Monday, January 31, 2011

4 Years!

Q & A

This next month marks my fourth anniversary of writing and sharing in this space. This is post #1,250!! Occasionally, I think it can't be possible that I still have something to say, and then I still have something to say! (Which comes as no great surprise to my mother, who has had to listen to me talk non-stop since I began talking....) What might come as a surprise to many of you is that I'm introverted and shy in real life, particularly in groups or with people I don't know.

ANYWAY, it seems that I've shared quite a bit about myself and life as I know it over the past years, but many of my readers are new(er). Rather than starting to repeat myself, I thought I'd ask if anyone had any specific questions for me. I know I've missed a few questions in the comments over this past year, so if you've asked and I failed to answer, this is a second chance to get me to respond!

Serious or frivolous, nosey or polite, big or small, it doesn't matter. Ask away. I'll tell you what I know, think, or feel (caveat emptor, and all that). (I know I forgot to answer a question about spelling programs a week or two ago, so I'll start there.) If there aren't any questions, it'll just be business as usual around here. Homeschooling, photography, books, baby girl, crazy boys, and life.

Last Weekend in Pictures, Take 2

Flower Power

I'm finally getting around to posting the rest of our spontaneous weekend pictures. On the last day, Russ took the boys for a long swim at the pool while Lola and I made faces at each other, then she took a nap while I cleaned and packed.

The Many Faces of Lola
We got back on the road headed home. After a short park/baby feeding stop in Sisters, we drove up to the snow.

Mountain Scenery
Lola in Snow

Lola made a brief appearance to watch the boys do a bit of sledding, but she thought it was awfully cold. (Truthfully, it was rather warm for being in the snow!!)

Luke in the Snow
Lola was tired and Leif was done sledding, so we headed to the truck and Russ stayed with the big boys. Lola took a nap in her car seat and Leif kicked back in the driver's seat with Daddy's iPad. I didn't even know how to turn it on, but Leif is a whiz on that thing. He was rocking out to music, playing math games, and who knows what else.

We drove down out of the mountains and our stomachs were rumbling. Can't pass through Sweet Home without stopping at A&W.

Leif had sacked out in the truck.

Leif asleep

A & W
Lola was awake, though, and Levi loves hanging out with her.

Levi and Lola

And then it was home to quickly get unpacked and ready for an early Monday! The End.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mt. Hope Academy 2011~ Week 3

Classical Conversations: Week 15.
Bible memory, history time line, Star Spangled Banner, presentations (public speaking), science experiment, famous artist/art project, geography, history/science/Latin/grammar/math memory work, and gym/social time.

CC Memory Review

Sing the Word From A to Z (memorized verses I,J)
Children's Illustrated Bible (Luke, read aloud)
Day by Day Kid's Bible (Levi, independently)
The Early Reader's Bible (Leif, read aloud)

For the Beauty of the Earth (Levi on piano)
O The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus (CD)
This is the Day (Luke on piano)

Fine Arts:
Memorizing The Tyger by William Blake
Poetry for Young People: William Blake by John Maynard
Watched Thomas Gainsborough YouTube video
Gainsborough Art Stickers
(Levi) Drawing: tulip (Linnaeus) and people for landscape painting (Gainsborough) for CC art notebook
Playing Haydn's Surprise Symphony on piano (very simple arrangement, Luke and Mom)

Geography Songs: Middle East
Around the World Coloring Book: Turkey and Saudi Arabia
Countries Around the World: Turkey (DVD)
Countries Around the World: Lebanon (DVD)
Countries Around the World: Israel (DVD)
Countries Around the World: Jordan (DVD)
Global Hot Spots: Iraq by Paul Mason
(CC Geography review/drawing Europe)

Grammar Island (pgs 64-94)
Under, Over, By the Clover: What is a Preposition by Brian P. Cleary

AAS: Steps 1-5

HWT work book pages

Song School Latin: Ch. 5 review, 6/review


DVD lessons: month 1/week 1/lesson 4, 1/2/1

Number Dice games
Math Brain (online games)
Math: A Book You Can Count On by Basher

