Follow our family's journey as we seek to nourish our souls with music and literature, good company, great cooking, time spent in nature, and always, the love of Christ especially through the sacraments of His Church.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Turning Two

Yesterday was a wonderful day of remembering and thanksgiving for me - remembering Molly's blessed arrival, and giving thanks for the joy she has brought to our family! I didn't know just what a special treasure a baby daughter could be, and I have loved every moment of her... Happy birthday to my lil' Molly Rose!  Being your Mama has been one of the greatest gifts of my life, and I praise God for the blessing that you are. You are so loved by your Mama, Daddy, and those big brothers. May God bless you, sweet girl.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Tooth In The News

Benjamin just discovered his first loose tooth. As in everything, he is completely obsessed. I'm laughing this time, though. This is what I'm hearing.

"Pull it out, Mom! Pull it out!"

It needs to get looser, honey, it would really hurt.

"I don't care, Mom, just pull it out!"

To say the boy is motivated by money would be an understatement. For my own sanity, I hope it comes out soon.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cozy At Home Daybook

I am hearing... Mary Poppins on video, playing in the living room.

Outside my window... Dark, moonlit, warm and breezy

Around the house... Oh boy. I realize the clutter won't go away by itself and needs regular attacking. I get one spot cleared and 3 more pop up in its place! The kids' pillows are spread on the floor for TV watching. Benjamin has scraps of wood and tools around where he is "building". Some toys are out, but will be picked up for bedtime. Several big boxes ("playhouses") have been exiled to the back bedroom just so I can see some clear floor area. I am tempted to add them to the trash pile for tomorrow, but the kids have so much fun with them, I may let them stay another week or so. I wish we had a basement or attic or somewhere that the kids could keep this stuff as my chaos tolerance is low and the only place they play is right in the middle of it all, the "great" center of the house which is all one area. In the same space is my computer area, my dining room table stacked with books and catalogs and magazines, and baskets of laundry awaiting my attention. Oh, and the kitchen. Calgon!!!!

In the yard... I had to weed around the patio as the "rain forest" is encroaching on our living space. The weeds went crazy! I pulled them out by handfuls and slowly realized something had a familiar, green, garden-y smell - bean plants! We had played with dried beans outside earlier in the year, and some of them ended up sprouting and growing into huge plants. I only noticed before I pulled the last 2 out, so I left them in to see what they will produce. I am sure they will not be green beans! Maybe pintos? Can't remember what they were... Anyway, I didn't have to worry about my flowers drying up, as Mother Nature has taken good care of them for us. After this week's rain, they are doing great!

From the kitchen... I am planning to make some soft molasses cookies tomorrow. We need something homemade around here. Last week we "ate on" a big pot of beef stew all week... hastening Fall, I guess, but it was nice to have something ready to heat from the fridge. I guess we are getting tired of summer food. This weekend I have to come up with a nice meal that I can share with my friend whose daughter is in the hospital - mama has been eating snack food for 2 weeks already and needs something comforting and nourishing. Pondering what it will be.

Cultivating beauty... This one stumps me every time. Apparently I don't do this much. Nope, can't come up with a single thing other than continuing to clear the horizontal surfaces.

Living the liturgy... I am going to steal my friend Jamie's idea to make a liturgical folder for each month of the school year with a theme, a saint, a song, a prayer and a virtue. At least I will use it for inspiration since I don't know exactly what she has in there (yet). Sounds to me like a perfect solution to keep a disorganized mama like me on track. Here's one of my go-to resources for craft ideas to go with liturgical seasons and feasts: Catholic Icing. Lacey is so clever and fun!

