Late Nights with the Puzzle

Since Christmas an enormous jigsaw puzzle has resided on our
dining room table. 3008 piece enormous. On the box it says 3000 pieces, but
when I opened it up, sitting on top of the jumble of minute jigsaw shapes was a
small notice reading in several languages: Note: due to technical reasons this 3000 piece puzzle actually contains 3008 pieces. I considered
returning it right then and there. 3000 pieces, yes, but 3008? That’s pushing
some limits, I’m telling you!

We began the puzzle early in January in those hazy post-Christmas
days. I like a jigsaw puzzle going in the winter to gather the family ‘round
and promote camaraderie ‘gainst the dark nights of winter. Or at least I like
the concept. The fact is, despite the strong efforts of the more dedicated
puzzle do-ers of the family, a 3008 puzzle is just really big. And full of pieces. And takes a loooong time to finish.
But…piece by piece, the picture began to take shape. It’s a
picture of an old map of the world, back in the days of exploration when things
like Canada were still a bit sketchy and over the general area of Australia and
Antarctica is written in large black type “UKNOWNE LAND.” I love old maps –
what promise and danger those days and maps held!
So anyway, every day a few more pieces. And remarkable as it
seemed, slowly the pieces added on tipped the balance and there were more
pieces on the table than there were left in the box.
And somewhere along the way it seemed that the puzzle was a
metaphor for a year of homeschooling. Round about late January, a year of
homeschooling also seems like an insurmountable puzzle. Will our efforts ever
take us anywhere? Will it really amount to something if we do spelling lesson
12 today? And I thought. Yes. It does matter. Everyday a couple more pieces in
the puzzle and eventually the pieces add up. Bits of learning, however small
for each day, add up to the point where the pieces on the table, or already
under the bridge, to mix lots of metaphors, are more than those left to go.
So this morning I prayed with the boys for courage for the
day, for motivation to put a few more pieces into our education, and mid-prayer
it occurred to me that maybe at the end of our homeschooling year, when all the
pieces are placed, we’ll finish with a beautiful map of the world! And all the
confusing bits that confounded us, like the piece with a top of a capital ‘A’
that turned out to actually be the top of a ‘U’ will make sense. Wouldn’t that
be wonderful?
Or maybe we just get that map when we’ve put in all the
pieces into the puzzle of our lives. Or maybe we don’t get to see the map at
all. Maybe we’ll only see the big map when we get to heaven. Maybe when we take
our leave of God’s green earth all the puzzle pieces will still look like a big
jumbly mess in the box. I seem to be living long enough to see that things here
don’t always finish up tidily. Not everyone gets the time to place all the
puzzle pieces. 
Or even if they do, maybe they got the puzzle that isn’t a cool map,
just a kitchy picture of horses and flowers. (Why are there always so many
puzzles of horses?)
I don’t know. But I find that I can’t help always looking
and hoping and trying to understand the metaphor.
In the meantime…we are almost done and I’ll get soon my dining
room table back, and we’re also almost to the point where we can see the end of
the homeschool year, off there in the golden hazy distance. So until then…as Noelle’s auntie would say, it’s
Late Nights with the Puzzle. 

Somebody’s getting a little OCD with the remaining pieces.

Almost there.

