Thursday, May 25, 2006

Holy Day - Ascension

We attended mass at Sacred Heart today. All the school kids were there in the front rows - 4 kids to a pew, evenly spaced. I suppose they don't want them to pester each other. I sat with my four kids in a pew and we only took up about 4 or 5 feet of space. We are crammed together, not because church is packed, but because we love one another. Granted there are times when I wish we were evenly spaced so I could let down my guard and relax without fear of being elbowed, stepped on, pinched, etc., but for now I have the pleasure of being well loved by my kids. The school kids took part in mass by reading scripture, serving, taking up the gifts and saying the prayer intentions. It was a nice mass to attend. It felt so full of life!

I think I forgot to note in my blog that Grace made her First Holy Communion on May 7, 2006. It was a beautiful day. Mass has taken on a new meaning to her. She thoroughly looks forward to receiving the eucharist each week and has a renewed desire to play church at home during the week.

Nature Findings

A large moth was spotted on Amy's porch after Lee's guitar lesson. We brought it home in a jar to identify and watch it for a while. After paging through Peterson's Butterfly and Moth Guide we noted it to be a Polyphemus moth, female. It was about 4-5 inches across and had beautiful coloration, light tan/yellow with 4 large eyespots in blue and black and pink/lavendar striping across its wings. It just so happens to be female - the jar was loaded with eggs by the time we got home. We'll watch to see what happens to the eggs. Lou kept it in a screen bug box on her dresser until Grace called me in last night to "get it out, it's keeping me awake". Come to find out that it flutters its wings continuously and even drove DH and myself crazy as it sat on the kitchen counter. It was let go this morning, not without tears from Lou.

While doing the morning dog and chicken chores we checked out the killdeer nest. The eggs hatched and their in the ground nest cuddled four tiny birds. Mama was not happy to have us near. She pretended to be injured to lure us away. It's tempting to want to check on the birds more often, but I told the kids we could check again tomorrow. They need to stay warm with their mama, especially with the rain today.

Speaking of rain, it's great for my flower beds and terrible for DH who wants to fertilize the cranberry vines.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Life in the Outdoors

Recently, I read somewhere about living in the outdoors. The writer commented: why would anyone stay inside when a perfectly made world is waiting to be enjoyed outside. Why not eat outside, read outside, play outside? Well, I've taken that comment to heart and have been literally outside for as much of my day as possible. We've been reading outside, gardening, fishing, mowing lawn, collecting rocks, swimming in both the wading pool and swimming hole, walking around the yard just looking up and down at all there is to see. I've found more wild blueberries than I new about, a swallow nest with eggs, an unfound Easter egg, and some new oak seedlings. We are seriously wrapping up the school year. Today we did some reading, math and phonics and then lived life to the fullest.

I tried a new recipe this morning, Jeff's Oat Bran Pancakes. They were tasty, but too tough. I'm sure they are healthier, too, with the oat bran, whole wheat flour and wheat germ. I might try adding a smidge of these ingredients to my regular buttermilk pancake recipe, just to add a little extra nutrition.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Frogs.....Always a Favorite

Lee is currently very interested in frogs. It happens like clockwork, every spring and late summer. In the spring they collect lots of tadpoles, hold them in buckets for awhile and then release them back to the pond. Late summer brings low water levels and thus the frogs are in plain view. We've been reading books about frogs and today made a water viewer. Cut out both ends of a can (we used a coffee can), cover one end tightly with plastic wrap and secure with a thick rubberband. Put the covered end into the pond and view the underwater world through the open end of the can. After they finish watching Westward Ho!, they plan on taking the can to the pond.

Note: Salamanders and Skinks are uncommon (so says the Wisconsin Turtle book), yet we've found three this spring. If looking to see some check under rotting leaves in a cool place.

In the Garden

We've been working outside alot lately. On the NW corner of the house we added a small garden, with sandstone stepping stones, blueberry bushes and various perennials. In my greenhouse I have 216 vegetable and flower seedlings growing, as well as two semi-dead clematis. We stopped by a couple of Amish greenhouses yesterday in the Granton area and picked up some red geraniums for the front yard. I put out flag swags on the front fence during the summer and like the look of red geraniums with them. Next is the vegetable garden. It needs to be tilled, fertilized and then planted.

Caring for the chickens gives us something to do outside as well. They are two weeks old now and getting pretty big, relatively speaking. Now that Grace is 8 and Lee is 7 they are real helpers now. They can be trusted to take care of the chickens and water plants, without me retracing their steps.

The kids, with dad's help, built a 4' x 4' cranberry bed. They have big plans of harvesting a crop and making juice to sell.

I've Heard Some Interesting Things Lately......

