Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pretty Happy Funny Real at the Lake

This is part of my  Grandpa Bob's space, in the garage, up at the lake. 
 Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life: Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real.
Today's photos are from our little vacation in July at my grandparents' Lake Cabin.  There is some controversy in our family about whether this is really a "cabin".  In our minds, cabins don't have electricity.  But this cabin is not a luxury home, at least!

In the cottage at night.
*Warning! This post contains explicit photos of dead fish.  Don't look if you won't want to see.*

Gibbie, with one of the many fish he caught!  We had fish for breakfast and dinner more than once!

 I am excited planning and launching the kids' lessons for the year.  Things have made a lot more sense since I realized that this is Ezra's kindergarten year.  We were calling last year kindergarten, but he just turned six, and if he were in school, this would have been the year to start the big K.  Physically, emotionally, socially, mentally, I'm quite sure. 
Happy! We discovered our friends have a cabin near by, so we met up in Battle Lake! 
 I've been trying to figure out how people do it, homeschooling.  It seemed so simple until we tried!  It's really crazy.

I have a theory that effective homeschooling families either let the house go to hell, or just have way better homemaking skills than I do!  Maybe some families can function in more chaos than we can?  Or can be joyful and free with way more order and discipline than I can?
Really, I can't, mustn't  relax any more than I am.  We need order to function, and that order, for me, is hard-won.  I seem to just make a mess wherever I go.  Sometimes I feel like Pigpen from Charlie Brown.  I look around me, at the space that started the day Reasonably Tidy, and marvel that I was here while it happened.  I was a part of it.

Happy! Picnics every meal. 
 The atmosphere of our home is so important.  How can one learn but in joy and peace?  But how can one have joy and peace and order with all these children and so much to do?!  I read blogs and books by mothers with many more children than I, trying to level up to the task.
We had banjo music.  And my father.  Happiness.
 I wonder if I have an Idolatry of the Moment that gets in the way.  The desire that every moment be joyful.  A reluctance to insist, for fear of spoiling innocence and curiosity.  In other areas of our life, we have found that insisting and expecting develop good habits, which are the pathway to curiosity and freedom and fulfillment.  But insisting and expecting are hard.  I shirk from fear of being oppressive.
Happy! One fish after another.
 Really, I just want to have fun.  I want to read all day in the hammock with the kids.  I don't want to do phonics and definitely don't want to insist my beautiful children do math lessons and that make them complain at me! Rather I would chuck it all and go to the woods again, or  play Skully in the parking lot for the rest of the afternoon, or make stacks and stacks of pictures. 
Grandma Loretta and Grandpa Bob, sitting and looking out towards the lake. The bestest part about being at the lake is being with Grandma and Grandpa.  (The kids' great-grandparents)
But this year, I am sure that its time for doing the hard daily work.  The mechanical disciplined work of learning tough new skills.  Important skills that will open doors to worlds of enchantment.  We have to do it.  It will be worth it.   

Real: cleaning the fish: skills shared and learned.
But how do we do it?  Can I? Can they? Really, are we capable of this?
Real.  The fish are dazzlingly beautiful, glittering rainbows of sunsets and spots.  Scaling and filleting them is quite real.
Fish Heads, fish heads, roly-poly fish heads.  Eat them up, Yum!

We have but three children, but will they survive intact?  Hopefully we will each come out of this year in one piece, unlike these fish! 

round button chicken

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Messiah Songs for the First Sunday of September

 Awake my soul and with the sun (1982 hymnal #11)
Uncreated One
Wonderful Maker
Speak O Lord
Many Are the Words
Now to Live
Sanctus (Mass of Plenty)
Lord's Prayer (Kidder)
 Take My Life and Let It Be
Let Your Healing Love
One Bread One Body
Beautiful Lord
Forth In Thy Name O Lord I Go (Karen)
Playing in a stream, I think at the Devil's Punchbowl, near the Red Cedar in Wisconsin?

By request I am posting songs planned for this week at our church, Messiah Episcopal.  It can help children to participate in the worship if they are familiar with the music.  There is a nice nursery at Messiah, with nice folks in it, but children are also welcome in the service. 
We are in St. Paul on 1631 Ford Parkway, on the corner of Macalester and Ford.  Services are at 8:30 and 11:00 on Sunday Mornings.

How do you help children worship?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Family Trip in Canoe Country + Tips

In June, we went to the Boundary Waters for a week-long camping trip.  We had perfect weather.  I thought the bugs were normal, everyone else said they were horrible. 
I want to share a bit of our experience and some tips for camping with kids.  

