Friday, November 30, 2007
Thursday, November 29, 2007
I urge you to meet Maggie Rose, a charming and lovable heroine. Reminding me a bit of Anne of Green Gables, Maggie Rose is imaginative, eager, hardworking, and full of spunk. Her family, 'those Bunkers,' are the laziest, 'singingest,' best-natured family in Maine, 1951. On Midsummer Day, she dreams up a 'Birthday Christmas' celebration.
Follow Maggie Rose as she spends the next six months planning, working, and saving for a birthday Christmas celebration, against all odds. This book is my most favorite Christmas story and one of my favorite books of all time. I am inspired by the way Maggie's family bands together in the face of tragedy. The sketchy illustrations by Maurice Sendak are a perfect addition to this quirky, heart-warming story. Maggie Rose: Her Birthday Christmas by Ruth Sawyer is out of print, but available used at Amazon.com. Add it to your Christmas story collection today. You won't be sorry!
Ever since Maggie Rose had been minnow size, beginning three nights before Christmas, she had bundled into someone's cast-off coat, swaddled her neck with someone's cast-off scarf, pulled someone's cast-off cap over her ears and trudged off down the east road to see what the neighbors were making of Christmas.
['Those Bunkers'] were the happiest and laziest family along the road, paying as little heed to their dirt and clutter as they did to their neighbors' scorn. Tim and Liz and their brood of seven were soft-spoken and well-mannered. They held their heads as high as their neighbors and had their own pride in what they considered important. Maggie Rose was important to them. All but the baby knew her as something different--someone that might have come out of the top bureau drawer, had they had a bureau drawer. All of them were proud of her.
However, one small person, not yet nine years old, as against a whole lazy family, had her moments of discouragement. One of these swept over her now and made her drop the calendar she was holding and give a prodigious sigh...
She could expect no help from them--Tim down to the smallest one. If they were ever to have a celebration--have windows clean and whole and a tree and Christmas fixings for neighbors to look in on, as she had been looking in on theirs for three years past--she'd have to do every mite of it alone. She gave another sigh, longer, more discouraged than the first. It was a big undertaking, bigger than anything she'd tried to do so far. And yet to be born close to midnight on the 'night before'--to have for one's very own a truly birthday Christmas--this was an undertaking not to be abandoned without much thinking.
Friday afternoons were library days and rarely did Maggie Rose miss one. Here was time and place for discovery and satisfaction. Every shelf held such a load of expectation and promise that at times she was well-nigh staggered by it. She devoured books as a hungry robin gulps down angleworms. They fed her and she came back always hungry for more.
Maggie Rose stowed away so many sayings from the Holy Book; she was as thrifty and thorough about it as a chipmunk stowing away the seeds of a spruce cone. Words and sentences stayed with her--to use again, or just to make happy remembering.
All the way home the Captain's words kept lapping against her mind like little coming-in waves against the shore. "You've been a great addition to the party, Maggie Rose." Could anyone say anything nicer?
From that moment Maggie Rose's eyes shone like stars. She could only make sounds like a small chirping bird when people spoke to her. In time children fell asleep, heads on the laps nearest them. Before the midnight hour came, everyone, as if by general accord, broke into singing: "It came upon a midnight clear." The carol filled the room; and singing, Maggie Rose thought: It's come. For Him, just born; and for me, nine years old.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
The next year, Shan decided that Italian food sounded awfully tempting. We had lasagna and the works. We stuffed ourselves and had a jolly time. We begged her to invite us again.
Chinese food seemed like the logical progression. This time Shannon and Ben were in the mood to go all out. She sent out Chinese-themed invitations, decorated the tables with skeleton leaves and chopsticks tied with placecards, and served an incredible meal. Serving a sit-down dinner for 25 people in a small duplex is no small feat, but they moved their living room furniture into the garage and made it work.
Once they had seemingly exhausted the expected food themes, Shannon and I sat down for a brain-storm session. We discovered that there were endless possibilities....
