Friday, January 30, 2009


Two Terrific Uses for Bubble Wrap:

1. Spread it with paint and make prints with it. Overlap colors and make yourself a riotously blooming flower garden!

2. Spread it out in the driveway and ride your bike/trike over it repeatedly. The neighbors will think guerilla warfare has come among them. (Note: this is especially satisfying if you wear only your paint shirt and underwear from #1. Even better, if your underwear is on backwards, giving you the three-year-old-wearing-a-thong look, because you recently took it off to pee in the yard.)

Trust us!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Artist at work

It's pretty rewarding to do artsy craftsy things with Caroline, because she just takes the idea and zoom! Blink and you'll miss 'er! Take this afternoon, for example. We started making hedgehogs out of chocolate-scented playdough and cut-up straws (couldn't find the toothpick box). I believe googly eyes were also involved.

Five minutes into it my mom called, so I ended up chatting with her for a while. She inquired about the difference between hedgehogs and porcupines. Would you like to know? We Googled it, of course. Hedgehogs have smooth quills; porcs have barbed ones.

But anyway. As my mom and I dished about this and that, Caroline quietly worked away. She finished her hedgehogs, and then very methodically moved on to another kind of chocolate playdough sculpture. A volcano, perhaps, with straws for molten lava. Then, a little later: a 3D collage. Lump of playdough and four pompoms affixed to a brown paper shopping bag (would you call that upcycling?) with plenteous Elmer's glue.

I would love to share pictures with you, but I bear sad tidings: the camera is on the blink. Temporarily, I hope, but the only handy person in the house hasn't had the time to devote to it. This is majorly cramping my style, not to mention my progress on Project 365.

That's the bad news. The good news is that Ian was awarded a full tuition scholarship for the theater class (see previous post). Hip hip hurray for multicolored fonts!!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


If you were a decision-making person in the education office of a local theater company of renown, in charge of handing out tuition scholarships, and you were offering an entire semester-long class revolving around the works of Roald Dahl, and you had asked a mother to have her son write his own appeal, would you say "yes" to the following?

Dear Zach Scott,

I really like Roald Dahl books but i'm not completely sure I want to

join the class. But, i'm thinking I might.anyway, enough talk of that. what's your favorite Roahld Dahl book?Mine is: the BFG.My second favorites are:fantastic mr. fox and George's marvelous medicine.please write back saying your favorite Roald Dahl books. sincerely, Ian

p.s. will I get good parts in the play?

Oh, man! When I pasted this in, it lost all the flair. The entire first sentence is typed out with every letter a different color. Every single sentence is done in a different font. This epistle occupied the better part of an hour.

And I love the dismissive "enough talk of that." Reminds me of certain parts of the presidential/VP debates. "Actually, Gwen, I don't really want talk about that; I want to talk about TAXES ..."

I love that my son is so, so honest. He is unsure about the class since it involves being on stage, so he admits it right up front.

I hope they find it as endearing as I do.

But one thing I've learned as a mama is that there are times when other people do not find my children's quirks charms as endearing as I do. Such is the burden and blessing of parenthood.

Speaking of scholarships, Jenny has a doozy posted here. As I always tell my kids, "The reason that I insist you learn good manners is that one day you MIGHT be invited to dine with the President, and I will not have people saying your mama didn't teach you right." Enjoy.
Publish Post

Monday, January 26, 2009

For Pete's Sake!

We played the BEST, FUNNEST family game over the weekend, and I think it deserves some sort of Emmy or Oscar, because every single person in our family played and had a great time. And did I mention it was FREE? Go here to download the super-cute game boards and read the directions. We used gummy bears, and somehow, the whole family shouting "DON'T EAT PETE!" never failed to crack ourselves up (Note: this could be a fun and quick party game for adults as well).

As a result, gummy bears are now referred to in this household as "Petes." As in, "MOM, STOP DRIVING! One of my Petes fell on the floor of the car!!!"

And in keeping with the game theme, part of the date I mentioned in my last post was for Tim and I to play SET while sipping coffee in bed on Saturday morning. I think those particular gears in my brain were a bit rusty, but they got cranking eventually. Isn't that romantic?

It was actually helpful to engage in this sort of merrymaking over the weekend, because it distracted me from gnawing on questions like:
"Where will we be living next year?" [Tim is applying for jobs, although he doesn't graduate until December.]
"Where should we take our celebratory family vacation next December, and how much do we need to save for it?"
"Should I go to Boston for my friend Joe's wedding next month?"
"Should I put my middle child in school?"
"Why do I let my feelings get hurt over things that aren't really supposed to be personal, and why do I mourn for days?"

