The Professor Goes West//Day 8//What to Wear

Day Eight—Sunday, May 27, 2018

We woke up early to go to 9 AM Mass at St. Anne’s Catholic Church, a parish of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter in San Diego. The church was packed, but a good usher managed to seat us. It was nice to assist at Mass after a week of being in the wilderness—it is somewhat like being a pioneer I suppose.

After mass we set out for Coronado Island to find coffee, pastries, and the ocean. We sat on the beach with huge chocolate chip muffins, and then had all but the professor’s first feel of the Pacific Ocean. The kids played in and out of the ocean as the waves lapped at their toes.

One of the professor’s philosophy friends invited out family to join his for a lovely brunch and I think the kids enjoyed each other as much as the adults did. It was wonderful to spend the afternoon with like-minded Catholic people. The N. family is one that we would love to live closer to, but alas, half the country separates us!

We went with them to the first Franciscan California Mission of San Diego to inaugurate the pilgrimage portion of our trip. Then we had a picnic supper in Balboa Park. It is interesting to think about the Franciscans building their missions, baptizing, and spreading the Gospel over 200 years ago. While the churches in Europe are even older it is neat to see a Spanish style church in America.


I was surprised the first time I heard that the virtue of modesty in dress does not just deal with covering our bodies, but it also has to do with wearing the appropriate clothing for the occasion. For example, a swimsuit is appropriate for a beach, pool, or backyard sprinkler time, but not for church, the orchestra, or a restaurant. And in our case, perhaps our Sunday Mass clothes were not ideal for the beach. Having appropriate clothing is just as important for camping.

We camped in a variety of temperatures, and since you are always outside, some mornings you wake up freezing and want pants and a sweater. But as the day goes on you are warm and want shorts and a t-shirt. Here is a list of clothes we had for each person of our family—we planned for laundry at least every five days:

  • Hiking shoes with good treads (all sprayed with tick-repellent permethrin before the trip—more on that later)
  • Sandals and church shoes
  • 2 long pants pairs jeans
  • 4 skirts/shorts
  • 6 short sleeve shirts
  • 2 sweaters
  • 5 changes of undergarments
  • 5 pairs of socks
  • 2 long sleeve PJs
  • 2 short sleeve PJs
  • Knit hats
  • Sunday church outfit
  • Rain jacket
  • Hat for hiking
  • Swimsuit
  • Towel

Everyone also packed their basic toiletry necessities, obviously, and we brought laundry detergent and quarters. This set up of clothes work really well. I think we were only cold one or two mornings, but once the sun rose higher, we were fine. The goal was to keep it as basic as possible. The kids clothes all fit in one large suitcase and the professor and I shared a medium suitcase. We use the rolling clothes method so the kids’ clothing was packed in 4 rows, one for each of them and was easy for them to find. And that is about it for clothing!

Tomorrow I will start in on how we did meals.

The Professor Goes West//Day 7//Campsite Necessities

Day Seven—Saturday, May 26, 2018

Today was a long day in the car. We woke up at 6 am and left the camp about 8 am. We did not stop until we got to Phoenix. The drive out of the North Rim park gave us stunning views of the canyon mostly due to a recent forest fire. We descended from the plateau to a vast “painted” desert. Our road led us along the Vermillion cliffs. When we crossed the Colorado River to go south it was just a medium river in a small ravine. The desert was hot, flattish, and bleak.

Flagstaff was mountainous again and reminded us of Up North. As we came out of the mountains, we finally saw a saguaro cactus—the classic ones—they grew in a little forest. We met our old friend Greg H. for lunch at Rock Springs Cafè. The green bean fries and the bourbon pecan pie were particularly good. It was nice to see Greg again and chat about everyone we knew from Ann Arbor. Phoenix (from our view) was a desolate wasteland of cacti, sand, and sunshine. All the rivers were dry—we were not sure why one would voluntarily live there (though we are open to arguments why it is a great place to live).  

