A Field Trip to the Denver Art Museum

Daniel Libeskind Architect, Studio Libeskind and Davis Partnership

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We have a lovely art museum in Denver.  The architecture is modern meets medieval and the exhibits change regularly.  Floors of ancient and new art serve to inspire and educate.  The museum makes sure that there are things to keep the children busy as well.  Pads of paper and boards with things to look for are set up in stations around the museum to encourage children to be mindful and alert and to express their own innate creativity.

My daughters and I and my two granddaughters were originally headed to the Denver Zoo but due to the mass amount of people (and I shall save you the tirade about what marijuana legalization will do to your state) we had to find other activities.  Maryjane was less than thrilled about trading elephants for fourteenth century art but we made it a game where she was to find every dog and horse in the paintings and sculptures.

It is really something to stand before a painting that was carefully drawn over five hundred years ago.  It is really inspiring to see the spirits of people captured on canvas- ordinary moments in life stopped in time.  The colors, the shadows, the stories…

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Rosina Ferrara, Head of a Capri Girl by John Singer Sargent
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I enjoyed this exhibit the most this time.  Jordan Casteel is a Denver native and I love how she portrays every day moments.

I haven’t painted in a year but I think it is time to gather some canvases.

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My painting- “Native Inside,” acrylic on canvas, 24×36

DenverArtMuseum.org

Homeschooling Adventures Continue (my daughter’s new blog)

20171110_065324I will never forget the moment we decided to homeschool. The teacher that rummaged nervously through her notes looking to see who my son was.  At the end of the year.  We raised strong willed children and encouraged them to dress how they like, read what they like, and do what they like so they could learn at their own pace and really enjoy what they were doing.  Schools just weren’t keeping up.  Classes were too big.  Curriculums too restricted.  Those homeschooling years were the best years for us.  We went on vacations in the middle of the week.  Ate ethnic food in areas of Denver that we were unaware of for geography.  Visited museums.  Created.  Read in trees. We have three very intelligent, compassionate children who think for themselves.

20171110_065341My youngest daughter will be twenty-one years old in a few months.  (How that is possible, I will never know!)  She has a four year old whom you all know well as she is often the highlight of this Grammie’s blog!  Maryjane Rose.

Maryjane assists us at our shop.  She gathers plants to be used in medicine.  Helps to measure the dried herbs into jars.  Chooses teas for people based on their ailments.  Talks to fairies and squirrels and trees.  That magic begins to leave when they enter school.

schoolI am thrilled that Emily Lynn is homeschooling her beautiful, strong willed daughter.  I am even more glad that I get to help.  Emily’s long-time, serious beau, Reed came from a family of six homeschooled children.  Emily has a lot of support.  We still get the question from well-meaning family and friends about when she’s going to go to school.  But she is in school!  Every day we all wake up to a new day of school.  Maryjane will read what she wishes, write when she wants, learn the real history of the world (not the edited version available in text books), and will pursue what she is interested in.  This makes her a well rounded, delightful, social child.

My daughter started a blog yesterday.  I am so proud of her and I am glad my children are writers.  Please check it out and send a young mama some encouragement!  She has a million great ideas.  https://homeschool341.wordpress.com/

National Poetry Month (poetry contest and win one of my books!)

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April is National Poetry Month.  I have always been pulled in by rhyming sounds, expressions in A-B-A-B form, and with eloquent words.  How a Maya Angelo poem can break your heart or a Robert Frost can transport you to another time.  Into Emily Dickinson’s world and nod knowingly at one of Mary Oliver’s beautiful notes.  The prose, the cadence, the way that poetry takes on emotion and vivid imagery in just a few lines or in a drawn out sonnet.  I love that it doesn’t have to rhyme.  It can be a sentence.  It is a piece of one’s heart transferred to paper in a whim of bravery.

