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Down the Rabbit Hole (A Mad Tea Party)

Homeschool day down the rabbit hole? Throw a fun tea party!

Ever had one of those days when homeschool feels like torture?  You’re down, your kids aren’t feeling it, or life is just overtaking you like a bobsledder?

Yeah, I’ve had those days.  To pull us out of our funk, I scrap the day’s lesson plan and try something fun.  Because fun.  And because some days homeschool feels like one of the impossible things.  I still believe in it, but only in theory.  You get me.

Usually, one day of lesson-scrapping pulls us together and refreshes us to get back on track the next day.  Sometimes it’s board games.  Sometimes it’s Netflix.  Sometimes?

Oh. Yeah.  They’re the best times.  Mad Tea Party, anyone?

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A Promise to Myself

Recently, a well-liked member of our community was diagnosed with lymphoma and given only 3 months to live.  Now, I wouldn’t call us close to this man, but we know him and like him and once spent a day at his farm picking the pears he generously offered.  He is a good guy with a family, and I am crushed for all of them.  It has, of course, gotten me thinking about what I would do if I was given only 3 more months on this beautiful planet.

IMG_20150827_170353702I know many people have a bucket list, and such a diagnosis would incite them to fill it.  When I think about only having 3 months left, I realize I am basically living my bucket list, especially since my beautiful husband (who apparently loves me very much) has offered to take me on my dream vacation in the spring.  He says the trip itself sounds boring to him, but that his favorite thing to do is just hang out with me and talk, so he knows he’ll have fun.  Yeah.  Living my bucket list.  What more could I want?

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Rather than rushing around to do all the things I’ve never done, I believe I would slow down and appreciate all the things I have.  Take daily walks in my woods and my neighborhood and soak in the feeling of sunlight on my skin, the smell of freshly mowed hay and leaf mold and wildflowers, the magical gloaming of twilight, the sounds of frogs croaking, trees creaking, birds singing.  I would eat whatever tastes good and not worry about how my dead thyroid is causing me to retain all that yumminess.  Mac n cheese would become part of my diet again.  For sure.

I would listen to each of my family members actively.  I would not be distracted. I would remind my littles daily to be kind above all else.  I would play with my dog (an amazing German shepherd named Raylan who thinks I am his flock and loves me unconditionally).  I would cuddle my crazy cat.  I would call my mama every day and tell her how much I love her.  I would remind my siblings that they have always been the friends I could count on whenever the world fell apart and how much I appreciate it.  I would make more time to see my wonderful best friend and make sure she knows that my life has been richer and sweeter (and waaaay funnier) with her in it, and I am grateful for her.

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And when I got too sick to keep doing these things?  I would ask my husband to make me a screened room because I hate hospitals and do not want to die in one.  I would lay in a bed in my screened room and read stories or have them read to me.  That way I could still feel the earth’s air on my skin and send out my senses to all the things I was missing while lying in that bed, and every single second–no matter the pain–appreciate that I got to live here, to be part of this world, to raise my breathtaking children, and love my gorgeous husband, and Be Loved by these people I’m not sure I deserve.

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I’m sure if you’ve been reading this blog for long or following me on Instagram you know I am completely in love with this planet.  So I would spend my last months appreciating being here and loving the people who are here with me.

Why would I have to be threatened with death to do that, though?

So here’s my promise to myself:  I’m going to spend the next 3 months like they are my last.  I’m going to do all the things I would do if I thought I would be leaving soon.  Except maybe the mac n cheese–my doctor might really kill me for that.  Or my body might.  So, no mac n cheese.  But all this other stuff-yeah.

I challenge you to join me.  And always remember,

Love wins,

KT

This Crazy Cool Country Life Part 2

IMG_20150825_112626541_HDRI know a lot of people hate August.  It’s hot, it’s long, nothing too exciting happens in the whole month.  But I love August.  I always have.  I love how the days are still long but the sunlight has changed color–that beautiful, deep, rich, golden red in the evenings that you don’t get at any other time of year.  I love how night lasts a bit longer in the mornings so you can sleep till 6 and still feel like you’re getting up early.  I love watching my world wind down toward autumn.  There is an ancient Celtic festival holiday called Lughnasadh (LOO-na-sa) on August 1st that celebrates the first harvest of the year and the Sun God, Lugh.  What better month is there to celebrate the sun than golden, delicious August?

