Monday, June 29, 2009

He Wasn't a Little Caterpillar Anymore

Learn more about the tomato hornworm here, here and here. It looks like we can feed them to the chickens. Anyone know otherwise?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Losing Battle

First Daughter, all ready for church:

First Daughter ten minutes later, when I'm ready for church:

We Love You, Little Bear

We originally discovered the Little Bear books by Martin Waddell and illustrated by Barbara Firth when we were looking for Little Bear by Elsa Holmelund Minarik and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. I'm so glad we accidentally happened upon them. We now have almost all of them and First Daughter is enthralled. She's recently been working on memorizing You and Me, Little Bear. It's so adorable to sit next to her as she "reads" it to you.

The stories are short and sweet. Not much happens; Little Bear and Big Bear just spend time together, playing and walking in the woods, cleaning their cave. The illustrations are soft, playful and adorable (there's that word again). It's amazing how much Little Bear looks like a little person, cuddly and cute in the way that melts a mother's heart (even when her little one has had a terrible day, and First Daughter has her share of those).

For those that are worried, we did eventually find the original book we sought and First Son loves to read it himself. It even occurred to me that he began to call me "Mother" after reading the stories of Little Bear and Mother Bear.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Living with Cloth Diapers

Interested in cloth diapering but afraid they might smell? Read what we've learned over at the Cloth Diaper Outlet blog, written by yours truly.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Incorporating Stewardship In Our Homeschool

When First Son was born, we were aware of how blessed we were, living in a fabulous neighborhood in Brooklyn with a beautiful healthy little boy. We wanted to take the opporutunity to share some of our blessings with a child in poverty. It was nearly two years before I made the time to research our options.

We began to sponsor a child through Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, a lay Catholic organization that creates relationships between sponsors in the United States and children and aging persons in 24 developing countries. Our contributions provide life-changing benefits such as education, nutrition, clothing and medical care for our sponsored friend. Through letter writing we are able to learn about our sponsored friend's life and offer our encouragement and prayers.

Grounded in the Gospel call to serve the poor, CFCA works with people of all faith traditions. CFCA receives the highest ratings from Charity Navigator and the American Institute of Philanthropy.

CFCA very kindly matched us with a boy in Africa close to First Son's age. We have received pictures from our friend that we've shared with the children, keeping the most recent one on our fridge. We often pray for him together. I plan to incorporate letter-writing to him and his family as part of our handwriting exercises next year (once First Son is a little more comfortable). CFCA encourages writing letters about that which we have in common, which I appreciate, because I'm anxious for First Son to think of him as a friend, learning to see only the similarities despite the vast differences in wealth and culture.

I wish we could afford to sponsor a child for each of our little ones and a priest for Kansas Dad, but perhaps one of you will reach out after reading this post or seeing the button I've put in the sidebar. Learn more about how you can help here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I Just Might Need to Refer Back to This Someday

Suzanne Temple gives sound advice for teaching (and raising) boys.

Baking, Sewing and Chicks

It is once again time for Small Successes over at Faith & Family Live. I don't participate very often, but I just had to share this week because I am so excited by my first success:

1. I made graham crackers! I've been wanting to make these since I first received King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking and am sorry I waited so long. The process is a lot like pie crust; while I don't make pie crust very often (for health reasons), I'd very much like to be proficient at making pie crust. Kansas Dad and I enjoyed the crackers more than the kids so next time I'm going to try the chocolate ones. (Read more about how much I love this cookbook here.)

2. I've been cross-stitching a bit again. I started a Christmas stocking for First Son the month before I became pregnant with Second Daughter and have touched it only rarely since. I was inspired by this post which I found linked from this one. I admit to just skimming the post, but one point caught my attention, "Think about which activities wear you down and which give you energy." I find myself spending many an evening at the computer doing things that seem necessary, but I think spending more time on my little hobby will do much more to relax me in the evenings. Maybe I'll even finish it for Christmas.

3. The chicks are still alive. Kansas Dad deserves the credit for the chickens, but it's a pretty amazing success.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Watch Therefore

Our Bishop, at mass tonight, points to the back of the church during his homily on John the Baptist and cries, "Look! There's your Savior! Follow him!"

First Son turns with wide eyes and searches for Jesus.

A number of people, including our parish priest, commented on it after mass. They were amused, as was I. As I thought about it, though, I was impressed. He was not only listening; he showed a child's faith in Christ's return.

Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.
Matt 24:42

Monday, June 22, 2009

Second Daughter's New Skills

Since Friday, Second Daughter has (for the first time):

Pulled herself up to standing.

