Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hello Mother, Hello Father

First Son has recently started calling us "Mother" and "Father" instead of Mama, Dad, Mommy, Daddy or the variety of names we call each other.

We don't know where he got it. I asked and he just shrugged.

It's a little weird.

Twists and Turns

First Son was thrilled to see a few new features at a local museum last week. He adores puzzles and mazes.

I was shocked at how well he did climbing over and under the ropes without getting tangled. He only needed help at the corners because he couldn't get the rope unhooked and hooked again.

I think he would have done just as well with the wall maze if he'd been tall enough to reach all of it.

To 100 and Back Again

Last week, patiently waiting for Gram and Papa to arrive, First Son finally counted to 100 using the Cheerios Counting Book. In general I don't recommend branded books like this one, but I have to admit it worked. He counted all the way to 100 with only a little help from me. Then we counted back down again.

Well, I counted back down while he ate the Cheerios one by one.

Bobbing and Clapping

Second Daughter started clapping a week or so ago. I finally caught it on video and also managed to capture her signature head bob, a move she's been perfecting for months.

Travel Plans

Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema, illustrated by Beatriz Vidal

Ms. Aardema has retold this Nandi tale following the rhythm of "The House That Jack Built." According to the description at the back, she's added the cumulative refrain that is one of the reasons I love this book. In this folktale, we see dry grass and parched cattle eased by rain when Ki-pat shoots an eagle-feather arrow into the rain clouds to pierce them open. As always, my children will love the illustrations full of animals.

I haven't finalized our homeschooling plan for next year, but I'm contemplating a trip around the world through books for brief lessons in geography and, if so, I'll include this book for Africa. I also have Off to the Sweet Shores of Africa: And Other Talking Drum Rhymes with its delightful illustrations (by Julia Cairns) of West Africans dancing and celebrating and a helpful glossary, including a mini-pronunciation key (very helpful for the Mama reading aloud).

Friday, March 27, 2009

Call for First Communion Photos

The Catholic Company, the market leader for online Catholic books and gifts, has just announced a First Communion Photo Contest. My kids are too young and I'd have to do a lot of digging to find any of my own, but perhaps you have one handy and could win! Bloggers, podcasters, and webmasters can also win a $50 Gift Card for referring the winning entry to the contest, so be sure to spread the word!

Hmmm...now that I think about it, Kansas Dad received his First Communion in 2002...I wonder if I should submit his photo...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Poetry for First Son

We have a number of poetry collections for children, including two that I believe are among the best: A Child's Garden of Verses: A Classic Illustrated edition and Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young. None of them seemed to interest First Son, though. I'd read a bit here and there, but he was always ready to move on and never picked them up himself.

Then I found a copy of this book at a used bookstore and decided to risk it because I do love his illustrations. Eric Carle's Animals Animals is a book of poetry about (surprise, suprise) animals, each paired with a large collage in the vibrant colors we've learned to expect from Eric Carle. First Son has enjoyed paging through this book on his own and has asked us to read the poems to him. Seals, sharks, whales, elephants, lions, sea turtles, giraffes...all the "favorite" animals of childhood have a place in the book. I think he also appreciates shorter selections with only one or two on each page. It allows him to relax and enjoy the poem and the illustration without clutter.

Now I'll be on the look-out for collections about things I know interest him, rather than collections of poetry in general. We checked in the swim out from the library and First Son has been chuckling to himself as he pages through it, particularly on the page with a jellyfish seeking out the jar of peanut butter.

I'm so pleased to have a collection of poetry First Son enjoys. I'm hoping it is just an introduction!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Treats for the Eyes

Every home library should include at least one good illustrated version of the story of Noah and his ark. Imagining all those animals together is always fun for little ones.

We've been blessed in the past with this wonderful version: The Ark by Arthur Geisert. The full page black and white (off-white) etchings are full of intricate details. Brief sentences on each page carry the story along, though the pictures are usually story enough. We've loved paging through this book. I especially like the cross-section views showing all the decks of the ark and the chaos that seemed to reign.

My parents brought piles of books and one of them is another version of the story: Noah's Ark by Peter Spier. I love this book. A few words appear at the beginning, and then it's all wonderful colorful illustrations. He alternates wide expanses of water with the tiny ark adrift in the rain with small pictures of life inside the ark. First Son and First Daughter particularly enjoyed the owls sleeping juxtaposed with a dark blue picture dotted with open owl eyes. My favorite illustration shows Noah holding the green branch, embracing his wife. I can just imagine the relief and thankfulness and exhaustion they must feel, standing as they are on a littered deck. (My second favorite illustration shows a horde of bunnies bounding off the ark.)

Check these two out and let me know if you have other favorite books on the flood!


