Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Motherwell and More

First: I want to announce a couple upcoming retreats I will be at this summer/fall...

In July, I'll be back in Philadelphia with Amy Snell for the CMEC Summer Retreat! This is a very special event and I'm excited to start preparing my talks in earnest. I'll be discussing habit training for younger and older kids, as well as building character through the content and methods of the Mason curriculum. This event will also include immersion opportunities (from singing games to Plutarch!), a dinnertime lecture with a prominent scholar (who just happens to be a dedicated homeschool mother as well!), and hands-on instruction in handicrafts and brush drawing. I can confidently recommend this event both to newcomers and to very experienced moms; Amy and I aim to offer some inspiring ideas from Mason no matter what stage you are in. If you are on the East Coast, I hope you will consider coming. More information here.

And for my western friends: in September, I'll be speaking at CM West :: Retreat at Puget Sound. Even though this is a CM West event like we have here in NorCal, I am not part of the organization team. I'll just be going to give a talk -- and to share in all of the retreat goodness, of course! What a treat. :)  I went to the last CM West retreat held at Palisades and the site is so peaceful and beautiful. It really does feel like a getaway.

The team has come up with the fresh idea of inviting attendees to narrate, discuss, and reflect on the main talks of the retreat in small groups; the concept sounds inviting and friendly -- and oriented toward growth and really wrestling with rich ideas in community. I think this will be a great combination of principles-based talks and practical chat regarding the outworking of those principles in our homes and homeschools. There will also be a variety of hands-on activities: folk dancing, handicrafts, nature walks, and more. I am looking forward to attending! More details here.

If you'll be at either of these events, I'd love to know. Please leave a comment below. :)


And now on to a recap of my Motherwell adventure for those of you that might be interested!

I flew in on Wednesday night and Amy picked me up at the airport on her drive down from Princeton. This was a full day before the event, but coming from the West Coast, I always have to choose between flying in a day early or flying in late the night before the event -- and I find the latter to be a physical challenge. And so we took advantage: we spent the night with a friend in DC, then drove in to the city to visit The National Gallery for the morning.

What a wonderful time! This was my first visit to DC, and I felt like we spent it just right. Art museums are my very, very favorite. I just couldn't have been happier with the collection there. Breathtaking!

We were joined on our museum trip by my friends Dawn and Jessie -- whom I am sure you know if you are in the AO crowd! The four of us had such a nice time. Dawn had a plan to get us a great parking spot, and she came through: we literally could not have been parked any closer. Yes, that is our car, and no parallel parking required! She said she learned her ways from our friend Maria, so I guess we have both of them to thank. Either way, it made our trip so much easier. :)

I took pictures for my kids of all the pieces we have studied over the years. They oohed and aahed over all I got to see! (AO moms: how many do you recognize??)

A few other highlights: they have a Tintoretto exhibit there right now and it was stunning. Large scale pieces with so much movement and yet so much stability -- if you are in that area, I highly  recommend getting there before it ends in July.

After lunch, Amy and I made the two-hour trek to Charlottesville and checked into our little airbnb. We ventured out for dinner and for a walk about the UVA campus...and for a stop at Trader Joe's. (Priorities.)

The event itself began on Friday morning. The retreat team did a fantastic job. It was in held a fresh and airy meeting center right in the heart of the charming dowtown. The second-floor space looked out onto the pedestrian thoroughfare, lined with coffee shops, restaurants, and used bookstores. (We totally took advantage of all three!) They decorated simply and tastefully with lettered signs and flowers. Everyone was so kind and welcoming -- so much southern charm!


The schedule was organized into talks and breakouts. It worked out to two talks in the morning after a short introduction, split by a break and followed by a simple (delicious) catered lunch, then a couple hours of Mother Culture-oriented sessions, then a final talk for each day. The breakout sessions offered new skills like sourdough bread baking, flower arranging, clay modeling, lettering, herbal tincture preparation, and more. All of the mothers were so enthusiastic about the sessions they signed up for -- so many great conversations about how refreshing it was to try out these mama practices.

oganizer Liz Wetzel

Amy and I had a great time presenting and both of us got so many interesting questions and comments during the narration/discussion portions of the workshops. Liz Wetzel and her local friends included so many thoughtful details and demonstrated a heart for offering something beautiful to the moms of that area. I was happy to play a part in that and to experience the retreat myself!

