Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Reflecting on Seventeen Years

1992 - 1993

So young. Having fun living in our tiny loft in an old pencil factory on the north side of Chicago, but starting to recognize God calling us to grow up.

1993 - 1994

A new adventure. Minneapolis. {Brrr!} Our first house.

1994 - 1995

First time parents... to a Siberian Husky puppy. Our first renovation project.

1995 - 1996

The best thing we ever did for our marriage -- both of us attend Bible Study Fellowship. The Word comes alive.

1996 - 1997

Baby bug hits. Move to our third Midwestern state.* Take the trip of a lifetime to Holland and Poland, because we might never get that opportunity again.

1997 - 1998

And Baby Anna makes three! But the baby bug persists.

1998 - 1999

Take our spiritual walk to the next level -- serving God -- we are both called to be BSF Children's Leaders. Baby Ryno makes four!

1999 - 2000

The year of paint and caulk.

2000 - 2001

Move to the Blue House. Baby bug hits again, but concerns about Ryno are strong.

2001 - 2002

Autism. Pregnancy. Welcome to our world, Baby Grace! In-home therapy begins. Welcome back to our world, Ryne!

2002 - 2003

Sacrifice and trust. Everyone thinks we're crazy as we move to Chicago to further help Ryne.

2003 - 2004

Confirmation! Ryne thrives, and God answers prayer in BIG ways!

2004 - 2005

The most difficult year. Marc moves back to the Blue House, commutes to Chicago on the weekends for six months. My mom and Marc's dad die two weeks apart. Life was a blur, but God's grace was more than sufficient.

2005 - 2006

{Exhale} Life starts to seem normal.

2006 - 2007

While taking a romantic walk on the beach, we decide to become homeschoolers.

2007 - 2008

Marc is out of work for four months, but after what we've been through, trusting God for this seems pretty easy.

2008 - 2009

How time flies! Life is crazy busy, but it's fun. We're not so young anymore, but our love is as strong as ever.

Happy Anniversary to us!

* I'm guessing in this age of stat counters, many of you know what state we live in. I still prefer to keep it mostly off this blog, along with our last name. : )

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Rise, Come and See the King

I hope you all had a blessed Christmas! We had a wonderful day all snug in the blue house. My dad is in town, so the kids have been having fun with Grandpa. At the last minute we were able to invite the 'S' family over for dinner since the weather conditions were too bad for them to travel to their planned celebration. The kids had a ball, the grown-ups enjoyed chatting, and everyone joined in singing Happy Birthday to Marc and Jesus.

And now for the final video from our church Christmas program. Hopefully I'm not overdoing it with the videos, but I have several family members that visit the blog and like to see what the kids are doing. This video really gives a good glimpse into the life of our church. It is a small church, but because of our size we are a pretty close group. The Christmas program is not very flashy or choreographed, but it always seems to put me in the Christmas spirit -- the real Christmas spirit. And I just love the song the kids sang this year -- a traditional Polish carol called Rise, Come and See the King.

Grace is in the front row with the black dress, Ryne is in the middle (third from the left, red sweater) and Anna is mostly blocked by Ryne throughout the song. But this would be a good time to thank my brother-in-law, Dave, who manned two video cameras the whole night while I helped direct kids. He did a great job, and I wouldn't have survived the night without him since Marc was home sick.

Again, Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Angels We Have Heard on High

Yesterday I was pouting that we were just getting rain instead of snow, but I guess I should have checked the forecast. It will definitely be a white Christmas. Sadly, our church even had to cancel the Christmas Eve service tonight. So I have a moment to post the third video from the Christmas program.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, I hope you've gained an appreciation for how special a kid Ryne is. He may have his challenges and quirks, but he brings joy to so many people. And it was such a joy to watch him perform. I laughed, cried, and sat in wonder. And prayed a quick "thank you" to God.

