Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Second Son Steps Out

Second Son just took his first steps! He was cruising toward Kansas Dad, who stepped away from the piano bench just as he got near. Second Son didn't pause at all, just kept right on going! He took at least two or three steps all on his own!

Of course, he's way too grumpy for a picture. That's what happens when he only naps for twenty minutes. (Thank you very much, Second Daughter.)

The Gravity Game

Every meal, Second Son throws his sippy cup, his spoon, his bowl, all sorts of things, on the floor. He laughs hysterically as one or another of his older siblings pick it up and puts it back on his tray so Second Son can grab it and throw it down again, laughing. "Oh!" they say, "Stop throwing things on the floor!"

Everyone laughs while Mom and Dad finish a meal almost peacefully.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Back to School Edition

Somehow, without really planning it, I took a blogging break after we got back from our vacation and through the whole first week of school (and then some). I'm enjoying it a bit, so I don't know when I'll be back regularly blogging.

We've been busy and working hard. I thought I'd share a few bullet points on the beginning of school.
  • The timed math fact sheets are awesome. First Son used to take thirty minutes or more to answer all those silly math problems. Now, I set the timer for a minute and off he goes. He likes it if I set the timer for another minute for the ones he has left. Less than two minutes and he's done!
  • First Son has improved tremendously in his handwriting. It doesn't look amazingly better, but he can write so much more without struggling and complaining. It's amazing!
  • So far, First Son's favorite subject is spelling. Surprising and funny.
  • We took a big back to school field trip to the Science Museum in Oklahoma City last week. I like this idea of going to a far away museum or other big day trip with Kansas Dad to celebrate the beginning of school. The museum was awesome. 
  • Schooling with Second Son at a year is so much better than when he was four weeks old (and four months and six months and eight months...you get the picture).
  • Choir started and it's going to be wonderful again.
  • Our parish is starting an atrium (Catechesis of the Good Shepherd). Somehow, in addition to enrolling my children, I decided to be trained. So I've been helping a little in getting it set up. I am incredibly excited for this opportunity for our children, and for my own development. We're about two weeks away from classes!
  • I really like my new lesson plan worksheet system.
  • I decided to make a timeline using Brandy's system. I am having a great time finding pictures online to use for our cards. It'll be a couple of weeks before I have them all ready, but I think it's going to be great.
  • In honor of the new school year, we took a family photo.
I should have cropped it a little, but I'm just glad to get any photo on the blog.

Now, the fall weather should be arriving any time, right? Right.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Book Review: Paul Revere's Ride

Paul Revere's RidePaul Revere's Ride by David Hackett Fischer

Like Mayflower, this book was recommended by my brother-in-law, who is working toward a PhD in early American history. It is magnificently researched, clearly written and absurdly detailed. I loved it!

Dr. Fischer begins with a close examination of Paul Revere and General Gage, but the narrative of the fateful events of April 18-19th form the bulk of the book. He follows all the different players, carefully reconstructing each river crossing, horseback ride, tavern meeting and movement of individual soldiers. Despite the title, the book continues through the march of the British back to Bunker Hill and a discussion of the battle for public opinion that followed. He also kindly provides a brief epilogue of some of the more prominent people, telling how they fared in the war and subsequently

Kansas Dad laughed at me when I mentioned how exciting it was, because of course I knew the ending. Dr. Fischer lets the excitement, fear and anxiety of the events speak for themselves so that anyone reading along must feel the same way. In addition, Dr. Fischer's account follows along with less familiar people whose individual stories are not well known.

The book seemed objective, telling intimately of both American and British emotions and actions. He praised the courage of both sides, as well as condemned the atrocities. It was a exhausting and sometimes brutal day of fighting. Though Dr. Fischer does not revel in the violence, it is a vital part of the story and therefore this book may not be appropriate for reading aloud to children. For example, a couple of descriptions from journals and diaries mentioned "brains" being splattered, at least one father was killed while running for the cover of his house (dying after crawling up to the doorstep while his wife and children watched), and a number of men were stabbed excessively by bayonets.

The Historiography at the end is fascinating. The author describes research and reasoning to explain details like the height of the tide and the phase of the moon on the night of Paul Revere's Ride. There's also a fascinating look at how the ride and Paul Revere himself have been studied and portrayed over the years, reflecting in each era the tensions and current events of the time.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How Long Does a Pocket Diaper Last?

