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April 2006

March 2006

Night Noises

It's that first night of the spring when it is just warm enough to open our windows, and enjoy the evening air. After temps. rose into the 70s today, the air is still comfortable ~ cool, but not cold.

A soft breeze comes and goes, carrying with it all the lovely neighborhood sounds we've missed since October ... a dog barking, leaves rustling, the neighbors walking by. A sliver of a crescent moon hangs low in the sky. The cats vie for space on the sill, eager f0r smells as well as sounds.

We realize how long winter has been ~ how insulating it has been ~ when the windows can be opened again.

Homeschool Mornings

One of the things I love about homeschooling is the way we get to spend our mornings, taking Morning_time_2our time, waking up slowly, doing a bit of this and a bit of that ...

Here, Bookworm and Earlybird are soaking up some sun while reading together ...

Sweet sunny mornings like these bring to mind the words from a song I love:

The 52nd Street Bridge Song

Slow down, you move too fast!

You've got to make the morning last,

Just, kickin' down the cobblestones,

Lookin' for fun and feeling groovy ...

I've got no place to go, no promises to keep,

I'm dappled and drowsy and ready for sleep,

But the morning sun drops all her petals on me ...

Life, I love you ~ all is groovy!

Simon & Garfunkle

Books with a Japanese Flair

Yoko_2 As I mentioned in a previous post, we are gearing up for a study of Japan with our co-op friends. I like to use resources that will wrap the younger ones into the fold, and picture books are always at the top of my list. I found a few that look like fun:

Last weekend, I noticed Yoko's Paper Cranes (above, left) by Rosemary Wells in our library's display cabinet. Origami was the theme, and though I Badger_magic_fan_4hate to ruin the lovely display, I'm going to have to ask our librarian to open that cabinet up! (Is this considered proper library ettiquette?) Well, I suppose, after all, her intent was to entice us to ask!

I found The Badger and the Magic Fan (above, right) during that same library trip. Anything by Tomie de Paola is bound to be a hit, so in my bag it went. It would be fun to have the children decorate paper fans while we read the story aloud.

Japanese_stories_1For years I have looked longingly at Japanese Children's Favorite Stories (left). There it waits, on a shelf at Barnes and Noble, and I leaf through it every now and then, soaking in all the soft colorful illustrations. It is lovely to look at for sure, but the stories all sound wonderful as well. The collection includes well known stories such as Peach Boy, The Magic Teakettle and the aforementioned Badger and the Magic Fan. It will be fun to compare de Paola's version of the same story!

Fortunately for bibliophiles (otherwise known as homeschoolers), all of these gorgeous books, and really almost any book we desire, is available at our local libraries.

In our family, when we've taken a book home at least three times (and returned it late at least twice), I know it's time to consider making room on the shelf for yet another literary treasure  ...

Out Like a ...

It's the end of the month, and blustery old March is taking his leave ~ at last! And gently he goes, with days as warm and sunny as these past few have been ...

We are now at that most precious time of year, the time of the Lamb. Our minds and hearts prepare to shake off the cold, step out of the darkeness, and embrace the return of the the light ...

Happy Spring!

His Ears Must Have Been Burning ...

I couldn't help posting another photo of our little squirrel friend, Tough Nut. Yesterday afternoon, we observed him for a while through the window, as he sat in a nearby tree. He was as still as a statue, and strangely enough, it seemed he was staring right at us!

So, what else could a new and eager blogger do, but grab her Tough_nut3camera and start clicking away? Perched as he was in a swath of bright sunshine, he made a much clearer shot than in my previous post (see Tough Nut and Strong Wings). And the funny thing was, he actually seemed to be posing! He cooperated well for several minutes, modeling this way and that ... all the while looking back at us as if to say, "Is this my best side?"

I have a feeling, after yesterday's post, he considers himself a bit of a celebrity ... so here you go Tough Nut, another picture for your portfolio! We are very happy you feel so comfortable with us ~ extra nuts for you today! Below I share, in your honor, a sweet poem I found:


I met a squirrel the other day

And spoke to him in a friendly way.

I couldn't pat him on the head

But I gave him several nuts instead.

