Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thomas - One Month

A week ago, Thomas turned 1 month old. On Monday, he was 5 weeks old. So I thought a small update might be in order.

Thomas is definitely not the sleeper Brigid or Felicity were. But I don't think he fights sleep the way Teresa did either. Actually, as a sleeper, he reminds me most of Cecilia. Do you start over again with #6? He will go to sleep being held, nursed, rocked, swung or even just laying down but he can be a sensitive sleeper too. He can fall asleep to general noise but it won't take much to wake him up. 
 He is slowly becoming more alert but the spans when he simply sits or lays quietly looking around are brief. He mostly sleeps, eats or cries to sleep, eat, or be held. He loves being held upright.
 He is very strong and already has some impressive head control, so it makes sense he generally enjoys tummy time until Brigid takes it upon herself to flip him over, which is always done less than gracefully. He has remained happily on his tummy for 45 minutes before demanding to be picked up.
 It was only last Sunday I got my first half of a smile. Cecilia took until 5 weeks to smile as well.
So it is fitting it was on the day he turned 5 weeks he gave Cecilia this:

But most of the time he looks like this...
 And this
He is very snuggable though whether he is awake or asleep. :)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Learning Notes XII

 I apologize in advance for how lengthy this post is but, I swear, this was ALL in one week. It has just been a long one. We packed it in before the break. :)
I got up on Sunday and Monday to this on our upstairs window. 
Beautiful but quite cold. On Monday, while I was taking out the garbage, it was 10 degrees with a wind chill of -5. Brrr!
Monday, November 17th

Monday was exhausting. James woke me at 6:30 telling me he had been up since 4:40 with Teresa. And since he had been sick all of Sunday, he went back to bed and I got Teresa her breakfast. When I reminded the girls to brush their teeth and hair, they asked about the chore charts I had been working on on Sunday. Once they got their hands on them, there was no stopping them. They wanted to do everything on their lists. I spent the hour before school showing Cecilia how to scrub toilets and start the washing machine and dryer and how to mop the bathroom and showing Felicity how to wipe bathroom counters. There are some chores each of the older three have every day and some that are once a week. To be honest, I wasn't planning on starting using the chore charts this week. I'm not sure I have them exactly how they want them, but I guess there is no better way to find out than to test them and the girls were so anxious to do chores no parent in their right mind would discourage them. It was exhausting, but I did end up with 2 clean bathrooms, a vacuumed office and living room, and all the dirty laundry collected, sorted and a load started. All before school.
Their chore charts, at least for now. Time will tell how they may need to be adjusted.
Once we sat down, all three girls did their geography. Cecilia also did her latin and english. Felicity also did her handwriting, spelling and finished her last poem for 2014. Elizabeth also did her spelling.

After James cooked the steaks we had planned to have on Sunday for lunch, I did history with the oldest three. We talked about the Treaty of Versailles that ended WWI and why and how many ways it was problematic. We also talked a bit about Joseph Stalin and the consequences of communism in the USSR and what a horrible and cruel leader Stalin was. Ironically enough, they had a bit of a mental image of Siberia and the gulag from Muppets Most Wanted. Obviously more of a G rated version, but at least it gave them an idea of the cold camps Stalin sent so many of his own people to.

Then I finished cleaning up lunch and it was time to bake cupcakes. No, I wasn't glutton for punishment. Felicity's AHG unit are working on earning the Cake Decorating badge and she was asked to bring two cupcakes to their meeting that night. And you cannot bake just two cupcakes. So we made a batch. But, never you fear, I had a whole crew lining up to help eat them. Teresa couldn't even wait and ate 3 before I could even get any icing on them! Everyone else had two. Felicity, Cecilia and Elizabeth each helped bake the cupcakes. I confess I was not up for the girls to decorate them. I had already wiped the table 3 times that day and knew the icing would be enough of a 4th clean up.
On Sunday, the older ones took advantage of the snow, even if there wasn't much.
Rosie loved it too. She has been much, much better this week too!
After about an hour break, I took the oldest three girls and Thomas and drove to our semimonthly AHG meeting. With the wind chill it was -6 outside. Thomas was very bundled and I used multiple blankets on top of his carrier to keep warm air in and the wind out, and it worked so well that he slept the whole way there and through the whole meeting. During the meeting, Cecilia worked on her music appreciation badge and had so much fun seeing the various musical instruments other girls had brought in to play. Felicity, of course, decorated her cupcakes and ate one of them. Elizabeth and the Pathfinders went over the Trinity and did a little shamrock Trinity craft from Oriental Trading, began learning their next Bible verse, "Love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength," and then went over the creation story and made their own 4th, 5th, and 6th day creations out of play doh in shadow boxes.
When the girls realized there wasn't enough snow on the front lawn for sledding, they almost gave up. 
Until they realized there was ice on the driveway. 
Cecilia, Felicity and Elizabeth had a ball sledding until the ice was basically gone. Teresa almost slipped down the driveway though, so she was not so enthralled. Instead she tried to lick snow off the car. "Don't lick the car!" is just one of those things you only say if you have kids. 
They actually asked me if they could shovel. 
It isn't a huge front walk, but it was cleaned for free child labor! LOL
Tuesday, November 18th

With James down and out all day Sunday, and after the long and busy day that was Monday, I got up Tuesday and didn't want to do much of anything. We did get some school done though. Elizabeth finished her last poem before Christmas and did her handwriting, phonics and part of her latin. Felicity did five pages in math and Cecilia did her vocabulary and finished her last poem before Christmas. The promise of finishing a subject until after Christmas is a definite motivation.

