Thursday, April 30, 2020

Nature as a Governess

As much good as I have planned for my daughters inside, if the weather is nice, I let them play outside. And even when the weather is not so nice, when it's cold but also dry, I will let them go out if they ask to go out. It isn't just the spring and summer and autumn world that is glorious. The winter world is full of wonders, too.  And winter must teach them something of hope. They see that the same tree that looked so dead comes back to life and even blooms and bares fruit in another season.

It's a priority for us to have leisure time for simply being outside, so I haven't over-scheduled our lives. We have piano lessons and co-op in our week.  If we had other places to be all the time, we'd need to be inside doing schoolwork so we could "get it done" before we had to go, go, go. So we have learned from experience and we are making the conscious choice to limit enrichment extracurriculars for this instead, the ability to simply play outside as an enrichment activity. (And being home also allows us to be around the dinner table together most evenings instead of at the sports field or gym or in the car.)

We live in the woods now, and so we have a lot of property to explore. We don't really have to go anywhere to be in nature. Actually, if we walk far enough into our woods, we can meet up with a hiking trail and we can go even farther.  But before this house, we had a small yard in an orderly neighborhood. But we made the most of that, too. We had a vegetable garden, flower beds, a fire pit, a sandbox, and a water hose.  We also took daily walks to the park nearby and more frequent drives to other parks where we could hike, etc.

Living and experiencing the actual, physical, natural world is such a priority to us that we also tend to go to the pond or the beach rather than the pool, though I love the pool.  We also choose to hike rather than go to indoor trampoline parks or amusements. And our love of nature is also the reason I look back at most of our vacations and see that we most often chose to simply visit family and do activities that put us outside at the beach, or the inlet, or the state parks, national parks, nature preserves, canyons, rivers... We have deeper relationships with the people we love and such magical memories of God's world from doing this.

My kids are like other kids (and like their parents) and they will complain about the bugs or the sun or the heat (or all three.) They have been bitten or scraped their knees or have gotten water up their noses or gotten sunburns even with sunblock.  But being in nature in spite of those things enough times, they have learned over and over again that there's always a reward. They know from experience that nature never skimps on her end of the bargain.  Nature will make your legs and lungs burn as you hike up that trail and you will have a few bug bites when you get back to the car, but the view from the top of the waterfall and the sound of the water rushing over the rocks and the smell of the lush green all around and the feel of the moisture in the air on your sweaty skin... Ah, so worth it! You always forget about the bug bite.  The memory of the waterfall never fades. It comes back to you time and time again and stirs up a longing for more goodness and beauty like it.

My kids have also grown hearty from enduring nature's harshness. They can hold their tongues and endure physical discomfort and push their bodies, all things I don't know how I would have managed to teach them otherwise. So now, the complaining happens less and less frequently, actually. They go into nature with a sense of nervous, excited expectation now.  They know something always happens.  A few minutes after they may complain about one bug, they will cry out in awe over another bug or a bird or the beauty in the sky around them. They will open their eyes wide and shout, "Look!" And they will drink all in with all their senses.  Or they will close their eyes and just sigh contently.  These experiences are shaping their souls.

Once, my kids swam in a river in Zion National Park. It was totally spontaneous. The heat was so oppressive that day, it is not surprising they did so.  The rocks at Zion are magnificent; they truly "cry out," so being in their presence was totally worth the physical discomforts we experienced that day. We all recall and agree to that truth heartily.  After hours at the park, my kids pulled off their hot sneakers and socks and ventured to put their bare-skinned toes into the water, and I just knew what would happen next. They have a whole body and it was hot and the water was cool and they were made to fit in to God's world, so I didn't scold them when they just kept right on waking into the river and cooling themselves off.  I was afraid for a moment and urged caution, but I said a quiet prayer and then just let them be in God's world.  There, they swam in a cool, sparkling blue-green river with the warmest air all around and the most massive red and white rocks towering over them, so massive they were blocking out most of the sky except for what was directly above, their laughter echoing off every surface and coming back to them.  It's like the rocks were sharing their delight. They still talk about that experience.  They knew something of Eden that day and they've had countless glimpses of Eden in their own backyard.

So when we come inside from being outside so much and I teach them about being, creation,   or stewardship, it's easier to do so now that they been out in nature.  I'm not telling them something new.  I am reviewing what they already know.  When I tell them the world was made by a good and loving God, they nod. When I tell them they were made by a good and loving God for the world, they also know it. I say everything is a gift for them to receive in godly fear and use with virtue. They say, "Yes." and "Amen." I tell them the world is also fallen and there is risk and death involved with life here now, they know this already, because they have scarped their knee and been burned by the sun.  The truths of Scripture do not sound like a fairy tales to them, because they have been in the real world and they read often from God's epistle of nature.  They've been so long outside, and never lived overly much in any artificial world, so the greater things are not unbelievable.

