May Reads

IMG_2872

I can’t believe May is spent. Time for a favorite chat of mine. BOOKS! So, what have you been reading? I’ve been faithfully listening to my favorite podcast “What Should I Read Next?” and actually picked up some modern titles from her recommendations. I don’t usually read a lot of modern stuff, frankly, because I love older books so much, dislike dark, modern topics, and really there is only so much time in the day. I tend to want happier fiction and a lot fiction written today seems depressing.  A lot of my fiction reading is for inspiration and a rest for my brain, so I don’t read too many heavy topics unless I want to challenge myself. I guess I’m that way with memoir, really all non-fiction too, although I’m more able to read a darker story if it’s true. How about you? Do you like light fiction? Or do you prefer heavier topics? What are your favorite genres?

~

The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett (****) – I really enjoyed this. England, King Arthur and the Holy Grail legend, cathedrals and all the beauty that comes along with them, loads of book talk, relics, dusty libraries with ancient manuscripts, an older, bookish professor, a well-read, spunky American, questions about faith, delicious food, cottages, fantastic, mysterious secrets, history, light, sweet romance, digging through ancient ruins, secret codes, and most of all, did I mention England? Enough geeky stuff to be interesting, but not too much to become boring. This would be a great summer vacation title.

I also read Lovett’s First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Books, and Jane Austen (**) – I was so disappointed after the Grail title. I did not like the main character, Sophie, at all. She’s a liar, thief, and horrible judge of character. She uses people for her own purposes. I really loved the story in time with Austen and Rev. Mansfield, but the modern flash forward story I disliked so much. Adult content in this title.

The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell (***) – I enjoyed the plot of this book very much. Samantha Whipple is a distant descendant of the Brontë family and is rumored to have inherited important artifacts that literary historians would love to get their hands on, not to mention that people are speculating about the value of such objects. She is a student at Oxford and I enjoyed Samantha’s weird bookish, anti-social character very much (not all homeschoolers are weird, in fact I find them fascinating, so that was a bit stereotypical). I was glad to see inside her brain, although at times she was a little irritating. I loved all the geeky book info and the deep delving into Brontë history and lore. I like the dark, mysterious feel to all of it, although at times I didn’t feel that I had ENOUGH description or sense of place, if that makes sense. I thought the romance was a bit cliché and cheesy, professor and student, but perhaps Lowell was trying for some Brontë symbolism. Mr. Rochester and Jane? I was very pleased that the romance was more about how they got along, yes, there was tension, but it was more their common interests that drew them together. I liked the mystery surrounding the professor and his father! The mysterious clues regarding her inheritance left by Samantha’s late father were a bit confusing and could have been clearer, more jarring and exciting. They were a bit of a let down. Overall, this was entertaining, bookish, fan fiction-ish read and I liked it.

By Heart: A Mother’s Story of Children and Learning at Home by Kathleen Melin (***) –  I loved this memoir for many reasons, number one being the author’s gorgeous writing style. This is most definitely dated, home schooling was a newer, braver option for educating one’s children, but I found her feelings and questions to be still relevant today. The second reason I enjoyed this book was a completely different perspective for me. She is politically and religiously the opposite in many ways than myself, yet I appreciated her thoughts and challenges as she pulled her children out of public school and started home educating them. I loved her insider look at religious home educators and it was challenging to me as I thought of how I may be true to my faith, yet not in a harsh, unloving way. The beginning of the book felt a little more preachy and slow than the end. The last chapters were gorgeous as she shared her feelings, the struggles between her and her husband choosing this lifestyle, her challenges and thoughts on women in the home, career goals, etc. I enjoyed her insights into each of her children and how nature touched her in a profound way. It always is interesting to me how one can just be so moved by creation, yet not acknowledge a Creator. And although, I didn’t always agree with some of her conclusions to problems that they faced, I loved hearing her thoughts and musings. This was a simple book, but just a lovely encouragement on home educating and looking at your children and husband as individual people.

Garden’s of Awe and Folly: A Traveler’s Journal on the Meaning of Life and Gardening by Vivian Swift (****) – Swift’s gorgeous watercolors make this book a delight. She travels to nine various lesser known gardens around the world, commenting on them, sharing their history, and ruminating on life as she spends time in each garden.

Pocketful of Pinecones: Nature Study With the Gentle Art of Learning: A Story for Mother Culture by Karen Andreola (*****) – this was a reread and I love it’s simplicity, peacefulness, and idealism. I love the challenge it presents to aim high in our relationships and life. This is a fictional story set in the 1930’s about a family applying the Charlotte Mason educational philosophy to their lives.  My favorite thing about this sweet title is that life and learning are authentic. They learn and live in an intricate weaving and life is not divided into perfect compartments which rings true to me. Our home educating life is very like that, it has an ebb and flow, and so I appreciate this story because of that aspect.

The Moon Stands Still by Sibella Giorello (***) – fun, light detective mystery. Giorello is a good writer, here is a longer review if you are interested.

