My son insists on writing.  (happy dance)

We are still just doing the basic two exercises.  Free Writing for 5 minutes and 5 minutes on a descriptive paragraph.  After next week, I hope to explore other writing exercises and explore some options for a fun essay.  The writing exercises need to be fun as I need to keep his enthusiasm.  We will do the free-write each day and the descriptive paragraph at least twice a week. 

I need to improve on my descriptive paragraphs I think.  I'm not sure if I'm just not fully into my writing mode yet or if I  just can't grasp the descriptive part of it. But I feel like I'm just talking about the subject and giving the action of the subject rather than describing it.  Todays topic was Spilling a Liquid:

     Spilling a liquid can be disasterous, funny, or simply annoying but always wet.  Liquids are wet and that wetness can cover enormous areas.  Spilling a large amount of liquid is annoying due to the time involved in cleanup and can be disasterous when involving spaghetti sauce which stains, vinegar with it's strong odor or honey leaving a forever sticky residue behind.  Spilling liquids can also be funny when it's a container of ice cold water poured down on an unsuspecting victim's back on a swealtering hot summer day.

So that was my paragraph.  Perhaps I am to critical of myself.  It is after all only a 5 minute paragraph of which we write what comes to our head with no preperation and no time to edit.  I just fill like I told about actions rather than describing....but how else would one describe spilling a liquid?  We are using a list of topics from a book I have. We are trying to add our own topics to the list as we think of them and my son gets to choose the topic of choice each day. I guess some are just easier to describe.  A Cup of Coffee on the first day was my favorite. 

Now we are reading the book Hatchet by Gary Paulson.  I haven't read this book in ages but am enjoying reading it with my son.  Most might say he's a little old for a read-aloud.  But he still likes it and with him reading his own book (currently The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis) and us doing a read-aloud as well, he gets to read more books through the year and I get to as well- plus it's still time we get to spend together and that makes my heart feel good.  Of course, he doesn't snuggle up in my lap anymore (but I still get that from my toddler ) but we do interact- and that makes it wonderful.

I'm having one of those mornings when my mind is racing with all the things there are to do.  Things that have to do with daily living, the garden, homeschooling, the upcoming celebration of Pascha, and things I want to do such as writing, reading, etc.  It's an overwhelming feeling and the more I think the more I am overcome by things and recall more and more things I keep forgetting to do.  I know these are the days I need to hand to God and know that He will guide me to do what's most important and somehow maintain my sanity.  But it's hard.  I am always afraid I will miss what He is telling me or simply forget to listen.


My son WANTED to do writing this morning!   If I knew how to add visuals here there'd be a little figure dancing.....

My son wrote an awesome descriptive paragraph today during our 5 minute description exercise.  Today's topic was CHOCOLATE!

He wrote:

     Chocolate is a smooth and creamy melt in your mouth piece of heaven.  Dark chocolate is yummy when you REALLY need it, but milk chocolate is yummy, sweet, awesome, and amazing.  Whether it is in hot chocolate or by itself, it is definitely the best thing ever.  With ginger, peanuts, toffee, or plain, it will make everyone happy.  If you're feeling depressed dont'take chemical filled antidepressants, take chocolate!  If your happy, chocolate will make you feel even awesomesser!

(It is worth noting that awesomness is his current favorite term)

I did not feel my own piece was as 'awesome':

Chocolate is the best thing for a hectic day.  It's also the best thing for any day.  It's good any TIME of day.  Chocolate is rich and satisfying.  It is sweet and delicious. It is dark and milky.  It is perfect. It is a sweet combination with nuts, strawberries, and milk, or most anything!  It is soothing and a pick-me-up.  Chocolate should be mandatory at meetings, peace talks and all social occasions.  White chocolate is a silly attempt - it lacks all the true decadance of the real thing.

Even though chocolate is my favorite food (yes, I do classify it as a food), I wasn't exactly feeling creative this morning.  But at least what I wrote was something more than what I was writing a couple weeks ago!

Oh, and I thought I'd share this quote that a friend of mine share with me today. I think I'll type it out and post it to my door!

          "If you have come to see me, come on in.

                 If you have come to see my house, please make an appointment!"

I love it!

