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September 2006

Tea and a Field Trip on Michaelmas!

Usually we do "tea and a craft" on feast days ... and though we did have our tea, the craft part will have to wait for another time because today we whiled away the afternoon hours in a CASTLE!

As you can imagine, this field trip was right up our home-learning alley! We were joined today by our closest friends and fellow co-op-ers (new word alert!) at Hammond Castle in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Our group was led on a program called "Life in Medieval Society." (And HUGE thanks again, Wendy, for setting it all up!)

Now as you might expect, I took many, many, many pictures at the castle today - so I thought instead of posting them all here in this post, I would make up a photo album just for this field trip. It is parked over there on the right hand sidebar; its title, plainly enough, is Castle Field Trip. I will slowly be adding notes to this photo album, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoy our pictures! :)

Before I move on, though, a quick note first about the Castle. To prepare for our field trip, we showed the kids an episode of Fetch with Ruff Ruffman (a new-ish PBS show kind of like Zoom) in which the contestants played out their game at none other than Hammond Castle! Of course their visit was set at night and the castle was all tricked out to appear haunted (we had to reassure a few of the younger ones that the castle was not really haunted nor in the least bit scary) but the neatest part was - the man in the show who acted as their tour guide - was the very same man who led us on our tour today! And he was very nice, very informative and more than a bit of a riot! :) (Some inside skinny - the Fetch episode was taped this past June over a period of two days and nights. The scene where the kids had to go down in the dungeon so badly scared one of the young girls they had to have her parents come to the castle to reassure her! The part where another girl drank from a soup bowl was completely ad-libbed (and regretted). And there was a terrible lightning storm right in the middle of filming!)

As for Michaelmas, well, I think this was a really fun way to honor this feast day! Any kind of festive activity is a great way to mark the special days on our liturgical calendar! Considering St. Michael's role as a protector and defender, knights and armor (particularly swords) really fit in with the day. Plus, the castle was surrounded by wild Michaelmas daisies (we were thrilled to discover) and the gift shop sold swords, dragons AND an archangel statue! (We bought a plastic sword and a small purple dragon; the angel statue was beautiful but out of our price range!)

We did manage to start our day off with a delicious blackberry tea. Because we had a busy afternoon planned, I decided to serve our tea at breakfastime. It began leisurely enough until it dawned on me we were starting Earlybird's Friday speech therapy today - beginning at 8:45 a.m. - and here I was just pouring tea at 7:30! So we ate up rather quickly but not before talking a bit about the archangels (Michael, Raphael and Gabriel) and saying a prayer to each of them. I also found a lovely prayer for this feast day in a book recommended by Elizabeth, called Let's Say Grace: Mealtime Prayers for Family Occasions Throughout the Year. My copy came just the other day, just in time to start our day with this beautiful blessing:

Holy God,

Your care for us is more than we can imagine, and your love touches us in so many ways. As once you sent your archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael to guide and protect your chosen ones, let them be our companions, to lead and watch over us. As we begin the season of autumn may we celebrate your presence in the beauty of nature, and be messengers of your love to all whom we meet.

Bless this meal we now share, and bless all we do in Jesus' name ~ Amen.

Now about that Michaelmas-blackberry connection. :) Well, legend has it that when the archangel Michael threw Lucifer out of heaven (on what would become Michaelmas), the devil landed in, of all places, a blackberry patch, where he promptly spat on the berries, rendering them inedible! So by long held tradition on Michaelmas you should eat your fill of blackberries before they're no good! This is a charming British custom, one I'm only too happy to incorporate into our feast day celebrating.

Now if I had my way, I would take my blackberries in the form of Rebecca's Michaelmas Blackberry pie, but for today we kept things a bit simpler.


This was our Michaelmas breakfast ~ Blackberry Harvest Yoplait (a rare treat for my boys who generally only see Stonyfield Vanilla), biscuits with thick blackberry jam, and mugs of Bigelow Berri-Good herbal tea, sweetened with honey (this is really good iced, btw - and has plenty of vitamin C to boot).

I have to share with you a lovely site from our autumn garden this morning. Remember a few days ago I mentioned that our Easter lily plant seemed on the verge of re-blooming, after spending the whole summer relegated to its pot, and left to its own devices parked by the front gate? Well, today it bloomed! And this lily - the symbol of purity and the archangel Gabriel - looked just lovely against all the autumn blossoms.


We also found what I like to call Michaelmas daisies blooming behind the back fence the other day. (Technically they may be New England asters - but they do bloom just around Michaelmas!)


And so begins a most busy and festive autumn feast season! There are so many upcoming special days to enjoy ~ The Guardian Angels (10/2), St. Francis of Assisi (10/4), Our Lady of the Rosary (10/7), All Hallow's Eve (10/31), All Saints Day (11/1), All Souls Day (11/2), Martinmas (11/11), Thanksgiving (11/24) ... and at long last the beautiful Advent season beginning the most holy and beautiful time of year, as well as the new Church year. There are just so many wonderful opportunities to embrace our faith and celebrate our traditions - such a rich tapestry of colors, flavors, stories and prayers to be woven!

As this day comes to a close, may I wish you all a most blessed Michaelmas and autumn season!

"This day, which comes as the nights grow longer and longer, is the Church's fearless welcome to the dark and the cold." (A Companion to the Calendar)

What We Did Today

Boy, you can tell I really scratched my head over the title to this one. Unfortunately, no snappy phrases came to mind in a timely fashion, so I went with the obvious ...

