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.

Silver Sands

We spent Friday with friends Ligian and Laura. Ligian is another homeschool mom and Challenge A director for our Classical Conversations group. Laura is her daughter, my daughter's best friend and classmate. I'll be their director next year for Challenge 3.  We had ice cream cones at Carvel, sat on the beach, swam, and talked at Silver Sands.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

If the fullness of time had been now...

Gabriel: And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him...

Mary: How can this be?

Gabriel: The Holy Spirit will...

Mary: No, that's not what I mean. I know all about how that works from sex-ed class with Coach Craven and from reading teen fashion magazines.  What I mean is I am applying for graduate school. After that, I'll have to intern for at least a year before I start working. Joseph and I won't be ready to make a down payment on a house for at least a few years after that. Right now, we're saving for the wedding. The venue is amazing...

Gabriel: ...

Monday, June 22, 2020

Honey Pouring

 We poured our honey into jars.

This is what we got from that one frame we processed (minus all the honey comb we kept intact.)  

I had given the girls some new sketch books that day, so Avril drew a sketch of the honey jars on the counter. They are quite beautiful.  Notice the container of wax on the counter.  We're saving that to process it later.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Processing the Honey

We cut off chunks of comb that we wanted to keep whole and we stored those separately. I gave a piece of comb to my neighbor and another to our piano teacher.    

Then you slice off the caps of wax and let honey and wax roll down into the bucket.  Note the tarp. This is messy. 

Eventually, you scrap, scrap, scrap with spoons to get off more wax and honey, especially what remains around the edges of the frame.

The honey strains slowly, slowly down into the bucket. The bucket has a spout that we'll open in a day or two and let the raw honey pour into jars.  We'll keep the wax in a Tupperware to process it later. We'll use the wax for balms or candles later. The girls really want to make candles, since they've read about that in books.

We put the frame back into the hive and bees will eat any honey left on it and use any wax left behind, etc. Nothing gets wasted.

Sunlight shining through honey comb is one of the most Heavenly sights.

I promptly put a chunk of comb, wax and all, in some hot tea.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Mint Harvest

My mint survived the winter in a pot outside and came back this year, so I replanted it in another pot and it's thriving! I was able to harvest several leaves today. I'll put the leaves between two paper towels and microwave them for a little while (30 sec. to a few minutes- careful not to burn them) in order to dry them out, an easy and fast way to preserve them. Then I'll store the mint in a zip-lock bag for making loose tea from the leaves.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Book Nook

We created a book nook in our upstairs hallway.  It took a while to find shelves that would fit in that space and we ordered some bean bags, pillows, etc.  We moved all the phonics books, first readers, and earliest paperbacks to those shelves, which freed up several shelves and half shelves in the living room and classroom.  We can always use more shelf space.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

First Honey Harvest

We harvested honey from our hive for the first time last weekend!  My friend is coming over in a few days to help me process it into honey, beeswax, etc.  

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Summer Puzzle

It's summer vacation, so we're keeping a puzzle out on the dining room table.  This one is called "The Greatest Show on Earth."  It's appropriate, since we had just had a lunch of Famous Pizza out on PT Barnum Square minutes before we walked over to The Toy Room to pick our first summer puzzle.  We also visited Relay Bookhouse, which our kids like to call Nooks and Crannies, because it reminds them of the bookstore in the Wingfeather Saga books.  

Monday, June 15, 2020

Spray Chalk

The girls got some spray chalk from their aunt and uncle for their birthdays.  They worked together and made this and other cool designs out on the driveway.  

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Tree Removal

We had half a dozen trees taken down Friday.  They were dead ash trees that have been ruined by borer beetles, so they had become towering liabilities.

Monday, June 8, 2020


Many people think and feel like they are free when they get to do what they want or get to "be themselves," whatever that means. 

But I prefer to be a man, in the broadest sense of that word, as in human.

I do not have to make choices based on who I am or what I want.  

I've reached a point in my adult life when I often find myself making decisions based on who I want to be.  

It's an odd sensation to rule myself, since I did not always do this. 

But now I will stand within myself yet apart from myself and tell myself what to do. 

Sometimes I reason with myself.

Oft times I simply command myself, because I have already reasoned and decided the thing I am choosing many times before I am there making the choice again.

And it's ironic. 

In ruling myself rather than simply doing whatever I desire or am apt to do at the moment, I find the truest freedom.

I find I get to actually be myself and do what I want.

In ruling myself, I am set free.

"It is for freedom He set us free."

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Florida Visit May-June 2020

We have been visiting Dwayne's parents in Vero Beach.

Every morning, weather permitting, we drag the girls out of bed if they aren't already up and we take a walk on the beach before breakfast. We come back tired and hungry and ready for breakfasts and showers. It's a lovely way to start the day.

We have found several treasures that we are identifying and labeling using our book of sea beans and our seashells guide.

One night, I didn't sleep well, so I was up early and went out to the beach in prima luca. I found these perfect measled cowreies and considered them a gift divine.

We found lightning walks and their egg cases. 

We found a mermaid's purse (the egg sack of a skate.)

