Finding The Body on vacation

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Tickets? Check.
Restaurant recommendations? Check.
Lodging? Check.
Church for Sunday? Uhhhhh. . . no. This is vacation. Vacation from everything, including church.

There are any number of reasons why we never consider attending church while on vacation. We don’t want to pack “church clothes.” We wouldn´t know anybody at the church, so we might be uncomfortable and conspicuous. We might have to get up earlier than we’d like. Particularly in a foreign country, you may be concerned about a language barrier. And what about childcare? You don’t want to leave your kids with strangers.

Some of my most memorable and refreshing moments while traveling have been the opportunities we took to worship with followers of Jesus at a local church.

A decade ago I attended a service with followers of Jesus in a small basement church in Paris. The congregation of fifty was dynamic and ethnically diverse. They were having a clothes drive to collect items for families in poverty, something not unlike what my home church would do.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYears later, my husband and I were deeply moved as a young man and his evangelical praise team led a small group of worshippers in the cathedral of Chartres, France (photo above). The simple melody of his guitar filled the heights of the halls and God was glorified. Though my husband does not speak French, I translated some of the lines and he was able to sing with understanding, following words on a small sheet handed out to all participants. Tourists mingled on the outskirts. If they understood what we were singing, they would have heard that Jesus is the Son of God and he has risen from the dead.

In Amsterdam, a plaque permanently placed on the doorway of a centuries old church announced service times. I was traveling alone over the weekend and passed by the church on a Friday. Familiar with the denomination, I decided to attend their service on Sunday. In the sanctuary built to host hundreds were seated only a dozen or so people. They were overjoyed to see my young face and even more excited that I sang along in the congregational singing. Would I please join their choir? Would I please BE their choir? Alas, they were disappointed that I was only passing through, but were grateful that I had joined them in fellowship that day.

On a three-day weekend in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, my husband and I decided to worship at a congregation where, it so happened, the parents of a college friend were also attending this particular Sunday. We bumped into them as we entered the building at the same time. I hadn’t been in touch with my friend for several years. What a pleasant surprise to bump into his relatives!  But I am reminded there are no surprises in the body of Christ, only encounters God uses to encourage and remind us that his family is everywhere. His family is our family.

In London we rose for a leisurely breakfast at our hotel and took the bus to Hillsong London. We didn’t know anyone who attended the church, but we knew the fellowship would be welcoming and we would be encouraged, worshipping with and seeing the body of Christ in the city. We, along with our infant daughter, were warmly welcomed by likeminded individuals who watched the preaching on a screen in a toddler playroom off the side of the sanctuary. Coffee and chairs were provided for the gathering of families. This is not the environment in which we worship at home, but we were encouraged through the fellowship and the preaching of the Word nonetheless.

A friend and I once took a pilgrimage to a dreamland from our youth – Prince Edward Island, Canada. She found and booked our lodging at various Bed and Breakfasts. I researched day trips and found a church near our Sunday B&B at which I thought we would be comfortable worshipping (see banner photo). Shortly after breakfast we drove down a winding country road and, after a few miles, spotted a lone white church on a verdant, grassy hill in the distance. We parked on the gravel and walked in to a service that had begun many minutes before. Apparently I got the service time wrong. Instead of using our tardiness as an excuse, we, along with my 4-month-old, discreetly entered and found open seats. The congregation was small and, yes, I did feel all eyes on us as we took our places at the end of a pew. This church was non-instrumental. The congregation raised their voices, heartily led by the pastor at the pulpit with no musical accompaniment. That is not how the service goes at my home church, but this was nonetheless authentic worship that glorified God. At the close of the service, we were greeted genuinely by various congregants who invited us to the church fellowship hall in the basement for the weekly church potluck. Though we came empty handed, they insisted we join them and a handful of other families. They had nothing to gain, except perhaps mutual encouragement from other members of the Body. They knew they would likely never see us again, but they extended the hand of Christian hospitality to us. Any excuse I could have had for not attending church on my vacation was shot to pieces.

