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December 2007
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February 2008

January 2008

Notes from a Day

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I've been asked to share what a typical day is like for us. Today was as typical as any, so here we go ...

8:20 There's a pizza in the oven. I'm gathering the ingredients for the butter cookies. The older boys are brushing their teeth (supposedly, but it sounds a bit lively down there). Earlybird is "scrubbing" the kitchen sink - merrily, I might add. Bill has left for work; before he left he put out all the trash and recycling. Birds at the feeders: rose-breasted nuthatch, sparrows, juncos and several squirrels. I peruse the Globe, pull out the Shaw's ad and place it in my in-box for later. Earlier, I worked with EB ~ letter magnets, spelling words, numbers on the wooden clock, cutting paper. EB's now looking at a cookbook (Mama, wook! They're making gingeh-beh tookies! Pause. I make gingeh-beh tookies, too?)

8:35 Pizza's out and cooling on the counter. Boys are playing Legos as they eat (cinnamon toast and granola bars). Bookworm is counting down with EB. (10, 9, 8, 7 etc. ... BOOM!) I'm going to give my mum a call (provided the phone works again; it was out all day yesterday) in a few minutes. Popping my coffee cup in the microwave. Laying out math lessons. Yelling calling down the hall for the boys to get dressed. Checking to see if 4Real is up yet. Nope. Gave Midget his (insulin) shot.

8:45 Threw our new duvet and shams in the wash. Vacuumed the living room. Gave Penny her (thyroid) pill. Served EB his first piece of pizza and turned on Little Bear.

Notesday2

8:55 Boys pick up family room. I vacuum FR. Warm coffee cup again. Pull marketing list/menu plan worksheet from binder; set on clipboard to work on today. Third piece of pizza for EB.

9:15 Off the phone with mum. She'll be here later to stay with EB while the older two and I go to the Nature Club meeting. (When the weather warms, EB will attend with us.)

9:20 All boys officially working at table. EB eats last piece of pizza.

Notesday3

9:35 Math underway. Starting the cookie dough with EB's assistance. :) Slight Lego mishap (EB played too roughly with CJ's Lego creation; it broke. Lego "house rules" discussed once again.)

10:00 CJ moves on to phonicsvbnm,./,./ (that was a monster truck running across my keyboard). BW is half finished with algebra lesson. EB is playing at the sink with measuring cups and bowls. Cookie dough is in the fridge chilling.

Notesday4

10:25 There's a Carolina Wren at the feeders; BW tries to get a picture. I go downstairs to change laundry. Large crash from upstairs. Apparently EB & CJ crashed into each other somehow. EB: "I so sad, Mama." He gets upset as CJ insists on telling me how it really happened. Trampoline time! CJ and EB each bounce (counting 1-10 Boom!) in trampoline in EB's room. A few minutes later all is forgotten. Sweep up bathroom floor. Start dishwasher. Start warm bath for EB; fish out walrus toy because it scares him.

10:35 Think about supper: grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, butternut squash soup (in pantry), fresh baby carrots. CJ finishes phonics lesson; asks to take bath now that EB's done. Fish out octopus toy; toss back in walrus.

10:40 Consult hot chocolate recipe; note we need to stop for whole milk on way home from Nature Club. Open liturgical notebook - assemble craft materials, readings. I notice the red squirrel out the window and we scramble to take pictures. Miss a phone call coming in amidst the hysteria.

Notesday5

10:50 BW done with algebra; puts on shoes and socks and goes out to bring in recycle bins. I get CJ out of tub, look out window to see BW standing back from bins and looking up at house. I call out; apparently something is moving in bins. I pull on boots (and grab camera just in case) and run outside. Turns out it was just chunks of ice. We move bins. It's cold, but not terribly. I smell woodsmoke in the air and hear a siren in distance. (Say a quick prayer.) Return call to a friend wondering if Nature Club was meeting today. (It is.)

11:00 Assemble cold weather gear and outfits. Lunch is being requested. Put chicken in oven; pull out bag of corn chips and three bananas. Assign boys history: BW read and outline 2 pgs in Usborne Encyclopedia of World History (Life in Athens). CJ read in Usborne Book of World History (Life in Athens).

11:10 Dig out field guides re animal tracks. Start filling backpack. Alert EB to trash truck coming down street. He races to the door and watches the trucks come and go. I jump in shower. BW works on a creative writing assignment on the computer, keeping one eye on his younger brothers.

11:45 Lunch is served (chicken sandwiches, bananas, corn chips). I get first batch of cookies in oven. (This way they'll be ready after we get back.) Start coffee pot. Vitamins all around. Nana's here! (Back later ...)

Notesday6

12:30-3:30 Nature Club Meeting at nearby reservation. Drive over (listen to SOTW on way over) and meet up with homeschool friends (10 families this month). We get animal track handouts from my friend Heather (who's leading today) and then set out on the snowy trail. Several sets of tracks are mysterious enough to get the kids buzzing. The day is cold, but not unbearably so - the woods are unbelievably picturesque. An hour and a half later we're heading back out of the woods - mums chatting, kids throwing snowballs. We pack up and drive home ...

