a new school year.

IMG_0534

Here in South Carolina, most schools don’t start back until after the solar eclipse on August 21, but we officially began the new school year yesterday. We’re traveling this month and next month, so I wanted to give us a little bit of a buffer to get in our full 180 days.

I take that back — I wanted to give us a huge buffer. We finished last year at the end of April, and I had every intention of starting us back at the beginning of July. Or earlier. I just adore those school-year-round, the-world-is-our-education homeschoolers. I want to be them. But I’m not.

Wait, this sounds familiar. Haven’t I told you this before?

Yep. Okay, please remind me of this in the future: we’re just a traditional school-year kind of family. We like to have a real summer and hang out with our friends who are off school. Also our swim practices change from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and it throws off a school routine.

All of that to say, here we are!

IMG_0547

If you’re still in planning mode, a word to the wise: please give yourself a good chunk of time alone to plan out your year (or semester), either in a quiet house, or at the library. David offered me that, but I was disorganized and ended up squeezing all my planning into the cracks. It was so stressful.

The above photo is what happened when I spread out my books and planner at the table this weekend: Amie, Gabe, and Noah instantly had their own “planning” to do. Amie want to make her own calendar and needed lots of input. The boys want to try out the new glue and markers and create ninjas and bad guys, and give me a play-by-play of their battle scene.

I love my kids. They really are the best. They’re creative and motivated and funny.

But trying to make a plan for our year in the midst of this happy cacophony made me want to pull my hair out.

So I file that away for next year.

IMG_0577

In the state of South Carolina, I need to document what we do for school each week, so this year I bought the Debra Bell homeschool planner (left) for 20 bucks. I’ll let you know what I think. The main perk in my eyes is that it allows space for multiple children’s study schedules and curriculum. Right now, that makes it a winner.

I mentioned this before, but I just don’t prefer to do any homeschool planning in my bullet journal, although some people love it.

In celebration of the new year, I also bought myself A Gracious Space, by Julie Bogart, which is full of very brief daily readings for the homeschool parent. There’s a volume for each season, and it’s so inspiring.

And finally, I’m attempting to follow Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours for personal prayer. She use and consolidates The Book of Common Prayer into brief daily readings (also in four volumes). It’s mostly Scripture, and I realized that when my head’s swirling with tasks and school and people to care for, I need a guide for prayer. It’s a comfort, and I plan to use it as a reset throughout my day.

IMG_0573

Can you believe this is my fifth year of homeschooling? I just don’t feel that old. I have an almost-ten-year-old!

The biggest change for us this year was deciding not to be apart of Classical Conversations anymore.

That was a huge decision for me, kind of a roller coaster, and my apologies to David for all the obsessing and reading aloud of pros/cons lists. CC served us well for four years, and then suddenly, it stopped serving us. This past year it felt like it was a burden, instead of a help. Isn’t it funny how seasons of life change and things you once loved suddenly cease to be the right fit?

Frankly, I became bored with the curriculum, but it took so much time that I couldn’t pursue the things I really wanted to do with my kids.

I am such a by-the-book, Type-A person, that I was truly terrified to quit CC. It was my security blanket; it ensured my kids were getting an education. I didn’t realize how much fear and insecurity would surface inside me giving it up.

I’m homeschooling on my own now. What if I fail?

IMG_0574

Well, I’ll never know until I try, will I?

And deep in my heart, I really, really want to try.

We’re using mostly Sonlight curriculum this year: I purchased one core (D: American History, Part 1) for Judah’s grade: it covers our History/Bible/Geography/Literature and Poetry. I also bought the Science core.

I plan to modify it for all the kids, and use past Sonlight books I’ve purchased for the younger boys.

I just can’t speak highly enough of their curriculum. I’ve used the read-alouds for years and they’re almost always guaranteed winners.

I’d like to say here that the four years of Classical Conversations memory work we did are already serving us well, just a week into our school year. The kids know when Christopher Columbus sailed to the Americas, they know the animal kingdoms and classifications. So I do love the CC program and am thankful for how it’s helped us. Now it’s time to dive a bit deeper.

IMG_0579

This year will be a challenge because I’m teaching three legitimate grades (I’m very laid back with kindergarten): fourth grade, third grade, and first grade. We have a diagnosed learning disorder this year (Dysgraphia). A friend from church is working with us to make some modifications for that.

