Making Room

The other day, I was pretty annoyed with the family at large for not doing their share, or any share, really, of the housework. I’d spent the whole day working, and the whole lot of them were gone. Disappeared. Two of them cp-henry-play-blockshad an acceptable reason: they were at work! But the rest of them? Not so much. And they heard about it.  Later that evening, as we went about our Advent devotions, I suggested the song “People Look East”.  The older children got the message right away, but the younger ones were cheerfully oblivious.

Actually, I really like that song, don’t you?  It’s hopefully expectant.  We make time to prepare our hearts and our homes for the coming of our Lord, and why not?  I would tidy up the house for any other expected guest!  Maybe we shouldn’t go quite so far as Old Befana, who is so focused on cleaning that she misses the Lord entirely, but a little prudent cleaning, I think, will not go amiss.cp-tommy-play-living-room Our hearts are very much influenced by our environments. It’s a challenge to feel at peace when the home is cluttered and messy. It’s easier to be calm and recollected when one’s spaces are well-ordered and attractive.  At least, I think so.

It’s a constant battle for me to keep things neat, partly because I have a very large family, and partly because I have a bit of my father’s propensity to collect and save things.  I go through cycles of accumulating and purging, and my desk is almost always covered with books and papers and the detritus of my daily life.  If you want to know what’s going on with me, just glance at my desk! img_4945

This Advent, I’m looking for breathing room. I’m trying to work around the challenges and find space to be the me that doesn’t just spend her days taking care of an active family. There’s a me who loves to write, to photograph, to make art, useful and otherwise. There’s a me who makes home nice and enjoys it as a creative activity. There’s a me who reads and takes bubble baths, sometimes simultaneously. And there’s a me who has time to spend in quiet prayer with my Lord.  I’ve been missing this version of me.

Today, my desk is tidy and stocked with art supplies. My camera battery is charged. The main areas of the house are actually pretty neat.  There’s room to think and create and be.  And this is just where I want to be.  Today and always.

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{pretty, happy, funny, real}

{pretty}

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We got new patio furniture last week.  We’ve been squeezing around one table meant for four, and, well, we stopped fitting there years ago.  I’d been looking for two rectangular tables, but couldn’t find anything in the material I wanted that didn’t cost an arm and a leg.  One day, I stopped in at Walmart to see if they had anything.  Nope!  Nothing.  So I sat down to nurse the baby, and as I was looking around, I spied these up on a shelf.  Excitedly, I sped across the garden center, nursing baby and all, just to make sure.  Sure enough, they were exactly what we wanted!  Well, except for being round.  They didn’t have any on the floor, and there wasn’t a price, so, Walmart employees being notoriously unhelpful, I went home to check.  The price was too good to pass up, so round is what we’ve got!

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This furniture is made of a powder-coated metal mesh, and they are indestructible.  We’ve had our old set for 10ish years, our swing and two other chairs for eighteen, and they have just a little rust where parts rub.  A fresh coat of paint would completely solve whatever minor problems they have after all those years and multiple moves, some international!  We thought about going with something cheaper, just to save some cash, but when you factor in how long these will actually last, the price is just unbeatable.

This isn’t their final home, though.

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This is.  We have high hopes that it will be done soon.  (We had a minor setback regarding concrete and are now switching to paving stones.  Stay tuned!)

{happy}

bread

I just tried baking my go-to quick-and-easy bread on my favorite bread pan in my new roaster oven, and it worked great! The bread came out even better than it does in the oven, crustier on the outside, and more tender on the inside. If you try it, there’s no need to add any hot water to the roaster pan; the roaster holds in moisture so well that the bread itself makes its own steam, producing a most wonderful crust. I’ve only had my roaster a few days and I’ve used it to cook breakfast casseroles and bake potatoes, too.  Everything has turned out even better than in the oven.  It’s big enough to hold a regular 9×13 baking pan, or two loaf pans, so very versatile! I’m loving it.

{real}

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I’m especially loving it because that roaster pan means I don’t have to cook inside. If you’re cheap like me, that means less heat in the house, and less chance of succumbing to the allure of the air conditioner.  The AC consumes vast quantities of discretionary monies, which, of course, I’d rather spend on books.

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Speaking of which, this is where I’ve been hanging out most of the time since Henry’s been born. It’s actually looking pretty good today. Usually, the book piles are higher. There are also often pens, notebooks, and glasses of water scattered about. But there are always books.

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These are my current and just-finished reads.  The Green Ember and The Black Star of Kingston I just finished reading aloud to the kids – simultaneously, though that wasn’t my intention.  See, I started the Green Ember one night, and as I’d already read it myself, I thought I’d start The Black Star.  Well, I was reading them both from the Kindle, and they were both on Chapter 2, and they are both about rabbits with swords, so the next night, I was several chapters into Black Star before I thought to wonder aloud, “What happened to Heather and Picket?!”  And that’s when I realized my mistake.  We were already hooked, though, so I read them both.  Now we’re reading On The Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, and I’m not sure how I feel about this one.  Too many made up words, but silly made up words.  I like my humor a little more sophisticated, and so do the kids. (They take after me.)