Notesday7

3:30 Home again! The little boy across the street who plays here almost every afternoon is already here, keeping Nana and EB company. We peel off our cold wet jackets, gloves and hats etc. and I start the cocoa (a white hot chocolate recipe from Ina). Mum and I chat, the boys slurp and play.

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5:00 Bookworm is putting on boots to walk our little friend home. I run downstairs to tumble-toss the duvet and shams. I do a quick kitchen cleanup. I check my email.

5:25 I neaten the living areas, Bookworm unloads the dishwasher. Crackerjack picks up Lego creations and helps EB with cleaning up books and monster truck. I prepare Earlybird's supper (he's been going to bed very early lately so I feed him before suppertime to be sure his belly is full) and he digs right in. I turn on afternoon news (online). I load dishes into the dishwasher and wipe up around the sink. I clean up school work and turn out lights in the learning room. I reschedule our faith tea for tomorrow.

Notesday9

5:45 I burn a whole bunch of calories getting the new duvet around the comforter. Sheesh! Bill calls to tell me he's stuck in traffic. EB is calling "I need jammies!" so I get EB into his pajamas. CJ is having his allotted evening video game time (Lego Star Wars from the sound of it) and BW is reading. EB is noshing on his baby carrots, mac and cheese and crackers. I sort the mail and lay aside my evening reading pile. I google a brownie recipe for tomorrow (we're having friends over for lunch). Print it; add it to the clipboard.

6:15 Seemingly done for the moment with housekeeping and childcare etc., I move the laptop out to the family room and start uploading pictures from the camera. EB announces
"I'm ready for bed!" and after kisses, hugs and I-love-you's he jogs down the hallway, grinning from ear to ear. (The boy loves food and sleep.) I sit down to look over the pictures from today.

6:40 Bill home! Finish inserting pictures to this post. Suppertime. (I can't remember grilled cheese ever tasting this good.)

7:15 I wrap up this post. We're watching a show about Antarctica with the boys. Time for pj's and washing up. All that's left to do is to get the boys off to bed, take care of the cats, lock up and then sit and relax with Bill. I will probably read. He will probably watch MSNBC or the NFL channel. We'll turn in around 9 p.m.

It was a good day! Thanks for joining me! :)


Like deja vu all over again ...

I am pretty certain I did this meme before, but I'm going to do it again anyway. Besides, everybody's doing it! (Too many to hat-tip!)

1. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE ? I don't think so. My dad just liked the name Dawn. :)

2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED?  December 17th, 2007 (I had an emergency tooth extraction; it was traumatic.)

3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? Yes.

4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT? Hmmm, I guess chicken.

5. DO YOU HAVE KIDS? Three boys.

6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? I'd like to think so!

7. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? I'm not that clever.

8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? No. They were removed when I was 4.

9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? Goodness, no.

10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? I'm not a big cereal eater, but I have to agree with Meredith ~ Lucky Charms are pretty yummy! :)

11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? Usually. But I hardly ever wear laced shoes.

12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? Yes ... and no.

13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM? Good old-fashioned vanilla. (Brigham's is the best.) With Mum's homemade butterscotch sauce, please. :)

14. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE? Like Amy said, how friendly or open they seem to be.

15. RED OR PINK? Either, but I like yellow better.

16. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING YOU LIKE ABOUT YOURSELF? I worry too much and I always think whatever's wrong, it was my fault.

17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? My maternal grandfather.

18. WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? Navy blue pants, pink socks.

19. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE? It's 5 a.m. It's all about the coffee. :)

20. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? Earlybird's running commentary about The Complete Cosmos (a show we Tivo'd).

21. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE? Dandelion (You can see it here).

22. FAVORITE SMELLS? Balsam, almond, rose.

23. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE? Our phone's been out! (Storm issues.)

24. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH? Football ~ Go Pats!

25. HAIR COLOR? Dark brown.

26. EYE COLOR? Green-blue. (Or maybe it's blue-green?)

27. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? Nope.

28. FAVORITE FOOD? Well, my favorite restaurant is Legal Sea Foods. So I guess, seafood, crusty bread and a nice glass of wine. :)

29. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? I can't stand scary movies.

30. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? Return of the Jedi with the boys.

31. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING? Pink.

32. SUMMER OR WINTER? Winter.

33. HUGS OR KISSES? Depends!

34. FAVORITE DESSERT? Pound cake with fruit and whipped cream.

35. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW? Right this very minute I'm reading How Groundhog's Garden Grew (EB's favorite!)

36. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? I have a laptop, but I love using a wireless mouse. My mousepad has a lovely blue bird on it.

37. WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON T.V. LAST NIGHT? Nothing. Well, Bill watched Hardball, but I read.

38. FAVORITE SOUNDS? Songbirds, church bells, rain hitting the roof as I fall sleep.

39. ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES? Beatles, I guess.

40. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME? California.

41. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? I can sing the alphabet backwards really fast.

42. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? El Paso,Texas!

