Monday, January 30, 2012

Baby Names and Sewing Projects

It's been about a year now since I started learning to sew and, like the moon, my sewing urges wax and wane.  It probably has a lot to do with the amount of sleep I'm able to get.  Right now, we're not having the best time of it around these parts, but I think I'm either completely losing my sanity or I'm becoming enured to sleep deprivation.  Either way, the sewing bug is on!

My birthday is coming up and my dear, sweet husband has gotten me a lovely little gift to help my projects along.  I'm awaiting the arrival of my Simplicity Bias Tape Machine.  I've become a little obsessed with bias tape lately, mainly because of how much it can streamline an already simple project.  Hems?  Curved necklines?  Armholes?  No problem.  Just slap some bias tape on and admire a neatly finished item.  And it's going to come in really handy with all of the stuff I'm planning on making.

I've got a couple of things done already.  Jane has a new Simple Skirt (via Dana from Made's wonderful tutorial here) and I made a yoga-waistband maternity skirt last night after the kids went to bed.  That was a mish-mash of DIY pattern-making from Sew What!: Skirts and a technique from The Scientific Seamstress on setting collars in knit shirts.

See the bias tape on the bottom of Jane's skirt?  Yes.  There'll be more of that.  My skirt was made from an old tank top that had seen better days and a fabric remnant that I picked up for $1.  It's a little roomy, but that will be good because my stomach is getting bigger by the day.

I have plenty of fabric for more skirts for Jane, plus I really want to make her a bunch of pillowcase dresses because they are so cute and they can grow with her.  And I'm going to keep my eye out for actual pillowcases that I can turn into these gorgeous and incredibly easy nightgowns.

But the big projects (and the ones I'm giving myself the most time to complete) are Baby 5's coming-home outfits.  Since we're not finding out what we're having until he or she arrives, I've got to make a girl outfit and a boy outfit to bring with us.

Yes, the girl pile has a little more flair, but the boy stuff will still be really cute.   Both sets will get a diaper cover, pair of soft baby shoes, and a receiving blanket.  Both sets will also have one of those long-sleeved side-snap newborn shirts trimmed with matching bias tape.  The girl set will also get a reversible bonnet and a Simple Skirt.  The boy set will be topped off with a tie-top knit beanie.  So, lots to do, but the projects themselves are fairly simple and straight-forward.  And I've got a good twenty weeks or so to get them completed.

And the baby names?  Well, this is our fifth kid so much of the naming angst that came with our first few has faded away.  We started talking about names a while back and the conversation degenerated into both of us throwing out the most ridiculous names we could think of before trailing off on its own.  But, we've come to a leisurely conclusion and decided on Violet Elizabeth for a girl (although the middle name is still tentative) and Peter James for a boy.

The purple makes sense now, right?  And whatever outfit winds up unneeded will be donated to our local crisis pregnancy center as a gift to another new baby.  Win win.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

January 29 - February 4, 2012

Last week's lessons were great, but I really need to work with Henry on making sure that he's sounding out his words and not guessing.  Practice, practice, practice!  We also got a new authorization from our insurance company for additional speech therapy for Oliver.  He starts back up with twice-weekly sessions this week.

What we're working on this week:
  • Religion - Daily readings, rosary, prayers
  • Math - Saxon Math K: Lessons 61 and 62 - Copying lines, shapes, and designs on a geoboard; counting dimes to $.50
  • Language Arts - Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read Kindergarten Level 1: Unit 4 (-id and -it words) and review; Go for the Code: Complete letter g
  • Art - Freehand drawing and coloring
  • Music - Pandora classical music station
  • Good Books - Andrew Lang's Fairy books

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Field Trip: Yesterdays Festival at Gold Head Branch State Park

Today was absolutely gorgeous.  Gorgeous.  The past few days have been warm and a little humid, but today was crisp and sunny and 73 degrees.  Perfect.  Since there just happened to be a little festival going on not too far from us, we decided to take advantage of the weather and head out.

Top row: Henry watching a demonstration of miniature steam engines, Henry getting a balloon animal that was blown up using a real engine, Henry exploring a half-size replica of the Hunley, the sad remainder of Little Lake Johnson

Middle row: Talking cannons with some reenactors, Jane, "Alligators: No Swimming" sign in another dried lake

Bottom row: A pretty oak tree, Oliver, Fire!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

January 22 - 28, 2012

We had a pajamas and cereal day last week in which I took the time to plot out the remainder of Henry's school year.  We're speeding up on Go for the Code and Hooked on Phonics and holding steady on Saxon Math K.  If everything goes well, Henry will finish up with his language arts lessons by the end of May and we'll keep our original end date of June 8th for math.  I think we're going to pull this off.  Then I just need to figure out how to approach kindergarten when we've already completed half of the language arts lessons.

