Friday, July 3, 2020

Broken Symmetry Brewery in Bethel, CT

Dwayne and I went to Broken Symmetry Gastro Brewery in Downtown Bethel, CT for a dinner out alone.  We sat out in the evening sunshine and ordered burritos and beers.  Honestly, I can't remember which beer this was, but it was amazing.  It tasted of grapefruit. I do remember the burrito, though. It was roasted vegetable with chicken added.  Delicious!  We'll go again soon and I'll try to reorder the same beer again, so we can find out what it's called.  

Thursday, July 2, 2020

More Topstone Visits

 We've taken a few more visits to Topstone. We basically go twice a week at this point.  

There is an abundance of dragonflies.  We've noticed three or four different kinds, but we can't name them (yet.)  If they come up close, we try to coax them onto our fingers and succeed often enough.

The girls'll ask me to roll down the windows and play a song whenever we drive home.  

Chicken Caesar salad is one of my favorite summertime foods. We pack a cooler and stay for a few hours.  We'll bring cold sodas, tortilla chips and guacamole, hummus and carrots, and rice crispy treats.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Homemade Ice Cream

I pulled the ice cream maker out of the bottom of the kitchen pantry and we made some homemade vanilla ice cream for the first time in several years.  We just followed the recipe in the book that came with the machine.  

The flavor of homemade vanilla brings back memories of The Azalea Festival in Summerville, South Carolina. 

I worked at the old fashioned ice cream stand for a few years in a row in middle/ high school. I have  fond memories of working hard all day long, but having fun the whole time, and learning how to handle real responsibilities like the cash register when people pay cash at the head of a very busy line or stocking supplies so there's no delay for the people who are depending on you to do your job so they can do theirs, etc. etc., and going home totally exhausted, but satisfied with my pockets full of well-earned cash.

We actually had so much ice cream and we kept our portions small, so we were able to store it in a large Tupperware in our freezer and eat it over several evenings for dessert after dinner.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Homeschool Classroom Decor

We added an adorable pillow to our classroom decor.  It looks like the library cards that used to be on the inside of books. I don't really spend much time decorating, but I'll buy something if it's this adorable and it fits this well with what we've already got.  

Monday, June 29, 2020

Creative Day

We have more leisure in summertime.  One thing we like to do is watercolor.

We bought a few kits from Let's Make Art and we are following their free tutorials to paint along with them.

We've been doing watercolor every summer for at least a few years. In previous years, we had an artist-friend come over and give lessons a few weeks in a row.  But the last few years, we have just been using Let's Make Art tutorials.

This one was the sunflower lesson.

Our parrot Arcus watched us as we painted.  Isn't he beautiful?  As far as I know, they do not have a sun conure tutorial at Let's Make Art, but I should check.  I may be brave enough and try and paint him without a tutorial someday.

While I painted with my younger ones, my oldest chose instead to embroider the Captain America symbol on a scrap of fabric.

She worked this pattern out herself by tracing various circular jars and containers onto the fabric.

It was a lovely afternoon of leisurely creativity.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Stacking Wood

We have a cord of seasoned wood delivered every summer to use in the coming winter.

This year, I helped Dwayne stack it and it was done within an hour.

In the past few years, I haven't helped him stack it, and obviously, it took him longer.

He didn't complain that I didn't help.

It was something we had agreed that was his to do.

I was always inside doing something else productive.

I might have been cooking dinner or reading a book I had to read, etc.

It's not like I was in there binging on Netflix while he was out there stacking or anything.

But nevertheless, as I was stacking wood this year and wondering why I had not done it in the past few years, something else did become apparent to me.

In years past, I was usually too tired to help Dwayne.

I was exercising everyday back then, so I had often "used up" my strength or I was "saving it" for the next workout or fitness class.

Though I was so strong and fit and lean, I had no margin to offer my strength and fitness and leaness to anyone for anything that wasn't on my workout schedule.

This year, I was eager to help him stack the wood and that got me to wondering, "What's different about this year?"

Well, I'm not exercising as much (and you can definitely tell.)

But this also means I had the margin of time and energy and attention to give to the task of stacking wood and chatting with Dwayne as we did it.

This is sort of a realization/ public confession/  note-to-self/ devotional entry for spouses...

We need to leave more of a margin for things that matter.  

Our workouts are meant to make us stronger so that we can serve one another, not so that we can be stronger to serve our workouts harder.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

The Great Conversation

She’s reading me quotes from a book she’s reading and we both have goosebumps, because the book is speaking to something we were discussing earlier. Can I testify for a minute? Watching (and participating) in God’s leading a girl into womanhood is a great glory and delight. God joins (or is He leading?) our conversations though books, music, art, sermons, experiences, nature. If I did not already believe in the Spirit’s leading, I would now, because the timing of encounters with certain words in certain books at certain moments is (nearly) unbelievable. We are participating in The Great Conversation, no doubt. I find it is with God Himself!

Friday, June 26, 2020

Another Topstone Visit

We visited Topstone again.

Swimming in the pond is, by far, my favorite pastime now.

It is simply transcendent.

The pond tastes, smells, feels, sounds, and looks so beautiful.

As I swim forward and look around me, the light reflects off the water and I think of those lines in The Weight of Glory that talk about beauty.

“We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words — to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.”

Swimming in the pond is like being in Perelandra.

I like to do laps back and forth across the deeper swimming area while the girls play in the shallower water.

I'll also work with the girls, so that they swim better and better each time.

I showed Norah the breast stroke today and she was brave enough to try it.

Also today, Adele came out into the deep water where Norah and I could touch, but she could not, and she practiced swimming across the surface of the water back and forth to us without putting her head under or having any chance of putting her feet down.

She also practiced floating then swimming then floating again.

