Monday, August 29, 2016

In the pocket of mountains

On several occasions last summer and throughout that (last) school year, I caught myself saying, "Next year, I want to start the first day of school with my feet in the sand."

Those days, I fantasized about another time, this year in fact, where we would be free from hectic--because there had to be more to life than rush and hustle and stress.

I envisioned an off-season rental, a quiet beach, salty air.

That isn't our reality, though. We are starting school next week, in the woods. There will be water, yes--a pool! And while there won't be a beach or salty air, there also won't be rush. Or hustle. Or stress.

Today was a first day of school for a lot of area counties. I found myself with an insulated tote full of three bento lunches, two books I knew I wouldn't open, sunglasses and beach towels. The girls and I loaded up into the car and set out west to the mountains (for this area) to meet up with a sweetheart of a friend and her kids.

And you know what? There was sand.

I had my feet in the sand on the first day of school (just not our first day!). Her kiddos start tomorrow, and we planned last week that we'd enjoy the last tastes of summer together, lakeside (with a sandy beach), tucked in the pocket of mountains.
home of some very dear memories with friends

The kids swam in the lake, and we had races in the water (dog paddle, running, backstroke). We dined at picnic tables, and didn't it feel rich to pull out pepper and salt grinder, olive oil and fig balsamic vinegar to dress my salad (oh, garden fresh grape tomatoes and cucumber, diced red onion, sweet peppers, spinach, lettuce, a boiled egg and grilled asparagus--in a bento!). I took a picture.
Much larger in real life

How old was Lanie the last time we were here?


"This summer we've seen so many friends, and rarely have I remembered to take a photo," I said. I selfied with her.
Her daughter snuck in a peace sign.

We stayed in the water all day. We talked about good books, God's faithfulness, shopping. So much. There is nothing like time with a sister, and knowing your heart is loved and safe.

When it was time for them to go, they cancelled a next plan to stay longer and not rush the time, and I was glad for my yes to meet her. It's the third time in as many weeks.

Home, freckled, and ready for a coffee pick-me-up from the travel.

A first day of school ... feet in the sand ... didn't even realize it until I got home. Big smiles. Thanks, God.

And still counting (9337-9371)

homemade pickles
specially delivered by a neighbor
driveway chats
good life

a homeschool mom brainstorm
lunch on the patio
ice water
lesson planning
a home focus

a night walk with Lanie holding hands
and a Walton's episode
hard decisions
Marshall's Mom
a pool coverup from Amy

thoughts about a last summer week
reminders of goals and reasons
an author signed book in the mail--freebie!
sitting poolside with Erin, feet in the water

new understanding, however (truly) difficult
a meet up with a friend and the golden tea spoons she purchased
broccoli salad, gifted from Rebecca
yard sale browsing with Linda
the owl ring for Erin for $2

a bento book in the mail
poetry tea Pinterest finds for Tuesday plans
air conditioning
talks of a log splitter, the joy!
reminiscing old posts with Lanie

gardens getting tidied for fall
crickets in the morning
cicadas at night
a chill in the water
that hound

a good sermon

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Day story

Outside my window, the fading yellows of lilies and Susans. The season is drawing to an end, and the plants are spent of their summer glory. The marigolds are holding strong, and already, I'm making plans for autumn mums.

Giving thanks for so many things, but especially the people in my life who love us fiercely.

In the school room, staring down stacks of books, and loving these place holders in the pages. Prepping literature packets and history projects. The year is starting soon and we'll be back into a new hustle. Sitting poolside with Kellie recently and we're both soaking in the last of summer.

"This year you're going to ask me how my week went, and I'm going to say, 'It went great.'" Looking forward to new rhythms.

From the kitchen, new recipes from Pinterest. And tasty plans in queue for upcoming tea parties with Erin.

I am creating a life-giving home, and a welcoming, loving, inclusive and safe space for learning.

I don't want to forget God's faithfulness, still. Or the good things he brings through hard times. Grace. It stares back to me from the pages of a photo album, my ancients class and the still of their smiles. I remember how I entered that classroom charged and left doubly energized--dear, dear grace. God is good. And he is good to me. And I can trust him to be God.

I am reading books on bento lunches, The Live-Giving Home by Sally Clarkson, Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst, and about to open the pages of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Evangeline whispers from the pines, the forest primeval.

I am praying, yes, I am.

I am hearing the peeping, chirping sounds of birds outside, my husband working away in the garage, the distant hum of a lawn tractor. My kids are upstairs playing a game, and I have several yard piles to dispose of.