Thanks for reading my answers, and please tag yourself if you'd like! Now I'm off to get the day going. We have our Nature Club meeting today, so I'll be back later with pictures from the wintry woods ... :)


Fun Days Ahead!

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January 18th is the birthday of A.A. Milne, the beloved author of the Winnie-the-Pooh tales. (Another neat tidbit from this book.) I thought over breakfast on Friday, we might read aloud a chapter or two of the above book, and then, just for fun, light those balloon candles in our corn muffins! (Remember the story with the bees?) For the muffins, I'm going to follow a recipe from Earthways, one that uses honey as a sweetener. After blowing the candles out, we'll slather the muffins with honey butter, and to wash it all down - English Breakfast Tea! (Decaf, of course, with lots and lots of milk.)

And then Saturday brings us National Popcorn Day! What, you didn't know? ;) We'll read The Popcorn Book by Tomie de Paola, revisit this poem from last year, and I really want to try this adorable cake I saw at Cherry Hill Cottage last month. I had forgotten all about it, but I found the print-out of her post in this week's folder. (You know, sometimes I really love my file crate, lol.) Do take a peek at the cake - it looks so yummy, sounds quite easy and what a fun Saturday project for the kids! I think we're going to see the new Veggie Tales movie that day (haven't told the boys yet, but it looks like a go) so it will be a popcorn day all around!

Well, I've got to run ... the day's getting away from me! I've barely got the school stuff put away, and don't even ask about the kitchen! (Wednesday is, technically, kitchen day.) And the doorbell just rang and a friend's here to play with the boys, so that's my cue to get going ...

Have a good night, everyone!


The Loveliness of Planning

"A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow."

How much do I love this quote? I really must remember it. Because Loveliness_buttonwhen it comes to planning - which, you might have noticed, I do a lot - I can easily spend far too much time trying for perfect, when I could be making do very nicely with good.

So I'm going to resolve to make my plans good today; I'm going to forget trying to make them perfect tomorrow. What a huge waste of time it is trying for perfect! What an opportunity for grace and humility it is to do my best and accept that it will never be perfect ... but it might be just good enough.

Of course, I can still spend my time planning, and thinking about planning. :) And to that end, when the lessons are done later today and the boys are off to play, I'll pour myself a hot cup of tea and sit down with Sarah's Loveliness of Planning Fair ~ it's full of tips and ideas and most importantly, support.

Because that's the key. Supporting one and another as we strive to do our best by our families. We may never find the perfect system at someone else's blog, but we will find encouragement. We'll find ideas - maybe even life changing ideas - or maybe we'll just find a smile. It's just nice to know we're all walking a similar path, tripping over the same stones ...

My new mantra: never mind making perfect, just make do. Because perfect is not just a fairy tale; it's really not even on the table ...

Perfect is for Him, not for me.

I'll be back later to share my progress. (And I hope you'll do the same!) Whatever I come up with, it might be good (or it might not, lol) but it definitely won't be perfect.

And that's ok. :)


Camera Talk

Thank you so much for all the kind comments about my pictures! I must say, this winter weather has provided me with plenty of inspiration. :) Before I call it a night, I wanted to answer a few questions about my camera ...Camera

I have a Sony Cybershot 7.2 megapixel digital camera with 3x optical zoom and super steady shot. (I felt a bit like Ralphie in A Christmas Story just then, lol.) It is a slight upgrade from an earlier Sony Cybershot I owned. That camera served me well until the gears locked up and the lenses wouldn't open (something to do with taking pictures in the, ahem, rain). This one is great - lightweight, slim, easy to use. I am ridiculously unversed in the many buttons and settings it offers, and still I manage fairly good shots. I almost always use no flash. I play around with light and angles a lot. I take closer pictures now than I used to (this makes a huge difference). I sometimes use the tiny "macro" setting that allows me to zoom in tightly on small things like petals and feathers.

I take most of my bird photos through the windows. It's really the only way, as birds are pretty skittish subjects. The only bird I've been able to photograph in "the wild" is a chickadee. (They're brave little things, those chickadees.) We have a lot of feeders and we've been feeding the birds for a long time. (Almost eight years at this house.) As a result, we get a nice variety of birds here and many visitors a day. If you'd like, I will describe in a future post the kinds of feeders and foods we use.

Well, that's all for now. I hope you had a nice day ~ I'll be back again sometime tomorrow. :)


Announced by all the trumpets of the sky ...

Snowstorm

Arrives the snow ...

As promised, here are LOTS of pictures I took today during the storm. I'm sure you're not surprised there are many (or mostly) bird photos here. ;)

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It was very hard NOT to take pictures today. Lol, the camera never left my side. The birds were just lovely to watch. Even now, as the light fades dramatically, they are out there ~ filling their little bellies with seeds, suet and corn. And by the way ~ the fourth bird down (under the woodpecker picture) ~ can anyone tell me if that is a pine siskin? If so, this would add a new species to our bird list! :)

In all, I'd say we got about 10 inches or maybe a foot. Plenty for our Thursday Nature Club meeting (our January theme: tracks in the snow). We should be able to squeeze that activity in before we get more snow; from what I just heard on the afternoon news, another storm's coming this Friday ...

