Archive for the ‘seasons’ Category


this has been a pseudo-summer

   Posted by: liz

autumn is slowly closing in on us. this summer has been cool and wet. it’s as though spring has overstayed its welcome and summer decided to take a year off.  if you’ve been reading smithical for a while, you know how much i love summer. i love the heat, the humidity, the natural vitamin D, the long days. at least the sun is keep up its end of the bargain this season! the heat, however, is nowhere to be found.

i’m working on being okay with this. autumn was my favorite season for the longest time. these days, it’s a close second to summer (winter is way in last place and probably won’t leave that prestigious slot anytime soon). these past few weeks of cooler-than-normal weather smell like fall. i want to change up my meal planning from grilling and salads to stews and roasted root vegetables. i want the boys to wake up to hot breakfasts instead of cereal on the deck. i’m almost ready to close the pool.

i have a lot to prepare for this coming school year. it’s our sixth year homeschooling, and rowan is entering 4th grade, sawyer 3rd, and adam is dangling between 1st and 2nd (because he’s ahead in some subjects, and on par in others. i won’t know when to label his grade until next year, at least). i took a training class last month for the co-op class that i’ll be tutoring this year at our Classical Conversations campus. i’m tutoring the “Essentials” class, which a mixture of students leaving the grammar stage of the Classical Model of Education, and entering the dialectic/logic stage of the model. this means, i’ll be tutoring in a one-room schoolhouse style, kids from 9-12 years old. We learn English grammar, writing techniques, and drill math facts: thus the title, “Essentials.”  the theory is that these three areas of learning will strengthen students’ learning as they enter the Rhetoric stage of learning. it’s a beautiful thing.

we took last year off of Classical Conversations for several reasons. but i’m glad we’re back to the scheduled weekly co-op with other families doing classical education at home. it’s such a great source of support and so good to get the boys to see that other kids have to do the same torture schoolwork that i make them do.

our school officially starts in two weeks, but i’m ready now. it’s autumn weather, so i’m ready for classes, books, schedules, practicing, and lots of reading. i’m working on s separate blog post with our curriculum choices this year. look for it soon.

it’s going to be a great year!

*photo credit:


christmas tree 2012

   Posted by: liz

it’s been 8 whole days since we put up our Christmas Tree 2012…and still, no blog pictures!

last sunday, we had about a half inch of snow fall in the morning, and by afternoon, it was sunny and slightly warmed (to the upper 30s!). perfect weather for christmas tree cutting!  we headed out to our local christmas tree farm and within 10 minutes of walking around, found our perfect tree.

our first year in this house, we went BIG with our tree. after all, we have 9-foot ceilings, why not go with a big tree? big trees swallow our living room and leave it feeling cluttered. ever since, we’ve gone small and simple. and it’s always been elegant.

happy Advent 1 to you all!


first day of fall, 2012

   Posted by: liz

fall has always been my favorite season, even as summer has been moving up in the ranks quickly. i love crisp weather, flannel sheets, the smell of campfire in the air, and the obvious gorgeous colors on the trees. this is how we rang in the first day of fall this year:

  • pumpkin cookies – i added a candy corn on top of each cookie (i love candy corn. and peeps. yes, i have very childish taste in candy).
  • gingerbread pancakes for the boys before they took off for soccer. and gingersnap oatmeal for me. mmmmmmmm….!  we didn’t leave kenny out of the autumnal breakfast fun…he just prefers eggs for breakfast. he will always forgo the sweet breakfast and choose the savory. i have to convince myself that i want eggs every morning. i’d much rather have oats or pancakes or waffles or cold cereal.  i prefer eggs for lunch or dinner.
  • a warm, rainy run. the leaves are beginning to change, and it was lovely to see the colors popping out from some of the branches. totally enjoyed this run in the rain!
  • a hot shower post-run and i was ready to cook. i need to keep running if i’m going to continue cooking and baking (and eating of course!) on these cold autumn days! i decided to bake some walnut-rosemary bread (rosemary from our garden!), baked acorn squash (from our garden!) and butternut squash soup (also from our garden!).
  • date night with my husband: the ultimate shakespeare tragedy-romance, Romeo and Juliet. it was a modern retelling and we both enjoyed it a lot. funny moment in the play…at the climax of the ending, as romeo is opening his vial of poison to drink after finding juliet “dead,” juliet begins to stir and a sweet old man in the audience yelled out, “she’s waking up!”  now THAT’S comic relief!



