Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Catholic Company Book Review: A Catholic Woman's Book of Prayers

A Catholic Woman's Book of Prayers by Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle

This is a little hardcover book (just a bit bigger than 4" x 6") that is just the right size to tuck in a purse or bag to always have on hand. I think it would be perfect for adoration; it's small and provides lots of different kinds of prayers, for every time in a woman's life.

In the book, prayers are interspersed with quotes from scripture, the saints and the pope.

The variety of prayers and thoughts encouraged me to think not only of my own needs and how much I depend on God, but those of women who may be at a very different time in their lives. There are prayers for women who hope to be married, prayers for women in vocations, prayers for mothers of young children (that would be me) and prayers for mothers whose children have all grown. There are also prayers for children and husbands.

Sometimes it is difficult to put thoughts and desires into words. Having a little book like this can be helpful for someone who wants to pray but isn't certain what to say. I know that God always knows what I need, so the words themselves aren't necessarily important, but I still find it can be difficult to get started. Because prayer is important, this book can help by meeting that need for a beginning.

I have only one real complaint: the prayers are all in italics. I think they can be hard to read, especially in low lighting.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. I did not receive any payment for this review, but did receive a free copy of the book. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on A Catholic Woman's Book of Prayers and be sure to check out their great selection of Mary statues while you are there.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Just a Note

I know things have been quiet here on the blog. We've been hosting grandparents, visiting museums (two), preparing for an art party, hosting an art party, cleaning up from the art party, moving out a big desk, moving out huge bunk beds, painting and assembling new-to-us bunk beds, switching out clothes for fall and generally exhausting ourselves and my parents (who left just after lunch today) all while creating a new level of chaos in the house. I don't think we've been this disorganized since shortly after we moved in.

So I have some catching up to do just on just about everything and the blog will be last on the list.

In the mean time, I leave you with this: Second Son had his two month appointment today. He's two months and four days old and weighs in at 15 pounds 9 ounces.

15 pounds 9 ounces

He's like a four month old.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Temporary Mohawk

This picture is a few weeks old, but funny enough to share. Kansas Dad paused in First Son's haircut for a photo shoot.

First Son hates having his hair cut, but he always thinks this is funny.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Football Hold

These pictures are from earlier this month (September 3rd and 4th). but this is still Second Son's favorite position. In fact, he doesn't much care for our carriers, both of which hold him in the upright position. We are getting some very strong arms. (He's already over fifteen pounds at 8 weeks.)

He even falls asleep this way! Sometimes.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Alphabet Pretzels Brought to You by the Letter A

Way back on September 2nd, the kids and I made pretzels together. The idea was to encourage First Daughter in her letter-learning by shaping the pretzel dough into letters, particularly A and B. She decided to make some other letters and I didn't mind.

Playing with the dough was the fun part, of course. First Son was just as eager to make letters; he decided O was the easiest letter to shape.

Here's First Daughter with the letters she made, with lots of help from Mama.

Then, we ate! I thought my kosher salt was too chunky for such little pretzels, so I made cinnamon-sugar topping instead. The kids informed me they were actually cookies. (Notice we had to change our clothes, too. Perhaps St. Nicholas will bring aprons for the kids this year...)

I used a recipe from Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry but I thought it was nothing great. It also did not make very much; plenty to entertain the kids when divided in half, but it really only lasted for one snack. If I were to use it again, I'd double it and shape half the dough myself. I think instead I'll seek out another recipe. A friend suggested the ones with egg are tastier.

Book Review: The Creative Family

The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family ConnectionsThe Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections by Amanda Black Soule

When I reviewed Young at Art, two friends suggested this book instead. Susan Striker's book actually laid out a plan for introducing a young child to art materials like paints, clay and colors. This book focuses more on creating a family life that embraces and encourages creativity.

First of all, this book is beautiful. It is well-designed and illustrated, including many pictures of the author with her three children. (She now has four; check out her blog for more updates on her life.)

There are a few projects suggested in the book, many of which were new to me and some of which we will be introducing on the Range. I love the idea of creating thank you cards with some artwork by the children (p. 17) and think Kansas Dad and the kids will have a great time making real wood block from logs we cut on our own land (p. 49). I've made lots of notes on these and other ideas. The projects cover a range of materials and skill levels so there's something here for everyone.

