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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Sunday Journal: First Full Week Back

20160815_104602 (640x480)Our first week of the academic year is now history. Even though I would not call it catastrophic in any sense of the word…the days certainly had their moments. I also just didn’t get my walks in this week and I guess that did not help my mood at all. I’m fairly certain that the less alone time I get the worse it reflects on my humanity. Really, I’m rather terrible.

Being introverted can be hard sometimes…like having a monster in my

first day of school fun cereal

first day of school fun cereal

Well, I’m not sure what should follow after that…I kinda lost my flow since the kiddos came and gave me “goodnight kisses”.

Guess my introverted monster isn’t as bad as I imagine since my peeps still love me enough for kisses and hugs.

Littlest in the school room full-time was fun this week. He loves his Logic of English reading lessons so long as I leave the games

Littlest working on his lettering

Littlest working on his lettering

out. He tells me he only wants “serious school not baby school”. He got really mad this week when we hit a review lesson and he didn’t “learn anything useful”. He insisted we do the next lesson right away. I also have some Kindergarten workbooks just to keep him busy (I know…busy work is bad). The workbooks have the directions and answers for parents on the same page. Littlest realized that he was capable of reading the answers and could self check his work. He thought that was hilarious! Clearly, he’s outgrown Kindergarten after one week of school.

Boots and Bach

Boots and Bach

Two little words came to my mind at that moment and one of them isn’t very nice…

One of our favorite moments of school this week was listening to Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto. Our kitty Boots was sound asleep during the entire hour or so of read-aloud time. As soon as I turned on the music she sat up and listened and was a still as the Sphinx of Egypt. Once the music was over she curled back up into a little kitty ball and snoozed for hours. Even though we went through the series of questions and talked about the instruments we heard and the emotions stirred…we’re all curious to know if Boots will react the same way during our next Bach appreciation moments. Serious science right there…

Oldest took his first science exam since we started homeschooling. I was happy with his results and I know he will improve now that he knows what to expect. He is using Dr. Wile’s General Science this year and in one of the essay questions he had an entirely different opinion than his book on the reasons for scientific advancement during the Renaissance. The author argued for Christian worldview and Oldest argued for the printing press. He’s twelve and already arguing with his textbook/authority…it is going to be a fun year.

Sunday Journal: Break Week

Littlest on his day out with Daddy

Littlest on his day out with Daddy

We took a break from school this week while my mother was visiting for Sparkles’ procedure. Tomorrow is our first official full day of school for the new year. All of the books and baskets are organized and ready for tomorrow…and hopefully the rest of the year. Over the last few weeks we worked on establishing our morning routine so tomorrow should roll along smoothly. Go ahead and laugh if you want. I know tomorrow will not go as planned. But for the moment I would like to pretend the children will be delighted to learn math and write compositions with happy smiles.

I like to indulge my delusions sometimes.

Grandma and Littlest

Grandma and Littlest

My mother’s visit went fairly well this time around. She spent more time with Sparkles than she ever had before. I was busy the first part of the week tending to Sparkles and spent the latter half of the week prepping the school room. My husband finished the shelving and I was able to get all of our books out of the hallway and organized for the year. At some point this year the cabinets will be painted to match the shelves later this year. I’ve ordered a storage bench to fit along the window and I plan to get some nice curtains to add some color and softness. We have a couple of hummingbird feeders

school room ready for tomorrow

school room ready for tomorrow

outside our window and I spent a bit of time watching them this week. The little birds are fun to watch and the females are quite content to share the feeder but the males chase each other constantly. The lovely little hummers will prove to be a nice distraction during our time in the school room. I feel so very blessed that we can have a school room.

I knitted a coffee cozy

I knitted a coffee cozy

I am also glad that I had the room to work on during my mother’s visit…the work kept me from feeling pinned down by her. In a way, I feel badly that I left her to her own devices during her visit but I also know that the experience was less stressful for me (and everyone that has to live with me). She did say a few things that irked me but I let them go…well, my husband knows.

Anyway, Sparkles seems to be responding well to her medicine since her diagnosis with Ulcerative Colitis. She wasn’t happy to

Sparkles and Boots

Sparkles and Boots

be taking so many medications at first but has already adjusted. I can’t blame her. I avoided my doctor for two years when he mentioned that I might need cholesterol medication. My daughter may take too much after me…One of the ladies I met at the retreat last month was also diagnosed with UC at the same age as Sparkles and she has generously answered so many of my questions and given awesome guidance. We are so blessed that Sparkles was diagnosed so quickly and that we have recently met some really amazing people who can guide us. For many people a diagnosis takes years…yet we managed to encounter the right people at the

Poetry tea time

Poetry tea time

right time to get our daughter treated relatively quickly. She is a blessed little girl.

Tomorrow I plan to take first day of school pictures. I have some fun unhealthy kid cereal to set out on the breakfast table for in the morning and candy bars to put at their places in the school room. It isn’t much but hopefully it will help the day seem special for the kiddos.

