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

 

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.}

 

Intention

I am overly aware of my incessant talking.  Even as I speak, I ask myself to stop.  The words spill forth regardless.  I am good at talking.

I wish I always had the right words to say.  The words to tell the world that nice matters and kindness is king.  But sometimes I don’t.  And so I just keep talking.

About stuff.

Homeschool and cooking and laundry.  The complications of raising children and balancing a marriage.  Living in South  Texas.  Things I know something about.  Because life?  I’m just not an expert on that topic.

Sometimes I try to just be still.  To sit and wait.  To listen.  I’m somewhat terrible at it.  If I stop momentarily then my mind begins racing with ideas of what I should be doing.

I remind myself that stillness and quiet matter.

Because it is in the stillness and quiet that I can connect to my actual thoughts.  Not the thoughts that spill out incessantly but the thoughts that form my soul.

And so I sit.  Quietly.  Often impatiently.  But persistently.  And my soul delights in the stillness.  I breathe in.  I breathe out.  I stop.  It is good.

We’re all busy distracting ourselves.  That’s the reality of a culture that lives with smart phones and overcrowded schedules.

It’s unintentional living at its worst. 

The way we wake up and our feet hit the floor and we’re slammed into the first moment of the day without any quiet, without any stillness.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  We get to choose.  We can flow along with the mainstream culture and hide in busy, distracted ways from the thoughts that connect us to being human or we can choose to stop.  Breathe.  Be still.

It only takes intention.

A Wish Come True

William once said that he couldn’t decide what he loves more…camping or being in Austin with my parents.  “If only I could combine the two,” he sadly lamented one day.

William is the kid that thrives in the great outdoors, away from the stress of everyday life.  He lives for exploring and hiking and whittling sticks.  He craves the freedom of being outdoors.  His whole face lights up when we announce we’re going camping (he once vomited on the morning we were leaving to camp and tried not to tell us so we wouldn’t cancel the trip…we found out and naively did not cancel the trip but that’s a whole different story).

He’s also the kid that relishes early mornings with Pappy where he can ask a million questions and he has someone’s undivided attention.  He loves popping up early and sneaking downstairs in my parent’s house where he knows there’s a cup of coffee waiting for him along with someone who shares all of his interests (he once asked if Pappy was coming to a birthday party we were hosting so he’d have someone to hang out with).

He loves Granny and all that entails…sweet snuggles, silly songs, and games galore.  He craves her attention and loves that she shows an interest in what he’s interested in.  He’s the kid that loves making people happy and he sees a kindred spirit in Granny…she loves making people happy, too.

So to combine the two – camping and my parents – well that would just make this kid’s dreams come true.  (And throw in their little dogs and Auntie Leslie, Uncle Dustin and Alex and well, it couldn’t possibly get any better.)

Mom and Dad recently bought a pull-along camper (which is giving us all flashbacks to the ’80s and the camper we had then), outfitted the whole thing (fancier than my house), and then invited us to meet them for a week of camping in the Lost Pines at Bastrop.  William couldn’t believe his luck.

He popped up early and dragged a brother alongside him each morning we were there so he could enjoy a cup of coffee with Pappy.  He spent the days roaming the woods and exploring with stops throughout to chat with Granny or play a game of Mancala with her.

He convinced Pappy to bake a cake with him (using the recipe they created) and he gladly accepted (on behalf of his siblings) an invitation for movie night in the camper (buttery popcorn included).

It really is the simple little things that we do today that create the memories that we’ll be reflecting on for many years to come. 

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for the week of memories you created with us ♥

February Daybook

Outside my window…it is beautiful.  Spring is in the air.  It may be cloudy outside today, but sunny days are soon to come.

I am remembering…those chubby little arms and cheeks, that chipped front tooth, those golden curls and I am wondering why it all passes by so quickly.

I am thankful for…remembering I grew edible flowers for a reason.  It makes me happy to look down at my food and be greeted with the cheeriness of spring.

 

I am watching…for snakes everywhere I step.  Last year I had a run-in with a rattlesnake while we were at Big Bend and I swore I never wanted to repeat that.  Yet I have…I almost stepped on one again.  We went out to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge last week to see if we could spot some Whooping Cranes.  No luck with cranes.  Plenty of alligators (too close for comfort), a rattlesnake and a couple of tick bites later and I’m not sure spotting a crane would have been worth it.  Oh who am I kidding?  It totally would have been worth it.

I naively thought that this little guy that we saw from the “Alligator Viewing” bridge was the only one in the park. Far from it. He’s got plenty of friends out there.

Here are two of the five we saw on our hike along Heron Flats Trail. It was a good day for reptiles to sun themselves apparently.

My lethal friend…he and I are both glad I didn’t take one step to the right. And I really never want to see a snake hissing at me in such close range again. Ever.

He clearly wasn’t a fan of me either…or the crowd I attracted with my proclamation of “ooh!  ooh!  ooh!” He hightailed it into the bushes.

