Sunday Journal: Just Another Week in Paradise

Littlest and his history book.

Littlest and his history book.

I just drank a pina-colada the size of a rainstorm so this might be a bit rambly. You’ve been warned.

Well, the drink was mostly pineapple juice. Vitamin C for the day (or possibly the week)–all taken cake of. I indulged in my weekly cocktail too early tonight. Now that the massive (maybe not that massive) storm has passed I would like to go on my evening walk. But since I might be too sociable with the neighbors due to my rum infused beverage…maybe I’ll just stay in for the evening.

poetry tea time

poetry tea time

Yesterday my husband and I got to go out together for the first time alone since December. That was nice until I got sick. So that kinda sucked. Our time together was great albeit short lived. Maybe we can do that again sometime before Christmas (without the sickness this time). He did get me a totally cool bulletin board made out of rulers while we were out. I plan to use it as a vision/intuition board in the school room. A little place to post prayers and ideas and such.

birthday cake

birthday cake

Sparkles made and decorated a birthday cake for Shannon (my husband-her Daddy) this week. While she prepared the cake I made the cream cheese icing. He opened a few gifts and we had a nice little family night.

Sparkles decorating cake

Sparkles decorating cake

I’m gonna brag on Sparkles for a moment. When she first started taking her medication she complained constantly. I thought this was going to be a real battle with her. However, she completely took charge of her pill regimen. She learned which pills (10 pills daily plus a fiber powder) she needs to take and started taking care of herself. I wasn’t expecting this much independent self-care from her so soon. I still check-up with her daily just to make sure…but she took responsibility just a bit quicker than I anticipated. We will

Sparkles making cake

Sparkles making cake

all be glad once she goes off the steroids since they affect her moods and eating habits but otherwise we are very happy with her body’s response to the medication. She isn’t so miserable anymore and her pain is clearing away. We meet with her doctor again in a couple of weeks for a follow-up and I hope to get more of our questions answered about UC.

School is swimming along just perfectly. Sometimes we have

Littlest learning piano from Oldest

Littlest learning piano from Oldest

some drama filled moments but overall the year is off to a great start. We are quickly approaching our first project week and I’ll have to get the shopping done for everyone soon. I figure the project week will either be great or a total disaster…probably a combination. Our first of five terms is nearly completed. Are we “behind schedule?” You bet! Do I care? Not one bit!

dew drop on Sunday morning

dew drop on Sunday morning

On a personal note–I actually prayed this week (the Jesus Prayer with my old Rosary) and even read a passage or two from the Bible (from Job—as if I even have the grace to understand that book!!). I’m not really sure that I addressed my prayer to the Christian concept of God but I broke my stubborn silence anyway. I’m still finding my way in the murkiness but at least

little bug with my macro lens

little bug with my macro lens

the red-hot pissed-off anger has passed. My husband and I did discuss looking for a church after the Labor Day holiday. I assured him that wherever he and the kids decide is best I will follow along and promise to be polite. I want my family to be happy and the older three have all expressed to me their need to return to church in their own way. Personally, I am open to exploring other avenues of expressing spirituality. Our world and all of the cultures that exist herein are so vast and fascinating; I have the desire to explore them all.

It is amazing out there…

 

 

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Reflective Moments on Compassion: The Brave Writer Retreat

 

the squares

the squares

Ruckkehrunruhe. n. the feeling of returning home after an immersive trip only to find it fading rapidly from your awareness—to the extent you have to keep reminding yourself that it happened at all, even though it felt so vivid just days ago—which makes you wish you could smoothly cross-dissolve back into everyday life, or just hold the shutter open indefinitely and let one scene become superimposed on the next, so all your days would run together and you’d never have to call cut.      —The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (John Koenig)

Julie greeting her people

Julie greeting her people

Eunoia is a noun and a word I very rarely use. The word means beautiful thinking or a well mind. Eunoia (yoo’-noy-ah) is the state I find myself in after the retreat with a slight fear of ruckkehrunruhe. Okay, I do know that The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is totally made up but I have experienced many of these feelings and I think they should be adopted into our everyday usage. Just sayin’.

