Saturday, July 27, 2013

The call of the wild woods

We are finishing up our first week at Moosehead Lake, ME.  There is something magical about this place.  Something that calls you and keeps pulling you back year after year, despite the long hours of packing and the 12 hour drive.  When you meet someone who has been there it's like you have met long lost family.  "You have been to Moosehead?", you ask.  "How did you ever find it?!"  It is like this hidden treasure and you wonder how no one else knows about it.

The day before we left PA it was 95 degrees and humid.  The air was a thick heavy blanket that pressed you on all sides the moment you stepped outside.  When we arrived here on the lake the next day it was 72 degrees with a breeze off the lake that blew all memories of that past life far away to something like a dream. That alone would be worth the drive.  But oh no, Moosehead has more to offer than that.  A nearly empty lake on which to kayak, canoe and swim, endless mountains to hike, oodles of time to read great books, the freshest balsam scented air from the millions of trees that carpet the landscape like moss, wild blueberries that you can pick to your heart's content, and quiet stillness.  Moosehead selflessly gives, and you receive rest for your soul.

And we still get one more week here.  It's almost too good to be true.  How lovely to have the most pressing thing on your mind being, what mountain should we hike next?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Desperate times...

You know it's hot when your kitty climbs your screen door, peering anxiously in, begging to be let inside.   We found this kitten a couple weeks ago wandering around our church one morning when we were there for an art class.  As I stood there wondering where she came from  she kept winding her way around our legs and looking so lonely.  The kids begged and begged to keep her, so I asked the ladies in the office if they knew anything about her.  Of course they didn't, but they said people will often drop off their kittens in the area when they can't get rid of them.   I figured that must have been what happened, since she seems too friendly to be a total stray.

So, reluctantly, I brought her home.  I really had the intention of taking her to the S.P.C.A. unless I could find a free or very low cost way to spay her.  When we moved in here there were no less than 17 barn cats and they were all inbred and completely feral.  We ended up trapping them and taking them to the S.P.C.A. and found a place to spay 2-3 semi-tame ones that we decided to keep, to help keep the rat and mouse population in check. 

Well there doesn't seem to be any place that will spay and neuter for free any longer, but the longer Bitty stays around the more she is growing on me.  She has already caught two mice, bringing them to the front door to show off her skills to us as if trying to prove her worth to get her permanent resident card. 

I guess if she is still her after we come back from vacation I will have to shell out the $50 to get her spayed.  The justification in my mind being that I am paying for rodent removal and the prevention of a lot of headache dealing with millions and millions of cats in the near future.

Bitty's not the only one who is desperately hot.  The filter is broken on Christian's parents' pool and staying inside all day is not an option.  So Claire's baby pool and a plastic tub is better than nothing, especially when it is filled with fresh well water.  Brrrr!!!

Silly kids!  To tell you the truth, if I would fit I would be right in there with them.  Sitting there dripping with sweat watching them cool off isn't the most fun. 

It could be worse.  I'm glad I don't have Christian's job.  The poor guy said it was so hot he had to wring his sweaty shirt out three times one day!  Yuck!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Children and Poetry

Our kids love poetry.  I have been reading it to them since they were wee babies.  Our favorite first book of poetry was A Small Child's Book of Cozy Poems.  I can now recite nearly all of the poems in that book from memory, having read them so often.  Another well-loved compilation is  Favorite Poems Old and New.   The kids also beg for the poems of A.A. Milne in When We Were Very Young, and Now We are Six.  I keep these two in our morning time area, and when we are done reading our other poetry they will often grab them, push them in my face and say, "can you please just read one?"  Of course we are a bit partial to British authors and British wit, so you may not share our fondness.  It's a bit of an acquired taste, although very much worth acquiring.

