Thursday, March 31, 2011

Photos from Avril's 2nd birthday:

2 years = 2 gifts

Chocolate cupcakes, chocolate icing, chocolate and vanilla ice cream

"Aren't you going to help me with these??!"

As I pulled into the library parking lot that morning in a hurry, feeling a little stressed by all I needed to accomplish in the next few hours, I noticed him right away. There was something different about this guy and it struck me immediately, something unnerving about the way he was just... walking... It took me a few seconds to figure him out. I see people strolling through parks all the time. But, I watched this guy and he didn't seem to have any direction at all. It was weird, so weird that it was unnatural.

He held himself as if he had absolutely no commitments, none today, none tomorrow, none next week... But the interesting thing was that his lack of direction seemed to lead to a lack of real interest in anything around him. He didn't seem to notice the beautiful robin on the ground near his feet or the sun rays coming out of the clouds warming the chilly earth. His lack of interest even seemed to cause him unrest, because he was literally wandering around the park... I've never seen anything like it. I was quietly horrified.

I said a quite prayer for this man just in case my impressions of him were right on and he was, in fact, totally aimless in life. Then I snapped a photo so I'd remember the impression his terrible freedom made on me that morning. I headed into the library then. Like I said, I had a lot to do that morning and there were people who loved me, who needed me, who were expecting me to get home by lunchtime...

But, I walked with a renewed sense of purpose, feeling less burdened by all the things on my to-do list, realizing how very blessed I am to have a life so full of purpose that I can hardly even keep up with it all.
"I hide." -Avril

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I spent another hour typing titles into my Goodreads account and then further organizing my books on my shelves...

As painful as this exercise has been (and will continue to be during all my free time in the next day or two, it seems), it comes at the right time (before I buy any more books) and it has been really, really useful.

For one thing, I realize that I need to be much more strategic about the books I actually buy (even though I've gotten many of the books I have now at .69 cents a piece with one out of every five free at the thrift store). I'm not sure what my complete book-buying strategy will be, exactly, but I have had time to come to a few conclusions:

First, I think I will start focusing on the lists of books or publishers that I admire the most (like Five in a Row or Usborne), become even more familiar with the titles and be able to recognize them when I see them on the shelves at thrift stores or in piles at yard sales. These types of collections are vetted and worth having.

Next, I realize now that I can't collect every Nancy Drew or Boxcar Children book. I was given some of these by a friend and as much as it would satisfy that inner perfectionist to own all of them and see them in a neat little line on my shelves, I don't have enough shelf space for all of them. In fact, I don't even have space for half of them! So, in cases like The Boxcar Kiddos and Nancy You-know-who, I believe I will own the first book in that famous series and if Norah wants to read the rest of the books, she will have to check them out from the library one by one.

And, finally, I realize I need to be more flexible about the books I buy. Buying a book is not like buying parrot. It doesn't have to be a life-long commitment. So, with that in mind, I have come to the conclusion that I may buy some books now (for .69 cents each with every fifth one free) because it will be nice to own them now, only to turn around and sell them at a garage sale in a year when I am done with them... and this is okay.

This is okay.

This will be okay.

So, I have even started making a pile of books to remove from my shelves altogether (like the Boxcars, Nancy Drews, and Animals Arks you see in the photo at the top of this post). As of right now, I have plenty of room for these books on my shelves. They could just sit there in case I ended up wanting them. My shelves aren't too full by any means. But, I feel like purging is a step in the right direction, in general, since I am trying to start only "keeping the ones worth keeping."

Figuring out the books that are worth keeping, well, that's the trick and I think that's probably something I will be working on for years and years and years. I admit I may be thinking way too hard about this whole thing, but that would be nothing new. My husband accuses me of thinking too hard all the time.

But, for now, anyway, I'm really satisfied that I finally have a working relationship with my bookshelf and that I am have a better sense of what I'm actually doing with my books. I am not just buying as many as I can afford. After days of typing in titles, I have become more definite about the ones I will keep, the ones I will want to buy and the ones I will just let pass by.
The Magic Tree House books are some of Norah's favorite books to read right now. Many of them have a corresponding research guide.

