Thursday, January 31, 2013

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real}

Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life...

Ellie's class did a Famous Americans project for Catholic Schools Week.  She chose to do her project on Laura Ingalls Wilder and had to dress up as Laura to give her speech.

Oscar's happy that he has his strawberry, but Katie was literally seconds away from being happy to take it from him.

Look who I caught making herself comfortable in the dog's bed. Seconds before I snapped this she was lounging in it.  Poor kid was COVERED in dog hair.  Yuck!

Last weekend Madeline and her friend were fixated on starting their own business.  Bryan saw the "logo" that Madeline drew up and decided to make a slight change.  Madeline wasn't thrilled.

Visit Like Mother, Like Daughter for more pictures of contentment.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Then There Were Nine

This morning when I got Katie ready for her bath I pointed out to Bryan that her toenail was indeed lifting off.  Neither of us were thrilled about this and Bryan couldn't bear to look at it.  If you can look at entire nails flapping off a digit and are unfazed by it then you've got something on me and Bryan.

So after watching her nail flop around in the tub we quickly got her dried and covered that toenail up with a nice sock.  Out of sight, out of mind.

For reasons we won't go into on this blog, I found myself washing my very fragrant baby once again this evening.  This time the toe nail was hanging on by a thread of skin or nail. Ick. Ick. ICK!

Once Katie realized there was something of interest going on with her toenail she decided she wanted to play with it.  That's when we came to the conclusion that we needed to get it off before she hurt herself.  So Bryan, Madeline and I had to wrangle Katie so we could safely remove the nail with the nail scissors.  A few of her other nails look like they're also going to fall off.

I suspect that I might also wind up losing a nail or two on my hands.  One of my nails that looks like it has a blister feels like it's lifting off my nail bed.  I'm not going to handle it well if it comes to that.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Toenail Woes and Probable Cause

Remember back in late November when Katie came down with a really bad case of hand, foot and mouth disease and I followed suit four days later?  I think it will be a long time before that incredibly miserable week and a half is a distant memory for me.

Katie has several marks on her that I think are probably scars, and I have a few marks on my hands from the ordeal.  Oh, and my feet are still peeling from all of the blisters that formed under my calloused skin.  Two months later and we're still dealing with the after effects.

I noticed in early December that Katie's toenails were turning yellow and then orange.  Then I noticed that they looked really thick.  I suspected that something happened to them as a result of the virus, but since my toe nails didn't turn yellow or orange I figured it must be something else.  I did, however, notice that two of my fingernails grew in with what appear to be blisters in the nail itself.  It's all so bizarre.  So at Katie's well appointment two weeks ago I asked the doctor if her toenails could have changed color because of the hand, foot and mouth disease.  He told me he's never heard of such a thing and that it was probably something in her diet or a fungus, but he didn't think it was a fungus.  A culture was ordered of her toenail clippings and I just got around to dropping them off today.

I mentioned to Bryan a few days ago that Katie's toenails are now very thick and brittle.  When I went to clip them they crumbled.  I've never seen a nail do that!  Then tonight as Bryan was getting Katie ready for bed he noticed that her big toenail looks like it's about to fall off completely.  The odd thing is it looks like another nail is under the one that is lifting off.

Anyway, we're both concerned about her nails and aren't thrilled that they appear as though they will all likely fall off.  I decided to do a little searching online to see what could be going on based on her symptoms.  One site I looked at the nails looked just like her's and it mentioned that having a virus or a trauma to your system could cause this to happen.  Then I did a search for hand, foot and mouth disease and toenails falling off.  Would you believe I found a story about it?

Apparently there's a newer strain of the virus that is a bit tougher than the standard variety.  The way the rash presents is much like what Katie had happen to her and it's also a strain that adults are more prone to contract.  And then there was the bit that talks about how many kids who have gotten this strain have lost finger and toenails.  At this point, I think it's safe to assume that Katie's nail culture will come back negative for fungus.  It looks like the virus probably the culprit.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Fluffy Hair Help Needed

I hoping that maybe some of you might be able to give me a little bit of advice.  Two years ago Ellie had smooth poker straight hair.  I have straight hair, so I know how to handle straight super fine hair, even when it's a full thick head of super fine can't hold a curl straight hair.  Over the past two years Ellie's hair has gone from a texture that I loved and had no problems taking care of to a fluffy nightmare.

