Saturday, April 30, 2011

The first stop on our April vacation was South Carolina. While we were there, we visited my family and stayed with old friends. One afternoon, we visited my sister at Cypress Gardens (again), but this time with my mom and dad (who is out of the hospital and doing much better.)

Dwayne paddled me, the kids, my mom and dad through the swamp with my help (but he'd call it "interference") at times. At one point, we got the boat stuck sideways between two cypress trees. Very funny.

We saw a small gator in the water in front of us, so we paddled fast and caught up to him. It was cool to watch his tall swish back and forth as he swam. He dove under the water right after I took this photo and he disappeared from view after he was under only a few inches of water. Disturbing.

I think these are called "snot weeds." When you feel the underside of them, they are covered in a slime that feels just like thick mucus. Fascinating.

This little blue heron was breathtaking.

This wood duck was very friendly. He followed us everywhere in the greenhouse.

The girls were getting a closer look at the button pigeons running around in the bushes in the greenhouse. The babies we saw on our last visit were almost the same size as their parents already.

The girls found another bunch of eggs hidden against the green house wall.

The picture doesn't do these monarch chrysalises justice. The spots on them are golden and they sparkle brilliantly when the sun hits them. I am filled with wonder and awe when I look at them. Even one would be a miracle, but millions are made each year.

Avril and Norah watched the bees from behind the glass. Once outside the greenhouse, you could track them flying out and around to flowers and then coming back into the hole.

We spotted tons of tadpoles and frogs in the pond.

The girls rest on a swing.

The dogwoods were in full bloom. They're my favorite.

Friday, April 29, 2011

My Resolutions for 2011.

I'm trying not to give into the urge to forget this list even exists, trying to keep it in front of me so I may actually accomplish all these things.

Let Norah play outside
Doing well with this. Norah's been outside everyday (that it hasn't rained) since we've been home from vacation.

Read through the entire Bible.
I'm supposed to be using this plan. But, I am very behind schedule. I think I am almost done with reading for the month of January. Like I said, I'm very behind.

I've enjoyed the prayer times I have had since I've been home from vacation. I find it hard to be in my "secret place" with God while in hospital rooms, hotel rooms or other people's homes.

I read "To Kill a Mockingbird" in January. In February, I read "The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes" and "Needless Casualties of War." In March, I read "Dumbing Us Down" and started "Oliver Twist." It's the end of April and I am almost done with it, so I may have slowed down my pace, but I am still on track to average one book every month, basically.

Eat fruit and vegetables
With all the traveling, we have not been eating healthily. But, we are doing better every single day we are home. Yesterday, the girls and I had some grapes, strawberries, broccoli, tangerines and bananas.

No late night eating.
I started doing this again, partly because we are on vacation, party because I am staying up way too late. I had totally forgotten I had resolved not to do this.

Be consistent in the garden.
When the girls go outside to play, I work in the flower bed. I am telling myself that it doesn't have to be perfect all at once, but little by little it will look better and better. I just have to be consistent.

Stop talking in bed.
I had forgotten I had resolved not to do this one, too. Sorry, Dwayne.

Go to be early.
I may need to change this resolution to "No caffeine after 6pm." because I will often crave a soda after dinner and then find that I'm sorry for drinking one when I can't fall sleep till after midnight.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I started the other day still bummed that my vacation was over and not entirely ready for "real life" to begin. But after encouraging one friend, praying with another, planning a visit with a new friend the next week and planning to make lunch for an old friend and her family after church that coming weekend (and all this done by lunchtime), the Holy Spirit shook some sense into me and whispered as I was sweeping the kitchen floor, "You can't live the life I want you to live and be an effective friend if you travel all the time."

I realized that my friends are here and God has called me to be a friend... So, that's all it took to settle the conflict in my spirit.

I was happy to be home again.

Avril about to eat some fried chicken at the Easter Eggstravaganza.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

This is a photo of Norah at our church's Easter Eggstravaganza last Saturday afternoon. She was inside a huge soccer-type ball that she rolled by crawling forward. A good friend of ours took this photo and sent it to me today. The church had a bunch of festive activities for the kids indoors and an egg hunt outside (once it stopped raining long enough.) The girls are still eating the candy they got that day (and probably will be eating on it for another week).
There is always someone I know who needs my prayers. One friend is grieving the loss of a young niece, another is struggling with the prospect of months of sickness, another is battling negative emotions. I don't understand all that happens in the spiritual realm when I take another person's name and dilemma to God over and over again. But, I believe the power of prayer cannot be underestimated. That power doesn't come because of who I am. It comes from the compassionate, powerful God I pray to. But, my comfort in using prayer comes from who I am or rather, how short my sin-list is. The longer I follow God, the more I realize that I do not spend time in God's presence for my own sake alone. Of course, I benefit from time spent with God and the clean conscience that time brings. But, even when I don't feel the need of holiness or friendship with God for my own sake, I must remember to continue to pursue Him so that when I am called on to pray for others, I can step into God's presence carrying their needs in my arms without any awkwardness, without even a moment's delay.

