Wednesday, December 31, 2008

looking back

Enjoy some photos my parents took of us celebrating Christmas with them this past weekend, while I wax nostalgic about the waning year:

(The Map Man and Zoo Boy clowning around.)

Last year as 2007 ground to a close, I reviewed the five goals I'd listed at the previous change of years, and commented on how I'd met those goals (or not). That little end-of-year ritual worked well for me, so I'm going to do it again.

Here were the five goals I listed for 2008:

1. Sustainability for our Homestead
2. Jump-start my kids' Arts Curriculum
3. Do something with our horses
4. Cook
5. Control my computer habit

I'll take a look at them one at a time:

(The boys and my mom check out one of her gifts)

Sustainability: Well, we didn't plant a garden, as I had hoped to, although we DID come up with a doable plan for 2009 -- after trying our hand at raising a pig (and reaping the benefits of all that home-grown pork!) we discovered that the pig pen would make the perfect planting grounds for a variety of edibles. So the plan is to time the butchering of our two current pigs to coincide with planting season. We did manage to produce our own eggs, lamb, and pork. And we ate as much of our purchased foods from local/organic sources as possible. So although that doesn't do all that much for our own sustainability, we're helping out other local farmers with theirs, so that's SOMETHING, anyway. We also added a few wool sheep back into the flock, for their fiber-producing ability, so in the spring we'll have our own wool again after a half dozen years without.

(Zoo Boy, in a thoughtful moment.)

Arts Curriculum: We did it!! We've been drawing and painting and crafting and creating and performing. So I can feel confident in putting a great big check mark in front of this one!

Horses: Unlike the above check-mark, I made no head-way whatsoever with this goal. Both Butterscotch and Annie gave occasional pony rides this year, and I even got up on Annie a couple of times for a ride around the pasture, but for the most part the horses just ate a lot of food and were very attractive pasture ornaments. Maybe I'll list this one again on my goals for 2009. (Check back in a few days to see!) However, Annie DID go from a somewhat unthrifty looking crossbred horse to a stunning picture of health, who has been proclaimed by folks in the know as a purebred Morgan. So I suppose THAT is something, isn't it? And of course, we lost our dear Lacy this year, which took a bit of the wind out of my equine sails for a good chunk of the year.

(J watching his cousin perform magic tricks.)

Cooking: Ahem. Well, I made more progress with this than with the horses, but I certainly wouldn't declare myself a raging success. The past few months I made a commitment to provide more homemade snacks for the kids, so there's been some regular baking these days -- pumpkin muffins and cinnamon bread, along with home-baked cookies, have replaced chips and store-bought crackers as snacks. And I've been preparing pastry pockets with various meats in them for The Map Man to take for lunches rather than his standard Peanut Butter Sandwich fare. But I've still got a long ways to go in the meal-preparation department (although I DID cook a ham dinner for my entire family this fall). What can I say, I'm a work in progress. But the kids (especially Zoo Boy) really do enjoy cooking, so I do see more of this sort of thing on our horizon, so it's a goal that is only just now gaining a head of steam.

(Me and my Sis, hiding our double-chins from the camera!)

Computer: I was ready to declare complete defeat on this one, but in looking back at my original list, I realized that I am no longer visiting any of those time-consuming web-sites that I listed as examples of ways I waste time on-line. I still spend plenty of time on the computer. However, it's spent corresponding with real people rather than playing games, and reading the blogs of other Enki Homeschoolers, where I receive inspiration and motivation, and glean cool ideas for use in our own program. So while my quantity of time hasn't changed much, the quality has seen a vast improvement.

Now to put a bit of thought into my goals for the coming year. And to enjoy the last few moments of 2008 with my wonderful family!

Friday, December 26, 2008

a few of my favorite things

While the kids work on constructing one of their favorite things from this Christmas (Playmobil castle/knights set), I thought as a tribute to one of my all-time favorite movies (also a seasonal favorite world wide!), I would share a few of my favorite things:

One of my favorite holiday treats: Gingerbread cookies. Yummy!

