My Homemade Seasonal Planner: Time for another GIVEAWAY!

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Hello once again my friends, and Happy Thursday! πŸ˜Š

As you might guess from my post title, I have some exciting news to share today! In celebration of the new school year upon us, and in honor of my "INSPIRE" talk tomorrow with Mary Ellen Barrett and Homeschool Connections (@ 2:45 p.m. EST - sign up here!), I am ... drumroll please ... πŸ˜‰

GIVING AWAY ANOTHER HOMEMADE SEASONAL PLANNER!

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Now, I've done this before so many of you already know the drill ...

Please leave your name and a comment below if you are interested in winning a copy of my (homemade) 2018-2019 academic "seasonal planner." (And to learn more about the planner interior, please check out "My Homemade Planner" archive.)

On FRIDAY, AUGUST 24th I will randomly choose a name and announce a winner!

While I have you though, here's a peek at a weekly spread in my planner. (The weekly spreads are really the heart of this planner!) I'd like to give you all a better idea how I use these pages to plan out our seasonal homeschooling ...

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⭐️ 1.  OF NOTE: Here is where I list any events or activities "of note" for the week. For example, this might include birthdays, holidays, feast days, important appointments and social obligations.

⭐️ 2. THEME: I list our "seasonal homeschooling theme" in this space. (A list of all 52 can be found here.) This particular week shown here will be, "crows and corn."

⭐️ 3. MEAL PLANNING: That's pretty self-explanatory, I think! I use the bottom "notes" section for foods that tie in with the theme and season. (Example, fresh corn on the cob, corn bread, etc.)

⭐️ 4. HOME & GARDEN: Here is where I write down any extra housekeeping tasks and/or any home/garden projects we have going on. (Not our normal weekly housekeeping routine, but other things I'm/we're working on.) Currently we are tending and preserving our garden, organizing our son's supplies for college and cleaning the learning room, top to bottom!

⭐️ 5. QUOTE: Each weekly spread features a poem or quote that connects us with the season and in some cases, our weekly theme.

⭐️ 6. CRAFTS & COMFORTS: Here is where I list the ideas that support our weekly seasonal theme. For this particular week (September 3rd-9th) our theme will be "crows and corn." I will be listing things like "visit a cornfield," "corn from the farm stand," "listen for and observe local crows," "read "Raccoons and Ripe Corn." As it is also Labor Day on the 3rd, as well as our back-to-school week, I will list other "niceties" here like "make picalilli with Mum," "serve alphabet soup and gingerbread letter cookies," "make back to school gifts for the boys." (Important note: I do not ever fit all these things into one week! It's just fun to brainstorm possibilities, include what we can and save some things for next year!)

⭐️ 7. TO DO THIS WEEK: It is what it says it is! A place to list things I need to get done that are timely to this particular week.

⭐️ 8. WEEKLY RHYTHM: I use this space as an agenda - a place to write down our schedule (activities, appointments, etc.) - as well as for writing out "rhythm" activities. (For example, Monday is nature study day, Tuesday is for crafting, Wednesday for storytelling, etc.)

⭐️ 9. NOTES: I've been using this space for "free-form" lesson planning and record keeping - BUT - I just purchased an Erin Condren Teacher's Planner (!!!) because I think I might need something a little more detail-oriented for this coming year. I am not entirely sure yet how I will revamp this part of my planning page - I might use it for journaling and memory-keeping - but more to come on all of that!

Also, if you also notice, the colors I chose for the design of this spread are unique to September. Each month in my planner has its own color scheme and to my best ability is done with shades that reflect that particular time of the natural year. September's color scheme seen here, to my mind, evokes the changing landscape of late summer: the golden fields, the ripening rose hips and apples, the crisp blue skies and fading green leaves. β€

(Now see, this is why I was so compelled to make my own planner! I have very specific needs when it comes to "seasonal planning!")

So there's a fairly thorough tour of a weekly spread in my homemade seasonal planner. I will be sharing more posts about my planner - the set up, the system, and how I will be sharing my 2019 planning pages with you all sometime later this fall. 

Next month (after we've settled into the new school year) I will also share a "how to" video, walking you all through the steps for assembling your own planner (it's honestly not as hard as it looks!), should you want to make one for yourself.

(All my planner pages are available in my "Printables" archive. Dividers, covers, backing and binding is done separately and I will talk about all of that, too!)

Well my friends, I thank you for stopping by and I hope to hear from you if you have an interest in my homemade planner! I wish you luck if you enter the contest and I hope to hear from some of you tomorrow at the INSPIRE webinar! Mary Ellen will be taking questions as we chat so let me know what's on your mind!

Have a wonderful evening and see you here again very soon ... β€


Seasonal Homeschooling: Favorite Resources

Hello again my friends! Why yes ... this would indeed be the 2nd post from me to you in one day! Crazy, I know - but I have lots of things I want to share in regards to my talk for the Inspire Virtual Conference this Friday - sign up is FREE and open to all! So I'm trying to get as many posts up before my afternoon chat, "Seasonal Homeschooling: Cultivating a Gentle, Grateful Year." :)

(Oh, and for those who asked, I will be able to share a link post-webinar for those who can't join us on Friday ... so, yay!)

For this evening's post though, I'd like to share some of my favorite "go-to" resources when it comes to our seasonal homeschooling. I've had most of these books for many years - many are nature-based, some are Waldorf-inspired and several are geared toward Catholic tradition. ALL have been wonderful as I brainstorm ideas for exploring our themes for the year!

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All Year Round β€’ Festivals, Family and Food β€’ Making the Children's Year β€’ Naturally Fun Parties for Kids β€’ Findus, Food & Fun: Seasonal Crafts and Nature Activities β€’ A Child's Seasonal Treasury β€’ Usborne Book of the Seasons β€’ Mrs. Sharp's Traditions β€’ When the Moon is Full: A Lunar Year β€’ Be Blest β€’ Festivals with Children β€’ Storytelling with Children 
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The Butt'ry Shelf Almanac β€’ China Bayle's Book of Days β€’ Mary's Flowers: Gardens, Legends & Meditations β€’ Catholic Traditions in the Garden β€’ Holidays & Holy Nights β€’ A Book of Feasts and Seasons β€’ A Continual Feast β€’ Catholic Traditions in the Home and Classroom β€’ Earth Psalms: Reflections on How God Speaks through Nature β€’ All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings β€’ Earthways: Simple Environmental Activities for Young Children β€’ The Catholic Parent Book of Feasts β€’ The Big Book of Catholic Customs and Traditions

I have lots of other resources for seasonal planning, but these are the ones I tend to reach for most often. I'd love to hear about yours, too!

(Note - in full disclosure, as explained on my right-hand sidebar - I am a member of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you click though to Amazon from a link on this blog and make a purchase, I will receive a commission from Amazon. Thanks in advance if you click through my links!)
 
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Have a wonderful Thursday, my friends! More "seasonal planning" posts to come in the next day or so! And please let me know if you have any specific questions you'd like me to address in my talk!

Seasonal Homeschooling: A Few Printable PDFs!

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Hello my friends and Happy Wednesday!

I'm popping in again, just two days before the FREE "Inspire" Virtual Homeschooling Conference (mentioned in Monday's post), to share a few PDF's with you all that will assist with my talk on Seasonal Homeschooling: Cultivating a Gentle, Grateful Year. :)

First, here is a simple SEASONSKEEPING WORKBOOK (click on the link - it's a printable PDF!). In this packet you could brainstorm ideas for embracing the seasons of the year:

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There are two pages devoted to each season - one for listing monthly events and one for brainstorming ideas. (In my view, every two months make up a season - so I see the year as divided into six seasons rather than four.)

On the Events page you could list holidays, feast days, full moons, birthdays, anniversaries, sporting events (like the Superbowl or World Series), natural phenomena (such as meteor showers or lunar eclipses) ... really, anything goes! As for the Brainstorming page - well, it could look like a narrative ("Dear Deep Winter, here is what I love about you ...") or it could be filled with words that pop into your mind when you imagine that time of year. For example in the case of Deep Winter, those might be:

snow days β€’ warm mittens β€’ hot cocoa β€’ handmade valentines β€’ birds at the feeders β€’ ETC.

You could ask your family to participate in this activity! The seasons are meaningful to each of us in individual ways. If you're stumped for ideas and looking for inspiration, you might consult your own nature journal or personal diary if you have a habit of jotting down lots of seasonal details (as I do!) or you could thumb through favorite resources or you could even google it! (Pinterest is full of inspiration for the seasons of the year!)

Next, here is the SEASONAL THEMES planning outline I use in my homemade planner:

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You're welcome to use my outline for guidance, but I also have a BLANK version for you to use since you'll probably want to come up with your own themes and ideas. Seasonal themes really resonate when inspired by one's local habitat as well as fond family traditions.example, in a deep and snowy New England winter, exploring themes like "hearthside delights," "glass gardens" and stormy weather all make sense and bring joy - but February might look and feel very different where you live! And of course, each family enjoys its own seasonal pastimes. Maybe you all like to ski in the winter? Well, "hearthside delights" would work great! But what if you'd prefer to escape to the tropics? Well, how about a week devoted to exploring "winter citrus?"

Now, I personally like to break down the year into 52 weekly themes because this just works well with my kids and our homeschooling style. But that might seem like a bit much for some folks, so instead you could simplify things and choose 12 monthly themes for the year. Say, "the autumn orchard" in September," "planting time" in May, or "hibernation" in November.

Also on my outline you can see that I list pertinent monthly events below the themes (in green text) and I use little keys to signify in which week the full moon falls as well as when liturgical events tie into our seasonal theme. For example -

✝️ I connect St. Martin's Day (aka Martinmas) with the darkening days of late fall, and the need to light our own inner lights. (This also ties in with Daylight Savings Time ending on 11/4.)

✝️ I tie in the "sticks and stones" of the early December garden with St. Barbara's Day (and the traditional gathering of branches for Christmas bloom).

✝️ The week of the Annunciation is devoted to "sleepy seeds," and we not only plant our own spring hopes in a potting tray, but we make a sweet seed cake to serve on that feast day.

✝️ For St. George's Day we learn about "dragons of the wood" - aka spring salamanders! (Which were once thought to actually BE tiny dragons!)

The liturgical year has such a beautiful rhythm - a time for all things and a reassuring repetition - and I am often overjoyed to find how neatly it dovetails with the familiar framework of the natural year! Both calendars bring me much peace and by following them with my family, we are continually reminding ourselves of the many blessings to behold in any given year. The very gift of another 365 days on this earth is perhaps the best blessing of all - something to remember as the year turns and we take delight in another first snowfall, first crocus, first branch of fiery foliage, or first bat fluttering across a summer night sky ... :)

Ok, moving on now - here is a SEASONAL PLANNING SPREADSHEET, a new form I made up for myself this year:

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I'm sharing this two-page planning spread even though I realize it's quite personalized, re homeschooling subjects and all. For each theme I have a box in which to plan:

  • Events of Note
  • Nature Study
  • Outings/Field Trips
  • Creative Play
  • Reading ...
  • Verse to learn
  • Language Arts
  • Science/Math
  • Social Studies
  • Crafting
  • Home/Family (bringing everyone into it!)
  • Art/Music
  • Notes

This list represents the elements of our weekly rhythm - one day is for nature study, one day is for crafting, etc. This is the framework of our kindergarten at home - but at present we are still working out a few scheduling details for our new homeschooling year. I may be adjusting our weekly rhythm as September rolls around ...

Well my friends, I am running out of time, so in tomorrow's post I will share a few more things in preparation for Friday's talk. Please let me know if there are any points you'd like me to clarify or expand upon! I'm off for now, but as always, I thank you for joining me and will look forward to seeing you here again very soon ...

Blessings


Printable Planning Sheets! Plus, WEBINAR news!

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Hello my friends and Happy Monday! I am so excited to share a couple of super fun things with you all today!

First of all, I have some more seasonal planning sheets for you! These are for the remaining months of 2018, and I do hope you enjoy them! (Please let me know if you have any problems opening these PDFs, or if - heaven forbid - there are mistakes!)

September 2018 Planning Sheets

October 2018 Planning Sheets

November 2018 Planning Sheets

December 2018 Planning Sheets

(Please stay tuned for info on 2019 Planners this fall.)

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And now for more details on the webinar I mentioned earlier this month, and that exciting event is coming up THIS FRIDAY, AUGUST 17th!

Here's a link with all the info and a sign-up form:

Homeschool Connections: Inspire Virtual Conference 

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"This FREE online conference will provide you focus to ramp up your planning efforts while invigorating your outlook for the upcoming school year."

(Did I mention this webinar is FREE?!?)

My dear friend Mary Ellen Barrett will be interviewing five different folks on various homeschooling topics, and honestly I am more than a little overwhelmed by the amazing company I am in: Jennifer Mackintosh, Dave Palmer, Tony Agnesi, and Bonnie Landry! I feel truly honored and humbled to have been asked to join this panel of gifted and accomplished speakers!

