Home Schooling 101: Creating a Learning Culture In Your Home

I’ve decided to start a series here called Home Schooling 101.
My goal with this series is to share my thoughts and ideas in response to the many questions I get about home schooling.
I’ll also be doing a Charlotte Mason 101 series, so don’t get worried that I’ve forgotten about that one.
I haven’t.
I just have so much to say about both of them, that it makes sense to me to break them down into multiple posts.

Please know that I do not consider myself some kind of home schooling expert.
After all, I have only been home schooling my kids for 6 years.
However, since I was home schooled myself, and then taught in a public high school, I do have a unique perspective to offer.
And the longer I home school, the more reading and research I find myself doing about it.
Because I am passionate about home schooling.
I’m interested in it.
I care about it.
I’m excited about it!
And I truly want success for other families on this journey.
With these posts i hope to share my passion and excitement for this amazing kind of education with you.

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As I thought about how to start this series, I kept coming back to things people ask me often.
One of the most common questions I get is “what does your school day look like?”, and “how do you organize your school day?”
This seems like a great place to start when you are a new home schooler, or wanting to make some changes in the way you do things.
But I’d like to encourage you to look beyond simply setting up a schedule, creating a routine, or finding your rhythm.

Because I bet you already have a routine or rhythm happening in your home.
You and your kiddos wake up at roughly the same time every day.
You eat a similar breakfast, and lunch every day, and probably snacks too.
Your kids nap, or have quiet time, and like to play the same games and read the same books day after day..
You have created a daily routine in your home, and perhaps you weren’t even aware of it.

Now maybe you want to change the routine and rhythms yo’ve fallen into and create ones that serve your family better.
That is a beautiful goal.
I think most, if not all of us, could find new, better ways to manage our days.

However, I think it is wise to separate the routine of your home from the culture of your home.
Especially in terms of education and learning.
Your routines or rhythms are the order in which you do things,
But your culture is much bigger than that.
Your culture is your values and beliefs, your customs, and your ways of doing things.
Your culture determines why you do the things you do, and then, how you do them.

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So when think of yourself as an educator, and your home as your classroom or school, you need to ask yourself, “what is the learning culture in our home?”
What educational concepts and beliefs do we value?
And then you can ask yourself “do our school habits and customs reflect those values?”
And finally, you can look at your school days and routines and ask, “how can we arrange our school days so that they reflect the learning culture we want in our home?”
Do you see how creating your rhythm and routine can flow naturally from the learning culture you create?

Let me give you an example.
In our home, we start almost every school day with Bible/devotional time, hymn singing, and poetry.
Those things are all of great value to me and I want the things they represent to be a continual part of our learning culture.
I started this routine with my children when we began school, and they were 5, 3 and 1.
This has become one of our school customs–it is a part of our classroom culture.
No one is embarrassed to sing hymns together as we sit around the dining room table.
Even when we sing off key and acapella.
No one is uncomfortable listening to poetry and talking about it.
Because that is what we have always done.
Because I established it as part of our learning culture, it quickly became something we all look forward to and enjoy as the start of our school days.

But if I had never started school that way before, and then suddenly did, it might feel strange and awkward at first.
That’s OK!
If you are embarking on creating new customs or changing the learning culture in your home, that change is hard.
Change takes time.
And you need to give plenty of grace while things are new.

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If you don’t feel ready to change the learning culture in your home because you haven’t thought about it before, take some time to do so.
A great place to start is to pray for wisdom.
Then talk to your spouse and see what he values.
You may be surprised to find there are things he thinks important that you don’t. (I was!)
You could read up on some of your favorite educational philosophies. (I’m currently reading “Consider This” by Karen Glass and it is rocking my world) .
I also like to meditate upon quotes like this one, and think how they can be best reflected in the learning culture of our home. “We wish to place before the child open doors to many avenues of instruction, and delight, in each of which he should find quickening thoughts.” Charlotte Mason
But if that sounds overwhelming, you can start by simply thinking about the things you value in your children’s education.

Here are just a few of the key educational/learning values I’ve used to shape our school culture:
equipping my kids to become life long learners
cultivating an appetite for discovery, adventure, and exploration
encouraging my children to work until something is done to its best, instead of to a grade
learning subjects like history, science and geography through narrative literature
taking learning outside the classroom and into the world as often as possible
to learn by experience and not just from books
studying and experiencing nature to grow our connection and love to and for the Creator
exposing my kids to much beauty (art, poetry, music, and nature) in order to cultivate a life long love for those things and a desire to make their world more beautiful
having fun!

As I said, these are just a few of the things I value and have attempted to make a part of the learning culture in our home.
But they have all impacted how I teach my kids, the way I schedule our days (lots of field trips!) the curriculum we use, how we learn science, and even having things like an afternoon tea time and studying art history.
Creating your learning culture truly impacts the way you teach your children.
Of course, your list will look different than mine.
And some of it will change over time as you learn and grow and as your children do too.
The important thing is to mindfully think about the learning culture of your home and then to take steps to create the culture you long for.

I know I use this quote so often, but it truly is a guiding principle in my home education journey as well as a pillar of our learning culture.

Friends, we have an amazing opportunity to create a learning environment in which our kids will grow and learn and thrive. So before you figure out your daily schedule, figure out what kind of learners you want them to be, and what kind of learning you want them to be doing.  Creating a learning culture that is unique to your family and children is such gift.  Make the most of it!