I arrived a scared bundle of nerves. Could I really just be myself amongst these women? I’ve felt rejected by other groups before. I 20160713_205413 (640x456)usually just do not fit; like a misplaced puzzle piece longing to find the box of home I belong to. As a family we have completely given up on homeschool groups. Many are just so clickish and refuse to accept others (I’m always an other) or we just do not love Jesus in the same manner as the group. By that, I mean my hair isn’t long enough, my skirts are not long enough (God forbid, I actually wear jeans!!!), I value 20160713_190013 (640x480)individuality over obedience, and I just refuse to be “evangelical”. I had a long conversation one night with Adam about that very subject. He worked the night shift at the hotel I stayed at for the retreat and was homeschooled through tenth grade. He shared his story with me and had some interesting insights into the emotional and social needs of homeschooled kids who do not 20160715_080458 (480x640)fit the surrounding social group. Chatting with him for a couple of evenings (or early-early in the morning) was just as eye-opening as the retreat conferences. I’ll likely never meet Adam again but I am glad we momentarily connected in life.

However, I must confess the Brave Writer Moms welcomed me with open arms and I totally love them all. I found my peeps, my tribe…the box of puzzle pieces I “fit” with comfortably. These ladies totally understood why I was proud of my Littlest when he

an evening of laughter and connection

an evening of laughter and connection

was removed from his homeschool co-op class! Nobody made me feel judged…just accepted. We all felt that same sense of freedom and connection with each other…well…that is my impression anyway. Julie built this Brave community and infused us with an atmosphere of trust and acceptance. Julie claims she is not an artist but I must disagree. Her medium is composed of hearts and 20160715_075610 (480x640)souls and she wove a beautiful, brave community of mothers (and their families) together. There is only one other place on this earth I have ever felt safer and that is in the comforting arms of my husband.

We all cried together and we laughed together. I have not laughed so unself-consciously in years. I wept bitter but cleansing tears. I’ve messed up as a mother sometimes…but I left the retreat with the knowledge that I can embrace my faults, share my fears, hug my kids and move on to better days. I have the tools and knowledge I need to be an 20160714_140031 (480x640)intentional mother and educator. I left the retreat content, calm…maybe slightly emotionally high, and ready…ready to fall in love with my family all over again. To observe my sweet children and be the mother they really need and not the image of motherhood I think is required.

I was so privileged to meet my hero Stephanie (Homeschool Alliance coach). If I can be half the awesomeness she is then I will be so happy! I just want to sit at her feet and soak up her wisdom…a wisdom that at times seemed to 20160714_092522 (480x640)be hard-earned. She could have let bitterness overtake her but she chose to remain open and honest- cultivating a peacemaker’s heart. That is my impression of her. She also taught me that I can home educate my kids through highschool…the idea isn’t so scary anymore. Alex taught me that we can just appreciate nature. I do not have to know the name of every plant and creature to do nature studies with my crew. Nature study isn’t as complicated as I’ve made it out to be…we can go on scavenger hunts, watch clouds 20160714_153133 (480x640)and draw in our journals and it is enough. Melissa taught me that I do not have to prescribe to any particular educational philosophy. I can borrow unapologetically what my family requires from each method and adapt as our needs ebb and flow. What matters the most is our relationships to one another.

Julie taught with her tears, laughter and open vulnerable heart. She explained how to bring the Charlotte Mason philosophy into our century. “Charlotte is awesome”, she said “but not more awesome than YOU!” She shared with us the importance and sacredness of home…and compassion. I think she could write a 20160715_120434 (480x640)book on the importance of compassion in everyday relationships…with our spouse, kids and even ourselves. Our home atmosphere matters far more than the curriculum we use. If our homes are safe places to be creative, take risks, receive compassion, communicate openly and respond with consistent intention then, we’ve created an atmosphere where learning takes place continuously. Letting all of this knowledge flow from my mind to my heart is gonna take a little time…maybe more than a little.

