Monday, August 28, 2017

Wild Goose Academy - our adventure in home education

I had a friend tell me once that you should never reveal the name of your baby until he/she actually arrives, as this will save you from hearing all those stories about your baby's soon-to-be-name.

"Oh, I knew a ________ back in grade school. He would beat little kids up for their lunch money."

"Oh, that's my cousin's name too! Well, at least it was before she joined a commune and became Butterfly Sparkle Princess."

Et cetera.

The idea was that no one tells you these stories once your little bundle of joy is staring them right in the face. Makes sense to me.  And I guess you could say we took the same tack here...

Welcome to Wild Goose Academy!

The "classroom"

The lesson plans

New books, new binder, new pencils

We are here!
Today was our first day of school - and I couldn't be more pleased with how things turned out. That might be due in part to low expectations (I just didn't think the wee girl would be cooperative) and it was definitely due to reading this blog post last night (so well timed, one could only say it was from God... especially when this morning I found out we had (not enough) eggs and the little dude was running a slight temperature. How in the world did she know?!?)

But whatever it was, no one could be more surprised than me at how willing the wee girl was to just jump right in: Morning Time - pray, sing, read. Check! Get ready to go play - then play. Check! Run an errand, come home, have lunch, put the little dude down for a nap. Check! Make lemonade - measure, count and add. Check! Read our first chapter of Farmer Boy, do an oral narration... ok the narration was a little like pulling teeth, but it's our first time, so check! Extra credit: make a bookmark for our book. Check!

Ok, that makes it sound like I'm happy because we checked things off a list and that's not entirely accurate. I'm really happy because the wee girl was so happy. All. Day. Long. When I shared this with him, my husband pointed out, "Well, she got a whole day with Mommy," which stopped me in my tracks. Doesn't she always get a whole day with me? (And then some?) But no. She doesn't always get days focused on her. Today was special because I was focused on doing things with her (and if I didn't know it already, then I learned it today - quality time is totally her love language).

What my husband also reminded me of was one of the reasons why we wanted to home educate in the first place: family relationships are important and we want to cultivate those relationships through the time we spend together. When I first articulated that value, I had thought about it purely in terms of sibling relationships - I want them to love and take care of each other - but I had totally forgotten the parent/child relationship benefits from this as well. *smh*

I know not every day will be like today. (In fact, I'm fully prepared for tomorrow to be everything that I feared today would be - minus the lack of eggs part. I fixed that during my errand run today.)

But I will celebrate today. I will be (already am) thankful for this beautiful start to what I hope will be a year full of discovery. And I will ask for the wisdom and guidance to make more days like this one happen.

I think we're going to have a good year.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Lord Will Provide - My Sunday Best - 08

I'm sitting here on my bed typing this up, listening to my little dude pound the wall with his... feet? Head? Hands? I'm not sure, but whatever he's using he's doing so with great force and gusto. Much like in this picture below:
So please forgive me if, at the moment, my only thought is "Lord, please provide at least an hour's nap so we may all have an enjoyable evening."


Skirt: it was a maxi skirt that I picked up at Costco... seems to get shorter every week
Shirt: Old Navy Maternity
Shoes: just some flats from Target
Bump: 29 weeks

We had a guest priest from India today, here to do an appeal for the missions work that he's a part of back in Calcutta. We also brought our lovely niece with us to Mass too, and at one point she looked at me and asked (in hushed tones) "Auntie, what language is he speaking?" (Me: LOL!) His accent was a little thick, but I think the novelty of it helped keep the kiddos quiet (well, it was that or the extra coloring materials their cousin brought with her) because I was actually able to listen to most of the homily today!

The Gospel was the story of the Caannanite woman, who's persistance and iconic line about even dogs getting the scraps from their master's table, made Jesus exclaim "O woman, great is your faith!" Father used this line as the jumping off point for talking about other people with great faith - notably St Theresa of Calcutta and also Abraham. The story that stuck with me was Abraham's. In Father's retelling of Abraham obeying God's command and offering Isaac as a sacrifice, he said that Abraham's only prayer through the whole ordeal was what he also told Isaac, "The Lord will provide." Abraham didn't tell Isaac, "God has asked me to kill you and I'm just not going to do it." Nor did he say, "Sometimes God asks us to do hard things. And right now, even though I love you greatly, I'm going to offer you as a sacrifice because I love and fear God more." He only said, "The Lord will provide," and continued forward with the plan.

