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May 2007

April 2007

A Cup of Good Cheer

May Day begins bright and early tomorrow morning! On this day it is tradition to surprise friends and family with a small basket of flowers, a "knot" or "posy" of May. There is also a charming medieval custom which instructs a young maiden to rise at dawn and wash her face in the morning dew; supposedly it will keep her complexion ever-youthful. Well, I'm not sure how well it's worked, but ever since we were first married, Bill has snuck out early on May 1st and gathered a few dewy blossoms to sprinkle over my (hopefully still sleeping) face. Some years it's violets and some years it's just a few tender greens - it is without doubt, one of the sweetest things he does for me. :)

Here are a couple of quick and easy May baskets for you to make with your children tomorrow. The first is just a paper cup (leftover from Easter) filled with garden flowers and a touch of water to keep them fresh. We don't have a lot in bloom right now, but the forsythia is plentiful as are the ferns or, "Easter Bush" and "Our Lady's Hair," respectively. I just hole-punched the edges of the cup and tied a pretty ribbon through them.

If you have plain plastic cups on hand, you could easily decorate them with crayons, markers, stickers or bits of colorful tissue as we did last year ~ an idea we borrowed from my dear and generous friend Alice at Cottage Blessings. These pretty tokens could be left hanging on a neighbor's door or brought to a loved one's bedside - my boys will hand deliver theirs to their CCD teachers tomorrow afternoon.

Mayday_cup

Another variation on the theme ~ just a plain white doily curled into a cone, held together with a pretty sticker and filled with more blooms. Voila! A simple but sweet May basket.

This one went to our Nana. :)

Mayday_cup2

(And these would be even fancier if made from beautiful scrapbook papers, such as the ones made by Alice's children recently. In fact, just like last year, Alice has many more Marian ideas in store for us this month - do stop by The Cottage and learn more!)

In the meantime, I wish you all a lovely May Day!

The moon shines bright and the stars give light
A little before the day.
Our Lord, Our God, he called on us
And bid us awake and pray.

(From The Bellman's Song, a traditional English May Carol)


The Nature Study Meeting

Last week, as you all must know by now, (considering how much I've mentioned it!) I hosted a homeschool support group meeting at my house and the theme was nature study. We were a small group of 5, but it was a fruitful and fun evening. I'd like to share a few pictures of the set up with you, as well as some of my notes from the meeting.

To begin with, here is how I set up the learning room, in order to display some of my nature study resources:

Meeting1

I spread picture books all across the windowsills, favorite stories that inspire or supplement a particular topic (I'll set up a sidebar book list soon). On the chairs I have our nature puppet collection (at left) and all our field guides (at right). On the table I set out favorite nature study resources:

Meeting11

  • Here's a close up of our nature puppets, which I find to be excellent teaching tools with the younger children:

    Meeting12

    Our favorite puppets are made by Audubon and Folkmanis. A great resource for puppets and all kinds of nature study supplies, is Acorn Naturalists.

    And here are our field guides:

    Meeting13

    Favorites are Peterson First Guides, Golden Guides and Smithsonian Handbooks.

    Meeting2

    Above you see the far right corner of the room and the second display table. More resources here, including our Birdsong Identiflyer, nature magazines and catalogs, and our new squirrel feeder. Here's a close-up:

    Meeting21

    Oops, how did that phone get in there? :)

    I even set up the prayer corner for the night, with a tiny paper mache bird and a postcard showing my all-time favorite nature study subject, a little red squirrel.

    Meeting22

    I must tell you, I had candles lit and classical music playing - it was a very peaceful and contemplative atmostphere, I think . Bill had taken the boys out for the night, and for a few minutes there, before my first guest showed up, I hardly knew what to do with myself, lol! Clean house, coffee brewing, music playing, candles lit - what now?? :)

    Here's a peek at the goodies spread out on the island (not shown are the delicious cinnamon buns brought by my friend Lisa):

    Meeting3

    So, did we talk about nature? Well, yes we did, but we also happened to be a group of good friends and, as any mother knows - when you get together with your mommy friends (without kids), you can hardly stop talking about all manner of things!

    Once we got around to the actual meeting we talked about whether or not our children enjoyed nature study - why they do (a love of bugs) or might not (a fear of bugs). One mom brought a page from her son's nature journal - a wonderful collection of notes and sketches. This particular page was filled with comments on urban nature study, which led us to another aspect of discussion. What can we see where we live, here in the suburbs? Turns out a lot, as we compared notes on who's seen what - coyotes, foxes, fisher cats, deer, woodchucks/groundhogs, bunnies, squirrels, chipmunks, ducks, and birds of all kinds.

