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February 2009

January 2009

Sunday Puttering ...


It's a cold, snowy day here (I say that a lot, don't I?) and we're all hunkered in for the afternoon. I don't really have time for a full-length post just now, but I can tell you I've been taking lots of pictures today - of craft projects, bookshelves and the nature corner, in particular. 


I'll be back soon to show you've what I've got up my sleeve. :)

Hope you're enjoying your weekend!

The Full Wolf Moon ...

... is tonight! 

So don't forget to take a peek out your window and admire the midwinter moon in all its celestial glory. In fact, the January full moon will be the biggest of 2009 - 14% bigger and 30% brighter than normal!

You might even invite your children to "howl" at tonight's moon, so named because Native Americans believed the wolves became restless at this harsh time of year. Here's a little poem from When the Moon is Full: A Lunar Year:  

The weather chills,
the night is long,
wolf lifts his head 
in lonely song.
His notes float high,
his notes drift low,
mournful in the
moonlight glow.

This will provide the perfect copywork for the cover page of our Winter Wolf Study - which we kick off this week! 

As you can see from the sidebar on the left, we have lots of books on loan from the library for our study. (A few we do own, but most are borrowed. How I love inter-library loans ...)

Here are a few more notes on our upcoming study:

Field Trip ~
  • With our Nature Study Club we'll visit a local wolf sanctuary. (Bill and I actually took our boys there years ago, but they hardly remember it - I believe Earlybird was in a sling!) 
Map-work ~ 
  • Where do wolves live in our world?
  • Where does tundra exist? 
Art ~
Science ~
  • We'll discuss the concept of a food chain; Wolf Island illustrates this nicely.

Social Studies ~
  • We'll research the history of wolf-related environmental legislation. (The Wolves are Back gives a lot of good information.)

Music/creative writing exercise ~
  • We'll listen to Peter and the Wolf, and the boys will create their own versions of the story - in which the wolf is just seriously misunderstood. :)   

Nature Study ~
  • We'll look for animal tracks in the new snow - some might look canine. We'll check them against a field guide that shows the tracks of wolves, coyotes and dogs. 
  • We'll look at (possibly howl at) the Full Wolf Moon.

Literature ~

Puppet Play ~
  • We have a cute set of arctic-theme puppets for Earlybird (it includes a wolf, a bear, a musk ox, a puffin and an Eskimo). We'll read Mama, Do You Love Me to go along with our puppets.
Etc. ~
Those are a lot of plans for the next few weeks, but for tonight, we'll just watch the sky. We might not get a glimpse of the moon though  - the sky is thick with cloud cover. Instead, we'll keep our eyes peeled for the first flakes of snow, due to arrive any minute now ...

Well, I hope you are all enjoying your weekend. See you all again very soon!

On our front door ...


I just popped down to the mailbox, and on my way back in I noticed how pretty our front door looked in the late afternoon sunshine ...
That winter-greens arrangement is not real, mind you - it's actually several years old (and I fear it shows), but I still love it, upside-down cardinal and all. Our house faces south, so the sun is strong all day long - not many decorations weather the exposure here for long.
And that little welcome plaque? I bought it at the craft store last month for a dollar.
Yes, our front door is purple. ;) 
In case you're wondering, the siding is sage green. :)

Thoughtful Friday ~ Boys*

*Because at least half the pictures on my camera look like this:


Boys are found everywhere -- on top of, underneath, inside of, climbing on, swinging from, running around or jumping to. Mothers love them, little girls hate them, older sisters and brothers tolerate them, adults ignore them and Heaven protects them. A boy is Truth with dirt on its face, Beauty with a cut on its finger, Wisdom with bubble gum in its hair and the Hope of the future with a frog in its pocket.
~Alan Marshall Beck~

Thursday Thoughts ...

It's one of those late afternoons when I'm positively itching to post, but sadly have nothing to say. Nothing of importance, anyway. But I really feel like saying hi, so I'm going to do just that, and maybe as I type inspiration will strike ... :)

It's just about dark here in the east. Bill's on his way home from work and I'm heating the oven up for supper. The snow squalls have come to end, and boy, I wish you could see this amazing sky. Well, wait - let me snap a picture and see if it comes out:


It was a very wintry day - moderately cold and mostly bright - and what a wicked wind! We came home to find our trash bins waaay down the street, snowbound in a neighbor's yard. I am so glad I have a teenager who can now do things like fetch wayward trash bins for me!

