Making Space for Small Hands in Daily Life

I’m often asked:

“How do you keep the kids away from the stoves? The altar? The candles?”

I don’t have an answer, because I don’t keep them away. We live in one large room, one tiny house; and my children run free within it. They know the stoves are hot, they’ve always known, because in their tiny-babyhood they’ve felt the heat from afar and watched the logs burn up through the open stove door. They respect the altar because it’s their holy place – a place for them to greet friends and set out gifts – it’s their altar as well as mine and they treat it as something special because it feels so special to them.

My altar isn’t as tidy as I’d like – pine cones, pretty stones, bird feather, and bits of modeling clay clutter it up – it’s a family altar, not a personal-mine-only-don’t-touch altar. When children worship they bring their whole worlds to Christ: “I brought this rock for Jesus, but then I thought the other saints would be sad so I brought more rocks!”


But really, yay!!!

Rocks are delightful! And my children are doing what they were made to do, meeting Christ at the altar and building a relationship there. Why would I sacrifice that for a minimalist-bohemian-curated look – however attractive. This is worship, not decorating after all.

And the whole of life is this way. Shunting these eager hands aside so they won’t knock over candlesticks or spill yet another cup of tea on the floor or accidentally sweep all the dust off the dustpan instead of on is never the answer! Kids are learning through immersion. They’re practically drowning in their own enthusiasm, and they just need the opportunity to catch on to things. So we make this little space our space. A space for all of us – big and small – to grow in wisdom, love, and understanding. We can’t do that until the barriers are down; until we’re all given an opportunity to immerse ourselves in life.

Yes, I keep an eye on my tiny helpers as they work near the stove. I remind them of safe habits just as I remind them to be gentle with the Infant of Prague’s twice-repaired head (both times were my fault!); but I don’t fence them off from the beautiful and essential things in our home, because in touching the beautiful and magical in their first, small world they learn to approach all the beautiful mysteries of life with reverence.

Monday Reflections: Planning

I love my bullet journal. It’s pretty and functional and entirely my own. I’ve never done well with conventional planners: they’re all thrilling and helpful for a while, until I find The Thing That Doesn’t Fit – my homeschooling schedule or meal planning, fasting days or whatever.. there is always something missing from the average planner. But my little Bullet Journal is vast. I could spend hours filling it up with the planning parts of my brain.


And sometimes that’s a problem. Planning isn’t doing; and organizing the future, however lovely and fulfilling it feels, isn’t the same as getting up to order the day. Apparently, the latter is a part of “Mindfulness” – the state of being present in and to the actual moment. In this year of intentionalism, I’m working toward that mindfulness of being in the moment – of not only planning my homeschooling week but of engaging in it fully. Of taking the time to really feel the soft, cashmere-y undercoat of my sweet, restless, winter-goats as well as the wind blowing around the herd of us. For this planner-addict, it can be a big challenge.

But if I use my journal right, it can bridge the gap between the planner and the whole person. Spending time with my journal in the early mornings, when only Ilya and I are awake gives me a chance to sort of sketch out my day, reflect on what I want to do and see and feel in it, and welcome the dawn. Watching the sun rise while my little house warms up and my coffee steeps gives me a living doorway to step through into the doing part of the day and out of the planning and dreaming hours.


I love being a part of that transition. Welcoming the new sun and all the possibilities that might step into the day with me. It feels so grounding, so wholesome, and so very intentional.


Arranging the rest of the day to hold onto that mindfulness, that still needs a lot of work in our house, but that morning-time is helping to shape my family’s little Rule of Life into something fuller and richer than it’s ever been.

Do you struggle with the space between planning and doing? How does mindfulness help you bridge that space and move into a more ‘fully alive’ way of life?

Stylish and Oh-So-Ethical

Right now, my wardrobe is neither.

It’s a messy bundle of thrift-store finds (ethical!..somewhat stylish) and discount purchases from big box stores (bleh). It hasn’t been updated – really and intentionally updated – in a long time.

This year, the ‘Intentional’ year, I want my wardrobe to be both ethical and stylish. I’m planning a capsule wardrobe (I have been for ages: planning is so much easier and less expensive than the actual building of the wardrobe!) This month though, I’m beginning to build by paring down my plans and picking just two ‘outfits’ to start work on.

I have a lot of stipulations though: Clothing that can transition through all Maine’s seasons is an essential – which means most basic pieces should be useable in both  -15 and 90 degree weather.


