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February 2008

Land that I Love ~ A Survey of the States


This winter we are beginning an overview of the United States of America, as well as an informal study of our own state geography and history. Above you see our primary materials:

The notebooks (one for each older boy) will be divided in this way:

  • Front cover: a blank map of the United States of America
  • Sections:
    • Massachusetts
    • New England
    • Mid-Atlantic
    • Southeast
    • Southwest
    • Midwest
    • Mountain
    • West

Goal: To cover two states a week till we've covered them all.

Schedule as follows:

  • M-F: Boys complete one puzzle page from the MA book; file behind MA section.
  • On Monday: color two posters, one for each state; hang up in learning room.
  • On Tuesdays and Thursdays:
    • Present new state fact card
    • Read about state in guidebook.
    • Color state bird sheet; write capital at top of page
    • Place sheet in binder behind appropriate regional divider.
    • Color in state on blank US map.

I'm not requiring memorization at this point, just familiarity. So far this has been a fun and easy way to acquaint ourselves with the country. Next year we will focus our history on America from 1850 to the present and I anticipate a more in-depth study of US geography at that time. We'll also take time to learn about the Saints of America.

But this year, like every year, we'll honor all the national holidays ~

~ National Holidays 2008 ~

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day ~ January 21
  • Abraham Lincoln's Birthday ~ February 12
  • Presiden't Day ~ February 18
  • George Washington's Birthday ~ February 22
  • Patriots Day (Boston) ~ April 21
  • Memorial Day ~ May 26
  • Flag Day ~ June 14
  • Independence Day ~ July 4
  • Labor Day ~ September 1
  • Patriot Day (US) ~ September 11
  • Columbus Day ~ October 13
  • Veteran's Day ~ November 11
  • Thanksgiving Day ~ November 27
  • Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ~ December 7

I've been keeping ideas for celebrating each of these holidays in my seasonal planning notebook (the one where I file my themes and plans outlines). I try to keep the activities simple and family-friendly, and to weave in our Faith as I can, too.

Today of course, brings us President's Day, and many (most?) schoolchildren are on vacation this week. Our little homeschool is not on vacation, though we are taking today off because Daddy is home for the day! We'll hang our American flag and talk about the upcoming presidential election, and for supper I'll serve what to my mind are all-American favorites: old-fashioned meatloaf, mashed potatoes and corn, along with buttered whole-grain rolls. For dessert we'll enjoy little President's Day sundaes and then we'll watch National Treasure, a great family favorite ...

But right now I'm off to get the day rolling. I hope yours is a good one, whatever your plans!

George Washington was brave, we know; he loved this land we hold so dear. And when his birthday comes around, his noble name we cheer.**And Lincoln, who was strong and true, his birthday too, we celebrate. So raise the flag and sing the praise of heroes, good and great.

("Washington and Lincoln," from We Sing and Listen)

Home, Our Little Heaven

I always have one housekeeping book going at a time, and right now it's Mrs. Dunwoody's Victorian_homeExcellent Instructions for Homekeeping. I remember years ago seeing this book at the bookstore and thinking it might be nice to own, but not having heard much about it, I figured I'd wait for it to come to the library. Which of course it finally did, and thanks to our very convenient inter-library loan system, I was able to track it down - first virtually and then physically, and now it sits here on my kitchen counter and I page through it every chance I get. It's a very nice book filled with inspiration and information.

I'd like to share this quote with you from the introduction. The author, Miriam Lukken, has this to say about Mrs. Dunwoody, or "Big Mama" as she was called by those who loved her:

"She, too, believed that the ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest. "Taking care of our home enables us all to feel nurtured and safe; it brings comfort and solace both in the fruits of our labor and in the freedom it affords to experience life to its fullest. It is important work, and others will suffer if you do not attend to it properly," she wrote in one of her diaries. Big Mama was just as fussy about the manner in which things were done as she was about the substance of those things. She taught that women were not just doing chores, they were creating ~ creating a home, a place of security, warmth, contentment and affection. A place where even the everyday things in our lives were held sacred and should therefore be cared for and treated in a special and orderly way ...

