Tuesday, July 31, 2007

5 Things I Love About Jesus Meme

It was such a pleasure to read Celeste's beautiful responses to this meme, and such an honor to have been tagged for my own. This was actually much more difficult than I imagined it might be, but such a wonderful opportunity for quiet reflection. It was hard to narrow it down, but here are five of the things I love most about Jesus:

1. His incarnation. He loved us so much that he was born as one of us. He lived among us. He suffered and rejoiced with us. He taught us. He died for us! For me! For love of us, He endured the agony of the cross. I weep to imagine His Passion.

2. His humility. He knew neither fame nor riches during His life on earth. He was an obedient Son and humble servant. He taught us by His example how to truly and selflessly serve others. He personally took on the lowly task of washing the feet of His disciples!

3. His authority. He taught with unwavering conviction. He gave us his commandments. He is the way and the truth and the life. Through Him, we have the assurance of our place in His Father's kingdom.

4. His forgiveness. Not only did He forgive during His lifetime, telling us "the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" (Matt. 9:6), but He also gave His apostles and their successors the authority to carry on this forgiveness through the sacrament of Reconciliation. He knew that even long after His death, people would still be sinning!

5. His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. Though it is a mystery my mortal mind will never comprehend, I trust with faith that I receive in communion the actual body and blood of Christ. "Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the word, and I shall be healed." How awesome!

Now, Nicole, I know you're a very busy Mama, but if you ever have the time, I'd love to hear five things you love about Jesus!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Friends in the kitchen

I've often longed to be included in one of those charming and comfortable friendships, calling to mind a bygone era, in which Mommies are able to gather together in their quaint kitchens, sipping coffee and swapping recipes, the tantalizing scent of fresh baked bread wafting through the air as their children play happily nearby.


It could happen.

Just not in this life that I'm living right now. Not anytime soon, anyway. But in the meantime...

I am honored and thrilled to have been invited by Celeste, one of my very best and dearest blogging buddies, to join a new food blog that she has created. (Along with Robin and Michele, two of her real life friends who I would also love to someday meet beyond the walls of this virtual world!) I hope that you will stop by and visit all of us at Mixing Bowls and Measuring Spoons, because a crowded kitchen is a cozy kitchen! I've added a link in my sidebar; just click the picture to enter!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Last flight

I was absentmindedly gazing out the side window of our van on our way home from dinner yesterday evening as we approached a stop sign near our house. Just as Darren pulled into the intersection, a flash of orange caught my eye, and I turned to see what I initially perceived as a small leaf dancing along the surface of the asphalt. As we rounded the corner, however, I recognized the delicate form for what it actually was and cried out to Darren, "Wait! I think that was a wounded butterfly back there!" Without a moment of hesitation, he quickly executed a perfect U-turn and pulled over to the curb. As he stepped out of the van, I slid over to the driver's seat and watched in the rear view mirror as he bent down to gently retrieve the still form lying in the road. Watching him make his way back to the open door of the passenger's side, I hardly dared ask the question, forming the words in scarcely more than a whisper: "Is she...D-E-A-D?"

"No, no, she's hurt, but she's still alive," Darren assured me. "Let's take her home so she can rest in our garden." Neither of us, it seems, could bear the thought of the alternative.

Arriving home, we went straight through the house to the back door and out to the garden, where we carefully set the regal Queen on a pretty Shasta Daisy near the border of the flower bed. (We wondered at first if she was a Monarch, but as she didn't seem to quite match the description, we checked our resources and found that she was actually a local cousin.)

Our kids gathered around to have a closer look at the pathetically beautiful butterfly they had helped rescue, but when small hands threatened to further damage the already beaten wings, we nestled her deeper into the garden, among the dainty buds of the Oregano. I watched her closely while the children played in the yard and busy bees buzzed nearby, but as darkness fell, I knew we'd have to go in. With a long last glance back, I ushered the kids into the house and got them ready for bed, thinking, all the while, of the fragile beauty left sadly behind in the garden.

