About Us

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Darren and I met in French class, in 1988 at Kennebecasis Valley High School, in New Brunswick, Canada.  I had just moved there with my parents when my Dad's job transferred him there.  We dated from 1988 to 1993, when I left college in my second year, and had to return to the United States, since I could not work in Canada, as a U.S. citizen.

At this point, we were faced with the issue of which direction our relationship would take…. should we get married (I was only 20) or give the long distance thing a try? Well, we gave the long distance thing a try for a few months, but we soon opted for the marriage route.  In fact, we eloped (told our parents first, though)…. and went to Bangor, Maine. We were married on April 20th, 1993. This was the beginning of our marital bliss…. well, there have been some less than blissful moments along the way, but we've grown and learned together, and wouldn't have had it any other way!

Since our marriage in 1993, we have lived in Connecticut, Italy, Kentucky and now Maryland. Darren left the Army in 1999 and has been working in the civilian sector of the governement since then. Right before the time Darren got out of the army, our daughter, Florence, was born on August 2, 1999. Three and a half years later, we got a new addition to our family when Joseph was born on December 11, 2002 while we were living in Connecticut. Then, most recently, our daughter, Zofia Roze, was born on August 19, 2007 here in Maryland.

We are a homeschooling family, so we're all learning together!  We decided to homeschool when our first child, Florence, was just a wee baby. Some people we met were homeschooling, and this prompted me to research it a bit. What I found was the perfect fit for us, and both Darren and I were excited about the possibilities of our child's education. 

Of course, Flo has grown up quite a bit, and started her first "official" school year in the Fall of 2004, here in Maryland. We've come to know first hand what the process of homeschooling is really like, and all the challenges and rewards that come with it. What we love most is the flexibility homeschooling affords us, and the fact that we can work at our child's own pace. 

We realize homeschooling is not for everyone, and certainly acknowledge that there are many ways to get a well-rounded education. We feel fortunate to have the time and energy to devote to our children during these years, and have been overwhelmed by the amount of support, activities and resources available to homeschoolers in our area, and around the country.  We even helped create a thriving support community in our area, called The Potomac Home Learning Circle

Since we've decided to homeschool, two of the most common responses I get from my peers are "I could never do that. I wouldn't have the patience to teach my own child." and "What about socialization?" As for my opinion regarding these statements? Well, let me tell you… 

Firstly, as for one's ability to teach their own children, I think most of us are socialized to believe that educating our children is someone else's responsibility. It often doesn't even occur to parents that they could effectively provide their children with all the knowledge they need to eventually go out into the world and be effective members of society. Or, furthermore, that this process wouldn't involve simulating a classroom environment in the home, but can happen naturally, just by taking advantage of everyday opportunities and resources. We want to provide our children with the tools to do anything they want in life. We don't believe these tools come in the form of any specific curriculum or classroom setting, but from the ability of the child to have the resourcefulness to seek out and accomplish the goals they set for themselves. 

Next, we have the issue of socialization. According to Webster's Dictionary, the word "socialization" can be defined as "the adoption of the behavior patterns of the surrounding culture." This may be great, if the surrounding culture embodies characteristics we wish to have our children adopt. We just happen to be of the mind-set that our children can interpret and define their surrounding culture, without the filter of institutionalized education. Okay, so I know when people say "socialization," they generally mean the opportunity to interact with their peers, not the process of being culturally brainwashed by educational institutions. That's a reasonable concern. 

Maybe fifty years ago, homeschoolers didn't have the networks they have today, and homeschooling could have been an isolating experience. However, today, with just a little effort, homeschooling parents can find a multitude of opportunities for their children to engage in activities with their peers. Flo has taken gymnastics, music, art, soccer, swimming and participates in at least a couple weekly playgroups. Equally important, we try to ensure that she has plenty of opportunity to interact with adults and encounter other types of social situations, in which she has to practice using her communication skills, manners and common sense. So, for us, the potential lack of socialization with homeschooling, as opposed to a "traditional" schooling situation is a non-issue. 

Homeschooling is much like life. You find things that work, and things that don't. I'm sure we'll learn as much as our children as we continue on this journey. So far we've learned to just not take things too seriously, and to just provide a safe and stimulating environment in which our children can learn. 

But, that's just a bit about us… You can find out more about us and our interests on our main site at www.GreensNGoodness.com.

