Sunday, March 29, 2009

highs and lows

it has been an incredibly busy few weeks and i have not had much time to reflect or put any thoughts down here. but today i thought i would look back and report on a few things from my week.

things that i love...

*seeing the twinkle in B's eye as her birthday approached
*C, staying up late with his light on to read the Bible
*a cherry pie with filling made from our summer cherries
*a clean house
*positive parent teacher conferences with A's on the report cards
*the crocus pushing up through the snow
*opening God's Word at church and listening to a wonderful yet challenging message
*having mark home after a business trip
*seeing God's answer to prayer
*hot coffee with vanilla caramel creamer

these things, not so much...

*the feel of a too-warm forehead on my boy
*snow at the end of march
*trying to make it look like we live in House Beautiful for an open house, when we actually live, in reality, more like Field and Stream!
*realizing i am out of the middle of the recipe
*finding out that the retro station on the radio is playing the music i listened to in high school
*library fines
*watching a soccer game when it is 31 degrees outside and threatening to drizzle
*postponing B's birthday party because of sickness and a blizzard
*sticker shock at the grocery store

well, these have been some of the highs and lows of the last few days. i hope your days are filled with mostly highs! :o)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

a few more project pictures

i have just a few more projects pictures to post from our february study of the civil war and some of the historical figures of the time. both of these books, Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt and Follow the Drinking Gourd are excellent and touching books. our study was a gentle introduction to the civil war and the difficult topic of slavery in our country's history.

clara stitched a map into her quilt as a secret way to direct slaves who were running to freedom in the north. B and i made a reproduction of the quilt using cut paper.

the drinking gourd in the sky leads north to freedom!

here is our gourd, old and dried. mark helped us out by sawing the side off. B scooped out the insides and sanded it, inside and out. thank you, chris, for the gourd!

B painting our drinking gourd with a color we mixed to look like a natural gourd color. B decided against adding any other type of embellishment.

well, one thing leads to another...what do you do when you find yourself with a handful of seeds from the inside of your gourd? you plant them, of course! the seeds may be too old to sprout, but it is worth a try! i once read that ancient seeds found in a jar in the egyptian pyramids actually grew, so, who knows?

we are now following another trail from this book. we are learning about the constellations, especially the north star.

everyday gift: the rabbit trails of learning

Friday, March 20, 2009

B's spring riding lessons

B is having the time of her life at riding lessons this spring! she has a fabulous instructor who is dedicated to horses and the girls who love them! this week B cantered for the first time and learned to a "roll back" as you'll see in the video in the end. i am so thankful she is having these lessons because we might be getting horses this summer. i really want her to be able to handle herself with confidence around such a large and powerful animal.
riding rosie

my goodness, rosie! you are muddy!

muddy hooves

saddling up!

B practicing a new skill, the roll back (a backing up turn)

everyday gift: a girl on a horse

cedar waxwings

the cedar waxwing is one of my favorite birds because of its beautiful and unusual markings. i read that the tiny red tip on the wing is the reason for the name as it looks like red sealing wax. we once found a dead waxwing by the road and were able to look closely at the intricate markings. i love the yellow tip to the tail.

the first time i saw cedar waxwings was in 1995 while mark and i were canoeing on the rock river. we saw a flock of them swooping out of the trees over the water to catch bugs. it was a memorable sight.

a few years ago we planted a row of american cranberry bushes. it is a native plant that provides food for wildlife and we hoped to lure the waxwings in with the berries. all winter i watched for them. well, they finally came! i counted about 7. now if i can just get the baltimore oriole to come to our slices of oranges. sometimes in the early spring we see them flitting in the trees, their brilliant flashes of orange, keeping a safe distance from the house. but so far, they won't come near.

cedar waxwing on american cranberry bush

Knowing Birds Through Stories is one of my favorite vintage books for children about birds. other references we use in our bird studies are The Burgess Bird Book for Children and the Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds.

everyday gift: a beautiful bird in the garden

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

playing pilgrims

we have recently finished reading Little Pilgrim's Progress, a child's version of john bunyan's classic. it was so enjoyable and full of lessons for all of us. we picked it up because in reading Little Women we came across so many references to the classic story which, i knew, B was unfamiliar with. so, setting Little Women aside for a time, i introduced B to chrisian and his many companions and enemies along his journey. we read the first chapter of Little Women this morning and now the meaning is much more clear...

Mrs. March broke the silence that followed Jo's words, by saying in
her cheery voice, "Do you remember how you used to play Pilgrim's Progress when
you were little things? Nothing delighted you more than to have me tie my
piece-bags on your backs for burdens, give you hats and sticks, and rolls of
paper, and let you travel through the house from the cellar, which was the
City of Destruction, up, up, to the house-top, where you had all the lovely
things you could collect to make a Celestial City."

"What fun it was, especially going by the lions, fighting Apollyon, and
passing through the Valley where the hobgoblins were," said Jo.

"I liked the place where the bundles fell off and tumbled down stairs,"
said Meg.