We have been having a particularly fine August this year–mild weather, low humidity, gorgeously cool mornings and wonderfully hot afternoons.  I don’t remember there ever being an August like this in the Ohio Valley.  Usually, it is so hot and humid you can’t breathe. Not this year.  This year, August is everything I could hope for.  So we’ve been able to do nature walks this month in a much less limited way than usual.  And here is what we saw on our hour & a half walk yesterday, for your viewing pleasure.

pondWe have 2 more weeks before our official homeschool year starts, but that doesn’t mean we can’t study a little pond life as we head out on our walk.  I love this view of our fishing hole.

three littlesHere are all my littles as we head down the road.  Even Big took this walk with us.  As you can see, Big inherited my height while the Littles inherited their dad’s–yes, my Littles have outgrown me.  Yes, I still call out, “Littles!”  when I need them.  And yeah, I probably always will.  Now you can envision my country lane when I talk about driving down it. 🙂

IMG_20150825_122948984One of the really awesome, amazing things about living in a rural community is the sense of sharing we all have.  Some of us have goats, some horses, some cows, most have chickens.  Some have pear trees, some plum trees, some persimmon trees, some apples.  Some gardens produce more tomatoes, or cukes, or zukes.  At some point during this time of year, we are all calling each other or stopping by to see if our neighbors could use our excess.  I grew up in the city, and while we had some good neighbors, the generosity we have in my country community has not been matched in my life.  This neighbor’s horse called out hello to us and I couldn’t resist snapping a pic.

hill and sky Barn flowersThese views of the same neighbor’s land gave us a chance to discuss local wildflowers and pollination, and how nature is as intricately interwoven as our ‘neighborhood’ is.

littlest creekLittlest and I were the only two brave enough to walk the roadside creek bed where, despite the drenching we got throughout June, things were pretty dry.  Still we were able to find a couple of pools of water. And some interesting insects.

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And this elegant little spiderweb

spiderweb 2Just on the other side of the creek bed was another opportunity to discuss our local flora.  We saw about 6 different yellow wildflowers on our walk, but this view of forest sunflower and goldenrod was our favorite.

yellow roadside flowers

 

Soon we were headed home, but not before spotting some late-summer butterflies.

going home IMG_20150825_115414633_HDRI grew up reading books like Charlotte’s Web and Mrs. Frisby about people living on farms.  I loved the descriptions of just normal daily life–how everything was so simple and outdoorsy and everybody pretty much got what it meant to be part of this planet.  Never in a million years did I dream that one day I would be walking home to a view like this:

IMG_20150825_132514252_HDRIt takes my breath that something as simple as weeds growing up the side of a henhouse can elicit such joy in me.  How getting our first green egg from our spring chickens can make us all do a happy dance and consider going to the butcher to get the ham to go with it.

When I call this my crazy cool country life, I mean it is crazy that I get to live it.  I still can’t wrap my mind around the fact that I get to exist in such beauty every day.  I love this place like Scarlett loved Tara, and I’m teaching my boys to feel the same way.  After all, it will be theirs some day.  And, as always,

Love wins,

KT

My Dream Vacation (that would also benefit my homeschool)

I am blissfully aware that I am a complete nerd.  I’m ok with that.  I Like being a nerd.  There is nothing wrong with being interested in smart things.  If there was, the TV show Big Bang Theory would not be so popular.  So I embrace my Nerdness.  In fact, I would happily accept the Queen of the Nerds crown.

With that in mind, I have been thinking lately about how I would spend an extended vacation if I had unlimited funds.  A tropical island? No thank you.  A tour of Italy’s famous vineyards?  Um, no.  A trip through castles in the UK?  Well, you’re getting closer.

But the truth is, if I had a few weeks and unlimited funds, I would stay right here in the States.  Why?  ‘Cause I’m a nerd.  And a history buff.  And there is So Much to do here.  The cool thing is, the Littles would benefit from my dream vacay.  In fact, we could count the darn thing as school, it would be so educational.  Welcome to my nerdiness.

green bankThe trip would start at Green Bank, West Virginia.  What could possibly be in Green Bank besides maybe mountains and forests?  The National Radio Astronomy Observatory and Science Center.  It’s a SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) site, where they use the giant radio telescope to search for communication from alien planets/life forms.  Um, SETI was started by Carl Sagan, and I think you already know he’s my Dead Science Guy Boyfriend.  Green Bank is also home to regular astronomy experiments and data collection, so if you don’t believe in aliens or Carl Sagan, you can still learn about space.  They offer tours of the facility, hands-on activities, planetarium sessions and field trip experiences.  They even have a cafe and a gift shop.  They are open all year.  They are my heroes.  The best part?  It would only cost us $21.50 to get the whole fam inside.  I can’t tell you how I squealed when I found all this out.

monticelloFrom Green Bank we would drive roughly 2 hours to my mecca, Monticello.  If you have forgotten that Thomas Jefferson is my Dead President Boyfriend, here is where I remind you.  Jefferson was a nerd, too.  He loved all the same things I do.  I’m sure if Tolkien had been born a couple centuries earlier, Jefferson would have loved The Hobbit and The Trilogy as much as I do.  He loved books.  He loved gardening.  He fought for freedom.  He loved to write.  Yeah.  Dead President Boyfriend, for sure.  The house and grounds of Monticello are open to the public, including the house, gardens, slave quarters, and cemetery.  This one is a bit more expensive, at $74 for a family of 4 (with the kids being in two different age groups), but it would be well worth it.  The main problem would be getting me to leave.

