Thursday, August 26, 2010

Homeschool Prep and Organization

So, I am hoping to get our homeschooling year started up at the end of next week with a "fun day" in which we will explore our books and materials as well as starting up our circle time and going over some of the new routines that I hope to implement. Then we will start A week (or weeks, depending on how quickly or slowly we will be moving along) either at the end of the week or on the following Monday.

One major thing that will help us to begin the homeschooling journey is this table! Above, the girls were pretending it was a boat, before Chris put the legs back on it! This table is new to us - we traded tables with my parents!

I love how big it is... it makes our "bookroom" (now the schoolroom, I suppose!) look like a conference room with it sitting there in the center! It will give us much more space to spread out than the old table, which was square and only seated four. The main problem with the old table, though, was that it was tiled on top. That was great for cleaning up paint or sticky stuff, but it made drawing and writing very bumpy! So, now we have a smooth work surface...

...well, almost smooth. If you look closely (or click to enlarge), you can see the indentation made by my youngest brother. He was apparently addressing an envelope, because his first and last name are visible as well as the street address, although you can tell that he repositioned the envelope after writing part of the street number. It was my dad who told me to look for this - but he said it was Stephen who wrote his name on the table. But I even made a rubbing to prove it:
It says Tim!

Here are a few of my reference books (and my wedding photo album, which happens to fit on this shelf well!). I have been working on organizing the bookshelves, and this shelf has some that Iwill use this year and others that I just want to remind myself that I have for future reference. A couple of these are textbooks from my college classes - a word book that has printables in the back for making word sort cards, and a PE book. I hated PE in school, because it was just the two most athletic girls as team captains who chose teams, and the PE teacher went to watch the boys play while we played stickball on our own. In college I learned that PE was actually supposed to be skills instruction (imagine that!), beginning with things like traveling through space, balancing, jumping... so we will be doing a 10 minute movement activity each day, and I am hoping this book will be useful (it better be - as I recall, it was one of the more expensive textbooks!).

I found this pocket chart at the Target dollar spot... gotta love that dollar spot! We will put words in it that are relevant each week... for instance, A week will include apple, St. Anne, and angels. I also have a word box in which we will put words on index cards... words that Caroline learns through our weekly Alphabet Path story and the weekly saint story. Eventually we will use these cards to find patterns in spelling, rhyming words, and other patterns such as long and short vowels, etc.

Here is another shelf of materials... the left side is for religious books that will be used for read-alouds and "tea time" - a weekly event in which we will have tea and a yummy treat (bye bye, diet? hopefully it won't go completely out the window!) while reading aloud from the Catholic Children's Treasure Box books, the New Catholic Children's Bible (just arrived today and not appearing in the above photo), A Life of Our Lord for Children, and My Jesus and I. I also have a Bible that was mine, which is written on a second grade level and will make a good reference. Also on this shelf, we have a sketchbook to be used for various drawings, and Little Folks' Number Practice, which is an introduction to letter formation and concepts.

On the shelves below this one, I plan to rotate "work activities" for both girls on a weekly basis. There will be a separate shelf for each of them and they will choose activities from here every morning while I do the breakfast dishes - at least, that is the plan for now. Cecilia will have her own activities so she feels included, and at any point if she asks to "do school" with us, I will have a shelf of activities at the ready for her.

Here is one of our art supply shelves: construction paper and paints/brushes. The shelf under that holds clipboards for use during nature study or other outdoor activities (and we use them on long trips in the van!). There is also a plastic storage box there in which we can keep ongoing projects that might have small pieces or cut-outs that need to be glued, like a lapbook.

Here is one of our den closets, which is where I am storing the work activities (on the top two shelves). The shelf below those holds a bunch or reference books that are not likely to be useful right away, but we are holding on to them.

The shelf above is in the same closet (gotta love whoever put in all these closets with shelves before we moved it!) and on the top, we have musical instruments and some small puppets and feltboard figures. Then we have a shelf full of puzzles and some math manipulatives. Toys are on the shelves below these.