20160714_082145 (480x640)The place for the retreat was lovely. I tried to arrive early each morning to walk the Franciscan community’s grounds. The flowers and sculptures were beautiful. The place felt sacred even though it was in the middle of a large city. I spent part of one of my morning strolls chatting with Sister Karen. I met her returning from the outdoor Way of the Cross Stations and walked her to the chapel for prayers. She explained the history of their community, grounds and gardens. Later, I walked up to the sister’s cemetery and read 20160714_081959 (480x640)some of the names and dates on the stones. Every stone represented the life and dedicated service of a precious person. Women who consciously set out to make the world a better place. I thought about my own time in the monastery and what those years mean to me. I realized just how much strength I’ve drawn from my time in the cloister. I thought about my young and naïve thoughts on being a “bride of Christ” and realizing the truth is actually being a bride of humanity. A calling that I still feel sometimes and that manifests itself in compassion. My life made some sort of connecting loop in the sister’s cemetery (Oh, the tears!)). I am still called to a life of compassion…

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

—Wendell Berry

Look what he learned while I was away

Look what he learned while I was away

Sunday Journal: Sparkles and the Specialist

Sparkles and Boots

Sparkles and Boots

This past week was mostly a quiet week with one really long day. On Tuesday we met with the specialist to discuss Sparkles’ illness. Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but after filling out reams of paperwork the last words I want to hear from a doctor include; “So, why are your here?” Really?!?! Did you not read the file??! I didn’t say that but I wanted to. After a discussion Sparkles was sent for an x-ray and more tests.

Middle Boy reading a bedtime story to Littlest

Middle Boy reading a bedtime story to Littlest

The next day the nurse called to let us know that Sparkles would have to endure a “cleanse” (trust me you do not want to know). She also explained to me they were waiting on one test result. If the test result comes back normal then she just had a blockage and infection and once this clears up she will be just fine. If it comes back abnormal then she will have to be sedated for a scope for a proper diagnosis. Hopefully we will hear about the test results this week. The day of the cleanse started at about eight in the morning and went until about three in the morning. I think we are

Sparkles leaning on Daddy

Sparkles leaning on Daddy

all still recovering. Littlest stayed up with his sister for a long time and ended up napping the next day. At a certain point my husband sent me to bed and he finished out the really long day with Sparkles.

This week begins our soft start to the up coming school year. I plan to spend the next two weeks re-establishing our Morning Basket time. For now out Morning Basket time includes our read-alouds, character studies and poetry memorization. This year we are going to work through Mensa’s “Year of Living Poetically”.  After listening to Andrew Pudewa on the importance of poetry

planning for the week

planning for the week

memorization and language development I knew that I wanted to add this to our home education lifestyle but I did not want to purchase a curriculum. I was going to put together my own list of poems. However, once I stumbled upon Mensa’s free course I went with it. The kids will also begin keeping a “word journal” for collecting interesting phrases or quotes. On Friday they will have to share

Middle Boy

Middle Boy

three entries from their word journal. We’ll also continue the art journaling once a week. We hope to return to poetry tea time this week now that Sparkles can handle the occasional treat in her diet again.

I participated in a photo challenge on Instagram this month that I have enjoyed and plan to post my pictures later this week. Photography was our practice the engage in this month in a homeschool community I belong to. It was fun to have a project to work on even though I know nothing about photography…

 

Sunday Journal: Waiting, Inspiration and Something Beautiful

my fellas at the creek

my fellas at the creek

I’m not really sure how to describe this past week. In some ways the days were really good and other moments were not so pleasant. The tougher moments this week involved observing Sparkles trying to come to terms with her illness and general friendship troubles. She is emotional, confused, a little scared and trying to be brave.

I didn’t really realize just how hard this has been on her until I took her to the library. She loves books…she is Belle from Beauty and the Beast. She was so overwhelmed at the library that she did not

Sparkles

Sparkles

have the mental ability to pick out some books. After picking out a pile of books for myself I found her sitting in one of the chairs trying not to cry. I noticed she didn’t have any books and she just wanted to leave. She didn’t know how to choose a book. This is the girl who would check out ten books a week!!! I offered to pick some books for her and she thought that would be okay. I charged her with guarding my pile and wandered around the children’s section trying to remember some authors I loved at her age…I loved the Nancy Drew books so I grabber a few and some Susan Cooper and Madeline L’Engle. I was a total die-hard for Asimov, Clark and Heinlein around the same age but I’m not sure she would enjoy those as much…

one lazy Sunday

one lazy Sunday

Waiting for test results to come in is hard. Tomorrow I will pick them up so we can give them to the specialist on Tuesday. Maybe we’ll have some answers…just maybe I’ll feel like I can breathe again.