Year #4: we arrived ready for camping. Sodas were served from bright red coolers filled with ice. Ben BBQ'd the burgers. Tables were covered with red and white checked table cloths. The favored white elephant gift was a snake-bite kit with rubber snake.
I was hugely pregnant the year we came for a Hawaiian feast featuring pulled pork, umbrella drinks, and Jimmy Buffet Christmas songs blaring. Many of the guest arrived in Hawaiian shirts and Shannon and Ben adorned everyone with leis. Tables were decorated with natural grass skirts. We are talking first class, here!
Apparently everyone was in the mood to dress up the following December. Shannon created amazing invitations, or I should say boarding passes, for a 1940's Paris Dinner Train Murder Mystery. Costumes were incredible. Russ looked handsome as a gangster. Dinner was fabulous. The decor was natural for Shannon--black and white images of Paris, silvery embellishments, old leather suitcases, gorgeous table settings... It was a soiree for the record-book!
Then on to a 40-50s diner. For the first time, we partied earlier in the month rather than on Christmas Eve. Shannon was a rollerskating waitress in a poodle skirt. We sat on red diner chairs at diner tables decorated with old records and black & white photos of James Dean. We drank IBC root beer from the bottle, ate burgers and fries in baskets with black & white checked paper, and played a rousing game of Bingo. Everyone came in appropriate costumes. Russ, Levi, and I arrived in a '46 Ford. Smashing.
Are you getting tired of this narrative? I'm not done yet, but feel free to click away when your eyes get blurry. Hello? Anyone there?...
It was going to be difficult to top the past two or three years, but Shannon and Ben decided to attempt it with a 'Christmas Carol' celebration. We had the Ghost of Christmas Past, Marley, Tiny Tim, Mrs. Cratchit, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and more. The table groaned under the weight of an English dinner. Shannon topped it off with a flaming plum pudding.
Year #9: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Only those lucky enough to receive a golden ticket hidden in a hand-delivered candy bar were invited (amazingly the same group of family and friends...). Shannon and Ben made an elaborate 'Rube Goldberg' style candy dispenser in their front room. They removed most of the furniture in their guest room and used a large puppet theater (which they built) to fashion a candy store stocked with an eye-popping assortment of candy. Each door in their hallway sported a striped awning reminiscent of an old-fashioned soda shop. A huge table sported a chocolate fountain and everything a person might want to dip in the chocolate. Do you think we missed that party? Not on your life!
Last year Shannon and Ben did an incredible thing. They decided on a Roy Rogers, 'do a neighborly thing,' work party at our new place. We had just purchased the property and felt daunted by the task of getting everything ready to move in, especially with three little boys (including a very fussy baby) during the Christmas season. They cleaned out the large shop on our property, set up tables, decorated, brought in a huge 'cowboy' meal, and put Roy Rogers on a big screen television for the kids. Everyone stuffed themselves then got to work. How nice was that?! Annie Oakley (aka my sister, Holly) was painting my new bathroom!
This Christmas we are heading to a Moroccan party. You won't want to miss the description and photographs. Stay tuned...
Want to see more pictures of a 'Shannon party'?
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Lucia by Swedish painter Carl Larsson, 1908
Monday, November 26, 2007
We are currently working our way through The Story of the Orchestra. I decided to start with the instruments of the orchestra, which we have now finished reading. SFS Kids is a fun place to visit, and they have information about the instruments. Both Levi and Luke beg to play around on the site.
Now we are reading about a composer each week. After covering the short biographical sketches in The Story of the Orchestra, we are listening to the Classical Kids CD (if we have one) such as Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery, reading a picture book about the composer (if we have one) such as The Heroic Symphony , and listening to the composer's show at Classics for Kids. I also have a collection of classical music CDs arranged by composer, so I am able to play those as background music during the week. We will spend more than a week on a few of the composers. If we do not finish the book by the end of the year we will just take as much time as we need at the beginning of the next. I am aiming for a light familiarity with the composers and an appetite for classical music. We will study the composers with a little more depth either later in the grammar stage or in the logic stage (middle school) while studying the corresponding historical time periods.