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I am holding a poetry contest.  No pressure, as of course like art, poetry creates itself and there is absolutely no right or wrong way to write poetry.  Just write a sentence, or a rhyme, or a sonnet.  Respond here, or on facebook (facebook.com/pumpkinhollowfarm) or by email (katie@pumpkinhollowfarm.net).  Homeschooling mamas, have your children enter, you enter, if you have never written poetry, enter, let the expression free!  I am offering a free book of your choice that I have written to the winner.  The winner is the one that stirs my soul.  Open March 31st-April 15th.

Here are two of mine I would like to share…

The first one is a tale of many young women.  I am friends with a great many amazing young people and sometimes their struggles can overtake.

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A child in the dark lets out a shrill cry

she is lost within her spirit

but she doesn’t know why.

Growing up too fast

lovers that don’t last

        a piece of her gone

ending life’s song.

Now as she connects with herself

    with her Source

and lays in a hospital bed

through this course

and as she gathers strength

and refills her lamp for light

perhaps she will see the dawn

through the starry night.

And a more happy one…

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Maryjane, the beautiful child that came to be.

I knew her immediate and she had a piece of me.

Our hearts were connected and I love her more and more.

My life awakens as she walks through the door.

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Now, it’s your turn!

 

 

The Homeschooled Mama (and clever flash cards)

 

IMG_2136I believe homeschooled children have moms that have always homeschooled themselves.  A desire to learn.  A desire for knowledge.  Boredom sets in, we grab a book.  I think I loved homeschooling my children so much, and now giving my granddaughter, Maryjane, a head start because I, myself, love to learn so much.

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Losing my farm was devastating in as much as I was losing the ability to practice what I had learned and in learning new skills as it was waving good bye to my adorable sheep.  Homeschoolers get bored easily.  Homeschooling mamas are the worst.  I cannot simply relax with a novel and a cup of tea for more than five minutes.  I must continue to fill my mind with wondrous and new ideas.  And the obsession!  Homeschooling folk are obsessive in their thirst for more information.  We want to learn something?  We need to learn everything about it.

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I was the child that would ask folks at church and school if they could teach me.  I am indebted to the substitutes, church and community members, and teachers that would spend precious off hours to teach me.  I learned braille, sign language, a bit of Japanese when I was entertaining a modeling contract in Japan, a small amount of Spanish while living on the west side, and six years of French.  I do wish I had a better memory!  So, now I am learning Cherokee.  It is not a Latin base so therefore the hardest language I have ever laid eyes on.  And it fuels my need to learn something.

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For my learning friends out there, I found a way to use up those excess envelopes.  There are always extras from stationary and cards.  Turn them into flash cards.  Write what you want on the flap and the answer underneath the flap.  Then reuse by putting a word on the front and the answer on the back.  The Martha Stewart in me finds them prettier than boring old 3×5 notecards.  The environmentalist in me likes to see these envelopes being used.  And the homeschooler loves to see how they can be transformed into a new world.

Keep learning out there, Folks.

Homeschooling 101 (laws and unschooling)

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I was pretty certain I was going to screw up my kids if I did it.  I wanted to be a teacher for a while.  I majored in English.  I love all things academic…except math.  But, what if I didn’t do it right?  The kids had been asking for a few years, off and on, to be homeschooled.  I had read in one of my favorite books, Radical Simplicity by Jim Merkel, the recollections of the grandmothers in a village in India where they talked about how once the children went to school they became more immersed in television, consumerism, and a culture that did not reflect that of the previous generations.  The children were losing the knowledge of plants and skills and it felt like a great loss to the elders.

I, too, wanted to teach my children how to garden and about herbs.  I wanted them to read great books and explore the woods on a weekday and breathe in life.  I remembered so clearly being a child sitting in a classroom gazing longingly for the mountains and wishing I were at a nearby park writing poetry and feeding ducks than being cooped up learning who knows what that I would eventually forget.

Meanwhile, Andrew was in his first year of high school.  Near the end of the school year Andrew had a poor grade in one of his classes and I had emailed the teacher a few times with no response.  At the teacher/parent conference I asked her how he was doing.

“Great!” she replied.

“Really?” I retorted.  “Then why is he failing?”

“What is his name again?” she asked as she shuffled through her papers.

