Early Learning Feed

Little Bear's First Autumn Hike πŸ’›

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Happy Tuesday, my friends - and Happy St. Luke's Day! Are you having a "little summer" where you live? Despite a damp and gray start, it's going to be unseasonably warm here today - near 80Β°! Like yesterday was, and tomorrow promises to be ... and I'm just loving this opportunity to get out and enjoy the amazing Autumn all around us. :)

So I'd like to share some of my photos from yesterday, when Little Bear went on his very first Homeschool Hike! It's not his first hike of course - he's enjoyed a few family hikes in the past, with a vantage point from the back-carrier, peeking over his Daddy's shoulder! - but this time it was "feet on the ground" as we joined our homeschool group's "under-eight" crowd in the woods. This was LB's first "solo" homeschool adventure - something just for him and Mama!

I hope you enjoy these pics ... more thoughts about little guys and early learning at the end. :)

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What a glorious day this was! A real "autumn adventure" in the crunchy, muddy, light-filled woods!

I had a strong sense of deja vu, watching my Little Bear - who is SUCH a doppleganger for Bookworm at this age - jump right in and explore with "his kids" (as he calls them, lol). Homeschooling is all about working with multi-ages (and kids learning to befriend other kids no matter their differences - age-level or otherwise) but I'm grateful my support group has some activities just for the young ones. Little Bear does plenty with his older siblings - tagging along when he thinks he's leading the way - but I'm looking forward to more times like this that will be just ours to experience together. Mama and her littlest bear. <3

I've been homeschooling for nearly 17 years, but this time around, "preschool" feels new again. As much as he looks like his older brothers, Little Bear's very much his own unique person - an extrovert and quite strong-willed, endlessly curious, always chatty and VERY active! With experience (if not quite wisdom) behind me, this time around I feel much more relaxed. I'm remembering things that worked with my older boys and the many lessons learned - most of all by Mama! Relax, relish and understand that there is NO RUSH. Do not forfeit the freedom of these early years for unnecessary structure and too many expectations. All the things that need to happen will happen ... when they are meant to. In the meantime, I'm going to set up a rhythm of gentle learning experiences along with daily doses of fresh air, weekly outings, quiet times at home, crafty creating, cooking together, gardening and care-taking, singing and humming along to music, opportunities to practice kindness and develop good habits. As I said in an earlier post:

"If I've established an atmosphere that promotes learning, they will learn. If I've encouraged an attitude of curiosity they'll be curious. If I've shared my own joy and wonder at the world, then the world will be a source of joy and wonder for my children. If I can check boxes off in my planner I'll be thrilled, but there is room to see where my children might lead me, too."

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More on our early learning plans (themes, organization, creating a haven of love and learning) in a future post, but for now I'll let you all go. I know I promised last time that my next post would be my "desk tour" but I just had to share this day with you all. I hope you enjoyed our autumn adventure! Desk pics to come soon!

Enjoy this blessed Tuesday, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


A Seasonal Paper Chain for Earlybird!

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Hello and Happy September, my friends!

Now, before I get into the meat of my post - did you all remember to say Rabbit Rabbit this morning? :)

I'm happy to say I did! Well, sort of. Since Little Bear had us up at 2 a.m. (wanting out of his bed and into ours), I may have muttered a little incoherently before I remembered to say the magic words ... ;)

So today I'd like to share a bit about the project I put together yesterday. I'm a little embarrassed to share it actually, since it's really a rather basic craft - one I'm sure many of you have seen and/or done yourself - one I've shared here myself a time or two! - but it just looks so pretty and I know a lot of you love paper as I do, and I think it's sort of a new twist on an old favorite ... so here goes!

A bit of backstory ... Earlybird, as most of you know, is autistic, and one of his challenges is a real preoccupation with "things happening now and/or next." Like, holidays and special events and things he really looks forward to. He will ask to talk all about say, Easter, in the middle of July and act like the Big Bunny himself might be appearing any minute now. Then, on a whim, he'll forget all about Easter and suddenly we're hashing out the Thanksgiving menu or he's wondering why we aren't getting our Christmas tree this weekend ...

Yes, he is his mother's son - a lover of seasons and special days! And his capacity for joy is so wonderful! But I'm always looking for ways to help him get a bit of a handle on his passion - and understand the passage of time and order of yearly events and all that. I have a few things going on this year that I hope will help him, but here's the first thing:

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A paper chain for counting down the days of fall and winter!

For this project, the first thing I did was buy paper for a chain lasting from September 1st  through January 1st. I chose "appropriate" paper for each month - an alphabet design in September (because, back-to-school), an orange print for October (because, pumpkins and Halloween), a beige wood-look for November (because, bare trees), red and white for December (because, Christmas!) and festive stars for the days leading up to New Year's. I also purchased a pack of pretty heart-shaped tags. (You'll see why in a minute.) 

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I cut the paper into strips for each day of each month (this was 12x12 scrapbooking paper so I got 10 strips per sheet) and set aside a number of hearts.

Next I worked late into the night to assemble the chain ...

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No, just kidding. The lighting is just dark here - it didn't really take all that long. :)

Once it was all linked up, I hung it up in the sunroom-soon-to-be-schoolroom ... 

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And I added a heart tag wherever a special day would be coming up on the calendar ...

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So here's the paper-chain plan:

Every morning we'll take down the next link in the chain and then, on the back, we'll write something we remember about yesterday. (Preferably something positive!) Then I'll roll the strip up tight, tape it closed and pop it in a large container. On New Year's Day we'll go back and read through our memories. :)

(So today we remembered that yesterday we took time to check our our neighborhood creek and found it quite empty and dry. Not necessarily positive, lol - but we've determined to begin a little science project by observing the creek weekly for changes. EB has a special fondness for this creek.)

For Earlybird, I'm hoping the paper chain will give him a fun and visual way to increase his awareness of where we are in the year. So when he wants to keep watch for trick-or-treaters I'll point out that we're not even in the orange links yet, and the tag for Halloween is still many links away! And so forth ...

(I have tags for the first day of autumn, Halloween, Thanksgiving, EB's birthday, the winter solstice, Christmas, and New Year's Day.)