Who can say what was really going through Abraham's head? The writer of Hebrews posits that Abraham must have believed that even if he killed Isaac, God would raise him from the dead (Heb 11:17-19). But I wonder. If it's true, what Father said, that the only prayer on Abraham's lips for the 3 days he journeyed to Moriah was "The Lord will provide," well then, that sounds far more like a desprate cry of the heart to me. And in those moments of desparation - where all I can do is say the same prayer over and over again - you can be sure I'm not using my spiritual imagination to think up ways that God can answer my prayer. I'm just hoping beyond hope that He *will* answer my prayer before it's too late.

The closest I've ever come to that kind of desparation was when I was in labor with the little drummer above. It was a natural, unmedicated labor that was becoming far more intense (for me) than the labor that I experienced with his sister. Close to the end, I had what I can only describe as an epiphany, "We're not both going to make it through this. One of us is going to die."

(I will pause here to mention that midwives are very familiar with this kind of talk from laboring women - and in fact, they take it as a very good sign that labor will actually be over very soon. So everyone present was prepared and ready to go for that last important push.)

But back to me. In that moment, I knew I had to choose: either I give up and my baby would die, or I push through and I die. To me, there was no third way. And I remember (wildly, desparately) thinking "God I hope your offer of eternal life is true... because I so want to see this baby grow up."

Father's encouragement was that when we make that sacrifice, God will meet us there and say to us what he said to the Caannanite woman: "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." (Matt 15:28)

I don't think Father meant for this to be some version of a prosperity gospel - where you can "sacrifice" something in order to gain something better from God - as his examples of Abraham and St Theresa were profound enough to (hopefully) discourage that kind of thinking. Rather I think he was acknowledging the spiritual reality that God meets us in our moments of desparation and confirms what we madly hope in faith to be true: that God does actually love each one of us and desires life - real life - for us all. We may not know what that's going to look like, but if we can trust Him, we know it will be good.

Join Rosie over at her place - she's canning and freezing and basically making hay while the sun shines - oh, and she's the one who hosts My Sunday Best too. It'd be good to say hi. :)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A New Library (to) Love

I feel like a bit of a cheat to say this, but...

...I think I found my new favorite library. The outside is nothing spectacular, but of course, like all the good things, it's on the inside. When you walk in the "New Arrivals" are well presented, front and center. The kids' area has a wee... dome? rotunda? with a fresco painted in it of literary characters and a little stage for putting on puppet shows. I love that. There's even a book "store" (a room of used books for sale).

It's just too bad it's in the next town over. (And yes, I *can* hear the snickers of all you folks around me who think that driving to Rohnert Park is an issue. Let's just say, "Different strokes..." mmm, kay?)

In any case, we loved taking the little field trip this past weekend to a different library - and as a result, I picked up a few books worth sharing:

The Kraken's Rules for Making Friends
So, around here, we are not above the occasional bribe to get behavior we want - i.e. would you just stand still and let me brush your hair, please?! On one such occasion I found a video combining two of the wee girl's favorite things - Lego and ocean-stuff - and it was just the right length for getting her hair brushed and in a pony tail. (If you've got 7 minutes, it's fun and worth a watch.) This was how she learned about The Kraken - so when I saw this book in the library, I knew we had to check it out.

It's definitely quirky, and some of the Shark's rules (yeah, it's actually the Great White who makes the rules) rub me the wrong way - but the overall message "Be the friend that you want to have" and the illustrations, and of course The Kraken, have made this a winner here.

Pancakes, Pancakes!
It was the wee girl who had a very valid insight about this one: "Why is it called PancakeS? There's only one!" Which is true. But it's a great story about how one *really* makes pancakes (you gotta thresh wheat to get the grain, and feed chickens to get eggs and milk cows to get milk, etc...) AND it's illustrated by the beloved Eric Carle (substitute "iconic" if he's not beloved at your house). Even though I find this to be a bit on the long-side for a 2.5 year old, it's actually been the 2.5 year old who has requested this book every day since we brought it home. He likes it a lot (and I do too)!

Today Is Monday
Another Eric Carle one. There's only a few words - but one of them is "ZOOOOUP!" so it's a hit at our house. Apparently, the text is from a song, and the sheet music is included at the back. I have yet to fire up the keyboard and plunk out the tune, but it looks catchy. :)

Songs and Story: Cars
A friend introduced this Disney/Pixar CD series to me. Each CD has a few songs from the movie and then a dramatized (and much abbreviated) narration of the story afterwards. This is the only other audiobook that I've been able to get both kids (but mainly the wee girl) to listen to - and I can't tell if that's because she's familiar with the story, or if the character's voices are included, or what. In any case, when she turns it on I have at least 20 minutes of "quiet time" to myself, so I'm not complaining! It's well done too, so I'll be looking into the others in the series.

