Thursday, July 30, 2020

Visit to SC Cont.

Right around the end of our visit to Mom's in South Carolina, her cats were finally comfortable with us. It figures, because cats.

Adele drew this doodle of Grandma after the first day. Notice Mom's cats and she's wearing her birdhouse shirt.

Mom wore the same shirt again the last day of our visit, so I got a pic of her with her doodle.

Adele also left Mom with a black eye.  Mom was showing her how to twirl her old baton throughout the week and one thing led to another. Poor Grandma.  This is incredibly heartwarming and funny to me, probably because I am a bad person.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Eclectic Particular Grace

I did not have a happy childhood.

God knows. 

But I must also acknowledge that my childhood was not all bad.

It could have been much worse. 

So even as I look back at the darkness and pain in my memories, I find gratitude in my heart.  

The grace of God works backwards like CS Lewis says and I see my whole life filling up with glory.

There are words I might use to help describe my childhood: poverty, disorder, filth, neglect, violence, anger, abuse.

But if I had to sum up everything in one word it would be sin.   

My parents' sin 
Their parents' sin 
And probably their parents' sin, but the stories in living memory only go back so far.
My parents' siblings' sin 
And my parents' sin in response to their parents' and their siblings' sin 
My siblings' sin 
And my sin in response to my siblings' sin 
And my sin in response to my parents' sin
And my own sin was there, is there still. 

From all the testimonies and from my own memories, I see the problem of sin probably stretches back all the way to Eve and reaches so deep as to infect the whole earth. 

The roots that cause disorder in my life are connected to the roots that cause the disorder in all of Creation.  

But God has been gracious to me.
I came to Christ. 
Or did Christ come to me? 
I started following Him. 
I left home.

He who is loves his father and mother more than me is not worthy of me. 

By leaving home, I mean that God provided for me in nearly miraculous, but also very practical ways, and I found a way out of one lifestyle and into another way of life. 

But I also mean that I "left home" and started walking out of the sins that held my family for generations.

But interestingly, the road to God, through it led away from my family in one sense, has also led me straight back to family in another. 

God has never allowed me to severe relationship with the people who have hurt me the most, though there were times I was tempted to do so. 

He's lead me back, through the chaos, right into it, with the burden of the disorder in my own hands and even, at times, on my own back.  

I don't believe in Purgatory, but then again, I do, since I've been in it. The process of living in family has felt like Purgatory at times.  

We recently took responsibility for my aging mother and bought her a condo to live in.  

Honor thy father and mother. 

God asked us to do what we say we believe. 

But in this, our story is not unique, since we know many people are caring for their parents, just as many have done before. 

We also helped her move out of her old place and into the new.  

For me, personally, unpacking my Mom's boxes and organizing her stuff and getting her settled was like going through Hell, literally. 

Almost every item represented a bitter-sweet, painfully acute, or even Hellish memory for me.  

But I felt the presence of God holding me together as I unpacked her boxes.

And the most interesting thing happened as I submitted to that work.

The items were literally redeemed as they came up out of the boxes and they came together into a beautiful, eclectic mix that fills her dwelling place and is simply beautiful.

And seeing her in that beauty blesses me.  

God uses us to do His work here on earth.  

The wall of photos in the picture above is always a testimony to my soul as I walk through her front door. 

Most of those frames were salvaged out of random boxes filled with random junk.

The frames were often purchased on impulse with money better spent on necessities we may have gone without. 

Many of the frames were never even used, just hoarded like many other things were hoarded.

But when all the unpacking and organizing and purging was done, these frames had been collected into a pile, and it was time to decorate. These came together with old photos into this eclectic collection that adorns her wall.  

God brings everything together like that.   

He gives beauty for ashes.  

He made something beautiful and unique out of all those poor choices, those seemingly unredeemable particularities.  

Such is the grace of God for my particular family. His grace is beautiful and unique to us. 

I just look at the whole thing in wonder and awe. 

Even though God is using my hands to do the work, I often feel I am just a bystander.  

Don't be afraid to follow God anywhere He leads, even if it is to confront your painful past and work to redeem it.  

Submit to a relationship with God and be ready when you are in relationship with Him, for a relationship with the triune God may lead you to have to submit to various relationships with others.  

Blessed are the peacemakers. 

With God's help, do what is right by the people in your life even if they are undeserving.

Who is deserving of God's grace anyway?

I think of Christ in Gethsemane.  

He did not deserve to suffer, but He chose relationship.  

