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We said “No, thank you” to everything we could this summer. Library reading programs, and classes for the children, and fancy vacations. After a hectic year where we had something going seven days a week, plus frequent trips to the dentist for the Professor’s retainer (Yay! for the middle school years!), and frequent trips to the natural health doctor for me (a real, true Yay! to finding out why I’ve been so very tired for the past decade), I was ready to say “No” to those things. This made us able to say “Yes, please” to a lot more of what we needed, body and soul. Hikes in the woods. Trips to the beach. Sitting on the porch eating popsicles and playing Yahtzee. And Vikings. We said “Yes” to Vikings, too.

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We’ve never studied a topic over the summer before, but it worked out just perfect. We had loads of time to read all the books, watch all the documentaries, make all the costumes, and best of all–build a Viking Longship in our playroom! My boys soaked it all up, and we had loads of Viking battles fought in the back garden (and sometimes in the house!) as they re-enacted what they’d learned. I’d love to share with you the resources my four wee men and I used during our Viking summer.

The books we read–

  • Leif the Lucky by Ingri & Edgar Parin D’Aulaire ( a GORGEOUS picture book telling the story of Leif Erikson, son of Eric the Red. If you aren’t familiar with the D’Aulaire’s books, you’re in for a treat).42124199_295240854406877_305622047352946688_n
  • The Vikings by Elizabeth Janeway (a living history chapter book that weaves the details of Viking life into a story on the life of Leif and Eric). 42201333_476219392878002_208868442902626304_n
  • The Story of the Vikings Coloring Books by A.G. Smith (a detailed coloring book that includes descriptions on each page, and quite a broad history of the Vikings).

Those days we had to travel and couldn’t read, we listened!

  • The Dragon and the Raven – The extraordinary adventures of G.A. Henty (an enthralling audio drama with an impressive cast, including actors from The Hobbit, and British drama Call the Midwife). That can be purchased here. 42185898_652046728529508_3880848254421696512_n

Our study also made them curious about the countries of Greenland, Iceland, and Norway, and so maps were studied, and documentaries on YouTube watched. A couple of good videos I found can be found here and here.

I purchased all of their Viking helmets from Amazon. I decided on the plush kind, since the hard plastic hats often don’t stay on, and get cracked so easily. My favorite is the brown plush hat. The link to that can be found here. We also made a miniature longboat to sail at the park.

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Emerging ourselves into the world of the Vikings sparked all kids of creative play in my boys. It caused many a village to be plundered in our back garden, and many a sea to be sailed and new land explored in the Viking longship we built in the playroom! They set up Viking villages, and wanted to read our Viking books again and again. I’d recommend this kind of focused, immersive kind of play-learning for any topic (especially history or literature, or science related) that you want your children to not only enjoy learning but also remember!

This autumn our focused study will be about the first explorers of North America (after the Vikings, because of course we know they were really the first!). So for more ideas, and to follow along with our life of 1 Scottish Daddy + 1 Writing Mummy + 1 Rambling Victorian House + 4 Rambunctious Boys, follow my blog or find me on Facebook or Instagram @happylittlesigh.

Avonlea xo

Happy Little Sigh 

Finding beauty in the everyday

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We sat across from each other at the table for two. Busy Friday night hum. Instruments and speakers toted past as a band set up for a live show. Between us, two gluten-free Greek pizzas, lavender drinks, and so much to say.

We met on Valentine’s Day, age eight. Instant friendship. From then on, we were sisters–she, and I, and her twin sister, and her cousin. Four kindred spirits. Through the rest of childhood and the teenage years, we shared it all. Our secrets. Our dreams for the future. Our clothes. We blushed over boys. Cried hard tears on each other’s shoulders over heart-breaks and family drama. Made plans for many more adventures together.

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Then early adulthood, and choices were made. And we went our separate ways. I moved to Scotland. With an ocean between us for years, it wasn’t hard to grow apart. That, and we each had our demons to fight. But then I returned, back to the USA. We saw each other once, twice, then several times. And with each meeting came more trusting, more sharing of the parts of our stories we’d missed.

