Monday, April 24, 2017

Mondays are for Grace

"Humility is simply acknowledging the truth of [our] position as creature 
and yielding to God his place."

-- Andrew Murray

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Parties of April



 It's been a month for celebrations! We began with a baby shower for my youngest sister, Emily, who is expecting a little girl next month! With seven people to create the party we had the house filled to overflowing with flowers, paintings, and delectable food!

The shower was arranged to be a proper sit-down tea party with the food set out in three groupings to go along with the three flavors of herbal tea that were served. It makes for a fun evening and it gives me a chance to justify keeping a cupboard full of china and a closet full of linens!

Prom was next! This was Rachel's first. We have an exchange student from Spain staying with us this month and it was a new experience for her as well. I think I had just as much fun as the girls being involved in all the preparations, taking them to get the photos done, and then sitting in the corner of the restaurant enjoying dinner with my mom while the kids had their own fun.

And Easter followed a few hours after prom! It was a beautiful spring day with lots of lovely people around the dinner table(s). I just love all the pastel colors that surround us at this time of year! It's fun to have them spread across the table too.

The last of the Easter candy is still (miraculously) sitting in the bottom of the teacups on the table and we are all breathing a sigh of relief to have a quiet week. Laura, on the other hand, is counting down the days until her very own birthday celebration next week!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

April in the Garden

Suddenly we are truly into spring. The grass is thick and green and the mowing has already started. Dandelions abound -- it used to be they were mostly in our yard and never in our neighbor's but strangely the trend is reversing.

Beauty is everywhere. Six weeks ago one blossom would have been welcomed with joy and the attention of a rare treasure. Today I pass a thousand trees covered in 10,000 of those precious blossoms and the beauty washes over me like a waterfall impossible to contain.

The kids are dirtier and bandaids running scarce. It was 66F last week and I caught them playing with the garden hose, happily soaking wet, while I walked up the street in a sweater over my long-sleeve shirt.

The days begin cool -- socks are a must, and long pants and maybe a sweater. But the layers shed as the sun climbs and evening may call for a fan by the bed.

I must start giving attention to all the flower beds. Winter provided the perfect time for voles to perform their clandestine acts of treachery. My beds are riddled with tunnels. There are bare patches where there should be longstanding perennials springing to life. I feel the burden of these unwanted pests and wonder if I'm fighting a losing battle.

If I really wanted to get rid of the voles I'd have to give up the flower beds. But I must have flowers. I must have beauty. It's the beauty that pushes me to do the gardening work that does not agree with my constitution or fit very well with my schedule.

The happiest thing in the garden right now is my lilac. Michael invested (that's the right word) in it last year as a gift for me. It's all in perfect bloom right now. It's two weeks early. I know this because lilacs always bloom for Laura's birthday the last week of April. It seems fitting to connect lilacs with the birth of my little girl since it is the lilacs of my girlhood that whisper in my memories.

Today when I pulled into the garage we noticed a pair of purple finches on the window ledge above. They were so sweet and love-buggish. Every time I see a robin in the tree out front I almost pray it will build a nest there. I'm desperate for a bird's nest. What I should be hoping for is an owl or a red-tailed hawk to take up residence and naturally take care of my vole problem.

The vegetable garden is still a tangle of dead vines and stalks from last year. I see all the gardens around the house and want them tidied in a day but in reality it will take at least a month. Pacing is the name of the game. I think I'll add more flowers to the vegetable garden this year. I have good luck with herbs and pole beans but little else. Why keep trying so hard when I could plant more flowers?

I'm waiting to see if the "Cherry Brandy" rudbeckia (red black-eyed susans) I started from seed so painstakingly last year will grow and flower. I've been pining for this variety for four years since I first saw it at Abbotsford (the home of Sir Walter Scott). If I can just one plant to successfully grow then I can go from there.

