Girl time, Cozy fires, Warming memories

Being that we have homeschooled as well as brick and mortar schooled in four different states plus one foreign country...we have formed, enjoyed, and then sadly said goodbye to many friends and families over the years.

Snuggling through winter in New Hampshire

Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and email, the past connections and friendships that we made were able to continue...albeit virtually.  Every now and then, when the stars and moon align and we are able to connect once more with special friends, it is like getting the most wonderfully wrapped gift to open.

Girlfriend visits, Garbure des Pyrenées soup, and candied tomato bruschetta

Homeschoolers are known for forming fast and solid relationships in order to help each other along this type of educational path. As we swim through the hundreds of curriculum options on the market that are tailored not only for each school subject, but then tailored for each grade level, as well as each particular learning style of student, the bonds formed among families become very strong.   

Often, while we trail behind our kids on hiking trails inadvertently fulfilling P.E. requirements...or attend museum tours on the history of the parents and teachers, we are often simultaneously discussing how to maneuver the sometimes complicated homeschooling rules and regulations required by each state, mulling over how to create the best curriculum for college preparedness, and  helping each other figure out how to educate several children...all while trying to get some form of dinner on the table each night.

Happily, since moving to New Hampshire and being only a little over an hour outside of Boston, I have been able to reconnect with dear friends who come in and out of Boston as a hub for travel or work. Because we also homeschooled in New York, we have more connections there too that are soon to be renewed...non virtually!

Before leaving for Italy last week, I had the most welcoming message. My wonderful friend Shelley, from our Kansas City homeschooling days, would be in Boston for a weekend.  She asked if while in Boston, could she come up to the Nehemiah farm and have a little country visit in New Hampshire?  

"Yes!  Indeed!" I replied without hesitation.

I was enormously thrilled and anticipated our girl time together.  The time we both lived in Kansas City was such a pivotal point in our homeschooling journey.  Shelley offered such continuously sound advice that I often looked to her for guidance and role modeling as I struggled to make the right decisions about how to proceed with schooling our own children.

At times, we had our kids in Jr. college courses, high school courses, and online courses...all at the same time.  Our various patchwork of educational curriculums was constantly evaluated with one another and then re-evaluated some more!

In Kansas City, Shelley and I both had 2 children, the same ages, all four with different learning styles, all about to round that corner from middle school to high school.  

As every parent knows, transitioning from middle school to high school is tough, no matter how your children are schooling.  I'm convinced these years are meant to be tough so that when it's time to  leave the nest, as parents and children, you are all ready to scoot them out along their way.

Leaving Kansas City to move to Texas was a tough decision for all of us.  Our support group in KC was a strong one and Shelley was a friend with whom I formed a quick and easy friendship.

What I loved about this friendship with Shelley was her sound and intelligent ideas about the  education of her kids.  Her reasoning involved a more holistic approach than I was able to manage.  I fretted over the testing and box checking of whether I was on track or off track with my kids and then what others would think of our progress. She, on the other hand,  could see the "bigger picture" of how to manage expectations of her children by society while letting her children find their own wings, in their own due course.

She continuously demonstrated to me the need for us to value the uniqueness of each child as opposed to fretting over whether or not they are falling in step with every other child the same age.

As the years of homeschooling continued into high school, but now from two different states, I found that Shelley and I became a strong support network for each other.  

My daughter juggled an academic schedule that had to be balanced with a rigorous ballet training curriculum.  Shelley's daughter rose to national status in horse back riding competitions and had to also manage a high school curriculum.  As parents, we were able to fully support each other's efforts knowing that we each shared a stressful journey with our children.

I've certainly realized over the years, that when a friend comes along who takes you as you are, doesn't try to compete with you or your children, and truly hopes for the best for your dearly hang on to that friend, whether it be virtually or in person.

So we chatted about the details of her arrival.  There would be planes, buses and cars involved to get her here.  Shelley would journey up and over the hills of New Hampshire and have a short respite at this little farm.

I wanted to make an easy, healthy but warm and cozy meal for her so that we could tuck ourselves in at the kitchen table, eat good food, and enjoy a good long chat for hours.

Baked Goat Cheese and Caramelized Tomato Bruschetta

I had this recipe for a soup called Garbure des Pyrénées, in my file waiting for a frigid weekend to indulge in a strong hot brothy soup full of vegetables, beans, and potatoes...all flavored with a couple of slowly simmered ham hocks.  

Shelley arrived only a day before the first big blizzard was to batter the east coast with feet of swirling snow.  I put blizzard preparedness on the back burner and we indulged in  large bowls of hot soup, warm crusty bruschetta with bubbling goat cheese topped with caramelized tomatoes. 

Eventually, we moved to comfy couches and curled up to spend more time laughing and talking about the futures of our children and where they might all be in a few years. We shook our heads in disbelief that our years as homeschooling parents were closing and wondered what we would be doing in a few years!

We marveled at the fact that we actually undertook homeschooling our kids in the first place!  We whole-heartedly agreed that, more than likely, we would probably NEVER be able to undertake this challenge all over again!

I simmered some apple cider until nice and bubbly hot and poured it into mugs.  Shelley helped me roll and then bake some little rugelach pastries that we filled with jam, toasted nuts, and cinnamon sugar. 

I didn't want our visit together to end.  Shelley is an amazing person who I learn from each and every time we reach out to one another.  Not only did she do an amazing job schooling two incredible kids, but she maintained her career as a lawyer all the while.

Our visit was short, interrupted by an impending blizzard...but oh so sweet.  I relished having someone I enjoy so much see where we have landed in New Hampshire for the time being.  A crackling fire, bowls of tart sorbet with warm rugelach, and snuggling into warm comfy chairs for hours of girl time chatting are some of life's greatest pleasures I think.

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