“The mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom.”

– Henry Ward Beecher


Nature Photos, by Matthew

As a sort of summer assignment, I’ve given my camera to Matthew in the mornings with the instructions to go find something beautiful or interesting in nature (otherwise it might be a basketball or the swimming pool) and try to take a really good picture of it.  He has really enjoyed exploring the backyard this way.

A few of his photos…

A perfect, enormous spider web on his swingset

A perfect, enormous spider web on his swingset


Jenny Wren on the fence

Jenny Wren on the fence


Jenny Wren in flight (Matthew thought this was so cool.) :)

Jenny Wren in flight (Matthew thought this was so cool.) 🙂


New acorn just beginning to form.

New acorn just beginning to form.


Red honeysuckle berries.  A little blurry. :)

Red honeysuckle berries. A little blurry. 🙂


It occurs to me that sending him out to find something specific might be fun to do this school year.  We will be learning (reviewing, really) directions as part of our geography lessons.  Wouldn’t it be fun to hand him a compass and instructions that say something like, “Find a green acorn on the oak tree in the northwest corner of the backyard.”?  Hm.  Definitely will need to consider this!  A treasure hunt, nature lesson starter, and compass practice all at once! 🙂

Enjoy these last lazy days of summer.  We are trying to soak them in.



The Simple Woman’s Daybook, and some rambling to get there

Okay, well.  Obviously I am no good at this blogging thing.  I *write* posts all the time in my head.  And they are good!  Take my word for it (you’ll have to), really good!  But so much time is spent on the busy-ness of life and I am always running behind, and blah blah blaa…

I need to get a grip on things.  This is my current motto.  I. need. to. get. a. grip. on. things.  How is that for low standards?  Everyone needs a goal, right?  Well, that’s mine.  And I am trying, but in the meantime the important things are slipping through the cracks.  Like documenting the lives of these children and our happy, happy (oh so happy) life together.

I know that prioritizing and scheduling will go a long way towards getting life to run a bit more smoothly.  Prayer and discernment are called for also, I think.  A good night’s sleep and some energy would be nice too, but let’s not get carried away.

I do believe these days will get better with time.  I do think we will eventually get out of the mere survival stage and into a thriving stage again.  But it is sloooooow going, and I am not patient.  I’m going to rant for a few minutes here, just so I can look back on this at some point and (hopefully?) see the progress we have made.  Feel free to skip the following few paragraphs! 🙂

Here’s what I’m struggling with… from the day I found out I was pregnant with Joseph (Dec. 16, 2011), I was “laid off” as housekeeper around here.  My husband, bless his heart, is not normally a worrier but these babies… he loves them and does his best to protect them.  We have had several miscarriages, so we are extra, extra careful in the early days.  Fine.  I wasn’t happy about it, but I love and worry about the babies too, and am willing to do whatever is necessary.  The problem is that there was no replacement housekeeper.  Let me just say things quickly got out of hand.  Two rooms in our basement became junk rooms with things just thrown in there… like something you would see on one of those “hoarder” shows, do you know what I mean?  The laundry and dishes were kept clean, barely.  And that was it.  By the time I had my doctor’s O.K. to do more, things were already unbearable around here, and I was tired and sick… all the stuff that goes along with being pregnant!

Poor Matthew did what he could.  Now, understand, he is a messy boy.  Messes do not bother him (or my husband) as much as they do me, and even he got to a point where he couldn’t stand it and started doing chores on his own.  Sweet, sweet boy.

For a short while I was able to do more, per the doctor, and I ended up overdoing it.  My blood pressure shot up, I was diagnosed with “mild pre-eclampsia”, activities were shut down again, and I was put on bed rest for a while.  By the time Joseph was born, I was crazy-obsessed with the messiness and dirt, and really doing more than I ought to have been.  Then we had a newborn, I had a bout with post-partum depression, and we began homeschooling.  Joseph is almost a year old, and those basement rooms are STILL a mess!  I can not stay on top of all the housework, plan for the coming school year, AND give the attention to my children that they deserve and demand.  Forget about extra projects like organizing.  I get around to dusting and vacuuming the living room (forget the other rooms) maybe once a month, and cleaning the bathroom once a week (it needs it daily), keeping the laundry and dishes done most days, and maybe even getting dinner ready on time once in a while.  A baby’s needs are constant and I’d forgotten just how time-consuming they are!  Joseph is still not sleeping through the nights and I am running on empty and caffeine.  Even if I had the time to do all that needs to be done… I am wiped out and just can not do it.