A quick peek this morning revealed no sign of her, but Darren just came in from the yard, where he had discovered her lifeless form lying beneath the plants. Even in death she is beautiful, but I'm glad that, however briefly, we were blessed to be touched by her life.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Monday Morning

I'm feeling a bit melancholy this morning. I'm sure it has much to do with waking up and finding myself at "that time of the month". I had already determined from my diligent NFP charting that it was probably inevitable, but still. How I long to see that prolonged elevated temperature pattern! But for now I sit, dejected and forlorn, sipping a cup of coffee in this quiet early hour without even the pleasure of creamer, because I finished off the last container of my favorite variety yesterday and never made it to the store to replenish my supply. Sigh.

You know what else is making me feel a little sad? Dylan has a loose tooth. His very first one! But wasn't it just yesterday that we joyously saw that first hint of white peeking through his tender, swollen gums? I don't recall ever giving him permission to grow up so heartbreakingly fast! Must time keep marching so mercilessly forth? Can't we just slow it down a little?
Meghan, my precocious little sweetheart, is less and less a "baby" these days and more and more a "big girl". She runs around in ponytails and dresses, chubby legs adorned with bruises and ink drawings because she is just so gosh darn curious! I am forever finding her up on top of tables, cabinets, bar stools, chairs...The other day, I heard her plaintive little voice crying out "Mama!". And where do I find her? On top of the dresser in the kids' bedroom closet, wedged beneath the shelf above it, peering out at me with a perplexed expression on her face. I can't begin to imagine how she got herself up there to begin with, and apparently, she had no idea of how she was going to get down! Stunned, I stood for a moment and just stared, then burst out laughing and scooped her into my arms to cover her in kisses. (Of course, I sort of wish now that I had run to get the camera first!)

And oooohhhh, that Caitlyn. Such an independent princess! It seems sometimes that I can actually see her growing and maturing, and it is the most remarkable thing in the world. I can hardly believe she is going to be four in just three short months. I still sort of think of Dylan as being four years old, because it was such a fun and special year for him, and because I am just not ready to accept the fact that he is going to be six in September! (What about five, you wonder? This year has just flown by way too fast. I forget he is five. Honestly! But when I think about it, this has been a really great year for him, too.) But Caitlyn. Four! She is quickly becoming such a sweet little companion, a real treasure and a joy to have as a daughter. I really do love the age she's at now, able and eager to help around the house and happy to participate in all that we do as a family. She is so much fun to take along on quick trips to the store, keeping up a continuous stream of happy chatter for the duration of the entire ride. I love to hear the things she comes up with, the way her mind works when she's apart from the dominating presence of her older brother and the demanding presence of her baby sister!

I'm gathering my blessings close to me this morning. They're just beginning to stir, and I can't wait for those first hugs and kisses! Even without the creamer, it's looking like this is going to be a really good day, after all.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Same Blog, New Look

You know, I've heard it said that tattoos and body piercings are both highly addictive. I wouldn't really know, seeing as how I've never experienced either. (Well, with the exception of having my ears pierced when I was five years old.) But I think I've discovered that the same theory must apply to blog template design! Oh. My. Gosh. It took me nearly a year before I ever worked up the courage to deviate from my original blog layout. Would you believe I'm now on my third change in two months?! I think I like it. I'm pretty sure I'll keep it.

For at least another week or so... :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Daddy's shoes...

...are hard to fill!


I seldom bake pies in the summer. In fact, I rarely bake pies at all. Ever. (I think the last time--and perhaps the only time, come to think of it--that I made a homemade pie was before I was married, when I made a lemon meringue for my favorite priest on his birthday because it was his favorite, and because it was what his mother had always made for him.) But ordinarily, I'm much more a cake and cookies kind of girl. Easy, uncomplicated. Yesterday, however, baking a pie in the middle of the afternoon seemed like the perfect thing to do.