Even the best of us would be poor and desperate without Him. 

On the other side of this process of relationship to God and others, He will have fashioned a diamond from the rough. 

In the end, you, and perhaps your family, too, will be able to reflect facets of His glory in particular ways that no one else can.  

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Visit to Grandma's in SC

We're taking near daily drives through Dunkin. 
It's nice to get cold drinks in the southern heat. 

My mom was a majorette in college and my youngest is learning to twirl her old baton. 

We've been going to the pool everyday, sometimes twice a day. 

I added some more photos to Mom's collages. 

Mom made homemade vanilla- banana- Nilla wafer pudding. 

We hung a bunch of paintings for Mom. This one is a watercolor done by her sister Patty. 

My oldest is making Mom a new dishcloth. Note: Croqueted dish cloths are the best. 

I've been making three meals a day at home. I'm making stuff Mom likes like beans and cornbread.  

Friday, July 24, 2020

Redeeming My Education

I'm preparing to direct Challenge 3 next year, so I'm working through Apologia's Chemistry text ahead of time.

I got to the part in Module 3 where I had to solve for frequency and/or wavelength, etc.

That necessitated knowing how to divide exponents, some of which are negative.

That necessitated relearning exponents using my Understanding Mathematics texts.

I also had to relearn how to divide with decimals, and use scientific notation and a scientific calculator.

There were tears and at one or two points, there was total despair.

I put my face in my hands, and cried out to God, and prayed, and questioned everything, especially my calling to direct Challenge 3.

Credit to my husband for helping and really struggling with me. It wasn't easy for him, either.

I worked for hours and we talked about the concepts all day and now I can say, I've got it.

I think.

I learned a lot of math today, but I learned some deeply personal lessons, too.

I know how to solve for frequency and wavelength with and without a calculator.

I learned that I'm tougher and smarter than I thought.

I also learned that I'm weak enough to question homeschooling over a difficult math concept. It really got to that point for a few moments when I couldn't see my way and that's really humbling.

But praise God, I did it!

Next time my daughter lacks faith or is struggling, I'll have some fresh grace to give her, because of this struggle/ victory.

Glory to God for helping me surmount what seemed insurmountable.

I begin to wonder what all I can do with my brain if I am just willing to wrestle long enough.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Vacation Puzzles

I always put a puzzle (or two or three) out in the dining room during vacations.  Dwayne and Norah worked on it for a while one Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

New Planners

The two oldest girls were excited to go to Staples and pick out their new planners for the coming school year.

I usually have them fill out their planners on Friday, the day after we meet for Classical Conversations.

They plan their school days from Friday through Wednesday of the next week.

Then I take a look and I'll ask them to add things or move things around.

We often debate about the changes.

But I do alot of discipleship through this process.

And I save myself a lot of headaches through the week by doing this the day the week begins.

The calendar serves me as much as it serves them, since it reminds me what I decided to have them do everyday.

And this way, they aren't looking to me to remember what's expected of them every single day.

They can look at their own schedule and I can just make sure and keep them accountable to what's there.  

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Challenge 3

I'm directing Challenge 3 for Classical Conversations this coming school year. 

Raising Monarch Butterflies

It's that time of year again!

We've been checking the underside of the milkweed plants beside the pond.

We found one monarch egg, so we snapped that leaf off and brought it home.

The caterpillar hatched out a few days later. He ate his shell, and is busy now eating the fresh leaves we've brought him.

He's still very small as you can see from the pictures.

Last year, we raised somewhere between twenty and thirty monarchs, if I remember correctly.

This year, so far, we only have this one, but he's still bringing a lot of joy.

I like to put the butterfly books out around the caterpillars to tempt the girls to read them.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Trump's Rushmore Speech

We watched Trump's Mount Rushmore speech with the kids. We always try to watch the President speak. We did the same for Obama and Bush, not because we have always agreed with all of them, or ever agreed with any of them, but because we're trying to teach our daughters how to keep a republic. And we'll keep have an ongoing discourse with them about the complicated issues of history and the present time. 

Sunday, July 19, 2020


We spent the afternoon of Sunday, July 5th with our friends the McCandlesses in our old stomping grounds. We met their daughter's fiancĂ©, talked, swam in their pool, watched the birds come and go from their nests on all sides of the yards to the feeders and birdbath, ate off the grill, played yard games, and shared salads with generous amounts of mayo. It was a lovely summer afternoon! By the time we left, people were gathering near the interstate for Waterbury's annual fireworks show, so we decided to stay and watch. We lived in Waterbury for many years and always enjoyed the fireworks. It was very fortuitous that we were there at the right time to just stay a few extra minutes and enjoy the show before heading home.  

