Looking Back at Easter

I’ve been thinking about home and family quite a bit lately.  Homesickness hit me hard this winter and into these early weeks of spring.  I’ve felt that tug more lately than I have since the first days of our southern adventure.  Since Christmas, my family in the north has been experiencing some hard times, and I feel the distance between us more fiercely than ever.  I want to be there with my loved ones, going through the trials with them instead of hearing about this and that over the phone and doing my best to be present through sympathy and prayer.  That’s tough.

I know that here is my home.  This is my family.  But my history is somewhere else, and a huge slice of my heart lingers there.  On some days, the missing piece leaves an awful emptiness.  Yet, spring brings the promise of a summer trip in the near future, and for weeks, we have been anticipating some April company!

We had a lovely Easter visit with my husband’s parents.  How nice to have Grandma and Papa in our home for eight busy days!  Here are some shots from our time together.

dock lake windblown withPapa

eggs eggs2 eggs3

dinner2

dinner

beach beach2 beach3

Wrapping Up

As summer approaches, our lives are slowing down.  Many of our activities are having “last days,” and my younger son is wrapping up his first year of preschool.  He attended a class for 3 year olds, and we chose a 3-days-per-week schedule (as opposed to 5 days).  We loved the program.  The teachers are wonderful.  The school is bright and cheerful and tidy.  Just a great place.  On May 10, the school celebrated with an end of the year program, and J enjoyed showing us around his classroom and pointing out his work in the art show.  He loved showing us the grill in the imaginary play center.  The grill is J’s absolute favorite item in the classroom!

Preschool will continue until the end of the month.  It has been a very positive experience.  Congratulations, little man!

The Sea

The weather, growing steadily warmer, has been calling me to the sea.  Finally, two Sundays ago, we packed up the Jeep and made our way to the Atlantic Ocean.  The water was a piercing blue that day.  I love to look out at the horizon line and catch a tiny glimpse of just how big our universe really is.

Image

Charlotte and I spent most of our time on the blanket.  The last time we were at the beach, Charlotte slept in my arms the whole time–oblivious to the world in a way that only a newborn can be.  This time my girl was crawling all over me, trying to eat sand, pulling off her hat (again and again and again), laughing at gulls, feeling the wind in her hair, and generally  having a joyful time.  Miracles.

Let’s Get Organized!

As I typed the title of this post, I started singing Olivia Newton John’s “Let’s Get Physical,” and I have a feeling that it is going to be running through my head all day.

I could write a book (well, a really, really long blog post) about my organizational history.  Here’s the quickie version:

I have always been really good at organizing my professional space but not my personal space.  As a kid, my pattern meant a tidy desk and backpack but a semi-messy room.  As a teenager, I had obsessively neat school notes.  I loved color-coding with cool pens (Jessi?  Are you reading this?).  I loved binders and folders and paper clips.  Staples was my retail heaven!  But as my life got busier and my pace got faster, my room got messier.  And messier.  I seemed to be always cleaning it, but it didn’t get better.  I would spend an entire Saturday “cleaning,” but I spent most of my time gazing at old photographs, art work from junior high, and other memorabilia.  The state of my bedroom was always a battleground between me and my mom (in an otherwise wonderful mother-daughter relationship).  College and grad school were about the same.  Organized work and schedule.  Semi-messy room/apartment/house.

Then in 2005, while still studying in grad school and working in various capacities at a university, we added a baby boy to our family.  Suddenly, I could not tolerate our messiness.  I wanted a cozy, clean place to raise our little family.  I tried hard.  I felt like I was cleaning all the time, but the house didn’t get better.  The baby’s room was the single spotless place.  The nursery was super organized and always tidy.  I was frustrated.  Then, in April 2006 when F was 9 months old, my mom and I attended a La Leche League conference.  One of the speakers taught us about home organizing, and for the first time, I learned about the FlyLady.  Now, the FlyLady might not be for everyone, and her methods might seem silly or extreme, but she changed my life!  At least for a little while.

By June, I had my home organized and clean, and I was maintaining the routines that are essential to the FlyLady program.  I felt AWESOME!  On the evening before my baby’s first birthday in August, I was ready for the party.  The house looked good.  The cake was ready.  The food was ready.  That never happens.  On the morning of the party, I was able to attend church, do some final party prep, and just enjoy my birthday boy without the usual frantic race before guests arrived.