Left to right, Back: Jess, Willem, Libby, Steph. Front: Gibbie, Ezra
 This was our crew, minus Paul because he was taking the picture.   Here we were on the top of the Palisades on Seagull Lake.  Seagull is at the very end of the gunflint trail, which meanders north out of Grand Marais.  The Boundary Waters is designated a wilderness area.  It largely has no roads or buildings.  When we camp there, we carry all our stuff in canoes and live entirely outdoors.  There are designated campsites on the lakes.  Good maps are available of all the lakes, and along with a compass, they are absolutely necessary.  I straightened out one group of paddlers who were completely disoriented!  Each campsite has a fire grate and a latrine, which is just a seat over a hole in the ground.  We call them "ranger boxes" but I've never heard anyone else use that term.  My dad always mentions it to rangers when we run across them, and the rangers don't seem to appreciate it.

The Palisades are a tall, sheer rock cliff on the edge of a large island.  Passing by in the water, ancient petroglyphs can be seen on the rock face, though we couldn't find them this year.  We hiked to the top to take in the view.  I love seeing the island-studded lake, and the patterns of the wind on the water like stretchmarks riffling across the lake, and the giant cloud shadows sliding over the lake and islands.  There are blueberries at the top.  The hike up is short and easy.
 One of our favorite activities was reading The Lord of the Rings aloud.  (We read selectively; lots of parts had to be saved for after kid bedtime or out of earshot!)  It was so exciting to read this book that is so dear to us with friends who are so dear to us.  Which brings me to 

Family Camping Tip #1
Bring with other Helpful Adults

The inclusion of other adults tips the balance of the trip in favor of the adults.  It gives more people to share the workload and the child supervision.  We took turns cooking, cleaning, getting water, reading aloud, steering, duffing. (for the uninitiated, duffing is the coveted position in the canoe where one does not steer but one's butt is wet for the duration. Duffer may be in charge of snacks, drinking water, sunscreen, leading songs, and navigating, if duffer is not a child)

In our experience, it is not fun to go camping with another family with little kids so that the kids can play together.  In reality, kids are a delightful liability on a camping trip.  They need constant supervision around the ever-present dangers of fire and water.  They get hot and tired and they may whine.  They can't carry much stuff or steer.  
With the help of an awesome grown-up, kids can be tons of fun.  They can build a fire, paddle, sing, gather firewood, fish, remind us to be awestruck, set up tents, and do everything around camp that they couldn't do on their own.  
If there are more grown-ups around, we can take turns being the awesome kid-helping grown-up and relaxing.  Okay, not that much relaxing happened because we had some sickness which threw a wrench in our plans.

 Family Camping Tip #2
Expect Stuff to Go Wrong
People can get hurt, crabby, and sick, and weather can threaten.  Except for the weather, all of these things can make you equally miserable at home.   When we go camping, we know we will be working hard.  Since we don't expect leisure, we can enjoy it when it happens instead of being mad that we can't expect complete relaxation all the time. 
Family Camping Tip #3
Be Well, Well Prepared
The Boundary Waters is not the place to go if you have never outfitted yourself on a trip before.  It might be dangerous to be unprepared in the wilderness.  You want to know what you are doing, and have all the right stuff.
Having the right stuff will make your trip more fun, relaxed, and carefree on any camping trip with kids.  Having the right stuff can prevent you from having way too much stuff, one of the most common packing errors.  The more experienced we get, the less we bring, because I'm not packing three of everything just to make sure, or because each one has something wrong with it!
I recommend the book Canoe Country Camping: Wilderness Skills for the Boundary Waters and Quetico by Michael Furtman.  He has excellent lists for clothing, gear, and food, and this is an all-around great guide to going to the BWCA.  First Aid Kits in particular, need adapting.  They aren't stocked with a week in the wilderness in mind. I think it would be wise to start with a decent small wilderness first aid pack and beef it up.  You just want enough supplies that you can keep likely accidents clean and freshly bandaged for your whole trip.
When I say the right stuff, I do not mean the most expensive stuff.  Lots of pricey camping products are no better than cheaper ordinary stuff we already have.  On the other hand, most cheap camping stuff isn't worth the tears you will spend over broken zippers letting thousands of mosquitoes into your tent, or the shivers, blue lips, and tears of kids in rain gear whose seams burst during the first portage.
Family Camping Tip#4
Make Merry and Drive Dull Care Away

Bring along a great book to read aloud.  Sing songs, tell stories and jokes, take time to be silly and do stuff you like. 

The women who came with us were great for lifting every one's spirits.  We were with beautiful people we love in a beautiful place, doing what we like.  

