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January 2007

A Room with a View

Jane and Margaret started a little carnival of kitchen windows, so here's mine!


Sorry about the poor lighting, it is so hard to get a picture of this window. I get either the sink with no view or the view with no sink, so I compromised to get a little of both. If I may link you, here is a post from last summer which gives a better picture of the sink area.

Also, Kim has started a wonderful carnival of color and as soon as I recharge my camera batteries, I'm there!

Poetry Friday: For the Kids

I'll bet you didn't know it was National Popcorn Day ...

No, neither did I, but now we do, and we have the perfect excuse to whip up a bowlful of that hot and buttery snack along with some sweet steaming cocoa. :)

So why not corral your clan and "pop" in an afternoon movie ~ a fun way to celebrate the end of the "work week."

Happy Friday!

A Popcorn Song

Sing a song of popcorn

When the snowstorms rage;

Fifty little round men

Put into a cage.

Shake them till they laugh and leap

Crowding to the top;

Watch them burst their little coats

Pop!! Pop!! Pop!!

~ Nancy Byrd Turner

Of course, it loses a bit in translation when you consider we only ever make microwave popcorn anymore. That's okay, it's still a mighty cute poem!

For the whole Poetry Friday Round-up, please stop by A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy later today.

ETA - the Round up is at Kelly's Big A little a ~ thanks to Susan, for the tip! :)

My Heart is Bursting!

Just now, Bill and I were sitting on the couch with our (extremely early) morning coffee, while Earlybird puttered about, playing with his cars and watching Mr. Rogers. He gestured to a basket of books I keep high up on the shelves and said,

"Take back (basket), Mama?"

So I pulled down the basket and allowed him to look through the books. These are all the older boys' religous books that are too small to stand up well on the shelf - like the ones by Fr. Lovasik, the little books about our church, and the children's missals etc.

Sitting on the floor, EB spread them all out, picked up each one and looked it all over. He held up this one and said, "Who dat?"

I wasn't sure which person he was referring to, so I simply asked him, "Earlybird, who are all these books about?"

"Dod," he replied.

"God? Yes, God! They are books about God," I said with a (huge, beaming) grin.

I looked over at Bill - surprised that EB brought forward this fact all on his own. These are not books I've used with him before - of course they're always around, so he's seen them, heard them read aloud.

Next he picked up this book, held it out to us and said, "That Mayee."

That's Mary. Oh my goodness, my sweet boy, that is Mary!

First of all he used all these words without prompting and second of all he knew! He just knew right away who Our Dear Lady was!

"Oh, Earlybird, yes that is Mary!" I replied.

Then, EB held up The Baltimore Catechism and said, pointing to the cover.

"That Ee-uh."

At this point there were tears in my eyes. That's Jesus! EB said, "That's Jesus." He remembered all on his own and he said it without any help. Oh, my dear boy! How is it I fall behind when you are forging ahead?

And that is my dear son with such a big challenge to overcome, but with an even bigger heart. My dear little one who remembers the things I have taught him and soaks in all the more - all the doings and goings on around him. You should have seen the pleasure on his face as we responded with such delight and affirmation.

I must remember this moment. I must remember my boy's attention is improving. I must strive to keep up!

Just yesterday I prayed while vacuuming (I love to pray when I vacuum), asking for strength and direction. And here this morning, I have found both. God is so good.

EB's speech delay is a real struggle, but one he is (we are) overcoming in small steps each and every day. And some days with more excitement than others! :) 

I just can't think of a better way to start my day.

My Earlybird, you are working so hard - thank you for reminding me once again just how hard! I am so proud of you!


A Gift of Gracias: Tea & a Craft

As I mentioned earlier, Thursday is a quiet, homey kind of day for us, so I like to plan any craft or liturgical projects for Thursday afternoons. Sometimes a simple tea seems a perfect complement to our activity, so that gets planned into the day, as well.

Now, this is not to say we don't drink tea or do crafts on other days of the week, lol, just that I try to plan for this one at least. I particularly like to revolve our activities around an upcoming feast day, holiday, a loved one's birthday or a special event.

But sometimes, it's all about the book we are reading. Case in point - any one of the titles suggested in Elizabeth's Real Learning lists or Cay's Catholic Mosaic book study.

Books such as these are so treasured and meaningful they just cry out to be celebrated with a tea and a craft. This week's selection was a perfect example - A Gift of Gracias, one of our lovely Catholic Mosaic titles.

In this glorious tale, oranges figure prominently. Well, this is so perfect ~ citrus is at its peak in midwinter! I would love to make marmalade sometime, if only I could find an easy recipe. I may just have to order a jar of this instead - oh, my. Marmalade on toast and a cup of strong Irish tea? I can hardly imagine a more delectable winter breakfast.