Post-Holiday Ick

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Christmas Day 2012

The new laptop we got for Christmas was really nice while were stuck in bed with the flu.  The day after Christmas found us with two sick kids.  It was a long night, but at least we made it until later on Christmas day before anyone felt really bad.  Joe and Zofia started the round of illness with fevers, coughing and tummy-aches.  Darren wasn't far behind, and was down for the count by the 27th.  I managed to hold off another day or so, bringing everyone water and orange juice, before it got me.

Flo was the only one that escaped the post holiday ick, but still had a sore throat and cold symptoms.  We were quarantined for about five days, and were all getting cabin fever by the end.

Thankfully, right before the New Year, we were all feeling mostly recovered, and ready to head into 2013 with renewed enthusiasm!

Christmas Day 2012

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Stocking Stuffers in a Box

Today marked our ninth Christmas here in Maryland. We’ve enjoyed every year, watching the kids holiday wonderment and sharing this time together. This season, we hosted a fun holiday potluck for our vegetarian MeetUp group on the 23rd, and that launched us into a feeling of festiveness and holiday cheer.

On Christmas Eve, Flo got her wish, as a few inches of fluffy white snow fell just in time for a white Christmas. The downside was that church was cancelled. But, since Grandma and Tom were leaving Christmas morning for Myrtle Beach, they braved the snow and came down for a short visit to exchange gifts. They were VERY generous this year. They got Flo a pair of Beats headphones. She actually cried! LOL They got Joe a Nexus tablet, which he LOVES. And, Tom surprised us with a new HP LAPTOP! We gave them a bamboo fruit bowl and a candle. It's the thought that counts!

Christmas morning started around 9am, thought I managed to stay in bed until about 9:45, when Joe just couldn’t take it anymore. He woke up Zofia and Flo, and down we went to open gifts.

Santa was thoughtful, as always, this year. He brought Flo this awesome high-end recording mic, but failed to realize that it doesn't connect directly to the computer… you need an adapter or mixer to run it through to USB to the computer. Oops… So, Flo will be saving up for that and longingly looking at her pretty new mic in the meantime. Joe got huge Lego frigate project, so we haven't seen much of him today. And, for Zofia, Santa left a cuddly, orange teddy bear. She's been happily occupied most of the day with some of her new holiday art supplies.

Darren got a stocking full of Briscola and tarot cards, and he and the kids got me a cozy new pair of mittens from Ten Thousand Villages down the street. I walk a lot around the neighborhood in the evenings, and my old standby fuzzy red Canadian Olympics mittens have become quite tattered, so I’m happy to have a replacement. I enjoyed filling the kids stockings this year with tidbits from local vendors, through Valley Co-op. Fun stuff like soaps, lotions, incense, candles, lip balms, and other fun treats.

Darren and I enjoyed a restful day, with a little durian/banana combo for breakfast, after watching the kids open gifts. Then we watched some YouTube videos about Ecuador on our new laptop. Later in the afternoon, we made up a tasty veggie tray with some avo/tomato dip, and rounded out the day's feast with yummy berry fruit smoothies. The kids holiday treats consisted of gluten-free noodles, fruit smoothies, lemon-ginger tea, and a few goodies from their stockings. All in all, it was a low-stress, high-fun, happy-energy, relaxing day, and the spirit of Christmas was abound.

Holiday Greetings 2012

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Season's Greetings 2012

Season’s Greetings!  It’s Christmas Eve day, and we just headed outside to try to get a family picture, and it started to snow!  So, we all got a little silly, and this is as good as it gets!  Twenty years from now, there will be no regrets about not dressing up properly and heading to a photography studio, because I’ll remember this ridiculous scene, of us running around with silly hats, trying to get in front of the camera before the timer went off.  All the while, with bits of fresh snow clouding the lens of the camera, and lending to the comedic scene!

It’s been a busy year, and as 2012 comes to a close, we’re focusing on things we can do to slow down the pace of life a bit, so we feel like we have more time to savor the good stuff!  And, by good stuff, I mean, these fleeting moments with our kids, time together as a family, time for creative pursuits and just time to take a walk and look out at the sky.  Sometimes we get so caught up in our schedules (my Google calendar facilitates this well) that it doesn’t feel like there’s enough space in between to catch a breath and regroup.  But, as we step back and examine things, we realize much of this is our own making; our own choices; our own perceptions, our lack of consciousness.  So, once again, parenting, marriage and family life, offer a vast platform from which to foster personal growth.  And, as homeschoolers, we’re all on board for this ride!