Christmas music is by far my favorite music! I am excited to be pulling out all my Christmas CDs. In particular, I adore the Classical Kids Christmas. In pageant style, the CD contains poetry, the nativity, Christmas traditions around the world, traditional carols, and more recent but beloved music. Gorgeous and highly recommended! We will also make our way through the Sacred Songs of Christmas book with songs, poems, Scripture, artwork, and accompanying CD.
I know that Levi and I will both greatly enjoy next year's music studies. Once we have finished with The Story of the Orchestra, I have decided to use A Child's Introduction to Ballet, The Young Person's Guide to the Opera, and Bravo! Brava! A Night at the Opera We will read through these books, love the stories, listen to the music, and hopefully attend live performances! Levi will begin piano lessons as well at some point during the year.
I had hoped to work in a bit more art study with Levi this year. We were looking at art cards during breakfast with the rest of our 'circle time,' but we were both distracted much of the time--certainly too distracted to appreciate the fine art. The last month we have been looking at one painting from Can You Find It? weekly and searching for the hidden items. This seems to be just the ticket for both of us. We will move on to the next books in the series when we finish with this one. I also have multiple pictures books showcasing fine art around the house for the boys to enjoy during quiet reading time.
The new resource I will be using this next year is Cave Paintings to Picasso which tells the story of art chronologically and will work well along side our history studies.
In addition to the music studies listed above, we have been listening to music that falls also in the Bible category. I cannot recommend enough the recordings from Sing the Word. We have finished memorizing the 26 Bible verses contained in Sing the Word From A to Z. The music quality is excellent, and the verse choices are wonderful. Next year we will be memorizing the selections from A New Commandment including the books of the New Testament, Psalm 1, Psalm 23, and Psalm 150. (We will be using a new CD from Sing the Word each year.)
We will also be listening to and learning classic hymns. Hymns for a Kid's Heart includes true stories of the hymn-writers.
This year we have read Five-Minute Devotions for Children, The Family Pilgrim's Progress and made our way through Children's Illustrated Bible cover to cover.
During Levi's first grade year we will be covering Bible stories in the context of ancient history using The Victor Journey Through the Bible and other resources, listening to an Audio Bible for Kids, discovering Big Truths for Little Kids (which includes devotionals and memorization of the First Catechism), and reading The Life of Our Lord by Charles Dickens.
We have memorized several prayers this past year, and if we feel we have room to add them, will memorize a few more during '1st grade.'
We have been working on memorizing the names and locations of our states, oceans, continents, and some basic map skills. The Legends and Leagues workbook has been a good addition to our geography studies, introducing map symbols, hemispheres, lines of latitude and longitude, grids, map icons, and more.
Every week I add an 'Around the World' card to our collection by printing off a picture of a world landmark, pasting it to a large index card, and writing basic information about the place on the back of the card. I place these cards in our 'circle time' notebook, and we review them a few times weekly. Levi, Luke, and I really enjoy identifying each picture, so we will continue to do this throughout the next year.
For Levi's first grade year we will study geography in conjunction with our history studies, and also study world geography using the Geography Songs CD and workbook.
We are just finishing up the first level of La Clase Divertida. The program is complete with DVD lessons, crafts, worksheets, practice CD, and projects. I think Levi has most enjoyed the crafts and projects.
I have a CD and workbook program as well as a DVD lesson collection (I don't know that either is readily available or I would give you a link) that we will be using next year in a fairly unstructured manner. My main goal is for the boys to be exposed to the sounds of the language.
CURRENT EVENTS/SOCIAL STUDIES:
Levi will continue to receive a subscription to God's World News. We enjoyed the picture books Things People Do and People this past year, both of which we will review periodically. I hope to read through The Usborne Encyclopedia of World Religions this next year. Most of our current events and social studies coverage happens through general conversation.
Levi is now enrolled in a local Tae Kwon Do class that meets three evenings a week for an hour and a half. I am thrilled with the skills he is learning such as focus and respect in addition to the amount of physical exercise and social time for an outgoing kid with endless energy (even if I am not quite as thrilled with getting him to and from class).
