Monday, March 28, 2011

Random Tip No. 15

If you are in the market for a new washing machine and think you might one day have a two year old, seek out one with a locking feature. You'll want it when your two year old decides to "help" with the laundry, turning it off, changing the settings, and restarting it at her discretion until you remember the locking feature and bless the wise washing machine engineers who probably had two year olds of their own.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Link to Pope Video

Back in January, I wrote a little review for a new children's book on the papacy: We Have a Pope. I've been meaning to add an update to that with a link to an episode of a Catholic TV show that shows Pope Benedict XVI and some of his daily activities in his own home. We only had to watch a little bit of it for the kids to get an idea of what a pope does all day.

I haven't watched other episodes of House+Home, but enjoyed this one. Go to to watch it yourself.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Book Review: The Worst Hard Time

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust BowlThe Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan

This is a enlightening book on a dark time on the Great Plains. Mr. Egan tells the story of life in the Dust Bowl through the lives of families, real people who suffered through the storms and graciously shared their stories.

Reading this book was particularly interesting as a Kansan (and a transplant from Illinois, where agriculture is just as integral but the soil is completely different). It was strange to find myself torn between aching for the families that failed and straggled away from the land (poor, hungry and dirty) and amazed at the hubris, greed and ignorance that caused the environment disaster that was the Dust Bowl. Many of the same struggles continue in modern agriculture; it's always beneficial to review our past. (In fact, Kansas still struggles with emptying rural counties and debating how to serve those communities best.)

I admit to relative ignorance myself on more modern history. As a child, I moved from state to state quite a bit and managed to duplicate American History up to the Civil War many times without learning much at all about what happened in our country beyond that conflict. It's a significant deficit in my education. I did not realize how horrible the dust storms were or that they were caused primarily by ripping up the native grasses to plant wheat, corn, alfalfa and oats. You can watch some pretty scary footage of these storms by searching online. There are plenty of sites with free videos (like the History Channel). The author of this book even makes appearances in some of them.

Sadly, the devastation of the agricultural misdirection of the few years before the Great Depression has still not been healed. A few areas of land were reseeded and hold just enough topsoil in place to avoid the most horrific of the dust storms, but times of drought still bring dust storms.

Mr. Egan is a journalist, not a historian. He interviewed people across the Dust Bowl and really tells their stories as a way to walk the reader through the worst times. This book is incredibly readable. I was enthralled by the people and families, anxious to learn what happened to them.

I did not receive anything for this review. I borrowed the book from my library. If you follow the link to Amazon and make a purchase, I receive a small commission. In theory.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Second Son Clapping

Here's Second Son showing off his new clapping skills on March 14th.

In case you're wondering, if he gets socks off his feet, he eats them. If he drops the sock, he goes on to chew on his toes.


Last night, I downloaded three month's worth of pictures from our camera to my computer. I haven't really looked through them yet, other than Second Son's eight month pictures I posted early today. I did, however, take the time to upload some videos.

Here's Second Son on February 28th.

Second Son at Eight Months

Yesterday, Second Son turned eight months old. Today, I'm writing this post reclining a bit with my laptop, watching the three older ones play in the front yard while Second Son naps in his crib. Three months ago, I'm pretty sure I thought this moment would never happen. So it's a good day on the Range.

Second Son wants to touch and grab everything. When he's being held, he loves to pull hair, explore the textures of cloth, and pull and chew on any strings or buttons we're wearing.

He's now content playing on the floor with some toys or the other kids for quite a while, which has done wonders for Mama's productivity and peace of mind. (At least now; he's not crawling yet.) His favorite toys are ones that make noise when he shakes them or make noise when he hits other toys with them. He also loves the toys that are almost but not quite out of reach. Stretch!

