Out and About Feed

Food, Flowers, Friends ... and a Day at the Fair!

(But not in that particular order ...)

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Happy Sunday, my friends! I hope your weekend is going well, and to my Canadian friends ~ I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving (tomorrow). :)

As I write this post it is raining steadily here ... and OH MY is it chilly! I had to run out for groceries a bit ago (not my favorite thing to do on a Sunday) and I am so glad to be back home again, sipping my tea and typing away at my desk. I hear the Pats game on in the kitchen where Bill, God bless him, is filling the dishwasher (with Little Bear's "help"). I'm thinking about so many things - things I need to do, forgot to do, want to do - and feeling grateful we have a holiday tomorrow (Columbus Day here in America). It's one of those weekends when I really need just one more day of weekend!

Anyhoo ... I thought I'd share some pictures from last week. We had some very nice days, including a trip to the Fair, and a Nature Club meeting held here at our house. Please read on and I hope you enjoy!

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Here we are Tuesday morning at the Fair ... it was a little damp to start, but things dried out nicely throughout the morning. I will admit, I was a little anxious about this trip, as it had been several years since Earlybird had been to the Fair. As you can probably imagine, a large and crowded fairground is a rather challenging place for a child with autism. There's just so much stimulation - so many sights, sounds, smells - and way more people than he's used to being around. Previous fair visits had not gone so well, but we planned this year's visit with EB's behavioral therapist (who joined us during this outing). We hoped EB - who was really excited to go - would be able to handle it ... and happily, he did handle it! It was overwhelming for him at times, so we found quiet corners and simple things for him to do ...

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First up, EB and Little Bear got to make apple cider the old-fashioned way ... 

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These guys were SO nice, letting EB turn the wheel over and over again and patiently explaining the process to him. People like this - who take a few extra minutes and show a little extra patience - well, they just have no idea how much that means to parents whose children have special needs. For us it meant a quiet 10 minutes where EB could calm down and focus on something interesting. He felt a part of the Fair instead of outside of it.

A bit later on we found ourselves in another quiet spot ... inside the poultry barn, where even the loudest roosters and hens barely ruffled our feathers. Plus, the boys got to hold baby chicks!

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The nice man in the cap pictured below noticed my boy needing a little distraction and said, "Hey, hang on a minute - let me get you a chick to hold." Well, Little Bear and Earlybird sat themselves right down on the bench and waited patiently (EB's beloved therapist right by his side) and true to his word, this kind gentleman placed a tiny chick right in their hands!

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Catching our breath we moved on to enjoy our snacks outside the arena ... whoopie pies from a favorite bakery!

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(EB's ate his too fast for me to get many pictures, lol, but here is LB enjoying his.)

A stop in "Kiddieville" on our way out, and a train ride for Little Bear ...

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Once with Daddy ...

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And once with Mama. :)

(Earlybird almost got on the train but changed his mind at the last minute. Maybe next year!)

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Now, here are some pictures from our Nature Club meeting on Friday. Some of my longtime readers might remember years ago when I'd post about my homeschool group's Nature Club and what fun we had on those monthly adventures. Well, after a several-year break, I am happy to report the club is back up and running! This first meeting was just a gathering to get organized and so there were a few nature crafts set out for the kids and plenty of refreshments for all ...

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These next couple of pictures have nothing to do with Nature Club - I just want to show you some more of my autumn decorating. :)

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It was such a nice day so we were able to set up the activity tables on the  patio ...

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Activities included: making leaf fossils, autumn suncatchers and leaf-creature pictures as well as rock painting and a backyard scavenger hunt. I think the kids all had a good time! (I didn't share pictures of our friends in this post, but there were about 20 kids in all, I believe.)

And hey, here's an idea ... how about we form some kind of "online" Nature Club? I often have friends and readers comment that they wish they had something like this club for their kids and while we obviously couldn't get together and explore nature "in real life," we could share our ideas and experiences with each other here at my blog! I will have to think on this a bit, but let me know if you think you (and your kids) might be interested ... I'd run this something like I have other group projects in the past ... like Field Days, Book Party and Planner Party and the like. Maybe a monthly theme and then folks could "report in" and share pictures and observations, a little bit about the nature where they live? I think that could be fun ... :)

Have to share this one, too ...

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Our Earlybird is learning to ride a bike! :)

This an adult "trike" and so far he's taking to it pretty well! And just to note, he will wear a helmet once he starts really riding. This picture was taken in our driveway and he doesn't pedal further than a few feet at a time. The helmet will be a bit of a sensory challenge, but I know he'll wear it if it means he gets to ride around the neighborhood!

Last pic from Nature Club ...

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Beautiful zinnias and cosmos! How lovely to be brought flowers from a friend's garden? I am resolved to grow a cutting garden next year...

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New books on my desk ...

New books

The one of the far left is on loan from the library (it seems several friends are enjoying this story so I want to check it out!) while the other two are recent "splurges." The middle book will be my Advent reading and the book on the end is just FULL of wonderful information. Really nice layout, too. I am taking that one very slowly, reading a few pages every morning ... :)

And lastly ...

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I had to share this picture - taken on Main Street as I made my way home from the store. A horse and buggy making its way (slowly) down the road! Such is life in a small town ... :)

Well my friends, I'd best be off for now - I've kept you here quite long and so I thank you for your time and attention! I do hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend, whenever it might end, and I also hope and pray all my friends here are safe and sound. Especially those in the path of Hurricane Matthew!Take care of yourselves and your loved ones and I will see  you here again very soon ...


It's Apple-Picking Season!

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And what a season it is here in New England - with its crisp air and blue skies and colorful leaves - I can't get enough! Pumpkins might be all the rage, but my heart will always belong to the humble little apple - red, green, gold - I love them all.

 Well, last Friday we visited a local orchard - and spent a cool, gray afternoon picking apples (and having fun!) with our homeschool group. I took a crazy amount of photos, so I'd like to share them with you all here today ... but before I get too far, I'd love to know what YOU love about apples. As you can see above we came home with a LOT of apples and though a crisp is a must (there is, in fact, a crisp in the oven as I type) I'm trying to decide what to do with the rest. (The ones that don't get eaten right out of hand, I mean.)

So, do you prefer a crisp or a pie? Applesauce or apple butter?