Living in the country affords our family more outside time than we had previously. Levi has learned to ride his bike without training wheels this year which gives him another physical activity to enjoy.
We made it to the local swimming pool often during this past summer and hope to get back in the habit in January. Levi can now 'swim' (float, dog paddle, whatever it takes to stay up in deep water...), but Russ (former swim instructor/coach) hopes to teach him to swim well this next year.
Looking back at this past year, I am somewhat overwhelmed by what we were able to accomplish! I have an abundance of favorite resources. A Pioneer Sampler (including the Thanksgiving and Christmas versions) with the stories, projects, and crafts probably tops the list. Levi has listened to 12 hours of radio theater style stories of our American heritage--Columbus, the Pilgrims, Benjamin Franklin, Yellow Fever, Booker T. Washington, the Man Without a Country and so much more. These CDs will be found often in our CD player.
The Renaissance Faire was a bit out of sync with our other studies, but we had a marvelous time and look forward to attending again. Levi also enjoyed a Civil War Re-enactment with his Dad, and hopefully the whole family will be able to go along next summer.
Come January, we will be leaving American history behind and entering the world of the Ancients. I'm venturing into unfamiliar teritory here, but I'm feeling confident with The Story of the World (and activity guide). I have a large collection of books about Egypt, Rome, Greece, and China, as well as a towering stack of books my sister loaned me now that they have moved on to the Medieval time period.
Levi and I have snuggled up on the couch to read many chapter books together this past year (all listed on my side bar). Our read-aloud time is treasured. I have numerous fiction books I'd like to read together this next year (I'll post them later with my to-read list for 2008), but we are really bumping up the amount of history related literature so we'll see what we have time for.
A pleasant surprise came in the shape of Shakespeare plays. Levi and I attended five this past year, and we will be heading back for at least three in the coming year. We read the abridged stories before watching each play and have viewed a couple movie versions, which we will continue to do in the future.
My list of history-related literature seems overwhelming when I glance at it. We will just take it one book at a time. I have abridged versions of the Iliad, Odyssey, and The Aeneid in addition to wonderful books of Greek Myths and fiction stories such as Detectives In Togas, The Bronze Bow, and The Cat of Bubastes.
As always, Levi will be listening to many stories on CD.
I've talked about our relaxed approach to science before, but at some point we'll be stepping it up. The boys are receiving microscopes for Christmas, and Russ and I will be covering plants, animals, and the human body (basic biology) in the coming months. Russ will be doing more experiments from More Mudpies to Magnets with the boys. We'll be reading and observing and watching science programs such as Planet Earth.
This past year we have covered seasons, days of the week, months of the year, phone number, address, parents' names, and other basics.
We memorize poems for each season and many of the holidays.
We memorize 'character' poems such as Try, Try Again and True Nobility.
We memorize Bible verses and prayers (I'll cover that in a little more detail under Bible.)
Much of the memory work we do this next year will be related to other studies such as history or grammar.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
I thought I would write a few posts with our current and future resources and plans, beginning with our core subjects.
PHONICS:I am thrilled with Levi's progress in reading skills. I love listening to him read aloud with feeling and voice fluctuation. I am happy that we are beyond the sometimes tedious beginning reader books. My favorite books are our Frog and Toad treasury, Mouse Soup, Mouse Tales, Grasshopper on the Road, and absolutely anything else by Arnold Lobel. The man is brilliant! Nods also to Little Bear treasury, Amelia Bedelia treasury, and The Fire Cat.
We will continue with readers and other books, some below his level to develop speed and fluency, some at his current reading level, and a few above to challenge and stretch him! I still appreciate The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading for its systematic and thorough approach to phonics. We will work through the lessons until completing the book.
I hope to implement phonogram cards and spelling lists from The Writing Road to Reading within the next year.
I credit Handwriting Without Tears for making handwriting one of my favorite subjects. Currently, I use the blank lined paper to write a sentence for Levi to copy daily. We write poetry, Bible verses, science facts, thank you notes, letters to pen pals, grammar rules, or whatever strikes my fancy. I usually have a file with copywork ready for him so that he can pull a paper out and get started on his own.
