Thursday, December 31, 2015

Exit 2015

at hampton court palace (again)

I kept forgetting that today was New Year's Eve. We don't do much for this day anymore, and to be honest, I never cared much about whether I did something epic or not. This year feels like one day slipping into another, the usual, kids asleep and a few things to finish up before I go to bed myself. I think that this year especially seems anticlimactic because for once we didn't do anything huge or life changing during the year. 2015 was just...normal. Every year leading up to this has held at least one big life event.

Monday, December 14, 2015



I mostly don't think about my age anymore; it seems irrelevant in most situations, except the ones in which I am pointing out to my eight-year-old how many more years I've been alive than she has. This is handy for when she thinks I have no clue what I'm doing, but she is an expert, and also when she is discouraged because she cannot do something as well as I can. But for the most part, I don't think about it, and thus turning forty snuck up on me. I have now been forty for two weeks. I didn't have a big party or get a big gift. It's just not the year for that, and I'm not much on big parties besides.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Peace in Our Hearts, Peace in Our Homes, Peace in the World

Peace begins here.

I think a lot about peace. Especially as violent events unfold in the world around us, I think of it. The problems seem so big. Some are of the opinion that to bring peace, we must first bring more violence. I do not agree with this. Violence begets violence until someone breaks that cycle. I don't have the power to end that cycle in a large sense, but I keep thinking of  a letter that was forwarded on to me when things in Syria first began to take a turn for the worse, and it is full of sound advice for the work that is mine to do. I carry the words of this paragraph from the letter in my mind as I go about my daily work:
If we are truly concerned about the strife in the world today, let us begin by overcoming anger in our own hearts by striving for meekness and humility. If we are upset by the violence and destruction in the Middle East, let us direct our energy to bring peace to the conflicts within our own families. If we are horrified by images of human beings injuring and killing one another, let us offer an image of Christ by giving alms to those in need in our own neighborhood.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Where the Time Goes

just the usual

It's November already, and I'm tempted to say, "Where does the time go?" But I know where it went. It went to ten days of the most annoying cold, during which I lost my voice and couldn't get my children's attention without excessive gesticulation. (This is completely exhausting, in case you were wondering, as if the exhaustion that comes with a cold isn't enough already.) It went to Halloween costumes and trick-or-treating. It went to writing a chapter for a book. It went to the never-ending tasks of laundry and dishes and feeding my children.

Friday, October 16, 2015

My Personal Style: Jacket, Boots, Scarf, Autumn!

autumn mom uniform 1

Autumn is my favorite season by far. I don't do well in the heat, so many of the joys of summer are lost on me. I like cold weather if I am indoors under a down duvet, but otherwise lose patience for winter once Christmas is past. But autumn? It's magic to me. There's a bit of a chill in the air, but it's not freezing cold yet. The days often warm up enough in the afternoon that I can shed some layers. But honestly? I don't mind if I don't shed them, because I love those layers. Autumn is my favorite season stylewise. I know how to dress myself to feel comfortable and look good. That is not always the case in other seasons.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Method to (Some of) the Madness

a visit to the battery toys

Before I was a mother, I was a nanny. I worked with a lot of amazing kids from babies to teens, and I got a lot of experience. I sometimes joke that I should write thank you notes to all those kids and their parents for the practice I got prior to becoming a parent; it surely has helped me along the way. One thing that emerged from my years of being with children is an understanding of how to make things work for everyone, both caregiver and children. I use some of those insights in my own home now, and there are two things that work out really well for me which are a direct result of observations I made while I was a childcare professional.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Homeschool Sweet Spot

at hampton court palace

I promise this isn't going to become a homeschool blog, but I am just so enamored of our current situation that I can't help wanting to talk about it. This is by far the best year we've had as a home educating family, and I am enjoying my days with my children immensely. I see that they, too, are enjoying each other's company and our life as a whole, and I don't think it's really any mystery as to why. We've figured out how to make this thing work, both at home and away from home. It's like everything finally fell into place.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Nature and Me


As I round out my fourth decade of life, I find that I am becoming a lot more honest with myself and with others about who I am and what I like and what I really want to do and who I really want to be. For example, I'm comfortable admitting that I like doughnuts more than I like being thin. I wanted to be the woman who could end up not liking brownies or cheese after making changes to diet for health reasons, but you know what? Brownies and cheese give me raging adult acne, but I still think they're delicious, and if you see a zit on my nearly-forty-year-old face, you can bet your bottom dollar that it was a pastry or cheese that put it there. Or four pastries. Whatever.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Practicing for Winter

pink in the grey
We bring our own bright color into dim days.