My home organization lasted until baby #2 arrived (about two years), and I’ve never returned to that delightful state again.  We live in a state of semi-organization. Thankfully, our summer move left us without much of our old clutter.  I’m great at crisis cleaning.  I can pull together a clean, pretty house without much trouble, but it’s not truly organized.  My closets make no sense at all.  I’m often losing things or frantically hunting for things as we head out the door.  Our second floor has tons of storage near the bathroom and bedrooms, but the drawers and closets are almost empty while our belongs are still in boxes or stacked in corners. Our car is always full of stuff, leaving it unsightly but also unsafe.

On Thursday, I attended a MOPS meeting on the subject of organization, and I’m feeling very motivated.  I also have a sense of community support, and that accountability means a lot to me!

Project: Food Budget has been so helpful, so I decided to do a similar thing with organization.  I will report once per week on my progress in getting organized.  Here is the plan of attack:

Week #1:  (April 16-April 22)  Downstairs closets and begin family paperwork

Week #2: (April 23-April 29)  Master bedroom and upstairs closets

Week #3: (April 30-May 6)  Boys’ room and paperwork

Week #4: (May 7-May 13)  Leftover unpacked boxes, back porch, and paperwork

Week #5: (May 14-May 20)  Home library

Week #6: (May 21-May 27)  Kids’ papers and crafts

Week #7: (May 28-June 3)  Car, kitchen, and finish family paperwork

Notes:  The kitchen is thrown in at the end because it is fairly well organized.  I want to tackle only two spots:  the very junkie junk drawer and the top of the fridge.  Otherwise, I’m happy with the order of my kitchen.  Paperwork is spread out through the seven week project because as I organize each space, I will have more paper to manage.  There are other areas that I could add such as the garage and bathrooms, but those areas are functioning pretty well.  Our bathrooms are basically empty, so no trouble there.  My laundry area is really just a big closet, so I’m including it in Week #1.

Anyone want to join me?

Springtime Shift

The first day of spring was a major cause of celebration in our old northern life.  Spring meant a few warm days might slip in even if a snowfall could still happen.  Spring meant that the little heads of daffodils pushed up through the earth.  Those tiny pops of green and yellow were so welcome, and everyone hoped that a heavy frost or flurry wouldn’t leave them blighted.  Spring meant putting away snow boots, cleaning out gutters, and sweeping away the old leaves from the fall that accumulated along the sidewalks and the front steps.  These little changes were made with great hope, but we all knew that cold weather could still reign in those early spring days.  I can recall many April mornings that began with a beautiful blanket of the white stuff, so the vernal equinox brought no promises!  Even so, I loved to make a big deal of the start of the new season.

Now that we are living in a very different climate, I wasn’t sure what to do about the start of spring.  It’s been rather “springy” in these parts for…well…since it wasn’t blazing hot.  Since November perhaps?  None of the usual activities celebrating the newly blooming flowers seemed appropriate, but I didn’t want to pass by the important shift into springtime.  For the last few years, I have been organizing our children’s books seasonally.  Of course, we have many books that are year-round favorites; however, I love to pack up our books about autumn, Christmas, and winter and pull out the spring, Easter, and summer choices.  The stories feel new again.

Even though we aren’t going to experience spring in the same way, I want this season to be about new life.  I need a fresh start in several areas of my life.  I’m longing for some new recipes, some new additions to my wardrobe, new commitment to prayer and study, and most of all–a new sense of organization.  What are you hoping for this spring?

Looking back at Easter weekend

We had a happily busy weekend.  I can’t believe it took me until Thursday to get back here to share our comings and goings. 

We began on Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday) with our annual “Maundy Meal.”  I made up a plate similar to the Seder Meal, and we talked about how the different foods remind us of Jesus and all the ways (the Exodus, the passover, etc.) that God has taken care of His children through history.  This year was particularly fun and meaningful because our older son had a lot to say (He usually does!).  After dinner, we went to church, and I prepared for an evening in the nursery since the Maundy Thursday service is quite solemn and challenging for little kids.  So, I prepared a simple craft and an Easter story.  I forgot to download the picture of our craft!  But I’ll just say that my son drew the cutest last supper picture.  I will keep it forever!  Since no other children joined us in the nursery, we slipped into a side door of the sanctuary to catch the end of the service.  I’m so glad that we did.  The purple vestments of the church were quietly taken down and replaced with black cloths.  As the lights continued to dim, my husband and another man in the church carried in a cross, rested it in front of the communion table, and draped it with a black cloth.  When all was dark and silent, our pastor sang “Were You There” a cappella.  It was a moving moment, and I am so glad that my son could witness it (the little one had fallen asleep).  He asked lots of questions, and my heart delighted in hearing how much he has learned and how greatly he’s grown since last year.