By the time I’ve planned out a vacation, the last thing I want to do is research a church. I’m not naïve. There are plenty of “churches” out there I would loathe to attend, foremost because the teaching may not align with what I believe. To some extent, I am sympathetic to that argument. My entire extended family was together one weekend after attending a destination wedding. Being of one mind, we agreed we should attend church. The owners of our hotel invited us to their fellowship in a large cathedral down the road. They were kind, gracious people and they insisted the church was wonderful and had helped them grow spiritually. The name of the church didn’t sound too off-beat or cultish, so off we went. It was a little more glitzy and showy than we were used to, but we chocked it up to cultural differences in worship style – not an issue we couldn’t tolerate for one service. But as the preacher ascended the pulpit and began to share about fundraising for a new facility in another city, a sermon never materialized and the offering plates were passed down the aisles to thousands of congregants who were informed in great detail how they could give – credit card, check, online, etc. After fifteen minutes of this show, in which several out-of-context verses were tossed on a screen overhead – we discreetly fled. The lesson here isn’t never attend church when away from home. The lesson is, simply, do a little research.

The internet makes it ridiculously easy to find a church. The point is not to find a church that could be your home church if you were to live in that locale. As a frequent mover, I can attest that finding a home church may be challenging. But a church that holds to the same doctrinal truths where you can worship for one Sunday? It’s not that difficult. Church websites often have a ‘Statement of Faith’ page. Read it. Church websites should also have a list of staff, including a short background of the individuals and their education. This will give you an idea of their theological bent. If your home church is of a particular denomination, find a church of the same denomination where you are traveling.

We have been spiritually refreshed and our perspective on how God is at work around the world has been transformed. . . even on vacation.

at Home on the Farm

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Taking a weekend road trip with children is like telling a lie – the more often you do it, the easier it becomes (or so I’ve been told).  Anticipating 18 hours on the road over the course of four days can induce anxiety.  But in the midst of the deed, it doesn’t feel so bad.  And once the deed is done, it feels totally worth it.  Of course, no matter how necessary it seems, one should not tell a lie.  However, one should definitely take that road trip.

I so enjoy a trip to the home farm I married into.  This was the purpose of our road trip a few weekends ago.  The farm is more home than farm, so welcoming and instantly transporting.  Though a mere hour or so from New York City, this farm is far placed from urbanity.  Inside the farm house there is a varietal assemblage of family art and antiques and a vast collection of well-aged books.  Outside there is dirt and weeds and fields and cows and a vegetable garden that seems naturally placed and absolutely necessary, not like my urban garden that’s simply a nod to locavorism.

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If the entire property was perfectly landscaped, with no space for mud, I would feel restless and worried my children might tramp a dirt clod into the wrong space.  If there was no overgrowth along the hedges, I would have to assume every last bit of land was accounted for and my children’s romp through the flowerbed would be noticed.  Not so at this home farm.  Children are free to roam and swim in the pond and be, well, children – scraped knees, ripped clothes and all.

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If I had an antique truck parked in my front yard with grass growing halfway up the rims, it would be considered tacky and trashy.  On a farm it’s quaint and adds character.  It’s perfectly placed.  If I placed a potted plant in a naturally distressed, old milk can, I could send the photo to a magazine and tout my country style of decorating.  On this farm, it’s just another small symbol among many of an authentic country life.

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When honesty eclipses repentance

Every day a blog or article pops up in my newsfeed touting the 10 Things Parent’s Won’t Tell You or 10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Having Children or something else along those lines.  Someone confesses how challenging their life is, particularly compared to what it used to be, could be, or “should” be.  Comments follow, praising the writer’s honesty and how the reader can relate to the struggle.  This is particularly true in the Mommy Blog arena.  There is no lack of material discussing how lonely, frustrating and tiring it is mothering small children.  When I tread into the mommy blog arena, I am confounded by the mixed messages.  Am I meant to be encouraged by the writer’s honesty, knowing that I am not alone in my struggle against the flesh?