In other news, Henry passed his latest math assessment and he really enjoys the geoboard.  I also just realized that there is a set of handwriting masters in the back of the Saxon teacher's manual.  We were already past the first six points of usage, so I made copies of those for Henry to complete.  They're just a little extra practice for writing numbers, something I think he needs.  From this point forward, I'll incorporate those masters according to the Saxon recommendations.

Looking at my pre-Baby 5 goals, we're on track.  I've been in touch with Oliver's case manager.  We're in the process of entering the Navy's exceptional family member program which will allow us to sign up for ECHO, which will get Oliver into EIA services.  So, that ball is rolling.  The new cleaning routine has been implemented and is going well.  I'm about halfway through The Prince and I'm actually enjoying it this time around.  The trees have been pruned, but won't be fertilized until April.  The deck and trellises are painted, but we're still working on painting the deck pool/garden beds.  Jane's closet and dresser have been purged of all clothes that no longer fit.  Progress!

What we're working on this week:

  • Religion - Daily readings, rosary, prayers
  • Math - Saxon Math K: Lessons 58, 59, and 60 - Placing an object on a real graph; Identifying ordinal position, paying for items using pennies; identifying dimes, counting by 10s, handwriting master 7
  • Language Arts - Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read Kindergarten Level 1: Unit 3 and review; Go for the Code: Complete letter l and begin letter g
  • Art - Freehand drawing and coloring
  • Music - Pandora classical music station
  • Good Books - Andrew Lang's Fairy books

Friday, January 20, 2012


The kids' final Christmas gift arrived yesterday.  A HUGE thank you to Papa and Grandma Mary!  As you can see, the boys are having a grand time in their own jump house.  This will be a great way to burn off some extra energy every day.  And I do mean every day.  This will actually fit in our garage so the kids can still bounce around on rainy days!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

January 15 - 21, 2012

What we're working on this week:

  • Religion - Daily readings, rosary, prayers
  • Math - Saxon Math K: Lessons 55, 56, and 57 - Exploring a geoboard; Making shapes on a geoboard; Assessment #5 - Identifying the numbers 0-10; sequencing the numbers 0-10
  • Language Arts - Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read Kindergarten Level 1: lessons 4-6 and Unit 2 review; Go for the Code: Letter l
  • Art - Freehand drawing and coloring
  • Music - Pandora classical music station
  • Good Books - Andrew Lang's Fairy books

Friday, January 13, 2012

Review: Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read Complete - Kindergarten

Back in July, as Henry began his preschool lessons, I wrote a little comparison of Explode the Code and Hooked on Phonics.  It was based on the first set of EtC workbooks and the pre-K level of HoP.  And I stand by that original review.  The pre-k level of Hooked on Phonics wasn't very good and was easily bested by the early Explode the Code workbooks.  However, Henry has now completed the first two lessons of Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read - Kindergarten.  And...

Hooked on Phonics, I take it all back.

I apologize.  Really.  I just wasn't that impressed with the pre-k level, but I suppose now I see that the pre-k level was really about nailing the basics and only about nailing the basics.  And maybe, after two years of learning letters already, it didn't seem like it was worth it.  We stuck with it, though, because Henry wasn't really ready to move to the next level.

But now.  We've begun the Kindergarten set and I understand.  This thing rocks.

The set-up is straightforward.  We're doing two lessons a week right now, but I think I may bump that to three since each unit consists of three lessons (and one review).  Of course, we'll adjust based on Henry's proficiency.  The lesson begins by watching a video off of the included DVD that covers the new words to be learned that day.  After that, we hit the workbook to read each of the same words on a practice page.  That makes up the "learn" portion.

Then, we "practice."  That means reading all of the words (and some words from the previous lesson) from left to right.  There's an emphasis on pointing out proper names based on capitalization.

After "practice" comes "read."  It's a simple story set up in comic panels that uses all of the words from the current lesson.  Understanding how punctuation affects how a sentence is read is stressed.

Finally, we head over to for additional opportunities for review.  There are printable worksheets, "mini-books" to create and read, songs to listen to and videos to watch, and even some art lessons!

It's fun.  It's comprehensive.  It's completely adjustable to your child's learning pace.  And it's full of tips to help me explain and highlight new information.

- Five out of five stars because it's awesome.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

January 8 - 14, 2012: Back to Work!

Okay, we have six weeks for instruction before we get to the week of Ash Wednesday, February 22, 2012.  We're going to take another long break in everything except math and religion during Lent and Easter, so we've got a lot to work on until then.

