“Insert Volcano Here”

“Giving time and space is the best recipe for a working long-term relationship to work.”

-Someone

 

If you work hard, chances are you rest hard as well.

Our school schedule is packed this year, and we are working our tails off…which means, when we are exhausted, we need some space.

Off to the aquarium/volcano we go!

So, before we hit the aquarium we walked around Seattle a little (getting my 10,000 steps in, one Seattle hill at a time). We hit the Seattle Public Library, which was a) the biggest library I have ever been in, with 10 floors to it, b) the most modern/hipster/kinda weird vibe library I have ever been in. The escalators were neon green/yellow and it looked like we were being loaded into some futuristic anime movie.

Then I took the kids to the Columbia Tower for some coffee and hot chocolate, which is one of my favorite places to have coffee in town. The Columbia Tower is something like 70 stories tall, and the Starbucks is on the 43rd floor. The view is simply delightful, and there is no hustle and bustle up there. It is a relaxing, tranquil spot overlooking the troubles of the world.

How can you not love this.

We also found Air!

Not entirely sure what’s going on with that one.

We got to watch the otters have lunch, the seals do perimeter checks, our favorite puffins be all puffiny, and Nova found a wolf eel swimming around!

That was one day, but the next day we drove up to see Mt.Rainier, which led to finding some CRAZY waterfalls!

Don’t squint. Don’t squint. Don’t squint.

I definitely got my 10,000 steps in that day with all the hiking to get to the waterfalls.

Now, here’s the thing.

In the next two pictures, we were standing on Mt. Rainier. The volcano was literally right behind us.

But the only thing we could see was clouds.

So, here we are just going to use our imaginations and pretend that the incredible volcano is right there, and being majestic and stuff.

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To make up for this gigantic bummer, I had some Rainier beer in front of Rainier clouds.

I figure this is compensation for now.

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Bringing In The Season of Autumn: Can You Balance An Egg Today??

Balanced Egg

 

A few years ago, I was talking to someone about how nice it was that the blaring heat of summer had finally waned and the start of a new, cooler, season was upon us.

…and then he said something I had never heard before: “Did you know you could balance an egg on the Autumnal Equinox?”

Indeed, I had not!

Generally, my go-to practice with carrying eggs has been, “Don’t Drop Them.” What magical alchemy could this be??

You are not going to believe this, but I did, indeed, balance an egg on that autumnal equinox so many years ago.

It was the craziest thing I had ever seen.

…what was even crazier was when I balanced an egg the next day.

Yeah.

Apparently you can balance an egg any day of the year. It is just some silly myth to balance an egg on the days of equinox. There is no magic balancing ability the earth creates on the day of equinox. Which I know, is so shocking.

“Nonetheless, the vernal equinox brings no special egg-balancing properties with it. Standing an egg on its end is something just about anyone can do any day of the year; the feat simply takes the right egg and a little trial and practice.”

Thanks for sucking the fun out of the room, Snopes.

Anyway.

Besides this huge let down of an event, there are other ways to celebrate the arrival of Fall!

But you should balance some eggs today anyway because it’s fun.

 

You really cannot find an easier science experiment than this! You will need a raw egg and a countertop…and that’s about it. This site suggests putting the egg on top of a layer of salt, to keep it balanced. I have used a paper towel in the past for the same reason. Either way you’re cheating, but that’s between you and the egg.
The Children’s Museum goes a little farther with this whole egg-quinox nonsense and totally debunks it. Then they started putting things on top of the egg, like books and weights, because they’re over-achievers and scientists, and scientists tend to fiddle with stuff a lot. So, that makes sense.
Besides the whole “you can balance an egg any day” bust, there are actually a lot of really interesting things going on! The length of the day and night are equal, hence “equinox,” or “equal night.” Which reminds me that daylight savings time begins pretty soon…
Every culture has a different tradition to usher in the new season. I remember one year we were in the middle of a Moon Festival in Beijing, and you simply have never seen so many mooncakes in your life. At least I had never seen so many mooncakes in my life!
Most religions also have their high holidays around this time. Jewish holidays include the new year celebration with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur for repentance. Christians have days such as Holy Rood Day on September 14th, when you eat nuts and fattened goose, as well as Old Michaelmas Day later in October which is the end of the blackberry harvests.

