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.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Apple Orchard

Wouldn't you know, but the time the 90-degree weather finally gave up, the apples were finished and picked already! We almost didn't get to go to this sweet orchard recommended by a friend. But the very kind owner let us come anyway to picnic and see the animals. We were lucky to find a few small red apples left on one tree! Just enough to make it seem like fall at last. Here are some pictures from our day!



I wish I had taken more pictures - it was a lovely, fun day. We will be sure to put Hidden Hollow Orchard on our schedule for next year, and hope lots of our friends will visit too. Good people there. Now, bonus points if anyone can tell me what kind of bush/tree this is. It was gorgeous!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Commonplace Collection: Giving

Do you have a Commonplace Book? A place to write bits and pieces of what you've read and would like to remember? I have long recorded snippets of fiction and non-fiction alike, but I have only recently realized that historically speaking, such journals are called Commonplace Books. For centuries these personal collections have played a significant role in the way scholars read, learn, and remember. They paint a beautiful picture of an individual's growth over time- of his or her personal journey... I'd like to share a bit from my own Commonplace Book - might you allow me a peek into yours? (From Sarah at Amongst Lovely Things)

Here is a quote that has resonated strongly with me these last months in my efforts to make sense out of the ups and downs of life. I like to think of it in a spiritual context.

"I would like to believe when I die that I have given myself away like a tree that sows seeds every spring and never counts the loss, because it is not loss, it is adding to future life. It's the tree's way of being. Strongly rooted perhaps, but spilling out its treasure on the wind." Mary Sarton

Learning Space

Nothing like a perfectionist to have to rearrange the whole house in order to get one room in shape! I had to make room for the toys that were cluttering this space, so I pulled all of my Christmas stuff out of the closet, moved that upstairs, moved the toys into the closet, cleaned out some cabinets to make room for the craft stuff that was also in the closet, moved my photo boxes to another room... you get the idea... Humorously, after all that, the only logistical change I really made from last year was to rotate the table 90 degrees so that we have more linear space to work at.

This is essentially our 3rd bedroom. It's the front room of the house so I think it would make an awkward bedroom anyway, what with the front door in there and all. (The door is not ever used as an entrance.) Unfortunately the room is painted pink - why, I just can't figure out - and we can't change it. At least it is light and bright and has plenty of natural light pouring in! Very important to me.

I always have the window blinds open during the day, but the door has to stay shut or "people" would get out! Here is the opposite view, with me standing in the doorway looking in toward the interior hall.

My cabinets are next to the stairs (to the right of the bookshelf above) which go up to a little room that we use only for storage, since it is not climate controlled. Frankly, this room isn't well climate-controlled in winter, either. We didn't even use it in January and February last year, so I hope we can come up with a working solution this year. Back to the cabinets: some school supplies are in there, but also my crafting supplies and all of my home decor stuff as well. I'm thankful for the doors; it's not so pretty inside!

I added some seasonal border to the shelves just for fun.

My file corner with activities to keep Molly out of trouble. Yeah, right.

New this year - a little white board for all kinds of fun things, but especially for illustrating things I want to show both older kids at once.

Supply boxes for the boys:

My beloved apple bucket that I found with no tag on it at WalMart. The manager asked me what I wanted to pay for it so I said "a dollar!" Are we noticing a pattern here??

Our most diligent scholars enjoying some table time:

Or windowsill time, I suppose.

Let's be honest with each other though. You all know this is what it really looks like when not staged for the photo shoot. Right?

I thought you would understand.

On my wish list: A globe, a history timeline, and some comfy cushions or beanbag chairs to make a reading corner by the window.

Now you know where we are hanging out most afternoons. Thanks for visiting our learning corner!!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Note To Self...

...always shop at the dollar store before heading to the Teacher Supply Superstore!

Our learning room is stylin' with these Fall leaf garlands.

Wall posters: Telling Time and US Map.

Cool math facts slide-y things to play with:

and a geography facts "Spin & Learn" with each state's capital, flower and bird.

For fun, some autumn window clings and a package of 14 harvest border pieces (about 20 feet).

I even got myself some giant calendars to fill in.

