Moss and Ferns, Redux

Well, this blog might just turn into a journal of our weekly nature walks. That’s ok with me.  IMG_8582

We noticed the first tree leaf buds this week and entered in our Book of Firsts. They were extremely difficult to photograph, as they were backlit and I didn’t have a macro lens, but hopefully you can see them!IMG_8583

I couldn’t get over how many different organisms grew on the tree bark. I must have taken 50 photos of close-up tree bark.IMG_8594 IMG_8600

I adore these tiny ferns. This was just an inch long. IMG_8605

This is what I drew in my nature notebook this week.IMG_8607 IMG_8609 IMG_8610

Funny furry moss.IMG_8615 IMG_8621

Our #elsieselfie of the week.IMG_8631 IMG_8637

Strange black fungi on the tree. IMG_8640

Three out of four monkeys. IMG_8650

I really enjoy taking my camera along. Usually I have not taken it because I felt it would make me distracted and not present. On the contrary, I think it helps me pay closer attention to all the small beautiful details around me. I was coveting a macro lens this week! So many cute little ferns, raindrops, and teensy lichens!

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In Which I Take Many Photos of Moss and Ferns

Our Friday nature walks are always the highlight of my week. And I admit, it is hard to get four kids six and under out the door with proper warm clothing, hats/mittens/boots/etc, snacks, water, diapers…the list goes on. Everyone properly fed beforehand. Everyone to the potty. Getting myself properly attired. Four car seats. Wrapping the baby properly for a long walk. I carry a lot of stuff, including a baby. But I never, ever regret it, and usually, at the end of a long week, it’s what reminds me of why we homeschool in the first place, and helps me be excited for another week of learning with my kids. I think maybe my greatest achievement in our home education (maybe along with their love of books read aloud) is how this has become part of our family culture. They’ve spent time in the beautiful Oregon forests for as long as they can remember. They love it. They notice everything. They love ferns and moss and mushrooms as much as I do. And no matter how many failures I make throughout the rest of the week, I hold on to this little achievement.

I was also thinking today that each of these walks, even though we usually go to the same place every week, is unrepeatable. The kids will never be the same as they are this week, and the forest will never be the same as it is this week. Today was a beautiful combination of a recent rainstorm and a sun break. It was dripping wet, very muddy, and the sun made it all sparkle like diamonds. Today I brought my camera, which I don’t often do, and I love how having it helps me notice all the beautiful little details. That mostly translates into “I took way too many photos of moss, licorice ferns, and rain drops.”


There is some sort of nest at the head of the trail. We don’t know what kind. Do squirrels make nests like this?


Sophia is very proud of herself whenever she stands on top of anything. Even a three inch stump.



I have a serious Thing for licorice ferns.


Every time we go on an outing I try and take a photo of Elisabeth on my front to prove she was there too, with varying results. Selfies with a big DSLR are tricky.



Running back to me because she fell in the mud. Again. 🙂


Right at this little arch the forest changes dramatically to the Big Fir forest.


One of Miriam’s favorite fairy castles.

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Yarn Along: In Threes

Well, hello there. I haven’t been in this space in almost a year. One of my dear children spilled beer on my computer and it’s been out of commission until just yesterday! I’m so happy to not be operating on only an iPad anymore. A lot has happened in a year, mostly because we added a sweet new baby girl to our family! I posted a little announcement and some of our favorite photos of her in the previous post here.


I hope to finish this little In Threes for Sophia tonight. I recently went to the NW Charlotte Mason Educator’s conference and bought this book to read beforehand, but cut it too close so I’m reading it now. Lovely, inspiring book. A favorite quote: after dwelling in depth on the history of the world’s greatest minds keeping notebooks of all sorts, Bestvater tells us that:

Charlotte Mason, under her usual banner, takes what is set aside for the enlightened and scholarly and offers it to children, “the least of these.”

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Elisabeth Eleni

On June 11th, we welcomed our fourthborn little sweetheart and third girl, Elisabeth Eleni. She was intended to be nicknamed Elsa, but so far Elsie is more common (probably to go with Miri and Sophie). She is a cheerful, sweet, darling little girl who loves to cuddle and we are all in love with her.