"Mom, we have a big problem. Floam is stuck on the ceiling."-Lee

"Swing your partner round and round, pick her up and throw her to the ground."-Lee

"I want to go hunting in Africa some day. Do they have alligators?" -Lou

"I have little rugs in my dance shoes." -Lou (referring to the soft lining in her ballet slippers)

Friday, May 12, 2006

A Note about Practicing Instruments

Grace has been playing violin for 4 years now and Lee, guitar, for just over 1 year. They both practice almost daily, five to seven days per week. It wasn't always like this and the other day I had some thoughts about why that is. First off when a young child begins learning a new instrument I can imagine they really have no idea why they need to practice. They haven't formed any goals as to what they want to accomplish with that instrument. Being new, it's hard to know what to practice, how to practice, what sounds good and what doesn't. After watching 2 youngsters tackle a new instrument, I truly believe that if they are destined to be a musician it will happen in its own time. When Grace first started violin I assumed she would attend a lesson and then practice all the material with a smile on her face for 6 days before returning for another lesson. Obviously that was nothing like what happened. I nagged her about practicing, offered suggestions, encouraged her to try hard, etc. After finding that this was not working I talked to her teacher who gave me great advice (although I didn't realize it at the time). She said that practicing an instrument is the responsibility of the student. She need to develop their own routine, way of practicing, time of day to practice and that I should stay out of it. She also said that not everyone will be a musician. At first that seemed so laizze fair, but I backed off anyway and what happened? At the year mark she started practicing every morning; it became part of her morning routine. Her practice schedule varies anywhere from 5 minutes to an occassional 45 minutes when we play together or she starts jammin' with Lee. Lee's story is almost exactly the same as Grace's. He incorporated daily practice into his routine at about the 10 month mark. Now he practices anywhere from 15-30 minutes daily. He has fun playing all his favorite songs and he notices his own progress. I'm sure it's better for him to notice the results of practice as a way to encourage himself, rather than me trying to encourage him through compliments. A good healthy dose of each is needed.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

The Perfect Day

This morning we were out the door by 8:30 to do our grocery shopping before violin and guitar lessons. We met the Johnson's in the ShopKo parking lot and brought home Derek and Haley for the afternoon. The sun is out and they are having a ball biking, sailing boats, climbing trees, turtle hunting, dart gun fighting, BB gun shooting and whatever else was done in between that I'm not aware of. I hardly see them when friends are over; they are on the property somewhere searching for new findings.

Saxon Math 3 arrived in the mail yesterday. Both Grace and Lee are going to begin on that program this month and then we'll take a break for the summer, before starting up in September. We used the book Math For Your First and Second Grader for the first two years of math with Grace; Lee just finished up the first grade program, but looking at Saxon Math 3, I think Lee will be able to jump right into it. The beginning of the book is all review of 2nd grade material and he's a fast learner with math.

Last night was the deanery spring meeting for women. I attended and am highly motivated to make it to adoration before Sunday. My plan is to take all four kids before picking up our chicks tomorrow. We'll enter reverently, say the Our Father and then possible a few Hail Mary's and go. I don't think Ray will last more than 5 minutes and as I understand, it needs to remain completely silent. My prayer for tomorrow: Lord, bring peace to my children as they enter the chapel of your body. Amen.

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Pioneer Days

We read the first half of If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon. That brought discussion about maps, birthing babies, compasses, indians, star gazing and probably more that I've already forgotten. That series of books usually takes us a couple of days to read because they are long; this one is 80 pages and being nonfiction we can only sit still for so long. So we tackle it in two sessions which is more enjoyable. Afterwards we made a recipe from Westward Ho! An Activity Guide to the Wild West. Homemade crackers were made by the women and children to use up butter and milk before traveling and the crackers were easy to transport, as long as they stayed dry. We made the crackers and spread them with butter as soon as they were cool enough to touch. They are bland, but very yummy with butter. We have other projects earmarked to do as well. I'll post anything else that actually gets done. This book is definitely a winner, check it out from the library if you are interested in pioneering, fur trading, the gold rush or the cowboy era.

Monday, May 1, 2006

Learning the Easy Way

We're still reading the Little House books; we're on to The Long Winter. I introduced the idea of westward expansion and we've been having fun with that. We read a book about the Erie canal and followed its path on a map. Today we read jokes to each other from Westward Ho, Ho, Ho.

What does Santa say after he's finished the east coast? Westward ho, ho, ho!

It's amazing how much you can learn about word usage from reading jokes. Many of the words have two meanings and so we took some time to discuss the difference between, for example, stake and steak. Why did the cowboy protect his frying pan? Because he had a steak in it.

In the category of outdoor play: Grace and Lee are building a flower bed and waterfall in their little woods. It's been raining all day, but that doesn't stop them. Lee has been learning the intracacies of rechargeable batteries, not to mention the incredible amount of patience it takes to charge 4 AA batteries (16 hours). They are sailing the boats now that it stopped raining. Lou and Ray are watching a puppy dog movie. Lou likes to check these animal movies out from the library.

Also of note this week: We are planning Grace's First Holy Communion party. We'll have about 30 guests and enough food for 60. She is so excited; we are planning on going to adoration this week and then confession on Saturday evening.