Dried apples, fresh apples, heirloom, organic ...

Dear Readers, I'm dying to know:

How do you like them apples?

;)

Looking forward to your comments - now, here are my pictures!

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(photo by Crackerjack)

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 Well my friends, I hope you all had a nice weekend, and that your new week is off to a great start. Monday morning is starting off a bit nippy here - and busy as usual! Thanks so much for stopping by - I'll see you here again very soon!


Late July Weekend

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Happy Monday, my friends!

The Summer season is well underway, and things are really growing around here - both flora and fauna! I thought I'd share some of the photos I took this weekend. It was an atypically busy one for us - Crackerjack spent the weekend away at a sleepover, Bill and I enjoyed a dinner out with some of his work friends, and we visited a flea market on Sunday morning. What a fun place that was -  there was so much to see! Everything from antique furniture and vintage books to braided rugs, wrought-iron arbors, funny hats and sunglasses!

I hope you all had a nice weekend - and I hope you enjoy my pictures and notes. :)

Hydrangeas and raspberries

The hydrangeas are getting big! I love the deep pink shade. And the raspberries are starting to appear ...

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He's getting so big! Fourteen months next weekend ...

Also growing like a weed - the wee bunny who calls our front yard home:

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(He is just too precious, but I'm a bit of a wreck over him ... I fear for his safety! We live in a very wooded area filled with hawks, owls, fisher cats and weasels. I hope he keeps safe!)

More nature study with Little Bear who just loves it outside ...

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 LB has such a fascination with leaves right now! And he's all about pointing. Like a little prince, he just sticks out that tiny finger and points, silently, at what he wants. Lol. And if he's outside he wants leaves. To smell them, touch them, pick them ... I think I might make a little Leaf Book for him, his very first nature journal!

And here's something the boys and I spied near the mailbox ...

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Have you ever seen this before? This is called "Indian Pipe," aka "Ghost Flower" or *shudder* "Corpse Plant" - which is just a bit eerie, but makes for a GREAT nature study lure! 

Oh, and here's a quick "selfie" taken at Earlybird's request - we were on our way to pick up pizza, a one-in-a-while treat for EB. Little Bear is in back with Bill but you can't see him in his rear-facing car seat!

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And finally, how about a picture from the flea market?

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Wearing Crackerjack's hat and Daddy's $1 sunglasses ... Little Bear was quite the hit!

:)

Well I'll wrap up now, but I hope this week treats you well ... any travel plans or special events coming up? We're mostly sticking close to home this summer, working on things around here, and getting ready for a family party in a few weeks. Trying to savor every last drop of summer's comforts and joys!

{Before I go ... a quick bit of planner talk. This week I am refreshing my file crate folders as well as my planning binder, and I find myself wondering if I need a daily agenda/planner of some kind. I'm a bit stuck on the idea ... trying to figure out how to work that aspect in. It's such a tricky balance - keeping things simple and straightforward, but still covering all the bases. Anytime I have a quiet moment these days - usually when nursing or rocking the baby - I find my mind juggling these kinds of things. And yet I must remind myself not to overthink it! I can easily think myself into circles!}

Be well, my friends - see you here again very soon!


Spring in our hearts - and our windows!

While running errands this morning, I stopped in at a local nursery for a birthday gift and - oh my goodness! The sun pouring in through the greenhouse roof, the earthy smell of the humid air and the riot of color all around me ...

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What a balm for a winter-weary heart! Honestly, if you're in need of a shot of spring - seek out your nearest nursery stat. Ten minutes breathing in that warm, damp air - smelling that soil and greenery - it will do you wonders, I swear!

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In addition to that aforementioned birthday gift, I took home a few primroses along with some pussy willow branches and - of all things, lol - a venus fly trap.

(If you're thinking that last item is for the boys, well you'd be right. Next week's botany lesson!)

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Once home, I set the colorful plants in the kitchen windowsill (out of the cats' immediate reach).

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 And the pussy willows, nestled in a rustic brown vase, I placed in the library - in a bright window facing west.

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We may be still very much in Winter's firm grasp, but we're jump-starting Spring in our hearts ... and our windows!

My friends, I hope you are all enjoying your weekend, and while I'm here I'd like to thank you again for all the wonderful laundry comments! I have some catching up to do - with your comments and my laundry! Also, I'm wondering - how's the weather where you are? Ours is just glorious - sunny and 50 degrees (plus!) here in New England ... however ... we must temper our excitement ... because next week looks to be frigid once again!

Ah, Winter. You are a wily one, that's for sure ...

Thanks again for stopping by, everyone ~ see you here again very soon!


When you take a kid to Whole Foods ...

Whole Foods Market is Earlybird's favorite place on earth (aside from his Nana and Papa's, of course), and he asks me constantly if we can go there, when can we go there, who can come with us and whose car we'll take. We usually have the whole trip discussed, imagined and planned out days - even weeks - before we even step foot in the store. ;)

Well, it occured to me that such an avid interest presents a wonderful learning opportunty for Earlybird! Building on what appeals to him - with simple, relatable activities - makes learning easier and more fun (for us both). So I started brainstorming some ideas for a little "Whole Foods Curriculum" and thought I'd share my list here in case it's helpful to somebody else with a child who just loves to food shop!

*Quick disclaimer: I'm a homeschooling mom, not a curriculum expert or special needs pro. I don't mean to present this as anything other than a humble and hopeful collection of home-grown ideas. I'm just going by what might work for my own son and his particular interests and learning/life needs.

:)

27 learning activities inspired by Whole Foods

Make a list of things we need to buy.

Practice spelling and penmanship, expand vocabulary. When we check our pantry and fridge/freezer before making our list we practice good food management and decision-making while taking responsibility for our family's needs (all important life skills).

Try to find items on a prepared scavenger list.

"Made from oats." "Came from the sea." "Smells good." etc. (reading practice, creative/logical thinking)

Look over store flyer and organize coupons.

Good reading practice, and discerning information (what's on sale, what's fresh?). Using coupons to save money - sorting, organizing, budgeting. Simple subtraction (item price minus coupon amount).

Use a calculator to add up a small order.

I wouldn't try this with a big shopping trip, but for a basket-ful of items - using a calculator to predict how much the cashier will ask for. Math - estimation, addition, calculator-use.