Back 2008, we rounded out First Daughter's cloth diaper stash with seven 1G size large Knickernappies diapers. I'd already tried one and knew we'd like them, but I didn't know how long they would last.

It seems...three years and a bit. I am now finding the lining of these failing. Two fails and it gets tossed from the rotation. (These are not little fails; these are completely wet right in the middle fails when the insert itself is not very wet.) I decided to take a look back and see what kind of value we received with these diapers.

We had ten Knickernappies 1G diapers, purchased between May 2008 and January 2009, for a total cost of $126.50 (not including shipping because I always ordered enough to get free shipping), all from ClothDiaperOutlet.com. (You can't buy these diapers anymore because they've upgraded to the Custom Fit (sized) pocket diapers.)

I did a little calculation to estimate the number of times I washed cloth diapers each month (which varied from every second or third day, depending on how many babies I had in diapers at the time). The pocket diapers were our favorites. They've been in almost continuous use on First Daughter, then Second Daughter and now Second Son. They were always the first ones we used, so I know they were washed nearly every single time I washed cloth diapers.

On average, the large Knickernappies 1G pocket diapers cost less than $0.03 per use. Kansas Dad pointed out that cost does not include the cost of washing, which is true.  It also doesn't take into account the fact that about half of these diapers are still in our rotation and all of the inserts are still going strong. They look a little rough, but I've just put them into different pocket diapers. (I did have to add a hemp doubler to the LoopyDos or use a SuperDo because my children all needed the extra absorbancy.)

We have used these diapers well. They've been torn on storm shelters, contaminated with diaper cream and stripped by hand, and suffered my abuses as I learned how to wash and maintain cloth diapers. This post isn't an complete comparison of the economic benefits of cloth diapering over disposables. It's just a small comment on the longevity of cloth diapers. The upfront cost can be large, but over time they really are affordable.

We have four or five of the custom fit Knickernappies in the large size which I love just as much as the 1G ones. Second Son is wearing them quite comfortably now. I've also added two one-size Knickernappies diapers, one I bought used from Cloth Diaper Outlet and one I bought with some gift certificates just because I could not resist the adorable Ooga Booga print. I've been really pleased with the Knickernappies One Size Diaper so far, though I've only tried it on babies and toddlers in the 20 to 32 pound range. I wouldn't be surprised if they last longer than the first batch of diapers now that I've gotten better at taking care of them. Of course, to really test them out I'd have to have another baby, which is not a good reason to have a baby.

It's not, right?

This is a great diaper, Mom!

I would much rather grab the camera than pose for a picture.

Quick, take the picture! I'm about to head off for some adventures.
Those are some well-spent gift certificates, though I think I'm biased by the sweetness of the model.

If you're interested in trying some one size Knickernappies pocket diapers, you can find bright yellow ones at a special price right now at Cloth Diaper Outlet. We obviously think bright yellow is a great color for boys and girls.

I also have six medium 1G Knickernappies diapers (three pink and three blue) that just never worked as well for us as the large ones. If you'd like to try them, let me know. I think I could bear to part with them now that I have only one in cloth diapers and quite the stash.

I did not receive anything in exchange for this post. I purchased all these diapers myself (with Kansas Dad's blessing). I do receive a small referral if you follow a link to Cloth Diaper Outlet in this post and make a purchase.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Homeschool Review: Once Upon a Time Saints and More Once Upon a Time Saints

by Ethel Pochocki

These are the saints books recommended by Mater Amabilis for Level 1B (first grade) and they are marvelous. The stories are not meant to be biographical but instead inspirational. In fact, she includes some saints like Christopher, who are probably best viewed as great moral tales rather than stories of true people.

The stories do not include dates or even specific country names unless they are immediately relevant to the story. Instead, the focus is on the meaning of the saints' actions. We often hear just a little of their story, enough to glean something of importance and relevance to the young people. The author talks through the story to the children in an wonderful way, as if she were sitting in the living room with us. She encourages them to learn from the saints, to apply their lessons in our lives today.

The short tales are a good length for narration. First Son struggled, of course, because he's quite terrible at narrating. First Daughter, however, did wonderfully, so I know some children will.

