How to Hike With Kids

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Alternate title: Make Sure the Trail Isn't Too Long BEFORE You Start Hiking

Because "1.4 miles" is apparently more like 2...

And although Peter slept for the first half, there was rather a lot of complaining from Cecilia.

Mary Claire was pretty sure she'd be fine on the whole hike - somehow the more physical energy she exerts, the cuter she gets - golden hair turning to ringlets in the humidity, cheeks pink, eyes sparkling...

After far too many questions about how much farther and how much longer until they could have trail mix, we sat down on a log to have a snack and reassess. Yes! We COULD go on, refueled by goldfish, raisins, and chocolate chips!

20 feet later, Cecilia was complaining again and we decided that with a mile more to go AND the return trip, we might as well just turn back... But we DID see some frogs and water skimmers when we crossed a creek, so we're building those up as highlights.

The rain started pouring down as soon as we pulled away from the parking lot, so it's a good thing we DID turn back! Plenty of time for hiking another day, now that we live so close to so many awesome trails!

Back at home we're attempting to settle in, which is complicated by the need to complete a lot of tasks *now* before we can actually unpack... Boxes and boxes of books are sitting ignored because we can't move the bookshelves until we paint the trim, and oh! There's no shelving or rod in our closet and oh! The water in the guest house doesn't seem to be drinkable and oh! When we turn the water to the guest house on, there's suddenly a huge puddle of water in the yard where previously it was dry and oh! The whole guest house smells like smoke and oh! The baby pooped all over the rug AND my carrier and...

Well, I could go on forever. I don't think we'll ever be done with projects around here. But we sure are going to learn a lot dealing with it! 

Here We Are!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

After a long, long day yesterday (including a rather embarrassing but not totally disastrous vigil Mass with all 5 kids and only 2 adults), we're moved in and everybody (except Peter) has beds!

The kitchen is full of boxes while we figure out where to put everything - apparently I was overly optimistic in my estimations of space, because we're really going to need to figure out shelving for the bare walls in the kitchen SOON! 

In an attempt to get out of the way of the movers, we took a nice long nature walk and picked wildflowers, ate apples and peaches from our trees, and even found an egg shell!

John Paul has been naming various parts of the yard - this is one part of The Evergreen Path, which is full of tiny trees that will very likely serve as our Christmas trees for years to come. However, tramping through these waist-high trees leaves many a scratch on uncovered legs, and he has been warned to wear JEANS if he's going to continue this exploring. I probably need to get some for the girls, too - leggings only provide so much protection... I got some for myself when Twice was going out of business, and after wearing a pair for a day I was reminded why I stopped wearing pants... Ah well, if they keep me from picking up ticks, I can deal.

I ate breakfast on the porch while the kids were at Grandma's house (Hey, everybody's being obnoxious - who wants to go to Grandma's house???). Then a man drove by on a tractor. I love this :)

And I keep thinking about how cool it is that when our house was built in 1890, none of these other houses or power lines were around - how awesome it must have been to wake up every morning to see the sun rising behind the mountains! I'll trade an unobstructed view for the modern convenience of electricity, though :)

We have a bunch of these bushes around the yard, and a friend helped us figure out that they're Autumn Olive bushes - invasive, but edible! Maybe we'll try making preserves?

I was hoping this would be something tasty, but sadly it's just Bradford Pear, only edible for birds.

Much as I'd like to spend today resting, there's a lot to do with these boxes everywhere and kids who insist on opening them and dumping things like Epsom salts all over the floor... Plus Andrew has his last day of work tomorrow before he starts his new job next week. It's going to be a long Monday! Some day we'll rest :)

Kitchen Musings: Before

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

You will very soon get tired of me asking for opinions on all things new house, and I totally understand if you just skip these posts! But if you're not easily bored and want to give me some kitchen advice, I'd love it!

