Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New (Feathered) Neighbours

A little more than 2 years ago, I built a couple of birdhouses out of recycled barn board rescued from an old hip-roofed barn at my in-law's place. For 2 years those houses have sat empty and I wondered if they would ever be occupied. This past winter, for the first time in the 8 1/2 years of living here, I saw Black-Capped Chickadees on our yard! I think they have been absent this long since this is a newer development and the trees are still small and few (well, we are trying hard to remedy that on our yard). So, imagine my complete surprise when I saw these friendly little feathered friends entering and exiting my birdhouse with tufts of grass! The neighbours have finally moved in! It has been fun to watch them and talk about them as we were studying birds in the "first semester" this year. The classroom has now entered the outdoors and it makes learning that much more fun! I will be sure to document the nest building, egg laying, hatching and growing of the newest members of our neighbourhood, to the delight of the kids and myself!

According to my limited research, the female is responsible for the building of the nest and does it alone. However, watching the two chickadees coming and going, I can assure you that the male is doing his part to ensure a nice house for his wife! Yes, I say wife, because the kids refer to them as being married! What an absolute delight to watch creation as orchestrated by the Lord! There is little else that speaks to me the way nature can. I will unashamedly sit for hours on end (if allowed!) and watch the birds flit to and fro and be completely mesmerized the whole time! I am so thankful the Lord made birds, big and small!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter at Nana & Papa's

Easter is such an important celebration around here as we remember the death and sacrifice of Jesus, the Christ, our Savior and our Redeemer. That redemption, of course, is only possible because of his resurrection and I look forward to tomorrow when I can say with utmost certainty (well, I can say it all the time, not just tomorrow) that HE'S ALIVE and I'm forgiven!! Amen and amen!

Part of the celebrations of this weekend included a trip to Nana & Papa's place, who happen to be my parents. They live about 40 minutes away so we don't get over there all that often but it is always a whole lot of fun when we do! That Papa sure loves to tease our kids and they sure love to play with him!

After a wonderful meal, Papa hid the Easter bags and the kids went hunting!

Maybe next time Papa should hide AJ's bag in a slightly lower location :)

After the treats were found, eggs were decorated! I don't have any photos since I was busy helping the boys to make tie-dye eggs and the girls to make sparkle eggs (Papa sure picked some great decorating kits and was helping out the whole time!). Then after the eggs, the kids needed a play break so Papa's motorcycle became the jungle gym for a bit! I am sure there will need to be a bit of polishing after all those little fingers were all over it!

Then the Easter bread (Paska) had to be decorated. Traditionally, when my dad was a little boy, the paska was baked in tin cans instead of bread pans. That way each child received their own round mushroom-shaped paska. This year my mom indulged the memories of my dad's childhood and baked him and each of the grandkids their own paska in a tin can. They each iced the bread and sprinkled it full of sprinkles. I must say that eating it is the best part!

After everyone else had gone home, out came the water and the kids chased Papa (or Papa chased the kids) in a water fight! So much laughing and running! Papa is such a big kid at heart and it makes the kids love him even more! The memories they will take with them through life will always be of a Nana and Papa that loved them very much and showed it in such fun and memorable ways. Thanks, mom and dad, for showing the love of that Risen Savior to our children each and every time we see you! I love you!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mortgage Free!

So, apparently, after a brief discussion with my hubby yesterday, I discovered we are mortgage free! Umm, doesn't that kind of milestone deserve a party or a date or some sort of celebration? No, he says, that costs money! :0) I don't even know when that accomplishment was reached but sometime in the past 8.5 years, we paid off the debt on this house! (Pats herself on back! Okay, pats hubs on back - he earned the money!). Now, don't get me wrong, we are not debt free. We have always paid our credit cards, never carrying a balance on them, we have bought all our vehicles with cash and we don't believe in borrowing or financing for things like furniture or TVs (as a matter of fact, we don't believe in buying new TVs!) or whatnot. We do have still a bit owing on the new country property we bought plus we have an agricultural investment that is still owing. The nice part about that one is that it pays out (very occasionally in this market) and is a tax deduction - the best kind of debt to have, next to no debt. So, anyway, I am celebrating with a tall glass of cold water the fact that our house is paid off! Yippee!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring Cleaning Tip - Window Screens

Just a quick spring cleaning tip that you may already know about. If not, here is a really quick and easy way to clean those window screens that may have accumulated dust, dirt and grime over the winter.

1. Remove screen from window and wet down in the bath or shower. I usually just pour a container of water over the screen to dampen it.

2. Find a bath pouff and some body wash. Dampen the pouff with water and pour a small amount of body wash on it.

3. Rub all over the window screen, on both sides for good measure. It will suds and get all soapy.

4. Rinse.

5. Let dry. Reinstall in the appropriate window. Enjoy clean screens with little work!

Now I am off to clean the windows while the screens dry!

(Yes, mom, though it does appear that my house is always in a state of chaos and filth, I do clean occasionally! And if you were to come by in about 15 minutes, I can promise the windows will be clean. However, I cannot promise they will be clean a moment after that! :) )

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Truest Education

A sweet friend sent me this quote from a blog written by Ann Voskamp, the author of the book we are using for geography this year. I have stopped by her blog every now and again and she is filled with a knowledge and understanding of things way beyond her years! You can check out her blog at A Holy Experience.

Today, as every Monday, she is talking about encouraging gifts of thankfulness, teaching gratitude to our children and learning it ourselves. It really is a skill that is in short supply but so easily taught, so easily benefitted from, in various ways. The part that stuck out to me the most was this:

"Because what will the math really matter if they are bitter? If the house is immaculate — but my attitude a mess? If they can count — but they don’t know how to count all things as joy? If we get the lists done, but have lost happiness in Him? How can any grammar skill outweigh the fact they don’t know the language of grace and thanks? What good will it be if they can recite all the major British battles — but they don’t know to see beauty? What am I teaching our children if I’m not living simply, quietly this: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Phil. 4:8). Focusing on what is beautiful, good, true –isn’t this the truest education?"

