Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What's Up With Leap Years?

Wearing the teacher hat means that I am always on the lookout for opportunities to study something relevant. Today presented me with an astrological mini-study: Leap Years. Here's the unit I put together this morning.

First of all, a big Happy Birthday to all of you "Leaplings." This is a great video about why you are so special:

Here is an activity page from Scholastic:
::Scholastic: Celebrate Leap Day!::

Gregorian Calendar Rules:
1. Every year divisible by 4 is a leap year
2. But every year divisible by 100 is NOT a leap year
3. Unless the year is also divisible by 400, then it is still a leap year.
Check out this book about Leap Years. It may the only one of it's kind:
Finally, look what Google did to it's Logo today. Always on the ball, those guys:

Sunday, February 26, 2012

::Glint of gold::

Little brother is now a husband. He walked in today with a glint of gold on his left hand and I nearly cried. These are just a few candid shots from my camera. I will post some of the official photos when I get them.

Friday, February 24, 2012

::Tiny Houses Memory Game::

I got tired of Butterflies, so I flip-flopped back into architecture. This is my latest Memory Game baby-gift.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

::Tea Time: Vanilla & Strawberry Napoleons

These made it only our Valentine's Day menu, but we'll revisit them again and again and again between now and next February. They were quick to make, but look and taste fancy-pantsy. Perfectly deceptive. I got the recipe from "Afternoon Tea" by Susanna Blake.

Basically, all you need is a good vanilla custard, yes, with vanilla beans. Costco sells them. Note: Store your vanilla beans in an airtight container and check on them. They can go all funky on you:

Once you have your custard, prepare your puff pastry according to the package. I cut mine into small rectangles but I've seen these in the shape of hearts or circles.

Toss some sliced strawberries in a bit of sugar and Grand Marnier (optional.)
And then assemble! Note: Don't assemble these too far in advance or they will grow soggy, and they just won't do.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

::Sleigh Ride::

The annual church sleigh ride is a part of my earliest memories. It was such a country experience for a city girl. Time and space seem to have dwindled with age, but back then it felt like we drove for hours to get there. We'd pull into a long, mucky lane way that smelled of animal, and there they'd be. Horses. I have always held horses in both awe and terror. So much bigger than my cat. Like most girls, I had crowned horses by favourite animal without knowing a thing about them. It just seemed like the right thing to do. (Later, when being tough was the flavour of the month, I traitorously made a new alliance with the Tiger, and folded my horse posters neatly away in a box in the closet.)

Our local sleigh ride:
::Pinto Valley Ranch::
Conveniently located 5 minutes from our house.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

::Humble Giving::

Gabriel turned six yesterday. His birthday came and went so peacefully. I always let the kids choose the menu for the day. This boy was so easy on me. Of all things, he wanted Raisin Bran for breakfast. Hotdogs for lunch. And homemade burgers & buns for dinner. Cake? No thanks. He wanted ice cream drumsticks. While his choices fell far from the realm of my personal tastes, they certainly freed up my time. After dinner, Gabriel and I went to the movie store. The young woman behind the cash delighted Gabriel with her jovial birthday-cheer, along with the gift of a green lollipop. "Toy Story 3" was chosen, and the kids fell asleep watching it from the safety of their fort in the basement.

One moment, early in the day, really stands out with clarity. It gives me hope for the men and women my children will become. And it affirms and validates the efforts Aidan and I have made to raise children who give of themselves. In the morning on the breakfast table, next to the gift from Aidan and I, were an assortment of wrapped, wonky-shaped, scruffy-looking parcels. What followed was an exchange of thoughtfully-made K'Nex creations: A motorcycle from Caelah, a garage-- complete with retractable door-- from Elijah, and a "light" from Isaiah. (See picture.)

This humble giving was met with such graciousness from Gabriel. Some kids would have discounted a gift of re-purposed toys, that will likely be re-absorbed into the communal bin within days. But Gabriel loves being loved. That these were made especially for him, was more than enough.

Friday, February 17, 2012


Another favourite song of mine, that gets sung REAL loud around here, especially the Lord's Prayer part near the end.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

::Three-Tiered Yumminess::

One of the funnest things about Tea parties is the food display. Three-tiered platters are classic. I made my own using glassware from the dollar store.
~ Three-Tiered Tea Platter
1. Pick out large plate as a base.
2. Pick out a small plate for a middle.
3. Pick a small bowl for the top.
4. Finally choose two candle holders, small cups, wine glasses or, in my case, candy dishes.
5. Glue each layer on top of the other using Super Glue.
Voila! Load it up with pretty food.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

::Heart Day: Homemade English Muffins::

One of Aidan’s favourite breakfasts is English muffins with eggs & bacon. Personally, nah. But when I found a recipe for homemade English muffins, Aidan's love for them gave me an excuse to learn a new skill. And since Valentine's Day is all about food 'round here . . .

They worked out perfectly. And they were a lovely way to start our Valentine's Day food marathon. But will I ever make them again? No thanks. They had to rise three times, and then be baked in a skillet for 20 minutes. Aidan and I were up until midnight.

English muffins. Check. Moving on.

In case you feel like spending three hours in the kitchen making these:

::Valentine's Tea::

Tiny things taste better, don't they? It's all in my head, I know, but there is something about scantness that tricks the mind into savouring in an acute way. High Tea is built essentially upon tiny things. Tiny scones. Tiny sandwiches. You tiniest finger stuck up in the air as you sip tiny sips of tea. . .