Yes, negative feelings and thought patterns during motherhood are normal.  I struggle daily for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Those character traits aren’t normal.  Focusing on my fatigue, my lack of me-time, on how thankless my children are – don’t they know what I am sacrificing for them? – is normal.  Focusing on how I can’t control my kids – and that makes me look bad – is normal.  Yes, these feelings grounded in sin are normal.  We need to be rescued from this.

We rightly applaud people for sharing their normal, but neglect the critical next step – repentance.  I am beginning a study of the books of Samuel, which include the account of the life of David.  David struggled with every sin imaginable.  He could have written a blog entitled Why I Had Bathsheba’s Husband Killed, baring his soul and how he simply couldn’t resist Bathsheba’s beauty.  We would all comment how we appreciate his honesty.  But what made David a great man?  He struggled with sin – did not accept it as something he just had to deal with because of his position or season of life – and repented.

Where does honesty take us if not to repentance?

Our culture glorifies honesty and never talks about repentance.  Repentance is only for those who have sin in their lives.  One of my favorite bloggers recently brought honesty and repentance into a right context.  She made herself vulnerable and shared about a crisis in her marriage, one that ultimately led to her family leaving Egypt and returning to the United States.  She struggled through grief as she mourned the death of her overseas life.  She could have stopped there.  Us readers could relate to the struggle of being pulled away from something we love.  But she didn’t stop there.  Words paraphrased from Jonah came to her –  “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (Jonah 3:8).   She was clinging to an idol – ministry overseas – and was “willing to forfeit the grace that our marriage so desperately needed” for that overseas life.*  I was encouraged by Marilyn’s honesty, but more encouraged by the fact that she identified the sin in her life – idolatry – and sought counsel to address it.

Our culture has come a long way in being able to share our struggles openly.  But what’s the point of sharing/blogging/Facebook-status-updating/ etc those hardships if it doesn’t lead us to discuss the Truth that sets us free?

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*You can read Marilyn Gardner’s complete post at A Life Overseas.

Indelible Scars- Verdun

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In-del-i-ble (adj): not able to be forgotten or removed

One hundred years ago the Great War – the war to end all wars – began.  Years of carnage and devastation followed.  I have seen the scars.

Millions upon millions were killed.  This war reached the furthest corners of the globe.  I once visited a military cemetery in a remote region of Africa where soldiers from WWI are buried.   I have seen the scars.

While tragedies abound in our day, none can be compared to the killings of the beginning of the last century.  The scars are still there to be seen.

As an observer of history one hundred years on, it is difficult to fathom the devastation.  To better understand history and man’s condition, I visited Verdun several years ago.  The battle of Verdun in eastern France was one of the costliest in human history.  Nearly three quarters of a million men were killed.  The battle lasted nearly a year and the bullets and cannons fired across the land permanently changed the landscape.  It is scarred.  One hundred years on, acre upon acre is still pocked with craters.  In many areas, the unexploded ordnance make it dangerous to walk.  Raised plank walkways are built through the woods so visitors do not fall into craters obscured by overgrowth.  This landscape will always bear these visible scars.

This is one war humankind will never forget.

In a world where the most serious scars are those hidden in people’s hearts, Verdun reminds me that visible scars are significant too.  Jesus was pierced and crushed, leaving indelible, visible scars.  Those are the scars that lead to true freedom.

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In the cemetery at Verdun are buried those who identify with the Christian faith.  This we are accustomed to seeing – fields of white crosses that bring tears to our eyes.  But this cemetery also contains the remains of Muslim men, bodies buried facing Mecca.  Yet another sign this Great War left no one untouched.

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You can read about our experience of stumbling upon a British WWI cemetery in Mozambique here.

