January 27, 2009

In Series

Yesterday, I took a whole day off from the computer. I didn't even turn it on. Instead, I sat by the fire and read A Little Princess to the kids. They loved it and when it was over, my six year old asked if there were any more books about Sara. She was sorry to hear that there were no more.

My children love books that come in a series. If a story is a good one, they always want to know more. And so I've been thinking about some of our favorite book series to read aloud and read over and over again are and thought I'd share them with you all.

1. The Great Brain books

2. The Little House books

3. The Anne books

4. The Ramona books

5. Henry Huggins books

6. The Melendy Quartet

7. The Betsy and Tacy books

8. The All-of-a-Kind Family books

9. Paddington

10. The Moffats

11. Henry Reed

We also like the Hardy boys, Three Investigators, Nancy Drew, Magic Treehouse, Prydain Chronicles, Narnia books and many others. What else do you recommend?

January 23, 2009

Quick Takes Friday

(1) Today is Justin's birthday. For the next few months we will be the same age and then I will be the old lady again. Being older than my husband has never bothered me, although he has retained his youthful appearance better than I have. What does bother me much more is the fact that when we married, we were the same height and weight. We are still the same height, but I have had five children and he hasn't. Hmph.

(2) The baby is crawling or lunging or something. It is hard to describe her method of locomotion, but suffice it to say, papers and other detritus that my children strew across the floor are no longer safe. It's also time for me to find some baby gates to block entrance to places we have not yet gotten doors for.

(3) Had a nice "date" with my now older husband last night. After the kidlets were asleep in bed, we sat in the living room and read poetry to each other. Sounds cheesy, but we weren't sticking to the sappy stuff, just picking out interesting poems and reading them out loud. In fact, my volume was of comic verse. It would have been even better had we started a fire, but I didn't want to send Justin out into the cold, dark night to chop wood.

(4) It's so warm in Nashville today though that I think the kids and I will be spending most of our time outside. I have a sudden longing to pull weeds and look at all the bulbs peeking their heads up out of the earth. I really want to buy everything in all the seed catalogs that come to my house, even though I'm lazy and hate starting things from seed. I can't wait to plant more stuff in both the flower beds and the veggie beds. But what I really need to do is clean up all the junk and kid debris in the yard. We're starting to look like rednecks.

(5) Last week, I got to do something I never really thought I wanted to do, but I had a great time. I went to a Celine Dion concert. I admit I've never been a fan particularly, but when you are home with five children any chance to get out of the house is welcome. So when Mrs. Fussypants invited me to come along with her, Jamie and Jessica, I went. Thanks to Alli for asking me and for Barbara Jones at the One2One Network for the tickets.

(6) A girl I was friends with in grade school 23 years ago found me on Facebook. I haven't thought about anyone from that grade school since we moved across the country 23 years ago. And I was one of the first people she looked up when she joined Facebook. It's always strange to think how our lives touch other people's.

(7) I haven't mentioned it before, but I am going to Blissdom. I totally won't fit in, I'm sure, because I happen to be fashion incompetent and all, but I am looking forward to hanging out with the cool blogging women that will be there.

For more Quick Takes visit Jen.

January 22, 2009

Discovering Great Artists


Having a schedule for the days of the week, not of what to do when, but of what things to try to finish in a day has really helped me with schooling the kids. Oddly enough though, I forgot to put blogging on my list of things to do every day and so yet again I've been neglecting this space a bit.

But in the meantime, the kids have been learning. Math and English get done, as do science, history and religion. We've even managed to fit time for art. Now my kids will draw and create on their own without actual art studies, but without focus they usually don't get to try new techniques and they don't learn about particular artists.

At the beginning of the year, I planned to use the book Discovering Great Artists to help us focus. In the first semester, we used the book once. In the past three weeks, we've studied three artists and the kids are loving it. We've learned about the Limbourg Brothers and their Book of Hours, studied Fra Angelico and we're learning about Masaccio this week.

Not only are they learning about artists and their contributions to the development of art, but I'm remembering things I should have known all along. It's all well and good, for instance, to let the kids have lots of paper and drawing tools to mess around with, but a little instruction goes a long way too. When my four year old draws by herself her drawings look like stick figures with arms sticking out where their ears should be and my six year old sticks a line of blue sky at the top. When I sit with them and ask them questions about what the world really looks like, it is amazing what they see and can put down on paper. I ask them to look at my arm and tell me whether it is a line or if it has a top and bottom line. What does a hand look like? Do you see the sky all the way to the horizon? Their pictures improve and so does their ability to see on their own and interpret into drawing what their eyes perceive.

The pictures above are their drawings of saints. My four year old did the one of Mary and Jesus, the six year old drew Joan of Arc and the nine year old St. Benedict.

January 12, 2009

Half a Year

It's very hard for me to believe, but it has been half a year since this little one was born.

She has a nasty habit of waking up around 1:30 in the morning and she's a much more vocal advocate of attachment parenting than I am, but her smiles have a way of brightening the room and making her mama, her daddy and all her siblings melt into a puddle.

January 08, 2009

Baby Stepping Towards A Saner Existence

"I can't take it any more." A young baby, homeschooling, housework, too many places to go, too many house guests and not enough sleep have been pitching me over the edge recently. I'd be in tears at the drop of a hat and saying the meanest things to my husband, who was frustrated by me and started suggesting it might be time to put the kids in school.

Nothing seemed to be going well for me towards the end of last year. Putting the kids in school wasn't the answer I was looking for, but nothing seemed to be working.