The Pelican Bride by Beth White (**) – review here.

With No Reservations by Laurie Tomlinson (***) – entertaining, modern plot, I liked hearing the struggles with PTSD and alcoholism in the main characters, but the romance was a bit hard to swallow.

Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, finished Psalms, Romans, 1 Corinthians: The Holy Bible (*****)

~

 

 

Hearth Ridge Diary {Tuesday night}

IMG_2826

{ a stream near us that I dubbed The Withywindle. It’s stuff dreams are made of, don’t you agree?}

Tuesday night is always taco night here at the farm. I don’t remember when we instituted this tradition, but anticipation builds every week. I’m glad a bit of meat, sour cream, salsa, cold lettuce, a big giant family-sized bag of shredded cheese, with a side of crispy tortilla chips elicits such rave reviews. The home cook takes all the encouragement they can get! ¡Olé!

The morning dawned cool and rainy, misty grayness hovering over the farm. Perfect for coffee and reading together. We were particularly moved and had a good discussion over Elizabeth Yates’, Amos Fortune, Free Man.

Early afternoon found us tackling chores, while listening to an old folk song and hymn collection from our Charlotte Mason community group. “Goober Peas” rang out and the broom sweeping seem to keep time to the beat. The sky clearing a bit, I was able to run out in the afternoon, in an attempt to help at a friend’s yard sale, but alas they really had it under control. I felt a little like Mel Gibson in his movie “Brave Heart” while out, silently screaming, “FREEDOM!” in my mind as I drove gaily down the road. A diet soda, chocolate-definitely-not-on-my-diet, and podcasts cheering me on my way. I threw around all sorts of ideas with this empty bit of time on my hands as I pointed my Dodge Caravan homewards. Should I find a place to sit and sip coffee? Are there any nice places open in my rural area past four o’clock in the afternoon? (Don’t laugh. A real dilemma in rural areas.) I settled on a bigger public library. I ransacked the memoir, writing, and poetry section and sat down to peruse in a comfy chair by the window. Pure bliss.

Glancing at my phone, I realized it was time to head home. I put some of the books back including a fascinating one about literary places in the Midwest. I definitely hope to check into Sterling North’s museum and a few other places someday. Road trip, anyone? I am currently reading Aldo Leopold’s A Sand Country Almanac and would love to visit The Shack.

As I left the town, my eyes drank in the view. Oh my. Spring here is delicious and food for the soul. The green is so hopeful, so light, so refreshing. The hills reaching to the blue sky, touching the clouds. The Amish were out enjoying their little horses and carts, scooters, and roller blades. I saw the freshly plowed fields finished, I had passed them working earlier.

It looks like more rain moving in from the east, but the rain-scented air is worth it. My two year old is out picking bouquets of dandelions for me, the sun setting. A lump forms in my throat about these precious children I’ve been given for such a short time. Glorious gift and weighty responsibility. I read this morning about how Gladys Taber’s mother left the to-do list and took her on a picnic,

“And it occurs to me now that it is a good thing for any parent to stop now and then and wonder what memories they are giving their children. We all try so hard to leave real property, but memories are property of the heart.”

Stillmeadow Sampler

pg 33

~

 

Hearth Ridge Diary {early May 2017}

IMG_2672

“Mom,” she sobbed, “they (her siblings) called me Veruca Salt!” Her head lowers into her hands in an adorable, pitiful way. “Do you know what this means?” my daughter cried. “It means they think I’m a brat!” As I choke back a smile, I  try to console my daughter’s hurt feelings and talk about it with her. As the weather ever so slowly warms up here, the green bursting forth, glorious skies, and warm sunshine, we are all feeling a bit cramped with formal learning and books. It’s always this way in spring, we long to burst forth, just like the flowers from the ground and birds in birdsong. We’ve been outdoors more, using the clothesline, the children playing baseball with my father-in-law, basketball games, riding bikes, going on walks and, of course yard work is picking up significantly. The vistas are breath-taking here at Hearth Ridge and they are working their way into all of our hearts. Many of the hills and bubbling streams, with their little copses, remind me in various ways of North England. The Amish community plowing with their horses and their clotheslines full of monochromatic clothing whipping in the wind, lend a quaintness and a vintage quality of ages past.

“Hey, Mom! Do you have a magical marker?” another child asks me. I smile wishing I did have a magical marker or anything magic for that matter. A slight sense of weariness has been inching it’s way into my bones, yet, I know that we have a small break coming from our formals studies soon. I will use the break to plan the next set of wonderful books we will be diving into, spend time outdoors and traveling with our large extended family, and getting outside to blow the cobwebs away.  We have a few books to read aloud this summer and nature journals we’d love to share together as well.

I’ve been changing over our winter clothing to spring, although our area can’t make up it’s mind, per usual. I’ve been slowly pondering the task of feeding eight people for summer without my fall back on soup, which we eat copious amounts three seasons out of the year. I pulled out my friend’s chicken salad recipe and it was delicious, and I suppose I should clean and get the grilled ready to go. Sandwiches for two months, anyone? The new recipe for a coconut cake for Easter Sunday was a big fat failure. I think it might be something to do with my blender being broken and I tried whipping meringue by hand. Ha. I can’t even make a good meringue with a blender.