If this is successful, I will do the same thing for January through April, but that's getting ahead of myself! :)

The other things I'm doing with EB this year is ...

One - He will have his own month-at-a-glance calendar to manage (I love this style for its large, lined template). Every morning, when he sits down with his therapist at their work table, he will open his calendar, cross of the day before and see what today's date is and what is on the "agenda." I'm also adding notes and stickers to make it even more fun for him!

And, Two - I am making up a three-ring binder with tabs for all the holidays and events he likes to talk about and make lists for ... aside from the ones mentioned above, he also loves to plan out shopping days (to Whole Foods, usually), vacations (Disney, for example), family parties and playdates at my folks' house. We often use these lists for language work and he holds onto them and packs them up and takes them with him until they're practically falling apart. I thought I would have sheet-protectors in this binder where we can file all these things and when EB wants to talk about something we can use the binder for reference. Halloween candy we'll buy ... pages from a catalog with costumes ... recipes we cut out from magazines ... Thanksgiving menu and guest list ... a birthday wish list ... a letter to Santa ... etc. Honestly, he really does LOVE to think about and talk about these topics! I hope these activities nurture his interests, channel his energy and help him learn a little more about how the year turns ...

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Well my friends, I hope your September started out on a good note! Thanks so much for stopping by and next time, I will have my yearly seasonal themes to share. 

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... see you here again sometime soon!


Earlybird's Lenten Chain

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Good Monday morning, my friends!

We have bright sunshine here and bitterly cold temps - but no snow at the moment! At least not in the air ... on the ground is a whole other story! But it's a good day - we have power (which means important things like heat and coffee can happen) and we're safe and cozy at home. These are blessings I try to remind myself not to take for granted ...

I did want to let you know that I'm having some "tech" issues at the moment, so my posting might be a bit "off" this week - but I wanted to share this quick project with you all ahead of this (Ash) Wednesday.

Earlybird, as I've mentioned, gets a bit obsessed with upcoming events, especially holidays. So I'm always looking for ways to help him understand how time passes and perhaps slow him down a bit and build up his patience. And these are good goals for Lent, I think! Well, this is what I set up for him this weekend:

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 We began the chain on Saturday, February 14th (Valentine's Day) and it stretches all the way to Sunday, April 5th (Easter). These are just strips of construction paper, and there are:

4 green strips (Ordinary Time)

42 purple strips (Lent)

1 pink strip (Rose Sunday)

3 red strips (Paschal Triduum)

1 white strip (Easter)

*✞*

Very simply, I wrote a brief note on the inside of each strip. What is this day? What might I give of myself for someone else? (So, examples would be: "Clean up Little Bear's blocks. Bring Crackerjack's laundry downstairs. Help CJ with trash. Help Mama make supper. Etc.) Helping with chores is not something EB typically likes to do so it will be a sacrifice for him to make these offerings.

(ETA - I pinned the chores around my weekly routine - so on Mondays the strip suggests laundry help or bedroom pickup, while Wednesdays are for kitchen tasks, etc. Just might make it easier for working with him on this.)

Before hanging the chain, I jotted down each strip's note in my Lenten Planner so I would be aware of what EB would be reading that day (and could prepare for things I suggested). Then I taped the loops together and hung them up in the kitchen, along the learning wall as seen above. I anchored the chain to the maps with small, wooden clothespins.

So now Earlybird has a visual reminder of how close we are getting to Easter - and a simple Lenten path that will help him participate to the best of his ability in this most holy season. It pleases me so much to bring our Faith into his world in ways that register with him, and bring him joy. :)

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Well my friends, I hope this day finds you safe and comfortable, wherever you are and whatever your weather. I have a really fun post to share next time! I've been busily nailing down those housekeeping routines - plugging tasks into a schedule - and I will be sharing it with you all very soon. It's a rather large project and I'm still trying to iron it all out, but I think it might be the most comprehensive list of housekeeping I've ever written! So stay tuned!

And see you here again very soon ...


Seeds, Snowflakes and a Cake for St. Agnes

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Well, in the midst of all this journal talk, life at home is marching on to a familiar and happy beat. Yesterday was the Feast of St. Agnes as well as National Squirrel Appreciation Day ... representing two sides of our family's seasonal life - liturgical and natural. For the squirrels we made a seed craft, and for St. Agnes, we contemplated the prayer card handed out at last Sunday's Mass and made a snowflake cake in her honor ...

Naturally, I have pictures to share!

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I had some wooden snowflakes leftover from Advent so, when I was thinking about making  "critter treats" with the kids for Squirrel Appreciation Day, I remembered those snowflakes ... and I thought, hmmm. That could work. And, as it happens (according to one legend anyway), snowflakes are known as "St. Agnes Flowers" ...

So, there you go!

To keep the craft kid- and critter-friendly, I made up some homemade paste. Then we smeared those snowflakes with the paste ...

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And stuck those sticky snowflakes in a mix of seeds and dried fruits ...

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 (Messy crafts are always a hit with the boys!) 

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A short while later we had a tray full of rather seedy looking snowflakes ...

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Bundled up, we headed outside with the treats and leftover seed mix.

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Little Bear immediately found a leaf to hold onto - lol, he's done this since he was tiny. If we're outside he's got either a leaf or a stick in his hand!

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Marching over to hang his snowflake in the bush ...

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They kind of blend in, don't they? I suppose we could have tinted the paste with some natural food dye and that would have been pretty. Maybe next time!

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 The birds loved the snowflakes, but the squirrels (including my dear little red shown above) liked the scattered seeds and fruit best!

Back inside it was time to start our Feast Day cake ... my best helper is Earlybird who just LOVES to bake. Someday this boy and I will run a little baking business together!

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I followed a simple online scratch yellow cake mix recipe. We took our time measuring out the ingredients ...

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While my littlest fella clung to my legs, lol. He wanted "Pup!" which is how he asks to be picked up. He wanted to be a baker, too!

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At last we had cakes cooling on the counter ... and just before supper I assembled our cake:

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A glossy layer of apricot jam in the middle, some buttercream on top ...

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And the final touch: a sprinkling of snowflakes - aka St. Agnes's flowers!

