Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Day

We had a blessed Thanksgiving Day with our family!

As most of you know, Steven is the youngest of 7 kids, and five of them live in town with 11 cousins ages 7 and under. It's always an adventure!

First we went to Steven's brother, Thomas' home.
Here are all the little cousins
(minus the sick triplets and Ellie who was being shy)
sitting for Thanksgiving lunch.


Here are some of the grown-ups relaxing after a yummy meal.


Backyard shenanigans! I think this was kickball.
Uncle Thomas always organizes some fun games for the cousins.


Little man watching the action with Bop-Bop,
and stealing a gingerbread cookie off the table!


They walked down to the park for some more fun and games.
This was a running race and freeze tag, I think.


We spent the evening at my parents' house for leftovers
and a time to relax. Forgot to take pictures.
Now my camera is off to a south Texas hunting adventure!

But one more picture to share.
This was the kids on the eve of Thanksgiving
just playing in the kitchen,
little brother watching big sisters coloring.


Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!
Now we prepare our home and hearts for Advent :)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Have yourself a Happy Thanksgiving!



We've had a fun and busy week!
Yesterday we survived the dentist, just me and all 3 kids!
No cavities and cooperative girls...yay!
But some predictions of future dental work as they get older....ughh.

Our portrait experience wasn't quite what I'd hoped.
The picture above was literally one of maybe 5 pictures
with the baby somewhat smiling.
He ripped his inner lip the other night and I think it's really bothering him.
Well, we'll try another photo shoot later.

Today we had a Thanksgiving party with our homeschool friends.
At Wendy's fast food restaurant!
They gave the kids free frosties and it really worked out well.
We made indian headbands at home before we left.

Here they are making handprint turkey placemats.
My camera battery died after this shot.
They got Thanksgiving tatoos, played Thanksgiving bingo,
and read Thanksgiving stories.
Some were dressed as pilgrims, some as indians.
A fun morning!
I even made it to my favorite children's resale store afterwards
for a few cute finds!

We've almost finishing cleaning,
Now we're about to start the shopping and baking
ready for a fun day tomorrow with both sides of the family!

Hope you and yours have a FABULOUS day!
Thanks be to God for this wonderful life :)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Charlotte Mason Companion



I have used my library's Interlibrary loan for the first time! But, wow that was a bit of a hassle. It took a few weeks for them to get it from Oklahoma. It has all these bookmarks and cards attached to it which will result in a fee if I misplace them. I cannot renew the book, which is due today. And there is a huge fine if it is late. I appreciate the effort it took for them to find it for me, but I don't think I'll be using this service again. I almost always renew my books and frequently get small fines!

But the book I got is a wonderful one, that I should probably just go ahead and buy, Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola. I have heard a lot about the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling over the years. In fact, many of the homeschooling families I most admire adhere to this philosophy of education. But it's a hard one to describe, not something I learned about in my education courses in college, and one that is taking me awhile to understand.

Real Learning by Elizabeth Foss and all the "Real Learning" blogs have helped me start to understand what this would look like in a homeschool. And what I've read and skimmed so far from the Charlotte Mason Companion has been a huge help to me. I heartily recommend both of the books to all homeschoolers and even non-homeschooling mothers of young children who wish to set an atmosphere of real learning in their homes.

I was hoping that as the school year went by, Mary Clare would be more agreeable to her schoolwork and things would be more enjoyable for the both of us. Unfortunately it's been just the opposite. Mary Clare is a very bright little girl, but she's also a very headstrong like myself. I knew that discipline would the hardest part of homeschooling. I'm just not very consistent and I also tend towards laziness.

And so each day, we muddle through. Her, whining about doing the work, trying to negotiate with me. Me, trying to be patient, trying to come up with creative ways to teach her. But overall we are just not that happy during our school time. Mary Clare has gotten halfway through 100 Easy Lessons and is starting to read fluently. But she isn't interested in trying new books to read, or even to try the next lesson. It's always a battle.

