Saturday, August 26, 2017


Several months ago, Chris mentioned we should drive a few hours north to witness the 2017 eclipse in totality.  We were going to experience 99.1% here in our own yard, so I honestly didn't think we needed to travel to see more of an eclipse.  Fortunately, Chris continued to talk up the eclipse and threw in the idea of spending a couple days in Sun Valley before August 21st.  I finally agreed to the idea and he began planning the trip which included two nights of pampering in Sun Valley consisting of great food and fun for everyone and then one night roughing it at a campsite.

Chris found a property in Rigby, Idaho via AirBNB which was renting out camping spots especially for the eclipse.  The price wasn't too bad and the property included portable out houses.  The boys were excited about the prospect of camping, something we've never done with the kids before.  After our luxurious getaway in Sun Valley, we drove about 3 hours to the campsite.  The property owners were wonderfully organized.  They'd sold 53 sites and had them all marked out, numbered, and with our names posted.  The boys quickly made friends with other camping families and spent the evening collecting bugs and exploring the property.  We roasted marshmallows around a campfire and met some really wonderful and smart folks who were lovers of astronomy, much like our own family.  When quiet hours hit at 10:30 that night the camp was dead silent and we got as much rest as was possible sleeping crammed in a tent on air mattresses in fairly cold temps.

In the morning we had breakfast and began setting up my camera on a tripod and using the solar filter for our telescope I took a couple preliminary images of the sun before first contact.  We geared up with our special solar eclipse glasses and sternly warned the boys to only look at the eclipse while wearing their glasses.  The campsite was electrified with excitement as families set up their telescopes, solar scopes, etc. around us.  After first contact I took one photo and then decided my equipment wasn't quite specialized enough to capture great photos and really I just wanted to sit back and enjoy the event.  It was so much fun.  As second contact approached the excitement grew.  There was cheering as folks around us counted down to totality.  To see the eclipse in totality was something I will never forget.  It was awe inspiring and I got choked up just considering the greatness of God's creation.  To have created the sun and moon in such a way that their relative diameters and distances between the earth and themselves is so amazing.  The geometry for a total eclipse is so precise one cannot just believe it's just chance. Ben was particularly impressed expressing his awe and wonder, "4 days for 2 minutes was totally worth it."

At the end a three hour drive home took more than eight painful hours but I will be forever grateful for a husband who appreciates the wonders of the universe and encouraged us all to partake in such a unique event.  It was an experience we were able to share with our three youngest children and I hope a cherished memory for them, as it is now for me.

Our humble 6 man tent

excited boys

Eye protection: check

Eclipse thumbs up

Even the teenager thought it was pretty awesome

At totality we experienced a 360 degree sunset

My sole eclipse photo which ended up not being too shabby.  I'm still glad I resisted the urge to photograph the entire event and just enjoyed it live.
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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Photography Before and After

I've been on the hunt for a new photo editor.  For years we have avoided purchasing Adobe products because of their corporate support of Planned Parenthood.  Until now I'd been using Aperture (which Apple is phasing out) and the photo editing included in Apple's Photo App. After trying out a few trial software programs and doing a little research I settled on Aurora HDR 2017.  It's fairly simple to use and I've loved the results.  

A few of the best aspects of Aurora:
It comes with several dozen preset filters that make editing a breeze.
The fine tune controls are easy to use and intuitive.
Importing and exporting photos is very simple.
Compared to many other editing programs Aurora is fairly inexpensive.

A couple of noteworthy drawbacks regarding Aurora:  
It is an HDR photo editor and may not be the best for editing some photos such as portraits.
It cannot make a bad photo good, but it can make a good photo great.
I haven't quite figured out the blemish brush or crop features.
It does not have an archiving system and so you will need to use other applications or software to archive your photos.

The following are just a few examples of photos I edited today using Aurora.  I spent just a tad over 2 hours editing 20 photos.











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Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Value in Falling Short

Benedict has played Minor Little League Baseball for the last three years.  He loves it and has improved in both hitting and fielding each year, but this year his improvement was phenomenal.  He's always been a good little contact hitter, rarely striking out at bat.  Three games into this last season he told me he'd set a goal for himself.  He wasn't going to strike out a single time the entire season.  Game after game he managed to make contact with the ball or would carefully watch imperfect pitches go by and make it on to base on balls.  It got to the point I started to worry with each at bat, "What if he strikes out?"

