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Happy New Year, a PDF & Some News ...

Hello, my friends and Happy New Year!


Well, I'm afraid I've been MIA recently (after promising all kinds of posts) and I apologize for that. I do hope to get back to posting again sometime soon, but Id like to fill you in a little on what's been going on and ask for your prayers and positive thoughts ...

So, it had been a challenging time since roundabouts mid-December with the kids getting sick in tandem (not Covid, most likely flu) and next there was Earlybird's broken tooth, and then of course we had the holidays (which were very nice and I hope yours were too!) and then everything really turned upside down ...

Because on Boxing Day morning, Earlybird fell in his room and seriously injured his knee. Due to the nature of the injury and the challenges that come with his autism, it was really hard to figure out exactly what happened (everyone else was downstairs when he fell) and precisely what he actually did to his knee. It swelled up enormously, bruised brilliantly, and it hurt him so badly he couldn't bear to stand on it - but whether this was due to pain or fear of trying we couldn't be sure. EB has a hard time expressing himself and anxiety always rules in any scary &/or painful situation. He could bend his knee, and didn't seem to mind it being felt -  in fact, after the initial shock had worn off, he seemed to be weathering the injury fairly well.

Of course we immediately called the doctor and upon his advice, tried to get EB to urgent care for a looksee - but unfortunately we just couldn't get him down the stairs. EB's now way bigger than Bill and I and when he really doesn't want to do something - well, there is NO budging him! We thought about calling an ambulance but were told they could only take him to the ER, and that would be no place for EB. He can hardly wait 20 minutes let alone hours! (Plus the ER is a hotbed of illness these days.)

So we got him a Telehealth appointment while we worked on helping him with pain management (ice and motrin) and mobility issues (a no-go on the walker but a rolling desk chair helped him cruise to the bathroom and back).

Then finally - just last Thursday - we finally got him downstairs! 

(Via a very slow "bum shuffle" down the staircase - following my example - into a wheelchair and then out to our van, ultimately making it over to see the doctor ...

... who was SO super nice and really took her time with EB. (It's such a blessing when you find health care professionals who "get it" and treat your child to a gentle and positive approach with much patience and understanding. I know other special needs parents know what I mean by this!)

(And let me give a hearty shoutout to our BCBA (our ABA supervisor) for much needed help and support throughout all of this. She's known EB for YEARS and really knows how to calm him and guide him when he's feeling scared and being inflexible.)

Anyway - after examining his knee and asking EB some questions about the pain (which he answered rather ambiguously, as is his way), the doctor decided to do an x-ray - and thank goodness she did! Because the x-ray showed that Earlybird actually FRACTURED his patella - right clean in half. One part is wedged up above where his kneecap should be and the other piece is floating somewhere below. The middle part is spongy because there's nothing there ...

I know ... the damage could not have been worse!

The doctor said EB must have an incredibly high tolerance for pain (which we've seen in the past), but everyone was just gobsmacked by the extent of his injury! Our poor boy!

Ok, to sum up - 

EB will be having surgery to repair his fractured patella this Friday. Anytime a child needs surgery it's a time for stress and worry, yet the situation for EB is a little more fraught. For one thing, he is extremely afraid of needles and to get an IV in him is nearly impossible. To be honest this is what I'm worried about most! EB will fight the IV and in the past has been pretty resistant to sedative meds. (The sleepy drink for example - does NOTHING for EB.) Anyhoo ... I am not going to borrow worries just yet. Today things are calm and EB is not in pain at all. He's taking this all in stride, honestly. He's all chipper and comfy on his bed, tv clicker in hand, mom and dad at his beck and call, and no chores whatsoever! He's careful with his knee - but he does understand it needs to be fixed ... it's the only way he'll get to go to his favorite places and ride his bike come spring!

(Yes, this is a continuous topic of conversation: why we fix bones when we break them ... because we want our bodies to be strong and healthy and we want to live our best life!)

So we're taking it one day at a time and pulling in as many resources and support as we can. I know we'll get through this and I feel really hopeful this will all go smoothly - still, I would cherish your prayers and any positive energy you can send on his behalf. I pray Earlybird's surgery is easy and safe and that his recovery is quick and comfortable. And that we ALL find the strength we need to get through whatever hiccups might happen.

Now, here are a couple of pics I shared recently on Instagram:

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(Shared last Thursday morning, the first time was able to come down the stairs.)


(Shared later that afternoon when we found out the extent of his injuries!)

So for the time being, I'm going to be taking a semi-break from my social media. I say "semi" because I might post every once in a while, but my focus will be on being completely available to our son as he goes through all of this. After the surgery he will have weeks of recovery and rehab and I'm very grateful we'll have a daily ABA therapist to help us - help him!

I do hope to post a Midwinter Tea at some point, once we're on the other side of this situation. I'd like to check in and let you know how he's doing and share some of our winter adventures with you, too - such as they'll be this year!

Now, before I go - a quick note for my friends who enjoy using my homemade planning sheets:

I'm really sorry that I was not able to get my 2023 planning sheets posted (or even finished) for you all. It's the first time in years I've missed it! What I was able to do though, is create a blank (undated) monthly planning PDF that includes a monthly calendar and six two-page weekly spreads. I hope this is helpful and I welcome you to use it as you wish! :-)

Undated Planning Sheet PDF

Ok, friends, I will let you all go now, but I do hope you are all doing well and I also hope your new year is off to a healthy and happy start. Thanks for checking in and take care ... I'll be back here again very soon!


~ Dawn

Happy New Year, and ...

... can you believe how big these young people are getting??

The Hanigan Kids, November, 2021

Hello, my fond and faraway friends - long time no see! I cannot BELIEVE it's been an entire YEAR since my last post here!

This was definitely the longest "break" I've ever taken from blogging - unintentional, certainly, but that's just the way the ball rolled around here this past year! As for most of you I suspect, 2021 - much like 2020- was an up and down kind of year for us. (I'll share a family update in an upcoming post.) But for today I wanted to get my January 2022 planning sheets posted here for those readers who like to use them!

My apologies that A. they are so very last minute, and B. I only have the first PDF (January) to share so far. #dontmakepromisesyoucantkeep 😬  I do have the whole year in draft form and I will be adding more PDFs here over the next few weeks. Watch for that pinned post at the top of this page to update soon!

Ok, here is the first in a 12-part installment:

2022 Planning Sheets: January

Please feel free to print and use these at home for your personal use. If you share the sheets online, I'd appreciate a tag or link back to my blog (or IG acct.) and as always, let me know if you have any trouble opening the files! :-)

(Speaking of IG - or Instagram - if you are able to access that platform, I post there almost every day. Do check my feed for a peek at some of our "doings" this past year.)

Ok and now, finally, since I have you here ... I would like to share some very happy news that just unfolded over the past couple of weeks ...


We have a dog now!!

My friends, please meet, Fenway! This is our yellow Lab puppy who is all of 8 weeks old and just came home to live with us yesterday. Isn't he handsome??

It's kind of a neat story how his arrival came to be, and if you'll indulge me a moment or ten, I'd love to share it!

About a month ago we decided we wanted to get a dog, but it all came about after a few twists and turns! Little Bear (as you know, an avid animal enthusiast) had been campaigning for some kind of pet he could handle (as in, hold, pet, play with) in a way the cats (bless 'em) don't really allow. So that ruled out fish, turtles, birds and lizards (though each were considered, briefly) and then hamsters and guinea pigs also seemed a bad idea (re - the aforementioned cats) ... and then finally we seemed to settle on the idea of a bunny. Bill even purchased an adorable used bunny hutch and we started planning for how to go about getting ourselves a bunny and how (on earth) we would keep and manage that bunny.

Then I had a very important conversation with a dear friend who owns a bunny as well as three dogs, and after that chat I realized A. a bunny was not a great fit for our family (or at least, Little Bear's needs) and B. we might actually be ready for a dog!

What happened next was a very quick and fortuitous thing. We started out looking at many different adoption options. Our priority was choosing a breed that was known to be gentle, good-natured and comfortable with a large, busy family. Healthy, happy and hale, and as easy-care as possible. So we started searching different prospects online, when one day, Earlybird and his therapist bumped into our neighbor who introduced them to her new lab puppy. When she learned we were in the market for a new puppy, she told them there was one still available from her breeder ... soooo we called right away and spoke with said breeder, and because we had the reference of our neighbor she offered him to us!! All the other pups were spoken for ...