Math is going better. She enjoys the word problems and is slowly learning her addition facts without using her fingers. Her math and reading lessons take her about 10 minutes each to complete, but usually she is fussing about completing it for more time than that! We have learned several poems, are continuing our bible and journal narrations, and she really likes doing her Catholic Catechism Game and her Handwriting Without Tears workbook. But overall, school is a battle every day and we're taking this week off to have a fall break and to regroup.

Like I mentioned before, a lot of this is due to her strong will and her frustrations with not being 100% in charge of what she is doing. She doesn't like my help with things either; she's very independent. So this may just be something we're going to face with whatever curriculum or activities we do. But I'm also hoping that getting over my own laziness and taking the time to plan some more fun and exciting activities might help us both to enjoy our schoolwork more.

And so that's where Charlotte Mason comes into the picture. Many of you may have heard of the Five in a Row curriculum. The gist of it (and of Charlotte Mason techniques in general) is that instead of teaching from textbooks, you use good quality children's literature, i.e. "living books", to pull out lessons in all the different subject areas. For example, Elizabeth Foss creates a lesson based on Jan Brett's Twas the Night Before Christmas book here. You might read the book together and then write down a child's narration of it and have them illustrate. You might make a "lapbook" about the life of St. Nicholas, about the country Turkey, about bishops, and also about gift-giving as St. Nicholas did. You would find an appropriate passage in the book to use as "copywork"--a sentence or two for the children to copy in neat handwriting. You might memorize a poem about St. Nicholas and study an icon of the saint. You can make St. Nicholas crafts, learn a St. Nicholas song, and even bake St. Nicholas cookies!

This was the essence of "unit studies" that we learned to do in college. And so I always thought the Five in a Row program or similar was silly. I mean I am trained to create lessons like this! How hard is it to come up with some activities based on the themes of a children's book? But the time it takes to create my own lesson extensions is obviously limited,with three young children. Obviously, since I have yet to do something like this yet! So I hope that having Elizabeth Foss' ideas, Cay Gibson's Catholic Mosaic, and also the Five in a Row series will be beneficial to me. Not that I can't come up with my own ideas for some of our favorite books, but it's going to take some effort and creativity on my part and it will be nice to have these resources to fall back on.

So as we prepare for Advent, I will be preparing some fun lessons based on good children's Christmas literature, likely the Jan Brett and Tomie dePaola units on Elizabeth Foss' site. We'll probably continue with our math program, but let the rest of the subjects fall into place through our book studies. And I hope this will help us to be a happier mommy and daughter/teacher and student team! I hope it may help you too!

I hope to buy the above book and give a better summary and review of it. It really is a beautiful way to approach education. The Wikipedia entry under "Teaching Methods" gives a great summary for those who are interested. And hopefully I'll finish this book in the very near future and can give an even better review!

Hope you all have a blessed Thanksgiving week! We'll be busy with playdates, dentist, portraits, baking, and more. But hopefully I'll find some time to add some blogging in here and there. I'm so thankful for this blogging community of friends! God bless you all!


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Videos

Well, we missed the Thanksgiving performances in their normal Monday class because Mary Clare was sick. So on Friday they did the performances with a different class, hence they don't know the dances all that well, but look very sweet nonetheless!

Both classes danced to the same Thankful song from Veggie Tales. Halfway through Ellie's dance she sees a friend in the doorway and keeps an eye on her the rest of the dance!

video



We were waiting for several minutes for a few family members to watch Mary Clare's dance, so she was rather worn out by the time they finally performed. Both girls were excited to wear the special white skirts, and Mary Clare's class got to wear the special flowers in their hair! MC is actually 2nd oldest in this class to the very tall girl on the left. How one of Steven's progeny ended up on the short side, I don't know! Here's the big girl!

video

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Quick picture post


Mr. Man with a mohawk and a stick--whatta boy!


Today they performed a Thanksgiving dance for the parents.
My sweet littlest ballerina


Big girl ballerina

Sisters :)


Making Christmas cards for nursing home residents


And some Thankful Cards we've been making
(They say I'm thankful for ___, and we'll write in the inside
why they are thankful for various family members and friends)



Should be a fun weekend with the big lighting festival nearby!
Videos of the ballerinas and pics of the weekend to come!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Helpful hint

If your baby is drooling dark blue or red, chances are he has bitten off the tip of a marker. He's done it 3 times so far. I spend my days fishing crayons and markers out of his mouth.