Adventure Is Out There! Creating Your Own Adventure Club


My love of adventure started when I was a little girl because my dad had the amazing ability to turn everything into an adventure.
If we had a few rainy days, we were on storm watch.
And he’d drive us around to see what creeks were overflowing.
He’d wake us up in the middle of the night to watch lightening storms.
If we were cleaning out the garage and doing a heap of yard work, and then making a trip to the dump, he’d make up a song about it and we’d sing it loud and happily the whole way there.
He made going to the dump an adventure!
My dad is one of the most enthusiastic people I know.
Kids follow him around like the pied piper because he exudes joy and fun.
He loves life and he loves people.
Long ago he made a decision about how he wanted to live life–by making the most out of all of it.
He sees life as one big adventure.

Growing up that way, I couldn’t help but want to make my life an adventure too.
And once I had kids, and began home schooling them, I decided that I wanted them to learn through adventures as well.
This idea has so shaped the way I teach my kids that I dedicate one day of our school week, every week, to adventuring.
We adventure with our home school group, but over time, we have begun to call ourselves the Adventure Club.
Occasionally I wonder if we are doing the right thing.
I mean, is it really OK to go on a field trip EVERY SINGLE WEEK?
But then I remember all that my kids learn while we are out in the wide world, and I stop doubting what my heart tells me is right.
Everything we are learning at home, sitting around the dining room table, or laying on the living room floor, comes to life in a new way when we are out adventuring.
Science, history, math, literature–every single subject gets covered.
Often in ways I could never plan for.
It just happens because we are learning wherever we go.
The world is our classroom!

Maybe you are longing to adventure with your kids.
Perhaps you are ready to start an adventure club of your own.
I’d love to help you get started by sharing some of the things I’ve learned in the last 6 years of adventuring with my kids.

The first place to start, of course, is to Find A Group.
Adventuring is more fun with friends. Even if you can’t find a whole group of adventurers to join, I bet you can find one other mom.
The trick is, you have to find someone who likes the same kind of adventures as you do.
Not every mom is up for long drives, long hikes, or letting their kids get muddy, and catch bugs.
And If you are, then you need to find a like minded mom.
And once you do, hold fast to one another, and get ready to adventure!

Once you’ve found your adventure buddy, or buddies, you need to Plan Your Adventures.
Here is where the fun starts!
Our group meets at the beginning of each semester to plan.
We usually plan for 3 nature outings a month and one cultural adventure.
When we started, our kids were all 5 and under, and none of us knew how much we were capable of.
So we visited nature centers, parks, arboretums, and trails that were stroller friendly.
But in short order, we found our way and began branching out–hiking further, and visiting places where we had to climb over rocks, ford streams, and climb up and down steep hills.
Even when 8 months pregnant.
(this was Lilly’s first 4 mile hike, she was 2 and a half. We waded across streams on slippery rocks and logs, and climbed a long, very steep hill at the end of the hike. I couldn’t carry her, because I could hardly climb the hill myself.  We were both exhausted by the time we reached the top. But we did it.  And that feeling was pretty great.)

Now most of us still have toddlers and pre-schoolers, but because those kids have been doing this since they were infants, we have different expectations for them.
They just have to come along!
The more you adventure, the more your confidence in your own ability and in your kids’ ability grows.
You’ll be amazed at the things you’re all are able to do.
So now, in addition to nature centers and parks, we also visit wilderness parks, mountain trails, tide pools, creeks, woods–basically any place we can hike and explore, and learn freely.

Our cultural days take us to museums of course, but there are also so many other places to visit.
In California, we have the missions, so those are on our list as places of historical interest.
When our group was studying weather for one of our nature study topics, we visited UCLA for a class on meteorology.
We’ve toured a lighthouse, a cheese shop, took the metro to downtown LA to visit China town, and toured historic mansions in Beverly Hills.
We’ve gone to plays and puppet shows, and visited the county fair.
Most of our trips are free or inexpensive.
There are so many field trips available to home schoolers now.
Many museums have free days for the general public, and some have days just for home schoolers.
The only limit to your adventures is your imagination!

So now that you’ve planned your trips, now you need to Pack Well.
One of the most common questions I get about our adventures is, “I don’t know what to pack.”
It’s a valid question, and it takes time to figure it all out.
For starters, you need a good backpack.
This was the first year that I haven’t had to carry a baby on my back, or front, so my back pack is different than the one I used while I was toting babies.
I use a Jansport, from their Heritage series.
I tried out a lot of packs to find one that is comfortable, and big enough for all the stuff I bring.
Inside my pack I always have a first aid kit.
I pack a sheet for sitting on because it’s lighter than a blanket.
For lunches, I have streamlined to fit the things that need to be kept cold into this one small cooler bag.
I bring things like string cheese, yogurt tubes, salami, and hummus in our cooler bag.
I don’t make sandwiches because they take up a lot of room and they get soggy.
Instead, I get a baguette and strap it to the top of my pack.
When it is lunch time, I tear off a hunk of baguette, stuff some cheese or meat in there, and hand it to my kids.
It’s the easiest lunch ever and my kids think its a great treat!
Each of my kids carries his own back pack with a water bottle and snacks.
I carry my own water and and an extra bottle because you never, ever want to run out of water on the trail.
It makes for a miserable hike.
And I always pack a treat of some kind, a lolly pop, gum, a fruit roll, or something that I can use to get tired kids to get down that last stretch of the trail.
Trust me, these little treats can be your saving grace.
My kids all pack different things for hikes.
My boys fill their back packs with things like knives, ropes, hammers and nails.
And they actually use those things!
My daughter brings stuffed animals, and all sorts of other random stuff that I don’t understand the point of having on a hike.
But since she carries it, she can bring what she wants.
They all carry their nature journals, a pen, and colored pencils, so they can draw if they want.
I carry thin, waterproof field guides for identifying plants and birds as we hike.