I took Norah to the library one week and she picked out Mummies in the Morning (probably because we had started studying about Ancient Egypt in History.)

About a week later, that book's research guide, Mummies and Pyramids, showed up on our list of recommended books for the chapter we were on in The Story of the World, so we ended up checking that out and reading that together, too!

I love that her the books she is choosing to read for fun go hand-in-hand with what we are studying in history.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


That's the name of the website I am using to keep track of my personal library.

The second time I bought a second copy of a book I already owned, I figured it was time to make an official list.

You think I'd be able to keep up with what books I have, but it's really not that easy.

Goodreads let's me use an application on my phone called My Book Droid to log in and see my library from the thrift store or book store isles.

It has already come in handy when I needed to know which Magic School Bus books we actually have, verses the ones I have only seen online, verses the ones Norah has checked out from the library in the past, verses the ones we have checked out right now, etc.

I've been typing titles in all day today and I still have at least two hundred more books to add.

No kidding.

I don't even have what I'd consider a large collection of books.

I am what I'd call a picky buyer.

I don't own even half the books I want to own right now.

And I know I don't own a quarter of the books I will own by the time I am done homeschooling.

So start now.

That's my advice to any home school mom like me who is slowly, slowly collecting books and thinks she may want to keep track of her library, eventually.

Start typing the titles in now because I bet you have a lot more books than you think you do.

I thought it would be simple enough to get a handle on the books I own, since my collection is what I'd call "small."

But it's not that simple.

And I guess my collection really isn't that small.

We're also reading the pages of Norah's First Animal Encyclopedia that cover the animals we saw in the swamp.
I was holding Avril when the phone rang. It was my dad. I answered and he asked, "How's my baby girl?" I said, "She's fine. She's right here on my lap..." He laughed and said, "I was talking about you!" Ha! Ha! So, with that in mind, I hope a picture of me (and Dwayne) counts toward keeping my promise to my dad for the day.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Happy 2nd Birthday, Avril. (She wouldn't take a picture by herself.)
Here's a picture of the girls eating some lollipops Mrs. Mahaffey, an old friend of mine, gave them while we were in South Carolina. Thanks Mrs. Mahaffey!

We're reading through One Small Square: Swamp.

It's meaningful because of our recent visits to Cypress Gardens while we were in South Carolina. (My sister bought us this book at the Cypress Gardens gift shop with her employee discount, actually. Thanks, Loretta!)

I really like this book series. I think I will collect them one by one (or get them from the library) and use them to help me plan field trips and make the trips more educational. The books give you things to look for when you visit these ecosystems, tell a little about the animals that live there, etc.

The swamp book we are reading now talks about two different kinds of swamps, not just the cypress swamps like the one we saw in South Carolina, but also mangrove swamps found on warmer coasts.

We are going back to South Carolina in a week. We may get a chance to visit Cypress Gardens again while we are there. But, we've already been there twice, so we may try and do something else while we are in South Carolina next time. Maybe we could go to the Seashore while we are there... The beaches in South Carolina are much different than those we visit often while living here in the northeast.

From South Carolina, we are also heading on to Florida. We will be there a day or two after our cruise, so I am researching to see if I can find a mangrove swamp for us to visit while we are there. It will all depend on how close we are to one and how much extra time we have during the days, etc. But, it would be nice to take advantage of our proximity to that unique ecosystem while we are in Florida.

I am also considering purchasing the One Small Square: Pond. There's a pond relatively close to us at Ansonia Nature Center. We could visit it when we get back to Connecticut at the end of April. I think it would be fun to read the book and then go to the pond a few times to see what we can find.

And, I may get the book for the Backyard and Woods, too. I mean, we have a backyard of our own... and we have woods we like to hike through at Kettletown State Park.

Now, the Arctic Tundra... that may be a little harder to manage.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I took his grand kids away from him, all the way back to Connecticut. So, now I have to try and post at least one photo of them on the blog every day. Got to keep my promise to my dad.