Okay, so here you see part of the kitchen from the living room (also painting supplies and a whole bunch of junk) - Cecilia's in the living room, and then the pillar and the brick column separate the dining room from the kitchen (I'm fairly certain these all used to be broken up into separate rooms, and much prefer the way they've been opened up!). So now that I think about it, we might be able to gate off the area between the wood pillars, the area between the brick column and that other pillar, and possibly the area from the brick to the back wall to keep Peter away from the wood stove, right? Theoretically?

But how hard is it to screw a baby gate into brick? Pretty hard? Not a great idea? 

Looking at this picture, I'm not realizing that Andrew didn't see that that top left corner up there is still yellow, not white like the rest of the kitchen... And will very likely need priming & painting in the near future so we don't have a random yellow square up there. Whoops!

The kitchen is currently full of a TON of stuff because we got the wood floors sanded & sealed this week, and thus couldn't put anything on them. Hence the exercise ball randomly by the sink.

Also ignore the door that fell off the cabinet above the ovens. Ovens. I used to think I would never need a double oven, but now if I want to I can bake FOUR LOAVES OF BREAD at once! And ALL the pizzas!

I'm still trying to figure out how to arrange things in here - I think *total* we've got about as much counter space & cabinet space as our current kitchen, but it's not laid out in the most efficient manner, so I'm trying to figure out where to logically put things... Like those glass cabinets above the range? It would make so much sense to have baking stuff and spices and things up there, but those things aren't pretty (aside from my mixing bowls, which are pretty) and don't make sense in glass cabinets!

Also, why is there a range and that handle there but nothing but dead space under the range? And the same under the ovens - wouldn't it make sense to make that into some sort of cabinet?

That sink! All that sunlight!

Those shelves, though... I'm trying to come up with a solution to replace them - I adore what Ginny has going on here and we *do* have a couple fallen trees on our property that need to be dealt with, but I don't see that happening any time soon! 

The dishwasher is to the left of the sink, and there's no cabinet above it, so I'm trying to figure out where exactly to put dishes... I suppose I could put them in the glass cabinets? Or to the left of the dishwasher, there's a kind of pantry area between the dishwasher and the fridge, so I might take the top shelf of the pantry for dishes. I just don't know.

I think we could pretty easily mount something like this to the wall above the dishwasher, but I don't think it would actually hold enough dishes... Actually, I wonder if it would fit on the walls next to the sink? But it's $80, and I have to imagine we can probably come to a less expensive solution.

And add to that the fact that we're in need of new dishes since we have hardly any left of our current set... Well, it's just plain hard to choose dishes! We started our marriage with a cheap IKEA set that ended up breaking over the years. Then we got our current set, which has also slowly ended up breaking. 

So we've been looking at a million different sets of dishes online, trying to decide what we want... I think just something solid-colored, easy to match, cheap enough that we can replace it if it breaks. We're down to these two:

Blue, simple, little detail (but Andrew thinks it might be too close to the wall color we chose, although I don't know why that matters)

White, no mugs, more place settings (we never use the mugs, so I kind of think it's a plus NOT to have them to deal with!)

And now I'm going to stop writing because this has never been a blog about home decorating or anything like that. Maybe I can convince Sheena to fly to Virginia and make all these decisions for me? Emily's probably too busy with her own remodel to help!

Building Your Instrument Library {Music Education In the Home}

Monday, August 10, 2015

One of the things that was beaten into our heads when I went to music school was that in the music classroom, the distinction must be made that instruments are not toys. So every time I see one of those giant plastic drums full of "instruments" shaped like animals, I cringe inwardly. When I see a "band in a box" at the toy store, I desperately want to hide it so that nobody buys it. You can get decent instruments for toy store prices, but you're not going to find them in the toy section at Target!

I'm not judging you for owning those toys - I know your kids love them! But they're not going to encourage anyone to love music!

So where do you start if you can't afford a piano or a guitar? It gets expensive to build up a supply of decent musical instruments! Here are some of my favorites that we've acquired over the years:

-- I love the quality of Remo drums, plus the kids love the bright colors. I recommend tossing any mallets that might come with them - they just end up getting used to whack each other over the head in our house, plus they make the instrument WAY louder than it needs to be. They can get pricey (especially for the larger drums) so maybe 1-2 a year as gifts to build your supply up slowly.