Bourbon: The Drink of a Lady

Until last year, I was a wine snob.

Bogle Vineyards, Petite Sirah. Yep.

I enjoyed deep red wines, I could tell you if the wine came from the coast of California, from Napa or from the valleys in Livermore.  I went through a season of Pinot Noir, slipping into deep Merlots and then rebounding into Petit Sirah with a great flourish.  I love picking out the flavors of dark cherry in the Syrahs, or the lavender in Merlots; the sweet finish of Cabernets and the dry spirit of Pinot.  It is a beautiful adventure in a stemmed glass to explore the nature of wines, and I couldn’t enjoy it more.

And then I rediscovered bourbon.

Good heavens, is bourbon wonderful.  It just sits in those raw oak barrels and sucks the heavenly life out of the wood.  The flavors are oaky, sweet and bold.  I love it.

But this is a corn whiskey, so you have to be prepared for a little kick.  If you prefer margaritas or rum & Coke, I don’t know if this is really the spirit for you.

However, if you are an explorer at heart and love unearthing the deepest secrets in your drink, you will love bourbon.  If you honestly love the personalities of scotches, but you can’t get over the peat, bourbon is definitely your drink.

So, here are some bourbons that I have, and some notes on what they are, exactly. I’m going to be citing a lot of distilleries so I get this right.

Let’s start with what I like the most, and move to the least:

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Ladies at attention.
 
 

1) Blanton’s

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“Blanton’s is a brand of bourbon whiskey produced and marketed by the Sazerac Company. It is distilled inFrankfort, Kentucky at the Buffalo Trace Distillery.
The Blanton’s brand was launched in 1984 under the guidance of the distillery’s master distiller Elmer T. Lee, as the first modern bourbon marketed as a single barrel bourbon.[1] The original brand name was “Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon”. A single barrel bourbon is one that is poured (and typically chill filtered) from the contents of one particular aging barrel – not mixed with whiskey from any other barrels and not blended with neutral spirits, colorings, or flavorings. The company says that producing a high quality whiskey using this production method requires constant monitoring of every barrel in the middle of the warehouse by the Master Distiller. The barrels are dumped by hand without using machinery. There are eight different stopper designs, each with a different letter of the alphabet molded into it and topped with a figurine of a racehorse and jockey. When placed in order, spelling “B L A N T O N’ S”, the horse and jockey’s poses display eight different scenes of a horse race, from standing at the gate, to crossing the finish line with a win.”
Notes:
Rating–     A
Price–     $45 at BevMo
Type–      Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Nose–      Very oaky, vanilla, cream, a little spicy.
Alcohol–   93 Proof, 46.5% abv
Taste–      Oak, vanilla, nutmeg, raisins, corn.  Sweet front, solid middle and a good clean, warm finish, no lingering tastes.   
Overall–   This is a beautiful bourbon with a decent amount of complexity, a very bold flavor, smooth overtones and a pleasing taste.  It is sweet, warm, delightful with a very rich blend of flavors.  You get the tastes of so many natural things in this, that you can almost picture what they look like while you are sipping it.  The oak tastes like a warm oak wood that has been left out in the afternoon sun on a dry day.  The vanilla is this musky vanilla that has been hanging in an empty cupboard.  The spice is like a gentle spice cake with extra nutmeg and warm golden raisins.  I just love how this bourbon opens up.  This is absolutely my favorite bourbon, hands down.
 
