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October 2014

September 2014

A Week of Feasts Ahead ...

Blessings to all on this beautiful Michaelmas Day!

Michael statue

This gorgeous statue resides in one of the academic halls at Boston College, where our Bookworm is a sophomore this year. He sent this photo to me last year, and all I could think was, "Wow, what a fantastic place to attend classes!" :)

This year's St. Michael came from his visit to the Museum of Fine Arts yesterday ...

Michaelmas painting mfa

And so the dragon was slayed ... or perhaps it is slain, I'm not sure. Either way, his number is up!


So we have a very full and festive week ahead! There's Michaelmas on Monday (today), St. Therese on Wednesday (and October begins!), The Feast of the Holy (Guardian) Angels on Thursday and St. Francis, our family's patron saint, on Saturday. Plus we have our homeschool group's annual apple picking trip this week, too - weather permitting. And so far the weather looks to be fairly seasonal this week. High 60s and party sunny skies. Lovely, lovely!

I'm a bit under the weather at the moment (a bit on that below) so all my plans are in limbo till I'm back up to speed. But I have some special foods and activities planned for the boys ... I love this week in our Catholic calendar because there's so much to do with the children. Do you have any traditions for this time of year? October really is such a wonderful month!


Now, a quick health question, I am looking for some advice from other mamas about nursing ...

Little Bear is 16 months now and we are still nursing. Not as much, of course, but my plan to wean over the summer kind of came and went. And now I find myself with another bout of mastitis, ugh ... starting antibiotics today ... but anyhoo, my question is this:

How do you gently (and comfortably) wean a nursing toddler? He takes bottles and cups easily but he still wants his "Na" on the regular. (A few times a day.) I never nursed this long with my other boys so I'm at a bit of a loss. Any thoughts and suggestions are welcome!

Well my friends, I'm wishing you all a happy week ahead - thanks for stopping by and see you here again soon!

Feeling Septemberish ...

"I guess I'm just feeling Septemberish," sighed Chester. "It's getting towards autumn now. And it's so pretty up in Connecticut. All the trees change color. The days get very clear - with a little smoke on the horizon from burning leaves. Pumpkins begin to come out."

~ Chester Cricket, A Cricket in Times Square


This is a lovely quote from the audiobook we're listening to this month. I've read this book a few times before, but listening to it with Earlybird - in the van as we drive around town, running errands and/or bringing Crackerjack to and from his classes - I'm absorbing it on a whole different level. For one thing, we listen to it over and over again - and we backtrack, constantly. Which is perfectly ok and to be expected. Honestly I am just so thrilled that Earlybird is truly paying attention and enjoying it!

September's a fine month to learn about crickets - we hear them all around town and especially in our own back yard. A few things we've done ...

* Read library books about crickets and grasshoppers.

* Colored pictures for the science notebook.

* Listened to cricket vs. grasshopper song online.

* Mimicked cricket song with a comb and a stick.

* Added a dead grasshopper and field cricket to our nature shelf (found in the driveway). 

* Checked the temperature by counting cricket chirps.

* Read aloud a poem called, "Crickets."

* Hopped like a cricket along a number line.

* Befriended a real-live grasshopper ...

O and the grasshopper 1


So it's been a busy month so far, but I'm happy to say, things have been pretty balanced. I'm doing a lot of advance planning and prep and that's helping a lot. I do feel like I'm getting back into the swing of things ... :)

(And p.s. the older boys are also doing well ... Bookworm is a sophomore in college and Crackerjack is a sophomore in (homeschool) high school. What that means for CJ is he takes some classes with other homeschoolers and does the rest of his studies at home. Small classes and independent study - the best of both worlds!)

So that's all for now, but I have several other posts in draft form ... I thank you for your patience as my blogging very sloooowly picks back up again. I hope you and your loved ones are having a great start to the "new year!" Have a great weekend, and ...

See you here again very soon ...

Asking the Daily Questions ...

Binders 1

Happy Wednesday, my friends! I hope this post finds you well. :)

Recently I've been working on a personalized daily planner - something I'll print out and have spiral bound - and as I create draft after draft, and change up designs and colors, I keep returning to the same basic question. What do I need to think about each day? When I wake up each morning, what do I need to wrap my tired brain around?