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Winter, but Mostly the Cute Toddler Being Cute

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Please let me go outside, Mama? Please?IMG_5949 IMG_5953 IMG_5962 IMG_6021

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Christmas 2014

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Notice that there is one extra stocking? IMG_5739 IMG_5742 IMG_5745 IMG_5750 IMG_5760 IMG_5770 IMG_5774Since the big kids got their first bikes for Christmas, Sophia got this little Scuttle Bug. And a sippy cup. I think she was most excited about the sippy cup.


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Christmas breakfast. IMG_5787 IMG_5791

And Christmas dinner. IMG_5792 IMG_5793 IMG_5796

Day after Christmas at Softah’s (my grandmother) house on Vashon Island. All eleven great-grandchildren made it!IMG_5806

With cousin Isaiah. IMG_5808 IMG_5809

Getting a picture of Softah with all her “greats.”IMG_5813 IMG_5817

The papas getting the board games started. IMG_5821 IMG_5824 IMG_5825 IMG_5827

James with his Grampy.IMG_5829

And with his Auntie Rosie. IMG_5831 IMG_5832

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Pumpkin Time

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We went to the lovely Lakeview Farms today to search for pumpkins. It’s a great pumpkin farm – not too much like an amusement park, with just enough to make kids think it’s awesome. You take either a train or a boat out to the pumpkins, which both Miriam and Sophia were rather freaked out about (and I was freaked out by having three kids five and under on a boat by myself, so we took the train both ways), but we all managed. And I loved that there was nothing scary. Even the dark tunnel the train goes through is full of happy pumpkin people rather than skeletons and zombies, something friends tell me is a change from last year. Nice change, Lakeview! I approve.

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Morning Time

I go back and forth between wanting to post here every day and not feeling like I have anything to say or post about. I do like having this blog as a record of our days, though, so I’ll try and make more of an effort.


I have been meaning to post more about how our Kindergarten of Good Shepherd is going. For the most part, very well. We certainly don’t get to everything on the plan but I knew that would probably be the case. I prefer to over-plan and then let go of some of it. But what may be my favorite part of what we are doing is our Morning Time.

The first poem we memorized together is:

Little drops of water
Little grains of sand
Make the mighty ocean
And the beauteous land

Little deeds of kindness,
Little words of love,
Make our earth an Eden,
Like the heaven above

And the little moments,
Humble though they be,
Make the mighty ages.
Of eternity.

Mrs. J. A. Carney (1845)

I think about this poem a lot when it comes to our Morning Time. In fact, I got the idea for this being the first poem to memorize from the Morning Time guru herself, Cindy Rollins. It says something very true about what we do for Morning Time. Just a little bit, every morning, adds up to a lifetime of good literature, prayer, Scripture reading, Scripture memorization, hymns, Psalms, and the lives of saints. Nothing we do is very complicated. There is no grand plan. I keep myself from complicating it at all, even when I want to. Partially this is because of my children’s short attention spans. Partially this is because grand plans don’t ever last very long, and I want this to be for the long haul. And partially it is because I believe the Church can speak for herself through the Scriptures, hymns, and prayers, and I don’t need to insert myself into it.


Our mornings start with a read-aloud from our current chapter book. It eases us into the day. I have my coffee and the kids are still in PJs. It means I don’t have to start the day by getting sleepy kids to immediately stand in front of the icon corner and pay attention, and I don’t have to do anything more strenuous than sit on the couch, drink my coffee, wake up a little, and read out loud.


When we are done, I tell them it’s time for prayers. We light the candles and sometimes the incense and say morning prayers. They morning prayers in our prayer book are rather long, so I don’t do all of them, but sometimes try to add back in a few parts to see how they do. They are memorizing the prayers as we do this, and I can stop in many parts and let James take over. I am usually very surprised at how many parts he does have memorized. He started by just being in charge of the Lord’s Prayer, but then I noticed that if I stopped just about anywhere, including the Creed, he’d just keep going. s

When we were learning this hymn, James wrote down the first line and asked to put this in our memory box.

When we were learning this hymn, James wrote down the first line and asked to put this in our memory box.

We sing It is Truly Meet and then whatever hymn we are singing that week. I try to choose one new hymn each week, mostly according to a feast that week. We don’t memorize them in the same way we memorize Scripture, since they are tied to time. We just sing it once or twice a day for the week, then put it in the appropriate month in our memory box for when it comes around next year.


Then I read the saint or feast of the day from the Horologian, and sometimes also sing the hymn for the day.


