Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Day

Christmas Day brought more fun.  It was up early to see just how good we all were this past year.  Santa treated everyone to a nice assortment of stuffed animals, candy, 22 shells, stickers, tiny trucks, lotion, pop guns, and an electric guitar.  You can see three of the kids' expressions when they discovered the guitar under the tree in the collage above.  There was mass, violin duets, piano solos, shepherding, visiting, and just being filled with the spirit of Christmas which is another way of saying the kids were loud all day and Grandma can attest to that.Posted by Picasa

Christmas Eve

This is just a tiny clip from our Christmas Eve celebration. The shoes, why in the world would I take a picture of my shoes? Well, I did so to document that I wore high heels all day Christmas Eve. It seems, as a child, I remember the grown-ups waiting until the work was done to put on the nice Christmas outfit, but people would start showing up and lets face it, Christmas brings a lot of work especially if you have kids so the work is never over. At first I grabbed a pair of sweats on Christmas Eve morning thinking of all the tidying up, cookie baking, laundry and last minute gift wrapping that had to be done. But I knew that would put everyone into the "mom's gonna make us clean today" mood and knowing I wanted a happier mood set I decided to put on a sparkly top, nice blue jeans and high heels. I put on makeup and jewelry right away too. And I was right everyone pitched in with the jobs and cookie baking with a Christmasy spirit. Amber and Emily even ran back to their room to change into pretty clothes too. At one point I was dusting, wearing satiny red high heels and Amber said, "You look pretty cleaning with your high heels on, but isn't it hard to do?" Well, yes it was a little....slow. Heels really make a woman take small steps. I guess I needed that reminder to slow down. I tend to start in with the day expecting everyone else to mimic my level of fortitude. I've been known to bark out orders until everyone is sick of me. But on Christmas Eve day my heels were a reminder to slow down, do everything with purpose and be happy with what got done.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas

I'm taking a moment to stop in at my lonely blog to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas.  I realize I haven't posted anything in December but Christmas preparations, homeschooling and vacations have literally taken every minute of my time.  Here are a couple views of our tree with presents sprawling out from underneath.

This is a good time to share a couple of our gift giving and wrapping traditions.  I really can't remember where these ideas came from.  I suppose we could've come up with them on our own, I just don't know.  Each year we get the kids three gifts:  something to read, something to wear and something for fun.  We use these categories loosely and use our creativity to the fullest.  Last year a shotgun with a sling became something to wear.  We also wrap the gifts as we buy them and put them under the tree as soon as we have it up and decorated.  The kicker is the gifts are not labeled.  In advance I choose 5 different papers and then decide which child will get which paper and wrap all three of their gifts in that paper.  So when we place the gifts under the tree they do not know whose gifts are whose.  There's always lots of guessing throughout the weeks and hoping that the paper with the largest presents is for them.  Then on Christmas Eve we hide scraps of each paper with their name on the back and as they find the squares of paper the mystery is revealed.  It's great fun to be a part of this tradition and this family.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Pause and Watch - Advent Plans 2010

Advent is here.  A time to pause.  A time to watch.  A time to be deliberate in our daily reflections on faith.  Prepare.  It's the hot word of the season.  Prepare wish lists and cookie platters.  Prepare gifts for shipping and outdoor decorations.  Prepare Christmas letters and Christmas cards and Christmas photos.  Prepare holiday outfits and hairstyles.  Prepare the wallet for stashing cash and the closet for stashing gifts.  Prepare for St. Nicholas' feast day and Santa Claus' morning.  Prepare for traveling and for snowy winter nights at home.  Prepare.  It can get overwhelming if it's all done out of obligation.  That's where Advent comes in.  Advent is a time of waiting for Jesus, baby Jesus.  And who doesn't love waiting for a baby's coming.  This baby is different though.  There's no sheets to wash and crib to set up.  There's no layette to buy.  Big sister and big brother gifts aren't necessary, either are birth announcements or candy cigars.  Sounds easy to prepare for baby Jesus, but it isn't.  Sometimes the heart and mind are the hardest to prepare.  Our hearts and minds are filled with anger, hurt, disappointment, stresses of all kinds including Christmas preparations.  Jesus has a hard time finding his way in when there's no room for him, but don't despair he'll find a way.  Just like Mary and Joseph persevered when there was no room in the inn, Jesus perserveres today.  Take a moment to push aside some of the mental clutter and make room for Jesus.....the real reason for the season.

