Thursday, April 30, 2009


Here is a video of Ben shooting his air soft gun. Doesn't sound too soft, does it?


Lots of people are curious as to what a typical day looks like in our home school. I also would like to be able to look back at my blog in a couple months/years and see what we were doing in April 2009. So I thought I would write about an average morning in our home. Let me preface this by saying that there really are no "typical" days in our home. Every day brings its own surprises. So here is a glimpse of what happened on an ordinary April morning in the Smithdeal home:
Travis took Will to school early this morning(actually, Will drove Travis-now that he has his learner's permit). Travis came home and I was up with the children doing laundry, getting out breakfast, etc...We have a tradition that we use the first of the wild Asparagus to make omelets. So I made Travis an Omelet which he devoured :). Some of the children wanted pancakes, so we made pancakes and bacon. We started to clean up, but at around 10:30 Anna wanted to be put down for a nap(which involves nursing her to sleep, usually in the rocking chair in my room). I headed upstairs for a nice respite, when Emily came in the room with a copy of Henri Fabre's Storybook Of Science. We began to read about electricity. Sam, who was listening ,said very excitedly, " that's what all those little sparks are that I see in my covers every night.." This launched us into a long conversation about static electricity.
Enter: Oliver-who just woke up about fifteen minutes ago(late night baseball is rough on the kids!). "Mom," he said,"I didn't get any pancakes. Will you make me some please?" I explained that I was tied up at the moment, but he could put some on the griddle himself. "There's no batter left," he replied expectantly. So I told him how to make the batter and cook them. He went down stairs and made them and did a very good job! Sometimes my kids do much better when I can't tend to them right away!
Back to the science. In his book, Fabre describes an experiment you can do with paper and a stove that demonstrates electricity at work. So down we go to the kitchen. The experiment is a success! That's always a plus, as lots of times the books make it look so easy, only to have the experiment fail and the kids thoroughly disappointed.
When we were doing the experiment, the paper became brown and dingy-resembling an old historical document. Emily noticed this and asked if she could use it as "olden days" stationery. She spent the next thirty minutes writing on this paper!
Meanwhile, Sam, Oliver, Mary Margaret and I pulled out our Let's Read And Find Out books about storms and electricity (incidentally, this was the first set of books I ever bought for my kids- 25 cents a piece at the Christian Mission in Alabama. Kind of fitting that Will's first books wre science books! I highly recommend these books to anyone who wants to have fun learning about science.) We then read a book about St. Jerome and the Lion by Rumer Godden. It was a sweet story. We finished up with The Grey Lady And The Strawberry Snatcher by Molly Bang-an absolute all time favorite of my children!!!
Anna woke up and we never finished the kitchen, so we tidied the house and began making lunch. All and all, it was a nice, happy morning. Normally we would have been outside, but the rain kept us in to enjoy the coziness of learning together!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Tommy is turning brown as a berry. Every waking moment he spends outside. Today I asked him if he was having fun riding his bike, and he replied, "Yes, I'm having fun on my motorcycle!" (I guess he sees Will on his dirt bike all the time-a bit of an influence!) He tied a wagon to the back of his tricycle and rides around on it all day. Tonight Travis was getting ready to take the kids to baseball practice. He was heading towards the Suburban with a Pepsi in his hands. Tommy looked up at him and asked(totally serious), "Dad, Are you taking the Pepsi to Mrs. Bourban?" Travis and I looked at each other and burst out laughing. Yes; Travis has a girl friend. He drives her everywhere and even brings her Pepsi. I hope Mrs. Bourbon isn't too much competition for me- Oh. She's a car! I can handle that, I think!


Anna is learning her birds. Today we watched a Robin for a long time. Now, whenever we are outside, Anna looks up at the trees, smiling and pointing at the birds -as she is doing in this picture. Joy, Joy, joy!