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Ancient buffalo carved paths through the wilderness that led America’s first pioneers and explorers westward. One such trail led to the banks of the Kentucky River where we’ve been making bourbon whiskey the same way for over 200 years. Uncompromised and unchanged, we’re proud of the whiskey we make. Dedicated to the independent spirit of America, Buffalo Trace is the world’s most decorated distillery. We invite you to explore our rich history, our award-winning bourbon and learn why we’ll always stand strong. (-Buffalo Trace.com)”

Notes:
Rating–  A-
Price– $45 at BevMo
Type– Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Nose– Dark Vanilla, fresh cotton candy
Alcohol– 90 Proof, 45% abv
Taste–  Such a bright flavor, very cheerful front.  Sweet but not too sweet.  Very solid flavors for the middle, lots and lots of warm oak.  Beautiful oak notes.  Some gentle nut flavors, maybe walnut. Maybe some toasted sugar on the middle. Sunflowers.  Apples in the finish.  
Overall–  I love Buffalo Trace very much.  It is absolutely my go-to bourbon on a day to day basis.  It never disappoints, it always impresses.  It is a very optimistic, bold, bright bourbon with lots of aggressive flavors coming together.  I will always have some on hand, and it will be the one I order if we go out.  Definitely a winner in my book.
 
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” “Replacing the rye grain in our recipe with wheat provides for an exceptionally smooth taste. W. L. Weller is a truly outstanding buy.” –Wine Enthusiast Magazine”
Notes:
Rating–  A-
Price– $45 at BevMo
Type– The Original Wheated Bourbon
Nose–  Bread, light, burnt sugar, leather, dark honey, some wildflower floral notes 
Alcohol– 107 Proof, 53.5% abv
Taste–   Very smooth, very light but with a great solid flavor.  Sunflowers, creme brule, light vanilla.  Spicy on the back.  Warm finish, but not as clean as Blanton’s.
Overall–  This bourbon was completely different than what I expected.  I thought it would be more rugged like rye, but it was actually lighter than Buffalo Trace!  Unbelievable.  The flavor isn’t as impressive as Buffalo Trace, but it is still an amazing bourbon.  Definitely A- in my book.
 
Side note- I have Celiac and I have never had a reaction to this bourbon, and I am very sensitive to gluten.  Just take this with a grain of salt…if you have Celiac, you need to take responsibility for your self, as always.  primum non nocere.

4) Angel’s Envy
 
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First a wee bit of back story as to why Angel’s Envy is called Angel’s Envy. No it’s not just to be clever, though it does sound clever, it actually has meaning; known as the “angel’s share”. The angel’s share is the portion of alcohol which will evaporate from the cask during aging. It’s not much that evaporates, between one and three percent depending on how hot the barrel house is. But this amount of alcohol is for the angels, as the story goes. Angel’s Envy derives its name from the fact that they finish aging their bourbon in Ruby port barrels from Portugal, making the angels truly envious. –See more at: http://whiskeynose.com/angels-envy-bourbon-review/#sthash.Pz9TBnRM.dpuf
 
Notes:
Rating–  A-
Price– $45 at BevMo
Type– Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Port Wine Barrels
Nose– Vanilla, cream, light sugar, honey
Alcohol Content– 86.6Proof, 43.3% abv
Taste– Honey, light brown sugar, a little vanilla. It is a simple bourbon, but delightful.
Overall–  Angel’s Envy is a blend bourbon, so it tastes completely different from the other Straight Bourbon Whiskies.  The blend is 25%A 40%B 35%C: On the bottle it explains that “As bourbon malcontents, we appriciate subtle nuances and tinkering.  This micro blend was created from samples of 3 Angel’s Envy batches selected by Lincoln and Blended to the Specifications of BevMo!” My bottle is empty now because I have shared this one with friends the most.  It is a very smooth, very likeable bourbon without the kick that straight bourbon has.  It is very friendly and very open.  I liked this one very much, but it is completely different as a blend.
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“THIS BIG FLAVOR
HASN’T GONE ANYWHERE.

The extra aging, longer than nearly every other small batch offering, allows our bourbon to absorb more of the sugar from the wood, giving it a richer taste. And treating our American white oak barrels with the highest char level brings out even more distinctive flavor qualities during the aging process.
When it’s all done, we take our original Knob Creek Bourbon from barrel to bottle at an honest 100 proof, and our Single Barrel Reserve at 120 proof, just like it was done before prohibition.”
(read their story here.  They are quite a bunch over there, and it’s worth a visit!)

