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Posts Tagged ‘Raising boys’

“Pretend you’re eating with the Queen,” she’d say, my mother, in those preschool years when my sisters and I would gather around the table for our lunch of cottage cheese and tinned pineapple rings. Oh, and we knew something of the Queen, over in her castle in England, and of Princess Diana and all her lovely clothes. I owned copies of them, after all. Paper copies, which fit neatly onto my Princess Diana paper doll. 
And so when she’d say it, our minds were filled with pictures of a royal banquet at Buckingham Palace. And my sisters and I made sure to keep our elbows off the table, chew with our mouths closed, and always say “Please pass,” instead of stretching for something out of reach.

 

But they weren’t quite enough, those lessons in manners. Didn’t quite do the trick when, sixteen years later, I found myself dining with real royalty–well, they were only 42nd in line for the throne, as I was told. But for this young American, that came close enough.

I arrived by train. My friend was there to greet me, and as we climbed into the car and whizzed down the single track road towards his family home, I felt as though I were being driven to another world. Through the maze of green hedgerows that towered around us, I caught glimpses of thatched cottages and gently rolling fields.  The sky grew smaller as the hedgerows grew taller. And in the next couple of days, I would grow smaller, too. 

“My mother is hosting a dinner party,” he said, my friend, “and you should probably apologize for arriving in the middle of it.”

Wide-eyed, I assented, and when we arrived at the most ancient of large cottages that his family called home, I found his parents and six of their friends gathered around a table (which was really a 400-year-old door) for a casual four-course summer evening meal. 

I dutifully apologized, was met with murmured acceptances of that apology, and was then seated to the left of his mother. 

The meal could have gone worse, I suppose, if I’d tried to make it so, though I made a small disaster of the affair quite well without even having to try. 

And what did I do that was so very wrong?

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I could have laughed a little quieter, eaten a little less, declined the cheese course. But I did not. 

And when the man to my left made a comment about the side-by-side American style refrigerator that my friend’s family had just purchased, followed by the statement that everything in America is large, I could have smiled demurely and said something diplomatic like, “Perhaps that is so, but bigger does not always mean better.” But I did not. 

And when, for the first time in my life, my nose started to bleed, I could have quietly slipped from the table into the other room until it stopped. But as I had a proper handkerchief with me, I decided to use that to dab at my nose, thinking the bleeding would soon stop. But it did not, and I waited until the elderly man who sat across from me looked at me with a measure of horror before I decided to slip away. 

But there is more. 

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.  If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use.  

– Emily Post

The next day I awoke to find my hosts in the garden wearing their wellies, having just returned from a countryside stroll with their King Charles spaniel. I was offered some strawberries from a large basket on the kitchen door-table and asked how I had slept.

The main activity of the day was watching my friend play cricket, that most English of games. I sat with his parents to watch the match, where we could look down at the local castle and admire how brilliantly the men’s white cricket uniforms stood out against the green.

“Do you ride?” I was asked. 

had taken horseback riding lessons, but as it had been a few years, I replied with an honest, “No.”

His parents looked thoroughly unimpressed. 

And later on back at the house, as I sat beside the enormous inglenook fireplace while my friend watched a football match on the telly, I was asked, “And what do your parents do?”

It was all a bit too much like that scene in Pride and Prejudice when Elizabeth Bennett visits Rosings Park and is interrogated by Lady Catherine De Bourgh. “Do you play and sing?” and “Do you draw?” and all the rest. 

I cringe as I remember the humiliation I endured, though I didn’t realize I was enduring it at the time.

I sigh as I recall the golden English June sunlight that bathed those few days, illuminating the green of the fields and pouring through the windows of that old house.

I laugh at the shock I must have given my friend’s family, especially when I imagine the fear they must have felt that he would fall in love with me and that they would have to welcome me into the family.

And what I wouldn’t give to go back and re-do the visit. Not to deny who I was–the great-granddaughter of poor immigrants who chose to make America their home–but to present myself with more of the discretion, thoughtfulness, and self-respect that I now possess. But that was then, and this is now, and had the visit gone differently, I wouldn’t have been left with such a fine story to tell.

Read more on manners in part 2!

Avonlea xo

Find me on Facebook & Instagram @avonleaqkrueger

See you there? 

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Finding beauty in the everyday 

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A castle is where I’d end up on days like today when we lived in Scotland. Days when the luminescent green earth called me outside for an adventure. Out to where pink-blossomed trees quivered in a gentle breeze and white fluffy clouds danced across a seamless blue sky.

As we’re sadly lacking for castles in Midwestern USA, I buckled the General, Waddlesworth, and Little Bear into the car, handed an apple to each of them, and headed off for a country drive through woods and rolling farmland in search of some Estate or Barn Sales. And did I find any? Certainly did.

I came home in possession of a light-up globe attached to a table. Some vintage curtains dotted with fishing, golf, and other manly pursuits, which I hope will one day become cushions or even a bean bag for my boys’ rooms. And books. Always books.

With my dose of sunshine and newly found treasures, and a day off from homeschooling due to my eldest being at a friend’s house, life looks good. I feel happy. Blessed.

Not so a fortnight or so ago, when I found myself tangled at the bottom of a slippery, murky, gnarly pit. 

While my morning routines got my days started and gave me focus, by afternoon my positive, cheery mummy reserves were running dangerously low. After a long school day I wanted nothing more than to curl up with a mug of chai and watch Fixer Upper. Not face the whole make dinner/eat dinner/clean up after dinner/wrestle the kids to bed routine.

