Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Our 2014-15 School Year Plans

We have begun the school year!  I have both a first and fourth grader this year.  My philosophy on education is that we use plenty of good, real books - not textbooks! - and learn about real things around us, making sure to get the kids outside each day that is possible... and having relatively short lessons makes time for that.  Here is what we are doing this year and a bit about how it is going so far...

Morning Basket
(note: it does not all fit in the basket!  Shh, don't tell anyone!)

This used to be our "Circle Time," and it has evolved to remain as a whole-family together time while not merely being about the calendar and singing seasonal songs (although we still do that for the youngers!).  Now it also includes more meat... read-alouds from different books daily, picture and composer study, and poetry and Shakespeare memorization.

Here's our Morning Basket daily schedule:

Circle Time/Morning Basket 2014-15

First and Fourth Grades


* Recite Monthly Prayer

* Sing Hymn (at least 3x/week)

* Calendar/Vestments on priest – Cecilia; Caroline does finger plays with Lucy
* Caroline: Problem of the Day (math word problem)

* CCL: Time/amount of day, word families, counting patterns, odd/even numbers at easel

* Read about saint of the day; oral narration (alternate between the girls): Saints for Young Readers for Every Day Volumes One and Two

* Poetry reading/recitation; Shakespeare quotes

Our calendar with saint magnets to mark feast days


* A Nest for Celeste, oral narration (alternate)

* Burgess Bird Book for Children, separate written narrations (I write Cecilia’s)

++after Nest for Celeste is finished, we will read from various other bird books like Bird Watchers and Feeders, etc.++
* Peterson Field Guide Birds coloring book


* Among the People (start with Pond, then move on to Forest); oral narration (alternate)

* Composer Study (bios, listen to specific pieces, draw the song: Handel, Beethoven, Wagner)

* Life of Fred - one lesson, each girl in own book; written 'Your Turn to Play' in notebooks


* Catholic Mosaic/liturgical year story; oral narration (alternate)

* Picture Study; oral narration, sketch from memory on easel (alternate girls wkly.) - Giotto, Michelangelo, Raphael

* Nature Walk in yard: find one thing for Nature Calendar of Firsts, collect specimens/photos for later work in Nature Notebooks

Last week, we studied our first Giotto painting... after looking closely and making observations, the girls close their eyes and visualize the painting, then try to recall everything they can.  Caroline made a rough outline sketch from memory on the easel and then I put the painting up next to it.


* Among the People (start with Pond, then move on to Forest); oral narration (alternate)

* Plutarch’s Lives of the Greeks; written narration from Caroline

* Once Upon a Time Saints for Cecilia only; oral narration (transcribed by me)


* Handbook of Nature Study (girls choose one relevant topic to read about each week)

The girls in the mirror above their watercolor crayon project from Artistic Pursuits
Each day the girls also have independent "morning work," which consists of things they can do on their own.  Cecilia's includes hands-on manipulative type materials such as puzzles, which she can do along with Lucy.  On Fridays, they listen to prayers in Latin on a CD so they can begin to learn some of them.  The guy reading the prayers sounds like he is about to fall asleep whenever he says, "Amen," but hey, it was a free CD.

Caroline's Stuff

Caroline's major topics in 4th grade are Ancient Greece and British History.  She is also beginning some study of Shakespeare this year for the first time, which she LOVES (ask her to quote from Midsummer Night's Dream if you want proof! ;).  She is continuing with Math U See (Delta) as well as doing Life of Fred for math.  She whizzed through the younger LoF books late last year and is picking up with the Honey book to start off this year.  These books are so hilarious, in a really odd way.  It's learning math concepts through a story.  A story for nerdy people.  Perfect.  For instance, an excerpt from the third book in which place value is being taught: "Fred turned to the nurse who had just finished stacking up 324 boxes.  He asked her what she thought about stacking up 5,367,948 boxes in the hallway outside his classroom.  She laughed and left the room."  Earlier in the book, Fred gets a cat scratch on his nose and consults his alphabetized bookshelf to find out what he should do, and he finds these titles: "Castanets for Everyday Use, Casual Pizza Restaurants, Cat Scratches: What to Do, and Cattleman: What it Takes to Be One."  My kids love these books so far.

