Friday, October 31, 2008

B's garter snake

after a few very chilly days and nights we had a beautiful few days this week! the sun shone and the temperatures were in the low 70's. that brought an unexpected visitor to our driveway, sunning himself on the warm cement. i walked right past him, but B spotted him! that sort of changed the direction of our school day, but i know it is probably the last critter we will catch until spring, so spelling, latin, and handwriting can wait!

we just love anna botsford comstock's Handbook of Nature Study. it is full of information and great ideas to help children learn the fine art of observation. B drew a very nice sketch of her snake after studying him closely.
i would also like to mention that a nice short biography of anna botsford comstock is found in the book Girls Who Looked Under Rocks. if you enjoy her nature handbook you will enjoy learning more about the author!

"During the warm days of Indian Summer, these winter hermits crawl out in the middle of the day and sun themselves, retiring again to their hermitages when the air grows chilly toward night; and when the cold weather arrives, they go to sleep and do not awaken until the first warm days of spring" ~Handbook of Nature Study

critter observation tank

everyday gift: unexpected visitors

at the foot of the cross

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
In his great mercy he has given us new birth
into a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
and into an inheritance
that can never perish, spoil or fade -
kept in heaven for you,
who through faith are shielded by God's power
until the coming of the salvation
that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you greatly rejoice,
though now for a little while
you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trial.
These have come so that your faith-
of greater worth than gold,
which perishes even though refined by fire-
may be proved genuine and may result in
praise, glory and honor
when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Though you have not seen him,
you love him;
and even though you do not see him now,
you believe in him
and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,
for you are receiving the goal of your faith,
the salvation of your souls.
I Peter 1:3-9*
*Scripture reading from anita's funeral service.

everyday gift: living hope

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


about 2 1/2 years ago, a sweet friend from church was out with her 6 month old baby and 2 year old. the weather was cold and wet and she slipped, it seemed, and fell onto the wet floor of the gas station. she couldn't get up and help was called. what the tests and scans revealed was a fractured vertebrae, not from the fall, rather the fracture caused the fall. further more, the fracture was caused by a tumor. thus began the battle of her life that showed the world the heart of a true saint.

early in her illness, after back surgery to shore up and brace her vertebrae, she was unable to lift her baby in and out of her crib. help was rallied. i was one who had an assigned afternoon to come into their home and help with the baby and household chores. so i had the privilege of visiting with anita and loving on her girls for a time. she was so open about her fears of leaving her babies too soon. but her faith was a rock, believing that God had a plan and that he would provide for all of their needs. she knew God could and would heal her if that was His will. she must have sat down to write her 'thank you' notes the moment my car left their driveway because the very next day it would arrive in the mail, full of encouragement, gratitude, and blessing. and i found that although i was serving her, it turned out that i was the one who was blessed each time. and despite her own health challenges, she kept busy ministering to others every chance she got by helping in sunday school, serving in the nursery, organizing and speaking at our churches MOPS group, singing a sweet duet with her emily at a mother daughter banquet, bringing a covered dish to a funeral luncheon, and with anyone who would marvel at her attitude during her trials she would share her faith and the hope that only God can give.

from an earthly perspective we say that she "lost the battle with cancer" but from a spiritual perspective i'd say she has won. she has won hearts to the Lord; inspired and strengthened the faith of countless people who have brushed shoulders with her; she has challenged doctors and nurses and caregivers with her unwavering courage and faith; and amazed all with the miracles that indeed happened along the way during her treatment. she has won the crown of life that God has promised to those that love Him and have persevered under trial (james 1:12).

we fervently prayed that she would be healed on this earth, but God chose to heal her in heaven.

this afternoon i will go to anita's visitation and tomorrow the funeral. i will not say "good bye" but rather "see you later" to my friend. i am certain that i am better for having known her. will you join me in praying for brian, her husband and the rest of her grieving family?

everyday gift: the privilege of having known anita, a faithful servant of Jesus.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

a book treasure

several weeks ago i found an old book about a raccoon called Masked Prowler at a library book sale. i stop in regularly looking for good books and sometimes i am rewarded by finding an out-of-print book or a hard cover edition of a favorite author. in this case, it was a vintage book with nice illustrations about nature. upon closer examination i noticed the authors: john and jean george. could that be the same jean george as in jean craighead george, the newbery award winner and author of such titles as My Side of the Mountain and Julie of the Wolves? i did some checking on line and found it was indeed the same author and this was one of her earlier books! i also found that there were actually more titles in the series American Woodland Tales. others in the series include a story about a fox and mink. oh, how i wished i had the book about the fox. we are studying canines in B's science book, and i would love to have this as a go-along book. i checked the online auctions and found only paperback editions. and of course, i wouldn't settle for that. (i know i'm quirky, but i like my book sets to match!)

so you can image my delight last week when i returned to that book sale and found this:

Vulpes: The Red Fox
it is an ex-library book, but it is in very good condition.

the illustrations are beautiful pen and ink drawings by jean george. the reader is taken along the trails of the red fox with such detailed and accurate descriptions of the woodland forest, its flora, fauna, and seasons. it was fun to see B recognize the wild flowers mentioned in the story as we were reminded of our own springtime hike. i love 'living books' that inspire beautiful imagery, curiosity, learning, and imagination!
"May came to the Maryland woods and opened the purple blossoms of the pawpaw. the May-apples bloomed under their green umbrellas, and the Jack-in-the-pulpits stood straight and tall in their green parishes. The floor of the woods was splashed with spring flowers and the warblers flew in from the South. Some stayed to nest, others paused briefly during the day, then resumed their flight northward with the setting of the sun."