Love you, Dad.

When Norah and I were listening to the audio recording of E.B. White's The Trumpet of the Swan, I wept after I heard the following passage:

"In the spring of the year, nest building is upper-most in a bird's mind: it is the most important thing there is. If she picks a good place, she stands a good chance of hatching her eggs and rearing her young. If she picks a poor place, she may fail to raise a family. The female swan knew this. She knew the decision she was making was extremely important."

In the springtime of my life, choosing where I'd build my nest was utmost in my mind as well. And now, after many, many seasons, there isn't a single day that I am not given reason upon reason to thank God for guiding me to build where I did.

I love you, Dwayne.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

We're reading on this book, The Young Naturalist, in preparation for nature studies this spring/ summer. It's full, full of good information. We can't wait to try some of the ideas once the weather warms up, especially the different bug traps.

Friday, March 25, 2011

My sister gave Norah this blank notebook. We're going to use it as a nature journal. We took it to Cypress Gardens on one of our visits and Norah made a quick drawing of one of the butterflies she saw in their Butterfly House. She colored it in when she had some extra time several days later.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Never be within doors when you can rightly be without." Charlotte Mason

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Shouldn't she have been looking around at everything?"

This was the question my sister asked me when we were talking about that boat ride in the swamp after we had put the girls to bed for the night. My sister is a perceptive lady and a pretty courageous one to ask me such a pointed question, I might add. But, I respect my sister's thoughtfulness. She wondered, genuinely, how much valuable, textbook-type information Norah took away from that boat ride for real since, as you can see from the background of the photo above (far right), Norah spent most of the trip hanging over the side of the boat with her fingers in the chilly, tea-colored water.

I wondered the same thing that my sister did. Throughout the boat ride, I encouraged Norah to look around her at the magnificence of the swamp, scolded her for being so narrowly focused on the sensation of the water on her fingers, even threatened her with punishment if she didn't quit hanging so far over the side. I was nervous at times that she may actually even fall in.

But, I told my sister (and myself) that at least Norah got to experience the simple pleasure of the water passing through her finger tips heading one direction as the boat she was in glided another. That was something. And, generally, that is more than many kids in school groups on formal field trips get to do with their teachers concerned that their hands and feet be in the correct places for attention to be paid and for real learning to take place.

I also told my sister that Norah's only six. (That is my excuse for a lot of her misbehavior these days. But, what I really mean by that is that I am tired, I have no idea what I am doing and I have no idea what a six year old should be doing instead.) And, I also explained to my sister that this was, after all, only Norah's third boat ride ever.

The first boat ride being the Swan Boats at Boston Public Gardens last summer, the second being in the same boat and the same swamp only a few days earlier, but in that case, Norah was just too thrilled to be in a boat and in a swamp and sitting right next to the tour guide, of all places, to even notice the water under her... but, during this boat ride Norah's goal was to touch the tops of every lily pad she could reach, obviously. And she must have touched at least fifty.

That wasn't my goal for her during that boat ride, though. I would have liked for her to listen to the tour guide and ask intelligent questions and look less like an average child and more like a home school prodigy/ saint. But, come to think of it, I heard everything the tour guide said but I can't recall any of it. And, I can't say that I've ever touched the top of a single lily pad, let alone fifty!! I had my hands in the boat the whole time sitting properly.

I mean, have you ever touched the top of a lily pad? Do you even know what that feels like for real?

Monday, March 21, 2011

While we were in South Carolina, I took the kids on several hikes, boat rides, etc. taking advantage of our free time in that unique place, knowing even though the trip was unexpected and we weren't prepared to study the swamp in advance, we could read about it when we got home. Below are pictures of some the beautiful things we saw.

Moss growing on trees.

Pink lichen.

Ferns unrolling.



The yellow bellied sap sucker tattoos the trees.

Cypress trees and lily pads.


More ferns unrolling.

Cypress knees.

Dogwood just beginning to bloom.

A blue heron.


A green anole on a mossy log.

