Archive for the ‘family’ Category

22
Apr

Easter is better than Christmas

   Posted by: liz

IMG_2597Facebook and Twitter were “all a twitter” with Easter pictures this weekend: adorable kids dressed to the nines, family photos of matching and unmatching outfits, and baskets filled with confections, colored eggs, and stuffed animals. I tweeted an adorable picture of my too-cool-for-skool boys, but the remainder of the pictures I took throughout Easter Sunday were of food.

I loved each picture that was shared – I looked closely at what they were wearing, what each hostess was serving on their dinner tables, what desserts were eaten, and what easter baskets were filled with.

Easter is quickly becoming my favorite holiday. Christmas, the long-time favorite, is fun and nostalgic and warm and fuzzy. But Easter is the celebration of resurrection, life that springs from death, the end of winter, cold, and grey. Easter is robin-egg blue and blue skies and green grass and yellow daffodils and warming temperatures; new lambs and more eggs in the hen house, the rebirth of the Alleluia at Eucharist. Easter is second life. Second chances.

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I don’t help to prepare an altar for Easter Eucharist anymore. It was the best day to prepare for, as an altar guild member: such gorgeous flowers, polished silver, brand new beeswax candles, and crisp linens. I did help to prepare a dining room table for Easter dinner. I took lots of pictures of the new linen napkins, the gorgeous colorful tulips my mom sent, the gorgeous platters filled with dishes from other guests. And the china and freshly-polished silver passed down from my great-grandparents. The table was prepared with holy hands from the past, and from now.

And even though Poinsettias are regal and stunning, tulips and hyacinth are my favorite.

 

16
Apr

joy

   Posted by: liz

tonight at soccer practice…(four words that do not, on their own, invoke joy in my heart)…i experienced joy that i haven’t felt since holding my newborn babies.

when rowan was born, kenny and i couldn’t take our eyes off of him. he looked just like kenny – every hospital visitor told us so. we would sit and stare, watch his breathing in and out, comment on every sound he would make and surmise at every whimper: gas? hunger? wet diaper?

i remember feeding him in the quiet of our nursery once we were home, and having an overwhelming feeling of joy. i wasn’t necessarily happy at the moment: i was exhausted and sore and a wee bit scared. but i remember feeling joy. this little tiny newborn, who i had been getting to know since feeling him kick inside of me, sat nursing, completely content and happy with no reason to be happy except that his needs were met. he was warm, clean, and his hunger satiated. because of me. joy doesn’t have to be felt only in the presence of happiness: in that particular moment, i felt joy in the midst of exhaustion and pain.

IMG_2453so tonight, i watched three separate soccer practices sitting in a not-so-comfortable folding chair on a windy field in 43 degrees for nearly two hours. if you know me, you know that being cold is pretty much torture for me. but i was sitting in that chair, exactly where i needed to be, and i was joyful watching our three boys growing into their soccer abilities, having a great time with these somewhat strangers. the boys aren’t the best players on their teams, but for the first time in our six years of playing fall and spring soccer, they are in the better half of their team. they have confidence in their dribbling and fast breaks, and they’re not timid around the ball or the opposing players. and they’re loving every minute of it. when you’re a parent, it almost doesn’t get any better than watching your child when they’re experiencing their own joy.

 

8
Apr

scenery

   Posted by: liz

at dinner tonight, one of the boys asked, “remember that farm when we’d go to get milk in a jar?”

it’s been a while since we’d bought raw milk. soccer was canceled (because of the rain, and bad field conditions), and kenny had rehearsal for the musical he’s working on with another company.  so the boys and i dug out our old half gallon mason jars, cleaned them out and headed towards Slate Lick to the farm we used to frequent for raw milk when the boys were much younger.

it rained the whole drive there, but towards the end of the drive, there is a summit that is always so gorgeous. tonight, it was especially beautiful with low-hanging clouds horizontally slicing the far mountains in half (click to enlarge for detail):

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the entire 26-minute drive isn’t all this idyllic. in fact, parts of it are downright frightening. there’s the steep hill that reminds me of an episode of Twin Peaks:

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and then not a mile away, i swear i’ve stumbled onto the set of The Walking Dead:

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These scenes are especially eerie with the cloudy dark skies surrounding them. The country around us can go from gorgeous to strangely desserted-looking quickly.  I guess that’s what you get out in big land country.

