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August 2007

Little Nature Stories: Dexter, the Blue Jay

My friend Marcie from Louisiana has kindly been sharing pictures with my boys and me of a blue jay who has been calling her yard home. I asked for her permission to share them here with you all, because they are truly amazing!

Back in June, Marcie's family rescued 3-week old "Dexter" (as he came to be known) from the mouth of a cat! They cared for him, fed him (mealworms are a favorite you can see) and he continued to come to them, becoming quite tame. Here he is on Marcie's arm (having just vacated the top of her head):


Even more recently Marcie sent me pictures of Dexter molting and I gasped with surprise when I saw these:



What a look! Have you ever seen a blue jay looking like this?

The funny thing is, we have a blue jay in our yard these days that has the exact kind of oddly-shaped head. We didn't know what was going on with the poor fellow! We were afraid he might be ill or had been attacked. We got to calling him Turkey Head because we thought he looked (in shape) somewhat like a turkey vulture, lol. We were glad to learn he is only molting! How extraordinary that we both have unusually molting jays in our yards this summer, a thousand miles apart!

Of course Marcie's family is on much more familiar terms with their jay than we are with ours! We do enjoy watching the ones who visit our yard, though, and recently several of them saved a red squirrel from an enormous hawk! Bookworm watched it happen - the jays mobbed the descending raptor, squawking and rushing at him relentlessly. He finally gave up and the little red squirrel was able to make a safe escape. The birds kept up their alarm for almost a half an hour!

I now have a soft spot in my heart for blue jays - in light of their recent heroics, and especially now that I've had the pleasure of getting to know Dexter.

Marcie tells me these days Dexter is more wild than tame, visiting their feeders less and less, though he does call to them when he arrives.

Here he is with his new feathers coming in:


And a final picture of Dexter, looking dapper at last:


Marcie's photographs are amazing, arent' they? You might remember that her photos are the ones that bring my Field Days alive. Which reminds me ... it's been a long while since I've run a Field Day, hasn't it? Hmmm, stay tuned for an announcement before (hopefully) too long. :)

In the meantime, thanks to Marcie for sharing these awesome photos and such a great story with us! And thanks, as always, to you all for stopping by. And if you pass a blue jay in your travels today, tip your hat to this delightful - and dapper - songbird!

Sweet and Simple


We had our weekly sit-down-to-tea yesterday (Wednesday) since today (Thursday) will be a busy one for us. This might remain a permanent change as Wednesday afternoons look to be the quietest of the week this fall. I like to have our tea when we've got the whole afternoon at home. This way I have time to prepare, and they have time to digest. :)

I didn't have a craft planned, or a picture book picked out, but I printed out the weekly coloring page at Catholic, and we read aloud Sunday's Gospel (Luke 14: 1, 7-14) from our Magnifikid. The boys colored as I read and we all nibbled on the fruity snack I laid out.

It was quite warm here yesterday, and I had planned to serve this, our last "summertime" tea on the deck - but the lure of the AC was too great! Not shown is the refreshing "Zingerade" punch, the recipe for which I found in Parents magazine, a lovely last hurrah for the summer:

Bring 4 cups water to a boil. Add 4 lemon-zinger herbal tea bags and brew for 10 minutes. Discard tea bags. In a large pitcher, combine 1 can (6 oz.) frozen lemonade concentrate, 1 liter plain seltzer and tea. Serve with orange, lemon and lime slices.

As you can see in the photo above I served watermelon "sticks" and apple slices along with strawberry yogurt for dipping. (It was just too hot to bake!) I explained that these fruits formed a bridge between the seasons - juicy melon from summer and crisp apples for fall. Beginning next week, our table will adopt a distinctly more autumn feel.

In fact, the windows have already begun the transformation:



I picked up these garlands at Michaels along with the clip-on silk "fall" butterfly. I only got enough to do one set of windows, so I'll wait for the next store coupon to buy more. ;) I'd like to have Bill weave a strand of tiny white lights in with the garland. I think fall's dark afternoons will be much enhanced by soft lights twinkling above our workspace.

Well, I hope you enjoy these last few (unofficial) summertime days! So far the morning here is bright and breezy, a welcome foretaste of fall ...

Before it gets too warm (as it's bound to do), I'm going to get some banana breads in the oven. And, later this morning I'll place some calls to local farms to inquire about the availability of green tomatoes.

Labor Day means picalilli, of course! :)

Scary ...

... how accurate this quiz is! Hat-tips to Jenn, Mary Ellen and Cindy.
What American accent do you have?
Created by Xavier on

Eastern New England. Whether or not you pronounce r's, you have the sound of Boston, New Hampshire, and Maine about you. You do think "don" sounds like "dawn" even though the people down in New York City don't.

If you are not from this region, you probably were thinking too hard about one of the questions.

Take this quiz now - it's easy!
We're going to start with "cot" and "caught." When you say those words do they sound the same or different?

A Very Nice Award!

AwardbmpI have been awarded with the Nice Matters Award by two wonderful bloggers (and very nice women themselves), Mrs. Darling from Dishpan Dribble and Elizabeth of Real Learning. Thank you, my friends ~ I am honored!

Here is a description of the award:

"This award is for those bloggers who are nice people; good blog friends and those who inspire good feelings and inspiration. Also for those who are a positive influence on our blogging world. Once you’ve been awarded please pass it on to 7 others who you feel are deserving of this award."

Just seven, you say? Hmmm. Well, I am blessed in this blogging community with many wise and wonderful women to choose from ...

First I nominate Jennifer at As Cozy as Spring. I have had the pleasure of knowing Jenn for some time now, and it's been a joy to realize how much we have in common. My one wish is that we lived a bit closer than oh, a couple of thousand miles or so!

Theresa at Treasure in Earthen Vessels is another friend I've made in the past year, someone who always has a helpful suggestion, or a kind word to say. She also has wonderful patience as it usually takes me eons to get back to her about something! (That history post is in the works, Theresa!)

I was so excited to meet Meredith of Sweetness and Light a few weeks ago (gosh, was it only a few weeks?) and I can assure you, she is just as nice (and beautiful!) as she is at her lovely blog. Here again, I wish we lived closer - but I know we will always be close in our hearts.

Angela at Three Plus Two (make that three!) is another "blogging neighbor" I had the privelage to meet in real life; last winter our families met up in Boston one day! Just a week ago, Angela's family was blessed with a new son ... but that child was blessed too, with a loving and gentle mother I'm honored to call my friend. 

I also nominate Mary Ellen of O Night Divine, a Christmas blog near and dear to my heart. Before I even met Mary Ellen I knew I'd love her - she is kind, funny, inspiring and a mentor for me - even though we do disagree in one "crucial" area. ;) I am thrilled to have met her at last.

Next I nominate my friend Jennifer of the S/V Mari Hal-O-Jen who recently, and very nicely, tagged me with the Blogger Reflection award. Jennifer is someone else with whom I am happy to say I have much in common - except for the part where I'm a serious landlubber, lol!

And I mustn't forget Ruth at Just Another Day in Paradise, who is such a dear, always with a prayer for those who need it, or a kind, encouraging thought. I got to meet Ruth at the conference too, and how I wish we had all afternoon to just sit and chat over a cup of tea. :)

Oh, goodness, I must add one more - my dear friend Cay at the lovely Cajun Cottage under the Oaks. I have never met Cay in real life, but I feel like I have. She is so genuine and generous with her time and talent. I've been thinking of her quite a bit this week, as I plan out our "Catholic Mosaic" year. Cay has blessed us with her book, and the wonderful news is, there is another one coming this fall!

Well, I could go on and on, but my children are no longer taking "just a minute" as an acceptable answer to "what's for breakfast, mum?" :) So I'm off ...

Have a NICE day, everyone. :)

A Great 8!


I'd like to share some pictures from Crackerjack's "friend" birthday party which we held this past weekend. The theme this year was Toontown, which I should probably explain is an online Disney game ( in which the "toons" (mice, dogs, cats, rabbits, etc.) try to protect their fun and friendly town from the big bad "cogs" who are always trying to take over with their big ugly corporate buildings. (Hmmm, sense a political agenda there, lol?)

Needless to say, the kids play as the toons, and they get to pick their species, color, size, name etc. They then all work together (with other online toons) to "fight" the cogs with gags and funny jokes. It's an extremely child-friendly game (you can't communicate with the other players except by using toon talk); CJ almost always uses his allotted "video" time to play Toontown. Of course his brother plays it too as well as several of his friends, so that makes it all the more fun.

OK, so there's the theme all explained, now here are the pictures!


We had planned to have the tables set up on the deck, but a forecast threatening severe thunderstorms prompted us to move things inside (balloons and all).


We even moved the galvanized tubs of drinks inside just in case. I laid vinyl placemats underneath that colorful plaid blanket to minimize any moisture problems. The tub on the left held water bottles and lemonade juice boxes. The one of the left had the "hard stuff" -i.e. sodas!


Here are the cupcakes just after decorating. I baked up a yellow cake mix (Feingold-approved) and frosted the cakes with homemade buttercream frosting. On top I sprinkled all-natural organic jelly beans (again, EB-OK). The symbolism is this: in Toontown not only do you throw cupcakes at cogs, but you collect jelly beans as "currency" which you can use to decorate your toon home and buy your toon clothing as well as new phrases or gags.