Everyone here is well, and wishing you all the same!  Darren continues to work for the VA.  He’s had a rough year, struggling with an old back injury from the military, which has been causing considerable pain.  So, his focus has been trying to balance work, kids and rest enough to make it tolerable, while seeking out non-drug therapies that can help.  This past summer, he took a short trip to Ecuador with a friend of ours, and brought back some interesting stories and a well-rested demeanor.  Since September, he’s been coaching hockey again this year, for Joe’s team, the Hagerstown Bulldogs, and they’re busy, almost every weekend, trekking around the state for games.  They definitely love it!

Flo is now thirteen, and well ensconced in teen life.  Her academic focus this year is rivaled by her avid social life, but we do okay balancing things.  She loves reading, is working on writing projects and math independently, and takes Spanish and piano lessons, as well.  When she’s not engaged in some menial task we’ve delegated, we can usually find her with her headphones on, listening to music, on Facebook, chatting with her friends, doodling in her art journal, or dying her hair funky colors!

Joe, just turned ten this month.  We’re still astonished at how quickly ten years went by.  His first year tested our resolve, and it’s pretty much been smooth sailing since.  He’s a strong-willed, high-spirited, kid, but he’s kind (except, sometimes with his sisters) and inquisitive and keeps us engaged in thought-provoking conversations.  He’s all about hockey, Legos, and some of those on-line building games.  He’s progressing with learning, though he definitely needs a bit more prompting with reading, than his older sister.  However, if it’s something that interests him, it’s no problem.  He read all the Wimpy Kid series books this year, and thoroughly enjoyed the movies, as well.

That leaves Zofia, who turned five this past August. She generally tags along to her older siblings activities, and plays with other kids her age at our homeschool group gatherings. This Fall she tried her turn at ballet. It was a six week class hosted by the YMCA. We tried a gym class there a couple years ago, and it did not go well. Keeping Zofia in the room was impossible. So, we figured with almost a two year lapse, she was ready to try again. Remarkably, she did great, and paid attention to the teacher, but after every class, she declared, “I never want to come back here!” Nonetheless, she wasn’t too hard to convince to go every week, though, I don’t see a budding dance career ahead for her. But, one never does know! She’s a ball of energy, and keeps me busy most days, just entertaining her and helping to reassemble the fallout from her creative play. But, we are soaking in this time with her, as she’s our last “little” kid.

Lastly, I’m still happily filling my role as domestic goddess, creative facilitator, advocate of positive thinking and just all-around busy mom.  Outside of my kids, my main interests or projects are coordinating a local produce co-op, organizing events for our vegetarian lifestyle MeetUp.com group, helping to facilitate our local homeschooling support group, taking LOTS of pictures, writing as much as I can, and reading!  I’m enjoying all this experience has to offer, and looking forward to what unfolds in 2013.

Have a happy holiday and a great New Year!

Petite Kids 2012

Family Circle ~ Winter Solstice 2012

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Winter Solstice 2012

Despite the apocalyptic predictions, we survived the day, and rounded it out with a family circle meeting to celebrate our fortitude. The house was a mess, and everyone was tired, but we cleared a space, embellished it with our yuletide creativity, and honored this longest night of the year. We gave the kids each a special scented holiday candle, made by a local company. They enjoyed testing each other’s scents, then lightening their respective candles to add to the glow on the table.

With cedar incense setting the olfactory backdrop, I read this prayer by Ron Adams from 2010. I thought it encompassed nicely many of our sentiments, and would give the kids something to ponder.

I pray that individuals in the world will awaken to the higher vibrations of spirituality and see all religions are connected.

I pray that people of the world wake up and realize that vast amounts of profit, greed and struggle to survive is not the purpose of life, and together we can make life work for each individual on the planet, that everyone has the right to be clothed, fed, housed, and to live in peace.

I pray that individuals will empower themselves and each other to recognize their own inner authority and not be slaves to false masters.

That people realize that their mind/body/soul has the healing power and magick power to manifest the law of abundance, the law of fairness, the law of unlimited potential.

I pray that a great shift happen on the planet, in the name of love, with the will of each person, looking for unity, peace, and respect and sharing that and giving it to each other.

I pray that the media will transform, the entertainment, the video games of the planet would shift away from violence and gossip, one-up-man ship into personal growth and development, the mystical and magickal powers of dreaming, the acceleration of intelligence, and the security of working together to make this world a sacred place, by respecting each others sacred space.

