We celebrated our Celtic heritage this past weekend at the NE FL Scottish Highland Games & Festival. We’ve recently discovered that Mama Snow’s ancestry is predominantly from the Orkney Islands, just North of Scotland, so it was fun to poke around the booths and find out a little more about the area. One of my great-grandmothers is also from Scotland, and our children’s Celtic heritage has really come out through Luke’s red hair and blue eyes, who fit right in at this festival. It was special having Grandma there with us, and really, our ice cream break made the whole afternoon just about perfect.
My interests have changed these past six weeks or so. As those who are close to me will attest, I have never been too much into order and neatness in the home. I work to keep the chaos at bay, but I am perfectly fine with stacks here and there of stuff. I have preferred to spend my time working on projects, knitting, reading, planning, etc. But this has all changed as of late. I cannot get enough order in my life. A well-ordered home has actually become a close-to-obsessed hobby of mine. Knitting and reading have dropped on my priority levels and instead I’m always tidying, sorting, cleaning up the house.
I have found myself at times lamenting the fact that we live in a relatively small house in American terms (15oo sq ft) for a family of six who homeschool and are always at home, but those feelings of discontent have now pretty much disappeared. I am thankful for my smaller home, with a busy working kitchen, laundry being pushed through (hopefully) twice a day and loud echoes in our bare-floored house. It is, by far, much easier to clean. And so I’ve been on a rampage to get rid of more stuff, to try to make this ordered life a tad easier. It does feel freeing, easier, to have a clean home.
After recognizing this inner shift of priority in myself, I was saddened because of what I first thought was a loss of creativity. Now I see the itch for creating beauty has been moved to space instead of things, and having defined that, I am happily moving on in the quest for order.
School work is so much more pleasurable on a clean dining room table, and so spraying it down and sweeping underneath has been delegated to the children as Table Chores after each and every meal. My own desk has been completely cleared off so that I can sit down at any time with my planner, cookbooks, bible studies, whatever, and get right to work rather than spend time trying to get the atmosphere just right first. A new sleek cabinet helps to corral our homeschooling supplies with a basket on top which is emptied out each night from whatever collects there throughout the day. My most used bulk foods are kept filled on a regular basis so the work in the kitchen can take place when needed, as needed, without spending time to find the right stuff. Cookbooks are being sorted through and purged, although I am keeping the ones I’ve inherited from my mom which show this generational quest for real, good foods. (Side note: that Vegetarian Planet cookbook was actually a birthday request of mine in early college…who asks for such an in-depth cookbook as a 19-year old? I don’t know if Keith knew what he was getting into when he married me as far as this strange seriousness of all things food I have always had!).
I love seeing my girls’ handwriting evolve. We stopped using handwriting workbooks and instead practice using copy-work. They work on a poem or song or bible verse all week, tracing and copying, and then at the end of the week use their most beautiful handwriting to write it all on their own. I love that they’re meditating on the words they’re writing rather than just rushing through boring workbooks. Somehow this adds to a cleaner, more lovelier home – getting rid of the stuff and focusing on what is good.
What I am now personally having to work on – not becoming obsessive about order, nor grumpy when the home flat out refuses to look good some days…
My favorite inspiration lately is this incredible cabin…it is a magical blog-place I keep going back to over and over…
A few nights ago Keith decided it was time for Luke to get his first haircut. He had been talking about this for probably two months, and each time he brought it up I quickly shut it down. Those locks! How can we ever cut the curls?! He is only 14 months old, he is still a baby, not yet a little boy!! But this night Keith insisted, and before I could change Lukey into a cute picture-worthy outfit for posterity sake, or at least clean the bathroom up a little and figure out better lighting, Keith had whisked him away and began. I barely had time to grab the camera. I will honestly say I did shed a few tears and was grumpy for a good while, but when all was said and done, I’m actually glad for his cleaner cut. I think his eyes and smile are that much cuter. Keith knew what he was doing all along…and Luke is pretty proud of his new do!