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Our dinner was yummy and simple - baked ziti ("cheesey-pasta," my boys call it), steamed broccoli with lemon, crescent rolls and then of course, cake. Bill got home a bit late because he was working out of state, but we saved him a plate. :)

These are the quiet, homey days I love best. Not too much "out and about," the bulk of our day spent at home. We got some fresh air, made things, read books, baked stuff, and celebrated our faith ...

And we enjoyed our home, truly. I count that all joy!

Well my friends, I'm off for now, but I will give you an idea of the drafts I have in queue at the moment. Posts I'm working on ...

* binder breakdown

* lesson planning/assignments

* new household chore routine

* magazine love :)

* winter meals

* henkeeping advice

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Let me know if there's any topics you'd like to chat about or if you have any more planner/journal issues to discuss. I'm always open to ideas!

Enjoy the rest of your Thursday, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


live * love * learn

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I just wrote about this little moment in my journal and wanted to share …
 
    "As we stepped outside, Earlybird took a deep breath and exclaimed "Oh wow! The air smells so good! Warm and ... fresh!" 
 
First of all - great language skills, EB! Nice pronunciation and descriptive words! But how about that wonderful observation? He absolutely nailed it - it is a perfect June day, sunny, breezy and warm. 
 
Continuing down the drive, we observed: a buzzing, leaping insect of some sort (grasshopper?), a plump green caterpillar, two β€œstuck-together” butterflies (ahem) and a brilliant blue damsel fly. EB also found a rock that he is absolutely *certain* is a meteorite. He brought it inside to clean up and set upon the nature shelf …"
 
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As I walked back up to the house, with one child ahead of me, hopping between sunlight and shade, and another child clinging to my hip, I wished I could freeze this moment in time. It felt precious to me. I didn't have my camera on me - not even my phone - so I closed my eyes and made a memory in my heart. Then I wrote in my journal.
 
Sometimes the "lesson plan" doesn’t go as planned … some days are rocky … some weeks work better than others. But moments like these remind me why we do this in the first place, this crazy thing called homeschooling. It's about more than just how we learn - it's about how we live and love, too.
 
Live * Love* Learn
 
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And always take time to smell the air.
 
:)

Baby's Early Spring Wonders

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Happy 1st Day of Spring, everyone!

 Well, it will be Spring in just a few hours ... 12:57 p.m. to be exact! The Vernal Equinox is upon us, and despite the chilly temperatures and the patches of snow on the ground, we are at very last, done with Spring proper. Of course, when has Spring every acted properly?

Anyhoo ... I've been writing out some notes about nature "moments" to enjoy through the years with my Little Bear (who'll be 10 months next week!) and I thought you might like to see them. Just some brainstorming here ... nothing too formal yet ... things will take shape as we move along through the seasons. :)

(Note: These ideas are for March and April - aka, Early Spring.)

**

* On the 1st day of March ... lions roar! have fun with roaring sounds, lion pictures/stuffed animals. Read How Loud is a Lion? together.

* Maple sugaring - visit the woods in all their late winter glory - patches of snow, bare branches, old leaves - and befriend a sugar maple, feel that rough bark!

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* Melting - slushy spots along the driveway, puddles where ice had been, drip-drip-drip sounds

* Mud - push bits of things (twigs, pebbles, leaves) into the newly formed mud out front ... ooh, it's squishy! Squelchy sounds! Read Mud! 

* Make (paper plate) masks for Mardi Gras - play peekaboo!

* Go for a wind walk on a blustery day. Read When the Wind Blows

* Go for a rain walk on a showery day (brief, just to feel it)

* Look for puddles, throw things in to *splash* (might be too cold yet for piggy dips)

* Watch the forsythia bushes for buds and blossoms ... snip some branches to force indoors

* When the nights get milder, open the window and listen for peepers in the vernal pool out front

* Watch the night sky for the full sap (March) and pink (April) moons.

* Make a pinwheel and/or a kite for windy spring days

 * Visit new lambs at our local farm, and back at home, look for soft things like fleece, yarn, cotton balls. Read Mary Had a Little Lamb.

* Find pussy willows to feel and admire - so silky soft! Like kitty cat paws. :) Might find some near the marsh growing wild ...  if not, bring some home from the market. Cut branches to place in a vase at home. Read Pussy Willow.

* Explore sweet, earthy carrots - steamed and mashed/chunked, baked into mini pancakes or muffins, start seeds for the garden, read The Carrot Seed.

* Look at smooth eggs - so many sizes and colors! - and try some homemade egg custard (Nana's recipe). Visit neighbor's chickens and see eggs in the nest.

* Listen to Celtic music while driving in the car, or dancing at home - Celtic Dreamland

* Sweep, sweep, sweep! This is the way we sweep our house (steps/walk) clean, wonderful activity on bright dry days.

* Wipe and polish, do our part! For family spring cleaning leading up to Easter, little cloth rags and natural beeswax polish, This is the way we clean our house ...

* Make fingerpaint rainbows with natural dyes/watercolors ...

* Look for rainbows on showery/sunny days

* Enjoy clay play - homemade play dough, natural dyes (rainbow shades)  

* What do frogs say? Peep, croak! Where can we find frogs? Read The Tale of Jeremy Fisher.

* Notice where robins appear - and how they hop! Can we hop like a robin? Can we make a tidy warm nest like a robin?

* Check branches for new buds and shoots - where is life resurrecting itself?

* Visit the pond to see ducks! Quack, quack, quack! Read Make Way for Ducklings. Perhaps ... visit the ducklings statues in Boston's Public Garden.

***

There's so much to explore in early spring! What "comforts and joys" do you look for at this time of year? If you have any ideas to add to my list, please leave me a note below. I'm currently working on a list for late spring (May and June) and I'll share that in a future post, too.

Well my friends, I hope you enjoy this first - much-longed-for - day of spring. What's it like where you live? Is it springy? It's a bit showery and gray here this morning, but NOT cold and that's nice for a change! Skies are supposed to clear later and I bet there will be lots of melting. Can't wait to see all this white gone for good! (At least until December ...)

See you all here again very soon ...


Maple Sugaring ~ Little Bear's 1st Field Trip!

