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This is what we woke up to yesterday….

The three boys share a room. Bull and Jack wake up 100% awake and ready to start their day. Buggle wakes up slowly and prefers quiet while waking. Usually Jack comes in to snuggle us, and Bull gets out of bed and goes next door to the schoolroom to play, leaving the bedroom for Buggle.

Yesterday, however, Bull decided to sing. Loudly. No matter what Buggle said.

S went in to straighten things out and asked Bull why he hadn’t just gotten up and gone in the schoolroom.

“I’m waiting for Buggle to give me a penny to be quiet.”

Apparently Buggle had paid him to go away the other day and Bull thought this was great and ought to be encouraged!

Time for some Kipling …..


It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
  To call upon a neighbour and to say: --
"We invaded you last night--we are quite prepared to fight,
  Unless you pay us cash to go away."

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
  And the people who ask it explain
That you've only to pay 'em the Dane-geld
  And then  you'll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
  To puff and look important and to say: --
"Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
  We will therefore pay you cash to go away."

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
  But we've  proved it again and  again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
  You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
  For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
  You will find it better policy to say: --

"We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
  No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
  And the nation that pays it is lost!"

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Margaret Elizabeth

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She’s here!

Born on Wednesday by c-section

7 pounds, 7 ounces

20 inches long

Possibly red haired

Believes in eating, early, often and vigorously

Adored by her siblings especially Jack (Bull likes her too but I haven’t managed to get a good picture of him with her yet)




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The Greatest Thing

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Sometimes I hear people say  things about forgiveness….

“I believe it’s possible”

“If you are repentant you can be forgiven.”

“I’m forgiven but I still do these things, so maybe I’m not really forgiven.”

Other phrases that break my heart.

I’ve been thinking about forgiveness a lot lately; at Mass we say the Nicene Creed as our response to the Liturgy of the Word (the readings and sermon) and we say “I believe in the forgiveness of sins” and when we say a Rosary we again affirm our belief in God’s forgiveness when we begin with the Apostle’s Creed.

There are no caveats. There is no “I believe that sins might be forgiven”. There is just an absolute “I believe that sins are forgiven.”

The Sacrament of Reconciliation makes the absolute even clearer.

“God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son, has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

The focus is on cleansing and reconciliation. There is no doubt that consequences may still exist but the cleansing is complete. The sins themselves no longer exist nor is the sinner defined by them.

We are new creatures.


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A Little Update

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Looked at the blog this morning and realized I hadn’t posted in a while. Too much going on and not enough time to pull some thoughts together. Head colds and ear infection (for mommy), a messy house since I didn’t have the energy to clean or get the children to do their regular jobs.


The snow is finally melting and the yard looks…horrible! Brown grass, mud, puddles and a sad flotsam and jetsom of small objects dropped by the children and covered by accumulating snow. Got some work to do there.

Another week or so should see it all gone and I’ll be fertilizing and liming as soon as the ground has thawed enough it won’t wash away before absorption!

Inside we are almost done with school. Another month should see everything but Handwriting and Math complete and I like to continue those at least a couple of days a week through the summer. Probably add some Nature Study and Art in as well.


We’ve gone through RCIA and  joined the Catholic church on Holy Saturday at the Easter Vigil. Pretty exciting and a much different journey than I expected. The things I expected to bother me haven’t and in many ways I find this a coming home to a home I didn’t know I was missing. I’m still sorting it all in my head, but will probably write about it at some point.

We still need to baptize the children and do a few other things but that will probably happen over the summer, we’re still debating whether to do all five at once or split things up. Maybe the little boys one day and the big children on another day with Number Five having his/her own date….

Number Five is due in about six weeks and oddly for us we’re still debating names. Girl names are easy we’ve had several that we like since Mouse was born but boy names are harder to come by!

I’m trying to get things tidied and organized, redo the basement into more of a family room, do some precooking for the freezer so my big kids can help with meal prep. Little things to make May and June a bit easier with a new little one to figure out.

Jack is so excited about the baby. His birthday is about week before Number Five is due and says “It’s my birthday present!” He brings his animals to “say hi to the new baby” nearly every day and is concerned that the baby have something like his “Eeyore” for its own.


I’m working on putting together some thoughts for next year’s schooling as well as our “holiday tasks”. Got at least two road trips planned as well as a LOT of outdoor activities to take advantage of the weather before winter comes again.

We’ve put a contract to buy on the house we’ve been renting, and plan to close in a couple of weeks so I’ve been making lists of things that need to be done maintenance wise and things that can wait a bit.

There’s some termite damage and rot from water that will need to be done pretty quickly and will take a professional but a lot of the work needs time more than skill and can be puttered at over the summer. I’m foregoing a garden this year in favor of making a good garden plan in consultation with my neighbor who is a landscaper, and getting the grass back into really good shape!