But.

There are so many things I’m excited about. Here are a few:

1. We’re kind of easing back into our subjects over the next two weeks, but thus far every curriculum change I’ve made has felt right. After studying U.S. History one morning, Judah said, “This is going to be my favorite school year ever!” I’ll give more specific reviews later about the different books we’ve chosen, but it just feels so good to have my kids excited about school.

Does that mean they love every subject? No. But I want to have enough inspiring material in there to keep them engaged with learning.

2. David’s dad, Steve, will be doing weekly Science experiments with the three oldest kids that correspond to our Biology curriculum. This week they planted radish seeds and are returning to check on them and make drawings of the progress. Has their own father planted radishes in our garden and shown them? Yes. But everything’s cooler when Grandpa is the teacher.

IMG_0562

3. I’ve been studying Charlotte Mason’s educational methods this summer through podcasts and Wild + Free, and asking my CM friends lots of questions. We’ll begin doing narration and artist study as part of our school week. My parents are in the process of moving, but once they get settled, we’ll resume nature watercolor with my mom.

4. The kids were terribly disappointed back in April when I told them we wouldn’t be continuing with Classical Conversations. Mostly, it’s because they love the social aspect, and I get that. Also, it was familiar. But the field trip and book club group we were also apart of last year is expanding into a twice-monthly homeschool co-op (and includes some of their CC friends). I’m really excited to have more time to be involved in it and I know the kids are going to enjoy it.

IMG_0588

5. Finally, it just feels really good to be back in our routine.

I had so many grand plans for our summer. I accomplished very few of them. I don’t use my time well without structure. Also: I was tired. It’s funny, I’ll probably get way more accomplished with the healthy pressure of a school year than with all the free time I had during the break.

Homeschooling is definitely a challenge, but gathering around the table this week, laughing about our new Latin vocabulary songs, drawing pictures of the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, reading about Llamas in the Andes Mountains, reminds me why I do this: at the end of the day, we just really enjoy learning together.



living room update.

fullsizeoutput_2706

I’ve taken a couple of blissful months off thinking about house projects; no scouring of Pinterest or spontaneous trips to Home Goods. It’s a very restful feeling to find myself not even really caring that things still aren’t completely finished.

And it’s true: they aren’t. Our builder still needs to come wrap up a few items, and we’re going to have all the windows in our house replaced. And we still haven’t touched up the paint in our bedroom or put the final coat on the baseboards. But Scott’s working a job now that he said is over two times the size of our bedroom addition, so we’re squeezed into the cracks of his time. Oddly enough, I’m okay with it.

David and I just really, really needed a break from house projects.

But we did get the living room back in order and Judah and Amie’s bedrooms finished, so I’ll show you our progress!

IMG_0075

IMG_0076

We’ve always loved our long, spacious living room. It was a non-negotiable for us when house-hunting, because we have groups of people from church over. Our living room is perfect for New Members’ class, during which we’ve been known to squeeze 35 people into this space.

However, surveying it post-addition, it just didn’t feel right. Losing our reading corner made us suddenly feel like there was a lot of wasted space.

IMG_0090

So we made the (for me) excruciating decision to transfer our wall of books to a different place to make way for another little seating area. We decided to give away our India bookcase as well, to simplify.

Call me superficial, but I mourned.

That glorious color-coded book wall felt like our trademark. It set the feel of our home when you walked in the door. It made me happy every single time I looked at it (am I being dramatic? yes, of course). But it just wasn’t practical for us anymore. So it had to go.

Thankfully that IKEA bookcase is easy to rearrange, and we stowed the extra column of shelves in a closet in case we change our minds down the road.

IMG_0072

After the construction, I knew that every single book needed to be removed and cleaned anyway. The dust was overwhelming. If I did this addition process again, I would’ve used more tarps, but oh well. The truth is all of that would’ve needed to be cleaned regardless. Thankfully the kids were troopers and pitched in to help.

We also took the opportunity to purge books. Again. All the books in our dark glass-front bookcase are David’s theology books and will eventually have a home in his new office. Want to know where they are now? Well, the trunk of his car and here:

IMG_0110

While rearranging, I took the opportunity to admire our Wendell Berry collection. Um, yes, I may have added to it since this photo was taken:

IMG_0081

It was actually fun and therapeutic to go through all our books, to choose which we love most, and which we’re okay with passing on.