Now, when you sign up for INSPIRE, you can choose which talks you wish to "attend" - they begin with Jennifer's at 10 a.m. and end with mine at 2:45 p.m. (eastern time). My talk is titled, "Seasonal Homeschooling: Cultivating a Gentle, Grateful Year," and not surprisingly, I'm still working out my notes! I do hope to have some helpful thoughts to share, a few favorite resources to show you ... and well, you just KNOW I will have a big cup of tea in my hand! :-)

Ok, so that's all for today, but I will have another post (maybe two!) to share this week as we get closer to Friday. I have some PDFs in mind to create and there MAY be a GIVEAWAY in the works!! So please stay tuned, and I will see you here again very soon!

Thanks so much for stopping by!

p.s. Top photo: Sunday office hours - it was a "big mug" kind of day!


August Plans & News!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Monday! I hope all is well with you all!:)

I'm popping in today to share my August 2018 planning sheets ... and to say I'm very sorry it's taken me so long to post them! The good news is - it's not QUITE August yet, lol! The better news is - I'll have September through December sheets to share with you within a week or so. :)

But more on my planner situation a little further below, first I thought I'd share a little about our seasonal themes for next month ...

Our August Seasonal Themes

7/30-8/5: bats at dusk

8/6-8/12: shooting stars

8/13-8/19: blueberries

8/20-8/26: seashells by the seashore

8/27-9/2: sunflowers

Here is a look at the "spreadsheet" I designed for planning out our weeks:

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It probably seems like a lot of information overload, but I find it very helpful to see all these variables in one place - though I feel compelled to add, we won't get ALL these ideas done! These are all possibilities ... :)

I get asked about my seasonal homeschooling quite often, and so here's a peek at my list of weekly themes:

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I'm also frequently asked about the themes themselves - do I repeat them from year to year?

Well the answer to that question is yes - mostly. Because for one thing, we almost never explore a theme to the depth it might be explored (and some particularly busy weeks we miss out entirely) but also, the point of this rhythm is to nurture a fond familiarity with the nuances of each season, as well as a sense of happy anticipation throughout the year.

I do change things up sometimes though - for instance, this week we are doing "bats at dusk" but it could have been "first grains" to go along with Lammas Day. Though they won't be our focus, we will be exploring grains a bit - reading The Little Red Hen, baking corn muffins and observing this lovely poster, a gift from a friend:

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Meanwhile, just across the learning room, on display are the books we're using this week:

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Now, why bats you might ask? Well, at this time of year we spend most evenings watching tiny bats swoop over our yard! (And I know that because of the nature notes I keep from year to year, reminding me what to look for when.) Bat-watching has become something of a sweet, simple ritual - sitting on the front steps after supper, watching those tiny dark forms flit about the lavender sky, noticing the warm air and the lingering light ...

It's a fun and interesting activity to be certain, but more than that, this happy pastime reminds the whole family to slow down, pay attention, share in the blessings of each season, and TAKE JOY in the time we've been granted!

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OK, at long last, here in the nick of time are my:

August 2018 Planner Pages !!!

Yep, that's just ONE PDF for the whole month! I finally figured out how to create multi-page PDFs and that makes it so much easier to print out the planning sheets! Please let me know if you have any trouble opening this file - and I hope you enjoy! (I've changed this just a bit ...)

As I said above, I will have the rest of my 2018 planning sheets available to print with the next week. As for my 2019 planner ...

Well, I am trying my best to get that organized, too - and to figure out if this is something I might sell (!) or continue to share here as I've done the past couple of years. The good news is, I have about half the year done already ... so it shouldn't be too long before I have something to share with you.

Ok, and finally - here's some really fun news! On August 17th I will be taking part in a "Homeschool Connections" webinar hosted by Mary Ellen Barrett! I'll share more details in the next couple of weeks, but wanted to let you all know that I'll be talking about my homemade planner, my seasonal themes and kindergarten plans for the year ahead ... plus a few other things, depending upon what questions are asked!

So please stay tuned and thanks so much for your patience ... and as always, for stopping by! I hope you all enjoy these last few days of July ... :)

I will see you here again very soon!


This, That and A Few Million Other Things ...

Hello my friends, and Happy July! πŸŽ† I hope your new month is off to a great start!

I'm popping in today to wish you all well and share a little bit of our past few weeks. Now, here's your fair warning - this is a very BIG post with a LOT of pictures and a few (ok, a lot) of notes. I feel like too much time and too many events are passing and I hardly ever get to pop in here and say hi and share with you all what's going on with my family. And that's always been the heart of my blog, really - sharing our days and the big and little moments for which we are so grateful. πŸ’›

Back in my blogging heyday (say, mid to late 2000s) I was blogging ALL the time and pretty much "reporting in" every day! Well, time is not as flexible for me these days, though I refuse to say my energy is not what it once was - ahem! But anyhoo, enough of my babbling, here is a look at some of the things we got up to last month! It was quite a fun and busy June!

First we start with this ...

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Our Crackerjack GRADUATED!!!

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On Saturday, June 16th, our second son, Crackerjack (this boy!) officially finished his homeschooling journey. (Please excuse me while I sob for a moment.)

Now, not all homeschoolers have a graduation ceremony when they are done with their high schooling, but we were very grateful to be part of a beautiful one. For many years we've been members of a wonderful homeschooling organization, a place that offers small classes for middle and high school-age homeschoolers. Crackerjack took classes here for seven years - Art, Spanish and, just this past year, Karate. We will miss this community so much now that we no longer have kids enrolled here ... but I dearly hope that perhaps someday Little Bear will be ready to join!

Anyhoo - all to say, above is our young man walking in to the ceremony hall. There were 12 kids in all who graduated, and the event was entirely organized by the kids themselves and their parents. It was so fun to be part of the planning!

(By the way, the kids chose to walk in to this song instead of the traditional "Pomp and Circumstance.")

We were very blessed to have many family members attend Jack's graduation, including ...

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Mum and Dad, and Bill's Mom and Dad - aka, Nana & Papa, and Grandma and Grandpa!

And here's the rest of our crew, awaiting the start of the ceremony:

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Bill, his folks, my brother Matt, my folks, and my Auntie Marcia and Uncle Karl. 

(Bookworm had Little Bear outside, "keeping busy" - aka "quiet," lol.)

Here is our young man, giving a speech called, "Reflecting on the Year."

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And here we are with our graduate, presenting him with his diploma and sharing our pride and joy in a speech given through a few tears!

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Each pair of parents came up on stage to talk about, and to, their beloved child. And as you can imagine, the speeches were very personal and moving! Another nice touch, the kids all handed their mothers a flower before leaving the stage. We had discussed getting roses or daisies for this activity, but happily, our own peonies were overflowing our garden! So plush, pink peonies it was!

Here are two of my fellas ...

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One who'll be off to college in the fall, and the other who's just starting his homeschooling journey!

Family photo!

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A note about my dress - I had all of about 20 minutes one morning to pop into Macy's and find SOMETHING to wear to the graduation!! Amazingly, I found this one in about five minutes, and tried it on right away.

A. it fit, B. it was marked down, and, C. ... triple bonus! ... the colors matched not only the graduation but also Cj's college's colors as well!

(You all know I'm all about color-coordination, lol!)

After the ceremony, we returned home, and enjoyed a simple luncheon. (We plan to throw our boy an official party in August.)

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Here is our Earlybird who was kept company at home during the ceremony with his ABA therapist. (It would have been very hard for EB to sit through the graduation - too much noise and way too much emotion!) But while EB and Hannah waited for our return, they baked some lovely graduation cupcakes!
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It was such a wonderful day, a lovely way to celebrate and honor the end of our homeschooling journey with our son. It was (and still is) very hard to grasp that "new reality" - but two days later he was off to Emmanuel College for Orientation! And we now have the Summer to enjoy being "done" and prepare our son for his freshman year  ... meanwhile, I have a few scant months to prepare this mama's heart for the big changes to come this September!

Ok, are you up for more stories?? (I warned you this was a big one!)

Speaking of Earlybird, he's been doing very well with his therapy (and med) and making some nice strides with community outings! Here are some pics from a recent Stop 'N Shop trip ...

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He's even been making his own lunch!

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Now, this being (almost) Friday, I'm going to include a little "full disclosure" in my post - because I just had to walk away from this draft for over an hour. Earlybird had a very hard time today - the heat is brutal, his therapists are on holiday break, he's had way too much down time, not to mention, screen time - and it all added up to a bored, hot, restless, grumpy, tech-addicted kid, and he just now had a really ugly, 45 minute meltdown. The kind that involves shouting and crying and stomping and has us sending Little Bear downstairs with his brother because it's just way too upsetting for him to witness ...

So, you see, EB's making some awesome progress and the good times (and good moods) are stretching out longer and getting more complex - in that, he can handle more challenges now - shopping at the grocery store, getting a haircut, walking near a busy street, listening to his little brother sing "Bingo" in the car - but it's not all figured out just yet. Not even close. I'm not sure it will ever ALL be figured out - his special needs and challenges will change through the years just as they have up to this point. But I share both sides of the coin with you in this post because I want other special needs parents to take heart not just from our good times, but also from our not-so-good times. We have them, too ... and we struggle a lot. (And it's just as easy to feel disheartened by someone else's good times in light of one's own curent struggles.)

Truth be told, special needs parenting is the hardest thing I've ever had to handle in my life ... hands down. Thankfully, God blessed me with the support team I needed - a loving and understanding family, amazing therapists, and most especially a strong and nurturing marriage. I don't know how I'd ever do this alone ...

But, let me say this: I am SO encouraged by how much EB's been able to handle and the new things he can do. I KNOW we have only more progress to make in the days (and years) ahead. I try not to let the tough times (like this past hour) rattle me too much. Tomorrow is a new day and our therapists will be here and we will get back on track ... in fact, as I continue to type, EB is here with me in the family room, and all is calm. All is going to be alright ...

We're all in this together, after all! Case in point ...

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All six of us at my cousin's party on the 4th of July! What a GREAT day that was! (More pics below.)

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Ok, here I am with the older boys, my folks and my brother enjoying a birthday lunch for Bookworm last week ... and eep, can you believe he turned 23?!

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Honestly, how is it I now have a child who is a TWENTY-THREE YEAR OLD MAN? #holymoly #timeflies #toofast

At 23, I was engaged to be married and only three years away from motherhood ... and seriously, all of that doesn't seem that long ago ... sigh. But don't get me started, on the whole where-has-the-time-gone thing, lol! That's a whole n'other post.

So in this pic, we had just come from seeing Jurassic World: Fallen World - which was really good! - and tucked in to lunch at Legal Sea Foods - also really good! (And Bookworm's favorite restaurant.) Bill was working at home so he watched the younger boys ... but I plan to take him to dinner next week for HIS birthday! :)

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Ok, forward we go - on to the Fourth!! And how was your holiday, dear (American) friends? I just LOVE this holiday, and it was a really nice one this year. Of course, it was hotter than blue blazes here in New England but just lovely all the same. Sunny, breezy and everything was just so green and bright!

I love to celebrate even when it's "just us," so before the boys woke up, I arranged a festive breakfast buffet ...

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(My 4th grade music class book!)

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And flowers from the yard - picked by Little Bear (still in his pjs) and me. We searched for "red, white and blue" blossoms!

It might be all small potatoes in the scheme of things, but I just love doing this kind of stuff. (Hence, my homemade planner so I can work these kinds of things into our busy family schedule!) I think it will make for nice memories ...

But then, in the afternoon it was time to head over to my cousin's house for our family's annual 4th of July party. Mike and Krista host a fantastic party, and we always look forward to this get-together! And this year, Earlybird's therapist came with us to support him - help him socialize and handle the heat. (It was in the 90Β°s!) It was wonderful that he was able to join us!

Here are some peeks at our day:

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EB keeping his therapist, Hannah, cool. :)

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Little Bear, who decided to "sit with the girls" and come to their rescue with his battery-operated misting fan.

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My older boys! Bookworm (23) and Crackerjack (18).

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Beautiful holiday signs made by  my cousins, Emily and Elizabeth. πŸ’™

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The tree swing is always a big hit with my boys!

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Bill with my Uncle Karl. :)

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Little Bear with handsome DumDum, wearing his holiday finery ... :) 

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Lovely to see my Auntie Marcia, Cousin Sue, Auntie Pat, Mum, and my cousin (by marriage) Vicki.

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My lovely Mum with my dear cousin, Kara. This beautiful young woman was my flower girl!!

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Dad (on the left) with his brother, my Uncle Dave. πŸ’™

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And ohmygoodness, he was SO pleased to be allowed to eat cheese puffs!!

Some more yummy things from the party ...

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My mum's "triple-layer brownies." They are legendary ...

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A gorgeous and delicious strawberry trifle made by my cousin, Elizabeth. (This was the dessert I chose, and there were a LOT to choose from!)

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Cute candies!!

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Krista's beautiful dessert station. The cake in the front center was Little Bear's contribution! :)

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This here is Hannah, who is Earlybird's ABA therapist and, without a doubt, an angel sent from heaven to guide us. She has such a beautiful way of reaching our son, guiding our journey, and showing us how things can be ... she has also become dear friend. πŸ’™

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More swinging!! What a fun day this was ...

