{A Glimpse into an Intentional Life}

Quiet moments are rare in busy seasons like this.  Savor them.

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}. 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

{A Glimpse into an Intentional Life}

There is a cycle to this life.  It begins with birth and ends with death.  All the moments in between are up to us.  Either they can be passed right by or lived with intention.

Choose to live with 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}.

Daybook

Outside my window…it is mid-80s and beautiful but oh so full of mosquitoes!

I am remembering…National Good Neighbor Day.  Yep, that’s really a thing (which I learned about from this fabulous book that will leave you finding reasons to fall in love with your city).

The kids spent the morning baking cookies…which ended up being a bake-off sponsored by Andrew…winner got a free back rub from him {which is seriously a prize worth winning!}.  The boys won with their butterscotch cookies…apparently butterscotch chips were much more exciting than the chocolate chips that Katie and I used (personally I preferred the chocolate chip cookies, but that could be my jealousy talking…I was really hoping to win that back rub).  The afternoon was spent making pictures and decorating notes to tell our neighbors just how much we love them.  Of course, the best part was delivering it all.  

I am thankful for…that there are people in this world willing to dissect animals with my kids.  

 

I am watching…nothing these days.  I’m trying to catch up on my reading.

I am wondering…why, at 37, I still often get up from bed and go straight to the couch…oh wait, I think it’s because I can’t resist snuggling all of these warm little bodies.  Usually it’s just me and Midnight for a bit and then William bounces out around 7, followed closely by Joseph.  At some point, Katie and Andrew sleepily walk in and climb into the only quiet and subdued moment of our day.  

I am hoping…Katie outgrows this phase of walking around and saying, “I have nothing TO DO” before I go crazy.

I am pondering…all of these plants around me.  So.many.amazing.plants. 

I am praying… that I successfully fill my children’s days and memories with wonder, beauty and truth and trust that their endings will turn out as amazing as I imagine them to be…oh how I wish I could write the endings myself.

I am laughing…about this video put together by my brother-in-law, Dustin.  William was seriously so enamored when he watched it…I wish I had recorded his face.  It’s William’s dream…to be in a movie where he’s shooting spells (curse that Harry Potter).  William happens to be the kid with a bit of OCD…so we now have about 15 wands that he’s whittled, painted and decorated to perfection.

I am admiring…Daxson for overcoming his hatred of sand and taking us out to barbecue at the beach this weekend.  I could seriously spend every waking moment at the beach and be a happy person.  

I am planting…seeds for a medicinal garden.  It’s probably not the right time of year for them or maybe it’s too hot or too late, but then again, they’re all technically considered weeds, so maybe it’ll all work out.

I am reflecting…on a visit from Auntie Jane and Neva this past weekend.  

In the schoolroom…we began brainstorming today for our oral history family project…I’m excited to see what blooms from such a process.

Around the house…I am asking the kids {right this moment} to pick up every.single.tiny.Lego for the umpteenth time today.  Oh and the pencils.  Why?  Why are there at least 14 pencils on the floor at the end of every day?

In the kitchen…I suppose I should consider cooking something for dinner.

I am wearing…gray shorts and a long sleeve gray shirt.  And sometimes leg warmers because this 80 degree weather is apparently making me cold.

We are preparing for…a fall camping trip.  I hope.  Life is busy and the mosquitoes are crazy, but we are craving the outdoors and the simplicity of a week in the woods.

Someday I am going to miss…this little gang of boys begging to go for a walk to the duck pond.  

I am readingKnow and Tell, Summer of the Monkeys (Joseph’s recommendation), and listening to 12 Rules for Life.  

One of my favorite things…Auntie Jane.  She has always been one of my favorites 😉  

 

A peek into my day…Katie’s friend Eza went with us to ballet yesterday and the two of us kept our faces plastered to the window delighting in Katie’s every move.  It was nice to see the repetition of her ballet class through fresh little eyes.  Every now and then Eza would leave the window to mimic Katie’s dance steps…I seriously wanted to join her.  

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

Nature Study: Brasil

A few weeks ago, Jessica and I had taken the kids to the trails out at Hilltop for a nature walk (no journals or object lessons, just a stroll through field and trees to see what was in bloom) and, as always, we found ourselves stumped by plant after plant (this whole botany thing is a long journey!).  Jessica and I tend to spend a whole lot of time saying, “Ooh, I wonder what this is!”