As it turned out, the weather held, and a light cloud cover actually kept the temperature in check. So the backyard games were back on:


The first game the kids played was a variation of tag or a bit like ghost-in-the-graveyard. Upon arriving, all the kids became toons by choosing toon names (i.e. Captain Sniggle Puff, that kind of thing) which were then applied to their shirts (in the form of mailing labels). Bill and Mike (another dad at the party) were roped into offered to pose as cogs trying to stop the toons from getting the huge dollar bills taped all over the yard. The object of the game for the kids, er, toons - grab the money and get it back to home base (that large tree pictured there). If a cog tagged you, you had to freeze and wait for another toon to unfreeze you (by tagging you again). Once the bills were all recovered, the game was over and the toons all received megaphones as a prize. ("Megaphone" is another toon gag used against cogs.)   


Camera shy kids, obviously. ;)


The next game involved water, always a hit on a hot day. This was reminiscent of a VBS game we had played last year. A wheelbarrow was filled with water and stationed at one side of the yard; across from it, equidistant, stood two buckets of the same size. The kids were split into two teams and given paper cups. On go, they had to use their cups to move water from the barrel to their buckets. The team that filled their bucket first won.

As you can see from CJ's face above, he takes his competition rather seriously. That's my little EB in front doing his part for the team. :)


CJ received some cool gifts, including this Toontown t-shirt with a message for all cogs on the back!


Crackerjack was insistent he needed this crazy red headgear for the day (the hands resembled toon hands, he said). He wore it for all of two minutes, lol! EB seemed just as "happy" to wear them, as you can see. Guess who ended up wearing them most of the day (mostly because I kept forgetting I had them on)? 


Cake time! And yummy cold popsicles, too.


Crackerjack had such a great time, he loves being the center of attention!


These were the favor bags we made up. We started with black bags and decorated them with fireworks and golden star stickers. (On certain holidays, Toontown does fireworks every hour on the hour - my kids just love that part.) I used a gold metallic ink pen to write party guests' names. Inside the bags were all kinds of toon favors like marbles, jelly beans, duck beak whistles and paper money.

Well, thanks for stopping by and sharing in our fun! Once Crackerjack's birthday is over I know summer is really nearing its end. The next birthday will be Earlybird, just before Christmas - guess I have time to catch my breath before then. ;) 

News from the Homefront

Living Arts

The boys are having a new friend over to play this afternoon, a little boy we met at VBS. As you can imagine, they are quite excited. So excited they won't mind picking up their room this morning, I hope? ;) We're going to run to the grocery store early to pick up a few things to serve for a snack, then we'll run back home to spiff things up around here.* It's Tuesday so, in housekeeping terms, it's Bathroom and Laundries day. The trick is fitting those weekly chores in around the many daily to-do's. Throw in a playdate and I get all off-track!

*Breaking news: I determined we have enough food on hand to make up some nice refreshments to serve our guests. Saved: time and money! :)


Did you see the moon last night? The Full Green Corn Moon rose in the eastern sky just about 8:30 last night. We first glimpsed it through the bedroom blinds as I read The Chamber of Secrets aloud to the boys. Once we realized the brilliant white light was actually the moon (and not, say, a helicopter - or a dragon, lol), we dashed outside (braving mosquitos and bat wings) to get a better look. Here's what we saw:


Food Pages

These last days of summer, Bill makes almost a nightly stop at the farmstand on his way home from work. Everything is just so good! The other day I found a nice recipe for spoon bread in Parenting magazine, one that bakes in little one-cup ramekins. I think I'll make these for supper tonight, along with some meatloaf muffins and steamed zucchini.

Here's the recipe:

  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup cooked corn, cut from cob
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Coat 4 one-cup ramekins with vegetable cooking spray. In a medium saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a boil. Slowly whisk in cornmeal, stirring well, and cook one minute. Remove from heat and stir in corn, butter, sugar and salt.

In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk and eggs. Pour buttermilk mixture into cornmeal mixture and whisk for 1 minute. Divide batter among ramekins and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until bread is golden brown and knife inserted into center comes out clean. Makes 4 servings.


Bill has a big shindig coming up for work next month, a cocktail party in town. The good news is he is allowed to bring a guest (and guess whom he asked?), but the bad news is (or was or seemed to be) I had nothing to wear! And then I remembered a dress I wore many years ago to a friend's wedding - navy blue, with just a touch of glimmer:


It has literally sat in my closet since then, but I pulled it out last night and not only does it still look good (albeit wrinkled), but it fit! It's off to the cleaners today. I love it when you can make do with something you have, don't you? Not that I don't enjoy buying a new dress now and again, but honestly? I'd rather buy books. ;)


And finally, the Red Sox play the Yankees tonight in the first of a three-game series. A snoozer according to some, due to the Sox's, ahem, 8-game lead, but any game between these two teams is worth watching if only for the potential theatrics. Now you all know I love the Sox, but I know I have New York friends reading this blog, so I'm not going to say much else about this developing story.

7:05 game time. :)

Well, that's all the "news" for now ... hope your day is a good one!

A (Free) Museum Day!

Have you heard about this? I just read about Museum Day in my homeshool support group's newsletter. You can learn more at, but the gist of it is:

"Museum Day is a nationwide event taking place on Saturday, September 29, 2007 where participating museums and cultural institutions across the country offer free admission to Smithsonian readers and visitors, allowing for one day only, the free-admission policy of Smithsonian's Washington, D.C.-based facilities to be emulated across the country."

You can find out what museums are participating in your state here. Here in Massachusetts we have a LOT to choose from! I am very torn between the MFA and the Harvard Museum of Natural History. We've been to the former (though not in many years) but we've never visited the latter. Either would be great fun!

This, of course, means I'll be making up a basket full of books about museums! A few I have in mind:

Oh, and I just might stick in a copy of Night at the Museum for a fun movie night, too! ;)

I also remember a wonderful article on museum trips in an old issue of Martha Stewart Kids (why, oh, why they ever stopped publication is beyond me). I couldn't find a link to it, so here are some tips I gleaned from the article, which was authored by Theresa Robinson. And I must note, I offer these tips fully realizing that many of you are, in fact, seasoned and intrepid museum visitors; city-driving chicken that I am though, we are decidedly not. ;)

These are not my words, but straight from the article itself. I'm just quoting the sections I zipped with my highlighting pen:

(Some) parents seem to believe that a gallery-by-gallery six-hour grand tour is the only way to "get their money's worth" from the trip. In truth, the best way for you to benefit from museum visits with kids is to reset your priorities. Make it a goal to find one astonishing sculpture, one painting that prompts a conversation, one eye-opening exhibit. Then, leave if you'd like.

"Establishing a relationship with museums is the first step for children in their development of an aesthetic sense - their idividual appreciation of artistic beauty," says Sharon Shaffer, executive director of the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center in Washington, D.C.

Gather information from the library or Internet about the exhibits you will be seeing, and talk about them in advance.

The museum's education department is a great resource for guides and brochures.

If your child will want to draw pictures or take photographs, call ahead and inquire about any restrictions.

(Neat website:

When you arrive, take a few moments to look over a map of the museum with your child.

Ask open-ended questions about what she is seeing. Jot down your child's own questions as they arise; part of the fun will be going home and finding the answers together.

A plastic sandwich bag hung on a clipboard with binder clips keeps colored pencils close at hand for making sketches or jotting down details like names and dates.

When you get home ... Set up a museum shelf or corner in your child's room where she can hang her own artwork and arrange exhibitions of objects ... Many children have a natural tendency to "curate" their own little exhibitions - selecting and arranging favorite items from among their possessions so that they go together somehow. Support and encourage this instinct; it teaches kids that by grouping objets in certain ways, they can tell particular stories.

I love this last idea most of all! I think a museum-themed learning center would be a great way to follow up our visit. Wherever we end up going, I am sure it will be a fun day -once we get past all that traffic, lol. So where do you think you'll go?

Before I go, I want to link to Cindy's Loveliness of Summer Vacations Fair. What a perfect week to relax and reflect on that time-honored tradition of family togetherness. I will have to live vicariously through all of Cindy's links since we, ahem, have not had a vacation in ... um, years? Yes, we're all about the day-trips around here, and speaking of - we're heading to the beach at the end of the week! Still, there's nothing quite like a summer vacation, is there?

Also, one more bit of housekeeping - is anyone having trouble with my blog loading or being slow? My friend Tami is having a terrible time with it (particularly, it seems, with my banner) and we want to figure out if the problem lies within my blog or her computer. Thanks in advance for your help.

Well, I'm off for now - to shuck some corn, grill some burgers and wash up a dish or two. I hope you all have a great last week of summer. :)

At Long Last: Window Panes!

Yes, this is indeed a post about window panes, lol ... but I'm just so excited about them! I had to take pictures and share, especially considering how often I post pictures of my windows!

You see, tonight we (meaning Bill) finally got in all the grilles - the long awaited, much delayed window grilles! Just after my dear husband got home from work, I ran over to my folks' house with the boys for a quick errand, and when we got back the transformation was already underway ...

They make such a difference in our rooms, especially the dining/learning room. It just so happened at this time of night the steamy summer sun was setting behind the windows, so I was even more eager to snap pictures ...

Here are the front windows facing south:


Do you remember how they looked beforehand? I wouldn't expect you to, of course, but here is a link where you can see how they did ...

And here are the windows facing west towards the sunset and, more importantly, all our birdfeeders. This is the before:


And the after:


And a close up from where I sit in "my work zone:"


Bookworm took one look at all the panes and said, "Wow, I could fill those up with lots of window stars!" :)

You know, I've realized I have a real thing for windows. For one, they let in the light that I am so fond of (and the views of the nature I adore) but the very fact that I am looking through them means I am home. The best of both worlds in my book. :)

OK, the next thing I want to mention is that I am going to take a little blog break, just for a few days or so. We have such a busy time ahead of us, starting with Crackerjack's birthday party tomorrow (this year's theme: Toontown), and next week, as I am sure you all are aware, is the last week of summmer ...

