Monday, May 18, 2020

Gallows Hill Natural Area

Yesterday we took another hike from the Redding trails book, this one at Gallows Hill. 

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Flannel Board

I've been using spare moments to cut out my flannel board pieces- for years.

Recently, while we watch church during quarantine, I've been getting a lot more done.

I finally finished cutting all the pieces I have today while watching church, so we took the time to put the pieces in their places and then put each sheet neatly into the storage box.

My plan is to read a Bible story and let the girls narrate it back to me.

The little ones can choose the right pieces and retell it to us using the flannel board.

I want my children to know all (or most) of the Bible stories.

They hear some stories in church, of course.

They know about David, but I am not sure they know much about Samuel or Saul.

So if I want my kids to have a broader and deeper knowledge of Scripture, it falls to me to take action.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Limekiln Natural Area

Yesterday, we took another hike on another nearby trail, the Limekiln Natural Area, The Marcus Gift, and Todd's Woods.  

 This is the split rock.

This tree is growing out of another tree's roots. It's up several feet off the ground. I'm wondering how this will work out. The larger tree is bound to decay. What will the younger tree's base end up looking like?  

We got turned around, but we stayed on the trails. We eventually got to a section of the trail that allowed us to get reoriented to the map and our vehicle.

We were all mightily exhausted, thirsty, and hungry.  I'm ready to go again.  

Friday, May 15, 2020

Plishner Preserve

We have a book of Redding Trails that we got at the library book sale.

The weather was divine, so I took the book off the shelf and found a trail to explore.

The Plishner Preserve is close to home and joins up with the trails of Putnam Park where we walk all the time.

 I love the rocks and mosses in New England woods.

There are many quiet ponds like this in low places.  They're enchanting and remind me of the wood between the worlds in Narnia.

Quartz crystals everywhere!

This tree is growing over the rock!

From far away, the girls thought these were flowers. Upon closer inspection, we determined these were baby trees growing right onto the base of their mother tree. Here was the only place to find purchase and put down roots without being swamped, since all around the ground everywhere else was quite muddy.  We looked up this massive trunk and the immature branches had smaller leaves reddish like this on the edges and they appeared to be the same shape, only bigger. The most mature branches and leaves way up top were fully green.

Rock crawling, scrambling, climbing, etc. These kids have hinds feet.

 Owl pellets!

These smelled paradisal. Not sure what they are yet.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Challenge 3 Prep

I'm directing Challenge 3 next year.  Our homeschool year is over, basically, and we're all under quarantine, so I'm using the extra time to read and/ or work through the books. The books are arranged in stacks by subject around the edge of our round dining room table. I do a bit of History, Music theory, Latin, Chemistry, Math, Shakespeare, Philosophy, etc. and then rotate through the subjects again. I work while the girls are reading silently, or reading out loud, or practicing piano, or playing outside, or when they are watching movies or playing video games after dinner, which adds up to a few hours a day.  It's my goal to simply be a student of the material for now.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Mothers Day 2020

The day started with coffee and my devotion in 1 and 2 Samuel.

I read a little more of Perelandra

We had breakfast then watched church online while I cut out flannel board figures and the girls sketched.

After church, Dwayne took me to buy a large unsweet tea with extra ice from Dunkin Doughnuts, and flowers, the kind you plant. 

My brother and sister in law live right next to the nursery, so we took her some flowers and cards the girls had made and an anniversary gift. Their anniversary is coming up. 

We came home and had leftovers for lunch and I snuck downstairs to my recliner and read from The Consequences of Ideas and worked on my current essay for the Circe Apprenticeship. 

I took a nap or "I let a nap take me," as CS Lewis would say. 

I don't think I can sit in that chair without falling asleep.  

Then I put on my gardening gloves and got to planting.  

All the pots, flower boxes, and hanging baskets on all four decks are done!  

Then I cleaned up the decks and then myself and then Dwayne and I went out to pick up dinner. 

All the fancy places had too long of a wait, so we drove up to Five Guys and brought burgers, dogs, and fries home to eat with the girls at the table.  

I ate fries all the way home. 

I had a cold beer with my burger.  

Then we decided to clean up the kitchen and watch Prince Caspian, inspired by a Mothers Day card my middle daughter made me.  (See picture below.)  

Finally, I went to bed reading more of Perelandra.  

It was a lovely Mothers Day.  

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Faces of History

We met up with other Essentials students and parents to present our Faces of History via Zoom.

Students choose a character, fictional or actual, from the cycle of history we are on, and parent-teachers help them write an essay about that person summarizing all the reference sources and using the writing techniques and vocabulary we have covered in the Institute for Excellence in Writing. 

This year’s history cycle was the Middle Ages in Foundations and Avril chose Guinevere. 
Last year, she was Artemis for the ancient history cycle. 

Next year, who will she choose? 

Norah did this for three years before entering Challenge when she was Avril’s age. Norah was Hera, Joan of Arc, and Sacagawea. 

These characters all become a part of our family culture and their stories are told and retold. 

We keep the Faces of History costumes (and all Halloween costumes) in a trunk upstairs. 

We keep adding to that trunk and to the store of our history knowledge and imagination and family memories. 

