Category Archives: Life

A Whole New Thing

Well, yesterday’s post chronicled our change from school-at-home to school-at-, well, school. Today, we’re going to talk a little about what my life looks like these days.

To begin … I had shoulder surgery four days before school began. It was only arthroscopic, so I found myself knocked for a loop by the anesthesia and the delightful prescription meds I got to take in the early days. I can truly and thankfully say that the biggest impact on me was just the medications, and trying to get the anesthesia out of my system! The pain was negligible, really. But the beginning of the school year is something of a blur, truth be told. When you think about it, that’s another good thing about the girls being back in school. I’d have been next to useless in the teaching department in those early days of the school year.

And then there’s the physical therapy, which, for the sake of time and ease, I’ll refer to as PT. I had the surgery on Thursday and had my first PT session on Friday. And from that time on, it’s been three days a week, almost an hour and a half at a shot. Over time I had developed one extremely frozen shoulder. No, that’s actually what it’s called. Meaning that in my case, I’ve had very limited use of my right shoulder and arm for more than two years. There had never been an injury. When my doctor went in he found that there was a protrusion of one of the bones in the joint that was pinching the rotator cuff, causing discomfort, and therefore causing me to use the shoulder less and less. All that to say, it’s of utmost importance if I want to regain the use of my arm that I work it and stretch it multiple times a day.

And so, that’s one of the things that I’m spending time doing for now, PT and recovering. I told some friends that I was going to write a blog post and call it Naps, Narcotics and Netflix — all about my first several weeks of school! But really, there doesn’t seem to be much point. The narcotics induced many lovely naps, during which I slept through several series of coveted British mysteries. (One day, I’m really going to go back and actually watch them again when my brain isn’t sedated and diffused.) Suffice it to say, it was a lovely haze of three weeks or so, which helped immensely in getting me used to having my young sidekicks elsewhere for the school days.

One thing I’ve intended to do now is begin again to run. I’m just not an early morning runner. I’m not much of an early morning anything-er, quite frankly. And by evening, my desire to exercise is not strong enough to get me out of the house. Or even into my running shoes. So, I realized this would be a great opportunity for me to start slowly again. It’s how I began in the first place, running while the girls were at school. And last week I did it. I put on those running shoes and got to it. So, that’s one thing to check off my list. I just have to keep it going. One step at a time.

And of course, the next thing I thought of when initially I wondered how I would spend my time, was that I could get back to writing my blog! That was also something I began when I had afternoons freed by kids in school. I’ve tried on a number of occasions to keep it going, even while knee-deep in home school, but that never really took off, on any kind of regular basis. So, I’m glad to be able to come back to this medium. I enjoy writing about my life and loves.

Aaaaand there’s still that school room/office to finish up. <Sigh>

So, there’s a glimpse into the new thing God is doing in my life. I’m excited about what he has laid in my path, albeit simple stuff. I’m happy to start small. My days still include plenty of mothering — it just looks different now.

For My Girls

I sit here wondering what to say. What do I have to say that is of any importance? Why should I tap out words on the laptop tonight? I have the time, and I have the desire, but I think about what to put down. And I realize that what’s really on my mind tonight, like most nights, is my girls. There are things I’d like them to know, be it now, or in days to come. So, Allyson and Katey, this is for you.

Before you left yesterday, to go to the cabin with Daddy, you each wrote a note for me. You wanted to surprise me, so I told you I wouldn’t watch you. Once you left I went and looked for your notes. Kate, I found yours on the front door, and I found yours, Allyson, tucked beneath the stapler on my desk. They were simple notes, written hurriedly, but the message was clear. I look at them this weekend as I spend time by myself, and I know that somewhere, up north in Sullivan County, are two girls who love me. And, as much as I’m enjoying this time to myself, I cannot wait for you to come home.

When you both are grown and have children of your own, you’ll no doubt begin to understand how nice it is for a mom occasionally to squirrel away time to herself. And something else you’ll find is that, no matter how reviving and renewing that time may be, when it’s done you’ll be happy to see your kids, because once you’re a mom, your life will never be just yours again. I gave away large pieces of my heart when I met you and we began our journey together. So, when you’re somewhere else I wonder how you are and I think about you and hope you’re learning and laughing and growing. It’s a mom-thing.