That's the best of the best here! What have you been picking up at your library (or the next town over's library)?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

A Little Bit of Community - My Sunday Best - 07

Just barefoot and pregnant - though my husband
insisted that I not (also) be standing in the kitchen
for this picture ;)
Hey look! I found something new to wear to Mass! Thanks, Mom! :)
Top: H&M  Skirt: Old Navy  Bump: 22 weeks

We made it back home! It really was so nice to be back in our home parish - seeing familiar faces, singing songs also so familiar I don't need to hold the book for them (a definite plus when those hands are needed to pull wandering boys back into the pew *ahem*). I think the kiddos also appreciated being back on home territory - if nothing else, they were back where they get their own special bread after communion! And they were pretty well behaved (knock on wood?) so I even got to hear some of the readings and homily.

Today's first reading gave me a lot to think about today - most all of it pretty superficial, I have to admit. (Sorry.) First of all, the Shunammite woman: she decides she wants to build Elisha a room, and one sentence later, BOOM. It's built and Elisha's moved in.  Clearly, this is a "woman of influence"! We started our own building project last year, and have yet to even break ground on the project, much less furnish it with a "bed, table, chair and lamp."  Though it's not for a lack of trying! (What do we gotta do to find a contractor around here??)

But really, it was her hospitality that struck me. Hospitality is truly a gift from God - when done right, people open right up and community is forged. I'm always awed by it when I'm on the receiving end, or even when I just witness it for someone else.  That's why I was so grateful to meet a few ladies after church today for a little park picnic. We had "met" through Blessed Is She's regional group on Facebook and decided to get together IRL this afternoon. Our kids ranged in age from 2 to 14, but they all seemed to get along great and us moms got a chance to introduce ourselves and learn a little bit about each other. It really was a lovely afternoon and we ended with plans to get together again next month - so I think, "Success!" But as always, glory to God - because it had very little to do with me and a lot more to do with Him (and the mom who brought the package of cookies to share)! What's been your best experience of hospitality (giving or receiving)?

Rosie, her sister and I are (apparently) barefoot buddies this week... head over there for more MSB community!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Do Not Be Afraid - My Sunday Best - 06

I should be packing things up right now, but the lure of blogging is stronger than my desire to be responsible. This is always the hardest part of any trip for me. Well, to be honest, packing *for* the trip is harder than just packing back up to go home, but either way the act of packing reminds my body that change is on the way. And *that* is the hard part: forcing my body to change its environment and routine. (And again, let's be honest, forcing my body to get on a plane. I haven't quite reached the point where drugs are necessary to get me through a plane trip - and I hope I never reach that point! - but we've considered it more times than I care to admit.)

Just me in my pregnancy-standard Mass outfit, Saint Margaret
 of Scotland and a wee little photo-bomber.
Which is why, upon reflection, today's Gospel and homily were more timely than I first considered. " not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Matt 10:31) God cares for us more than we let ourselves believe sometimes - and Jesus reminds me of this often.  Because of God's love my fear is truly unfounded. But what I find odd though, is that in this gospel reading he basically says, "Look. If you *are* going to be scared, at least be scared of the right thing. Let's get our priorities straight here. Don't fear people who can just kill your body. Fear the one who can kill your body AND soul." I need this no holds barred kind of talk sometimes (especially when I'm about to get on a plane.) And just in case I missed it in the gospel and the homily, the priest also said it as his parting remark as I was shaking his hand and leaving. "Do not be afraid!" All I could say in response, was "Yes, Father!" But Father was African, and I think the way they say it around here is more entertaining/endearing:

The Scottish equivalent of "Keep Calm and Carry On"?
So yes, we're getting ready to go home... I'm sure you won't mind then letting me take this opportunity to dump some photos of our trip on you (and should you want to skip this part and head back to Rosie's for her My Sunday Best, then go ahead and click away. I won't hold it against you ;) )

See you back State-side!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

(not exactly) Library (but still a whole lotta) Love - UK Edition!

Do you have a particular topic of conversation that, no matter how many times it comes up, you always seem to bumble through it? I always feel like a bit of a dope when I talk to people about my husband because usually at some point in the conversation, I have to share that he's Scottish (cause otherwise the next part of the story won't make sense or something like that). And 90% of the time, that piece of news is met with "Oh yeah! I've got some Scottish in me too." To which I then need to clarify, "No I mean he's really Scottish. Like from the UK." It seems such a simple clarification to make, and I don't know why, but after nearly 9 years of marriage I still flub it by saying weird/awkward things like "Yeah, fresh off the boat!" as if he were a catch of Atlantic salmon or something. (When will I be able to figure this out?)

