Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Ladies and Gentlemen, we have entered the season of summer. I know the meteorological season doesn't begin until June 1st and the Astronomical season doesn't begin until June 21st, but we all know the most important event that indicates the official start of summer: SCHOOL'S OUT!

I'd like to say we finished out school year with a bang here at our kitchen table, but we didn't. The truth is, we hung on by a thread as the work part sort of fizzled out for the last two weeks, (even while I insisted to them that we were indeed still on our school day schedule) and I kept planning “end of year outings” with a halfhearted intent for them to be somewhat educational. I did have them keep working through their math until (pretty much) the end, but I think we were all too burnt out to care by about the second week of May.

Overall we had a good year of homeschooling. Actually, a really good year. Anja is a very independent learner, and learns the most without me nagging her to “do” stuff. So, while we do copywork and handwriting, and formally learn math and prayers, a lot of science and history is learned freely through independent reading and then talking more about it after she tells me excitedly what she's been reading about. (Greta is much the same, but she is more learning on the coattails of Anja's research.) It's really a pretty good method, I'm finding out. It saves me from hearing the grumbles about having to “do” another subject, and truly, I believe they have learned more throughout the school year by this method than they would have if I had strictly followed a guided curriculum in those subjects. Grammar, spelling and writing structure have been learned entirely through combined reading and creative writing. I really feel like I've lucked out. And I worry because Elka does not share quite the level of enthusiasm for books as her two older sisters, and I wonder how that will change my methods of schooling for her when she's older. Greta is stubborn and competitive. She wants to know just as much information as Anja, so she listens very well, and does indeed learn... but she doesn't like to do her own research. She does read, and I find her reading on her own quite a bit (interestingly, I often find her reading poetry!) but she is a slower reader than Anja. She probably is at a perfectly age-appropriate level, but since Anja finished the first Harry Potter book in 2 days, Greta feels like she is behind, as she still strolls through Frog and Toad at a leisurely pace. In the end, it doesn't matter—they both have found a learning groove and luckily I have been able to pick up on how best to facilitate it. At least in the liberal arts part of schooling...

I'd be curious to know at what point in history did “math” become a bad word? My kids used to love math. They used to love to sit down and work out equations or measurements. They loved learning about counting patterns and Anja figured out on her own the multiplication tables just by seeing one day how multiplication worked, while she was adding. But then all of a sudden, this year, they decided it's just TORTUROUS to do the dreaded MATH. UGH. WHY DO WE HAVE TO DO MATH EVERY DAY. They hid their math books. Constantly! They thought it was hilarious. They started crying over simple equations. Where once they saw a challenge, this year they saw bigger problems as impossibilities. It was maddening!

Is this something they read about? That because most kids in books don't seem to like math in school, they are SUPPOSED to hate math? I don't get it. It makes me kind of sad. Math is not wicked. Math is ok. Math doesn't have cooties. Their math workbooks are not going to come alive and gobble them up while they sleep. …...Right?

We'll begin again next year and hopefully after a good long vacation and with fresh new books, they will have a renewed enthusiasm for schooling. But for now.... PARTAY!! Any time is sprinkler time! Let's collect worms! Let's go for a bike ride! Let's bake cookies! Let's try to do this really dangerous thing before Mama sees us and tells us to stop!

I'm so glad it's summer. I don't even have the words to describe how happy I am that it's summer. The warmth and sunshine and long days... The only downside to summer is that I don't feel like cooking and that the laundry tends to multiply more quickly with muddy, wet clothes. (I know, I know... don't be a prudey! Embrace the nudey! But no longer are we surrounded by corn fields, frown.) I just can't get enough of the green leaves and colorful blossoms that have finally arrived.

I've gone a little coo-coo for plants this year. 