Earlier this week when we were in the car I asked you what you were looking forward to about being a mom. There was a long pause and one of you said, “… Having kids.” I had to laugh. You must have thought it was an incredibly stupid question. It was my way of beginning a conversation about being a mom. But even before you’re ready for motherhood, I look forward to seeing you become young ladies; learn to drive (though it may cause more than one anxiety attack for your parents); grow in your relationship with Christ; make new friends; discover new things you love to do. There are so many things to look forward to! I can’t wait to see who you’ll each become.

You both are so much fun to be around. I smile often when I overhear your conversations from another room because you’re smart and funny and talented. Sometimes when I listen I’m amazed by the maturity I hear in your voices. Other times I chuckle because you sound just like you did when you were tiny, playing together and being silly. I watch you play with smaller children — friends and cousins — and I know that you’ve been paying attention to the things we’ve told you. You have a gentleness and genuine care for others that thrills me to see. When we pray together I’m often amazed by your understanding. Wasn’t it yesterday that I held you and prayed with you? You couldn’t understand my words but I knew that before long you’d be hearing and learning — learning to pray, and to understand God and his “never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.”

I pray that you will continue to grow and to love and to enjoy life. You are God’s greatest gifts to me and I look forward to watching you grow.

And I look forward to having you home again on Monday!

Loss and Healing

In my last post I talked about things that have kept me from blogging as I once did, with joy and enthusiasm. Teaching my girls at home is a pretty hefty contributing factor, as I mentioned. But I’ve recently begun to suspect that there’s more.

Last year, on April 16th, I learned I was pregnant. And exactly one month later, it was over. I had lost the baby. I’d lost something else, too. Gradually, I’ve come to realize that some of life’s joy, its charm, has somehow been dimmed, tarnished. I hope it’ll be back. I’m working to deal with the feeling of loss that sometimes seems endless. … And the numbness. I know it’s a process. What I don’t know is what to do about it. I’m told that talking about it is helpful, though I really can’t imagine why. While I’m not one to avoid talking, even about this, I can’t believe that anything will really help ease the emptiness. Will conversation really make any difference in how I feel? I find that hard to believe.

And this, I think, has more to do with my absence here than anything else. What I loved to do was to write about whatever I felt like. Sometimes it was serious stuff (within reason, of course), but more often than not I was in the mood for tongue-in-cheek goofy-ness, or a happy narration about my life. That became the sticking point: I liked the tone I’d set in my blogging voice, yet I’ve felt less and less capable of sustaining it.

I want, once again, to make time to write; to enjoy the process of putting down stuff I’m thinking about, be it serious or silly. Because I miss it. I want to enjoy the creative process and feel satisfied when I click the “publish” button. I miss that outlet. So, I’m making an effort to get back into the practice of blogging. In hopes that what was a favorite pastime will be again. And perhaps it’ll be therapeutic, as well.

The Clutter Conspiracy

I’ve been trying to get my house in order. Not big news to you moms out there — it is our never-ending job, to be sure. Nor is it surprising to those of you who have seen my house recently — it certainly needs to have order imposed on it in a very big way.

And so, with the help of one particular, very organized friend, I’ve set out to conquer the piles of paper, mail and stuff in general that has been threatening to take over the place. Now, I have to say, I’m not bad at throwing things away when I put my mind to it. Just ask my kids who regularly complain that I’m getting rid of their “favorite” happymeal toy, for example, from six years ago that they never play with any more, but that they just might need one of these days. I can be merciless. When I get into the mode of clearing things out, I can do major damage, and happily be rid of the volume. I tend to do this, mostly, when my children and my husband are either asleep or several counties away, so as to avoid the annoying conversations that tend to crop up at times like these. But, given that my husband works from home, and the kids are homeschooled … well, you no doubt see my dilemma.