When we visit museums, we obviously leave much of this home.
I’ll still carry my back pack with snacks, water and lunch, and the kids will carry their art history, or nature notebooks for sketching.
Packing for your adventures is an art form.
And it helps tremendously to pack the night before.
It will help your mornings go so much more smoothly.
And you might not even yell at your kids before you get out the door!
Oh wait, I know that never happens to you guys.

The last thing you need for your adventures is the expectation that you will be challenged.
You need to be ready to Expect the Unexpected.
Whether you are visiting an art museum or hiking in a wilderness park, one thing you should expect on your adventures is that something you haven’t planned for is going to happen.
Your kid might try to touch a priceless piece of art and the guards will give you very dirty looks.
Talk to kids about museum etiquette before you go.
Or they might giggle and act all silly and embarrassed when you walk into a museum wing with nudes.
Plan ahead and avoid those wings, or talk to them about nudes in art before hand.
When we are hiking, I try to research the hikes as much as I can before we visit.
I look to see if they are stroller friendly, if there will be stream crossings, and if there is shade.
That way I know what shoes to wear, whether or not we need to wear sun hats, and if babies need to be carried rather than strolled.
My kids always wear layers, but I check the weather anyway, to be prepared for rain, or hot temperatures and pack extra water.
You might encounter snakes, and your kids, and you, need to know how to react to a snake.
Or what to do if they disturb a bee hive–that has happened to us.
Can your kids pee in the bushes?
Can you?
How about pooping behind a tree?
Cause I can guarantee it is going to happen.
And you need to be ready for it.
Always carry wipes and plastic bags.
Otherwise, you’ll be using socks to wipe someone’s booty.
Trust me, I speak from experience.

The thing to remember is that you are adventuring with kiddos, it won’t always be fabulous.
This quote from The Hobbit is such a perfect description of adventures:

The wildest adventures may make you crazy at the time, but they are going to make the best stories later.

My dream is that I’ll be out adventuring and learning with my kids until they are off to college.
And then that they will continue to learn this way long into their adulthood, just as I am doing now.
I may not be able to take my kids on trips around the world, but I can still make their world as big and grand and beautiful as possible.
I can help them see the magic God has created for them to enjoy is everywhere.
I hope you feel like you can too.

In the end, I come back to this beautiful quote, by one of my educational heros, Charlotte Mason.
It encapsulates so well what I want to offer my kids in all of their education.
Adventures included.

Strategies for Successful Home Schooling

I want to start by getting something out in the open.

You might be laughing when you read this, but I think it is actually a really important truth about home schooling.
Because at one point or another, we’ve all felt like we’ve lost our mind. Right?
The thing is, home schooling is a journey of the heart.
You have chosen to home school because you believe it is best for your kids.
You are following your heart.
But we all know it isn’t easy.
Home schooling can sometimes be lonely, and scary, and disheartening.
Occasionally home schooling just makes you crazy.
Because you are with your kids All.The.Time.
There are going to be days when you you’ll want to hide in the bathroom, praying that you don’t cuss in front of the kids, or fall on the floor in a heap sobbing.
The truth is, home schooling is hard work.

But it is good work.
And friends, on those hard days, I want you to remember this: home schooling is your calling.
It is no accident that you are a home schooler.
God has placed the desire to home school in your heart.
And even when you feel ill-equipped, uninspired, and full of doubts, He will help you fulfill this task He has called you to do.


I want to tell you a story about my mom.
My mom was one of the early home schoolers.
She was one of the pioneers.
She didn’t have a teaching credential, or even a college degree.
She had a high school diploma and a whole lot of doubts about home schooling her kids.
But she jumped in anyway, because God put the call to home school in her and my dad’s heart.

Home schooling looked quite a bit different at that time.
For example, there were very few options for curriculum.
And in our town there was one, small, home schooling group to join.
There wasn’t a lot of information about different ways to home school, and if there was, it was hard to find.
So my mom did the best she could with what she had.
The style of education she gave me and my brother wasn’t my favorite, especially at the beginning.
But we made it work, and mostly, she let me read a whole lot.
And that was my favorite.
By 8th grade I was writing my own lesson plans and thriving under the freedom that home school allowed me.

But those first years were really hard.
Despite the assurance that they were doing the thing they had been called to do, the commitment to home school added stress to an already difficult situation.
My dad’s business was failing.
My older brother and sister were getting in all kinds of trouble–some of it serious.
My little brother and I missed our friends at the private school we’d been attending.
And a lot of our family and friends didn’t understand, or even support, home schooling.
But with my dad’s encouragement, my mom pressed on.

