Parenting Feed

Autumn Tea & Mitten Strings, Ch. 7 "Play" 🌟

IMG_9604

Hello my friends, and Happy Sunday! Welcome to another "Autumn Tea" here at By Sun and Candlelight, and today I'm co-hosting alongside my Little Bear! Since our current MSfG chapter is "Play," I thought it made sense to share tea serving duties with my most playful companion, and serve our (child-friendly) tea, in the playroom - aka learning room, aka sunroom. :)

Now, my tea is a cup of absolutely delicious Harney & Sons English Breakfast - a gift from kind friend and longtime blog reader, Lisa S. :) I am drinking it in a sweet owl mug - a gift from my new friend, Tammy, with whom I am part of a lovely seasonal exchange. I thought this mug was rather playful and perfect for today's autumnal tea - plus it holds a generous amount of tea, which is always a good thing in my book!

As for Little Bear's "tea," his brew of choice this week is good ol' organic apple juice, and it's served in his preferred sippy cup, alongside our snacks for the day: fresh Macintosh apples and some yummy cocoa cookies. I arranged all these things on another one of those cute melamine plates I picked up at Target recently, and then laid down a soft blanket so we could "picnic" on the playroom floor ... :)

What does your tea look like these days? Do you switch things up as the seasons change? Do you find yourself drinking more tea - or coffee or cocoa - as the weather cools? Do you ever share tea with your children, and if so, what do you serve them? I'm always looking for child-friendly ideas, especially those that involve hot juice and/or warm milk.

IMG_9587

Ok, I'm now setting down my cup and brushing crumbs off my book ... time to get on with our chapter! 

In "Play," Ms. Kenison inspires us to reminisce a little about the way we spent our free time when we were kids. First of all - there was more of it back then! Back in the days before screen time was an issue and play dates were a thing ...

She then urges us to think creatively about how we might afford our own kids a little more of such time in which they can be free just to play ...

  • Are our kids too busy and/or managed to know how to fill time with their own thoughts and imaginations?
  • Are their childhoods racing by with them yoked to a fast-track alongside us?
  • What can we do to foster the kind of slower childhood we ourselves enjoyed?

I agree with Ms. Kenison that a family schedule with a little more blank space is a good place to start, but some of us first need to develop an appreciation for this kind of free time. Blank space on our calendar may look nice ... but sometimes we stare at that space rather ... well, blankly.

"Perhaps we adults have lost the fine art of lollygagging, but at least most of us mastered it as children." (p. 56)

What a gift for our children - to provide more empty time in their days so that they may explore whatever comes to their minds. I bet most kids would master such a gift in a heartbeat.

"But children need time that is utterly their own - time to take up residence in their own lives, time to dream through an afternoon, time to play with the kids next door, time to wake up to their own pleasures. Above all, they need some time when we adults aren't calling the shots." (p.53)

But won't they get bored, you might wonder? Well, maybe ... but does that have to be a bad thing?

Here is a link to the original post I wrote in response to this chapter, back in 2008. And in it, I addressed this very question, as it's been posed to me in the past in regards to our homeschooling:

"To be perfectly honest, not really ... I am a huge fan of boredom. I think in today's culture, boredom is quite underrated."

I go on to suggest some things we try to do around here to entice our kids to play, but to my original list, and in the spirit of this chapter, I would add:

  • A yard that is welcoming & inspiring (play structures, space to run, a garden to craft)
  • And/or a nearby park that can be freely explored.
  • Ample time to run about, climb trees, hop rocks, and stretch those muscles a bit.
  • Natural (safe) places where kids can roam and be wild - and loud!
  • Take neighborhood walks and scout out such interesting places.
  • Ask your kids what might they do with a day free to go anywhere, do anything. 
  • Contact your local trail association and ask for suggestions.

The kind of mother I am would always need to be nearby ... it's just how I roll. Also though, my two younger kiddoes just cannot be left unsupervised. (One is autistic and the other is only four.) I do like Ms. Kenison's suggestion, that kids should be allowed to feel unsupervised, even if a parent is nearby only appearing to be uninterested ... ;)

🌟

It's always been important to me that my kids know how to entertain themselves - for their sakes as well as mine. My mother was a very hands-on, deeply nurturing, always-at-home mom ... but she mostly left my brother and I to our own devices. We played in our rooms, and in the backyard, and we came up with all kinds of games. But Mum definitely let us call the shots when it came to outside activities. I did Girl Scouts, dance, and later on, cheerleading, and my brother dabbled in soccer - but we were very protective of family time. Many a social opportunity would pass us by in deference to our own family needs.

I'm especially glad Little Bear seems to be quite good at keeping himself busy - not that he doesn't love to have someone play with him ("Mama, text Liam and ask if he'll build Legos with me!"), but he can usually entertain himself if nobody's available. (See below!)

As for Earlybird, we're actively working with his therapists to help him learn to play nicely with Little Bear. My two youngest have similar interests - wooden trains and dirt piles, for example - but they definitely need supervision for any play-time to be successful. EB has issues with LB's chattiness and LB has issues with EB's grabbiness, and both of them can get a bit too physical with the other. EB is a gentle giant but he's BIG compared to Little Bear - who's feisty but SMALL. They play as two little kids would, but in this particular equation one of the kids is not physically little anymore. Mentally though, they're a great match!

IMG_9779

(The two of them helping me find an Advent branch yesterday afternoon, a project they both took very seriously. Sometimes play is all business!)

🌟

And not that I've not kept you here long enough, but now I'd like to show you all what play looks like in my house these days ... which, for the most part, involves my youngest. So for this post I followed our Little Bear around and snapped pictures as he went about his "business." As I said above, he really does play very well ... something that's as good for him as it is for his mother! :)

IMG_E9028

IMG_8970

IMG_9145

IMG_9179

IMG_9210

Late day light

IMG_9261

IMG_9270

IMG_9274 (1)

IMG_9312

IMG_9747

Ok, now I will absolutely wrap up - but as always, I thank you, truly, for joining me today! I hope you all enjoyed this post with my thoughts on play - as Ms. Kenison described in her chapter, and as it exists in my family these days. I'd love to hear your thoughts, as well! Please feel welcome to leave me a comment below, or send me your thoughts/pics via email. (Links are welcome, too!)

---> drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

Now, I am tempted to say next week's chapter will be postponed due to the busy holiday week, but I really would like to stick to our schedule. I will plan to be here next Sunday with our next (and last) Autumn Tea (after that we begin Advent) ... and to talk about chapter eight, "Secret Places." (That sounds very much like cozy corners to me!)

In the meantime, I will wish you all well and to my fellow Americans, a very Happy Thanksgiving Week ahead! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ...

See you here again very soon!


Autumn Tea & Mitten Strings: Chapter 6, "TV"

IMG_8394 (1)

Hello my friends, and Happy Sunday! Welcome to another Autumn Tea, and the next installment in our Mitten Strings for God book study! This week we are discussing chapter six, "TV" - a challenging topic for some of us, I think! 

First though, let's talk about my tea (seen above), which reflects last week's seasonal theme, "Our Own Cozy Dens." I'm taking tea in the library this time where, I should note, there is no TV! ;)

This is the quiet room or "gathering room," where we serve cocktails and desserts/coffee when celebrating holidays with family. It's also the room in which our Christmas tree abides throughout the darkest month of the year, filling it with the softest and coziest light ...

So at Summer's end I tend to migrate back in here, to set things up as I'd like for the months to come. This room also sits on the west side of our house, and the sun sets just behind the woods seen through the windows. I LOVE being in here as the days grow short and dark, catching the very last bit of that golden autumn light. 

Now, to continue with the cozy for a moment - with each seasonal homeschooling theme, I like to give myself a little "assignment," something I can do to experience the theme on a personal level, and/or something that will allow my family to observe it as well. This week the boys and I chose a few spots around the house to make up "our own cozy dens" for the winter ...

And here's where I am making (one of) mine!

Cozy corner in library

(It's a work in progress, so I'll post more on my nest later. I'll also be arranging play areas for LB here, too - and that will fit in with next week's chapter!)

It occurred to me though, as we "feathered," that if a family was trying to cut down on TV time, then perhaps intentionally setting up a few "comfort zones" would be helpful! To start with, choose a place where screens are not present (or readily available) - but other kinds of diversions are. And if the kids are involved in this endeavor from the get-go, then these spots will truly reflect and support their own passions and pursuits. Help them think about what kinds of things they might like to work on/play with this winter - puzzles, board games, Legos, reading, imaginative toys, crafting, etc. Organize the materials they'd need, add an extra blanket or two, and designate a space just for them. If we're looking to pry kids away from their screens we're going to need some enticing alternatives at the ready!

