Sunday, December 30, 2007

The joy of yarn

This is my new yarn basket. Isn't it beautiful? I think this basket adds some warmth and coziness to my living room. I admit it. I am a new knitter, but I'm already addicted to it. I can't purl (yet), increase (yet) or decrease (yet) but I'm enjoying myself immensely. I am currently working on my first project, an afghan for my husband which I hope to have completed by St. Valentine's day. I enjoy keeping my fingers busy while watching a movie. I love that it's portable and I can bring my knitting anywhere. I love looking at yarn and as you can see my basket is already full ready for future projects.

I gave my son Luke a circular knitting loom for Christmas and he just finished his first hat. I think he likes keeping his hands busy while watching a movie too. Paul is working on his first hat as well. We're all slowly learning a new craft. It's so exciting to acquire a new skill!

There's nothing like the accomplishment of creating something of one's own.

Look what my Aunt Rosie made for Sam

Yesterday, upon returning home I received a package in the mail. I was delighted to discover that my Aunt Rosie had knitted a special sweater for Sammy. It's a beautiful brown to match Sam's eyes and hair. I love these special handmade items. They're just so special and I know that Sam will outgrow his new sweater way too quickly. So, I will let him wear it often this winter and think of all the love that went into that sweater each time I see Sam wearing it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Secret Garden revisited

By the way, we never did watch that 1975 BBC version of The Secret Garden. I'll tell you why. By the time I thought about it, we'd already watched the 1987 Hallmark Hall of Fame version, listened to the book and then listened to the full-cast BBC audio version and I'm more than a little tired of it and it is one of my favorite childhood books! So, back to the library it went, but not without Luke wanting me to check out this version instead. I guess we will watch Colin have one more tantrum before we move on.

This is what it's all about

Yesterday, I realized that next week is Christmas! Where has my cozy Advent gone?
We haven't done all the things that I had planned yet. There are still so many inviting Christmas pictures books to read, yummy things to bake and what about the crafts? Well, the beaded snowflakes turned out to be frustrating to all of us. Now, I have a box full of beads and lots of wire left. I still have plans to make 3-D paper snowflakes, but as I'm not naturally crafty, I'm already feeling a little anxiety about this project too. We have been reading some wonderful books this Advent and listening to a lot of the Nutcracker Suite, but I still feel that we've been rushed and it's passed way too quickly.

As you can see, I've spent more than a little time on YouTube and well, Linus just says it all. We watch A Charlie Brown Christmas every year and I believe this humble little classic boils Christmas down to its very essence. I will try to calm down. There's still time to bake the gingerbread cookies (that Luke won't eat) and read more of our stack of books. I noticed that about six of our books are The Night Before Christmas. I still have plans to compare the artwork in each of these editions of the famous Clement C. Moore poem. There's still time to read A Christmas Carol too. There are twelve days of Christmas!

If we don't get to do everything we planned, there's always next year. It's important to remember what Linus says about Christmas. It's the little things that bring us the most joy anyway.

Stuck? Stuck!

So, the other day, Luke accidentally drops one of our new Christmas tree ornaments and I try to glue it using Gorilla glue. It's the only glue I can find and I know it's gotta be stronger than Elmer's. Anyway, my hubby gets home from work to find me gluing said ornament and he tells me that I need something stronger. So, he gets out the Krazy glue and I proceed to glue the ornament with Krazy Glue as he warns me not to get it on my fingers. But, here's the kicker: I don't take him seriously. I mean, most glue I've ever used peels right off. So, I go ahead and accidentally glue my finger to the Christmas ornament. At first I don't panic until I realize that my finger is really stuck and separating myself from this ornament actually means that I'm going to have to lose some skin. So, I pull and wow is it ever painful! I managed to get it off without too much damage, but okay, lesson learned.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Secret Garden

Recently, we finished listening to The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I then checked out several film adaptations of the book and yesterday being a snowy day, we decided to watch the Hallmark Hall of Fame version. Let me just say that I have not really seen a truly good adaptation of this classic children's book. I like for Luke to see how film adpatations change things, add things or leave things out from the books. Now, I understand that film cannot truly capture a book because books and films are two very different mediums. There are very few instances in my experience where the movie is better or at least as good as the book. Well, this film opens with a grown-up Mary Lennox returning to her beloved garden and that's when I realize that this story will be told as a flashback. In this version, Mary Lennox and Colin Craven are not cousins. I wondered why such a big deal was made until I made the connection with the film's flashback device. At the end of the film, we return to the grown-up Mary Lennox enjoying the garden and then, the appearance of the adult Colin (played by a very young Colin Firth, by the way). Anyway, Colin then proposes to Mary in their garden and we learn that Dicken has recently died. I suppose the essence of the story is there, but I was still a little disappointed. Well, next up:
the 1975 BBC version of The Secret Garden. We'll see how they compare.