Then we sit and read a section of Scripture. It is short, not a whole chapter, but a complete event or teaching. We are going through Luke. I like the idea of reading according to the lectionary, but again, I’m keeping it as simple as possible. Just read the next section. Sometimes we discuss it a little so I can make sure they understand what we read.

morning time

Then we get out our memory box again and go over our Scriptures. We use this Scripture memory system, so there are usually a few to review. We just read the current verse twice and the review verses once. At some point I start saying the verse with them and stop. When they can easily finish it themselves, it goes into review and we choose a new Scripture for the Daily tab. They are pretty quick memorizers. I think they did all of Psalm 23 in a week. They are definitely faster than me.

Then they blow out their candles and we go make breakfast!


I love that our prayer corner is just as much theirs as it is for the grownups. They have (mostly) learned to be careful and respectful of this space. It is their job to make sure the flower on the table (“Mary’s flower”) stays fresh, so when it wilts they go outside and choose another one. And sometimes I see that they have left another little gift of their own, like this tiny violet they left for the Good Shepherd.


We have large collection of icons that are not hung in the icon corner, and we switch them out on the little stand when their feast comes around.

corner  seraphim

As for Sophia, she usually sleeps through all this. When she doesn’t, she is often right here 🙂


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Christopher Hitchins on the King James Bible

This was an interesting post by the Circe Institute, on atheist Christopher Hitchen’s perspective on the King James Bible. I’ve been thinking about this lately as we’ve started reading from the Bible (as opposed to the children’s Bible) every morning and also starting memorizing Scripture. I have considered whether we should use the KJV for both for the reasons outlined in this post – cultural reference, familiarity with beautiful, poetic language, the timelessness. I have no theological attachment to the KJV, of course, but it is an educational (and spiritual, if you consider that education should rightly be the education of the soul) goal of ours to offer our children rich and poetic language. So far I have always been happy with the Bible I chose in college – the Revised Standard Version (the “Catholic” edition in order to have our full canon). It satisfies my requirements for both accuracy and language. But I may be a little inconsistent when it comes to memorization. I’ve already switched our memory card for Pslam 23 to the KJV after the first reading of it – it seemed almost vulgar in any version but the KJV that I learned myself. I think that also Philippians 4:8 – which I consider the guiding verse for our entire homeschooling venture – will be memorized in the KJV. And perhaps when the children are older I will make a point to spend a year or two doing our daily readings in the KJV so that it is familiar and they are able to understand the many references to it.

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Oregon Renaissance Faire

The second annual Oregon Renaissance Faire and our second annual trip! (See last year’s photos, with a cute, very tiny Sophia, here). Again, we managed to choose the hottest of hottest days (mid-90s) to hang out all day in the fairgrounds, but we still had a lot of fun! The players all get a big kick out of dressed up kids, and especially like treating “Sir James” like a true knight. IMG_4378

One player was trying to figure out if Miriam was a gypsy or a princess. We all settled on gypsy-princess.IMG_4399 IMG_4401

This guy was really great. He had a whole armory in his tent, including armor he had made himself. He showed us all the different weapons and how they are used differently, and then gave James a swordfighting lesson! James was an excellent fighter.IMG_4415IMG_4419

James blocking…IMG_4426

…and making the kill shot!IMG_4436 IMG_4437IMG_4440 IMG_4450At the forge watching the blacksmith work.
IMG_4470James was in need of a new sword since the old one is missing, and we decided Miriam needed one too in order to be a gypsy-warrior-princess.IMG_4476 IMG_4479Miriam eating a turkey leg the size of her head.IMG_4481 IMG_4484At the joust.IMG_4489 IMG_4492You know me and baby feet. Can’t help it.IMG_4497 IMG_4498Sir James and Lady Miriam at their first swordfight.IMG_4506 IMG_4509 IMG_4511You know, a Charlotte Mason curriculum includes learning folk songs. I made a case to Paul for doing a unit on drunken pirate songs. He remains unconvinced. IMG_4516The tavern owners daughter and Blackbeard’s daughter fighting it out at the human chess game.IMG_4548 IMG_4551And right before we left, Sir James and Lady Miriam were both knighted by the queen herself. James really wanted to know how the queen decided he should be made a knight. We told him the armorer he fought probably told the queen how brave he fought. James seemed satisfied by this answer.IMG_4562 IMG_4563After their portrait with the queen, both James and Miriam turned and bowed low, receiving applause and many exclamations of “Well done, young sir and lady!”

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