Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hayscented Fern

#2 out of 100

Fun in the Sun

Living here in Connecticut, you have to accept the sun on its terms. We had one day I'd call "hot" earlier this month and one free hour in our afternoon schedule, so I dragged out the Slip and Splash, lathered my pale children with sunscreen and we worshiped the true God of the sun by laughing and enjoying His creation in our backyard.

Avril wears the new swim-digs Aunt Michelle got her. God willing, in a little more than fifteen years, I can get another photo of her sun bathing and be able to compare the two pictures. If all goes as I plan, the bathing suit she wears then will have more, rather than the same or God forbid, even less fabric. ...I shudder to think.

We use a spray nozzle set on hold to turn our slide into a water slide. Norah slides down it to get up to speed. And, I sacrificed myself to take this photo. The second after I clicked it, Norah hit that pool of water and drenched me.

Monday, June 29, 2009

We attended the Grand Opening for our neighborhood's park this past Saturday. I made a short slide show of photos to share.

Dwayne and I love living in East Mountain. Our neighborhood is like no community we've ever seen. The quality of life here isn't based on prestige. It can't be, really, since the homes, the lots, even the mortgages are all modest by Connecticut standards.

However, most of the homes in this neighborhood were built around the time "under God" was added to our nation's conscience. And, I think maybe that is why living here is like traveling back in time. Many of the things you associate with "good ole days" are true of East Mountain every days. Our mail man walks up to our door. Our neighbor's are friends. We help each other constantly. We've depended on them in sickness and we've given them support while they were ailing. We have all grieved together. We celebrate together. We live our lives, literally, together. Perhaps this is true of all close knit communities in New England and I'm just struck by it because I'm still somewhat new to this part of the country.

But, I always joke that I was born fifty years too late! So, I believe I may have been destined to live in this home, on this street, in this neighborhood and not just because I know my steps are ordered by the Lord, but because this place fits me... like a glove.

Washable paint, empty egg cartons, paint brushes and paper towels...

We've had several rainy days this month, so I had to get creative about indoor play. I made Norah strip down, so she didn't dirty her clothes, and I let her paint in the tub. ...This worked like a charm. She'd stay in the tub for hours at a time, painting, singing to herself... When all the fun was over and paint was used up, we'd wait and show her work to Dad, of course, then I'd have to scrub the tub and shower walls. But, that was a good thing, really... 'cause I had a hard time remembering how long ago I'd done that on a regular basis anyway.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

This summer, Norah's learning how to print her letters... neatly. We're using Zaner Bloser's Handwriting K. I will introduce a new letter or number in the book and the next day, I create extra practice on a sheet from Mead's Learn to Letter with Raised Ruling using crayola markers to make the lines thicker and give Norah letters to trace then copy, etc. I am also teaching Norah to assess her own work. She will pick out the best stroke or letter on each line and we mark it with a pink heart.

You may not be able to read a doctor's handwriting and prescription,
but you'll notice his bills are neatly typewritten.
- Earl Wilson

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sweet and Sour Sauce
Combine one jar of chili sauce and one cup of grape jelly in a sauce pan. Whisk the mixture over low heat until smooth and heated through. Remove the sauce from heat and allow it to sit a little while before serving.

This can be drizzled over meatballs to make sandwiches for dinner. You can refrigerate any leftover sauce in an airtight container and serve it as a dip for chicken nuggets at lunch.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Turkey Tail

#1 out of 100

A good friend of mine said she firmly believes kids "should be able to name the plants in their own backyard." Her comment got me to thinking that I don't even know the names of some of the flowers I've planted in my own garden! After that, I came upon quite a few blogs who were participating in the 100 Species Challenge. This sounds like it may be fun, not to mention useful.

I hate not knowing the answer to Norah's questions about the things we see. And, even though this exercise will be more work for me than it will be for her right now, it may allow me to head off some the questions she will, no doubt, keep asking about the plants we see. And, I'll get better at identifying plants, something I'll need to be able to do with ease once Norah is old enough to ask me to teach her how.

I am not going to follow the official rules, since I will be including plants on our hiking trails and also reptiles, insects, etc. But, I thought I'd credit the source of my idea, nonetheless.

If you'd like to see my list of species, you can click here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pictures of the girls from where I sat this afternoon. It was truly hot outside for the first time in weeks, so we packed our bag and basket and after running errands, we stopped by our park for a picnic lunch and some fun in the fountain. I'm crossing my fingers, hoping we may actually have tans lines from the sun we got.
A picture of a picture of us, not long after Dwayne and I first met.