But for today's tea, well I had something else in mind. I decided to serve Constant Comment tea (decaffeinated of course) and I baked up a fresh batch of ... not lemon like I made before ... but orange snowballs! I simply replaced the lemon extract and Kool-aid with orange on both counts. The results were equally delicious I am happy to report. :)

Below you see our small table setting - and as you can see, with three boys, I keep it pretty simple. No lace, no finery - not even a tablecloth! - just some child-friendly dishes, a glowing candle and good things to eat. The cookies and tea were a hit, as was the story of little Maria and Our Lady of Altagracia. Each and every title Cay chose for her book study is wonderful, but I think this is my favorite so far. The illustrations are gorgeous - colorful and warm - and the story is so very sweet.


After we ate I showed the boys the Our Lady of Altagracia image I found online. I thought it would be nice to have something to remind us of this lovely story, a quick craft to hang up, and later to store in our family faith notebook. So I printed out the image and found one of our golden doilies ...


We just cut out the image and glued it to the center of the doily which made a frame both simple and ornate.


We hung it in our window and there it will hang through Our Lady's feast day this Sunday.


Thank you for stopping by our little tea today! I hope you had a nice day as well. Do come back tomorrow - we have another simple craft planned and I might just be pursuaded to bake again! :)

Winter Sunrise


Getting up early has its benefits!

Thursday is our "quiet" day (relatively speaking). We usually have no outside commitments, so I can plan to get lots of things done at home. Today, I hope to catch up on my housekeeping, have our weeky "tea and a craft," and start my lesson planning for next week. I am taking pictures of course, so I'll post again later today! :)

Have a blessed and beautiful day!

The Plan for Today - Evening Update

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007 (St. Anthony, Benjamin Franklin's birthday):

(Please see blue notes beneath each section for the updates. I have some pictures from today but I just lost my memory stick inside the hard drive (long story!). I'll try to post them soon.)

Housekeeping: Kitchen and Meals

  • Clean kitchen. (Neaten, sweep, wipe down surfaces.)
  • Look through fridge and cabinets; take note of what is needed.
  • Begin meal plan for next week.
  • Start grocery list for Saturday.

Ok, I'm going to be completely honest with you. As of 6:30 this evening, my kitchen was no cleaner than it was this morning! Well, I did sweep the floor and clear the island. Nothing got wiped down as I had hoped and no menu plan or grocery list was begun - not on paper anyway.

My plan was (and always is) to start in on the kitchen before we begin our lessons, as really, it's the only hope. After 8 a.m. I'm just putting out too many fires to spend any quality cleaning time in any room, let alone the kitchen. Fires such as the one that broke out in Earlybird's bedroom when an entire bag of potato chips somehow got dumped out all over the floor. All over construction paper that had also somehow found its way to the floor and acted as a perfect catch basin for the chip grease. Mind you, this was all before 10 a.m.

So after cleaning up that mess, I turned my wary eye toward the older boys' room and decided it too was in need of a good "pruning." (Thankfully nothing so dire as chip crumbs, however.) So I set Crackerjack to picking up cars and Legos, while Bookworm took action figures and trading cards. I stuck to books, bedding and clothes and within 1/2 an hour we had all the bedrooms put to rights. I also got two loads of laundry done - but please don't ask if they're folded.

So the kitchen work gets bumped to tomorrow - Thursday - the day usually reserved for the living room and family room. That's okay - we're home all day - and tomorrow is a brand new day! Right? :)


Pledge of Allegiance and Prayers ...

  • Math
    • Saxon lessons
    • Make graph-paper chart for bird counting

O.K., so the math didn't get done either, lol. But wait! Before you think I completely slipped gears today, let me assure you we did do math. We did really fun math, in fact! Bookworm became engrossed in Math for Smarty Pants and I let him run with it. He read aloud and worked on problems for a good long while. And Crackerjack just loves the Sir Cumference books so we read Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi which led to circle discussion and some measuring.

But it's back to Saxon tomorrow, I'm afraid. ;)

  • Language arts:
    • Lingua Mater: Nouns (1 pg.)
    • Language of God A: Capital Letters (2 pgs.)
    • Copywork; choose favorite Franklin quote.
    • Handwriting Can Help practice.

All done! We even read Eats, Shoots and Leaves as a bonus, a Christmas gift from Uncle Greg. What a funny book!

  • Religion:
    • Read Sunday's Gospel in Magnifikid.
    • Look at church bulletin for BW's CCD assignment.
    • Read A Life of Our Lord for Children: Introduction.
    • Read about St. Anthony. Spend 15 minutes "hermit time" in reflection.
    • St. Anthony is patron saint of domestic animals; groom cats.