A friend reminded me of a book I'd flipped through in the past called A Mother's Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot, which seeks to help a woman in my position figure out how to put all the parts of her life into the proper order and find balance. My first thought generally is not to turn to self-help books or anything of the sort, but one gets to the point where one must do something.

The author suggests not just writing a schedule willy-nilly, but actually considering one's vocation as a wife and mother and working to fit various important areas into ones day in the proper order of importance.

I think the overall idea of the book isn't terribly new or different, and yet it addressed needs I'd been having of late better than other things I've run across. One idea that really struck a chord was that when one creates a scheduled plan, it gives one a lot of freedom to know that something will be done. You don't have to fret over getting everything finished all at once, because every job has its time and place. As I've seen myself alternate between staring at the walls not knowing what to do, but knowing I had a lot to accomplish or running around frantically trying to get everything done all at once, this idea of putting everything into its proper order in a scheme and knowing when something should be done (so that it actually gets done) appeals to me.

Her schedule is not mine, but then again I am not her. In fact, I have yet to fix a complete schedule for myself. I have begun by making a few changes though. I've set aside a time to pray every day. Now while I am in the kitchen cooking dinner, I turn on my CD of the rosary, since I can't cook and hold beads at the same time (plus I really like the meditations by St. Therese). I also got my husband to sit down with me and help me write up a schedule for homeschooling. Not a schedule of specifically when to do what lesson, but a schedule of what lessons to try to get through in a day and I pulled out a three-ring notebook for each child with a section for each day of the week to put their readings, copywork and other similar assignments in so that when we get to something I am not fumbling around and asking them to hold on while I scan and print out work for them.

Is my house clean and tidy and my day perfectly ordered? Sadly no. However, I feel like I may be making my way out of a cloud of depression and frustration. The next steps for me are creating a housekeeping plan of tasks I'd like to get done each day or week and figure out which children can help me with them and perhaps to line up a babysitter who can watch the kids once every few weeks for a few hours so that I can have a chance to be alone.

January 07, 2009

Three Dead Mice

The mice in my house have reverted to a more normal Pinkie status and are less Brain-like.

After the great disappointments of failed mice killing earlier, we managed to completely ignore the critters for several weeks. Until our dog parked himself firmly in the spot where I prepare dinner with his nose sniffing away madly under the cabinets. I still managed to ignore/step over him for one night, but when the mouse made a mad dash from his hide out, over my foot to another under cabinet location, I decided it was time to do something.

We had hardly turned out the lights in the kitchen before we heard that pleasant snap meaning that there is an ex-mouse somewhere on the premises.

The dog had also been nosing around the foot of our bed and a cabinet in the schoolroom, so we put traps out there -- and hit the jackpot in all locations. I'm paying closer attention to the dog and where he's paying attention. It's not as good as a cat and I doubt we'll ever really win the war on mice, but it's a start.

January 06, 2009

Making a Book

You know those spiral notebooks that Wal-Mart and Target sell for $.10 at the beginning of the school year? One year when they were marked down to $.05 each, I bought about 40 of them. Of course, that year my mother-in-law also bought us a bunch and has done so every year since. Even though my children inhale paper like air, we haven't managed to work through all the spiral notebooks in the house.

At the beginning of the year, I decided to start doing something with some of the notebooks, besides the usual scribble-fest that fills most of them. My oldest was also very into U.S. geography and so we decided to turn one of the notebooks into a study of the states. It's already bound. It's already lined. It's perfect.

This has become a great geography/handwriting/art project and one my son looks forward to adding to. I think the fact that it is a special book helps, because he has a dedicated space, layout size, and ruled lines.

Although one could certainly print out pictures for all the parts, since my son likes drawing, he's doing most of the illustrations himself, but I do print maps of the states for him from Houghton-Mifflin's Outline Maps.

In my son's geography book, we started with a title page and illustration of the US, followed by a list of the states and the years they entered the Union. Then each state gets a page with facts about the state, a map showing its location in the US and a larger state map. On the back of that page, my son has been drawing copies of the state flags. This does lead to a little confusion because you wind up looking a the state information for one state and the state flag of the previous one, but it's a pretty good format.

He's not quite finished with the original colonies, so this book will be an ongoing project for a long time to come, but it is one both of us our pleased with.

I'm looking forward to making more books out of our excess spiral notebook collection. I'm thinking about a study of prayers and the sacraments, an book of artists and a tree identification notebook.

January 02, 2009


On the morning after Christmas, the six year old gently shook her father awake and announced that she had thrown up, but that it was all under control. She'd made it to the toilet and she was just letting us know. "Phew, did we get off easy," we thought.

Hahahaha! Early, early that Sunday morning, the bug hit me and the two year old. Then it seemed that things were getting better, though one or two children had on and off diarrhea. We continued on with fairly normal life (meaning we probably infected tons of people, sorry about that), even going up to The Fathers of Mercy for Mass on New Year's Day.

We came home, ate, watched The Great Race with the kidlets and had a nice lazy New Year's day.

I was curled up and sleeping when the screaming started. The four year old had emptied the contents of her stomach onto the bed she shares with her sister. When my husband started cleaning up their bed and transferring the girls to separate locations, the six year old threw up all over her brother's bed and managed to shoot it under another bed. And by morning, there was yet another set of sheets covered in more of the same. That, if you are keeping score, is three sets of sheets/pillows/duvets/pajamas/etc.

I had been caught up with laundry when I went to bed the first time and I loaded of the washing machine at midnight with the first load from the first attack of the plague of 2009 and got up at 7:30 to start a new load before doing anything else. The washer and dryer have been running continuously since then and if nothing else happens, I still have at least two more loads to wash.

The year can only get better from here, right?