Monday, September 30, 2013

homeschooling my preschooler

Let me give a bit of a disclaimer before I venture into talking about homeschooling. I know very little about homeschooling. I am a brand-spankin' newbie. I hesitate to even write about it here because there are so many great homeschooling mothers out there blogging great stuff. I am not attempting to do that. I'm simply putting this out because it's part of my life; it's what's going on; it's something I'm learning. That said, read this for what it's worth. For you seasoned homeschoolers - maybe you can leave me a bit of love. :)

I've known for a long time that I wanted to homeschool. And I've heard a lot about homeschooling from my mom and two sister-in-laws who are all doing it for the first time. I've even heard a few things from friends. Outside of talking about it, thinking about it some, and reading a little online, I have not done much. Actually, I have not read one complete book on the subject. I'm kind of lazy about it. Well, not so much lazy, just always putting other subjects or projects ahead of it. After all, I have some time - she's just three.

But even still, I've been feeling some pressure to do more, figure out more, read more. Maybe it's because most of my friends' children are a year ahead. Maybe it's because she's so smart. Whatever it was, I decided to "start" this year. No big "first day of school" or strict schedule. Just four little objectives I want to try to address. The plan was to add a little "school" each day as part of our Circle Time (a time where we do calendar, memory verse, rhymes, songs or poems, a Bible story, and some times other things). In a week, Circle Time happens maybe two out of the four hoped for days, and school had happened maybe three or four times total this month. Sometimes intentional, sometimes spontaneous.

I'm intent on doing better, but really, I was okay with this pace. I was looking at it as a trial run. And I know she's young and she's still learning all kinds of things without any "school," but....

About  week ago I was talking to a friend who actually bought a curriculum and started it with her four year old. After hearing about it, I was starting to second guess myself.

The next day I was thinking about it and I remembered Ambleside Online. They have free Charlotte Mason-based curriculum. So I looked up their pre-K curriculum. Know what folks? They don't have one. They have a grade 0, which is basically newborn to age six. SIX!!! It had a small booklist, but basically said "Let your child outside!" And when I think about this I nod my head and think, "She loves being outside." and "Oh we don't go out as much as we could." So I have started to make a point of going outside more, and hope to continue, especially before it gets cold. They also had links to information on art and music appreciation, foreign language, sewing and drawing, hammering and painting. And while I won't be doing all those right now, it will give me some ideas for the future. Add those onto Spell to Write and Read, Cursive First, and Cuisenaire rods, and I think I'm set... for a few years at least!

Friday, September 27, 2013

things I learned in September

I'm linking up again with Emily at Chatting at the Sky! This month's learning are mostly foodie, oh actually, all foodie. Wasn't exactly planned, but that's how it happened. But I have some non-food links for you too!

1) I learned how to make whey and "cream cheese" from Nourishing Traditions. I had been kind of afraid to try this but it was SO simple. And I made it from homemade yogurt. I didn't have much yogurt, but I still got a lot of whey (which is what I needed - see below), and the "cream cheese" actually tasted a lot like cream cheese, but not as salty. Definitely going to be a usual thing around here from now on!

2) I learned a little about fermenting. Again, from Nourishing Traditions. Coach made a ton of his awesome salsa and so we added whey, let it sit out a couple days, and *boom* it's fermented. I guess. We can't really tell, but it's supposed to boost good enzymes and things like that that I am not good at explaining, and it's supposed to keep longer. Not sure we'll find out about that one. :)

3) I also made sauerkraut from purple cabbage. And it smells like sauerkraut now, but haven't tried it yet. We actually don't like that kind of thing, but I needed to do something with some cabbages and I was tired of eating it! So, I thought we might have a little here and a little there. We'll see!

4) I learned how to make tomato sauce in the slow cooker. It. Is. Awesome. I froze what I made, but I know it won't last us too long. That's okay. I did modify this recipe some to our taste, and I'm so excited to use it soon!

And here are some (non-food) links to some posts that had me thinking this month:

Seeing a Woman - a must read for parents, especially of boys (in my opinion!)

Toy Rotation and Taking Toys Away - We're doing things a little different and I'm being a little more ruthless about what we keep.

I've been reading through some 31 Days series at The Nester, and this post and this post (both from her "Home. On Purpose." series) gave me some things to think about. Nothing too new, just a different way to look at the same thoughts.

Hope your September was great! Here's to more learning in October! 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

all these things :: september 26th

Just an overview of what is current in my life. A snapshot of how I'm trying to give "all these things" to Him and truly seek first His kingdom in my life.

