Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Embracing the Rhythm of the Season

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.
Winter has come early this year. According to the Farmer's Almanac, it will be a  cold, snowy season for us. Winter has always been rough for me. I struggle with Seasonal Affected Disorder and have a history of general depression. I often enter this time like a warrior prepped for battle. I have my extra B and D3 vitamins at the ready,. I bulk buy epsom salt and stock my essential oils for to baths to lift my mood and saturate myself with magnesium. I organize my schedule to include yoga, physical activity especially running, and forays into the cold, sunlight days for fresh, rejuvenating air. These preparations get me through the winter but I feel battered and weary at the end. 
This year my thoughts and focus is a bit different. What if instead of struggling against the very nature of the season, I just gave myself over to it? Oh, the vitamins and fresh air will still be important but what if I just embraced this time of year. 
This idea came to me one morning. I woke early and saw the neighbor kids.waiting in the cold and dark for the bus. You see, this is one of our favorite parts of home school. We wake up in accordance to our natural rhythms. Now those natural rhythms are pretty dang early but there is no frantic rush to our morning. Instead we snuggle on the couch wrapped in blankets as we slowly open ourselves to the day. What if I treated the coming season the same way and with the same calm deliberation? 
I am a driven and focused person. It is impossible, or at least silly, to criticize my children for their almost obsessive mindset on a given subject because they come by it naturally. Watching them has helped me know myself even better. We are driven to discover, to understand, and to succeed. Oh our success doesn't look like the model touted by the word, but it is strict, rigid and disciplined in our own minds. This all comes together to mean it is hard for me to slow down and relax. It also means it is very, very good for me to do so. I can drive myself past normal stops and burn myself out until I am just a shell. That doesn't benefit anyone or anything. 
Perhaps and extended rest is just what I need, what the whole family needs. Winter is a time for rest and reflection. All of nature slows down, sleeps, and hibernates. It is a time to turn inward. What if allowing myself to be slower, more sleepy, is exactly what I need to be rejuvenated? Taking time to read more, reflect more, focus on slow, methodical knitting, practicing slow yoga, and increasing mindful meditation. Just curling up more often to read with the children would be a benefit and a balm to my soul. 
I believe things come together for a reason. I have been interested in pursing slow education even more. I will write about hat particular subject in the near future. But it is instinctively coming together and settling into the foundation of our lives. It just feels right. I find the world is speeding up around us as I deliberately and intentional apply the brakes to our lives more and more. It is a very good thing for our family.
So unlike Frost, I think I shall divest our lives, temporarily, of extraneous commitments and instead literally and figuratively explore that woods so lovely, dark and deep.  
Here is a little something to keep you warm on these cold, snowy evenings. 
My Favorite Hot Chocolate
1 1/2 cups almond milk
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/4 teas of cinnamon 
a pinch of cayenne pepper

Whisk all ingredients to together in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir frequently until chocolate chips are melted and liquid is steaming. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A New Beginning

I created this space some time ago with a vague idea of sharing our lives. I did not have the proper focus so I did not follow through. My tendency to over-compartmentalize also interfered. Perhaps the main underlying reason was it was just not the right time.

Well, the time is right now.

This blog is about us in all our quirky glory. I posted recently on Facebook that some days I feel like I am running a commune for brilliant but reclusive, utterly focused introverts. This is the story of our "commune", how we live, how we play, how we educate, and yes, my friends wanting my recipes, how we eat.

Since the children have been born, we have followed a very play based learning philosophy. Little ones are natural scientists and explorers. If they are are allowed freedom and space, they are their own best educators with parents playing the role of facilitator and only when needed. For the early years, this method worked well for us and they thrived. We were often muddy, dirty, tired, and happy.

Somewhere before Hannah turned 7, I had a period of doubt and decided we needed more formal structure for her education. I implemented rather minimal traditional schooling. This decision brought us to a screaming halt. She hated it. Very quickly our mornings became a struggle. I knew she was prone to perfectionism but the fear of even the smallest mistake hung over her like a shadow. Due to the loathing of a limited amount formal school work, her natural learning and exploration ceased almost altogether.

I was destroying the natural joy and desire to learn in my child. It wasn't worth it, not at all. So I tossed the curriculum and resumed our journey of child led learning. Peace and calm returned, at least as far as learning went, to our home.

So what does this look like? First off, the kids have scads of free time to do, well....whatever. All of our art supplies, even my "grown up" paint are accessible for them to use. There are days Logan spends hours working on art. He has raided my pantry to create new mediums in which to use in his projects. His ideas astound me.

There are science activities everywhere. I try to make myself available to play lab assistant/guide. Sometimes I am needed and sometimes Hannah is in her own head pursing whatever idea has taken hold of her for that day (week, month, whatever). Hannah could work with science experiments for hours.

Minecraft is a new addition to our home. Hannah has taken lead on this. She diligently searches out video tutorials to make whatever she has decided she needs in her world. I will admit, I am useless in this. Thankfully her father has experience with online gaming. I love watching her methodically find the resources she needs to achieve her goals, study and learn them, and then implement the technique.

Books are everywhere in our home. I am a voracious reader. Even though I am always looking for ways to simply our lives and embrace a personal form of minimalism, well I will always horde books. We spend huge chunks of time snuggled up on my bed reading literature, myths, fairy tales, a steady stream of science books, and whatever else strikes our fancy. It is one of my favorites things to do as a family. The coming cold of winter and early darkness beckons to us to do this even more.

The last main component contributing to our lives is nature. We spend so much time outdoors. The only thing I don't have is 10 acres of woods behind my house for the kids to explore and lose themselves in their imagination. This past weekend was a  perfect example of how I balance out that deficiency. We tramped through the a local state park searching for geodes to study and boulders to climb.

I love my kids set their own physical boundaries. Trying very hard to not helicopter parent has enabled them to know their own limitations. They tend to push themselves but instinctively, well usually, know when to back off. Yes, we suffer from bruises and scrapes. There is a very good chance someone will end up with a broke something eventually. Nonetheless, the experience is invaluable and will contribute to them being a self reliant, confident, and competent adults.

After a day of running through the woods like the wild heathens we are, nothing tastes better than homemade soup. This Creamy Mushroom Wild Rice Soup was perfect.

Creamy Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup

1 yellow onion diced
2 carrots diced
16 oz of mushrooms
4 Tablespoons of Vegan Butter (or regular butter)
40oz of Vegetable Broth
1 cup of wild rice
1 teaspoon of salt
Several twists of black pepper
3 small stalks of Rosemary pulled off stem and run through with a knife
Cashew Cream Sauce (recipe follows)

Melt Butter in large heavy saucepan. Saute onion, mushroom, and carrots with salt and pepper until just this side of tender. Transfer into a stockpot. Add in veggie broth and rosemary and bring to a boil. Stir in wild rice and simmer for 45 minutes.  Stir in cashew cream and heat through. This will thicken very quickly so stir often and keep an eye on it.. Check taste for preferred seasonings. This soup is amazing with a hot, fresh from the oven loaf of crusty french bread. You can slave all day on that or just use the handy dandy take and bake.

Cashew Cream Sauce
1/2 cup raw cashews soak in water for several hours
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
3 teaspoons of garlic
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
2 Tablespoons of nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon of salt
several cranks of pepper

Combine everything in the blender and blend for several minutes until very smooth.

This soup provided a wonderful end to a wonderful day.