Mostly the former though..because Maine winters deserve all sorts of speciak consideration.

Ideally, all fabrics will be wool, cotton, silk, and linen. I can deal with a few unideal fibers mixed in, but I’d really like to minimize them.

I like lots of black, but I’m excited about working in some dark blues and wine colors, as well as an occassional splash of gold and bright pink in skirts or scarves.

My personal style?

Well, I’m most at home in a gentle goth look, sort of dark-bohemian.. I recently discovered the term “dark mori” and it’s a style that seems close-ish to what I’m going for. Of course, every time I see funky beauty lived out in an especially attractive way, I get the urge to change my whole look in imitation (I’m looking at you Kate and Amanda!) but it only lasts a minute or two. Then I go back to wanting to look like me again.


Right now though, my style is sort of taking a back seat to reality. I haven’t got a lot of great clothes with which to build a look; and I’m not willing to sacrifice quality and sustainability to get some pretty clothes quickly. So I’m looking to build them, quite literally, from the bolt up.

Sewing is something I used to do a lot of. I made my wedding dress – carelessly, at the last minute – and I actually really enjoy the process.  I’m not great at finishing projects and I’m so busy these days that I haven’t taken the time even to start them. But since I’m determined to craft a wardrobe full of funky, natural-fibered pieces that fit me well, I need to pick up sewing again. The box stores, full of mass-produced, often unethically-made, shirts and skirts are really not going to help me, as much as they can tempt me with their bargain prices and bright-lights. I have a few pieces I’ll be wearing out from them, for sure – black velvet jackets are impossible to abandon! – But my goal is to move far, far away from the lure of mass-produced clothing and closer to a simple, curated wardrobe that fits both the demands of my lifestyle and my need for excessive everyday beauty.

So, January is the month of paring down. I’ll be working toward designing and beginning work on two outfits inspired by these two looks:

 rundholz dip - Stofftasche black - Sommer 2015

I found both of these on Pinterest..

EPBOT: My New Rabbit Hole: Mori Girl Fashion

definitely with some edits though.. This one needs a longer skirt and not those boots, or at least, my version does.

January is more than half over, so I don’t expect to get started actually cutting fabric before February, but who knows! The goal is to have two outfits finished by March!

So tell me, do you have style/wardrobe goals for this year? Are you trying to build a more intentional wardrobe too? Any advice for a well-intentioned but easily distracted newbie?




Homeschooling Notes: Fairy Tales

“Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” – C.S. Lewis


They’re essential.

Fairy tales are at the heart of our homeschool. We read them, play them, tell them, and fill our imaginations with their rich colors. Fairy tales are formative here.

Not just the ones everyone knows either, while we love the classic Cinderella story (not not so much the Disney version); we have more than the American basics at hand: Vasilisa the Fair, The Firebird, Oscar Wilde’s Tales, the Ivan Stories of Russia, Kate-Crack ‘r Nuts, and an abundance of others.


We have at least 6 of Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books – happy collections of so many variations on classic tales, and other, rarer stories I’ve never seen before; we also have collections like The Serpent Slayer and Changing Woman and Her Sisters; Arthurian legends; Pagan Mythology, folktales, and all these weave together in the minds and hearts of our children to build an imagination in which ‘nothing is impossible’.

It’s the wild, magical realism of overwhelming belief that fairy tales bring to us. Images of the world’s terrors, and of the strength within the human heart – the opportunity to wonder if maybe “all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.” That wild wisdom is one of the primary goals of my schooling: intimacy with mystery.

At this point in our homeschooling, if I could only teach two subjects, I would teach faith and fairy tales to my children, so that in the early years of their schooling they built a foundation on the mysteries of beauty, goodness, and truth.



What are your essentials in schooling? How much has that changed over the years? I would love to know what forms the heart of your own schooling, especially for young children! 

7QTs: Introductions

1. The Basics: Wife, mother, Catholic, etc.. I’m 34, which sounds old to me but feels young. Every now and then I’m overwhelmed with the realization that eternity is just a day closer and I feel my immortality deeply. It’s a pretty beautiful age, really.

I’m a fan of Kierkegaard, Rilke, all of the Desert Fathers, most Russian writers, fairy tales, and Joss Whedon. I love night-time, black clothes, eyeliner, and trip-hop.

