Plenty of Pink Peonies – Wordless Wednesday

 

With all the peonies blooming around here, I couldn’t pass up sharing a photo or two with you. Enjoy your Wednesday!

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Flowers for Mama – Wordless Wednesday

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When the Explorer, 6, returned from recess, he carried with him a surprise for me.  He presented me with a bouquet of fragrant wildflowers he’d picked from our yard.  😉

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“Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.” ~Henry Ward Beecher

Building Flower Gardens

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For several years I pretended not to notice it.  I’d drive by and keep my gaze firmly in front of me.  Except when I did notice, I’d tell myself that grass would grow over it.  Except that grass only grew over parts of it, and the remaining open areas would be engulfed with weeds.  Weeds, weeds and more weeds.

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There’d been a flower bed in the same location many years ago when the previous owners lived here.  But it had not been taken care of for awhile and one of its borders was not well defined.  Sadly, most of the time it sat forgotten and abandoned with its only guests being some bright yellow dandelions.

Fortunately the warm spring temperatures have a motivational effect on me, and I develop these wild bursts of energy to start involved projects.  And come up with a plan I did: I decided to build a new flower garden in the very spot where one once stood. But I did not have to embark upon my plan alone.  My 14 year old daughter stood ready and willing to help me accomplish a blossoming goal, and together we built our first flower garden.

To begin, we found shovels from the garage and began digging up walls of weeds.  In what was the most difficult part, we pulled out the weeds and turned over the remaining dirt across the rectangular space.  In the front sat a pretty green shrub that was part of the original flower garden. We decided that it should stay.  To give the garden a well defined northern border, I dug up a trench.  Up to this point we’d spent a few hours working, and it was exhausting using muscles I’d forgotten about.  As I sit and write this, I feel soreness in my arms and aches in my back.

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Preferring to plant only hardy types, we next brought down a wagon full of perennial flowers to adorn our garden.

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After thinking about color for awhile, we set the flowers upon the freshly dug up dirt to decide placement.  Included were a rainbow of vibrant colors: lilies of hot pink, golden yellow, and tiger orange; blue hydrangea; purple iris; hostas; and few other interesting looking plants whose names escape me.

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Next I read the directions and prepared to give the lively plants a home.  I dug holes and my daughter filled each hole with about one inch of water.  Then I placed each in its spot and firmly packed the holes with dirt.  This part went surprisingly fast.

To give the garden a more decorative look, my daughter and I traveled to our local hardware store and found some arched maroon brick.  We’d measured the length of the side of the bed using my quilting tape to get an estimate on how many bricks to buy.  Then I had to redefine my ditch to make the bricks lay as level and straight as possible.

Lastly, we covered the new flower bed with a generous quilt of red mulch to help prevent new weeds from forming.  Certainly the weeds will be returning, I just hope this mulch will decrease the amount I’ll need to pull.

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After working for about six hours, we were done.  Now we both knew how to design a flower bed.  And we could behold the view!

What could’ve been an overwhelming job was made pleasantly simple with my daughter’s presence.  She was cheerful and supportive, and we had ample time to visit.  We’d spent our day together working towards a shared goal.

And as I see it we built more than a flower garden, we also built happy memories.

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Nutrition Nudge


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As the warm spring wind blows away winter’s cold, I’ve decided to make some changes around here.

Throughout our day we usually have two snack sessions: the first at about 10 a.m., and the second around 3 p.m.  As you can imagine, we get our share of processed foods.  For example, we usually have granola bars, pretzels, and any number of crackers plentiful in the cupboard.  Though I have no problem with our eating of snacks, I do think we eat too many processed foods during these times.

My children do like fruit. But too often, in the rush of our busy days, crackers or pretzels are what they go for. And the lonely fruit sits and rots, forgotten in the deep dark fridge.

I’ve come up with a possible solution: I’ve decided to make our 10 a.m. morning snack be a fruit snack.  I’m not talking about fruit juice or items that contain fruit ingredients, I’m talking about eating actual fruit – bananas, oranges, grapes, apples, etc.  Just simple, refreshing real fruit.

How am I going to get my children to go along with it?  Well, not in a extreme, pushy way.

In addition to suggesting a morning fruit snack, my plan is to set out freshly washed fruit around 9:45 a.m. With shiny fruit smiling at them in a bright, colorful bowl, what’s to stop them?

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If that doesn’t work, then I’ll move on to plan B – which will be to tell them they have to eat a piece of fruit sometime before they go to bed.  They may just take the fruit early, and get it over with.