Around the house, a sense of stillness, quiet and wait. A new school year coming, a new season emerging. A puffy jacket hangs on the arm of the coat rack, and I'm anticipating the first of fall walks with Erin.

A view of my favorite things:
getting ready for back to school

last of the summer splashes

we love you

morning baskets for everyone

the biggest blossoms from Wegmans

home, sweet home

A few plans, some upcoming travels and old favorites. Field trips and connecting with friends.

At the table, plans being drawn out for tea. The spoons, the tea pot, the carafe of raspberry lemonade. Little cakes and sandwiches on little plates. The settings and delight. Poetry for the ears, a vision for our eyes, and our hearts full.

There's no place like home.

**no affiliate links**

Monday, August 22, 2016

And still counting (9305-9336)

summer splashes with friends

an evening ride on the tractor to cut grass
a morning reveille of hawk song
a family of deer trespassing
a prayerful meeting of homeschool families
the generous gift of free textbooks--hello, French 1

a quick visit with Kristine
sharing memories with Amy
school enthusiasm with a new homeschool mom
plans to get together to discuss schooling philosophies and nitty gritty
Rebecca for tea on a stormy night

a Wegmans field trip with Sandy
real talks, overdue
Marshall's Mom

hugs with Lanie
early wake-up routines
audiobooks (Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv)
a book win! Yahoo! Yippee!

packages in the mail
and books in the mail too
the look of a freshly mowed lawn
mints in the car with Erin
a really good dressing

Trader Joe's dark roast coffee
a schooling season in view
seriously good reads
the drenching drumming of a hard rain on a Sunday afternoon
new recipes to try

her song in the downpour

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Getting the most out of seventeen cents

This year I stocked up on .17 spiral notebooks. Sarah Mackenzie uses them as homeschool planners, although I still prefer and use the planner grids I get from Christian Book Distributors for homeschooling.

Last summer because of Celiac Disease and going gluten free, I was price comparing and saving receipts for our gluten-free lifestyle. I used the spiral notebooks. (Before, I used a piece of loose-leaf paper for our grocery list and meal planning that I would discard when I was finished.) Over the past year, the spiral notebook has become a great resource.

The left side opens to a weekly meal plan and at-a-glance view of activities. It now also contains other errands or stores I want to shop.

The right side was and still is dedicated to Wegmans--my main shop (I try to list items by aisle, and I listed chipotle powder several times as I'm not sure which part of the store I would be likely to find it: organic, international, or baking/spices). I plan one week at a time. I usually keep receipts and staple them to the shopping week.

I keep a dry-erase board on the fridge for my family to write down things they think of so I'm not getting random, frequent updates all week. I don't have the memory for all that. It's worked out well, and I can add in items they need/want just before I head out to shop.

Because we hit such a food rut, I started going through my Pinterest boards, and now I work backwards in the spiral notebook, writing in recipes I want to try from websites. (This has been really good, because I can get very disorganized with recipes and I don't keep a computer in the kitchen. Once I'm done with a Pinterest recipe, I make a notation in description and resave it to my did it board.) Or I will reference the meal with the page number of a cookbook I'm using that week.

shorthand recipes
This week coming, I plan to try: creamy broccoli, chicken and bacon pasta; salsa verde honey lime chicken and rice bake; strawberry avocado spinach salad; grilled fajita steak with avocado cilantro dressing. These recipes are from my Pinterest in queue board.

I've built in nights for leftovers and pizza.

What's nice about this is that I can flip through the notebook for ideas and favorite recipes, like sour cream pancakes or Linda's recipe for mac and cheese (we just use gluten free pastas in place of regular pastas and gluten free flour blends where regular flour is called).
I also use it for quick looks for lunch ideas or for pantry reminders.

trying to help Erin branch out; boxes at the top are bento lunch box configurations

quick glance for extras to pick up if it's a light week
Writing this out for Lanie. She commented just this afternoon, "I think I'll use notebooks for my lists." Or something to that effect. Here you go, honey. This is the how and why.