Lots going on and plenty to keep me occupied and not writing but I’m hoping to get back to regular writing again soon…


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The Twentieth Day

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The big children asked me what day they should be on in their devotional books today and I realized as I counted the days from the Third Sunday in Lent that we are halfway through Lent.

This week has been slow. I came down with a cold over the weekend and one by one the children joined me. We haven’t done any school and for a couple of days I figured we were doing well if everyone got fed, and some general tidying got done each day!

Of course that means that stuff piles up and pretty soon those of use who don’t react well to visual clutter are feeling STRESSED!

So yesterday we started resetting the house from the current chaos point. Mouse did a bunch of laundry- five loads I think. I found the floor of my bedroom again. The boys worked on cleaning up toys and books. I ran the dishwasher several times. All the stuff that piles up without regular daily tidying.

There’s still a bunch to do. The schoolroom filled its other function (guest room) on Saturday night and I needed to do a bunch of filing anyway so there’s still a bunch of clutter to clear away there.

Plus I’m realizing that Number Five arrives in just eight weeks and I probably ought to pull out some baby clothes and do a few other things.

But my brain is still on stuffed-up-with-snot-slow and I need a nap every day (or at least a lay down) so we’re just doing a little bit at a time.

Plugging and plodding away seems to be the theme of this Lent. Doing the next thing, whatever that is, and trusting that the fruit will show in good time…

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A Long Lenten Healing

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Lent always makes me think of this boy and the Lent he spent in the Pediatric Acute Care Unit at UVA in Charlottesville, Virginia.

He went into the hospital the Saturday before Ash Wednesday and came home on Palm Sunday.  While the tress budded and bloomed and the world came alive, we lived in a hospital room.

When we took him in the doctors told us right out they didn’t have any idea what was wrong, but that he was very ill. Not the words you want to hear about your two and a half month old at one of the finest pediatric teaching hospitals in the country!

Even after they diagnosed him with a congenital pancreatic cyst, the treatment was really experimental as the condition is very rare even in adults (usually seen in elderly alcoholics) and they had only ever heard of one other case (and that was an older child in Turkey!).

Five and a half long weeks of waiting to see. Waiting to see if his internal organs would stop secreting fluid. Waiting to see if he would gain enough weight that  surgery was an option. Waiting to see if he would come through surgery. Waiting to see if we could go home.

And then the joy of coming home! And the joy a couple of weeks later of moving from a feeding tube to a bottle! And weight gain! And developmental stuff starting to happen properly!

This boy brought me to so much a greater understanding of the seasons of the church year.

Born three days before Christmas so that I too was great with child throughout Advent. And then walking through Lent in waiting and surrender until for us joy did come in the morning!

That was five years ago, but the lesson is still new and needed.




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Picking Curriculum: Or Why I Start Thinking About September in February!

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Lately (for which I am very thankful) school has been going remarkably smoothly. We took a bunch of time off in December due to holidays and sickness and finished out 2014 by moving the schoolroom upstairs from the basement to the biggest and sunniest of our four bedrooms.

I only moved up the things we actually needed  on a daily basis, and have been diligent about rotating the independent learning toys for the little boys. I’ve also tweaked our schedule so that the big two and I now start school at 8 am while the little boys play downstairs for another hour, and somehow the result has been that the big two are working more independently with less dawdling, and Bull and Jack are getting more of my time and attention which has helped tremendously with their happiness and ability to learn.

One of the side effects (and one I’m very happy about with Number Five due in just twelve weeks!) is that the big two have been progressing through some of their subjects more quickly than I had planned. They have just about finished Latin (Buggle has two lessons in his book and about ten pages in his notebook, Mouse has slightly more than that), Spelling will be completed mid- March, History won’t be done until the end of April but that’s because I’m adding some more complex projects than I had originally planned. English will be finished at the beginning of April.

So I’m looking at how things are going now and starting my annual process of figuring out what we will need for next year!

Now I confess- I’m a bit of a nut about curriculum. When I was a girl I used to sit down and write lesson plans for fun! I love looking at materials and trying to match them to the children and their interests and learning styles!

But when I sat down to make my list of books for next year, I found that nearly everything we needed I had already picked out! Most of what we’ve used this year, I’m happy with and will just progress to the next level.

I do need to figure out something for science- I’m not happy with what we have and will probably be experimenting with some different approaches over the summer.