Learning notes... It is summer, but we are no slackers. Well, actually, we are always slackers in the sense of being terribly relaxed... but I really like this time of year for science exploration. We have watched maybe a dozen of the short videos in the series The Way Things Work (from the library), and they always spark lots of interesting discussion. Sometimes it's way over our heads, but that's OK. We are always online looking up answers to questions that come up. I just had to search some photos of London Bridge for Benjamin, who was asking me about iron bars and other complex issues. What I always thought of as London Bridge is really the Tower Bridge (much more impressive) but the history of the former was fascinating. Onward! Tomorrow we are looking for growth rings in tree stumps. Somehow the questions always come up at bedtime so I have to postpone the searching! Or I get curious and do it myself the same night. I try to back it up with library books or any real life materials that might apply. We are reading, reading, reading (too much to list) and I keep sneaking history videos and books in for my own satisfaction. (Darn it, I will produce a history lover somewhere in this family!!) Nice discussion about the settling of America, tonight, so that's a good sign.

The kids this week... Ah, it's all about the bikes lately, and that's good. We are desperate for a change in the weather so we can get out more and exercise till we drop - we all need it. Today was Jeff's birthday, and his parents gifted him a very nice bike they no longer use, so that he can go riding with Brendan. Benjamin is heartbroken that he doesn't yet have a 2-wheel bike, and cried many huge tears and also rudely demanded that we buy him one "on payday", ha. His birthday is in 3 months, but I think he may die of grief before then, what to do??

Last weekend... This time Jeff took the kids to Lowe's for the Build and Grow workshop, where they made bug boxes. Big fun for them, and I got to sleep late with Molly! It was too hot to do anything outside, so we stayed in, and even went to a very late Mass on Sunday evening so that the sun wouldn't cook us while driving. I like that we often  see my brother Michael and his wife Laura when we go there. 

Some plans for the week... Currently trying to decide if and when to put ourselves through the State Fair experience. It starts today, but we have only a couple of nights that could work. And of course, the weather is about to turn blistering hot again (as opposed to just horribly hot, as it continues to be). Jeff and I have always loved State Fair, but as we say frequently now, it's just not the same as it used to be! That's because we have to do all kid stuff, and we don't get to wander around aimlessly in the vendor area for hours. That is not fun with a bunch of small ones. But the kids love the midway and we love watching them love it, so... decisions... We will also be having some kids over to play at some point, since we've been laying low due to germs in the house while Jeff was sick recently. Ready to socialize now! We managed to get to Aunt Katie's for playgroup today and had a lovely visit with lots of friends and cousins. 

Pondering in my heart... exactly how to approach the school year and which materials we will invest in. We use a lot of random things, mostly free, but I feel the need to be more intentional in some areas this year, particularly faith formation. How to be free to learn, but build some structure into the day. How to keep things simple and uncomplicated, yet make the learning environment richer. I'm glutted on food for thought, thanks to the internet, but I keep coming back to the beautiful lifestyle portrayed in my favorite educational book of all time, Real Learning. It's my wavelength!! And I know that its author, Elizabeth Foss, has been moving towards simplicity in her own journey too, so I consider all that I have gleaned from her in the last year or two as well. She makes me think like no one else.  

I am thankful for... A much-needed step forward in Jeff's job, which we have been working toward since the dreaded lay-off 2 years ago. It means some lonely days a couple of times a week, but it's so much easier on him physically and he is so upbeat, wonderful to see. It will give us a little freedom to breathe easier. Thank you, Lord. 

I am praying... for our friends' 17-year-old daughter Sarah, who is in the fight of her life against Burkitt's Lymphoma, undergoing chemo and a long hospitalization. Her courageous and faith-filled family are an inspiration.  

A picture to share... Finally! Two years in the making... hair long enough to put up.

I Think I'm In Love!

Thanks to my sister-in-law Katie, who told me about this wonderful tea. Heaven!

I have been drinking it almost every night before bed, along with the kids (after Katie told me it feels like drinking wine, without the alcohol - sign me up!!!) It really is amazingly mellow and soothing. I promise I am not being paid by Celestial Seasonings. Yet.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Choosing Educational Materials

Now I know a lot of you already have this locked up for the coming school year, but I'm still in the trenches here. I have nothing brilliant to say, really. Just a big vent about how hard this is!!

