{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.

Nature Study: Brazilian Pepper Tree

Do you remember that part in The Lion King when all of the hyenas are gathered together and one of them says that Mufasa’s name makes them shudder?  And then one of the hyenas says “Mufasa” and they all shudder and so one says, “Ooh say it again.”  “Mufasa.”  And the hyenas shudder again.  That scene replays in my head every time I’m out in nature and somebody calls out Posion Ivy.  Every mom in the area visibly shudders.  I feel myself shudder and shiver and frantically look around to find the offending plant.

Imagine the horror I felt when I realized that we did a spontaneous object lesson on a plant IN THE SAME FAMILY as Posion Ivy, the Anacardiaceae family?  Obviously I shuddered.  And then I researched.  Turns out there are A LOT of plants in the same family as Poison Ivy.  Turns out the Anacardiaceae family, also known as the sumac family, has lots of our favorites in it like mangoes and cashews.  So what about this invasive Brazilian Pepper Tree that grows so beautifully around here that is also in the Anacardiaceae family?  Edible?  Poisonous?   And are those little pink peppers (the drupes) the same ones in my peppercorn mix that I adore?

Well…

The Brazilian Pepper Tree (schinus terebinthifolia) is sadly not the Peruvian Pink Pepper Tree (schinus molle) that produces the delicious pink peppercorn that is all the culinary rage these days.  Peruvian pink peppercorns are not related to the well-known tropical vine that produces black peppercorns {piper nigrum}; they fall in the same Anacardiaceae family as the Brazilian Pepper Tree.  They hail from Peru but grow well here in places like California, Texas and Florida and are safe to eat and are not known to contain any urushiol-type allergens, whereas the invasive Brazilian Pepper Tree is a tragically different story (tragic only because I shudder at urushiol-type allergens, apparently, and because I adore plants that I can eat and this is one of the former and not one of the latter).

The Brazilian Pepper Tree is a large ornamental shrub or tree that is native to Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay and was first brought to Florida in the mid 1800s.  Observing it showed us that it has alternate leaves that are pinnately compound.  Its leaves look very different from the Peruvian Pepper Tree, so it would be hard to confuse the two.  People who are sensitive to poison ivy, oak or sumac may also be allergic to the Brazilian Pepper Tree with reactions ranging from dermatitis to respiratory issues (respiratory issues seem to be an issue only during the blooming season).  The leaves, when crushed, have a peppery, resinous smell almost like black pepper mixed with turpentine.

While it is a pretty plant (sometimes it’s called the Christmasberry tree), it is incredibly invasive and not one to be encouraged.  Just like poison ivy, you can’t burn it to get rid of it or you’ll end up releasing its irritating chemicals into the air.  I actually had a really hard time finding reliable information about it…it did not show up in any of my plant or tree books.  If I’m reading it correctly, the FDA lists the triterpenes (a chemistry term that my brain just cannot process) of Schinus terebenthefolius as poisonous.  That being said, admire it, paint it, but consider keeping your distance.

{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.}

{A Glimpse into an Intentional Life}

“In return for our discriminating and loving observation, Nature gives us the joy of a beautiful and delightful intimacy, a thrill of pleasure in the greeting of every old friend in field or hedgerow or starry sky, of delightful excitement in making a new acquaintance.”  Charlotte Mason in Volume 4: Ourselves

When was the last time you stopped and observed Nature?  Take a few moments today to soak up that “joy of a beautiful and delightful intimacy.”  You deserve this intentional moment.

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 Glimpse into an Intentional Life}

At first glance, this looks like I snapped a photo at the wrong time.  The truth is, I didn’t notice the Daddy Longlegs at first either.  Sometimes it takes seeing the world through our children’s eyes for us to notice the details.  And life is all about the details.

with-every-intention-glimpse-intentional life

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}.

Daybook

Outside my window…it is beautiful.  And sunny.  75 degrees.  Completely not normal January weather, but I’m not complaining.  I’m storing up these beautiful days in my memory for when the gloomy winter days begin again.  

I am remembering…January 3 years ago.  Katie hadn’t yet knocked out that infamous front tooth and she still had curls.  Andrew was just as big-eyed and expressive as today.  William was still just as inquisitive, always with a look of thought on his little face.  Joseph had a mop of curly hair and his same joyous sense of adventure.