Some books remain classics in a family, but isn’t it funny to flip through others and feel that you’ve kind of outgrown them?

But now, here we are!

IMG_0500

IMG_0496

Does the new bookcase location make the same statement? Not at all.

But I do love that cozy new reading nook. We talked about getting a loveseat for the space, but actually like it just the way it is.

We had our electrician add an outlet to that wall, and eventually I’ll figure out some art to hang.

IMG_0512

IMG_0510

When I thought about updating our living room, it was really important to me to create a space that’s inviting for the kids to play; especially our little guys. So we have a basket for their Magna-tiles, a basket of wooden blocks, and a book basket.

The decorator in me wouldn’t mind finding another chair to round out the sofa area, but then my kids wouldn’t have room to spread out. I want them to know this is their space too.

When they saw the wide open floor they said, “Mommy! Did you make a play place for us!?”

IMG_0504

IMG_0514

If you look back the other direction, the room hasn’t really changed.

IMG_0501

IMG_0502

Our living room felt really chaotic for months. We love that it’s relaxing once again!

IMG_0492



summer 2017 bookshelf.

IMG_0478

Happy August, my friends!

How are you doing?

Thanks for your patience with me and the blog. How is it already August and I haven’t written you a summer book post? Sigh.

The good news is that even if I haven’t been writing about books, I’ve been reading them! So I have quite a few to share with you today. I hope there’s something in here for everyone. There are others I read but haven’t included in this post because I value your time (you can find me on Goodreads for a complete list). These are some of my favorites. As always, I invite your book recommendations!

First I need to thank my friend Hannah: last week she sent a group email to some friends asking for book suggestions. The first friend “replied all” with her ideas, and others of us followed suit. So fun! I don’t know her friends but came away with some great ideas for fall reads. You should try the same thing sometime. Thank you, Hannah!

And now, here we go:

Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens

You may or may not remember that I received a lovely hardcover edition of Little Dorrit for my birthday. I’ve read most of Dickens’ works; he’s my very favorite classic author. There are a few of his novels that I return to again and again, and every time I discover new treasures.

Little Dorrit took some commitment to get through. It is 826 pages long and the plot moves quite slowly. It’s not my favorite of his books, but was well worth my time. I just love that Amy Dorrit. And Arthur Clennam is pretty great too. If you’re looking for a Dickens novel to start with, try Great Expectations. But if you’re willing to make a bigger commitment, length-wise, then read David Copperfield. I know you’re tired of me talking about Charles Dickens so I’ll stop. Bleak House is my absolute favorite.

 

The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father

If you read the blog Modern Mrs. Darcy, you’ll probably notice that several titles in this post come from her recommendations. This is a quiet, beautiful, terribly sad memoir of a family who survived the Hmong genocide in Laos and immigrated to the U.S. I wish I could say that it has a happy ending. In some ways it does, but in others I felt more deeply disturbed than ever. Life for many, many immigrants to our country is not like ours. They work long hours in factory jobs and still hardly make ends meet. They’re often the victims of racial and economic prejudice. I honestly don’t know the solution except to try and befriend immigrants whenever I can. Please read this important book.

 

Own Your Life: How to Grow a Legacy of Faith, Love, and Spiritual Influence, Sally Clarkson

This is my favorite Sally Clarkson book; maybe it just came at the right time. It spoke to several issues I was struggling with in life and gave me clarity. This book will challenge and encourage your faith. It will give you a warm, firm nudge along the path of living a life of purpose.

 

The Wingfeather Saga, Andrew Peterson

My mom and brother Danny have been begging me to read this series for years. I can’t tell you how many times I tried On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and just couldn’t get into it (sorry, you two). Well sometimes it takes your kid to give you the nudge you need. I finally promised Judah to read one of his favorite series ever, and to take him on a date to Barnes and Noble afterward to talk about it.

If you’ve struggled to really enjoy this series, I urge you to press on! I’m really not a fantasy person, so I thought the first book was just okay. About halfway through the second book I started to see where the plot was going, and from then on I was hooked. By book four, The Warden and the Wolf King, I was blown away by the depth of character, the wisdom, and creativity in these stories.