On a brighter note I found the most amazing homeschooling group called Wild+Free. I feel like I have found my tribe and have

at the creek

at the creek

spent a couple of mornings listening to podcasts and reading through the free sample magazine. This group is…just wow…I cannot find the right words without sounding like a crush stricken fifteen-year-old. I also finished up Teaching from Rest this week and plan to rewrite some of my notes. I’ve felt so inspired this week and even wrote out a first draft of a homeschooling mission statement. Well, it started out homeschooling based but morphed

Littlest resting at the creek

Littlest resting at the creek

into a family statement but I’ll have to send it to my husband before adopting and sharing. I think such a statement is a great way to keep your purpose and focus…especially when relationships get hard and doubts rule the mind.

In the midst of reading and absorbing all this goodness I found the inspiration for my art assignment for the Brave Writer retreat

bee and flower

bee and flower

next month. I filled up about twenty post-it notes of phrases and sketches trying to capture the feeling and image that filled me.

Our family is truly blessed. So many people are praying for Sparkles and the rest of us. I receive emails and texts everyday asking about her. She received several cards, an anonymous gift (Wow! You are amazing and thank you mystery person with a heart full of love!!!), a couple of packages, calls and a super awesome pen-pal. She is super excited about her pen-pal!! Like over-the-moon excited.

these two guys know how to cheer up neighborhood kids

these two guys know how to cheer up neighborhood kids

I didn’t expect any of these responses. Family and a few friends of course but not this…something beautiful that happened. The world was full of terrifying and very sad news this week…too much pain and hatred. All that sadness was in my thoughts as we continued to receive compassion and love from people of various faiths and backgrounds. I feel so tiny and humbled…and my heart is full to bursting.

Linking up with: Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Sunday Journal: The Week Summer Plans Changed

Sparkles in the ER

Sparkles in the ER

We greeted June in the emergency room.

Emergency comes from the Latin meaning “to arise” or “bring to light”. The symbolic beauty of the word’s origin is obscured today. The word seems ugly to me and does not flow well off the tongue. I like words and I enjoy learning about words. In those moments as May faded into June and I guarded with prayer my daughter’s  rest in the ER; I thought about “emergency.” We certainly have a mystery on our hands…a mystery where truth needs to be brought out of darkness and into the light of understanding. Unfortunately, her mystery illness will require a specialist that she is scheduled to see next month. She

Sparkles and Boots

Sparkles and Boots

is still ill but responding to antibiotics. (A thousand times “thank you” to those who have offered prayers for her!!)

Oh, and about those antibiotics she is taking…this stuff is given to people with the plague or anthrax exposure! The side effects are just as horrible as her current symptoms. We won’t really know if she is feeling better for another seven days or so…

hanging out with Middle Boy

hanging out with Middle Boy

My plans for our summer courses are moot. I’m not sure what to do now. Sparkles thinks she could work on math and maybe one or two other things. For now our summer intensive Kentucky history is out. I had planned for us to visit all of the historical spots in town this month (most of them anyway…).

None of my plans have worked out this academic year. We have moved, suffered with pneumonia this winter and now Sparkle’s mystery illness. I’ve learned more about homeschooling and my children this year than in the past. Despite the year’s turbulence and even my own

cloud formation

cloud formation

spiritual lows, I feel God’s guiding hand on us. I do not know what the next six months will bring. Not a clue. I’m only starting to emerge from the spiritual funk that has kept me from church and talking with God. Honestly, I expected the events of this past week to knock me back into my doubts and darkness.

