Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cutting Her Hair, On Purpose

Last week Second Daughter got a hair cut, and this time it was planned. She was amazingly calm and patient the whole time and now she can see!

A Loose Tooth!

First Son announced tonight he had a loose tooth! We know many who have already lost teeth, so he's pretty excited. He even called both grandmothers to share the news. I tried to take a little video of the wiggling (for those who can stomach such things) and will try to get it posted tomorrow if it turned out alright.

Veggie Painting

Last week the kids and I painted with vegetables. I let each of them choose only one color so they'd (in theory) concentrate more on the textures and shapes of the vegetables. They enjoyed themselves and now I feel like I can wait a month or so before pulling out paints again. (So much fuss to get ready and clean up, though I had both kids rinse out their own brushes this time. I supervised closely because First Daughter especially has a tendency to cause more trouble at the sink than at the table.)

On Husbands

It took me a few days to get to this one, but it's worth reading.

Starting to Bounce off the Walls (and the Bed)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

First Son's Favorite Christmas Present

It took him the better part of six hours to put it together, but he did it almost entirely by himself and was thrilled.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Family Portrait

My Mom took this picture of our little family a few days after Christmas. My sister very sweetly and kindly picked out clothes for First Daughter and First Son after the holiday so we could all wear similar colors (at a great discount).

It's been the picture at the top of the blog for a few weeks now, but not everyone actually comes to the blog to read along, so I thought I'd actually post the picture. Plus, I think I'm going to change to a new wintry scene at the top for February.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

An Extraordinary Evening

Over the holidays, Kansas Dad and I had the special privilege of a private dinner at June. We had canceled reservations earlier in the week when Kansas Dad caught a little stomach bug and were very disappointed (but understanding) when we learned the restaurant was closed the week after New Year's Eve. My sister-in-law, though, just happens to be closely related to the owner and chef and convinced him to come in on her birthday to serve a special dinner just for us. What a treat!

We have never had such a wonderful and luxurious meal. Kansas Dad and I loved relaxing with my brother and his wife, chatting about all sorts of things, and enjoying fabulous organic, locally-grown, food without entertaining any children. We lingered over each dish and glass of wine (though the ladies weren't really drinking). Kansas Dad ordered the wine pairing for the whole meal and enjoyed some incredible wines.

For most of us, eating at June is only for special occasions, but I encourage you to plan an evening there if you are within a few hours of Peoria. You don't have to take our word for it, either.

A very special thanks to the chef, general manager and others who came in on a rare night off to prepare a delicious meal for us! (We paid, of course, but they still went to a lot of effort just for us.) I wish I had thought to take our camera for a picture to commemorate the evening.

On My Mind

Jennifer Fulwiler at

H/T Creative Minority Report.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Quote: Home Education

The problem before the educator is to give the child control over his own nature, to enable him to hold himself in hand as much in regard to the traits we call good, as to those we call evil...

From Home Education by Charlotte Mason

Child at Heart

I have a confession...I love cinnamon toast. Mmmm. It reminds me of my childhood when my brother and I would eat breakfast at school. I shudder to think of the "healthy food" they fed us, but the cinnamon toast was memorable. I'm munching some now. Really, how can you go wrong with homemade bread (at least it's wheat), real butter, a touch of cinnamon, and a lot of sugar?

I really do have some posts to share. I've been working in the evenings a bit, which is the bulk of my computer time. I also (brace yourself here) finally started Second Daughter's baby book. She's only 18 months old so I'm still ok. It's not until you start counting in years, rather than months, that it gets really embarrassing. Right?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Uneventful Check Up

Second Daughter had her 18 month check up yesterday and I'm pleased to report no one had to give blood, no one lost their sight and no one threw up! (See post on last visit, if you're not sure why that's so exciting.)

Her height was the same (31"), but I think that had more to do with the method of measuring. Last night they marked her head and feet on the paper on the table while this time she stood on the scale (my big girl). Her weight was 23 3/4 lb, which puts her at less than a pound gain in the last three months. I'm guessing it's either because she was sick recently and didn't eat as much or that she has a big growth spurt coming. Our PA wasn't worried. She scored very well on all the other measures and even sat quietly on my lap for most of the exam (though she was not a big fan). Our PA, who is wonderful, let First Son look at her eyes after he did and gave all of them a handful of stickers when we left.

Poor Second Daughter had one shot, but no more until she's four! Her next visit isn't until she's two in July so we should have a nice long stretch without well-child visits for any of the kids.

Our Book of Centuries

I planned to use a Book of Centuries starting last fall, but we just never got around to it. With a sudden interest in what things happened first, I decided First Son was ready for us to introduce it. I sat down to put the whole book together.

I started with the Book of Centuries download from Simply Charlotte Mason. I printed it all out and then hole-punched it. If I were doing it again, I would have printed the even-numbered pages and then the odd-numbered pages so I could have punched the holes faster (as you want the pages facing each other in the binder). Alternatively, you could print one side and then put them back in the printer for the even numbers, but I wanted to use the blank backs of the pages for drawings or maps.