The past few days have been quite busy. We celebrated my toddler’s 2nd birthday. What a wonderful thing to celebrate. Of course a two year old doesn’t exactly grasp the idea of ‘birthday’, but he did enjoy the Happy Birthday song we sang throughout the day, and he enjoyed the pirogies we had for dinner (they seem to be his favorite…he ate SIX all by himself!). He also seemed to enjoy blowing out his candles (this was evident in that he smiled happily and kept asking to do it again!). We had cupcakes (since he spits when he blows out a candle) and berries on the side (still keeping with the Lenten fast rather than a sugary icing and ice cream). This was obviously a good choice since he didn’t give a hoot about the cupcake and kept begging for more berries! Even with all this excitement, I was actually looking forward to today’s writing lesson all weekend.

Today I began a new approach to writing with my 13 year old son. It has been altogether clear that he has not enjoyed the writing lessons we have had thus far this year. He is quite adamant that he does not like writing. I don’t believe him. I think he does. He enjoys the creative process of writing. But he does not like grammar or using capitals and periods or thinking about sentence or paragraph structure.

He enjoys writing in the journal he received from my sister for his birthday. She came up with a variety of writing topics and wrote them on bits of paper and placed them in a jar. Each night he picks one and writes. He looks forward to this and has made this part of his bedtime routine….completely set apart from anything school related. I love to see this excitement in him about writing. (Maybe it reminds me of myself) I would love to see what he is writing, but I have allowed him to keep it private. But I want to instill that same excitement into at least some of his writing assignments for school.

So today I deleted his last assignment from our lessons ( an 800 word essay about Saint Alexander Nevsky for an essay contest of which required research, note taking, and heavy paraphrasing of sometimes difficult material - in other words - boring for him) and began writing workshop instead. We started with two exercises today.

The first exercise was simply free writing. We each took 5 minutes to simply write whatever came to mind. The rules are simple. You can’t put your pencil down. You must write continuously for 5 minutes. It can be anything. And if you can’t think of something to write….well, then that’s what you write. (I can’t think of what to write. I can’t think of what to write.) It can be the same thing over and over again until you think of something better. This is an exercise I did in my 6th grade inclusion classroom many years ago when I taught in the public schools. The kids always loved this exercise once we did it a few times and they got the hang of the fact it wasn’t to be graded, it didn’t need to be perfect, they didn’t have to share it, and they could really write whatever they wanted Most times kids ended up wanting to share what they wrote. My son did today. We both shared. We laughed over the fact that we both wrote about the annoying sound the dog was making while licking her paws. (It’s a large dog; therefore, a large annoying sound!)

The second exercise was the Description Paragraph. We did this a few years ago and he loved it then. Why did I stop? Whatever the case, we started again today. We picked a topic from a list in the book The Writer’s Workbook by Caroline Sharp . We will soon develop our own list as some of the topics are certainly not what a 13 year old boy wants to describe (kissing!). Today’s topic was A Cup of Coffee. We set the timer for five minutes and simply wrote a descriptive paragraph of a cup of coffee. Just 5 minutes, so while we needed to at least stay on topic, there are no high expectations of an award winning paragraph. The goal is simply, over time, to become better at being descriptive in our writing.

He again wanted to share. ( A good sign, right?) And we enjoyed listening to one another’s work and making comments about the things we liked the most.

Here’s my paragraph:

A cup of coffee is a warming way to start the day. The mug is colorful and large enough to hold the amount to satisfy a sleepy person’s need for the hot liquid inside. The coffee exudes a tempting smell that wakens the taste buds. The brown hot liquid begs for sugar and milk. Once an adequate amount is added, the coffee is a creamy brown and a sweet taste to behold. Drinking a cup of coffee relaxes the mind and awakens it at the same time, preparing the mind to withstand the coming day.


I don’t think it’s too bad since I haven’t truly done any creative writing in a couple years now.

All in all I think we had a good time. We ended the writing lesson there for today. It was a success. He even wanted to share what we wrote with his sister at lunchtime. I hope I can keep the enthusiasm going!


I used to be quite rebellious with confession. Growing up Catholic, I just didn't get it. But in converting to Orthodoxy, I didn't have the same aversion to it. I guess somewhere, somehow along the way, I finally understood that it wasn't the priest that is forgiving me. It is God. And the priest is simply a witness for me.... a human to humble myself before but is really just a witness to the event of the forgiveness of these sins I confess. And, thankfully, a guide. A guide to help me think through what I have done and the way to get myself back onto the right path.

Tonight I wasn't sure I was ready....I still always seem to manage to put it off....a sacrement that really I should participate in more often. Always with my I don't forget anything I feel to be really important to include...nervously go up and kneel down before the cross and whisper my sins to God (and the priest of course, as our witness....)

His words took me off guard today. Wow.....It always amazes me what perspective a priest can put to something. Something I've struggled with all my life and then God gives him the words I need to hear right then at that moment..... opening my eyes, lifting a burden up off of my shoulders.... I feel cleansed.