Sunday Journal: The Rest of July

I love this picture of Littlest and Middle Boy!

I love this picture of Littlest and Middle Boy!

I have not been in the mood to write the past few weeks. On here anyway. The writing process happens in my head all the time. Sometimes I edit my own thoughts in order to articulate properly to myself…maybe you didn’t need to know that.

Nothing happened this month. So many changes happened this month. I’ve spent a fair amount of time observing my kids. Sometimes I stand at my daughter’s bedroom door and listen to her cry. And I die every time. I want to rush in and hold her and cry with her but she would come to me if

Sparkles out with Daddy

Sparkles out with Daddy

she wanted that sort of comfort. I try to let her know in little ways that I know. We checked out books at the library about IBS/IBD and are reading them together. We explore new-to-us and less harmful foods together. Together we’ve mourned the loss of strawberries, grapes and salsa from her diet. These little things are a big deal if you are only ten.

I am so very grateful that we chose to homeschool. I cannot imagine how difficult managing a chronic illness would be in the public school system.

brothers

brothers

The boys are getting bigger and they are very understanding toward their sister’s moods. We did start back to school this past week. Not all subjects are in full swing yet but I decided to wait until after Sparkle’s surgery to go full-time. I did drop a few subjects for our first couple of terms this year until things are more settled or until we have adjusted to the new normal. I’ll have a post about our courses for the year in a few weeks. My husband started building shelves in the school room and everything is just a little scattered…

The school room is almost complete and I could not be more excited!

20160718_191030 (640x480) (480x640)We have enjoyed a few trips to Lexington to watch the local baseball team. Most of the time Sparkles has felt well enough to go but on occasion I stay home with her and the boys enjoy an evening out. I do not know much about baseball but it is fun to go to the games and people watch. I like to watch the boys in their uniforms too. My favorite player is Amalani Fukofuka simply because of the way his name sounds. His name is fun to say. Seriously, how many of us have such a delicious mouthful of syllables as a name?!

IMG_1270 (480x640)My husband took the boys to get a haircut a week or so ago. We never know what Littlest will say to other people. Sometimes he is sweet and charming and other times…not so much. The barber shop is across from the old state capitol. It is a real old fashioned, full of history sort of place. Oldest insists this is the only place to get a decent haircut. He is “all of twelve” and how he knows the “holy truths” I haven’t a clue.

IMG_1268 (480x640)Littlest wasn’t exactly excited to get a hair cut. He gets up in the chair when it is his turn and tells the barber his name when prompted. For whatever reason she did not hear him and asked him to repeat it. He tells her she should have listened the first time. She scolds him and tells him that people will not like him very much if he talks like that. He tells her that he doesn’t care what people think. My husband says something about his mouthiness (yes, WordPress that is a word!) and the barber comments, “No, he’s just really smart.” Littlest demands to be treated as a complete

Boots says "hello!"

Boots says “hello!”

person not as a person-in-training. Lots of people talk down to children. I’ve never done that with my kids. I like to meet them as the people they are and treat them with dignity. I hated being spoken down to as a kid either because of my age or in later years my gender. Littlest is a bit like me in that regard except I kept my hurt feelings to myself and he isn’t afraid to stand up for himself. As someone well acquainted with fear I completely admire that trait in him.

There you have it…so much for July.

 

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: Baseball, Butter and Brave Writer

DSC02645 (640x480)The week went by too quickly…mostly because of the long weekend. The big event for me this week was going to my very first baseball game to see the Lexington Legends. I do not know much about the game but my husband filled me in on the basics. So, I wasn’t too lost. I may have called one of the “runs” a “touchdown” but otherwise managed to follow along. I only know DSC02691 (640x480)football and a smattering of NASCAR at this point in my life…and I’m okay with that. Anyway, I expected to be kinda bored but it was actually really fun. I doubt that I could ever sit through a game on television but going to a game “in the moment” is certainly doable.

20160710_210236 (480x640)Did you know hot butter will ruin laminate floors? I discovered that fact painfully this week. I melted some butter in a pan and for some reason it suddenly exploded! I’ve been cooking since I could push a chair to the stove and nothing like that has ever happened to me before. My counters, stove, cabinets and floor were covered in hot butter…and so was I. Hot butter hurts! The mess was truly spectacular and it impressed the boys.

20160710_204321 (480x640)Later this week I will leave for the Brave Writer Retreat. I get to hang out with a bunch of homeschool moms for some relaxation, fun and educational lectures. Melissa Wiley (author of The Prairie Thief and other children’s books as well as a homeschooler) will be a speaker along with Julie Bogart of Brave Writer. I am looking forward to the trip and the adventure of the experience. A little piece of me is a bit freaked out. Some of the planned activities are way outside of my comfort zone and I am such an introvert. I enjoy other humans but sometimes people and their noisiness can be very overwhelming.

