Saturday, February 28, 2015

Happiness. Lately. February 2015 (vol 9)

Happiness.  Lately.  February.  My monthly collection of "Happiness" - appreciating God's goodness in the little things and seeing his grandeur in the simplicity of my life and "Lately" - what I've been into and up to...  (wherein I reveal that much of February revolved around equal parts snow and James.)

Happiness is...

this face.  I just want to squeeze him and eat him up!!!

the things I find around the house that make me smile and say, "let me get my camera!"

lavender hot chocolate.  Ohhhhhh, this was such. a. treat.   It was rich, decadent, aromatic, and delicious... everything a gourmet hot cocoa ought to be.  And I made it myself!  

clean up time with a handmade dish cloth ;)

big brothers, little brothers...

days that are above ten degrees and Dad's snow blowed a path and Mom lets us get our bikes out??  I guess.

Ruthie was a little teary eyed because she kept falling :(

colored pencils.  And pictures of colored pencils.  I love colored pencils.

when all the neighborhood is out in the mornings.  Snow storms build camaraderie. 

a pretty cookie-making picture...

and happiness definitely is when the kids actually let me get a nice picture of them!!


James is weaned.

and James is walking.  Yep.

And because this is my blog and he is the cutest ever and I can do whatever I want, here are even more pictures of Sweet Baby James.  Sorry. 

Dominic made his First Confession!  It truly was an answer to prayer that he was able to receive the Sacrament when he did.  We were hesitant to have him receive the Sacrament amidst all the other kids in the parish religious ed class.  We were given permission to come on the first Saturday of Lent at our parish's regular Confession time - Dominic made his first Confession with our pastor, and then Russ, Aaron and I were able to go also to kick off Lent (so to speak...)  It was just what we had prayed for. 

You can see how laden down with sin Dominic was on the way into church ; Or was that just the cold and snow?  Well, either way, he came out squeaky clean!  And then we had ice cream sundaes that night to celebrate!

We celebrated Ruth's fifth birthday!  She said she wanted a cake that was "the part of the meadow where the grass stops and the wild flowers start and it all blends into the sky. " Not like she has a flair for the dramatic or anything...

I have very limited cake decorating skills, but I think I did ok :)

Aaron built a Lego model of a cargo ship from Ancient Egypt for a special event at the study center the boys attend.  Then he had to carry it through a snow storm to the car to get it there...   February.  ugh.

We took a week off of school lessons for Winter Break.  Instead of regular old math, spelling, reading, we did chalk pastels with Nana from HodgePodge, cozy reading, playing, and art (which has been a popular thing around here lately since Ruth got some sketch pads and art supplies for her Birthday.)  We also read about the American Revolution because to me, that's fun!  It felt so awesome to take a break, but it's been hard getting back into the old routine :(

And I've still been crocheting.  It's been a nice change of pace though, as I've finished up several smaller projects and have gotten back to work on blankets for the boys I started last Spring.  I work on one for a little bit then switch to the other.  Working on a long term project gets boring for me if I don't break it up a little.  I'm not sure what happened with my measurements though...  I thought they were the same width, but it looks like Dominic's blanket (the blue/green and cream) is much wider.  Maybe that will become the length?  Not sure yet...

Also, in other over-the-top awesome crocheting news.......  I taught my sister how to crochet!!!!!!!!!!   And she loves it!  It's like all my dreams are coming true - I have someone who's similarly addicted, texts me throughout the days with her progress and latest projects, and gets it when I bemoan the fact that regular daily responsibilities really interfere with the time I'd rather be crocheting.  Housework is so inconvenient when there's yarn fun to be had!   Anyway, I've got a new Instagram hashtag if you want to stay on top of what Sarah and I are making and want to keep us posted on what you're hooking - hang out with us #dontmindmeimcrocheting :)

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Join me in looking back on February and sharing the little tings that were your happiness and some of the things that have been happening lately.
Link up your Happiness. Lately. posts for February here!  (open for a week!)

Friday, February 27, 2015

A Girl, Her Brother, and the Plastic Animals

Last day of blog hopping :(  But one day left to link-up your own See Me Homeschool posts!
It was the kind of blog hop that encourages nosiness.  If you're anxious to spy on what a homeschool day is like for Gina or Charlotte, I encourage you to stick your nose into their posts from yesterday and today, at Someday (Hopefully) They'll Be Saints and Waltzing Matilda, respectively.  (It's ok, they're expecting you!)

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There is no reason for this post other than I love these photos!  