What we did today:

1. We made an autumn reading wreath.

Crackerjack and I were just finishing up his reading lesson this morning when we got to talking about the books he has been reading and all the books he will be reading some day soon. We always do his reading lessons on the couch, nestled in the corner by the open window. As the leaves sailed by on the breeze we came up with an idea to make a visual record of CJ's reading this fall - an autumn reading wreath:


The white pieces are made out of posterboard, the circle being the wreath base and the leaf a template for the colorful construction paper leaves that will eventually fill in the entire wreath frame. When we read a book together (aloud) it will go on a yellow, orange, or green leaf. Crackerjack's favorite color is red, so leaves of that color will be used for books he has read himself.

This is as far as we got. I will post a picture once we get it up and start adding leaves!

2. We learned about the Book of Kells.

We read in our history spine about how medieval monks helped to return Christianity and literacy to barbarian Europe. (Remember, we covered barbarians last week?) The Book of Kells is an example of an illuminated manuscript scribed by several Irish monks somewhere around the 8th century. It survives to this day, and we were able to go online and see pictures of pages as well as watch an informative video. The most surprising thing we learned? The Book is made entirely of animal skin - paper was not known at that time. Then there's the interesting fact that the Book was worked on only by daylight; fear of fire prohibited scribes from working by candle or (oil) lamplight. No wonder it took so long!

The Book of Kells (which is a representation of the four Gospels) was only briefly mentioned in our Usborne text, so we turned to online resources for more information. I found this site to be concise and thorough. (Though being mostly Irish myself I love this site anyway!)

We also chose pages from Color Your Own Book of Kells to work on today. There were many to choose from, but we went with the Lion symbolizing St. Mark for two reasons - 1. I thought the boys would like the lion figure and 2. this Sunday's Gospel is from Mark! After a few clues, the boys caught on and as they colored I read this Sunday's Readings and Gospel aloud from Bookworm's issue of Magnifikid.

Here are the boys' pages (Bookworm top, Crackerjack, bottom):



These will be filed into the history notebooks.

I had wanted to have Bookworm read Augustine Came to Kent, but my library doesn't have a copy. So instead, tomorrow we'll read Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie de Paola. We'll look at a two-page spread of the Maria Laach Abbey inside Great Buildings and peruse our Monastery Greetings catalog, too! (Completely off-topic but I think this Christmas soap made by Trappist nuns in Norway sounds - pardon the pun -heavenly!)

We also did math (natch) and we read through the Ranger Rick that came in the mail today. Crackerjack practiced printing, Earlybird colored (trains today) and Bookworm spent a lot of time working on his Mario story.

We ate marshmallows and looked at clouds as we talked about this coming Sunday's First Reading (Numbers 11:25-29). Crackerjack colored the weekly Scripture symbol and we finally began our Celebrating the Gospels banner. I find reading and talking about Sunday's liturgy a few days ahead helps the boys pay better attention and feel more included at Mass.

And on the homefront? Well, I did the dishes, but I didn't fold laundry. I filled the birdfeeders - with helpful little hands - and then vacuumed up the "extra help" afterward. I made notes for celebrating the angel days which begin tomorrow, but realized I forgot to order the spring bulbs. I didn't go grocery shopping as I had planned, but instead had dh pick up milk and a pizza. The dear man also brought me home apple turnovers, so you can guess what I'm doing as I type up this post. :)

And before I go to bed, I am going to go back and re-read Jennifer's beautiful post at As Cozy as Spring. Because it is perfect. It is just a simply perfect post and I am in perfect agreement - these days are all gifts. Every single one of them. Full or quiet, productive or not so productive - the point is we're here, we're together, and we're learning all the time.

I can't wait to see what tomorrow will bring. :)

Good night and God bless!

A Footnote to Field Day!

May I invite you all back for one more peek into our Field Day journal? One more page that your (not-quite-as-organized-as-she-hoped-to-be) hostess unfortunately left out when Field Day first came to pass?

Please stop by Field Day: The Early Autumn Edition again, and enjoy one more lovely woodland post, which I just added in. Valerie of Barefoot and Pregnant shares with us the beautiful nut-bearing trees on her property - and how much wonderful home learning they inspire. This truly is the time of year for our trees - nut-bearing or otherwise - to shine, isn't it?

Valerie, I am very sorry I missed your post the first time, but thank you so much for joining in! Thank you EVERYONE for making Field Day such fun! :)

One Lucky Cat!

I'm not sure on whose behalf St. Francis was interceding more - mine or the cat's - but whatever the case may have been, I am very grateful the situation turned out as it did. I shudder to think of the alternate ending ...

Late yesterday afternoon the boys were outside enjoying the fine autumn weather and I was inside catching up on a few household tasks when they called for me to come and help them with a few things. A small issue with the basketball hoop was quickly resolved, the ball was retrieved from behind possibly poison ivy-laden shrubbery, and a tiny green spider was declared harmless.

I was on my way back inside when something told me to stop for a few minutes and take a look around. So I ran inside, grabbed my camera and started walking around the woodsy edges of our yard looking for interesting signs of the season. After snapping several pictures, I had just turned to go back inside (those dishes weren't going to wash themselves after all) when something made me stop and walk over to the potting shed, an otherwise out of the way corner. I had no business over there, but there I found myself, and it turns out it was a very good thing I did, for here is the sight that stopped me in my tracks...


Now this sight might not appear so startling to you, but let me recount all the facts.

