{this moment}

{this moment} – A Friday ritual.   A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.  If you’re inspired to do the same, visit Soulemama to leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

A Retreat in my Mind

You know that place that the visualization gurus tell you to find.  Your happy place.  A place where you feel completely relaxed.  A place where you can close your eyes and imagine yourself there.  A place where your hunched up shoulders relax, the tension just melts away and for one brief moment, all is right in the world.

Sometimes those gurus forget to tell you that it’s got to be a place that’s written on your heart…it’s got to be carved into your DNA so you can feel it, smell it, truly be in it.

I have a place like that.  A place I slip away to when the kids are bouncing off the walls, the checkbook is missing and the bills are waiting to be paid.  A place where I feel totally accepted and happy and stress free.  A place that I can smell and see and feel when I close my eyes.

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It is a place carved into my heart.

It’s a retreat of my mind.

But this retreat wasn’t imagined into being.  It was once a real retreat.  A retreat where I walked barefoot and relished the native plants growing wild around me.

A retreat where the sun streamed in the windows and there was no pressure to do or to be, no expectation to meet.

A retreat where my kids’ eyes shone a little brighter with the immersion into a captivating summer world complete with jars of fireflies, bowls of freshly picked ripe black raspberries and adventures exploring a winding creek.

It was a home away from home.  Made possible by the thoughtfulness of one amazing vacation rental owner.

The details were attentive and deliberate.  We felt welcomed in as if the home had been waiting just for us to arrive.  The fluffed pillows, the soaps scented with essential oils, the throw over the back of the couch for the evenings when the sun had set and a chill settled over my feet.

The books on local flora and fauna just waiting to be looked through, the telescope aimed directly between the break in the trees so we could catch glimpses of stars far away.  It was all so incredibly thought-out, as if we were long-awaited guests not simply renters.

But it wasn’t just the property.  We were smack dab in the middle of a luscious valley that sparkled with waterfalls and blossomed with plants brought to the area many years ago by the Shawnee Indians.

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It was an adventure with medicinal flowers and edible plants and zip-lining through the tall trees.  It was quaint restaurants, long bike rides and the library of a nearby university lined with oft-coveted pre-1963 books.

It was lovely.  Absolutely lovely.

There is not a bad memory from that week.  Not a fight or an angry word.  Not a frustrated sigh or an impatient glance.  It was as if time stood still and we all remembered that kindness matters.  It was a moment to snuggle and whisper late into the summer evenings.  It was a moment to read with abandon, a moment to write with heart.  A moment to breathe.

And sometimes that’s what we need.  A moment to breathe.  A moment to re-live the happy moments.  A moment to escape our reality and find ourselves immersed in a peaceful memory.

There is value to visualization.  Value to remembering happy moments.  Value to imagining ourselves somewhere happy.  It gives us a moment to recenter ourselves.

It allows us to remember what that peace feels like and to find it again in this intentional moment.

 

 

 

{this moment}

{this moment} – A Friday ritual.   A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.  If you’re inspired to do the same, visit Soulemama to leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

{A Glimpse into an Intentional Life}

Sometimes we get so focused on the destination that we forget to look down and see where we are RIGHT NOW (and what’s beneath our fast moving feet).  Slow down today.  Be mindful of everything around you, not just what’s ahead of you.  That’s intentional living.

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Being intentional is easier said than done. It’s easier imagined than executed. So here’s where we inspire you every week with a simple picture and a few words. Think of this as a chance to help you realize the simplicity of intentional.

Be inspired. Allow gratitude and joy and beauty to sneak in with every intention. And then won’t you come back and share your moment with us? Or leave a link in the comments to your blog where you celebrate {A Glimpse into an Intentional Life}.

A Letter to My Hardworking Husband (from a grateful stay-at-home mom)

**This is pulled from the dusty archives (circa 2017)…kind of a second chance for old words…so if it looks familiar, it’s because it is.  Here’s hoping that it inspires you to live a little richer, breathe a little deeper, and appreciate a little more fully.**

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Dear Hardworking Husband,

The alarm clock rings.  I barely register the sound in my subconscious.  Quietly you flip the switch and pad noiselessly into the hallway.  You sneak out under the darkness and begin your day, careful not to disturb the sleeping souls you pass on your way out.