The tone of the book was a little "earthy" for me, thanking "earth mother" and such. In our house, we usually thank God for the earth. I think it's simple enough to glean some great ideas, though, from around the few things we wouldn't do with our children. I was also surprised she didn't mention cooking until a paragraph or so in the last chapter, but perhaps that's because once I started thinking about how we encourage creativity on the Range now, I realized it's mainly in the kitchen. (And by "we," I mean "I" since Kansas Dad does relatively little baking with the children, though they will sometimes help stir the pancake batter.)

There's more I'd like to share about the book, but Second Son is calling me and it's already taken a week to write this post. Check the book out and see if it can encourage some more creativity in your own life.

First Son's Nature Notebook

I haven't actually started nature journals with the kids yet this year. I plan to pick up some unlined moleskin notebooks and start with some bird drawing time at the nature center or the zoo, where the birds are easier to watch, but it'll be a few weeks before we can make it out that way.

First Son, though, decided all on his own to make a few nature drawing from our yard.

Here are a few of our "chicks" which are about three months old now I think. The one on the right has been dubbed Snow White by the kids.

Then he drew some pictures of our "old" chickens, the Buffs.

Then he wondered what else he could draw and I suggested listening. He heard crickets.

Since then (these are from a few weeks ago), he's added to his notebook, but all on his own. I really need to get us going with some real nature study time. We've been spending our Friday afternoons doing other things and will be the next three weeks as well. We have started reading from the delightful The Burgess Bird Book for Children (Four-color Illustrated Edition), and I do mean the illustrated one. It makes all the difference for my crew.

For those who are wondering, I did get up this morning when "6" was still the first number on the clock, but it wasn't my plan. Second Son was making so much noise, just breathing, that I couldn't sleep anymore.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

My Small Successes XXXVI

We had some wonderful successes this week!

1. Kansas Dad fixed the dryer. It's been squeaking horribly for at least two months. He took it apart (three times), ordered parts, replaced them, put it back together, got it working, and even fixed the little knob on the top that's been broken for almost two years. I am still getting used to not reaching for the pliers to start it up. He also replaced the stereo in the van. The old one chewed up and spit out a CD (one of my Music Masters, of course). It's wonderful to be able to listen to CDs again!

2. We took the kids on a field trip to the State Fair on Monday. It was dollar day and Kansas Dad didn't have any classes so off we went! We learned a few things about taking our kids to the fair. Next time we're going to let them ride for a while as soon as the rides open and then wander to look at animals and other curiosities. They only rode four rides each at the end of the day and were perfectly happy!

3. I got up and exercised yesterday. It was still dark. The first number on the clock was a 6!! Then, because I was up and the kids were sleeping, I was very productive. I recognize the value in this plan, but that doesn't mean I'll successfully manage to do it again. We'll see tomorrow morning...

Head over to Faith and Family for more small successes!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Montessori Preschool on the Range

Last year, I created a bunch of homemade Montessori materials based on Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Pre-School Years (read my recent review here) and then decided not to use most of them. This summer I expanded our materials a bit and am hoping to use them more deliberately this year.

I've scheduled some "preschool" time into each day. So far (and we're in week four now), we spend a little time four days a week with one of the Montessori activities. (On the fifth day, we attend story hour at our local library which includes work on letters and numbers in addition to running around in the gym and a story.) The activities cover a wide range of abilities; some will best challenge First Son, some First Daughter and some Second Daughter. Mostly I work with First Daughter. First Son watches with some interest (and would be welcome to take part if he likes) while Second Daughter entertains herself. I also read one book I pick specifically for the girls. We read a lot of books together, especially ones Second Daughter chooses every time I sit down, because that of course means I'm going to read to her. The ones I count as "preschool" tend to be my favorites, though, like One Morning in Maine (Picture Puffins), Owl Moon and Bear Snores On.

I decided to put together a single post on all the Montessori materials I made so I can find the links myself. Someday I'll look back and either be impressed with all the stuff I made or laugh at myself for dreaming we'd ever use all this stuff!

