Posts Tagged ‘Raising Sons’

The great boot exchange, I call it. Snow boots hauled up, rain boots hauled down from their upstairs closet winter home. April now, and I’ll expect a spate of showers before the sultry of summer comes to stay.

The rain boots tumble from my arms. Frogs, and monkeys, and the green Hunters I like so much. Chatter, and light in my lads’ eyes as they recall past springs and puddles splashed.

Then I send them out with boots and brushes to wash away the winter mud, for boots must be stored away clean.

I peek from the dining room window and watch them sitting on the steps, lips pressed in earnest as their little hands scrub.


Then I’m caught up for a while, sizing up which rain boots now fit who, and which can be given away—just another part of motherhood one wouldn’t think to list, though it takes an afternoon twice every year.

But I leave my work now, and step out. So new the spring, the grass yet a patch of green and straw.

Birdsong. Warmth. Flat blue beyond the branches bare.

I gasp. I’m gasping. And I cannot gulp enough of this sweet, this air.

And I watch my lads for a moment, as they laugh and run.

My curly top squats beneath our big old tree, and I’m called to see the wild violets growing there.



A moment more, then in again to think of dinner.  And as my hands chop carrots into little discs, I think of this day. And I think of motherhood, and the labor of making a home. I think of how it’s disregarded. Seen as unfulfilling and of little worth. But I know otherwise.

And I sigh contentment for all I am and all I have. For the pleasure in this exchanging of boots. In this marking of the seasons, and remembering of dear times past.

I am building their memories, building their lives.

May my lads always find pleasure in order and in a job well done. May they find joy in little things. May they have thankful hearts. And may they one day go into the world with the strength that only a mother’s love can bring.

Avonlea x

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Happy Little Sigh

Homemaking Inspiration from Literature ❤

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And I had been crying that day. Leaning against the countertop in the kitchen and sobbing it all out while the boys played in the next room.

The oldest came in but I didn’t stop.

“Why are you crying, Mummy?” Tender little heart of the firstborn child.

And so I told him.

“I’m sorry.” Sad little smile of sympathy, then off he goes to play.

It had been the best part of four hours. A good stretch of my day. Finding the words, getting them out. Fonts and photos chosen and arranged. And I was close, so close, to pushing the button. Sharing the post. But then some crazy glitch in my computer, and in a second it was gone. Crazier still, the site hadn’t, as it usually does, been auto-saving every two minutes. And so it was gone. My post. My day.

After a call to John, a few more tears of despair, a few frantic attempts to get it all back, I gave up. Gave in. There was nothing to be done.


The sun was shining.  Setting the snow to sparkling like ten million diamonds sprinkled on the smooth dips and hills of our backyard. A little gift–and nothing to be sniffed at–for us and this frozen, grey tundra we’ve been calling home.

The sun was shining and so after a few more tears I whisked up Mr. Waddlesworth by his portly 1-year-old middle, his legs sticking out behind me like two pink stumps, called the other boys, and announced, “We’re going sledding.”


And so from the oak chest in the mudroom, one of the few pieces of furniture we brought with us from Scotland, I began to toss out the snow gear. Wrap up my boys up like marshmallow men. Though my heart wasn’t in it, we were going to go.

And when we were all nearly ready, he said it, in his sing-songy three-year-old voice.

“This is a happy day,” he said, “because Jesus loves us.”

That’s just what he said, and I hugged him for it.

That’s just what he said, and I wanted to cry.

And that wasn’t all, from my wise little General. My black-olive eye boy, my precious gift.

Just as I zipped up my own coat, he put up his red-mittened thumb and said, “Great jacket, Mummy.”

That’s just what he said, and my heart had to melt, for the generous gift of their words, my boys. For their sympathy, their compliments, their declaration of truth.

CAM002501Not that it’s always the case. The General was born with the fight in him. My passionate soul who loves to wrestle and throws his blocks more than he’ll ever build a thing. And my oldest, well, he’s prone to sulking. Tender heart that can’t bear for a thing to go wrong. And Mr. Waddlesworth’s had an obsession recently with scattering cereal (whole boxes at times), and he spends the rest of his days crying as he tries to climb my legs.

And it doesn’t take much, sometimes. Just one foam sword fight too many. That second spilled drink that I have to clean up. The crunch of cereal under my slipper. That’s all it takes sometimes, and my nerves are undone.  Anger boiling up inside me like baking soda tossed in vinegar. Because life isn’t easy, and in a torrent of words and frustration many syllables too high, they’re all going to hear about it, my little souls. My little men.

Because isn’t it my right to vocalize my dissatisfaction—with what I have, with how I’ve been treated, with all that went wrong with my day? To tell anyone who asks, or anyone I can make to listen, all that is wrong with my world?

