Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Build Up in Pictures - Part 1


Our 13th anniversary was the day we found out we were heading to England for the year. Lucky 13 for us. 
After dinner we headed headed directly to the used bookstore and to the travel section. 

Came home with a healthy load of evening reading.

The next day John came home with this awesome bird's eye view of our year - including lists of our kid's name-places to visit, family history places to visit, lists of literature to read. We are more or less sticking to these broad outlines.

Next came the Sabbatical Proposal. Turned it it and wait. 

Request approved!

The official invitation from Blackfriars, Oxford. It's all coming together!!!

Buying the airline tickets! Dulles to Reykjavik, Iceland (with a stop for fun) and on to London, England. 

Planning our roadtrip. Dover, Calais, Normandy, Lisieux, Giverny, Paris, Waterloo, Brussels, Amsterdam, Harlem, Rhine River, Bavaria, Salzburg, Gaming, Vienna, Krakow, Venice, Milan, Switzerland, Nevers (we are hoping to do Rome and other Italy in the Spring) and finally land safely in Oxford. Six weeks. One van. Three suitcases. Eight Loves. Unlimited awesome. 

Travel Insights

I don't want to repost many things here but in this case there is really no way that I could say this any better. This article explains exactly what I think (and don't think) about travel and self-discovery. It is quite long but well-worth the time. It is thoughtful, insightful and for us, extremely relevant. Though it really is relevant for anyone as it it speaks mostly about self-discovery and seeking holiness. It articulates many of my own vague instincts that I never got around to fully realizing until I read them here. Without further ado: Against the Cult of Travel: Or What Everyone Gets Wrong About the Hobbit

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Four years ago I wrote that I had a "reason to blog." Apparently I had more reasons not to! Ah well, no biggie. We'll just pick back up here. I've have another baby since then. Gloria, Glo, Glo-stick or Stick for short. She has been a total pain in the butt and joy to the heart. She is now three and sleeping in her own bed and going potty on the toilet and so I don't really know what to say except that I am still in process of accepting that she's not really a baby. But she's still my baby and no one can tell me otherwise.
So, the reason for the resurrection of blogging is that we are about to have a LOT of adventures that we don't want to forget and that we want to share with our family and friends and stalkers. Note the side bar for full explanation.
We leave the very end of July for OXFORD! We are roadtripping around the Continent for six weeks first however and are in deep planning for both of these distinctly different types of adventures. The primary purpose of this post is to catch the blog up to this point. I think I'm just going to post my Christmas Letter from this past year and fill in a couple gaps.