The south western desert of Arizona was bleak with oppressive sun through the California haze. We grabbed a fast-food supper in Yuma. At the border of California we had to stop and list our fresh produce to an inspection agent. Then we hit the real sand desert with blowing sand across the highway. In Imperial Valley we were 64 feet below sea level, and then at it grew dark we entered into a treacherous 64 mile wind tunnel over the Santa Rosa Mountains. Halfway through the mountain wilderness we were stopped at a border patrol checkpoint that woke all of our children with a flashlight. We were let through since we are all U.S. Citizens. We finally arrived at La Mesa, California at the home of some friends. They have a lovely yard full of succulents and cacti and an elaborately decorated home.


Today, I just want to give a basic list of campsite necessities besides the tent and things that go with it. These are things that we have needed to cook meals, make coffee, wash dishes, and other items that make things go smoothly. The dishes we chose based on the food we planned to eat. Most of them came straight from our kitchen, though some we bought just for camping. We fit all but the Coleman stove in an 18 gallon tub:

  • Wash cloths
  • Towels
  • Bar of soap
  • Coleman Two burner stove with propane
  • Two lighters
  • Oven mitts and hot pads
  • Percolator Coffee pot
  • Tea kettle for boiling dish water
  • Sauce pot
  • Large pot for pasta
  • Mesh strainer
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Rubber spatula
  • Plastic spatula
  • Tongs
  • Can opener
  • Wine screw (we forgot this and bought one at the Grand Canyon)
  • Paring knife
  • Enamel or Travel mugs
  • Washable plates and cups
  • Forks, Spoons, and Knives
    Disposable paper and plastic products (for an easy breakfast on mornings we left early)
  • Paper towels and napkins
  • Two tubs for washing and rinsing dishes
  • Dish soap and sponge or rag
  • Long skewers for marshmallows
  • Vinyl tablecloth with a flannel backing for the picnic table
  • Tablecloth clips
  • Rope for hanging wet towels and clothes
  • Clothes pins
  • Trash bags for dirty laundry and trash
  • Citronella candles

Here is a short list of things that we also brought for camping, but that we ended up keeping in the door pockets of the car. They were easy to grab when we needed them, and hard to lose since we always had a spot for them!

  • Sunscreen for hikes
  • Bug spray for hikes and the campsites
  • Hand sanitizer for before meals or for after using facilities
  • Baby wipes for wiping dirt of hands before using hand sanitizer
  • Lots of flashlights for walking around at night at the campsite**This post contains affiliate links.**



The Professor Goes West//Day 6//The Perfect Tent

Day Six—Friday, May 25, 2018

I woke up a half an hour before everyone else today, prayed my morning prayers and contemplated that I was laying on the ground on a ridge just a short walk from the depths of the Grand Canyon. We hiked over mid-morning to the lookouts near the lodge on the North Rim along the Transcept Canyon. Bright Angel point gave us a spectacular view of the Roaring Springs Canyon and Transcept leading into the Grand Canyon. We all found the 1.4 mile hike to be long and hot, but it was worth it to be sitting on that rock at the point where the two canyons meet and simply feel the awe of the moment.

After our afternoon quiet time we drove out to Cape Royal and the Angel Window. It was here that we saw the depths of the majesty of the canyon. We could see down to the seemingly insignificant Colorado River that carved this great canyon over the course of so many years. We went out over the Angel Window and had the canyon on both sides of us. There was a railing here so the kids seemed more secure. There was a lovely desert garden—the kind of the higher elevation with juniper, gooseberry, currant and other high desert plants.

At Cape Royal the children took great pleasure in being mountain goats as the professor and I admired the depths and grandeur of the canyon and Wotan’s Throne which was topped with trees and who knows what animal life. The North Rim campsite was a conifer forest with the occasional birch grove. Ravens flew about, but we saw no other wild animal.


Again, the professor is the one who did all the research for out trip. After childhood experiences of tents blown across the prairie, those that did not keep out water, and ones difficult to set up, he spent days scouring the Internet for the perfect family tent.