By the way,
Here's my pick for a superior book adaptation: Emma Thompson's 1995 Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant and Kate Winslet.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Feast of Saint Nicholas

The boys woke up to some goodies in their shoes today. My husband gets up so early that he forgot to check his shoes, but he will have a treat when he gets home from work today. We all got some chocolate coins and Christmas ornaments. Luke and Sammy both received wood-carved animal ornaments. Luke received a tiger and Sammy got a squirrel. We then read The Legend of Saint Nicholas by Demi. I'm going to make chocolate chip pancakes today and then we will read The Baker's Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale retold by Aaron Shepard. Even though we got some snow overnight, we will brave the cold to attend mass later today. We are enjoying this special Advent day and it brings us one day closer to the birth of Christ.

The Prayer of St. Nicholas

We call upon
Your Mercy, O Lord.
Throught the intercession
of St. Nicholas,
keep us safe amid all dangers
so that we may go forward
without hindrance
on the road to salvation.

Enjoy your day!

Monday, December 3, 2007

The poor cold baby Jesus

Since Thanksgiving, we've been reading picture books from the enormous stack of Christmas and Advent books from the library. On Saturday night, I flipped through the titles and I decided on Angela and the Baby Jesus by Frank McCourt. Now, I have to say that I never thought I'd be laughing so much that I'd have a hard time reading. So many of the picture books we've read already are serious or serious tear-jerkers, but this one, you just can't help but laugh even though it's seems so serious.

This story is about a six year-old girl named Angela. She can't but worry that the baby Jesus is cold in the manger scene in her church, St. Joseph's in Ireland. She's concerned that His mother Mary has no blanket to keep Him warm. So, she waits in the church until it's empty and then decides that she is going to take the baby Jesus home so that she can warm him up. What ensues is an adventure to get the Baby Jesus to Angela's home so that she can ensure that He gets warm and then the ultimate return of the Baby Jesus to His mother back at the church. There's just such a good balance of humor and reverance that makes this story memorable.

The only thing I wish is that I could have read this with an Irish accent!

I know Angela and the Baby Jesus is one that we will read again next year and the year after that! What a new Christmas treasure!

It is worth noting that there are two editions of this book. There is a children's edition illustrated by Raul Colon and an adult edition illustrated by Loren Long. We read the children's edition and I have not seen most of the illustrations for the adult version. I will have to compare both editions for future reading.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The end of our first term

We made it. Today is the end of our first term. I've divided our school year into three manageable chunks of three terms of twelve weeks. Recently, I wrote that we were settling into a nice rhythm, but in the past couple of weeks I realized that I was already anticipating November 30th. I am ready for a break. I don't know about Luke, but I am ready for a change of pace around here. I'm sure that Thanksgiving broke our rhythm and it doesn't help that mentally I was already jumping ahead to all of my Advent plans. So, our schedule works out great as we can slow down and transition into the new Liturgical year. We can savor all of the richness this season has to offer. Now, I don't want to suggest that we take the whole month of December off. Remember, we're always learning! We're just going to focus on different things. As always, there is going to be a lot of story time and with the stacks and stacks of Advent and Christmas books that I've checked out from the library, we won't lack for a good story. I have tons of ideas. I want to read A Christmas Carol aloud during the evenings. (Last year, we checked out many different movie versions of A Christmas Carol. Luke couldn't get enough of this story and yet we did not read it aloud last year! Also, I've been looking all over for my Nutcracker CD to no success. You can bet that I will find it after Christmas, but I'm not that upset. I just ordered another copy and I know that this will comprise most of our study music during December. We are going to read The Nutcracker and learn about this fairy tale and we just read It's a Wonderful Life for kids! by Jimmy Hawkins which inspired me for a It's a Wonderful Life rabbit trail. I haven't seen the movie in a long time and I was excited that Paul checked it out from the library yesterday. Luke hasn't seen this movie yet either. There are so many charming holiday movies out there. Usually Luke balks at the idea of a black and White film, but we started watching Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire last night and so far, he really likes it without complaining about it being in black and white. (I can't believe I've never seen this film before!) So, as you can see my mind is churning on how to encompass both the magic and beauty of the Christmas season. I've also got some crafts planned. To coincide with our reading Snowflake Bentley, we are going to make 3-D snowflakes from a kit I ordered from Chinaberry and we're going to make beaded snowflake ornaments. (We actually started these and they are a little more challenging than I originally anticipated, but we shall persevere.) Also, I would like to take the time to memorize (along with Luke) the famous Clement C. Moore poem, The Night Before Christmas and I just got another idea! Of course, it will mean having more stacks of books, but it might be fun to check out several different editions of The Night Before Christmas and see how different illustrators interpret this poem. Borrowing from Real Learning, I've gotten the fairy bug. What a great way to teach Botany! There will be some interesting things to learn about the evergreens in our backyard! Next week we will celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas and this Sunday, we will light our first Advent candle. As you can see, I'm really excited as we move into new rhythms for Advent.