I could do this better myself, I decided.

I had always done what my son called, Mommy School.  Workbooks, library trips, writing club, museums, additional things to help them learn more without seeing it as “education”.  So, with that I began researching homeschooling.  I found a lot of information that I had to glean through.  So, here it is in a comprehensive format.  It is specifically for Colorado but most places do not have too many variations.

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What?   Homeschooling is the realization that often times parents are the best teachers and that the wide world around children is often kept from them in favor of a classroom where someone else determines what your child will (or won’t) learn.  Homeschooling is an important aspect of homesteading as it teaches children self-sufficiency skills, teaches them values, and lessons, as well as providing plenty of time for reading books they wish to read in trees.

Why? Homeschooling is recognizing that information is retained far better when used and learned on their own accord.  It is unfortunate that the standards in schools have gotten out of hand.  All children are different, yet the standards are ridiculously rigid.  For instance, all children must be able to read by the age of five or they have something wrong with them.  The truth is, children can learn to read anytime from the ages of four to eight, and making them feel as if something is wrong with them starts the cycle of self-esteem issues early.  Children will learn what they need to learn and retain it, much more so if it is on their own terms.

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When?  Anytime you want.  If you work then it is after work or on weekends.  Think about how much time is wasted in schools with passing periods, settling in time, time getting to and from school.  You can have the equivalent class time in about two hours at home.  This also allows homeschoolers to take vacations when others are in school.  We used to take the kids to New Mexico or Wyoming or Kansas to see hot air balloons (science), art museums (arts), history and science museums, and horse back riding adventures. We would study geography by using workbooks and for each country we would research the clothing, art projects, and foods.  We went to a fantastic African restaurant in a rough part of town that we would never have tried on our own had we not been looking for it for school.  We put cardamom in our coffee and grew seedlings in windows.  We read books and participated in events at the library.  And a lot of the time was spent playing and building forts in the large open space near our home.

Where?  Anywhere you wish.  Learning is everywhere and the sooner we figure out that we don’t stop learning at eighteen years old or twenty-two from college, the better.  We ought to learn our entire lives.  Perpetual homeschool!  

How?  So, you have decided that you would like to give it a go.  Really, worst case scenario, you can always sent the kids back to school.  First alert the school system that you are intending to homeschool.  A NOI is required first.  A Notice of Intent is simple.  Just drop it off at the closest school.

To Whom It May Concern;

This Notice of Intent is to notify you that I will begin home educating my child, Emily Lynn Sanders, 5 days from today, beginning on October 1, 2012. My child is 15 years old and resides at 203 Ute Street, Kiowa, CO 80117. Mailing address is P.O. Box 2012, Elizabeth, CO 80107. The number of attendance hours this school year will be at least 688 hours.

Sincerely, ___________________________________ Date ________

From here, your requirements are to get them evaluated on the odd year, 5th, 7th, 9th grades, etc.  There are two ways to do this.  You can either subject your children to the battery test they offer at the school (which is not intended to help your child succeed.  The schools get pretty testy when they lose your tax dollars for that child) or get someone to write you an evaluation.  It has to be a teacher or a psychiatrist.

The first year we found a lovely lady on a homeschooling Yahoo site.  I sent her the children’s resume and she wrote out a statement that the children were at or above grade level.  This was submitted with a copy of her teacher’s license and we were free and clear for another two years.  She became ill and wasn’t able to help us the next time.  Our lovely waitress at the bar that we shot pool at happened to be a high school teacher and was happy to evaluate the kids.  I sent her their extensive resumes (you would be surprised how much your kids learn) and fifty dollars a kid and she sent in the evaluation and copy of teacher’s license to the school district that we resided in.

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Different Ways to Homeschool

You could choose online schooling where the children take online classes and the online school takes care of everything from NOI’s to evaluations.  This to me seemed not unlike the school programs I was taking them out of so I didn’t opt for this course.

