Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bathtub Cleanup...

Wanna know what's even more fun than cleaning wet oats out of the tub after giving your toddler an oatmeal bath to soothe a rash??

Cleaning oats AND poop out of the bathtub.  Oh yeah.

On the bright side, the oats do make for smooth, comfy skin, especially when you add a little coconut oil to the water as well.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

"Baby's First Words" Books

You have probably seen those big board books for babies and toddlers... the ones that say "Baby's First 100 Words" or "Baby's First 1,000 Words" or "My First 1,000 Words in French," and so forth.  We have some such book, and it has the words under bright photos of things that are supposedly early words spoken by children.  They typically are full of things like farm animals and pets, basic household furniture, some fruits and vegetables, basic vehicles like cars, trains, and airplanes, articles of clothing, and sometimes basic actions like skip, smile, jump...

(y'all should detect my sarcasm in this post... I am not calling babies who enjoy these books, including my own, boring, nor am I suggesting the things pictured in these books are unimportant words to know... just a disclaimer, you know...)

I'd like to suggest that someone invent the "Eclectic Baby's First 1,000 Words" book.  You know, for those babies whose vocabularies develop in atypical ways.  For instance...

Instead of "pizza," how about...


Instead of "car," how about...


Instead of "dance," how about...


Others to consider...

bucket truck?
(instead of the standard old "dump truck" and "airplane" - maybe there could even be distinctions between "tree service bucket truck with 60 foot boom" and "utility service bucket truck," for the baby who must adhere to precise details)

tabernacle?  genuflect?  priest?
(these would appear in the "Catholic Baby's First 1,000 Words" version)

weed wacker?  lawnmower?  chainsaw?
(much more advanced than a simple "hammer")

(rather than generic "restaurant," although it could be seen as marketing to children within the book)

(important to include if daddy has one for work so toddlers will learn to stop calling it "Daddy's pad")

La Leche League meeting?
(this could go in the "Breastfed Baby's First 1,000 Words" version in place of the "bottle" picture)

(Lucy can id Benedict by name easily; still working on Francis)

hummus and pita?  beets?  figs?  shrimp?
(for the baby with a mature palate)

Lucy's word book would be interesting, huh?  Of course, other young toddlers have given me other ideas of additions to the Eclectic Baby's First Words book...

Caroline contributed the words "lemur" and "apparently" as a young two year old.  But I don't know how to show a picture of "apparently," so that one won't make the final edit unless somebody can figure it out for me.

My brother Tim contributed "barracuda" as a one year old.  This is a really fun word for a toddler to say, trust me.  Or try it out by asking a one or two year old to say it.

I do think I would also add an image of a duck upside-down in the water, looking for food, with the label "duck bottom."  Why?  Because Lucy recently pointed to a drawing in a book of a duck's rear end sticking out of the water and said, "Lemon."  Gotta clear up these little misconceptions.

 What are some atypical first words that you would add to a Baby's First Words book, based on toddlers you've known?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Musically, I Never Left the 1990s

I was getting my hair cut at a place in our mall this weekend when a song began playing over the speakers that I hadn't heard in awhile.  "This was the very first album I ever bought, on cassette tape!" I thought to myself.  As the song was "Forever Your Girl" by Paula Abdul and the album was released in 1988, I didn't mention this aloud to the lady cutting my hair, who I am sure was maybe 2 months old at that time, if she had even been born at all yet, ha.  I probably bought the album in 1989, when I was nine years old... almost 25 years ago.  (This was *before* Paula Abdul was on American Idol, for those of you who are in your 20s still!)

Although 80s music is fun, and I have a long list of 80s soft rock songs that bring back memories of long vacations in the family station wagon, I don't own 80s albums and stick them in my car's CD player the way I still do with some 90s music.  Those songs are more for listening to on Youtube for fun or enjoying them on the radio when I happen to hear them (or for long drives to Florida!).  My cassettes of Paula Abdul, New Kids on the Block, Bon Jovi, and Guns 'n' Roses are long gone.  In fact, while classifying the 80s soft rock songs as "sentimental," I would only refer to these four examples of late 80s music as "lame" (well, Bon Jovi isn't *totally* lame - I'd actually still go see them in concert if I had the chance!;). 

But for some reason, 90s music is still cool.  A lot of it is still enjoyable, and I will still listen to it whenever I can manage to pry the Tonic CDs or Little House on the Prairie audiobooks from my CD player (and hey, one those Tonic albums is actually a 90s album, anyway!).