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Online Drawing Course

The girls are doing "The Ultimate Drawing Course" on Udemy. It was recommended to me by another homeschool mom and friend. I keep a stack of paper, some drawing pencils, erasers, and a folder for all the finished drawings out on the classroom table.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Nurturing a Writer

My husband is reading Adorning the Darkness by Andrew Peterson.

Norah is reading The Hundredfold by Anthony Esolen.

I'm reading The Roar on the Other Side by Suzanne Rhodes and Standing by Words by Wendell Berry.

We are all talking together about what we are reading.

And we find that we being equipped from all sides about the importance of creativity, art, poetry, and/ or words.

In the last few weeks, Norah has been asking questions about her gifts.

It can't be easy to have people in your head.

But before he wrote The Chronicles of Narnia, CS Lewis says Aslan just walked into his mind. (The audacity of asserting Himself like Aslan that, like He was a king or something.)

It can't be easy to be expected to live in two or three or four worlds at once.

But Tolkien created the Middle Earth including all the geography, language, mythology, and history before he wrote The Lord of The Rings.

Can you imagine what it must be like in Brandon Sanderson's head?

So now Norah's getting answers from all directions about what is like to be a writer and she's thriving and encouraged.

I even randomly come upon quotes in Shakespeare.

But actually, I don't believe those are random at all.

One of the greatest writers of the English language is an authority worth listening to when it comes to writing.

When Dwayne read the poem "The Writer" by Richard Wilbur, he cried. (The poem was mentioned in Adorning the Dark.)

And then he showed it me and I cried.

And then I showed it to Norah and she sat speechless, but smiling.

She wrote three chapters of a novel yesterday and I tell you, the whole house felt the pressure of that effort.

"I need to get this story out of my head," she said.

We asked God to show us what gifts He gave our children.

And we asked Him to help us nurture those gifts.

We knew we needed Him to guide us as we guided them.

He is definitely doing so!

It is "a matter of life and death" and God knows it.  

He is bringing to life the things He wants for Norah and it's exhilarating to be a part of the process.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Paradise Lost Cont.

My oldest and I read a little out loud (almost) everyday.

Something usually sparks a conversation.

Like today, we read the words "umpire conscience" in Book 2.

"Wait. Did you say 'umpire conscience?'" I asked.

"Umpire conscience," she answered.

"Umpire as in 'umpire?"' I asked again.

We had a delightful conversation about the fact that Milton probably wasn't using a baseball metaphor.

Baseball must have adopted that word for its own use.

Milton's ideas are often challenging and one has to gird up her loins to deal.

One has to be willing to admit error and guilt to the Lord and to oneself and to the person you are reading with.

I wish I had read this when I was a teenager or when I was in my twenties or even my thirties.

I would have grown up sooner.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020


I was looking forward to a walk alone tonight, but she begged to come along.  I said, "No." (I don't have a problem drawing boundaries. I'm with my children all day, teaching them and interacting in meaningful ways, so it wouldn't be wrong to take a walk alone.)  But she asked again and I changed my mind.  "You have to keep up," I said. She did keep up. She had a lot to say, too. I had a hunch she'd end up talking and I'd end up listening.

Girls have a lot of words and I have three girls, so we have a lot of words spoken in our house. And the older my daughters get the more I came called on to listen. There are moments when they interrupt me, again, and I can't hide my irritation and I think that's okay. I'm usually doing something like studying Logic or Latin and so they are actually interrupting something meaningful, and to some extent, they must also learn to be sensitive to other people, even Mom, and learn that people don't exist for entirely for their own sake. I guess I hope when I lose patience and look up from my work with a sigh, it might actually be in good timing, when they have actually been interrupting too much.

Many years ago, I had a friend at church who had two beautiful yet virtuous, friendly yet discrete, witty yet kind teenage daughters and these girls just seemed a complete impossibility to me.  How could they even exist? (They were homeschooled. Their mom and dad were engaged and attentive. And they weren't dating. All those things should probably be noted.) But also, I asked this lady how she was doing it, since her daughters were so remarkable. She laughed and sighed a tired sigh and answered, "We talk a lot about what they want to talk about."  I remember that. At the time, it seemed like a given that she listened when they spoke, but I understand.  There was probably a lot of words being said and it was probably a sacrifice for her to be listening so much.  Looking back, she was a women in her full strength like I am, with her own pursuits I like have, so she probably had to yoke her strength and put down her own pursuits in order to make that time.

I'm always listening in this season of motherhood. And then I call my mom and I listen to her, too.  And I laugh to myself about this, since I, of all people, know just how many words are inside me that I am not sharing in order to listen instead.  It is interesting that I seem to "say" more of all the things I want loved ones to hear and know by listening instead of speaking.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Books under the pillow

I saw this stash of books under my daughter's pillow and it made me laugh.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

It is not for nothing

"It is not for nothing that you are named Ransom,"  said the Voice. 

This quote is from Perelandra by CS Lewis. 

I'm rereading it. 

It is my favorite book in the Space Trilogy and one of my favorite books of all time.  

Without going into the story, the character Ransom is realizing what he must do.