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I hope you all had a good one. I'll leave you with a lovely little quote I just found today:

"Snowflakes are one of nature's most fragile things, but just look what they do when they stick together." (Verna Kelly)

*Opening lines from The Snow-Storm by Ralph Waldo Emerson


It's a-comin' ...

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... and as of 2 p.m. Sunday, we're officially hunkered down! :)

We spent the morning hours out and about - at mass, at breakfast, at the bookstore, and then finally at the supermarket. Yikes, what a zoo! Everybody and their cousin was out there ~ vying for parking spots, shopping carts and the quickest checkout line. For goodness sakes, this is New England, people! Act like we've been here before! Lol, I love all the storm mania, though. It's been a solid few weeks since we've had significant snow, and the storm is all anyone's talking about ...

Well, that and the Pats ... ;)

So now we're home and things have quieted down considerably. Especially since a little while ago Bill took the boys out on a nature walk and now it's just me and the cats. I'm parked here on the couch, surrounded by all kinds of things to read, clip and assemble ...

For instance:

  • The Sunday Globe (just a few sections, not the whole paper!)
  • a new paperback I'm excited to preview for the boys
  • The Story of the World (in order to make library requests)
  • my calendar
  • my journal (and tape and scissors)
  • a few random magazines:
    • Ranger Rick
    • Time
    • Entertainment Weekly
    • Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion
  • a new 3-ring binder and all the "fixin's" (more on this project later)

So, as you can see I've got a busy little afternoon ahead of myself. But before I button up the laptop for the day, I want to tell you all a few things ...

First and foremost, thank you all SO much for the birthday messages! You all are so sweet to me, and your happy wishes made a wonderful day even more special. (I'm printing them out and pasting them into my journal today!) Thank you for such kindness. :)

Also:

Don't forget that tonight, PBS begins The Complete Jane Austen - first up, Persuasion. As much as I'd like to watch it though, there's very little chance I'll be able to stay awake, so I'm recording it to watch tomorrow at an earlier hour.

This just in! Beginning next Saturday, Barnes & Noble is having another Educator Discount Week. Mark it down, folks; it ends the 27th. (I am SO getting a toasted marshmallow latte.)

More good book news: A Winter Sale at Barefoot Books (up to 70% off selected titles!) is ongoing through February 18th ...

And on the weekend of January 26-27, The Bakers Catalogue is having a "Blizzard Sale" ~ 10% of the entire site, 15% off mixes and up to 40% on selected items. Time to restock the winter pantry? :)

Before I go, here are some pictures from the boys' nature walk today ... it may look like fall, but there is a definite hint of snow in the air ...

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Well, I'm off now ~ I hope everyone stays warm, well and safe - wherever you are, and whatever your weather. See you all again sometime soon. :)


Lovely, Lovely Day

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Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved having a January birthday. First of all, it gave me something to look forward to when feeling down about the end of the holidays. And secondly, I am a winter spirit by nature ~ I can honestly say, I love the cold and the snow. Dark afternoons bother me not a wit when I can light a candle; cold nights are nothing under piles of flannel and down. And most years, my birthday has indeed been a snowy affair. My folks have umpteen pictures of me, standing by the front window, decked out in my best dress, peering through the the heavy snow and wondering who'd make it to my party.

But what's really special about my January birthday is, I get to share it with my grandma, the loveliest lady I know ...

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Today, there was nary a snowflake in the air, in fact it was bright and almost spring-like. But the pleasant weather ensured safe travel for my cousins coming on from New York, and it also made it possible to bring my grandmother up to our house for a luncheon, to be surrounded by family and friends.

It was such a lovely, lovely day. May I share a few pictures with you?

The meal was delicious and, as usual, all thanks to my mum ...

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Such good food! Two kinds of quiche (quiches, lol?) - Lorraine and Asparagus/Gruyere. Eggplant lasagna, roasted vegetables and rolls both soft and crusty. Also, mango salsa, roasted onion dip and fresh guacamole, and all manner of crunchy things with which to dip. And, oh, yes! Pizza for the kids. :)

For dessert, there were two kinds of cake - no make that three! Below you see the dark chocoloate fudge variety that Earlybird can eat, and a vanilla cake with penuche frosting - both made by my mum. (Those are tiny beeswax candles by the way!)

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AND up at the top of this post you will see the two fancy cupcakes my mum bought especially for the birthday girls today. :) The pink chrysanthemum is mine and the blue and white roses was for Gram. I saved mine for tomorrow so I can savor it with a cup of tea. :)

Here's another shot, for good meaure ...

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I put the coffee on and then it was time to sing!

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And then open presents!

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My mum and dad gave me new pink pajamas and the hilarious squirrel shirt on the right. :) They also gave me some cookie cutters and a wonderful new book about attracting wildlife to the backyard.

