{ This Week In Pictures }

  1. Korean stop sign, photo taken by my son because he knows I like stop signs in various foreign languages.
  2. New local bakery where my daughter and I shared a pecan caramel roll and cherry turnover, good coffee and sweet conversation.
  3. Blueberry muffins galore, made by my daughter and gratefully consumed on ski day morning.
  4. Time alone on a chairlift– beautiful and peaceful silent time. Short and sweet and high off the ground, but I’ll take it. 
  5. Trying to walk regularly outside because I should, not because I really want to, so I grit my teeth and lean into the wind.
  6. God frosted the trees for us, beautifying our homeschool ski day with His creative handiwork plus cheerful sunshine and no injuries.
  7. My husband drove this cute little Mazda Miata down to Florida for a friend recently.  It looks like a toy car, but he sure got lots of applause / envy from strangers along the way.  The admiration sat well with my husband 🙂IMG_20200212_071404_026_2
  8. I am sad to say goodbye to a wonderful audiobook trilogy about Crispin by author Avi. We finished the last of the three books this week.
  9. From beginning to end, these stories about a young orphan growing up in the Middle Ages are adventurous, suspenseful, and touching.
  1. Avi is a talented and prolific author and his first Crispin book is a Newbery Award Winner. 
  2. We also liked The Traitor’s Gate by Avi, and his newest book, Gold Rush Girl, is coming out in March. (Avi is 82 years old and still going strong!)

~~~

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{ Blizzard-Ready}

We enjoyed Homeschool Ski and Snowboard Day last Monday.

Hyland Hills in Bloomington, Minnesota is a tame spot for beginning skiers, and the 26 degree January day was perfect.

Anyone walking in to the chalet could tell it was a homeschool event — crockpots were everywhere, and the air smelled like patchouli and lavender essential oils.

Now, we are bracing for more snow, and true to our nature, Minnesotans are frantically storming the grocery stores to stock up, like we may be snowed in for months.

I confess I left the house at 6:00 a.m., determined to beat long lines and the blizzard.

After being urged last night by one of my teenagers to get some “fun food,” (as opposed to gloomy, drudgerous food?) I grabbed a few essentials:

  • meat
  • kombucha
  • microwave popcorn
  • hot chocolate mix
  • coffee and herbal teas
  • heavy cream for the coffee
  • makings for soup and homemade no-knead bread. (Not the boring soups I usually make from leftovers) but Copycat Olive Garden soups, like Zuppa Toscana.

In addition to these staples, we are armed with *anti-cabin fever* activities:

  • Season 2 of Gilligan’s Island DVDs, purchased at GoodWill
  • Crispin: At the Edge of the World. I love the Crispin books by Avi, and I wish I’d known about these when we were studying the Middle Ages.
  • A new puzzle. This is our third Mudpuppy puzzle, and it’s Kaleido-Beetles! I like Mudpuppy puzzles because they have three pictures of the finished puzzle for reference as you go, making it easier for 3 or more people to work on the puzzle.

Other Mudpuppy puzzles we have ordered are the 1000-piece Ocean Life, 500-piece Songbirds and 500-piece Butterflies of North America.

I’m glad we are ready, because it’s starting to snow…

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{ Like an Eye-Opening Ride Through An Undiscovered Village}

alexander-sinn-DX5r6BNoWVE-unsplashWe are studying similes and we are trying to avoid the trite cliches that are “as old as the hills”, so we are making up our own. Everyone chose five abstract nouns and wrote two similes for each one. I thought these were some of the best:

 

  • He felt freedom like a feather in the open air.
  • Hatred melted away like a stream in the spring.
  • Reality is like a punch in the face. 
  • Forgiveness is like a safety net.
  • The crime was as big as a bonfire.
  • His anger was like a house-eating wildfire.
  • He was as dishonest as a killdeer.
  • Their romance was like a budding flower — ever changing.
  • His anger bubbled up like a volcano.
  • Accepting defeat is like trying to know somebody you’ve never met.
  • His adventure was as fun as a ride at ValleyFair.
  • The moonlit snow sparkled like a thousand tiny jewels.
  • Jealousy is like hair loss; it might take someone else to point it out.
  • He was as calm as a painting.
  • His hatred was as hot as a burning furnace.
  • Music is like a therapy session.
  • He was as fast as a full-grown cheetah in the desert.
  • The lion’s power was like a legion of angry dragons.

 

“Reading these similes was like an eye-opening ride through  an undiscovered village.” — Me

Feather photo by Alexander Sinn

Crazy Like a Fox

Crazy Like A Fox Simile Story

Similes Dictionary    |        Figures of Speech Poster   You’re Toast  – Metaphors

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{ Finally Learning or I Get to Go to School 11 Times }

We are finally in the 1970’s in homeschool history, and this will shine a spotlight on why — for us —  homeschooling has been the best way to go: 

this may be the first time in my life I will truly understand what was happening in my childhood when I was too young to comprehend or care. 

Questions like the following will be answered for all of us: 

  • What is Watergate and why did they call it that?
  • Where and what was Camp David?
  • Who was the Shah of Iran? 
  • Why did they put yellow ribbons all over fences and buildings?

As I assigned a few reports to my oldest homeschoolers yesterday, they didn’t get why I danced around the kitchen, singing “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree” and got busy reserving “All the President’s Men” from the library website. They didn’t understand why I told them to: “Write the first paragraph of the report like a newspaper article — like a summary; like “Watergate for Dummies.” Explain the start of the Islamic Republic of Iran like you were explaining it to a child. 

Hooray! I might finally understand all this stuff. More soon.