• Make reusable shopping bags.

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Earlybird with his own reusable bag, a birthday gift.

  Using inexpensive cloth tote bags (from a craft store), decide on design/colors. Great creative/art experience. Discuss why reusing bags makes good sense (environmental science).

Draw a map to Whole Foods from our house.

Creative project using all kinds of skills - geography, measurement, memory, arts & crafts. Use a large sketch pad and colored pencils. Write out directions to go along with map.

Whole Foods A and Whole Foods B - which is closer?

We're lucky enough to live near(ish) not just one, but two Whole Foods stores - I know which one we prefer (size, selection, layout) but which one is closer? Observe odometer at start and finish for each trip, record travel times.

• Practice clear and polite communication.

Think of potential questions and ask for help, make conversation with staff and other patrons (language skills, social skills).

• Practice good cart management.

Earlybird loves to use the cart himself, but this takes a little skill sometimes! The store can be busy, aisles can be crowded (gross motor skills, social skills, patience).

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Little Bear is amazed by all the sights to see!

Learn: What does organic mean?

Look for the word "organic" on labels, store signs, flyers. Ask someone to explain what it means (call ahead of time) and/or research at home. Visit the library to research further - ask the librarian to help us look up information: How is organic healthier for us? For the earth? Make up a short "report" with Mama's help. (environmental science, research skills, clear communication, observation, composition/grammar/spelling/vocabulary)

Tour the store.

Ask for a tour with a store manager (or other store staff). Call ahead to ask. After tour, narrate experience (Mom types in) and add drawings, photos. Write thank you note afterwards. (patience, attention, social skills, penmanship/spelling/vocabulary)

Film a pretend commerical.

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Little Bear is all business when discussing yogurt.

Ask manager for permission to take video (on phone) while walking around the store. At home, make up a "script" and signs/props for commercial. Talk about what we like about Whole Foods. Record commercial to share with friends and family (language skills, reflection, creativity, oral presentation, diction).

Look for products from around the world.

Make a list of all the countries we find represented, and write down what products came from where. Use a world map to mark discovered countries. What country has the most products? Find out if there are available statistics for that information (ask manager). (geography, observation, communication/language, simple math, research skills)

Where are Whole Foods stores located across the US?

Research store chain locations - which state has the most stores? Look at US map as we research. (geography, observation, simple math)

How do receipts work?

How much money do we spend at Whole Foods? Look at receipt from recent visit, what does it show? Use cash to show the amount of money spent. (math skills, life skills, money management)

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Earlybird and Little Bear on a recent trip to Whole Foods.

Visit a local farm that supplies food to Whole Foods.

Ask the store manager for a list of local suppliers. Visit one (or more) of the farms in the spring and ask about the farm-store connection. Calculate distance from farm to store - ask about how the food/items are transported. Take pictures and write up a "report." (social skills, communication, language, math, geography, community, environmental science)

Tour the individual store departments.

Visit the store and write down the name of each store department. Over following visits, investigate just one department at a time. What is the seafood counter all about? What can we find in the dairy? Talk to a staff member associated with that department - have some questions prepared. Make up a booklet at home describing the information and communication. Use photos, drawings and narration. (observation, list-making, language, organization, communication, social skills, creativity, memory/reflection)

Make up a Whole Foods cookbook.

As we visit the store through the year, keep note of what is in season when. Devise/collect recipes for seasonal foods (baked apples in winter, grilled corn in summer, etc.). Ask for a seasonal list of foods (if available) and use that as a guide. Keep all these recipes and information (along with pictures we take as we cook) in a binder. (observation, list making, language, creativity, communication, life skills, environmental science)

Make a well-balanced meal.

Plan out a healthy meal and write out a shopping list. Talk about how much we'll need, think about how many people will be eating the food. Make sure to include all food groups and talk about why that is important. Talk about the connection between good health and healthy food. Discuss how we feel after we eat a nutritious meal (energized? full?). (list-making, organization, language, decision making, science, healthy habits, self-awareness)

Practice time management.

Plan a very early trip to the store (like, 8 a.m.) and devise a plan for getting there on time. How early do we need to get up? What things have to happen before we can leave the house? What do we need to bring with us? Make a list and post it. On the day of the trip, time each activity that leads up to leaving the house. (life skills, time management, independence, responsibility)

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 EB can be a big help with his little brother. 

Rules are important.

Does Whole Foods have rules? Look at the entrance for any signs (no shirt/no shoes/etc.). Talk about why rules are important. What are some of our family/household's rules? (life skills, responsiblity, community living)

Write a poem about Whole Foods.

Brainstorm words about Whole Foods - nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc. Print out the words and cut out so that we have lots of single words on little pieces of paper. Play around with the words and make up rhymes. (language, creativity, grammar)

Conduct a taste test-survey.

Choose a sampling of foods (perhaps WF store brand vs. name brand or another store brand). Invite friends/family to try the foods (decide how best to do this - blindfolded?) and make a note of reactions. Tabulate "votes" and make up a graph to show survey results. (decision-making, organization, communication, math skills, creativity)

Host a Whole Foods party.

A nice late spring/early summer event - decide on date/time, plan out guest list, make invitations, devise menu, write out shopping list, create decorations, etc. (calendar skills, decision-making, communication, language, creativity, patience, social skills)

Have a meal at Whole Foods.

Our local Whole Foods has a cafe where patrons can buy drinks and snacks and enjoy them at a table. Plan an outing with Daddy for an early weekend morning (before it gets busy). What do we need (money)? How shoud we behave? After eating, give Daddy a tour of the store. (social skills, patience, money management, hygiene)

Plant a Whole Foods garden.

In the spring, notice the gardening items that Whole Foods offers: seeds, plants, tools. At home, plan out and create a small garden plan (pots, easy-to-grow items). Purchase seeds and small seedlings at Whole Foods. Peruse tools and other garden implements and decide if they are something we need or not. (list making, organization, environmental science, nature study, creativity, exercise/fresh air, decision making, money management)

Write a letter to Whole Foods.

