January 29, 2011

Literary bling...

The blog gets a new widget today, in which you’ll see a slide show of some of the books from our school shelves.  As part of our homeschooling we use Sonlight, a literature-based history/language/writing/reading curriculum.  The foundation of it is a truckload of books to read, some of it historical fiction, some of it non-fiction, and some just plain old good stories.  Our library has grown significantly since we started using this curriculum about five years ago.  Most of the selections you’ll see on the widget are from Sonlight, but I’ve included others that are just favorites of ours, including ones the kids have outgrown but I haven’t, like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.
Reading is a crucial component to our children’s education.  We include books that we don’t necessarily agree with or which may have content or colorful language that requires explanation and/or condemnation on our part.  But just as we’re training our children to live life in the real world, with all its imperfections and challenges, so we do with their reading material, allowing them to see the world as it is and help them make sense of it based on the truth of God’s Word.  I won’t put our official stamp of approval on all of the books you’ll see fading in and out on the miniature slide show, but I will say they’re worth a look.
I have my book-loving friend Heidi to thank for the idea to add this widget.  I have noticed it on other blogs before, but I was finally convinced it would be a nice addition to mine after seeing it on Heidi’s new blog devoted to literature.  Though her blog doesn’t make an appearance in the little book slide show here, it is something I enjoy reading.  I think you would too:

January 27, 2011

No need to call Willard Scott...

Today is the 100th time I’ve placed a daily post here on the blog, not missing a single day since its beginning.  As I’ve described before, it’s been a part of my daily morning routine.  Because the number 100 lends itself so nicely to a simple statistical report, I can tell you that I’ve written 51% of the time about our family, 28% about managing our life and home, 17% about decorating it, and just an itty-bitty 4% about friends.
Although that certainly reveals what it is that matters to me, it’s not my main point today.  This post we’ll broadly file under managing our life and home.  After 100 days of sharing things with you, it’s time to do something with my established morning routine that will be of greater benefit to my family.  The above statistics should make clear that they are of the utmost importance to me.
I mentioned the other day how I was going to begin putting one foot in front of the other for the sake of my health.  Though I said you likely wouldn’t read about it again, I was mistaken.  To explain the future of this blog, I need to bring it up just this once more.  I have been on my treadmill in the evenings since then, but that is less than ideal for this woman whose brain function begins to shut down by 9:00 PM.
Morning will work the best for me, before the children are up and calling, “Hey, Mom.”  The time is right to make a change, since I’m simply unwilling to get up any earlier than I already do.  I'll be taking Sundays off, but Monday through Friday I’ll finish off my aforementioned morning routine with something healthier than a blog post.  Though it may seem like it’s for me, it’s for my family.  They need me to stay alive more than they need me to tell you about my filthy toilets.
But every Saturday you will still find me here.  I’ll give my sneakers a break, and once a week continue to share a little something about life here at home in the Wilburness…

January 26, 2011

Making new arrangements...

With a simple rearrangement of our living room furniture yesterday, I have brightened up my view.  As I would write here each day in our other configuration, I had to glance to the side to see our woods and any cute critters and early birds.  My straight-on view used to be the inevitable laundry pile on the other sofa, the kitchen, or my husband’s sloppy desk, none of which are very inspiring.
Now I can look right out our back door and windows and enjoy the scenery that makes this a wonderful place to live.  I only wish I had done it sooner.  If you’ll kindly stop by this little blog tomorrow, you’ll see why as I share a little something about another rearrangement…

January 25, 2011

A little idea for you...