My new favorite seasonal decoration, this amazing horse-drawn sleigh being driven by a sheep, pig, and chicken -- all of our farm animals in one decoration!! (Thanks so much, Christine, I just LOVE it!!!!) The inscription on the side reads "It's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with ewe". Cracks me up every time.... (what can I say, sheep jokes are my favorite!).

My favorite thing that we gave as gifts this year -- ornaments that the kids made. They painted heavy watercolor paper, cut it out, punched holes in it, and strung a piece of yarn through. Simple, and really neat looking, I think.

My favorite gift-to-wear, these spectacular earrings made by my talented friend Penney. You too can own spectacular jewelry made by Penney by visiting her Etsy shop, Zen Paw Creations. Makes great gifts! (Especially if you're looking for a gift for me!) I own other jewelry from Zen Paw, just ask and I'll be happy to model for you.

My favorite gift that the kids received, a Mancala game. Yea, Santa, good job!! The Map Man and I have been hogging it. For now it's not causing any strife, as the kids are still busy building their fortress of Playmobil, but we fear they will eventually try to reclaim it....

My favorite gift, possibly of all time! The Map Man formatted and printed out my entire Jacob's Journey blog. I can't even begin to imagine how much time this took him, as I attempted doing this once before myself and quit after formatting just half a month. I am totally blown away that he put this much effort into a gift for me. He's going to have it bound for me too. He earned some MAJOR brownie points, and can basically do no wrong in my eyes, at least for the time being.
Which brings me to a question that perhaps someone out there amongst my readership might know the answer to -- is there a company that prints and binds blogs? I would love to do that yearly with this blog, as a bound record of our homeschooling activities, a real scrapbook as well as a virtual one. If nobody does that, I think there's an opportunity for someone to make a bunch of money....I mean, I can't be the only one who likes to see her work in writing, right?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

a very merry

What awaited us in the living room this morning. Looks like the jolly fat man did his job!

J, in the process of assembling his favorite gift, the Lego Agents set he asked Santa for. Note all the presents still in the background -- my kids like to take their time with the gifts, thoroughly examining (and sometimes building and playing with) each gift as they come to it before feeling ready open another. (In fact, Zoo Boy discovered a pack of Pokemon cards in his stocking and insisted on reading all of them before even thinking about opening any gifts.) It makes for a really nice, relaxed day -- so long as we don't have to go anywhere else. This year, as is typical for us, we did not, spending a quiet day here at home by the fire instead.

Zoo Boy and his favorite gift, the Monkey Magnet set he asked Santa for. (Monkey Magnets are basically magnetic tangrams). Santa also brought him another Ugly Doll (remember Zoo Bat from last year?) that he decided last minute that he HAD to have -- this one is "Ugly Worm" and is a green worm with one eye. A bit taken aback, J asked "You like something that only has one eye?" Zoo Boy hugged his beloved creature to him and said "Of course! He's mine, and I love him. It doesn't matter at all to me that he only has one eye!"

The boys play with the Playmobil castle/knights set that Santa brought for them. I had really been hoping to get them a lovely heirloom quality wooden castle play set, but finances being what they are this year, we had to make due with plastic. Truly, it's a nice set and the kids could care less that it's not what I had in mind. All they know is that there's hours of fun to be had storming the castle, slaying the dragon, and protecting the treasure.

And what Christmas would be complete without a visit from Tom "Santa" Brady? (Again, this sort of thing only shows up here to make my friend Christine laugh, so if you don't "get" it, don't worry! Merry Christmas, Christine!!)

My fervent wish is that all of my friends, family and various random readers have experienced as much peace, joy, and love as we have today. Our gifts were a bit on the light side this year, but were given with as much thought and love and meaning as any token of affection anywhere.