"The prayer of a righteous man (or woman) is powerful and effective."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My daughter didn't go to school for three whole weeks!!!

But, these are only some of the books she read while we traveled:

The Minstrel in the Tower
Magic School Bus Polar Bear Patrol
Magic School Bus Wet All Over
Corn is Maize
Horses and Ponies Spotter's Guide
Magic Tree House Tonight on the Titanic
Magic Tree House Research Guide Pirates
Why I Sneeze, Shiver, Hiccup and Yawn
Puzzle Train
Let's Go Rock Collecting
Mysteries and Marvels of Plant Life
Usborne Hotshots Swimming
Best Knock Knock Book Ever
National Geographic Almanac 2010
Magic School Bus Blows its Top
Magic School Bus Inside a Beehive
Pippi Longstocking
Mr. McBroom's Wonderful One Acre Farm
A Chair for my Mother
How Mountains are Made
Usborne Internet linked Dinosaurs
Hill of Fire
Clara and the Bookwagon
Meet Molly
Magic School Bus Gets Baked in a Cake
Molly Learns a Lesson
Molly's Surprise

Monday, April 25, 2011

You will have to forgive me for not posting the last several days. Along with computer and camera issues, I guess I had lost interest. I am trying to settle back into reality and begin finding joy in the everyday things that used to humor me (like blogging). But, I find myself staring out the windows a lot. My body may be here in Connecticut, but my mind is often still on a beach in the Caribbean. I fear that the two may not reunite for much more than a few minutes at a time from now on... unless we go on another cruise so my mind and body have no desire to separate.
Easter Sunday - 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011

I'm making a real effort to grow my collection of Usborne books. They're timeless books, the kind that every one of your kids, regardless of age and gender can read and reread through the years. Many of the best home school curricula (The Well Trained Mind, Sonlight, etc.) rely on Usborne books heavily.

If you are interested, you can click here and look through the links on my friend's Usborne website, seeing what's in their online catalog. If you order anything from that link during the month of April, I will earn credit towards more Usborne books for my family, actually... So, please! Order!

Note: If you are a family member of mine and you just want to order something for Norah directly, I am maintaining a wish list here. You can choose the books off the list that you want to provide for us, order and pay for them, but have them sent to our address.

(My Aunt Patti already did this... She got eight of the the ten books I wanted the most... I actually need to "refill" my wish list after she ordered! Ha! Thanks, Patti! I plan to take pictures of Norah reading the books and keep you posted here, telling you what she learns, etc.)

But, even if you order books for your own kids or grand kids... I earn credit from those orders and with enough of them, I'll earn free books for my kids that way, too!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I got my Insect Lore catalog in the mail the other day. It inspired me to settle my plans for this spring/ summer.

#1- I ordered the Frog Hatchery Refill before we left for vacation. It should arrive by the time we get home or right after. We have to send the coupon back for them as soon as we get home. I need to send for the frogs as soon as we get home... and start them as soon as we can so we have the whole summer to watch them grow. They take three whole months to grow into mature frogs!

We already have a sturdy, plastic tub from our praying mantis that we can move the large tadpoles into and watch them grow to frogs. I also ordered the book called One Small Square: Pond. I already own From Tadpole to Frog and Why Are Frogs Wet. We will read these books over and over and can watch our frogs grow then release them into a nearby pond sometime at the end of July (or give them to friends who want them.) We will probably keep one or even two, but I just don't think we can keep half a dozen frogs as pets.

#2- I found a Live Butterfly Pavilion at the thrift store for $3 last month! The box not only had an extra large pavilion inside but the coupon for the ten free butterfly caterpillars, too! I already sent the coupon off. On it, you can say when you want the caterpillars to arrive to your house. I chose the first full week we will be home from vacation, so we can look forward to starting those right after we get back. I already own the book From Caterpillar to Butterfly. We will read that as our butterflies are changing.

#3- I also ordered a refill for our ant hill and that will come before we get home, too. We have to send the coupon back to get the ants. This will allow time for the new sand we get in the refill pack to "set up" before we can get the ants. I also purchased the book Ant Cities to read and reread with Norah and Avril while we are watching our live ants. We liked this book so much when we checked it out from the library last fall. So, it's really worth owning.