You could set up around the dining room table with workbooks from the teacher supply store and books and a fun teacher ledger.  I tried this for four months.  I enjoyed it immensely.  I could make the kids read what books I found the most fascinating, had them learn all the important sciences that I deemed pertinent, and did math drills.  It wasn’t long before the revolt began.  “This is just like school, Mom.”  They were unhappy.  Learning is not supposed to be unhappy.

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And that is when I heard of Unschooling.  Sound like the kids are just running buck wild around the farm (or suburbs at the time, in our case)?  They are, kind of.  And learning every second of it.  Once I let them have their freedom the children took on their own studies.

Shyanne became very interested in baking and spent her time reading cookbooks, writing recipes, performing fractions, halving and doubling recipes, writing grocery lists, and figuring finances to afford items.

Andrew was obsessed with music and taught himself how to play the guitar, recorder, banjo, piano, harmonica, and composed his own music with beats and wrote poems to fit the songs.  He also wrote a children’s book, read everything he could on pirates, designed a board game, and completed a finance workbook for real world math.

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Emily followed her siblings learning along side them.  She became interested in photography and her business, Emily’s Art and Photograpy, now brings in a little extra cash.

All three kids were active at the library and in youth group.  They were in a writing club and read fervently, whatever they pleased, and often at a higher grade level.  They had more time to find themselves and really embrace their own passions.  They can all spell, read, love history, know science, can keep a budget, and love learning new things.

One of the benefits to homeschooling is that the children do not just interact with peers their own age.  My kids have always been just as likely to befriend someone fifty years their senior as the kid next door.  They have manners, we instilled what values we felt were important (of course, now as adults, they have to find their own way and ideals, but we didn’t let a secular government institution decide their morals for them), and they had a great time being kids.  Playing outside on nice days.  Reading books in trees.

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But, I warn you, children raised in this atmosphere are not followers.  They do not do well working for other people their whole lives.  They are ambitious, confident, entrepreneur types.

The kids can still participate in school events.  Shyanne went to prom and participated in a school play.  Emily participated in Cross Country Running.

Where are they now?  Andrew works for a large, growing company in Denver and is the Chief Supply Chain Officer (fourth in the company).  He is twenty-one years old.  Shyanne works at a hardware store, was baking professionally, and was just hired on at a graphic design company to create logos and art on commission.  She will be nineteen Sunday.  Emily works for a restaurant, has her own photography company, and homeschools her toddler.  She is not even eighteen years old yet.  It may sound like a mom bragging, but my point is, I didn’t screw up and you won’t either!

The gist here is that if you feel that it is time to homeschool, then by all means try it.  There is a learning and teaching style for everyone.  For us it was running buck wild in the woods and reading books in trees.

 

 

 

 

Shyanne’s Graduation

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I love family occasions.  My other two children finished homeschool.  Shyanne was such a little socialite that she decided to go back to a traditional high school her sophomore year.  Her graduating class numbered twenty.  She had four teachers and has made wonderful friends.

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I am so proud of Shyanne, not because she graduated high school, education is a life long pursuit and can be obtained in many ways, but because she made a decision and worked hard for what she wanted, in this case, a diploma from the school of her choice.

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Her boyfriend, Dillon, joined her in cap and gown and received his diploma as well.  Dillon has been coming around the house for over four years now trying to get Shyanne’s attention.  Strictly friend status, they had a great friendship which evolved into a wonderful relationship last fall.  They are enjoying their newfound freedom dirt biking, camping, and working towards that quintessential apartment in the mountains close to snowboarding and hiking.

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Congratulations Shyanne Mae!  May all of your dreams and goals come to fruition and may you find yourself laughing and having a great time in this life!  Mama’s proud.

Journey To Our First Farm-A Love Story (Part 3)

It was not worth it for him to keep working in the field he was in.  Our lives were short, we realized.  There was no time to waste.  Even though we battled morally within ourselves about it, we gave our house back to the bank with our condolences and good ridances.  We gave the mini-van back to its bank.  We moved to a place where our bills were nearly half.

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It was a charming, little house built in 1950 and moved from Denver at some point.  A rescued brick house set on a walkout basement on a quarter acre in Elizabeth.  We needed rescuing too, and the house was a welcoming beacon.  Doug put his two weeks notice in and at the beginning of January we were free.