That's what we did on Valentine's Day. We enjoyed a High Tea at snack time.
For supper, I just loaded the platter back up with sweets, but also tiny sandwiches made form tiny homemade buns.
Time consuming, but quite humble, really. No mound of chocolates. No dozen roses. A far cry from the status-quo:

Friday, February 10, 2012


Mornings are tiring, but midday's are even more so.
8:30 a.m to 11:30 a.m. {The boys} Currently, after Elijah goes to school, I am left with the trickiest combo of children: Gabriel and Isaiah. They exert 100% energy at 100% volume. All morning. I can't comfortably push them outside, because I don't trust them to keep safe. Not even a bit. Some of their indoor activities include:

1. Making many, many, many paper airplanes and throwing them off of our upstairs balcony. (All of which end up in my kindling bucket-- because even if a dozen were left lying around, they would still pilfer the fresh paper pile.)
2. Running around and around and around the house in circles.
3. Throwing pillows off of the couches in order to provide a more comfortable landing for when they throw themselves off the couches.
4. Whining for food. Lots.
5. Obscuring the basement floor with toys.
6. Chopping things with scissors. Anything at all. Into the tiniest little pieces.
7. And any number of other loud, messy variations of the above.

8:30 a.m to 11:30 a.m. {The girls} Annorah is quite content most days to watch the madness, occasionally partaking in a minor way, but only if she has a dolly in tow. She has about six of them. She can't seem to tell them apart. Or doesn't care to. But they must be available at all times.

Caelah is off on her own at this point doing the "important subjects" like Math and English. She has a desk tucked away in the back room with all of her books and pencils. However, I can't get too comfortable with her independence yet. Today, for example, I breezed in to grab something and found her on the lap top watching "The Dog Whisperer" with the volume turned off. I can not express to you how angry this made me. I am still pondering the consequence. Ideas?

10:00 a.m. "Mommy, can we have something to eat?" Snack is usually something I baked and stored in the freezer. The past month, they have been eating the Periodic Table, for example. If I have nothing baked, marshmallows, raisins and cheese it is. They almost always eat their snacks immediately, and in the very spot I served it. So, if I left their cookies on the counter or the island, up they climb and there they stay until every scrap is done. This make guests nervous, I've noticed.

If at any point--and this is a big if--they do settle to watch a movie, I make myself a coffee and do the devotions I didn't get to do. Or, I check blogs. Or, I sit and stare into space for awhile.
11:30 a.m. Lunch. Always the same thing: Peanut Butter and honey sandwiches with sliced fruit. The exciting days are the days the bread is homemade. But, mostly, that's lost on the kids. They just want to eat. When lunch is announced, Norah claps her hands and hops up and down; "Yay!Yay! Yunch!"

12:30 p.m. Caelah escorts Gabriel to the bus, Annorah goes down for a nap, I get to work on the mess. Often, this is when I find evidence of vandalism, like the new dragon picture etched in pencil on our bathroom door, or the 50+ stickers pasted all over the television and coffee table downstairs. At these discoveries, I usually just sigh and move on. Aidan and I often remind each other that we are not entitled to anything in this life, let alone a pristine home-- or working electronics.

1:00 to 4:00 p.m. This is usually my favourite part of the day. Caelah and I sometimes work on a fun subject together, and include Isaiah, if we can. I make a coffee and curl up with her to read good books about exciting places, or we do something artistic that would never be gotten away with if Norah were awake.

This time slot offers yet another opportunity to do devotions if I haven't gotten a chance yet.

Or I dare to open a book for a bit. So very rare. And once I delve in I find it far more difficult to shift back into gears when I hear; A. Little-girl noises upstairs B. Bus-rumbles alerting me that the boys are home.

4:00 to 5:30 p.m. Chaos. Annorah has renewed energy from her nap. (Oh, to nap!) The two schoolboys are all post-school wildness. Isaiah, well, his energy level never wains, so he carries on at his usual pace-- which is crazy! And Caelah is SO done working.

Meanwhile, I have to look through school bags for notes. Hand out snacks. Get boys to complete homework. Get dinner really going. And make sure everyone and everything stays in one piece.

Nothing is sweeter than the sound of tires crunching on the driveway.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

::A hard concept::


Tuesday, February 07, 2012

::River Ski::

Since our picture-perfect Winter Picnic, we haven't been back to the river, mainly because it takes a lot of work to get there. But I have new Skate Skis, freshly waxed in our mudroom, (this involves a brick of wax, an iron & a scraper. What a mess!) And the temperatures were perfect.

I remember the day I mentally "cheated" on traditional skis and decided to leave them for Skate's. I had been labouring along a trail with a horrible pair of skis that squeaked and groaned conspicuously with every stunted 'glide.' And this man blew by me so fast I felt a big rush of air. And then he did it again and again and again. He must have lapped me six times.

Never having been on skate-skis before, I was not expecting to fly across the snow but that's what good skate skis do, I guess. At first, I was in front of Caelah but realized that, if I wasn't looking back, she quickly became a speck in the distance. She went in front after that, but it was all I could do to go slow enough. That said, when we got to deep snow, and I was forced to give up my skate ski technique, Caelah sped past with relish and left me behind.

We heard a few snowmobilers buzzing around the bend and I must admit to feeling mildly anxious each time that we'll be plowed over. But each time, they gave us a wide berth and did that hand nod-thingy they all do, kind of like truck drivers and bikers.