It needed to:

  • Have a full rainfly that went all the way down on all sides except for the entrance
  • Have a water-proof bottom that extended several inches off the ground
  • Be engineered in a way that one adult could to set it up and take it down alone
  • Be large enough for our six person family with room to grow

We chose the Coleman Octagon 98-2 Room Tent. It was perfect. It is tall enough for all of us to stand up inside. We ended up putting the children all on one half of it and putting up the divider down the middle. The professor and I slept on the other side, and we stored the suitcase with our clean clothes opposite where we slept. We would tuck the kids in about an hour later than normal and then read with flashlights until we were ready to fall asleep. We received compliments about our tent at almost every campsite as well. It was definitely worth the investment.

Other important gear to go with the tent included: a small broom and dust pan, a rubber mallet, a tarp to go on the ground under the tent, and extra stakes. These things come in a handy tent kit.

Coming up tomorrow: dishes and cooking gear!

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The Professor Goes West//Day 5//What to Wear at Night

Day Five—Thursday, May 24, 2018

We woke up early to drive out to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I thought we were done with the mesas but they followed us West across the desert into Arizona. We stopped at a scenic viewpoint in the San Rafael Reef which was a ridge of uranium rich rock and sand. The crumbly rock was the real desert. It was still dotted with sage brush and fir trees. What never ceases to me surprise is how the canyons and ravines just appear in the surface of the desert and range land. It is so desolate, beautiful, and awful at the same time.

We stopped for lunch in Richfield, Utah. We found a friendly mechanic to take a look at and repair a few cracks in the windshield from the hail we had encountered in Wyoming.

In the afternoon, we drove through Zion National Park where the Virgin River has formed a deep canyon. We went up a steep windy road and drove through an unlit mile long tunnel which was built in the 1920s. We hiked briefly and then got in the car again for the last leg to the Grand Canyon. We grabbed buffalo burgers and corndogs at Al’s Burger Joint in Kanab, Utah and after another windy drive through the wide open range bid farewell to the mesas of Utah and said hello to the tall pines and white birches of Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.


Even though we were well equipped with good sleeping bags, the professor emphasized to me that warm sleepwear at night was very important. We all brought long sleeve pajamas or t-shirts, pants, and warm socks to wear at night. Many nights I wore a short sleeve shirt underneath—and on warmer nights I took off the long sleeve one if I got warmer. I guess the point is that layers are helpful for camping, especially at night!

A friend suggested to me that we also bring knit winter hats for the cooler nights. These made all the difference for keeping warm at night—thought if you have a mummy bag, no hat needed! For my son we put him in a fleece lined jacket with a hood and/or a fleece sleep sack every night since he often scooted his way out of the bag.

Another interesting thing we figured out about sleep was to pitch the tent and lay out the sleeping bags according to the slant of the ground. If we had to sleep on even a slight incline, we all did much better if our feet were pointed downhill. My son always rolled out of his sleeping bag if he was angled any other way.

Tomorrow I will talk about family sized tents!

The Professor Goes West//Day 4//Sleeping Bags

Day 4—Wednesday, May 23, 2018

We arrived at our hotel in Moab, Utah late last night. The dark drive down into the valley on US-191 with the ominous ridges on either side filled me with a sense of dread. In the morning I read in On the Road about Sal’s dream of a shrouded traveler following him through the desert:

“Something, someone, some spirit was pursuing all of us across the desert of life and was bound to catch us before we reached heaven. Naturally, now that I look back on it, this is only death: death will overtake us before heaven. The one thing that we yearn for in our living days, that makes us sign and groan and undergo sweet nauseas of all kinds, is the remembrance of some lost bliss that was probably experienced in the womb and can only be reproduced (though we hate to admit it) in death. But who wants to die? In the rush of events I kept thinking about this in the back of my mind.” (Jack Kerouac, On the Road, Pt. 2, Ch. 2, p. 124)

 This is what the desert stirs up in me—the awareness of death—but for every dead tree and bare branched bush there are hundreds of living sagebrush and juniper bushes, cactus flowers, red ants, and little lizards.

 The red rock of Arches National Park made my heart swell with emotion and a kind of ecstasy when we climbed up into the North Window, stood under it and looked out over the rocky canyons below. The full breeze swept through the arch and I simply felt my prayer of awe and praise and desire for God.