December, 14, 2016

Dear friends and family,
Merry Christmas from all the Loves! If the length of this letter wears you out upon first glance then feel free to toss it in the trash. It is not my fault that John brought me a gin and tonic as I sat down to write it and that gin increases my verbosity. If you continue to read then I hope this missive is finding you happy, healthy and safe. If it doesn't then I sincerely hope that you receive comfort and consolation this Christmas season. We are doing well here in The Burg with life being very busy and full all the time. Busy with great activities and opportunities for growth and full of friends and community. That is our general info that more or less stays the same year to year (Thanks Be To God).
John - John’s update for the year includes the rest of the family. In November of this year he received an invitation from the Dominicans at Oxford to come next year as a visiting scholar. With the approval of his University and the financial generosity of family and institutions we are all heading over to Oxford next year from August to June. While we are in Oxford, John will be writing a commentary on St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae (the second part). In between that epic writing project we hope to shuttle the kids hither and yon on the continent and Great Britain. Words fail to express the gratitude and excitement this opportunity
inspires in us. Once in a lifetime for all eight of us! (WHO GETS TO DO THIS?! Gratitude, thy name is Love Family).
Alexis - Less jaw-dropping updates from this quarter. I am still reaping the benefits of the kids being in a Homeschool Academy (a hybrid homeschool/classical school that meets two days a week and assigns work the other three days). I have Mondays at home with my littles when I can read Good Night Moon and Pajama Time and prepare soups for the dark winter days and consolidate calendars and grocery shop. Sometimes I jog and sometimes I read. It’s a lovely day of the week. It feel like I get to be a person, a mom and a homemaker in addition to a home-educator (my full-time occupation the other 4 days of the week) since we are in this co-op. However, next year’s role of full-time tour guide and traveling-with-six-kids-expert-in-the-making is looking very inviting as I peruse DK travel guides all night, every night. Unless I’m watching BBC’s Pride and Prejudice or Brideshead Revisited (also considered “research” into British culture). 
Anthony (12) - Anthony loves the Co-op. He enjoys the both the academic rigor, the structure and the social aspects that it affords him. When not parsing English or Latin grammar (at which he far surpasses my own abilities and often John’s…in fact, I’ll have to have him proofread this parenthetical statement, I’m quite certain there’s something wrong with it…) he enjoys being on the soccer field more then anything else. He’s coming along as quite a defender and he is rarely surpassed by another player in the level of engagement he has in the game. He and Gloria are chummy and she adores, “my big brudder, Antio.” This is a limerick he composed about her: 
“We call our Little One, Glo.
She likes to exclaim, “No, no!”
She loves reading books
And hiding in nooks
I wish I could not let her grow.”
Rosemary (9) - Our sweet little artist. Rosie has been in 2 different weekly art classes this year and really impresses me with her ability to get what she envisions out of a pencil. She also works really hard in school, is deliberate and rarely requires my help. In fact, she regularly runs “Tot time” which is her version of preschool with Catherine and Gloria. She’s much craftier then I am so they appreciate her intervention into their early education almost as much as I do. She is also emotionally a (relatively) stable element in the house. We Loves, are none of us super even-keeled, but she is our version of such a person. I love her and cherish her.
Thomas (8) - Oh Thomas! Thomas has been described to me by his tutors as: energetic, enthusiastic, extroverted, excitable, eager, exhilarated and engaged. I will break the trend by using an “i” word. This child is intense. He is one of those kids who raises the level of energy in the room significantly by his entrance…before he's done a thing. He is never bored, he is never uninterested. The difficulty with him is finding enough things to channel the enthusiasm into. For example, all the children began a new math program this year and they all love it (because it is computer-based and who doesn’t love a screen?). After 5 days of school Rosie had completed 9 lessons, Anthony has completed 13 lessons. Thomas had completed 31 lessons. He is always running at about triple the enthusiasm of other kids. 
Cecilia (7) - Cece is such a great “smack-dabber”. Smack-dab in the middle of the family and always wanting to be a part of the team. She is inclusive and positive. We had a epic-fail procuring a Christmas Tree this year. We tried to switch tree farms to save a few bucks. Even John and I had trouble mustering enthusiasm for the experience compared to our regular annual tradition that costs more than twice as much but is infinity more fun, and there was more then one child alternating between weeping loudly and raging furious accusations about our pecuniarious “ruining of Christmas.” Cece however looked at each Charlie-Brown-Worthy tree and a smilingly shouted, “I LOVE that tree! And that tree LOVES ME!” And I love her. We call moment’s like that, “The Power of Positive-Ce”. 
Catherine (4) - Catherine is totally normal when it comes to wanting to run with the big kids and “do it myself” and other such developmental standards. What sets her apart in our family is that she is so tuned into how other people are feeling and how her actions effect them. She still has her toddler/preschooler moments, certainly. But she’s our only kid who regularly apologizes for her outbursts unprompted. It’s amazing. I often wish that some of her innate sense of perspective, sensitivity and maturity would rub off on me. 
Gloria (2) - She’s very two. She completely adores her older siblings and runs with the pack. Except when she’s snuggling with John. Or me, in a pinch. She’s our only kid to follow her Uncle James’s method of replacing the “f”-sound with the “p” sound. My favorite phrase being how she describes a burp, “Oh! I parted!…in my mouf.” Again, sometimes I wish for Catherine’s maturity.
In conclusion, we are happy and we wish you happiness. We are healthy and we hope for your health. We are safe and we pray for your safety. We are blessed and we are grateful for this Christ-child and for this life that he has given us. Merry, merry Christmas!

Love, the Loves

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A reason to blog

I was speaking to a wise and insightful priest who was giving me some advce about structuring my life and he said something worth passing on. He said that there is a difference between work and labor. That labor is cyclical and is never really finished (does LAUNDRY coming blaring it's trumpet into anyone elses minds?) while work produces a lasting product.
A great deal of my life (of any homemaker's life) is consumed with necessary labor. Cleaning, cooking, laundry, diapers, even a lot of our schooling can easily fall into the labor category. This explains why occasionally I will spend a week making really nice, time-intensive meals - even though that means that we don't have a clean house. It also explains why I sometimes spend time cleaning out baskets, drawers or cupboards that no one ever sees. Or why I enjoy hanging the clothes on the line in the summer even though it takes me longer to finish the laundry. I am trying to imbue some more meaning into my labor by taking extra time with it, to give it dignity and raise it closer to the level of work. Because it is very hard to do this full-time mothering thing long-term.
This video from TED describes a study that was done about work and meaningful work (or labor vs. work). He describes how they gave people lego figures to build and first told people they would be disassembled eventually but put them under a table. In the second instance they actually dissassembled the finshed lego figure as the person was building the next one. And at about 7:40 into the video (the whole thing is worth watching - especially as fodder for contemplating a homemakers life) he makes this excellent point. "By breaking things in front of peoples eyes we basically CRUSHED any joy that they could get out of this activity." Ummmm...can we say, "welcome to my life"? There is is folks. Science confirms it.
Every person who stays at home just to watch their children systematically destroy every bit of effort and work that they put forth can give a hearty "AMEN" to that point.