In the mail today: a bunch of bills and the February MSL - all covered in pastel cupcakes, it looks good. (Truth be told I haven't even read the January issue yet. Yes, it's a been a busy few months.) 

Speaking of busy, it was quite a day. We had to be at Book Group by 12:45, and since it was my turn to lead the kids in discussion, I spent the whole morning putting the study questions together. (Nothing like leaving things to the last minute!) But a sidetracked mama meant the boys were left to their own devices, which in turn meant very little work of any kind was accomplished and so we came home to a wreck of a house. I'll have my work cut out for me tomorrow!

Let's see what else?

The cold that Earlybird had seems to have skipped the rest of us, thank goodness. I felt it coming on earlier in the week, but took evasive action as soon as I felt the first sniffle. It was zinc to the rescue again! This is the second time this winter I've taken zinc at the mere threat of a cold and escaped completely unharmed. I am officially swearing by it from now on.

Crackerjack just informed me we still have three cartons of eggnog in the fridge. (It's no longer being stocked - so we panicked and hoarded.) Looks like we'll be making eggnog bread tomorrow. (Easy, delicious recipe can be found here.)

Thank you, by the way, for all your wonderful responses to my recent planner and file crate posts. I will be getting back to the questions that were left for me soon. Hopefully over the weekend ...

Well, I think I have run dry of Thursday thoughts, so I guess I'd best call it a night. It's still snowing here, though the sky is now perfectly clear - how does that happen? - and the sunset is soft and serene.  Thanks for stopping by, I hope your night is a nice one. 
I'll see you all again very soon. :)

More on Seasonal Planning (and The File Crate)

In a comment left after my last post, Jennifer asked: 

"Do seasonal binders mean the end of the file folders??"

It's a very good question, Jennifer, and one I asked myself, because I do try to limit the number of "systems" I use to keep my household on track. But for now, the answer is no, the planners will not replace the file system - but they will, hopefully, complement it. 

The seasonal planners are mainly places for note-taking and strategizing. Throughout the year, events, activities and projects come up that need more than a simple reminder - they need some detailed attention.

So, in the Winter this might be a mid-year review, a new hobby (bread-baking) or an impromptu unit study (wolves). In the Spring this might be Easter or a new garden plan or a First Communion celebration. In the summer this might be a vacation, a summer reading plan or a shell-collecting bag I'd like to make. In the fall this could be a home project, a bake sale or a Halloween party. And of course it goes without saying that the Holidays (November and December) bring major plans between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

It's all part of the job description of course. ;) As a full-time mother, this is what I do - I plan these kinds of things out for my family, and it's both a huge blessing and an enormous responsibility! But since I don't do well "last minute" and I don't have a lot of (any) extra time on my hands, I know that if I'm going to pull something off, I really need to plan and prepare ahead of time. I need a place to hash things out - to write my notes and make my lists, and unfortunately, the file crate isn't really the place to do this ...

It would be great if it could be - it would obviously make things simpler just to have the ONE place where ALL plans and information and reminders are kept. I tried to make it work - but keeping planning pages inside the folders was just a mess. Even making up special folders for holidays didn't work (out of sight, out of mind). I realized I really need to keep timely projects front and center - hiding them in the file folders didn't do that. 

So how do I decide where something goes? Well, let me try to briefly illustrate the difference.

If I get a reminder card from the orthodontist (or the vet or the eye doctor) in the mail, I pop it in the appropriate file folder (i.e. the week the appointment is scheduled). If I find a coupon for a special sale or a flyer for an interesting class, I do the same thing. An e-mail reminder for an upcoming field trip would also go in a folder, as would an invitation to a party.

All these things warrant a brief mention on the calendar or maybe an action or two on the to-do list.

But let's take something more complex, say something like Easter. A holiday that means so much to our family, to our children in particular, takes some planning and forethought. There are books to read, crafts to make, special food to make, baskets to prep, Masses to attend and of course, a big family dinner to host. For an event like this, I need lists (how I love lists!), and clippings and space in which to work it all out. An "Early Spring" planner filled with plenty of paper and pockets for storing clippings (etc.) seems a good place to do that. 

Does any of this make any sense, lol? :)

I plan to keep the current season's planner out and about in my workspace so that it is always at my fingertips (in other words, the most timely projects are fresh in my mind). The rest of the binders will sit on that shelf I showed you in my last post - still close by, but out of the way. As I think up a new project or when a new event pops up, I will start a planning page in the appropriate binder and mark the project (event/activity) on the index page. 

