Thursday, February 27, 2014

I Can't Blog Right Now Because There's a Leg on My Mantel


And there's this...

And this...

And it would be very imprudent and irresponsible for me to do much of anything besides focus on family, housekeeping, and prayer.  I have already been absent here for some time and think I will be for several more days.  I've still been reading a couple of the blogs I love and am looking forward to jumping back in myself.  But... as you can see, there is so much here that deserves (and demands!) my loving attention.  

Hope to be back sooner rather than later!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Crime and Pu...Nourishment (Stretching a Dostoyevsky Reference a Bit Too Far Just to Make Some Recommendations on Books Not by Dostoyevsky )

The other day someone asked me how Sweet Baby James was sleeping at night and how night-nursing was going.  "Oh, it's been mostly fine.  Nursing in the quiet of night gives me the opportunity to catch up on a little Chesterton."  The inquirer may have thought me very clever and academic-like, but she was none the wiser since I hadn't quite specified...  I'm just still trying to get through G. K.'s Father Brown mysteries :) I started them when Clare was born two years ago, but the complete set I had borrowed from the library was so dang big and heavy, it wasn't a very nursing-friendly tome.  There's only so much you can manage with a tiny human attached to you and one hand free.  But now I've got the complete mysteries on my phone (99 cents in the Kindle Store!)so I'm able to manage much better :)  

I can think back to when I was nursing each of my children as newborns and recall the books that I read during that time. Mysteries come up frequently, particularly the Jane Austen Mysteries by Stephanie Barron.  They are an easy read, but are thoroughly entertaining and often quite suspenseful. If you're a fan of Austen and mysteries, I can pretty safely guarantee you'll enjoy these books.  If you're a stuffy Jane Austen scholar, maybe not. But I'll let you sort that out for yourself.  

Barron's series of 11 (soon to be 12 !!!! books) are written as if they were the long lost journals of Jane Austen which were only recently "discovered" in a basement.  In them Jane willingly, but rather accidentally, serves as a detective for a variety of crimes, and ends up solving many a mystery while she moves about her ordinary life in turn-of-the-19th-century England. Readers are introduced to many of the players in Austen's real life - her sister Cassandra, her brothers, sister in law, nieces and nephews, etc... as well as several fictional characters including one with whom she develops a compelling, though restrained, romance.  I've enjoyed all of the stories in the series and am looking forward to the latest, Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas, purported to come out this fall.  (It is best to read the books in order if possible, as there are story lines which carry through and develop throughout.)  

There is a nice review of Barron's series here.  And a list of the books in the order that they were written is here.  

* * * * * *

Aaron has jumped on the bandwagon that is crime-solving while I nourish the baby.  He has been reading Mercy Watson Fights Crime by Kate DiCamillo to us (typically while I'm feeding James on the couch, which incidentally, is the exact same time that everyone else has to be on the couch.) I checked a few of the Mercy Watson books out of the library at Erin's (from Seven Little Australians and Counting) recommendation.  We've been thoroughly enjoying the quirky and funny adventures of the beloved household pig, Mercy.  The books are perfect for Aaron, who is able to read them independently.  Mercy Watson Fights Crime has been the favorite so far - it's hard not to enjoy a story about a bumbling thief who wants to be a cowboy and the toast-loving "porcine wonder" who foils him :)

that 's James and me in the bottom left corner :) 
So there you have it.  A series for you, based on one of the great literary geniuses and social commentators of Regency England.  And a series for your kiddos, based on... a pig. 

I think you'll enjoy both! 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

My Scrap Bag Rainbow Quilt (What's Done is Done)

What's done is done.  That's what I kept hearing in my head as I finished up my rainbow quilt yesterday.  And every time I heard it, it was Mrs. Hugh's saying it.  Somehow, hearing her voice inside my head made the whole thing a little easier to swallow.

Finishing this quilt was bittersweet.  Sweet because it's done and I LOVE the colors.  Bitter because a lot went wrong and it didn't turn out as great as I wanted it to and I'm really upset about it.  The fabric got very bunched in the middle while I was quilting it (check out that row of green... ugh) and I had a major measure-once-cut-and-screw-it-all-up error, and so the quilt is much narrower than it was supposed to be. And other things.  Rrrrrrr.  I'm trying to let go of my frustration and just enjoy what I ended up with.  Because what's done is done, and now I am going to hop on over to Amazon and buy a walking foot for my machine.