As hospitable as the Washingtons – an impression of Mount Vernon

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Recently I have been exploring the cost effective option of house swapping for an upcoming trip to Europe.  The internet has enabled folks who are willing to let complete strangers stay in their home connect in a secure way.  For a home swap, users essentially join a club where you can list your house and view listing of homes from around the world where you would be welcome to stay if the owners have vacancy.  At first glance, it sounds risky.  It requires trusting complete strangers around your personal possessions.  What if they steal something while they stay in your home?  Or what if the home you stay in is really dirty gross? These are, of course, logical questions.  Despite those minor risks, allowing complete strangers to stay in one’s home has been done since the dawn of time.  Perhaps only in the last century have people been expected to rely solely on inns and hotels for a bed while traveling.  In a recent visit to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s famed estate, I learned that the family welcomed traveling strangers into their home nearly every night.  I may soon be welcoming complete strangers into my home.  Hospitality has come full circle.

P1040919With few inns located throughout the region, it was common courtesy in 18th Century New England to host weary travelers in one’s home.  Our Mount Vernon tour guide relayed how the estate was located on a busy travel route and became a common stop for those needing overnight accommodation.  The several guest rooms were frequently booked with passers through, often complete strangers to the Washingtons, who nonetheless offered them room and board.  Even after he returned home from his time as President, overnight guests often had the pleasure of breakfasting with Washington before they continued their journey.  This exemplary show of hospitality was a normal, expected part of the culture.

Allowing someone to stay in your home is a very personal affair.  The guests see your family photos on the wall and peruse your bookshelves, quickly gleaning an insight into your personal interests.  Several years ago we allowed a family from New Zealand – friends of friends – to stay in our home while we were away.  We were already out of town when they arrived, so we never had the opportunity to meet them. They left a very kind note after their stay indicating they felt they knew us after spending so much time in the presence of all our earthly belongings.  When you open your home, you make yourself vulnerable.  Your home and how you keep is speaks volumes of who you are as a person.  I’m looking forward to making my home presentable for complete strangers and, in turn, learning to love and care for someone else’s home while I have the pleasure of experiencing their hospitality, whether or not I actually get to meet them.   P1040914 P1040916

World Cup ready dessert OR Dessert fit for Berlin

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P1050375It’s the little things that trigger happy memories – memories of family togetherness during travels or times living abroad (or in another state).  Little things like dessert.  World Market does it to me every time.  For a minuscule obligatory donation, I return home with an edible item that will trigger smiles, laughter and stories of times gone by.  Most recently it was German ice cream.  The ice cream didn’t start out German, however.  It started with a batch of homemade vanilla ice cream, a favorite Rittersport Chocolate bar (made near Stuttgart, Germany), and travel biscuits of the British type, i.e. a cookie. I crushed up half the chocolate bar and several cookies from less enticing destinations (uh-hum, Las Vegas) and mixed them with the softened ice cream.  After refreezing the batch, I selected an appropriate biscuit with which to garnish the edible memory-inducer.  This being “German” ice cream, I selected a Berlin biscuit. P1050376 Then, using my favorite IKEA repurposed candle holders, the dessert was ready for assembly, presentation and consumption. P1050377This dessert brought back memories of passing through the Brandenburg Gate while running the Berlin half marathon.  The course was packed with participants and spectators the entire length of the race.  I also hadn’t counted on only seeing kilometer markers.  Kilometers go by faster than miles, but there are a lot more of them.  That’s a very profound concept for a runner to contemplate while weaving through a course in downtown Berlin, admiring nearly every significant landmark in the city. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA While drinking the last melted drops of sweet cream from the bottom of my glass, I also recalled the city bathed in warm summer sun.  We had taken a nap on a grassy lawn, along with every other tourist, student, businessman-on-lunch-break and local senior citizen loading up on warmth after the previous season’s numbing cold. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA If you could take a tour via biscuit, to which city would your memories take you?

P.S.  Hosting a World Cup party?  Serve a city biscuit appropriate to the country playing the match.  Argentina’s on the field?  Mix ice cream with authentic dulce de leche topped with Buenos Aires.  Will you be watching Colombia play today?  Serve ice cream drizzled with espresso and a side of Bogotá.