So we visited this pup the very next day and absolutely FELL IN LOVE! ❀

Fast forward two weeks to yesterday, the day our pup was ready to be brought home and now - here we are! 



What do the cats think, you might wonder? Well ... it will be a slow warm-up I think. So far, they are mostly just curious and perhaps a little on edge. Both parties are aware of each other, but we are not allowing any contact yet. All "socializing" is done through gates and crate doors. 


So we are going to take the introduction slooowly. Fingers crossed, they'll at least learn to tolerate him - and yes, he does match the cats - even the chickens are "buff" colored! πŸ˜…


Anyhoo - as I mentioned above, I will have a family update for you in an upcoming post (hoping to do some Wintertime Teas), but let me just say briefly, that we are all doing well. Crackerjack actually tested positive for Covid the morning after Christmas, but he has been in isolation since (feeling much better now) and the rest of  us knock on wood are fine. (Little Bear, who has a bad cold, tested negative yesterday.) We are all vaccinated (even LB, who gets his second dose this week) and very careful about where we go and always wear masks in public. But such is the state of things now, nearly two years into this pandemic - breakthroughs are happening and a countrywide surge is upon us again. Let's hope and pray 2022 brings better days!

Be safe and well, my friends and I wish you all a very Happy New Year! I will see you here again very soon ...

xoxo ,

~ Dawn

Advent Plans in my Bullet Journal + 2021 Planner News!


Hello my friends, how are you?! I hope you are all staying healthy and safe. My family and I are all doing fine - though I cannot believe it has been more than two months since my last post!

Time certainly flew by this fall ... but I'm happy to say that the eye strain, headaches and neck pain that kept me from spending long periods of time on my computer or working in my planners, these past several months seems to be finally subsiding. I just wrapped up about 8 weeks of physical therapy and that seems to have made such a difference! Home exercises plus postural changes -  as well as an awareness of when I'm overdoing it - will hopefully keep this condition under control and in the new year I hope to be a more consistent blogger! :-)

Now, something else that's hard to believe? The Advent season is upon us! And of course Christmas is just around the corner ...

As some of  you might remember, a few years back I made up a multi-page printable Advent planner and I'd like to share the link (updated for 2020) today with you all:

Preparing for Christmas (a Dawn@Home Planner)

As for my own seasonal planning this year, I have been working a lot in my little bullet journals lately. Goodness, but I missed them this summer! I was able to get back to bullet journaling a couple of months ago and I'm happy to say I completed a whole journal for September and October. These two months together I call the season of "early autumn," and so I am now currently working on a new journal for Late Autumn (November-December). And this is where I've been doing most of my Advent planning! Would you like to see a few of my pages?

First, here is a spread I made for two special seasonal countdowns - Gratitude Month (November) and Advent (December):


And here is a peek at my December monthly calendar:


Next, and as seen in my top photo, here is our main Advent themes overview:


As I've discussed through the years, we follow a nature-based, Waldorf-inspired Advent tradition. Each week leading up to Christmas, we explore and wait alongside creation - moving from one natural realm to another.

I found these lovely images on Pinterest:


And the Advent verse is from the Winter Kindergarten book from Wynstones Press.

On the right-hand page I jotted down my ideas for each week:


And here is this week's planning spread, reflecting our seasonal theme: "Sticks, Stones & Garden Bones."



The page shown above is meant for weekly "seasonskeeping" notes as well as any nature observations and photos I'd like to save. I fold it in half so I can still see the right-hand page of my weekly spread.

And speaking of that right-hand page!



In my next post I'll share pictures of our Advent activities and decorations, but here is a quick peek at some of my crafting materials:

IMG_1609 (1)



Ok, now for that planner news I mentioned in my title!

So ... the bad news is ... I had hoped (really, really hoped) I would have a little shop (of some sort) open this autumn which would allow me to sell my homemade planners. Alas, the aforementioned health issues pushed that goal somewhere way, way off-track. I am absolutely not giving up however, and will shoot for a "dawn at home" planner product to sell sometime mid-next year.

There are a lot of variables to figure out - and I could certainly use advice if anyone has any! - but I will keep you all posted! In fact, in early January I will start a mail-list for those who are interested in purchasing a planner once they are available. So - and I know I say this A LOT - please stay tuned!

But ... all that said ... I WILL have 2021 planning sheets to share with you all, as usual, and they will be printable and free for your personal use! I will post those PDFs just as soon as I'm able along with a post on how to make up your own homemade planner, as I do, using these sheets in either a binder or by having them spiral-bound at the copy shop.

And that my friends, is all I have time for today, but I thank you sincerely for joining me! And I thank you, as always, for your patience and kind support and encouragement. I hope you and your loved ones are safe and happy - please be well and take care of each other!

Peace & Light,

~ Dawn

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

Hello, my friends ... ❀


Just checking in to see how everyone's doing at this trying time ...❀

We are all ok here. The older boys' colleges have both moved to online classes, and Earlybird's school has closed down for the next two weeks (at least). Bill is working from home and all homeschool group activities have been suspended ...


All my chicks are in the nest, and we will be hunkering down as much as possible, though our home learning will go on pretty much as usual. Little Bear and I will make room for EB in some of our activities (just like the old days!), and I will have EB's ABA therapists help him with some of that during his daily at-home sessions.

I did not "panic buy" last week, but I feel pretty confident we have what we need for a while. I made sure to buy extra coffee and tea and soup and canned fruit and pasta and cereal (etc.) and certainly plenty of pet food ... though I'm hoping to run out early tomorrow and grab some more bread and milk. (We can never have enough of those two things around here!)

(Doesn't this all seem so surreal? A week ago we could not have foreseen all these drastic changes taking place ...)

Anyhoo ... I hope you are feeling well and safe my friends, wherever you call home in this topsy-turvy world. Thanks as always for stopping by and please take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I will see you here again someday soon!

Tea @ Dawn's ~ Birthdays, Bluebirds & Sweet Winter Blessings


Hello my friends, and Happy Sunday! Thank you so much for joining me today - may I offer you a freshly brewed cup of hot tea?

On this breezy - and strangely balmy - January day, I'm pouring a tasty new brew called, "Winter Wake Up Tea." It was a gift from my brother, and I must say - it's delicious!


(Truth be told, since caffeine and spice are things I have to be careful about - I cut my tea with a little plain black decaf and an extra large splash of lowfat milk!)

So I have to tell you, our Tea today is extra special because January 12th just so happens to be ... National Hot Tea Day! Yes, it's a real holiday ... or at least it has been since 2016. #whoknew πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ 

Also happening today, rather serendipitously, is a day-long Jane Austen "extravaganza" airing on my local PBS station! So if you'd care to join me while I put on the kettle, I have this playing on the kitchen tv ...


I'm sure many of you can name that beloved movie on sight - it's one of my all-time favorites! You might recall from my last post there's a whole bunch of fun programming coming up this year, and something I'm really looking forward to is "Sanditon," a new Masterpiece series that premieres tonight at 9 p.m. (An air-time which is sadly after my bedtime so I'll be catching each episode a day (or two) after its first airing.)


May I offer you a little something sweet to go along with our tea? How about a thick slice of birthday cake?


Yep, on this lovely day honoring hot tea AND Jane Austen, I'm also celebrating ... my 51st birthday! :-) 


First of all, I can hardly believe I just typed that number - because wow, I am now decidedly "in my 50s." (And holy crow, how did that even happen? No, honestly. Wasn't I JUST in my 30s?)

Anyways - today I'm raising my glass, er mug, to a brand new year - and a new profile pic! ;-) Had to snap a selfie yesterday because I had just gotten home from the hairdresser and my hair never has a better moment than in that first hour after leaving the salon. Soon thereafter it's back to unruly curls and cowlicks, lol.

Hair issues aside, I'm giving sincere thanks today for so many things - most of all the gifts of Life, Love and Wonderful Friendships. I'd like to say thanks to all of YOU for the kindness and encouragement you've all shown me through the years. For helping me make this a happy and homey little corner of the web. How I have loved keeping this blog going for the past 13 (almost 14) years!

But before I get too far off-topic let's discuss the pretty cake I'm right now setting out on my favorite Irish china plates ...

"Penuche" Cake is a specialty of my mum's. We're blessed to have her as the Family Baker of All Birthday Cakes and though we all have our favorites, she always asks what cake we'd like this year. I usually request Penuche Cake, and since we had a good bit leftover, I'd love to offer you a slice - it goes wonderfully with a hot cup of tea! (As you can see from my first photo - it had disappeared before I got that final shot!)

