Friday, August 25, 2017

The Girls Met Tui T Sutherland

Dwayne and Brandt took Norah and Samantha to meet Tui T Sutherland in NYC on Saturday.  The girls are both obsessed with the Wings of Fire books.  

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Solar Eclipse Boxes

I just didn't get around to buying glasses in time, and I am not sure I wanted to spend the money anyway, so we made a bunch of solar eclipse viewing boxes using instructions we found online from several good sources.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Making Paths

When we moved into this house, our front walkways were rotting, unsightly, and unsafe, and our hillside was really wild and unmanageable, covered in unkept bushes, trees, and weeds of all kinds.

So we hired landscapers to help us, because we needed professional help and advice.  This was too big a job to do or plan for ourselves.

The landscapers built a new path leading from the driveway on one side of the house to the front door

and from the top of our hillside down.

The landscapers also cleared stumps, and stones from right in front of the house up the hill to the tree-line, making it possible to grow grass in that section and making it possible to have beds of flowers around the biggest rocks that couldn't be moved.  

On the other side of the house, we had the landscapers clear out tons of overgrowth, but we could not afford to have them do more than that at this point. So we got their advice about what to do there, and we watched as they worked on the other parts of the yard and we asked tons of questions while they were here, so we feel confident that we can do that part of the work ourselves in the coming years if we are willing to be persistent.

The other day, I spent a few hours building a little staircase up to the new yard on that side of the house.  You can see my staircase in the picture below.

The top stone was already in place when we moved in and there were a few other stones down at the bottom, so it already suggested a staircase, but it wasn't a staircase.  When you stepped on the bottom rocks, they moved under your feet and at was really treacherous. But we always need to get up to the yard in that same spot, so I was determined to try and make an actual staircase with the stones there combined with others I pulled from other parts of the yard.

It was really physically difficult work and I got dirty head to toe. It was grueling to move even the smallest rocks in this picture from different places in the yard. It took persistence to get them into the right place and stand on them and then wiggle them again and then slip and start over. It took patience to find and add other little rocks under the big rocks in just the right spots so that the entire stairway was secure no matter how or where you stood on it.

But I did it!

And now that it has been a few days, and we have used the staircase everyday, the rocks still don't move when you walk up them, so I am quite proud of myself.

And then last night, Dwayne and I took two shovels and rake outside after dinner as the sun went down. We started digging up the little rocks on that side of the yard the landscapers cleared. We started making piles and piles of rocks of different sizes and we started exposing more and more of the bigger rock face.

Right now, we think we will build another gravel path on that side of the house, too, using the stones we pull out the ground over there to line the path.  (There are plenty!) The landscaper told us what gravel to use and where to buy it, etc.

We think we will use other stones to create more borders for more plants and flowers on that side of the house, too.

And, best of all, we are thinking we may build a nice fire pit with all our rocks! That side of the house is clear of trees and it would be safe to have a fire pit.  And, of course, being in the woods means we have tons of dead wood around that needs burning, including a massive old, wood pile that the previous owners must have never used.

I find that I really love rocks more than I knew and I knew I loved rocks when I moved here. Each rock I pull out of the ground feels like a treasure with potential to be used in a unique way to make the yard glorious.  It's strange, but I am actually glad we have limited funds and will have to do some of this good work for ourselves.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Muppets Litmus Test

After the girls made their wineberry tarts, my kitchen looked like the Swedish chef had been there.

Flour everywhere!

I was like, "What did you do?!  Did you actually throw it??!"

So then I showed the girls this video.

The fact that my girls all laughed to the point of holding their sides at this video assures me that all is well deep within their souls.

So now we have started watching random Muppet videos like this together when they ask and we have the time.

And now Norah is doing an impeccable Swedish chef impression.

It brings me so much joy and pride and I feel so rich when she does it that it almost feels wrong to be so blessed.

To be able to laugh at what's really funny is the greatest wealth there is.      

The capacity for mirth is the surest sign of a healthy soul.

And there are few things more telling than what sort of things make a body laugh.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Quail Doodle

Avril's most recent doodle 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Sarah's Wedding Shower

My niece Sarah's getting married in October!

