Unexpectedly Magical

finding the magic in everyday life




No church for us this morning. Last night the 6 year old managed to sneak the tub of chocolate ice cream down and eat half a quart in one sitting. He also got down the half a candy bar I was saving for a special treat and ate that all gone. I’m still scratching my head over when he found an opportunity to manage all that. 

It was a terrible night for the whole family; the only person who got any sleep was the 2 year old, but even he ran wildly around until midnight (what on earth!?!?). This comes on the heels of almost a month of sleeplessness due to Halloween and then most of us getting colds. Lack of sleep has me frazzled and feeling ill. I’ve never coped well with lack of sleep, but fibromyalgia has made it an even bigger problem. 

What bothers me most is that he chose to sneak and eat not one but two things he knows he shouldn’t. He’s tried to do this with jars of honey and even jelly in the past, but this chocolate stuff puts it to a whole new level. Locking away every sweet thing doesn’t get to the root of the problem… but what is the root? How do I navigate this as a parent? 

Between illness and official Thanksgiving break, my son will have been out of school for 11 days straight. During this time I’ve watched his behavior spiral back into extreme anxiety and aggression – shouting, screaming, scowling, flailing, acting like a control freak… it’s all back. His complete dependence on the rigid structure school provides is obvious – we made the right decision to put him there – but this dependence on structure scares me. Christmas break is going to be a horrible nightmare unless I find a way to plan every second of every day. Summer break is going to be hell. 

This last month has left me questioning my beliefs in so many ways. I’ve lost my belief that people are inherently good. Now I’m pondering something I was sure I’d never consider again – a sin nature. The level of evil, selfishness, and depravity I’ve seen in the world has shocked me to my core; even more shocking is seeing glints of that same depravity mirrored in the eyes of my children. I see it in myself as I struggle to parent gently in the face of sleeplessness, chronic illness, and high needs/special needs demands from my children. 

As this season of Advent begins, I find myself looking for hope and love in new ways. Hopefully we can gather enough sanity around here to light the first candle and share a moment of peace.


November is Picture Book Month

November is an in-between month (Thanksgiving just doesn’t hold the same level of excitement as Halloween or Christmas); I’m often left wishing it would hurry up and be December already so that I could begin celebrating Christmas. Although the current November here in southern Wisconsin has been unseasonably warm and full of sunshine, so I’m not ready for it rush off just yet. This year I’m also appreciating the in-between time to recover from Halloween and make preparations for Advent and Christmas. My preparations  include finding lots of good picture books to read through Advent and then during the Twelve Days of Christmas (which we will be attempting to observe this year). I plan to create a post (or two) about the books we use for the holiday season, but today I’d like to share some of my favorite picture books.

  1.  I Took the Moon for A Walk – Carolyn Curtis’ poetic text is mesmerizing and has replaced Goodnight Moon as the bedtime staple in our house. The illustrations by Alison Jay are breathtaking, whimsical enough to be fun, and always contain hidden details. I’m on a mission to read every book Jay has illustrated – not only because of the beauty of her work, but also because the books she works on are always top notch. See a list of her work on Goodreads.
  2. Duck Sock Hop – “Warm-up, wiggle, stretch your beak. / Duck Sock Hop comes once a week! / The mood is high, the sun is low, / the music starts, get ready, go!” This book is fun! My boys fell in love with ducks thanks to BBC’s Sarah & Duck, so naturally I grabbed this book to share with them. It has turned out to be a family favorite and we were sad to return it back to the library. The rhyming text makes the story memorable and easy to read; the illustrations are adorable. I hope this new, young author continues writing!
  3. Mama Panya’s Pancakes – A lovely story that illustrates the beauty of community. There is no shortage of books about African folk tales, but this one deserves special recognition, in my opinion, for being a cut above the rest. The beauty of village life in Kenya shines through in both the story and the illustrations, but Mama Panya and her son Adika’s life is not idyllic. Their money is tight, and Mama is concerned about having enough to eat as the excited Adika invites everyone they know to supper. In the end the community comes together to share a simple meal of pancakes, but it is so much more than a meal that they are sharing. This is definitely a must-read, and seems appropriate for the month of November as many people come together to share what they have and be thankful.
  4. One City, Two Brothers – Amidst the conflict happening around the world, this story of selfless love and peace shines brightly and calls us to love one another. It is lengthy, but the storytelling style suits the story keeps it true to its origins. The vibrant colors of the illustrations are beautiful and enrich the story.