Bill and the boys gave me a new cookbook, a lap desk, and a bunch of Patriots and Red Sox socks! (If you read my last post, you know I love socks!) Also, gift cards to two of my favorite stores - Wild Birds Unlimited and Starbucks. :)

And now I'm sitting here, late Saturday evening, counting my blessings, reminiscing with you all, and, I confess, nibbling one more piece of cake! The Patriots game is just minutes away (I have on my socks!) and I am doing my best to stay awake to watch ...

But it's an early day tomorrow. Mass bright and early, and then breakfast with mum and dad and my brother right after. Then we'll run to the grocery store to stock in supplies before the BIG storm hits on Monday! So here comes my birthday snow - just a day or two behind schedule. ;)

I hope you all are having a wonderful weekend, and thanks so much for sharing in my special day. Keep warm and well, everyone!


(Little) Things I Love :)

Just for fun! (And the obvious biggies excluded):

  1. blogging
  2. balsam
  3. flannel pajamas
  4. this soap
  5. a basketful of magazines
  6. going to the movies
  7. breezy days
  8. snowstorms
  9. fresh notebooks
  10. Lost
  11. vanilla
  12. morning glories
  13. my camera
  14. craft stores
  15. Vermont
  16. cotton pillowslips
  17. Peet's
  18. magnolia trees in April
  19. cardigan sweaters
  20. sunlight (& candlelight) :)
  21. beeswax candles
  22. the mail
  23. autumn
  24. sugar maples in October
  25. Christmas lights
  26. songbirds
  27. old stone walls
  28. Jane Austen
  29. cream soda
  30. strawberry-rhubarb pie
  31. Harry Potter
  32. acorns
  33. the library
  34. our fireplace
  35. little white socks
  36. ham and pineapple pizza
  37. tote bags
  38. gingham
  39. tea
  40. yellow

This was a fun exercise, brainstorming little things in life that I love. This list could go on and on, obviously, but for now, this will do. Hope you enjoyed it, too!

Happy Weekend!


Perchance to dream ...

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Like Jenn, Elizabeth, Ruth and Margaret before me, tonight I am sharing what's by my bedside. :)

I had planned to photograph the whole bed, kit and caboodle, as I expected my new bedding would have arrived by now - but only the "kit" arrived today; the "caboodle," according to UPS, is still somewhere in Minnesota. See that tiny bit of blue blanket in the lower right hand corner? That part's new. :)

Back to the nightstand, though. I have the usual things here - a lamp, a small clock (with an alarm I have no use for), a statue of Our Lady, my Badger Balm and my most favorite, all-purpose, unscented lotion. Also, my January and February issues of MSL and several books:

That's all - it's a very small nightstand, I'm afraid. On rare occasions, there might also be a mug of something hot here, but that creates a rather dicey situation. For one thing, there's the inevitable spillage - and no cup of tea is worth that much extra laundry. And for another thing, nothing draws children's attention faster than their mother resting in bed with a hot cup of tea. It's like an imbedded sensor goes off or something:

Hey! Mother's resting *and* she has tea! Let's go get her!

All righty then, enough talk - it's now officially time for bed! Friday's winding down and the weekend stretches before us ... I hope it's a very happy one for you and yours. :)


Poetry Friday: The Owl and the Brownies

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An owl sat alone on the branch of a tree,
And he was as quiet as quiet could be.
It was night and his eyes were round like this
He looked all around; not a thing he did miss.
Some brownies crept up on the branch of the tree,
And they were as quiet as quiet could be
Said the wise old owl, "To-whoooooo, to-whooooo."
Up jumped the brownies and away they flew.
An owl sat alone on the branch of a tree.
And he was as quiet as quiet could be.

(I found this sweet poem by Maude Burnam here.)

And by the way, brownies are tiny magical creatures, sprung from Scottish legend and folklore. As I'm part Scottish - and a former Brownie myself - I've always had a soft spot for these helpful little sprites. ;)

And speaking of brownies ... have you ordered your cookies yet? It's time, it's time! Contact your local Girl Scout and get your order in before it's too late!

(P.S. Thin Mints are my favorites - how about you?)

Happy Friday! :)


All Around the Learning Room ...

On a winter's day ...

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It's been a very quiet day around here, sunny and slow. We actually took a long time getting going this morning. The learning room, which up till a week ago was "Christmas Central" in our house, was in dire need of a good pruning. (Who knew artificial trees shed, lol?) So instead of diving right into lessons and adding more paper etc. to the general disarray, I poured myself one more cup of coffee and set about sprucing up the place. Naturally, I took pictures to share with you all. :) 

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The learning table was polished till it shone in the January sunlight. The utensil basket was weeded out, and fresh crayons and other supplies were tucked inside. I hung a new calendar for all to see.

The learning display corner got a makeover ...

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Bill helped me hang the new laminated world map. The old one had torn in places, and um, it clashed with the walls. ;) Also, check out the new calendar/corkboard thingy I found! There is a dry-erase square for each day of the week; I think this will help the boys keep up with what's going on and where we're going next.

