Monday, March 30, 2009

I gave birth to our new little girl, Avril Marie Boulden, on Saturday night. She was 7 pounds, 8 ounces and 19 1/3 inches long. My water broke at 6pm, while we were at the mall. We made a quick exit, as you'd guess, got home, got our bags and got to the hospital by 7pm. Avril was born at 11:32pm. A good friend came to meet us at the hospital and kept Norah busy and distracted. She wasn't in the delivery room for the worst of it, but Norah was able to come right in and meet her sister as soon as she was born. This may be my last new post for a while, but feel free to keep looking in because I set a few weeks of material to post in my absence.

A photo of the action.

Avril Marie Boulden.

It was all very gross to Norah.

Our new family picture.
(No one else is looking at the camera, but I like myself best in this shot.)

Mommy and baby.

Close up.

My beloved ones.

We are all so tired.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Another way I save money (and time): I don't collect DVDs for twenty (or more) bucks a pop.

Instead, I borrow movies through Netflixs (or the library).

Norah loves Netflixs because she gets a surprise in the mail periodically. And, I love this because not having DVDs in the house prevents me from wasting too much precious time actually letting Norah watch them.

As it goes, when a disc arrives in the mail, we feel free to watch it as soon as have the opportunity. We send it back, basically, right away, then do some serious and studious activities for the next few afternoons. Dwayne may get another disc (or two) in the mail of his choice before another one comes for Norah. But, when Norah does get one, we always feel free to watch it and we always do it completely guilt-free because we know it's not something we do too much.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

One way I save money: I make my own spray-in detangler.

We always have at least a third of a bottle of conditioner left long after the "matching" shampoo has been used up. So, I squirt a little of it in the bottom of an empty spray-in conditioner container, fill the rest of the space up with water and shake.

Voila! Homemade detangler!

I bought the over-priced detangler once, since it really is indispensable in our house. You see how much Norah has. But, we plowed through it in a week or less so I never could bring myself to spend money on it again and again and again...

I just saved the container and once it is completely empty, use it over and over. Our mix works just as well, as long as you shake it up before each use, it smells just as good, it leaves no noticeable residue and slowly but surely, I get to use up all our left over conditioner to boot!

Friday, March 27, 2009

U is for Underwear

" I think I got the wrong size."

I was packing my hospital bag and buying some things to use during my recovery, assuming the baby will actually come, so I can actually recover. But, when I pulled these underwear out of their package, I could hardly believe how big they were. I showed them to Dwayne, who was standing nearby, and it set us to laughing hysterically.

And, like I said before, as frustrated as I am that this is now the fifth day of being overdue with this baby, Dwayne and I are finding a lot of things to laugh about and a lot to be thankful for.

See how Norah turned a simple craft turned into a review of the birds and the bees and the story of Genesis.

Red Bellied Wood Pecker

White Breasted Nuthatch

Male Downy Woodpecker

Female Downy Woodpecker

We saw several new birds today, but they came and went before we could identify them. I think they must be various types of finches and sparrows. I got a picture of our red bellied woodpecker, though again, I wish my camera could do a better job. I put today's arrivals (the ones I could identify) in bold.


Red Bellied Woodpecker (Male)
Downy Woodpecker (Male and Female Pair)
Black Capped Chickadee
White-Breasted Nuthatch (Male)
House Sparrow (Flock of both Male and Female)
Blue Jay (Male)
Dark Eyed Junco (Flock of both Male and Female)
Brown Headed Cow Bird
(Male and Female Pair)
Tufted Titmouse (Male and Female)
Cardinal (Male and Female Pair)
Mourning Doves (Male and Female Pair)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

If you want to make a homemade squirrel... I mean, bird feeder like this, too, click here for instructions. We didn't paint ours all fancy-like or add Popsicle-stick shingles, but even our simple version of this craft works. A tufted titmouse came after this squirrel had gone away. We were able to watch him eat from where we do our lessons everyday, but he wasn't there long enough for us to get a picture to share with you.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

She handed it to me
then stood
her face,
alight with pride,
searched mine to see
if I'd
be pleased or
if I would
note the flaws
which, even with my help,
were there
(obvious but understood)
because her heart was in the work
that she had done
(which my heart took);
she'd given me
the very best she could.

here is my daughter.