We're going to have to get professional financial help because of the deep pit of debt I'm digging for ourselves because of my plant addiction. Today at the Farmers Market one of my favorite farms was selling violas as food. “Edible decor” they were labeled. How could I pass it up? A cute little pot of multicolored blossoms that are sneakily labeled “edible,” which means I can sneakily write them into our food budget? Fill up my market basket, Lady Farmer! But, since I have Greta, who actually started rambling on and on about how I have too many plants and that I just keep buying more... (I believe her exact quote was, “Mama! You have a plant JUST LIKE THAT at home!” And my exact quote back to her was “Ssshhhhhhhhh, I'll buy you chocolate. Don't say another word.”) It is true that I might be out of room on all my sun-catching windowsills. But I don't care. I love my plants.

I'm excited for the months of freedom ahead. Yesterday I put a tablecloth on the patio table and I've been working really hard on making the yard a Beautiful Bohemian Oasis, and I'm telling you, I may not go inside again until September. Except for tornadoes.

Happy Summering to you!  

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Why I'm Glad I'm Not a Kid Anymore

Being a grown up is hard. Bills. Bills. Stress. Lawns. Children. Boring job. Bills. Debt. Obligations. Money. Bills. Relationships. Blargh. Being a grownup is really a headache sometimes. Still, I am so glad I'm not a kid anymore.

This is how I kind of imagine life as a child.


Warm and snug in your watery home, suddenly you are abruptly (haha, that term is relative) pushed out of your cozy abode and thrown into a cold, loud, freakishly bright and bustling non-home. You're naked and instead of wrapping you up and getting you warm, these weird people handle you briskly and do a bunch of stuff to you including rubbing goop in your eyes and stretching you out of your cozy fetal position (never more aptly named than at this moment) to see how long you are and how much you weigh and they prick you and maybe in especially joyful situations there is some mild hysteria, crying, screaming, cheering, clapping, singing.... It's complete insanity and so much different than the quiet dark you've been used to for the past nine months, you wish you could go back to your warm, watery world... but you can't.

Things are pleasing to you, like looking at the ceiling fan. Round and round it goes, but wait! “I have an itch! But I don't know it's an itch because I don't know anything! Why does my skin feel this way! I don't even know what skin is called! Everything is so new and confusing! I feel uncomfortable! It's a burp but I don't know how to burp by myself!” You have absolutely no idea what anything is. Any feeling, any emotion, any twinge of hunger or sadness or loneliness is just something that you can't explain, and so you cry. All you can do is cry. And sometimes your mother cries right along with you and you have no idea why she's not making oogie googie sounds at you anymore, and maybe that's upsetting, or maybe it's not. Who knows. You don't know. You don't know anything.

Ok, now we're rolling. Like, literally, you can roll over. Maybe even sit up. And you have figured out a lot of the mysteries of your early life like that those faces you see every day are important people in your life. You think color is cool and toys are good to chew on, but sometimes you get this weird feeling.... it's in your mouth... and sometimes it gets really intense and you just don't know why your mouth feels so achey and horrible. It's as if there are little daggers trying to grow out of your gums (you don't know what daggers are. Or gums.) It hurts so much and all the familiar face that is Mommy does for you is stick out her lower lip and say a bunch of jibberish that includes the word “teething” a lot. You are sad and hurting. And totally helpless.

Walking! You're walking! You're walking along splendidly, when-- eff! Table corner! Right in the eye! A little crying and you recover and are at it again. Walk, walk, walk, TUMBLE SCRAPE BUMP CRY. Over and over and over again. For days! For weeks! So many injuries. So many tears. You fall down so much. You can't stop falling down. Nobody can make you stop falling down, you just have to practice and grow.


Everything you want to do is not okay. No biting. No hitting. No, you can't wear only underwear and sunglasses to church. No, you can't take toys that other children are playing with. No, you can't go on the big kid playground. No, you can't swim without your floaties. No, no, no; You can't, you can't, you can't. However, you are really, really cute and everybody pretty much loves you. You may feel like Captain Independent, but despite that, you have no control over anything, even when your parents pretend that you do.


Siblings' school productions and sports events that you have to attend even though you don't want to, because you are “part of the family,” and because you aren't old enough to stay home alone or run away or rent your own apartment.