My parents are here for the week!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Everything You Need to Know

The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery (10th edition)

This book was a generous gift from dear friends when we moved out to the country many months ago. We've been flipping through it and reading various entries ever since. (I'm pretty sure Kansas Dad has read the whole book by now.) It's nearly one thousand pages long and overflowing with information, everything from giving birth by yourself at home to skinning a bear.

Chapters on grains, vegetables, trees, berries, poultry, bees, cows and more contain definitions, descriptions, instructions on how to grow and care for the plants (or animals) and recipes for enjoying the fruits of your labor. The recipes include food to eat, herbs and oils to treat and products to use (like soap).

Through it all, Ms. Emery shared her experiences, her joys and triumphs and even her sorrows with her readers. It is as if she is a neighbor, stopping by with a bit of wisdom and some freshly-gathered eggs. As the book was written and revised over the course of many decades, the personal reflections are disjointed, but sincere.

We have a variety of homesteading and self-sustaining farming books, all of which are excellent resources (a great advantage of previewing books from the library before purchasing), but I think this one is my favorite by far.

Kansas Dad and I used to joke about how we'd survive if the end of civilization as we knew it meant we couldn't get toothpaste and penicillin at the store any time we needed it (jokes begun with my brief obsession with the show Jericho and continued in the midst of the present economic conditions). We don't really anticipate the end of readily-available toothpaste (and I've got about a year's supply of that thanks to MoneySavingMom anyway), but I do find a certain satisfaction in stocking our home library with books that would give us the information we need to muddle through in such dire circumstances. Given a few healthy animals and this book, I think we'd be just fine.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What God Asks of Me

Kansas Dad and I are hosting a Lenten small group from our parish. A stray comment at our last meeting has been on my mind ever since. Somehow, we ended up on the topic of free will and God's omniscience. Does God know what we will choose, when we ourselves do not know?

Though there was some discussion in the group on that point, it seemed clear to me that God could know exactly what we would choose and yet still allow us free will. After all, God knows everything. (Kansas Dad helped me think about it some more recently and he also believes God does know. Because God is atemporal, for Him everything is at the same time. There's no past, present or future. Though I know it's not quite right, I've been thinking of it as if everything is happening at the same time.)

The group's conversation then moved on to the real topic (our weekly readings) and the story of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22. I wondered to myself (and have been wondering all week), If God knows the choice Abraham is going to make, why does he ask Abraham to make the choice?

Is it because he wants Abraham himself to know how far he's willing to go? None of us felt like we could sacrifice one of our own children. Did Abraham find the strength to obey God from God? Does Abraham then learn that anything is possible because he, too, cannot fathom how he will sacrifice his own son until he's standing there, seconds away from doing so?

Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. (Genesis 22:10)

Kansas Dad assures me Isaac was willing, allowing himself to be bound as he was probably old enough to fight his father or run away. Does God want Isaac to know his father would sacrifice him in submission and obedience to God? Does he learn to trust God completely, with his very life? Or does he learn that he already trusts God completely? Does he learn that his father serves God first and family second, even the beloved and long-awaited son?

Kansas Dad added another thought: God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son for our edification, so that these thousands of years later we could read about it and contemplate the trust and obedience of this astounding man. God asked Abraham to sacrifice everything so that we could see what obedience looks like. Perhaps it was also to show us that if we really trust God with everything, he will protect it, providing what we need (the sacrificial lamb).

By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom he had been told, ‘It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named after you.’ He considered the fact that God is able even to raise someone from the dead—and figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. (Hebrews 17-19)

God asked much of Abraham. What am I to learn by reading this? What should change in my life today after contemplating these stories? How can I be obedient and trusting while folding four loads of laundry tomorrow? In what frame of mind should I prepare our fish tacos?

My daily life with God is very much a work in progress, and I think I'll have to contemplate these questions a little bit more. Perhaps as I fold that laundry.

Blossoms in Spring

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Shelter from the Storm

A few years ago, when my husband said he wanted to live in the country and farm, I said ok.

When we were looking at homes, all I wanted was a basement. I am, after all, Kansas Mom and I quake in humble fear of the tornadoes that tear across our home state every year.

Guess what we don't have?

That's right. We have a gross crawlspace, the entrance to which is half-blocked by the stairs installed by a previous owner at the side door.

So, when we bought our farm, my husband and I talked about a storm shelter. I believe my sentiment was pretty much, "I will follow you to the country. I will help you farm. I will learn to can and all such things. It will, however, be your job to research, purchase and supervise the installation of a storm shelter before the spring storms are upon us. I can guarantee I will be one unhappy anxious wife without one."

A few days ago, there was a tornado warning with a wall of clouds right above our house. Today, they came to dig the hole.

And install the shelter. Through a series of decisions, most of them by others, our shelter resides well within view of the living room window, but I'm ok with that.

It's not too pretty on the inside, but it's solid. We'll be stocking it soon with some blankets, water, flashlights, and other necessities, though I hope we'll never have to use it.