2. The Box: I totally fall under the ‘crunchy’ label, which is probably obvious: yurt-life, homeschooling, herbs, and homebaked bread. I am that parent who refuses all the shots, who gives elderberry oxymel for illnesses, who’s kids love cough medicine because it’s 90% honey, who gets a little too intense for small talk. I hope someday to grow into that long abandoned wise-woodland-woman role and give herbs and council from my little hermitage.

I believe strongly that we need to “surrender to the earth’s intelligence [and] rise up rooted like trees” instead of playing God with the world around us and that, I hope, informs everything I do.

3. The Family: One of the biggest delights in homesteading is the intimacy it brings to our family-life. This tiny house, homeschooling together, trees, garden, sky all bind us together in such an intense way. My family is the greatest joy in my life, and honestly the most natural thing I’ve ever done.

I mean, look at these people! They’re just so good to me!

4. The Introvert: In college, I had dreams of being a hermit. I still have hermitage-hopes, but in a family sense. It’s one of the aspects of The Benedict Option that I really appreciated. I’m blessed with amazing, inspiring friends and I love them, but solitude is essential to me. “I’d rather be with peopele who know secret things, or else alone,” as Rilke writes. Whenever I take those Meyer’s-Brigg’s tests online I come out about 90% ‘introverted’, but most of the ‘sorry I’m late, I didn’t want to come’ attitude makes me . It comes across as more mean-spirited isolationist than introverted most of the time, at least to me. I prefer the hospitable-solitude of the hermit-saints, who welcomed each guest as if he or she were Christ and then sent them away again. The ability to offer a sincere welcome is, I think, one of the most delightful aspects of solitude.

5. The Intentions: Domestic Monastery – minimalist, sustainable, nurturing, holy. I have this lovely vision of a homestead inspired by the desert fathers and those gentle woodland saints like Macarios and Fiacre.

I want to make this little patch of earth something healing, something life-giving, a quiet place against the noise of the world. Its a big goal, but we’re dreamers here, so I think we can reach it.

6. The Distractions: I’m not the best at managing time. This year, I’m working toward intentionality and slowly over-coming those distractions, but at heart I’m self-indulgent and careless with my time. Even within the limitations of our lifestyle, technology consistently sucks time from true engagement. This month I’ve been taking steps to distance myself from unintentional social media: facebook groups, unhelpful discussions, and especially those corners that demand a lot of my time and focus. I’m learning that trying to speak to charity in these louder forums often leaves me feeling disappointed and lonely. So I’m carving out time to write here and on other, less casual forums instead. Hopefully it leaves me more time for the tangibles in life and more focused on growing toward Christ.

7. The Motivation: I’m Catholic. Pursuing sanctity. In love with Beauty, and repelled by mediocrity. Everything I do and am and long for is motivated by this end goal – to drown in the abundance of Christ, to wrap His wild world around me like a robe and the cast it off at the end of the day and step into His Night.

Long-winded, sure, but that’s me! Who are you? I’d love to know. Tell me about yourself if you have the time!

Linking up with This Ain’t the Lyceum today for the whole 7 Quick Takes thing! Check it out!

Tea for Coughs 

Mr. Tenderness caught a rough cough this week. Tuesday and Wednesday saw him sad and sick – trying to run around the house like his usual, crazy self – but ending up nestled on thd big bed, looking at “The Happy Man and His Dump Truck ” and “Orange, Pear, Apple, Bear” while sipping homemade cough syrup and warm tea.

The kids rarely get sick. A few sniffles every know and then, maybe, but having an actual illness in the house is such a rarity for me that I take a while to transition. But yesterday I did finally mix up a special tea for Ilya: mullien, yarrow, chamomile, hibiscus, marshmallow, a little ginger, and dried elderberries. After it steeped I stirred in lots of raw honey and let it cool just enough. 

Between the cough syrup and the cough-tea, I could hear his little cough turn more productive and that night he slept the deep, dream-filled sleep of healing. I was thrilled. 

One of my favorite biggest joys in homesteading is tending and preventing family illnesses at home. Having a small apothecary within reach and adjusting it for each person, the intimate and personalized care that only family can give.

I know the cough-cold oxymel, while it works wonders for the early stages – is a bit too vinegary for me to convince a sick 2 year old to drink. But honeyed tea was delightful! So delightful that his sister wanted her own cup: and herbal-tea medicine is generally meant to be shared!