I look forward to discussing mine and my family’s favorite pictures books more in the future. I’m also discussing favorite books, authors, and illustrators on Twitter under the hashtag #PictureBookMonth – check it out! My handle is @funnyfacejess

A not-so-happy Halloween 

October Musings

Perhaps the timing is odd, but this October finds me yet again contemplating a union of my pagan beliefs with a form of Christianity – Christopanism. The Catholic Church, with its long, rich, dark, and even magical history, calls to me. Mother Mary calls to me, along with St. Brigid, Sophia and others who (in my mind) represent the divine feminine and can be considered goddesses. 

I so deeply crave a church community, but finding a place nearby that I feel comfortable attending has been difficult. I’ve been toying with the idea of visiting a Catholic Church for two years now, ever since Mother Mary connected with me during my pregnancy with Little Brother, but I haven’t yet been brave enough to go. My respect for Catholics is at an all time high, largely due to the humanitarian work they do. Here in WI, they are the people of faith showing the most compassion to the community around them. They are feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and clothing the needy – and doing it with love instead of judgement. 

There is an air of mystical, magical wonderment surrounding Catholicism. The idea of joining something ancient, something centuries of my Irish ancestors likely were involved in, is tantalizing. My biggest hang ups with Catholocism have been the martyrdom and self-degradation found in many stories of the saints, the patriarchal hierarchy, and the opposition of gay marriage. I’m realizing that I don’t have to agree with 100% of a religious group’s teachings to participate, though the fundamentalist, cultish mindset of my Baptist upbringing has made it difficult to come to this realization. 

After being on the fringe of society my whole life, I’m tired of the pain of never fitting in anywhere. I’m tired of being different. I’m scared about my boys’ growing up without a strong sense of community and belonging. These emotions naturally play a part in my religious considerations. With no local family and very few friends, what do I have to give them? Big Brother (and now all of us) is finding community by being in public school, and it’s awesome.  What could belonging to a church community give our family?

This is What a Pro-Life Feminist Looks Like

Last December my parents bought me this pro-life feminist sweatshirt from Life Matters Journal as my birthday present. It’s soft, cozy, and makes a statement – a very bold, supposedly impossible statement: people can be both pro-life and feminist.

Front: this is what a PRO-LIFE FEMINIST looks like

Back: Core Tenets of Feminism

  • Equality: For all human beings, regardless of gender, race, religion, politics, age size, or any other circumstance.
  • Non-Discrimination: Because any act of discrimination (whether it be sexism, racism, ageism, or ableism) is contrary to human dignity.
  • Nonviolence: Because non-discimation in practice means that every human being has the right live a life free from violence.

For Info about Pro-Life Feminism, check out:


Now that the cool of Autumn is here, I’ve begun wearing my sweatshirt again. Because the message is controversial, and I dislike being involved in confrontation and stress (empath here!), I’ll admit to being nervous about wearing this out in public. I live in the Madison area of South Central Wisconsin, a place where Planned Parenthood and  “pro-choice”  have many passionate supporters, so I’m never sure how people will react when they see the message of “pro-life feminist.” Surprisingly, the only feedback I’ve received has been positive. The first time I wore my sweatshirt out a lady told me how much she liked it. This morning another lady told me she liked the shirt, although she had a lot more to say than just that.

I walked my kindergartner into his class today and, as I was walking back to my vehicle, I passed an older woman who was jogging by. I noticed her glancing at my shirt so I nodded as I walked past her. A few feet down the sidwalk I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the same lady and she was telling me she wanted to read my sweatshirt. After she read it she began talking about it with me. She said she agreed with all the tenets listed on the back and wanted to hear more about my position. She shared that she used to be a nurse practicioner in a nearby town and was pro-life herself. In her years as a medical practicioner, she said she had come to the conlusion that abortion was a terrible thing but sometimes necessary. She said that she believed the best approach to reducing abortions was to prevent the unwanted pregnancies in the first place through comprehensive sexual education, including a healthy approach to sexuality. I agreed with the importance of that and added that I felt like doing everything we could to make pregnancy unnecessary (socail aid, support programs, etc.) was very important as well. As we finished our discussion she told me, “You keep on wearing that shirt!”

I intend to do so.

This encounter has encouraged me to continue boldly living out my belief in a consistent life ethic/pro-life feminism. My current situation doesn’t allow me to do much, but I intend to do as much as I can to support local women, children and families who find themselves in tough situations.