He took them from me one by one

And waved his tail when he was done,

And he was happy, I could tell.

We both behaved extremely well.

Marchette Chute

Field Trip!

O.K. so, in lieu of anything remotely academic, our co-op is going to see Ice Age 2 tomorrow. :) The boys are so excited ... and I am too! I just love going to the movies, "kid" films included!

But homeschoolers can squeeze a little bit of learning out of just about anything, so here are a few of the "prehistoric" activities we are working on this week. They've been wonderfully low-prep stuff while we all fight off a cold!

We are reading The First Dog by Jan Brett, and, if we get really ambitious, there are some neat lesson plans at her author website.  Also, I've got Bookworm working on Ice Age 2 Mad Libs this week (hey, that's grammar, right?). Crackerjack_mammoth

We have some coloring pages to work on too, using images from Dover's Prehistoric Mammals Coloring Book by Jan Sovak (see Crackerjack's mammoth at right).  We use Dover coloring books for everything these days ...

And finally we'll mix up some of "Scrat's Meltdown Mix," a yummy recipe we found on the back of our Crispix cereal box.  (Note: We won't bring it with us to the theater though; not just because smuggled snacks are "frowned upon" by theater owners, but because this recipe has peanuts in it. Better safe than sorry.)

Well, that's all I think. Keep your eye out for a review of the movie, written by one (or more) of my boys :)

p.s. I'm holding my breath, as this is a PG movie (why can't they make more rated G?). But the first one was cute, and any "innuendo" usually sails right over their heads. :)

Who Could It Be Now?

When it comes to backyard birds, there are those year-round regulars we come to know and Bird_guide_1 love (and perhaps take for granted), and then there are those species that make their appearance only at certain times of the year ...

For example, when our cherry tree is in it's May bloom, we know to keep a look-out for Baltimore Orioles passing through. And just after Christmas, we keep a close eye on the feeders for the wee Carolina Wren ~ he visits a week, and then he's gone once again. When autumn returns, so too does the Slate Colored Junco; his arrival means summer is through.

And so it happened today, while we were playing outside, that a strange sound, a birdsong, caught our attention. It was coming from deep in the woods.

We could hear him, but not see him; he was definitely close by, but even with our binoculars we couldn't locate this mysterious vocalist. But something about the song was so familiar, and specific to this time of year.  We tried to think about birds who return in the spring, but finally it was our handy Birdsong Identiflyer which helped us place it ~ we were listening to the Red-Winged Blackbird!

Of course! This is his time ~ when the days start to grow longer and the air a tad warmer. He's one of those harbingers of spring ... Mystery solved :)

Pop Quiz!

Here is a fun, quick quiz that Bookworm just sprung on me (courtesy National Geographic Kids). Always keeping his mama on her toes, that one!

For the answers, check the comments section below, and ~ in the spirit of full disclosure ~ I scored a B-.  ;)

Good luck!

  • Which is taller: a giraffe or a T. Rex?
  • Which takes longer: popping microwave popcorn or a ride on the world's longest roller coaster?
  • Which is heavier: the space shuttle or the Leaning Tower of Pisa?
  • Which sound travels farther: a lion's roar or thunder?
  • Which is faster: the fastest racehorse or the fastest baseball pitch?
  • Which is bigger: California or Italy?

A Tough Nut and Strong Wings

Tough_nut We are big wildlife watchers around here, and pictured at right and below are two of our favorite subjects, Tough Nut the squirrel, and Strong Wings the bird. Although we lack all the details, both creatures were injured in some way several months ago. Fortunately, both have survived quite nicely here in our backyard mini-habitat.

We imagine Tough Nut (top photo) found himself some trouble, possibly at the hands of a neighborhood cat or a fox. The first time we noticed him, his tail looked rather mangled, stripped of all fur, and well, chewed ...

At first we felt so sorry for him, imagining the horror he must have endured, and the hardships that might lay in his future. And yet, over the next few weeks, we watched as the soft gray fur filled back in. His tail remained a stump, but a nice fluffy one at that. And, happily for Tough Nut, this new physique left him in no way a squirrel underdog, as we witnessed him successfully defending his territory on several occasions. We chose his name not just for this reason, but also because he had to have been one tough nut to get away from whatever predator had him in its clutches!

