Thursday, August 28, 2014

"The Mountains are calling and I must go"

 ***  We are about to head out on a short little camping trip to sooth our savage beasts and clear our heads.  I can never quite articulate how I feel about getting outside, so I will let John Muir do it for me, better than I ever could. 

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.
- The Yosemite (1912), page 256.

Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.
- Muir quoted by Samuel Hall Young in Alaska Days with John Muir (1915) chapter 7

Come to the woods, for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green deep woods. Here grow the wallflower and the violet. The squirrel will come and sit upon your knee, the logcock will wake you in the morning. Sleep in forgetfulness of all ill. Of all the upness accessible to mortals, there is no upness comparable to the mountains.
- John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, (1938), page 235.

As long as I live, I'll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I'll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I'll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.
- Quoted from Muir Journals (undated fragment, c. 1871) by Linnie Marsh Wolfe, Son of the Wilderness: The Life of John Muir (1945) page 144.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

In my head lately...

"We’re [so] attached to what we [are] going to do — and how we will share that with the world — that we forget what it feels like to just simply live a life undocumented, unshared and unrecorded. "  Abundant Mama

I've been off Facebook for two weeks now and it's taken about that long to quit thinking in status updates, which is ridiculous.  I had no idea how noisy my life had become until I turned off what was essentially a nonstop clamor of other people saying stuff.  Good stuff, mostly.  Some bad stuff.  But it was mostly just noise.   And laws, but my head had been aching for quiet for a long time.  

As a naturally anxious and high strung person, I've always sought out the quiet and the space to give myself a little room to breathe. I love parties, groups, and events, but I need SPACE and time to recover from it all and I need a lot of it.  With four kids around all the time, solitude is in short supply here.  I've always been like that but recently the strain started to feel unbearable.  So much noise.  Most of it, though, was coming from elements of my life that I thought were essential and I have learned that they just weren't.  

I have LOVED being away from Facebook.  It's been like turning off a loud TV I forgotten was on.  There is literally no reason I can think of to be on there any more.   I've paid more attention to the life I am living and the people in my home.  Enough attention that I realized we needed more space like that in our lives.  We dropped some activities we had been in, added some purposeful time together, upped the time we spend with people from church, turned off the tv and ipads more, and made room in our day-to-day life for peace and quiet.  

It's been real good. 

At the end of the day, I have been moving towards a purposefully slower and more intentioned type of life.  One that may look a little different than others, but really, who has a typical life?  We all make different choices from different circumstances and our lives will look different as a result.  With so many people in this family that need the space, the routine, and the peace that comes from a smaller selection of choices, I've found that limiting what we keep in our lives has been unbelievably freeing. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014


 We are slowly working on memorizing this poem.  Every time we read it I find more to think on!


By Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!


Wednesday, March 26, 2014


If you know me but at all, you'll know I'm not one for waxing philosphical up front.  You are much more likely to find me in the back, making self-deprecating comments or gently (ish) mocking ones.  I generally like to couch my stories in hyperbole and my advice in humor.  However, today I was hit with an idea that is not very funny, nor is it very snarky.  It's just a bit honest and corny.  But I can admit that. 

I have been trying to change the way we eat for a while now, moving towards eliminating artificial dyes and processed foods as much as possible without going crazy.  It can get to be a bit like going down the rabbit hole, where you look up and realize that you are drinking a Diet Dr. Pepper while trying to decide if you should grind your own organic wheat, and maybe you should start fermenting things for probiotic benefit, too.   While I was doing all the googling, though, I read this from Heavenly Homemakers and it struck me.

"Nourishment.  I needed nourishment.  My family needed nourishment."

There are many choices I make for my family, from what to feed them to what to read to them, what I teach them about God and about life.  Every one of those choices has the potential to nourish my family.   If I ask myself before each action I take (or let's be honest, if I just ask it when I remember to) "Will this nourish them?"  I will be changing so much about how I view my role as Wife, Mother, and Friend.  Will the dinner I make tonight nourish their body?  Not "Will it harm them?", but "Will it nourish them?"  Will the book I read to them before bed nourish their mind?  Will the story reach out and grab them and make them think more of their own thoughts, deeper and deeper?  I can teach them about God in terms that make them fearful or judgemental, or I can nourish them with the Word that tells my children that the Almighty loves them and expects great things from them.  I can plant the seeds of love for the outdoors and watch as God's nature nourishes and quiets their souls.  I can speak words of nourishment to my husband and not words that question his decisions or his plans.  I can encourage friends and speak words of nourishment to them, not words that tear them or their choices down.  

Funny enough, I can do these things while still being myself and making jokes in the back of the room.  I can do these things and know that asking myself constantly "Is this nourishing?" is the height of mawkish sentimentality, but do it anyway because it makes life better.

It's a change, though, viewing my role in positive terms. 

I think as parents, spouses and friends we often view ourselves and wonder if we are screwing it up.  If we are screwing "them" up, whoever they may be.  We wonder if the food we serve is going to give them cancer later, if the books we read will make them smart enough, if the tv we let them watch will make them have ADD, if our words will echo in their minds as they go about their day - and not in a good way.  Imagine if we stopped doing that, though.  If we viewed our actions and our words as nourishment and we tried to make them that as often as possible, we could do so much more than worry.  Walking around our homes and jobs trying to nourish, instead of trying to Not Screw Up.  