Kingfisher Science Encyclopedia: Kinetic and Potential Energy
Bill Nye: Motion (DVD)
Bill Nye: Atoms (DVD)
Bill Nye: Brain (DVD)
Dragonfly TV: Simple Machines

History Encyclopedias (Usborne-Luke, Kingfisher-Levi): World War I Era

Levi's Assigned Reading:
The War to End All Wars: World War I by Russell Freedman
The 1910s Decade in Photos: A Decade That Shook the World by Jim Corrigan
The 1920s Decade in Photos: The Roaring Twenties by Jim Corrigan
The 1930s Decade in Photos: Depression and Hope by Jim Corrigan

Luke's Assigned Reading:
Little Pear by Eleanor Frances Lattimore
Jenius: The Amazing Guinea Pig by Dick King-Smith
The Time Warp Trio: Oh Say, I Can't See by Jon Scieszka
Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner

Family Read-Aloud:
Little Britches by Ralph Moody (ch 18-20)

Star Spangled Banner
Prepared presentations for CC Week 16 (Bible verse recitation)

Luke piano practice Su, Tu, W+Lesson, Th, Sa

Library trip with Dad and friends

Lots of outdoor play!

Levi's Free Reading:
The 39 Clues: The Viper's Nest by Peter Lerangis
Inkspell by Cornelia Funke
Igraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke

Family Movies:
The Prince of Persia

"Just as appetite comes by eating so work brings inspiration, if inspiration is not discernible at the beginning."
~Igor Stravinsky

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Day in the Life

four crazy kids

The beautiful days of quiet rhythms. The hush of early morning productivity. The year in, year out steady march of progress. Do you wistfully wonder how to transform your home into this wonder-land of peace and earnest learning?

You won’t learn how from me.

We have spent the past year in survival mode. Pregnancy (which I’m afraid I didn’t handle gracefully), a newborn, illnesses, and a husband whose work routine changed drastically challenged my notions of what a homeschool day ‘should’ look like. Add in three young, extroverted, physical boys, and quiet anything was all but impossible.

I have embraced the concept of life seasons. It is counterproductive for me to dream of days that belong in a season other than the one I’m in.

After a period of letting go of expectations and riding the waves of life, we are using the freshness of a new year to move into a season of more focused academics.

We spend Monday mornings at our Classical Conversations group, and the rest of our week we spend learning at home. As our rhythm has yet to find a steady beat, I’ll share a specific day rather than a general routine.

I'm over at Simple Homeschool today. Head on over to read the rest.


Getting Settled

I woke up Friday morning and told Russ that I didn't really want to get out of bed, but if I did, I wanted to go somewhere. Russ is the spontaneous one in the family. I had a feeling he'd jump right on that bandwagon.

I was thinking of driving to Eugene for the afternoon. Russ was thinking of driving to the mountains for a long weekend. It's all good. We snagged inexpensive reservations at a condo (thanks to my brother-in-law) and were on the road by that afternoon. (I remembered several times before leaving why we never go anywhere.)

We haven't been anywhere in FOREVER. This was Lola's first long drive, and I wondered how she would do. She was an ANGEL. Not a single squeak out of her for two hours. The pass was clear. The boys and I did lessons in the truck. Russ had the foresight to get a take-and-bake pizza before we left, so we put that in the oven for dinner as soon as we arrived.

The nice thing about having a tiny house and never going anywhere, is that when we DO go somewhere, the boys think staying in a condo (bigger than our house) is a fascinating adventure and we don't have to have any activities planned. Just the fact that the condo had stairs up to the door, a doorbell, and empty closests was as good as Disneyland. (Okay, not quite.) They are so deprived.Little Sister

So, we settled in, ate pizza, and watched Nanny McPhee Returns. Levi had a room to himself. It must have seemed too big because he slept in the empty closet.

Family Movie

We woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and very cute.

Good Morning

Daddy made a yummy breakfast of eggs, sausage, and pancakes. Yum!


We spent a bit of time in the jacuzzi tub and looked really cute.

Bathing Beauty

After the boys spent a long time at the pool with Daddy, they all played a game of Monopoly.

Game Time

And we looked really cute again.

Lola 3

I just love her hands.