#4- I think I want to buy one or even two of these... or make something like them. I'd like to mount them up next to the tiki torches on our deck. We always have spiders out there and instead of dreading their presence, it would be fun to try and get them to make a webs inside our frames! I also purchased the book Spinning Spiders to read this summer when we watch spiders making webs in our yard.

#5- Sometime after we get home, I'm going to order the Earthworm Nursery. A lot of our nature books say we could make one of these "from scratch" with worms we find in our yard, but we never find enough worms in a single day to actually do that. So, I've decided I'm just going to order this cute, pre-made nursery and use it year after year until my kids are grown. I found The Life Cycle of an Earthworm at the thrift store. It's got vivid photos of worms throughout their life cycle, the kind of photos that make your skin crawl. Even though Norah's already read it enough times to quote it, we'll read it again while we are raising our worms. I also purchased Wiggling Worms at Work to read while we do these projects.

#6- A little later in the spring, I think I'll also order the Lady Bug Land. I found the book The Ladybug and Other Insects, also at the thrift store, and we plan to read it alongside our ladybug studies.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

You can't see the mess she made on the floor in order to make enough space for herself in that drawer. I cropped the photo. But, I didn't really see the mess anyway. At least, I wasn't focused on it. I happened to have a positive perspective that day. But, I mean really. Even their mischief is something to be thankful for, at times, right?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Instead of using her own finger to point to the pictures on the page, Avril insists on holding mine and putting it where she wants it to be.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

When Norah gets a new book, the first thing she asks now is, "Is it internet linked??!!" Usborne internet linked books have ruined her love for normal books. She's always more than a little disappointed if a book doesn't have things she can look up and do online. She even has a tab on her desktop now that will take her straight to the Usborne quick-link page.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

This photo just screams "New England!" to me. See Norah's hair blowing... and her eyes shut tight against it. The wind was freezing that day. But, if the sun is out and the ground isn't covered in snow, we are just compelled to go outside anyway.

Monday, April 11, 2011

One of my recent thrift store finds... This was only $3, still in the box with everything, even the paint and brush. It was solid white then, but Norah spent two days painting, letting it dry, painting it some more. On the morning of the third day, I thought for sure that she was done, so I threw all the paints away and cleaned up her art station. She came into the room and questioned me. I told her, "I honestly thought you were done..." To this, she said, "But there was still some white left on it!"

Sunday, April 10, 2011

This is Avril's new favorite book (and mine, too). We read it at least twice a day right now.

I found this for $3 at the thrift store last week, so I grabbed it right up even though we already have at least three other alphabet books like it. (Books that have a letter on each page with pictures that start with that letter, etc...)

But, before I got this book, I hadn't realized that I was actually avoiding reading to Avril because I was so bored with the books we already had after reading them over and over for years... But, now that we have this new book to explore, I find that I have rediscovered my love for reading to my daughter and it's such a joy to sit down with Avril for fifteen minutes at a time (or more!!! Gasp!) and read through the book and talk about it.

So, learn from my mistake... If reading to your kids is starting of feel like a chore, consider changing your books.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Norah finally got to do the "jumping-thing" at the mall. She's been wanting to do this for years. She paid for it with her own money, too. She had $13.50 burning a hole in her pocket when we headed to the mall that day. She was very satisfied with purchase and even has $3.50 left over.

Friday, April 8, 2011

My eyes are so color-starved right now! The only thing that isn't monotone is the sky. I can't wait to come home from vacation to spring in Connecticut. By the time we are back, I expect this backyard to look very different. One of the first things I will do when I get home is buy a new liner for this planter and fill it with fresh black dirt and colorful annuals.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I am hijacking this blog for a few minutes to pledge my undying love to the keeper of this blog. Thank you for ignoring those who said we had just met, or were too young, or too poor, or too immature to make it work. Thank you for seeing past my being a yankee, and a Star Trek fan. Thank you for allowing us to be together in our most formative years.  As Christians we believe that the marriage union acts as a metaphor to our relationship with Christ teaching us about love, joy, sacrifice, respect, honor. It truly is my honor to share these 10 years with you, my friend and lover. What a privilege to be looking forward to the next ten with the best woman in the world.

I love you!

We're going on 10 years of marriage this month. It's hard to believe. We got married one Saturday morning smack dab in the middle of our junior year of college, so we never had a honeymoon, officially (unless you count that Monday we skipped all our college classes and stayed in bed). We had to choose between furniture or a honeymoon and we chose the couches we still have in our front room today.