Here are our pencils... we had them in old jars, and then I saw this post and decided we could do that as a fun craft (since Caroline was already asking me if we could do some kind of art project that very morning!).

I am planning to paint little wooden saints for each letter of the Alphabet Path. Here is St. Anne (with young Mary alongside her, or as Caroline calls her, "kid Mary"). They are incomplete here (need hands and hair!)... I hope to make a few of them each week or two so they will be ready for their corresponding letter.

Here's my awesome craft closet. I cleaned it (can you even tell? lol).

I love the shoe organizer on the back wall... can't remember where I first saw that idea, but it keeps things organized, visible, and accessible.

The orange basket on the table surface is our Alphabet Path essentials basket. I have the books we will be using each week in it: A Flower Fairies Alphabet, An Alphabet of Catholic Saints, God's Alphabet, a reference book of saints, Museum ABC, our Alphabet Path binder (where all the copywork and illustrations for the fairies and saints will be kept, along with the Alphabet Path stories themselves). I downloaded Startwrite handwriting software to make the copywork sheets... Caroline will start out with lots of tracing of letters in the form of the poetry from the books as we work on proper formation. We will also use the poetry in the books for memory work... not that Caroline's memory needs any work! ;)

Our art supply shelf before the pencils jars got their makeovers. I also bought new markers and crayons, a surprise for the first day of school!

And here is my file crate... this is the backbone of my organization. I have a file folder for each letter along the Alphabet Path (I have finished labeling the tabs since taking this photo - I reused a file crate from my teacher days where I had a file for each week of the school year). Behind those, I have a file for each month. So in the letter files, I have each Alphabet Path story printed out and ready, along with any coloring sheets, craft stuff, projects (like parts of an "All About Me" lapbook in the A file), and I will have the copywork pages in here as well. I also have a Word document for each letter with the books for each week, songs and nursery rhymes, project ideas, cooking ideas, etc., and I will print each week's to have as a guide for what we'll be doing. If I have any new books related to any letters, I will tuck them in between the folders. I have some angel books hidden behind the A file, for instance. In the monthly files, I will keep things that are seasonal/liturgical year-related. For instance, I have a coloring page of Our Lady of the Rosary in the October file. Advent and Christmas stuff can go in the December file.

I am also going to be making use of interlibrary loan quite often, it appears. We will have several books relating to each letter and to our science themes, and I am not sure yet if I will have Caroline do some narrations of some stories this year or if we'll wait until next year. I do think I will have her narrate any field trips we take so we can store those in a memory book with photos for her.

At the end of the year, the plan is for her to have completed (or finished halfway, depending on our pace):
* the Alphabet Path binder of copywork and illustrations
* a notebook of picture studies from Museum ABC (probably will be contained in a report cover or folder with prongs... in college, all our professors called those folders "duotangs," which we were baffled by... nobody else calls them that, and we couldn't figure out what they were at first!)
* a notebook of field trip narrations and illustrations with some photos
* possibly a notebook of story book narrations
* the Numbers Practice book, and maybe a math notebook of sorts
* the beginnings of a nature study sketchbook

So, that is where we are at now... I still have to type in all the poems from the saints book to make the copywork sheets, and organize the circle time songs, and lots of other details... so this may be my last post for a bit while I spend this next week getting things tweaked before we begin our adventure - I am excited!!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Babies with Reflux?

There are so many babies diagnosed with reflux lately... I have been thinking off and on about why this may be. We know that formula-fed infants are more likely to have reflux than breastfed infants, but we still hear of so many breastfed infants with reflux as well. Apparently reflux was not common in babies 20 or more years ago, as my mother has commented, "What is up with all these babies with reflux now?" She just didn't know of any babies having reflux when she was raising babies throughout the 1980s.