RI aquariumroanoke lighthouseEast from Monticello to Roanoke Island and Nags Head (about a 4-hour drive).  Who wouldn’t want to see the island where the first settlers so mysteriously disappeared long before the pilgrims ever made their way to Plymouth?  Well, don’t judge me–I really want to just go sit and soak that in.  Besides, if I have a Dead Queen Girlfriend, it is definitely Elizabeth I, and since she permitted the whole Sir Walter Raleigh thing, I kind of Have To Go There someday, if only to see the Elizabethan Gardens.  Plus, there’s a really nice aquarium on Roanoke, and several lighthouses in the surrounding area.  I have always wanted to see a lighthouse in person.  Might sound a little blase to people who live on coasts, but I live in the middle of the country, dammit, and I want to see a lighthouse.  Just thinking about getting to visit here makes me start to tear up.  I know–Nerd.  Total cost for this leg of the trip for the four of us would be $108.62.  Um, to do all that?  Only $108?  Who needs Disney World?

liberty-bellFrom Roanoke, I want to drive up the east coast to Philadelphia.  This would take about 6 hours, but I imagine the scenery will make up for the length of the drive.  There are two main things I want to see in Philly (besides an Eagles game).  The Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.  Are you kidding me?  To get to see the place where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed?  Oh, and it brings the whole Monticello thing full circle, so how cool is my vacation dream?  If you’ve forgotten the bell’s inscription, it says, “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof.” Yeah yeah.  That.  Knowing it inspired abolitionists and women’s suffragists makes me wonder what it could inspire next, if only people will start paying attention again.  So I’m going to pay attention.  And I’m teaching my Littles to pay attention.  So should you.  Go see the Liberty Bell.

mystic pizza 2mystic pizzaBack to Nerdsville, because my next stop would be in Mystic, Connecticut, 5 hours away.  Come on, ’80s ladies, remember why?  I want to have lunch at Mystic Pizza.  Yes, it’s real; yes, it’s still there; yes, I will eat there one day.  I still own this film, and I do still watch it every few months.  Why?  Come on… I loved these girls and at different times in my life have been able to relate to each of them in one way or another.  That’s classic film-making for you.  And I want to know what they put in that pizza. The most expensive pizza on their menu is under $20.  So I’m happy.  If only I didn’t have to book hotels, this trip would be cheap!

cape codcape cod lavender farmI will leave Mystic and drive to Cape Cod because I’ve been reading about that place in books since practically birth and it’s only an hour away and it has always sounded amazing.  I just want to see it once before I die, to see if it lives up to my imagination.  I may end up disappointed.  I seriously doubt it.  Formal tours of the island run about $75 a person, but I am way too frugal for that.  So I found a free aquarium there.  And a lavender farm you can stroll through for free.  And 3 free lighthouse tours.  Ah, yes.  Loving this vacay.  And if you’re looking for even more awesome things to do while in Massachusetts, Your RV Lifestyle has tons.

 

harvard lawboston harbor picNext stop: Boston.  I want the littles to see the Harvard Campus, to see what they can achieve with hard work.  Plus, again, I’ve been reading about the place all my life and I’d like to see it, too.  Besides that, I want to walk the streets and imagine Samuel Adams giving his ‘so a man can stand up’ speech, and visit Boston Harbor and all the Revolutionary War sites.

I know.  I told you I’m a history nerd.  A science nerd.  A book nerd.  Even a movie nerd.  We are almost done.  I wonder if anyone can guess where my last stop would be.

bangor-02Bangor, Maine!  Because many of Stephen King’s books are set in the surrounding area and there’s even a tour you can take (which would cost us $130 for 4) to the sites he’s made famous in his books.  So yeah, I know I said Monticello was my mecca, but maybe the entire eastern part of the country is?  And why haven’t I ever done this vacation or at least parts of it?

Seems to me like all these sites can be seen by a family of four for around $470.  And every one of these sites is educational, so it’s good for homeschool, too.   I worked it out and it looks like I could do it comfortably in 16 days, if we take a couple days to recuperate once we get home.  So all I need is to come up with  hotel money for 15 nights and gas and food money.  So roughly 3 weeks and $3500.  If you, by chance, have that amount lying around in your sock drawer, feel free to send it my way. 🙂

That’s why it’s called a dream.

Croatoan (Love wins),

KT