After lunch we sat down and did religion. We read the story of Solomon and his request for wisdom. We talked a bit about wisdom as a gift of the Holy Spirit we receive at our Confirmation and how Solomon used it to figure out to which of two women a baby belonged. Solomon used his wisdom to help others and, through others, God further blessed him with honor and riches. But we also talked about how Solomon married women who didn't believe in God and who turned his heart from God to worship false gods and for this reason God didn't give Solomon's throne to his son. And then we talked a bit about the prophet Isaiah and some of the texts that foretell the Messiah. We briefly reviewed all of the Old Testament figures we have gone over leading up to the promised Savior.

Wednesday, November 19th

Wednesday was Felicity's 7th birthday, so we didn't do any school work today. It was cold and snowing again, but we cleaned up a bit, ate doughnuts for breakfast (and leftover doughnuts for lunch), played video games, had dinner at Red Robin (the girls' favorite restaurant), and opened presents. It was a nice break day for me too, especially after losing 2 hours sleep the night before to a sobbing Brigid. Her three new teeth have broken through but I think their progression out was bothering her as she seemed to not want to stay laying down from 11:45 or so until 1:30.

Thursday, November 20th

Today I was hoping to get more done than we did but progress is progress. Felicity did her Latin and finished her math. Elizabeth finished her latin and did 5 pages of math. Cecilia did a math lesson and her spelling.

After that we cleaned up some and then the kids played. I did some laundry and watched Fr. Barron's New Evangelization. I have been trying to wrap my head around what the "New Evangelization" is and how it is different than simply evangelization. Unfortunately the 3 year old and 1 year old didn't let me hear everything on the video but I think James helped fill in some of the gaps. In general, I don't think it has been explained very well to the faithful.

Friday, November 21st

Friday we managed to get a bit more done, though not everything. Cecilia did another math lesson and her handwriting, Elizabeth finished her math and did her english and Felicity did her english. What did not get done was Felicity's phonics and 2 of Cecilia's math lessons. But, we are taking off the week of Thanksgiving, have a week of school after that, and then a catch up week before our Christmas break, so even if we remain behind for two weeks, we will soon be at a catch up week before our break. This should also give us plenty of time to do our science lesson I didn't get to this week on astronomy.

Felicity had her annual check up and got a clean bill of health. Her homework is to try more fruits and veggies taking "at least two big girl bites" of each new kind. She is my pickiest eater. Part of the problem is that she really prefers things spicy or salty. She is not a sweets girl. And there are no salty or spicy fruits. So she has no interest in any fruit. She loves bacon and pepperoni and salsa and chips and popcorn. She will eat broccoli if there is enough salt on it, thank Heaven, but we need to expand her horizons.

We had a bit of family time watching Masterchef Junior. My girls, especially Cecilia, absolutely love this show. Seeing 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 year olds cooking like professional chefs just wows them. Cecilia in particular is eager to learn to cook more. Hopefully this coming week will afford her some good opportunities to get her hands dirty. :)

Saturday, November 22nd

We intentionally did the food shopping Friday afternoon so that we could all go to the local science museum Discovery World. It was actually cheaper to buy an annual family membership than a single visit ticket for each of us that is 3 or older. So we can go back for free any time in the next year. Overall it was an enjoyable museum, but it is geared more towards those in high school or older.
Cecilia works a robotic dinosaur.
Felicity creates motion.
How electronic guitars are made. 
Seeing sound waves.
Our favorite area had to be the aquarium. Understandably, it focuses on the Great Lakes and the ecosystems involved. Felicity got to push the "Big Storm" button that created an indoor thunderstorm and scared a couple of her sisters. She relished it.
Brigid and the Bluegill fish. 
Brigid watches a soft shell turtle. She and Teresa particularly loved the sea life. 

