Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I took Norah to Beardsley Zoo today using a free pass we checked out from the library. Dwayne's parents are in town, so they stayed home with Avril.

Pitcher Plants

Once Norah found out what it does, she was scared of it.

Bear paw cactus


Prairie dog

They had these neat little caves...

that let you pop up right where the prairie dogs were.


Riding the carousel

We saw a lot of animals, many more than are pictured here, but most of them were behind glass or fences so the pictures weren't great.

"Mom! I'm milking!" the giant cow

Wet from the elephant statue

We got a dozen different stones from the gift store to start a collection...

and some rock candy.

We saved the stick so we could re-use it to make our own.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Pictured above are the results of my first attempt to can the Roma tomatoes we are growing in our vegetable garden this summer. A good friend with more canning experience came over yesterday and graciously helped me limp through the process.

These cans don't look like I expected them to, but then again, what do I know about canning, really? From everything I can gather, their seals appear to be perfect, intact, and the space in the jars isn't air so much as a vacuum...

But, to be sure, I am busy talking to all my canning friends about my concerns who are talking to all their canning friends to see what they say about my concerns. I am asking new questions based on my now (limited) experience and reading books and websites and sending photos like this out to experts online, all in an effort to learn as much as I can, no pun intended, to make sure this food is well preserved, but also as fresh as possible and (most importantly) safe for my family to eat.

Even with the stress of doing all this for the first time and having to learn so much, canning these jars was incredibly fun, believe it or not. I am a little surprised at how much fun it was. I thought I'd like canning, but I didn't think I'd like it as much as I think I will... if that makes any sense. I can't wait to have enough open space in my schedule to put up another batch. We're pulling more and more tomatoes out of the garden everyday, so I will actually need to try again pretty soon.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

We've been a part of our church, Walnut Hill- Bethel, since we moved to Connecticut and rented an apartment in Danbury several years ago, back when I saw still pregnant with Norah. We have loved Walnut Hill from the beginning and felt sure it was where God wanted us to be. It was unlike the churches we went to before, but in a positive way, because for the first time in our lives, we were going to church with so many different types people from different backgrounds, which meant not everyone had the same story or believed exactly as we did about every single thing, which meant we had to sort through our experiences and convictions to find what was essential and make an effort to do what the Bible commands and "make every effort to maintain unity..."

That said, when we bought a house all the way out here in Waterbury, forty five minutes away from the church, we knew the Sunday commutes would be difficult on us, but we felt it was "worth it" to continue being a part of Walnut Hill. However, several months ago, Dwayne and I both started feeling an inexplicable desire that came "out of nowhere" to be able to reach out to our neighbors and go to church "where we live." Up until that point, we couldn't invite our neighbors to Walnut Hill because our invitation had to come with an apology and explanation that it was so far away. And, up until that point, the inability to invite our neighbors hadn't really "bothered" us, but now, it really did. So, naturally, we started visiting churches around here with our desire to serve our community in mind and on our hearts, but struggled inwardly, because we still felt sure we should also be a part of Walnut Hill... But, how could we do both? We couldn't understand what was going on inside of us.

Right around that time, we found out the church was planning to plant another Walnut Hill in Waterbury and all of a sudden, our heart's desires made perfect sense! We felt certain this was God's way of explaining to us what His Spirit was doing inside us and that He wanted us to be a part of this new church!

So, now the whole church in Bethel is raising funds to help with the expenses of this new church plant in Waterbury, even the kids. The Sunday School gave out these walnut tree-piggy banks last Sunday. Each kid was challenged to raise "fifty dollars in fifty days." Norah was excited to do this, so we committed to help her with it. Today, we had a yard sale and raised $104.70! Twice as much as our goal! When Norah explained to our neighbors what she was raising money for, many of our them gave donations on top of their purchases and all of them were positive about Norah's efforts. We are so thankful to God for how He has exceeded our expectations. But, He always does that, doesn't He?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Are you sure you are homeschooling your kids?
Or are you just schooling them at home?