I am thankful for…kids that still like to be pulled in the wagon (and a husband that will still pull them).

I am watching…this little girl re-enact the Christmas story (over and over again) with these adorable peg dolls from WoodnPlaytime on Etsy.  The animals in this story laugh a lot and often…I’d like to think that those present at the birth of Jesus found plenty of reasons to laugh and be JOYFUL.

I am wondering…what Willa doll thinks about being thrown into this crazy family.  

I am hoping…we all stop coughing and start sleeping again soon.  I’m tired.

I am pondering…this absolutely revolting thought that pathological consumption has become so normalized that we don’t even notice it.  So, so scary.  

I am praying…Grandma Morgan.  Peace, comfort, acceptance.  Please pray for her with me.

I am laughing…(now) at the drama that took place at breakfast.  William doesn’t like orange juice and he doesn’t like fried potatoes.  I like both.  So I often serve both.  So today I’m minding my own business, eating my breakfast taco (with fried potatoes) and drinking my orange juice when all of a sudden William pops up from his chair and red in the face is crying “help!”  He was choking.  On a fried potato.  That he used in a tutorial to Joseph to show him “How to Swallow a Fried Potato Whole and Get Rid of Your Orange Juice”.  Luckily all the orange juice came back out and the potato made it down.  Seriously….what.was.he.thinking?

I am admiringMystie Winkler and her Humble Habits program.  It’s the first program of hers that I’ve taken.  I love that she’s upfront about being a slob by nature but being able to overcome that tendency.  I’ve let things go since becoming a mom that really do matter to me and I’m hoping to take back some of those things this year.

I am planting…actually, nothing.  I am still watering what’s growing…calendula, Italian parsley, cilantro and some other culinary herbs.  I’m waiting to see what spring weeds pop up in my garden.

I am reflecting…on how there are no more “villages” to help us raise our kids anymore and how we, as mothers, suffer from this tragedy.

In the schoolroom…this is our first week back after the holidays.  Bookshelves are (somewhat) organized, lesson plans are made, pencils are (not) sharpened.

Around the house…I just sprayed Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Room Freshener and burnt some incense…trying to clear out the closed house smell and kill off all the roosting germs around here.

In the kitchen…soups, vegetables, whole grains, repeat.

I am wearing…an olive and tan striped skirt my talented sister-in-law gifted me a few years ago with a black Gap fitted shirt (and tan footies because my feet are always cold…even when it’s a balmy 75 degrees outside (which it totally is).

We are preparing for…a busy spring.  Hopefully full but not too full (like that year we signed up for everything!)

Someday I am going to miss…the pure excitement on their faces at Christmas.

daybook-with-every-intention

I am readingThe Distant Hours by Kate Morton (I’m totally already sucked in) and The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber.  

One of my favorite things

A peek into my day

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

{this moment}

with-every-intention-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.

Nature Study: Ashe Juniper

If you live in Texas, chances are, you’ve heard of Cedar Fever, a common ailment of those who live in the Hill Country.  It is, ironically, not actually a fever, nor is it caused by cedar.  It is an allergic response to the pollen from the ashe juniper tree (juniperus ashei), commonly known as the mountain juniper (or mountain cedar), which is found all over the Edwards Plateau.  Curious as to why these Junipers got stuck with the name of cedar?  Pop over here for those details.

For those that suffer from the infamous cedar fever, symptoms range from runny nose and itchy eyes to fatigue and congestion.  While the pollen counts are typically highest during the winter, Cedar season can stretch well into March.  Not a fun time for those that are affected (as this author so well articulates).

William was happy to demonstrate the release of the pollen although we saw plenty of clouds of pollen being released by the wind without William’s help.

For the rest of us, though, Ashe Junipers are an interesting study.  Ashe Junipers are in the Cypress family.  They are dioecious, meaning there are male and female trees.  The female variety has delightful blue fruit that closely resembles a berry, but is in actuality a modified cone; the males produce cones that hold the pollen that leads to the dreaded cedar fever.

Last year we visited Balcones Canyonlands and hiked through dense ashe juniper growth, not really stopping to appreciate the complexity of the junipers.  So recently when we did some camping at Lost Maples, we seized the opportunity to learn more.