So, one thought that immediately came to mind: The Back to Sleep campaign (which I believe was introduced around 1990, but don't quote me on that). Medical professionals used to advise parents to place their babies on the bellies to sleep, but research has shown that position to be associated with a much higher risk of SIDS. So it is now advised that babies are placed on their backs to sleep. Lying on the back is a position in which reflux is more likely to be irritating to the throat, since the saliva can pool at the back of the throat easily that way.

Now, the Back to Sleep campaign is not a bad thing in and of itself. If parents are going to be putting their infants to sleep in separate rooms by themselves, then it is safest for them to be on their backs - they are less likely to have a stop-breathing episode while on their backs.

Babies also spend a large amount of time on their backs at other times, not just overnight and at naps. Baby swings, strollers, and infant car seats also keep them in this position more often. Sometimes babies spend so much time on their backs that the backs of their heads get so flat that they must be fitted for a special helmet to help their head regain its proper shape. Surely this is not natural, right? But it is not surprising if a baby spends 10 hours on its back overnight, a few hours each day napping in that position, and then more time on its back in swings, infant seats, and strollers. The "bucket" infant car seat is something else that is a relatively new invention. In the days when my parents were raising babies, the car seat stayed in the car. The child was always removed from the seat to go in and out of buildings. Now, it is relatively easy to keep an infant in a carseat for large chunks of time each day. So, babies are spending more of both their days and nights on their backs now than they were in the 80s and earlier.

To counteract this flat-head syndrome, the "experts" began recommending something that is referred to as "tummy time." This is intentionally placing the baby on its tummy while awake, to encourage the lifting of the head and pushing up with the arms, and also getting the back of the head off a surface.

In addition to the time spent on their backs, babies have other things which might be exacerbating the reflux nowadays. Scheduled feeding is one thing that comes to mind. With a breastfed baby, the initial milk is thinner and gradually gets thicker and more filling as the feeding progresses. Thus, the longer a mother goes between nursings, the more foremilk there is at the next feeding. The fattier hindmilk is what the baby receives further into a feeding. Cutting off a feeding too soon may cause a baby to miss most of the hindmilk, and spacing his feedings out to once every three or four hours gives the mother's body more time to build the foremilk back up. Frequent removal of milk causes the baby to continue to get more hindmilk at each feeding. Getting too much watery foremilk and not enough of the thicker hindmilk could contribute to reflux symptoms. Sometimes doctors recommend that mothers thicken their milk by pumping it and adding rice cereal - but introducing solid foods (of which rice cereal is one) prior to about 6 months increases the baby's risk for allergies. Rice cereal is also likely to cause constipation in babies, so even if it seems to help with the reflux, it may cause other problems. Nursing the baby more frequently could aid in this. In thinking of nursing as more than just a set feeding time, mothering through breastfeeding leads to nursing for comfort and thus being done more frequently.

Mothering through breastfeeding also tends to include close contact with the mother, which includes the infant being carried around both while awake and while napping. An upright position in a sling might be helpful in reducing reflux. Neither of my children really liked to lay down in the sling unless they were nursing, but the upright tummy-to-tummy position was great for them.

Babies who co-sleep with their nursing mothers end up spending time on their sides at night as they nurse. Also, the mother may switch them from side to side during the night. Therefore, less time is spent on their backs even while they are sleeping overnight.

One last thought is that a bottlefed baby is being fed on his back in a reclined position, whereas the breastfed baby is more on his side, and in the natural position has his legs and belly lower than his head.

So, in looking at all this, it appears that it may be that our straying from the biological norms of infant care contributes to a higher incidence of reflux. Rather than introducing other solutions, perhaps we could go back to the root of the issue and make changes there? I am not saying that this is definitely why babies have reflux more often lately... I am sure there are co-sleeping babies who never spend time on their backs and are carried upright and still seem to have some reflux symptoms. But I haven't heard any speculation on why it is that so many babies are diagnosed with reflux lately, so I thought I would do a little speculating myself. Any other ideas to add? Has anyone read anything which discusses potential reasons for this infant reflux epidemic?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Random Bits

Cecilia was stomping on a bug outside, saying, "I'm deading that bug!" I told her, "I think it was already dead, Cecilia," to which she responded, "I deaded it more."