Outside, they have already learned lessons on stewardship for themselves. When they were gathering shells, they discovered one had a tiny hermit crab inside. They gave glory to God over the marvelous creature. (They can't help this. The glory just comes up and out of their mouths, as if that's what mouths are for.) The crab was so tiny compared to them, so helpless when pulled from his habitat, but also so powerfully equipped for the place he was designed for.  "Look at his claw! Look at how he tucks himself into his shell!"  They show each other and marvel at his unique beauty.

But they also put him right back in the tide pool without needing to be told that is what ought to be done, because they can just sense it.  They know already that this whole world is theirs to keep, and they can take empty shells, but that that crab owns his shell and he is not theirs.  He had a form and place and a purpose and He belonged there.  More importantly, if he, being so little, has a form, and a place, and purpose, so must they... I can tell these are the questions that nature asks them.

Nature is a marvelous, diligent, beautiful governess, but sometimes she can be harsh. It is at those times when I have to trust her. I have come to understand that nature is far better trained than I am to teach my daughters about the greater things.  Best of all, her lessons usually only require our time (or perhaps a minimal parking fee). So we give nature time and she gives us back so much more.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020


Chores are a huge part of our lives.

We spend more than an hour a day cleaning before we even begin any of our schoolwork.

We have been doing things this way for more than ten years now.

I've tried doing morning time first or starting the hardest schoolwork like math first, because successful people have advised that and I don't mind taking advice.

But I tried it and I find that I just can't stand it.

I simply can't begin the work day with dishes in the sink or laundry not going or toys all over the floors, so for me, the chores have to be done first.

So this is how it usually goes.

I get up first and read my Bible and pray. I may read or work in another book or two, because I have things I am trying to learn for myself like rhetoric, Latin, and logic. I may go ahead and have breakfast alone, depending on how early I woke up and how hungry I am.

The kids get up and they sit with me, if I'm still sitting. But they will always come down to the couch and read quietly until I call them to breakfast.

They make their own breakfasts or work together to make something more complicated like pancakes.

As they eat breakfast, I start chores around them or eat with them, if I haven't eaten yet.

Then, after breakfast, we all start working immediately and earnestly on our daily chores.

They have had the same chore list everyday for years, so it's memorized.

They will empty the dishwasher and fill it again, while I sweep the main rooms. They take out the trashes and recycling while I wipe the counters and tables. They feed the birds while I clean on a bathroom. (We have three, so there's always a few things to be done in one of the bathrooms.)  They water the plants while I straighten up the living room. They fold the laundry, dry the laundry, start another new load, and put laundry away, while I help and supervise. They take showers, while I shower.  We clean our rooms, dress, brush hair and teeth... and then we meet up downstairs again.

We do all the stuff that has to be done everyday. I'll also add a few random things everyday that need to be done only once a week like filling the bird feeder or sweeping the stairs, etc.  Or if the Legos are exceptionally messy, I'll set them to work on organizing those. Or if their closet has gotten out of hand, I'll give them ten minutes for that task.

We are tired when chores are over. We may even have worked up a light sweat by that time.

And that's when we start our school day, when we are really ready to sit down for the first time in over an hour.

This works really well for us.

Everyone is always happy to start and doing chores first may be why.

Our school day also has a similar routine.

Around lunchtime, I'll call everyone together before lunch or I'll keep everyone at the table after lunch for poetry, Scripture memory, and other things like that that I want to do with them as a group, things many homeschoolers do as "morning time."

But I can't call it morning time, since I do it much later.

But we enjoy that part of our day as a break from the more academically intensive and independent school work.

I was self-conscious about this, since I wondered if I was favoring chores over academics by giving our best energy to housework.

But we still do all the same academic work, just later.

And it works so well for us that I have freed myself to just be myself in this way.

I think it's important to take advice, especially if you don't have a routine that is working.

But if something isn't working for you and you have a better way, and by "better" I mean something that is actually working for you, I think you should feel free to do what works.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Piano Recital

The girls put together a private piano recital. We invited their grandparents to watch and listen via Zoom.

This recital was a nice way to mark the progress they have been making.

Now we are making some adjustments to their piano schedule, so they can continue to progress:

We're increasing the amount of time they each spend with their teacher. 