I went a little nuts taking lots of pictures, because like I said, I do love how colorful it is!

Started with this...

Ended up with this... 

 - curse you, green row -
Folded up or draped over stuff, the imperfections are hidden, so we'll stick with the imperfection-hiding photos from this point on...

A few shots of the quilt in action...

Grainy photography courtesy of early morning poor lighting + 6 year old photographer.  As you may have guessed, minutes after these photos were taken, the new quilt was christened by my morning coffee.  I didn't cry, though;  people and things only become full fledged members of this family after having a baptismal-like encounter with my coffee.  

And because it's so colorful and I can't stop taking pictures of it, here are a few I got with the evening sun in our living room... Kind of artsy fartsy, and will probably make you think, "stop taking pictures of the dang thing already."  I get it.  Russ said as much :)  (Oh!! but I just love the colors so!  And looking at them is the perfect antidote for gray-sky-winter blues.  OK.  Enough.)

It's been my pleasure sharing this spectrum spectacle with you!  Hope you got your color fix!  

Friday, February 14, 2014

Savage Chickens is for Lovers (7QT)

I haven't had a lot of time for blog post writing this past week.  But I did spend an afternoon wading through the archives of Savage Chickens to bring you these Seven Quick Takes.

7QT Valentine's Day Edition:
Savage Chickens is for Lovers... of Great Literature







... for Lovers of the Library System:

and a bonus take to make up for not writing anything else for a week...

 ... for Lovers of Church History and Sacred Art:

Happy St. Valentine's Day!

Enjoy more Quick Takes - undoubtedly more well thought out and better written than mine - at Conversion Diary.  Thanks for hosting, Jen!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

7QT - Beverages and Baby Stuff

I don't think I'll ever be one of those SQT contributors who has these things done on Wednesday and is just waiting to hit publish at the stroke of midnight early Friday morning.  On Wednesday I think I was still sorting through Tuesday...

But, here they are... my little-bit-late Seven Quick Takes (comprised mostly of baby photos that probably only interest me and some postpartum humor, because if you can't laugh about life with little kids you're in trouble.)


Hehe.  Thanks, Mom, for finding this one for me!


Well, Mom, you actually found this one too...

Do you know about Savage Chickens?  Check out these awesome cartoons - drawn (by Doug Savage) on yellow post-it-notes! - at  They never fail to amuse.  In fact, I'm considering giving you an entire Quick Takes worth of Savage Chickens next week :)  (lucky you!)




You know I love to crochet.  So, what do you think about my next project??  

(Kidding.  Even though this is hysterical, I wouldn't waste my time or yarn.  Plus, a wine glass around the neck would only get in the way while nursing, and that's prime wine-drinking time...)


Saturday morning sweetness...


And you may recall a certain little quilt I made "in case" we had a boy??  James is putting it to good use. 

Last quick take is...

 Cute Baby with Quilt-y Background:

(Bonus Take)

Even though I'm late to the party, I'm linking up with Jen.  You can head over there too to check out more Quick Takes!  Have a happy weekend!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Flyleaf Publishing for Home School :: a Review of the Emergent Reader Series

One week old James was read to for the first time in his life! And it wasn't me who read to him...

At this time last year I wrote a pseudo-review of the Books to Remember Decodable Literature Series from Flyleaf Publishing. The Decodable Literature books are written for advanced Kindergarten, first and second grade students.  This is a review of the Emergent Reader Series, recommended for beginning and struggling readers, Kindergarten and first grade. 

image from

I first learned about Flyleaf Publishing and the Books to Remember series by Laura Appleton-Smith in The Well-Trained Mind: a Guide to Classical Education at Home, by Susan Wise Bauer.  I bought a few of the Decodable Readers because I was having a hard time finding material to use after finishing Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons with my son, Aaron.  I loved them, and then bought more.  Aaron and I enjoyed them so much that I decided to take the plunge and buy the 41-book set of Emergent Readers for Dominic.  (We use them as a supplement to the Catholic Heritage Little Stories for Little Folks reading program.)

Note: I have only purchased the books, and am not familiar with the additional materials available - teacher guides and learning cards.  

