Week’s Notes

The Lenten wreath went up this afternoon, and putting away Christmas decorations now. The bitter cold and snow made it hard to part with the tree throughout the month, so I left it up extra long this year. But Lent has come, so it’s definitely time.

Several times I’ve made my own version of St. Brigid’s bread on Ash Wednesday, since the Irish saint’s feast is early February. My only change is that I used half whole wheat flour, and half oat flour (made by pouring oatmeal in the blender and pureeing for about two minutes) simply because I think it tastes  good that way. I don’t think this is the recipe I used in the past, since it was a little drier than I remember, but it still made a very nice ‘fasting bread’ for this week.

Mourning the tragic events in Florida this week. Words fail each and every time this world faces such an activity of depravity. Miserere Domine.  

Listening to this Gregorian hymn for the start of Lent. Translation here.

 

{p,h,f,r} February edition

{Pretty}

The spoils of a 50% off sale at a local nursery that now inhabit my windowsill. I had been hoping to expand my indoor garden for a while, so I responded eagerly to the billboard outside advertising the sale. While I planned on bringing home one or two, somehow I brought home four. Hey, discounts that deep only come around in January, right? Carpe diem!

I love the furry rhizomes that slip over the edge of the plant’s pot, and give the Rabbit Foot Fern a name almost as charming as the foliage. Maria has a different idea, however, and has dubbed this my “tarantula plant.”

{Happy}

I’m on the countdown to a trip out to visit my family’s new home. I’ll also get to meet my youngest sister, born about three months ago at the beginning of November, just three weeks after the family transplanted from Midwest to the hometown of the California gold rush.

{Funny}

My feathered friend Gamgee, who came all the way from Virginia on Delta airlines last October to be my friend. A true people parrot, there’s no shenanigan he won’t devise in order to get some attention from me. He’s just getting in some new brighter plumage on his face, and will be shedding his duller baby feathers over the next few months.

{Real}

This morning, I wanted to take off my coat and shout, ‘spring!!!’ That’s what 30 degrees with sun feels like after shivering through -5 degree mornings.

 

~ {pretty, happy, funny, real} ~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~

Antipodes

I am off to a terrible start with my New Year’s resolution to post at least four times a month. Life lately has not been overly busy, but it has been disorienting to say the least.

I rigidly controlled my routine through college, as the structure was the scaffolding preventing me from tumbling from the cliffs of textbooks into the whirlpool of homework. Now, I have to let go of that expectation to embrace a rotating work life.

 

Antipodes: the parts of the earth diametrically opposite, the exact opposite or contrary

 

Night shift, day shift. Routine, flexibility. Order, chaos. Hospitals never close, so much of my time is spent in the rocky transition period between polar schedules. Sometimes every gear in circadian rhythm protests loudly, preferring to run like clockwork.

I’ve never realized how much energy is saved by having routines. I’ve never had to debate whether I should wake up in the morning, but deciding when to start the day when “morning” is 7pm is exhausting. The first few months of this schedule I felt I walked on alternating sides of a fault line between nightlife and daytime, with seismic activity during each transition.

Now I’m beginning to have a set of routines around my new needs, and have begun getting up an extra half hour before starting out to enjoy the morning, making sure it includes coffee and Gregorian chant. And I know just how much of the day I can use ahead of an all night jaunt, and it often includes a trip to the gym to get some extra energy to start off.

Homeschoolers on Field Trips

I have taught and nannied many groups over the year, coming in contact with students from all educational backgrounds. I’ve taught a homeschooled science day camp three years in a row, and ballet classes four five year with a mix of student backgrounds. I’ve nannied for children who attend private and public schools, as well as for many homeschool families. Throughout these visits, several consistent themes emerged in what set the homeschooled children apart from their peers.

The differences can be subtle, yet they are distinct enough that I am usually able to guess a child doesn’t attend traditional school. Here are a few of the differences I noticed in taking both homeschool and public school students on field trips.

  • Homeschooled children spent much more time in the moment. I spent an hour putting together a picnic lunch, we unpacked it and at beside the small waterfall at the center of our city. Had I done this for my siblings, or any of the homeschooled children I’d spent time with before, they would have loved every minute of this. I’m used to watching children explore the area and make the most of new surroundings. Usually, they would choreograph movie scenes on the rocking landscapes, look for new shells or insects, or collect sticks and build a miniature fortress. Instead, these children finished their lunch and promptly wanted to return home to their previously planned activities for the day.
  • Homeschooled kids asked more questions. Walks with a homeschool group turn into an interrogative session quickly. Usually, research and discussion on the topics continue long past the conclusion of the field trip.
  • Children in traditional school seemed habituated to field trips in and new experiences in comparison with those I grew up around. I noticed how they were used to being served field trips in an almost prepackaged format, being funneled through in a group with little time for personal decisions on where to linger and learn.  I took a family of public schooled children to the zoo, and was astonished at the way they simply walked through the exhibits. They never paused to read any of the signs or watch how the animals were behaving.
  • Children who are homeschooled are used to being in mixed age groups. One effect of this is I notice that on trips they often spend a lot of time teaching the younger students what they know as they walk along. Since they are comfortable with many age ranges, can strike up a conversation with a peer their age, much older, or younger. Even a conversation with an adult is not daunting.

 

New Years Daybook

Outside My Window… frigid air coming in at -20 degrees below 0.

I am thinking…  very fuzzily, having just gotten off of three consecutive overnight shifts at the hospital.

I am thankful for… modern heating.

From the kitchen… Not much, as it has been a very busy week. I have been keeping a steady supply of fresh cranberry sauce on hand, as I found out last year how quick and easy it is to make. Cranberries are also full of vitamins and other healthy compounds.