Notes:

Rating–  B+
 
Price– $45 at BevMo
 
Type– Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Small Batch
 
Nose– Big punch to the nose, be prepared. This is not your grandmother’s bourbon, unless your grandmother was a steelworker.  Husky vanilla notes, deep caramel, rich oak wood, fresh rye bread
 
Alcohol– 100 Proof, 50% abv
 
Taste– This is absolutely the boldest bourbon I have.  You do not go about drinking Knob Creek if you are a sissy.  You hold it firmly in your hand, you stare your opponent…or your date…down across the rim of your glass, and with a wide, confident grin you take a sip.  And then you close your eyes as you recoil from the insane bouquet of flavors you have assaulting your palette.  Rich vibrant oak notes, huge vanilla blasts, rye from the depths of Ryeville.  Bruised peaches, apricot pits and caramels.  There is nothing subtle about this bourbon, so you’re going to get it all at once.  And once you swallow, you will have to take a breath to clear your lungs again…it’s that good.
 
Overall– Okay, this used to be my favorite bourbon.  I went to this every time I was asked what I liked.  It is seriously good…but now that I understand the flavors in bourbons, all I can taste in it is the rye!  I still love it because it is so incredibly bold, you just have to respect it.  But on a day to day basis, it is a little too much for me.  It’s not a conversational-bourbon, it’s a punch-you-in-the-face-while-I-kiss-your-sister/brother bourbon.  I kinda like it for that….


6) Bullet Rye
 
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Bulleit Rye is an award-winning, small batch, straight rye whiskey with a character of unparalleled spice and complexity. Released in 2011, it continues to enjoy recognition as one of the highest quality ryes available.Russet in color, with rich oaky aromas. The flavor is notably smooth, with hints of vanilla, honey, and spice. Finishes crisp and clean, with long, lingering flavors.( See more at: http://www.bulleit.com/whiskey.aspx#!bulleit-rye)”

Notes:
Rating–  C
Price– $25.99 at BevMo
Type– Straight Rye Whiskey
Nose– Harsh, rye, dried grass
Alcohol Content– 90 Proof, 45% abv
Taste– I don’t know anymore.  It tastes like pickles to me.  But some people say it tastes like cherries and tobacco.  
Overall– I hate this rye so much it kills me.  I have tried to like it, but the only note I get from it is pickles.  It is frustrating.  I have had other ryes, like Michter’s US #1 Rye, which were incredible.  So I don’t know exactly what went wrong with Bulleit rye.  


7) Buffalo Trace White Dog
 
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In Kentucky, buffalo carved a pathway followed by America’s first explorers. Those brave pioneers distilled whiskey using traditional methods and drank it right off the still. They called it White Dog. This raw distillate was clear, un-aged and had a hint of sweet corn. Later distillers discovered this spirit was perfect for aging – creating what we know today as fine Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. We’re still making whiskey on the spot where ancient buffalo once crossed the Kentucky River and following centuries of time-honored distilling tradition. Enjoy this White Dog the way Americans did more than 200 years ago. (-buffalo trace distillery)”

Notes:
Rating–  N/A
Price– $17.99 at BevMo
Type– Wheated Mash
Nose– You don’t have a nose anymore if you smell this.  
Alcohol Content– 125 Proof, 46.5% abv
Taste– Vanilla, sweet sugar, and the burn of a cowboys glare.
Overall– So, this is what Buffalo Trace bourbon is before it goes into the oak barrel.  We just wanted to know what it tasted like…but, from one friend to another?  DON’T DRINK THIS.  I can’t explain it, but it’s just burn.  Lots of burn.

 

Adulting: Overcoming Irrational Fears. Like Aliens. And The X Files.

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I am not a woman…

Well, I am a woman.

To invoke a little Rockwood humility: I am quite a woman. I have enough woman in me to spare, to be quite honest about it.

However, I am not a woman who shrinks from adversity.

I think this quality I possess is a given.

There are few obstacles I will not take on, few opponents I will not combat with full eye contact, and hardly an opportunity I will let pass.

I have “BRAZEN” written on my heart, and “FEARLESS” stamped upon my soul.

Except when it comes to aliens.

