Friday, November 27, 2015

Our Own Family's 2015 Advent Chain

Earlier this month, I shared an easy Advent activity chain for young families. I created that one with the families of my Catechesis of the Good Shepherd class in mind - simple, light-filled activities for those with 3-5 year old children. I wanted to create something a little different for my own family, partly because my children usually make the chains for the younger families and I wanted a few surprised, but also because they are eager for a bit more depth this Advent. (My oldest will turn twelve during Advent this year.)

Advent should include Scripture, which could be added to the activity chain, but we already have a Jesse Tree.

Advent should include the music of the season, but we already have a Spotify playlist of Advent music. (You can read about our playlist here, but if you want something very simple, choose the lovely Advent at Ephesus.)

Advent should include small sacrifices, but I've decided to try preparing a manger as suggested at Like Mother, Like Daughter. If there's one thing we have a lot of in Kansas in November, it's dried grass.

So our family activity chain includes prayer (the joyful mysteries and some specific pray intentions), decorating for the season of Advent (we'll switch the Christmas decorations around Christmas Day, however it fits our schedule), the feasts of the season (often the same as on the previous activity chain), and listening to some Advent stories. You can find The Juggler of Our Lady free many places line. One is here. He's Coming! is a CD by the Altar Gang.

Here's the link to the Excel file in Google docs, if you're interested.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Second Daughter's First Copywork Sentence

"Beatrix Potter was born in London."

Proof she can write a whole sentence.

Divide What You Have and Be Thankful for the Opportunity to Share: Don Camillo and His Flock

Don Camillo and His Flock by Giovanni Guareschi, translated by Frances Frenaye

This is the second book in English full of stories surrounding the huge Italian parish priest, Don Camillo. I wrote about the first book, The Little World of Don Camillo, here.

The stories in this book reveal Don Camillo's great love for the people of his village: a boy he rushes by motorcade to a hospital in the big city, a girl he protects from careless relatives, a boy he rescues from a dreary and suffocating life in a city school (to name a few). He is not afraid to be the loud and lonely voice of reason. Not that he is always in the right. Christ speaks still from his cross to remind Don Camillo of his failings.
"Christian charity doesn't mean giving the crumbs from your table to the poor; it means dividing with them something that you need yourself. When Saint Martin divided his cloak with a beggar, that was Christian charity. And even when you share your last crust of bread with a beggar, you mustn't act as if you were throwing a bone to a dog. You must give humbly and thank him for allowing you to have a part in his hunger. Today you simply played the part of an altruist and the crumbs you distributed were from someone else's table, not your own. You had no merit. And instead of being humble, you had poison in your heart."
Profound words for today's world.

Monday, November 23, 2015

For the Man (or Woman) who Appreciates a Good Drink: Drinking with the Saints

Drinking with the Saints: The Sinner's Guide to a Holy Happy Hour by Micheal P. Foley

I saw this book online somewhere just after it was published last May and sent a link to Kansas Dad with a note that perhaps we should buy it. He wrote back that he was only disappointed he hadn't written it. A few months later, I used some of the Amazon commissions I earned from the blog (thank you!) to buy it for him for Father's Day. Since then we've had lots of fun perusing it. We've made a few of the drinks, but I'm afraid we have gotten a little enamored with the sangria recipe and have therefore made it on more than its share of occasions. Our dinner parties are not elaborate affairs (kids eat at the table and grown-ups tend to stand in our kitchen because we don't have enough chairs), but we do like to serve tasty drinks.

The book is ordered by feast day with entries for major feasts, or just good excuses to fill a glass. The last section contains entries for the liturgical year (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Pre-Lent, Pentecost, and even, believe it or not, a section on Lent). Some of the recommendations are as simple as a kind of wine. Others are recipes for mixed drinks. For example, for the feast of St. Kateri Tekakwitha (on July 14th), there is a recipe for a Turtle because she was from the Turtle Clan of the Mohawks (Canadian whiskey and Benedictine) or a White Lily (Cointreau, Daiquiri rum, gin, absinthe). The author includes information on the feast day or the saint as well as suggested toasts, all entertaining enough to be an enjoyable read even for someone who isn't likely to mix any drinks.

Sometimes it's hard to find just the right gift. This book could be the perfect gift for a Catholic family who likes to entertain (perhaps as a hostess gift). If you have some extra spending money, pair it with some alcohol or an interesting set of glasses. I think if you scroll through this post about the book over at Like Mother, Like Daughter, you'll find a suggestion for a newlywed couple as well. It really seems to be just the right combination of joyful and useful.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Spiders and Eggsacks and Frogs, Oh My!