But papers and mail, and confusing things like children’s “jewelry” that gets worn from time to time, but that is constantly under foot, for instance … these things seem to overwhelm me. Because they gang up on me. One day I have a clear dining room table and I’m feeling happy and successful — all’s right with the world. The next, I’m facing a pile that is pushing us to eat dinner on the picnic blanket outside. It’s a conspiracy — I just know it. And I fold under the pressure, often as not.

Oh, and the bags of hand-me-down kids’ clothes that I receive (very gratefully), and put in a hallway, or in the family room, just till I get the chance to go through them. But then I realize I really should go through what’s in their closets first … And so it happens that because I know they’re there, and I will go through them soon … that’s where they stay, because after about a week I just don’t see them anymore. Strange phenomenon, I think, this hiding things in plain sight. That “works” only until someone comes over to the house, because then, I not only see them, I go crazy trying to deal with them because, far be it from me to let someone outside my nuclear family see how we actually live!

All this to say, I’ve been working — slowly but surely — on the Clothing Situation, the Mail-and-Random-Paper Disaster and the basics of Organizing my house. And I’ve been feeling progressively happier and happier about being in my home. (That’s really nice, as we’re homeschooling and spend a good deal of our lives there.) Now I notice another interesting phenomenon. And it is this: After I’ve successfully tackled one room, organizationally speaking, I have an overwhelming desire to take on another room that needs my intervention! Not immediately, perhaps. I might take a day (or six) off to revel in the glory that is the family room, but it does happen. The other day, I had a few moments when the kids were working on schoolwork and didn’t need me to be there. I actually began washing our windows. And — get this — no one was coming over to visit! I just picked up the windex and paper towels and cleaned those darn windows. Because I felt like it. Crazy, I know, but true. My kids have recently even stopped asking who’s coming over when they see me cleaning.

Could it be that we’re entering a new era in our household? One where clutter will not reign supreme and I will not kowtow to its dictatorial demands? We have only to wait and see. And if you’d like to know sooner than my next related post (because who knows when that could be!), please feel free to stop over and see for yourself. If I’m out of breath, and it’s taken longer than normal for me to answer the door, chances are we’ve had a relapse. But maybe I’ll be the victor for a while.



Bad Dreams

Early this morning I awoke from a doozy of a dream. It was one of those dreams you wake from and have to really think for a moment to be sure it wasn’t real. I don’t often have dreams. At least as far as I remember. But I remember this one.

I was walking with my girls. We were outside somewhere — you know how things like surroundings can change from one part of a dream to another, without reason. Anyway, less than a block from where we were a very large, old tree started coming down. It seemed the moment before this the girls were with me, but now, at this moment, for some reason, they were not and I became immediately convinced of the need to get to them. There was a voice in my head telling me I didn’t need to worry, they’d be fine. (Could be that was my husband and not my brain. Hard to be sure.) Another, much louder voice was screaming that I had to find them. (There’s no doubt this one was mine. I’m that sure because I hear it relatively frequently.)

Anyhow, this tree looked to be hundreds of years old, it was that big. And the effect on the surrounding area was drastic. When it fell, buildings were reduced to rubble, sidewalks were torn up; all around me was chaos. And I still didn’t have my children. I don’t know how long it took — dreams have a funny way of warping the passage of time, not to mention the effects a fallen tree can have — but eventually, I saw a friend with Katey. They were okay, and I asked if she had seen Allyson. She told me that another friend was with her. So I began running around looking for them. But regardless of how long I searched, I couldn’t find them. Couldn’t find her.

Finally, I looked near what seemed to be ground-zero, a place that was a heap of tree-pieces and upended sidewalk. There, I found the body of a child, and I couldn’t tell if this was my child. I spent the remainder of the dream trying to find my child alive, denying the possibility that she wasn’t.

This is when I woke up. And for the next hour I was haunted by the question of whether, in my dream, it was my child that had been killed by the falling tree, or whether I’d have found her unharmed if I’d looked a little longer. Silly, I know. I kept telling myself that as I went over it again. And again.

