Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Animal Crackers and Cocoa to Drink

Animal Crackers
by Christopher Morley

Animal crackers and cocoa to drink,
That is the finest of suppers, I think;
When I'm grown up and can have what I please
I think I shall always insist upon these.

What do you choose when you're offered a treat?
When Mother says, "What would you like best to eat?"
Is it waffles and syrup, or cinnamon toast?
It's cocoa and animals that I love the most!

The kitchen's the coziest place that I know:
The kettle is singing, the stove is aglow,
And there in the twilight, how jolly to see
The cocoa and animals waiting for me.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Comfort Food Friday (the details)


Is it okay to admit that I think one of the best parts of the autumn season is the food?  I love the cool days, cooler nights, and the vividly colored leaves, but I also get excited when I can turn on my oven again without sweating.  The smell of autumn food is simply heavenly.  I thought it would be fun to turn on our ovens together this fall and share the recipes that make us feel good inside-- our go-to comfort recipes.  You know the ones. 
Here is how it will work.  Each Friday morning in October, I'll post a favorite recipe from the week's category.  You share your own comfort recipe on your own blog, adding your link to the bottom of my weekly post so everyone can find you.  If you don't have a blog, you can still join the fun by typing your recipe in the comments. 

October 7: Breakfast Week
October 14: Main Dish Week
October 21: Side Dish Week
October 28: Dessert Week

I'm looking forward to the next four weeks of ooey-gooey comfort goodness.  (To include a photo with my recipe, I have to first make the recipe and then eat the recipe!  It's a win-win.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

(Amateur) Decorator on a Budget

When we moved to this house, for the first time in our married life, we had a separate dining room.  In our first apartment, we had a little dining nook.  In our townhouse, the dining room was an extension of our living area, but in this house, the dining room is its own separate room. 

When we moved here, I had no vision for the space.  I knew this room needed to function as a dining room and as a school room, yet I still wanted it to look pretty. The pictures we had on the wall in our townhouse didn't fit the space here and the curtain I had planned to hang in the window was about an inch too short so I left the room bare all through May and June and July. 


In August, I had a little birthday money to spend so I began scouring Etsy for ideas.  This pennant made with vintage handkerchiefs was my first find and since it couldn't hang in the window alone, I robbed one of the curtains from my bedroom and paired them together. 

A-ha!  So I now had a color scheme and inspiration.  Next I needed to cover the empty walls.  I found this un-framed print (also on Etsy) and paired it with a Walmart frame.  That fit well on a small wall between the window and the corner. 

I still had the problem of the long bare wall by the table, but it needed something large-- something to make the wall "pop"-- and I didn't think there was money in the budget for a large piece of art.  Plus, I was at a loss for what to choose anyway.  

Instead I turned to the dining room hutch.  This piece of furniture was in the kitchen in the house where I grew up.  When we moved here, my parents gave it to us.  I gathered vases, pitchers, bowls, teapots, and other glassware that I already owned and arranged it on the shelves.  The unsightly stacks and piles of school supplies are tucked away behind closed doors! 

Just when I was content to leave the large wall bare for a few more months, I came across an idea that I knew was doable.  I bought nine cheapy (think $2) frames from Walmart and spray painted them white.  Then I framed nine pieces of scrapbook paper and hung them on the wall in a grid pattern.  Of course, attaining  the perfect grid was more than a notion and  involved a tape measure, two levels, a hammer, nails, and an good sport of a  husband. 

And voila!  The room is clothed! 


(And now that my bedroom is a curtain short, it looks like that room is looking for inspiration next.)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tri-Moms: Whole-family Homeschooling

This week the Tri-Moms are discussing how we involve our entire family in the homeschooling process.  Brian works an 8 to 4 (or 5 or 6 or 7) job with a forty minute commute each way so he is gone during our normal schooling hours.  We also plan our school schedule around his winter break so, aside from a few weeks in February, he is not home to have an active part in each school day.  However, he has three key roles:

1) Be a sounding board for my thoughts and ideas.  Just because he is not home during school hours does not mean he is not involved.  When I am making plans for the year, I run my ideas and plans through him when we talk on the couch each evening.  Before I order my school books, I show him the list and ask what he thinks.  If  I am unsure of which program to select for math or what period to teach in history, I see if he has any insight.  He trusts my decisions, but I want his opinions anyway. 

