This Here By the Water blog has been a great place for me to share about our family and keep our friends and extended family updated. After much contemplating, I have decided to begin updating on a different site. This blog was my thoughts from a particular time and place, and now it is time for something new. I will keep the posts here for awhile (and probably print them into a family photo album of sorts), but I will no longer be posting here. If you’d like to keep reading about our lives, you can follow our new blog: Coleman Creek Folks at https://colemancreekfolks.wordpress.com/. Be sure to click “follow” at the bottom of the site, if you’d like to keep getting e-mail notifications of new posts. Thanks for loving our family and encouraging us in the journey of life.
I mentioned in my post a couple of days ago that school deadlines are coming up. Would you pray for our decision-making on this?
We visited a school yesterday – GIbbs International Studies Magnet School. It was fantastic:
-Great teachers who focused on teaching children how to think and find answers instead of teaching them what to think.
-A focus country for each classroom to study that year.
-Only two classrooms per grade level to keep it small.
-Great diversity of student population.
-Neat, clean, organized, great international decorations – a marketplace, post office, art from students in other countries (a trade), studies about folktales, folk art, etc.
-Fun music, art, gym, and theatre classes.
-Not in our neighborhood, but it only took us about 7 minutes driving.
It’s a lottery system to see who gets in, so I don’t really know what the chances are. We’ll visit another magnet school tomorrow – Williams Magnet.
The deadline for the magnet form is tomorrow, so I think we’ll turn it in and then have time to visit our local neighborhood school. So far, we have not heard a good word about it, but yesterday’s school visit gave me hope that there ARE good public schools here (despite what people say). Thanks for your prayers….
In a few days, we’ll have internet at home (I hope!), and I’ll be able to give a more thorough update.
- In the meantime, here are a few disjointed notes about the past week or so. Yesterday marked one week of life in Little Rock!
- Our Reba community friend Barb had mercy on us at the last moment – the night before our drive from Evanston to Little Rock – and decided to ride with the kids and me. She planned to stay a couple of days; but, once we had two down to the stomach flu (Jedi & Josh), she changed her train ticket and stayed on as a nonanxious presence and wonderful helping hand until Friday night. What an unexpected gift!
- Another community friend Gus rode with Josh in the truck and helped a great deal with unloading the truck on this end. He also tuned and cleaned our piano and filled our house with Reba praise songs. It was a house blessing of sorts!
- My dad was out front to greet us the moment we drove up with our giant, yellow Penske truck and trusty, white van. He even had sparkling grape juice to celebrate! We have been thankful for his additional presence here on several days – helping unload the truck, buying us groceries, bringing us family furniture from storage, and generally brightening the spirits of the children.
- Many people from our block and the nearby Methodist church have brought us sweets to welcome us. Sweet breads (banana, strawberry, zucchini) seem to be the custom. 🙂
- The kids, Barb, and I stayed in the garage apartment several nights while the moving in, initial unpacking, and sickness swirled around. We were thankful to have a quiet, warm space away from the action.
- We’ve also been thankful that the space is big enough that we do not feel cramped or overwhelmed as we organize and unpack.
- There are many projects still before us, but I’ll give you a few that we’ve done (we rejoice in each small task completed!):
- Painting the laundry room, dining room (walls & ceiling), and beginning on the office.
- Washer and dryer purchased and installed! No more visits to the “Funmart Laundromat.”
- Drip in kitchen faucet fixed and new (mold-free) hardware installed.
- Drip in bathroom faucet fixed.
- Kitchen cabinet drawers and doors put on (after being painted earlier in January).
- New car license plates, and an Arkansas drivers license for me! (Josh’s still pending…)
- New Arkansas bank account.
- Bed for Lilia painted and set up (thanks to my mom who came to help on Saturday). She and Lilia also painted several other pieces of her furniture lavendar to match her bed.
- I’m sure there’s more, but I might be boring you by now…
- Our next-door neighbor invited us to church on Sunday. It’s a 9000-member black church 2 or 3 blocks from our house. We all went and had a great time. The preacher was amazing (Josh was thrilled because he quoted Nouwen). The choir moved us to tears. Our neighbor insisted we meet the pastor. No decision yet about what our home church will be, but we really enjoyed going to this one.