So far the 2015-2016 school books look something like this:

Handwriting: Continue with Handwriting Without Tears, add their Typing course

Spelling: Rod and Staff: Book Four for the bigs, Bull won’t start Spelling as a subject yet

Latin: Song School Latin I for Bull, Song School Latin II for the bigs (if they zoom through it like they did this year, we’ll either do the next level or switch to Lively Latin. I need to take a good look at both)

English: Rod and Staff Grammar 4 for Mouse, Buggle is doing that one this year, so I’m thinking about a year of writing a weekly or biweekly essay and no grammar book for him next year)

Math: Continue with MEP – we’ll go through the summer with that, with the plan to be in Book 3 in the fall and begin Book 4 sometime in the spring of 2016

History: Do a combination of Story of the World and RC History: I’ll need to source the reading materials and prep that over the summer, but this narrative approach seems to work well for the children.

Science: I don’t know yet, I want something that is more exploratory than what we have now, but also feeds into the children’s interests. I may end up doing unit studies with the materials I’ve been collecting over the years.

Not much is changing from this year.


In a way that’s probably good. I do most of my shopping at the HEAV Convention in June and with Number Five due in early May and needing to drive from Massachusetts I’m just not sure I’ll make it this year! If I do I’ll really miss all of the opportunities to touch, and read, and consider new books, but I think I’ll still be able to put together a good year for us.

However…just because I might miss convention doesn’t mean you need to and I’m very happy to be giving away a Family Registration again this year. All you need to do is leave a comment here or in the Facebook group or on the Facebook Page telling me something about what you are thinking for next year’s schooling! I’ll be giving you additional opportunities to enter throughout the week and then letting Jack pick a winner on Saturday!

Note: If you have already registered (and I hope you have) and you enter and win, HEAV will credit you for the amount of the free pass!


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Hosting A Soup and Bread Supper: Vegan Tomato Soup And Biscuits

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SoupweekoneTomato soup! So warm and wintery and so easy to make from scratch!

Tomato Soup BaseStart with two small onions and a few cloves of garlic. Chop and sautee in a neutral oil like corn or sunflower. Add a generous amount of of parsley, and a teaspoon of smoked paprika. Sautee and stir until the garlic and onions are tender.

IMG_1405IMG_1408Whisk in flour until all of the oil is absorbed.  Then pour in a small amount of tomato juice and stir until smooth before adding the rest of the tomato juice and the can of puree.





IMG_1411At this point you can continue with the recipe or put the base away until you need it. Either way simmer it for 10-15 minutes before serving and then stir in two cups of coconut-almond milk or for a really creamy taste a can of coconut cream.

Vegan Tomato Soup


  • Two small onions chopped
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon of dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup of oil
  • 1 46 oz Bottle or Can of tomato juice
  • 1 28 ounce can of tomato puree
  • 2 cups of coconut-almond milk (plain, unsweetened) or 1 14 ounce can of coconut cream
  • Flour (if making gluten free use chickpea flour)


  1. Chop the onions and garlic and sautee in oil with the spices.
  2. When they are tender, stir in flour to make a roux, then thin with tomato juice
  3. Add the puree
  4. At this point you can refrigerate the soup base until the day you wish to use it. It will keep for several days in the fridge.
  5. When you are ready to finish it...
  6. Bring to a simmer and stir in the coconut milk or cream.
  7. Serve.







2 cups flour

1 T baking powder

1 T sugar

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup fat that is solid at room temperature. (I use lard most often, but the vegan shortenings also work well. Earth Balance and the vegan margarines do not work as they are soft not solid at room temperature)

1 can of coconut cream well shaken

Mix dry ingredients and cut in the fat of your choice. Mix just enough that you have little flakes of fat and flour. Dump in the can of coconut cream and mix lightly until everything is moist.  Drop by spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 450 for 10-12 minutes. Makes ~ 12 biscuits.


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Hosting A Soup and Bread Supper: Planning

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So here we are. Almost Lent and we’ve been up here a year and I’m thinking it’s time to start having weekly suppers again.  I don’t really want to commit to doing it all the time (we’ll have to take a break when Number Five gets here at least) but for the six weeks of Lent it’s doable.

Anyway I posted something about it on Facebook, and a friend in another state got inspired to host her own Soup and Bread Supper and that made me think I should run a little series on the topic. A combination of how-to and recipes that anyone can use.

Of course the first step is planning.  I like to keep these suppers loose and easy- not a real set menu, never any real idea of how many people, and the “program” basically being food and fellowship, but easy going is easier with some pre-planning and prep work!

Step One:

Think about what kind of supper you want to have. Is the point the food? The fellowship? Or some activity that you will do together with your guests?

If the point is the food you will probably want to do most or all of the cooking yourself, perhaps giving out a theme or assigning people dishes to bring.

If the fellowship is the point then you may not need to do much cooking but you will need to put thought into seating and serving arrangements that will make discourse easier.

If you want to have a certain activity, you may want to do that before eating as it can be difficult to get people to focus on the activity when the visiting is going well or to resume visiting once the activity is completed.

