A Tight Ship

Oh, a travelling life, a travelling life for me…

-Mr. Potts, senior

I’ve come to love the Aubrey Maturin book series, naval tales set during the Napoleonic Wars. This fifth book I’m reading now, I have not skipped a word, but earlier on, I couldn’t hack the sea going jargon at times and was forced to skim. Definitely a growing love for these books and their colorful characters. I noticed in this book how attractive the rigor would be on a ship- things stay clean and sharp. Of course, there are many hands to do work. But I wonder how much like the keeping of a ship I could adopt here at home.

One thing I note is that personal belongings stay stowed away, and the public spaces are orderly and methodical. While we can’t accomplish this right away (we’re finishing rooms in the basement-squeal-so people are all over the place until they can move in), it is definitely a good goal.

There is a time to work, on a ship, and a time to play. The other day Anna and Micah were painting, something I rarely let them do, though I love it myself. Micah said, “Let’s pretend we are artists…” and my heart squeezed. Of course you are artists, no pretending necessary. But I run our home like we don’t have time, energy, interest, or organization enough to fit these things of beauty into our day. They think it is forbidden fruit when it should be their daily bread.

Always something to learn, there is.

-Yoda

We’ve Got A Lot Going On

A week and a half ago, my mother in law broke her leg. Since then, for related and unrelated reasons, it has been crazy busy around here.

The broken leg will keep C in recovery for 12 weeks. This changes some things for all of us. She’ll start out on a nursing facility which is right by our house, so we’ve started going in shifts to be with her. Sam and Noah each rode their bikes down to see her yesterday.

Yesterday was the end of the summer reading program, and there was a festival downtown with free carousel rides. We finally made it to the carousel! There were long lines, but fortunately rides can accommodate a bunch of people at once. I kept hoping to get a phone call from the library saying one of us, okay me, won the prize drawing. I put all of my tickets in the drawing for Renaissance Theater tickets and restaurant gift cards. That would make some great dates this fall!

I had some spare time yesterday, and realized I didn’t have a book in the house that I hadn’t read. Like an alcoholic with no drink in sight, I began to shake at the thought of filling the time, filling the hours of nursing, filling the next week while Luke is gone. As I perused my bookshelves for a title I might feel like reading again, it occurred to me that I should use this time working on my memory verses. A phrase in my morning reading in Hebrews stuck with me:

“strengthen yourselves in grace”

What does that mean? What does that look like in my life? Maybe a good start is taking some time to memorize words that are eternal. So I did. It was very cleansing.

Luke is headed to Mammoth Cave for four days. I honestly don’t mind his trips with the Trail Life Troop, because I don’t enjoy that kind of travel right now, and because while he is gone I can read and relax. That sounds bad, like when he’s here I don’t do that, but for some reason there is more open space and free time to do what I like now, so I’ll take it. We may do a day trip to a petting farm and dairy on Tuesday, if we aren’t too crazy busy. This is more my style.

The Last Three

The kids put on Barbie and the Fairy Secret, so I thought I would sit and write a while. Things have been busy this weekend, so a dumb movie and a blog post are great ways to wind it down.

I’ve been faithfully filling my bingo card for our library summer reading program. Last week I had three more books to finish, and was reading them all at the same time (“I don’t know how you do that,” Aliyah says. It’s just like watching two or three shows at once. Very doable.). Reading them simultaneously wasn’t the difficulty; it was the big book, the one on my bingo card that was described by having more than 500 pages- Les Miserables. I wasn’t sure if I could read it all before the end of July, and two books besides. But I was able to pull out the win, with time to spare.

Les Miserables was one of the free books on my Kindle, so I don’t know how many pages it actually is. But it was a lot! I already knew the plot, so this helped me figure how far along in the book I was, and it helped me skim through some parts that were long and uninteresting to me. LM serves as a type of historical novel, and includes lengthy explanations of the faulty penal system at this time period in France, the battle of Waterloo, the mindset of the revolutionary and the bourgeoisie, and the plight of orphans (gamin), to name a few. I leapt over whole chapters, gratefully, when I realized the author was going into detailsville again. On the other hand, I found so many great phrases and passages to highlight, both from his opinion pieces and from the things characters said and did. Time goes by, but humans are all the same, in many respects. I appreciated reading Les Miserables, and would highly recommend it.

Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison, kept me wondering what was going on. One doesn’t see the word Solomon until page 283, and never did it share meaning with the book of the Bible, like I thought it would. It is a coming of age novel about an African American man, and the challenging relationships he has with family and others. This is in the early and mid-1900s, when racial tensions were high. (Many would say they still are, of course.) Maybe because I’m white, maybe because I have led a pretty easy life, I don’t relate to books like this. But occasionally I will read one, and strive to finish it, knowing I have lots to learn about others and their struggles. This book satisfied my bingo square “something with ‘song’ in the title”.

I also needed a book to fulfill “something you should have read in high school”. Aliyah recommended a book she had just finished, and I laughed at how this would work! Party of One is written by a single girl about the misconceptions and realities of being single. All too often we look at singleness as a bad thing, as a lonely season just to be survived until marriage, and we can look at single people with poorly placed pity and even be found guilty of thinking there is something wrong with them! When the truth is, God’s plan for any human can be accessed and embraced right now. None of us should ever put off doing things or thinking we’re just getting by until the next life happens. There is no such thing. A single person isn’t flawed any more than a married one, either. This book was an eye opener for me in a lot of ways. I was glad to have read it now, when I am raising my daughters. But it would have been great for me to read in high school. I might have avoided some heartache and gone after other opportunities with more gusto. Singles have unique privileges.

Bingo! I felt such accomplishment when I collected my prize tickets. I definitely stepped out of my comfort zone with each of these books, but it was time well spent.

 

Double Take

Luke left for Columbus with…wait for it…Sarah at the wheel! This time of driver training is nerve wracking, but the benefits of one more driver under our roof will be worth it. I am not a good one to have in the passenger seat, even when it is Luke driving, so he has taken the bulk of educating Aliyah, and now Sarah. I so appreciate him for doing that.

Last Monday we had our family photos done. Aliyah took most of them, all the ones she wasn’t in, and brought her friend to do the ones we all needed to be in. It went pretty well, when all we have to compare is the year Micah was a baby and we were trying to do things ourselves with a timer at Ohio State Mansfield. Luke lost it pretty early on then, so I knew we needed to make this session snappy. Aliyah was on it, having some experience with family portraits, and with our family in particular. We were able to get some great shots of all of us, and groups and individuals. What a treasure, as many commented on Facebook, both the photos and our children.

Speaking of family, we had two of Luke’s siblings visit with their families over the fourth of July. One family stayed with us, a good kick in the pants to get work done on the basement rooms, so that-

-the girls could move downstairs, so that-

-the little boys could move from the living room into their room, so that-

-we could get new furniture for the living room. The prices we were seeing for new couches were discouraging, until Luke thought of Ikea. There we could get two couches without breaking the bank, and even though they likely won’t last very long, we aren’t out a whole lot.

We had a fun and busy time with the visiting folks, going to the zoo and blueberry picking and a pool party. I had planned some large meals, but we only ended up eating one of them. So once the relatives left, I had a lot in the fridge and pantry. That, and every time I thought I would head to the store, I got rerouted or just didn’t feel like going. So here it is Wednesday, and my meal/shopping week renews on Friday. I might as well keep on limping along until then. Only problem is, Luke feels like we have not been eating all that great, as we limp, and is tired of the pasta dishes. So I looked at a cookbook for some fresh ideas. I’m thinking of getting a Crock-Pot, but am not sure I want a big one. I have a lot of problems with them, one being breaking the inserts in my sink. You did read insertS. It came to me while looking at my cookbook- Crock-Pots are inexpensive enough to get two regular sized ones. I could follow the recipe, just doing it twice over. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of that before. Next week we may try Crock-Pot meatloaf or stew. Wish me luck!

Why I Love The Greatest Showman

You shall teach these things to your children, when you lie down and when you get up and when you walk by the way…

We traveled home from the zoo last night, and Sam put on the soundtrack from The Greatest Showman. The kids love the songs and know each by heart; even Julia could be seen mouthing the words from her car seat. Luke, who has only skimmed through the movie, marveled at their attraction to it. It is a story about some circus freaks, right? What’s the big deal?

On the surface, that could be assumed. But there is still beauty, and even truth, to be recognized there. The second time I saw it, the more I loved it and thought this was so.

I love the way the characters are tested throughout the story. Some are aware that they are not like everyone else, the freaks. But through the course of the story, they grow close in community, and celebrate their differences (in a good way, not just what our society pushes in the way of gender and sexuality differences). These people become a family.

I love how a character is challenged in his own beliefs about race. He falls for a girl who is of a different race, and at first, he can’t seem to make it public, acting rather like a hypocrite, wanting to please others. But eventually all that matters is his love for her, and her love for him, and he doesn’t care who sees.

