Friday, August 29, 2008

My baby girl is no longer a baby! She's officially two! Happy Birthday, Ellie Girl!

How did we get from this 8 pounds 11 ounce bundle to...
... this movie star... this one year old chocolate lover...
... to this mud playing tomboy...
to this daredevil two year old?!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Canoe Days: A Book Recommendation

In the midst of summer, I set out to find summer themed books at my local library recently. I didn't want a holiday book or one about the dog days of summer. I had a simple let's-enjoy-the-outdoors idea in mind.

My search struck gold with Canoe Days written by Gary Paulsen and illustrated by Ruth Wright Paulsen. The book contains a simple poem-like account of a man's solitary canoe ride on a still lake. While reading this book to my children I felt as though I were enjoying the peaceful ride and seeing the ducks, fawn and raccoon right along with the narrator.

The illustrations are equally wonderful. They look as though someone transformed photographs into paintings keeping the details of one and romantic feel of the other. My guess is they are oil paintings. Regardless, the illustrations make you want to find a quiet lake and watch the wildlife.

Sounds like a perfect activity for a lazy summer (or almost autumn) day to me.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Update on my pregnancy with Samuel.

Today (Tuesday) I had another ultrasound. That's Samuel's profile you are looking at. Isn't he cute?! I think this brings me to a total of 6 ultrasounds for this pregnancy. I honestly don't understand why so many. That's about as many as I had with all three other pregnancies combined! And I have another one scheduled for September.

I am told the reason for so many scans is because he is measuring small. According to today's measurements, Samuel is about 3 pounds 13 ounces at nearly 32 weeks. That means he's gained about a pound this month. The technician's chart says his weight puts him at about the 40th percentile.

For those not familiar with the way doctors love to compare the size of children, that means if you lined up 100 baby boys according to weight at 32 weeks gestation, 60 boys would be bigger than my Samuel.

I have Ellie's 2 year pediatrician appointment in a couple of weeks and plan to talk to him about this. I know he's going to laugh to hear one of MY boys is below average in size. Once my guys start crawling they barely hit the 50th percentile range for height or weight. And Ellie has stayed way below that.

Their real concern seems to be that I'm not eating enough. I've only gained about 10 pounds since my initial visit (if you disregard the 4 pounds I lost after that visit). I think this is amazing! And even stranger that they are so concerned. I mean, look at that picture in the sidebar. Do I look skinny or underweight? I've got plenty of extra calories stored on my hips for this baby if he'd only use them!

I'm sure you are sick of hearing me talk about this so I'll move on. One thing of real concern is that the blood work taken last month for my glucose test shows I'm anemic. Like border line needing a blood transfusion anemic. This doesn't cause me as much concern as it does the doctors. My body stays border line anemic (a product of my rheumatoid arthritis) so I think this is just one of those quirks about my body. But, I'll be a good patient and take the iron pills (and the Colace pills that the iron is going to necessitate!). Mainly because I don't want a blood transfusion. And if it's that bad now and I can just imagine what it will be like after a c-section surgery.

On a more fun note, Samuel moves a LOT. It's a fine and good for them to say he's small but when you stand 5 feet tall the only place for a baby to put his legs and feet is your ribs. And boy does he! His movements have started being strong enough the other 3 can see my stomach jerk and move. They are GREATLY amused and awed by this.

Ellie likes to raise my shirt and pat my belly. She says "Baby Sa-muwle" and kisses my belly. The boys like to talk to him also. They tell him "hi," "I love you," "this is your big brother, Will." It's all very cute. This is the first time I've had a child old enough (Will) to really understand what's going on.

That's our current pregnancy news. Next thing on the agenda around here is Ellie's second birthday. That's Friday. In case you are wondering, there will be a few days shy 26 months between Ellie and Samuel. Neither of the other boys made it to their second birthday before a new baby arrived.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Wedding Number 3.

Thanks to everyone who commented about our "Summer of Weddings." I think I should have explained further that these weddings haven't been among our college friends or buddies. They have been young couples in our church. Early 20s. Recently graduated from college.