Here's a list of what I'm planning for our preschool this year:
  1. Practical Life Exercises - pouring rice, dusting, folding, washing dishes, setting a table, washing a table, sweeping, lacing, tying, stringing beads, using a dropper, cutting, puzzles, cardboard sewing cards, dressing frames (see the ones my mom and I made here), bottles and tops (see our lovely box here).
  2. Early Sensorial Exercises - tower building, fabric basket, button games, rough and smooth boards (see ours here), silence game, walking the line, mystery bag, scent and sound bottles (see ours here), color tablets (see ours here), geometric insets (see ours here), geometric shapes (see ours here), color circles (a few more pictures here).
  3. Reading and Writing Exercises - sandpaper letters (I made some last year), command cards (our commands are here), pictures and sounds (see ours here), movable alphabet (see ours here), tracing letters, sticker series (see our sticker pre-reading exercise here).
  4. Arithmetic Exercises - number rods (see mine here), spindle box (see ours here), sandpaper numbers (which I made the same way as the letters), tracing numbers, number progression (I just cut up one of our extra hundreds boards like this one), measuring exercises.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010

    Query XXVIII

    This afternoon, I walked around and counted the number of books lying on the floor and the futon. I stopped at 110. None of them were school books.

    Is that good or bad?

    Tasty Tuesday: Caramel Apples

    This is my first attempt at a Tasty Tuesday post. I thought about posting on the chocolate angel food cake I made in celebration of Mary's birthday last week. It was suggested in Marian Devotions in the Domestic Church and I used the recipe there, but you can find all sorts of similar ones online. Delicious! The key with angel food cake (based on my vast experience with the two I've made) is to use fresh eggs (we have our own chickens), a PowerAid mixer (oh, how I love mine!) and to use a real angel food cake pan. My kids are ambivalent about angel food cake, but they ate up the chocolate kind so we're sticking with the cocoa from now on.

    If I'm going to post for Tasty Tuesday more often, I'm going to have to work on my food photography skills. Seriously lacking.

    I'm really posting another tasty recipe, though: caramel apples! The key to scrumptious caramel apples is making your own caramel. Do not be afraid! It's very simple, if a little time consuming.

    I used my Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book (Better Homes & Gardens Plaid), which is always being updated, revised, changed and re-released, so I don't even know what version I have any more. I found the exact same recipe online, however, here. I'll let you go there for the recipe (or your own cookbook) because I have a phobia about putting other people's recipes on my blog. Instead, I'll sum it up for you:

    1. Melt half a pound of butter.

    2. Mix in vast amounts of sugar, corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk. Heat until bubbly.

    3. Continue to boil until the caramel reaches 248 degrees F (about 15 - 20 minutes).

    4. Mix in vanilla.

    5. Dip your apples!

    A few tips:

    1. This is a fantastic way to use yummy apples that you've grown or picked. Any small blemishes, because they are real apples, will be covered by the caramel.

    2. Do not, I repeat, do not unwrap and melt store-bought caramels. Just don't.

    3. Do not make this recipe too often. (See the ingredient list.)

    4. A candy thermometer is essential to successful caramel, and any candy-making. They are not very expensive and are a wise investment because you also need them to make lemon meringue pie. I've never made lemon meringue pie, but one day I may and I will be glad to have my candy thermometer.

    5. Be prepared to stay by the stove and keep an eye on your boiling pot. Or, ask your husband to do so while you check your email.

    6. The recipe says to pour the caramel into a pan to firm up. I just dip my apples then and pour what's left into a small pan.

    7. Caramel apples are best prepared for a party or gathering of some sort. Otherwise you'll realize you've eaten ten caramel apples in three days and wonder why your teeth and stomach ache a little bit...as you're reaching for an eleventh. (See #3.)

    If you're looking for some more tasty recipes, click over to City Wife, Country Life for Tasty Tuesday.

    Monday, September 13, 2010


    I mentioned that Second Son was starting to smile at us a lot. I finally grabbed the camera in time to take a picture or two last Thursday and he just smiled and smiled and smiled. I can't even decide which one I like best! He's 6 weeks 6 days old in these pictures.

