Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Patience of Pioneers

Chloe and I decided to make butter. Since we started our year we've stuck to reading, handwriting, and math, so I thought it was time to roll up my sleeves and do some honest-to-goodness homeschool mom activities. Enough with the amateur stuff! Besides, the recipe was super simple, just the way I like them: pour a pint of heavy cream into a mason jar, add a little salt, and shake.

Wow, I announced to Greg, I just never knew how simple it was to make butter! Visions of filling up my fridge with homemade butter and passing out darling little jars of it to our neighbors fluttered through my mind. This was going to be fantastic!

Chloe made her label, poured the cream into the jar and shook it.

After a minute or two she got tired of shaking the jar, so she enlisted some help.

After another minute or two, he got tired so I took over.

THIRTY minutes later, this is what I was doing:

This is what the kids were doing:

The recipe said butter balls (their term, folks, not mine) would form and then we could add some salt, chill for a bit, and voila - butter, just waiting to melt on some hot toasted bagels. It said nothing about thirty minutes. I shook, and shook, and shook that jar. Then I took off the cap and saw some pseudo-slimy white blobs.

Looks like we have butter balls. Awesome. I looked back at my recipe.

"Try drinking it. Buttermilk was considered a real treat on the frontier!"

Ummm, seriously? I took one sniff and decided there was no way I was going to try the stinky white mess, so I did the sensible thing and got Sam to try it instead.

Here, buddy, try it! Mmmmm, our very own homemade butter, just like the pioneers used to eat!

He took one tiny lick, made a hilarious face and then shuddered.

Do you like it? I asked, super cheerfully.

NO, he said with another giant shudder. Then he added, It tastes DIAPERISH.

I truly hope that he has never actually tasted a diaper before and that this was merely the most severe insult he could fabricate with his three-year-old vocabulary, but quite frankly, with him anything is possible.

Well, I was a bit disappointed. This scene was not exactly the one I had envisioned. I had the kids add a HEAPING tablespoon of salt (the recipe called for a mere 1/4 teaspoon, but what do those pioneers know anyway?) and we put the jar in the fridge. 

The next morning I unscrewed the lid and peeked in. It looked like the whipped butter we like on our pancakes at the diner. Fearfully, I sniffed. Not bad, I thought. Not bad at all! 


We've learned a lot from the pioneers with this experience. Their patience and work ethic are inspiring. Their ingenuity can be a lesson to us all. And from now on, we'll just be buying our butter at Giant Eagle.

The morning after... not too shabby!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Nine years ago today I put on a white dress and walked down a candle-lit aisle into a brand new life. We've had surprises and letdowns and joys and tribulations. We've encouraged one another, loved one another, fought with one another, forgiven one another. I think we both would say we love one another more now than we did nine years ago. This poem by Leo Marks was written in 1944 and when we found it, we felt that it described our feelings for one another better than our own words could. We had it printed on our wedding programs.

The life that I have
Is all that I have
And the life that I have
Is yours
The love that I have
Of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours
A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause
For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours
And yours

"This is my beloved, and this is my friend."
 (Song of Soloman 5:16)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fringe Benefits

This past summer I told a woman in my neighborhood (who happens to be a former elementary school principal) that Greg and I had chosen to homeschool Chloe's kindergarten year, and she grimaced and proceeded to lecture me for fifteen minutes on the gravity of what I was getting myself into. Although I had to suppress a few defensive verbal jabs I longed to throw back in her direction, part of me was grateful for the acknowledgment that this is, indeed, a big responsibility. It's a lot of work, it can be very time consuming, and the way I spend my days has been overhauled since the third week of August.  I haven't seen an episode of House Hunters in weeks - sweet goodness.

I've been thinking a lot today about the phrase fringe benefit. I looked it up in the dictionary and it's defined as "any nonwage payment or benefit granted to employees by employers; compensation in addition to salary." I guess I consider my salary the tangible evidence that my children are learning well under my instruction: they can sing all the words to the hymns I am teaching them, and Chloe is progressing very well in both reading and math - there's a paycheck. Sam and Max are learning to write their letters and they know the days of the week and the months of the year - there's a paycheck. But in addition to my salary, I must say that the fringe benefits from these past few weeks have been lovely. Herewith, a few...

Extra time for snuggling and reading together in the morning...

Art class in jammies...

And last, but certainly not least, the opportunity to exercise your own creative take on patriotism...