Ben made it through the entire regular season without striking out a single time.  He was thrilled.  His team mates were impressed, even if they did bet on him eventually being struck out.  His team earned the second seed in the local playoffs.  His streak continued through game 1.  Amazing!  His first at bat in the quarter finals he watched a pitch go by confident it was a ball.  It was not.  He swung at the next two pitch making contact only for the balls to fly foul.  With a full count looming over him and the opposing team's pitcher, Ben watched one more low pitch go by and it was called a strike.  The poor kid went down looking. His coach and teammates patted him on the back as he slumped back to the dugout and consoled him with,  "It's alright, Ben. Everyone strikes out."

On the way home from the game I took the opportunity to let Ben know how proud I was of him.  He set a real goal for himself and he came so very close to achieving it. I told him to look at how much his skills had soared this year.  Not only did he improve his contact hitting, but he also started following through once his bat hit the ball and several times his hits made it out of the infield and had to be chased down by outfielders.  His fielding skills had developed enough for him to be trusted with third base duties on several occasions, even during the playoffs. I encouraged him by saying he had so much to be proud of, but also has more skill to continue developing.  We talked about the value of setting goals, even when we don't quite meet our ambitions we almost always succeed in doing better.

Ben learned a valuable lesson in baseball this season and it is one that can carry over into so many other aspects of his life.  It is exceedingly good to aspire toward improvement in all areas of our lives.  Achieving our aims is satisfying for certain, but I think there is more value in falling just a little short.  Missing the mark gives us something more to work toward in future, keeps us striving for eventual success, and helps us grow in humility.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Milk Street Magazine Review

Disclaimer:  I have not been asked by Milk Street Magazine to review its product.  Nor have I received any sort of compensation for trying and/or reviewing their magazine.

Chris and I have been big fans of  Christopher Kimball and the several cooking magazines he has launched.  In the past we have enjoyed Cook's Illustrated for its nearly scientific approach to cooking; Cook's Country for its more homey and American style; and the America's Test Kitchen show on PBS.  After some in-fighting between corporate types within the Cook's Illustrated, Christopher Kimball left and has just recently launched a new company entitled Milk Street.  Of course, being fans, we decided we'd check out Kimball's newest offering.

So far we have tried nearly every recipe offered in the Charter and subsequent first issue.  The approach is very Kimballesque with scientific precision and detailed descriptions of techniques.  The difference in this magazine is that Kimball has taken an even broader sweep into international cuisine and made it completely accessible to the home cook.  Being the international foodies we are, we were very interested to dive in and get cooking. Every recipe we have attempted has been an enormous success and will go into our regular menu rotations.  The entire family has enjoyed trying some entirely new cuisines and are looking forward to what Milk Street has to offer in the future.

Thai Beef Salad May/June 2017

Caramelized Pork with Orange and Sage May/June 2017

Japanese Fried Chicken May/June 2017 

Sweet and Spicy String Beans May/June 2017

Chiang Mar Chicken May/June 2017

Pinchos Morunos (Spanish Spice-Crusted Pork Tenderloin Bites) Charter Issue

Chinese Chili and Scallion Noodles May/June 2017

We've also tried Fluffy Olive Oil Scrambled Eggs,  Thai-Style Coleslaw with Mint and Cilantro from the Charter Issue and Lemon-Buttermilk Pound Cake from the May/June 2017 issue.  Thank you for the inspiration Milk Street!

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

On My Heart Today

As often as I consider deleting Facebook it's surprising how many things I come across that show me Facebook can actually be a blessing in many ways.  This morning as I scrolled through Facebook three items popped up which struck and blessed my day.

The first was an article entitled "10 Things My Mom Told Me As a Kid That Give Me Confidence as an Adult".  Amazingly this article is from a secular source but one of the things mentioned was, "I'm Praying for You."  I pray for our kids everyday, but I really don't tell them that.  You know what, they actually need to know that they are on our hearts and in our prayers.

The second item was my daily reminder to pray the Sacred Heart Novena which began yesterday.  I have a really important intention I'm praying for right now and as I scrolled through the promises associated with devotion to the Most Sacred Heart I drew comfort especially from these two: I will give peace in their families, uniting families that are divided and Sinners shall find in My Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.  Such beautiful promises, no?