Now onto the Advent plans for this year.  We of course have our Advent wreath.  It's pretty humble as of today.  Just four candles on a pizza cardboard.  Hopefully I'll get out to cut a few boughs later today.  We're using this for our daily reflections.  Short and sweet.  Emily and Nick will look up the two bible verses earlier in the day and mark them to speed up the reflection.  Sounds like an oxymoron, but when 7 hungry people are waiting at the table reflecting needs to be kept to a minimum.  On Sundays we'll read from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1 and 2.  I also printed this for Sam, we read the square and then he crosses it off.  It's a nice tangible way to address the "how many days until Christmas?" question that comes up just about every day.  I also printed off this Advent chain, but forgot that I have it set up to print last page first.  I put the paper in the wrong order and used my last 3 sheets of violet paper.  I can't guarantee this idea will go any further.

What do you do during Advent?  What are your traditions?  I'd love to hear.

Secondary Use for a Prayer Book

Sister:  I'm gonna hit you with this prayer book.

Brother:  That's like a double sin.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Hunting Opener

With no disrespect intended, Wisconsin's Holy Week has begun.  The 9 day gun season opened this morning at 6:30; that means our property is dotted with hearty folks wearing blaze orange and carrying thermos' filled with coffee or hot chocolate.  Warren's favorite author, Michael Perry, shares a humorous yet thoughtful piece on Wisconsin's Holy Week.  You can read it here.

St. Hubert, patron saint of hunters, pray for us.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

St. Martin of Tours

We are still studying the Thirty Years War (1618-1648).  St. Martin of Tours was a beloved Saint of the Catholics of that time.  Giving half of his cloak to a poor cold beggar, he was celebrated on Nov. 11 at 11:11 with chanting and lanterns; it was the unofficial first day of winter.  We made simple paper bag lanterns and then marched around the house singing a little tune suggested in the Story of the World Vol. 3.  Notice Nick doesn't have a lantern.  His lantern making ended with a little fire, a beeping smoke detector and a sink full of ashened paper bag.  It was a good lesson in fire safety and using lighters. 
Yesterday Nick, Amber and Sam colored German, Swedish and Spanish soldiers and created a war scene.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween Weekend

Friday morning Warren and Nick went out bowhunting.  It was a frosty morning with good deer movement.  Warren ended up connecting with a spike buck.  We were down to our last two packs of deer burger so it was quite a blessing.  We also had a homeschool Halloween party, hence the Tigger costume.

Nick's been trapping hard since harvest.  He caught this nice raccoon Friday.
Emily and Nick opted out of of trick-or-treating and watched a Harry Potter movie while waiting for the trick-or-treaters that never came.  Sam and Amber, however were eager to get out and score some candy.
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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Cranberry harvest is officially over, but I take way more photos than I have time to post during harvest.  These pics were taken on a particularily warm and sunny day.  They really focus more on my Little J than cranberry harvest, but can you blame me.  After 10 days of cranberries, trucks, booms, and bulkheads filling up my camera's memory card I need to capture a smile.  On this day Joseph had plenty of them.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

More Fine Motor Skills Development

I posted a few ideas the other day.  And now I want to share a game Nick made up for Little J.  I had these bears in cups tucked away from Sam's toddler days and ran across them when I was searching frantically for a lost phonics book, which by the way I never found.  After Little J explored the cups and bears for a while, Nick set out just two cups and the coordinating bears.  When Joseph would pick up a bear, Nick would say the color and then point to the same colored cup trying to get him to place the bear in the right cup.  Amber would actually sign the colors for him, too.  She learned those at the Down Syndrome Awareness Walk when Rachel Coleman did Signing Time Live.  Anyway, if Joseph would try putting a yellow bear in the green cup he would quickly cover up the green cup so he'd put the right bear in the right cup.  This has turned out to be a great learning opportunity for Joseph.  Nick and Amber play this with him often switching up the colors.  He's getting better at placing the right bear in the right cup, but his favorite is transferring the bears from one cup to another and then back again.  He will do this for quite some time before moving on to his normal activity...emptying every shelf, cupboard, drawer and basket.