Travis took these really neat pictures tonight of the Barn Swallows and Bats in our barn. He also got a picture of the wild asparagus growing at the edge of the garden.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


This is the beautiful face that greets me every morning!!! Notice the cut on Anna's forehead. She was trying on Tommy's shoes and fell. When Will was little he did the same thing(with Travis' shoes) and ended up in the ER for stitches.


We have a Baltimore Oriole nesting in our yard. They tend to be very shy birds, so Emily and I were lucky to be able to watch him(it was the male) and catch him on camera. You can't really see the bird in the video, but you can hear his "flute-like" song. Every Baltimore Oriole(also called the Northern oriole) has a slightly different song, but the intonation of all the Orioles' songs has a very distinct quality. Baltimore Orioles are famous for their hanging nests that look like straw bags!

Here are a few other bird sightings in our yard today:

Hummingbirds, a Bluejay, Goldfinches, a pair of Housefinches(building a nest), a Carolina wren, Song Sparrows, Barn Swallows, and a Phoebe


Here are two books I am currently reading to broaden my horizons a bit. They are just fun to pick up and read every now and then; you don't have to read them chronologically or read cover to cover:
1. An Underground Education by Richard Zacks(some parts a little questionable, but kind of interesting)
2. An Incomplete Education by Judy Jones and William Wilson
Happy Reading!!!


My definition of a good husband: A man who can keep up the book case building with his wife's amassing books....Thankyou Travis!!! There's even a shelf at the top of the picture that I haven't filled (yet)!!

Sunday, April 26, 2009


We brought some apple juice and cheese puffs to the creek. I think Lucky enjoyed the cheese puffs most of all! Isn't he cute?!!


We went down to the creek today after church. It was so hot; the water felt great! I couldn't find my chair I had left down there. Turns out, Sam found it a little later completely washed down the creek. But it didn't break!
Every time Sam and Oliver got hot today, they ran down to the creek and jumped in!You can hear the frogs in one of the videos! (Is it just me, or are these videos a hassle to upload? Maybe my computer is just slow...)




Saturday, April 25, 2009


Today was a good old-fashioned day at the park. We stayed for 3 1/2 hours! It was p hot, but the Staunton park has a pretty creek running through it. The children played in it almost the whole time. They climbed on the rocks, splashed in the water, and caught cray fish. Oliver caught a huge one that looked as big as a lobster!!!The older kids grew a little tired of being at the park, and I had a realization: when children are younger, it takes so much less to keep them entertained and happy. As they get older, other things such as socialization and mental stimulation become more important. Where have the years gone? I remember so many long, wonderful days of going to the park with the older boys(when they were young), and suddenly they don't enjoy it anymore. Sometimes the progression of time wakes me up. I guess the conclusion I came to yesterday is that I still need to provide all-day-park-events for the little ones, but I need to accept the fact that the older kids are ready to move on for now-at least until they have their own children and start the cycle all over again!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009 James and the Giant Peach: Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake: Books James and the Giant Peach: Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake: Books This is a fun book my kids and I are reading (again). We are also reading Fantastic Mr. Fox


Anna is exhausted after a long night of baseball!!

Home from the baseball games, the dogs make a good welcoming committee!!!!!


What is this?!!!


The younger children spent most of the morning creating with legos. This is a short video clip of them playing:



This is what the boys spent most of the day doing, and they are still playing right now! And then we have two baseball games tonight, so it's just been an all around baseball day. (Click arrrow to play video)


Here are a couple of excerpts from the chapter, "Out of Door Life For The Children" in Charlotte Mason's Home Education:

"...every hour spent in the open is a clear gain, tending to the increase of brain power and bodily vigour, and to the lengthening of life itself..."(p.42)

"Get the children to look well at some patch of landscape, and then to shut their eyes and call up the picture before them, if any bit of it is blurred, they had better look at it again."(p.48)

(on observing flowers)"The flowers, it is true, are not new;but the children are;..."