I’ve been pondering once again how many small things make up a big whole. How all the little things, the hard things, rotten things, beautiful things of life are a blessing. I was reading somewhere and stumbled on this quote.  I think I will think on this a bit more in the coming days.

The whole world is a series of miracles, but we’re so used to them we call them ordinary things. Hans Christian Anderson

~

Long and Slow

IMG_2549

I’ve been thinking lately about this Charlotte Mason educational life journey that my children and I (my husband,too) are on. Partly because, we are coming upon the end of the 2016-2017 formal learning  year and I’m beginning my planning for autumn, a new, fresh year. I’m rereading a few favorites, The Living Page: Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte Mason by Laurie Bestvater and Pocketful of Pinecones: Nature Study With the Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola, and the more I read, learn, and walk this road, the more I see that it is simmering and savoring kind of life. In a way, sort of like my favorite kitchen appliance, the crock pot. Early in the morning, with the sun’s rays slanting in on the floor, the smell of my coffee brewing, you will often find me loading up my crock pot for dinner. A pinch of rosemary, slices of potato, pieces of ham, a bay leaf. Water pouring over it all, salt and pepper shaken in, and broth added. The top is then dotted with butter, lid on, set on low, and dinner is being prepared. It is a long and slow process. My day is settled and oh, so much more calm when I have dinner started before 9:00 AM. A sage piece of advice told to me from a seasoned mother. Charlotte Mason knew this wisdom also, but in the educational sphere. I’m stretching this analogy, but I love analogies…I’m a visual learner and it helps me to see things in a new, helpful light. Those ingredients that I added are like the methods of a Charlotte Mason education, the habit of faithfulness to working my plan is like getting the dinner into the crock pot, and then it’s the long and slow simmering in my life and the lives of my children, the philosophy of all of it,  the leaving alone of it, that makes the whole. Do I just constantly fuss with that crock pot and always impatiently check it, adjusting it, throwing it out if not perfect, tasting, worrying, and fretting over it? No. That’s the point of this wonderful piece of kitchen equipment. It’s the letting alone and trusting the process. Yes, sometimes, the meal isn’t that great at the end of it, sometimes things don’t work out perfectly according to my recipe, maybe a little burnt around the edges, but for the most part, I faithfully add the ingredients, day in and day out, knowing that the slow process produces nourishment for our lives.  May I fill our crock pot with delicacies and then rest in the Lord, smelling the beautiful aroma floating through our lives each day.

~

The Music of Domesticity

IMG_2542

{Spring book love}

Life is full, isn’t it? I’ve been caught once again between the things that must be done and the things that one wishes to do. However, thankfully, there is some overlap and that is the beauty of looking closely at life, a sort of thread of music woven throughout. A tune carrying us forward. There truly are moments of delight to be found in every hour of mundane.  As Mother’s Day approaches, I’ve been ruminating on the relatively short years of my mothering journey so far, trying to remember when I began to see mothering and all things domestic as a gift and a song. My memory isn’t the greatest, but I recall a book called, The Gentle Art of Domesticity by Jane Brocketboth of my dear sisters and I laughing about the title, yet it meaning so much to me. It gave me a permission to ENJOY art, culture, beauty, and domesticity in my home. Even though my faith is extremely important to me, when I started as a wife and mother, unfortunately, I had some unrealistic standards from the faith community that I took on as a burden. This was a lack of discernment and error on my part, viewing opinions that are man-made as truth, but are not actually from The Holy Bible. Insecurity reigns supreme and it scrambles to look for formulas.  I also remember savoring Edith Schaeffer’s books and Ruth Bell Graham’s poetry. And of course, the gift of Gladys Taber, who I was introduced to through another lovely person, Susan Branch. Gladys column in the Ladies Home Journal many years ago was titled, “Diary of Domesticity” and I think that is just lovely and it inspires me.  In the Family Circle she penned, “Butternut Wisdom”, so sweet and quaint. And of course, my dear mentor, Charlotte Mason, shared on education, life, and relationships. I was so encouraged to read this today and this the other day, thankful once again for having found the name Charlotte Mason almost 10 years ago, and following the prompting to dig a bit deeper. My own dear mother, Margaret, has been a constant example of servant-hood. Just laying aside her own desires for others out of love.  These sweet notes of encouragement also have floated out from many fiction authors over the years. I especially fondly recall hours with L.M. Montgomery, Elizabeth Goudge, and Jane Austen.  Katrina Kension and Annis Duff come to mind as well. All of these women are so different, not all of the same faith, not all mothers themselves, but yet have so invested in my growth, kept the light burning, so to speak, in my heart.  So, anyway, I just was thinking through this, wanting to record and share in hopes that it might encourage others as much as it does me.  Now a bit of life beauty recorded…

Hearth Ridge Daily Diary Entry {4.17.17}

Amos and I discussed a few things. I need to learn to listen better and forgive quicker. Snuggling on the couch with my boys, we sang through “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt”, my 9 year old, running to find the book for my 2 year old to look through. Rain clouds rolled in, this hill we are on wears all the weather’s feelings on its sleeve and we can see what’s coming miles ahead of it.