And of course a BIG bonus was the time I got to spend with Amy! We had a blast exploring Charlottesville together. On Sunday, we packed up and with our good friend Lynda. went to Mass and visited Monticello before driving back to DC. Even though we woke up to a drizzle, the rain cleared and it was gorgeous by the time we got up the hill. The grounds at Monticello took my breath away -- what a perfect time to visit, when everything was in bloom! We took an excellent tour of the house and had some great conversations while we walked.

Another big highlight: I got to see a cardinal and a blue jay, two birds we don't have here in California even though they are so common everywhere else! My bird-loving son was particularly jealous. :)

And then it was time to head home. It took me five days to recover (who's counting?! LOL) but I am now easing into our summer schedule with fresh inspiration and lots of wonderful memories. Thanks, Motherwell team, for inviting me!

Friday, May 3, 2019

{This and That} :: Springtime Celebrations

Happy Easter! Are you having a glorious Easter season? I felt a bit like I missed Easter Week since I was out of town for Motherwell, so I am grateful Easter is a season and not just a day or week. (And it was such a nice trip that it did feel quite festive!)

In fact, a bunch of things kind of came to a head here in our home in the last two weeks of April, while I was away from this space. Catching up on our week of celebrations here today...


The most important celebration of the week was Easter itself, of course. The days leading up to it, the Holy Triduum, are some of my favorite of the liturgical year. I took the older children to the Holy Thursday service as well as on Good Friday.

The little kids kept busy at home...You just can't make this kind of thing up! LOL

And we were all so happy when Easter morning arrived!


Second: we had Exam Week for Term 3 during Holy Week, closing out our school year. We finished on Holy Thursday morning, just in time to spend a prayerful Triduum. I was so happy it worked out that way!

holding their favorite books from the year!

We waited for our Exam Celebration until Easter Monday: cinnamon rolls, recitations, our usual display of work, some kind comments from Daddy...

As always, our little celebratory treat included some books and crafts for the summer ahead:

new stamped embroidery kits for the girls since they finished the others (I find these kinda tricky since the stamping is thick and a challenge to sew through, but they are a good starting point)
quilling kits for the boys (a new craft for us that I think they'll really enjoy)
a big pack of Gelly Rolls for all of their lettering
Timeless Golden Records CDs for some summertime car fun for my littles

And books relevant to the schoolwork we have done...
Brown's Daniel Boone from the Landmark series (to tie in with Year 4)
Little Golden Book's Our Flag (thinking about the Union Jack)
Gibbons' The Great St. Lawrence Seaway (to go with Paddle to the Sea!)
The White Cat retold by San Souci and Spirin (one of our favorite stories from The Blue Fairy Book)
Langstaff's Hi! Ho! The Rattlin' Bog (for summertime piano practice)
Wessels' The Golden Song Book (to replace a beat-up copy)
The Botany Coloring Book (for the line drawings to go with First Studies in Plant Life)
Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, retold by Barbara Cohen and illustrated by Trina Schart-Hyman

I will be giving a closer look at some of the year's work in my wrap-up post, coming at some point this summer! (Here is last year's.)


I also had a Good Friday birthday boy: Xavier turned nine! We waited until Easter Tuesday, his baptismal anniversary and the Feast of St. George, to celebrate.

Bearskin, illustrated by Trina Schart-Hyman
The Bearskinner, from the Brothers Grimm
Natalie Babbitt's Kneeknock Rise
Raggedy Andy Stories
an over-the-door basketball hoop
a pack of wool felt to make the sewn dagger he has been dreaming up since Christmas :)


And then on Easter Wednesday I left for Motherwell bright and early. I'll share about that event in another post.

Now I'm home and we're finished with school and I don't have another trip on the calendar until the CMEC Summer Retreat in July! Time to start school planning, house purging, book reorganization, and all of my other summertime projects...as soon as I catch up on sleep. :)