For us, I think this is a change worth making.  Imagine how much of a positive impact it could have on their growth and development if they add in another piece of fruit each day over time.  My goal is to gently and welcomingly develop better eating habits in them.  Morning snack time seems like a great time to make sure fruit is included in their day. If I’m lucky, they may even carry the habit into adulthood.

 And do you know what I’ve noticed?  They often watch me to see what I’m snacking on.  Yes, I’ll be joining them in the morning fruit snack.  No excuses for me, either.  😉

How do you encourage healthier eating habits in your family?

Wrapped Up in Art

I still have the quilt that my grandmother made for me when I was a child.  Though no longer in the best condition, it has a special significance and is still warm.

Over two years ago, I started a quilt for my now five year old.  But after realizing how much of my time it took, I decided that I’d finish it the next summer when I’d have more time.  Of course, when next summer came, it did not get done.

I had pretty much given up on finishing it until about a month ago.  My older three children already have a hand-made quilt from me, but my youngest son does not.  I knew I had to do something.

I mostly learned how to quilt by reading quilt books, experimenting, and especially by making and fixing lots of mistakes.  For example, I really wanted to make an eight-pointed star quilt several years ago.  I’d cut on the bias and pieced everything just as I had read in a quilt book.  But when I’d finished the final stitch, my star did not lay flat.  I felt frustrated.  Rather than give up, I got out some scrap fabric and started over – that day.  I was determined that if the lady smiling back at me on my quilt book could make this, then so could I.  But this time I was more careful and aware of the seam allowances.  And after the final stitch, it laid flat.  This was a lesson for me.

In light of my busier schedule with homeschooling, for my youngest son’s quilt I chose a simple pattern – squares and rectangles – with the theme of cars since he loves cars.

Though I pieced the quilt fairly quickly with a sewing machine, I decided that I didn’t want to machine quilt it.  (In the past, I’ve found that the machine jerks the quilt too much when quilting the final patterns.  It’s also difficult to stay on the lines.)  Instead, I prefer hand quilting because it gives me more control over the stitches and more accurate stitch results.  But the problem with hand quilting is that it takes a lot of time.

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Putting on the binding…close to being done.

So I have been waking up at 6 a.m. most mornings for the last 30 days hand quilting for an hour before everyone else gets out of bed.  (Yes, I’ve easily spent over 30 hours hand-quilting this.) At first, I wasn’t enjoying it.  I admit it.  It felt like another of my long list of things to do.  I even put myself in a routine just to get through it and get everything done.  But towards the end, something changed.  The peacefulness I felt in just having a little time to myself to think while I hand quilted made a difference in my day.  Now that I’m done, I’m even considering making another quilt.

The lesson for me in finishing this quilt was that when I put my mind to it, I finally started to get somewhere.  Making a quilt is a big project requiring a plan, time, and effort.  But the thought of having created a piece of art that my son will be able to wrap himself in for years to come makes me happy.  And now he will have his own quilt like everyone else.

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The Explorer’s birthday is this week, and guess what he is getting as one of his gifts?

An Unfamiliar Path

When venturing down an unknown trail, there is always risk.  You don’t know what lies beyond.  You may encounter difficulties and dangers or you may find relaxation and enjoyment.  And when you are hiking in the Flatirons with four children, you prefer it be the latter.

Imagine: your morning journey begins by heading up a windy path into the aptly named Rocky Mountains.  You feel slight trepidation; you’ve never been up this way before.

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An Uphill Path

Further along you wade into rocky terrain that twists your ankles a bit.  The road becomes increasingly scattered with boulders as it steeps upward.  Because you have a husband and four children with you who are showing no signs of fatigue, you smile and keep moving.

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The Rocky Road

Eventually you reach the point where you can feel pain in your legs and thirst in your throat.  You pause, drink some water, and wait for a moment.  You wonder how you will get through this.  You speculate that hiking is a sport that should actually be trained for.

Just then you look up and notice something protruding from the side of the mountain.  There in front of you rests an outstretched tree root that resembles an arm.  With this ‘arm’ you pull yourself along this strenuous path.  You feel grateful and are now fascinated by this root that seems meant for you to notice.  Is this a helping arm from above – just when you needed it most?

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The Helping Arm

You trek along a bit further and notice that the path slope is gradually veering downward. You are overcome with delight and your legs are already feeling better.  You feel the warmth of your child’s hand in yours.  Did the sun just come out from behind the clouds?