Tonight we ate our first dinner of the year out on the patio. It feels so good to be outside again for a meal. I stared at the lilac bush while we ate and talked. And I thought maybe I should get out the hummingbird feeder tomorrow and fill it up. You never know when those tiny things might show up again. I sat far too long but it meant a long conversation with two of the kids that wouldn't have happened if we were inside. And now as the dark descends I still hear the birds chirping and singing. The smell of spring is wafting in the windows and it feels like winter is far, far away.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Mondays are for Grace

"Rest time is not waste time.
It is economy to gather fresh strength....
It is wisdom to take occasional furlough.
In the long run,
we shall do more by sometimes doing less."

-- Charles Spurgeon

Monday, April 10, 2017

Mondays are for Grace

"If you foolishly ignore beauty, 

you will soon find yourself without it. 

Your life will be impoverished. 

But if you invest in beauty, 

it will remain with you all the days of your life."

-- Frank Lloyd Wright

Monday, April 3, 2017

Mondays are for Grace

"When we lose one blessing,
another is often most unexpectedly given in its place."

-- C. S. Lewis

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Book Review: Chicken Scratch by Kelly Chripczuk

Chicken Scratch: Stories of Love, Risk & Poultry by Kelly Chripczuk is a delightful and humorous short memoir of a woman who decides to buy herself a flock of chickens for her thirty-ninth birthday. In the pages that follow the momentous purchase Chripczuk writes of the practical realities of taking on chickens, of a rooster gone rogue, of rescuing chickens from the neighbor's yard, and how chicken care intersected with daily family life.

In the introduction Chripczuk shares how it was her blossoming discovery and love of the Psalms that opened her eyes to see that God is present in the mundane and ordinary moments of life. Raising chickens came at a crossroad in her own life and provided the perfect opportunity for Chripczuk to pick up her waiting pen and record the remarkable in the seemingly unremarkable.

This is a great book for someone like me who loves to photograph chickens and "thinks" they might be fun to raise. After visiting my friend in Michigan last fall, and now reading this book, it appears that chickens are a lot of work! I suppose most things worthwhile in life are like that! And you know what, I think that if you aren't learning life lessons raising chickens then God will use whatever other activity you are doing to bring the lessons to your door! This book is a great way to vicariously "live the chicken dream" and it would also be a fun and sympathetic read for those who are actually in the "chicken business."

Please note: this post contains affiliate links.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Spring Just Might Be Here

Spring break is here and as of yesterday it seems that spring might just be on her way too! I've decided I really like this "balanced calendar" for school -- two weeks off every nine weeks helps to break up the year and give me a rest of sorts. Of course what are breaks for but to get those things done that you couldn't do during school, right? 

So what have we been up to this past school term?

Laura started a little ballet class at a local church in January. She loves it!!! It's fun to think that Rachel attended the same class 7 years ago when I was pregnant with Laura!

 We have to put in a large amount of volunteer hours at the kids' high school each year. One of the ways I do that is to do volunteer sewing for the theatre production. This year it was "Pride and Prejudice" and the costumes were pretty and fun. I sewed a couple of gowns and two lined jackets. This occupied many January and February evenings.

 And provided good opportunities to improve my sewing skills! :)

We had our annual Church Bowling Outing in January. The kids love it!

And Valentine's Day always seems to roll around before we know it!

Yay for sweet little valentines.

Every week at piano lessons I visit this little mouse (well, he's a rat). He's so cute and in 30 seconds I get my "pet fix."

Speaking of cute things, have you seen this adorable book??!!!

And while we are on the subject of cute books, you have to check out The Mouse Mansion -- so much fun!!!

The third week in February was the production of the "Pride and Prejudice Musical". I got to go opening night and see Rachel in her scenes (see below underneath the hanging picture first person on the left). It was so much fun!!!!! And everyone was terrific! The drama director is such a wonderful mentor for these kids to have!

Our annual church women's retreat was the last weekend in February. We all met at a home and spent the night there, enjoying food, fellowship, and hearing one another's testimonies.

Two sisters: they are so cute! And they are both growing up far too fast!!!

A few weeks ago we paid a visit to a friend to welcome the newest member of her family! She had lost a beloved pet in the fall and when Fiona was found and brought home we needed to meet her! Fiona is part Turkish Van which means she LOVES water! Believe me, it is so fun to see a cat who truly loves water.