Anyway back to the tea for a moment - my brew this time is a lovely Earl Grey and I'm drinking it in a mug that is just perfect for the week, a gift from my dear friend, Kim. The cookies are gingerbread - of the store-bought, break-apart variety I'm afraid, but very good! (Honestly, is there anything cozier than gingerbread?) That cute platter is made of melamine (so in theory, unbreakable) and I picked that up at Target last week. I'm working on surrounding this spot with nice things to read, my journal supplies, simple playthings and good books for Little Bear ... all kinds of things that will entice us to sit down and settle in for a spell. 

Ok, now let's get on with the TV portion of my post! (And for the record, when I say "TV" here, I'm really talking about any kind of screen-time viewing since the options for such have widened greatly since 2008!)

To begin with, here is the original post I wrote on this chapter back in 2008, and since it still represents my feelings on the topic rather well, I won't try to reinvent the wheel today and say all of the same things differently. In a nutshell, I'm still in agreement with Ms. Kenison's stance that:

"When it comes to TV, less really is more." (p. 51)

Instead, I'll address how our family viewing habits have changed since the days when all my kids (the three I had at the time) were little ...

So first of all, the older boys are now 18 and 22 - so I don't really control their TV habits anymore! I asked them though, at dinner last night, how much tv they thought they watched and they both said, very little. (They do play video games and do other online things.) And when they do watch tv, it's usually something they view on their computers, as opposed to a program they watch on commercial tv at a set time of week.

Side note:

Isn't it crazy how pervasive screen time is these day? Computers, phones, tablets, TVs ... WATCHES! It seems there's a way to be connected - or disconnected depending on how you look at it - and watching something, almost anytime, anywhere. It's a wonder network tv is still in existence!

From p. 45:

".. how easily we have come to accept the pervasiveness of the media in our lives."

You know, I'm pretty sure Ms. Kenison would have to rewrite this chapter entirely if she were to tackle the topic of TV nearly 10 years later! Because the media has so many more faces these days! There are devices and distractions available for kids of all ages - and we're not even talking about social media here. She'd need a whole separate chapter for that!

Now, as for the younger boys ...

Little Bear is just four years old and truth be told, he does watch more tv than we'd like. This is mostly because of his older brother's viewing habits, and that's something we're working on (more on that in a minute). I think like most kids, if it's on and he's idle, he'll get sucked right in. Happily he's not usually idle - he has a rich imagination and gets completely absorbed in his play. But he does ask for tv on occasion - usually in the late afternoons if he's tired and wants to crash on the couch. I allow it sometimes ... but other times I redirect him. I'm not too concerned about any interest in TV as I am by his ongoing spectator status. Because Earlybird, our 15 year old son who has autism ... is, well ... addicted.

IMG_5687

(Can you guess what they're doing in this photo? Watching something on EB's Kindle Fire, that's what. But just look at those smiles!)

Our EB, (16 next month), watches a lot of video content in various forms. Many kids (people) on the autistic spectrum have a strong affinity for video-viewing, whatever the platform. For EB it's partly a feeding of sensory needs and also, frankly, he doesn't have many other hobbies. Video gives him something to do, a way to entertain himself in a way he's not able to do on his own, while allowing him to connect with the world at a safe distance. (He can change the channel at a whim, he's in control.)

On the up side, he's learned a LOT of interesting information through video. He absorbs things so deeply - which as you can guess is not always a good thing - but he loves science shows, railroad history, nature documentaries ... and he loves playing movies of all kinds. We have to monitor his viewing habits closely though, because sometimes he gets over-stimulated - by the content he's chosen, or just the amount of time spent absorbing video input. Even the over-abundance of options can fry his nerves (not to mention his mother's) at times. Too many choices is not always a good thing, for anyone - but especially not for our autistic son.

I can't predict if this craving for video will always be a part of EB's life, but currently we are working with EB's therapists to teach him to enjoy other kinds of leisure activities. For years now we've just allowed this addiction to build because honestly, there were other battles to face, and this one seemed fairly benign. But over the past several months we've started making some changes. We'd been seeing a connection between EB's neurological tics and his screen-time exposure. The more he watched, the more agitated he'd get and the more likely he'd be to experience such tics as blinking, clicking, grunting and stuttering. So a couple of months ago we turned off the family room tv. Just plain old turned it off, telling him (fingers crossed) that the clicker had gone missing ... and that was that. He still uses his Kindle, and he does have a dvd player in his bedroom, but the family TV is no longer part of his screen-time repertoire.

He's adapted fairly well to the change, which was a blessing. (Also a blessing, Little Bear has no background TV through the day!) Our next step is to start working some time limits into his Kindle viewing, while encouraging other pursuits. He's resistant to the limits for sure, but as with every challenge we've faced ... we take it in tiny steps, and we only ever ask for progress, not perfection. He'll get there, to healthier video habits, in his own due time. What he needs to get there he is getting - help from patient therapists, and understanding from a family who loves him. 

To sum up - because as usual I've gone on quite long! - I think TV doesn't have to be a bad thing if it's a proportionate and thoughtful part of a well-rounded home life. Balance in all things, right? Time to sit and enjoy a special program, and then time spent doing other things - enjoying the outdoors, friends and family, honest work, and simple activities that don't flash at our retinas.

I found this comic online the other day: 

IMG_8220

(Earlybird, seeing this over my shoulder just now, exclaimed, "Hey, that's a perfect day!")

For most of us, I think, TV is a comforting habit, feeding a need within us ... but as with any habit, it get can get out of control. And some of us are more vulnerable than others. So it needs to be monitored and even reevaluated at times. To reference myself in my original post:

"I don't think we would ever go NO TV, but I do think we can stand to survey our viewing habits now and again. I have always said to the boys re their video game playing and television viewing that as long as we detect no difference in the amount of time they read or in the way they play and imagine, they may continue to watch and play (in the electronic sense) as they do. To this I've also added, as long as they can still "be" (happily), outside - as long as they can connect easily with nature - then I'll know our viewing habits are still under control."

In the end I'd say that I agree with much of what Ms. Kenison has to say in this chapter, but perhaps not all of it is applicable in my life, at this time. That said, going forward I would like to see ...

    Little Bear have AS LITTLE screen time exposure as possible, because it really does nothing for him at this tender age.

    Earlybird have LESS screen-time exposure, as discussed above.

    Bill and I to be aware of HOW OFTEN we turn on the TV ourselves.

And as for my older two, well ... it's up to them now, isn't it? :)

Well, my friends, I'll be on my way now, since I think I've said all I can think of to say on this chapter ... for now! But I'd love to hear your thoughts if you have time - feel free to comment below or send me an email with your thoughts/photos (or a link to your site) ...

---> drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

Or maybe you don't have any thoughts on TV at all, but a pretty tea setting to share with us ... that would be lovely, as well!

Oh, and don't forget my Mitten Strings giveaway! Pop on over to this post for more details - you have until Friday to enter! :)

Now, at next week's Autumn Tea - and I'll aim for Friday but Sunday will be more likely - we'll be discussing Mitten Strings for God, chapter seven, "Play." What a fun topic that will be! But for now, I will wish you all well - enjoy the rest of your weekend! - and hope to see you here again very soon! 


Autumn Tea & Mitten Strings: Ch. 5 "Simplicity"

IMG_7688 (1)

Hello my friends, and welcome to this week's Tea and MSfG discussion! We are now on chapter five, "Simplicity," and what a wonderful chapter it is ... my favorite of all, I think! Mostly because there is one passage in this chapter that just stands out so strongly to me, I've remembered it more than any other all these years ...

Also, because I feel like simplicity is something just so powerful and alluring (there's a whole movement after all) and I feel I am always striving towards it - finding it in some areas, yet falling short in others ...

Anyways, before we get further into the chapter talk, I want to talk a little about my tea shown above. Now, I am going to be completely honest with you - this was not how I originally imagined my "simplicity" tea. You see, every week when I start thinking about a tea post, I like to envision just how it might look, according to that week's theme:

What cup might I use? What treat might I bake? Which tea will I choose and in which cozy spot will I sit?

It's really quite fun to think about these kinds of things - and sometimes, my vision does come to life! Other times ... not so much.