-Adapted from the original by Ruth Bell Graham

Ruth Bell Graham wrote this poem about her son, but I changed it to work for my daughter Norah. I like the last line the best: "Lord- here is my daughter" as if Ruth was thinking of presenting her son to God.

If we moms actually were to present our children to our Father in heaven like our kids bring their works of art to us, I believe we'd stand before Him like our kids stand in front of us, shy and unsure, but full of pride at the same time. Our hearts are in the work we do with our family and we know they aren't perfect, even when we do our very best. I know God would see the flaws that I may not see, but I hope He'd give me his approval anyway.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Jello Fruit Snacks

This is an easy recipe that younger kids can help with. Older kids can probably do the whole thing themselves.

I chopped up strawberries and we added them to containers.

We followed the directions on the box to make Jello.

I transferred the Jello into a pitcher, so I could pour it neatly into the little cups. I did this once before, spilled the Jello, and it took weeks to get the red stain off the counter.

I let the containers set in the fridge overnight.

We had them for afternoon snacks the next few days. As adorable as Norah looks in this photo, I notice the mess trailing off the table, onto her clothes, to the mat on the chair and finally, the floor.


Monday, March 23, 2009

My husband Dwayne preached at church on Sunday evening. A few other people spoke before he did: an artist in our church shared an inspirational message, a pastor prayed, another man read Scripture, so Dwayne starts about a third of the way into the audio recording I link to below.

The passage Dwayne preaches from is Ephesians 4. You can't see the power point he used to go along with his message, so for the sake of making things clearer for anyone who happens to listen, Dwayne shows images of Obama and Darwin at the beginning of the message... and you'll have to listen to the sermon to understand why he does that and how the images fit.

If you are interested in hearing him, a link to the audio for the sermon is online here.
The obligatory belly shot for all those family members who won't stop pestering me. You said, "We want to see your belly!" But, said nothing about seeing my puffy eyes, double chin, bad hair, etc. So, you don't get to see those things... and don't ask to.

An ancient oak
among the trees
stood in the freezing
Winter air;
Lifeless it was
and stripped of leaves
only a few dead leaves
hung there.
I watched all winter,
-watched to see
how long
those shriveled leaves
would cling,
like withered hands,
upon the tree
where whipping winds
would bite and sting.
Each day I watched
and watched in vain;
snowstorms came
and blizzards blew,
wind, ice and sleet,
hail storms and rain:
each took its turn.
When all was through
those leaves
were still there
clinging fast.

came Spring.
Life throbbed anew
within the tree
and loosed their grasp.

-Ruth Bell Graham

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Colossians 3:23

I was going through some of my old Bible memory cards and found this one. That day, these words in Colossians really struck me, checked my spirit and ministered to my heart.

Housework can be overwhelming. I do the dishes in the morning only to find that the clean ones in the machine won't put themselves away and I always have another sink full after I make a homemade dinner. If I am already thinking on toilets and tubs I need to scrub, Norah's crumbs and childish accidents can drive me to scream, even though I know she can't help it. And, when I wake up and Dwayne has forgotten to do something that we've agreed is his part, like take out the trash, I can find the offense almost impossible to overcome.

Earlier on the same day I read the verse above, I had to trudge out to the garbage, almost nine months pregnant, all the while thinking how thankless my family must be for all I do. I actually asked myself out loud, "Who do I do this for anyway?!" And, I am not the least bit surprised that God brought me a timely answer to my bold question: "It is the Lord Christ whom you serve."

This verse helped to put things in perspective. In the most basic sense, I do not actually do the things I do for my family even though I have each one of them and their particular needs in mind all day long. I do my work for the Lord Himself. I honestly believe He notices every effort I make, little or great, to serve this family, to build this home. And, that in mind has the power to change my attitude quicker than anything else.