We lunched after a hike to view the less mighty but iconic Delicate Arch. Later we drove up the cliffside to the Island in the Sky. I have longed for years to go to the top of a mesa, mostly because of the story of Tom Outlander in Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House. Tom falls for a mesa while cattle herding:

The hillside behind was sandy and covered with tall clumps of dear horn cactus, but there was nothing but grass to the south, with streaks of bright yellow rabbit brush. Along the river the cottonwoods and quaking asps had already turned gold. Just across from us, overhanging us, indeed stood the mesa, a pile of purple rock, all broken out with red sumac and yellow aspens up in the high crevices of the cliffs…It was the sort of place a man would like to stay in forever. (Pt. 2, Ch. 2)

Our mesa was a red-orange rock which they had cut a road in up the less steep side. When on top it just looked like normal range land except for the steep drop and the canyon beyond. We sped along through the park with mountains and canyons and mesas on the horizon. We hiked out to the mesa arch, and then just sat on the yellow rock in awe of the steep drops and the maze of canyons of black and red below. It was incredible. I think I will long for it even more now that I have seen it. With reluctance we left and returned to our hotel for showers and supper.


Besides having a good sleeping pad, a good sleeping bag is essential. The professor has a mummy bag from his scouting days rated to some crazy temperature below zero. I used it once sleeping outside in the Fall on a retreat college, and it was extremely warm (but as I did not have a good sleeping pad my sleep was not so great). He is super happy with it.

I asked the professor to pick out sleeping bags for the rest of the family. He did quite a bit of research and settled on the Coleman Palmetto Cool Weather Sleeping Bag. We decided on the adult size bag all of the children, since we figured it was worth the investment. It is designed to be used in 30-50° F. We do not currently plan on doing extreme winter camping as a family, but the Minnesota summer nights often drop below 50°, especially if we camp up the North Shore. This range was perfect for the high elevation camping we did at the Grand Canyon and Great Basin National Park, but also worked well for the campsites near the coast in California. The coldest night we slept out in was upper 20s in Custer State Park, South Dakota, and we all stay plenty warm.

In case you were wondering we used our own pillows. I put them all in washable pillow protectors to keep them free of outside dirt and bugs. The covers worked well—we still use them inside for the kids!

Tomorrow I will talk about nighttime sleepwear.

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The Professor Goes West//Day 3//Sleeping Pads

Day 3—Tuesday, May 22, 2018

We woke up at 6 AM to find that T (almost 3) had rolled halfway across the tent and was sleeping at F’s (5) feet. We broke and left camp shortly after 8 AM. In Custer, South Dakota we stopped at the old historic bank which has been converted to a coffee shop to get caffeine. The old building was restored but maintained the Old West feel combined with the smell of coffee beans. Fortunately there were no fights or shooting while I filled the coffee cups.

We entered Wyoming on US-18. The Black Hills dropped away to wide open rolling grasslands covered in scattered sagebrush. Every creek out here has worn away a small canyon and is surrounded by trees—cottonwoods. They are the only trees in the vast landscape except for the firs growing on the jutting hillsides. Rocky buttes and grass-topped mesas arise out of the rolling, open fields.

At 11:25 AM in the small city of Douglass, Wyoming (home of the jackalope) we crossed a sturdy bridge spanning the North Platte River sparing us the worry of waiting a week for the water to get low enough to safely ford.

After passing through Casper, we came to the Oregon Trail crossing of the North Platte. The ferry is no longer under operation so we took the bridge across. We made it to the famous Independence Rock about 1 PM. It was a very breezy spot as a thunderstorm loomed in the distance. We walked out to the rock from the rest area and admired its large size. The professor and I could not help but touch it and sit on it as the travelers who came upon the Oregon trail must have done. It was an inspiring, unifying moment to feel the rock which so many had felt and etched their names into.