Caroline: "Mommy, we're sandpipers! We're going to pipe the sand - pipe, pipe, pipe..." (repeatedly pecking the table with her nose)
We had noticed the seagulls, sandpipers, and pelicans at the beach and casually observed the differences between the three types of birds.

You know what makes me feel old? Listening to songs from the 90s on Youtube, and seeing that the comments directly below the videos all say, "This is a great song... I discovered it on Guitar Hero." Uh, yeah, well, I discovered that song when it was actually released 15 years ago, back in the olden days - so there! It also makes me realize that the majority of Youtube commenters are only about 15 years old themselves...

I found a hilarious website about a month or so ago... absolutely hysterical. It is called Catalog Living and is described as being "a look into the exciting lives of the people who live in your catalogs." I think the concept is great, as I have always made fun of catalogs and home decor magazines that have these meticulous and often random decorating ideas shown in them... The captions they come up with on this website are very witty. I also have it linked in the left sidebar under Blogs I Visit... so go check it out! It's a relatively new site, so it won't take too long to read through all the past photos if you want...

Cecilia's latest repeated comment: "One day when I'm a grownup, I'm going to paint my toenails and pop my tooth out and go to the dentist." Such grown-up events, in her mind...

The first of my mega-purchase has come in the mail today!! I love getting homeschooling supplies and opening them up...

So, supposedly we are getting a new grocery store in my town, which would be such a nice thing... Kroger is across town, and Wal-Mart is just icky. Want to see a lady spanking her two year old for crying on the floor at 9:15 pm? Go to my Wal-Mart. Why people expect toddlers to act mature in Wal-Mart that late in the evening is beyond me... But on a positive note, my cashier tonight was so very polite and friendly. Our greeters (except for the really old lady who I have never seen talk) are also all extremely friendly and smile and such, which is nice to see since that wasn't the norm there a few years ago.

Last night, Cecilia asked if she could have more "unsparagus."

Caroline noticed that the A key on my laptop is so faded that you can barely see it anymore... just the A, for some reason. She said, "Now you won't be able to type any more As!" She thinks I need a new A key!

Today, my niece Julianne was baptized. I love the smell of the chrism that is used to anoint the baby's head with oil - so sweet-smelling. I held her a few minutes after the baptism and I am still smelling the chrism! Caroline said she wants to snuggle up to me so she can "get more Catholic" by getting the smell of the chrism on her!

Okay, this is a comment just for females... does anyone else find it annoying that the packaging of feminine products changes so frequently? First, they had those Always pads that had the symbols on the packaging - they said things like "Remember your leaf symbol." That was easy. But then they got rid of the symbols, sometime between my getting pregnant with Caroline and the seven months postpartum until I needed to go buy more. The Tampax design changed sometime during the time of my pregnancy with Cecilia. And now, the Tampax box lid has an advertisement for the Tampax Pearl products, which makes it look exactly like that is what you are buying, if you just look at the lid. I almost bought the wrong thing. Why can't they pick one simple system and stick with it??

A picture to share: the girls with Uncle Tim in his cassock after Julianne's baptism. Uncle Tim is Cecilia's godfather and now also Julianne's. I forgot our camera, so I didn't take any baptism photos, but I did take this one with my phone:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche and the Mission of Nombre de Dios

On our last full day at the beach, we drove into St. Augustine to go to the shrine of Our Lady of La Leche and the Mission of Nombre De Dios. We went last year too, but it was raining really hard then, so we didn't get a chance to walk around the grounds. Above is the little chapel where the statue of Our lady of La Leche is displayed.

Click on the picture to read the sign outside the shrine chapel.