But slowly we’re learning and gaining confidence in our identification skills.  It’s a slow going journey, but by going slow, there’s time to absorb what we’re learning and look for it everywhere we go.  Our newest find (which Jessica already knew and pointed out to me!) is the Brasil, a deciduous tree or shrub that grows well down here.  We found it in abundance out on the local trails so we took the kids this past week for an object lesson.

The Brasil (Condalia hookeri) is also known as the Bluewood Condalia or the Brazilian Bluewood  and is a member of the Buckthorn family.  

The kids observed the leaves and found them to be simple, alternate, glossy, small and bright.  After describing the shape of the leaves (they described them as some being oval and some being spoon shaped), I taught them that in botany, those are called obovate (oval) and spatulate (like a spatula) blades.  The margins of the leaves are smooth to weakly toothed toward the tip.  A fun little fact is that the leaves are host to the Snout Butterfly.  

I also introduced the kids to the botanical term pinnate vein which is present on the leaves of the Brasil.  A pinnate vein is one main vein extending from base to tip with smaller veins branching off.  

The kids quickly noticed the sharp thorns at the tip of each branch.  I had to do a little research of my own to find out exactly what qualifies as a thorn…it’s not as simple as I thought.  Turns out there are basically three botany terms for sharp points on plants: thorns, spikes and prickles.   While each of them is a defense mechanism and each is incredibly sharp and pointed, they are formed in different ways.  Thorns are modified branches; spikes are modified leaves; prickles are an outgrowth from the epidermis.  Those sharp tips on a rose plant are actually prickles while the sharp tips on a cactus are spines.  The sharp tips at the end of the Bluewood Condalia’s branches are thorns.  You can read more about the difference here or here.  

The wood on the Bluewood Condalia appears red but yields a blue dye.  Pioneers used the bark chips to make red ink.  

Of course, our favorite fact about the Brasil is that the berry-like drupes are edible.  They begin as a red fruit but ripen to a blue-black fruit.  They’re sweet and juicy and loved by squirrels, raccoons, opposums and birds (and clearly by Gavin, whose mouth turned a bit blue temporarily from all the fruit he ate!).  We just like to nibble on them, but I’m sure if we were a bit more industrious and could brave all those thorns and collect enough, they’d make a delightful jelly.

The flowers, when present, are small and inconspicuous and almost a light green.

Ironically, after the object lesson (and the fruit tasting), Jessica read Rapunzel to us…it sure made us wonder if, when the prince fell out of the tower, he landed on a Brasil shrub…it’s certainly a possibility.  Please learn from him…be careful around thorny plants!  

I used the books Trees of Texas and Wildflowers and Other Plants of Texas Beaches and Islands in my research.  Both of these top my list of favorites for local plant identification guides.  Even though the pictures in Trees of Texas are black and white, they are so well done that they make identification easy.

**Even though I have researched these plants thoroughly and feel confident in my identification skills of the plants discussed here, you should still always do your own research before teaching your kids and definitely before eating any plant…there are a lot of look-alikes out there and not everything that looks good IS good!  I strongly urge you to find a Master Naturalist or a foraging guide in your area to help you properly identify plants before you do any foraging and please be sure to obey all laws and follow foraging ethics.**

{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}

Everything is blurry when you rush…not just the visual aspects of your life, but even the relationships and the words that fill your day.  Sometimes you have to be intentional and just slow down.

When you slow down enough to really see what’s around you, you notice all kinds of amazing things that you never noticed before..the crook in his eyebrow when he explains how he created that little figure out of clay; the innocent look in her eyes when she tells you there’s no mama like you in the world; the funny little plants you’ve rushed right past dozens of times that look surprisingly like Mario Koopalings.  It’s all there.  Every moment of every day.  We just have to be intentional enough to notice it.  

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}. 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

2018 Coastal Bend Nature Challenge

Many years ago, in a faraway land, my kids were uninspired by nature study (?!) and I knew next to NOTHING about natural history. I was a frustrated mama, eager to embrace the idea of observation and love of all things in nature but the methods I was using just weren’t touching the hearts of this crew (it didn’t help that I didn’t have a firm grasp on how Charlotte Mason actually did nature study).