On Sunday morning, you see, just as we were leaving for church, our very kind and generous neighbors (the same ones who gave us their Christmas tree last December) brought over a large bowl full of beautiful peaches from their tree. They were small, but plentiful. I wasn't sure how we'd ever eat them all! That night, Darren prepared a delicious topping of peaches and cherries to serve over the vanilla ice cream we had for dessert, and it was amazing. Still, we had many more peaches than I ever thought we'd eat. I couldn't bear the thought of them going bad before we had a chance to enjoy them all, and I was so pleased with them that I wanted them to be put to very special use. So, pie it was. Something new, and, (hopefully) beautiful, too.

I thought about my mom as I got out one of the two old porcelain pie plates she gave me while packing to move away last month. She never baked many pies, either, but I remember these pie plates being nestled together in their rightful cabinet throughout my entire childhood. They are a sweet reminder now of a time long past, a familiar comfort much like the memory of the sunny kitchen itself in which they once belonged. It made me happy in a sad, nostalgic kind of way yesterday to lovingly wash, once again, one of the pair, and to fill it with the generously offered fruit of kind neighbors who, too, will soon be moving away.

It was a lovely way to spend the day with my kids, filling our home with the aroma of spices and fruit and delicate pastry, evoking remembrances of days I thought I'd long since forgotten and was so happy to recall once more. I hope that one day, years from now, the memory of baking with their Mommy will cross my own kids minds, and that, remembering, they'll be happy.

Monday, July 16, 2007


Late yesterday afternoon, Darren sat down with me at the table in our school room to review our plans for Kindergarten. It was so nice to finally be able to sit down and sort through it together and see how the plans I've been formulating in my mind for the past several weeks are actually taking the shape of an exciting curriculum. And I so value his input and opinion. It can be quite a daunting task to sift through page after page of amazing resources without feeling overwhelmed by the variety of beautiful materials each has to offer! After spending nearly every waking minute of the past week thinking about (more like agonizing about) everything I hoped to use, I finally just had to take a break from it all to refocus on the big picture. It's Kindergarten. I want it to be fun. We'll have plenty of time down the road for more complex learning, but for now, I just want it to be a cozy, pleasant home learning experience for all of us. I had to really stop and think about the things we already love (crafts, reading, games...) and figure out how to best incorporate them into the lessons I hope to cover with Dylan. One thing that helped was the decision to focus, for now, on only the months leading up to Christmas. At that time, we'll see how far we've come, what's working, what's not, and decide from there how to best proceed. That has relieved a huge amount of pressure for me, because trying to plan all at once for the entire year was just way too much. Maybe it will be easier once we're a little more experienced, but I have to say, I'm really pleased with what we've worked out for the first half of Dylan's Kindergarten year. I like that we'll be building on a lot of what we've already been learning and things he already shows such interest in, using many of the materials and books we already have. I don't want our home environment to change just because we are "officially" homeschooling. I want to continue with the comfortable, easy learning we've been enjoying all along. So here is what we'll be working with, and, by all means, if any of you more experienced homeschooling mothers have any thoughts or suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

Math: I looked at a lot of really great programs, and was for a while fairly decided on Math-U-See, but ultimately chose the Saxon Kindergarten Math program with the supplemental manipulative set. I think it will work well for us. We'll also be using things such as flashcards, computer games, and tangram sets...all things we already have and use. One book I am going to order is Grandfather Tang's Story: A Tale Told With Tangrams, because I love incorporating story books into as many lessons as possible!

