Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cinderella in rubber boots

This photo pretty much sums up our life.

We're a little hobby farm... and we try at every turn to inject some comfort, luxury, 'suite' life amongst the gardening and ponies and general country muddiness that spring brings.

We're a little family of seven living large with love.

We're wearing our tulle and our rainboots

and running down the road to visit the neighbor.

We're building a bunny grooming station

and in our spare time making a Spanish-language, just-for-fun ripoff of "Monopolio"
in which, as chance may have it, you could fall off your burro and owe 200 pesos to the doctor.

We're spilling an entire box of cocoa powder and running for the camera instead of crying.

We're staying up late on school nights.

Because we can.

We're going to bed early with books.

Because we want to.

I'm linking up to {pretty, happy, funny, real} if I can remember to do so. (Look. I remembered. I could not, however, manage to make Like Mother Like Daughter's beautiful button work.
Blame me, not the button.)

I just love that: "context of contentment in everyday life." You should too.

And I just love life.

You should too.

Not that I want to boss you or anything.

I have five children. I have enough people to boss.

I'm good with that.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter and a new day

The Lenten rose is still blooming.

And I keep trying to get a picture of all five children. At church. With impossible backlighting.

At Grandpa and Grandma's house.

Where even the 3-year-old despairs the photo session.

Mr. Suite thinks the soggy back yard is the perfect spot.
Too bad we didn't get out the tripod and include him right in front of me!

Don't my buff-colored shoes make me look barefoot? Gah.

And my untucked blouse, rumpled sweater, fresh from nursing the baby? Perfect.

Doesn't Laura look resigned to a day of all pictures, no candy? Manoman.

Doesn't Gracie's goofball face make you sigh? Me too.

Doesn't Sarah telegraph her exhaustion? Poor beleagured models all.

Doesn't the fact that Salvador is actually barefoot bother you? Bleh.
Baby will shed his socks and shoes at every opportunity!

Madeleine alone stands ready for a portrait.

I think the memories, frankly, are way better than the pictures.

We had a blessed Easter. How about you?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I choose funny. For real.

Today we're playing along with Auntie Leila, capturing the context of contentment in everyday life with a few photos.

And I love funny even more than pretty. I love to laugh, even when the children are extraordinarily naughty and I ought not be laughing. Don't you find that makes everything, well, better?

It's probably not as readily apparent as it oughta be why that ball-fire-hydrant-wading pool is funny, exactly. It's sunny in the photo but it's 40 degrees outside. My children, the two youngest girls, anyway, begged to go through the hydrant sprinkler in their bathing suits. Methinks some of us are ready for warmer weather.

And this too needs more explanation than a truly funny photo should. Last week's lemonade stand had a resident bandit who was short on quarters (and in the legs) but long on spunk.

Sarah's new chicken has a unibrow. That's funny, right?

I plant salad in an upcycled galvanized tub that I picked at the dump... my husband doesn't find that funny but I do. Also? We have an enormous garden that's just a bit further away. But pretty and funny and real go hand in hand here.

Toys from here to there. Maybe not pretty but happy and funny and real. And please note, Salvador crawling before he walks. Phew.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Missing my dogs, rambling about blessings, Passover and the economy

Salvador really, really likes to stack blocks.

He likes to stack them. He likes to knock them down. He likes to chew on them. Blocks, blocks, blocks. Give the boy some blocks and he will entertain himself for twenty blissful minutes of mommy washing dishes or diagramming sentences.

Yes, Salvador loves his blocks. Unless they're Lego-brand blocks. Today the girls switched things up on the poor boy and he was irate. They didn't stack the same way at all. Nor would a tower crash in a satisfactory manner. It's funny watching these little realizations and it's funny realizing that these little quirks are adding up to a big personality.

You might want to prepare yourself for a little (a lot of?) thoroughly biased journalism. And also? A bit of mommy rambling.

What am I saying? This is what you come here for! I read recently that the "blogs about nothing have gone the way of Seinfeld." (I am so glad you are back writing in the blogosphere, Ei!)

As usual I am way behind the trend... I had no idea blogs about everything and nothing were out of vogue. And yet here we are. Me: Missing my dogs, posting the occasional upcycling project, chronicling the wildly exciting homemakery homestead news and boo-hooing about my baby's lightspeed growth not to mention my big girls' relentless march to young adulthood.

Oh! And we mustn't forget the incessant introspection. It's a navel-gazing extravaganza at times here. Don't be afraid to nod in agreement. Or nod off. Whichever.

Salvador also likes to crawl around with blades of the lawn in his four little pearly whites.

(Don't fence him in. My new dog, however, will likely need to be fenced in. I will be getting a new dog at some point. The passing of two beloved puppies in six months is not to deter me. I really, really am not okay without a dog. Go figure.)

Yesterday we observed Passover with some lovely friends. We reflected on thousands of years of sacrifice, on the one divine sacrifice and on the astounding gift of mercy that bring us to the place we are now.