Sarah's mom, Lisa, lives here in Connecticut now, too. And our mother-in-law and father-in-law are here in Connecticut visiting both of us for a few weeks.  So Lisa took her younger daughter, Samantha, and I took my van that seats eight, and my oldest daughter Norah, and we took Mom, and we hit the road.  We stopped in New Jersey for like, a minute, and picked up Michelle, my husband's sister, and then kept on going.

(My little girls stayed home with their dad and Grandpa for the weekend. My nephew stayed home with my brother-in-law. So, basically, all the men were given the responsibility of keeping all the other children alive. They did well.)

We arrived in Virginia the night before and settled in.  (We did lots of stuff like eating at restaurants, swimming at the hotel pool, exercising at the hotel gym, and shopping, of course. But we were really there for one thing.)

The shower was lovely!

There was a ton of delicious food and a bunch of fun games. (I even won a bag of prizes!)  And it took the bride-to-be forever to open all her gifts, she had so many!

I thought the amount of gifts really must speak to the bride-to-be's character. And it speaks to the character of her fiancĂ© Justin, no doubt.  These are two outstanding young people, and I am not that easily impressed.

I thought the amount of gifts also speaks to the abundance of upright people the couple has surrounding them, encouraging them, and celebrating their union.  This is another young couple that is already involved in church, not waiting to start that sort of thing until they are "older."  I love that they are so wise beyond their years!  It makes my heart sing!

And all the gifts also just speaks to me of the abundant love of God and His great provision for a new family just starting out.

As I sat at the shower, watching, laughing, making jokes, I found myself thinking of my own marriage, naturally, now sixteen years in, and thinking how fast those years have gone by, since I was that young bride opening all the gifts. I, too, was marrying a really, really good man.  We, too, were in church and surrounded by so many good people.  

I enjoyed it all again, but this time, it was through someone else's joy.

Then I began to wonder if that's just exactly what God intended all along. Did He plan it this way? That we not only experience our own joy, but then we get to repeat our joy again and again through other's joy.

Like the flowers in spring repeat the same joy over and over, by growing up in the same patterns over and over.

Boy meets girl...

The flowers of spring never disappoint us, no matter how many times they come back again.

And, like that, watching a new couple start out right really never fails to bring joy.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Marilyn and Dan, Quail

I have a soft spot for birds.

I have loved them hard for a really long time.

I really wanted a parrot or conure, but we couldn't afford one.  We had a baby and were struggling to pay rent for just a one bedroom apartment.

Priorities, people.

My friend offered to give me some canaries for free. I enjoyed looking at them, because they were pretty. But they were also pretty dull, since I couldn't ever hold them and they had no personality whatsoever.

A few months later, my husband's cousin traded me my quiet (dumb) canaries for her smarter (louder) cockatiel. She was a school teacher and she had gotten complaints about the cockatiel in the classroom/s.

I enjoyed that bird. I fed him from my plate (Don't judge lest ye be judged) and he climbed all over me and even took showers.

But he pooped everywhere. Birds do doo-doo.

And we had a baby who was beginning to crawl, and then toddle, and she was starting to grab at everything, and birds are fragile, and I was still postpartum, so it was just too much.

I gave my cockatiel to a little homeschooled girl who managed to stand up to all my intense grilling about bird care and the ethical and moral duty of owning pets.

That's when I let the bird-loving part of me just go to roost, while I focused on looking after my own brood.

My friend offered me her quail a few days ago. She was moving. They needed a home.

I said, "Quail? (Ha!) No. But thanks." without any hesitation.

But then we went to visit her to say, "Goodbye" before the move, and the quail were still there, and the kids went over to see the quail, and then they held the quail. And then the quail promptly flew up and out of their hands and ran all over the room.

I saw how fast they run and funny they look while running.

We all worked together and caught one. Finally!

I gently cupped it in my hands and brought it up to eye-level to have a closer look.

That tiny bird focused its eye on me, too.  Little as it was, it seemed to take me in in total.