Then we signed up for the Coastal Bend Texas Nature Challenge – Texas A&M Forest Service and while it’s not CM inspired, it opened our eyes to all of the tiny details in nature around us…it was a welcome help for inspiring us! We spent a few months exploring sites we’d never known about (and that was after living in Corpus Christi for almost 20 years!) and discovering all kinds of amazing nature facts as we did scavenger hunts, learned to fish, and journaled all of our journeys (one year we participated we kept a blog instead of a paper scrapbook…you can read about that year here.)

Tomorrow is the Opening Ceremony for 2018. It’s out at Camp Aranzazu and will feature many of the vendors who will be issuing challenges. If you’re local, I urge you to attend…it’s a come and go event so you don’t have to be there for the full two hours and it’s hands-on, family centered, nature related fun! 

As for the challenge, you can read more about it here.  Basically you sign up as a team (which can just be your family or you could grab a few other families and form a team that way), then you check out all the challenges when they are posted tomorrow and choose what your team is interested in participating in. From there, you complete the challenges and keep some kind of record…a scrapbook, a journal, a blog, a nature notebook…to turn in at the end of the challenge. You must complete 2 challenges to be eligible for prizes.

And, finally, if the nature challenge just isn’t your thing (or maybe you aren’t local), then check out my Nature Study posts over on With Every Intention and join us every week as I feature nature around our area…grab your kids, your nature journals and art medium of choice (my personal favorite is watercolors) and head out to any of the beautiful trails around you!

Hope to bump into you out in nature sometime soon 

Nature Study: Spiny Hackberry

The Spiny Hackberry (Celtis ehrenbergiana), also known as the Desert Hackberry or the Granjeno, is a fun plant to observe this time of year, with its bright, pea-sized fruit and its zigzag branch growth.  It is not to be confused with the Hackberry tree, although both are a part of the Celtis genus and both, ironically, do not grow berries, but rather drupes.  (Drupes are a fancy word for fleshy fruit that has thin skin and a central stone (pit) containing the seed like olives or plums or…hackberries.)

I took the kids out to Oso Preserve early one morning to see if we could find some Spiny Hackberry plants (typically shrubs, although sometimes they can be small trees).  There was a bit of complaining, as it was early, but once they discovered the shrub, they delighted in what they found.  This time I told them absolutely nothing about the plant beforehand, allowing them to discover what they could on their own (in true Charlotte Mason object lesson style) and then following up with some of my own thoughts (both researched and observed).

They began by inspecting the bark of the branch (it was smooth and grayish brown with sharp thorns along them).  One of the kids noted that the branches were growing in a diagonal fashion (that’s one of its distinctive marks).

The conversation soon moved on to the feel and description of the leaves (rough, oval leaves with three primary veins, some toothed and some sparsely toothed).  Butterflies such as the American Snout, the Tawny Emperor, and the Red-bordered Metalmark love the Spiny Hackberry, some using the leaves as hosts for their caterpillars and others (the adult males) using it as a spot to attract females. The American Snout Butterfly is one you often see in huge migration groups up near the San Antonio area as they move from San Marcos down south to the Rio Grande Valley.  Molly Keck, an entomologist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Bexar County, calls them “an I-35 corridor kind of butterfly”.  They have such a huge population because the spiny hackberry grows in such abundance and that’s what they depend on.

Finally, the kids took note of the drupes (small, pea-sized fruit that can be yellow, orange or red but is most commonly orange).  The drupes attract all kinds of wildlife (especially birds because the thorns give them a safe place to hangout and eat) including green jays, doves and thrashers.  Coyotes, white-tailed deer and dogs are known to enjoy nibbling the leaves.

Now came the fun part…the drupes of the Spiny Hackberry are edible so the kids were able to include their sense of taste in describing the plant.  They described the drupes as sweet, almost similar in taste to cantaloupe, with a hard seed in the middle that can either be eaten or spit out.

The only thing not on the shrub this time of year is, obviously, the flower.  The flowers, when present, are greenish-white and very small, fairly inconspicuous.  They are rich in nectar making them a favorite of bees and a help to the honey industry.

*Websites I used in my research are noted in the post.  The book I used for Spiny Hackberry was Brush and Weeds of Texas Rangelands.

{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}

We live in an incredibly noisy world.  Stop.  Focus.  Seek out the noise that brings joy to your heart and ignore all the rest.

intentional-moment-with-every-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}.

