Our New Joy

holy experience

The gift of life is brimming full here this spring. We recently found out that we are to be blessed with baby number 6! Am I ready? everyone keeps asking. Well, are you ever? But we know this is a blessing from God. His timing is perfect even if I would’ve chosen differently. His grace is sufficient even when I may feel overwhelmed. And I know that He promises that there will never be anything beyond what I can bear. He knows my strengths. He gave me children who need exactly what I have to give. He knows my weaknesses. He knows that with each blessing of a child comes visibility of my heart issues and I come running to Him with my vulnerabilities, which is exactly how He designed it. I see the family unit and see example after example of His relationship to us – how He sees us, how He wants to love us, how He only wants what’s best for us, how selfish we are in return, how we completely take for granted ALL He has provided. I see His perfection in our family’s weakness. So I am here today to, again, count my blessings before I am permanently on the couch in full fledged nausea handing out peanut butter spoons for dinner because it is a protein and fat and carbohydrate.

221) New life brimming full.

222) Nausea that means a healthy baby.

223) Morning sickness that doesn’t set in until after lunch allowing me to still school and get a few chores squeezed in.

224) A husband who smiled when I told him.

225) Craving apples.

226) Eating eggs for breakfast and dinner and sometimes a late night snack.

227) Good intentions for prenatal vitamins.

228) Hearing the banter of the kids excitement over boy or girl.

229) Taking communion and wondering whether I can keep it down. (Does it still count if I can’t? *smile*)

230) Realizing my baby is almost one.

231) The beautiful rose that my husband so sweetly bought for me.

232) The husband who can whip up an amazing omellete at 11 PM without complaint.

233) Warm weather for the kids to run in.

234) Making a spring wreath yesterday afternoon.

235) Finally taking down the Christmas wreath.

236) Two garlic shoots that came up unexpectedly from a last minute experiment with store-bought garlic after the last frost date.

237) Hearing my two-year old daughter pray.

238) Hearing the effect her prayers have on the other children.

239) Hearing my six-year old daughter’s prayers maturing unexpectedly.

240) The comfortableness of our house.

241) Brushing with baking soda.

242) A boy drawing his birds.

243) A daughter who wants to imitate her mother.

244) Lennox Easter.

245) A spring garland that’s just perfect that I found free as my husband questioned why we were bringing more junk into the house when we were trying to move it out. But he was wrong.

246) Missing the kids playing “jungle” with this garland and finding missing flowers all over the house!

Happy Spring today everyone!

John James Audubon Study – Part II

Sorry this second part of the post has taken so long to get to. There are a few reasons that is…the first of which is we actually started the study this week so we have been busy with school. The second of which it is nice outside and we have been trying to get the first of garden preparations done.

Now I have split this up into categories to be user-friendly, but we will actually be tackling the study on a much more interest-led-see-where-the-day-brings-us way. I find we actually accomplish more this way because one thing will lead into another. If I just do a “Well, children, this is what we are doing today,” I get accosted with groans and mumbles. I leave those for our formal math-latin-grammar work! Some of the books fit into more then one category but I tried to pick the category we would most be utilizing it as. And you may think that you have some books that you would add to categories as must haves, especially in the Literature section. That may be. I only listed what I had available to me that we already owned or that I could readily find at the library.

Our Bird Shelves


  • Learning the history of who John James Audubon was and what he contributed to America. (History)
  • Learning about naturalists ~ who they are and what they do. (History & Social Studies)
  • Narrations on books read (Reading Comprehension, Assimilation & Logic, Grammar, Writing)

  • Learning about the egg and its development from embryo till birth. (Science)
  • Learning about the feather and how flight works. (Science)
  • Learning Bird Anatomy through 3 part cards Download here for free. (Science)

  • Learning to recognize bird calls and songs. (Science and Music)
  • Learning to identify birds by sight. (Science Classification)
  • Playing our Montessori Bird Puzzle. (Good for the toddlers to do while reading bird books to the older children.)

  • Taking nature walks to practice birding skills and look for treasured feather finds. (Science, Physical Education)
  • Practicing sketching and watercolor/colored pencil techniques with drawing birds and eggs. (Art)
  • Playing with our Audubon stuffed birds (also helps in recognizing bird calls) (Assimilation)

  • Reading poetry and children’s literature about birds and other springtime animals. (Literature & Poetry)
  • Memorizing poetry about birds. (Poetry)
  • Copywork on spring poetry, narrations, original Audubon writing excerpts (Penmanship, Grammar, Poetry & Literature)
  • Listening to our For the Birds CD (Music, Poetry, Science)

John James Audubon History Biographies (all preread to be excellent living books although the first two are my favorites!!!)

Birds (References, Field Guides, Science)

Bird Music

Bird Art & Sketching

The basket that holds our colored pencils and sketchbooks.

Inside our Nature Walk basket.

Other Naturalists (Supplemental Reading or rabbit trails – these are just the ones we happened to see at the library, by no means the only good books on them!)

Literature (have included other spring animals as well for the season of spring)

Foreign Languages ~ French (Audubon was sent over from France to avoid the Napoleonic French War ~ Lily picked up on the French phrases in the biographies we’re reading and wnted to know more)

And, last but never least, our Easter selections. They are included here because we will be reading them alongside this study. It goes perfectly with spring and the egg ~ the renewing of life. And we want our children to know that the only reason we get to enjoy all else is because of this most amazing sacrifice on the cross. Would love to celebrate this more formally with Lent but did not have time to research a book I wanted to put the time or money into. We will do that for next year. Am open to suggestions in the comment box.