I've been making this collection of memory cards since high school, copying a verse as it stuck out to me while reading. Going through the entire collection that day, it made me chuckle to find how often I made copies of the same verses twice, even three times, not remembering or realizing that I had already discovered that verse before and had already made a card (or two) with those words on it.

Case in point: I found two cards with the words from Proverbs 20:22 on them. See the photo below. This made me laugh out loud. Who or what was it that made me mad enough to take special notice of this particular verse on two separate occasions?!

I am not sure when I first noticed or made the note card with the verse from Colossians on it either, but I wonder: Was housework was on my mind that day, too?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

My view of Norah as she practices reading her small books with small stories.

For all these smallnesses
I thank you, Lord:

small children,
and small needs;
small meals to cook,
small talk to heed,
and a small book
from which to read
small stories;
small hurts to heal,
small disappointments, too,
as real
as ours;
small glories
to discover
in bugs,

When the day is through
my mind is small,
my strength is gone;
as I gather
each dear one
I pray "Bless each
for Jesus sake-
such angels sleeping,
imps awake!"
What wears me out
are little things:
angels minus
shining wings.
Forgive me, Lord,
if I have whined-
it takes so much
to keep them shined;
yet each small rub
has its reward,
for they have blessed me.

Thank you, Lord.

-Ruth Bell Graham

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friends, please bear with this post. It's for our interested family members.

Below are pictures of our newly (almost finished) basement. It has been two whole years since we started this project.

A view of the stairs with the carpet runner.

From the bottom of the stairs, looking right, into the family room. You can see the door leading to the laundry/storage room at the back right corner. Dwayne has to add baseboard, a few ceiling tiles and a door handle to finish this space.

Standing in the corner of the family room, looking toward the stairs. You can see Norah's Lego bucket for her entertainment while I do laundry. You can see part of the bathroom door on the left and the doors "hiding" the boiler/storage area behind the stairs. They will be painted the same color as the walls.

From the bottom of the stairs, now looking left. We think this will be a permanent guest/office space. You can see part of the door to the garage. Again, baseboard, a few ceiling tiles and outlet covers will make this space done.

Standing in the back corner of that room. You can see another view of the garage door.
Taken on a hike in April 2005. Somewhere in Connecticut.

The long, gray winter
now is past-
the coldest we
have ever seen-
and I am glad
to note at last
earth's first bright
touch of green.

-Ruth Bell Graham

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I read an interesting NY Times article suggested to me by a local home school co-op. It explores why college students today are feeling more and more entitled to good grades just for the effort they put into their studies. They believe that going to class, paying attention, taking notes and doing their "best" should merit them, at the very least, a passing grade. A portion of the article reads,

"James Hogge, associate dean of the Peabody School of Education at Vanderbilt University, said: 'Students often confuse the level of effort with the quality of work. There is a mentality in students that ‘if I work hard, I deserve a high grade.’

... Nearly two-thirds of the students surveyed said that if they explained to a professor that they were trying hard, that should be taken into account in their grade.

Jason Greenwood, a senior kinesiology major at the University of Maryland echoed that view.

'I think putting in a lot of effort should merit a high grade,' Mr. Greenwood said. “What else is there really than the effort that you put in?”

I have an answer for Mr. Greenwood... "What else is there besides the effort he puts in?"

Well, I'd say the result is also pretty important.

Don't most people go to college to prepare for the workplace, at least, in theory? Is a boss supposed to keep Mr. Greenwood or anyone like him on staff, pay his salary and provide all the company benefits, after he has proven he isn't competent and simply because he tried really hard not to screw up?

My husband has a poster hanging in his office, as a joke. It's modeled after the kind you can find all over businesses, schools, and libraries that are supposed to motivate people, but his is a spoof on those. It reads:

When you earnestly believe you can compensate for a lack of skill by doubling your efforts,
there is no end to what you can't do.

If you click on the link, you will see that the poster actually mentions college students and those who confuse effort with results as the most fitting people for this poster.