 ~~~~

Images:

Richard Nixon: Image by gfk DSGN from Pixabay

Foshay Tower, Minneapolis, MN.  January 25, 1981

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{ I’m Meant for Little Things }

I find myself wallowing in the memory of a handful of recent conversations about motherhood, watching children fly away, and stepping reluctantly into “The Afternoon of Life.”

(That’s a book, given to me by my daughter. I groaned when I saw it, but it’s actually just right for me…and funny, too.)

So, just now I scrawled out a poem — with sappy tears streaming down my face– and my 20-year old son comes in, unaware of my poignant tears, to get something from this room.

“Don’t mind me,” I say. “I’m just writing poetry that makes me cry.”

“Your OWN poetry is making you cry?”

“Yes. I’ll read it to you when I’m done.” 

(Maybe. If you’re lucky.)

I’m Meant for Little Things

Big things? No, I’m meant for little things — 

I’m the tapper of  a traveling stream of a thousand text messages and heart emojis, a hundred “are you almost homes?” and “luv yous”

I’m the tiny-Lego-helmet-finder and the “Where’s my Wallet?” wizard 

 

Big things? No, little things —

 

I’m the finger-mender of the glove that gets lost a day later at the hockey rink

An empty cupboard magician, a juggler of leftovers, and a make-do artist

I’m the queen of laundry

(my royal eyes have seen that same pair of underwear a hundred times)

 

Big things? No, little things —

 

I’m the hopefully-wise-advice-giver

The occasional hugger and everyday love-giver

The rambling-dream-listener —

A tea-maker, sick-fixer, peacemaker

And everyone’s personal spelling coach.

 

Big things? No, little things —

 

I’m piecing together my

slowly-growing-love-mosaic out of

lots of little things

While praying someday

they will all see the Big Picture.

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Photo:  Roman Kraft

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{ Graduation Open House }

jello

Rain delayed.

Volleyball played.

Pasta prolific.

Helpers terrific.

Talkers lingered.

Cake samplers fingered.

Colorful jello.

Balloons golden yellow.

