Tuesday, June 29, 2010


When I am having a rough day, it is always wonderful to take a moment to think about all of the reasons that I am thankful for this day...

* Blue sky and sunshine, after grey clouds and rain
* 14 jars of homemade strawberry jam ready for the shelves
* Little boys who say please and thank you without having to be reminded
* Three beautiful new foals on the farm up the street
* A 20-minute stop (on my own!!) at the farmers market this afternoon
* Sweet peas harvested fresh from the garden
* Reading Harry Potter with William
* Big bowls of strawberries and cream (yum!)
* An early bedtime tonight
* The fact that even today, I can find a few minutes to write these words....

Monday, June 28, 2010


One advantage of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.
-A. A. Milne

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Local Food Festival

All too often these days I hear studies, articles, speeches...talking about how removed we are as a society from our food. Family farms are a vanishing breed, and we have come to expect tomatoes in February and strawberries all year round (even if they are the size of plums and need to be cored before you eat them). Many kids cannot identify vegetables, let alone tell you how they grow or where they came from. Our family generally has a little bit of a better handle on things, I think, having many family and friends who still etch out a living on the farm. I love taking in the local farmers market, and try to pay attention to where our food comes from. Still, a reminder of how important buying locally is can't hurt, especially when it involves the word "Festival". The Local Food Festival today was a lot of fun: tractor and wagon rides, organic ice cream, swings, grinding oats, music, farm tours, crafts, and of course lots of fresh, delicious local foods.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Life Learning

Academically focused activities for the day:

*Review of place value and number sequencing
*Single digit addition - mental math drills
*Two and Three digit addition and subtraction
*Basic algebra - solving for the unknown
*Matching, patterning, and grouping like objects
*Complex strategizing and problem solving
*Practice of reading skills
*Social skills - turn taking and group cooperation tasks
*Activities to encourage oral communication and good sportsmanship

Actually, we played Monopoly for most of the afternoon....

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Day Out With Friends

Brace yourselves, people. I have been working a lot lately, spending way too much time indoors, and finally got a day out with the boys today. We spent most of the day at a local conservation area for our end-of-season event with our home school group. Friends, beach, river, hiking, climbing, baby catfish, pot holes, crayfish claws, rocks, sand....needless to say, I took a lot of pictures. Feel free to browse....

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Real-Life Writing

Homeschooling has taught me a lot over the past few years. One of the lessons that I most appreciate is that learning in 'real life' is much more enjoyable than contrived 'learning opportunities' or planned lessons. Writing is a good example. I have tried, at different points in time and in different ways, to have my boys practice their writing. We have tried work sheets (I know, I know!!!) and journals, word lists and copy work. Although I know these work for many families, for us it was just not cutting it. The boys were miserable, and by extension, so was I. Then I realized something. William runs screaming from work books, but is thrilled to write down the grocery list for me if I have my hands in the sink washing dishes. They both love writing and reading little notes to and from me, and they dedicate themselves to producing hand written cards for the people that they love on birthdays and holidays. This way of learning is certainly not as linear as how writing would be approached in a traditional school. Some weeks they spend a lot of time with pencil in hand, and other weeks not so much. Still, the outcome is exactly what I want - they are developing the skills that they need in ways that are not only fun, but also allow them to contribute something important to our family life.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Be Flex-able, Mama!!

I have big plans to start exploring Canadian history by learning a little bit about aboriginal culture this summer. I decided that today was a good day to start, and thought that I would share a bit about how things progressed....

Mama: Hey boys, come on in here and take a look at this...
Boys: Just a minute!!!!!!!
Charlie: I just want to show William my birthday present...
William: It's really neat!
Mama: What is it?
Charlie: It is a earth and a moon that goes around it.
Mama: That's....
Charlie: I want to paint it now.
William: And I want to paint mine - the one with all of the planets.
Mama: Ummmm..
William: Don't worry, I can get it!!
Mama: But I was thinking...
William: Charlie, I can help you open the paint
Charlie: Thanks William - I know about some books with stars and space stuff in them...
William: You get the books and I will get the water for the brushes. Mom, can you help me with what colors the planets are?
Mom: Well, I guess I could, but I was thinking....
Charlie: Look at my earth - this is a big storm, and this is the water, and this is where the sun is shining on it, and I want to make the moon so it will glow in the dark...
Mama: (Sigh). So..... did you guys know that last night was the summer solstice?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Charlies Birthday Celebration - Part 2

A few pics from our trip to a local water park with my mother, my sister, and her kids today to celebrate Charlie's birthday - them back to their home for cake and gifts.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Everyone is Gifted

Everyone is gifted. This means that everyone has something to give. A person who does not feel gifted is lost in a pit of oblivion and confusion...The question is: what happens when what you do does not align with who you are? It means you are betraying the very vitality that defines you.....

-Malidoma Some

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New Chocolate Brownie Recipe

Some days really just call for chocolate, don't they? I am not talking about a bite out of a chocolate chip cookie, or some mostly bland doughnut with some chocolate goop on top. I am not talking about chocolate ice cream or chocolate milk, or even chocolate Easter eggs. I am talking about real, rich, fudgy goodness. Homemade, make-your-home-smell-wonderful, pass-the-milk=please delicacies.

I love brownies on these days - quick and easy to make, little mess, quick baking time, and made with ingredients that I usually have on hand. They make for easy-eating by little ones, without the level of commitment that comes with cookie dough that needs to be baked in batches.