I have been scared, to the point of a phobia, of aliens ever since forever. And I have no reason for it. I don’t think there are flying saucers visiting us, and I don’t think skinny big eyed crazy people (excuse me, “crazy aliens.” I’m so speciest.) are feasible on earth. For one, the atmosphere is all wrong for them, and for two the sun is too bright for their eyes, plus there are so many microbes/viruses/bacteria/parasites on earth, I just don’t see how they would survive. I mean, seriously. It doesn’t make any sense that a being from another world can walk around on earth with no protective suit, and that walking around barefoot and naked is going to work out at all. I mean, I can’t even walk out to the garbage can in front of my house barefoot without stepping on a stick the wrong way, or getting pebbles lodged into my hobbit feet uncomfortably. So unless these little green guys are made out of sharkskin, I just don’t see how this is possible. Also, how are they not passing out from breathing our air? How are they walking around when they have, like, 1% muscle mass on their tiny frames? And they are always walking around at dusk, apparently, so what do they do about mosquitos? Do they get moths stuck on their gigantic eyeballs all the time or what?

Honestly. None of this makes sense.

Many, many hours of my life have been spent on rationalizing why aliens are the dumbest idea of the 20th century.

OH SURE THERE COULD HAVE BEEN ALIENS IN EGYPT, OR IN MAYAN CULTURES, OR IN THE HIMALAYAS OR IN SCOTLAND…BUT WE JUST WON’T KNOW, NOW WILL WE.

Anyway.

The notion of something from out of our world visiting has always been too much for my tender sensibilities, and I have not been able to watch “Encounters of the Third Kind,” or “E.T.” or “Alien,” or anything. My stomach gives out, my knees cease to function and all rational thought leaves my normally rational brain, and I am useless to any function.

I remember one time my dad gave me a little inflatable green alien (WHYY DAD??), and I was very nice and put it on my bookshelf in my living room.

Until the next morning when I nearly peed myself when I was walking into the kitchen to get coffee, and there was an alien staring at me from the other room. I don’t need this kind of stress in my life, so that little guy was thoroughly deflated. (omg.)

Fortunately, I have grown up. A little bit. I have finally sat through the entire movie of “Encounters of the Third Kind” without having to run out of the room to throw up. I actually let the kids watch “E.T.,” and they totally showed their Mom up by saying it was “boring.”

Even though there is a slimy alien with koala shrieking abilities and a contagious fever (I TOLD YOU THEY’D GET SICK HERE) running around someone’s house the whole time.

But I’ve gotten through a few classic alien movies so far, because I’m taking steps here, and this next step was a big one for me. It was something I avoided like the freaking plague the entire time it was playing, and I had zero interest in watching it or even hearing about the stories…until now. Because I’m ready for this.

I have watched many episodes of X-Files this year…and I’m doing okay.

There are some really creepy alien episodes I haven’t watched yet, but the fact that I could watch many episodes…alone…means I am making progress.

I’m pretty sure this is Adulting: Boss Level.

Next up: Ghosts.

 

First And Foremost, Is The Toaster.

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Waayy back when, in January, particularly, I acquiesced to get a new toaster.

It was a weird decision, since you can literally just go down to Target and get one for $20, and that is that.

But, naturally, I turned a very simple, uncomplicated decision that would have been very easy to solve, into a long drawn out emotional tale of fire and ice.

Listen. You ask a poet to buy a toaster, you’re going to get an epic tale. That’s just how it is.

So. Since the crew and I were at Target getting groceries anyway, and we were passing by the toasters anyway, I let the kids pick out a toaster for the kitchen. They were delighted to see that it had a bagel button (I have no idea what this does, besides toast more vigorously).

So, the news is that we got a toaster…and the kids are basically living on toast right now.

In other news, I also have been experimenting with Sloppy Joes!

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Which is a weird thing to experiment with. But we’re doin’ it anyway!

See, the thing is, the kids were in band camp a few weeks ago and band camp had really impressive lunches every day. Asian chicken salad, monkey bread, taco salads and Sloppy Joes.

They were not fans of the Sloppy Joes because the meat was way overcooked in an industrial sized crockpot that could feed an army…which, I guess it did. There were ~150 kids in camp, so it’s either that or have a fleet of crockpots.