It's such a gift to be able to attend an event like this, all of us together. Usually we have to spit up and take shifts, or one of us (Bill, myself or my mum) has to just sit out an event if EB's having a particularly hard day. Thanks to Hannah, we felt confident we could bring EB and we could relax while we were there. Happily, our boy not only handled the party beautifully - he ENJOYED himself, too!

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And just look at that smile!!

πŸ’™ πŸ’™ πŸ’™ πŸ’™ πŸ’™ πŸ’™

Alrighty, I think I should wrap things up now, seeing as how I've kept you here so very long! I'm so grateful you joined me, and allowed me to share a little bit of our June ... and my rambles!! I'd love to hear from you, too, if you have a moment!

A quick bit of business before I go: our next Mitten Strings book study will be delayed ONE week. (I'll bet you're not surprised, lol.) I just have not had a chance to re-read the chapter yet! ("Nature") My posting goal is a week from Sunday - July 15th. (St. Swithin's Day!)

Ok, I'm off for now, truly - but I wish you all well, and a peaceful day (or evening) ahead. Thanks so much for stopping by ...

I will see you here again very soon!

p.s. BIG planner news coming next month!


Mitten Strings for God, ch. 15: "Listening"

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Hello my friends, and Happy Tuesday! I hope this week is going well for you so far!

Now, before digging into our book study, I must first apologize that this post has arrived much later than promised ... and that my posting in general has slowed down so much lately. I feel like a broken record, but it's been such a busy season for us and I really haven't had a lot of time to spend on my favorite "mama" things (blogging, journaling, reading, making planners). You know, all the fun things that get highlighted in pink in said planners!

Anyhoo, we've finally made it through all that busy-ness! Because just this past week we not only wrapped up our school year, but we also celebrated Crackerjack's graduation AND attended Orientation at Emmanuel College! And these are all good and happy things ... leading up to what I hope will be a fairly quiet and restful summer. Because I'm not one for busy-ness to be perfectly honest ... needing to "hustle" does not make me happy, lol!

But let's get on with our Mitten Strings for God chapter discussion, shall we? This week we are talking about the concept of "Listening," and what a wonderful thing for a parent to consider ...

How often do I make time to stop and listen - not just to my children, but with them?

When I (re)read this chapter I immediately thought of a particular homeschool memory - an activity I blogged about 10 years ago that illustrated the value in slowing down and opening our ears (and hearts) to the natural world around us.

Longtime readers might remember this picture ... ?

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"In order to listen, we must be quiet." (MSfG, p. 104)

This picture was taken during one of my favorite homeschooling adventures, a Nature Club meeting back in April 2008. These are my older two boys, "on the trail," and the theme of this excursion, organized by two fellow homeschooling moms, was "Silent Spring." The purpose of the outing was to encourage our large and boisterous group to enter the woods in total and complete silence, so that we might:

"... amplify our other senses, and catch things we might otherwise miss. We could sketch, draw, take pictures, write notes or even poetry ... but not a word was to be passed - until we met back up again an hour later to compare findings." (A quote from my original post.)

It was such an amazing walk! Our kids who loved running about and climbing and shouting and chasing and pretty much doing absolutely nothing to entice wildlife out of hiding - took right away to the idea of silence, and enjoyed figuring out how to share their thoughts without words. They developed signals and used sketchbooks to communicate their questions about - and impressions of - the nature they encountered.

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We moms could have told the kids all about the things they'd see, but instead we left it to them to make their own observations and form their own opinions. Many times our wide eyes would meet across the trail as a sudden sound caught our attention - but we expressed our wonder and awe in ways that required careful attention. I think it was a richer experience for us all, immersing our silent selves in that not-so-silent woodland on that beautiful, unforgettable, spring day ...

Rereading this chapter (and reminiscing over that nature walk) reminded me of a vow I once held dear in my heart - to raise my children to be aware of the more subtle (yet plentiful) joys of our world. Day in or day out. Rain or shine. Whatever the season might be. Such an awareness doesn't just happen - it needs to be cultivated and maintained. I realized then (if I've sometimes forgotten it now) that it's up to we parents to show them the way through the years ...

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There is so much joy to be found in the activity of listening itself! We all know how wonderful it is to share a special moment with a child, to listen together for either a specific sound or perhaps await a surprise. The giggles, the hushing, the eyes that widen when at last a sound reaches our eager ears ...

How wonderful to encourage this type of quiet activity - and to engage in it ourselves! Children may be noisy creatures, but they also love to conspire. :)

"... within each child there is also an innate talent for listening that deserves to be honored and encouraged." (p. 105)

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(Now, this might look like an action shot, but actually, Little Bear and I were staying as quiet and still as possible here, perched on our herb garden, "communing with" the chipmunks all around us. I also have a neat little video you can watch (and listen to!) here ...)

For certain our world is a noisy one, and kids are, by and large, just that. Noisy. My house, for example (and as you might imagine), is not always (or often) quiet. (Reminder: We have four boys - 22, 18, 16 and 5 - and all of them (happily) live at home.)

The laughter and chatter of my children, the sounds of our home doing its thing - feet on the stairs, a coffeepot perking, the hens squawking, the birds singing, a toilet flushing, a door closing (perhaps slamming) ... these are loud sounds sometimes, yes, but life is just FULL of such happy, life-living sounds. (Well the door slamming isn't really happy and believe you me, some sounds are not as cheerful as others, but all in all, I am grateful for all these noises that represent a full and family-oriented life!

Our house, like many others I would guess, can also be full of just plain old noise, because there are audio/video devices everywhere - on our walls, in our cars, in our hands. Text alerts, tv shows, radio news, video games ... part of life, yes, but not necessarily the sounds I'd like to surround myself with frequently.

Too much artificial noise not only drowns out the "muted sounds of earth and sky, soul and spirit," but it can alter our listening "palate." Softer sounds like the wind in the trees, a distant bird call, the soft drip of rain off a roof - these might not hold much appeal if a child is not first shown how to appreciate them.

But oh, how they respond when they're let in on nature's secrets ... :)

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Quiet times spent together are such a gift - for both parent and child. We slow down, they absorb - we all enjoy each other. What a life-long gift to not only teach our children how to enjoy such times, but how to find a little quiet where they can. 

"We can all find a moment in every day for listening, a moment in which we gather our children close, open our ears, and luxuriate in the sounds of our world, wherever we may be." (p. 107)

I so enjoyed this chapter - as I do every chapter - and I deeply appreciate the lessons it reminds me of, veteran mom that I am now. ;-) I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic, too! Please drop a note if you have time ... but as always, I thank you for stopping by and reading. 

I had all intention of setting a Mitten Strings for God book study schedule with this post, but alas - I'm cautious to do so. I do anticipate a quiet and laid back summer and in theory I should have more time for blogging, but I'm hesitant to set myself up for failure!

That said, the next chapter is a topic near and dear to my heart - Nature - and I am really excited to delve into it. I am going to propose Sunday, July 8th for our next Mitten Strings Tea ... but if I need to tweak the timing a bit I will let you know as soon as I'm able. (I generally announce things like that on Facebook and Instagram.)

For now though, I will be off ... take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ...

I will see you here again very soon!


Hot off the Presses: My Spring Newsletter!

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Hello my friends, and Happy June! I am popping in quickly today to share my latest newsletter with you all! Some of you received this in the mail last week (or will very shortly) but here it is in printable PDF form for everyone else:

By Sun and Candlelight Late Spring Newsletter, 2018

I hope you enjoy my letter ... it's nothing too fancy, just a bit of "this and that" ... including a copy of my favorite spring recipe! I have in fact just made this dish today ... can you guess what it might be?

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It's not perhaps the prettiest of bakes but it really is quite delicious! Check out my newsletter for all the details!

Enjoy the week ahead, my friends, and thanks so much for stopping by ...

I will see you here again very soon!

p.s. As I announced on Instagram and Faceboook last week, this Sunday (6/10), I will be hosting our next Mitten Strings for God Tea. We will be talking about chapter 15, "Listening." I hope you will join me!


Full Disclosure Friday: Progress Not Perfection

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Happy Friday, my friends! I hope this week has been good to you. I'm sorry my posting has been rather sluggish lately - we've been in a rather busy pattern lately. But as we near the end of the year I feel my schedule is finally starting to smooth out a little. :)

So today, in the spirit of full "Friday" disclosure, I'd like to share another glimpse into our special needs family life. We've had some significant changes to our therapy situation recently, coming at a time when Earlybird is really struggling with a variety of challenges, and adjusting to a new (and first ever) behavioral medication. One beloved therapist moved away, and a new one began ...

But with change comes renewal, and with fresh perspective comes hope!

We've also been granted more ABA hours so Earlybird is now getting more therapy assistance than ever - and this includes weekends! This development could not have come at a better time, and with the med we started him on this spring we've been seeing some subtle improvements. Overall then, after a bit of upheaval, we are getting ourselves (and our boy) back on (a really good) track!

Now, I try to keep things as real as possible here. Yes, I like to focus on the positives, but I think there is also much to gain in sharing our tough times. Fittingly, this post highlights both sides of our autism journey. Oftentimes a new success highlights the larger struggle still looming - so though we're ever mindful of keeping perspective, it's so important to celebrate every step, no matter how small. 

So  ... yesterday, we braved Target together, Earlybird and me (and his therapist).

And this might seem like the most common of events - shopping at Target - but let me tell you, it was anything but! For Earlybird, managing a place as over-stimulating as Target is a real emotional and physical challenge. But, with Little Bear's birthday coming up, he really wanted to pick out his own gift ... πŸ’™

A bit of back story, first:

I shop at Target all the time, but it had been 6 years since Earlybird last stepped foot in this place. That time he was much smaller, but his meltdown was HUGE. (Wailing and thrashing-on-the-floor, security-alerting huge. 😳) That day sticks out as one of those memories we point to when confessing just how very hard things can get. (I think most autism families have them.)

Well, yesterday, with the support of our ABA therapist, our boy returned to that very same store to buy his own β€œperfect” present. He'd been talking about it for weeks, but to keep it as simple as possible, we prepared an "action card" for him. On it was listed three things:

  • present
  • card
  • gift bag

ALL DONE √

The good news is ... he did it!! We made it through the store and he completed his card.

The less-so-good news? He struggled the whole time ... and mightily.

The parking lot was busy, the cart was noisy, and just inside the doors, he stopped and said, β€œI want to go home.” But with the encouragement of our therapist, we got him moving and directed him straight to the toy aisles.

Oh, he balked, he fussed - he even yelled and stomped! But 10 (loooong) minutes later, we were back in my van headed home. πŸš™ πŸ’¨

Of course that was not a fun ride ... because EB's emotions boiled over and he really let his anger and anxiety loose in the backseat. (Thank God for our therapist!)

Were my nerves frayed? You bet. But was the mission accomplished? Yes.

So we're calling it a win. :)

Folks, don’t ever take the β€œeveryday” things for granted - the things you or your children can do without a worry or second thought. Be grateful for every mundane and meltdown-free moment. And celebrate every hard-won success!! #progressnotperfection

I am SO GRATEFUL for the support we receive and the hope we keep kindled in our hearts. πŸ™πŸ» We are so blessed by this boy whose heart is pure gold and whose hopes are the same as anyone else’s: to be loved, and live a meaningful life.

Is shopping at Target meaningful? πŸ€”

Well, it sure can be! Because our son faced his fears so he could buy his own gift for his brother. Those ten minutes seemed eternal to him, but he did it! πŸ‘πŸ»

And I can’t wait to see the look on *both* my boys’ faces when that gift is unwrapped! 🎁

Well my friends, thank you so much for stopping in today, and allowing me to share a little of my life as an autism mom. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and I will back here again very soon!


My Review: Blue Sky Teacher's Planner

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Hello my friends and Happy Thursday! I hope your week is going well! :-)

Today I'd like to share a review of The Blue Sky Teacher's Weekly Plan Book, the planner I'll be using for our homeschooling next year (as well as throughout the summer). I've shared a couple of peeks over at Instagram and Facebook, but I thought I'd go into deeper detail here, since many of us are currently "in the market" for helpful homeschooling tools!

But first, a full (Thursday) disclosure! I sort of used last year's version of this planner, but abandoned it after a few weeks. Unfortunately, as much as I loved that planner, it just didn't fit the bill for me. It was (and is) an excellent planner, but I really didn't need so much structure this past year. Not only is Little Bear's prek-at-home VERY low key, but I really can't plan out nitty-gritty daily details for Earlybird. (He's more a "big picture" kind of kid - so I plan lots of "potentials" and then choose what works day-by-day.) Meanwhile, Crackerjack is doing all of his studies outside the home this year. (Save for math - and who needs to plan math? Lol, not me. We use Teaching Textbooks.)

All that said, I have a different PLAN in mind for how I PLAN to organize this year!

Ok. Here we go ...