I hung the prayer shelf back up in the corner, and placed Earlybird's nature mailbox up high out of reach. Beneath that is a rectangular basket, the inbox, where we place work (and stuff) throughout the week. Ideally I will go through this basket each weekend and file or toss things as I see fit. Beneath the basket are the boys school totes. 

Also, the shelf beneath the book display holds two wooden bins for paper - construction on left, loose leaf on right.

And here is the bulletin board ...

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Not a whole lot yet this week, but some mapwork and coloring pages from history, our epiphany stars and below I hung a poster about Ancient Greece.

Oh yes, Bookworm got busy making homemade lime-ade ...

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Good practice for his proposed lemon - and I guess, lime- ade stand this summer. :)

Here's Earlybird's shelf a la hedgehog ...

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And at lunchtime, we spied a most welcome guest at the feeder:

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I ask you, what's cuter than a red squirrel? :)

I also cleaned up "my" corners ~ the places where I keep my "stuff" in reach ...

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The file crate on the left is perched on an oval antique table - a perfect fit and a very lovely spot, too - only Bill told me the crate is way too heavy for such a delicate piece of furniture. Rats.

I lined up two small trays upon which are parked, from left to right, my bill/correspondence basket, my page-a-day calendar, my daybook and my calendar. Beneath the tables are my bags - household tote, pocketbook and large tote for " random things to look through." You have one of those too, right? ;)

My clipboard is hung above (on a thumbtack no less) and I must point out that book, Groundhog Stays Up Late. It will go in our February basket eventually, but I'm enjoying the illustrations too much to file it away just yet. :)

And parked up on the kitchen counter, beside my laptop where I'm typing this very minute, is my brand new journal for January, and a hot cup of tea ...

Picsday11

Well, thank you for joining me on yet another tour of my learning room. Now that things are back in order I anticipate lots of good learning days to come! But for now I'm calling this learning day, done - the sun is slipping down the horizon, and the supper hour is near at hand. Chicken pot pie tonight, along with baked potatoes and salad. Sounds just about right for a cold winter's night. :)

See you all sometime tomorrow ...   


For those born on January 10th ...

But most especially for someone dear to us all ...Fanpurpleflowers

"You are a natural leader and a good quick thinker. You would be successful in any commercial enterprise. Cultivate poise and do not be self-conscious or lacking in self-esteem. You are attractive and unusually popular among your friends. Your love is true and loyal." ~ A (wonderfully accurate) passage from The Good Fortune Birthday Book.

Happy Birthday, Elizabeth! May God bless you today and always! :)


Day is done ...

Dayisdone

Before I pop off to flannel-land, I wanted to let you all know I updated my morning post to reflect what we actually got done today. I meant to add some endnotes, but I'm just so tired I'm going to call it a day. It was a good day - a long day - but we didn't get it all done. We never get it all done, but that's ok in my book. We'll pick up where we left off tomorrow. :)

The weather was incredible - one minute windy and dark, the next bright and blue - always a bit damp and very, very mild. It was melty, too and felt so much like March - which is lovely - but also a huge tease when we're still miles and miles away from spring. I'm not complaining though, it felt good to open the windows and let in the air. We noticed the goldfinches are turning light yellow, and we even heard them singing their squeaky little song ...

But now I'm following the sun's lead and heading to bed. Thanks for joining me today, and I'll see you all again sometime tomorrow. :)


Busy Bee Wednesday

FlyingbeeAh, the promise of a day with nothing to do, nowhere to go ...

Who am I kidding? Nothing to do? We've got plenty to do! It's just that it's one of those days where we're very much on our own schedule, and the day stretches out before us. I love these days, when I feel like I can catch up on my to-do's ... but before I get started, here's a quick post about our Wednesday busy-ness. :)

Our Home Learning Plans Today:

*Math:

  • Lessons first thing, all around

*Language Arts:

*History:

*Science:

*Earlybird K: hedgehogs/farm animals

Faith at Home:

  • Read "The Creation" in A Child's Book of Grace (wonderful new book, pictured at right, on sale at B&N just now)
  • Also read aloud "The Creation" by Cecil Francis Alexander, in same book (January poem to memorize)

My Homekeeping Plans Today:

  • Open windows wide today and let in the fresh air!
  • Clean Kitchen (can't wait to try this new lemony scrub)
  • Finalize 2-week menu rotation; update marketing list/print
  • Write out bills to mail
  • Go through email inbox
  • Make appointments for annual checkups

I'll come back later today and update this list to show what we actually got accomplished! At the start of the day it all seems quite do-able, but we all know how the day can get away from us ... ;)

In the meantime, I hope your day is a good one - busy or otherwise! :)

*Evening Update: I've crossed out the items we got done today, and as you can see, there will be some carryover. ;) Still, I think we had a good day, and I must say we are really enjoying this Ancient Greek stuff! I think we could (and might) do history every day of the week! The boys were enthralled by the Minotaur story, and they get quite a hoot out of the Fables. :)


A Q & A Roundup

Cocoashot

A quick cocoa break with the boys, late Monday afternoon ...