Science: Here is one area where it was particularly helpful to remember the big picture, as I mentioned before. Although I don't think we're ready yet for rigid science textbooks, I wasn't entirely convinced that I'd be able to independently come up with appropriate science lessons. So I thought for a while about the things we're enjoying right now, and how we might be able to continue with them. Butterflies, for instance. And gardening. We can easily continue studying these topics that are so interesting to us right now. I'm ordering Science with Plants, because we love to experiment. And because we love reading, we'll be using the books How a Seed Grows, From Seed to Pumpkin, and How Do Apples Grow? ( I really love the Let's-Read-And-Find-Out books!) We also have Apples and The Pumpkin Book (both by Gail Gibbons, who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite children's book authors.) I think all of these will tie in nicely with the annual trips we make to our local pumpkin patch and the nearby apple festival held every fall. And, speaking of fall (my favorite time of year!) we'll be studying seasons and weather, too. Some of the books we'll be using: Sunshine Makes the Seasons, Why Do Leaves Change Color, Seasons and Living Things, What Will the Weather Be, Down Comes the Rain, and Weather and Climate. Also included in our science plans are more in depth lessons on the human body. Dylan loves this topic. He sometimes sleeps with my old college human anatomy textbook! He is already very knowledgeable about the workings of the human body...but I'd like to teach him more. We'll be using Seton's Science 1 for Young Catholics, along with Usborne Beginners: Your Body (which also includes internet links), Human Body Explorer, and The Human Body. (There are also several relevant Magic School Bus books and movies that we have and like.) I expect that it will take the entire school year to get through these subjects, but I think we'll enjoy them immensely!

History: Here again, I didn't really know at first how I wanted to approach the subject. I mean, history is so broad...spanning our entire existence! Where to begin? With Adam and Eve? Ancient civilizations? It made my head hurt to think about it too much. Nothing felt quite right for Kindergarten. So, I made a decision that I am so excited about: I purchased an entire Little House on the Prairie boxed collection to read aloud with my kids throughout the course of the school year! And to add a little more depth to the period, we'll be referring to If You Lived 100 Years Ago and If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon. I'm hoping to incorporate lots of crafts, fun activities, and even probably some baking to bring the pioneering theme to life in our own home. I cannot wait! We'll also be using holidays to provide important lessons. At Thanksgiving, for example, we'll be reading The First Thanksgiving and The Thanksgiving Story.

Language Arts: I am incredibly proud of how well Dylan reads on his own, so we'll just keep on practicing with him reading aloud to me, Darren, and the girls. We'll also be using My Very First Catholic Speller and/or My Catholic Speller Level A. I think it will just depend on how much is review of what he already knows. We may use Level A after the Christmas break, but we'll have to just wait and see. For handwriting practice, I've ordered a D'Nealian Handwriting Manuscript ABC Book (courtesy of a thoughtful Amazon gift card I recently received via e-mail. Thanks again, Jennifer!) Dylan really loves the Picture Story tablets we bought a couple of weeks ago, which are blank on the top half of the page and lined on the bottom half. Since he loves drawing, I plan to utilize these books in just about every subject. He can practice his handwriting by copying simple sentences or passages beneath his artwork. (I'm thinking this will be particularly nice for lives of the saints or for simple poetry selections.)

Fine Arts: One thing I really liked in the Catholic Heritage Curricula catalog was Art Masterpieces: A Liturgical Collection. We'll display these for the appropriate month in an 8x10 frame in our school room, rotating them according to the liturgical year. I think these will make a beautiful addition to our learning environment, and we'll use the included guide to study each work of art. We're also going to try the Child-sized Masterpieces program, levels easy and intermediate. I'm also ordering A Catholic How-to-Draw, which I have no doubt Dylan will absolutely love! Also, because no home should ever be without lots and lots of music: Let the Children Come to Me and Wee Sing America. We'll be reading lots of poetry, hopefully in the context of a nice "tea time" once or twice a week.

Religion: We've decided to enroll Dylan in our parish's religious education Kindergarten class, to be held for an hour every Sunday morning beginning in September. In this way, he will have a group of peers that he will be able to see regularly, and learn more about his faith. Class time is such that we will still be able to attend Mass together as a family, which has always been important to us. But we will also be learning from home, using Our Heavenly Father from the Faith and Life Series, and celebrating Feast days together as we have so often done in the past.