I had to apologize to my 7 year old for snapping at her, and my 9 year old and I laughed about me dubbing him Sir Sam of Mathematics. He was having some negative feelings about hitting the numbers today. I hope I will have enough time to get through all the chapters for my book study tonight. Nothing like procrastination. Ironically, they are about forming good habits. Ha.

I’ve been thinking through my 7 year old’s upcoming birthday. It’s so interesting to really think about the people our children are, who they are becoming. A funny thing happened today, which I promptly shared on Instagram, I was reading from the Landmark Series, Vikings by Elizabeth Janeway, to my 12 year old son. My 5 year old was apparently listening because after we talked about the Labrador Sea and Greenland on the map, she came up and said, “Do you want me to send you back where you were…unemployed, in Greenland?” Oh my. Maybe we watch The Princess Bride movie too frequently. 🙂

The afternoon found us outside, fickle weather, sun peeking out. We blew bubbles and through the windy gusts, my older four played basketball. I showered and threw on a favorite comfy outfit of a black t-shirt, black maxi skirt, light brown sweater, my favorite old Red Converse Allstars, and don’t forget my favorite necklace, bearing words I need to remember daily. “Courage, dear heart.” by C.S. Lewis. At a restaurant before study, I sit sipping my drink, as I listen to that faint tune of beauty humming in the background of my life, soak in the words of a mentor, and thank God again for this blessed home life I live.

 

~

 

Daily Diary {March 30th}

IMG_2449

Gladys Taber was a memoirist that I truly enjoy. She wrote about her farm, Stillmeadow. I love entering her thoughts and reflections on home, her animals, family, cooking, and the daily doings on her farm. I wanted to capture a bit of her spirit here. I decided to do more of a list version today, Gladys wrote much more poetically. I love reading about people’s real, daily moments of life.  Each day flows differently and each family has their own unique rhythm. So a Gladys-inspired post:

5:30 am – I woke to wind and rain lashing windows and I remembered that I forgotten to get some laundry off my clothes line last night. Drat. I get up and make coffee, chatting with my sister on Messenger while I wait for it to brew. She is preparing to teach her class and we talk about a book we are starting to read together, Silence by Shusako Endo.

6:15 am – Coffee steaming from my lovely blackberry and leaf painted mug.  I sit down with my journal, Bible, and pen. Stephen the Martyr and the story of Samson today. My husband and  7 yo come down. I pack a lunch for my husband and read a new library book to my daughter. You Belong Here by M.H. Clark. It is simple, but it’s the illustrations that make it shine.

7:45 am – I pore more coffee and read in my devotionals these beautiful thoughts.

Calcutta to Cannon Beach

by Nathaniel Lee Hansen

I have His darkness – I have His pain, – I have the terrible longing for God.

-Mother Teresa

That at times this future saint

could not sense her Lord while sweating

words with pen read as a revelation

to me, disclosed that she was human, too.

God’s omnipresence still too far – boils, sores,

and scares too near, so faith meant treading.

the waters of theology’s raw mystery,

their paradox: belief is doubt

that we can know with certainty.

And so I cup the ocean with my hands,

though fingers leak, dry, then crack.

Yet for a moment, I can clutch the ocean

with my makeshift bowl, taste

the salt my everyday eyes cannot see.

from Between Midnight and Dawn

Complied by Sarah Arthur

pg 59-60

I also thought on this from Amy Carmichael in Thou Givest, They Gather this: “…one long look at Calvary does something for us that nothing else can do.” pg 72

8:00ish am – I help my 12 yo with his math and he reads to me for a bit. Everyone is getting up, happy chattering. A disagreement about what we are having for breakfast ensues and I wax poetic about the benefits of oatmeal five days a week. Har.  My son gets the oatmeal made and sets the table.

9:00 am – Hot, steaming oatmeal with your choice of brown sugar, peanut butter, raisins, and walnuts for breakfast. Prayers and we read a bit of poetry together.

9:32 am – Dishes being scrubbed, a child just said sweetly to me, “Mom, guess what? I’m cleaning my room.” Yay. There is hope.  5 yo is “reading” to the 2 yo and it is the cutest thing. I set up copywork for three children from their various poems and things they are working on.

9:33 am – Ok. I better get up. I am just sitting here at the desk staring at the screen.

10:00 am – 2yo and I watching a black-capped chickadee at the feeder. My 2 yo loves our dress up clothing, so he is usually wearing a hodge-podge outfit. We said the chickadee’s call together. “Chick-a-dee-dee-dee.” I talk about copywork and math with my 9yo. He and I do factor chains which are fun. I fold a basket of laundry and brace myself to go rescue stuff on the clothesline.