- Our next-door neighbors on the other side invited us to a Superbowl party at their place. The kids were jumping-up-and-down excited (mostly because they had hamburgers & all I’d made for dinner was chicken noodle soup). Still, we all liked the neighbors and their friends and family at the party. Simeon made friends with their two-year-old granddaughter (who lives one more house down our block).
- We started homeschooling yesterday. We’re continuing with their regular school routines for math, writing, and spelling. We’re also focusing on our watershed (learning the bodies of water, animals, insects, plants, history, etc. in our specific ecological area). Our watershed is called Coleman Creek, and we’ve already done an expedition to find the creek. We’ve visited two different parts of it today and yesterday.
- We’ve also been participating in lots of activities at the Hillary Clinton Children’s LIbrary that is just blocks from our house – Garden club, cooking classes, martial arts classes – all free and amazing! http://www.cals.lib.ar.us/about/locations/childrens-library.aspx
- And today we went to the fantastic zoo in our neighborhood – chimpanzees, lemurs, cheetahs, oh my! We got to see them feed the ringtails, and the one named “Reba” came right up to the window. Thanks to my Memaw for the zoo membership, we’re gonna LOVE it!
- The kids and I also went to a kid-friendly yoga class for caregivers – catered to the needs of bodies that are frequently lifting and serving. The group meets at the Quaker Meeting House and has a discussion on the issues of social justice and how it relates to parenting – especially in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. It was a great time, and I even got to do a little bodywork on one mom’s sore shoulder.
- Josh continues to spend his mornings looking for work. Please pray for that process and end result!
- Also, there are deadlines for applications for schools for the kids for the Fall (due in this Friday). We have two school visits scheduled for this week. We really want a public school in the neighborhood – that feels important to us. Yet, no one says good things about really any of the schools. PLUS, last week a vote passed for the government to take over the schools, due to 6 schools with insufficient progress. It’s a tumultuous time for the Little Rock schools. We’d appreciate your prayers in navigating this situation.
Okay. I’m impressed if you made it this far. Subsequent updates will be shorter and include more pictures…:)
More bullet points from our first intense week of transition:
- Waking up to temperatures in the 50’s inside our apartment. Eating breakfast together in our winter coats and hats.
- Existential questions left and right from my ever-inquisitve 8-year-old. More deep and serious discussions this week than I can remember – how our family is different and “weird”, what bothers him about me, gender roles, worldwide crises, views on material possessions, and so much more.
- Lilia blazing through a workbook her teacher gave her for homeschooling this spring. She may have learned to read this weekend…
- Waking to Jedidiah throwing up on the floor beside my bed.
- Walls in my spirit torn down – able to accept it all as a gift – the hardships, the changes in plans – and to be thankful for the new path that emerges.
- A harp-regulation twenty years overdue.
- Feeling thankful for the help I didn’t know how to ask for – laundry done by some one I hardly know, a friend with a husband away too who can commiserate in the hard moments, more boxes piled outside my door when I’m running low.
- A back door that is still boarded up as the projected three-week porch project turns into over three months. The porch will be beautiful, I say out of obligation, knowing we may never use it. In these hard days, it is a small thing that makes my days harder – walking out the front door and around the building to take out trash & recycling and to get to the basement laundry machines.
- Thankful for health regained quickly for Jedidiah, even allowing us to go to church this morning.
- Lilia’s shining smile as she works on projects – her notebook from school, a menu of items she will make me on my birthday: “Don’t get up on your birthday, mommy. Just stay in bed, and I’ll bring you breakfast.” For days, she said, “How will I get you a present? I’m going to have to find some one to walk me to Quake Collectibles (a second-hand collectibles shop that sells toys, where she can by Beanie Babies for a dollar).” Then, on Friday she used the points she had earned at school to by me a present from the “point store.” She wrapped the little pink ball with a star on it and presented it to me proudly after school. I am floored by her giving heart.
- Simeon kissing his stuffed animals goodnight.
- Chapped faces, hands, and lips in the dryness of winter.
- Humidifier running day and night.
- Repositioning Simeon throughout the night to help him breathe better in the dry air with a stuffy nose, praying it is not a more serious issue than that causing his little snores.
- A giant packet of artwork for me to ooh and ahh and generally gush over – sent home by the art teacher for both kids – all their work from the year so far.
