Sunday, October 27, 2013

Breakfast on a Cold Fall Morning

The boys have been antsy to set up the tent and try out the new extra insulated sleeping bags.  So, they headed out with Daddy for a little campout on our property.  

The next morning, I was the first person out of bed.  I stepped out onto the porch and looked down the hill at the tent.  All was silent and still...and chilly.  Imagining pajama-clad boys peeking out of toasty warm sleeping bags and meeting the cold morning air gave me inspiration for a hot breakfast.

Homemade oatmeal with cinnamon apples was cooked on stovetop and transferred to the crockpot.  I love the "warm" setting that allows a meal to sit in anticipation.  

This ended up to be amazing oatmeal (and this coming from someone who doesn't typically liked cooked fruit!).  When I added the cooked apples to the oatmeal, I also added quite a bit of the natural apple juices that had cooked out of the apples.  Ohhhh...very good stuff!

See...this is what I love.  I get a deep satisfaction out of setting the stage, making preparations to surprise and please.  The candles, the fun fall napkins, the smell of apple cinnamon oatmeal, and the warm house were all set to welcome the camping boys and the sleepy-headed girls (who decided that they'd rather sleep in their comfortable beds instead of in a tent).

When it's time to serve the oatmeal, these are the must-haves for topping it all off...  A pad of farm fresh butter goes into the center, where it eventually melts into goodness (and if you haven't tried real butter straight from a farm, you are in for a big makes all the difference in the world).  And, with maple syrup drizzled over the top, this is a meal fit for a house full of hungry campers and non-campers alike.

Eager requests for hot chocolate were granted, and everyone was quite pleased that fall's chilly mornings had finally arrived in the mountains.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

An Alternative Charlotte Mason Schedule

For those homeschool moms who want to have a Charlotte Mason-style education but just don't have the daily time to make all the components happen, here's an alternative.

We are moving soon, and that means I'm needed in the packing-and-cleaning department right now.  To free up some of my hours during the school week (because let's face it…CM-style education does take time to implement), we have temporarily shifted our "delightful extras" to one day of the week.  Wonderful Wednesday was born, and it's all good.

In a nutshell, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday are filled with the typical subjects (i.e. math, grammar, history, science, etc).  I arrange my days so that I do their read-alouds early in the morning, followed by some subjects that I do with the younger 2 children.  When independent work begins, it frees me up to be able to get some other things done.

Then, on Wednesday, we spend the morning going through all of these wonderfully rich components of our education:

This schedule made for a nice change right in the middle of the week.  Everyone enjoyed it.  And Wednesday will simply be one day when Mama doesn't get to pack any moving boxes.  And that's a nice break for me too (I'd rather listen to Bach than pack anyway!).  

After their nature study outdoors, they headed in to record some things in their nature journals.  All 4 children chose fall leaves for their focus today…

And lookie who drew a leaf today!  It amazes me how all of a sudden a child's little lightbulb moments come along.  She has never really drawn something recognizable in her nature journal…until today.  Something clicked, and voila…she drew her leaf!  The room exploded in cheering siblings, and she was very happy with her progress.

And just to keep it real…for those of you who still somehow think I have it all together all the time (HA!)…

Yep, baby doll came to do lessons with the princess…distracting perhaps?

And things were scattered all over the floor after nature study.

And sweet sock-wearing little boys had a mounting pile of scraps all around the desk.

But, the messes clean up, and another day is filled with the rich goodness of children thriving in an education we all enjoy.

And while I made lunch today, I spied a certain quiet young man who had retreated under the dining table to read a book alone with kitty.  These are the moments I am storing up in my heart and memory.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

We Just Never Know

Just a week after burying our son Elijah, we found ourselves sitting at a restaurant...our table right down on the banks of a local river.  My parents had come into town and had offered to take care of our children while we had some reprieve.  It had been one of the worst weeks of my life...discovering no heartbeat on the sonogram and then a domino string of events that left my son in a tiny coffin and his mama sitting at a restaurant a week later trying to make sense of life.  

Our waitress must have been hand-picked from Heaven.  God must have chosen her Himself, because she bubbled over warmth and love.  I cannot even remember much about that night, but I remember her.  I was sitting there feeling empty and overwhelmed as the world around me was going on as if nothing had happened.  Though my outsides looked normal, my heart was gaping wide and dripping lifeblood.  And this waitress stranger heaped doses of warmth and a love that I knew was other-worldly.  She was God's vessel, and He was right there on the bank of the river at that table with the amazing dishes and tiny white lights.  He was right there pouring out a tangible warmth that I desperately needed. And this waitress didn't know. 

A year later, we visited the same restaurant, and I found that waitress and told her how she had been such a balm to my spirit in such a trying time.  With tears in her eyes, she hugged me.  She repeated a few times that she had no idea.  But me…I remembered.  And today, six years later, I remember the love God poured out through her.  

Sometimes we just never know.  We may never know how far reaching the ripples are of the tiny pebbles we toss towards others in life.  We may never know the trial of another's soul...the havoc they are feeling at home...the utter loneliness they feel in their lives no matter what they look like on the outside.  We may never know what salve we are applying with a simple encouraging word.  We may never ever know how other-worldly our love may feel to someone who is seeking God and finds Him nestled somewhere inside of imperfect us.

The water of Yellowstone Lake looks very placid and inviting.  A van load of excited children couldn't wait to kick their Crocs off and jump into the water.  "I can't wait to say I have been swimming in Yellowstone Lake!!"

The initial thrill soon wore off, and reality brought teeth to chattering and feet being nicked by rocks.  A casual glance cannot tell the temperature of the waters.  And what is below the surface is not always obvious.  

But what is below the surface is there, whether we see it or not.  

When we see the smiles...when we see someone who looks like he has it all together...when we see the outside all shiny and seemingly fine...let us not forget that under the surface may be some gaping holes and needy hearts.  Under the surface may be someone who needs desperately to feel God's love all fluid and tangible.  We really just never know when we have been hand-chosen by God to be His essential touch in someone's life.