Monday, September 29, 2008

Just in Time

I finally finished my skirt. I bought this pattern and fabric at the beginning of summer so I could have a cute summer skirt to wear. The weather man indirectly let me know that this was about the last weekend I could wear this. Just in time...

We're Goin on a Bear Hunt

Tried to take pictures with my camera.

At least it was fun singing the song-even if we didn't see any real bears.

The big kids politely declined my offer to go find some bears so little guy and I were on our own. We had fun building a race track on a dirt hill. We listened to birds in which little guy told me every time "oh mom, that's just a crow". Crows have definitely developed a prettier call around here. We pointed out all the trees that were starting to change. And we found lots of spiders (yuck! one crawled right over me, ack, ack, ack!).

Perhaps as nice as our hunt and time together was my neighbor calling us over for a "quick" glass of wine which turned out to be two hours of relaxing on their breathtaking patio and watching the sun go down. Perfect ending to the weekend, I say.

Watching boats go by on the Snoqualmie River from our neighbor's house. The river is quiet and low right now. It will be completely different in a few months- that's why it's nickname is the "Raging River".

Otterly Aware

One young child in our house was super excited about the theme this weekend at the aquarium- Otter Awareness. She got to see trainers in action, witness a medical exam and who knows, maybe she even learned something.

And I must add that it doesn't get much better in Seattle than yesterday. Blue skies, sparkling water and 70 degrees. I do believe that when it's nice here, there is no prettier place.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Where Ya Been??

Well when the Internet went out on Monday and all computer work came to a crashing halt, I thought for sure it would be back on Tuesday. And Wednesday. And until late yesterday- it was still down.

What a humbling week. No passing by the office to check email. No blogging. No research. No writing. No nothing. And you know what? I was probably a good thing. My kids got more of my attention and chores that have been put on hold got done. The funny thing is I had to ask my husband just what in the world I should do with myself in the early morning hours. My typical routine is to wake with him, make his coffee, iron a shirt and disappear for my quiet mommy time in the office. I usually sit in the dark and light a candle and relish the silence. It's truly my only time of day to be alone for an hour.

So we're back in the land of technology and I best be answering the four million and two email. Have a good one!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Not Again

Why so little blackberries you ask? Oh, well, because we had yet another bear encounter!

It's been rainy here for the past few days and when the clouds parted and the sun came out and the majestic choir sang "alleluia", we went outside. The kids and I walked (limped) up the hill and my daughter and I busied ourselves on the bushes while the boys dug in the dirt. My bear-hating daughter kept listening for twigs snapping and checking holes in bushes while I kept trying to sell her that there were simply no bears around.

That is until I looked over the bush and saw him/her/it sitting on the grass in a little meadow nibbling on preciously what we were collecting.

"Time to go" I said and gave a gentle shove. Off she went like a stealth bomber. "Boys, we need to leave NOW" she screamed in a whisper. Shockingly they both calmly grabbed their digging tools and started home.

I didn't really feel any danger. So I have a broken leg and I'm in the vicinity of a bear- no sweat. I could have ran if I needed to. Maybe. Anyway, we're home with not many berries and again "we're" crying about how much we hate bears. (Do you think she'd get upset if I slipped out with the camera??)

Now This is Interesting

You know how you can jump from one blog to the next and then you see something that really catches your eye? It happened to me just the other day. Go check out Emily's post on the elimination diet. Amazon is loving me.

Tea and Stuff

Okay don't pay any attention to the mis-matchy plates but do notice the homemade blackberry jam that tastes divine with just about anything...

Last Thursday we (read *I*) was having a particularly hard morning in the classroom. My little one melted and as a I result, so did I. When I finally got my wits about me, I realized we needed a break. Let me rephrase...I needed a break. So we quick threw together the oh so familiar recipe for zucchini bread and brewed some tea. It helped us all. We mellowed, we chatted, we laughed. What helped even more was the response to my cry out to the veteran homeschool mommy friends of mine. Their words of encouragement and suggestions for support were amazing. I am so blessed on two fronts- to be able to teach my children and watch them grow and on the days that I feel I can't do that justice- to have the support to get back in the game. Here's to a happy learning week!