Our marbled eggs that the kids love to feel and play with.

Assuaging Screentime Guilt (A 30-Min Blog Challenge Post)

So recently I visited this wonderful ladies site: Steady Mom and found this link: The 30 Minute Blog Challenge that piqued my interest then spoke to my heart. What a challenge it is to balance blogging with real life, especially when you’re trying to live an authentic life of real education with your children. Does blogging even fit in?

Some days I’m not sure. But then, as my dear husband pointed out, we now use all the hundreds (and I do mean hundreds) of random photos I take that my husband always says, “WHY on earth are you taking a picture of that?” and I always reply, “Well, one day I’ll scrapbook that!” This used to drive him CRAZY! I get to scrapbook, even if it is online and digital (although I am still trying to find ways to carve out for the other, tangible way as well but I digress…that is for another post). I am keeping a more accurate journal of our homeschooling journey and my family gets to peek in and see what I am doing whenever they like. But I do, as most of us homeschool mothers tend to find, get hooked on rabbit trails of linking in the world of cyber blogs. There are too many good things out there and not enough time to do them all. I have to be picky. I have to pray for discernment. And, most importantly, I have to limit my screen time just like I do for the kids. What better way then to participate in this challenge…thirty minutes to type, upload, and link then Publish wherever I am. I love it.

So on to my first post challenge ~ What better way to start then talk about a positive effect of screen time for our children? We hear the negative all the time. Here is the upside.

Saturday is our movie night and we picked the Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit DVD series based on the book series after digging out all our books for the spring season. If you’ve never seen this DVD series, I HIGHLY reccommend it! They are classically done to preserve the exact style that Beatrix Potter spent so many years trying to get just right.

Watching the movie led to us reading a biography on her.

The next day I found my darlings huddled up in a special “clubhouse” on the bunkbeds and Lily was “reading” in her special way the whole series to Luc and Lilah.

I grabbed this other book we happened to find at the library and the kids were smitten and spent a good hour pouring over it.

Then they went around the house gathering whatever stuffed animals they could find to act out and play Jemima Puddleduck, Peter Rabbit, Tabitha Twitchet, Mrs. Tiggly Winkle, and other dear, dear characters. It was charming to watch and I was amazed at how much of the day was spent playing and reading this wonderful series. Everyday since Saturday has seen more of the same. Now the books are requested regularly and the animals come out faithfully and find themselves niches and homes all over mine.

So, is screentime bad for our kids? In abundance, yes. Used in exclusion to other play, yes. Not monitered or censored by a caring parent, yes. But sometimes…sometimes it just may lead to an unexpected rabbit trail that you did not see coming and the joy of childhood flourished in your home. And that is why as tempted as I am to dump the TV and the computer permanentally, I don’t. All things used in moderation and with proper handling can yield beautiful thoughts and actions.

And to all you other mother bloggers out there…please, give this challenge a try! Go check her out!

Clinging to Hope

holy experience

I’m desperately clinging to a hope in spring right now. While Thursday was a blessing of warmth on my face, the weekend turned my household into a cabin-fever, horomone -spiraling mess! I feel dry and barren and am longing for a resurrection. Church feels wanting. Relationships feel old insecurities rising into new disguises. Motherhood feels stretched. I turn around and feel all that is left undone.

And as I go through this period of darkness, however short or long it rages, I will cling to His promises because it is only as I list out the gratitude that my heart can erase the ugliness I see before me. The downcast will be lifted up. The broken will be healed. New springs will grow in desert places. I thirst and will be filled.  The book of Psalms and the words of Isaiah course through me like a balm. These are the books I return to when my heart cries out.

192) Little boys with their “labor saving device” (a broken bird call).

193) Little girls playing by mamma in the bath and needing bubbles.

194) A hot bath that soothes the soul.

195) The ability to add more hot water before washing diapers for the night.

196) The invention of liquid soup, body puffs, and disposable razors!

197) Throwing the “thinned” broccoli seedlings into my omelet for dinner.

198) Carrots mysteriously growing in the garden. Late/leftover germinating seeds?

198) Unexpectedly finding out the oregano and parsley survived the winter (and that my dear husband didn’t dig them up like I thought he did!).

199) Mint that is already overtaking the garden underneath piles of mulch leaves.

200) Crushing a mint leaf in my hand and smelling a little piece of heaven.

201) Looking forward to mint sun tea this summer!

202) A compost heap that’s been working all winter without my doing anything.

203) Fresh, new compost underneath all that ugliness on top! (I feel there’s a lesson in there somewhere for me!)

204) Rain boots that we managed to buy on time this year before the stores ran out.

205) Reading outside on the porch while watching the kids play.

206) Muddy jeans and having to use Spray and Wash again in the laundry.

207) Pulling out all the spring toys and books.

208) Watching the Beatrix Potter Peter Rabbit series on DVD.

209) Seeing the kids pretend their animals are Tiggy Winkles and Jemima and Mrs. Tabitha Twitchet.

210) Seeing Lily “reading” this series to Lilah and Luc.

211) Bird playing.

212) Seeing a mama deer and an American Kestrel on the way home from church.

213) Hearing a woodpecker when I opened my windows this afternoon.

214) Seeing the first batch of seedlings pushing up through the dirt.

215) Starting the second batch of tomato seedlings.

216) Finding an old schedule unexpectedly (literally fell on my head) that, as I’m looking over, am wondering why I ever changed it around to begin with.

217) Bills paid and enough money to last until next paycheck.

218) Recognizing the sound of a chickadee outside.

219) Listening to our new bird compilation with the kids.