 

 

3
Feb

reading. and the guilty conscience.

   Posted by: liz

I have always read to the boys. From the time they were infants sitting in my lap or toddling around the local library, and during preschoolers library story hour. When their kindergarten curriculum didn’t include “book time,” I added it to our daily routine.

So when I hear a parent say, “We have instilled a deep love of reading in our child” and see their child with a book in their hand, or sitting in a corner with their nose in the book, I ask them, “How did you do it?

Every parent’s answer has been the same: “I have always read to them, even when they were a baby.” “We spent so much time at the library when they were toddlers,” “I model reading for pleasure all the time. ”  ”I’m always looking for books that I know will interest them, and they devour everything I find for them!”

I have done all the same things since the time our boys were newborns. And all three of my boys hate to read. They would rather wash dishes than read. Clean the toilet than read. Go to church over the library.

I love to read. My husband does not. And if you look at our professional record, he is much more successful than I am. So I shouldn’t worry about the fact that even though my boys can all read, they just don’t like to do it.

But deep down, I fear their brains aren’t being stretched and challenged, their hearts aren’t learning to love fictional characters and worlds created by all the great writers. I am saddened that they don’t find (any!) joy in going to the library with me. I try very hard not to play the comparison games with other kids whose moms (dare I say) brag about how much their kids have read and are reading, and how they “instilled a love of reading in them!”

Because it’s all bollocks. I am convinced that we do nothing to influence our children in their love or hatred of reading. It would be like me saying, “I have instilled a love of minecraft in all three of my boys: isn’t it wonderful?”

One of these days, moms everywhere will learn that what our kids love has more to do with them and less to do with us. I am learning this. Ever so slowly.

 

 

11
Sep

happiest ninth birthday, sawyer cole!

   Posted by: liz

sawcosawyer’s birth was the shortest of the three boys. he was born much in the same ways that he tackles his days today: quickly, fiercely, and with purpose.

kenny, one-year old rowan, and i were dining at an indian restaurant with friends when i was having contractions that were 10 minutes apart. i was ready to have this baby (only 3 days away from my due date), so i ordered Mateer Paneer extra spicy. within 9 hours, sawyer was born!

IMG_0704sawyer, you take on each day with gusto. you are intrepid and passionate. your heart is big and your willingness to help and learn is huge! you care about what others think and take their needs into consideration, which is a quality beyond your nine years. you love to learn to play the piano, you have fun in your soccer games, minecraft is your favorite video game, and you chose Cocoa Puffs as your birthday cereal this year.

we love you and couldn’t be more proud of who you are growing up to be! (PS. he wanted me to take this photo because he was sure it looked like he was drinking beer because of the glass.)

 

IMG_1167i think i need to write this book.

i’m not the world’s easiest camper. and i never jump at the opportunity to “go camping.”  so when kenny said to me two weeks ago, “how about instead of a few days at ocean city, we go camping on labor day weekend instead!” i wasn’t exactly excited.

but then we registered at the campground where our friends were going to be. and then we told the boys (their excitement WAY outdid my excitement!), and then kenny brought home fun camping things like air mattresses for the boys and a cast iron pot and a Coleman camping stove and…a coffee percolator. and i got just a little bit excited.

fortunately, we were camping with people who i was really looking forward to spending time with, and whose kids are great  for our boys to hang around with. i was assured this was going to be a GREAT weekend. and…

IMG_1168i survived!  and actually really did enjoy it. it helped that we were at a great campground, with a perfect natural setting (a huge creek, lots of green open space and lots of woods), and some fun activities like a pool, a zipline (the boys did it three times in a row), a climbing wall, a gaga pit, and great camping friends.

but, if you’re like me, you’re going to need some kind of dummies guide to enjoying your first big camping trip (yes, i consider 2.5 days and 2 nights a BIG camping trip. ask me in a few years, and i might have a different perspective…). so consider this a cliff’s notes version of:

First-Time Camping for Dummies

- pinterest is your friend. when we were officially registered at the campground, i went back to Pinterest and did a general search for all things camping. because all summer when my camping-savvy friends were pinning pins like “101 genius camping surivival tips,” i was laughing at those crazy campers knowing that would NEVER be me needing those tips. so, with my tail between my legs i searched on and found some great tips, but mostly recipes (shared below). so do not feel “above” the help of pinterest. it will help you in your most dire hour. go ye, and pin and plan away. i searched  under “camping” and “camping help” and “camping recipes.”