Andrew Peterson has long been one of my favorite musicians, but I discovered this year that he’s an extremely gifted writer. What made reading these books even more fun is that in the midst of them I got to see him speak in Greenville about his writing process. I’m adding the Wingfeather Saga to my all-time favorite series list.

 

Love Walked In, Maria de los Santos

Okay a break from the heavy stuff. Maria de los Santos is a lovely writer. I also enjoyed Falling Together, and will be picking up her YA novel Saving Lucas Biggs next. Her books are light with characters you cheer for and satisfying endings. Aren’t we all grateful for books like that? Perfect for your beach vacation.

 

Jane of Austin, Hillary Manton Lodge

While we’re on the subject of light books, Jane in Austin is a very cute modern day adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. Predictable and a little forced sometimes, but I still enjoyed it.

 

That Distant Land, Port William books, Wendell Berry

This summer I re-read almost every single one of Wendell Berry’s Port William novels. His stories are profound, wise, and thought-provoking. Truly, if I wrote fiction, I’d most want to read like Wendell Berry. He has a definite agenda in his writing, but it doesn’t detract from the characters he builds around the fictional town of Port William. They’re the kind of people I miss when I stop reading about them. I read That Distant Land for the first time, and bought a few more used because our library doesn’t carry them: Remembering, Andy Catlett, and A World Lost. Judah looked at our bookshelf and said, “Mom. How many Wendell Berry books do you really need?” Lots and lots, Judah. Lots and lots.

These novels aren’t part of a series. Any one of them can stand alone, and you can read them in any order. Start with Hannah Coulter if you like. Or Jayber Crow. Those are the two most beloved. This is a series I return to again and again.

 

Lucky Boy

I’m still kind of reeling from this b0ok, which I literally could not put down. Household chores definitely slipped while I devoured it, and I’d sure like someone to discuss it with because I’m still processing. In a nutshell, it’s the story of an illegal immigrant to the U.S. from Mexico, and what happens to her and the child she gives birth to in America. I’ll give a caveat: this book has some hard subject matter. It was painful to read. But I absolutely loved the compassionate way the author tackled some enormous issues like immigration, infertility, foster-care and adoption. It’s one that’ll stay with you.

 

Different: The Story of an Outside-the-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him, Sally Clarkson

Another non-fiction title from Sally Clarkson, this time with her son Nathan. I’m so grateful for this book. As a teenager, Nathan was diagnosed with a wide array of disorders, the most pronounced being Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. The author and her son write honestly about their life together with his unique challenges. It was — and still is — hard and messy. But this is a book of hope and victory and God’s presence in the midst of ongoing suffering. I highly recommend it if you have an “outside-the-box” kid, or even if you don’t. Chances are you know a family like the Clarksons, and this book will help you understand and love them better.

 

The Story Hour, Thrity Umrigar

A story about the two most unlikely of friends: an Indian woman in a desperate state of depression, and her therapist. Sometimes I struggle with stories written from more than one point of view; it’s hard to pull them off well in my opinion. But Umrigar manages it beautifully. You feel hurt, anger, hope, and gladness for both of these women.

 

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, Lisa See

This is one of my favorites from today’s list. I just really, really enjoyed this story. Thanks to my friend Tressa for the recommendation; she told me, “I know you’ll love it,” and she was right! Isn’t it nice to have book-friends who know you well?

You’ll see a definite theme in my summer reading of immigrant stories, many of which I found on this list. They’ve given me so much to think about lately. And some very intense dreams (David said, “Whoa, you may need to lighten up your book choices for a bit”).

But mostly I see how very much there is to feel grateful for. I don’t like the entitled mentality I slip into far too easily: thinking I somehow deserve for my life to be easy and smooth. Instead of complaining about things that just don’t matter, I want to open my eyes and find people around me — people who are can be “invisible” — for whom life is not easy and smooth. I want to do something small to make them un-invisible. To make them feel welcome here. Reading books won’t change the world. But it can be an awakening.

Save

Save



orlando trip.

IMG_0285

One of my mom’s great-aunts passed away recently, and she wanted to go to Florida for the memorial service. The kids and I jumped at the chance to take a road trip and see our family, so my mom took a couple more days off work to help turn it into a little vacation.