I've tried different conditioners, smoothing creams/gels, frizz serums all to no avail.  Nothing weighs the fluffy frizziness down and nothing seems to do anything to relax it.  The waves started gradually.  First she had one in the middle of her hair that I thought was from her ponytail.  Then the back got really wavy and the sides stayed straight and now she's crazy waves all over.  But they're not waves that are consistent, they're crazy waves that are super close at the top of her head.

Brushing her hair is tough and takes forever.  Her hair is super thick and the fluff and waves only complicate it more.  I've tried just using a comb and that is pretty much impossible.  I started wondering if maybe I should use a pick, but I'm not sure that that's the right route either.

I never blow dry her hair, and I'm fairly certain that if I did, her hair would look like one of those cartoon animals after it takes a spin through a washer and dryer.  We're trying to avoid that look.

I haven't tried a straightening iron.  Our morning routine is hectic enough as it is without adding something that I'm pretty sure will be even more time consuming and likely to involve Ellie and myself getting burned.  Of course, I'd be willing to give it a go and see if it would work if we straightened it at night.

So I'm looking for suggestions.  What can I do with her hair?  She likes to wear it down but doing that means she's a fluffy puff ball within an hour or so after getting out of the shower and the fluff puffs up more and more as the day goes by.  She's frustrated by the fluff and I just don't know how to tame it.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Not the Pied Piper

I do my best not to criticize Madeline when she practices her flute.  Her biggest problem is she rarely practices.  That old adage that "practice makes perfect" is quite true and you can't expect to play flawlessly or to progress if you only pick up the instrument when it's time for another lesson.

Bryan and I told her last year that she is to practice in her room with the door shut and not while the baby is sleeping.  She doesn't like this arrangement and is always trying to "put on a concert" for us on the rare occasions when she does practice.  I don't think she grasps that you need to practice and rehearse a great deal before you put on a concert.  Anyway, the rule about playing in her room with her door shut is one that my parents had when my brothers and I played in band and I'm certain that it's saturated in wisdom.  They listened to ten years of children learning to play the trumpet [God bless them!], trombone, and flute.  Of course, in our house even with the door shut you still heard every note, just muffled a bit.  In our house, it's possible to have a child playing an instrument in her room and only faintly hear it in the basement or family room.  But, Madeline insists on playing for us.  Bryan and I joke to each other that it's a lesson in patience.

Now if Oscar had a say in any of this flute playing business he'd veto the entire thing.  He's not a fan at all.  If she's playing well he's willing to tolerate it a bit but after a few minutes he starts to get agitated.  Now he could just walk away and go somewhere where the audio assault is not as loud, but he chooses to sit at her feet and give her his opinion.  He'll give little grumbles and whimpers as she hits notes that if they were cartons of milk they would be curdled messes.  But some notes are enough to set him off on a howling streak.  So in a way, Madeline has her own music critic.  If she's playing well, he'll sit as quietly as he can at her feet and make very low sounds of discontent.  Madeline gets angry with him, tells him to shush or go away, but he apparently feels duty bound to stand sentry next to the source of his audio enemy.  On more than a few occasions she has asked Bryan and I to make him stop, but you can't reason with a dog, and honestly, his complaints were not unfounded.  He was merely stating what the rest of us were thinking.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Quick Takes Volume 57

