Friday, December 30, 2011


Every New Year's Eve, our family volunteers at a local retirement home.  We started doing it because my husband has off, but it has morphed into something more meaningful.  My almost nine year old son said today, "We say goodbye to the old year by hanging out with old people."  He's pretty spot on.

I like to be able to help people that were once vibrant, loving, feeling, passionate people.  Many of them now sleep during our visit, mouths open.  But they were just like me, just in the the blink of an eye ago.  I love watching how our kids just walk right up to residents and say, "How was your Christmas?", not minding if they don't even get an answer.

Today, we played Bingo together.  Sophia was so excited to shout "Bingo!" for someone who could not shout it for themselves.  My husband Tony shared his lucky streak with a man named Woody.  Woody won twice, even sharing a coveted candy bar with a lady at the table.

It is such a blessing to have this perspective on time staring you right in the face this time of year.  And so "Bingo!" the reason for this tradition becomes crystal clear.

Happy New Year friends!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


I have noticed that I have perfected the habit of Waiting.  I wait for the perfect time to start something, say, marathon training.  I wait to tell someone how much they really mean to me.  I save my favorite clothes for special occasions.  I will call/write that friend when I can really sit down and spend time doing so.  I will make that recipe when we have a dinner party. 
I force my self to wait more often than I realize,  I am now realizing.  The crazy thing is with all of this waiting, I somehow got to be 38 years old.  I know, I am not old, but I thought I was still a kid.
I guess I am officially a grown up. 
About 8 years ago, a dear neighbor of ours died.  Her husband had just retired a month or two before, and they were going to go on a big trip, but they waited.
Every single day is such a gift.  It's trite, but true.  I feel that every time I see "Our Town".
A dear friend said that to keep her spirits up during a really hot run the other night, she told herself how lucky she was just to be able to run.  That's a great perspective.
We are so lucky on so many different levels.
Today, I am going to bask in thankfulness, and I am going to make a commitment to be fully present in the moment.  I don't want to wait, and put off what could be a beautiful moment.  Sorry it's been so long since I posted something, I was waiting until I had something good to say. ;)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne

  Good morning!  Truly!  This morning I came downstairs to a fully clean mantle and bookshelf in our den.  Cleaning fairies in the middle of the night?  No, a late night burst of energy and focus from me, supported by my wonderful husband!

I started reading a book entitled Simplicity Parenting about a week ago.  (When my children saw the title, they mocked it by saying, "Why don't you simply let us do whatever we want?")  Ha ha.  I am only through the intro and half of Chapter One, but already a major theme is about the environment of our home.  How much STUFF do we need and what kind of feeling does cluttered create compared to clear and clean?  (how's that for alliteration??) 

As you might know, I did a previous post about TMS  (Too Much Stuff-for lack of a better "S")
There are times when I feel I am drowning in stuff. I have not seen the top of my dresser in years.  It is currently covered in stuffed animals (hiding from Jerry), socks (waiting for a partner), a glass head (for my hats), and I honestly don't even know what else.  But I digress...

Focusing on a step towards less stuff, back to my cleaning moment last night...

Our mantle was full of Lego projects, cough drop wrappers from 1982, headphones for IPods in other rooms, just STUFF!  After cleaning it all off, I truly realized that this is the hearth and heart of our home.  It is the focal point of the whole house!  Do you think I am feeling cleansed this morning, walking downstairs to SPACE instead of STUFF???  Wonderful...the saying that immediately pops into my head is that I can breathe...

I am looking forward to reading the rest of Payne's book.  I understand that Chapter 2 is about creating the space in TIME for ourselves and our children to breathe and to just be.  The idea that is popping up on Clean:LuSa Organics blog bookclub ( about it is that we, as parents need to provide the time and opportunity for our children to be able to have space for thought and healing:

"It is not our job to fix what is not working. Our work is to create a nurturing and calm environment, connect with and unconditionally love our hurting child, and allow them to heal."- Rachel Wolf from LuSa Organics referring to the book.

That sounds like a life skill that Tony and I both want for our children.