Monday, August 15, 2016

And still counting (9263-9304)

a really good laugh on a really brisk walk
a dishwasher, ordered
days to put things in order

piano music from Erin's hands
phone time with Nora
thoughts on community
bags of items to purge
texts with Julie

and a mom-to-mom visit
prayer with a friend
windows cleaned
found things from boxes sealed five years ago
the feeling of clean

cucumbers in a salad and not in my dog's belly
Erin's handfuls of grape tomatoes
gluten-free chocolate pudding
snacks in fridge

Olympic inspiration at the pool
swim party of ten plus three
Lisa at the pool
good friends
a nap

a date with Denise
a message in my inbox from Dad
a call from Anita
a letter to David
poems by Rebecca

"the quiet arms of trees"
cards exchanged from little hands to little hearts
summer feet
delicious, fragrant hints from the woodstove
a glass of red on a Saturday night

a movie with my man
thoughts on The Bucket List, Allen, tears
the cold swallow of vanilla ice cream in a cone
peaches, blueberries and mint
super glue

the dishwasher installed--welcome home, lovely!
Chipotle for lunch
an evening walk with Shane
a beautiful day

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


A weekly shopping run. Purchases of pretzels, puddings, fruit cups, cheese sticks--the snacky things for these last weeks of summer vacation, and some for the coming school year.

"You got pudding?!" Lanie exclaimed. "There's gluten-free pudding? I thought I'd never have that again." The prepackaged kind. I have been know to occasionally make homemade pudding, even once using avocados.

"It's gluten free," I confirmed. "Do you want chocolate or vanilla?"

But I knew.

Erin and Lanie were both into pudding even before their lunch, and you would think that today was the best day ever. I had one after my lunch, and it was good.

Grocery day is pretty exciting, especially when I come home with new things. While the grapes were sweet and juicy, and the pudding smooth and creamy, I'm happy about the thought of the cans of tomatoes and tomato paste and tomato sauce that I got for fall soups. This morning, picking peppers in the garden and thinking of stuffing them. A handful of grape tomatoes on the counter for a salad.

Enjoying the hidden sizzle and pop, the heat of a Fireworks bar. And then out into the summer heat to finish the mulch mound.

Monday, August 8, 2016

And still counting (9199-9262)

a green pepper harvested before my dog got it

fireworks chocolate
birthday wishes to David at 82 years
that he is one of my greatest loves

my dad
five years here, this home
art camp for Erin


the art teacher's delightful dogs
the kale salad from Walmart
food shoots

a whiteboard for the school room

long thoughts on friendship

Lisa and her family
Marshall's Mom and her family
David and Anita

friends in neighbors
Nora, an encouragement
Becky P's faithful prayers
Kellie, all these years

a kindred in Rebecca
for far away sisters in Christ who hold me up in prayer
the hard thoughts in light of the cross
a $7 planning book

morning hours in modern history, planning
a soft purple blanket
Trader Joe's coffee pods, still, yum
checks (outgoing) in the mail
a dance season for two girls

the tree canopy on the drive home
mints in the car with Erin
bookshelves organized
back-to-school mason jars and organization boxes
sharpened color pencils, new markers and crayons

a paper mache owl on the bookshelf
a discount on car service
a big stack of paper plates
a new dishwasher
the tremendous fruit bounty brought by Linda

summer harvests
sunflowers in a vase
cupcakes with strawberry marshmallow frosting
a number 5 candle
the lazy flight of butterflies over the pool

Lanie, a young lady
Erin's goofy moves while we were dishwasher shopping
a cleared off school table
a basement purge
reclaiming home

a salad with vegetables from the garden
ice water
crickets chirping near the pool
the sound of night creatures singing out
texts with Cindy

hot tea in a mug
and thank you, friend xoxo

the difference here makes

Saturday, August 6, 2016


Yesterday we celebrated a lot of things.

Erin's work from art camp.

I love the whimsy of her work.

Full of life.

Kellie's birthday--swimming, Mexican layer dip, the gooiest-best chocolate brownies.

Our five years here.

Linda came by bearing an armload of bounty: brie, melons, farmer's market berries--the blackberries were the biggest, ripest ones I'd seen all summer!

We ate like little piggies--burgers on the grill, lettuce wrapped with tomatoes and onions and cheese; potato salad and fruit salad; cheese and crackers. Dessert was vanilla cupcakes with strawberry marshmallow icing and scoops of ice cream.

"Would you like ice cream?" I asked Linda.

"Yes!" she smiled.

"And a cupcake too?" I asked.

"Yes!" she said. "It's a party. I came ready!"

Cupcakes and ice cream for all. Bellies bursting, we went for a walk where the mailbox used to be. And then we walked back down the driveway and all around the field. We sat on the patio brick wall and I loaded her arms with yellow squashes for my dad.

We talked about art camp. We talked about her new job this fall. We talked about these years here and the Friday night dinners.