It was around this time in the summer of 2000 that I met my husband. He had just transferred to the college I was attending, we were both taking summer classes and we had some friends in common, so we all sat down to the same lunch table. In less than ten minutes time, talking to him and hearing him speak to the other people at the table, I knew he was my soul mate.

My love has long been yours
since on that day
when we first met-
I will never quite forget
how you just paused
and smiled a bit-
and calmly helped yourself to it.

-Ruth Bell Graham

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


And Then.

Norah in our sandbox.

Now and then I like to compare my pictures, to see how quickly my kids have grown. This serves to remind me how quickly time flies, how what seem like insignificant minutes add up to hours, days, years.

For what is your life? It is a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away. James 4:14

Macaroni and Cheese with Ham

6 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups half and half
Black pepper to taste
6 cups cooked macaroni
1 cup grated Parmessian
2 cups of shredded Cheddar
2 cups of shredded Swiss
1/4 cup of chopped scallions
1 cup bread crumbs
A few cups of chopped, cooked ham
(I use frozen leftovers after baking a ham on holidays).

Prepare your ingredients before hand. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in deep skillet. Add the flour. Stir constantly. Add the half and half. Keep stirring till this mixture is thick. Add black pepper, as much as you'd like. Stir. Add noodles, mix. Add cheese, mix some more. Add the scallions and the ham and half the bread crumbs and mix. Pour all this into a greased baking dish. Sprinkle the left over bread crumbs on top. Bake till the dish is heated through (20-30 minutes). Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

This is a picture of a kid who got her way.

Norah's like me when I was a kid.

No. That's not entirely accurate. Let me rephrase that.

Norah's like me.

I can be the most persistent person alive. I can wear someone down like a file wears down a fingernail. Just ask my husband.

It was raining outside. So, we were stuck inside and still in our pj's after lunch. Not that we aren't often in our pj's after lunch, even on sunny days, but that isn't my point. I'm just explaining how our day was going.

Norah asked for an ice pop. Then she asked again.

The only reason I had for saying "No" was because I didn't want her to drip the sticky, red mess all over my floor. If it was a nice day, I would have let her eat one or even two ice pops outside on the deck. I was explaining this to Norah for the second time, while she was doing her best to convince me that maybe she wouldn't drip anything on the floor, if she was careful. But, I could tell she wasn't even convincing herself of the truth of her statements, since she was hiding her hands behind her back because of even they were still pink in places from the drips that stained them a few days ago, even after a bath.

That's when I had a moment of clarity.

"You can eat one... in the tub."

Now, I know some of you self righteous folks are probably shaking your heads as I admit this. My daughter should have given up as soon as I said "No" once, right? But, I could see in Norah's eyes that she respected my creative solution to our dilemma and you can see from the picture above that Norah was entirely willing to go along with my conditions.

And, in defense of what I think was a beautiful compromise and to answer that authoritarian version of myself who sits on one of my shoulders and mocks me when I make parenting decisions like this, as far as I can tell, having kids isn't supposed to be like having subjects. If there is nothing wrong with what our kids want, I think it is okay if we parents and kids just find a way around the challenges together.

Here's hoping any compromises I have to make with Norah go this smoothly when she's a head strong teenager.

Monday, June 22, 2009

"Norah! Do you want a frozen pizza for lunch?!"

I hear her little feet pat- patting the wood floor as she runs down the hall, picking up speed. I turn to face her as she appears in the kitchen in front of me, all stressed and out of breath.

"Mom! I don't want a frozen pizza for lunch! I want a cooked pizza!"

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Guess what Dad?
Eye Heart U.

Norah drew this picture for her daddy.

We love you, Dwayne.
Happy Father's Day!

Below is a picture of Dwayne's Father's Day gift. I didn't want to wait till today to give it to him because I was afraid Norah would ruin his surprise. I had to frame it at home on Friday, so Norah saw me working and figured out that I was finishing her dad's gift. I warned her not to say anything until Father's Day, but her assurances just made me all the more anxious. "I won't tell him what it says, Mom. I'll just tell him it's a cross stitch." and "I promise I won't ruin his surprise. I'll just say it's something really exciting he doesn't know about." So, I gave it to him on Friday night.

I cross stitched a section of the hymn "Praise to the Lord" and framed it. It says, "Praise to the Lord who doth prosper thy work and defend thee. Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee. Ponder anew what the Almighty can do if with His love He befriend thee." It will hang in his office.

Before we got married, our pastor took us through counseling. He asked each of us to make a list of 10 reasons we wanted to marry the other person. I can't remember everything on my list, but I do remember the first thing I wrote:

"He will make an excellent father."

If I had to make another list of 10 reasons why I am glad I did marry him after all, I know what the first thing on that list would be:

"He is an excellent father."