- go with experienced campers. (because they will ALWAYS have extras of something that you will forget you’ll need. like a clothes line. and a table). kenny and i made a great long list and both of these items were on that list, but we forgot them in the 11th hour of packing and trying to get-out-of-dodge. we were with three other families (and several more who knew those families) who were experienced campers and had exactly what we needed for our soggy towels, creek-drenched underwear, and food preparation needs.  we only needed to borrow a card table (our fold out table was safe at home), and a clothes line (we couldn’t find our clothes line in the garage before we left). oh, and mustard, ketchup, a hot dog campfire stick, and hot dog rolls when our crescent rolls didn’t work over the fire.

if you don’t have the luxury of going with other experienced campers, or you just want to go it alone, then i suggest getting the full book Camping for Dummies and not rely on this cliffs notes version.

- plan ahead and arrive at your campsite armed with RECIPES and lots of food and snacks.  again, Pinterest comes in really handy with this. but Google does an adequate job if your search is really specific. kenny had already arrived home with his awesome Lodge cast iron pot, so I searched for cast iron pot recipes as well as basic campfire recipes. we found the following recipes:

Homemade Hamburger Helper. kenny was a little skeptical that I could get my stuff together and prepare the ingredients ahead of time for this one. i proved him wrong because i wasn’t so sure the boxed version of hamburger helper would be so good on our gastro-intestinal systems since we have never eaten it before, and who really wants to deal with G-I issues while camping? this recipe is so simple, and it’s easy to prepare the spices ahead of time, measure out your pasta, and pack the rest of the ingredients in a cooler. it was delicious. we doubled the recipe and shared with our friends who lent us their table.

Dutch Oven Monkey Bread. even easier than the homemade hamburger helper was this amazing breakfast treat. we made this on our second morning (because EVERYONE does pancakes on their first morning of camping!). i changed the recipe a bit and didn’t use biscuits. i used refrigerator cinnamon rolls, and still rolled them in the cinnamon/brown sugar mixture. the extra icing that comes in the cans was a bonus!

IMG_1190Dutch Oven Cobbler. the boys were so excited when they saw cans of Sprite in the shopping cart the night before we left. “we get to drink soda while we camp? awesome!!!”  unfortunately for them, it was for this recipe (can you tell we torture our children in not allowing them sugary drinks? we’re such dictators). this was such a pretty dish and came together quickly. we had it for lunch on our last day of camping.

This recipe for crescent roll hot dogs did not work at all. the dough kept falling off the hot dog and it was a hot mess! we just roasted the hot dogs and used bread for rolls and our friends’ mustard, ketchup and homemade relish.

- indulge in a dutch oven. you’re going to want to cook up some authentic camping recipes. and cooking over the fire is fun, but we already do that in our back yard enough. so to make your camping cuisine truly authentic and delcious (see above recipes), go and get yourself one of these. Walmart has the cheapest prices!and go with a partner (in my case my incredible husband) that knows how to light coals without the use of lighter fluid.

- air mattresses. need i say more?

IMG_1173- percolator. coffee perked over a fire or a Coleman camp stove is the only way to wake up from sleeping in a tent, all damp and dewey. forget the tea or hot chocolate…get yourself some coffee when you camp.

- bug spray. the good stuff. do NOT kid yourself that your au-naturale mixture you made will keep away the bugs. it won’t, and you’ll have lost a pint of blood to the wild mosquitoes if you use anything that you made yourself. bring out the big guns: deet!

- if you’re camp ground allows, have happy hour! i’m not saying that we did or did not enjoy an adult beverage during our camping trip. but happy hour makes the twilight hours so much more tolerable.

 

9
Jul

double digits, rowan tucker smith!

   Posted by: liz

our rowan, our firstborn, turns 10 tonight at 9:43pm. that means we’ve been parenting for 10 years (plus 9 months). that means he’ll probably be driving in 6 years. that means he’ll be a legal adult in 8 years.

rowan loves soccer, swimming and minecraft. he loves to read when he finds a series that he likes: his latest series that he inhaled were the Araminta Spookie books, and of course our family read-alouds, Harry Potter. he’s not a fan of Shakespeare (“he’s boring and writes terrible stories!”), but loves to be on stage.  his birthday cereal this year is Fruity Pebbles, and we’re celebrating by having a sleepover with the boys’ friend, Anthony.

happy birthday to the best firstborn son! you’re sweet disposition, knack for role playing and leader-personality continue to make us proud of you each day. we love you, and can’t wait to see what the next decade (and all future decades!) has in store for you!