Okay, so some of the 90s stuff I used to listen to is just awful to me now.  Like Pearl Jam - ick.  And Nirvana - grating.  (Here's where I get to admit that I cried when Kurt Cobain killed himself, and then went on to write a research paper on the subject the following year in high school.  Go ahead and make fun of me. ;)  And then there is the 90s music I never liked back then either, even though everyone else did, like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Smashing Pumpkins (although somehow some Smashing Pumpkins songs are less irritating to me at this point).

 So here's my little list of albums I bought when I was a teenager that I still like and at least occasionally listen to 15-20ish years later...

1. Stone Temple Pilots - The Purple Album (1994)

2. The Toadies - Rubberneck (also 1994)

No, I don't listen to this with my kids in the car.  I don't listen to any of these with my kids in the car, actually.  These are for kid-free speaker blasting drives by myself.

I had a Toadies bumper sticker on my car - seriously.  How many people do you even know who had a Toadies bumper sticker?  That's right - one.  How many people have even heard of the Toadies who will be reading this?  I have no idea!  I bought this album because I heard one of the songs from it on MTV and then heard the whole album played at Fellini's Pizza while eating there with some friends, and apparently I thought, "Whoa, I need to buy this album."  Back in the 90s, we actually had to buy whole entire albums just because we liked a song or two on them.  But this time, I had actually gotten to preview the whole album and made an educated decision. ;)

3. Spacehog - Resident Alien (1995) and The Chinese Album (1998)

I actually got to see Spacehog in concert in Atlanta at the Cotton Club soon after this second album was released.  If anyone wants part of a bootleg recording made from inside a shirt pocket on a handheld tape recorder on one of those tiny answering machine cassettes, let me just go dig that out of a closet for you...

4. For Squirrels - Example (1995)

5. Deconstruction (1994 - apparently that was a good year)

6. The Cure - Wish (1992)

I also had a couple live Cure albums and a remix album called "Mixed Up."  Such beautiful sadness.  I liked sad music, generally.  Isn't that all they made in the mid-90's anyway? ;)

And, of course... Tonic - Lemon Parade (1996).  Except I didn't own that one as a teenager - I bought it when I was 30.  Somehow I missed it back then even though I knew it existed.  Whoops.

Oddly enough, if I think back, I would have to say my most favorite musician in my teen years was Beck.  I had the albums Mellow Gold, Odelay, and One Foot in the Grave (which was my favorite one even though it was released on a smaller label and was virtually unknown... I tended to like those kinds of albums best, it seems, as evidenced by #4 and 5 above).  Yet, I don't have any Beck albums any more other than One Foot in the Grave, rarely listened to any more.  I don't know why, but they just didn't stand the test of time for some reason.

So, there's my randomness in musical taste.  I don't really like much new music - maybe because I don't get a chance to ever listen to any, ha.  Or maybe because it all stinks because it has that auto tune junk in it... either way, I just stick with a few known favorites when I get in the occasional mood for something non-Tonic and non-children's music/audiobook/etc.  Truly, the CD that I have heard most lately would be The Sound of Music soundtrack, at my children's request.  Even the 1 year old can sing some of the songs.

So, what was the first album you ever purchased?  What kind of music did you like growing up, and do you still like any of it?  Do you ever break out any of the old albums from 20 years ago?  Or am I the only one?  Feel free to share in the comments!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Catching Up... Celebrating the Sacred Heart of Jesus!

The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus falls on June 7th each year.  The Immaculate Heart of Mary is celebrated the next day, on the 8th.  We celebrated by making these heart cupcakes and then decorated them like the Sacred and Immaculate Heart images. 

 The cupcakes were a King Arthur whole grains cookbook recipe... butter cake, I think?  We just frosted them with cream that I whipped up and then added strawberries for the flower and flame parts of the images...

 ...and mini chocolate chips as the crown of thorns.

I made these in a baking pan I found on clearance at the craft store... they have six heart-shaped compartments in them and are a bit larger than a standard cupcake.

 After dessert, we prayed the Litany to the Sacred Heart together.

Oh, and it was a Friday - on which we typically are meatless - but for a FEAST day, we get to feast!  So, t-bones it was!! 

Lucy loves to gnaw the bones after eating her fill of the beef...

We are loving this grass-fed beef that is filling our freezer - the t-bones especially are incredible.  Chris has learned to grill them just perfectly.  Lucy approves, as you can see!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Catching Up - Independence Day!

Here are some photos from our rainy July 4th!  Chris took the older girls to Alabama to buy fireworks... since we live only 15 minutes from the state line, and they sell much better fireworks there, ha!

Chris grilled burgers and hot dogs, too, in between the rain.  It all managed to work out!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Kindergarten 2013 - What We're Doing

 This year we will embark on the Alphabet Path again!  Cecilia is so excited, because she has some memories of this when Caroline was in Kindergarten.  She is thrilled to be doing school and especially is excited about coloring and writing.