We had a terrarium of pillbugs. Then they died and it sat empty on the counter for a few days when Kansas Dad thought, "Let's catch a spider." So he did. Second Daughter cried at first, weeping for the bugs it would have to eat. The next day, she decided she loved it and it was her spider because Daddy caught it on her birthday.

So we had a rabid wolf spider, soon in a habitat furnished with dessicated carcasses of crickets and grasshoppers.

Despite her initial hesitation, she wept for a day when we discovered he had died a few weeks later. First Son promised to catch her another, and did! He found this one outside. The kids were certain it was getting bigger and sure enough, she appeared one morning with a large egg sack.

 Mom was not nearly as excited as the children. We watched her carry it around for a few weeks before Kansas Dad caught a replacement, so we let Mama Spider loose in the yard with her egg sack before anything hatched out of it. (Now you have solid proof I am not the perfect homeschooling mom because I did not allow my children to observe hundreds of wolf spiders hatching on my kitchen counter.)

We have since switched to a new spider. Apparently, we are going to just keep rotating through all the spiders that invade our house. I told the kids they should start a guidebook of Range spiders with drawings and notes but so far none have taken on the project. With winter approaching, we may need a spider break due to lack of a food source. (I am not purchasing food for a spider we would have squished a few months ago.)

Just because it's cute, here's a picture of a tiny frog Kansas Dad found outside over the summer. The pictures you find on the computer months later...

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Oh Where Is My Hairbrush?

The Wet Brush Detangling Shower Brush is one of my favorite things, but it's also one of my daughters' favorite things. This brush is amazing. My sister-in-law introduced me to one last year and I bought one immediately with some Christmas money. Seriously miraculous. You know, when I can find it. I spend a shockingly large amount of time wandering the house singing this song.

I'm thinking St. Nicholas needs to bring a couple more of these to our house on his feast day. I notice it comes in a two pack that would be just perfect...

Amazon affiliate links above.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Catholic Activity Chain for Advent 2015

Advent begins on November 29th. If you spend much time online, you've probably already seen lots of crafts and activities families are planning. Hopefully you're not feeling overwhelmed!

For the past few years, we've made Advent chains with activities for each day. You can see some pictures of the chain on this post from 2013. I've made an updated list of activities for 2015. As before, it's designed to be simple for a family with young children and very little preparation. I often print extra copies to share with other families. My kids cut all the strips and activities out and attach the activities to the strips with some double-sided tape or a glue-stick. I include a little paragraph to explain how to put the chain together:

Find the strip for December 24th. Tape or staple it into a loop. Find the strip with the next date on it (December 23rd) and run it through the loop you just made. Tape or staple it. Continue with all of the strips until you reach November 30th. You’ll end up with a chain of loops – one for each day of Advent. Each day, tear off the strip on the end for the day’s date and do the activity together. 
If you aren't Catholic, you may want to modify a few of the activities before printing it out.

I've uploaded an Excel file of the 2015 Advent Activity Chain to Google docs. You should be able to view or download it here.

May you have a blessed Advent!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

October 2015 Book Reports

Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition by Karen Glass - Read my review. (library copy)

Little Men: Life At Plumfield with Jo's Boys by Louisa May Alcott was a pre-read for First Son, who will read this book independently this year (sixth grade). It's a sweet little book, but I was disapointed to find it more didactic (and therefore less enjoyable) than I remembered from my youth. Now I'm a little leary of reading Little Women again lest it fail to live up to its memory. (A Little Princess and The Secret Garden both seemed even better than I remembered, so at least I have them.) (library copy)

The Little World of Don Camillo by Giovanni Guareschi, translated by Una Vincenzo Troubridge - Read my review. (library copy)

The Story of the Amulet by E. Nesbit is the third and last book in the trilogy begun by Five Children and It. We found it a satisfying end to the tale. (listened to this recording on Librivox)

Turkey for Christmas by Marguerite De Angeli is a quiet sweet story of the little sacrifices we make for those we love, especially at Christmas. I've added it to our rotation of family read alouds for Advent and think my girls will enjoy it. (library copy)

The Wild Muir: Twenty-Two of John Muir's Greatest Adventures selected by Lee Stetson - Read my review. (library copy)

Books in Progress (and date started)

Links to Amazon are affiliate links. As an affiliate with Amazon, I receive a small commission if you follow one of my links, add something to your cart, and complete the purchase (in that order). My homeschooling budget is always grateful for any purchases. 