I never really thought about it then, but I’m sure there were plenty of times when she was scared and lonely.
I’m sure it was hard.
Now that I’m the one home schooling, I realize how brave she was.
In the eyes of the world, my mom could not have been less qualified to teach her kids.
But she followed her heart and she did her best.
That is really all any of us can do.

It’s true that home schooling is more mainstream now that it was when my mom started.
But we are still educating our kids differently than most people.
We are on a unique path.
And now that you’ve decided on this path, you need to be able to explain why.
Why are you home schooling your kids?
Because there are going to be hard days.
There might even be hard weeks, or hard years.
One of your kids is going to struggle with reading.  Or math.
Your family isn’t going to support you.
You’ll have friendships that will change because you home school and they don’t.
And in the midst of those hard times, you need to be able to remember exactly why you are on this journey.
You need to know why you decided to be a pioneer instead of choosing the more comfortable, well traveled path.

My mom chose home schooling because she was unsatisfied with the education my older brother and sister received and she wanted something better for my younger brother and I.
I chose to home school  because I loved the home school experience I had and wanted to share it with my kids.
And secondly, I chose home schooling because I wanted to be an integral part of their learning experience–I wanted to be the one learning with them every day, not someone else.  In a way, I am too jealous to share their learning years with anyone else. I love to be with them.
I want to offer them the very best education I can, and I truly believe it is an education that can be found at home with me.

This quote by Charlotte Mason really sums up the hopes I have for my kids as I home school them.


So now I want you to think, “why am I doing this?”
What are the reasons your heart has led you to this place?
Come up with your answers.
And write them down.
Then, on those hard days that are bound to come, you can look at those reasons and be encouraged that you are doing what you are meThis is the first step I took in my own home schooling journey. Before I even had kids, before I was married, before I was dating, I knew why I wanted to home school my kids. It was my foundation.

In the 6 plus years that I’ve been home schooling,
I’ve watched a lot of my friends start home schooling and stop.
I’m not judging them–home schooling is not an easy thing to stick with .
But since it is my hope and plan to home school my kids all the way through high school, I need to be practical and proactive about how to make that happen.

I know the why, but that is just the first step.
We can’t just bumble along and hope everything will turn out great.
Instead, we need to arm ourselves with the tools to achieve the success we’re after.

Here are 3 things that have served me well as I’ve walked this windy home school road. And I hope that, whether you are a beginning home schooler or a seasoned veteran, they will help you too.
1. Develop your philosophy of education.
You need to choose to teach in a style and methodology that you love. If you love it, then you’ll be excited about it. And that excitement will translate to your kids as you teach them. Don’t just go with what your friends are doing or what seems easiest or safest.  Do some research and listen for the thing that speaks to your heart. And then follow that. You need to be passionate about this. Otherwise it will be a real struggle for you, and therefore your kids. Teach in the way that excites you!

2.  Become part of a group.
By its very nature, home schooling is isolating. You are home alone with your kids day in and day out. You need to social outlet.
You need to talk with friends, share ideas, commiserate when its hard, and learn alongside them.
This group is different than your regular group of friends.
It needs to be women who are on the same home schooling journey that you are.
Not that you must abandon other friendships.
But you are going to need people in your life who understand exactly what you are going through.
You should see your group more than once a month.
Ideally, you should see them every week.
It will save your sanity. Trust me.

I prayed hard for the Lord to bring a supportive group into my life.
At first I knew no one who was home schoing. But in time, He brought those people. And He brought them in abundance! I was faithful to follow the call and He was faithful to answer my prayers.

3.  Time for you.

You need to regularly schedule time for yourself. This is a hard one for us moms. We don’t want to admit we need a break. We think we can do it all. But we can’t.  We need time to recharge.
And once we’ve found the thing that fills us up best, we need to not feel guilty about making it a part of our lives.
You will be better able to serve your family if you allow yourself some time away from them

You need to be a mom who isn’t bitter about her time with her kids. You need to want to be with them. And you need to want to be with your husband, rather than saying something like,” if one more person touches me today I’ll scream,”  when he reaches for your hand.
He doesn’t want an always frazzled wife. You need his support.
So take time for you, and you have more to give to all of them.

I’m sure none of this information is new or groundbreaking. But these things have all been helpful to me so far. And I truly hope they will help you as well.
Because in the end, we need to remember that the struggles will come.
But with our end goal in mind, and with supportive friends to help us, we can keep climbing the mountain and not give up.


Much love and support to my fellow home schooling mamas.
Remember, I believe in you, and I am for you!
And far more importantly, God is for you.

I Like Eich by Aaron Eskridge

A couple of years ago Aaron painted a painting inspired by his love of Joseph Eichler’s architectural style. He took it to Just Modern in Palm Springs, the store there that carries his art, even though there were no Eichlers in Palm Springs.
Since Palm Springs is such a bastion for mid century modern design, Aaron’s hope was that an owner of an Eichler might make thier way into Just Modern, see his painting, and put it in their house.
Turns out, something even better happened.

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Just this month, KUD Properties finished the very first Eichler built in 40 years.
In Palm Spring!
And working with Just Modern, they hung Aaron’s painting inside!
It was a dream come true for Aaron.