Peace and clean breathing!


P.S. After this, I think my clutter has morphed from stuff to parentheses!  

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Worm Tunnel

We made a worm tunnel!
I have wanted to compost forever but was just too lazy or confused, (or is that dazed and confused?) as how to start and how to keep the dogs out.  Then, I saw this YouTube video:

and besides wanting to move next door to this woman, yes in Australia, I thought that this looked doable!  So, follow along to see the evolution of our "chateaux des wormies"!

First, get a Godfather that, when you say, "Hey, I was thinking of making a composting worm tunnel." replies, "I have some PVC tubing and a drill.  Let's do it."

We drilled about 15 holes all around the bottom 2/3 of the PVC pipe.

Then, find a beautiful spot in your garden and dig a hole
that is deep enough to cover all of those worm holes.

I forgot the other important part of the Godfather requirement; 
make sure he has some good manure laying around.

Howard the Steer was our manure producer. 
He did a superb job.  So, PVC tube is in the ground, manure goes in the tube:

Photo credits: Dominic Zappia.  So, manure, then Hey!  Hay!  Sorry...

The kids were more than happy to help with the hay, the manure?  Not so much.

After the hay is the best part of all...

My Godfather said not to waste our money on "compost worms" because they are really 
the same this as red leaf worms.  Our local bait shop had both "red" and "leaf" worms, so 
 I went with the "leaf".  Aren't they beautiful?

Manure, hay, we threw in a bit of dirt, then the WORMS!

Happy worms.  

Now, something that we have been cooking up for our dream worms on our counter...compost!  
My patient husband was a bit grossed out, but this compost was nice and warm on its own!  
When we threw it in, it was steaming!

Yummy!  Well, at least the worms thought so.

Some dry leaves and stems for good measure...hay after that.

And then the question of how to cover it so air can get in, but Jerry and other critters can not.  
For now, Sophia came up with the idea of plastic wrap so we can see what's happening:

Eventually, we are going to get a mesh and a pot to cover up the whole thing, just like my Australian friend recommended.

So there it is!  Our worm tunnel is in the tomato plant section of our garden, so we are hoping for extra juicy tomatoes, fertilized by our wormy buddies. 

One great result of the tunnel thus far is that the kids are eating even more fruits and veggies so that they can run out and feed the peels to the worms! 

We will keep you posted as to how everything turns out.

Oh!  And if you want the deluxe, super-duper worm garden, you have to go back to the Godfather again and ask for a totem animal/night watchman. 

No one messes with our attack bunny!

Happy Spring!

Jessica and Family

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Stuck in the Middle, With You!

So, after my last post, it's so good to know that I am not alone!  Many of us are feeling stuck right now.  I have a few blogs that I read religiously, and even one of those is hosting a book club about bringing more Simplicity into one's life. ( 
We can feel consumed by our stuff, see my previous post:
or we can feel stuck within ourselves, just to name a few ways from personal experience.

I know one of the ways for me to feel good down to my toes, is to run away, literally.  I started training for a half marathon last year, probably too early now that I look back.  But there, perfect example-I am stuck in my own thoughts regarding this challenge!  I threw in some negativity for ya.  :/

I find that when I just shut up and run, I feel exhilarated!  Given the space and time to doubt myself though, (say when I have to work and don't have time to go) I am filling that void with negative self-talk.

I am going to pick up a great book I found awhile back and start reading it again-Working Out, Working Within.  Jerry Lynch helps to break down the negative demons that we conjure up for ourselves.

It kinda comes back to the law of attraction: "I can't make it up this hill", then you can't.  Or, in life, "Life is hard.  I am tired."  It is, and you are. 

A friend of mine just ran the Boston Marathon.  Upon reflection of her race, Amy put it in perspective.  She kept her family and friends that are fighting cancer in her thoughts as she climbed the hills of Boston.  She drew from their strength in a battle for Life, makes running a race feel easier, and it reminds us all that many of our battles are ones of our choosing, if we are lucky.