i recommend this book with a small warning to those with sensitive children. it is very realistic in describing the food chain and the conflict between human hunters and the animals. it might be disturbing to some tender hearts. B was concerned, but commanded that i read on!

everyday gift: discovering an unexpected treasure on a dusty book sale shelf

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


would ya look at those keeper girls?! they are the best! they sure worked hard making and canning applesauce on saturday. a big BIG 'thank you' goes to mr. and mrs. w and sarah who planned, organized, and executed this ambitious project. we learned a lot about the importance and history of safe food preservation and about the process of canning. we also got to take home some yummy applesauce, some to eat and some to share with a shut-in or neighbor.

mrs. w shared her favorite combination of apples for the best sauce: a large portion of jonathon with smaller portions of macintosh, banana, and golden delicious. it is indeed a yummy combination.

peeling the apples

mrs. w stirring the apples

oh, yum!

mr. w and daughter sarah helping the keepers with applesauce

putting our hot cooked apples through the food mill

ladling the applesauce into the hot jars

everyday gift: working together in the kitchen


everyday gift: the wonderful smell of hot applesauce and cinnamon

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

one-room school house circa 1908

last week i was one of the drivers for the field trip S's class took to a living history school house. i was so glad for the chance to go and B got the bonus of coming along as well. aside from the cold dreary weather, it was a really fun day. the kids each took on a character, an actual person who lived and breathed and went to school in a one room school house in the early 1900's. they read biographies of their character and played the part for the day, even dressing as they might have dressed, well, as close as our modern day closets would allow. it was a wonderful experience.

the school house is set in lovely rural iowa, complete with a winding stream and cows grazing next to a corn field.

a fire was blazing in the stove and we welcomed its warmth!

children at attention as the school master spoke...notice the freshly cut switch on his desk? fortunately, he didn't need to use it! :o)

mr. crow, the school master talks with his pupils

"elmer miller" prepares for a day of school

sweet girls!

the school master played the part so well, he was warm and witty with the kids, but still very stern as a proper school master should be.

everyday gift: living history lessons

Monday, October 20, 2008

a step back in time

after the field trip to the living history school house, S's teacher, mrs. m treated the class to ice cream cones at the Wilton Candy Kitchen which was like stepping back in time. they still serve homemade ice cream and make their own turtle candies. the owners were so gracious as they served our bunch their cones. it was the perfect ending to a really fun day.

S's 5th grade class at the Wilton Candy Kitchen

even as we ate our treats, the locals stopped in to say hello, a little surprised by the crowd, "oh, i see you're busy, i'll be back in a while, save me a scoop, will ya?"

i do long for simpler times, when you could get a cone for a nickel, girls wore braids and calico dresses, and you'd take a spin on the stools at the soda fountain...

everyday gift: hand dipped ice cream cones

Sunday, October 19, 2008


here is a peek into our week with Lentil, the latest Five in a Row book.

making lemonade...a little stir, a little slurp of lemon...

our taste test: salty, sweet, bitter or sour? after the blindfold went on i slipped in honey and ice cream to surprise her. we had fun learning about the sense of taste and the map of the tongue.

B practicing her harmonica in the bathtub where "the tone is improved 100%."

old sneep suckin' on a lemon!

as a side study, we learned about the great lakes and the erie canal. i found a patriotic cd with songs about the states and american history with a great folk song about the erie canal. B has been singing it all week (and driving her brothers batty! LOL!)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Saturdays

after reading Thimble Summer, B wanted to read another book by elizabeth enright. she picked The Saturdays off the shelf. i tried to talk her into another book, not that i didn't want to read this one, but i have plans of doing the Beyond Five in a Row lessons with this book. i did not want to spoil the freshness of the story by reading it ahead of time. but she persisted and i gave in. and it is such a wonderfully rich story, full of inspiration to explore the world of arts, theater and music. i am looking forward now, more than ever, to pursuing the lessons that accompany this book!

it is the story of the 4 melendy children who decide to pool their allowances and take turns doing special things with their saturday afternoons. the adventures they have are so exciting! it makes me long for the days when a child would be safe alone in new york city and $1.50 would pay their entrance to a concert and buy an ice cream cone, too! B has been plotting a special saturday to the american girl store in chicago ever since we began. unfortunately, it may run a bit more than $1.50. ;o)

inspired by the descriptive details of the story and by "the year of the doll house" over at a mother's journal, we decided to make a diorama of the melendy children's playroom in a shoebox. we read the details of the playroom over and over adding things like the trapeze that randy was so fond of swinging on, the red linoleum floor, the big fireplace in the middle of the room, a skylight, the piano for rush, and isaac the dog adopted half way into the book. play mobil people were just the right size. B braided yarn and wound it around to make a braided rug and drew the faces on the masks displayed over the mantle. yes, it was hours of fun creating and playing. what a joy to be at home, loving, learning, and exploring possibilities!

B with a friend playing with her diorama

everyday gift: enchanted with a miniature world

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

a day at the zoo

in case my readership was wondering where i was last week, all 3 of you, i was entertaining my dad on his visit from arizona. it had been too long since we had seen him, so it was really a blessing to be able to catch up and renew our relationship. we had a really nice time, it was good to see him. here are pictures from our day at the zoo...

my favorite, the giraffes. unfortunately, their outdoor habitat was having work done on it, so they were stuck inside. hard to get good pictures through the fence.

S's favorite, the reptile house!

feeding the fish, ducks, and out or they will nip your fingers, too!

kisses from a goat! :o)

B and grammy on the carousel. surprise! B did not choose one of the many beautiful horses to ride, but we are in the middle of our science lesson on canines so she chose the wolf.

watching the lions

everyday gifts: all creatures great and small; enjoying time with dad