So this week, as I kept "simplicity" in mind, I was envisioning a teatime setting that was not quite so ... busy. Something very neat, maybe - quite tidy, and sparse. All in soft colors, with perhaps a plain stoneware mug, a simple shortbread on a small plate alongside one of our new cotton napkins ... nicely arranged in a quiet corner of our library, somewhere out of the way (clutter removed, natch), where I might sit by myself and earnestly consider how I might bring a little more simplicity to my life ...

Well, with all the energy I was spending on thinking and arranging - I was creating a rather complex situation for myself! 😜  Here I was going to great lengths to create what I thought was a "simple tea" but it just wasn't happening (not without a lot of fuss) and it was frustrating!

But that's me in a nutshell ... I slow down by doing things like taking tea at home on a quiet afternoon ... but then I complicate the whole process by involving too many time-consuming details, and working a bit outside of reality, if you will.

From the second page of this chapter:

"We set the bar too high, take on too much, turn small doings into big ones." (p. 35)

My lesson learned: simple isn't necessarily how something appears, but rather, how it fits into your life. How it makes you feel inside.

So instead of whipping up a "simple tea," I decided to keep it real, and (to quote my GPS), recalculated ...

IMG_7722

My reality that very day (as it is most days) was taking tea at the worktable in the sunroom. I was here trying to get a handle on the new month to come ... and I was surrounded by STUFF: my workhorse of a tea mug filled with my everyday tea, piles of books, open-faced planners and notebooks, myriad school supplies, plenty of sunshine and ... a cat.

(Always, the cat.)

IMG_7740

I didn't even have time to grab a cookie - let alone bake something sweet and pretty!

So is it simple? Maybe not in how it all looks, because obviously there's a LOT going on in that photo! But in spirit, yes this was keeping things simple for me. I wanted to share tea with you all, and I wanted to talk about this chapter, and here was where it was simplest for me to do that. :)

IMG_7730

The nice thing about tea is that it always makes me slow down a little no matter what I'm up to. Because it's often pretty hot to begin with and usually I have a really full mug. So I really can't rush it! And most days I find myself needing a cup (or sometimes two or three) in the afternoon, just about the time it makes sense to slow down a bit - maybe check in at my computer or crash on my couch with my kids.

But let's get back to our chapter now because I think I've talked about tea long enough! (Boy, can I talk about tea.)

A little "simplicity moment" from my home last week ...

O boo halloween

Here's Little Bear in his first-choice, much preferred Halloween costume this year - handmade by us both. (And the cat.) It took one piece of construction paper, a pair of scissors, a hole punch and twine, and we were done. And funnily enough it fit well and stayed put!

Meanwhile the $30 costume I bought from Amazon weeks ago still sits up in my bedroom - completely refused and rejected! (LB wanted NO part of that bright green "creature power" suit with its velcro mask and detachable tail. Oh, no ... it was simply too much.) Mama should have listened to him when he insisted last month that all he really wanted to be for Halloween was a ghost ... because for him, it was enough.

How sweet is a four-year-old, I ask you?

And this leads me to the part I referenced at the start of my post, the Mitten Strings passage that has stayed with me all these years: 

"It is not enough anymore to pull together a Halloween costume from the dress-up bin, add a few extra touches, and head out the door to go trick-or-treating. The store-bought costumes are more elaborate, more expensive and more grisly every year. There are decorations to buy, light shows to orchestrate on the front lawn, haunted houses to visit, and a week's worth of pre-Halloween activities to attend. Last fall my neighbor's six-year-old daughter had been in and out of her costume so many times that she refused to put it back on for Halloween night. She'd been a ballerina in a parade, at school, and at two parties. The novelty had worn off." (p. 36)

I've always maintained that the Halloween we celebrate in our family is one that has ancestral roots and a mostly innocent agenda - filled with festive foods, old-fashioned games, homemade decorations - nothing much to do with what society does or what's selling fast at Target this year. And yet, here I fell for the "snazzy costume trap" hook, line and sinker!

Of course, keeping in mind that lesson I learned up above - it's really all what feels simple to you. For some folks, picking up a costume at Target IS the simpler solution! Finding the time and energy to make a homemade costume is anything but. (Though I'm not sure you can beat our ghost mask for easy!) I think it all depends on what works for you.

Simple looks different to everyone ...

Simply put, I think it all boils down to how something affects your life, and beyond that your family. How will it make you all feel? What choices feel right and cause the least stress? Because then you're living authentically and I think this is what we want to share with our children ...

"Watching us manage our own lives sensibly, our children will learn to set limits, too." (p. 39)

I found this particular chapter to be very timely reading, because currently I'm fleshing out our Thanksgiving and Advent plans. And these are the weeks when it is VERY easy to get swept up in - not just what society is offering, but our own schemes and dreams, too. I may envision a homemade, homespun, home-centered holiday ... but if I wanted to - and in some ways I do - I could easily stuff every moment full of activity and awareness ...

IMG_7690 (1)

So I pause my pen above that page and rein in my tendency to over-plan ...

"It takes conviction to say, "This is enough." (p. 38)

So you see, simplicity lessons are not just for those who are always on the go, seeking to be where the action is ... but for we introverts, too! And I'm a perfect example of that! 

(Side note: I'll be sharing my (hopefully) rather simple holiday plans in an upcoming post!)

Now, I love this quote too, from the last section of the chapter in which the author offers some wonderful steps toward simplicity:

"Don't feel guilty about skipping events that everyone else attends." (p. 39)

IMG_7596

The above picture was taken while doing just that ...

Last weekend we skipped our town's annual "great pumpkin hunt" to simply stroll around our own yard and seek signs of autumn's end. This is Little Bear gathering weeds and feeling those feathery grasses ...

There was a pull to be sure - my husband is more of an extrovert than I am, and usually he's more eager to get "out there" and mix it up with ... well, whoever all shows up at an event! But my reasoning was ... just the day before we had enjoyed - really thoroughly enjoyed - a wonderful family Halloween party. We had spent hours frolicking inside and out, doing all kinds of Halloween-y things, including ... hunting for pumpkins! Was Little Bear running around with dozens of kids in a jumble, while his parents sipped cider and made small talk with strangers?

No, he was playing with his cousins and brothers while his Mom and Dad were having a grand old time with dear ones we can never seem to spend enough time with. :)

Now, had he really wanted to go to that community event (either Bill or LB) we would have gone. Because again, it's about balance and what feels right to each family. But when we really thought about it, our previous day had been so nice and we were thoroughly (and pleasantly) exhausted. Little Bear had his pumpkin (and a few to spare) and we all came away feeling just the right kind of full-up of happy and tired.

One more time though, I'll stress - this all made sense for my family. That "homey" weekend was a pure and simple joy for us. Another family would not find throwing a party for two dozen people easy or fun. For them it might be much more enjoyable to roll out of bed a little later in the morning and throw the kids in the car, off on an adventure ...

So to each his own, is my motto ... and ours is most often (nearly always) here at home. 

Well, I've gone on quite long now, so I'll wrap up - though I still have several other quotes marked in my chapter! I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on this chapter - or on simplicity in general - if you have the time. You are welcome to share your thoughts here in the comments below, or if you've done a post at your own site, please feel free to link me up (and let me know) and of course, all are welcome to email with links, thoughts, pics, etc. ...

---> drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

I'll weave contributions into this post as I receive them and catch up with comments left below as I can. :)

For now though I'm off ... I'll be back again soon with my November planning pages and book list, plus some old journaling pages like the one I shared on IG this morning! I'm enjoying looking back over old notes and clippings, and I thought you all might like a peek too!

So enjoy the rest of your weekend, everyone! Next week we'll be talking about ... gasp ...TV! And to be honest, I'm a little nervous about this chapter, lol ... I think I may have to face the harsh reality that things are not the ideal I'd envisioned back in my early mothering days! But we'll catch up on that later ... next Friday we'll strive to get back on track, but there may be some weeks (like this one) where I need to postpone things a day ... or two or three. 😉

Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ...

I'll see you here again very soon!


Little Bear's First Autumn Hike 💛

IMG_6318

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 80°! 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. :)

IMG_6342

IMG_6361

IMG_6385

IMG_6377

IMG_6336

IMG_6418

IMG_6422

IMG_6366

IMG_6371

IMG_6454

IMG_6441

IMG_6471

IMG_6286

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."

 💛

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!