"Since warehousing sounds so decidedly negative, it needs a positive spin, a justification. After all, many parents are annoyed, even threatened by the concept that if they have children, actually raising them, is part of the deal. So we assign the added purpose of 'education' to the warehouses.

Thus, not only are children being kept apart from community and family (real life), they are forced to participate in schooling - an entirely unnatural and synthetic activity - even though it is merely an excuse to keep them captive."

I was reading this portion of Smarting Us Up: The Un dumbing of America and it sickened and sobered me. I can't say I would go so far as to say that every parent sends their kids to school so they don't have to raise them (though some of them do) and that every public school is a warehouse (though we have to admit that some of them are not much more than that). I don't agree with everything these authors say, but this portion of the book did cause me to realize one thing:

Even at five years old, there is a lot more Norah could and should be learning from me at home than I have been taking the time to teach her.

"She is only five..." I'd tell myself and then pack her bag for our overnight trips instead of helping her pack her own bag and using it as an opportunity to begin teaching her another vital skill, another way of taking care of herself. I started rethinking everything she needs to learn to be ready for life, from washing dishes to opening soup cans, and I realized that I was letting this schooled culture dictate to me the "when" of these matters.

I don't let the public schools enforce their "standards" (that often turn into limits) on my five year old's potential in subjects like math and reading and handwriting, so why was I ever letting them define what was "normal" for her in other areas? Just because most every other five year old is helpless in the kitchen (because they are hardly ever home to be in the kitchen) and can't brown beef safely, doesn't mean Norah has to be helpless in the kitchen. And, just because most every other five year old is clueless about how to run a vacuum (because they are too busy with homework to be expected to do chores, too), doesn't mean that Norah has to remain clueless about this, either.

I have come to believe in home school because it allows children to spend their days doing things that matter in the real world (not just the artificial world of the classroom). Norah has had time to learn how to gather ripe vegetables from the garden and she has learned how to help me change her baby sister's clothes. While doing these things, she is fully engaged. And by doing them, she experiences what it is to do something truly worthwhile. I say a genuine "Thank you" and mean it for her help with the garden and Avril rewards Norah with a hug and a look of adoration when she helps take care of her baby sister. These things really contribute to the people she knows and loves. And, that only adds to Norah's confidence, self-worth and satisfaction.

Every kid is capable of more than what the system has room for. We all admit this. The beauty of homeschooling is that it can (if parents like me will wise up a little and let it) allow kids the room they need to reach their full potential in every area at every stage of their lives.

"Norah, Do you want to help me vacuum?!"

"I don't think I can..."

"Of course you can! I mean, you won't be as good at it as I am because you are only five, after all, but get over here!"


Friday, August 27, 2010

I have been thinking about taking Norah to Howe Caverns. It's an underground cave in New York with a river and stalactites and stalagmites, etc., just a magnificent place to see anyway.

But, I was browsing through this book (that my Aunt Patti gave to me years ago. Thanks, Patti.) I turned to this week's entries to see if anything peeked my interest and I noticed that there was project to "Create stalagmites and stalactites!"

A quick trip to the store to pick up some fishing weights and cotton string (and some groceries, while we were at it) and we were ready to begin.

We cleared a space on our bookshelf, high enough so that the baby can't touch it, but low enough for Norah to easily check the project's progress.

After a day, we started to see a little bit of accumulation.

We will keep you posted with pictures as this project progresses. After a month or two (or even three), I think we will go ahead and visit those caverns. Hopefully, the cave formations Norah sees will be even more meaningful to her by then because we worked together to make some of our own.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Norah started soccer practice yesterday.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dwayne has started doing a model with Norah. I usually have my hands in everything that goes on in her life. I think that's just the nature of being a homeschooling mom. But, Dwayne and I have agreed that I will stay out of this one, deliberately, so that it can be something exclusive that Norah and her daddy share. Norah is always looking forward to working on the model. She can't articulate why, exactly, but Dwayne and I both think it's because spending such concentrated time with her daddy feeds our little girl's spirit.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

We were invited to visit our friends Justin and Denise Loeber at their beach house in York, Maine for a second year in a row. You may remember that I lost almost all my photos from that trip last year, but this year I have several photos to share, thankfully.