Oh, but I love this baby boy! I hope he can stay in the Moby wrap for awhile longer. This is us at a fishing trip to the park on Saturday. It was cold and windy, but beautiful!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Today's Bible Narration

was pretty funny so I thought I'd share :)

The Exodus (retold by Mary Clare)
Moses led them to the Red Ocean. They said, "Moses, are you crazy? We can't even get across!" God let them go through the ocean. They thought God was nice because he let them pass the Red Ocean.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Watch him walk!

Since his little friends Fernandito and Gloria have some walking videos now, I had to post one of him...since he is the oldest of the 3! We've been dealing with a coughing gal today, so not much "official" homeschooling was done, but we did talk to NeNe and Daddy on speaker cell phone a few times! We also enjoyed lots of book-reading, train-making, and castle-painting and I'm keeping busy reading "A Charlotte Mason Companion"...review to come! Steven Joseph thinks the phone is so cool! Here he is walking across the kitchen trying to get to it, a little frustrated about the whole thing! You can hear my mom talking on speaker phone :)


video

Friday, November 14, 2008

Not sure if I mentioned it


but this big boy is walking!

Some of the many reasons I love homeschooling

We can have friends over for a tea party on a Tuesday afternoon


We get to experience the world around us
at Nature Club a few times a month
This was an area nature preserve yesterday,
unfortunately our hike had to move elsewhere since it was flooded


Three beautiful faces I get to look at everyday!


And one of the best parts of homeschooling....
Wonderful Friends!

pigtailed preschoolers :)


I love this picture because it shows the uniqueness of our group:

One of the moms is reading
Mary Clare is running to the playground
My friend C is pushing one of her kids to listen
Several are barefoot, some have rubber boots
J with his doo-rag, B with a string around his head
It would be interesting to see these kids in a "normal classroom"

I'm thankful our classroom is our home
Our school is the park
and our friends are the coolest :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Festibul"

We had a Children's Festival (Ellie calls them "festibuls") at church on Sunday. The kids had a blast! I overdressed everyone because I was so cold at the wedding the night before. So we spent a lot of the time inside, even though it was gorgeous outside. Oh well. My parents joined us too!

Ellie adventuring up one of the inflatables


Playing All Saint's Cake Walk and making oragami dogs


with NeNe, and with Mommy

Stevie Wonder found a stick, but it was so long
he couldn't figure out how to get it in his mouth!



And here's Ellie, obviously the adventurous gal of the day,
or at least the one always closest to the camera
She decided to try out the karaoke!
"Twinkle, Twinkle!"
video


Monday, November 10, 2008

Goodbye


to the baby gear :( It's so hard to put away baby clothes and gear, knowing my little one is growing up so quickly! But hopeful that we'll be able to use it again one day. I can't imagine how emotional it would be for those who really get rid of things, knowing they'll never have more children. We have no idea how many more children I'll be able to bear after all the difficult c-sections, but are very interested in adoption and hope to be blessed with several more children in God's great timing and design.

But for now, the bouncy chair, swing, exersaucer, and the 0-6 month clothes are up in the attic, waiting for another little baby one day!

The glider, on the other hand...my beloved glider from my dear friends....it will have to retire :(

RIP Oh dear denim glider rocker

I remember the days with Mary Clare in-utero
Spending my time browsing through baby stores
Dreaming of my new little joy and being a mommy
My friend Olivia and I would glide together
Trying out all the sample glider rockers
She with her little boy, and me with my girl
Waiting to meet them in person

A few weeks before Mary Clare made her appearance
I was put on bedrest for the remainder of pregnancy
Unbeknownst to me, Olivia and her mom's prayer group
had been planning a surprise shower
So when I got back from the doctor,
sad that I now had a complicated pregnancy
and would be forced to lie down all day
I was greeted by these sweet prayerful friends

And with them they brought along with them...
a gift I knew we couldn't afford to buy...
but my most desired baby item...
a glider rocker and footstool!