If you're interested in the recipe - check out this birthday post from 2016. I've posted the frosting recipe in the comments.

And if I may revel in my birthday joy a moment or two longer, here is the card the boys made me ...


Pretty sure I need to have this framed ... I love all those colors!


Ok, now that we have our tea and cake, let's settle in and have a nice little chat. I thought I'd share some of the things I've been thinking about and noticing these past couple of weeks. As you all know, I assign each week of the year a seasonal "theme," and right around my birthday I like to contemplate "winter comforts and joys." Because it's mid-January and we've just finished Christmas and now the long winter looms ahead - so I like to brainstorm the ways we might celebrate the season rather than bemoaning it as too cold or dark or dreary. Not that it isn't some or all of those things at one time or another - but I'd rather focus on the blessings of the season rather than the burdens, if you know what I mean. :-) 

In my Deep Winter bullet journal then, I have a whole page devoted to these kinds of thoughts ...


I take such comfort from the simplest traditions and rituals - little things like saying "rabbit rabbit"on the first of the month, and creating a new planner at the start of the year. Hosting a New Year's roast lunch for my family and watching for the Bluebirds to return, as they usually do, right about this time of the year ...


Aren't they gorgeous? They visited our feeders for all of five minutes one day last week ...




Birdwatching is fun all year long, but there is something extra wonderful about winter birdwatching. When it's hard to get outside in nature (due to severe cold or stormy weather) it's easy enough to sit ourselves beside a window and watch the comings and goings of the local wildlife ...

And as winter rambles on, we get to know the "regulars" - the Finches, Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Titmice etc. - while also looking forward to the more seasonal visitors. There are Bluebirds in mid-winter, and then roundabouts February we'll start hearing (and hopefully seeing!) the resident Barred Owl. One day near spring we'll hear the familiar "squeaky wheel" of the Red-winged Blackbird returning and then before we know it, come April or May, a flash of orange will announce the Orioles are passing through ...

I also take joy in observing and exploring nature phenomena ... like the January thaw which we are enjoying today (it's 70Β°!) and all the monthly moons and the folklore attached to them. For instance, the Pink Moon in April really does look pink - like an Easter egg! And the Sap Moon brings on sugaring season, while the Harvest Moon is always huge and as orange as a pumpkin ...

But how about January's full moon?


Here is the best shot I could get of the Full Wolf Moon as it rose over our woods Friday night. But did we howl at it? Why, you betcha we did! 

And here are the notes I scribbled in my seasonal journal - ideas for celebrating this moon, this week, and this time of year, with my family ...


And per family tradition, we read this book EVERY year as we celebrate the Full Wolf Moon:


The Story of the Kind Wolf is hard to find but if you do find a copy - grab it! 

We also baked some fun "Wolf Paw Cookies" on Friday afternoon ...


I got the idea for these on Pinterest, and they are basically a sugar cookie with Ghirardelli melting wafers and chocolate chips arranged to create the look of a paw. I'm not sure how well they achieve this, but needless to say they were a hit with my kids! (We left the candies off some of the cookies for those among us who are tragically unable to eat chocolate - the plain ones we called, Full Moon Cookies.)

So a book, a cookie, a moon view and a howl - all easy things to do, all sweet traditions to keep.

I've been doing these kinds of things since my children were tiny and it just never gets old, at least not for me! Obviously as the young ones get older their participation in and enjoyment of each "tradition" changes a little. But I still involve everyone who's home - Bookworm is away visiting friends right now, but Crackerjack is home on winter break and though he didn't howl or read the book with us - he happily partook of the cookies and he did watch the moon rise alongside us. 

I like to think these pastimes create lasting memories as well as a subtle yet meaningful awareness of the turn of the year. I hope most of all it adds a happy kind of glue to the days of our year - the ones that seem to go by too fast, while my boys quickly grow into young men.

I love doing for my family but there are also things that bring me personal comfort and joy, in the deepest days of winter ...


Favorite magazines ... with such lovely, wintry covers.


My favorite weekly "paper" - how I love Maria Shriver's writing! It arrives in my inbox early each Sunday morning, and I try to carve out time each week to savor her words and explore her links.


My planner basket ... helping me feel a little more in control of my time and my responsibilities ...


... and the miracle of the sunrise, which blesses us every day without fail. :-)

I stopped the car while driving Earlybird to school the other morning, just to snap a pic and absorb this peaceful moment. And I must confess, I was not at that moment feeling very peaceful, because it was not an easy ride that particular morning. EB was balking at going to school (kind of a new and challenging thing) and I was a jumble of over-caffeinated, over-tired nerves ...

Will he get out of the car this morning? Will he calm down and relax? Will I get a call from the school nurse today?

But the sunrise was still glorious as it is most days, and that golden orb rode silently alongside us, so I chatted with EB about what a really nice day it could and would be. He calmed - I calmed - and the eventual drop-off went about as well as it could. #phew

More comforts and joys ...


These guys - 'nuff said.


Keeping in touch with family and friends is important to me, though I wish I was a more timely correspondent! But how I love organizing a little correspondence basket - a place to stash stationary and stamps, a thick address book and the bundles of letters and notes in want of a reply.

I love to take pleasure in the little things but ...


Most of all this. THIS is my favorite kind of comfort and joy.

I had just come home from that tense drive with EB and was working in the kitchen - half paying attention to the Today show as I got my own "today" going - when an  interview with a panel of older women who were all reinventing their careers caught my attention. They were all lovely women and the segment was certainly inspiring - but I paused to consider the fact that while I too am "getting older," as a full-time, homeschooling mom, I haven't had an actual "career" to speak of in nearly 25 years. 

And then my littlest guy wandered into the kitchen, fresh from his bed, still clad in his footies and all sleepy-eyed he said, "Mama, I need a hug."

Which of course was a need easily, and joyfully, met by this mama.

And that my friends, is one of the sweetest and most rewarding perks of my decades-long "profession" - the comfort and joy of being there for my kids when they need me. It's a blessing to be sure, and I don't take it for granted, not for one little minute. I am grateful I can be here - for their sakes as well as my own - and that I can devote my time and my energy to the business - and art - of keeping family and home.


A final thought before I go -

Every day is a gift and every new year a blessing! And while  January is still fresh and new, I find myself looking forward to making some fun wintry memories ... and of course, sharing more cups of winter's tea with you all! 

As always, I thank you for joining me here today, and I wish you all a lovely week ahead. I'll be back with a fresh pot of Tea a little later this month, but you can always find me on Instagram and Facebook in between posts. 

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ... I'll see you here again sometime soon!

Hello, my name is ... and Happy September!

Little bear and mama

Hello my friends, HELLO! 😊

Goodness, it's been a long, long while since I last posted ... and I'm pretty sure I started my most recent post that way (way back in May!), but I am checking in today to share something I posted over on Instagram this morning, a little update on our homeschooling status, since so much has changed in recent years!

I hope you are all doing well and that you had a nice summer. Ours was really nice and fairly relaxing, even if I didn't get back into the blogging groove as I'd hoped. This first week of September we've been in "re-entry" mode, getting everyone started off on their various educational paths (see below for details) and I am now REALLY ready for the weekend! Whew, as much as I love getting "back to routine" in the fall, I'm finding it a challenge to adjust my mindset and energies - to keep everyone on track and still find time for myself and my own personal routines. 

Well, I have so much to talk about - I mean, are you as excited for DOWNTON ABBEY this month as I am??? We must discuss - but for today I'll just share this update, and hope to be back again soon to continue catching up. I have a new PDF booklet to share - "Early Autumn Homekeeping" - and with just a few more tweaks I should have that ready to go this weekend. I hate to promise anything these days but I will do my very best to be here more often ... in the meantime, you can find me on Instagram where I post a little something just about every day. I'm a little slower at Facebook, but I am over there too on occasion!

Ok, see you all soon ... I hope you enjoy this post and I hope you will stop by the comments box below and drop me a note! I'd love to know how you are doing and what kinds of changes this fall might be bringing to your life!


✨Happy Friday, everyone! It's been a while since I've done this, so I thought I'd post a little #fridayintroduction today. I wanted to catch you all up with where I'm at as a homeschooling mom these days!