I need simplicity.

I need to find a way to be happy accomplishing the bare minimum most days.

I need to figure out what exactly the bare minimum is, because at this point everything seems urgent!

I need to set aside time to write.  To remember.  To use this blog for what I intended.  I have been working on this one post for 24 hours now.  Ha!  I am interrupted so many times I am *this* close to giving up on it… like I have given up on all the other posts I’ve begun.  But this is important.  This is their childhood.  I want them, someday, to know that all the little things meant something, all those memories were not just theirs, but kept in the deep places of their mother’s heart.  I hate that the day-to-day survival is keeping me from these important things.


I’m sure you’ve seen the Simple Woman’s Daybook on other blogs, yes?  It’s always appealed to me.  I’ve known about it for years, and I think now is the time to begin doing it myself.  The format will help me get some writing done at least, and it will be an interesting thing to go back and read at some point.  For me and my family, I mean. I don’t pretend that any of this is interesting to anyone else! 🙂  I think I also need something similar – a sentence starter format – to keep on top of what the children are doing and saying and thinking as they grow.  Is there anything like that out there?  I may have to come up with it on my own.  If I can find the time.  Sigh.

So here goes…


Outside my window… the rain is falling and the moss on the maple tree is showing up so prettily against the dark of the wet trunk.  The air smells wonderful.RSCN1916

I am thinking…  see the rant above. 😉

I am thankful… for a healthy family.

In the kitchen… fresh cherries are waiting to be cleaned, fresh cantaloupe waiting to be cut up.

I am wearing… pajamas still.  Um, it’s 10:22am.  Not proud.

I am creating… planner pages for lessons and assignment pages for Matthew (can’t find just the right one already on the market, so of course I have to make my own!).

I am going… nowhere farther than the backyard today.

I am wondering… how to put into action the following thought from today’s morning prayer: “May the prayers of Saint Peter [Chrysologus] help us to cherish the mystery of our salvation and make its meaning clear in our love for others.

I am reading… The Man Who Was Thursday, by G.K. Chesterton, and Through Four Seasons, by Edith M. Patch

I am hoping… Joseph takes two good naps today.

I am looking forward to… Joseph’s nap. 🙂

I am learning… about wildflowers!

Around the house… I am cleaning the bathroom today, even if it kills me.

I am pondering… the balance between overdoing things and doing enough this school year.

A favorite quote for today… “And without music there can be no perfect knowledge, for there is nothing without it. For even the universe itself is said to have been put together with a certain harmony of sounds, and the very heavens revolve under the guidance of harmony.” – St. Isidore of Seville

One of my favorite things… my bridal wreath.  It is far past blooming now, but I am still enjoying the photos of lovely sprigs that Matthew brought me earlier in the summer.bridal wreath

A few plans for the rest of the week:  Puppet show at the park on Friday morning, maybe going to the thrift store to get some shelving and some wooden hat/jacket hangers for the breezeway.

A peek into my day…boys "playing"

Nice.  Messy house, little brother annoying the big one, big brother teasing the little one, no one properly dressed, laundry is not put away… this is the story of my life these days. 🙂

And now it has been documented. Whew.



Kindergarten Accomplishments

We are finished!  It is so hard to believe that we are at this point – Matthew has finished his first official year of school.  How did he get so old?  So tall?  So smart?  So silly?DSCN1379



This post is mainly for record-keeping, so it may be a bit of dry reading for many.  If you are like me, however, you will find it fascinating in a very nerdy sort of way.

I want to remember some highlights and what we’ve accomplished this year.  Hopefully next school year I’ll be able to keep records as we go, but this year it’s all going into one blog post (hold on!).

The other day Matthew and I had a little conversation about his year of Kindergarten:

(I am in bold, Matthew is in regular.)