Office of Assertion

This book is required reading for the Circe Apprenticeship and graduate school and it's recommended  reading for Challenge directors and parents, so I was happy to sit down with it one afternoon at the pond and get started.  

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Esolen in My Ear

Norah is a huge Esolen fan and she is often eager to share her favorite quotes with me.  The other afternoon, she read Esolen quotes right into my ear as I sat at the pond, enjoying the scenery, taking a break from our vigorous swimming.  It was quite luxurious.  To me, it was better than being an Egyptian queen fanned and fed grapes. If you've never had words read directly into your ear as you've looked out over a beautiful New England pond in the summertime, you haven't lived.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Summer Afternoons

After breakfast and chores most summer days, we head over to the pond or beach or pool, where we enjoy a few hours of fun in the sun with a picnic lunch.  Then we come home, shower, unpack, snack, and settle down, pleasantly tired, to read books and practice piano.  I love those moments.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

If you don't write it down, you'll forget!

This flower came from a seed packet I purchased for the girls' Easter basket. We're not always success with seed packets, but this one is thriving. Honestly, I can't remember what this flower is called.  It's so interesting, with blossoms in all shades of pink.  I really wish I could remember what it's called. So I'm calling this blog post, "If you don't write it down, you'll forget."

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

If a woman arranges flowers for a living, she earns our congratulations even if she doesn't do anything else either because she doesn't know how or because she is too busy at her flower shop. If a woman cooks fine Italian meals for a living- if her gnocchi, with their wonderful hundreds of calories, are famous all over town- we sing her praises, even if when she gets home she is spent... But if a woman, because she is well versed in all the household arts, can do all these things and in fact does them for the people she loves and for those she welcomes into her home... we shake our heads and say she has wasted her talents.

-Esolen, Out of the Ashes

We made a flower arrangement with some of the hydrangeas from the bushes in our yard. As you can see, the flowers vary in color from green to white to blue to purple.

When I was getting married to Dwayne, I wanted nothing more than a bouquet of big, beautiful, blue hydrangeas.  But I was ordering my bouquet in February for a wedding in April in South Carolina and I remember that the florist said, "They may be hard to find. And if I find them, they may not be in season. And if they are available, they may only be green."

I remembered the disappointed I felt over that bouquet.  It was beautiful, after all, but it was assortment of other flowers, and it had only one or two very small, green hydrangeas in the mix.

But as I was cutting these blooms off our trees outside, I felt the Holy Spirit address that bitter disappointment with a gentle astringent. I thought I heard the voice of God say this or something like it, "You wanted so much so fast back then. But marriage and life doesn't work that way.  It took twenty years, but now see how many blooms you have. Your trees are falling over with blooms."

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Illiad of Homer

I'm beginning my third year of the Circe Apprenticeship.  One of the books we read this year is The Illiad.  I started reading Book 1 the other afternoon and it infuriated me. At dinner that evening, my kids were being as sassy/clever as usual, but I had a lot less patience for their remarks.  I got up to leave the room and my husband asked, "Where are you going?"  I said, "I get no honor here."  To which, my oldest daughter, who knew I was reading this book and knows the story really well quipped, "Mom, I think the wrath of Achilles might be getting to you."  I had to admit that she might be right.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Jones Winery in Shelton, CT

On July 4th, Dwayne took me to Jones Winery.  The weather and scenery were lovely. This picture reminds me of the warm breeze blowing through the patio and gently stirring the grape vines hanging above us.  My favorite of the six wines we tried was their Woodlands White. We purchased a few bottles of various kinds to give as gifts to neighbors and friends.  We ordered cheese, salami, and crackers, but note to self: I definitely prefer to drink wine and drink beer with heavier meals.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

I'm trying to be more deliberate about #1. resting and #2. spending more time out in my beautiful yard. So I've been putting those two things together and getting them both done at the same time.  

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Balloon Flowers

I inherited furniture from my husband's grandmother.
Another woman planted the flowers in my garden, too.

I don't resent them when I see the balloon flowers bloom.
Then my hearts swells and breaks open in praise

Of gifts received that I did not chose.
If I had had more means, I may have used.

I am a steward, not a consumer.
God often wills us make room for another's choice.

I've heard these called weeds! Do you believe it?
I think I do. For I've seen solid maple spurned for particle board, too.