Here is an easy idea to display those portraits you have done of your children, albeit in miniature form:
You’ll see above the four kids paired up with their one-year-old selves in wallet size.  The frames are inexpensive, and it seems we always have extra wallet sized photos when we get their portraits done.  I’ve used a variety of arrangements of these wallet photos over the years, such as each of the four kids at two years old.  It’s fun to see how much alike they look when you equalize their ages that way.
Another arrangement was year-by-year, like I did when our older son Scott was little:
Perching our twin baby boys on top there, I knew back then that with our growing family, this was not going to be a display that was easy to find room for through their whole childhood.  There would be thirty-six little frames to set out if I did it today, based on the ages of the four kids.  I still may do that again; I’m always excited to freshen up what’s on display, and I’m always eager to fill my home with memories of my family.
Perhaps you are the same way, and might like to dig up those old wallet photos of your kids and revisit their younger years, not just for a moment, but day to day as sweet memories brighten up a spot in your home.

January 24, 2011

Checkers, anyone?

I’m not one who’s afraid to steal a good idea.  Over the years I’ve seen a few different examples of my latest project, and had always wanted to do one myself: painting a fun and functional checkerboard onto a table.

The examples I’ve seen before always had a rustic country look to them in colonial blues and rusty reds, which is not in keeping with my taste.  But by choosing pink and green, inspired by the game pieces I knew I’d be swiping from our generic version of Connect Four, I was able to make our checker table fit the more flowery and feminine cottage style you’ll find here in our home.  Perhaps you have a table you can quickly transform from humdrum to fun this way, in colors and a style that suits your taste.

I used acrylic paint for the playing board
and the recycled container for the checkers,
with a top coat of polyurethane
over the board to make it durable.

Since the game pieces aren't actual checkers, they're not properly stackable for crowning when you hear the cry of "King me."  To deal with that, I simply painted the embossed stars that were already on the pieces with a gold paint pen.  We'll flip to the gold star side when it's "kinging" time.  I added a homespun gold star on the lid of our container, finishing it off with glitter nail polish to sparkle it up.  Everything's better with glitter.
Homeschool alert:  I asked our son Scott find the exact middle of the circle for me using geometry.  This was not as a test, but simply because I couldn't immediately figure out how to myself.  He did.  He drew two chords, found their midpoints, and drew lines perpendicular to the chords from those midpoints.  Where the two lines met, we had our center.  It was simple to measure off the squares from there.  The angle from which I took this photograph may fool the eye, but rest assured that math and quaintness met on this table and put a pretty checkerboard perfectly in the center.

I’m resisting the urge to paint flowers around the board.  I don't want it to be so girly and frilly that my boys won't want to use it.  Though I suppose you could argue that real men don’t care if their checkers are pink…

January 23, 2011

A special member of the family...

There is a beloved member of the family you haven’t met yet on this blog.  I’m allergic to all furry friends, so it’s not one of those like so many of you enjoy and adopt as one of your own children.  This is more like a cousin that we don’t mind seeing every so often: our tractor.
We’re not farmers, so to be clear, it’s a tractor in name only.  It’s the smallest John Deere that qualifies as one.  Just don’t call it a lawn mower; it gets offended by that.  Living in the boonies like we do, we only mow when it gets tough to play soccer, not when the neighbors’ high standards and scowling looks dictate, like when we lived in the suburbs years ago and had a meager push mower.  Mowing with a tractor gets the job done mighty quickly too.
Of course, a tractor wouldn’t be a tractor if couldn’t do things other than mow a lawn efficiently:

We love our green cousin.  Not enough to invite it inside, but enough to at least let it stay in the garage.

January 21, 2011

Retired from the fashion police...

Yes, that is a Cinderella costume over Audra’s t-shirt, her ensemble completed by her favorite elephant hat.  And yes, we were at a restaurant when this was taken.  I haven’t always been the kind of mom who’d let their kids go out in such interesting fashion choices.
When our fourteen-year-old son Scott was little I’d make sure he had just the right outfit on for the occasion, fix his hair, fuss with this and that about how he looked, all to preserve what I thought was my reputation.  In my immaturity I was concerned that people would judge our parenting by our child’s appearance.
Over time I've learned that while people will indeed judge us this way, their opinion simply doesn’t matter.  I’ve also learned that kids don’t like to have their collars fixed and their shirts re-tucked, but they do like costumes and funny hats.  And so, within reason, our kids determine what they look like when we go out.  We have guidelines; you won’t see Audra in that get-up at a funeral.  But when we go out for dinner, if she wants to wear her royal gown, I say the rest of us are all underdressed, and she is the epitome of grace and beauty.