He still has no teeth, but he loves to eat. And eat. And eat some more. That boy can eat almost as much as Second Daughter at a meal. Perhaps more! His most recent new food is asparagus and he loved it. (What's not to love? It's like eating spring!) He's still not a great fan of chicken, but it's growing on him. I'm hoping to try some fish in the near future. I was getting a little lazy with trying new foods, but I'm inspired again.

Other than Cheerios, he doesn't really like anything that's not pureed. I've been giving him tiny pieces of bread, though, and I think chewing things is becoming less unpleasant for him.

He's starting to play games with us. He yells "Mbah!" to get our attention and laughs if we say it back to him. He'll clap to get us to sing Pat-a-Cake with him and laugh even before we get to the tickling part. He plays "So Big," too. I recorded this video last night.

His 12 month clothes just fit.'s not clear there's any room to grow.

He's sleeping so much better at night! He usually sleeps from about 8 pm to about 3:30 am, sometimes as long as 5 am. I still haven't had much luck with napping in the crib. I try to lay him down when I know he's tired once or twice a day. Sometimes he naps for 20-40 minutes. Sometimes he doesn't nap at all. He might nap better if I got up with him at 6:30 am, but who wants to do that?

He loves the dog. The dog loves him, too. Moses will lie down next to Second Son and let him grab his fur, leg, ear, nose, lips. I do not encourage this behavior (in either one). Moses will also bring his tennis balls to Second Son when he's sitting on the floor. He'll bring three or four before one of us notices and throws them for him, as much to keep Second Son from chewing on them as to entertain the dog.

Second Son is so much fun! The first six months were rough, not least because I was so sick starting when he turned five months old. I've always told friends with new babies, though, that it gets better and better. It's just as true with the fourth baby as with the first. We started to see real increases in Mama's peace at six months and it's getting easier every month. There's even more fun in store!

He's fussing now, at the end of his morning nap, with perfect timing. Ready to post!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Our 2010 Christmas Ornament

We're in the midst of Lent now, but I finally had a few moments to go through some pictures and found the ones of our annual Christmas ornament for 2010. This year, I happened across a book at the library. First Son was so excited by it that I let him choose the ornament for the year -- cinnamon gingerbread men.

I traced the men (yes, all men; I didn't even think of making some of them women until I wrote this post) onto cardboard. I save the rectangles of cardboard in our Amazon boxes. They always come in handy. Kansas Dad had to help cut them out for me because my hand ached too much before I finished.

I let the kids "paint" them with glue and sprinkle cinnamon on top. The book instructed us to let them dry completely before shaking off the extra cinnamon, but I shook a few while the glue was still wet and think they turned out much smoother.

I didn't get a great picture of the kids decorating them, but we had a blast. In fact, I think this was one of the best ornaments yet. They were so creative! I dumped out a box of fabric, yarn, sequins, stickers, ribbons, and bits of interesting papers for them to rifle through and they were cutting and pasting all on their own. They wore themselves out before we finished enough for us, our parish priest, grandparents, aunts, uncles and (this year, for the first time) godparents, so I had to finish one or two myself. It was definitely the best ornament experience yet, though.

Here's my favorite one by Second Daughter. I think she only made two.

First Daughter loved this activity. Here are a couple of the ones she made.

First Son became so attached to his gingerbread men, he didn't want to give any away! (We only keep one.) Among others, he made a Sumo wrestler (with a red nose).

I did an online search for cinnamon ornaments and most of the results involved making a dough with cinnamon and applesauce. Sounds interesting for a future year.

This particular ornament was very economical to make. I did buy the sequins because they looked fun and we didn't have any, but everything else was from our stock of craft supplies. The cinnamon was probably the most expensive item, but you only need a few sprinkles of it for each little gingerbread man.

Christmas Ornaments Kids Can MakeChristmas Ornaments Kids Can Make by Kathy Ross is the book we found at the library. I liked this ornament, but I'm not sure we'd select any of the others.

Inheriting a Super-Power

Second Daughter has inherited my super-power. First Son can't do it. First Daughter can't do it.