Comfort Me with Bunnies

It’s time to tell you that we are extending our Year of Living Swissly. There are various reasons involved, the primary one being that Zeus, who we fully expected to be milking cows all year to pay the rent, has got a job that is very interesting and resume-worthy and with which he has not yet finished. So we’ve officially decided to stay another year. There are lots of mixed feelings all around and lots of discussions on how to do schooling next year, but the most important thing to consider was this: If we’re gonna stay, it’s high time we got some LIVESTOCK! Because, really, when you are homesick and missing all your friends, nothing says "comfort" quite like a bunny. In fact, I am starting to think that all adolescent girls should routinely be issued one when they turn twelve. image When I called the number in the classified ad to ask about bunnies the lady told me that if my daughter was interested, she had better come along to make sure there was “good bunny vibe” (or something like that) because she had lots of colors and lengths of hair to choose from. There was a sweet gray one in the first hutch she opened and so she found a bucket for Athena to sit on and put the bunny in her lap. Little Gray Bunny sort of stood up and leaned on Athena’s chest and then just gazed at her for, no joke, about 15 minutes. When the farmer lady came back she asked, “Well, have you chosen?” “Um…I think the bunny has chosen us.” Even the farmer lady was amazed! She was very happy that her bunny was going home to live with a girl she adored so much. So that she would not be lonely, we got her sister too, who wears a little black jacket. black bunny Line ‘em up, folks, and give ‘em a bunny! bunnies! Little Bunnies are awaiting names. The kitchen whiteboard is full of ideas ranging from Jane Austen heroines to Darth Fluffy and Master Fuzzy, a la Star Wars. There’s a rumor that we’ve finally reached a settlement with Flopsy and Mopsy.  Meanwhile they’ve settled into their lovely ready-to-go hutch out in the garden shed. It is all set up here beautifully because …{shhh….cover those long bunny ears} around here, rabbits are often raised for their meat. A few people have already asked me if I was raising them for “elevage”? to eat?  “NO! For snuggles!” IMG_1929

A Milestone

This was Athena’s first ballet lesson on pointe shoes last week. It’s a little blurry because I didn’t use the flash, so as not to disturb, but you get the idea. Athena said I was allowed to post the picture. It was an exciting day, and Athena was very excited in her reserved Athena way. First Point Lesson