A. This is not our cat. (Ours are all kept indoors)

B. This is, however, our shed.

C. This shed has been locked up tight since Saturday.

D. This picture was taken Wednesday afternoon.

This is our neighbor's cat, who, it turns out, had been missing for days (unbeknownst to us). The little girl next door has been praying and crying over her lost Fluffy, and the family had come to think she was gone for good. Well, a few more days in our shed and that may have been the tragic case. But Fluffy had wisely chosen to perch herself in the shed window where she might be seen - and she was - and so the situation was very happily resolved. Ordinarily we would not have opened the shed again until the weekend. I can't imagine the devastation we all would have felt had the situation gone on that long.

After allowing Fluffy safe passage out of the shed, I placed a call to our neighbors to tell them the news. They were, understandably, quite elated.

So, a few lessons learned here:

~ If your cats are allowed outdoors, and one goes missing, take a look around in any small closed spaces - and before too many days pass.

~ If you own a shed, always rattle around a bit to shoo out any possible stowaways before closing it up tight.

~ If you feel that little tap on your shoulder, a tap that makes you pause and consider, it just might be for a good reason. St. Francis is our family patron saint as well as the patron of pets like Fluffy. I think he did both of us a good turn yesterday.

And Fluffy? Please be more careful with your remaining eight lives! :)

Field Day: The Early Autumn Edition

"Autumn is a second spring, when every leaf is a flower." ~ Albert Camus

My, how quickly the year is turning! Every day brings us a new bouquet of autumnField_day_button_2_6 delights to enjoy. But with every passing day we are that much closer to the cold and quiet time of year ~a time when the world, both inside and out, slows down and catches its breath. Nature's last dance is its merriest ~ there's so much to see and to do! And as hard as it can be to slow down, nature needs this time of rest - and so do we!

What better time then, for another Field Day? A day to leave our desks and books behind and explore the beauty of the autumn landscape together? We've been both far afield and close to home and have lots of stories to tell! So lets spread out the blanket and pass the apples and cheese; it's time to open our Field Day journal again ...

And once again our journal pages are graced by Marcie's lovely nature photography. You will find her pictures all throughout my post. And I can hardly wait to add some new journal pages such as these - a wonderful suggestion made by Jennifer of St. Therese Academy!


A rainbow in Marcie's backyard ... beautiful!

Nature and children go quite naturally together, especially, it seems, when there are bugs involved! Many a squeamish mother has found a new appreciation for these tiny fascinating creatures - and all thanks to her children!

For instance, my friend Beth and her family spent a recent afternoon enjoying the company of a 5-inch praying mantis. I can't tell you how pleased I was that she quickly thought of me and called me to tell me the news! LOL - that one might think of me when they catch a really big bug is a true honor. :) Beth's boys had fun with the mantis (and I'll bet Mike and Beth did, too) and it seemed the critter didn't want to part with his newfound friends! Here is one of the photos they took:


He does seem quite friendly, doesn't he?

You might remember a while back we had quite a spider thing going on here at By Sun and Candlelight? Well, it was nothing compared to what Maria and the Tater tots and Ladybug gang have going on! Such an interesting spider story has been unfolding! And don't miss their other insect pictures (including a praying mantis and some dragonflies)!

Speaking of dragonflies (and damselflies), Krisann of Isla de Esperanza brought her family to a festival celebrating the insect order known as Odonata. They learned lots - including a lovely poem - and share it all with us!

Sometimes the best way to enjoy the connection between children and bugs is to listen to them tell the story themselves! (Meaning the children of course.) Mary Beth does just that in her charming post about caterpillars at Blossoms and Bees. Excellent tips, and a gripping story as well!

And, after a visit to a butterfly festival, Marianna of the S/V Mari Hal-o-Jen was inspired to learn more about a particular and popular butterfly, one she fondly calls Danaus plexippus - otherwise known as the Monarch!


This one Marcie caught on camera - such color!

Moving higher up the food chain, snakes are also making their autumn debut here and there. I remember my dad showing us garter snakes in our yard when I was growing up. I certainly had little or no fear of them then. How do I feel now? Well, I'm not sure, but I did find the following posts quite enlightening!

The gang at Cay's Cajun Cottage has found all kinds of evidence of snakes in their yard - and that evidence is really something! Leave it to the boys and the dogs to sniff out the signs. :) JoAnna of Parente Adventures also has a few snakes in the yard and a couple of neat pictures to share! Meanwhile, Susan of Chicken Spaghetti recounts a few snake adventures of her own and recommends a book for beginning readers. I truly appreciate Susan's suggestion, for when it comes to snakes, I think a book is just my speed. :)


Oooh, baby cardinals - what a shot!!

Who can think of fall without their thoughts quickly turning to the orchard - all glistening and golden in its autumn beauty?

Here's another post from Cay's Cajun backyard - and this one about a more pleasant discovery! A pear harvest of their very own - what a gift! I can almost smell them! Oh, how I wish I could try a piece of that pie. :)

Lindsey's family at Just Enjoy the Journey is having plenty of orchard fun too - and learning all about apples while they're at it! What says autumn better than little hands wrapped around gleaming apples? Lindsey has many delightful ideas for stretching this special time of year across the curriculum.


This has to be the cutest bunny I've ever seen.

Forming a close relationship with nature, I firmly believe, begins right outside our very own back doors, as well as right within our very homes! This is the heart of nature study. It's great to spend time outside, but its just as important to foster a sense of joy in the seasons. That joy will lead to a spark, that spark will form a connection and the next thing you know you're all in the thick of it!

Karen spent a lovely afternoon Introducing the World to her toddlers - no further from her back door than a few steps. And all they really needed were a few weeds to consider - a sweet early nature study lesson for her wee ones. :)

What joy there is to be found in a garden - especially one made in honor or our Blessed Mother. Meredith and family of Sweetness and Light created a beautiful fall container garden for the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. What a meaningful activity for her children; what a lovely spot to spend an autumn afternoon, reflecting on the seven sorrows of Mary!