Soooo...I think that just about sums it up. Have I missed anything? I know that it sounds like an awful lot of work and material, but I really don't think it will be. I haven't exactly figured out what our daily schedule will be, but I am fairly certain that it will not include all of these subjects on every single day. And much of this is not really going to include much "work". A lot of it will be reading together, experimenting together, drawing...all things we love doing! I'm really excited and can't wait to get started in late August or early September. There is still quite a bit of planning to be done on my part before then, but I feel really good about the materials we've selected! And finally, I can honestly say I am at complete peace about the entire experience. I know that this is what we have been called to do. I pray that I can do my part well.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Close to Home

Though it was only 8:30 when we left our house on Saturday morning for a scenic tour of the Aldo Leopold/Gila Wilderness areas, it was already an hour and a half later than we had intended to set out and we had yet to fill our van with gas. We were just nearing the closest gas station when I realized I had left my wallet at home, so we turned around to retrieve it, then headed back out again. By that time, Dylan was complaining from the back seat that his shoes (hiking shoes he hasn't worn in a few months) were hurting his feet, and since we weren't entirely sure yet of how much actual walking we'd be doing, we decided to also stop at the K-Mart near the highway exit so I could run in and pick up some new shoes for him. (Many miles and countless S curves later, I was ever grateful for that impromptu stop, as all of us became quite car sick and one particular little boy couldn't quite keep the contents of his stomach down. Thankfully, we had the brand new, empty shoe box lying right on the floor at his feet...the perfect receptacle!)

It had been several years since Darren and I traveled this particular route, having been to the Gila Cliff Dwellings together before Dylan was born but never again in the years since his birth. But after reading Jennifer's amazing account of the camping trip she and her family recently enjoyed, I was chastened to realize that here I live in the beautiful state of New Mexico, yet so seldom take advantage of all the incredible opportunities we have to explore (and all within a reasonable driving distance from our home).
So, following our successful expedition to Aguirre Springs on Friday, we decided to try the trip that we remembered was so gorgeous, especially since this is the prime time of year for seeing hummingbirds at one particular lodge we stopped at six years ago. But because it was such a long and winding road, and because we all did feel quite ill after a while, we made numerous stops along the way at scenic lookouts and various campgrounds. (We had, in fact, considering camping overnight ourselves, but were deterred by reports of recent flash flooding and a bear biting a local man in the bum.) One of the first stops we made was at Emory Pass, where we got out to stretch and to take in the gorgeous panorama. Next we proceeded to the Grey Feathers Lodge, where we had the privilege of enjoying a delicious lunch right beside a large picture window, on the other side of which were numerous hummingbird feeders, frequented in large numbers during the course of our meal. This was so amazing. I really hated to leave, but from there we continued on to Forks Campground, where we parked the van and splashed for a while in the Gila River. (While Dylan and Caitlyn had a grand time playing with their Daddy in the water, Meghan was securely strapped into a pack on my back the entire time. We were quite content to watch from the shore!)

It was quite apparent to Darren and I this weekend that we really have no excuse now for not taking more day trips like this one. Even with our late start, we still had plenty of unhurried time to just be together, having fun together. And by taking a different route there and back, we got to see so much of our local area that we would not otherwise have been able to. Highlighting on our map the circle we made gave us a better perspective of just how much we did see!
There were other fascinating, nearby destinations that we could easily have worked into our trip, including the Gila Cliff Dwellings and City of Rocks State Park, but we chose to leave those for a later date. Because now that we know how easy this can be, we will be going back! When all three kids were still so small, it was overwhelming enough to simply go to the grocery store together. But they are growing up so fast! Dylan, in particular, has matured to a point where it is a real pleasure to explore and learn with him. We will never again have this exact time in our lives--or theirs--to capture moments like these, moments where we are together learning and playing and hopefully forming lasting memories.

I had a really hard time deciding on which photos to share from the approximately 140 that I took, so I decided instead to form a virtual photo album from the fifty (give or take) of my favorites (because even I won't post that many in a single entry!) So please, stay a minute, and enjoy a peek into our album. But be warned: you just might be enticed to visit in real life!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

For Nicole...

...because a simple comment left on her blog is not nearly enough to express how thrilled I am for her precious family! Welcome to the world, baby Roan!