The beautiful beach house they shared with us.

Minutes after we arrived, Norah had salt-water taffy in her mouth.

The front porch swing.

The view from the porch.

The view from the yard.

A short walk to the beach.

Queen Anne's Lace

Milkweed pods

Tidal pools

They were perfect for Avril to splash around in.

At first, it looked like the seaweed was growing directly on the rocks.

But a closer look shows what look like tiny black barnacles at the base of each plant. And, from all I can gather about these topics online, I think the barnacles must have attached themselves to the rocks "first" and then seaweed anchored almost as quickly to the barnacles and started growing out from there. The two appear to be one, but I think that just illustrates how inter-related the plants and animals are in this ecosystem.

Sea Acorns

Bright green seaweed grows so prolifically in these shallow tidal pools because of the abundance of sunlight.

I found a flat, slanted rock to perch on while Norah collected snails.

We didn't have a bucket, so we improvised with an empty applesauce container.

These sea snails are also called periwinkles or just winkles, for short, and in many parts of the world they are collected just as Norah is doing, by hand, but then eaten. And, come to find out, they aren't actually native to North America. It seems that they came over, originally, attached to rocks used to weigh down sailing ships in the 1700s. But, now, they are so abundant on the coasts of New England that you would assume they were always here... Incredible.

The baby woke up very early in the mornings. We decided to go for walks so as not to wake up the sleeping house. But, the invigorating walks made us hungry, naturally, and the kids are always starving first thing in the morning, so we stopped in here for their breakfast special. $3.95 per person for eggs, toast, half a dozen chunks of greasy potato and a slice of bacon. The food was terrible, actually, but somehow the sea air and the hilarious fry cook made it a place you'd want to come back to again and again.

Norah played in Ellis Park, right next to Short Sands Beach.

You could climb down the rocks next to the road to this "private" beach separated from the larger beach by rocks.

Norah looks for more snails.

I helped her collect snails by laying flat on a rock and reaching down into this pool left in the rocks by the tides.

I found that larger snails were easier to grab in the first place, but harder to get off the rocks because they had a stronger suction.

This day, we didn't even have an applesauce cup, so we found a cleft in the rock filled with water and collected the snails there. If you watched closely, you could see them bunch together slowly.

The girls read books on the front porch.

For all the doubts I have as I raise these girls, I feel that I must be doing something right because instead of hauling off and hitting one another, they haul off and hug... often.

Swinging (and smooching) while the kids play in the yard.

There's a story (and a lot of giggles) to go along with this picture. Our neighbor, who is also a fireman in Waterbury, gave us a bottle of his homemade wine. We brought it to "share" with our hosts and the other guests. So, Justin drew a label and attached it with the only adhesive we had on hand: band-aides...

I had a sip and it wasn't half bad.

While the women went to lunch with the baby, Dwayne and the men took Norah and Charlie to Nubble Lighthouse to climb rocks and site see.

The kids found this "cave."

After lunch, we met up with the men for ice cream at Brown's. It's too hard to explain here, so I think it will have to remain an inside joke, but we will always laugh out loud about our children and "That's what I wanted to do with it!"

Avril plays hard to get, but she really does love, love, love Mrs. Denise.

Charlie, the Loeber's son, poses high on the rocks as we were leaving our last day at the beach.

All the kids, even Avril, enjoyed playing with Hermey, Charlie's new pet hermit crab.

Smile for Mommy! My family poses for me one morning, while we were hanging out outside until everyone else woke up.


The Loebers.

There was another couple, The Burns, who stayed while we did. We enjoyed getting to know them. But, they had to leave really early the last morning, so we didn't get a photo of them, unfortunately.