IMG_0298

We spent the first two nights in a little guest condo at Good Samaritan Retirement Village, in Kissimmee, which is where we attended my Grandma’s memorial service last year. A retirement village full of golf carts and double-wide mobile homes and a sprawling nursing home may seem like a strange spot for a vacation, but both sets of my grandparents logged years living there, and the place is brimming with memories.

I miss all four of them so much, and it feels like one small way I can share them with my children, who never had the privilege of knowing their great-grandparents well. We rented a golf cart for the two days, which the kids loved, and I showed them once again the different places my grandparents and their siblings lived, the bedroom I slept in when visiting my mom’s parents as a kid. We told them stories that they’ve heard lots of times.

Life slows down traveling around in a golf cart and we loved moss-hung trees and the cranes and ducks and turtles, the tropical flowers so bright they almost hurt your eyes. Even the daily rolling summer thunder storms felt cozy.

IMG_0305

I sat through the memorial service for a great-aunt that I did not know well, but who’s part of my big family. I was reminded that God’s faithfulness to me has extended generations before I was born. It’s a gift that my four children are swept up into that story, and I felt my heart welling up with gratitude for the love that is all around us.

We ate lunch with my mom’s sister and her husband who drove up from Tampa for the service, and enjoyed catching up with them.

IMG_0325

On Friday we drove to meet family at Disney Springs. It’s an outdoor shopping center that’s part of Disney but doesn’t charge admission. We packed a lunch to eat in the parking garage, and spent several hours roaming around. There are so many fun things for kids to do . . . if you’re in Orlando, I highly recommend it.

Our kids haven’t been to Disney World and we have no plans to take them any time soon (we’re currently saving our money for a trip to the Grand Canyon). The only time this bothers them is when they hear of friends going, but for the most part they don’t seem to mind. They loved the huge Lego store at Disney Springs, the Disney Store, free samples at Ghirardelli Chocolate.

IMG_0331

IMG_0338

IMG_0350

IMG_0344

There’s also a couple of splash pads and a Dino Dig.

IMG_0368

IMG_0380

IMG_0358

We planned to buy ice cream there, but when a huge rainstorm hit, we opted to head for our cars and find a less expensive ice cream place in Orlando. I love how we’re all on the same page with saving money!

IMG_0379

We spent the next two nights in Orlando. The three youngest kids and I stayed at my Uncle Ralph and Aunt Valerie’s house, and Judah spent one night with his cousins, Tristan and Gavin, and one night with my mom at my Uncle Ken and Aunt Susan’s house a few miles away.

David told me later, “One thing I love about your family is that when anyone comes to town, they drop everything and are ready to celebrate!”

IMG_0393

IMG_0391

It’s true. They always make us feel special. We all gathered for burgers at Uncle Ralph’s the first night, and taco’s at Uncle Ken’s the second night.

IMG_0402

Judah said, “Mom, I love when we have memorial services and weddings because it’s so much fun getting to see our family.”

My whole big extended family isn’t perfect and would never ever claim to be, but they are a gift. It makes my heart happy to see my children recognize that gift and get to know their second-cousins and great-aunts and uncles.

IMG_0409

They did lots of swimming in Uncle Ralph’s pool and Zach and Allison’s neighborhood pool. They played Settlers of Catan and Mexican Train and caught lizards. They adored Uncle Ralph and Aunt Valerie’s golden retrievers, Sam and Sophie, and fed turtles in the pond.

I chatted with my aunts and uncles and cousins and drank lots of decaf coffee. When we got home I was definitely in need of introvert time, but it was well worth it!

IMG_0419

IMG_0449

Thanks to my Mom for making the trek with a van full of kiddos and helping me make it a really fun week. We brought a small bin of toys and books, but also stocked up twice at the Dollar store, for sticker books and coloring books and marbles (marbles=endless entertainment for little boys).

On a long trip David and I let the kids watch one movie, usually something we find at Redbox, and then we have them play or read books, and we listen to lots of music. On this trip we listened to all of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz on audiobook, which was a delight. Amelie said, “Mom! This is my new favorite story!” Anne Hathaway narrated and was incredible.

We packed grocery store snacks and fruit, and stopped for treats at Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts.

And my sweet husband hired our former house-cleaner to deep clean our house while I was gone (which I still hadn’t gotten around to doing after the addition). It was lovely to walk into a clean house at the end of it all.

