Quiet Sunday

We are staring down one of the busiest weeks of the year. 

So it only seems right to do a little of this...


and a little of this....

and a little of this...

As I look at the notes and reminders all over the family calendar, I feel thankful for Sabbath rest. 

Happy Sunday.


Portrait of a Boy {Friday Photo}

'"So medicine, law, business, engineering...
these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life.
But poetry, beauty, romance, love...
these are what we stay alive for."
Robin Williams, Dead Poets Society


Grammar Cop

I am a self-appointed grammar cop. 

In college, I proofread books for Thomas Nelson Publishers for fun (read: unpaid internship).  I worked as a copyeditor for a magazine before I realized that one cannot live on a copyeditor's salary. I had a great time writing my master's thesis, published a few art history articles, have kept my orange well-worn Chicago Manual of Style on a nearby shelf for over 20 years, and actually made a side career of grant writing.  Which is pretty technical stuff when you think about it. (incomplete sentence--I know, I know.)

I have been SO tempted to do this. But I'm too nice.
And don't want to get arrested by an actual cop.

So you can only imagine the sheer, self-inflicted torture it is for me to write a blog.  If there is stat tracking on Blogger for "edits," I may be setting the world record.  There is no writing for me--only rewriting, re-rewriting, and the occasional total overhaul followed by a final tweak or two (or 200).   


My honey is a kindred spirit on this matter.  Since we are such like-minded parents (meaning you may live here only if you can properly use an apostrophe), we have taken a three-pronged approach to promote good grammar in our household:

1) Have our kids read great books.  We expect them to produce good writing because they've read good writing.  Input equals output.  Now, I do not let my little people go freely about their literary selections.  I know they have a limited amount of time to read, so I want the content to be something amazing.  The junk-to-good-book-ratio is very high, so a few guided choices help keep them reading books that are written well. (Curse you, Junie B. Jones!)

2) Send them to a school where old-fashioned grammar is taught.  Our classical school teaches proper sentence structure, articles, adverbs, indirect objects, declarative punctuation (that would be a period, folks), dangling participles, transitivity of verbs--you name it, my kids can identify it.  Particularly high on the awesome scale is how they orally diagram sentences.  It is a rare sight on the planet Earth to see 8-year-olds perform this particular trick in unison. Humbling, really.

3.) Give a child $1.00 on the spot for every grammatical error they find.  I have to give credit for this incredibly effective idea to the captain of our squad.  As you can imagine, my kids keep their eyes peeled for typoes, misplaced apostrophe's, incorrect tense, improper use of, commas, and they're their favorite, the good old homophone.  It increases their attention to detail in the printed word (or sign, or menu, or billboard) by shamelessly taking advantage of their desire for cold hard cash.

My kids see this and I'm out three bucks. Can you spot the errors?

The downside of being a grammar cop is that not everyone appreciates you pointing out their mistakes.  I apologize right here and now if you are one of those people.  It's a compulsive, knee-jerk reaction for nerds like me.  But you have to see it from my point of view.  It's a public service, y'all! (Or is it ya'll? Texans--debate amongst yourselves).

Case in point: there's an A+ rated public school right in the middle of town that has a metal sign saying "Busses Only." It makes me squirm thinking about how many of their students are growing up believing that's how you spell the word.  Do you suppose I could send an anonymous letter to the front office?  It's only been hanging there for twenty years.  No?  Sure?  Okay, I'm going to let it go.  For now.

Sorry, I find this hilarious. I'm lucky to be married to someone
who can appreciate my geeky sense of humor. And edit my blog.


Making Room

This summer, I began a sewing project in earnest.  This was no small task, for not only was I planning, piecing fabrics, and sewing them through, but I was taking on the more giant task of stitching two colorful and diverse lives closely together, binding them permanently at the seams.

One hot day, we decided that no more were our two girls going to play then spat then separate to two rooms only to fuel up for the next exchange.

Because when these babies were brought into the world, the thought upmost in my mind was that each birth brought me a child to rock and raise but it brought my children something far more: a lifelong friend.  

And when God promised before you were in the womb, I knew you, He also knew well the very hearts He would bring around our dinner table.  You know, God has a way of planning those things.