I thought I'd share my list here and ask if you have other issues you address in a day and also, I'd love to know if you are using a daily planner of some sort. As opposed - or in addition - to a weekly or monthly planner.

(I think I might have asked this before, but I figured it can't hurt to ask again!)

What Do I Need to Address Each Day?

1. What is "of note" today? Is it a special day in some way? Something to honor/celebrate/observe?

ex. a feast day, a birthday, a solstice or equinox, etc.

2. What is the day's agenda? Where are we going and when do we need to be there?

ex. classes, appointments, a field trip, etc.

3. What is for supper? (And perhaps breakfast and lunch?)

ex. meatloaf/asparagus/rice

4. What do I need to do today? What must I remember, what actions should be taken?

ex.  make calls, send emails, pick up library books 

5. What are this day's weekly chores

ex. Monday - clean bedrooms, do laundry

6. What everyday tasks need doing (and checking off)?

ex. feed cats √ sweep kitchen √ dishes √ trash √ meds √√

7. What are the boys up to today?

ex. CJ's assignments, EB's goals, LB's notes ...

This would be for Monday through Friday. On the weekends I would be thinking about errands/maintenance (Sat.) and family/faith (Sunday))


(I am tempted to add a "notes" section but I really don't need it since I have my hodgepodge journal. I can easily find myself writing notes everywhere instead of keeping it all in one place.)

So those are my thoughts on the daily questions ... these are the things I truly need to address each and every day - as a homemaker and homeschooling mother of four. I have tried to incorporate them into my daily (clippings/notes) journal somehow, but I've never been successful. I'm fairly set on having the pages bound once I have them to my liking, though I've also played around with a binder-and-clipboard scenario.

I will certainly keep you all posted on my progress but in the meantime, I'd love to hear about your daily planning. Please drop me a note if you have time!

Oh, and about that picture at the top of the post? It's not actually meant to go with the topic at hand, lol. Rather, it's a bit of a tease for a future post. Yes, I've gone binder-crazy my friends! I will fill you all in very soon ...

Pumpkin days are here again ...

Pumpkin on table 1

 I just placed this adorable pumpkin atop our bean pot in the middle of the kitchen table. And with the way the sun was coming in the window - late afternoon, slanting light - I had to grab a picture. I just love pumpkin season!

I snapped some pictures of the pumpkins I spied at local farms this weekend ... thought you might like to see them!

Pumpkins 1

Pumpkin days 1

Pumpkin days 2

Pumpkin days 3

Are you a fan of the pumpkin, my friends? Is there a special way you like to celebrate the season of the golden gourd? Perhaps a favorite pumpkin recipe you return to each year?

I know many people are crazy for those pumpkin latte drinks served at Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts, etc. I must admit, I like the idea (and smell) of those drinks better than I do the actual flavor. I do love a nice pumpkin scone lightly glazed with cider icing ... and I also love a thick pumpkin bisque served with grilled ham and cheddar sandwiches. A perfect supper on a crisp autumn eve!

Please drop me a note if you have a "pumpkin" thought to share (and the time to share it). I do love to hear from you!

(And before I go, I must tell you ... I was just washing my hands at the kitchen sink - cooking chicken at the moment - and I paused as I usually do to gaze out my window at the back yard. Not only is the light dimmer and lower than it has been, but the air coming in through the screen is SO cool. It definitely feels like fall is near ... and I for one am glad about that!)

Have yourselves a lovely evening ... I'll see you here again very soon!

A Rainbow Connection?

My friends, what a neat surprise this was! Have any of you ever seen a rainbow in the sky - when there's not a speck of rain in sight? It's been clear and dry all day, but Bill just spotted this tiny rainbow hanging right up there in the middle of the sky ...

Rainbow in middle of sky

Not a full arc as you can see - just a short swath of color. So unexpected ... it's all the more beautiful!

Had to share the moment, I feel filled with joy and wonder. :)

I hope you've all had a lovely weekend ... see you here again very soon!

(Scattered) Thoughts on the To-Do List ...

Pow 2

*Note: This isn't really a full-fledged post - more a collection of thoughts. Just some things I've been mulling over the past few days ...