So far so good…and that seems kinda weird to me. I should be falling apart and totally freaking out. But right now I just accept and know that all moments pass through the hands of God. In acceptance I find rest and strength. And a little fear…

the new journal

the new journal

Many years ago I use to keep a journal. I would write poems and paint in my journal. Sometimes I would write out quotes or word phrases that I just needed to remember. All of my journals and art were thrown away by my mother many years ago. I cried and still haven’t forgiven her for throwing those away…and other things she thought I needed to grow out of. Today I started a new journal…I feel a personal renaissance is awakening. I used to be creative and I let others beat and ridicule that force out of me.

the rainbow

the rainbow

Maybe it is time to reclaim and make certain that my children fine their own creative force within… Also, for the month of June I will be posting a picture each day of grateful moments. I just need to remember right now.

Another huge change for me this week was dropping out of the TOS Review Crew. It was not an easy decision to make because I signed a contract with them and have an obligation to be part of the team. I have one review due next month and it will be my last. I also had another review due next month but since we hadn’t even started working on it I was taken off the list of

the boys learning to play pool

the boys learning to play pool

reviewers. The owner of the company allowed me to have access to his art curriculum anyway even though I will not be able to provide a review for him (thank you Mr. John Hofland of ArtAchieve).  So, if you happen to be in the market for an art curriculum then I encourage you to consider ArtAchieve. I am very touched by his generosity. I think a little art therapy is just what we may need to get through this summer of changes.

Linking up with: Weird unsocailaized Homeschoolers

Sunday Journal: Spring’s Return, Retreats and Boots

watching the rain experiment

watching the rain experiment

The past week was rather lazy for us. Productive but lazy. I slept in every single day. We started school about an hour later than usual each day and even indulged in our read aloud time a bit longer too. The crew still managed to get plenty of work done despite our relaxed approach to education this week. We learned about rainfall in our science experiments. Littlest has started joining us for science time lately and is becoming quite the experiment

Oldest making paper

Oldest making paper

enthusiast. Oldest had a couple of projects from history to work on this weekend. We made a felt sheet from wool roving. We plan to make flowers with our sheet for a poetry tea time centerpiece. We also made paper from one of his used math workbooks. The paper is still drying but we plan to stitch these into a little book of some sort. We also have some wildflower seeds that we could make into paper sheets for planting…might make a nice gift for Grandma.

Oldest with gift from Josh of Beautiful Feet Books

Oldest with gift from Josh of Beautiful Feet Books

My remaining purchases from the convention arrived so I suppose I should start planning soon. Our current school year will wrap up in three or four weeks! We usually take a little break before rolling into our summer session but not this year. I will be going to a homeschool mom’s retreat in July and plan to let my crew take a break then…while I am away.

We might even take a good chunk of July off this year from formal work and begin in August. I haven’t decided yet. I am currently in

making felt

making felt

a homeschool coaching community and the month of July is spent developing a customized plan with veteran homeschoolers. So I may take complete advantage of this learning opportunity with women who have walked this path successfully and extend our light summer schedule throughout July.

I mentioned the retreat earlier…something that I am excited and nervous about attending (they mentioned line dancing!). All of us attending received a gift box with essential oils, teas, a lovely glass charm, a coaster and

lunch out today

lunch out today

two empty fabric squares. I am supposed to decorate on the cloth square what it means “to be good to myself”. I seriously thought about just dunking my cloth into red wine! Just for a lark I googled “painting with red wine” and did you know there really is such a thing?!?!?! Ha! Crazy…but now I am thinking about painting an image on my cloth with red wine. Of course…I still need to figure out what it means to “be good to me”. Hmm…now I have a Tina Turner song in my head…The organizers of the retreat are going to make everyone’s squares into a quilt. I’ve no idea what I am going to create…

pause in the hike

pause in the hike

Today we went for a lovely hike. The weather has been cool and rainy for a while but the past few days were delightful. The park was covered in beautiful wildflowers along the hiking path. I enjoyed our outing this morning. Beautiful spring this year…finally. Is it just me or has this past winter lasted an eternity? I spent the rest of the day working on the monstrous laundry pile and sweeping. I had planned to get my next review written this weekend but I did not… really lacking the motivation for this one.