We did all these things except the 15 minutes "hermit time." You know, I was really looking forward to those 15 minutes of quiet ... maybe we'll try again tomorrow.

History/geography: American

We did all these things, too, except we didn't finish the d'Aulaire book. We'll read it over the next few days. Both boys voted for the turkey over the eagle. (We're partial to them as they live in our woods.) CJ even insisted on making a turkey flag. Here it is hanging above the boys' colorings and copywork:


No popcorn (not after the chip fiasco) and no coloring page about red-winged blackbirds. Everything else we did.

I couldn't find the Olivia Owl book so EB did some math in a workbook and made a page of numbers. I wrote them out and he named and copied each one. He did this right up at the table with us. We didn't do puppet stories (though somehow they ended up strewn all over the family room, anyway). We did spend 10 minutes working diligently together on a solar system floor puzzle. I was very happy with EB's patience and turn-taking.

We named each planet as we went. And our "X the Owl" came out great! EB colored the picture while I cut out the pieces to make a tree base. Here is X peeking out of his nest:


(Notice the chip grease near the bottom, lol!)

To do:

  • Make vet and dentist appointments.
  • Pull next week's folder. Jot down events/feasts/activities.

As it is just 7:30 a.m., this all seems very do-able. I will report back later today on how it all went! :)

No phone calls were made. I dug out next week's folder and started looking at the calendar, but no notes were made. All the more for tomorrow!

And now it is 12 hours later - 7:30 p.m. - and it hardly seems all that time went by. 7:30 a.m. will be here again before it seems I've even shut my eyes. And I'm off to do just that! Good night! :)

Bird News!

Over at The Nature Corner I just posted pictures (albeit blurry ones) and details fromNest1_1   our Red-winged Blackbird sighting today. These birds are not due back until mid-March, and yet here they were under our feeders today! When we looked them up in our field guide, it said the males come a few weeks ahead of their mates ~ but I think we saw females in the flock as well ... So very strange, indeed!

Have you noticed any strange nature where you live this winter? New England is seeing a very mild and wet winter so far. In fact, the top branches of our rhododendrons have already formed full buds!

(Can you tell I'm testing the waters for a possible Midwinter Field Day?) :)

Nest2Today's bird sighting was perfectly timed, as I am just starting a little nature diary for myself, modeled (somewhat, I hope) after one of my most favorite nature resources, The Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady. (This is out-of-print, but check at your library; a used copy would be well worth the money - within reason, of course.)

Maybe I'll call mine "The Somewhat Random Nature Notes of a Suburban Homeschooling Mama," lol! I was itching to buy a new blank journal for this endeavor, when I remembered those blank memory albums in my craft bins. And the beautiful sticker set you see below (a birthday gift from a very dear friend) sealed the deal. They are just the right touch for this "fledgling" diary and will appear all throughout it.


I have barely even begun putting it together, and already I have my first entry, courtesy of today's encounter:


I just made a few photocopies and jotted down some simple notes, but it was fun. I know you must be thinking, "Does this woman really need one more medium for nature journaling?!?" I love my blogs, for sure, but there's just something about paper and pens ...

Let me know if you think you might be up for a Midwinter Field Day ... maybe sometime early next month?

Loveliness and Inspiration

If you seek either or both, look no further than Leonie's Loveliness of New Year's Lives_of_loveliness_logo_200612_3Resolutions Fair! It's up today at Living Without School.

I find it so interesting as well as inspiring to read about everyone else's ideas, hopes and goals for the new year. Thank you, Leonie, for a wonderful Fair!

And please check in at Real Learning where Elizabeth has listed the upcoming Fair schedule. Next on the horizon is The Loveliness of Candlemas on January 29th hosted by Suzanne at Blessed Among Men. Oh, how I love that feast (and Suzanne's blog)!

Off to order some beeswax ... :)

A Simple Craft to Follow Sunday

Today, in honor of Martin Luther King Day (and Daddy being home), we took a holiday from our usual Monday routine. It rained all day, pajamas stayed on, and no small amount of tortilla chips were consumed. One thing we did that I'd like to share is a simple craft we adapted from last week's Magnifikid, reflecting on yesterday's Gospel.

Below you see our Tomie de Paola book, open to The Wedding at Cana (a retelling of John 2:1-11). First we read it aloud and then I asked the boys what they thought was the most important sentence in that whole story. Crackerjack (still learning what is and isn't a sentence) said "Jesus," and he was essentially right. Bookworm went a bit further:

"Thus, at Cana in Galilee, did Jesus begin his miracles. And his disciples believed him."

And that is where we began our craft ...