Sorry if these kinds of posts annoy you - no real thoughts or content, just cute kids (and subjectively, at that.)  I just don't want to forget these moments...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

His. Hers. Yours. Mine. Ours. (How we Handle Communal and Private Property in our Large-ish Family)

But first... don't forget to check out Kendra's See Me Homeschool post from today!
Tune in tomorrow and Friday for the last two posts in the blog hop and link up your own See Me Homeschool posts until Saturday!

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In our home, stuff abounds.  We have lots of it.   Most of it is stuff we hold in common - food, books, art supplies, toys, and socks (because who has the time to truly sort socks...) 
Things can get a little tricky in a family with a lot of kids when it comes to differentiating between what things belong to everyone and what things are ok for a single owner to keep as "private property."  Even Birthday gifts and Christmas gifts, though often tagged for a single recipient, aren't always a cut and dry case of "private property."   How can we live in a large family where things are shared out of necessity and practicality, but still respect our children's right (albeit small) to owning and caring for their own things?  

Here are some of the general guidelines we try to keep in mind...

* Nothing we have is deserved.  All we have is a gift; it's all part of the particular way in which God has blessed us in the present moment.  All we have is a reflection of God's goodness and *should* be used for our own good (sanctification) and for His glory.  (I say *should* because... well, you know... we're all still working on that one.  Always.)

* Sharing is always encouraged.  But it is not always required.  

* "Equal" and "fair" will not always happen.  You're right, little one.  It may not be fair, but who said anything about fair??  It is what it is.  There are times when a sibling will have something that another doesn't and he or she is not required to share it.  But so will you be in that situation some day, little one.  In the mean time, rejoice for your sibling, and go distract yourself from your sorrow with something else ;)

* You're expected to treat your things well if you expect to continue to call them "yours."  

* Items that are the object of habitual bickering and conflict will be removed from the  home, or at the very least will "disappear" for a while, no matter who they belong to.

* When ownership is called into question, Mom and Dad have the final say.  

Living in fellowship and family with seven people in a house full of stuff means that questions of what's mine and what's ours are going to come up regularly.  The way I see it, for our family, most of our belongings fall into one of five categories.  These are they (along with some examples :) )

Equal Distribution

This doesn't apply very often, but occasionally I'll get all Socialist and insist that a thing is physically divided and everyone gets an equal portion.  A sheet of stickers for example.  

Also, if a child comes into the possession of a large snack, it will be divided equally and shared or not eaten at all.

We especially do this with candy received at Valentine's Day, All Saints Day (Halloween...), Easter, etc...   Our kids don't keep their own candy, it goes into a communal pot and is shared in equal-ish proportions at times of Mom's choosing.  (this is somewhat about sharing amongst family members, but is actually more about staying aware and in control of the sweets my son with diabetes eats.  To clarify - he can eat it, I just have to see it and account for it, so there's no taking candy to rooms and eating in private...)

When something is distributed equally around here, everyone can do what they will with their portion, but when it's gone, it's gone.  My kids have learned the definition and value of rationing - stickers and food alike - by this method :)

Family Owned 
everyone is expected to share or take turns with the things we hold in common

Most food, books, toys, arts and crafts supplies, etc... etc... etc...

In general, we're not the type of family that buys duplicates of toys to placate the masses (the Fisher Price lawn mower has been the obvious exception).  Taking turns is a thing in our family.  It's not always done graciously, but we try to make it happen.

Books are almost entirely communal.  Even if it's received as as a gift.  It goes on the family bookshelf for all to enjoy.  Even if it's something fairly specific - like a book about the life of Ruth.  Just because you're name may happen to be Ruth, doesn't mean the book can be denied to everyone else in the family.  Perhaps as the kids get older this will change, or perhaps Ruth will be permitted to take the Ruth book with her when she moves out and has her own apartment with her own bookshelves.  But for now, our children don't "own" books. 

"Yours to Share"

 I coined this phrase a few years ago and use it all. the. time.  
For us it means that something has a specific owner and that a sibling must ask to use it.  However, when asked, the owner is expected to share it or lose their own privilege to use the item. 
I really do use this "category" a lot and find it's a practical way to teach Christian charity in the home.  It's a reflection of the concept that just as we have been blessed to receive, so we are called to share.  It respects the right of ownership, and encourages generosity in turn.

