Friday, January 23, 2015

On Wonder and Warfare

I can vividly recall Daddy Bull, the hulk in the shadows of the barn. Grandpa kept him in a well-bedded pen at the back of the calf barn, a solid wall separating him from the milking parlor. Grandmother and I would walk to the milkhouse with our two ewers every morning as the first milking was finishing up; one pitcher for milk, still warm and pulled from the depths of the stainless steel tank, the other pitcher for pure Jersey cream, flotsam lofty and dense among the serene sea of fluid. Most often I would stay and help clean the barn, sometimes feeding the calves with formula that I couldn't help but taste time and time again. And when those more coarse chores were done, Grandpa would shuffle into the milkhouse and do some fine-cleaning and sterilization of the equipment. This would leave me time to myself to wander with the dog and several cats; we'd venture up into the hayloft, making sure to step only where we could see rafters, or we'd wander among the calves and the horse stalls toward the end of the barn. Every now and again, I'd climb the several enormous rails to visit him. Daddy Bull. He was a Jersey, but a deep rust color from the withers back, and slick black from shoulders to nose. He was polled, so his eyes were obvious and dark...deep, beautiful. There is no description that exists in a child's lexicon to convey the enormity, the brawn, the sheer fearsome might in such a bull. He was terrifyingly gargantuan. He grunted sometimes, mostly keeping to his hay. But he would amble over in his bovine way when I climbed to the top rail and we would visit. I could rub the nub between where his horns would've been and he, in clear appreciation, would bob his massive head rhythmically up and down. I could make out, but never touch, the massive brass ring through his septum, and watch with utter fascination the rippling of muscle upon muscle through his shoulders. Transfixed. Awed.
Grandpa would invariably holler for me to get down from there, don't go messin' with that bull. I'd also heard Grandpa refer to him as the easiest animal on the farm. I'd also seen him turned loose with the heifers, with some of the more mature cows. It somehow made sense...if only in that I genuinely had no questions. 

I never, and I mean never wanted to work with stallions. My fourth year on the thoroughbred breeding farm brought with it the mandate that I do my time there (it was an elite promotion, but one that, from what I'd seen, I'd rather not entertain). Dr Blum was a fantastic, if somewhat disproportionately oversized fiery chestnut. He was sixteen years of age by the time I was assigned to care for him: a bit long in the tooth. I witnessed daily the pure sadism of some of the other stallions in the barn, the trampling of walkers, the teeth tearing the flesh. Blum was not so agile in his heft, and seemed to sigh and resign himself to the matter of being shackled with cross-ties when I groomed him daily. That didn't in the least, however, deter him from cowing me into a corner with his ass-end, nor did it prevent him from stepping on my feet with remarkable precision and frequency. We worked together for a couple of years, I guess. He'd still bite me, quick nips, really, when I wasn't paying attention, but he'd fix his gaze on me when he did. We worked well together. He appreciated my learning as best I could that which Monty Roberts tried to teach. I adored his aroma, I loved that only I could rub his belly. He'd bob his head when I scratched his chest. He'd cow-kick me if I pulled his tail while brushing him but he always managed to restrain himself from bolting at the gate after I told him it terrified me. He is among the teachers I most admire. Our relationship made sense, and I never thought to question any aspect of it. 

Buddy came to the shelter having been released from a tree in the deep woods, the chain removed from where it had grown into his neck. He was given a stay of 14 days in the run, as legally mandated. He was goaded to the outer portion of the run in order to have his rations given to him as he would snap at whomever dared open the chain link door to his pen. But when I would stop and chat with him, there was a youthfulness in his eyes. And a deep, deep painful yearning. After a few days I slowly entered his pen with him. He growled, not menacingly, from the back corner. I sat on the floor and, eyes averted, asked that he tell me what it was he needed to say. After a few more days he approached me, sitting just within arm's reach, but I didn't reach. We just...were. On day twelve of his residence he layed in my lap. I put my hand slowly on his back as he snapped back and bit my arm. I didn't respond, and he whimpered and buried his head in my lap. Maybe he was relieved of some horrible karma two days later, or maybe it was a terrible misappropriation of fate. I'm not one to say. And I'm not one to question the why, only to make the best of the what, and the what is that I loved him even though, and I hope and often think he at least knew that. The love we shared made sense. Even though. 

There's a breeding ram in the midst of the flock again this time of year. I've had my share of challenges from headstrong alpha-aspiring rams, and so I was a bit chagrined to see that the breeder-in-residence this year is a bit closer to a small bull than most we've entertained. I've not had need to flip him, mock-goring his soft under-belly this year. I've had no need for the staff I carry through the years. His eyes are marvelous, inquisitive, shy. He stays to the rear of the flock in transit. He stays focused on me when we move, and I don't take my eyes off him. We have an understanding at the moment, and right now it makes sense.  

I'm not great with humans: I find them generally challenging to read. I think there exists a great many paradoxes in animals, us upright fleshy ones included. And maybe it's our general discomfort with paradox that leads us to obfuscate, demur, embellish and lie. Maybe our call for a pack, a herd, a tribe leads us out of authentic discourse, a speaking from the heart. A sharing of the soul that requires no words. There's tremendous discomfort in that, it's vulnerability. But maybe it's the turning away from these things that stifle wonder and genuine experience, and maybe it's the turning away from these things that perpetuates and creates warfare, in our world and in our communities and in our heads. 
Or maybe I just don't understand. 
It just doesn't make sense.   

Blessings and an open heart....

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Rest for the Weary

"Life finds its balance. Children grow up. Second chances come along. In the meantime, I could choose to savor this moment. What good would it do to allow annoyance to interfere with gratitude?"
~ Katrina Kenison

I've been sick; so, so sick. For days. So have all four of my stay at home girls. I hadn't left the house in five days until last night when I forced myself into the car to drive my eldest daughter out for the evening, hoping some fresh air would do me good. It didn't. I came home, picked up toys and miscellaneous detritus around the house and put myself and the two babies to bed.  The night continued for well over an hour more while I struggled with D to get her to sleep. When she finally found sleep, it was quick, and she woke up just an hour and a half later and was up to be up. I was frustrated, desperate, and weary. Sleep is lost on me and it has been for almost 15 years now. I've become accustomed to certain levels of sleep deprivation but boy, was I thrown for a loop when all of a sudden I wasn't sleeping either because of baby or because my nose was so stuffed and I felt like my sinuses were going to explode. Needless to say, I ended up walking around with my baby, both of us crying. I tried rocking her, I tried reading to her, I tried just holding her. The rest of the house was silently sleeping and we were up, tired and miserable. It was awful.

Eventually, and I'm sure after we'd disturbed his slumber long enough and my sobs became white flags (or red flags), Lee came in and took the baby into the empty bed that he steals when it's left for a night and I was finally able to sleep a couple of hours. Man, was I a sorry sight and lacked of grace. 

The short of it is this: being home sick is one thing. Being home sick with four sick littles on top of that is quite another. I've had a hard time mustering up the strength and the wherewithal to keep myself up let alone four other dependent souls who are also feeling just as needy as I am. Everyone needs to eat, drink, be changed, needs help facilitating an activity, reading to, snuggles, nursing..... I've been sick before and have had to care for one or two others at the same time but this!!! This takes the cake! 

We've eaten very little and mostly the same things. We've been drinking lots of tea and have had lots of screen time. There's been some really wonderful moments of quite play and painting and play dough making and story writing. There's been singing and dancing and tissues piled high into towers. There's been snuggles and nursing sessions and chats that last for hours.

There's also been pleas from me to "Please.....just let Mama rest. Please.....let's not nurse now. Please......not right now." There's been bickering, fighting, crying (lawd has there been crying).  It's hard to be the-stay-at-home-all-the-time parent because you can't leave your work behind a day to two for a sick day. You can't leave early and go home and nap while someone else cares for the children and household duties. There's no one to care for you. That part is hard. For someone who struggles with self-care issues like I do, taking pride in caring for myself is a jagged pill to swallow. But, I'm trying. I've spent the better half of these five days in my bathrobe. I've had copious amounts of hot tea. I've snuggled and watched lots of movies with my girls. I've sat in my favorite sit spot in our home watching the girls as they play at the table, or sleep in the high chair, or read a few pages of my favorite books. I've caught up on emails and blogging. There's much to be grateful will all be over soon, and we will all be well and back to our healthy, active, vibrant selves. 

This is what I have to keep remembering: how fortunate I am to be here now with all of these girls and to be able to sit with them while they sleep, how fortunate I am to see them sleep mid-day while most other parents don't have that opportunity, and instead of feeling annoyed by the constant pull for my attention when I'd rather lay curled up in my bed and have my Mom take care of me.......I'll be thankful that I can get up and make another cup of tea or hold my girls in my arms or nurse my toddler and baby for their comfort. I can do that! No one else. Me! God has given me this gift of caring for these little beings, he's entrusted me with their well-being. Even when I'm feeling inferior and not up to the task.....I have to remember that I am! I wouldn't have been charged with the sanctity of this job if I weren't up to the task.

So, as I get ready to make yet another cup of Throat Coat tea and watch my toddler paint her nails all by herself because it keeps her happy for an extended period of time and yes I know it's a huge mess that she'll leave behind and I probably won't clean it up :) I ask you this: How has being a parent been a challenge for you? What have you wished for that couldn't be fulfilled? If you have challenges, how are you able to ease the struggle?

I'll leave you with these beautiful words from Katrina Kenison:

"Not a day goes by that I don't still need to remind myself that my life is not just what's handed to me, nor is it my list of obligations, my accomplishments or failures, or what my family is up to, but rather it is what I choose, day in and day out, to make of it all. When I am able simply to be with things as they are, able to accept the day's challenges without judging, reaching, or wishing for something else, I feel as if I am receiving the privilege, coming a step closer to being myself. It's when I get lost in the day's details, or so caught up in worries about what might be, that I miss the beauty of what is."

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Epehmeral Fall

"You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. " ~ Earnest Hemingway

Hello my dears. It's been a long time since I last visited this place. I've been feeling this pulsing in my heart to open up this page and see what had been left to season, wonderful. And what a gift. I'd forgotten how much I loved being here and how much I loved putting my thoughts in one place to be seen, to be felt, to be heard. If not by anyone else but me. 

It's been a few seasons since my last blog post. We've seen the end of winter, spring, and summer and now we are peeking around the corner to winter again. This Autumn we are currently in has seemed to pass by so quickly. It's November, it's cold now and there is snow. 

We have seen the harvest come and go; trees, vegetables, chickens, hogs. Our woodpile is bulging at the seams ahead of time (a new thing for us!!). Time has eluded us, as always, but we've managed to sneak in some really beautiful and life-giving moments. 

Breathtaking rock walls have been built that will withstand a century's time or more. I'm finding these walls to be a symbol, an emblem of where Lee and I are as human beings walking this journey together. This last year was hard on us, our tests many, mostly failed, and we walked away from each other many times. We found ourselves in a place that was so unfamiliar that neither one of us had the tools in our tool boxes to mend what was broken. We tried, Heaven knows we did. Most days we looked at each other and swore the other was as unfamiliar as the journey we were on. It was heartbreaking.
Having that as our experience, I can tell you this...... it wasn't all for naught. We made it through one of the darkest years of our decade together and came out the other side able to express our adoration and gratitude for the other more in than we'd been able to in years. But we KNEW it! We FELT it for the first time. Simultaneously, we experienced the genuine and unique love that we held in our hearts always, but now we could express it and feel it. We could look at each other and feel that old familiar flame, if you will. We're smiling. We're laughing. We're holding hands. We're thinking about dating each other and what we can do to remind the other that we are present, committed, here because we want to be, and because we are deeply and zealously in love with the other. I'm envisioning our love like a stone wall. One that has been meticulously built with strong and mighty bodies and eagle eyes seeking the perfect stone to strengthen the foundation. I imagine that our wall travels like the snake; curving, fluid, and flowing gracefully around each obstacle that may be in it's path. Our wall is grand and pronounced, it can be seen for miles. Our wall is a landmark. Our wall represents the kind of love that lasts through lifetime after lifetime, the kind our great-great-grandchildren will remember for all the stories of the trials and tribulations but overcome by celebration and adoration. 

And as fleeting as this year has been, it has been as full as they come; babies and children growing wild and free, businesses thriving, abundant gardens, micro-vacations, adventures to new places, a child off to school, saying good-bye to loved ones, holding on and caring for dear ones who are sick, building up and growing within our community, baking, creating, celebrating.

As the winter grows nigh, I'm left with the resonating message in the quote above:

"But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen"

and I carry with me the warmth of the love that is shared within our family hearth. 

Blessings on your journey, friends. I look forward to keeping this fire going and enjoying my time in this space with all of you. 

~ Marcy

Friday, February 28, 2014


"A certain darkness is needed to see the stars."

Phew! This past month has been a doozy. Between the emotional warring, the physical barrage of exhaustion and coldness (inside and outside), the suffering of deep sadness, and the inability to understand "why?" I am more than ready to show February the door. 

I spent a bit of time this morning looking into what I believed had to be the reason for all the turmoil around me. I have a tendency to think that when everything goes awry it must be because something is happening on a cosmic level. Ironically, I'm usually correct, in particular, this moment, this past month, and even the next month ahead. I'm not adept in astrology by any means but I do appreciate those who are, especially when I see what they are suggesting at work in my own life and those around me. 

Since the beginning of February we have been in the throes of an infamous Mercury Retrograde; a slowing down and a seemingly backward trajectory of the planet Mercury. Most people put blame on this celestial experience when their life goes topsy-turvy with communication break downs, cars breaking down, friends or family becoming ill, etc. The caveat being these things usually all happen at once, within days of each other. And they do. All of them. It's quite astounding, really. For example, in my world for the past month the following happened:: a dear friend of mine lost one of her closest, most dearest friend unexpectedly, another dear friend's young son was diagnosed with cancer, I lost a friend from lifetimes ago through tragic circumstances, a woman in my life that I love so dearly has been battling her third go 'round with cancer, my mother's illness has begun to spread again within her body, we've experienced disappointing communication break downs within our community leaving us with no choice but to rehome our Shetlands, my anxiety, which was relieved and seemingly healed after the birth of our baby, has resurfaced its fiery and toxic self leaving me paralyzed in fear and despair and unable to sleep at all soundly when I'm afforded the chance. It's brutal. It's dark. It's lonely. This, my friends, is Mercury in Retrograde.

Before I'd realized that a cosmic event was truly at work, I had been afforded the gift of "surrender" (so I thought). I had been feeling overwhelmed with grief and sadness for so many, for myself, for the world at large, that I finally had to surrender to it and actually feel it. This, of course, was when my anxiety persisted. Those gnawing, stabbing headaches started first, then the achy and twitchy muscles, followed by the horrific sense that "the other boot" was about to drop. Top that off with a pounding heart and racing thoughts and you've got a pretty clear image of me over the last few weeks. I surrendered to the sadness, to the reality that I couldn't fix or fade the sadness that those around me were feeling. But I didn't really surrender......I distracted. I did. I baked my ass off. I jumped in headfirst to find ways to push away the sadness and do something for those around me. This was my idea of surrender. This is not what real surrender looks like. I was on the right path when I realized that feeling the sadness that swelled within me was a way to surrender to it. Then, something in me wasn't up to the task so I (truly unknowingly) switched from feeling to doing, allowing me then to stop feeling. Make sense? Over the last week I was sure I was going to implode. If my heart beat any faster, if my mind raced any faster, they each would run right out of my body. Last night, my dear sweet husband came to my rescue. He helped me to surrender. I lay crying in bed, he came to our room knowing that I was neck deep in the trenches (he knew it before he even reached our room. Divine intervention?) He sat with my as I cried and cried. Deeply and thoroughly cried. He said the words out loud that I was too afraid to say to anyone. He heard me, even though I hardly said anything, he heard me. My love gently reminded me that it was OK to feel what I was feeling, to feel them, let those feelings swim around and take up residence, surrender to them. He reminded me that these feelings are a process to release; the pathway to reaching the other side of it all.

 His words reminded me of the spiritual warrior that I am and the gift we all possess to change our consciousness at will. 

I went to bed meditating on the ideas that all that I have felt these past few weeks have brought me deeper to understanding the fragility of life, the preciousness of it all. I'm turning my sadness in to awe by seeing these moments and measuring their worth and  that idea led me to this passage by Ralph Waldo Emerson.....

"Write it on your heart that everyday is the best day in the year. He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety. 

Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt have crept in. Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense.

This new day is too dear with it's hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays."

.....and this song that I love so much::

I guess what I'm coming away with from this particular Mercury Retrograde is to surrender to love. Even when those around me are suffering, even when I am suffering, if I can truly surrender and just let it all wash over me, I'll be better off in the long run. My anxiety will have no place to hide because I can only believe that anxiety, fear, and sadness can not sustain itself in love. 

With a little help from my friends (literally and figuratively) I now have a plan that will support my emotional and physical body to overcome this exit out of the current cosmic pull into the next. This is all just one big mountain that needs climbing, and I can sense the summit is near. I am honored to climb this mountain with all its sharp and jagged edges because that means I am alive. I am alive to see and hold those that I love so well, to feel the world spin around me, to one day walk outside and feel the warm sunshine and grass under my toes (dreams of summer commence). In the meantime, I'll just keep working on my courage.

"Don't wait for something big to occur. Start where you are, with what you have, and that will always lead you into something greater. Love takes courage. Be Courageous." ~ Mary Manin Morrissey

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Edge

By February, I'm just about hollowed out: wool and bones.  I can be by turns randomly aggressive and spontaneously weepy (Marcy finds this somewhat amusing by this point in our life together). I've worked outside for the majority of my adult life, and I wouldn't dream that away for a moment.  A known facet of this choice, however, is the Claustrophobia of Cold that encroaches every year around this time. The Devil I know.  I'm necessarily in it every day, all the time, with no escape hatch.  (We all live in a winter submarine...c'mon, sing with me!)  Last year I had steady work on a larger job and I whisked us all away to a hotel with a pool, hot tub, and television for the weekend; that kind of escape is just not in the cards to be dealt this winter, and it basically bums me out (for lack of a more apt descriptor...).  And so I keep working, keep moving sheep and feeding chickens at dawn and dusk, keep building things and moving materials, keep putting on that forty pounds of clothing.  Again, this is by no means a complaint so much as a premise.  And, okay, maybe whining a little, but I digress.  Just a premise. 

We live, as it was put recently, 'on the edge'.  To say we're paycheck-to-paycheck is somehow remarkably romantic an expression: it's scary as hell sometimes.  It's a choice of lifestyle more than anything (one cannot serve two gods, after all), and maybe someday all the cylinders will fire in cosmic synchronicity (whoa..!) and the money will be more abundant.  For now, I serve my God in my works, by which I mean I need desperately to create, to be creative, with my mind and my hands, and to put me inside behind a desk (I've tried.  God knows I've tried a few times.) is to cage an animal and watch it pace at the door.  I also thrive on care: the rhythm the sheep provide for me is invaluable; the chickens bring me so much joy; and without my family I'm pretty sure I'd dessicate and scatter in the wind (did I mention my tendency for hyperbole?).  I could, and in the past have, sacrifice the creation and care aspects for money, but what that means for me is to not serve something higher, something more true and authentic about myself.  (I don't mention the impact on the family, and it has proven severe, because I feel it's likely superfluous in this milieu.)  So I serve my God in care and creation as I'm able and trust is true. 

We have burned four and a half cord of wood this year.  A lot for our little home.  I only bucked up three cord in the off-season in preparation, as we've not used much more in the past couple of years.  And so with humility, a heavy heart and hat in hand, I asked our dearest friends (and by great Grace, neighbors) for some firewood to get us through.  We dug through a pile in the yard and loaded my truck last weekend, for which I was very grateful.  When I returned home, I backed the truck up to the bare woodshed and dropped the tailgate, and this event transpired.  
 I stood staring at this load of icy, snowy wood I was now going to need to unload and felt this incredible, forceful wave of gratitude.  The wood, of course: it provides us with heat.  The kindness and generosity of our friends?  Without question.  But coupled with these was this sense that I was being presented, on a grand scale, a blessing, a lesson, a....I still don't really know how to describe it other than to say at that moment I felt close to my God.  This pulse that reverberated through me was the koan,
"Magical power,
marvelous action!
Chopping wood,
carrying water..."
As I ruminated on this (which I liken to a deep, far-off-feeling meditation) while stacking wood, the blessing, the nearness I felt washed over me.  There are workshops, corporate retreats, entire businesses created to provide us with lessons on this, but it's simulacrum: it cannot be authentically grasped without living it.  The blessing is the edge!  If we don't have this wood, we have no heat.  If I don't carry the water to the animals, they don't survive.  And much of this is metaphorical, but some of it not.  The gravity of chopping wood and carrying water is equal to the importance of living and dying on a terrifically (sometimes terrifyingly) tangible level.  Perspectives are vastly different from here.  Here's how my thoughts run (just to clarify, because this seems important to me, not because of my typical ebullience.  Probably...) :
If I have not known the edge, maybe I never really gave too much thought to my actions.  That blanched, plump, plastic-wrapped chicken I picked up from the supermarket is pretty far removed from hatching, raising, and processing these roosters we've been eating.  If I can afford the relative ease of oil, why on Earth would I want the headache of a woodstove?  If I can avoid lifting and moving and walking miles over hill and dale, in all kinds of weather, wouldn't I?
Years ago these things were coming up for me.  I remember thinking about the health benefits of being in motion, of being outdoors, of sourcing my own food. More recently I recall talking to the children about animals, vegetables, growing and harvesting, questions of dominion and the paths-to-spiritual-paths this carries with it.  Questions, and ones that ring of higher Truths to me, if only in the seeking.
For me, the trade-off thus far has been financial, and, by degrees, comfort.  But I've been spartan, often monastic in my efforts to find a better understanding of my God for some time.  And I guess maybe that's the gambit for me: I define myself as a father and husband actively and perpetually seeking a dearer relationship to my God.  There exists no conflict for me in serving my family, our animals, and my God: they are each an expression of the other.  Needs are met and love is in abundance in these relationships, and thanks to the edge, I can see that very, very clearly.

It's not for everybody, nor should it be, but I needed desperately for you to know so you can see where I live, in my mind and my soul, and that I'm not just bat-sh*t crazy. 
Not that I've taken that option off the table.

I'm really glad you've allowed me to share this with you.  Thank you. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Homeschool:: A Day in the Life

"I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning."          ~ J.B. Priestley

A Day in the Life
~ with a newborn (Daphne), 20 month old (Seraphina), 4 year old (Kiki), 6 year old (Charlotte), 12 year old (Bella) and 14 year old (Casen)

Mornings are precious in our home. We are slow and warm and still pretty sleepy because the day begins quite early. Lee is up before dawn to get Casen and Bella off to school and do farm chores, letting me catch up on a little shut eye since I'm up nursing our baby throughout the night. The three younger ones get up with Daddy and have breakfast. By the time I come out, Lee is heading out of the door for work. The girls and I settle in to getting dressed (some days), a movie, listening to some music, drawing, or just quietly (or rambunctiously) playing. Today, we all got dressed and turned up some nice folky tunes and let the morning ease on by.

While we've only been trying to incorporate a bit of formal homeschooling into our rhythm since last year, we've always been a "life's full of lessons" kinda family. At this time in our life we're striving to build a mini homestead on our land, complete with chickens, sheep, pigs we share with our neighbor, and the never-ending task of garden plans and upkeep. We've had many successes and failures but as we look to the Springtime we are hopeful for a more "productive" season; both with our education and farming.

Our little school room

Our school room space is really our old living room turned dining room turned school room. Our home is less than 1000 sq. feet, which for eight human bodies, two cats, and a large breed dog, can feel pretty tight at times. I don't have all the storage space I crave, finding an empty space to gather ones' self is usually not an option, and the noise permeates the entirety of the house. We've all compromised something to live in this small space so we can lead the lifestyle we are choosing. Our homeschool space may just be the most organized space in the house. What you see in the picture is all we need; a table for working and a bookshelf to hold our supplies. < The other pieces of furniture you're seeing are our dish cabinet and my craft supplies dresser which doubles as a place to hold our printer and our cats >

Learning about Abstract Art

Our homeschooling schedule is built around the baby's nursing requests and meal times, diaper changes, naps, and when I can find the energy to wrap my head around a lesson. Seraphina (our 20 month old) has minimal capacity for distraction. She always seems to know when someone is trying to get her involved in something. Most days she won't even fall for it making it really difficult to steal away any moment long enough to complete a lesson.

All that aside, the homeschool rhythms we are creating are very rich, motivated, beautiful, and full of joy and exhilaration as we all learn something new together.  Charlotte and Kiki (our 6 and 4 year olds) are the only ones homeschooling full time right now but we supplement the olders as necessary (they go to our local public school). We are using Waldorf and Charlotte Mason inspired curricula for our homeschooling and use those same principals to help our older children with their lessons from school. 

 On a "typical" day we might have some time in the morning/early afternoon, while Daphne is napping or Seraphina is distracted, to begin our main lessons with Charlotte. Kiki will either work along side of us drawing or "writing" or asking a bazillion questions on whatever topic is at hand. She is only 4 so I try to let her lead me for when she's ready for a learning lesson. Depending on where she's at, you might find Kiki and Seraphina teaming up for a dual distraction like this:

A bit of Curious George for the win!

 While I'm not always pleased with the amount of screen time the younger ones get during the day, sometimes it's the only thing that allows Charlotte and me a bit of time to really dig deep and have a nice, full lesson. The lessons we manage to do everyday consist of spelling, writing, reading, math, and handwork. The lessons we are less consistent with are language arts, science, and social studies.  We do those in blocks and tend to complete them in a good amount of time, but less frequently. I sit and plan out what specific lessons we will do either that morning or the night before. Not having a plan scheduled out a week or more in advance works for me because I am then free to augment our lessons to fit where it is we are at at that moment. Having a plan and then not following it, for whatever reason, brings up feelings of failure and overwhelm for me. So, for now, this works. On a "typical" day we are able to get our lessons done in about 2-3 hours. Other days we will scatter the lessons as we need to throughout the day, usually finishing well before supper.

Learning to read has been Charlotte's biggest accomplishment. She's been working so hard, all self motivated, so we spend much time sitting (which happens often while I'm with our nursling) and reading. This is one part of homeschooling that I love so much; seeing and experiencing all the "firsts". 

Tandem packing our littlest girls

Seeing as I am only 5 weeks postpartum, I have a lot in the way of muscle building to do to be able to accomplish this feat with any regularity and longevity. Our toddler loves to be in a back pack and packing the newborn is sometimes the only way I find that I can be hands free. This set up may just be the key to the girls and I being freed up to accomplish things like: cleaning our wool fleeces, working in the garden, tending to the chickens, painting and other in-depth crafting projects (which we adore), going for walks, heading to the park and other outings, etc.

The weather this winter has been so frigid so the girls and I haven't spent a lot of time out of doors together. That being said, when Daddy is home, the youngest girls have someone to pal around with so I am then able to have more focused time with Charlotte and/or Kiki. Daddy,however, will bundle the girls up and get them outside. This is their "do work" time which usually consists of activities like cleaning the chicken coop, getting hay for the animals, visiting the neighbors, going for walks, building something, playing in the snow and ice skating, running errands etc. Sometimes all of the girls go which means I'm afforded some time to get my household chores done or just spend some quality time with our baby.


Here is a little snapshot into our homeschool rhythm based on a "typical" day::

Morning:: 6am-10:30am (some things we do during this time)

We wake and have breakfast, get dressed, read, play, listen to music, draw, play with play dough, watch a movie, check the chickens/bring out the compost, have snack, snuggle with the baby, get Seraphina down for a nap, nurse the baby, wash the morning dishes, get the laundry in the wash, phase one of play space clean up (with a small house clean ups need to happen more frequently throughout the day)

Afternoon:: 10:30am-1:00pm Homeschooling hours

Spelling, math, writing, reading, science or social studies, language arts, art, music (alternating days for the last 5 subjects), the littles may have a movie, play, or draw. Between lessons I'll switch the laundry to the dryer, prepare a bit for lunch, and try to finish my first cup of coffee (which is inevitably cold)

Late Afternoon:: 1:00pm-2:00pm

We have lunch and then rest for a bit during this time 

Later Afternoon:: 2:00pm-5:00pm (some things we do during this time)

Have a snack, play, read, handwork, draw, bake, do household chores (clean up school room/play spaces), go outside (the bigger girls do this on their own), prepare for dinner, welcome the big kids home, shuttle big kids to their various after school activities, have afternoon tea with friends

Evening:: 5:00pm-10:00pm (some things we do during this time)

We have dinner, welcome Daddy home (if he's working), chat about our day, clean up dinner, have a crazy dance party to work the wiggles out, help the big kids with their school work, have baths, get into pjs, the littles are in bed by 8pm, and Lee and I hit the hay somewhere around 10pm after we spend some time together catching up and preparing to do it all over again tomorrow!


I realize this is not a traditional homeschool experience, but like all experiences, they are deeply personal. This routine is what works for us right now in the season of life we are in. I'm sure as we all change and grow, so will our routines. If there's one thing I've learned, it's this: 

"The less of routine, the more of life." ~ Amos Bronson Alcott

~ Thank you for visiting our Homeschool Day in the Life ~


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Keep Calm Craft On: Valentine's Hearts

"A hundred hearts would be too few
To carry all my love for you." 
~ author unknown 

I'm joining Nicole at Frontier Dreams for her Keep Calm Craft On linkup <3

 Getting back into a crafting rhythm has been hard around here lately. Our toddler is still quite young and is only interested in a few crafty type projects and for only minutes at a time (coloring, drawing, playing with play dough). The bigger girls are ready and so eager for bigger projects but between the two dynamics, I'm finding it hard to balance between keeping Seraphina happy and occupied as well as the bigger girls. With Valentine's Day around the corner, the girls were eager to make some heart decorations. We've managed to miss all of the festivals since Christmas so it was nice to sit the girls down for a project that will brighten up our home and get us in the mood for some Valentine's celebrations.

We made some crayon shavings with our box grater (Charlotte was able to take this task on)

Kiki spread them all over our waxed paper

Then I gave Charlotte our crafting iron (heated on low) which she then pressed all over the crayon shavings that were sandwiched between two pieces of waxed paper.

Charlotte and Kiki squealed with excitement and awe over watching the melted wax dance all over the paper. It was so wonderful to hear.  Their eyes lit up and sparkled as they imagined what the hearts would look like hanging in our windows.

Sometimes it's only the simple things. 

*** Visit our sister blog, A Simple Life, for a more in depth tutorial.