But my  lack of motivation and feelings of despair came more from simply the exhaustion of raising four squirrelly little boys. It was more than the challenges of homeschooling. More than the difficulty of doing so much of it on my own since John has been working unusually long hours of late.

while I battled within the walls of my own home . . . it felt like the world around us was crumbling to pieces.

The problem was that while I battled within the walls of my own home, trying to give my children knowledge, feed them healthy meals, help them grow in faith, it felt like the world around us was crumbling to pieces. And what could a tired out mummy do about all that?

What was the point, really, in trying to make up my mind which shade of grey to paint the dining room, or doing anything else to bring loveliness to our home? Why search Pinterest for sugar-free dessert recipes? Why invest the energy in teaching the Professor about the injustices of segregation?

What, really, was the point of all my efforts, what with wars being raged, the American political scene making us all cringe (or cry!), and craziness like the recent Target bathroom/dressing room controversy leaving people up in arms.

What was happening to the world I would one day send my boys out into? 

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I was overtaken by a Spirit of Fear that left me nearly useless to the people in my life. And so one night, sitting in my bed with my pink and white polka-dot clad phone, I began to search for what God’s Word might have to say about all that.

What I found has changed my outlook 100%.

I read

 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesions 2:10

And that has made all the difference.

As I Christian, I believe that God created me, his daughter, with great forethought and care. That He chose the date and place of my birth, this exact time in history, for a reason. That He gave me these sons to raise up and prepare for the good works He has for them to do. That he gave me this husband to be my partner in life, that we can be a mutual blessing and “spur one another on to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). That he gave me this home to be a haven for my family and all who enter here.

And so you see, the daily work I do with my sons, with my home, with the people I seek to care for in my community and across the globe, they are not meaningless at all. They are vitally important to those whose lives I touch. Important in eternal ways I may never see.

Our world may seem to be spinning into chaos. Our current political candidates may not seem worthy of the title of President. But our God in control. And he IS worthy in every way. He is all-wise, all-loving, all-powerful, and always present.

And He has good works for me to do.

Avonlea x

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I’ve never had to wrestle a pair of tights onto kicking, squirming legs. Never had to untangle and braid a head of baby-fine hair. Never had to search through vacuum cleaner dust for Barbie’s other shoe.

No, these blessings have never been mine.

But also, I’ve never looked into my daughter’s wide-eyes face and caught surprising glimpses of my grandmother, sisters, mom. Never curled up with my daughter to watch Anne of Green Gables. Never got to lay into her arms my favourite childhood doll.

And probably, most probably, I never, ever will.

Because I have sons, you see.

Three of them.

And two weeks ago, in the cool, dim room at the doctor’s office, my stomach smeared with sticky gel, for the fourth time in my life I heard the words “It’s a boy,”

and with those three small words came the death of a dream.

I didn’t realize it at first.

Yes, I wanted a girl. To dress in tutus and lace, as opposed to dinosaurs and sharks. To shop with. Drink tea with. A little girl who would be like me in ways my wonderful sons could not.

But it’s taken a week

or more

to realize how much more than all that it meant to me.

Taken a week to realize the lifetime of hopes, plans, and expectations that I will have to bury along with my dreams.

When I was 13 I was given a journal. Instead of filling it with the usual teenage drama, I dedicated the book to my future relatives with love. I counted the pages, divided the book into thirds, and over the years filled the first section with photographs of myself, favourite quotes, and information about myself and my family. I planned to pass the journal on to my own daughter on her 13th birthday, and the middle section would be for her to fill out. She, in turn, was meant to give it to her daughter, my granddaughter.

I’ve always been aware of my heritage. The Brazilian side of my family. The Swedish side. And my place in the long line of women whose blood and genetics I carry in my own body. Those women who sailed to a strange new land to endure the harsh winds of a Minnesota winter. Contend with murderous Frenchmen and barn fires and drought. Or face the cramped conditions and sheer terror of being a foreigner in New York City.

I’ve heard their stories, watched the battles and triumphs that my own mother, aunts, and sisters have faced. I’ve felt my place among them. And I always thought I would one day add to that line with my own daughter.

She’d have my curls, I imagined. And when I married, I imagined those curls would be a wonderous, Scottish red. And when she was old enough, I’d tell her the stories of the women who had gone before her. The Brazilian side, the Swedish side, and now the Scottish side, too.

I’d tell her of the wonderful tapestries that God wove with the lives of these women, and paint pictures in her mind of the beautiful things she, with God’s help, would one day do.

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Now I wonder what to do. What to do with that book? Or with the box of dress-up gloves, hats, and scarves? With my American Girl doll? My Mandie book collection?

What will I do with the name? With her name. The name I’ve whispered to myself, scrawled along the margins of my journal. The name of the little girl who will never come to be?

I’ll love my fourth son. Oh, how I’ll love him.

But having a daughter, I’ve realized, was an integral part of all I hoped my life would be. Like getting married, or writing, or seeing the world. It’s hard to imagine a life without any of those things, and it’s hard to imagine my life without her.

The day after I found out, I rose early. Crept through the house, my black Bible in hand, and went to the porch. Sat there a while in the refreshing morning coolness, with the song of the birds and the breeze in the trees.

And I cried. And I asked God why. Why, when I wanted it so much? When it came so easily to others. Even others who didn’t even want their girls.

But I know, from experience, that when God’s providences are not in line with our own desires, that it’s easy to seethe. Rage. Grow bitter inside. And I know all the damage that can do.

And so I’m choosing, though it hurts and I don’t understand it, to accept God’s will for my life. Knowing, believing, though I cannot see it, that God is in the habit of making beautiful things out of dust. Of weaving together strands, which to us seem fragmented and broken, and creating pictures more lovely than we ourselves could ever dream.

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