Here are the books Caroline will be using throughout this year:
* Famous Men of Greece
* The Children's Homer
* Archimedes and the Door of Science
* Science in Ancient Greece
* D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths
* Tales from Shakespeare
* How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare
* Children's Encyclopedia of British History
* Our Island Story
* Augustine Came to Kent
* Beorn the Proud
* If All the Swords in England
* Castle Diary
* Our Island Saints
* 57 Stories of Saints
* St. Jude, Friend in Hard Times
* Simply Grammar
* Intermediate Language Lessons
* Faith and Life 4
* St. Joseph's Baltimore Catechism No. 1
* Paddle to the Sea
* Seabird
* Maps, Charts, and Graphs D

She is also using a neat science kit on light, and she is continuing with her recorder using the nine-note recorder book.

There are some other chapter books she will read this year set in South America, and she will begin studying the countries there on maps.  She will also continue exploring the United States - learning capitals, locations of states, general information about the states, and doing a project/report on one specific state of her choosing.  I have tons of fun puzzles, kids' atlases, games, etc. for learning about the states, and once a week she will select something to work with from the crate full of this stuff.

Doing a states puzzle with Lucy

Cecilia's Stuff

Cecilia will be using these books this year:
* New Catholic Picture Bible
* Little Angel Readers A and B
* The Earth (water section)... and this is hilarious, but this book costs $260 now used on Amazon.  I, of course, paid much, much, much less than this a few years ago!
* Math U See Alpha
* Draw Write Now (water animals)
* First Timeline and corresponding booklist
* Aesop's Fables
* This is Our Family
* St. Joseph's First Communion Catechism
* other books all mentioned in morning basket plans

Cecilia works with "Decimal Street" for a Math U See lesson

She is also excited to be starting a journal this year where she can write and draw about whatever topics she chooses.  She is making a book about Rivers, Lakes, and Oceans in which she will draw or put photos of visits to a local stream/pond area plus things such as drawings of the water cycle as she understands it, water-related experiments, etc.  Another fun thing she is doing is Family Geography - learning about her parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents and where they lived.  This maps maps relevant to her life as she begins to grasp the idea of what the United States looks like and where we are in the world.  She is making a book for this with her family tree, old photos of family members at their homes or in their hometowns, recipes from family members or regions they were from, saints who lived in those areas, etc.  Google Earth has made this so cool... we were able to find the house where my mom first lived as a baby, just for maybe a year, and compare the street view to an old photo of my mom outside the house with her mother... it had the same awnings over the windows!!!  My dad recently showed me the lot where his father's childhood home was in Superior, WI and the bar his uncle owned around the corner, the church near their house where they went, etc.

She will also be hearing several picture books... each week she will hear at least one from Catholic Mosaic related to a saint whose feast day is celebrated that month, as well as the First Timeline books - lots of good ones there.

Some of our liturgical year and first timeline books, plus a story about Handel, our composer for the first term.  Yay for interlibrary loans!

So, we have completed a little over a week, officially.  I have to keep days marked off for attendance-reporting purposes, but other than that, we are pretty free to school as we wish here in Georgia.  That means a day in the field of nature study plus a book on CD on the car ride home are a school day.  I know all the books listed above look like a lot... but the great thing is that every lesson takes anywhere from 5-30 minutes.  We might read just a short chapter at a time and stretch a book over an entire year.  For Cecilia, her first grade lessons are no more than about 20ish minutes for each different book or topic.  Now, she will spend another half hour illustrating her Old Testament story, but that is fine - her own interest is leading that.  By having short but focused lessons, it leaves them with plenty of free time - all afternoon, pretty much, after a bit of book work right after lunch when Lucy is napping/resting (meaning I can work with the older two relatively undisturbed!)... and they can explore their own interests further, draw, write, play outside, read whatever other books they want, create things using art materials and such...

illustrating Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden

Lucy tries out the watercolor crayons while the older girls do an Artistic pursuits lesson

Fridays are "fun days," I say... they have fewer lessons in books and get to do an art project that day, plus we try to have "tea time" when we can, where they have a fun snack and tea, and they listen to me read a book aloud.  last year, we read the entire Catholic Treasure Box Book series.  This year we have started with The Seven Little Sisters Who Live on the Round Ball that Floats in the Air

Tea Time last Friday, celebrating the Feast of the Queenship of Mary with a "crown cake," aka apple butter cake made in a cathedral cake pan that was Almost a Big Mistake (see explanation of random caps further below in this post).

So here is a bit of what we have done so far...

This is one of Caroline's language lessons.  Her sense of humor shines through in her work so far... wonder if this would be frowned upon were she in school?  Note what she has written in #3.  We had just read and listened to Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne on CD:

Caroline picks up on the humor and other interesting quirks about author's writing styles now that she is older and rereading books that she had read aloud to her in previous years.