How do kids graduate thinking effort equals merit or participation entitles them to some reward? I went to public school, so I have a few ideas.

One of my teachers in middle school was educated and fully certified for her job as Language Arts Teacher, but she couldn't read the list of spelling words. Every Friday, she'd chose one student to read the list for the class and that student had to take the test later, from another student who then read the words for him or her. Even as kids, we wondered and gossiped in the halls between classes about how the school administration could ignore the fact that a Language teacher was functionally illiterate. But, we also noticed that our teacher never missed school, always did her job (or found ways to get it done), etc. That taught us something.

And, year after year, I had teacher after teacher who addressed their new classes with some variation of the following speech, "I know some of you are afraid of Algebra II. But, if you come to class, pay attention, do your best, you will pass." That taught us something, too.

Are home schoolers immune to this because their success in education is, more often, based on things like mastery of subject matter rather than perfect attendance?

While it may not be a popular stance, I, once again, want to assert that home schooling parents like me should come away from articles like the one above and discussions of this kind and be diligent rather than arrogant. In our own ways, we can actually make the same kind of mistakes the formal K-12 schools are making with their students.

I've heard things like "Abraham Lincoln was self educated" repeated again and again within this homeschooling community. Heck. I may even end up saying in defense of a point I want to make one day. But, let's be honest. Lincoln didn't spend much time in formal school, but that doesn't mean every home schooler will grow up to be as influential or successful as Lincoln. We shouldn't perpetuate that flimsy rational, particularly in front of our children.

We have the privilege of loving our children as our children, but the responsibility of evaluating our students as students. Otherwise, our kids may pick up on any of our subtle or even not-so-subtle references to their superiority, they may confuse our acceptance of them with their academic performance, and therefore, may enter the world as ill-equipped to handle or filter criticism, as incapable of respecting or submitting to their professors or bosses as their traditionally schooled peers seem to be these days.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

is for Thankful

I was doing laundry the other day and I looked up and saw this. The meter on the top of our oil tank was just a little below full. I started to cry right there over the towels I was folding.

The day before this happened we drove passed a man on our way home from the store who was standing on the corner, bundled up because of the cold, holding a cardboard sign that said "No oil. Kids are cold. Please help."

We couldn't help him. I was actually depressed and complaining outright on that ride home. We had just spent 17 of my last 20 dollars of cash on an economy sized bundle of toilet paper at the wholesale store that will last us for a few months, yes, but that had left me with only a dollar or two of spending money in my wallet until pay day.

But, there in my laundry room, it occurred to me that I had overlooked some of the most substantial blessings God had given me. While I may not have had any extra cash in my wallet to spend as I pleased, our bills were paid, our house was warm, our fridge was stocked, and our bellies would be full until I had grocery money again.

I was humbled and ashamed when I realized, once again, how greedy for gain I can be and how often I take for granted what I already have. And, for the first time since I read his sign, I was able to, at least, pray with a right heart that God would meet that man's needs like He has met ours.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

S is for St. Patrick's Day, too.

We spent the day doing housework and regular schoolwork. But, tonight after dinner, we found a recipe online and made traditional Irish Soda Bread to celebrate the holiday.

Quick facts about St. Patrick's Day:

St. Patrick was English, born there in 385.

He was kidnapped as a teen.

He was kept as a shepherd-slave in Ireland for several years where the druid religion was popular.

He escaped back to England where he studied to become a minister of the Christian faith.

He returned to Ireland and began converting people to Christianity in 433.

It is said that he used the three leaf clover to teach people about the Trinity.

He was eventually made the Bishop of Ireland.

He died in Ireland on March 17, 461.

People remembered him on the day of his death year after year.

Before there was a more formal process like there is today, sainthood in the Catholic church was often based on popularity or general respect of the people.

On March 17 every year, Lent restrictions were suspended to celebrate the life and ministry of St. Patrick. People could drink alcohol and eat meat on that day, making St. Patrick even more popular among the common man, no doubt.

