On Homeschooling.

Earlier this month he turned six. And earlier this month, I cut his curls shorter than I've ever cut them before. Something-something about his hair couldn't touch his collar, read the school handbook. People like to tell me stories about their own little boy who never loved his curly hair and how he always requested it be cut clean off. But not my Graeme. Not my sweet Graeme-bear. Not yet anyway.

I've been studying his face lately, a little bit more than I usually do. He's growing up. But I didn't see it–– I didn't notice the subtle boyishness arriving until I cut those curls so short the other day. Somehow that baby face turned right into a young boy this summer. And he is so handsome. 

It was never in my plan to homeschool. But somewhere along the line our hearts began to be pulled in very specific ways concerning his schooling for this year. Once each week he attends classes at a charter school, learning Latin, character education, and cursive lettering and loving all of it. The rest of the days find us here at home, completing his assignments together. 

I would not trade this time with him for the world. There are days when I cry. There have been days when I have made him cry. But there are incredibly sweet and precious moments and together we are learning. I often find him lost in a book, clueless to me standing there, watching him, storing up the moment in my mind. Over the last couple of years I've prayed that God would give me a stronger bond to him. God, would you open a door? And God always works. It just usually looks drastically different from what I think it will look like.

And so my Lulu naps, Jobie attends pre-school three mornings each week, and the morning is a gift of time with my Graeme. And I can feel our bond growing. 

Yesterday, he leaned in close and said to me–– "mommy, when you get old, I'll come mow your lawn for you. And I'll bring you flowers. Because I'll miss you." And I wrote it down on the backside of his sunday-school paper with tears in my eyes because I don't want to ever forget how he said it, with his lips pursing a little to the side. And I especially don't ever want to forget what he said. 

This time with him is a gift. And don't you let me forget it.

p.s. Let it be known that while typing the title of this post I had to type the word homeschool three times before I spelled it correctly. All the smirky smirks. (smile)

Gingerbread, Budweiser, and Goblins .

I keep trying to tell myself that he really isn't reading. But, it's of no use. Last week, as we were driving home, the boys decided to play the alphabet game–– the one where you try to find each letter of the alphabet before you reach your next destination. The letter A was found quickly enough and they were on to the next. I tuned their chatter out for a moment and was drawn back in when I heard Graeme say–– Job, I see two Bs. You can have the one in (pausing) Buuuuuuuud––wiiiiis––er and I can have the one in Bud Light. And that was that. They were on to the letter C.

But me? I was still stuck on Budweiser. He just read the word Budweiser. My thoughts flashed back to several months ago in the pediatrician's office. The doctor asked Graeme all sorts of questions making sure my son was up to the standard mentally and physically. She asked me if he knew the alphabet and I explained how he had always loved his letters –– he's known his alphabet since he was a little over 12 months old –– I told her. Not impressed, the doctor turned toward Graeme while pointing her petite pointer finger at a letter to quiz him. Time seemed to stop in that moment and I sat there stunned. He was silent. And then he said it. Not the letter but the entire word–– gingerbread. Her eyebrows raised and she laughingly said–– yes, yes I see he does indeed know his letters!

He is reading. A wonderful world is beginning to open up to him. And not only a wonderful world but a humorous one, for me as his parent at least. Tonight, as I put the boys to bed and my husband gave Wren a bottle, I read A Children's Year to them. I've always skipped over the word 'goblin' when reading October's page. Graeme and I were tag-team reading tonight –– he'd read a page, I'd read a page. October was his page but I chimed in when I realized we were on that page. I read how October is the time for pumpkins and quickly turned the page. Graeme looked at me, smirked a little bit, and said with a mommy-you-totally-skipped-a-word tone –– and time for goblins. I gave my best smirk back. 

He's reading. Gingerbread, Budweiser, and goblins. 
I'll be on my knees if you need me. (smile)

p.s. Recently, I began reading The Well-Trained Mind and two things that I greatly appreciate about Bauer and Wise's work are the resource lists and their infinite encouragement towards reading. What an incredible gift I've been given to help my children unlock the door of literacy. I'm one of those that is seemingly always unfashionably late to book reading parties but, if by chance you have not read the afore mentioned book, I'd highly recommend jumping on board with it. Although lengthy, it will be worth your time, especially if you parent pre-school aged children.
p.s.s. I laughed when I read that Wise's local library called her the laundry basket lady. Each week she carried in a laundry basket to haul out that week's book load. I loved reading that!