This one is her retelling of the story of Saints Joachim and Anne, Mary's parents.  She adopted Milne's writing style in her own writing, as well as her own quirkiness in her description of Joachim's age and what the temple leaders may have thought about him:

"Not Having Any Children at the age of Probably Past Thirty," "Ponder About This," and "What Had Happened to Joachim"

Greek history narration of The Children's Homer... and here she includes pronunciation keys to say the Greek names, as well as writing a forward which you should "keep in mind" as you read the rest of the book...  She also adds footnotes to her own writing and references previous things she has written or defines terms that may be unfamiliar.  Like I said, quirky.  How did she get this way??  I'm going to guess genetics/personality plus tons of reading of good literature.  She is very self-motivated when it comes to reading and breezes through books every time we get some at the library.
Caroline has a notebook in which to keep all her written narrations.

This is one thing I am most excited about:
We got a set of maps that go with the books Paddle to the Sea and Seabird and some lesson ideas for using them.  These books by Holling C. Holling are fabulous... they teach science concepts and geography in a way that is not at all boring, but instead through engaging stories.  We are reading Paddle to the Sea first.  In it, a boy living by a small lake in Canada just north of Lake Superior carves a wooden canoe which he sets in the melting snow.  He knows that the Great Lakes flow into each other, "like great bowls set into a hillside," and wants his canoe to flow all the way down into his lake, through all the Great lakes, and eventually into the ocean.  So by reading this book, we follow the canoe and learn all the states, cities, lakes, rivers, and other geography along the way.  Just by reading the book and coloring/labeling the map, we will learn the Great Lakes region.  Another of Holling's books will take us down the Mississippi River.  So cool!  After reading the first few pages, this is what Caroline did on the map.  In the top left corner, you can see the small lake, Lake Nipigon.  Then she found Canada's border and labeled it and colored it.  For some reason she got carried away and randomly labeled and colored Maine, even though the canoe has gone nowhere near that far yet, ha ha.

Caroline decided that all our Mary statues needed crowns for the Queenship of Mary.  Our Lady of La Leche already has one, so the others got paper crowns.

We are working through our second full week of school now and have upcoming travel, hands-on family geography study, field trips, and the start of dance class, religious education classes at our parish, and our first Catholic homeschool Friday Mass and get-together.  This school year is officially underway, and I have been enjoying the calm (somewhat - I do have a red-headed two year old, after all ;) settling into of a rhythm for the year.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Outside my window... Dark.  Hot.

I am thinking... about our upcoming trip to the beach!  I love to just relax there for a week, and let the kids have a chance to just get out in the sand and sun and water and wind every day!  I think we also need to find some more sand shovels... why are beach toys so flimsy nowadays?  Our sand shovels break so easily; we have probably gone through a dozen of them since Caroline was a toddler!

I am wondering... how it will feel to be 35 years old.  Not exactly looking forward to this birthday... I will be considered "advanced maternal age" by OB/GYNs for any pregnancies from this point on... just one good reason to plan for a homebirth, I suppose!
I am praying... about how to keep our school days focused and smooth and relatively pleasant once we begin the year in August... 4th grade, 1st grade, and an almost-three year old!  Also praying for peaceful relationships between husbands and wives as NFP Awareness week comes to a close. 

I am thankful... for a dinner date with my husband last night!

I am hearing... not much... it sounds like Lucy finished singing herself to sleep.  She is up late on days when she takes a nap!

Learning at home... lots of free play time right now!  Outside time as much as they can stand the heat.

From the kitchen... lots of meals from the deep freeze this week... I have a couple soups in there as well as bacon liver meatballs.  Tomorrow night we will grill our grass-fed flank steak for fajitas - yum!!  And I am considering making cinnamon rolls to go along with a late breakfast... brunch, really.  I'm also making lasagna to take to the beach for our first night after arriving there, and I will make more for us to eat early this week as well as to take to a friend who just had a new baby boy recently!

I am reading... How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig.  It is entertaining and looks like a good way to approach Shakespeare with young children!  I need to preview several books for Caroline for school... not read thoroughly, but flip through to get an idea of how difficult they are.  I've also been reading the La Leche League book The Revolutionaries Wore Pearls, about the history of LLL... World Breastfeeding Week is August 1-7, after all!  I want to read something fun and easy at the beach... Pope Awesome and Other Stories is one I have waiting to be read.  I also will probably bring some of Charlotte Mason's homeschooling series along with me.