Before this year I have always pieced together a plan using materials we already had. I have almost all of the materials from when my mom was teaching us, plus lots of things people have given me over the years. It adds up to lots of stuff. I am tired of the random bits and pieces, plus I want to target the kids' individual needs and our unique family goals more particularly. So I have been poring over catalogs, websites and blogs. Such lovely plans and materials! I really enjoyed Sarah's latest plan here.

The world is just filled with wonderful things with which to build an atmosphere of learning. At the same time, I feel that simplicity is key. It's easy to "over-plan", but if you're overwhelmed with stuff, even the good things get lost in the shuffle and everyone burns out. Planning too far ahead is another concern of mine, since we like to change direction as needed. So my goal is a few well-chosen supplies, a simple routine and lots of real life to make it connect.

Wouldn't it be nice if money were no object? But even if that were the case, how would I decide? I have to admit that I go for beauty as well as content. It is so much nicer to hold and use a visually lovely, well-made book with a nice weight and feel. I also look for a layout with plenty of white space for an uncluttered feel, as well as appealing images throughout. Because I am so visual myself, I really pay attention to this part of my quest. It's a little tricky to do from a distance. Unfortunately, when I had the chance to actually handle materials at our local (!!!) homeschool conference in June, I spent all my time gabbing with friends and didn't pay enough attention to the vendor tables. Maybe next year!

Along with beauty, as I mentioned, content is the main concern. I love the internet for reading reviews and hearing the experiences of others. Often, a peek at the inside of the books is available as well - so helpful. I ask opinions of other homeschooling moms I know, particularly if they're gifted or trained in a subject I need. Knowing my kids and what they respond to, it's not too hard to get a feel for what may work for us. I'm looking for: age appropriate, faith-centered, imaginative, non-fluffy and, again, simple. materials. The more literature-based, the better, from my perspective. Stories make information come alive! (And it's just easier on me that way, let's be honest.)

When all is said and done, though, many times it comes down to trial and error. Sometimes, a program may look great on paper but just doesn't work out the way you'd expect. That's when I am thankful for used materials! I always check to see if I can get it for less than new, so it's easier to let it go or pass it on if necessary. And if it's something we love, we can feel good that we got a great deal on it.

Some things I do need, and new, are some higher quality art supplies. Our first two kids are not the least bit artistically inclined, but I'd like to make sure that it's not due to lack of materials. Good materials are just so much more inspiring. It's OK if they don't become great artists, because then all the supplies can be mine and I can play with them as much as I like! Back to the browsing... I hope to share some details before long.

If you are schooling, what are you excited about trying this year??

photo credit

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Normalcy of Pregnancy

Oh Leila, Leila. I love how real you are!! This one is so beautifully expressed, I had to promote it from sidebar to its own post to share the link. Be blessed by her words, my mothering friends! And you might just join me as a fan of "Auntie Leila", a true "Titus 2" woman and mentor to us younger moms. (Bonus: lots of gorgeous pictures from her trip to Ireland!)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


...and by that I mean, above and beyond having a working keyboard again!

I know eight is a pretty mature age for a kid to learn to ride a two-wheeler, but that's what happened with our first-born. He inherited my natural, ahem, "grace", and also loved riding big wheels with his brother, so we didn't start to feel the need to move him up until last year. He finally got the two-wheeler, from his grandparents, for his 8th birthday in June.

Since it's been so hot, we haven't been outside much for practice sessions. Until this weekend. In only a few hours, he mastered the art of balance.

You never saw a prouder kid. He acts like he just grew two feet taller. We couldn't get the smile off his face! And he kept zinging me with funny one-liners as he circled past me in the driveway - words that made me alternately giggle and cringe:

"I think I was made for speed, Mom!"  (aaahhhh....)

"Now I finally understand why some kids never want to come inside." (ha ha ha ha)

"Wow, that was the most fun wreck yet!" (gaaahhh! Obviously we haven't had a bad one yet.)

"Double thumbs up... wink!"    


Monday, August 2, 2010

Spilled Milk...

= a keyboard missing a few important letters. No fun blogging!! I promise to be back as soon as we can repair the damage!