No more papers

No more books

Lots of teacher’s

Happy looks

My son

Got it done

By God’s grace

Now? Finish the race.

~~~

© Lisa M. Luciano 2019

 

{ Bacon, Books, & Body Fat }

It’s been over a month since I have logged in, but I haven’t been idle. This is what I have been up to:

  • My husband got home from out-of-state and he came back eating Keto. The man I married 29 years ago thought eating bacon was scandalous — but now he embraces bacon as a legitimate thing, and I don’t have to hide eating it anymore!

Life is change…and this is a good change.bacon-1238243__340

  • I read several books this winter:
  1. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
  2. A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller
  3. The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal
  4. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
  5. Killing the SS: The Hunt for the Worst War Criminals in Historyby Bill O-Reilly
  6. The Persian Gamble by Joel C. Rosenberg
  7. Still Life by Louise Penny

 

This was the best ever year for field trips. We attended two homeschool ski days; joined a free program at the Paint Factory; visited the Amazon Fulfillment Center; toured the St. Cloud Hospital; saw the Sea Life Aquarium on homeschool week; jumped at a Trampoline Park and went to the fish fry after the last day of pick-up hockey at the local ice rink.

 

 

Did we finish our history or math books? Nope.

However, I consider this year fruitful in other ways, because…

  1. We got to see the underbellies of sharks, real sea turtles and God’s creativity with jellyfish — and write about it.
  2. My youngest boys got to ski for the first time.
  3. My three teenagers got to experience the joy of group painting, and brought home their masterpieces. (The one who most reluctantly attended was the same one who proudly set his finished canvas next to his desk at home.)
  4. We saw how robotics works in a hospital operating room AND how robotics works in an Amazon warehouse.

 

  • On the creative side, I’m dabbling in tote bags again, thanks to a request from a friend’s daughter.  The tote bags I create make use of old wool sweaters, discarded men’s dress shirts, and empty burlap bags. After years of sewing with zipper avoidance, I’m officially not afraid of zippers anymore. 

 

 

 

  • Lastly, my husband and I took a preventative health test from Life Line. It’s a mobile set-up that moves you through simple tests like blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol and then uses ultrasound to check for artery blockage.

But, here’s the interesting scenario: My husband, who:

  • works out almost every day
  • carries minimal spare body fat
  • can let a chocolate bar sit unopened in his closet for 5 months

…got only fair blood test scores. It was surprising.

I tried to feel bad for him.

But, all the while I was pleasantly surprised at my own excellent scores, since I:

  • have been virtually sedentary all winter long (except for the field trips I mentioned)
  • have oodles of spare body fat
  • can’t let a chocolate bar sit unopened for 5 minutes

chocolate-524749__340

I tried to console him. I did some online research on his behalf and it might have something to do with sleep…

Speaking of sleep, I just found the word for my kind of nap: Nappuccino. A nappuccino is when you want to take a 20-minute power nap but not go longer than that. So, you drink a cup of coffee right before your nap and then the caffeine wakes you up just when you should wake up.

I didn’t know it was a *thing*…but turns out it is 🙂

  1. https://www.myrecipes.com/extracrispy/the-nappuccino-is-a-wellness-trend-i-can-get-behind
  2. http://dreamstudies.org/2012/06/08/4-steps-to-reaganing-all-day-long-the-power-of-the-nappuccino/
  3. https://1079ishot.com/nappucino-coffee-nap/

 

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{ S’no More? & Sweeping Reforms }

There comes a point of acceptance.

I have been griping about the snow in my spirit –and aloud– and I have been groaning about how –or if –we can maneuver through our long and perilous driveway.

Today, I just looked at the snow falling gently down from the sky and thought:

“Well, then. Let it come.”

I’m strangely content today. I told everyone it’s a day to stay in our pajamas.  I baked up those cookie dough balls from the freezer that have survived the nibblers. And right now I’m making a double batch of brownies.

Has my body entered a state of hibernation — one where I’m subconsciously adding layers of fat to sustain me until the snow melts?

Is my mind slightly sedated, which would explain my docile–or perhaps numb–outlook on life?

Yesterday, however, was a day of sweeping reforms.

Do you find that your best ideas come to you early in the morning

Or late at night?

Or, perhaps in the middle of the night?

That happened to me yesterday as my clock rang early and I sat in a dark room.

Inspiration drifted down to me like a gentle, welcome snowfall, telling me:

We are too distracted by devices. We need to corral our dependence on phones and tablets. We need to organize our use of technology and vary our interests. Everyone seems to default to devices when they don’t have anything to do.  This is not how we started out. This will not help us.

So yesterday was a day to roll out the new rules.  Phone and tablets will stay in a basket in the middle of the table. We will use them from 3:00 to 4:00. There will be exceptions, of course, but this will be our goal. Surprisingly, it seemed as if everyone was relieved instead of being upset.

I told everyone we will have a contest to name our hour of device-using-time.

“How about Happy Hour?” I heard someone say.