Autumn Break in Sardinia

IMG_0789  Okay, I am feeling a little sheepish about telling you what we’re up to for the kids’ autumn break from school. I mean, a year in Switzerland is already pretty great, right? Does it help if I tell you that this trip to Sardinia was planned over a year and a half ago? Or that Katie is one of my very oldest friends? Or that we got cheap flights on Easy Jet? Or that Zeus had to stay behind because of his new job? For the sake of propriety, I could, of course, pretend that so far it’s been cold and rainy. But it hasn’t been! Since we arrived on Wednesday it has been clear and sunny and very warm. It’s been the warm summer we never quite got this year. IMG_0802 We’re staying with my dear dear friend Katie and her beautiful, hospitable family who making us feel very welcome and that increasing the number of people in their household by 125% for this week was exactly what they had been hoping to do. IMG_0783 And of course, when it’s sunny and warm you go to the beach! Thursday we packed food, picked up Diego and Anita from school, and headed out. Apparently the Sardinians are done going to the beach for the year; they have switched to jeans and long-sleeved shirts. The people on the beach at this time of year (including us) are foreigners. But really, there weren’t too many people at all and we had a lot of elbow room. IMG_0785  There were yellow jackets though, so the kids ate their sandwiches standing in the water. IMG_0792  This was a neat old Sardinian town – mostly vacation town now, where some spaghetti Westerns were filmed. I liked the pretty colors of the little houses. IMG_0793 Most of the houses had very interesting door knockers. This one makes me think of Aslan. It might come alive and tell me what to do. IMG_0807 On the way back to town we stopped and bought yummy sausage for dinner. IMG_0808 I am learning a little Italian. It usually goes like this: Katie introduces us as some American friends. O, la bella familia! I smile and say Bon Giorno. Quattro? [4?] Si, quattro.  Then they smile and are happy. Italians (and Sardinians, I suppose) still seem to like the concept of larger families, even though the country has one of the lowest birth rates in Europe. The sausage man gave us what we asked for and paid for, and then heaped on about that much again. He was either very generous, or needed to offload a lot of sausage. So we came home with about twice as much sausage as 9 people can eat at one go. Fortunately it is very good sausage as he makes it himself there in his shop, and we are inventing creative uses. Friday we headed to the beach again because the weather is supposed to change in a few days, and really, that is what we came for – beach flopping. But on the way out there, we stopped at an old church that was originally built in 470 AD. Very interesting to think about what life was like here then. The Romans were still here then and Christianity had now become legal in the Empire. IMG_0809 IMG_0812    IMG_0813 This is engraved on the baptismal font that you seen in the photo above. I think that is what it is. And inside the font is a relief of a fish. IMG_0814 IMG_0818 This is a view I see a lot. People waiting for me outside the monument because I am still dawdling inside reading the plaques and taking pictures. But it’s also a photo composition I like – looking out at the brightness from inside the shadowy building. Further up the road there are ruins from a Phonecian village. We didn’t pay to go in, but Katie, who took the 2 hour guided tour a few years ago, gave us the quick 5 minute version while we peeked over the fence, which was more our speed. IMG_0824 This is a house that is believed to have been the bakery as there is still a huge mortar and pestle used to grind grain. There’s also a big bowl, which I realize only now did not make it into the photo. IMG_0826 Here’s another spot in the ancient village where you can see the sewage canal running between what used to be a row of houses. The village was originally Phoenician – those seafarers – and then later the Romans came and took it over, like everything else. Later, when Moors kept sailing in from Northern Africa and attacking, the people abandoned the village and moved to a safer distance inland. IMG_0828 And then our ultimate goal: the beach. IMG_0832 IMG_0834  IMG_0841 Katie told us when we arrived how Sardinia is pretty dry and lacking in trees, because when the Romans came, long long ago, they chopped down all the trees and took them off to Rome.  Hermes, apparently had been listening, because two days later he found this stick on the beach and said, “Look! The Romans forgot this one!” IMG_0845 We played in the water, dug in the sand, snacked, I read a couple chapters of Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief aloud and then we played in the water some more. IMG_0851 The island seems to be mostly volcanic rock – there are lots of lava rocks around, including these black ones on the point. The fishies like to hang out among the rocks, and we’ve been introduced to Fishy Peeping with masks and snorkels. Katie’s husband Paolo is a marine biologist here, so they all know a lot about the local marine life. The water is cool but refreshing and super clear and very salty so it is amazingly easy to float. About five feet out, if you put your head down, you find all kinds of fishies swimming around down by your toes! I found it rather addictive, and had to keep going back to see what they were up to. Here are the girls doing some Fishy Peeping (along with some Italian sun worshippers who sort of invaded our space). IMG_0866 Next on the agenda was to bury each other in the sand. IMG_0868 Before it was time to go, I wanted to get a photo of all the kids in the water. But Hermes, who had been buried and got a bunch of sand on his face upon emerging and had to be dunked, was tired and kind of done for the day. So he didn’t like the idea of a family photo, and retreated up the beach for a scream. After a bit he felt better. IMG_0880 Here are the others. IMG_0878 Ahhh!! Heavenly water and air and light. It’s what our brains and bodies have needed after school immersion into French and managing Swiss timetables. Time doing a bunch of not much in warm weather and water. The weather is supposed to change tomorrow, so today while we can, we’ll go back to the beach. 

All Around Us!

Alrighty then – it’s time!!! With great pleasure I announce to you the debut of All Around Us ~ Singing Science!! Have you always had trouble learning the Classification System? Do you know the requirements for life? Do you know the correct order of the Colors of the Rainbow?   Can you name the three kinds of rock? Have you been in the market for a new Planet Song ever since Pluto got demoted? Have we got a deal for you! You and those you love will learn all these effortlessly and more! is the place to visit to check it out and place your order! And here to do a little marketing for us is 4 year old Hermes who among all the other things he has learned, really relishes the Continents and Oceans Song:  

Please note that silly bouncing is not required to learn the facts! Please leave me a comment here if you are interested in purchasing Your Very Own Copy, or you can also order directly from  I look forward to hearing what you think ~ and to you spreading the word!