10:30 am – Freezing cold, my bare feet squished in the mud as I ran through the rain. I will have to rewash the things on the line. Grr.  I start another load in the basement washer, turning on the dryer again as well. My 7 yo comes to me as I step upstairs, an armful of cloth, asking if I can make her stuffed animal some clothing. Oh my. I mention a plan to get out my sewing machine in the afternoon and maybe we can try something. I am not a good seamstress, so that should be riveting. Ha. My 2 yo comes to me with a doll with a leg that has popped off. I put it in. The children take their piles of folded laundry to put away. I help 7 yo with copywork and pop doll leg on again. That doll may or may not need to be “retired”. I read two paragraphs of this post.  I notice a new list of podcasts to check out . A fight breaks out and we have tears about copywork. I have my daughter finish the word she is on and we will work on the rest tomorrow. Short lessons are beautiful, thank you, Miss Mason.

10:41 am – Huge disagreements to wade through, I ask my 5 yo to pick up the board books, and I set up a studied dictation lesson for my oldest. She is using “The Highway Man” by Alfred Noyes. She grabbed her books and heads to her room to work on some things. I eye the clock. Almost time for Elevenses. Maybe a bit of tea and a snack will squash the fighting. The sky is steel gray and the rain continues to trickle down. The friendly sound of the furnace kicking in is comforting. What should I serve for snack? Oops. 2 yo is unfolding the laundry.  How nice.

11: 41 am – Well, we had baby carrots and a piece of fruit for Elevenses. I didn’t make tea, my patience was wearing thin. I grabbed a few almonds. My 7yo and 9yo listened to me read them a nature lore story. They narrated it back to me. There was some more fighting and I may or may not of lost my temper a bit. Yikes.  I helped these two with reading lessons. 9yo and I enjoyed a selection in Seabird by Holling Clancy Holling. We talked about what Nantucket is and looked at the map. We found it fascinating that the whalers had to pour sea water on the ropes so they wouldn’t catch fire from the friction.  Now, I call the 12 yo down from his room where he and the 9 yo were playing Sheepshead.  Oh boy. Now they are wrestling. Sweet Lord Jesus, help me be patient. I have the 9 yo release some energy by picking up a stack of books and re – shelving them in our library. 12 yo and I learn about Archimedes, levers, he adds a drawing to his Science Journal, we read a bit of Sterling North’s Rascal, and work on reading together.

12:28 pm – Lunch is running late. Thank goodness my dear mother made us some chicken noodle soup yesterday. We are heating that up and adding the noodles to it. I will serve it with crackers. My oldest narrates her readings and I read her the dictation passage she studied.  I have a feeling that spring fever and a few other things are causing some of our grumpiness today. Thinking on it.  My son is practicing his drums upstairs and that reminds me I need to call on piano lessons for my oldest. My husband texted me something really nice. What a blessing.

1:11 pm – Lunch was delicious and is wrapping up. My oldest is putting my 2 yo down for a nap. We read the story of Naboth’s vineyard and Ahab, narrating it. The boys got out their action Bible and looked at some drawings of the story. We read the Proverbs for today and narrated it. My 9 yo has lunch clean up, so he is slowly working on that.  My oldest was hired to do some laundry for my father in law while he is on a trip, so she switched out the laundry for me and started washing his clothing. I have two baskets to fold.

1:29 pm – Egads. I forgot to start the dinner in the crockpot! I’m making chicken fajitas, or rather my version of chicken fajitas. I threw chicken, chopped onion, green pepper, and sweet peppers in together with some taco seasonings. Hopefully, the HIGH setting will have that ready in time. I’ll shred the chicken and add some cheese a little bit before I serve it with tortillas or chips. Time for another cup of coffee and a piece of dark chocolate.

2:50 pm – We finished our formal lessons for the day. The drawn narrations for Greek myths were fun to see. I also helped my 7 yo with math. We attempted to do some geography mapping of the east coast USA. I’m still learning how to do this myself. My 5 yo and 12 yo braved the rain and journeyed to the mailbox. We received book mail and my new issue of Writer’s Digest.

3:00 pm – I’m sitting here in a stupor. 5 yo is painting, 9 yo is drawing more, inspired by the Greek myth book, 7 yo and 12 yo being silly and telling stories, 13 yo is reading her book, and baby boy napping. Whew.  Maybe I should go dig out my sewing machine. It is almost time for the children to start their chores. They get an hour of media time if their chores and school work are done by 4:00 pm. Overall, they are very good about keeping track of what they need to do each day. Now 5 yo is cleaning up painting stuff and switching to Play Dough.