    We talked for quite a while about nature sketching and how for some children (and moms) it can present a real obstacle. One friend shared how her daughter gets quite frustrated when she can't draw things just right. She wondered if she should encourage her child to perservere or back off lest she turn her off sketching completely. We also spoke about the different ways children draw - some press their pencils very hard, some not enough, some prefer to trace and are happy with that. Our talk turned to art programs for a while.

    We discussed how nature study might lead a child to a certain career path - wildlife handler, nature park ranger, photographer, even a (biology) textbook illustrator.

    We talked at great length about what has happened to childhood in general over the past few generations - how we've slowly become an indoor, plugged-in society. Many of us recounted childhoods spent out-of-doors (in the summer anyway) roaming all over, knowing the trees in our neighborhood so well. Today we face many obstacles to such freedom - too much stuff, too much busy-ness, too many distractions, too many stranger dangers. We touched briefly upon the book Last Child in the Woods (which I own but have not yet read).

    We didn't get around to it at this meeting, but later I spoke with one of my friends about the possibility of starting a small nature study group. Perhaps we could get together on a regular basis (once a month or every six weeks?) to do an activity, share journals and recent nature observations with each other. This would be a great way to do some larger group activities and allow the kids to encourage each other and fuel each other's interest in the outside world. We'll see what happens - I have yet to spread the word too far.

    I'd like to say thank you to all the moms who came to my meeting - wish we could all do it again sometime soon. I'd also like to thank everyone who took the time to leave suggestions for me in my earlier post: Nature Study: What are Your Questions?. Like I said before, I do not have the answers myself, but maybe we can work on the questions together! I'm not sure if I'll start those posts here or at The Nature Corner, my other blog. So stay tuned. :)


    I'm SO Excited!

    A few things have me kicking up my heels this bright and beautiful afternoon ...

    Soexcited

    1. I have now heard from several excellent (not to mention, lovely) sources (thanks for the tip, Elizabeth!) that VICTORIA magazine is coming back into print this fall! Say it with me ladies - hooray!! I simply cannot believe it! This magazine is, perhaps - no, definitely - my all-time favorite periodical. I started collecting it when I was, gosh, 18 or so I think? My grandmother and I shared a subscription and we loved every single page of it - columns, recipes, photography - even the ads were a joy. We were so sorry to see it go out of print, and I have cherished the copies I kept as a treasure. I can't wait to tell Gram our beloved Victoria is returning to us this October! I can just envision how gorgeous that first issue will be - all decked out in its holiday finery no doubt. I think we (meaning all we online friends) should join together for a virtual "blog tea" this October to celebrate! Who's with me? :)

    2. And thanks to a morning visit at Jennifer's I learned that it's Educator Week at Barnes & Noble (beginning today) and so, naturally, I added that favorite haunt to my Saturday errand list. I have been waiting for this discount week to purchase a certain book ... and today was my chance! I think The History of the Ancient World will tear me away from Austen's Victorian England for a bit. ;) Its author is Susan Wise Bauer who wrote the history program I've used with the boys for years now. And as much as I enjoy SOTW (learning right along with my children), this new book is meant for grown ups - it's thick, heavy and filled with maps and timelines. I can hardly wait to dig in! I enjoy history to begin with, but this book is particularly timely as we are returning to SOTW 1: Ancient Times next year (meaning September 2007). Well, I've just found my summer reading ~ I'll let you all know what I think when I get through it.

    And finally ...

    3. This morning Bookworm and I attended the first VBS meeting of the new year. Oh, was it fun! And so nice to see many familiar faces (and meet some new ones, too)! This year's VBS (or vacation bible school) theme is Avalanche Ranch: A Wild Ride through God's Word. At every turn we'll be hollering "Wahoo!" and twirling our (pretend) lassos in the air. (You might remember we had a ton of fun at last year's Fiesta.) At today's meeting we practiced some of the songs, games and dances (oh, we're a lively group, I assure you) and figured out who would lead which stations. Bookworm will be a (gulp!) teen leader this year; even though he's only 12 in June, he's considered a teen for VBS purposes. I am back at the games station again, or, as it will be known this year, Horseplay Games. After the meeting Bookworm and I picked up the signature red shirts at the craft store (love the crimson shade - last year's yellow was not my color). ;) Do any of you do VBS at your church? If so, what theme are y'all doing? (Guess I'd better work on my cowgirl accent!)

    Arlogo_3 

    Stay tuned to hear all about our VBS adventures as we go along. It's a long way to August, but it will be here before we know it!

    Have a great evening, my friends, and enjoy a blessed Sunday tomorrow. Good night!