Thus far, they have been sharing one hour once a week with the teacher, because our budget is limited. We are able to increase that to three thirty minute sessions. So they will each be with their teacher thirty minutes a week. While I see the value of time spent with the teacher and realize they could use even more time with their teacher, we are doing what we can.

I am making them each practice ten minutes more everyday. 

So their practice time has increased from thirty to forty minutes daily. Note: Adele, who is just beginning and only eight, went from ten minutes to twenty.  (We usually end up skipping one day of practice a week for various reasons.)

We're not doing piano lessons so anyone will become famous. We're just stewarding God's gift of music.

Several encouraging ways I have seen (and heard) how piano lessons are changing my daughters' lives:

They don't like pop music anymore. They complain when they hear it, ask me to turn it off, call it "noise," etc. (If nothing else comes from piano lessons, this makes the money and time spent on lessons worth it, so far as I am concerned. Not that I hate all pop songs, but a lot of them are noisy and filled with trashy, base ideas represented in their lyrics.  So this development shows me hard, fast proof that the lessons are shaping their musical aesthetic. I love that!)

They choose to listen to more and more Classical music on their own, requesting more and more Classical music on Alexa, etc.

They can sing in tune.

They sing together now while they play or work.

They simply sing more often.

They have started composing their own simple tunes.

They have started recognizing the notes or chords in songs they hear and figuring out the music for songs they don't have sheet music for.

They are learning the chords on the ukulele.

They have stared recognizing themes in Classical songs that are similar to themes in other songs.

I'm really grateful for what is happening in our home though piano lessons. It was several years ago now that we started dreaming, planning, and working towards the goal of brining more music into our lives. Back then, we didn't even have a piano!  God is faithful.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Anna Karenina- Finished

I finished Anna Karenina today.

But I won't be done thinking about it.

And I will definitely read it again.  

Here's a quote from the end of the book.

Levin realizes he's a believer, but he also realizes that hasn't changed anything, but it makes everything meaningful.

"I shall go on in the same way, losing my temper with Ivan the coachman, falling into angry discussions, expressing my opinions tactlessly; there will still be the same wall between the holy of holies of my soul and other people, even my wife; I shall still go on blaming her for my own terror, and being sorry for it; I shall still be as unable to understand with my reason why I pray, and I shall still go on praying; but my life now, whole life apart from anything that can happen to me, every minute of it is no longer meaningless, as it was before, but it has the unquestionable meaning of the goodness which I have the power to put into it."  

Sunday, April 26, 2020

The Best Kind of Saturday

Yesterday included but was not limited to:

reading The Tempest, Acts 2 and 3,

meal planning for the week,

hours of yard work,

tending the bees,

listening to Christopher Perrin's What I Learned at St. John's

and listening to a few chapters of A Patriot's History of the United States while I worked,

showering then putting my feet up and watching (and pausing and discussing at times) Logic instructional videos with my middle daughter,

burning our first fire of the season in the fire pit outside,

reading a few more chapters of Anna Karenina,

while everyone else did their various chores or read books or practiced piano or worked in the yard or played outside, too.  

It was the best kind of Saturday.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Virtual Piano Lessons

We're keeping up with piano lessons via Zoom. We set up the laptop in view of the keys using a side table and some art books. The girls are making progress. Bach songs are my favorite to hear them play.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Dwayne's 41st Birthday

Dwayne wanted an ice cream cake on his birthday, so I went out and got him one. I brought it upstairs with the other groceries, but it wouldn't fit in the freezer in the kitchen. So I sent it back downstairs to the garage freezer with a child who will remain nameless.  I said, "There's a bunch of stuff in the freezer. So be careful.  Put it right on top."  I meant right on top of the stuff that's inside the freezer.

Fast forward a few hours and Dwayne comes home from work.  He finds his cake on the outside top of the freezer, melted. He quietly puts it back inside the freezer.  He comes upstairs and calmly informs me what happened.  There would be time enough for it to refreeze before we had to eat it.  We both just laughed and sighed. Or maybe we sighed and then we laughed.

Something about this is representative of a forty-first birthday to me. Ten years ago, there may have been frustration and blame, but we're older now and wiser and we realize that life isn't perfect, but it is still good.

And just like that the cake wasn't perfect, but it was still good.

Obedience to Narratives

For my morning devotions, I am reading through 1st and 2nd Samuel. I read a little every day, usually one chapter. Then I may read commentaries, make notes, copy verses, or sit quietly and listen. I always pray.