The final post I took to heart was posted by Doug Barry, founder of Radix and Battle Ready, and who appears regularly on EWTN. This is what he posted along with a picture of him with his daughter when she was a toddler:

This is my adorable daughter, many years ago. She will be married later this year. She is precious to me as are all of my children, including my daughter in-law and soon to be son in-law. They are one of the main reasons I wake up every morning thinking about how I can defend the Catholic Faith. I want them to see a father who is a fighter for what is noble and sacred. I want them to have the experience of a mentor who daily tries to grow, learn and pass on the truth with zeal and conviction. I have made mistakes. I am a sinner. But even and especially in those times I want them to see what it means to persevere, run to God's mercy and get back on the battlefield! I do this for the souls of generations that are to come after me, especially those that God has placed directly in my path such as my children. I am honored to be a father. I love being a father and I love these children that God has blessed me with!!

Wonderfully expressed and so true! This is exactly what I aspire to be as a mother to these children we've been given.  May God give me the graces for it to be so.

Inspired by these three posts I messaged each of our adult children.  I let them know I was praying for them. Specifically, I am offering the Novena to the Most Sacred Heart for them.  I wrote them that I love them, and now, with the help of God's grace, I hope to be the mother God made me to be to each of them.

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

What 26 Years of Marriage has Taught Me

Chris and I celebrate 26 years of marriage this week.  We have been married more than half our lives and have known each other since we were 18 years old. We have grown up together and God Willing we will grow old together.  I find that a significantly comforting thought.  Married life is certainly a challenge, especially today when the divorce rate in America hovers near 50 percent and marriage and family are under constant attack in our culture.  Marriage takes real effort on the part of both parties.

26 years of marriage has taught me:

--To put others before myself.

--To give without counting the cost or keeping score.

--To have real gratitude for having Chris as a part of my life.

--To be more patient and forbearing.

--To not always feel like I have to be right.

--To feel awe and wonder at the working of the Holy Spirit in our marriage, especially since we did not start our married life within the Church and only came to our senses about how desperately we both needed God a few years into our marriage.

--To say "I'm sorry" and to say it quickly with no brooding upon whatever wrongs, real or imagined, I've felt afflicted with.  I've found the sooner I say I'm sorry the better I feel.  It always feels like a huge burden has been lifted from me as soon as the words are spoken.

Married love is so much more than feeling in love.  It's more stable. It's more satisfying.  It's more sacrificial.  It's more awe-inspiring.

Today I give thanks for the gift of our marriage.  Living out my vocation as wife and mother has indeed been a most blessed and happy experience.  I pray for God's graces to be continually poured into our marriage and family and that through our vocation we might be invited at the end of all things to the Lamb's High Feast.

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Monday, June 5, 2017

Movie Review: Wonder Woman

My brother, sister, and I grew up watching Wonder Woman on Network Television.  It was such a great, campy show and for us Linda Carter was the perfect actress to portray the title heroine.

Chris and I had read some mixed reviews of the new movie, but thought we'd go ahead and see it for ourselves. For a comic book-brainless fun-popcorn flick, we really enjoyed it.

This is an origin story and which begins with Diana as a young girl among the Amazons.  Diana's adoptive mother Hippolyta, played by Connie Nielsen, attempts to prevent young Diana from training as a warrior with Hippolyta's sister Antiope, played by Robin Wright.  Antiope, hinting at a dark secret which Diana must not learn, trains the girl on the sly.  Fast forward several years and Diana's training comes to light and is finally approved by Hippolyta.  As her training progresses, Diana begins to realize she has hidden strengths and powers her Amazon sisters do not.

Soon after Diana discovers her new talents she rescues a pilot from drowning after his plane is shot down just off the coast of the mysterious island the Amazons occupy.  After questioning the pilot Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine, it is revealed he is a spy fighting against the Germans during WWI.  The Amazons, having isolated themselves from the world, are reluctant to let Steve return to the war and are set against interfering in the war, much to Diana's disappointment. Diana refuses to back down from her desire to help bring an end to the war and helps Steve escape and travels with him to London. In London they are joined by several side characters and embark on a quest to stop an evil German general, a mad scientist, and the war.