On Friday, we had a quiet day.  At noon and at 3 o’clock, I reminded the boys of the events on the cross on a Friday long ago.  At about noon, we flipped through magazines, looking for pictures that remind us of Jesus.

(You may be wondering about the s’mores ingredients at the top right.  Well, our five-year-old very confidently explained that it reminded him of the story of the five loaves and two fishes.  I see, I said as I hid my giggle.  I will never look at a s’more the same way again.

Saturday was all about fun!  We took a trip to the natural history museum with some of our extended family.  What a joy!  The boys (all five of them) were so well behaved.  They had a great time exploring the dinosaurs and the other animal displays.  The igloo in “Polar World” is always a favorite, too.  Afterward, we headed over to my parents’ house for some egg coloring and a general good time with Grandma, Papa, my sister, and my brother-in-law. 

And then we reached the highlight of the weekend…Resurrection Sunday!  I wish I could say that I had a truly spiritual Easter experience, focusing upon the precious gift of our Lord’s sacrifice and the miracle of his resurrection, but in truth, I spent a lot of time scrambling around, trying to keep boys seated and quiet during church, trying to keep egg dye off of clothing, trying to allow our fellow worshippers the experience that I was missing.  But I did have my own sort of spiritual moment–an intense feeling of gratitude, an appreciation for the precious gifts of my children and my family.  Now that the hustle of a holiday weekend has gone by and the treats and small gifts of the day have been stashed away, I can finally stop and reflect upon the truth of this most holy time of year.

Do you remember our Lenten Tree?  It is bursting with color now.  I love how the tree becomes a record of our state of mind and heart over the weeks of Lent.  There are plenty of prayers for patience, for wisdom, and just as many prayers of thanksgiving recorded there with snips of ribbon.  We are in a challenging but hopeful time.  My hubby is busily spreading his CV all over the job market.  We are praying for God’s provisions for the coming year as our jobs wind down for the academic term.  We are watching our kindergartener finish up his first year of “real” school, wondering if he has learned enough and matured enough, wondering if we will be able to return to the school that we’ve come to love.  Or will be starting a new adventure, in a new place?  Only God knows the plan.  I just can’t wait for Him to share it with us!

10 Good Things

Following Soulemama’s lead with 10 Good Things for which I am thankful today.

Dinosaurs

Coloring eggs

New seeds for planting

A bit of spending money

A delicious meal

cherry pie!

Lots of little boys

A miraculous full night’s sleep

A very sunny day in the 70s

And the #1 good thing…The promise of New Life in Jesus

(Back with more soon…)

A Shiny, Happy Weekend

Our weekends fill up fast.  Often, they get filled with things that we would rather not being doing!  This was not one of the those weekends.  We were busy but happily so.  Saturday brought the annual Easter Bunny Breakfast at our church.  It is always a fun, cheery, well-attended event, and the committee does a wonderful job of blending the fun tradition of the Easter Bunny and all the springtime symbols with the story of Jesus and his resurrection.  I loved watching my growing boys really get into the middle of the festivities.  Our little one truly isn’t a baby anymore.  He was eager to take part in the games, the bunny hop, and of course, the Easter egg hunt.  (A little too eager…for several heart-stopping minutes, I thought I had lost him!)

Saturday afternoon was a bit cloudy but warm enough to feel like spring.  I spent a delightful two hours alone browsing a little maternity boutique that is going out of business and the local library.  Afterward, I returned home to take my boys to the park.  Jackets were in order, but compared to the hats and coats of the last few months, jackets felt like nothing more than feathers lifting us toward brighter skies and other-worldly adventures.  Ah, spring!

Sunday was so, SO warm.  I even heard my hubby complain a bit…how dare he?  Our dog rested under a tree, and the boys happily switched into short-sleeved shirts.  We did a little digging in the yard, some raking, and plenty of daydreaming about the tiny garden we’ll plant and all the fun we will have when summer vacation truly arrives.  Aside from enjoying our postage stamp of a backyard, we also went to church, helped with the youth group’s annual Mall Crawl, and celebrated with an ice cream treat.

My heart feels full just thinking of the special weekend we had.  We were together–as a family and as a church family.  I set aside the worries that crop up about job searches, a broken drier, a messy house, and little  boy mischief.  I just enjoyed my guys in the present.  That’s not something I’m always very good at doing, but for one shiny, happy weekend, I succeeded.