In a letter to a grandchild Mrs. Dunwoody wrote, "Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. Home is a sacred place for you and your family. Home interprets heaven. It is heaven for beginners. Take the time to come home to yourself, every day." She taught that home was where you came to rest, and so it should thereby be restorative. It should be a relief to come home at the end of the day, close the door behind you and find things as they should be, (and always have been). She truly believed that our own inner peace and happiness could be worked out by organizing our physical surroundings."

Well, it's Sunday morning now, and in a little while I'll be rousing the troops to get ready for Mass. When we return home with my folks it will be to a pot of hot coffee and a pan of crumb cake. My mum and dad will stay for a while to chat and catch up. The boys will be eager to show them things like a new Lego they've built or a new book they're reading or the ladybug habitat they've made. It's such a nice way to start our week ...

Later on, Bill will take the boys on a woods-walk, their usual Sunday "adventure." I myself have planned a rather domestic day filled with little tasks I have to get done: folding laundry, lesson planning, baking breads, catching up on emails. All small things, and certainly things I just take for granted. But if I stop to think about it (and I hardly do enough), I am truly grateful for all these little have-to's. I am humbled to be the one creating this space, this place in time, for my family. It's all so much more than just daily or weekly or monthly tasks, because, like Saint Stanislaus Kostka I can "... find a heaven in the midst of saucepans and brooms."

But to find something means you first have to look.

So this week I am going to look for the blessings in the little things - the daily bits and pieces of life. I am going to look for our little heaven at home - the comforts that only I can bring to my family.

Sundays are a good day to make plans for this ~ to sit down and look at the week ahead. What can be done for my loved ones this week? What needs can be met with love? Clean clothes? Fresh beds? Good meals? Kind words? My attention?

It's not to say it will be easy ~ to do or to remember. All these things take time and effort, and maybe even a little extra of both. But, it all begins with today, so now with one last keystroke, I'm off to get that crumb cake in the oven. :)

Have a wonderful Sunday, my friends.

Flowers of Blue

Sweet fragile weed, while thus I viewForgetmenots2

Thy softened tint of constant blue,

I pray in life whate’er my lot

May those I love Forget-me-not.

         (Mary Pirie)

As we begin the long President's Day weekend, I wish you all good health, much happiness and abundant time spent with your loved ones.

See you all soon ...

Lost Talk Friday

Kim kindly reminded me it's "Lost Talk Friday." :)

I did watch Lost last night, but I'm a bit behind things this morning. In general, I thought the episode was excellent, and I am just completely thrown off by - spoiler alert! - Sayid's flash-forward!

On my mind:

  • What is this "list" he's working on, and is it the same one Ben's people referred to back when the Losties first crashed? You know the one with the good people and the bad people?
  • And speaking of Ben's people - where did they go anyway??
  • And how about the "lost" time issue Dan discovered? How does that figure into all of this?
  • Why couldn't Locke find (see?) the cabin? What is that gray stuff along the perimeter? (Smoke Monster residue?)
  • Do you think Ben's "man on the boat" is someone we know?

I'll just open it up - please leave a comment if you'd like.

So what did you all think ... ?

Gumdrop Goodness

Did you know it's National Gumdrop Day? Well, here are a few ideas for you and your children ... if you are so inclined. ;)Gumdroptree

You could:

Now admittedly there are a few potential problems with Gumdrop day. For one thing, it's Lent, and many folks have given up candy. We do not give up sweets for Lent, but since Earlybird can't eat gumdrops (too artificial) and neither can Bookworm (braces, you see), we are, generally speaking, a gumdrop-free household.

However, we might try to make gumdrops as suggested in the first link. Those sound harmless and fun and maybe even a bit like science. ;) I also love the look of those gumdrop ornaments in the last link - they would be sweet made with an egg-shaped base. Wrapped up in little cellophane bags and tied up with ribbon, they would make nice Easter gifts next month.

Well, I'm off for a bit. Happy Friday, my friends ~ relish this day with your dear ones.