The grounds contain an old cemetery (from the 1800s) which has been adorned with various statues and memorial plaques. I took photos of some of them:

A memorial to all babies killed by abortion

a pretty relief carving of Mary and infant Jesus

This huge stainless steel cross stands on the edge of the water at the back of the property. It is the second tallest freestanding stainless steel structure in the United States... can anyone guess what the tallest is?

These beautiful "Florida trees" were everywhere... many of them had grown with twisted trunks, I'm guessing from the wind...

Sitting on a bench overlooking the water

The girls wanted to sit by this statue of Jesus with some children - "because we're children, too!"

standing with a St. Francis statue

another pretty relief carving

There were paths all throughout the grounds, taking you past all the statuary and grave markers.

Here are the girls outside the chapel... I didn't go in this year because I was too busy spending money in the gift shop, ha ha... It closed at 5 pm and they locked the doors. But I took photos of the inside last year.

This was a really neat part... there were seven of these monuments, each depicting a relief carving of one of the Seven Sorrows of Mary. They were spread out along one of the paths so you could walk along and meditate on them in order. I took a close-up picture of each one that I plan to one day make into a little activity for the girls, like the Stations of the Cross Box that I made.

Caroline noticed some flowers on the ground that had fallen off a vine that was growing up a tall tree. She decided to pick up seven of them and leave one at each spot along the way. I love when they come up with ideas like this on their own - it is so sweet!

Cecilia took a little side trip to chase a squirrel... can you see both of them on the tree?

This reproduction of the Pieta was in a little stone grotto-type thing...

This huge statue is near the water, down a path from the giant cross. The statue is of the first priest to say Mass on the North American continent. His name was Father Lopez... and so was my high school's priest!

The sky was beautiful for these photos of the cross...

Looking up... 208 feet tall!

Here is a view of the area from the parking lot... the water in the foreground is a little river/stream that connects to the water that the big cross is near.

Such a beautiful place!! I am so glad we got to take the time to walk around the grounds this year!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Random Bits

This post was started before our beach trip, so I think it is about time to post it....

Caroline: "Cecilia is wearing a cameloge dress." (She means camouflage. It was actually plaid.)
Cecilia: "I am NOT wearing a camel dress!!"
Caroline: "How about a camel skin dress? They wore camel skin back then... right, Mommy? Back in the old days... in the 80's, right, Mommy?"

Cecilia: "I'm going to eat all of it, because it's a hungry snack!"

Cecilia, after spinning in circles in the kitchen: "I need the floor to stop moving!" She then squatted down and attempted to hold the floor still with her hands. "There, it stopped." She then ran out of the kitchen, calling out, "Daddy, the floor was moving! I was spinning around, and Mommy was taking a ride!"

Cecilia, whenever she sees the Google or the Gmail logos on my computer screen, says, "There's Goggely!" I have no idea where she got this, but I assume she has made the connection with the logo and the term "Google."

Here's one that happened a long time ago - maybe even last year - but I don't think I ever wrote it down. A neighbor was pulling her granddaughter down the street in a gardening wagon. It looked like this:
Caroline called out, "Hey, why is she pulling that girl in a recycling bin?"

Just heard a TV commercial for Pamprin... it said, "I can feel my period when it's coming." Really, do we have to share every intimate detail of our lives with the public these days? Aren't some things just a bit "too much information" to be included in television commercials??

When Cecilia was playing a make-believe game with Caroline, I heard her say, "We're going on a snow walk - don't forget yourselves!"

Cecilia says "anyone" instead of "nobody." If I ask her something like, "Who's done with dinner?" she will answer, "Anyone!"

Just as Cecilia thought the kitchen floor was moving after spinning in circles, she also thought that we were moving when the water was pulling back at the beach. As the water went back into the ocean, she would call out, "We're taking a ride!!!" A few times she actually did take a ride, though - the undertow was strong enough some days that it pulled her down!

