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Our garden has been less than stellar this summer and is quickly dissipating in this heat. I rotated plants into different beds this year, as master gardeners always insist for the soil’s health, but it turns out, we have such specific quantities and places of light in our heavily shaded yard, that my typical planting spots just work best. Sigh. Lessons learned. I did plant a row of heirloom Swiss Chard from seed this year, and it has performed beautifully and bountifully. If you are new to gardening, or even planting in patio pots, Swiss Chard is a great starting place. It’s beautiful, easy to grow, intuitive to manage, and prolific. It’s also an inexpensive veggie this time of year at local farmer’s markets and grocers.

But what do I do with it? There are hundred of ways to use it, but most times, I chop and sauté with garlic and onion or use as a tortilla for a wrap. Our blender has been broken the last year (argh!) or I’d use it in smoothies, too. To get more creative and to share a few yummy looking ways to eat it, here are fifteen diverse recipes, everything from Chard Dark Chocolate Torte to Chard Hummus Wraps, to enjoy at your table right now.

 

Spaghetti Squash Aglio e Olio with Rainbow Chard

Hot Sausage and Crispy Chard Pizza

Drink Your Greens Smoothie

Runner Beans with Swiss Chard Stems and Basil

Rainbow Chard & Feta Orzo Bowls

Swiss Chard Hazelnut Dessert Tart

Crispy Swiss Chard Cakes with Mascarpone Creamed Spinach

Rainbow Chard Hummus Wraps

Chard Dark Chocolate Torte

Butternut Squash and Chard in Spicy Harissa Coconut Sauce

Chard Black and Blue Smoothie

Chard + Sweet Corn Tacos

Sweet Thai Chile Chicken Swiss Chard Wraps with Peanut Ginger Sauce

Spicy Swiss Chard Chips

Herb, Chard, and Feta Soup

 

Our family has been studying the 19th century this year, and while we are only scratching the surface of events and topics, it has been incredible to read the various narratives of women before women had the right to property, work, or education. From Sacagawea to Queen Victoria to the numerous women in pioneering homesteads to slave narratives and abolitionists and women who bravely took up new roles in the Civil War, I have been moved to read so many stories of courage and compassion, of perseverance and fortitude with my children. As a parent, I hope these powerful words become descriptions of their lives one day, too.

Although books are an important way we build character in our home, it isn’t the only one. Many of the practical character lessons our children learn occur just outside our doors, where they play with friends and build forts and garden. When possible, these lessons extend when we travel and experience other parts of the world or plan outdoor excursions. Today, I am partnering with Keenshoes our family has loved for yearsto share their new Moxie line for girls, and also a few character lessons growing in our girls through outdoor play and exploration.  

There are accumulating piles of research on the benefits of outdoor living for our children’s health: Vitamin D, decreased stress and anxiety, calming for ADD/ADHD, physical exercise, and so on. Yet as a parent, I also notice the ways outdoor living and play teaches my girls something about courage and compassion, about perseverance and beauty. When they climb trees or hike long trails, when they experience new people or ideas from history, when they rove through rivers or gather wildflowers, they are developing a greater understanding and appreciation for the world around them.

Naturally, I do not know who exactly my girls will grow up to be, but I have glimpses now when I see them try something new or speak the truth clearly, when I watch them work hard at a task or serve someone when they think nobody’s watching. As Marmee noted to her girls in Little Women, “I so wish I could give my girls a more just world. But I know they will make it a better place.” Here are a few ways giving my girls plenty of time outside is equipping them to do just that.  

Perseverance / We love to hike, especially in the spring when our Southern air is still cool. There are times, our girls grow tired before we are done, especially our youngest. These experiences are opportunities of perseverance, of continuing despite the hardship, despite knowing how much longer until we are through. To lighten the experience, we might make a game, racing to certain points or playing “I spy.” I might hand them my phone to take pictures along the way. When they finish, we always high-five and celebrate!

Courage / There are plenty of opportunities for courage in the outdoors, whether in casual tree climbing, swimming, or in learning about wildlife. One summer we camped in the mountains in Colorado, and I remember the park ranger giving us instructions about bears. One of the girls looked at me with wide eyes and asked, “Did she say bears?” When we venture into new areas together and learn about the land and wildlife, sometimes it is scary. Sometimes unknowns are scary and unpredictable, a sign for us change course. Other times, they are an opportunity for courage.

Compassion / Spending time outdoors, even simply in our backyard or growing food in our garden, cultivates a love and appreciation for the natural world, and subsequently, a longing to preserve and protect it. When we are walking and find trash in the grass or bushes, we collect it. When we garden organically, we are learning about how to take care of the earth and our bodies. When we interact with homeless on the city street, we say hello and offer them something if we can. All of these seemingly small habits are growing a deeper awareness of the world and people around us, and how we participate in caring for them.

Gratitude / Even in the youngest years, children notice bugs and leaves adults might pass by. They listen to songbirds and the rustling leaves. They enjoy animals and wildlife and playgrounds and picnics. Playing outdoors has a way of cultivating gratitude, simply by its enjoyment. When we pray together, we often thank God for pieces of nature we’ve experienced that day.