"Never be within doors when yo can rightly be without." ((p. 42)

"In the first place, do not send them(outside);if it is anyway possible, take them; for although the children should be left much to themselves, there is great deal to be done and a great deal to be prevented during these long hours in the open air." ((p.43)


My friend, Lissa, and I are conducting a little experiment which she has termed, "Operation Bubbles." The posts having to do with Operation Bubbles will essentially be a record of the daily happenings in the Smithdeal home. This is more of a personal record/log of our happenings that may not interest the average reader, but if you would like, feel free to read!!!
Today was rather chily and windy. The sun came out and in, and it rained off and on. I found myself feeling restless for nice weather-which is supposed to be coming at the end of the week.
I stayed up late last night, creating "jib-jab" cards to send to the kids. They thought it was hilarious and had great fun creating some of their own today.
I talked to Kathleen-that was so wonderful!!!
Tonight John Paul, Emily, and I had a great game of twenty questions. They finally got the answer on the last question!
Read James and The Giant Peach to Emily, Oliver, Sam ,and Mary Margaret. They liked it so much that Sam was crying when I finally had to stop reading. He said he wants to learn to read so that he can read it to himself. That was music to my ears, as he has not shown too much interest in reading as of yet.
I am going to begin reading Charlotte Mason's Volume 1 (Home Education) as a way to jumpstart Operation Bubbles.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I reached an all-time low ....I was so thrilled to see Travis come home tonight with a bag of corn dogs from Father Burt. I had no dinner planned(I was busy going through my book sale goodies), and we popped the corn dogs in the oven. The kids thought it was so great. Thanks, Father Burt! (BTW, this is coming from someone who didn't know what a corn dog was until she was well into her twenties. This same person also didn't know that baked beans could be bought in a can.(Thanks, Mom!-and I'm being serious!)


We had some very heavy rains yesterday and today. Tommy got stuck in the mud when he tried to bring his bike through the garden. I heard him calling when I was in the kitchen: "Help! Mom I'm stuck! Help me!!!" I came running out to find him stuck in the mud. Here is a video of Oliver trying to rescue him!( I couldn't resist!):

Monday, April 20, 2009


I went to the book sale(actually, all the books were free !). I got lots of goodies, and we(all the kids came) had fun with grandma, Colleen and Tucker, and their children. I needed more books like a hole in the head, but there's always room for one more! Here are some of the goodies I found: The Timetables of History, several of the books in The Brown Paper Bag series (Marilyn Burns, Back Yard History Book,etc...),How To Read A Book by Mortimer Adler, The Great Ideas by Mortimer Adler, Soldier Of the great War by Mark Helprin, lots of kids nature and history books, art books, and some neat National Geographic picture books. It was like a shopping to find room and start reading...
On a sadder note, we got home to find all but three of the chicks drowned..They were in the basement,and the hose broke loose from the sump pump and fell into the chicken pen. It is so frustrating, but I guess it's just part of life when you're trying to raise animals.
Time to go read to the children and tuck them into bed. Too bad I didn't get any book sale pictures. The camera batteries were being recharged. Oh well, maybe next year!

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I was feeling overwhelmed by the state of my house today, and the idea for this post came to me. I am always amazed at how quickly our house goes from looking pretty straightened to rather disorderly. I decided that if my house could talk,this is what it would tell me:
If my house could talk, the mud-stained doors and floors in the entryway would tell me: "I have lots of little children, muddy from hours of happy outdoor play, pushing and pulling on me all day!"
If my house could talk, the sink piled with dishes would say: "I'm sorry, but I am filled to the brim, for the lady of the house chose to neglect me and went to her sons' baseball games today. In fact, the whole family neglected me, because they wanted to be there together."
If my house could talk, the floors strewn with toys and odds and ends would protest, "It is not my fault! The children here are playing on me all day, and especially the baby wears me out by dragging and rattling toys and trucks everywhere! And the older children are always making creations with paper and legos, so pardon the snippets and rubble!"
If my house could talk, the laundry piled on the table might cry out: "fold me! The boy who is in charge of me won't get off the piano or leave the basketball court. And now he wants to play with his little brother, and his mother even gave him permission to ignore me for the moment!!!"
If my house would talk, the unvacumed rugs might tell you, "the people here have no regard for us. They walk on us all day, every day, and now they are too busy playing games and reading books to give us any attention. Even our friends, the beds and the bookcases, have been left to drown in a sea of dust while this family goes about having fun all day. "
If my house could talk, the whole house would complain:" This is the worst insult, yet!!!The mother of this household could be tending to me now that the children are all in bed, but instead she chooses to sit in front of that little black box, chronicling all the things the family has done while neglecting me! It is plain to see that I'm not the priority around here. Humph!!!"
So when I am feeling discouraged, as I was earlier today-that I haven't done enough, worked hard enough, been efficient enough.....I will quiet down and let my house talk to me.