At Balcones Canyonlands there were Ashe Junipers as far as we could see.

Ashe Junipers literally cover the landscape along the Edwards Plateau.  I went back through our old pictures from campgrounds in the Hill Country and sure enough, there was the Ashe Juniper dotting the background of the vast majority of our photos.

Entering the East Trail at Lost Maples brought us up close and personal to an Ashe Juniper grove.

Upon close examination by the children, we made quite a few little interesting notes.

On the St. Edward’s Trail in Austin, Katie discovered the joy of the cedar smell on the Ashe Junipers.

First of all, the leaves, which are scale-like, give off a delightful cedar smell when rubbed between little fingers.  (I seriously wash about as much in juniper leaves as I do in socks…pretty sure my kids fill their pockets with the cedar-smelling leaves of every tree they pass because who doesn’t love the smell of cedar?)  The foliage of the Ashe Juniper stays a lovely dark green throughout the winter, whereas the foliage of the Eastern Red Juniper changes to something of an olive green to a yellowish green, often turning bronze during the winter season.

The fruit, a berry-look-alike, are blue and apparently make an easy addition to a nature journal as a few of the kids chose to make that tiny fruit the star of their journaling page.  The “berry” produced is not the juniper berry used medicinally nor is it the berry used to make gin, but it is a favorite amongst birds and wildlife critters like deer, raccoons, and coyotes.

Ashe Junipers are multi-trunked (making it easy to differentiate between the Ashe Juniper and the single-trunked Eastern Red Juniper, both of which have blue fruit; the other Junipers in Texas have red fruit). The bark of the Ashe Juniper is seriously so fun!  It flakes off in long strips which makes it an enticing find for the rare Golden Cheeked Warblers who use it to make their nests.  The bark also has white rings on it (again, unlike the Eastern Red Juniper), which is why it is commonly referred to as white cedar.

We could easily spot the female trees with their fruit and soon found ourselves quickly spotting the male trees with their cones which are essentially their pollen sacs.  The flower is produced in the winter, with fruit maturing in the summer and fall and then seeds being dispersed during the winter.

Here I am holding a small twig taken off of a male tree beside the branch of a female tree.

I’m not entirely sure, but this looks remarkably like a juniper gall.

Another gall on the male variety?

Here are the infamous pollen sacs on the male trees.

Here are the modified cones of the female trees, the blue “fruit” of the Ashe Juniper.

So tell me what you see when you look at this photo…(you should be able to identify the Ashe Junipers and tell me which are male and which are female!)

{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.}

{A Glimpse into an Intentional Life}

Sometimes we get so focused on whatever it is we’re doing, whatever task we’re completing, whatever thing we’re checking off our to-do list, that we fail to notice the beauty surrounding us.  And it’s everywhere.  We just have to open our eyes and slow down a bit.

intentional-living-with-every-intention

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}. 

 

 

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A Glorious New Year Awaits

Yesterday was New Year’s Eve.  I had planned to sit down and reflect on the year that was and the year that is to come.  Instead I spent the day on the couch shielding my eyes from light and trying to block out the noise of my rambunctious children while I nursed myself back to health from an annoying virus.

I thought about the day.  It had been awful…not just because I felt miserable but because I let my misery drive my actions.  I had barked at my kids, shooed them away, and tried my best to ignore them.

Some days are like that.  There are good days and bad days and days in between.  There are days we reflect on as we lay in bed at night and wish we had done everything differently; there are days we look back upon with joy and gratitude; there are days that thankfully end when our heads hit the pillows; there are days that drag into the next.  There are wasted days and thoughtfully spent days.  Joyful days and sorrowful days.

Years can be that way, too.

Some years are amazing; some are rough.  Some start out rough and end beautifully.  Some years we claim to be our best ever while other years passed by uneventfully marked, but no less lived.

But the beauty is that just as each new day offers a new beginning, so does a new year. The new year brings us each a gift…a book with our name on the cover, followed by 365 pages.  365 blank pages just waiting to be filled by the way we choose to live.  365 opportunities.  365 pages just waiting to be written.

Some days, some years, they just seem less intentional.  Begun without a clear direction of where we’re headed.

I’ve never been a huge fan of resolutions but I do love the idea of living with intention.