Visually, this movie was stunning and I loved the decision to place the origin story during WWI instead of the traditional WWII of the comic book series.  The costumes were amazing and Gal Gadot was absolutely, gorgeously, perfect as the new Wonder Woman.  I enjoyed the plot, but like so many other comic book movies, it did get a tad outrageous toward the end.  Many of the fight sequences were enhanced digitally in post production and I found the use of CGI to be overdone and distracting.  Wonder Woman/Diana Prince was a wonderfully done character.  She was strong, beautiful, heroic, and idealistic. Unfortunately, there is a fairly lengthy scene in which Chris Pine is apparently completely nude (important anatomy is basically covered), some sexual innuendo in the dialogue, and a scene in which the viewer is left with the perception that the two main characters have slept together.  For these reasons, I will not be allowing our teenage daughters or little guys to see this movie, which is a real shame because it was truly fun to see such a strong and virtuous heroine in a contemporary film.

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Feeling Nostalgic

Isn't it a shame so many of the bishops in the United States have moved the observance of the Solemnity of the Ascension to Sunday?  We are truly blessed to belong to a parish in which our priest is willing to do a calendar work around by celebrating Ascension on the liturgically proper day by saying Mass in the Extraordinary Form.

Chris and I tried to recall when the change was implemented on the car ride home from Mass this morning.  I recalled attending Mass on Ascension Thursday, at least for a few years.  He thought it was never a Holy Day of Obligation.  I looked it up and found the change had been made in 1999.  It is true, he may not recalling going to Mass on actual Ascension Thursday, but he did grow up in Spokane, a notoriously bad diocese at that time.

We lose so much when we move things around liturgically.  This change really makes no sense to me at all.  Let's pray for a return to the traditional practice of celebrating the Ascension as it is meant to be celebrated, 40 days after Easter exactly.

In honor of today, I decided I'd make a special dessert.  I came across this recipe for a rhubarb pudding cake a few days ago and as our rhubarb is ready to harvest, I thought today would be a good day to try it out.  It smelled delicious as it came out of the oven.  I thought I should take a little taste out of the corner to make sure it was good.  As I did, I remembered my grandmother used to do the same thing.  Almost every dessert she made for one of our visits to her home had a little corner missing.  She always told us it was a little gnome who'd taken his share.  That memory really brought her close to me today.  It's been 1 1/2 years and I still miss her. It's funny how such little things can make one feel so nostalgic.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Home School Year 2016-2017: What Worked and What was Scrubbed

This year marked our 19th year of home schooling.  I spent a lot of time driving Olivia back and forth to school this year, and so I wasn't nearly as available as I wanted to be, but all in all we had a pretty good year.

Angela was a senior and just recently finished the bulk of her assigned material.  After finding out she was going to miss the cut off age for NET Ministries this year, she applied and was accepted to Weber State University.  She has decided to pursue studies in psychology and criminology. She is planning to reapply to NET for next year and if accepted will take a break from her studies.

Angela's Senior Year Curriculum

Religion--Religion and Apologetics using Mother of Divine Grace's syllabus

Math--Having completed Saxon Advanced Mathematics Angela opted to forgo Calculus. She really had an easy year of it ;)

Science--Using Hewitt's Conceptual Physics I wrote a year long basic conceptual physics syllabus that incorporated week long hands on labs at the end of each unit.

History--US Government and Economics using Mother of Divine Grace's syllabus; Geography using Trail Guide to World Geography

Literature--Christian Writers-- This was a co-op class with discussions, papers, and projects taught by my very talented homeschool buddy.  Works included: The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton; Warrior Scarlet and Bonnie Dundee byRosemary Sutcliff;  The Story of Roland by James Baldwin;  The King of Ireland's Son by Padraic Colum; Message to Hadrian by Geoffrey Trease; Between the Forest and the Hills by Ann Lawerence; The Silmarillion,  The Children of Hurin, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien

Life Prep--Using Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers, Angela worked on several projects.  This book has really become outdated since first purchasing for my oldest children!  We ended up scraping most of it.  If I ever offer this course again to my kids, I may have to write my own syllabus.