Do you ever see your view as if in a frame, and think, now that's a nice picture? That's a neat snapshot of my life right now? The above view was just such a moment. Right behind my cocoa mug, there's Crackerjack drawing and that's Earlybird and Bookworm in the background, watching Reading Rainbow together (obviously, riveted).

A typical day, an ordinary moment, but I wanted to share it all the same. :)

And now, I also want to share some of the questions that have been left by kind readers recently. In my usual slow-as-molasses fashion, I am just catching up with them, so please join me in a little Q & A roundup ...

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Patricia asked: I have noticed in the past that you read to your boys at mealtime and I am wondering how that works.

I don't do this everyday, but often, at lunchtime I read aloud to the boys as they eat. It's an opportune time because A. we're all sitting together, B. there's not much to distract us (or them I should say) and B. as their mouths are full I have a relatively silent audience. It varies what I read, it might be a chapter from a family read-aloud, a picture book or it might be a news clipping or magazine article.

Nori asked: Do you print the pages of your blog?

I don't, and to be honest, I've been wondering about how to back up my blog. I think it should be done in terms of software (or maybe it's hardware?) but also I'd love to have it in paper form because well, I'm just a paper kind of gal. But the longer I wait the bigger my blog gets, lol! In March it will be two years of almost daily posts - that would be a lot of paper. ;)

Lisa asked: I was just wondering, where do you find all of the "special" months like:
National Hot Tea Month
National Soup Month
National Oatmeal Month ?

I have two favorite sources for these types of things: Literature for Lively Lessons and China Bayle's Book of Days. And a few websites, too: here, here and here.

Patricia asked: I was wondering how to make the herbal candies? I have a special needs son with autism and would be interested in how you make them.

Also, what do you put in the felt heart sachets?

Re the herbal candies: This will be my first time trying them. Years ago I saw an article in Martha Stewart's magazine about making homemade lozenges, but I cannot for the life of me locate it now. (I'm still scouring my winter issues.) In the meantime, I have bookmarked a recipe for herbal candy in A Kids Herb Book, but that one uses dried elderflower, which is not (necessarily) my herb of choice. More recently, I did a quick google and found these easy and informative instructions. I might try to make the herb candy in lollipop form for the kids as I would not want to give them small hard drops. If they turn out well, I might make them as little gifts for grownup friends and family next Christmas (in drop form). I found this Cough Drop Candy Mold online.

As for the felt hearts, I stuff them with cotton or wool batting mixed with some dried herbs This is an idea from Earthways, by the way. The author suggests a blend of dried lavender, rose buds and star anise for fragrance and texture/shape. The boys and I will be making some felt hearts near the end of the month for Valentine gifts, and of course I'll share how it goes! :)

Nicole asked: I noticed you listed order seed catalogs and starting a garden is one of our goals with our little girls this year. Can you recommend a seed catalog?

Well, I get a slew of them, but my favorites are:

Hope that helps! :)

Brian asked: My wife (http://www.daughterofhope.com) suggested I try asking you my question. I've started getting the liturgical prayers on my PDA and I'm really enjoying them. However, there's one that I especially like, but cannot locate a source. It is the "Bless the Lord, fire and heat; cold and warmth, bless the Lord..." It has a very nice rhythm to it and I wouldn't be surprised to find it a Celtic, especially Irish, source.
Do you know this one?

I'm sorry I don't know the source of this one, Brian, but it sounds lovely. Does it sound familiar to anyone reading here today?

Kelly asked: I've never heard of Robert Burns Night and Days of the Blackbird. Could you tell a little about each?

Burns Night is the celebration of the birthday of Scotland's great poet, Robert Burns. I did a post on it last year: A Wee Tea.

Days of the Blackbird refers to a beautiful folktale from northern Italy, wonderfully retold by Tomie de Paola in a book by the same name. The days, January 29th-31st, are thought to be the "coldest of the year."

Theresa asked: This Book Group does sound like a lot of fun. I am interested in starting something similar in our homeschool group and wonder if you might be able to blog sometime about how yours is set up and and some of the logistics. That would be so helpful.

Somewhere along the line, I know I blogged about how the group got started, but I can't find the exact post. I can tell you it was started a few years ago by a small group of mums in my homeschool support group. (It might have been originally dreamt up by my friend Mary, who is now the coordinator, but I wasn't there in the very beginning.) I'd say there are about 12-15 families involved now. We meet once a month at a local library for about an hour and a half. There are two age groups: 7-10 and 10-14. We meet September through June, and each mum takes a turn leading one of the groups of kids in discussion. The book of the month is decided upon by the mum leading. Generally, we have a snack and just talk about the book and often work on activities centered around the book. The older group is in a private room; the younger group sits around a large table in the main children's room. The other mums sit nearby and chat. :) It is a wonderful activity, one we all look forward to each month.

I hope that helps a bit!

Barbara asked: Just wondering...what mix you use for your cupcakes? The box mixes that I find are cake mixes and make 24 cupcakes which is just way too many to have on hand!

