Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Quote: The Empty Cradle

From The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity And What To Do About Itby Phillip Longman
Today, the number of hours a Brazilian woman spends watching telenovelas, or domestically produced soap operas, strongly predicts how many children she will have. These soaps, though rarely addressing reproductive issues directly, typically depict wealthy individuals living the high life in big cities. The man are dashing, lustful, power hungry, and unattached. The women are lithesome, manipulative, independent, and in control of their own bodies. The few who have young children delegate their care to nannies.

The telenovelas, in other words, reinforce a cultural message that is conveyed as well by many Hollywood films and other North American cultural exports: that people with wealth, people with sophistication, people who are free and self-fulfilled, are people who have at most one or two children, and who do not let their roles as mothers or fathers dominate their exciting lives.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Someday I will be able to jump in a vehicle with all my kids and not buckle any car seats.

That day is more than four years away. At least. But someday...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Sign of Things to Come?

First Daughter has learned how to shimmy her way on to the top bunk by sliding between the beds and the wall. When Kansas Dad came in to pull down the ladder and ask her to come down, she said, "I had to. The ladder wasn't down."

Apparently she had a great need to be on the top bunk, her brother's bed.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Quiet on the Blog

I don't know why I feel the need to explain if I'm not posting. But I do.

My parents are in town for the week so we're busy playing and eating and going to the grocery store. Hopefully I'll take a picture or two.

Have a great week!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Find a New Friend

The Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA) has a new feature at their Walk2Gether site! You can now view pictures and short profiles of children, youth and aging persons awaiting sponsors here. My favorite feature is the search form on the right where you can select a country, gender and a few other things. Obviously, all of the profiled people need a sponsor, but we love having our own friend of the same age as First Son. Though they are a world apart (in so many ways), they still experience many of the same things as they grow (like lost teeth!) and I feel it helps bring our friend closer to First Son's understanding. (I have a dream of meeting our current giving goals in a few years and adding a sponsored girl between First and Second Daughter from El Salvador, a country dear to the heart of my husband's family.)

Not all of those awaiting sponsorship are on the site, so do not be afraid to call or contact CFCA if you are interested in sponsoring someone.

While you're there, take a few minutes to read about Bob's walk!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

An Odd Question

Can anyone recommend a reliable yet inexpensive basic outdoor thermometer? I want to put one where I can see it from the front window to know how cold (or hot, summer's coming!) it really is. I suppose eventually we'll use it for lessons, too.

We had one last year, but we questioned its accuracy and the wind kept blowing it down. Eventually the wind killed it, so now we need one again.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lounging Around

Today, we didn't wake up until 9 am. That's what happens when daylight savings time "spring forward" and spring break coincide and the children are usually our alarm clock.

We're going to have to wake them up a few days in a row. Or just live an hour behind every one else until fall.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Review: Books Before Five

Books Before Five by Dorothy White

This book is a diary of "reading notes" a mother (Dorothy White) made as she read a variety of books to her daughter, Carol, over the years. White was a children's librarian by training and even published a book previously (About Books for Children) which I have not read. More than most, then, she was able to seek out and share a diverse collection of books with her daughter.

The introduction talks about what a wonderful book this is for exploring child development as we watch Carol expand her experiences and learn to integrate what she hears from stories with what she knows in her "real life." I agree, but that's not what I love most about this book. (Note, of course, that it is a partial record of one child's development and therefore not necessarily applies to all children.)

I think this is a perfect book for the parent or caregiver who doesn't know where to begin reading with a young child: What kind of books should we read? How can we select quality children's books? How do I tell if the child understands the book? Enjoys the book? Is the child learning or integrating the book with pretend-play?

Dorothy White doesn't set out to answer questions like these, but she records Carol's questions and concerns. She's not afraid to set a book aside until later or to send it back to the library without qualms if it's just not right for them. She evaluates books both on their own merits and her preferences as a mother (and with her own artistic preferences) but also by closely observing her daughter's reactions to them. By exploring our own children's reactions, we can make similar evaluations about current books.