I’m a person who has always loved travel, but I spent a long two years after adopting the boys where travel of any kind felt sort of like torture. It’s very fun to begin to discover that part of myself once again — where a road trip feels like an adventure.

Save

Save



interview with judah: summer camp.

35588605141_ebcd77a951_o

Tell me about your camp. What kind of camp was it?

A Christian camp

How many boys were in your cabin? How many counselors did you have?

Ten boys and two counselors

What major did you choose for the week?

Outdoor survival

What’s one thing you learned about outdoor survival?

That clay can be used as a bug spray

34957322204_2791d97efa_o

What other activities did you get to try?

Archery, climbing, GaGa ball, zipline, jump on the Blob, kayaking, water games in the lake

What did you do during chapel?

Talk about Jesus being the Vine

34857307554_e254e05826_o

What did you do to celebrate 4th of July?

Big fireworks on lake

What’s something that surprised you about camp?

That everyone was so nice

35311014280_faeeb2bd19_o

Did you get homesick?

Yes

What was the hardest thing about your week?

The showers weren’t very clean

What was your favorite part of your day?

I liked it all

Do you want to go back next year?

Yes!

34987879443_0709cff356_o

Was the lasagna as good as your mom’s?

Not quite as good

What would you say to someone who’s thinking about going next year?

It’s very fun and there’s nothing to worry about

Is there anything else you want to tell us about?

Not too much, I would if I felt better

34958225344_c08111d62c_o

And there you have it, folks! Poor Judah has been sick ever since he got home Saturday and wasn’t quiet up to this interview. We’re headed to the doctor this afternoon to see if he has strep throat. He still insists, “It was worth it!’

I felt like he came home about a year older and a foot taller. He is just growing up so much.

The senior counselor pulled David aside Saturday when he picked Judah up and said, “I want to tell you what an amazing kid you have. He was so nice to everybody and so respectful. We love Judah!”

Thanks to Bethel Christian Camp for an awesome first camp experience!!!



good-bye goose and penny.

IMG_2516

Before we left for our beach vacation, it was time to say good-bye to two of our girls. All along we planned for six hens; David built a coop and a run for six hens. But then when they all lived and all turned out to be females, our emotions got in the way and we wanted to keep them.

But the chickens started getting aggressive towards each other and David wondered if they were feeling overcrowded. So we decided to give away the two who were getting picked on by the others. Sadly, that meant they were also our sweetest-natured girls: Goose and Penny. But that’s the way life works sometimes.

gabe

Amie cried and cried when we told her. She was heart-broken. But a family in our neighborhood was happy to give them a home. They have one chicken and seven children, and so there are lots of helping hands to take care of them. Amie was comforted to know the new owners are our friends and she can go visit the girls when she wants. Their new owners even told her, “We want to keep their names!”

Really, it was a perfect scenario.

We read that moving chickens in the evening is less traumatic because they can go right to bed in their new coop, so Goose and Penny’s new “dad” came over for them with two cat crates and a wagon. Judah and Amie walked over to see them settled into their home.

And I had a very sad girl on my hands that night. She cried and I made chamomile tea and we cuddled in bed and read her current chapter book together until she dozed off.

noah

The next day we left for the beach, which was a great distraction. By the time we got home, Goose and Penny were happily settled and laying eggs for their new family, and Amie felt much better.

And our remaining six chickens seem happier too. A friend told us they may all calm down a bit after they start laying, and it’s true. I’m so happy that Gabe and Noah can now catch them. While we were away Mum-Mum introduced them to their new favorite treat: dried worms. Now they’re hooked. If we shake the bag; they come running.

If only the girls would quiet down a bit, I’d be relieved. They’ve gotten noisy and I’m always worried about what the neighbors think. They are very opinionated and do not like to be kept waiting for breakfast in the morning, or to see us walk out into the yard without opening their coop so they can range free. Turns out we’re kind of push-overs, so for the most part, they range free.

We’re pretty sure they’re all laying now and we get an average of 4 eggs a day, sometimes more. Yes, the eggs taste delicious. If you can believe it, we actually can keep up with eating all they’re producing, although we also want to share.

Amie, Gabe, and Noah make me laugh with how much they adore playing with the chickens. All three of them have gotten pecked in their actual eyeball, have cried about it, and go on cuddling them as much as ever.

