Saturday, November 29, 2014

Don't Despair that Advent is Near!

Advent begins tomorrow and the blogs are all abuzz with the books they're going to read and the fun they're going to have. I posted our Advent chain earlier this year and updated it today to fix the day it cut off Mary's name. It's purposely simple and written with the family of young children in mind. Or you could just light a candle at dinner during Advent. Little ones adore candles and you probably have a few hidden away in drawers or cupboards. Light them! (Actually, First Son was terrified of candles, so he was five or six before we dared to light any in his presence, but I think he's the exception.)

We'll be reading a picture-book-a-day again, like many others. I love this tradition and spent a few hours yesterday selecting our books. This is what happens when you've spent four years collecting Christmas and Advent books. I had to struggle not to find books for each day but to choose only a few! I used to have more than one on some days and to fill the days between Christmas and Epiphany, but have learned that less is better. It's easier for Mama and the children are just as pleased. (The idea is to be joyfully anticipating the birth, not running frantic and yelling at the kids to be quiet while you read another book.) So we'll read one a day, have plenty of funny-and-not-too-serious books, and finish on Christmas Eve.

With that caveat, I wanted to remind you of the lists of picture books we're read in the past.

Here's a link to the Twelve Christmas Books I'd Take Into the Wilderness.

This post of the new and noteworthy books of 2012 has links to all the others.

I didn't post about our 2013 Advent books because...well, I don't know why. I've started a post combining them with our 2014 books that'll show up sometime. In the meantime, here's a sneak peak of one of my favorites from 2012.

I'm not sure about your library, but I've noticed the big library near us still has many of these books available. There's enough time to choose a handful of books from the library and snuggle on the sofa by the Christmas tree. That's all you need.

May you have a blessed Advent!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Second Daughter's Camera Skills

Second Daughter loves to make movies with her camera. They range from a few seconds of spinning to five minutes of wandering the house and describing every room and person. Here is one she filmed in October that shows pretty much what life is like here on the Range.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Birthday Post: First Daughter Is Eight!

A few months ago, First Daughter turned eight. We called her Baby Girl for years, but she's no baby anymore. She's a smart, sassy girl.

She has her head in a book more often than not. She especially loves the Little House books. She has read and re-read my old copies so many times they are nearly disintegrating. She also reads The Boxcar Children books to Second Daughter in bed after lights-out. We pretend we don't notice for the time it takes to read a chapter.

It's quite nice, really, how much she reads. There are lots of books I read aloud to First Son in second grade that she reads independently. More time for Mama to kick back with a cup of tea...or something.

She loves school. She loves to work independently and she loves to surprise me by reading more than her assigned chapter or two in her independent reading book. She was a little upset when we started a new math curriculum this year, not because she didn't like it more than the old one, but because she could no longer say she was a year ahead in math. She started in the first book just like Second Daughter. Now she's in the fifth book (and Second Daughter is barely starting the second) and she loves it. Her favorite books so far have been for the People and Places studies: The Children of Noisy Village and Red Sails to Capri. She is also thrilled with her piano lessons, though sometimes I think she's more excited about moving through the book than actually learning to play the piano.

First Daughter loves to bake and cook. She can heat up tomato soup for lunch. She also makes baked blueberry oatmeal, crusty bread, bread in the bread machine, just about any kind of muffin, and lots of cookies. She wanted peanut butter cookies recently and did all of the shaping and pressing. Recently, she has been a great help in the kitchen for me. When I baked, scraped, and pureed eight pumpkins, she scraped at least a third of them. I'm not sure my poor hands could have finished without her.

Of course, Kansas Dad made the traditional pancake-bigger-than-her-head on her birthday for breakfast. We ate her birthday dinner on the china plates which she absolutely loved. She asks to get them out pretty regularly now when she thinks we're having a special occasion, but I'm not quite brave enough to make it a regular occurrence.

She loves her long hair and refuses to wear it in a ponytail. So it's quite tangled on a regular basis. She would probably let me French braid it every day if I had the patience to learn how to do that sort of thing. I let her practice braiding my hair every so often.

Her favorite kind of play involves stories. She loves Playmobil and baby dolls with Second Daughter and Ninjago or Star Wars or Chima with First Son. As long as there's a lot of talking and running around, she's happy. She and Second Daughter will set up an elaborate world of Playmobil houses nestled around the tracks of the train.

She loves when toddlers come to our house. She follows them around to make sure they are properly entertained and protected.