Our main topic of discussion for today was to consider ways in which we need “rebirth,” giving thanks for our history, ancestors and past experiences, and setting new goals for ourselves. We took turns sharing our thoughts, and then recorded them in our family journal.

Our inspiration card for the evening was chosen by Flo from the "Ask and It is Given" deck…
“I won’t put those unwanted ingredients in my pie.”

Then we watched this silly YouTube clip about calendars, which Zofia found particularly engaging.

We finished up with some words by Joseph Campbell:

Apocalypse does not point to a fiery Armageddon, but to the fact that our ignorance and our complacency are coming to an end. Our divided, schizophrenic worldview, with no mythology adequate to coordinate our conscious and unconscious — that is what is coming to an end. The exclusivism of there being only one way in which we can be saved, the idea that there is a single religious group that is in sole possession of the truth — that is the world as we know it that must pass away. What is the kingdom? It lies in our realization of the ubiquity of the divine presence in our neighbors, in our enemies, in all of us. — Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That, p. 107

Then, we closed the circle with our traditional Unitarian Universalist prayer:
“The light does not go out. It is transferred to each of us; to share and to hold, and to bring with us when we next return.”

Then we let the kids open one of their small holiday presents, then started the neglected clean-up before getting ready for bed.

A good day.

Circle of Gratitude – Thanksgiving 2012

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Today's "Circle of Gratitude" rounded out our quiet and relaxing Thanksgiving day festivities, which started with a short visit from Grandma and Tom. They stayed and chatted for an hour or so, before heading off to their “traditional” buffet dinner at a local restaurant.

After our happy holiday guests departed, we sat down for a little family “gratitude circle,” to reflect on the things for which we are grateful and enjoy the onset of the holiday season. Zofia helped me decorate our “sacred space” and we found a pretty purple candle, that had been hiding in the back of a cabinet, to illuminate the center of our circle. She found this most exciting, along with all the pretty rocks that she loves to leave in piles all over the house. We went around the circle, sharing our gratitude, and today we were grateful for: awareness, family, community, comfort, security, pomegranates, hockey, sitting outside in the sun, playing, colors, and eating!

Thanksgiving Family Circle 2012

A Prayer of Thankfulness
For today, I am grateful
For tomorrow, I am hopeful
For my life, I am blessed
I thank my ancestors for their labors and survival
I thank my contemporaries for their companionship
I thank my descendants for carrying me with them
For today . . . I do my best in all things
For tomorrow . . . I honor and heal the environment
For my life . . . I work to be a healthy cell in the body of the Universe
I honor the journey of my life with conscious living
and honor the the lives of all I meet and those I will never know.
Copyright Abby Willowroot 2007

And for a little light-hearted promotion of gratitude, we shared this funny “Gratitude Dance” video with the kids.

Upon the completion of our circle meeting, Darren and I took a walk in the sun, while the kids busied themselves for a few minutes. We then indulged in our respective Thanksgiving eats. The kids dined on gluten-free spaghetti and brussel sprouts, with a crustless vegan pumpkin pie with raw coconut cream for dessert. Darren and I had decided to have a durian “feast” for Thanksgiving, and had defrosted a few for the occasion. We ate durian until we were sufficiently satiated. We all felt quite blessed for the bountiful goodness in our lives.

Now, nice and full, we lounged around for awhile, as is the tradition on Thanksgiving, whether one eats large amounts of turkey or durian, right? But, I soon tired of lounging, and tried making gluten-free muffins for the kids, incorporating the leftover durian, along with some fresh coconut, gluten-free flours, flax/chia meal, dates and water. They don’t share our passion for the funky-smelling deliciousness, and detected the mystery ingredient. Well, actually, Joe came in from the neighbor’s house, grabbed a muffin and declared it the best muffin he’s ever had! But, I found it, half-eaten, on the counter later, so I’m thinking his first impression was overzealous, or he succumbed to suggestion, being that his big sister was making offensive gagging noises in the presence of the mystery muffins and Zofia had discarded hers on a chair, right at the level for Bruno, the vacuum dog, to suck it up. Nonetheless, even if my muffins become Bruno treats, it was an entertaining way to spend an hour.

By this time, it was only 5pm, and the kids were thoroughly engrossed in old episodes of Quantum Leap on Netflix, texting friends on cell phones, etc., so Darren and I decided take advantage of the fact that we now have a child old enough to “babysit” our younger two children, and we headed off to the movies for a couple hours. We saw “Taken 2.” Definitely an action-packed flick that, if nothing else, kept us engrossed for 90 minutes.