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I bought this pretty planner at Staples a couple of weeks ago. Funnily enough, I didn't stop at Staples for a planner, but one look at those new Blue Sky displays and I was a goner. This is the time of year when academic year planners are available as well as those dedicated to lesson planning. Most are made for professional teachers but I find many can be easily adapted to a homeschooling mom's needs. 

Now, there were several versions of this particular planner available - identical layouts, varied designs - but the "Ditsy Dapple Floral" cover really caught my eye. I'm partial to florals anyway, but couldn't help noticing how nicely it matched my new Day Designer personal planner!

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The planner cover is protected by a "frosted" plastic sheet, under which the colors appear a little less vibrant (a bit more pastel). As someone who lives in a house with four not-always-careful-or-neat boys, I am very appreciative of that protective cover! The cover itself is made of a thick cardstock material.

(If you can't tell in these pictures, the word "teach" is done in a metallic gold. Sparkly and fun!)

The spiral "twin-wire" binding is very sturdy ...

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A spiral binding is a MUST for me. I need to lay my planner flat when I write in it or prop it up on display! And since my planners get knocked around a good bit, I need them to be well-made and forgiving - and reasonably priced!

Just before the title page there is a double-sided, clear plastic pocket ...

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I plan to file school correspondence here, including submitted education plans. The title page, like the cover, is made of a heavier cardstock.

After the title page shown above, there are dated calendars for 2018 and 2019, followed by a page for recording contact numbers and emergency information ...

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I'll mark these dated calendars with highlighters to indicate time on and off throughout the year - aka vacation days and such.

Next comes a spread for organizing monthly holidays and special dates:

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As you can see, there are lots of suggestions listed here for fun, random things to celebrate such as "Tell a Joke Day" (August 16th), "Make a Friend Day" (February 11th) and "Children's Good Manners Month" (September). There is also plenty of space for recording your own ideas!

The next spread is set up for recording "Class Birthdays," but as you can see, I'm using it for listing our seasonal homeschooling themes:

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This is the only planner page I have filled out so far! I'll admit setting up these themes is my favorite aspect of annual lesson planning!

The right hand page is for organizing a weekly schedule. I will use this for listing out ABA times and our homeschooling rhythm. (For example, storytelling day, crafting day, nature walk day, etc.)

And now we get to the meat of the planner - the monthly and weekly spreads!

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Soft green and white shades, and a lovely and neutral design. I like my covers bright, but my planning pages soft on the eye!

And I love, love, LOVE a lined monthly grid! It really helps keep the handwriting neat. This month-at-a-glance has generously-sized blocks which are another must for me. (I write small, but I write A LOT!)

Now the thing I perhaps love best about this planner is that it provides a FULL year of planning! There are 14 monthly calendars (12 are tabbed), beginning with May 2018 and ending with June 2019. There are weekly planning spreads for EVERY week of the academic year, June 25th, 2018 through June 28th, 2019. So if you homeschool year-round this is pretty perfect for you!:

And here is that weekly spread:

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A closer look ...

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Nice tabs, too. I tend to use paper clips and/or binder clips with my planners for marking my page and/or attaching notes and lists.

My strategy for this two-page spread is to use the left side for our routine/rhythm (first, green column) and then notes for each of my younger boys (2 columns each). The right side will be for "big picture" planning and notes. (That probably sounds confusing, so I'll share more details on my plans for this spread in a future post!)

At the very end of the planner, after the last weekly spread (June 24-28, 2019) there are a few note pages ...

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My "plan" at this time is to use these three pages for trimester reviews (in November, March and June).

The very last page is a listing of official holidays for each of the next four years (including 2018).


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And finally we have a very pretty back cover!

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(Also protected by a frosted plastic cover.)

I also bought a matching wall calendar for the learning room wall, since the one we have now runs out of pages after June!

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And there you have it! A full tour of my new lesson planner ... with more nitty-gritty details to come soon!

Are you thinking about next year yet? Do you have a teacher's planner in mind (or in hand)? If so I'd love to hear about it!

I'm off for now, but take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ...

See you here again very soon!


Mitten Strings for God: Ch. 14 "Healing"

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Hello my friends, and Happy Sunday! Thank you so much for stopping by. It's been a bright and mild weekend here in New England, and the brisk air smells like woodsmoke and soft earth ... I think it's safe to say Spring has finally sprung! πŸ’š

How are things where you are these days? I'd love to talk weather, and compare notes ... but first, may I offer you a cup of tea?

As many of you know, I drink tea nearly every day, and as I suspect most tea-lovers would agree, it never tastes (nor feels) quite so good as it does when one is feeling a bit under the weather. I find it to be the very best kind of medicine - much like a hug in a mug. :)

Now, generally speaking, I stick with black teas (and usually decaf) but I do love a nice herbal tea from time to time. The soothing heat and fragrant herbs seem to go straight where I need them. I find all teas both physically and spiritually nourishing, but herb teas really seem just a bit magical, don't you think?

Have an ailment? There's a tea for that:

Can't sleep? Lavender. Tummy upset? Peppermint. Need to relax? Floral. Brain fog? Lemon.

I am definitely no expert in herbs and herbal teas, but I am eager to learn as much as I can. It's a bit of a hobby of mine, though my thumb isn't quite as green as it could be. But with each growing season I get a little more "authentic" as a budding, amateur herbalist, and I try to expand how we incorporate herbs (and other natural alternatives) in our household with each passing year, too. 

As for today's tea, though - it's a rather healing one, and perfect for this post. Because honest to Pete, I am in fact nursing a sore throat. It seems a bit early in the year to blame allergies, so instead I'll point the finger at Crackerjack who brought home a lousy cold early last week. Usually I'm fairly immune to most cold viruses - for some happy reason, they skip over me - but this one is gathering steam and has become a bit of a bother. So herbal tea was my choice today (a lovely Buttermint I'm particularly fond of) and for good measure, I threw down a few of my favorite cough drops. (I also snuck a dollop of honey in my brew ... I think half the battle is lifting one's spirits when fighting an illness and I'm the first admit I like things rather sweet!)

Ok, so that's enough about my tea - which as you can see above was taken at my writing desk, with a nice view of the side yard where Bill and the older boys were doing some burning. At the other window, a little further down on this wall, I had situated the younger two, who were not allowed outside until the burning was done (or nearly). I encouraged them to sit here in the window and watch, while I worked on my weekly planning on the other side of the room.

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As you can imagine, the leaping flames caused a bit of excitement! Finally, once the pile was nearly done, I brought them outside to sit and watch ... at a distance:

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We haven't burned in years, as we try to compost as much as we can instead - but this past winter's tree damage was really above and beyond what we can handle. So burning was the thing to do on this day!

Ok, so now you're all wondering - weren't we here to talk about a book?

Well ... continuing on with our Mitten Strings for God book study, this week we are talking about "Healing," an important (and multi-layered) parenting concept. Because there's taking care of our children's bodies when they are injured or ill ... and then there's taking care of their insides - wounded feelings or weepy moods - when it's needed. These are all opportunities to teach our children how we treat those we love, and show them how much they mean to us.

"When we minister to our children with love and care, we teach them to care for others in return. Through our own loving example, we show the healing way, opening their hearts to the needs of those around them." (p. 102)

Healing our children is so much more than just tending to a knee bump or a head cold - because as we do, we are also comforting and soothing their very spirits. We are showing them how love works. We're reminding them they're not alone in this world. We're proving to them that they matter. And we are telling them we are here for them always - a little blood or boogie isn't going to keep their mamas (or papas) away!

"But sometimes our children are really asking for more from us than a perfunctory response, and that is when we must minister not only to the skinned knee, but to an inner need as well. It does not good to advise a weeping child that the pain will go away on its own. We are mothers, after all, and it is our job to DO something." (p. 100)

And so that's what we do, we mamas ... we figure out just what TO do. Sometimes it's just a brush of the bottom and a kiss on the cheek. "Ok, you're fine - off you go!" But sometimes a little more attention is warranted, and that's when we reach for the heavy artillery: cough syrups, calamine, soothing salves and perhaps best of all, the bandaids ...

What would we ever DO without bandaids??

"To an adult, a Band-Aid may be nothing but a sticky plastic strip; but to a child it is a badge of honor, imbued with magical healing properties. Be grateful, and stock up." (p. 101)

Now you might keep these kinds of medicinal products and first aid accessories on a shelf in your pantry or a bin at the bottom of your linen closet. But what I LOVED best of all about this chapter was the suggestion to make up a special basket to use when tending to our children in their time(s) of need.

"And so I created the "hurt basket," a treasure chest of magical lotions, potions, and healing aids." (p. 101)

We keep our medicinal supplies in a few different places. There is a small assortment of vitamins, cough drops and pain relievers at the very top of the kitchen pantry, but the bulk of our supply is kept in our bathroom cabinet:

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Aka the subject of a future "Full Disclosure Friday" because like most of the storage zones in our household, it's woefully underused and despairingly disorganized. So while we're at it, here's another storage area that I have yet (in five years living here) figured out best how to use:

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(This one is located just outside of the bathroom, inside the master bedroom. Truly, we have so much storage space in this house there is really no excuse for clutter - but I have been TERRIBLE about taking advantage of it!)

Alas, I digress (as I'm wont to do) ...

So here is what I set up some time ago, our own "boo-boo basket" ...

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This lovely basket was hand-painted by Bill's grandmother many years ago ...

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 It was just the right size and shape to hold a nice selection of supplies, and still fit inside my cabinet.

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I chose items that would soothe and comfort - no yucky medicine or stinging sprays here!

A closer peek:

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I think the very ritual of bringing out a basket filled with "mama's special potions" - all pleasant-smelling and kind to tender skin - is healing in and of itself. It won't always be so easy to comfort our children, but such special treatment will not go unnoticed. This kind of care goes deep, and lingers long ...  

"The day will come, of course, when our small ministrations are no longer enough to ease our children's pains, but until then, we can stock their emotional larders with a bounty of love and tenderness, precious stores for the future." (p. 103)

Sometimes all our hurt or ailing child needs is a hug, and sometimes he or she needs an actual prescription ... but for those in-between those times, there is a place for gentle, whole-body healing. 

(And here's an idea - how about setting up something like this, just for ourselves? Maybe a mommy-care basket? Now that's a topic for a future post!)

Before I go, here's a quick list of the books I'm using to learn more about herbs and homemade herbal products. It's easy nowadays to find natural and herbal products in the stores, but I really love growing and making my own!

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The Wild & Weedy Apothecary

Earth Mother Herbal

Natural Beauty for All Seasons

101 Easy Homemade Products for Your Skin, Health & Home

Essential Herbal Wisdom

A Kid's Herb Book

I have a large binder in which I've been taking copious notes, and by now I know more about herbs than I should for someone with so pale a green thumb! But I am getting there, slowly ... this year I hope to grow a nicely-sized herb garden and continue to expand my hands-on learning while keeping up with my "studies." If you are an herb grower (or crafter, or enthusiast) I'd love to hear from you! I would love advice and especially would love to hear how you USE the herbs you grow and how you keep your herbs ALIVE over the winter! (If possible.) 

Well my friends, I am going to wrap up now, but as always, I thank you for stopping by and reading. I would love to hear your thoughts on this chapter (and topic) if you have a moment to drop a note. Please remember - all are welcome to join this book study! And we are only about halfway through ... many more topics to talk about and more opportunities to support each other in our mothering! 

I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend, and I will see you all here again very soon!


A Few April Bits & Bobs ❀

Hello my friends, and Happy Wednesday! I'm popping in quickly today to share a few things ... 

First, I wanted to let you all know that our next Mitten Strings for God book study "tea" will take place this coming Sunday, April 22nd. The chapter we'll be discussing next is called "Healing," and it's a rather short, but very sweet chapter. Here's a passage to consider ...

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Full (Wednesday) Disclosure - it was this chapter that inspired me to share last Friday's post, admitting to certain anxieties I have as a special needs parent. Because there's nothing quite like times of stress to inspire more frequent (and imagined) "boo-boo moments." Most of the time it's more about the need for comfort than it is a cute bandaid ... but more on all that in my Sunday post. Later this week (most likely on Instagram) I will share a picture of our own boo-boo basket, which I recently pulled together with my littlest fella in mind.

For now I would like to invite all to join me in this re-read, savoring each chapter as we (slowly) go along. Future chapter topics include: listening, nature, enchantment and grace. :)

On a brighter note though, here are some spring birds from my backyard ...

Goldfinch collage

How I love watching the goldfinches turn a brighter shade of yellow once the winter has passed. In this collage I have "captured" two males at the top and then a third male in between two females on the bottom. Their vibrant feathers are such a happy sight in the spring!

And here are a few more ...

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On the left is the dark-eyed junco - a lovely "snowbird" who leaves for the north in mid-April. Every year we keep a keen eye out for their departure - often a flock of them will be ground-feeding vigorously one day and then be gone the very next. Come October, juncos will return for the winter (just about the time the chipmunks go underground). They are such seasonal harbingers and the dearest little birds - I just love them! 

The birds on the right are a white-throated sparrow (top) and a house finch (bottom). The sparrow's song in particular is a welcome and familiar sound around here in the spring!