2) Take a few minutes in the evening to hear what the kids have learned during the day.  Just because he is not home during school hours does not mean he is not interested in the learning and discovering that occurred. While we are still at the table after dinner, the kids love to show him their workbook pages and recite poetry and show him the maps they've colored.  Though he is often tired after work, I don't think he has ever once complained when they thrust their papers in his face with excitement!

3) Teach a skill when I am at a loss for how to teach it. Just because he is not home during school hours does not mean he does not make himself available when I need him.  A few years ago when I was teaching Gavin  to count money, we went over the concept day after day after day.  Day after day after day, he just didn't get it.  We were both frustrated and I expressed as much to Brian.  That same day, Brian sat down at the coffee table with Gavin and tried a different approach-- one I had never considered-- and by the end of their lesson, Gavin could count money. 

Involving the whole family can mean more than the immediate family, too.  We try to homeschool outside of the box and draw in anyone with a passion for a subject.  For a couple of years, my sister has taught my kids geography and globe skills on Sundays. This summer, we discovered  that Brian's mom has an incredible knowledge of plants and trees, and my grandmother taught my kids the two-step .  My mom has given Maddie a basic sewing lesson and Gavin worked with his Papa (my dad) on woodworking. 

Life is learning and learning is life. 

: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :

Visit my fellow Tri-Moms, Allyson @ A Heart For Home and Christy @ A Living Homeschool and read how they involve their whole family in the education process. 

Up next: October 4
  The joys and fears of our children growing older

Fall Schedule of Topics
October 18: Traveling with children
November 1: Thanksgiving crafts and recipes
November 15: Teaching the meaning of Thanksgiving

Friday, September 16, 2011

Autumn's Preview

Well, the weatherman was right.  Looks like our quick jaunt to the beach on Saturday night was timed perfectly because today, the autumn air blew in.  Yes, it blew in and it blew us outside to enjoy it.  The plan was to take our school books out and read in the fresh air, but alas, it was too hard to concentrate among the loveliness. 

So instead, we learned new ways to slide...

...played peekaboo...

...and fit in a nature walk along the back of our property. 

There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky,
which through the summer is not heard or seen,
as if it could not be, as if it had not been!

~Percy Bysshe Shelley~

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Juggling Lessons

said:  I noticed you have independent work for phonics/math.  How much time do you spend with each child going over the lesson?  It seems for me, teaching phonics and math takes up a good portion of my time.  

Good question!  This is something I've struggled with and tweaked and struggled with and tweaked some more.  I've been frustrated and satisfied and everything in between.  We learn Bible, history, science, art, and music as a group, but when it comes to math and English, it is not easy finding the balance to teach three kids on three different levels. 

For the first time this year, I've given Gavin his own checklist for independent table time.  He knows what subjects to work on and how many minutes he must spend on them or how many pages to complete.  Aside from answering questions or checking his work, he reads the lessons and completes the work on his own.  In Charlotte Mason style, we plan short lessons so he works on math for twenty minutes (more if I feel he is not working diligently), does one lesson in his grammar/copywork book, and completes one page of handwriting.

While he is working quietly at the dining room table, I take Maddie and Owen into the living room.  While Gavin is completing his twenty minute math session, I give them a twenty minute phonics lesson together.  They love working together and, for now, they are reading on the same level.   On Tuesdays and Thursdays, they do several pages of handwriting in lieu of the reading lesson.  I give them the directions and leave them to work at the table on their own.  Inevitably, they will finish at the same time and I'll be left to toggle between the two, checking and correcting their work.