Our Valentines Day


Right after I put up my morning post, I got down to the business of breakfast. I don't usually bake so early in the day, but I really wanted the house to have that cozy warm smell this morning. Sure enough, as the sleepyheads staggered out to the kitchen, a buzz of excitement crackled in the air: Not only was it Valentines Day, but there was going to be chocolate for breakfast! :)

Once the donuts were cooling on the counter, I bundled myself up and headed outside to the feeders. After a few stormy days, today was so lovely, almost spring-like. I even spied a flock of robins overhead - there had to be a hundred of them! Now, as legend tells it, the birds choose their mates on this day, so I fashioned a little Valentine gesture in the snow ...


Back inside, before Daddy left for work and we got down to "school," we enjoyed a Valentine breakfast together:


The picture doesn't show it but the icing is tinted light pink (naturally, of course, for my Earlybird). I used a pan from The Baker's Catalogue and all Feingold-friendly ingredients ~ right down to the sprinkles! :)

Later in the day we worked on a colorful mosaic picture, based on a craft suggested in Catholic Mosaic. This went along with the lovely book, Saint Valentine, by Robert Sabuda.


We had help, of course:


Our "stained glass" panel is the first part of a Lenten project we're working on this year.


A bit later, Nana stopped by for coffee (and a donut we saved just for her) and she brought with her some treats for the boys - two new movies! Snow Buddies (adorable) and IMAX Deep Sea (amazing)!

And finally, as the sun dipped low in the sky, it was time to make Daddy's Valentine and to savor one more Valentine treat ...


Mind you, that's good old-fashioned Swiss Miss in those mugs - quick but delicious! EB can't have Swiss Miss, but he opted for a limeade popsicle instead. ;)

Well, I'm off for now. I hope your day was a good one, and I'll see you all sometime tomorrow. :)

For all my readers ~


I hope you have a very happy Valentines Day!

I have a few things planned for my little men today, and since the first is a breakfast surprise, I'd better get going! I will be back later this afternoon with pictures of our day.

But before I go, this being a day for expressions of love, I want to take a moment to say how much I appreciate all of you and how much I enjoy our "visits" here at my blog. :) I am often overwhelmed by your kindness and encouragement - and I thank you for allowing me to share myself and my family in such a safe and happy environment.

Blessings to you all on this special day!

A bell is no bell 'til you ring it,
A song is no song 'til you sing it,
And love in your heart
Wasn’t put there to stay -
Love isn’t love
'Til you give it away.

~From the Sound of Music~

Notes from the Nest

On the dinner menu:Nest1_2

On the housekeeping list:

  • Clean kitchen sink & counters with lemony scrub.
  • Go through refrigerator and cabinets.
  • Begin marketing list & menu plan for next week.
  • Clean trash bins.

On the home learning list:

  • Lessons: math, language arts, history.
  • Work on US state notebooks.
  • Write out Valentines. :)
  • Watch first part of The Animated Passion Trilogy.

Other little notes:

~ Very disappointed The Globe came without the Food Section! Bill is going to ask around at work and see if he can scare up a copy for me.

~ Find a granola bar recipe for a delicious cherry-vanilla granola Bill brought home. (Will be perfect for Presidents' Day next week!)

~ Celebrate National Clean out your Computer Day one day late; go through (virtual) inbox. Neaten (actual) desk area.

~ Prepare for The Great Backyard Bird Count beginning this Friday. Print out forms and familiarize ourselves with rules.

~ Continue watching Pride & Prejudice with Bill tonight. :)

Motherhood and Apple Pie*

*Or maybe I mean humble pie ...

Bookworm: "Hey, Mama, did you know that there's this thing you can get at McDonald's - it sounds really good. It's like a bar ... only it's an apple pie!!"

Me: "Oh, sure, I've had one before. They're not bad actually."

BW: "Really, you've had one before?"

Me: "Well, not since I was a kid."

BW: "Wow, really?! I didn't know they'd been around that long!"


P.S. Tonight's menu is a boy's dream, our "homemade fast food" night ~ cheeseburgers, french fries, onion rings, and steamed corn ~ nary a pepper to be found. ;) Usually we have little ice cream sundaes for dessert with this supper, but instead we'll enjoy a jelly roll in honor of President Lincoln!