On Instilling Love and Appreciation .

It's Sunday afternoon and the sunlight is filtering through the tall redwood and onto our sunroom floor. A determined and unrelenting bumble bee smacks the sliding glass door over and over again. And I sit here lost in my thoughts of where this summer has gone.

I'm going to miss these summer days. And while I'm certainly looking forward to cooler temperatures and the change of the seasons, I will miss our morning routine from the last couple of months. Nearly every day it's been the same –– after a leisurely breakfast with the boys and sufficient play time for Wren, the boys throw on their digging clothes and head straight for the dirt in the front yard. Every inch of them is caked in dirt by twelve o'clock noon. And while the boys work on caking on the dirt and Wrennie Meg snoozes in her crib, I sit in a chair with a cup of chai and read. A little slice of heaven, truly.

The evenings have been full of entertaining, adventures with friends, and house projects. With the recent purchase of our home, we've found ourselves in a very full season. Every spare hour has value, whether for work or for rest. When our babies are safely tucked into bed for the night, my husband and I work together on what we've somewhat endearingly termed the Prime Time List–– projects that can be done more safely without the little ones running around, including lots of yard work. (Although, speaking of yard work, last week I noticed the front yard gaining momentum in the weed department. I must have slacked off in delegating the weeding job to the boys. A few months back, when the boys seemed to be on a very naughty kick, I informed them that their punishment was picking weeds –– fifteen weeds per offense. Dare I say, our front yard looked quite weedless and very pretty for quite a stretch of time.)

Something that has been on my mind lately is this –– how can I instill in my children a love of and appreciation for our home, our possessions, our friendships, our family? On and on the list could go. There are small steps that we are taking and yet I still feel this empty chasm in my boys' understanding of loving and appreciating people, our home, and the material things God has given to us. I feel that it is such an important development in character, such a neglected one in our society and even in my own heart.

p.s. This week we've been teaching our boys about the responsibilities and joys of being the proud owners of three apple trees. It's a step, anyway. Also of note, Wren Margaret is a fast favorite of those wind fall apples and with her new trick of a full-on crawl she is quite quick to reach them!

Our Home | Part Two

Several weeks ago I began reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I've both laughed in agreement and furrowed my brow in sadness while reading this book. Kondo writes that, "the results show that tidying has changed my clients' way of thinking and their approach to life. In fact, it has changed their future ... When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too. As a result, you can see quite clearly what you need in life and what you don't, and what you should and shouldn't do." 
Following the afore mentioned paragraph, Kondo lists a few testimonials from former clients. The second testimonial reads, "Your course taught me to see what I really need and what I don't. So I got a divorce. Now I feel much happier." This is where I would disagree with the KonMari method, the belief that everything should bring you joy and if it doesn't you root it out of your life. I read that Kondo is expecting her first baby in the next couple of months and I can't help but anxiously wonder how her ideaology will fit into the fast approaching need to pour out herself, putting aside her desires and happiness, for the joy (and life) of another. (I also have a zillion questions for Kondo concerning her marriage, but I digress.)

Even though I deeply disagree with Kondo's ideaology as it relates to people, I really appreciate her thoughts as they relate to things. I will admit that this book has brought many, many outbursts of laughter. This quote is one of my favorites-- "Have you ever had the experience where you thought what you were doing was a good thing but later learned that it had hurt someone? At the time, you were totally unconcerned, oblivious to the other person's feelings. This is somewhat similar to the way many of us treat our socks." Kondo is pleading with her reader to never! ball up! your socks! Never! Your socks have worked hard for you. They need rest. You must gently fold them and thank them, as you put them away, for how they have served you. So, there's that side of the book. (smile) But I will tell you, Kondo had me out of my bed at eleven o'clock at night refolding my husband's underwear drawer. And not only that, she also inspired both my husband and me to empty out our closets by the time we reached chapter two. 