- Trying to keep things seeming clean and home-y as the piles of boxes grow each day.
- Simeon asking for us to sing O Come O Come Emanuel like we did during advent – raising his little arm and singing “Rejoice!” like we do for the church candle dance.
There is newfallen snow tonight – beautiful, yet bringing much work for the morning. Your prayers are holding me up. This has been a trying time, but I feel distinctly prayed for.
We are in the midst of the craziness of moving. Every day requires all I have, but still I am happy and thankful . It is truly an adventure – full of hardship and difficulties and beauty and exhaustion and the hope of something worth all the work and stress. I don’t feel able to write complete updates, but I’d like to record some stream-of-consciousness bullet points along the way.
– The kids and I are a team here – packing boxes, making food, getting homework done, and plugging along each day.
– Big kids home the last few days as the polar vortex has hit our city – snow blowing, wind chills as low as minus 50, car windshields to scrape, bundling taking half an hour or more for all of us to get out the door. Tomorrow school will happen again. Breakfast, getting dressed, lunches packed, and all that bundling by 7:40 am.
– Surprised by the twinge that hits me – I will miss the sight of them in their snow pants, boots, and scarves when we move south. Especially little Simeon – such a sweet toddler in his tiny snow pants and boots and hat with ear flaps. And I’ll miss the way everything is still and quiet in the winter and the freshness of newfallen snow – especially as it decorated the barren trees. There are many things about the winter I will not miss, but these things I will. In a way, the harshness of the winter makes you appreciate the spring and summer in a new way.
– Little Simeon – so often my “happy thought” – picking up toys at a friend’s house after I mentioned it once, doing his “homework” tonight (a pen held just right to make tiny drawings on a white piece of paper – “a snowman! a lion! a meck!”), making a “pizza” out of big legos and revealing it out of a box meant for roller skates – giving us all pieces, a cocked head and squinted eyes to ask me a question.
– Reading a funny book about frogs with the children – the best way to get us all to relax again when emotions are flying out of control.
– Meditation time before bed – something new to try. I hear both kids say, “We already know how to meditate” and turn around to see them both cross-legged, eyes closed, and finger-to-thumb classic meditation hands. Did they learn this at school??
– Piles of boxes imposing on our spaces. All 3 children happy to pack boxes with me and write on the outside. Christmas tree still up, hardly unpacked from our venture south, cat meowing to go outside but never following through when he feels the cold air.
– Multiple moments that make my heart sink – illnesses and hardships of friends, coming home to kitty accidents on our comforters, an allergic reaction for Simeon resulting in an eye swollen shut, a long drive on an icy morning to the DMV that does not complete the task, awakened every night many times for many reasons, so many little things too small too mention.
– Love abounding – unexpected friends dropping by, coupons to support in the days ahead, groceries brought to my door, friends making us dinner, family checking in.
We are strong like oaks – that is our mantra. We are plodding along and trying to be present and soak up these moments with our dear community here. Thank you for holding us up and trusting our call.
Here are a few pictures from our Fall. In addition to the big events from the last post, there have been field trips, school projects, a visit from my mom, another lovely birth I attended, and some travels for Josh…
Simeon loved feeding the giraffe carrots:
Lilia’s Kindergarten class!
Pictures for a school project Jedidiah was doing. his class was making a community alphabet booking, and he had the letter “I.” We learned all about a community event called “It’s Thursday, Let’s Dance!” The kids took pictures where the dancing takes place.
Lilia’s class at the Halloween party:
This guy won Harvest Bingo and got a stick-on mustache!
I was in charge of snacks, and we made monster mouths with apple slices, sunflower seeds, sunbutter, and strawberry “tongues”…
The last days of Simeon in his fedora (we are on to winter hats, now):
Kindergarten wears Lilia out some days…
Lilia learned to do the monkey bars!