The root word of resolution is resolve, which, by definition, means to decide firmly on a course of action. On the other hand, intend, by definition, means to design something for a particular purpose.

I delight in that thought…to design something for a particular purpose.  It sounds poetic and lofty without the weight of a firm decision.  My mindset morphs from something to struggle beneath to something to strive for just by changing a word.

When we choose to live with intention, we open up a whole new world to ourselves.  No longer do we get to the end of our days wondering where those 24 hours went or look back at the month and rack our brains wondering what we did this month.  When we live with intention, we live in this moment, with purpose.  And living with intention, at its simplest, is being an active participant in our own lives.

It’s about this moment right now and how this moment will set the path for our future days.  While the past tends to influence us, it doesn’t dictate a path for us, so don’t waste time wallowing.  We are only promised this moment right now and when we live it with intention, that intention helps us stay the path that we so desperately want our lives to follow.   Living intentionally isn’t the same as carpe diem.  Carpe diem is a Latin phrase meaning seize the day, but the meaning is meant to apply to the present only; to not be concerned about the future, whereas living with intention is living with a purpose.  Living with a purpose implies that it isn’t just about the here and now, but it’s about purpose for all things yet to come.  All 365 days yet unlived.

It’s January 1st.  I’ve managed to do the dishes, wash the clothes and take a nap.  I still feel miserable.  This certainly isn’t how I wanted to write the first day of 2019, but there’s still something intentional about using this time wisely, both to heal and to think.  I don’t want 2019 to be the year remembered for the shows I watched or the Facebook feed I scrolled through.  I don’t want to wake up this time next year and wonder where my 365 opportunities disappeared to.  I want this year to be remembered for the intentional moments.  The moments I lived with purpose.  What are your intentions for 2019?

The Year We Signed Up…For Everything

Recently I posted this quote from Sammiches & Psych Meds on my Facebook page.

Image may contain: text that says 'Other People: Just enrolled our kids in basketball, cheerleading, piano lessons, invention camp, mathletics, and French on the weekends. Me: Oh, fun. Yeah, our kids are enrolled in "Go Outside and Don't Come Back in Unless Someone's Bleeding. Meets every day. SammichespsychMeds.com'

For the first 9 years of having kids, I operated from the second perspective.  Then beginning a year and a half ago, I felt some pressure to enroll my kids in a few extra-curricular activities.  It started out innocently enough.  A ballet class over the summer for Katie to try it out.  A few piano lessons to guide the big boys in their music abilities.  A private strings lesson every now and then for Joseph and Andrew so they’d feel comfortable when orchestra started in the fall.  Everyone else was doing it.  Why not us?

Summer ended and all had gone well.  Katie loved ballet.  Joseph and William loved piano.  Strings lessons were lovely.  So now we began to add things to the schedule in true passionate style.  If we were already going to be at orchestra for strings and guitar lessons, why not enroll in choir as well?  Ballet once a week…no, let’s make it twice!  And, of course, we had our CM co-op that we had joined the previous year, with Shakespeare class first followed by all the riches (nature study, composer and artist study, folk songs).  I continued meeting with my book club and my herb group and my mom’s group, all of which met once a month.

In the fall, we piled on the Nature Challenge and couldn’t resist committing ourselves to completing as many as possible.  Then midwinter, we added in Youth Odyssey for Joseph.  Spring brought the Handicraft fair and nature study days with the CM group.

It didn’t seem like that much.  And ALL of it was good.  Maybe not great, but good.

But a funny thing happened when we committed ourselves to so many good things.  Seeing as how our time didn’t multiply, other things had to be cut.  We kissed days of lazily lounging in the sun with a good book good-bye.  Play dates (the kind where us moms sit and chat while the kids run wild and free) were cut…and I rationalized that with all the activities, they had plenty of social time.  Both of my blogs took direct hits.  Even my evenings out with other moms began to feel more like work than play.

Suddenly every.little.thing began to feel like work.  I needed downtime.  Not time in the car toting us to the next activity.  Not time shoved in a waiting room making small talk with other moms while waiting for the kids to finish up.  Not time stuck in the car trying to manage tired kids and their unruly behavior while waiting for the other siblings to finish their activity.

We all began to suffer.