christmas, 2011

   Posted by: liz

all he wanted to know was what i wanted for christmas this year. and i gave him an earful about how i don’t want any gifts or presents, and that i think we should just do away with the whole gift-giving part of christmas forever because it makes me so uncomfortable anymore.

my husband knows better than to agree with my crazy whims. so he just smiled and never brought the subject up again. i made it very difficult on him without realizing i was doing so. i thought i’d make it easy on him by not having to worry about a gift for me.

of course, we did not do away with the gift-giving. and of course, our boys opened gifts from us and relatives and friends. and of course i bought gifts for my husband. and that made him uncomfortable since he didn’t buy me any gifts.

how selfish of me.

and yet, i was so surprised and blessed and loved what he did for me christmas morning. he didn’t purchase jewelery or clothes or housewares. he spent his time over the past few weeks painting a gorgeous folk art landscape scene. but not just any folk art landscape scene: a personal one. one with our house, our land, our hills and pine trees, and violet (the sheep prominently featured on the header of this blog).  and not just any canvas, but an old piece of barn wood from our old barn. and not just any frame, but an old window frame out of our old barn. naturally antiqued.

he has seen me loving the folk art scenes in antique shops, and amish shops over the past few years. and he took the time to figure out how to draw and paint and he knew what would be perfect for the spot above the dining room mantel that has been void of anything since moving in nearly 6 years ago (click to enlarge):


but he didn’t stop there. he painted a folk art cat on another piece of barn wood. not just any cat, but greymalkin


and there are plans to paint one of kayle, our orange tabby, so they’ll forever stay together above our piano.

it was the best gift, ever. and i still get goosebumps when i pass by these gorgeous pieces of art everyday.


when Advent is turned upside-down

   Posted by: liz

as you can tell, i’m rehashing old blog posts because i got nothing new this Advent. so, i dedicate this post to all of us who have grand plans for observing a solemn Advent, and celebrating a joyous Christmas….and end up changing because that’s what life gives you.

i’m learning that you just gotta roll with it most days. so here is another older Advent post from a few years ago.


(originally posted december 10, 2007)

mondays in advent

advent sundays are so fun…they’re feast days, so fun happens.  last week we spent sunday afternoon with my parents and yesterday our friends traveled from the big city to eat and fellowship with us.

this morning, it was grey all morning long. the forecast called for nothing but grey. fortunately, i had a whole hour to plan the day between the time kenny left for work and when the boys woke up. and here’s how our day went down:

we were out of milk (the milkman comes every monday around 8:30) so breakfast was muffins and apple juice. i found a chicken carcass (lovely word, i know) in the freezer, so i decided to make chicken soup for dinner. i found a fabulous recipe for dumplings or homemade noodles (there is a fine line between the two and i would call what i ended up making dumplings, and not noodles. but they were fantastic nonetheless – the only thing that all three boys inhaled) from the boomama soup carnival. so i started the pot-o-broth with some additional frozen vegetable cuttings i had stored and continued cleaning the kitchen while the boys ate their breakfast.

after getting dressed, we all headed to michaels. it was a grey morning, but that didn’t stop us from bringing some color inside! i had started clipping strips for the construction-paper-garland (that we all did as kids – but rowan and sawyer don’t remember doing it last year, so it’s new to them!) this morning, and we needed just a few other supplies for more kid-friendly christmas decorations.

i don’t know about other moms with kids who like to make things and like to craft…but i always have an idea in my head about how something will turn out and it just doesn’t turn out quite as i had planned. but i’m learning to let go of this and embrace my kids (very eager and yet oh-so-young) artistic endeavors. for instance…

i planned to make these with the boys:

instead, we ate gumdrops until we were sick worked hard and ended up with these treasures (with a lack of reds and purples. hrmmmm…):

and i bought tinsel-like pipe cleaners to put these up all over the mantels:

and we ended up with:

i’ve let go of my need for a martha-stewartesque decorated home and treasure every little arts and craft that decorates our rooms for any celebration.  i don’t think the boys would enjoy making things if i was a drill-sergeant craft instructor.after our craft-time (and adam’s nap), rowan helped me roll out and throw in the dumplings to our soup, now simmering with edible vegetables, waiting to be eaten. kenny came home and he gushed over the gumdrop trees and pipe-cleaner contraptions, said the soup was delicious and we all settled in for a long winter’s night.thank goodness this monday didn’t feel grey all day.