Now, it's hard to tell from the picture, but Strong Wings (bottom photo), a slate-colored junco, is Strong_wings missing one of his legs. We first noticed him at a feeder that hangs outside our window. It was a startling sight ~ his right leg was dangling by a thread! But this seemed in no way to slow him down. Later we saw his leg had fallen off, and we feared the worst for him ...

But in another happy ending, Strong Wings seems to be doing just fine; he is not shunned or picked on by other birds, and he regularly visits our feeders. His name comes from the way in which he flies so beautifully, back and forth between the bushes and feeders. We suppose it must take more strength than ordinary for this bird to get around.

Our only concern is the time is nearing when juncos migrate northward ... will this little bird be able to make that long journey? Our guess is, that his wings are stronger than ever, not to mention his resolve, and we hope to see him back here next fall.

Rome Wasn't Built in a Day ...

... and so, in our weekly co-op, we took our time exploring the many interesting aspects of this ancient civilization.

Since January, our group has gathered here every Friday, for an afternoon of learning and fun. Our co-op is comprised of four homeschooling families ~ wonderful friends we have known for years. The children (12 in all!) range in age from just 4 weeks old to 10 1/2, and so for teaching purposes, we split the group into two age levels ~ younger than 8, and 8 and up.

Mosaic As is the case in many homeschool co-ops, each mum takes a turn at teaching (yours truly presented the lesson on architecture and engineering).  After sharing a pizza lunch, we get down to work ~ "big" kids in the dining room, "young ones" in the living room, and "littles" running around underfoot ... :)

As we explored Ancient Rome we did lots of fun things ~ the kinds of things that are even more fun when done together! We created timelines, colored maps, launched catapults, constructed a Roman arch and a model of an aqueduct, "partied" in pillowcase togas, and designed Roman-style mosaics with craft foam. Roman_arch_1

As the old saying goes, "All roads lead to Rome," but we've come to the end of this one ... and now we have set our sights on Japan! We begin in three weeks, just after Easter.

I will post as we go along in our next study, because we have lots of great plans for that unit ... Take a peek at the wonderful thread here at the 4real Forums where those great ladies helped me brainstorm ideas for our group!

The Prayer of The Cat

Earlier this month, Alice at Cottage Blessings, composed a charming post about a book she had found at her library ~ Prayers from the Ark & The Creatures' Choir by Carmen Bernos de Gasztold, translated by Rumer Godden.

Her post so inspired me ~ as her posts often do ~ I searched my own library's catalog for a copy. When I came up empty-handed, I ordered the book for myself, and yesterday we received our copy in the mail ... Penny_midget_1

I'm pleased to say the boys and I had a grand time reading the following, and several other, selections. The collection of poems and prayers is quite humorous, and fun to read with young children. It makes another wonderful complement to our animal study this year.

The boys have been asking me to "blog" about our cats, and so, I oblige here ... above you see two of our four felines, Penny (L) and Midget (R).

The Prayer of The Cat


I am the cat.

It is not, exactly, that I have something to ask of You!

No ~

I ask nothing of anyone ~


if You have by some chance, in some celestial barn,

a little white mouse,

or a saucer of milk,

I know of someone who would relish them.

Wouldn't You like someday

to put a curse on the whole race of dogs?

If so I should say,


Hurt No Living Thing

Hurt no living  thing:

Ladybug, nor butterfly,

Nor moth with dusty wing,

Nor cricket chirping cheerily,

Nor grasshopper so light of leap,

Nor dancing gnat, nor beetle fat,

Nor harmless worms that creep.

Christina Rossetti

Another good poem for the nature journal! I love Christina Rossetti, and this poem is yet another favorite of mine. But in this house, if you're a bug, we have some rules for you. If we find you outside, we give you wide berth. If we find you inside, all bets are off.

As much as I relish the return of spring, I really, really, really am not looking forward to the annual return of BUGS. Because it's not just a return, it's a total invasion.