We miss you, Goose and Penny!

IMG_2514



judah goes to camp.

fullsizeoutput_28f2

Yesterday evening we dropped Judah off for 6 nights at Bethel Christian Camp in Gaston, about 30 minutes away from Columbia. It’s a camp we’ve known and loved for a long time. We’ve met the director, and have seen lots of friends attend over the years.

I can’t imagine a better first camp experience for our boy; still I can hardly believe he’s gone.

He’ll turn 10 in September, which is the age I was when I started going to camp, but it still feels young somehow. I was delighted that we were allowed to settle him into his cabin and see the bunk he chose and meet his senior counselor. He was so excited. I reigned in my emotions and put my big girls pants on and said good-bye with a clear voice and a big smile.

The five of us made a forlorn trek back to our van, and cheered ourselves up with a stop at Pelican’s Snowcones before we headed home.

We gave Amelie the option to go to camp this week too, but she said, “No way! I’ll miss you too much!”

She regretted her choice when we dropped Judah and she got swept up in the excitement of chattering kids and rustic cabins and the lake. Still, she’s not even 8 yet, and I’m not sorry she decided to wait. Next year will be soon enough.

And so this week we find ourselves one kid short. It’s the quietest kid we’re missing, yet still the house feels a little bereft today.

I know I’m being sentimental, but to me this feels like the first big milestone of my kids growing up. Bit by bit they’re gaining independence, making memories apart from us.

I felt sad in the months leading up to this week, but even though I miss my boy like crazy, I suddenly find myself so very happy for him. This week away at camp is good and right; such a fun, valuable part of childhood. I love that he’s living his own story. It’s a gift to be a big part of that story, but I’m okay with letting go a little. I love the boy he’s becoming.

We get to send Judah emails throughout the week which are printed and given to him at lunch time. Here’s Noah’s message from today:

Dear Judah,

I can play Hobbit with you and play special toys with you. And I can play with the big Lego set too, and I can do Hobbit Hole reading with you. And I miss you really and I like you to sleep there because you had a good, good night. Obey your teacher and your class. Let’s sit in the chair together and read a book.

Love Noah

fullsizeoutput_28f4





saturday gratitude.

fullsizeoutput_27f9

1. a morning at the Farmer’s Market and grocery shopping, all by myself!

2. a chance to talk to interesting people without interruptions from my people

3. the transformation of downtown Columbia over the last 5 years that we’ve been back (how has it been 5 years?)

4. Amie’s bedroom is finished! And she is so happy.

5. we are so, so close to being done with our house project … just a few more items left

6. when I clean the blanket of construction dust from our floors and furniture and books, I remember how easy I have it compared to my friends living in India

7. finding peace with my lack of a summer schedule

8. a family beach day at Isle of Palms last week

fullsizeoutput_27ff

9. my friend Kelly rescued me from my frazzled state by giving me a simple plan for our kids and chores

10. an afternoon tea date with my dad

11. my kids listening to audio books (currently playing on Audible: Misty of Chincoteague, The Silver Chair, Ramona Quimby, Age 8, Poppy)

12. learning to say “I’m sorry” more often

13. I’ve begun to keep an actual list in my bullet journal of “Things my kids are doing right.” It’s embarrassing to have to make such a list, but it really transforms the way I see them

14. I can learn to be patient with myself and my sin

15. training myself to say, “This is a great day,” no matter what is happening and how I feel

16. friends who stop me to ask, “How is your anxiety doing with the crowds at church this summer?”

17. kitchen helpers

fullsizeoutput_27fb

18. feeling the energy to begin planning next school year

19. slow Sunday afternoons at the pool with Kenny and Shari and the boys

20. we leave tomorrow for New Smyrna Beach!

21. a chance to spend time with friends we see just once a year

22. listening to Gabe and Noah tell the things they’re looking forward to about vacation. They’ve found their place in our family traditions, and I see their faces light up with the joy of it.

23. people who give very specific encouragement, saying “I see this growth in you” or “I see this growth in your kids.” Wanting to do the same for others

24. friends who love the same books I do

25. friends who love absolutely different books that I do, hearing why they enjoy what they do

26. kids who are best buddies

fullsizeoutput_27f5