 Let’s just say that when I first surfaced I was relieved that it was time to see that the girls were getting out of bed. Oh well … (sigh) if I must, I must! I’m pretty sure I hugged Allyson a little tighter than normal. I casually mentioned that I’d had a bad dream. Katey told me that she’d had one, too, but she didn’t want to talk about it. That, presumably, reminded her of a bad dream she had when she was 3. Seems she dreamed that I wouldn’t let her eat waffles. Ever again. In her life! I said I thought that sounded sad. Her reply was, “It was really scary. I cried.” (She was utterly serious.)

I’m not always told just what it is they dream about when one of them comes into our room in the middle of the night, wanting to be comforted after a nightmare. But I sure hope it’s more like the life-without-waffles-kind of dream than the kind I had this morning. Please, Lord.

Embers: Remains of the Day

Sitting, watching the remaining embers of the campfire with just my husband, I enjoy the quiet, and my mind wanders …

We had spent the day at the cabin; the cabin that belonged to Jeff’s grandparents. There were kids everywhere you looked today, and the five that remain for the night are abed. Or they’re supposed to be. They should be exhausted. However, they seem to be immune to the effects of the busy day.

The creek out in front of the cabin has been quite dramatically rerouted since our last visit, and we spent hours getting to know the new lay of the land. And water. The creek is now wider and more easily wandered. And we wandered, alright. We ranged from the point where we stepped into the creek, on up past the place where Allyson lost her flip-flop. (It had been sucked in by the mud, much to her dismay and frustration. And it had been found by Daddy, much to the surprise of us all.) We went further upstream, finding paths along the rocky shore, and avoiding what the boys had termed Quicksand, which made us all fear for our shoes. We saw minnows, a crayfish, and were introduced to something called jewel weed that, we’re told, will “cure poison ivy.” What I do know is that when you submerge the leaves of this creek-side plant they look to become strikingly beautiful silver. I spent time taking pictures of the kids and the creek, and experimenting with various settings on my camera. We made our way further up and Jeff found a rock that served as a gathering place for a bevy of butterflies. And Kate — my girl who absolutely loves drawing hearts — found a two pound river rock shaped almost precisely like a heart, which we decided to keep (it actually was a mutual decision), and I volunteered to carry it all the way back to the cabin. (‘Cause that’s just the kind of mom I am.)

My heart-loving daughter also loves to pick flowers which she gives to me with much love and pride. But for some reason that I cannot for the life of me fathom, she always gives them to me without stems. I’ve tried to explain to her how very much easier it would be for me to carry these fabulous bouquets if I had six inches of stem by which to grip them. Heck, I’d settle for two inches! But it seems to be my lot in life (granted, this is not a terrible “lot,” indeed) but it is always my challenge to try to grasp just the very head of the flower, withOUT, mind you, smushing the flower. And she watches. She knows!

Anyway, returning to my narrative … I was also trying to not smush several lovely wildflowers, as well as the heart-rock, and the camera. In the end, only the rock and the camera made it back unscathed. Oh, and all eight children, too. We had successfully maneuvered and investigated the new creek bed, and had happened upon several new treasures. It was a good day.

After dinner we put the kids to work collecting sticks and larger pieces of wood to begin the campfire. We roasted marshmallows and made some delicious s’mores, went over fire-safety rules and sent the kids off to bed. Now, since four of the five of them were sleeping in one room, sent the kids off to bed makes it sound way easier than it actually was. I spent thirty minutes trying to keep them somewhat quiet and in the horizontal position that most lends itself to sleep, before giving up and turning the job over to Grandmom. I was beginning to feel like I was playing whack-a-mole, and that I should give the moles a bit of a break. It is The Cabin, after all, and the cousins were having fun being together. I’d let Grandmom whack as she saw fit.

I was outa there. I walked outside and sat down next to my husband who remained with the half-spent fire. And I breathed. Who doesn’t love watching a campfire, poking at the embers and burning the tips of out-of-work marshmallow sticks?

… So we sit and rearrange the wood and blow on the red, glowing ashes, trying to bring back the waning flames. And we talk. Okay, to be truthful, it’s mostly I who talk. But he usually answers. When it’s called for.

And here I come to the part that was the initial purpose of this post — my thoughts beside the fire tonight. But I see that I had other things to say. Perhaps I’ll save it for the next post.


