The New Wave

I don't know why homeschoolers have a reputation for abysmal fashion.  Take these two small home learners, for instance.  They boldly dress themselves with  verve and a hearty dash of panache.

Pink babushka bandana, smocked dress, tights, pink slippers (inspired by Scandinavia?):

Flower top crocheted with love by Grandma, ten gallon hat, and classic jeans combo: 

And when I write "ten gallon,"

I do indeed mean ten gallon.

The wearing of cool hats trumps being able to see.  This girl's serious about her fashion.


Beneath Warm Feathers Something Cautioned


November's spaces stretch long and bare.  It only takes a month to forget what leaves are or how the world looked when it was bulky with color instead of washed with subtleties of brown and gray-- the notes of a landscape slowing down.  The beauty is there, quiet and spare. The length of the opposite hill warms against a horizon aflame.  The last of the geese flap slow and low, with plaintive calls echoing.  Trees stand straight and unashamed, their clean lines stretched skyward.  They turn toward the longest season uncovered, and here I hunker down and deep, packing on layers and pounds alike to last until April.  Winter holds beauty, yes, but it's a harsh season at times, with days of too little light that can leave one wanting.

"Tired?" she asked me.
Yeah.  That one word tidily wraps up things for you.  I'm on month three of replacing food with nothing but candy, avoiding movement, and feeling very, very tired.

We've had lots of company and fun, hours of cleaning but even more of messing-- messing at morning, noon, and night.  Mounds neglected to kick aside and trudge through. Laundry in the center with its washing and hanging eternal. The perpetual act of decluttering wealth. The puzzle of too much, bags upon vanloads donated out with little visible change within.

We clear the garden for its cover of snow, bundle cornstalks to railings, move rosemary indoors to invigorate winter soups and stews, and leave rutabaga, brussel sprouts, beets, and kale lined like lonely sentinels to sweeten with the biting frost.

Leftover pumpkins carpet fields, having been plowed into orange shards that stand bright against the brown.  They serve the soil and the crows, who gather silently by the dozens to peck seeds. Migrating birds wheel and dip with one mysterious mind on their way to warmer climes. Woodsmoke rides the breeze and flavors the air.  Nightwind grows wild and fierce too soon and howls around the corners of the house while children sleep.  The nights seem darker and the moon brighter.

Children awake to run in early morning wind, and the first shock of color streaks the sky as their shadowy shapes tumble about the yard.  They neglect chores for romping while I watch from the kitchen window.

Days pass with malaise hanging heavy, laughter ringing loud, and noses pressed to books where words shape worlds.  Girls curl in nooks and crannies and stretch on couches, pillows, and floors to chew through dozens a week.  They arrange a king's share of playmobil and build elaborate playscapes on the library floor for Ezekiel to dismantle amid their shrieks of disappointment and his of glee.

We huddle together on the couch under blankets, reading about deox-y-ri-bo-nucle-ic-A-CID!, Crazy Caligula (who, the girls agree, should never have been emperor), the next declension (there's another?), Boticelli (she's nekkid!), and all the rest, as the year's learning finally hits its stride (don't ask about what it was like before that point, please).  We paint and make messes on the kitchen table.  We make supper and listen to the month's composer as pitch-darkness peers in the windows. We recite poetry and scripture and sing Psalms next to the fire, but mostly we read.  Columns of books teeter on every flat surface, and each day the finished are rotated out to make room for the new.

Gutters cleared, attic insulated, the widest gaping cracks caulked, windows sealed with plastic, a new pellet-stove-gift  in the library-- we check them off the list.  The house waits, halfway fastened up, as snow flurries fall outside. My hopes for a warmer winter glow.

Christmas gifts I should have made already multiply whenever I look away.  I've scratched out a list long enough to last a year, even though I'll wait until December twenty-third to begin anything.  I am years behind.  It doesn't take a soothsayer to predict failure looming.

There are hard days, yes.  Hard days always will be, but I have a belly big enough for three; a new babe, little lemon, growing still; a husband-true who takes my hand and makes me laugh; and these children to liven dark days.

Bare Feet: Sunflowers: An Old Truck

I've been ignoring my camera, which kind of correlates to the candy-eating, movement-avoiding, and overall tired-Abigail, and which perpetuated the let's-ignore-blogging-again phase, but two days ago, I took ALL of these pictures in a short space of time. What does one do with a pocketful of pictures? Slap them on a blog, of course.  What else are they good for?  (Grammar buffs: For what else are they useful?) You can thank this entire blog glut on Monday's prison break.