"Sprinkle me with hyssop, and I will be cleansed; Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow" Psalm 50:9


Today was a long day. At least it seems that way. I'm not exactly sure why other than waking up at 5:00 am....not my idea of a good wake up time. I do that occasionally...just wake up early and can't get back to sleep. So this was about 1 1/2 hours early. I like to wake by 6:30 (well, like isn't exactly the word) because it allows me to get some things done and do some of my scripture reading for the day done before I actually have to get my toddler out of bed and really start the day. But at 5 AM, I'm not ready to do ANYTHING.

After breakfast, completing a writing lesson with my oldest son and giving instructions for lunch,
I went shopping and wasted a lot of time, in my opinion, because I didn't find much of anything I was looking for. Then I went grocery shopping which I loathe. I came home hungry and tired and needed to make dinner. During this process, the men came by to install our new oven. (I don't even want to go into how much it cost to replace our wall oven in time for my husband to do his annual Pascha Bread for Pascha in a couple weeks....there's no way the bread would have turned out well with the one we had...) It looked for a bit like they weren't going to be able to get it to fit in. With the help of our neighbor who specializes in cabintry though, we finally had success!

And then I completed dinner. Vegetarian Black Bean Chili.....It is soooooooo gooooood!It is my favorite lenten meal (followed closely by my clam chowder). I like cooking. I enjoy it. I just loathe the process of planning menus, planning grocery lists, grocery shopping, being in charge of every meal nearly every day and the clean up process. Luckily my kids (the older ones of course, not the toddler) are old enough and take turns cleaning up after dinner. But I still prepare breakfast, clean up, prepare lunch, clean up and prepare dinner and, because I'm just that way, clean up a lot of that as I go. Which means I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and sometimes I get very resentful of that. I wish there was a way I could find to simplify all of this and still have home-cooked, made from scratch meals for my family. But alas, there doesn't seem to be.

I know some people who make really large batches of whatever they cook and that's what they eat for the next 2-3 days or more. That just doesn't fly in my household. I guess I've spoiled them. But even I wouldn't want to eat the same thing for more than two days in a row.....and yet I least occasionally.

I'm not even sure why I'm complaining about this today since today was probably one of my easier days in the kitchen. I guess I've just been irritated by it other days recently plus my grocery shopping trip. I usually have the older kids do the grocery shopping with me. Three people in a grocery store take up a lot LESS time than one! And the cooking from scratch is worth it. That's another story for another day.... which I do hope to write about one of these days....our family story will probably take up several posts to complete. But still, I wish I could have days off, you know? Where I wasn't in the kitchen and I wasn't the one doing all the food I'd have time to really get some other things done or just RELAX..... with a good book....or pencil and paper? Someday I'll get back to all that....but this (blog) is a start.


The Rules:
1) Post these rules.
2) Post 11 random things about yourself
3) Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post
4) Create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer
5) Go to their blog and tell them they’ve been tagged
6) No cop-outs in the tagging section like, “If you are reading this” or “if you follow me”. You have to legitimately tag people!

11 random facts about Me
1) I shouldn’t have dairy… messes with my sinuses and digestive system…..but I can’t live without it for more than 2 months ( and only the season of Lent can help me get that far) and Ice Cream is my biggest temptation back into that.
2) I taught in public schools for ten years…..learning support classrooms that covered grades K-6.
3) The moose is my absolute favorite animal.
4) I can still recite many portions of A Charlie Brown Christmas from listening to it many many times on a record I had of it when younger.
5) I hate my voice…..probably related to the speech issues I had as a child related to being born with cleft palate.
6) I started my love for reading in second grade when I would polish off a Nancy Drew book in a day… love for books continued for life and I still love a good mystery!
7) I have a secret desire to own a red sports car…..a mustang preferably….but I have a feeling I will never give in to that one… would be part of the reason.
8) I love planting flowers and a vegetable garden and I love bringing in a harvest but I loathe all of the work in between.
9) My absolute favorite color is red….but I also like blues and purples a great deal.
10) I love talking to people….if they start the conversation and do most of the work to maintain it! I’m really a recluse and need to fight those reclusive tendencies constantly.
11) I grew up Catholic but converted to Orthodoxy just 8 years ago.