Of course she had a Frozen themed birthday party. I made an angel food cake (it's white!) and cake pops. She really wanted cake pops and I really wanted them frosted white to look like snowballs. They were a mixed success, but First Daughter was oblivious. She thought they were perfect. She decorated the windows with paper icicles and prepared multiple games like pin the nose on Olaf and Frozen freeze tag in which one girl was Elsa and froze everyone while another was Anna and unfroze them.

For her birthday, Grammy and Paw Paw bought her an American Girl doll. She is very careful with Bernadette and dresses her most mornings for the day and then for bed in the evenings.

For her baptismal anniversary, she wanted something French, in honor of St. Therese, her favorite saint and because her baptismal anniversary is also St. Therese's feast day. We discussed different French options but Kansas Dad decided in the end to make crepes (served on the china plates, of course). These were a huge success with the children in no small part due to the Nutella, strawberry sauce, chocolate sauce, salted caramel sauce, and whipped cream Kansas Dad presented to accompany them. (Second Son talked about them for weeks and has already asked for them for his "uptisal" anniversary.)

You're allowed whipped cream sprayed directly into your mouth on your baptismal anniversary.

First Daughter still loves soccer. Kansas Dad had a big plan to switch to taekwondo and not sign up for soccer this fall, but when I talked with her about it, she cried. Small little tears as she said she wanted to play soccer but she didn't want First Son to not be able to do taekwondo because she preferred soccer. So of course we dropped everything we were doing and rushed into town to sign her up at the last opportunity.

She loves being out and about, with other kids or complete strangers. She can talk to anyone. We have to be careful what we say around her, though, because she likes to repeat what she hears adults saying. I think she thinks it makes her seem more grown up. (Silly girl! We don't want you to grow up!)

For Halloween, she was Zita the Spacegirl, ready to jump to the defense of every creature weaker than herself. She's the child most likely to help clean or to take on an extra chore. She's always the first child to volunteer to have the smallest piece or to forgo a food if there's only enough for three. It's tremendously sweet but I try to keep First Son from taking too much advantage of her.

Kansas Dad pointed out recently that she's really like a first child in her personality, and I think he's right. Either because First Son is a boy or because there's nearly three years between them, or just because she's got the helpful gene.

She's preparing for her First Reconciliation now and will soon be in the midst of First Communion preparation. She loves knowing all the answers and I hope she's learning a bit of the love of God, too.

May God bless you, Baby Girl!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dressing Up for All Saints and Halloween

It's a month past Halloween and I'm just now getting to the pictures. The blog wouldn't be complete without a record of our costumes for the All Saints party at our parish and Halloween.

Here we have St. Michael the Archangel, St. Bernadette (before she joined the convent), St. Elizabeth of Hungary (with a crown made by Second Daughter based on St. Elizabeth's card in the Happy Saints A to Z cards (not an affiliate link) and a basket of homemade rolls), and St. Bruno. It was St. Bruno's second appearance in as many years, but I was pleased to use the Sculpey skull I made last year again. I had to miss the party this year as I wasn't feeling well, but the children assured me it was better than ever. Some very generous members of our parish made magnificent games and lots and lots of cookies.

For Halloween, we had an interesting assortment of personages. Second Son wanted to be Simba, and not just any lion but Simba the baby lion without a mane. We searched high and low for a costume without success but a mom from our homeschool group came to my rescue. She had one in his size from a previous Halloween and let us borrow it.

Second Daughter decided she wanted to be a tribble after watching The Trouble with Tribbles, arguably the best original Star Trek episode and the only one the children had seen. I debated a long time about how to manage such a costume without any sewing but with inspiration from my dad and my mom ended up with a furry throw blanket wrapped and clipped with big gripping clips the kids received in their stockings one year for making tents and forts in the house.

First Daughter is Zita the Spacegirl from the wonderful trilogy. First Son is Tintin. Their costumes are a combination of items we found in a single massive shopping trip at Goodwill. Recognize First Daughter's skirt? Second Son is wearing it as a cassock in the All Saints picture above.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Advent 2014 Activity Chain

It's more than a week away, so there's plenty of time to print out this easy activity chain. I just modified a few of the activities from last year (a post that has some pictures of the chain). This year, I intend to have my kids cut the activity sheets, tape them onto the purple and pink strips, and make the chain. (They won't be surprised by the activities this way, but most of them are traditions now.) I think we'll also share some with friends.