We rocked with Mary Clare, with Ellie, and Stevie
Glider has seen nursings, spitups, and more
Injuries from children who use her as a play structure
Her pockets have seen pacifiers, snacks, toys, and more
Her denim has been stained by all sorts of things
Still she rocked on

But the glider's days have been numbered
We've tried repairs
We retired the footstool long ago
Her cushions are ripped and won't stay on
Her spools are breaking off
Her screws are missing
If you sit on her, watch out!
You might just fall out the back!

So out she went last night
Into the backyard
So Steven could move her to the garage
But he must have forgotten
And alas! The rain came down this morning
And now our poor old rocker
is drenched and cold and alone

Such a sad sight!
Rest in peace, my dear glider rocker
You've done us good.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Weddings just aren't the same anymore.

Tonight one of Steven's childhood friends got married. Weddings are a fun event for our family. The girls love seeing the bride, looking at the cake, dancing....I love the free food, the confined "playspace" of the reception halls, and the Daddy-helper in attendance. A few months ago when one of Steven's co-workers got married, our family sat with some of his other work friends who have no kids. Steven joked with me about how they probably couldn't wait to get out of there, a wedding where none of us knew anyone except each other. But for us with young kids, "weddings are as good as it gets"....a free night of food and entertainment!

We've all looked forward to this wedding today, and I spent the afternoon planning out clothes for everyone. All the girls got new outfits (me included!). I bought the girls gorgeous red Christmas dresses with matching doll dresses and they couldn't wait to put them on! But I made them wait since I wanted to check another "Penney's" (they had a supersale today) to see if I could find a smaller size for Ellie. We loaded the car up and journeyed across town to visit with his family before the wedding.

The baby screamed almost the whole way and the girls fell asleep. I found the dress in a size 4 (score!) and we arrived to Grampatti and BopBop's house for a nice visit before we all would leave for the wedding. At some point Mary Clare became convinced that she'd rather play at Aunt Jill's house than go to the wedding (what? no dressing up in the red dress and dancing with mommy at the wedding?), but I was sure that Ellie would still want to come and maybe make her sister change her mind. But nope, Ellie would rather have a movie and pizza night with her aunt too. So off they went, and off we went...after dressing the screaming baby in his button-down shirt, sweater vest, and khakis. Cutie pie!

After a short drive to the church with the screaming baby (are you noticing a pattern?), we arrived early (what? us early?) and had a few seconds in the pew before Mr. Screamy caused us to spend the rest of the ceremony in the Narthex. We walked into the next building for the reception and visited and waited and waited for the buffet to start (you can't tell I was famished can you?). Meanwhile Mr. Screamy Teether kept up his screaming. At one point I tried to nurse him which he didn't want, so I stood up quickly, knocking over and shattering a glass. Nice. I don't think anyone ever cleaned it up. Sorry, Philip and Nicole.

I kept thinking of the girls and how I'd love to see them dancing around. Wondering if they'd wished that they had come with us. Wondering what their pretty red dresses would look like on them. We kept having to tell people that "no this isn't our first baby". We're real parents you know. We've got three kids. Three. We've been married 7 years. We are old. My sister-in-law was commenting on how she remembers being one of those 20 year-olds hanging out at weddings, not even associating with the 40 year-old crowd....but now she was in the 40 crowd! My father-in-law was saying, "now we're one of them. One of those old people. Why do they even invite old people to weddings?"

I guess there's something about weddings that makes you realize where you are in life. Especially when you see old friends. Many kids that Steven grew up with were there, so he had fun trying to figure out who was who and what in the world that person's name was! I was realizing how much of a mommy I am now. No interest in wedding details, honeymoon information, or ring glares. I just wanted to be with my baby and my girls in my bed. After I had my lasagna, that is.