Wow, how did that happen?!

With Labor Day we'll begin our new homeschool year (7th grade, 3rd grade and K) and a new and more intensive therapy schedule for Eb. It will be such a big change from these lazy, hazy days of late summer, but we'll adjust I'm sure. It will just take some getting used to - not to mention good sleep, daily vitamins and probably lots and lots of coffee for me, lol.

Have a great weekend, everyone - we'll catch up again soon!

Candle Comforts


In a recent post I mentioned our "storm candle tradition," and Lorri asked me to explain what I meant by that. So here's the scoop. :)

It's really such a simple little thing, but it's fun. Doesn't cost much or take much time, just a little forethought.

It all started years ago when I discovered a Yankee Candle variety called "Storm Watch." At the time I was a bit of a YC fan; I could spend ages perusing all the different colors, smells and themes. Nowadays, with EB's sensitivity to fragrance, we stick to unscented candles, but I still get excited when a new flyer comes in the mail - as the fall one did just the other day.

I remember it was the summer my dear cousin Kara was helping me with my baby Bookworm (who is now 12 so it has been a while!). As summers tend to be in New England, it was hot, humid and often thundery. As the skies darkened, we loved dashing home all together from the park or the bookstore to the quiet dark house and I would light a candle for the duration of the storm. It lent a cozy, protective air to the time it took for the storm to pass, while we tucked into snacks, hot cups of tea and the books we brought home from the store.

Years later, I have three growing boys and my mother's helper has just graduated college! But we continue our storm candle tradition every summer. On a steamy afternoon, as the first rumble peals off in the distance, the candle is lit. The original has long since burned down so each year I make up something new, usually starting with something I find in the basement. This summer I am using a canning jar with a pretty gingham (open) lid - and inside I slipped a small white tealight (unscented of course).

Like I said, it's a very little thing. But lighting a storm candle just makes homey days even homier ...

And all those little things get woven into blankets of memories, ones I wrap around my children as they grow bigger every day. You can be sure those fibers are woven tight ~ because these blankets are made to last generations. :)

A Book (and a Trail) to Recommend

The other night I attended a homeschool planning meeting and happily it was held at a local Barnes & Noble. I say happily because as we chatted and strategized, I sipped an orange mocha latte (delish!), and because I got there early, I did a little shopping. ;)

GooseberryI must mention a book I picked up that evening, Gooseberry Park by Cynthia Rylant.

I was specifically looking for good reads for our book group, when I spied this book on the shelf. I'm a big fan of Cynthia Rylant (Thimbleberry Stories, Mr. Putter & Tabby, Poppleton in Fall) and the title intrigued me. A quick page-through told me it was a larger-font, shorter chapter book, and it might be just right for Crackerjack.

Then I read the back cover and I was sold:

"When Kona, a Labrador retriever, meets Stumpy, the squirrel in Gooseberry Park, it's best friends at first sight. But after Stumpy's children are born, disaster strikes in the form of a violent ice storm.

"Kona is not a fair-weather friend; he's worried sick! How will Stumpy and her babies survive? With the help of Murray, a hilarious bat, and Gwendolyn, a wise hermit crab, Kona shows just how true - and heroic - a friend can be."

Oh, and did I mention Stumpy is a red squirrel? Well, you know how we feel about red squirrels. :)

Back at home, I read this book in an hour or so (to myself) and could not help chuckling aloud now and then. The boys wanted to know just what was so funny, so I read a quick passage and had them in hysterics, eager for more. We'll start the book soon, and I'm going to propose it for Crackerjack's book group (ages 7-10) this November. (Each family must volunteer to host one month's discussion.) I'm still looking for a title for Bookworm's group (ages 10-14); that's proving a bit trickier to nail down.

Ms. Rylant's charming story is really well told and in a way that's appealing to both children and adults. It's a neat little adventure with just enough suspense and plenty of lovable, memorable characters. Themes of friendship, loyalty, tolerance and self-sacrifice make for thoughtful discussion.

You know, I think I will build a little rabbit (er, squirrel) trail around this book come November. We could ...

Now I can't wait for November! For the time being though, we'll keep feeding and watching the three little red squirrels who visit our trees regularly. They are rare, funny and downright adorable, and though decidedly hot-tempered, do co-exist fairly well with the larger grays, smaller chipmunks and various birds who also call our woods home.

Well, I bought one more book that night I'd like to recommend - a wonderful chemistry resource - but I've run out of computer time this morning. I'll be back soon wth more on that. :)

Themes and Plans for October

Continuing with my "themes and plans" series, here is October's installment! Leavessquare_3

I think October might be my favorite month of all ... fall is in full swing, we've adjusted to new routines and Christmas is coming at a comfortable pace. And though I don't care to see holiday decorations in the stores just yet, I do like to be in full Christmas prep mode by this month. In a whirl of planning and preparation, nature speeds up to slow down, and so do we ...

Sure, September may be just around the corner, but for today let's cast our eyes on October:


  • withered cornfields
  • chipmunks scurrying over old stone walls
  • crows calling on foggy mornings
  • pumpkins on the vine
  • chrysanthemums in gold, russet and magenta
  • kale in the garden
  • the cranberry harvest
  • bittersweet draped along the fence
  • the juncos return
  • acorns underfoot
  • National Squirrel Awareness Week (7-13)
  • geese in black vees against brilliant blue skies
  • a woolly bear caterpillar curled up tight
  • The Full Hunter's Moon (26)
  • fiery falling foliage
  • migration underway (geese, hawks, monarchs)
  • St. Luke's Little Summer
  • the first frost


  • comforting casseroles
  • chili and cornbread
  • baked beans, brown bread and ham
  • cider donuts
  • pumpkin muffins with streusel topping
  • cranberry apple crisp
  • baked apples with oats and brown sugar
  • maple leaf cookies
  • popcorn balls
  • hot apple cider
  • homemade pumpkin butter
  • cinnamon sugar toast and orange spice tea
  • homemade Halloween goodies
  • freshly baked pretzels
  • caramel apples
  • pomegranates
  • winter squash soup
  • Vermont cheddar


  • The Month of the Holy Rosary
  • The Feast of St. Therese (1)
  • The Feast of the Guardian Angels (2)
  • The Feast of St. Francis (4)
  • The Feast of St. Luke (18)

Home & Garden:

  • continue kitchen cleaning
  • stock up on baking essentials
  • rotate mattresses
  • change over to winter bedding
  • clean out and restock medicine chest
  • put up storm windows
  • rake
  • cut and dry hydrangeas
  • store outdoor toys and furniture
  • clean and restock birdfeeders
  • organize board games and puzzles
  • buy Christmas stamps
  • continue Christmas gift shopping
  • organize Christmas cards
  • make up cocoa mix
  • order firewood



Field Trips:

  • leaf peeping ride (with hot cider in thermal cups)
  • a visit to a pumpkin patch
  • the country fair
  • an autumn hike (looking for old stone walls)
  • the birdseed store


  • felt gnomes
  • acorn hunting (for squirrels)
  • leaf crafts
  • jumping in leaves
  • twig frames
  • homemade seed and suet cakes
  • homemade squirrel cookies
  • roasting pumpkin seeds
  • carving pumpkins
  • work on holiday gifts
  • fingerknitting

I feel compelled to mention that I do not intend to do all of the things on this list! :) I just like to brainstorm all the possibilities and then go from there. What do you love about October? Leave a comment - I'd love to know! 

The Learning Room, Revisited

Over the next few weeks I'll be cleaning and organizing my house as much as possible, because A. it needs it and, B. that first week in September marks a return to lessons for us, as well as new activity schedules that promise to keep us busy, busy, busy. I am also working on a (hopefully more realistic) housekeeping routine that will somehow enable me to keep things on an even keel around here. But to begin with I'm just mainly de-cluttering.

I did have some fun yesterday setting up the learning room, so naturally I grabbed the camera so I could share it with you all. :)

This first picture was actually taken in the living room (an extension of the learning room - but really, what room isn't?). This is a small room at the front of the house, with two large (overflowing) bookcases, the (underused) keyboards and two comfortable reading chairs. Come September this will be a child-friendly reading zone, starting with the front window which serves as (what I hope is) an inviting book display:


On the small table is a selection of children's periodicals and, on the floor (not visible), are some baskets filled with Bookworm's paperbacks and some easy reading selections for Crackerjack. CJ's reading is really kicking off, so I'm trying to make it as fun and palatable as possible.

Here are the books I set up in the front window:


We also keep our CD player/radio in this room, and I just brought up two small bins of favorite CD's. I'd like to set up a small audio center on the top shelf of one of the bookcases with books-on-tape, songbooks and a rotating music selection.

I also might hang a small bulletin board in this corner (just the size of the one pictured in the last photo) with information and images relating to the current music selections, composer of the month, that sort of thing. Possibly, I might add some framed pictures for art study, too.

I guess that would make this room a library-slash-mini-museum. :)

Now on we go, into the "official" learning room, which has changed a bit from last year:


I'm sorry some of these images are kind of dark. It was a cloudy day and I didn't realize how shadowy the pictures were coming out. It reminds me though, that I like to string a garland along the tops of the windows in the fall and winter - small white lights entwined with either leaves or evergreens. It makes for a cheerful, cozy setting during the dark and cold months of the year.