I have been studying these two books for over a year, and this is my third time through them.  I don't know how many times I'll go through them or how long I will remain in them, but I remain in this one stretch of narrative that starts before the birth of Samuel and goes through the life of David, because I sense I am suppose to continue gleaning in these fields, here and no where else, for now.

I also have a deep desire to be able to know and tell these stories to my children's children someday from memory, if God wills it. But first, I must know and tell these stories to myself.  So I am the child for now and the repetition serves to imprint the scenes of the narrative on my soul.

I am learning a great deal about the ways of God to man by simply tracing this narrative start to finish with my eyes and with my finger, going over and over the words again.  This narrative is woven from the separate strands of several lives that run parallel to each other, intersecting at times in different ways, showing very prominent in God's design when you look back at history, His story.

An Introductory Logic textbook we own and use in our homeschool, written by James Nance and Douglas Wilson says, "When something is truly authoritative, you are required to respond to it submissively. The ultimate authority for Christians is the Bible... The submissive response to a to obey it."

I believe all Scripture is authoritative, so I read it daily to know what I am supposed to do.  But not all of Scripture is made up of commands or imperative sentences. Much of Scripture is statements or even narratives like 1st and 2nd Samuel. So what is a submissive response to a story? How does one obey a narrative?  I have to ask myself this daily now.

How should I respond to the narrative of God's ways with Hannah?

She wasn't given her heart's desires, though her heart's desires were good. She was despised and provoked by a hateful, jealous woman with a very different nature than her own. Hannah had a loving and good natured husband, but he was little comfort or help to her. He couldn't understand what seems to be the obvious reasons for Hannah's intense discontent.  

How do I respond to the narrative of God's ways with Samuel?

Before Samuel was even born, his future was shaped. When we look back at our past and see the influence of our parents' choices, it is often the case, is it not? Samuel didn't seem to have a choice about much of anything in his life, except perhaps where he eventually made his home. He didn't stay in Shiloh. He settled elsewhere and apparently, He took his authority with him to that place.  But, this lack of choice in Samuel's life, in fact, all the lack of choice in these character's stories, is offensive to me as an American and a modern. But alas, much of Scripture is offensive to me and God doesn't seem to mind offending. Lewis says that we should read two old books for every modern one, because it helps our minds get out of the age they are in.  The Bible is probably the best "old book" to read.  Reading Samuel's story, I have to confront reality and as it is, reality is not often what I would like it to be.  I find myself repeating often, "You are God and I am not." Samuel knew the Lord from a young age, even though he grew up away from the care and nurture of his mother. This is also offensive and disturbing to me, because I'm a mother always at home with my kids, always wanting to influence and protect them.  But this is probably helpful for me in that it serves to remind me that my kids could, in fact, survive without me, so long as they have the Lord as Samuel had the Lord.  Samuel also had to literally serve throughout his childhood, another offense to my modern sensibilities.  He slept on the floor and was even "on call" throughout the night in case the lamp of God went out.  But what a floor! "Better a blanket on the floor in the house of God than a bed in a palace."

How do I respond to God's ways with Saul?

He was a valiant man raised by a valiant man. He was apparently a dutiful son, and apparently content serving his father within their household. But then he was told, just told, that he'd be king.  He was basically conscripted into God's service.  Saul wasn't asked for consent to God's desires. The oil was simply poured out on his head and the words were spoken over him and the weight of God's will took over his life from there.  The story is gentle reminder that though our rights are founded on the truths in Scripture, standing before Almighty God, our rights get a bit fuzzy.  

I have so much sympathy for these characters, because I have been them in some ways before, and I am them in some ways now. How do I submit to these authoritative narratives?

First, I contemplate the ways of God to man.  Next, I see I am the man. Last, I bow my head and my heart and let the oil of God's will, whatever it is, pour down on me. I see my place in the narrative of my life is to walk the path I am given with what I have been given and live out this life as best as I can. As best I can, though I do fail, and I will fail.

My daughter writes stories and she says that sometimes it's hard for her to watch her characters suffer.  She says she knows her characters before they even take action. They each have specific personalities, qualities, and experiences, and then she puts them in unique circumstances with other distinct characters in a particular place, and so she can guess beforehand what is likely to happen given all the variables. In a way, she sees it coming and she says sometimes her characters must fail.  Their failure is to some extent fated. But she loves her characters. She delights in them, and she joyfully writes her story, their story anyway.

I wonder if God feels like my daughter, like an author as He sits in His sovereignty over our freedom.

I sense my relationship to God is like that sometimes. He is up there writing and I am down here becoming.

