Thursday, April 28, 2016

Armful of Treasures

These aren't beautiful photos in terms of camera quality, composition, or even being focused, but they're beautiful to me. 


It was morning time and the three youngest (5, 3, 9 months) piled on top of me for some snuggles, so the 9-year-old snapped a few candid shots.


These are my treasures.


I may have no career right now, not even a job that pays me minimum wage. I don't have honors, recognition nor good reputation, glamour nor even fitness, nor a published name. But this is where my treasure lies: in these wee souls.

They won't always want to snuggle with me on the couch, so, God, please give me the graces to savor these moments.

(This is my 3,100th post published in ten years. Wow.)

Sky Zone

John and Mary have been working so hard at their daily piano practice to prepare for Guild, for which they must play ten memorized pieces along with the scales and cadence chords in the appropriate key signatures for each song. And Margaret is working hard to learn to do her practice every day.


So, the children saved up their small weekly rewards for a big one: I took them to Sky Zone for an hour today (taking advantage of the nearly 50% discount for homeschoolers on Thursday afternoons.)









It was loads of fun and the children were utterly exhausted! Win-win!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Josey's First Rope

At our music teachers' home, Joseph found a rope. Mr. J----- gave him permission to take it home.


I can't capture how cute this little boy was whipping with his rope, lassoing anything and everything, and his approaching me asking him if I needed any rescuing with his rope.


If only we could all tap in to such simple joys!



Friday, April 22, 2016

7 Quick Takes Friday

1.

On April 17, well past Easter, I finally disposed of the Christmas cards from this year. Just keep on swimming, keep on swimming . . . 

2.

I look at these photos of my five children cheerfully playing in the shady back yard, with our statue of the Blessed Mother watching over them and I feel so blessed.


Thomas (9 months) absolutely loves swinging!
























Thomas . . . a jubilant baby, or a 24-pound wrecking ball for big brothers who get in the way?

video

3.

I am forever looking for and inventing new ways for us to achieve our Morning Basket Time--to read books aloud--while minimizing the Tasmanian Devil-like interruptions from the three-year-old ALL BOY and from the baby.

One crisp morning, I let the three-year-old ride his bicycle on the top of the long driveway while I read aloud to the others at the kitchen table. I sat in the window seat so I could keep an eye on Joseph outdoors, and the baby wanted to be in my arms.



Someone else started a 500-piece bird puzzle with my children--because, believe me, I don't put out puzzles during these years with tiny tots!--but I capitalized on it when I realized it would occupy the older children while we did our Morning Basket Time.

Full disclosure: the three-year-old was watching television in the other room to make this work!



4.

During this spring season when the weather is so favorable, the children eat most lunches outdoors. I am so pleased at this new season of my life, with children a bit older, as I can even ask my 7-year-old to make lunch for everyone: she 'takes orders,' then makes a picnic outdoors.

Eating under the watchful eyes of the Marys--their big sister and the Virgin Mother--while I lay down the baby for nap


While cleaning up the backyard, I found these notes, crumpled in the grass, from one sister to the other.

Dear Margaret, How are you? I hope you are O.K. Did you like the picnic? Love, Mary

Dear Mary, I loved the picnic. Love, Margaret


5.

I am lately being more mindful of allowing the 5-year-old to try new things. When I had just the first couple of children, I encouraged independence but, as happens when a parent has older children, why would I go through the difficulty of training/allowing a tiny tot to learn a task when I have a responsible, competent big kid?

I realized this week that I've never taught Margaret how to pour milk because I always ask her older brother to get cereal for the younger siblings. Margaret has been asking and asking, so now I'm taking the extra time daily to pour her a little pitcher that she can handle.


I just wish I had a picture of her beaming smile as she carried an armful of packages back from the mailbox when I let her go get the mail all by herself for the first time this week! I hadn't let her before because why would I want to pause my work to watch her out the window (like I used to do with the other children) when I have 7- and 9-year-olds, either of whom I can send alone to get the mail without my needing to watch them? Well, it's Margaret's turn now.

6.

Miscellaneous Moments . . . 

After a good five or six years, we finally put wood chips on the paths/trails in our back yard again. How enjoyable!

New wood paths
We happened to start our day with a neighborhood walk on Trash Day, only to discover two shelves set on the curb for free.


We picked up a black bookshelf to house all of the children's Legos and a white shoe shelf for the girls' closet. And you know what I did while they were scrubbing? I did our Morning Basket Time reading aloud!!! Never miss an opportunity . . .

Children scrubbing clean our new-to-us shelves

Josey doing "school work" at "his desk" while I teach the older ones


7.

John and Mary had their annual standardized academic testing today, and all is well. I consider it my "annual review" . . . and I deserve an ice cream cone!


For more 7 Quick Takes Friday, check out This Ain't the Lyceum.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Thomas at 9 Months Old

Thomas turned nine months old on Tuesday . . . as many months "out" as "in"!


That day he cut his top two teeth, bringing his teeth count to four.


And the subsequent day he stood by himself for a few seconds.






At his well-baby check, he weighed in at 23 pounds 9 oz, which is the 95th percentile, and was 29.75 inches tall, which is the 94th percentile. Reviewing my records shows that is an average of two inches taller and four pounds heavier than his siblings at the same age!


But we think he's in the 100th percentile for joy.



Friday, April 15, 2016

7 Quick Takes Friday

1.