But speaking of spring ...

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This picture popped up in my "Facebook Memories" feed this morning. It was taken on this day last year and OH MY what a difference a year makes! These azalea bushes, shown here in near-bloom, have barely even formed buds yet this season! What a long, loooong winter it's been ...

But now ... I have some BIG news to share ... because Crackerjack has made his college decision!

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(Soon to be seen on my van's bumper!)

As of Sunday night CJ is officially enrolled at Emmanuel College in Boston, as a member of the class of 2022! His plan is to major in Political Science and minor in Spanish. We are very proud of our young man and extremely pleased he decided on Emmanuel. I think it will be an excellent fit! 

Woohoo, Go Saints!

Well my friends, thanks so much for stopping by and I hope your week is going well. How is spring treating you where you live? Drop me a note if you have a moment, but for now I will wish you well and a pleasant day (or evening) ahead ...

Meet you here on Sunday for Mitten Strings!


Full Disclosure Friday: Autism Siblings ROCK

Two boys

Full disclosure: Life with an autistic child is challenging ...

But as parents, we are blessed with a deep and unconditional love for our child as well as (not always, but often enough) the mental and physical reserves we need to weather what this life - and this child - throws our way.

As for life with an autistic sibling, however ... well, that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish.

To put it plainly ... my greatest joy in life has been being a mother to my boys, but my greatest fear is that I've somehow bungled it. That perhaps I could have expended more - energy, flexibility, confidence, whatever - to have met the needs of ALL my boys better than I have. That when Bill and I faced the challenges of autism parenting, we could have been braver or more open-minded. That we let our fear (and perhaps lack of sleep) make the decisions for us more often than not.

I struggle with guilt - not all the time, but often enough - that so much of our family life has been shaped by the pressures of Earlybird's autism. I worry that our older boys had a childhood that fell short in significant ways, or that they missed out on the life-shaping kinds of experiences their peers probably enjoyed ...

We don't travel. We don't eat out. We rarely go to the movies ... or museums ... or the town parade. They've been to see fireworks ... once.

And that's not to say that we haven't been aware of these omissions (acutely so) but I hesitate to say, "Well, we do our best." Because I'm so afraid maybe we haven't.

We are, however, getting better at this, because finally we are getting the right kind of help and figuring out ways to make things happen that we couldn't before - for Earlybird AND his brothers.

But as for our older two boys ... well, they're young men now. Their childhood is over. And though I feel it was a good one - full of love, togetherness and home-centered joy - there were times of turmoil, too. A lot of tiptoeing around their younger brother's moods. A lot of activities that had to be missed - or seriously curtailed - because Mom and Dad were simply not able to manage them. (Logistically or emotionally speaking, depending on the day.)

How often did they surpress a need - or a dream - because they could see how stretched thin their parents already were?

I've often said our older boys have gained truly great gifts as the brothers of an autistic person. Through the years they've had ample opportunities to practice such virtues as patience and tolerance, compassion and understanding ...

I'm sorry we can't go to the pool party, but Nana can't watch Earlybird for me and there's no way we can take him.

I'm sorry we can't make it to the beach today (even though we've already driven halfway there) but your brother is melting down and we need to turn around.

I'm sorry I can't come inside and mingle with your friends' mothers - EB needs to stay in the car, and therefore, so do I.

They are the least demanding young men you could know. They understand. They accept. They never-ever make us feel we are cheating them. And yet ... still, I worry.

Did we put them first, too? Did we honor their individuality? Did we meet their needs? Or did we rely on their easygoing natures a little too often?

Anther gift they've earned through the years is that they have a keen sense of acceptance - they do not judge. Because they KNOW firsthand that you must always give someone the benefit of the doubt. They know better than anyone that the full story is not always what can be observed at first glance. 

And while they may not always be compassionate towards their brother (they are human after all!) they mostly always keep their tempers in check. Because they've understood that they are the older brothers ... they are the example from which Earlybird can learn. Above all, they have been an incredible support to Bill and myself, especially perhaps since the birth of our Little Bear.

And here's the crux of my full disclosure today, the latest worry to niggle at my heart ...

How will Little Bear handle his brother's autism as he grows up? How will it shape his childhood ... his development and personality?

When we found out we were expecting a fourth child, back in October, 2012 ... we were quite surprised - make that shocked - as well as extremely happy. But yes, a little anxious, too! I had so far enjoyed three wonderful pregnancies as a mom on the young side (at 26, 30 and 32). Now as "older parents" having a "geriatric pregnancy" (their words, not mine!) we were understandably a little concerned about some of the risks that come with pregnancies over 40.

There was my health to consider, the baby's of course, and then there was our family itself. As the parents of a child with autism we couldn't help but worry about the potential risks with this next child. We knew he would be special - each and every child is - but would he have special challenges? Older parents have a higher risk of having a child with autism, as do parents who have already had a child on the spectrum ...

When we were feeling brave we'd say, well, we already know how to be autism parents and we know this child will be loved and amazing and everything will be fine no matter what. When we were not feeling brave ... well, it was harder to feel so confident. We worried about how we'd handle the needs of an infant AND those of our special needs son. We worried about practical things like the number of bedrooms in our house and the hours of sleep we wouldn't be getting ...

But I think we worried most of all about how a baby would affect Earlybird. How would he handle this? How would his autism affect his ability to accept and embrace a younger sibling?

Well, Little Bear arrived hale and hearty (after a few agonizing minutes spent blue and being assessed by a team of neonatalogists) and EB surprised us with how easily he both accepted AND embraced his little brother ... but soon enough we found ourselves wondering:

How would Little Bear fit into our special needs family, an environment that on most days could be best defined as, "loving chaos?"

How would Earlybird's autism challenge HIM?

This is a question we're still finding answers to ... especially now that Little Bear is nearly five years old, and just such ... a little person. Aware now - sometimes too aware! - and full of observations and opinions and energy and needs ...

But this post isn't about our answers ... we're still working on those. Every day I am keenly aware that EB's autism is quite apparent to Little Bear - who is also keenly aware that his brother is different. And sometimes that's a good thing ... and sometimes not. 

Already Little Bear is learning that EB can't always help his behavior, and that just because EB does (or says) something, doesn't necessarily mean it's ok for him too. Our youngest son is what you'd call - ahem - a very strong-willed child, and so I think this will be a really good thing for Earlybird. Developmentally, EB is still quite young so as LB grows, they can learn from, and with, each other. With the support of their Mom and their Dad, as well as their much older brothers, these two boys will one day be the best of friends ... of that I am sure (mostly).

Moral of the story: 

Autism siblings rock

Every child is special and every child has needs ... what a blessing it is to be given such responsibility as parents. What a gift to be so trusted with these beautiful minds and dear hearts.

I sincerely hope that as Little Bear gets older, we only get better at this. That we're able to learn from our mistakes, and remember our strengths, and see past our limitations. That we will model for our boys a level of patience and resilience and compassion that they will emulate as they get older - because one day we'll need to rely on three of our boys to take over for us and see to their special brother's needs. As hard as it is to say this - think this - Bill and I won't always be here and that I think is perhaps the greatest fear of an autism parent ...

Above all I pray we may continue to find the kind of help we need - whether it be from family, friends, therapists, medicine (or most likely a combination of all) - that supports not only Earlybird's progress, but the health and vitality of our family life, too. This is what I hope for most of all.

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Well everyone, thanks so much for letting me share this part of my life with you all. I know I rambled on rather long, and I could probably spend another few hours picking back over this post and making it read a little smoother, but alas ... I'm afraid my computer time has reached its end! So for now I'll wish you all well and a peaceful day (or evening) ahead ...

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ...

See you all here again very soon ...


How I use the Day Designer Weekly Planner

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Hello my friends and Happy Wednesday! I hope your week is going well! Last month I promised a peek at how I'm using my Day Designer for Blue Sky Weekly & Monthly Planner - and here it is at last! :)

I've been using this planner since January, and have found it very helpful. I use a few planners (and most of you well know!) and each one addresses a specific planning need. This particular planner is primarily for viewing my whole week at a glance in such a way that I can really see how busy I (we) will be. I like to keep it on display on my kitchen counter (open to the current week, not closed as shown above) so the whole family can see what's going on just as easily as I can. Well, in theory anyway ... I still have to remind them to check the planner when they ask something like, "are we busy on Thursday?" But usually the boys just want to know: what are we having for supper?!

Ok, let's start with a look at the weekly spread itself:

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One thing I really appreciate about the Day Designer planners (including the Day Designer for Blue Sky line) is the subtle and elegant design. This color scheme (white with soft green) really appeals to me, as does the classic black-and-white stripe of the cover shown at the top of my post! And I really like this kind of weekly format - the columns are generously sized but there are still many areas for extra notes.

I'll start by showing you how I filled out this week's spread and then will discuss each section in a little more detail ...

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As you can see, I really use every space on this spread! I also use post-it notes and highlighter pens for further organization. As I've mentioned before, my small handwriting is helpful when it comes to filling in planners - I can really fit a lot of text in those tighter spaces!

Let's start with the To-Do column on the far left edge of the spread ... 

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Here I list the things I need to get done THIS week (not just say, sometime soon). To the left of the check-box I add an initial if the task is someone else's responsibility - I call myself the "family secretary" since it's my job to be sure everyone knows what they're doing and when! - and I also place a dot in the check-box if a task has been started. (Changing it to a check once it's completed, or an arrow if it's being moved forward.)

By they way, both of these "hacks" I learned long ago while using my very first "serious" planner. I haven't used a Franklin planner in many years but I still remember the lessons that system taught me! Of course I completely disregard their first and most important rule: ONLY USE ONE CALENDAR! πŸ˜³

I also have a post-it note here with errands I need to run this week. This note helps me plan ABA outings with my special needs son and his therapist. (Building community skills is a big part of our therapy!)

(How do I come up with this weekly to-do list? Well, most of what's listed here are things that are pertinent to upcoming events and/or tied to a time-sensitive situation. Some weeks I mine tasks from our master to-do list (things that need doing soon, but not necessarily now), but this week is pretty busy as is. We're just coming off the Easter holiday AND this is our last pre-college decision week, so I'm keeping my to-dos as streamlined as possible!)

Next section: the daily columns.

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The lined daily column runs from 6 a.m. through 7 p.m. with a generous, open space at the bottom designated as "tonight" and a lined box at the top (just beneath the date) for listing the day's "top three" things. I use highlighters to indicate type of activity (green for someplace I need to go, blue for someplace the boys and/or Bill need to go, yellow for hosting at home, pink for self-care). I like looking at the week and seeing where the green is because that tells me when I'll need to be out and about. 

I don't record as much information here as I do in my daily planner - this is more for seeing the week in one glance. It really helps me manage our time, resources and energy!

In the "top three" section, just as in my daily planner, I list any events of note, as well as a little weather information ...

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... and at the bottom of each daily column I write in the night's proposed supper:

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Now, the far right column of this spread is for "gratitude," "notes" and "next week." Here's how I use those spaces ...

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In the top space I list our seasonal theme, which is "April Showers" this week. (I have an upcoming post with ALL 52 themes for our next academic year!)

In the notes section I list the "crafts and comforts" I envision to go along with that seasonal theme. These include nature awareness activities, science experiments, readalouds, recipes, crafts, etc.

And finally, at the bottom of this column, I use the "next week" space just as it is intended:

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A post-it note makes it easy to move this information elsewhere when I'm working on our weekend plans. 

(Also shown in these photos is the bright yellow, flower-shaped post-it note I use for blog ideas. I move that along with me week-to-week.)

A quick tip for keeping your place in this planner ...

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The ever-handy binder clip makes it super easy to flip right to the current week!

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What I love best of all about this planner is its size and feel. It's beautiful, inside and out. It's sturdy and substantial, yet light and extremely totable. The paper is smooth, the palate eye-pleasing and it's comfortable to write in thanks to those firm front and back covers.

(Because I'm often asked, I'll also mention that I use Frixion Erasable pens in my planners - exclusively!)

Well, there you have it then - a peek at my week, and another detailed description of how I use my planner(s) to the best of my ability! Once again, I am just so impressed by the quality and versatility of the Day Designer product line. I am so pleased with the two I use (as well as the monthly "scheduler" I use for habit tracking). And of course I just love the overall look and style of my planners ... so much so that how could I resist this cute little matching mug I spotted at Michaels the other day?

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It was on sale AND I had a coupon so it ended up costing me all of about $4.00. (A pin money purchase!) It has that really nice mug feel, too. (Do you know what I mean? How some mugs are more comfortable than others?) Anyhoo, it's rare to find a "D" monogram - not that Dawn is a common name, but D-names in general are! - so I snatched that baby up right quick! ;)

Ok my friends, I will wrap up now, but as always, I thank you for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed this post and please let me know if you have any questions. As you can see from that bright yellow post-it note, I have lots of posts percolating - thanks, in part, to all of your wonderful suggestions! For now though, please take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I'll see you here again very soon!


Did you enter my giveaway? Well, you've got mail!