Spider web covered in pollen.

My sister and my kids in the boat.

An egret's nest high above the swamp.

Gator on the bank.

Yellow bellied slider with moss on his back.

Gator on a log.

He was covered in the pollen that was floating on the water.

Friday, March 18, 2011

This button pigeon was the size of a man's fist and her chicks were as big as the end of my thumb. It was spectacular to see them scurrying around behind their mother everywhere she went. But, the sight of the mother stopping and sheltering them under her wings was almost overwhelming. In this picture, the chicks are being unruly and squirming out of their moms grip. But, when the hen closed her wings very tightly, you could not even tell her chicks were underneath. I thought at once of the passage of Scripture that records the fact that Jesus wept over Jerusalem and said, "How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing..." I also thought of the Psalm that goes, "...Hide me in the shadow of your wings." I had never seen a hen with her chicks under her wings until that day. I had no idea these verses implied such a secure, almost tight, relationship between God and us.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The girls playing at Wannamaker Park, near Trident Hospital where my dad was being treated.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Things that are different about the south... Things that I have heard and seen while on this visit...

There are many. many. many. many more stores and restaurants here than there are in the north... like fifty times more.

There are tons of new houses being developed around every corner.

It's not uncommon to pass ten churches on the way to somewhere. (I often see two evangelical churches on either side of the same street only to drive another quarter of a mile on that same street to see two more evangelical churches right next to each other... so close their parking lots are almost touching!)

People mention God in polite conversation. (Nine out of ten strangers who have found out my dad is in the hospital...because Norah tells everyone... have said they will pray for him. They actually use the word "pray.")

Salads are made with iceberg lettuce. Period.

Moms hover. (They will follow their children around the tight, indoor play places, coaching them, preventing incidents, etc. Kids will actually often trip over moms in an effort to play.)

Most people stop and pray before they eat.

I heard a mom scold her little girl saying, "Sit like a lady!" To this, the little girl crossed her feet. The little girl's legs were already together, mind you, but the mom wanted her to cross her feet. I had forgotten "Sit like a lady" even existed.

Several people put Jesus fish on their cars, trucks, vans, etc. (I had forgotten these things even existed also. I saw one for the first time in years as I drove through Virginia on my way here. It took about ten seconds to remember what the symbol even meant. I knew it had to be something familiar... 'cause it had a cross inside the fish... what was that?...Oh yeah. It means that person is a Christian.) No kidding. That was my train of thought.

People seem to be much more judgmental. (I can go into more detail about this later... or not... But, in polite conversations I've had with people... because people here just talk to other people all the time... people will get short with me and try and end the conversation if I say something they don't agree with. They are polite with me... until I disagree with them. Or, maybe I am just really rude and I don't realize it... That could be it.)

If they hear what you are talking about, strangers will include themselves in your conversation and do so with a big smile as if they are being polite/ friendly.

The rebel flag doesn't seem to be offensive to anyone. It is even flown over individual's houses. And these houses do not have reporters and/or groups of protesters out front.

African Americans and white people are always in the same place, but they are hardly ever in mixed groups conversing with each another.

There are already large mosquitoes biting... in March!

Note: Please don't take offense to this post if you live in the south. This is not supposed to be a criticism. ...Some of this is stuff is just so shocking to me after so many years of living in the north. I did not even notice this stuff while I was living here. I should study sociology because I am fascinated by the differences in cultures, even cultures within the same country can be different. What's considered polite here is rude there and vice versa... Fascinating!
Norah's got her own computer now. Dwayne put used and spare parts together to build it. Avril's little brown chair just lives right where you see it, too, since she insists on watching everything Norah does.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Monday, March 14, 2011

I did not get photos of our lunch with Jamie's parents. That was really fun. I really like them. I forgot to take a picture of Norah after she lost her front tooth. And, I did not get any photos of Norah beating three adults at Sorry late into the night... I wish I had seen that. But, these are some photos I took of our other activities on Sunday. They show simple pleasures. But, simple fun is the only kind you need when you are just having fun.