I do let myself believe it. Yes, sometimes I do. I speak and act as if my words will leave my listeners unruffled, unaffected, unchanged.  That I can somehow pour upon them the greyness of my worries and my woes about my job and my house, my children and my spouse, and expect to leave them feeling inspired, encouraged, beaming with light.

But that is not, of course, the case.

What those words do is drag their hearts right down.

For our words are not invisible, not neutral particles that vanish like the wind. They are like music, whose melody and lyrics sway our very moods and actions, and stay long years in our minds and hearts.

And when we complain, when we shout, when we voice our dissatisfaction, or bring to the attention of others something that is negative or out of place, we bring these sorrows, this discontentment, this darkness to the forefront of their minds.

And God, of course, calls us to a different way.

He asks that we speak about, think about, all we are thankful for, all that is right.

whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

~Philippians 4:8

When it’s convenient and I’m felling well.  Kind, thankful words.

When it’s inconvenient and I’m not. Kind, thankful words.

CAM00259cd1On that day last week they taught me, my little men, the immense, the incredible, the significant power of our words.

Not that I’m there yet. Not that it’s easy. But it is a worthy goal, and worth the effort to seek to bring true beauty to our homes and lives. To bless others, and teach our children to bless.

For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.

~Audrey Hepburn


Avonlea xo

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Finding beauty in the everyday 

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 I sit and hold him,

cradled warm and snug against my chest.

Trace with my eyes the curve of his ear.

Run my finger along the plump softness of his cheek.

My son. My baby. My last.

A smile tugs at his lips.

“He’s dreaming of angels,” they say here in Scotland,

of fluttery newborn smiles.


In the background the voices of the boys choir of Kings College Cambridge

pour out The Holly and the Ivy,

one of my favourites, though I never knew it till I came here.

And I thought I’d have girls. Lots of them, born in the summer.

And yet this is the third Christmas I’ve sat with a newborn, a son,

(the Professor came in the spring)

wondering at this new life given to my care,

as I also wonder about the other baby,

whose birth we celebrate this time of year.


What brings more wonder than a baby,

a new life?


Nothing at all, I would say,

except the life of that baby,

the one born in a stable,

who lived not only his life,

but because of his God and man-ness

is able to know intimately the minute details of the lives of each one of us.

A baby. A man. But also God.

A God who sees.

A God who knows.

A God who cares.

Cares enough to live among his creation,

and here face death

to give each of us the chance

to live again.


A new world, a new life,

through him.


Your life,


made new through him.


I’ll have plenty of time to drink it all in tomorrow.

The carols, the mince pies, the sweetness of my newborn’s breath,

and the wonder of the birth of my Saviour.

But you’ve been kept waiting,

and so let me introduce him to you,

my newest wee manie.

We’ve called him Charles.


Wishing a merry,

the VERY merriest,

of Christmases to you.

And enjoy this gift of music from The Piano Guys.

If you haven’t ever heard them then you really, truly must.

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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.


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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The posts haven’t come as regularly recently. Did you notice? But they aren’t done and the inspiration hasn’t stopped. 

The whirlwind of life has kept going, providing me with more life-lessons than I’d sanely choose, if given the chance. And after the long bitter winter, I find myself still in awe of the heavy fullness of the trees and the strange new sensation of heat.

And so yes, still the words come to me, click together like magnets in my head, demand to be spoken, printed, heard. 

But in spite of all I long to share, I’ve been otherwise engaged, and I’ve found there simply isn’t enough time in the day (not until I get a housekeeper like the Brown family in Paddingtion Bear, as the Professor suggested I do). 

Otherwise engaged? Yes. 

Lying on the sofa, mostly. Enduring the drug-like fatigue and debilitating nausea of the first few months of pregnancy. Baby #4 is due to arrive in December, and before you even think it, no, we don’t know the gender but are counting on the baby being another wee boy. 

And when I was well enough to be up and caring for my family, holding up the walls and trying to keep the layers of crusted on food from becoming too thick, I’ve been writing. 


Yes! Fiction, this time. Fiction that I deeply hope I will get the chance to share with all of you. 

And what is it about? 

It’s set during WWII . . . and the present day. 

A wee blurb for the back of the book might go something like this:

Two women. Two generations. Separated by an ocean. Brought together by a house. 

So, yes, I’ve been writing fiction, trying to churn out a few pages a day. 

Then there’s been the preparation for our Scotland trip. Oops, I didn’t mention. Yes, a trip to Scotland. A long one. We’re hoping to have the baby there. And I wouldn’t dream of going without you. So stay along for the journey! 

Stay and see the view of the Moray Firth from John’s parents’ house. 

Stay and find out if #4 is indeed a boy. 

Stay and maybe even find out more about my book. 

For today, I leave you with a quote–a thought to keep you soaring–aptly taken from the words of a German Christian who was martyred by the Nazis for standing up for all that’s right. 


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