I think I'll give that a go.  I'll tell you you are doing a good job, I'll read books to my kids that are engaging and that make them think.   I'll make food that makes them feel better and I'll speak words that aren't meant to hurt hearts.  I will endeavor to build up strong and not worry that the building will fall if I make a misstep.

I will nourish. 


Recognize, though, if you walk up to me and ask me if I'm being "Nourishing" I will hit you.  And then nourish you with a band-aid and neosporin :)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Unsinkable, Unsinkable How Do You School?

I often wonder how other people homeschool and what materials they use.  Some of it is plain curiosity and some of it is hoping they have the Holy Grail Curriculum/Methodology that will enable me to make my children into absolute prodigies.  For what it's worth, that probably doesn't exist, but I still like to look, just in case.  So for the curious, here is what our days look like.  

Morning Time:

In an ideal world, we begin our mornings after breakfast around 9am, all clean clothed and teeth brushed.  We sit on the couch snuggled together and start with a prayer.  More often than not, though, half of us are still in pajamas, the other half are still eating breakfast and I'm yelling at everyone to "Sit Your Butts On The Couch Or Else!", running around trying to keep the little kids occupied and the big kids engaged, a bit like Whack-A-Mole.  Regardless of the pace, though, we start with a prayer and we do a little memory work (we're memorizing pronouns at the moment, as well as a couple of poems and bible verses), and I read from a few books.

Our current selections

Individual Work:

Once the kids have totally listened to and absorbed my every word and not played with the legos in their pockets the whole time, we move on to individual work.  The older kids start things they don't need my help with (Spelling Workout, Building Thinking Skills, Life of Fred, etc.) and then when the little kids have been played with I move to the big kids and work with them.  We use Teaching Textbooks & Horizons for math, so it's all on the computer, but with David I still need to be near him to help him keep his focus.   We do Grammar and Writing, which involve me working individually with the kids using Writing With Ease and First Language Lessons.

Lunch Break:
Obviously, we stand on ceremony here.  If they aren't immediately outside, then they are screwing around inside or trying to convince me to let them watch Horrible Histories on the computer while we eat.  I let them do that a lot, can't help it.  The show is fabulous. 

Quiet Reading Time:

A fairly recent addition to our day is Quiet Reading Time.  After lunch I put Nolan in his room to nap or play quiet-ishly, Allie in her room to play, and the older kids and I sit in the living room and read quietly for 30 minutes.  This is their assigned reading time, so it's not just fun books.  David is almost finished with The Littles right now and Taylor is working on The Tale of Despereaux.   Occasionally, Allie joins us with a pile of stuffed animals and picture books, but that tends to make it a lot less quiet :) 

Group Work:

After we are pretty sure that Nolan is asleep and we've all had a chance to go to our corners and have some quiet time, we group back up for History or Science.  We are studying Modern History this year with Story of the World Vol. 4 and Chemistry with Elemental Science.  We *love* Story of the World, and the kids look forward to whatever we are doing with it.  I usually set them up with some sort of hands on activity (legos, History Pockets, a coloring page from the Activity Guide, etc) and either they listen to the chapter on audio book, or I read to them from whatever extra library books we've gotten on the subject.  For Science, we use Elemental Science: Chemistry for the Grammar Stage very loosely.  Mostly, though, I do a bit of reading, let them read some extra stuff, watch a LOT of youtube videos and do experiments from Adventures with Atoms and Molecules.  This is also when we throw in the more elective-type things, like Art, Nature Study, or extra things they are interested in. 

Coffee Break:

Literally the best part of my day.  Dave comes in from his home office out back and we have a little snack and some coffee and chit chat about how the day has gone so far while the kids wrap up their afternoon work.  Also, Sleepy and Grumpy up there on the Burr grinder are there to remind me that coffee covers a multitude of attitude problems. 

Clean Up & Free Time:

As we wrap up our day, I try to have the kids put all the things back that we used and do their regular chores.  Sometimes I set a timer, put on some music and we race through the house picking things up and putting them back.  Sometimes I get my megaphone (no lie) and yell to put away anything they don't want thrown away because this vacuum is running come hell or high water.   It can go either way, really.   But when things are picked up or I just don't care anymore they are free to run amok.  David is usually out the back door in a flash and is playing with our neighbor, sometimes the other kids join them or they go off on their own and play on the computer or read until dinner or whatever activity they have that night.

And that's all!  Most school days run like this, with trips and triggers here and there that sometimes blow the whole thing to pot, but that's life :).  

Monday, March 17, 2014

Why I Chose Homeschooling

I'm over at Sandbox to Socrates today talking about Why I Chose Homeschooling - come take a look!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Field Trips in Fort Worth, Texas

I wrote a little article (listicle?) on a Classical Education website today - head on over to Sandbox to Socrates to read all about the awesome things there are to do in Fort Worth!