It's that time of year when Prom is approaching. That means prom dress shopping!!! I can't post the final one here until later in April but we had a great evening with the aunts and found a lovely dress! In just a little over a week we are having an exchange student arrive from Spain for a month! We are all going to have fun with this international guest! She's also very excited to be introduced to an American Prom!

Laura had the special chance to go with my mom and me to see the repertory theatre's rendition of Stuart Little. It was terrific! We followed this with lunch at our favorite place: Wildwood Market.

Decaf coffee and a little chocolate? Yum yum yum.

Once Rachel finished theatre it was time to jump into "Spring Spec" with her choir. Yikes! These poor kids and the amount of time it takes to rehears for these things! But, it was all good fun and lots of learning too. Rachel is on the far right below.

We had the strangest weather in February -- very warm. So warm the daffodils came up and bloomed right at the beginning of March. Then winter decided to come back which gave me the guilt-free opportunity to pick every.single.daffodil.there.was.

Wow these flowers brought so much happiness for those few days!

I almost thought peony season was here the way I kept grabbing my camera and taking pictures.

The color yellow is so essential for the month of March.

I felt like a millionaire having these flowers to look at:

Three weeks later and the daffodils that were still in their buds are just now blooming again.

Reading and hot drinks (and a little chocolate) still seem to be the best way for me to re-charge. This winter has been harder health-wise for me than I've dealt with in a number of years. I'm glad the warmer weather is here and hope that perhaps my energy will pick up a bit.

 At the beginning of March I headed with a few kids to my mom's church for their annual THINK conference. This year we heard from Erwin Lutzer, pastor emeritus of Moody Church in Chicago. He spoke about the reformation. It was such a great weekend and so fun to go with others from our church as well as my mom!

It's also tradition to go to my mom's place for lunch on the Saturday of the conference!

The kids tried a new tradition for St. Patrick's Day this year -- Shamrock Shakes from McDonald's. Very festive!

Of course you've heard ALL about our trip to Vermont in February. Mom thought she'd miss out on her trip to Maine this spring but circumstances arose that had her on a plane to Lily Brook Farm before we knew it. She's knee deep in snow, the unpredictable joys of lambing season, and navigating the hardships of real life with her cousin.

Check out these beautiful orange beets! The colors of food are so inspiring to me!!! Sometimes it's hard to eat the food -- I just want to stare at it!

Last Sunday we had a traditional St. Patrick's Day feast. Delicious!

And afterward we had a cake-eating tea time. Fortunately there was a Dundee Cake left in the freezer from Christmas.

And now that it is spring break I'm working on this, and a ton of other projects. I've had to sort through and cull my felted wool collection (anyone nearby need any felted wool for projects? I have lots and lots of red and dark colors). I've managed to get my closet back into control and half of it looks awesome. The other half will be tackled this week.

The first day of spring snuck up on me. We have a family tradition of tea on the spring equinox. Somehow these traditions were so much easier when the kids were little and life was SLOW!!! I should have thought about how life would speed up and become more impossible before beginning all these "traditions."

Sometimes it's good to just let things go un-done and sometimes it's good to just put in the effort and do it and remember that little-by-little these memories are building up emotional energy that will feed these kids for years to come.

I did manage to tidy up my linen shelf (middle shelf is to-be-ironed and is normally stuffed to the gills). I have yet to clean the laundry room it resides in.

James has been working on chain mail for his raccoon. Each link has to be made individually! Good thing he has lots of patience!

Often my house feels like a wreck -- at least in many places, and I am too quick to notice the ten-year-old paint on the walls that is chipping or dirty, or this or that (or the disgusting white cushion covers on the couch below) but if I close my eyes to the dirt this little snapshot of the living room makes me happy for all the bright colors and flowers.

Here is Laura having a tea party with her little friends. David is so kind to create these parties whenever I ask him.

And now it is time to get out the vacuum and cleaning supplies and try to bring some order to the downstairs. It will be nice to have the windows open to do this and maybe there are a handful of daffodils I could bring in for the table. Have a good weekend!