I remember telling Dwayne, "You will just have to take me somewhere really nice on our 10 year anniversary..." And, in my youthful ignorance, I remember thinking that it would certainly be so much easier to get away by the time we had been married for ten years, certainly. But, now, ten years later, with dentist bills and doctor appointments and commitments and a mortgage and a career and two kids and home school, it's much harder to get away now than it was even then.

But, Dwayne kept his promise and he's taking me on a "second honeymoon." But, really, it's a "first." We're going on a cruise in the Caribbean to celebrate. We're also spending a day or two with my family in South Carolina and Dwayne's family in Florida before we come back home to Connecticut.

I have set some things to post while I am away, so keep checking in for now. There will be at least a few new things to see before the blog goes quiet until I get home again.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Second kids are notorious for not talking as early as the first. But, I asked the doctor if Avril was normal anyway. He asked me, "What do you mean?" I said, "She doesn't talk as much as Norah..." To this, he laughed and said, "No one talks as much as Norah."

Well, that made me feel better about Avril, at least. But, that said. Avril doesn't really talk much at all and I am on and off worried over it, especially now that she is two, officially. (By now, her sister knew all the names and sounds of the letters in the alphabet.) But, I know Avril can talk. She just doesn't.

The other day, I hadn't given the kids breakfast and it was going on 11am. (I know. It's just shocking.) So, Avril walked into the bathroom where I was... um... where I was. And she said, plain as day, "I want some num nums." When she said the word "I" she pointed to her chest. When she got to "num nums," she pointed at her tummy twice.

I was shocked. I had to clarify. "Are you hungry??!" To this, she nodded twice and motioned for me to follow her out of the bathroom. As soon as I could, I did and she proceeded to lead me by the hand straight to the kitchen. That's when she grunted and pointed at the fridge.


I thought that maybe I should delay breakfast everyday.

Monday, April 4, 2011



and then I compare my pictures. This shows me how quickly my kids grow, how what seem like insignificant minutes add up to hours, days, years... So, I am reminded that every moment is significant.

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

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A photo of my daughter Norah and her baby sister Avril playing dress up this morning. Keep in mind, Norah is home schooled, so she has no idea that she should be embarrassed by this photo.


The article at this link is a little sarcastic and one sided. If I sent my kids to public school, I'd be miffed by it. But, it makes some interesting observations, none the less. I hadn't realized that my home schooled daughter was as weird as she really is until I read this article and was reminded.

You see, my daughter has no idea who Justin Beaver is. (I know it's Bieber.) But, for real, she doesn't know he even exists and I have no plan on telling her.

She could care less whether or not her clothes say Abercrombie. (Just as long as her shirt is pink. It must be pink. Or have horses on it... but most of the time she is in pajamas anyway.) Her self esteem is entirely independent of what she has on. She doesn't even know that people connect their self-esteem to what they wear. (This is another secret I am quietly keeping from her.)

She is nice to every kid she meets at the public park and doesn't understand why some kids seem to think it's "cool" to be cruel to her at first (until they get to know her and realize she isn't a freak.) She doesn't understand playground politics and has no concept of how nice people can be anything but nice all the time. (I don't understand this, either, really.) Her home school friends don't treat each other this way. Ever. They just play. "You're here to play. I'm here to play. Okay, let's play." That's the extent of home school playground politics.

My daughter is also nice to little kids. She plays down to them without feeling weird about it. In fact, I never feel any hesitation to take her baby sister Avril to a play date "for Norah" because Norah's home school friends always play really well with Avril, too. One of Norah's older friends, in particular, seems to enjoy playing with Avril even more than he likes playing with Norah. He and Avril are the best of friends and it's a joy to watch them together. Home schooled kids, on the whole, seem to actually enjoy playing with kids who are younger than they are... It's weird, I know. But, I hadn't realized it was weird until I read this article and remembered that it is, in fact, not the way things usually are.

But, probably the weirdest thing of all, is that my daughter looks adults in the eye and talks to them like an equal. She even has the gumption to correct them, at times. Gasp! It's nothing too disrespectful. But, some adult will say to her, "I bet you had a lot of fun at the park today!" And, instead of saying, "Yes." and smiling, she says, "No. I had a terrible time, actually. I fell and hurt myself and it was way too hot and my mom forgot to bring water..." (I am trying to work on this with her because I see how some people respond to her confidence. They are really offended by her because kids are supposed to know their place, just smile and nod and be silent and uninterested. I had forgotten that it's impolite for a kid to be so engaged.)

Anyway, I guess my home schooled kid is weird after all. But, I am not sure I want her to be normal anyway.

Friday, April 1, 2011

When Norah leaned in for the picture, Avril put her arm around her, smiled and just squeezed with all her heart. I'm glad I caught Avril's joy on camera. Avril just loves her big sister.