Oh yeah, got it make it drinkable!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

And They Are

I'm referring to Barbara Coloroso's book, Kids Are Worth It: Giving Your Child the Gift of Inner Discipline.

This best-selling guide rejects "quick-fix" solutions and focuses on helping kids develop their own self-discipline by owning up to their mistakes, thinking through solutions, and correcting their misdeeds while leaving their dignity intact.

This book has spoken to me in so many ways already. Coloroso gives great tribute to how much we are talking with, not at, our children. For example, when teaching in the public school system years ago, she took heat for not reminding her older elementary students to put on their coats for recess-something she thought was entirely unnecessary given the age of these kids. To teach responsibility and not nag, she taught the students about the heart and other organs and how they shut down when cold. After an in-depth, purely factual science lesson, she never had to remind them to bundle up again.

So I tried out the method myself. Instead of telling my child to stop leaning back in their school chair yesterday, I found myself explaining the difference on how the chair was made compared to the rocking chair across the room. The design of the chair couldn't withhold rocking for long before it broke into pieces. A thoughtful "oh" was said and the leaning stopped. Silly? You bet, but it took me ten seconds to explain that and it gave them a real reason.

I am so engrossed in the chapter about money and allowance that I am currently revamping the whole system. Want to know more? Go check it out at your library, too. And thank you, Robin, for introducing me to one of your favorites.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Back in Session

Our homeschool co-op commenced yesterday and we're off and running on a good start. My daughter absolutely couldn't wait out the summer in great anticipation of her marine biology class. She ate up the first day-we heard lots about it. Her second class is animal science- another contender. Co-op offers such fantastic classes but the trick is the timing. My daughter also wanted to take art and musical theater but they conflict with the schedule.

The middle man is taking animal encounters (upon his sister's recommendation from last year) and Singapore math. He's happy just to have a day out and be with friends. Heck, he's happy any old time just watching the grass grow.

And the big news is that this year the little guy started "pre-school". It's actually story time but don't tell him that. I'm the teacher helper in there so I get to see first hand how funny it is. And trust me-it's a stitch. Not a one of these friends can sit on their mats for more than a minute without jumping up and sharing some important news. My little man was in true form yesterday- leaping at Ms. Aime to share (in his loudest voice possible) what his favorite part of the story was. Good grief, my head is still hung low.

Just next to the Catholic church where co-op meets, is a beautiful and newly restored park/beach. We got lunch and met up with some friends for a few hours to swim and play and play and play. Until the rain sets in, Tuesdays will be the "fun" day.

My little one's favorite thing about the park- the Finger Play Park. It's a stone table that has all sorts of ramps, bridges and tunnels for racing your cars. It also has a box of cars to borrow, can you imagine?
I love that this park is so shady. Down by the water in the sun was warm but then coming up to the playground in the shade felt cool and wonderful.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Half Day Fun

Boy we busted school out early yesterday. Monday tends to be our longest day, but with unusually high 80's we were longing for some beach fun. So finishing all but Latin we loaded up the car and headed out. And how ironic that we ran into another "new-to-the-state-homeschooling family" that we met recently.

Not a bad mosaic. The kids thought with their seaweed decor, they would probably win first place- had there been other castle builders around.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Run, It's a Bear!

Okay, can I pull this one off? No?? Well, it was worth the try. And just so you know-every single time we drive by the car wash I yell "Agh! A Bear" and you know what? They look each and every time.

Hatching Fish

After a lovely and quick visit with my aunt and uncle from Victoria,B.C., Saturday afternoon was spent at the local salmon hatchery. It's that time of year again to catch them spawning. (I love that word!)

From the road I always thought the facility was quite small- that all changed when we got there. This place is huge and incidentally, so are some of the fish! The coolest part of the visit was checking out the salmon ladder and seeing the fish hurling themselves up and over dividers and into the higher sections. What floors me is the life cycle of the fish- leaving their stream for a few years only to return and lay eggs and then to die. It is fascinating to say the least.