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And as we sat in that noisy restaurant last Friday night, we spoke again of the particulars of our lives. Of our mistakes, our regrets, and how we’d grown. She said something nice about my house. I smiled dreamily as she spoke of her daughter–something I’ve never had. And it occurred to us both–occurred to us that we can never see our own life as it looks from the outside. Did you hear that? Other people will naturally and unknowingly take what they see on social media, what they know of your possessions and your family, and the personality you portray in public, and for better or worse, will construct a movie-trailer-like idea of your life. And this, they will think, it what it must be like to be you. And we, in turn, do the same for them.

We look at other women, and so often we see only what she has that I don’t. That child. That house. That career. That husband. That body. That confidence. And we think because she has some of those things that we don’t, she must be happy. She must feel complete. It’s easy to miss the in-between bits. The hurts and the struggles. The tedious times. The longings each of us have. The depth of each human soul.

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It’s easy to forget all that. Easy to forget that others are praying for what we already have. That we, ourselves, once prayed for the many blessings we now enjoy. So today, instead of comparing your life to the false picture you’ve concocted of someone else’s life, let your mind dwell on the many blessings in your own life. For comparison is nothing but a thief of joy.

Avonlea xo

For more inspiration, bookishness, and mad stories of life homeschooling 4 wee men,

Find me on Instagram @happylittlesigh or Facebook @happylittlesigh

MONTHLY Newsletter, Morning Cuppa Tea at happylittlesigh@gmail.com

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Finding beauty in the everyday 

 

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A new royal baby, and isn’t it wonderful? And aren’t we happy for Prince William and Kate? But wouldn’t we all like a closer look than what the web or magazines let us see? A closer look at life behind those royal stone walls? And wouldn’t it be fun to imagine being invited to one of the royal homes–say Buckingham Palace?  What would one would wear? What would one do? And most importantly, what would Her Majesty be serving for lunch? Well, read on to find out. 

 I can’t claim to have extra info on the royal baby or what the new prince will be called (though I’m rooting for Arthur). But during the years spent living in the United Kingdom, I met more than one person who ran into a member of the royal family, or even got to meet them face to face. So for the rather charming little tale of my husband meeting the Queen, plus stories of run-ins with Prince Charles, Prince William and Kate, check out Meeting the Royals – Part 1. And for today, I’ve reserved some rather exclusive pics from two other royal events—the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and her Annual Garden Party. So join me for a peek inside the walls of Buckingham Palace for tea with the Queen. 

Buckingham Palace

First off, we need an invitation, or we’ll not be let through the gates.

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Now what to wear? The Garden Party requires more stately dress–for ladies, a pretty spring frock and hat or fascinator (pictured above) would be appropriate. For men, a suit and tie or dress uniform is a must. The picnic lunch in honor of the Jubilee, however, allowed for more casual summer attire. 

And what shall we do while we are there? Clearly the Queen doesn’t wish her guests to be confused, and so provides a handy timetable for the afternoon of the Garden Party.

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And for her Diamond Jubilee? First, the all import picnic on the lawns of Buckingham Palace. On the menu? Chilled British Country Garden Soup. Diamond Jubilee Chicken &  Tea-Smoked Scottish Salmon (toppings for the Fresh Bread Rolls). Oaten Biscuits with Harvest Chutney and a selection of Cheeses. Crunchy Seasonal Crudités (that’s veggie sticks to the rest of us). We mustn’t forget the Bubbly and Tea. And for afters, Lemon & Caraway Madeira cake, Chocolate Indulgence cake, and Sandringham Strawberry Crumble Crunch. A lunch not to be sniffed at. 

Afterwards, entertainment by a variety of performers, including Sir Elton John, followed by an impressive fireworks display over the palace.

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And isn’t it all lovely, and doesn’t it just make you sigh a happy little sigh?

Avonlea xo

For more royal fun, bookishness, and mad stories of life homeschooling 4 wee men, 

Find me on Instagram @happylittlesigh or Facebook @happylittlesigh

MONTHLY Newsletter, Morning Cuppa Tea at happylittlesigh@gmail.com

happylittlesigh.com

Finding beauty in the everyday ♥

 

 

 

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I went out grudgingly.

Would have rather stayed in to clean the bathrooms.

Do some scrapbooking.

Get a batch of muffins in the oven.