We will be reading some of these saint stories again this coming year with our history studies. I am looking forward to continuing to share them with the children.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Book Review: The Hawk and the Dove Trilogy

The Hawk and the Dove Trilogy (3-in-1 Volume)The Hawk and the Dove Trilogy (3-in-1 Volume) by Penelope Wilcock

This trilogy includes three of the best books of fiction I've read in a long time. They tell of the monks in a fourteenth century English Benedictine abbey.

Abbot Peregrine was strict, stern, brilliant and ambitious. One Easter Monday, he is attacked by thugs, viciously beaten and left to die. Though he lives, his hands are horribly damaged, his face is disfigured and one leg is permanently disabled. The books tell of his struggles with his disabilities and his insight into and love for the monks in his abbey.

In the first two books, the stories of the monks are told by a mother to her daughter in modern times as stories passed down by her mother, grandmother, great-great-grandmother and so on. I enjoyed the peek into their lives and the wisdom of her mother. The young Melissa gains something immaterial but important from the stories as she struggles to find her way in life as an adolescent.
 It was a monk Mother used to tell me stories about; a monk of the fourteenth century called Peregrine du Fayel. He was a badly disabled man with a scarred face and a lame leg and twisted, misshapen hands. He was the abbot of St. Alcuin's Abbey in North Yorkshire, on the edge of the moors. He was a man whose body was shaped by the cruelties of life, but his spirit was shaped by the mercy and goodness of God. He couldn't do much with his broken hands, but he discovered that there were some precious and powerful things that could be done only by a man whom life had wounded badly.
The final book is the most emotional. Abbot Peregine suffers a seizure. Suddenly the great man, whose wise guidance of the abbey and the fallible monastics under his care, is an invalid. His body is further incapacitated and he loses the ability to speak. Falling into despair, he struggles with his love of Christ and his feelings of abandonment by his Lord and his friend. It's both heart-wrenching and uplifting.

You'd need to be at least an adolescent to read this trilogy. Besides the hefty themes of pain, suffering, redemption, faith, loyalty and depression, there are many instances of sin interwoven in the stories of the monks, in the course of overcoming it. The last book in particular often describes the ignominy and loss of dignity in severe illness in a respectful but honest way that would be inappropriate for middle-school or younger aged children.

The books are written by a Methodist minister. (She has a blog, though it's quiet now.) The first two are centered on a modern Anglican family. The monks are solidly Catholic and, from what little I know of the Benedictine Rule, based on firm research. Ms. Wilcock has recently begun a sequel trilogy, the first of which is already available and will be at the top of my inter-library list.

I have every intention of handing these books to First Son (and the girls) when they are in high school. There is much to glean and learn from them. I look forward to reading them again myself when the time comes.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cloth Diaper Review: Palm Tree One-Size Diaper Cover

A few months ago, Second Daughter was still wearing diapers. Because she and First Son were both wearing the large and toddler sizes, I was doing a lot of diaper juggling to make sure they both had clean diapers to wear without me doing laundry more often. Eventually, I decided I needed to augment my stash a little, so I picked up a Palm Tree One Size Diaper Cover with snaps in Bluejay. Look at that beautiful color!

The price is very affordable for a one size cover: about $10 for a diaper that is sized to fit from 7 to 35 pounds. I read this diaper is great with prefolds tucked inside. I haven't tried it over prefolds myself because Second Son needs two prefolds for enough absorbancy. He's wearing various large and toddler sized fitted diapers, some with doublers, under this cover.

These pictures are a bit old. I think Second Son is about 20 pounds here. He was just an ounce shy of 24 pounds at his 12 month visit a few weeks ago. This diaper cover just fits him over all that diaper. I tried to get a picture so you could see it's already unsnapped all the way.

I tried using this diaper on Second Daughter when it first came. She was (and still is) just a tad over 30 pounds. She would wear the same large and toddler diapers Second Son is wearing, but this cover just could not fit over the diapers on her. I kept her in the Thirsties Duo Wrap cover (size 2) when she's not in a pocket diaper.

When I put it on Second Son, I feel like there's more of a gap just at the top of his thigh than with other covers I've used, but we haven't had any leaks at all -- there or elsewhere -- with this cover. The fit at his waist seems nice and comfortable and there are no red marks on his thighs.