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The view looked out across fields and woods.  Cows roamed peacefully across the street and deer rested easy in our open yard.  It was not fenced in so a makeshift dog run was put in for Bumble.

Those were sweet days.  I kept one of my dance locations open for another five months to help us get through the winter before farmer’s markets began.  I only taught one day a week.  Doug spent much of the first few months in a chair in a corner in our room with books.  Decompressing from years of stress and enslavement, he sat and did nothing.

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As he relaxed, and we found ourselves with so much time, we walked hand in hand exploring the town.  We visited the library and met new people.  We enjoyed the little shops that lined the quaint main street.  The antique stores, and the toy store.  The clothing store and the empty buildings.  We walked to the grocery store, and the hiking path.  We talked and got to know each other again.  We laughed and hoped.

Our homeschooled children enjoyed the new adventure and spent their days discovering the graveyard, ponds, forests, and fields.  They reveled in each other’s friendship while meeting other kids.

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We sat on the deck overlooking the cows and the line of pine trees and took in the mornings.  Cups of steaming coffee and birdsong.  Writing, poetry, and breathing filled my days.  We talked about simplicity and our desire to make it a part of our life permanently.

We read homesteading books and planned what we could do.  I learned to successfully bake bread.  I water boil canned almost a hundred items that summer and lined the basement walls with bounty.  We created a ten by ten foot garden in the front yard and bought tons of seeds.  The garden wasn’t a huge success because of time and lack of water.  What did grow (sunflowers, pumpkins, corn) became a marvelous buffet for the deer.  They were fun to watch.  The infant spotted babies.  The enormous antlered bucks.  The families of deer were part of our afternoon entertainment.  We didn’t mind losing the garden to them.

Instead we bought a CSA (community supported agriculture) from our friends at Miller Farms and took home a bushel of produce each week to eat and can.  We bought a freezer and started to freeze vegetables.  We dehydrated more vegetables and fruits.  We went vegan and Doug lost forty pounds.

There was no reason to shave, we didn’t go anywhere fancy so slowly his beard started to grow in.  A look most people in town do not remember him not having.  I love it.  He looks comfortable and sexy.

We went to the library instead of buying endless books at the book store.  We bought from the thrift shops and bought only what we needed.  We were on our way to self sufficiency.  A life we so craved.  We dreamed of making the plot a farm.  Oh, the food we could grow in the large plot.  Fruit trees and plants danced in our heads as we planned how to afford putting up a six foot fence.

We wanted chickens.  Our neighbor had chickens and we loved their “laughing” in the mornings.  The little girls next door played with their chickens all day.  They delighted in swinging them on the swings and sliding them down the slide.  The chickens were so calm and our neighbor was so enjoying her fresh eggs, I became instantly smitten with the idea of having chickens.

We put in a lot of hard work that summer.  Six to eight farmer’s markets filled our week.  Week after week.  Our clientele grew exponentially.  We were tired, our children were running amok while we worked markets, but we were succeeding at being full time herbalists.  Winter was coming though.  What would we do this winter once farmer’s markets ceased for the season?

As we were walking close together, speaking of this and that, entranced down Main street, we noticed that the jeweler across the street from the library was moving out of his store.  We found the number of the owner of the building.

Doug’s ninety-two year old grandmother passed away.  She left us the exact amount of money we needed to open our own Apothecary shop…..

Ma and Pa’s Mountain Music Spectacular!