Homesick, After A Fashion

It’s five thirty on a Saturday afternoon. And I’m completely alone in my house. This may not sound utterly amazing to you. Or it may, depending on just which stage of life you currently enjoy. But for me, this is unusual. And I’m not just alone, but I’ll be alone for at least the next twenty-four hours. Except for the part when I leave the house and am at church tomorrow morning.

Now, this has happened to me before — even within my mothering days. Just not very often. For those of you wondering how I’m fortunate enough to have achieved this idyllic state, here’s the story. Jeff has taken the girls back to visit his parents in the Philadelphia area and they’re staying overnight. Since I have to teach Sunday school in the morning, I had to remain behind.

During the first moments after the van pulled out of our driveway, my mind — which has been busy up till now trying to organize all the stuff they needed to take — suddenly atrophies at the staggering number of possibilities that lay before me. Just what am I going to do first? And, as is typical when presented with endless options, I can’t think of even one. Suddenly, my brain freezes and I switch to automatic pilot. Yup, I decided to sweep my kitchen floor. Let me just tell you, had I sat down earlier in the day and drawn up a list of possible ways to spend my free time, sweeping the floor would not even have been a distant runner-up on that list.

Enough of that … The second thing that happened after they left was that I began to miss them. A strange melancholy feeling was growing in the pit of my stomach. This could have been exacerbated by the fact that for the half hour before they left Katey was crying and standing so close to me that I stepped on her several times. Both girls were totally excited when Jeff told them what was going to happen (a mere hour before they took off). But then when it was mentioned that I would be staying here, Katey got quiet and started to look like a basset hound. Make no mistake, she certainly wanted to go and knew she was going to have a fantastic time with her grandparents and cousins, she was just anticipating the coming separation anxiety.

That’s totally not fair! I was all set to revel in my freedom and independence, and all I can see is my six-year old’s sad face. I know that within minutes of leaving our neighborhood she did a complete turn-around and was happy and looking forward to her adventure. But the image I’m left with is her sad little face and those watery eyes, darn it.

Well, hopefully I’ve gotten it out of my system and will be free to enjoy my space and autonomy. The only thing is … I still can’t think of what to do!

Today, A Good Day

Today was my girls’ last day of school. Allyson’s last day of first grade, and the final day of Kate’s kindergarten year, her introduction to the world of schooling.

Today I got them up and ready. I reminded Allyson that this was the last time for many days that she would have get out of bed at seven o’clock in the morning, my little lazy girl. Today I chatted with a happy Katey while I showered and she sat on the bathroom floor, talking about nothing much, but happily talking all the same.  (This little one is so like her mom.)

After breakfast and a rush to get all the things they would need, like the posters they had made for their teachers, and their sweaters and the school-appropriate footwear, we rushed out of the house. Normally, I get the girls to school early. One of them in the morning, and the other after lunch. But we’re always — I mean, always — early. Just ask my husband, who rolls his eyes and wonders why on earth I leave the house 30 minutes before school when it takes a scant 6 or 7 minutes to drive there. Not today. This is the day, the first day and the last, that we get to school after the bell rings at 8:30. I walk in with both my girls — I need to reclaim Allyson’s inhaler from the nurse’s office — and I walk out with only Kate, having pushed my eldest into the hallway so she wouldn’t be counted as late on her last day of first grade.

Then Kate and I run a few errands. We pay a bill. (In person, at the office, because, ironically, though I’m always early when going somewhere, I can’t seem to plan ahead enough to mail in the payments to local places, like the township office and the water company.) Then we run to the grocery store for the week’s food. And I get talking to some friends I’ve made there over the years. And I take my time. Until I remember that today Kate is due at school almost 2 hours earlier than normal because they have early dismissal.

So, once again today I deliver my child in the nick of time to her last day of school. It feels so strange to be at the very end of the kindergarten drop-off line of cars. The very last car. I had visions of spending time talking about it being her last day, and smiling and laughing … But the reality is that I grab my camera and snap a quick picture while I nearly push her out of the car onto the curb and wave goodbye.