And that's what I seem to see in 1st and 2nd Samuel with Hannah, and Saul, and Samuel, and eventually, David.

These were people, also in certain circumstances. They failed or did well, depending on all the variables that only God really knows.  And in spite of all the things they did not control, they were still no more or less justified or guilty before God because of what they did. They were no more or less obligated to obey and serve and submit and worship. Confessing, believing, accepting that reality is how I submit to God through the narratives of Scripture.  

So I'll try to be like Hannah, trusting God in less-than-perfect circumstances, holding my tongue and at times, enduring hostility, insensitivity, misunderstanding, and even undeserved rebuke.  I'll take my complaints to God and I'll throw myself down before His feet. I'll pour out my heart to Him, and ask for what I want, and He will lift me up.  I will put my faith and hope in the blessings He has given me for my future. I'll sing.  Maybe some of my songs will be recorded and read again when I am gone.

I'll be like Samuel, getting as close to God as I can on this earth, laying myself down at his feet, keeping my ears open even while I am at rest, responding to His voice at any hour of the day.  I'll be diligent to raise my children up in humble hard work and constant obedience, seeing that's probably how to nurture the potential priest and prophet inside them, and by God's grace, prevent them from becoming like Eli's sons, who grew up wicked, somehow, even though they grew up in the same place as Samuel, the most holy place on earth.

And from Saul, I'll learn to let God's favor pour down on me, though with His favor comes dread,  fear, responsibility, accountability, fate.  I'll try not to hide behind the baggage whenever I'm called for. I'll try to wait as a dutiful son of God should wait on God.  Then I'll go valiantly, but hopefully, in God's timing and with His help and favor. Most of all, I'll thank God that the Holy Spirit never leaves me this side of Pentecost. Like David, who saw the Holy Spirit taken from King Saul, I have also seen what happens when God's Spirit departs a man. I say with the Psalmist David, "Take not your Holy Spirit from me." Saul's story teaches me that "Ichabod" is the worst fate of all, the greatest of all fates to dread.

God's narrative is indeed authoritative in our lives.  Let us become as children and listen carefully so we can hear what He has to teach us.

God is writing our stories and we only have what we have been given. We are ourselves and that is a precious gift. So let us walk humbly through whatever the circumstances are around us and ahead of us.

Thankfully, we have been told the whole story and we know how it ends, how it will begin again, and how it will go on forever.  Our stories are being woven in with the threads of His grace and we will able to trace our lives in that final tapestry of His glory.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Esolen Obsession

Norah's a tad obsessed with Esolen right now.  It started years ago with 10 Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child. She took it off the shelf, because the title intrigued her.  She's been reading me portions outloud to me for years, so I have basically read the entire book, too.

The photo above was taken when she was comparing The Screwtape Letters, a book she was reading for Challenge 2, to 10 Ways... since they are both written in similar styles.

She has since started reading Life Under Compulsion: Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child and I also bought her The Hundredfold.

An Esolen obsession is obviously something I'm willing to nurture.  Norah is a writer and will likely do that for a living, so Esolen is a great mentor.  And next year, she has to study and write some poetry, so Esolen's book on poetry will help inspire and facilitate (and validate) that.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Scars Can Come in Handy

A magical thing happened yesterday. I was eating scrambled eggs with Adele and I noticed her beautiful scar above her eye. It really almost glowed in the morning light. I gently touched it and told her it was beautiful, before I even really thought about what I was saying. (Our usual impulse is not to mention it, since it sometimes causes everyone pain or embarrassment to mention it.) She scrunched her face, but her eyes were also dancing and hopeful. She asked, “How is my scar beautiful?” That was a challenging question. How? I remember resenting the fact that God let her face be marred. So even my own heart was still tender about it. But I told her what came to me at that moment, “It’s a story... about you and your sisters. You were playing, having so much fun. Do you remember? Your sisters were spinning you.” Even before I finished saying that, Avril was walking in to the kitchen with her head in a book asking, “Mom! What’s an underground? Listen to this passage. Dumbledore says, ‘Scars can come in handy. I have one myself above my left knee that is a perfect map of the London underground.’” Adele and I gasped. We couldn’t believe the timing. Avril had no idea we were talking about Adele’s scar. Norah came in, naturally. We discussed the timing, the story, the scar on Dumbledore, the one on Harry, and we talked about the one on Adele’s face, too. This brought up lingering guilt about what happened, apparently. The sisters had been spinning her. “It was stupid of us.” We discussed the influence they get to have on each other as sisters and we all agreed that even with the risks, it’s a really good thing to be a sister. And will you believe it? They laughed and Norah picked Adele up and spun her around the kitchen before I stopped it and shooed them off to chores. They ran away laughing. It all happened so naturally. It was only later that I fully recognized the magic we had been under. That might have been the first time Adele had been spun by a sister since she had been hurt. God was at at work here, allowing the girls to confess lingering guilt and be truly reconciled and set free, healing the scars (seen and unseen) left from their mistakes, redeeming it all, making it all beautiful, as He always does. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Hoppin Johns

I got this recipe from my Aunt Lanelle.

