From one to two hours, according to age and class, are given in the afternoons to handicrafts, field-work, drawing, etc.; and the evenings are absolutely free, so that the children have leisure for hobbies, family reading, and the like. We are able to get through a greater variety of subjects, and through more work in each subject, in a shorter time than is usually allowed, because children taught in this way get the habit of close attention and are carried on by steady interest. Vol. 3 p. 240 , Charlotte Mason
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
— Wendell Berry
In 2012 many friends and strangers opened their home to our family of seven as we journeyed across the US for our Group Hug America tour. We were so warmly received and welcomed on our 3 month journey, that when I saw that Bre was going to be making a similar pilgrimage I knew we had to be one of her stops. My good friend joked that I had invited a STRANGER to my home and hinted that she thought I may be completely CRAZY. I retorted that Bre “presented well online” so surely she was fine and crossed my fingers hoping my instinct was right.
Bre came on Saturday with her daughters Bailey and Eleanor. And what a gift and blessing it was to our family to receive them in all their cuteness! We spent the weekend trying to keep the baby safe from Constance and were mostly successful, except for the time Constance picked up Eleanor, and when we told her to put her down, she did. Dropped her right down onto the hardwood floors. Our 6 year-olds hit it off splendidly, and spent most of their time pretending, giggling and running through the house (Dear winter, you can go now). And we even got in some thrifting time.
It was much too short and we’ve already offered them to come again soon. In a world where we are scared to trust it feels so good to do beautiful, spontaneous things. To welcome strangers and see such lovely fruit come from it. I’m glad you came, Bre.
1 cup sunbutter
1 cup turbinado sugar
2 eggs beaten
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp baking soda
Dash of salt
1 cup nuts (I blended mine for a few seconds to make a flour that had some chunks)
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup cacao pieces
Set oven to 350. Mix together sunbutter, sugar, vanilla. Add dry ingredients. Shape dough into balls (if it’s too sticky add more but flour). Drop onto cookie sheet (I use baking stones). Bake for 10-15 minutes. Let cool. Hide a few from the kids and enjoy!
Before our move to Uganda 4 years ago, I wanted to do something memorable for the children. A way for them to remember our home and friends here. In an age of digital media I wanted something they could hold in their hands and cherish. That’s when I decided to make a photo book ever year for each child.
I turned to Snapfish because they have the best prices, especially during the holidays, but there are several good photo book printing services (I used Paper Coterie one year when their prices beat Snapfish). Here’s how I do it:
On a day when Adam can watch the children, I sit down with my laptop and go through our year of photos (every year I kick myself for not being more organized). If I was smart I’d start a folder with their names and monthly add to it. Instead I cram. every. year. Will I ever learn!?
Anyhoo, back to it: I make a folder with each child’s name and the year on it; I also make a folder titled “family” for our family book. After I’ve made the folders, I make sure the photos are edited as I see fit in Lightroom. You can use whatever editing software you have; if you’re an iPhone photographer, I’ve found VSCOCAM to be a wonderful editing tool.
After my photos are in folders and edited, I upload them to Snapfish one folder at a time. This keeps the photos I want to use in each book together and makes it easier to sort through while making the books. I make sure to upload them at the highest quality (even though it takes more time) because I want the pictures to look their best when they print.
Now it’s time for the fun part: making the photo books! I like to include special events and memories from the year and I let the photos do the talking with very little text. Snapfish’s embellishments look promising this year and I’m planning to try them out. But again, I don’t add much text as I do believe the photos speak for themselves.
One thing I do add is encouragement for my kids about who they are. I want them to be able to look back at these books and know exactly how I feel about them. How much I love them and cherish them. I want them to remember to believe in themselves and to like themselves! Sometimes we need hope reminders–that’s what I’m making. Reminding them of the beauty of life. Photos do that for me.
Whatever you choose to do, have fun and make it meaningful for you and your family. These are treasures that live on and often times I will find my children poring over our albums. They love to remember. To see how they’ve grown.
Just a few weeks until Christmas but you’ve got time still to make a lasting memory and meaningful gift.
Grace and Peace.
“I’m not saying there won’t be an accident now, mind you. They’re funny things, accidents. You never have them till you’re having them.”
— Tigger, THE HOUSE AT POOH CORNER
Saturday, after a few good slides down a snow-covered hill, our darling slid into bleachers and hit her noggin quite hard. So hard that she couldn’t remember words or how to put them together or who her mommy and daddy were. We rushed to the ER leaving our other four home and whispered beggy prayers as we rushed down the road. “Please, God. PLEASE!” But the hard part was keeping her awake as we sped down the icy roads.
ERs are a funny place–you either wait for hours or they take you right back and triage you. The latter, though nice, means that you’ve been bumped to the top of the list because your condition is serious.
We were seen right away.