I read a good children's book, The Kitchen Madonna by Rumer Godden, last week.  A short read, the length of a thin chapter book.

To live the liturgical year... we celebrated the feast of St. Anne, mother of Mary, today by having an ice cream pie that looks like a watermelon... strawberry and lime flavors, red and green since they are St. Anne's traditional colors.  Caroline got a new St. Anne holy card since it is her "name day."  We might also make watermelon smoothies tomorrow (which means lemon juice and pureed watermelon with a sprig of mint)... every time I make these, I puree them in my food processor and then watermelon juice sloshes out.  Sticky, lemony juice.  Maybe I should either try smaller batches or do it in my blender this year!!

One of my favorite things... being lazy.  There, I said it.  I like to sit around and relax.  Another favorite thing, though, would be my LLL Group.  We had a "breastfeeding cafe" style meeting this morning at a local coffee shop, and it is so nice to be able to see other moms enjoying their nursing babies and toddlers!  After we get back from the beach, we are having a family LLL cookout in celebration of World Breastfeeding Week - yay!
I am creating... final lesson schedule layouts for the upcoming school year.  I like for us to a few pages from various books once or twice a week... for instance, Caroline will be reading a few pages from a British history book twice a week, we will be doing Shakespeare once a week, the Burgess Bird Book for Children once a week... lots of variety, lots of rich literature, but brief periods for each... 20-30 minute sessions for each book.  Many books will last all school year done this way.

I created this a couple nights ago... the last painting for Caroline's bird-themed bedroom.  I think I had waaaay too much fun flinging the silver paint around.  But acrylics wipe off vinyl kitchen flooring very easily! ;)

Around the house... trying to straighten and clean out so we will be able to have a fresh start this school year.  I want to purge some more toys and junk... little things seem to accumulate, to reproduce somehow, especially little things like paper and such.  I want to have things organized so that I can pull out a few new things for Lucy at the beginning of each week and have everything else out of her reach - give her variety to keep her entertained but also to give her a rhythm of the days, that I am not going to be fetching random stuff from top closet shelves - what is out is what you get for the week!  I was trying to clean all the windows and blinds... I got the bathrooms and bedrooms done, so that is pretty good progress.  And I am still trying to find an IKEA Kura bed for Cecilia and Lucy... I got a Craigslist app that is supposed to alert me when one is listed, but it is not working right... waa.  Once we find one, I can get their room better organized.  I want it toddler-proofed so Lucy can have rest time in there on days she doesn't fall asleep for a nap... so she's not in my room rummaging through my bathroom cabinets, bedside table drawers, etc. when she is supposed to be resting.  I want to make Cecilia's bedroom to be hers too, meaning the only things she can get into in there will be the shelves of books, clothes in the dresser, shoes in the closet, and a few non-breakable knick-knacks on the dresser.  Although the breakable Winnie the Pooh music box will probably stay, since it is already broken... poor Tigger and Piglet have no ears. :(  They got broken off one time many years ago when we had a bunch of people over and apparently all the kids got too wild in the bedroom!  Once I get that bed in there, my fanciful plan is to cut a tree out of a big thin board (I am good at making big trees; ask my husband - it is part of the story of how we fell in love), paint it, and attach it to the bed - it will be Pooh's house, complete with an M. R. Sanders sign... or it might be Piglet's house with a Tresspassers Will sign.  I will ask Cecilia which she prefers!

Pondering these words... "No book is really worth reading at age ten which is not equally worth reading at age 50." -C. S. Lewis

A few plans for the rest of the week... We went to Mass this evening but Chris will go again in the morning to make an announcement about RCIA classes and man the table after Mass for anyone who wants to sign up.  Then the girls have swim lessons every evening from 6:00-7:00, hence all the dinners from the deep freeze.  They take lessons from a lady who teaches small groups in her backyard pool, one week a year.  I am considering taking them to Atlanta for the day one day to swim at my parents' neighborhood pool and so I can do a Trader Joe's run.  And Chris's sister and her two boys are going to come visit one day so the cousins can play together somewhere hopefully outdoors and water-related.  Then, it's time to pack for the beach!  I will start doing that on Thursday.  A busy week!  But it is full of summer activities before we start back to school in mid-August.

A picture thought I am sharing...