On the way back to the car things almost took a turn for the worst as we came upon a yellow snake with black markings. We made our luncheon and got back into the car and passed through Muddy Gap in the rain. We pulled over during a hail storm and then passing into the Red Desert in the Great Divide Basin faced a strong cross wind. We got gas in Rawlins and saw the old frontier prison where many outlaws must have been incarcerated. After a long, lonely stretch we finally came into Colorado where we followed a curving road through the western mountains of the Rockies.

My biggest opposition to camping was that I had never spent a comfortable night on the ground. The professor claimed that all I needed was good cushioning between me and the ground and I would be totally fine. I was skeptical and our first camping trip I slept in a camping cot raised above the ground. This was fine, but awkward and time consuming to put together.

For our big trip, I agreed to try this 3 inch thick self-inflating Therm-a-rest mattress. Let me tell you, it was very comfortable—more comfortable than our ten-year-old mattress on our bed. They are super easy to set up. We simply opened their valves once the tent was set up and unrolled the rest of the bedding. After about 10 minutes of self-inflating, we gently blew them up to our preferred firmness. The professor sleeps on his back, so he liked his on the firm side. I am a side sleeper, and as a woman happen to have hips. I made mine firm enough to keep me from feeling the ground but with enough give to accommodate my curves comfortably.

The kids all used the Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest Classic Foam sleeping pad. They all slept great, though our nine year being a light sleeper said that she felt the ground sometimes. I think we will probably upgrade her to a self-inflating for future trips. The older children were able to help set up and roll up the foam pads whenever we made or broke camp respectively, which was a great help.

I feel like this has turned into an advertisement for Therm-a-Rest, and maybe it kind of is! They make a great product! The professor tells me that he has friends from the Boy Scouting days that bought an off-brand and regretted it.

Tomorrow I will talk about sleeping bags!

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The Professor Goes West//Day Two//Camping with Little Ones

Day Two–Monday, May 21, 2018

We woke up to a cool, crisp morning, sunshine streaming through the trees in Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The mountains are covered in tall pines. Our campsite is right above a beautiful, sparkling lake that we have to climb a hill in order to see.

We spent the morning driving through the Black Hills to get to Mt. Rushmore–the American Icon of four presidents’ faces carved into the granite of a mountainside with dynamite. T, the two year old, was not impressed. We later all agreed that the stunning natural beauty of this landscape surpasses the work of dynamite and calculated blasts.

We lunched at Sylvan lake which sparkled reflecting the stunning blue of the sky. We hiked a trail that curved around the lake and took us over and through giant six storey tall rocks.

It took the professor years to convince me to go camping with him as a family. My only previous experience had been as a Girl Scout with an inadequate sleeping bag on the hard ground. He, on the other hand, is an Eagle Scout with much experience in pitching tents, camping cooking, roughing it, and knew all the supplies we might need. I eventually agreed on one condition, that I be neither pregnant nor breastfeeding.

We made our first attempt when my youngest was two years old—our others were four, six, and eight. He slept in a travel crib. It went surprisingly well. He did wake up for a stretch and needed to be resettled—but we made it through the night. I personally would not attempt taking ones younger than two camping. Even at two we had to keep close tabs on him as he charged around the campsite, close to the road, and made mad dashes towards the nearby river.

Our trip this past summer was much smoother with the kids three, five, seven, and nine. The older ones were able to help with the setting up and breaking down, but most of all with helping the little ones stay happy and out of trouble. And all the kids slept and stayed in their sleeping bags.

The reason I like to wait has more to do with how my babies sleep—in cribs out of my room after they have outgrown the co-sleeper bassinet. I suppose a co-sleeping family might do well on a queen air mattress. I have a friend who told me about using a camping rocking chair for breastfeeding at night while camping. Other ideas for taking babies camping would be to bring a Pack ‘n Play for the baby to go in at the campsite outside or a travel baby jumper.

I am glad that I gave it a try when I did. I look forward to many adventures to come!

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The Professor Goes West//A Year Later//Day One

I  have an exciting blog series to kick it off.

Last May-June my family took a three week camping trip Out West. We traveled for 23 days, camped 11 nights, visited 10 National Parks, and saw 11 of the Franciscan California Missions. I kept a handwritten daily journal of our trip.