Find out how to contact the "head' of Whole Foods (look online) and write a letter expressing our fondness for the store, as well as any suggestions or ideas. :) (language, creativity, research, social skills, life skills, US mail)

***

Well, I guess I'd better stop there, because this post is getting awfully long! Thanks for letting me share all of this ... I hope maybe someone else finds it useful! Lots of ideas, and some of them will work better than others ... we will try them out over the next several months as opportunity (and energy) presents itself! And of course, I'll let you all know how it goes ...

Thanks so much for stopping by today ... have a good one, my friends, and I will see you all here again very soon!


Lunch with the Guys

Yesterday, Bill and I took the younger boys out for lunch at Earlybird's favorite restaurant - Wendy's! He can eat some of the menu items there - most notably, "natural french fries with sea salt" (which is exactly how he orders them, lol). He was so happy to do this and to show his baby brother "the ropes." Naturally we took some pictures to mark the milestone - Baby's first "fast-food" experience. ;)

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(The paper napkin was a makeshift bib - not that he had anything, mind you! I brought a bottle but he didn't need to have it.)

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Earlybird loves people-watching almost as much as he loves the food! (And for the record, he gets a plain cheeseburger, small fries and his own pear juice.)

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This was a very sweet moment: "Thank you SO much, Daddy. I love you!"

Little Bear just took it all in ...

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:)

Now, while I'm thinking of it, Sarah recently asked me about posts I've done on food dyes and how they affect behavior. I know I wrote some posts directly addressing that issue, but for now I can link you, Sarah (and anyone else interested) to my "Feingold" archive (this post in particular is pretty detailed). Let me stress - I am by NO means an expert, but I know what works for my child. And without a doubt food dyes and some other substances really impact EB's behavior and abilities. This is why we follow the Feingold diet (not to the letter, but in our own way) as well as some other guidelines that we feel help keep EB (who is autistic as many of you know) balanced.

Well, that's all for now my friends. Thanks so much for all your lovely anniversary wishes! We are having *quite* the 20th year, aren't we?

**

See you all again sometime soon ...


At Boston College ~ Admitted Eagles Day

I'm afraid there will be no MM this morning - I was out like a light very early last night! And that was because we spent most of our Sunday touring Boston College, taking part in "Admitted Eagles Day." It was an absolutely lovely spring day - typical of April in these parts. I thought you might like to see some of the pictures I took ...

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(I didn't actually take this one - a BC student took it for us.)

This is me, Bookworm, Bill (holding my backpack, lol) and Crackerjack, standing in front of St. Inagtius of Loyola Catholic Church.

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The B.C. Eagle.

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Note Crackerjack's hood ~ the air was a might chilly early in the morning!

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This is Fulton Hall, where Bill and Bookworm learned about B.C.'s math program (math is his intended major) and to which BW and I later returned for the computer science presentation (his potential minor).

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(For what it's worth, CJ was advised to wear something warmer than a hoodie but he assured us he'd be "fine.")

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This is a cool spot inside Fulton Hall - a glass cathedral ceiling and huge hanging tin lanterns.

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The campus architecture is stunning - most of the buildings look quite medieval.

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School motto engraved on this feature: Ever to Excel

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An impressive statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Jesuit order (Boston College is one of the country's oldest Jesuit universities).

***

So we have come down to two schools - Boston College and Gordon College - both wonderful opportunities for Bookworm, and both fit him well in different ways. We have much to talk about, think about and pray over this week, as a decision (and deposit) is expected very soon. May I ask for your prayers towards our discernment?

While I'm here I wanted to also let you know that my blogging will we be brief for the next several weeks. We have lots going on, and I'm really slowing down as I near my due date. (I'm at 35 weeks today.) I will still pop in now and again, but I didn't want anyone to worry if I'm quiet for days at a stretch. We will, of course, be announcing our big news here just as soon as we're able!

Blessings to you all on this beautiful spring Monday ~ see you here again sometime soon!

**


Ever Wonder about Wolves?

Good morning, everyone! Did you know it's National Dog Week?

I myself had no idea, but it very conveniently coincides with our current dogs/foxes/wolves study. :) Another happy happenstance, we were kindly invited on a field trip to Wolf Hollow this week! Long time reader and friend, Melissa R, arranged the visit for her homeschool group and invited the boys and I to attend. I am so glad we were able to make it - it was great to meet Melissa and it was nice to be reacquainted with the wonderful wolves of Wolf Hollow.

This morning, if I may, I'd like to share a few photos from our visit with you ...

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(Bookworm and Crackerjack, standing beside the info board.)

Despite his current interest in wolves, Earlybird declared this field trip, "kinda too scary," lol. So he stayed home with Nana. He's been loving all the pictures, though, and has said he might want to go "next time." Baby steps ... :)

Shown below is the Alpha Male, Weeble.

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Isn't he gorgeous? He is getting on in age, but quite obviously held a position of respect. At the same time he seemed quite gentle, and he was the only one to howl for us.

A few of the wolves were quite feisty ...

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The black male on the right is Grendel, who will most likely be the next Alpha. (All these wolves are "gray wolves" despite the variation in fur color.)

In a confrontation such as this, the wolf with a higher pack position holds his tail higher ...

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Below, on the right, is the Alpha Female, Nina - aka "Mom."

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(You can meet all the Wolf Hollow wolves here.)

In a wolf pack, it is the Alpha Female who bears the puppies. One very interesting (and slightly shocking) thing we learned, was that a female wolf is able to sense the overall pack situation (food availability, etc.) and only birth a managable amount of pups. Apparently her body will reabsorb any extraneous pups. That's kind of incredible! o.O

Another interesting thing we learned was that wolves have evolved to have an inborn fear of humans. As our speaker pointed out, if we happened to be walking in a forest where wolves were living, we would never see them. They would steer clear of us - our smell, our sounds, our very existence.

They really are amazing animals, and they live very much like a family - looking after, and out for, each other ... It's disturbing how misunderstood they've been through the years and continue to be in this day and age. 

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We truly enjoyed our visit to Wolf Hollow, and came away with a renewed sense of respect and responsibility. I look forward to exploring wolves (and their brethren, foxes and dogs) more at home with the boys. If you'd like to learn more about wolves, please check out the Wolf Hollow website.

***

Well my friends, thanks so much for stopping by! I hope you all have a nice Friday ... see you here again very soon!