What was your favorite thing to learn about?  The Quadricycle!*  And all about Henry Ford!

Well, you did a super job this year with everything.  I am so proud of you!  For what?  Well, for learning to read.  For learning cursive, especially.

Oh that was easy.  You sure do make it look easy. 😉

Did you like history?  I LOVE history!  I love all sorts of books!  {Yes!  That is music to this mama’s ears!}

What was your favorite field trip?  The zoo because we got to ride the carousel!  {So sweet because this was the same carousel my sister and I used to ride!}


Oh shoot.  There was more to that conversation, but now I am blanking out.  Sigh.  Memory… not my strong point.  Well, the loving books part was the best of it.

Matthew is reading anything and everything… including things we do not particularly care for him to read (like the newspaper! Yikes!).  He had a diagnostic spelling test in April and placed at 2.4, which means he is spelling at a second grade, 4th month level.  We are using a curriculum that teaches spelling from the beginning as an aid to reading.  (Spell to Write and Read, based on the Spalding method, which I will write about in another post.  We love it!)  He is a quick learner and has skipped the need to use those (dare I say, boring) beginning readers.  Although, he does have a love for the really old ones like this one:  I think those old-fashioned illustrations appeal to him, as they do to me.

One of the first passages he read without help was in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C. S. Lewis.  He knows his sight words, but not because we studied them as such, simply because he can read them.  The English language is much more consistent than you’d think… but, another post, another time!

Matthew has also learned to write in cursive.  Yes.  He was printing… but doing it poorly.  We noticed a lot of dyslexic tendencies… some of this is normal at his age, but there was so much of it that some sort of early correction seemed necessary to us.  He would print his letters from the bottom up, write entire words backwards, begin writing at the bottom of the paper, write right to left, get letters confused with one another, mirror words, etc.

After a LOT of “hemming and hawing” we decided to give cursive a try.  There have been studies done that show  learning cursive may help many of these problems.  It seemed like a daunting task, but within a month he was writing in cursive and doing a great job of it.  No more backwards letters, no more right to left.  He can see the spaces between words much more easily, and a few other things have improved too.  I should add that he has had good fine motor skills since he was small, unlike many boys.  Yet, we still did most of our cursive learning and practice as gross motor activities, only moving onto paper when he wanted to (and then he used primary lined paper – with the dashes).  I want to be careful not to rush him in these things.  We used Cursive First, an excellent program that corresponds well with SWR.

We read many, many books together this year.  Oh, how happy I am that this boy loves books!  Daddy read The Hobbit, by J.R. Tolkien to him in the evenings, as well as some Hank, the Cowdog books by John R. Erickson.  They ended the school year by reading Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson, after going to a play based on the story.  Pirates!!  Gun fights!!  Swords and Knives!!  Need I say more?

During our daytime reading we went through the following books:  Babe, the Gallant Pig, by Dick King-Smith; The Saturdays, by Elizabeth Enright; The Moffats, and Ginger Pye, and The Middle Moffat, by Eleanor Estes; ALL seven of The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis; The Railway Children, by Edith Nesbit; Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell; The Indian in the Cupboard, by Lynn R. Banks.  Oh my, that’s a lot of good books!

Science was a hodgepodge of things (no formal curriculum – it’s kindergarten!).  Matthew is so very, very interested in electricity, to the point where my brain just shuts down when I hear him say the word “battery” or “energy”.  He could literally go on for hours about this stuff.  Hours of electrical talk and questions from a 6 year old boy is about as crazy-making as it gets.  Anyway – on the electricity front – he uses his Snap Circuits, from which he learns quite a bit just by following the book of plans (he can make an AM radio in about 3 minutes flat); and we read biographies about Thomas Edison and Ben Franklin.  These were very enjoyable and there are a lot of good jumping off points within them for additional learning and experiments.  We finished up by going to the Bakken Museum of Electricity, which was absolutely fascinating.  We will be going there again for sure!

Revving up a generator to create static electricity.

Revving up a generator to create static electricity.