Since Lyme disease thwarted my plan to write about our family camping trip last summer, I will be posting my journal entries from the trip on the anniversary of each day of the trip. And include some family camping tips along the way.

Today is day one!

Day One–Sunday, May 20, 2018

We pulled out of our driveway at 7:50 am on a cool, sunny morning. The Minnesota river was full and glittering. Someone had built a bridge so we were able to cross without incident. 

Bloomington at 8:11 am–we crossed the Ferry Bridge–if we had come this way before 1996 we would have had to take a ferry. At 8:50 am we crossed yet another bridge over the Minnesota River. We followed the southern western shore of the river for many miles after that. At 10:12 am we passed a freight train with three engines next to a grain elevator. Around elevensies we passed by many wind farms and large plowed fields. 

We entered South Dakota on I-90 at 11:30 am. We took a 60 minute stop at Falls Park in Sioux Falls at 11:45 am. The kids climbed all over the pink rocks out into the river. The rapids created beds of fluffy foam. We saw the ruins of an old granary. 

Later in the afternoon we came to the rolling, soft green hills of the muddy Missouri. Trees and black cows dotted the hillsides and the giant expanse of the sky spread wide around us. We crossed safely over the smooth, paved bridge thankful that we did not have to caulk the wagon and float since we have forgotten the caulk. 

We spent the later afternoon exploring the Badlands. We hiked through them climbing a ladder up and down a steep cliffside. No one fell and there were no sprained ankles.

We saw some game–a few buffalo, antelope, deer, and a few mountain goats. Our food stock is still high so we decided not to hunt. 

We further spotted 20 head of elk on the mountainside in Custer State Park. We got into camp around 7:45 pm, and had everyone tucked in by 9:45 pm. The night promised to be cold, yet quiet. We heard coyotes, which I mistook for yelling teenagers, howling in the night off in the mountains. 

Rise Up–A Devotional on Virtue for Kids!

Over a year ago my eldest daughter mentioned to me that she was interested in having a new prayer book for devotional reading. This lead to my idea of collaborating with Blessed is She to create a beautiful prayer book for children rich in the Catholic tradition of becoming holy through growth in virtue. Further, I wanted to have a book for my children that taught them how to pray by learning to place themselves in God’s presence, make an an examination of their daily lives, and then received inspiration from the Holy Spirit. 

After a lot of writing and editing and waiting, this book has finally come together. I am pleased to introduce Rise Up:Shining With Virtue. It has 15 chapters broken down in seven days–with Scripture or a saint quote and a reflection for every day. Each chapter is written by a different Blessed is She writer and covers a different virtue.

My role in Rise Up was to choose the virtues and then explain them to the reader. The book begins with my introduction, which explains what virtue is and how to grow in virtue in general. Each chapter focuses on an individual virtue. I based the introduction for each chapter on St. Thomas Aquinas’ explanation of the virtue in his Summa Theologiae taking the language down to the level of a child. 

It starts with the three Theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. These are followed by the four main Cardinal virtues prudence, justice, courage/fortitude, and temperance. The other virtues are parts or subvirtues of the Cardinal virtues: gratitude, generosity, obedience, perseverance, patience, humility, studiousness, and honesty. The book is written in such a way that children can unpack and apply growing in virtue to their daily lives, but also decode the more abstract ones that are more difficult to understand.

Then comes my favorite part in each chapter: a passage from one of the Gospels which demonstrates this virtue and a reflection on that Scripture leading the reader into imaginative prayer. Fifteen different Blessed is She writers wrote the five middle days of the week for each chapter based on a short Scripture selection or Saint quotation. On the final day of the week, the reader is encouraged to reflect, pray, and make resolutions on how to live this virtue out.  

We were super excited to get an Imprimatur for this book. The Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat means that a Church official has read over the book at the bishop’s request and has declared that nothing in the book contradicts or is opposed to the defined body of Church doctrine or goes against the moral law. As a parent, I look for this on Catholic books for my children. It helps me to know they are reading the truth.