I am wondering…why I can’t seem to remember that not everyone asks for my help.  Not everything is my problem.  I need to repeat that many, many times (and hope it sticks).

I am hoping…to get started on my new herbal course soon.  It’s sitting there taunting me with its sheer volume.

I am pondering…the question Mary Oliver asked in her poem The Summer Day (“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?“) and soaking up the interesting thoughts from this author of Everyone forgets about Mary Oliver’s Grasshopper.

I am laughing…because I’m not sure Choo-Chi realized what he was in for when he jumped up on that trampoline.

I am planting…seeds from Strictly Medicinal again.  This time we’re attempting their Hoedown Seed Collection.  Hoping I remember to water them.

I am reflecting…on some of Mary Oliver’s poetry.  It’s been a long time since I’ve read poetry and connected with it.  It’s been an even longer time since I’ve read poetry and felt inspired to write some of my own.  Her work is so beautiful…it’s like she knows what’s in my heart.

In the schoolroom…we just entered our third and final term of the year.  I’ve completed a consultation with the ladies at A Delectable Education and have already begun browsing used book shelves in search of next year’s books.  It has been a beautiful and fruitful year.  Next year will be bursting with even more goodness…Katie will officially join us in our studies.

Around the house…I “Marie Kondo”ed the baby clothes…all that beautiful empty space.  I’ve now managed to fill it with books that we aren’t currently using.  The emptiness was lovely while it lasted.

I am wearing…black pants and this flowy sheer top that has a lime green camisole sewn into it.  Very much not my style but sometimes random hand-me-downs are a surprisingly good excuse to stretch my boundaries.

We are preparing for…spring.  Glorious warm days.  Sunny days.  Blooming flowers, sprouting weeds, chirping birds.  And mosquitoes…oh how I dread the mosquitoes.

Someday I am going to miss…bike riding with these little people.

I am readingThe Road Back to You, still trying to figure out which enneagram number I am, a little afraid that I fit so many profiles that I’m clearly a new, undiscovered number.  

One of my favorite things…camping, camping, camping.  If it were up to me, I’d camp my entire life.  I’d need some kind of laundry solution because not doing laundry is my usual camping laundry plan (and running out of underwear is usually the reason I go home) and I think I’d need to consider training my kids to be chiropractors because I think eventually that air mattress would do my back in, but other than that, I’d happily spend my life driving and camping.

A peek into my day…(leaving my phone unattended is never a good idea)

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

Nature Study: Henbit

This little plant is one of my favorites.  Last year it, alone, managed to pull me out of a dark winter funk.  It’s peppery and spinachy and purple and pretty and all of those things make me happy (well with the exception of spinachy…I have a loathing attitude toward all dark greens).

Henbit (Lamium ampelxicaule) is in the mint family.  Plants in the mint family are easy to recognize with their square, hollow stems, opposite leaves and usually aromatic leaves (think of plants like {obviously} the mints, but also basil, lavender, sage, and thyme).  Just roll that little stem between your fingers and you’ll feel how it doesn’t roll…because being square it has no round edges.  There are some plants with square stems that don’t fall in the mint family, but smelling the leaf will give you another clue.  Crush a leaf between your fingers and chances are, if it’s in the mint family, you’ll be rewarded with a delightful smell.

Henbit in its entirety

The best thing about henbit is that it is literally growing all over our city, most likely right outside your front door (and if it’s not in your yard, check your neighbors’ yards).  This makes it a no-excuse nature study plant since you don’t have far to go to see it.  It begins growing in the fall, goes dormant under the snow (or in cities like ours with beautiful, sunny winters, it just keeps growing) and then finishes up right around the time when spring begins.  Seeing henbit last year after a long, cold and gloomy winter let me breathe a sigh of deep relief knowing spring was on its way.

Henbit, just as the flowers are beginning to appear

My kids LOVE finding henbit.  Aside from its square stems (green when young, reddish-purple as it ages), it is easy to identify with its scalloped round leaves that grow in a rosette and its pretty little tubular flowers (the flowers, when open, remind me of a miniature orchid).  We all especially love finding it when it’s in our untreated yard…the entire plant is edible.  We nibble on it raw, but it can be cooked or used in a tea. You can toss it in smoothies or even make a pesto with it.

While it could be confused with purple deadnettle (Lamium purpureum), both have edible leaves (although you should wait to harvest deadnettle until it flowers so you can be sure you’ve properly identified it as it looks very similar to many plants early on, some of which are poisonous, and deadnettle should not be used when pregnant!).  Personally, I think the deadnettle leaves look very different from henbit, but at a glance, there are definite similarities between the two.  (Deadnettle is really only found in East Texas…I’ve never seen any growing in this area.)

Beware of creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens) as you first learn to identify henbit.  When it is young, it has leaves that are similar in shape to henbit.  Creeping buttercup will produce yellow flowers and will look quite different from henbit as it matures, but it’s still one to learn and be mindful of.

Henbit with budding flowers

Pop out in your neighborhood and see if you can find any henbit growing around you.  Come back and share with me what you’ve found!