January 20, 2011

Sweet relief...

This is one of my favorite photographs, my sweet little Audra showing me the daisies she picked for me as we sat together on the front step of our old house in New York a few years ago.  It was a warm summer day, and her equally warm smile tells you what a lovely time we were having by our garden, seen in the background of this act of sharing.
But that’s not the whole story, nor the whole background.  Off camera my three boys were running around the yard together, while all five of us waited for my mom to come rescue us with her spare house key, since I had locked my keys in the house just as we were leaving for a dentist appointment for all four kids.  Though the keys were inside, I had managed to remember my cell phone, so I called my key-bearing rescuer as well as the dentist, asking for mercy so we could still be seen that day.  Everything all arranged, as I sat on the front step wondering how I could be so blonde when I wasn’t really blonde, Audra offered me those flowers.  The cell phone became useful one more time, and I snapped this picture.
I didn’t love everything about that day, but I loved that moment, helping me to just forget all about the keys.  (Other than remembering to bring them when we went out from then on.)  Sometimes a little snippet of relief comes along when we’re dealing with those fairly regular but small frustrations of life.  Audra saw the whole event as a wonderful opportunity to enjoy our garden together.  I didn’t have quite the same level of youthful optimism, but on an otherwise challenging day, I was thankful for my thoughtful little girl with the fistful of daisies.

January 19, 2011

Spring has sprung?

Yesterday morning we had a sheet of ice on the ground, keeping my husband home from work and the rest of us housebound as well.  Although I have no right to complain about the weather here in the south compared to my hometown on the banks of Lake Ontario, I’ve had it with winter: not just on the outside, but inside our house.  What better day to dispose of winter d├ęcor than when the frigid outside weather forces us to stay in?
Back in late November I wrote about our Christmas village, which I always keep up long after the holidays, as well as our snowman collection sprinkled about the house.  What seemed charming and homey then has grown to be irksome and depressing now.  I’m ready for spring, and it was time to make the house reflect that.  I can’t control what season it is outside, but I have full control over the indoor setting.
And so we took the opportunity to have a “snow day” from homeschooling and set to work putting away the creepy ghost town that the Christmas village had become.  We also packed up the snowmen, who had lately gone from cheery to dreary, if not a bit sinister, filling every corner of the house with their doom-and-gloom message of a perpetual winter.

Spring has sprung in this shadowbox,
along with every other spot in our home
And now it’s officially spring here at home in the Wilburness, at least on the inside; every nook and cranny is decorated with the promise of chirping birds, soft showers, blooming flowers, and kite-flying, even if it will be another two months for the outside to catch up with my eager anticipation.

Even the fish have a fresh and flowery makeover

January 18, 2011

Birds of a feather...

Our little Zach loves eagles.  They adorn his room, and he has always been drawn to them.  We’ve all seen pictures of people with their pets who resemble one another.  That is how I see these two photographs of our decidedly patriotic little boy, who loves all things American, including and especially our national bird.
Just like that iconic American fine-feathered symbol, Zach is bold, strong, and at the risk of sounding corny, dares to soar in how he lives his life.  And honestly, with the buzz cut and strong jaw line, you have to admit there’s a bit of a physical resemblance there, though in a handsome and sweet form.  An eaglet, perhaps?

January 17, 2011

So, what have you been up to for the last quarter of a century?