    Thinking Blogger Award

    Oh my! I was tagged for a Thinking Blogger Award by two of my favorite bloggers, RebeccaThinkingbloggerpf8_2  and Marjorie! Thank you, dear friends ~ you have made my day and I am honored by your very kind words.

    So, as I understand it, if you are tagged for this award you are then supposed to do the following:

    1. Write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
    2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
    3. Optional: Proudly display the β€˜Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote.

    Gosh, just five? I am not sure I can contain myself! But I will try ...

    ~ KC always makes me smile and think at her Cabbage Patch. She and I both have children on the autistic spectrum and she writes very eloquently about the challenges and the blessings of our mothering path.

    ~ I bet she's been tagged about a jillion times by now, but I must tag Lissa at The Lilting House whose Waldorf homeschooling posts of late have really got my wheels turning ...

    ~ Jenn's Family in Feast and Feria makes me think about my faith in new and more meaningful ways. She generously shares so much knowledge with us, and she fills in so many gaps for me.

    ~ I would visit Margaret in Minnesota whether she made me think, laugh or cry (and she has done all of those things!) simply because she is such a joy to know. I always carry her words with me and think on them through the day.

    ~ The S/V Mari Hal-o-Jen just lifts my spirit. I love reading about Jennifer's homeschooling and seafaring adventures. Her life is quite different from mine (though we are very similar in many ways if I might flatter myself to say so) and I enjoy living vicariously through her. :)

    I am grateful to each of these women, for how they make me think and feel ~ and most importantly for their friendship!


    Poetry Friday: Happy Arbor Day!

    Looking_up_at_birdy

    I think that I shall never see
    A poem lovely as a tree.
    A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
    Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
    A tree that looks at God all day
    And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
    A tree that may in summer wear
    A nest of robins in her hair;
    Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
    Who intimately lives with rain.
    Poems are written by fools like me,
    But only God can make a tree.
    ~Joyce Kilmer, "Trees," 1914

    Yes, it's Arbor Day! Do you know what your state tree is? If not go here to find out. Some fun things to do today:

    ~ Learn a tree poem, such as Kilmer's above.

    ~ Find a tree to adopt; it could be one in your yard, or one that grows nearby. Start a book about it - draw it through the seasons, observe its changes and its inhabitants.

    ~ Brainstorm all the good things that come from trees, from lumber to maple syrup to the air we breathe. Make a poster!

    ~ Read a great book about trees today, fiction or non-fiction. Your library is sure to have many ...

    ~ Do you have a good field guide for identifying trees? Take it with you next time you're out and about and see how many you can name. Keep a list at home and add to it all summer long.

    And of course it's a great weekend to get the family out in the yard for a general clean-up. Do you have a copy of Mrs. Sharp's Traditions? Author Sarah Ban Breathnach has some wonderful ideas for celebrating this charming holiday.

    Have a great weekend, everyone! Don't forget to stop by a wrung sponge for the whole Poetry Friday Round-Up!

    "You will find something more in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters." ~ Saint Bernard


    The Morning Post

    Lightdawns

    Hello my friends, how are you all?

    Me? Well, I'm doing well - physically and emotionally speaking. But technologically? Not so hot.

    I'm still having lots of trouble with the computer. I can get online (obviously), but navigating anywhere is painfully slow. Too slow, really. Not that I'm impatient (well, maybe a little), but I just don't have the time to be online for so long! Ordinarily I park my laptop on the kitchen island and keep it open and connected all day. This makes it very easy (perhaps too easy) to quickly pop on and off now and then - to check this or that, send an email, work on a post. But it's way too sluggish now to do any of that very easily. Not and still have, oh say, educated children, balanced meals and clean floors.

    And did I mention my answering machine has been eating messages? Hmmm ... perhaps we're meant to be hermits after all. :)

    So I'm just popping in to say hello before I turn this baby off for another rest period. I also wanted to show you the lovely woodland sunrise this morning. Miraculously, I was able to upload this picture in only ten minutes.

    With my non-computing time I am catching up with my "hodgepodge" journal (which has seen very little hodge or podge lately) and I'm taking a good long look at my household routines. I was reading an article yesterday in which the author spoke about how "busy" lives can quickly become disorganized without the structure and benefit of routines. Her first tip was to de-clutter one's schedule:

    "The first step toward simplifying your life is to figure out the things you want to keep doing and what you are willing to let go. Most of us are only awake about fourteen hours each day. To make the most of this time, first write down all you do from when you wake up until you go to sleep. What is taking up most of your energy? Can you delegate some of your duties to someone else?"