Climbed over small plastic bins.

Eaten baby yogurt with a spoon (even getting some in her mouth).

Waved bye-bye.

Blown kisses.

It's a good time to be her mom and dad.

Friday, June 19, 2009

From the Boy Who Likes to Eat Squid (Yes, Really)

"I don't like blueberries & oatmeal."

First and Second Daughter are sharing a serving for a snack, but First Son will have none of it. Instead, he requested raisins and peanut butter.

If you're interested, it's quite good, even out of the freezer (which is what I did today). I found the recipe here. Scroll down to the comment from Suzanne Mosley.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Introducing: Our First Flock

I don't actually like the pictures I have of the chicks, so I'll have to take some more tomorrow. I do have this little video we took right after we settled them in their temporary home.

Kansas Dad has already upgraded their bedding to cedar chips and fortified their base. Now he just needs to build their outdoor homes so we can get them foraging. I think they should be out in their Chicken Tractor in about two weeks. Then Kansas Dad will have to build something a bit more elaborate for the hens so we can collect the eggs.

These are Buff Orpingtons. Kansas Dad ordered 10 males and 15 females. He's planning to butcher all but one of the males and keep all or most of the females for eggs (and more chicks). They were just two days old when Kansas Dad picked them up at the post office, looking a lot like this.

If all goes well, we'll have oodles of eggs in about six months. I hope Father likes eggs because I imagine we'll be dropping some of those extras off at the rectory. We also plan to share with our neighbor. With a rooster around, you have to foster all the good will you can.

Pleasantly Surprised

Janelle has given me an award!

This award is given to the writers of blogs that “are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.”

Janelle is like my god-sister, as we are godmothers to each other's children, and I love keeping up with her family on her blog, so I decided to tag some other families we met before there was blogging but who now live far away. Our blogs keep us up to date in a way we'd never be otherwise.

Melissa & Scott
The Mazzucco family
The Saff family

Don't feel badly if you don't have time to pass it on, though. I know (from reading your blogs!) how busy you all are.

And don't worry, pictures of those chicks are coming up!

Monday, June 15, 2009

On Home Education I

[I]t is not too much to say that a parent who does not follow reasonably a method of education, fully thought out, fails--now, more than ever before--to fulfil the claims his children have upon him. (page 8)

With some of the generous birthday money from my parents and parents-in-law, I finally purchased the complete set of Charlotte Mason's writings. I decided to buy this set, but they are indeed bare bones. I think the books you can buy separately look like a nicer edition.

I'm hoping to keep myself at a slow pace so I have time to really soak in what I'm reading so I've decided to post a bit now and then as I go along. I'm even (shock! horror!) underlining passages (in pencil, of course).

So far, I'm about ten pages into her "Preliminary Considerations" of Home Education and am so glad I made this purchase!

She says we should aim for:

the preparation of the child to take his place in the world at his best, with every capacity for good that is in him developed into a power. (page 9)

I am pleased to find Ms. Mason begins her work with a discussion of the goals of education. She hasn't made any mention yet of preparing our children to work in the world (though we should do so, of course). It's about helping our children find the talents God has given them, the sparks of virtue, and guiding them as they develop those virtues, including those habits that promote learning at all ages.

She has also already mentioned the "relationships" that constitute learning: relating what we are currently hearing or reading to that which is already known. It makes sense to me that making those connections helps place new knowledge within a context and therefore increases our ability to remember and apply what is presented.

I am reading an article for work now about Habits of Mind that, though written from the perspective of higher education institutions on the preparation of students for college, sounds remarkably like Charlotte Mason's writings. If only I believed high schools would listen...

You can also read all the original writings online. Here's Home Education, and here's a page with links to all six volumes.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


"I'm stuck!" First Daughter yells.

She had put the chugging GeoTrax train (a bit like this) on her head.

Which then chugged her hair around and around the wheel.

Kansas Dad came to the rescue and she only lost a little bit of hair.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Query I

How wrong is it to discourage a two year old who wants to brush her teeth after every meal and snack? Am I justified if it's a fifteen minute ordeal that, if not closely supervised, leads to a swamped bathroom and a baby playing to her heart's content?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Love in the Irises

On Monday, Kansas Dad wanted to plant corn. Instead, he spent four hours digging up, dividing and transplanting irises for me.