We did the same thing a decade ago with our college friends. In fact, we attended a wedding a few days before our own and then another two months after ours. A third took place later in the summer but we had already moved from the area and couldn't attend.

THEN the next summer our maid of honor and (if I remember correctly) all FOUR of our groomsmen got married. Not to each other obviously. Sadly, we lived in Rhode Island and were only able to make it to Texas for two of those weddings, which coincidentally, were held on the same day - one in Ft. Worth, the other in Dallas.

Anyway. Enough rambling about that.

I really wanted to just say we had a lovely time at the wedding. The bride looked amazing. My kids did great. Our hotel was a HUGE disappointment (more on that later). And we have spent Sunday recovering from our road trip.

Some how I managed to take zero digital pictures so you'll have to wait until my film is developed to see pictures of the bride. Hopefully Snapfish will have them ready by the end of the week.

Plans for this week include yet another ultrasound on Tuesday. Joel has big stressful issues at work right now so it looks like I might be taking all 3 of the kids with me. That should be fun! And Friday is Ellie's 2nd birthday. How is that possible!?! So it should be an exciting week.

Friday, August 22, 2008

2008: The Summer of Weddings.

This guy is already dressed for a wedding. I think he might even waddle more than I do!

We have been having a Summer of Weddings. Four to be exact. May, June, August, September (which may not technically be summer but humor me here).

We missed the first wedding back in May. It took place in New York while we vacationed in New Hampshire (sorry, Maria!). I hear it was exciting, nerve wracking and lots of fun.

6-7-08 found us in southern Rhode Island attending the second wedding. Isn't that a great anniversary date?! My boys really tore up the dance floor that day! The bride, Kat, MADE her own wedding dress!! She is one creative and crafty lady!

As you read this we are driving to Binghamton, New York for wedding number three. Will is very sad that the Nazarene church will not allow dancing in their fellowship hall where the reception is being held. We hope to make up for the lack of dancing by swimming in an indoor pool tonight. We even bought three life jackets for the occasion. The swimming that is. Not the wedding.

We will end this "Summer of Weddings" in September with our fourth, and final, wedding. That one will also be in Rhode Island. Nothing like attending a wedding when you are one month from delivering your fourth child. ..Sigh.. Everyone will be looking at the bride and not me...right?!

Has anyone else been attending weddings like crazy this summer? Have you ever attended a wedding while hugely pregnant? I'm sure I'll be back next week with lots of fun pictures.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Wind and the Sun: Book Recommendation

Do you remember Aesop's Fables? Those old stories always have a moral or lesson to teach. I recently stumbled across a copy of an Aesop Fable, The Wind and the Sun at my local library. Bernadette Watts both retold and illustrated the version I read.

Originally published in Switzerland, readers will enjoy the drawings of quaint villages, thatched roofs, and rolling countrysides as they wonder who will win a contest of influence: the Sun or the Wind.

"As you can see, it is easier to influence people with gentleness than with force" is a small hint to who wins. I frequently tell my children to use their words and gentle hands when communicating with each other. Since they each like to have their own way, I'm hoping that remembering this story of a gentle winner will influence their behavior in that direction.

Hey, if parables and stories with a moral worked for Jesus maybe they will work for me.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Idea for preparing for a field trip and books on sharks and octopus.

Disclaimer: all of you home schooling moms and moms of older children probably know about this already but it was a new idea to me.

I have been a mom for over five years. We have taken many "field trips" to the zoo, the park, a lighthouse, waterfalls, science museum, etc. in those five years. For some reason it never occurred to me to check out books from the library to read with my children to prepare them ahead of time for our field trip.

I'm not sure what finally made me think of it. Maybe because this year I am home schooling William. Maybe I just had a moment of brilliance. = )

Regardless of why I thought of it, before we visited Mystic Aquarium in August I spent a little time in the non-fiction section of our local children's library. I came home with three books about different marine animals I knew we would see the following week.

