Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Hairy Woodpecker

It seems there's always plenty of learning going on around here. What I like about it is that it happens so naturally and it's fun. Here are a few things we're doing these days:
  • We're enjoying watching the birds in our backyard and trying to identify them. We put this right outside our dining room window so we can see our feathered friends more closely. I bought a poster of common Western feeder birds and put in up near the window, and also a book of birds that are local to our valley. We've seen many different kinds of birds in the last few days that I couldn't have identified before. We've had a pair of Flicker woodpeckers, both a downy and a hairy woodpecker, a varied thrush, a stellar's jay and some scrub jays, and lots of Oregon juncos. The kids seem to be catching the enthusiasm and running excitedly to the window when they spot a bird. We've also started reading The Burgess Bird Book for Children. So far we're enjoying the stories and learning about birds as well.
  • Peregrine is learning to read! This is a huge milestone in his little life, and also fun for me as a homeschooling Mama. We've not used any program, but have worked on letter sounds and here and there sounded short words out together. He's never seemed very interested, but in the last few weeks something has clicked and he's starting to "get it". I've been letting him play around on the Starfall website. He's still young, and I don't want to push him into reading, but it seems he's not to be stopped. Last week he informed me that he'd written the word peas in his notebook. I went and looked and sure enough, he'd written PEEZZ!
  • I've been experimenting with making artisan breads. I've wondered before how to make breads like the rustic loaves one can buy, and I'm starting to learn. The Bread Baker's Apprentice is a great book with thorough instructions. I found a DVD called Bread Comes to Life at the library. It shows how bread is made, from the wheat being grown, ground, made into dough, and baked. It's very well done and even though it's geared toward children both Erik and I enjoyed it.
  • Another great library find is A Child's Book of Art. It's chock full of paintings and drawings, and is a great introduction to art. I've had fairly limited exposure to art, but it's something I want my kids to be familiar with. especially as it makes history come alive. Both Peregrine and Alethea will sit and look at this book with me.
  • We've been taking advantage of some sunny days and working a lot our in the yard. We have two giant sequoia trees and a cedar that make a pretty good mess so it takes a lot of work to clean up the lawn and the flower beds. We're also making some new garden areas and have planted the early things, like peas and lettuces. I don't know much about gardening, but I sure like doing it anyway! The kids love to be outside and are helping to dig and plant seeds too. We plan to do one of the kids' garden projects from Roots, Shoots, Buckets, and Boots, which, by the way, is a fantastic book. Have I mentioned that Alethea makes a pretty nice mud pie?
  • Finally, we're getting ready for Alethea's second birthday in a few days. We'll have a little family party for her on the weekend, and I'm making her a new dress. She likes to sit with me a bit while I'm sewing, just like I used to sit with my Mom, playing with her pins and sewing notions. (Don't worry, I don't let her play with the pins yet. I always tell her "No, no! Those are sharp!" She's gotten her words a bit mixed up and calls them sharks now! She thinks the sewing machine sounds "like a train" and wants me to say "choo choo" as I sew.
This is my idea of education! Sure, my kids are only 4 1/2 and (very nearly) two, but does it really have to get much more complicated than this? We read, we play, we explore ideas together, and... they learn! What's more, I'm learning a lot too.
And a question for those further down the road than I. Have you used a reading program for your children? Do you think it's necessary and/or beneficial?

(Photo by Jim Peaco, in the Public Domain)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