    So this is something I'm working on today - a master list of every little thing that I do all day long - necessary and, ahem, not so necessary. I hope to tweak that into a more workable routine - one which includes time for things like lessons, balanced meals, clean floors - and a little blogging.  ;)

    Have a great day, everyone, both online and off!


    A Little Break ...

    It has taken me most of the morning just to get this post up - ack! My computer is having serious issues, and until we work them out, my online activity will be spotty at best. Well, at least my kitchen will get really clean, lol!

    Have a great day, everyone ~ be back as soon as I can! :)


    The FHC Banner: A Work in Progress

    Banner1_3

    This afternoon our parish held its annual banner-making day for the second graders receiving their First Holy Communion in May. Armed with craft supplies, and the warning that this assembly can be rather chaotic, Crackerjack and I headed over early. We perused the general instructions, brainstormed a few designs, filled our ziploc baggie with glue and felt - we were ready to roll ...

    Or so we thought.

    Ten minutes in, between the opening prayer and attendance, CJ suddenly looked quite pale, felt very hot and really wanted to go home. Assessing the situation, I believed he was either coming down with something, or was overcome by all the commotion inside the hall. With all the parents and kids working elbow-to-elbow on banners, spreading out all kinds of materials all over, it was hard to think, let alone chat. It was obvious some mums had done this before - their felt pieces were already neatly cut out, and in beautiful shapes and colors, too - two-toned grapes, golden chalices and embroidered lettering.

    I fingered our few sheets of colorful felt and cast a critical eye at our profound lack of embellishments.

    I knew we would be hard pressed to come up with the design CJ wanted in less than an hour. Certainly not with CJ wilting away by the moment. So I pulled the chute; we gathered our stuff and said our good-byes.

    Honestly it was not because of the pressure to be perfect. We've spent too many years marching to our own drumbeat to concern ourselves with how we measure up. But I know my CJ, and I know he'll care how his banner looks on First Communion Day as it hangs proudly alongside all the others. He'll want it to look ... well, like it's his. With lots of red, a dove or two, and probably a touch of glitter.

    And it's not just how it will look in the end - it will be the memory of putting it together - together. I'd like to be able to talk about it, let him think about it and enjoy the process. Which is just what Sister said as we left. "He should do this when he can enjoy it," she said. "It will be more fun to do later at home."

    So you see the "before" at the top - the plain light blue felt banner - and here's the work in progress, as far as we got today:

    Banner2_3

    We're still envisioning the design, but I have to tell you, I really liked those grapes! The question of course is, did CJ? Stay tuned for our finished product early next week - it's due back in time for rehearsal.

    In unrelated news, my computer is giving me the fits. It's strangely and impossibly slow, photos won't upload properly and Paint Shop won't open at all - it just freezes the whole kit and caboodle. How I got this post done, I just don't know. I have a whole bunch of desk photos to post tomorrow, if these issues ever work themselves out!

    But much more importantly, my family is here, we're all home and everyone is healthy and happy. In fact each one of my men (big and little) is outside flinging a frisbee around in the lingering light of this lovely spring evening. So yes, CJ is feeling much better. ;)

    Keeping all these blessings tucked in my heart, I wish you all a wonderful night. 


    By George, it was St. George!

    His feast day, I mean! Though I will be the first to admit, our day did not come off exactly as planned. It was just too balmy a day ~ we were completely distracted!! And tea - hot English tea? Not when the temps. soared to 85 degrees!

    Yes, this summer-like weather has us all knocked for a loop! Not that I'm complaining, mind you. It was just a bit of, ahem, a challenge keeping our focus on lessons with a warm gusty wind blowing through the house, the birds singing like crazy and flying past the windows with nesting material in their beaks. But! We did do a few things, and I'd like to share them with you.

    Stgeorge1

    Above is pictured our St. George display. In the background we have books on England, dragons and our Catholic Mosaic book of the week, St. George and the Dragon. Also, on the far right is the wooden framed picture of a St. George holy card. Bookworm made one like this for St. Thomas Aquinas (his patron) and CJ will paint this one in a similar way (red, I'm sure). We didn't get around to finishing this project.

    Some coloring pages are taped up on the window (again, partly finished). The boys worked on these (taken from this coloring book) as I read aloud. We didn't get to the narrations or copywork, but we did answer the CM discussion questions, and as always, thoroughly enjoyed the story, as well as a brief debate on the possible "science" of dragons.

    On the tabletop we have our dragon's cave in which is posed a dragon and knight, locked in fierce battle. To the right you see some British specialties for the tea we've postponed till Thursday and a floating red rose candle. The rose is England's national flower and one of the symbols connected with St. George. It's hard to tell in this shot, but the table is set with a white cloth and we have a red ribbon set down, making a cross in the middle - just like the Red Cross Knight's flag. A silk red rose lent a nice touch, too. (I got the idea for this table setting in A Book of Feasts and Seasons by Joanna Bogle.)