At the head of the table I've placed some supplies like crayons, pencils, scissors, ruler and pen. It's funny how you get a bit out of practice - I was trying to remember what exactly we use on a daily basis when working on lessons. This seemed a good start.


Here is my side of the table. I may end up adding another leaf if it seems the boys are sitting too closely together (there's a fourth chair at the end). Doesn't an empty table just look so inviting?

It doesn't stay empty for long, of course.


I'm currently poring over some Waldorf resources gathering ideas for kindergarten, ancient history and science. (Blending Well-Trained Mind and Waldorf - now that's what I call eclectic, lol!)

Next we have our nature viewing area:


I think I might make up a cushion for the top of this hope chest, something to make it more comfortable. It is fun to sit here and watch the birds and small critters come and go ...


We really love our "classroom" windows. :)

Here is an area still coming together:


Here we have our prayer corner, more books on display and the boys' "school" bags tucked underneath (which still hold last year's materials!).

I took down the laminated wall map (it was on its last legs) and for now I hung a large family-size calendar. I actually want to move the calendar somewhere else (possibly the bulletin board wall) and get a new world map for this wall. Maybe a map of the ancient world if I can find one.

Now, for the teacher corner:


This corner of the room holds my resources, including books, notebooks, supplies, household planning materials as well as my file crate and reading basket.

Below I have:


Left to right: Christmas tote bag, history books (usually kept on a shelf, but I need them out right now as I plan) and my own "school" bag with the new materials for the new year..

On the wall I have a small bulletin board with a medley of stuff:


Let's see, rosary beads, pictures of my fellas, odd bits of information and random reminders. It's actually quite a mess right now and in need of a good pruning. To tell you the truth, I might just take it down entirely as it's not really necessary and it could be used in the living room for that art-and-music center I envision.

Well, that's as far as I got yesterday, now it's on with today ... and Earlybird is calling me from the other room, and I'd better go see.

"The sun woke up! The sun woke up!" he is declaring most excitedly.

Well, then it's time to get this new day rolling ... I hope you have a good one, and thanks for stopping by! :)


Back to (Home)school Supplies

"Don't you just love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address."

I've never even been to New York City, let alone in the fall, but I love this quote from one of my all-time favorite movies, one I seem compelled to watch at this time every year. (Do you recognize the movie? Take a guess!) I especially love the opening scenes in all their fall splendor, as the two main characters rhapsodize about things like coffee, Scotch tape and number two pencils ~ a few of my favorite things.

School supplies - no matter how old we get, no matter how far away from Apple_2academia we grow - will always seem an integral part of this time of year. Goldenrod and golden pencils. Crisp morning air and crisp packs of college-ruled paper. A landscape that comes alive in every shade of the crayon box. And let's not forget the traditional apple for teacher!

And so fittingly, this Monday, Kim is hosting the Loveliness of Back to School. I must confess, I've really been looking forward to this fair ever since the summer schedule was first announced several weeks ago. I wrote it down in my calendar and as I did I thought: when we get to that day in late August I will be in my happy zone - books will be strewn all about, curriculum orders will be on their way, fall schedules will be coming together, and my lesson planner will be open once again ...

Last month I posted about our plans for the new year; now it's time to talk "shop!"

The back-to-school supplies list for a home-learning family is bound to be different from the ordinary sheet of suggestions one might find at the local Staples superstore. And yet there's going to be overlap, too. What follows, then, is my list as it has shaped up so far. It's really more of a checklist than a shopping list as most of these items we already own. I like seeing the whole list at a glance, though, because it helps me envision possible storage strategies.

As home learners, we are, obviously, home a lot, and yet we also find ourselves out-and- about quite often, too. (Some weeks it feels like we're doing more carschooling than homeschooling, lol.) So I include in my list lots of home comforts and essentials of general family living. It all adds up in our book. :)

  • a work bag for each child
  • backpacks (for out-and-about)
  • a lesson planner for me
  • weekly work binders, one each for the older two
  • a dedicated workspace and comfortable seating (chair pads, maybe?)
  • bins/baskets or buckets for tablework supplies
  • crayons
  • colored pencils
  • a watercolor paint set
  • no. 2 pencils (the more the merrier!)
  • pens
  • rulers
  • glue (school glue, glue sticks, craft glue)
  • tape (masking, Scotch)
  • stapler
  • scissors (kids, adult, pinking)
  • a hole punch
  • stamps
  • writing paper and envelopes
  • loose leaf paper
  • graph paper
  • copy paper for the printer
  • ink cartridges for the printer
  • drawing paper
  • construction paper
  • watercolor paper
  • homemade play dough (and tools)
  • homemade finger paints
  • smocks
  • a clothesline for displaying artwork
  • magnetic clips for the fridge
  • a bulletin board and thumbtacks
  • rubber bands
  • paper clips
  • brads
  • a dictionary and thesaurus
  • a globe
  • a world atlas
  • wall maps (US and world)
  • seasonal window clings (fun for the kids, and ok, me)
  • a large family calendar
  • a classroom clock
  • a timer and/or stopwatch
  • stickers (of all kinds)
  • rubber stamps (alphabet and other)
  • cookie cutters
  • a children's cookbook
  • woolen felt
  • yarn
  • cotton string
  • a sewing kit
  • nature journals
  • magnifying glasses
  • a pair of binoculars
  • field guides
  • a science encyclopedia
  • multiple birdfeeders
  • nature puppets
  • an outdoor thermometer
  • a rain guage
  • a microscope
  • a telescope
  • a tape/CD player/radio
  • CD/tape storage
  • musical instrument(s) and songbooks
  • subscriptions to educational magazines
  • a subscription to a local newspaper
  • library cards
  • museum membership(s)
  • local audubon membership
  • maps of our local area and nearest big city
  • a computer
  • educational software
  • chore lists for each family member
  • allowance agreements ;)
  • cleaning tools
  • environmental- (and child-) friendly cleaners
  • beeswax polish for tables, shelves and chairs
  • hand sanitizing wipes
  • a first aid kit (for home and car)
  • a family Bible
  • a prayer corner
  • tealights
  • holy cards
  • a missal
  • a camera
  • (it goes without saying) BOOKS!
  • bookshelves
  • book nooks and reading baskets
  • a learning/book display area
  • multivitamins
  • a weekly menu plan
  • healthy, help-yourself snacks
  • portable snack containers/baggies
  • thermal travel mugs for hot drinks on cold car rides
  • warm autumn bedding
  • new pajamas and slippers
  • sneakers/comfortable shoes
  • rain and snow gear

Whew, my husband near about fell over when I read him that list! I was quick to remind him (and all my dear readers, too) that this list is comprised mostly of things we already own. I will still be making my annual trek to purchase a few new supplies - because nothing beats a fresh package of construction paper or a shiny new box of Crayolas ...

Except maybe that bouquet of newly sharpened pencils. That would be pretty neat. ;)

A File Crate Question

I have either a really big post about my file crate system coming up or a series of smaller  ones (depending on the amount of computer time I can carve out this week, lol) but this morning I wanted to address a question from Susan, a lovely woman I met at the conference last weekend. Filecrate1

Susan writes:

I was wondering...Do you have a place for ideas that you think you might use in the future but are not ready to file in a certain week...where do "good ideas" get filed?

This is a really good question, and one I've been mulling over lately. I have two suggestions - one I've been doing and one I'm trying out. For me, I think it will come down to how much information I'll be storing and how good I can be about remembering the things that I file away.

In the past I've kept any information that is not timely inside the front of the current season's folder. So, let's say today I found an article in the Sunday Globe about a museum I'd like to visit with the boys ...

If I have no idea when we'd actually visit - it's just a neat place to keep in mind - I would place it inside the front of the current (July-August) hanging file, just in front of the first weekly folder. If the idea is not used by the end of August, I would move it into the September-October file. In this way I am keeping it in mind - not stored away where I'll forget about it. Of course, those files can (and do) quickly grow quite thick with potential, non-timely ideas.

So, last week I set up a hanging file in the very front of the crate before any of the seasonal folders; a "holding zone" I am calling it. In this file I've been slipping things "to be considered." Its dangerously close to a slush pile, I know, but its been a hectic few weeks and its been convenient to have this file. I will go through this file this weekend to address each piece of information that went in there. Some things could be timely and will get placed in the appropriate folder. Some things are not timely, but are "good ideas" like Sue spoke of - and I will need to find them a home.

For instance, in my holding zone right now are the following items:

  • a homemade finger paint recipe
  • an article about berry bushes that attract birds
  • a slip of paper with email addresses of new VBS friends

~ The finger paint recipe could go in the September-October hanging file as I want to make that for Earlybird very soon. Like, "first week of lessons" soon. OR it could be placed in a file (I have yet to make up) labeled "Arts and Crafts."

~ The berry bush article could go in the January-February folder (which is the season when we order spring plantings) OR it could go in a file to be labeled "Gardening."

~ The email addresses should be noted in my address book (which I store in my correspondence basket) BUT it could go in a file labeled "Contacts" or "Friends and Family."

~ The aforementioned (and imaginary) museum article could go in the September-October folder so that I keep it in mind as a possible fall activity OR it could go in a file labeled "Field Trips."

Right now I am leaning towards keeping some hanging files in the back of the crate for categories like the ones mentioned above as well as perhaps "Recipes," "Curriculum," "Special needs," "Shopping," etc.

The one drawback with these kinds of files, for me anyway, is that ideas can easily go out of sight/out of mind. I think I will still try to file information in a timely manner first if possible, so that I keep it within my circle of planning, but any overflow could go in the categorized files.