Today I tried out a new brownie recipe, and I love it....so of course I will share. The original recipe is from allrecipe.com.

Best Brownies

1 cup butter
3 cups white sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (the best you can afford - it makes a big difference!)
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk chocolate chips (the original calls for semi-sweet, but I prefer milk)

Melt butter over low heat, and then beat in sugar and vanilla. You Can transfer the butter into a bowl first, but I usually just melt the butter in a big pot and then add the other ingredients into that. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat until thoroughly blended. Sift together flour, cocoa, and salt. Gradually stir into wet ingredients, but be sure not to over mix. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan, and back at 350 degrees for 35 - 40 minutes.

These turned out lovely - fudgy and chewy in the middle, with a great crispy sweet top. I am sure that you could modify the recipe to make it a little healthier, but some things just need to stay as they are. Enjoy!

Monday, June 14, 2010

5 Years Old!

I woke up this morning and my baby was 5 years old. I know, because he told me so. Actually, he said "Mommy, it is time to get up and it is my Birthday Today!!!! That means that everyone has to do what I want but don't worry - I will be nice to you, too, 'cause you are so beautiful....." (ever wanted to laugh and sob all at the same time???)

Birthdays, I think, can be tricky. They are such an important day - a time to celebrate, to make someone feel extra-special, to celebrate all of the wonderful people that together make up a family. They also tend to sneak up on you (or on me, at least!) All too often the big day arrives and I am nowhere near as prepared as I would like to be, or as I think my kids deserve. I also struggle with the whole 'balance' thing. My boys know that birthdays include presents, and I don't mind that. I love the looks on their faces when they open up a gift that will bring them joy - a toy that they have wanted, a book to read with a loved one, something that a friend or family member made themselves as a sign of affection. But Birthdays are not just about presents. In our too-fast-and-busy lives, I do worry that we end up spending money instead of time and attention on our kids. Believe me, they know that it is not the same thing.

I thought that I would share with you a few of my favorite Birthday traditions. Many of them we observe with each and every birthday, others I have heard about from other families and would love to bring in to our family.

*My favorite, which is an ongoing project, is a journal that I keep for each of my boys. I started them the day that they were born, and write in them each year on their birthday (or as close to it as I can). I write about how much I love them, what I appreciate about them, and the person that they are growing into. I write about what has happened in their lives since their last birthday, what they love, who their friends are, their favorites (foods, activities, books), and anything else that seems important at the time. I try to add little notes into it throughout the year with some of the cute/wise sayings that kids always seem to come up with. I will give it to them at some point in their adult lives, not quite sure when yet...

*Birthday story telling - every child loves to hear the story of how they came to be in this world

*The birthday child gets to choose the meals for the day (with some basic nutritional requirements)

*Many, many phone calls from friends and family who cannot be here in person to celebrate - for a 5 year old, hearing 'there is a phone call for you!!" is definitely a highlight of the day.

*Mommy and Daddy take the day off work. Not possible every single year, but we try really, really hard for this one. Setting our family as a priority in our lives means showing it through the choices that we make.

*Siblings are always responsible for decorating the birthday cake. Don't worry - you can scrape the truck load of sprinkles off of your piece of cake if you like.

*Mom and Dad try extra hard to relax. This one was manifest today when William, at 9pm, locked himself in the boy's bedroom because he had a "really really special surprise to make for Charlie....". When the door was finally opened, William had made Charlie's bed, arranged his multitude of stuffed animals around the pillows, and made a huge fort / nest on the floor with blankets and pillows for Charlie to sleep in, if he preferred. He then proceeded to take Charlie on a piggy-back ride tour of the bedroom. Needless to say it was past 10pm before they were asleep, but with big smiles on their faces.

*Neighbourhood Birthday Cake - since we don't do big parties with dozens of kid friends in our family, we make sure to find other ways to include the boys' friends in the celebrations. After dinner tonight, William ran off to all of our neighbours' homes to invite them over for cake and ice cream. Charlie loved all of the attention and company, without anyone feeling obliged to bring a gift. 7 kids and 5 parents spent the hour after dinner enjoying the late spring evening, and stuffing ourselves with chocolate cake and ice cream.

*And of course, lots and lots and lots of hugs and kisses.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Donkey Day

Today we headed over to a local Donkey Sanctuary for their annual open house / fundraiser. We arrived just in time for a Mad Science demonstration...

Learned about the water cycle and how ground water is cleaned (did you know that the same water that you drank today could have been drunk by a dinosaur however many million years ago?)

And of course, enjoyed the donkeys...

As an extra treat, the boys discovered these hatched turtle eggs beside the pond. We looked around for the little hatchlings, but didn't see them (in spite of looking all the way home!!)

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Nature is what we know - Yet have not art to say - So impotent our wisdom is To her simplicity
-Emily Dickinson

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bunny Alert!!

For the past few days, we have noticed this little rabbit hanging out in our back yard. Jack (our golden retriever) chased him away the first time, after we let him into the back yard without checking first. Since then, though, bunny has been back a few times each day - nibbling on the grass, mostly.

We have always felt very lucky to live in a neighbourhood where we can share our space with so many 'wild' animals. Our back yard is already home to chipmunks, the occasional red squirrel, moles, mice, less than welcome skunks, birds of all sorts, toads, raccoons, and even a blue herron that stopped in for a visit a few years back. The kids are thrilled to add a rabbit to the mix. For now, I am, too. Once it starts to nibble at my garden, I may change my mind....