-- All our kids have loved these Nino egg shakers, and they're 6 years old and still going strong for us! A really great baby toy, but also nice to have as an inexpensive percussion instrument. Fun colors, good quality, simple for keeping a steady beat and just fun to shake! You can also get their maracas, but I like the feel of an egg shaker in my hand a little better.

-- There are a million brightly colored toy "xylophones" (technically not xylophones) on the market, and they can *sometimes* be fine for purchase if you can get one in person and ensure it has proper tuning. Sometimes they're totally off, and some instruments don't even have all the notes in a scale! For a basic "xylophone" (really a small glockenspiel), I love this Hohner Toddler Glockenspiel, because it's an *actual* musical instrument, not a toy, so you know the tuning will be right-on. And the sound is more pleasing than our Fisher Price Xylophone, that's for sure!

-- An 8-note "xylophone" is a good start, but if you want to play more complicated songs, you're going to need something a little more expansive. This is a great affordable option that has actual accidentals (sharps and flats) and more than an 8-note range, so you can play a wider variety of songs. The bars come off, so this is one you want to keep away from toddlers!

-- You probably have horrible memories of squeaky, obnoxious "recorder choirs" from your childhood. It's a popular instrument for a reason! It introduces kids to a different way of reading music and basic fingering, which will give them/you an idea as to whether you might want to explore the option of studying a woodwind or brass instrument privately. Do NOT buy a cheap, colorful plastic instrument. The wooden ones are beautiful, produce superior tone, and will set you back, but Yamaha and Angel both make perfectly lovely plastic instruments that still produce a nice tone and won't break the bank!

Anything you'd add to the list? I'd love to hear about it!

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Our Homeschool Plans 2015-2016

Friday, August 7, 2015

I had very few plans of any type when we started "homeschooling" last year (you can read about them here). How'd we do?

Well, John Paul (6) is certainly improved in the behavior department. Cecilia (4.5) is reading and writing fairly well. The twins (2.5) know all their letters & numbers (and all that basic stuff - my kids just really like that, so they learn it early on their own for some reason) and Elizabeth decided the other day that she was going to learn how to spell using this toy so I think I'll call it a success! 

We read a TON of books as "official" read-alouds - All of Little House, all of the Chronicles of Narnia (ahem, in published order), all the Moffat books, a couple E. Nesbit books, The Princess and the Goblin, (I know there are more that we read but I'm drawing a blank), and we just finished up Despereaux and are reading a really great book on St. Vincent de Paul (thanks Beth!).

All in all, I think it was a good year but we never really developed a "school day" rhythm, we mostly just tried to adjust to me staying home full-time and having a new baby. There will still be plenty of adjusting to do this year, with the new house and all the work that will come with that... So while I don't have a written plan of things that must be done, I do at least have a ton of books that we'll be using in some manner, in case you're looking for inspiration!

Much of this is pulled from the Mater Amabilis suggestions (which we'll be following loosely this year), quite a bit is stuff we already had, and we got REALLY lucky with some awesome used book sale finds, so while it seems like a lot it was all purchased over the course of several years, and in some cases cost VERY little!

Liturgical Year Resources:

Saints and Feast Days - Not every feast day is included, but there are short stories & activities that go along with it, as well as some reproducible activities.

Catholic Mosaic - incorporates storybooks throughout the year, with lesson plans and ideas to go along with it.

All Year Round - lots of traditions for the liturgical year, tutorials, stories, songs, recipes, and things that have gotten lost from the collective memory over the years.

Marian Devotions in the Domestic Church - activities, coloring pages, cross stitch templates, stories, and hymns for the major Marian feast days!

John Paul and Cecilia will also be doing Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, him in Level II and her in Level I again. 