March is always a month of great contrasts. There's the old saying that it comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, but here in the Pacific Northwest it seems the lion and lamb fight it out almost daily. We've had clear sunny skies and warm breezes followed by ominous clouds, pelting rain, and hail. We've awoken to frost on the ground, and other days we've opened our windows to let the fresh sweet air fill our winter weary home. It seems the weather is most fickle at this time of year, but we know Spring will win; she always does.
I feel not a little like the weather. I am taking great joy in my sweet family. Peregrine seems to have turned a corner and is obeying more cheerfully, and both Erik and I are finding him to be much more happy and pleasant. We're looking forward to Alethea's second birthday in a few weeks. She is blossoming before our eyes and is full of energy and sweetness and a bit of mischief. Together my little ones keep my days filled with laughter, work, surprises and challenges. We're happy to get outside more and have been working in the yard, cleaning out the flower beds, preparing garden plots, and planting seeds. There has been a trip to the coast, walks by the river, and visits to local parks. My family and the activities that surround them are my sunshine.
But there are storms too. This is the month, and we are approaching the day, that our baby Esther Bihana Hope would have been due. I dreamed a few weeks ago that I was pregnant and the time to deliver my baby was very soon. I realized, with a devastating shock, that my belly hadn't grown, that something had gone wrong and I was only then noticing it. In real life I seem to be surrounded with friends who have just given birth, are about to, or who have just learned they're expecting. And while I rejoice with them, I feel keenly the loss of our own babes. It seems to well up within me and spill out often these days. I feel the sadness of what might have been; my arms ache to hold my unknown-to-me little ones in my arms, not just in my heart. I was reminded of the words that follow the George MacDonald quote I have in the header. "There are winds that blow up huge storms inside the hearts of men and women, and blow till the great clouds full of tears rain down from the eyes." These storms seem to be battling with my sunshine these days, and I know that it's the nature of things, and that in grieving our losses we receive healing too. In this life there will always be sorrows mingled with the joys. I look forward to the day when God will wipe away every tear from my eyes, and when the Lord Jesus Himself will be my Light. But sometimes that feels a long way off.
I appreciate your prayers for me during these days when I seem to be all sunshine one moment and stormy the next. I recently finished reading a book I've heard Elisabeth Elliot mention on occasion, Stepping Heavenward, by Elizabeth Prentiss. (You can read it online here.) Written in the 1800s, it begins as the journal of a young woman who is impetuous and ruled by her temper, but longing for transformation. Reading through her journal of many years we watch as she grows up, marries, has children, and bears many trials. Through it all, and with much struggle, she is slowly changed to become more like Christ. She comes to value her sufferings as precious, since through them she has been drawn closer to her Saviour. This book spoke much to me, and encouraged me to press on, to not just endure my trials, but to seek the good that God has promised to bring through them. I will close with words I wrote some time ago: "The disciples marveled that "even the winds obeyed" Jesus. This, to me, is an assurance that when the gentle breezes turn to howling storms, our Master is still in command. We have no control over the winds that blow, but if we know the One who controls them, then we can rest knowing that He carries us still."

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Of Fake Sugar and Necessities

Question: What can you make from a turtleneck shirt, a plastic grocery sack, and some tape from a first aid kit?

Answer: Why, a diaper of course!

If necessity gave birth to this, I got to play midwife yesterday when I found myself miles away from the nearest diaper and in desperate need of one!


And this sweet boy is in the habit, whenever we go to a restaurant, of handing me a little pink packet of sweetener that he thinks is tea. Last night at dinner, after a happy day on the coast, he gave me my customary packet of "tea". Apparently some time later my sister informed him that "fake sugar is bad for your brain." He came running over to me in tears, nearly inconsolable. When I could understand him he said "Mom, now you can't drink the tea I gave you because it's bad for your brain!" Apparently he's never noticed that I don't actually drink my "tea" but discreetly put it back in the sugar holder. I told him he could give me the white packet, the real sugar, instead, and that seemed to satisfy him. I even brought this one home with me!

Friday, March 09, 2007


Yesterday afternoon I was surprised by a loud pounding on my front door. I wasn't expecting anyone, and it was obviously someone who didn't know it was the time of day when I still had a sleeping little one. Peregrine was up and we went together to see who it was. I opened the door and nearly fell over, for there was my four-year-old nephew Joseph who lives in Alaska! I think I stood there and exclaimed "Oh, my goodness!" about four times and he probably began to wonder if I was planning on saying hi or inviting him in! He was soon followed by his dad, my brother Jacob, as well as my parents and sister Gloria. My sister-in-law, Jackie unfortunately couldn't get the time off of work, and we shall miss her. Only Gloria knew they were coming, and the rest of us were surprised. Or shocked!
Jacob is about two years older than I, and as children we spent many long and happy hours roaming our farm together, building forts and rafts, collecting old "junk" and having a lot of fun. After I graduated from high school I spent two winters living with him (and snowboarding as much as I could). I think it was around that time he began his long and glorious tradition of making surprise visits home. He and I drove from Mammoth Lakes, California back to Oregon once and walked in to an evening church service where we knew our family would be. The look of happy surprise mingled with tears on our parents' faces was priceless. A few years later Jacob and a friend left for Alaska to seek work and adventure. They found both, and Jacob has lived there ever since. He's surprised us several times over the years; once he arrived at my parents' home and they weren't there so he sat on the couch and waited. When they opened the door, there he was! Another time he just casually walked in and said hi, as if he came over every day! When I spent nine months in Asia, Gloria planned on joining me for some time together in Thailand. Can you imagine my surprise when I met not only her, but Jacob at the airport in Bangkok? We spent three happy weeks island hopping, snorkeling, eating Thai food and drinking mango shakes.
Jacob married Jackie around the same time Erik and I got married. We all wondered what sort of woman had finally captured his heart, and she's the perfect match for him. Joseph and Peregrine are only about a month apart, and we always enjoy our annual visits with them. I think this is the first time he's surprised us since becoming a family man, and we're glad he's passing the tradition on to Joseph. We're looking forward to a week of fun visiting and lots of good food. We always feel compelled to make all of our family favorites for Jacob when he comes home for a visit. And believe me, that's an awful lot of really good food to make and eat! I'd better get me to the kitchen.....