in the bleak midwinter…

   Posted by: liz

i was planning to do some christmas baking and all of our shopping over the past two weeks. but at least one, and sometimes two, members of our family has been sick since last monday (if you’re counting, that’s 10 days now). it was the stomach virus, and now some really high-fever congestion/cold thing.

i was also planning to do our tradition St. Nicholas “delivery of gifts in secret” on St. Nicholas day last week, and celebrate St. Lucia today.  but when at least two of the family members in the family are sick, pretty  much everything comes to a grinding halt.

i’m not at all stressed that i haven’t gone christmas shopping yet. and i was reminded why when i remembered this post from last year:


i’m not a fan of being woken in the middle of the night. and that’s exactly what it feels like when i crawl out from under our warm flannel sheets and down comforter at 6:00 a.m. these mornings. i love the morning silence, but the cold…the dark…..

i have to ease into these mornings. keeping advent readings closeby and advent songs on my heart help the start of the day. i’ve also eased into our daily lessons by choosing activities that will encourage the boys towards a sacred moment these days.

the boys still wake with ENERGY, so my deliberate slowed pace these mornings fall flat some times. when i encourage a time of sacred reflection i am met with puzzled looks: “sacred? is that like scared? you want us to feel scared?” and then jokes emerge from the question, and i have three boys in piles of laughter at the kitchen table.

sometimes sacred is not what we think it should feel or look like.

we begin with a prayer and a song as we light our family advent candles. there is sacred in the small little boy voices of “o come, o come, emmanuel” as they are transfixed with the match, the flame, the continuous light from the candle.

aha!  just add fire and voila! silence!  sacred.

“they are getting it!” i think to myself and i feel full of emotion which, again, falls flat as the singing ends and the contest begins to see who can be the first to blow out the candle which breaks into a fight because one didn’t get to blow out the candle and the candle wasn’t supposed to be blown out yet any way!!!

but then i remember…sacred is not what we think it should feel or look like.

sacred is sitting around a kitchen table for with my three energy-filled boys and taking them out in the snow: their favorite place to be these days. sacred is walking out in the bleak wind and snow to care for animals who depend on you for food and warmth. sacred is sitting in the dark, calm of a kitchen giving thanks to God for the three lives sleeping soundly upstairs.

sacred is God in the flesh.


(originally posted, december 9, 2010)









preparing for the preparation…

   Posted by: liz

i went grocery shopping this morning and was amazed at how crazy the store was. the balloon turkey decoration next to the lit christmas tree was slightly jarring, but maybe i’m just being persnickety.

i thought the grocery shopping craze happened the monday- wednesday before Thanksgiving, not two weeks before? i am vowing right now that i’m going to treat this coming weekend and week as normal, and not as crazy preparation for a fun Thanksgiving celebration. how about you?

we’ve been observing Advent in our home for the past decade. since our family was just the two of us, we’ve observed the quiet waiting of Advent, and breaking out in full Christmas spirit on Christmas Eve at 10:30 with the Holy Eucharist. i know the world wants Christmas to start on November 1st, but it’s not necessary, especially since you have a full 12 days of celebrating it through the end of December, into the New Year!

Advent starts directly following Thanksgiving. again, the world thinks you need to get the best deals on christmas gifts the day after Thanksgiving. but if gifts are not what christmas is about, then why get caught up in the sales and give real gifts this year, and prepare your home, your family, your hearts for the biggest birthday celebration of the year.

last year, i suggested starting simply.  and here is last year’s blog post on St. Nicholas Day ideas (St. Nicholas Day is December 6th). stretching the fun of the season by adding Advent into your family celebration is one way you can fight the Christmas craze.

so…perhaps you can start two weeks early for thanksgiving preparations AND advent, and ease into a lovely Advent, preparing for the joyful celebration of His birth.


revolutionize Christmas

   Posted by: liz

in the past, i’ve blogged every day in november. 

i don’t know if you noticed, but….i kinda had a “31 days fail” event this past october. so i won’t be repeating that mistake this november!

but i do love blogging during this season…the cozy thanksgiving days, the solace found in Advent’s hopeful waiting, and the joy of Christmas. before we get into this season’s crop of thanksgiving, advent, and christmas posts, i have a huge admission to make:

the christmas season makes me anxious.