To make things more exciting, the house sold right away and has been receiving all sorts of great press.
The above photo, by Marc Baldwin, is from an article in Curbed National.
The house was in the LA Times over the weekend.
(Lots of great pictures of the house in both articles)
And pictures of it are buzzing around all over the world wide webs.
In all of them, Aaron’s I Like Eich is featured prominently.
Its just been a dream!

This weekend while we were in Palm Springs we had the privilege of meeting the owners of KUD properties, Troy and Amy.
They invited us to the Desert Eichler and we got to see it ourselves for the first time.
Aaron felt right at home.


The builders of the house, Shields Residential, were there too.
It was great to meet Steven and Lauren, and their cute kids, who have been playing at the job site with their Daddy for the past 5 months.
We also met blogger Kelly Go Lightly and Fred Moser Photography, whose beautiful photos grace the home of the Desert Eicher. (and the New York Times!)
It was a great night of making new friends and feeling the energy of so many creative people in one place.

This has been a great month for Aaron.
First 2 of his paintings were in Dwell Magazine. (read article here.  Aaron’s paintings are #8 in the slide show.)
And as if Dwell wasn’t enough, now we have all of this.
Aaron has always held to the philosophy of painting the things that he loves.
Whether its a big, cut out swordfish in our living room, a vintage trailer, or a giant painting inspired by the Wonder Bread logo, he paints the things that inspire him and make him happy.
It is so gratifying to see that his work is making other people happy too.

So many thanks to Chris Mobley of Just Modern for representing Aaron’s work, and to KUD Properties for putting I Like Eich in your beautiful home.
It’s just so fun to see Aaron’s dreams become reality.

For those of you that have asked and are interested, Aaron is beginning work on more Eichler inspired paintings, as well as developing prints.
You can contact Just Modern for more info, as well as to learn more about Aaron’s other work.
You can also check back here for more info as it comes up.
And for even more frequent updates on Aaron’s work, follow along on my Instagram account.
I am @maandpamodern.
I’ll see you there!

First time visiting?  Learn more about Ma and Pa Modern right here!

Easy and Delicious Tomatillo Salsa

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As promised, I have a fabulous salsa recipe for you.
It’s Tomatillo Salsa Verde from the July issue of Bon Appetit.
It’s quick, easy, and super fresh.
I’ve made it twice now with some variations and I’m sold.
It will be in my fridge from now on.

But is it really worth making your own?
Let me put it this way: making your own salad dressing will revolutionize your salad–it tastes so much better than anything you get in a jar.
The same goes for salsa.

There just isn’t any comparison between the fresh stuff and the jarred stuff.
And this took me less than 10 minutes to make, so it’s not like you are slaving away for hours when you could have just run to the store.
In fact, it will take you less time to make this salsa then it will to run to the store to buy salsa.
Its cheaper too.
Have I sold you yet?

The recipe calls for all the ingredients to be fresh.
But the first time I decided to try roasting everything just because I had never made oven roasted salsa before.
I roasted the tomatillos, onion, and the chili in the oven.
The salsa was delicious, rich, and flavorful.
And since it was my first time cooking with tomatillos, I was even more happy with how well it turned out.

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When I made it the second time, I followed the recipe, throwing all the ingredients into the food processor raw.
The only variation I made from the original recipe was to use a jalapeño instead of a serrano chili because that was all I had on hand.
I loved the raw version!
It tasted so fresh and tangy–absolutely perfect for summer.

In the end, I really loved both the roasted and raw version of this salsa, and I”ll continue to make them both.
But I’ll make the lighter, fresher, version for summer, and the roasted one in winter months when I want a richer flavor for chills, stews, and dishes like enchiladas.

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The salsa, of course, tastes delicious with tortilla chips, because, well, tortilla chips are delicious.
But I also loved it on top of my pinto beans, and on my eggs this morning.
And because we made it at home, and they helped, all my kids tried it.
(they are much more open to trying new things when its homemade because they think everything I make is good–so sweet– or if they help make it themselves)
Two of my kids loved it, one said it was too tangy for him, and the 3 year old said it was gross.
Around here, its pretty good when half the kids like something new.

So if you see some tomatillos at the farmers market, or if your kids ask you, “what are those?” when they see them at the grocery store, you now have a recipe to use them in.
Im so sold on tomatillos now that they’re going in our garden next year.
I can’t wait!

Tomatillo Salsa Verde
1 lb husked, quartered, and rinsed tomatillos
1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 smashed garlic clove
1 coarsely chopped serrano chili (seeds and veins removed to lessen heat if desired)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Salt to taste
To Make:
Place all ingredients in blender or food processor (I prefer a food processor)
and puree.
Check for desired constancy and if salsa is too thick, add a bit of water.
Salt to taste
That’s it!!

For the roasted version, simply roast the husked and rinsed whole tomatillos, the whole onion and the whole chili in a 350 degree oven until everything is soft.
Then follow the directions for making the salsa.
Easy as pie.
Mmmm now I want pie.  Without the salsa of course.
Happy making!

That Day We Almost Lost Davy

In almost 10 years of parenting, I can only think of 3 times when I have been truly terrified for my children’s safety.
Today makes it 4.