220) Every last pipe cleaner used to make 20 toy caterpillars.

The Learning Room

March 1-18th, 2010

It’s been a while since I’ve had a moment to really sit down and list what we’ve been studying. I’ve been trying to jot it – very rough hand – on a piece of recycled paper that generally floats somewhere around my computer. So I’m going to try and make heads and tails of it today and put it into a list. I want to get it down in a permanent place before officially starting our Audubon study. Sorry if this is long-winded.


We have been wrapping up the Colonial & Revolutionary War period. I keep thinking we’re done and then I find another great book to read on the topic. I just recently got a paid membership (because I live outside city limits) to the Omaha Public Library and am so excited to be able to resource their books now as well as the Bellevue Library’s.  We also worked a bit of seasonal history in with the study of St. Patrick.

  • Read Katie’s Trunk by Ann Turner (a wonderful story from the oppositte viewpoint of a “Tory” – a heart tugger and written in beautiful literary style)
  • Lily did a narration of Katie’s Trunk and drew a picture to go with her narration.
  • Read Can’t You Make Them Behave, King George? by Jean Fritz (delightfully funny and kept the kids interest despite the longness of the book – wonderfully written.)
  • Gabe read What’s the Big Idea, Benjamin Franklin? independently (also by Jean Fritz) and did a narration.
  • Gabe copied the Preamble to the Constitution in cursive for penmanship and filed it under the proper time in his Book of Centuries. Lily did the same, but only copied the title and date and did it in manuscript.
  • Both copied the title and date of the Declaration of Independence and filed it in their Book of Centuries.
  • Worked some more on colonial paper dolls but they kind of petered out on this.
  • Read, as a family, Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie de Paola and discussed the reason we celebrate St. Patrick’s.
  • Reviewed through their Book of the Centuries notebooks.


  • Read The Last Snake in Ireland: A Story About St. Patrick and discussed the literary style of a legend versus fictional and nonfictional work.
  • Started reading I Samuel from the Old Testament with Dad this week. He wants to take the kids personally through a Bible Study of I & II Samuel and I & II Kings so they can hear the many wonderful stories that most kids don’t hear in church to broaden their view. The kids are enjoying this because daddy makes storytelling come alive and seem adventurous that just doesn’t work when I read.
  • Dug out all the Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit series for the spring/Easter season and the kids have been requesting them regularly. I’ve only collected them when I can at thrift stores because I want the tiny handheld size that the kids cherish. I could easily get a big anthology book of them at any discount bookstore but there is just something about them being pint-sized that the kids adore. Also listening to the collection on audio.
  • Started Funny Frank by Dick-King Smith.
  • Read Winnie the Pooh’s Easter by Bruce Talkington
  • Read many, many poems from My Poetry Book about spring, mud, birds…a little of everything.
  • Gabe and Lily have been doing lots of reading on their own. Gabe is currently on a Roal Dahl kick and picked up BFG and James and the Giant Peach for this week as well as finishing a “Choose Your Own Adventure” that dad has introduced him to as well as rereading Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. Lily is practicing hard in any spare moment on whatever book interests her. I see her reading improving everyday and she is wanting to be more grown up and read chapter books like Gabe. Her top pick for the week: A Pickle for a Nickel by Lilian Moore (a chapter book she borrowed from a friend.)
  • Gabe has been reading Where the Sidewalk Ends and memorizing his favorite poems.

Grammar & Writing & Phonics

  • Gabe and Lily both did copywork to improve penmanship (see History above). Lily also finished her Kumon: Uppercase Letters book and worked some in her Kumon: Lowercase Letters book. Gabe is doing extremely well with his cursive. Although, he has naturally good penmanship.
  • Lily also used the Kumon letter cards and practice paper to particularly work on the capital ‘N’ (as she is still doing it backwards) and the lowercase ‘g’ (getting the tail below the line).
  • Gabe worked in his Language Lessons book with sentence combining and how to break up run-on sentences.
  • Lily worked in her Language Lessons book with more phonics work, copywork, reading practice, sentence practice, and poetry with picture narrations.
  • Luc worked on phonics intensively. He sat down and practiced Hop on Pop with me and we also played a phonics game together. He worked with the Kumon letter cards and short word vowel cards almost daily. Him and Delilah both watched Talking Words Factory several times and are enamored of the sticky-icky-rama vowel machine.
  • Gabe was asked to do a short essay by dad on 6 things that he will not be mastered by.
  • Gabe dictated to me a first draft narration for his independent history reading and we will be using next week as a chance to practice editing, using editing marks, when to use pronouns, and when to break up paragraphs.
  • Both Lily and Gabe started Commonplace books this week. They are notebooks that the kids can write special book/poetry/music/inspirational passages in, journal in, take notes on nonfiction books in, draw pictures in, etc. It is a pretty open-ended project. We will be doing it officially on Friday afternoons but they spent most of the night with them and then took them to bed to sleep with. What I am hoping to accomplish with this is twofold: 1) to encourage writing, penmanship, grammar usage, spelling practice and promote higher level thinking skills of reading comprehension at pulling and assimilating information from books (a study skill that will benefit them in all walks of life) and 2) to do purposeful work – that is, have a place where they can record or write about things that are not required of them but that they think is important or worthy enough to be recorded on paper. Gabe has already made a science diagram summary after reading a new science book and Lily has recorded two poems and drawn several pictures.
  • Lily has been writing her own poetry and drawing pictures to go with them.
  • Lily and I used a new system to help practice her reading. Will write about soon. She used the system with much success with the book Red Fish, Blue Fish.
  • Lily read Word Bird’s Spring Words and decided to make her own word flash cards (spent 3 hours on this project of her own choosing!).


