Thin slice of family flavor

October 13th, 2010

What is it really like right now at our house?

Well, it isn’t like what you see in this picture.  Is life ever like a posed photograph?  But I recently took this for a friend, and thought it would fit usefully into this post…

…which I’m writing in response to a variety of questions and comments I’ve been receiving lately, and which my friends with their own large homeschooling families may skip from sheer boredom!  Since this life is routine for us, we often forget how counter-cultural it really is until someone comments on “how you do it all.”

What does it look like?  Well, why don’t you stop in for a short visit this afternoon?  I welcome you to our house!  Here’s a cup of hot tea for you; sit down and make yourself comfortable.

(I’m going to speed-type this, so please excuse any errors you find, just as you would if you really came here yourself.  Thanks!)

Right now the house is in a comfortable state of shabby tidyness and smells delectably of roasting chicken with onion.  Nobody vacuumed the floors because you can’t see them from your computer and it won’t make life better right now.  Haha.  Joseph is vigorously playing a piece by Alkan, in the middle of his two hours of piano practice, Daniel is filing papers ten minutes away in his uncle’s accounting office, Joshua is bicycling to a local greenhouse to buy two mums and an aster, Laura is using her free time to curl up on the couch with the latest issue of the Answers magazine, Jane and John Michael are finishing up their A Beka arithmetic books, Peter, James and Stephen are resting on their beds, and Verity just went from the cranky end of tummy time into her crib for a nap.  The younger ones who dress themselves are mis-matched.  There are dust bunnies…

Joseph is on the left, holding Verity.  He’ll be 17 in a couple of months and is very close to getting his driver’s license.  I would describe him as a pleasant and ruthlessly logical idealistic perfectionist.  He enjoys solving problems of many kinds and is gifted in computer programming and piano.  This morning, during the hour he spent overseeing Peter’s work in a Rod and Staff preschool workbook, he interrupted the process to ask me if he may use the alphabet flash cards to help teach the twins every day.  His main family responsibility is taking the laundry from stain treating to dried and waiting for the girls to fold it.   His little buddy is Peter.

Daniel is standing in the middle, holding onto Stephen.  He just turned 15, but it seems like he should be turning at least 17 or 18 by now.  I like to call him Dan the Man.  He is a pleasant and socially observant compassionate detail guy.  He enjoys people of many kinds and is gifted in serving them.  This morning he was reclining with Verity on his chest, encouraging her to lift up her head to look at his face, when she spit up on his shirt.  It didn’t phase him in the slightest.  When he reads this, he’ll say, “Why should it phase me?”  His main family responsibility is supper preparation.  His little buddy is James.

Joshua is seated with the twins on his lap, so he appears to be of normal size.  But don’t let that fool you.  He is 13 1/2, and has passed the six foot mark, leaving us to wonder where this will all end up?  He is a pleasant and quietly patient easy-going tease.  He enjoys plants of all kinds and is gifted in knowing and growing them.  This morning, he put shoes on the four little boys and took them outside to play some games, but realized the ground was too damp for that.  He decided to take them around the property and teach them some things about the world God made.  His main family responsibility is the flower and vegetable gardening, landscaping, and his fledgling orchard.  His buddy is John Michael.

Laura is standing next to Daniel.  She is 11 years young.  Laura’s a pleasant and predictably absent-minded gentle young lady.  I can’t remember her not enjoying anything we’ve ever given her to do, but she especially enjoys all housekeeping arts and is developing a fair hand at pencil drawing.  This morning, she serenely read to the little boys before breakfast, did her chores, and finished her schoolwork before lunch.  Her main family responsibilities are breakfast kitchen clean-up and folding laundry.  Her buddy is Stephen.

Jane is standing in front of her older sister.  She’s 8 1/2 years old.  Jane is a spunky, determined, beauty-loving individual with a quirky sense of humor.  She loves to be creative and energetic with her play, and to show how competently she can help with food preparation.

John Michael is standing in front of Jane.  He just turned 5, and he is a sociable, talkative little guy with a sunny personality.  He enjoys his schoolwork if he gets sufficient breaks to move around, and started reading quite young.

Peter is sitting on Joshua’s lap, wearing a red shirt. He is 3 1/2 years old.  He is earnest and affectionate and stolidly shy.  He has an eye for ways he can help others, but doesn’t mind playing alone.

James is sitting on Joshua’s other knee, wearing a blue shirt.  Coincidentally, he is also 3 1/2 years old.  He is energetic and bright-eyed and an enthusiastic chatterbox.  He prefers the company of others to being alone and loves mental stimulation.

Stephen is up on the back of Joshua’s chair.  He just turned two, but you can’t tell that by listening to him talk.  He is our current source of entertainment, mostly related to what he finds to say, but he is not a clown.  He is quick to learn all we teach him.  He is turning out to be another strong-minded young person.