Comfort Food for the Mother's Heart


I've started re-reading Mittenstrings for God for a mothers' book study which will commence one evening next week. I can hardly wait for it to start! I have loved this book for years and years and have longed to explore its beautiful message with friends. It's just sooo good; all I could think as I turned page after page is how it is very much like comfort food for a mother's heart. :) I am so looking forward to sharing my thoughts on the book's many topics with my friends - and then here with you, too!

I decided to make up a little notebook for myself in which I can jot down thoughts as I read, and then notes as we discuss. It's just another one of those plain composition books I like to dress up with pretty scrapbook paper. I am particularly fond of the quilt pattern shown above. As a final touch, I'll add a ribbon pagemarker - once I find just the right shade of ribbon. :)

If you're not familiar with MFG (as I'll call it, not meaning to sound flip, it's just easier this way), here's a snippet from the introduction:

"This book, then, is not about changing your life. It is about paying more attention to the life you already have, about taking your own life back as you protect your children from the pull of a world that is spinning too fast.

Ultimately, of course, we must each find our own way to be in the world. There are as many ways to live as there are ways to love, and each family has its particular rhythm, its own way of doing and of being. Yet I do believe that, as mothers, we all walk a common path, through a rugged and ineffable territory of love and fury, exhilaration and exhaustion, self-doubt and self-discovery. Every mother I know wishes for close, meaningful relationships with her children, yet none of us is immune to the daily press of obligations and events. We fall captive to the demands of our jobs and families, and to the insistent tug of our fast-paced culture. And most of us find it increasingly difficult, in the face of all this external pressure, to remember what we already know: True happiness is found within ourselves and in quiet harmony with others. Yet if we let this inner knowledge slip away, our children may never learn it themselves, for we are their first teachers. It is up to each of us to set the example, to show by our own actions our respect for intimacy, contemplation, and wonder. This is perhaps the greatest legacy we can bestow on our children: the capacity to be enchanted by the quiet gifts of everyday life.

Over the years I have been grateful to all the women who have gone this way before me and have been willing to shine a light upon the trail, that I might find my own way with a bit more confidence. I hope these pages will do the same for other mothers and their children."

Contents ~ 1. Dailiness 2. Morning 3. Peace 4. Quiet 5. Simplicity 6. TV 7. Play 8. Secret Paces 9. Wants and Needs 10. Stories 11. One-on-One Time 12. Surrender 13. Breathing 14. Healing 15. Listening 16. Nature 17. Enchantment 18. Grace 19. Rhythm 20. Truth 21. Helping 22. Discipline 23. Stretching 24. Nurturing 25. Sabbath 26. Spirit 27. Balance 28. Choices 29. Wingbeats

Stay tuned for my MFG Notes beginning later next week, and let me know if you'd be interested in joining us (virtually, of course). If there's enough interest, I can work up a schedule, and maybe a button too. :)

I'm sure he meant well ...

I was preparing a dish of sour cream chicken for supper, and asked Bookworm to fetch me the peppers from the vegetable bin. So he did, one hand still holding the book he had his nose buried in moments before ... but as he brought me the peppers he spied what I was fixing (his favorite meal) and he said:

"Um ... just make sure there are no peppers touching my piece of chicken. I don't like the pepper taste."

I turned to him, my eyebrows raised, and he quickly replied:

"Not that there's anything wrong with your peppers, of course ..."

Pause (my eyebrows still raised).

"In fact, they're the best peppers I've ever had ... It's just that I don't like peppers."

He smiled. I smiled. And then I turned back to the chicken.

"Come to think of it," he said, as he walked out of the kitchen, "I've only ever tried your peppers ..."

Links for Lincoln ~ Take Two!

(Note: This is actually a post from last year, but I wanted to put it up again in case anything is useful to you. And while I'm at it, here's our "Tea and Craft" post from Abe's Day last year.)