I'm wading into that time of the year where a lot of my time goes into planning our parish's VBS program.  I did a lot of the things I procrastinated on last year shortly after Christmas when I received the VBS program.  So announcements, flyers and bulletin ads are done.  Now I have to start contacting more of last year's volunteers to see who's coming back and in what capacity.  The deacon who is our DRE has been bantering back and forth with me over miscellaneous things.  I'm trying to convince him to dress up in an inflatable cowboy costume for our wild west themed VBS for the children, and he's flat out against it.  If the recent email exchanges we have are any indication of how this year's VBS will go,  I think there will be a lot of laughter along the way to take the stress off this sometimes stressful job. 
It's been almost two years since I've worn my retainer but I managed to get it back in my mouth.  My teeth have shifted a bit and I need to get them back in place before I wind up needing to get them straightened again.  If I can get them back where they're supposed to be then I can go and get a new retainer.  My present one is about 19 years old and really needs to be replaced.  I wore it last night and woke up at 4am in a lot of pain.
I finished reading The Hobbit a few days ago.  I wasn't expecting to enjoy it as much as I did.  I'm going to start reading The Fellowship of the Ringsoon.  But first, I need to read some of the books in my review pile.  I've got quite the bedside stack at the moment.  There are several books in that stack that I can't wait to read so I just need to find the time to read them.
I have been systematically restocking our freezer this past week.  I'm trying to ensure that we have plenty of back up dinner ideas for those days when things do go as planned.  I'm determined to make sure we stick to cutting back on our take-out/eating out habit.  I'm trying to convince Bryan that we should give up eating out and take-out for Lent.  I think that might be as challenging as the Lent when we gave up cheese. (Was that last year?)
Over the past couple of years I've tried using the Baltimore Catechismwith Madeline, but she always railed against having to memorize the questions and answers.  Now that she's finishing out the remainder of the school year being homeschooled for religious ed (it might stay this way until she's confirmed, but I'll be discussing that with the powers that be in the near future) she's using that and another text.  So far she's doing really well with it.  Bryan and I have been quizzing her night after night  and Ellie is now starting to pick it up as well.  She just started with it last night.  Might as well have them both learn it, right?  

I think Katie is cutting teeth on the top and bottom.  She's been pretty cranky these past few days.  We even had a night where she was awake from 1-5AM.  That wasn't fun at all, but she was pretty good about just calmly resting on my chest while I sat up with her.  Then later this week she didn't want to go to sleep, so now we're back to using her Baby Einstein music to lull her to sleep.  She's been our toughest baby with sleep. 
It's FREEZING here!  It's been in the teens every day since Tuesday.  The little bit of snow that we got on Monday night is still on the ground.  There's talk that we might get more snow tonight.  I'm hoping that's not the case.  I have no desire to go out in the snow.  We have several things on the calendar for this weekend and we don't need snow tossed into the mix.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Book Review: Novenas for the Church Year

I have to admit that when it comes to novenas, I often feel overwhelmed by them, particularly the ones where there's a different prayer for each day.  Usually a few days into those types of novenas I wind up abandoning it completely.  Now, the novenas where the prayer(s) stay the same for the duration whether it's nine days, all of Advent or even nine months long, I usually do much better with being able to stay the course.  

When I saw that Fr. Cameron had written a novena book, Novenas for the Church Year, I knew that I wanted to check it out.  The book is a collection of nearly sixty original novenas.  I have read a few of Fr. Cameron's books, plus I have read many editorials and such by him in the Magnificat publication, and I'm always taken by how beautifully he explains the faith.  I suspected that whatever novenas he had composed along with their explanation would be inspiring.

In Novenas for the Church Year, you'll find a variety of novenas for every month.  The book is arranged by month.  Each novena has a beautifully written explanation and an equally beautiful novena prayer.  Let me tell you that I was thrilled when I saw that each of these novenas uses the same prayer for all nine days of the novena.  So if you're like me and you find novenas with prayers that change every day to be daunting, you'll like this book.

Now just because the book has the novenas sorted by month and date doesn't mean you can't use them throughout the year.  In the foreword there is a section on how to use this book.  Firstly, if you're intending to use a novena for commemorating a particular feast day such as All Saints' Day, you'll need to know to start it nine days before November 1st (The trick is making sure you plan ahead!).  But, if there's a novena you want to pray for a particular intention you can use it at anytime regardless of the date in the book.

The book itself is a nice hardbound volume.  It's about the same size as many other prayer books I have.  It's small enough to fit into a purse, but it's a touch too big for me to call it pocket sized.  Since it's hardbound, it should withstand frequent use far better than another paperback novena book that I have.

Overall, it's a nice prayer book and is a timely volume for the Year of Faith.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Novenas for the Church Year. The Catholic Company is the best resource for gifts for every Sacrament celebration, such as First Communion gifts and Baptism gifts, as well as a great selection of limited-time Year of Faith gifts and resources.

{pretty, happy, funny, real} Fun with Snow

Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life...
Madeline shows off her cute little mini snow man.

Ellie was so happy and quite surprised to discover snow in the kitchen after she got done showering.  She had no idea that we got about an inch of snow in the time that it took for her to read me a couple chapters from her book and shower.  Oscar was pretty happy to have snow in the house, too.