Lola 1

And her fingers in her mouth.

Lola 2

We were starting to get cabin fever, so we went for a drive in the gorgeous sunshine.


We stopped at a park so the boys could play and Lola could eat....



...And look really cute.

Cute Stuff

pine cones


pine cone

Then we hit the grocery store for ice cream (to go with our rootbeer) and headed back to the condo.



More pictures soon.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mt. Hope Academy 2011 ~ Week 2

Classical Conversations: Week 14.
Bible memory, history time line, Star Spangled Banner, presentations (public speaking), science experiment, famous artist/art project, geography, history/science/Latin/grammar/math memory work, and gym/social time.

CC Memory Reveiw (Daily)


Sing the Word From A to Z (memorized verses E-H)
Children's Illustrated Bible (Luke, read aloud)
Day by Day Kid's Bible (Levi, independently)
The Early Reader's Bible (Leif, read aloud)

For the Beauty of the Earth (Levi on piano)
O The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus (CD)
This is the Day (Luke on piano)

Fine Arts:
Memorizing The Tyger by William Blake
The Farewell Symphony by Anna Harwell Celenza (Haydn)
Watched the following video about Carl Linnaeus:

Geography Songs: Eastern Europe
Around the World Coloring Book: Poland
Countries Around the World: Estonia (DVD)
Watched video of trumpeter in Krakow, Poland
(CC Geography review/drawing Europe)

Grammar Island (pgs 44-64)

All About Spelling: studied phonograms

HWT work book pages

Song School Latin: Ch. 3/review, 4, 5

DVD lessons: month 1/week 1/lesson 3

Test Prep Math Word Problems flashcards

Kingfisher Science Encyclopedia: Acids and Bases
DK Eyewitness: Chemistry: Acids and Bases
Bill Nye: Earthquakes (DVD)
Dragonfly TV: Chemistry

History Encyclopedias (Usborne-Luke, Kingfisher-Levi): World War I Era
World War I by Carole Marsh
DK Eyewitness: World War I
Archie's War: My Scrapbook of the First World War by Marcia Williams

Levi's Assigned Reading:
The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly
The Good Master by Kate Seredy
Isaac Newton: The Scientist Who Changed Everything by Philip Steele

Luke's Assigned Reading:
Who Was Amelia Earhart? by Kate Boehm Jerome

Family Read-Aloud:
Little Britches by Ralph Moody (ch 12-17)

Star Spangled Banner illustrated by Peter Spier (and sang daily with CD)
Prepared presentations for CC Week 15 (show and tell: picture/famous inventor)

Luke piano practice Su, Tu, W +Lesson

Levi's Free Reading:
Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Family Movies:
The Wizard of Oz (cultural literacy (grin))
Nanny McPhee Returns

Family Outings:
Impromptu long weekend in the mountains! (swimming and sledding, wahoo!)



We just returned from a very spontaneous weekend trip to the mountains, and we're TIRED. Now it's time to scramble and get ready for class tomorrow morning. I hope you all had a fabulous weekend!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Language: Spoken and Written

I was taught very little grammar in school. Now I am learning the rules one by one. Old habits are hard to break. I've figured out who and whom. I battle the lay and lie confusion daily. I've stopped saying and writing the word 'hopefully.' I know that good is the adjective and well is the adverb. Now I have to cut out my excessive commas.

And from The Elements of Clunk at The Chronicle:

Standard written English is a whole other language from its spoken (and texted) counterpart, with conventions not just of punctuation but also of many shortcuts to meaning—streamlined words and phrases, ellipses (omitted word or words), idioms, figures of speech—that have developed over many years. You learn them by reading. And if you haven't read much, when you set pen to paper yourself, you take things more slowly and apply a literal-minded logic, as you would in finding your way through a dark house.