Here's our list in case you'd like to use it yourself or just modify it a little.

Make sure you have some Advent candles and you're all set! If you'd like to read more on our Advent activities, this post on what we did in 2012 is pretty thorough. It'll be a similar Advent this year.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Love Is...Washing the Dog Outside in the Cold Dark Night

The bad news is...we have a skunk living under our shed.

The worse news is...our dog discovered the intruder.

Kansas Dad is my hero.

(Love is also disposing of said intruder, just not tonight.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Second Daughter Is Reading

Second Daughter has discovered the joys of reading. She read Have You Seen My New Blue Socks? to me a few nights ago...twice. Then she read it again. And again. And again.

It's amazing to witness that light bulb moment, when kids realize the letters on the page can all be sounded out and that it's fun.

We just need a few more books from the library...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thumbs Are Awesome

This picture is from September, when First Son read in Blood and Guts about the importance of the opposable thumb. One of the activities recommended was taping your thumb to your other fingers and trying to do all your normal activities for an hour. First Daughter and Second Daughter thought this looked like so much fun they couldn't be excluded.

If nothing else, this school year my children learned thumbs are awesome.

* If you want to try this yourself, athletic tape worked the best. We tried two or three other kinds before hitting on one that actually held.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

October 2014 Book Reports

The Postman by David Brin started out really well. I was most interested in how the main characters actions seemed to be bringing about the kind of world he sought despite his recognition of it, but the last third took a different direction and I think the book suffered because of it. Apparently, it's a movie, too, but I haven't seen it. (library copy)

Kiln People also by David Brin was much more interesting. In addition to being fun and exciting, it raises questions about what it means to be human. I might have read more by the author after this book, but I had the chance to hear him speak and found him so obnoxious I decided against it. (library copy)

My Sister the Saints by Colleen Carroll Campbell (review copy from Blogging for Books)

UnDivided by Neal Shusterman (library copy)

These Beautiful Bones by Emily Stimpson (Kansas Dad's university library copy)

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift is a book I had never read, and now I have. Some of it was fun and much of it was...long. But now I know what a yahoo is. (purchased copy)

The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma was the inspiration for one of the Read-Aloud Revival podcasts at Amongst Lovely Things. I loved the podcast and immediately requested the book. The book is a memoir of her childhood so it is about more than just the reading she and her father did together or even the direct effect of the reading promise on her life. It was a sweet memoir, but I thought the best parts were the ones that most concerned the reading. (library copy)

The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough is a book I couldn't put down. I literally read it in a couple of days, mostly in a few hours of straight reading in the evenings. It's fast-paced and fascinating. I didn't know much about the flood before I read the book but was constantly comparing it to recent events, how people survive and overcome tragedy, how corporations behave (in good and bad ways), and how people are held responsible. Most of all, I thought of how we should all pay attention to credibility and expertise of the "experts" who are telling us everything is fine (or not so fine). Kansas Dad thought it looked depressing, and it was sad in parts, but I felt in some way that the people who spoke with the author wanted to tell their tales and want them to be remembered. The author has some problems with other books, but as far as I can tell this book is reliable. (library copy)

Books in Progress (and date started)
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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Book Review: Draw-a-Saurus

Draw-a-Saurus by James Silvani

First Son saw this book over my shoulder as I was glancing through books available at Blogging for Books and excitedly asked for it.

Mr. Silvani gives detailed instructions on drawing many different kinds of dinosaurs, using the fossil evidence to shape and color them. There are chapters on theropods, sauropods, armored dinosaurs, ornithopods, and other prehistoric creations. He includes chapters on fine tuning, interpretations, and environments as well. This book includes standard scientific information on dinosaurs and would probably not be appropriate for a family that does not believe in evolution over millions of years.

There's information on dinosaurs throughout, the most valuable of which is related directly to the final details of a dinosaur drawing: the skin or feathers. Any young dinosaur enthusiast may know more about dinosaurs, but may not have considered how that knowledge would impact a drawing.

By far the best part of the book are the little jokes scattered throughout. First Son, who is almost 11, laughed and giggled the whole way through. He especially likes the interjections by the "editor."

First Son immediately put the book to use, sketching dinosaurs using the techniques in the book. He's made many a dinosaur drawing (here are some done when he was six), but these did seem to be more an attempt to draw realistic dinosaurs. He also took the book to a friend's house and they enjoyed drawing together (after giggling some more at the jokes).

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are my own.