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Hunting

backyard

This is my parents’ backyard.  This is the magical place where my sister and I rolled and played and made up stories.  We pretended to be Olympians on the swing set–practicing a sport that never caught on.  This is where we watched for the rotund groundhog who popped his head up year after year.  We named him “Chubs.”  See that skinning pine near the center?  I planted that with my Grandma Kitty when I was very small.  It is taller than all of us now.  This yard is a carpet of soft moss under a canopy of trees.  The sun comes through in a twinkly sort of way that I was thrilled to capture in this photograph.  I love this place.

We are deep in the hunt for our new home now, and I guess part of me is always searching for the yard of my childhood.  I’m looking for the green and the sunlight, and mostly, the quiet.  I’m looking for a place for imaginations to thrive and God’s glory to shine.  I’m looking for the magic.

An Almost Autumn Weekend

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Hello, readers.  I’m excited to be back on the blog with you in about two week’s time!  This feels like a victory.  I hope you are witnessing the start of a nice, long stretch of consistent posting.  I’ve missed you and this place.

Saturday could not have been a more beautiful September day.  The sky was crystal clear–the kind of blue that requires you to pause in awe of that true, true color.  The air was cool, and I had to rummage through bins of long sleeves and pants to find something for the kids to wear.   Late Saturday morning, the guys headed out on their outdoor adventure (hiking, fishing, the works) while Charlotte, Mom, and I went to an Apple Festival.

I’ve been excited for this festival.  It felt like the ultimate celebration of the impending autumn–a season that I’ve missed profoundly.  I loved our time in Florida, but my goodness, I missed fall and all that goes with it.

So the weekend was all about autumn, and the Apple Festival certainly brought out many of the things that I love about the season.

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(I apologize for the if-y photo quality.  I’m trying to fumble through the new way of adding photos through WordPress.  I haven’t quite got it yet!)

Two, Five, Eight

Summer in our family means birthdays!  We start with me in mid-June, Charlotte at the end of the month, and J in July, and we end the stretch with F in late August.  Whew!

Charlotte turned two this year!  Amazing, funny, wonderful two.  Forget the so-called “terrible twos.”  I absolutely adore this incredible period of language development and emergence of her sweet, hilarious personality.  We began Charlotte’s day with Grandma Renee’s pancakes, and we wrapped it all up with blueberry banana cake from Soulemama.  (Click it!  It’s a great recipe!)  Aunt Kristy and Uncle Jake were able to celebrate with us.

J turned five this year!  Five feels like a very important milestone.  He becomes more articulate and ever-practical with each passing day.  We spent his actual birth enjoying a nearby park and getting totally soaked in the stream.  Then late in July, we had a combined party (Knights and Ladies theme) for our new two year old and five year old.  It was a lot of fun!

And finally, our big boy turned eight.  Eight?  Too big, simply too big.  We celebrated with a “planet party” of his own invention.  On his real birthday, we made a much anticipated trip to Red Lobster for his favorite food: shrimp!  My eight year old is growing in so many ways.  He seems taller and smarter and more inquisitive every day.  I can’t wait to see what this third grade year has in store for him.

Here are some images of our summer of birthdays.

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Home Again

I’m pretty sure I used this title in a previous post, but I never meant it quite the way I’m using it now.

We have moved back to our home state.  After less than two years in the south, my husband has accepted a job at a small university only 30 minutes from the college where we met and fell in love.  I feel like we’ve come full circle as we begin the search for a home so close to the place where our lives together began.  To some blog readers, this might seem sudden, and…well…it kind of is.

Cory first heard about this particular opening last summer.  The university officially opened the job search in early fall.  Cory applied, even though we both felt happy and comfortable in our community.  The prospect of a tenure-track professorship closer to home sounded promising.  It couldn’t hurt to apply, right?

And then silence.  We heard nothing.  The potential job was no longer on my mind.  Cory continued working hard in his position.  He connected with interesting and challenging students.  He enjoyed his relationships with the faculty and staff, and I deepened my friendships in our church and homeschool communities.  We were not thinking about jobs or moving. We were largely satisfied and thankful for the life we were building.

I try to avoid clichés, but “out of the blue” is exactly where the news came from. In mid April, a voicemail message told me that the committee wanted to talk to Cory about “the faculty position.” A few days passed before Cory was able to talk to a real person and find out what that really meant.  We were nervous! Perhaps for different reasons. Yes, I wanted to be near family badly, but did I want to start over again? We would be near family, but we wouldn’t be neighbors! We would still need to take that emotional leap of making new friends, finding a new church, and hunting for a new homeschool group. Could I do that again? That’s tough stuff for an introvert. And I was sad to leave our pretty house. Cory saw all the practical benefits: the better insurance coverage, the potential pay, the college opportunities for our children. After much prayer, thought, and pros & cons analysis (a funny sort of back and forth dance), we knew even before the job offer that we would accept the job if it was offered. And it was. In mid-May, we had the news that we were saying good-bye, moving north, and starting a new segment in our family’s story.