With the Great Potato Famine of 1845, almost a million Irish Catholics came to America so they wouldn't starve. Faced with severe prejudice, they found it hard to get good jobs, stayed poor and tended to settle in groups within cities.

Due to limited resources, Irish soda bread became a staple among the people since it can be made with only the most basic ingredients: flour, bread soda, soured milk and salt.

Immigrants decided to take to the streets of NYC to celebrate their heritage on St. Patrick's Day.

They were depicted as wild drunkards in reports, leading to some of the stereotypes Irish still face today.

But, the St. Patrick's Day parade is the oldest civilian parade in the world and the largest in the United States, even bigger than Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

Note to self: Maybe we should drive down to the city and see the parade in person some year. And, until now, I'd dismissed Norah and hadn't realized why she said "a man wearing a beard and a fuzzy green hat" delivered our mail this morning.

I guess the mail man was celebrating the holiday in his own way, too.

S is for Seed Art

Norah's final K4 lessons have a springtime theme. She used a handful of dried beans, lintels, corn and nearly all the Elmer's glue to make a picture. When I told her I didn't have any green split peas because I had used both bags for soup the other night, Norah said, "That's okay, Mom. I'll just make the grass dead."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Aphids from The Ladybug Game.

The newest word in Norah's vocabulary is slave.

As we played The Ladybug Game the other day, she said, "These aphids are slaves to the ants... right?"

If you didn't know it, this is actually true in nature. Aphids are taken captive by ants who make them work as slaves in their colonies. It's pretty fascinating.

By chance, Norah's also learned this word from another source, her video, The Prince of Egypt, which tells the story of the ancient Israelite's captivity or slavery in and later, their exodus from, Egypt.

Norah is a tad obsessed with this story right now. She wants to talk about it all the time. We spent about an hour and a half talking about it before bed a few days ago. No kidding. I may have fallen asleep a few times in the middle of our conversation. I don't remember. We were snuggling in bed together after reading a book. But, I do remember that Norah asked an interesting question about the movie, or story, of the Exodus.

"Mom. Why did the people run away from the soldiers? Why didn't they turn around and fight?! The soldiers could have caught them!"

I answered the obvious, "The Israelites didn't have weapons. Their only choice was to run."

To this, she asked another, even better question, "Why didn't they have weapons?"

I answered before I really thought about it, "Well, they weren't free. Before they left Egypt they were slaves..."

And then it hit me like the Red Sea fell on my own head.

To be free is to be free to defend yourself.

The inability to protect yourself is actually part of the word slave's meaning.

, noun. -from the Slavs who were frequently made slaves by the Germans.

1. A person held in bondage to another; wholly subject to the will of another; held as a chattel; has no freedom of action, but whose person and services are under the control of someone else.

2. One who has lost the power of resistance; one who surrenders himself to any power whatever; as, a slave to passion, to lust, to strong drink, to ambition.

The power of resistance or the freedom of action is, for me, a critical part of my political freedom. And, I feel this issue is critical for every free person, even those who may never choose to own weapons for defense. God help us. He will have to part more seas for common men if we Americans allow our government to make inconvenient and even impossible our ability to exercise our 2nd Amendment rights. At that time, we will no longer be able to call ourselves "citizen." We should more accurately be labeled "subject."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

This is a very simple bird feeder, very easy for kids to make again and again. Take a long piece of yarn, tie a large knot in one end, then string on Cheerios. When the string is almost full, tie another knot in the other end. Wet your hands and squeeze the strand of Cheerios, getting them damp, but not soggy. Hold the strand over your kitchen sink and sprinkle it with a layer of cayenne pepper. The red pepper is supposed to deter squirrels, but is harmless for the birds. Take the strand of Cheerios outside and wrap it around a tree branch you can see from your window. Tie the two knots and any excess string together, making a snug little "bracelet" for the branch.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

We've been pulling baby things out of storage, cleaning them up, taking inventory. Norah's having a good time with her old toys while we sort through them. She played with her over-sized Legos the other day. From the playroom, I heard her yell,

"Mom! Look! I made Abraham Lincoln!"