Links to RC History are affiliate links.

Links to Sacred Heart Books and Gifts are not affiliate links.

These reports are my honest opinions. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

First Daughter's Birthday Post: Nine Years Old!

First Daughter turned nine a few months ago. Now our children are 11, 9, 7, and 5 until December, which I think is fun.

Her birthday party was a little delayed because Kansas Dad was teaching and I signed us up for a field trip on her birthday weekend. She decided on a literary themed party and asked her friends to come dressed as favorite book characters. First Daughter was Laura from Little House on the Prairie. We started the party trying to guess all the characters. (Believe it or not, we had two girls dressed as Violet from The Boxcar Children.) We also played charades with book titles. I made little "books of books" for them to decorate and take home with pages to fill out on favorite books, quotes, books to read, things like that.

Favorite books: all the Little House books, the Harry Potter books (she was Ginny Weasley for Halloween), Molly's Pilgrim, Secret of the Night Ponies, and pretty much anything I read aloud.

Her gift from us was a bow and arrow. Kansas Dad found a compound bow in pink (like this one), therefore easily distinguished from her brother's bow. Now they go out and practice together. (I'm comfortable with the bows, but am adamant all other children present stand behind the archer.)

First Daughter broke her arm roller-skating early in the summer. She was out of all the action (swimming, roller-skating, bike-riding) for months! She struggled, because she loves to be outside and active. She had just successfully earned her yellow belt in taekwondo and had to stop practicing that as well.

It was a bad break, but she was a trooper through the whole ordeal. The doctors and nurses all marveled at her bubbly attitude and threshold for pain. (At one point, Kansas Dad even wondered if there might be nerve damage because she was so uncomplaining. When they assured them her nerves were fine, he started to think about Wolverine...) An adult would have needed surgery, but she managed well with a couple of different casts. In the end, she was wearing a waterproof brace, which meant we could sneak in some end-of-summer swimming. Hooray!

I discovered it was nearly impossible to keep her long hair clean and brushed with her broken arm. I convinced her to let Grammy take her to a salon to have it cut so it would be more manageable. I promised her it would grow back.

Here she is with her cute new haircut, her cute new glasses, and her arm as good as new!

After shedding the brace, we visited a state park for a last swim of the season.

Favorite games: Munchkin*, Agricola, Bohnanza, Scrambled States of America game, and Dixit.

She infuriates me sometimes when she refuses to understand idioms, but I understand she gets it honestly. Kansas Dad does the same thing; he's just better at judging whether I'm in the right mood for such things.

She talks. She chatters. She sings. She hums. She moans. She whispers. She bursts. She is almost constantly moving and constantly making noise. The only time she is still and quiet is if she's reading a book. Even then, she's often reading aloud to one of us some passage that strikes her fancy (and likely giggling so much we can barely understand her).

She told me ages ago she couldn't read signs very well, but I thought maybe she was just trying to be silly (a common occurrence). I finally took her for an exam when she complained that she couldn't read a clock. Sure enough, she needed glasses. She picked pink ones, and the super cheap ones because she's like that. (I imagine she figured she liked them well enough. I'm not sure they are very comfortable for her, though; I think I'll encourage her to upgrade a bit next year.)

Favorite foods: yogurt with fruit, chicken enchiladas, stir fry, rice, apples, pears, dumplings, egg rolls, and strawberry ice cream.

She's very helpful in the kitchen. She can make two kinds of bread, just about any muffin, and tomato soup.

First day of school - 3rd grade
First Daughter is in third grade this year. She is reading almost everything independently. I work with her on grammar and spelling (tackled in the same lesson), dictation (twice a week), memory work (because you have to recite it to someone), some science experiments and demonstrations (yeah, adults are good here), and Greek myths. She could really read the myths herself, but it's called Classic Myths to Read Aloud, so I thought I might as well.

Favorite lessons: piano, maps, and independent reading.

She insisted on doing written narrations, so I allow one a week. Her oral narrations are...let's say "thorough."

She takes piano lessons and is learning a version of Angels We Have Heard on High for the Christmas season.

Of all the children, she is the most likely to get up early and start her lessons.