Oh, the varieties Rossetti mentions are all right in my book, but I'm talking about the not so charming kinds ... like ticks, mosquitos, wasps, and spiders. We're already dealing with ticks after recent walks in the woods, and just this afternoon Bookworm found a baby bee crawling on his neck.

This morning the boys brought my attention to a rather large hairy spider sitting just above the sliders in the family room. Without a moment's hesitation, I was up on a chair, sneaker in hand, and one big yucky squish later our problem was solved.

Crackerjack looked at me, unease in his eyes ...

"Mama, you could have put him outside."

"No, sweetie. He was too high up. I could barely reach him as it was."

"Really, Mama, I think you could have got him out."

"Honestly Crackerjack, he was moving too quickly."

"No, Mama I really think you could have gotten him safely outside instead of squishing him."

"Honey, he was a biter."


"Oh. Then I'm glad you got him."

Still More on The Crocus

I would like to direct everyone to the comments made underneath the post, "A Few More Thoughts" ... Thanks to Theresa, I have a clearer understanding of what is taking place in The Crocus ...

The rhythm and language are so beautiful in this poem, the imagery is so rich, but there is a profound sadness here as well, one which I had only felt hinted at.

With this new awareness I, as a mother, am so much more affected by this lovely poem ... and it gives me pause for thought as I reconsider sharing it with my own children ...

Now see, I warned you all I was rusty ... ;)

All Things Bright and Beautiful

And my poetry kick continues ... All_things

I found this book at Barnes and Noble over the weekend, and it is just so gorgeous, I had to write a post about it!

The very book itself is quite "bright and beautiful." Vibrant watercolors by Anna Vojtech positively illuminate every page, and the timeless poem they illustrate, written by Cecil Frances Alexander in 1848, is a perennial favorite.

The first few lines of this poem are familar, thanks in part to the beloved books by James Herriot, but for me, the poem in its entirety seemed new somehow. Perhaps I've never actually read the whole thing! But what a perfect celebration of this glorious time of year, when all of creation is fairly exploding with new life ...

Alexander's words are like a balm to my winter-weary heart, gently reminding me how His hand is in all things ~ and the very smallest miracle of life is a treasure to behold. The pictures in this book will surely help the children embrace the imagery at a higher level, as we turn every breathtaking page.

Each spring we begin a new nature journal, and this poem will serve as a lovely title page. With simple copywork and our own colorful illustrations, our little notebooks will be our own "lips that tell ..."

Here then is the poem ...

All Things Bright and Beautiful

All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures great and small,

All things wise and wonderful,

The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,

Each little bird that sings,

He made their glowing colors,

He made their tiny wings.

The purple-headed mountain,

The river running by,

The sunset and the morning,

That brightens up the sky.

The cold wind in the winter,

The pleasant summer sun,

The ripe fruits in the garden,

He made them every one.

He gave us eyes to see them,

And lips that we might tell,

How great is God Almighty,

Who has made all things well.

Cecil Frances Alexander

Spring Swings

When I started this blog I wasn't sure just what I would "talk" about -- and I still don't really -- but I seem to be turning to favorite poems again and again! It must be something about this time of year ...

Yesterday, dear husband brought the swings out from their winter storage. He dusted them off, checked for any necessary repairs, and hung them back up on the play set ... and, oh the joy! I think the boys have done little else all weekend :)

So, in honor of this happy spring rite, here is yet another favorite poem ...

The Swing

How do you like to go up in a swing,

up in the air so blue?

Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing

Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,

Till I can see so wide,

Rivers and trees and cattle and all

Over the countryside ~

Till I look down on the garden green,

Down on the roof so brown ~

Up in the air I go flying again,

Up in the air and down!

Robert Louis Stevenson

Spring Things

Scan0001 Just in time for spring, a new e-mail group has been created at Yahoo:  Catholic Gardening.  Slim though my gardening skill may be, I have the usual high hopes for this year, so I jumped right on that bandwagon ... Thanks to Molly for setting it up! :)

As the seasons turn, I hope to post regularly about our gardening experiences. Here's a quick preview:

This year we'll be trying our hand at garden crafts, container gardening, medieval herbs, berry bushes and gardening for wildlife. I'd also like to add to our quiet St. Francis corner ~ a circular bench under the flowering cherry, some shade plants around the rhododendrons, perhaps some gentle windchimes ...