Our hands have been busy lately. Treasures from outside have been gathered in for the dining table. Bread is being made in the kitchen and brought outside for picnics. The girls’ much-loved aunt and uncle gave them some paperwhite bulbs to watch grow inside from our windowsill. This switching back and forth from inside to outside is lovely, actually. And it’s such a natural thing for the girls, they go back and forth throughout the day, not really categorizing “outside time” or “inside time”. It’s just “time” to them – our home environment is a sweet synthesis of their world brought together.
Their birthday knitted dresses have been worn several times a week this last month or so. And their knitted scarves are worn as belts. And will I ever say no to this? Absolutely not. That’s what I love about knitting – it’s practical art. Their own knitting is still coming along nicely. In fact, they’re starting a Knitting Club with another little girl they know. I’m not quite sure yet what it will entail, but I’m pretty sure they envision sitting around with their friend and sipping on tea while knitting. They will probably also ask for chocolate. Because they learn by example, and that’s what this mama likes to do when knitting!
Luke’s hands have been busy as well. Since clearing out a whole lot of his toys to make his room a little more Montessori, he’s rediscovered his stacking cups. He can’t get enough time with those. He gets right to it like it is his work, focusing on the task at hand. He particularly likes to undo them one by one, and then have me put them back together again. The pulling apart is what he enjoys the most.
I feel like the days are flying by so fast, but I am so encouraged when I see the pictures we take from these days. Good things are being done with our time. Intentional living is happening. And I’m thankful for this particular life we are living.
These pictures were taken this past Thursday, the day I now call the Eye Of The Storm. Luke had a terrible case of the stomach bug the day before, and it was only a few hours into Thursday night before the rest of us succumbed as well.
But look! In those few hours of in-between, these girls began knitting! Really and truly knitting! And they took to it so naturally, like their little fingers were just made to twist and pull some wool into stitches. I am incredibly proud, of course. Their personal goal is to become faster knitters than me, their mama, which – let’s be honest – won’t be too much of a challenge! I used Ginny’s post as inspiration for myself before we began, and it included some very helpful advice on teaching children to knit. Most especially was this quote at the top: “Knitting, and learning to knit, is so much better when it’s about relationships.”
Also, they spent a good long while on their own outside that afternoon. It was a gorgeous day – the kind that makes me happy to live in Florida during January.
One more perk of homeschooling? The incredible fashion choices they’re at liberty to make now that they don’t have to actually be anywhere.
We all sat by the fire that night. Luke was feeling much better by then, and it was such a peaceful day.
In my first year of marriage, I took a quilting class with a dear friend. She and I would drive to the local high school out at the beach every week, and learn about piecing, sashing, binding, and lots of other things I can’t remember right now. We spent hours at JoAnn’s together, picking out our fabrics and then would set up our sewing machines together on the table my grandparents gave Keith and me, the one that I had eaten Sunday lunches on for years and years. The quilt taught me how to be a tad bit more precise than my normal ways to get the star pieces to sort of fit together correctly, and my sashing never quite lined up the way it was supposed to, but in a few months time, I managed to piece the whole top together and sandwich it with the batting and back layer. The final quilting and binding were going to be saved for later.
And then I began my teaching job. And then we moved to a new city for Keith to go to seminary. And then I started to have babies. And that unfinished quilt sat in my hope chest for ten years. Ten years.
Fast forward a decade.
My mom came and visited the week before last. She brought her sewing machine and walking foot, set up shop on that same dining room table that I first began the quilt on, and lovingly started quilting the layers together. The days flew by, and there were more pressing needs of cuddles with her grandkids and nice chats with me over a glass of wine before she was able to finish binding it all up, so she took it home with her. Yesterday a big box arrived on my doorstep, and inside was this quilt. The one I began almost 11 years ago. I cannot believe it’s out of the hope chest and spread on my bed.
I know, without a doubt, it would never have been finished without my mom. I love that her stitching is intertwined with mine on this very first quilt. I love that those stitches were created on my grandma’s table. I love that it was begun during my first year of marriage and finished after a full decade of life events in between. I love that there is now more handmade art in my home, the good kind that tells a story.