    And in the foreground, as you might have guessed, is the slain dragon, along with the mighty (cardboard) sword. We thought we had him taken care of last fall, when CJ, dressed as St. George, posed with his conquest:

    Stgeorge3

    The boys were going to stage a reenactment, but it was far too hot for costumes!

    As for teatime? Well, I did partake, just a bit. After Bill got home and took all the boys outside for a while, I sat down for a spell and relaxed. Flowers, tea, "biscuits," a wonderful read ~ and I had my own little British moment.

    Stgeorge2

    I have to mention, the tea I sipped was not actually British, but a new variety I found at the natural foods store: Vanilla Rose Decaf. With a touch of sugar and a splash of milk, it was delicious and soothing. (I think it would be great iced!) And the candle? Also found at that same store, it's scent ~ "Hope" ~ is a combination of ... vanilla and rose! I had it lit by the breezy window as the boys played outside. Just lovely.

    Well, another warm day is dawning here. We'll take advantage of it before a cool rainy period moves in later in the week. Today we'll be working on math, langauge arts and science (volcanoes) and we'll take a tour of the yard for a bit of nature study. Also, later this afternoon CJ and I will be making his First Holy Cummunion banner at CCD. We'll take pictures, of course (once my batteries recharge)!

    Well, my friends, have a beautiful day. Take time to smell those new flowers and open your windows wide to the sunshine and fresh air!


    Here, There and Back Again

    Outside, inside, underfoot and overhead ... Spring is here at long last! Lives_of_loveliness_logo_200612_2

    I can't seem to stop talking about it lately - and, happily, I'm not alone. KC's gathered up a bouquet of posts exploring the Loveliness of Spring. Take a walk through her Cabbage Patch and revel with us in the nuances of the season.

    "And Spring arose on the garden fair,
    Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
    And each flower and herb on Earth's dark breast
    rose from the dreams of its wintry rest."
           ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley

    Carnival_literature_2In other blog-circle news, Jen Robinson is hosting this month's Carnival of Children's Literature. You know, one of these days I'm going to write something for that carnival, organized by (friend and children's author) Melissa Wiley. Hang on ~ I think I did once! But I see from the date-stamp that it was ages ago. It's been far too long since I joined in that fun, especially when you consider the sheer enormity of our children's literature collection (typical I'm sure for the average home learning family)! If you'd like to learn more about this particular carnival, stop by The Bonny Glen and click on Melissa's button; you'll find it in her lefthand sidebar.

    Speaking of children's books, here's a peek at our books on display this week:

    Bookcorner

    To sum up: volcanoes, robins and St. George.

    Finally, (for now, I'm sure I'll have more before long), please consider Blog_badgevisiting my friend Maureen's donation page. She's doing the Relay for Life in June in an effort to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

    Good for you, Mo, and Good Luck!

    Ooh, one more thing! Today is St. George's Day, the feast of Crackerjack's patron saint and England's National Day. This meshes in so neatly with our history lesson this week (The War of the Roses), I could not have planned it better if I tried. It's also Shakespeare's birthday today, in case you were itching for a good reason to read a bit of the Bard - or to have cake! Have you got 443 candles handy? ;)

    That's all for now ~ have a great day, everyone!


    Play Ball!

    (Soccer, that is!)

    Today was Crackerjack's first soccer game - ever! And he did very well, considering this was his first time playing organized sports of any kind. (At one point he ran up to Bill on the sidelines and said, "Daddy, how come if I've had no training, I'm this good?" Lol!)

    He got his team shirt (he was hoping for red; his team's purple), as well as his cleats, shin guards and a brand new size 4 ball ... all a boy needs for a whole season of soccer. I'm so glad he had a great day ~ and as you might be able to detect in his candy-apple smile, he got ice cream as a treat after the game. :)

    Cjsoccer

    Sorry this picture is kind of blurry and bright. My camera batteries died just as I got this picture off. Goodness, what a fun age. Lost teeth, independent reading, First Communion, and soccer. It's good to be seven-going-on-eight!

    And oh, yes, there is that other kind of spring ball game going on - The Red Sox are playing the Yankees tonight! We're letting the boys stay up to see a bit of the game, even though they're plum tuckered out! But the western sky is still pink, the windows are open, and there is a faint smell of charcoal on the cool evening breeze ...

    Yes sir, I'd say spring has sprung. :)


    Spring has Sprung in my Heart ...