They all improve quickly and so my comfort-level increases every time we visit and I can relax and enjoy myself more then.

We also threw diving toys and played Marco Polo and laughed till we were breathless.

I'm incredibly good at Marco Polo at this point in life, probably because I no longer fear looking like a fool.

Being forty and fairly fit, I will just throw myself forward and attack the water where I heard someone say, "Polo."

And I confess, I get carried away and I do show the girls how to cheat in various ways.

Today, I stood behind them and shouted "Polo," so the person who was "it" was bound to come right at them.

I also grabbed them and threw them towards the person shouting "Marco" a few times, so that they were definitely caught.

They laugh, of course, but then they cry also out over the injustice of what I've done. "Mom!" So I will always make myself "it" to pay for the fun I've had.

In my defense, we often enter into fairly intense dialectic discussions about justice as I teach them rhetoric in our homeschool, so showing them the nuances of justice at work in sporting feels like striking a balance or bringing a fullness to those lessons.

I thoroughly enjoy sharing my life with my daughters.  

The pond is magical and we are enchanted more every time we visit.

Thursday, June 25, 2020


My hydrangea bushes have multiple blooms this year, because we did not prune them at all last fall or this spring.  After watching a few You Tube videos and reading a few articles, I believe I finally know how to care for these beauties.  This variety of hydrangea grows on "old wood," so the less we prune the better, as far as I can tell. I think we could prune a little and have larger flowers, but I'd rather have so many smaller blooms.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Pick Your Battles

Parent: I wish my kids liked to read as much as your kids like to read.
Me:  Well, you should know that we put the television way downstairs out of the main room and they don't watch anything until after dinner.
Parent:  We could never get rid of our television! My husband likes to watch his shows.  And we watch the news.
Me: I didn't say we don't have a television. We just keep it downstairs, out of the way, and we limit the amount of time the kids are on any screen, actually.
Parent: Well, our house isn't as big as yours. We have to have the television in the main room.
Me: ...

Parent: I wish my kids would read more.
Me: I actually make mine read. I hand them a timer and tell them to go get a book. They moan, but they get over it, and they have learned to enjoy it.
Parent: Oh, well, I don't have that kind of control over my kids.
Me: I'll take something away from them if they don't do what I tell them to do.
Parent: But my kids don't even like reading.
Me: ...

Parent:  I wish my kids liked books.
Me: When people say that, I usually try and tell them how it works for us.  We put the television way downstairs.  And they don't get to watch anything until after dinner.
Parent: Oh, television isn't the problem. It's video games and cell phones.
Me: ...

I've had hundreds of the conversations like the ones above.  It may be thousands, but I don't want to exaggerate, so I'm saying hundreds.

And at this point, I'm feeling self-righteously confident about the issue.

Parents have to pick their battles.

And before I even had children, I basically picked one battle, and it was the battle over the television.

I was never going to be ruled by the television.

Back then it was just the television.

Now it's also computers, game consoles, hand held devices, tablets, cell phones, smart watches, etc.

So I ought to say that I think the battle is really over screens.

I have this belief that if I "win" the battle over the "television" or "screens," I will have a better chance of winning every other battle that comes.

I may be right.

I'm not sure yet, because I'm still in the midst of the battle.

But as far as I can tell, there are several battles I haven't even had to fight, because I am "winning" the battle over screens (and all the influences screens bring into my kids' lives.)

My kids are quick(er) to listen when I call them, don't complain over chores, have countless interests, enjoy nature, like to run and play and hike and swim, etc. look people in the eyes, like to talk to me and to each other and to other people, etc.

They're downright weird by today's standards.

I may be wrong, but I credit the lack of screens in their lives to these behaviors.

And as far as I can tell, there are battles other parents can't even begin to fight, because they aren't "winning" to battle over screens.

What most people's kids are totally obsessed with, my kids have no idea that even exists. My kids live in another world entirely. Arguably, it's the real world, because it's not a virtual one.

So far as I can tell, the only difference between "us" and "them" is how often screens are "on" flashing, entertaining, pacifying, messaging, advertising, texting, etc.

It's really "old-fashioned" in the sense that my kids might as well be living in the nineteen fifties or sixties given the amount of media they consume.

But many people treat us like we may as well be living in the frontier days when they find out our teenage daughter doesn't have a cell phone.

Well, our daughter does have a cell phone to use when she needs it.

It's an old phone we're done with that's on the family plan.

As a family joke, we call it, "The phone that is not yours."

She rolls her eyes.

She takes this extra cell when she goes to a friend's house or goes to volunteer somewhere or to hike in case of emergency.

But she definitely doesn't carry it everywhere in the house.

That's probably because if she did, we'd say something, and if that didn't put an end to it, we would put an end to the phone.

We're total Vikings when we feel we need to be.

For instance, we had to tell her not to take the cell phone to her room last week, because we found out she had been watching way too many You Tube videos that way.

So she stopped taking it to her room. It's been living on my dresser.  She could go get it if she needed it, but she hasn't.

Thus, she has stopped watching too much You Tube for now.

Don't imagine she doesn't have any tech.

She has a tablet and her own laptop, too.

She Skypes and emails and goes online to connect to her writing group.

She's in there now on the laptop, probably looking at memes.

Her father and I aren't total Neanderthals.

But the laptop does have to stay on her desk in the classroom now, because she was simply on it too often when she could carry it everywhere and anywhere in the house.

How could we tell it was "too much?"

You can always tell.

She started snapping at people who spoke to her, she started acting lethargic, she lost interest in other things, etc.

Parents just know when tech's taking over.

And that's when we made the rule about the laptop being always on her desk.

So, for now at least, that is no longer a problem.

If it becomes too big a problem again, we will just disappear the laptop for a while.

It's really that simple.

That doesn't make it easy, but it is simple.