For example, there was a lot of drama last year surrounding a coloring book that Aaron got for his birthday.  Everyone wanted to use it, but the gift had been given to him.  In cases such as these, I employ the "it's yours to share" principle.  The other kids were not allowed to use the coloring book without asking Aaron first.  Aaron was expected to let his sibling choose a picture to color, but he could deny their first request and let them have their second choice - for instance, his sister chose the excavator but Aaron really wanted to color it so he was permitted to say 'no,' but had to give her her second choice.  It sounds more complicated than it is.  Everyone "knows" it around here so it usually happens without a hitch... Ruth got paint markers for her birthday, Dominic has to ask to use them, Ruth is expected to say yes.  Someone gets a Lego set or Calico Critters set for Christmas?  They'll get to build it or use the gift first, but after that, they're expected to share upon request.  The owner is protected from others just taking and using his or her things without permission, but he or she is also required to share those things when asked properly and politely.  And if s/he doesn't want to share?  They'll lose their privilege for that item for a while (and the other sibling gets it in the end anyway...)

Yours.  For now.

This is probably nothing new for other large families.  This covers those things that "belong" to someone for now because they fit - either by size, necessity, or common sense.
Like clothes and bikes.  
And baby board books, that obviously don't belong to James, but there's clearly no reason for the older boys to be taking them out of his room and hoarding them in their own.  Ahem.

Example: "For this summer, this bike is yours, and no one may borrow it without your permission, however, it was purchased with not-your-money and in a few years it will belong to your sister, so although it is "yours" right now, you may not trash it.  You may not lose, give away, tamper with, or otherwise misuse "your" bike that technically is not "yours." "

As for clothes, size often determines ownership at any given time.  But what if you have children who share a clothing size?  This is the case with my older boys.  For now, they are allowed to wear whatever is in the drawer, except for a few things which they've clearly designated as personal favorites, and they have an understanding between them that they will ask before wearing a brother's "favorite" article of clothing.  Clothes are also to be cared for with the understanding that they belong to the family and need to be kept well for hand-me-downs.  (Except jeans.  It's against the laws of nature to expect that boys will not put holes in jeans, no matter how well they "care for them.")

Private Property 

Means that there is no question as to who it belongs to and that Mom will not require you to share it.  In these cases, sharing is always encouraged, but not required.

There's not much that falls into this category...

These are items that have one specific owner, often because they were gifts, but not exclusively.  It also includes things that the kids made (works of art, craft projects, model airplanes, Lego creations until they're demolished).  It also applies to money that has been earned or was given to the kids as a gift and things they may have  bought with their own money.

Things only remain "private property" if they're cared for properly and are not left laying all around the house after Mom's asked for them to be put away.

Things that definitively belong to one child or another cannot be taken or borrowed without asking, and even then, sharing is not guaranteed.  I don't require the kids to share the things that are specifically "theirs" but often they do.  So that's nice :)

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That's the way we handle most of the stuff in our home.  How about you?  How do you manage the issues of community and private property in your home?  

(hehe... I just deleted a few notes that were left over from writing this post.  Embarrassing :)  When that happens again, as I'm sure it will, don't hesitate to tell me.  I could use a good dose of humility now and then ;) ) 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My First Granny Square

Don't want to miss all the latest in the See Me Homeschool Blog Hop?  
Check out these recent posts and their corresponding How I Homeschool interviews at California to Korea.

 (read Annie's How I Homeschool interview here)

(read Jessica's How I Homeschool Interview here)


(read Dwija's How I Homeschool interview here)

And don't forget you can link up your own See Me Homeschool posts until Saturday!

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Above is Ruth's representation of how I spend my evenings... crocheting by the fireside.  In December I was working on gifts.  In January I was making hats and scarves for myself.  During February I've picked up the blankets I started for the boys last spring.  

And I recently finished my first granny square!

Well not really.  I think I made a small granny square back in college.  I hadn't attempted it since then, but I think it's one of those things that crocheters are "supposed" to do... and I got a hankering to re-learn it...  

I gathered up some of my favorite colors in the Lion Brand Wool Ease yarn.  My practice piece became a blanket for Sally.  

And a lap cover for Clare.  

And a peek-a-boo blanket for James.  

I love how quickly it went.  And I love the colors available in the Wool Ease.  And this is the winter that will never end and even in the house it's so cold all anyone can think about all day long is blankets, blankets, blankets.  So I've started a granny rectangle for use in the living room.   I'll keep you in suspense on that project until another time ;)  

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Loveliest ABC Books for Your Little Lovelies (Books. Lists. Love.)

But first......

