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September 2008

August 2008

See you in September ...


Two weeks are all that's left to the summer, and so I am taking a little computing break until September 1st. I'll be back on Labor Day with all kinds of things to tell you about - a few follow up posts about our homeschooling system, a peek into our learning room, an overview of our kindergarten plans, a look at my Christmas planner and thoughts on meal plans, book reviews and autumn nature study ... ETC! (It's all about the etc. around here, lol.)

So, my friends, enjoy these last two weeks of August ~ catch a firefly, watch for bats, toast a marshmallow and sip a tall cold glass of iced tea ... Savor each sweet final moment!

The Clone Wars ~ It's a Hit!


Now, I knew my boys and their friends would like the new Star Wars movie, no matter what. Because for one thing, they are boys. :)

Lol, it seemed 90 percent of the theater seats were filled with males between the ages of, oh, say 6 and 15. Bouncing in their seats, slurping on their sodas, waiting for the lights to dim. Lots of parents there, too, of course - some with equally eager faces, others looking resigned.

I was surprised to read some not-so-good reviews of The Clone Wars (which is animated, by the way); honestly, I really enjoyed it! And I'm not the biggest Star Wars fan out there, though I do enjoy the movies in general. I guess you couldn't pass through a 70s-80s childhood and not recall the Star Wars phenomenon with some nostalgia and fondness; it was a huge part of my generation. We were the first Star Wars kids.

I was 8 when the first movie came out (A New Hope). I remember it clearly - the movie itself, as well as all the hype. Because it was everywhere - on cereal boxes, lunchboxes and even on our Underoos. When I was in the 4th grade, my class performed a song from the Star Wars Christmas album, a rendition of "What Do You Get a Wookie for Christmas when He Already Owns a Comb?" This was for the annual holiday pageant, you see. We passed a shaggy stuffed wookie doll around, combing his hair (fur?) and tried to remember all the words to the odd, but remarkably catchy, song. Lights flashing, snow falling, R2D2 beeping. (To this day I can remember the tune and most of the words.)

But back to this new Star Wars movie.Clonewars2 

Waaay back last winter I read a blurb somewhere about a Clone Wars movie coming out this August and Crackerjack, my August baby, declared then and there this would be his birthday movie this year. (For some reason my boys have always assigned themselves birthday movies - and often, their parties revolve around them.)

And so, this is what we did. On opening day, we went to a morning matinee with our friends to see CJ's birthday movie. Here is a brief interview with the birthday boy, in which he shares his feelings for The Clone Wars.

Timeline: Very early on a foggy Saturday morning. I'm sitting across the dining room table from Crackerjack, fingers hovering over the keyboard, ready to report ...

(My comments are in blue, CJ's are in red.)

So, Crackerjack, what did you think of The Clone Wars?

It was awesome!

And, what did you like about it?

(Long pause ... wide eyes ... muffled yawn. He peeks around to my computer screen.)

Hey, I'm not yawning!

Nevermind my typing, CJ. Just tell me what you liked.

The battles.

(Big surprise there.)

The battles? Those were your favorite parts?


Who were your favorite charactes?

The clones.

The clone troopers?

Yes! And Anakin.

Did you think Anakin was a hero?


Do you know what happens to Anakin later on?


(For those who don't know, he becomes Darth Vader, the ultimate bad guy.)

And what do you think about that?


So, why do you like Star Wars so much?

It's exciting. It's cool. Annnnd ... I like the characters.

All the different alien types?


Anything you want to tell people thinking about seeing this movie?

Um. Go to it!

Anything else more helpful?

Oh yeah, and there's also The Clone Wars tv show coming up!

And when and where will that be shown?

I dont know.

This fall on the Cartoon Network, I believe.

How do you always know these things?!

I just know these things. Any last Star Wars words of wisdom?


What would you rate the movie?

10 stars!

So there you have it folks: an honest, if rather hasty, review. So don't believe what you read in the papers or entertainment mags - take your Star Wars cues from a 9 year old boy - the ultimate Star Wars fan. :)

The Clone Wars is rated PG for "sci-fi action violence throughout, brief language and momentary smoking."

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Attention Harry Potter Fans ~

Have you heard about this?Hbpposter2 

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - a hugely anticipated fall movie - has been postponed till next July.

I wonder why?!

Speaking of movies, we're going to see The Clone Wars tomorrow (Crackerjack's birthday request) and I was really looking forward to seeing the HP trailer during the previews. Probably not gonna happen now. Well, at least I can hope for the Twilight teaser ...

In happier HP news, there is a new book from JK Rowling on the way: The Tales of Beedle the Bard, set to be published on December 4th.

Yep, I've already pre-ordered. ;)

Happy Birthday, Crackerjack!!