  • Gabe did chapter 17 and started chapter 18 in his Math U See book (multiplication of 6’s and 7’s).
  • Gabe independently read (3 times at least that I saw – and it’s a chapter book!) Do You Wanna Bet: Your Chance to Find Out About Probability by Martha Weston. He greatly enjoyed this book as it expanded on his dad’s conversation of what statistics are.
  • Lily did her Math U See Primer book about solving unknown equations in addition problems and learning place value with tens and one hundreds. We used her new Montessori number tiles with the place value exercises and these helped out SO much! Loved them!
  • Lily practiced her Kumon Number Flashcards (numbers 1-30 with extra emphasis on 2, 7, 9) in order to master writing the numbers the proper way and to help with number recognition. Still having a bit of trouble turning around numbers like 12 and 21.
  • Lily finished her Kumon: My Book of Numbers 1-30 book and recieved her certificate. She worked really hard at this and did about 20 pages (4-6 hours worth) in two days time of her own accord. This just clicked for her and she wanted to really work on accomplishing the book. She wants to start the Kumon: Easy Telling Time book next so I think that was her motivation.
  • Luc read (with me) Can a Dinosaur Count & Other Math Mysteries by Valorie Fisher – a great living math book that we will come back to. Depending on child’s ability, this book can be used at multiple levels.
  • Luc has also read the How Do Dinosaurs Count to Ten? book almost daily and practicing counting on all the pages.
  • Gabe and Lily watched Cyberchase videos: Equations ~ A Battle of Equals and Patterns ~ The Poddleville Case


  • Gabe learned new words: navigo, memoria, fortuna
  • He also practiced his flashcards (with new words and dipthong sounds) every school day.

Science/Art/Music/Gardening – interchangeably life!

  • Gabe has been reading Rocks and Minerals and collecting rocks outside with a specific interest in the softness or hardness of rocks and whether they can write or not (all based on a question he had one day about his pencil).
  • Lily had me read certain portions of Pandas: A Portrait of the Animal World after getting a new stuffed panda with her own money at the zoo gift shop. We learned that there are only 9 pandas in all the zoos and only one of those is in the U.S.!
  • Luc has been collecting “fossils” outside – basically any rock he finds that is jagged, not smooth that looks bonish-sorta-colored.
  • We’ve not really ‘officially’ started our bird study, yet birds seem to be abounding everywhere. We’ve been listening to bird sounds for identification (through some birding CD’s we have and googling those we don’t have). We’ve been reading field guides galore on our favorites (more the kids doing this…especially Luc). The little ones have been playing with our Audubon stuffed birds (Did I say playing? I meant fighting!) from morning till bed time. We’ve taken walks and listened to see what birds we could identify (so far only a Mourning Dove, a Cardinal, and a Woodpecker). The balcony windows have been another flocking place for the kids, especially first thing in the morning, as they are shouting for me to come look and see what bird it is (mainly cardinals – the kids favorite right now – the stuffed bird most fought over). The kids are going crazy with drawing birds, especially Lily. And I haven’t even introduced the watercolor/colored pencil sketching we’re getting to with that. And we’ve been reading lots of bird poetry and listening to songs about birds which inspires more bird drawing. Even made a mixed bird CD (will tell about in the Audubon Study – Part II post)!
  • Read chapter 4: The Robin of Birds at Home by Marguerite Henry (one of the best living books on birds we’ve found. This has been their favorite so far…comes out and stays out all day along with the field guides) and Lily did a volunteer narration and picture of it.
  • Been starting work in the garden, uncovering mulched beds, looking for new perennial growth, planting seeds indoors (our broccoli is the first to sprout).
  • Been looking through DK’s Visual Dictionary on Skeletons (not just human, all kinds!) which is an amazing book and is hard to tear your eyes away from! Will have to own this one…is going on my Amazon wish list. Must see what the others in the series are like.
  • Gabe and Lily have officially taken the sketchbooks outside to start capturing spring.

The Project Room

Gabe and Lily are loving using their project room. They have been in there almost every second of the day making and crafting. The only time they emerge is to eat, play outside, or (for Gabe only) to get his computer time (Lily is more than happy to give her’s up for more craft time). Things they have made:

  • Day One: made goody bags for each other with cards and homemade toys specific to the others interest. Was very sweet really and I tried not to cringe at how much tape was used. That’s what the Dollar Store is for, right?
  • Using recyclable bin to refurbish into new uses.
  • Making caterpillars and “squirmels” out of pipe cleaners, googly eyes, and pom poms.
  • Making mosaic pictures out of the dried beans (suppose to be used for preschool math counters!).
  • Scrapbooking.
  • Reading.
  • Journaling in notebooks.
  • Drawing and coloring pictures.

Field Trips

  • The Henry Doorly Zoo (exhibits: the cat complex and the aquarium)
  • The Rose Theater to see There’s An Alligator Under My Bed (a play adaptation of several of Mercer Mayer’s books).

The cost of food today…

Received this link to my email through Food Declaration.org. Reading the comments reminds me a lot of our own household debates on eating healthy. Go check it out for yourself:

Why a Salad Costs More Than a Big Mac

Some comments I found particularly telling:

From mythago ~

…poverty and obesity are strongly correlated in the US.

If you don’t think so, try being extremely poor for a while (no, not “I don’t have enough to buy BioShock2 till next month” poor). When you have $10 for groceries, you pick your calories based on what’s going to fill you up for the least amount of money – you don’t blow that $10 on a box of organic frisee salad.