The beach is so dynamic that some days the waves are huge and other days, the ocean is as still as a lake.

The surf brings new things in every tide.

And things literally come in waves, meaning that you will often find several of the same shells after the same tide.

One morning there were at least one hundred flawless cockle shells of various sizes all the way down the beach. We gathered a group of half a dozen or more that fit together, largest to smallest, like Russian dolls.

Yesterday, I found two limpets, which I had had never found before and had only ever been able to admire in the shell books.

We brought great books to read aloud to each other and books to read silently to ourselves.

We are reading The Warden and the Wolf King out loud with Mom and Dad after dinner. I have read Macbeth and Northanger Abbey and Jaber Crow and Hamlet already this trip.  I am now reading The Rector of Justin and Another Sort of Education (for a second time.) Norah's reading Adorning the Dark and The Fiddler's Gun (for a second time.)  Dwayne is Out of The Ashes by Esolen. Avril is reading aloud to Adele from The Green Ember books.   

And outloud to the girls, Grandma is reading from Sheep Tales: The Bible According to the Animals That Were There.

And the girls will just sit and talk with Grandma on her couch, too, which is the best.

Grandma or Grandpa or both Grandma and Grandpa together will play card games like Uno, Old Maid, Go Fish, etc. with the girls. (Something about cards brings the young and the old together.) Hearing them play and laugh while I work in another room is one of my greatest joys.

In preparation for directing Challenge 3 next year, I am working on Chemistry and Latin faithfully, making real progress. I brought some philosophy, music theory, math, my next Lost Tools essay on The Tempest for Circe, too, and I am dabbling in those. I have webinars for Circe and Classical Conversations and my book club, too, so I have not totally escaped my real world.

We go to the beach in the afternoon everyday as long as weather permits. Note: We did skip one pretty day because of sunburn and out of sheer exhaustion.

Playing hard can hurt.

And I was actually missing skin from a sand burn on my elbow, too, so I was letting that scab over.

But we have caught some amazing waves with our boogie boards.

We don't actually swim if there is a rip current warning, but we will go out anyway to greet the ocean and breathe deeply and soak up its beauty and feel the warmth of the air and light and splash carefully and build castles or walk, etc.

The girls are drawing and writing poetry in their free time.

 More card games

I brought three bathing suits, because I couldn't try them on because of quarantine and so I bought them all and I had room in my suitcase. I'm wearing all three on rotation and all three are being well used, evidence that we are living right.

Norah likes to make sand sculptures. This one is a warrior angel. She said she used my arm as a model for the angel's muscular arm, which makes me smile.

 Mexican Train dominoes after dinner- We are working our way from double twelves in the center down to double blanks.  Last night, we played the game with double fives, so we're making progress.

Dwayne is working from Dad's office in the back bedroom, but he takes off and goes to the beach with us on nice afternoons or on weekends.

Dad (as in Grandad) came out to the beach and sat with us the last few days.

We are enjoying lots of downtime, so there is time for silliness.

Grandma and Grandpa have a variety of old toys like Etch and Sketch and tops and interesting instruments that they have set out for the girls to play.

I picked up some awesome beach themed coloring and activity books.

The girls have watched several movies with Grandma in the evenings including the live action Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast, all three How To Train Your Dragon movies, Lion King, and Lilo and Stitch.  We all watched Phantom of the Opera together one night.

We left a kite here one of the last times we visited and we also added a new kite this year, so now we have two to fly.

Norah made a Phoenix in the sand one day. Avril helped collect the shells and seaweed, etc.

Norah calls this a Spiderwick Rock. Apparently, in those books, you can only see the creatures through a hole made naturally in a rock.

We have seen or spotted farther off lizards, snails with tiny, exotic shells, squirrels, pelicans, dolphins, sharks, fish, rabbits, cranes, sandpipers, jelly fish, snakes, a stingray, a shark, a bobcat, a baracuda, grasshoppers, crabs. The neighbors have lovely dogs that will run up to you and drop a tennis ball at your feet and nudge it and fully expect you to throw it into the water or down the beaches they can fetch.

More card games

We eat three meals a day here, cook every evening, order out once a week.  This is our effort to help Dad gain healthy weight and if my body is any indication of our success, our efforts are indeed working.  We've had grilled chicken, burgers and dogs, made stew, made lasagna...

I took a solitary walk one day at low tide and there were several living shells in wet sand nearest the waves.  I didn't bring these home, since they were still using their bodies.  But their colors were vivid.  They were living jewels.  The pictures can not show the same quality of light that our eyes perceive.  Have you ever seen a living shell swim/ burrow itself in sand?

We bought Ticket to Ride and played two games with Dad.  We played in the afternoons when all of us were fresh enough for such a long and strategic game.  We'll leave the game here, so that other family members can play it when they visit and we can play it again next time we come.  

It's been a lovely trip, one that we'll not soon forget.  

On every vacation, we go to a bookstore. We weren't able to go while in Vero Beach, because of quarantine rules. But we were able to go on the way home from the airport once we were back in Connecticut.