Though many children's books are mentioned in the book (and there's even a helpful list at the end for those who wish to seek them out), this book is not meant to be a list of specific books we should read to all our children. For one thing, Carol was a young child in the 1940s and 1950s in New Zealand. There are a great many books she could not have experienced and had access to only a portion of those in print. I have refrained entirely from adding any of these books to our list. I would guess, though, that we have read (and often enjoyed!) half of the books mentioned. Of the others, a great many are probably out of print. No, the real treasure here (other than the glimpses into young Carol's fascination with stories) is the documented interaction between a reader and a listener (and one who asks a great many questions).

Saturday, March 13, 2010

We Have a Piano!

I've wanted a piano since I was a little girl and now we have one! Many many thanks to our very generous Grammy and Paw Paw! And many thanks to the kind friend who helped Kansas Dad and Paw Paw move it from storage to our living room!

Now I just have to learn how to play. And teach the kids how to play.

Well, first we have to move some furniture around.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Quote: Books Before Five

From Books Before Fiveby Dorothy White:

I had the impression as I spoke that Carol would have listened to absolutely anything I said even if it had been poetry in a foreign language. It's as if she does a special kind of listening when you fix your eye on her in ancient-mariner style. Certainly it's a different kind of attention from that which she gives me when I read to her. There is a wide gulf that lies between reciting or telling aloud and reading, like the gulf between reading to one child and reading to fifty.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Happy to be Moving On

We have finally finished Come Look with Me: Enjoying Art with Children and I am so glad to have it behind us. I still love this book myself, but the kids were very uninterested. Only Second Daughter liked looking at the pictures. (Sometimes, First Daughter would flip through the book, but even she did not want to talk about any of the paintings.)

Originally, we were going to spend two weeks on every picture. After a few weeks, I found myself "forgetting" our art or outright skipping it because no one was enjoying it. I recently decided we'd just spend one week on each painting and that seemed a little easier. Now, though, we're all happy to be moving on to something else: A Child's Book of Prayer in Art. I'm not sure if the kids will think this is much different than what we had before, but it's something to try.

For next year, I've already decided we'll switch to Aline Wolf's method: How to Use Child Size Masterpieces. A very kind PaperBackSwap member sent me not only Aline Wolf's book, but the cards for Level 2 and Level 3! So we can try it out for only a small investment. (Again with the disclosure, if you follow the PBS link and join up, I receive a credit for the referral. I wouldn't suggest it if I hadn't been very pleased with our experience, though.)

My Small Successes XIX

It’s important for moms to recognize that all the small successes in our days can add up to one big triumph. So on Thursday of each week, Faith & Family does exactly that. Here are mine:

1. I selected and ordered pictures for Second Daughter's baby book, along with the February pictures. I also finally took portraits of the three kids to replace the nearly 18 month old pictures on my grandmother's wall. I even took advantage of a deal to get some 8x10s for our own wall. (I've had those picture frames since we moved into this house. They're currently sitting empty in a drawer, but not for long!)

2. I picked up the pile of pictures on my desk for First Daughter's baby book and box and taped them in or slipped them into their little photo holders with descriptions. Unfortunately, I realized as I did so that the baby book stops at 12 months, before she could even talk! So I apparently need to go back through the blog and officially record a few more things for her.

3. Last night I typed and printed our next four memory verses.

I didn't finish going through First Son's clothes. Or rather, I was stalled by the lack of a box and still haven't spent the mental energy necessary to decide what to do about that. Well, there's always next week!