A very merry holiday to you all!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


T'was the night before Christmas, and all through the house,

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

The stocking were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugar plums dance through their heads....

season's greetings

From our family to yours, a very merry holiday! Maybe one of these days I'll get around to actually mailing these cards. But don't hold your breath....

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

bright nights

My mom and I took the kids to see a commercial lights display last night, here's some photo from our trip. Funny how hard it is to get pictures of something with so much light! (Of course, the fact that I took these all with my phone might explain some of it....). Anyway, it's enough to get an idea of what we were oohing and aahing at last night:

Monday, December 22, 2008

tree decorating

yuletide greetings

We celebrated the Return of the Light, our Yule celebration, yesterday. We put up the tree the kids and The Map Man brought home on Saturday and decorated it with edible ornaments (I'll post pictures soon), which will remain with the tree when we move it outdoors for the birds to enjoy next weekend. (We'll add other edibles for the birds at that time too, and we still need to make gingerbread cookies to add now -- we had a slight butter problem so couldn't do the cookies today as planned.) We also created and decorated this festive gingerbread tree.

The most important job of the day was decorating our Yule log. Here Zoo Boy adds some greenery (trimmed from our tree).

J helps The Map Man add some fresh fruit -- cranberries and kumquats -- to our log.

Our finished Yule log in the fireplace, waiting to be lit. We ate our holiday feast picnic-style in front of the fire.

After dinner the boys discovered gifts in the tree. "Who put the gifts in the tree, Mommy?" both boys asked. I shrugged my shoulders. "I dunno, who do you think?" Zoo Boy guessed that they were there along and they just missed seeing them when they picked the tree out. J didn't believe that, but didn't offer his own guess. We each got a woodland animal finger puppet -- J got a raccoon, Zoo Boy got a fox, The Map Man got a skunk, and I got a porcupine. The kids spent the rest of the evening playing with the puppets in and around the tree, and enjoying the warmth of our Yule log, and our family.

What a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

the Long Night

solstice preparations

In preparation for our observance of the Long Night, we made some upgrades to our Solstice Lanterns from last year. We added yellow, to represent the light, to our blue and purple based lanterns. (These lanterns are simple glass jars decorated with tissue paper held on by Modge Podge.)

Then we rolled beeswax candles to light our lanterns. Here's Zoo Boy's candle prior to trimming the wick and cutting the candle down to size to fit his lantern.

J trims the wick on his candle, while The Map Man works on rolling his in the background.

Meanwhile, I rolled and decorated our "sun candle", the first candle to be lit in our ceremony. I used the verse from "Mid-Winter Journey" as the inspiration in my design -- the candle is white (like starlight on the snow), it is ringed with budding greed plants (like the life that waits again to grow), and there is a red heart (that guides the way we go). And of course, a sun.

mid-winter journey

White, white, the stillness
Of starlight on the snow.

Green, green, the flowering life
That waits again to grow.

Red, red, the tender heart
That guides the way we go
Under the starlight and over the snow.

-from "Mid-winter Journey", Enki Education Kindergarten Nature Story

This week we read the 3-part nature story "Mid-Winter Journey", about a boy's quest to save a huge evergreen tree. We read it over the course of 3 days, and created a wool board story as our creative digestion activity.
We started by wet-felting green dyed wool batts. We laid the batt in a cookie sheet, put the cookie sheet in the tub, covered with soapy hot water, then agitated the wool until it felted. (The cookie sheet helped it stay together while we were agitating it.)

Then we rinsed out the felt and let it dry. J's felt is on the left, Zoo Boy's on the right. Zoo Boy didn't want to touch the wet wool, so he used the bottom of a cup to agitate the wool. I helped him with it as well, but in the end J's wool felted more evenly due to his extra attention to it.

Then the boys cut the felt into the shape of evergreen trees and arranged them on the wool board.

Our finished wool board picture -- in addition to the evergreen forest (the large tree in the center is the one the boy strove to save), there is the scarlet bird and the bear that the boy stopped to save, and the cabin where the old woodcutter he helped brought him.