We returned to our home state about two weeks later with as many of our belongings as we could possibly tow.  We enjoyed our vacation and a few other planned activities.  During the first week of July, we headed back to Florida again to do the final pack-up and clean-up.  Whoa…that was hard work.  We returned home again with more of our belongings (I wish I could say all.) and a spirit of readiness–ready to find our new normal, ready to settle down and breathe, ready to start over.

I will never regret those two years in Florida.  It hurts to say good-bye to some very special friends.  In Florida, I finally answered the call to homeschool.  In Florida, I  reaffirmed my convictions in parenting and had the room to work out some kinks.  In Florida, I figured out a little bit more of how to live out my faith in my household and in my community.  I learned that I can reach out to make friends.  I learned how to accept help, to say yes to the kindness of others, to receive with grace instead of rely on an “I can do it” attitude.  These were all great lessons to learn, and I worry that I won’t stay on these positive paths when I am back in my old environment.  Will I fall into old habits when I’m too comfortable?

For now, I only have to watch my children giggle and explore and sing in the presence of their grandparents to know that we’ve made the right choice.  All of their faces tell me so.

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What we’re up to…

Blog posts are few and far between these days.  I get the bug to write, well, always, but the desire and the time don’t always hit at the same instant.  Know what I mean?  My laptop died, and that is where my photo software is, so for now, photographs aren’t as easy to share.  Also, if you have been reading this blog for awhile, you know that when I have big things on my mind, I can’t always articulate them.  Until I’m ready to sort out those things and write about them on my blog, let me share some of the things we’ve been up to:

:: Baseball and more baseball.  We have one child on a “pitcher machine” Little League team, and his brother is on a 4-year-old t-ball team.  The little guy reminds me frequently that it is T-ball, not baseball.  It’s all baseball to me.  I’m tired  of washing uniforms (including those strange, itchy long black socks), sitting on bleachers, trying to make an almost two year old sit on bleachers (FAIL), explaining why we cannot eat the vast majority of things offered in the concession stand, and trying to keep everyone happy at games that run far too close to bedtime.  BUT baseball brings good things to us.  Baseball has helped our big boy overcome a fear and realize that sometimes it feels good to push yourself.  Baseball brought us some new friends and a chance to deepen our friendships with a family from our church.  Baseball brought the fun of winning.  I’m not much of an athlete myself, and I’ve never been part of a winning team.  I played softball for a short time and tennis throughout high school, but they were totally for fun only.  I wasn’t competitive.  I adore Taekwondo, and I still practice it when I can, but tournaments were always secondary and only for the experience.  My boy, on the other hand, is really enjoying being part of a division-winning baseball team.  He and his teammates are so proud to be beginning their play-off run tomorrow!

:: Preschool has ended!  My little guy finished his VPK (Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten) program.  He insists that he learned nothing except on Polar Ice Day (funny!), but from the look of his letters, numbers, and drawings, he has come far.  The graduation ceremony and program were precious!  It was a joyful day as we celebrated his accomplishment and looked forward to having the whole troop home for learning as of NOW.  Yay!  We made it!

:: Musical time!  Our first-born is part of a wonderful youth choir in our church.  They put on a full musical production every Mothers Day–complete with sets, costumes, and music.  This year, they performed Oh, Jonah!, and it was delightful.  They truly rose to the occasion.  A few of our homeschool friends were in the play as well (including the lead), and we loved watching these children that we’ve come to love strut their stuff on stage.  Such a blessing!  Our little sailor was nervous, but he did a wonderful job.  I could see him relax and begin to really enjoy himself.

That’s the scoop for now.

Being a Mom to a “Big” Kid

My oldest son is seeming far too big lately.  He is seven.  Eight in August.  He does many things with grand independence.  He is brave and curious and funny.  He asks great questions, and he doesn’t seem phased when he stumps me.  He accepts my returned questions, my “hmm…we’ll have to look that up” with interest and enthusiasm.  He’s been this way practically since birth, so I can’t say that these traits necessarily indicate growing up, but there is a subtle difference.  His questions and his observations are tied to past knowledge now.  He is building that spider’s web of information that we all carry around in our brains.  The web is strong, yet flexible.  It adjusts to incorporate new pieces and grows wider with time and effort.