All the important things I wanted to do today.

But the fractiousness of little boys after a week of April showers forced me out.

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Out into the garden.

Warmth and sunshine washing over.

The almost green of our snow-flattened grass.

And birdsong.

Birdsong, and I’m Mary Lennox, chasing a robin over a garden gate.

Birdsong, and I’m Jane Eyre with her rooks, exploring Thornfield Hall on her very first morn.

Birdsong, and time is lost,

and I’m myself fifteen years past, discovering a walled garden of my very own.

Scotland.

Pussy willows and crocuses.

Blackbirds and brick.

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Birdsong today, and the magic of viewing the world

upside-down

from a swing.

And it’s springtime,

and doesn’t your heart ache with the glory of it?

Of life,

new beginnings,

winter’s end?

And I’m thankful,

wildly thankful in a way I could never express,

for the possibility of all things,

me included,

being turned upside down,

made new.

And I wonder at the sun’s warmth,

and that He calls Himself that,

our Sun and our Shield.

Our Shield,

for don’t we need protecting

from many things,

even ourselves?

Our Sun,

for don’t we revel in the light and the heat?

Don’t we thrive?

Get life?

Doesn’t He give us life

eternally?

Spring.

It has come upon us.

Find a tree stump.

A picnic table.

A bench.

Wait for birdsong.

And just breathe.

Be still and know that I am God.

Psalm 46:10

Listen…

Avonlea xo

Find me on Instagram @happylittlesigh orFacebook @happylittlesigh

MONTHLY Newsletter, Morning Cuppa Tea at happylittlesigh@gmail.com 

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Finding beauty in the everyday 

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We can wait decades. Sometimes more. Hoping, praying, begging that God would make a thing come true. And you pray, and you wait. And sometimes you recall some sweet blessing, or some specific prayer that was answered in the past, and you faith is boosted a bit–just enough to keep you hoping, even when it all seems to fall on deaf ears.

Other times the seeming silence makes you feel you might crumble right down to nothing but dust. And sometimes dust is just what you wish you could be.

For the waiting, and the longing, they can work away like long years of labor on tender heart, leaving you just . . . tired. And the world, with all it’s beautiful places and beautiful faces can begin to seem like the only comfort you’re going get. And sin is drug-like, and it smiles so sweet, and the lies it tells you never look like lies at all.

Sin can begin to look more beautiful than . . . well, than God himself. And you find yourself wondering if He really is so good.

Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame.

But I’m here to tell you–as I’m here to tell myself–that whatever it is the world is offering you, it will never bring you the peace and fulfillment you desire. Whatever it is you’re being tempted by, God is better. He is BETTER. And He is GOOD.

Yes, I’m waiting. Long, long waits. And I’m asking God so many Whys–about family, and relationships, and these books, which I’ve written but have yet to land in a reader’s hands. And it’s ever-so-hard when a burning desire–an ability, a gift–we think God has given us, seems to bounce off the ceiling and land right back in our laps.

And I can’t give the answer to that for my own life, as I can’t give the answer to that for yours. But I am determined to choose what is BEST. No matter what the outcome, no matter if I go to my deathbed still whispering these prayers, I am determined to trust the One who gives me breath. The One who made me and placed me just as and where I am. The One who calls me His own.

May God give you the strength to do the same. For the dear ones in your life. For your own self. For the glory of Christ. May you determine to walk the narrow path of life. To “set your face like flint, determined to do His will.” Isaiah 50:7.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,

and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

Avonlea xo

Find me on Instagram @happylittlesigh or Facebook @happylittlesigh

MONTHLY Newsletter, Morning Cuppa Tea at happylittlesigh@gmail.com 

happylittlesigh.com                                                                                                                  Finding beauty in the everyday 

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And I had been crying that day. Leaning against the countertop in the kitchen and sobbing it all out while the boys played in the next room.

The oldest came in but I didn’t stop.

“Why are you crying, Mummy?” Tender little heart of the firstborn child.

And so I told him.

“I’m sorry.” Sad little smile of sympathy, then off he goes to play.