That’s especially true when the pinnacle of your local grocery choices is a crappy, out-of-date Safeway, and your most likely options are tiny, overpriced ‘convenience’ stores.

From mizmoose ~

To echo what others have said, Yeah, eating healthy is for people who have money.

I feel lucky when I can get frozen vegetables on sale cheap (& I try to stock up) but fresh fruits and vegetables have become more rare. Meat, when I can get it, is cheap cuts and/or big chunks on sale. Fish is unlikely; maybe shrimp once or twice a year if it’s frozen, on sale and I have a few dollars extra. Nuts are right outta the ball park, except for cheap peanut butter, which we all know is high fat & high sugar. Cheese is store brand. Milk is powdered, bought in bulk and used sparingly — can’t waste money on something that could go bad. Rice and pasta also bought in bulk, along with potatoes and onions.

On the one hand, having no money means I’m not eating in restaurants so I know what I’m eating. On the other hand, I ate far healthier when I could afford fresh vegetables, fish, low-fat cheeses and the like.

From WordTipping ~

Why is it that people view a Big Mac as a cheap meal? Eating a “Value Meal” twice a day is incredibly expensive and twice the cost of buying food that I actually have to prepare and cook…not boxed stuff.

So much for us trying to eat organic anytime soon! Every time we try, we break the bank. Not that we’re giving up the goal of sustainability, but it will really have to come back to doing all the back-breaking work ourselves in our own backyard! And, as we’ve experienced so far, is still not necessarily cheaper…but, OH the taste!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

How many of us grew up celebrating St. Patrick’s Day? Most of us would answer yes in one way or another. How many of us grew up knowing who St. Patrick was, what he did, or why it is that we even have a St. Patrick’s Day? Probably not many of us. Of course, we all know it has something to do with the church…with “those Catholics” most are thinking. We know there is a shamrock involved and the color green. Some of us are brave and try the food fare of corned beef and cabbage. Most of us just know it from others around us who use it as a day to party and binge drink.

It wasn’t until I started homeschooling that I really dug into the history. Two of my favorite homeschool blogs: By Sun and Candlelight with Dawn and In The Heart of the Home with Elizabeth Foss are unabashedly (and rightfully so) Catholic. It was through the testimony and daily writings of both of these upstanding Christian women of faith that the scales fell from my eyes concerning all my biases of the Catholic faith that I ignorantly grew up with (along with much prayer and seeking after God). And it was through their wonderful book lists that I discovered my first real St. Patrick’s living history book: Patrick: The Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie de Paola.

And it was through this wonderful book that I learned about a faith that would not be shaken in this Irish shepherd-turn-missionary. Where I learned that a man who loved Christ so much felt compelled to share Him and His grace with everyone he met and found the perfect way to illustrate to the Irish people the mystery of the Trinity through the common shamrock. A beautiful illustration of Divine three in one as he pointed to each leaflet from a single clover leaf and said, “God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit… separate yet one.” And, I’ll admit, I cried the first time I read it. Then I eagerly shared the story with my children (who forgot by the next year) and eagerly explained it again the next year (who forgot by this year) and continued the story this year (we’ll see if they remember next year) and will continue to retell every year so that the world’s ways will not become their ways. So that the idea and mystery of the Holy Trinity will continue to grow inside of them as God woos them into relationship with Him.

And as Lily (my deep thinker) is continuing to ask me about holidays and what they mean and continuing to want all the stories (the more fanciful the better) about every holiday legend and myth (she is my storyteller), I will continue to indulge her in the fun, made-up stories of all the seasons and use it as the perfect springboard for discussing what truth is versus a legend or a myth and what the path of righteousness is versus the world’s way of doing holidays. I’m glad they will grow up knowing the real Saint Patrick  – a man who loved God, a man who was sinful because he was human but was a saint because he was a child of God.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!

A verse from the prayer on Saint Patrick’s breastplate:

Christ be with me, Christ within me,

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort and restore me.

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me,

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

holy experience

Audubon and the birds, Part I

Well, spring is officially here and I am excited to do a post on our upcoming history studies. I have been waiting to do this study since the beginning of the school year…before even, when I fell in love with this book from my local library:

I admit, I don’t know much about John James Audubon except that he did draw exquisite pictures of birds that I have loved looking at since a small child. I can tell you, I am very excited to learn all about him! It reminds me of a pivotal childhood moment that I wish had been capitalized on for me. Our neighbors, for reasons I cannot remember, invited me to attend a seminar on Lewis and Clark. I was the only child out of my six sisters who went and the only reason I think they invited me was that they might have been more in tune with my true nature then my mother was as I was always at their house collecting rocks and looking for mysterious fossils and real Indian arrowheads. Regardless, I don’t remember much about what was talked about, but I do remember the feeling I had which was of pure, utter enjoyment. They let me roam among the book tables afterwards and allowed me to purchase one book. I found the Golden Guides field guide to Butterflies and was smitten. I came home and secretly looked through that book more times then I can count.

Why, this story has nothing to with birds! you are surely saying to yourself. What this story encapsulates for me is that love of nature. I was born to be a naturalist – in the career form of the word. I love nothing more then traipsing through woods, taking pictures, sketching, learning about flowers, growing and using herbs, studying botany, etc. etc. etc. And, when it comes to history, the parts that most fascinate me and capture my interest is any part that includes these passions of mine…hence the Audubon, Lewis and Clark, Thoreau, Pioneers, etc. There were many more childhood moments that should have clued me into this – collecting old gardening magazines they were tossing from the library, ripping out photos in National Geographic Magazines that captured my interest, finding and buying with my own money a copy of “The Girl of Limberlost” at an antique store and then reading it out loud secretly in my room as my tongue rolled over the spellbinding words, playing “Little House” and foraging for food in the wild, walking along the banks of my neighborhood creek to explore, sitting for hours in the springtime in any woods I could find looking for new growth under old, dead leaves…and the list could go on.