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Nostalgia and Other Things

Erik and Peregrine in our first home together.

I had to drive to the town-next-store today to pick up our box of organic produce, which I irresponsibly forgot to go get at the closer pick-up last night. I don't often have reason to go that direction, and since I was just blocks away I decided to drive by the little duplex Erik and I rented when we first got married. It's surrounded entirely by other duplexes and the neighborhood is less than savory. But the price was right for a couple of newlyweds living on one income and although I don't miss it a bit I have wonderful memories of our first home together. It was there I began to live my dream of being a wife and mommy and making our home "ours". It was there I was pregnant with Peregrine and there we enjoyed our new little baby. It was there we learned that Erik had cancer and there we camped out on the futon in the living room for two weeks after his surgery. (Since we only had a mattress on the floor in our bedroom.) We only lived there a year-and-a-half, but it was a happy time, and one full of firsts in our life together. Erik moved into it the fall before we married. My mom and sister went over and, in the pouring rain, planted flowering bulbs in the tiny bed outside the front door. When Spring came around, along with the new life growing within me, we had the biggest red and yellow tulips blooming in that little bed. When I drove by today, I was sad to see that the current tenants park their trash bins in the flower bed. I could see some sad tulip stalks peeking out from under the bins, trying to get to the sun. I felt a bit sad, and nostalgic. Sad that the beauty of those flowers has been replaced by trash bins, and nostalgic for those first simple, happy days Erik and I spent in "duplex city."
In other thoughts, have I ever mentioned how wonderful my family is? My Mom called a while ago and said she's making a big pot of soup and will bring some by for our dinner, and also enough for my sister's family who lives down the road. She still takes care of us, especially if anyone is sick or when we have a lot going on, like moving or large renovation projects. I happened to be baking bread today so will send some of that along for my parents and sister's family to eat with their soup. I joked with my Mom that someone ought to make some dessert too and she said "Oh, Daddy is making mango sorbet for his girls!" Sharing food is a nice thing. It's something my family does often, and I think it's a wonderful way to love and care for each other.
Finally, it looks like Erik had caught the nasty cough/cold/crud that's been going around. He rarely gets sick, but actually stayed home from work today. If this is the same thing my parents and sister have had, it can get pretty bad. Also, Poppy's come down with the eye infection Peregrine had last week. If you think of it, would you pray for quick healing for both Erik and Poppy, and that these things won't spread to any more people? Thanks so much.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

'til the Dust Settles

Things are still pretty torn up around here, although the new flooring was put in yesterday by Erik and a good friend. I'm very pleased with it, and so thankful to the men who worked a twelve hour day to get it all put in. The trim has yet to be put back in place, but that can wait. We also have a bit of painting to finish up, and a few other things. For now, there is a fine layer of dust that has settled over just about everything due to the saw that cut the boards to fit. I have a feeling it will be a while before we see the last of it. I swept this morning and got up some of it, but as soon as the floor was walked on it was clear there's a lot more. Erik took today off work as well, and has gone to buy a dust mop. We left carpet in the family room and so it became the temporary home of the furniture that belongs in the other rooms. Hopefully today we can make some good progress in getting things back in order. I'll post a picture soon.
In other happenings, it's beginning to feel a lot like Spring in the Northwest. After lots of the gray rainy weather they call winter around here we're having some beautiful bright days with temperatures in the mid- to high sixties! It's funny how in the Fall when it first gets down to sixty I put a jacket on but on the other side of winter the sixties send me scrambling to unearth a t-shirt! We've even opened the windows in the house to let in some fresh air, and even though it's a bit cool for that it feels wonderful. Yesterday I took Peregrine and Alethea and our friend's son Josiah to a park up the road from us. It was such a lovely day and after playing on the playground a while we walked across the park and explored a small seasonal creek. The boys pushed up their pant legs and waded in to the cold water while I held Alethea back from falling in! Josiah caught three salamanders and we all had fun looking at them. After that we played on a fallen tree and followed a little path through the forest. The kids were all muddy and happy.
I'm so looking forward to the warmer weather and being able to spend more time out of doors. We're beginning to think about the garden and have been clearing off the flower beds. The kids have even been picking me crocus so I've had a tiny bouquet on the table. Last year we talked of getting a couple of chicks to raise to be laying hens and I think we may actually do it this year. So much to do together..... I guess I'd better go get back to work!