I actually really like grey days. I know many people find them dreary and prefer sun, but is there anything cozier than coming into your own house and being met by a pool of warm lamplight and the promise of something hot to drink? Or even better, staying in and snuggling up with books and cats and other quiet things? I have loved the long days of summer, but I am looking forward to all that autumn brings.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Riding on Trains with Children

on the train

Yesterday, the children and I went to York. Depending on which train service you take, it normally takes two to two and half hours to get there from London. Our train on the way out made some stops along the way, so it was a two and a half hour journey. Our train on the way back was supposed to be direct, and thus two hours, but there was a delay which resulted in the return journey taking four and a half hours. The children did brilliantly despite the delay, and I was both proud and a bit surprised. But I guess by now we've gotten pretty good at this.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Thoughts on Productivity

summer mornings

A good number of my summer mornings looked like this photo. And by mornings, I mean until it was noon, or nearly. Kids to my left or in their room, or maybe even downstairs, if I was lucky. Coffee on the nightstand to my right, cat on my lap. It was sublime. It didn't happen every day by any stretch of my overactive imagination, but it happened often enough. From time to time, I'd feel a bit guilty about the level of relaxation I was reaching and think I should get up and do something productive, but then I stopped myself. Because I know how life goes, and I know that rest is productive, too.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Eight Years Married

8 years ago
We were young and good looking once, eight years ago.

Today J and I marked eight years of marriage. And by marked, I mean that I got a chocolate trifle at Tesco to have for dessert, since dessert means it's a special occasion. I vaguely recall going out to dinner to celebrate anniversaries before we had kids, but the memory is hazy. Now life is so busy that we don't always remember what day it is, and that's how we both completely forgot about our anniversary last year. (Yes, for real.) I'd say that both of us remembering this year is a step in the right direction, and having a somewhat fancy dessert pretty much puts this year's celebration over the top, comparatively speaking.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

S is for Saturday, Sweetness, & Sanity

every saturday

One of the things that has been most challenging for me as a home educating parent is making sure my own needs get met. In the beginning, it was hard to figure out what was a true need and what was just my preference, but now I'm getting a better grasp on it. And for me, as an introvert and someone who scored pretty high on the highly sensitive person test, one of my true needs is time alone, without a lot of distractions. While this may sound a bit melodramatic, when I do not get time to myself for a long stretch, I start to experience the kind of deep exhaustion that makes it feel as if it's hard to draw a full breath. (See? A bit melodramatic. I know.)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Chilling Out in the Interest of Academic Success

first day of school

The children and I got down to business with homeschool this week. Z is the only one officially studying, but I had a new set of markers and fresh paper for E to use to occupy her, plus the iPad if she earned it by falling asleep like a sweet little girl instead of a raging lion. (She has been known to roar repeatedly to show displeasure at bedtime.) We use a method I jokingly call Charlotte Mason for Lazy People, which basically means that we have failed at nature journaling and decided to stop trying.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Dreams and Surprises

our favorite place

There are a lot of things we've wanted for our family life that we've gotten to have. Sometimes when I look at what has happened in the past five years alone, I can hardly believe it. So much of what we wanted and needed has been given to us, but even more than that, dreams we've had have come true. I don't mean for that to sound like a Disney movie. It's not like we didn't have to work for the things we've gotten or that it was somehow instantaneous and effortless. In fact, some things took a long time to come around before they completely took us by surprise. But they've always taken us by surprise; that's pretty much a given.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Injera Sundays

injera sundays

Every Sunday, we take part in a family tradition involving food. My daughters are Ethiopian, and Ethiopian food is one way we keep a bit of their culture as a central part of our family life. Unless there is something unusual afoot, every single Sunday, we gather around our dining room table and eat injera and wot off a communal plate. It is one of the best parts of our week.

Friday, August 28, 2015

So Long, Summer


Today marked the end of our last week of summer break. On Monday, we begin our fourth year of homeschooling. I keep thinking that each year things will become more and more normal, with few surprises, but I'm usually wrong about that. This year, the surprise is that we feel very much ready to begin book work again. I didn't see that one coming.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

My Only Fitness Goal

pretending that i am ready to go
2006, about to run the Pikes Peak Marathon, like a lunatic.

I've been a runner for a long time. I spent years telling people why other modes of exercise were superior, but then I tried it, and I liked it. I'm not sure exactly what sold me on it, but there's something to be said for those rare runs during which everything seems to go right, and I feel as if I am sailing down the sidewalk instead of trudging away, waiting for the endorphin payoff at the end. Running was something that I hoped I'd always come back to, but that I feared I'd lost for awhile. After running the Pikes Peak Marathon, three times no less, it was hard for me to admit that I was at a point in my life during which I couldn't manage to run at all. But once I admitted it and allowed it, I was able to find my way back.

Monday, August 24, 2015

My Personal Style, Glasses Edition

new spectacles
Oh, hi. This is me, wearing glasses.

Long ago, or  two cities ago, at least, I used to get dressed up on Tuesdays and visit an elderly friend with poor eyesight who insisted I was a fashion model. She'd based this opinion purely on my winter outerwear, but when the weather warmed, I didn't want to disappoint, whether or not she could actually see what I was wearing. And thus was born my habit of photographing and posting what I wore every Tuesday for my visit. It has been requested that in this new space, I share a bit about my style and post outfit photos again, even though I am far away from my old lady friend and no longer dress up. Though I don't consider myself to be a particularly stylish person, I do enjoy wearing things that make me feel good, so here we go. I'm just going to kick it off by talking about what goes on my face. Specifically, my glasses.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Dessert for Lazy/Busy People (Recipe Included)

lazy dessert

There are two things that I should tell you about my life as a stay at home mother/home educator/manager of family life that will help a lot of other things make sense. First, that I am often very busy, and second, that when I am not busy, I have given myself full permission to be lazy. When I don't take the opportunity to embrace the down time, I end up with the flu. And do you know what happens when you have the flu and you are the at home parent/home educator/manager of family life? Nothing. Okay, in our house maybe takeout happens, or my surprisingly capable eight-year-old makes dinner. But other than that, I still have to do my job. My job is way easier to do when I am not ill.

