Sunday, January 19, 2014

January's Adventures

We have been enjoying the streak of warmer weather, spending lots of time outside during the day. Both boys can be soaking wet, freezing cold and yet enjoy themselves so much they won't come in! We have had several great days of sledding- and at one point our entire family was on the toboggan together! Charlie has gone out to the pond with Martin and is pretty persistent in his desire to learn to ice skate! Matthew is happy to toddle along and notice things in the way only a two year old can. ("Look! SNOW!") 

Our days have been full. There is no better way to describe it. Full of fun, baking, learning, crafting, friends, family, and life:

The cold evenings have been filled with dreaming and planning many projects. Is there nothing better than sitting by the fire giving voice to our hopes for the warmer seasons? 

This year we will be getting chickens! The boys are so excited that we will have our own hens, and I look forward to helping them learn to care for their own little brood! 
Martin is going to take a course on beekeeping and hopefully we will also have some bees joining us, as well!
Martin has big plans for some berry bushes and I am already looking forward to getting my hands into the cool earth when the time comes to plant our garden! 

That said, we are also doing our best to enjoy each moment as it comes. This season has been one filled with beauty and growth for all of us. Charlie has taken off with his reading! If Matthew is persistent enough, he can often coax his big brother into reading him a few stories when this Mama is otherwise occupied. Matthew is busy exploring his world in the most physical, playful way. Everything needs to be touched, examined, touched again. His gruff, physical nature (even at two!) often causes me to forget how sweet and caring his personality is- but the hugs and kisses he gives so freely are an awesome reminder! Abigail is so close to walking, that we are all holding our breath, waiting for the day she just heads across the room! 

We are well on our way back into a routine. It is so wonderful to watch our children thrive in the rhythmic nature of routine. The rhythms of our days cause time to blend into this long, beautiful sequence of life. The snuggles, the stories, the baking, the laundry, the baths, the crying, the singing, the kisses goodnight, the squeals of joy that come when they realize a new day has begun!

This month, we have been enjoying so many wonderful books! The boys received Owl Babies and Good People Everywhere for Christmas. A simplistic beauty is present in both of these books and they draw the children in so completely! These two stories are fast favorites for both Match and Charlie. We are also enjoying lots of other books themed around winter, sledding and snow. 

I hope that everyone reading this is enjoying this beautiful month and finding their own rhythms in the new year. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

A cup of tea...

Life with small children is hard. Very hard. You do not realize how challenging life with little ones is until you are in the thick of it. It quickly gets to the point where having an uninterrupted conversation with another adult starts to become this coveted, elusive thing you sort-of remember. I had one yesterday. A real-life face-to-face conversation without a child interrupting. It was a glorious outing with a friend for a hot cup of tea and some fun, warm, encouraging conversation. And lots of laughter. It was just what this Mama needed. 

Lately, I have been having these moments. Lots of moments that are difficult and challenging with my children. Moments where I question what we are doing. My sanity, our decision to home school, and our commitment to that decision.

But, then I have these beautiful, perfect moments. Moments where my children leave me speechless. The leave me in total and complete awe of them.

Their kindness. 
Their wonder. 
Their curiosity. 
Their joy. 
Their growth. 
Their love.
Their energy.
Their light.

These moments help me to remember that we are doing the right thing for our family.

Yesterday, over tea, I remembered that we all have hard moments, hard days, and hard seasons with our children. The thing is, the moments pass and they do not have to define us. We also are given these moments where we can see how amazing and awesome these little people who have overtaken our hearts and lives really are. We can see how the path we are on, though different, is helping them to grow and learn in ways we couldn't have imagined.

I asked Martin to read this post and his response was worth including. It gives voice to things that are important to us both.
I think about it like this. When our kids suffer setbacks or frustration, our job's not to make it all better, but to be there so that they grow through it and come out better and happier for it. ... when we talk about the hard parts of having kids, I don't think we're saying that the good moments are what balance it all out and make it worthwhile. We already know there will be good and bad moments. we're invited, required, (and lucky) to be present for all of it. It's easy to be present for the good, not so easy for the hard, but all of us being present for it together is exactly what makes it a family full of love. We're not really wishing all the hard parts away, but we like to be understood if we're not at our best when things seem to be at their hardest.
 And some of the hard parts are still somehow the good parts. Kids with so much energy and curiosity and enthusiasm, who are so intent on playing with each other one way or another, who won't take no for an answer. These things are hard, but also good. So good.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year!