Stacks and stacks. This describes my nightstand. I have way too many books on my nightstand. I am constantly trying to reduce the amount of books by putting them somewhere else and usually that somewhere else is another stack. (We have a real lack of bookshelf space since we moved. I fear most of my books may stay tucked away in boxes for years!) Anyway, no sooner than I move a stack of books, but another stack erupts. It's like pulling weeds. Once you pull them and walk away relieved, they grow right back while your back is turned. Now, I'm not complaining about books. Normally, I don't like clutter, but I'm learning that I have to make serious concessions when it comes to books. I can't read just one. I'm just interested in too many things and well, the stacks will have to stay.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Now, that we understand what he's saying...

We usually eat pizza and enjoy a family movie on Friday nights. Well last week, Sammy kept saying, "doo-da". We thought he was saying something like "do that", but we finally discovered that's how he says "pizza". You can imagine why it took us a while to figure it out, but once we did, we can't help calling pizza "doo-da" ourselves. Today, we learned that he says movie by saying "foofy".

Anyone up for some doo-da and a foofy?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Favorite Autumn Picture Books

This Autumn, we've enjoyed quite a collection of picture books that reflect on the wonders of the Season. I've already blogged about Christopher's Harvest Time. This might be our favorite from this Fall. We just loved the gentle and sweet illustrations. I was seriously reluctant to give it back to the library. We've also enjoyed Tasha Tudor's Pumpkin Moonshine also because of the illustrations. Like Elsa Beskow, Tasha Tudor has a talent for gentle and lovely illustrations. For the past two months, we've relied heavily on Poetry for Young People: Robert Frost for copywork. This book has the poems of Robert Frost divided up by the four seasons. So, he copied many poems from the Autumn section. This is definitely one for our bookshelf as I had to give this one back to the library as well. I think Luke really enjoyed the poems too. I recently checked out Harvest Home by Jane Yolen again. I love this book! I think I enjoyed this book more than Luke, but I was completely taken in with the beautiful pictures by Greg Shed. I could almost feel the hot sun on me as I imagined myself harvesting wheat. I looked on Amazon and it appears to be out of print. What a bummer! Also, I read the Autumn Story by Jill Barklem to the boys this week. It is part of the Brambly Hedge collection and several of these books seem to be out of print as well. The story was cute, but the pictures are very reminiscent of Beatrix Potter and I know that will appeal to a lot of you. Another book we've enjoyed is Over the River and through the Wood. This book is the famous poem written by Lydia Maria Child and this book is illustrated with woodcuts which evokes that wonderful winter outdoors-y feeling. Luke liked this because he also used this poem in copywork and then memorized it. I hear him humming and singing this song a lot! We also enjoyed Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert. This big, over-sized book is just wonderful! There are so many colorful Fall leaves in transition. It's fun to see how a single leaf can contain so much color. There are tons of maple of leaves to enjoy up close. Finally, we recently read Raccoon Moon and well, raccoons just seem to embody Autumn. This picture book has beautiful artwork and well, we needed to read about some animals we see here in our back yard!

Now, it's time to gather a collection of treasure in the form of Advent, Christmas and Winter picture books. I know there will be more favorites to add to the list!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Trying to find rhythm and beauty in each day

As we've moved into November, I've noticed that we're settling into a nice routine. Maybe it's not the routine that I initially planned in late August, but this fits much more nicely than anything I could have come up with. I've learned that I'm at my worst in the morning. I don't know why, but it really takes a lot for me to get going. It's not like I need coffee or anything to jolt me into action, but I'm just slow in the mornings. I don't particularly like this about myself, but I'm learning to accept these things about myself. Since I know this, I can plan around this shortcoming. Actually, I've realized that the more I accept about myself, the happier and more content I am with the course of my day.