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Picturesque Picnic

Can you see the little picnic table tucked away far beneath that old Alligator Juniper? The one my family is marching towards as purposefully as ants at a picnic? That's where we had the distinct pleasure of enjoying our lunch today. And it was beautiful. Breathtaking, really. At every turn we were faced with sweeping vistas of tall skies and majestic mountains, a pleasing palette of greens and golds, and we were serenaded by the song of countless unseen insects.
The first table we came to was already happily occupied...
...so we continued on to a second, even more perfectly located spot to spread our feast of Lunchables, trail mix, and fruit grain bars. Dylan and Caitlyn were so eager to explore that we could not keep them still long enough to eat more than a bite or two before they were dashing off again!
Finally, after packing up the remains of our meal, we headed off down the trail to further investigate our gorgeous surroundings. We found several lizards lazily sunning themselves on large boulders, and thought their camouflage quite clever.
Despite the heavy rains we've been regularly receiving this past week, there were not as many wildflowers in bloom as we had hoped to see...although the ones we did come across were quite striking.
It was a tad too warm for a lengthy hike, but we all agreed that our leisurely walk was just as fun. Actually, a high point for the kids came as we were driving home, when we passed a few cows resting under the shade of some trees along the side of the road. We pulled over for a minute to allow them a better look, and the chorus of giggles erupting from the backseat as the cows bid us farewell with a twitch of their tails was the sweetest sound in the world.
And I was pleased to encounter the only butterfly we saw today as we approached the highway on our way out of Aguirre Springs. (My dear, indulgent husband even let me climb out of the van for a quick picture!)

We talked and laughed the entire way home, and, since none of the kids had what could reasonably be considered a nap, they are all now asleep and Darren and I are busy making plans about what fun we might want to have tomorrow. We're considering driving out to Lake Roberts and the Gila National Forest, so the alarm is set and I, for one, am looking forward to another incredible day!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

All in a day's work

I couldn't help noticing recently several discussions regarding hired help in the home. I was at once reminded of the years I spent in college cleaning houses, when the flexible schedule it offered (not to mention great pay) just couldn't be beat. I really did enjoy my work, and developed warm relationships with each of my employers, but resolved that I would never hire anyone to clean my own home once it was established. (I was still living with my parents when I first began cleaning houses, and continued even after Darren and I were married.)

But fast forward several years, and I'll be the first to admit that my housekeeping skills are not exactly my forte. (Much like the proverbial plumber, I suppose, whose own faucets leak.) So reading through these posts and accompanying comments, I may have been tempted for just a moment or two to reconsider my position, maybe play with our budget a little, maybe even consider the possibility of inquiring into an occasional cleaning service.

Today, though, it occurred to me that I've already got the sweetest and most eager assistant that anyone could ever hope to find. She's free, too! And absolutely precious. Just look at all my Mother's Little Helper can do!

She vacuums...

and cooks...

and does the dishes...

she even folds the laundry!

(That is, until my exhausting demands completely wear her out.)

Oh, how I love my girl. Everyone should be so blessed with such wonderful "help"!

Princess Crafts

We were browsing through Barnes & Noble several nights ago, in search of a few things I was interested in as part of our Kindergarten curriculum for the fall. I found much of what I was hoping to find, and then made my way to the bargain books table. There I added to my stack two new Look and Find books for Dylan and a cute glow in the dark butterfly board book for Meghan, but I wasn't having much luck finding anything specifically for Caitlyn. And then, I saw it: the perfect book.

This book was meant for my girls and me; it practically leapt off the shelf into my outstretched hands! My Princess Craft book is a real gem, fun and bright and packed with things to do and make. Spiral bound for ease of use (I really love that feature!), it includes simple step-by-step instructions for over twenty crafts (and even simple snacks), all the necessary patterns and templates, and two pages of gold stickers for embellishing finished products. I brought it home and gazed longingly at it over the next few days, but was too busy to devote any amount of time to any projects with Caitlyn. Yesterday, though, was the kind of day that just begs for some fun, indoor activity. Dark and rainy, and with chores finished early, a restlessness permeated the entire house. I put Meghan down for a nap and then brought out at least half of the craft supplies I keep stocked in our hall closet. Caitlyn was so excited! We looked through her book together and decided on a cute "Pop-up Princess". Even Dylan was happy to sit up on a bar stool to help, and, though I did have to offer quite a bit of assistance, Caitlyn was very proud of her finished product.