Saturday, June 20, 2009

We made these dandy tappers and clappers out of metal lids. We got the idea from Martha Stewart's Kids Get Crafty.

You'll need two matching lids. The kind that come on baby food jars are the most ideal, but we don't buy baby food just yet. Avril's still a little young for that, so we used lids we have saved from products we do buy like chili sauce and pickles. You will also need a hammer, nail, board, and some string, as you can see from the pictures above.

Face each lid down on the board and hammer two holes into the middle, about one inch apart. Cut the strings about eight inches long and thread them so that both ends come out on the inside of the lids.

You can tie the smaller lids to feet to make tap shoes...

...and tie larger, flatter lids to hands to make cymbals!

Use these to practice keeping rhythms with your hands and feet!

Friday, June 19, 2009

We got this ice pop tray some time ago and picked up a package of fruit punch mix, all in preparation for the first truly hot day of the summer. My parents used to make these same ice treats for us in small Styrofoam cups with the exact same flavor, so tasting them again is sort of like traveling through time. Only now, I am the one cleaning up the sticky, red mess that is left behind. But, cleaning up sticky, red messes isn't that bad of a gig in all, since I love the kid who makes them.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

After dinner some nights, we have been going downstairs to listen to Charlotte's Web on audio CD. I happened to find it at the library. It's good timing considering the spiders we have in our backyard.

The version we have is read by the author, EB White, so you can tell that it sounds just as he meant it to. We were hooked from the first line: "Where's Papa going with that ax?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.

Norah sometimes sprawls out on the couch to listen.

Or sometimes she will ask to rock in my chair.

It's actually really hard to get a picture of her without her finger in her nose while we are doing this. I guess it is something about listening to stories out loud. She stares into space and I think her fingers just need something to do.

Avril plays on the floor...

...or Dwayne and I will pass her back and forth while she sucks on her fists.

As we listen, we all smile and snicker a lot. I knew I'd like this story, since I have seen both versions in film. But, as it usually goes, the book is so much better.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Norah's young eyes pick up every little movement in the grass. Over and over again, she will point to something and say "Look, Mommy!" and I will look in that direction, but still have to ask, "Where?" She will point to it again, I'll move in closer and look harder and have to ask again, "Where?" Norah's used to this by now and she will usually sigh, sometimes she will even roll her eyes, but she'll say, "There." and point to it again. This process will go on as often and as long as I need it to. When I finally do see whatever it is she's talking about, I am usually so close to it that I have to jump back.

This is why we've asked Norah to keep an eye out for snakes on the paths we all hike together. You may think that it is absurd to give this task to our four year old, but she's proven that she is, by far, the most equipped for it. Of course, we keep our eyes open, too, but I am being honest when I express my doubts about the good that does. Maybe being only three feet tall and closer to the ground gives Norah a big advantage on her grown-up parents or something.

But, anyway, the other day, Norah pointed to our rock wall out back and said, "Look!" I had to go through the process of getting close enough to see what she was talking about and when I did, well, I had jump back first, but then I leaned right back in to see it better. Norah noticed a golf-ball sized pile of tiny spiders, hundreds of them hatching (Do spiders hatch?) from their egg sack. They were crawling around and putting off tiny webs to catch the wind and fly away from the nest (Do spiders have nests?). It was just like that scene at the very end of Charlotte's Web, when all the baby spiders are flying away from Wilber in the barn and squealing with glee.

We enjoyed watching (and dodging the flying spiders) for some time. I'm so thankful for Norah because there is, quite literally, so much I'd miss if it were not for her.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I've been reading a few chapters from The Tale of Despereaux to Norah every morning. This summer, some local theaters have free or discounted rates on family films and this movie is on the list. Norah hasn't seen it yet, so I am planning to take her as a treat.

I got this recipe from my sister in law. It's easy to throw together and very yummy.

Chicken Cheddar Noodle Bake

Two cups cooked chicken, chopped
Half a bag of egg noodles, cooked and drained
One can cream of chicken soup
One container of french fried onions
One stalk of celery, chopped
Two cups shredded cheddar cheese

Chop celery into small pieces and cook it in a little butter, till tender. In a large mixing bowl, stir together one can of soup, one can of milk, cooked celery and cheddar cheese. Add cooked noddles and cooked, chopped chicken. Finally, stir in most of the french fried onions. Add this mixture to a baking dish. Top with the remaining french fried onions. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Have you ever found yourself in a place where you know there is little to nothing about your life you'd care to change, even if you were given a limitless fortune?

Godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Our neighborhood park is almost finished. I've been saying that forever, but I really mean it this time. A dedication service is planned for the last Saturday of this month. We were on our way to hike and picnic at a state park, but we passed by and saw that the water had been turned on, so we opted to stay and play close to home.

Norah plays in the water fountain.

Daddy burps Avril.


Avril's holding her head up like a champ.

Left to right, you can see some of the courts in the back, the sprinkler in front, the gazebo in the middle (Norah calls it a caboose. She confuses those two words.) the play scape on the right and even farther over is a large flagpole and the ball fields.

Norah put on the dry clothes we brought and played with other kids on the slides a while.

He just parks at the entrance and rings his bell every few minutes, wearing down your resistance until...

...you give in a let her get a Screwball.

It was another lovely Saturday afternoon. My eyes tear up a little when I think of our new park. My heart is overflowing with thanks to God for something so nice, so near and so free! (Unless you consider how much we pay in taxes...) But, I just "smile at the future" memories we will make in this place, Lord willing.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Tomorrow is Flag Day, the day set aside to honor Old Glory.
To celebrate, I thought I'd share one of my original coloring sheets with you.

"From the mountains, to the prairie, to the oceans..."

Click on the black and white image above to enlarge it, then right click and "Save Image As..." to have a printable version of the color sheet on your computer.

This is an interesting book I've been perusing: The Care and Display of the American Flag. It's surprisingly easy to read and has answered with clarity and authority those questions I have had about the often vague and confusing, sometimes conflicting traditions surrounding our country's flag.

Friday, June 12, 2009

And I notice You in children's games,
in those who watch them from the shade.
Every drop of sun is full of fun and wonder.
You are summer.

-Lyrics from Nichole Nordeman's song "Every Season"

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Norah's latest obsession: dolphins.
Her older cousin Andrea told her she likes them, so now Norah likes them, too.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

(noun) - any plant or flower that grows where it is not wanted.

When I was teaching forth grade, I reviewed the definition of the word 'weed' with my students. It was defined as "any plant or flower that grows where it isn't wanted." I remember standing there in front of the class, because I was struck by how simple the definition was. How, by that definition, even a tulip or a rose bush could be considered a weed, if it was growing where it wasn't wanted, if the person who owned the landscape happened to prefer dandelions to day lilies. I thought the definition couldn't be that simple. Wasn't there some definitive quality inherit in a plant that made it a weed? The matter couldn't be entirely subjective... or could it?

Since then, I've pondered how often the same principle that can define a rose bush as a weed is at work in politics. Homeschooling has made me more sensitive to how often the majority defines a matter in our country. If enough people think some thing is right or wrong, policies are put into place and laws can be passed at lightning speed.

Most people still send their kids to school, for example. So, most people still agree that school is where children belong during the day. Our local superintendent wanted to pass legislation recently to make it criminal for businesses to hire teenagers during the day or for teens to be working during "school hours." The drop out rates were climbing so steadily, the superintendent wanted to find the quickest way to stop them. He and his supporters were well meaning, but any legislation like that would be a sideways assault to everyone's liberty.

What about the homeschooled teenager who wants to take advantage of the extra time he has because his school day only takes half the time, and get a job, working longer hours than his public schooled peers can to make more money for college? That kid's freedom to work, that kid's freedom to take advantage of the choices he or his parents have made is why we have a constitution, though it seems like more and more people are completely ignoring it these days. It's why legislation isn't supposed to be a simple matter of how many people are in agreement over a particular issue. Otherwise, America would be ruled by the mob, rather than the constitution.

But, what if, God forbid, a judge ignores the constitution and allows a law that violates it because most people agree that a behavior the law supports is right? Well, that is the issue conservative news programs are talking about right now in regards to supreme court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Unconstitutional laws are proposed and passed all the time, so if judges, like Sotomayor, are willing to ignore the constitution to keep them, we aren't, in fact, ruled by the constitution anymore. Judges, at the bidding of the mob or working on their own inclination, would actually be the ones in control at that point.

Most people agree that dandelions are ugly. But, to make a political parallel, even if it is a weak one, in America, my neighbor ought to be able to uproot her rose bushes and plant "weeds" in their place. Who am I to tell her dandelions are ugly?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Fun in the Backyard

I finally talked my husband into making a fire pit in our backyard. It's right smack dab in the middle of our pretty green lawn, but who cares about a perfect lawn if you never use it, right?! We talked to the fireman next door and he assured us that it is perfectly legal to have an open fire pit, so long as we are cooking over it. Well, being the law abiding citizens we are, we certainly want to do everything above board. So, we just make sure we are roasting marshmallows anytime we have a blaze going. I giggle at the fact that I am obligated to eat Smores. Well, okay!