As part of science, we also did a handful of nature-study activities.  In the fall we learned the names of trees, examined leaves, learned about how plants “work”, and that sort of thing.  We visited an apple orchard with our homeschool group and learned about how pollination occurs and the importance of flowers and bees, and how to make cider with a cider press.  In the spring Matthew investigated the backyard, drawing whatever interested him in his nature journal and then examining it under his field scope and drawing a picture of what it looked like magnified.  Of course, doing this in the wagon made it all the more fun:DSCN1405

Um, pardon the messy yard.  Someone needs to do something about that junk lying around.

Now, about Math.  We just did fun stuff for the first part of the year, then he seemed to need more of a challenge and I’d been seriously looking at Singapore Math, so we began with 1A (Standards Edition).  I want to love Singapore Math.  It has helped me understand math!  But something just doesn’t seem right about it for Matthew.  I will have to think about this some more.  He did not complete 1A, so we will start up where we left off next year and perhaps it will go a bit more smoothly.  He is good at math!  But the program seems to assume that he has the ability to analyze certain things, which I just don’t think most boys (or girls?) have at this age.  It’s nothing that won’t come in time, I’m sure.  He learned the basics of addition and subtraction, tens place, ones place, how a calendar works, positional words, left and right, etc.

Religion.  Ah, this needs a post of its own, but let me just say I winged it this year.  I need something more put-together and sequential (if that makes sense) than what I did this year.  However, he does get quite a bit of faith-talk just in our everyday lives.  We did Bible readings and saint stories too, which he LOVES.  We celebrated special days as best we could with a tired mama and a needy baby living here this year.  And we looked at famous artwork for many special days (annunciation, Easter, that sort of thing), which was lovely and enjoyable for both of us, and was a good starting place for some wonderful conversations.

For history we began The Story of the World, Vol. 1 – The Ancient World, by Susan Wise Bauer.  It is working well and Matthew has gotten through chapter 8.  We’ll review these chapters before picking up again in first grade.  It is a super book for young children, and has really planted a love for history in him.

Art was pretty much free art time.  I wanted to plan things around holidays, but just did not have the energy or time to put much thought into it this year.  Matthew has a cart of art supplies and he built many things, painted many things, and drew many things.  Next year, next year I will be more on top of this!  But, truly, I am not sure that letting him explore on his own wasn’t just as profitable for him as a more formal art instruction would have been.  He went to a couple of plays – The Grinch and Treasure Island; and we visited the Minneapolis Institute of Arts with our homeschool group where we learned about impressionism.

Geography was partly covered by finding (on a map or globe), and learning about, the places we read about in our biographies and history lessons.  We also used this workbook to learn basic map skills.

We joined a gym co-op, which was wonderful!  Lots of free (loud) play time with friends on one side of the gym, and then a 45 minute gym class with a phy-ed teacher on the other side of the gym, where he worked on basic skills and just got a lot of energy out.

We volunteered a tiny bit with Meals-on-Wheels, but due to sickness and the logistics of taking a wee one along, this didn’t quite pan out like I had hoped.

There were many good field trips, but I am looking forward to even more next year when Joseph is old enough to tag along without having to worry about his odd feeding habits (he will be eating solids by then, right?).  Living life around the schedule of a new baby was a hard transition for Matthew, but he has survived and learned and grown, so it’s all good. 🙂

I can see him growing more confident socially.  I am so proud of this boy.  He has made an effort to come out of his shell despite very real discomfort.  He has initiated friendships, and surprises me often with how grown up he sounds when talking to others.  He opens doors for service people who happen to come to the house and invites them in instead of running to hide.  Ah, he’s growing up, this baby of mine.  I am so blessed to witness it throughout each day.  Homeschooling has not been easy, but it has so, so, so been worth it!DSCN1521



9 Months

Dearest Little Joseph,

I will do a much better job of documenting your babyhood once you do a much better job of letting me sleep at night.  Deal?

You are 9 months old, and I love you.  I am skipping a thunderstorm morning nap (while you nap and the other boys are gone) in order to write about you.  See?  I must love you, because I am very, very tired and a nap sounds like heaven.

You are crawling, getting into things you ought not to, beginning to oh-so-slightly irritate your doting and patient brother, and working hard on standing up.  You are what some people would call “strong-willed”; I just call you Daddy’s boy.