Today is Coach's name's day: St. John the Theologian. But his name is really William. Made his favorite meal today and cookies.

heart & soul :: Thinking some about my home and how to make to more practical and pretty. Has to do with the simpler life too. Still more thoughts and prayers about mothering. Overall, nothing too deep as I've been getting more rest due to a cold (which is gone now, thank God), so that cut into my thinking/soul searching time. :)

mothering :: Things are a bit smoother, yet still challenging. This article on whining really opened my eyes and my change of perspective has helped so much this week. This article too, although all I've really gleaned from it is how much I do say my childrens' names. No progress on changing that fact yet though.

home & kitchen :: I've actually done some fun things in the kitchen, but I'm going to share that in my next post. For the home, we rearranged again, I started a toy rotation yesterday, and I have a new look to our bedroom in the making. Posts about it all to come, I hope. Things are not "done" yet, but I hope to finish a couple projects next month and be able to post about it all then!

rhythm :: So, yeah, I said the rhythm had slowed down, and right after that it picked up. I don't think it's going to slow down until after New Years. sigh. Today I was thinking, "Okay, I can't control that some things just have to be in our schedule, but I can control how I feel about it." Well, it's something to work on I suppose. It's not that we're super crazy busy, it's that I like to have one, maybe two, out of ordinary things a week, and one, maybe two, busy-ish weekends a month. But it's more than that and I just like more time between things. They are all good things, and it will all be good. We did celebrate Sweet Girl's names day (St. Euphemia) on September 16th (yep, our anniversary!) with brownies. She was thrilled.

learning & growing :: Not much read in Raising Godly Tomatoes. Lots of learning in the kitchen. Planted some lettuce, but nothing showing yet. Bubba sure is learning though. He's actually crawling now, instead of only scooting on his bum. And he, finally, sat through a whole (little) book! Had a handful of impromptu learning moments with them including acorn hunting and squirrel watching.

Looking forward to... hiking tomorrow morning with friends, "Swap Party" with my ladies Saturday, then spending the weekend with Coach's family, including his grandmother that we haven't seen in a couple years!

How is your September going? I can't believe it's almost over!

Monday, September 23, 2013


Today is the feast of the Conception of St. John the Forerunner. And while I want to have our schedule be around the church year and services, I knew this one was not going to happen for us. After a bit of an off schedule last week, then having friends over all day Friday, then my sister all day Saturday, and me being on parent duty alone all weekend (and a cold coming on, just to add to it) ... Sunday night Vespers and Monday morning liturgy just weren't a smart idea for us. I needed a break.

When I realized this, I felt like a bit of a failure. Not one month in and I was making compromises. Or so it felt. As I thought about it more, I realized that there are just limitations, and that is just life, and that is okay. This is all new to us. My children are young and my husband is working a lot. Church is hard these days. It's okay to not do it all.

Turns out, Coach took both kids to liturgy and I stayed home and got all my food prep done for the week. That was a blessing. I still feel on track.

Right now I am feeling the limitations of my life a bit heavier right now. Several areas just don't seem to be going smoothly, and I'm planning on doing some trouble shooting and planning this week. I hope to share some things with you, but this blog too is affected by my limitations of time and energy. I have a plan that will hopefully allow me to share more, but I'm not promising anything. One thing I'm also leaning to accept is that as good as planning is, things don't always go as planned.

How do you handle limitations?

Monday, September 16, 2013

the sixth anniversary

There was an old truck on the farm when my family bought it, and when I was twelve I was hanging out in it one day. I turned the key just enough to turn on the radio and what I heard was "Have I Told You Lately" by Van Morrison. And as I listened to the words I thought, "I want my marriage to be like that." Twelve yeas later, I was dancing that song to with the love of my life. The man God blessed me with. 

(I just have to say this is a super cheesy smile - not his usual look!)
And six years after that, we are living that marriage. I thank God for that every day.
We celebrated yesterday with sushi and other yummy food and a house to ourselves.  It was a really wonderful time.
My heart it bursting with awe and gratitude to God for giving me this man who leads me, cares for me, listens to me... who knows me like no one else. I love him more than I did this day six years ago, and I look forward to loving him more and more as time goes on.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

all these things :: september 12th

I'm going to start something new! Hope you enjoy it!

Just an overview of what is current in my life. A snapshot of how I'm trying to give "all these things" to Him and truly seek first His kingdom in my life.

Today happens to be my dear friend Natalie's birthday! Happy Birthday!

heart & soul :: musing on thoughts of a simpler life, living around the Church calendar, making traditions, and if God is trying to tell me something or if I'm making it up. (More to come on probably all of that!) Also, working on being a better mother. (see below!)