Anyway, the Sloppy Joes were more black than brown and mushy than tasty. Nova said it tasted like warm coffee grounds, and no one wanted to have Sloppy Joes ever again.

I have never been a big fan of Sloppy Joes, since it’s just kinda mush on a bun…but, still. I can’t let the kids believe there is nothing redeeming about the dish. So, it was my responsibility to find a Sloppy Joe recipe that was killer.img_1974

And I did.

Welcome to Buffalo Chicken Sloppy Joes! img_1975

(and here is the recipe!!)

Dude, these things were killer. They were zesty, tasty, fresh and not only did the kids love them…I loved them.  I will definitely be revisiting this dish in the future!

Besides these amazing things, we’ve also gone to some wildlife lectures…

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Made some vanilla playdoh…..

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WE FINALLY WENT TO DICK’S, AND IT WAS EVERYTHING WE HOPED IT WOULD BE.

AND WE WILL BE VISITING MORE OFTEN.

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And here is Conrad, just being dapper. Because he is.

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To Tommy

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The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.

-Isaiah 40

At the end of May, I received saddening news that the priest, whom we loved, was being let go.

And when I say let go, I mean he was completely rejected and fired by the board of the church which he had led for less than a year.

I received this news a few days after I had received news that I was also being let go by the board on which I served, also for less than a  year.

The church board was very candid and transparent with their decision, and it appears they did not approve of the priest’s MLA reference citation notes, and he was gone faster than than the ink had time to dry; or, perhaps, than the email was sent.

The thing is, we weren’t even members of Tommy’s church. Yet. We were somewhere else at the time, which we had decided to attend when we first moved to this area as a placemarker of sorts. It wasn’t a bad church by any means…but it wasn’t our church. But, naturally, we got involved with teaching Sunday school for the kids and so we stayed long enough to finish out the classroom year.

We were planning on joining the church in which Tommy was the priest once our teaching obligation was over.

Joining a new church is a daunting task.

Because you are looking for a family. And that can be scary to seek out, hesitant to attend and nervous to join. Sometimes it is hard to say what it is you are looking for, exactly. I know we can say there are things very specifically we look for in a church; but there are also intangibles that will make the church a home.

Learning is very important to us. If we are not learning and growing in a church, then we feel like potted plants, to be rather poetic about it. And if we are anything, we are not potted plants. We are vessels of unquenchable thirst for understanding God and everything He made, and that is our focus. So if we are potted plants in a church, then maybe that isn’t our church.

I also have high regard for safety and order, which, I know, seems like an odd request for a church. But there have been situations when those two items have not been available, and I realized quite acutely how vital they were for a church. If I do not feel my children are safe in the children’s church due to lack of competent supervision, that isn’t our home.  If the pastor has no concept of church order through which to lead, then that isn’t our church home, either.

And at this point in our lives, we had been in places which have left enough bad memories of what some people think church is…I didn’t know if we would ever find a safe church, again.

When we found Tommy’s parish, it was actually through a choir in which the kids were involved. The music director is a lovely, gentle woman who has a completely different style of teaching than my (rather) militant style of teaching; and yet, the kids all memorized their songs, plus some ukulele chords, and the kids have performed in their Christmas, Easter and sundry services flawlessly.

Tommy led those services, and in him I saw the same love and grace of leading.

He was a gentle soul who made intelligent jokes, and seemed to have the most welcoming smile on his face whenever I saw him. My oldest, Nova, was in a youth group after choir and Tommy led her group with his trusty dog, Joshua, by his side.

I was overwhelmed with how loving and accepting the leadership was in his church, and when we considered becoming parishioners there, it felt like…relief.

We have finally found a safe church home for our family.

And just like that, he was let go.

I am glad to say that we were actually led to the sister church, which is smaller…but just as friendly, loving and safe. It did take a few deep breaths to accept that we were making a big step into a new home, but we had hands around to help us walk slowly, and safely, into the sanctuary with them.

But, where was Tommy?

Thanks to social media, I was able to see him take a few months of time off. He traveled with Joshua and met old friends. He helped rebuild after the floods in Louisiana and he comforted families who lost everything. It was good to see him out and doing what he loved most: loving others.