Katie's reaction to the snow was amusing.  She had never played with snow before so she didn't know what to make of it at first.  But she had a great time playing with the cold white stuff that her big sister scooped up for her.

We had snow in our house because Madeline wanted her little sisters to be able to play in the snow before it was all gone.  So she went outside in her soccer clothes and no shoes, just socks, and scooped up several popcorn containers full of snow with her bare hands to fill a cookie sheet
 with enough snow to make a few little snowmen.  She was so excited to watch Katie play with snow for the first time.  She's really an amazing big sister to Katie [and Ellie when she wants to be].

Visit Like Mother, Like Daughter for more pictures of contentment.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Brother Francis Born into the Kingdom

The latest episode of Brother Francis is out and this time it's focus is the sacrament of baptism.  Born into the Kingdom is every bit as good as the Brother Francis episodes that precede it.  Since this DVD has arrived at our house it has been watched countless times by my seven year old.  Even our one year old is captivated by this show.

As always, Brother Francis explains the Catholic faith to youngsters in a way that is fun and right on their level.  In order to explain the sacrament of baptism and why we need it, Brother Francis introduces viewers to the story of Adam and Eve and the first sin.  From there, children see a few little short stories where the characters learn the importance of doing what they were told to do vs. doing what they feel like doing--such as taking short cuts that weren't short cuts at all.  It all leads up to giving them a good understanding of why we need the sacrament of baptism.   There are two catchy songs in this episode.  "I've got a Family" teaches children that they become a part of a larger family when they are baptized into the Church.  "Jesus is the Light of the World" that shows children how God is present in the world today.

My older daughters were laughing out loud over the segment where they show a baby being baptized because of the baby's funny made up last name..  They were able to recall when their baby sister was baptized a little over a year ago and point out the parts of the baptism that they remembered.  Everything about the baptism is explained so little ones who have a younger sibling who is about to be baptized could watch this beforehand and come away with a good understanding of what happens when someone receives this sacrament.

From our one year old to our elven year old, Brother Francis is well received in our home.  Our eldest daughter can't help but rush into the room to see her favorite parts of this episode when she notices her little sisters watching this DVD.  So I think it's safe to say that Brother Francis, despite being geared to preschool and younger elementary school aged chidden, can even appeal to some middle schoolers (provided they have younger siblings, I think).

I was provided with a review copy of Born into the Kingdom, by the publisher, Herald Kids, in exchange for my honest review.  Visit Brother Francis Online for more information or to purchase a copy of this DVD.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

DVD Review: Stories Jesus Told

I recently had the opportunity to review Stories Jesus Told: Parables for Kids from Pauline Kids.  I knew that Pauline Kids had some great children's books but I had no idea that they also had some animated DVDs.  Stories Jesus Told is a collection of ten parables.  Each parable is four minutes in length making them perfect for viewing in a religious education setting.  They're also great for kids with short attention spans, too.

The animated stories remind me a bit of some story books that we have.  Instead of having a cartoon like feel, the animation has more of a story book illustration with some moving parts type of feel.  At first I wasn't sure if my girls would go for this type of animation but they happily sat and watched the entire DVD in one sitting.  When it was over my seven year old wanted to know if there were any more parables.

I like how each parable is explained so there's no confusion as to what the meaning of the parable was when all is said and done.  Some of the parables found on this DVD are The Good Shepherd, The Prodigal Son, and The Lost Sheep.  As I watched this DVD with my children, I thought that it was perfect for children who are preparing for first penance given that there are a few parables that are often told to children preparing for this sacrament on this DVD.

I was provided with a review copy of Stories Jesus Told by the publisher, Pauline Kids, in exchange for my honest review.  Visit Pauline Media for more information on this DVD.

DVD Review: Saints for Kids

Saints for Kids: 32 Friends of Jesus is an animated collection of saints stories geared to kids in the pre-school through third grade age range.  Each saint story is just four minutes in length making it the perfect run time for use in a religious education class where every minute of instruction time counts.  Because of the short length of the stories, it's also ideal for children with short attention spans who might grow weary of a longer story.