I’m mostly reading Moby Dick on the Kindle, though I have a hard copy someplace.  I’ve got all the kids reading it, too.  (Actually, I bribed them.  Melville was inspired by this real life event, which is now a movie starring Chris Hemsworth, and who doesn’t like Chris Hemsworth? I’m just saying.) Also, Ishmael kinda cracks me up.  I’ve shown up in the girls’ bedroom in tears to read them a passage I found too hilarious to keep to myself!  But I have commitment troubles, and so I’m also reading After the Prophet, The Waste Free Kitchen (from the library) and The Living Page (thanks to Anne).  All are good.

See you over at Like Mother, Like Daughter for more {p,h,f,r}!

All black and white images are part of my Real Life series, and you can see more by scrolling down the homepage.  The patio sets can be found here (several people have asked already, so I’m linking for your convenience!) and this is my huge roaster.  I’m also using an 8-quart slow cooker, though not as often.  It is sufficiently huge to feed this family of eleven, though!

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A Post About Nothing

A pile of flannel blankets used to catch the plentiful volume of spit-up [produced by Henry. Looking forward to the end of this particular stage!

A pile of flannel blankets used to catch the plentiful volume of spit-up [produced by Henry. Looking forward to the end of this particular stage!

This morning, I awoke to a still-quiet house, and I slipped out of bed and into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee. The sky was just beginning to lighten, a few low clouds on the horizon catching the first rays of red, orange and gold, the pond reflecting the glorious scene back up toward the heavens. I poured my coffee and paused for a moment, undecided. Should I go out and sit on the patio, and enjoy these minutes, or wait indoors for the baby to waken and cry for me? I chose the patio, near an open window, and I watched the sun rise over the distant trees, sitting in companionable silence with a large toad. In that moment, feeling my soul reaching outward in solidarity with all of creation, the stress melting away, I realized that I have passed the point of needing sleep more than solitude. It’s time to reset my alarm for an earlier hour. I need time alone with my own self and my God. I need time upon which nobody else has any claims.

Home and farm projects in the works, and menfolk to do the heavy lifting.

Home and farm projects in the works, and menfolk to do the heavy lifting.

Facing the twin trials of a potty-training toddler and a newborn has been wearing on me.  I’m not usually prone to long bouts of discontent, but not having any time to call my own is negatively affecting my mood.  Little Henry rightly enjoys my arms above all other places, but I miss writing and sketching and painting and even cooking anything even slightly complicated. I see some small signs of him settling in a little, maybe taking a longish nap without my help soon. He sleeps well at night, from 8 or 9 to around 6, with a mid-night nursing around 3, so I’m not complaining too much.  Just a little.

A rare photograph of our Brenna, deploying a patio umbrella.

A rare photograph of our Brenna, deploying a patio umbrella.

On the home front, we are moving along with some projects, namely a patio kitchen that David has been working on for quite a while. I think he’s going to get it finished soon! Or, if not finished, at least not muddy. I haven’t had any say in this particular project, and it’s really not like me to mind my own business, but I think he’s having fun working on this, and I know it’s a gift for me. Sweet, yes? And while he’s doing that, I have to build two more chicken crates, one because he accidentally ran one over in the field with the tractor and it’s just limping along, and another because we have more chickens than we intended to have. I have all the materials now; we just need to cut and glue. Each takes about two hours to build.

Children messing around on a long, lazy summer evening.

Children messing around on a long, lazy summer evening.

The other night, I walked in on Evie in the bathroom. “You forgot to knock!” she scolded. Back out I went, to knock, knock, knock on the door. “Who is it?” she called.
“It’s Mama,” I replied.”
“Oh! Come in, Mama!”
Silly girl.

After dinner last night, out on the patio, Delaney asked, “Why is it that when we eat out here, we’re never in a hurry? We just sit here long after the dinner hour is over and never notice.” It’s true, isn’t it? There are no clocks, no humming appliances, no messes to clean up or chores to finish – just lawn and trees and sky and food and children jumping up from the table to play in the sunshine while the older folks chat about life and love. Good stuff.

So how are you doing?

Motherhood and Marriage (Part 2)

“Why would she give up everything and mold her life to a man?” The words fell into the void, and we each of us exchanged quick glances.  “She needs to at least finish her masters before she gets married.  That way, she’ll have something to fall back on.” And just like that, her marriage was ended before it had even begun.

Women can be so hard on one another.

The reality is that marriage might be one of the most difficult adventures we undertake.  Yes, a woman, when she marries, will make sacrifices for her husband.  But he will sacrifice for her, too.  That is the nature of marriage.  The two become one and the marriage itself becomes a living thing which both husband and wife must nurture and grow into full maturity.  Discord arises only when we demand that the marriage meet our own self-serving desires, and it is most difficult to continually turn our hearts away from our own wants in order to meet the needs of our spouse, in order to nurture the marriage relationship.  And children are the inevitable fruit of marriage, tender and sweet, given by God to nurture and love within the protective embrace of the marital bond.

There is great value in doing your work inside your own home, in raising children and dusting bookshelves and cooking meals.  Should you choose home education, as well, you’ll join an elite group of women who take sacrificial love to the next level.  But there will be no one to tell you that you’re doing a good job.  You will have to live for years entirely on faith.

Faith.

In the end, it all comes down to faith.  Faith in the God who says we can move mountains.  Faith in the constancy of the sheltering love of our husbands.  Faith that our children, under our diligent and watchful eyes, will become loving, generous, faithful adults themselves.

Don’t worry.

What you are doing is of inestimable value to the world.

Even if I’m the only one who ever tells you so.