Over the last couple of years I have made a concerted effort to pair down our belongings. I have more work to do but I am thankful for the direction in which my home is headed. I've noticed, since moving into our new home, that tidying up (not deep cleaning) my entire home takes around twenty minutes at the most. This is a far cry from what it used to take. And that said, photographs can be deceitful-- please know that my bedroom is rarely, if ever, this clean. There seems to always be a dirty diaper hanging out on the end of my 50/50 unmade bed, clothes that never made it to the laundry basket are here, there, and everywhere on the floor, and a smattering of toys and books accompany everything else. I am learning, though, that tidying up my home is easy when my home isn't crowded with unnecessary things. Rooms can be simple and beautiful. And that is what I am trying to accomplish in our bedroom. It's definitely a process and a good one at that. 

p.s. I've had my eye on West Elm's mid-century bed for about a year and am hoping to add that to our home soon. 
p.s.s. Those beautiful shutters you see are from Blinds.com. They are real wood and really beautiful. I love the absence of curtains in our bedroom and the clean lines of the shutters. A++ in my book. 

Eleven months yesterday.

Last evening, I bent over the bath and began filling up the tub for two little boys that were covered, from head to toe, in dirt. I lifted myself off of my knees and stood up to a smiling Wren Margaret, in her daddy's arms, expectantly reaching towards the tub. We couldn't say no.

She loves water and especially splashing, the louder and messier the better. She loves her doggie and the painting of two kitties in her room. She points at the painting eagerly waiting for me to say to her, "what do the kitties say?" She smiles and jabbers. 

Her vocabulary is growing and includes woof, doggie, hi, I love you, mama, dada, and all done. She loves to wave and clap. She adores her brothers and is bored to tears without them. She loves noisy things, like the blender for instance, and watches bravely while her brothers cover their ears and stare at her. She loves taking apart her brothers' wooden train tracks. She laughs when we laugh. She has thee best sense of humor. She refuses to keep her hair bow in. She is getting a pretty bad reputation in the church nursery. She might not like to say goodbye to mama. She is the proud owner of one tooth and two more on the way. She gives the best kisses and is so proud of herself for doing so. She is eleven months old. Eleven. Happy eleven months, sweet Wren Margaret, happy eleven months.

big Xs and Os,
your mama

Our Home | Part One

Lately, I've been thinking quite a bit about the wonder and beauty of a home and all that goes into creating such a thing. The people that share in the messes and the quirks, the things that we carefully curate to fill each space, and all of the time that is spent transforming four walls into a deeply personal dwelling. What I've learned over the last couple of years, mostly through the process of renting, is this-- home for me isn't a place, it's a feeling. And, that feeling isn't dependent on things, it's dependent on people. But simply put, what is created by those that live together is what brings the feeling of home alive in our souls. Today, I want to share our living room with you and why we enjoy being together in this space.

The story of how we found our home is for another day but I will never forget lying on the couch staring at www.realtor.com all the while every bit of thirty eight weeks pregnant and sensing that this was our house. A terrifying yet exciting feeling, for those of you who are or have been familiar with being every bit of thirty eight weeks pregnant. (wink)  A few weeks later, we placed an offer on our home and, nearly nine months after that, we signed the papers and received the keys. (Read: short sale but long process. In actuality, it was perfect timing for our family.) After drastically purging our things over the last couple of years (or so I thought until moving! day!) I wanted to purposefully pursue a very clean slate for our home. Its ranch style with long open spaces made this decision an easy one. 

On my sister's recommendation, we painted the entire house Dove White by Benjamin Moore. My sister is never wrong with her paint colors. We love the white, although I fear that my oldest son, the one who paints beautiful watercolors, will someday grow up and swing the pendulum clear to the other side by painting each room in his home a different color. He just cannot understand why I love white.  But mommy, white isn't even a color! he said to me. I love him.

There are two little people, three actually, that steal the show in this home every day. And, there are two things that steal the show in our living room: the large watercolor over the couch and the beautiful white shutters on our large picture window. Several months ago, Graeme watercolored the most beautiful painting and it's been hanging in various rooms ever since. (Currently, it's propped up on a shelf in my bedroom.) When we moved into our new home I envisioned a large scale painting over the couch and Graeme's watercolor was my inspiration. If you follow along with us on Instagram then you already know the outcome of the story. But for those of you who don't know the story behind it it's this-- I fully intended to do the painting myself. But I tried twice and miserably failed. And finally, I said to Graeme, Graeme, I need you to help me with this painting! And he did a marvelous job. He inspires me to be brave with paintings. You can probably see that I kept most of my area of the painting in vertical strokes and pale colors. Graeme came along and swished around on the top right corner and confidently went to town with a deep gray green. To say I love it would really be quite the understatement. (My husband made the frame out of leftover pine flooring and did a beautiful job.)