As you can probably tell, I'm still working this all out, so please bear with me while I tweak and think aloud. :)

Susan also wrote:

We are meeting Monday pm with a few other Moms to put our files together...Do you have any other information that might be helpful for us?

Well, I hope to address the file crate more this coming week; I know there were lots of questions after my conference talk. The key with this system (with any system!) is to tweak it until it works right for you. Susan, I bet once you ladies get talking you'll come up with all kinds of ideas! (And I'd love to hear about them!)

I will say one thing that I have been using quite a lot lately is my highlighter pen. When I file a piece of paper, I first mark any pertinent information in bright yellow so I can see at a glance what it's all about.

Well, it's now time to get the troops ready for Mass, so I'm off! I will be back as soon as I can. (First up: a post later today on back-to-(home)school supplies for Kim's Monday Fair!)

Have a lovely Sunday, everyone ...

Squirrel-proof maybe ...

... but chipmunk-proof?




What a clever little fella!

It is such a beautiful night here. It's almost cool - the humidity is gone and there's a soft breeze rustling the trees. Our neighborhood is very quiet, and there's just a whiff of lingering charcoal in the air. The cricket chorus is warming up, the bats have started their fly-by's and the sun is down for the count.

Summer nights like these are numbered, let's enjoy them while we can ...


Happy weekend, my friends. :)

Wahoo ~ What a Week!

This time last week we were wrapping up our last day at VBS 2007. I can't believe how quickly that week went by! If you are involved with a VBS at your church you know how much planning and effort goes into preparing for such a special week of the year. It's an amazing experience for the grown-ups and children alike - really, for the whole parish! I have lots of pictures from VBS week to share, but I will try to restrain myself a bit and show just a few (or 16). :)

To clarify, VBS is shorthand for vacation bible school, and each summer Catholic and Protestant churches alike all across the country organize these day camps for the children of their parish. Last year it was all about Fiesta, and this year we took a Wild Ride through God's Word! (And next year, rumor has it, will be a science experiment theme!)

Bookworm, Crackerjack and I have participated in VBS these past two years. (Earlybird is still too young, so my mum stays with him on camp mornings.) It's a lot of work for everyone involved, but a wonderful way to get to know the families of our parish. I love how many children know "Mrs. Hanigan" as the "Games Lady" by the end of the week. :)

So without further ado, here are some scenes from Avalanche Ranch!


Every morning the entire VBS group (100 children, 70 volunteers) gathered on the lawn to sing songs and get into the spirit of things. The children were grouped into "ranch crews" with fun names like Spinning Spurs, Bucking Broncos and Kickin' Colts. Seven or eight children to a crew, led by two or three teen volunteers.


At our small church we use the inside and outside for VBS. Volunteers worked tirelesslely to transform walls and hallways and every little corner into a western ranch scenario.This is a corner downstairs in the church hall where the children had pictures taken for "Wanted" posters:


Pretty cute if I may so myself. :)


I don't know what was behind this door - I took the sign to heart!


Here is a portion of a lovely sunflower mural that adorned one end of the hallway - each crew had a flower blossoming with its members' names.


At midmorning, snacks were served that went along with the Bible Point of the day. This day's theme was "God is Real" and the song of the day was "Saddle up your horses, we've got a trail to blaze ..." Hence the baggies of trail mix!


Here's a long shot of the hallway. Aren't those murals fantastic?


Even the doors were transformed!


Here are my two buckaroos, posing one morning on our way up to the lawn.


Above you see the craft room in action. These ladies did a terrific job coordinating meaningful projects for the kids everyday. This was one of the stops on the crews' daily rounds. The crews would rotate every 20 minutes from crafts to games to Bible stories to Heroes of God (saints etc.) to helping with snacks. We gathered together as one large group three times a day - at Sing and Play Stampede (opening songs and welcome), Chuck Wagon Chow (snacktime) and Showtime Roundup (more singing and dismissal).


The youngest children (pre-K and kindergarten age) were kept in one spot, under tents tucked beside the church. We called them "Prarie Dog Campers" and they were as cute as the name would suggest. Their leaders had their hands full, though!


The kids in my son's crew trapped one of their leaders in the "jail." I don't think he really minded, lol. ;)


The above picture was as close to a wide outdoor shot as I could get. This shows the back of the gathering area where everyone was dancing and singing on the second to last day of the week. This was taken during "Showtime Round-up" which was the last activity before dismissal each day.


Gratuitous sky photo ... the weather held up for the most part - we just had two drizzly days, but we were still able to hold the games outside (since we were under tents).


Here are my two guys doing the movements to one of my favorite Avalanche Ranch songs, "Awesome God." (By the way, the CD is wonderful - and I'm not typically a country-western fan, but this music is great!) My two are the ones in blue in front and in red with the hat in back. Crews were invited up to sing with our VBS leader (our music director) in turn throughout the week.


Thursday is always a reflective day in the week and the above photo shows a part of a wonderful activity. Just before we began, our VBS leader talked about sin, and the crew leaders handed out dry blades of grass to the children in their group. Each child and leader in turn spoke of something they had done in the past that they felt badly about. The leaders then took all the grass and sprinkled it at the foot of this cross ...

And then, while our leader led the children in song, facing away from the cross, (a truly goosebumpy song called "Were you there?"), the teens "planted" beautiful silk flowers in place of the dried grass. The children turned around at the end of the song and this is what they saw.

It was such a sweet moment - just one of many in the course of the week. I was blessed to be part of it all, and I am so looking forward to next year.

Well, I hoped you enjoyed this peek at our week! With VBS over it feels as though summer is coming to a close, and well, I guess really it is! I'm perfectly OK with that - this is one of my favorite times of year!

I hope you all have a great weekend. We have birthday parties to host and attend and in between I will be working on lesson plans and learning room preparations. All just in time for Kim's Loveliness of Back-to-School Supplies and Lesson Plans on Monday.

As always, thanks for stopping by and Happy Friday y'all! :)

Tea and Crafts on the Assumption


Happy Assumption Day to you!

I realized just now that the first Tea-and-Crafts day I ever organized for my children was exactly a year ago today! I even titled the two posts precisely the same. :) Last year's craft was a bit more involved, while the snack was relatively simple. This year, just the reverse was true!


I knew we'd be a bit wiped after the long weekend away, so I wanted to make it easy. I began with the Magnifkid for today's Mass, and printed out some coloring pages from Women for Faith and Family.

In the top picture you can see how I have the prayer corner set up this week. Joining our statue of the Blessed Virgin is a collection of seashells, a prayer candle, a holy card and a vase of summer daisies.

Now, for the snack I decided to touch upon the traditional blessing of fruits and herbs on Assumption Day. For tea, I made up an herbal iced punch ...


I got the idea for this from an episode of the Barefoot Contessa. On that particular show, Ina made an iced tea with Lemon Zinger and Red Zinger herbal teas, only she sweetened it with apple juice rather than sugar or honey.

For today's berry theme, I made up a pot of Wild Berry Zinger tea and served it over ice with a generous splash of strawberry juice. Very yummy, festive and fun - especially when seved with a ripe red berry on the side!


These tiny fruit tarts were ridiculously easy to assemble - I simply filled mini graham cracker pie shells with vanilla pudding (you could use yogurt here too) and topped each one with diced berries and a generous dollop of whipped cream. So good and cool - just right for this August day. :)


As the boys drank their punch, they worked on their coloring sheets and I read aloud from a favorite Tomie de Paola book, Mary: The Mother of Jesus.



Earlybird surrounded his picture with the planets, of course. ;)


Soon the boys were off to play and I was cleaning up cups and crayons. I hung up their work in our new learning corner:


Yes, I will be posting more about the new learning room corner very soon! In the meantime, I hope you all had a lovely Assumption Day and I wish you all a very good night.

Late Summer in the Garden


My dear friend Ruth is hosting The Loveliness of Summer Gardens today, and though I fear my thumb is still a bit on the brown side, as usual, I wanted to add my two cents. :)

In these late summer days, backyard gardens - meadows and roadsides too - are simply bursting with color and life. But my favorite "flowers" will always be the bright little feathered ones. :) The garden beds, shade plants and other ornamentals I leave in my husband's capable hands; for me it's all about the fauna, rather than the flora. I've come to realize and accept that the type of gardening that interests me the most is the kind that is commonly referred to as "wildlife gardening."

It's not perfect roses and umblemished tomatoes I seek (though they would be lovely, to be sure) but instead, songbirds and small mammals like chipmunks and red squirrels, as well as the humble toad, the brilliant butterfly, the lowly worm and the busy bee. Even the garden snake is fine by me. The more we see, the more hospitable I know our garden is to all of God's creatures ...

  • songbirds harvesting seed from sunflowers
  • chipmunks filling their cheeks ahead of autumn's advance
  • crickets chirping the temperature on hot muggy nights
  • bats swooping through the yard at dusk
  • an owl screeching off in the woods
  • fluttering moths and industrious orb weavers by the night light
  • bumblebees lazily criss-crossing the lawn
  • monarchs passing through on their way down south
  • dragonflies hunting mosquitos

Our garden may not be filled with the rarest of blooms, but it will always be busy with life ...

For example:


Yesterday afternoon we observed the long-awaited return of our tiny red-breasted nuthatch. Oh, how we've missed him!


I've waited all summer for this particular shot! Here is one of our beautiful goldfinches, wearing his brightest coat of the year, enjoying a tasty sunflower snack.


Isn't he handsome? The boys and I sat in the window for a good ten minutes watching this finch eat his fill ...


