Our Ordered Steps

We've been busy with those seasonal tasks that anchor us to earth, the actions that over the course of a lifetime become ritual.  We all work.  We all find respite from work.  These are fixed truths.

October and November were unusually warm, and I welcomed a brief stay of the inevitable, but now, in mid-December, we still wait for winter, for a bitter wind to rush over the sleeping earth, and for snow to cover browns and grays. It's quieter outside, with cricketsong quelled and songbirds warming their caps under some southern sun.  Even the homely cries of geese are gone, and the only bright patches to draw the eye are brilliant sunrises and sunsets and flashes of feathery reds and blues outside the living room window. When darker, slighter birds gather by the dozen to form crowns on the tops of backyard maples, we watch them, too.

There's a rightness and comfort to the constancy of seasons, and a holy sense of wonder in the knowledge that they always come, placid in their certainty and confident of their place.  Sometimes, when I'm spinning and lost and dark, they ground me.  They stand as reminder that the One Who moves the earth and moon, pins the sun in its place, and orders the seasons, will one day fully order all the burrs and knots of humanity, too.

In this confused and mild December, He still rules the season and each moment.  We move through Advent, and in the darkness that falls on us too fast, we light candles, read of hope, and sing together, waiting for the greater Light to come.

Piper Flips Pancakes

...and Someone Else eats the batter.

In Training

We call him "Monster" so frequently that he actually will come running when we say it.

What a good, little Monster...

A Piano Duet

Not as subdued as it appears.

Also-- a lot more fun.

Little Schroeder

If you're looking for accompaniment for a formal occasion, he's your man.  Listen closely, and you can even hear him bellowing sweetly singing along.


A month ago John and I were even more wild and daring than usual. For the first time since Millie was born (which, if you're counting, is 13+ years ago), we spent a night together without any children.  Children on the outside, that is.  If the wombkin Millie counts as company, then we hadn't spent a night together without children since a month after our wedding 14 years ago.



John's high school buddy was getting married a few hours away from our Owen family, and since the reception was slated to last until eleven o'clock at night, John made the wild! crazy! decision to book a hotel room.  (Keep in mind that we haven't even spent a night in our own home without children in all these years, let alone in a hotel.)

The wedding ceremony took place in an old, stone chapel, and the reception was held in a genuine castle, with stone walls, nooks and crannies around every corner, and a library straight out a storybook, shelves from floor to high-vaulted ceiling.  To add to the ambiance, an older man even assured us that the place is haunted by more than one bonafide spook.  The food was excellent, and the hotel room we stayed in was the fanciest one in which I've ever set foot. Granted, I have limited experience, but, still-- FANCY.

I took no pictures, though, which would normally bar this from shotsnaps, except for this, the best part of the night.  The dance floor was thronged with people at close to eleven.  I sat at the table, quietly people-watching, when the throbbing dance beat that had filled the place for a couple of hours was suddenly replaced with a jolly polka.  Within seconds, I felt for the first time the little 14 and 1/2 week body within me kick up heels and dance until the polka ended.  For you Johnson children who know the significance of a good polka played loudly, it felt as if the baby was knowingly giving a grand salute to Dad.

So, this babe has been named the Polka Papoose, or Polka'poose, with a nod to the man who gave us polka and clapping on Sunday afternoons.

O, Tannenbaum

Deborah usually takes the girls along when she cuts a Christmas tree for Mom, but this year, Debbie's friend Rundy came, and I tagged along, too, so that we could get our Jesse tree at the same time.  If you're local, ask me about this place!  My family used to get trees here when I was younger, and it has everything going for it-- lots of trees, a long trek up a steep hill, good prices ($12.00 for any tree you see?  Sure thing!), and a friendly owner who pelts the girls with snowballs when there's snow and who turns a blind eye when we're short a dollar.

Oh, and a makeshift bridge that shudders delightfully when you jump on it.  What more could anyone want?

I brought the camera so that we could take a snapshot of the tree-cutting, but soon the camera passed hands to every girl we have, so most of the following pictures were taken by one of those snap-happy children. (Seriously snap-happy.  I had to delete a silly amount of pictures when we got home.)


(My, that's a solid specimen there, huh? Bubbly personality, too.  You can tell.)