Monday, October 25, 2010

About Joseph

I asked the kids to each write a paragraph or two describing their relationship with Little J.  I thought it would be a nice testimonial about the gifts these lovely little ones with Down syndrome bring to the family.

Hi, my name is Amber.  I'm Joseph's sister.  He is so cute.  I love it when he smiles and giggles.  It is so funny.  He is just learning how to walk and stand.  I love him.

Amber is such a caring big sister to Joseph.  She happily practices her piano songs in a lower octave just so he can sit and play with her.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

On and Off - Fine Motor Skills

Since Little J has come so far in his gross motor skills, I thought it time to really focus on fine motor skills.  Patricia Winders' book, Gross Motor Skills in Children with Down Syndrome, has become a favorite reference book.  I checked out the companion book (by a different author), Fine Motor Skills in Children with Down SyndromeI haven't gone through the entire book yet, but realized if I just sat and watched Little J he would show me all kinds of ways he's fine tuning his fine motor skills.  One of his favorite places to hang out is in the bathroom with me while I get ready in the morning.  He loves hairspray bottles and spends most of his time playing with the bottles and caps.  Perfect for developing hand eye coordination, the concept of on/off and precision muscle movements. 

Another favorite is playing with markers.  He loves removing the caps and then putting them back on pushing so hard until it clicks or snaps in place.  This gets a little messy though.  In a perfect world I'd have a baggie of dried out markers for him to use, but I tend to be a thrower and besides who keeps dried up markers anyway.  Marker play is good for developing strength; he tends to use his entire upper body including shoulders and arm muscles.

Peg puzzles are another good fine motor skill activity, but Little J doesn't seem to like those quite so well.  Nick and Amber created a game using colored cups and bears that they play with Little J.  I'll share that later this week.
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Friday, October 22, 2010

The Bridge of 33 Arches

I had planned on doing a paper bridge building activity to go along with our history studies.  The last two weeks were spent learning about the succession of Persian rulers and the Ottoman Turks.  Shah Abbas was known for his building projects, especially roads and bridges.  Nick had his own plans though, to build a bridge in the island.  How could I keep them inside with 2" x 11" strips of paper when the woods was full of bridge building materials and a ditch with running water.  Next week looks to be rainy so we'll attempt to build a paper bridge then.Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


First saw them October 18.  Everyday they're picking seeds in the lawn under the feeders.  Another nature note:  First skim ice on the chicken's water dish, October 19.Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cranberry Harvest Day 9

Today I'm sharing a collage of pictures taken over the course of a few days.  I want to share a bit about the flooding process of cranberry harvest.  Cranberry marshes have a system of reservoirs and ditches which are managed to keep the water just where it needs to be.  In the bottom right photo you can see bulkhead with boards placed to stop the flow of water.  When water is needed to flood a bed for raking the boards are pulled and water rushes through the tube and into the next ditch or cranberry bed.  In the top right picture you can see a ditch filled with water.  Throughout the course of harvest that water will be cycled into cranberry beds and the outlet ditch.  At the end of harvest water is pumped back into the reservoir to maintain a proper depth for winter flooding.
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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Happiness Is....

Happiness is...pulling the last frost thermometer off the cranberry marsh.

Happiness is...having kids old enough to scrapbook their own memories.

Happiness is...the aroma of pumpkin pies made by Emily.

Happiness is...seeing police lights in your review mirror and then watching them as they cruise on by.

Happiness is...cleanliness in all the inconspicuous places like under the couch and behind the piano.

I polled the rest of the family and here's what they said.
Dad says:  Happiness is...loading the last cranberry.  (which hasn't happened yet)

Emily says:  Happiness is...finishing a Heartland book in one day.

Nick says:  Happiness is...having an Airsoft war.

Amber says:  Happiness is...riding Max.

Sam says:  Happiness is...my birthday.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cranberry Recipes

Over the past 5 1/2 years of blogging here at Camp Homeschool I've shared some of our favorite cranberry recipes.  And since it's cranberry harvest time it's easy to find fresh cranberries in the grocer.  I've compiled a list of links to my cranberry recipes.  I have a oodles of recipes, but not enough time to share them all.  If you're in need of a particular type of cranberry recipe please let me know and I will do what I can to post one for you.  Enjoy!