So women can be fools, indeed. We uproot what God would plant.
What we may then nurture in our flesh instead.

I'm told they're moved to make room for preference.
But fashions and fancies will choke out contentment.

Always buying, she'll never own.
Always having my way, I'd never gain.

Always grasping, grasping, one wouldn't hold anything
long enough to pass it on. 

Friday, July 10, 2020


Broccoli Cheddar Quiche

Bake the pie crust:
I'll buy a frozen pie crust and follow the directions on the wrapping to cook. (I usually thaw it while the oven preheats, poke it with a fork, and cook it for ten-twelve minutes, while I am prepping the rest of the quiche.)

To prep the rest of the quiche:

I wash a small bunch of broccoli, cut the heads off the bunch, and boil them in a small pot until they are al dente (approx. five to ten minutes- I poke them with a fork to see if they are soft, yet still somewhat firm)

Meanwhile, in another pan, I sauté one quarter to half a yellow or white onion in some butter.

In a big mixing bowl, I crack four-six eggs and whisk them briefly. (I usually use four eggs, because the broccoli takes up more space. But when I am making a different quiche, like a spinach and feta, those can take five or six eggs, so the amount varies depending on the kinds of ingredients and how much of the ingredients you use.)

I drain the broccoli when it is done and put it in the bowl of eggs.

Then I put in the softened onions.

I add salt and pepper and some cream, half and half, or milk (I use anywhere from a tablespoon to a half cup, depending on what sort of dairy product it is and the amount of eggs I am using.)

I stir everything together and then pour it into a prepared pie pan.

I cook it around 375-400 for approx. an hour (After approx. forty minutes, I start checking it every ten minutes or so. I test it by putting a toothpick in the center.  If it comes out with liquid on it, the quiche is done.)

I let the quiche sit for approx. ten minutes before slicing or serving.

I like to serve quiche with a simple salad, but I'll also serve it with a bunch of grapes.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Limiting Screen Time

Good things happen when you limit the amount of time your kids are on screens. 

First, kids get bored.

Next, they complain.

Finally, they pester you.

All this lasts until they know you are serious about them finding other ways to entertain themselves. 

Once they know you are serious about them entertaining themselves in other ways, they find other ways to entertain themselves. 

Because no one likes to be bored.

These pictures were all taken within ten seconds of one another the other afternoon.  

Notice that my daughter is on a screen in the last picture.  

She's composing music. 

I'm good with that use of a screen. 

My kids understand that some screen time is allowed, some is not.

If they don't understand why something is or is not allowed, I offer them my reasons.  

If they disagree, I hear them out, and if I can refute their reasoning, I do.  

Ultimately, it comes down to me being in charge and them having to submit to me as the authority who, very generally speaking, usually knows better than they do what is and is not a good use of tech.  

Sometimes it just comes down to my opinion or my preference on the matter.  

It is my opinion and my preference that my daughters can use the screen to compose music during the day, but they can't play Minecraft. 

That's good prep for real life.  

Their future bosses will have opinions and preferences and authority. 

Note: They do have time to watch movies and play video games later, after dinner. 

I'm talking about screen time during the daytime, specifically. 

All this to say,  I really couldn't have been happier with the way my kids were finding to entertain themselves.  

I felt like I was winning for a few moments that afternoon.  

Note to self: It just took them knowing how serious I really am that they are never going to sit in front of the television and/ or play video games during the day. After that, they found some beautiful ways to use their free time.  

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

The Snuggery

Me: Avril?! Where are you?!

Avril: I'm in the snuggery! 

The girls have taken to calling the book nook "the snuggery."

My friend Lainie sent us the definition and we all agree with her that it's the best word ever.

Snuggery- a cozy or comfortable place, especially one's own den

Everybody should have a snuggery. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

More Puzzles

My friend Robin gave us several gently used puzzles the other day.  Her kids are all grown now, so she's slowly going through her stuff and getting rid of things.  I am very thankful to have so many new puzzles, especially since many of them are just the sort I would pick out myself.  We love puzzles in summertime, especially after a long, active day out in the water and sun at the pond or beach.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Homemade Lemonade

I had to zest a few lemons for the scones I made the other day, so I had three lemons with no skin.

To use them up, I made lemonade.

I used:
one gallon cold water,
three little scoops of stevia,
the juice of three lemons,
and slices/ juice from another whole lemon

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Watercolor Hydrangeas

 We used Let's Make Art's kit and tutorial to paint hydrangeas today. 

My painting