I love how marriage is upheld, even atop someone’s biggest dreams. In one of my favorite books, Phil Vischer spoke of how his dream had to die because it was replacing God in his life. In the end, he says, it is just you and God. Not your car, your house, your dream, and God, just you and God. Sometimes God lets our dreams come true, but sometimes He wants us to give them back to Him, because His dream for us is better. The greatest showman has to choose what dreams he wants, because he can’t ‘have it all’. And we see him choose, something rare in Hollywood, his wife and children. Just fabulous.

So, yeah, I’m a big fan of this movie, because I get to watch it with my children and point to those great truths and say, look at the beauty in choosing to love, to look past appearances, to be true to your marriage, and ultimately, be true to yourself. These things are what I hope my children think of when we belt out,

THIS IS ME.

Scenes From A Foot Doctor

I last posted about my feet at Easter. The tradition our family has of footwashing on Maundy Thursday gave me some concerns, since my toenails were suffering from my sneakers. They started feeling better this spring, but not looking much better.

There was an odor I was noticing on my side of the bedroom that I thought was the carpet, as we are in the room the boys used to inhabit. Blame it on the boys, right? Luke had said that he thought I had a nail fungus and I dismissed it at the time, not really wanting to think that was true. One day the odor popped up again, and I thought I’d check my sneakers, just on a whim. My right shoe smelled with that same odor! I felt a kind of shame, one because I have had this problem and have basically ignored it up until this point (way to take care of my body!), and two because Luke did say something, and I thought I knew best and totally wrote him off. It reminded me of the time (times, let’s be honest) I am stubborn to a fault. I wouldn’t let the wedding photographer put up lights in the sanctuary because I wanted to keep things natural. Things were natural all right, but they were dark. I lost a good job at a science museum in Roanoke because I wouldn’t renew my social security card with my new name when we were first married. It is a thing with me. I want to change, and to listen to my husband, especially when he has what is best for me in mind.

So my first doctor’s appointment was this morning, and I prayed on the way that things could stay simple and uncomplicated. I could just see me leaving there for the hospital and getting put under for foot surgery (I’m sorry, Ma’am, you’ve let this go too far…) I even left Chloe at home because I had no idea what to expect. But it wasn’t like that at all. In fact, my doctor sounds an awful lot like Luke. Maybe I can get good at listening to the both of them.

Our Trip To The Dentist

Elijah: Mama thought about it, and I can go to the dentist, too.

Kenan: Elijah, you probably aren’t going to get any cavities today…

So began our eventful trip. Adon and Kenan had fillings to get, Elijah didn’t want to be left behind, and Chloe couldn’t be left behind. It was a roomful of most of my youngest at the office, changing the usual quiet atmosphere there.

Not five minutes in, Elijah had his shoes off. I explained that he had to wear shoes; he could have stayed home and stayed barefoot, but he begged to come, remember? He complied fairly quickly.

Neither patient was taken back right away, which foretold how long a stay this was going to be. I would have fed Chloe twice before we were done. We settled in to read some High Five magazines, play a treasure hunt game (who can find me something red?), and messed with the window blinds before the first was called back. Elijah’s shoes came off again a couple more times, and I gave up. If I would have known how much trouble he was going to be…

Later we took a walk outside around the building (“Mama! We can’t leave Kenan here!”) for a short while. I saw a neat plant with long spiky grasses, and asparagus-like stalks up the middle with white blooms. Kinda like a hosta, but with some more class. Our dentist’s office is an old church building nested in the side of a hill, so he’s put in some stone retaining walls in back. Adon and Elijah wanted to climb them and walk across the top, but I could just see someone falling and needing more dental work, so we headed back inside.

A couple of ladies came in then, and the one asked me about Chloe and if these were all my children. I get to answer this in a myriad of ways, right? I told her C was #13, yada yada, and we had a nice talk about large families and homeschooling. I gave her my card (Did you know I have a card? Aliyah made them for me. They are handy for giving someone my digits), told her to contact me sometime. You know what? No one I have ever given my card to has ever pursued a relationship with me. The who might have had promise moved away. I’m starting to think it’s me. There is a new Ocean’s movie out in theaters, and before I see it I want to watch the other three again. While viewing the other day, I noticed Danny Ocean’s card- it just had his name on the front, with an embossed border. When I run out of these unfruitful bits, I’ll ask Aliyah to make me some like Danny’s. Maybe a con-man’s card can do better at making friends.