Surprisingly, I never had a garden. My parents were too busy to notice my interest. The school certainly wasn’t aware of them and there was no guidance counselor directing my career path toward something…anything…having to do with this field. I did eventually (after my freshman year of college) grow my own garden and fell in love with it.  I did eventually end up working at a Garden Nursery (as a cashier and receptionist) and loving it. It was enough to just feel and handle the plants as people rang them up. I did eventually (after already graduating college) go back to school for horticulture only to not be able to continue due to starting a family. But I think of all the things I could have done if anyone…anyone at all…would have shown an interest!

I want to be that for my kids. Not that they are necessarily going to grow up and love gardening or botany like I do, but that they will get to grow up in their interests, that I will get a chance to cultivate that in them – whether it be electronics or dinosaurs.  That I will actually get to help them open up the doors of possibility down career paths where they will be doing meaningful work that they are passionate about. How many of us get that possibility?

My children are in love with birds right now (as is their grandmother) and have collected a number of stuffed birds over the years. We have a field guide that we regularly consult as we are spotting a glimpse of red or patch of blue here and there in our yard. When the kids do crafts they make insects and birds…repeatedly, in many different ways…and play with them and talk to them for hours on end. We have a birding sounds CD that we check to see if we can learn which bird is saying what. So naturally, I am so excited to learn about a field I am interested in but know very little about and expand a field that they are interested in as well. I envy them in that they get to actually study this for history if they want. What I would have given for that over a dry textbook full of boring facts!

Tomorrow (or the next depending on Ivy’s teething) I will come back with Part II and tell you about our study we are planning. It will be an all encompassing unit study and pretty much take over all our other subjects. I am pretty excited and can’t wait to share the book list with you!

A Drumroll Please…

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Just a quick note this morning as I count my blessings. Mainly becaue I was up so late last night accomplishing some of those blessings! (And I have a 10 month old who is trying to type at the same time I am!)

179) FINALLY GOT MY SCHEDULE DONE!!!!! (…that is until I need to revise it!)

180) Got much done in the way of orginizing the Project Room for the kids. Now, if it will just stay looking as beautiful as it does right now!

181) The day of blessing Thursday when Ivy’s fever broke and she played contentedly on the floor without clinging to my leg!

182) The double blessing of that day of sweet conversation with a dear friend!

183) The peace of letting things go.

184) New birds and the hope of spring.

185) A plan of action for history.

186) Getting all the John James Audubon library books in.

187) A new flower garland to decorate the valance for spring that came unexpectedly and free yesterday!

188) Only one patch of snow left in the yard.

189) Carved out time to sketch and read with my kids.

190) Giving my first born over to God.

191) Seeing the blessings of firsts and obedience.

A Dryer Sheet Anyone!!!

I simply must tell you all about the latest discovery in our house. As anyone with toddlers know, sharing doesn’t come easy. At school time, for the toddlers, that means sharing a dry-erase eraser to wipe down the Kumon letter and number flashcards (which can be found here). I’d heard a tip a while back about using recycled dryer sheets. Who doesn’t have plenty of these?

So yesterday we tried it…and LOVED it! My kids thought it was magic. The same chemistry that pulls electricity from your clothing, pulls the dry-erase right off the board/flashcard/book. And – what my kids thought was the coolest part – when you lift up the cloth, NO marker is anywhere to be seen. Not only did this satisfy all the kids attention spans for a while, it also eased up on the fighting over the eraser. Now they just fight over who has what letter!

And where to store these little treasures? Why, in a empty, recycled tissue box of course!

Have a fun day everyone. May your day be filled with a little bit of ordinary magic!

Slowing Down Life

You would think I’d be a mess this morning. I was up – literally – all night long with a teething, fever-not-breaking, baby who was up from 1:30 AM till 5:30 AM. We tried nursing, rocking, different holding positions, boppy nursing, cosleeping. Nothing seemed to work. Her fever would not break despite Tylenol/Ibuprofen alternations and, in fact, only seemed to worsen the closer it came to the sun peeking out. She would fall asleep but not let me put her down. She was uncomfortable, despite the orajel, and was fitfully tossing and turning and whining while I tried to rock her. Finally, after sheer exhaustion for both of us, she allowed me to hold her in a semi-nursing position, half twisted sideways on the bed, with my arms completely cradling her against my body. She fell asleep for an hour. I laid there and thanked God that I could at least close my eyes for a few minutes, even if I was in too uncomfortable a position to actually sleep. At 6:30 AM I was finally able to lay her back down without her waking only to have my wide-awake 4 year-old wake up coughing and wanting a place in bed next to me.

So after all that, as I said before, you’d think I’d be a mess this morning. And I am tired….REALLY TIRED!!! But this morning has been filled with the peace of slowing down. I had to miss my Second Cup ladies Bible class. Adam decided to grace us with the most delicious Crepes Orange Suzzette! My dishes are done, my house is picked up, my laundry is in, my kids are quietly (for now) sitting at the table doing their school work even as I type this.