The collection of saint stories spans two DVDs with a combined run time of over two hours.  I found it particularly helpful that the menu for the DVD actually has the saints stories listed by month for their feast days.  That's incredibly helpful if you intend to use this DVD set to celebrate the liturgical year with your children or to aid you in planning your lessons for a religious ed class.

The animation of these stories reminds me of several story books that we have.  There were a few stories where the animation looked so much like the pages of some of our favorite  Maite Roche books. While the animation has a story book page come to life type of feel, it's worth mentioning that this isn't high tech animation.  My children enjoyed watching the stories, just the same, but they did comment a few times that some of the characters only had three fingers.  Despite a few missing fingers here and there the stories are still enjoyable.

I was provided with a review copy of Saints for Kids by the publisher, Pauline Kids, in exchange for my honest review.  Visit Pauline Media for more information on this DVD.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Who Doesn't Like Pancakes?

We're trying once again to limit our eating out and take-out habit.  We save so much money when we limit eating out to once a week, so we're doing our best to start cooking the vast majority of our meals.  When I was pregnant with Katie and unable to be anywhere near chicken without feeling horribly nauseated we had a really good run of eating most of our meals at home that entire summer.  We limited eating out to only a few times a month and the amount of money we saved by doing so was a real eye opener.  Not to mention it helped us save enough money to take care of a few home improvements that we needed to do at the time.

I'm finding we do our best with eating at home when we have some sort of menu for the week written down.  Otherwise Bryan and I go back and forth trying to figure out what we should eat and we usually wind up ordering take-out instead.  We've also found that it helps to have some back up dinner ideas in case the original plan falls through such as a traffic delay, or the store not having what we wanted in stock or of acceptable freshness.  The lack of a back up plan has been a problem on more than a few occasions and it doesn't help that our awesome full size freezer is mostly stocked with bags of ice and lots of little bags of milk for Katie, most of which needs to be discarded.

I made pancakes for dinner tonight and they're always a hit with Oscar and Katie.  Madeline and Ellie run hot and cold with them, and Bryan needs to be in the mood for them.  I'm in the same camp as Oscar and Katie.  I could eat them every day.  The look I got from Bryan when I suggested that we have pancakes three times a week like we used to when we had just gotten married was priceless.  He claims I beat pancakes and ravioli to death back then.  I disagree.  There's no such thing as too much pancakes.  It's just not possible.  You can eat them with jelly, fresh fruit, chocolate chips and whipped cream, maple syrup (it has to be real, not the fake stuff) and whipped butter, or just plain.  It's impossible to go wrong with pancakes.

Muggles actually play Quidditch?!

I logged on to Facebook and noticed a post from Cammie over at A Woman's Place that piqued my interest.  She had taken her girls to their swim lesson and there was a quidditch match being played on a nearby field.  Quidditch.  I mentioned it to Bryan.  Having read all of the Harry Potter books,I was surprised to hear that people without flying brooms were actually playing this game.  I have no idea how it's played, but Bryan apparently was aware of it being played as a sport and sent me a link for the International Quidditch Association.

Easter Candy in January

We were in Target this afternoon and I wanted to take a peek at the Valentine's Day candy to see if there was anything I should add to my shopping list for Bryan and the girls when I go there next week. I've been in the store a few times since they set up the Valentine aisles but I hadn't had time to actually see what was out there.

I did a double take when we walked by an end cap where I thought I saw jelly beans.  Thinking I must have been mistaken I went back and noticed that there were some chocolate eggs next to them.  And that's when I noticed the sign heralding the approach of Easter on March 31st.  I don't think I've ever seen Easter candy in the store before Valentine's Day, much less January.  

Friday, January 18, 2013

Organization Push

It's amazing how getting three new bookshelves has started me on an organizing spree.  Initially I had just intended to toss the girls' books up on the shelves according to reading level and category and leave it at that.  But somehow or another setting up the bookshelves has sent me on an organizational cleaning frenzy.  It's been a week long process at this point and each day has me spending more and more time working on getting everything in order or sent to the trash or a donation pile.

It's probably a good thing that I'm doing all of this organization since I can't stand when everything doesn't have a place and isn't in it's designated place.  But, there are times when I tell Bryan I wish I could just get rid of about half of what we have.  His standard response to that is "Go for it!" but tossing/donating things I know we'll need a few years down the line keeps me from being able to do it. I can't justify getting rid of something that I know I'll have to turn around and buy again in a few years.