4:30 pm – I called on the piano lessons and left a message. The children finished their chores and media time is upon us. One is reading in their room. I am hiding…er, relaxing in my room with a stack of books. I peeked at Facebook, blah, and then Instagram. Now I’m going to slowly move through a few of the books.  Four children are in my room, asking various things. I talk with my 12 yo about Joan of Arc and we tried to define relics. I talk about hiring him for a big cleaning job. Oldest asked me if I started the last in a YA fantasy trilogy we are reading together. I point to all my book stacks and we laugh together. She asks if she can make smoothies for a snack and I say yes. 5 yo is bringing me a Play Dough creation to look at.

5:30 pm – I head downstairs and everyone is just enjoying various activities. Huge plastic army guy battle being set up. The chicken fajitas look good. I guess HIGH worked after all! 7 yo and I talk about the sewing, but we don’t end up doing it. I’m pretty bad at crafting with them. Mommy guilt moment. My unfolded laundry stares at me with its beady, shifty eyes.

6:00 pm – My hubby is home. We chat a bit about his day and I try to listen as I’m drawn to Endo’s Silence, trying to get my brain out of what I was reading. I’ve already read past my sister and I’s agree upon goal for this week. Wow. I finished a lovely memoir about a couple that moves from New York to West Ireland. It was so real and beautiful. I also was inspired and have a ton of post-its of ideas and thoughts from my rereading of The Living Page: Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte Mason by Laurie Bestvater. My 7 yo drew a lovely picture of my husband and I with our house. I love you Dad and I love you Mom written in crayon. XOXOXOXO. Swoon.

7:00 pm – The candles are lit, I added cheese to the crockpot for a few minutes after shredding the chicken. The table is set with all the fajita fixings. We said a prayer for friends battling cancer, the children beg for a story from my hubby and he begins talking about Gideon. The flickering candle light bounces off shining eyes and voices chiming in as they talk about this story.

7:59 pm – The last bits of dinner being enjoyed, hubby relaxing on couch, and a few more moments together before we start preparing for rest. The 2yo has unrolled a whole roll of paper towel. Where’s this child’s mom? What a beautiful, busy day. I’m blessed. I’ll leave you with a bit of Gladys.

There is always one moment in a day when I think my heart will break. Such a moment I think all women have, and men too, when all the meaning of life seems distilled and caught up and you feel you can never, never bear to leave it. It may be when you turn and look down a blazing autumn road or it may be when you see your house under great ancient trees or it may be, in the city, when you look up at a towering apartment building and see one light and think “that is mine.” It may be any one of a number of things, according to the circumstances of your life. But there is a moment, and all the heartaches and sorrows of your life suddenly diminish and only the fine brave things stand out. You breathe sharp clean air, your eyes lift to the eternal wideness of the sky. Anybody has moments like this to store up, but some people are too busy adding up their frustrations to appreciate them. And yet all we need is an awareness of the beauty in life to make us richly content. My definition of happiness is just the ability to garner the perfect moments. 

Gladys Taber

Stillmeadow Daybook

pg 148

~

Spring Ideas

IMG_2472

Spring thought about springing yesterday. Alas, today winter temperatures are back. However, I’m not letting that get me down. Here are some links and ideas for spring.

  1. Go on nature walk with children.  Unlike myself, really listen to what they say, it’s absolutely fascinating and enlightening.
  2.  Are you home educating? This post is encouraging to me. So many great quotes and thoughts – what we do today is a small investment for tomorrow. We don’t have to worry, we just keep sowing by faith.  Only a few short weeks till summer vacation, in other words.
  3.  Swoon and save shekels for these or these. Spring-y fashion.
  4.  Need a book idea for you or your child? Go dig through this list.
  5.  I can’t stop laughing – a mixture of faith, mothering, culture commentary, and offensive attitudes. I absolutely love this blog. If you are easily offended it’s probably not for you. I’m kind of offended half of the time myself. Ha. I love it.
  6.  I pre-ordered The Gray House by Mariam Petrosyan because I’m going to be reading it along with a friend. Speaking of pre-order, did you see that Anne Bogel from my favorite podcast, What Should I Read Next?, wrote a book?  Oh, and are podcast titles italicized? The deep questions of life, folks.
  7.  Make me this cake – actually this is my kind of cake decorating. Bake a cake. Open packages of candy. Dump on cake. Voilà. I googled and C + P’d that cool French term, btw, because I always get it wrong.
  8. After we are done consuming that delicious Easter cake, we can then do this…killer.  Children and kettle bells don’t mix the best, so beware.
  9. Buy fresh flowers for your table. The hubs bought me some peach-y pink-y roses the other day and I automatically jump into a spring attitude when I gaze at them. My 2 yo and I have been sniffing them frequently.
  10. Hang all bedding and clothing on line, even if it is drizzling and 34 degrees. The calendar says March, for goodness sake.