The Magnifikid suggested an activity in which children could fill in these five wine jugs (pictured above) with little kindnesses from their week. Then each evening they would offer them to Jesus as gifts - small gifts He will turn into great happiness, just as He turned the water into wine.

Well, I changed it up a bit to include the whole family. We cut out jugs from brown construction paper (one for each of us) and glued them onto a large oak tag jug. At the top I wrote that sentence from above, and in the center I wrote "Second Sunday in O.T., John 2: 1-11." At the bottom I wrote yesterday's date. As the week unfolds, we will write our small kindnesses on the jugs. Then I glued it all down on a piece of cardstock and entered it into our family faith notebook. I haven't been good about keeping that notebook current, so I will add that to my New Year's Resolutions. It was so fun looking back at things we had done last fall and summer.

Here's how it looked when finished:


It was a very simple project, but a fun way to remember that beautiful Gospel story. :)

And speaking of notebooks, we will be creating three special ones this year. From now until April we learn more about Jesus - His life story, teachings, and miracles. Our goal will be to culminate the project at Easter. Come May we will turn our attention to Our Blessed Mother and embark on a four month Marian notebook devotion, ending with a festive Feast on the Assumption. Then we will create one more special notebook - this one all about the saints, to be wrapped up on November 1st, the Feast of All Saints. I haven't decided on the format yet - one large notebook with three sections, or three separate notebooks (or lapbooks perhaps?). I do know there will be lots of books, both familiar and new, as well as an assortment of crafts.

Each week we follow the rhythm of our Catholic calendar - the time that ebbs and flows, the rich and familiar traditions, the lessons to learn and re-learn. Ordinary time is upon us now, but before we know it, Ash Wednesday will be here. I've already been pulling out the Lenten resources and jotting down notes. It is always good to think ahead. :)

Thanks for joining us today; we hope you liked our little craft! Have a good night and God bless!

The Loveliness of A New Year's ...

Resolutions! Lives_of_loveliness_logo_200612_2

Though, I like the word goals better. It seems easier to list out things I'd like to get done this year, than to take a close look at what personal changes I should make.

(Hmmm ... I should probably examine that statement more closely, but in the interest of time, I'll move on.)

Whatever I call them - goals, resolutions, pie-in-the-sky dreams - I return to this moment each and every year. There's just something about a clean slate I can't resist. So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are my *goals* for 2007.

First and foremost, it shoud be said, 2007 is The Year of De-Cluttering. My ultimate goal is to rid our house of the extraneous stuff which I believe is the main thing standing between me and the level of housekeeping I wish to do. Because I really do like housekeeping - even cleaning, in fact - but it can be hard to find the time to devote to a regular housekeeping routine when you spend so much time everyday shifting around things. Piles. Stuff.

Less stuff. More space. Space in my house, space in my schedule.

Now for the rest of the list. :)

1. Find a better balance between online and offline.

  • I've got no notes for that one - just putting it out there.

2. Take better care of myself:

  • Drink more water and herbal tea; less caffeine and (I can't believe I'm saying this) coffee.
  • Research a better vitamins regime.
  • Eat better - more fruits and vegetables to start.

3. Volunteer more at church and/or take part in more activities.

  • Write the dates for the activities (inlcluding RSVP dates) into my calendar.

4. Pay more attention to my log, my paper journal (as opposed to my b-log).

  • Set up an area where it will be convenient to work on my journal through the day - ideally the island counter
  • Keep tape, scissors, pen and a magazine to flip through by its side.

5. Take more field trips - especially to museums.

  • Brainstorm a list of ideas and then schedule them into the calendar.

6. Be more careful with our budget.

  • Spend less money on groceries.
  • Set up a better budgeting system.

7. Overhaul my entire housekeeping system.

  • Too many details to list. First step - de-clutter. Second step - new schedule. Third step - deep clean. Fourth step - redecorate.

8. Keep up with the news.

  • Once upon a time I was a news junkie; nowadays I'm always a step or two behind.
  • Read the Globe and local paper everyday - even just to skim. Be better about clipping articles to "log" and/or share with the boys.
  • Read the Time magazine each week. Choose one article to chat about with Bill.

9. Cook from scratch more.

  • Schedule kitchen time for Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
  • By Friday have the kitchen clean, grocery list made out and menu plan in place.
  • Shop early Saturday morning.

10. Write more letters.

  • Set up a correspondence basket with pretty note cards, stamps, pens and stickers.

And one extra:

11. Ask for less; appreciate more.

Please check in at Leonie's tomorrow for the Loveliness of New Year's Resolutions Fair. I am really looking forward to it ~ I can use a few more ideas!

Happy Birthday, Grama!

