Friday, October 24, 2014

Prairie Life

If you're looking for some wholesome historical fiction about homesteaders, I can recommend the "Butter in the Well" series. I downloaded both volumes for free on my Kindle, though they cost a few dollars now.

The two books in the series are written in the form of diary entries, which the author based on various historical documents and other publications. They are fictionalized accounts of the lives of real Swedish immigrants. The first is written from the point of view of a young wife, and the second- that of her teenaged daughter.

The diary entries are all pretty simple and some are even mundane. We hear about which foods they are canning on a given day and which new inventions have come to town. Sometimes there is a list of people who are sick. Sentiments are included, but not always. The simple style makes it seem more realistic, as if a real person is just writing his/her thoughts as they come and trying to record things for posterity. Even though it isn't very riveting, it is convincing.

At the same time, there are often several entries in a row that talk about historical events or inventions, and you get the feeling that the author is trying to pack as many facts into the text as possible and then just connecting it all with a few imagined details. It can get a bit tiresome.

All in all, the series is very calming and educational. An enjoyable change of pace, and it was interesting knowing that these people really existed, even if the specific thoughts in the fictional "diary" never actually crossed their mind. It looks like the author (Linda Hubalek) has a few other similar series that I might check out as well.

And the characters of "Butter in the Well" ARE Christians, but there is nothing "preachy" going on in the narrative.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Two days in the courtyard

Didn't manage to get one of those perfect fall photo sessions, but I got a rainy day and a snowy day for you! :)

Pondering his next puddle...


"Mommy, no gyubs (gloves)!"

"Catch you!"

Hmmm...I think we will admire the view from INSIDE today!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Imperfections Reappear

Last Sunday was my first time back on the worship team. It had been about 2.5 years! I love singing and playing music, but I had forgotten how challenging it can be for various reasons.

Of course in my rose-colored memories, we would just show up and "get our praise on," singing our hearts out in perfect harmony. The reality though was that we had no sound equipment, few songs in common, and we practiced in a shared flat, which the neighbors must have loved! We worked hard then too, but I think there was a unique pleasure in having a worship team where there previously hadn't been.

Now the worship team is huge and we have so much equipment it doesn't really fit in the room...if you still want to fit the people in, that is. It takes a lot of time to carry around and set up and sometimes the singing sounds all wrong if one person's microphone isn't working right. We have a huge list of songs now but each one is disliked by at least one person in the group. Some people sing too loudly and others sing too softly.

There will always be something to complain about, but I realized that one of the biggest challenges of it all is relating to everyone. I wish we could just do our thing and not have to do conflict resolution. As I go home, I feel stung by Person A's criticism, resentful of Person B's inadequate song choices, and guilty about my own selfish reactions to it all (these are just hypothetical, but you get the idea).

It is hard to be in fellowship, and I pray, "Thank You, Lord, for helping us to sharpen one another." That's what it's about. We come expecting to be used and to make something beautiful, but we have to go through a lot of "stuff" first. Humility sometimes seems like an unreachable aim!

Friday, October 10, 2014

We've Arrived

So I guess reading to your child is one of those things that make you a model parent! You'd think so. I've seen all those photos on social media and Pinterest with the DIY nursery reading "nook" and the adorable shots of the parents (more often the mommy bragging about the daddy) with the newborn, "reading" a book cute. I definitely thought we'd be that kind of family, but it turns out there is more to babycare than read-aloud time! I think I have one photo of myself reading to David in his first year, and I can't post it because it's a pajama shot...whoops.

But since around the time David turned two, he's suddenly been very enthusiastic about books! He likes to read whole stacks at a time and has memorized various fragments and where things are on certain pages. We didn't do anything differently...just kept making them accessible and he eventually got interested. In fact, I worried that I wasn't "modeling" book use enough since I read on my Kindle, but that doesn't seem to be a problem.

It's exciting to see how it goes hand-in-hand with language learning. And not just vocabulary, even certain grammar constructions. I like grammar.

I will admit I'm often looking for more time for myself, and I try to pare down the reading pile or cut the time short, or skip over certain pages, or hustle him off to bed so I can have some peace and quiet. Even in the positive moments we always have our own wants and desires and agendas. Even as we read, I have certain things I want him to see, or books that I want to be his favorites. I bought him a book called "Back to Bed, Ed" to encourage "good" sleep habits. He was interested in what the mouse family was having for breakfast...not their sleepy eyes from the kids' nighttime wakings!

Here are some of the things that go through my head when I hear those words: Mommy, READ....

"I'm SuperMom!"(right?)

"We're raising a genius."

"I hope he doesn't pick THAT book again."

 "I'm going to hide that one."

"I wish he would read to himself."

"I wish we could have silent reading and each read to ourselves."