Meanwhile, I snuggle a little deeper under the warmth of our duvet, resting my head next to a sweet baby’s cheek.  Daylight slowly creeps in.  Little feet pad into my room and crawl up in bed with me.  Tiny voices whisper sweet love songs into my ear as we snuggle and watch the rays of light dance across the bedroom floor.  I am grateful for this moment.

Out in your office, you down a few cups of coffee and hit your day head-on.  The phone rings, text messages buzz and the fax machine hums.  You, my introverted loner, plunge head first into a day full of noise and people.  Today’s equivalent of slaying dragons.  And you do it for us.

I spend the morning knee deep in mundane tasks…making the beds, cooking the breakfast, washing the dishes, doing the laundry, but unlike your day, my day is interrupted by gleeful accomplishments (the baby said “mama!”, the toddler learned to hop, the preschooler read his first word, our school age children learned a new skill), little hands pressed into mine and moments of gratitude.

You spend your day busy, staring at a computer screen, calculating numbers, running averages, estimating costs.  Or perhaps the monotony is broken up by an appointment with a client.  A meeting with co-workers.  A training session.  Even jury duty when the time comes.

It’s not all drudge for you.  You have the luxury to make it through a task without getting sidetracked.  You can make a phone call without an interruption.  You can listen to music while you work.  You can concentrate.  If you need to run an errand, you can do it without buckling anyone in or keeping anyone’s hands off of everything in the store.  You can set your own schedule, change your mind on a whim, potty without an audience.

I spend my day chasing children, cleaning up messes only to discover new ones in my wake, educating (sometimes ungrateful) bright minds, juggling four little souls with all of their idiosyncrasies.  I cook, I clean, I wash, I educate, I discipline, I love.

But if I had to choose?  Between your world and mine?

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I’d choose mine.  Time and time again.  Hands down.  No hesitation.

And you make that choice possible.  

I am grateful that I am able to stay home and witness the growth and change in these little people we created.  I am grateful that I get to experience the power of innocence and the wonder of childhood.  I am grateful that I get to fill hungry little bellies with good, home-cooked food.  I am grateful that I can stop in the middle of a moment, grab four eager little listeners and snuggle up on the couch for a good story.  I am grateful that my kids know the security and familiarity of a steady home.  That they get to continue growing and thriving alongside me, the same me that nurtured them inside my womb and brought them into this world.  I am grateful that I am the one that gets to wipe fevered brows and rub upset tummies.  I am grateful that it’s me they run to for comfort, it’s me they ask for advice, it’s me they write love letters to.

I realize that for all my gratitude, my life is nothing without you.  Without a foundation, a home has no ground on which to grow.  You make my lifestyle possible and it is because of your hard work and sacrifices that I get to stay home and count my blessings.

So thank you.  Thank you for getting up early.  For thriving in a world that tests your limits.  For responding with earnestness to the genetic call to care for and provide for your family.  For slaying dragons on our behalf.  Our kids don’t realize how incredibly lucky they are.  But I do.

I love you,

Your Stay at Home Wife

 

{this moment}

this-moment-with-every-intention

{this moment} – A Friday ritual.   A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.  If you’re inspired to do the same, visit Soulemama to leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

Puppy Love

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Sometimes we just need to feel loved.

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With a non-judgemental love.

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With a love that tickles us all the way from our hearts down to our toes.

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With a love that feels completely mutual and requited.

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With a love that accepts and understands and makes us feel like everything is just right.

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Sometimes we lose perspective and the day-to-day worries of life threaten to weigh us down.  We forget how loved we are.  We forget how important we are.  We forget we matter.

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Sometimes we have to take all that anxiety and worry and forget about it for some blissful space of time.

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Sometimes that blissful space comes in the form of romp with a furry friend.

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Or wet hands making a difference in one little friend’s world.

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Sometimes anxiety melts away when we’re free to feel loved.  Even the anxiety that weighs us down day after day.  It all just disappears.

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Because sometimes spending our precious time with someone who completely depends on us  enables us to remember that we are each important.

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Sometimes we just need to be reminded that we matter.

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Because we do.