Today my dear grandmother turns 93! I have always loved having our birthdays so close, for it means we get to celebrate together. This year, I am happy to say, was no different. After Mass we all headed over to Gram's for a little party. Here are the "party girls" on the couch.


My grandmother has been one of my best friends my entire life. In fact, I wrote an essay about her as part of my college application so many years ago. She has it framed and hanging on her bedroom wall and if I may, I'd like to share it with you here. Now, every word I say about her is true, though I must admit I am cringing a bit at how I describe myself. I don't exactly sound, er, humble ~ I think I remember my guidance counselor encouraging me to "sell myself," to college administrators, lol! Ah, the cluelessness innocence of youth ...

My maternal grandmother, Mildred Cecilia Riley, has perhaps affected my life more than any other person I've known. She has influenced my values, beliefs and personality while encouraging me to have confidence in myself and my aspirations.

My grandmother and I are alike in many ways. Having been born two days apart, (I was born on January 12th, she on the 14th), we are both Capricorns. Like her, I am down to earth, hardworking, organized, and yes, I admit, stubborn. Grandma is 72, yet she has the energy of a woman years younger. She makes herself a list every day and sometime between dawn and dusk she manages to get it all done.

When I was born, my parents were living in Texas, at an army base. My father was called into service and during that year, my mother and I lived with her parents in Massachusetts. I think that this is where our close relationship began. We moved into our own home when I was two, but we have always stayed close with my grandparents, visiting them after school or on weekends. Often I would look forward to spending a night over my grandparents' house. I truly consider their home my second home.

My grandmother has a way of understanding me while helping me to understand myself. I can always rely on her for help or advice. Sometimes, when I'm really feeling hurt or down, just the sound of her voice can help me clear my mind.

In this day and age when teenagers tend to drift away from their families, I see my relationship with my grandmother as even more special. I fell really sad for those who either don't have a grandparent, or choose to deny themselves the opportunity to acquire such guidance and knowledge.

I hope that I live to see a life as fulfilling as hers.

My grandmother, fondly called Millie by friends, has been a blessing not just to me and my family but to so many people through the years. I think the greatest lesson I've learned from her is to be a caretaker - of my loved ones certainly, but also, to the best of my ability, of any who are in need. I am working on that, but it is hard. It can be challenging just to take care of my own sometimes! How I marvel thinking back over the years at how much my grandmother did for so many. I have never in my life known a more generous person. How many times when I was a girl, did I accompany her to visit an eldery aunt or friend - with groceries or a meal, or to spend an hour cleaning or just having tea?

Well, today, Grama, I wish you a Very Happy Birthday and ask that God Bless You, today and always. We love you so very much. Thank you for your love, your faith and your example! 

And before I go, I'd like to share a few more pictures from the party. Here are all my guys, hanging out while Mama and Damee (their name for my grandmother) open gifts.


Below you see the beautiful cake my mum baked for today: chocolate fudge with raspberries. It was as yummy as it looks (and more)! We also served good old-fashioned Brigham's ice cream, our family favorite, and freshly brewed coffee. Growing up, Grama and Grampa would always take us to the local Brigham's for lunch or a treat.


Here's Crackerjack, consulting with Damee about how many raspberries he might be able to eat. (He ate a fair few.)


Earlybird absolutely relished his cake and ice cream:


It has been such a fun day! We began it at early Mass where an RCIA candidate was introduced along with his lovely wife and young baby daughters. It literally brought tears to my eyes as Father blessed him and welcomed them all into our church. This beautiful young family can be assured of our prayers!

After the birthday party we drove home through the cold, misty weather. The thermometer says 28.5 but it just won't snow. So very odd, this January weather. We are now puttering about - Bill has the Bears-Seahawks game on, and we're counting down the minutes till the Patriots' tip-off. (Literally, we have the stove timer set. Like we'd ever forget, lol!)

Now I am off to plan lessons and fold laundry. (I keep saying that don't I? Funny how the bureau drawers aren't any fuller than they were a week ago. See here's a perfect example of where I obviously exaggerated in my comparison with my grandmother. On top of all I said about her, she is the most efficient homekeeper I have ever had the privelege to observe and learn from! I'm still learning, and trying to remember how she did it all, and did it all so seamlessly.)

And so! I hope you are enjoying your Sunday! Please, if you have a moment, offer a prayer for my grandmother, Mildred, on this special day of hers, and, one last thing ... with apologies to my west coast readers ... GO PATS!


Reporting Back on the Books

Well after all my talk, I ended up not using my gift card today at Barnes & Noble, lol! Another case of all talk and no action, I fear. Well, there was a little action (a magazine and Bookworm picked out a journal), but that gift card is still safely tucked in my wallet tonight.