Tangier is an island

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It happens all the time.  Someone is wearing a T-shirt from a distant destination and I enthusiastically ask if they’ve been there.  Sometimes I’ve been to the T-shirt worthy locale, so it’s a fun conversation starter – or non-starter.  Case in point, after a dip in the pool a friend recently wrapped up in a towel with “Portofino” grandly displayed.  “I’ve been to Portofino!” I commented.
“Where’d you stay?” she responded enthusiastically.
“Well, we didn’t go into the town.  We stayed at a little bed and breakfast up on the hillside looking down.  It was really beautiful.”
She looked confused.  Then I noticed the small letters below the blue Portofino script on her towel – Florida.
Awkward.
I added meekly, “Oh, I thought it was for Portofino, Italy.”
“I wish I’ve been there!”

P1050149And so it is in the New World, with an inordinate number of cities and towns named after a city with the same name on the other side of the Atlantic.  Most of these places in the United States are completely unlike their namesake.  Take Tangier, for example.  When John Smith landed on the island it reminded him of the region in North Africa for which he named it.  The quickly shrinking island is currently nothing like Tangier, Morocco, though I have no doubt the much larger island of centuries past may have had similarly large sand dunes and scrub brush.  Namesake aside, the residents of the island are proud of their heritage as watermen (crab catchers) and welcome visitors who support their one other industry – tourism.

Tangier Island gets mixed reviews because people have mixed expectations.  This is no Portofino Island, Florida.  There are no resorts, chain restaurants, cars (only speedy golf carts), alcoholic beverages, ATMs or even a bridge to get there.  You must take the ferry or fly a puddle jumper that lands on the small airstrip.  People go to Tangier Island because they’ve heard the locals speak a unique English accent, a mix of British English and American English with its own Chesapeake lilt, preserved because of their isolation from the mainland.  As we strolled down the main street – a lane the width a golf cart – we did appreciate overhearing the locals engage one another in lively conversation in a tongue that seemed to be its own dialect.  But one doesn’t journey to an island just to eavesdrop on people talking about the weather or last night’s hockey game.  We also came to do what we usually do when exploring with kids – take a walk, look at bugs, visit a museum, find a playground, and eat.  Fortunately, Tangier Island was more than obliging on all accounts, so it completely met our expectations.P1050147 P1050203

After disembarking the boat, we made our way down main street to the school playground.  The swings and slides were in working order, so what more could we want?  When the boys let out for recess (boys and girls take recess at different times), I asked the friendly recess monitor what we should do during our few hours on the island.  She recommended we visit the museum and then take the nature trail behind the museum to the water’s edge to enjoy the vista of the village.  This we did.  The Tangier Island museum, and most notably the short video documentary, is a must see at the beginning of a visit to the island.  It greatly increased our previously limited understanding of the unique island culture, its history and its uncertain future.  Even the kids appreciated the static displays and curiosities.  After viewing the museum we found the aforementioned nature trail and walked past a gentle tomcat who looked like he had been mauled by a giant crab, past one of the the ubiquitously placed Tangier Island lighthouse trashcans, past a row of decorative bird houses, over a marsh and, finally, to the water’s edge.  There, we enjoyed some ice cream and relaxed on new benches, while intermittently sprinting to grab hold of the shirt of a child leaning too close to the water’s edge.  The water is shallow and visual treasures abound, so count on spending time peering into the salty sea.

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We lunched at one of the five dining establishments, ordering a variety of fresh seafood.  Soft shell blue crab was in season.  Not being a native of the region, I received a quick education on crustaceans.  I know crabs have hard shells, so, having never pondered the life of a crab, I just assumed some varieties also have soft shells.  Why else would they be called soft shell crab?  That’s not exactly how it works.  Crabs molt their hard shells as they grow.  When the shell comes off, the new shell underneath is still soft.   Because the new shell only takes hours to a few days to harden, consuming crab during this phase is considered a delicacy.  My delicacy, three soft shelled tiny critters, was served battered and deep fried on a bun.