Intrepid First Daughter
She loves being with other people. Once a week we spend a day on piano, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, and nature study with two other families. I'm certain it's her favorite day of the week. (Packing a lunch is another great bonus. When you're homeschooled, a packed lunch is always a treat.)

She started her orthodontics this month and already has an appliance for her upper jaw. It's uncomfortable and she finds it hard to believe the next 18 months will go quickly.

She wants to do everything her big brother does, bemoaning the necessity of being in the Level 2 Catechesis class, the 3rd grade class on Sundays instead of helping in the nursery, and sitting in the pews rather than serving Mass.  She and First Son are usually together, though he is almost three years older. She does love to play Playmobil with Second Daughter, though, and sometimes bemoans the fact that she must choose between them if they both want to play with her.

First Communion in March
Last year, she was the only girl in her CCD class which she handled gracefully. This year a girl has joined her class, so she's no longer alone amongst boys.

May God bless you in the coming year, First Daughter!

* Please note that Munchkin, while a favorite game in our house, is not right for every family. Many of the cards are inappropriate (and have therefore been modified by the grown-ups here).

As always, links to Amazon are affiliate links. I receive a small commission if you follow the link, add something to your cart, and purchase it within whatever time frame Amazon specifies. My family appreciates every little bit.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Just Playing Games: Math Games Our Family Enjoys

Second Daughter has always loved games. I love the idea of playing games with my children, but I don't really love playing games. Incorporating them into our school day meant I felt more justified in letting the dishes or the laundry sit a few minutes (or an hour) longer. My checklist (play a math game with Second Daughter) made me accountable for devoting some of our lesson time to something she would enjoy as much as I enjoy reading aloud to her.

This year, I purchased Counting and Number Bonds: Math Games for Early Learners (Math You Can Play Book 1) and Addition and Subtraction: Math Games for Elementary Students (Math You Can Play Book 2) which I'm using with both Second Daughter and Second Son, but I've also continued our habit of playing a "math" game from our shelves once a week. I thought I'd share a few of our favorites. Once I started paying attention, I realized math concepts are hidden in many games. Second Daughter has also successfully argued for many of her favorite games based on counting and comparing skills. (Munchkin* comes to mind.)

Count Your Chickens - Second Son received this game as a gift and I love it. It's beautifully made, a cooperative game (everyone wins!), and is all about counting. I highly recommend it for the very young. If you can avoid losing the little chicks, this game would last through lots of young children learning to count.

Sum Swamp - I purchased this game when I first decided Second Daughter's kindergarten year would include math games. I wanted one on addition and this one had great reviews. Personally, I found it a bit repetitive, but there is no doubt that Second Daughter loved it. She and a friend played it about once a week for the entire school year. I think the swampy animals were a big attraction.

Blink -  I also purchased this card game. It's one of my favorites, but I almost always win. We started coming up with handicaps so it would be more of a contest.

Rat-A-Tat-Cat - We've enjoyed this game so much, I've given it as gifts to others. Comparing numbers, addition, memory, and strategy. This game is easier for younger players to win than Blink, too. My little ones love the silly illustrations on the cards.

Battleship - strategy and grids. First Son received this game as a gift years ago and we are all still playing it. At first, Second Daughter couldn't get through a whole game, but she's gained endurance over the past year or so.

Qwirkle - shape recognition, sets, and strategy. Second Daughter likes this game best if we work together to make as many qwirkles as possible.

Skippity - I received this game as a gift a few years ago. Mostly I like all the bright colors, but I'm certain there's math in there somewhere. I also like how it balances the players well, so children have a shot at winning even if an adult doesn't ignore the best moves.

Blokus - This game is probably my favorite of our "math" games. The bright colors and shapes are so inviting, the game pieces usually end up being used in individual play after the game is over. The last time we played, Second Daughter swept the game off the table and returned an hour or so later with this perfect square.

There are lots of other games with hidden (or obvious) math like Double Shutter, Connect 4, Monopoly Junior, and Trouble (which we have in multiple versions and which Second Daughter insists on calling "Pop the Bubble"), but the ones above are the ones we play and enjoy the most. Do you have any favorites to recommend? (A friend of mine has already suggested Perfection.)

* Please note Munchkin is not for all families. We've covered up the most egregious words on cards, but some families would probably rather just skip it altogether.

Links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you click on one, put something in your cart, and purchase it within Amazon's specified time frame, I receive a small commission. Our family appreciates every little bit. Every link in the post is for something I purchased or something we received as a birthday or Christmas gift.