Some leftover Independence Day photos:

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Daybook for July 2, 2014

Outside my window... sunny and hot.  I took the kids to the fountains downtown this morning so they could get some outside time in the sun but also stay cool  After nap/rest time, I predict a mostly inside kind of afternoon.

I am thinking... about plans for the upcoming school year.  I am making lists, stacks of books I have so far, and thinking of scheduling in my mind... I need to inventory the art supplies and things like pencils, glue, etc. to see what needs replacing.  I am also considering a history curriculum (I use that word loosely; it is a booklist and suggestions) that would be useful across many years, as well as an art program and some composer CDs.  I want to do better this year about an art lesson once a week, listening to specific pieces from a composer regularly, and making those be things we can all do together.  If anyone has any of those three items linked, let me know what you think of them!

Our book stacks so far...

I'm also thinking about what things I can combine and have Caroline and Cecilia do together next year... we do a "Circle Time/Morning Basket" each day which has shared items, such as reading about the saint for the day, learning a new prayer and hymn, calendar, reading/memorizing poetry... I am thinking I will add to that this year.  Caroline wants to be included when Cecilia studies birds this year using the Burgess Bird Book - she really liked this when she did it in first grade, so I am thinking of adding the reading of that to our Morning Basket.  Caroline will be beginning some Shakespeare this year, so I am wondering whether I should have Cecilia listen in at this time.  I need to make a list of everything and see what we can do together and what needs its own time carved out for me to work individually with each of them. I need to take a couple of planning days... last year, I went to the coffee shop for much of the day one day while Gran stayed with the girls while she was visiting... I need to get stuff together so I can do that again one day when she visits this summer!  I am not sure what date we will officially begin school... Cecilia is doing some study of rivers, lakes, and oceans this year, so the beach trip will be a good start to that.

I am wondering... about evaluating my responses on Facebook... when to comment on something and when not to comment.  I'm not talking about friendly comments on people's cute kid photos or anything, but about when somebody shares an article and it makes you think... On the one hand, I see a shared article as an invitation to others' thoughts on it, for a conversation.  Something else I wonder about is the whole vaccine debate.  I can see both sides of it, and as such, my children have gotten a few vaccines while skipping most of them, and I am always reevaluating whether they will get more or not as they get older.  I think I made a friend mad the other day on Facebook for saying that I can see both sides and that parents who consider the question of vaccines at all are doing so out of love for their kids and ultimately make the decisions they think are in the best interest of their families.  The title of the article that had been shared was "Parents who refuse vaccines are ethically negligent."  I thought that it used unnecessarily strong "fighting words" kind of language.  So, if I was adamantly opposed to vaccines and thought that parents who get their children every vaccine on the schedule were somehow negligent, I could see that saying so would cause tension.  However, that wasn't my position... even as somebody who leans towards less vaccines and therefore may be more in agreement overall with the total non-vaxxers, I wasn't even trying to debate that.  I was only trying to say that perhaps most parents who make the decision to forego all vaccines are making an informed decision that just happens to be different than that of people who think every vacccine is necessary for nearly every child, for the public good.  Both are trying to make good decisions, and neither is opposed to public health.  But somehow this was still not taken well at all, and I felt like I somehow pushed buttons and made somebody upset even when I was trying so hard to find a middle ground and wasn't even arguing for/against vaccines.  It makes me wonder whether it is even worth it to ever say anything.  It is hard to sit by and watch people get called "negligent" who you know are trying to do their best (or when you feel like you're being called 'negligent' because you've skipped most vaccines for your own kids)... but yeah, I sometimes just stop reading people's articles on Facebook because even asking some innocent questions or offering the benefit of the doubt to a group of people will set off somebody.  So, even though I had two people tell me privately that I didn't say anything wrong and that it was weird I received such a strong response... I still find myself wondering about reevaluating what I say.  I am long-winded and so maybe it looks like I am trying to be a know-it-all; really, it's just that I have issues with getting my thoughts into concise words!
I am praying... still praying for my grandfather's soul, of course.  Also for discernment for how to organize and set things up for the upcoming school year, how to best keep Lucy out of trouble and enjoying her own things to do.

I am thankful... that it looks like my parents are planning a family beach trip this summer after all!  They rent a big house or condo on the beach and then we spend a week there with them and my brothers.  And the week we would go is my birthday week, which has been typical since I was little.  That first week of August was almost always the beach trip for the years we would do it.  Now it seems that so many schools begin by August 3rd though, but that actually makes it nice because there are less people at the beach when we go in August.  A week at the beach is the best birthday gift I could think of!  This may be the last year my brother Tim can easily come with us for the whole week... next year "real life" starts for him once he is ordained a priest!