Through the years my husband and I have really tried to buy gifts for each other that can be used by our entire family. Two years ago, for Mother's Day, my three guys gifted me a record player that now sits in the corner of our living room. Over top is a sun hat that my husband also gifted to me for a Mother's Day gift. And on the couch is a throw blanket that they gifted to me for Christmas a couple of years ago. Daily this blanket is strewn all over the house as some sort of floor airplane, until I catch them. And after that, it's the boys' constant companion while they read books. Or pretend to read books while really seeing who can toot the loudest. Boys.

When I knew for sure that this house was to be our home, I immediately started to dream about shutters for this window. It measures over ten feet wide and is basically a behemoth. When my dad and my husband installed Blinds.com's shutters I nearly cried. They are beautiful, and not just from the inside but also looking in from the outside. When I think about the most beautiful parts of our home (to me anyway), these shutters most definitely come to mind. My favorite way to style them is one open here, one open there, and the middle section propped open. They allow all the light my heart could desire and at night they button up to allow our family top-notch privacy. (In the next couple of weeks I'll be sharing the master bedroom of our home and more about Blinds.com.)

By all appearances, our living room is quite sparse. A piano, a chair, a sectional, a single painting, a record player, a couple of hats, a pile of books scattered here and there, and a basket piled sky-high with Wren Margaret's toys. But there is so much life lived in this room and the little people that constantly run through it, their squeals and laughter echoing off the wooden floor, they make this space feel full. And even though some days are filled with craziness and tears, wherever they are is where I want to be. Home.

My favorite people. Our favorite guy. A whole lotta love.

My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, You're tearing up the grass. We're not raising grass, Dad would reply. We're raising boys. | Harmon Killebrew

To her, the name of father was another name for love | Fanny Fern

Taken on Father's Day,  2 0 1 5.

Radical Generosity | My parents .

Yesterday I read an article about the cost of radical generosity and these words stood out to me-- "you can't keep up with the Joneses when you are committed to radical generosity." The first people that came to my mind were my parents. Maybe it's because they just spent two entire weeks giving and giving to my family but most probably it's because this is the pattern I've seen them live out all of my life. And not just in terms of finances but their time and energies too. 

The other night I snapped a few photographs of my parents with my children. But I wanted a few of just them too. I asked my mom to look at my dad and I loved how this one turned out. Anyone who knows my parents then knows that the sun rises and sets on my dad in my mom's eyes.  Anyone who knows my dad knows that he's the loyalest of New York Yankee's fans. (wink) And, goodness, they need those fans right about now. (double wink) 

My boys are up to their necks in dirt and jumping off piles of stacked cinder blocks, dangerously close to breaking an arm or a leg, of that I am sure. Wren is napping and Cal-girl is panting beside me as I type and sway on the glider in our back yard. Looking around me and seeing all of the changes that have been made over the last couple of weeks, I am incredibly grateful for my parents and for all of the help they have given to us in making our new house a place where we feel at home. 

I love you mom and dad. And I love the way you love people.

Saying Goodbye to Evelyn

We said our earthly goodbyes to a dear friend last week. And, even though this journaling space has been a little quiet as of late, I wanted to come here to process a few thoughts about a precious lady in our lives. 

Several years ago I met Evelyn. She was intriguingly warm and genuine. And honest. Oh how I loved her honesty and spunk. My husband and I were nearly finished with seminary and we found ourselves on an exploratory ministry trip to the pacific northwest. I had met so many people that particular Sunday morning and had forgotten nearly every single name. (I've never been really good at remembering names. Even now, under pressure, I forget names faster than the speed of lightning. It's embarrassing to forget your own child's middle name. How do I know this? Because when Job broke his collarbone this happened to me. The nurse asked his middle name and I panicked. I pretended to have a cough and bought myself some time. And, finally, after convincingly getting through my coughing spat, I patted my chest, cleared my throat and calmly said, "I'm so sorry. It's Job Hudson.") I hurried to a seat at the beginning of the Sunday school hour and landed next to Evelyn. She introduced herself and I took out a piece of paper to begin recording names in hopes of saving myself from afore mentioned embarrassing situations. And, I decided to tell Evelyn about my brilliant plan. The problem was that I hadn't yet written her name down and, by this time, couldn't remember it! At the end of the Sunday school hour Evelyn leaned over and said, with a twinkle in her eye, "and do you remember my name?" (smile) I would never again forget her name.