Determination / There are moments my girls spot a specific tree or boulder and are determined to conquer it. Sometimes they slip and have to start over, but I love watching them beeline for something specific to work toward. I love it even more when they find a way to help one another, by coaching steps or lending a boost.


This post is sponsored by Keen, a business our family has loved for years. All thoughts and images are my own. Always, thank you for supporting the businesses that help keep our family and this space afloat. 

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One day our life will be quiet and clean just as it was in the beginning before kids, and I always hope that in those days, I remember making the most of the dirty, hard years, to have lived deeply, as Thoreau put it, sucking all the marrow out of life. So cheers, fellow parents, to the noise and chaos and dirt that reminds us to live deliberately. And of course, to laugh.  Happy Friday.

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This week we’re sharing laughter on Spilled Milk.

 

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Many of us who aren’t farmers or gardeners still have some element of farm nostalgia in our family past, real or imagined: a secret longing for some connection to a life where a rooster crows in the yard. 
― Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Earlier this week, Olive and I shuffled through our garden paths pruning broccoli to roast with our dinner. At first, I watched her from a distance, giddily finding these little treasures to put in her white garden basket — such a simple pleasure for the both of us, really. “Come pick some, mom!” she calls to me, and I do, also straining to hear what Blythe and Liam are discussing with Mark around the fire pit. Their words are too far. There’s no fire tonight. They don’t seem to mind though. Instead of scooting closer to their conversation, I stop to watch Burke — my introvert — swinging alone in the distance on the tire swing. The trees above me still hang with Winter’s barrenness, and for a moment as the sun rests on the neighbor’s roofline, time pauses. Is this not the simplicity I have yearned for, the secret, nostalgic longing Kingsolver describes? Maybe. Either way, I want to remember this.

 

It seems the end of September has already arrived — the time of year I begin dreaming of wool and blankets and fires and colored leaves and long pants with sweaters, only to remember I live in central Texas, Summer’s kingdom. The kids played in the sprinklers today, which seemed appropriate for the ninety degree weather we had this week, and I found myself peeling layers as the day went on, realizing I cannot actually will Fall to come by wearing Fall-ish clothing. But I am trying. I mourn this missing season every year, lamely ordering a special pumpkin-spiced latte iced because I can’t stand the idea of sitting in my 80 degree home drinking warm frothed milk or passing by and ignoring the large round pumpkins, knowing they’d rot long before we made it to carving season. I know. If Mark were to chime in here, he’d mockingly tell me these are first-world problems, and he’s right. Then he’d proceed to tell me how wonderful Texas is because we’re never freezing or having to shovel snow. But. No. Fall.

The only true sign we have of Fall’s nearness: our trees are hailing acorns. Hailing being the only appropriate word. If you drop by our home, take cover. Or at least, don’t look to the sky. In a lame attempt to cherish my favorite season, this afternoon the kids and I scoured the driveway and lawn for acorns still attached to their “hats.” We collected our treasures in cups, dumping them out to examine the variety of colors and sizes. Pleased with our findings, we talked briefly about the acorns’ job and why the tree hails so many of them. Then we wiped our sweaty faces and headed indoors for the air conditioning. Come, Fall, come!

I’ve had several requests to post a “day in our life,” and it actually surprised me how difficult it was to log a full day’s activity! But I did it, even though this day happened two weeks ago. Let me first say, I’m not sharing this to give you the secret ingredient to home-education (not quite); instead, let’s all apply the lesson we learned from Po and his dad in Kung Fu Panda, “the secret ingredient is you.” Your kids need what you have to offer, and we all offer and need something a little different; activities/curriculum/schedules that work really well for one family may seem impossible for another. But regardless of where you are on this education/parenting journey, everyone needs encouragement, and often, I find observing someone else helps me out of our own family (or personal )ruts in routine. So on that note, I hope you find a nudge or a cheer for you here today, and if you have some ideas to offer from your own family’s day, please share in the comments! The events below happened as written; however the pictures are pulled from several different days since most of these activities we do regularly. I linked to the specific materials I use.

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6am: Mark’s alarm goes off. After several minutes, we muster ourselves out of bed and turn on the lights. Mark jumps in the shower. I finally decide to fold the two baskets of laundry that have been littering my room for two days. I get dressed for the day, then force myself to gather the dirty laundry always accumulating in our home. I start a load.

7:00 am Liam’s up and making himself breakfast. I begin making coffee and the usual eggs, spinach, and tomato breakfast. The other kids meander out to join us. When the boys finish, they sneak off to their beds to read. Soon after, I get the boys back out of bed to begin their morning routine: make their bed, brush their teeth, and put their clothes away (since I had finally folded them). They’re disgruntled. Olive’s already scaling the drawers to get herself dressed, and Blythe joins her, choosing what clothes they will begin their day in (because we all know they’ll finish the day in something else). Have I mentioned the laundry around here?