Here are a few things to notice as you watch the video:

  • His enthusiasm as he leaps into place at the piano.
  • Serious preparation -- he cracks his knuckles before he starts playing!
  • Some annoying woman whispering instructions at him. Me? Why would you think that?
  • Unbelievable -- For the first half of the piece, he plays perfectly while making faces at his little sister sitting in the front row!
  • A job well done. I won't spoil it, but clearly he enjoyed himself.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

O Holy Night

In the second video of the Christmas program series, Anna plays O Holy Night. I'm so proud of her determination with this piece. When she started with our new piano teacher last February, she could only play simple songs, one hand at a time. I don't play the piano, so I'm probably not the best judge, but I think she has progressed pretty quickly since then. It has been hard for her to find the time to practice this fall because of her swim schedule and a challenging year at school, and twice she even asked if she could quit. We were both a little worried when she still couldn't get through the second and third page the last week in November, but she stuck with it (thanks to some encouraging words from her instructor). She played it through 3-5 times a day until the performance and she got it! Because she worked so hard this month, she didn't seem to be too upset that she did end up having a problem on the last page in the performance. She knew that she had played it better a number of times, and chalked it up to nerves. Even so, it sounded lovely and I will never grow tired of hearing her play this song. I think it was a great learning experience for her. And now she seems more eager than ever about the piano. Today she was trying out several new songs, so it will be fun to see what the next year holds.

But as much as I love watching her play, I just can't get over how grown up she's looking. {sigh} I wish I could push the pause button on life like I can with the video. {double sigh}

Oh, and I'm sorry if you weren't able to watch the first video, but it should be fixed now. Thank you, Casey, for letting me know about the problem. I get a little freaked out about putting the kids on YouTube, so I thought making the videos private would help. But I didn't realize that meant they wouldn't work on the blog. I don't know why YouTube should bother me, since I have no problem posting all about our lives here. I think part of it is that people on YouTube leave horrible comments all time. Several times I've had to put a piece of paper over the comments while showing a video to my kids, because they were full of profanity and rudeness. So for these videos I just disabled the comments in YouTube. Okay, I'm getting way off topic now. I better go wrap some gifts. : )

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

O Come, Little Children

Sunday night was the big event, our church Christmas program. Oh, what a great night! Well, not for Marc who was sick and had to miss the whole thing. But seeing it on video is the next best thing, so over the next few days I'll be posting all the highlights. We'll start with Grace, who is just cute, cute, cute!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Collage

We finished off our day yesterday with a Christmas art project that turned out really cute. The project, originally from Artsonia, is described on a blog I just discovered yesterday, Kids Artists. This blog has some beautiful projects, targeted to 3rd - 5th graders. I loved the colors and patterns in the sample Christmas Tree Collages, but I especially liked the idea of putting music paper in the background.

Our kids are each playing a piano piece in our church's Christmas program this coming Sunday, so I thought it would be fun for them each to use their own music for their collage. I just made copies straight from their piano books, so you can even see handwritten notes, reminding the kids to count correctly at certain measures. I love little personal touches like that! In fact, I like the idea so much that next year I'd like to come up with a similar project. How fun it would be to have a cute collection of all the Christmas songs they learn over the years!

Ryne will be playing Angels We Have Heard on High.


Grace will be playing (and singing) O Come, Little Children.


Anna was at school when we made these, but she plans to make one next week. She will be playing O Holy Night.

Just a couple notes about the project:

The blogger behind Kids Artists is Dutch, so she refers to A4 size paper, which is about the same as 8.5" x 11". That was my education for the day -- I had no idea about the international paper standard that is used everywhere but the United States and Canada. : )

Also, Grace was able to manage the project nicely even though it is targeted toward older children. She had a harder time not making her drawing too detailed and needed some help cutting out the trees, but it did not take away from her enjoyment.

Happy Homeschooling!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Why oh why must Christmas pictures be such torture?

Every year I try to save a little by taking our own Christmas card photo of the kids, and every year I wonder whether it is worth the headache. This morning Anna's school started two hours late due to the big winter storm that plowed through the Midwest, so I thought it was a perfect opportunity for a photo session. I spent 20 minutes getting them ready and 20 minutes taking pictures, only to find that none of the pictures saved, I think because the camera card was full (although in the past it has given a little signal when the card is full) -- ugh! By the time I figured this out, Anna was at school, so I figured we'd have to try again tomorrow. Turns out, the boiler at Anna's school broke, leaving them without heat, so I had the camera all ready when she returned home. The kids were not happy to have to sit through that again, and it showed in the pictures (oh, who am I kidding. . . the first set probably wasn't much better!). And now Anna is mad at me because she doesn't like the picture I chose. But it really was the best of the bunch. So she's either going to have live with it or sit through another photo session tomorrow. What do you think? Keep trying?