"My favorite part was when we came out on the flat roof where our flowers
and arbors, and pretty things were, and all stood and sung for joy up there in
the sunshine," said Beth, smiling, as if that pleasant moment had come back to

"I don't remember much about, except that I was afraid of the cellar and
the dark entry, and always like the cake and milk we had up at the top. If
I wasn't too old for such things, I'd rather like to play it over again," said
Amy, who began to talk of renouncing childish things at the mature age of

"We never are too old for this, my dear, because it is a play we are
playing all the time in one way or another. Our burdens are here, our road
is before us, and the longing for goodness and happiness is the guide that leads
us through many troubles and mistakes to the peace which is a true Celestial
City. Now, my pilgrims, suppose you begin again, not in play, but in
earnest, and see how far on you can get before father comes home."

the wise words of marmee to her girls have brought a tear to my more than once while reading this to B. this is an example of how great literature can touch our hearts and shape our thoughts in a positive way. and while B is busy writing in her journal, just like jo, i am busy trying to emulate the sweet gentle spirit of marmee.

everyday gift: playing pilgrims

*ugh. trying to edit this post. blogger is messing with me again, making my font size too small to read. why does it do that??? **okay, the font size is fixed, but now the quote is spaced oddly. sigh.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


what a beautiful sunday afternoon. we just had to get outside and enjoy the warm weather with a family hike in the woods! and as you will see, we encountered another indication that spring has a foothold around here...

muddy feet of the young explorer

muddy tracks of the raccoon

mark, waiting to ambush his children as they wander along the creek, unsuspectingly.

poor kids! ;o)

nothing is as lovely as a waterfall, even if it is just in a little country stream

pretty pebbles

collecting interesting rocks on a muddy stream bank

rescuing B from the mud. her dad has redeemed himself after the ambush incident.

she survived and her crocks will wash up, but i'm not sure if her white socks will ever be the same.

neighbors passing through

everyday gift: good clean fun

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

a special treat

this morning we had a special treat, B cooked breakfast for us! she has decided to earn the keepers at home cooking badge and this was the first of 15 meals that she will prepare. i couldn't believe how motivated she was this morning. you see, B is not typically a morning person, so to cook breakfast for her brothers before school she had to set her alarm and get up about an hour and a half earlier than usual. i was a little skeptical of the plan, but she bounced out of bed ready to go! the requirements for the badge include 1) planning the menu, 2) setting the table, 3) cooking the meal, 4) serving, and 5) cleaning up.

our breakfast menu this morning included french toast, sliced apples, and orange juice. and it was fabulous! i am looking forward to the rest of the meals she will be preparing!

i'll add a picture when i get a minute.

everyday gift: B's french toast

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

signs of spring

although the wind is giving us quite a chill and there is possible snow are in the forecast, we are seeing increasing signs of spring. i've just got to believe that winter will be defeated and life will sprout up in my garden, birds will sing at my window, and i can again put on my favorite pair of capri's and sip my morning coffee on the deck. we went on a little hike to see if we could spot the coming of spring! and this is what we found...
woolly sheep in the pasture who look at me as if to say, "where have you been all winter?!"
(yes, i admit. i am a fair weather shepherdess.)
they'll need shearing in another month or so.

a pair of robins have been flitting around the maple tree where they build their annual nest. i have read that the same pair will return again and again to the same nesting spot.
(sorry for the poor photo. the light was terrible on this gray day!)

swollen streams after a thunderstorm, greening grass

budding lilac bushes

irises bravely sticking their necks out

a praying mantis egg sac

everyday gift: the return of our dear friend, robin

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

catching up on books

i don't have time to write about each of the books i have read lately but i thought would give a few thoughts on them...

Where I Once Belonged by kent haruf. i really like this author. i have read several of his books including Plainsong and Eventide, both of which i highly recommend. however, even though i thought Where I Once Belonged was well written, i did not really bond with the main character/narrator and in the end, i just did not enjoy the story as much as the others. i found the ending abrupt and very disappointing.

The Church Ladies by lisa samson. This was the second time reading this book and i think i liked it even better this time. and that is saying a lot! samson's characters are so real. the situations and conversations are not christian formula fiction. i can not recommend this book, or any book by lisa samson enough.

A Respectable Trade by philippa gregory. i enjoyed this historical fiction set in england in the early 1800's. the author really grabbed me in the first few chapters and kept me turning pages thorough out. my one complaint is that the romance in the story did not seem believable to me.

The Other Boleyn Girl by philippa gregory. well, after A Respectable Trade, i decided to try another by the same author. this one is set in england circa 1500's. this is period of time which i know little about and found quite fascinating. and while the same skilled story telling drew me in and kept me interested, i was shocked by the immorality of the culture it portrayed. i felt many of the details in this regard were unnecessary and therefore i have decided that i won't be picking up any more of her books.

so of the past 4 books, i can only heartily recommend one. presently i am reading The Fifth Seal by bodie thoene in her series A.D. Chronicles. i have really enjoyed this series, especially the first two. but maybe i will add the fifth one to that list as well.

does anyone care to suggest a book that i can add to my "to read" list?

Sunday, March 1, 2009


S and a friend play jenga! before leaving for school. the late start gave the teachers time for a few meetings and the students time to concentrate on their homework. ;o)



everyday gift: friendship and a game of jenga!

an avian mystery

mark found this feather in our woods while hunting a few weeks ago and we are stumped as to what bird it belonged to. there are not that many birds that are so yellow. the gold finch is too small and at this time of year they are actually olive colored.

*check out the update at the end of this post! :o)

i love the brilliant shaft of this feather.

opposite side

can you identify this midwestern bird?

*i believe the mystery has been solved! thanks to kate at the five in a row message board. check out the pictures of the northern yellow shafted flicker. kate! you are awesome!

everyday gift: a beautiful feather