I am very grateful for my shelter and I hope my husband knows how much I appreciate his work to give me a greater sense of security. I know it is only God who can protect us from the storms, but the installation was quicker and less expensive than we anticipated, His handiwork. Even if we never have to huddle inside as a tornado rages overhead, just having it in the yard eases my mind, and that's a kind of shelter, too.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

We started the day with green eggs in honor of the Irish.

I was going to make corned beef and cabbage (with little hope of either kid eating any of it) but we decided on a quick dinner and a baseball game instead, so we'll do that tomorrow night.

We did, however, take the time to watch one of the very best VeggieTales clips ever. As they say, it's "(mostly) educational and (somewhat) historical)." At the very least, it is hilarious and they have very kindly provided the code so I can even embed it right on the blog.

Oh, one last thing, Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland is my favorite book about St. Patrick, but I really liked Saint Patrick and the Peddler (Orchard Paperbacks) as well.

Monday, March 16, 2009

How Daddy Handles Bedtime

I went out to an evening meeting tonight, something I do only rarely. Kansas Dad was home alone with the older two and recorded this scene for your viewing pleasure less than half an hour before bedtime.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Beautiful Lessons

The Apostles Illustrated Edition by Pope Benedict XVI

Kansas Dad was thrilled when this was offered by The Catholic Company for review. It's a stunningly beautiful book with sixty full-page or even dual-page illustrations. They're absolutely gorgeous. Gazing at them, I wanted desperately to travel back to Rome and Florence so I could wander those museums and churches again. (As we add children and animals to our family, such a trip slips further into the future, but you never know.)

Pope Benedict's insights are worthy of such beauty. I personally appreciated the early chapters which examined the role of Tradition in the Church. It's very difficult sometimes to properly explain Tradition to those of Bible churches and it should not be surprising that the Pope does a marvelous job.

For each Apostle, the Pope describes their Biblical presence, quotes their books and shows us how their lives and words can be realized and present in our lives. I particularly liked the chapter on Thomas the Twin. Thomas teaches us "the most important thing is never to distance oneself from Jesus."

Thus, Christian life is defined as a life with Jesus Christ, a life to spend together with him...What takes place between the Apostle and his Christians must obviously apply first of all to the relationship between Christians and Jesus himself: dying together, living together, being in his Heart as he is in ours.

When Thomas asks, "Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" (Jn 14:5), he shows us we must feel free to question Jesus when we don't understand something. Also, "his words provide Jesus with the opportunity to pronounce his famous definition: "I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life" (Jn 14:6). "

Every time we hear or read these words, we can stand beside Thomas in spirit and imagine that the Lord is also speaking to us, just as he spoke to him.

Of course, he discusses Thomas's declaration that he will not believe in the resurrection until he places his finger in the wounds.

Basically, from these words emerges the conviction that Jesus can now be recognized by his wounds rather than by his face. Thomas holds that the signs that confirm Jesus' identity are now above all his wounds, in which he reveals to us how much he loved us. In this the Apostle is not mistaken.

We even have a lovely summary:

The Apostle Thomas' case is important to us for at least three reasons: first, because it comforts us in our insecurity; second, because it shows us that every doubt can lead to an outcome brighter than any uncertainty; and, lastly, because the words that Jesus addressed to him remind us of the true meaning of mature faith and encourage us to persevere, despite the difficulty, along our journey of adhesion to him.

This is by far my favorite book so far from The Catholic Company's reviewer program. I highly recommend it and intend to read it again myself, perhaps every Easter season, as the liturgical readings focus on the Apostles.

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 The Apostles Illustrated Edition.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Honey Do List

Kansas Dad has been hard at work around the house. I have been meaning to post all his home and farm improvements including painting the kitchen (including the cabinets), painting the trim in the living room, installing a new floor in the master bath, installing a new toilet in the master bath, installing walkway lights along our front path, filling the hole the size of a small Volkswagon at the end of our driveway, cutting our cabinet so the fridge could be pushed back, re-attaching the door handles on the fridge and probably a lot of other things I can't remember right at the moment. I just want you to understand he's been hard at work and all of these things made me very happy.

But this is what has warranted a post. It is fantastic, and it only took him ten minutes!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Guess What I Just Finished?

I've gone through and uploaded all my Christmas pictures to Snapfish. (If you expected to see them and didn't get an invitation, email me.) I still need to order my copies. And order copies from other people's pictures. And put them in albums. And go through January. And February. Maybe I'll catch up before the end of March!

Crazy Hair, Crazier

I was in the kitchen, finishing up the coupons from today's paper when I heard, "There! I'm all done cutting [Second Daughter's] hair!"

Oh, dear. That can't be good. I blogged before about how I had to cut a few knots out of her hair, but that it didn't count as a real haircut. Kansas Dad says I can't deny it anymore, even though Second Daughter's first hair cut is a rather unusual style provided by none other than her big sister.