I'll call this a reconaissance mission, I guess. I looked at a few things - clip-art CD-ROM's and pretty stationary sets and I perused the religion aisle for a while. I was looking for this, but I couldn't find it. (The service desk was packed.) My small Catholic gift shop has a much better selection; of course, I don't have a gift card (nor a discount card) for them. Still, I like to buy things from that small and helpful shop when I can - even if it sometimes means paying a bit more. I like supporting them with my business (and there's a lovely chapel next door). In fact, today they had the 2007 Lenten Companion in stock so I snapped that right up (I was picking up this for my grandmother's birthday tomorrow.) Bookworm, asked to spend some of his Christmas money on this, which I allowed him to do. He and Crackerjack had a lot of fun with it this rainy afternoon. We even had our windows open it's so balmy and breezy here, too ... it feels like March and puts me in an early spring mood ...

But I digress - wildly!

In the end I had to admit my reading stack at home is already very high, so I really don't have to rush things just yet. And I really should be grateful and mindful of what I have already. I think I'll take my time, follow up on some of your suggestions and probably end up ordering online.

Now, I did come home with my book bag filled to the brim - with library books! And while I'm here, let me tell you what filled our bag up this week!

That's the wonderful thing about the library. You don't have to hem and haw. You don't have to ponder endlessly over your selection. You can just fill up your bag to your bibliophilistic heart's content. (It's a real word - I checked.) All you have to do is hand them your card and you have weeks over which to savor all your goodies.

So thank you to everyone who has left me ideas and suggestions. I appreciate them very much and hope you'll keep them coming. For now, I will make my way through those lovely selections on my nightside table. I have two Katherine Valentine's waiting in queue, and Little Women right behind them!

Posts, Notes and Laundry

I'm working on so many posts right now it's nutty. There are so many things I want to talk about! New Year's Resolutions, How I Lesson Plan, Thoughts on Our Domestic Church, Middle Ages Activities, Our Mid-Year Review, Meal Planning and How We "Do" the Feingold Diet. And then there are all these pictures I want to upload to The Nature Corner ...

I was hoping to have one of these posts coherent enough this morning to roll with and yet they are all still sitting there as drafts, clunky and half-cooked ...

So! First thing I'm going to do - I am going to update the update to the alphabet meme. And then I am going to send a few emails (I think I have it working again) and then I am going to write out my weekend "to-do" list (see below for the rough draft).

Oh, and here's what my boys have in store for me this weekend:


Do they know me or what?! For my birthday they (and Daddy) gave me the original BBC Pride & Prejudice (2 discs!) and a $20 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble! So now I know what I am doing while I fold laundry this afternoon - drinking in hours worth of Jane Austen's brilliant story. Oh, and that wine was from dinner last night - today it will be tea. ;)

And what else is on my to-do list?

  • Finish Christmas thank you notes.
  • Fold laundry (bears repeating, there's just so much).
  • Make cards for Damee whose birthday is tomorrow.
  • Change all bedding (usually a Monday chore, but the beds are overdue).
  • Purchase 40 lbs. black oil birdseed and fill all the birdfeeders. (Not all 40 lbs. at once, mind you.)
  • Write out bills; do budget for week ahead.
  • Prepare weekly folder of lessons and activities for week ahead.
  • Clean out the van.
  • Cheer on the Patriots!

Oh, there's more to the list; there always is. But I'll stop there to keep it mildly realistic.

But let me ask you in closing, what would you buy with $20 at Barnes & Noble? I always end up buying things in the children's department - which is great, obviously, since as a homeschooling mum my stock and trade is children's books - but today, I want to pick something for me.

Hmmm ... but what should I go for - fiction, nonfiction, CD, DVD? A nature diary, a cookbook, a classic I've been meaning to read? (And by the way, Bookworm has a $10 gift card to spend there as well - he has his eye on Redwall, but he's open to suggestions, too!)

Have a great weekend, everyone!

P.S. Ack! My email is still down - I can receive, but can't seem to send out. Working on it!

Goodness ...

How very blessed I am by such wonderful friends.

I feel like I've been hugged, smiled upon and embraced. I've been pleasantly surprised by my sweetie and my friends:


Lisa, who brought hot white chocolate from my favorite coffee shop ...


And Beth, who brought this gorgeous *pink* birthday cake ... (We missed you Wendy; can't wait till next co-op!)

I had a call from my college roommate (Hi, Kathy!) whom I haven't seen in ... gosh, has it been years? Oh, how much trouble we've gotten into fun we've had over the years. It was lovely to hear her voice.