P1050174The islanders are hospitable, welcoming folk.  They all know each other and know that you are a tourist, but most are still up for a chat.  As we sat in the shade of a tree by the swings, the biting flies became nearly insufferable.  Noticing our constant swatting, a lady pulled up in her golf cart and handed us a bottle of bug repellant.  “Yeah, the flies are really bad.  We should put that in the literature so visitors are prepared with repellant.”  Though we weren’t prepared in that regard, she had noticed our discomfort from afar and came to our aid.  Where else does that happen? Like most locals, she wasn’t in a rush to anywhere and was happy to to chat about the island over the buzz of the flesh-eating insects. Apparently they just get more numerous and large as the season moves into summer.  Did I already mention you should bring fly repellant?

Once an island of over 2,000 acres, the plot of land is now down to about 700 acres.  The island is disappearing.  You need to visit, if only in fifty years to be able to say “I was there.”

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After visiting the Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta this year, I couldn’t pass up this shot of the vending machine opposite a porcelain throne.  Priceless.P1050152 P1050147

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Ferries to Tangier Island depart from Reedville, Virginia; Onancock, Virginia; and Crisfield, Maryland.  More information can be found on the island’s official website.  The website is simple without flashy banners, advertisements, and embedded drop-down menus, but everything you need is there.  Kind of like the island.

Thanks Google Maps

Thanks Google Maps

 

 

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Exploring Downton Abbey fashion

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P1050290Men and women, young and old, multi-generational families – they all came for one purpose.  In this parched viewing land between seasons, they come to taste of Downton Abbey.  Though it takes a mere 45 minutes to view the collection, it does not disappoint.  This is the fashion of the Downton Abbey – forty notable outfits warn by characters throughout the seasons.  But these are not simply costumes, they are real clothes, some original pieces from the period, restored to live again in glory on screen.  When I watch the series, I’m usually engrossed in the storyline, but I’ve increasingly come to appreciate the eye candy – the décor, costumes and even the culinary masterpieces put before the characters several times in each episode.  The series is notable for its attention to detail and period authenticity in most areas.  The costumes, of course, are no exception.  The exhibit at the Winterthur Museum, located near Wilmington, Delaware, in the United States, describes the process of designing and creating costumes for the characters, paying particular attention to fabrics and colors.  This is only fitting for Winterthur, considering it hosts one of the most extensive collections of 18th and 19th century printed textiles in the United States.  In several sections of the exhibit, video screens loop notable scenes, with costumes from the scene on display.  In other areas, life-size photographs are the backdrop to the fashion, with placards explaining the piece’s significance.  For Downton Abbey novices or those who may not be particularly interested in fashion, the exhibit gives an outline of the show, its context in history and relates the life of Downton’s characters to individuals who lived in Winterthur, which had its own upstairs and downstairs.  One particularly notable aspect of the exhibit is how it places television script opposite photos and a specific dress or suit.  As I read the script with the visual cues, the particular scene came alive in vivid detail.  Who needs to watch a scene on screen when all the ingredients for a perfect drama are perfectly laid before you?

For those who wish to visit Winterthur and forgo the Downton experience, you save a hefty $30 and receive a ticket stub that reads “not interested in Downton.”  And if you don’t relish the thought of taking small children into the exhibit, Winterthur’s regular offerings are equally delightful, including the enchanted garden, a fairytale land reminiscent of the fairytale garden in Ludwigsburg, Germany.

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As you enter the hall
theme music playing
a cast of characters
almost like family
greets you.

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And the quality of this photo leaves much to be desired, but for those who must know, a scene of the proposal loops in the background of a dimly light corner, complete with falling lights to simulate snow.  The original proposal costumes are on display as you can pay respects to a true love story.