A Summer's Day by the Sea

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Not at the shore, exactly, but rather, above it - in the woods that run alongside it. Today we spent some time exploring the rugged beauty of our coastline and learning about quarries and the New England granite industry. I'd like to share some pictures from our day, if I may - we had such a nice time and the weather was so beautiful.

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Crackerjack was signed up for a geology class run by the state DCR (department of conservation and recreation), which is the oldest regional park system in the country. They always offer amazing programs and their rangers are just wonderful. This class, organized by my friend Kristen, was a follow-up to a geology class we took last month with our homeschool group, at yet another state park in the area. The earlier class was set deep in the woods (unraveling the history of the rocks found in our area) while this one took place alongside the sea and above the remains of an old quarry.

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So while CJ and I took the class, Bill (who took the day off from work) and Earlybird explored the park, while Bookworm visited with friends.

More pics ...

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In that last picture, our ranger, Megan, was demonstrating how to split granite. The kids were just enthralled ... you could hear a pin drop as she worked, because everyone was listening for the "crackle" that granite makes when it's stressed. But wouldn't you know it, just before she cracked that block open, my camera battery exhausted itself. (Quite literally - the message on the screen said, "battery exhausted." So unfortunately I didn't get a final picture of the split block!

(But I promise she did spit the block, and the block did crackle just before it gave way ... very exciting stuff, I must say!)

***

It was a real treat to have Bill with us today - he drove us in the RV, so we really arrived in style. ;) It made the longish drive (made even longer by that darn summer traffic) a little more comfortable ... and having Dad with us made today's experience all the more fun and memorable - because all five us got to enjoy the beautiful weather and breathtaking views.

So I hope you all had a nice day, too. Thanks so much for stopping by and allowing me to share our Monday with you ... have a good night, and take care ... I will see you again sometime soon!



Our Afternoon Farm Stop

While Bookworm was at Art Class yesterday, Crackerjack and Earlybird and I took advantage of the gorgeous spring day, and paid a visit to a long-favorite farm. 

I say "long-favorite," because when Bill and I were first married we lived up in this area and this farm holds many fond memories for me. I would bring a baby Bookworm here once a week (at least!) to visit the animals and have a snack at the bakery.

Their main greenhouse is so lovely ...

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And their bakery has many fresh and tempting selections. (Happily, the apple cider donuts are always in season.)

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(Doesn't Crackerjack look so much older in this picture? It's hard to believe this kid will be 13 in August!)

At EB's request, I gave the boys pennies to throw into the farm wishing well bucket.

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(I love that they still love to do this.)

And just look at all the vibrant dahlias!

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I will definitely be returning to this farm over the next couple of weeks (before Memorial Day anyways, our traditonal planting time). There were so many wonderful annuals, perennials, herbs, vegetables, etc.

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I was particularly thrilled to find out they will have morning glory plants for sale in a couple of weeks. I will definitely snatch up several of those!

Now, once EB spied the play area, we settled ourselves in at a picnic table, because we knew he'd be a while. And that was fine, because we had at least an hour to kill. EB absolutely LOVES playing in sand (or dirt) with trucks, STILL at 10 years old. (Because he's developmentally delayed, he still enjoys toys, tv shows and activities that appeal to younger children.) But I have to laugh at this picture, because look at the little fella just behind EB, all hands-on -hips and furrowed brow ...

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You see, when EB appoached the wooden play structure there were several younger children already engrossed in play. He wanted to use a couple of the sand trucks (which had been piled up on the caboose) and his "intrusion" was not so warmly received. At least, not at first ... after a few tense moments, EB had won the crowd over.

Because this is my child, when he first walked up to the crowd (my homeschooled autistic child, mind you) ...

"Hi guys! How are you doin'?"

"I'm [Earlybird]! Who are you?"

"What are you playing? Can I help, too?"

"Hey, guys - let's work together!"

And so forth ... :)

("Socialization" is highly overrated, lol.)

Meanwhile, CJ and I sat and chatted at the table for a bit ... I have no idea what I said to him here that prompted that face, lol. 

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I guess he's just reaching that age where he's not all that keen on having his picture taken.

While EB played on, CJ and I checked out the farm animals ...

The goats ...

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The chickens (and turkeys and rooster) ...

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The pigs ...

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And the bunnies - though I didn't get a picture of them, because next thing I knew, EB had had enough of playtime and wanted something from the bakery. So back inside we went ...

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My guys ... how I love spending my days with them.

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EB had a cider donut and CJ picked out a muffin - one for his older brother, too. I myself had a tall, creamy iced coffee ... which SO hit the spot!

Before we left the farm, we weighed and purchased our rhubarb, which I used to make last night's souffle. I LOVE the experience of buying food from a farm and then serving it that night at our table. We are really enjoying our farm "studies" this year. 

***

Well, my friends ... it was a much quieter day for us today. Not so much in-and-out ... and as much as I love truckin' about with my boys, I do relish those days when we can just get our stuff done here (theirs, mine) with few interruptions. I myself got a lot of housework done, in anticipation of a busy weekend. I loathe wasting weekends on housework, so whenever possible Friday is a big "catch up" cleaning day for me.

I squeezed in some fun though - I worked on my newsletter and my clippings journal. Catching up with my creative side is a priority, too ... whenever I can manage it!

And as I finish this post, the day's wrapping up, and it's practically the weekend! So I'm going to sign off for now ... but you know I'll be back very soon ...

Have a good night, my friends!

❤ 


Spring Nature, Spring Books

Happy Wednesday, my friends! I hope your week's going well. :)

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I put the learning room back together today - meaning, I moved out the "table for four" from Easter Sunday, and returned the loveseat to its rightful place. (Mama's reading chair, too.) It felt good to sweep up, sort out, and then settle things back where they belong. :)

The library corner needed to be set up again, so I retired the "March" books and set out the April nature-related books. Our theme this month is "our marvelous earth."

The books you see above are as follows:

Little Farm by the Sea

Grow It, Cook It

Wildlife Gardening

Recycle!

Compost!

Miss Rumphius

The Golden Guide to Endangered Animals

A Guide to Northeastern Butterflies

Respect the Earth Flashcards

Mother Earth's Children

The Nature Connection

First Nature Encylopedia

Whoever You Are

This Year's Garden

Wonders of Nature 

 Naturally Fun Parties for Kids (I just got this book the other day and Earlybird is enthralled! I can hardly get it back in "my" pile, lol.)