I hope this helps clear things up a bit for you all. Thanks to Jennifer for asking the question and getting this ball rolling. :) I will be revisiting this topic again before long, I am sure, so please don't hesitate to leave me more questions if you have them. I certainly don't profess to be a home management expert (by any means!) but I keep trying to make things work a little bit better for my family. To my mind, we can all use a fresh idea now and again - you never know when it might be just the ticket!

Well, I hope you all have a good Wednesday. We are fighting a cold here and an snow-ice storm is moving through the area. Very wintry, indeed. 

See you all again sometime soon!

*Planners for the Seasons*


The other day I mentioned the seasonal planners I am setting up for the new year. I wanted to share a little more about them, since I now have them ready to go.

Before I get started though, can I just mention how nice the winter sunshine feels today? It's pretty cold here (31 at the moment) but the sun seems so much brighter than it did just a month ago. On days like these, it's easy to lull ourselves into thinking that spring might not be all that far away ... of course, there's a storm coming in tonight, so that will put us right back in our place.

Anyway, back to those planners! Each one is assigned a season (there are six in all), and the whole set is coordinated with my household journal:


(Those are tiny alphabet stickers I bought at Michael's last month - for an Advent project that will now have to wait till next year - but I've been finding lots of uses for them anyway. I love how old-fashioned they look - they work well with the paper I chose.) 

Setting up the binders was actually very quick and easy. I chose paper to match each season and cut them to fit inside the cover of a clear view-front binder. Then, inside each binder I placed a yellow index page, a print-out of my Themes and Plans for those months, looseleaf paper for project planning and the calendar pages. (I'll mark the individual projects with press-on tabs.)


Lastly, I placed alphabet tags on the spine of each binder signifying the months held inside:


Six Seasons to Plan:

Winter ~ January & February

Early Spring ~ March & April

Late Spring ~ May & June

Summer ~ July & August

Autumn ~ September & October

Holiday ~ November & December

I made room for all of the binders on my workspace shelves - see them tucked in there on the 4th shelf down?


They fit in rather well, and they're at an arm's length from where I sit when I work. (And by "work" I mean - teach, pay bills, plan meals, blog, plan, surf online ... etc.) 


Well, I'm running out of time today but in a future post I'll list the projects that I have filed in each binder. Thanks for joining me here today. I hope your week is off to a good start! :)

Sunday Pleasantries

A bright and busy day comes to a close, and I have a few pictures to share ...


My sunny afternoon work-corner. 

I'm still plugging my way through Inkheart and - fingers crossed - I hope to finish before Book Group on Thursday. It's not that it's not a good story (it is), it's just that I can't find the time to get through it. Now I know that I could be reading right now instead of computing, but somehow, I find it easier to blog rather than read in the midst of all this hubbub ...

In the background is my "new" homekeeping binder (really just my old one - resurrected, reshuffled and spiffed up with a pretty new cover). I'm trying to streamline the contents and make it more user-friendly - in hopes that I'll actually use it. I pulled out the monthly planning sections, and made up a set of six binders for the seasons of the year:


More on these in a future post ...

I next have to tell you about the delicious treat we cooked up this afternoon:


Don't you just love Trader Joe's? I don't get there that often (I'm more likely to shop at Whole Foods) but it's always a fun trip when I do. (I'm one of those nutty folks who actually enjoys food shopping, lol.) 

Really though, if you have a TJ's near you, this stuff is not to be missed. A scoop of it, mixed into eight ounces of hot milk, made what could be the best cup of cocoa I've ever had. Seriously. The chocolate was rich, the mint flavor was light and (as the label promised) not in the least bit artificial tasting - because it was natural mint - which means, Earlybird can partake. (I understand this stuff is only available at the holidays, so I'm stocking up this week.) 

Bookworm, my fellow cocoa connoisseur, insists it was my homemade whipped cream that made all the difference:


To my mind, there's not much that can't be improved with a generous dollop of homemade whipped cream. I used to shy away from making it because doing so involved hauling my Kitchenaid down off the top of the fridge and then cleaning up all the mess after. But now I use this handy-dandy device that Bill gave me for Christmas last year. I also use it to chop arthichokes and the smoothies we make are awesome! When I'm done, I just click off the whip (or chopper thing, depending on what I'm making) and rinse it off. Done. The whole kit and caboodle goes back in the cabinet. (I swear I don't work for Braun, I just really love this machine!)