I have noticed a trend with a lot of the things that we are able to donate.  Most of it came from years ago when it seemed like our family members made it their personal mission to spoil the girls with loads of gifts.  As I sort through books, toys and what not I keep finding lots of things that were Christmas presents from when we lived in our old house (six years ago) that are still in their original packaging.  It reminds me of all the Christmas Eve's where I had to take about half of what I bought for the girls and put it away for later.  Actually, many of those gifts I bought are still sitting in my closet with the wrapping paper on them.  Every year during Advent I usually unwrap some of those gifts and donate them to our church or Toys for Tots.

And then there are all of the workbooks and things of that nature!  Oh my, I have enough activity and school workbooks to homeschool a bunch of kids!  I don't know how I amassed so many of these books.  I know a few were given to us, but the rest were all brought by me or sent to me as review products.  I tossed some of the ones that were mostly consumed but the others are sitting in a pile.  I may have to see if any of the families I know who homeschool can use any of these books.  Some of the books I know I can use for Katie or Ellie, but I have so much geared to the kindergarten and 1st grade level that I'd have to have three more kids to be able to use it all.  It's really overkill.

Our collection of children's books is huge.  Some of them are my old books, others' are yard sale finds, and a ton of them came from Bryan's aunt who used to give Madeline books by the stack.  Now I need to go through all of the books and determine which ones we actually read or will read, and which ones should be given away.  There are several books that the girls aren't allowed to read because we don't like their message.  Books like Junie B Jones are out because we  don't like her attitude.  Anything by Judy Blume is out because I won't support an author who has morals that are radically different from ours.  And then there's that awful Rainbow Fish.  Some of the books are fine, but the original has no place in our house.  My kids don't need to be fed any propaganda about falling into lockstep with everyone else in order to be liked.  So as I go through the books I'll be paging through some of the unfamiliar titles and seeing which ones will be donated to someone else.

And then there are the "educational toys."  I came to the conclusion about five years ago that these "educational toys" are a waste of time and are designed to prey on parents who think their child will be the next up and coming genius if they play with the latest electronic learning toy.  Want to know what toys are the best?  The ones that don't use any batteries and let the child use his or her imagination.  So all of those brainy toys really need to find their way out of our house.  And, they should take Barbie and her material world with them.  Ellie managed to convince my mom to buy her the Rapunzel Barbie doll that she wanted for Christmas much to my dismay.  Oddly enough, for as much as Ellie wanted this doll it is still sitting in it's package. It's one of a few toys Ellie has had no interest in opening since Christmas morning.  I guess the allure of the American Girl Caroline doll was stronger than the plastic coated wires that hold Rapunzel in her box.  So I think we're going to cull a lot of Leap Frog and Barbie toys from our home in the near future.  They don't make the kids smarter.  If anything, I think they stifle creativity and learning.  In the case of Barbie, I think she just sets girls up to have an unrealistic body image.

I think I need to thin out some of the toys that we do like, too.  We have enough Little People to populate a Little People metro area and it's surrounding area.  The problem is I'm rather fond of the Little People and so are the kids.

So far I've tossed out a lot of stuff and the donation pile is growing by a lot.  I'm hoping that within another week or two that we will have eliminated a lot of unnecessary things from our house.  I've noticed that the girls' closets are packed again, which is odd considering that I've hardly done any clothes shopping for them.  I guess this stuff just multiplies.  I guess I'll be going through the clothes again in the near future.  Hopefully some of the families I've been giving clothes will be willing to take some more hand me downs.

On the bright side, certain areas of the house are looking pretty good.  I've even eliminated some of the problem areas where Katie routinely was creating messes.  My goal is to get to a point where the only things she can get into and make messes with will be her own things.

