The Kitchen

The Kitchen by Carl Larsson, 1898

Here’s a bit of loveliness to cheer up a gray day.

I read an article about teachers who choose to practice self-care are then happier and better able to deal with the emotional-social drain of their teaching job. I imagine that applies to motherhood and homeschooling as well. In Charlotte Mason terms, it’s called “Mother Culture.” The crisp lines, bright spaces, and homey details in this painting are my self-care for the day. It doesn’t have to be complicated, right?

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Flawed Personalities

With so many personalities rubbing against each other on a daily basis, it’s no wonder the flaws reveal themselves so quickly. There’s a person who doesn’t get along very well with almost anyone. Calm one minute, bored the next, and soon rubbing against others, revealing the things about them that he can hate. And then there are those who are naturally sweet, but their sweetness turns against them, causing them to be sensitive and prone to tears that won’t be easily wiped away or even explained. And this becomes to others a despised weakness rather than a reason to express comfort. Still others learn to cover up their sensitivities so they can’t be despised, and thrash out physically, becoming a tough person, better than others.

And then (don’t tell me you don’t have this in your house) are the similar personalities, quick to be angry at each other, quick to name faults and remember previous bad episodes. Also quick to forget and joke with each other. But sometimes having two of the same person can be too much for the opposite personalities, who thought one was okay, just right, but two was something not bargained for. And that personality cringes inwardly, a lot, trying to hide behind something, but as we already discovered, the hiding places have been worn away. We’re raw.

We’re needing grace, not cover up. We’re needing love, but we find ourselves wondering if it’s okay to hate if we’re hating the bad parts. We’re needing improvements, but we find everything falling apart. We’re needing God, and He’s there, and He’s willing to help, but He never said we weren’t beautiful in this rubbed-off state. He never said He would save us by putting us in protective bubbles. So this is where we’re at, here, right now. And apparently, this is what we’re called to live with: wounded, bleeding hearts, sensitivities, parts scabbed over and healing, parts broken and hurting. A black and blue life. And we’re called to love those we rub against most.

The hope: God never gives us hard things to do without also giving us a way to do them.

The Cornfield

The Cornfield by Alfred Sisley, 1873

The cold weather has forced me indoors for so long that I am nostalgic for green growth, sunny warmth, spring breezes playing with my hair. There comes a point every winter when I wonder whether summer could even be true. Do we really step outside barefoot without putting on coats? Can it be possible that we took advantage of days that looked like this painting? I can almost hear the insects buzzing and see the zipping electric blue of a dragonfly.

I know the same disbelief of entire winter weeks that do not get above 10 degrees Fahrenheit occurs in the hot, steamy months of summer. And then I think longingly of the intricate bare branches of winter, the red cardinals who so wonderfully do not live above my windows, and the way a cup of hot tea feels appropriate.

It’s good to have something to look forward to, I guess, but I wish I was better at living in the moment.

End of the Year Post

Most Memorable Adult Novel I’ve Read in 2017: Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh (2017). I can’t recommend it to everyone, but for those who like being transported to dangerous places (like Africa) and sympathizing with beautiful people who are misunderstood, then this is good.

Most Memorable Non-Fiction I’ve Read in 2017: Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie (2015). It’s really encouraged me to take time out to think things through, to realize that I’m the type of person who likes to think and reflect and read, and to be okay with that kind of a teacher in our homeschool. And to be okay with quiet learning progress (and not noticeable strides in progress).

Most Memorable Children’s Read-Aloud in 2017: Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink (1935). Why haven’t I read this aloud before? We did it in one day. It was that good.

My Favorite Post I’ve Written in 2017: Mr. and Mrs. Roussel. I even wrote a story based on it.

The Favorite Thing I’ve Done in 2017: Got a job at BlogMutt, ghost-writing posts and articles for clients from all over the English-speaking countries. I haven’t made much (yet), but it’s a good feeling to be transferring some money here and there into my savings account. And I like the writing challenges.

Most Memorable Concept I’ve Learned at Church (or Bible Study) in 2017: The comfort God provides is often in our looking forward to our time with Him in eternity. Even among our friends and families, we are alienated. But God loves us completely and has wonderful things for us to come.

Best Thing about Homeschooling in 2017: The continuation of Five in a Row and not following an Ambleside Online schedule anymore. Oh! I also loved the Native America History Unit Study we did.

Favorite Game I’ve Played with My Kids in 2017: Labyrinth. Unfortunately, it’s no one else’s favorite game. Fortunately, I can easily play my left brain against my right brain:)

Weirdest Way We Spent Time at Home in 2017: Speaking names backward. My youngest daughter is Rehteah. Then comes Yluc. The oldest is Eidde, but the girls tease him and call him Drawde. Lucky me, I’m still Mom.

My New Year’s Resolution for 2018 (and I’ve given this some thought): Paint a picture, just for me. But I have to get it done in a year!

Happy New Year!

Christmas: The Good and The Wishes for Improvement

This Christmas I’ve tried not to overdo things. This means taking advantage of my kids’ natural holiday excitement. I’m not going for the 12 days of Christmas crafts this year (did that last year, and it was a fun memory, but not necessary to repeat). I’m baking goodies that we haven’t had in awhile but aren’t technically Christmas goodies. No advent calendar. It’s been kind of nice, and some unexpected great moments have come up, all on their own!