What we're working on this week:

  • Religion - We don't have any workbook lessons until Lent begins, so we'll just use this time to read our daily Gospel reading, work on getting a whole rosary done, and saying prayers.
  • Math - Saxon Math K: Lessons 52, 53, and 54 - Copying patterns, identifying an AB pattern; Naming a shape piece using two attributes (color and shape), identifying a missing piece in a matrix; Copying patterns, identifying AB and ABB patterns
  • Language Arts - Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read Kindergarten Level 1: lessons 1 and 2; Go for the Code: Complete letter c
  • Art - Freehand drawing and coloring
  • Science - Making bouncy balls from household materials
  • Music - Pandora classical music station
  • Good Books - We're going to start looking through the Andrew Lang Fairy books.  Winnie the Pooh is a little slow for Henry.  I think he needs something a bit more adventurous and exciting.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Final Days of Christmas

This is a little odd to say, but Christmas was kind of anti-climactic this year.  We did so many different activities during Advent to get ready for Christmas, but we didn't really have much planned for Christmas itself.  This was apparent Christmas evening when we were getting ready to head upstairs for bath time and Henry turned to me and said, "what ornament do we hang up tonight?"

Uh, what?

It turns out that Henry really, really, liked the Jesse Tree.  He loved hanging up a new ornament each evening and lighting the Advent candles and opening the new window on the Advent calendar.  He loved moving Mary and Joseph and their donkey closer to the stable each night.  And, while the Three Kings have been moving closer, we haven't really had anything else to do in the evenings to mark the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Sure, we've plugged in our lights outside and we have our Christmas tree up and lit.  We're listening to our classical Christmas music station on Pandora throughout the day.  We're still reading Christmas stories and wishing each other merry Christmas.  But, I see his point.  The days are kind of blending together.

So, I've got a plan for next year.  Next year, we're going to have a Twelve Days of Christmas Tree.  It's going to be based off of the Twelve Days of Christmas song, the earliest written version.  The carol was written by 16th century English Jesuits and there's a real meaning behind the verses.  The symbols are:
  • Partridge in a pear tree - Jesus Christ on the Cross
  •  Two Turtledoves - The Old and New Testaments
  • Three French Hens - The Trinity
  • Four Calling Birds - The four Gospels
  • Five Golden Rings - The first five books of the Old Testament (the Torah)
  • Six Geese A-laying - The six days of Creation
  • Seven Swans A-swimming - The seven Sacraments
  • Eight Maids A-milking - The eight Beatitudes
  • Nine Drummers Drumming - The nine choirs of Angels
  • Ten Ladies Dancing - The Ten Commandments
  • Eleven Pipers Piping - The eleven faithful Apostles
  • Twelve Lords A-leaping - The twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles' Creed
I'm going to plan on getting another lighted willow branch, the same as we used for our Jesse Tree.  I'll download images for 12 large ornaments, big enough to have the meanings printed on the backs.  Then, each night of Christmas, we can light our white Christmas candles and hang the evening's ornament in our Twelve Days Tree.  This will both provide continuity with our Advent ceremony and emphasize the breadth of the Christmas season.

I'm also leaning slightly toward spreading out gifts over the Twelve Days.  We'd still open presents on Christmas morning, but it might be nice to put a little something at the foot of the bed each day of Christmas.  Nothing big.  I'm thinking a book, a toy car, a little box of candy, new crayons... things like that.  Just something to tie each day to Christmas.

But, this will all wait for next year.  I wish I'd thought about it sooner, but this is just part of growing our family traditions!

And speaking of traditions, Friday is the Epiphany (I know the USCCB moved it to Sunday, but I'm going to go with the Vatican on this one).  It's going to be Three Kings Day around here.  The wise men will finally arrive at the stable, we'll make a king cake (I'm cheating and using cinnamon rolls), and we'll do our chalk blessing over the door.

If you've never heard of the chalk blessing, it's very simple.  First, get some chalk.  Then, bless it.  Then inscribe the following over your door:

The numbers on the outside are the current year.  C, M, and B are the first letters of the traditional names of the three wise men, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar.  There's a second meaning, too.  C, M, and B are also the first letters of the Latin phrase "Christus mansionem benedicat," which means, "Christ bless this house."

It's a nice way to end Christmas and enter ordinary time again.

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 - Looking Ahead

Another year is in the books.  The final days of 2011 were spent with my sister and her family.  They came down for one last visit before moving from the East coast to the Midwest.  A four-hour drive just turned into a two-day journey, so we're already planning on a future vacation around the midway point.

Henry's math lessons for this week:
  • Lesson 49 - Creating and reading an AABB color pattern
  • Lesson 50 - Assessment #4 - Sorting and identifying the sorting rule
  • Lesson 51 - Making a pictograph
While I've never been really big on making resolutions, a new year does motivate me to set some goals.  Roughly six months from now, we'll be welcoming Baby 5 into our family.  Prudence dictates that any goal-setting should only run until June.  I am not about to embark on any grand schemes with four children under four years old at home!  So, things I would like to accomplish prior to the big arrival...