Hmph. Perhaps it's time for a round of Boggle.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Big people, big world

Tim and I were busy acting like adults this morning, meeting with our financial advisors while we let the TV babysit our children (Man Vs. Wild, Season 1 just arrived from Netflix).

Note on the financial advisors: We really like them, and if anyone wants a recommendation, just ask me. They have convinced us that we will NOT go bankrupt before Tim graduates, and they also congratulated me on keeping our household expenses so well under control. Which is good thing, because if they'd said anything else about our household expenses, I might have thrown something sharp at them.

Kidding. Mostly.

But we are being responsible parents, dealing with life insurance and educational savings accounts and retirement and all that, especially once we have an actual job, with an actual salary. How nice.

Speaking of salary, Caroline eventually wandered out and climbed into my lap. "Depending on your salary ..." one of the gentlemen was saying, and my girl perked up. "Celery? I want some celery sticks!" She made a beeline for the brimming Tupperware in the fridge.

A few minutes later, back on my lap, she heard him run through a list of life-insurance carriers (we need more than we currently have). He mentioned "Nationwide," and as if on cue, she began singing, "Nationwide is on your side!" (Remember the really annoying and ubiquitous commercials during the Olympics? Clearly, they had their designated effect.)

Holy bananas! Tim and I have a date tonight! Even more adult-ish! The children are all spending the night at their grandparents'. We have NO plan. But it'll be just the two of us.

Yup. Believe it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

And on a different note ...

... here are some fun links for you!

Inspiring Creativity:

One Pretty Thing - oodles of links to great DIY stuff on the web. Inspired me to make scented rice pillows with the girls this week.
Design Mom
No Time for Flashcards
A Foothill Home Companion has a nice recipe for chocolate playdough; we now have a stash in our playdough box.

And, inspiring thoughts of summer activities:
Book Club for Boys

And Nienie is blogging again! Amazing. But wrenching.

Letting you in

Why did we make an emergency run to Whole Foods today?

(Not the downtown WF, the flagship store beneath the world headquarters that can take hours to go through, especially if you stop for little samples at the nut butter bar because you're so enchanted by the offering of chocolate almond butter ... No. The north WF. Boring.)

Answer: to buy a box of coconut popsicles.

Why was this necessary?

Because Ian earned the popsicle privilege by accumulating a high enough rating on his new Attitude Scale by the midpoint of the week.

You know, there's really a lot that I don't share on this blog, believe or no, partly because like many other moms-who-blog, I have concerns about my kids' privacy. I would hate to share anything that might make them feel horribly betrayed if they were to stumble across my blog or even be given it to read one day. That's why I'm not posting any pics of my girls lying on my floor after their bath, buck naked, listening to Curious George Rides a Bike on the iPod.

We do have limits.

But, from time to time I think it might be helpful to share more than usual in case any of my struggles can be of use to anyone else out there. Sometimes, when you have a challenging child (or more than one), there's a tendency to feel that either a) it's your fault somehow, professional opinions to the contrary, or b) you're all alone, swimming at the rocky edges outside the mainstream.

Those who have only recently started reading might not know that my dear, sweet, intelligent son also has diagnoses of ADHD, giftedness, and a nonverbal learning disability (which makes social skills harder to grasp). Again, I wrestle with how much to share, but then I wonder if NOT sharing perpetuates an inappropriate stigma. There is nothing "wrong" with my child. There are simply parts of his brain that are slower to develop than others, and other parts are faster than average, so the fallout from such uneven development can sometimes be more than a parent feels that she can handle.

Lately we have been seeing a therapist who specializes in anxiety and attentional issues in children. Ian likes her, which is a major victory in itself. I like her too. Sometimes it's just reassuring to hear someone who knows what she's talking about tell you that you've taken on a huge, huge task, being the one who all day long is giving instructions to such a child. Plus raising other children, neither of whom is a shrinking violet. Plus, plus, plus.

She and Ian work out all sorts of deals together, working on becoming flexible, on being a good sport, on moderating his intensity with some coping skills. Sometimes it's just a relief to have someone else to whom he can be accountable.