I liked the Simply Charlotte Mason pages, but I wanted to cover time before 1400 BC. (I don't want to get into a discussion on evolution here, just wanted to show you want I did. You can read a bit about the official Catholic teaching on creation here, though I know there are great differences even among Catholics.) I did a search online to see if I could find pages ready to print for the time from the creation of earth through 4000 BC without luck. I finally found this page, which gave some examples of how pages might be divided (the secular example breakdown on page 5). Using that as a guide, I made about forty pages to cover the time from 5,000,000 BC to 4000 BC.
Book of Centuries Prehistory

I printed one set and punched holes on the right, then printed a second set and punched holes on the left. I then combined them with the pages facing each other (all the holes lined up) and place them into the binder.

I then wanted some pages to cover the geologic eras before 5,000,000 BC. I used the dates I found here (a site I haven't used for anything else, so don't take this as a recommendation) to create pages for each period from the Hadean Eon through 5,000,000 BC. I just printed one each of these for now because I'm not sure how much we'll use them.
Book of Centuries Geologic Eras

Eventually, I'm going to make a book just for First Son. Right now, I'm thinking we'll start his Book of Centuries binder when he starts third grade, but we'll see how it goes. I'm pleased to be able to try out the book now as a family so we'll have ideas for improvement by the time he is ready for his own. I know we'll make some changes already:

1. Heavier paper, probably card stock. (For now, I used what we had lying around the house.)

2. I liked the idea here to use different colors for different eras.

3. First Son is going to do all the hole-punching (not that it took as long as you might think).

4. I may choose to print on both sides of the paper and use supplement pages (see page eight here) for drawings, maps and narrations.

Now we just have to start filling it in!

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Winter Home for the Chickens

Right before we left for our Christmas holiday, Kansas Dad built a winter home for the chickens. He thought it would be easier to care for them in the cold if he didn't have to keep moving their chicken tractor around, and this gave him more flexibility in creating some warm space for them. Luckily, they are a very cold hardy breed, so they've been doing very well in the cold.

Here's a picture of the little doorway between their inside quarters and their outdoor run.

Here's a picture of one of the three nesting boxes. All you have to do is lift the board above them to reach in and grab the eggs.

They've been laying like crazy. We get between eight and ten eggs a day from the ten hens. One of these days I'm going to remember to ask Kansas Dad to take the camera out so we can get a picture of some eggs in the nesting box.

Feel free to pass on any egg-heavy recipes you have!

Quiet on the Range

I haven't been posting much lately. I've been busy organizing the house after the holidays. (My closet is so clean!) We've also been focusing a lot on lessons. We were relaxed between the week of Thanksgiving all through Christmas, so we needed to focus on the schedule for a few days. (The girls both had colds, too, which slowed us down, but they're better now. I was even able to bake some muffins last week!)

Now the lunch clean-up awaits me, but I wanted to point you toward a wonderful article over at Faith & Family. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

And More and More and More

Thanks to a post at Faith & Family, I've found another children's book blog, Little Lamb Books. I've just skimmed the first few posts, but wanted to share it because she has one on the best picture books of 2009. I know at least one person always on the search for new publications of note.

I'm still working my way through my list from What to Read When...and then I have all those suggestions from Just One More Book, but I'll get to this list eventually, too. (I secretly adore knowing all these lists of books await us!)

By the way, our current favorite here on the Range (especially with Kansas Dad) was a recent suggestion by our local library, Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French. I dare you to read it and not laugh out loud!

Query XVII

How long should we let First Son continue to wear shoes a size too small. He doesn't like the bigger ones we bought for him and so far has just kept putting the old ones on. (In his defense, the new ones have shoelaces, which he doesn't know how to tie himself.)

Still...won't the old ones eventually hurt his feet?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

She's Growing Up

Without really planning it, Second Daughter was weaned while we were on vacation. She had been nursing four times a day. A few weeks before we left, she gave up the 5 am one all on her own. Sometimes she would wake and want to snuggle, but she didn't ask to nurse.

A few days before we left, we missed the pre-nap nursing two days in a row. So I just didn't start up again when I had the chance. It's almost like she didn't notice.

Then, all on her own, again, Second Daughter slept through the night a few times. She was in a crib in my parents' room (with First Son and First Daughter in sleeping bags on the floor) and just didn't wake enough to wake them up to bring her to us (at the other end of the house). She started waking again after a few nights, but didn't ask to nurse.

So she was down to just once a day, right before bed. And then, Kansas Dad and I went on a date (more on that later, I hope). I missed bedtime and my mom said Second Daughter didn't even seem to notice I wasn't there. So that was the end. Friday, January 1st, 2010, was the last time I nursed my baby girl.

I had been trying to find the right time to wean her (you know, when she wasn't sick or teething and when Kansas Dad didn't have a million things to do and a million reasons to get a good night's sleep), but I still cried a little when I realized she was weaned. (Yes, Kansas Dad already pointed out how ridiculous I can be.)