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“Oh play me that mountain music….like Grandma and Grandpa used to play…” I love that song.  Alabama can sure put a hop in your step!  I am sure their fiddle player started playing fiddle before the age of thirty-eight!  But it is never too late to pick up an instrument.  “I have zero musical talent,” I hear from other people.  No excuse!  Musical abilities are variable but everyone has the music in them and can play instruments.  I have been taking violin…ahem…fiddle lessons for seven months now.  It is so much fun.  My teacher is a saint.  Perhaps he wears ear plugs.  My first few months sounded like the stereotypical small child practicing.  Screech, screech, screech, screech went the bow on the strings.  Dancing not, tripping yes.  My turning point was in September when I begged for Christmas music.  Neil is trying to teach me proper Celtic fiddle, but you know, once we pass August all my thoughts are on Christmas!  Jingle Bells was the song that made me “get it”.  Still screechy but producing genuine sound, I bowed through several Christmas tunes.   The sound of the music soothing to me so long as no one was home.  Oddly enough, I can play in big crowds, or by myself, not with just a few people meandering about listening to me practice.

We are enchanted by good music.  Doug and I quizzed the children growing up, not on algebraic expressions or spelling words, but on “who sang it?”  “What play is this from?”  The kids shocked people in grocery stores shouting out Elvis, or Beach Boys, Dean Martin, Def Leopard when asked, “Who sings it?”  They were especially schooled in Frank Sinatra, Harry Connick Jr., and Doris Day.  Doug had them recognizing Chicago, Bob Dylan, and Earth Wind and Fire.

Andrew picked up his first instrument in grade school, the French horn.  Not sure why he chose it, but he learned to read basic music, did a few performances, and enjoyed it.  Then his mind turned to something else, a guitar.  Doug and I found a music shop that had set up at the mall just for Christmas and Christmas morning Andrew received his wish, a pink guitar.  Yes, our son wanted a pink guitar.  Secure early on, that was his favorite color!  He played and played and taught himself how to master the guitar.  Then he wanted a banjo.  He taught himself the banjo and would walk around the neighborhood playing for public works employees and park goers.  He was about fifteen at the time.  Pirate earring, dreadlocks, a desire to open a coffee and cigar bar in St. Thomas and homeschooled.  That child had all day to wander the neighborhood bringing smiles to everyone’s faces.  He taught himself how to play seven instruments.

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I am not so lucky!  I started playing the piano at eight years old.  My mother was my teacher and a great one at that.  I took piano in high school.  I took it in college.  Do you think I could sit down and play you a song?  Heck no.  Use it or lose it and my memorization skills seem to be lacking these days!  Doug has to work at it too.  To his utmost dismay, when he got his mandolin for Christmas, I think he half expected to be like Andrew and just start playing!  After three lessons he gave it up for a while.  I love the sound of the tremolo the mandolin makes.  The music from the mandolin, advanced or not, brings me such great happiness.  Doug has been inspired by my fiddle lessons and has recently picked up the mandolin again.  Perhaps we will go on the road.  A Ma and Pa Spectacular!  Or we’ll just play in our living room for brave friends.  We could charge admission.

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Our house was always filled with music.  Emily played the violin and the ukulele.  Shyanne, not interested in instruments, had her own instrument, her voice.  She sings like an angel.  At ten years old she was belting out tunes most adults couldn’t touch in karaoke bars across the city.  All three kids could sing so wonderfully.  We would take them to bars, yes, to let them sing.  Doug said it was homeschooling.  Music and Social Problems.  It was a great time.  I miss it.  This transition time has been rough on me as a mom.  I did not expect the kids to grow up.  My teen mommy stays with her boyfriend most of the time because he is allergic to cats and nine of them (who love him and want to sit on his face) are a bit much.  They want to get married.  Shyanne, who is 99.9% of the time with her boyfriend, working, or at school will be eighteen this year.  Andrew, ever present at dinner each night, will probably tire of his mom and dad soon enough.  He is saving up to get out of town and move back to Denver.  The music seemed to me to be dying.  I have been crying up a storm trying to get used to it.  I know nothing other than being a mom.  Since I was eighteen years old, my whole world has been my children and I do not know who I am as a person anymore.  So, the new stage in our life is this:  Who is Doug and Katie?  Who are we if we are not parents of small children?  How do you fill an empty house?

Well, to start with, we are going to fill it with mountain music.  Fiddles, and guitars, voices raised in song, friends that want to play as well.  Mandolins and tambourines.  Life is short, fill it with music!  (And for heaven’s sake, go buy an instrument and start playing!)