My friends, what a nice day we had yesterday! It was bright and brisk as only March can be - perfect (if perhaps a bit chilly) for getting out of the house. So in the late morning we packed ourselves up (in multiple layers) and joined our homeschool group at a local state park to see how maple syrup is made. This was Little Bear's very first field trip, and I'm happy to say he enjoyed himself very much. :)

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 All bundled up and ready to go!

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 Very interesting demonstrations, the kids asked great questions and offered thoughtful answers.

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Little Bear was absolutely fascinated by the bark on this tree. I think that's a good sign, don't you? ;) Another little nature nut just like his brothers (and Mama)!

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The woodsman demonstration is always a hit with the kids - learning about how wood was handled through the years (and today). They especially like the part where they get to try out the two-man saw!

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 This picture is actually from 2008, but it shows that two-man saw in action. That's our Crackerjack in green and Bookworm in red - how little they were back then!

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I just liked this view. :)

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 And this one ...

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And this!

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In March, there are maple sugaring tours all over New England, and we've been to a few different operations over the years. This one was run by a state park located just outside of Boston. A really beautiful place that offers a lot of family-oriented programs.

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At the end of the tour, which brought us through the woods and into a working sugar shack (where the sap actually gets boiled down into syrup), visitors are given a pancake and/or popcorn soaked in pure maple syrup. I gave Little Bear a tiny taste ...

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And it may not look like it here, but he really did enjoy that tiny bite!

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It was so amazing to watch his little face take in all the different people and new sights ... the feel of the wind and the sway of the trees. There's nothing quite like experiencing the wonders of the world through the eyes of a child ...

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Crackerjack had a great time, too! He got to catch up with friends he had not seen in some time. :)

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One last shot at the park - a selfie of Mama and her Little Bear. I'm going to tuck the memory of this lovely day in my heart for safe keeping - and future reference. :)

Back at home ...

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I had our "maple-themed" books displayed in a bright window ...

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And I also opened up a favorite book to these beautiful pages depicting an old fashioned maple sugaring scene ...

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I bet you can tell who drew these charming pictures!

There is so much to see in these pages, so many lovely details in the borders - like red-winged blackbirds, chipmunks and pussy willows - all spring harbingers we ourselves "encountered" last week. :) If you love seasonal stories and illustrations, Springs of Joy is a book you will want to include in your family library!

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Well my friends, I hope you enjoyed hearing about our maple sugaring trip! I'd like to mention that many of these photos were taken by Crackerjack, since I had my hands full (of baby!) most of the time. I think he did a fine job. :)

Enjoy your Wednesday, everyone ... I'll see you here again very soon! 


Baby Days & an Autumn Giveaway!

Owen 4 months

Today our Little Bear is four months old!

When I think that at this time last year I was newly pregnant (and yet, still unaware) I am reminded how quickly time passes. I would never have thought that the following September we would be so very, very blessed!

So to celebrate today I have a little giveaway to share ... I was setting up our Autumn books display and came across a duplicate of one of my favorites: Fall (part of the Four Seasons Series). It is such a beautiful paperback - published in English (but written by a Spanish author) it has a "European feel" to the description of seasonal enjoyments. The text is simple and sweet and the illustrations are just gorgeous - like watercolor paintings capturing all the best moods of the season.

Fall book

Anyhoo, clearly I love this book! So I'd like to offer my extra copy to one of my readers, and to do so I will ask anyone interested to leave a comment below and I'll draw a name on Monday morning.

My question for the giveaway is this:

What is/was your favorite baby pastime? What game or activity do/did you particularly enjoy sharing with your wee ones?

Currently Little Bear enjoys tummy play (as above), mirrors, music, board books and "itsy bitsy spider." As much as I wish to slow down time, it is fun to see how he changes and matures as the weeks go by. How new things click and familiar things just light him up. These are such special days, my friends!

So leave me a comment if you'd like and I'll add your name to the book drawing. (If you want to comment but are not interested in the book, just let me know.) On Monday I'll announce the lucky reader who'll be sent this sweet book!

Have a great Thursday, everyone ... see you here again sometime soon!

*❀*


A Day for Apples!

According to the Farmer's Almanac, it's Johnny Appleseed Day - the day the American legend died, not to be confused with his birthday which takes place in September. September may seem the more fitting month to celebrate apples - it being harvest time and all - but it's always a great time to enjoy an apple! And though I do enjoy a fresh apple now and then, there's something about cooked apples that really appeals to me ...

Baked apples

They go so well with those homey scents and flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and clove ... 

I know people can be quite partial to one variety or another, and I have always been fond of McIntosh apples since they were the kind my grandmother cooked with the most. (Her "pink" applesauce was the best!) I think of them as a traditional New England apple, but it is my understanding they originated in eastern Canada. There are several varieties that have been bred from the original Mac - the Macoun, the Spartan, Cortland and Paula Red to name a few ...

So of course, now I'm wondering: Is there an apple you like best of all?

Here's a recipe for the apples seen above, a delicious baked version filled with dried fruit and honey. Wouldn't these make a cozy, nourishing breakfast on a cold March morning? And if you're looking for some more appley ideas, here's a link to a post I did on Johnny Appleseed Day last year.

In the interest of keeping it simple with little ones - why not head to the library to pick up a book or two on apples (there are bound to be lots!) and perhaps stop at the market to buy a few apples? (See how many varieties there are!) Or if the weather is cooperating, visit your local orchard and see how the apple trees are faring. Are they showing signs of life yet?

By the way, this is one of my favorite apple books, a lovely Swedish story:

Our apple tree

Our Apple Tree

Beautiful illustrations, and a sweet imaginative story. It nicely describes the different seasons in an apple tree's life.

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So there's a few thoughts for this Tuesday, my friends ... but wherever your day takes you, I hope you enjoy it! Thanks so much for stopping by ... I'll see you here again sometime soon!


Magic Flowers and Morning Notes

Magicflowers

Longtime readers may find this photo a little familiar ... and that's because we do this "experiment" every year! ;)

We call them our magic flowers ... we take tiny white carnations (January's flower smells oh-so-good) and turn them into "rainbow carnations" with just a little water and food dye. This annual activity lends itself to a nice conversation on plant structure, while looking very pretty in the window! It's also a fun way to bring a little light and color into our normally cold and gray winter.