After breakfast, Luke starts in on his morning core subjects (math, handwriting, Latin) while I clean up and get Sammy ready for the day. After that, the boys have been spending time outside. We're having one spectacular Autumn here in Colorado! After the boys come back inside, we sit down and I read them a book. Pretty soon it's lunch time! I make Luke his lunch and he goes to his room where he eats and listens to a book on CD. (Right now, it's Rascal by Sterling North.) I feed Sammy his lunch and then he goes down for his nap. After Luke has finished his lunch, he comes down and we do art together. We spend this time drawing and working on our lapbooks. Currently, Luke is making a book for Autumn and Thanksgiving. I haven't drawn this much since college! I'm really enjoying this time with him. It forces me to forget about dirty dishes and laundry and I get to spend uninterrupted time with my son. Normally, I have this huge amount of anxiety over these tasks not getting done, but I know that art time is special and important around here and I'd rather Luke remember that I drew with him than remember that I washed dishes while he drew. I strive daily to fend off the anxiety that I feel about accomplishing everything and I pray daily for contentment in not accomplishing everything, but only the important things.

As it gets dark earlier and it continues to get colder, I am warmed by our flexible routine of learning all day. In the evenings, I look forward to snuggling with the boys and reading some more. There is endless joy in our learning lifestyle.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Feast of All Saints

We started the day with Mass and afterward, we enjoyed some treats at Starbucks. We're enjoying a relaxing Autumn day here. We read about St. Francis of Assisi from The Book of Saints and Heroes by Andrew Lang and Lenora Lang. We're going to work on Luke's Thanksgiving book and just enjoy the day!

Monday, October 29, 2007


Although we held out hope to the very end that the Rockies would at least force the Red Sox to a game 5, we still enjoyed our World Series experience. Here's some pics of my boys yesterday before Game 4 started. (Now, don't let that Red Sox hat fool you. Luke just likes the hat.)

Picture Book Art

Here's what Luke and I did during our daily art time today. We recently read The Lighthouse Cat by Sue Stainton. I read this book to Luke when he was a little younger. So, when I saw this book displayed at the library recently, I knew I had to check it out again. This book has gorgeous illustrations. So, Luke and I decided to draw lighthouses from this book. I've recently discovered the pleasure of trying to recreate an illustration from a picture book from Sweetness and Light. I'm finding more and more uses for picture books in our daily learning! I just wanted to share our lighthouse drawings. Luke gets pretty excited when I post his work to my blog.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Apples and Geography

Lately, I've been enjoying the most delicious and coziest drink ever: the Caramel Apple Spice at Starbucks. It is quite literally the taste of Autumn! Well, we've been focusing on all things Autumn around here (You know, pumpkins, fall leaves, harvest time and scarecrows). I want to thank Mary for sharing this truly delightful book. Well, we read this book before bedtime tonight and I had Luke get out his atlas so we could follow the journey of Delicious and her family as they journey west to Oregon with a wagon full of apple trees and other fruit trees.

Last year, I ordered a book that I thought would be perfect for Luke to learn the geography of the United States. It seemed so easy, but even I couldn't make it through the introduction and I ended up selling the book. Why? Well, at the time I couldn't put my finger on why I didn't like it, but now I know. It was just plain old boring! I'm usually reluctant to call anything boring, but this book was dry. I didn't even know it until I'd become inspired to make geography come alive through the use of picture books. So, tonight we had a mini-lesson. We were able to locate both the Platte River and the Columbia. He didn't even know he was having a geography lesson! Isn't that great? It's sneaky geography. I don't really like to be sneaky, but I don't need to tell him that we're having a geography lesson, do I? I think if I mentioned the word "lesson" it would have just sucked the joy out of the whole thing. Luke seemed so excited about locating places and rivers in his atlas. Why tell him? Next up: Tulip Sees America.

Fairy Houses aren't just for girls

We have the perfect back yard in which to build fairy houses. I wasn't sure Luke would go for this because it can be considered "girl-y", but we watched this DVD and it sparked his imagination. I really want him to enjoy the great outdoors and to see the great things God has provided for him. So far, this week, he has built three fairy houses. Yesterday, I helped Luke gather twigs and pinecones for one. The one he built today has a rock table and two small sticks that are supposed to be a fork and knife. Too bad that the aspens have lost most of their leaves because they would look lovely on the houses, but I guess we can wait until Spring.