 Family Camping Tip#5
Plan Your Route Wisely
With our kids, ages 7, 5, and 1 on this trip, we didn't move camp every day.  We Base-camped, meaning we set up camp in one place and stayed there all week, taking day trips as whimsy or ambition directed.  
Base-camping eliminates a ton of work, and makes a trip much simpler.  It also allows us to make a wilderness home.  The kids get to know the campsite intimately, and the little area around us.  That helps them feel more comfortable and less stressed about being away from home.  
It's important to be realistic in planning a trip. We plan to do less, and if it takes longer than expected,  we're fine.

Family Camping Tip#6
Be Flexible
I had an idea in my head that we were going to go on long day trips every day.  On our trip health didn't allow that, often weather or the ages of kids will impede our plans.  Just camping is fun and beautiful and exciting.  I had a lot more fun when I let go of my expectations and enjoyed the people I was with, in the place where we were.
To paraphrase the woman in Perelandra, instead of wishing for the good that you thought God would give, enjoy the good that he does give.

Family Camping Tip #5
Be the Grown-up

Sometimes being a grown-up is hard.  I don't always want to be in charge.
Camping is a good time for me to practice sucking it up and doing more work than seems fair.  Life is full of work, and that work can be beautiful and good if we choose to embrace it rather than sidling away from it.
I worked this trip on communicating well, asking for help, cooperating, listening, making decisions, and trusting my gut.  It was worth it.
On the shore of Lake Superior

Family Camping Tip #6
Make the most of the Car Ride
Leave early in the morning, so the kids can sleep for a good stretch of the road. (We left around 3:30am, and had three hours behind us before they woke up.)
 Plan for Meals on the road.  We like to eat a simple picnic breakfast on the shore of Lake Superior.  Then we plan a bathroom break not long after that.  Then we stop at the ranger station in Grand Marais for the permit, and pick up forgotten supplies in Grand Marais, and a quick lunch at the put-in point after the boats are loaded.  
Even given all this, going to those northern lakes is about a seven-hour car trip for us.  We bring read-aloud books, favorite toys, novel toys, audio books, and fun music.
Family Camping Tip #7
Car clothes and Big Splurge
We pack a full set of clothes for each person to change into after the trip.  Some trips really destroy clothes--it's nice to have something clean waiting in case everything we brought is dirty, ripped and smelly.  We cleaned with soap (bucket shower away from lake, then swim) the night before, and feel all good and clean.
Then we drive into Grand Marais and have a big wonderful meal at the Angry Trout, really my favoritest restaurant in the world.  That pretty much takes us all the way back home, with a stop or two for gas and bathrooms on the way.
Random people having a romantic lunch at the Angry Trout.  We were too busy having fun to take a picture of ourselves.  We opted for shade and air-conditioning with a lake view from inside after our week in the sun.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Messiah Music: Song list for August 26th

Jeff and Jackson Kidder at a coffehouse
I thought I'd experiment with trying to post a list of the upcoming songs for Sunday worship at our church, Messiah.
It's last minute this week, but we'll be singing:
Christ whose glory fills the skies (#7 in the 1982 Hymnal)
 Bright the Vision
People of God
Mass of Plenty
Jeff Kidder's arrangement of the Lord's Prayer
Kidder's Sanctus
Deep Within
We will run
All my days
The Day of Resurrection (Hymnal #210)

Gibbie and Johnny at the lock and dam

I definitely can't copy the music because of copyright, but if there's enough interest I could try to provide a songlist with Paul's help. Possibly on Tuesdays?

So, here's how I do it: I just page through my bulletin each week and pull out a copy of any song I like that we don't have a copy of at home yet.  I put them in a folder.  Before you know it, you have a quite complete songbook for Messiah!

Lukey and Ezra at swimming lessons!
Let me know if this would be helpful to you.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pretty Happy Funny Real: Birthday, Funeral

Pretty is Natalie at her recital.  It was lovely to hear how much she's learned!  She's playing beautifully and bountifully.


 Paul's Grandmother, Joyce Marine, died this month.

She died peacefully and well. We are grateful for her.

Grandma Joyce's house with dear family

This photo was taken under the Ford bridge.  It reminds me of a sanctuary.

Happy is Ezra's Long-Awaited Much-Anticipated Sixth Birthday, which was also this month.

He asked for a Blueberry Cake.  Repeatedly.  He said he did not want blueberries inside of it, but on top of it, a plain cake, with frosting.  I did all this, and thought the cake turned out beautifully.  For some reason it failed to please its honoree.  But he was quite pleased by the rest of his birthday!

There was a parade going right down our block the morning of Ezra's party!  Here we are, on the bed of Paul's truck, watching for its advent.

Funny is our Little Willem.

He likes tangling himself up in string.

He likes shoes, likes clapping.

 Happy is a wonderful place in the woods.  Quite hidden, with forts.  I won't tell where it is.  Ever.

Happy is family together: Grandpa Bill, Gibbie, Willem, and Ezra.

round button chicken