The exhibits would have held their attention anyway but being able to connect what they were seeing with what they had recently read REALLY peaked their interest. When Will learned the soft rubbery thing he held in his hand at the Discovery Lab was a shark egg case, just like he'd read about, a hum-drum exhibit held new meaning. The lady in charge of the Lab quickly sent us to the other side of the room where egg cases displaying live, developing shark embryos could be viewed. I don't think William will soon forget that some sharks lay eggs!

It is exciting to witness your children in the process of learning and enjoying the experience!

Our library allows you to keep books for three weeks so I timed everything to have the books for a week after our field trip. I'm glad I did! Besides a book about sharks, I also checked out a book on seals. The aquarium only has sea lions but the book helped reinforce the information about the differences between seals and sea lions that we heard at the Aquarium.

In case you're interested the shark book I found is A Shark Pup Grows Up by Pam Zollman. This book contains lots of photographs of sharks. The wording is very simple and the vocabulary is defined for readers. I'd suggest this book for preschoolers through beginner readers. With only 24 pages it's a short book but packed with information.

I can't find the Seals book on-line so it may be out of print. Sorry about that.

The third book I brought home is Gentle Giant Octopus by Karen Wallace. Using iridescent watercolors the illustrator brings to life the story of a fictional female octopus as she lives her final days. The book reads like a work of fiction but is packed with information about the life cycle of a female giant octopus. I think the vocabulary and imagery is advanced enough to keep even upper elementary readers interested.

What activities do you do with your children to prepare them for a "field trip?"

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Canaries of the Sea

"Did you know that Beluga whales are called the Canaries of the Sea for their vocalization abilities?"

On our recent visit to Mystic Aquarium we listened to the "Canaries of the Sea." It's a pretty amazing sound. These creatures remind me more of dolphins than whales, partly because of the sounds they can make.
One whale startled Will as he swam close to the glass.
This whale is further away from the glass. The picture doesn't do justice to his size!
Ben just stared as the whales glided through the water.
Will touched the glass as the whale appeared to touch on his side.
"Singing" for on-lookers.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Random Things Meme

I've been tagged by Alicia at Experiencing Each Moment for the Random Things Meme.

These are the rules:
1) Link to the person who tagged you
2) Post the rules on your blog (this is what you are now reading)
3) Write 6 random things about yourself (see below)
4) Tag 6 people at the end of your post and link to them (This is only a game)
5) Let each person know they have been tagged and leave a comment on their blog
6) Let the tagger know when your entry is up

Random Things:
1. I rarely listen to music anymore. Silence is now my favorite sound!
2. My cravings this pregnancy have been for steak (and all the trimmings) and fried catfish with hushpuppies.
3. I have 2 nieces I've never met. Susanna is 15 months old and Addison is 5 months old (I think).
4. Our backyard is my favorite thing about our home.
5. I have two lamp shades in my living room that I've planned to cover with fabric for about 3 years.
6. If I could afford to I'd only shop at Land's End for children's clothing.

Next person tagged: YOU! I'm going to break the rule because I think I'm the last person left to do this meme. If you choose to do it please let me know.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Boxcar Children

I recently brought home The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner from our local library. I remember reading this children's classic as a child and loving it.

The creativity and work ethic of the four boxcar children continue to attract me. As does their politeness and cheerfulness in difficult circumstances. These are all qualities I hope to instill and grow in my own children, so I'll continue to read the original series with my guys.

However, I am a little disappointed at the lack of challenging and imaginative vocabulary included in this story. It is recommended for a reading level of ages 9-12. I think that's mainly because of the plot not because of the difficulty it would pose to slightly younger readers. In fact, I think today's 12 year olds might be a bit bored reading this book on their own.

Since reading the story aloud to William (age 5), I googled Miss Warner and learned there is a museum in Putnam, Connecticut dedicated to her. It's even housed in an old boxcar! Putnam is about an hour from my home so I think we may have to take a field trip there someday.