I think I have finally ordered all the things I need for homeschooling... I am just going to download this handwriting program tonight, and then I will have pretty much all I need other than supplies for projects as we get to them throughout the year. I have spent all my birthday money/homeschooling money, and I spent it all fast! I spent a bit on myself, but mostly used it for school-related stuff. I was lucky to not have to buy a pencil sharpener (my mom said I could have their old one), and I will be getting their kitchen table sometime hopefully soon. They don't have a replacement table yet... but my brother goes back to school in Ohio in a week, taking his truck with him. my other brother has a truck too, which is with yet another brother right now, but they live 45 minutes from my parents and an hour from us... so, we just have to figure out a plan for getting the table here. I still have plenty more organizing to do... the bookshelves in the "School room" are about halfway ready. The closet where I have various reference books and "work activities" stored needs some rearranging too. And I need to get our Circle Time stuff in order as well as figure out how the local library works with homeschoolers and inter-library loans. I will want books for specific weeks, so I have to talk with them about when to make requests and if they can hold things longer for us... they have a generous teacher policy, which includes homeschoolers, that we can check out books for six weeks at a time. I don't know how this applies to inter-library loans, though. I still don't know when our first day of school will be, officially... I think it will involve lots of exploration of the new stuff and how to use and care for our books and supplies.

I am getting back on the diet this week after over a week off during our vacation... according to my scale, I gained back 4.5 pounds. I was down a total of 15.5 pounds before the trip. I am hoping that a week back on the diet will get me close to where I was before, but we'll see...

Friday, August 13, 2010

St. Augustine Beach Part Two

Caroline has gotten so brave and made incredible strides in her swimming this summer! She took a week of swim lessons, which really helped boost her confidence in being in the water. She learned to put her face in and jump off the side, and she has been really enjoying the pool on our vacation!

Caroline practicing swimming to Gramma

Cecilia learned how to use her feet to push off people's hands and jump in the water

Caroline taught herself to do a front flip in the water - wow!!

Cecilia liked to hold at least one hand when jumping into the pool

Cecilia likes to swim alone - with water wings

Another flip from Caroline

Caroline started jumping in alone, with nobody waiting for her in the water below!

Cecilia likes putting her face in the water

Caroline began swimming with her face in the water, too!

Sweet sisters

This gazebo thingy was along the boardwalk, about halfway to the beach from our condo. This is the view from outside our back door of our condo.

When Grandaddy and Leila came down from Jacksonville to visit for a day, we sat out on the patio and had yummy appetizers: spinach, artichoke, and crab dip, and mixed nuts. Caroline probably ate a cup of nuts!

Grandaddy and Leila with Julianne

All the great-granddaughters with their great-grandparents

Grandaddy with the girls inside the condo

some shots of Julianne

Crystal, my brother Mike's wife, washing some dishes...

...while Mike dries them!

My birthday dessert that I made (I used my birthday as an excuse to make something this unhealthy and that is not on my diet at all, here at the beach where there would be lots of people to help me eat them!): Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes. They were so good!!

My dad flying a kite... see the string? It looks like he was superimposed on a beach background... but he was really standing right there. I think it looks like a merging of Clint Eastwood and a Marlboro ad...

Enjoying the beach!

This was taken just before Grandaddy and Leila left... Cecilia was taking a nap, and Caroline is in her pajamas because I forgot to bring some clothes out of the bedroom after putting Cecilia down.

Here's a view of the pool at our condo

Caroline swimming with her face in

Cecilia would call out, "Everybody - watch me!" before pushing off the step into the water

What a jump!

Caroline swimming across the deep part of the pool!

Cecilia jumps in from the ladder in the deep end - she kept saying, "I'm going to the lat-ter."

Lobster, Wahoo, and shrimp for dinner! The shrimp was inside, being fried.

My dad does the grilling

a view of the boardwalk from our condo

Heading down to the beach in the evening to tke some photos on our last evening there

My hubby <3

The tide was way out

Caroline took this photo herself!

A guy who was also staying in our condo complex offered to take this photo of the four of us when he noticed that we were taking photos.

Goodbye, beach! ;(