"This has meant a lot to me," she told me, her words full. Five years of Friday night dinners. A place where she was welcome and included, safe and loved.

Living here has opened doors to such a deep relationship with her. Her weekly presence in my kids' lives is shaping their view of their future homes where friends fill the table. My kids grow up expecting they will also have Friday night dinners with friends like family crowding around a table. All of this came about because we are here and she was here

"It's meant a lot to us too. You mean a lot to us. The kids are taking all this in and it's already shaping their families and homes," I told her.

Celebrating this time--so full, bursting. Not just bellies, but hearts.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Five years

We were talking one night about choices we've made. I know there are plenty of times I've said that if I had it all to do over again, I would not have been a French lit major. But now, I take it back, all the times I said it.

I majored in languages because I enjoyed them. I also always wanted to write, and when I got my foot in the door at the publishing company, I can't say that my degree was a big part of it, but it was a part of it. And when I moved into advertising, I proofed French and Spanish language ads that ran in Canada and South America--so having the formal education in languages helped then for sure. Now as a homeschool mom, a love of language and literature has served me well at home and as a tutor.

While I didn't have the vision in college to see where a French degree would take me, I'm thankful for the hindsight to see how well and how often it has served me.

"Couldn't we say the same about the move?" I asked Shane.

Everything in him (regarding this house, not about moving) protested, 'What are we getting into?' A to-do list twenty years long. A house that needed a bit of loving.
midway, a transformation from before to after

Woods that want their land back. It is the exact opposite of our former house.

Trying to make sense of the changes going forward from start, five years ago, was a wrestle--a lot like trying to make forward sense of a French degree--but in looking back, I see the blessing, the healing, and the great gift of it all.

Thank you, God, for healing.

Being here has been good for Shane. It's been good for me. It's been good for the girls. Thank you, God, for all you have done in our lives.

Looking back at these five years, we remembered how Lanie always wanted to climb a tree or climb a fence--things we didn't really have in life before (all those trees so small and new). The first thing she did was climb our split-rail fence. Then she climbed up into the cherry tree. And it wasn't long before I saw the sunny smiling faces of my kids and their friends peeking out from among the pines--higher than I'd ever dare to go. Thank you, God, for trees and a fence.

My kids raced bikes down the front hill in three seasons, and rode sleds in snow in a fourth. They've picked raspberries along the perimeter by the handfuls. Caught lightning bugs. Spied hawks, owls, all kinds of colorful birds, squirrels, chipmunks, foxes, snakes, deer, bunnies--and don't forget the frogs!
They've walked along the garden rocks, picked up sticks for the bonfire, danced across the field--free! Lanie learned to swim on her own (despite the former years of instruction) her first swim season here. And Erin has taken to water like a little fish. We've loved the beauty and privacy of the woods. Thank you, God, for a place and the freedom to be ourselves.

the original stomps

The captain's bell rings out all year. Baby birds cry out from new nests each spring. A kitchen table that belonged to Joel and Cindy is now the sweet altar to coffee dates, dinners and celebrations.

And this school room that was (their) family room, is still a hub of family space--and our biggest remodel to date.

She was in kindergarten.

We wrote on the walls and the subfloors.

“So obey the commands of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and fearing him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land of flowing streams and pools of water, with fountains and springs that gush out in the valleys and hills. It is a land of wheat and barley; of grapevines, fig trees, and pomegranates; of olive oil and honey. It is a land where food is plentiful and nothing is lacking. It is a land where iron is as common as stone, and copper is abundant in the hills. 10 When you have eaten your fill, be sure to praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Deuteronomy 8:6-10, NLT

Thank you, God, for these rich details: the captain's bell I hoped to order, you had waiting for me as a gift under the vines; a table for hospitality that's been used at play dates and coffees and community building; the school room stripped down to its bones so that I could once again mark that we were here--your word in heart and hearth. Thank you.

Thank you.

God put the listing under Shane's nose, but he wrapped my heart all around this home. The crunch of fall's leaves underfoot. Sunrises peeking through the woods at first light. The delicious smell of woodsmoke from the fireplace and bonfires. The sweet serenade of frogs in summer, crickets in the fall, and birds at spring's first warmth--and all seasons, the precious and free laughter of my children growing up.

This place is a gift I'm grateful for every single day, and every single day I treasure something old or new about it, turning it over in my heart again and again. The smell of field fragrance; the sweet flavorful burst of the season's berries; the way the mortar's frozen ooze holds together the schoolroom fireplace bricks;
the clamor and ring of the captain's bell; the splash of blue in a summer season, accompanied by joyous shrieks and laughter; the deep warmth of a fire on a cold wintry night (or school day)--this old cold house that made us recipients of my dad's many handmade blankets ... thank you, God, thank you.