Nature Study: Wild Grapes

{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 seems to have intended Texas for a vineyard.”  Stephen F. Austin

Last week we went out for a nature hike to see what is blossoming around here and we stumbled on, what I was sure, were Muscadine Grapes.  Tons of ripe, plump purple grapes.  I snapped a couple of photos so I could come home and use my book to confirm it, but I was sure I couldn’t be mistaken.  I came home and promptly forgot about the grapes (as so often happens).

A few days later, I was reading Helen Keller’s autobiography, The Story of my Life and she referred to the Scuppernong vines around her.  That was one I’d never heard, so I looked it up.  How wild!  They’re a green variety of Muscadine grapes…I had no idea there were different varieties.  I decided it was time to learn a little more about those ripe purple grapes we had just seen.

I planned to take the kids out again this week and brave the mosquitoes in search of the grapes.  We’d take our nature journals and sketch them while they were ripe.  I thought it would be handy to prepare a bit so we could have an object lesson once we got to the grapes.

{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.}

Good thing I decided to be prepared!  As I began to look at photos of Muscadine grapes, I thought the leaves looked very jagged compared to the leaves we had seen.  I pulled back up the pictures that I had taken and sure enough, the leaves we had seen were not so clearly jagged.  I got distracted and walked away from the open book.

When I came back, I looked at the picture again (not realizing the page had turned while I was away) and thought, no, those look like what we saw…I could have sworn the picture had jagged leaves.  Then I looked at the top of the page and realized now I was looking at Mustang Grapes.  Wait, what?  More wild grapes in South Texas?

So it turns out there are two types of wild grapes that are seen often in this area: Muscadine (Vitus rotundifolia) and Mustang (Vitus mustangensis).  Good to know.  While both are used for making jams, the Mustang grapes are known as “cut throat grapes” because of their high acidic levels…they shouldn’t be eaten raw as they can cause burns on the lips and in the throats.  Really good to know.  (And glad I waited to confirm I had properly identified it before trying it!)

Luckily, there’s an easy way to tell the two apart.  The leaves of the Mustang grape are very fuzzy with a white underbelly whereas Muscadine grape leaves are smooth and shiny.

Grapes are an interesting study in and of themselves: viticulture is the word used for the science, production and study of grapes, whereas viniculture is the word used for the cultivation of grapes in winemaking; both of those are branches of horticulture, aka the art and practice of garden cultivation.  As for the history of grapes, they made an important contribution to Roman, Greek and early Christian civilizations.  North American grapes made an impression when the Europeans began to explore the area, so much so that they called it Vinland literally because of the crazy amount of grapes growing everywhere.  In Texas, grapes are present in archaeological findings way back to 7000 BC where evidence exists that canyon grapes were consumed at that time by Native Americans in the Devils River area.  It’s all quite fascinating stuff, but that’s a rabbit trail for another day.

For the object lesson, I decided to focus mostly on Mustang grapes (which is a bit less fascinating than the Muscadine grapes but as they were Mustang grapes we had seen, I wanted to focus on what we could actually observe).  Their leaves begin with five lobes and as they mature, the leaves become unlobed cordate shaped (heart-shaped) with a deep cleft in the base.   Again, the leaves are fuzzy on top and bottom and they have a white underside.  The leaf edges are toothed but not nearly so sharp toothed as the Muscadine.  The leaves grow along the vine in an alternate pattern  with opposing tendrils (the tendrils and teeth of the leaf are important in identification as the moonseed vine lacks both and the Virginia creeper adheres rather than entwines…this helps you avoid the poisonous look-alikes!)

Mustang grapes are dark purple with thick, tough skin.  They are very acidic: eating them raw is a bad idea as they can cause acid burns to the lips, mouth and throat (which is how they became known as “cut throat grapes”.  To harvest them, simply cut the clusters and use gloves to process them (with plenty of sugar) into jelly, preserves, pies or tarts.

Muscadine grapes are a bit more fascinating as their fruit may be eaten raw and it is very sweet.  The seeds may be crushed and boiled to be made into grapeseed oil.  Also, the leaves, when young, may be eaten raw; the large leaves may be boiled or pickled and then stuffed.  The vines of the Muscadine grapes can also be used as an emergency water supply.

Now, we’re off to re-read The Fox and the Grapes, only because now we’re wondering if maybe it was better the fox didn’t get those grapes…who knows, maybe they were Mustang grapes ; )

*Books I used to research wild grapes included Idiot’s Guide to Foraging and Remarkable Plants of Texas; websites have already been notated throughout the post.