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And sometimes it takes a tiny critter to remind us how very important we each are and how very loved we are.

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A furry little critter who adores us just because.  No actual reason.  Just because.

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We could all benefit from love like that.

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*These photos were taken while volunteering at The Puppy House, an amazing non-profit foster home tucked into a little corner of South Texas.  The Puppy House is a refuge for pregnant mama dogs and their puppies until they reach an age where they can be fostered out or adopted.  You can contact Jennifer Turner at thepuppyhouse@yahoo.com or message The Puppy House at m.me/PuppyHouseTX for more information or to donate to her very worthy cause.

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August Daybook

Outside my window…there’s a whole lot of fun going on in the pool.

I am remembering…a visit with The Fabachers.  And to think it all began with a dinner at Bennigans

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I am thankful for…time spent with my sister.

I am watching…this squirrel.  I just about had a scare when I first saw him sprawled out like that…I thought I was going to have to scrape him off the front walk.  Apparently he was cooling off.

I am wondering…what these two were thinking.  It almost seemed as though they were looking in a mirror.

I am hoping…for rain.  It’s been a dry, dry summer.

I am pondering…the idea of another herbal make-and-take.

I am laughing…about this photo…

I am planting…medicinal herbs.  My sister found us a place in Austin that grows herbs…medicinal herbs.  And they have tons of transplants.  Now I just have to see if I can keep them alive.

I am reflecting…on the idea that all boobs are good boobs.

In the schoolroom…It’s always rough starting a new school year in July when everyone else is still lounging by the pool but it sure feels good when I start seeing first day of school photos and know that we’ve already gotten 6 weeks done.

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Around the house…reading.  I’m reading.  They’re reading.  We’re reading.  It’s all good.

I am wearing…a bathing suit.  Because who can resist a dip in the pool with so many eager little people?

We are preparing for…the Redwoods.

Someday I am going to miss…lizards in this kid’s pockets.

I am reading…a whole lot of random books.  Random only in that I feel a little all over the place as far as what I’m reading to stay ahead of my kids.  Not random as in unplanned.  All of the books on each of the school shelves this year are there on purpose…lots of thought and love went into planning book lists this year thanks to my ADE consultation and any tweaks I made using The Plenary’s form guides.   (These photos do not do credit to the rich and beautiful education my children are receiving.  Charlotte Mason is about so much more than just a list of books.  Thanks to the suggestions of wise folks like the ladies at ADE and Rachel over at A CM Plenary, our year is bound to be a journey that takes us all a little deeper in our educations…it is full of the good, the truth and the beauty.  The books pictured here are only the tip of the iceberg for us.  )

One of my favorite things…the sun coming in through the school room window in the morning.

A peek into my day

Please visit The Simple Woman’s Daybook for more daybook entries.

Nature Study: Cicadas

I love the sound of August in Texas.  I walk outside into still damp heat and hear the loud hum of cicadas all around me.  It marks the peak of the summer season for me.  It’s so hot and sticky and loud and it almost makes me agitated but there’s something magical about the song these cicadas are singing.  And it’s just as I get used to their raucous music that they disappear as quickly as they came.  Summer ends and so does the daily serenade.

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My first encounter with a cicada was years ago when I discovered its exoskeleton hanging on a tree in my front yard.  At the time I knew nothing about cicadas, mistakenly calling the thing a locust, the crop eating, Bible swarming insect that is native to Europe and not even found in America.

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Cicadas, on the other hand, are gentle creatures who don’t bite or sting.  They simply hatch, burrow underground to grow and then emerge only to mate and die.  Most cicadas have a life cycle of 2 to 5 years, but some have 13 or 17 year life cycles.  But that knowledge came much later for me.

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My interest in cicadas was peaked when I read David Rosenberg’s book Bug Music.  The idea of periodical cicadas and their growth underground captured my imagination. Rosenberg’s poetic description only sparked my interest more, “It’s the slowest sonic beat in the animal world. It’s a sound that can be used to mark the phases of a human life. It’s a mathematical conundrum, an unearthly wonder of animal sound. The cloud of insect music you can barely recall. When you last heard it, you were just settling down. The time before that, you were a teenager. Before that it was the year you were born. The next time you hear it you might be a grandfather. This time the song arrives, you are smack in the middle of your journey through life.”