Hoppin Johns

Chopped onions
Chopped green and red pepper
Chopped ham steak
Chopped kielbasa
Two cans of black eyed peas
One can of tomatoes with chillies
Chicken broth
Salt and pepper
Hot sauce or red pepper flakes or both
Brown rice

Add some olive oil to the skillet and cook the chopped onions and pepper until they are soft.   Add the meats, the tomatoes, and the broth. Drain the beans into a colander and rinse them, then add those, too.  Add hot sauce and pepper flakes to taste. Salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to boil then gently simmer for approximately thirty minutes.  Serve over cooked brown rice.

Monday, April 20, 2020


I tended the bees all by myself yesterday afternoon. It was finally warm and dry enough to open the hive. I mixed up a sugar solution and added it to the wells inside.

Sunday, April 19, 2020


Today I learned that the Chartres Cathedral, constructed between 1194 and 1220, has a carving of Grammar. She's standing over her students with a book open facing out. One kid at her feet is pulling another’s hair and she's holding switches. I'm so encouraged. I think I'll make this my profile picture on Facebook and/or buy a poster of this for our homeschool classroom.

Saturday, April 18, 2020


We were given some gently used books from my sister in law. This bookmark fell out of one of them when we opened it. The bookmark was made by my niece, Andrea, obviously.

At the time this bookmark fell out of the book, I was struck by how similar the bookmark is to the bookmarks my daughters are currently making.

So I like to use this bookmark. It makes me think of Andrea, of my own daughters, of my sister in law, Michelle, of Michelle's motherhood to Andrea, and of my own motherhood to my girls.

I married Andrea's uncle when she was still a little girl, so I got to watch her grow up.  (That's one of the privileges of marriage that people don't tell you about. You get to be a part of a family.)

So I got to watch Andrea's mom raise her (mostly from afar.) But nevertheless, I learned a lot from watching Michelle, because I my eyes were open and my heart was humble.  (I find those are necessary requirements for learning and I also find that if you have open eyes and a humble heart, you will learn from everyone, everywhere, all the time.)

Almost twenty years later, Andrea is now all grown up and has her a little daughter of her own.  Andrea's an excellent woman, the kind few can find.  Watching her with her baby girl inspires me and invigorates me to the task of motherhood anew.

This bookmark serves, of course, to keep my place in whatever book I am using, but it also serves to remind me how quickly my daughters are growing up, like Andrea grew up quickly, and how what I do now is shaping my daughters, the way Andrea's mom's care for her shaped her.

I watched my sister in law's diligence in motherhood. One memory I have is of Andrea coming home from school in a certain t-shirt one afternoon when we were there for a visit. Later, I saw my sister-in-law folding that same t-shirt late that same evening before she went to bed. That's how quickly she had done the laundry! Her lamp had not gone out before she had put that shirt away in her daughter's drawer.  That made a huge impression on me, showing me what a diligent mother may look like.

This bookmark reminds me of all that when I see it.  It reminds me to be faithful and very present here and now with my girls. Time is actually passing quickly for me and my daughters, too.   This little bookmark brings all that to mind and I am strengthened to be a better mom by keeping it in my books, so that it stays before my eyes and heart.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Anna Karenina

I listened to a webinar about the twelve best novels by Martin Cothran.  He spoke so highly of this book and I keep hearing about it from everyone else I respect that I had to read it. I am about 25% in and I am loving it.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Sibling Read- Aloud

My middle daughter started reading The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe to her younger sister one afternoon just because they wanted to read it for fun. I was thrilled. Adele needs to be read to more. Avril needs to read more and practice reading aloud more. They continued reading like this the next day.  The next day, I noticed they weren't getting around to it... so I just told them to do it, gave them time to do this, and handed them a 30 minute timer.  And ever since then, I've made thirty minutes of reading aloud a formal part of their homeschool day.  At first they would complain a little on some days, but mostly they submitted willingly, since it was something they already liked doing.  Now that we've been doing this, they have read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, and the Usborne Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare.  I learned a lesson about nurture and discipline from this. The two go together hand and hand.  I saw what they were doing on their own and I wanted to nurture it, so I brought it under a gentle discipline, so as to nurture it. A few weeks in, and now they ask to do this first and they have gotten so much reading done together this way.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

A Garden of Moss

I kept (or tried to keep) a moss garden in a lid inside my old house. Only God, who dwells within my heart, knows how much joy that little garden of green texture inspired in me. 