Lilia in her beautiful coat from Memaw:
Another piece of our Fall is that there has been a good deal of construction on our building. Our windows were replaced, and for the past 5 weeks our back porches and stairwells have been torn down and (nearly) rebuilt. During the construction on our unit, we took a short retreat to the community lakehouse in Wisconsin. On a cold day, we decided to do a tour of the Jelly Belly factory. As you probably know, food dye is not really our thing, but it was a fun, free activity. There was a train and jelly bean art and free samples – including the Harry Potter Every Flavor beans. We actually had a blast…
We had a low-key Thanksgiving at home with just our little family. It was a quiet retreat after a busy Fall. We decided that we wanted to eat Chicago-style pizza one last time – a rare treat for us. In the end, we thought of several Thanksgiving side dishes we simply couldn’t do without. So, we basically had a Thanksgiving dinner with a pizza in place of the turkey. It was delicious.
Oh my. This Fall has felt heavy with decisions to make and new ventures to plan. It has been busy, but busy is really not the right word to describe it all. It’s the meaning and weight behind it all that has made it feel all-encompassing. And, truly, it is only good and exciting stuff! No tragedy or trauma. And woven throughout it all, our daily lives have been quite sweet and almost…normal. Still, I had a hard time finding the energy to bring our stories to this space. I hope to regain momentum for this in the coming weeks, as our lives begin their drastic change. Documenting the change and sharing our experience with loved ones seems like it will be a comforting practice during this time. But, no more dancing around it all, here’s what’s been brewing…
- I have been dedicating a good chunk of time to launching my business: Sweet Water Offering. I have been seeing many bodywork clients, as well as a few health coaching clients. I even taught a local class this Fall – a series on taking processed sugar out of your diet. It was a new challenge, but one I’ve found fun and invigorating. I’ve also been working on my website and strategizing for an online presence with my friend and business partner Katie Palmer. Here’s our site, if you haven’t seen it, yet: http://sweetwateroffering.com/.
- We’ve been adjusting to TWO kids in school. They’ve both had a great year, but it’s been a new form of juggling for us to keep their school routines on track and organized and to make time for hearing about their experiences and helping them cope with new struggles (like organization at school and interpersonal situations). So far, I actually really enjoy having school-aged children, but it is a different experience than being a mom to littles. Also, Simeon has been adjusting to being an only child for 7 hours each day. He doesn’t like it very much. He likes having other kids around and usually goes in search of friends in out building!
- Josh and I did a very intensive “anti-racism training” this Fall. It was a great experience that will surely effect our future approach to life and community. We were given a lot to think about and take to heart, as well as the opportunity to move forward in new ways.
- Finally, most of our energy the Fall was directed toward our hopes of starting a new Christian community in Little Rock, Arkansas. We are covenant members of Reba Place here in Evanston, which means that we share our money and decision-making in common with our community. We committed to be here “until God calls us elsewhere,” with the understanding that we felt called to start a community someday. Well, “someday” is here! And, we have discerned a plan and received an unfathomable gift of support and sending in a unanimous vote from the 50 or so other covenant members. A large part of that discernment was deciding to buy a house in Little Rock that seems right for hospitality and is in the neighborhood we selected through prayer and conversation and meeting neighbors and walking around. Our community here is helping us to make this happen in a unique and creative way – just the sort of thing they are best at. And we are deeply grateful.
- SO, recent weeks have been spent making an offer on a house, making plans for renovations, and setting up a transition plan for our family over the coming months. We plan to move at the end of January. There are a million other things I could say about the process and the unknowns and the hopes and the dreams and the people who are dreaming with us. But, this is enough for now.
Really, it all just feel so epic I have a hard time putting it into words: a new business doing things that I love, a chance to live near my family again for the first time since summer breaks in college, a location to call home, the promise of new community and new manifestation of God’s work in the world. The sadness and brokenness of the world swirls around us constantly, and I know it is bigger than I can fathom. Still, I feel a peace that we are walking on the path God has laid before us. And, in this moment, I feel excited about offering the simple gifts we have to others. Please pray for our family during this time. We know that excitement will give way to long days and lost routine and hard work and missing friends and wishing for familiar things. Recently, Jedidiah said that he wished he had more real adventure in his life. So, we’re all trying to look at this as a real adventure. Pray that we would be able to remember that perspective on the hard days.
Our Lilia turned five and a half last week. We made a half cake, as is our custom. It was a grain-free cake with coconut cream and strawberries. It was not an ordinary cake, but it was really lovely and quite delicious. Sadly, I did not get a picture. We celebrated with our Monday potluck group, since it fell on the right day. Lilia was quite proud of the cake and her half birthday.