Margaret, my favorite Minnesota Mom, also explores the joys of the autumn Feast days. Her post encompasses many of autumn's brightest blessings - in nature, faith and home - and she offers us many wonderful ideas, links and recipes to celebrate!

I would follow Elizabeth's Real Learning reading lists anywhere - especially one tailor made for autumn reading! I can say it no better than she does here: "My goal was to acquaint my children intimately with the natural world near our home and to develop a love for natural history writing and illustrations. Perhaps more importantly, I wanted to embrace with them the world God created for us, to be inspired and to rest in the comfort and splendor there." Now see, Elizabeth, this is why you inspire so many.

Angel's family at Three Plus Two celebrated the first day of fall with a beautiful morning of art! Their mural is stunning - the epitome of autumn expression. Angel also shares a few more nature craft ideas!

Jennefer of Three Sons and a Princess captures the essence of autumn in her post filled with fond memories of her favorite season. And isn't that the best way to instill a love for nature's seasons in our children - to share with them all the joys to be had? This fall will truly be most special for Jennefer's familiy. Such a blessing, indeed.


Yes, he's real - sunning himself in sunny Louisiana!

Of course once we do step outside, there is just so much to see and do! The possibilities are endless. Some of us have the good fortune to experience nature by the water!

Violet's Promptings explore one of the first signs of the season in her area - the return of Merganser ducks for the winter. And now I ask you, what creatures are cuter than otters? I once saw some in California many years ago on a family vacation out west. Violet shares several photos of a mother and baby otters feeding on the edge of a river. (Click here, here, here, here and here!)

Dana of Principled Discovery took her children to a gorgeous saline marsh recently to do a little nature journaling and enjoy all the shades of fall. Well, in Nebraska, it turns out the primary shade of fall is yellow - which happens to be my favorite, btw - so Dana, I think you are very lucky indeed! Especially to live in such a beautiful area!

O.K., this is a little bit self serving, but the other day my husband took over the reigns here at BS&C to blog about his recent whale watching experience! He really enjoyed the trip - and I was amazed at how much he had learned about whales!


A newly emerged viceroy butterfly - lovely!

The signs of the seasons are always abundant in the woods - perhaps even more so in the autumn. Between the flora and the fauna there is something to see and hear at any given moment - whether you're deep in a forest or just in the wooded area behind your home. Find a nearby nature trail to follow and you're in a for a real autumn treat.

Marjorie of Lettres de mon Moulin takes us on a fungi hunt! Wonderful specimens may be found underfoot in the autumn woods. Look carefully! Marjorie has provided excellent information and links for those interested in this magical mycology.

Jennifer and family at As Cozy as Spring just returned from a camping trip to New Mexico! Together with her daughter, Jennifer came up with a personalized alphabet reflecting all the wonders they came upon! Hiking and camping are terrific autumn activities - I'd say A is for awesome, Jennifer!

Theresa and her Lapaz Farm gang always have the neatest nature study going on, no matter the season, and today is no exception! Wait till you see all their interesting tree-study activities! It was a full day, for sure!

And last, but certainly not least, Valerie of Barefoot and Pregnant shares a beautiful post all about Buckeyes and Hickories - and the FUN she and her children have had with this woodland adventure!  And Valerie, those feeders look promising - keep us updated!

Remember Marcie's hummingbirds? Here are more!


The woods are full of fairies;

The sea is full of fish;

The trees are full of golden leaves;

Let's make an autumn wish."

~ Anonymous

What would my autumn wish be? Oh, perhaps just to have a chance at a real Field Day such as this - filled with good friends and all of autumn's bountiful blessings! Thank you SO much to all who participated in this latest adventure!

I do hope you all have enjoyed hearing about our day - there will surely be another one before too long. Perhaps you'll have some mid-autumn nature to share in our next Field Day? :) Please let me know - and I'll let you all know when the next Field Day ~ The Mid-Autumn Edition will be!

Homemade Christmas: A Blessings Box

As I mentioned yesterday there are just three months until Christmas! Plenty of time for the children to make colorful paper chains for the family tree or perhaps to drape around frosty windows ... or maybe for a special child-size tree all their own.

Paper chains are cheerful, old-fashioned decorations, and this year we're building a special project around them - a decorated box in which to store our daily blessings and prayers. By Christmastime, the box will be full of slips of paper ready to turn into colorful chains.

Just after Advent, we'll set up a small special tree - filled with our joyful thanksgiving. It will be a tree for the baby Jesus - for it is through Him which all good things come. We'll place it near the children's creche - ours is an entirely child-friendly one meant to be touched and even played with (sturdy wooden manger, soft dolls). Naturally there will be a basket of nativity books close at hand. But I'm getting ahead of myself!

Back to the craft store - where it was that the box first caught my eye. The boys helped me choose the other shapes and the colors, and today we set to work:


Materials: hinged wooden box, small wooden stars, thin wooden heart shape, several colors of acrylic paint, several sheets of colorful construction paper

Now, obviously, the box could be decorated in any style that suits your fancy. Here's how ours turned out:


The hearts were a bit fussy but the colors represent each member of our family. (And friends and family might be able to guess whose color is whose!)


Here is the box opened up. We cut the construction paper into small slips that will fit inside the box. Each night at supper, we'll talk about what we're grateful for and write our blessings on the bits of paper ...


If we have someone or something special to pray for, that will be written on a white slip. All the slips will be kept in our special box until Christmastime. Then, strung together, they will make a pretty decoration for our tree, a simple but tangible expression of our grateful hearts.