*

Now, yesterday we met up with some of our homeschooling friends and took our kids on an informal nature walk. ("Informal" in that, the parents walked and talked - the kids mostly ran ahead.) I provided a "scavenger" list of things for the kids to look for at this time of year, and I'd like to share it here with you all in case it might be something you can use. :)

Take a look around and see what you can find ... use all your senses to “Search for Spring!”

*

signs of nest building

buds

a spring flower

three shades of green

a fresh smell

mud

tracks in mud

a new bird sound

an early spring insect

a fiddlehead (young fern)

a migrant bird

an amphibian or reptile

earthworms

running, dripping or trickling water

a cold spot

a warm spot

something red

something yellow

something blue

something purple

something that has more than 3 colors

*

Have fun, and remember to be gentle with Nature!

I hope this list might inspire you and your kids to go outside and "search for spring." We had a lot of fun finding it for ourselves!

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:)

Have a wonderful evening, my friends ... I will see you here again very soon!


Afternoon Outing: Lovely Latte, Pretty Papers

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My friends, I had such a nice afternoon! I was able to meet a very dear friend of mine for "tea" while I was out and about. We met at the most adorable cafe not far from where my boys take their art classes, and honestly I wish I had had my camera with me because I was so charmed by this sweet little shop! It was a small place, but airy and bright and there were all kinds of little treats and gifty things like local preserves, quirky wooden signs and herb-scented laundry detergent. There was even a little wine corner and some microbrews in a fridge!

(Needless to say, I'll be visiting again soon!)

Now, the menu featured all kinds of interesting brewed teas, but I actually skipped over the tea, and chose instead a quite potent and very tempting "raspberry mocha latte."

Oh my.

I may pay for indulging in such heady caffeine (especially so late in the day), but it was deliciously worth it!

Well, after catching up for a bit, Lynne and I went our separate ways (with a promise to do 'this' again soon). But as it happened, I had a few minutes to kill ... and as it also happened ... my favorite paper-craft store was right across the street!

So naturally I popped in to take a quick look around and as usual, I spied so many new and beautiful things! (This place is like a candy store, I tell you.) In under 10 minutes I had picked out some pretty pastel papers and coordinating embellishments, keeping my "new" planner and "Spring Newsletter" in mind.

Here's a peek at my purchases: 

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Don't you just love all those soft, springy shades? They feel just right for this time of year ... plus I have such a weakness for "vintage" and "Victorian" things. :)

So I have some new supplies to work with, and while my planner is (once again) underway, my Newsletter is still just a bunch of notes in a notebook. ;) Speaking of the Newsletter - I'm hoping to have it ready to go sometime soon after Easter. (I'd like to say before, but I'm sure that's overestimating my time and energy, lol!) It will be loads of fun to work on it, though, and I must thank you all again for your enthusiastic response!

***

Well my friends, I must now sign off for the night ... the kitchen timer is due to ring in oh, about seven minutes. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing in my day ... I hope yours was a good one!

Have a nice night ~ I will see you again soon!



Humble Pretzels with EB

(And other Saturday stuff.)

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Today was such a changeable day - bright and sunny one minute, dark and gray the next ... we even had snow flurries this morning! So very like March. :)

Well, early this "very March" morning Bill took the older boys into Cambridge, to attend a special program at M.I.T. So Earlybird and I had the whole day to ourselves. We spent part of our morning at Whole Foods (Nana came too) and then the rest of the day we just puttered around the house. It was a little too cold to spend much time outside, so after lunch I suggested we make pretzels with a bag of pizza dough I had in the fridge. Pretzels are a traditional Lenten food ... but it's always fun to work with bread/pizza dough! And as you can see above, our pretzels were very humble attempts, indeed ... but they were tasty!

I thought I'd share a couple more pictures with you before I sign off. It's been a while since I've done a "Friday Felines," so let's start with a sleepy Archie ...

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... and an Ollie who insists he's not too big for this basket.

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Here's some of my planner "puttering" laid out on the counter ...

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And here are my older boys this afternoon, standing in front of M.I.T.

Boys at MIT

Bookworm has attended SPARK (and its fall counterpart, SPLASH) a few times before, but this was Crackerjack's first time. The classes - taught by M.I.T. students - are offered to kids in grades 7-12, and it's really quite a production! The classes my boys took included "Greek & Roman Mythology," "Introduction to Zombie Defense," "The Most Challenging Puzzles," "Environmentally Benign Design," "Peanut Butter & Jelly Robotics" and "Light Saber Dueling." It was a very full day and a really great experience!

Happily, Bill and the boys are home now ... so it's time for supper and the usual evening routine. Before I go though, I'd like to say I am absolutely LOVING reading all your Spring Thoughts. What joy this season brings to us all, in so many ways! I'll have to do a post about my own favorite things springs sometime soon.

And thank you, also, for the wonderful bake sale advice - I'm taking lots of notes this weekend!

Now, tomorrow night Bill and I will be watching part two of South Riding ... and I'm hoping it's a little better than last Sunday's showing. Monday morning I'll have a discussion post up where we can talk about SR and/or any other shows or movies we might have seen over the weekend.

So my friends, I hope your weekend's going well. As always, thanks so much for stopping by ... I will see you all again very soon!

:) 


Field Trip to the Farm!

Oh, what fun we had today!

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This afternoon we attended a field trip to a local Audubon center. We hadn't been on a field trip in a while, so this was a nice treat for us all. What made it all the nicer ... Bill took the day off to join us, and drive us out to the farm in the RV!

And it was such a glorious day ... nearly 60 degrees and so bright and sunny. As usual, I took TONS of pictures, so I thought you all might like to see them. :)

Here's the entrance to the farm ...

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And my guys heading down the path ...

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First we hit "Bird Hill."

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Where we saw ...

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Crows, ravens, pheasants, hawks (as below) ...

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... barred owls ...

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(We called them, Sarah and Percy and Bill ... anyone know what book that's from? It's a favorite of ours.)

And finally, a great horned owl!

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(I know it's hard to see through the grated fencing, but if you click on the photos they will open up and the birds should be easier to see.)

Next, we headed over to the sheep & goat barn ...

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... where we met two little lambs who were born just today!

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So precious ...