We’ve also made a big pot of garlic-ginger chicken soup! Just to make sure no one else comes down with the cough, and because, doing Whole 30 has me cooking up a storm.

It isn’t super heavy on the ginger, enough to be noticed, but not enough to overwhelm young palates. The kids loved it, which totally non-Whole 30 biscuits to dunk and a little pile of greens on the side they went to bed full of love and healing. 

Cooking, tea-making, and tending sicklings in my little nest reminds of my grandmother and her beef-barley soup with the shimmering fat that made each bowl gleam in the light: matriarchal, wise-woman building in the child’s imagination a picture of living love.

Off-Grid Whole 30

So I assumed I’d never do another whole 30 after my failed attempt to complete one in 2016. I mean, no beans? We eat beans all the time. And no rice?! Rice is pretty much the backbone of our meals.


It’s seems like such an expensive way to eat, honestly. And I really couldn’t afford to be running to the store every other day for perishables like meat and fish. Nope. I lasted about two weeks, and to be honest, apart from feeling all-meated-out, I did feel great! But Whole 30, off-grid, in June, is a lot of work and a lot of money – eggs and greens get kinda boring after a few week!

But here I am, jumping back on the Whole 30 bandwagon.

I’m really kind of excited about it.

See, I have asthma, and this winter, with it’s deep cold and harsh winds, has been hard on my lungs. I’ve got a lung tonic and mullein tea to help strengthen them back up again, but rumor has it, a month of uber ‘clean’ eating can do a lot to help! And since one of my big health goals for the year is to be intentional about healing my lungs, I’m going to try it.


I’m taking 30 days – starting today! – to eat all ‘whole 30’ clean, nourish with herbs, calm breathing, and essential oils (eucalyptus, basil, rosemary, and cinnamon leaf is pretty nice), and hopefully get myself one step closer to my 2018 ideal!

But, we’re not exactly rocking the average Whole 30 grocery budget, so my month will be heavy on the eggs and goat-meat, vegetables, and soups..very light on the almond-meal meatballs and whipped coconut cream.

We’ll see how it goes!

Have you completed a Whole 30? Are you in the middle of one? Please, give me all your tips for making this work!

January Schooling

It doesn’t feel like January today. The stoves are burning low and the rain is pouring down, washing away feet of snow in a day. It’s warm enough to be out without a jacket, except that the rain is chilly and soaking.

We’re all indoors today. Even the goats refuse to step out of their shed. So this morning, we made a big pot of tea and set to work reclaiming our homeschool-schedule!

Structure is good for us. The kids like order – in moderation – and we get more done when we have a rhythm to our days. But in the deep cold from Christmas through Epiphany, we lost our rhythm. The days were full of at-home celebrations and desperate attempts to fight the cold weather and cabin fever. 

We didn’t do much schoolwork; so this week we’ve been easing back into it with lots of readibg aloud and a little bit of math. Today was our first day back on track entirely!

Our school-days involve lots of reading aloud. We start with Scripture in the mornings: Proverbs right now, which pairs well with the Psalms Seth has been reading at night. Then we chose from a selection of books and subjects. Today we read “If You Lived with the Iroquois” and reviewed “American History for Young Catholics”. We read poems in Spanish and English from “The Tree is Older than You Are” and worked on remembering “arbòl” and “blanca” as vocabulary words. We read Tomie dePaola’s St. Patrick, the Catholic Faith for Little Ones, and Yarrow narrated from the story of Noah in their children’s Bible.

Our morning reading is the primary school-time. Depending on the day Yarrow could be narrating from the catechism, history, the Bible, or a saint’s life. As well as reciting a poem from one of our favorite collections. Ilya works on ‘listening without interruption’ and remembering little bits.

Afterwards they have playtime for at least an hour before we sit down to work at the table: math and copywork, possible drawing and painting as well. Today, with all the rain we drew and colored and wrote and worked sums. So far we’ve been loving Saxon Math because Yarrow loves the repetive work that helps her build confidence as she challenges herself with new aspects of older lessons. Her copywork right now is from the Gospel of John. Ilya is tracing numbers and letters because he desperately wants to be as big as his sister!

Most of our reading is review right now. We’ve read through these books in September and October, but after an Advent full of exciting library books, we’re reviewing our regular texts before moving on. January seems like such an ideal month for reviewing and reclaiming.