What Do I Want to be When I Grow Up

People were always asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up; I never had much of an answer apart from knowing I wanted to get married and raise a family. Plenty of possibilities presented themselves to me -photography, church music, youth work, massage therapy, missions – but my sporadic nature kept me from settling on something. In college I changed my major several times before settling on a humanities major that focused on literature and history. What would I have done with that degree? Not sure. The development of fibromyalgia prevented me from returning to college so I completed a few credits online to receive an Associate’s Degree in General Studies. I took an online course in photography, hoping I could make that my future career, but life had some dramatic twists that have not made photography a priority for the last few years. I still love it, and am finally pulling out my camera again after a long break. Maybe I’ll pursue it more seriously as the boys continue to grow older. Or maybe I’ll pursue my zillion other passions. 😁 

Things I’m currently passionate about learning/doing:

  • Tarot reading
  • Herbology
  • Kitchen witchery
  • Crocheting with goal of opening an Etsy shop
  • Activism – consistent life ethic issues such as: adoption, foster care, food banks, poverty relief, orphanages, disability rights, Down’s Syndrome rights and adoption, environmental protection, domestic abuse, crisis pregnancy support, unjust war….
  • Maternal mental health
  • Learning sign language
  • Research
  • Speaking out about abuses in fundamentalist religious communities 
  • Teaching and being involved in the local homeschool community 
  • Natural family planning
  • Studying Journey of Young Women’s program that equips women to be mentors who will support and guide girls on their transformative journey to womanhood through Girls’ Circles

And my list continues on and on. 

In reflection, I find it… amusing that, now that I’m in my chosen career of motherhood, I find myself pining to be involved in activism at a level only attained by someone who is childless or no longer raising their children. It’s frustrating at times, but I also realize that, in all seriousness, I would not have the same understandin of many of the matters I’m so passionate about if I wasn’t raising children. Motherhood has changed my perspective in ways I couldn’t have previously imagined. 

I began mothering Big Brother a bit before his 2nd birthday; I was 23 at the time – much younger than most of the other mothers I ran into at parks and the library. I honestly do not regret skipping the career phase most 20 somethings choose before starting a family. The time for charity work will come soon enough, as my boys outgrow their dependence on me. It’s already happening, bit by bit each day.  😔😭🤔😕😊😄😁

Reflections on Unitarian Universalism

“We want to bring our children up in a community where they can feel comfortable to express themselves and explore, a community that values critical thinking and self actualization. And here in our local UU church, we have found that community.” – Libby Ann of Love, Joy, Feminism 

Quote comes from this post, Why I Take My Kids to the UU Church, in which Libby Ann explains what makes a Unitarian Universalist church so special and different from the hellfire and brimstone church she was raised in (which I can relate to since Hubby and I both grew up in one as well). Her post illustrates a good portion of why I want my kids involved in a UU church and why I’m likely to say I’m UU if asked by a random stranger what my religious beliefs are. I love the 7 UU Principles and find it an admirable collection of moral guidelines. I love the sense of community, particularly since our family is lacking in that area. I love a lot about UU and our local church, but It’s 30 minutes away and that drive eats up a lot of gas and precious time spent with Hubby on his day off (he doesn’t attend because “church” gives him anxiety). 

Also, while I’m fairly liberal, I’m not quite as liberal as most other UU’s I know. I have a feeling I wouldn’t agree with certain aspects of the Our Whole Lives (OWL) sex-Ed program, and I’m not entirely comfortable with some social justice issues that are heavily promoted at my local church. I’ve also struggled with how pro-abortion the Unitarian Universalist Association is. I apply the first principle (the inherent worth and dignity of every person) to the unborn, but it seems most other UU’s do not. 😕 I realize the point of UU is to see what we can accomplish together when we set aside our differences, but a consistent life ethic is hard for me to put aside, especially if I hear abortion preached as a women’s health issue. If you’re unfamiliar with the consistent life ethic, here is Wikipedia’s basic definition: 

“The consistent life ethic, or the consistent ethic of life is an ideology that opposes abortion, capital punishment, assisted suicide, and euthanasia. Adherents are opposed, at the very least, to unjust war, while some adherents also profess pacifism, or opposition to all war.”

I’ll write another post later about why I’m pro-life, but for now I’ll recommend these sites (they sum up my position pretty well):

Feminists for Nonviolent Choices

Feminists for Life

Life Matters Journal

New Wave Feminists

In regards to UU and my family, I’m still undecided what role it will play in our lives going forward. It’s hard to live without the joy of sharing a hymnal and lifting your voice together with others in joy or sorrow. It’s hard to I’ve without support and love from a compassionate community.