Things have not happened today quite the way I had pictured. But, in the end, the girls got to school. And I took a ride. We have a new van, you see. (It’s new to us and I revel in the luxury of this new seven-year-old van.) And I drive among my favorite hills and farms. It’s not very far from our house, but it’s far enough that I feel as though I’ve escaped, as I turn up the volume so I can really hear the music (The Kings Singers singing Beatles songs) and I’m a happy mom. I know that I have about an hour before I have to get to the bus stop and pick up my girls who are coming home for the summer, and I enjoy every moment. The scenery is stunning. Coming to the top of a hill and seeing the green farms reaching across the valley below makes me wish I had the nerve to stop along the side of the road and take pictures. But I keep driving because my time alone is limited and it’s coming to an end.

It’s funny, because, though I’m relishing my time to myself, time to drive and to crank up my music, I’m not at all dreading it being over. I’m not wishing away the girls who will be waiting for me at the other end. I’m absolutely looking forward to spending time with them. Time that will be abundant, and probably fraught with some petty arguments, and some whining, and some boredom. Still, I look forward to the days ahead because we’ll be spending them reestablishing our rhythm together and getting a better idea who we’ve each become since last summer.

I get the girls off the bus, camera in hand, and snap one picture as someone walks right in front of one of my kids. So much for the candid, getting-off-the-bus-on-the-last-day-of-school, action shot. Oh well. My very next move is to nudge my child out of the street (so as to keep her from being run over by the car that was waiting for the bus to get out of his way) and she falls and scrapes her knee. Happy summer, girls! … Really not how I (nor she, for that matter) imagined this part of the day going. But she’s a good sport as she limps to the car.

And we finish out the day with little else in the way of drama, though we do several celebratory, end-of-school-type things before getting them ready for bed. Then we read from several books I’ve chosen in hopes of whetting their appetites, and pray and kiss them and walk out of their room. All in all, a successful if not picture perfect last day of school.

It was a good day.

Happy Kids, Happy Mom (And Dad)

We have these two daughters, you see … and they make our lives fun and interesting. And in the last two years (or so) they’ve made our lives remarkably easy. By that I mean easier than it was when they were toddlers and babies. There are several reasons for this.

  • They’ve been out of diapers for a while now — being as they’re 6 and 7 years old.
  • They no longer need parental intervention to see their food into their mouths. (Though, more of it than you’d expect still ends up on the floor under the table. But, in that they know how to use a dustpan and brush and can clean up after themselves when called upon to do so, it still technically qualifies as way easier.)
  • Dressing themselves and picking out the day’s clothing is something they find quite entertaining, even if their choices occasionally make me shake my head and bite my tongue. (In the interest of honesty, I must admit I don’t always bite my tongue. I have been known to utter something akin to “Uhhh … No.” It’s really the tone of finality in my voice that ends the discussion. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work.)
  • They’re wonderful at self-soothing and getting themselves to sleep, with a bedtime book, praying together, and a kiss (or five) on the forehead. Sometimes it does require butterfly kisses (which, granted, makes it necessary for me to remove my glasses, thus requiring a little more time) and eskimo kisses all around — but the rules of the house (in this case, the reality and finality of bedtime) are firmly established and it’s all good.
  • And, to top it all off, they can now pick up some of my jobs. Bonus! Setting and clearing the table, helping with laundry, making their beds, the aforementioned sweeping of the floor, and the list goes on …

I was not — ever! — the mom who couldn’t wait for my babies or toddlers to get on to the next stage. I never wanted to wish away that favorite snuggly age when I felt so needed, even if I got very few consecutive hours of sleep. But I’m here to tell ya, I’ve been shocked at how much easier it is to parent them right now. I never expected to feel that, much less to say it. But I do. And I am. And I just did.

Please don’t tell me to brace myself for the teen years. I know — really, as much as one who hasn’t gotten there yet can know. I get it. And yes, it has been more of a mental challenge already when they ask about things I have to really think about how to answer. Or when discipline issues become way more complicated. Or when I have to explain how babies get inside a mommy and how, exactly, they get out, or the meaning to words of a song they’ve heard on the bus. And I realize that, without doubt, it’s only going to escalate. I get it.