I was making lunch today and it was unusually quiet.
“Can someone find David?” I called.
Lilly and William went in search calling, “Davy! Daaaavvy!” as they walked around the house.
They went into the backyard and a minute later called, “he’s not out here Mom!”
Trying to quell the nervousness that was rising in my breast, James and I joined the search, calling Davy’s name.
I looked in every room, the closets, the bathtub, under the beds, and on the top bunks.
I looked in the garage, the playhouse and Aaron’s studio.
The kids were doing the same thing, all of us calling his name as our search grew more frantic.

I am a bit OCD about keeping our back gate closed.
I am always on the kids to make sure the gate is shut and check it multiple times a day.
None of my kids have ever wandered off.
But the gardeners were here today, and even though we all stay inside when they are here, and they are very careful to close the gate , I thought they must have left it open at some point, and Davy slipped out with no one knowing,
I don’t panic often, but I started to panic.

The big kids were still searching, yelling Davy’s name, and calling out to me, “I’m praying right now, Mommy!”
I could hear William crying
I ran across the street to my neighbor’s.
He was standing outside with his son and a Triple A mechanic.
“My 2 year old is gone ,” I almost sobbed,
All 3 Looked at me, utter expletives that were perfectly fitting for the situation, and started to run to their cars.
“What’s he wearing?” they asked as they were all climbing in.
A diaper. Just a diaper.

As I was calling 911, all I could think of was that I was a terrible mother.
How could I let this happen?
I hated myself.
Would the police declare me an unfit mother because I let my 2 year old wander away in a diaper?
Would I still be allowed to home school?
How would we live without Davy?
It is amazing how slow time moves in an emergency, even though everything is really happening at   the same pace as usual.
I felt like I was underwater, and drowning.

Before the 911 operator even picked up, my boys called from across the street, “we found him! We found him !”
“Thank God! Where is he?” I almost screamed back.
“In your bed, under the covers!”
“But I looked in there! I called his name !”
“He’s asleep Mommy! He’s ok!”
I waved my neighbors back and told them we found David.
And I walked back into my house, fell onto the floor, and just sobbed.
There are few things in this world more horrible than not knowing where your child is.

The big kids gathered around me and we prayed a prayer
of thankfulness to Jesus.
And then, through my tears, I praised them.
For not panicking.
For praying while they were scared.
For continuing to look for Davy even though we had looked everywhere.
And for finding him.

It shook us all up.
It was a good reminder to us all how precious we are to one another.
Sometimes we get frustrated and annoyed at each other, but how much more do we love each other!
I am not much of a drinker, but man oh man could I go for a stiff one right now!
And holy cow can David ever sleep!
This parenting thing is not for wimps, is it?
I’ve never been so glad for happy endings.

Ma and Pa Modern Cook: BBQ Pizzas

Today has been quite a day.
After being up almost the whole night with a sick kid, I still had a full day of caring for him, every one else, teaching school, trying to clean up the house (not happening) and all the other stuff we have to do when we have kids.
You know the drill.
At dinner time, after making sure we had the appropriate barf-in-the-car supplies, just in case, we dropped my oldest off at his baseball game.
I really wanted to stop at In and Out on the way home and get myself a cheeseburger and fries.
We don’t eat any fast food except In and Out.
And, sometimes, it is totally worth the calorie splurge.
But I knew the kids didn’t need In and Out, and neither did I.
We needed something more wholesome.
So I made pizza!


If you are going to make pizza, these are really the way to go.
Especially once the weather warms up and you don’t want to turn on your oven.
That’s happening right now where we live, but it’s been a weird winter here this year.
These pizzas are a breeze to make, and they’re delicious.
You really can’t ask for more.
Plus they are just as easy to make a bunch for a crowd or just one for yourself.

You’ll want to make these at some point, so I’m going to tell you how.
Olive Oil (for this I like the kind in a spray can from Trader Joe’s)
Pita Bread ( I like the whole wheat kind from Trader Joe’s)
Spaghetti sauce (homemade if you have a little extra time, from a jar if you are in a hurry–I do both)
Grated Cheese (But fresh mozzarella is a revelation)
Toppings of choice–our favorites include: salami, pepperoni, sliced, pre-cooked sausages, sliced squash and zucchini, cherry tomatoes, sliced scallions, greek olives, grilled eggplant–the options are really endless.
And very important, fresh Arugula for when the pizza is finished cooking (don’t leave it out!)

Once you’ve gotten your ingredients ready, you can make your pizza.
Here’s what you do:
Preheat your grill to medium high
Spray or brush the bottom side of your pita bread with olive oil.
Cover the top side with a thin layer of spaghetti sauce
Sprinkle on a thin layer of cheese
Arrange toppings of your choice on top of cheese
Carefully place the pizza directly on the grill
Remove when the cheese is melted and the bottom of the pizza is getting crispy
This will only take a few minutes, so don’t leave it on the grill for too long
After you take your pizza off the grill, cover it generously with fresh arugula.
Trust me.
Add some fresh ground pepper and a sprinkle of sea salt and you’ll have a great, wholesome pizza on your plate.
It’s seriously delicious.
Your welcome.


I’m hopeful tomorrow is at least a little better than today.
It won’t take much, so I think my odds are good.
And if its not, I have more BBQ pizza ingredients.
I’ll be fine.