Oh, and this is only my second real digital scrapbooking project (last year's card was the first), so I'm not real sure what the protocol is, but I think I'm supposed to give credit to the designers whose products I used. I used the free kits, Seasonal Sampler and Holiday Magic, found at ShabbyPrincess, and the "joy" letters came from Katie Pertiet's Polar Escape Kit at Designer Digitals.

Update: LOL, Anna decided she didn't hate the picture enough to go through another sitting. Your sweet comments also helped! Since I can't send you each a card, I will keep our card at the top of the blog for December -- Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


We had a marvelous Thanksgiving! And a few adventures. The night before Thanksgiving we went to church, taking two different cars. Marc, who should have arrived early, still hadn't arrived half an hour into the service. And all I could think of was:

He hit a deer . . .
He hit a deer and is in a ditch somewhere . . .
He hit a deer . . .
But at least my house is clean if everyone has to come over to comfort me in my grief.
I promise that last part was just a little thought in the midst of my panic, but I will admit, it did cross my mind. {Shame on me!} I finally had to send my brother-in-law, Dave, out to call him, but Marc pulled in the church parking lot just as Dave called him. Turned out it was not a deer, but he was rear-ended on the expressway by a dad trying to deal with a toddler tantrum in the backseat. Everyone was fine, and the damage to both cars was minimal. So we had extra reason to be thankful!

That night, we went back to our house to celebrate Dave's birthday. I mention this because a neat thing happened as Dave was opening his presents. Ryne volunteered to read a card that my mother-in-law gave Dave. Dave has had a tough year, and the card reflected that. It was very sentimental and beautifully written, and Ryne got teary reading it and said, "That was a sad card." I've written about Ryne's soft side before, but it is still encouraging to see him develop these connections.


Thanksgiving day went smoothly and was such a blessing. Dave had two of his college-age kids there, in addition to our family of five and my mother-in-law. Marc gave a beautiful sermon devotion on thankfulness.



We then spent the rest of the week relaxing, having fun, and staying up way too late. Marc's mom left the Tuesday morning after Thanksgiving. I think we were all ready to get back into a normal routine, but it was not meant to be. I woke up with a horrible cold and Anna woke up with a 104-degree fever. And to top it off, Jessie, our old black lab, was having problems. She had peed on the rug in the kids room, and was sleeping in it. I finally realized it was because she couldn't get up. This is just the latest in a series of medical issues with this dog, so I fell to pieces, thinking this was the end. The piano teacher was scheduled to arrive in an hour and I had to go out to the garage to call her (to cancel) because I was bawling and I didn't want to upset the kids. I'll spare all the details, but Marc came home from work, we took her to the vet and it turned out to be another manageable problem, so it was not the end for Jessie. Marc made a joke that this dog must really be a cat, because she is getting really close to using up her nine lives.

So I spent the rest of the week being sick, only to discover that the world didn't stop while I was in bed. In fact, the Christmas season is in full swing and I'm not ready! Oh, we managed to have a little festive fun before I got sick.


But by this time last year I was already done with my Christmas cards. And homeschooling? Don't ask. I think, by default, we will now be schooling through the summer. But I'm not going to panic or try to squeeze too much into December. Ruthanne's article over at The Homeschool Post helped me put things into perspective. I do not want the busyness to detract from our celebrating of this beautiful season.

Mind you, that is not going to be easy because we are starting what is possibly the craziest thing Marc and I have attempted in our almost 17 years of marriage. We will be refinishing our basement so Anna can have her own bedroom. My dad is coming later this month to help us get started and we're planning on begging everyone we know for help, but I still expect this to be a year-long project. Marc and I have made a promise that no matter what happens, we are not going to take out our frustration on each other. We are just going to laugh. We've done enough home projects to know that things will go wrong. In fact, right now we're laughing because it looks like we're going to have to move the stairs. Ha, ha, ha . . . I can't stop laughing.