My favorite part of the whole story is that there was ONE piece of cake left, and Lilia thought it was worthy of a whole other party. So, the next afternoon after school, she asked me to call a couple of friends (Iris and Eve) and have them come over to drink tea and share the last piece of cake. As I’ve written about many times, Lilia loves to plan a party, and she is always full of ideas for things we could do. I feel like I have to say no about eighty percent of the time. But, this was one of those sweet times when I got to say, “Yes, Lilia, I think we can do that!”
The three girls were thrilled and had a lovely time together. Lilia is a social girl, and I’m so glad she has good friends whose parents are spontaneous enough to let them come over on a whim.
Here are a few things about Lilia at five and a half:
-She is industrious – creating cards and projects just about every waking moment. My heart is warmed by the fact that most of these cards are addressed to me. I savor every one, knowing a day will come when she’ll move on from this sweet theme.
-She is self-assured. Lilia’s confidence rarely wavers. Even when she makes a big mistake or gets reprimanded by an authority figure. Even when she is not stubborn or defiant (which, indeed, happens), she does not seem to be hurt emotionally or to take things personally. I think this quality will serve her well as an adult. I am glad that her self-esteem is hearty.
-She loves to be helpful. If she can do it with a little flair – even better! She continues to enjoy creating in the kitchen. She also enjoys cleaning up a room to surprise me or setting the table with napkins she rolled herself. She is rarely as excited to do these tasks when asked, but she likes to do them if it’s her idea.
-She loves school. I have hardly heard a complaint since she began. She loves every teacher and almost every classmate. She happily does her schoolwork and loves to share what she’s learning. When we visited recently for the school dance-a-thon fundraiser, she was smiling ear to ear the whole time. She introduced us to her friend group, which included just about every ethnicity. She seems to make friends easily.
-She is a great big sister – watching out for Simeon and teaching him. One weekend, she even planned a whole morning of “toddler school” for him. He sometimes tires of her efforts, but I think he likes all the attention, too.
-Lilia is practical. She does not really enjoy sitting and talking for a long time. She likes to DO things.
-She picks up on everything, though – listening into adult conversations more these days and watching how others do things so she can figure them out on her own. Today, I was talking on the phone about a haircut, and she brought up at dinner how I had something planned for tomorrow. I had not even known she was listening in.
-Unfortunately, Lilia is our pickiest eater. I am hoping that she grows out of it. She does not like chunks of food in her food. She has a bit of a sweet tooth. And, she can be stubborn about not wanting to try new foods. She still has a lot of healthy foods she loves, but I’m hoping to help her branch out a little more.
-Lilia is a beauty. She gets more beautiful every year, I think. She is looking so tall and grown-up. Her long blond hair is like “spun gold” – that’s what my mom used to say about my hair when I was little. 🙂
-Lilia loves girly stuff – make up and fancy dresses and dolls and painted nails. We started a mother-daughter tradition this Fall – every Saturday evening is “spa night.” We lock the bathroom door and have girl time for 30 or 45 minutes. We take a bubble bath, paint our nails, tell stories, giggle, and put on our softest girly jammies. Already, it’s been a great gift to both of us. I hope the tradition continues, as it seems like a great way to stay connected as Lilia continues to grow and change. So far, she looks forward to spa night all week, and can’t wait until after Sabbath meal to escape for our secret girl time away from all the boys!
-Lilia is fun and adventurous and full of life. I love to hear her sing and watch her dance and be swept up in joy when she laughs.
What a joy to have a spunky, smart, big-hearted daughter! We’re so glad you’re in our family, Lilia Mercy!
We had so many fun summer adventures in Evanston and Chicago! We went to the zoo twice, to the nature center (and butterfly room!), to a water park, to a nature center and local historical center, and to the beach (about once a week). We even took a family outing to Navy Pier to ride the famous Navy Pier Ferris Wheel. Our weather was really mild all summer, so it was perfect for long days outdoors. Here are a few photos:
We had a nice, quiet fourth of July. There was a cookout with friends in our backyard, then we all walked to the lake to watch fireworks on the beach.
The little kids were much more interested in playing in the sand and water than in watching the fireworks. Still, they had a lovely time.
Jedidiah, however, said he was considering changing his favorite holiday to the fourth of July.