Facebook has brought something about that previous generations likely experienced only on rare occasions.  In years gone by, middle-aged people like me might once in a great while run into someone they hadn’t seen in twenty years.  But in our modern age, it happens on Facebook at least a few times a month.
Some reconnections involve a simple posting of, “Nice to see you here,” or “Beautiful family,” or “You haven’t changed at all!”  But sometimes the reconnections have involved someone with whom I was once close friends.  When that occurs, it begs a written update to one another on what has happened in each of our lives over the past two decades or more.
I had another opportunity to do this just this past weekend, connecting with my dear old friend from summer camp, Sara.  Here we are in matching sweaters at Camp Li-Lo-Li, in those glorious days of the 1980’s:
Though we only spent time together over a couple weeks for a couple summers, Sara was a special friend.  We thought alike on a lot of subjects, looked at people and life in a similar way, and on a less important note, had cousins in common, although we weren’t directly related ourselves.   And obviously, we also shared the same taste in clothing.  When we tracked each other down after all this time, I immediately knew she wasn’t the type of reconnection that required a “Nice to see you here” post.  She was a real friend long ago, and though we hadn’t kept in touch all these years, I wanted to know all that had happened to her in them.  She, likewise, received a summary of my adult life.
Try encapsulating twenty or more years into a few paragraphs.  To summarize the facts of that much time in one’s life brings with it a rare moment of objectivity of sorts, a journalistic reporting of a sequence of events and choices.  It’s not really a moment of reflection, of considering the deeper things of life and all that one has learned from these life experiences; it’s more of an exercise in rapid time progression, a head-spinning glance at what took more than half of one’s life to complete, a black-and-white reminder of just how old one has gotten to be.
Nonetheless, I’m thankful for this new-fangled way to get reacquainted with old-fangled friends, even if it does keep reminding me that I’m pushing forty.

January 16, 2011

Come this way...

One of my daily habits is to change the background picture on my laptop.  To one side of the screen I have a desktop gadget displaying a shuffled slide show of years of memories, and when one strikes my fancy I’ll snag it and place it in the daily position of honor, center-screen and enlarged.
The current selection is my sweet Audra as a little toddler, making her way along a path by our pond at our old house.  As I sit here this morning looking at it, I can’t help but see more than just a cute little girl examining her footsteps.  And as with most of these quiet observations, I won’t keep it quiet, but instead share it here.  It’s a simple one, but it must be said.
I know the Way, the Truth, and the Life, three names for the Lord that He taught concerning Himself in John 14:6.  He is my Lord, and He saved me.  I follow no religion.  I follow the Lord Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully man, who died on the cross for my sins, and rose again from the dead.  I could do nothing to save myseIf from the punishment I deserved for my sins, eternal separation from God.  But He loved me, and sent His Son to die in my place, to bear my punishment for me, though He was sinless and I was not.
My husband has this same faith.  He trusted the Lord Jesus alone for salvation when he was thirteen years old.  Together we share all we know of Him and His Word with our children, teaching them about the Way.
Many who read this will cheer us on, but those of you who don’t have this same faith may be skeptical and think we’re forcing our children down a path not of their choosing.  It is to you I write today.  Look at little Audra.  She’s just two years old in that picture, and without direction, she’d be lost.  Studying her own footprints for guidance, she would end up walking in circles and eventually right into danger.  But as adults, we know the way to safety, and we show her.  It would be foolish and unfeeling not to.
We also know the Way to eternal safety, and though we couldn’t force our children to follow Him if we tried, we live and breathe to do the work of teaching them the Way, praying that they will choose it as we did.  Three already have, and little Audra, now six years old, is listening, but hasn’t started walking yet.  She is still looking at her own footprints.  Our prayer is that soon she will take that step of faith and follow, but not follow in the footsteps of her parents and her brothers; that she’ll follow the Lord Jesus Christ.  We’ll just keep showing her the Way.
And on occasion, as an opportunity presents itself here on my blog, I’ll do the same for you, dear friend.

January 15, 2011

Two by two...