 Luci forced my camera hand when I was watching her and Pippi play with a window in between us.  The wind had blown both sets of chimes off the cherry tree, which is the surest sign both that wild winter is back and that they need to be packed away until spring.  The discovery delighted her, and she danced around with the chimes in her hand, and....

 I just had to put boots on and go outside, camera in hand.

Thanks for nothing, cute child.

And as long as I was already towing my camera, I took a picture of Fruity scratching a stick

and Piper helping with the harvest of sunflower heads.

At least she chose appropriate footwear.

 Rats, I like this girl, so I took a few more pictures. 

C'mon, girls!  Stop it!  Don't you know your candy-hog Mama needs to go sit on the couch like a lump?

Look at her.  She just doesn't care.


If you can believe it, matters grew yet worse.  Susannah noticed me taking pictures of Pip and started posing.  She'd freeze in funny positions, hoping I'd take note of her.  So I did.

Here she is, the goose.


And then Zeke came running over.  It was 30 degrees out.  He needed a coat.  I took a few pictures to warm him up, instead.

I have other children, too.  Imagine that!

It started out as a simple truck,

but with fifteen minutes of Mildred's diligence, it became something greater.


I don't take many pictures of her.  I can't imagine why...  Look how much she loves it when I do!




Luci again?!  Sorry.  She just looks winsome holding things.

Because I need to go finish breakfast before all the girls wake up, I'll just give you the rest in a jumbled heap.  



It Begins Before Breakfast

Piper gamely tries to read books that are still beyond her abilities.  Patience, love!


She does so with a melting look and atrocious bedhead.


And before I even  set the breakfast table, Zeke squeaks in a few long division problems, just for kicks.  That boy's a riot, I tell you.

All Hallow's Eve

If you abhor Hallowe'en, you may continue to do so, with my blessing.  I'm pretty laid-back about the whole thing, but here's an interesting article John shared with me.  (I'd call it "good," but that would give away my proclivity toward free candy, in case you haven't already guessed it.) (p.s. I don't like online debates or discussion; can you tell?)
Around these parts, trick or treating involves driving from "neighbor's" house to house, because most neighbors aren't within easy walking distance.  This driving involves stopping the van, unbuckling children, walking to a house, chatting and exchanging pleasantries of all kinds with the people who open the door, some of whom we don't really know and only see once a year but who are utterly delighted to pour forth their fructose-cious bounty upon us, and then a few minutes-- sometimes ten-- later, walking back to the van, buckling up children, and driving to the next house.  It's fun and tedious, all at once, but there are many ways in which I believe hillbilly trick-or-treating is superior to the citified version.

Here are a few irrefutable reasons, because you're dying to know them:

One.  Showing up to houses and having strangers say, "I'm SO GLAD YOU CAME!  We were WAITING FOR YOU!  You're the ONLY TRICK-OR-TREATERS we've had tonight, and I was just wondering to Frank/George/Henry/Robert if you'd come this year or not!" builds up your ego and makes you feel special and important.  It's as if receiving their candy with open hands and buckets is a selfless act of mercy.  We're really doing it for them, you know.

Two.  Because they get so few trick-or-treaters-- sometimes none-- the country folks are impressively generous with their candy portions.  No single Fun Size bar here, no-siree-bob.  On several years, the girls have been given KING-size bars, and most people give either the biggest handful from their bucket one can grab or a large treat bag stuffed to the brim with Fun Size bars.  Now THAT'S fun!

Three.  I don't really have a third, but the first two are enough, don't you think?

It's been a few years since I was dutiful enough to have the children's costumes ready in daylight.  This year was no different, as you can see by the wan quality of these poor snapshots.

We hit the books all day until around 3:30, at which point I panicked and threw the books on the floor in favor of raiding the costume bin and all the closets in the house.  A few raiding parties, scissors, fake fur, one glue gun, face paint leftover from my high school days, and an hour or two later, we were well on our way to hillbilly trick-or-treating.

Millie was Mary Poppins.  She's wearing that odd expression because she said that was what Mary Poppins looked like.  You be the judge.


Susannah was a very pleased Galadriel, and, because you can't see them, I'll tell you that sparkles shimmer on those eyelids, oh, yes.


I have absolutely no excuse for not having Annika's costume prepared a year ago.  She read Mr. Popper's Penguins right after last Hallowe'en and immediately declared that this year she wanted to be Mr. Popper, coercing as many of her siblings into dressing as penguins as she could. 

She wrangled up three. 


One and two:


The third was an ornery little coot but worth the keeping.

Upon our return home, the ritual of candy-sorting and trading began.  (I think Millie looks more like Mary Poppins here.)


And the following day, the ritual of stealing-your-sister's-candy-and-eating-it-under-the-chair began.


Told you he was ornery.