Then it settled itself into my palm like it was nesting and made the sweetest, humming sound. It's whole body vibrated about one hundred times in that one second.

Then it started slowly batting its beady, little eye at me.

The eye lid seemed to close bottom to top.

And it had the tiniest, little, most perfect eye lashes.

That was it.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

I am grateful.

I am grateful: to begin our fifth year of homeschooling with the help of Classical Conversations.

I am grateful: that my oldest begins Challenge B this fall. She is excited about the new things she will be learning and doing like formal logic, mock trial, and science fair.  And I mean what I said. She is actually excited about the learning she will be doing, having taken real ownership of her own education last year in Challenge A.

I am grateful: that I will be "a Challenge B mom." So that means that will also be learning that formal logic, and doing mock trial, and science fair and all that as I teach my daughter those things at home. I'll say that I am also pretty excited about the new material before me, too.

I am grateful: for new challenges this year such as high school transcripts. I am making the choice to begin keeping a transcript for my oldest, grading her work in an official capacity, and translating that work into high school credits. That will be a totally new experience, because believe it or not, until now, we've only learned for learning's sake in our homeschool. We have never, ever learned anything merely to check a box or just make a grade or get a credit.

But, of course, I am constantly assessing my daughters' school work to see how they are doing. But that is only for the most practical of reasons, and in the most informal ways, so I can see what they know or what they need to do next, etc.  Official number grades have been basically meaningless to us up to this point, since I don't need numbers or letters to communicate what I already know to myself!

But my daughters may want or need to go to college, so that changes things. Now I will have to communicate what my students, my daughters, are doing and how well they are doing it to someone else.  So that means letters and numbers and credits and all that.  However tedious, grading will actually serve a real purpose now, so I will begin submitting to that process this year.

I am grateful: I will be tutoring Challenge A for a second year this year.  I get to mentor another group of students (with parents often watching the classes) through rich content. My students get to integrate every subject with every other subject and our class is a place where any topic relevant to the topic at hand can be mentioned. So science is mentioned in math, naturally. And history is mentioned in literature, naturally. It is all connected after all. And perhaps most importantly, God is allowed in our conversation and we constantly find that He is relevant to everything we are learning.

I am grateful: I will also get to support other homeschool parents through another year of Challenge A.  And that means I will get to grow for another year in relationship with excellent homeschooling families. Relationships are the greatest blessings in my life.

I am grateful: that I am compensated financially for the work I do as a Classical Conversations director. The income is allowing me to contribute to my household. I am also setting an example of industry for my daughters and I just love that.

I am grateful: that my two younger daughters will, of course, be in Foundations. For my middle daughter, it will be her fifth year. For my youngest daughter, it will be the second year.

I am grateful: to be homeschooling like I pondered doing since I was a teenager.

I am grateful: to be teaching like I dreamed of doing even as I decided not to go to college for education like I had planned, because after a few classes in education and few more experiences in public school, I just knew I couldn't teach in that setting.  I changed my major and believed that God would help me find a way of teaching that worked for me... and after all, He has.

I am grateful: for my husband's continued support of what I do and his growing knowledge and enthusiasm about education, homeschooling, discipleship, the Classical model of learning, and how all of those things are actually connected.

I am grateful: to have the structure, support, and community that Classical Conversations provides. I never want to go back to educating in isolation.

I am grateful: that my brother and sister-in-law and nieces and nephews are also on this journey with us now. They have been homeschooling for many years, too, but they were not using Classical Conversations, and they lived in Virginia until a few months ago.

But my sister-in-law has recently started using Classical Conversations, and has even more recently moved to Connecticut, too. Now they are only fifteen minutes away!

I am grateful: that my sister-in-law is the Challenge B tutor on our campus. So my daughter will be in her aunt's class and one of her cousins will be one of her classmates. And my sister-in-law is my coworker in the class next door to mine. And my niece will be in my Challenge A class.

I am just so grateful: for the life God has so faithfully lead me into.  I could not have imagined or contrived anything this good, true, and beautiful by my own means. To God be the glory! Great things has done and is doing!