 

10
Jun

adam henry turns SEVEN!

   Posted by: liz

seven years ago, we had just moved into this house with more room than we would ever need (how could we possibly be bursting at the seams in this house now?) and seven acres of grass that needed to be cut. what were we thinking? especially with two boys ages two and one and me, nine months pregnant.

i married up. i married a man with extreme intelligence and talent. he was able to see past our here-and-now. we both saw potential in this home (me as a future bed-and-breakfast, and he saw it as our family home), but i could never see how we would actually fit into it.

now that our baby is turning 7 (today!), we have filled in this huge house, this huge yard with busy boys, lots of family and friend visits, a gentleman farm, and more memories over the past seven years than i can possibly remember.

adam, you were born on a cloudy, cool june 10th morning. Ben Roethlisberger had his motorcycle accident while we were in the hospital with you. daddy left a few hours after you were born to take your older brothers to the zoo and the morning rowan and sawyer came to visit you for the first time, sawyer tried to give you his balloon. he was very upset that you didn’t accept it. it only took a few weeks for sawyer to accept your presence in our family unit. and now he protects you fiercely, laughs at your jokes, and you two share a LEGO building bond that only brothers can. you look up to rowan, your oldest brother so much, and although the 3 years between you sometimes get in the way, you share frisbee games, bike riding, and minecraft playing like best friends. your party this year, is a minecraft theme. you and your brothers can’t get enough of this crazy game, and so, your friends will be treated to mining for gold and diamonds, all the while trying to stay away from those crazy creepers.

happy seventh birthday, our darling. as always, it’s an honor to be your momma and papa!

7
Jun

the meal table

   Posted by: liz

i have noted before that it is nothing short of magic what happens when friends – new and old – family, and even strangers are gathered around a table of food and drink.

some would like to blame it on the alcohol, but i credit the euphoria on the flavors of food and drink that humans share together around a table.

some of my favorite recent memories are hosting meals around our farm table in our dining room. even before i redecorated the room (now a cool colonial blue), our dining room has hosted christmas meals, thanksgiving feasts, and our dinner group of friends eating, drinking, and usually breaking into song at the end. it is by no coincidence that our family piano is tucked away in a corner of our dining room. we stash all of the sheet music, our boys’ piano books in a basket near the piano, but also a stack of old hymnals and psalters.

one thanksgiving meal comes to mind, that included my brothers and their families, my parents, and some friends of ours that we had recently met. we ended the chaotic meal (chaotic only because 12 kids under the age of 10 with 10 adults to match makes it so) around the piano. We sang the Alleluia chorus from Handel’s Messiah, stumbling our way through the four parts (soprano, alto, tenor, bass), but sharing together in the richness of filled stomachs and Handel’s brilliantly coupled harmonies.

another remembrance is a dinner group of friends, all of us with sons (10 total), shared a potluck dinner of indian-spiced goodness, deep, dry red wines, and a table full of singing before we said our nighttime goodbyes.

i hosted my book club for a cookie exchange one christmas and set up the dining room meticulously with christmas decorations and space for all of our dozens of cookies to be displayed. but where did all 8 of us spend the entire exchange? standing around my kitchen table (ignoring the festive dining room) where the brunch items and mugs of steaming hot coffee were. we laughed, we comforted those of us not looking forward to the upcoming madness that Christmas can be, and we played a “name that tune,” christmas song version all while sharing together the cinnamon rolls, mimosas, and several versions of quiche.

maybe it’s not magic. maybe it’s what is supposed to happen when we open our comfort zones – our family meal tables – with friends. maybe we’ve gotten so bogged down with school schedules and day jobs and family crises that we forget to notice that when we take time to sit, eat, and remember…connections happen. friendships deepen, family members open up, incredible flavors of food and fellowship are shared. this is how we are supposed to sup.

my mom’s book club gets together monthly to talk about their latest book at restaurants and sometimes one of the members hosts a potluck brunch or dinner on their deck. when i ask my mom how her book club was, she always responds, “oh, it was great. we LAUGHED and LAUGHED…” that’s what friends, and hopefully family, does when they share time and conversation around a table. when it’s more than a passing conversation on the phone or email. when we sit, breathe, and break bread together, we are sharing our humaness with each other.