Well, I hope you all have a nice Tuesday ... the Downton comments are still coming in, so be sure to check in for new thoughts and theories. Also, while I'm thinking of it - tomorrow is both Robert Burns Day *and* Irish Coffee Day, so we'll brainstorm a little on that. And in case I haven't mentioned it in the last 24 hours, lol - my new desk is scheduled to arrive sometime this morning!

So I'll be back later today with my Tuesday Tea post - and hopefully a little peek at my new desk!

Have a great one, my friends ...

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β€’ Cranberries Week β€’

Good Monday afternoon, my friends! I hope your week's off to a good start. :)

So, according to my "seasonal themes" outline, this is cranberry week! And "cranberries" tie in nicely with the holiday - they were, after all, served at the very first Thanksgiving! But it will also be a very busy week, as we prepare for dinner on Thursday, so I'm not expecting we'll do all of these things. Hopefully, though, we'll fit in a few of them (#s 1, 2 and 10 seem quite likely).

Here are a few ways to include cranberries in this week's learning and living ...

>--β€’*β€’*β€’*β€’*β€’*β€’*β€’--<

1. As we make up our weekly marketing list we'll be sure to list cranberries. Now, this list is different from the one I write in my shopping notebook. This list is just for EB and me. When Earlybird and I have our marketing days, we work on a grocery list together. And as we do, we focus on spelling, printing, reading and pronunciation. We'll go to the market and look for cranberries ... we might even practice asking the produce manager for assistance. (A great way for EB to practice social skills.)

2. We'll buy extra bags to freeze because cranberries are only available at this time of year. (Great discussion prompts: What are seasonal foods? What are local foods?)

3. (And with some of those frozen cranberries, we'll make cranberry soap later this winter!)

4. At home, we'll wash our berries and set a few aside to observe. We'll sketch a cranberry for our nature journal - one whole, and one cut in half so we can see the very interesting insides. (Another discussion prompt: How does a cranberry grow? Here's a nice resource.)

5. We'll freeze a tray full of ice cubes with cranberries inside - they'll look lovely in our Thanksiving beverages, including ... A "Pilgrim Punch" just for the kids! We'll mix cranberry juice with ginger ale, scoops of lime sherbet and "berried" ice cubes. (I'll add a splash of apple juice if it's too tart.) It will look lovely in my grandmother's cranberry glass punch bowl.

6. We'll read some good books - like Cranberries: Fruit of the Bogs and Clarence the Cranberry Who Couldn't Bounce. We'll also watch a wonderful episode of Reading Rainbow called "Giving Thanks" in which Lavar visits a Massachusetts cranberry farm.

(Note: That vimeo site is wonderful for watching all those old Reading Rainbow episodes, which sadly are no longer shown. They're like virtual field trips ...)

7. And speaking of field trips, next year I'll plan one to a local bog. The last time we visited one - a gorgeous organic bog on Cape Cod - I was pregnant with Earlybird!

8. We'll make a string of cranberries and popcorn - and put them out on the big spruce tree outside the learning room windows. A small way to say thanks to the animals that visit our yard. They bring us so much entertainment and education! (The stringing is also excellent fine motor practice!)

9. We'll bake wonderful cranberry breads to pass out to community friends on Wednesday. (Our children's librarian, the post office ladies, the farmstand family, and the supermarket-bank ladies who are always so nice to EB when I'm checking out.)

10. On Wednesday afternoon, I'll make my special homemade cranberry relish for Thanksgiving dinner. It's made with berries, orange and spices and the kitchen will smell so good! And while it cooks, we'll try a cranberry fresh, and a cranberry dried - it's National Eat a Cranberry Day, after all. :)

 11. We'll make another graph chart by taking a "cranberry sauce" poll. (The poll will go up tomorrow morning - and we'd love to hear your response!)

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So there are some of my cranberry ideas ... I'd love to hear yours if you have some to share! And please check in later for my "cranberry poll." I bet you can guess what we're asking!

Have a wonderful day, everyone ... blessings to you and your loved ones!

:)


For Tree Week: An Arbor Day Centerpiece

Our Tree Week is keeping us very busy these days! Yesterday Earlybird and I made a "tree plant" in honor of Arbor Day. We thought it would make a nice centerpiece for our Learning Room table. :)

We worked out on the deck, since this project was a little messy.

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EB filled a terra cotta pot with potting mix. We could have used stones, birdseed, marbles, seashells, etc., but since our branches are still blooming, we decided to use soil.

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Next we "planted" our tree branches:

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We chose pussy willow branches, since we're particularly fond of a small willow that grows beside the river behind our house. I actually purchased these branches at a the market just before Easter, but any smallish twigs or branches would do. You'll probably find plenty in your backyard at this time of year. A nice activity would be a walk to collect fallen branches to use in your pot. (Very young children might like the concept of "saving" these scattered branches and giving them new life.)

Next we cut out small colorful tags for our tree:

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And on each tag we wrote something that trees give us ...

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The pot now sits in the middle of our learning room ...

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And tomorrow, on Arbor Day, it will be adorned with many tiny tags (tree blessings!), pretty bits of yarn and a few other simple decorations.

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Other activities this week include:

A "Trees of our Backyard Meet-and-Greet."

Arranging tree photos in nature journal.

Making bark rubbings.

Reading favorite tree books.

Researching who lives in a tree.

Making a "Trees of America" map.

Writing tree poems.

*βˆ†*

The weather is so very springy this morning ... soft sunshine mixed with clouds, a steady breeze, mild air, the promise of rain later today. At the moment EB and I are on the couch, watching the wind move through the woods. We can't decide if the trees are dancing or waving, but in any case, they're lovely to watch.

:)

Have a great Thursday, my friends!


A (Mostly) Quiet Sunrise with Earlybird

One of our "spring learning" activities this week was to spend a quiet morning outside, watching the woods and waiting for the sun to rise. We did this on Tuesday morning, and it was just magical ...

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We crept out to the deck just before six (the sun was set to rise at 6:09).

Earlybird brought his binoculars so he wouldn't miss a thing ...

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As we waited, we saw (and heard) ducks flying overhead, a lone crow passing over as well as a flock of squeaky blackbirds.