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Or you will ... if you'd like to send me your address! :)

So this is a little surprise from me to you ... for anyone who entered my "blogiversary giveaway" (and there were 80 of you in all!)  ... I'd love to send you a little snail mail, celebrating the new season ahead. This will just be a simple newsletter I print out here at home, with some thoughts and plans for the days ahead. I'm thinking of things like ...

β™₯ herb garden plans

β™₯ Little Women (on Masterpiece this May)

β™₯ spring self-care tips

β™₯ a favorite spring recipe

β™₯ a walk in the spring woods

I had mentioned in my original blogiversary post that 12 readers would be selected to receive my "Spring News" but as I went to publish this post I thought ... why not share it with everyone?

SO here's what to do:

If you are one of the 80 folks who commented on this post here or over at my Facebook page or Instagram account, please send me your snail mail address at your earliest convenience, by emailing me at:

drhanigan AT gmail DOT com

(I promise I won't do anything with your address except place it in my home management binder, behind the blogging tab for personal correspondence purposes only. I would never share it with anyone else ... aside from maybe my husband, lol.)

And if you are not interested in the mail ... well that's fine, too!

I will plan to mail out these newsy little newsletters around May 1st. Sometime after that I will make them available here on my blog as a PDF. I just think that snail mail is so fun ... a rare and old-fashioned treat for those of us who still love the look and feel of paper in our hands. :) 

So! I hope to hear from you and thanks so much for stopping by! Enjoy the rest of this lovely spring day ... rainy and cool though it may be, here in New England!

See you here again sometime soon ...


And my planner giveaway winner is ... ❀

Day designer giveaway

HELENA!

Congratulations, Helena! I am so happy for you, and will be in touch soon to set up mailing details! I hope you will enjoy using this wonderful planner - I know mine has made a real difference in how (well) I manage all my weekly to-dos!

My sincere thanks to all who entered my "12 years of blogging" giveaway - especially for all the good wishes! I really enjoyed reading through all your comments and questions - your ideas have given me quite a shot of inspiration! How fun to begin my 13th year of blogging with so much encouragement and so many possible posts already in queue!

Here is Helena's question, which I will definitely feature in an upcoming post ...

"My question for you would be this - I think Little Bear will be in kindergarten in the fall, right? If that is the case, I would love to read about your plans for him - not just the seasonal themes, but curriculum, if you use any, and favorite resources."

This is a great question, Helena, and perfect timing - because yes, Little Bear will be starting Kindergarten this fall! (I can hardly believe it!) So next year, because Crackerjack will be ... gulp ... off to college, I will have just two students in our homeschool: Earlybird (16, special needs) and Little Bear (turning 5 in May). So naturally I'm already thinking about my very last year teaching Kindergarten ... and have started organizing a lesson planner for next year. So far it's mostly just notes and pretty tab dividers, but I will share my ideas and a peek at this planner soon!

You all had so many great questions and I appreciate the time you took to share them! I printed all of them out (including comments left for me here, at Facebook and Instagram - 80 in all!) and filed them in my home management binder, right behind my blog planning tab ...

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I will happily refer back to this list as I work on getting back to a semi-regular posting schedule this spring. :)

For now though, I will concentrate on putting my house put back together and catching back up with routine tasks that often get pushed aside whenever we're preparing for a major holiday! The "holiday hangover" I call it, lol! I will also be posting a new Mitten Strings update soon - I'm thinking our next chapter discussion will be on Sunday, April 15th, but will post a firm "teatime" in another day or two ...

Oh, and back to the planner shown above for a moment - I'll have a tour of "this week" coming up soon, but here's a sneak peek. As you can see it doesn't have much in it! I usually have my planners filled out well in advance of a new week, but with the busy Easter weekend, that all got pushed back ... so this morning (after a super early dentist appointment) I finally sat down to start writing out my spread:

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p.s. No cavities!

Well my friends, I hope you enjoyed this post and thanks again for the kind words, thoughtful comments and as always, your lovely encouragement! Congratulations again to Helena, and to all, I wish you a day (and night) filled with peace and joy ...

See you here again sometime soon!


My Daily Spread - Working the Plan!

Hello my friends, and Happy Wednesday! I'm popping in today to share a little Day Designer news with you!

So, last week - on the 22nd at 12 p.m. EST to be exact - The Day Designer held their official Launch for their new line of 2018-2019 day planners - moving from midyear to academic year platform - and not surprisingly there were some fresh, fun designs! This is my fourth year using a Day Designer, and it's always a challenge to decide WHICH cover to choose, because I really USE my Day Designer!! So that cover will be a big part of my "planning life" in the new year ahead!

There were so many lovely styles - some old, some new - and I was seriously torn between sticking with my current style, "Jungle Out There," because I've loved it so much - the black background and vibrant tapestry-like design really suits me - but in the end I decided to go with something new!

And here it is ...

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Isn't it lovely?!? It's called "Climbing Floral," and it makes me think of an English garden. :)

Here are a few more peeks:

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Now, the flagship planner is not an inexpensive purchase, for sure ... not something most of us would buy on a whim. But I truly feel comfortable with the price because I absolutely use this planner, every single day, and really work it to my advantage! I'm all for keeping life simple, but life with four kids - one of them special needs, one getting ready for college, one trying to find a job and one still in preschool - life is pretty much "all systems GO" for me every day!

So, not that I need to justify my purchase, lol (my husband gave me his blessing - he knows how much my DD helps me!), I thought I might break down the daily planning page layout and share how I WORK this planner to suit my rather unique planning needs as a homeschooling, busy and blessed blogger mom!

Ok, in the top left corner of the page, we find the "Today's Top Three" section:

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This is meant to be a place for setting apart the three most important to-dos for that day, but instead I use this space to highlight any events "of note" for that day - say, a birthday, holiday or full moon - or just anything I need to keep in mind throughout the day. (It's too easy to lose track of the "big picture" as I manage all the nitty gritty.)

So on Tuesday, I wrote:

~ Bill home late (due to an evening dentist appointment) - because our whole evening routine is different when Daddy's not home!

~ EASTER PREP - in all caps, lol. I have an "Easter Prep" list that I'm working on throughout the week. I try to fit tasks in when I have a few minutes "free time."

~ 🌞 pics - this is to remind myself to take advantage of the sunny weather and get my photos done! (My pictures come out much better when it's sunny!) So for example, I took the pictures for this post when the afternoon sun was shining brightly through our kitchen nook window!

~ Amazon delivery - Since I had "Easter basket treats" coming in this package, I wanted to be sure I was the one who got it!

(I also always jot down the weather for the day here, because I'm a weather geek.)

In the opposite corner, we find spaces for "Due/Dinner/Dollars/Don't Forget":

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Due - Here's where I write blogging goals to be working on this week. (Posts on which I should be concentrating.)

Dinner - Here's where I jot down what we'll be eating that night. (I could have noted here my older boys made supper that night!)

Dollars - Here's where I note any monies spent that day. (I look back through these during weekend "office hours.")

Don't Forget - In this space I make note of our weekly seasonal homeschooling theme. (There are 52 in all, as described in this long-ago post.)

Now we're getting to the real meat of the planner! In this next section we'll look at the "Today" column:

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As you can see, I really work the heck out of this area! I keep my Day Designer on my kitchen counter and check in frequently throughout the day. I keep track of everyday tasks and do some simple habit tracking here as well. I also use highlighters to draw my eye to specific activities ...

--> green - I am going somewhere (aka I am somehow involved with an activity outside the home).

--> blue - Bill and/or the boys are doing something/going somewhere.

--> yellow - We're doing something special at home (eg. hosting a party).

--> pink - I'm doing something for myself. β€

It's very helpful to keep everyday tasks listed on this planner page because even though I do the same things everyday (after day ...), I can lose track of what I've gotten done and what still needs doing. ("Did I give EB his morning meds?" "Oh shoot, the cats weren't fed!") To organize these tasks even further I write them in the timezone in which they should be done. ( It's also convenient that I have very small handwriting!)

Continuing to squeeze more efficiency out of this page, I use a large < symbol next to a time block in which I can work on a personal project or "rhythm" activity. Usually, these < symbols appear when ABA is happening (meaning, EB is working with his therapists). As you can see between 10-11 a.m. I did pre-k activities with Little Bear. Normally in the afternoon session (between 12:30 and 2:30) I would have another < space but since I had to take Crackerjack to the dermatologist this time was spent driving and running errands.

Note: The farmhouse trip was cancelled because unfortunately EB was having ... A DAY. He was just not in a good place for a community outing. So, it got crossed out and will be planned for another day this week ... when he's up for it!

Ok, now about those the colored dots? Well, with these dots (which are just pen marks) I set up rough time blocks for myself ...

red/pink - early morning before the youngest wakes up (my "sit-plan-consume coffee" time)

orange (a.m.) - mid-morning, after youngest wakes up and before therapy starts

blue - therapy hours, before tidy-time

orange p.m. - afternoon, after therapy and tidy-time, before supper

purple - evening, after supper

These dots match up times with my to-dos ... :)

And so here's a look at my "To-Do" column:

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I don't do this every day, but when I have a lot going on, and I really need to make the best use of my time, I love this "system" for keeping up with my to-dos! I put a colored dot next to each task to show in which time block I need (or should) be working on it. So when it's 8 a.m. and I'm standing in the kitchen looking over my planner, I can find, at a glance, the "orange" tasks. I don't even bother looking at the big list itself - no blues, purples or reds - just orange! It kind of simplifies that choice for me!

Also, as you can see here, my to-do list starts with the day's housekeeping routine tasks. I have recently started writing these in blue ink to set them apart. Tuesdays are bathroom days (whereas everyday is laundry day!) and this week's extra chore is any and all Easter prep.

As I go through the day I check off things I accomplish and place a dot in a box indicating that a task has been started. If the task is being taken care of by someone else, I place their initial (in a little circle) next the task. 

And finally we have the "Notes & Gratitude" space:

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To be completely honest, I find it a little uncomfortable to write neatly so close to the bottom of the page, so I like to use post-it notes here. I only have two here today (one got moved up to the to-do column). The soft blue note is a list of photos to take and the yellow note is for the day's preschool activities. (Remember, our seasonal theme is eggs this week!) It's very easy to move these notes along as tasks and ideas get pushed back.

Well! I think that about does it for now - though I'm sure I'll have more Day Designer posts in the near future! Speaking of which - I have a post coming up in which I will show you how I use the weekly planner spread, the one I'm giving away to one lucky reader! All the details can be found in the post at the top of this blog! :)

So please stay tuned and as always, I thank you for stopping by! I wish you all a peaceful and blessed evening ... 

See you here again very soon!


Happy 12 Years, Little Blog! (+ a Giveaway!)

Blog bday collage

Hello my friends, and Happy Thursday!

❀

Today I have some exciting news to share! Not only do I begin my 13th year of blogging today - but I'm kicking off a super fun GIVEAWAY, too!

And here's the grand prize!

Day designer weekly

This is a: 

Day Designer for Blue Sky 2018-2019 Academic Year Weekly & Monthly Planner, Laminated Cover, Twin-Wire Binding, 8" x 10", Navy Stripe Design

 

Woot! Woot!

This is the weekly planner I use to keep track of our family's weekly to-dos and to-gos. I will do a post very soon showing you exactly how I use it, but here are a couple more glimpses inside:Inside planner 1

Inside planner 2(Note: Mine has a black and white striped cover and a green/white interior - but the layout is the same.)

This is a wonderful planner - slim, sturdy and thorough. There is plenty of room to do a LOT of weekly planning in here, as well as to keep track of all your month-at-a-glance details. I absolutely love mine and I would be so happy to see someone else enjoy this planner, too!

So!

ONE lucky reader will win this planner (along with a few favorite blogging accoutrements), but in honor of the TWELVE years I've blogged so far, I will also choose 12 names to receive a bit of fun "spring" mail from yours truly! Nothing too grand or fancy, just a little-old fashioned "snail mail," from me to you, in celebration of the new and lovely season ahead. :)

Ok, so to enter my GIVEAWAY, here's what you have to do:

  1. Leave a comment below this post (or at my Facebook page) with your name, along with a question you'd like to ask me and/or a suggestion for a post you'd like to read. 

It's that simple!

I will collect names up until Monday, APRIL 2nd - that's the day after Easter! - and then "roundabouts teatime," I will announce the GIVEAWAY winners!

πŸ€—

I think this will be fun! And I look forward to hearing from you! I can't promise I'll answer every question asked or write every post suggested, but I will certainly do my best to make my way through the ideas throughout the year. :)

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(I'm keeping a list for future blog posts - including "Full Disclosure Fridays" - behind the sunny yellow tab shown above!)

❀

Now, what would a birthday be without cake? :)

On Tuesday Little Bear and I baked "vernal equinox cupcakes," seen below in a recent Instagram collage ...