And now, how did Ina know it was my birthday? You might remember I had a brief but blissful encounter with the Barefoot Contessa herself just a month ago. Well, just a few minutes ago I received this in my in-box:

Dear Dawn,
Ina asked me to drop you a note of thanks for the lovely letter that you delivered to her while she was on her national book tour.  She is absolutely overwhelmed by the response she received from so many people about her books, recipes and television show. You're so nice to share your enthusiasm with her.
The picture of your son "hugging" Ina on the television was so sweet.  Ina is delighted that (Earlybird) enjoys watching the Barefoot Contessa show.  She is always amazed at how many children want to meet her on the book tour because they watch the show every day. 
It was a pleasure to meet you at the book signing event.  Thank you again for your nice comments.   
Best wishes for a very Happy New Year!
Barbara Libath
Assistant to Ina Garten

Hoo boy, it's been such a heady and happy day. I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for their well wishes.

I simply don't feel 38 - just shy of 40 - I feel just like I did when I was seven:


Pressing my nose against the frosty windowpanes, wondering if the snow might cancel my party. (It always snowed on my birthday.) Smelling the cake my mum had baking, dressing up in my handmade, all-time favorite birthday dress, feeling like an all-grown-up "lady."

Everyone who left comments or sent emails, called me (Mum and Dad!) or who mentioned me in posts ~ you cannot possibly know how much joy you brought to my day. It's been so fun!

(P.S. Just to explain the Google link above which at first glance, probably seems a bit obscure. Recently I learned that people can find my blog through a search engine. (In other words, it's now public.) It's become, ahem, a bit of a pastime of mine to check what random search terms have landed people here. (So random!) Bill of course, knows this and did his own "fake" google search just for me to find with his own special message. So cute.)

Anyways, thank you all for a lovely birthday! Good Night and God bless!

Poetry Friday: This Bright New Year ...

This bright new year is given me
     To live each day with zest …
To daily grow and try to be
     My highest and my best!

      I have the opportunity
Once more to right some wrongs,
To pray for peace, to plant a tree,
     And sing more joyful songs!

William Arthur Ward

This poem was a good choice for today, as I am working on my New Year's Resolutions for Leonie's Loveliness Fair on Monday. (I never start my resolutions on January 1st; I need time to regroup after the holidays and to see what the new year brings with it.)

Happily, I found the following quotation by the same author; the words are familiar if the author is not:

If you can imagine it, you can achieve it.
       If you can dream it, you can believe it.

More wise words for the New Year! Have a good one, and remember to count your ...


Picture Books in Winter

How am I to sing your praise,
Happy chimney-corner days,
Sitting safe in nursery nooks,
Reading picture story-books?

  ( Robert Louis Stevenson)

One of the nicest things about wintertime is the way the world slows itself down and carves out a nice little niche for us to fill in with hours of reading. What can be finer than a cold afternoon curled up hearthside, paging through favorite books?

With this in mind, I set up our winter book baskets the other day. I thought you might like to see them and hear what we have tucked inside.


Here are the bins all gathered beside the fireplace. I actually spread this all out along the window-paned door on the right; I just forgot to take a picture once I did, lol.


Here are a few of our nature puppets close up - the purple finch, the Canada goose and in the background, the groundhog, who (along with his shadow) will figure into our nature stories in the upcoming weeks. The purple finches are flocking to our feeders in record numbers (their rosy coloring is striking) and the geese have been flying over quite a bit. For some reason I equate that honking with spring (or fall) - but of course it's been so mild around here ... I wonder if there's a story there?


Here's the rest of the gang! I only set out those critters that are visible at this time of year in our backyard: the crow, the black squirrel, the red squirrel (the gray should be in there, too), the woodpecker, the sparrow, the goldfinch (though he's still sporting his summer coat), the hawk, the cardinal, the chickadee and lastly, the blue jay.


This smaller tin is filled with bird-related resources:


And here is the main winter books basket. Since you can't really see what's inside, I'm going to list and link it all for you!

Here's a little idea I gleaned from my town library a few years ago. One January they announced a weekly afternoon gathering "Cocoa Club" - a time when the children would listen to a story (I think it was Harry Potter) while enjoying a cup of cocoa. It sounded heavenly but it was being held downtown, on a late afternoon which as we all know in the winter means two things - darkness and traffic. Well, my next thought was to try this idea out at our weekly homeschool co-op, which worked out lovely. At the end of a long co-op day, the 5 and unders (fondly known as Little Sprouts and Seedlings) gathered in a room for cups of warm cocoa and books. (I think the marshmallows were the biggest hit!) I also decided with a bit of tweaking, this plan could work out at home.

The general idea is this - a weekly (or daily) time when you sit down, cocoa in hand, to share in a good story together. You could choose a chapter book, or if your children are younger, a beautiful picture book or two. While they sip, you read, and watch the darkness fall outside the windows. It might be fun to invite another family to join you!