For Levi's 'first grade' year I will continue with the copywork, adding in history, literature narrations, and anything else needed from other subjects. When he is able, we will transition to dictation. I will say the sentence he is to write rather than giving him a written version to copy.
I am pleased with RightStart Math. We will begin level B in January. It includes manipulatives and games and presents the material in a variety of ways, so I am confident using it as my only source at this point.
We are a short way into First Language Lessons. Again, I enjoy the variety of the lessons with poetry memorization, picture studies, short story narrations, and grammar rules. The book includes lessons through a second grade level, so we will continue on until finished.
For History, Literature, Science, and Memory Work: click here.
For Music, Art, Bible, Geography, Spanish, and More: click here.
Friday, November 23, 2007
My Dad's mother passed away this past January, and I was cheered by a tangible reminder of her this Thanksgiving. I missed my older sister and her family (spending time with other family), but we had a wonderful time with my parents, my Mom's parents visiting from out of state, and my younger sister and her husband. It wouldn't be Thanksgiving, for me, without family.
For the hay and the corn and the wheat that is reaped,
For the labor well done, and the barns that are heaped,
For the sun and the dew and the sweet honeycomb,
For the rose and the song and the harvest brought home--
For the trade and the skill and the wealth in our land,
For the cunning and strength of the workingman's hand,
For the good that our artists and poets have taught,
For the friendship that hope and affection have brought--
For the homes that with purest affection are blest,
For the season of plenty and well-deserved rest,
For our country extending from sea unto sea;
The land that is known as the 'Land of the Free'--
Thursday, November 22, 2007
LAND OF NOD CINNAMON BUNS
20 unbaked frozen dinner rolls
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup instant vanilla pudding mix
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins or chocolate chips if you are really feeling sinful (optional, of course)
1/3 cup butter, melted
Lightly grease a 10 inch Bundt cake pan. Place frozen rolls into pan and sprinkle with brown sugar, pudding mix, ground cinnamon and raisins. Pour melted butter over rolls. Cover with a clean, damp cloth and leave overnight at room temperature. In the morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake rolls for 25 minutes, until golden brown. Turn rolls out onto a serving plate and serve warm.
*Heads up: For anyone interested, I finally posted a picture of the bread and jello salad with the recipes below.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. ~Rachel Carson
The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself. ~Henry Miller
While we try to teach our children all about life,Our children teach us what life is all about. ~Angela Schwindt
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
The Little Prince is thoughtful, bittersweet, and highly imaginative. The plot is all over the place and beside the point; read to find the not-so-hidden messages for living a rich and beautiful life.
This book has found its way onto my best books list. Excellent.
"Good-bye," said the fox. "Here is my secret. It's quite simple: One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes."
"But what does ephemeral mean?" repeated the little prince, who had never in all his life let go of a question once he had asked it.
(This particular phrase was repeated several times throughout the book, reminding me of the five-year-old living in my home. And, indeed, a few days after finishing the book, Levi was insistent that I address a question of his saying, "I have never in my life let go of a question once I've asked it.")
"Good Morning," said the little prince.
"Good morning," said the salesclerk. This was a salesclerk who sold pills invented to quench thirst. Swallow one a week and you no longer feel any need to drink.
"Why do you sell these pills?"
"They save so much time," the salesclerk said. "Experts have calculated that you can save fifty-three minutes a week."
"And what do you do with those fifty-three minutes?"
"Whatever you like."
"If I had fifty-three minutes to spend as I liked," the little prince said to himself, "I'd walk very slowly toward a water fountain..."
Monday, November 19, 2007
I am always in charge of the 'jello salad.' While I'm actually not all that fond of traditional jello salad, our recipe is a bit more like a cold, fruity mousse. And it is delicious. I have had more requests for this recipe than anything else I have made. My family is so fond of Orange Cream Souffle, we have it for every holiday. I make the original orange version for Thanksgiving, lime for Christmas, and lemon for Easter. Raspberry is delicious for July 4th. Try it. You'll like it!
