Boundless

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Image: NASA

I have been reading a book called The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen by Lloyd Alexander with my children.

I found the following passage worth jotting down so I can read it again and again. The characters noted below were high in the air, looking down at the world.

“Are we still in the kingdom of T’ang?” Fragrance of Orchid said. “Have we left it and crossed into another kingdom?”

“The first thing to understand,” Niang-niang said, “is that there is no Kingdom of T’ang, nor any other realm. Do you see borders? Is one countryside so different from another? Is not a mountain a mountain, a tree a tree, wherever it may be? Kingdoms? They are pitiful inventions of humankind. They mean nothing to us. We see there is only the world itself, nothing more, nothing less.”

Truly. Look at that image of Earth. There are natural boundaries formed by oceans, rivers, varying climates. There are not lines denoting ” us” and “them”.

There is so much division in our society, in our world. Different religions. Different political ideologies.

I became a mother after 9/11 and just two months before the U.S. launched its War on Terror. It saddens me that this has been the state of our world for my children’s whole lives. It saddens me that these patterns repeat again and again throughout history.

Radicals aside, isn’t the average person simply trying to live a happy, safe, healthy, meaningful life? Are we really so different from one another?

Long time, no blog

Wow, I see my visits here have become few and far between. It has been nearly a year since I have updated, with the exception of my ongoing book list. Glancing back at several of the more recent, however non-recent, posts, I see a lot of focus on child-related issues. That is no surprise. As a homeschooling mom, a huge part of my time and attention is directed toward my children. I do give a lot of thought to how our culture, and how our own parenting and educational decisions, will influence them. In fact, the infrequency of my posts here is largely a result of my effort to be more available to my kids. As homeschoolers, we do spend a lot of time together. I found that it is pretty easy to let other things overtake our free time – my free time – and I don’t want all our time together to be about doing schoolwork. I want to have time to play together and work together on meaningful things other than school.

Since I spent a lot of time talking about running in the past, I will update briefly. After an injury in 2012, I have to admit, I fell apart on the fitness front. If I couldn’t run, I wasn’t going to exercise at all, darn it! I didn’t consciously decide that, but it turned into my reality.

One great thing I’ve noticed when I am in a good exercise routine is that I also tend to eat well. I called it my virtuous circle.

virtuous circle

noun

A recurring cycle of events, the result of each one being to increase the beneficial effect of the next:
‘economic expansion would itself produce a virtuous circle of increased productivity, increased exports, and increased growth’

Sadly, when I wasn’t running, I didn’t make an effort to eat well. I was very lax about my food choices. It’s not by any means as if everything was bad at that time, but I certainly put my health on the back-burner.

When I saw people running, I felt a longing. For a long time, I thought I could just dive back in at any point once my injury had resolved. I would decide to start running again, run a few times per week for two or three weeks, then fizzle out. Boo. Finally, in 2014, I acknowledged the reality that I needed to start over. I did Couch to 5K all over again, and was so pumped to participate in a local 5K as the culmination of that training program. I’ve also joined a local chapter of a national women’s running group – Moms RUN This Town – and the community has gone a long way in encouraging me to keep it up this time. I have been running pretty regularly again since July of 2014. I’m slower than I used to be, but I have run several 5k’s, a 10k, and even a half-marathon last fall. I have enjoyed getting to know some great mother runners in my community as well. How did I do it without community before?

I have no races coming up, but I should pick something out and sign up! While unnecessary, I feel that races add a lot of FUN and motivation to things. I did enjoy a four miler today. A sunny 60+ day in Minnesota in March? I’ll take it, with gratitude. My virtuous circle also seems to be functioning fairly well again. It’s hard balancing work, parenting, health and all the rest. I am a constant work in progress in all aspects of life.

How about you? Have you dealt with injury with more grace than I did? Do you notice virtuous circles in your life? Do you have any advice on balance?

Book Love

I frequently pick up books at the library that I think my children or my husband might enjoy (in addition to those that they choose themselves).  Some turn out to be total duds.  That’s okay.  When I check out these books, they represent possibility, not certainty.

Occasionally I stumble onto something really wonderful for a member of my family.  Sometimes one of my library grabs will even grow into a long-term interest.  I feel so gratified in those moments when I see a sparkle in the eye that tells me I brought something new and exciting into their lives.

If you know me, or have read this post, you know how much I love books. I truly think they open up the world to those who look inside.

Here’s my sweet girl, engrossed in one of my successful picks.

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Have you read anything wonderful lately?

Why I’m Not Tired of Winter

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Here it is past the middle of March, the temperatures are still routinely in the 20s, and I’m not going crazy.  How is this?

This winter has been really pleasant for me.  So many people I know have recently traveled to Florida and Hawaii, and I don’t long to do the same. 

I had to stop and think about why I feel so content this winter.  If it is anything in my control, I will want to keep it in mind for the future.  I might find myself feeling cabin fever again someday.

Here is what I’ve come up with:

1.  We have had good snow most of the time.  Obviously, this is out of my hands, but it makes such a difference to my children and me.  Cold and snowless equals staying indoors way too much.  Cold with snow equals bundling up and playing outside a lot.  Fresh air, exercise and having fun are great ways to keep the mood up.

2.  I purchased new winter boots.  For several years, I’ve been wearing boots that left my toes chilly.  Warm toes contribute greatly to quality of life for a Minnesotan in winter.