{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 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?

Here’s to 2018: May It Be Filled with Extra-Ordinary Moments

There are moments that stick with us forever.  Fleeting glimpses of what really matters.  And then, of course, there are the moments in between those prophetic moments.  The daily, ordinary moments that end up defining our lives.

I remember once, when I was about 14 years old, I came home from school and headed straight for the hammock in our backyard.  I dramatically threw myself in, thankful the drama of the day was over and I could just bask in my book.  There was nothing unusual about this…this was a completely ordinary moment for me.  But that afternoon, I laid my book across my chest and just soaked up the moment.  I stared up into the tree above me and I intentionally took note of just how perfect the moment was.  The weather that day was lovely…an odd combination of low humidity and a crisp autumn breeze.  Leaves were falling around me and I could smell one of Grandma’s pies through the open windows.  I had left the phone inside and, of course, this was pre-texting and pre-Internet days.  So it was literally just me and my book and this moment.  I thought if I could bottle this weather and this moment of content, I would.  And I’d live in this moment forever.

In hindsight, I realize that the only reason I could appreciate the beauty of that particular afternoon (and probably the only reason I remember it) was because it was a moment different from all the daily moments.  And not because there was something extra special about that particular moment.  On the contrary, I took an ordinary moment and made it extra-ordinary just by paying attention to all its details.

Sometimes we need to make our ordinary moments extra-ordinary to help us see the beauty of our everyday lives. 

2017 has been a year filled with the ordinary moments: work, school lessons, family meals, laundry, ballet, piano and strings lessons, playtime, sibling rivalry, and all the joy of milestones in between like birthdays and lost teeth and learning to read and camping trips.

But 2017 has also had its share of noticed extra-ordinary moments which have helped us appreciate the beauty of our daily moments.

In the spring the kids and I spent a week homeschooling in the woods.  It was a week to recapture some of the things we had lost in the busy shuffle of school lessons.  We remembered how much we loved to read together and tell stories and watercolor paint in our nature notebooks.  We spent the week uninterrupted by text messages, phone calls and Facebook notifications and we reveled in the small discoveries we made…a rock in the shape of a heart, the idea that we could hike over four miles with small children, the joy of singing folksongs over a campfire we had built ourselves.  We came back with a new appreciation for our family culture and our ordinary homeschooling days.

In the fall we trekked out, as a family, to West Texas for ten days and developed a whole new appreciation for the suburbs and the convenience of civilization.  But those ten days?  Full of extra-ordinary moments.  We rediscovered our joy at playing games together and conversations by the fire lit sparks in our souls as we connected and grew together.  We spent hours hiking and exploring and reveling in the beautiful simplicity of nature.  We delighted in the break from the ordinary and then we returned to the ordinary with eyes wide open.

But not all of our extra-ordinary moments were moments when we were away from the dailiness of life.  Sometimes finding extra-ordinary moments meant stopping long enough to see the ordinary moments with new eyes.  In a culture where everything is rushed, sometimes this takes major effort.  But each ordinary moment deserves respect…after all, these ordinary moments add up to define us.  I catch a glimpse of beautiful little Katie, who begged for a bike with a basket for her fourth birthday, and I watch her as she now goes up and down the sidewalk without her training wheels.  It’s extra-ordinary: for her, it’s the joy of feeling the wind in her hair; for me it’s this realization that she’s growing up.  SHE is extra-ordinary.  All of my children are.  I look over at long, lanky Joseph (who now has a preference to be called Joey) and I stop and listen to that beautiful melody that he’s tapping out on the piano.  That’s a culmination of ordinary moments: piano lessons, hours of practice and a love for music.  Or how about William?  I sit at the top of the stairs in my parents’ house and I listen to him have a conversation with my dad.  A conversation about engineering and chemistry and physics.  And I realize that somehow this 8 year old has turned into a conversationalist, who asks wise questions and attempts to argue his way through life logically.  And then sweet Andrew.  Every day for the past five months, there has been an ordinary moment trying to teach him to read.  And now he does it.  I don’t even remember the day when he could do it, but as I listen, I hear his sweet voice sound out each blend, each consonant and I marvel that so many ordinary moments could add up to this extra-ordinary moment.

Unlike generations past, we don’t live in a period of time where survival is a constant threat.  We don’t live on rationed food.  When we worry about a loved one, they’re typically just a text away…we don’t have to wait weeks wondering whether everything is okay.  We don’t live in a time where we are reminded daily of how precious this life is.  But this life is precious and these moments, even the daily ones, are extra-ordinary.  It’s up to us to stop long enough to breathe in the delight of our daily moments.  Because while the extra-ordinary moments help us keep things in focus, the ordinary moments are the ones that define us.  Which leaves me wondering…what do my ordinary moments say about me?

As a new year approaches, I am reminded that all of our lives are one year shorter as another year has passed us by.  Our time is limited in this precious life, so I implore you to let 2018 be the year that your daily moments define you in the way you want to be remembered.

Let every ordinary moment be extra-ordinary in this new year.