Quick Takes Volume 56

Life has been busy and stressful around here lately.  A lot has happened within the past month and I haven't said much regarding it on the blog.  We withdrew Madeline from the parish school right after Christmas break.  The school turned out to not be the best fit for her.  She was bothered by the cliques and she was unimpressed with the school when compared to the middle school.  Bryan and I witnessed many things while over at the school for various school events that led us to the conclusion that marginally better academics were not worth keeping Madeline [or Ellie] at the school beyond this school year.   We originally withdrew her from the school with the intent to homeschool, but we quickly came to the realization that the dynamic of sending one child to school and homeschooling the other was not going to work for us.  So she's back at the middle school and we're very happy with how wonderful the administration was about making sure Madeline's transition back to the middle school as stress free as possible.  We were able to pick her core teachers and our requests to place her in a homeroom with one of her good friends was also honored.  Madeline's very happy to be back with her friends.  When I find some spare time I'll try to write more about the mid-year school switch.
Ellie is doing a project on Laura Ingalls Wilder for school.  I think I might start reading the Little Housebooks with her while her curiosity is piqued.  I've tried to convince Madeline to read them several times over the past few years to no avail.  However, she did just start reading the Narnia series.She has to write a book report for school since one of her classmates was caught mocking the teacher.  The kids are thrilled about the book report, but Bryan and I are pretty happy that Madeline is finally being asked to write a book report for the first time.
I think I need to ask family members to limit their Christmas gift purchases for the kids to no more than three gifts per child going forward.  Even with Bryan and I giving the girls just three gifts each plus a stocking and small Santa gift, they were still overwhelmed with gifts.  Three weeks after Christmas and Ellie still has several gifts that are sealed in their packages.  One of them is one of the three gifts she got from Bryan and I.  Neither of us are thrilled to see that her Lego beach househasn't been touched. 

Katie had her 15 month well visit with the pediatrician on Monday.  She actually lost a bit of weight since her one year visit, but she grew about 1/2 an inch.  So she's now 30 1/2 inches tall.  The doctor didn't say anything about her weight loss, so I suppose she's ok.  Still, I'd prefer to see her gain weight. I guess all of her running around has her burning off a lot of the baby fat.  I'm just amazed that she's lost weight considering that she often eats more than Ellie does.

Much like Ellie, Katie does not like to sit still and listen to stories.  She wants to be the one holding the book and turning the pages and she does not want anyone reading what is in the book she's reading.  I've tried to sneak stories in by giving her one book and reading another but she usually grabs the book I'm reading and runs off with it.  So I decided to take a new approach.  When she sits in her high chair to eat breakfast and lunch I have started sitting next to her and reading a small stack of stories to her.  She's more than happy to listen to me read book after book to her as long as she has something to eat and drink.  I'm hoping that she'll eventually be content to simply sit and listen to a story.  With the new approach she's now happily listening to somewhere between 5-10 books a day.  
The girls have started soccer training for the spring season.  So our Saturday mornings are consumed with soccer.  Bryan heard there is a Monday night session that might work for both of the girls so he's going to look into that when he takes them to training tomorrow morning.  Right now the girls are doing sessions that are back to back since they don't have sessions for both Madeline and Ellie's age groups at the same time on Saturday.  If he can switch them we'll get to reclaim our Saturdays for about five weeks before the spring soccer season begins.
Ellie is getting ready for her first penance.  She's been practicing everything she needs to say for confession and we're getting her mentally prepared to go one on one with the priest.  We've discovered that Ellie is a little bit scared of priests.  Bryan says she gets that from me.  She's been asking if there's any way she can do her first confession from behind the screen instead of face to face like they want the kids to do.  I'm going to have to see if they can accommodate her request and explain her priest phobia.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real}

Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life...


A few days after Christmas I got a catalog that had this pretty statuein it and I had to have it.  I loved the colors and the way it looked like it was carved from wood.  So after doing a little bit of price checking online, I found it at a good price and ordered it.  It's been prettying up my dining room table for the past week.


The dog is blurry, but it's still pretty clear that both he and Ellie are pretty happy in this one. After dinner we often make a game of tossing Oscar a few scraps from the table.  He flies through the air snatching peas, bits of chicken and bread as he twists, turns and sometimes even flips!  I think he'd make a good circus dog.  Think they'll take him?

This child always brings a smile to my face.  While I showered this morning Katie happily hummed her little happy theme music [Yes, this child hums her own theme music. It's the cutest thing.] so I figured she was occupying herself with some of her toys.  I stepped out of the shower and discover that Katie had transformed my tank top into a cape.  I've seen a lot of dress up configurations in my time as a mom, but this one was a first!  She looks like a little Hobbitto me with her cape.  It's pretty fitting considering this is the child who will eat a second breakfast or dinner from time to time.  Now we have further proof of her Hobbit-ness.