Next month we'll also make small wooden frame ornaments for the blessings tree - to hold pictures of loved ones - family and friends, Our Lord, Our Blessed Mother, and favorite patron saints.

This was an easy and enjoyable craft - one that will bring our faith into focus each night, as well as throughout the Christmas season. Last night at supper, we wrote out our first slip and I explained to the boys about the small special tree for December. They were very excited! Such a tree would also make a thoughtful gift for an elderly relative. Filled with happy pictures and colorful bits of paper, it would surely brighten anyone's Christmas season!

10 Things I'm Excited About ...

Well, make that 15 - as usual, I got a little carried away! :) But I just had to share some things that have me smiling this week, in no particular order:

~ First and foremost (and breaking my no-particular-order rule right off the bat) my dad is home from the hospital and doing very well!! Thanks again for all your kind thoughts and prayers.

~ It's autumn - really and truly - at last.

~ Pride and Prejudice - The 10th Anniversary Limited Edition Collector's Set is coming out this week! Austen fans everywhere - oh, who am I kidding, Colin Firth fans everywhere - must take note of this memorable moment. I won't be buying this DVD set, as it is quite expensive - though I'm sorely tempted. No, dh very sweetly recorded all 300 minutes for me off A & E last year, so I can't really justify the purchase. But still - it's kind of neat to see this awesome BBC production back making news. (I read about it in Entertainment Weekly; that counts as news in my book.) And it's a great excuse to re-watch the whole 6-part series this coming weekend - a nice way to pass laundry-folding time don't you think? Hmmm ... now I just need some chilly rain, some hot tea, and a few buttered scones.

~ LOST Season 3. It's only NINE days away! The hatch - or the hatch no more? The Others - bad or not so bad? Kate - come on, now - Jack or Sawyer? And please don't let Mr. Eko be dead! (If you watch, you know what I mean; if you don't well, you should start!)

~ A new Field Day is right around the corner! (I just had to sneak in one more shameless plug for my upcoming nature carnival.) Send me something by the end of the day tomorrow and you're in!!

~ And in other exciting carnival news - there is a brand new Catholic Homeschool Blog Carnival coming to the blogosphere (every first Friday of the month)! Submissions are due here by today. This is right up my alley - I'm Catholic, I homeschool and I blog! (I'll be digging something up right after I finish this post.)

~ We're going on a great field trip later this week - to an honest-to-goodness CASTLE! Naturally, there will be a follow-up post - but first I must get up pictures from the apple picking field trip dh took the boys on LAST week ... stay tuned!

~ Then there's the Barnes and Noble Educator Appreciation Week beginning this Saturday (and going through the 8th of October)! And following right behind is Borders Books Educator Savings Days (October 14-18)!! Hmmm, I feel some Christmas shopping coming on!

~ Over at my favorite corner of the web, the 4Real Boards, I just found a wonderful Eastern Grey Squirrel Project (thanks, MacBeth!) plus we found lots of acorns in our yard the other day ... and you all know how we feel about squirrels!

~ I got my 1,000th comment the other day! It was from Jennifer - and her comment was actually a question about the Christmas blog I, ahem, kinda-sorta-almost started recently. Jennifer, I didn't meant to ignore your question - I'm still trying to figure out what to do! I'm just not sure I can do another blog justice right now ... Christmas-themed posts? A definite YES! A Christmas-themed blog? A definite MAYBE! :) Oh, and Jennifer, those window stars are beautiful but tricky. Bookworm seems to have a knack for them, though. (Me? I'd go plumb nuts over all those tetchy folds and cuts!)

~ And speaking of Christmas - did you know it's only THREE months away? To the day?!

~ The new Jan Brett book has come out - Hedgie Blasts Off! She writes one book a year and we collect them all! We met her once a few years ago ... but, did I tell you all this story before? I have a feeling I did. Anyway, she was just as sweet in real life as her books! Check out her teacher's website for great activities. Hedgie in outer space? Now - how did she know my boys were into stars and planets these days? ;)

~ Earlybird had an AWESOME checkup the other day at his annual pediatric visit!! Our doctor saw tremendous improvement in EB and said he was so impressed by his progress!! We are just so blessed with this boy - with all our boys - they have taught me so much about mothering - and patience and perserverance and all kinds of emotions! We are also blessed that EB's PDD-NOS is quite mild; our pediatrician feels we should continue what we are doing because all that we are doing is working. ;) Simply beautiful music to our collective family ears.

~ Michaelmas (or the Feast of the Archangels) is this Friday!! I just printed out this thread from 4Real where there are loads of ideas for celebrating at home with the children. (33 pages! These ladies don't fool around when it comes to idea sharing!) I'll post later about the fun autumn craft and special blackberry tea I have planned.

~ Now, exciting thing number 15 could have been that my Patriots won last night - but alas, they didn't. (There's always next week!) So I'll make number 15 the amazing discovery this morning that our Easter lily plant - which has spent the past five months outside, completely forlorn - seems ready to bloom once again! Here's a photo I just took ...


Now that's a wonderful autumn gift ... an everyday blessing from the garden!

And what has my boys excited this morning? It's most likely the fluffernutter toast sticks I made them for breakfast. Some days you just have to bend a few nutrition rules - though it is whole wheat toast! :)

So much to look forward to and enjoy! So much to blog about after! :)

So, what has you fired up this week?

Whales I Didn't See ...

... but my husband did!