Spring collage
I simply frosted yellow cupcakes with ivory buttercream, then dusted half of each top with "spring green" sprinkles and the other half with "snowflake" sprinkles. Because - per New England tradition - Spring almost always kicks off with a good dusting of snow - or more! Hopefully though, having dodged the most recent snowstorm, we will get a little (or a lot of) melting here next week ... because I for one am dreaming of a GREEN Easter! πŸ’š

But back to the cake ...

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Since I only used half of the batter for the cupcakes, I decided to bake my blog a yummy, sunny, sprinkle-topped birthday cake - it's not like I haven't done it before! So tonight after supper, we'll light those sweet-smelling beeswax candles and dig right in ...

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Well my friends, I feel so blessed to be starting my 13th year of blogging and look forward to sharing more of my mothering/home-schooling/home-keeping/seasons-following/nature-loving journey with you all! 

Wishing the very best of luck to all who enter my GIVEAWAY, and to everyone, many thanks for stopping by! Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones ...

I will see you here again very soon!


Mitten Strings for God: Ch. 13 "Breathing"

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Hello my friends, and Happy Sunday! I hope you are all doing well! :)

Today I'd like to invite you to sit and have a spot of tea with me, as we chat about the next chapter in our current (albeit slow-going!) book study, Mitten Strings for God by Katrina Kenison. Last month we talked about incorporating more "One-on-One Time," and today - skipping over chapter 12, for reasons explained in this post - we're moving on to the concept of "Breathing."

(Who thinks about breathing, anyway? Well, today, we will!)

Before we get started on our topic though, how about a quick look at my tea?

Today I am drinking a cup of Decaffeinated Irish Breakfast tea, which is kind of our house tea, so there's always an extra box or two in our cupboard! (I hardly ever drink full-caf tea since I limit my caffeine intake to the mornings - when coffee fills my mug and zaps my veins with the energy I need to jump-start my day!)

So please let me pour you a fresh cuppa, and please pardon the mess on the table - particularly, the cats! (Who let them up on the table, anyway??) Today being Sunday I am knee-deep in my "office hours" and trying to get a handle on what the new week will bring. The Vernal Equinox for one thing on Tuesday, as well as the start of my annual spring cleaning - and our seasonal homeschooling theme is "pussy willows." As you can see, Oliver and Archie are all-in ... because nothing invites the cats' keen attention like a little fresh vegetation on the kitchen table!

Allrighty, now let's get on with the chapter chat ...

And what an interesting thing to consider, breathing. It's something we do constantly and automatically ... yet rarely do we actually stop and think about it. Unless we've over-exerted ourselves, and/or are suffering from asthma or experiencing an allergic reaction (been there, done that) - if we are fortunate enough to have no physical ailments to impede it, our body just does what it must do ... our lungs expand, we take in oxygen ... we breathe.

And we live!

So as I read this chapter's opening passage - the description of the Kenison boys running loops around the house, exulting in the very state of being alive - I thought, what a fun and memorable story! But also ... what a lesson!

"We stand there together, hands to hearts, as their pulses slowly return to normal. Then they are off again, flying, exhilarated, reveling in their discoveries of air and speed and strength, the joy of physical experience." (p. 95)

Celebrating life comes so easily to children - they don't think about it so much, or plan it like their adult counterparts do (perhaps a tad obsessively, ahem!). No, they just happily move forward, absorbing and savoring the blessing that is LIFE. This awareness and appreciation comes to them as naturally as breathing, if you'll pardon the pun - but it's true! And I think most of us could benefit from the innocent lessons of an open-hearted and exuberant child.

"How readily our children embrace these humble lessons; how long it takes for many of us adults to relearn them!" (p. 99)

As for racing about the house, I think perhaps we adults might tire after the first quarter-lap, lol! That said, I can strongly identify with the parents here - sitting, and watching - in that first passage. How wonderful to watch our children marvel over the "inner workings of their own bodies." (p. 95)   

So when do we think about breathing, then? Well, for one thing, when we're exercising ...

Fitness walking is an excellent habit, but one I must admit I fall in and out of according to season. In the spring, as soon as the roads and walkways are clear of snow, I begin my daily morning walks. Spring is a great time for new endeavors! The air smells great, and feels great! At this time of year I feel inspired, invigorated and resolved!

But at first it's a bit of a struggle to get back in the rhythm of walking. And not just physically - making my way up the steep hill at the end of our road - but mentally, too. Beginning with motivating myself to walk out my door - making the time to walk, arranging the child care, putting on my walking clothes and lacing up my sneakers ... letting my brain move beyond the walls of my house and the issues and tasks therein.

Allowing my mind to wander along with my feet ... I find it all gets easier as the season moves along.

My breathing during these walks comes easier too as I gain stamina and my lungs get back into the swing of things. Spring and summer walking is a breeze (green flies and heat waves, notwithstanding) but by autumn I'm afraid to say - with dark days and chilly/wet weather, I start finding excuses to stay home and skip my walks. Soon enough of course, I fall out of habit. 

But to say come spring I'm eager to revive my walking habit again is an understatement! I'm ready to exchange winter's stale indoor air for spring's fresh outdoor air and take a few deep cleansing breaths! And here we are on April's doorstep, so my instincts should be kicking in again anytime now ... once the roads are passable, of course.

*glares at the two feet of snow outside the window* 

So when else do we think about breathing? Well, how about when we're trying to find calm for ourselves, or another?

Do you ever stop when you find yourself in a bit of "a state" and just - close your eyes and count to ten? (Or five, or a hundred - depending on the circumstances!) And as you count, you might find your breathing slows and whatever is happening seems a little more manageable? Even if just in a mercurial amount. Any bit of calm is welcome when the need is great.

Speaking of ...

"When I say to my boys, 'Let's take a deep breath,' I am guiding them into a safe haven, a place where they can release their pain and anger and come back to center again." (p. 98)

Throughout the book, Ms. Kesinson is quite candid about her family's choices and challenges, and as I've said before, so much of it has inspired and supported me in my own mothering. And each time I read, I appreciate some chapters more than others - because my experiences (hopes and fears) change as my children grow. 

So during my current re-read, I found myself pausing over her description of her younger son's emotional issues:

"Jack is still prone to tantrums, outbursts that frighten him and wreak havoc on the rest of us as well." (p. 98)

I couldn't help but think about my Earlybird and his struggles. When EB was very little, before he was officially diagnosed, he would have absolutely awful meltdowns. They seemed to happen all the time, sometimes for no reason, and we just felt ... so helpless. Our older boys (four and two when EB was born) were extremely easy-going children, with nary a tantrum between them. So I'm pretty sure we thought we had the whole "peaceful parenting" thing down pat ...

*rolls eyes at my younger mothering self*

And then along came Earlybird, who, by two was wigging out at the zoo, the grocery store, the neighbor's birthday party, in the car - you name it, he couldn't handle it. And for a very long time, neither could we ...

We learned of course, that Earlybird has autism, and meltdowns out of nowhere are common. They are also, unfortunately, not something he's grown out of - and let me tell you, it's a lot easier to handle the autistic meltdown of a six year old then that of a 16 year old. (Physically AND emotionally!) Thankfully though, we have learned how to help him through these challenging times and, perhaps just as important, we've learned how to make it through these tough times ourselves. Years later we have wonderful therapists working with EB and showing us the way. One of the techniques they began with him quite early on was breathing ...

So when EB is upset - afraid, mad, frustrated, whatever emotion is just too big- they encourage him to take deep breaths, for a count of five.

"Take a deep breath, EB. And again ... one, two, three, four, five."

I remember the first time I watched them do this, I thought: Right, I don't think so. That's not gonna work ...

And yet, sure enough ... he calmed down. Maybe just a little, but usually enough to get us to the next step. His attention was diverted, he could hear us again, and he'd become more aware as he slowed down his over-taxed heart.

Over time, Earlybird has learned to employ this strategy on his own. Often we have to prompt him, but now and then I'll hear him, if he's frustrated by something, muttering to himself: "Ok. Just calm down now, and take a deep breath."

How many times have I found myself (perhaps in the very next room) taking those deep breaths along with him ... ?

If I may veer a bit off topic (kind of) for a moment ...

I've been sharing more and more about our autism journey here at the blog and how we've been able to help our son, but I just want to stress that we are nowhere near perfect, nor do we have it all figured out. We take it day by day (or as we often "joke," hour by hour) and try to handle what we can, as we can. We are blessed with tremendous support, and sometimes it feels like we're on a fairly even keel ... but then something happens and we're frantically adjusting our sails once again.

For a long time we floundered, having trouble finding the right kind of therapy for EB. (Whose issues were complicated by the onset of epilepsy at age 12.) In 2014 we finally matched up with a fabulous ABA center and began home-based therapy that has been invaluable for our son. Without question, it has changed his (and our) lives. That said, we have just recently come to the decision to start him on a behavioral med. This was not a decision we took lightly - indeed, we've put it off for as long as we could. But though so much has improved for EB - there have also been some new and significant challenges for EB in the past year. Perhaps hardest of all has been the rise of an anxiety - for lack of a better word - that prevents him from fully exploring the world around him, taking part in his community and maintaining a peace within himself that allows him to benefit from the supports available to him ...

So we talked long and hard with our neurologist (a Boston Children's Hospital Autism Specialist) about this situation and while very supportive of what we've been doing, agreed with our concern that we need to do something more. So we are starting EB out on something mild and at a very low dose ... and in a few weeks we should potentially see some changes. 

So we're nervous, but we're hopeful ... because we're finally doing something, that has helped other children and adults with autism. We can only pray it will help our boy, too. As our doctor warned us, it won't make things perfect, but it will hopefully take the edge off for him and allow him (US) to live more fully.

If we can find a little more calm in our household I think all of us will BREATHE a little easier! β€

My friends, I hope you all don't mind me sharing this news seemingly out of the blue, but I felt it was important to let people know that this is where we need to go. I know many people reading here also have children on medication, and I am certain it was a decision you also took very seriously. (If you feel called to comment or reach out, I'd love to hear from you.) Throughout our journey we've handled as much as we can and we try, constantly to devise ideas and strategies that help our son with his challenges, but  ... we've come to realize, he needs more help. We need more help.

I will keep you all posted and would be ever so grateful for your prayers!

***

Well everyone, I am going to be off now, as there are still a few hours before bedtime and I still have a few more To-Dos to take care of! I hope you are all enjoying this lovely Sunday ... blustery and bright here, but at least it's not snowing! As always, I would love to hear from you if you have a moment! Remember, all are welcome to join the MSfG discussion ... archived posts can be found here ... and we're not even halfway through the book! Our next chapter is called, "Healing" and I would love to assign it a date, but I know myself too well, and will just say, it will be soon. Ish. After Easter, for sure - but I will post a "meeting time" when we get started in the new month ... 

So please stay tuned and take care! As always, I thank you sincerely for stopping by ...

See you here again very soon!


Here's a Look at Our Day!

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Hello my friends, and Happy Thursday! I hope your week's been going well!

I thought it would be fun to share a "day in our life" with you all, so as we went through our day, one day last week, I took pictures and jotted down notes. Here then is a little recap of last Thursday, March 1st. :)

(Note: Our weekdays are currently quite similar in that, Bill goes to work and I stay home with the kids. Another constant these days is we have two ABA therapists who work here at home with our 16 yo son, for a total of four hours a day. And then some days Bill works from home, and four days a week our 18 yo son has outside-the-home classes - to (and from) which Bill or I must drive him because he does not yet have his license! But hopefully he will by the end of this month!)

Ok, here we go ...

GOOD MORNING! πŸŒž

5:00 a.m.

I wake up and realize I'm the first one up, which is quite surprising because usually Earlybird is the first to rise. (He has in fact been my alarm clock for the past 16 years!) I look over to see if Bill is still sleeping, and am not all that surprised to notice that the body softly snoring next to me is not my husband's but that of our four year old son's - with his head draped across my pillows, mind you! And this would explain the crick in my neck ...

I then realize Bill has already gotten out of bed, so I grab my phone and send off a text:

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As you can see our texting skills are not at their best this early in the morning! (Per family tradition, we always say RABBIT RABBIT on the first of the month - it's supposed to bring you good luck!)

Within a few minutes I hear Earlybird get up and head downstairs, and Bill sees to EB's needs (a snack, a water cup, the family room TV clicker) while starting a fresh pot of coffee. Then I wait, in the darkness, with as much patience as I can muster (which isn't a lot), until Bill brings me that first blessed cup of coffee. sigh ... JOY!

So while I savor my first cup, curled up in the rocking chair by my bed, Little Bear sleeps on with hefty pillows piled up on either side of him. (Our bed is quite high and I don't like to leave him alone in it - yet I'm loathe to move him for fear he'd wake and be up for the day!)

It's quiet, it's peaceful, and there's a purring cat in my lap ... β€ 

Soon enough, Bill starts getting ready for work - though he often takes calls at home until mid-morning - and Earlybird is happy as a clam in the family room with his Kindle Fire and breakfast snacks. 

(Note: EB usually wakes up VERY early - he always has! Sleeping past six is rare for him. He can't be left unsupervised however, so Bill and I always rise just as early as he does.)