So setting aside my despair over the girlie arguments and squabbles, my hope is that in sharing a room, they gain an equally great gift to that of a lifelong friend:  the ability to get along with others who are not like them, to live in community with grace and kindness, and to love in the midst of the differences.

I figure the room sharing is a built-in way to help prevent them from living selfish, parallel lives and disconnecting from each other in separate spaces.  It plunges them right into the messy mix of relationship, into the give and take of shared space, into the realm of resolutions and building into each other’s lives. 

So the beds were set up, the clothes moved over, the logistics of leaving a space and occupying another all tended to. The girls searched and shopped and finally settled in on different but coordinating fabrics from a pretty line, Circa by Jennifer Paganelli, inspired by French flea markets.  Stitch.  We put our heads together on what was needed: spreads, Euro pillow, bolster, throw, canopy overhead.  Stitch.  They huddled together and with great excitement picked out a new monogram, just for their rooms—a vintage 1920s font—and chose the thread (blue metallic mixed with hot pink).  Stitch.

Stitch, stitch, stitch, stitch, stitch….the threads of ideas and actions began to bind as I watched them find a way to mediate tastes and blend the differences into something beautiful. 

And as I sat bowed over my machine, my mama heart bowed before their Lord and maker who in His wisdom appointed them for sisterhood for specific and special reasons.  I sewed and prayed for the sisters to grow seamlessly together over this time, in this space created with planning and love, in this one-chance-deal they have to discover the treasures they are to one another and realize that in togetherness their world is a much more vivid and wonderful place.


It's a Wrap {Friday Photo}

Colorful, creative, slightly wacky, often hilarious---yep, we got that.


Short of Perfect

Super preggers--gimme a break
Dear Miss M,

You are my firstborn and I've given you love and given you orders and I've tried and failed and tried again to raise you according to His word in spite of my own sinful state.  

But there is one thing you need to know tonight.  I hear you crying in your room because you are stuck on an algebra problem set that's due tomorrow. You are only 11 and you want it all to be perfect, and I love that you constantly drive yourself to be the best you can be.  I've seen you in the zone, your brain on fire as you imagine things in three dimensions and come up with answers without knowing formulas.  You are an innovative thinker; you can focus and conceptualize and problem solve with a look on your face that makes me step aside and stay silent.

God's gonna use that one day.

We (meaning everyone but me) are a mathy people.
first district math competition--nailed it.

But this evening, dear child, I want to tell you something important:  there is no perfect apart from Christ. You're going to struggle with that fact because I surely have.  You desire perfection and push yourself to it--to the point of your tears--but, sweet child, we are broken people.  Broken. There will be days when you want "perfect" and you will have it right in hand, and you will celebrate.  But there will be other days when you shoot for perfect and fall short by a titch or sometimes by a million miles.  It will make you feel frustrated and you'll flail around trying to make it somehow different--but right now I want you to learn that sometimes you have to call it a day, pack it up, get on your knees, and ask God to bring you peace.

So give yourself a break.  Know that if you can't find the solution now, it will come to you later.  Or not.  But we see you and He sees you and we both know your heart.  Sometimes when you shoot for the best you're gonna hit it dead on and other days will end in disappointment. 

Those times, remember to stop and find rest in the only Perfect I've ever found.  

Mom's orders.

 "Casting all your anxieties on him, 
because he cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7


Running the Big Show

Having five kids reaches the threshold of stopping conversation with a stranger for a silent beat while they absorb that tidbit of information.  I seem like a normal WASPy mama at first glance, a potentially good type for bunco groups and tennis leagues, but the "five kids" part leaves everyone questioning a bit and scratching their heads.  Then the stream of questions and comments and silent murmurings ("Is she Catholic?"  "Don't they know how that happens?") begins to flow. Even the Publix cashier feels entitled to her say on the pros and cons of five kids.  It's okay, though.  I know it's a crowd.

Don't I know it.

A happy crowd of folks all in my tender loving care.

My mom made a fitting comment when leaving from a recent visit: "You're running a big show here."


So on Mondays, I thought I'd share a few things that are working or not working in my household.  Because we Roberts are do-it-yourselfers.  There are no Type A's leading this bunch. We are fighting against nature to get 'er done and get 'er done well.