"I wish he would stay on task instead of pointing to random things on the page."

"I wish he would pay attention to the moral of the story."

 "My throat hurts from trying to enunciate all these baby words."

Sad, right? But I love it, too.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


About this time last week, a friend invited me (via Internet) to a birthday party for her 5 yr old. And I immediately began to form an explanation for why I wouldn't go. I never even wrote back...isn't that awful?

Do I say "no" too much? Is it bad if I am thinking of excuses as soon as the invitations roll in? What is it that I really want to say, other than "I can't make it"? That it's too hard to ask someone to babysit, or too far to travel in an already busy day? Should I put out a public service announcement to my friends that I might be busy for the next 5 years or so? But no, I don't want to do that. Sometimes everything lines up: my availability, health, and desire to take part. And then I have a good time and know that these opportunities are a priority too, of a sort.

So then the day before the aforementioned birthday party, a friend from church called. "Vika just asked me to her son's birthday party," she began...I was surprised, because Vika is MY friend whom I had invited to a few church events, and here she was reaching out to others in my church. "It kind of came unexpectedly, since the party's tomorrow," Sveta continued,"but...Liz, this person is reaching out. I wouldn't go by myself, but the two of us could go." After a brief discussion with Andrei, I called Sveta back and told her I would go.

But first, there was church...

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Survival Mode

We've had to scale back activities for the past few weeks due to the convergence of a few factors, including my head cold, Andrei's heavy teaching/conference schedule, and dreary weather. I guess I sort of alluded to it in the last few posts. Anyway, I did an assessment today and realized that I had let go of a lot of my goals and just a lot of self-discipline went out the window. I think it was okay to have a few "pajama" days, and that was a conscious decision-to not put too much on myself that would lead to exhaustion, during a time when Andrei needed to focus on other things. Taking naps during the day with David. But it is hard to get that momentum back, and I know that I will need to work hard at it as those gray winter days set in.

I've been mostly better for a few days and then I got these blisters on the corners of my mouth! Sorry if it sounds gross, but it's just another sign that my immune system was weakened, I guess. So I've been increasing the vitamins and probiotics again. I was preparing to head to worship practice this week, but when I thought about the mouth sores and needing to open my mouth to sing, or press my flute against the wound...well, that's pretty much a deal-breaker. It will have to wait.

I got into a fiction series this week (first installment free on Kindle and it's a nice length) about mother-daughter homesteaders in present times who live sort of in isolation. It's a Christian series with some good values, but it still manages to romanticize the homesteading life a bit. Who wouldn't want to make their own ice cream and hand-stencil wallpaper? Heh. It addresses the issues of time management, and that got me is it that we do so little "manual" labor these days, yet we still never have enough time? Well, obviously a job and its commute will do that to you, but I feel like I never get anything done even being at home. Soap-making, are you kidding me? Where does the time go? And part of what gets me is that everything in modern life is so fragmented. I wish it could all fit together somehow. Why do I resent going outside for a walk? I wish it accomplished something...I wish we had a task to do out there, other than trying to get some exercise in order to sleep well. Why do we have to get exercise on purpose, instead of just naturally doing physical tasks throughout the day? But my big question for the homesteaders would be what they do with their children. Is it just more natural to have children wandering around as you do outside chores? Okay, they're all perfect angels and help out, but you have to teach them, and that takes time, and is more messy in the meantime. Is there such thing as abandoning farm chores because of a teething toddler, or staying in when you have a cold? The thing that sounds nice about homesteading is the "home" part. And I suppose many would agree. I like my modern technology, but I do get tired of the city, and its vices (as bottles shatter outside the window).

Another idea mentioned in the (first) book is that "every day should have its Sabbath"...I don't know if they borrowed it from somewhere or not. Basically, the lack of electricity forces you to slow down in the evening. And I'm sitting here tapping out a blog post at midnight because there is NO other time when I can work in peace. And the household chores still aren't done. But I'm not complaining. I'm just thinking about priorities.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sniffles again

So I finally succumbed to The Cold that's been chasing us all this month! It kept flirting with me and then going away, and then settled in for a longer stay a few days ago.

When David was sick I tried to get him outside anyway for fresh air, but while I've been sick I just can't find the energy to get us both dressed and out the door.

So there has been a lot of junkfood-eating and cartoon-watching going on. And baking, because it makes me happy...even if the dirty dishes are still going to be waiting in the sink in a year or so.

This isn't a "domestic bliss" shot below, just one of those milestones where he's starting to do more things on his own. Maybe we never got to the point where he plays quietly at my feet while I cook, but at least we can do it together and make it a learning process!

Also, I am starting to get excited about Christmas. Maybe if I start working on Advent now, I'll actually finish something this time around?