And one last picture, now that things aren't so busy or bright. This is the view to my left as I sit here finishing this post:


My favorite little winter candles, all soft and glowing in the dark. You might be surprised to know, those are not real candles in there. They are battery-operated tealights, possibly the most genius invention since sliced bread. They even flicker, for goodness sakes! I LOVE candlelight but with curious cats and a special needs child, an open flame just presents too much of a risk in our home. Enter these brilliant little things and I can have candlelight whenever I want - which is pretty much whenever the sun sets.

Well, I'm going to wrap this all up now and call it a day - I have three boys to tuck in and a movie to watch with my fella. I wish you all a lovely night ~ see you all again very soon!

*January Learning & Living*

*Well, Good Friday Morning, everyone!*

How was your New Years? I hope it was nice. Ours was very quiet and simple ~ which is just as we like it. After the boys went to bed New Year's eve, Bill and I stayed up for a while. (I can't remember the last time we made it to midnight, lol!) We sipped a champagne cocktail, watched half a movie, and then called it a night for the year. In the morning (after reminding the boys to say Rabbit, Rabbit! before they spoke*) we had French toast for breakfast and then enjoyed a restful day at home. Well, it was restful for those of us who didn't have to shovel. ;)

And so we begin a brand new year! The holiday whirlwind is behind us and it's time to concentrate on the new season before us. I've started putting together a planner for 2009 and I'm writing up new notes for the months of the year. In my head I was going to have the whole year mapped out by today, but I didn't get quite that far. So for now I'll be sharing our January plans with you all. :)

*January Education Notes*

* Book Group: Inkheart (Bookworm), The Tail of Emily Windsnap (Crackerjack)First dogh
* Older boys begin a weekly class at Tufts School of Engineering.
* Earlybird begins a new weekly social skills group.
* Bookworm will attend Activity Night with his tween/teen group.
* We'll be hosting Crackerjack's Boys' Club here later in the month. 
* Nature Club: Field trip to Wolf Hollow in Ipswich, MA
* Movie Field Trip: Inkheart
* Science: We begin a unit study on wolves. (Detailed post about that very soon!)

*Kinderthemes: Evergreen Trees, Winter Birds, Baking Bread*

* Take weekly Winter walks - when it's not too bitter!
* Collect pinecones from our woods; differentiate/classify the types.
* Place evergreen branches in a vase for the nature shelf.
* Take bark rubbings of the evergreen trees we find.Sun bread
* Start a very simple nature notebook with EB. (His first!)
* Learn the "Song of the Pine Tree Fairy" (Flower Fairies of the Winter)
* Make a pinecone fairy - possibly a mama-craft, but I will tell a story to go with it.
* Work on the letter "P" (pine, pop, please, popcorn).
* Pop homemade bubbles on National Bubble Bath Day.
* Make popcorn treats on National Popcorn Day.
* Howl at the Full Wolf Moon
* Make pinecone birdfeeders and little suet feeders made with yogurt cups.
* Fridays will become our bread-baking day ...
* Read books about bread, like Sun Bread (I've ordered Baking Bread with Children for myself!)

*January Home Notes*

* Pack away Christmas decorations.Baking bread
* Tweak the homeeping routines for the winter.
* Investigate purchasing a new freezer. (Our old one died years ago.)
* Watch the market for citrus in season.
* Try making candied zest - recipe from Cooking Light.
* Try making a homemade pot pie. (Possibly the perfect winter dish.)
* Order seed & plant catalogs.
* Keep our birdfeeders consistently well-stocked.
* Ask Bill to set up the heated birdbath.


Next week we'll get back on track with our studies and regular routine, but for now we'll enjoy the end of our holiday break. Today we are expecting (more) snow (though just a little) and this weekend looks to be very cold and bright. Sounds like January to me! :)

Hope your day is a good one ~ see you all again sometime soon ...

*On the first day of the month we always say "Rabbit, Rabbit" before we say ANYTHING else - it's supposed to bring a person good luck all month long. Half the time we forget, but the last one up (most often Bookworm) usually gets to say it because we all confront him before he has a chance to say anything else, lol.

I'm not sure where this originated - I think I got it from my college roommate, Kathy, who sometimes reads my blog, so Kathy (or Mike), if you're reading and remember how Rabbit, Rabbit started, please drop a note! :)