Last Friday we agreed (with Tim present) that in order for me to continue homeschooling, certain parts of the system needed to be in place. Number One was more time for me to breathe. To step back and recuperate. To have the house to myself for a couple hours at a time on the weekend. The doctor felt this was imperative, and whom I to argue with a professional? :-)

We also came up with the attitude rating scale. Hearing "I hate schoolwork" is, well, kind of a bummer, especially when you do your best to make it stimulating and fun. I think it's not only a downer for me, but also unhealthy for him, since those thoughts tend to wear a groove in one's mind when entertained for too long. There is a fine line between suppressing one's feelings and deciding to think differently.

There is a poster hanging in our kitchen right now, detailing what the various ends of the scale "look like." We check in twice a day and see if our ratings (my eval, his self-assessment) match up. We go with my rating, but bump it up a point if our numbers independently match. Learning to self-evaluate, Dr. S pointed out, is a useful life skill. Tim had to use it once a year at Michelin. Theoretically, this exercise resulted in a nice raise.

So there you go. Sometimes I pray that all the lessons I'm learning, lessons I needed to save me from being that judgmental, condescending parent with the perfectly compliant, easygoing child who glorifies my excellent mothering skills, will be of use to just one person some day.

And if that might be you, or even if you've tasted discouragement for any other reason recently, then maybe the following will feed you as it did me today. The passage is spoken by Joshua and Caleb, the spies sent into Canaan by Moses who returned to hear their colleagues delivering a frightening report of the giants and dangers in the land.

"If the Lord is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it to us -- a land which flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord, and do not fear the people of the land, for they shall be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them." Numbers 14:8-9.

Monday, January 19, 2009

What's in YOUR attic?

In the home in which I grew up resided a mysterious population we referred to as The Attic People. For fellow LOST fans, it was a bit like having The Others living upstairs, with no tropical island and plentiful mangoes to compensate.

The Attic People were, and are, responsible for all missing items in the household. (Note: they are not to be confused with The Basement Guy, the one all my siblings and I, independently of each other, were convinced was hiding behind the furnace ready to jump out and grab us during reluctant errands to the storage room for foodstuffs.) They seem to have spawned a Texas migration, although my mom assures me they are alive and active there at the old homestead as well.

The Attic People can be somewhat whimsical in their approach. They rarely need a full pair of socks, for example. Only one sock will meet the need quite nicely. And sometimes, they even return things after a while, but they're impish about it. A missing pair of kitchen shears might show up in your sock drawer (but not the sock, of course). A very important receipt we were missing turned up yesterday ... in the recycling bin! Gee whillikers!

Lately, the Attic People in our house have been working overtime in an effort to convince me that I should check myself into Shoal Creek Mental Hospital post-haste. Here is their current inventory:

1. One black leather Mary Jane style shoe from Old Navy, size Toddler 7.
2. One brand new FamilyTime.Mine planning calendar for 2009.
3. One necklace, last seen hanging from my neck.
4. One Barnes and Noble gift card -- I hope they enjoy whatever they're buying with the $13 on there. Maybe a book entitled "Overcoming Kleptomania: a 12-Step Program."
5. One library book, entitled, "Are You My Mother?" Awwww ...
6. Unknown things yet to be discovered. Or remembered. Help!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sewing Bee

Eliza and I have been reading through the American Girl "Meet Kit" series, which focuses on the life of a fictitious girl living in the Great Depression and weathering, along with her family and friends, the ups and downs of her father's job loss and their resulting struggle to keep their house and a bare minimum of possessions. While to Eliza, I think it's just a good story, for me it's a reminder of what scraping by without a safety net really means, in a way that I think our current generation just can't imagine.

In one of the stories, Kit's Aunt Millie comes to visit, overflowing with tips for truly thrifty living. Kit and her two friends decide to record these ideas in a book they call "Aunt Millie's Waste-Not, Want-Not Almanac." Ideas like resewing a worn sheet to give it an extra ten years of life, cutting up a cloth chicken feed sack to make a desperately needed new dress, using bruised apples to make pies, etc. It makes me realize that, even for those of us who've given the temporary nod to some level of poverty, our first instinct when something's broken or worn is usually to buy a new one, rather than to think outside the box a bit.