Art--Drawing for Older Children by Mona Brookes

Katerina has really come into her own the last couple years.  We've discovered she is definitely an artist.  She took up the violin last June and surprised us, her teacher, and her orchestra instructor.  She practiced for hours a day, and even began devoting more time to practicing the piano.  She learned amazing pieces on both instruments by ear.  Her violin teacher is working on getting her to read music more fluently.  Drawing is probably her second great love and her abilities there have also shone through and improved.  Her bedroom is strewn with drawings, paintings, and sheet music.

Katerina's Freshman Year Curriculum

Religion--K began the year reading A Biblical Defense of Catholicism by Dave Armstrong. She managed to finish it, but around Christmas we decided to table formal religion study at home for the time being. She is a very slow reader and struggles with comprehension. She was completely overwhelmed with the amount of reading material she had for history and literature and I felt she was getting enough religious instruction in the awesome high school apologetics class taught in our parish.

Math--K started out the year using Saxon Algebra I, but by Christmas was failing miserably.  We switched to which has instructors, shorter lessons, and fewer problems to complete.  She still struggles, but has improved greatly.  Unfortunately for her, she needs to continue algebra through the summer.  I'm not sure where we'll go from there.

Science--Apologia's Physical Science

History--RC History's Connecting with History: A Guide to Salvation History Old Testament and Ancient Cultures--I love this curriculum.  It is reading intensive but I love how it integrates the study of cultures side by side as they co-existed in history.  It is also one that can be used for the whole family.  The syllabus contains tracks for each classical level of education.  We also love the "real" books vs. text book approach to history.  There is so much more flexibility studying history in this format and it can be matched to the strengths and interests of each individual student. The end of each unit includes ideas for all sorts of enrichment projects, including research papers, creative writing, and art projects, which can also be matched to each student.

Literature--See under Angela's Senior Year Curriculum (this is why K struggled so much.  We pushed her to join the Christian Lit class in co-op.  She surprised us all with her depth of understanding and ability to hang in there for the most part)

Language Arts--Vocabulary from Classical Roots B, All In One Straightforward English Series Master Book

Music--Piano lessons, violin lessons, and orchestra

Art--Drawing For Older Children by Mona Brookes

Benedict's 5th Grade Year

Ben is such a great student.  He's enthusiastic and seems to genuinely enjoy learning.  Every free moment he has a book in his hand.

Religion--Seton Religion 5

Math--Saxon 7/6

Science--I taught a simple machines and large structure engineering class in co-op using: The Kids' Book of Simple Machines: Cool Projects & Activities that Make Science Fun! by Kelly Doudna; Bridges and Tunnels by Donna Latham; Bridges! Amazing Structures to Design, Build & Test by Carol A. Johmann and Elizabeth J. Rich; and Building Big by David Macaulay

Literature--This was a co-op class taught by my talented homeschooling buddy.  Works included the entire Amazons and Swallows series by Arthur Ransome; Otto of the Silver Hand by Howard Pyle;  The Black Fox of Lorne by Marguerite de Angeli; The Red Keep by Allen French; The Treasure of Glaston by Elenor M. Jewett; and Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray

History--See Katerina's Freshman Year Curriculum above

Language Arts--Vocabulary from Classical Roots 5; Language Lessons for the Elementary Child Vol. 1 from Queen Homeschooling (I've been using this series since finishing all four volumes of Elementary Grammar from A Well-Trained Mind.  I haven't found anything I love as much as Elementary Grammar and unfortunately, I don't believe A Well-Trained Mind has any plans to expand the series. Boo-hoo!); Spelling Power by Beverly L. Adams-Gordan, Classically Cursive Book 2: The Ten Commandments by B. J. Jordan (I won't be using this resource again as the next in the series is entitled The Shorter Catechism and I fear likely contradicts Catholic teaching)

Music--piano lessons

Mr. Leo spent the first half of the year complaining about how much he hated the 30 minutes of school he had 4 days a week.  After Christmas break, we started reading lessons and when he realized he could finally read a short little reader all by himself he started to love school.  We also discovered he has a real head for math.  He knows all his addition facts through 20, many of his subtraction facts, and demonstrated an uncanny understanding of negative numbers.