Of course, this is my March list, when potential is everything ... it will be interesting to see how the list stands in the heat of July!

Everybody Loves Ina ...


And as you can tell from the picture at left, so does my Earlybird!

For the past year or more, my youngest son has been sweet on that fabulous TV chef, Ina Garten, a.k.a. The Barefoot Contessa. Earlybird loves her show, he loves the soundtrack, and he looooves watching her whip up all that scrumptious food. And when it all gets a bit too much for him, he simply has to run over to the television set and wrap his arms around her as best he can.

Earlybird, if Ina knew you, she would love you too!

A Few More Thoughts

I wanted to say a few more things about The Crocus, but I am having trouble editing that particular post (see below). Newbie Blogger Issue # 1! Not to be the last I am sure ...

Anyway ... I remember reading this poem years ago in college, back when poetry was nice, but mainly something around which to write a paper.  These days, I'm happy to say, I find I have more appreciation (and patience) for poetry than I did as a harried student!

What I like about The Crocus is the way it reflects the newness of life all around us ~ and not just new life, but life, it would seem, resurrected. The ugly, dry bulbs we deposit into the similarly ugly, dry dirt in the fall, will, with the passing of time and the warmth of the sun, rise in greater beauty than ever imagined. 

Another theme that stood out for me is one of simple faith and patience. The author and her "little friend" embody both as they bury their "heart's dear flower," only to be rewarded many months later with "an endless age of bliss."

At first read, I found this to be a pretty poem, one that would complement my photograph. Upon further reflection, I see there's a lot to chew on in those lines! They would make a pretty nature journal page, with a colorful sketch of our crocus, and perhaps the poem's lines as a border ...

Well, I guess I have the boys' language arts lesson for the week! Thanks for bearing with this rusty former English major ;)

Our Heart's Dear Flower


Beside our front walkway, within the faded mulch, up poke these tiny treasures of early spring ... and they are just the thing to brighten this cold, gray day. This crocus is yellow, but I have a feeling there are many others shades and shapes under there, just waiting for their time to shine.

I found this lovely poem, written by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896), and thought I'd share it here ...

The Crocus

Beneath the sunny autumn sky,

With gold leaves dropping round,

We sought, my little friend and I,

The consecrated ground,

Where, calm beneath the holy cross,

O'ershadowed by sweet skies,

Sleeps tranquilly that youthful form,

Those blue unclouded eyes.

Around the soft, green swelling mound

We scooped the earth away,

And buried deep the crocus-bulbs

Against a coming day.

"These roots are dry, and brown, and sere;

Why plant them here?" he said,

"To leave them, all the winter long,

So desolate and dead."

"Dear child, within each sere dead form

There sleeps a living flower,

And angel-like it shall arise

In spring's returning hour."

Ah, deeper down cold, dark, and chill

We buried our heart's flower,

But angel-like shall he arise

In spring's immortal hour.

In blue and yellow from its grave

Springs up the crocus fair,

And God shall raise those bright blue eyes,

Those sunny waves of hair.

Not for a fading summer's morn,

Not for a fleeting hour,

But for an endless age of bliss,

Shall rise our heart's dear flower.

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Testing the Waters

Well, I dipped in my toe, and all you kind ladies have shown me the water is fine!

Thank you to those who added my link to your blogroll. After a great tip from Lissa at Here in the Bonny Glen, I enrolled in the Ecosystem (a fun online tracking/rating service based on how many times your blog is linked to by another) ... we'll see how long it takes for me to move up the chain!

More thanks still to those of you who posted about my blog in yours (like Meredith at Sweetness and Light and Cay at Cajun Cottage) !

And finally, thank you to everyone who has taken the time to leave comments for me here at  By Sun and Candlelight.  How fun it is to share thoughts in cyberspace!

All of your blogs - and friendships - continue to inspire and encourage me in so many ways ...

Have a great weekend everyone! Please stop by again soon!