Henry needs to finish up his preschool year.  That means completing Saxon Math Level K, finishing up Go for the Code, and reading more Good Books.  I'd also like for him to complete the first kindergarten level of Hooked on Phonics.  It's a jump ahead, but he's ready for it.

There is a lot that I'd like to see Oliver do, but we're going to have to proceed at his pace.  Until he starts talking, it's very difficult to assess his progress and comprehension when it comes to learning things like shapes, colors, letters, and numbers.  Our pediatrician assigned Oliver a case manager; I'll be working with him to try to get in-home therapy sessions scheduled.

Toilet training is a biggie.  Oliver is finally starting to show some readiness signs: taking off his own clothes, telling us when he needs a clean diaper (mainly by tugging on us and jumping up and down), showing more interest in the bathroom, and even sitting on the potty chair on his own before baths.  It would be really nice to have him out of diapers before Baby 5 arrives, even if it's just during the day.

Oh my goodness.  I'm not going to set goals for Jane because she's just zooming all over the place on her own!  Over the past couple of weeks, the fussiness and tantrums have subsided as she's gotten over the frustration of learning to walk.  She's also figured out the old axiom of catching more flies with honey than vinegar.  Tears and screams have given way to kisses and smiles and she's slowly wrapping us all around her little fingers.  Even Oliver is tolerating her now.

Jane wants to do anything and everything that Henry and Oliver do.  She tries to take over Henry's school lessons, insists on sitting front and center for or Hooked on Phonics, and tries hard to "help" me around the house.  Is this what all little girls are like?  Every day, I'm more and more amazed by how easily she's able to pick up new things and by how much she wants to pick up new things.

As always, my goals are centered around running the household smoothly.  The morning sickness of the last few months really threw us all off kilter.  I need to get back into the regular routine of cleaning, cooking, and crafting.

On the cooking front, I want to make a master list of all the meals our family enjoys with a basic ingredient list for each one.  I abhor meal planning.  I don't like sitting down and figuring out what to make for the following week.  We never stick to it.  Either we don't feel like eating what we're supposed to that night or the leftovers don't last as long as we thought they would or they last too long and we're sick of it.  However, when I'm drawing a blank over what to pull out of the freezer to cook the following day, it would be nice to have a big list to scan and pick from.

My cleaning routine is a pretty good one, but I need to start spreading our laundry out over the week instead of cramming it in on one day.  So, Mondays will be for stripping down the beds and washing all of the sheets.  The other laundry will be done one load per day as the baskets fill.  Tuesdays will be for cleaning the bathrooms, Wednesdays for dusting and polishing the furniture, Thursdays for vacuuming, and Fridays for steam mopping.

I need to finish up the last half of my reading list for this year.  I've been dreading starting The Prince because I tried reading it once before and hated it.  I'm going to have to start fresh and see if I can get anything out of it this time around.

Glory of glories, the eldest daughter of a good friend has her driver's license now and I've hired her to babysit!!!  Once a week, dear, sweet Autumn will come over to watch the kids for a few hours after school while I run all the errands that used to have to wait until Matt was home from work.  This is going to help out immensely.  We're also going to make sure to have her over at least one night per month so Matt and I can actually go out on our own and enjoy dinner without worrying about sippy cups and bibs and diapers.  I don't care if we just get slices of pizza and sit next to a retention pond... we need some time!

There are the usual multitude of little projects around the house that always need to be done.  We need to paint the deck and the garden trellises, plan our plantings for the spring, prune and fertilize the trees, paint the shutters... all of the stuff that seems to pile up over the winter.  The storeroom needs to be cleared and organized, we need to get Jane's big girl bed put together and fitted with linens, the kids' closets need to be sorted and clothes need to be put in and brought out of storage.

Bring on the nesting because we're going to need all of that hyperactive instinct this Spring!  When Baby 5 arrives, I just want to be able to relax and enjoy the arrival.  We'll have all of July and August before Henry starts kindergarten in September (!) and I want us to revel in the summer.  Based on Florida law, we actually don't have to do anything in particular for Henry next year.  He'll be old enough to start kindergarten (if we were going to send him), but we're not required to officially establish our homeschool status with the school board until he turns six, either before or during the school year.  Since he's an August baby, he won't turn six until the 2013-14 school year.

We will need to register Henry with our parish religious education program, though.  While our parish only requires formal preparation during the years of preparation and formation for the sacraments, they do want homeschooling families to register at kindergarten age so we can use the same materials as the other kids.  I'll get in touch with our parish religious education director later this summer so we can get all of our ducks in a row.