I Can Draw Animals & Little Hands Big Fun Craft Book - I really like the Usborne books because I am NOT a crafty person, and it's nice to be able to let the kids look through and pick something out that they think will be fun. For the most part, these are easy to do with things you already have on hand, and a lot of them can be done with very little adult supervision for the 6-and-up crowd! We picked these up used, but Molly sells Usborne books if you need a vendor!

We Sing and Listen & We Sing and Chant - I wrote about these in this post, but we'll be learning some new songs from these and I'll probably use them to practice sight singing with John Paul (not because that's a normal thing YOU should be doing with YOUR 6-year-old, but because he loves it and is good at it).

To God Through Music - This is an old series of Catholic school music curriculum books that we picked up used at a homeschooling conference, and I really like the pacing and basic literacy skills, as well as the songs they choose to include.

We also might do a little more formal piano lessons for John Paul (probably just taught by me or my mom), but we'll see...


All of this is generally geared towards John Paul, but I think Cecilia is going to be doing religion "lessons" with us as well because they're on a pretty similar level when it comes to their faith, and I think they complement each other well - Cecilia is bursting with love and John Paul is bursting with knowledge, and together they really have an awesome time with this all. 

Before I knew what we were doing for schooling this year, my sister spotted the entire Faith and Life series at a library used book sale for 50 cents a piece and told me to buy them.

Good call. I know tons of moms who recommend these books, so even if we end up not liking them (and really, when has John Paul EVER not liked a book? Never.), we only spent like, $4 total. I got the workbook, too, because John Paul's love language is workbooks. 

I love the Once Upon a Time Saints books, so we'll try to read through those on a regular basis (maybe even with the twins - the stories are short enough that they could probably sit through them as well). 

We have this children's bible, which isn't my favorite translation but I really love it otherwise because it isn't summaries or just a few stories, but the actual entire Bible. We'll be using it along with the Collins Bible Handbook and reading stories from Tomie DePaola's book as well.

Science, Geography, Nature Study

Rand McNally Historical Atlas of the World - Fun fact, Russia apparently reported that they have a 100% literacy rate. Believe what you will.

Maps, Globes, Graphs - Mostly just because it was cheap and John Paul loves workbooks and geography.

Chemistry For Every Kid - My cousin gave this to John Paul and he LOVES it! The experiments are simple and use actual household products (as opposed to "copper wires, adamantium, and diatomaceous earth" or whatever some of these books are calling for), and he keeps begging to do more.

Young Discoverers Rivers and Oceans - We've already done one experiment from this and it didn't work. But that may or may not have to do with the fact that the kids kept touching the string for our stalagmite, preventing the washing soda from actually forming anything but crystals on the side of the mason jars...

Paddle to the Sea - I don't know this book at all... But Cristina read it with her boys, so I trust her. Part of my homeschooling philosophy is "find out what worked for Cristina and then do it." So thanks, Cristina!

Rosy's Garden - This was mine when I was a kid, and I just love the pictures, quick stories, and information about gardens. Add to that the fact that it's a girl gardening with her grandma, and it's perfect for us!

Random Workbooks

First Start Reading - This is right on Cecilia's level right now, and I think she'll like having her own "work" to do alongside John Paul.

Writing Our Catholic Faith - I thought John Paul would really like this, but he just hates handwriting. I've heard it's a boy thing... So we'll see if we really worry about handwriting, but he tries so hard to write in faux-cursive, so I think it would be helpful for him to actually learn.

Prima Latina - Andrew started this with John Paul last year and he took right to it, but we never really made time for lessons. Starting up again this year!

Star Wars 2nd Grade Math - I honestly can't decide if I want to buy a "real" math curriculum or not... John Paul's already pretty much mastered the 2nd grade level stuff, and I know that any curriculum would work with him, so I kind of want to wait until I figure out how the girls learn best and just get what works for them.

Brain Quest Workbooks - Everybody loves these, since they're full-color and engaging, but the kids actually do work in them. I kind of just use them for fine motor skill practice, but it's nice for me to see what gaps might need to be filled in their education.