  • Dancing to Handel’s Messiah before bedtime. The first time I tried playing this CD the kids purposely moved to a different room. The second time we read a Mike Venezia book about Handel and then they requested to listen to the CD so they could dance to it. It was fun! I didn’t dance myself. That wouldn’t have been fun.
  • Nutcracker mania. This was unexpected. It began with a free art project I plopped into a hole in my homeschool schedule. We each painted a winter scene and pasted a marker-colored Nutcracker character on top. They are beautiful! Then we went to the library and checked out two different Nutcracker movies, one of which had an actual ballet on it as a bonus feature. And we checked out three different Nutcracker children’s books.
  • The kids shopped for each other at the Dollar Tree. This involved stealth and secrets. We all went into the store together. I accompanied them each individually to the toy aisle and hid their choices in an opaque bag while the other two hid out in the home products aisle. Then I sent them to the car (small town, folks… I wouldn’t have done this in Chicago) while I paid. The children were thoughtful and sweet in their choices.
  • I cared enough to enjoy a carton of eggnog. I’m the only one in my family who likes it. I allow myself one carton a year. Last year I was so bah-humbug I refused to buy my carton of eggnog.

And some things about this Christmas could still be improved upon next year. For instance, my husband bought me two gifts. One of which he apparently couldn’t wait for me to open. He told me several times beforehand it was a nosewarmer. (Whatever, right?) He made me open it a couple weeks ago although I told him I’d just as soon wait till Christmas. It was a pair of electric socks. They can’t go in the wash. You have to charge them up. I don’t know. My feet haven’t been sufficiently cold enough to justify getting the socks dirty yet. The other gift under the tree is apparently a Van Gogh print (except sometimes he forgets and calls it a Renoir). He talks about it constantly, teasing me, getting me to argue with him. I don’t even want it anymore and I don’t know what it is. Whatever it is will remind me of all those excess words between us. Bleh. I wish for no presents next year from him. Or at least a present with no words attached.

The other improvement is my own attitude toward Christmas at church. The kids’ program, the caroling, the advent sermon series… they are all good, but I find myself not caring so much. I wish for a better attitude, more focused on Christ. I kind of wish Christmas was always on Sunday, like Easter. And I wish we followed the Dutch tradition of gift-exchanging on Dec. 6, so Christmas Day could be church and feasting.

Well, Merry Christmas, everyone. It has its ups and downs, but it’s always about Jesus, who is always good and perfect and lovely, no matter if I am up or down.

 

Shannon

The human face does not always reflect the beauty that may repose in the soul.

— from Shannon by Frank Delaney (2009)

Also, the weakness of the title character in this book–Robert Shannon–does not reflect the quiet strength that runs through this story. Robert Shannon was a young priest, a chaplain in the US Marines during WWI, and he came home damaged, a victim of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. As a questionably-unwise part of his treatment he is sent alone to Ireland, his homeland, to search out his ancestors. His journey takes him up and down the banks of the swiftly-flowing Shannon River.

I love the slow way the book moves forward, accelerating as Robert himself heals. There are scary war scenes I don’t appreciate much (especially right before bedtime), and the politics of the Catholic Church isn’t something I care much for, but the characters themselves are fabulously complex and richly drawn.

This is my second Delaney book, and while I don’t think I can read two in a row (they are a slow sort of book that need time to settle), I’m definitely open to reading more someday.

On a Christmassy note, doesn’t the above quote work well for baby Jesus? Lots of beauty there even though He probably looked like an ordinary wrinkly-red baby. The quote also makes me think of Mary treasuring up these things in her heart. Are the things I treasure up beautiful? Do I keep lovely things stored up inside? I should work on that more!

Kids Books Repeatedly Checked Out of the Library

We use the library a lot. I have 85 items checked out at the moment. I use it for homeschool, and my kids can’t resist piling up the favorites every time we go. I sometimes have to tell them to go back in the stacks and find something we’ve never read before (because I get tired of reading the same things over and over). Here’s a list of some of the favorites that get checked out again and again. You will soon see that my girls are more likely to check out repeats than my son.

  • George and Martha: The Complete Stories of Two Best Friends by James Marshall. This big book always weighs down the library box. I consider it a book about being tactful and friendly. The stories are sometimes delightfully goofy!
  • Anything by Holly Hobbie, especially Fanny, Fanny and Annabelle, and the Toot and Puddle books. Okay, and also Everything But the Horse. These books encourage imaginative creativity to the tenth degree!
  • The Water Hole by Graeme Base. We love the moose. My youngest can pore over the whole book searching for the hidden animals.
  • Alfie and Annie Rose books by Shirley Hughes. Yes, my kids are getting too old for these, but love for a book is timeless, right?
  • Fancy Nancy books by Jane O’Connor. I’m supposed to like these because they are fun and girly in a good way, and they build our vocabularies, but we’ve checked out Splendiferous Christmas so often… sigh… I believe I’m anti-fancy because of Nancy.
  • My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother by Patricia Polacco. She is a prolific author, tackling subjects other children’s authors don’t touch. Mostly, she writes stories about real people she has known. This book is about her real older brother. I like the ending, and I like to read the dedication, which is to her brother “with love.” I point that out with extra emphasis to my girls, who can totally sympathize with the “rotten” part of the book.
  • Randy’s Dandy Lions and Cowardly Clyde by Bill Peet. His books have rhyme and rhythm. And usually some decent morals. They have good guys and bad guys, and they have underdogs who rise to the occasion. We like them.
  • Ponyella by Laura Numeroff and Nate Evans. A horse and a Cinderella spin-off. Need I say more?
  • Strega Nona books by Tomie dePaola. These are Catholic (we’re Protestant) and full of magic spells. But somehow dePaola works his charm and makes it more than acceptable anyway.

There’s more. But I’m drawing a blank, so I’ll stop here. The above books are ones we’ve been enjoying for years. Honestly, I think if we owned them we wouldn’t read them nearly so often. Libraries are way more fun than bookshelves at home.

Do you have any favorites that get checked out again and again?