest is so wise and kind of God, and I have to tell my soul and my God over and over in those moments of tension (when I fight rest) that He is our provider and the One who carries us, not our own work and effort.  When we “sabbath,” or cease from working, we fast from reliance on our own strength + work.  We remind our soul that we are dependent on a good and faithful Provider.  We say to the world that our confidence comes from whose we are, not the work of our own hands.  Maybe summer could be sort of like the sabbath of the seasons?

Anyway, I feel a bit ramble-y and scattered but hopefully you are encouraged, as I am, to rest a bit and enjoy the slow and even boring/mundane parts of summer instead of needing it to be big and flashy and busy.  May you find in your limitations a wise and kind boundary set by your God.  I have thought often of Psalm 16:6, which in my earlier meditations of it always seemed sweet to me when my boundaries/limits were easy.  But it is a hard thing to thank God for (limits/boundaries) when they are difficult and truly limiting.  It presses us to cast our eyes beyond what is temporal to the delightful inheritance that is being kept for us.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord,
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Psalm 16:5-8 esv

Ps. Refrigerator pickles recipe pictured above from Allison Little on Instagram, and they are truly the best pickles I’ve ever had.

home and away

DSC_0009DSC_0013DSC_0012DSC_0014DSC_0002DSC_0016DSC_0018DSC_0023DSC_0027DSC_0029DSC_0032DSC_0035DSC_0037DSC_0038DSC_0039DSC_0045DSC_0046DSC_0047DSC_0048DSC_0050DSC_0052DSC_0055DSC_0056DSC_0059DSC_0062DSC_0063DSC_0065DSC_0066DSC_0067DSC_0069DSC_0070DSC_0073DSC_0074DSC_0075DSC_0077DSC_0079DSC_0084DSC_0087DSC_0089DSC_0095DSC_0098DSC_0101DSC_0102DSC_0107DSC_0109DSC_0111DSC_0057

“The Scarecrow listened carefully, and said, ‘I cannot understand why you should wish to leave this beautiful country and go back to the dry, gray place you call Kansas.’

‘That is because you have no brains,’ answered the girl.  ‘No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful.  There is no place like home.'”

-The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

In a recent blog post I shared all about planting our garden, only to discover on this past Saturday morning that the bulk of what we had planted had been eaten by a family of groundhogs.  Our entire day Saturday was spent rectifying the situation, digging a 1 ft deep trench around the garden and putting up fencing.  It was an all-day slog, half of it done in pouring rain and in between nursing and napping babies and feeding children.  It was a ton of hard work and come Sunday, I just wanted to get out of the house.  It can be a point of tension for Brandon and I sometimes on the weekends–he, working outside of the home and eager to be home and rest and work on projects here.  I, working inside the home all week, eager to get out on the weekends and be refreshed elsewhere.  On Sunday he agreed to drive up to a favorite spot of mine on the parkway for a hike and picnic.  No sooner had we hiked to the top of the ridge and he took a few photos for me of my finished Timber cardigan, when the skies opened up and began pouring on us again.  We got back to the car muddy and soaked (again) and ended up eating our picnic in the car at a pretty overlook.  It was fun and refreshing.  But still, when it was all said and done everyone was eager to go home and get cleaned up.

It’s funny how our ordinary days can feel so gray and blah sometimes and we are eager for more beautiful country, but in the end there really is no place like home.  In the end most of our lives are lived in the ordinary moments, and it’s these I’m convinced we’ll look back on with the most fondness.  All the glory we didn’t realize was such until later. I think that’s why I teared up when I read that quote from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz while reading to the children.  Sometimes it feels like we aren’t doing enough, sometimes I feel like I’m not giving them enough, like I’m not enough.  Like these days are too gray and dreary for them compared to all the fancy and exciting things other families are able to do for their children.  I’m hoping that this proves true–that there’s no place like our home for them, our simple ordinary growing-up-together years.