There was a single chickadee serenading us from the maple tree - we tried to answer him in kind, but he fell silent once we did.

We could hear morning traffic passing by on a neighboring street, and the coffeemaker beeped at 6:07.

The woods crackled in anticipation as a stiff wind (and a few squirrels) moved through ... 

 And then suddenly, there was a faint light ...

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EB spotted it first!

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A vivid orange glow at 6:09 - like a burst of flame in the trees:

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Sunrise. 

We gathered our blankets and headed back inside - a little hungry, a bit chilled, but quite refreshed and invigorated. It was such a nice way to start the day ...

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Hope your day unfolds just as nicely. Have a good one, my friends!

:)


Eggs & Nests ~ A Spring Learning Week

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Pictured above is an assembly of things we'll be using in our spring learning this week. All of these activities are meant for Earlybird - but the older boys will most likely pitch in here and there. :)

Also, I should note - I'm certainly not this organized every week! But I love how much smoother things go when I am. To plan out the week, I worked off an "idea" list I had on the subject, and after looking at our calendar (and the forecast) I assigned certain activities to certain days ...

So here are the details:

Our Theme this Week: Eggs & Nests

Monday:

Monday is the day we clean bedrooms. So today we'll make up our own spring "nests" - with cool cotton sheets and blankets. (What makes a nice nest for humans?) We'll talk about animal homes ~ who lives in nests besides birds? And what are other words for animal homes? (Dens, burrows, hives, dams, etc.)

We'll have an "Egg in a Nest" for breakfast.

We'll make a paper egg diorama.

On our way home from the library, we'll stop at the market ~ for eggs (observing all the different kinds), rhubarb, a small carton of cream, beets and purple grape juice (for dyes), and some fresh chicken.

We'll read A Nest Full of Eggs.

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Tuesday:

As the day is forecast to be warm and clear, we'll watch the sunrise this morning. We'll wait for it outside on the deck - it rises right behind our woods. We'll try to be as quiet as possible - to listen for birdsong and for the sake of our neighbors - and we'll wonder at its glory.

We'll then head inside to make quiche for breakfast.

We'll take a nature walk - to find small leaves and/or ferns for egg craft. We'll look for nests in the trees (pretty soon the leaves will be out and we won't be able to see them!)

We'll dye eggs with natural dyes using beets, red cabbage, yellow onions, spinach, tumeric and purple grape juice.

We'll read An Egg is Quiet.

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Wednesday:

Today we'll prepare a dozen or so egg shells for seeding.

We'll make scrambled eggs for breakfast.

We'll plant spring seeds in eggs shells; each seedling "nest" will get a little sign, and will be set in a sunny window.

We'll set up a small Easter craft basket for Mama.

We'll play with our egg magnet set.

We'll read Eggs.

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Thursday:

Today we'll prepare nesting material for the birds: bits of shredded newspaper, hair (from hairbrushes) and easy-to-spot yarn. We'll place the materials out in the yard, near the feeders.

We'll hard-boil eggs - and compare an egg pre- and post- cooking.

We'll make observations of an egg, inside and out (raw and cooked). We'll draw and label diagrams. 

We'll work on sparkly, sequined Easter eggs. (This will mostly be my craft, with EB observing/helping as he can.)

We'll read The Egg.

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Friday:

This morning we'll visit the chickens (and rooster) at our local farm.

We'll make egg salad for lunch.

We'll make an egg-shell mosaic, oval-shaped frame.

We'll bake date breads for Sunday.

We'll read the lovely Petook.

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So those are the plans for Earlybird's spring learning this week! We may or may not get everything done, but I find it's always helpful to go forth with a list.

Well, I hope you all have a nice Monday ... it's supposed to get to 80 degrees here in our part of New England! I can hardly believe it. We will have all our windows open, letting that fresh spring air inside - and we might even get a fan going before the day is at its end!

Thanks so much for stopping by ... I will see you all again very soon.

:)


Happy (Quiet, Lazy) Sunday

What a gorgeous day! Pretty darn cold, but bright and blustery too. Bill just took the boys off to run errands - a brave man he is, I hear Toys R Us is on the docket - so here I am just tinkering around the house. Just uploaded (downloaded?) some photos from the camera and thought they'd be fun to share ...

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Our front door all gussied up for the upcoming season ...

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Some new spring books for Earlybird (purchased with "pin" money from Nana), the new edition of my favorite nature study catalog (tucked under Crackerjack's Book Group selection for April) ... and in the foreground, you see the wooden letters I picked up for the learning room windows next month. (Can you unscramble them and guess the "theme?" :))

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From Friday's nature/faith lesson ~ EB hard at work planting seeds. Two days later, there's already a small sprout!

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And this last photo was taken by Bookworm. He has developed quite an eye for nature photography lately. Since spring has sprung, he's been outside in the yard, down the bike path, all around - looking for things to photograph. This picture here shows the clusters of red leaf buds on the top of our maple tree. Set against the dark bark and vivid sky you can almost feel that March wind!

Ok, one more from Bookworm before I go ...

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The Downy Woodpecker - a frequent guest at our feeders. These birds are quiet friendly once they get used to you. This guy (and he is a guy - note the red patch on the back of his head) really enjoys our window suet feeder. And lately he's been making such a racket - an incessant, high-pitched chirping we can hear even when he's deep in the woods. I'm assuming at this time of year it's his mating call. So ... best of luck, little fella!

Well, I'm off for now ... I think I might take advantage of the quiet house and catch a little shut eye while I can. I'm not usually a napper, but we were up much later than usual last night, having attended a lovely dinner with a group of our college friends. (I think I've mentioned it a time or two before, but Bill and I met in college. That in itself was a blessing of course, but we truly made the most wonderful friends all those years ago.) And it may have been years since we'd been together - but as happens with very dear friends, time and distance are no matter once we all get chatting - catching up with life now and reminiscing over life then ...

Great friends ~ good times!

So have a nice Sunday evening, everyone ... I'll see you again here very soon.

:)


Just another ordinary week ...

Well, Good Monday Morning, my friends. :)

I thought I'd share some notes from my weekly planning page with you today. We've got a busy week ahead: appointments to keep, activities to attend, and a brand new liturgical season to kick off. At home, EB and I will be focusing on a few simple themes - and without even really meaning to, I've made this an "M" week:

Mail

Earlybird will be in charge of getting the mail this week.