Kansas Dad will be looking for something, "encouraging" the children to help him find it. Second Daughter will be hanging out, reading or rocking a baby and will pipe up.

"Where is the Wii remote? Come on, guys, we have to find it. What did you do with it?"
Second Daughter: "It's behind the TV."

"Second Daughter, I don't know where the flashlight is. We'll have to look for it tomorrow."
Second Daughter: "It's on the ledge by the kitchen."

"First Son, I don't know where Mr. Giraffe is."
Second Daughter: "He's in the animal bin in the diving room." (That would be our living room. We don't have a dining room.)

Of course, Second Daughter has an extra advantage in her super-power...because she's often the one who has carried something off and left it somewhere odd.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Am I Famous?

Google "Kansas Mom" and you find this blog. It's not really surprising, since "Kansas Mom" appears on every page and every post.

But I still think it's cool.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hands Free Napping

Today, for the first time in his life, Second Son took a nap in his crib.

He was awake when I laid him down. He only slept for about 30 minutes, but it was enough time for me to start a load of laundry and a loaf of bread in the bread machine.

Oh, how I want him to nap in his crib! I'm finally starting to feel like I have a grasp of my day. Meals, school, dishes,'s all getting done. The living room usually looks decent when Kansas Dad gets home and every now and then I have dinner going. I find, though, that I am completely exhausted every night. Even though Second Son is sleeping well in his crib starting at about 8 pm, I haven't the energy to tackle anything substantial on my List.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Quote: Tanglewood Tales

Nathaniel Hawthorne in Tanglewood Tales, Illustrated Edition (Yesterday's Classics):
Their stock of provisions was quite exhausted, and even the shell-fish began to get scarce, so that they had now to choose between starving to death or venturing into the interior of the island, where, perhaps, some huge three-headed dragon, or other horrible monster, had his den. Such misshapen creatures were very numerous in those days; and nobody ever expected to make a voyage, or take a journey, without running more or less risk of being devoured by them.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Getting Prepared

It seems I have officially committed to another year of homeschooling. I purchased a used set of Saxon Math 2 this weekend. I also bought the second volume of our history course, so I can seek out the best deals on our supplemental and literature selections.

It's not too soon to be planning for next year, is it?

Random Tip No. 14

If you take the time to print out the Stations of the Cross from Lent and Easter in the Domestic Church, have the kids color them (even Second Daughter!), cut them out, laminate them, cut them out again, and hang them on the walls so you can say the Stations of the Cross every Friday at home with the kids (using The Way of the Cross for Children (Package of 10)), be sure to write the correct number of each station.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Deep Sleep

Last night, Second Son nursed around 8 pm, settled down in his crib around 8:30 pm (with about two minutes of fussing) and then slept until...5:15 am!! (Okay, he fussed a little at 10 pm and 11 pm, but only for a couple of minutes each time.)

That's almost nine hours. Not that I was asleep the whole time, of course.

I figured I should post it on the blog because it might be another seven months before he sleeps so long in one stretch again.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Put Your Hands Together!

Second Son can clap! Kansas Dad thought he saw him clapping on Wednesday but I didn't notice it until yesterday. He's so funny about it. As long as he's chatting with himself and playing, he will clap occasionally. As soon as someone draws attention to it by cheering or clapping for him, he literally stops what he's doing and looks at said person as if to say, "I have no idea what you are doing."

I tried to get him on video, but every time I turned the camera on while he was clapping, I got the look or he grinned. Either way, he stopped clapping.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Catholic Company Review: The Virtues

The Virtues by Pope Benedict XVI

In this book, the editors selected quotations from Pope Benedict's homilies, addresses and encyclicals on the theological virtues (faith, hope and love) and the cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance). Most of the excerpts are a few paragraphs, few longer than a page, so it's perfect to pick up and read when you have just a few moments.

I read this book over a relatively long period of time, giving myself a chance to really consider the passages. I think the editors did an excellent job choosing the quotations, though I'm guessing much of what the pope says is worth reading.