They really do love each other... if only they'd act that way all the time! :)

mothering :: oh, my! These days are tough. Lots of screaming, "Mine!" from the 3 year old and tantrums from the 1 year old (who can get to everything now...) And some ugliness from me, that, Lord have mercy, will be remedied. Praying for lots and lots of grace (and receiving it, thank the Lord!).

home & kitchen :: hmm, the CSA has wrapped up so I will be resorting to some of my frozen things for now. I really enjoyed canning green beans and tomatoes with my mother a few times recently. Coach has been making some rockin' salsa lately, and I'm back on track with making yummy meals instead of leftovers revamped up to 3 or 4 times. Somehow that happened a few weeks in  row.

rhythm :: I am liking the rhythm of this month. It's much slower. The day has a normal flow; I am sticking to my tasks and little daily things. The evenings are calm majority of the week. Even though Coach is in the fall season now, working Sat and Sun mornings, and Tues and Thurs evenings (in addition to the 9-5), it's still calmer than the summer, when he was doing all-day weekends and a camp and orientation.... He's actually home more now, which is so, so nice!

These beautiful tomatoes made my heart swell.

learning & growing :: Just finished Square Foot Gardening and made a rough plan for the spring. Hope to plant some lettuce once it cools down. Going to start taking composting more seriously (like, not just throw it all in a pile! haha) We thought we had some volunteer corn in our compost, well, we did, but it was not sweet corn. Sweet Girl was really disappointed. She had even helped me shuck. No, we are not gardeners. I plan to change that come spring. :) Now I'm reading (for the 3rd, no joke, time) Raising Godly Tomatoes. Cultivating children.

Looking forward to... tomorrow night when I gather with my ladies, and then Sunday! Leaving the kids with relatives and going shopping and getting sushi in the city with my groom to celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary! We'll come back to an empty home, get breakfast in the morning, then I'll pick up our sweeties. Notes: Our actual anniversary is Monday, and no, it wasn't my husband's idea to do the shopping... Actually, let's pray he can still tolerate me when we're done!

How has your September been? Have a blessed feast of the Exaltation of the Cross!

Monday, September 9, 2013

thoughts on sharing my words

In the upcoming months, my posts will have a theme and connection to them. Before I begin though, I want to share these thoughts with you. A “disclaimer” if you will…

I’ve long felt afraid to share my writing - real writing, like a poem or story. Even what I share here is always a bit scary for me, but I console myself with the fact that very few people read it.

The thing with writing is that it’s a very private hobby. Musicians give concerts, artists have shows, writers… well, people read their words in private. And writing is done in private. Someone can write all their lives, and no one could know.
I know a guy who writes and records his own music. Every couple years, he comes out with a new album and gives us a copy. He’s not out to make money. (To be honest, he probably couldn’t if he tried.) I admire him for doing it. He enjoys it, and that’s why he does it. He has something to share, and he shares it.

When I think of all the writers that have influenced me, I am so grateful to them. What if they had chosen not to write, because they felt like they weren’t good at writing? What if they hadn’t shared because they didn’t think it was “good”?

I’m not saying I’m going to make a huge impact on the world - or even one person. What I am saying is, who am I to know? What if God will use me? What if He chooses to transform my unworthy words to help someone else? And I’m also saying, I enjoy writing and I have things to share. So good or bad - I’m sharing!

So much has been going on in my heart and my head this year. I’m trying to get it organized in words so I can share some things with you all here. As much as I don’t understand why, I have such a desire to share. I pray God is using me; I feel I am obeying Him. Thank you for accepting my blundering offerings!

what is God's purpose for me?

Just as I was typing up the title, my daughter asked me to wipe her bottom. And I had to chuckle because I thought, "Yep. This is my purpose, for now. Serving my children, which includes wiping they're cute little tushes." And I'm grateful for that, really.

On Friday, I will be joining my local, Orthodox girlfriends to talk about... well, life. We try to have a topic, and this month it's my turn. I haven't yet written about the fact that reading the book Kisses from Katie this spring totally turned my head around and I'm still trying to answer questions it brought about. Many of us in the group have read it and had similar responses. We're going to pick just one topic and start there on Friday night.

To choose a more specific topic, I asked all the ladies to choose from a list of questions or tell me their own. One friend responded,

"What does living a life in faithfulness to God look like for me personally?"

And I've really been thinking about that question. Don't we all have that question?

I was musing about it this morning. Obviously, the specific answer to that question will be different for all of us, hence the need to ask it. But, surely there are some general things that we, as Christians, ought to do. Things like: go to church, pray, read the Bible, etc. And that, to me, is a start. These thoughts reminded me of a podcast I heard long ago by Fr. Thomas Hopko. The title of the podcast is "Lent - The Tithe of the Year" but it's really about a list he wrote. He explains it like this:

"55 things that a believer, very simply, would do if they were really a believer and were really obedient to God and wanted to live the way God would have us live."

Some things from the list that speak to me right now are:

1. Be always with Christ. Trust God in everything. Never forget God.

9. Do acts of mercy in secret. Just do some good things that no one knows about.

17. Cultivate communion with the Saints. Learn who the holy people were in Christian history. Learn who they were who taught, who suffered, who died, who lived a Christian life. And emulate them. As St. John of the Ladder said: “Anyone who does not emulate the Saints is a fool, but also a fool would be someone who tried to imitate another person in the details of his or her life.” You can’t do that, but we must learn from the holy people.

29. Be grateful. Be grateful in all things.

30. Be cheerful. Act cheerful, even if you don’t feel like it, especially in the presence of others.
33. Listen when people talk to you. To be attentive to others is one of the greatest gifts. Keep your mind awake and pay attention when people speak to you.

36. When we speak, speak simply, clearly, firmly, and directly—nothing superfluous, not putting on airs. Again, simplicity is the rule.

39. Don’t complain, grumble, murmur, or whine. Complaining, thinking, looking at the faults of others, we work during Lent and all our life to stop doing that. We pay attention to ourselves.

40. Don’t compare yourself with anyone. The Last Judgment is not on a curve. God doesn’t compare us one to another. Each one of us stands according to who we are, what we have received, what we have been given, and what our vocation is.

42. We don’t judge anyone for anything—no matter what. This doesn’t mean we just say “Everyone’s fine and good.” That’s not true. But we don’t condemn them. We don’t get in to what makes them tick. We don’t tell them always what to do. What they do, we do. And we show people what we believe by what we do. But we don’t judge anyone for anything, and if we do, then the Lord judges us the same way.

47. Give advice to others only when asked to do so or when it is your duty to do so. This is very important. You don’t go around giving free advice or counsel. If people ask us, we tell them. I was asked, “Father Tom, say some things on Ancient Faith Radio. I say: “Okay, cause you asked me.” So when we’re asked, we can answer. If it’s our duty, if it’s our job—like a parent or a pastor or a supervisor in operation or a teacher—then we must do it. That’s our work. But we never give counsel or advice, unless we’re asked or unless it’s our duty to do so.

53. Endure the trial of yourself and your own faults and sins peacefully, serenely, under the mercy of God. This is very important. St. Seraphim of Sarov said: “To have the Holy Spirit is to see your own wretchedness peacefully, because you know that God’s mercy is greater than your wretchedness.” St. Therese of Lisieux, a Roman Catholic saint who died at 24, she wrote to a friend: “If you are willing to bear the trial of your own wretchedness, serenely, then you will surely be the sweetest dwelling place of Jesus.” We have to bear our own faults, serenely. St. Paul said: “Where sin has abounded, grace has superabounded.” And we cannot let the devil rejoice two times. Pythagoras said: “When we fall, the devils rejoice. When we stay down, the devils keep rejoicing.” And nothing puts the devils more to shame than having fallen, we stand up again. So we must bear peacefully, calmly, our own weaknesses, our own failings. Expect them. Don’t make them happen, but expect them. We are not God.

They are all good, but those are just a few I feel I need to work on specifically. Even this amount seems daunting. It's a place to begin though. It's a place to start. I can pick one and work at it. I plan to review this each January and choose one, or two, to work on that year, with God's help.

It's possible that I may never know in this life, just want God had in mind for me when He (so graciously!) created me. Some things are just mysteries, but I'm not so sure God wants to hide this. I believe that if I truly seek after God, starting with a few of these, and gradually doing more and more, then I will be living the life God designed for me. I will be living a life of faithfulness, in just the way He intended. All the specifics of my individual life will fall into place when I seek God with all my heart.

Note: You can use the link to either listen to the podcast (it's about 30 minutes) or you can read it. Thank you to whoever typed it up!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

on why september 1st is like new year's to me

This year, I'm trying to think of today as the beginning of a new year. Why? It's simple: today is the first day of the Orthodox Church year.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the rhythm our life has had the past few year's, and what kind of rhythm I want it to develop in the next few years. The main thing I want is for it to be based on the rhythm, the life, of our church. The first start to that is to make a point to learn about and celebrate the 12 major feast days of the year. That alone will take a few years, but I'm ready to start.

I hope to expand upon this theme and share more of my thoughts, but for today I will just give you a link. In the article, the writer explains the connection of the seasons with Christ and the church in a most eloquent way. It's titled "New Beginnings."

So, "Happy New Year!" My prayer for this year is to create a rhythm that keeps us connected to Christ and continually draws us closer to Him.

"You who created all things in Your infinite wisdom, 
and set the times by Your own authority,
grant Your Christian people victories.
Blessing our comings and goings throughout this year,
guide our works according to Your divine will.
 ~ Kontakion ~