In the Epiphany post, I used a vanilla cake mix by Dr. Oetker Organics. The box says it will make 24 but it always makes less for me - about 16-18. I've often thought about making trifle with leftover cupcakes, but have yet to try ...

Heidi wrote: I would love if you would post more about your special child, specifically what you do with him/her. We are currently going to OT and speech 3 times a week and I actually like those days because they get me out of the house and give me an hour off...I am very impressed you do therapy on your own.

Though we do work with EB at home, he also attends private therapy sessions at a local practice twice weekly. The first session is an hour of OT followed by 1/2 hour of speech (one-on-one) and the second is an hour-long social skills/language group for children with ASD. There are about 5-8 boys all preK/early K age. The group is led by two speech therapists - one of whom is EB's primary ST. At home we implement techniques taught to us by the therapists and work on general life skills and developmental steps. I'm out of time right now, but will post more about EB's lesson plans for the new year very soon.

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Well, I hope those Q&A are helpful to some folks!

If you have any other questions for me, please do fire away! It might take me some time to get back to you here (and I'm afraid my email is just as slow these days) but please know I so appreciate you taking the time to leave a note!

I hope your day is a good one (and it can only get better with cocoa, by the way) ...

See you soon! :)


My Daily Homekeeping Routine

"My deeper hope is that each of my sons will be able to see the sacred in the ordinary; that they too will grow up "loving the dailiness." So, for their sakes, as well as my own, I remind myself to slow down and enjoy the day's doings. The daily rhythms of life, the humble household rituals, the nourishment I provide ~ these are my offerings to my children, given with love and gratefully received." (From Mittenstrings for God)

Back when I was formulating this list for my daybook, I thought about two things.

First, and admittedly, this is a mighty long list. :) But if you look closely you'll see I listed everything, even the most mundane and automatic tasks, like make coffee and sort mail. It might seem silly to list these chores in print, but I find having everything listed, and roughly in the order in which it needs to be done, really helps me keep on track. (When I remember to look at the list, of course.)

Now, the second thing - though it is a lot to do in a day, especially when you count in homeschooling three boys (one who is special needs) - I cannot help but feel so blessed to have this be my list of things to do. When I think that some mothers do not have the luxury of staying home, or the support to homeschool, or even more, must deal with serious illness in the family ... I realize just how fortunate I am. (Amy said it brilliantly here.)

So all that said - lots to do, but lucky to do it - here's the list.

*I should first mention, we are very early risers. Generally I'm up before 5, or just after.

*Chores in green are Bill's and those in blue are for the boys; mine are pink. :) The list in my daybook is not color-coded (though that would have been good to do) and there aren't any notes like I've made here.

  • make coffee
  • work with Earlybird (OT/life skills)
  • prayer
  • check online
  • look over planner
  • peruse morning paper (set aside things to read later)
  • unload dishwasher (if not done night before)
  • set out breakfast for boys (according to menu plan)
  • wash up/dress
  • make bed
  • cats: food, water, meds, boxes
  • *begin weekly chore*
  • work with Earlybird (OT/speech)
  • boys wash up/dress (clothes laid out night before)
  • wipe up bathroom after washing
  • pick up cat dishes; load in dishwasher
  • make beds
  • breakfast
  • start a draft for tomorrow's post
  • clean up kitchen after breakfast
    • keeping kitchen neat throughout day is a big priority
  • MORNING LESSONS (roughly 8:30-12)
  • lunch break (boys help set out lunch and clean up after)
  • work on weekly chore
  • begin supper prep
  • check online
  • neaten kitchen/load dw
  • AFTERNOON LESSONS/ACTIVITY (roughly 1-3)
  • work with Earlybird (OT/life skills)
  • Sort mail
  • Put away school stuff
  • *finish up weekly chore*
  • start supper
  • wash up coffeemaker/set up for a.m.
  • 4:00 afternoon tidy (boys help)
    • listen to afternoon radio news
  • boys' TV/video time
  • upload pictures from day
  • wipe down counters and tables
  • set table for supper
  • turn down beds/lay out pajamas
  • prepare bath for evening washing
  • daddy home - suppertime!
  • my shower/bath
  • bag up/take out trash
  • run dishwasher (unload if time/energy)
  • cats: food, water, meds, boxes
  • boys wash and dress for bed
  • bedtime reading & prayer
  • wipe down kitchen; fresh cloths for morning
  • look over planner for tomorrow
  • check online
  • blog
  • update clipboard for morning
  • read/watch TV
  • prayer
  • turn down heat
  • lock up and lights out

More or less, I've covered it all. Or I think I have ... what would you add to this list? :)

It also bears repeating, that I don't get this all done every single day. That doesn't mean it all doesn't need to be done, though, so it's good to have it all down in one place. Now I can just work on making it more of a habit. (How many days does that process take again? Twenty-one?)

Obviously the morning and afternoon lessons have their own set of guidelines as do the weekly chores which I talked about here. I will post about our home learning schedules in a future post.

But for now, it's off to the races (i.e. our first day back homelearning this brand new year)! :)

Happy Monday, everyone!