{ This Week In Pictures }

  1. Korean stop sign, photo taken by my son because he knows I like stop signs in various foreign languages.
  2. New local bakery where my daughter and I shared a pecan caramel roll and cherry turnover, good coffee and sweet conversation.
  3. Blueberry muffins galore, made by my daughter and gratefully consumed on ski day morning.
  4. Time alone on a chairlift– beautiful and peaceful silent time. Short and sweet and high off the ground, but I’ll take it. 
  5. Trying to walk regularly outside because I should, not because I really want to, so I grit my teeth and lean into the wind.
  6. God frosted the trees for us, beautifying our homeschool ski day with His creative handiwork plus cheerful sunshine and no injuries.
  7. My husband drove this cute little Mazda Miata down to Florida for a friend recently.  It looks like a toy car, but he sure got lots of applause / envy from strangers along the way.  The admiration sat well with my husband 🙂IMG_20200212_071404_026_2
  8. I am sad to say goodbye to a wonderful audiobook trilogy about Crispin by author Avi. We finished the last of the three books this week.
  9. From beginning to end, these stories about a young orphan growing up in the Middle Ages are adventurous, suspenseful, and touching.
  1. Avi is a talented and prolific author and his first Crispin book is a Newbery Award Winner. 
  2. We also liked The Traitor’s Gate by Avi, and his newest book, Gold Rush Girl, is coming out in March. (Avi is 82 years old and still going strong!)

~~~

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{ Blizzard-Ready}

We enjoyed Homeschool Ski and Snowboard Day last Monday.

Hyland Hills in Bloomington, Minnesota is a tame spot for beginning skiers, and the 26 degree January day was perfect.

Anyone walking in to the chalet could tell it was a homeschool event — crockpots were everywhere, and the air smelled like patchouli and lavender essential oils.

Now, we are bracing for more snow, and true to our nature, Minnesotans are frantically storming the grocery stores to stock up, like we may be snowed in for months.

I confess I left the house at 6:00 a.m., determined to beat long lines and the blizzard.

After being urged last night by one of my teenagers to get some “fun food,” (as opposed to gloomy, drudgerous food?) I grabbed a few essentials:

  • meat
  • kombucha
  • microwave popcorn
  • hot chocolate mix
  • coffee and herbal teas
  • heavy cream for the coffee
  • makings for soup and homemade no-knead bread. (Not the boring soups I usually make from leftovers) but Copycat Olive Garden soups, like Zuppa Toscana.

In addition to these staples, we are armed with *anti-cabin fever* activities:

  • Season 2 of Gilligan’s Island DVDs, purchased at GoodWill
  • Crispin: At the Edge of the World. I love the Crispin books by Avi, and I wish I’d known about these when we were studying the Middle Ages.
  • A new puzzle. This is our third Mudpuppy puzzle, and it’s Kaleido-Beetles! I like Mudpuppy puzzles because they have three pictures of the finished puzzle for reference as you go, making it easier for 3 or more people to work on the puzzle.

Other Mudpuppy puzzles we have ordered are the 1000-piece Ocean Life, 500-piece Songbirds and 500-piece Butterflies of North America.

I’m glad we are ready, because it’s starting to snow…

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{ 3 Things to Do When Trapped Inside with the Kids }

I live in Minnesota, where snowy forecasts threaten and chapped lips are a way of life.

Despite a desire for a little more elbow room, I simply cannot bring myself to banish my children out to the frozen tundra on restless January afternoons. 

So, I, with many other hearty Midwest parents, have been forced to plan creative indoor activities, thereby saving our kids’ eyes from electronic combustion.

Here are three indoor activities to offer your children — and if the parents play along, the fun rate exponentially increases…

Jigsaw Puzzles

Puzzles may look like a simple, slow activity, but working jigsaw puzzles is actually a brain-building, skill-building pastime. Jigsaw puzzles enhance problem-solving skills, improve learning, support social interaction, and generate a feeling of accomplishment. 

Puzzles are an absorbing, therapeutic activity that can last days or weeks. If you have a spare table where a puzzle-in-progress can stay available, this is optimum. (We don’t; we just let the puzzle take over the dining room table until it’s completed.)

Jigsaw puzzles are great for many ages (but not all — watch those tiny pieces and keep your babies away.) Puzzles are beneficial for older people, too; they stimulate the brain and may delay the onset of dementia. 

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Together we completed OCEAN LIFE: a fun and colorful 1000 piece puzzle by Mudpuppy.

Audiobooks

Although audiobooks shouldn’t take the place of visual reading, audiobooks have their own unique benefits. Kids love being read to (adults do, too) and audiobooks are becoming popular and widely available.

 Audiobooks are a worthy activity because they:

  • build listening skills
  • improve attention span
  • enhance critical thinking skills

Kids can listen to audiobooks while they draw, build, or work puzzles. Audiobooks are also great for car trips — long or short. 

Young readers can listen to an audiobook while they read along with the print version and reluctant readers who aren’t enthusiastic about print books can be wooed into a love of reading with audiobooks. (True story.)

Audiobook narrators are usually awesome, and they transport a child right into the pages of the book. Some of our favorite audiobooks for kids include:

  • Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Mysteries
  • A-Z Mysteries
  • Chronicles of Narnia
  • Mysterious Benedict Society Series
  • Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Note: We listened to three (Hardy Boys) audiobooks while we worked the Ocean Life puzzle shown at the beginning of this post.

Krypto

Okay, this one was dredged up from my childhood math class (thank you, Mr. Kesti) and it’s more educational than it is pure fun. But, approached creatively, Krypto can be a pleasant addition to your indoor arsenal of activities. 

There is a commercial version of Krypto, but this is how we play it at home, without buying the game:

  1. Choose 5 cards from a joker-less deck of cards.
  2. Write those numbers on a white board.
  3. Choose one more number and write it at the bottom. 

Krypto

Everyone looks at the board and tries to find a way to use all top 5 numbers to get the target number at the bottom.

You can add, subtract, multiply and divide the numbers until the target number is reached.

Example: 13 – 3 = 10….10 -7 = 3…5 – 3 = 2…2 x 1 = 2

This uses all of the numbers, and the result is the target number (2) at the bottom.

When someone arrives at the target number, she yells, “KRYPTO!” and demonstrates how she got the answer.

We keep track of points and play it regularly as part of our homeschooling routine.

If your kids take to it, you can plan a lively Krypto tournament.

With or without competition, you’ll have some fun and keep math skills sharp over the holidays. Krypto is also a great low-key summer activity – a great way to stay math-savvy over school break. For more explanation, here’s a Krypto video.

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Whether you live where it’s cold, or just need some rainy day ideas, hopefully you will enjoy some of this indoor fun that keeps Minnesotans snowbound but smiling until March.

Make that April.

 

 

Cabin photo:Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

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{ Graduation Open House }

jello

Rain delayed.

Volleyball played.

Pasta prolific.

Helpers terrific.

Talkers lingered.

Cake samplers fingered.

Colorful jello.

Balloons golden yellow.

No more papers

No more books

Lots of teacher’s

Happy looks

My son

Got it done

By God’s grace

Now? Finish the race.