Along with all this though, Yarrow is devouring books herself. St. Nicholas gave her a book about stars and space for Christmas and she is reading it herself as well as The Lord of the Rings – her favorite books at the moment.

At bedtime, Seth reads aloud and as he makes his way through The Lord of the Rings, Yarrow follows after on her own, reading through the tale and reliving it all again and again.

She also reads aloud to Ilya! Everything from The Happy Man and His Dump-Truck to The Hobbit. I love seeing the two of the cozied up together in front of the wood-stove with books and laughter. 

Monday Reflections: Countercultural?

I’m reading one of my favorite of Rilke’s journals again. In it, he begs us to “be for a single day unfashionable and you will see how much eternity you have within you.”


Being unfashionable, out of step with the culture, is isolating. Our world is full of pseudo fulfillments – things to buy and have that with make the exterior of our lives look acceptable; things that promise to organize the interior as well if only we can follow the rules. We buy into them and live in a world of friendly neighbors, all nodding their heads to tell us we’ve done the ‘right’ thing, made the appropriate choice, built a successful life.

But eternity, the wilderness of life outside the crowd, is something lonely and beautiful. There is something intimately satisfying about learning to be entirely step outside of the self formed from advertising and entertainment and become a being of eternity, earth-bound and staring up at the sky.


When we moved out here, some people saw our decision as a judgment. A way of pushing against them and their choices, instead of what it was, a pursuit – entirely our own, of beauty and intimacy and Christ. An attempt to hear Him better by listening more in the quiet, not an attempt to tell others how best to hear Him. We’re building our little monastic homestead on dreams and faith and magic – impractically, because we are almost always impractical – as are most people who make something unconventional out of their lives.


The world is so quick sometimes to accuse the countercultural, the radicals, the wild dreamers who follow their hearts of trying too hard to be something they’re not: poseurs. But most of the time, we’re just trying to be that eternal self, the one hidden under all the things we used to do to hide her. And we’ve been formed by a world that values conventionality over truth, so she’s sometimes hard to find. We dress up in aspects of her, we play with ideas she might love, in order to draw her out, and so we look flighty sometimes, and altogether too earnest for society’s approval.. but we’re moving closer to something real.

I’m all rambly, Rilke has that effect on me. Tell me what you think? Are you living somewhere outside the mainstream? What do Rilke’s words mean to you?

New Year: 2018

The calendar year is new and fresh and full of anticipatory dreams out here in the snow-filled woods. We weathered our first big storm of the year, but not of the season, yesterday; and today we’re trudging through feet of fresh snow in heavy shoes – carrying in wood to pile around the stove, hauling hay closer to the goat-shed, and planning for a bitter-cold tomorrow.

We’re also reading seed catalogs and looking forward to longer days..because January is the month for dreaming.

I’ve been filling my new bullet journal with reminders of all the ways I want to see our life improve in this new year! Homesteading, ethical consumerism, homeschooling, writing, reading, word for 2018 is ‘Intentionality’ and so far, applying it has been challenging, but delightful. I’m feeling more and more joyful in my daily life, less distracted by social media or other outside stressors, and more nurturing within my little homestead.


I’m determined to get more writing done, more consistently, and to have a slightly more ordered homeschooling routine. I am also working on altering my attitude towards things, growing in detachment and learning to want less. I’ve purged and konmari’d my house a couple times, I think I could do more with another round, but my goal in ‘abundant minimalism is to want less, to care about the things of this world less and less with each passing day.


And to make each day just a bit more beautiful with the lovely, transient gifts of nature. Also to get our budget in order – transitioning to a more self-contained lifestyle has a huge adjustment curve. In part because to transition, we needed to leave the conventional work-world behind – it’s impossible to go half-way to a homestead-based income while my husband was driving over an hour twice a day to work and back, but now that we are working primarily at home, we are still transitioning to a more sustainable lifestyle and repairing from the less-sustainable lifestyle – car repairs, building materials, etc.. it’s a tough balance. I’m not sure exactly where we’ll find ourselves this year. I have hopes that freelance writing will be an option for me, and that Paperwine Industies  will grow abundantly this year.  But we might also sell some of our beloved trees to a environmentally respectful lumber company to ease the transition.


Balance is so important. And we’re finding it, slowly, as we greet this beautiful year, “new, untouched, full of things that have never been.”

Tell me, friends, what are your hopes and dreams, goals and intentions for the new year?