My friends, we all have a lot on our plates. And there is a great need to organize all those responsibilities on a to-do list (or lists).

I think we've perhaps talked about this concept once or twice here before? ;)

Every Thursday/Friday I work on what Bill calls our "POW" - an acronym for our "Plan of the Weekend" as opposed to the "POD" which is the "Plan of the Day" or the "POP" which is "The Plan of the Party" ... and so on. He's a clever one, my guy. :)

Anyhoo. I always make up this great big list of things we need to do each weekend. This list includes things we really NEED to get done as well as many tasks we really should do if time becomes available.

Now the lists, in theory, are wonderful. I feel SO empowered on Saturday morning when, coffee in hand, with half the kids still asleep, I look over that neat little (big) list ...

THIS will be the weekend we get it all done. Monday will come and we will all feel SO accomplished and organized and ... well, exhausted. But it will be a good tired, you know?

Unfortunately this is almost never (read: never) the case.

We tend to get a few of the list items done - and then a bunch of other things come up that were not actually on the list but command our attention in some way. What's left undone gets added to my weekly folder under "To Do This Week" - though some tasks hang around on that POW awaiting next week's review.

Bottom line - we start a weekend with a lengthy list of things to accomplish and we start a new week having gotten very little of it done.

So here I am today (Friday), with another POW in hand, and another weekend upon us and I'm left wondering ... why can't we get it all done? Why can't we get most of it done? Or at least half? I'd be happy with half.

Well, first - let me be honest here. My main problem is that there are just too many things on that list to begin with, and we have too many everyday responsibilities that leave little room for extra activities and jobs. Plus, we enjoy our kids and spending time with them on decidely un-list-like things. We're not the most spontaneous of people, but we like a good ice cream run or last minute farm trip as much as the next family.


But let's get back to the list.

My thought is this. I was looking at each item on that list and thinking - well, when would we do this chore/errand/task? And I felt a bit paralyzed. It's one thing to list things that need to get done - it's another thing entirely to commit a set time to them. That's moving beyond the abstract. And I think right there is my problem - moving from the idea to the action. Tasks must be assigned a slot in the schedule if they have any hope at all of getting done.

But then, there's the whole timing issue. I usually make that list, as I said above, between Thursday and Friday. By Saturday morning anyway, I have it all ready to go. I usually discuss it with Bill over coffee - our second or third cup, natch; conversation is never seriously attempted before that. Then we each choose a first thing to work on ... and then life takes over.  We roll with the punches and the list sits on the counter - patiently awaiting a perusal now and then.

So there's the first thing - deciding when things will get done. Commiting time in the day to focus on those tasks and really moving on them.

But the other important thing I think, is to assign a person to each task. Bill had the great suggestion that I add a letter next to a task to indicate who should (or could) be repsonsible for that task. He finds it easier to just look at the B's if you will and go from there. I've since added the boys' initials where appropriate. I think this small step has helped us a lot. The list feels more manageable when I see all those letters on it. There are a lot of D's to be sure, but plenty of others as well.

Ok, to sum up ...

A list of to-do's is one thing - and it's a great thing. Just getting those tasks down on paper is wonderful, psychologically and practically speaking.

But equally important is assigning each task a person and a time.

Example ...

POW item: The boys need haircuts. That would be under Bill's supervision and that would work best  ... when? Probably not at 8 a.m. when the boys are hardly awake (even though Bill and I are raring to go!) and probably not late in the day when I'd like people home to help with supper. (Are there errands that have to be done onto which the haircuts can be tagged?)

POW item: My van needs a cleaning (inside and out). That's Bill again, and sometime late morning or afternoon with the "help" of the kids who enjoy playing in the driveway would work. Then I'm freed up to run an errand or do something without kids underfoot.

(And all of this all applies to more than just the weekend to-do list, obviously - any to-do list needs similar follow-up. I was thinking of this just now as I vacuumed the staircase, something I had not done in a looong while so you can just imagine how dusty and dingy things had become! Chores like this are mundane but necessary - and plentiful! And if I don't assign them a day I won't get around to doing them. Guaranteed. It's so easy to just get swept away by the rhythm of the day and the many things that pop up ...