Another thing I love at this time of year is the late summer sky. Below you see a storm is approaching ...


Which, of course, meant it was time to light the storm candle, another late summer tradition in our home:


At the base of our favorite birdfeeding tree (virtually the hub of our backyard garden) we found this strange looking thing:


Do you know what it is? Or what it was? (This is its exoskeleton.) On hot hazy days you can hear its call off in the distance ...


On misty mornings our front lawn is dotted - no, encased - by dewey webs. I looked up this particular kind of web in the Handbook of Nature Study, and I believe they are made by "grass spiders." (Perhaps so called because that is where they live?)

If this type of natural, wildlife gardening interests you too, please let me recommend THE most wonderful book on the subject ~ A Blessing of Toads by Sharon Lovejoy. It is worth its weight in gold for information and inspiration. I'll bet you are familiar with some of her other books - Sunflower Houses, Hollyhock Days and Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots (each one a treasure trove of nature projects for families). A Blessing of Toads is a collection of essays, a "gardener's guide to living with nature." I am currently on my third read-through!!

Stop by Ruth's later today for the Loveliness of Summer Gardens, and please tell us ~ what is living in your garden these late August days?

The Real Learning Conference: My Transcript

The following is my original speech for the Real Learning Conference. As I mentioned in my previous post, I had to cut a bit out here and there to keep within the time frame, so it might read a bit differently than what you heard at the conference, as well as what ends up on the DVD! :)

Also, please see these two links for my Tea-and-Craft handouts:

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below and I will address them as soon as I can. I still plan to follow up with some more detailed posts about the file-crate system. :)

(Note: Sorry about all the asterisks, but the text pasted strangely when I cut it from my Word document, so I did what I could - short of having to re-type it all - to make it readable.)


Good morning, and thank you very much! My name, as you have probably gathered by now, is Dawn Hanigan. My husband Bill and I are blessed with three boys ages 12, 8 and 5 ½. If you read my blog you might know them as Bookworm, Crackerjack and Earlybird. We are from Massachusetts, and this September we will begin our eighth year of home education.


I would first like to thank all the gracious women behind the 4Real conference for inviting me here; I am extremely honored to be included. I also would like to say a quick thank you to my husband Bill (who is sitting right over there) who not only insisted I come to the conference (when I really never thought I could), but drove all day yesterday - literally all day- to bring me here (because I was too nervous to fly!). Thank you honey!


And though flying would have undoubtedly been quicker and easier, because we drove down, I was able to bring along with me some of the materials I use for planning our liturgical year celebrations. If you happen to know my blog at all, then you know that organizing and planning out family activities is a favorite subject of mine. I will talk more about these tools in just a bit.


Home-education, as you all know is an adventure made all the richer when shared with like-minded friends. And so a little over two years ago, I joined the 4Real Forums where I found not only wonderful friendship and thoughtful conversation, but also inspiration and ideas like I had never dreamed. I found a warm and welcome place where I could learn more about my Catholic faith, and even better, discover easy ways to incorporate it into our home learning lifestyle. Very soon I was tweaking our methods and striving to resemble, in some small way, the beautiful vision set forth in Elizabeth’s book.


Swept up by the blogging bug that hit our 4Real community within the past year, I started my own and called it By Sun and Candlelight, a play on the words of a favorite poem. Here I could share snippets of our everyday family life, and hope that in some small way something I share might be helpful to someone else. It has been an incredibly gratifying experience and every day I learn something new from someone who leaves a comment or from someone else’s blog that I visit. I think the advent of blogs – and the internet itself – has been a huge blessing to home educators and I will be forever grateful for my online community. Without it I would never have found myself here in your company.


Well, today I am going to talk a bit about some of those blog snippets, in particular, our weekly Tea-and-a-Craft days, through which I bring the rhythm of the liturgical year into our home, and into the hearts of my children. For it is through these simple, child-friendly projects that we follow along with the Church year, grow closer as a family and learn about our Faith in a fun and memorable way.


To begin with I’d like to talk about how we got started following the liturgical year.  We began – and continue - with a weekly teatime, a simple sit down time filled with faith, food and fun.


When I first read Real Learning, one chapter in particular resonated with me more than any other – the chapter on religion in which Elizabeth described the way she wove her family’s faith into their home education, indeed into the very heart of their home. The following quote literally jumped off her page and right into the page of my own journal:


“Teatime is my liturgical year tableau.” Elizabeth Foss


It was meaningful to me and I wanted to savor it, ponder over it. And so I did, and with that simple phrase – that beautiful and intriguing concept – I began to look at our home learning in a new way.


We were already big teatime fans. Elizabeth didn’t have to sell me on the merits of tea, having grown up in a big tea-drinking family. Early on in our home learning journey I began a weekly tea or snack time with my boys. These little gatherings were often focused on a favorite picture book, or a poem, or perhaps a simple nature craft, something that reflected the current time of year.


But when I read Elizabeth’s description of her liturgical tea, it hit me clearly – here was a way I could infuse our week with a rhythm for faith and family. Here was an opportunity to share faith with our children – really, to learn right alongside them – by exploring the liturgical year on a consistent basis and in a child-friendly exciting way. Here was a way – for starters – to help our children get more from Sunday Mass.


Weekly Tea

I decided to start out small – it is very like me to plunge into something in a big way and then to fizzle out fast. At this time I was picking up a copy of Magnificat magazine every now and then and when I decided to pursue a subscription online, I came across a fabulous resource, the first I would use in planning our weekly liturgical tea: Magnifikid.


I am sure this resource is well known to many of you here, a small booklet containing the entire Liturgy for the coming Sunday’s Mass. A whole month’s worth is delivered at one time – one for each Sunday, as well as any holy days of obligation - which makes it easy for planning ahead. Also included is a thoughtful parent’s reflection page – for example, September’s prayer focuses on a back-to-school theme, suggesting a litany of family intentions for the new year.


My oldest son began using Magnifkid a few years ago, and it was here that I turned for the Gospel each week. I would read aloud as we shared a special snack together, and hoped this small action would help all of us – not just the boys, but all of us – to focus more fully on the week’s message, to follow along better with the homily. I was gratified to find it did so - especially when my Crackerjack’s little face turned to me and he whispered, “Hey, I remember that!” or when the boys looked eagerly for the new vestment colors, knowing they would signify a new season upon us.


We continue to subscribe to Magnifikid and my Crackerjack is just getting ready to use it as well. As he is new to reading, he is a bit overwhelmed by, as he says, “all the words” inside, cheerfully though they may be presented. My mum had a great idea for me the other day; she suggested using a highlighter pen on just one part of the Mass each week. For example, last week it was the Gloria – this week it is the Opening Prayer. In this way, CJ can get used to following along with just one part, and within a few months, it will all seem much easier to keep up with.


In the years since, I have found a nice repertoire of resources to help us prepare our hearts and minds for the good word each week. Two of my favorites are:


Celebrating the Gospels by Gaynell Cronin

The Complete Children’s Liturgy for Children by Katie Thompson


I use both these books looking at the suggested activities for each week, and using just what appeals to me, or rather what I think will appeal to my boys. I like the discussion questions in Celebrating the Gospels and the simple crafts for a younger child in here The Complete Children’s Liturgy Book.


There are also resources available online where you can find coloring pages, word puzzles, Mass worksheets, discussion questions, Biblical maps and more. Two of my favorites places for these materials are Catholic and Open Wednesdays, and they are both listed on our handout.


It might seem like a lot of choices, maybe too much information, but because they are all so simple to use, I find that it’s easy to pick and choose what I like from each resource – a coloring page here, a seasonal prayer here, a hands-on project there. Looking at each of them ahead of time gives me time to piece together a simple presentation – it also helps me get my own feel for the coming Sunday liturgy.


Prayer Corner

The next thing we did was to set up a small prayer corner, a spot for a weekly focus. Actually what I did was to adapt or rather combine our nature shelf with a prayer corner. I often blend the two areas of our life – faith and nature - as they overlap so nicely – and right now our prayer corner holds a candle, a crucifix and some seashells to represent the late summer time of year. Also on display is a holy card showing the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the August devotion.


Ours is a small corner shelf in the dining room (otherwise and sometimes better known as the learning room). But there are many ways to make up a prayer corner if a corner shelf is not to your liking. You could buy an unfinished wooden lazy susan for the center of your dining table - stain it to match your woodwork, or paint it in the colors of the liturgical wheel. You could place a small size bulletin board on the wall - back it with felt in purple, green or white, according to liturgical season. You could make a small portable prayer box, using a wooden hinged box from the craft store, or an empty cigar box if you can find one. (This is an idea I gleaned at 4Real from the always gracious Alice Gunther, author of one of my favorite blogs, Cottage Blessings.) Fill this box with holy cards, small statues, rosary beads and a prayer book or Bible. This would be a really fun project for the children to work on together as you start the new academic year!



(Please see Handout1)

Candles are such a big part of our Catholic tradition, and so an important aspect of our prayer corner is a softly lit candle. Usually it is a beloved Irish crystal square holder cut with a cross, a gift from my parents. It has special meaning to us and so it has become the designated prayer candle in our home, but we still like to experiment with other kinds of seasonally themed candles. I’d like to describe a few of our candle projects from the past year, and you can see and read more about them at my blog under the Tea-and-Crafts index.