I actually experience home-schooling to be more work then labor and it is one of the reasons that I am able to stay home with my kids even though so much of my daily life can seem uninspired and uninspiring. I mean one can only read so many of those "savor the moment, young mother" memes and still have them mean something to you. After a while you just want to DO something that stays done! Like teaching someone how to read or reading the Secret Garden or even planning for next year. That is one way I cope. Blogging is another...unless of course Blogspot deletes my post...sometime's it's as bad as my kids.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Price of Peace: The Child Tax Law

Yesterday, in between a series of social units I had three hours of time at home with the kids. I thought it would be nice to get about 15 minutes alone(ish) in garden to pull up our accidental harvest of carrots since the ground was nice and soft from the rain. So I grabbed my rain boots, my trowel and my four year old and we started pulling out carrots.

photo 4

Everyone was accounted for: the baby was getting a much-needed nap after being schlepped around all morning and afternoon, Anthony was doing some therapeutic baking (he nearly always comes home and bakes after having a day of social units that tax his poor introverted soul), and Cece and Rosie were taking a bath after both having accidents in their pants (I don't even want to talk about it...). So I took the remaining wild-card child to the garden for some Mom-n'-Tom time.

photo 5

While I was out there I was thinking about how my life wasn't all that bad. "See? Look, at this, my kids are getting old enough to grab a moment here and there of peace and the warmer weather opens up my world to about a quarter of an acre instead of 1400 sq. feet. Ahhhh"...I felt rejuvenated walking back to the compost heap to dump a few buckets of clippings, hosing off the dirt from the carrots, feeding the bunny and giving her some exercise. Good stuff. About 15 minutes is all I needed to recognize the true fact that I have a good, blessed life.

photo 2

But nothing in life is free.

I came into the boys fighting; the baking project abandoned and a kitchen covered with bowls and spoons and flour; the girls standing on the stairs wrapped in towels with bubbles streaming down their hair and face crying because they got soap in their eyes; soapy water covering the the floor from the bathroom all down the hallway and mixed with a bucket of dirt and pine needles that they had spilled earlier and; of course, the baby wide awake - thank you girls for crying so loudly.

photo 3

Sometimes all you need to gain a little perspective on your life is a break from it for a short period. But the problem is that nothing is free as a mom. These children tax every bit of freedom and independence that I  try to take from them and most of the time the tax is not worth the break.

But yesterday it was. I will hopefully keep remembering the smell of the soil and spring air, the feel of the wet grass, the soft fur of Lippity, the sound of nesting birds and the sweetness of carrot-harvesting with Thomas. And, maybe, MAYBE someday I won’t even mind remembering the tax I had to pay for that moment.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Whatever is good, whatever is true, whatever is beautiful…

HEADLINE: Parenting is hard and really non-glorious work.

I'm feeling that in spades in this particular season of life. And to be honest, I'm having a hard time seeing the forest for the trees and I'm further down the path towards cynicism and selfishness then I have been in some time. So I'm in a daily, no, a minute-by-minute battle with my own inner-dialogue.

I won't give you examples of the negative thoughts that are slowly taking over my mind because they are ugly and embarrassing...anything BUT "pure-of-heart" though. They are thousands of little truths that are now twisted and swelled up lies. And I've been fighting a losing battle with them.

So, I was yelling at Thomas and Cece today because they were blatantly disobeying me by going upstairs when I told them not to (the yelling being the first-presenting symptom of my negative inner-dialogue). And Thomas turned around and yelled back at me with equal intensity, "What will make you HAPPY?!?!?! Hugs from me?!?!?!".

Yes, yes it will, T-dog. Thank you for the assist in this battle against the lies in my head.

"This is the day The Lord has made. let us be glad and rejoice in it."

Another fall, another rising. The twentieth of the morning so my knees are sore but it makes a difference having a hand to help pull me up.