It had been the best part of four hours. A good stretch of my day. Finding the words, getting them out. Fonts and photos chosen and arranged. And I was close, so close, to pushing the button. Sharing the post. But then some crazy glitch in my computer, and in a second it was gone. Crazier still, the site hadn’t, as it usually does, been auto-saving every two minutes. And so it was gone. My post. My day.

After a call to John, a few more tears of despair, a few frantic attempts to get it all back, I gave up. Gave in. There was nothing to be done.

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The sun was shining.  Setting the snow to sparkling like ten million diamonds sprinkled on the smooth dips and hills of our backyard. A little gift–and nothing to be sniffed at–for us and this frozen, grey tundra we’ve been calling home.

The sun was shining and so after a few more tears I whisked up Mr. Waddlesworth by his portly 1-year-old middle, his legs sticking out behind me like two pink stumps, called the other boys, and announced, “We’re going sledding.”

 

And so from the oak chest in the mudroom, one of the few pieces of furniture we brought with us from Scotland, I began to toss out the snow gear. Wrap up my boys up like marshmallow men. Though my heart wasn’t in it, we were going to go.

And when we were all nearly ready, he said it, in his sing-songy three-year-old voice.

“This is a happy day,” he said, “because Jesus loves us.”

That’s just what he said, and I hugged him for it.

That’s just what he said, and I wanted to cry.

And that wasn’t all, from my wise little General. My black-olive eye boy, my precious gift.

Just as I zipped up my own coat, he put up his red-mittened thumb and said, “Great jacket, Mummy.”

That’s just what he said, and my heart had to melt, for the generous gift of their words, my boys. For their sympathy, their compliments, their declaration of truth.

CAM002501Not that it’s always the case. The General was born with the fight in him. My passionate soul who loves to wrestle and throws his blocks more than he’ll ever build a thing. And my oldest, well, he’s prone to sulking. Tender heart that can’t bear for a thing to go wrong. And Mr. Waddlesworth’s had an obsession recently with scattering cereal (whole boxes at times), and he spends the rest of his days crying as he tries to climb my legs.

And it doesn’t take much, sometimes. Just one foam sword fight too many. That second spilled drink that I have to clean up. The crunch of cereal under my slipper. That’s all it takes sometimes, and my nerves are undone.  Anger boiling up inside me like baking soda tossed in vinegar. Because life isn’t easy, and in a torrent of words and frustration many syllables too high, they’re all going to hear about it, my little souls. My little men.

Because isn’t it my right to vocalize my dissatisfaction—with what I have, with how I’ve been treated, with all that went wrong with my day? To tell anyone who asks, or anyone I can make to listen, all that is wrong with my world?

I do let myself believe it. Yes, sometimes I do. I speak and act as if my words will leave my listeners unruffled, unaffected, unchanged.  That I can somehow pour upon them the greyness of my worries and my woes about my job and my house, my children and my spouse, and expect to leave them feeling inspired, encouraged, beaming with light.

But that is not, of course, the case.

What those words do is drag their hearts right down.

For our words are not invisible, not neutral particles that vanish like the wind. They are like music, whose melody and lyrics sway our very moods and actions, and stay long years in our minds and hearts.

And when we complain, when we shout, when we voice our dissatisfaction, or bring to the attention of others something that is negative or out of place, we bring these sorrows, this discontentment, this darkness to the forefront of their minds.

And God, of course, calls us to a different way.

He asks that we speak about, think about, all we are thankful for, all that is right.

whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

~Philippians 4:8

When it’s convenient and I’m felling well.  Kind, thankful words.

When it’s inconvenient and I’m not. Kind, thankful words.

CAM00259cd1On that day last week they taught me, my little men, the immense, the incredible, the significant power of our words.

Not that I’m there yet. Not that it’s easy. But it is a worthy goal, and worth the effort to seek to bring true beauty to our homes and lives. To bless others, and teach our children to bless.

For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.

~Audrey Hepburn

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Avonlea xo

For more breathtaking pics of Great Britain, inspiring quotes from our favourite authors, & peeks into the daily life of a boymum looking for beauty in the everyday things in life, find Avonlea on

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OR for EXCLUSIVE photos, inspirations, & videos, sign up for my MONTHLY Newsletter, Morning Cuppa Tea at happylittlesigh@gmail.com 

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Finding beauty in the everyday 

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