My Thanksgiving Tea Journal, 2015

Thanks tea button

Happy Monday, my friends! It's Thanksgiving week here in America, quite possibly my favorite week all year! All over the country, folks are traveling home to their families, looking forward to a day of togetherness, thankfulness ... and feasting! I love spending this week spiffing up my home and setting tables and baking stuff and listening to music ... but most of all, I love that deep sense of just HOW blessed we are to be doing all of this in the first place. To have loved ones to gather with, and a warm, safe home to gather in ... food to put on the table, with some extra to share.

So today I am kicking off my Advent Tea Journal, with a post that is - ok, yes - several days ahead of Advent. But I wanted to start our journey before we get swept up in the season! Does a weekly teatime sound good to you? A brief time each week to sit down (in our cozy nests) and share how we're living the season? 

Well here's what I'm dong on my end! On this Monday and those to come in December, I will share my tea journal notes along with some photos of my home and holiday preparations ... and then I will touch upon our weekly discussion theme. (This week: Simplifying the Season.) And I would LOVE to have you join me! You can leave me a comment here, or send me an email with your own notes and pics, or perhaps link me up with a post at your own blog! (Feel free to grab the tea button here or in this post.) We'll continue our conversation throughout the week, and I'll add you in as the days go by - no rush to get me something by Monday!

> bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com <

Now onward with our Thanksgiving Tea ... are you settled in and ready to chat? :)

What refreshments am I enjoying this week?

Thanks tea 5

My Thanksgiving Tea shown above is a bit "rustic and random" - not quite the "Victoria" moment I had originally envisioned, lol - but all that color and clutter is who I am these days! A sturdy (inexpensive) acorn mug and some ginger cookies to share with my little guy ...

And here's my cute little tea box, a gift from my sister-in-law:

Thanksgiving tea 3

I keep a LOT of tea on hand - some of you might remember my tea drawer from years back? Well nowadays my main tea stash is kept in my pantry, but I like to use this nifty box for holding the teas I'm drinking currently. It holds plenty of packets and fits nicely in a kitchen cabinet. (You could do something similar with a basket or divided tin.)

As for the cookies, well, you all know I love to bake ... but sometimes baking a batch of scratch cookies just doesn't mesh with the overall busy-ness of the household. (And this would be one of those weeks!) But these break-apart cookies are made from natural ingredients so Earlybird can enjoy them along with the rest of us. They could be frosted but honestly, they're even better on their own - they're quite yummy and the seasonal spices really come through!

What am I reading this week?

Thanks tea 4

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids

I've had this book on my shelf for a while now - almost two years! - and I've read bits and pieces, but I'd like to go through it chapter by chapter, slowly but surely. This premise resonates with me, yet I'm a great one for making things more complicated than they need to be. With an eye toward the New Year (as I think about general goals and plans for the months to come as well as our home environment) I'm trying to create a slower world for myself and my kids. More on that as we move forward through the season!

What am I listening to this week?

Do you enjoy listening to music in your nest? I find my normal "household soundtrack" provides plenty of erm, stimulation so to say, so any added sound can be a bit much ... but I do love some music at the holidays!

Thanksgiving tea 3 (1)

This traditional song is pretty much is all I need, and belted out with gusto by small voices is best. This is a page from a beautiful little book of poems, a thoughtful and generous gift from a reader last year. But I also love listening to music from A Charlie Brown Thankgiving and George Winston's Autumn as well as this gorgeous song. Do you have any favorite Thanksgiving music?

What am I working on this week?

We have the honor of hosting our family's Thanksgiving so that's my focus this week! There's a lot that goes into planning a season or holiday, and trying to keep things simple is a challenge! But I have found by starting early, I have a much better chance of maintaining a less frenetic atmosphere - for myself and those around me! And this "peace" contributes greatly to a simplified season. So here are some of the things I've been working on ahead of Thanksgiving ...

Thanksgiving tea 4

Once we know how many guests to expect, we can decide which tables to use and where to arrange them as well as what tablecloths and napkins to prepare. About a week ahead of the holiday I find a day when I will be home for several hours - then I can wash and dry and fold the linens without any lag time in-between. We all know what happens when we only finish part of the laundering cycle - smelly, wrinkled linens! Then out comes the iron or we have to start all over again ...

The other thing is, if I leave this task too close to Thanksgiving, it feels like a chore ... I feel rushed and even (in my less generous moments) a bit put-upon. By doing things like this well ahead of time, at a time of my choosing, I focus instead on the beauty of it. I think about the people coming to dine with us, at our table, and how nice the setting will look for them. In this way, I focus on the pleasure of the chore, not the pressure of it.

How about tablescapes then? This is another thing I like to think about early, so I can be a little thoughtful and creative with it ... as well as economical!

Thanksgiving tea 1

There will be flowers for sure - I can never resist fresh blooms at the holidays - but I also like to tap into the treasures to be found in our very own yard. Acorns, pinecones, dried flowers and weeds, interesting rocks, colorful leaves - the possibilities are endless! A lovely activity would be to take the children on a "gathering walk" early in the month of November. (Earlier the better if you want a small share of the acorn crop!) Here we have some glass bowls filled with our acorn stash and a small beeswax tea light candle. I may even tuck some autumn leaves under the globes. Now, you could use any bowls you have on hand ... and if you can't find acorns, cranberries from the market would also be beautiful! Once Thanksgiving is over, we will scatter these seeds on the deck ... and watch them disappear!

Here are some of my pretty baking pans - easy to collect, hard to give away!

Thanksgiving tea 6

 But when we're blessed, we want to bless others back. It's a great theme to work on at this time of year, especially with children! Because the simplest way to celebrate this season (and the next) is to just give. Give to others, give of ourselves ... it's a sure path to joy! That's a message I want my children to learn and practice in their own life as they grow. There will be more on this particular theme next week, but for now, how about setting aside time to bake together and make some extra for those people who have helped us or befriended us in some way?

Here's a little bit of a story, but I hope you'll indulge me. So this is a big deal for my 13-year-old Earlybird: making friends and learning to be a friend. He's autistic and we're working with a wonderful therapist on getting him out in the community, learning how to conduct his affairs in a polite and practical manner. Well, those folks who take the time to help him - even just a friendly greeting each time we see them - are blessing our son in ways they don't even realize. So this year we're baking breads (something EB loves to do) and bringing them to those special people in our life ...

Like the librarian who patiently helps him check out his planet books and train DVDs, the pizza place owner who greets him heartily and lets him visit the kitchen (and asks after EB when he's not with us), the grocery store clerk who gives him a high-five and tells him he's doing a great job (and then quietly tells me the same), the neighbor who lets him visit her henhouse and take home an egg, the therapist who works with him every single day and tells him over and over how awesome he is ...

These people can't know just how deeply they are blessing us, and a bread is a pretty small gesture, but one I hope will bless them back, even a little. No, it won't make my week simpler to bake with my son and deliver breads around town, but it will make us feel good ... and maybe a few others, too. :)

What's happening in nature?

Now this was the part where I was going to attempt sharing a short video ... but alas, I did not get very far! (In other words, Bill left for work before I got his help with it!) I would very much like to try this sometime soon, and as it happens Bill is home all week after today ... so we shall see! I can tell you it is bright and brisk here today, very "Thanksgiving in New England." :) A beautiful buck crossed our road on the way to Mass early yesterday morning ... he stopped and looked back at us from a frosty field. Gorgeous. And birds are furiously flocking to the feeders (squirrels, too) but no wild turkeys to report ...

Thanks tea 1

Well, except for these guys who I found at CVS for $2 each. I buy these foil-wrapped candies every year "for the kids" but they lend a little color and whimsy to our buffet. :)

A project with the children this week ...

Thanksgiving tea 7

Here's our living room mantle, adorned with a garland of family blessings. We're in the home stretch now - there are only a few blank leaves left in the basket! This was a very simple project, but the message I'm hoping it imparts to my children is that we are grateful for all of God's blessings, and that every good thing comes from Him. Some blessings are BIG, but lots of them are little. In fact, if you were to read through our leaves they would not impress you with meaningful remarks on the Big, Important Things ... but they might make you smile with their simple, sweet, smallness:

"the cats "

"pears and hot dogs"

"packages in the mail"

"dirty boots"

"rain"

Sometimes I think by focusing on the simple joys in life, we train ourselves in a kind of habit - a mindfulness that prepares us to see the big things for how great they really are. I think this is something really important to share with our children, but equally important to remember ourselves.