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A traveling education

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As my oldest nears the age for kindergarten, a popular topic of discussion among my mommy friends is education.  When will I send my kid to school and what kind of school will it be?  As I anticipate the education of my children, I look back at my years of schooling in which I attended public schools in foreign countries, wore a uniform at a private British school, studied with a tutor, home schooled, spent a year at an international school, and, finally, graduated from a boarding school.  My parents were flexible, choosing what they thought best and financially viable for that period of our life.  As I was reminded recently while reading Tsh Oxenrieder‘s book Notes from a Blue Bicycle, never discount a particular form of education.  There is a time and place for everything.  

During this period of our family’s life, we have decided that being together as a family is more important than most other things we could focus on (evening routines, consistency in nap schedules, extracurricular classes, etc).  My husband has been traveling for the last six weeks and we’ve joined him for a good two weeks of that time.  My oldest is preschool age, so she could be in preschool.  She also could miss preschool for trips to see daddy, but I’m too cheap.  If we’re paying for it, we’re going to do it, so no skipping a private preschool education so we can travel.  I actually tried that already.  She went to preschool twice a week for several months while my husband was away and we couldn’t join him.  The school was fantastic.  She loved it and I loved that she loved it and could do the school thing.  But it was a bit constricting for our lifestyle.  If I decided to take a trip and skip Thursday school, I felt guilty wasting the money I had allocated for an education she was not attending to.  Do you know how many cups of fresh roasted coffee I could have bought with that money?  Nevertheless, the school was a blessing and just what we needed for that season of life.  

That brings us to today.  She’s four – barely an age that requires formal education.   So, I informally homeschool.  A couple times a week we work on reading and writing for a half hour or so.  Sometimes she doesn’t want to do it, which is fine.  I happily let her know she is absolutely under no obligation to do school – she just can’t play her computer ABC game until she completes her work.  Works every time.  I taught her to use a computer mouse when she turned three so she could navigate a phonics website.  We don’t have a touch pad or touch screen anything and I thought teaching her to use a mouse would help develop hand eye coordination.  That’s completely unverifiable, but now that you read it here, in print, on the internet, you can assume it must be true.  So, Little P has learned how to open her website and find her “game.”  I’ve used several different free educational websites and free trials.  Starfall.com and ABCmouse.com are two that she has enjoyed.  We haven’t tried it yet, but K5 Learning has an online reading and math program for kindergarten to grade 5 students.  For the purposes of full disclosure, because I’m a blogger I have been given a six week free trial to test and write a review of their program, if I mention them in a blog.  (If you are blogger, you may want to check out their open invitation to write an online learning review of their program).  I am a lover of books and hard copy materials my kids can touch, smell and sometimes, for the baby, taste  – things that don’t emanate artificial light.  However, I currently do enjoy that fact that there are some great online educational platforms my daughter begs to play because she thinks they’re games.  I’m biding my time until she figures it out. . .

 

 

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Snapshot of Serenity

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Sitting on my back porch, enjoying an unusually cool morning, I look down at the pool of urine around my ankles.  No, postpartum incontinence hasn’t gotten the better of me.  My almost-three-year-old decided she’d rather stay snuggled on my lap than take the long, four meter trek to the bathroom.  She was soaked, my legs were dripping and the puddle started draining through the spaces between the floor boards, watering the weeds below.  Several feet away, also on the deck, my four-year-old had moments earlier emptied the contents of her muddy science experiment in little dribbles and piles.  Thirty second earlier, this is not how I had envisioned my morning.  For crying out loud, it was barely seven thirty!  I had been sipping my coffee, chatting lightly, watching the squirrels and taking visual snapshots of scenes that caught my eye from the dry comfort of my chair.  I was taking pictures that I alone could see and remember, savoring the refreshment of an early morning outside with my littles.  The pee quickly shocked me out of that reverie.  But I also had to consciously decide that the pee incident didn’t have to set the tone for the morning.  Pee happens.  After a quick cleanup, I spent a few more moments soaking in the outdoors and imprinting the snapshots in my mind.  Then I grabbed my camera, because they were too good not to share.  P1050120P1050122P1050128P1050127

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