    Purplecrocus

    ... and at long last, in my yard.

    There is a butterfly floating by my window. I think it might actually be a moth, but the point is, a tiny gossamer-winged creature - a herald of spring itself - is flitting across the lawn, stopping at this bloom and that. It's been such a long time since I've seen such a sight.

    I hear a bird singing it's dear little heart out somewhere close by. I believe it is the mockingbird who, just a few minutes ago, hopped down from the telephone wire to the lawn. The sunlight is so bright and golden, and after a long winter, it is so very welcome.

    And what, perhaps, is even more striking than all this? My window is open. Because it is quite warm today, and the air has just the tiniest, kindest hint of coolness. Refreshing, really ... such a beautiful Sunday, and a glorious Earth Day indeed.

    Because we have all our windows open, there is a slight chill filling the house. It feels good to us, but it alerts the heat to come on, and so, as I sit here typing beside the open window, the warmth spreads around my feet. It is a familiar feeling; this time of year is at once cool and warm. It is the hallmark of spring to be such a tease - but we love it all the more.

    There are activities all over the country today, in honor of Earth Day, but we will just celebrate at home in our own way. For one, we will have our first cookout! And over supper we will discuss our environmental goals - take stock of how we've done since last year, and brainstorm how we might do better this year.

    Here are a few ideas for celebrating spring, and our lovely, life-giving earth today, or any day:

    • If weather permits, open your windows wide and exchange the stale air for fresh.
    • Make up a new spring nest for each of your loved ones - trade flannel for cotton.
    • Set up a small nature shelf for the children. Let them add little treasures they find like nests, stones, and blossoms. Add a pretty beeswax candle (perhaps one they've made) and a small postcard with a seasonal theme.
    • Make up a basket for your field guides, and keep it handy!
    • Rise early and sit by an open window with a warm cup of tea. Listen to the new sounds and feel the new air - write down your thoughts in a journal.
    • Sit down as a family and discuss how you might be better stewards of the earth.
    • Carry canvas bags to the market instead of bringing home plastic. You can buy plain ones at the craft store and decorate them yourselves.
    • Find out where there will be farm stands this summer; try to buy local as much as possible.
    • Begin a compost pile.
    • Go on a neighborhood walk - bring a trash bin or bag, wear gloves and clean up trash as you go.
    • Plan to grow some food of your own; research organic growing methods.
    • Visit a natural foods store and look for environmentally friendly cleaners.
    • Look up your town's recycling guidelines; they might have changed! We just found out ours did - and there is much more we can recycle.
    • Read biographies of naturalists; there are many available for children.
    • Sit down with your grocery list (I use my store receipt) and consider each item you purchase regularly. How might you make a better choice (less packaging, better nutrition)?
    • Do an energy audit of your household. Where can you decrease your energy consumption?

    Earth_day

    Spring is the perfect time to reacquaint ourselves with the glories of God's awesome creation. Take joy in this day - and look for more joy tomorrow! And speaking of tomorrow, please check in at KC's Cabbage Patch for the Loveliness of Spring! I can't wait to hear how others enjoy this season ~ how about you?


    Sunny Spot

    Sunnydesk1_2

    (This is my letter-writing basket, inspired by watching too much Jane Austen!)

    To do this weekend:

    • Plan lessons for next week ~ so much to plan, from St. George's to Arbor Day!
    • CJ's first soccer game - photo forthcoming. :)
    • Do the marketing.
    • Stop in at the library; pay huge fine and get over it (blush).
    • Rake and clean up the yard.
    • Visit the natural foods store.
    • Purchase craft materials for CJ's FHC banner.
    • Bike ride (first of the year).
      • ETA ~ Buy new bike for child who has outgrown his old one!
    • Put up basketball hoop - our first ever!
      • ETA ~ We have to order a new part - rats!
    • Get treats from the ice cream man (first of the year).
    • Change beds over to cotton - it will be 80 degrees next week Monday!
    • Work on Loveliness of Spring post for KC.
    • Assemble my May-June Late Spring Notebook.
    • Catch up on emails, pm's and phone calls.

    Have a fabulous weekend, everyone! Hope your windows are as sunny as mine. :)


    When was the Last Time You ...

    ... did a meme?

    I know, it's been far too long, hasn't it? :) I saw this at Lindsey's and it looked like fun!

    So, on with the questions, each one ending the query:

    When was the last time I ...

    1. kissed someone? Oh, kisses all around. Bill kissed each of us before he left for work. When the boys give us kisses we call them smooches.

    2. drank coffee? Two seconds ago I took a sip!