    Friday, September 10, 2010

    Queries XXVI and XXVII

    XXVI: Has anyone else noticed that I use a lot of parentheses in my posts?

    I think it's the blogging equivalent of writing ten pages for a six to eight page paper but pretending I'm not by putting a third of the paper in the footnotes.

    XXVII: How many "knock-knock" jokes must a mother endure before she can request the kids move on to something else? It would be bad enough if they were just bad jokes, but First Son is only barely beginning to understand what makes a knock-knock joke "funny" and most of the time they end with a phrase that means nothing at all. (First Daughter's jokes always end with a phrase that means nothing at all.)

    And there are those parentheses again.

    Gallery of Second Son

    A few weeks ago, Second Son was obviously outgrowing his 3 month clothes, so I started making a big effort to take some pictures of him in my favorite outfits before washing them and setting them aside. (I'm really trying to steel myself to give away all but a few.)

    This onesie says "Caution: may cause sleepless nights" and I love it. I think I bought it before my nephew was born and my sister-in-law sent it back for Second Daughter. I should try to pack it up for my newest nephew (born on Sept. 2nd -- three grandsons this year for my parents!) Second Son is three weeks old in the picture.

    This outfit is one I bought before First Daughter was born. She and Second Daughter didn't wear it very much and neither did Second Son since it was a hundred degrees here. Still, I managed to get at least one picture and it's one of my favorites. He's three weeks old in this picture, too.

    Three weeks and three days old.

    One month exactly and a bit swamped in these 6-9 month clothes, but it's an outfit First Son wore. I had to pull out some 6-9 month clothes because some of his diapers are getting rather big. He's quickly coming up on toddler sizes for the fitted diapers we have (with just two sizes; the first is supposed to last eight to ten months).

    Now, of course, Second Son is seven weeks old. I took some amazing pictures yesterday of a very smiley guy who took a three hour nap! I'll get some of those on the blog in a month or so.

    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    Quote: You Can Understand the Bible

    Peter Kreeft in You Can Understand The Bible: A Practical And Illuminating Guide To Each Book In The Bible:
    After the fall, Adam and Eve used the two defense mechanisms that we've been using ever since: hiding and passing the blame. First, they hid from God and from each other, covering themselves, probably their sexual organs, with clothes. Why their sexual organs? The fall was not a matter of sex. God has commanded them to "be fruitful and multiply". Probably because they had hoped, by eating the forbidden fruit, to fulfill the devil's false promise to be like God, complete and independent. But their sexual differentiation revealed their incompleteness as individuals and their dependence on each other.

    My Small Successes XXXV

    1. We attended First Friday mass with the homeschool group (which included a wonderful blessing for us all in the new school year) followed by a delightful picnic with the whole group (after spending the morning at a playgroup). We never went last year (shockingly, considering it's held at Kansas Dad's campus), but I am hoping to make it every month this year. The weather was fabulous and the company was wonderful. (The lunch I packed was rather boring, but the kids spent most of the time digging in the dirt and running around so I don't think they cared.) I was exhausted! But since we were gone all day, the living room was remarkably tidy.

    2. I sent out an invitation (email, because I'm lazy that way) for First Daughter's birthday party. Three weeks is plenty of time, right? (I'm not really sure; I hate planning birthday parties.) At one point she wanted to invite something like eight families comprising over thirty children, but we convinced her to limit it a bit more. She picked four families (fourteen children, not counting ours, if they all come). The theme is art and so far I know we're decorating cupcakes. We might paint. I don't know. I fear the mess and the weather, if we can't be outside. And we don't have tables or chairs. (Did I mention I hate planning birthday parties? Suggestions welcome!)

    3. Yesterday I made a loaf of wheat bread, two loaves of apple bread and hard-boiled a dozen eggs. I also washed some of the dishes! Then, running out the door for choir (because Second Son was crying, not because we were late), I forgot my wallet, the cell phone, the wet bag and a burp cloth. I couldn't buy gas (which I'd been planning on), but at least I had all four kids and the kitchen was reasonably clean and yummy fresh-bread-smelling when we got home!

    Head to Faith and Family for more Small Successes!