Now the great Gardener of the whole earth has set my whole house inside a moss garden. This house sits center of an acre of moss! (The leaves were covering the ground when we bought the house that winter, so I had no idea how much there was until we cleared away leaves that spring.) 

So I am still surprised when I look out the windows. And I just laugh.  Then the Lord laughs at me for laughing. I feel His joy in my delight and wonder over this, His doing.  His laughter echoes off the rocks and trees back to me: His joy reverberates constantly. I can perceive it then: I'm inside His heart. 

This is just one patch of moss outside my dining room window. What extravagance! What kindness! What mirth! I begin to perceive the infinite joy ahead for me, for He is the Garden I dwell in eternally.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

19th Anniversary

We celebrated our 19th Anniversary with a take-out meal from Texas Roadhouse, since we are still in quarantine.  The kids waited on us, bussed our table, and brought us dessert.  We "ordered" vanilla ice cream from the freezer with Oreo cookies from the quarantine junk food stores. Honestly, the service was a little slow.

Later, we read the essay "Poetry and Marriage" by Wendell Berry.  I had to reread it for Circe, so Dwayne listened, too. It was a timely essay, since we're in "the thick of it," so far as marriage goes.

Here's one quote that moved Dwayne and I as we read:

"The Zen student, the poet, the husband, the wife- none knows with certainly what he or she is staying for, but all know the likelihood that they will be staying 'a while': to find out what they are staying for.  And it is the faith of all of the disciplines that they will not stay to find out they should not have stayed."

We celebrated Dwayne's parents' fiftieth anniversary with them at the Grand Canyon a few years ago. Las year, we attended a fiftieth anniversary party for the Fosters, Dwayne's best friends' parents.  Seeing those couples at fifty years together inspired me.  I could tell that those couples know why they stayed. And I feel certain they will tell us staying is worth it.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Paradise Lost

Me earlier this week, wringing my hands in prayer: “God, there is so much to do! Spelling, Algebra 2, PE... I am worried about many things... Please show me what is most needful. Teach me to recognize the better portion. I will choose it. Only show we what to do. What do you want for them?” 

Norah today: “Will you read this out loud with me? A little everyday? I read Book 1 for Challenge and I really liked it, but it was really hard. I know I can’t, I won’t read this on my own. But I really want to read it.” 

So I knew just what God wanted me to do.  We started reading a little from Book 1 today.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter 2020

I have started filling up one, big Easter basket for the three girls (and providing a little extra candy for their dad, too.)  I put this out really early in the morning, so the girls see it as they wake up and come downstairs.
We watched church online.
The girls filled a bunch of plastic eggs with a large bag of Starburst candies and three chocolate Cadbury eggs that I provided for the purpose.
I had the girls hide in inside while I hid the eggs outside.
They had an egg hunt, while the grown ups watched.
The teenager was held back for a good fifteen to twenty minutes, then I let her start hunting, too.
All the while, Dwayne smoked a ham shoulder that he finished cooking in the oven overnight for dinner the next day.
Late in the afternoon, we met the Boulden family online.  We chatted about various things and we laughed at each other. We ended by singing "Amazing Grace."

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Spring Yard Work

We cleaned up the yard, cleaning the beds, and laying out all the fresh mulch today.  The girls worked really hard, doing a fair portion of the work, working the entire time.  This was my main goal, actually. Knowing we had planned to put out all the mulch today, I told Dwayne in the morning that even more than getting the work done, I wanted the girls to learn the work. So we agreed to spend the day training and supervising them and simply working together until it was done.  I wanted the girls to understand how to take care of the beds in spring, experience how physically difficult yard work can be, but also how satisfying it is.  I was very proud of them. They worked without complaint!  Everyone was thoroughly exhausted, but satisfied, just as I hoped. When we were done, we sat around outside with cold sodas for the kids and cold beers for the adults from the garage fridge, and junk foods from the pantry stores.