It's hard to tell in the picture, but there's basically a swath of hair from the bangs down the back, just left of the center of her head, that's been cut pretty closely.

Big Sister has spent the rest of the day talking about how we only use our scissors on paper...not clothes or washrags or diapers or carpet or fingers. Or hair (on her own head or anywhere else). We didn't punish her for cutting Second Daughter's hair. After all, we hadn't explained to her that only Mama and Dada trim hair. She did, however, get a time out later in the day when she started to cut her own hair. By then, it had all been explained.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The First 100 Lessons

Today, First Son completed the last lesson in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. On the whole I've been pleased with the book. I loved having a "lesson" to do with First Son, a road map to help me along the way as I taught him to read. Certainly it seems to have accomplished the task; First Son can read! We did modify it a bit. On the advice of another homeschooling mom, I omitted the writing exercises. I agreed with her that it seemed confusing if we were also going to do handwriting exercises (which we've just started in a leisurely sort of way). I also omitted the second reading of each story. I'm sure it would have helped First Son be a better reader, but the stories simply were not interesting enough to read again. I expect the books he's reading now to be engaging enough for many reads and lots of repeat practice.

It was a little frustrating to note mistakes every now and then, many more than I would expect for a book that seems to be so popular (meaning I would expect them to release updated and corrected editions, but perhaps they have; I bought a used copy). I'm going to keep the book around, just in case I decide to use it when it's time for First Daughter to learn the read, but I'm also going to stay open to other methods. If we do use it again, I think I'll start some of the reading suggestions at the end before we actually finish the lessons. The first few books seemed very easy for First Son. Now that we've hit Dr. Seuss, I think we'll stick with this level for a while. First Son doesn't like to stop in the middle of a story and come back to it (which we'll do eventually, of course) and some of them are a bit too long for him to finish in ten or fifteen minutes, which is about as I'd like him to focus on his lessons right now. (He actually reads quite a bit on his own, which we encourage, but I don't count those as lessons since we're not reading along to make sure he's not just skipping the hard words or substituting another word with the proper meaning.)

Now that First Son is reading, I find myself astonished at how big he is. How fast he's growing. New skills and better dexterity with his pencils and scissors. I really do remember his as a chubby little baby. I remember his as a newborn, snuggled up against me just a few hours old. That's why I like this picture of his finger moving along the letters. It's still such a cute chubby finger!

I told myself we should have a celebration for him, but I'm battling a ferocious head cold right now and just couldn't muster the energy for a cake. He doesn't like cake much, anyway.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Ahoy There!

A friend who is also an artist painted this mural for us based on the much-loved movie and its predecessor.

The kids love it. First Daughter is especially enthralled when she's having a diaper change. (It's above the changing table.) Of course, we had many talks about how Ms. J could paint on the walls but First Son can't paint on the walls and First Daughter can't paint on the walls. So far, so good.

She's probably available for other murals if anyone nearby is interested!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Clipping Coupons

On Sunday, First Son wanted to help me clip the coupons from the paper. I didn't think that was such a great idea (seeing as I was hoping to actually use said coupons at the store), so he made his own.

Each one is good for anything of that color. He suggested I buy some carrots with the orange one. He made a second set for me yesterday. They each say "MOM" and (as if that wasn't enough), there's a puzzle on the backs I can do. A Veggie puzzle of his own creation (LarryBoy, of course).

I just love him to pieces! [Forgive me, I need more sleep.]

Sharpening Our Skills

And making a gigantic mess.

Anyone else notice that First Daughter's technique is much better than First Son's?

By the way, if anyone has suggestions for containing this kind of a mess, I'd love to hear them. They love to use their scissors, but they're not so keen on picking up the little pieces of paper. Unfortunately, Second Daughter is happy to pick them up. And eat them.

Earning a Nickname

The baby is stirring. She's thinking it might be time to eat again. What do we hear?


Monday, March 2, 2009

Rub a Dub Dub Three Kids in a Tub

Up until a couple of weeks ago, Second Daughter did not really like baths. We've had that experience before, so we did what worked last time. We put her in the tub with her brother (and sister).

Now, she loves bath time. We have to keep First Son in the middle because (not surprisingly) First Daughter is a little bit too loving for Second Daughter's comfort. It's a little hectic, but preferable to distressing. In fact, it's pretty fun for Kansas Dad (the usual bath supervisor here on the Range).

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Our Creek on the Range

A few days ago we took advantage of the glorious weather to hike to our creek, a trip that will be impossible once summer is upon us without Kansas Dad's dramatic intervention in cutting a path for us. The kids were mildly impressed, but I think First Daughter was a little disappointed we didn't let her dive right in.

We were excited to find evidence of some wildlife on the range. I've requested a pile of books from the library on our new friends.