We are wrapping up our final official day of school TODAY (!!!) and with tomorrow’s fresh new month begins our “summer break.”  Now, of course, I don’t plan to quit all things educational, but our schooling will look less like ploughing through the necessities and more like soaking in our curiosities.  I hope to do lots of reading on a blanket in the yard, lots of adventures and hikes and exploring.  Learning along the way, delving deep into whatever strikes our fancy.  Making time for crafts and fun, garden discoveries and kitchen experiments, field trips and camping.  Sadly, these are the things we have so little time for during ordinary school days.  I read a comment by a fellow homeschooling mom recently who said they don’t take breaks for summer because schooling is their way of life and they don’t feel the need to take a break from it.  I’m trying not to feel “less than” upon reading that.  The reality is, the last couple of months have been quite a challenge with Phoebe and getting our work done and she and I both need a break.  I don’t think a break or a shift into more passive learning is a bad thing or gives schooling a negative connotation.  The reality is, learning is hard work sometimes, and taking a break can be refreshing.  Just like escaping to the mountains for a rainy hike makes coming home all the sweeter.  I so want to recapture for her (and I!) the joy of learning and discovery and remind her that learning is a part of every facet of daily life.  But at 7 years old, I don’t feel the need to constantly call everything we do “school.”  I believe that giving the children a wealth and breadth of experience and information will enrich their minds and souls.  I still think they need long stretches of play, free time, time to explore, imagine, and discover on their own.  What better time than summer for such things?  So yes, we will keep practicing flashcards and we’ll keep reading books together, but mostly we are hoping for some fun and some adventures.

settling back in

DSC_0013 (1)DSC_0015DSC_0002DSC_0006DSC_0016DSC_0021DSC_0023DSC_0025DSC_0026 (1)DSC_0013DSC_0048DSC_0004DSC_0008DSC_0009 (1)DSC_0006 (1)DSC_0009DSC_0005DSC_0036DSC_0044DSC_0051DSC_0058DSC_0001

I love being home.  Our family trip to upstate New York was fun and restful in some ways, chaotic and exhausting in others, but regardless, it is always so nice to come home.  When we drove in from NY on a Monday afternoon, Brandon had about two hours to quickly unpack and then repack before his flight left for a week-long work trip in California.  So, even though we had a week back at home, it didn’t quite fully feel like we were “back to normal” without Brandon around.

This past week it was good to get back into our usual rhythms.  I’ve noticed that I don’t quite feel settled into a place until I’ve been cooking or baking in it.  Making that first loaf of homemade (gluten-free) bread and filling the house with that smell feels like coming home.  I was busy this past week making gelatin gummies for the kids, a big batch of granola for Brandon and I, bread and “snack bars” galore.  Phoebe has stopped eating her usual Lara Bar snack in the mornings and so I scramble to find something she will eat in place of it.  She is pretty limited with what she will snack on and we are trying so desperately to increase her caloric intake, so for her to drop a favored food always sends me back to the drawing board and results in lots of receipe testing.

Our days have been simple.  The weather has been roasting hot and humid (ugh), and the kids have still been busy outside, coming in with cheeks flushed with heat.  I don’t love summer, but I try to make the best of it.  Picking blueberries and flowers from local farmstands, and savoring the daily afternoon thunderstorms helps me endure it.  Our little porch garden hasn’t done very well, and I miss having the larger plot we had at our last rental.  Sigh.  Dreams for the future.  Yesterday we had a really informal “half-birthday” party for Phoebe and Noah at my parent’s neighborhood pool with their favorite little pals.  I didn’t snap any pictures (gasp!) but it was fun all the same.  Their half-birthday was really back in June (20th and 23rd) so when you celebrate the half-birthday late, what on earth do you call it?  It was such a treat for the kids, though, who often find it hard to have a party with their friends around their birthdays (which are the week of Christmas).  It was fun for me, too, to see the children playing and swimming together and gather with some of my favorite friends.

I’ve been busy finishing up a few knitted projects.  My brother and sister-in-law brought back some yarn from Iceland for my birthday and I knitted some slippers for myself with one ball of it.  I’ve tucked them away for winter but I’m already longing for those first cool wisps of fall air.  I also finished up the Antartkis shawl that I made for a lady I used to babysit for back in my high school days.  It was what I solely worked on during our trip to NY so I was able to finish it fairly quickly (for me) and she picked it up this week.  I loved knitting it, especially since there was no purling and it was a really simple/easy pattern and yet still interesting.  When I’m knitting something I grow attached to it in some way, all that time spent fingering the yarn and bent over it with concentration and enjoyment.  It’s hard to give it away or to attach value to it, but also such a sweet thing to be able to make something special with my hands for someone else!