The See Me Homeschool blog hop and link-up is really underway now!
Yesterday's post was from  Christy at Fountains of Home and today you're invited to see Kathy homeschool at  9 Peas!  

Taking pics of your own homeschool day?  Link up your posts here.

Don't blog?  Not a problem.  Share pics of your everyday homeschool happenings with the #seemehomeschool hashtag!

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enough chit chat.  let's hit the books...

In one of my posts about "preschool" and the things I like to have in my home for toddlers and preschoolers instead of a boxed homeschool curriculum (from alllllll the way back in August...) I mentioned that I only allow "beautiful" alphabet books to adorn our shelves and occupy our laps.  A while back, a friend asked what that was all about and just exactly what constitutes a beautiful alphabet book.  Yay!!  (I thought you'd never ask!!)  Of course I want to write about this :)  And... it only took five + months to post it...  Here's to clearing out the drafts folder!!  

If I open an alphabet book and the first page looks like this:

... I don't look further.  I'm not interested in generic clip art apples, monkeys, and xylophones.  How uninspired.  I love looking at alphabet-themed books with my kids and since we use them a lot I really want books that are interesting, unexpected, quirky, or  just plain lovely.  

Here are some of my favorites:


Museum ABC 
from the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art

This is probably my favorite.  For each letter there are four representations of the same word - all of them taken from the collection at the MMA.   I really love this book and feel like it's a one - two punch - ABC's and fine art - no one can call you negligent of your child's appreciation of the fine arts if you have this book in your home :)

from Museum ABC, NY Metropolitan Museum of Art


My First ABC
the baby board book companion to Museum ABC.  Shows one lovely image per letter.


I was first introduced to Dahlov Ipcar when my parents brought us the book, Lobsterman  (which I highly recommend as an engaging, "living" picture book)  back from their vacation to Maine.  She become one of my favorite illustrators.  This book is a collection of illustrations from her childrens' books and artwork.


Eating the Alphabet
Lois Ehlert

Ehlert's collage-style art artwork is always colorful and cheerful.  This book is no exception.  It's a beautiful array of alphabet-inspired healthy eating!  My kids always enjoy picking their favorite fruits and veggies on each page.

from Eating the Alphabet, Lois Ehlert


Brian Wildsmith's Amazing Animal Alphabet

Wildsmith is another of my favorite illustrators.  He's one of those author/illustrators that makes the point that a book for children can have real art - and doesn't have to be cartoon-y - to hold the interest of little ones.  Some of his most beautiful illustrations are those in which he fills a page with birds and various animals.  In this book, it's just one animal per page, but it's lovely nonetheless.

from Brain Wildsmith's Amazing Animal Alphabet


Alphablock, Christopher Franceshelli and Peskimo

This is a fun book!  The artwork is bright and fresh, sort of retro, sort of modern...  (I don't even really know what I'm talking about ;)  )  Each letter is a cut-out and when the page is turned, all is revealed...


Ed Emberley's ABC 

Emberley's illustrations are fun and quirky.  On each page, an animal representative of the letter, creates the letter in four steps.  For example, Pirate Parrots Paint the letter P (while Puffins and Parakeets watch.)  The only thing I don't like/get about this book is that "LioN" is for "N."  Weird.  Maybe "narwhals" and "newts" weren't very popular back in 1978 (original publication year) ????  


Almost An Animal Alphabet, Katie Viggers

I confess, I have not seen this book in person, but we have borrowed Viggers' companion counting book (1 to 20, Animals Aplenty) from the library and it was great!  Her illustrations are sweet and unique.  Her sense of humor is creative and unexpected.  I imagine the alphabet book is just as charming.  I hope our library gets it soon :)


ABC is for Circus, Patrick Hruby

Another library find for us.  I often stay away from themed ABC books, because it's always such a stretch to find alphabet words to suit a narrow theme or concept.  The circus theme in this book works though!  The illustrations are eye-catching - lots of bold colors set off by black and white.  And really, where else are you going to find "C stands for calliope" or "D is for daredevil" ?!?


 Charley Harper ABCs

Classic Charlie Harper - minimalist, beautiful lines, angles, colors, and shapes.  His art intrigues me because it seems so simple and realistic at the same time.  I always enjoy looking at his illustrations, maybe even more than my kids :)  

What ABC books do you and your kiddos enjoy??

Interested in my rec's for the best ABC apps out there??
Coincidentally, I've written about that too ;)

The 10 *Best* Alphabet Apps for Toddlers

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