Mr. Leo's Kindergarten Year

Religion--Bible stories using our children's picture bible

Math--Leo worked diligently through 4 math workbooks this year in this order: Essential Math A by Singapore Math; Star Wars Workbook: Preschool Number Fun by Workman Publishing; Star Wars Workbook: Kindergarten Math by Workman Publishing; and Essential Math B by Singapore Math

Handwriting--Handwriting Without Tears Kindergarten: Letters and Numbers for Me

Reading--Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann; BOB Books  Set 1 Beginning Readers by Bobby Lynn Maslen

Literature-Children's Traditional Literature Unit Study (I wrote this syllabus for our co-op)

Next school year we'll be down to three students at home. Yikes! I'm deep in the trenches putting together our plan for next year.  There is no rest for the homeschool mom!

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Garden Plans 2017

A couple years ago, I read an article about deep mulch gardening.  The idea is that with several inches of mulching material one does not need to weed as often or till every year.  Our garden plot is rife with weeds and I spend endless hours every summer culling.  It is positively back-breaking.  Why not give deep mulching a try?  We purchased 8 bales of hay from one of Chris' co-workers and I've been planting and mulching between each row for several days.  So far I've planted 20 more strawberry plants, 2 boysenberry bushes, 2 blackberry bushes, 2 rows of green beans, 2 rows of cucumbers, a row of kale, a row of swiss chard, and a row of lettuces.  I still have zucchini, crook necked squash, and butternut squash left to plant.  I'm considering jalapeños and tomatoes as well.  We'll either have a bountiful harvest of veggies or a field of alfalfa when the summer is out.  Fingers crossed!

Grow little garden! Grow!

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Under the Wings of Their Spiritual Care

Olivia and Angela just returned home from a 9 day trip back to Maryland.  They had a wonderful time visiting several family friends, our old parish, and spent the last few days in the convent with the postulants of the Sister Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará.

The sisters have been so good to our family for the last 10 years.  As little girls, Olivia, Angela, and Katerina all participated in the weekly Saturday Oratory run by the SSVM.  The sisters taught CCD to Katerina in our parish, a sister served as Olivia's sponsor when she was confirmed, and Olivia spent nearly 5 years in formation with the sisters before discerning out a year ago.  Even though we've moved far away and Olivia has ended her formation with the SSVM, they have faithfully stayed in contact with us and continue to pray for us.

I was touched when Angela showed me the books and lovely note the sisters gave to her as a graduation gift.  We have been so blessed by our contact with the SSVM.  Our family has been constantly under the wings of their spiritual care.  God bless the SSVM and the entire Institute of the Incarnate Word family.

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Children's Traditional Literature Unit Study--From Fables to Fairytales

For our little two family co-op I wrote an elementary literature unit study that explored all sorts of traditional literature: fables, myths, legends, tall tales, folktales, and fairy tales.  It was so much fun to find stories that would fit each theme and by the end, each of our 3 littles could list each type of story and what characteristics each type contained. This unit is roughly 18 lessons, but could easily be lengthened or shortened.  The children in our class were between 5 and 8 years old, but our two 10 year olds joined us from time to time when a particular story caught their interest.

I've included many links and web addresses to the books, activities, and coloring pages.  Most all the book selections can be purchased through Amazon, or checked out from your local library.

Lesson 1: Introduction to Fables

Elements of a fable: fictitious (not true or real)
                                 instructs in some kind of truth (moral)
                                 animals are usually the main characters and take on human characteristics such    
                                 talking, wearing clothing, and standing upright

Introduce and read a bit about Aesop

Choose and read several of Aesop's famous fables (many can be found online, or you can purchase a compilation of Aesop's Fables).  After reading each fable have students identify the elements that make the story a fable.

Enrichment activity: Choose a fable to draw

Lesson 2: Modernized Versions of Aesop's Fables

Review elements of a fable

Read newer versions of some favorite classic fables that have been made into popular children's books such as  Jan Brett's The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse,  The Tortoise and the Hare, and the Lion and the Mouse both by Jerry Pinkney.  After reading each fable have students identify the elements that make the story a fable.

Enrichment activity:  Choose a fable for students to act out.

Lesson 3: Modern Fables

Review elements of a fable

Read modern fables such as Fredrick's Fables by Leo Leonni and Fables by Arnold Lobel
(Fredrick's Fables is a family favorite.  Some of the stories are fairly quirky and odd).  After reading each fable have students identify the elements that make the story a fable.

Enrichment activity: Have students either narrate a fable of their own or draw a picture of their own fable.