Whew! How's that for an update?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies,

For the beauty of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree and flow'r,
sun and moon and stars of light,

For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild,

For each perfect gift of thine
to our race so freely giv'n
graces human and divine,
flow'rs of earth and buds of heav'n,

Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

Folliot S. Pierpoint, 1864

This post is a repeat from last year, but the message will never be outdated. I hope you all have a wonderful day thanking God for His blessings. One of the things I'm thankful for is the encouragement I've received on this blog and by reading your own blogs. We will be at home this year, hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the first time (pray for me!).

Iditarod Project Part III: Following the Race

Weeks ago I started a series on studying the Iditarod, but I got a little distracted from finishing it up. The good news is that I got my living room and dining room painted, attended several swim meets, took a day trip to Chicago, hosted a neighborhood gathering... you get the point! If you missed the first two segments, read these posts first:

Iditarod Reading

Making the Map

As much as we enjoyed reading about the Iditarod and preparing our map, the best part of the Iditarod project is following the race. Since my kids are accustomed to swim meets and track meets, where races are finished in minutes and seconds, it was mind-boggling for them to think of a race taking 9-15 days. We really learned the meanings of endurance and perseverance by watching these amazing dogs and their leaders.

After you have completed your Iditarod trail map, it is time to pick a musher. You are going to chart your musher's progress on your map and record how long it takes for the team to reach each checkpoint.

We had fun looking through the list of mushers and learning a little about their backgrounds. You can find a list of the 2010 mushers here. It was tough choosing a team, but we finally settled on veteran musher DeeDee Jonrowe. We chose her because 1) she's a woman (Anna's request), 2) she has had several top 10 finishes in the Iditarod, 3) she has a website that enabled us to know a little bit more about her and her dogs, 4) she has an amazing story of overcoming breast cancer, 5) she is the best-dressed musher (everyone knows her for her fuchsia parka), and 6) she is an outspoken Christian.


photo by Theresa Daily

DeeDee did not disappoint -- she and her team did a great job, finishing 13th. She completed the race in 10 days, 22 hours, 56 minutes, and 10 seconds and was awarded $17,300. We look forward to following her progress in the 2010 Iditarod.

Another musher we really enjoyed following was Aliy Zirkle, who finished in 17th place. She and her husband, Allen Moore, both had teams in last year's race -- she led the more experienced dogs and he led a team of up-and-comers.


They have the best blog, The SP Kennel Dog Log, that was frequently updated during the race, so we really felt like we got to know the team. In fact, I still follow their blog and love learning about the new puppies and the great video of their training sessions. A recent post showed what 4 tons of dog food looks like! (To my husband -- and you thought we have to buy a lot of dog food!)

My kids adore one of the dogs, Happy, who ran her first Iditarod last year. This sweet dog's story is every bit as engaging as our favorite Iditarod books I wrote about in my first post.

The Iditarod has it's critics, and if you read the comments on my first Iditarod post, you saw that I was asked not to "hype" the Iditarod to the homeschool community. But if you follow the SP Kennel blog for even a short time, I think you will see that these dogs are loved and cared for like family members. I'll also add that the first time I harnessed my own Siberian Husky to go skijoring, I was surprised at how she knew exactly what to do. She came from a family of show dogs, but pulling was in her blood, and I never saw her happier than when I took her on a run. That hardly makes me an expert, but it's my 2 cents. The topic might be interesting for an older student to research.

Now for some final notes on following the race. The standings are updated frequently on the Official Iditarod website, and that is how we followed most of the race. The eIditarod Project assigns optional activities for each checkpoint that add to the fun and learning. But as the race progressed we started wishing we had spent the money to subscribe to Iditarod Insider. The Insider offers subscriptions to video feed (including lots of live footage) and/or a GPS tracker. We did finally break down and get the video subscription, but if I were to do it over I'd get both the video and the GPS tracker. Even though we knew when a racer was getting close to the finish, all it takes is a blink and you miss it because you didn't know how exactly how close the team was to the finish. The video and GPS tracker cost $19.95 each or $33.95 together.