As I look at an empty spot on one wall of our soft yellow living room, it pleads with me to fill it like the rest of the room.   I’ve written before of how I decorate the walls in our home, from murals to our kids' works of art, favorite family items, my printer's box, and even a touch of non-homespun artwork, the theme of which is still family.
But this blank canvas has me thinking of something slightly different, though still family-centered: pairs of related candid photos of our kids, framed and grouped hand-in-hand, a sort of cutesy-quaint way to show the harmony and consistency among our children.  Some possibilities:

All would likely be framed in black, a nice contrast to the pale yellow, but neutral enough to let the photos take center stage.  This is a project still in the thinking phase, so for all I know I’ll end up hanging an old family quilt in that spot instead.  Whatever becomes of it, that empty wall needs to conform to the theme of the rest of our home, filled with what we love.

January 14, 2011

Chubby is only cute on babies...

Zach, from his don't-you-just-want-to-pinch-those-cheeks days
Although this blog is wholly and solely dedicated to the life of our family, as you know if you’ve been here before, I often wander off into paths that are not directly about the Wilburs, but rather feed into or stem out of our life together.  If you’ll bear with me, and excuse the rare but still vain physical self-analysis, I will connect the chubby dots.
I was a thin younger person.  It came naturally, and despite the unbelievable amount of food I could pack away into my small little self, I didn’t gain weight.  It wasn’t exercise keeping it off; I had been a runner in junior high but gave it up by high school in favor of not ruining my big 1980's hair.  I joined a gym with one of my friends in college, but not to lose any weight or keep any off; it was just something to do with a friend, and a way to get stronger, not thinner.
And then came reality.  With each passing year of full-fledged adulthood, the great metabolism with which I was born has left just like the original color of my hair: bit by bit, undetected at first, and later dismissed as unimportant and easy to mask.  Eventually, however, it becomes undeniable and must be addressed.
And so like the fifty-three other times I’ve come to this realization, I hope to develop a new habit.  I’ve tried to take up running again most of those fifty-three times, but as with so many other things, the high expectations I have and lofty goals I set are dashed before I get very far with it, and I revert to the excuse that motherhood keeps me active enough (which it simply doesn’t.)
And so, on this fifty-fourth time, I am going to walk, not run.  It’s more do-able, and more stick-to-able.  In the past, the only people who knew when I started such things were my family, who love me and don’t judge me when I stop after a couple weeks.  But now I’ve made it public.
Fear not: I will not be giving you statistical walking updates, and I most certainly will not tell you details of my weight and such nonsense.  In fact, it’s likely the first and last time you’ll read about it.  I’m just publicizing my plan because maybe, just maybe, that will help me stick with it out of a sense of truth-in-advertising.
And lastly, to connect the afore-mentioned chubby dots: this is for my family.  Not being naturally thin anymore means I’m not naturally healthy.  And these people need me.  Though like any woman I want to look better, I’m not doing this for vain reasons, at least not entirely;  I want to stay alive and be here for them.  They’re worth it.

January 13, 2011

A tightly-knit pair...

Isobel Westfall and Audra Isobel Wilbur,
one wearing the made-with-love gift from the other.
Today, a little story of two lovely ladies who love to knit and love to give...
Upon learning that Audra would be joining our family,
my wonderful mom learned how to knit for the first time at the age of fifty-four,
taking over the role of baby-blanket-knitter
from my grandmother, who was no longer able to do so.

She even made this adorable coordinating hat to match the blanket...

...one that Audra still loves to wear, whether there's wintry weather or not.

With hours of work and love woven throughout,
she made matching ponchos for Audra and her cousin Shelly.

This past summer, the torch was passed when Audra received this knitting tool
as a prize in a reading contest my mom had set up for her grandchildren,
encouraging Audra both to read and to knit.

Audra took to it right away, and in no time had a start on what would become a scarf.
She would give it as a Christmas present to her fellow-knitter,
who has always given her not only the beautful things she makes,
but her time, her interest, and her loving example of care and giving.

January 12, 2011

Updating old news...