I just love the month of February ~ it brings with it cold grey skies and warm red hearts and we mustn't forget those February presidents! How fun and meaningful it is to celebrate our national holidays all through the year. For, according to Mrs. Sharp:Abe_lincoln

"Unfortunately, with the exception of Independence Day, little attention is paid to the observance of patriotic holidays. As the origins and meanings of these very special days have slipped through the cracks, we have lost one of the most important legacies we can pass on to our children. There is no better place to begin restoration than with a homegrown observance of Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays."

Well, tomorrow is Abraham Lincoln's Birthday, and in honor of this very special American holiday, here are a few fun ideas for you and the children ...

You could ...

Make a yummy pretzel cabin.

Paint a log cabin birdhouse.

Play with your Lincoln Logs.

Read Abraham Lincoln by Ingri d'Aulaire.

Or Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books by Kay Winters.

Make penny rubbings. (Make designs from the rubbings, too.)

Make a penny pendant.

Make a lucky penny pin.

Polish your pennies.

Make a top hat. (Another version here.)

Print a coloring page.

Do a word search.

Check out lots of Lincoln websites.

View the Lincoln home.

Read a poem about him.

Read his speeches here. (Specifically the Gettysburg Address.)

Go on a virtual field trip.

Outline a report.

And then test your knowledge about Honest Abe.

How about a little copywork in praise of our February presidents?

George Washington was brave, we know, he loved this land we hold so dear; and when his birthday comes around, his noble name we cheer.

And Lincoln who was strong and true, his birthday too we celebrate; so raise the flag and sing the praise of heroes good and great.

(from We Sing and Listen, Seton Books)

And don't forget the Jelly Roll (aka Lincoln Log) for dessert ...

Have fun! Next week is Washington's turn! :)

Scenes from our Sunday


Breakfast after Mass ~ I wish I had taken the time to bake something from scratch, but these strudel bites were awfully good.


The above photo was going to be the start of (yet another) "here's how I organize" post, but the day got away from me. You can always tell I'm going to "talk shop" when there's a cup of coffee smack dab in the middle of things. I rarely attempt organizing without a cuppa joe at my side. ;)


Now, this was neat! The day had been sort of gray and rainy when all of a sudden, it got really dark, there was a rumble of thunder and then the skies just let loose - with snow! Literally, blizzard-like conditions with howling wind and zero visibility for all of maybe ten minutes and then the squall was past. The sun was back out before long. We were all ridiculously excited by the dramatic event - we're such weather geeks around here, lol.

Well, it's getting quite late for me to still be on the computer, so I guess I'd better button up shop. I've got a cold glass of milk, a fresh sleeve of graham crackers and Jane Austen comes on in half an hour. Off I go then, wishing you all a warm peaceful night. :)

For Story Hour: The Princess Bride

Last night the boys watched Bill's favorite movie of all time, The Princess Bride. I'd like to sayPbride_2 I enjoyed it along with them, but I'm afraid I fell asleep just before Buttercup and Westley encountered the dreadful R.O.U.S. (I know ~ what a spot to fall asleep, lol!) Maybe we'll watch it again later today - after all, there's no more football to follow. (Not till August anyway.) ;)

But what has me all excited this morning is I just discovered - or I should say remembered, because I know I knew this - the movie is based on a a book written by William Goldman in 1973.

As the mother of three boys, I am always on the look-out for lively and engrossing tales - tales that will capture their attention and spark their imaginations. And like the 1987 movie with which I'm quite familiar, the book seems to offer all a young lad could hope for in a story:

"Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles."

The reviews were excellent at Amazon. Have you read it before? Have your children?

I've decided to order it request it from the library (and preview it), and it is my hope that we might institute a family read-alound time before bed. A nice way to spend a dark winter evening, don't you think? (Can you tell I've been reading Mrs. Sharp again?)

"Now it is story time, a half hour until lights are out. Story time is sacred in Mrs. Sharp's home. As with dinner, no phone calls are accepted while we're putting the children to bed. This uninterrupted attention gives children a wonderful sense of security and, by focusing so completely on them, Mrs. Sharp eliminates much of the tension that inevitably comes when they prolong bedtime. Very often, pleas for one more cup of water are really requests for much-needed attention after a long day apart.