Boots resting for the day

Boots resting for the day

Our kitty Boots endured an injury on one of her front legs. It looks like a puncture wound and I can only assume she encountered a snake. She laid around most of today but still gets up to eat and drink. We’ve all stopped to visit with her today and let her know how much we love her. Even Littlest who will usually stay far away from her has stopped to encourage her to feel better. While I was putting laundry away I heard him tell her “get better real soon…okay Bootsie or people will cry.” As pathetic as she has been all day she did decide to go outside this evening. She still will not put any weight on her swollen leg but feels well enough for some night-time exploring. Despite her injury she still gets up the stairs faster than I possibly ever can manage. Old knees are such a bother.

Linking up with: Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

 

Sunday Journal: Adventures in Travel

Cincinnati in the morning

Cincinnati in the morning

The last couple of weeks were busy. We traveled to western Kentucky last weekend for the kid’s Hymn Fest piano recital. We visited with friends and some family members during our stay. Visiting our former church was a highlight for me. The Easter service was beautiful but left me feeling lonely for a church family where we felt safe.

On the way to western Kentucky we met The Joseph Sisters in Leitchfield at Subway. We were all there for dinner and extended our stay a bit to let a nasty storm pass through before hitting the road again. They were returning home to West Virginia after a

poetry tea time

poetry tea time

“long radio tour”. The young ladies were really sweet and chatted with the kids about music, math and Angry Birds. I really should have taken a picture because it turns out they are a sweet all sisters country music band. You never know who is at the next table…

This past week is a bit of a blur. I attempted to prep and clean the house for our next trip and squeeze in a bit of schooling. Our co-op voted on classes they would like to have the next semester and so I had to admit we would not be returning…blah.

Russ and Josh setting up the booth

Russ and Josh setting up the booth

Thursday afternoon Oldest and I left for Cincinnati to work with Russ and Josh Berg of Beautiful Feet Books at the homeschooling convention. Oldest road shotgun (for the first time ever with me!) and read the directions off to me. We stopped at the monastery where we were staying and visited with the nuns a bit before heading to Cincinnati. The sky stormed most of the day! Fortunately, the rain let up during the times I was on the road…someone was praying for me.

Oldest and customer

Oldest and customer

I enjoyed working at the booth this year and chatting with a few of you who stopped to say “hello!” I also met a few fellow Brave Writer fans, sweet friends from our Lexington days, my neighbor (I was so shocked to see her that I couldn’t place her for a moment!), and my roommate for the retreat in July. Oldest did his best to help at the booth and talked with parents. Some people were not sure what to think of a twelve-year old boy working the convention and other’s took advantage and asked him for book recommendations for their

with Mr. Demme from MathUSee

with Mr. Demme from MathUSee

own children. I was both surprised and pleased by his performance. I wasn’t sure how things would turn out and I know he was very nervous too.

Oldest looked up to Josh like a hero and missed him terribly during his lunch breaks. He felt very accepted even with his twelve-year old antics which the Berg’s graciously found amusing and I found sooo exasperating…boys. I did nick-name Russ “Houdini” since he possessed the amazing skill to completely vanish from view in the time it would take to just greet someone. I would turn to finish a comment and he was simply gone! He’s like

Josh, Oldest and Russ with Middle Boy and Littlest in background

Josh, Oldest and Russ with Middle Boy and Littlest in background

a genie, cross his arms, nod his head and poof–vanished. There are moments I could benefit from such a talent.

On Saturday my husband and the rest of the crew came up to see the convention. They wondered the vendor hall a bit and then invaded the booth. Littlest and Middle Boy took turns playing the iPad, making a nuisance of themselves and using Russ as a prop for their Lego dinosaurs. I should have taken a picture of the moment. My children do not have a grandfather. In those rare instances when an older gentleman interacts so naturally with my children I find the moment wistful.

Littlest is glad I am home

Littlest is glad I am home

Anyway, a few people have asked what I brought home from the convention. Not much, since most of it had to be ordered. I purchased The Dangerous Journey and study guides from Memoria Press, Fix It from IEW, some movies study guides from Zeezok, Foundations from Logic of English and Early American history for both intermediate and junior high grades from Beautiful Feet Books. Now, I just have to wait for all of my goodies to arrive…

Today, I took Littlest out for ice cream. He missed me so much while I was away. I asked him what he did and he said, “Wore Daddy out. But now I can go back to wearing you out.” Sounds about right…

Linking up with: Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers