Archive for October, 2011

i never once forgot about this blog series, but have had pangs of guilt over not posting these last few days, for sure!

this weekend, my parents took the boys for two full nights so that kenny and i could celebrate our anniversary (10 years!!!!). we had the best time fine-dining, antiquing, eating bakery goods (pumpkin and chocolate gobs!), wine-tasting, and driving through the gorgeous fall colors of western PA.

when we returned, sawyer, who was sick when we left, had shared his cough and cold with his brothers. so we’ve been in hibernation mode for the past two days, and hopefully we’re coming up out of it today. the boys were so excited about their adventure over to Nana and PopPop’s house, and we were confident that they were in good hands the whole time we were gone.

being gone renewed my desire to open a Bed and Breakfast one day. sooner rather than later, but still later. now is not the time. even though we’re scouring “Bed and Breakfasts For Sale.”


recently i suffered a strained lower back which kept me from being comfortable in any position, but gave me a few days off from my normal house duties.

which was humbling. because i had to really trust that the house wouldn’t melt or explode without my constant care and straightening up.

today, i am caring for a sick child, whose voice is gone (except when he yells for yet another yogurt-pop, and then it’s hilariously hoarse), and who is running a slight fever. his brothers think that they get to lay in bed and watch Return of the Jedi along with him.

and i’m letting them.

sometimes, a school day from home looks completely different than a regular school day. but it’s still a school day. we just move rooms! today, my older and younger boys learned to care for their sick brother. and we played math games on the computer. and we read stories out loud together.

during the ending scenes of  Return of the Jedi, when Darth Vader saves Luke’s life  by throwing the Emperor over the rail (oh, sorry…i should have warned you about that spoiler), sawyer said in his little screechy-scratchy sick voice, “the first time we watched this movie, Daddy explained to me that no father likes to see his son be hurt. not even Darth Vader.”

and that’s what i hope he remembers most from today’s lessons.

last wednesday, i introduced to you the physical heartbeat of our home: our kitchen table.

i encouraged you to keep your family meal table healthy and clean, organized and always ready to nourish your family.

if you watched last night’s republican debate, charlie rose was the lead moderator and just like he does on his own program, he had all the republican candidates sit around a table, “where conversations happen.” (i promise, that’s as much politics as i’ll go into on the blog!)

i couldn’t agree more.

when kenny gets home from work and i encourage him to put his feet up, he sits at the kitchen table with me as i prepare our meal. when we call a “family meeting,” it’s around the kitchen table. and when we do a family activity or play a game on game night, we gather around the table.

i hope you find time to gather together, and have conversations with each other this week.

there are several valuable benefits that we’re already experiencing from our homeschooling life. but one of those things pops up on a daily basis: flexibility!

~ taking a day off when we need/want to, and making it up any day of the week.
~ being able to “do school” any time, any day of the week.
~ going to places as a family without the crowds.
~taking more vacation days when we want to, and not when the school calendar tells us we can.

yesterday was Columbus Day. our co-op, which normally meets on Mondays, took the day off. i was going to keep it a normal at-home school day so we could clock the day on the calendar and still take an extra day off around Thanksgiving when we’d rather have a full week off, instead of two days.

halfway into the morning, none of us felt much like breaking out the books and having an hour or so of lessons, so we did some review lessons and called it a day. the rest of the time was spent as a vacation, even though i charted it as a school day.

some days are “light” and some are packed with work. it’s figuring out the balance for your family that is the art of schooling at home.

when we lived in pittsburgh, kenny and i were members of Church of the Ascension, an episcopal church where we were later married. i was so fortunate to be able to serve on the Altar Guild for several years while we were there.

if you ever find yourself in a liturgical worship service and have no idea what is going on, and why there is so much “stuff” involved in the service, just find yourself a member of the altar guild, and s/he will be able to tell you the meaning, the purpose, the reason for each part of the service.

serving on the altar guild was like walking alongside the chef at a 5-star restaurant before dinner service; it was akin to helping your grandmother prepare the thanksgiving meal for your extended family, using heirloom recipes for each course, ironing the linen, and polishing the silver, all to create an incredible dining experience for the paying customer, or the family member.

the preparations for the Easter Vigil every year were monumental. we usually split into teams for monthly rotations, but Holy Week was prepared by the entire Altar Guild. the candles were replaced with new ones; the altar linens were washed, pressed and replaced; the frontal on the altar was changed to the festival one; and all the vestments of the priests and deacons were washed, and prepared for the biggest of celebrations: the resurrection of our Lord.

and that was just the preparations for the altar! there were still hundreds of lillies and easter flowers to prepare, and the baptism font to ready for Vigil baptisms.

Easter was my favorite season to be involved in. it was the time to make everything new in our worship setting, just as Christ’s death and resurrection has made us new.

monday morning is the start of the working week. what can we do in our homes at the start of each week that enriches our daily life? our daily chores, though on the surface can seem like something in the way of our true calling in life, can be meaningful actions of love to those we serve. i know i don’t get a daily “thank you!” from my kids for keeping their clothes washed and folded, but i wouldn’t be doing my best as their caretaker if i kept them in dirty, wrinkled clothes.

maybe you don’t think household chores are as important as those tasks you do at a paying occupation.  or maybe to you, as they are to me, they are the underlying currents of your day, wafting above and around us like the incense rising from the thurible at the altar.

Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense…  Psalm 141:2


sorry about the late posting of yesterday’s “rest” post. it was meant to go up yesterday, to prepare your heart and mind for today’s day of rest!

it is just about peak leaf season in our part of the world. the trees are bursting with their autumn colors, and the sun is making them shine even brighter.

for today, i hope you are able to really enjoy the season. to help your taste buds enjoy, here is a new pumpkin bread recipe that i love (i have two, one is always a winner, and this one a bit more healthy,  tastes great and you can feel good about eating it!)

Nutty Pumpkin Bread (from Simply in Season)

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup sugar (or sucanat)
1 cup brown sugar (or demerara)
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp each ginger, nutmeg, cloves
2 1/2 cups pumpkin
4 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup pecans
1 cup dried fruit (i skipped this!)

Mix together the flours, wheat germ, sugars, soda, salt and spices. Make a large well in the center.
Add pumpkin, eggs, oil, nuts, and fruit and mix just until all of the dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter into 2 greased 9×5 loaf pans. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven about 45 minutes (depending on your oven).

(click a line to listen…and rest)

come to me, you weary one…

and I will give you rest, 

for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light

take Me upon you, I will give you rest.

this is what i look forward to these days: chilly, fog-filled mornings alone on a track. i’ve missed it so much this week, as i’ve been trying to take care of my lower back which gave out on me last saturday morning unexpectedly.

i realized how much i take advantage of a strong back. every single movement we make is supported by a strong, healthy back. and when one small part of that back isn’t working…pain!

i welcomed my run again this morning…a few short months ago, i would have dreaded every minute of a run on this track. this morning, as i ease back into my training runs, i’m so glad to be back! i’ve come to love this time as a focus time for the day. also, i love that i’m feeling healthier than i have felt in years by running regularly. i find that striving to be a healthy mother and wife (both mentally and physically) makes me a better mother and wife.

how do you take care of your physical and mental health?

believe it or not, when you choose to homeschool, you do still get “me-time,” and “girlfriend time.”

your kids also get lots of friends of all ages to see regularly. today is such a day for us. my bookclub is meeting at my home this morning. i’m blessed to hang out with great friends every other week during the school year!

and this photo is exactly what our gatherings usually look like!


without thinking about it much, i wipe down, clean, set up and clear off the kitchen table several times a day. our family meal table (aka, the kitchen table) gets quite the workout on a daily basis.  i’d even go so far as to say that it is used more than anything else in our home (and with three young boys, our washing machine, dishwasher, and bathrooms get quite an amount of use, if you know what i mean!).

recently, we got a new kitchen table. it’s larger, and has two extra chairs!  believe it or not, our family of five was crowding around a small circular table with four chairs since we moved into this house. we were outgrowing it, and tearing up the cushioned seats rather quickly. regardless of its small size, we spent our days and evenings around it.

we eat at our table, it’s part of our counter top (especially when the boys are involved in cooking or baking with me), i knead bread on it, we have school at this table, we do art on it, i make lists, and plan meals on it. and every night, we gather around it together for our family meal. it is certainly the one place where you’ll find us every day.

i read once that the place where your family gathers most in your home tells a lot about your family. think about where you would find yourselves most on any given day (especially those of us that are raising young children). when i read that, i immediately knew it was in our kitchen, at the table –   a place where one would go to be nourished. so i began to take care of it more:

~ if it was stacked with books and magazines and mail at one point in the day, i’d clear it off so that we could sit down to eat our meals.
~ recently, on our busiest day of the week (tuesdays), i’d light candles, since we don’t get to eat our dinner until 7:30, due to classes at the Y and soccer practice. it’s dark, we’re all rushing in from rowan’s soccer practice hungry and thirsty. it’s a welcome sight to see dinner already made (i’m learning some crock pot recipes for days like this one!), and the low glow of the candles to usher us through the meal, into bedtime.
~along the same lines, i’m very protective of our meal times. i make it my full-time job to put good food on our plates, and we all sit down, every night together for dinner. no matter what our afternoon or evening looks like.

there are evenings when dinner isn’t so…graceful. i’d love your ideas on how you focus attention on good conversation. if kenny’s been in the office, he usually asks the boys how their days were. sometimes we ask what their favorite thing about the day was.  i’ve seen families pass around a “question of the night” box which is full of conversation starters. i think that’s a great way to get your family talking, and keep them talking.  we’re at the point in our boys’ lives where we’re constantly reminding them of table manners: “elbow off the table! don’t talk with your mouthful! too much food on your fork!” sometimes it seems like dinner is one long reprimand.

i’d love your ideas on how to keep dinner time a time of nourishment and enjoyment!

in the meantime…go to your family gathering place, and think of ways to continue to protect it as a place of nourishment of the mind, soul, and body for your family!