All the best,

Tears, Loss, and Daffodils


It’s daffodil season.
Every time I see that first bunch of them in the market, I catch my breath, and feel the tears filling my eyes.
4 years ago when we lost our 4th baby, I was given many beautiful bouquets of daffodils.
And so they became my baby’s flower.
They are a sweet reminder of the care I received at time when I was broken hearted.
But they are also a reminder of the little person that I never got to know.
4 years later, I still cry for that baby.
Those yellow blossoms are heavy with feeling, sorrow and joy mingled together.

I’m still surprised at the sometimes intensity of my grief.
In the beginning, when I could finally get through a day without dwelling on the loss constantly, I felt guilty.
How could I live my life normally after losing a baby?
And then, years later, when I suddenly find myself sobbing about a long past miscarriage, I feel guilty about that.
Should I still feel the hurt like this?
Is it right for me to feel this way when there is so much goodness in my life?
And besides, other people have losses much greater than mine.
It seems no matter what I feel, I struggle with finding an explanation for it, a justification.
As if I need one.

After we lost our baby, well meaning people assured me there’d be more babies.
And then, after Davy was born, other well meaning people said we could be glad because we never would have had Davy if it weren’t for the baby we had lost.
I understand what they were trying to say.
And I wouldn’t trade my wild Davy boy for the world.
But please, please, understand something, the gain of one wonderful thing does not erase the loss of another.

Oh I know we should count our blessings.
And I know we should be grateful for the way God brings goodness out of brokenness.
That is redemption, and redemption is the most beautiful thing in this broken world.
But don’t you think God cries over the brokenness too?
I do.
He was with me in my tears.
He still is.
And it’s OK to cry.
Even when we reach that point where we can say, “I’m am so sad about that, but I am so glad for this.  This goodness which has come after such sorrow.”
Even then, in our gladness, we are allowed to acknowledge the loss that is still there.

I have been a crier my whole life.
I cry because of beautiful things.
I cry over broken ones.
I cry when I look at my husband and children because I love them so much.
I cry when I am sad, happy, mad, when I’m reading a good book, or when I know a friend, or a stranger, is hurting.
I used to be ashamed of my tears.
I was embarrassed.
But I’m not any more.
My tears don’t mean I am weak.
They mean I feel deeply all the goodness and the hurting this life holds.

I still miss my baby.
I think I always will.
And that is how it should be.
I will never forget a friend who told me, with tears in her eyes, that she still felt the pain of a baby lost 20 years ago.
What a gift she gave me.
She gave me the freedom to cry for as long as I need to.

Four years later, I am learning that I don’t have to explain away this sadness I still feel.
I can walk through the days of spring with joy in my heart because life is beautiful and full of much goodness.
My eyes can fill with tears of happiness when I spend a beautiful day in the sun with my 4 sweet babies.
But I can also sit still in the waves of sadness that wash over me at this time of year.
I don’t have to fix it, pretend it isn’t there, or wonder what is wrong with me.
I can cry tears over a love lost.
I will wipe them away, but I won’t stop them from coming.

I love the poem, On Another’s Sorrow, by William Blake.
It talks of how we should be with one another in our pain–that we should sorrow with one another.
Like the friend who came to me with arms full of daffodils, and a candle.
She sat next to me on the couch and cried with me.
She was with me in the hurting.
But the poem speaks also of Another who is with us in our sorrow.
In those times when no one is there to see us cry.
When everyone else has forgotten, or we just can’t share the hurt.
When we’re crying over a lost baby, aging parents, a failing marriage, financial woes, loneliness, a child with special needs, or feelings of desperation, He is there, crying with us.
You aren’t alone.

The last stanza of the poem really speaks to me.
O He gives to us His joy,
That our grief He may destroy:
Till our grief is fled and gone
He doth sit by us and moan.”
To you who are hurting, may you find joy.
And until then, may you make peace with your sorrow, and know you are not alone in it.

All the best,

*The beautifully illustrated quote is by the amazing artist, Lisa Congdon.
*And if you are interested, here is the full poem by William Blake:
On Another’s Sorrow

Can I see another's woe,
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another's grief,
And not seek for kind relief?

Can I see a falling tear,
And not feel my sorrow's share?
Can a father see his child
Weep, nor be with sorrow filled?

Can a mother sit and hear
An infant groan, an infant fear?
No, no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

And can He who smiles on all
Hear the wren with sorrows small,
Hear the small bird's grief and care,
Hear the woes that infants bear -

And not sit beside the nest,
Pouring pity in their breast,
And not sit the cradle near,
Weeping tear on infant's tear?

And not sit both night and day,
Wiping all our tears away?
O no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

He doth give His joy to all:
He becomes an infant small,
He becomes a man of woe,
He doth feel the sorrow too.

Think not thou canst sigh a sigh,
And thy Maker is not by:
Think not thou canst weep a tear,
And thy Maker is not near.

O He gives to us His joy,
That our grief He may destroy:
Till our grief is fled and gone
He doth sit by us and moan.
Can I see another's woe,
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another's grief,
And not seek for kind relief?

Can I see a falling tear,
And not feel my sorrow's share?
Can a father see his child
Weep, nor be with sorrow filled?