So, this morning, I was overwhelmed with love to see him announce his first service in his new parish. I am only sorry to say it is very, very far away.

My note to Tommy is this:

Although your stay on our island was brief, I am so glad you were here.

You gave me hope that pastors were still as kind, thoughtful, wise, funny and loving as I hoped they would be.

Breaking News: The Rockwood Clan Conquers Yet Another Scottish Festival.

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If there is one thing we, as Rockwoods, are consistent with it is our fervent and undying love for Scottish games.

Ben and I have been attending Scottish games for as long as I can remember, and our children have grown up on Irn-Bru, bangers and mash, and meat pies covered in gravy with a good pile of peas heaped on top of it.

There beats within our souls the thundering drums of the pipe lines, and the echoing pipes are the beacon which leads us to our people.

We seek out thick corded kilt hose like a honeybadger seeks out a hive.

So when I realized there was a Scottish festival in our neck of the woods, you better believe we laced up and got our highland hineys over there.

My warrior daughters at my side, and the knights beside the King.

Aye, the laddies and lassies have grown up and are well dressed. And playing in the streams, since none of us can resist getting our feet a little muddy before the games.

We watched the Seattle Knights, who were fantastic, as always. The kids were in the front row of this event, to which we had to return a few times per the request of all of them. They each had a favorite knight…well, they had one favorite knight:

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I can’t really blame them…they have good taste in knights.

Afterward, they were inspired by the violence and went on to protect our family honour by swordfighting with neighboring villages. The young neighboring lad first took on Glenn…but Nova was quick to pick up the sword and give him a good run for his money.

IMG_1938I don’t know if the poor boy will ever be the same.

We also found haggis, Vegetarian Haggis, which is an abombination to everything on earth, caber tossing, sheep dogs, pipe bands, fountain pens (I got none, sadly), a beer garden (also missed out on this, probably for the best), and the kids got to visit the Queen in her tent.

They look forward to that every single year, and they talk about her until we return.  I believe it is the royal lines coursing through their blood calling out to them…“storm the castle….”

Now, Eve, on the other hand, does not like dresses right now.

She refused to wear a dress, which was fine with me. We can wear what we like…some of us in more corsets than others.

So while everyone was finding their capes and swords, she got out her craft supplies and made herself a shark mask.

Because she wanted to be a shark and scare everybody.

I applaud her ingenuity and courageous spirit, and we made sure she was able to wear her shark mask as long as she wanted.

And she was very happy 🙂

The Tough Decision: Divorcing Homeschooling Groups.

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I have been homeschooling for a good 9 years.

At least.

There were years before we officially started kindergarten here which were filled with dry erase boards, notebooks, projects and field trips as well. But we’ll just say, for the official record, that it has been 9 years.

All these 9 years have been exploratory years. Not only have we explored different curriculums, but we’ve explored different approaches to learning, different organizational approaches and different homeschooling groups in which to participate.

We have been in virtual academies, local co-ops, Classical Conversations, online homeschool groups and public school homeschool educational partnerships.

Last year was our experience with the public school homeschool educational partnerships, which just sounded…weird? And maybe awesome? But definitely something we had to try.

By mid-year, we were all in. We were doing harvest festivals, music performances, PTO meetings, regional PTO meetings, bulletin boards, newsletters, calendars and websites…

I thought I had finally found my tribe.

People surrounding our family who loved education and learning just as much as we did, and who were ecstatic about all of it! My tribe! My peeps!

In the end, that’s not how it turned out.

You know, when you were younger and had a boyfriend who took you to your favorite restaurants, and loved the same music you did? You both loved old 19th century gothic literature and you both adored kung fu movies.When suddenly, one day, he asks you out to lunch. At your favorite cafe`, of course. When he drops it on you:

He hates kung fu, he hates literature, he has always hated your music…and your face is ugly.

It feels like the air has been sucked out of the room. What just happened? I thought we were on the same page with everything…we had spent hours, if not days discussing everything. What happened? Where did this come from? Why did I not see this coming?

What just happened…??

This is the absurd drama I have been dealing with for…a while. We’ll say.

Drama that I didn’t see coming because it had never been brought up all year. Drama that I certainly don’t need, that’s for sure.