But speaking of flubbing things - how's that for an intro? Uh... yeah! We are currently in Scotland visiting my in-laws, and for the first time we planned it so that we would be in one spot for the whole of our visit (rather than hopping on to a new place every 4-5 days). I was really hoping this would pan out into a trip to ye olde local library, but so far that hasn't happened and probably won't. Fortunately, my in-laws are library loving folks just like us, so we haven't been at a loss for books to read! These have been our favorites this time around:

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy
This one is the little dude's favorite (and it really is more appropriate for the birth to 3 years crowd). Simple rhymes, cute dogs and one "terrible tom" who's caterwaul requires some theatrics from mom to pull off all make for a sweet little read before bed.

There's a Bear on My Chair
Another one for the 0-3 year olds, though saying that, the wee girl enjoyed this one too. Maybe because the mouse's tantrum throwing at the end was very "pigeon-esque"? Or maybe it's because she's really understanding the concept of rhyming words now... or maybe it's the bear? (Or maybe it's just a well written, well-illustrated children's book Sara. Hence the award stickers on the front cover.)

Mr Tickle and the Dragon
You can't come to the UK and not see the Mr. Men and Little Miss books by Roger Hargreaves. They're ubiquitous, and for a while I wondered why - after all, one of my favorite books (on cassette tape!) was Mr Tickle - but then of course, it dawned on me: he's British (Hargreaves that is. Not Mr. Tickle.) Normally I'm not a fan of series that have become so commercialized that even after the author has died, new books keep coming out - but this story is decent and it fits in with the bit of a dragon kick that the wee girl has been on lately. Sooo... keeper.

Sugarlump and the Unicorn, and Fox's Socks
What's a trip to the UK without finding a new book by Julia Donaldson? Her rhymes and stories are just the best. Sugarlump is a story about a rocking horse who wishes he were somewhere else, and eventually learns the old "be careful what you wish for" lesson - but don't worry, it's still a happy ending for him. Fox's Socks is a simple rhyming book, either good for beginning readers or good for the 0-3 crowd (my brother-in-law has an adorable 11 month old, hence all the books for that age range).

I feel slightly bummed that I haven't come across a knock-out hit this time around, but nonetheless these have proved a strong showing. So, like the weather as of late, I really can't complain. ;)

What have you been reading lately?

Monday, June 19, 2017

What's That Bright Thing In The Sky? - My Sunday Best - 05

Three years ago, when we took my sister and brother-in-law to Scotland for their very first trip to the UK ever, we had the most gorgeous weather... beautiful blue skies with white fluffy clouds, and hardly a drop of water to be seen (unless of course, you were looking at a river or loch). It made for dramatic landscapes and was truly stunning. So much so that my husband and I commented on it nearly every day, "You guys are getting the *best* weather here! Truly!"  After we got home, we continued to talk about it. It was that remarkable.

Fast forward three years... and last week, we arrived here with my parents for *their* first ever trip to the UK and... alas. The weather has not been as "show-offy."

In a much more typical Scottish fashion, it has rained nearly every day we have been here - sometimes all day, sometimes just on and off - but regardless, gray and cloudy 24/7. Really, the kind of weather one is much more likely to expect in Scotland. So I'm not complaining, I'm just sharing all this as a preface for my MSB picture:

Same-o same-o skirt and top. Bump: 20 weeks

Pardon the grimace, but it's bright out! Sun! Yay!! (Ouch!!)

A Blessed Corpus Christi to you! In a funny coincidence, we celebrated Mass at a church with the same name as our home parish: Holy Spirit. Half-way around the world and same name. What are the odds of that?

On our way to church, I told the wee girl that while the name of the church would be the same as our church there were probably going to be some things that were different too. So she suggested that we play a game: she would look for all the things that were the same, and I would look for all the things that were different. Honestly, I would have been more interested to hear about all the things that she noticed that were different - especially since the only thing that she said was the same were the "colors". (The colors where, honey? The ones the priest wore? The flowers? She wouldn't elaborate, so I guess we'll never know...).

So, would she have noticed the priest was African? That the music was accompanied by organ?  That we spent time in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament and chanted in Latin? Or that the walls were decorated with mosaics? There were so many things that struck me as different, especially when I tried to imagine the view from her perspective and experience.

It was a good game to play I think. It got me thinking about the things I still need (and want) to learn (the Latin prayers being first and foremost), and about the things that I want to teach the kiddos. The amount of "material" (for lack of a better word) that is part of our faith really is overwhelming. I hope the kids and I always find that to be a source of inspiration rather than a cause for despair.  At the very least, I know that when things get to be "too much" I can always fall back on the Eucharist - the real and true presence of our Lord - always present to us and helping us to get home. Corpus Christi is a good day to celebrate indeed.

My MSB is a day late and a dollar short, but that just means you all can see everyone else's posts over at Rosie's! Do stop by and share the love. :)