I've finally embraced this reality this past year, and so I've spent a lot of time figuring out the easiest way to do a lot of things, which leads to the third revelation about myself in these two paragraphs, which is that I love homemade dessert (okay, all dessert, but homemade most of all). And because I love dessert so much, it's obviously been a priority to figure out how to make it is easily and well.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Why We Homeschool

new chalkboard!

Like many other home educators, I come from a past in which I spoke things aloud like, "I think homeschooling is wonderful, but I believe in public education, and I'll send my kids to school." I remember wanting to be homeschooled myself, but when I started to think about what I wanted our family life to be like, taking our children to school was part of that fantasy. And then we actually had a kid in our family, and that changed everything that I thought about school. Homeschool was what she needed, and so it's what we did. Now I've been drinking the homeschool Kool-aid for three years, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Like most people, we have multiple reasons for choosing the type of schooling we did, and for choosing to keep doing it year after year. I'd say there are four main reasons we prefer to home educate, with about a million more little reasons that make it just right for us right now.

These are our four big reasons:

Sunday, August 16, 2015

My Current Favorite Mom Trick

my favorite mom trick

I am not a morning person, and neither are my kids. You may think that this means that things work out fine and dandy, and we all sleep in, but it doesn't exactly work that way. My kids do sleep later than most, but E wakes up hangry nearly every morning. I might wake later, but I am awakened abpruptly. E stumbles into my room, and before my eyes are even open, she barks, "I'm HUNGRY." Sometimes I can get to her to come and snuggle with me for a few minutes before we go downstairs together, but mostly she wants food, and she wants it ten minutes ago. You know, so she wouldn't wake up hangry in the first place. What is my problem, anyway, not being considerate enough to feed her while she was sleeping?

Friday, August 14, 2015

Less Busy, More Awesome

my inspiration
Our cat is an inspiration for our lives.

One thing I've been working on for our family, especially for the time I spend each week on my own with both girls, is a peaceful life, both at home and in general. I think that in our culture, there's both an immense amount of pressure and a huge amount of temptation to be very busy. There are so many options of things to do, and places to go, and people to meet. Just this week, someone in a local home education group asked what sorts of activities our kids do on a regular basis, and I was shocked to hear how many activities a lot of families are engaged in. It would be easy to look at those lists and feel inadequate as an activity planner, or to think that we should add some more things to our list. Then I remembered that, actually, we used to have that many things on our list. And we hated it. We just didn't realize it at the time.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Why London?

at russell square gardens

By far the question we get asked most is, "Why London?" Most people who ask it are fellow residents of our borough, which we love, but which isn't in any way the kind of borough most people expect Americans to flock to. They can understand choosing the neighborhood for economy's sake, but that we moved to London on purpose, and then chose this neighborhood, also on purpose, is beyond the scope of their reasoning. Surely we are just here for a short time because we were forced by my husband's job circumstances? They seem confused when I say no. Sometimes I just give a weak little, "Oh, we like it, we want to stay..." and allow my voice to trail off as we exit wherever we've been trapped under the questioner's skeptical gaze. But sometimes I explain.

Here's the explaining bit.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


my people

While I've no doubt that some readers will find their way to this space from one of my former blogs, I still feel it might be useful to those who are new to make some introductions. In the past, I've used first names when writing, but I think it will serve my little family better to go by first initial instead. I'm not sure just how I'd like to handle privacy in this new space, but I feel that as my children grow, it becomes more and more important to limit images and other identifying information. Their lives are their own, and I want to respect that. There may come a time that we all agree that certain photos and videos are just too good not to share, but for now we'll keep it to a bit of a profile and the backs of their heads.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A Year Right Here

everyday glimpses

This weekend marked one year of our family living in London. It feels like it's been longer, while at the same time feeling like we are still so new. I still get excited every time I see the Tower Bridge, even though I see it at least twice a week. I don't know if it will ever stop being a wonder that we managed to end up here. We wanted this for so long, tried for it, thought about ending up elsewhere, and kept coming back to this being the place for us.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Just a Little Bit Unusual

london, perfect weather, etc.

This is my sixth blog. Let's start there. I've been blogging since forever, or maybe just 2002. Something like that. The first platform I used didn't allow comments, but there was an option for people to email me. I made some friends. I fell in love, and it didn't work out. I kept writing. I wrote for the heady pleasure of knowing that people wanted to read what I wrote, and that I could read what they wrote, too. It was kind of a big deal, that first blog. I got married, and I stopped writing on it, because my life had changed. That was that. Farewell, first blog.