Anyway, while I was in Boston, I brought a project along with me. Have you met my mother? She is a genius with the sewing machine. During my high school and college days she was in a throw-pillow phase. We used to tease her that we couldn't sit on the couch anymore because the fifteen beautifully trimmed pillows were hogging all the room. Turns out that was only the warm-up for her real hobby, for she is now an amazing quilter. Every birth, wedding, graduation merits a special quilt, which means hours upon hours of intensive but loving labor. Here's Caroline with hers, almost three years ago:

Now, my style when sewing is what one might charitably call slapdash. That line looks straight enough -- let's cut! I'm a card-carrying member of the "Good Enough" school of craftsmanship. My mother, on the other hand, is like the Yoda (Sew-da?) to my bumbling young Obi-Wan Kenobi. Instead of a double-bladed light-saber, she wields this:

And a giant cutting mat, and multiple measuring tools, and everything you could need to leave you absolutely no excuse for not coming up with four straight, even edges, finished off by perfect French seams (Mom: Were you planning to do French seams on this? Me: What are French seams?).

We worked together, Mom and I, on a new duvet cover for my bed that cost me zero dollars. I used a top sheet from the set recently gifted to us by my mother-in-law, and -- channeling my great grandmother here -- refashioned the curtains that used to hang in our bedroom in South Carolina for the top layer.

I had to finish the project at home due to pesky interruptions by flight schedules, so a couple days later found me at the sewing machine with my own daughter on my lap. Something seemed rather fitting about that, starting the project with my mother and finishing with my daughter. What scraps of wisdom and skill will I pass on to her? What will our hands create together in the years to come?

The cover is finished and graces our bed as of this morning. Thank you, Mom!

I think Aunt Millie would be proud.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

She Sees in Color

In hot pursuit of a birthday gift for one of our favorite people, my children and I (yes, reunited) visited Anthropologie in downtown Austin. I don't think I'm merely projecting my own feelings upon the situation when I say that this store is right up her alley. We spent most of our time in the kitchen section.

Eliza, my budding young photojournalist, wandering around a bit, after being allowed to select her very own snack dish (a.k.a. latte cup) of a different hue than that of her siblings, documenting the experience:

Meanwhile, a moment with the Y Chromosome ...

Me: Oooh, I really like this dress! A lot! Oh. It's two hundred fifty eight dollars. Never mind.
Ian: TWO HUNDRED FIFTY EIGHT DOLLARS? Are you KIDDING?! You'd have to be a MILLIONAIRE to afford a dress like that!

Eventually I had to pull him aside and caution him against the impropriety of roaming the store checking price tags on everything and editorializing. He did get the final word in, though, demanding of the clerk, "How come everything in this store is so expensive?" As I rejoiced in my beautiful bargains.

Delightfully, he's still young enough that strangers find his social blunders amusing. An hour later, in the Costco parking lot, he accosted an employee to urgently inform him that a man appeared to be taking someone else's car away, and was probably a robber. (Even that word: ROBBER.) Costco Guy, once he understood was Ian was talking about, gave him a quick bare-bones education in the concept of "impounding" and the importance of paying one's bills when one grows up. Then he winked at me.

My son's impulse toward right and wrong, to see things in black and white and declare them as such, to enforce the rules, made itself manifest early on. I remember him being almost five and, from the backseat, responding to my observation about a motorcyclist speeding by with no regard for the posted limit with the comment, "He must smoke cigarettes."

But of course.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Are you ready for some news that will rock your world???

Tim and I flew to Boston all by ourselves on a big airplane!

For the first time in nearly nine years, I read a book, uninterrupted, on the flight. I actually read one book all the way through and started two more!

Thanks to the home team (his parents; my sister & her husband; our friends the Meades), we are here lending a hand for almost three days. Tim is getting a crash course in nursing school. :-) Yesterday we were snowed in for most of the day, which meant that instead of attending their church meeting with my parents, we stayed in the kitchen for hours, eating, chatting, working on a puzzle, listening to some spiritual enlightenment from here, hearing via phone and email about what a good time our children are having. (Actual words from our three year old as we pulled up to the curb at the Austin airport: "Daddy! Get out of the car!" We decided that she was concerned about our making our flight on time.)

In the late afternoon, Tim and I went down to the inimitable Harvard Square to meet my youngest sister for a hot drink. And to tease her, of course, because that's our job (and because she's so delightful, not to mention a world champion blusher). One must always, always do one's family duty.

Today's plans include figuring out a way to keep our toes warm while wearing leather boots through the snow/slush, and visiting the John F. Kennedy Library/Museum.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Week

We had a science-y day yesterday, a day of wonder, discovery and excitement.

Whoa, Nellie. Let's not get carried away.

The straight story is that we wandered our back yard scattering sunflower seeds in hopes of attracting blue jays, hoping they'd accept our offering roasted and salted.