Well, first of all, my name is Dawn, and I am a mom from Massachusetts. 😊And since this begins our 20th year of homeschooling, I guess you could call me a "veteran," but these days our homeschool looks mighty different than it once did! If you followed my blog "back in the day," when our older boys were all little and homeschooling, you might be surprised to learn their current ages: 24, 20 and 17! (Believe me, I'm just as shocked as you are.)

So this year I am homeschooling just one "student" - our youngest (affectionately known as Little Bear in social media circles πŸ˜‰), who is now six years old and just starting out on his homeschool journey. How happy it makes me, to do this all over again ...

Teaching first grade for the fourth time around may look very different, but it feels absolutely wonderful!

So how are our older boys doing? Well, Bookworm graduated from Boston College in 2017 and is now pursuing his master's degree in Computer Science at the University of Massachusetts. Crackerjack is now a college sophomore, studying Sociology at Emmanuel College in Boston, with a minor in Spanish. He hopes to enter the field of social work when he graduates in 2020.

Earlybird, our 17 yo son with autism, is now enrolled at our local high school. Having been homeschooled his entire life (as were all our boys up until college) this was a HUGE decision, and though it seemed to happen rather suddenly last spring (a speech eval at the school turned into an invitation to "try things out") it just seemed to really make sense for our son whose needs had outgrown what we were able to provide. And this is really a topic for a whole separate post (meeting special needs when homeschooling), but let me just say that I am 100% content with our decision to put EB in school - just as I am forever grateful we were able to homeschool him for his first 17 years of life.

I truly believe it was all meant to be - his experiences at home and within our family (as well as the past five years of home ABA) brought him where he needed to be in order to be ready for THIS new experience. And he is doing so well at school and is considered such a joy and a "ray of sunshine" to his peers and teachers. I post often about our "life with Riley" and I try to be as open as I can about the struggles as well as the triumphs. The journey is full of ups and downs, but as I like to remember - every day is a gift and we hope for progress not perfection!

And so all this brings me to Little Bear, my little homeschool fledgling! As I mentioned above this year we begin first grade at home, and we are using Oak Meadow Curriculum - as well as many other things! We've used Oak Meadow with all of our children, combined with my own "seasonal homeschooling" curriculum. I would call us "eclectic" homeschoolers with a leaning towards Waldorf and Charlotte Mason philosophies.

I will be posting a lot about our homeschool journey as we move through the year (and God willing, years) ... so I hope you'll check in and take a peek, say hello, let me know how your days are going! I'm a pretty active poster on Instagram and it is my goal this coming school year to be more active at my blog again as well.

A couple of quick things before I go ...

I am absolutely still blogging - I hope to pick things up over here this autumn!

I will have my 2020 planning sheets ready to go just as soon as possible!

I am super excited to see the Downton exhibit this month AS WELL AS the movie, and I will definitely be posting about all THAT!


Thanks so much for reading, my friends, and as always ...

I hope to be back here again very soon!

A Few April Bits & Bobs ❀

Hello my friends, and Happy Wednesday! I'm popping in quickly today to share a few things ... 

First, I wanted to let you all know that our next Mitten Strings for God book study "tea" will take place this coming Sunday, April 22nd. The chapter we'll be discussing next is called "Healing," and it's a rather short, but very sweet chapter. Here's a passage to consider ...


Full (Wednesday) Disclosure - it was this chapter that inspired me to share last Friday's post, admitting to certain anxieties I have as a special needs parent. Because there's nothing quite like times of stress to inspire more frequent (and imagined) "boo-boo moments." Most of the time it's more about the need for comfort than it is a cute bandaid ... but more on all that in my Sunday post. Later this week (most likely on Instagram) I will share a picture of our own boo-boo basket, which I recently pulled together with my littlest fella in mind.

For now I would like to invite all to join me in this re-read, savoring each chapter as we (slowly) go along. Future chapter topics include: listening, nature, enchantment and grace. :)

On a brighter note though, here are some spring birds from my backyard ...

Goldfinch collage

How I love watching the goldfinches turn a brighter shade of yellow once the winter has passed. In this collage I have "captured" two males at the top and then a third male in between two females on the bottom. Their vibrant feathers are such a happy sight in the spring!

And here are a few more ...


On the left is the dark-eyed junco - a lovely "snowbird" who leaves for the north in mid-April. Every year we keep a keen eye out for their departure - often a flock of them will be ground-feeding vigorously one day and then be gone the very next. Come October, juncos will return for the winter (just about the time the chipmunks go underground). They are such seasonal harbingers and the dearest little birds - I just love them! 

The birds on the right are a white-throated sparrow (top) and a house finch (bottom). The sparrow's song in particular is a welcome and familiar sound around here in the spring!

But speaking of spring ...


This picture popped up in my "Facebook Memories" feed this morning. It was taken on this day last year and OH MY what a difference a year makes! These azalea bushes, shown here in near-bloom, have barely even formed buds yet this season! What a long, loooong winter it's been ...

But now ... I have some BIG news to share ... because Crackerjack has made his college decision!


(Soon to be seen on my van's bumper!)

As of Sunday night CJ is officially enrolled at Emmanuel College in Boston, as a member of the class of 2022! His plan is to major in Political Science and minor in Spanish. We are very proud of our young man and extremely pleased he decided on Emmanuel. I think it will be an excellent fit! 

Woohoo, Go Saints!

Well my friends, thanks so much for stopping by and I hope your week is going well. How is spring treating you where you live? Drop me a note if you have a moment, but for now I will wish you well and a pleasant day (or evening) ahead ...

Meet you here on Sunday for Mitten Strings!

Mitten Strings for God: Ch. 13 "Breathing"


Hello my friends, and Happy Sunday! I hope you are all doing well! :)

Today I'd like to invite you to sit and have a spot of tea with me, as we chat about the next chapter in our current (albeit slow-going!) book study, Mitten Strings for God by Katrina Kenison. Last month we talked about incorporating more "One-on-One Time," and today - skipping over chapter 12, for reasons explained in this post - we're moving on to the concept of "Breathing."

(Who thinks about breathing, anyway? Well, today, we will!)

Before we get started on our topic though, how about a quick look at my tea?

Today I am drinking a cup of Decaffeinated Irish Breakfast tea, which is kind of our house tea, so there's always an extra box or two in our cupboard! (I hardly ever drink full-caf tea since I limit my caffeine intake to the mornings - when coffee fills my mug and zaps my veins with the energy I need to jump-start my day!)

So please let me pour you a fresh cuppa, and please pardon the mess on the table - particularly, the cats! (Who let them up on the table, anyway??) Today being Sunday I am knee-deep in my "office hours" and trying to get a handle on what the new week will bring. The Vernal Equinox for one thing on Tuesday, as well as the start of my annual spring cleaning - and our seasonal homeschooling theme is "pussy willows." As you can see, Oliver and Archie are all-in ... because nothing invites the cats' keen attention like a little fresh vegetation on the kitchen table!

Allrighty, now let's get on with the chapter chat ...

And what an interesting thing to consider, breathing. It's something we do constantly and automatically ... yet rarely do we actually stop and think about it. Unless we've over-exerted ourselves, and/or are suffering from asthma or experiencing an allergic reaction (been there, done that) - if we are fortunate enough to have no physical ailments to impede it, our body just does what it must do ... our lungs expand, we take in oxygen ... we breathe.

And we live!

So as I read this chapter's opening passage - the description of the Kenison boys running loops around the house, exulting in the very state of being alive - I thought, what a fun and memorable story! But also ... what a lesson!

"We stand there together, hands to hearts, as their pulses slowly return to normal. Then they are off again, flying, exhilarated, reveling in their discoveries of air and speed and strength, the joy of physical experience." (p. 95)

Celebrating life comes so easily to children - they don't think about it so much, or plan it like their adult counterparts do (perhaps a tad obsessively, ahem!). No, they just happily move forward, absorbing and savoring the blessing that is LIFE. This awareness and appreciation comes to them as naturally as breathing, if you'll pardon the pun - but it's true! And I think most of us could benefit from the innocent lessons of an open-hearted and exuberant child.

"How readily our children embrace these humble lessons; how long it takes for many of us adults to relearn them!" (p. 99)

As for racing about the house, I think perhaps we adults might tire after the first quarter-lap, lol! That said, I can strongly identify with the parents here - sitting, and watching - in that first passage. How wonderful to watch our children marvel over the "inner workings of their own bodies." (p. 95)   

So when do we think about breathing, then? Well, for one thing, when we're exercising ...