Go read some more small successes and add your own!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Quote: Books Before Five

From Books Before Five by Dorothy White:

In all this, a child's first experiences with stories and pictures, there is an immense amount of explaining to do. In sheer quantity of words, the actual stories Carol has read to her represent only a fraction beside all my amplifying remarks at the time of reading and afterwards. Sometimes when Dick is answering Carol's questions I see that because so much which happens to her is out of his sight and so many of her references are riddles to him, he cannot, try as he will, see what point her question is trying to reach. Yet an understanding father must know more of a child's background than any teacher. I am baffled to know how infant school teachers manage at the beginning when their knowledge of a child's particular meanings and emphases to words must be so slight.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

For the Love of a Diaper

We love the Knickernappies pocket diapers. I even bought a days' worth for Second Daughter and was so disappointed when she leaked every single time. We then bought a set of fitted diapers and covers for her instead, but we kept using the Knickernappies at home because even with changing her clothes nearly every time they were so very easy (and cute!). Recently, Kansas Dad pointed out that she wasn't leaking in the Knickernappies anymore, so when I was completing our diaper inventory I pulled out all the large 1G Knickernappies pocket diapers we have (she's still a little too small for the 2G ones). Kansas Dad's preference for the Knickernappies is their very easy application. He doesn't usually do the stuffing, but that's a small price to pay for a happy diaper-changing dad.

They've been working wonderfully! I think Second Daughter prefers them, too, because she tries to refuse when I pull out a fitted diaper instead. She'll probably be happier when Fourth Baby is born because I'll have to go back to washing the diapers every other day and I think we'll have enough of the Knickernappies to get through both days.

Now that I know I need a few covers for the baby, I've been watching the cloth diapering blogs more closely. Knickernappies have a new blog and I've been watching for chances to win a one-size diaper because I would SO love to try one! I also started following them on Facebook and followed a link earlier today to Minnesota Mama's Must Haves blog post featuring the one-size diaper and nursing pads from Knickernappies. You can read her review of these two things, which I'd very much like to try but haven't myself.

Partly this post was prompted by her promise of an extra entry in the giveaway for a post on my blog, but I really have been meaning to mention how wonderful it is to be using our lovely Knickernappie diapers again. Those fitted diapers are great, but they tend to be a bit bulkier and, frankly, I think the Knickernappies are softer. (In fact, I often put of their fleecy doublers inside the fitted diapers.) If you don't happen to win one and want to try them out, do head over to Cloth Diaper Outlet for the roomy and comfortable 2G Knickernappies pocket diaper or be really crazy and order some of the one-size diapers. We have been really pleased with all our Knickernappies products (including the absolutely wonderful diaper sprayer).

Full disclosure: If you follow the links to Cloth Diaper Outlet and purchase anything, I do get a small commission. You can read more about the affiliate program here. I did not, however, receive anything in exchange for a glowing recommendation of Knickernappies products. That's all my honest opinion.

Interesting Copywork

First Son's handwriting varies from day to day. We're working through a practice book, usually on Mondays. I've printed pages listing days of the week, months of the year, or our address and phone number. When he's memorized a memory verse, I print it out for him to write himself for his memory verse book. This is the one he wrote out today.

I'm not sure if I should be impressed at his writing against the lines or demand he do it again properly. (I lightly suggested he start a new page and write on the lines, but he refused. Today, I let it go.)

First Son's Dinosaurs


Apatosaurus (who was called Brontosaurus in my youth)


Tyrannosaurus rex



He's put green squares on the pictures of herbivores and red squares on the pictures of carnivores.

He says he'll practice more so he can draw other dinosaurs.

Quote: Surrender the Choosing

Marion Fernandez-Cueto at Faith & Family:

Yet trusting God doesn’t mean trusting He won’t let tragedy strike, writes Houselander; the truth is, He may. Real trust means knowing that even when catastrophe falls, God still cradles you with absolute love, with a divine purpose that fathoms every life, every frustration, every heartache, every fallen hair from our heads. “Surely He has born our grief and carried our sorrows,” Isaiah tells us...I realize God doesn’t want us to parcel out our chosen sacrifices to Him piecemeal — He wants us to surrender the choosing itself.

Read more here.


My grandmother has a wall dedicated to pictures of her children, a second for grandchildren and a third one for great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. (She is the matriarch of a large family.) I realized when I was home at Christmas that the picture she has of Second Daughter is from a few days after she was born. How embarrassing! So, just two months later (and a bit) I corralled the children and recruited Kansas Dad as entertainer to try to take a few pictures for her. These were the best of them.