We left her Legos in a pile there and she moved on to something else. But, the next morning, while I was making breakfast, I heard her yell again,

"It's the Lincoln Memorial!"

"Lincoln hides there from the bears," she pretends. And, even later that day, she brought this to me where I was sitting on the couch.

"Now, that's a big top hat!"

Kids use whatever information they've been given to fuel their imaginations. I am pretty sure Norah still thinks Sponge Bob is a block of Swiss cheese and that makes me very proud. I've noticed that other home schooled kids are "weird" like mine, incorporating historical figures into their make-believe adventures. We came home from a home school play group the other day and Norah swore to me that one of the other kids, a little boy a year or two older than herself, was named Paul Revere. I tried to explain to her that that probably wasn't his real name, but she wouldn't hear it. She said he "told stories" and said they had the best time running from one big slide to another getting places "as fast as they could."

Turkey Pot Pie

I am still thawing and using the turkey scraps we froze after Thanksgiving. This pie served my family with leftovers. If you have a larger family, you can serve this with a salad or side and it should provide plenty.

Two pre-made, refrigerated pie crusts
4 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped thin
3 tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
2 cubes chicken bouillon
2 cups water
3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 1/2 cups cubed cooked turkey
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roll out bottom pie crust, press it into a pie pan and set this aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrots, parsley, oregano, and salt and pepper. Cook and stir until the vegetables are pretty soft. Stir in the bouillon cubes and water. Stir in the chopped potatoes, cover and cook everything, stirring frequently, until the potatoes are getting tender.

In a saucepan, melt the other 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in the flour, then the turkey pieces. Add the milk and heat this mixture through. Stir this turkey mixture into the vegetables and broth, and cover and cook this until it is thick and the potatoes are tender. Pour this mixture into the unbaked pie shell.

Place the other crust on top, press the edges and make slits in the top of the crust to let out steam.

Bake for 15 minutes on 425. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking for 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Just keep checking so you don't over-brown the crust.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The project was to drink orange juice directly from an orange, using an orange (obviously), a knife and a straw... So, we picked up some more oranges at the store and tried it.

But, our experiment confirmed my suspicions: this doesn't really make enough orange juice to drink. An orange with a straw in it just makes a cute advertisement for the manufacturers who claim to have the freshest product.

What I took away from this:

I know one way to make orange slices even juicier. (Watch the video to find out).

And, I learned that even though every one of our home school projects won't be successful, we will should make the best of them and they can all be fun!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Calendar Skills

I got this idea after reviewing the Saxon Math K book. Everyday, the text suggests letting your child make patterns with colors to mark the days on the calendar. We aren't going to use Saxon K after all. Norah would be bored to tears, since she has been introduced to most, if not all of the material with Bob Jones K4. We plan to go right on to Saxon 1, but we do need to continue working on her calendar skills in the meantime.

Norah has a little calendar I got her at the start of the year. I suggested the idea of making patterns by coloring the blocks different colors and Norah loved it. So, starting on March 1, she picked two colors: green and pink, and we've been alternating them every day. Next month, Norah has plans to repeat about five colors in a pattern. Whatever she wants.

We do this whenever we remember to: in the morning, before we officially start lessons for the day or at night before bed, if we had to be out all day. This gives Norah practice with several skills that come up quite naturally while we do this together.

Days of the week
"What's today?" or "When do we go to church?"

Months of the year
"Find this month. January, February, March... That's right. It's March." or "What is next month?"

"What number is in today's box?"

"How many days until Saturday?"

"What will we color the box today?"

"What will we color tomorrow?"

Ordinal Numbers
"Today is the 1st, 2nd, 3rd... 12th. That's right."

Saying the Date
"Today is Thursday, March the 12th. What is the year? ...2009. So, today's full date is Thursday, March the 12th, 2009."

The other night at dinner, Dwayne asked randomly, "What's today's date?" I didn't know. Without even lifting her head from looking at her plate, Norah said, "March 11th." We were both floored.

This consistent practice works!