Andrew was the first to descend with a downward dive.  By Christmas, his enthusiasm for orchestra waned (which was a multi-fold situation…the private lessons he took over the summer put him ahead and he found himself bored; his ADHD tendencies reared their ugly head when he was forced to sit quietly and bored through a 50 minute class every week) and he quickly lost steam.  Co-op became a method of torture for him as he had to sit quietly first through an hour of Shakespeare (in which he was too young to participate) and then another two hours of co-op time in which his little mind wandered and he obsessed about being quiet to the point that he took nothing away from the lessons except hatred, the byproduct of being forced to sit and be quiet for so long.  I suffered watching him.  The joy of nature lessons left.  The joy of playing an instrument was gone.  The joy of playing joyfully with other children was a distant memory.  In one fell swoop, I had managed to forget that he isn’t me; nor is he Joseph or William or Katie.  I had forgotten that my little ADHD introvert didn’t operate in this world the same as us.  (I did pull Andrew out of orchestra by March in an effort to not completely kill a love for music; I strongly feel that music should be an outlet for stress, not a cause for stress.)

Then William began complaining of headaches every Monday during his orchestra lessons.  Then he began complaining of headaches every time we met for co-op.  He did fine at his private lessons.  He did fine during his school lessons.  He did fine at play dates.  My only guess is that the whole group setting was causing a little stress.  The bigger the group, the more I noticed his stress level went up (I totally get him…big groups have always stressed me out, too).

But I am not one to quit.  Nor do I want to send the message to my kids that quitting is okay.  We were so close to the finish line so we dug in and plowed through.  By April, I found myself burnt out, not even responding to text messages in a timely manner.  I almost forgot what my dear mother’s voice sounded like.

At the end of the year, I looked back and I saw what our toil had reaped.  I had two boys that could play piano as well as a strings instrument.  Katie knew the proper name for many different ballet positions and danced beautifully in front of hundreds of people at her spring recital.  Joseph made friends of his own, apart from the rest of us, in Youth Odyssey and had kayaked with his group to a little island, proving to himself that he can do amazing things without me. The kids had been exposed to beautiful art and folk songs through co-op, learned a multitude of nature related things and had succeeded in falling in love with two more of Shakespeare’s plays.  Oh and all of my children had lovingly set their hearts to making beautiful handicrafts for the fair.

I, on the other hand, had spent my year talking.  Between the moms at ballet in the waiting room and the moms suffering through long hours at orchestra with me to the moms in the front yard of the piano teacher’s home, I managed to expel a lot of words out of my desperate extroverted soul.  But even I got tired of talking.  I missed reading.  I missed blogging.  I missed the sound of my kids just playing.

I collapsed into June with the promise to never make so many commitments again.  While I saw all the beauty of our commitments, I greatly grieved for the time we sacrificed to make those things happen.  I really, really missed inviting Jessica and the boys over to just play while Jessica and I chatted.  I really, really missed long afternoons in the spring sunshine clacking away at a blog while my kids ran about and discovered lovely little spring bloomings.  I really, really missed long conversations with Lori and Leslie and Mom.  I really, really missed elaborate sidewalk sketchings and walks through our neighborhood.  I really missed that Masterly Inactivity that Charlotte Mason implores each of us to offer to our children.

Of course, August soon came around and I re-evaluated.  A break from co-op was in order.  No more orchestra.  We dropped Youth Odyssey.  I let go of my book club and changed my herb meetings to quarterly (but I still clung desperately to the monthly mom’s group for the support).

The fall came and we tentatively stepped back into our routines, preserving two days a week to have free afternoons with absolutely NO COMMITMENTS.  The children still play music (all four are now in piano), Katie still takes ballet, Joseph now sings with the Youth Choir and for a brief bit of the fall, William took an adventure in baseball (that’s a whole different story that was drastically altered by heavy amounts of rain). I started a small group for PE one afternoon a week.  All of it feels good.  And fruitful.  But not too filling.

It’s hard to learn to say no to the good to make room for the great, but it must be done.  It must be done to preserve our children’s childhoods, to give them time to run and play and be bored.  It must be done to preserve our own sanity as mamas because we, too, need downtime.  It must be done because we are all only human and there is only so much time in our days…we must learn to carve a space for the great, leave time for the necessary, and relish the time in between…we don’t get a second chance at this.