You are beginning to take an interest in solid food, but you have definite dislikes and don’t mind saying so.  (Your brother would eat any and everything we placed in front of him, and now he is the world’s most picky eater, so there is hope you will get this out of your system sooner rather than later.)  However, you do feast on the leaves outside and any lint inside (as well as dust bunnies and the bottoms of shoes) that you happen to come across in your travels. Why, Joseph, why?  I would just like to know why.  You nurse… but not well.  You make me worry, and you drive me crazy.  For 5 months now you will only nurse lying down on my bed, as long as it is dark and quiet.  And of course you nurse best in the middle of the night (aargh).  You refuse a bottle or a sippy cup, which I must say makes you a completely unreasonable little person.  It also makes going anywhere a challenge, and has become somewhat of an obsession of mine.  We are planning a trip to Missouri, we have a wedding in June that will involve a night in a hotel, and we’d like to go to our camper this summer.  Will you starve?!  Surely not, but you are bound to make both you and me miserable.  Ah, so much to look forward to!

You are super cute (it is a real shame you don’t like to snuggle much; please rethink that), which goes a long way toward making your oddities bearable.

Kissing the baby in the mirror.

Kissing the baby in the mirror.

You love your Daddy, you LOVE your brother, you need your Mama.  You say “Mmmmm ma…ma…ma” when you are hungry.  You say “Mum mum mum” when you want Cheerios.  You say “Bubba” for brother (which your daddy dislikes, because it sounds like some backwoods’ nickname, hee hee).  You yell “AH AH AH” for most everything else.  You like to sing and dance and clap your hands.  You can do Patty Cake on your own and it is precious to see those chubby little hands “rolling” up the dough.  Sometimes you do “so big”, and we totally get excited (which may be why you don’t do it much).  You love for Daddy to hold you while you bounce and yell in his arms – this may be your favorite thing to do!  You are such a baby.  I love your babiness so much.  It is fun to have a baby in the house.

Quite possibly it is more fun when one is not the mama, but still it is fun to be the mama too (I sure hope you can take a joke, Joseph).

You are still bald and you still love the hair on other people’s heads.  You do have some, almost invisible, fuzzy curls starting on the back of your head and I adore them.

You are a terror to change and dress.  You are fearless, and occasionally make my heart stop.

You have finally gone from 4 or 5 short naps down to just 3 a day, sometimes you take just 2!  So we are making progress!  This excites me to no end, which I’m sure is a sad commentary on my life.  Your morning nap is normally at least an hour long.  You are still the 30 minute man for your other two naps though.  Have I mentioned that I am very, very tired?

Goodness, I just re-read what I’ve written so far and it’s not exactly all bright and sunshiny, is it?  I guess I am just keeping it real.  Here we go for something a bit more mushy and motherly-lovey…

I love your thick little feet,

Your chubby little thighs.

You’re really neat,

You make sweet little sighs.

Your tummy is edible,

Your cheeks are soft,

your eyes are incredible,

You think it’s funny to cough.

You’re Daddy’s bouncy boy,

You’re Mama’s little joy,

You’re Brother’s favorite toy.

You like to fuss and whine,

But Mama loves you all the time.

I love you, sweet, sweet boy.  With all my heart.




Real Life

Finally, finally, finally – spring has come to Minnesota!  Hooray!

Matthew has spent the last 4 days mostly outside, like a 6 year old boy should.  It was a long, hard winter… argh.  I won’t go into it here, but it was oh, so very hard.  And long.  Especially long for Matthew.

We have about 4 weeks of school left, although we are mostly done already.  One week of spelling lessons left, then mainly reviews of spelling, reading, handwriting, math, geography, and history.  We’ll continue with religious/Bible lessons and activities, but nothing too intense for now.  I’m not sure we have 4 weeks of work left, to be honest.  And time outside is just so much more needed at this point, so we are doing any schoolwork we do have out in the yard.  I love that!