I am hearing...  Cecilia humming.  And the window AC unit in the sunroom running full blast!  Lately in the car I have been listening to Emerson Hart's new album, Beauty in Disrepair.  Beautiful lyrics, great album, highly recommended! :)

Learning at home... still reading a lot.  Cecilia has been hearing some fairy tales from The Blue Fairy Book, and we just finished reading Winnie the Pooh to her and will get House at Pooh Corner next.  This is what we need, really, because the two of these we do have are falling apart.  Caroline has been plowing through whatever books I check out for her from the library.  I have what seems to be a never-ending booklist, but... she is awfully fast.  And I do think it is doubtful that one could run out of good literature because thankfully, a lot of it has been written over the last many, many years!

From the kitchen... lots of good stuff!  I have had beef stock simmering on the stove since Monday and will use it tonight in a Scottish steak pie.  I made Triple Chocolate Brownie Squares yesterday... those aren't going to last long!  Don't know what we will do for July 4th yet, better get thinking on that.  We had grilled fish and avocado leek soup on Sunday - served cold.  It tastes better than it sounds; everyone except Lucy likes it.  Although Lucy has been on an eating tear lately... she will ask for more food an hour after eating something.  Then she will eat an entire banana at once, so she is truly hungry.  Must be a growth spurt!  Oh, and I am so, so excited, because I bought an old Vitamix on eBay!!  My cheapy blender finally bit the dust (it had a good run, 12 years for a cheap blender is not too shabby!), so I bought an old powerhouse of a blender which I hope lasts me the rest of my life, ha ha.  I will be oh so glad to not be sloshing soup and smoothies out of my food processor now.  Have you ever tried to puree boiled leeks (in their cooking water) in a food processor?  Very messy.  Probably because I wanted to make it all fit in one batch.  A blender will hold a lot more for pureeing soups.  So I am excited to try some things in it as soon as it arrives in the mail!

Beef stock... a 48 hour process.  It tasted slightly burnt because I used some bones that got burned at the edges, whoops.  But it is very faint and won't be noticed when the stock is cooked into things.  Still can't get it to gel; maybe I don't have enough gelatinous cow parts in the pot...

A favorite quote from Winnie-the-Pooh regarding food:

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"
"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"
"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. "It's the same thing," he said.”

I love to cook (and eat!), so I couldn't agree more! 

Looks pretty un-appetizing, huh?  Served in my Scooby-Doo bowl that I bought on an impulse at Wal-Mart my first year in college... we thought it was awesome to go to Wal-Mart and buy random things... turn me lose in the world and I go nuts, huh? 

I am reading...  A Picture Perfect Childhood by Cay Gibson... it is about the importance of reading good picture books to children of all ages and has many titles suggested in it.  Yay for good children's literature!! 

Lucy is starting to really like reading a lot more lately, too... she typically couldn't sit still for a book for more than five minutes, and it had to be one in which the pages could be turned pretty quickly.  She was sick a week ago, though, and while the older girls were at our church's Vacation Bible School one morning, she sat pitifully on my lap for some very long picture books: One Morning in Maine and Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey, and Mouse House by Rumer Godden.  I thought it was a fluke because of her illness, but now that she has recovered she has wanted to hear both the McCloskey books again (and didn't try to rush me by turning pages prematurely, ha!), and her current favorites are A Birthday for Frances and Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever.  We haven't even made it through all of that one yet - each page has so many things to look at and name that she is quite enthralled with it.  It's so funny to hear what she thinks some of the pictures are - a round, pink bar of soap (can a bar be round???) in the bathroom picture is "salami."

she also thinks that is a pillow he's holding to his face...
To live the liturgical year... well, still not doing well on this one.  But we did have that fish for the feast day of Sts. Peter and Paul because they were fishermen before they became followers of Jesus, who told them he would make them "fishers of men."  That avocado soup is supposedly for their feast day too, although I really don't get how... but it sounded like it would be good with the grilled fish.

Later this month we have the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel... maybe I can do something for that.  And then Caroline's patron saint, St. Anne, is toward the end of July, so we usually do something on that day.  St. Anne is her "name saint" since Caroline's middle name is RhiANNon. Yes, like the Fleetwood Mac song.

One of my favorite things... flirting with my husband on Facebook!  And in person, of course, but it is fun when he's at work and we can make a few playful comments back and forth to each other that way.     
I am creating... booklists and lesson plans and schedules, oh my! 