Wipe Clean Workbooks - Another one that everybody adores, and one that handwriting-averse John Paul has always loved! I was seriously worried a couple years ago that he would never want to write, since he refused to try... The marker glides so nicely over these workbooks and makes it easy to practice tracing over and over again, plus there are fun pictures as well. I'm going to stock up on a few more this year and let the twins try them out as well.


Heidi - How have I never read this? We'll remedy it this year!

Ballet Shoes & Theater Shoes - Have you read these books? I love Noel Streatfeild so, SO much. I'm hoping that this one and Theater Shoes appeal to John Paul and Cecilia, and I think they will. In Ballet Shoes the main characters are all girls, but one of the girls ends up being much more interested in airplanes and mechanical things. And Theater Shoes has a boy John Paul's age and really nice sibling relationships.

Now We Are Six & When We Were Very Young - I love A.A. Milne's poetry so much! We've been reading these for ages, but I think we might try some poetry tea times and memorization and recitation. 

Charlotte's Web - I haven't read this since 1st grade! I'd be nervous about the whole death part of it, but honestly? John Paul and Cecilia are not the most sensitive kids in the world... I think they'll be okay!

Reading for ME!

Many of these are books that have been on my stack for quite a while but I've started them and gotten distracted and never finished... This is the year, right? That's what I keep telling myself.

How to Negotiate with Kids... even when you think you shouldn't - This has been on my list for a couple years, recommended by a behavior expert. If I actually read it (this is me trying to encourage my own accountability) and it helps with a certain 6-year-old's constant conflict, I'll let you know!

The Saints and Our Children

Guiding Your Catholic Preschooler

Teaching in Your Tiara

Woman of Grace - recommended by a veteran mom and homeschooler at our old parish

The Temperament God Gave Your Kids - I started this ages ago and loved it and then misplaced it... But I found it!

A Mother's Rule of Life - I've started it twice, but both times have been during periods of change where I just can't hammer out a schedule! Maybe this will be the year I actually figure stuff out.

Catholic Education: Homeward Bound

The Little Oratory

For the Children's Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School (HIGHLY recommended by Charlotte Mason enthusiasts)

So there you have it - tons of books. TONS. But mostly I see us spending as much time outdoors as possible and reading together a lot. The homeschooling community where we're moving is a lot bigger than where we are right now, so hopefully we can find some friends to hang out with as well so it's not just a bunch of kids stuck on a farm with their mom all day. And with my mom living with us, it's a lot easier to get out of the house so we can start considering outside activities for the older kids as well (the girls DESPERATELY want to do ballet, and John Paul says he does as well but considering how annoyed he gets with girly things right now I think we'll find something that appeals to him more).

Whew. That was a lot. If you managed to read it, you deserve a pat on the back! If you're interested in more homeschooling posts, Micaela is hosting a linkup!

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Links I Love, What They're Saying, and Paint Colors

Thursday, August 6, 2015

First, in case you want to see something *actual* that I wrote, you can click over to Shoved to Them for this post:

Please help me remember that their strong-willed tempers will keep them from caving into peer pressure when they’re older. Even though it’s what makes me contemplate day drinking every single morning.
If they’re going to pee on the floor, please let it be on the bathroom tile instead of the rug.
Jesus, I know everyone says the outdoors is nature’s bathroom… But if they’re going to pee in the grass, please make sure that the neighbors aren’t watching this time?
Or if you want to read more of my fashion musings, you can check out my thoughts on Summer to Fall Transition Pieces at Fine Linen & Purple.

And I didn't write this piece, but it's hilarious and so true and exactly spot on! Maternity clothes... Ridiculous.
Meanwhile at home, I'm hoping we're at the tail end of a stomach bug/food poisoning incident... Thankfully it's only hit two of the kids, but it definitely hasn't been fun. Yikes. 

"You're my little boat!"
"I'm NOT your little boat! I'm a PUPPY!"

Either way, I'm not sure they understand how boats OR puppies work.

"I'm a baby swan! And I'm called a cygnet! And I'm cuttin' up my swan paper!"