As any who came here today from Facebook can confirm, I updated a photo album there this morning with a very old photograph.  It was of our older son Scott’s first day of kindergarten, seen below.  This was the only first-day-of-school photo that wasn’t digital, and though I scanned it into my laptop a while ago, I had forgotten to add it.  A friend looked through the online album last night, which reminded me to finally take care of adding it.  After all, he’s in ninth grade now.

 Since we homeschool, Scott thought it would be funny
to have his toy school bus with him for the picture
and carry it back inside the house
so that he could say he "took the bus to school."

Most of the photographs of our kids are digital, numbering about 20,000, all neatly organized for me by date on my computer.  But in my closet are two humongous boxes of Scott’s first five and a half years of life in picture form from that archaic time in which we only had a film camera.  A handful of these have been scanned, and you’ve seen those here and there on this blog.  But there are so many more to go.
It’s just one more project on the list of things I need to spend some of my free time doing.  Since free time is a bit of a scarce commodity in my life, I’m just hoping I can finish it before he’s all grown up and has kids of his own.

January 11, 2011

Airing dirty laundry...

As I look back at the various topics and posts of this little blog about our family and our life, I realize I may have inadvertently given a false impression about us.
You will not read here of behavior problems with our kids.  You’ll not see anything about them arguing or details of any disobedience.  There is a reason for that, but it may not be what you think.
Perhaps you’ve thought to yourself that since I never write of such things, I’m trying to present a rosier picture than reality.  Or perhaps you may think I just see my children as perfect, and don’t notice their weaknesses or any offenses they commit against their parents or each other.  
None of that is the case; I simply don’t tell you because I don’t believe it would be right to do so.  Problems do indeed arise with my children, but I believe they deserve the same protection I would want, to not have private mistakes made unnecessarily public.  I am determined to not embarrass them with this blog.  It’s simply a place to tell you a little about how we live, what we care about, and the sweet moments that make us grateful to be traveling this road of life together as a family.
The only dirty laundry you’ll see aired here is the literal kind.  I don’t mind embarrassing myself.

January 10, 2011

How the fridge can keep memories fresh too...

This morning I took the time normally set aside for this little blog to create a refrigerator-bound personalized calendar.  Those who read here somewhat regularly will astutely note that I just told you the other day about our Lang calendar, but that is not one I ever write on, in order to preserve the pages for framing when that year is through.  The one I made this morning is not quite as la-de-da as that, but it is the one I’ll scribble our lives down on as we make our way through what will hopefully be a less sorrowful year than 2010, a year in which we gained and lost another precious child.
With calendar-publishing consuming the narrow window of available time before our busy day begins, today I’ll simply share with you the pictures I selected for it.  Each picture is one of the more joyful moments of last year, taken in the same month of 2010 that it now graces in our new calendar for 2011.  They will be a reminder to me this year of the blessings the Lord has poured out on me, and the way He carried me through the past year as He always does.
Audra prepares a winter tea party for her stuffed animals
Zach practices snow diving
Audra and I had a special girls' day out at Build-a-Bear Workshop

Zach flying a kite during a visit from our special friends the Slombas;
Nancy Slomba taught the children a lesson in patience
as she taught them how to fly kites
and as she set the example in her characteristic loving way

A baby bird which fell from its nest at the top of a column on our front porch
down to the garden below;
we were able to gently place it back in its mother's care

Daniel during another animal rescue mission,
in which we removed a frog and its fifty million tadpoles from our pool
(not all made it out alive)

A month of birthdays for Audra and twins Zach and Daniel

An after-the-fact combined birthday party for all three younger kids;
a wonderful time with lots of friends and fun, served with a side of SpongeBob

An unforgettable trip to the Smoky Mountains

The birthday boy, our now fourteen-year-old son Scott

The kids jumping in the leaves at their grandparents' house
on a beautiful fall day

My handsome husband looks over the plans for the airplane he is building