When we got home, we started bedtime for Second Daughter in the kids' room. She has a crib in there, with First Son and First Daughter in the bunk beds. Though she had cried horribly when I tried it for nap time before, she was just fine. (She still takes naps in the crib in our room; I doubt First Daughter would ever let her nap otherwise.)

Last night, she slept through the night again. When I woke at 7 am and she wasn't in our bed, my heart almost stopped. It was, however, so wonderful and refreshing not to have her trying to sleep on my head all night.

She's been so sick the past five days, it was just a delight to spend the day with a baby girl on the mend who had a full night's sleep.

She also learned how to say "no" while we were on vacation. She's rather restrained in her use of it, for a toddler. In fact, she's quite adorable. She's really talking a lot and is nearly speaking sentences. She still doesn't say Mama, though, just "Mom!"

Our 2009 Christmas Ornament

Now that Christmas is finally over (we had our last celebration on January 7th), I can share the ornaments we made this year. I wanted to try something new, and perhaps challenging for the kids, so we made beaded snowflakes. I also suggested "wreaths" that could include jingle bells.

I made the snowflakes with the pipe cleaners and then let the kids put the beads on however they liked.

They loved it. First Daughter even asked to work on them a few extra times. They both, however, ran out of steam before we had the seven we needed for all the aunts and uncles and grandparents. I had to "finish" a few of them myself.

Here's an example of the final product. I wish I had taken the time to make little tags with a little picture and the year. I'm going to make more of an effort to mark them in the future so it's easier to remember as we're all putting them on our trees.

I tried to keep one I worked on for us so the others could have more "authentic" ones. You can find some online instructions here and here.

My sister and I were talking over Christmas about ornaments. She and her daughter made some paper ornaments that were just beautiful, but they didn't hold up to wrapping and travel very well. One of the nice things about making something new every year is that we don't have to be crushed if some of them don't survive or don't turn out very well. There are lots of years past and lots of years to come!

As a side note, these could be a very inexpensive project. I bought most of the supplies when the Christmas things were on sale at the local hobby shop. I had to pay full price for the pony beads, though, so I think the total ran close to $7. Of course, I have enough left over to make about 35 more of them. (Perhaps someone wants to make pipe cleaner beaded snowflakes next year and wants to pick up some supplies on the cheap...)

Quote: Dune Boy

With what poignancy the very young desire success! All life seems hanging on the brink; all the future seems decided by a yes or a no. In later life we learn to discount our hopes, to expect a certain percentage of failures, struggle as we will. But in youth the world seems to remain solid, or dissolve around us, on the cast of a single die.

From Dune Boy - The Early Years Of A Naturalist by Edwin Way Teale

A Look at Our Egg

Way back in December, our hens laid their first egg. I promised pictures and it only took a month. Here's one of the first egg:

Here's the first egg on the griddle. It's a little hard to tell the difference in the picture. The fresh egg is at the top right. It's yolk is rounder and the white hasn't spread out as much. They're pretty tasty, too.

We didn't expect too many eggs in the winter, but they've been laying more and more. I'd say we have an average of seven to eight a day. In theory, they'll lay even more in the spring and summer. So far, we've been managing to eat them all, but I expect we'll start handing out some dozens in the future.

Some Birthday Pictures

I never shared any pictures from First Son's birthday and party. (Kansas Dad had a birthday in December, too, but we didn't take a single picture of him on his birthday. We'll have to remedy that next year.)

We started the big day out with a bang. Kansas Dad made First Son chocolate chip pancakes as big as his head. He loved them! They were huge; it took him two days to finish them off.

I had been considering a snowman theme for the party, but the weather was a bit too warm. Instead, we switched at the last minute and toasted marshmallows and making s'mores. Really, how can you go wrong with sticky goodness and a fire?

Here's a picture of the cake:

I wasn't very ambitious - a chocolate layer cake with chocolate icing. Every time I make a cake like this I wish my decorating skills were better, but the kids seemed to enjoy the cake, crumbs and all.

It's been a month and it's still hard for me to believe my little baby boy is six years old!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Query XVI

How concerned should I be that Second Daughter's coughing in the middle of the night sounds like Golem?

Shockingly like Golem.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Quote: Dune Boy

The afternoon was one long stretch of conscious defeat. I was following the well-worn path of my everyday conduct. My habits were stronger than my determination. I learned that day that the way I handled little things would probably be the way I would handle big things, that my action during commonplace days gave a key to my action during emergencies.


The resulting gouge ruined the work and I returned ignominiously to the handle. Ruminating as I turned, I realized fully for the first time the importance of knowledge and skill. Throughout life, I saw, it was Skill that rode the ax and Unskill that turned the grindstone.

From Dune Boy - The Early Years Of A Naturalist by Edwin Way Teale

Monday, January 4, 2010

Query XV

How do you know your six-year-old has been watching too much football on TV?

Perhaps when he quotes: "Not too heavy. Not too light...The difference is drinkability."

We're Home!

We got in late last night. The time was too full and I haven't the energy to write about it now, but it was wonderful (other than the sickness that spread through the extended family; such things happen). In the meantime, I still have boxes to unpack.

Stay warm!