Can I have a snack?”
No, it's almost dinnertime.”
But I'm hungry.”
You can wait forty-five minutes until dinner.”
But I'm starving!”
You aren't starving. You don't need a snack, you can wait until dinner.”
You can't even eat when you feel hungry!

Teacher, can I go to the bathroom?”
No, you need to wait until the bathroom break it's in ten minutes.”
But I really need to go.”
You can hold it ten minutes.”
You can't even use the bathroom when you need to go!

You want to wear your purple shirt, but you can't because it's not clean and you might wash it yourself if you knew how, or if you could reach the knobs on the washer.

Can I watch TV?”

Can I have some gum?”

Can I have a secret stash of chocolate in the freezer that I hide in the bathroom to eat so that I don't have to share with anybody else?”
(Mua-ha-ha...) “No.”


All you want in the world is to get to school early so you can see that cute boy a few lockers down from yours who is always early to first period, but you are never early to school because your dad is chronically late and every morning you have to run into school and despite the hurrying you still arrive late to first period. You have so many tardies you're at risk of falling a letter grade, but there's nothing you can do about it because you don't get your drivers license for three more months.

You forget your lunch and have no money. Screwed.

Feeling like a legitimate adult when you accept your first non-cash-paying job at the ice cream walk-up window. Feeling like a loser kid when your mom has to drive you to work.

You would do anything for a cheeseburger and fries at any time of the day. You'd even pay for it with your own measly earnings. You get served salmon patties and California Medley. Frown.

This is how I look back on my pre-grownup years. (Well, not the baby parts. Those have been observed in my current life.) And then, after all those years of suffering, you are rewarded with more school or a job or possible Professional Drifter Status, still working at the ice cream window and living with your parents, but for awhile, the best thing in your life is that you get to go to the bathroom any time you want, without needing a bathroom pass. And then you know you've finally made it to adulthood. 


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Home // Music // Parenting

I have been thinking about "home" a lot lately. Where is home? What is home? How much meaning should be put into all those cheesy adages about home being who you're with or where your heart lies or where your hats sit on a closet shelf gathering dust? And where do the lines of Home and Lifestyle connect? Or do they? It's very interesting to me, all the different homes of the world.

I know for me, home is where my yarn is.

After a looooong time of making imaginary plans and talking big about putting out another album, I finally got a friend to help me through the logistics of self-recording and I have started on another album. At last! My last one was put out thirteen years ago. Let's not even talk about how old that makes me feel. The goal is a 10-12 song disc ready by the end of the summer, comprised of mostly originals with a few public domain songs sprinkled throughout. I am really, really optimistic about the end product and SO happy to be recording.

Recording is fun. It's a little bit stressful, but if you can let go of the stress, it's actually pretty magical. Especially laying tracks. You can--as one person--record yourself doing all the things you are able to do, and then put them together to create an original piece of music, performed entirely by YOU. It's like being an octopus!

I have recently (since writing that last line) been considering the title "Annie is Secretly an Octopus" for the album, but up until just that moment ago, I had been thinking of calling it "Home Fires." A lot of the songs--written over a span of about a decade-- touch on the idea of home and comfort and ...well, non-comfort, too, I guess.  The idea of home is so interesting to me. I am a person who doesn't like change. AT ALL. I really don't know how I would do being in a family situation such as the military where you are moved around frequently. I'm not sure I could really handle it. I get very attached to my surroundings--not so much my things-- but, for instance, views while washing the dishes. Unattractive as it is, there is a comfort in standing at the kitchen sink of my current downtown home looking out at the neighbors backyards. I notice when their plants come into bloom or when they've mowed, or what time of day their cat likes to sneak out for a nap on the hood of their car. It's better than some views, that's for sure, and even though it was hard to get used to being back, it is a familiar dish washing view. Familiar, just like the act of washing dishes. Even just the same dish over and over and over again.

Which leads me (abruptly) to the "parenting" part of this post.

So, parenting has been super exhausting for me lately. Really intense. Greta and Elka, cut from the same Cloth of Psycho, have been at each other, nonstop, for weeks. And while Greta is old enough to exhibit some self control and has the added bonus of having some common sense and a tiny glimmer of possible logical and moral thinking, Elka has none of these traits. She has zero self control, zero common sense, is completely illogical and one hundred percent lacking in morals.