Old reruns of House Hunters simply can't compete with a three year old elephant in shiny pink cowboy boots reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in perfect diction.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Rich Life

Dear Sam and Max,

Around this time four years ago I was feeling big, both literally and figuratively. My stomach was stretched so far out in front of me that I was constantly losing my balance, and my mind and heart were stretched beyond measure as I contemplated this new journey God had chosen for me. Twins.  And not just twins... twin boys. 

Really God? Not just one boy but two, and at the same time? Are You sure there's not some other woman better equipped for the rigors of two little look-alike bundles of energy?

Quite frankly, I'd grown to fancy myself more of a girl mommy. I am one of three girls, after all, and Chloe is about as girly as any little girl can get. I had gotten pretty good at dresses and sweet little songs and ponytails and baby dolls. My friends' boys scared the daylights out of me with their loudness and messiness and constant wrestling, qualities so clearly innate that I found myself shuddering with gratefulness on the way home from playdates that they were someone else's little hoodlums.

But the ultrasound technician was unwaveringly resolute on that hot July morning as your little faces appeared on the screen in front of Daddy and I: we would be having two little boys, no question about it. Ready or not ready, you were on your way.

To say that the years since that ultrasound have been challenging would be an understatement. I think it's hard to be truly prepared for something you know nothing about, and I knew nothing about twins. You both cried a lot those first few months as I struggled to keep up with your needs in a sleep-deprived daze, and even now I have to make an active choice not to feel guilty about all I couldn't be as a mother to you both when you were babies. So often I wasn't patient. So often I wasn't joyful. So often the day was just about survival. I wanted to rock you and sing to you, but there were piles of laundry to be washed and beds to be made, and a toddler who needed me too. I've learned that sometimes just surviving is enough. Sometimes it is all God asks of us.

I know this is how the saying goes, but I blinked - I blinked - and you were standing in our front yard with your little backpacks on, grinning and announcing that you were ready for preschool. I dropped you off for your first day and started crying before I was even out of the classroom. The tears surprised even me - I know you're both ready for this, and I thought I was too... I guess it was just the sadness of coming to terms with how quickly time passes.

I can't slow down the hands of time, but I can be grateful for each moment in which I'm aware of the blessing God has given me in the two of you. I never would have chosen twin boys if I had been allowed to be the architect of my life. What a tremendous gift it is that we serve a God Who has better plans for us than we could ever have for ourselves. You have made my life rich with your loudness and messiness and constant wrestling.

You have made my life rich.


 "I don't think the way you think.
   The way you work isn't the way I work.
For as the sky soars high above earth,
   so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
   and the way I think is beyond the way you think."
                                                           Isaiah 55:8-11      (The Message) 

Friday, September 3, 2010

Different Paths

About a week and a half before our school year officially began, I started feeling a little melancholy. All the other little kids in the neighborhood were enthusiastically discussing their back to school outfits and who was going to be whose bus buddy. I watched Chloe carefully as she listened to these discussions in the back yards of our neighbors. Was she bummed that she wouldn't be riding the bus for the first time? Did she feel left out? Was she confused about the fact that they were all doing one thing and she was doing another? As I've confessed before, I am a recovering "go along with the crowd" girl. I love to do what everyone else is doing... it's so much easier than explaining to people why you're doing something different and then weathering their (sometimes) negative reactions. I searched her little face for signs that she was turning out like her mama...

... but I saw nothing.

Really. Nothing. She just seemed content. Content with the idea that she wasn't doing the same thing, and that was okay. Content with the idea that she could join in the excitement and rejoice with them without feeling left out. It's so nice to be able to feel genuinely happy for others who are excitedly taking a different path, isn't it? Because God has different plans for each of us, and He's not going to call us all to take the same path. I watched her and was so grateful.

The melancholy lifted. The peace settled in. And then I planned a party.

In that order.

I wanted Chloe to have a fun tradition to look forward to at the beginning of each school year, even if it's not a different teacher, and a new class, and pictures with all the neighbors as the bus comes lumbering down the street. So we invited five other homeschooling families over for a Back to School party. We ate donuts and muffins and the kids ran around in the rain while the moms huddled inside and prayed together for wisdom and patience and joy and courage. It was a wonderful morning.

"Teach a child to choose the right path, and when he is older he will remain upon it."
                                                                                               Proverbs 22:6