    3. read a book? Currently, I'm reading Cricket in Times Square and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - both in preparation for Book Group. I'm also reading bits and pieces of Mrs. Sharp and Home Comforts.

    4. cursed? I don't mean to sound like a goody-two-shoes but I never curse.

    5. had a nightmare? I had a bad dream about one of my cats needing emergency surgery the other night.

    6. checked your email? Just a few minutes ago.

    7. had a crush? You mean other than my husband, of course? I'd have to say, Mr. Darcy. ;)

    8. drove a car? This morning, my van, to speech and back.

    9. rode a roller coaster? I rode a miniature coaster with the boys at the fair last fall. I don't go near the big ones.

    10. took a nap? I only nap when I'm sick (I can't nap otherwise). That would have been Palm Sunday three weeks ago.

    11. went to the movies? We saw Meet the Robinsons a couple of weeks ago.

    12. drank alcohol? A glass of red wine a few nights ago with dinner.

    13. went to a party? Well, Easter was a party, though we didn't go out! Last night I hosted a meeting, and that felt like a party to me - candles lit, classical music playing, coffee and cookies!

    14. said β€œI love you"? Two minutes ago I told Earlybird I loved him as he settled in for a nap.

    15. cooked a meal? Goodness, it's been a few nights! Two nights ago we ate leftovers and last night I sent Bill and the boys out for dinner while I had my meeting here.

    16. exercised? I just moved furniture around - does that count? ;)

    I tag you all! Leave me a comment if you do one, so I can link you! :)

    More memes:

    Who's next? :)


    Dear Morning Moments

    We were up later than usual this morning, having stayed up quite late last night. We straggled out of bed, one by one, around 6 a.m. (Don't laugh - that's late for us!)

    As is our routine, we congregated in the family room which was filling with soft morning light. Our attention was drawn to the out-of-doors, to the still and serene backyard - and we had to rub our sleepy eyes to focus on the lovely site just outside:

    Deermorning1

    A beautiful deer! It was eating grass, twitching its ears and flicking its tail -  gorgeous! - and here I was in the doorway trying to get a good picture through the glass, when it suddenly startled and ran off to the left, into the woods.

    We all ran to the back windows, to follow its path, and realized there were three more deer, and they were directly behind our house! Oh, the close-ups I could have been getting had I looked out these windows first! One deer was quite small and speckled ~ a fawn, perhaps?

    Ah, well. We watched them leap off into the woods, grateful for that sweet, brief encounter. They stood at a distance out in the woods, just looking back at our house (right at us, it seemed), with the sun beginning to pore through the branches behind them ... it was quite a sight to behold! What a way to start the new day!

    As the boys made their way towards the kitchen for breakfast, I made my rounds of the "bird windows," and was delighted to watch a pair of cardinals taking their own breakfast under the cherry tree!

    These photos (taken through a screened window) are terribly blurry, but I had to post them, just to show you our sweet pair.

    Deermorning2

    If you squint a little, you can just make out the female standing behind the male. They were pecking seeds off the ground (where I spilled a considerable amount yesterday while filling the feeders). Watching closely, I realized he was pecking seeds and feeding her!

    You can just make out the tender kiss they shared in this picture below:

    Deermorning3

    Actually, I'm sure you probably can't, but she is just behind him in this picture and he is placing a seed in her beak. It was the dearest thing.

    All of this happened within 10 minutes of waking, and it only underscored a few of the points we discussed at my nature study meeting last night. I have some pictures and notes to share, but will have to wait until later today to do so. We're off to speech bright and early this morning.

    Thank you to everyone who left comments and questions about nature study yesterday. I think I will begin a series of posts in which we address your various thoughts and queries. It would be fun to share ideas and suggestions with each other!

    In the meantime, as always, thanks for taking the time to stop by and read, and have a great morning!


    Nature Study: What Are Your Questions?

    TwoyellownestIt's my turn to host our homeschool support group's monthly meeting and, as hostess, I get to choose the topic of discussion. You might not be surprised I chose nature study! I'm trying to write up a list of issues to discuss, and I was wondering if I might ask those folks who stop by here today:

    What is your most pressing question or thought about nature study? Do you love it? Do you not? What stands in your way?

    I certainly don't pretend to know all (or any!) of the answers, but I thought commonly asked questions might be a good place to start as I prepare for the meeting.

    Thanks for your help, and have a great day! (It's sunny and mild here at last!)


    Coming Soon ...

    Becoming_jane1

    Have you heard about this movie? It look positively scrumptious! Go watch the trailer, and see for yourself!