You can find past posts about the Alphabet Path under the label "alphabet path" to see what we did when Caroline was in K.  I am realizing there will be no way to get in all the crafts and baking projects we did then, along with doing 3rd grade and keeping up with my most active toddler yet!  But we will still try to do some fun stuff... this week, we managed to do apple prints with paint as well as work on parts of an "All About Me" lapbook.

Cecilia's week basically looks like this:
* Listening to and learning the Flower Fairy songs/poems
* Reading and memorizing poems from A Catholic Alphabet of Saints and God's Alphabet
* Listening to the stories from the Alphabet Path in which new saints, flowers, and letters are introduced by friendly fairies
* Coloring sheets for various saints, fairies, and other themes for each letter
* Copywork from the two poem books - tracing at first, moving on to actual handwriting at some point when she is ready.  She will also trace letters with her fingers on paper and in cornmeal and model them with playdough.
* ABC Virtues - one for each letter; coloring and binding into a book
* ABC Museum picture study - studying one painting for each letter and then Cecilia will draw her own version and compile them into a book
* Listening to various classic childhood picture books
* Listening to various picture books on science and nature themes (for instance, A is apples, B is birds, F is flowers...)
* French video once a week - Bonjour, les Amis
* Number Practice for Little Folks
* Catholic Children's Treasure Box books, read at tea time
* Whatever art projects and crafts we can fit in

We will also do Circle Time every day, which will include:
* Calendar work: saint of the day, date, days of week, months of year, liturgical color of the day
* Monthly prayer and hymn
* Reading about saint of the day
* Counting patterns with beanbags
* Beginning to learn about time and money (really basic right now, as she is still learning the names/values of each coin)
* Nursery Rhymes beginning with the letter of the week (she will also choose her favorite one for each letter and illustrate it in a book)
* Finger plays beginning with the letter of the week

Cecilia is not yet reading, as Caroline was going into Kindergarten, so I won't be having her reread the Alphabet Path stories aloud to me.  I will probably have her narrate them back to me after reading them each week.  I will also read to her from Devotional Stories for Little Folks, most likely... just have to figure out where to schedule that in...

I am planning to go make some pie crust in a few minutes so it will be ready for her to make an apple pie tomorrow... so, I'd better end this now and schedule it to post in the morning!  I love the gentle, fun, laid-back Kindergarten days and am glad to be able to go through the alphabet path again!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Our School Room in 2013

Yesterday's post included some photos of our book bins and shelves... so here is a little more on those, as well as some basic organizational changes I have made to our school room area.

Last year, I had some of our books up high in the den, above the TV/stereo, and that just wasn't convenient.  So this year, I got a few extra bins and sorted the books into them and put a few others on the shelf below the bins.  My thought is that Caroline can just pull down the bin of morning work and pull from it at the table and then put it all back on the top of the bookcase.  Having the bookshelves better organized with all the various books and resources we will use makes me feel less frazzled - and it also shows me just how many books we actually use!!  It really is a lot, yet we typically (if the day goes relatively smoothly, like only a few toddler tantrums, ha) only work from around 8:45ish until noon and then a little bit of finishing up between 1 and 2 while Lucy (hopefully!) naps alone.  We just cover a large variety of books over a week's time.

A few other things I did to better organize our school room... First, our school room is a central room in the house.  It connects to the hall, the kitchen, and the large den.  It was a former den before somebody added on the large den many years before we bought this house.  I like that it is close to the kitchen, the bathroom, and the couches in the den.  It also has a huge closet, which I love, because I store all kinds of art supplies in it, and the toddler hasn't figured out that she can open it yet! ;)  I use the large doors of the closet to hang stuff on... I hung up some bird number cards this year for Cecilia:

I also have a "computer desk" in the school room... with no computer on it.  My laptop lives under the couch, where its charger is, and where I can enjoy it while being lazy on the couch. ;)  But I often take it to the school table, the kitchen counter, etc.  So, the computer desk just gets used as a regular desk for me.  I still rarely sit and work at it - it is really more of a glorified bookshelf at this point!  The printer is on the top, along with printer paper and cardstock, and then supplies we use frequently like tape, pens, paper clips, stapler, 3 hole punch, digital camera... those are all kept up here out of Lucy's reach.

stuff I don't want Lucy to get!

I have some "master binders" here as well - one for Caroline and one for Cecilia which I keep documents in to show what they have done: lists of poems memorized, books read, chapters read in history books, and that sort of thing.  I hope these will be complete records to show what they have read and used over their school years.  Mostly, they are checklists, because I find it simple to type up a list of all the chapters in a history book, have Caroline check them off as they have been read/narrated, and then filed away in the binder.  We can keep track of where we are throughout the year and then also have a completed record of what was done.  I found this idea on a few homeschool websites/blogs and love it!  I especially love the idea of a record of books read - I now have Caroline write down the title and author and date when she finishes reading a book, either just for fun or related to school.