~~~

© Lisa M. Luciano 2019

 

{ Substitute Babysitter }

The Hillstroms from church needed a babysitter and my daughter couldn’t do it after all. She wouldn’t export her runny nose and annoying cough into the already stressed Hillstrom home.

Linzy was going to meet her husband Matt for marriage counseling, and their six active kiddos needed energetic supervision.

So I approached their country home, not knowing what to expect. I had never been there; never helped out. I was a little sketchy on all their names and I was out of my comfort zone.

First, we plunged into backyard hide-and-seek. Between games, we paused for show-and-tell breaks, like when Riley showed me his recent bow-and-arrow injury and Jojo pointed out the onions poking up in the garden. Then we returned to our crouched positions under the pine tree or behind the bikes in the shed. I huddled with the little ones, who squirmed and rustled and ruined the hiding places. Then we started all over again.

Suddenly, everyone grabbed their bikes, trikes and scooters and soared freely along the dusty, rural road. I strolled the baby, ready to redirect the parade if a car came along.

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I employed my former public school teacher’s voice and relied on 20+ years of motherhood to cope with minor scuffles and occasional sibling rivalry.

“Linzy is a good mom,” I thought as I served the meal on the stove to her happy, helpful kids. The able dish-doers scaled a wooden bench to reach the sink and finish the cleanup.

Next, Annie informed me of the house bedtime rules with a serious, spaghetti-stained face:

“You read us stories. And we can snuggle with our blankets. And then we brush our teeth.”