"Tommy, Did you know that even when Mommy is mad at you, she still loves you?"

Saturday, April 18, 2009











SAm had the only homerun of the game!!! We were so proud of him! Here's a video of his hit:


Friday, April 17, 2009


We got home from town today-what a beautiful day,by the way!-and Tommy found his own way to cool off. Of course I ran to get the camera, and right when I went to take his picture, he turned the hose on me and got me soaked!!!!

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Tommy, our newly turned three year old, has shown no interest in potty training. This is a surprise to me as our previous seven potty-trained children were way done training by three. Just goes to show you that it all depends on the kid! Well, today was a beautiful day after a string of rainy, cold, get-nothing-much-done kind of days- a great day for two things: potty training and car cleaning! The older kids worked for hours making the van immaculate. They even used upholstery cleaner on the rugs and got out the stains that have accumulated over the months(O.K.-years!). Meanwhile, the potty training was going pretty well. I put Tommy in a pair of underwear and a T-shirt and sent him outside. He kept his pants dry for several hours. Clean car, toilet-trained kid-we accomplished a lot today. Come 5:00, we're all enjoying a nice quiet evening in the yard. Tommy comes up to me crying (something unintelligible). Finally I make out:"I had an accident in the car....". To spare the details of the ensuing moments, I'll summarize it for you: no clean car, no potty-trained kid- but still a beautiful day, and successful, I may add, as I didn't blow my stack when the "bomb" was dropped :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I have found many of my friends' book reviews to be helpful, so I thought I would start writing some of my own book reviews. Many times it is obvious when I spot a good picture book-the art is beautiful, the story is appealing, and I am naturally attracted to the book. Other times it takes my children to find the winning picture books. Some books that I would turn my nose up to end up delighting the children. What A Bad Dream by Mercer Mayer is one of these books. It is a "little Critters" book, and before you skip to my next post, just hear me out. What A Bad Dream starts out with little critter cozily falling asleep on his parents' laps. He begins to dream that he swallows a magic potion that causes "weird" things to happen. First he turns into a monster. Then he is able to scare everyone out of the house so that he has the house to himself! Then the fun begins! He eats whenever and whatever he wants. He rides his bike wherever he wants and never has to take a bath. He gets a gorilla for a pet. He plays outside after dark, and on and on. So why is this a bad dream? Well when Little Critter is tired(in his dream) and ready for bed, there is no-one to kiss him goodnight or read him a story. No-one to tuck him in. No-one to hug him when he is scared. Having everything the way he wants it does not make up for not having his parents there. Little Critter is so upset in the dream that he begins to cry (in real life), causing his parents to gently tuck him into bed with some warm milk that he is assured is NOT a magic potion! This book has such a sweet message, and the pictures tickle my childrens' funny bones. Even my almost nine year old enjoyed it, sneaking it up to bed with him before lights-out. I hope you and your children enjoy this book as much as we do.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Here are a few more Easter photos: 1. "our" mountains
2.Travis and Anna 3.PaPa and Emily 4. Mary Margaret


I found this picture of Anna when she was a newborn. My, how the time has flown!!!