Though this may change as the year progresses and they reach new, more difficult skills, so far both Maddie and Owen need only a few minutes of instruction each day in their math books.  (Owen is working on a first grade level and Maddie on a second grade level.)  If either of them needs additional assistance, is having difficulty, or has a long lesson, we'll move back into the living room so we don't disturb the ones at the table. 

Now here is the killer.  During this supposedly quiet, orderly time, Alaine is pulling out the DVDs from the cabinet and tangling the Wii cords.  Benjamin needs to be taken to the bathroom, and I'm pulling the ingredients for dinner out of the freezer.  In other words, it is not quiet and orderly at all...and that's life and learning with five!  

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Summer's Last Hoorah

The first day of autumn is September 23rd, but not one hint of it is was in the air this week.  The weatherman says the cooler days are coming and I will welcome them gladly, but in the meantime, we took the opportunity to eke out a September evening on the beach. 

We ate subs while chasing off gulls and trying to keep the grit out of the kids' food (to no avail). 

Some of us dug in the sand even making a hole big enough to hold seven! 

The same someones enjoyed the surf, though the strong rip currents kept them from venturing too far.  Gavin appointed himself resident life guard and kept his eye on anyone who might possibly "wash away to sea forever." (We witnessed a true life guard rescue tonight, too, so the threat was serious.) 

Alaine decided that she would take a risk in the rough waves.  Even when she fell down flat , she got up with a grin! 

And me?  I'm never been much of a beach girl (at. all.) so I sat in my beach chair taking photos of the festivities.  "Look cute," I prompted these two girls and within two seconds, we had this: 

Okay.  Bring on the soup and the hayrides.

Skills I've Acquired as a Mom

Before I had kids, I graduated high school and went to college for two years to get my associates degree.  I worked at the public library for three years and at a college library for two more years.  Becoming a mom almost nine years ago, though, required a whole new set of skills that none of my other life-experiences had prepared me for. 

I am proud to say that I can now:
  1. Sweep the floor, vacuum, and cook dinner with one arm.
  2. Read a story for the fifteenth time without remembering a word of what I read.
  3. Determine whether my baby has a fever by kissing her forehead.
  4. Remember the specific preferences for each child's peanut butter sandwich (who likes crunchy, who likes it with jelly, who only eats half, etc.).
  5. Clean a face with my fingers and just a touch of saliva.
  6.  Carry on a semi-intelligent conversation with my husband while the boys repeat the phrase "poopy poop" on the couch beside me.
  7. Nurse the baby and tie someone's shoes at the same time.
  8. Change a diaper on my lap in a public place without anyone knowing what I'm doing. 
  9. Sing the lyrics to the Super Why television show (and a bunch of others, too).
  10. Function on less than seven hours of sleep which included a 2 am waking to get the 5-year-old a drink of water.
  11. Pack the diaper bag with my eyes closed (and have what I need when I leave the house). 
  12. Talk on the telephone while scolding the kids with my eyebrows.
What about you?  What are your skills?

    Monday, September 5, 2011

    Tri-Moms: Organizing the School Year

    Though I am a planner by nature, when it comes to homeschooling, I've found that I do better without a daily lesson plan.  Because I tend to get too attached to a schedule once I've made one, it is more beneficial to me to look at the year as a whole and make yearly goals instead of daily plans.  Then if we have a social invitation, sick day, or other unexpected interruption, we take the day  (or  week) off and we pick up where we left off without feeling as though we're behind.  It is all a mental game, really. 

    At the beginning of each school year, I make broad goals that we work all year to complete.  Some of our goals for this year include:
    • History:     read our way from the post-Civil War era through space exploration
    • Art:     study the works of 2-3 artists
    • Music:     listen to and read about 9 hymns (1 per month) and learn to sing along
    • English:     help both Maddie and Owen  become independent readers 
    • Memory Work:     memorize The Lord's Prayer and the books of the Bible & memorize 2-4 poems
    If we complete a goal by December, I may consider making a new goal for that subject.  If we complete a goal by April, I may consider the subject complete for the year and lighten our load.  It is a good method for us and it works.  