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As we wrapped up the bedtime routine, I thought:

“When was the last time I just played and read stories with my own children for 3 hours?”

It had been a busy, but pleasant evening.

When Linzy arrived home, I thought it was over.

But the next Sunday, I was assaulted with warm embraces and surrounded with sparkly smiles.

I was suddenly the famous, beloved babysitter of just one evening.

I had run around barefoot in the backyard.

I had read books and given hugs.

I had learned their names and the house rules.

And for these small things, I would be paid with loving looks for the rest of my life.

That’s a pretty good deal for a substitute babysitter.

(c) Lisa M. Luciano

Photo Credits:

Country Scene — Julian Schöll

Books — Robyn Budlender

{ This Week in Pictures }

 

Bowls cover breakfast eggs, lovingly scrambled by a repentant Mama. (She had barked at her little boy when he asked her three times if she remembered her promise to make him an egg in the morning.)

Ms. Road Construction looked so fetching in her hat and trousers that I had to snap a photo.  What else was there to do for ten minutes while we waited in line?

My dear daughter is celebrating her 23rd birthday tomorrow. “Where has the time gone?”

We invited some dear little people to play with us last week while their Mama went out to lunch.  Back when I had my babies, I didn’t have such an awkward time getting up & down off the floor. Back then, I didn’t have to grab my reading glasses to see what the puzzle looks like. I have missed these little happy little folks who give you the opportunity to get down on the floor and make animal noises.

 

{ Mod Podge & Me }

It’s a rainy, crafty day.

I’m striving to get the family excited about creating:

! ! ! AMAZING PROJECTS FOR THE COUNTY FAIR ! ! !

But nobody seems interested.

Have the children become jaded about our homespun annual entries?

What’s not to like about painted, woodburned, crayon-dripped, organic birdhouse gourds?

 

 

I hope they will catch my crafting enthusiasm.

Knuckle-deep in Mod Podge, I’m finishing a repurposed tin for a bride-to-be. She’s an English teacher, so it’s covered with love quotes from famous books.

I carved up her “save-the-date” card and her wedding invite and used them for the front and back of the tin:

 

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“Whatever our souls are made of….his and mine are the same.” ~ Wuthering Heights

 

 

Once finished, I will enclose a gift card.

Like a well-rounded country girl, the bride is registered at Menard’s.

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I’m also adding inventory to my Etsy shop ~ Wool Soup. Working with fuzzy wool and cozy cashmere is not appealing on a hot July day, but these months are the best time to get things done:

 

 

 

 

Crafting is only a small part of summer plans.

There are beaches to be flopped upon, gatherings to be enjoyed and mosquitoes to be fed.

What? The stores are displaying back-to-school supplies–already?  😦

This means certain friends will start talking enthusiastically about homeschool planning. Certain friends like to start school early. Certain friends laugh at my desire to milk the most out of summer.

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How kind of my friend Theresa to take the time to stop rolling her Walmart cart, snap this photo, and send it to me.

I love homeschooling.

But I must wait for my Muse*.

She may come in early August.

She may arrive at midnight on September 6th.

(I never know.)

But I don’t think she will come until I’ve finished several Altoid tins and a few more pairs of mittens.

 

 

 

 

© Lisa M. Luciano

*not the goddess thing; just a personified force of creative inspiration. 

Word Prompt of the Day: https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2018/07/21/striving/

{ Seasonal Me }

After a sun-robbed

Bone-bitten

Blanket-wrapped

Winter —

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I’m always ready for an Early Spring.

groundhog day

I’m an April snow-be-gone

Window-hoisting

Clutter-banishing gal

But wait – did someone say “Garage Sale?”

Drinking vernal sun

Through white Nordic skin

I’m an impatient trail-trekker

Lake-walker

Eager for

Jean-jacketed

Picnics-at-parks.

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I’m a teacher-on-summer-recess

Swimming-lesson-spectator-mom

An eye-on-the-sky weather-watching

Clothesline-addicted

August-birthday-babe.

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School? Already?

Pondering plans

While I’m apple-picking

Pickle-packing

Toes-in-dirt

Garden-gathering until

First frosty flakes.

Goodnight, garden.

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I’m a dark morning errand runner

Defying slick roads

Stocking up for the Big Snow

I can hibernate awhile

With coffee

Cream

Eggs

Milk

Bread

Cream

And coffee.