Here's what's happening, as I see it. My students aren't unique but represent a portion of the millennial generation: at least moderately intelligent, reasonably well-educated young people. When they write in a formal setting—for a class assignment or for publication in a blog or a magazine—they almost always favor length over brevity, ornateness over simplicity, literalness over figuration. The reasons, I hypothesize, are a combination: the wandering-the-house-in-the-dark factor, hypercorrection brought on by chronic uncertainty, and the truth that once people start talking or writing, they like to do so as long as they can, even if the extra airtime comes from saying "myself" instead of "I."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lola Love

Lola Love

Making the decision to have a child - it's momentous.
It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.
~Elizabeth Stone

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My Book List ~ 2010

Red Books on Mantle

My completed book list for 2010 is MUCH LESS impressive than Levi's. I started off with a bang. Then sleep became much more precious than reading, and any extra minutes I could spare were consumed with naps and early bedtimes. But, you know what? I still read an average of 2+ books a month, and that's 27 more books that are now a part of the landscape of my mind. And I'm okay with that.

I was intentionally ambitious in my book list at the beginning of 2010, so I have many more in the queue with which to fill the reading hours of 2011. I think I'll skip making a new book list for now.

I reviewed most of the completed books here and there last year. The bulk of the reviews were short and sweet, but I poured blood, sweat, and tears (okay, not really) into my reviews of Twilight and The Hunger Games Trilogy if you're interested in my thoughts and missed them the first go-around.

The Ballad of Sir Dinadan by Gerald Morris
Sir Charlie: Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World by Sid Fleischman
Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
The Matchmaker of Perigord by Julia Stuart
Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education by Leigh A. Bortins
Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
Time Travelers Never Die by Jack McDevitt
Dutch Color by Douglas M. Jones III
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
Parsifal's Page by Gerald Morris
Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz
The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf by Gerald Morris
The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart
Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson
26 Fairmount Avenue series by Tomie DePaola
Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis by George Sayer
Going Solo by Roald Dahl
A Morbid Taste For Bones by Ellis Peters
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, retold by Martin Jenkins

Red Books

"He that loves a book will never want a faithful friend, a wholesome counselor, a cheerful companion, an effectual comforter. By study, by reading, by thinking, one may innocently divert and pleasantly entertain himself, as in all weathers, as in all fortunes."


Monday, January 17, 2011

Levi's Book List ~ 2010

Levi 9

It is rather convenient to have Levi's birthday just six minutes after the start of the new year. (We had quite the New Year's party NINE years ago.) I keep his book lists from January - December, for instance, and it's convenient to know that he read all the books on his list at the age of eight.

I didn't do quite as thorough a job of keeping track of Levi's reading this past year as I did the year before. I had other things on my mind, and he is such a non-sequential reader that list-making is rather difficult. He often has a whole stack of books going at once, reads a chapter here and a chapter there, and is constantly re-reading books (in parts and pieces). It drives me crazy, being the obsessive sequential person I am, but the boy loves to read a wide variety of books and does so constantly. Who am I to complain?

So the following is an incomplete mish-mash of assigned and free reading for 2010 in no particular order:

Louis Braille: The Boy Who Invented Books for the Blind by Margaret Davidson
Born in the Year of Courage by Emily Crofford
Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pioneer Girl by Megan Stine
Pocahontas and the Strangers by Clyde Robert Bulla
And It Is Still That Way: Legends told by Arizona Indian Children collected by Byrd Baylor
Black Powder War by Naomi Novik
Sir Charlie: Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World by Sid Fleischman
Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik
His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik
A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver by E.L. Konigsburg
Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry
The Children of Green Knowe by L. M. Boston
The Demon in the Teahouse by D & T Hoobler
Mary, Bloody Mary by Carolyn Meyer
The 39 Clues: The Emperor's Code by Gordon Korman
The Great and Terrible Quest by Margaret Lovett
The 39 Clues: In Too Deep by Jude Watson
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
Redwall by Brian Jacques
The Great Turkey Walk by Kathleen Karr
Gregor and the Code of Claw by Suzanne Collins
Gregor and the Marks of Secret by Suzanne Collins
Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods by Suzanne Collins
Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins
Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan
The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Three Cups of Tea (The Young Readers Edition) by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin
The Children of Cherry-Tree Farm by Enid Blyton
Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl
Enola Holmes: The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer
The 39 Clues: Beyond the Grave by Jude Watson
The Wright 3 by Blue Balliett
Ranger's Apprentice: The Sorcerer of the North by John Flanagan
The 39 Clues: The Sword Thief
Rangers Apprentice: The Battle for Skandia
Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander
Rangers Apprentice: The Icebound Land by John Flanagan
A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle
Dutch Color by Douglas M. Jones III
Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle
A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle
The 39 Clues: One False Note by Gordon Korman
Poppy by Avi
Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey
All Alone by Claire Huchet Bishop
The Cay by Theodore Taylor
The Castle of Llyr by Lloyd Alexander
Ragweed by Avi
Pippi in the South Seas by Astrid Lindgren
The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan
Sword of the Samurai by Eric A. Kimmel
The Samurai's Tale by Erik Christian Hauaard
The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn by Dorothy & Thomas Hoobler
Hans Brinker/The Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge
The Singing Hill by Meindert DeJong
Dirk's Dog, Bello by Meindert DeJong
Peter Duck: A Treasure Hunt in the Caribbees by Arthur Ransome
Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojciechowska
The Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park
I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino
The Corn Grows Ripe by Dorothy Rhoads
Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark
Pocahontas and the Strangers by Clyde Robert Bulla
Louis Braille: The Boy Who Invented Books for the Blind by Margaret Davidson
The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth
Frindle by Andrew Clements
The Rescuers by Margery Sharp
Freddy and the Bean Home News by Walter R. Brooks
Freddy Goes Camping by Walter R. Brooks
Freddy Goes to Florida by Walter R. Brooks
The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley retold by Josephine Poole
Christopher Mouse: The Tale of a Small Traveler by William Wise
Shakespeare's Scribe by Gary Blackwood
Mr. Pipes and Psalms and Hymns of the Reformation by Douglas Bond
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
Hitty: Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field
The Beggar's Bible by Louise A. Vernon
By the Great Horn Spoon! by Sid Fleischman
Around the World in a Hundred Years by Jean Fritz
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl
The Phoenix and the Carpet by E. Nesbit
The Story of the Amulet by E. Nesbit
Pedro's Journal: A Voyage with Christopher Columbus by Pam Conrad
The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
Bandit's Moon by Sid Fleischman
The Apprentice by Pilar Molina Llorente
Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary
Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary
The Town Cats and Other Tales by Lloyd Alexander
Peter and the Sword of Mercy by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

P.S. A reader asked if I am endorsing these books, so here is my disclaimer:

No, I'm not endorsing all these books. Many (most) are ones I have not read. They are simply books he read this past year. Unfortunately, Levi loves fantasy (as does his dad) and it is not my favorite by any stretch of the imagination. So Dad does some of the pre-reading (or post reading) and I might feel differently (wry grin). And fantasy is one of the hardest categories to recommend without reservations, anyway. Other books are award winners, but that isn't an indication that everyone would find them acceptable. Other books are from book lists or recommendations. But, again, I haven't read most of them (or all I would do is read!) so I can't recommend them myself. Maybe I'll make up a list of books I CAN endorse (one of these days!).

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mt. Hope Academy 2011 ~ Week 1

singing hymns

After a year of laid-back schooling, we're getting into a new groove. Time to get down to business!!

Classical Conversations: Week 13.
Bible memory, history time line, Star Spangled Banner, presentations (public speaking), science experiment, famous artist/art project, geography, history/science/Latin/grammar/math memory work, and gym/social time.

CC Memory Reveiw (Daily)

Sing the Word From A to Z (memorized verses A, B, C, and D)
Children's Illustrated Bible (Luke, read aloud)
Day by Day Kid's Bible (Levi, independently)
The Early Reader's Bible (Leif, read aloud)

Come Thou Almighty King (Levi on piano)
Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow (Luke on piano)

Fine Arts:
Read about William Blake in A Child's Introduction to Poetry
Memorizing The Tyger by William Blake
Read Haydn's biography page at Making Music Fun
Beethoven's Wig: Haydn's Great Surprise (CD)
Rembrandt coloring page

Geography Songs: Scandinavia
Around the World Coloring Book: Scandinavia
Countries Around the World: Finland (DVD)
Countries Around the World: Sweden (DVD)
(CC Geography review/drawing Europe)