So, with a renewed sense of determination, I am lessening the battles (that I am lucky enough to even call "battles") raging within my own mind and I am going to hit the pavement for a good run today, even if it is through the snow in April.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Lately, I feel Stuck.

With a capital 'S'.

I can blame the April snow, or the hectic nighttime schedule, Tony and I high-fiving each other as he comes home from work, and I go to work.  I can blame lack of sleep, a busy weekend; I don't need to list all of my excuses or I will just live in the 'Stuck' even longer.  (though our newspaper landing in snow dusted dog poop is a good excuse)

I have to get out of the rut.  It's that time of year where everyone is going somewhere but you.   Everyone is saving children in Nepal or curing world hunger but you.  You feel stagnant.  See?  I am projecting it on you!

Okay, thinking positive.  Easter is this Sunday, and that is a new beginning.  It's supposed to hit a balmy 50 degrees some time this week. 

I think I need to feel the Stuck for one more cup of coffee this morning, and then 
get over it.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2011



Every Spring I do this.  I look around and scream inside my head, "Where did all of this stuff come from?"  
This same stuff that I defended to my husband all winter long now makes me feel claustrophobic.

Sadly, I did not set up this lovely still life; it is found art, just like this.

I wrestle with myself.  Part of me just wants to load up everything that is not useful and run it over to Goodwill RIGHT NOW.  But the rational part of me knows that we will have a rummage sale again this summer, and our stuff is another person's treasure.  Yada yada yada... 
I do have kiddos that can help, theoretically, with a rummage this summer.  There are so many lessons for them, and me, to learn from a rummage sale.  We sell cookies and lemonade, Dominic is especially good at hawking his wares which he usually gives away in the end because he is such a sweetheart.  That whole process is worth something right?

I can guarantee that these lovelies will not be for sale.  Henry, on the other hand...nah, we will keep him too.   For today, we will just part the Red Sea of stuff in our house.  It's a rainy day and we have a date with the symphony.

Friday, March 25, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment} - Inspired by SouleMama- A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

The first time I am sharing, I am already cheating., but these photos need an explanation. 

No Dominic

No Sophia

The kiddos are sleeping over at a friend's house.  I am usually with my peeps 24-7 (when not working or running, or running to work, or working on my running) so this is a rare occurrence.  So much of how I define myself revolves around who I am with my children.  I say that without self-judgement.  It is what it is right now.  I like 'em, and I love 'em. 

They are supposed to make their beds every morning though.  Hmmmm....

A moment from our lives...

Monday, February 28, 2011

Loving the Struggle

     I teach adults at a technical college.  I also teach two future adults.  I remind myself of that fact every day, the fact that I am working with future adults.  What abilities do I want my children to posess?   Do they need to know Organic Chemistry?  I think I would rather have them know the struggle of learning Organic Chemistry, Physics, poetry, or our current dilemma, handwriting.

     Sometimes, I have to remind myself that the struggles that my children and I are sharing together are more important than the actual outcomes. 

     Today, my eight year old son had an absolute meltdown about subtraction.  He yelled at me, saying that I would not help him because I would not write the numbers down for him in nice, neat rows.  He got mad because I wouldn't enable him.  That is what I have to remember.  I told him directly that I am helping him by letting him do things for himself. I hope that some time very soon he will believe me. 

     I don't think we let our children (safely) struggle enough.  I see the results of enabling with the adults with whom I work as well.  They start doing math, or writing, whatever, and they throw their hands up and say, "This is hard!" Yup.  That's why it's worthwhile.

     I remember my dad answering my 'When am I ever going to use this!?!' question in regards to Geometry with a "You probably won't, but it's more important that you see how you work when something is difficult.  What do you do when you meet a challenge?" I bought it back then, and I still do. 

     I had the pleasure of teaching high school for six years.  When I see those "kids" now, it's the ones that I challenged, and they might have bucked me, that say 'thank you' now.  The adults are thankful for how I helped them as teens.

     I want to do that for my own children.  I want them to struggle, not give up, and know how good it feels to succeed.  I want them to do this so many times, that it is a normal experience for them.  I want them to love a challenge, not to shy away from one. 

