After conferences with Greta’s and Ingrid’s teachers, I was assured that my children are in the “normal” range with no concerns.

When we returned home, Dagne still had school to do. We did a week’s worth of math because she felt compelled to catch up for the past week I had to work. I had no compunction, but she must have felt it. So, to ease her conscience, we “caught up.”

We worked on phonics — she is able to memorize every sound each phonogram makes. When she sees “a” she knows that it says /a/, /A/, /ah/ and the order in which she says it is the order in how often that sound is used in the English language. Today, she spelled “all” in cursive and put a 3 above the “a” because it used its third sound.

When I flash the card that reads, “ay,” she says, “Two-letter /A/ that we MAY use at the end of English words. When she sees “ai,” she replies, “Two-letter /A/ that we MAY NOT use at the end of English words.

“Why?” I ask.

“Because English words don’t end with “I”,” she answers.

All this is done while she hops around the stool and jumps and wiggles — all the while her mind is memorizing, memorizing, memorizing.

Every time she gets a card right, she does a little shiver giggle because she’s so proud of herself. Everytime she gets one wrong, I quickly fill in the blanks and she catches on by the end of the little saying.

Wierd thing is … she loves it. Like I said, she gets little happy chills when I pull out the phonics flashcards.

Here’s my diatribe: young children love to memorize. We should capitalize on it. We’d do them a world of good.

Then, we read more of Greg’s Microscope, set up a slide in the sun with salt water to develop more perfect crystals, and then we went for a walk.

I wanted to overtake the sewage pond for the American Wigeons and Northern Pintails. We reached it, caused the birds to scatter, and waited quietly for them to return. Greta and Ingrid were a little behind me. I turned around and saw them looking at me with a pained expression.

“What?” I asked.

“We need to go to the bathroom,” they said.

I indicated the wild fields around us. They indicated that their problem was of a different consistency.

Dagne, who was ahead of us, had returned and when she heard their complaint, she said, “Me too.”

We were a great many steep hills away from home. Over the next hill was Casey’s and Claudia’s house. I sighed deeply and started to cut across the field to get to it.

No one was home. They are good enough friends that I knew they wouldn’t mind if I checked the doors. But they are also far more responsible than us and therefore, lock their doors when they leave.

They begin to wince in pain. Dang it! Stay here, I told them, while I go back and get the car. Sitting will help you to hold it.

When I returned, they were missing again. But I soon found them inside the house, happily eating ice cream sandwiches. Casey had returned and had a good laugh at my ridiculous situation.

So it goes. I wonder if others have their romantic endeavors turn out so silly, or if it’s a genetic glitch I received from my mother, who can’t go to the store without having something dramatic or laughable happen along the way.

The pathetic end to this walk made me think of another mishap about nine years previous. Then, I had Ingrid in the Baby Bjorn with her big blue eyes happily blinking up at me. Elsa, 5, and Greta, 3, were doing that annoying about-face that only occurs on a walk. You spend all day chasing them and keeping them from breaking their necks. Then, you take them on a walk to expend their energy only to stand for minutes at a time watching them crouch to examine bugs mating on the sidewalk. You can’t get them to move!

But somehow we reached the hill behind the house (probably 20 yards) and walked into the field with our Jack Russell Terrier, Papillon.

I took a deep breath and felt the moment. Idyllic. The fields were waist-high for the girls. Their blonde heads bobbed in discovery of new wonders in the natural setting. The air was mellow, as only summer air can be in the valley in the Northwest — heavy in the center; crisp on the outer edges. They cooed like satisfied doves at the varietals of flowers, warbled like nesting sparrows trying out their new home as they nestled in the grasses, and sometimes sang for ecstatic joy just for being alive like the meadowlark does on the barbed-wire fences in spring.

The air was alive with budding, growing things and my girls were a part of it. We sensed the song of creation.

Papillon must have sensed it too …

for, terrier-like, he found a garter snake and … terrier-like, he snatched it. By viciously shaking his head, he smacked the ends of the snake against his body with such force that pieces of the snake flew into the air and struck us.

I bet you can hear the screams of terror and squeals of disgust as we jumped away from the kill-spot. We were dumbstruck; then, we discovered our voices and used them to scream in unison. Within seconds, it was over — the pieces of snake still wriggling on the ground.

I looked down at my Little-Big-Blue-Eyes and wiped the spattered blood from the top of her fuzzy head. She looked hard at me, requesting assurance, sensing the fear and surprise that arrested our picturesque scene.

We settled down and laughed. We exclaimed at the surprise of it, how scared we were, and we laughed at the blood trails on the back of Papi’s back.

We walked on …

into another space of flung body parts.

Papi had found another snake.

After the third snake, we made for home — our idyllic paradise defeated by the mutilated bodies of the snakes. Papi was in heaven.

At home, we always drew in our nature notebooks the things we observed. Elsa, in her usual alarming accuracy, recreated the torn pieces of the flung snake with alacrity. True to the Charlotte Mason method, she had a memory permanently etched in her mind.

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