And then there is the bread. I'm a bread addict. I can eat an entire loaf by myself. But no bread compares to Swedish Limpa, especially in the fall. It is dense, dark, rustic, and slightly sweet. It makes incredible leftover turkey sandwiches... which makes it a must on the Thanksgiving menu. I am sure there are numerous limpa recipes floating around, but here is the one I follow:
Orange Cream Souffle
6 oz pkg orange jello (or lime, lemon, raspberry...)
2 cups boiling water
8 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup orange juice
1 small container of whipped topping or 2 cups whipped cream
Dissolve jello in boiling water. In separate bowl, combine cream cheese and sugar--mix until well blended. Gradually add jello, cold water, and orange juice. Chill until slightly thickened. Fold in whipped topping. Pour into serving bowl. Chill. (I always make this the day ahead of an event.)
Cook 1 medium potato. Mash and use cooking water, adding enough liquid (water or milk) to make 1 quart. Add 1 cup dark corn syrup (part molasses), 2 Tablespoons melted shortening, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 Tablespoon salt, juice and zest of 1 orange, 1 1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seed, 2 Tablespoons yeast (I proof the yeast first in a cup of warm water), 2-4 cups whole wheat (or rye) flour, and about 7-10 cups white flour. Knead until smooth. Let rise in greased bowl until double. Punch down and form 4-5 round loaves. Place on greased cookie sheets. Let rise again until double. Bake 45 minutes-1 hour in 350 degree oven. Place on cooling rack. Cover tops with melted butter. (I just take a stick of butter and rub it over the hot bread.)
I usually freeze one or two of the loaves for our St. Lucia celebration on December 13th. More about that later...
Enjoy your Thanksgiving feast!
The year has turned its circle,
The seasons come and go.
The harvest is all gathered in
And chilly north winds blow.
Orchards have shared their treasures,
The fields, their yellow grain.
So open wide the doorway--
Thanksgiving comes again!
Sunday, November 18, 2007
I adore my husband. We have three incredible young boys. We have a lovely, warm, dry home in the country. We live just two miles from my parents. Almost all of our extended family live within 20 minutes of our home. My husband has a good job. Our cars still run. We enjoyed a road trip and many other days of fun and adventure this past year. We are healthy. We eat good food (usually too much). We read together and just plain enjoy each other's company. We have great friends. The list goes on and on and on.
In my mailbox the other day I recieved the World Vision Gift Catalog. As I poured over the pages, my heart ached for those in developing countries (and families in our own city or country) who would be overjoyed by a gift of oxen and plow, sewing machine and training, seeds and farm tools, fresh water, soccer balls, musical instruments, art supplies, or any of the other incredible gifts to choose from. This week, Levi and I will choose a gift. And it will be priceless to me to help instill in him a heart for those with less. Consider giving a gift to those in need this year!
Friday, November 16, 2007
Below is our living room. The kitchen is again straight ahead (we'll go there last of all so we can sit and enjoy some hot spiced cider). The hallway is the opening on the left. We'll head down there in just a moment.
This is the view from the kitchen doorway~ looking back toward the front door.
We've now walked down the hallway to the master bedroom. Some day we'll have a master suite, but until then we'll enjoy this cozy little room.
I hesitated to show you this messy picture, but if you were here you would see it. Russ built me these wonderful shelves which I have yet to organize. I still use one of the dressers as a changing table (when it isn't covered with clothing and what not) since we don't have space in the boys' room.
This is the hallway view from our room back into the living room. Through the curtained doorway is the tiny stairway leading up to the playroom. If you were really here, you would still not be allowed up there. Maybe tomorrow. Or the next day. To the right is the boys' room.
Ah, we are now entering my favorite room. The quiet room. Sometimes. Leif is only taking naps in here. At night he sleeps in the play pen in the school room. It's soaking in and he will be brilliant by the age of 3.
And we are heading back into the hallway...
I'm sure you were just dying to see our bathroom, but it is nice to know where it is... just in case.
And now back to the kitchen for some cider. Our dining nook is to the right. I love the way the sun pours in the window all morning.