Love for the poor and the divine liturgy go hand in hand, love for the poor is liturgy. The two horizons are present in every liturgy that is celebrated and experienced in the Church which, by her nature, is opposed to any separation between worship and life, between faith and works, between prayer and charity for the brethren.
The source for each quote is included at the end of the quotation. When appropriate, references are made within the quotations as well -- to the Catechism, previous encyclicals, Bible verses and works by the saints.

I did notice one error. I happened to note one paragraph in particular I liked...and was surprised to find it again, in its entirety, four pages later.
The religious sense planted within the human heart opens men and women to God and leads them to discover that personal fulfillment does not consist in the selfish gratification of ephemeral desires. Rather, it lead us to meet the needs of others and to search for concrete ways to contribute to the common good. Religions have a special role in this regard, for they teach people that authentic service requires sacrifice and self-discipline, which in turn must be cultivated through self-denial, temperance, and a moderate use of the world's goods. In this way, men and women are led to regard the environment as a marvel to be pondered and respected rather than a commodity for mere consumption.
If I had a guest room, this is the kind of book I'd like to leave on the bedside table. Something uplifting and
encouraging. Someone can pick it up, read a few pages, and find something profound to contemplate.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. I did not receive anything for this review, but I did receive a free copy of the book. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on The Virtues . They are also a great source for serenity prayer and baptism gifts.

Monday, March 7, 2011


We will go a whole day here on the Range...and no one will cry.

No one.


Random Tip No. 13

Baking and cooking are good preparation for chemistry.

It's important to read ahead so you know if you are supposed to reserve a liquid before you pour it down the sink.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Very Best Baby Spoons

Munchkin Soft-Tip Infant Spoon - 6 Pack, Colors May VaryMunchkin Soft-Tip Infant Spoons are the best. Nice and long. Soft for baby's gummy mouth. Perfectly sized scoops. All of our other baby spoons are relegated to toys. Second Son plays with them while I feed him with these.

Friday, March 4, 2011

February Book and Movie Report

Hand that Rocks the Cradle by Nathaniel Bluedorn

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson contains a novella (I Am Legend) and a bunch of short stories. When I first started reading it I thought I might have nightmares from the vampires but I persevered and after the first few scenes the attacks are not as frightening. Many of the stories were a bit more physically violent than I usually read, and certainly not appropriate for children, but they were often intelligent. The novella, by the way, is very different from the recent movie.

Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo by Ted Lawson is the tale of his experiences as one of the pilots sent to bomb Tokyo on the Dolittle Raid after Pearl Harbor was bombed. It was enthralling and I tore through the book in two days. A young man (though one old enough to engage in conversations of the reality of war) would thoroughly enjoy this book as a part of a history study of WWII. It was written during the war, so the Japanese and Germans are identified plainly and bluntly as enemies of all Americans. The Chinese and many missionaries in China are repeatedly praised. It's been made into a movie, but I haven't seen it.

The Swiss Family Robinson (Signet Classics)  by J. D. Wyss is, of course, the story of a family shipwrecked on an island and forced to survive in relative paradise but isolation for over ten years. I was amazed at how quickly I read and how interested I was to see what would happen next because the writing itself was a bit ponderous. Though their knowledge of natural history and "modern" (early 1800s) industrial techniques vastly improves their quality of life, a good bit of it is not really accurate. It should also be noted that this is some sort of enchanted island that contains kangaroos, penguins, lions, tigers, ostriches, and elephants, among other animals. It may also be disturbing to contemporary readers that upon nearly ever encounter with a newly discovered animal, they shoot one or two.

A Wonder-Book for Boys and Girls  by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a collection of classic myths retold for children. They were wonderful and I'm considering reading them with the kids next year. I'm currently reading the second volume, Tanglewood Tales.

We also saw a few movies recently that were interesting enough for me to want to share.