New Days

I was able to get up early this morning, and stay up. This is a wonderful time to just sit with my coffee and look out the window and think. We have such a beautiful property; it always gives a good reason for reflection.

Later at the library, we came across the cutest board books: Star Wars Epic Yarns. There is one for each of the original trilogy, with a word on each page and a picture of felt figures, from Yoda to C3PO to Luke and Leia. How fun. I thought I’d seen everything; apparently there is something new under the sun, er, suns, in Star Wars.

I was recommending the H.A. Rey Stars book to someone and got to thinking about Heaven. Usually I am looking forward to what is new for us to see and experience there, and the gift of opportunities to do there what we might not get to do (as much here). Quilt? Check. Learn a new language or instrument? Check. Take up mountain climbing? Check. I have even set down a book in disgust when the author had her character mourning that the view he had out his window he wouldn’t have in Heaven. What? I like my view, but we’ve only got better and brighter up ahead. But thinking about the stars today made me kind of sad. Will He destroy all the stars? I suppose He can replace any and all with a single word (like He did the first time), but they won’t be the same. The constellations we have from our neighborhood in the Milky Way are unique. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Staycation

I saw Luke and the older four off this morning. They are headed to Lynchburg for the boys to attend basketball camp. For a few weeks I had been dreading the trip, them being away, and me being here. But then I was able to put things into a better perspective, with God’s help, of course. This is just another opportunity to have things be laid back and simplified. When Luke’s gone, there is no one to impress ( not that he ever is anyway, ha ), and the kids and I can fill the time with some activities we rarely get to do.

Tomorrow we’ll head to the library. Summer reading program time again! My bingo card needs three more books read, to get a row. Another great thing to do more of while Luke is gone- read. That evening we have running club. I haven’t been yet because 1)¬† Chloe is little and 2) traveling an hour to watch my kids on a playground is not my idea of fun. But it will fill some time, and Abbie and Caleb would be bummed to miss it.

Tuesday I want to take the kids to this science playspace in Mt. Vernon. I was able to obtain a free membership there, but since MV is a half hour in the opposite direction of anywhere else I go, I forget about it. There is a lunch buffet at Pizza Hut, so we’ll probably go and redeem our Book It coupons afterwards.

Wednesday Kenan and Adon go to the dentist. That will be enough excitement for that day.

Thursday we may go to the carrousel. I like this place, too, but forget it in the busyness. Luke and the older four should be back by Thursday night.

So, it’s a plan! Hopefully¬† I can keep things fun and simple on our staycation this summer.

Catching Up

I had a baby three weeks ago. Her name is Chloe May and she is doing wonderfully well. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been using her as an excuse for every failing these past few weeks, much like I was using my pregnancy before that. Sorry we haven’t met for coffee, sorry I haven’t gotten back to you, sorry that isn’t finished…I may just keep this up as long as I can. Ha.

Postpartum is the perfect time for rest, for quiet, for filling the hours with some good-for-the-soul reading. I did have some lows that first week, some times of dread and panic. Telling myself it was the hormones at work and on their way out helped some, but reading good things has helped a lot. I’m going through the Psalms this month, and some real gems have revealed themselves. One trying day I read

May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble!

Another day

For the king trusts in the LORD, and through the lovingkindness of the Most High he will never be shaken.

I’m also reading through the Love Comes Softly series again. This is a heart-warming story set in pioneer times, showing characters trusting in God during good times and bad.

My stack of Above Rubies is getting read again, too. These are such a treasure. I noticed on my Summer Reading Program sheet that magazines count, so I’ve been keeping track of those in addition to my books finished. Hopefully I can start a good conversation with the librarian if they are curious about the magazine.

One book I read before Chloe came really contributed to my encouragement in life and mothering. It is called Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins. I felt such a kinship with the author, and was dismayed to not find a way of contacting her to tell her how much I loved what she wrote in her book. If it were cheaper, I would buy a copy of the book for every mother I know. It is that good. I eventually found Cindy on Facebook, and am composing a letter in my head that I will message her there. It has to convey my admiration and gratitude without coming across like I am a total crazy stalker.

Today’s encouragement from the Psalms is in chapter 9:

Arise, O LORD, do not let man prevail…

What a prayer to pray moment by moment. There’s my way, and there’s God’s way. I want to want God’s way more and more, but I know there are many places in my life where man and his ways prevail. I’m glad there is a time like this right now in my life, with my newborn, to slow down and fill my mind and heart with good things, with the truth.