Grandma, I plan to order them this week and will mail them to you right away! Really, I will!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Our Pine Tree Bonfire

A month or so again, one of the pine trees lining our driveway died. We noticed it, but hadn't discussed what to do about it when a man stoppped by and told us we needed to cut it down and burn it or our other trees would die. He, of course, wanted the job, but encouraged us to do it even if we didn't hire him.

It didn't take Kansas Dad long to realize this was a perfect opportunity to tune up his chainsaw (a very generous gift from his brother) and build a huge fire.

There it goes:

And here's the fire:

I missed the beginning of it, which was apparently rather impressive. Kansas Dad was a little worried about the tree branches of the next tree when the pine needles all went up at once, but it very quickly died down.

Second Daughter was enthralled (almost too enthralled):

If you're interested in learning more about pine wilt, you can read about it here and here. We didn't send a sample in for official testing, but it does seem to describe what happened to our poor tree. Hopefully we've saved the others from those evil nematodes.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

You're a Little Confused

Yesterday a friend and I were discussing whether T. rex could successfully attack Stegosaurus. I asked First Son what he thought.

"Stegosaurus did not live in the Cretaceous period."

Oh, of course. I knew that.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Where Are the Fire Pictures?

Just in case you're wondering where the bonfire pictures are hidden...our router had an identity crisis yesterday. After many frustrating hours juggling between three computers, Kansas Dad got it working again. On the laptops.

All the pictures are on the desktop (and I like it that way), so I'm waiting until the router will play nicely with the desktop computer before posting any more pictures.

Oh how I love databases and hate networks! (Or rather, I hate networks when they don't work.)

Quote: Home Education

From Charlotte Mason's Home Education:

The teacher should have some knowledge of the principles of education; should know what subjects are best fitted for the child considering his age, and how to make these subjects attractive; should know, too, how to vary the lessons, so that each power of the child's mind should rest after effort, and some other power be called into play. She should know how to incite the child to effort through his desire of approbation, of excelling, of advancing, his desire of knowledge, his love of his parents, his sense of duty, in such a way that no one set of motives be called unduly into play to the injury of the child's character. But the danger she must be especially alive to, is the substitution of any other natural desire for that of knowledge, which is equally natural, and is adequate for all the purposes of education.


Emulation becomes suicidal when it is used as the incentive to intellectual effort, because the desire for knowledge subsides in proportion as the desire to excel becomes active. As a matter of fact, marks of any sort, even for conduct, distract the attention of children from their proper work, which is in itself interesting enough to secure good behaviour as well as attention.

A few pages on:

[T]he custom of giving home-work, at any rate to children under fourteen, is greatly to be deprecated. The gain of a combination of home and school life is lost to the children; and a very full scheme of school work may be carried through in the morning hours.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Quote: Books Before Five

From Books Before Five by Dorothy White:

Even at this age there can come a stage when the literary experience has almost an equivalent reality to the actual. The point which interests me here is how one should assess the comparative value of The Little Family and Peter Rabbit. I suspect that a child has a need both for the book which 'merely' confirms, like The Little Family, and for the book like Peter Rabbit which extends beyond the immediately known. In one of her essays Rebecca West says, 'This use of art to prove what man already knows is a shameful betrayal of the mission of art to tell more than he knows.' This may apply to adult literature but it does not apply to children's literature at the beginning. In fact one could argue that they have a need for literature which tells them what they already know. Indeed I am not convinced that even an adult will accept the validity of a literature which does not confirm his own experience if he has not previously appreciated some writing to which he said, 'This is I.'

My Small Successes XVIII

I haven't posted about any Small Successes since last November. I was too busy keeping the minimum done around the house and growing a baby and couldn't mention Fourth Baby because I was being mum on the blog until I was farther along. Things are moving along much closer to normal now, at least for a while.