The baby kept screaming on and off so we finally made an exit out the back door, just as they were about to start the toasts and cake-cutting. I can't believe I actually left a wedding before the cake was cut and before the dancing started! Now I've been craving wedding cake all night. We picked up the girls who had a wonderful time watching Hannah Montana (what? I think we might need a little talk with Aunt Jill ;), crafting with stickers and paper, and eating pizza. All the kids were screaming for one reason or another when we put them in their carseats, but within 5 minutes everyone including Steven fell asleep while I drove the truck home and talked to Veronica on the phone. What a night.

I think I might agree with what BopBop had to say about weddings..."I think when you're 75 you don't have to go to these things anymore". I'm not sure weddings are quite the same for the 30 year-old married with kids crowd anymore either. Now with a fussy, crabby, crawling, walking baby/toddler, and girls that choose a pizza party over a wedding (gasp!)...I'm much more content with my family at home. We have own little weddings, birthday parties, dance classes, and masses going on in the living room every day anyway!

How you know it was a hard night: Not one photo taken. Sorry guys; you'll have to wait to see my vested boy and girl/dolly dresses till another time. Have a blessed Sunday!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Love.

Tonight I had one of those mommy moments. Those moments where you are just filled with an overwhelming sense of love and thankfulness for the precious souls God has entrusted you with.

It's been a long Friday. I stayed up too late Thursday night having fun with my new online "find"...Facebook. Then today started early, with Steven Joseph awake and ready for the day around 6am (which, if you know me, this is early). He and I fell back asleep for a short while, but the girls were rearing to go soon after and I needed to do some final touches before the First Friday homeschool class today.

Somehow we made it to daily mass (during the homily, with kids literally bouncing off the kneelers), and then had some time to get ready for the class. It went very smoothly...a discussion about St. Cecilia and the gift of music. The kids made little jingle bell bracelets and paper plate tambourines and had a fun time singing and dancing. Apparently Mary Clare had a good time in her Little Flowers class too...she was buddied up with an older girl and they all helped lead a rosary and talk about things they were joyful about. She made some tissue paper flowers and was very happy when I picked her up from the class. That made me glad, since earlier in the semester she was wanting to come back to my preschool class so as to not miss out on our fun crafts and activities.

After the classes, we went to one of our homeschool group's favorite parks. It was an absolutely gorgeous day. The girls had a blast playing with their little friends and Stevie was showing off his new walking skills to all the ladies (he's taken about 8 steps at once this week!). I had to make myself leave; I could have stayed there for hours visiting with my friends. But we needed to go to a ballet make-up class, so straight there we went! The girls enjoy ballet so much. It makes me smile to watch them enjoying their class...Ellie sends me grins and waves, and Mary Clare has that toothless smile that makes my heart melt. Steven Joseph was a bit challenging during the 2+ hours at the dance studio, but I digress.

When we finally arrived home it was almost 6pm! What a day! And Steven will not be arriving home anytime soon. Right now all my homeschool friends are hanging out at a mom's night, but there was no way I could handle that after our busy day and without Daddy home. So I thought I would have a relaxing evening, bribing the kids with a favorite online show...just knowing they'd get ready for bed in a jiffy! Well that didn't happen. There was a firetruck and police cars two houses down, we couldn't find the toothpaste, Ellie lost her pajama top, and to top it off...once I had Stevie asleep the girls decided to come in and start jumping on my bed and wake him up!

Needless to say, they lost their movie priviledges and Mary Clare was utterly upset. She can spout out some mean words when she's upset with me. One of the best tonight was "You are the meanest mommy in the world...in all the countries!" "I guess so", I said. "Then you need to adroove your attitude!!!" We were all laying in my bed and they kept teasing the baby and keeping him from falling asleep.

Mary Clare cuddled up next to Stevie and all of a sudden started bawling..."Mommy, I'm sorry! I want to be a good big sister. I'll try harder next time! I just really wanted to watch that show!" My heart melted at her remorse and I comforted her as she drifted off to sleep. Oh, how that sweet girl can get at my nerves! We are so alike, and our personalities really bite at each other a lot. But at that moment my love for her, and the other precious bodies in my bed just started overflowing and the tears started falling.