As I worked on this post this morning, Grace saw one of the pictures and immediately started jabbering away about various Iditarod things, and it made it even clearer how much my kids loved our this study. We will continue to be fans of the Iditarod, although a little bit more informally. Instead of the Iditarod, this year our winter project will be learning about Holland for our local homeschool group's "Around the World" celebration. But if you're looking for something to energize your homeschool studies during the long winter months, I highly recommend checking out the eIditarod Project. Registration has not begun for 2010 yet, but last year's registration started December 1st and closed January 9th. I will update this post when new information is available.

Thank you to DeeDee Jonrowe and Aliy Zirkle for granting permission to use these pictures!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Because someday you might want to know how to do this...

I've been making a lot of Latin flash cards this year, and I finally figured out how to make those little macrons over the vowels. I learned the hard way that it is not wise to just ignore them. Macrons really are used for a reason, and if your child ever has to take Latin in a classroom setting, he/she will probably be expected to know the macrons. But this is not a post about if or why you should use macrons (for further information on that subject, visit this discussion). I just thought I'd share how to include macrons in your flash cards, worksheets, or whatever materials you create for your Latin studies.

For my Mac friends:

See the little American flag in the picture below?

This helpful website shows you how to get that little flag that enables you to use the U.S. Extended keyboard:

Now that you have that set up, you're ready to add those pesky macrons. In your document press the Option key, then the A key. Your macron will appear (a little higher and longer than the finished product will be.

Then just type whatever vowel you want to use.


Now, for those of you who haven't bought a Mac yet, the aforementioned website also gives instructions for Windows users and even HTML. : )

Next up...

The overdue, final post of my Iditarod series.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What happens when kids study the globe...

I appreciate all my readers too much to let the last post be all you get to read when you come to visit my blog, but I'm also short on time tonight. So I thought I'd give you a little glimpse into a recent conversation we had in the car yesterday. We were listening to some early American music, since that's what we're studying in history these days, and I decided to give them a pop quiz.

Mom: Let's see how many of the thirteen colonies we can name.

Ryne: New York, Massachusetts, Virginia...

[Ryne continues to name several of the colonies, eventually naming nine of them, and Grace adds at least one.]

Grace: South Sandwich Islands!

Ryne: No! That's near Antarctica!

Grace: I know, but I just like the name.

One bad apple spoils the bunch

I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later, but someone has been anonymously spamming my blog. I have been receiving comments, mostly on one particular older post, with information on things like prescription drugs that I highly doubt would be useful to any of my readers. So my choices are 1) Disable anonymous commenting, 2) Start using the word verification thingie, or 3) Approve my comments before they are posted. I'm not sure I'm making the right choice, but for now I'm going to disable anonymous posting. It's a shame too, because I have received a few very nice anonymous comments, although not generally from regular readers. But I know that many bloggers REALLY dislike the word verification thingie (I personally don't mind so much -- I sometime have quite the chuckle over some of the words I have to type), and I would rather not have to approve every comment before it is posted. Hopefully this will not inconvenience anyone too much. And hopefully Mr./Ms. Anonymous can go find something more worthwhile to do besides messing with my blog!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank you, whoever you are...

Well, this was a bit of a surprise...

I was nominated for Best Cyber-Buddy Blogger! I did know that my cyber-friend, Dawn at Olive Plants, nominated me, but you have to be nominated three times to make the final list, and I didn't think that was likely to happen. But apparently at least three people were willing to say this about me:

A blogger you haven't met, but you think you would enjoy meeting and hanging out with. She is a person that you would love to co-op with or just live next door to. Who knows, maybe one day we will get together somewhere at a blog conference?

So, Dawn, thank you! You know, there just happens to be a house for sale down the street. I promise, the winters don't get that bad here. And the others who nominated me, whoever you are, thank you! How very exciting! And if you're just visiting, welcome!

Since learning about this nomination, I've had a few moments to ponder about the whole internet/friendship thing. Last night I drove across town to a dear friend's house. She and I actually met through the internet. She's a fellow Christian autism mom, and although I was not yet a homeschooler when we "met" we now have that in common as well. We didn't know a whole lot about each other at first, so it took several emails back and forth to really size each other up.