Fitness walking is an excellent habit, but one I must admit I fall in and out of according to season. In the spring, as soon as the roads and walkways are clear of snow, I begin my daily morning walks. Spring is a great time for new endeavors! The air smells great, and feels great! At this time of year I feel inspired, invigorated and resolved!

But at first it's a bit of a struggle to get back in the rhythm of walking. And not just physically - making my way up the steep hill at the end of our road - but mentally, too. Beginning with motivating myself to walk out my door - making the time to walk, arranging the child care, putting on my walking clothes and lacing up my sneakers ... letting my brain move beyond the walls of my house and the issues and tasks therein.

Allowing my mind to wander along with my feet ... I find it all gets easier as the season moves along.

My breathing during these walks comes easier too as I gain stamina and my lungs get back into the swing of things. Spring and summer walking is a breeze (green flies and heat waves, notwithstanding) but by autumn I'm afraid to say - with dark days and chilly/wet weather, I start finding excuses to stay home and skip my walks. Soon enough of course, I fall out of habit. 

But to say come spring I'm eager to revive my walking habit again is an understatement! I'm ready to exchange winter's stale indoor air for spring's fresh outdoor air and take a few deep cleansing breaths! And here we are on April's doorstep, so my instincts should be kicking in again anytime now ... once the roads are passable, of course.

*glares at the two feet of snow outside the window* 

So when else do we think about breathing? Well, how about when we're trying to find calm for ourselves, or another?

Do you ever stop when you find yourself in a bit of "a state" and just - close your eyes and count to ten? (Or five, or a hundred - depending on the circumstances!) And as you count, you might find your breathing slows and whatever is happening seems a little more manageable? Even if just in a mercurial amount. Any bit of calm is welcome when the need is great.

Speaking of ...

"When I say to my boys, 'Let's take a deep breath,' I am guiding them into a safe haven, a place where they can release their pain and anger and come back to center again." (p. 98)

Throughout the book, Ms. Kesinson is quite candid about her family's choices and challenges, and as I've said before, so much of it has inspired and supported me in my own mothering. And each time I read, I appreciate some chapters more than others - because my experiences (hopes and fears) change as my children grow. 

So during my current re-read, I found myself pausing over her description of her younger son's emotional issues:

"Jack is still prone to tantrums, outbursts that frighten him and wreak havoc on the rest of us as well." (p. 98)

I couldn't help but think about my Earlybird and his struggles. When EB was very little, before he was officially diagnosed, he would have absolutely awful meltdowns. They seemed to happen all the time, sometimes for no reason, and we just felt ... so helpless. Our older boys (four and two when EB was born) were extremely easy-going children, with nary a tantrum between them. So I'm pretty sure we thought we had the whole "peaceful parenting" thing down pat ...

*rolls eyes at my younger mothering self*

And then along came Earlybird, who, by two was wigging out at the zoo, the grocery store, the neighbor's birthday party, in the car - you name it, he couldn't handle it. And for a very long time, neither could we ...

We learned of course, that Earlybird has autism, and meltdowns out of nowhere are common. They are also, unfortunately, not something he's grown out of - and let me tell you, it's a lot easier to handle the autistic meltdown of a six year old then that of a 16 year old. (Physically AND emotionally!) Thankfully though, we have learned how to help him through these challenging times and, perhaps just as important, we've learned how to make it through these tough times ourselves. Years later we have wonderful therapists working with EB and showing us the way. One of the techniques they began with him quite early on was breathing ...

So when EB is upset - afraid, mad, frustrated, whatever emotion is just too big- they encourage him to take deep breaths, for a count of five.

"Take a deep breath, EB. And again ... one, two, three, four, five."

I remember the first time I watched them do this, I thought: Right, I don't think so. That's not gonna work ...

And yet, sure enough ... he calmed down. Maybe just a little, but usually enough to get us to the next step. His attention was diverted, he could hear us again, and he'd become more aware as he slowed down his over-taxed heart.

Over time, Earlybird has learned to employ this strategy on his own. Often we have to prompt him, but now and then I'll hear him, if he's frustrated by something, muttering to himself: "Ok. Just calm down now, and take a deep breath."

How many times have I found myself (perhaps in the very next room) taking those deep breaths along with him ... ?

If I may veer a bit off topic (kind of) for a moment ...

I've been sharing more and more about our autism journey here at the blog and how we've been able to help our son, but I just want to stress that we are nowhere near perfect, nor do we have it all figured out. We take it day by day (or as we often "joke," hour by hour) and try to handle what we can, as we can. We are blessed with tremendous support, and sometimes it feels like we're on a fairly even keel ... but then something happens and we're frantically adjusting our sails once again.

For a long time we floundered, having trouble finding the right kind of therapy for EB. (Whose issues were complicated by the onset of epilepsy at age 12.) In 2014 we finally matched up with a fabulous ABA center and began home-based therapy that has been invaluable for our son. Without question, it has changed his (and our) lives. That said, we have just recently come to the decision to start him on a behavioral med. This was not a decision we took lightly - indeed, we've put it off for as long as we could. But though so much has improved for EB - there have also been some new and significant challenges for EB in the past year. Perhaps hardest of all has been the rise of an anxiety - for lack of a better word - that prevents him from fully exploring the world around him, taking part in his community and maintaining a peace within himself that allows him to benefit from the supports available to him ...

So we talked long and hard with our neurologist (a Boston Children's Hospital Autism Specialist) about this situation and while very supportive of what we've been doing, agreed with our concern that we need to do something more. So we are starting EB out on something mild and at a very low dose ... and in a few weeks we should potentially see some changes. 

So we're nervous, but we're hopeful ... because we're finally doing something, that has helped other children and adults with autism. We can only pray it will help our boy, too. As our doctor warned us, it won't make things perfect, but it will hopefully take the edge off for him and allow him (US) to live more fully.

If we can find a little more calm in our household I think all of us will BREATHE a little easier! β€

My friends, I hope you all don't mind me sharing this news seemingly out of the blue, but I felt it was important to let people know that this is where we need to go. I know many people reading here also have children on medication, and I am certain it was a decision you also took very seriously. (If you feel called to comment or reach out, I'd love to hear from you.) Throughout our journey we've handled as much as we can and we try, constantly to devise ideas and strategies that help our son with his challenges, but  ... we've come to realize, he needs more help. We need more help.

I will keep you all posted and would be ever so grateful for your prayers!


Well everyone, I am going to be off now, as there are still a few hours before bedtime and I still have a few more To-Dos to take care of! I hope you are all enjoying this lovely Sunday ... blustery and bright here, but at least it's not snowing! As always, I would love to hear from you if you have a moment! Remember, all are welcome to join the MSfG discussion ... archived posts can be found here ... and we're not even halfway through the book! Our next chapter is called, "Healing" and I would love to assign it a date, but I know myself too well, and will just say, it will be soon. Ish. After Easter, for sure - but I will post a "meeting time" when we get started in the new month ... 

So please stay tuned and take care! As always, I thank you sincerely for stopping by ...

See you here again very soon!

My Podcast with Pam!


Good Tuesday morning, my friends! :)

Oh my goodness, I am so excited to share this with you today! And maybe a little nervous too. Well, I was nervous at first, but it was SUCH a fun experience and Pam made me feel so welcome and asked some great questions and as we talked I realized  - we're chatting away here like two old friends! (Who, you know, happen to have just met and live in opposite corners of the country!)


So, what am I rambling on about you all must be wondering? Well, recently I was invited by Pamela Barnhill at Ed Snapshots to chat with her about homeschooling and my family and the file crate and nature study and ... well, all kinds of things! Now, I think I might have talked a little fast - maybe that's a New England thing, or maybe that was the nerves! - but I really had such a lovely time talking with Pam, who is a very gracious hostess. I felt so comfortable and cozy, all settled in with my big cup of tea and Pam on the phone ... I probably could have talked on and on! 

Anyhoo - here is a direct link to the podcast so you can check it out. (If I was tech-savvy I'd link up that neat image above but alas, I am not.) I hope you enjoy our conversation, and if you have a moment, please leave a comment (or question) for Pam or myself!

(Also, if you're new to Pam's Homeschool Podcast series at Ed Snapshots, I urge you to head on over and take a peek (or a listen)! I am just so honored to have been asked to participate in this wonderful community ...)

 Well, enjoy the rest of your day, my friends! Thanks so much for stopping by and I will see you here again very soon!

22 years ... and counting!