Ambers 11 Questions:
1) If you could have a secret identity what would it be?
Oh, that’s hard! Well, I’d probably go back to my early book years and be some private detective and solve crimes…..weird, but I’d love to catch a bad guy and put them in jail!
2) What period of history is your favorite?
The colonial period up to the Civil War. I just like learning about how difficult life was for the new Americans and the abolition of slavery.
3) What is your Favorite TV series? FRIENDS…… there’s a lot of immoral actions in that series but I was always drawn to the friendships and how they supported one another and loved one another no matter what. They always worked out their differences.
4) Cookies, Brownies, or Cupcakes? BROWNIES….soft and chewy ones
5) Coffee, Tea, or Hot Cocoa? Hot cocoa….but usually tea because of the dairy in the cocoa….
6) When you relax would it be to music, a book, or movie? A book, definitely!
7) Who’s your favorite actor? I have quite a few but the one that came to mind was Tom Hanks…. I like actors that can do a variety of different types of characters and isn’t always in the same type of genre. He does this well.
8) What is your favorite pie? Banana Cream
9) Letter writing, texting, or e-mailing is your preferred written communication? E-mailing….. I like letter writing except for the time it takes to get it to the person.
10) Your favorite book series? Patricia Cornwells’ Kay Scarpetta novels….they are a crime novel series
11) If you could instantly play any instrument which would it be? PIANO! I’ve only taken about a years worth of lessons….oh I wish I could play…

My Questions For You
1.) What’s your earliest memory?
2. ) What is your favorite fiction book?
3. ) What is your favorite fiction movie?
4.) What is something your afraid of?
5.) What is your favorite quote and who said it?
6.) If you had to be stuck on an island with just three people for the rest of your life with no other humans, who would you pick and why?
7.) What accomplishment are you most proud of?
8.) What is your favorite place to visit?
9.) What is your favorite holiday tradition?
10.) What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?
11.) If you could be anyone for just 24 hours, who would it be?
I tag….(of course...I'm not real sure how to do this....)

Thea@ Speak Now 16

I’m new to the blogging world. So that’s all my tags…..but
if there is anyone else out there reading who’d like to answer this tag please feel free to do so! Let me know in the comments if you do.


I went to visit my mom a few days ago.  Well, I went to visit her and my brothers/uncles.  I guess I should explain just a bit there.....  BIOLOGICALLY she is my grandmother and they are my uncles.  But in my heart, she is my mother and they are my brothers.  Mom and PapPap raised me....from about a year till I was about 61/2 and then again from age 11 on up.  That's a long story in and of itself....

Anyway, I went to go visit her and to give assistance to her and my brothers.  Mom is 83. One brother had a heart attack about a week ago and the other broke his shoulder in a skiing accident.  Mom is losing her memory.  To tell the stories I can laugh but inside I'm crying.

She couldn't remember when I was coming or when I was leaving.  I took a book for her to read (The Help).  I had to tell her at least 5 times that I had brought it and that it was for her to borrow and read.  The first night I kept asking for things to do to help her.  She couldn't come up with anything.  Later she mentioned she had nothing to wear for a baptism she was to attend on Sunday as she's lost a lot of weight.  I said I'd take her shopping. She said that sounded like a good idea.  About a half hour later I mentioned going shopping and she asked "what for?".  We repeated the conversation.  The next day I asked where she wanted to go shopping.  Again, "What for?".  "Mom you wanted a dress for the baptism."   "I did?  I have that dress I wore to the wedding, don't you think that's okay or do you think everyone will know that's the only dress I have?"   "Mom you said you wanted a new dress."  So I go into how it's not inconveninent for me to take her as I could shop as well.  We have a lengthy conversation of how she shopped all over the mall for the dress for the wedding and how that wore her out and she ended up in Burlington and maybe we could just go there.  Okay, so let's go to Burlington.  We get ready and go.  We get there and she asks where is the petite section and I show her.  So she looks for a dress and I look for a dress and my daughter looks for a dress. My son pushes my younger son around in a cart.  An hour and a half later we walk out of Burlington with a shirt for my youngest.  That's it.  We get in the car and I say, "Well, Mom was there somewhere else you'd want to try?"  She looks at me and says, "For what?"


Dan (my brother/uncle) that he told her not to make ice tea anymore.  Twice now she has told him the ice tea maker(it's electric) doesn't work anymore and when he investigates he finds that it didn't work because she didn't put the water in.

Of course this is just a snipit of  the whole picture.  And I can laugh at each isolated incident.  But put them altogether and it gets scary.  She lives alone.  Dan checks on ever several times a day when he can.  But still, it's scary.  I worry.  She's my mom.  I hate to see her lonely.  I hate to see her depressed.  I hate to see her confused.  But I love her so much.