In other news, I think I've figured out why I keep finding paper in Peter's diapers...

(And no, she generally doesn't get to use scissors because there was a hair cutting incident a while ago... But I was cleaning up Mary Claire's puke and she was being quiet, so I let it slide.)

This is *also* why Peter keeps finding paper to eat. They just take it upon themselves to do "crafts" all over the house - in this case he traced a crossword puzzle and mounted it to the back of a granola box. Process art?

"Mom! Do you want to buy me this mermaid costume?"
"No, because it's $70..."

"Mom, I don't think that's a *real* family of pirates, because they just have wood swords, not real swords."

Thank you, random Halloween costume company, for the hours of entertainment yesterday.

Peter's so mobile now, and he's totally one of the gang. On the one hand it's adorable because they all play together so well! On the other hand it's obnoxious, because he refuses to sleep while they're all napping and is so BORED because he just wants his siblings to play with!

Of course, there's still a fair amount of "Babyzilla" action going on, and we get a lot of "NOT PETER!!!" or "PETER'S TRYING TO GET ME!!!" from Elizabeth. She tends to forget that she can walk or run away, while he crawls slowly at best...

Ultimately they decided that they'd share little bits of their lunch with him so that he'd stop trying to grab their plates. Problem solving at its finest!

I gave Peter a rather terrible "hair cut" the other day because the front was scraggly and getting in his eyes. Well, now it's not getting in his eyes!

Meanwhile, he's proving himself to be the slowest teether ever - weeks of fussiness and drooling and I can *see* his top teeth ready to come in... But they just WILL NOT DO IT!

Suddenly the twins are looking a lot less round and toddler-ish and a whole lot more preschool-ish. At the same time, they're acting a whole lot less reckless and crazy. Still fairly crazy, just less crazy than before. I'm hoping it lasts.

After much input from super-helpful friends on Facebook and commenting on my last post, I came home from Lowe's last night with these two paint samples, ready for Andrew to paint some swatches in the new house so we can decide what we want to go with.

"They're so DIFFERENT!" I told him.

"They look exactly the same."

Yes, well, in real life there's more of a difference. Either one will probably work, honestly... But since we're *definitely* not moving this weekend, we might have a chance to paint before we actually move in! Trying to look at this as a plus, because I'm rather annoyed at having packed every single baking dish and now not being able to get to them for an extra week! Guess I'll have to bake some cookies instead of brownies...

State of the Move (And Questions!)

Monday, August 3, 2015

The countdown is here... We *might* be moving this weekend. Or maybe not until the next one. Either way, it's soon!

Here's what's happening... And because I have approximately ZERO eye for design or anything, I need your help!

I've been looking at rugs and trying to figure something out for the living room and have maybe settled on this one? But is an indoor/outdoor rug actually okay for indoors? And would that work with our couches?  Is it too awkwardly patriotic? You can see their color below:

There are piles of boxes everywhere. EVERYWHERE. This actually kept the kids occupied for quite a while a couple weeks ago when we started packing, but mostly now I just keep finding tape all over the house.

There are NOT piles of *packed* boxes anywhere, thanks to Andrew taking a couple loads out to the new house already! This is a VERY good thing, because the kids kept climbing the boxes/using them as thrones/breaking them. So now I don't have to worry about anybody tipping a stack over and getting crushed!

And the big kids are reasonably helpful when it comes to loading up the car for the trips out there. Problem is, they're not actually very strong, so their desire to help outweighs their usefulness.

Of course, sometimes you just find a really cool screwdriver and can't be expected to help anymore.

How exactly does one childproof a wood stove? And also, what color would you paint the downstairs? There's a fair amount of peeling/crayon marks/general wear and tear, so we're going to *have* to paint, but the current yellow of the dining area is too bright for me.

Although I like the blue in the living room... But I think I want the same color throughout the downstairs? 

Luckily my sister reminded me that Emily wrote a post on picking paint colors not too long ago! So Andrew's off to get many a paint sample, and we'll see where that takes us. I'll keep you updated!
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