The Emergent Readers series appears to follow a fairly typical phonics-based approach to learning reading, starting with the CVC words you'd expect to see in any early reader.  What makes these books different though, (compared to the BOB books, for instance) is (1) the artwork is delightful and often beautiful and (2) though using simple words and sounds, the author has managed to avoid the halting, often awkward and disjointed text I'd become familiar with in other easy readers.  With the Books to Remember series, I feel like even my very early reader is reading a story, not just lines of rhyming words strung together in a bizarre order in an attempt to make a story.  

The books build on each other, adding new consonant and vowel sounds, sound  blends, compound words, and word endings as the series progresses. (I believe you can even print out the phonics scope and sequence here.)  Using the books alone does not provide information for instruction: ie: there are no instructions for teaching that "th" says "th" instead of "t...h"  (did that make any sense????)  The parent using just the books from this series will need to review letter sounds and blends, etc... with the child by her own method (parent-taught or via another phonics program.)  However, another of the great features of these books is that the back cover (or last page) of each book has all the phonics and vocabulary that will be encountered in the story. Each book has a Target Letter-Sound Correspondence that is featured in the story (ex: long /e/ spelled ee).  So I am able to review that concept with Dominic before we begin reading. Also provided are an entire list of the decodable words found in the story (words that can be "decoded (layman's speak: "sounded out") solely on the basis of the letter-sound correspondences or phonetic elements that have been introduced," and a list of High-Frequency Puzzle Words (layman's speak: "sight words").  The list highlights which Puzzle words are new to the student, so I'm able to easily create sight word flash cards for Dominic as new words are introduced and need to be practiced.  

Another nice "extra" that this series provides are "Companion Books" - books for the early readers that have a longer version in the Decodable Literature Series.  Dominic has listened to Aaron read The Sunset Pond,  and Just a Box, and Meg and Jim's Sled Trip, and others (from the Decodable Series) many times, so you can imagine how excited he was to see the same titles in his own series.  The same stories are presented in abbreviated text using words covered in the Emergent Series. Dominic was thrilled to be able to read the same stories his older brother was!

As I mentioned earlier, the things that truly set this series apart from other reading programs are the engaging stories and delightful illustrations.  There are no fat cats sitting on mats in this series, but there are cats who nap in camping equipment and a cat detective who investigates mysterious tacks and tan sacks. The stories are equally suited to boys and girls, they often convey wholesome childhood experiences (think running through a field to play fetch with your dog or going to the amusement park with the whole family).  Several of the stories also feature (without fanfare or overtones of trying too hard to be "inclusive") children of different ethnic backgrounds and blended race families.  (These are not themes of the stories, but are portrayed beautifully in the illustrations.)  There are a handful of artists who provided the illustrations for the books, all of which are lovely.  There are no stick figures or foolish cartoon characters here.  The artwork is such that the child reading probably feels like he's reading a "real" picture book instead of a meticulously researched and planned out phonics-based reader. Perhaps that's the point behind the Books to Remember, after all. Here is a portion of what author Laura Appleton-Smith has to say about her work:

During my teaching years, I felt strongly about the importance of systematic phonics instruction, but I was dissatisfied with the decodable books that were available. The only decodables I could find were low quality and contained controlled texts that lacked meaning and comprehensibility.
I wanted decodable books that would enable students to successfully apply phonics skills while enjoying meaningful reading experiences. If I was going to introduce children to the important world of reading and books, I wanted to motivate them with beautiful literature that they could read independently. I wanted " real" books with decodable texts.
I founded Flyleaf Publishing in 1998 with a mission to create fine-art illustrated, authentic, and engaging decodable literature to help students and teachers bridge the gap between phonetic decoding and fluent independent reading.
(taken from the Flyleaf Publishing website.)
Thus far, I have been beyond happy with all of the books we've used from Flyleaf Publishing.  Perhaps even more importantly, I have never heard a complaint from either of my boys when it's time to do reading. They enjoy them as much as I do.  I highly recommend both the Emergent Reader Series and the Decodable Literature as valuable supplements to any phonics program that you may already be using in your home school.  It is my hope (and my plan) that I will be using these books for all my other little ones when they are ready for "learning to read" and loving the process!  

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