20160710_203004 (480x640)Brave is my word this year…that one aspiration I chose for myself this year. I am not brave. I am terrified mostly…especially outside of my home. Every time my husband goes to work I fear that I will never see him again. When he leaves on a trip without me I am afraid…I worry. I consider my excessive ability to worry and imagine every possible disaster scenario a sin…a personal failing of massive ineptitude. Sometimes my fears are paralyzing. I want to hold my family tightly and never let them go…if I gave in to my 20160708_210931 (480x640)natural inclinations I would smother them. I likely suffer from some form of anxiety. For the most part I keep that part of myself well hidden from everyone else. But I am constantly aware…and constantly worry about passing on my faults to my children…or hurting them emotionally somehow. I see pieces of this in my daughter sometimes and it hurts…hurts.

When I chose to be brave this year the retreat is the first thing I signed up for…I am afraid to leave my family. I am not worried DSC02710 (640x480)about my husband’s ability to care for them. He is a perfect father…a perfect husband. I fail him all the time but he never fails to protect or calm me. Many times I feel that he would be happier without me. I feel that his life would be better without me. I know that isn’t true because he has told me so. I know that it is my personal daemons that say such things to me.

20160710_201053 (480x640)My daemons keep me caged…or they have. I’ve spent my life trying to ignore them or run away. I chose to face them this year and quit running away. I am embracing my faults, my sins…I worry too much, I am overly anxious in a crazy way, like really crazy…I am afraid all the time. Since I chose to be brave this year…I chose to accept my daemons, to embrace them as they have held me all these years. At this point in my life, I can honestly look my kids and husband in the eye as say…I haven’t done everything right and I accept that I may have hurt you but…I love you and I did better toward you than I ever received from my own roots. I have honestly strived to be better than my raising. And that striving is brave.

Journal: A Do-over Would Be Nice

 polly


Polly

There really isn’t much to say about this week…it could really do with a “do-over”. The hardest news was learning that our daughter would have to undergo a scope for a diagnosis. Unless her tests threw off some false positives she has some sort of inflammatory bowel disorder/disease.

We did get an offer on our house in western Kentucky. That is the good news. The crappy part is the relocation company doesn’t want to accept the offer. I thought the role of a relocation company was to be helpful during the

Monty the Mean

Monty the Mean

moving process. Sadly, this has not been our experience. I hope the offer goes through. As much as I love our former home, it would be nice to get it off our hands. We have a hard time taking care of it since it is so far away. We’ll feel like we have a bit of breathing room in our lives once it belongs to another family…one less thing to tie us down.

Our academic year ended on Thursday. No-one really noticed except for me. Usually we take pictures and go out for dinner or

Oldest in my glasses

Oldest in my glasses

something. This year the middle two spent the evening with friends at VBS. My husband and Oldest went to meet with the realtor and do some work at the old house. Littlest and I were left at home and feeling a bit abandoned by everyone.

Sunday was a good day. I spent the morning getting my hair done. The toner in my hair starts to fade after a few weeks and I just start to feel a bit drab. My hairdresser (magician!) gave me a bottle of special shampoo that is supposed to help with the fade out. Hopefully it works.

Sparkles

Sparkles

At home I baked a bunch of cookies for an Independence Day celebration at the home of one of my husband’s co-workers. They have some beautiful property and we enjoyed ourselves for the evening. Good food and good company. The kids roasted marshmallows and played with sparklers. We even watched a few fireworks before the rain set in.

The sky continues to rain…

yours truely

yours truly

My last review for the TOS Crew is this week. I’ve opted to drop off the team because of Sparkles illness. Having one less obligation to worry over is freeing…not to mention time-saving.

The whole week was not as depressing as I’ve described. Our morning routine ran fairly smoothly. We are all glad to get back to read aloud time, habit training and poetry memorization. Right

Littlest and my husband

Littlest and my husband

now we are just loving The Phantom Tollbooth…such a crazy wacky book and so fun to read. Oldest and I conquered a chunk of Les Miserables (I misspell it every single time!!!). Right now we are in a serious debate on which movie version to watch. I want to see the Hugh Jackman musical (Wolverine and he is singing!!!) and Oldest wants to see the Liam Neeson version.  Since I do not want to buy the movie I guess we will end up watching whichever version the library owns.

Middle Boy

Middle Boy

We are going to learn how to knit for our handicraft this year. The kids and I went to the hobby shop to purchase needles and yarns for our various projects. Middle Boy also found a book of Minecraft projects that he really wanted. He had not discovered what he wanted to do for his project weeks during the school year and this book just hit his happy spot. It is full or art  and STEM projects so we are both happy. I’ll have more about our upcoming school year soon, our curriculum choices and projects. I’ll also write-up my final thoughts (more like a memorial) on our past academic year.