Like, for example, the Internet. ;)

See, if I write on my Wednesday calendar: Vacuum the staircase ... then it's much more likely it will get done. And you know, maybe it doesn't seem like the biggest deal in the world to have a dusty, dingy staircase, but I now have a climbing toddler in the house and he just loves to go up and down those stairs. (With his mum or dad right behind him of course!) Well, his dear little hands are all over those treads and you can be sure he's pausing to pick up any bits of "treasure" he can find. Dust bunnies are a big hit with the little guy, lol.


Ok, I'll wrap up now since this unintentional post really got away from me! And I apologize that it's so rough and rambly, but I just thought I'd get my words "down on paper" and then I figured, why not post them and see what you all think? Leave me a note if you have the time and inclination!

(And I have a better post in the works, with pictures and notes from our first weeks back to homeschool! Hopefully up later this weekend ...)

Well, I'm easing back into this blogging thing, my friends, so stay tuned! Hope you all have a great weekend - whatever gets done, whenever and by whomever!

See you here again soon ...

Our Homeschool Wall ~ and Hello There!

Homeschool wall 5 

Well, my friends - I'm back!

It feels good to be posting again - it's been nearly a month! I hope you've all been well. How was the end of your summer? Or more importantly, how goes the start of your fall? We're still in "lift-off" mode here, but things are starting to settle into place ...

I have some pictures of a homeschool "wall" I'm organizing in the kitchen but before I get into that, I thought I'd share a quick recap of where our boys are now.


So as most of you know, we are a homeschooling family of six. We live in Massachusetts, not too far from Boston. Bill and I have four boys and this will be our 15th year homeschooling!

Our oldest ("Bookworm") is now a sophomore in college, and our second oldest ("Crackerjack") is a sophomore in high school. Our third son ("Earlybird") is 12 years old and autistic. We don't really assign him a grade as he's working at different levels. And finally, our youngest ("Little Bear") is just 15 months old! And he's as busy as can be - running all over, curious about everything, loves books and music and trucks and to sit in the dirt and just play. He's an absolute joy and I'm thrilled to have many more years of homeschooling ahead of us!

Speaking of homeschooling, we're getting ourselves rolling with our lessons this year. And to kick things off, I set up this "wall of information" in the kitchen ...

Homeschool wall 1 

US map on the left, and World map on the right. In the middle is a homemade family calendar ...

Homeschool wall 2

So I was looking for a wall-sized calendar - something with big squares for plans and notes that the whole family could view. This is something Earlybird especially looks forward to ...

What day is this? Where are we going? And how many days until insert holiday here?


Since I'd already splurged on a great big desk calendar this summer (one that doesn't start till 2015), I decided to see if I could pull one together with materials I had on hand.

And as it happened, I could!

I started with a bright red posterboard purchased last month for a Red Sox game. It was Little Bear's first time at Fenway and we were going to be one of those families that hold up an attention-getting sign in order to get on camera ...

"Hey, NESN - it's my first game ever and the Red Sox have been world champs my whole life!"


Well, we never ended up using that posterboard so it was all ready to go! And that was my calendar base. I then used apple-shaped post-it notes, a letter stencil and a black Sharpie to create the header: SEPTEMBER. Then I used lined post-it notes for the days of the month. The lines help me keep information neat and the notes not only stick really well, but will be easy to replace next month.

Homeschool wall 3

The maps are for reference of course, but something I like to do is find news articles that we can tape on the maps for the week. We also like to watch the weather report and then check the map to see where "active" or "severe" weather is happening.

And this here is a poem display ...

Homeschool wall 4

I stapled index cards to a ribbon and hung it from the top of the door. It's a great visual for Earlybird who has been reading the poem aloud each morning for me. We chose "Crickets" for the month of September. This door stands between the kitchen and dining room which is our active learning room these days - still under construction, so more on that later!

Well my friends, that's all I have time for today but I will be back again soon to share what we've been up to and what's coming up. I hope you will drop me a note when you can and let me know how things are going for you and yours!

In the meantime, thanks so much for stopping by and please take care of yourselves and your loved ones .. 

See you here again very soon!