Our friends, in the course of Old Testament readings for the Seder, re-enacted in a lighthearted way the plagues that preceded the Jews being set free from Egypt. The children may or may not have taken these plagues to be as odious as they truly must have been; the frogs and crickets were origami and Grace (my little amphibian lover) frantically gathered them up... the flies were bits of licorice that rained down and were promptly gobbled by our friends' dog... the 'boils' were face paint applied by our 15-year-old friend... the Schleich livestock fell over with "x"-marked eyes... you get the idea.

In the midst of these theatrical teaching methods, I was again struck by how very blessed we are. Our family, our nation, our world at this time in history is blessed. The economy is difficult to be sure. My husband owns an engineering, surveying and planning firm, which has been severely affected by the recession and the crash of the mortgage markets et cetera. My family used to rely on real estate for a significant portion of its financial security. Countless of our friends are in construction and development. These are people we love and the hardships are real. But they are nothing, nothing, compared to the grace and mercy we have been shown.

People around the world are suffering, right now, from the effects of poverty, storms, earthquakes and loss of loved ones. I am warm and safe and surrounded by the people I love and wishing for a new puppy. I am a little ashamed to say this next little bit, because it may seem obvious. (Madeleine L'Engle once said in a writers' conference not to fear to state the obvious. I try to take that advice for my own because I think sometimes we overlook the important while searching for the profound.) So here goes:

I have no right to complain. I am neither stranded in a desert nor bound by slavery. I am not under the law but under grace. I am fed and clothed and able to feed and clothe and shelter my family. I have the luxury of time to pine for a pet, for crying out loud.

I stack up my blocks and I think I know when and how those towers may fall.

But really, things can and do change without notice. I think I should enjoy the play time. I think I should notice the beauty and the blessings and take more than a moment to be grateful for the sacrifices given for me. And for you.

(Oh, and Honey? I want a new dog.)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I choose pretty. For real.

When I was a girl I used to get in trouble for decorating my room. Well, more to the point: I used to get in trouble for re-decorating my room when I was supposed to be simply tidying.
And who wouldn't rather plant flowers than weed?

Who wouldn't rather read a book than dust the bookcases?

Who wouldn't rather have a lemonade stand than... pretty much anything? Maybe there is a little Mary Poppins in me after all.

A spoonful of pretty helps the real go down.

For today, and most days, I'm considering the lilies

along with the positively brilliant Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real linky

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Batik and beyond

Oh, I can't tell you how much your encouragement on my last post means to me. I may just go back and read those comments, one by one, whenever this homeschooling country life gets me feeling isolated. There's a big difference between lonely and alone, wouldn't you agree?

One can be alone and so happy to be so. But lonely is another thing entirely. Lonely is, as they say, a beast of a different color; so much for perspective and intentional simplicity and other catch phrases of the moment. Lonely is when introspection turns sour.

Friendship is a wonderful state without borders thanks to the internet. Each day, if my crazy schedule allows, I can sit with a cup of tea and a few of my kindred spirits, reading up on the happenings in their worlds. Writing is a blessed indulgence. Each day, if my willpower and opportunity collide, I can type or scribble some words with meaning or without and in some small way express the creativity that God gave me. The camera, too, I'm thinking, is a friend of mine. Nearly every day, if the light and the mood strike, I can take a photo to reflect on what's funny or beautiful.

Soon I hope to participate in something new over at my Auntie Leila's place. It's amazing how we're not related in real life. How can that be? I am so grateful to be able to find her encouragement and practical advice when I sometimes need it. Maybe you'd like to have a cup of tea with her too.

For today I'll be batiking (not sure that's a verb!) with my girls. More specifically we'll be ironing the wax out of the saris we made. I bought a junk iron just for this purpose. Yay me! And then we may move on to sewing our traditional Mexican skirts. We are ramping up for our big multicultural exposition (doesn't that sound official?!) in June, and the preparations are starting to overlap international borders.

Thank you, friends, for reading and for writing and especially for letting me know that I may be alone (save the company of five littles who are too cute for reality TV) but I need not be lonely.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Cats and Dolls, only decidedly not on Broadway

Sometimes I want to feel anonymous. I live in the country;

I enjoy my serving of solitude with a side of going to town or at least going on the internet.

But sometimes I want to know someone's reading. Anyone?

In some of my pictures you can tell where we live

but most often I crop them just so to obscure our location.

Cropping is the only photo editing I know how to do.

Beyond my picket in the top photo you can glimpse ... the (in)famous underground house and the dear little red school. There's Chester Cheese, whom I have been trying without success to rename "Charles Dickens," on his way to visit the forest behind the school. I hear there're mice in them there woods.
And if you'll go with me for a moment of melancholy?

There's my baby's last year of little girlhood, right there,

with a view of the church that's also across the road.

We live in the middle of nowhere and the middle of everything.

We play tea parties with our dolls.
We obsess about that twisted post on the garden fence more than is healthy.
Chester still won't answer to "Charles."
Nor "Dickens." He thinks, in fact, he's camo cat among the fallen cherry branches.
Some daffodils still remain and the weeds flourish.
And Salvador's learning to drive. As all ten-month babies do.