Around the house... Lucy is learning to use the potty, yay!  So she is in underwear and her little plastic potty from IKEA is found around the house all the time now.  Today she has only had one accident, and she caught it halfway through.  Same with yesterday.  She is suddenly very proud of her "big girl panties" and is excited to pick out a pair each day.

Pondering these words... how about some Emerson Hart lyrics?  "It was worth it, These are the lines that you're made of, We were certain time that was lost could be made up, When life hits you fast, There's no takebacks, But there's a grace in that, It was worth it, These are the lines that you're made of..." from The Lines by Emerson Hart

A few plans for the rest of the week... Tomorrow I am picking up eggs, stopping at the grocery store, getting the tires rotated, and helping the girls find the library's summer reading program scavenger hunt clues that are hidden around town.  We have three more to find and then will stop at the library on our way home and turn them in.  One of the clues is at my favorite place, our local coffee shop, so I think I will be using the gift card that one of my sweet LLL moms gave to me while we stop there!  Then we are having friends over in the afternoon, and Friday is July 4th... I am thinking I'll call my parents and brother to see if they have any plans.  Maybe a cookout, fireworks, etc., the typical July 4th stuff.

A picture thought I am sharing...

Blueberries are ripe in our backyard, yay!!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Caroline's New Room

This was a sorta-kinda birthday present for Caroline... we moved her into her own room around the time she turned nine.  She had been sharing with Cecilia, so we began turning the guest room into her room.  She wanted the walls to be purple, so we chose a color that we thought would compliment the furniture, which we picked up at a local antique mall.  I LOVE the furniture, and fortunately, Caroline did too.  It fit my requirements of real wood, not too expensive, used but in good condition.  I was amazed at how low the price was, actually, for furniture that somebody had repainted so nicely!

So, here are some pictures...

found the rug at Big Lots...

This one was taken with the flash... I couldn't decide which showed the colors better, flash or natural light.

this one with no flash
I made the artwork... the center is an old picture frame found at an antique store, to the back of which I staple-gunned old chicken wire.  Then I painted the center painting on a thin board and had Chris drill holes in the corner.  I cut scraps of chicken wire and used them to thread through the holes and twist onto the chicken wire that is on the frame.  The two side paintings are just done on pre-made canvases, already primed with gesso.  The paints are acrylics because that is just what I know; I have never really painted with oil paints or anything else.  I probably should have taken more art courses; I loved my high school drawing classes and could have taken more art classes then, as well as more than just Intro to Painting in college.
I made the tree part by painting it all white, then letting it dry before adding the silver paint.  I dipped the edge of a piece of corrugated cardboard into the silver paint and then used it to make a print, over and over side by side along the trunk and branches of the tree, in an effort to give the tree some texture.  Silver paint is hard to photograph!
Painting walls with a toddler around is probably impossible... so Chris and I painted the walls while she was asleep!  I also did the bird and feather paintings while the kids were all sleeping.  I have one more painting to do for her room - I am thinking maybe a sea green background, a yellow nest, and purple eggs speckled with silver??  It is for the wall opposite the dresser.  She has the purple saucer chair in there with a sea green pillow on it, and that is basically it.  I may add a few pieces of bird-related decor here and there... don't want it to be too crowded, as she already has her dresser covered with her collection of random knick-knacks.  One day she will probably have a little school desk in there, and one day it might need to be a bigger one with drawers.  She has her bookcase under her loft-style bed, and we could turn it to make more room under it for a desk if need be.

When we were painting the walls, I was so excited because I had pulled out some old clothes to paint in... clothes that were from before I was ever pregnant, even.  And the jeans fit me!!!  So, I got thinking about how old the jeans were, and I think I got a little too proud of myself, because in my mind, the old pair of jeans was this pair pictured here:

So the first one is a clearer photo, but the second one shows that I wore these jeans as far back as freshman year in college.  The first photo is from my sophomore year.  Yes, I realize they are in reverse chronological order, but it was all I could do to get them side by side at all - I don't even know how they switched order.  Best that I can do.  Anyway, I looked back at photos, trying to decide just how old that pair of jeans was, and then I remembered: the pair that I was remembering were Union Bay brand and so they couldn't be the ones I wore to paint in, because those were Nautica.  The reason I got them mixed up is because both have a baggy, straight-leg style cut.  The Union Bay jeans were so comfortable and so I wore them a lot and thus remembered them well, but alas, I was not still fitting in size 9 jeans as I inadvertently thought.  The Nautica pair of jeans was newer, and I don't know how much newer, because I couldn't find a photo of myself wearing them.  Unless I was in a seated photo; it is pretty hard to ID jeans when they aren't clear front shots like these.  So, needless to say, I was all excited that I fit in old jeans that were really not quite as old as I had thought at first.  However, I had worn them before ever getting pregnant, and so at least I had gotten to the point weight-wise where I could zip and button a pair of pre-children pants.  I am just going to assume my hips have widened since my early college days!