Wow! The utter power of a grateful heart. I am blessed with the opportunity to share with my children a grateful heart throughout the day (and, I confess, I fail more often than not). We can, and do, stop the academics to work on the attitude of the heart. I would much rather my child grow up to be kind and compassionate, grateful and gentle, willing to be a servant and a leader than to have them excel at all things academic and fail at all matters of the heart. I know, one is not exclusive to the other. I realize that gratitude (and all those other Godly characteristics) can be taught whether your children are in public school or not. I am just more acutely aware of the responsibility placed on me as their whole education rests in my hands. I must be sure to emphasize that which is best, not only that which is good. What a great reminder for me in my homeschooling journey.

To read the full post Ann wrote, you can find it here.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Gift for a Friend

Once upon a time, a long time ago, the Lord allowed me the privilege of meeting a sweetheart of a girl, a beauty who I immediately called friend! Her smile is wide, her heart so big and her hugs tell you she cares about you. Lately, she has been going through a tough time and it makes me sad. I really wanted to let her know in a tangible way that she is loved and cared for in the midst of trying times. I wish I could just pop over for a hot cup of tea and show her I care in person but the distance prevents that. So, I made her a little gift. Something to brighten her day. Something pretty that she can wear and remember that, no matter what, there are those in the world that love her and think she is amazing.

I bought myself a hostess apron of this style (black and white in color) a few years ago at a Hobby Lobby. Ever since, I told myself I wanted to make a pattern from it and make some more aprons. This seemed like the perfect time. Then, when we went to Fargo a couple of weeks ago, the Hobby Lobby is where I turned for fabric! The choices they had were amazing and I am kicking myself for not buying more, seeing how wonderfully this apron turned out. It is SUPER easy to make and requires only 2 pattern pieces. Next time I have some more fabric picked out for this project, I will be sure to tell you how to make your own, with pictures as a guide. For now, you will just have to look at the outcome!

Linking up to the DIY Project Parade!

The DIY Show Off

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Power of Reading Out Loud

I just finished reading out loud the wonderful story "The Hobbit" by JRR Tolkien to my 6 and 8 year old boys! They loved the story, were fascinated by it and would have preferred I read all 300 pages in one sitting! We finished it over the course of one week, which is a lot of reading out loud, I assure you! My throat is more parched than usual and I will insist on a few days break before starting on the Lord of the Rings trilogy! Now, I love to read myself and I love to read to the kids but usually I find that my thoughts are something like this: "They can read themselves so read themselves they shall." And those thoughts are correct, in and of themselves. I ensure our shelves are stocked with books they enjoy and are able to read, like the Boxcar Children series or Magic Treehouse series or The Littles series, etc. My oldest is able to read these with great ease and enjoys the stories. However, as it was pointed out to me at a recent homeschool conference, it is vitally important to read out loud to your children in great quantities for many years, even if they are able to read to themselves. Most people think that if children are able to read, they are also able to write. Good readers equals good writers, correct? Simply untrue. The speaker, Andrew Pudewa, ensured us that it would be better to read nothing than to read than which destroys your soul, and there is a lot of that available. You cannot get something out of a brain that is not there, adult or child. I want my child to speak and write with reliably correct and sophisticated language and in order for that to happen, I need to somehow get that reliably correct and sophisticated language into their brain! As I learned at this conference, the #1 influencing factor on children's language development is media! We all know that media (TV, radio, internet, billboards, etc.) will develop a language in our children but it is most certainly not reliably correct or sophisticated! The #2 influencing factor on language development is a child's peers. Fascinating, really, how peers influence the language a child uses. A child that is in charge of a number of children younger than themself will actually use language above their age level in order to maintain that sense of authority and control. A young child that is in the company of older children will actually raise their language level to the level of the older children simply because of emulation. The worst possible environment for a child's language development is many children of their same age. In that situation, the langauge pattern will actually sink to the lowest common denominator because no one wants to stick out as being different! I find that fascinating, don't you? And our schools clump all children the same age together all day. No wonder their language is what it is! The #3 influencing factor on language developement is parents or other busy adults. We have no time to carry on conversations that matter with our children. Finally, the #4 influencing factor on language development is books. However, children that read books to themselves usually read fast (especially if they are good readers) and skip parts that are boring or uninteresting. If they find a word they don't know, the skip it. If they find a word they cannot pronounce, they skip it. If they find a paragraph that is boring and doesn't further the plot, they skip it! All this skipping causes the child to miss the syntax of the language. So, essentially, nothing in a child's world is providing them with reliably correct and sophisticated language. The solution? Read out loud to your child. Auditory language is mandatory to building verbal and written language. So, read out loud in vast quantities, regardless if your child is able to read to themselves or not. Read books that are above their comprehension level. They may not get everything (in response to my question, "Are you understanding everything I read?" in reference to The Hobbit, P replied, "Of course not, I am only a kid!") but it will cause them to develop comprehension. Read something challenging like Twain or Austin or Bronte, Lewis or Tolkien. Read, read, read, and someday your child will be able to speak and write using reliably correct and sophisticated language. Besides, don't you remember that grade school teacher reading books out loud to you? Isn't that a fond memory of yours as it is mine? Jay remembers when his grade 5 teacher read The Hobbit to him. And aren't those memories and time spent with your child reason enough to read? If that isn't enough, the conversations garnered by reading those books sure are! So, go find a great story, a classic story, and get reading!
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