Was your weekend wonderful? Do you have any tips on renaming a cat?

Or possibly on the subject of rural socialization problems among homeschooling mothers?

Hmm, now there's a subject for further consideration....

Friday, April 8, 2011

True or False?

Girl Scout cookies are the root of all evil.

Or at least the square root of the circumference of my waist. Or some such math-like formula.

Discuss among yourselves.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ragout of a post

I'm working on the canned ham rejuvenation. Bit by bit it's coming together. My wonderful husband and amazing father-in-law "upcycled" a neighbor's deck that was otherwise headed for the burn pile and now it's the perfect landing pad for my awning poles this summer. Also? The girls moved right in with their Breyer barns and model horses. They didn't want to wait for the pressure washing. They may have come by that impatience honestly. See that red and yellow galvanized tub in the right foreground? I planted that dumpster treasure (yes, I mortified my husband and children on a recent dump run by asking another dump patron for his 'trash') full of sugar snap peas and buttercrunch lettuce. I didn't want to wait for the pressure washing either! My plans for Valentino are that it be not only a writing spot for me but a tiny guest cottage, if you will. The family plans are that it could also be a changing room for the wading pool! And the deck? Can pull double duty as a stage for summer backyard concerts. Who knew how much joy this little work in progress could bring? I am excited to show you my reupholstery and paint projects as they continue. And put your reservations in now because I'd love to host you in the canned ham cottage! My house is just steps away and the country quiet is intoxicating (unless of course the children are laughing and playing outside of course!). Meanwhile, elsewhere in the yard, a few violets decided we were never going to get to all the leaves and braved the springtime anyway.

Our indoor seedlings were this size when I took the pictures... and six inches tall when I uploaded those pictures!
We're still studying geography and culture of many lands. In the past few weeks we have batiked fabric for saris, handwoven colorful Mexican sashes, and embellished Austrian vests and hats. Grace can finally name and identify her continents... I wish we knew a continent memory song that flirts around at the back of my mind but never settles in well enough to teach it! Does anyone have an idea of this song or did I make it up in my famously imaginative memory?
The giant yellow daffodils are slowly giving way to a flurry of fragrant paperwhites. They are so beautiful! I wish that particular scent of paperwhites and mown grass could be bottled.

And of course bread still needs to be baked. Those sad little lumps of dough become an everyday miracle of their own. I am recognizing more of those serendipitous moments and household beauties, the more I look.

You too?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Front porch barefootin' bliss

A little bug hunting...
...picture snapping.... happiness.
Over the amazingly sunny weekend (spring! sprung!) my sweet husband and my wonderful father-in-law put a puttering deck in front of my Valentino canned ham trailer. What? You've not needed a deck on which to putter? I know. I am spoiled.


I potted some flowers. I considered painting but thought better of it.


I sewed a skirt for Sarah while I enjoyed having front and back doors wide open so I wouldn't miss a breeze.


We mowed, finally. ("We" is that famous royal we which consists mainly of me drinking sun tea and my husband providing the fresh mown grass aroma.)


We were fortunate to purchase a flute and a clarinet for two deserving and grateful budding musicians. .

And we released all the ladybugs we caught.


A good weekend was had by all?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Inspiration Point, again

When I light a candle these days, it's with more than a wish for its fragrance or its romantic light. It's with more even than the prayerful reminder that a candle can bring. . I light a candle. Maybe because it's necessary light. My duty to provide enough light for my daughters' evening reading. My responsibility to light the way for my children. And bigger than that it's a symbol, an icon if you will, of the luxuries that surround us every day. . Each flickering light a point of inspiration. Inspiration. . To breathe in, to breathe spirit into, to become filled with divine thought or direction. I take a deep breath.
I move through the days, doing what I must and what I will and often what simply makes us smile.


In this way I listen for the spirit and the Spirit.

I wait. I am still in the manner of one who has things to do and does them, without an eye on the clock, or eyes on the prize, or an eye for profitability, but rather with an eye to duty and meditation and then I find sometimes with no little amount of surprise that I love the things that I'm doing.

Why does it surprise me still that the mundane can be profoundly meditative?

My girls make a tea party and I wait. It's a mother-daughter tea party to which their baby brother is invited as well. We sit at the table and sip hot tea and eat homemade brownies from the Little House cookbook.

Daddy's at work without much luxury of waiting for inspiration. My life, this bookish life of children laughing and seeds sprouting, is a luxury even when there's noticeable lack of what others might consider 'luxury.' These past weeks without hot water, often without electricity and sometimes without even cold running water, have redefined comfort. My chores approached a new definition of planning as I heated water on the stovetop -- propane, what a luxury! -- to wash dishes by hand. I wrung water from clothing and my hands and heart grew stronger with each day.

I think about pioneer women, as I often do. I think about my own grandmother, who paid for the doctor's assistance at the delivery of her first child with a flat of raspberries. I think about her little homestead and her huge life of love and family and frugality. And yes, of duty.

Duty and inspiration go hand in hand. Little luxuries and little hardships co-exist and illuminate one another much as candlelight. Who knew?