Well, okay, she's not that bad. She's just a very average three year old. But it's still frustrating. And I remember feeling this EXACT kind of frustration and exhaustion with Greta when she was a difficult three year old. And now Greta is a tremendously clever and creative little girl who understands right from wrong, and even though she doesn't always act rightly, she UNDERSTANDS.

But Elka!

However, I saw a meme or whatever they're called posted on Facebook on Mothers Day that said, "My plate is full but it's all dessert!" Isn't that the truth? It's something I need to remember more often, because I really do love these days of the girls being little. Love, love, love. And I know that three year olds won't be three year olds forever and that with the difficult days of fit throwing and lying and being generally uncooperative also go the silly games of Baby Seal, the reading all the wonderful picture books we love, and the general fun and charm of three year olds. *sigh*

Pardon my sentiment. *sniffle.* My thoughts all connect somehow, I promise.

Being back in the house where Anja and Greta spent the beginning of their lives is really nice. It's a good, sunny house for raising up little people. It's already super trashy so a little more chia seed pudding smeared on the walls will hardly be noticeable. We've done all the work I've mentioned before to make it more "us" and we have more planned. (Have I mentioned we're planning to put our wood stove in our bedroom?!?) But more than being a nice place to finger paint (and now that Anja and Greta are older, to work out math story problems and read Pippi Longstocking while their little sisters finger paint,) it feels like home to all the girls. They are so happy here. They have a backyard filled with natural and unnatural junk to play with, they have exercise as their main transportation source, they have friends dropping by all the time, AS WELL AS places to grow things and ride their bikes, dig in the dirt, carve with their knives, build forts, climb trees.... they have it all. And if those are the things that make a place home for a kid, then they are definitely at home here.

Ooooh yes. Free pallets are so homey!

This is a good home. But more importantly, it's where my girls are spending their early years, and that is an important time! Family is more important than location and Home can be anywhere. These little sillies aren't going to be little forever, but they are little now, right here. I'd better live it up!

(Apologies if I ever repost pictures from previous posts. I have dumped my phone pictures onto my laptop, but I don't know where they are now. Frown. So I just email myself some every once in awhile from my phone.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Wet Sidewalks

(This garden box is now full of two tripods and lots of little sprouts! This is an old picture.)

It's been a very rainy few weeks here. Rainy and chilly. I won't say "cold" because it's not snowing and we have had some warm summery days, and in fact lots of times there will be a couple of hours in the afternoon when it's not raining and is warm enough for the girls to play in the hose, but for the most part, it's been chilly and wet. 

I have planted a huge garden and my level of pride is beyond words. I have planted such a wide variety of veggies and have really gotten creative about placement and choosing to do some potted plants and some raised beds, along with some vertical gardening on shelves and hanging on the fence.  I'm just thrilled. I started a few things from seed (peas, bush beans, watermelon, pumpkin, and some herbs) but mostly I bought starters from the local farm store, which happened to be selling plants that were grown in one of our neighboring towns, not shipped in from wherever else starter plants might come from.  We brought our blueberry bushes with us when we moved and have added to our yard a dwarf cherry tree and a dwarf peach tree. I hope they do well. The cherry is in the poorest soil and by the alley, but I hope it can defy the odds and thrive there. 

My sister gave me a sourdough starter off of her sourdough starter which she got from our good friend and mentor, Katie. Katie is very wise and wonderful. She might even be magical, I haven't quite figured that out yet. In any case, she (Katie) has given me a starter from hers before and I killed it immediately. But this one I have been caring for much more carefully (in the whole two days I've had it, haha,) and tonight I made sourdough bread from it! Not just bread, but cheddar herb bread using herbs from my own windowsill! (and shredded cheddar from Aldi. High fives!) It would have been delicious, had I remembered to add salt, but as it was, Anja thought it was the best bread ever and ate half the loaf. (Not kidding. She just kept asking for "more of that delicious bread." Okay, whatever, salt-hater.) 