I often begin with a small glass votive holder (which you can find for $1 or less at the craft store). I like to keep several of these on hand in my craft bins and brainstorm how we might incorporate them into our liturgical year celebrations. For example, last fall we made a colorful set of three candles for the Feast of the Archangels. I gave the boys silvery stickers to apply to the sides of the glass first and then we wrapped sheer ribbon around them - each one in an angel’s symbolic color (gray for Raphael, orange for Michael and blue for Gabriel). I secured the ribbon with a bit of glue from a hot glue gun and dropped a tea light in each one.  I found inspiration for this craft in Meredith Gould’s The Catholic Home.


During Advent last year, we took a similar glass votive and applied a sparkly star sticker to the outside – one each night, counting down all the way till Christmas eve. We used this candle for evening prayers, and by Christmas it was aglow with soft starlight. This idea was posted by Sherri Weaver Smith at CatholicMom.Com.


Another fun craft is a seashell candle we made on The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. This was a craft I adapted from the British Festival book, All Year Round. We melted a few tea lights and poured them into a clean open scallop shell; just as the wax began to harden I inserted a birthday candle and held it for just a moment till it solidified fully. As a final touch, we floated this shell candle in a bowl of water during our teatime.


Another candle craft I have not yet tried is to make a stained glass candle by pasting bits of colorful tissue paper onto the outside of the glass votive. I first saw this idea in Magnifkid as a suggestion for All Soul’s Day. It has been on my mind to take a few months to observe the stained glass windows in our church and those in neighboring parishes. (Stained glass windows being another Catholic tradition) I think this would be a nice project for the late fall days when the outdoor natural light fades and the inner light of our hearts and our homes grows brighter.


Or, instead of small glass votives, you might choose to use elegant tapers in colors according to season. Wooden candleholders are available at the craft store that you could paint in corresponding shades or perhaps a glitter gold.


So as you can see, it is very easy to turn a prayer candle into a seasonal craft (or perhaps I mean vice versa), and in my experience kids of all ages enjoy candles and candle crafts!


Holy Cards & Images

Now, like many Catholic families we have a sizable collection of holy cards, and they are familiar and favorite images to display in our prayer corner. Two quick ideas for your collection – for displaying, you could easily find small ornate frames at the craft store or plain unfinished ones for the children to decorate (which would be a nice project for patron saint feast days); alternatively you could pick up 2.5 by 3.5 inch clear magnetic refrigerator frames. I use tiny golden prayer card holders which I buy at my local Catholic gift shop for 99 cents each. I only noticed in this latest batch that a small peel and stick strip is included which of course makes it very handy for standing a small prayer card up anywhere you wish, for instance a nightstand or a dashboard.


Now this next idea I am borrowing from another beloved 4Real friend and Catholic Mosaic author, Cay Gibson. How does one keep all those holy cards organized? Our own collection has been assigned rather unceremoniously to a tin bucket that just fits on our liturgical bookshelf. Well, Cay has a much nicer and more efficient means of keeping tabs on her family’s cards, and if I may I will quote her here so as not to miss one tiny detail.


Cay says:

One thing I do...have done for years...with those saint prayer cards is to put them all in a small recipe box and keep them on our altar. The children look through them sometimes. Sometimes they play a game of matching saint cards. When all else fails for the saint's feast day, the prayer card can be found as well as the appropriate Mosaic book.


What a wonderful system, and a lovely addition to a family altar or prayer corner. As a variation on Cay’s theme, I found this hinged wooden box at the craft store that neatly holds index card dividers – these here are labeled by month. And inside each section you can insert the appropriate cards, perhaps along with a notecard indicating books or recipes for those particular feast days.


A few final notes about the Tea before I move on to resources and the organization of ideas …


Elizabeth described a beautiful idea in Real Learning – matching her tea table linens with the liturgical color of the season (or feast). So then, there would be a green cloth for the Ordinary Times, a purple for Advent and Lent, and white or gold for Christmas and Easter as well as perhaps red for martyrs and blue for Marian feasts. I tend to serve tea on a plain wooden table and this might be because my boys are a bit spill-prone, but I think this year I would like to begin collecting colored linens for our tea table. I’m thinking it would be nice to have a special storage bin just for our tea linens.


I also found plain wooden napkin rings at the craft store and these would be lovely, painted by the children in purple, gold or green, to use during their teatimes.


On page two of my handout (Handout2) I have listed a few favorite recipes for teatime - because in our home tea can mean a hot cuppa decaf or a tall cold glass of punch. Just as long as its yummy and comforting, or festive and fun. Some weeks it's just cookies and milk, while others it's a snack that is symbolic of the day - such as when we had dove-shaped cookies for a week when the Gospel message was "Peace be with you." Food is a fabulous medium for liturgical celebrating, and there are several cookbooks listed on our Resources handout.


And finally, we always say grace, and often we find just the one to say in Let’s Say Grace by Robert Hamma, a book Elizabeth recommends in Real Learning. There are graces to say on “everyday special occasions” such as the first day of school or a First Holy Communion as well as numerous prayers for holy days and holidays throughout the year.


Our weekly Gospel teas, as we came to call them, became a familiar routine, a comforting and happy pause in our week and a great way to prepare the boys for the Sunday Mass ahead. Once I started investigating the liturgical year further, I found all kinds of themes to add to our routine – feasts and devotions, special foods, projects and more. Between books, blogs, magazines and websites, there were so many fabulous ideas it made my head spin. It is impossible to do everything of course, and yet without a system of some sort it also seemed impossible to do anything. So next I would like to talk about how I organize my planning for the liturgical year in our home.


All these resources provide an incredible – almost overwhelming wealth of ideas. But what do you do with an idea when it pops up? If it can’t be used that minute – or maybe even that year – how do you file it away so it does not get lost. Because I don’t know about you, but my mind does not store information as well as it once did, and that’s why I need to store information physically.


What I would like to do next is to show you is my file system, which I used for planning and organizing all areas of our family life – including home education, family activities, nature study, household maintenance, and most of all seasonal celebrations.


File Crate System

I’ve used a variance on this theme for many years. As I began looking for ways to collect and organize liturgical living ideas – and to actually put them into action - I realized my file folder system would be a good fit. Not a perfect fit mind you – I have yet to find the perfect system, but I stick with this because it does work well for me.


So here is the heart of my system, my file crate. It is just a simple, inexpensive plastic crate such as you would find at any household goods or office supply store. (I think I got this one at Staples.) Inside I have hanging folders, six in all. Each hanging folder is labeled with two months – September/October, November/December, January/February and so on. Inside each of these hanging folders are eight or nine manila letter-size file folders, each one of these is labeled with a week of the year. For instance, the first folder in the September/October folder is labeled September 3rd – September 9th. The last folder is labeled October 29th – November 4th. I like to run my weeks Monday through Sunday, Sunday being the culmination of the week in my mind.


You might want to separate your weeks in a different way – this is what works for me. In my mind I’ve always grouped the months into six seasons – September and October are the autumn months (and ordinary time), November and December are the holiday season (Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas), January and December are deep winter (also Christmas, ordinary time and this year the beginning of Lent), Marc and April are early spring (or Easter), while May and June are late spring (or Pentecost and Ordinary time), and finally July and August are high summer and back to ordinary time again. 


I also keep in here a few more planning tools – a Catholic calendar positioned in front with the current month in view (this one is from Take Out: Family Faith to Go, a neat magazine published by Our Sunday Visitor). Also tucked inside here are my month-at-a-glance planning calendar, a clipboard pad which serves as my master to do list as well as a homemade weekly planbook.


Now let me just say that all of this could be contained in a binder – and quite successfully too - but binders have never worked for me. And as much as I crave a planning binder – and I have tried them in all kinds of variations - I have leaned to stick with what works. Which is something I would stress in organizing is to give yourself time with any system to see if it is something that works well for you. I have spent countless hours setting up binders to use in my planning, and it always boils down to the same thing  - I just don’t find the time (or take the time) to either hole punch a piece of paper or to file into a sheet protector. What would happen is I would end up with what I call a slush pile of papers to be inserted into the binder and that pile would grow and grow and ideas and information would get buried and lost deep within. Having folders lets me quickly file a piece of information quickly and I then I know it will not get lost. This might speak volumes about the volume of papers I save – but I think the paper tiger is something we all wrestle with on some level in our homes.


I set it up in this way. At the start of the year (which for me means August, but for you might mean January 1st or the First Sunday in Advent) I add all new folders. (By the end of the year my used files are usually pretty ragged so I don’t try to re-use them.) I handwrite all the tabs, but I believe there are labels you could make on your computer.


The next thing I do is to fill in my month-at-a-glance calendar. I use an academic calendar that begins anew each summer and I have found the best thing to do is to use it daily and keep it available at all times. Mine never leaves my side it seems – it fits in my bag, it lies open on my kitchen counter and for storage it stands up in my crate.


I find out as much information as I can to fill in the generously sized squares – liturgical seasons and feast dates right alongside family commitments, birthdays, holidays, the full moons, appointments, even movie premieres and book publication dates. It all goes in here, all the areas of our family life are represented. I like having everything in one place – it makes planning so much easier, and it helps me make decisions about how much we’ll try to fit into a week.


For liturgical year information, I use a handy Catholic calendar passed out by our pastor each year, but there are many places online where you can find liturgical information for future months. For example, Women for Faith and Family (listed on our resource sheet) has one that goes through November 2008.


Once I have the information entered (as much as I know at the time anyway, obviously it fills up even more as we move along through the year) I make up a planbook where I can have a planning page for each week of the year, as well as a brainstorming page for each month of the year.