Words to inspire:

 "Life holds so many simple blessings, each day bringing its own individual wonder."

~ John McLeod

What a lovely quote for my season's journal ... it says perfectly what I'm always rambling on about in a very roundabout way. ;)

Oak leaves branch
Well, my friends, I'd best let you go ... I've kept you here long enough! But 
I hope you enjoyed my Thanksgiving tea Journal ... and I would love to hear from you, too!

What refreshments are you enjoying this week?

What are you reading this week?

What are you listening to this week?

What are you working on this week?

What's happening in nature this week?

Any projects with the children this week?

(and finally)

Any quotations to share, some words to inspire?

I'd love to see your tea, hear about your tea, your week and/or your thoughts on keeping it simple. This will be a good topic to discuss as we head into the "most wonderful time of the year." Is there ever a time when "keeping things simple" is harder to manage than in the weeks leading up to Christmas?

Comments, email, links - ooh, and nest pics! - all are welcome! More on Advent and simplifying our seasons in my following posts. We have many weeks of tea to come and lots of areas to discuss! I am hoping to use this weekly "refreshment" as a chance to sit back and take stock. Am I keeping it real? Am I staying true to the season?

For a look ahead, please click over to this post for my full tea schedule. And remember, all are welcome - brief comments or lengthy posts. I appreciate each and every contribution.

Thanks so much for stopping by, my friends! Enjoy your tea, and the evening to follow, and I will see you here again very soon!


Homeschool Thoughts, Lists & News, etc.

(A bit of a hodgepodge today!)

Happy august 1

Happy August, my friends! It sure is hot and hazy here, but I love how the flowers just glow in the summer sun these days. And everything is so green ... I just love this time of year!

Well, I wanted to pop in quickly this morning to tell you I am *thisclose* to finishing our school reports - I just need to finalize Earlybird's ed. plan for next year. His reports are always a bit tricky because, as a special needs child, my plans must be thorough, but flexible, and his progress is not always so readily apparent. I have to put a lot of thought into what we will learn and how I will teach him these things. And because of his learning style and challenges, my methods are not always as clear-cut as just say, ordering a "Grade X Curriculum." Thankfully he does make progress each year ... I just have to really look back through all we did in each subject to remind myself (reassure myself) how said progress was made and measured.

(For example, this year he listened to audiobooks - something he didn't couldn't do before - and in this way we "read" several classic books together. I couldn't ask him to fill out a quiz or write a report, but I could - when the time was right - ask him questions about what we'd heard that day and to re-tell parts of the story, which I would write down.)

So I'm always looking for ways to "think outside the box" when constructing Earlybird's education, and one resource I have found immensely helpful are these fantastic (and free!) Living Learning Lists from Ed Snapshots. There are some terrific ideas here for experiential learning in all the main subjects! I've pinned these lists and printed them out to keep in my homeschool planner for use all year long ... :)

And speaking of Ed Snapshots ... well, I am just SUPER excited to have been invited to do a podcast with Pam sometime in the near future! (You can read other podcasts here ... so much inspiration!) I will keep you all posted about when mine will be happening ... I'm not sure what-all I can bring to the "podcast table," but I am SO honored to have been asked! I haven't "talked shop" in a while ... :)

**

Let's see, what else? I also wanted to mention that so far I am really enjoying my new Day Designer! I will do a post on how I'm using it as soon as I can - I want to get some more "days" under my belt first - but I wanted to mention that if you'd like a peek at how the planner looks, DD offers free downloadable planning pages to try out before purchasing. Mind you, this is an example of a page from a flagship planner - the original Day Designer - not the Blue Sky version I purchased from Target. I'm still working out how the versions differ ... and how to personalize my own planner. More about that soon!

Ok - and here's a final thought for today - over the weekend I had my hair cut, colored and styled and boy does it feel good! (Some of you might have seen my "after shot" on my Facebook page.) And it got me to thinking ... wouldn't it be fun to do a "hair care" post here at the blog? I would love to chat about how we wear our hair, and how we care for it ... on our own at home and at the salon. Especially when we're busy with other things (kids, work, life!) or being careful with our budget. We could even - if people were willing! - share pictures. I will keep that in mind for sometime in my posting future - let me know if you think that would be fun and any other post ideas you might have for me! I'm always open to suggestions. :)

**

All righty then ... I will be off now since my kids are clamoring for lunch and I'm the point person when it comes to that situation. For now I will wish you all a good week and hope to see you here again very soon!

Teach quote

(Saw this just before hitting "post" and had to share!)


Advent Tea Journal ~ Peace Be with Us

  Advent tea peace 15

Happy Monday, my friends! Welcome to another afternoon tea. :)

Today we begin the second week of Advent, and it is also the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, one of those lovely Marian feasts we enjoy celebrating at home in small, thoughtful ways. At this time of year, we are reminded of Mary's motherhood and her role in the life of her son, Jesus. I have four sons, and they're my whole world; together with my husband, and our home, my life revolves around them. So I often find myself in prayer, thinking of Mary, asking her to guide me in her gentle, peaceful ways. Goodness knows, I can use all the help I can get!

Now, whether we're talking about world peace or inner peace, it certainly means different things to different people. But right now I'm thinking about peace in the weeks before Christmas: how we can find it (create it?) in the midst of all the holiday bustle? Not just for ourselves, but our loved ones as well?

Here are a few of my thoughts - and I'd love to hear yours!

 * Keep the December calendar as low-key as possible. I know it's hard to say no to the myriad invitations and activities that take place throughout the holiday season, but there has to be a limit. Make room for peace in your life by setting a less-busy stage.

* Create cozy corners in your home that encourage folks to sit down a spell. Stock some lovely books on the table beside a favorite chair or couch corner (Christmas books would be perfect of course), and add a pretty coaster that will remind you to make yourself a hot cup of tea (or cocoa).

* Find yourself noticing nature. I purposefully filled our Advent calendar with "nature moments" - watching the moon rise, walking in the woods, feeding the birds, apprecating the beauty of a poinsettia. Cultivate a habit of observation - brainstorm simple activities that connect us with nature and remind us to slow down as the earth stills itself for the Winter. 

* Light up the darkness - with string lights and candles, real or electric. The days are so short and dark now, I find my home all the more peaceful when there are soft lights to welcome us, and comfort us, late in the day. This only enhances the feeling that our home is a haven from the outside world. Sitting in a quiet room illuminated only by tree lights is one of my favorite things about these short December days.

* Make time to sit quietly in thought or prayer each day - 10 minutes before the kids wake or 10 minutes after they go to bed? Try not to let your mind go right to your to-do list, but instead, keep your thoughts on spiritual matters. A quick "thank you" for the day's blessings, a simple prayer for a loved one, a fond memory, a favorite carol. (This can be done with a sleeping babe in your arms, too!)

* (But, speaking of to-do's) make your list and check it twice. A well-organized list and an internet connecton are great for keeping stress down. Because let's face it - we all have things to buy or make or do, and lots of people rely on us to make their Christmas merry. Peace is hard to cultivate when you're panicking, and if we didn't start early, then the to-do's are best addressed sooner rather than later. Nothing wrecks my Christmas spirit like last minute shopping, whereas feeling prepared gives me true peace of mind. Noble? Maybe not. But realistic.

**

Ok, here are a few peaceful moments from my day ...

Advent tea peace 10

Bill took this picture of Little Bear and me (without my knowledge!) and I just love it. This is quite early - if you can't tell by our "bed hair," lol - and we are starting our day as we usually do ... in the library, in "our" chair, with a few good books (and a cup of coffee for Mama). We're in this chair reading, many times throughout the day ... but there's something so special about that first snuggle of the day. :)

Advent tea peace 1

A little "sneak peek" at our Christmas card this year - it reads: "Peace on Earth." 

(I'll share the card in its entirety after we've mailed them all out!)

Advent tea peace 2

The absolute glee on my little boy's face when he noticed the nativity stickers I placed on the window behind our chair ...

Advent tea peace 12

Where's the baby, Little Bear?

Advent tea peace 6

Working on the Christmas mantel, here's a pretty corner: flowers and stars for the Mother of God.

Advent tea peace 8

Our Oliver, mid-scratch. :) It's impossible to see in this picture, but there's a cardinal at the feeder just beyond this window. Also, it is lightly snowing and this is what I'm looking at as I drink my tea ...  a little bit of domestic tranquility, with some serene nature thrown in.

And speaking of tranquil ...