Blogging, however, has a way of making the whole sizing-up process a little easier. For instance, when I first discovered Dawn's blog through last year's blog awards, all I had to do was look at her sidebar and instantly I knew we had a lot in common. One of the first blogs I ever read regularly, Equip Academy, I found through a homeschool email group. Sharon, a mom whose posts I always found insightful, mentioned she had a blog, so I emailed her, asking if she would share her blog address with me. I love that about blogging! It's so much easier on the internet than in real life to find people that share similar values, interests and circumstances.

It can still be intimidating to leave that first comment on someone's blog. I always imagine the blogger having a puzzled expression as she looks at her comments. Who on earth is this person, and why is she talking to me? But then I think about how excited I get when someone new comments on my blog. Well, I wasn't so excited last week when "Anonymous" left a couple of comments on an old post with some icky-looking links, but that's another story.

So here I am, about 18 months into this blogging adventure, and I'm finding myself more and more often telling my husband, "My blog-friend said this," or "My blog friend did that." And he doesn't look at me anymore like I've lost my marbles when I talk about my blog buddies.

Now it's your turn. I'm curious.

Have you ever met any of your internet/blog friends in real life?

Do you talk about your blog buddies with real life people?

P.S. Voting for the Homeschool Blog Awards runs through midnight November 21, but I promise I will still be your friend even if you don't vote for me -- there are 29 other nominations in the Cyber-Buddy category!

P.P.S. If you need some help with the Best Encourager, Best Crafts, Plans & Projects, or Best Super-Homeschooler categories, I highly recommend Olive Plants.

P.P.P.S. Also, if you feel so inclined, I really think the Homeschool Blog Awards needs a separate category for bloggers who have special needs kids. I emailed them the suggestion last year, but maybe if several of us asked this year, we could have another avenue to make connections among the special needs homeschooling community.

Really, this is the end of the post now!

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Day with the Girls

In case you missed it, someone special just celebrated a birthday. And, boy girl, did we ever celebrate it! Gracie is the most girlish of my girls and has been asking for years when she can get an American Girl doll. The answer has always been, "When you are in first grade, because that's when Anna got her doll." So the day after her birthday the girls and I took a 24 hour trip to Chicago to visit American Girl Place. Now, before you start making assumptions... no, we are not rich snobs who jaunt off for a day of shopping on the Magnificent Mile. Just ask the lady who checked our coats at the store -- we're not in the same league as the typical customer of that area. (Even I didn't realize how worn and dirty the girls' coats had become until I handed them over!) And rich snobs wouldn't use their frequent flier miles to get to Chicago -- they'd fly their own private jets, or at least go first class. You see, this trip was really just an excuse to get out of planning a birthday party! I figured the hotel cost would equal the amount we would have spent on a party. I forgot about cab fare though -- ouch! We had a wonderful time, and if you ever have a chance to visit any of the American Girl stores, I encourage you to do so.

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The Chicago store has moved to a new building since we last lived in the Chicago area, and the changes are wonderful. The main floor that carries all the historical dolls and accessories can certainly qualify as a homeschool field trip. My favorite was the display of the 1944 kitchen.

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Even though Gracie loves the American Girl historical fiction series, she picked out a doll from the Just Like You series instead. And, yes, it looks just like Grace, complete with freckles.

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Okay, I try to keep this blog clean, but I had to include a couple of pictures of the bathroom! Need some decorating ideas for a girly bathroom? I love the pink frames around the mirrors. The most clever idea though was putting doll holders in the stalls. Makes sense, right? We've never had to take a doll to the doll hospital, but from the looks of the place I think the AG people should be in Washington helping us solve our health care problems. We did make a stop at the hair salon for Anna's doll to get some TLC, and the hair dresser was kind enough to put a bow in Grace's new doll's hair for free.

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Like a good blog buddy, I try to take pictures that I think will interest my readers, and these goodies had Ruthanne written all over them.

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We finished off our trip with a late lunch at the American Girl Cafe. With only three other families in the huge dining room (all celebrating birthdays), our service was impeccable. In fact, it was that way the whole day -- everyone just doted on Grace, and she just loved it. I think this is a birthday she will always remember. I know I will.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Big Red

During my third pregnancy the big question was, "What color hair will she have?" Everybody had an opinion. She would either have dark brown hair like her big sister, Anna, or she would have blond hair like her big brother, Ryne. The odds were in favor of blond, since Marc and I both were blondies as children.