~~~

There’s something truly beautiful about this snow.

It’s a clean, firm covering over everything that has finally surrendered to winter.

It’s a white quilt on an already fattened landscape.

IMG_20190301_083309

We have received an average of one inch plus per day of snow this last month — February, 2019. [40 inches total in February and we are getting more today, March 1st.]

{ Blunders, Blossoms & More }

 

 

 

This week, I finished two things.

  • I finished a writing project– an 1800-word health article. The problem with writing about health supplements is that when I complete one, it gets me thinking, “I need some of that!” So, the jar of herbal supplement pictured above came from Amazon this week. It’s supposed to suppress my sugar cravings?
  • I finished the book The Willpower Instinct, which I added to my Winter Reading Contest list.  What I liked: The author gives lots of practical tips on how to overcome bad habits. What I didn’t like: Modern scientist authors usually present evolution as a logically accepted, scientific fact. Interesting…because macro-evolution is not science.  It does not follow the scientific method, not being observable or repeatable. That said, other than these kinds of assumptions, I really liked the book. 🙂

img_20190114_091240 (1)

On Monday, we took a rare field trip to a local ski hill, since it was Homeschool Ski & Snowboard Day.  We were the first ones that showed up, arriving 1.5 hours before the chairlifts started lifting. Mark this day down in history.

img_20190115_090720 (1)

To go skiing, I wore the LL Bean jacket that my husband gave me 20+ years ago.  One lady remarked that she liked my vintage jacket.  A little girl asked me, “How do you take that thing off?”

I’m just glad I didn’t break any bones wearing it.

img_20190114_115829 (2)

Here I am with my two beginning skiers: Gianny & Marco.  They started their beginner lesson at 10:00. The teacher shooed the parents away, so I took to the hills with my 13-year old Ava.  After 20 minutes, I thought I’d go check on the boys.  We were halfway down a hill when I heard a familiar voice yelling, “Hi, Mama!”

Words cannot describe how surprised I was to see Marco on the chairlift, seated beside two strangers.  I had left him safely gliding down the bunny hill, supervised by a team of ski instructors. But now here he was, 20 minutes later, waving and smiling confidently from high on the chairlift.  A few thoughts went through my head:

  • Did he leave the hill and follow us without permission from the teacher?  
  • What is he thinking?  
  • How can I hurry up there and help him down the hill before he tries to ski down alone?

Then, Ava and I watched him sail down the hill like an expert.  The truth was: Marco did so well with his beginner lesson that the teacher graduated him early and told him to head to the chairlift and enjoy the hills. Whaaaa?!  After I recovered from the shock, it was clear to me that he was capable and fearless. It made me giggle to see his little beginner body cruise down the hills with ease. I still smile to think about it.  He’s got good Scandinavian blood, no fear and the faith of a child. 🙂

 

 

 

So, yesterday I didn’t make dinner. (Almost as rare as a day at the ski hill.)

I ate out with my younger children. because Chik Fil A was giving free sandwiches if you wear your MN Wild hockey jersey.

Later, I came home to a few grumpy, hungry and bewildered young adults that couldn’t seem to hunt and gather food for their dinner.

(These are the same young adults that are often out and about and don’t eat the dinner that I regularly make.)

The cupboard was a bit sparse, but we had eggs, milk, bread, butter and cereal.  And a few other things.  Let’s use our imagination?