Advent tea peace 11

Here's what else I am looking at as I enjoy my tea ... a sleeping Little Bear who opted not to stay in his crib for the entirety of his nap. He slept for a good hour here while I sipped and worked on this post.

A happy, sleeping baby = a happy, refreshed Mama.

Peace personified.

:)

~ Tea Journal

In the natural world ...

A cold day of clouds and flurries here, and a Nor'easter arriving tomorrow! High winds and heavy rain in our part of the region (if it was snow, we'd be buried!). Here's our front walkway as I stepped out to get the paper this morning:

Advent tea peace 4

What I'm drinking & eating ...

Oh my goodness!

Well.

I wanted to do something white in honor of today's feast, so I chose a London Fog Latte for my beverage. I had heard from friends that it was a simply delicious drink - and now I can happily agree - it is! Sweet and milky, with a nice citrus-y bergamot flavor. And as you can see in the picture at the top of my post, I once again used a pretty "vintage" tea cup, another from my grandmother's collection. It is called "Yuletide," and fittingly, it was made by Royal Albert of England. :)

Keeping with the "British Christmas" theme - and more stars for the Feast! - I made mini orange-mince pies for a lovely holiday treat!

Advent tea peace 13

I have always loved the look of these traditional English confections, and knew someday I would try making them! (Though admittedly, pastry intimidates me.) Well, my dear friend Shirley Ann inspired me to give them a try this week, after she shared a picture of her own on Facebook! I made these up Sunday afternoon while the baby slept - very easy to do - and goodness, did the house smell like Christmas!

And I must tell you - they are so very, very yummy. A tender crust with orange flavor and a spicy-sweet filling ... gah, so good. Bill had one on his way out this morning and he absolutely loved it! And this is a man who had never before tried mincemeat because "it frightened him" lol. I will definitely be making a large batch of these for Christmas day ... I wonder if I can freeze them ahead?

What I'm reading ...

Advent tea peace 7

I've just started reading back through my annual domestic journal pages, which are kept in this gigantic binder. (Only the current month is kept in my primary binder.) Also, lots of board books. (A post on LB's favorites to come soon!)

What I'm working on ...

Well, the big thing this week is setting up the tree ... we just brought it home yesterday. Also, still packing away all the fall decorations and finding all the Christmas books. Then there's lunch for Earlybird and Dad on Sunday ... and oh, getting the Christmas cards mailed out! 

 Words to ponder ...

Peace:

It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart.

~ Anonymous

I love this quote so much - I have the magnet, I have the mug! - it's kind of my personal mantra. And, it's a skill I'm working on all the time - because as nice as it is to slow down and "make room" for peace - life just doesn't always work that way. My life as a mum - a special needs mum, especially - is filled with all the things mentioned above. But I know how I want to be. I want to be a source of peace for my children, their beacon in any sea. It's important, especially as a mother, to carry peace with me, and keep it with me for when I - we - need it most.

(I plan to revisit the theme of peace next month. I'd love to hear your ideas on the subject.)

**

And now, my friends, I'm finally going to stop talking, lol. This really was a rather long journal entry! But I'm so pleased to share my dear friend Mary's contribution to our Advent Tea Journal this week. Here are her thoughts on keeping peace in the season ...


What a lovely theme for a tea - Peace - especially since slowing down to make and drink tea can definitely bring peace into one’s life during the hustle and bustle that leads up to the Christmas season.

As a family, things that help us to find peace during this season is the simple process of eating a family supper together at night and starting by saying grace before we eat. We do this all year long but during this season, in particular, our family meal continues to serve as a wonderful anchor to slow us down, light the advent candle, and talk with one and other remembering to focus on all that we are grateful for.

We also enjoy walking around different “trails of lights” hosted by different towns around the Texas Hill Country. (We avoid the Austin Trail of Lights because it is a zoo - and definitely doesn’t bring peace to our lives!) The cool nights, the lights, and sipping hot chocolates as we all walk together as a family is always so peaceful.  

And this may sound funny - but we also enjoy walking around an open air shopping mall looking at the lights - and watching the other people hustle and bustle to shop. Instead, we walk slow, look at the lights, and chat. It’s funny how peaceful it is for us. At Christmas we exchange very few gifts freeing us of the need to rush and shop. It is so liberating - and brings peace to our lives. 

Here is a picture of me with our teenage son, walking around a festive open air shopping mall.

Mary tea peace 1 

On our Tea menu...we are continuing to enjoy Celestial Season's Peppermint tea and also some decadently rich double chocolate hot chocolate. And for a real treat - we twirl both with a candy cane!

Mary's tea peace 2

 Thank you so much, Mary, for this wonderful reflection on how you bring peace to your family at this time of year. I love the picture of you with your son - those smiles are beautiful! Family togetherness is a gift he will remember all his life!

**

Thank you, all, for joining me here today. If you are so inclined, please leave a comment below with your thoughts on finding peace in the hoilday season. Also, what are you drinking for "tea" this week? Baking anything special?

Hope to hear from you, but until next time, take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I'll see you here again very soon!


To my mother, on her birthday ... ❤

Mum and I at kate and paul's wedding

Today is my dear mother's birthday, and as many of you know, I am very close with my mum and so grateful for all she has brought to my life ... beginning with my own life, of course! There's that to begin with, of course!

My mother, Maureen, has always been my best friend, and I talk with her every day about ... well, pretty much everything! Bill and I are grateful for how involved she and my dad are in our family's life but, truly, it has always been that way ...

My friends, may I reminisce a bit while I have a moment?

My brother Matt and I were so blessed to have Mum at home with us and I can honestly say my childhood was pretty much idyllic. My parents have a wonderful marriage and my mother was truly happy raising her children and taking care of her home and family. I could not have asked for a better role model and I knew from a very early age that what I wanted more than anything was to be a mother just like her. Because to my mind, and from what I saw and experienced, nothing could bring greater happiness.

I loved how she read all the time, and seemed to know so much about everything. I loved how she sang along in the car as we drove around, but especially when she sang folk songs with my dad and his guitar. I loved how she was always doing something creative - crafts of all kinds. I loved how she fed us and and to this day I wish I cooked as well as she does ...

I loved how my brother and I always felt involved and important to our parents. Our opinions counted and our feelings mattered. I especially loved how - even when we chose paths that were slightly off center, my parents supported us and encouraged us ...

I loved how my mum was always volunteering in the community and especially at my school - as leader of my girl scout troop, or a chaperone on field trips, or the mom in the front office making photocopies. I loved knowing she was close by and involved in my life. It's no wonder my house was the one all the kids wanted to be at! It was bright and happy and inviting and I was just so proud that she was my mum.

I loved how she had such a friendly and lovely way about her - whomever we met - whether it was familiar friends at a party or a perfect stranger in a checkout line, she was always gracious and kind. I hoped to emulate her as I became a woman myself.

As I got older and became a mom myself, I loved watching her become Nana. I love the special bond she has with my children and that she knows them so well (and they her). I love how I feel I can always ask for her help when I need it (though it's often offered before I even have to ask). I love learning from her and sharing our thoughts on everyday and worldly events. I loved watching her care for my grandparents as they aged and grew fragile ... I loved how she took on every responsibility without question and always with much love. Setting another example for me to remember and emulate as life moves forward ...

Most of all, I love how she loves us. I felt it then without thinking about it much - a child takes their parents' love for granted perhaps - but these days I find myself thinking about it all the time. I know how blessed I have been and continue to be every day I have my mum in my life.

Happy Birthday, Mum. I hope you don't mind that I just blathered on about you here, but I really felt it in my heart to share you with my readers today. I share a lot of myself here and who I am here is all because of who I have been my whole life: your daughter. ❤

With Much Love and a Grateful Heart

~ Dawn

 Blessings to all on this snowy Thanksgiving eve ... thank you so much for stopping by!


A Party for Little Bear!

O birthday party 5 

Good Monday morning evening, my friends! I hope you all had a nice weekend. :)

Today I have a GINORMOUS post for you, all about Little Bear's birthday party ... I hope you don't mind a bit of "oversharing," lol! As many of you know, Little Bear turned one back in May - but for a few reasons his party was moved to August. Luckily the day was not too hot or humid as August can be here in New England - in fact, it was just about perfect!

Our party theme was "animal crackers" because LB just LOVES animals and animal sounds of all kinds these days. Orginally I toyed with an owl theme, inspired by my boy's love for this book, but we decided animals would be A. easier and B. more fitting right now. :)

So anyhoo - here we go, on a "little" tour of Little Bear's party ...