 All in all, I think these are a great affordable option for one size covers. I would not expect them to last until your child is 35 pounds, though. I would say we will make it at least through a few more pounds, so perhaps 28 pounds? Of course, my babies tend to be a little chunky for their height, so that might make a difference. I like the fit of the Thirsties Duo Wrap sized covers a bit better, but I might also just be noticing a preference for velcro rather than snaps. (My Duo Wrap covers are all velcro.) It's a good solid cover.

This review is my own opinion. I purchased the diaper cover myself. I do receive some small compensation if you follow the link above and make a purchase at Cloth Diaper Outlet.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Second Son...Gets a Haircut

This boy was getting seriously shaggy.

He's looking at Daddy like he's asking "What exactly do you plan to do with that thing?"

Now he's thinking, "I'm not sure I like this." Thirty seconds later he was screaming like mad. He did not like it one bit!

After the bath, he's a happy guy again, looking like a little man!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Celebrating a Baptism Anniversary

Earlier this week, we celebrated the anniversary of Second Son's baptism. As last year, it was brutally hot. Luckily, we were inside our own house instead of a church that had been without air conditioning all day.

Second Son's godparents live close enough to come for dinner so we enjoyed a wonderful evening with friends, followed by a little Scripture and a blessing for Second Son. He thought his baptismal candle was one of the best things he'd ever seen.

Second Son and his godmother. He's enjoying his cookie.
I'm not certain where I first read about celebrating baptism anniversaries, but an online search recently found lots of other Catholic families doing the same. We've tended to have a small celebration as most of our baptisms closely follow the birthday. I think I might start inviting the child to select a fancy dinner to avoid making an elaborate dessert (not to mention the birthday cakes we've just finished off). Of course, Second Daughter would probably choose something mundane like hot dogs. I like the idea of offering a little prayer for the upcoming year as we each bless the child, too. Some other people online suggested attending daily mass and planning a mass intention for the child, which are also great ideas.

I almost didn't have a gift for Second Son this year. I thought he probably wouldn't mind too much, being only 1, but then I found a great deal on a book I've wanted for a while and it happened to arrive just a few hours before his dinner: Max and Benedict.

Happy baptism anniversary, Second Son! Many blessings in the coming year!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Answer: Uh Oh

Question: What is Second Son's first word?

Not Mama. Not Dada. Uh Oh.

Maybe it doesn't count. Is "uh oh" really a word?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Children's Book Review: The Matchlock Gun

The Matchlock GunThe Matchlock Gun by Walter D. Edmonds

This book is one I was considering as a read-aloud for next year to coincide with our study of early American history. It's based on the true tale of a ten year old boy who helps to defend his family when Indians raid while his father is away during the French and Indian War.

Studying any war requires a balance between understanding the struggles, fears and reasoning of the people who fought the war and realizing those same fears and reasons were not necessarily correct or may not be applicable any longer. Because this is a true story from the point of view of the colonial family, the Native Americans are depicted as terrifying and threatening, as indeed they were to settlers in that time. I think those views could be balanced for older children with discussions and additional books showing some of the atrocities committed by settlers.

Edward and his mother display tremendous courage during the attack. Edward, left alone in the house with his young sister and the matchlock gun (propped on a table because he could never lift it) also shows trust and instant obedience to his mother's instructions. Those qualities are wonderful to find in exciting stories such as this one.

However (Did you sense that coming?), I do not intend to read this to my children next year. I've mentioned before that death alone is no reason to avoid a book. Extreme violence is another matter. First of all, the Indians chase down Edward's mother, screaming a war cry, and strike her with a thrown tomahawk directly in front of him. She is still unconscious at the end of the book. Violent attacks on parents are reason for concern with my young children.

Secondly, and perhaps more disturbingly, Edward defends his home and family by firing the matchlock gun at his mother's command. The firing of the gun ends the attack but also kills three of the Indians. I can't say for certain how Edward felt about that, but I am not ready to consider the possibility of my son killing anyone. We are blessed to live in a time and place where such actions are unlikely but I want my children to recognize the face of God in all people, no matter the race or the crime. While First Son would be justified in killing people attacking our home in such a manner, I would expect him to be deeply saddened by such a need. This book, read at a young age, would not necessarily contribute to that goal.