Today, you are 9 years old!!!

Your due date was actually August 15th, and your Grammie was thrilled because it was the Feast of the Assumption, and your Dammee was thrilled because it was your uncle's birthday ... but you chose to come two days early, and on a Friday the 13th, no less! And ever since, that has been the luckiest of days for us!

We love you, our sweet, funny, fantastic boy!

Home-Learning this Year ~ Grades K, 4 and 8

YellowwildflowerCan you believe there are just three weeks left to the summer? Yes, that's right - Labor Day is three weeks from today! I ask you, where on earth did the summer go? It has truly flown by ... but why does this always surprise me, when it flies by every year?

So, are you nailing down your plans for the new school year? Have you ordered your materials? Have you stocked up on pencils and paper? This is all I can think about these days - books, schedules, calendars, etc. - I can feel my brain cells kick into planning mode even as I type ...

And, like every year, I hope to plan ahead as much as possible. I spent a good bit of time this weekend sketching out our Autumn Semester - 15 weeks between Labor Day and the Winter Solstice (Thanksgiving week excluded). I will limit my planning to this time frame for now - at some point in the late fall (well before Christmas) I will flesh out the rest of the year, tweaking what needs to be tweaked. The Winter/Spring Semester will start up after a leisurely holiday break.

Lots to talk about, lots to share - but I thought I'd start with a post about what we are studying and what resources we're using this year. (So, this is the "what" post - forthcoming will be the "how" and "where" posts.) You might notice a lot of crossover between the 4th and 8th grade resource lists. I do find it easier to keep the history and science subject areas the same for each grade, and we do share some materials - but the work loads will be vastly different. I guess that will make more sense after the "how" post. :)

Bookworm, 8th grade: algebra, writing/reading/vocabulary, world history/current events, biology/physics/nature study, art/music

Crackerjack, 4th grade: math, grammar/spelling/reading, world history/current events, biology/physics/nature study, art/music

Earlybird, Kindergarten: math, language arts, social studies, science/nature study, art/crafts/music and health

Well, that's all I have time for today ... but I'll be back again soon with lots more about our home-learning plans. Enjoy this lovely Monday, wherever you are ~ and as always, thanks so much for stopping by!

Another Summer Weekend ...

Another batch of nature photos to share ...


Cows grazing before the storm ...


Super-sweet honesuckle vine ...


A lowly slug enjoying the damp morning ...


Purple loosestrife overtaking a marsh ..


A tiny pumpkin, nestled in the patch ...


Queen Anne's Lace, waiting to unfurl ...


A busy bee in the goldenrod ...


A ring of mushrooms found in the garden ...

"Fairy Rings: Some summer morning you may notice a group of small, brownish mushrooms with slender stalks growing in a circular or semicircular pattern on your lawn. If you happen to find some of these altogether common mushrooms, you should count yourself lucky - or unlucky, depending upon how you feel about fairies. According to folklore, the night before, while you were asleep, forces were at work in your backyard. The slender brown mushrooms are said to appear only in the path fairies use during their circular night dances; hence the common name for this mushroom. The fairy ring is about three to four inches high and has a wooly stalk and light brown to white gills. It is edible and considered choice eating, but since there are a number of small, lawn-growing species that are inedible, it is probably best left alone, unless you can get positive identification." (From A Field Guide to Your Own Backyard)

There are not too many summer weekends left on the calendar; better make the most of them while we can! Hope this one is going well for you all ... see you next week!

Thoughtful Friday, and Speaking of Pumpkins ...

"Of all the wonderful things in the wonderful universe of God, nothing seems to me more surprising than the planting of a seed in the blank earth and the result thereof." ~ John Muir



The tiny Jack-be-Littles are growing in the garden at last!

I'm half-wondering if there might have been a mix-up at the farm - in all their creamy whiteness, these look like they might be Baby Boos? Of course I've never grown Jack-be-Littles before so maybe they start out pale like this and slowly turn golden? Truth be told, we grew these from seedlings, not seeds, so it's a bit of a mystery ... a fun one to watch unfold!

Well, thank goodness it's Friday; it's been a good week, but a looong one. In fact, I'm just a little bleary-eyed this morning ... I was out at a planning meeting with my homeschooling group last night. (Actually, a pre-planning meeting for THE planning meeting in September, an annual tradition. More on that later.) But even getting to bed at a reasonable hour each night, I have found that having to be out of the house so early this week - all of us dressed, packed and prepared for a full day at VBS - has been a real challenge! I'm realizing how much I relish our normally slow mornings. How do you non-homeschoolers do it, lol? :)

Speaking of VBS - last day today, and boy, that went fast! It looks to be rainy, again. The inside activities are not affected of course, but we at the Hyperspeed Games station on the lawn get, well - wet. And a bit cold. But as long as we don't hear thunder, it's outside we stay ...