Looking for Group aka Building My Village

When I first moved to the Madison area, I didn’t know a soul. I jumped onto Meetup and even Okay Cupid to find friends for my husband and myself; I joined Facebook groups and sent out vibes of community; I had limited results, despite hunting around for about three years. Craigslist actually yielded a friend, but she moved away and we lost touch. In-person community has been hard to come by, although I’ve had better luck this past year. 

Fast forward to today, when I’m hopping back on Meetup because a Red Tent group is forming in Madison (!!!!!!). Glancing at other groups’ (particularly moms’ groups) events reminds me of why my previous attempts fell short: 

1. We have no nearby family and no money for childcare, so unless Hubby can keep the kids I don’t go out by myself.

2. For the reasons I just mentioned, Hubby and I can’t get out without the kids, although his social anxiety and other quirks usually make him uninterested in doing that. Plus he has 5 food allergies/sensitivities.

3. I don’t have a lot in common with the other mom’s in the Meetup groups. They are having their first child in their thirties – I’m 26 and have a 5 year old (by adoptionish) and an almost 2 year old. They have one kid or the siblings are at preschool/school, so they can enjoy special play dates of single-aged children or meet moms for coffee at posh cafes – I homeschool and neither child does the quiet coffee house thing. They usually have money for lunch out and whatnot – I usually don’t, but if I did I’d have a difficult time due to my food allergies and rowdy children.

4. I have health issues that impact my abilities: fibromyalgia, bad back, Ehlers-Danlos Type 3, an allergy to milk, an intolerance of gluten and eggs as well as things like onions, garlic, and cooked tomatoes. 

5. Big Brother is a wild child who cannot sit still or control his volume leaves for the world. He wants to kiss everyone and has no sense of personal space. He experiences ADHD, anxiety, and Sensory Processing Disorder. He’s also gifted and experiences asynchronous development (older brain, younger emotions) and intensity of personality. His temperment and high needs make social events stressful.

6. Little Brother is also a wild child. He’s gifted as well and has a personality as intense as his red hair. He doesn’t let himself be managed and is physically strong enough to use his weight to get what he wants and cunning enough to make things happen. He’s a runner and can unlock most doors. We’ve resorted to using a safety harness whenever we’re out to keep him from dashing into disaster. 

7. We’re a fringey, nerdy, weird family. Hubby is a gamer, I’m a witch, and we homeschool. I cover my head sometimes to help deflect energy (I’m an empath) and often wear maxi skirts and odd clothes. Hubby makes foam weapons. BB knows more about The Legend of Zelda and Pokemon than he does about Spider-Man or other superheroes. LB stills nurses with no end in site. We have a family bedroom…. Etc. We’re quirky! 

I guess it’s obvious I feel a strong sense of otherness; not in a “me versus them” kind of way, but a “there’s them and there’s me and we are in different worlds” kind of way. Joining a local homeschool group has helped me connect with people who I have things in common with – yay! I’ve met families with special needs children, families who have similar values, and families who also want to find a group where they fit in. Hopefully the Red Tent will expand my village and perhaps turn up a fellow witch or two.

Anyone else find themselves in a similar place? 

Artwork from Mama Panya’s Pancakes, a lovely story about community. 

Late August is Crafting Craze Season

Three years ago I learned how to crochet and, like any excited newbie, I jumped into a tough project with a definite time limit – I made Big Brother’s Halloween costume and made up 50% off the stuff on the fly. And it turned out fine!

Now, with Halloween about two months away, I’ve suddenly got the itch to crochet things again (I blame the Waldorf stuff for getting my fingers itching for yarn). I’m thinking about making the boys Pokemon-themed hooded vests, since Pokemon is the current craze around here. Little Brother adores Pikachu and point to its image and says “Chu!!!” in the cutest voice. For Big Brother, I’m thinking maybe a vest like Ash wears, with a ballcap painted like his???? That one might be a bit too ambitious. I suppose I could try for matching Pikachu sets, or I could make a hooded vest that looks like a pokeball. Or I could reboot the Link theme and do a simple green vest with a dramatically long hood. IDK. I’m already short on time and money so we’ll see if this project is finished by Halloween or if it takes ’til Christmas. Who else is feeling extra crafty these days?

Link has never been cuter! See the rest of the pictures I took here. The hat was based on a free pattern that I can no longer find. The tunic was based off this pattern. The belt and fingerless gloves were made up by me. I used an organic bamboo yarn from Hobby Lobby (don’t remember the name) for the green stuff and a basic cotton yarn for the brown. I purchased the belt buckle piece from Hobby Lobby as well – it’s been the best belt he’s had since it’s so easily adjusted and has stretched and grown with him. He regularly asks me to make him a new one, since this one is much too small.

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