Dh's department had their annual "off-site" yesterday and the bunch of lucky dogs got to spend the morning out on a whale watch!! He came home grinning ear to sunburned ear with lots of neat photos! I thought you might like to see some of them ... and since he was behind the camera lens this time, I will let him do the narrating. ;)



These were (obviously) 2 whales.  They were swimming along feeding, with all of us cheering them on.  The guide knew who they were by their dorsal fins and tails.


This calm patch on the surface is a fluke-print which mariners used to believe was an oil slick from the whale's blubber, but it's really a compression wake left by the whale's tail.


Nice half-fluke.


Even nicer full-fluke.


There were several pairs of whales feeding.  They circle around a school of fish, blowing bubbles and beating the water with their tails to herd them in.  Then they swim through the school to fill up on fish. 


A whale breaching before going down for more fish.  The whales come up to the Gulf of Maine to feed and then go south to the Bahamas to mate.  Amazingly, while down there, all the males sing the same song which is different each year.  The following year, the whales return to the warm waters to give birth because the one ton calves can't survive in the cold, Northern waters.  The team agreed - next year's offsite should definitely see the Bahama's portion of a whale's life!


One other interesting, and somewhat gross whale fact ... each year they add a layer of wax inside their ears which can be counted like tree rings to determine how old a whale is.  Of course the counting can only be done when a whale passes away ... and we all agreed our jobs were nothing like what that must be like!

This is a Movie Clip taken with the camera.  The first time it plays through it will be jittery, so play it a second time to get the full speed effect.  The lighter green areas are other parts of the whale.


One last picture of the whales heading away from us.


Well, that settles it - we're definitely taking the boys on a whale watch ... and soon! :)

A Brief Note about Email & Field Day

A few people have had some trouble with my email link in the Field Day post below. If you tried to email me a post or photos for Field Day and ran into trouble, I am very sorry!

I have added an "email me" link to my front page here (just under my photo). I just tested it and it should work fine.

And while I've got your ear - ;) - there's still plenty of time (4 days in fact!) to send me your Field Day post (or photos)!

Have a great weekend - and warmest autumn blessings to you!

Poetry Friday: Fall, Leaves, Fall

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.

I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night's decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

~ by Emily Bronte

I am one of those rare souls who does not mourn the end of summer, but rather, relishes the return of fall. Something to do with my New England breeding, I'm sure. :)

I didn't recognize this poem as Bronte's when I found it at this neat site of nature and science poems, though as a long ago English major I probably should have. No matter - it's a lovely poem, remembered or not.

Be sure to stop in at Big A little a for Kelly's Poetry Friday Roundup ...

... and Happy Autumn!

Crinkle, Crackle, Crunch ...

Do you hear that? It's the sound of the dried autumn leaves underfoot ... have you seen themField_day_button_2_5 cascading down this past week, in lovely shades of yellow, orange and brown? Just enough to look pretty - but not so many that raking is necessary?

Yes, we're but a few days shy of the autumnal equinox and ... the Early Autumn Field Day deadline!

And, that, folks is where I was going with this! :) Just a friendly (and hopeful) reminder to send me your nature posts for Field Day: The Early Autumn Edition which will go up next Wednesday!

I'd like to have your submissions by the end of the day Monday (OK, or Tuesday), so please send me your details by then at (take out the NOSPAM first):

  • your name
  • your blog URL
  • your post URL
  • a brief description of your post or pictures

(You can find more details here in this post.)

Remember, you don't need a blog to participate! Send me an e-mail with your pictures, or even just your thoughts and ideas for autumn nature study - and I'll weave them into the post. :)

And hey, speaking of the autumnal equinox - which is this Saturday, by the way - it would be a great weekend to post about and/or photograph how your family welcomes in the new season! (Just a thought!) To get you in the mood, consider some of the autumnal ideas in this post.

But as always, any posts and pictures about nature of any kind are most welcome at our Field Days!

If you could help me spread the word about Field Day, I'd appreciate it very much! And a big thank you to those who have plugged my carnival already!

History at Our House

It was a particularly good day for history at our house yesterday. The following is a quick recap ...

The boys spent the morning sprawled out on the living room floor, soaking up the sunshine while reading great books about - of all things, barbarians - all the brothers together, along with the cat.


Next we worked on maps for the history notebook. These showed the five barbarian kingdoms circa 500 A.D. (Franks, Anglo-Saxons, Visigoths, Vandals and Ostrigoths).


This activity benefits our European geography study as well.


The boys read together some more on the couch. A lot of what we're learning about barbarians recalls our recent co-op ancient Rome study. The Barbarians wiped out the Roman empire before settling their own kingdoms throughout western Europe. You Wouldn't Want to be a Roman Soldier: Barbarians You'd Rather Not Meet was an informative but funny read. Right up the boys' alley.


A little spontaneous math: Bookworm requested a calculator to figure out how many soldiers made up a Roman legion.


Then we looked up a few neat internet sites showing Anglo-Saxon artifacts.


The boys took all that they learned and followed up by playing barbarians outside ...



Of course, battle or no, savvy barbarians know not to overlook an acorn feast when they stumble across it. (Ours will be saved for the squirrel buffet). I love the swords tucked behind their shirts.


This looks to be one of those studies that will deserve more than just one week of our attention. Crackerjack discovered barbarian toys in his Papo catalog (possibly his favorite reading material these days). AC moore carries Papo figures so I'll check there first, but I also found them available here.


I also have a few books on request through the library system - they should be in by the weekend. Looks like we won't be getting to monks and monasteries until sometime next week! But see, that's the wiggle room I mentioned some time back. :)

Epiphany Fun!