8:00 am We listen to our CC memory work while the older kids help unload the dishwasher; I play with Olive. We recite our memory work together using many of the “tools” their tutors gave us in class. When we finish, the kids fill their water bottles and head back to the school room. They play with Legos and color until I get back there. I make my coffee, check my email, and skim news articles.

9:00 am Liam and I alternate reading a story from the Children’s Illustrated Bible aloud; we all talk about the story together. Some days there’s no application (especially since we’re in the Old Testament right now), but today we read about Elijah healing Namaan of leprosy. So we spend some time talking about healing, and God as our healer. We each speak at least one thing we’re thankful for this morning (we recently started writing them down in a journal — shown above) and next talk about the people we know who also need healing. Then we each pray out loud, together and informally (meaning kids on the floor, in our indoor swing, at the table coloring).

I read a chapter out of the Story of the World: the Middle Ages (sometimes we don’t make it through a whole chapter, but we did today). The kids listen about the kingdom of the Franks while they color & build with Legos. Olive, who has been laying on the floor with her blankie and pillow pet, heads to refrigerator. We stop for snack time.

10:00 am I send the kids to the backyard to run while I switch over laundry, chop some oranges, and grab cheese sticks. We eat our snack outside, and then play Red Light, Green Light and Mother May I.

10:30 am We head back to the school room again. The boys practice handwriting (I’ve already torn out their sheets ahead of time) and each picks four lines of poetry to copy from any of our children’s poetry books (one, two, three, and any of this series). After they finish, they enjoy free time in their room. Meanwhile, I sing about, read Mat Man Shapes, and build Mat Man with the girls, which works until Blythe corrects Mat Man’s mouth (Olive had placed the small curve wood piece down like a frown) upsetting Olive who then screams and tears Mat Man’s hands. The girls end up in time out, and I put Mat Man away for the day. Everyone reconciles, eventually.

11 am I set Blythe up to work on a phonics folder game. Liam reads out loud to Olive while I work through a Math lesson with Burke. I give Burke his math fact sheet and worksheet to finish on his own, and move Liam to the kitchen to begin his math lesson. Olive and Blythe play dress-up together. I fold clothes while I help Liam. I check Burke’s work and hand him and Liam clothes to put away. They play outside again. I sit down with Blythe for a spelling lesson and give Olive some color cards to sort.

12:00 pm The kids are climbing in our trees while I make lunch. We eat outside again (The weather’s been so fantastic here!) and spend time exploring a wooded lot nearby.

1:30 pm Olive goes down for a nap. I have a spelling lesson with Burke. Liam draws at the table, until it’s his turn for spelling. Burke and Blythe return outside again to finish working on a rope swing they (and Liam) had begun a few days ago. I call Blythe in for reading; Liam joins Burke.

2:30 pm “Rest time” for everyone. We each find our own quiet spot with our book(s) for 30 minutes of reading alone/30 minutes of quiet activity on your own. (We’re still working on this.) I make myself a second cup of coffee, grab an old sheet, and head to the backyard for my quiet spot. Instead of reading, I have to finish up my lesson plan for my Essentials class.

3:30 pm I have to wake up Olive (which usually means she’s screaming or kicking me). She hates being woken up, but I can’t have her sleep longer than two hours during the day or it starts to affect her bedtime. The kids are ready for a snack again. I let them make their own this time. And I wrap up my own work.

4:30 pm The kids “clean up” the school room while I wash the day’s dishes. They begin chasing each other around the house, so I send them outside again while I gather dinner.

5:00 pm Mark’s home from work and outside with kids. Kristen & Tim arrive with Shepherd  for dinner.  I shred zucchini to make “noodles” for her homemade red sauce (grandmother’s recipe). We throw together some veggies for a salad and eat!

6:00 pm We eat dinner. The boys wrestle in the backyard, then play on the computer for 30-45 minutes. The babies and Blythe are playing dress-up, chasing each other around the table and out into the yard. We (adults) try to have conversation.

7:15 pm We begin our bedtime routine: baths/showers, PJs, brush teeth, and read aloud.

8:30 pm Lights out for the kids. I head to the shower and get ready for bed.

9:00 pm Mark and I talk briefly, recapping our day and discussing any plans for the upcoming ones (you know, romantic stuff). He takes an important phone call, and I sit down to write.

10:00 pm Mark heads to bed. I’m enjoying the quiet stream-lined thinking too much and continue writing.

11:00 pm I make myself go to bed. Lights out.

Everyday is different. This day didn’t include any errands, appointments, or playdates, and for the most part it went pretty smoothly, unlike this morning when Olive cried the entire way through Blythe’s spelling lesson because I put her blankie in the wash.  Or the morning she painted herself, her doll, and the hallway floor with nail polish. Or the day Burke split his leg open and had to get stitches. Or the days I get too distracted by the computer or phone calls. We all have those days. This just happen to be the one I recorded.

{this moment}: A Friday ritual. A single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor, and remember. (inspired by soulemama)