    I was flipping through the (glossy, gorgeous) pages of British Country Living last night when I came across a small blurb about this new movie. It stars Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen and that nice young James McAvoy - the one who played Mr. Tumnus in Narnia - as her love interest (or so it would seem from the trailer). It also stars James Cromwell, Julie Walters and Dame Maggie Smith. Wow, say no more - I'm there!

    Becoming Jane opened last month in the UK and is listed as opening in the states this August - but in limited release. Oh, sassafrass! They did that with Miss Potter, too! Why would such a gem of a movie not open countrywide? You know how long we wait must between movies of this genre? Period movies, pretty movies ~ movies that fill our hearts with a balm that lingers for years, even taking the sting out of ordinary household chores on occasion.

    These movies, how I love them. And I can't wait to love this one.


    Small Things, Great Joys

    "Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies." Mother Teresa

    My friend Angela is hosting a Carnival of Joy today at her lovely blog, Three Plus Two. I'm too late for this issue, but happily, she will be hosting it again next week - and each week all Eastertide long!

    But even though I'm late, I couldn't help but think about all the little things that create glimmers of joy in my life, for "... it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all." (Laura Ingalls Wilder)

    Here's my quick list for today:Glad_heart

    Autumn leaves, against an October-blue sky.

    Books, books and more books!

    Cats curled up on an afghan.

    Daffodils dancing in the spring breeze.

    Embers glowing in the fireplace.

    Feast days!

    Grace before meals.

    Home comforts (too many to name).

    Inchworms (especially that darling song).

    Jam jars lined up in the pantry.

    Kite-flying.

    Letters written by hand.

    Muddy footprints - oh, yes!

    Nests in trees.

    Organic strawberries, with homemade whipped cream!

    Pillowslips ~ all cotton, and freshly ironed.

    Trains (because they make my little guy so happy).

    Unscheduled time, and lots of it.

    Violets in the dewey grass.

    Woodpeckers knocking away in the woods.

    X's and O's. :)

    Yellow.

    Zzz's ~ especially when they're uninterrupted. :)

    What brings you joy, the great and the small? Wouldn't a "joy journal" be a nice thing to keep with your children? Something you add to each night before bed?

    Please check in at Angela's for more thoughts on joy, but for now, I'll leave you with this one:

    "Joy is the holy fire which keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow." Helen Keller


    Back to the Learning Board!

    It's been a while since I've had the weekly lessons board up and running! At long last it feels like we're back on track.

    Earthstudy5

    As you can probably tell, we're studying the earth this week. I must point out a few other things, beginning in the upper lefthand corner:

    • Porcupines - we're just kind of interested in them right now. Fisher cats are making a splash in the local headlines and they are the only predator that can successfully hunt the porcupine. We realized how little we know about porcupines (I'm not sure we want to know about fishers) so we dug up some information - from Big Backyard magazine and The Beginning Naturalist, to start.
    • An invitation to a friend's birthday party.
    • A coloring page of Henry V and his sword (our history topic this week).
    • Some photocopied bits and pieces from various history resources (in addition to Henry V, we also are reading about Joan of Arc).
    • Magic School Bus Inside the Earth, the picture book (we also have the CD-ROM somewhere around here).
    • My grandmother's pie crust recipe (kind of a long story involved here, something to do with Earth Day - more on that later).
    • The map with the stars is a project I "borrowed" from Suzanne. The stars show all the 4Real children who are making their First Holy Communion this spring! Isn't it a lovely idea for these children to pray for one another as their big days approach? CJ was so happy to apply each and every star, and it was a great geography lesson to boot!
      • If you have a child making FHC soon and would like to leave his or her name and home state in my comments, please do and we will add you to our map - and our prayers!
    • Finally the Earth book we're using - DK Eye Wonder: Earth, in conjunction with a science encyclopedia for meatier info., and a chart of the earth's layers.
    • Oh! And there's our Earth Day reminder, smack dab in the middle of the board. (It's this Sunday, by the way.)

    A few more pictures from today:

    Earthstudy1

    Coloring and labeling cut-away earth diagrams. The apple was for illustration - and morning snack. :) (That's Koala Krisp in the mugs in case you were wondering.)

    Earthstudy2

    A favorite picture book, timely for this study and this week. The apple peels were brought directly to our compost bucket beneath the sink. (We'll talk more about compost and soil later in the week.)

    Earthstudy3

    To make the earth chart, I cut up strips of construction paper (with a little help from my friend there) and then the boys helped me arrange them in the appropriate order:

    Earthstudy6

    As you can see, the earth's layers are represented by varying colors. They are surrounded by pale blue atmosphere and, further out, by starry black space.

    So now that the board's all set, it's on with the work! Have a great night, everyone. See you in the a.m. - or sometime roundabouts. :)