I can only imagine the surprise of early colonists when the cicadas appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.  Governor William Bradford said, “… all the month of May, there was such a quantity of a great sort of flyes like for bigness to wasps or bumblebees, which came out of holes in the ground and replenished all the woods, and ate green things, and made such a constant yelling noise as made all the woods ring of them, and ready to deaf the hearers …”

Last year we visited the Oso Preserve on a Tuesday morning and joined in on a guided nature walk.  The cicadas were loudly humming and the nature guide that morning was full of cicada trivia.  He taught us which cicadas were making which sounds.  Here in South Texas we have annual cicadas (as opposed to the 13 or 17 year periodical cicadas).  Annual cicadas have a life span that typically spans 2 to 5 years but because they appear every summer, they’re considered annual.  The kids and I were fascinated.  We began trying to identify the summer backdrop noise everywhere we went.

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We recently attended a porch talk out at the Oso Preserve and had the opportunity to learn about some common cicadas here in South Texas and how to tell the difference between males and females.  It was a fascinating talk complete with resin casted cicadas and sound recordings to train our ears.

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The males are the noisemakers.  Most insects that make noise do it by stridulation which is the act of producing sound by rubbing together certain body parts.  Crickets and grasshoppers use stridulation.  Not cicadas.  They have membranes in their abdomen, called tymbals, that allows them to make noise.  ThoughtCo explains it as follows:

The adult male cicada possesses two ribbed membranes called tymbals, one on each side of its first abdominal segment. By contracting the tymbal muscle, the cicada buckles the membrane inward, producing a loud click. As the membrane snaps back, it clicks again. The two tymbals click alternately. Air sacs in the hollow abdominal cavity amplify the clicking sounds. The vibration travels through the body to the internal tympanic structure, which amplifies the sound further.

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Cicadas are true bugs.  True bugs are an order of insects that have a probiscus, a long tube-like mouth.  Cicada is a latin word meaning tree cricket.  Cicadas are notoriously bad fliers, often bumping into things.  They remind me of the armadillos that we saw at South Llano but unlike armadillos who have bad eyesight, the cicadas faulty flying appears to be linked to the design of their wings.

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The life cycle of the cicada is truly fascinating.  The female cicada makes a groove on the tree branch where she lays her eggs.  The eggs hatch and the cicadas look like tiny white ants.  Once the young cicadas are ready, they crawl out of the groove and fall out of the tree and burrow themselves underground where they feed on tree root sap and stay for a period of time…anywhere from 1 year to 17 years.  When they’re ready, they crawl out as nymphs and finish their metamorphosis.  The nymphs crawl to a nearby tree where they shed their exoskeleton.  Now adults, the males begin to sing to attract females.  They mate, lay eggs and the cycle begins again.

 

There are over 100 species in the United States, with at least 50 of those here in Texas.  Some of the common ones seen down here in the south include the Scrub cicada (Diceroprocta azteca), the Little Mesquite cicada (Pacarina puella), and the Superb Dog Day cicada (Neotibicen superbus).  Texas does have periodical cicadas but they’re seen mostly in north east Texas.

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For more information regarding cicadas and to hear the different species, be sure to check out Cicada Mania!

*I am fortunate to have amazing naturalists here in my area and some of them were consulted in writing this post, including Texas Master Naturalist, Justin Quintanilla, and Caleb Harris, education coordinator at Oso Preserve.  Caleb led both the guided nature walk and the porch talk…guided walks are an ongoing event that take place on Tuesday and Saturday mornings; porch talks are a summer thing that happen on Wednesday mornings…there are still a few left this summer so be sure to pop out there and soak up the knowledge!  Websites I used to research cicadas have already been notated throughout the post.