The young marine biologist in training ate it all up. (Well, not all- she didn't eat any salmon)

They don't look so big in the photo but trust me on this folks, these guys were large. Very large.
Yeah, kind of like this large!
Just getting a wee bit tired of seeing the world in this fashion. Although it does make for an interesting picture doesn't it?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Because I'm The Mom

Do you ever have those moments when you think, "I must be doing something right"? I relish those moments because they offset the remainder of the time when I'm second guessing just about every move I make.

We had a marathon sick bird visit yesterday with an exotic pet doctor. After two hours of being in a small room it was finally time to go- birdless nonetheless. (Our birdie is on shaky ground and spent the night at the doctor's house last night being nursed with tube feedings and kept alive). It was 1pm and not only had we skipped lunch but it was now naptime and we were an hour from home. Upon leaving the office the nurse asked what my secret was. Secret?? She wanted to know how three little kids could be so well-behaved for that long. I blushed. "We talk - a lot" I answered.

"Let's go have a nice lunch together, shall we"? They were all for it. First we had to solve the shoe crisis. My middle man left the house with no shoes and wore his little brother's Crocs that just barely covered his toes. (Don't laugh- it could happen to you!)

We ended up at a small Chinese restaurant in which I first wondered if this would work. Tired boy/sit down restaurant/no backup daddy...It did work. We all sat very nicely. My daughter reminded the boys that in a Chinese restaurant you have to talk very quietly. :)

I could see her coming across the way. A sweet, little old lady with her cane. "My goodness" she began, "you children are all so well-behaved" and on and on she gushed. My children said their thank yous with a sheepish smile.

So twice in one day is just what I needed. And because I'm their mom, I'm claiming the compliments. I did make sure to let them know all the good stuff like 'others are aware of your behavior, not just me'. And of course that I was proud of them too. I outta get out of the house more often...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Haystack Full of Needles

Somewhere in the lineup of daily blog reading, I ran across Alice Gunther's new book Haystack Full of Needles, A Catholic Home Educator's Guide to Socialization with a foreword by Laura Berquist. If you know me at all then you know that I quickly clicked on the link and got out my credit card. I'm notorious with books that way. And it's okay- especially this time.

I devoured Alice's book. I earmarked pages that I want to go back to and jotted down ideas that I loved. This book is perfect for me on my second year of home educating but it's also a good fit for veteran homeschoolers, too. Haystack will be more of a reference for me in regard to my children's social life. Alice gives a long list of ideas that are simple and budget conscious, yet serve purpose for both child and mommy. I just adore the St. Francis Nature Club in which families meet on the same day of the week for six weeks (no pressure whatsoever) and picnic together before they go off with their field guides and armed with their nature journals. With just a little prep work prior to the first meeting, Alice bought St. Francis pins for the children and holy cards to tack into their journals. The book offers many great tips on starting clubs, what to look for and how to divvy up time. Most of the suggested group activities take place over six weeks so as not to be too long of a commitment and to fit into the the season both weather-wise and liturgically.

Most inspiring in Haystack is the Shakespeare play. From costumes to set design to how to cast this event- I am in awe and admiration. I would absolutely love to be able to put something like this together. But for the meantime, I think I'll tackle the Feast of Guardian Angels.

What a blessing this book is to all of us. Now go grab one for yourself!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mama


At morn--at noon--at twilight dim--
Maria! thou hast heard my hymn!
In joy and wo--in good and ill--
Mother of God, be with me still!
When the Hours flew brightly by,
And not a cloud obscured the sky,
My soul, lest it should truant be,
Thy grace did guide to thine and thee
Now, when storms of Fate o'ercast
Darkly my Present and my Past,
Let my future radiant shine
With sweet hopes of thee and thine!

---Edgar Allan Poe

This poem was sent to us this morning from our Mother of Divine Grace consultant. Isn't she thoughtful? We will be baking this afternoon for the Nativity of our Blessed Mother. Do you have any plans you would like to share?

Weekend Wrapup

Another quick one just flew by. But that's okay- the kid's are oddly excited to get to school today so I'm going with the flow. And maybe that's because I feel relaxed. Calm. Rejuvenated. Why, you ask? Because I escaped on Saturday and spent a good portion of the day at a crop fest scrapbooking. I haven't done that in years! So I got to gab with very interesting women, get some creativity flowing and just sit. It did wonders for my soul. You can ask my friend Karen whom I promptly told I was grumpy when I arrived. Grumpy about being in this cast and on crutches. Grumpy about not having control over the house. Grumpy about not running. Get the picture? But by the time I left I was all smiles and good to go. And hopefully by the time my little guy is 3 I'll have finished his baby book.