    Wednesday, September 8, 2010

    Our Color Tablets

    I think this is the last post on our home-made Montessori materials, at least for a while. I finished these up the night before Second Son was born.

    I loosely followed the instructions in Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Pre-School Years to make these. Kansas Dad and I were at a superstore and I picked up oodles of the paint cards from the home improvement section. I had come prepared with a list so I knew how many of each card I'd need. At home, I trimmed them so only one color was showing and glued them (with a glue stick) to roughly square pieces of poster board I had left-over from another project.

    I placed them in plastic bags marked as Box 1, Box 2 and Box 3. I wrote the "box" numbers on the back of each card so it should be easy to sort them again if the kids mix them up. (Ideally, only one set is out at a time, but I've seen how my children play.)

    This project was a little more time consuming than most because I had to cut the poster board, cut all the colors and then glue them together. It is, however, something an older child could very easily complete entirely alone. It was also very inexpensive.

    Tuesday, September 7, 2010

    Book Review: Haystack Full of Needles

    Haystack Full of Needles, A Catholic Home Educator's Guide to SocializationHaystack Full of Needles, A Catholic Home Educator's Guide to Socialization by Alice Gunther

    This lovely little book is written specifically for Catholic homeschoolers who are concerned about providing opportunities for their children to make friends. It's full of ideas for finding other homeschoolers, organizing group activities, planning group activities and encouraging each other in faith, life and (of course) learning. If you are in an area without a strong homeschool group, this book would be a fabulous resource in using your own interests and strengths to develop the friendships and ties a homeschool group can provide.

    We are extremely lucky to live in an area full of veteran homeschoolers with an amazingly strong Catholic homeschool group, so these type of ideas weren't necessary for our family. A great many of these small groups have already been organized in our area so we are already able to participate in a playgroup, monthly masses & picnics, Little Flowers & Blue Knights and a homeschool choir. (And those are just the activities we selected for the year!)

    I loved this book, though, because Mrs. Gunther provides the advice of a wise mother to a young mother under her wing. She kindly and lovingly tells us how to behave with each other to build up our faith and our friendships. Seriously, she made me want to be a better person without pouring on any guilt at all. Reading this book, I kept daydreaming about the lifelong friendships our children will hopefully have with their friends from church, story hour and our homeschool group. (If only we don't move! I moved something like 18 times growing up and can hardly imagine what it might be like to stay right here in on the Range until the children are graduating from high school.)

    Monday, September 6, 2010

    Quote: Haystack Full of Needles

    Alice Gunther in Haystack Full of Needles, A Catholic Home Educator's Guide to Socialization:
    All children take after their parents to varying degrees, but the influence may be even more pronounced among homeschoolers.
    This should inspire us to strive for holiness, modesty, good humor, patience, and charity--even if we fall short at times. How often have I heard my own abruptness or sarcasm mirrored by my children, yet even this is a blessing if it teaches me humility. There is nothing more important than aiming to be a worthy model for our children, particularly as they stand at the cusp of adulthood. They will know better than anyone else that we are not perfect, but will benefit from knowing we are trying.

    Sunday, September 5, 2010

    Rough and Smooth Boards

    I mentioned there were a few Montessori materials I made the night before Second Son was born. These rough and smooth boards took about fifteen minutes -- certainly a lot less time than we spent at the store buying the sandpaper. I modified the design a little from what I found in Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Pre-School Years because I couldn't find a fifth sample that wasn't black. (I put them on cardboard rather than the nicer balsa wood, but I wouldn't want to mar the looks with black sandpaper! Oy, I'm silly sometimes.)

    These were ridiculously easy and practically free if you already have four kinds with graduated levels of coarseness. I just used glue sticks to adhere them to the cardboard.

    Saturday, September 4, 2010

    Quote: Haystack Full of Needles

     Alice Gunther in Haystack Full of Needles, A Catholic Home Educator's Guide to Socialization:
    Over the years, our celebrations have become more elaborate, but the seeds for following the rhythms of the Liturgical Year at home were sown in Jeanne's dining room and watered with a good dowsing of Elmer's glue. I had always been a devoted Catholic, but time spent in the company of homeschooling mothers brought my faith to the forefront as never before.