Grammar Island (pgs 1-43)
Dearly, Nearly, Insincerely: What Is an Adverb? by Brian P. Cleary

All About Spelling: Introduced and studied phonograms

HWT work book pages daily, Proverbs (Levi)

Song School Latin: Ch. 1/review, 2/review

DVD lessons: month 1/week 1/lessons 1-2

Telling Time (DVD)
Time flashcards
Worksheets Daily

Kingfisher Science Encyclopedia: Phases of Matter
Bill Nye: Phases of Matter (DVD)
Bill Nye: Inventions (DVD)
Bill Nye: Magnetism (DVD)
Bill Nye: Space Exploration (DVD)
(The Inventors' Specials) Newton: A Tale of Two Isaacs (DVD)
So You Want To Be An Inventor? by Judith St. George

History Encyclopedias (Usborne-Luke, Kingfisher-Levi): Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution: From Muscles to Machines
Mill Times (David Macaulay) (DVD)

Levi's Assigned Reading:
(January 3-16th)
Robert Fulton: Boy Craftsman by Marguerite Henry (190 pgs)
The Story of Eli Whitney by Jean Lee Latham (192 pgs)
The Great Wheel by Robert Lawson (192 pgs)
Michael Faraday: Father of Electronics by Charles Ludwig (205 pgs)
Brainstorm! The Stories of Twenty American Kid Inventors by Tom Tucker (144 pgs)
Favorite Fairy Tales Told in Sweden retold by Virginia Haviland (92 pags)

Family Read-Aloud:
Little Britches by Ralph Moody (ch 7-11)

Great Americans for Children: Amelia Earhart (DVD)
Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride by Pam Munoz Ryan
Star Spangled Banner illustrated by Peter Spier (and sang daily with CD)
Prepared presentations for CC Week 14 (New Testament story/parable)

Luke piano practice M, Tu, W +Lesson, F, S

Free reading daily.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

One Little Word ~ 2011


I've been meaning to post about my One Little Word for 2011. Last year, I chose the word 'diligence' at the first of January. I was determined to conquer.... something. I was going to be amazing. And in control. And consistent. And astonishingly productive.

And just weeks into the new year, I found out I was pregnant.

2010 became the year of letting go of all control and preconceived notions about what *I* was going to accomplish. Instead, God turned unexpected....well, labor pains.... into unexpected blessings.

After almost a year of physical (and emotional) weariness, God gave me the most beautiful and wonderful baby girl. She has been a joy beyond what I could have ever imagined. I can't even begin to describe what a blessing she has been in my life. God knows. I can tell you that I feel invigorated and cheerful and strong.

Two weeks after Lola Colette was born, Russ lost his job. Under normal circumstances, this would have consumed me with trepidation or hopelessness. But, by some miracle, I have had no capacity to stress out about it. We are in a much better place than most unemployed families, as Russ is also semi-self-employed. So he has been working on multiple projects for personal clients while searching for a new job. I know God will continue to provide for our family. (Maybe you could add that to your prayer list if you are so inclined?)

In the meantime, I am abundantly thankful for the unexpected blessing of having Russ home and available to his family in the first months of Lola's life. He has been able to hang out with the boys, spend time with Lola, and be exceedingly helpful to me. We have been given the gift of time together, and that is priceless.

(Incidentally, I was thinking about the year I was pregnant with Leif. Russ worked some obscene hours that year which was really tough. I sprained my ankle when I was 8 months pregnant in the middle of a very hot summer (and Levi and Luke were 4 and 2), then Leif was a very needy baby, and we unexpectedly bought a house and moved at the end of the year. It was frustrating to have Russ gone so much, but when I look back at our income that year I realize that God was providing for us in a miraculous way. He made it possible for us to purchase and move into our little house in the country.)

All of this to say that I have been hesitant to choose a word for 2011. BLESSING was my first thought, but then I decided that was more appropriate for 2010.

Instead I've chosen LIFE, because I choose to embrace it, with all its ups and downs, detours and scenic routes, disappointments and possibilities, noise, chaos, and little quiet moments.

Be glad of life because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars.

~Henry Van Dyke

To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.

~Emily Dickinson

Listen, are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?

~Mary Oliver

I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.