As for the evening's oral entertainment, when the children were smaller, we read a variety of short picture books, but children adore continuing sagas, and even tots as young as four will settle down to hear a chapter a night. This sharing of a longer story together, as it unfolds over many nights, can become a conversation topic and a wonderul bond between parent and child."

It's a tricky time when our children move from picture books (eagerly requesting one after the next) to reading on their own (perhaps just as voraciously). It is all too easy to become separate readers at this time. I am thrilled my boys are avid readers - they are frequently found curled up with their book of the moment. But we mustn't forget the magic of reading aloud all together. The joy of a good tale is only enhanced when it is a shared experience.

So that's my plan of action. I think I will begin a list of books that fit this purpose - excellent, boy-friendly, rousing read-aloud tales. I'll post this list before too long, and if you have any favorites to suggest, I'm all ears!

Happy Sunday, everyone. Keep warm and well! :)

A Valentine Sky


Well, it's the weekend at last! So, what's on your docket?

Will you be out and about, or keeping to home? We'll do a little of both ~ a library run, a Target stop, and grocery shopping of course. Back at home, there's a week to plan, laundry to fold, emails to write and some baking to do. Tomorrow will bring Mass and coffee with my folks back at home ... It's all just simple, humble, daily, life. And as my hairdresser says, these are the gravy days. Each one's a gift ~ just dripping with goodness to catch up and enjoy.

Well, whatever you do, and wherever you go, I hope your weekend's a good one. :)

My Snowbirds


It is a lovely snowy morning here. Everything is covered in white, and the lightest of flurries is falling even now. This is the kind of day that makes you want to pull out the paper, doilies and glue and start making Valentines! Or maybe just bake something chocolate and yummy. To sit by the window with a hot cup of tea and watch the birds all afternoon. To freshen the flannels on the beds and draw a warm scented bath at the end of the day. To read a chapter from an old classic by the fire, and simmer a pot of soup on the stove.

Romancing the winter isn't so hard when the weather is as pretty as this ...

Lost Talk

A good episode, I thought! Here are some random thoughts off the top of my head:

We have four new people on this island, and the episode was mostly about them. I don't necessarily trust these people, but I don't think they are as evil as Ben warned they would be. They seemed genuinely surprised to find survivors of flight 815.

~ I like Dan, because he's such a nervous wreck, lol. He doesn't seem to wish the Losties any harm either. But why was he so emotional about the crash - or I should say, why didn't he know why he was so emotional?

~ The anthropologist lady (her name escapes me as I type) finds a Dharma tag in the remains of a polar bear being excavated in the desert of Tunisia. Has Dharma been to other places in the world? Does the phenomenon of the island exist elsewhere?

~ Miles is the "ghostbuster," who can communicate with the dead. Now, why did they send this guy to the island? To commune with Jacob and/or the orginal band of Others? Are we supposed to wonder if the Losties are dead? And remember that guy who talked Julia into coming to the island - the same one who appeared to Ben as a child in the jungle? He obviously hasn't aged at all so there some story there.

~ And then we have Frank, the Jimmy Buffet-like character. Am I correct in understanding he was to pilot 815 only his friend took the doomed flight for him? Did remorse lead him to drink? If he knows all the names on the manifest he is obviously a bit obsessed. He must be a pretty good pilot if he was to land the helicopter on the island without crashing.

And so we now know this team is there for Ben - which of course colors what he's been saying about them. They're an unlikely bunch; it seems Naomi was the glue and the leader. Why do they want Ben - are they there to seek revenge for what he did to Dharma?

Considering their unique professions, I would say they are there for more than just Ben.

Care to share your Lost thoughts this morning? :)

EB @ Work: Chinese Crafts

I almost forgot to put up Earlybird's crafting pics from today!


It was all glue and glitter ...


And glitter and glue ...


We decided his pictures looked like dragon-fireworks!


There are no pictures of us cutting and stapling the paper lanterns together because it was very much an all hands-on-deck project. ;) They turned out pretty nicely, or to coin EB's phrase of the moment: awe-thum!