Can a mother sit and hear
An infant groan, an infant fear?
No, no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

And can He who smiles on all
Hear the wren with sorrows small,
Hear the small bird's grief and care,
Hear the woes that infants bear -

And not sit beside the nest,
Pouring pity in their breast,
And not sit the cradle near,
Weeping tear on infant's tear?

And not sit both night and day,
Wiping all our tears away?
O no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

He doth give His joy to all:
He becomes an infant small,
He becomes a man of woe,
He doth feel the sorrow too.

Think not thou canst sigh a sigh,
And thy Maker is not by:
Think not thou canst weep a tear,
And thy Maker is not near.

O He gives to us His joy,
That our grief He may destroy:
Till our grief is fled and gone
He doth sit by us and moan.


Back In the Saddle Again

I went horseback riding today with the ladies in my book club.
After I got the hang of what I was doing, I had an hour to sit on my horse, watch the world go by, and think.
Here’s what came to mind as I sat atop my horsey, Trigger.


When was the last time you did something for the first time?”

There were 2 girls in our group today who had never ridden a horse .
And most of the rest of us hadn’t ridden since we were kids.
It was a little bit scary.
As we lined up to get on our horses, there were nervous giggles, talk of upset tummies, of courage draining by the minute, and a couple, “why did I say I’d do this ?”
Once we started off, I alternated between, i love this! and , this is going to be the longest hour of my life!
I wasn’t the only one feeling that way.
But after a while, it was really, really fun.
For all of us.

Trying new things is so important.
It’s important for me as a person.
Amongst other things, it makes me more interesting, and helps me grow.
But right now, I think it is most important for me as a mother.

A while back, when I was trying to find the kind of exercise that I enjoyed doing, I took some aerobics classes.
My performance was laughable.
And what I mean is, the instructor laughed at me because I was so bad.
I just could not get it.
It was really hard for me.
And sometimes frustrating, and sometimes embarrassing.
At the same time, I was trying to teach my son to read.
He was struggling.
There were times when I wanted to throw the books across the room and give up.
I wanted him to just get it, because it surely could’t be this hard.
Sometimes I wondered if he was really trying.
One night in aerobics class, as I went the wrong way, again, I suddenly understood how my son felt.
And I had so much compassion for him it brought tears to my eyes.
He was trying.
But it was hard.
And that was OK.
It was going to take a while.
And that was OK too.

We expect a lot from our kids:
Stand in front of that hard ball, that’s coming at you really fast and hit it with this little stick.
Don’t be scared!
And if it hits you, don’t cry!
Go into that group where you don’t know a soul, and talk to people and make friends, and I’ll pick you up in an hour.
Don’t be clingy!
Sound out these letters into words, and read them quickly, out loud, and in front of people.
And you better do it before you are 6.
Don’t mess up!
And don’t get frustrated!

Of course it’s imperative for us to encourage our kids to try new things, to meet new people , and to learn new skills.
But we also need to show them kindness and gentleness during the process.
We need to give them grace when it’s hard.
We need to hug them and say, “it’s OK to be scared.”
And we need to know where they are coming from.
Like Atticus Finch said, “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

So go for it.
Be the new kid.
Be a beginner.
Be not good at something.
Be scared.
It will help you love them better.
And after a little while, you might even start having fun.
(or you might stop doing aerobics forever and do boot camp instead.  and that’s ok)

All the best,

Your Daily Vintage : How and Why Wonder Books

Hi there!
I’m back with another Your Daily Vintage.
This time I’m sharing one of my favorite vintage book series, the How and Why Wonder Books.photo 1I found my first How and Why Wonder Book at a used book sale, and was instantly in love.
Since then I’ve continued to add to my collection whenever I stumble across them, usually finding 1 or 2 at a time.
Last week, though, I found my biggest haul yet: 6 books in all!
They were 75 cents each.
I tried not to squeal with excitement.photo 4Besides being fun for my kids to read, and crammed full of interesting information, I think the illustration and design work of these books are fantastic.
From the front cover to the back, to the end papers in between, it’s all just so well done.
Take a look at the logo on the front of each book.
The color blocking of those stripes, with the bold, clean type of the “How And Why”–genius!
Then there are the end pages.
I’d like to blow this up and paper a wall with it.photo 1-1All those little illustrations, the fab turquoise color, and the way each rectangle is a little off set so it isn’t sterile and boring–genius again!
The front covers are to die for.
I’d like to blow them up and turn them into posters.
This is one of the favorites in my collection.photo 2I like this one too.
Here are a few others that I don’t have (yet) and just love their cover art:
Sound, Planets and Interplanetary Travel, Insects, and one of my most favorites, Rocks and Minerals.
You can find more covers on my vintage children’s books board on Pinterest.photo 5Even the back covers of the book are well designed.photo 3-1photo 2-1How and Why books were published in the 1960s and 70s.
There wer 74 books published in all.
They are all still available, and can be found easily on line, or with more work, at used book stores and sales.
Each book is full of of full color and black and white illustrations.
Some of the information is out dated (interplanetary travel anyone?) but most of it is still accurate.
As I said, my kids love to look through them.
I keep them out on the coffee table for them to pick up and browse whenever they like.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to collect all 74, I’m at 15 now, but I’m sure going to have fun trying!

Remember to check out my Instagram feed and the hashtag #yourdailyvintage for lots more posts like this.
Cheers to vintage!