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Her Children Will Rise Up And Call Her, Desperately Needing Help With Their Laundry

Yesterday morning,  I looked around my house and felt nothing but utter weariness and frustration.  All I needed was to get my house clean.  I wasn't feeling terrible,  I wasn't unusually busy, no one had been regularly wetting the bed.  I was, though, behind on laundry by about ten loads, I had dishes in my sink and in the dishwasher, I had piles of books and projects and papers on every single surface of my home and toys on all the floors.  I couldn't keep the little kids occupied while teaching the big kids without mountains of messes being made and every time I would start to do one thing, eight other things would pop up.  Whatever  the reason or season, I just wasn't doing it all.  Our house was an unmitigated disaster and I was losing my ever loving mind trying to catch up. 

I called my mom on FaceTime around 10am and there must have been some serious Crazy Eyes happening, because ten minutes later she was packing her overnight back for the three hour drive here and she wasn't taking "I've got this, Mom" for an answer because, clearly, I didn't have this.


Mom arrived with her little dog in tow, eyed my piles and stacks with steely eyed determination and proceeded to whip my house back into shape.  She did all the laundry (washed, dried, folded and PUT AWAY.  I know.), got the living areas picked up, the books put away, and the kids all helping.  It was exactly like what you think Mary Poppins visiting your house would be like.  More than that, though, it was like having a second ME.  I didn't have to give explicit instructions, I didn't have to tell her what to do.  I just did want I needed to do (teach, make lunch, break up all the fights and catch all the Nolans, etc.) and she did everything I couldn't get done.  Like magic, I'm telling you. 

I'm looking around my house now and I can breathe!  I have clean counter tops.  I wasn't even sure that I still had counter tops, to be honest.  I thought they had magically transformed into book shelves.  I can see my carpet again, I haven't stepped on a lego all day, which may be a personal record.  There aren't a thousand things that need to be taken care of rightthissecond.  In fact, I'm sitting here drinking coffee in my clean house, thinking that I may just survive after all. 

Thanks, Mom, for rescuing me from the depths of despair and the clutches of clothing.  Love you :)


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Where I've Been

I think that the best way to describe what the past year and half has been like would be to describe this past Monday. We are moving to a year-round school and so this week is our week off between terms. In my head, I was up and dressed and getting all those little things done that fall through the cracks when you are trying to get school done and get everyone to Tang Soo Do and Scouts and feed them all a thousand times a day. With school out, maybe laundry could get done.

Nolan disagreed with my vision for this week.   He disagreed hard.

During the course of my day, I lost him a grand total of 6 times.  Friends, I live in a 1500 sq ft house, losing someone is hard.  That's why he went outside the house, of course.

First, Little David ran inside yelling "Mom! Mom!  Red Alert! Red Alert!  Nolan got out the gate!!"  You know, the gate that is always locked and is hard for a grown woman to open?  That gate.  So, I raced out the front door and saw him five houses down running like he's a bat out of hell, laughing all the way.  I finally caught him and carried him back in, locking the gate. 

The next time he raced out the front yard after Taylor took the trash out and naturally left the door unlocked behind her.  Nolan was out like the Flash.  Taylor yelled for me and I raced out the door again and we tag teamed him, carrying him by hands and feet to the house.  Repeat this scenario, with a few variables, twice. 

Then he discovered he could climb over the chain link fence and get to our neighbors house while he was playing with the big kids out in our backyard.   I was inside in the kitchen and he could get over the fence before I could grab him.  He finally stopped trying that when I heard him calling "Mama! Mama! Help! Reshoo Me! Reshoo Me!" and ran out the back door to find him hanging on the fence by his diaper, hands flailing in the air.  I got him down, told him not to do that ever again, and he goes "Whew.  Tank You, Mama.  Scary."

You would think that he had learned his lesson, but he's two and rarely do two year olds learn anything like that.

The final time I lost him was the scariest for me, but the most fun for him.  I was making lunch (Yes, this all happened before lunch.  It was the longest day of ALL TIME.) and I realized that it was quiet and I couldn't see Nolan.  Crap.  So, I called out to the other kids "FIND YOUR BROTHER NOW!!!" and we all raced to the corners of the house looking for him in the usual spots:  under the beds playing with Allie's toys, in the bathroom eating toothpaste,  climbing out of the back window, or trying to get into my car in the garage.  Nothing.  We double checked.  Nothing.   I ran back out into the garage and looked at the car again and noticed something.  There was a small, half-eaten carrot on the passenger seat.  The car was locked, and I hadn't locked it.  So I ran to get my keys, opened the car door, and heard him quietly laughing to himself in the third row as he put stickers all over the seats.   Busted. 

We ended the day with bath times and early bed times for all, and Dave bringing home some Kit-Kats from the gas station down the road that we ate in secret in our closet wondering if there would ever be a day we didn't physically need to eat Kit Kats in the closet. 

The take away from that morning is that I am basically running a crazy house right now and I have to lock this place down tighter than Alcatraz.  But I've got a pretty rock star Pal to run the crazy with me and if I have to be locked down for a season of This Two Year Old Is Flat Out Bonkers, I'm glad it's with this bunch of loons.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Stay Tuned!

A nice, lovely update will be coming soon :)