Lesson 4: Introduction to Myths

Review elements of fables.

Elements of myths: fictitious
                                main characters are usually gods and goddesses or demigods/goddesses
                                stories were meant to explain elements of the natural world and world origins
                                (i.e. how fire was given to man, how the sun and moon move across the sky, how    
                                 different constellations came into being)

Introduce Ancient Egyptian mythology, gods and goddesses and their dominions. This website is a great resource:

Introduce Ancient Greek and Roman mythology, gods, and goddesses and their dominions.  It is fun to compare each Greek god with its Roman counterpart.  This website is a great resource:

Read from D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths

Enrichment activity: Have students either draw their favorite mythological god or story or print god/goddess coloring pages for students to color.

Lesson 5: Norse Mythology

Review elements of fables and myths

Introduce Norse mythology. This website is a great place to start:

Read from D'Aulaire's Book of Norse Mythology

Enrichment activity: Have students draw a picture from Norse mythology or print a coloring page for students to color.

Lesson 6: Other Myths

Review elements of fables and myths

Read myths from other countries and cultures.  We read from African Myths and Legends by Dianne Stewart and Jay Heale, and Myths and Legends from Around the World by Sandy Shepherd

Enrichment activity: Choose a natural occurring phenomenon (such as lightening, a local river, favorite constellation) and have student narrate or illustrate an original myth about the phenomenon.

Lesson 7: Introduction to Legends

Review elements of fables and myths

Elements of legends: depict real events or people
                                   stories are exaggerated
                                   elements of mystery and magic are often present

Read Irish Legends for Children by Yvonne Carroll

Enrichment activity: Have students draw a picture of one of the legends or color a celtic coloring page

Lesson 8: Christmas Legends
(I arranged my lesson plans so the Christmas legends lesson fell during the last week of Advent)

Review elements of fables, myths, and legends

Read The Legend of the Poinsettia and The Legend of Old Befana both by Tomie dePaolo

Read from Christmas Stories and Legends

Enrichment activity: Print coloring pages of poinsettias for students to color. This website has a pretty and simple one:

Lesson 9: Native American Legends

Review elements of fables, myths, and legends

Read The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush, and The Legend of the Blue Bonnet by Tomie dePaolo
Read Buffalo Woman by Paul Goble

 Enrichment activity: Print out coloring pages of Indian Paintbrush, Blue Bonnets and/or Buffalo for students to color.  Bluebonnets:  Indian Paintbrush:

Lesson 10: Introduction to American Tall Tales

Review elements of fables, myths, legends

Elements of Tall Tales: American Tall Tales originated as tales told around the campfires of cowboys
                                      and pioneers          
                                      most often about real people and historical times
                                      characters have super human powers
                                      historical elements but greatly exaggerated
                                      humorous problem solving

Read The Birth of Davy Crockett, John Henry, Febold Feboldson, First Citizen of Nebraska, Johnny Appleseed! Johnny Appleseed! from From Sea to Shining Sea: A Treasury of American Folklore and Folk Songs.

Enrichment activity: Research the real characters and help students distinguish between historical facts and tall tale exaggeration.

Lesson 11: Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox

Review elements of fables, myths, legends, and Tall Tales

Read several of the classic tall tales about Paul Bunyan and Babe.  There are all sorts of books and websites devoted to these tales, any should do.  We used this website:

Enrichment activity: Print coloring pages featuring Paul Bunyan and Babe for students to color.

Paul Bunyan:
Other Paul Bunyan printable:

Lesson 12: Narrate/Illustrate an Original Tall Tale

Review elements of fables, myths, legends, and tall tales

Have students come up with a tall tale character of their own based on themselves.  Come up with problems they might need to solve and then have them narrate and/or illustrate a humorous way in which their character might solve the problem.

Alternatively, read several more American Tall Tales, such as Old Stormalong, Pecos Bill, Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett--many of which can be found online or in From Sea to Shining Sea: A Treasury of American Folklore and Folk Songs

Lesson 13: Introduction to Folktales

Review elements of fables, myths, legends, and tall tales

Elements of Folktales: fanciful stories that may have some elements of truth but are mostly fiction
                                     usually part of an oral tradition passed down through generations
                                     usually part of a cultural heritage

Read It Could Always be Worse by Margo Zemach, Why Mosquitos Buzz in People's Ears by Verna Aardema, and Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Huchet Bishop

Enrichment activity: Have students draw a scene from one of the stories

Lesson 14: Fractured Folktales

Review elements of fables, myths, legends, tall tales, and folktales

Read any version of the classic Three Little Pigs story then read The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and compare the two.