     A good teacher leads by example.  I need to follow these lessons as well.  I need to role model a challenge, a struggle, and I need to persevere.  One way that I am doing this, for both myself and my family, is by running a half-marathon in May.  Yesterday, I ran nine miles, the longest I have ever run in my life!  I need to grow as a person, just as I hope my children will always want to do.  I want us to love the struggle, and know how good it feels to cross the finish line, until the next race. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Withdrawal-Not Really

Every Lenten season, I give up Facebook.  I really thought that I would have a tough time doing it this year, I mean, somedays, Facebook is my connection to grown-ups and the outside world.  Then, this happened:

My beautiful state of Wisconsin is divided into two.  I don't want to talk about it.   I am all talked out actually, and that is why it was no problem for me to quit FB.  

No one really has 750 friends that they want to talk to every day.  I would rather talk to these guys:

I found myself checking FB too often anyway, one of the perils of being a homeschooling mom.  The computer is always there, and so, my attention always wasn't.  So, I'm out, and fully tuned back in.  Or, as my kids are saying, my FB account is:

So, if you want to see "what I am thinking/doing", pick up a phone and give us a call.  We might answer, we might not...hopefully the music will be too loud or we will be outside, so we will call you back. 
Peace and love,

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Earth Goes Around the Sun

Dominic turned 8 years old yesterday.  He, along with some friends, lined up at the table to build Lego Star Wars ships. 
I looked at the group and realized the kids were 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 years old, and playing together beautifully I might add.
When we first started thinking about home schooling, I asked myself and others the dreaded "S" question, you know, "socialization"?  Now I just laugh because we have to remember the other "s's", like "squeezing" in "school"!

That brings me to my second point for today.  We are trying out the Oak Meadow curriculum.  We haven't really used a curriculum before, I have just put things together, but I am feeling a greater need for a routine and an underlying structure.  Today's science experiment had us moving a ball around a light bulb to simulate the rotation of the earth for days and years.  My guys took that and ran.  We looked up lunar and solar eclipses, phases of the moon, and when Sophia dropped "Earth", earthquakes.    It amazes me how they so inately want to learn. 

After Dominic's 8th rotation around the sun,
sometimes I feel I just need to set them up and get out of their way. :)

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Happy Epiphany!  Funny, I had an Epiphany of my own just now.  I used to postpone writing a post until I thought about it, put it all together, took the time to fine tune it, etc.  In other words, I barely posted anything because I didn't make the time to put that process into action.

So, just as I didn't make any resolutions this year, I think things are great the way they are and if I want to do something, I will do it when it arises, I am just going to write when I want to write.  Whether it's short, thoughtful, or just an idea, writing will happen because it truly gives me joy.  So on that note, ironically, on to Epiphany... :)

I got a wonderful book from a friend called All Year Round by Ann Druitt, Christine Clinton, and Marije Rowling, about the seasons and traditions of the year.
Traditions follow nature, so when our outide world becomes colder and more barren, our inside world becomes more colorful and festive.

Today, January 6th, is Epiphany.  Epiphany is also known as the Three Kings Day, or Twelfth Night.  Basically, the 12 days of Christmas end on January 5th, and Epiphany is the day when Christians celebrate the incarnation of Jesus Christ into human form.  If you want to read more about it, go to this link:

Today, we are going to make the traditional Epiphany cake.  There are many different recipies, but the basic ideas that remain constant are two fold: a crown on top, and a surprise within.
The cake has something hidden in it, whether it's an almond, a bean, or a figurine, whoever finds this treat while eating the cake gets to be "King" for a day, and of course, gets to wear the crown.  (I think we will wash it off first :)
We are going to use an almond.  The figurine idea scares me a bit, dental know.
If you want to make the traditional French puff pastry idea, here is a recipe:

the recipe in our book is heavier with cherries, nuts and honey, but hey, if you are reading this you have the internet and you can find whatever you want.  It is also totally okay to just make a cake mix out of a box; the main idea is to hide something to find your "King". 

So happy Epiphany, and I'll let you know who is our monarch next time!