{Being intentional is so much easier done when we slow down and really look around us.  Personally, we spend a lot of time in nature, partly because we follow a Charlotte Mason education, but mostly because it keeps us intentional in our thoughts and actions.  I invite you, in these Nature Study posts, to join us in our intentional journey…to train your eye to be observant, to relish the intricacies of the amazing world we live in and to spend more time with the people you love stopping to smell the roses, so to speak.  If you are in the South Texas area (Corpus Christi and the surrounding cities), then you’ll find these nature lessons tailored perfectly to you and your family…see if you can find what we’re finding!  If you live somewhere beyond our beautiful little corner of the world then use these lessons as a springboard…see what we’re observing, allow yourself to be inspired and then just get out there and be intentional, observant, and grateful for all the little surprises right outside your back door.}

 

Nature Study: Old Man’s Beard

It’s hot these days in South Texas.  Really, really hot.  But waiting for perfect nature study weather is nothing more than a perfect excuse to stay indoors.  And I can’t stand being stuck indoors.  So we load ourselves up with tons of water, our favorite nature journaling supplies and off we go.

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We were out at Hilltop recently and I noticed the seeds on the Old Man’s Beard were maturing and leaving behind long feathery plumes.  With some flowers still in bloom and some with feathery plumes, it seemed like an ideal time for an object lesson so off we went (with friends in tow) to study Clematis Drummondii up close and personal.

{An object lesson, part of Charlotte Mason’s nature study philosophy, is a perfect opportunity to allow our children to become more observant.  We call upon them to carefully observe and examine an object using their five senses.  Object lessons should appear to be by-the-way, somewhat spontaneous discoveries where we are out and about and come across something fascinating.  Considering the fact that I am not well-versed in nature study and I am learning alongside my children, I tend to keep an eye out when we’re on a nature walk for items that I can use in our next lesson and then I prepare my object lesson before we head out.  I aim for one object lesson a week so my kids have time to absorb what they learned and to notice it in future nature walks.  I do require them to make a drawing and write down a few notable facts in their nature journals to help cement the object in their minds.  You can read more about object lessons here and here.}

Clematis Drummondii, also known as Old Man’s Beard or Texas Virgin’s Bower, is a vine in the Ranunculaceae (Buttercup) family.  To identify a flower as being a part of the Buttercup family, look for multiple simple pistils at the center of the flower.  You’ll also find that the pistils have hooked tips.  Clematis is a word from ancient Greek meaning “climbing plant.”  It can grow as a shrub but is most often seen as a climbing vine.

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The variation of Clematis that we have growing around here, in abundance, carries the name Clematis Drummondii in honor of the Scottish botanist Thomas Drummond who was an early plant explorer in Texas.

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Old Man’s Beard is a dioecious plant meaning the male and female parts grow on separate plants.  The flowers have four petal-like sepals that sport a light greenish-yellow, almost white, color.  The stamens on the male flowers are clearly visible whereas the female flowers grow more upright like pineapples.  Also, upon comparison, the male flowers appear larger than the female flowers.  The flowers bloom sometime between April and October and when the seeds on the female plants mature, the vine will appear to be covered with great masses of silky, feathery plumes.  The plumes are actually referred to achenes (covered seeds).  The achenes will last until December.

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While Clematis Drummondii is a climbing vine, there are no tendrils.  The leaves serve as hooks for climbing.  The leaves are opposite, pinnately compound and deciduous, with the blade divided into 3 to 7 stalked leaflets.  The plant itself is a perennial that thrives in full sun (just in case you want a fence climber in your backyard).

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The sap of the plant is caustic so while the foliage, stems and roots can be used for dye, they should be used with extreme caution.

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Clematis drummondii is host to the fatal metalmark butterfly.  The fatal metalmark butterfly is a common, tiny little butterfly.  It uses the vine as a larval host and as a nectar source.

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{Being intentional is so much easier done when we slow down and really look around us.  Personally, we spend a lot of time in nature, partly because we follow a Charlotte Mason education, but mostly because it keeps us intentional in our thoughts and actions.  I invite you, in these Nature Study posts, to join us in our intentional journey…to train your eye to be observant, to relish the intricacies of the amazing world we live in and to spend more time with the people you love stopping to smell the roses, so to speak.  If you are in the South Texas area (Corpus Christi and the surrounding cities), then you’ll find these nature lessons tailored perfectly to you and your family…see if you can find what we’re finding!  If you live somewhere beyond our beautiful little corner of the world then use these lessons as a springboard…see what we’re observing, allow yourself to be inspired and then just get out there and be intentional, observant, and grateful for all the little surprises right outside your back door.}