~Diane Ackerman

I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.

~Agatha Christie

Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told: "I am with you kid. Let's go."

~Maya Angelou

Look, I don't want to wax philosophic, but I will say that if you're alive you've got to flap your arms and legs, you've got to jump around a lot, for life is the very opposite of death, and therefore you must at very least think noisy and colorfully, or you're not alive.

~Mel Brooks

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Twenty-Four Crowded Hours of the Day

"If you observe a really happy man you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, growing double dahlias in his garden or looking for dinosaur eggs in the Gobi desert. He will not be searching for happiness as if it were a collar button that has rolled under the radiator. He will not be striving for it as a goal in itself. He will have become aware that he is happy in the course of living life twenty-four crowded hours of the day."

~W. Beran Wolfe

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fine Arts ~ January

In continuation of our Fine Arts Monthly Features:

::For January, we are reading about the artist Thomas Gainsborough at Garden of Praise, and we've purchased small art stickers from Dover.
::We're printing Franz Joseph Haydn's biography page over at Making Music Fun, as well as printing and playing his Surprise Symphony. And we are enjoying another one of Anna Harwell Celenza's beautiful composer picture books, The Farewell Symphony. We'll also be listening to the radio shows about Haydn at Classics for Kids.

::We're savoring A Visit to William Blake's Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers by Nancy Willard (and illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen, two of my favorites!) and Poetry for Young People: William Blake.

Tyger, Tyger, burning bright

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

::And copying a few reasonable words in our best handwriting:

Two wrongs don't make a right.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Someone Call the Whaaaaambulance!

Tea and Croissant

I would really like to sit around enjoying these. Then I'd like to take a nice, long afternoon nap.

But, no. Instead I get to finish one of those horrid, waaaaay overdue cleaning/organizing projects that I started yesterday out of sheer necessity (since that is the ONLY reason I do ANYTHING these days).

The schoolroom/office/library has been the stash-everything-room for four years, now. Everything I don't want to deal with goes in there, usually at the last minute when I'm having company over, of course.

Bins and bins of miscellaneous game pieces, important paperwork, school worksheets, blank paper mixed with not-so-blank paper, half-finished work books and coloring books, school supplies, camera paraphernalia, gift wrapping supplies, notebooks, puzzles, and the endless odds and ends that have no home.

Messy House 1

So I pulled almost everything out of the room yesterday and have been going through it one piece of paper, one pencil, one game piece at a time. Now I'm at the 'I have a much greater mess than the one I started with (which is really saying something), and it's taken over my whole house' stage. I really hate that stage. Not to mention the fact that I neglect everything else (say, dishes) when I'm trying to work on a big project.

Messy House 2

I got to bed really late last night, Lola was up more than usual during the night, Leif is sick and crawled in bed with us at 5:30 am, and Russ is attending a class all day today. Must do laundry and dishes. Unexpected financial paperwork/phone calls/trip to the bank today. Fun stuff.

Messy House 4

The boys keep coming out and taking stuff out of my piles. Ooooh! Look at this! Oooooh! You can't throw this away!! Oooooh! I think I'll scatter these flash cards all over the floor and cut up this piece of paper into tiny little shreds. They have now been sent to their disasterous room. Think three boys living in a tiny room that hasn't been organized since Christmas gifts. Maybe I'll get to that next year.

Messy House 3

Must. Go. Work. Oh, wait. I hear a crying baby. Sigh.

I'll share a few inspirational words so this isn't a completely brain-sucking post.

Don't worry about genius and don't worry about not being clever. Trust rather to hard work, perseverance, and determination. The best motto for a long march is, 'Don't grumble. Plug on.'

You hold your future in your own hands. Never waver in this belief. Don't swagger. The boy who swaggers--like the man who swaggers--has little else that he can do. He is a cheap-Jack crying his own paltry wares. It is the empty tin that rattles most. Be honest. Be loyal. Be kind. Remember that the hardest thing to acquire is the faculty of being unselfish. As a quality it is one of the finest attributes of manliness.

Love the sea, the ringing beach and the open downs.

Keep clean, body and mind.

~Sir Frederick Treves, 1903