I also have my liturgical year binders here - one for Lent/Easter/Advent/Christmas, and one for Ordinary Time.  Any ideas, prayers, and recipes are filed in these.  The electric pencil sharpener doubles as a bookend, ha.

And this is as clean as my desk has ever been.  If my husband is reading this, he's thinking, "Ain't that the truth!"  I even figured out what to do with my collection of Emerson Hart autographs that was slowly growing on my desk:

I stuck them on the inside of the desk using adhesive photo corners.  See, if I was really and truly obsessed, I would have framed them in archival-quality frames and hung them on a wall alongside professional photos of my children, right?  The drumstick is in the cup that holds pens, permanent markers, and other non-Lucy items!  The cup is a pretty piece of pottery but is concealed (from Lucy, of course) by the little picture frame, which displays three drawings Cecilia made on a notepad in a hotel a year or two ago...

This is my Kindergarten file crate.  I tried using it again in first and second grade, and it just wasn't as useful.  In K, I do things by the letter, so this system works great for filing anything related to the letter A in the Aa file: angels, apples, St. Anne, etc.  For example, I have some fingernail decals and the book The Fire Cat in the Ff week folder.  I have some lima beans painted to look like ladybugs as a math manipulative in the Ll folder.  Some letters last 2 weeks... most of them do, actually... but some get finished in just a week, like Qq.

Here is Cecilia's shelf of "work activities."  I pull out puzzles, games, manipulatives, etc. that go along with the letter we are doing... so since we began Aa this week, we have some alphabet puzzles, an abacus and number cards, puzzles of America (comma United States of ;), an acorn letter file folder game, and our Plan Toys preschool alphabet activity.  Cecilia pulls these out at the beginning of the school day while Caroline does her "morning work" - you know, in that time where I am trying to finish my cup of tea and breakfast, clean yogurt out of the toddler's hair, maybe do a few dishes, and check email or print/look up last minute stuff for our school day...

My new system... I got this partway through last year to replace my "unfinished work gets stacked randomly on top of the unused file crate" system.  I just finally nailed it to the wall this week, ha.  It is out of Lucy's reach, and the front file is for Cecilia's work, the middle for Caroline's, and the back slot for joint work or art projects, coloring pages, etc.  Now they have a place to stash copywork papers that aren't finished... I like to have Caroline only work at copywork for 7 minute chunks o time to ensure it is her best, neatest work - the longer they write, the more tired their hands get and the sloppier the writing.  Cecilia only does 4-5 minutes, and hers is only tracing so far.  But this guarantees that they won't finish a page in one sitting, so having a safe place to store the papers is necessary. 

If they are working on a more complicated project (say, a lapbook with several smaller components that are cut out and assembled), then they keep all the papers and such in their own project boxes - just simple rubbermaid-type plastic boxes with snap-on lids.

 I know this photo was in the last post, but it shows our Circle Time/Morning Basket stuff... I printed up the list of what we do each day so I don't forget something like the monthly poem or to do counting patterns with both kids, etc.  All of the books plus this laminated cardstock list get stored in the orange basket by the couch where we do this after morning work/work activities time each day.

Here is Caroline's morning work list - also on laminated cardstock.  each day, she can get started right after breakfast because she can check this list and know whether to write in her journal, do a page in her maps workbook, or review Spanish... it is all right here.  I told her she can even check it off with an overhead marker if she wants, but she has opted not to so far.

I also have a laminated schedule for each child for each day of the week.  Here is Cecilia's Monday schedule.  It just lists the daily tasks and the general order.  No times listed because it is more of an order than a strict time schedule.  It ensures we get to most of what we should each day.

And here is Caroline's Monday schedule.  She can follow this pretty well on her own - I have put an asterisk next to each task that she is expected to be able to do alone, or at least with very minimal help from me.  I tried to stagger things so that I'd be working with Cecilia while Caroline was working alone and vice versa.  After her morning work, she is free to begin the daily tasks since I have begun each day with one or two things she does on her own.

So, that is just a little explanation of how I attempt to organize things so the days can go as smoothly as possible (since little kid interruptions are certain to throw us off here and there anyway, like when my 22 month old was pointing to the top of the closet, howling and saying, "Hidey hole!!!" over and over as we attempted to do Circle Time today).  So far, it has worked well for us.  If anyone would like to share how you organize your school room and materials, I'd love to hear about it in a comment or a link to your own post!