Verity is in Joseph’s arms.  You already know about her pretty well, but there are some details I haven’t filled in for a while.  This morning she tried nursing for the second day in a row, and if my hopes were high, they would have been dashed.  But since I think she’s ready to start practicing a bit, the mission was accomplished.  She has been drinking a whopping 7 ounces at breakfast, and that amount drops throughout the day, down to the 3 ounces she sleep-drinks late at night, for a total average of just under 24 ounces daily.  That is helping her grow at a respectable rate.  Her new speed record was set Monday–7 ounces in 50 minutes!  She’s inching her way back from 1 1/2 hours per bottle to an hour per bottle.  With a slow flow nipple, at that!  Oh yes, this morning she got a bath–still a sponge bath because her incision is not completely healed yet–and a generous rubbing of Baby Aquaphor.

What about our three big boys?  Aren’t they at risk of turning into softies with housemaid’s knee?  How will they learn to be real men if they stay at home helping with the housework and their younger siblings instead of playing contact sports with their peers?  Isn’t our lifestyle depriving them of opportunities, compounded now by the extra needs of the household?  Are they doing justice to their studies?  How does this work?

Our three young men are most decidedly not delicate mama’s boys.  We are confident they’ll be real men in their own households someday.  They stay in good shape by going on long bicycle rides.  They love to listen in on adult discussions and often have thought-provoking responses of their own.  They stretch and sharpen one another as well.  They are all ahead in their schoolwork, some significantly, and independently study what interests them.  All three are comfortable in their masculine roles and take every opportunity they can to learn and earn in the areas God has gifted them.  Yesterday morning, Joseph rode to our friends’ house five miles away and spent the day there helping them set up a fileserver for their home business.  He stayed for supper before biking home as the sun was setting last night.

The hands on the clock have moved and so has the household.  Joseph is on to Mozart, (Daniel is presumably still filing papers,) Joshua planted the fall flowers and is preparing to bake his homegrown winter squash for supper since Daniel’s away, Laura, Jane and John Michael are tramping about in the autumn woods behind our house for a few more minutes but the laundry mountain awaits, and Peter, James and Stephen will be awake soon.  I turned off the oven, pumped, made up Verity’s bottle, washed the pump parts, bagged and labeled the extra milk, and woke Verity and nestled her into the sling for her bottle.  When she’s finished, I need to start the process of giving eight haircuts in two or three installments.  First there’s a pile of sweet-smelling baby laundry waiting for me.  I like to fold that myself.

This is a calm sort of day I have described.  Some days things seem to go wrong at every step, running out of things that should have been put on the grocery list, conflicts, reluctant workers, lots of diaper changes and baby spit-up, grabbing some helpers when many small people need help at once, rushing out of the house to get to an appointment on time, quickly tossing together exceedingly plain and simple meals.  Days like that would not be practical for visitors!

But no, we don’t experience either mass chaos or militant clockwork at our house.  The basics and a little more are getting done as long as we keep moving, and everyone is generally contented.  As you can see, I don’t “do it all.”  We function as a unit, every one having their part to play.  Every one with something of value to contribute.

I hope you enjoyed your little visit to our house!  You are welcome to make it a real one someday!

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7 Responses to “Thin slice of family flavor”

  1. Denise says:

    Thanks for the visit Susanna!

    I enjoyed myself very much!!

    Your home is so comforting and inviting.   I have enjoyed my few yet brief visits…and always left encouraged.  

  2. Susanna says:

    Thanks for stopping by, Denise!  :)  How’s your packing coming along?

  3. Felicity says:

    This was lovely to read!  I also have a Daniel who is very much “Dan the Man” too…  I love the different personalities in a large family – who knew you could get such very different little people from the same parents! ;-)
    Wishing you well,

  4. Shari~hotfudgecustard says:

    Oh, I enjoyed this post so much!  It feels like a visit on a cozy day, but not where your family is in “visitor” mode, just in a daily pattern of activity.  How wonderful!

    I know those hurried days are different, but the description of this day is a blessing to read. 

    Yes, I agree with Joe — you’re the happy mother of children!  I can almost hear you all humming!  : )

  5. Joy Horton says:

    We seriously thought about coming to visit on our way home from NH yesterday but really had to hurry to get home. But how my heart was pulled in that direction as we drove through. We feel such a connection and devotion to your family. Thank you for the “virtual visit”. I’ve missed you all!

  6. Marilyn Osborn says:

    Enjoyed that so very much!

  7. Aunt Erma says:

    While I’m a little late in reading this, I thoroughly enjoyed it and can picture your busy family.   I’m so glad Verity is doing well.   God bless each one of you.

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