Now to make it more interesting, you could do one of a a couple of things. You could make up a chart and using small stickers (such as stars or hearts) keep track of who "attends" your Cocoa club and/or how many books are read. Perhaps the final week (just before Lent begins), there might be a special treat in store for all who participated? A trip to the book store to purchase a new book or a stop at the bakery for some tea and goodies?

You could also make a reading tree, similar to the ones quite popular in the fall. Make a paper tree or bring in a real branch to hang, or just use a window pane. Hang little construction paper cut-outs - each one bearing the name of a book you have read.

I started making the materials this afternoon ...


I'm using wintry shades of blue, white and a touch of red (for valentines). If you enlarge the picture you can see the bird and heart template I drew on a piece of tagboard. I cut out several birds and hearts, and over the next few days will have the boys make up white snowflakes. Instead of using a tree or a branch, I will place our decorations in the windowpanes facing the backyard. Though we have not yet begun our Cocoa Club, I hung up a few to give you an idea of the effect.


This will work nicely with Earlybird, especially. This winter we are working on increasing his attention span, and the length of time he will sit for books. He will really be working hard to earn his birds and hearts!

Here's wishing you many happy, chimney-corner days this long winter season!

(Our) Home Learning Today

A lot of my blogging friends are doing this - posting the details of their home learning day. This is not the day I would have picked, actually, to report on, but looking back I think it was pretty usual. Anyway, here goes!

Well, we began our day kind of late. Usually we begin lessons by 9, but today there was an awful lot of birthday (and pre-birthday) excitement going on - I got a bit distracted, lol! I even was treated to a morning telephone call from a wonderful friend - the very one who got the birthday ball rolling. (Thank you again, my dear!) The boys puttered and played while I partook in all the festivities and then we settled down to business, roundabouts 10.



Language Arts:


  • We read two chapters in King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table aloud. (EB played with the L-Max at my feet as we read.) The boys gave narrations of the chapters after we were done.
  • In The Time Travellers Book of Knights and Castles, we looked at a map of Europe that shows where there are castles.
  • We discussed our upcoming castle field trip to focus on medieval weapons.
  • The younger boys played with their Fisher Price castle stuff - knights, castles, dragon tower (come to find out it's modeled on a seige tower), and battering ram.
  • We read the first few chapters in Storming a Castle: A Maze Adventure a story told from the surprising viewpoint of a boy on the attacking side. Very detailed information!
  • We looked at pictures of castles being attacked in various history resources, and discussed the ways a castle defended itself and how enemies found weak spots.
  • And we made a few library requests: Castle Diary, Castle (video) and The Trumpeter of Krakow (audio)

Current affairs:

  • Over lunch we talked about Monday being Martin Luther King Day. We talked about who he was and why we honor his birthday as a nation. Monday will launch our National Holidays and Heroes study. I put aside a few resources on MLK and Benjamin Franklin (whose birthday is next Wednesday).
  • We like to read the paper in bits and pieces (as in child-friendly bits and pieces). Tonight it was the sports page (the Pats' big game is Sunday), the food pages (bananas are the world's # 1 fruit) and a comics contest we need to fill out and send in. We'll mail it tomorrow.



  • We looked through the Magnifikid for this Sunday's Mass. We talked about how the colors will be green for ordinary time and we read the Gospel aloud (John 2:1-11). This is the story of the miracle at Cana, when Jesus turned water to wine. (Tomorrow we will read another translation in our dePaola book, The Miracles of Jesus. I'm percolating a notebook idea in my overstuffed head ...)
  • We made up our bulletin board with a new theme. I placed a grapevine wreath wrapped with ivy in the middle. I would like to use it as an anchor to highlight liturgical and special events. Next month when Lent begins it will be bare. For now, this week, we have picture cards from Crackerjack's CCD book surrounding it. We'll be reviewing his book over the next few weeks as we lead up to his First Reconciliation. Each week's lesson centered around a Bible story, one that would help the children better understand God's forgiveness. The first story is the Good Shepherd; its picture card is in the center of the wreath. The Act of Contrition that CJ will need to say at confession is at the bottom of the board - eye-level for him. He knows it by heart, but it makes him feel better to look at that paper and read it over now and again.


  • Bookworm had CCD. I always look ahead at the chapter they're covering, but BW says he likes to be "surprised." He explained that one week when I had him read ahead it was hard for him to pay attention in class because he already knew what they were talking about. Hmmm, that's interesting. I guess it's best to keep it fresh!

Finally, I set up the winter books and bird study baskets. I also brought out the basket of bird puppets. (I took pictures just now, so I'll post those tomorrow)

I'm still working on that Middle Ages post! Details to come soon. :)