It took me about four years of hemming and hawing over what kind of books shelves I wanted for the basement, but I finally made a decision and I'm happy with the way they look.  Bryan assembled them for me last week and I've been trying to organize them according to reading level and category ever since.  I still have a lot of books to take out of the girls' rooms, but this is a good start.  I am a little concerned that we might not have enough room for all of the children's books that we have.  If that's the case I think I'll have to sort through them and donate the books we don't like or want to free up shelf space for the books that we do want or have on wishlists.  I have my "vintage" Baby Sitters Club books as well as a few other childhood favorites on these shelves.  I'm hoping all of the American Girl books will fit on one shelf, but I'm not sure if that's possible or not.
Oh, and in case you're wondering why it looks like we don't have any carpet under the bookshelves, you're right, we don't.  When we brought he house there was a stainless steel bar in the basement.  We ripped that out and put up a wall to create Bryan's home office.  The previous owners had removed the carpet around the bar leaving us with exposed concrete (Awesome!).  So we were left with an area big enough for two bookshelves to sit on concrete when all was said and done.  Bryan and I had a good laugh as we cut out enough carpet to accommodate one more bookshelf as we wondered if people who saw it would think we cut the carpet out for all of the bookshelves on purpose. To make it look presentable (Can one make this ridiculous set up presentable?) we put planks of left over laminate flooring under the front of the bookshelves.  It also serves to give us a level floor since there was a chunk of concrete missing on the floor right where the leg of one of the bookshelves was to rest.  I'm really looking forward to the day when we finally replace the carpet in the basement.  We'll get there someday!

Visit Like Mother, Like Daughter for more pictures of contentment.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Book Review: Who's Who in Heaven

My eleven and seven year old daughter's enjoy reading about the lives of the saints, so when I was given the opportunity to review Fr. Thomas G. Morrow's Who's Who in Heaven: Real Saints for Families in Plain English, I was pretty confident that the girls would be interested in reading through this book.  The book is one that works both as a read-aloud for younger school aged children and independent reading for older children.

In Who's Who in Heaven, the reader will learn about eleven saints.  All of whom are pretty well known.  I was happy to see that this book had some of the girls' favorite saints.  Both were pretty happy to discover that St. Therese of Liseux was featured in this book.  St. Anthony of Padua, who is called upon by us quite regularly, is also found in this book.

I like the set up for this book.  Each chapter is devoted on one saint and that chapter is broken up by various subtitles making it easy to break the saint's story up in bite size pieces so the story can be read over the course of a few days to accommodate for short attention spans.  At the end of each chapter there is a reflection and several discussion questions that will get your children thinking about the lessons they have just learned from reading/listening to this saint's story.

Each chapter in this book has a single black and white illustration.  For older children this is sufficient, but younger ones might not be very content with the scarcity of illustrations.

Overall, I think the book is nicely done.  The stories are interesting and well written.  I do feel the book is most appropriate for children in the middle school age range.  You can certainly use this book as a read aloud for younger kids, but I felt it was better suited to my eleven year old than it was to my seven year old.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. I was provided with a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Who's Who In Heaven. The Catholic Company is the best resource for gifts for every Sacrament celebration, such as First Communion gifts and Baptism gifts, as well as a great selection of limited-time Year of Faith gifts and resources.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real}

Capturing the context of contentment in every day life...


Kitty Katkins is such a cutie even with a cookie crumb smile.  She's sporting orange and black in this picture to celebrate the return of NHL hockey and her Bruins her Daddy's Flyers.  


At long last Ellie finally gets to play basketball.  This past Sunday was her first time playing basketball on a team.  She had a good time.  I'm pretty sure she's going to play this summer with the township's club.  We're hoping she can play on an all girls team when we switch her to the local club.


Mr. Furkins is such an odd dog.  He will happily sit around with anything he perceives to be people clothing. He sat still for the longest time so his stacking cup, ahem, red fezdidn't fall off.  You can tell he thinks he looks sophisticated.  Silly Mr. Furkins!


Look at Oscar's look of total concern/dread as Katie comes to take his "hat" away.  She torments him but I think he actually enjoys it.

Visit Like Mother, Like Daughter for more pictures of contentment.
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