Holly_sprig_3 I'm getting waaay ahead of myself here, but since I posted a picture of our curious door blessing in my living room post, I thought I'd expand a bit more on it. I was preparing an answer in the comments section when I thought, why not post a true post? If you like some of these ideas, you could file them away for January! :)

I first read about the Epiphany blessing in The Catholic Home by Meredith Gould. I really enjoy this book for all its nice suggestions for celebrating the liturgical year in our homes, though there are a few errors here and there. I do enjoy her monthly column on Catholic traditions in the beautiful magazine Faith & Family. I gleaned more Epiphany information and ideas here and here.

Here is an excerpt from Ms. Gould's Epiphany chapter:

"Inscribing the initials C (Caspar), M (Melchior), and B (Balthazar) above your front door with blessed chalk is a venerable custom in eastern European countries. (Other cultures inscribe these initials on the back of the door.) The initials are enclosed by the year and connected by crosses (e.g., 20+C+M+B+04). In addition to representing the names of the Magi, these letters also represent the Latin phrase Christus mansionem bededicat (Christ bless this house)."

Other things we did that day to learn about and celebrate the Epiphany ...

~ We read the Sunday Gospel in our Bible (Matthew 2:1-12). Children's versions of the Epiphany story are found in The Children's Illustrated Bible (pages 196-197) and Tomie de Paola's Book of Bible Stories (pages 88-89)

~ We read The Legend of Old Befana, another favorite Tomie book.

~ We found Bethlehem on the map as well as Babylonia, Persia and Arabia (where the wise men are thought to have traveled from). We used the map of Bible lands from Uncle Josh's Outline Map Book to trace their possible routes.

~ Earlier in the week we made window stars for our eastern windows.

~ We (meaning the boys) dressed up as wise men in capes and crowns and acted out the story.

~ We sang We Three Kings.

~ We burned stick incense (frankincense and myrrh). Boy did the house smell nice!

~ We talked about what gifts we would have brought to the baby Jesus.

~ We baked crown-shaped cookies - frosted and sprinkled in red, blue and green.

~ We moved our three wise men figures into the manger (they had traveled far, from way across the room, a bit closer every day since Christmas).


There was one more little king (dressed in blue) but he was down for a nap at picture time! :)

Week 2 ~ Bulletin Board and Timeline

Although we are actually three weeks into our school year, this is the second week of lessons for us. We took most of last week off due to family matters but we're back to work this week. (I had planned this week off into our overall ed. plan - other weeks off will come around Christmas and Easter.)

Here is a picture of our bulletin board this week:


As you can see, I'm just a fool for my photocopier! :) But I like using this board as a handy visual reminder of our week's subjects.

And here's this week's breakdown:

Early learning: Animal Baby (monkeys), Curious George stories

Math journal: Math at Hand

Character training: saying I'm sorry

Poem: September poem from Be Blest

Science: apes (re ~ Curious George), the autumnal equinox (Sunshine Makes the Seasons), ch. 2 Earth Science the Easy Way (the universe)

Religion: St. Matthew reading and activity (Feast Day 9/21), this week's Magnifikid, scripture symbol for this week's Gospel (Mark 9:30-37) and corresponding activities from Celebrating the Gospels (preparing for Mass), First Communion Catechism

History: the Barbarian Kingdoms, A Street through Time, monks and monasteries/return to Christianity

Geography: United Kingdom, map of Barbarian invasion and kingdoms

Cooking: "monkey" treats

Reading: Hedgie Blasts Off! (new Jan Brett book!), Legends of Luke (Redwall #12)

Art: Color Your Own Book of Kells (including picture of St. Matthew)

Current events: TBA + postcards from traveling family

Another thing we worked on yesterday was putting up a timeline for our middle ages study. I toyed with different approaches to this. I like the idea of keeping a timeline in the history notebook, and we may still do that, but I wanted to have something more accessible and visible, too.

Whenever we start a new topic in history, the first thing we do is go to the world map and look at the area we are talking about, so I thought this might be a good place for the timeline. Here are the supplies - the books, the cards ...


and the map itself ...


And here is the timeline, placed across the bottom of the world map. (O.K. yes, I do get some aesthetic satisfaction from the way the cards match the multi-colored countries!)


The map is able to fit 10 cards across perfectly; allowing 100 years per card we'll keep track of the years 500-1500.

So there you have it ~ week 2 in a nutshell! :)

Loveliness Fairs: The Living (and Family) Rooms

For this week's Loveliness Fair (hosted by Sarah tomorrow) I'm going to show some pictures of our living room and our family room. I'm including both rooms here, simply because they are both places in our home where we gather together with family and friends. :)

When we moved in six years ago, the living room was the only real gathering space. It was next to an eat-in kitchen which led (through an exterior door) into a 3-season sunroom. Now all the walls are gone, the sunroom is now a dining room (better known these days as the learning room) and off that room is our new family room which we added on last year - and which still needs much finish work! (So please excuse the rough edges and distinct lack of moulding!)

I took far more pictures than I thought I would, so my comments will be brief - or somewhat briefer than usual ... ;)

The Living Room


This is our front bay window, underneath which is my hope chest. The boys like to use this area as a window seat. I like the view onto the street below (and the big maple out front). I love using old fashioned glass sheers on this window (just as my mum and grandma always did) as they catch the all day sunlight. It really does need a valance at the top, but I'll wait till we settle on a paint color!


Here are the curtains, opened. Right now the book of choice in this "reading nook" is a rather large dictionary.