That said, all summer, I've benefited from my in-house labor force to help with the 7 toilets, the everlasting pool cleaning, at least 14 loads a week of laundry, pet care, 2.5 acres of lawn, 147 weekly meals, and over a dozen flower beds. Whew. I'm winded just from typing the to-do list.

But with school and after school activities, I'm bumping up against the workload and am going to have to roll out my card system once again.  I used it every so often last year with good results, and even once with a play date riding home, which was somewhat startling for the poor guy since he was an only child, probably with a housekeeper.

The card system is simple:  I write down what chores are imminent on four index cards, one for each kid. The chores have boxes to check off as they get completed, and then the cards are returned to me when they're finished. Chore charts have not ever worked for me personally.  That's because the needs are ever-changing, the daily schedules vary, and I require on-demand service from my little helpers.  So we're going to give the cards a try.

I suppose I could hire out.  I've thought about it.  A lot. But the more we save, the more we are able to say "yes" to God when he asks us to give.  Our budget stays more flexible.  And how in the world can I develop a work ethic in my kids in this day and age without some good old-fashioned work?  As David aptly put it "If they haul rocks in a wheelbarrow for a while, they'll be overjoyed to be reading a book or doing practically anything else on earth."

AM might need two cards today. Style points for her, though.

I love that man.

Good thing, too, 'cause we've got five kids to raise together.


All Eyes on Coach David {Friday Photo}

First ever flag football practice for Reid.
Two-hundred-and-first flag football practice for his patient papa.


A Tale of Two Birthdays {Part Two}

I'm going to confess something here.  When I was 20 weeks, and the ultrasound tech said the word "boy", I cried silent tears on that table.  David didn't want to know what we were having, but he told me later (20 weeks later) that of course he knew it was a boy by the dazed, weepy expression on my face when I came out.  Boys?  What are those rough, sweaty, rowdy little people all about? Wrestling-near-the-wedding-china, baseballs-on-the-windowpane, rock-dings-in-my-new-car kind of people, I thought.  That's what they are.
And sure enough, the first three years were rocky.  That precious son sweat nonstop when he was supposed to smell like Baby Magic.  Even in the bathtub he would sweat, just a small little thing lying there hot and bothered.  He walked at 10 months--no, he RAN--and I chased him frantically across parking lots all over Leon County, a tiny man-child in smocked Jon Jons and sturdy white walkers who would sprint away giggling.  

still sweaty.
Returned by a stranger one morning. Found in our busy street, wet diaper and no clothes, along with our (very naughty) beagle who had snuck out the back gate.  Vaulted over crib rails and guard gates by 16 months.  Cracked a poorly swung PVC baseball bat across my 8-month-pregnant forehead.  Oh, those salty mama tears--they continued to flow as I tied pink bows in the sunny hair of my precious and perfect daughter and watched my toddler son destroy tea party after tea party. 

There was a part of me deep down inside where I, in my immature and exhausted state, resented the huge sum of energy I lost to keeping that child alive.

Blessed--truly blessed--with not one son, but three.

Flash forward all these years. If you met this child, I would wager that you wouldn't see an ounce of the boy I have described.  For as he grew older, there was a refining of his soul and my soul as I began to understand Paul's words: "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I am fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:12)  What was once unpredictability, aggravation, and frustration has been transformed into trustworthiness, admiration, and joy.  I only wish I knew then that the mirror was dim, trusting more and holding fast to the vision of the young man he would become.  The first one up every morning.  The coffee-maker, lunch packer, silent helper.  The tender babysitter, fun-loving big brother, diligent scholar, quiet Christ-follower.

The kindnesses he has shown me are too many to list.  

He is a servant leader, a trustworthy friend, a fierce competitor, a disciplined heart, and a most fine example of brotherhood and son.

The tears, they have turned to tears of joy. So on his 10th birthday, a party felt in order--a celebration of God's perfect plan kept in the dark and dim and made brighter and brighter still with each passing year of this life I feel privileged to share.

Remembered the custom cake, forgot to pick up candles. Ah well.

Every boy's dream: the win.

Much loved by brothers and sisters,
AM even gave him nine bucks (she kept the tenth so she could buy a Coke...not surprising)

When they say "I like how it feels to go uphill",
you indulge in the road bike.

So this is how Collin finished up his special day--with a little brother love.

Happy birthday, my beloved son.