It occurred to me while sweeping the floor (and this is not the first time) that maybe even my once-a-week, good for me, spiritual renewal time with the girls can even be “too much” for my life if it is not helping me reach the goals I have for my life. Does attending a Bible class make me more spiritual? Not really. Yes, it refreshes and is a time for sweet fellowship with the ladies. But I’ve seen the strain it puts on my kids. Are they worth the sacrifice? I see the strain it puts on my time. How much time did I get back this morning by just slowing down and being what I was suppose to be right here at home? The right(eous) path that He has laid out for me is to be at home, training up my littles in the Lord so that they will learn to love him with all their heart and mind and strength and soul.  Does this seemingly good-for-me, spiritual activity accomplish that? Or is there more detriment attached to the rushing and forcing my kids to be babysat and putting them again and again in situations that they don’t necessarily want to be in?

The other day while making the bed and stopping for a moment to dip into His cup for a drink, I ran across this letter I had stashed in Adam’s Bible. I wrote it to him shortly after he had lost his job this past summer. This should have also been a time of great panic and hardship in our marriage, but instead was overwhelmingly filled with His peace poured out on a daily basis. Rereading the letter encouraged me, helped align my soul. Maybe it can help others out here in the cyber world that just need a little clarification to what are true priorities and what the false are that we tend to don upon ourselves like the heavy chain mail of a knight.

Dear Adam,

Read Psalm 25-27, especially 27:11-14.

As I was ironing and making the bed – or “making over” the bed – I thought to myself, “Maybe we just need to re-imagine life. Maybe we already have everything right here for our life. We just need to flip it over, rework, switch around until it looks fresh and new…until it feels right.”

We don’t need the next best thing…more money, bigger job, house, etc. Why not take what we already have and make it work for us instead of us working for the stuff?

What if I had time to iron pillow sheets and enjoy that?

What if during this simple, contemplative act, I could pray, listen to the birds, feel the breeze, watch out my window as clothes dry under the sun, hear my children laugh and play?

Simplify = the manifestation of self-control – our self-control over: $, possessions, stuff, more more more – and we gain: TIME, CONTENTMENT, THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS!!!

Love, Me

Just a thought from me to you on this lovely spring day.

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. ~Psalm 27: 13-14

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The Four Pillars of Too Much

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As I am in the process of cleaning out my fridge and freezer and pantry, in order to embark on the first-of-the-month big shopping trip, everything appears cluttered, disorganized and it makes me feel panicky. It is not as if this is the first time I’ve noticed this. Every time I do I say to myself, ‘I’ll get to that next week or month or whenever I have some free available time.’ But today it dawned on me that I will never have enough free time to work on it. My life is also filled with chaos and clutter and disorganization. I am a mother of five children with open plans for more. My children are home with me all day long. Sure there is learning and joy and projects and endless reading of great worth. But there is also a stream of destruction that follows me all day as I try to keep up with the flow of household management.

We do dishes but again we eat. We do laundry but again the hamper fills up. We play outside in the joy of budding spring but drag in the mud and leftover winter debris. We do school and things get out of place, half-used, disorganized. We read so books end up in piles everywhere. We play so toys get pulled out creating death traps on the stairs. We do life and life is messy.

So how do we combat this? I ponder this daily. I know in part it is about teaching good habits and making sure everything has a place and keeping up on chores and creating a daily rhythm that works for our specific needs. But I wonder how much of it is also about having too much, always wanting more, filling our days and cupboards with too many choices – even if they are worthy and wonderful choices. Do we have breathing room?

So as I am taking a break from wiping down the freezer and writing up a shopping list to nurse a little one, my eye catches this post by Elizabeth Foss and I click the link to this book and start reading. And suddenly that peace that passes all understanding floods my soul that only happens when He places something in front of my eyes that speaks directly to my battle. And I struggle to not immediately order it (another symptom of the “too much” syndrome) but instead ponder it and wait on the Lord to see where He directs my steps.  So while I am pondering and adding this wonderful book to my Amazon wish list, I thought I’d share a few quotable nuggets with you to ponder this day too.

We are building our daily lives, and our families, on the four pillars of too much: too much stuff, too many choices, too much information, and too much speed. With this level of busyness, distractions, time pressure, and clutter (mental and physical), children are robbed of the time and ease they need to explore their worlds and their emerging selves. And since the pressures of “too much” are so universal, we are “adjusting” at a commensurately fast pace. The weirdness of “too much” begins to seem normal. If the water we are swimming in continues to heat up, and we simply adjusts as it heats, how will we know to hop out before we boil? ~ KIM JOHN PAYNE – SIMPLICITY PARENTING


We are facing an enormous problem in our lives today. It’s so big we can hardly see it, and it’s right in front of our face all day, every day. We’re all living too big lives, crammed from top to toe with activities, urgencies, and obligations that seem absolute. There’s no time to take a breath, no time to look for the source of the problem.  ~ SARA SUSANKA – THE NOT SO BIG LIFE


Simplicity is the ultimate manifestation of the spiritual gift of self-control. (one of my favorites!)


The reason that we are not fully at ease in heart and soul is because we seek rest in these things that are so little and have no rest within them, and pay no attention to our God, who is Almighty, All-wise, All-good, and the only real rest. ~ JULIAN OF NORWICH


“Do not be so given to the activity of Martha as to forget the silence of Mary. May the Virgin who so well reconciled the one with the other be your sweet model and inspiration.”  ~ ST. PIO

In a way, nobody sees a flower really, it is so small, we haven’t time—to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.” ~ GEORGIA O’KEEFE

And, last but not least,

“Who is rich?  He that rejoices in his portion.”  ~ THE TALMUD

This is where I start my week. I am tugging and pulling with simplification and need to jot down some Thanks to the Highest Order, The I AM of simplicity,  in order to bring balance to my week.