Step Two:

Plan the serving and seating arrangements. I find a buffet style meal the easiest to serve and the easiest to incorporate dishes into as people arrive with food that they have prepared. I generally push my dining table against the wall and serve from one side with the water tank and any other drinks on a separate serving table. Some people will bring their food on a serving plate with a utensil, others may need you to provide these items.

If at all possible use real plates and silverware instead of paper and plastic. Using china, glass and silverware sends a signal to your guests that they are important enough for you to wash dishes for them, and making people feel valued is  key to successful hospitality! I use a tablecloth of some kind and a few pretty serving dishes. Tablecloths can be a pretty sheet of appropriate size and serving dishes of different sizes and styles can easily be found at thrift stores. When we had suppers every week I rotated my table decor (tablecloth and candles) according to season and noticed how much people appreciated the attention to detail.

Seating doesn’t have to be fancy- for most of our time doing this in Virginia our chairs were salvaged from a high school auditorium! There does have to be enough seating and it should be set out in little groups so that people can mingle and have discussions without having to talk to the whole group at once.


Flowers and candles don't take long to arrange (and take less time the more often you do it) but brighten up a rainy fall day dramatically. The family feels drawn together as we gather for supper.

Flowers and candles don’t take long to arrange (and take less time the more often you do it) but brighten up a rainy fall day dramatically.

Step Three:

Will there be children at the supper? If so, take a little time to think about ages and needs. Many toddlers can eat off of their parents’ plates, but I have found it helpful to have some plastic plates and sippy cups available as it eases parental fears of their child breaking something and helps them to relax.

Older children can sit on the stairs if you have them, or kneel around a mini trampoline as ours often do.

Give a little thought too, to where children should play and what might need to be off limits. In Virginia, we kept the children in the main room with us and in the playroom/laundry room off of the kitchen and I put away any particularly noisy toys before the event.

Go over your expectations with your own children. I found that since ours were small at the time (six and under) that letting them stay up much past their regular bedtime did not work well. Instead I excused myself at a certain point, put them to bed and enforced that they stay there. Generally it was enough past bedtime that they fell asleep quickly! If there are other children in attendance the point at which your children go to bed is a good time to bring out quiet activities such as coloring or play dough.

Step Four:

Cooking of course is an important part of all of this.  Depending on what day of the week you are hosting, you may be able to do a fair bit of the cooking ahead of time and simply heat things up before people arrive. This will not be true of your breads which are always much better hot and fresh, so think about the timing involved.

Don’t worry about it too much though, there is always some wiggle room in the timing, as it takes twenty to thirty minutes for people to arrive, greet each other and settle. You can let the visiting go on for a bit too and then watch everyone leap up when you announce “Hot bread is on the table!”



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Kitchen Kids: Mouse Makes Grape Nuts (Dairy Free)

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wpid-20150129_185027.jpgWe eat a lot of cereal around here. The truth is we just eat a lot and there aren’t even any teenagers in the house yet!

Weekday breakfasts are almost always cereal since that means the big two can supervise while I take a shower and get set for school. I had been buying cereal at the discount grocery, but we kept running out at odd moments and we were really limited in what we could buy. I don’t like the sugary cereals and there aren’t many commercial ones that don’t include some form of dairy.


I bought a fifty pound bag of rolled oats and started making granola (which is a post for another time). And that was fine for a while but got kind of boring every day.

Then I was looking through my cookbook (More With Less from the Mennonite Central Committee one of the few cookbooks I would not willingly part with) and saw that they had a recipe for homemade Grape Nuts!

Yay! Two cereals I can make at home.

Actually one cereal the six year old can make with some supervision! Even better….

Adding wheat germ to the whole wheat flour

Adding wheat germ to the whole wheat flour


Two year old helps with the  counting.

Two year old helps with the counting.


Learning to put pans in a hot oven

Learning to put pans in a hot oven




A good cook gives her helper something to lick

A good cook gives her helper something to lick



And cleans up after herself

And cleans up after herself

Grinding the cake into crumbs the next day

Grinding the cake into crumbs the next day

And here’s the recipe!

Grape Nuts (Dairy Free)


  • 6 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup wheat germ
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 4 cups of water
  • 2 teaspoons soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice to activate the soda (the original recipe calls for sour or buttermilk and no lemon, but lemon juice and water make a good dairy free substitute)


  1. Combine ingredients in order and beat until smooth
  2. Spread dough onto two large greased cookie sheets
  3. Bake 25-30 minutes at 350
  4. Allow to cool
  5. Break into bits and chop in the food processor.
  6. Toast crumbs at 250 as for granola, stirring occasionally. we like them somewhere between golden and brown.
  7. Adapted from More-With-Less Cookbook from Herald Press (Mennonite Central Committee)
  8. You can also grate them with a box grater on the coarsest side.



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