3.  We have been meeting up with other homeschoolers on a weekly basis just to play and visit.  (We still do weekly classes and occasional field trips with a group as well, but it is something different to gather simply for the enjoyment of it.) This has involved visiting many new parks as weather allows.  Over the winter, we have met at sledding hills, indoor playgrounds and swimming pools.  Again, it is getting out of the house and being active.  Having others expecting us makes us more likely to consistently head out to the YMCA or whatever the case may be, and it has truly helped to pass the time.

4.  I have been very flexible about school work.  If my kids ask to play outside, I say go for it.  We can jump back into our school work a little later.  And we do, with everyone feeling refreshed.

The moral of the story: make sure you are properly equipped for the conditions at hand, and make sure to get out of the house and enjoy the season you find yourself in as much as possible. 

Sailing by Ash Breeze

I wanted to share another book that I really enjoyed reading with my children. This particular title, Carry On Mr. Bowditch, is a biography of young Nathaniel Bowditch, a bright boy who was forced into indentured servitude due to his family’s poor financial situation. He had dreamed of attending college, but his circumstances would not allow for that. A man who worked at the chandlery with Nathaniel described him as “becalmed” – like a sailboat that cannot make progress for lack of wind. Nathaniel, however, refused to allow himself to be stopped by circumstances that were out of his control. Instead of giving up his dream of further learning, he decided to study on his own at night. He taught himself Latin, physics, mathematics – anything that he was interested in. This bright boy grew into a brilliant man, all as an indentured servant. This in itself would understandably appeal to me. As a homeschooling mother, I value examples of successful self-directed learners.

My absolute favorite thing from this book, though, is the idea of sailing by ash breeze. When becalmed, the sailor must use his own power and row the boat. The oars were commonly made of ash wood. Ash breeze.

It is true that life can throw any variety of obstacles in our paths. Sometimes we feel quite stuck. As stuck as a becalmed sailboat. However, with determination and hard work, we can keep moving using our own power.

The next time I feel stuck, I will consider what is in my power to do, rather than dwell on what is out of my control. Sail by ash breeze.

Snowy Owl

We went to the Minnesota Zoo yesterday for their homeschool day.  It was fun.  They had set up stations throughout the Minnesota Trail focused on different areas: math, literacy, geography, etc.

One part of the day did not go as planned, but that glitch provided a valuable lesson.

It was a bird demo.  We, the visitors, were going to meet and learn about a snowy owl.  A few minutes after the demonstration was to have started, a zoo employee stepped out from a back room to apologize for the delay.  He was having a little trouble with the owl.

A few minutes later, he came out into the stage and said a few words about the owl. Part of what he told us was that the owl was still learning to be comfortable around people. He described what the owl was supposed to do when it came out, along with some other things it might do instead.

In the end, the owl never did come out. They ended up showing a Harris’ hawk instead.

The zoo employee explained that forcing the owl to come on stage when it was so uncomfortable would have been bad for it and counterproductive to the goal of training it to be part of educational demonstrations.

I couldn’t help but consider how many times adults pressure, or outright force, children to go ahead with things that make them uncomfortable or scared. Don’t they deserve to be treated with at least as much respect as the snowy owl?

Enjoying Fall – A Day in the Life

One benefit of homeschooling, for us, is that some days can be pretty flexible. After eating breakfast and doing a lesson in geology, my son asked me if we could “do school” outside. I told him that it wouldn’t work for everything we had on the docket that day, but that we certainly could for some of it. I began packing up books, paper and pencils, and my children went and bundled themselves up. A few short days ago it was 90 degrees, but it was only around 50 degrees now. While not terribly cold, it was colder than we’ve been accustomed to recently. I personally think they overdid it with the warm clothes, and told them so, but they remained convinced that it was all needed. I didn’t mind.

We headed out with our books, called “hello” to our neighbors who were waiting for the school bus, and walked to a nearby lake.

My daughter took up her favorite spot – a chair carved from a stump. She sometimes likes to draw while sitting in this chair, but this day was for reading.

My son clambered down the rocks and found a good spot. I soon joined him on the rocks.

I read to them from our devotion book, then Shakespeare’s Seasons – selections from Shakespeare’s work with lively illustrations showcasing the different seasons. (We had read “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” from Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare the previous day. There are really lovely books for children out there.) I then read a chapter from a biography of Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch woman who helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II. After my son read a story to me from his children’s Bible, the kids were ready to explore the lakeshore a bit more.

We all enjoyed looking at the various rocks.

My children examined everything from the soil between rocks to the air bubbles forming at the edge of the water.

They got right down to the water’s edge for a closer look at all that captured their interest. Amazingly, and thankfully, everyone stayed dry.

We then walked the short distance to our nearest playground. My kids had a great time. They divided their time between simply playing on the playground equipment, inviting me to join them in a game of tag, and imagining what it would be like to have to hide in a small secret room, leaving no trace behind, like the people in our Corrie ten Boom book.

When they were ready to move on, we walked home and had lunch. We then completed lessons in life science, math, and music. My daughter also had homework from the literature class that she is taking at our weekly co-op.

This a snapshot of a single day in our homeschooling journey. Some days are more focused on book work than this particular day. Some days will be less book work, as we might be out attending a play or visiting a museum. For a beautiful fall day, though, this suited us quite well.