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Inside this barn (all around the farm, actually), there was a lot of interesting info posted, like this lambing chart:

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And this "Sheep to Sweater" display board:

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Though the air was cool, the sun was quite warm. We were very glad we wore boots, because there was lots of mud ...

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... and melting ...

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And much dripping everywhere.

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This is what 'early spring' looks like in New England!

Here are a few more farm animals we met ...

The rooster.

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(Noisy fellow, he.)

The sow.

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(Just two years old, and already a good mama.)

Some goats.

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(These are the sun-loving youngins.)

Next we encountered a chicken on the path.

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Quite free range, and almost friendly.

And here we have the Barn Cat.

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Clearly, striking a pose.

And just look at these guys!

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A flock of wild turkeys taking advantage of well-stocked feeders.

Earlybird was most fascinated by the farm equipment - the tractors, and harvesters and such - but we could just not get him to slow down for a photo! But I'm still going to post this one because it shows how tall Bookworm has gotten recently!

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(If you remember, I'm 5'5." He's over 5'7" now.)

Next ... while Bill, Bookworm and Earlybird stayed with the larger group, Crackerjack and I headed up to the Audubon Shop with our friends ...

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Such a delightful shop - a nature lover's absolute haven!

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Well, I was weak of course, and bought a few things - with my member discount naturally! I bought a solar system place mat for EB, two new field guides (one for butterflies, another for dragonflies) and new nature journals for myself and the boys.

After saying goodbye to our friends, CJ and I headed back out. For a moment, we contemplated venturing down this intriguing path ...

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But in the end, we stayed put and explored this neat solar-powered structure:

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Very cool! 

More solar goodness:

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And one more picture of me and my boys ...

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It really was such a nice day. :)

And here's my "chauffeur," ready to escort his brood home ...

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Once safely home, we set about our evening routines, and then a call came in from my friend, Kim. Kim (of coupon binder fame), was the one to organize this field trip, and she called me from the road to alert me to the rising moon!

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I was so glad she did because I was not even looking outside, so caught up was I in all the "catching up." And what a nice way to end a very nice day ... standing outside in the cool (but not cold) dusk, watching the Full Sap Moon emerge in all its March glory ...

I feel so recharged after this day spent outdoors, in the "country," getting fresh air and reconnecting with friends we have not seen in a while. It makes me want to plan all kinds of fun spring outings ... my "Nature Club" wheels are now turning!

*

Well, I hope you all had a nice Wednesday ... wherever it took you. Thanks so much for stopping by ... have a nice night and I will see you all again soon!


We took Nana to Neverland!

Neverland1

Our Advent Tree note this morning read:

Today we're taking Nana into Boston to see Peter Pan!

And oh my gosh, was it a wonderful play! 

(Sorry for the blurry pictures - for some reason my old camera just wouldn't cooperate!)

Now, many years ago, my mum took my brother and I to see Peter Pan - back when Sandy Duncan played the principal part. It was 1979, so I was 10 years old, and I still remember that experience ... it was magical. This new "three-sixty" production originated in London, back in 2009, and is currently traveling the world; Boston is hosting the show through New Year's Eve.

Now, unfortunately the weather today was just awful - we had chilly downpours all day. So instead of taking the T in, as we first planned, Bill volunteered to on drive us there and back. EB came along for the inbound journey - and we had a nice ride around downtown Boston admiring the architecture and Christmas decor (as well as the many construction sites and general midday chaos).

The show was held inside a newly constructed tent on City Hall Plaza.

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Inside the tent was a lobby (with snacks and souvenirs) and a circular hallway that ringed the inner theater itself. Here we found a series of interesting posters exploring the history of the Peter Pan tale - its author, origins and many dramatic interpretations through the years.

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We were not allowed to take pictures inside the theater itself, so I have nothing more to show you, but I can say it was a fabulous production and we all enjoyed it very much. My favorite parts of the play?

Bringing 'Tink' back to life with a theater-full of fervent whispers:

"I believe in fairies."

The adherence to original text.

The ramshackle crocodile - what a fantastic roar!

The Neverbird and the Mother song.

The singing scalliwag pirates.

And, this:

"To live would be an awfully big adventure."

 *

Leaving about 4:30 p.m. Bill waiting, van idling, on nearby Tremont Street - here's what we looked back at as we drove away:

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Lovely!

And now we're home safe and sound, with another wonderful memory to tuck away.

I hope you all had a nice Wednesday - is it mid-week already?!

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

:)


Off to the Tree Farm!

Yesterday was a beautiful day here in New England! It was very mild for this time of year (nearly 70 degrees) and the sky was filled with both wintry clouds and shards of weak sunlight. As Bill had the day off from work, it was a perfect time to go find our Christmas tree!

So right after lunchtime, we all hopped into the van and headed to the farm ...

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There are lots of farms in our area, but this one is just so lovely ... In fact, our very first homeschooling field trip ever happened right here - an apple picking hay ride with our (then) new homeschool support group. :)

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After getting the 'skinny' from the farm hands, we drove out to the field to find our tree ...

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Apple trees in late autumn are so beautiful. So withered and wild looking ...

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Now, here's the thing ... we just couldn't find a tree we liked! They were either too short or too spindly. And we wanted a big tree this year!

So we headed back down to the farm to take a look at the pre-cut trees.

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EB can get a little funny about tree cutting - for some reason it unnerves him! So a few times he retreated to the van to watch something fun on his iPad. 

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But the sights and sounds of the farm proved too much to resist ...

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Cute little Santa workshop.

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Cute little guinea fowl!

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Cute - not so little - boys!

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Feeding the beautiful fallow deer.

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Aren't they gorgeous?

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(They kind of remind me of Archie and Ollie in their coloring, and sweet faces.)

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Though EB was certain this was one of Santa's team. ;)

Once we had a tree picked out (a 7 foot Fraser fir, just cut the day before), we headed inside the farm shop to pay ... and peruse.

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At last it was time to take our tree home!

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But first, Bill secured it to the van ...

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... and then we were off!

Continuing our "farm field trip," we stopped at Whole Foods to pick up a few things.

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I could spend gajillions of dollars at this store. It's so fun to shop here!

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We were home by three, with the light fading fast and a cool wind picking up.

Bill and Bookworm brought the tree in ...