If this review seems a little mixed it's because I have mixed feelings about it. If you are looking for a book to encourage young or slower readers, then this one's for you. If you want a book that presents quality moral character for your children to emulate, then this one's for you. But if you want a challenging read for an advanced ten year old, my suggestion is to skip it.

Did you read The Boxcar Children as a child? Or have you read it to your children? If so, what did you think about it?

For more book reviews click over to 5 Minutes for Books Children's Classics carnival.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Explaining the side bar, comments, and a few links.

Have you noticed that I played with my sidebar (that column on the right) this weekend. I updated my links, shuffled the listings around and installed a widget (all by myself without Joel's help!!) for the labels. By the way, if you don't like the look of the archives just click on the arrow and it will collapse them down to 2 lines. You can also subscribe to my content or comment feed.

I played with some of my settings as well. I've taken the word verification off. I'd really appreciate it if everyone would leave me a comment - at least once. Just so I know who all is admiring my cute kids and bored to tears with my writing. You don't have to sign into google or have a blog or anything like that. Just check "anonymous" and type your comment. But don't forget to sign your name. Even last names are optional. And if you are related to me, I'd prefer you NOT put your last name, for security reasons.

If you pay attention to my Real Life Friends links you'll notice a few new ones. I especially want to draw attention to Whereever He Leads We'll Go. This is our friends Mike, Dawn, and Miss Emily. You can read more of their story by finding "Miss Emily" in my labels. You can read recent updates by visiting their blog.

Also, I'd like to highlight a new blog, Singing New Songs. This is my sister-in-law (Joel's little sis) who is very brave and putting her poetry out there for the world to read. Go. Comment. Only nice ones though! I think you'll find her writings inspiring and convicting. I know I have.

Last but not least, I've been considering starting another blog for all my home school activities, ideas, links, etc. I would put most of those pesky book reviews over there as well. My main purpose in a separate blog would be for my own benefit. So I can look back at the end of the year and see what all we've done. Kind of like how I use ...In the Kitchen.

What do you think about a separate home school blog? Would you rather NOT read about our phonics program and math goals? Or are you fascinated by that kind of stuff? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Summer Fun photo contest/carnival

Temptation, strawberry is thy name!

To view more contest entries or to enter your own photo go here.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Where can you go to see Beluga whales eat, penguins "fly," and learn about the work of Dr. Robert Ballard (think: man who found the Titanic)?

Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut!

Joel and I visited the Aquarium several years ago with an infant William so we knew our guys would be fascinated by the exhibits. We set aside a Saturday on our calendar to make the hour-ish drive to Connecticut and enjoy a family day viewing some of God's amazing marine creatures.

After searching the Aquarium website for ticket information I realized we needed a way to bring our cost down! A reciprocal program exists between them and the Roger Williams Park Zoo (we have a membership) but that only gives a $2 discount on each ticket. So I checked the website of my local library and then promptly reserved their "Museum Pass." This particular pass worked like a coupon for our admission fees and brought our day at the Aquarium down from $84 to $66 (Ellie's admission was free already).

One of the things I really like is that they post the feeding times for each of the major exhibits. For example, the Beluga whales are fed five times every day. Each feeding is used as a training time and a docent stands by explaining what they are doing while talking through a microphone so everyone can hear.

Watching a Beluga whale swim laps in a large pool is interesting - watching a Beluga whale eat lunch, splash in the water, and flip it's tale fin into the air is fascinating. Especially when you can listen to information about this beautiful mammal at the same time you are watching him.

Another favorite with my family was the Sea Lion Show. Occurring five times a day, you are bound to find a time that is convenient for you. During the show trainers discussed differences between seals and sea lions while working with the three male animals to demonstrate their abilities.

If we allowed him, William would have spent the entire day at the Discovery Lab or the Sting Ray Touch Pool. I have to admit it's pretty cool to stick you hand down into the water and feel a sting ray swim past. We also touched hermit crabs, a horseshoe crab, shark egg cases and star fish at the Discovery Lab.
Visual learning. Auditory learning (mom and dad reading the placard out loud). And kinesthetic learning. Museum-type places don't get much better than that.