Phoebe’s homeschool co-op begins in about a month (!!!!!) and so my mind is shifting to all the projects around the house and all my piles of clutter and unfinished business that I hope to have organized before our first year of school begins.  A friend has offered to give us a couple of twin beds for the kids, and so I think we’ll be rearranging bedrooms for the children.  I’m craving a major house purge.  I’m hoping to organize my desk area and clear out a little space that can be for schooling.  I’m also hoping to squeeze in a camping trip with some friends before school begins, too.  It feels way too soon to be talking about our first child going to school, and the sentimental part of me is resisting this big change, even though I’m super excited to begin, too.  So many books to read!  Curriculum still to pick out!  School supplies!  House projects!  And still, to fit in time to read long snuggled with children on the couch, to stay up late for fireflies and late evening walks.  I want to hurry through summer because fall is my favorite, but also am so mindful that this is our last summer EVER before our lives begin to revolve around school, and so I want to enjoy each muggy, buggy day.

the very favorites

DSC_0119DSC_0420 (1)DSC_0416DSC_0435DSC_0423DSC_0429DSC_0436DSC_0425DSC_0437DSC_0439DSC_0426DSC_0428DSC_0817DSC_0819DSC_0818DSC_0821DSC_0822DSC_0824DSC_0825DSC_0826DSC_0827DSC_0829DSC_0830 (1)DSC_0607DSC_0606DSC_0593DSC_0596DSC_0601DSC_0614DSC_0622DSC_0629DSC_0627DSC_0643DSC_0645DSC_0646DSC_0650DSC_0651DSC_0654DSC_0658DSC_0659DSC_0832DSC_0838DSC_0842DSC_0845DSC_0853DSC_0863DSC_0865DSC_0860DSC_0869DSC_0662DSC_0663DSC_0665DSC_0670DSC_0677DSC_0683DSC_0690DSC_0695DSC_0704DSC_0870DSC_0873DSC_0876DSC_0877DSC_0880DSC_0881DSC_0884

And yet in all of the festivities, these are the very best moments of all.

Morning coffee on the porch, everyone greeting the day slow, groggy-eyed holding warm mugs and snuggling.

Brothers bent over tackle box.

Auntie feeding nephew.

His little round tummy and bright happy eyes.

Sisters in a row, catching up and catching wind in their hair.

Sibling date (sans our kids!) in the town of Watkins Glen, getting pizza and Ben & Jerry’s and the most delightful little yarn store.

Walking the marina together.

Tubing and wakeboarding and running the boat until it ran dry.

Campfire gatherings in the evening, knitting and talking and playing guitar.

Squirt guns and barefoot bike rides and bubbles.

The boy coloring all over his body and face during nap time, “Line Man” as daddy declared him.

Mom and Dad stealing away for a tandem kayak in the whipping sun and wind.

Nap time watercolor quiet.

All the babies sleeping soundly under quilts.

Early morning glory in the sky and last sunsets set aflame with 4th of July fireworks.

All this glory, all these holy ordinary moments, hemmed in by sunrises and sunsets.  Morning and evening, days ticking by, and us trying to squeeze from them every last drop, us trying to savor this never-to-be-repeated now.  These are the very best moments of all, the ones we almost miss, the ones we pass over.  It’s all good, but these are my favorite.

(Other trip posts here, here, and here.)

 

origins

DSC_0442DSC_0444DSC_0446DSC_0447DSC_0452DSC_0454DSC_0456DSC_0458DSC_0459DSC_0462DSC_0463DSC_0464DSC_0465DSC_0471DSC_0472DSC_0473DSC_0475DSC_0476DSC_0484DSC_0488DSC_0497DSC_0507DSC_0519DSC_0522DSC_0530DSC_0535DSC_0543DSC_0544DSC_0547DSC_0557DSC_0563DSC_0566DSC_0569DSC_0708DSC_0713DSC_0719DSC_0721DSC_0724DSC_0728DSC_0733DSC_0738DSC_0740DSC_0741DSC_0744DSC_0745DSC_0746DSC_0758DSC_0759DSC_0760DSC_0771DSC_0775DSC_0777DSC_0782DSC_0783DSC_0785DSC_0786DSC_0788DSC_0789DSC_0790DSC_0793DSC_0796DSC_0798DSC_0800DSC_0802DSC_0805DSC_0806DSC_0811DSC_0813DSC_0814DSC_0816