One of my favorite things…  Lights glowing around the room. Christmas lights, an artificial candle, and small lamps bring some cozy warmth to the evening.

I am wearing…  sweaters and scarves. The heavy ones, which I just went hunting for at the back of my closet.

 

I am reading…  Some reflections from Mother Theresa from her private letters. A very interesting study of the meaning of Faith, and the differences in emotional and supernatural experiences.

Teresa of Avila spoke of God’s courting of the soul through many different methods. Sometimes, he does this through allowing His Grace to be near and felt, and the experience of joy is very pleasant to the senses. This felt prayer can be the only way we allow ourselves to approach our God in this world of constant pleasure and stimulation. Many of the saints have experienced an even deeper call from God when, after showing a soul the sweetness of His love, He withdraws this consolation. John of the Cross wrote that this pulls the creature to look past the earthly sensations and be aware of their complete and total need for God.

Mother Theresa wrote very honestly about this, and her words show the real meaning of complete faith, in good times and bad. A faith that illuminate not only the dark cities of India, but also the world as the nun gave witness to Christ before both the humblest dying on the streets and in the glow of the spotlights amidst world leaders.

 

Stories That Made my Young Brothers Want to Read

Books for boys can be hard to find, especially for encouraging early reading. These books were all books that my brothers heard small sections from, and then went to go find the book by themselves.

Easy Readers

Sam the Minute Man by Nathaniel Benchley 

Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express by Eleanor Coerr

 

Slightly Higher Reading Level

Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

Five Children and It by Edith Nesbitt

Joseph not only read this book, but it’s sequel as well

 

 

Change of Seasons

Bare branches stretch skinny fingers to the sky, like hands outstretched to the sky reaching for the lush foliage they held just a week ago. One swift windstorm was sufficient to strip the trees of their royal robes of red, bronze, and yellow, and now they must stand in their poor man’s bark. The landscape is scarcely recognizable from the cheery golden sight a week ago. The forceful autumn gales have painted a winter scene along the city streets.

On the other side of town, a house encases a vacancy which a week ago ran over with a thick stew of life. In one corner elbows jostle till a fight ensues, and cacophonous voices spill into the hall. Another corner guards a muffled conversation, hushed till mirth wins out and unfettered laughter bubbles over. The sound of many stories woven one upon another. Now it is merely a shell, separated almost even from the memory of the people who called it home. The rooms stand bare, imagination struggles to replace everything the way it had been before.

A new chapter begins, a new season. For them, and me. They seek new adventures half a continent away – California will be their new home.

Our Family’s Favorite Outdoor Wilderness Adventure Books

Books for boys can be hard to find, but when I asked the young men in our family which ones they couldn’t put down, they had plenty of answers. Here was the favorite stories about wilderness adventures and the outdoors. This category holds some of the boy’s most treasured tales

 

Middle School Outdoor Books for Boys

My Side of the Mountain

Hatchet

Fall Garden Wrap Up

The brightest flowers from the garden are fading, so it’s time to gradually undertake garden cleanup. After locating the garden shears in the ever shifting garage whirlpool, I started cutting back the excess foliage this week while the sunny 65 degree days last. Of course, the weather decided to be contrary, so I haven’t been able to make nearly as much progress as I’d planned.

Late summer Rudebeckia flowers show some of my favorite autumn colors.

Though this year I put little time into managing the vegetable garden, there was a sizable crop this year. The raspberries that have had lackluster production for many years sent some runners into the old compost pile. In one season they became the most prolific species in the garden. Two ‘Big Boy’ tomatoes in bottomless 5 gallon buckets also produced way more tomatoes than we can eat. The only difficulty was the number of tomatoes that split open for the insects after summer rainstorms. I will have to be more proactive in picking ripe fruits before we receive four inches of rain.

Daniel, Dominic, and Joseph helped me make several new stepping stones this year.

Two out of the three grape plants planted way back in May of 2015 came into their own this year with the first notable crop of fruit. The surviving varieties were Edelweiss and Bluebell-hardy seeded grapes with lovely names.

Two large bowls were filled from the harvest. A friend showed me how to can the grapes for juice, and after a days work cleaning and canning we had ten pints to show for it!

The compost pile and the worm box also were major successes this year, and we’ve never processed as much material before.  Four or five yard bags of leaves fueled the worm habitat over the winter, and with only slight attention (adding a bit of water and stirring about once a month) all had turned into ‘castings’ by spring- the most nutrient rich and microbially alive super fertilizer available naturally.

The tiny masters themselves:

The local coffee shop dedicated a box for me when I called to ask for their used grounds for directly around the plants:

I have a slightly strange fascination with decomposition. I’m not sure if it started during my presentation on fungi for the science fair in 6th grade, or later on when I started trying to figure out the best source of compost for growing vegetables. Either way, I’ve started several compost piles that had more fresh material than dried, and weren’t able to get an active composting process going.

This year, however, we had plenty of leaves to mix with the rest of the non-meat kitchen scraps, which made up about 1/3 pile. We mixed these with a few more bags of dried leaves. The resulting pile was about four feet in diameter, and two and a half feet high. The size meant that a lot more turning and watering were required to keep both air and water evenly dispersed throughout the mix. I usually enlisted John’s strength to help me with the heavy lifting, and pulled in more than a few of John’s friends when they were around. It was really interesting to watch the process, as for weeks on end nothing seemed to happen, but then one week I came out to turn it and found there was not a single recognizable scrap of food visible; all had broken down into a light soil.

A surprise pumpkin grew out of the compost pile (the final resting place of last year’s jack o’lanterns). The richness of the compost manifested itself in the size of the vines, which outpaced all other foliage in the vicinity.

Baby pumpkin

The pumpkin stands almost a foot tall on the family porch, to the younger children’s delight.