For "morning time" I follow the Ambleside rotation of poets to make sure I don't miss anything good and to keep us focused.  I also like spending 12-weeks per poet because it really helps us learn that poet's particular style and learn to recognize it when we hear it later.    Whenever possible I will try to get the Poetry For Young People collection of our term's poet.  I like the layout and pictures in these books and the kids enjoy reading from them themselves.  They aren't monstrous anthologies and you don't have to sift through to find selections that would appeal to children.

We always read our poetry out-loud and all together.  Of course they all will end up hearing Emily Dickinson five times, but that's ok.  There's nothing wrong with memorizing "Bee! I'm expecting you! from hearing it so many times.

While we are not on our regular school time poetry reading schedule in the summer, we do still enjoy poetry in the form of some new favorite videos.  Yes, I did say videos.  But you know that if I am recommending movies for educational purposes that they have to be good.  I stumbled across these Classical Baby movies recently and fell in love.  They are slow, calming, have beautiful music and really capture the kid's attention without being silly and crazy.   Our favorite's are the poetry DVD and the DVD for older children entitled A Child's Garden of Poetry.  We all like watching these, even Claire, and I think they are lovely for a hot summer afternoon when it is just to stifling to play outside.

Here are a few clips to check out if you would like.  These clips don't show it, but in between is poem is a short vignette with young children talking about poetry and why they like it.  They are absolutely priceless and completely adorable!

I hope you will consider adding poetry to your days as well if you don't already!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

In which twice nineteen doesn't matter a bit.

"Christopher Robin came down from the Forest to the bridge, feeling all sunny and careless, and just as if twice nineteen didn't matter a bit, as it didn't on such a happy afternoon, and he thought that if he stood on the bottom rail of the bridge, and leant over, and watched the river slipping slowly away beneath him, then he would suddenly know everything that there was to be known, and he would be able to tell Pooh, who wasn't quite sure about some of it.  But when he got to the bridge and saw all the animals there, then he knew that it wasn't that kind of afternoon, but the other kind, when you wanted to do something."                                ~A.A. Milne in The House and Pooh Corner
 I had all these big plans for this summer in regards to continuing math and Latin and various other "schoolish" books, but when there are nests to discover, trees to climb, praying mantises to examine, magic shows to perform, experiments to do and babies to play with, "twice nineteen" just sort of gets in the way. 

Naomi saved up her chore money for a long time to buy this magic kit, and had a lot of fun putting on a magic show for us and the relatives on the 4th of July.  She had us in stitches as you may be able to guess by this wild outfit she came up with.

The kids also had fun performing an experiment that we read about in The Wonder Book of Chemistry.  I don't really enjoy gathering supplies for science experiments, but the kids were so eager to try this one after reading the book that I had to oblige.  Especially after they spent a good hour gathering iron shavings off the barn floor where Christian sharpens the chain saws.

The experiment didn't go exactly as expected, but it was still fun to try to separate sulfer from iron out of water with a large magnet.

Grace and Aiden also participated in Colonial Camp at the Peter Wentz Farmstead a couple weeks ago.  This program was highly recommended to us by several people, and they did have a fabulous time.  It was extremely well done and inspiring for them.  You know when your kids come home begging for a mortal and pestle so they can grind your spices that it was a success!

Since it was a drop off program (sniff sniff) I didn't get any pictures except from the vendue (pa dutch auction) on the last day.  The kids got to bid in a real auction with fake money that they had earned throughout the week.  The auctioneer was a riot.  Anyone who wears a Garfield shirt has got to be a character, right?!

And then of course there is the typical summer bug spottings.  We have been seeing a plethora of praying mantises around here.  I think it is because Christian is constantly bringing home egg cases whenever he finds them.

And lastly, the three oldest have been listening to a ton of audio books on their MP3 players.   I download the books from either Librivox or our library's website for free.  Summer reading is a little lighter around here, although we do still slip in a classic or two for evening readings.

So even though twice nineteen doesn't seem to matter a bit around here these days, learning is still going on and there is plenty of time for the kids if they find it is the kind of afternoon when they want to do something.
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