In a planner post comment, Barbara mentioned you all might like to see a wedding pic, and since I was just getting them organized on my laptop ... :)

Wedding pic

Here you go!

It's not staged or formal, but it's one of my favorites from that day ... we had just arrived at the reception hall and, as you can see from our faces, we were feeling pretty happy!

Gosh, it's hard to believe that was TWENTY TWO years ago!

And just for fun, here we are last night - in a very different car! - when Bill and I "snuck out" to celebrate our anniversary ... all on our own!

Anniversary dinner date

My mum is so good to us - she came over to watch the boys - cook them supper, see to meds and pajamas and bedtime and all - and Bill and I spent a nice few hours together, riding in his car, driving through old haunts, swinging by the church where we were married and ... oh my gosh, actually sharing complete thoughts!

We culminated the evening with a wonderful dinner at a local restaurant. There was also going to be coffee and window shopping afterwards, but we just decided to get home!

(We're such a couple of old fogies, lol ... )

You know, our day yesterday was so nice - but of course I couldn't help but think about how different things were from 22 years ago. For one thing, we woke up together! And then spent the bulk of our day doing things like washing dishes, and changing diapers, and cooking meals, and raking leaves, and feeding pets and paying bills and bagging up trash ...

Yes, quite different from how we spent that splendid day back in 1993!

But, how grateful we are to be here, together - even more in love if I may say so - and enjoying what we could only envision and hope for back then. God is SO GOOD and I pray He blesses us with another 22 years - PLUS. Because ... this whole "married to your best friend" thing?

Yeah, we kinda dig it.


Thanks so much friends, for always being so nice to stop by and check in - whatever it is I might be chatting about - and goodness knows, from day-to-day, you never know what it might be! (Lots of planner posts lately, and continuing on into next week! And a menu planning post is in the works, too ...) I know most of us have never met in real life, but I deeply appreciate your visits and kind words, and I always remember you all in my prayers ... 

But now I must be off as we are in the midst of a pressure-cooker experiment ... this is only our second time using this amazing contraption! Chicken and tomato rice soup! Nice for a Saturday night supper, I think. 

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, my friends ... see you here again very soon!

Hello, and Happy Friday!

(Flashback) Feline Friday!

Archie and Oliver 1

One of my favorite photographs of "the boys," it was taken when they were very young. And it was recently chosen to appear on a local feline rescue group's annual thank you card!


My friends, I'm sorry to have been MIA for so long ... it's been a very long week of illness here but we finally are on the mend. It was just a cold/cough virus - though a particularly nasty one that felt very much like flu. We were all down and out (even the baby) for a while!

But I'm quite glad to say we are over the worst of it and feeling better every day. Little Bear and Earlybird, who had both been waking throughout the nights (coughing), actually slept very well last night and straight until 6:45 a.m.! What a blessing is truly good sleep! Lots of fluids through the day and extra vitamin C, too.

I have a post in the works answering some of the questions that came up about the housekeeping calendar and I will get that up hopefully this weekend. (I am still loving the calendar but not surprisingly those cards didn't do much for me last week!) I also thought it might be fun to share what my cards next week say ... to give you an idea of how the cards play out in a given week.

So please stay tuned, and as always, thanks for stopping by (and for your patience!). Are any of you celebrating Super Pi Day tomorrow? We'll be having homemade pizza pies for our supper, and perhaps a fruit pie for dessert! :)

Enjoy your Friday, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


Mama at her office

My friends, I am checking in quickly just to say hi and let you know, I am still here! All is fine - I'm just not finding the time I'd like to post this week. Firstly, Bill was quite sick with what turned out to be, thankfully, nothing worse than a middle ear disturbance. (Water in the ear = vertigo + nausea, which, fyi, does not pair well with strenuous activity like say, roof shoveling.) He's doing much better, I'm happy to report. :) And today we had Earlybird's neurology appointment, which is always a bit of an ordeal. EB is not one for doctor appointments - or long rides into Boston! - but I am happy to say it went very well. My dad accompanied us (taking the edge off and providing EB with comfort and support) and my mum was here to babysit the little guy so we didn't have to drag him in with us. Crackerjack was a huge help to her on that front! So EB checked out fine and was so well behaved at his appt. ... and it just feels so good to have it behind us! As for the weather, we haven't had a lot of snow this week (relatively speaking ) but the temps have been extremely low and we're readying for more snow followed by rain - this weekend. New Englanders are being warned to remove snow from our rooftops (in fear of roof collapse) ... so there's the weekend project!

Goodness, I don't mean to sound like I'm complaining, I just wanted to explain why this week has been a little "off" and it's been difficult to find time to post. I am working on a rather large (ok, very large) post about my new cleaning calendar ... and I really want to post that one next. So once I finish that up (nearly there now!) I'll be back. In the meantime, wishing you all a very nice weekend ...

I will see you here again very soon!

p.s. Photo of "Mama in Her Office with Her Trusty Assistant" by Bill.


Our Earlybird's 13th Birthday!

Paparileybday 5

It's hard to believe, but the little boy who was just four when I started this blog, is now 13 years old! Earlybird shares his birthday with my dad, and so we always celebrate these two special guys together. On Sunday we had a lovely brunch and I thought you might like to see how we celebrated this happy day.


First of all, up top is the "snowy marshmallow mountain" cake I made for our two train buffs. My dad is a model railroader and Earlybird has loved trains since he was tiny. He loves them as much as - if not more than! - the planets! As most of you know, our EB is autistic, so while he may be 13 in physical age, he's developmentally much younger. So even at this milestone birthday, it's hard for me to say - "Oh my goodness, my boy is a teenager!" - because really, he's not. He'll get there someday, I know he will ... but this is not that day. And that's OK - I pray to God daily that it will be. 

You all know this is a positive place. And I don't mean to sugarcoat things, because parenting a special needs child is very hard at times. (Many of you understand that, I know.) But I mostly try to share how joyous our life is with EB ... how well he does in certain areas. We struggle with many things, though - make no mistake about that. It's easy (easier) to be home in our comfort zone, working together on simple projects - baking, crafting, playing, asking and answering, observing - and learning about life at his speed. But things like outings, restaurants, road trips, community events, church and parties - not to mention doctor's appointments and testing and meltdowns and rigidity and extreme emotional behavior is not. The list of things he (we) struggle with is long, but we take it all day by day (and sometimes hour by hour).

It's hard sometimes not to wish things were different, but what I try to focus on is that we love him, dearly, for all he is right this minute. And for all that is inside him even when he can't get it out. We try not to worry about where he's not - but we work on addressing his challenges while cherishing all of his strengths.


Ok, enough of the heavy - on to the pictures!

Paparileybday 15

 Getting ready to make wishes! As you can see, EB is a bit apprehensive. He does not like the "Happy Birthday" song (we have to promise not to sing) and only recenly became comfortable with the candles.

Paparileybday 6

Here I am with my dad, who is so important to me - to all of us. He jokes that it's no longer his birthday - that he's given it to Earlybird, but I am so grateful to celebrate both of them together. Every year is a blessing.

Paparileybday 2

My brother making funny faces at Little Bear. (With a half-decorated tree in the background!)

Paparileybday 1

Three of my best guys - Crackerjack, Little Bear and Bill. Bookworm is in his finals week at BC -  we'll have him home for break later this week! (There may have to be another cake ...)

Paparileybday 3

The boys gave their Papa a "Papa Bear" mug for his coffee. So cute! :)


And for Earlybird - some dvd's, a book, a Monster Truck, a terrarium kit and this jacket - a gift from my folks and us. He can't stand wearing zippers so we're always on the lookout for a "button-up" (or snap-front) coat. This one will do nicely - thank you, LL Bean!

Having family support makes such a huge difference - not just in the life of a special needs person, but to his immediate family as well. We are so grateful for our support system, and that we never feel alone on our path. This was a lovely day, a memory to treasure - certainly not perfect, but really and truly good.

And remember yesterday's post? I count it all joy.


Enjoy your Tuesday, my friends - thanks so much for stopping by!

HELLO! My Name Is ...

But first:

Happy Thursday, my friends!


And I'm happy to say, I am writing this post using my very own laptop! Which means that it is finally back in action and I feel like I can breathe again! Lol, first world problems, right? Honestly, there was a bit of a "free" feeling not having the (all too) easy access to the internet to begin with, but that got old, real fast. And not only is my laptop restored, but it seems *knock on wood* we have all our old pictures still intact!

Anyhoo ...