Drama which I thought might blow over, or get better, or maybe even turn into something positive in the end. Hey, it might! We might be able to use tough situations to work together and build something even better in the end! Right??

NOT. SO. MUCH.

It is just the…stupidest situation that keept getting stupider. Not worse. Not horrible. Just stupider. Yes, I said stupider.

No time to ‘splain, lemme sum up:

In September I joined a group, a community you could say, which was missing a lot of foundational information. Like, “what, exactly, do you do here, exactly?” kind of information.

But, as my youngest says, I’m a good helper! I would love to participate in this community and help out. So I do! And all year, it goes very well. I make friends, my kids make friends, we are involved and it seems to be going pretty great.

Little did I know…

Actually, the board which I was serving hated my guts.

Whaaa?? You might say. Hated youu?? You are thinking. I know, right?? But why?? You seem like such a nice person who hates drama and has been selflessly publishing a newsletter, running the school calendar and events page, given the community a website finally and been an overall pretty nice lady. What could have happened?!

I’m glad you asked!

I found out all these very crucial answers in an “emergency meeting.” Which means they asked to go out to coffee with me to discuss some concerns they had with the group. At the end of the year. When I don’t have time to change anything, and all of this would have been really great to know like, 9 months ago, or maybe we could have had a conversation about it during the year instead of getting 2 hours worth of gossiping baggage dumped on me at once.

So, what happened?

Apparently, and I might disagree with this one, but apparently when parents ask all year for information about what is happening in their kids’ classrooms, it is actually a bad thing to inform the parents. So, when I was finding classroom information every month for the community newsletter, the board actually saw that as

… taking away the parent’s ability to ask the teachers, or inhibiting the administration from updating their webpages (which they have never done) by informing the parents.

Wow. That seems awful. So, what is happening is not actually informing the parents of what their kids are learning, but I am inhibiting the parents from forming a relationship with the teachers. Man, that’s harsh! But now I wonder, what else have I done wrong??

They went line by line of everything I’ve participated in, and the bulletin board, and the newsletter…and said that they are all unnecessary and taking away from other people’s ability to volunteer. What I am doing is detrimental to the community, specifically.

Okay, so by participating in my kids’ community, I am taking away the opportunity for other parents to participate. So, every month when I change the calendar on the bulletin board, another kitten dies. And the newsletter, which provided the parents with information about what has happened in the past month, pictures of the kids in school events, a bio of a teacher so parents can be better informed of who is teaching their kids, along with an events page which has never been given to the community in the entire 15 years of its existence, and a recipe for fun, is actually unnecessary and the parents don’t want to know what is going on.

Got it.

But you know what would have been nice to have for the community? Like, one place where the parents could find all this information. All the newsletters, all the teachers’ directory in a list instead of having to fish it out of the district’s cavernous webpage, a board directory…

you know what? Why don’t we raise the bar even more! What if we informed the parents about the current Common Core state standards, since that keeps coming up. Wouldn’t it be awesome to know more about what we should be teaching our kids, since we are homeschoolers?? That would be great!

And yet

As far as the website…  As a group (wait, I thought I was part of the group?), we decided that we need more time to research what platform we want to use for our site.  We will work with someone else to build a new website for our community.  Thus, please shut down the website that you created.

So, let me get this straight. I gave the community a website last September with all the information we need on it. But you decide, now, what you lot are going to do is to shut my website down, then work together, without me, and make an entirely different website with the exact same information on it.

So, at the end of the year, everything I have contributed has been taken away. Deemed unnecessary. And I won’t be involved in rebuilding any of it.

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This seems like an amazing, progressive, healthy environment to be a part of.

I’m so glad we got involved with them.

So what am I doing this year, you ask?

I’m divorcing homeschooling groups for a year, at least, because I, and my kids, need a break from the insane, echo-chamber, unstructured and uncommunicative culture that is homeschool groups.

And I can’t tell you how emotionally freeing this decision is, or what a profound sense of relief I feel in saying this.

“Not all who wander are lost,” said a very wise J.R.R. Tolkein.

This year, we are going to see where the road takes us.