Sigh.  Mama got mad and started to bang pans around in her bothered haste to make some food. Then she walked into her room where one of said young adults had, one hour earlier, gently laid three flower bouquets on the desk with a loving note attached.

Tears. Laughter. More tears. Hugs. Repentance all around and smiles.

After this, I happened to read through Dolly Mama’s blog post and shed more tears.

So…that was a slice of my life this week.

 

{ Closed Doors and Open Windows }

Life is a series of closed doors and open windows. And open doors and closed windows.
Then, there are doors that you thought were open that shut abruptly in your face.

On the other hand, doors you thought were locked can be surprisingly easy to kick open.
And occasionally, a tightly closed window will fall open, unhinged, enrapturing your soul.


Why write this?
In a desire to avoid a traditional Christmas letter, I still want to look over the year thoughtfully and learn the lessons I’ve been given. That’s what you do when you are fifty-plus. You learn that it’s worthwhile to spend 30 minutes reflecting, so that you can avoid months of making the same mistakes.

Or to be more honest, if I don’t write it down, I will forget.

January 2018 began with some confusion and a closed door. It brought the opportunity for us, as imperfect parents, to seek wisdom from the Wisdom Giver and use it to give sage advice. It’s a humbling tightrope to tiptoe upon, but asking, seeking, knocking and walking in faith will always get you to the destination God has for you.

When a door slams, the breeze it creates can heal and cause growth.

June brought another graduation, which means pasta and purple-frosted sheet cake. I leafed through old photos, amazed at how God closes precious doors at the same time He offers those looming, open windows. They lead to who-knows-where and it’s a little scary. But He is holding our hand as we slide our way through them.
Summer 2018 days were traditional and new at the same time:

  • Swimming lessons in a different pool.
  • Beach trips to new local shores.
  • New project ideas at the same old county fair.

The garden was stingy with tomatoes, but generous in zinnias, bees and butterflies.

Then came a wide open window, a chance to see an old friend after many years. That meeting was unexpected & sweet.
Summer ushered us gently into fall, so we basked in apple-bounty and we crafted on a shoestring. New doors opened for my husband and his job shook up our schedule, but it also gifted us with new stories and opportunities.
In November we celebrated Turkey Bowl #19. My husband is almost 60 and runs around a football field with such agility that his fellow amateur athletes think he’s 35. I will continue to thank God for my husband’s good health, even as I get out the Tiger Balm and Epsom salts.
And shortly after we hosted new friends for Thanksgiving, I looked at my kitchen with fresh eyes:

We have lived here for 20 years. It’s time to give this place a face lift.

  • I am shutting the proverbial door on those faded chicken curtains and poultry art in general.
  • I am ready to toss threadbare towels and lose that bright yellow bathroom.

(These are the types of Home Decorating Mission Statements that I hope will propel me through 2019.)
So, paint chips have been secured, walls stripped bare of rooster paraphernalia and Pinterest has been feverishly scanned. I hope next year’s recap will include some home decor success stories.

Still in 2018, we have a son who is following an idea, a dream, a possibility. It’s progressing; it’s full of many little steps. And if — after all the steps — this son finds a closed door, it will be okay. The hallway he walked down has been worth it.

Sometimes a closed door gives you the oomph to scale a ladder and pry open a window, where you find something better.

And sometimes, you just pivot, re-trace your steps, turn the corner and look for another inviting door to try.

Oh, I forgot the books.

Books and audiobooks (new & old favorites) inspired and entertained us in 2018:

In 2018, we saw new babies born and sick marriages die. People entered our lives and our church, and people exited. A dear family moved miles away and started a new chapter and we are happy for their open window…but it looks a little like a closed door on our side.

And still in 2018, our peers became in-laws and grandparents and we were reminded that we are all getting older. This happens slowly–and never in our hearts — but always in the mirror.
Well, I’ll end here for now — unless I God opens a window in my brain and reminds me of something important I forgot.
© Lisa M. Luciano

Photo credits:

white infinity doors:Filip Kominik

colored locker doors:moren hsu

blue windows:Paul Fleury