We'll observe the many different kinds of things that come in the mail.

We'll say hello to our mail carrier.

We'll read about a mail carrier's job.

We'll prepare things to mail.

(Practice printing. What's our address?)

What do we need in order to mail things?

We'll pay a visit the post office.

(Mail stuff. Buy stamps)

We'll start making St. Patrick's Day cards.

Maple

We'll be "Catching Sweetness" on our Maple Tree board. 

We'll look up the "sugar maple" in field guides.

I'll buy varying grades of syrup for the boys to sample/compare.

I'll bake a Simple Maple Cream Cake.

We'll read books about maple sugaring.

EB and I will make a colorful "maple leaf" sand craft.

We'll visit trees being tapped at a local park.

And we'll all have LOTS of maple syrup on our Fat Tuesday pancakes!

Masks

On Tuesday (aka Fat or Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras) the boys will make masks. Yes, even the older ones - they're good about joining in with EB when I ask. :)

A Mass, A Matinee and Making Sacrifices

We'll receive ashes Wednesday morning and catch a movie in the afternoon. We'll start our Lenten journey and talk about ways to make a sacrifice - giving something up and/or giving of ourselves.

Melting, Measuring & Mud

We're expecting milder temperatures this week, as well as a little rain and a lot of sun, so I predict we'll see lots of melting and maybe even some mud. 

We'll stick a plastic ruler into the snow in our yard and watch more numbers appear.

We'll look for mud on our nature walks - a sure sign of spring!

Mario's Meatballs

Thursday (March 10th) is MARIO day. My boys are big Mario fans, so they'll play Mario Kart (after school work is done of course) and I'll make "Mario's Meatball Subs" for supper. :)

*~*~*~*~*

Just another ordinary week, with much to do - much to accomplish and appreciate. Aren't we blessed to have this time together?

Dear friends, we had some very sad news recently. Back in December I mentioned a friend of Bookworm's who'd been stricken suddenly with a brain tumor. Tragically - unbelievably - this wonderful boy passed away last week. Please, if you would, remember Anthony in your prayers?

*β™±*

So it may be just another week, but it's extraordinary in every way that matters.

Every new week is a gift, every day we have with our children a blessing. We must remember to cherish it all, every moment ...

*~*~*~*~*

Thank you as always, for stopping by. I wish you all a lovely day ~ and I hope to see you again very soon.


Body Parts, Bird Names and Sun Sparklies

Just a few things going on in the learning room today!

So, Earlybird's physical is coming up next week and I've been preparing him with brief conversations about "what happens when we go see the doctor." This has sparked lots of "body talk" ... and revealed some misunderstandings about what parts of the body were what! (Oh, those tricky joints! Elbows and shoulders, and ankles and knees ... they're so easy to mix up!)

So we moved the nature puppets to the lower cubby in this corner table, and pulled out some of our human body resources:

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And I made up a whole bunch of sight cards listing body parts:

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It was the funniest thing going through the cards, from top to bottom with Earlybird. We ran through them a couple of times and each time we got to "stomach" he just fell into hysterics. (Of course I hammed it up a bit, to keep his attention.)

Earlier in the morning I had put up some bird name cards ...

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These are the species EB can identify so far (the ones that most routinely visit our feeders).

I mostly wanted to share this particular picture because EB was very excited to spot a rainbow on the window frame (just to the left of the blue jay card). We found the source to be the prism hung in the front window, and so I jiggled it a bit to see what it would do. Suddenly the whole room was filled with sparkling bits of color and light!

"Just like magic!" he said. 

I thought it looked a bit like a disco ball, lol - but I knew what he meant. Sometimes science seems just like that. So mysterious and magical ... but it's so very interesting when we find out why things happen as they do. Why does light filtering through some kinds of glass make a rainbow? And what is a prism anyway?

I also happened to find our "long lost" basket of flash cards today. Somebody (and I'm not naming any names) stashed it downstairs in the basement, behind a whole bunch of holiday decorations. I gave it a quick glance through - finding Crackerjack's missing math facts cards as well as the Countries of the World cards AND the President's Rummy card game which will be fun to play on Monday. (Monday being President's Day and all.)

Another bit of "excitement" in our day ... just after lunch we heard (and felt) an enormous, house-shaking CRASH. Honestly, I thought something huge (like a tree limb or a bear) had come through the roof - but looking out back we spied the gutter - all along the back of the house - hanging off the roof's edge! The ice dam had finally come loose, but it tore the gutter clear off its hinges as it went!

It's the temperatures today causing all the melting - it's 54 as I write up this post! It will be interesting (and maybe a little scary) to see what these mild days do to all the snowcover we have ...

So stay tuned!

Well, thanks as always for stopping by today ... I hope your day's been a good one!

Have a good night, my friends ~ I'll see you all again sometime soon. 

:)


Happy Epiphany!

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"We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage." (Matthew 2:2)

It's such a dark and damp day here  ... we had hoped to squeeze in some sledding this morning, but not only is the weather - for lack of a better word - yucky, but the boys seem to be coming down with a cold ...

On a brighter note, we're celebrating Epiphany today, the day when the Magi arrived at the manger, bearing gifts for the Baby Jesus. In our little reenactment, the Christmas star appeared over our nativity scene (a cut-out made from sparkling scrapbook paper, tied to a ceiling beam) ...

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... and it led the three wise men all the way across the learning room to the creche. I had meant to have the wise men show up with golden (chocolate) coins but I forgot to pick some up when I ran my weekly errands. Oh well, maybe next year!

We also kicked off our January Bulletin Board today ...

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It was so hard to take down the Advent Tree Board because it was so festive looking and we just had such a good time with it. I knew I had to do something fun to make the transition from holiday to everyday a little easier.

So working around our January learning theme (winter stars), I wrapped a few lengths of foil-star garland along the perimeter of the board. Then I tacked up a sheet of white wrapping paper and brightly colored foam star shapes, spelling out our January message.