Judging by a quick glance out the window this morning, it appears that today is another dreary shade of gray. I wonder what new, colorful craft we might find later to brighten things up?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Miss Potter

Rent it.

Watch it.

Love it.

Darren and I viewed this charming movie last Saturday night and we both enjoyed it so much that we hated to see it end! Really, I just cannot say enough good things about this excellent portrayal of the life and work of the lovely Miss Beatrix Potter. Elizabeth has written a beautiful review, complete with many splendid links and ideas for further enjoyment. I've bookmarked several and can't wait to explore them with my kids!

Bird on a wire

(Viewed through my patio door this morning.)

Monday, July 09, 2007

A day in the life of our (not yet officially) homeschooling family

We were making our way to the kitchen for breakfast this morning when I stopped the kids in the living room, saying, "Oh, guys, look at what's hanging onto the outside of our screen!" There, in the large window to the patio, was a huge hawk moth (more specifically, a White Lined Sphinx), who we had identified a while back as a caterpillar but had yet to see as an adult. How exciting! I took Dylan out with me to get a closer look, while the girls stayed inside and watched from the dining room bay window. I was actually a little nervous about getting close enough for a picture...these things are so big!

After finishing our morning chores, Dylan asked to play his San Diego Zoo Animal Explorer game on the ZOOOOS system he received from his uncle last Christmas. I was amazed to see how much he knew and remembered about the different animals and insects he selected! While he was busy learning fascinating animal facts, my girls were industriously sorting and lacing brightly colored wooden beads. A little while later, Dylan came into the kitchen and asked me if he could make his very own animal book and, since I was putting away the bags of school supplies we had just purchased yesterday at Staples one cent sale, I let him have one of the two Picture Story Primary Tablets I had also bought. He was so happy to sit at the table in our new homeschool room, drawing a prairie dog for the first page of his story, and coloring it with the new colored pencils we had also picked up at Staples. He had no trouble coming up with the first sentence on his own, but then was unsure about what else to write. So, we pulled out one of his favorite books and looked up prairie dogs, finding an accompanying caption that was perfect for copying into the lined space below his illustration.

To keep the girls occupied, I sat with them on the floor, making puzzles and playing with alphabet blocks. After lunch, he wanted to make a poster with the large pad of paper we...of course...also bought yesterday. So he got out one of his map place mats to use as a guide and set to work drawing his own map at the table.

I let my girls play for a while, too, before putting Meghan down for her nap. I spent the rest of the afternoon tidying up the house, and when Darren got home, I was able to go out and photograph a few new plants and one new butterfly! The Crepe Myrtle outside my kids' bedroom window is (yay!) finally blooming, my miniature roses have put on a few new flowers, a beautiful new lily opened just a few days ago in the bed along our front walk, and, a new little skipper came to visit! (I think it must be a Sachem.)

We went out to eat at Cracker Barrel tonight, and all three of my children were so well behaved that I barely recognized them as my own! (Okay, that's not actually fair...they really are usually pretty good but tonight they were exceptionally pleasant!) In the van on the way home, Dylan read, out loud for all of us, Thomas and the Magic Railroad: Little Engines can do BIG things. Although I did have to occasionally help him sound out a few words, Darren and I kept looking at each other in amazement at all the big words he did read without any help from either of us. I am so proud of him!

As I tucked all three of my kids into bed tonight, it was with a sense of wonder and amazement at all the learning we accomplished in the context of play today. It has made me so excited about the official beginning of our homeschooling adventure. It reminded me that play is okay...learning will happen no matter how structured our learning environment is (or isn't). Today was awesome. I can't wait to see what tomorrow has in store for us!