Food, Inc.Food, Inc. - We actually watched this in January. It's not a objective documentary, but a movie with an agenda. I can't say whether all they claim is true. (I'd like to know what some of our friends with big commercial farms think.) If even a part of it is true, though, it should change how you think about food. We already eat very few processed foods, try to have a large garden and raise our own eggs, but this movie made me want to do even more. It's available to watch instantly at Netflix.

The Karate Kid (the new movie) was surprisingly good. We enjoyed it immensely. Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan were fun to watch as a team. I loved some of young Smith's expressions. I have to admit I couldn't help thinking about my children facing bullies and how complicated and difficult that can be. Hopefully they'll be much older before we have to deal with it. There was also one scene where the two children kiss. (They're only twelve.) It didn't seem crucial to the plot and I think the movie would have been better without it.

BabiesBabies - Have you seen this movie? I loved watching these babies grew up and was fascinated by what was shown. It's also not an objective documentary. In my case, it generated more questions about how other cultures raise children than it answered. I am also sure I would never let them come and film my children or my house! The babies are adorable and many of their facial expressions are universal. Even Kansas Dad seemed to enjoy the bits and pieces he saw as he was being productive around the house while I held the sick baby and watched. This one is also available to watch instantly on Netflix.

Second Son's Seven Months Post

So I've been telling myself I'd get some pictures off the camera for this post, but...well, to be honest, the number of pictures on the camera seems a little overwhelming. I haven't downloaded them since Christmas. Plus, Kansas Dad just got a new laptop so I may be inheriting his old one and perhaps I want to wait and just put them on it instead of the even older desktop...

Regardless, I think it's time to publish this post without pictures. I can always post those later.

So here's a little about Second Son at seven months (which was back on February 23rd):

He loves to drink water from a cup. Someone has to hold it for him, but he does try to grab it and pull it toward his mouth.

He has no teeth.

He loves eating solid food. He has tried rice cereal, banana, oatmeal, sweet potato, barley, peas, butternut squash, apple, wheat cereal, green beans and chicken. He didn't much care for the banana or the apple the first few times. The sweet potato and the butternut squash were hits. All the cereals were accepted as well. He eats and eats and eats...I'm not sure I've seen him refuse a spoonful of food. Eventually we cut him off because we're afraid too much (as in more than three bowls in one meal!) will upset his stomach. He started gumming some Cheerios just a week before he turned seven months. What a delight that is for Mama! I can stuff two Cheerios in his mouth and take a bite of my own food before he starts to fuss for more.

The kids invented a game to entertain him. It's called "Coconut." It's a one player game (with everyone else in the audience). The player places one of Second Son's stacking cups in a toy skillet, tosses it into the air and attempts to catch it in the skillet. It's more difficult than it seems since the cup nearly always bounces out when it lands. If the player misses, he or she yells "Oh, coconut!" and gets another turn. Second Son and other audience members collapse in giggles.

Second Son stopped wearing his Woombie, right at six months.

He does not like baths. Not even a tiny bit. Not in the infant bathtub, not in the big bathtub alone, not in the big  bathtub with one or more siblings. He doesn't like sitting in water, splashing in the water or putting his hands in water streaming from the faucet. Apparently, water is bad.

His favorite songs are You Are My Sunshine, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, The Wheels on the Bus and Pat-a-Cake. He will often smile or laugh in anticipation of tickles he knows are coming.

I think he likes to knock down towers. He's quite serious about it, as if he knows it is a great responsibility and one that is his and his alone. We will build a tower for him. When he spots it, he'll pause his other play, reach out to knock it over, look up at us and then continue his previous playing without smiling.

He will only nap if he's being held. We're working on sleeping in his crib at night. Once he's mastered that (for at least a few hours), we'll tackle nap time. Mama could stand a little increase in her productivity.

You deserve some pictures because he is scrumptious, if I do say so myself. Perhaps this weekend...