So when the delivery nurse exclaimed, "She has red hair!" we just had to laugh. The first of many laughs Grace has given us.


Her red hair may not be quite as red as it once was, but I don't think her grandfather will ever stop calling her Red. Except now she's not Little Red.


She's reading and writing. Last week she lost her first tooth. And on Sunday she turned seven. Seven! My baby is seven.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Are we nature study drop-outs?

No, we're not drop-outs. I'm just a bad blogger. You've probably noticed a lack of weekly reports as well. Sigh. Nevertheless, nature study has been the best thing we've added to our schooling. Go figure, I spend all kinds of money on curriculum and it's the thing that doesn't cost any money that is our favorite. Well, maybe not Ryne's favorite, but he still really enjoys the walks. I had planned on completing the first 10 Outdoor Hour Challenges, but around Challenge #5 we started to get distracted. That was because Barb started posting her new Autumn Challenge series and it looked like so much fun. We've completed at least three of the new challenges. Sometimes we've gone on our walks with an agenda and sometimes not. But each time has given us a greater appreciation for God's beautiful creation.


We actually spent several weeks on cattails. We took a walk in our backyard, thinking we might find some near the creek. There were no cattails to be found, but we ran into one of our forest friends (see picture at the beginning of this post). Later, we took the world's shortest nature walk (if you can even call it a walk). I remembered seeing some cattails near a storm water retention pond outside a swimming complex where Anna had a swim meet late this summer. It certainly wasn't the most scenic spot and we got some odd looks as we jumped out of the car to take a quick peek, but we did find the remains of some cattails. Gracie called them "roasted cattails"! We picked one of the roasted cattails and inspected it at home. About a week later we noticed tons of cattails growing along the highway exit we take everyday to get home, so I snapped some pictures and prayed we wouldn't get hit by a car. Then we combined our cattail study with an art assignment from
Artistic Pursuits in which they were supposed to use water color crayons to make their own picture from a photograph.

By the time we wrapped up our study of cattails, Barb was already posting Fall Challenge # 5 - Pumpkins.


Every year our family goes to the same pumpkin farm that is not far from our house. We've learned from past years that pumpkins are very dependent on favorable weather conditions. A couple of years ago, we had a late spring freeze which wrecked all the local pumpkin crops. So when we got out to the field full of beautiful pumpkins we were very surprised, until we realized that none were attached to their vines. They had all been shipped in! But not this year. The field was full of beautiful pumpkins, still attached to the vines. Makes for a much better nature study!


The following week, I let Ryne and Grace inspect a small pumpkin a little closer. First we looked at, felt, and even smelled the outside of the pumpkin. Then we cut it up. Both kids made drawings for their nature journals. Barb provided some discussion topics and my favorite comment was when Ryne said the seeds looked like raindrops.


Yes, I can count -- there's a reason I'm posting the challenges out of order. As we were taking our hay ride back from the pumpkin patch I noticed some large clumps of yellow flowers. Normally I'd have no idea what they are, but I remembered reading Barb's post about goldenrod. So we went to inspect more closely what the Handbook of Nature study calls "golden cities." The next day I noticed some goldenrod next to the church parking lot too, so we picked a stem to bring home. Gracie made a sketch for her nature journal.

There have been other nature walks too, but not specific to any of the challenges. And I never was able to get OHC #4 of the camera card that won't work in my printer.

Perhaps the best was when Marc took Ryne and Grace on a walk last weekend to the same state park we went to for our first challenge. Daddy doesn't get to participate much in our homeschool fun, so I was glad he had this opportunity. The fall color had peaked a few days before, but it was still glorious. Now, I've complained at least once on this blog about my husband's lack of talent with a camera, but I think he redeemed himself with these pictures.


So even though I haven't been posting much about our nature studies, we have been learning so much and having a lovely time. I am "sold" on how important this is in a child's development.

The mother must not miss this opportunity of being outdoors to train the children to have seeing eyes, hearing ears and seeds of truth deposited into their minds to grow and blossom on their own in the secret chambers of their imaginations. (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1 p.44)