Sunday we went to Mass and out to coffee afterwards on the island. It was a cool, foggy morning and the fireplace was on. The kids and I played checkers and they colored- can you picture how cozy this was? We then left and went to the beach for the afternoon. We were the only ones there for a long time so we got to pick our picnic table and rule the beach. It turned into a gorgeous summer day in the 70s and I got to "run" in the lake which felt awesome. Then I threw in some laps and realized that swimming is one tough exercise.

We went home to grill for dinner, and all those who can walk did so after we ate and enjoyed the remains of the day.

Still foggy and gosh this water feels cold.

Fog burned off, sun came out, and the geese came a honkin'!

This photo should read- "So I think I'll just lay here a bit and work on my tan. Or maybe I'll dig- it's really hard to decide".

Hangin' with Moses

Don't homeschooling families just do the coolest things? Okay, I know that non-homeschoolers do wonderful things, too. It's just that this new world of home educators that we hang with have introduced us to great stuff.

A very generous,young homeschooler, Tasha, wanted to share her expertise with horses with other young ladies. So, Friday a little group of them met to learn about barn upkeep and chores, horse care and finally riding lessons. They rode bareback on Moses, a 1500 lb draft horse with such meekness and patience (still talking about the horse). They has such a fun time and didn't mind scooping poop one bit.

Horse club will meet on the first Friday of the month this year and I'm sure the girls are very eager for October already.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Arg! Grumble, Grumble

Yesterday was one of those days that you swear the world is out to get you. We set off early to get a bone scan of my leg at the hospital. My sweet and accommodating husband was to go into work late after the procedure so he followed us in his car. Being that we live in the boonies and it was the morning commute traffic- we left with plenty of time to make it. And our timing was good. The kids and I were singing in the car. I was admiring the beautiful mountains off in the distance. The sun was shining- it was a beautiful morning. And then it got ugly.

We pulled into the parking garage at the hospital and thunk. I wasn't thinking about our brand new storage thingy on top of the van. Stuck. Now my husband often jokes with me about my lack of thinking things through but yesterday he thought I was a down right brain surgeon. No- make that rocket scientist. "Didn't you hear that noise? Didn't you...." The answer was no, no, no- obviously I didn't. Anyhoo, many cars are piling up now to get in and park and the parking attendant is yelling from his booth. Can you imagine what color my face was??

So, finally we're in and traipsing through the hospital. Nine hundred forms to fill out and the nice nurse comes to get me. "Okay, Heather" she says, "I'm going to give you your injection for the bone scan and then you'll come back in two hours and we'll do the scan". Eyes as wide as saucers I exclaim, "What?! No one told me this was an all morning event!" I quick limp back to hubby and tell him. As he's checking all of him emails from people who are looking for him and needing him he gives me that deer in the headlights look. He can't come back- what do we do now? I frantically phoned my dear neighbor who sounded happy to help but perhaps had other plans. How I detest putting people out and asking for things.

So burning rubber we plow back to the boonies. Everyone is hungry, including myself. There wasn't time for breakfast and the cereal bar we all ate has worn off. Now I have to dump off three hungry kids to the neighbor- I feel even worse. By the time I dropped them off, I had just enough time to peel back to the city for the scan. How much gas can one van go through in a day? Lots!

The scan itself was actually relaxing. Forty-five minutes of laying still in a dark and cool room was what I needed. Followed by sitting on a blanket in the backyard sketching and knitting while the kids ran in the sunshine for a few hours set me back on track.

I was all refreshed from the frazzled day until it was time to set out again for the appointment with the sports doc to review the scan. Just as we concluded, mama broke her leg. So this morning we'll set out for the air cast and I vow to use the crutches all the time. (I've been cheating and limping around quite a bit). And NO more doctor visits, please!