These are among some of my favorite pictures from our New York trip.  What special times they were, filled with a lot of significance for this family.  One of the goals for our trip was to see Brandon’s family’s roots, the places where his parents grew up and met, the schools and streets they walked, the trails they frequented.  Many of these places are also the soil for Brandon’s earliest and happiest memories.  For years I have heard stories of all of these places–what a thing to be able to visit them and to watch the next generation running through these familiar fields.

So one day of our trip we spent hiking Watkins Glen State Park right by Seneca Lake, climbing through the moody canyon.  The pictures speak for themselves, don’t they?  It was gorgeous and when we finished a huge downpour threatened to fall, so we made it out in perfect time.

Another day we drove to Breesport, NY and drove through the rolling country roads to the big yellow house where they spent their first years as a family, caretaking for a big abandoned asylum.  This house holds some of their happiest days, the house with the pond and a white duck named Ellen, who came when Brandon’s dad would call and laid eggs for their family to eat.  The swing set they played on and the sloping hill that is perfect for sledding.  From there we went onto Elmira, seeing Brandon’s grandparent’s home, visiting with them there, walking the grassy trail behind their house to the creek they caught crawdads and splashed in.

I count us fortunate to have been able to see and share these places with Brandon’s parents and grandparents while we still can!

a love worth traveling miles for

DSC_0270DSC_0183DSC_0174DSC_0176DSC_0177DSC_0179DSC_0180DSC_0181DSC_0184DSC_0186DSC_0188DSC_0191DSC_0197DSC_0204DSC_0207DSC_0208DSC_0211DSC_0215DSC_0214DSC_0219DSC_0221DSC_0227DSC_0231DSC_0236DSC_0245DSC_0249DSC_0251DSC_0252DSC_0254DSC_0256DSC_0259DSC_0268DSC_0273DSC_0269DSC_0279DSC_0280DSC_0281DSC_0284DSC_0296DSC_0311DSC_0315DSC_0320DSC_0325DSC_0330DSC_0331DSC_0332DSC_0335DSC_0342DSC_0346DSC_0355DSC_0366DSC_0369DSC_0373DSC_0377Our family trip began around the idea of a surprise 60th anniversary party for Brandon’s grandparent’s.  What an incredible reason to gather!   After some health scares and setbacks for grandpa earlier this year we were especially thankful to be able to visit with them and see their home and celebrate their commitment to one another for so many years.  We are grateful for that incredible legacy!  A surprise party was planned for the day after we arrived, and was very well executed, small and intimate and just the closest of family and friends.  The best moment was seeing Gma walk through the door and her eyes widen as she realized over and over all these familiar faces circled before her, before bursting into tears.  So worth it all to be a part of that moment.  She had apparently been telling Brandon’s mom how much she wished she could see all the great grandkids but probably wouldn’t be traveling much now with grandpa’s health concerns.  What a treat to come to her!  We hugged and mingled and reconnected with lots of aunts and uncles and cousins, we introduced Gma and Gpa to Philippa, whom they haven’t met yet.  We watched second cousins meet and share toys and play.  We prayed and had dinner together and cake!  Auntie Cerissa had made a special gluten-free cake just for Phoebe, which made her feel so loved.  Afterwards I put my arm around Gma and asked her, “So tell me, what is the secret to sixty years of marriage?”  She quickly responded, “Not keeping secrets!”  And then she passed on a few other gems of advice, reminding me that no one is perfect and that we have to be thankful, forgive, laugh at ourselves, because sixty years is a long time!

As the shadows lengthened, we left the party and took the kids to a nearby little amusement park, just perfect for them.  They’ve never experienced anything like that, so they were filled with glee running from ride to ride with their tickets.  Philippa was obsessed with the “ore-sees” (horsey’s) on the merry-go-round and probably rode it several times over, eventually realizing the ticket was her way in, and just walking up to the gate with a ticket and waiting there until the attendant saw her.  They all loved it and every day after Phoebe and Noah asked me if we could go back.