 

~

Starting the Day off Right

IMG_2394

So far:

  1. We’ve had a major battle regarding rubber band ownership.
  2. I found out that I have 567 baskets of laundry to fold, not 3 as previously known.
  3. My Kindle seems to have walked off and lost itself.
  4. I discovered random petrified foodstuff in couch as I looked for aforementioned Kindle.
  5. We forgot a password to something a child decided they want to do TODAY. This is causing an inordinate amount of angst.
  6. We are out of cheese. We live in the Dairy State. This is not good.
  7.  I decided I need a break from Instagram and Facebook. I’m already twitching with withdrawal after a half of an hour of this torture.
  8. It has been declared that sandwiches are banned for a meal choice in our home. What in the world am I going to feed all these children for the rest of their lives?
  9. We are out of cheese.
  10. How in the world am I going to survive this day without cheese, Instagram, Facebook, and my Kindle?

~

Brain Dump

IMG_2367

My brain is swirling, turning, and murmuring at an even higher rate than usual which is saying something. As a wife, mother, and home educator, my brain is often full, but for some reason, I just can’t get the thing to shut up lately. I need somewhere to dump some of it and the blog is that place today. Bear with me.

  1. I hate cancer. Three local friends are battling it and watching them through it all has a way of making “important” things in my life seem stupid. Yes, I have little irritations and stuff, but I’ve been thinking about perspective and the attitude we have in life makes a HUGE difference. Mulling on this constantly and praying hard for these precious people.
  2. Spring hasn’t quite sprung here in the Upper Midwest, but it’s attempting too. I can’t tell you how excited this makes me as a mom and home educator. The children are outdoors! Hallelujah.
  3. I love writing and would like to publish my writing some day. Don’t you love how romantic that sounds? Do you know how unromantic the reality of this is? It’s extremely hard work. And that’s just the writing. I’m just barely getting my feet wet and it’s been a good, humbling process of growing for me. Also anything, even good things can become all-consuming. Thinking on how to balance my life as a wife, mom, home educator, and woman with my writing has been interesting. Also see Number #1 on this list. What truly matters in life?
  4. Our formal learning year is slowly coming to a close as we are in our third Term. We plan three Terms a year of 12 weeks each. I’ve learned so much this year and am looking forward to learning more and growing with my children. This has been a pretty good year for us, but I have some tweaks and things to research over our summer break. I’m so excited to attend a Charlotte Mason retreat with my oldest daughter this summer.
  5. I’m someone who can easy feel claustrophobic. That’s why I’m married and have six children. It’s been really interesting to attempt to stretch myself and grow in this area. I’ve been struggling with the balance between relationships with God, my family, and others with the time to recharge. Again ,back to that Number #1 on this list. Ahhhh. This pressure is good for me. Sanctification at it’s finest.
  6. We have a long drive to civilization from Hearth Ridge. I’ve been enjoying various podcasts. Do you listen to any favorites? I’m especially enjoying What Should I Read Next? I have a few others to try out soon.
  7. I’m extremely thankful for the surge in the last couple of years of Charlotte Mason community support online and retreats. However, lately, I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed by the amount of opinions, voices, and thoughts out there. I really love those that have finished out this journey in some way and so I’ve kind of pulled back to just focusing on those like Karen and Nancy. This doesn’t mean I don’t love hearing about CM home educating, no not at all, but at some point I have to just walk out the journey in my own home. Stop planning and absorbing and actually walk it out faithfully in small steps daily here. As I go, I can learn more, grow, and tweak it for my family. My prayer is that I be found faithful in this path we have chosen.
  8. I tend to read and eat emotionally when I’m drained. I’m really trying hard not to just pick up junk for my mind and body and it’s very hard to change bad habits. My book stack is HUGE, but I think I’m doing better finding light things to read that aren’t completely formulatic. I’m really looking forward to getting outside more for my long walks.
  9. I’m looking forward to a tentatively planned trip with my husband for our 15th anniversary this fall. I’ll share more as plans are firmed up.
  10. I was looking over my massive stack of journals and just amazed at how blessed I am. I really want to make an effort of intense, soul-deep gratitude and contentment. I need to lay aside my whiny irritations and thank God for His unbelievable faithfulness. Yes, I believe these are choices I make daily. Is my life perfect and carefree? Of course not. But it was never promised to be. However, in everything and through everything, God is WITH me and that I can never express enough gratitude.

~

At the Table

img_1587

What’s for dinner?

We are having Robin Hood, Raphael’s La Donna Velata, crunchy Math numbers, with a side of Favorite Poems Old and New.  We are drinking deeply from Antonin Drorak’s music and dessert is Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Numerous other delectable dishes are being served up at this feast. I lean back and sigh with satisfaction at the wide array of dishes, something for everyone here. At this table, we all are filled with our favorites, the things that hit our taste buds just right at the right moment.

I was pondering last night how much I cherish home educating my children. I particularly am thankful for the wisdom of Charlotte Mason. My favorite thing about her learning philosophy and methods is that is personal. It’s about relationships. It’s about each person being unique, connecting to the Lord and His world in an intimate, personal way.