These last few months? The rest of summer and all of fall? We tried an alternate life – our family’s rhythm did a backwards flip – one that was needed, a bit unnerving, but just right as we listened to the Spirit’s leading. I have rested, we have settled, and grace has abounded.
I think it will be too much to chronicle all of it, but the silence in this space echoed the rest I inhabited in a quiet home while we sent our girls to school. The four months they spent in a traditional school setting was much needed – for me, for Keith, but especially for them. There are absolutely no regrets with their experience there – but now, it is time to go back to our roots, who we really are. And for us, that’s being a homeschooling family. While school was a good thing, one we felt the Lord quietly leading us to, it is very apparent now as he’s lead us back home that we are truly thriving.
My husband, who lassos the moon for me in all he does, has been gently asking me for awhile now to begin chronicling our life again, to keep telling our story. As much as possible I hope to honor that request with words and pictures as the days go on. We will see…
Look at this Little Man. He’s something great, isn’t he? Someone handed this outfit down to us, and I couldn’t resist dressing him in it on Father’s Day. Nevermind his bare feet peeking out, I never seem to keep my babies in shoes or socks until they’re walking, even if it could add a tad more class to the ensemble!
I’m in the midst of trying to mentally pare down once again. Simplify is the word, perhaps, but to be honest, I’m a bit over that word. While I’m at it, I’m also over the words and their connotations of Nutrition, Frugality, Crafting, & Schooling. I’m probably also over the words Planning, Pinterest, & Research, not to mention Alternative Health, Crunchy & Organic. It’s not necessarily that I don’t care any longer, it’s just that I’m so tired of all the knowledge I’ve immersed myself in since having children. All the things I should be doing better with in life, because I know so very much. It’s exhausting, all this living up, making the right decisions based on information gleaned, knowing how hard I fail to reach the standards I create for myself, over and over.
You want to know what words I’m really into right now? Grace. Exercise. Grace. Prayer. Family. Swimming. Church. Knitting. TV. Grace.
He’s the Dad who walked the house for most of those early nights, holding this fussy, first-born baby daughter as she learned to fall asleep.
He’s the Dad who taught this daughter how to flick the wrist and shoot the perfect basket.
He’s the Dad who ate lunch at school with this daughter and her friends more times than she can count, making her feel like the most special girl in the world.
He’s the Dad who sat at an intersection for hours upon hours with this daughter, so she could tally for a Science Experiment how many cars “rolled” to a stop instead of braking.
He’s the Dad who planned the most extensive Scavenger Hunts in the backyard.
He’s the Dad who led his family in devotions around the kitchen table.
He’s the Dad who whisked this daughter out of school every Spring to go catch a Pirates game down at McKecknie Field.
He’s the Dad who sprinted down a street and a half when he heard this daughter fall off her 10-speed.
He’s the Dad who made a simple errand run feel like an adventure coupled with the best conversation.
He’s the Dad who when this daughter drove right over that speed limit sign in the family station wagon, declared to all the neighbors who came out to stare that that sign wasn’t really needed there, anyway.
He’s the Dad who took this daughter on dates to galleries and museums as she grew up, because that is what she loved, even though he would probably have preferred a ball game.
He’s the Dad who drove 8 hours in one day, just to take this daughter to lunch at college, on her first birthday away from home.
He’s the Dad who awoke to the Spirit’s prompting, praying on his knees for this daughter at all hours of the night.
He’s the Dad who answered that long distance call and gave his blessing to this daughter’s future husband.
He’s the Dad who drives the Mom half a day to this daughter’s house to help her with her own children, even if he has to drive back the same day for work.
He’s the Dad who this daughter loves with her whole heart.
I love a good late-afternoon thunder storm, Florida-style. The way one sweeps through, insistently loud, dramatically changing the mood of the day. Those of us who know, who have awaited the afternoon storms since we were little, we can smell the rain coming, stand in our bare feet on the driveway to feel the cooling wind right before the fury arrives. We turn off the computer, the tv, the phones, calming our home for that short hour. We gather, read, knit. All of us together while watching the windows and the flickering candlelight, just in case.