    Though I do not make daily lesson plans, I do like a bit of structure.  I prefer to sit down at the school table with an expectation so I'm not winging it every day.  Though I have jotted it on paper, it is such a flexible routine that if we anticipate a 3- or 4-day school week instead of the typical 5, we can tailor our plans accordingly.






    Kick off the day with...

    Bible memory

    Bible reading

    Bible reading

    Bible reading

    Missionary study

    “Extra” Subject:


    Art Study

    Science Reading

    Music Study

    Outside Science

    Table Time:

    English: Phonics and/or




    English: Phonics and/or Copywork


    Winding Down...

    <------Geography/ History Reading------>

    Then there is the issue of end-of-year organization.  In the fall of 2007, during my first weeks as an "official" homeschool mom, I had every intention of writing down of what Gavin did in school every day.  I recorded each math lesson and each page of handwriting in a grid with spaces for each subject and each day of the week.  I thrive on organization and records so I expected to enjoy this process of record keeping, but instead it stressed me out.  It was too easy to get discouraged about blank spaces and what didn't get done.  I talked it over with Brian and decided to abandon the daily records and instead keep a more general yearly record. Now when May rolls around and we wind down our year, I type up a comprehensive list of what each child accomplished in each subject and compile the pages in a binder along with work samples, art projects, and a few pictures from the year. It is sort of like a school year scrapbook. 

    By the time I'm done, I have a 1-inch 3-ring binder for each school aged child to mark their finished school year.  Someone recently asked me what I do with the things that don't fit in the small binder.  My answer?  Throw them away!  I work hard to include all the highlights in the binder, but if it doesn't fit, out it goes.

    : :: :: :: :: :: :: :

    If you are like me, you enjoy getting a nosy little peek into the plans of other homeschool moms'.  Visit the other Tri-Moms, Allyson @ A Heart For Home and Christy @ A Living Homeschool and read their take on organizing their homeschools. 

    Up next: September 20
      Getting the whole family involved in homeschooling

    Fall Schedule of Topics
    October 4:  The joys and fears of our children growing older
    October 18: Traveling with children
    November 1: Thanksgiving crafts and recipes
    November 15: Teaching the meaning of Thanksgiving

    Sunday, September 4, 2011

    Naming Our Summer

    Warning: excessive photo alert {wink}

    I'm not much of a "namer."  We've never named our cars or our homes, and even naming our babies has, at times, been agonizing.  But I've spent many moments this summer thinking of a word for our summer-- a word to embody all that it held. Moving out of town and to a quiet new house in the country ushered in welcome changes and it feels as though we've suddenly broken from our cocoons.

    Because my informal motto of the summer was "people over schedule" (meaning that if we had an opportunity to fellowship or reach out to others, we would make an effort to do that even if it was outside of our comfort zone or disrupted our routine), I had almost settled on the word People for we spent many happy hours among, well...people. 

    There were visits with grandmothers...

    and great-grandmothers.

    We opened our home to guests who brought laughs and good conversation.

    There was the weekend when my brother was in town
    (from across the country or 2863 driving miles according to Mapquest)
    and we seized the opportunity to snap a family picture...

    ...and there were multiple afternoons to bond with cousins!

     But I couldn't settle on naming our summer People because that was
    only part of the picture of our summer.

    Some very special things were done alone...

    ...like going to Horse Camp...

    ...and learning to walk.

    So what do you call a summer of People with a sprinkling of independence, plus injuries, sadness, smiles, celebrations, a little water, and a little sand ?

    I have settled on naming our summer Full

    Not full of chaos or even a full calendar, but a pleasing and satiated Full

    What would your name your summer? 
    Leave me a comment or write about it on your blog and leave me the link! 

    Thursday, September 1, 2011


    We've watched her transition from    baby...

                                                 ...to toddler.

    And now she is  ONe!                                           

    Happy Birthday to our sweet Alaine Claire.

    For the record, Maddie says Alaine is most definitely not a toddler until she turns 2. 
    I asked her what I am to call this baby who toddles and she has settled on the term baby-toddler.

    I think it fits.

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