While I was dutifully sawing down our evergreen,

Annika, for reasons unknown, turned into this.

I thought these two pictures deserved to be side by side.  :)

And then, home again, home again, jiggety-jig.

Take That, Santa Claus!

It doesn't take much to delight children-- stickers, songbooks, and sweets.  On St. Nicholas Day, all of them from big to small rushed downstairs to unpack their shoes.  (Thanks for those Christmas songbooks, Molly!  I saved them all year to tuck into their shoes, and the girls are using them daily.)

It Takes Only Thirty Minutes to Dismantle a House

(These snapshots brought to you by my camera's convenient location within arm's reach.)

For C., who asked about our h'learning, here's the schedule I finally made a few weeks back after the painful act of submitting our scanty first quarter reports convicted me to do better for my family. (Right click if you want it large enough to actually read.  Skip to the snapshots below if you don't.)

Two needful comments:
1. This is flexible.  It has to be!  It's a rare day that we get everything done that's on the schedule (has it even happened yet?), and usually we mix things up as needed throughout the day.  Over the last several years, as our family grew and our formal h'learning horde increased, I found I needed something like this to even make it through the day.  It's necessary, to some extent, to organize the content area so that I can be working with those who need it while others are learning what they can on their own.  Without a schedule, I just throw up my hands, and we all weep together.  We don't like that.  (And it still happens.  Look at the schedule!  I'm helping five different people learn five different levels of math at the same time.  Why?!)

2. This schedule is the reason why we're learning more together.  It's also the root of our house being in a constant state of If-Someone-Drops-In-They'll-Have-To-Shovel-Their-Way-Through-To-Us.  Also, I've had no time for making Christmas presents yet.  Nor baking Christmas cookies.  Nor sending Christmas cards.  Nor wrapping presents or filling stockings.  Nor...much of anything at all besides learning, making meals, and setting the downstairs to rights each evening before we celebrate Advent together.  Oh, and we do laundry sometimes.  I'm wiped out at the end of each day, but at least I have a clean conscience.

Keep that in mind as you observe thirty minutes of our morning.

It starts quietly enough, though Polka'poose has begun to protest Piper curling up on my belly.

Even this one looks innocent enough.

But there's often a calm...

before the storm.

The first thirty minutes are always that potent mix of industriousness

and the efficient destruction of the entire downstairs by two small boys.

Sometimes the monotony is broken by flocks of birds.

Thank goodness for that.

Musophobia With the Lights On

I let the oldest three stay up a bit later than normal, and as a consolation, I let these three fall asleep with the twinkle lights on.  After checking on them later, Annika told me I should take a picture of Piper.

You see, Pip sleeps directly below the attic crawlspace, and hearing all the scampers, scratches, and gnawings of old-farmhouse-night-creatures has given her a small phobia of mice.

I say "small," but it's really a large enough fear to cause her to empty out her pillowcase, stuff her feet inside for safekeeping, and sleep all topsy-turvy at the foot of her bed...more than once.

Then there's this boy, who's not afraid of anything, but, then, he has Hulk for a bedfellow.

And please don't worry,  We're kind to rodents in this house.


This year, we combined our post-harvest Gobble-Gobble Garden Party with the annual Cousin Summertime Sleepover (I suppose there just wasn't enough summer to go around this year).

Because I was feeling less than super-heroic, I scaled the menu way back this year, but we kept the donuts.  When choosing what to jettison, always keep the donuts!  Plus, Millie made soft pretzel sticks and honey mustard sauce, so we were at least were able to give our bodies both savory carbs and sweet carbs.  (Another rule: always combine your savory junk with sweet junk.  They cancel each other out and leave you feeling full of leafy, green vegetables.)

This boy just couldn't handle all the grease, though.  What a baby.

Two Are Better Than One

To set the scene: a lone boy plays peacefully after breakfast.

Enter stage left: a second boy, bent on one thing only.

1. He inspects.
2. He destroys, and I admonish.
3. He ignores all reproof and delights in destruction.

Ezekiel notices, flops down and exclaims (with melodrama he's learned from his sisiters), "Oh, NO! Not AGAIN!"

Scene closes with both boys, doing their thing.

She Turns Birthday Yarn into a Hat

...and it's a beauty.  (I think she is, too.)