Even when we're having sick days, if there are enough of us well and we have nothing better to do, Mama makes us lay in the master bed and do school there. Is that a perk or a downside of homeschooling?!

Morning Basket reading while sick in bed

Aquinas? Who's Aquinas?

A great children's biography of St. Thomas Aquinas

Phonics lesson
2.


Speaking of school, I want to share a recommendation of a geography resource newly recommended to me by a fellow homeschooling mother: World Geography Games. One week in and I think this one is a winner!

This online resource is free and covers all manner of world geography. The 'games' are brightly colored but consist simply of labeling maps: nothing frenetic, glaring, or blaring. There is no music about which to love or dislike. There are no cartoon characters leading the way who might be dressed immodestly or in bothersome styles. There is also no speed timer, so the child chugs along at his own pace; I have found this is important because I have one child who crumbles on speed pressure, but does fine if that aspect is removed.

I'm finding myself playing these simple geography games and desiring to brush up in an area where I'm weak!

3.


This was the pile of glass out of which I scooped up Thomas one night.

Oh, were we under some attack that night! My husband was gone all week, the kids were sick, one child was going through a spiritual battle and trying to make the right choice, I was burning the dinner, the kitchen faucet was broken . . . and then I heard right behind me a crash. Thomas had smashed glass and so much had flown at him that his legs burst out in tiny dots of oozing blood. I thought I had cleaned him up, so I set him down in the den to creep around while I cleaned up the glass, but it turns out that Thomas was leaving awfully sad drag marks of blood all over the wood floor. Meanwhile, my three-year-old found a shard of glass and cut his hand pretty decently, so he began screaming at the sight of what he calls "blood juice!"

Thankfully, all made it through on a lot of prayers and some tears . . . and that one child ended up making the right choice! Battle won!

4.

Music competition isn't even over yet and you know what we're doing? Choosing songs for next year's competition season! The new songs came out--did you know there is an official list put out by these various organizations? I only just learned that this year.

The children and I were told what level of songs in which they would be competing (this is figured out a year ahead of time!), so we listened on YouTube to about 60 songs and wrote down our feedback. Then I compiled a list for Mary and John of "those songs that elicited the strongest positive response."

If a kid is going to play a song approximately a zillion times, he or she had better be passionate about it!



5.


Thomas Vincent is a few days shy of 9 months old and he is everywhere. I'm finally starting to lose some baby weight and it's just possible it's due in part to chasing this tot all the time.

  • Thomas is close to standing on his own. When I set him down on the ground, he stiffens his legs and wants to stand, refusing to be plumped on his bottom. Of course, I don't want to just stay there holding him in a standing position, so I bend his chubby legs until he sits.
  • Thomas now throws angry fits. It starts so early! If I shut a door so he can't go in a room, he begins screaming a rage! He learned how to turn on and off the children's CD player, so if he turns it on and I turn it off, he screams at me! I tried to take a picture of one of his little tantrums, but as soon as he saw the phone, he began smiling. Then when I didn't let him hold the phone, he started up his fit again. Rinse and repeat! 
  • I've heard it said that one can train a baby with a firm 'no' and consistency, but five babies in and I really haven't achieved that. Thomas is in the phase now of determinedly seeking to climb the stairs . . . and our rear stairs have an odd configuration that truly defies baby gates. So, I'm cooking in the kitchen and rush every 60 seconds to pull Thomas off the stairs, put him far away across the room, and cook for 60 more seconds until he's raced across the room and ascended half a dozen stairs. Repeat, repeat, repeat. This will end without my baby being trained, but with him being skilled at stairs at a very young and me just letting him climb up to the play room like he wants.
  • Thomas is loving all his interesting table foods. He eats a wide variety of what we're eating at the table, this week including bits of real chicken and gnawing for 15 minutes off of a skinned apple.
  • Thomas is taking really solid naps now (by my definition). He goes down for a morning nap between 9:30 and 10:00 and sleeps for two to three hours (we try to do prime time school then!). His afternoon nap is a bit of a wildcard, both in its time and its length, depending on that morning nap. Then he goes to bed pretty dependably around 8:00--unless circumstances dictated that he actually missed an afternoon nap entirely, in which case he falls asleep around 7:00. If he took good daytime naps, he sleeps ten hours overnight (waking to nurse), but longer if he missed afternoon nap. That's as solid as it gets in my home!
  • He still nurses tons, especially overnight, and he weighs so much. Shall we all place bets in anticipation of his 9-month visit next week? I'm thinking close to 25 pounds. As soon as I got out the 18-month-size shorts for the warm weather, I had to put them away and get out the 24-month for him.


6.



On Friday (no more CCE!) we took the day off of school for Mama to catch up on an overwhelming, anxiety-producing amount of administrative and organizing housewifery tasks, for John to attend a boys' sports birthday party, and for Margaret to go on her Daddy Date for her birthday: she chose swimming and to take along her sister Mary for extra added fun. This left me at home with two baby boys and more quiet than I've experienced in I-don't-know-when.


I wish I could say I was incredibly productive, but caring for a baby and a preschooler (AKA whirling dervish) means I completed something like four of eleven tasks that I feel needed finally to be done today. (Cue insomnia for tonight.)

7.

For Bonus Reading, enjoy the two latest pieces I've read on the ills of screen time.

  • An alarming clinical tale of video Game Addiction (click here)
  • And the story of what happened what a couple stopped 'eating brain candy' every night and started following their dreams (click here).


For more 7 Quick Takes Friday, check out This Ain't the Lyceum.