And what a wonderful staff we had. They did a CT scan that confirmed a slight skull fracture and bleed. I couldn’t feel my legs when the doctor came in with the news. This isn’t happening, not to her, I thought. It can’t be. She didn’t just say a skull fracture and bleeding on her brain. Did she? Please God, PLEASE. HELP!
Help came in the form of this smile and Pei Wei smuggled in for dinner by our pastor. Help came in the form of our good friends and neighbors stopping by our house to be with our other kids while we were away. Help came in the form of text messages and prayers promised and encouraging words over social media from family, friends, and complete strangers.
It was divine provision that our Pastor Roger was there just after the news had been given and we were being transferred to our room on the children’s floor.
Night came and all this little one wanted was to have something snuggly to hold. Our precious nurse found this polar bear. Help came again. She held it all night and it brought her such comfort.
“Mommy, I lovvvvvve this bear. It’s so nice. So soft. I can really keep it?! Like take it home? Oh, mommy my nurses are so nice. I like this hotel hospital.”
After a few hours of sleep we had a party from midnight to 2:00 am watching the Disney Channel, eating cheese sticks and graham crackers, and taking more meds before finally drifting off back to sleep.
Morning came and she had her second scan. It showed healing! The blood on her brain was receding–practically gone now–and soon after Daddy came back to the hospital for a visit, we were able to join him and go home! We sent hugs to all the folks who had been praying far and wide for a good report. Help came. We were heading home.
Double-fisting popsicles is the best way to say goodbye to a scary night.
Now we’re home and this little slept through the night until 10:00 am and is only complaining of a little pain. We are so thankful, so very thankful. Help came.
When I called, you answered me, you increased my strength within me. –Psalm 138:4
My heart sings to you without ceasing: O Lord my God, I will give you thanks for ever. –Psalm 30:13
4 cups whole oats
3 cups nuts (any kind) I used almonds and chopped them in a food processor a few seconds
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup olive oil ( melted coconut if you prefer)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. cinnamon
pinch of sea salt
1 cup of raisins (to be added after baking)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients (excluding raisins) and mix well. Mix wet ingredients separately, then pour over dry mixture until all oats are well-covered. Transfer to greased baking sheets and bake for 10 minutes. Turn mixture a bit and bake another 10 minutes.
Let cool on pans and break up, leaving some chunks (if you like). Add raisins, then transfer to pretty mason jars or whatever your heart desires. Serve with Brown Cow Maple yogurt, milk, or just eat by the handful like my kids (and husband) do. Enjoy! (I double this for our family and it barely lasts a week)
This recipe was adapted from one my friend Sandy Kittinger gave me. Thanks, Sandy!
In total, our time at the cabin was just 23 hours, but we feel like we were able to do so much and really enjoyed the short getaway. We were so thankful to our friend Melissa for suggesting Petra Field Camps to us and we’re sure to return.
It was sweet to celebrate our love and these last 17 years together with our children. When you are a freelance artist and have five children, it’s tough to get away alone (or at all), but we truly enjoyed having our complete family there (we did miss having our dogs, but Petra doesn’t allow them in the cabin, though they do have a smaller house that is pet-friendly).
Wanted to close out this little series with the hilarious reality of having a feisty toddler.
No, Constance, you can’t color on the cabin floors:
No, Constance, you can’t have marshmallows and chocolate for breakfast:
No, Constance, you don’t play miniature golf by picking up each person’s ball and placing it into the hole:
No, Constance, we can’t stay forever:
Yes, Constance, you are loved and adored a gift to our family.
After lunch we ventured out on a hike. Constance had the privilege of riding on my back in the Ergo. It was supposed to be a simple hike with waterfalls and a cave amongst the glorious autumn colors.
But somewhere along the way we got a bit, er, sidetracked. Lost in the woods with a baby on my back is not my idea of fun and relaxation, but nevertheless, grumbling under my breath, I pressed on. Down the steep, leaf-covered trails.
There was a moment when I was too afraid and wanted to turn back (balancing with a baby on my back isn’t the easiest and I’m not the most fit I’ve ever been), but what happened in that moment was so beautiful. I’m still stunned by it.
The tiny one on my back began cheering me on. “You can do it, mama. You can be brave. It’s okay.” Then she yelled out to the waiting others, “Mama’s coming, guys. She can do it.” I just don’t know. Sometimes we need each other.
The guys found the cave and though we missed the waterfall, this was well worth the effort.
I had to let Charlotte go on her own during the hike, my inclination to hold onto her surpassing my ability. Wings spread, she soared.
Mothers and children both grow in the letting go, taking flight.
We loved the river so much we had to return one last time before leaving. So we ventured off a little farther down the way.
This is Emma asking if it’s okay to let Charlotte climb up:
This is Emma telling Charlotte that it’s a big fall and she should let her help her down, and Charlotte refusing that help:
This is Charlotte sitting her independent self down in protest:
Emma climbs down after I tell her to let go. Big sisters have to do this sometimes, too. Charlotte told me later, “I was a little scared when Emma got down and left me up there alone.”