Friday, April 10, 2020

The Tempest

I am reading The Tempest by Shakespeare for the Circe Apprenticeship. But it's a play, so it was meant to be seen/ scene.  So I purchased the Royal Shakespeare Company's version of The Tempest on DVD. The littles watched it with me.  They don't get much screen time, so that might have helped motivate them to watch this.This was the little girls’ first play, so I wasn’t sure how it would go. We were just enchanted and thoroughly entertained the entire time. 

They laughed at all the bawdy humor, some of which went mercifully over their heads. 

I asked Avril how she was doing. “I’m not getting it all, but I’m getting enough.” 

At a break, Adele said, “Now I can see why Queen Elizabeth liked his plays.” Note: They have just heard about Elizabeth and Shakespeare in The Story of the World, their history book, so the timing was beautiful. 

Avril knew it was Shakespeare’s last play and I heard her whisper his name when she heard his voice coming through Prospero’s words. 

Caliban’s speech about dreams just broke my heart. I will have to look at that again carefully. 

Adele was weeping at the end, especially over Ariel’s exit. She asked, “We’re keeping this, right?” 

Dwayne says they came upstairs and gushed, “Shakespeare.” 

Now their big sister’s asking what she missed. 

My cup runneth over.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Adele's Eighth Birthday

Adele turned eight today.  

We crowned her the a wreath of flowers. Crowns are a new tradition on birthdays. 

She helped me make her cake, french vanilla with vanilla icing.  

The cake was a disaster, which was my fault. I ran out of store-bought icing and had no powdered sugar to make more. We are in quarantine, so we are generally avoiding stores.

So I decided to use brown sugar, which created a kind of marshmallow fluff icing that seemed to continue expanding and oozing down the cake.

But Adele was thrilled with it, truly.  I kept looking for signs of disappointment. There were none.  In fact, the whole family liked the cake and said they wanted it again!!?? I think it might be that any cake is welcome here full stop.

Like we did for Avril's quarantine birthday, we gave Adele Legos sets that morning right after chores, just three boxes unwrapped that she could open and start working on right away.

So we all helped put together Legos all day. Those are the best days. Something about Legos allows me to be at leisure.   

Her birthday Lego sets included a car big enough for Lego Friends, a concert stage, and two carnival rides.  Legos are so much cooler than they used to be back when I was eight.

As usual, Adele came over and sat on my lap after dinner while Norah read to us out of our current read aloud.  She's eight, so I begin to wonder how much longer will she sit on my lap? Answer: As long as she wants to!

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

A Good Word

Don Katz, the Founder of Audible, sent an email this morning saying that listeners "tell us that the well-performed words we convey got them through the most profound personal challenges as well as devastating natural disasters and acts of terrorism." 

That's the power of story. An image can come into our mind's eye through the scene of a book and we can carry that image, that scene, with us forever. It can inspire us and instruct us how to act. A good word can stay with us, and we can speak it to ourselves again when we need it to get us through a tough time. 

That is why I focus on stories (and words in general) our homeschool. I teach my kids to read. We read out loud everyday and I make them read silently everyday. I make them tell the stories they have read back to me. I talk to them about the stories.  They read to each other. They talk to each other about stories. They reenact or make up stories when they play.  We sing together. I make them memorize poetry and Psalms... Our life is literally filled with words. Our minds are filled with scenes, characters, and experiences that we have within our own hearts and we share in common because of the countless stories we have read or heard.   

My goal in all of this is to furnish my daughters' souls with words to incarnate, scenes to replay.  I want them to see images of nobility, heroism, courage, sacrifice, etc. through the stories we read and the words they memorize, so that they will be able to recall or replay these to themselves at a moment's notice.  

They will carry images with them into their future, they will speak words to themselves. We all do. So I want the images and the words to help them, not hinder them. I want the images and words they have to inspire and inform them some day (or right now) when things like strength, courage, fortitude, faith, etc. are so needed. 

We're in the midst of a pandemic, so those images, those words, are definitely needed by everyone. The email from Don Katz reminded me of that.  But when this great trial passes, there will be another trial and another.  

Perhaps our trials will go back to being the easier sort. Perhaps someone will cut us in line at the store or at the stoplight. Perhaps a family member or friend will dishonor us before other family members or friends.  Perhaps we will have to endure a harsh word spoken by an angry fool. Nevertheless, hopefully, we will have an image to use when we need it. 

We have seen a fool speak before in the stories. We have also seen a wise man holding his tongue. So we will hold ours, hopefully. We have seen our favorite characters slapped across the face by mean men; We have been told the good man will turn his check and endure. Those scenes, those good words, if we have them, will help us do the same.