We need to do this with all the irises on the property, but we decided to do just a few this year, mainly the ones I like best that were very close to a trellis-thing we're going to move later this summer. I was afraid if we waited, the irises would suffer (as they're supposed to be divided right after they bloom). So my dear sweet over-worked husband put everything else on hold for some flowers for me.

By the way, if anyone's in the neighborhood and wants some irises next year, give us a call. We'll gladly trade a few for some assistance with the digging and planting. This bed has two main sets and a few random ones. Next year, we have about seven more batches to divide, including a ton of these bright purple ones.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Symbols of the Early Church

Signs and Mysteries: Revealing Ancient Christian Symbols by Mike Aquilina, illustrated by Lea Marie Ravottit

This little book outlines some of the symbols found in early Christian art and decorations. After a brief introduction, Mr. Aquilina presents twenty-five chapters, each one covering a symbol, everything from fish and dolphins to the ankh and the labarum. Each chapter is brief but filled with information. This book could be a great reference when studying early Christianity, especially early Christian art. I especially appreciated the author's candor when describing what some historians theorize but what can never be proven. At the end of each chapter, he lists his sources, divided clearly into ancient and modern.

The illustrations clearly show real examples of each of the symbols. Though strange that some pieces described in the text were not used as the examples, the illustrations are wonderful. After reading The Apostles, followed so quickly by this one, we'll have to be sure to add Ravenna to our itinerary the next time we vacation in Italy.

The book, though, has a major drawback. The typeface and font color made the text difficult to read. The color is the same as the illustrations and it's wonderful for those, but it seemed too light to me for the text. (I asked Kansas Dad his opinion and it's the first thing he noticed as well.) It's a small price to pay for some insight into Christian symbols, many of which still figure prominently in Catholic churches, but I hope they will consider other options when they print the paperback edition.

This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. I have not received any payment for this review, but I did receive a free copy of the book Signs and Mysteries. Learn more about joining the reviewer program here.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Brother and Sister

We've just finished reading Pat Brisson's Hot Fudge Hero and Bertie's Picture Day and First Son and I loved them! In Hot Fudge Hero, Bertie makes friends with his grumpy neighbor (and his scary pets) to win a bet. In Bertie's Picture Day, Bertie returns for an eventful weekend before picture day at school. (It's certainly one to remember.) I just love the relationship between Bertie and his younger sister. They have their disagreements, but Bertie is a good and kind older brother, just the sort of role model I like to present to First Son. These books are well within First Son's reading level, too.

For those who worry about such things, one of the stories in Hot Fudge Hero has "fast magic" and "slow magic."

I think these are out of print, but our library had them. They're worth a little seeking out (as is Little Sister, Big Sister, which I have read but not yet to the kids).

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Big Changes for the Baby Girl

Through the generosity of my aunt and uncle, she has this wonderful crib (and we can keep First Daughter contained a bit longer). Kansas Dad put it together for us yesterday and she tried it out last night. She slept just as well as she did in the co-sleeper, which is about as well as I'd hoped. (She still wakes around 11 pm and comes to bed with us. She's a snuggly one.)

Kansas Dad has been checking things off his list like crazy, even after the rush of baby-proofing last week. I'm so happy to have this crib and he also repaired my bread machine yesterday. (I've been reflecting lately how amazingly God has provided for my needs, even down to a husband who can wield a hammer and other tools, a need that never crossed my mind in college when Kansas Dad and I met. I am not a handy person, as I've mentioned before. My mom taught herself plumbing and still hangs all her own pictures; that will not be me.)

In other news, Second Daughter now has one top tooth through the gum and the second just beneath the surface. I'll try to get a picture, but those top ones are tricky. We'll be very glad when they're both out in the hopes she'll be more cheerful!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Celebrations and Recoveries

My birthday was last week and here are my two favorite presents:

First Son made me a BIG card. LarryBoy and Sumo wish me a happy birthday.

Kansas Dad stayed home from work (he didn't have any classes scheduled, of course) to start baby-proofing the living room. We now have a baby gate to keep Second Daughter from the kitchen and all the dressers, shelves and cabinets in the living room and kids' room have been anchored. We still need to address the table saw currently stored in the living room and the wires hanging tantalizingly down the back of the TV, but Second Daughter is partly contained in a semi-safe room. (The older kids are doing their best to ensure she still has an interesting environment complete with access to scissors, glue sticks and lots of Legos.)

A few days after my birthday I caught a horrible bug that kept me lying down for the better part of three days. Kansas Dad handled the household on his own and a fabulous job he did! I think it was in better shape while I was sick than when I'm well.