Read any version of the classic Gingerbread Man then read Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett and The Stinky Cheese Man from The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka

Lesson 15: American Folktales

Review elements of fables, myths, legends, tall tales, and folktales

Read The Girl Who Loved Horses by Paul Goble

Read George Washington and the Cherry Tree from The Children's Book of Virtues edited by William Bennett

Read selections from The Classic Tales of Brer Rabbit

Lesson 16: Introduction to Fairy tales

Review elements of fables, myths, legends, tall tales, and folktales

Elements of fairytales: fictitious
                                     usually set in the far past
                                     usually include magic and/or fantasy elements: people, objects, animals
                                     often incorporate 3--3 events, 3 people, 3 objects
                                     clearly defined good and evil characters
                                     usually have a happy ending  

Read several fairy tales from a favorite book of fairytales (exclude any Red Riding Hood or Cinderella tales in this reading).  Our favorite fairy tale resource is The Random House Book of Fairy Tales adapted by Amy Ehrlich.

Enrichment activity: Have students draw and color a picture of their favorite fairy tale

Lesson 17: Red Riding Hood Around the World

Review elements of fables, myths, legends, tall tales, folktales, and fairy tales

Read Little Red Riding Hood retold by Trina Schart Hyman

Read Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China by Ed Young

Read stories from Little Red Riding Hood and Other Girls Who Got Lost in the Woods by Amelia Carruthers

Enrichment activity: Have students draw and color a Red Riding Hood picture

Lesson 18: Cinderella Around the World

Review elements of fables, myths, legends, tall tales, folktales, and fairy tales

Read any classic version of Cinderella

Read The Rough Face Girl by Rafe Martin

Read Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe

Read The Egyptian Cinderella by Shirly Climo

Read Adelita by Tomie dePaolo

Read Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China by Ed Young

Enrichment: Have students draw and color a picture of their favorite version of Cinderella. Watch a version of Cinderella for a family movie night.

Lesson 19: Bonus Fairy Tale Lesson on Rumplestiltskin and Rapunzel

Review elements of fables, myths, legends, tall tales, folktales, and fairy tales

Read any classic version of Rumplestiltskin

Read Duffy and the Devil by Harve and Margot Zemach

Read and classic version of Rupunzel

Read Rapunzel by Rachel Isadora (I presented a project on Rachel Isadora in graduate school, so she is a favorite children's author of mine)

Enrichment activity: Watch Disney's Tangled

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Slow Down! It's Going too Fast!

I know I was told to enjoy the ride because they grow up way too fast, but I don't think anyone is actually prepared for that reality.  Katerina celebrated her 15th birthday yesterday.  In August, more than half of our seven kids will be adults.  How did that happen so fast? In another year, Chris and I will be 50.  How is it I still imagine I look exactly like my 20 year old self?

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it."
--Ferris Bueller

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Whiskers on Kittens

Our miniature farm has become overrun with mice.  The neighborhood cats can no longer keep up with managing the rodent population.  We decided we need to add a couple kittens to our family to help rid our garden and hen house of mice.  Nadja found a couple kittens through  local online want ads and brought home two brothers, Zuko and Sasuke in August of last year.  They weren't more than 6 weeks old and were so cute, mischievous, and friendly.  We discovered they were excellent mousers as well.

Zuko kitty looking out the window from here favorite perch.

Don't let this photo fool you.  Cat and mouse are not the bosom buddies they appear to be.  Saskuke was merely taking a little break from batting this very confused mouse around.

In January, a suspicion I had about the two brothers was confirmed.  They were not brothers at all, but two sisters.  Zuko gave birth to 4 kittens on March 15th.  She's been a very good mama and we've really enjoyed having kittens again.  

I love their sweet little faces.

Just look at those whiskers.

They rule the roost,

and have stolen our hearts.

Unfortunately, we cannot even consider keeping six cats, no matter how cute. The four kittens will go to their new homes next week, just in time for Sasuke to deliver her little litter. 

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