She liken this type of living as a feast, a description that really touches me. She told us that it isn’t about facts but how much we care. At this feast, we are all learners, partakers.  My 7yo pulled out The Secret Garden the other day, and we read this together:

“The bird put his tiny head on one side and looked up at him with his soft bright eye which was like a black dewdrop. He seemed quite familiar and not the least afraid. He hopped about and pecked the earth briskly, looking for seeds and insects. It actually gave Mary a queer feeling in her heart, because he was so pretty and cheerful and seemed so like a person. He had a tiny plump body and a delicate beak, and slender delicate legs.”

pg 40

The Secret Garden 

Frances Hodges Burnett

I actually had a little lump in my throat, thinking of orphan Mary. The quickening of the beauty of that bird in a love-starved heart. That is so alike this way of living, a bright spark. I then began considering the foster care system as I had been reading something earlier. Later that evening, all of us got talking about the differences between foster care and orphanages. We started talking about adoptions and friends that have opened their hearts to it.

The next day, some of the children started a fund to purchase necessities for underprivileged children. See? It’s all connected. Life is a huge beautiful interweaving of personal relationships and connections. Miss Mason’s heart was for all people to partake of a deep connection with their God, enter in the cares and concerns of others compassionately, and understand they are each a uniquely created person in God.

The candles are flickering low, the table cloth is a bit rumpled, crumbs litter the floor, the delicious feast feeding and nourishing us. It isn’t always easy creating this feast, it takes a bit of work, elbow grease, yet it is so very worth it. I murmur a last word of thanksgiving and blow out the candles.

Tomorrow, we will taste and see that the Lord is good all over again.

~

Winter Ideas

Brimg_1653

{Good reading choice, boys. 🙂 }

We are slowly making it through the dreary, foggy winter days. We’ve had some glorious sunshine spilling through the bleak grays. The sun is a blessing, shooting out and then deep down into our souls. Here are a few of my favorite wintery things, currently.

  1. Listen to Malcolm Guite recite his poem.
  2. Take a hot shower while listening to Anne’s podcast. Bookish kindred spirits.
  3. Take winter walk with children, listening to their sweet thoughts. Make hot chocolate together when you get back.
  4. Read Amy’s lovely post on the new year. 
  5. Hunker down with a light read and a cup of coffee. Kate’s stories  are lovely or Charles has some good ones, too. These can be found through the public library.
  6. Create a nature journal, highlighting your favorite winter birds, creatures, or whatever suits you. I’m loving these journals. 
  7. Make scones and tea and listen to some haunting music.  She has a song on this particular CD that is inspired by The Highway Man by Alfred Noyes. Sad and thoughtful.
  8. Read poetry together. We love Favorite Poems Old and New by Helen Ferris.
  9. Peruse another’s  reading list for a new book. Go book shopping.
  10. Wash your bedding and snuggle down for a long winter’s nap.
  11. My children love LEGOS, blocks, and Schleich animals this time of year, especially.
  12. I’m looking forward to watching this very soon. 
  13. Put up copious amounts of twinkle lights. Ask my husband. He’ll verify my obsession. 😉
  14. Save up for a new mug or socks.
  15. Journal through your Bible. Memorize a Psalm.
  16. Move your comfy chair by your pellet stove. Wrap up in your favorite blanket. Read Gladys Taber.
  17. Bird watch. Google your favorite birds to hear their calls and watch videos on them. Bundle up and head outside to listen and observe.
  18. Make time to hang out with friends. For me, there is nothing like coffee with other mom friends.
  19. Go on a breakfast date with husband.
  20. Break out a map and plan a trip.
  21. Order free seed catalogs and dream.
  22. Susan Branch. She is so cheerful. 
  23. If you home educate your children, here is a lovely spot for inspiration.
  24. Go to local coffee shop and people watch.
  25. Make a big pot of soup and take some to someone you love. My mom is fantastic at this! ❤
  26. Practice your accents. 😉
  27. Go thrifting.
  28. Practice tying knots aka knitting. (ok, this was a joke about my knitting abilities.)
  29. Write real letters and post with pretty envelopes and stamps.
  30. Light a candle and shake fist at ice. Just kidding. {sorta}

What are you doing to celebrate the last months of winter? (or survive them? 🙂 )

~

Seed Cake

img_1760img_1759

“Come along in, and have some tea!” he managed to say after taking a deep breath. 

“A little beer would suit me better, if it is all the same to you, my good sir,” said Balin with the white beard. “But I don’t mind some cake – seed-cake, if you have any.”

“Lots!” Bilbo found himself answering, to his own surprise; and he found himself scuttling off, too, to the cellar to fill a pint beer-mug, and then to a pantry to fetch two beautiful round seed-cakes which he had baked that afternoon for his after-supper morsel.”

pg 8 The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

 

I’ve been so inspired lately by these lovely tales of courage, friendship, and love. Something I needed is found between the lovely pages of these classics. It’s the focusing on something outside of oneself and the example of bravery on the perilous journey of life. It’s caring for others and good more than ones own comfort and security. Ouch. These titles are definitely high on my list for cold winter months. I was so inspired that we made a seed cake today for tea time in honor of our Hobbit friends. Literary feasting is so lovely and I don’t want to forget these little moments with my children.

 

~