A few weeks ago I received a call from Cleone, one of Evelyn's best friends, who lives just down the street from us. The news was shocking and grim. Evelyn had been diagnosed with a very progressive stomach cancer and was in the hospital in Portland. My husband and I had a trip to Portland planned the very next day and in a matter of moments we arranged to stop and see her before Stephen's board meeting. I caught sight of her before she saw us coming in. She looked beautiful. So elegant and regal as always, sitting up in the hospital chair and talking with her son and husband. Wren came with us. I hoped that her sweetness would bring a smile to Evelyn's face. And it did. She hadn't met Wren yet and she was so delighted to see her. Here she was, starving from the cancer in her body, able only to swab her mouth with water, yet focused entirely on us and our lives. It felt wrong. This beautiful lady, full of sweetness and spunk, with only weeks left to live. She was thin and she told us it would go quickly. "I can feel the cancer growing. It will be fast." She asked us not to forget Paul. My husband prayed for her, for her family, for Paul. I hugged her and told her I loved her and that I would see her-- "if not here, I'll see you there."

And now she's gone. Life is so precious. Seeing Evelyn that day has reminded me in a very poignant way that life is incredibly precious. People are incredibly precious. I am so thankful for the opportunity my family had of knowing Evelyn Gallaway. Her love for people and for the gospel and how she lived that love out in practical and intentional ways are lessons I hope to carry with me for a very long time. 

It was Evelyn that asked us if we would ever consider moving to a small, country church. "Would you mind if I passed your name on to my friend Cleone?" I am ever so grateful she did.

Evelyn, I love you. I will never forget you.
p.s. Stephen now drinks his coffee black. But he will never forget the time you asked him if he liked a little coffee with his creamer. (wink) 

On Motherhood. Onward and Forward.

Motherhood. There's just been nothing like it in my life. It's wrecked me, broken me, healed me, grown me. In mothering, in growing my children, my own soul has grown up. In a sense, my children and I are growing up together. I have miles to go. More love to be rooted and grounded, pushed deep into the souls of my babies, a moment by moment need for the outpouring of grace over my heart, and an uprooting of the selfishness that is a constant companion.

As I sank down into our leather sofa, my eyes fixed on the glass door across the room. Fingerprints were thick and everywhere. It didn't bother me. My eyes took them in and my thoughts wandered to our three babies. The house was quiet. All of our babies tucked in for the night. I looked at my husband and blurted out something about Mother's Day being a difficult day over the last couple of years. He looked at me understandingly.

I've heard it said, "expectations ruin relationships." And I believe it. It's a lesson that God has been stirring into my life over the last couple of years. And it's been a good stirring. I'm learning, day by day, that there is good in every moment of motherhood. My motherhood holidays might look very different from what they looked like just a couple of years ago, but there is sweetness and tears of joy to be found here. Now.

From those first sweet and beautiful days of motherhood to the ones I'm facing now-- the ones where the fight for joy is thick but the grace is thicker-- all of these moments have been measured out for my good. I want to be a mother that looks back on my life and realizes that, yes!, it's true! God is the giver of grace and grace enough for each moment. If you find yourself in the sweet and beautiful care-free days of motherhood, enjoy every moment. If you find yourself next to me in the trenches of motherhood where days seem more of a fight for beauty and everything feels like it might unravel, remember this-- "grace holds you when everything else falls apart and whispers that everything is really falling together." (Voskamp)

p.s. I'm incredibly thankful that, each year for a gift, my husband takes photographs of me and my little ones. Believe me, it is no easy task. (smile) But these are such a gift to me year after year. And, this year, we took them underneath our beautiful redwood tree in our new back yard.