Now some (perhaps many!) might cringe at starting one's day so very early in the morning, but honestly, I don't mind. In fact, I actually like it! As long as I have my coffee, of course, I appreciate these early hours before the day truly begins, when I can gather my thoughts and launch the day slowly ...

So the next few hours are spent in this way - I'm upstairs watching the room go from pitch dark to soft light, savoring cup (after cup) of freshly brewed coffee, working on my phone until it's light enough to see and then I start working in my planners. (Checking email, social media, news, etc.) I also use this time to think quietly and say my morning prayers. I love catching the sunrise when I'm able ... πŸŒ…

* Morning planning: I start with my little Katie Daisy planner, at the monthly spread, crossing off yesterday's block (February 28th). Since it's the first of the month, I readjust my binder clip to the March page. Isn't it fun when you get to start a new monthly spread? I then open my seasonal planner and consult the weekly spread - where are we at, what's what for today? Thursdays are "nature walk" days, per our weekly homeschooling rhythm - and as this is "thaw/sap" week we'll be looking for signs of winter-melt and possibly, any maple trees in our neighborhood. It's supposed to be a clear and very mild day so this is perfect! Finally I move on to my Day Designer and set up my daily page. If time permits I use a highlighter to visually target drive-times and outings.

(Note: During these early hours, spring through fall, I try to grab a quick 30 minute walk before Little Bear wakes. These days however, winter weather (and dark mornings) keep me inside. I do have a treadmill in our bedroom but I don't use it regularly ever.)

8:45 a.m.

Little Bear seems to be sleeping in, so I wake Crackerjack (first reminding him to say RABBIT RABBIT) so he can keep an eye on LB and an ear out for EB while I grab a quick shower and get dressed. 

(Note: I think it would be fun to do a post on our grooming/health/beauty routines, don't you?)

Once I'm done with my "primp and prep" (such as it is) Crackerjack goes off to get himself ready for class, and Little Bear wakes up soon thereafter.

9:00 a.m.

We head downstairs to officially begin our day! This is about an hour later than usual for us, so I'm running a little behind. Earlybird heads upstairs to his bedroom since he no longer has to be quiet, but first I give him his (anti-seizure) meds. Little Bear and I feed the cats and start making breakfast ... I always tune into the TODAY show throughout the morning. I can't sit and really digest it, but I like to catch a few segments here and there. :)

BREAKFAST: whole wheat waffles, apple cider, cheese and vitamins.

I now switch to decaffeinated tea. I try not to drink caffeine after 10 a.m.

9:30 a.m.

I drive Crackerjack to Spanish class, leaving the rest of the boys at home with Bill. Just before leaving I receive an email from a good friend of mine who is organizing our March Nature Club activity (maple sugaring!). She needs me to get back to her ASAP on a few dates/times so that gets me thinking and strategizing on the drive.

I drop CJ at his class, and head back home (a five-minute drive). Kiss Bill on my way in (and his way out) and then scramble to get things ready for Earlybird's first therapist who arrives at 10 a.m.

10:00 a.m.

Earlybird is working on his daily routine with his ABA therapist, Michael. First he showers, shaves and dresses - then he works on chores like cleaning his room, changing his bedding, doing his laundry, taking out the trash, emptying the dishwasher, etc. All these tasks build good skills but are also important for working on the concept of compliance. (Doing activities that are not preferred.)

Meanwhile, I return my friend's email, letting her know the dates that work for us, give my Mum a call, and then do some preschool activities with Little Bear ... and this is where I first start taking pictures!

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Here's Little Bear coloring a Welsh dragon for St. David's Day! We also read a book, and make a paper plate cloud - in honor of March coming in like a lamb. Little Bear says he's "still hungry" and wants toast, so we pop some bread in the toaster and start working on a Peppa Pig puzzle. 

Suddenly, a telltale rumble on the road tells us mail has arrived! So we decide to head outside for a bit to retrieve said mail, check on the hens and have ourselves a little nature walk.

But first we pop downstairs to change up the laundry and see if Bookworm is busy. (He's not working full-time at the moment, but doing computer design/site building at home currently, while studying for java certification.) We find him on his computer, but he tells us he'll join us outside for a bit. (While Bookworm looks for full-time employment he has been a HUGE help to us with childcare. I feel so blessed to have this time with ALL my boys at home!)

11:00 a.m. 

Outside now, and what a beautiful day! Bright and warm, nearly 60Β°! Not at all usual for New England at this time of year. (But we'll take it!)

After checking on the hens' needs, we walk around a bit. I love our yard because it's a good size and there are always interesting and new things to "discover!" Some things are new but familiar ...

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Such as the first daffodil shoots of the year! We found these growing by the front walk, beneath the dog rose bush.

Other things are not new, but perhaps unnoticed, and definitely not familiar!

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Such as this orange and green "fur" growing between the cracks in the stairwell. (It's actually moss - aka Hairy Moss!) Little Bear, as you can see here, made sure he grabbed his shovel, because ... you never know when you might need to dig.

I leave LB with BW and head inside to place a call and check on EB and Michael ...

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Oops, but first I remember to grab the mail!

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How I love a good mail day! New books, catalogs and magazines and ok, yes, bills. But still - I love when our mailbox is full!

Back inside I find Earlybird and his therapist taking a break in the family room. (EB gets five minute breaks between tasks and usually he likes to watch a little TV during this time.) I decide to place a call I need to make ... rescheduling a long overdue eye exam!

After earning that check, I decide to work on some chores, since Little Bear and Bookworm are still outside and Earlybird and Michael have left on a bike ride. It seems VERY quiet in the house, lol! Just me and the cats ...

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... who are intently observing a chipmunk perched just outside the patio doors!

According to my weekly housekeeping schedule, on Thursdays I clean the "back rooms" - meaning, the sunroom (aka the learning room) and family room. I decide to start in the sunroom since it's just SO lovely out I can have the windows open while I work ...

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My cleaning routine goes something like this: de-clutter/tidy, sweep, vacuum, dust/wipe.

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If I'm able to have windows open all the better for airing out the room, too!

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I leave the table set with things for Earlybird to see and work on today ...

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Just as I finish tidying this room, I am hailed by Bookworm and Little Bear to "Come see what they found!" I will spare you this picture though, since what they found was most surely a rather disgusting owl pellet! Fascinating, for sure ... but also, quite gross. 

NOONTIME

Michael is off and it's time for lunch! Bookworm brings Little Bear inside and sees to his washing up, while I set about making lunch for the younger boys.

LUNCH: popcorn, lemonade, cheese quesadillas, apple slices and fig cookies.

I also keep an eye on the noontime news - it seems we have quite a storm heading our way!

Earlybird's second therapy session begins once Gideon arrives. They head out to the sunroom to start in on his homeschool assignments and various other life skills activities. I clean up after lunch - with Little Bear's help, natch - and then LB and I settle in for a bit of reading time in the living room. He's really into "The Magic School Bus" right now and as you can imagine we have quite a few of those in our collection!

(Note: I need to read with Little Bear where Earlybird can't hear us since he has a strong aversion to people reading aloud, singing, talking too much. We're actually working on desensitizing him of this sensory challenge and some days one of his therapy activities is simply to listen to me read aloud (with or without LB present, depending on EB's current mood). We do this for a few minutes or pages at a time. Otherwise, LB and I read aloud when EB is elsewhere in the house or otherwise engaged with his therapists.) 

1:00 p.m.

I leave Bookworm home with EB and Gideon while Little Bear and I head out to pick up Crackerjack from class and run to the library. But first, I pour my fresh cup of tea into a travel mug! Here is my bag sitting on the seat next to me:

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It's not the most interesting picture, I just really love that bag! We have a few books and videos to return and I have a couple of holds waiting for me.

We pick up CJ - who as you can probably tell from this picture, had a karate lesson after Spanish!

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(We're very fortunate to have an active homeschooling community where we live. CJ, like Bookworm before him, has been able to take classes with other homeschoolers at a couple of different locations. This has made a huge impact on our high school homeschooling. I plan to do a separate post about our homeschool approach in the high school years ... now that Bookworm is actually OUT of college and Crackerjack is making plans to attend in the fall.)

Ok, we're now off to the library! We are here at least once a week - to make returns, pick up holds and sometimes just to browse. Today I allow Little Bear to pick out a video or two. He has a hard time choosing and finally decides on Reading Rainbow and The Adventures of Clutch Powers. (He is SO into Legos right now!)

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Before we leave, Crackerjack points out a book he thinks looks nice for Little Bear, Shelter. It is indeed absolutely lovely, and I make a note to add it to my November planner for "hibernation" week. (I scribble myself a note on the index card attached to my little planner and then transfer that note to my seasonal planner back home.)

A few minutes later we are back home, and heading inside, but Little Bear wants to feel the soft buds of the magnolia tree ...

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He is enchanted by the texture - though somewhat dismayed when he plucks the bud off the tree without meaning to! I reassure him the tree is fine and suggest he place the bud on our nature table. 

First though, LB takes a closer look under his "microscope!"

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He places the bud on top of his bowl of moss-dirt.

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"Doing science." πŸ˜‰ This little magnifyer was a wonderful purchase! It has served us very well for several years.

Btw, here are the books I had on the hold shelf:

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The Dance of Time is right up my alley - I LOVE learning about the calendar! I forget where I heard about it, but I decided it would be an interesting book to check out! The Vanity Fair Diaries is not something I'd normally read, but I saw its author, VF editor-in-chief Tina Brown interviewed on Greater Boston one evening last month and thought it all sounded quite intriguing! (We don't watch a lot of TV, but Bill and try to catch GB every weeknight - plus Beat the Press on Fridays as well as the wonderful Rick Steves' Europe also on PBS!)

3:00 p.m.

Now, time for a break! We sit in the family room for a bit - and yes, the TV goes on! Nature Cat and Wild Kratts are favorites and while Little Bear watches, I work on my plans for next week (and the weekend) and enjoy a rather large cup of tea!

Here's where we crash for a bit ...

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I just love this east-facing window - it gets wonderful morning light, and the cardinals just love those spruce trees! The couch is a bit beaten up (though only a few years old) but it's quite comfy. :)

Just as I decide to put off the rest of my "Thursday chores" I hear a car pull up the drive ... and we are all thrilled to see it's my brother - aka Uncle Matt!

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We have SUCH a nice visit with my brother ... as usual, he spoils us with a bunch of Trader Joes treats (he's a TJ's manager) and a new game for family game night! He doesn't need to bring a thing of course, it's just great to spend time with him. :)

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And this right here is why I'm so grateful to be at home, and that I live close to my family. My life is a simple one, but it brings me tremendous joy! 

❀‒❀‒❀‒❀‒❀‒❀‒❀‒❀‒❀‒❀‒❀‒❀‒❀ 

Now I will confess, I got off track a little at this point - I stopped taking pictures and jotting down notes! But here's my recollection of the rest of our Thursday, March 1st ... :)

4:00 p.m.

After Matt left, I started in on my usual afternoon tidy. And by started in on, I mean, I didn't get through it all. (I almost never do!) "Afternoon tidying" includes sweeping the kitchen, prepping supper, neatening the kitchen sink and counters and wiping up the half-bath in the foyer. It's really great when I do make time for these simple tasks because they greatly impact not only the way I feel in the evening but especially how my next morning goes. 

Meanwhile, the boys were all over the house doing their usual things. I can (and do) often ask the older boys to keep an eye on Little Bear if I need to take a shower or work on a project of one kind or another.

I neatened up the learning room a little, by organizing the materials used and lessons completed. Then I turned off the space heater and lights and locked the door for the night.

6:00 p.m.

Bill got home around 6 p.m. and as usual, we sat down to supper right away. This is one of my favorite moments of the day - when we can all catch up and chat.

SUPPER: potato-leek soup (not homemade), grilled ham and cheese panini, steak fries, salad.

Once supper was eaten and dishes cleared, we all retreated to our comfort zones - the boys to their devices and Bill, Little Bear and I to the family room. Generally Bill and I like to watch a little TV at this time of night (as described above) before I head upstairs (planner bag in hand!) to tuck Earlybird in bed. (Because unsurprisingly, Earlybird loves an early bedtime!)

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My planner bag with all the things I'll need in the morning!

8:00 p.m.

Tucking EB can be a process - some nights he needs "two more minutes" multiple times! - but usually it doesn't take too long, since he's such an early riser. After washing up and getting my own "PJs" on, I readied all the beds for sleep and then let Bill know it was time to bring Little Bear upstairs. After washing up and donning "footie" pajamas, he snuggled into Mama and Daddy's bed to hear his special bed stories. Currently he loves hearing these three books before bed. :)

While Bill and Little Bear read, I read my own book until my lids grow heavy ... and next thing I know, everyone's asleep, save for the older two boys who are in charge of their own bedtimes these days! 

10:00

Zzzzzzz ....

GOOD NIGHT!

Well my friends, I hope you enjoyed this peek into our day! It was a very long post to be sure, but then - our days tend to be pretty long! (And of course, I tend to be wordy!) But as always, I thank you very much for joining me here today, and I wish you all a pleasant week's end ...

See you here again very soon!