To go with the bread, of which I am so proud, I made chicken soup with rice, with herbs and spinach from my yard! Thrilling! 

Now, I have always cooked from scratch and always had a garden and definitely always used my own herbs. That part is no great accomplishment. (well, except for the sourdough.) But it was a long winter. A long, hard, disappointing winter. And every day I wake up and I see that the trees are green and even though it's still chilly enough to not allow hose play, the kids can go outside with bare feet. I roll the car windows down. We go for long walks. THINGS ARE GROWING. It's not winter anymore! I'm so, so, so happy that winter is over. I have never been happier to see winter go. Especially this winter. 

Our house is coming along. The girls insist we will be staying there forever, so what we'll do is act like we are... even if it turns out we aren't. We're working on the outside and at some point we'll be able to work on the inside. I'd like to give the kitchen an enormous facelift (with a farm sink and wood countertops) and what really needs to be done is a whole-bathroom renovation including scary subfloor replacement stuff. The bathtub seems to be dangerously near falling into the cellar. Yikes! Also, the upstairs toilet stopped working so we need to get that fixed and we'd like to rip up the last of the carpet and lay a wood floor in the upstairs room, which we sometimes call The Aerie. Yadda Yadda, nobody cares about all this. Let's move on. 

Every day I am reminded more of the benefits of living downtown. For example, this past weekend: 

This weekend was enormous for us. My sister-in-law was visiting from Virginia and staying with us. Anja made her First Holy Communion, which required an 8-10am practice on Saturday. She also had her first ballet recital, which was a production of The Little Prince, it was very sweet. That required a 10am-1pm rehearsal, followed by the actual performances at 5:30 and 7:00 that evening. She got home at about 9:00, went to bed and we woke up early for brunch with Martin's side of the family at Heirloom, a newish downtown restaurant that features locally produced ingredients. (I think everything they offer is local to Indiana.) After brunch we hung out with his family before Anja needed to be delivered to the school gymnasium at 2:00 for her 2:30 First Communion Mass. And it was Mother's Day. And Saturday was my Father in Law's birthday. IT WAS A REALLY, REALLY BUSY WEEKEND. 

But guess how many times, in all of those obligations, I had to drive? ZERO. Despite all of our running around, everything was within walking distance. And because of that, we were able to enjoy ourselves a lot more. Instead of rushing to get Anja driven to town and to the gym by 8am on Saturday morning, my sister-in-law zipped her down with Greta, and we all met up at the Farmers Market for breakfast before we had to pick her up and shuffle her home to change into her ballet clothes, then back down the street for ballet practice. Honestly, I don't even need to go through all of our walking because we were able to walk to EVERYTHING, until after the First Communion, when we drove to my sister's house for a party. That's it! Oh, but I did have to run to the craft store and Target when I realized Anja didn't have a white cardigan and that I didn't have floral wire--which I could have gotten downtown if I had realized it before Saturday night. 

A full two days of obligations and only two car trips is pretty spectacular. 

Doesn't Anja look beautiful? She was so excited. It was a really lovely day and with Mother's Day being on the same day, it was so special.

On Friday we met up with my sister-in-law over on campus where the girls ran in the fountain and we walked down to one of our favorite coffee shops for gelato afterward. We were going to walk to meet her, but didn't have time because I had a guitar lesson to give and then played a gig at a different coffee shop downtown.

What I'm trying to say is, it's really fun and ridiculously convenient to live downtown this time. My biggest complaint is that I can't have chickens, and that is why I am constantly looking for real estate across the river where it IS legal to keep backyard chickens, and we would still be within walking/biking distance from everything we need. But right now, I am enjoying the tradeoff of not having livestock for the fact that we only need one car and even that we don't have to drive very often. In fact, we sold Martin's car this weekend. !  I don't like driving. I am not good at driving. If given the choice, I would probably not drive.

So instead of driving, I'll sit on my covered patio and drink coffee until it's time to load up the stroller and walk to our next obligation or errand. (In our raincoats.) Cheers!