That's all right. One more day to go, and, hey, maybe the weather folks will be wrong. (It's been known to happen after all.) Anyway, the kids have had a blast at PowerLab this week, and that's what counts.

I hope you all have a great weekend (if I don't check in again before it starts). Keep cool and be safe and I'll see you all again sometime soon ...

A little taste of fall ...

I baked pumpkin breads recently and the house smelled just like fall ...


If you're doing any autumn planning these days, bake yourself something spicy and warm ~ your house will smell fabulous! A slice of pumpkin bread with a cup of tea will really put you in the mood for fall thoughts.

Of course, if it's really hot where you live - it happens to be in the 70s here this week - turn the AC up a bit before you start all that baking and brewing. ;)

Have a great Thursday, everyone!

P.S. For Heather ~ My Favorite Pumpkin Bread Recipe:

Mix-and-Match Quick Bread (Frozen Assets)

  • 3 cups flour (whole wheat and white make a nice blend)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon (we play with this element ~ ginger, cloves etc.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 cups sugar (we cut this down and see very little difference)
  • 2 cups Mix-N-Match (see list below)
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla (use pure vanilla not imitation)
  • 1 cup chopped nuts or seeds (we leave these out)

Sift together dry ingredients. In separate bowl, beat eggs; add oil and sugar; cream together. Stir in Mix-N-Match and vanilla. Add dry ingredients; mix well. Stir in nuts. Spoon into two well-greased loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees F. for 1 hour. When cool, wrap bread in foil; label and freeze. Makes 2 loaves.

Mix-N-Match (one of more of the following to equal 2 cups) *we've used this ingredient before

  • Apples, grated or chopped*
  • Applesauce*
  • Apricots
  • Bananas, mashed or chopped*
  • Berries*
  • Carrots, cooked and mashed or grated*
  • Cherries
  • Coconut
  • Cranberries, dry or raw, chopped*
  • Dates or figs, pitted and finely chopped*
  • Lemon, 1/2 cup juice
  • Marmalade (omit one cup sugar)*
  • Mincemeat
  • Oranges, chopped
  • Orange juice, 1/2 cup juice
  • Peaches, fresh or canned, chopped* (we've also used peach butter)
  • Pears, fresh or canned, chopped* (we also like to use pearsauce)
  • Pineapple
  • Prunes, chopped
  • Pumpkin, canned* (we like fresh, cooked and mashed too)
  • Raisins*
  • Rhubarb, finely chopped (add 1/2 cup more sugar)*
  • Strawberries, well drained* (I dice them)
  • Sweet potato or yams, cooked and mashed or grated*
  • Zucchini, grated and well drained*

The Simple Woman's Daybook ~ August 6th


~ Do stop by Peggy's for all the Daybook links this week. ~
Outside My Window ... a gray, wet morning: rain drips from the telephone wire, giant puddles form in the road, two seagulls soar overhead.
I am thinking ... about VBS this morning: how on earth are we going to do water games *inside* the church??? (ETA ~ We didn't; we had them outside - brrr!)
I am thankful ... for rainy days. Even if it cramps our style, the earth needs this tall, cool drink of water. 
From the kitchen ... Supper's still a mystery to me, but I think I'll make oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies this afternoon.
I am wearing ... yellow cotton pajamas - it's still very early!
I am creating ... Still working on that weekly planner for the new academic year. Once I get that in order, I'll turn my attention back to the Christmas planbook.
I am reading ... Breaking Dawn for the second time since Saturday. The first time I rushed through - too eager to know the ending to absorb all the details.
I am hoping ... for a good mail day. I'm expecting a few favorite magazines this week. :)
I am hearing ... Dripping rain, a crow's cawing, Bill typing on his laptop, my cat's purring, a songbird in the shrubbery.
Around the house ... Wednesday is kitchen day: clean trash bin, wipe floor, scrub sink and counters, go through fridge and cabinets - make menu for next week and a shopping list for the weekend.
One of my favorite things ... the smell of a warm summer rain.
A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: ... VBS, Bill's vacation days, a planning meeting with my homeschool support group, a night out with my friends to chat about Breaking Dawn.
Here is a picture thought I am sharing ...
From the August garden:
~Indian Blanket Daisies~
I hope you all have a wonderful day!

The August Nature Shelf ~

August is just such a lovely time of year ...


The earth literally explodes in goodness, and there's just the tiniest hint of fall in the air - or rather, I should say the landscape. Our burning bush is tinged with pink, the dry lawn crunches underfoot, and the pumpkins are ripe in the garden. I truly believe it does our hearts good to feel the pull of the seasons changing, and that is why I love keeping a nature table. It's a great spot for displaying the kids' nature finds, but it's also the perfect canvas for expressing my feelings for the season at hand.