I thought I'd take a few minutes of your time (if I may) to re-introduce myself and my family. I know many of you have been reading here for several years but there are (happily) always new readers and I shouldn't presume you all know what (or whom) I'm chatting about!

So, to begin with, I am Dawn, a 45 year old wife to Bill and mama to four boys, ranging in age from 19 years to 17 months! We live in a suburb of Boston, and have been homeschooling since our oldest was five, which - wow - is 14 years now! That hardly seems possible ...

I've been a stay-at-home mom from the get-go. Before I was married, I was an assistant editor at a small Boston-area newspaper and had lots of fun writing articles about food, families and holidays. Once Bill and I were married I gave freelancing a shot, but then motherhood took over and I've never looked back! I've been very fortunate to be able to stay home all these years. Living on one income is not always easy - as many of you know! - but we've done what we had to (and had lots of support) to make it possible.

I enjoy reading (on my own and TO my kids), writing/blogging, journaling, photography, crafting, baking and all things "organization." Not that I'm the most organized person you'll meet, lol. Hardly! I just love caring for my home and family (honestly, this "job" is a blessing) and trying to find ways to make it all work! I also love the rhythm of the year and all of the seasons - both natural and liturgical - and observing them with my family in everyday (and big day) ways. I would love to write a book some day ... if I ever find the time!

I have a weakness for magazines and library books, coffee and comfort food, calendars and pretty paper. I don't watch a lot of tv, but I love the Today Show and PBS and Patriots football. I'm on Facebook quite a bit and recently I found (and fell for) Pinterest. I also love our two cats, red squirrels, red foxes, songbirds, and though I'd love to visit many other places in the world, I'll always be grateful I live in New England! The winters may be fierce, and the summers dang hot, but I love experiencing all four seasons so distinctly.

Ok, that's enough about me - now here's a bit about my boys!

Bookworm, our oldest son, is 19 and a sophomore at Boston College. He is a Computer Science major/Math minor and is enjoying his college experience very much! He comes home on weekends quite often so we get to see him and he gets some home cooked meals, laundry "services" lol and quiet(ish) study time. He's also able to stay connected with his brothers, including the (quickly) growing baby which has been very nice for us all. He loves gaming and reading and photography - though he doesn't have as much time for those things these days!

Crackerjack is 15 and a (homeschooled) high school sophomore. This year he is taking several "outside" classes - and by that I mean, in small groups of homeschooled teens who meet with a tutor. His classes include Chemistry, World History, World Literature, Spanish I and Art. At home he is working on Algebra and Composition. His course load is a heavy one but he's adjusting pretty well. CJ is thinking very seriously about art school (and has been for years) so we'll start investigating that option soon. He is also in his final year of Confirmation prep at our church ... he'll make this Sacrament next fall.

Earlybird will be 13 (!) next month! He is our very sweet special-needs boy. He is autistic, developmentally delayed and, as of last year, epileptic. He is on medication to control the seizures as well as a vitamin supplement to help with the side effects of that med. We are having him re-evaluated this year to see where he's at and what more we can do for him (outside the home). He is (we are) enjoying his home education so much. At home we are able to work at his speed (which varies day by day, hour by hour!) and with his sensitivities (which also fluctuate). We build our learning activities around his interests and into real-life experiences whenver possible, as this almost always makes concepts more meaningful to him. For instance, this year we are learning American history through a multi-subject study of the railroads (he is a huge train buff, just like his Papa). Science right now is all about tunnels and earth engineering - rocks, landforms, soil. We listen to audiobooks and jump down rabbit holes to explore subjects like crickets (last month) and burrowing animals (this month). Life skils is perhaps our most important subject and that's something we work on every day, all day. I can blog more about EB's "learning adventures" at a later date if anyone is interested.

And then finally, we have our littlest man, our Little Bear ... who will be 18 months old on Thanksgiving Day! My how time has flown - it seems I was just announcing my pregnancy here at the blog. As you might know (or can guess) LB was our very happy surprise - a true gift from God who knew better than we what our family should look like. I thank Him every single day for entrusting us with one more little soul! 

Little Bear is a very active little boy these days - running and climbing and playing all day - especially with trucks! But for as active as LB is, he loves to slow down, climb up in his Mama or Daddy's lap and read books, and I am so grateful for that. Not just for the time spent sitting down (rather than running behind!) but for the fact I have another "reader" to raise on all these wonderful books we've gathered through the years! He's also my little nature boy (another particular joy for me) who loves nothing better than being outside "puttering" about - picking up sticks, rocks and leaves. He adores his big brothers and he in turn is doted on as the little prince. :)


Well my friends, I have kept you long enough, so I will wrap up and let you go! I didn't mean to go on so long but you know how I get when talking about my favorite subjects ...

Now, I would LOVE to hear from you, if you have a moment to say HELLO! Tell me as much or as little as you'd like ... how you found your way here, what you'd like me to blog about, prayer requests if you have them ... and I always love to hear about weather around the world! (Rainy and raw here today.) I am always eager to "greet" friends old and new here!

In the meantime, thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to read. I hope you and yours are all doing well, and enjoying these early days of November ... 

Take care, and see you here again very soon!

A New Year's Eve Note ...

Floral banner

Dear Friends,

On this quiet and bitterly cold New Year's Eve, I'm taking a look back at how my life changed over the past year. 2013 was quite a year for my family!


On January 1st, I began the year unexpectedly, but joyfully, pregnant ...

And a couple of weeks later I turned 44!

With our help, Bookworm navigated his college applications (no mean feat for a homeschooler!) and anxiously awaited replies ...

MIT said no (rats!) but Boston College said yes - hooray!

Go Eagles!

We welcomed our precious Little Bear at the end of May ...

Making me the proud mother of four boys!

In early June, Bookworm made his high school (homeschool) graduation.

One down, three to go!

In late June, on what felt like the hottest summer days ever, we moved into a new home and a new town ...

Two days later we discovered our dear cat had a serious and mysterious puncture wound in his belly.

Archie miraculously survived!

One July day we attended college orientation with Bookworm - and that night I came down with mastitis only to break a toe the next morning!


In September we moved Bookworm into a dorm at BC ...

And Crackerjack began his first year as a (homeschooled) high schooler.

How time has flown ...

In October we sold our old house.

A bittersweet moment, happy though we are in our new home.

In November Earlybird had a frightening seizure and a new reality set in ...

We're still trying to get a handle on all that ...

In December Bill's father was diagnosed with cancer, and prepared for chemo before the end of the year.

This still doesn't seem real ... prayers are so appreciated.

By Advent, I was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, but actively sought out peace and joy through mindfulness and prayer. With family and friends by our side, we had a truly wonderful Christmas.


Our year was filled with so many changes - sometimes it was hard to keep up! But with support from those who love us, we embraced - or at least handled - all those changes.

The best change of all is that on this New Year's Eve, we are now a family of SIX rather than FIVE, and for that I am truly grateful. My greatest joy in life is in motherhood and to be honored with it one more time? To be entrusted with the care of one more precious soul? I feel like the luckiest woman alive ... 


My friends, the gift of another year lies ahead ... let's be grateful for our blessings, hold each other up through our challenges and rejoice in all the possibilities!

Wishing you all a very Happy & Healthy New Year ... May God's Love touch your life and fill your heart with the comfort you need and the peace you desire ...

With Much Love,

~ Dawn

a new day

Sunrise through cedars 2

On any other morning this would be just another sunrise, but this morning it feels special to me. Because I watched it from the family room with Earlybird by my side, and boy, was it extra glorious.

Yesterday I watched the sun rise over the highway as we drove from one hospital to another. Though my thoughts were not so much on the sunrise - striking as it was - but on my dear little boy who was somewhere further up the road in the back of an ambulance. A reality I could hardy wrap my head around.

And so as you can imagine I am deeply grateful to be here this morning with my Earlybird, watching the sunrise, making our biscuits and eggs, running down the drive to get the paper. Doing all those things that are too easy to take for granted, simple things we do every day ... but in light of yesterday's traumatic events, I'm relishing them all the more.

Thank you all SO much for your prayers and messages of love and concern - they mean the world to me, honestly. Last night I was up with Little Bear around 2 a.m. and when he wouldn't settle easily, my mind started wandering ... my ears were pricking for sounds/silence from EB's room ... and my nerves began fraying just a little. To distract myself, I opened up my blog and read through your comments ... and my friends, your words soothed me, your prayers lifted and calmed me.