It’s important for moms to recognize that all the small successes in our days can add up to one big triumph. So on Thursday of each week, Faith & Family does exactly that. Here are mine:

1. I started to tackle the "clothes to put away" pile in my closet. These are the clothes kids have outgrown or when seasons change or when we receive clothes that are too big just yet. I eventually sort them into boxes by gender and size. It's not something I maintain in a regular way, though I should. I am almost ashamed to admit (but I will because I hope you find it amusing) that I found in the pile some 24 month dresses First Daughter wore that somehow didn't make it back in the 24 month box when I did the rest of her clothes. I hung them back in the closet for Second Daughter to wear.

2. I recently discovered my new bread machine has a pizza dough setting that takes only 45 minutes (compared to the hours I used to wait for the regular bread dough setting). It seems to work best if I let it sit in the machine for a little while to rise some more (which it will not do on the counter after I roll it out because the kitchen is so cold), but we can still have pizza dough in an hour. Yum!

3. I started planning for our homeschool next year. I've bought a few things, picked out what else we need (except what we're going to do for music appreciation; I'm a bit at a loss there still) and then made a wish list of a bunch of other stuff I want, if I can fit them in the budget. I'm excited about it, which is good because I want to get everything purchased and the first month planned before baby is born so it'll be ready to go when I emerge from the newborn fog just in time for school.

And, a bonus fourth: Kansas Dad had a fabulous time cutting down our dead pine tree with his chainsaw and then having a massive bonfire last night. (Burn, pine wilt-causing nematodes!) Hopefully I'll get some pictures up later tonight.

Go read some more small successes and add your own!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

We Have a Dog Problem

Last week, math class had us graphing the pets we know. Since we know so few, we included some literary figures to try to even out the graph. Curious George and "Polly the Parrot" both made an appearance. Second Daughter did some imaginative drawings for us. Even adding extra characters, we had a problem.

The dog column goes right off the graph!

At least First Son thought it was funny.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Catholic Company Review: St. Augustine Answers 101 Questions on Prayer

St. Augustine Answers 101 Questions on Prayer, edited by Fr. Cliff Ermatinger, ED.

In this little book, Fr. Ermatinger has drawn from all the works of St. Augustine to present a complete picture of prayer as described and explained by the saint. Including chapters on The Nature of Prayer, Prayer and Desire, Types of Prayers, What to Ask For and What Not to Ask For (among others), nearly every question you may have on prayer appears somewhere in the book. The questions, of course, are written and organized by the editor.

At first I sometimes found it difficult to determine when St. Augustine's was quoted and when the editor was drawing on multiple sources to explain the saint's position or answer. Perhaps I just wasn't paying enough attention, though, because that seemed to become easier as I continued through the book.

The introduction cautions the reader that this is not a book to be read in one sitting, and I found that to be quite true. It's worth-while to read a few questions, or even just one at a time, and then give some thought to the answer.

As the wife of a theologian, I should perhaps be embarrassed to admit I have never read anything by St. Augustine. I have, of course, read some basic theology books recommended by my husband, but I have found it's often easier to just ask Kansas Dad to explain something to me (not that it's better, just easier). There were certainly times I found myself reading the same paragraphs over a few times to better understand, but it was wonderful to read some of St. Augustine's own insights into prayer, and to learn a bit from the editor about Augustine's own prayer life.

My favorite chapters were those on what to pray for and what not to pray for. I have often struggled with these questions myself. St. Augustine found everything we should pray for in the prayer taught by Jesus himself, the Our Father. It was amazing how clear it seemed when I read through the answers.

I think this book would be a great start for someone seeking to learn more about the purpose of prayer, how to pray and what our goal should be when praying. (Later on, you can read Origen's book On Prayer, which I set aside when I realized I simply didn't have the ability to concentrate enough on it.)

At the end of it all, the greatest effect of prayer is the love and desire it enkindles and preserves. "And his mercy has taken everything into account. All that bears fruit, he says, should remain; that whatever you shall ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Similarly, let love remain; for he himself is our gain. And this love remains for the moment as loving desire, an enjoyment not yet completely fulfilled."