I realized this evening that it has been a while since I've sat down to read with the little ones(Mary Margaret and Tommy) for an extended period of time. So after dinner tonight, we read until the children grew tired of reading (and me,too-if this is possible?) This is the list of books we read. (I always enjoy seeing what other people are reading to their children) :

1. Five LIttle Monkeys Sitting In A Tree by Eileen Christelow

2. Daisy Thinks She Is A Baby by Lisa Kopper(Thanks for the suggestion, Lissa)

3.The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, And THe Hungry Bear by Don & Audrey Wood)

4.If you Give A Cat A Cupcake by Laura Numeroff

5.In A Dark, Dark Room And Other Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz(read this one several times at Tommy's insistence)

6.How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Rooms by Mark Teague(read three times!)

7.Goody O'Grumpity by Carol Ryrie Brink(glad this was just a library book-Caddie Woodlawn was much better!)

8.Blueberries For The Queen by John and Katherine Paterson(Pictures by Susan Jeffers were nice, story not so great)

9.The Ear Book by Al Perkins(read this one when I was a kid. My kids laugh at the same parts as I did.)

10.Flicka,Ricka, Dicka&The Little Dog by Maj Lindman(I Love These Books)

11.Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes(Cute story.Mary Margaret liked it.)

12.Love You Forever by Robert Munsch (Read twice-is it just me or is the mom in this story a little bit psycho? I wonder what her daughter-in-law thought when the mother-in-law crawled through the window to rock her son to sleep!!!)

It really was fun to read together-fun and cheap entertainment. And yes, there were dirty dishes waiting in the's all about priorities!!!


As described in my Easter post, we had a great time playing Dad's new game, "Junque Safary." As you can see, Mary Margaret is really enjoying our one of a kind duct-taped headphones!!!(And your Miracle Piano, Lissa!)

Monday, April 13, 2009


I had a lovely visit with my friend, Carrie, today. Two of her children are staying with us tonight, and it is such a pleasure to see such wonderful friendships forming. I am currently reading Alice Gunther's book, Haystack Full Of Needles. It is a great book(so far) which discusses the formation of friendships and social life amongst Catholic homeschoolers. It does much more than this, as you really get a window into Alice's life;it portrays a way of life!(I am blessed to share with Alice, Lissa, who happens to be one of my dearest friends and mother to my Godson!) If I were more computer savy I could insert a link to the book, but as I am not, you can follow the "cottage blessings" link to Alice's blog in my "bit of inspiration," on the right side of my blog. Her bolg is a beautiful place to visit, anyway!!! So we are enjoying our friends and are very thankful for them!!!Included in this post is a picture of the kids playing "Twister."

Sunday, April 12, 2009


We had a wonderful Easter. I hope you did, too. We started out the day by going to Mass. Then my parents and sisters came over. We had a big Easter egg hunt and a ham dinner. Even the adults got to hunt for some eggs. That made for many laughs. Dad organized a fun game for us called "junque safary" (misspelling intended!)He had some things he was getting rid of(everything from personal memorabilia-"papabilia" to duct-taped headphones). The object of the game was to pick out the item that you thought everyone else would choose last when allowed to pick. Then we each went in to the room where Dad was and told him which item we thought would be picked last. After we all(individually) told him our guess, we all came back into the room and took turns picking items to keep. The person who ended up choosing correctly the last remaining item was the winner. And I won!!(the grand prize winner received $4 !!!) And I got a pair of duct-taped headphones to boot! THe kids had a blast, too!!!Thanks, Dad!! Our friend Lew came and brought delicious desserts, and we all over-stuffed ourselves!!! It really was a wonderful day.

Annna rides the horsie in her Easter dress.

Tommy was dressed up for church, too!

Mary Margaret looked so pretty in her Easter dress and bonnet.

Mom made a beautiful little Easter garden with a handmade chick in it. Isn't it adorable?

Saturday, April 11, 2009


I thought everyone might enjoy seeing our garden site before it is planted. Travis and the kids were busy planting the potato patch. Even Tommy helped. We found a lot of beetles(not potato beetles). I hope they are not the kind that damage potatoes! We'll have to do a little research.