This move brought us closer to our church, and closer to Linda and David and Anita--giving my kids memories and love that are shaping their hearts and future homes. This move brought us to new neighbors who have blessed us with love and generosity. Oh, thank you, God.

But it's more than just a move and more than just a home. Thank you, God, for showing me what life can be like when I lay down my own pursuits and seek your will. Thank you for these five full years. Yeah, going forward, it felt like a puzzle whose picture was obscure--but looking back, an answer to so many prayers.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

One day shy

Remember how last September I was working my way through the Whole30, and then someone gifted me a bakery item on day 29 for my birthday? And I was all, "Great! Thanks! I'll eat it tomorrow!" And she was like, "Don't eat it tomorrow, eat it today while it's fresh."

But she didn't know I was on Whole30. And the devil said, "What's one day? It's not like anything is going to be different if you do 29 days instead of 30."

And I said, yeah. That makes sense. Except it was a lie--because of the disappointment Shane had and the guilt I felt. So now it's gone down as a family joke, my Whole29. (It's ok, I laugh too. Great lesson learned.)

Well, I was sitting with Erin in the school room today when we heard an odd sound and she got up to look out the window but didn't see anything out of the ordinary. Suddenly she said, "Mom, the police are here."


And sure enough, a state trooper is at my door asking me if I own a brick mailbox. I grabbed my shoes and phone and rode with him to the street.

And there was my mailbox in a thousand pieces.

"HOLY COW!" I took a picture.

And then taking in the whole scene, "OH MY GOSH, IS HE OK?" As I saw the overturned truck next to it.

He was ok, not a scratch on him, thank God! And in good spirits as well, thankfully, because really? It's just a mailbox. It's so replaceable. He's probably giving himself enough grief at calling his boss to say he flipped a work truck.

This day had its challenges, starting when the dishwasher broke at 4 a.m. And not stopping there. But this hard stop--an overturned truck, and a myriad of other possibilities that show God's mercy in all. In the thick of this day, I had to slow down, and time seemed to slow with me. The driver and not a scratch on him, despite not wearing a seat belt and flipping his truck. I saw all my neighbors today and got to look them in the eyes and talk to them. And the ones I didn't see called me to check on us. I got to meet a few folks down the road for the first time. This guy lives a stone's throw and is a real gem.

he was crouching to get in the frame

"The mailbox didn't make it to five years," Erin said, face blotchy from tears. She cried when we got the new fridge. She cried when we got the new oven. Her sensitive heart.

"It's kinda like your diet. It quit the day before!" Shane laughed.

Yeah. Funny.

Five years here tomorrow. There will be cake--on paper plates.
Minus one dishwasher and one mailbox
Sitting here after all this day, listening to the locusts and crickets outside, so loud. Reminds me of how loud their sounds were those many years ago, during an August visit here, meeting Joel (for the first time and loving him instantly); meeting him just before we listed our former home. The woodland sounds made my ears ring. Tonight, they make my heart sing.

Monday, August 1, 2016

And still counting (9151-9198)

at the meeting, in time
low flying geese, southbound
their honking at dusk
Kelly T and the girls over for the afternoon
happy magnets in the mail
Thank you, Lanie!

a smile to a stranger
and realizing soon after she was not a stranger
Erin's message on the fridge

Nora's cookies
the couches at the library
a close relationship with Lanie
Erin's spazzy dances at the grocery store
tea in the mail

peppermints from Trader Joe's
Trader Joe coffee pods
good talks with my man
evening walks holding pinkies (and sometimes hands) with Lanie
the years, restored

neighbors we love
and neighbors who love us back
little silver-plated tea spoons
shiny, golden duct tape for book binding
a phone call and friendship with Marshall's Mom

black-eyed Susans everywhere
cucumbers on the vines
and that the dog hasn't discovered them yet!
my kids' hearts for hospitality
a call from my dad

and her outing with her sister
pool splashes
inner tubes
home, sweet home

talks with Kellie
our kids' friendships
a swim date with Rebecca and her kids
lots of frogs for little hands
Erin swimming in the deep without floaties

the old roads in big sky
a VBS revisited
squashes in the garden
yellow grape tomatoes in our salads
hawk sightings

Nella's happy Saturday bone dance
good sleep
summer reading