O birthday party 2

We were expecting a good size crowd (40ish) so we rented the tables and chairs. The price was not too bad and this way everyone had a place to sit down and eat, all together. We purchased the tent (which came with windowed sides you can lower or raise) - it was basically the same price to buy as it was to rent and it fits our patio perfectly. 

The tables were set with soft shades of green, blue, yellow and orange.

O party 6

The centerpieces were also multicolored and relatively inexpensive:

O birthday party 1

First I laid down a small felt mat in animal stripes or spots. The vases were candy-hued mason-style jars (set of 6 on sale at AC Moore for $5) filled with sunflowers and mums purchased at Trader Joe's. The small wooden frames I found at AC Moore ($1, unfinished) and were painted by my mother. She applied colorful animal stickers once the paint was dry, and I picked out favorite pictures of LB through his first year, one for each frame. Not shown is the tiny Beech-Nut "Just Bananas" baby food jar (emptied and washed) filled with tiny asters from the garden.

Here's a look at all the frames together, six in all:

O birthday party 3

And I found these wooden animal masks at JoAnn Fabrics for $1 - Crackerjack painted them for me and we stuck them in big pots of sunny marigolds.

O party 1

O party 2

 :)

Most of the party was held outside, but I'm not a fan of serving food al fresco (bugs drive me nuts, lol) so I set the buffet tables up in the sunroom.

O party 7

(This was taken early in the day before everything was ready.)

O party 8

A small table set to the side held plates, napkins and mason jars filled with plastic cutlery ...

O party 9

Windows and walls held (more) pictures of Little Bear taken throughout his 1st year!

O party 10

Appetizers included light fare such as chips, salsa, veggies and dip, shrimp with cocktail sauce and cheese and crackers ...

O party 12

... while lunch consisted of "heartier" fare: shredded barbecue chicken and sloppy joes (served from the larger crockpots) and baked beans (in the small slowcooker). (Love this Honey-Peach bbq chicken recipe! So easy and makes a ton.) Sliced garden tomatoes and onions, assorted pickles, soft rolls, turkey and ham calzones, fruit salad, green salad, pasta salad and deviled eggs. All typical New England fare. :)

Now, the drinks we arranged outside, under a canopy ...

O party 14

Another reason I was so glad the weather was nice! 

O birthday party 6

Bill set up a couple of tables for beverages and some comfortable seating nearby.

O party 15

Now, you might have noticed, I have a real thing for Mason jars lately! They're fun and look "vintage" but they're quite practical, too - I find so many uses for them. Here I used them for serving drinks ...

O party 17

My mum and I made little name tags from golden scrapbook paper and tied them to the jars with twine. Folks coud jot down their name and have their own glass for the afternoon.

O party 18

An old (but pretty) tea tin held paper straws ...

O party 20

... and a wooden zebra kept the napkins from flying away.

O party 16

In addition to this "Bear-y Punch" we also had pitchers of "Lion-Ade" and "Tiger Tea." (Fruit punch, lemonade and iced tea, respectively.) My new beverage jar ($20 at Paper Source) was perched on a rather old garden pot. :)

It was such a nice day for sitting and chatting ...

O party 25

... and lawn games.

O party 27

O party 29

O party 31

 O party 33

Little Bear was all over the bocce balls!

O party 26

This was supposed to be my "zebra-safari" outfit but I think, perhaps, I looked a bit like a gondolier, lol.

Next it was time for presents!

O party 41

O party 49

O party 50

O party 39

O party 60

O party 61

O party 59

 And then of course, it was time for CAKE!

For Little Bear's first birthday I made an assortment of "small cakes."

O party 23

I baked chocolate and "funfetti" cupcakes and made up a batch of buttercream frosting. I also had a couple of cans of "key lime" and "blue raspberry" frosting in the pantry so we used them as well. We added some colorful sprinkles and animal crackers. Fun!

O party 51 

Happy Birthday, dear Little Bear!

O party 52

This was his face when we sang to him:

O party 53

O party 54

 Shy boy. :)

We also served up a few tubs of ice cream from a local shop - freshly made peach, raspberry, blackberry and blueberry! All fruit was picked at farms in the area (save for the blueberries - they came from Maine where everyone knows they grow the very best blueberries). :)

O party 73

Little Bear waltzed around sampling flavors ...

O party 81

A little bit from Mama, a little bit from Nana, a little bit from Aunt Ami ...

O party 76

O party 82

Hey you, cameraman? You have any ice cream for me?

:)

O party 83

A lovely day - so nice to spend time with our loved ones ...

O party 86

It's a blessing to share Little Bear's sweetness with our family and friends. I think he had a really nice day ...

***

Thanks so much for taking the time to read, and look through my photos. I am now onto my next "project" which is school reports and ed. plans due this month. (How did it become August already?!)

Have yourselves a lovely evening, my friends ... see you here again very soon! 


Little Bear is 9 Months Old Today!

O 9 mo 2

Nine months is such a short time, yet it's hard to remember life without him. Our Little Bear just fits in perfectly and makes our family complete!

Today I'm feeling so grateful that God blessed us with this beautiful child, our fourth little boy ...

A few new feats: He's crawling now (!) and cruising (with help) ...

O 9 mo 1

Starting finger foods (steamed butternut squash last night - mostly a hit), working the sippy cup and his babbles are making a bit more sense - Dada, Mummmma, Keeeeeh (cat).

And I'm so happy to say - we're still nursing! :)

**

"Don't wait to make your son a great man - make him a great boy."

~ Author Unknown

 


Advice on Baby Sleep, Please?

O and daddy sleep

Nothing like sleeping in your Daddy's arms ...

:)

My friends, I could use some advice on baby sleep - or specifically, getting my baby to sleep better at night. Has anyone had an older baby revert back to constant waking through the night? And if so, how did you handle it?

Little Bear used to sleep pretty well (waking every 3 or 4 hours to nurse) but over the past several weeks he's developed a habit of waking within an hour or perhaps two to fuss until he's held/rocked/nursed back to sleep. Some nights I'm waking at least once an hour! And you can just imagine how this is affecting my energy and mood the next day ...

When Little Bear wakes, he's usually only awake for 10 minutes or so before he conks back out. First I'll try to just soothe him without picking him up - humming softly, giving him his binky and resting my hand on his chest. On rare occasion this works and I can slink off back to bed. More often than not he starts to fuss - really fuss after a few moments - and I end up picking him up to soothe him in a more active way. This is usually through nursing, though sometimes I can rock him back to sleep on my shoulder.

So then I'll put him back in his crib, he's (seemingly) sound asleep, but he's awake again in the same manner within the hour or perhaps after 1.5-2 hrs. if I'm lucky. If I've been getting up a lot with him before midnight (as in the case last night) Bill will get up with him and perhaps give him a bottle so I can get a little more rest.

He's not hungry I don't think - he nurses well through the day and has three meals (cereal + fruit or veg), as well as a bottle before bed with Bill. He's got comfy pajamas, the room is warm enough and we run a quiet fan for soft white noise ...

We're trying to work on putting him down for naps (and eventualy bed for the night) before he's fully asleep because we think possibly he's waking confused - he was just in our arms and now he's alone in his crib so he fusses for us. It's hard to do that though, because he's not a fan of soothing himself to sleep!

Also, his crib is still in our bedroom because he's waking so often it's a more convenient position, but it's possible his sleep is being disrupted by our sleeping sounds. So we are also working on getting the nursery cleaned up and ready for his crib (and him)!

Aside from the sleep issue, Little Bear is truly the easiest baby, and I'm very pleased to say I've nursed him longer than I've ever nursed before! At first I worried maybe my milk wasn't filling him enough, but he's gained weight on track and as I mentioned above, is eating well otherwise.

So any advice would be most welcome! Even just to say, "I've been there too!" Lol. I know these early days are brief  ... and anyways, sleep is overrated right? ;)

Thanks so much in advance, and have yourselves a very nice day!


Another Update on Earlybird

So we've been consulting with Children's Hospital (via telephone) in preparation for Earlybird's MRI tomorrow. I've spoken at length with both a nurse and a behavioral therapist ... now I'm waiting to hear back from the anesthesiologist. The test itself is at noon Thursday (or thereabouts depending on wait-time). He can have nothing to eat after midnight tonight because he will be sedated for the exam, and that might be our greatest challenge - he'll be pretty cranky about that!