Yesterday for Matthew looked like this:

Breakfast, prayers and Bible story, chores, read a naptime story to Joseph, then straight outside to ride his bike, play in the dirt, get peanuts for his “little chipmunk friend”, build a ship with “provisions” in his playground fort, spelling lesson on the front stoop, shoot his bow and arrow, snack with brother and Mama on a blanket while we read a biography of Ben Franklin’s childhood, back to playing (not sure what he did since I was inside Getting Stuff Done), lunch, more spelling for about 5 minutes, back outside to saw wood and get a fire built for later, swing with brother and Mama, learn a poem about swinging (The Swing by Robert Louis Stevenson), play until Daddy came home, then play catch, eat dinner, light the fire and sit outside with the whole family (he is an expert fire builder, by the way!), walk on the trails with Daddy, read Treasure Island (by Robert Louis Stevenson, again) with Daddy in the backyard, snack and more story at the table, then off to bed.


Now, if that is not what “real life” looks like it ought to be!  I am so very thankful that it is what real life childhood looks like for my sweet boy.

I love homeschooling.




Amazing isn’t it, how much of life as a parent revolves around teeth?  Such a thing never occurred to me before I had children.

Of course, this was the only thing that never occurred to me, because I already knew everything else.  Right?  Remember the pre-parent you?  The one who knew everything about parenting?  Funny how we forget all the answers once we actually have those little bundles of joy, isn’t it? 😉

So, baby Joseph has his first two teeth.  You will find it difficult to see or feel them as he seems to think it is his big secret and anything slightly resembling a finger, pointing in the general direction of his mouth is met with pursed lips and raspberry faces.

And so of course, just to see that sweet and funny expression, we try to stick our fingers in his mouth all the time.

This is where I SHOULD put a picture of those sweet little teeth, but since they are such a secret, I will just put a cute picture of Joseph playing “dentist” with brother:

I miss the gummy smile (even though it is still pretty gummy).  I may have cried when that first tooth came through.  I have a feeling last babies make mamas cry a lot.

Matthew has lost four teeth so far.  The fourth one was lost on the same day that Joseph’s first one was cut.  The same day that Joseph decided to take a “nap” at bedtime and then get up and cry until 10:30pm.  3 hours of crying.  He had just had shots the day before, had a big evening (Grandpa’s birthday!), and then the tooth on top of it all.  Who wouldn’t cry?!  Anyway, Tooth Fairy #1 forgot all about Matthew’s tooth that night.  Tooth Fairy #1 was contemplating flying far far away on her little fairy wings (to somewhere quiet).  Thank goodness for Tooth Fairy #2!  Tooth Fairy #2 tends to talk a lot of thriftiness, but hands out dollar bills for teeth when it comes right down to it.

Matthew has been working on his /th/ and /TH/ sounds, instead of /f/ and /v/.  Missing his two upper front teeth is making this a challenge, but there is nothing more “kid-ish” than a little boy with two front teeth missing.  I smile every time I see him. 🙂


Love these boys of mine!




What the World Needs…

is Another Blog.

Don’t you think?

Welcome!  Our baby will be 8 months old soon, and for the past 7 months we’ve been saying how we NEED to document these days, and we MUST write things down, blah blah blah.  And it just has not happened, but this is my attempt to finally do it.

I am 40, my wonderful husband is 45, our oldest boy is 6 and our baby is (you’ve probably heard) almost 8 months.  Some people think we are too old for babies (and I may have had my own moments of wondering, especially after very long, very sleepless nights), but apparently God does not.  We are so thankful for the blessings He has given us!

It is hard to get everything done when you are old and your baby is brand new, like babies tend to be, and needy, like my babies tend to be.  We like feeling overwhelmed and as if we are always running behind so we tacked homeschooling our 6 year old onto the to-do list.

New baby-ness and six-year-old-ness really do need to be written about because memory is not my strong point and I’m pretty sure some day I am going to want to re-live these times.  Also, I hear grandmothers like to read about their grandbabies and see pictures.  Blogging will also serve as a handy homeschool record.  Look, I’m multi-tasking by blogging!  Wonderful.  This is so going to be awesome.

Read more about us by clicking on the “About” button in the menu bar, and don’t forget to sign up over in the right sidebar to get new posts delivered to your inbox!