I used to keep this in loose-leaf form within the files themselves – just a sheet with plans and follow up notes in each folder – because I liked the idea of filing each week’s folder away along with a “weekend” report, or an overview of what we did - but I realized I liked having access to my weekly plans all in one place. So here I have a notebook with a page for the month of September, followed by a page per each week in the month, another page for October, and so on. To give you an idea of what these pages look like, I recently began a series of posts at my blog called Themes and Plans for the month. The information includes the areas of nature, food, faith, home, family life, crafts and activities, storybooks and field trips. I then set about gathering information.


Now my files are ready to receive any and all kinds of materials as we move through the year. Two keys to this system are keeping the crate in the open and available to me and setting up a schedule for addressing the folders.


First let me acknowledge that my crate is bulky, and I don’t really have a specific or convenient spot to store it. A home office would of course be ideal, but really I have found with any planning system you use, you have to keep it where you going to be. It might look nice in a corner of the bedroom or den, but if it’s not where you are during the day, you are far less likely to use it.


I keep my crate in our family learning room – sometimes right on the dining room table and sometimes on a small tray table beside it – all so that it is in sight and in mind. This area is the hub of our family activity and where I find myself it seems most of the day.


And as I come across ideas – a fun craft online or a feast day recipe in a magazine or a photocopy from a library book – or if an appointment card comes in the mail - I file all these things in my folders.


But that’s not the end of the story because if it were, those ideas and items would be lost forever (at least to my mind they would be).


If something is timely – for instance, our parish fall barbecue – I write it down on my calendar and I also write it on my planning page for the week. If I need to do something for it (such as RSVP or donate a certain item) I write that on my to-do list. The paper itself, the flyer, gets filed in the week the event is planned.


For example, here is my folder for next week. In it I have so far:

·       Magnifkids for Wednesday’s Assumption Mass and Sunday’s Mass

·       A birthday card for my son as well as a print out of a toy he’d like (brought to my attention by his older brother)

·       A print out with information about the meteor showers this week.

·       An invitation to a birthday party – I noted the RSVP info on my to-do list

·       A print out of a 4Real thread with ideas for the Assumption

·       Some paperwork for a doctors appointment on Thursday.


Once a month I look over the materials in the current month’s folder and the notes in my planbook. I make up a list of books to request from the library or to order online as well as a list of special ingredients and craft items I’ll need in the month ahead. Food and beverages for tea I pick up on a weekly basis during my marketing trip, but I try to limit my craft store runs to once a month, and I try to go with a detailed list of the few items I’ll need for specific feast days and holidays.


And speaking of craft bins, I would like to mention a fabulous organizational idea posted by my friend Jennifer at her blog As Cozy as Spring. Recently she posted about a bureau she set up with a nature shelf on top and four drawers worth of craft supplies underneath. In each drawer she keeps one season of craft materials. So if say, she finds a poinsettia craft she'd like to do during Advent, into that particular drawer it would go.


I don't have an extra bureau (nor the room for one!) but I thought this idea could be replicated on a smaller scale using those office supply storage boxes (the kind you fold open and piece together). This would be an easier way to store craft materials - placing things directly into a seasonal box where they will be ready when you and your children are.


What’s been great about my file folder system is using it as a prompt when writing my end of the year reports. It is a helpful way to reflect back upon the year that was.


And speaking of reflection, as a final step in liturgical year activities it is nice to have a scrapbook of sorts – virtual or physical. You might keep a binder for storing the children’s weekly activities – coloring pages, activity sheets, narrations from Mass, copywork, and perhaps even photographs of crafts and other activities. This would make a lovely Sunday afternoon project for the family to work on together.


An alternative idea is to keep an online journal in the form of a blog – private or otherwise – in which you can keep all the same kinds of things.


But whether virtual or physical, keeping a memoir with the children is a fabulous way for them to remember what they’ve learned and experienced and to carry with them a semblance of continuity and a feel for the turn of the year. This is something they could share with family and friends, perhaps, or just a nice thing to look back over now and then.


Well, I think that’s all I have time for today! Thank you again to our lovely conference organizers for the kind invitation to speak with you all, and thank you to Jenn for sharing this talk with me today!


And there you have it! Boy, that's a whole lot of words, lol! It was so much fun putting this talk together, and I had a wonderful time at the conference "talking shop" with friends old and new. Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful night.

There and Back Again ...

Well, here I am at long last sitting down to look back over my pictures from our trip to Virginia. It's a quiet night, the kids are in bed - Crackerjack had a great birthday, thanks for all the kind messages! - and Bill is watching the Sox game. The night is young, I'm good to go, and let me warn you - this post is a long one.

First, though, please let me say a BIG thank you to all the amazing women (and their families!) who worked so very, very hard to pull this Conference together. I am so grateful to each and every one of you! I know we only saw a tenth (if that) of all the work you did to make this conference such a terrific success. Everything went so smoothly, and everyone felt so welcomed! I felt blessed to be a part - even a peripheral one - of this beautiful group of women.

So, I am going to start at the beginning, at 10 a.m. last Friday when we drove off into the pouring rain, leaving our boys in the loving and thoughtful care of my mum and dad. According to Mapquest, Manassas, VA would be an 8 1/2 hour drive, so we hoped to be in town just after suppertime ...

And the first portion of our drive was not so bad - fun, actually! Bill and I have not been on a road trip in years! We drank coffee, I practiced my speech (until car sickness set in, bleh) and we listened to HP on the laptop ...

And then we hit New York:


And the famous (infamous?) George Washington Bridge, which we crossed not just once - but three times.


Yes, you read that right - three times. At 4:00 on a Friday afternoon.

See this is what happened:

The first time we crossed we missed our exit and found ourselves off in New Jersey somewhere. Trying to find our way back to I-95 South (through endless road construction) we ended up back on the (jam-packed) road that led once again to the bridge (only this time northbound) with absolutely no (legal) means of getting off! So back over the GBW we went, in stop-and-go traffic (and me in serious need of a bathroom break!). Once off the bridge we made a rather convoluted U-turn in the city (we played our "Massachusetts driver" card on that one, lol) and finally got back on track.

A few hours later (ok, make that 8 hours later) we rolled into Manassas. Needless to say it was straight to bed, and then up and at 'em early in the morning:


And now for some pictures from our day!

This first one is of Meredith and me, just after Mass and right before Elizabeth gave her first talk.


And here is Elizabeth, talking before a crowd of 140 about the Real Learning philosophy. I was enthralled, as I knew I would be, and I was so glad to have Bill with me, because I know he enjoyed her talk just as much as I did.


Next it was Jenn's turn, giving the first part of our combined talk on Living the Liturgical Year in the Home. She did such a great job! I learned so much from her (as I always do).


Nope, no pictures of me speaking, but here I am crouched around my file crate fielding questions about how my folder system works. I've promised a few follow up posts here at my blog to elaborate even further.*


The following pictures show some of the many beautiful raffle prizes donated by many generous women. The money collected will begin a fund to help 4Real families in need.




After my speech, it was time for Theresa's talk on Nature Study and she did an awesome job. I especially loved her power point presentation!

Next was lunch (an absolutely delicious spread that looked like it belonged in a magazine, but thankfully was all for us) and of course, vendor shopping!

Here are some wide shots of the hallway ... 


I bought a gorgeous red woven rosary for Crackerjack's birthday from this very nice lady set up below on the left.


Next came the break-out sessions, and I chose to attend my dear friend Mary Ellen's talk on home education and special needs. I am going to have to write a whole separate post about this experience because I just can't begin to describe how moved I was by her words. It was a wonderful session - encouraging, inspiring and informative. It was just what I needed to hear ...

Here we are together, Mary Ellen and I. (I think I have Ruth to thank for this picture! How I wish I got a picture with Ruth, too!)


Teatime was next, with cookies and conversation, and finally, Elizabeth's beautiful and moving final talk. I'm not sure there was a dry eye in the room when she was done. It was the perfect way to end the day ... if it had to end, that is.

Later on some of us gathered at Elizabeth's house to share dinner and catch up. Her home was as lovely and cozy as I imagined, her family so lively and fun, and it was just so great to hang out and chat!

Here I am with Meredith and Mary Chris, one of the amazing Conference organizers, in the back row; Janette (who designs and maintains the 4Real Forums with her husband Tim) and Theresa are in front.


And just before heading out we gathered for one more shot, this time with Elizabeth and baby Karoline joining us:


Bill and I had a wonderful time, and I found myself wishing I had much more time to spend with my friends ...

Dear friends, it was the best. Thank you for your hospitality and all your hard work, and thank you most of all for your friendship. I can't wait till we can all meet 4 Real once again.

Before I go I'd like to thank my Bill for seeing to it that I got down there to be part of this awesome experience, and for driving me all the way there and back. I also want to say thank you to my mum and dad for taking such good care of our boys while we were away. This was the longest we've ever left them, and, because they were with my folks, we never once had any worry about them.

Thanks too to everyone stopping by and indulging me this rather long post. :) I can hardly believe this weekend has come and gone! But mark your calendars my home educating friends, because next August there will be another conference, this one in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Family-Centered Conference will be hosted by Michele Quigley - tentative dates and details are here!

Hmmm ... Mapquest tells me Lancaster is two hours closer than Manassas, so I'm going to pencil it in ... just as long as there aren't any bridges to cross! ;)

* P.S. Thanks to Mike and Christian Foss, Elizabeth's husband and son, there will be DVD's of the Conference available for purchase soon, but in the meantime, I might follow Meredith's lead and post my full talk and handouts here at my blog. Due to time constraints I wrapped things up more quickly than I had originally planned, and, judging from the questions I received after speaking, I think the more detailed information would have been helpful. I'll be working on that, so stay tuned!