Last but not least is the Institute of Exploration. Basically this is a museum describing different projects Dr. Robert Ballard has worked on throughout the years. Very interactive and multi-media. My guys are a bit young to fully enjoy the displays but Joel and I could have spent at least an hour (or more!) in that building alone.

One final bit of information. If you have your ticket validated before you leave, you can return for the next two days. I'm not sure this Aquarium is large enough to hold the interest of children for 3 days in a row but I can see how it could be beneficial.

Have those of you in New England visited Mystic Aquarium? Does anyone have a favorite aquarium or zoo you would recommend for vacation next year?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Splish Splash Now I Need a Bath!

After a recent rainstorm several small puddles appeared in our backyard. My boys begged to go out and splash in the puddles. Giving into Momma Guilt over my constant naysaying, I acquiesced to their request and grabbed my camera. I'm glad I did.
Ellie loved splashing in this puddle!
She kept picking up and throwing a toy into the puddle as well as jumping and kicking the water.
I finally stripped her down to a diaper. Even her hair is wet!
Side note: she hasn't figured out how to ride the trike.
She sits up on the bar and walks around the yard. This she calls riding.
Can you stand all the cuteness?
A few sprinkles came up while they played. It also "rained" down from the tree. The boys used garbage can lids to keep the rain off. Given they are wearing swimsuits and soaked already I'm not sure why they felt the need for makeshift umbrellas.

So, when was the last time you let your kids play in a mud puddle or something equally messy?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Post Ideas, Interesting Visitors and a Basic Monthly Menu Plan.

I really have posts in my head other than book reviews.
  1. I've been trying to work on a series of posts about home making but can't seem to catch a writing time break.
  2. I've also FINALLY received notification that my 35 mm (which takes better pictures than my digital) film can be viewed (and thus downloaded) at Snapfish so I'll have some pictures of our trip to Mystic Aquarium up in a day or two.
  3. On the same rolls of film are some ADORABLE pictures of my guys and girl playing in puddles. That's coming soon.
  4. In the meantime, some interesting visitors wandered by this weekend. Go here to see their pictures.
  5. I have my August menu plan up over at Stephanie's Mommy Brain in the Kitchen. If you need dinner ideas I even have recipes over there.
So, which do you want to see first? The puddles or the fish?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Book Recommendation: anything by author Robert McCloskey.

I hope you are enjoying the reviews of children's books I've found at my local library. As an avid lifelong reader I'm familiar with many of the fairly modern standards for children - Good Night Moon, Where the Wild Things Are, The Grouchy Ladybug, etc. But beyond that my knowledge is limited.

As I've researched for home schooling this fall I've begun using some book lists to help direct me to more quality books: Simply Charlotte Mason, Five in a Row, and my local library. I've been less than thrilled with the majority of books listed by the library but the other two have yielded a treasure trove of delightful new-to-me books.

One author in particular is a current favorite - Robert McCloskey. Have you ever heard of him? The author-illustrator of eight books from 1940-1960, he received two Caldecott Medals and two Caldecott Honors.

The details of the illustrations catch your eye and hold your interest even though most of them are NOT in color. The stories are simple, the children are respectful, "traditional" values are honored and, best of all, the vocabulary isn't dumbed down.

Four of the six books we've read are set on the coast of Maine, while one is set in Boston. I think it would be a really fun day trip to take my children to Boston (only an hour away) and follow the path of the ducks in Make Way for Ducklings. Also, making blueberry jam or muffins would be a great activity after reading Blueberries for Sal.

With so many books for children out there that are mediocre at best, it has been a pleasure to read quality books written by an author who cares about his subject. Be sure to check them out and let me know what you think.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Anything brothers can do I can do, too!

As you view these pictures keep in mind I won't turn 2 until the 29th!!!She wouldn't sit still long enough for me to get a good picture.
The picture is deceiving. She isn't in distress. She's just talking to me.
BOTH legs up! I often wonder how different she would be if she had been first. = )
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