I’m not trying to rest on my laurels, imaginary or otherwise. I’m just allowing myself to enjoy this albeit brief respite in my parenting career.  And, if you catch me on a different day — maybe even tomorrow — I may deny everything I’ve just said. But, for today anyway, I really enjoy my easy kiddos and I love being their mom.

Not A Tame Lion

In 2011 the girls and I dove headlong into the world of Narnia, which was lovingly and thoughtfully created by author, C.S. Lewis. I hesitated only long enough to consider whether 5 and 6 years of age was too young to appreciate the allegorical themes contained in the series. I concluded that they would get it from me, if they didn’t understand it directly from the text. And so, we embarked — for that was, after all, the primary purpose of the journey.

Now, because I feel the need to state my position on this subject, I will tell you I have always begun with The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. For those of you wondering why I bring this up, I will try, concisely, to explain the issue. For many years the designated order of the seven books in The Chronicles of Narnia were as follows: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, The Horse and His Boy, The Magician’s Nephew, and The Last Battle. (This is the order in which they were originally published.) But then in 1994, the American publisher decided they were to be numbered according to their chronological order, thus switching The Magician’s Nephew to be the first book in the series because it is the creation story of Narnia.

But I didn’t want to read it in chronological order to my girls. I wanted their introduction to this world to be the story in which Aslan is first introduced and the book in which the Pevensie children first learn about Narnia and the strange, talking creatures who inhabit this world — as it was for me. I strongly believe that you cannot possibly fully appreciate witnessing the creation of Narnia until you know the land, and its landmarks have become familiar and dear. Would you as richly enjoy the scene from The Magician’s Nephew where Jadis throws the broken piece of a London lamp-post into the newly created Narnian soil only to watch the Lamp Post grow up before the children’s eyes — if you never knew that oh, so familiar landmark? I can only imagine it would lose some of its wonder. Or learning the origin of the wardrobe before you have experienced its magic and understood its importance as a gateway to Narnia? This is why I have continued to read these stories in the order in which they were initially introduced to the world — beginning with The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.

You see, when Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are first in the strange land where it’s always winter and never Christmas, and they begin to hear about Aslan, son of the Emporer Over the Sea, there’s an air of mystery. They hear that he is returning to Narnia after being many years absent. And, at first the children (and thus, we) are not told that he is a lion. But when that fact has been disclosed, they ask whether he’s safe. And they’re told, “No, he’s not safe. He’s not a tame lion! … But he is good.” What a wonderful way to describe him, and his allegorical counterpart, Jesus. What a fantastic introduction!

And there are wonderful lessons for us to glean from these adventures. In the third book (The Dawn Treader), Eustace, who has been nothing but a major annoyance so far, is turned into a dragon in a series of curious events. And after a period of time during which Eustace learns and matures, Aslan (whom he has not yet met) wakes him up early one morning and summons him to a small pool where he tells him to get in and bathe and take off his clothes. But, being that he’s a dragon, instead of taking off his clothes he realizes he is meant to shed his skin. Then, seeing there is still a dragon skin underneath, he sheds that skin. This happens three times, to no avail, before Aslan says he himself will have to do it. This time, instead of being painless, the process is excruciating. But when it is done, and Eustace steps into the pool, he realizes that he is no longer a dragon. He is a boy again! And Aslan dresses him in brand new clothes.  I love the way this illustrates our need to have our sins removed by Christ. We can shed some of our sinful habits, but we can never be free from the curse of sin without Christ’s (sometimes painful) intervention.

Woven into the stories are warnings against pride and self-sufficiency (Silver Chair and Horse and His Boy), vanity (Dawn Treader), heeding human advice rather than following divine guidance (Caspian), lust for gold (Treader), and a reminder to meditate on God’s word (Silver Chair). These and many more lessons are easily understood throughout the stories, without seeming preachy, or pompous.

There’s much more I could say about Lewis’s delightful allegories that are The Chronicles of Narnia! If you have never stepped through the wardrobe for yourself, you really ought to. There’s much to see and much learn. And there are many compelling friends you won’t be sorry to have met.