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I think it is important to keep some of the harsher truths of the world away from the eyes and ears of small children.  I’m not saying that we should lie to the young people in our lives.  Oh no.  But they should not have to carry the full weight of evil and grief and darkness yet.  They can take in the truth in manageable bites that ultimately carry the same big message: you are safe, and you are loved.  Based upon that notion (and a general lack of interest), we don’t watch television news.  Independently, my husband and I look at the news online.  I usually turn to MSN or CNN for a quick update, and we both like to read the good old Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

So…given the fact that my kids rarely see or hear the news, I was really surprised that my boy knew so much about the Boston bombing this week.  We were driving to our homeschool co-op, and I decided to tell him some of the story because I wanted to talk about how God works through tragedy and how people around the site of the bombing jumped in to help.  I began by sharing the circumstances of the event, and he interrupted to provide many of the details–from the few details that were available only a day after the bombing.  At first I was surprised, but then I realized that Cory and I had been talking about the bombing on Monday evening.  Even though our kids weren’t in the room, apparently they were in hearing distance, and this kid of mine took in what we were saying.  Mental Note to a Mom of a Big Kid (all kids, actually): He is listening!

But here is what stopped me in my tracks.  He made a connection between this event and the theater shooting during the Batman movie last year (July 2012).  His web of knowledge is growing.  There was a time when “last year” was too long ago for him to actively recall, and now he can play connect-the-dot with two headline-grabbing, heart-breaking events.  Two horrifying tragedies.  My heart sinks as I write this because he is building a timeline of terror, a list that all of us have.

My first memory of national mourning was the Challenger explosion.  I was five and a half years old, a kindergartener.  I remember my grandparents picking me up at school because one day per week my mom helped the treasurer at our church count the weekly offering.  Grandma and Papa took me and my little sister to lunch at the Five & Ten, a practice I remember fondly.  I always ordered grilled cheese and chocolate milk.  Papa would share bites of his coconut cream pie.  That day, the small restaurant was buzzing with anxious conversation.  People were excited.  I saw the footage of the explosion later, and when I was in first grade, we read about the accident in our Weekly Reader.  For years, I thought of those astronauts every time I said the pledge of allegiance or heard the national anthem.  I’m not sure why the pledge and The Star Spangled Banner were so closely tied to the Challenger in my mind, but I connected the event with heroism and patriotism–maybe because for elementary children of that time, the telling of the story hinged on the bravery of school teacher, Christa McAullife.  I held on to that story.  In ninth grade American Cultures, I wrote a report about McAullife, and she still comes to mind from time to time.  I think of what teachers will do to catch the interest of their students and how they model a love for learning.

What will my son take away from the scary events that are coming into his awareness now?  The two tragedies in his immediate memory were not accidents.  They don’t carry patriotism as their major theme.  They were acts of terror, of evil.  I’m the mom of a big kid now.  It is up to me and to Cory to frame this in a way that conveys truth and hope in the same breath. It’s terrifying, but I’m grateful to be in this position with a smart young man who wants to think things through.

I read the following article this morning, and it inspired some of my thinking today.  I am a huge Mr. Rogers fan, and this piece brought me to tears.  Of every celebrity in all of time, Fred Rogers is the one I wish I could have met.

http://www.sparklestories.com/blog/2013/04/blog/why-we-go-to-mr-rogers/

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.

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Photography Class. Eek!

I didn’t know if I would blog about my photography class. I’m a little embarrassed. Why would I take a photography class?  I don’t want people to think that I think I’m some kind of photographic whiz kid.  I have no illusions of being a professional photographer or some kind of artist or anything.  I just want to have pretty pictures of my pretty kids–photographs that are good enough to frame on my own walls and maybe pass to a grandparent.  Nothing more.  Oh…and maybe spruce up my blog a little bit.

As a sort of Valentine present, my hubby gifted me with the opportunity to take an online photography class with the photographer and teacher, Nick Kelsh.  The course began on March 4th, and it runs into mid-April.  It’s been a lot of fun.  I’m pretty comfy with how to operate my camera already, but I’m learning plenty on how to look for good, natural lighting.  Here are a few shots that I’ve taken for class:

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The Life I Want

I’ve been thinking a lot about the life I really want and the life that I can too easily substitute.  I can easily become enthusiastic about new and exciting possibilities.  And then I have to make myself ask, “Do I really want this?”

Obviously, life is sometimes made up of things that we don’t want, and we do not have the possibility to choose otherwise.  Sickness, job loss, death, house repairs, broken cars, and natural disasters aren’t things that we choose to have in our lives, but they are there.

No, I’m talking about knowing what kind of life I want and taking steps to make it happen.  I want a life that is joyful.  I want a life that is simple.  I want a life that is quiet, yet I am drawn to activity and learning and doing new things.  How do I keep a balance between simple/quiet and new/exciting?  How do I manage to not have clutter in my home or in my heart?  THESE are my struggles.

I was drafting this blog post two days ago, and then yesterday, I saw this post at simplemom.net.  The author (Tsh) defines simple living as “living holistically with your life’s purpose.”  In other words, you understand the life you were built to have.  Then all the things and activities in your life work toward that purpose.  Tsh says it this way, “all the parts of your life are pointing in the same direction.”  I like that.  For us the direction is Christ, but there is a lot of room in that for figuring out a way to live.  Check out the article.  I think you’ll like it.  And I’ll let you know how I do in figuring all this out!

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