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Swadddled in a snow blanket—

Waiting for Christmas,

Birthdays,

And Valentine chocolates to

Usher me to the edge of winter

Where I stand

Toes on edge

Ready to jump

Into an early Spring…

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(I had the idea to write this as I labored with dirt-encrusted toes in a 90 degree garden yesterday.  In retrospect, the scene was so unlike who I am in the winter. If you ever write a seasonal look at yourself — please let me know.  I’d like to read it! )

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/one-way/

Photo credits:
Winter Cabin:  Jonathan Mast
Pool: Jay Wennington
Apple tree:Kelly Sikkema
Coffee: Nathan Dumlao
Frostbitten Garden: Nick Cooper
Lady on cliff: Samuel Scrimshaw
Early Spring? Photo from Groundhog Day movie

{ Tribute to the Homeschooling Mother }

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The homeschooling mother has no paycheck, union, or prep hour

     She wears a comfortable uniform and decorates with toddler art

She doesn’t weave her way through crowded hallways

     She treads a path littered with laundry and Legos

She doesn’t eat her lunch in the Teacher’s Lounge

    She nibbles between dish-doing and question-answering

When a stranger asks her daughter,

     “What’s 3 x 4?”

And her daughter looks at the ceiling

     And her son doesn’t seem to know his countries from his states

The homeschooling mother never says,

“What are they teaching you at school?”

     She just blushes

and vows to get out the flashcards.

But the homeschooling mother’s students:

Can divide the last cookie into perfect thirds

Know how to survive in the Arctic

Translate Latin phrases

Play Bach on a violin

Have stepped into the Middle Ages — in costume

Know where to find the beginning of wisdom

Have looked at the Civil War from the eyes of South, North and the Native American

(And can tell you what else was going on in the world at the same time)

Perform chemistry magic using home ingredients

Talk to nursing home residents without flinching

And, they can tell you in which episode Eugene went missing from the town of Odyssey.

And when her children finally graduate

     Strong, able and kind

Generous and grateful

They know how to work hard

And they know where to find what they don’t know

Fueled by faith,

They stand on conviction

The homeschooling mother

Senses that her gain is good

And she truly is…A REAL TEACHER.

(c) Lisa M. Luciano

In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week & Mother’s Day 2018

Daily Writing Prompt:  Laughter

{ Today in School… }

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Every Monday or Tuesday, I view the WordPress word prompt and offer it up as an assignment to my little band of (homeschooled) students.

I know it sounds crazy, but most days, they really like this.

I’d like to think it’s because they love the writing process and the literary satisfaction of creative thoughts being visually voiced.

But, it’s probably just because I bribe them with the promise of skipping the usual boring workbook pages.

Either way, I guess it’s productive and beneficial for many reasons:

  • It’s good writing practice.
  • It’s good speaking practice.
  • It’s good practice being a gracious audience and
  • It doesn’t always come easy, but it’s good practice giving positive feedback to others.

One child sits in front of a computer, busily typing.  One child eeks out words sparsely, with a pained look on the face. Another is scrawling words with a pencil so fast, the work is barely legible.  Spelling doesn’t matter at this point — just write what you are thinking.

After about 20 minutes, we share our pieces.  And, I have to say…it’s incredible what they come up with.  Everyone has something unique to offer.

My standard response is: “That sounds like the start of a great story!  Next time we do a word prompt, why don’t you continue the story?”

But they never do.

Today’s word was “identical” and today’s excerpt is from 13-year-old Mo:

 Leopold Larry

So begins the adventures of Leopold Larry. Larry Hillenburger was born on Leopold street in southern New York City. He was an only child. And it was true that if he wanted to, he could take over the world with several clicks of several buttons. However, Larry did not carry out such a task due to his strong morals. Larry could only do such a thing due to several impressive computers. He had found a way to hack into all of the wireless nuclear defense & offense systems.

Now, enough of all the talk about Larry’s scheming. Larry, at the time our story takes place, is 14. He has just finished a grueling year of self-tutoring. The reason that it had been hard for him was because he was acting as both teacher and student. As the teacher, he had to deal with a stubborn and rebellious student, and as student, he had to adjust to the strict teacher, dull sessions and much else besides. Also Larry had no siblings; much less a twin, much less still, an identical one…

Photo credit: Angelina Litvin