All from the Dollar Tree, where everything really IS a dollar! I was really thankful, only to top that deal the next day by ending up at a yard sale as they were cleaning up (occasionally, it pays to sleep late!) They GAVE us everything we wanted from the kids' toys and games that were left, so I scored several math games and learning activities from Discovery Toys, for free. Someone was looking out for me! I have bigger dreams for our learning materials than my budget allows for, so it feels like a blessing straight from God when I have a weekend this good. And of course, it strokes my inner cheapskate at the same time.

I'll have a picture of the whole space next time. We are having a lot of fun pulling it all together.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Simplicity Parenting

I feel like I'm the last person in my (blog) circle to read this book! But I'm glad I finally did, because while I thought we had a pretty simple lifestyle and attitude regarding childrearing, I got a fresh perspective on several issues that had never even occurred to me. Additionally, some principles we know intuitively, but may have neglected to consider consciously. Sometimes, too, we just need a kick in the pants to take action and make some things happen in our own households. Simplicity Parenting gave me something at each level.

In a nutshell, Simplicity Parenting is about why and how we should de-toxify the atmosphere in which our children grow and develop. Frankly, I was expecting some warmed-over version of decluttering advice I'd heard before. But for someone who picked up the book with an attitude of "I already know this", it was a nice surprise to be challenged to think in terms of much more than clearing out the toybox.

Many parents may already sense that kids are overwhelmed with "stuff" and over-scheduled with too many activities for healthy development. These ideas aren't really new, but the way Simplicity Parenting addresses the causes and effects is uniquely compelling.  The author's section on environment focuses on physical surroundings, with wonderful tips for reducing not only toys, but clothes. books and other good things that are simply lost in the shuffle. The chapter on scheduling offers anecdotes from real families who creatively tailored a balance of outside or family activities to nurture, instead of drain, their childrens' reserves.

The most eye-opening, thought-provoking chapters for me touch on the need for  rhythm and filtering the adult world. Many parents may not think of ways they might reduce the choices children need to make, or the conversations dealing with adult topics which might be overheard. We are wise to ponder what media input our kids are experiencing, even indirectly, or how much predictable, comfortable routine they can depend on. So many small things go into the overload of today's childhood, resulting in needless anxiety and its associated disorders. The key for parents is making conscious decisions on these issues for the good of our children, with an eye toward life-long security and confidence. Giving them the tools to create this balance for themselves as they mature is icing on the cake.

If I thought I had nothing to learn from this book, since we don't have many outside commitments or a typically stressful two-income household, I was wrong! Every paragraph was loaded with food for thought. There are many areas of family life which I had not consciously considered before, and it was a blessing to have them brought to my attention. Kim John Payne writes in an extremely inoffensive, refreshing style. No matter how far I might be from the ideals offered in his pages, I didn't feel guilty - just inspired to work harder to make some changes. So many of his methods allow for "baby steps" that anyone might implement in family life. He stresses the importance of adjusting for the particular circumstances of the individual family, noting that even small changes are a step towards more peace in our children's lives. As a slightly unorthodox family in terms of schedules and habits, it was nice to be offered such flexibility, and not to be pigeon-holed into a one-size-fits-all solution.

It's my belief that any family will find Simplicity Parenting thought-provoking and genuinely refreshing. I'm so glad I finally took the time to request it from the library and see what all the buzz was about. It was definitely worth my time!

Monday, September 13, 2010

End of Summer

The scorching weather finally broke, and we have been outside at every opportunity! Weekends packed with fun outings and weeknights weary from slanting sunlight and fresh air add up to very little blogging lately. I know it's been too slow when my husband demands some new reading from me! Sorry, honey... and everyone else.

Here's a peek at what the last few weeks have brought.

A summer rainstorm creates irresistible puddles for jumping in:

Benjamin gets a new bike as an early birthday present from Grandma and Grandpa! By November, it will be nearly winter, so they decided to let him enjoy it for the fall months. Molly also got a snazzy trike. Everyone is riding in fine style this year.

Molly has a new friend: Build-A-Bear pal "Rosie" arrived from Aunt Donna in California. All girly and a perfect buddy for a new 2-year-old.