I had the Christian radio station on and the song just hit me. It's one I'd heard before you, but never really listened to the lyrics. So beautiful:

By Your Side by 10th Avenue North (google it)

Why are you striving these days
Why are you trying to earn grace
Why are you crying
Let me lift up your face
Just don't turn away

Why are you looking for love
Why are you still searching as if I'm not enough
To where will you go child
Tell me where will you run
To where will you run

And I'll be by your side
Wherever you fall
In the dead of night
Whenever you call
And please don't fight
These hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you

Look at these hands and my side
They swallowed the grave on that night
When I drank the world's sin
So I could carry you in
And give you life
I want to give you life

Cause I, I love you
I want you to know
That I, I love you
I'll never let you go

I've been thinking a lot about contentment. How I'm one of those people always looking to the next-big-thing, never quite content in the present moment. I was talking to a friend the other day and telling her how nice it was that we didn't have any huge events this week, no costumes to make, or big parties to attend. She challenged me in sharing about how she really tries to be present and content in each moment, and I knew that was something I needed to work on.

So looking at my peacefully sleeping children and hearing those words, "why are you striving these days, why are you crying, why are you looking for love, where will you go child"...and "I'll be by your side whenever you fall, in the dead of night whenever you call, please don't fight, these hands are holding you, I want to give you life, I love you, I'll never let you go"...they just hit me.

I want so bad to give these kids "life"...life in Christ, a life full of love, full of grace, full of every beautiful thing, every pure childhood joy I can give them. I want their days to be filled with happiness and beauty...but most of all I want to give them Christ. But it's not me that can give that to them. It's
his hands that are holding me, and holding them. His death that gave us life. Abundant life.

I have no need to worry. No need to stress about costumes or lesson plans, finances or food. He'll be by my side whenever I call. But oh, if I could just listen to those words more often. Hear his voice more clearly. Many of my friends will be attending a silent Ignatian retreat next weekend. That's always such a true gift of prayer for me. I'll be praying for them and hoping to have some fruitful prayer myself this week. Now that we're on an earlier schedule I need to just get out my prayer book, bible, and spiritual reading each morning. It will start my days off so much better!

So this was kind of a random post. Haven't had a reflective one in awhile. But I'm starting to see the beauty this autumn, starting to feel like we're turning a corner after a stressful few months, starting to feel more confident in schooling and more hopeful that I can stop fretting over mundane details and just love. 'Cause that's all we need anyway.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

All Saints' Celebration!

Welcome to our homeschool group's All Saints' Party! I have had several people ask about how this party works. It's mostly due to the generosity of the O family coordinating it and letting us have it at their picturesque ranch. This year was a bittersweet celebration, being the first event out there since they lost their 17 year-old son Hayden in a swimming accident this summer. May God continue to bless their family as they grieve. And may his soul rest in peace.

So welcome to the tour....

First we have a nice picture of Steven holding mini-St. Francis of Assisi.
Isn't it a great picture of him (the daddy that is :)

Now the saint parade begins. We see Our Lady heading up the parade,
pulling the popemobile!

St. Elizabeth of Hungary with her basket,
and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in the black shirt

Parade!

Coming around the bend

Ellie with her "knight", her best buddy St. George!

Now the games begin!
This is the "Cake Walk of Saints"

"St. Martha's Bake Shoppe" where they iced and decorated cookies

David & Goliath ball toss

St. Therese's Shower of Roses toss

Queen Mary's Halo Toss

All Saints' Bingo

St. Peter's Fishing Boat

St. Paul's Missionary Journey

Knock Down the 7 Deadly Sins


Not pictured were: St. Thomas Aquinas Trivia,
Pope John Paul Face Painting, St. Isadore's Horseshoe Toss,
Pin the Mitre on St. Patrick, Blessed Kateri's Stone Rosary,
St. Francis Nature Craft, and St. Anthony's Item Search.

I love this picture of Ellie swinging.
This is where Mary Clare fell off and lost her tooth!

And a bonus picture of our gorgeous Goddaughter!


Hope you enjoyed the tour! And I ask for prayers for a special intention for Steven today...thanks!

God bless our new country and new President-Elect.
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