I would consider this book as one for independent reading when he is older, perhaps ten (again, as part of a comprehensive history study of the time), but not in second grade. Perhaps others out there have read it with their children. Am I being too protective of him and the girls?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Love Is Digging through the Trash

Love is going out in the 103 degree heat, walking to the end of the driveway and digging through the trash to see if a little person had thrown away the Thirsties Duo Diaper. Unsuccessfully.

(The diaper was found. A little person had indeed taken it from the drying rack and tossed it, but into the cloth diaper pail, not the trash.)

Monday, August 1, 2011

July Book Report

Bambi by Felix Salten (requested from PaperBackSwap.com)

Red Sails to Capri by Ann Weil is a book that should not be out of print. Mater Amabilis recommends this book for our People and Places study in Level 1A. It's a mystery, both exciting and beautiful. I'm excited to read it with the children next year. (library copy)

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry would be an excellent book to read with younger children portraying the bravery of the Danes in aiding their Jewish friends and neighbors to escape Nazi soldiers during World War II.  Though there is death and fear, the horrors of the Holocaust are not portrayed or described. I'm going to make a note of this book as an option for a read-aloud when we study World War II in a few years. (I think this book would be acceptable for First Son next year, in second grade, but it will be better for the girls when they are a bit older. He'll be better prepared for it as well.) (library copy)

Happy Little Family (Fairchild Family Story) by Rebecca Caudill is a lovely little story I plan to read aloud next year, mainly for the girls. Little Bonnie is a sweet four year old who tries very hard to grow up like her older brother and sisters. She's a darling and I'm happy to introduce her to my children. (purchased used at Amazon.com)

Along Came a Dog by Meindert Dejong is the story of a friendship between a stray dog and a poor little red hen who has recently lost her toes. Told from the point of view of the animals, it is an insightful look into the lives of chickens (and dogs, I suppose). This is a distinct possibility for a read-aloud for us next year, though I fear the children might not find it very exciting. It is wonderfully written, though, and I think true-to-life-chicken books are rare. (library copy)

The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald is the sequel to The Princess and the Goblin. It takes place about a year after the first book, but covers much more serious themes. The king is surrounded by disingenuous advisers who are plotting to overthrow the kingdom. Curdie is sent on a quest by the princess with a faithful servant by his side to save the kingdom. While I think First Son might enjoy this book next year, as a second grader, I believe he'd gain more from it when he's a little older. Currently, I have this on the list for third grade. (free Kindle version)

Washington Square by Henry James seemed like the easiest to read of the James novels I've read, though perhaps I'm just getting used to his writing. Or maybe it's because it's quite a bit shorter. I enjoy his style quite a lot and think a novel of his may be useful for high school aged young women to read as a warning. All of his heroines seem to suffer much from poor decisions, many of which are warned against by male guardians or father figures. This book portrays a father who seeks to protect his daughter from an unworthy suitor (though not solely out of fatherly love). Catherine, who adores her father though she does not understand him, must choose between them. (free Kindle version)

The Giver by Lois Lowry (library copy)

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick (library copy)

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine is a retelling of many fairy tales in one (mainly Cinderella). An infant girl is given the gift of obedience by a fairy at her birth, but it's more like a curse. If someone gives an order, Ella has to follow it, even if the order is from an ogre who intends to eat her. She sets out on a quest to free herself of the curse and instead falls in love. The story was clever and seemed appropriate for readers a bit older than First Son. (It is a love story.) Though the writing isn't fantastic and God isn't mentioned at all, I think it could spark interesting discussions on the meaning of free will and why God does not demand our love or obedience. (received as a free book from Borders for their summer reading program)

Otto of the Silver Hand  by Howard Pyle is the story of Otto, who is raised by his great-uncle, the abbot of a monastery as his father, a robber baron of Germany in the time of armor and sword battles, seeks revenge for the death of his wife. Eventually, his father returns and joyfully brings him home where Otto learns much and is happy despite his father's violent lifestyle. Then, when his father is away, Otto is kidnapped and mutilated by yet another revengeful robber baron. Otto's rescue gives his father a chance to redeem himself. It's a thrilling tale, complete with sword fights, courage, sacrifice, loyalty and holiness. It's on our read-aloud list, though we may wait until First Son is in third grade because it is a little violent and both of Otto's parents suffer, in addition to poor Otto's injury. (free Kindle version)