This shows the top of one of our homeschool bookcases (and to see more of the living room bookcases you can check out one of my old posts here). The pansy painting was done by my mother. The white vase belonged to my dear husband's grandmother (and was meant to be filled with chrysanthemums, but I see I forgot that simply elegant touch). Note the bird's nest tucked in there among the candles and glass - it was found by my boys' great uncle. We've saved it ever since.


I'm only showing you this wall, as it needs help! It was just recently painted a biscuit color (right over the existing wallpaper). We're not sure what to hang here - plus this wall might be torn down to open the stairwell leading to the den downstairs. In the meantime, this bench serves as a place to sit and take off (or put on) your shoes, drop your purse etc. The open cubbies hold dh's mail basket (top) and newspapers to recycle (beneath).


Here are some close ups of our front door. I have a thing for roosters.


This "code" was written above our front doorway on the Epiphany. Do you know what it means? It gets a lot of comments. :)

The Family Room


When we decided to add on a family room, the two things we knew we wanted were lots of windows and a cathedral ceiling. I just love how airy this room is.


The decor is mostly "piney woods" with lots of natural wood and coffee-colored walls. The carpet is a medley of brown, beige, rose and evergreen (the better to hide all the dirt and crumbs). Above you see an evergreen garland around which have been wound several sets of pincone lights. We just turned them back on after a summer off.


Here are the pinecone lights close up - aren't they cozy?


The other theme of choice would be our Patriots regalia. Dh hung these flags on opening day.


Here is the view from our back windows. We look out at the conservation woods behind our house. (My favorite spot for morning coffee.) Note the leftover 4th of July garland! I tell myself I'm leaving it up for the Patriots (blue and silver are their colors) but really I can't get it down without peeling off tons of paint! I guess it's time I break the news to dear husband ...


Here is our family's patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi. I love this print (which was a special insert in Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s lovely book) but especially as it goes so nicely with the nature theme and colors of the room.


Below the print is a favorite lamp - it was made by my grandmother years ago. It is a glass lamp that she filled with seashells she collected! (And the doily and table below also came from her.) To the left is our (gas) fireplace, which I posted about a while back. Here is a picture of it in use; it was too balmy today to light it ...


But it is a very welcome sight on cold autumn and winter evenings!


Here is the most comfortable corner of our couch (it's Earlybird's favorite bouncing spot, too). The small pillows above were gifts; the bird pillow matches our Christmas china.


And here is my morning coffee spot up close. I wish I had some really honorable kind of reading material to display, but lately I've just been reading though all my magazines, which have really been piling up ...


I collect a fair few. I've been meaning to write a post in which I review the current issues of several popular magazines (because if it's out there, I read it, LOL), but I haven't found the time to read them lately, let alone "review" them!


And finally, here is the corner where I seem to spend much time these days - the computer desk. The desk itself is actually the bottom part of a kitchen hutch we had in our very first home. The chart in the corner was a Lenten activity - the removal of which poses the same challenge as does the 4th of July garland pictured above. (I know - they make special tape for these things. I've learned my lesson. <big sheepish grin>)

Well, I'd better wrap up; sorry this post is so long! By the time I finished it, and realized just how big it had become, it was too late (at night) to do any clear-headed editing ~ so there you are.

I hope you enjoyed this peek into our family home! And do be sure to stop by Sarah's Plainsong tomorrow for the rest of the Loveliness Fair - where I'm sure everyone else will be much more restrained and elegantly simple. :)

300 Posts!

Well, technically this is my 319th post (number 300 was this one) but STILL! I had not realized just how much I've been gabbing over the last six months. :)

I was planning to post this morning about our first field trip of the season - the apple farm trip yesterday - and then later to post about our family room for the next Loveliness Fair (hosted by Sarah on Monday). And I haven't forgotten I've promised posts on my file system, the boys' study desk, the Christmas journal and homemade gifts, etc. I'll be getting around to all that before too long. ;)

But first I want to say a very big THANK YOU to everyone who visits By Sun and Candlelight. I so appreciate your visits - that you take time out of your day to pop in and see what we're up to - and "listen" to whatever it is I'm gabbing about now, LOL!

Blogging has been a wonderful adventure and blessing. Whether you just stop by, or if you leave a comment, or maybe link to my blog - I thank you! I so enjoy being a part of this whole blogging community.

Also, while I'm here, let me thank you again for your prayers for my dad. He is improving slowly, and we hope he will be out of the ICU by tomorrow. (He'd love to get to see his race on TV! He's a big Matt Kenseth fan - go #17!) Our family deeply appreciates all your kind thoughts and prayers! :)

I hope you enjoy this beautiful weekend. God bless!

Poetry Friday: A Few Books and a Little Dickens

Last week I mentioned we have a collection of children's poetry resources gathered in a Fruit_sticker1_1 basket, so today I thought I'd tell you just what's in that basket!

Fruit_sticker2We're heading to the apple farm this afternoon to do some picking (and wagon-riding, cider-sipping, donut-eating etc.) so in honor of this fond September tradition, here are a few lines from Charles Dickens:

Merry Autumn Days

‘Tis pleasant on a fine spring morn
To see the buds expand,.
‘Tis pleasant in the summer time
To see the fruitful land;
‘Tis pleasant on a winter’s night
To sit around the blaze,
But what are joys like these, my boys,
To merry autumn days!

We hail the merry Autumn days,
When leaves are turning red;
Because they’re far more beautiful
Than anyone has said,
We hail the merry harvest time,
The gayest of the year;
The time of rich and bounteous crops,
Rejoicing and good cheer.Fruit_sticker4

For the whole Poetry Friday Round-up stop by Big A little a and/or A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy later today. (I get it wrong every week, so I'm going to mention both blogs!)