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It fits great in the sitting room corner!

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Needless to say, the cats were simply amazed.

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"For me?"

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Checking it out ...

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Ollie's intrigued. Archie's sampling.

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After a quick look around, Ollie - cool, calm and collected - returned to his open window, taking the high road, as usual.

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Archie, meanwhile ... well, he took the low road.

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He simply would not leave the tree alone! He ate some needles, climbed some branches and as you can see above, drunk some of the water. (No additives here - just plain old water.)

(We're hoping once the novelty's worn off, Archie will give it a rest. Lol.)

And now we have our tree, all set up in the sitting froom corner.

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We need to let the branches drop, and then the lights can be strung and the branches can be adorned with all kinds of things.

(Mostly, unbreakable things.)

~****~

Now, I will certainly be posting more on our tree as we go through the week. Hopefully we'll have it all decorated by the weekend!

So I hope you all are having a nice week ... I can hardly believe December 1st is just two days away! Are your Advent calendars ready to go?

Our is not quite ... so I guess I'd best get to work!

Have a great Tuesday, my friends ... I'll be back here again very soon.

:)


Well, I can't think of trains ...

... without thinking of my EB. :)

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(Oh my ... was he really once that little?)

Earlybird is a HUGE train buff (just like his Papa). He loves to read about them, talk about them, watch them on TV ... but nothing beats seeing them in REAL LIFE!

These pictures were taken a few several years ago, on a cold February "Daddy" day. (Daddy Days are those spontaneous adventures that only daddies seems able (and willing) to pull together.)

This is a local transportation museum, and obviously, EB was focused on the old steam train stationed outside.

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Trains are so awesome! (As in, "super cool" and "awe-inspiring.") They're big, powerful, and carry with them so many stories, so much of America's history. But I will always see trains through the eyes of a child ... as the daughter of a model railroader, and now as the mom of a train crazy kid ...

More train pictures can be found at this week's Snapshots around the World post. Stop by and check them out!

Hope you all had a nice holiday weekend!

:)


Tree Week!

First of all, I hope you all had a nice weekend, and a lovely Easter Sunday. :)

Today begins "Tree Week" in our homeschool ... and that would be because, A. Friday is Arbor Day and, B. we just ❤ trees!

I kept our "tree" activity for today very simple (since it was rainy and cold and we were all plumb tuckered from weekend festivities). So after dropping Bookworm at the library (where he volunteers once a week) the younger two boys and I stopped at our local supermarket to search for things that come from trees ... 

To this end we found: apples, pears, dates, oranges, lemons, limes, coconuts, bananas, nuts - ETC. - as well as magazines, newspapers, toilet paper, paper towels, tissue paper, packages of copy paper, cardboard cereal (cracker, cookie, etc.) boxes, paper shopping bags, store flyers, and even my purchase receipt ... phew

Trees give us a lot, we decided!

Here are a few fuzzy photos we (Crackerjack and I) took on my new phone:

These would be the apples and pears.

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This would be me.

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This is Earlybird walking (dejectedly) away from a bin of marshmallows. (And he was so sure there were such things as Marshmallow Trees, too!)

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Pretty sure "Cheese Puffs" don't grow on trees either ... but we still bought a bag.

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And so our Tree Week is off and running! More details to come, but for now I wish you all a happy new week, and wonderful start to the new Easter season!

Have a great night, everyone ...

:)


Poinsettia Day!

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Today's Advent tree note read:

"Daddy's home today! We'll bake biscuits for breakfast and read about The Legend of the Poinsettia. Later we'll visit the nursery and bring home a plant for our mantle."

(Officially, National Poinsettia Day falls on December 12th, but as we were busy that day with a family party, I decided to schedule our own "poinsettia day" for one day this week.)

Well, the biscuits were delicious (stuffed with cheesy, scrambled eggs) and EB half-listened to me read TLotP while working on a coloring page I found online ... and after breakfast we all bundled into the minivan for a family field trip to the nursery. (Lol, the older two never know what's coming next. What? Close our math books, grab our coats? Happy faces all around.)

To be honest, Earlybird was more enthralled with the Christmas trees for sale in the lot (and pushing the oversized nursery cart up and down the aisles) than he was with the multicolored* plants inside, lol. (Poor Bill got outside duty with EB while I savored the steamy warmth of the greenhouse inside with the older boys.)

*Oh, and by multicolored, I really do mean multicolored! There were the expected red, burgundy, pink and white plants of course - but also - purple, blue and fuschia! 

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Now, maybe I haven't been poinsettia shopping in a while, but this really struck me as odd! I insisted on purchasing traditional red plants, but the boys talked me into one sparkly blue plant as well. Crackerjack said he wanted it for their bedroom - he has plans for a Star Wars Christmas corner I think.

Here's our Earlybird marveling at the pretty Christmas plants ...

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... and Crackerjack and Bookworm, smiling for Mum's camera. :) 

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As you can see from their garb we're in the midst of quite a cold spell here in New England; the balmy greenhouse was a nice escape from the frosty weather. (A quick weather note here ~ a major snowstorm is predicted for Massachusetts late this weekend. Maybe we'll get a white Christmas after all!)

Well, from there, our day got quite busy as we grabbed a quick lunch and headed out to our December Nature Club meeting (a homemade suet feeder activity hosted by my friend Ketylina at her lovely home - more on that later!).

So we're home again at last, and supper's bubbling away on the stove. Bill's getting some work done, the older boys are playing Wii, and EB and I are watching "Dogs 101" (a favorite show of his). Obviously I'm also working on this post! 

As a final touch to our poinsettia day, I had planned to pull out our sweet little poinsettia fairy to hang on our tree, but - gasp! - we can't find her! I made her a few years back (details in this post) and I just can't imagine where she's disappeared to ~ but if I can't find her, I may just have to make her again. Hmm ... an excuse to stop by the craft store tomorrow? Maybe that's not so bad after all ... ;)

By the way, in a comment today, Lynn B. asked if I'd share all my Advent tree notes sometime - and yes, I'd be glad to! I'll write up a post (possibly this weekend) with the notes we've done so far and my plans for next week. I must say, this has been my favorite Advent countdown yet. :)

Well, thank you very much for stopping by today; I hope you had a nice day too. See you all again very soon!