We wondered aloud, after reading a chapter of Children of Summer: Henri Fabre's Insects together, under what circumstances we would actually consent to eating roasted cossus grubs.

We spent two hours exploring the exhibits and digging in the Dino Pit at one of our favorite local hangouts, the Austin Nature and Science Center (need I tell you that the older two kids did not wish to go? Need I go further to say I insisted, brought our friend Jessica along, and then triumphed in their desire to stay til sunset?).

We read a wonderful book called Snowflake Bentley (Caldecott Medal Book), a true and lovely story of the man who dedicated his entire life to studying and photographing snowflakes, proving that there can be a niche for everyone in this world. Oh, and incidentally, he was homeschooled. (So was the 2007-Heisman-winning quarterback for Florida State in last night's Fiesta Bowl. Fun fact for ya.)

Speaking of wonderful books, if you're at all partial to the family bed, even for fifteen minutes in the morning, you simply must check this one out: Snuggle Mountain. It's perfect, except that there's only one child joining that happy tangle, and in our home there are three warm and wriggling bodies who join us for cuddling and a certain level of rambunctiousness when breaks the dawn. Sometimes they whisper to us of their abiding love for us. Sometimes they audibly conspire to stick their icy toes on our warm bellies. Note to self: train them to operate the coffeemaker independently.

And finally on the book subject, Ian is reading several right now, of which some are required but still mostly enjoyable (see widget). Lately, he's preferring to do most of his reading by himself, rather than snuggle up for a read-aloud, which makes me rather melancholy. But for pure pleasure, he recommends anything by Edward Eager, starting with Knight's Castle and moving on to Half Magic and beyond. Perfect for the eight-and-up-year-old possessed of a lively imagination. (Full disclosure: he also recommends Bionicle books. Lest I become proud.)

I'm off to pack my woolens -- Boston here we come!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

More cheekiness

(In which I reluctantly reveal my voting history.)

We were sitting in the chiropractor's waiting room the other day, and Caroline spied a People magazine with Sarah Palin's picture in the corner. That little glint stole into her eye.
"Who's that?" she asked, rather coyly.
"Oh, that's Sarah Palin," I answered, expecting it to mean nothing to her.
Momentary pause.
"Who did she vote for?"
Double take.
"I would say she voted for John McCain. And herself."
"And YOU voted for JOHN MCCAIN!" Bitter -- and elevated -- tone of accusation. The entire office is now alerted to Mom's total uncoolness.
Muttering, smugly: "Lizey and I voted for Barack Obama."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Carebear Get Your Gun

If you want to make your preschooler really, really happy ...

Buy her her very own low-temperature glue gun. Would you call that a Warm Glue Gun? (I didn't even know these existed until I read Stefani's post at Blue Yonder today and then lo and behold, Caroline and I were roaming the aisles of Jo-Ann ("a dangerous pastime--" "I know!") and suddenly we found ourselves face to face with the little creatures.

Here's what she said as she cradled her new acquisition in her carseat on the way home:

"When Jesus is at my house, I will rip open my stomach and let Him come in. Then I'll glue myself back up with my new glue gun."


It's sort of Gospel-of-John-meets-Stephen-King, isn't it? I suppose the stomach IS frightfully near the heart ...

I'm teaching these kids orthodox theology, I really am. Honest!

Monday, January 5, 2009

An arrow to the heart

Would you like to hear a story?

About eleven years ago, Tim and were childless newlyweds who attended a home meeting with several families, all of whom had children. We were drawn to one family in particular, probably because their two girls, then 3 and 6, were just so irresistible. They loved to climb up in our laps and nestle their blonde heads on our shoulders and when asked, confide that their favorite food was "stwawbewwies." 'Nuf said.

We shared a warm relationship the parents, although truth to tell, we had little in common, externally speaking. The husband, for example, worked for Dell by day but spent his weekends fishing and hunting on his deer lease. Tim's not a hunter, and the one time I tried shooting clay pigeons, my shoulder was sore for weeks. Plus, you know, Bambi.

Fast forward to four months ago. We see them at my SIL's 40th birthday party and, knowing that he recently sold his archery/hunting goods business, I start picking his brain about archery options for young 'uns, Ian having expressed interest. He recommends a man in town who makes custom bows, but when I hear the price tag, upward of $100, I gulp and decide to file that away in the mental Rolodex.