don’t get me wrong: i love everything about christmas. except the presents.  if we could be just as joyous about christmas without the pressure of the perfect gift, and making our children happy (based purely on material things), i would enjoy the season so much more.  why can’t we enjoy the music, the christmas shows, the stories of sugarplums and love-coming-down, of christmas cookies, and waiting for the christchild without the big ripping apart perfectly good paper, and gazing upon shiny new…things.

last christmas, my littlest threw a tantrum in the biggest way during our extended family christmas present opening. i was mortified because it felt as though all eyes were directed on me and how i taught him to view what was underneath the shiny wrapping paper. perhaps our parental lessons about the reason of christmas (giving to others of ourselves) backfired? i have no idea what went wrong (well, i know what happened: he was 4, and the spirit of the “season-of-getting” got to him…and i still feel i am to blame). i don’t know how to approach this season again. so…i’m dreading it.

i used to love receiving gifts, and i still love the act of giving gifts. but what if i changed everything up one christmas, and gave…something else?  what if i gave my time, my resources, my hard work?

if someone were to gift me this christmas, i’d love it most of all if it were something given to someone who needs something. i need nothing right now. i love spending time with family and friends, good conversation, a great run with good music blaring in my ears. these are all things i enjoy so often…i don’t need anything else! so how can i convince you to give to someone else besides me?

here’s what is on my wishlist this christmas:

  • another “penpal” (this is what we call our friend Ayeko from Uganda) from Food for the Hungry or Compassion International.
  • buy a family a flock of chickens, honeybees, ducks or goats so they can make a living, or eat homegrown food at Heifer International.
  • help me by finding a local retirement home and visit (with our family) once a month a lonely a resident with our family. let’s commit to visit a home and spend some time talking to the residents. i’ve wanted to do this with the boys for so long, and it’s time to actually DO IT.

so…who is with me to revolutionize christmas this year in baby steps?  we can do it bit by bit each year. and in a few years, after our slow, revolutionary changes that we’re making in our families, Christmas will once again be about the birth of a Savior, and not about black friday. perhaps we will truly know REAL JOY and completely elliminate the stress of the season.

please leave in the comments a near and dear to your heart ministry or organization that serves the meek, those who mourn, the merciful. i’d love to be able to get the word out of places that need our christmas money.

because i don’t need another article of clothing, or dish for my cupboard.


starting school…

   Posted by: liz

…but not for two weeks yet!

i’m so glad that we’re still in full summer mode here because i would be completely distracted if i had to “do school” right now. i’m considering a very organic, easy-going start to school in a few weeks’ time, when i can finally put summer behind me and “get excited” about falling temperatures, feeling stuck inside, and non-grilled food for 6 months.

we are nearly ready with all of our curriculum, but actual planning has fallen by the wayside as our busy summer has just started to slow down.

the next two weeks we will squeeze out the very last bit of summer, practice going to bed early and getting up early (ha!), and i will finally plan out the first few weeks of lessons. then we start our weekly co-op again, and we’ll be back in the swing of things. secretly, i am looking forward to getting back into the swing of things…but overall, i still have an attitude of “let this summer go on forever!”

i’ll leave you with a few of our favorite summer things from the summer of 2011!

4th of July Sunset…

Spending our days poolside!

…or lakeside

on this day, it was even too hot to be in a 92-degree pool!

a summer roadtrip splurge!

darkening skies from a summer evening thunderstorm.

our new backyard swimming hole…this photo has inspired a swim-up bar in the deck plans!


still a blogger!

   Posted by: liz

i swear…i really am still a blogger!

…it’s just that summer keeps us busy and less contemplative. okay, so i’m still contemplative, but i’m doing blog posts in my head, and not on my laptop while the temperatures soar well above 80 (heaven!)…

i hope you are having a great summer like we are: endless days of swimming, sunning, reading, playing, swimming, playing, friending, swimming, sleeping-in, swimming, playing, traveling, swimming, grilling…and…SWIMMING!  we’re enjoying time with great friends, i’m reading some great books, and i’m enjoying pushing the envelope of my “comfort zone” (more on that in another blog post).

i promise to be back regularly once september rolls on in. until then, i’ll think about how to update the blog on how I, a 38-year-old woman, think summers are getting better and better as i age. how can one not be perfectly happy in the season of sunshine, smiles, and SWIMMING?

so much to share….