So then I started looking at the baggy, wide legs on the jeans in these photos, and the short shirt style, and I started thinking, wow, I thought those looked attractive?  And then I realized I probably didn't care; they were comfortable, and I was never a fashion-minded kind of girl.  I mean, I had a shirt that my brothers dubbed, "Erin's Ugly Shirt."  I still have it, actually, but it can't button at the hips.  For some reason the shirts were all short back then, as you can see in the photos.  Thank goodness most shirts are made longer now; my post-partum x3 belly appreciates that very much.  Who thought designing such short shirts was such a good idea back in the 90s??  I remember once in high school, my dad was folding laundry and gave one of my shirts to my brother who is nine years younger than me: "Yes, the shirt looks short enough to fit him, I said, but really, it's mine.  They just make them that way for some reason." 

And yes, I did take photos of the photos above with my camera phone.  Technology allows me to add old photographs so as to embellish my randomness - isn't it great?  Or maybe not... as my husband has said of me, "Some people just shouldn't have camera phones."

And now that I have gone completely off on a tangent... this was supposed to be about decorating my child's bedroom, yes?  Sorry, I tend to get very long-winded, as I am sure anyone who has read this blog for awhile can attest.  The moral of the story: I am not as skinny as I thought I was, but old jeans from at least 2003ish still fit me.  For what that's worth, which maybe isn't much anyway.

{end babbling}

So, Caroline likes her room, and now I am on the lookout for a bed for Cecilia and (one day) Lucy's shared room and will decide what else to do in that room (other than Lucy-proof it so she can't destroy it, which will be a challenge in and of itself).

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Catching Up - Caroline's 9th Birthday!

Caroline turned nine on March 21st!  She wanted to have a spring/flower themed tea party, which ended up being very easy to do: flower shaped cake made of cupcakes, tea sandwiches and that sort of thing for lunch, and tea in the old teacups I had been collecting from thrift stores and antique malls to use for our Little flowers Tea parties.

Here are some photos from the day...

Flower-shaped cake... made by arranging cupcakes into groups and frosting over them.  They were chocolate with strawberry icing.  Although the leaves and stem were made with plain frosting tinted pale green with pureed spinach.  Yes, spinach.  The pink color resulted from the strawberries in the frosting, and the purple outline was tinted with grape juice concentrate.  The gunny thingies at the center of each flower are pure artificial color goodness, ha.

The birthday girl serves herself some tea party foods

Lunch was a team effort... grandparents brought chicken salad on mini croissants and crab-filled flaky pastries, to go along with the egg salad tea sandwiches, fruit, crackers/veggies with cream cheese bacon dip, tomato-bacon appetizer thingies, hummus and pita chips... I am going off the photos here and not my memory.  What I do remember is that it all tasted delicious!

Caroline and Cecilia enjoy lunch.  My brother Mike's truck photobombing through the window to advertise his employer on the license plate, ha.


Caroline got a big illustrated Audobon bird book...
...a How to Find Flower Fairies detailed pop-up book...
Apparently Lucy was so bored she went to sleep, ha.
Cecilia gave Caroline a detailed underwater scene she had drawn.
She also got a journal, a craft kit, and a new bag for dance class.
As you can see, the two year olds were thoroughly impressed by the present-opening.
She also got American Girl accessories for the doll she had gotten at Christmas from grandparents.
Her doll, Josefina, all dressed in her new outfit with her new pet goat.
Dessert Time!

Along with the cupcakes, we had flower-shaped cookies that the girls had decorated and chocolate-covered "cookie dough" balls... oh, so yummy!  They are made of chick peas and honey, believe it or not! 
The dessert table
Blowing out the candles
And here is Caroline wearing her Josefina dress up outfit, a birthday gift from Mommy and Daddy, ordered from Etsy at the same time as Cecilia's colonial dress up outfit.  They are so well-made and the girls have loved them!

Happy 9th birthday, Caroline!