Okay, three weeks ago. Our church congregation places a strong emphasis on shepherding one another as fellow believers in Christ. A man shared a testimony in our morning meeting about how key to his spiritual survival this kind of care was during his teenage years. Nothing supernatural, just camping trips and coffee talks with some older ones who took an interest in him. I was touched -- convicted a bit, perhaps, wondering if there might be anyway I could serve someone like this. Apparently, so was our friend Jim.

He called Tim the next day, and the long and the short of it was, he had won a gift certificate at an auction, and he wanted to buy Ian a custom-made bow and teach him to shoot it.


I think Jim would tell you himself that he's not by any means a "high-profile" guy; like most of us, not a fiery evangelist or a frequent public speaker. In gatherings, you might not notice him. But he's living proof that quieter members can speak volumes with their offerings of love.

So we arrived at their house on New Year's Day, ostensibly just for a friendly lunch, torn between tears of gratitude and smug smiles at the thought of the surprise lying in wait for our son. According to his wife and daughter, Jim had been nearly beside himself with excitement over our coming, and he barely knows Ian. (Maybe that's for the better -- no preconceived notions, you know? Clean slate and all that.)

They practiced in the yard, and then Jim broke the news: "You can keep that bow. It's for you."

Behold the results:

Now we have a target (not a clay deer) set up on our back yard, a thank-you note on the to-do list and a list of safety instructions posted on the fridge for our young Robin Hood. He really seems to have the knack -- or should I say, the gift for it?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

All things new

Does it count as a blogging rut if you've only written twice in one week?

My gracious, I am struggling. Not for lack of ideas; there are posts throbbing busily in my brain as usual. No no, I am pouting because the holidays have spirited away most of my nice commenters (that's right, play that tiny violin a little higher), and writing time has been scarce, and I am floundering because I don't know where to begin. Which of these bouncing balls do I hit?

But one of my New Year's goals is to try to overcome my inability to start things because of perfectionism-induced indecisiveness. We're aiming for small steps here. Anyone else make goals for the year?

So, let's see.

New Year's Silliness:

(We did our family gift exchange later than usual this year, and embellished it with a fashion show, a sleepover, and some wild games of Wild Planet Hyper Dash in my in-laws' basement. Oh, and my father-in-law in a wig. Distinguished bow-tie-wearing professor by day; cross-dresser from the neck up by night.)

A note on the gifts: Here are three reasons my in-laws scored big with me in this year. 1) My MIL remembered my joking about the gigantic hole in our bedsheet, and bought us a new set of sheets from Lands' End! 400 thread count! Dangerous, since it already takes me an embarrassing amount of time to roll out of bed in the morning. 2) My SIL got me a gift certificate to Hobby Lobby -- yippee! and 3) they all LOVED the calendars I made them using Photoshop Elements and digital scrapping kit from Shabby Princess. Actual quote from my BIL: "I was just saying the other day that I hoped you would make us another calendar this year!" Actual quote from MIL: "This must have taken you HOURS!" Uh huh. But totally, totally worth it, because they were so happy.

New Year's Goals:

This could be a Moby-Dick-length post of its own. For example, one goal is to become more of a producer and less of a consumer. But how does one achieve this and still keep the other parts of life in balance? I'd love to learn to make more of things we use or desire, more things of beauty and meaning, but those require time, time uninterrupted by small people with big needs, and I have chosen that for this season of my life, their needs will be primary. Yet I'm merely a shred of what they need if my spirit and soul aren't fed, and how do I inspire them to lifelong learning if I myself am not engaged in activities that are not merely for our survival but even more, for our thriving? So much of what I do as a mother day in and day out is like threading beads on that string with no knot at the end. They (the laundry, the story reading, the meals ... ) need to be done, or their lack becomes sorely obvious. But I'm convinced there must also be room for accomplishment -- with head, heart and hands -- and that since the tide of our society constrains us to automate our tasks and to consume what strangers and machines have made, that kind of accomplishment seems like a luxury rather than a necessity. The key word, there, being "seems."

So perhaps it's just a gentle shift of the balance I'm looking for, a shift that can encircle, rather than exclude, my children as much as possible. Add in the desire to somehow reach out more, to translate thought into prayer or phone call more often, even when I just want to draw inward, inside the limiting sphere of self. And the need to give my spirit the kind of diet that makes it all possible.

For family organization and homeschool tracking, I'm going to try the online planner at this year. We'll still use the chore chart at, and on an artistic note, I'd like to try out Project365 once the kits are restocked! (I'm already taking my pictures.)