Bill and I are blessed to have such a support system around us - beginning with each other and extending to our boys, our family and friends and yes, to my dear readers, too. I don't know how we'd be as able and mindful as we are without all this support - on any given day, but especially at times like this.

 I will definitely be posting updates as we go along and as life gets back to normal. We're waiting to hear from the neurologist (hopefully today) about setting up testing for EB. I'm so eager to get that underway, and see what we can find out.

In the meantime, thank you for keeping our Earlybird in your prayers ... be assured that I remember you all in my own.

Blessings, all ... see you here again very soon.


Prayers, Please, for Earlybird

My friends, this afternoon I am counting my blessings after an absolutely harrowing morning ... and I am asking for your prayers.

Earlybird had a seizure at 3 a.m. - he fell out of bed and was completely unresponsive. At first we had no idea what was wrong but they were without a doubt, the scariest moments of my life. We called 911, and he was taken by ambulance first to a local hospital and then into Children's in Boston. Everyone who worked with him/us was wonderful. So caring and kind. 

Bottom line - he's OK and we're home. There are no effects from the seizure, and he is 100% himself (and was good as GOLD throughout all of this) but we are having further testing done asap: an e.e.g. as well as an MRI. Those will come in the next week or so. I would so appreciate your prayers as we try to figure this all out and hope he has no further episodes ... he's never had anything like this happen before.


Thank you, God, for hearing my fervent and frenzied prayers this morning ... for comforting me and giving me strength to focus and "keep it together." For my husband who rode with EB and took charge of the hospitalization. For my folks who came immediately to be with us, and support us, in whatever way we needed ... and for our Crackerjack who was such a big help - especially with Little Bear.

Most of all, thank you God for our beautiful, brave and sweet Earlybird. For that dear boy who thanked every doctor and nurse who poked, prodded and queried him. Who waited patiently for hours in a tiny exam room ... and who is sitting at his computer right now, with his snacks and his comic books, just so pleased to be home. Please continue to watch over our dear son ... as well as all his brothers.


I'll of course keep you all posted, and thank you in advance for your prayers!

8 Random Things

Recently, I was asked by a friend to share 8 random things about myself. I thought it might be fun to post them here at my blog ...

Thanks for the tag, Wendy!


(If you have time, please feel free to share some random things about yourself in the comments below!)

1. My middle name was Michelle, but when I got married I officially changed it to my maiden name. 

2. I was an early education major when I started college (I wanted to be a nursery school teacher) but switched to English in my sophomore year.

3. I can say/sing the alphabet backwards really quickly - thanks to my 1st grade teacher.

4. I haven't worked - for pay Winking - since 1995. I was a newspaper writer/assistant editor before becoming a full-time mom. I'm very thankful we've been able to do this; living on one income is not always easy.

5. One of my ancestors came over on the second Mayflower.

6. I'm severely allergic to almost all antibiotics. This was discovered when I had pneumonia a few years ago.

7. I've never been to NYC and it's a dream of mine to stand outside the Today Show in Rockefeller Center with a sign and a cup of Dean & Deluca coffee. 

8. I have an irrational fear of bears. (Irrational, because I never put myself in situations where I might run into bears.)


(Bonus random fact: I did my list in my favorite colors.)

Hope you're all enjoying the weekend! See you here again sometime soon ...

Home Sweet (New) Home ...

Peony 1

Good Monday Morning, my friends!

So ... I've thrown a lot of "big" news at you recently ... a pregnancy, a college decision, a blessed birth and a homeschool graduation ...

Well, here's yet another bit of "life-changing" news, something I've kept under wraps for a couple of months now:

We've moved!

Yes, as you may have guessed from my post title, last week we moved to a new house and a new town! And since this move may seem a bit out of left field, let me tell you how it all came to be ...

When we found out we were expecting our fourth child last October, we took a look around our 3-bedroom house and did some simple math ... we "simply" did not have the room for our impending family expansion!

So we started discussing our options: move to a new house or add on to the one we already had. Our first choice at that time was to add on, because we were really happy with our home and location. I think you all know from my blog just how much joy our home gave us!

Well, I waited to tell you all about the building project, because I wanted to be sure it was really happening. And it was taking a really long time to get off the ground - working through plans, estimates and measurements etc. - but before any building actually started (and before any contracts were signed) the project stalled out. Too many major issues came up (for example, a town sewer line would be in the way of the new foundation) that turned the project into something much more complicated and hugely expensive - as in, the original estimate was doubled! It became clear we just could not add on in a financially repsonsible way.

So ... more discussions ensued, and we finally decided this April to look into moving instead.

(Let me just say, this decision was not made lightly, nor without tears on my part - remember, I was pregnant and hormonal these past several months!)

We had a very specific list of "requirements" in regard to the location and setting, etc. and after a very short search we stumbled upon a house we absolutely loved. Honestly, from the moment we drove up for the initial showing, I was filled with a feeling of home. A brand new listing, it met all our requirements and then some ... and most importantly, it just felt right.

And here we are, two months later, all (or mostly) moved in!

Now, I'm sure over time, you will come to "visit" the various corners of our new home, but for today I'll share just a couple of pictures. Considering how important it was to us at our old house, I bet you are wondering where our new learning room will be ...

New learning room 4

New learning room 7

New learning room 6

This is a sunroom located off the back of the house (off the family room), and as you can see it is filled with windows just like our old learning room. It looks out to the backyard and faces the southern sky, so it's a very sunny and airy room. I can't wait to get it all set up!

As for nature study, another big part of our home-learning space ...

Hawk in tree 4

This is the sight that greeted us this morning as Earlybird and I walked down to the mailbox to pick up our paper. He or she is without a doubt the largest hawk I've ever seen! 

Our two acres here are even woodsier than our old home's 1/4-acre setting, and I expect we'll have a lot of fun acquainting ourselves with the flora and fauna that inhabit our new surroundings. So far, in the past three days we've been here, I've seen a red squirrel, chipmunks, the aforementioned hawk ... a cardinal pair, hummingbird, nuthatch and last night I heard an owl.

Oh, and our neighbors have chickens and a rooster, goats and a horse!


So stay tuned for more on the learning room as well as the rest of the house. We're still unpacking and settling in ... so my posting may be a bit light for a time. But I wanted to let you all know what was going on with us and explain why the background of my pictures will look decidedly different from here on out!


Happy Summer, everyone and Happy Monday, too. Enjoy your new week and we'll touch base again soon!

At Boston College ~ Admitted Eagles Day

I'm afraid there will be no MM this morning - I was out like a light very early last night! And that was because we spent most of our Sunday touring Boston College, taking part in "Admitted Eagles Day." It was an absolutely lovely spring day - typical of April in these parts. I thought you might like to see some of the pictures I took ...

Bc visit 1

(I didn't actually take this one - a BC student took it for us.)

This is me, Bookworm, Bill (holding my backpack, lol) and Crackerjack, standing in front of St. Inagtius of Loyola Catholic Church.

Bc 3

The B.C. Eagle.

Bc 4

Note Crackerjack's hood ~ the air was a might chilly early in the morning!

Bc 1

This is Fulton Hall, where Bill and Bookworm learned about B.C.'s math program (math is his intended major) and to which BW and I later returned for the computer science presentation (his potential minor).

Bc 8

(For what it's worth, CJ was advised to wear something warmer than a hoodie but he assured us he'd be "fine.")

Bc 9

This is a cool spot inside Fulton Hall - a glass cathedral ceiling and huge hanging tin lanterns.

Bc 6

The campus architecture is stunning - most of the buildings look quite medieval.

Bc 19

Bc 13

Bc 15

School motto engraved on this feature: Ever to Excel

Bc 14

 Bc 11

Bc 20

An impressive statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Jesuit order (Boston College is one of the country's oldest Jesuit universities).


So we have come down to two schools - Boston College and Gordon College - both wonderful opportunities for Bookworm, and both fit him well in different ways. We have much to talk about, think about and pray over this week, as a decision (and deposit) is expected very soon. May I ask for your prayers towards our discernment?

While I'm here I wanted to also let you know that my blogging will we be brief for the next several weeks. We have lots going on, and I'm really slowing down as I near my due date. (I'm at 35 weeks today.) I will still pop in now and again, but I didn't want anyone to worry if I'm quiet for days at a stretch. We will, of course, be announcing our big news here just as soon as we're able!

Blessings to you all on this beautiful spring Monday ~ see you here again sometime soon!