We got home, took another quick stroll around the neighborhood to gaze at the stars on this clear night, and headed in to start the process of winding the kids down for bedtime. This is always a multi-hour process, with integrated steps, including fits of energy, teeth cleaning, pajama finding, story-reading, sleep-protesting and occasional frustration-inducing, but always, or eventually, results in sleeping children. And, if I’m lucky, once the process is complete, there is enough time and energy left for me to reflect upon the day and record its highlights for future contemplation.

For this day, I am grateful. 🙂

Family Circle ~ October 1, 2012

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Family Circle ~ October 1, 2012

“We are calling the circle and invite you to join us. We yearn for a safe place within which to be authentic, trusting, caring, and open to change. We are searching for a way of life that embraces wisdom and compassion as its core principles. By “wisdom” we mean deep insight into the interdependence of all phenomena, into the ways we are connected and how the strength of each one of us is vital to to the whole. By “compassion” we mean the deep feeling that comes when we recognize our soul’s reflection in another person, when that other person’s pain or joy becomes our own.” ~ Wisdom Circles: A Guide to Self-Discovery and Community Building in Small Groups

This book has been on the bookshelf for years. It offers some great insights into the value of using our “circles” as a catalyst for personal and communal growth. This quote pretty much epitomizes our intentions with creating our family “circle” and our hopes for our children’s futures. Wisdom, and compassion are the stuff good character is made of.

Today, we talked about rituals, and how they can be a positive reinforcement for desired behavior. Our family circle meetings are our attempt to create ritual in our own lives, and will hopefully serve to remind our kids, as they grow, of the importance of creating space for reflection and conscious thought.

Finally, since it is around the time of the Fall harvest, we talked about the things we have “harvested” this year. Wisdom, patience, skills, experience and joy were some of the things mentioned, and we wrote these in our gratitude journal.

Zofia was so cute, trying to participate fully in our family circle today. She created her own “family meeting table” and spent time busying herself testing out all the colors of the pens we had on the table for writing in our journal.

Zofia's Family Circle Table

As is our “ritual,” we reminded the kids how important their thoughts are, in creating their experiences, and we closed the circle by saying a prayer, and blowing out the candle(s).

Family Circle ~ August 12, 2012

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Family Circle ~ August 12, 2012

Today we had a quick meeting, mainly to focus on goals for the upcoming "school" year. I can't believe this is our 8th year of homeschooling!

In our "Journal of Goodness," we wrote down some of our favorite Summer memories and things we are looking forward to in the last few weeks of Summer this year.

We also talked about facing each day with a positive attitude and doing our best in every task we endeavor to accomplish, however small it may seem. The energy we put forth all adds up to equal the life we create!

Make me strong in spirit
Courageous in action
Gentle of heart
Let me act in wisdom
Conquer my fear and doubt
Discover my own hidden gifts
Meet others with compassion
Be a source of healing energies
And face each day with hope and joy
~ Abby Willowroot © 1998

Earth Day Family Meeting 2012

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Earth Day Family Meeting 2012

The Earth is a living, conscious being. In company with cultures of many different times and places, we name these things as sacred: air, fire, water, and earth.

Whether we see them as the breath, energy, blood, and the body of the Mother, or as blessed gifts of a creator, or as symbols of the interconnected systems that sustain life, we know that nothing can live without them.

To call these things sacred is to say that they have a value beyond their usefulness for human ends, that they themselves become the standards by which our acts, our economics, our laws, and our purposes must be judged. No one has the right to appropriate them or profit from them at the expense of others. Any government that fails to protect them forfeits its legitimacy.

All people, all living beings, are part of the earth life, and so are sacred. No one of us stands higher or lower than any other. Only justice can assure balance: only ecological balance can sustain freedom. Only in freedom can that fifth sacred thing we call spirit flourish in its full diversity.

To honor the sacred is to create conditions in which nourishment, sustinance, habitat, knowledge, freedom, and beauty can thrive. To honor the sacred is to make love possible.

To this we dedicate our curiosity, our will, our courage, our silences, and our voices. To this we dedicate our lives.

~ by Starhawk

After reading this to the kids, we talked about ways we could help right now to care for our Earth and we wrote them in our family journal. Zofia was too busy picking at the plants and marveling over the candles to do any guided meditation or quiet reflection, but we had a nice discussion and enjoyed being together, since it was rainy and cold outside.

Happy Earth Day!