It is so, so beautiful. If you have a kid in your life ready to grow in holiness or who has just received a Sacrament and needs a great gift. Check out this book. I can’t wait for my kids to pray with it. 

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Life These Days

Somehow we have hit a rhythm that is working this semester. Maybe it is working for me because I get to sleep until my Lyme diseased body is ready to wake up, and the professor is doing the work of getting the children up for the day. But I think that perhaps he is okay with things as well, especially since we put our feet down earlier this year and made all the children ages 5 and up responsible for getting themselves ready and fed in the morning.

I have been waking up around 8 am most days to the sound of my children laughing and playing outside my door. By the time I am dressed and out of my room, the school aged children are hard at work at the dining room table, and the professor is working beside them. His sabbatical has become a semester of studious contemplation for us all. Once I am able to manage the school and teach the subjects that need teaching (about half of their work is independent requiring very little one on one instruction), the professor disappears to do his work away from the chaos of four children.

I guide the children through school until lunchtime at 12:30pm. We have fourth grader, second grader, kindergartner, and a three year old bundle of energy this year. Mostly the younger two entertain themselves with continual reminders to play somewhere else when they intrude upon school space. I do make time to work on math, reading, and handwriting with my kindergartner, and my preschooler is gleaning all sorts of things like counting, colors, playing blocks, building duplos, coloring, from his older sister.

We have found our rhythm in the elementary school level as well. I am used to our curriculum for each subject now (though fourth grade singapore math is getting intimidating–I can’t remember at what grade level I learned the order of operations…but we just covered it!), so teaching is going smoothly.

Lunchtime has become super easy as well since we instituted the “make your own lunch” rule. To clarify, we have guidelines about this for them–they choose from a small variety of healthy options. The older children then move the dishwasher along after lunch while listening to a fairy story from the Andrew Lang Fairy Books (which we learned recently were actually compiled by his wife and some of her friends!).

After lunch is nap time for the three year old and quiet time for the rest of us. The girls and I start of each quiet time with a short prayer time where I read the daily Mass readings to them and then we reflect quietly (or look through saint books or children’s Bibles) for ten minutes. They go off to their quiet time spots for an hour and I settled into reading theology for about an hour (trying to get through St. Gregory the Great’s Morals on the Book of Job before Christmas), and then whatever writing or editing work I need to do for that day.

We have streamlined dinner meals to be shorter an easier these last few years, so I can usually get away with working until 4:30 or so before I cook dinner (which I have been able to do these past two weeks…this Lyme will be beaten!).

At dinner we will often have a discussion topic. We cover one painting and one work of music a week. Lately, we have been reading through the Constitution and discussing it. About once a week we watch Ken Burn’s National Park’s documentary with dinner, and that sparks discussion as well–our kids are turning into environmentalists! Sometimes we will discuss a question from St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae. Then the professor reads to us from the Bible–a chapter of the Old Testament and a chapter of the New Testament in order. We have been doing this for over three years and it is so great to hear it, and for the children to learn salvation history in a family setting.

After dinner, I take my crazy amount of meds (had a morning dose as well), and help the professor clean the kitchen.

We get the kids to bed in a leisurely way with family prayers, stories, and lots of “last drinks” and visits to the bathroom. The professor reads to the older kids from a chapter book. They just finished Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, and are reading The Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle. It is the second time through for King Arthur, but the younger kids do not remember it.

Once everyone is in bed, the professor and I have been indulging in Star Trek: Enterprise. We were both into Star Trek in high school, gave it up in college, and tapped back into it our first years of marriage. This series is new to us, and has been a good way to enjoy the evening quiet while I have been sick. We usually have time for reading as well. I just finished Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray, and am now plowing through my second reading of Framely Parsonage by Anthony Trollope.

So, despite the annoyance of being sick since we got back from our wonderful trip Out West, I am finding a peaceful enjoyment in the studiousness of our life these days. I think it is good for the kids and for us to spend our days in study, even if my two afternoon hours does not seem like that much, it does wonders for me. This is the home school life I dreamed of, and I wish the professor’s sabbatical would last forever…and maybe we could avoid all the extra curricular activities that have not yet started…