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The Downhill Path

Finally, as you reach the end of the trail, you understand why you endured as you did.  You gaze out and behold breathtaking views.  You breathe in the crisp, mountain air.  You feel a gentle breeze brush your skin.  You braved the journey and feel fortunate you did not cross paths with a bear or mountain lion and that no other tragedy befell you.  You are glad you took the opportunity to embark upon this unfamiliar path.  Your family will remember this adventure for years to come.

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The Flatirons

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” ~ William Shedd

© 2012-2014 by Northwoods Classical Academy.  All Rights Reserved

Week 7 – Beyond the Lessons – Building Within

Week 7 – Have you ever noticed all the learning that goes on when the books are put away and the lessons are done for the day? Often it’s the time we have to ourselves – when we can construct what we choose – that we learn a great amount.

The Architect, 7, came running up to me this week – so excited to show me what he had built on his break!  He’d designed an igloo made of white Legos from his buckets and buckets of pieces.  Alongside this igloo stood a little man wearing a blue hat to stay warm.  Later he showed me a house and floor plan he’d imagined which included a unique roof, a ladder, a bed, a black-hatted man, and an ‘X’-shaped window.  Beside this was a car he made with the same little blue hat man from before sitting behind the wheel.  Think of all the ideas he used building these!

A house and car built by the Architect.

The Explorer, 4, loves when his big brothers are done with their work, since he then has instant play pals and learns so much from being around them.  He showed me some little men and a ‘flying bird fang ship’ he’d created.  Notice the mixed and matched heads and bodies on these men and women Lego people.  So much fun!

Winged bird ship behind the little men constructed by the Explorer.

The Investigator, 10, observes many things – little details that I often miss in my busy life.  He designed this three story house with removable levels that include internal structures such as stairs, a bed, and even a burning torch lamp for nighttime reading.  Imagine all the concepts he learned by constructing this!

A 3-story house made by The Investigator.
An above view of a layer from the 3-story house showing stairs, a TV, and a yellow chair.
With the roof removed – another level of the 3-story house showing a bed with a burning lantern beside it and a dividing wall.

The Artist, 12, builds her own unique structures. She built this mini Lego castle complete with an arched window and doorway.  She has also begun knitting and is currently crafting herself a scarf.  Think of all the counting she’s getting in while working with those many rows of thread!  😉

The Artist’s castle.
The Artist’s knit scarf in progress.

This week I chose to spotlight instead another important subset of our day.  Although we did do our usual school work as scheduled, it was the time the books were closed when other interesting structures were built.  Free time spent working on constructive activities can teach us so much, and we are more likely to internalize and remember the knowledge we gain – to build within – because we are choosing to do something we want to do.  Children notice details and are constantly gaining understanding – often when the books are closed.

Perhaps this is what Albert Einstein meant when he was said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge…”.

Week 5 – Changing Season

All around us the bright greens of summer have changed to amazing shades of autumn, and within we are also transitioning.

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Fall

The Explorer, 4, has grown in knowledge during the past few weeks. In Math he completed his first hundred number chart and demonstrated a decreasing sequence with c-rods.  In Cursive First, he learned the letters, ‘e’,’l’,’b’,’f’, and today he learned the letter ‘h’.

Decreasing sequence of numbers.
The Explorer’s first completed hundred number chart.

The Architect, 7, used his imagination and displayed kindness when he helped his younger brother build a Lego Duplo circus crane.  He is reading Mary Pope Osborne’s Knight at Dawn.  Also in Math this week, he has been having a blast learning about capacity by measuring macaroni using cups, pints, quarts, and half gallons.  What child wouldn’t love to do that?

The Architect measuring macaroni capacity.
A circus crane designed by the Architect and the Explorer.

The Investigator, 10, has had an observant few weeks.  In his Outdoor Science class, he has been carefully watching bugs as part of an at-home science project.  In Math he focused on word problems in the Singapore Math Intensive Practice 5A workbook.  He is also reading Aesop’s Fables.  For the next few weeks, he is working on reciting the poem The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost.

From The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
The Investigator’s bug observation experiment.

The Artist, 12, has been expanding her horizons.  Last week she passed her first Latin Grammar II-B Lesson –  reading an epistle written by Cicero, Ego Minus Saepe.  She has been spending every other Friday preparing for her first math competition, Math Counts, which takes place in February.  This week she also discovered that I have Alice Graphical Programming downloaded on my computer, and she now dedicates much of her free time to teaching herself how to program with it. Such a motivated child she is.

The Artist’s MathCounts materials have arrived.

Although I am doing quite a bit more work now than on those recent warm summer days, I am growing in my capacity to understand how fortunate I am to be able to learn with my children as we adjust to fall.  Happy Autumn!