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 St. Augustine Answers 101 Questions on Prayer. Learn more about joining the reviewer program here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Taking Inventory

I happily started going through our diapers to figure out what we'd need for the new baby (so glad I can finally write about it here!) and ended up with an elaborate inventory. You can read a little about it over at the Cloth Diaper Outlet blog here.

Kansas Dad thinks I love Excel just a little too much, especially the AutoFilter feature, but I'm just not sure that's possible.

History & Culture: The Progressive Era (1890-1913)

I Go with My Family to Grandma's by Riki Levinson, illustrated by Diane Goode. This fun little story follows five girls from five boroughs who travel to Grandma's by all different routes. First Daughter enjoyed finding the girls in each group picture. First Son was not entirely interested. (I have a soft spot in my heart for New York stories.)

Stagecoach Sal by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Casron Ellis. I thought First Son would love this book, as a "bad guy" features prominently, and there's even a snake. He was not all that interested, though. He and First Daughter mostly paid attention when I sang the lyrics to the folk songs (and I was pleased there was only one tune I didn't know). The illustrations are fine, but they are not really my preferred style.

Adele & Simon in America by Barbara McClintock. We have been enjoying both of the Adele and Simon books. They show the children wandering Paris or all across the United States, with Simon losing something on each page. My two love finding all the things he has lost (and some are not so easy to spot) and the illustrations are wonderful. Descriptions in the back explain each of the pictures and place the cities and places.

Helen Keller by David A. Adler is one of his early readers. I thought the story of Helen Keller would fascinate the kids, but neither of them were very impressed. I suppose they may be too young to understand the concept of deafness or blindness, especially since the closest they've come to such things would be the Signing Time videos.

Lucy's Summer written by Donald Hall, illustrated by Michael McCurdy. I love this story and Lucy's Christmas, in which Mr. Hall shares some of the stories of his mother's youth. They give a wonderful glimpse into an earlier time.

Least of All by Carol Purdy, illustrated by Tim Arnold. I've mentioned this book before and I still absolutely love it. First Son was a little more interested now that he can read himself and a little baffled, I think, at the adults in the story who cannot.

When Jessie Came Across the Sea by Amy Hest, illustrated by P.J. Lynch, is another of my favorite stories. Courageous Jessie leaves her grandmother and her tiny village to live with a woman she's never met in New York City. She works diligently for years to earn enough money to bring her grandmother to America, enjoying her new home and (presumably) not experiencing some of the terrible hardships of new immigrants. (We sometimes read about death in our picture books, or at least encounter it, but I do try to shield my little ones from too much suffering. They are still quite young for such realities.)

A Picture Book of George Washington Carver is one of David Adler's many picture book biographies, this one illustrated by Dan Brown. First Daughter was not interested at all. First Son was only mildly interested, and then really only because George Washington Carver invented peanut butter (one of his most absolutely favorite things). Even so, he announced proudly to Kansas Dad that George Washington invented peanut butter. I was a little worried about discussing race relations, but First Son just accepted it. (We'll be talking much more about race later, of course, as we read about Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr..)

My Great-Aunt Arizona by Gloria Houston, illustrated by Susan Condie Lamb, is a bright little story of a young girl's dream to see the world and how instead she taught generations of children at a local school and sent them out to the world instead. It's based on the true story of the author's great aunt. I enjoyed reading about how Arizona made a difference to her students without doing anything "great" after reading about George Washington Carver's amazing achievements.

Hattie and the Wild Waves: A Story From Brooklyn written and illustrated by Barbara Cooney is another of my favorites. The children have never been too interested in this particular book, however, and it certainly doesn't compare with Miss Rumphius. I liked including it with our history and culture books as a bit of a juxtaposition with stories like Jessie's above, as there were also some affluent immigrant families. And then, there's my thing for New York stories.

We'll be reading more about life just before the Great Depression in March. Suggestions welcome as I'm stretching what I've found so far to fill our days.