Finally, I tacked five tiny white sacks onto the board, one for each Sunday of the month:

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Inside each sack is a note with something nice to do or think about on that Sunday, or for the week ahead. (The snowflake shape is a leftover from the banner project we worked on last week.)

So here's what we found in this Sunday's bag:

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My note, some frankincense (incense), and a piece of blessed chalk brought home from church this morning.

After lunch we burned the incense (near an open window so it wasn't too overpowering) and I got up on a chair to write the Epiphany blessing above our front doorway. I'm still making notes and plans for our winter star study this month, but I will be sharing the ideas here with you all just as soon as I can ...

In the meantime, I can't believe we're "back to business" next week! It will be hard to get back into the work-a-day frame of mind after so much time on "vacation." Ah well, all good things must come to an end ... and if we're lucky, there's something else to look forward to just around the corner!

I hope you all had a lovely weekend ~ see you again very soon. :)


The Spices of the Season

This morning's Advent note read: 

"Today we'll explore the spices of the season!" 

Our exploration actually began yesterday afternoon, as Earlybird and I made a rich, dense cookie dough - fragrant with several kinds of holiday spices. We worked together in our warm kitchen as the daylight grew weak, and the tree lights began to glow ... 

Once the dough was nice and stiff, I rolled it into a log shape and wrapped it in plastic wrap. It sat in the fridge overnight, and this morning - just before lunchtime - I preheated the oven and we took the cold, hard dough out of its wrapping.

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You can just see all those spices!

I based my recipe on the one found here, but I only had cake flour on hand so I finagled the measurements, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best! I really like the high amount of brown sugar in these - the rustic sweetness balances the spiciness out nicely. (By the way, dough like this is great for keeping in the fridge ~ just slice and bake what you need, and save the rest for later.)

And here's how our first batch of spice cookies came out ...

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I just mixed a little cream with confectioner's sugar for the icing ~ thick enough to look like snow drifts ~ and the snowflake candies (in honor of our first snowfall this week!) are EB-friendly. The cookies were wonderful ~ a bit crisp around the edges, but chewy inside, and ohhh ... the flavor! 

So we continued our spice fun later in the day ...

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(I don't normally keep my spices on the windowsill, natch - but I tucked them in close to the tree for Earlybird to find this morning.) 

I set up a space on the counter and we smelled and touched and tested the various kinds of sweet spices I had on hand. We grated the whole nutmeg and cinnamon stick, and compared it with the ground variety. We split a vanilla bean, scraped out its seeds, and nestled all of it into a tub of sugar. (Note: though in the picture below it looks like EB is reaching for the large knife I promise you, he's not! I had used it on the vanilla bean and took this picture before I cleaned it and stored it away.) 

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When we were done, we made up a little spice sampler for the nature shelf.

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So this was a very fun day ~ and now I sit here on the family room couch with Bill who's eating the two cookies I saved just for him. He's declared them to be a success. ;) And the best part is - we still have a giant log of dough to use up in the fridge!

Well, I hope your week's going well so far ~ see you again in a day or two ... :)


Busy with my Boys

I apologize again for being just too busy to blog recently! I may not have had time to sit down and write, but I did take photos as often as I could. I thought I might share some of them with you this fine Tuesday morning. :)

This is Earlybird's "Thankful Board." It's been a more meaningful project for him than the acorns we hung on our Seeds of Gratitude Tree.

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He's still learning (and remembering) the holidays themselves and I find that concentrating on symbols are helpful. So of course I chose a giant sparkly turkey for this board! We added a card (and sometimes a photo) every few days or so, talking about what we are thankful for, and what thankful means - a tough concept to explain when you think of it! 

And here are some pictures from a neat little craft we did last week - I found it in the November issue of Family Fun: Nutty Boats

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For obvious reasons we did this activity outside on the deck ...

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Crackerjack was intrigued enough to join us ...

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A skill we work on constantly with EB is patience and reigning in impulsive tendencies. Something as simple as pouring a cup of water into a bowl can be a real challenge for him 

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For example, yesterday we made pumpkin breads together. He stayed by my side while I worked on the recipe, helped fetch ingredients (and put them away) and I allowed him to dump/pour the ingredients into the mixing bowl. (Sure, I snuck a little math in there *wink*.) He was a little quick sometimes but he's really come a long way from those impulses that tell him to act fast and make a mess!

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A day or so later, Crackerjack had a science assignment to work on - he needed to dig up a sample of backyard dirt and examine what all was in it. Then he drew and labeled his results in his science notebook. EB had fun with this too.

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But Earlybird had a real grand old time doing some "Thanksgiving Painting" last week!

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I called it "Thanksgiving Painting" because we used autumnal colors. Due to EB's sensitivities, we have to be careful about the kind of art materials he uses. No Crayola for this boy ... I ordered a Clementine All Natural Paint a few months ago. (Note: I've found them available at Amazon. And I plan to order some more supplies for EB's birthday  next month.)

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It was so nice to be able to indulge EB's love of finger painting. He even let me paint his palms so we could make the traditional Thanksgiving handprint turkey:

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(Of course he immediately asked to clean his hands once we made the print, lol.)

We also used a brush.

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The colors he painted with are so in tune with the season ...

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Also, while Bookworm volunteered at the library yesterday, the younger two and I ran a quick errand at the grocery store ...

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(Lol, EB was transfixed by the wide carrot selection.)

A full-blown shopping trip is not feasible with EB (I do those on Saturdays sans children), but we do take him for short visits to practice good public manners. Plus, the food store is just such fun! So much to see and to talk about. :) 

Back at home we marveled over the setting sun and how it filled our house with golden light and striking shadows.

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This is our November Nature Shelf ~ the focus this month is squirrels, as you can see.

Now, as I reach the end of my post, I realize I didn't include Bookworm in any of these photos! He had a busy week too - the highlight being Saturday, when he took part in "SPLASH" weekend at MIT. He had a great time and can't wait for "SPARK" in the spring.

 So that's a bit of catch-up from me - a little look at what we've been up to! And now here we are only two days away from Thanksgiving ... We're hosting dinner this year for our family, so there's much to do these next few days - to cook, clean and create! I hope you're enjoying your November too ~ and I hope to be back again before the holiday ~ but until then, have a happy Turkey week and see you again soon. :)