160) Finished ONE PAGE of my new schedule…only 6 more to go!

161) Went shopping with only one little one due to the beautiful sacrifice of a dear brother-in-law!

162) Kids got to visit the zoo twice in one week.

163) My camera ran out of juice so the zoo had to be about just being, not blogging or scrapbooking.

164) Hauled two garbage bags full of Garage Sale Stuff to the garage.

165) Blessed with an extra-warm house due to the efficiency of new furnace.

166) My kids did the dishes today…twice!!

167) New friends made at church for my little social butterfly.

168) Taking more time to read with the kids, even with a fussy baby.

169) Found a full tank of gas in my car on the way to church this morning just as I was thinking about how we would cover that expense this week. Thank you again, dear brother!

170) A pork roast that I didn’t cook and good company.

171) Learning about pandas and rocks and minerals.

172) A new ballet training CD arriving.

173) Math and Science tales of googles and quarks and fractals.

174) A Boy and his Cricket and the memories they evoked of my now eight-year old.

175) Baby Orajel.

176) Free Aldi’s boxes that work as bookends.

177) A full house of groceries and milk and fresh fruit.

178) One night where I slept all the way through!

May your week be filled with many blessings and may you slow down to find joy in the little things!

Homeschool Freebie ~ The Voice of Spring

The Voice of Spring Copywork Book

I’m so excited to be able to tell you about the Homeschool Freebie of the Day today! As our weather is heating up to the high forties, as the birds are singing again in the air, as I can finally see the blades of grass under the dingy slushy ice snow piles, as I am rushing to put seed orders in, and as I am ever so anxious to pull on my garden boots, this little gem came along. It is a copywork booklet of spring poems and verses. From Wordsworth to Robert Louis Stevenson to the Bible;  from singing birds to the first appearance of daffodils to daydreaming on a breezy day there is a little of everything for everyone, whether old or young. It is done in Zaner style manuscript and can be used as a complete grammar unit (as in Ruth Beechik’s whole language learning ~ post coming soon!) or as individual handwriting lessons as a sunny day calls for or use as a complimentary pairing to outside nature walks and sketching work. It is another little nugget of hope on a cloudy, dreary day!

Here is the link: Homeschool Freebie of the Day

It is only for today only so hurry fast to download your copy! Here is what they have to say about it:

Copying the Poems: The Voice of Spring (PDF ebook) – From Bogart Family Resources comes today’s resource, this neat handwriting copybook that includes the complete text of three well-known poems and four scripture passages that focus the heart and mind on the new life that springs forth from God’s creation each Spring. 25 full lessons in 77 pages, making preparing copywork lessons a breeze – just hit print, and you’re good to go!

Souls in Crisis

Oh how my heart was cut to the quick as I read. Here is my reason too, but how well do I uphold my end even having chosen the lesser path? How quick am I to “tune it out” as mamas do and not realize that a seemingly innocent “No!” or whining tilt to a voice in response to my command or a toddler who is so darn cute as she runs away are all huge neon signs for me that souls are in crisis? How quick I am to fill my days with “priorities” even as these slide away. How embarrassed am I at church as my children cannot be controlled? How people must ‘tsk tsk’ me despite my chosen path. Even my husband catches the attitudes and rudeness when I am completely oblivious and wouldn’t have noticed unless it was in my face. Shame on me. Thank you, Michelle, for reminding me why I chose this lifestyle in the first place!

Please, I admonish you mothers to read here at “Shhhh….I’m thinking!” and really question in your heart of hearts on how to reach your children!

Blessings In Christ,                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ~Amy

Hope and Awakenings

My gratitudes and thankfulness lifted up in praise as the winter dies out and spring brings to us redemption.

125) Poppies caught in the sunlight.

126) Flowers reinvisioned to bring new life to a new room.

127) Secret love letters from a dear husband who despises “Love Dare” yet walks it out in our marriage.

128) Rotisserie chicken thrown in a crockpot and forgot about coming out fork tender and juicy just in time for lunch.

129) Homemade chicken stock simmering on the stove.

130) The promise of packages and new books to tear open and into.

131) Rooms that are still not rearranged because we were too busy playing.

132) Babies in the soft glow of night.

133) Looking up to see faces peering over bed tops to say nighttime prayers.

134) Cuddles and stories at bedtime.

135) Reading independently until eyes droop closed, book falls down as night slips in.

136) Poems memorized that bring laughter and remain etched for a lifetime.

137) Melting snow.

138) The sun still out at 5:55 P.M.

139) Digging for spring.

140) Finding it.

141) The first sign of growth…even if it is the weeds!

142) My lavender plant with a touch of green…it didn’t die after all!

143) Finally getting to play in the snow.

146) New boots for the spring.

147) Lost Styracosaurus discovered under heaping mound of melting snow.

148) The first use of sidewalk chalk.

149) The first scraped knee.

150) Scooters and bikes.

151) Ordering from garden catalogs.

152) Cuddling to “Hop on Pop” with my budding four-year-old reader.

153) A laundry room floor of mud, water, and dirty mittens and pants and socks and hats because it means the beginning of spring.

154) Hot cocoa and marsmallows to make everthing right in the world.

155) A sweet girl who graced us with a nap so we could play.

156) The new Magic School Bus Dinosaur book.

157) Chocolate and Peanut Butter sandwiches for dinner.

158) Exodus 16 paired with Deuteronomy 8.

159) The fact that this long list of thank you’s and gratitudes from the heart happened in one day!

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