(As most of you know, he's always up before the sun and ready for breakfast right away!)

EB and me

Funnily enough, EB is all talk this week of "going back to Disney" and so we've been looking at pictures from our trip. I especially love this picture of the two of us (though I'm not generally fond of pictures of my backside, lol). It was taken on our last day in the park after we had just spied an alligator floating by the edge of a pond. What an amazing sight to see! We were torn between curiosity, excitement and fear! But Earlybird got nervous, so he and I left Bill and big brothers behind and walked back to "safety" (i.e. the golf cart) - hand-in-hand, talking it out the whole way.

So much of life is like that, isn't it? Sharing the good times, enduring the bad ... helping our children navigate the inevitable bumps in their roads, whether they be skinned knees, bruised egos, wildlife encounters or medical tests. It's what were here for: to provide comfort and confidence when they need it, to be their unwavering champion throughout life ...

**

My friends, to be honest, I'm nervous. But I'm trying very hard to stay positive, to let go of my worry and be the center of peace and support EB needs me to be. Any prayers and/or good thoughts you can offer on our son's behalf would be deeply appreciated!

I''ll let you all know how it goes ... but for now, thank you so much, and have a good day ... see you here again very soon!


Am I right ...

Coffee sign

Or am I right?

:)

I found this clever sign in my stocking and boy did it make me laugh ... because every morning after Bill's gone downstairs with the ever-early-rising Earlybird (we're talking 4 or 4:30 here, folks) and after the not-one-for-sleeping-so-much Little Bear has woken to nurse (usually a few minutes later) I use my handy-dandy iPhone, and whichever thumb is free, to text one word to Bill, and one word only ...

I bet you can guess what that is.

;)

Well my friends, I hope you're all having a good week so far ... anyone else simply exult in that first cuppa coffee each morning?

See you here again very soon!


a new day

Sunrise through cedars 2

On any other morning this would be just another sunrise, but this morning it feels special to me. Because I watched it from the family room with Earlybird by my side, and boy, was it extra glorious.

Yesterday I watched the sun rise over the highway as we drove from one hospital to another. Though my thoughts were not so much on the sunrise - striking as it was - but on my dear little boy who was somewhere further up the road in the back of an ambulance. A reality I could hardy wrap my head around.

And so as you can imagine I am deeply grateful to be here this morning with my Earlybird, watching the sunrise, making our biscuits and eggs, running down the drive to get the paper. Doing all those things that are too easy to take for granted, simple things we do every day ... but in light of yesterday's traumatic events, I'm relishing them all the more.

Thank you all SO much for your prayers and messages of love and concern - they mean the world to me, honestly. Last night I was up with Little Bear around 2 a.m. and when he wouldn't settle easily, my mind started wandering ... my ears were pricking for sounds/silence from EB's room ... and my nerves began fraying just a little. To distract myself, I opened up my blog and read through your comments ... and my friends, your words soothed me, your prayers lifted and calmed me.

Bill and I are blessed to have such a support system around us - beginning with each other and extending to our boys, our family and friends and yes, to my dear readers, too. I don't know how we'd be as able and mindful as we are without all this support - on any given day, but especially at times like this.

 I will definitely be posting updates as we go along and as life gets back to normal. We're waiting to hear from the neurologist (hopefully today) about setting up testing for EB. I'm so eager to get that underway, and see what we can find out.

In the meantime, thank you for keeping our Earlybird in your prayers ... be assured that I remember you all in my own.

Blessings, all ... see you here again very soon.

**


Lullaby Magic

Train candle 1

One of the joys of having a baby again is rediscovering all the lovely little things we've forgotten through the years. So as Little Bear grows, Bill and I find ourselves remembering things like familar facial expressions ("That's Crackerjack's smile!" "That's Bookworm's furrowed brow!") and favorite toys and books ("Oh here's Elmo - or MoMo as Earlybird called him!" "Remember how much they all loved this book?") to long forgotten instincts - what a particular cry means and how to rock a wee one just so ... 

Well the other night, as I rocked a fussy baby all across our bedroom floor, it suddenly came to me - a lullaby I sang to each one of my boys, a beloved song that my own father sang to me when I was a child (often accompanied by his guitar) ... I have not thought of it in years! But with a couple of tries the words all came back to me (click the title to hear it online) ...

Morningtown Ride

Train whistle blowing, makes a sleepy noise,
Underneath their blankets go all the girls and boys. 
Heading from the station, out along the bay, 
All bound for Morningtown, many miles away.

*Sarah's at the engine, Tony rings the bell,
John swings the lantern to show that all is well.
Rocking, rolling, riding, out along the bay,
All bound for Morningtown, many miles away.

Maybe it is raining where our train will ride,
But all the little travelers are snug and warm inside.
Somewhere there is sunshine, somewhere there is day,
Somewhere there is Morningtown, many miles away.

*Sarah, Tony and John became Bookworm, Crackerjack and Earlybird. :)

I sang it over and over to Little Bear, who crooned right along with me. (He absolutely LOVES music we've discovered.) And to be honest, I actually found myself tearing up because I was just flooded with memories of my first babies - so vividly aware of how fast time does fly - and so completely filled with love for this new one ...

**

My friends, what were/are your favorite songs to sing with your baby? I do love a lullaby but I'm quite partial to Beatles ballads as well. Actually, my go-to sing-a-song is this and it's another I remember fondly from childhood.

:)

Well, enjoy your Friday evening, my friends and Happy Weekend as well!


For those of us with autistic children ...

Autism is not a parenting fail

I saw this on the internet, and these words are such a balm to my heart right now ... I thought I'd share them with my readers who are also parenting an autistic child. I hope this little blurb makes you smile and brings you some encouragement this morning. Goodness knows we need it, don't we?

"What you'll need to find is the right fuel, the right environment and the right supports. With those your child has great potential."

How I love this "prescription" for success!

Have yourselves a wonderful weekend, my friends ...

**


Children and Chores ...

A very interesting article in this past Sunday's Boston Globe Magazine:

Put Them to Work:

"Children don't belong in factories, but they shouldn't get a pass on toiling at home. Here's why it's so important - to the whole family - that kids grab a sponge and get busy."

By Agnes R. Howard

How do you feel about your own children's chores? Could/should they be doing more?

I'm at a point right now in this pregnancy where I'm looking at what my kids are doing and if/how I can ask them to do more. I tend to think they're doing plenty, but then I read lists of what a "__ year-old" can handle and I'm usually a bit shocked.

Food for thought today, my friends ... just wanted to share!

:)


Good Morning!

This wonderful article brought a smile to my face and had me nodding my head this morning. Had to share!

17 Things 'The Princess Bride' Taught Me about Autism Parenting

I love all 17 points, but these three especially:

4. You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.

Be patient. Change and growth takes time, and there are no corners to be cut here. Every kid is working to their own schedule and developing at their own rate.

7. Success means using the right moves for the terrain.

There is no definitive intervention for autism. The choices that other people make may not be the right ones for your family, and vice versa. And that's OK. Don't ever let anyone make you feel otherwise.

9. Inconceivable doesn't mean impossible.

Your kids will achieve things beyond what you ever expected or imagined. Believe this, and they'll believe it, too.

It's good to remember that though our situations may be different, and we all face different challenges, we're not alone. This article made me smile and I hope it does the same for you.

:)

Blessings on your day, my friends!

**


Peace be with You!

September 21st is International Peace Day, so I thought I'd share one of my favorite sayings today. It's actually a magnet on my fridge:

Peace magnet

I know this holiday is about world peace in particular, but I truly believe peace begins in the home, and that a peaceful future rests in the hands of our children. Because if we don't show them how to be peaceful people, who will? Certainly not the media, and probably not their peers ...

I'm actually using a "peace-curriculum" with Earlybird because this is a real issue for my autistic son - handling chaos and keeping in control. My goal is to help EB find and maintain his own peace, even when his mind and body are telling him otherwise. We're also exploring what it means to be part of a peaceful community - whether that be a family, a group of friends or the outside world at large.

These are big concepts - and the steps are small - but every little bit helps.

:)

So each morning when I reach in my fridge for my half-and-half, I take a moment to look at that magnet. Some days this concept is easier live by than others - and some days it feels near impossible! But I honestly feel if I can keep some peace within myself, I can (hopefully) share it with others as I go through my day. Most importantly, my own dear sons.

So on this beautiful Friday in September, I wish all of you peace in your hearts and your homes ...

Have a great weekend, my friends!