And - as I'm sure you all know - there's way more to nature than just four seasons! ;) Even living here in New England - a region famous for our four distinct seasons - we can see that there is so much more to our earth than that. We are doubly blessed - with an ever-changing natural world, and the senses with which to appreciate those subtle changes ...

So, with all that in mind, I decided it was time to retire the early summer theme of the nature table, and warm things up a bit. Here's a quick tour.


At the far left in the corner is a small shelf which holds our storm candle and nature angel (not shown) as well as our favorite book of nature prayers - it's open here to the August page.


Next comes this crusty old crab, and a bit of seashore debris just behind. The boys found all these things at the beach last month - and they were pretty sure the debris - or tools, as they saw them - gave strong evidence toward onshore mermaid activity. :) (They get a lot of intriguing ideas from this book.)


Next, we have our first two pumpkins of the year! (Remember them just a few weeks ago? How time flew!) These are called New England Pie pumpkins, and that's just what we plan to do with them.


That bird's nest will always be a part of our nature shelf, though it does seem to be slowly unraveling. We place all kinds of little things inside it - feathers, acorn caps, squirrel fur (that's the tip of a red tail in there!), dried mushrooms etc. About the two books in the picture - one is an old favorite and the other is a new and fabulous find. The other books on display here are Little Farm by the Sea, Sommer (a wordless picture book) and The Corgiville Fair, our favorite August book, by far.


And finally we have a bouquet of August's flowers, all of them found in our yard. We have butter-and-eggs, clover, blue hydrangea, orange lilies and one big red Shakespeare rose. Oooh, this all smells so good!

Well, I hope you enjoyed this little tour of our Nature corner, and I hope, too, that you are enjoying your August - whatever August is like where you live. Don't forget to look around and take note - things will change before you know it. :)

Have a great day, everyone - thank you so much for stopping by!

A Quick Sunday Night Post ~

Consumed as I am with finishing the final chapters of Breaking Dawn (oh, my!), I still feel the need to put up a quick Sunday night post, so here are some random summer nature photos for you all (and yes, that would mean I finally found my lost photo-card-insert thingy - thank you, Bookworm!) ...











Big week coming up for us around here ~ VBS starts bright and oh-so-early tomorrow morning. I'll be back with a new post just as soon as possible. :)

Blogging Issues, etc.

If you've been having trouble loading my blog, I think the issue is finally resolved. Sorry for any inconvenience! And if you have a Typepad blog, it appears the problem lies within our Sitemeter link. If you remove the script for Sitemeter (I kept mine in a Typelist called Misc. Links), that should put things to rights. :)

Also, I had a post about our August Nature Shelf almost all ready to go - but I can't find the little sleeve thingy that inserts the memory stick into the computer and lets me upload (or is it download?) pictures - anywhere. I can't imagine what happened to it (cough*Earlybird*cough), but without it I can't put pictures on my blog and, since my blog is mostly made up of pictures, you know how that must stymie me ...

I guess a quick stop into the office supply store is in order this morning -Bd and that would be right after I stop into the bookstore to pick up my pre-ordered, long-awaited, much-anticipated copy of Breaking Dawn! Hooray!

(At some point I'll write a post about just how it was I came to read and love all those Twilight books - an absorbing series about good (and chaste) vampires and the humans they protect - but I need to read the final book first. I need to know how it all ends!)

Now, I don't plan on being finished till Monday morning at the earliest, so please no spoilers! ;)

Between running errands, helping with VBS set up and reading BD every free (quiet, child-free) moment I get, this will be a very full and fun weekend. I hope yours is a good one, and I'll see you all again sometime soon ...

Red Tail Tales ~ The Morning Commute


The little red squirrel - or Red Tail as he is fondly referred to - usually keeps to the wide sheltering shade of the spruce tree when he visits our yard. But lately he's taken to exploring a bit further out - and here he is this morning, scampering along the fence (just outside our learning room windows), making his way toward the one truly squirrel-proof feeder we own. He is so comical to watch - so twitchy and quick, he's hard to photograph, but I thought I'd share a little montage of what we called his morning commute:







As fun as it was to watch Red Tail up so close, I'd prefer him to stay in the spruce tree - he's more protected from predators in there. We do get hawks around here, as well as the occasional neighborhood cat - and just this morning, as you may have read in my nature notes, we had two young foxes in our front yard!

Now, a few red squirrel links to share with you ~

And a few favorite red squirrel books ~

Stay tuned for lot more about red squirrels very soon - I have some fall kindergarten activities revolving right around this fun, furry and feisty little critter. :)

Happy Friday, everyone - and Happy August, too!