Cranberry Zucchini Bread

Cranberry Nut Swirls (cookies)

Broccoli Cranberry Salad

Cranberry Juice

Cranberry Pecan Pie

Cranberry Apple Spice Bars

Cranberry Cake with Hot Butter Sauce

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cranberry Harvest Day 6

Today we'll be talkin' trash!

American Gothic our way.
This is almost all of the trash crew
So after the beds are harvested the trash crew goes around raking up the floating leaf debris.  It's not a glamorous job, but a necessary one because after the water is drained any floating leaf debris becomes laying on the vines debris which mats down the vines and suffocates next year's buds.
On calm days they go wading in the bed to get the trash, but on windy days it blows toward the dike as in the picture above.
There's another side to trash.  As the cranberries are elevated into the truck they pass over the cleaning belt.  Any leaves get pressure washed off and fall onto a trailer.  Can you believe you can buy this as garden mulch?
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cranberry Harvest Day 5

Today I have a few random pictures to share.  Here's a newly raked bed.  The cranberries floating freely...until tomorrow.

Sam hitches a ride to pick up the trash trailer.  On front of the 4-wheeler is the blower, used to blow every last cranberry from the ditch edge before booming the cleanup round.

Cranberries like any plant rely on pollination to flourish.  Cranberry growers either rent honeybee hives or buy bumblebee hives. On the trailer are bumblebee quads.  They arrive in June to begin pollinating.  Many growers will get both types of bees.  Honeybees work best in pleasant weather, not unlike me.  Whereas bumblebees are willing to work during inclement weather, too.

It's interesting that when the bumblebees show up the hives are closed up and there's a mesh covering over the exit hole.  Within the first 24 hours they actually chew through the mesh.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cranberry Harvest Day 4

Since something different happens everyday and we continue to homeschool throughout harvest, I can't always get pictures in order of how things are really done.  That's why I'm posting pictures according to task.  Today a bit about what happens to all those cranberries once boomed.  Booming was explained here.
The boom is continually tightened so the fruit is as close to the berry cleaner as possible.  Those mini lochness monsters sticking out of the cranberries are really homemade water jets.  A pump is used to push water through them.  The force of the moving water pushes berries into the green elevating machine.
The green paddles are chain driven, moving cycling around continuously grabbing fruit and pulling it up towards the pressure cleaner where leaves and other debris are power washed off the fruit.

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Homemade Crib Sheet

I couldn't wait for lunch to be done so I could make another crib sheet.  This is such a fun project.  And it's practical.  Today's flannel worked much better than yesterday's.  I found that if the fabric is wider than 45" you have to cut off the selvage in order to start with the right size rectangle.  Once the selvage is cut off that raw edge has to be finished in one way or another which adds to the sewing time.  Leaving the selvage on makes for a nicer looking finished product and saves time.
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Monday, October 11, 2010

Sewing Projects

Back in August my quilting buddy and I embarked on this adventure to make a purely scrap happy wall hanging.  This bear paw pattern was found in an older issue of Quilt.  The original pattern was for a bed size quilt, however, after all the piecing we're both glad we did this as a wall hanging.  We made one block and added a border, the original called for 16 blocks.  Simple, but time consuming.
I tried a new free motion quilting pattern; it's called pebbles.  I really like how it turned out, but it was time consuming and used a miles of thread.
Here's a closeup of the quilting.  I'm not sure if you can see it but each pebble has 2-3 rounds of stitching.  In order to achieve the look of continuous pebbles you have to quilt the pebble and then stitch around it again to the starting spot of the next pebble.  I would definitely do this again in small areas, never an entire quilt.  I suppose the pebbles could be made much larger on a bed size quilt.
Ironically, I sewed a flannel crib sheet for Little J today even though we're having an Indian summer.  His last flannels were from my sister-in-law.  I don't know how many of her children they warmed, but they warmed our first four and were basically thread bare.  Anyway, I used this tutorial at Everything Your Mama Made & More.  It was easy to follow and the project was done in no time.  I will however, make the next one an inch shorter in length and I will do a zigzag stitch all the way around the rectangle before cutting the corners and adding the elastic.
Posted by PicasaThis post wouldn't be complete without a bit about Down syndrome.  See that little space between Little J's big toe and 2nd toe?  That's called sandal gap.  It's a physical trait of Down syndrome, but nothing to fret over.  It's just a variation of normal.  He'll never have to worry about flip flop blisters.