And now that he is realizing what he must do, he also realizes that nothing up to this moment has happened to him by chance, 

nothing has ever happened by chance, 

and even his name "Ransom" was planned before the foundations of the world. 

I remember that I had a moment like that when my father was dying.  

My name is Veronica, which means "true image."  

Saint Veronica was said to have wiped the face of Jesus as he made his way to the cross and in doing so, came away with a "true image" of Christ on the cloth she was holding.  

I had known the meaning of my name, and the myth of Saint Veronica, but even so, it seemed meaningless to me, especially to me, since I knew that I was not actually named for Saint Veronica. 

I was named for my grandmother Vera, my father's mother. But Vera sounded "too old," so my mom chose a different version of that name. 

Thus, I was named "Veronica."

Therefore, as far as I understood the matter, I wasn't even named the name I was actually meant to be named, so my name didn't mean much of anything.  

Of course, I cherished my name to some degree, but only for the sake that I was name (to some extent) for my grandmother. 

But I would ponder the myth of Saint Veronica.

Why would anyone wipe the face of a man in such agony?  It did not seem likely. What good would that do?  

And so things remained until my father's suffering.   

At the end, my father suffered greatly, as most people do, and we suffered with him, watching him suffer.  

I remember stepping out of my dad's room at hospice for a moment and questioning God, "Why?" 

It was my father's right to hold on to life and live as long as he possibly could, and I tried not resent him for that. 

But why would God allow so much suffering if the result was going to be death anyway?

Every moment of suffering seemed so pointless and cruel. 

God did not provide an answer to my question (or accusation) then, but He gave me the resolve to continue caring for my dad, because my dad was still there. 

My father couldn't speak or move or eat or drink, but he could close his mouth on a sponge filled with water, so we would offer that to quench his thirst. 

I remember being frustrated that I could do so little.  

Then I realized my father was still in his body, still had all his senses, and I could bless his body.

It was a simple good, but it was a good I could do, so I wet a cloth and began wiping his arms and legs and chest.

And as I pulled the damp cloth down over his face, I heard almost audibly the words pronounced over me, "Saint Veronica."  

And in that brief moment, I remembered her story. She had wipe His face while He had been suffering towards death. 

Her story was my story.

And of course it was. 

I was outside of time for a moment then, seeing myself, looking back at my conversion, forward to myself in glory. It was all one to God and I was in Him. 

I was standing at my father's bedside again, where I had been all along, but I knew now that as terrible as these moments were, they were precious and I was literally meant to be here at this moment living them out.   

Like Ransom in the book, I realized "It is not for nothing..."  

I knew that nothing had been accidental (or even incidental) about my name being what it was 

or my life being what it was 

or my father's life being what it was.

And that revelation comforted me to endure the reality of those harsh days.  

Those moments were precious, they were terrible, and they were meant to be.  

"...the triple distinction of truth from myth and of both from fact was purely terrestrial," Ransom says.  

Yes, I could see then. In God's eyes, truth and myth and fact are all one.   

Saturday, May 2, 2020


We read aloud almost every night after dinner, since that's the meal we share together around the table.

Sometimes, we'll read aloud after breakfast or lunch, too, if we have those meals together around the table. But that usually only happens on weekends or holidays when we are all home together all day.

We usually read right there at the table, while the girls finish eating or eat candy. The girls can have a one or two pieces of candy after lunch and again after dinner. The candy comes from their Easter or Halloween hauls and yes, they still have candy from those holidays in the cabinet, since they only eat two to four pieces a day.  

I'll clean up the kitchen while we read, but sometimes we'll agree to go to the couch, since it's more comfortable. This picture was taken a few weeks ago during read aloud.

Right now, we're nearing the end of Andrew Peterson's The Warden and the Wolf King.  

Friday, May 1, 2020

Fitness Update

Since my gym is closed because of the pandemic, I am not teaching exercise classes right now or taking classes with anyone else.  But I'm trying to stay motivated and exercise almost everyday at home, eat healthier foods, and consume less calories altogether to ensure I don't gain too much weight. A few years ago, I fought my way out of obesity and it is my desire to continue in that healthy path for the rest of my life, maintaining a healthy weight BMI, stewarding the body I have been gifted from the Lord, and keeping it healthy as much as it is within my power to do so, so I can do all the things I am supposed to do with it.  

Honestly, I had grown a little bored with my regular Bodypump, Bodycombat, and Bodyflow workouts, especially since I couldn't do the workouts at the gym or live with people. So I have started doing more Grit, CX, Bodystep, and Bodyattack with Les Mills On Demand. I have also subscribed to Cathe's On Demand service and I've been doing some of her cardio circuit workouts. It was good to get out of regular movement patterns and shock my body a bit.

But motivation is still a major issue during this pandemic and if I can't talk myself into anything else, I've simply been using the treadmill. I'll alternate between walking and running for a few "laps" and then I'll stop the treadmill to do various strength exercises like squats, lunges, pushups, mountain climbers, and burpees. Then I'll get back on the treadmill and continue for a few laps, before going through that cycle of strength exercises again.  Using the treadmill allows me to listen to books or podcasts while I exercise, which is a big plus.