I awoke this morning to find such beauty in the second day of this New Year.

We took our tree down yesterday and put it outside with the lights still on it. I came down the stairs before the little ones were up and was greeted with a beautiful view of the tree lights glowing underneath soft piles of snow. Martin had already been up for awhile and we sat snuggled on the couch by the fire reading, drinking coffee and talking about home schooling, the friends we have made, the habits we are changing, and the wonderful things we have learned in the past year.

For those who didn't know it, I took a "media break" for the holiday season and it was a great experience. I found time I had no idea I had been losing on a daily basis. It resulted in me being a more plugged in mother to my children, wife to my husband, and nurturer of my self. I had never realized how much emotional investment I was wasting on what I will kindly term "nonsense." While I enjoy using facebook for keeping in touch with friends, if I start using it again I will be weeding out quite a bit of what comes through on my homepage. 
I was pleasantly surprised to find myself with time spent more productively and genuinely. I read more stories to my children and was able to relax and enjoy playing with them. I spent more nights snuggled with my husband by the fire. We spent so much time as a family- crafting, reading, and learning together throughout this holiday season! 

We temporarily "fixed" the camera I dropped and broke in early November, so I was able to capture pictures of all the fun we were busy having. I say "fixed," because you will see some interesting shadows in the corners of the photos. This is not intentional. It is a result of the lens cover not staying quite fully open.

The children in our home school group had fun during the lead up to Christmas. We helped them make snowflake ornaments, wreaths, and candle holders. They also had lots of fun hearing advent stories and singing songs of the season. 

We were fortunate enough to partake in a Winter Solstice party with our friends that also included an advent spiral for the children.  The spiral is a time for reflection, recognition of the light within us,  and a reminder of our ability to bring that light into the darkness of the shortest days of the year. It was a really beautiful experience!

The night before the Solstice we got our tree. It was a bit of a run-around trying to find a tree so late in the season, but it was so much fun!

We bought a new star this year- made of grape vines wrapped around pine cones and acorns!
So fitting for our family!

These ornaments were made for the boys last year by one of my aunts. They looked so beautiful on our tree and are such a beautiful reminder of her! It warmed my heart each time I looked at them!

Charlie, Matthew and I made quite a few ornaments this year. These were my favorite- so sweet!

Our stars- made from sticks the boys gathered outside.

Do not let this picture fool you. We had so much fun decorating the tree that we never took any pictures! Charlie was kind enough to pose with an ornament as we were packing up the tree yesterday.

The boys on Christmas morning. They were so excited to get candy canes and oranges in their stockings!

We hosted a New Years Eve party this year. We made the celebration extra special by having cake for Charlie's _5th_ birthday. We were able to spend time with family and friends we hold dear and it was such a fun time. Everyone was home and in bed by 9:30- isn't it amazing how life with small children changes your perspective of what "late" means?!

These were the wishing sticks we put out by the fire.
What better time of year is there for self-reflection and initiation of change?

Charlie asked that I make birthday hats for everyone coming to the party. He decided on crowns after picking up a really neat castle book/playset. We picked up some felt and had a great time making them. The kids will be having fun decorating them with their friends next week.

In other news, our little guy is figuring out the whole "going on the potty" thing. I forgot how exhausting and fun and frustrating that can be. His joy and pride in being able to use the potty is fantastic. The need to use the potty for the 32nd time since waking is a bit harder to take.
Matthew is so very proud of himself (and we are too!)

To get started on some of our New Year's goals, Martin and Charlie built a set of shelves in the basement yesterday. Charlie is always _so_ excited to help Daddy with a project! What a great learning experience- planning, measuring, cutting, drilling, etc.

On top of all of the fun stuff, we tried to maintain some sense of routine and enjoyed getting out new stories for the season. Here are some of our favorites:

One of our favorite books in the Fall was "Let if Fall."  We were so excited when we awoke on St. Nicholas Day to find the other three stories in the series alongside of a box of clementines! What a treat! 

I hope you were all blessed with a holiday full of Peace, Love, Joy and Contentedness. 
In the coming year, I have genuine hopes you will find the inspiration, persistence and support you need to meet your aspirations for 2014.