My son will be two years old at the end of the month.

He is our first child that is 'cradle Orthodox'.  It has already been a wonderous experience....the baptism, chrismation and of course the first communion and all of those to follow.  He has wonderful godparents whom we feel very close to.

His favorite activity is playing 'church'.  It started over a year ago.  He waves his plastic links, chained together, as though they are a censor.  As time went on, he learned to kiss icons and crosses, so each time he sees one he must kiss it.  It doesn't matter where it is....within reach or not, so sometimes this is a challenge as he gets rather upset if he can't.  He also takes them off the wall or the dresser and walks around the house with it, holding the icon or cross, or yes, even the bible, high above his head, singing in a tone quite similar to that of the priest....Could it be? "Blessed is the kingdom......"

Now, in addition to bible and censor, we have vestments.  His trusty blanket.  This is the blanket given to him by his godparents on his baptism day.  This is 'blankie'.  This is the beloved item that goes everywhere.  It now rests gently upon his shoulders, tied in a knot at his chin or, in a rather funny fashion, clipped on with a Pampered Chef Twix It Clip,.....  But alas, it drapes across his shoulders hanging down past his knees in the back.  He lifts up his arms, sings (Blessed is the Kingdom) and proceeds to do prostrations and crosses himself.

It is dear. 
It is precious.

It is etched into my memory forever.

Alexander Nevsky (Russian: About this sound Алекса́ндр Яросла́вич Не́вский (help·info), Aleksandr Yaroslavich Nevskij; pronounced [ɐlʲɪˈksandr jɪrɐˈslavʲɪtɕ ˈnʲefskʲɪj]; 30 May 1220 – 14 November 1263, proclaimed Saint of the Russian Orthodox Church by Metropolite Macariy in 1547[1]) was the Prince of Novgorod and Grand Prince of Vladimir during some of the most trying times in the city's history. Commonly regarded as the key figure of medieval Rus, Alexander was the grandson of Vsevolod the Big Nest and rose to legendary status on account of his military victories over the German and Swedish invaders while employing collaborationist policies towards the powerful Golden Horde.

The above is taken from Wikipedia.  We were looking up several sources today on Saint Alexander.  It is my youngest son's  patron saint.  My oldest son is using it as the topic of his next essay.

Essay writing is not his favorite thing.  He likes writing in his journal.  He does not like writing for an assignment, especially if Mom is actually checking it for grammar and punctuation! 

We are trying a new approach to the whole capitalization and punctuation issue.  We are only working on 6 rules.  I got this idea from one of my homeschooling sources.  It was an article written by the seller of Analytical Grammar- my favorite grammar program thus far!  I chose three rules that my son must ALWAYS follow.  He chose the other three.  Of course, he chose ones he knew he wouldn't use very often.  I knew that would happen (even without the same acknowledgement form the author of the article!).  I chose the two that drive me the craziest that he just must be responsible for and through in one more obvious rule for good measure.  Her is what we came up with:

1.  All sentences must begin with a capital letter and end with correct ending punctuation.

2.  Capitalize all proper nouns(names of specific people, places, events, dates, titles and documents, organizations, trade names, and titles of respect)

3.  Capitalize the pronoun I.  (That's the obvious one....but this eliminates laziness)

4.  Use a two-letter state abbreviateion in uppercase letters and without periods in an address.

5.  To form the possessive case of a plural noun ending in s, add only the apostrophe.

6.  Use a colon before a list of items.

He must be responsible to follow the above 6 rules at ALL times.  Any time he is caught (and here's the catch he doesn't like) he has to rewrite the ENTIRE sentence over....not just correct the mistake.  What 13 year old wants to rewrite sentences? 

I realize the list is short for a 7th grader. But these are NO exception rules.  And, of course, we will add to them in time.  Maybe only one more by the end of this school year...not sure. We'll see how it goes.  It's not that he doesn't know most of these rules.  It's just keeping him accountable to follow them all the time and not be quite so lazy with checking his work.  I think it's doable for both of us.

Now that he has begun his work on writing today, and I have already prepared the rice and the veggies for our veggie sushi tonight (carrots, cucumbers, steamed sweet potatoe and asparagus --- I'll slice the avocado just before serving!), It's time to find a recipe for Japanese Cucumber salad...I've made it before, but I can't seem to recall the amounts of rice vinegar and sugar.  And it's almost time for lunch!  That's just leftover stewed tomatoes with macaroni today.  We have music lessons this afternoon.  Hopefully between all that and working on spelling with my daughter, I'll get some of my psalm reading done.