In early September we went down to the riverfront for WorldFest - a cultural extravaganza celebrating every corner of the globe! We saw these flamenco dancers, as well as African dancers, a drum corp, and a Latin band.

The food was amazing - we could have eaten all day long - but we "only" sampled Cuban, Jamaican, and Italian. We also visited booths selling handicrafts from everywhere in the world. What a treat to see the beautiful creations of so many diverse peoples! We are going to have to save money for next year and arrive earlier in the day to do it justice.

Being right on the riverfront on one of the most gorgeous days of the year was spectacular. The incredible views woke up my inner photographer! Wish I could have taken lots more shots, but juggling kids and camera was a little distracting.

We paid a visit to "George Rogers Clark" (of Lewis and Clark fame) and then loaded some tired kiddos back in the van to return to our American way of life. Fun, fun.

Wow, I'm tired just remembering that day!

Back at home we are working back into a Fall routine with relaxed studies, group activities and lots of outdoor time. Our learning space has been overhauled, although I am still tweaking in there... post to come on that, one of these days. Fall makes me want to clean, organize and decorate, although a lot more happens in my head than in real life, truthfully. The kids dragged out all of my autumn decor while I was on the phone one day, so I had to immediately put it all up. I guess having impatient kids is a good antidote to my natural inclination to procrastinate. At least we can enjoy it for a full 3 months this way!

No one is happier to see the end of summer than I am. I love the sights, smells and activities that come with harvest time, the crisp, energizing weather, and the anticipation building up to the holiday season. Happy Fall, ya'll!!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dirt 101

As everyone seems to be heading inside to school, we are almost giddy to get outside, what with the (slightly) cooler September weather. Note to self: Next year, choose all educational materials in April and be ready with lots of indoor studies and activities for July and August. What an over-abundance of good indoor time we had this summer!! Now that September and October are upon us, the last thing we want is to be holed up in the house even more. So, out we go.

For her birthday, Molly received the most darling little gardening tote from her grandma-with-the-green-thumb, complete with hat, gardening gloves, pail and shovel. She adores it - and, loving dirt as much as the next kid, she loves to get out in the garden and use her tools.


Now, you may have noticed that the owners of the house keep the yard manicured to almost park-like standards - so much that when we go out walking in the neighborhood, the boys will say things like, "Look, Mom!! A stick! Can we bring it home?" Yes, it is that bad. So it can be a little tricky to allow them to dig up Paradise. At the same time, I simply can't bring myself to get between a boy with a shovel and his patch of dirt. It's such a necessary part of childhood.

So, into the (manicured, mulched) garden we went today. And boy, can those kids dig! I thought that they might make a few holes, but it started to look like an excavation site for something like a football arena or a mega-hotel. Need a few yards of dirt moved? Hand a kid a shovel!

They buried things in the dirt and then dug them up again. They dug up some tree roots and then tried to "follow" them to the tree, which I had to stop in order to save the yard. A few grubs and worms were unearthed. That was just in the first 20 minutes. Then, Phase II, experimentation.

The drive to experiment seems to necessitate that environments will inevitably be mixed. What I mean is: why do you have to put dirt in every conceivable location? To see what it will look like? Dirt on the patio. (Nooo!)
Dirt on the bikes. (Ewww!) On the toddler slide. (Uh uh.) You see where this goes. My gentle admonitions took on a few more decibels  as I tried to keep it off people's heads and out of the house.

Then, someone added water!! Mud!! Joy, rapture, every child's dream!

Once this happened, many more adventures ensued. Some decibels were added yet again. Eventually, everyone landed in the bath, which boasted a nice deposit of dirt of its own when we were through. I almost brought in the shovel for that, too. But instead I went outside and tried to make things look sort of nice again... until next time.

There will be lots of "next times" in the months ahead. It's a long time until winter in Kentucky. Fall is my favorite season and it's almost impossible for me to stay indoors on beautiful days. In spite of my natural urge to keep things somewhat clean and neat (read: under control), I get great satisfaction from knowing that the kids have spent the afternoon in the dirt. I hope that love and respect for nature grows deep into their souls and brings them joy and awe, not only during childhood, but all of their lives.