“take, eat…” Jesus says to His disciples. let us do likewise. together.

2
Jun

blogging

   Posted by: liz

it’s been so long since last i blogged that i actually forgot my login password. january was my last post, and it’s been the longest time between posts, ever. i’m always thinking of blog posts, always churning ideas around in my head, but never sitting down to write.

this was a particularly long and tiring winter. this spring has been unusually wet and cold. memorial day weekend marked the beginning of the longest stretch of warm weather, and it started out with a cold frost. i guess i could fill you in on the last 3 months, but i don’t want to bog you down with a depressing post. instead, i’ll give you a highlight reel of current things in our family:

- i continue to be so amazed at how the boys and i grow in our relationships with each other. we are together all day long, every single day. there are DEFINITELY some tense and frustrating moments in that. we get on each other’s nerves. we need our space from each other. but for the most part, our conversations and our time spent WITH each other are rewarding, fun, and always growing. even though they are around their mom every single day of their lives, the older two boys are beginning to spread their wings and be more independent. i’m all for this, and i’m glad it’s happening, slowly, but surely. i don’t know what this would look like had we chosen traditional schooling – would they have been much more independent by now? probably. i’m okay with it taking it’s time. i’m REALLY okay that they’re still young boys who are innocent in so much. there is still so much time for them to grow up. slowly.

- that said, there are some stretches of exhausting times when we are together as a family all the time. the bickering and the whining about school work and farm chores and…the list goes on. i get tired of being their teacher and their mother every single day of their lives. it’s hard. it’s hard having them with me on all my weekly errands. it’s hard not having time to myself until evenings (although our evenings are all full these days). it’s just plain hard.
but we did end our school year two weeks ago and have been enjoying the warming weather, and hanging out with friends. both rowan and sawyer had evaluations this year and both of them “passed” with rave reviews from their evaluator. during that time, i realized that adam was reading a book that sawyer was reading previously. sawyer is reading so well these days, but adam has taken off with his reading. he doesn’t sound out words any more, he reads for comprehension, which is earlier than the other two boys ever did. for all the struggles of teaching your kids that you may encounter, there are some pretty great discoveries along the way!

- so i’m running again. i really need to not take the winters off (but how i HATE indoor running, and it’s harder and not at all comfortable to run outside in the winter). i’m signed up for my first 5K of the season. i’m ready! because once i start to run, i can take on the world and all it throws at us again.

- this past week, kenny was rockstar dad and husband again as i took three days in a row to teach a geography and art camp for the co-op that we are a part of. i was out the door well before the boys woke up, and he tended to them and their needs while i taught forty-one 6 to 8 year-olds for three solid days. i came home to dinner already cooked before turning around and heading back out to rehearsal the first two nights, and on the last night, i came home to a beach chair sitting next to the pool, a bottle of my favorite chardonnay already uncorked, and a lovely grilled tilapia, chicken, green beans, and coconut rice dinner, al fresco (with friends joining us at table!). a great way to end those crazy exhausting three days.

- we are three weeks away from opening night of our second production, The Tempest. the rehearsals have been going so well, the cast is amazing and the sets and costumes are going to be stunning on that stage. i can’t wait for Butler to see that Shakespeare is interesting and fun and not stuffy and boring. we’ve been really busy every single evening and weekend putting this show together. some moments are tense and overwhelming, but for the most part, i’ve really loved the creative process in this production. from the conversations with the actors about their characters, to the evenings i spend at the sewing machine while kenny composes music for the show, it’s been a fun and exciting production.

- our farm is on hold for the moment. at least the sheep, their guard donkey, and our two chickens are happy and healthy. we just haven’t added to to our flock this year, and our honeybees did not make it through the winter. we’ve also decided to container garden on our deck instead of plant our massive yard garden again this year. i’m okay with this. sometimes you just need to take a year off of the hobbies that may consume you.

- we are so blessed. there is nothing hard about our life. we are a healthy, busy, a bit nutty family who has absolutely nothing to complain about.
except the winter weather.