Thursday, September 4, 2008


The new students showed up yesterday eager to learn with shiny new shoes. Okay, so maybe they didn't have shoes on- but they were rearing to go. And how disappointed they were to find out that we were only reviewing our new curriculum and getting acquainted with our books. "What about math? And spelling? Can't I do phonics?" They piped in. One was so excited she asked if she could pick a president to research and do a little project. Twist my arm...she did Teddy Roosevelt and it turned out quite nice!

So why didn't we do "real" school yesterday? Three reasons: One was still a wee bit under the weather, I'm still waiting for that UPS man with the last books, and because I CAN'T STAND when our lesson plans are laid out Mon-Fri and we begin on a Wed. It starts me off on the wrong foot and I get all messed up. I need structure, folks. I must follow the schedule or I feel all icky.

So today we will be writing about our summer, working on some art and reviewing math. And who knows, maybe they'll convince their teacher to do a little more!

We moved our room around this year. The kids had a major say in what went where.

This wasn't my idea at all- but apparently the little guy needs his own decked out workspace.

Oh, thank you Karen for lending me a bookcase. How we needed this organization!

Our red board is for current events. This will be an exciting fall!

My plan book has all of our liturgical, nature, craft, and field trip ideas for the year. I also keep the knitting/crochet book of ideas close by, too. It will be a long, rainy winter so the more projects, the better.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Because We Can

Today our homeschool co-op met for a picnic at the park. In our area, public schools commenced today so the slogan for the park day was Let's Go Play at the Park...Because We Can.

Wow, did we have a beautiful day. A perfect 70 degree, blue sky day with lots of new faces and friends to meet. This park was also an old working farm so the kids enjoyed visiting with the roaming turkeys,piglets and cows, sheep and horses, too. We had to skip the hiking trails because of the whole crutches thing but the kids got all their energy out just fine. On our way out I took a deep inhale, looked up at the trees towering over me and said, "Well guys, our last official day of summer break has been a very good one".

And then we got home and child number two came down with a perhaps we won't be starting tomorrow!

I mistook this turkey as one of my own. But the resemblance...

"Wait mom, I have to smell this one. And this one. And this..."

Now that method of transportation would be much easier!

And back home to paint our sketchbooks and finally finish the school prep. Goodbye summer, "stay sweet, see ya next year!"

The Old Man and His Garden

We paid a visit to our elderly neighbor Frank this morning. He promised to show us around his garden anytime after 5am and before 10pm. Pretty easy hours to work with, I say. Frank's garden is his passion. His wife has died and he has no children so his garden is his most proud accomplishment for the time being. How kind he was to explain every little detail of planting and growing and lots of little mini lessons that I just soaked up.

After about an hour in the glorious morning sun it was time for us to go but not empty handed by any means. I loved that my little guy fell for Frank. With a 90 year difference between the two, you wouldn't think there would be much compatibility. But when my son reached up and gently touched Frank's hand and sweetly gave him a flower- my heart melted. "Frank, this is for you. You can keep it if you like". If only he knew how special that moment was.

We also parted with a bag chock-full of beets, onions the size of my head, ripe tomatoes, more zucchini, and a fresh loaf of zucchini bread. Funny enough, we had brought him a fresh loaf in which he replied, "I just finished making 32 loaves, I can compare your recipe". Boy, I have a lot to learn.


Our very kind neighbor (the former cherry-man) delivered a box of juicy, soft peaches this weekend fresh from his tree in eastern Washington. I'm thinking cobbler...

Laborious It Was

The whole weekend went by like *that*. Jam-packed in usual fashion. We finally saw Wall*E which we all loved. There were also a million and one errands mixed in which came to a screeching halt with a two year old, a sore throat and a very high fever. This is actually a blessing to a progressively grumpier mom on crutches. (I mean, what was I thinking to go and fight the crowds at the Farmer's Market??) I used this fever as a sign to put my leg up, grab my knitting books and plan my projects- all while snuggling my out of sorts little one and taking in a Cubs game. (Knitting and baseball go together, right?)

The little guy is all good to go now, they sure do rebound fast. And so we're back to conquer the world in a single day mode. This being the last day before school starts, you can imagine there are a few things to run (hobble) and see and do.