When Felicity's "Big Storm" hit, all the fish congregated in one corner of the tank and the soft shell turtle buried himself under the gravel.  
A soft shell turtle buried. 
Teresa and the box turtle. :)
Cecilia and the Bull Snake, which is non-venomous.  
On the one hand, it was hard to tear Brigid away from the fish. On the other hand though, it gave me a break when I didn't wonder where she was wandering off to next.  
Several tanks throughout the aquarium run along side and down underneath you such that you can walk above them and look down. Brigid and Teresa refused to walk on them, but I thought they were neat.  
Pretty Jellies! 
This tank ran above, along side and below you - really awesome! 
Felicity listening to sounds from under the water, including ice, humpback whales and various fish.  
They LOVED the ship! Felicity helped steer.  
Brigid wouldn't steer, but she begged me to sit with her on the deck.
Selfie! Actually, this might be my first. lol 
Making waves.
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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Learning Notes XI

Playing footsies with Brigid.
Monday, November 10th

Considering I was up much of the night with a fussy and non-stop nursing Thomas and then up with Brigid at 5:30, I was impressed with how much we got done today.

Cecilia did her geography, memorized the first stanza of her new poem "The Light of Bethlehem", and did a lesson in her math book, learning the importance of doing the part of the problem in parenthesis first. Felicity did her handwriting, geography, english, memorized the third stanza in her poem "A Christmas Carol," and did her spelling. And Elizabeth did her geography, handwriting, english and memorized the second stanza in "A Christmas Carol."

Since Brigid decided to get up at the crack of dawn, I put her down for her nap an hour early and we did history. We read about Michael Collins and the friction between Ireland and Britain until Ireland gained its independence. And then we read about Gandhi and the fight for Indian independence. It was a get-independent-from-Britain kind of day.

I had wanted to do music, but by then Felicity and Elizabeth were done, so even though Cecilia was anxious to do more, I called it a day. Although Cecilia then typed up the first stanza of her new poem and typed a new blog post for her blog. Yes, I created a blog for Cecilia. And it is precious. But I have it hidden for the moment. I want to put it up but I don't think I want anyone being able to comment on it considering... the internet. So I'm still working on that, but she has written 4 posts already.

Tuesday, November 11th

No, we didn't take off for Veteran's Day (just like we didn't for Columbus Day or many other secular holidays), but frankly we didn't get a whole lot done either.

Elizabeth did 5 pages of math, Cecilia did her spelling and english, and Felicity did her phonics. After lunch we did religion, reading about King David from his anointing by Samuel to his service to King Saul and his defeat of the mighty Goliath. We went over his persecution from Saul and how he spared Saul's life. After Saul's death we read about David's taking back of Jerusalem and how he danced before the ark returning it to the temple. But we also read about how David was far from perfect, and what he did to Uriah in order to marry Bathsheba and what his punishment was for what he did. We discussed what made David different from Saul and how David prefigured Jesus. This led to a brief recitation of Psalm 51 and a discussion on the psalms.
Every day my dad emails me a joke, riddle or interesting fact for the girls. Some of the answers are turning up in their school books. 
We then all went out to a used book sale at a local retreat center. Felicity brought her own money with her and paid one woman 25 cents for a pack of backgrounds and sea life stickers. She counted out her own money for it. I figure it helped make up for the fact she hadn't done any math that morning. Cecilia bought a paperback book on the Statue of Liberty and I picked up a hardcover copy of Father Bear Comes Home by Else Holmelund Minarik and illustrations by Maurice Sendak that was in like new condition. Combined both books came to $4.50.

We had dinner at Chili's on the way home and had two different families ask if "all of them were our kids" and "how many girls we had" but both likewise commented on how well behaved they were and how beautiful. Honestly, even I was impressed by their behavior considering how long the food took. Cecilia, hearing the comments, observed, "We sure do attract attention." When I posted about that on Facebook, one friend remarked, "A great act of the New Evangelization!!!!!" It is comforting to think "just" raising 6 kids counts as my contribution to the New Evangelization. :)

Wednesday, November 12th

This morning went fairly well. Felicity did all 10 pages of her math. Elizabeth finished the remaining 5 pages of her math and did all her phonics. Cecilia did her latin, handwriting and a math lesson.

After lunch we did music. It was a bit challenging between Thomas' grumpiness and Teresa's moodiness, but Cecilia took over reading the book about each of the percussion instruments. Interestingly it was probably the worst music lesson we've had, not because of anything Cecilia did or didn't do leading, but because, between the little one's distractions and how many percussion instruments there are, Felicity and Elizabeth only half paid attention. It didn't help that I had an incredibly hard time finding any remotely decent coloring page of the percussion instruments and even then, to make it large enough, it was pretty blurry. We did, however, go over the differences between the snare drum, bass drum and timpani or kettle drums and the differences between the piano and the harpsichord and the celesta. Cecilia loved hearing some Bach on the organ and her beloved Beethoven on the piano. So it wasn't a total waste, but it could have been better. Frankly, some half decent coloring pages would have gone a long way.
Thursday, November 13th

Felicity got her latin done quickly and was done for the week. She can be quite diligent when she wants to. Cecilia did her two remaining math lessons and her vocabulary and was done for the week. Elizabeth did her spelling and then whined and cried through half a page of latin. Eventually she finished but ugh.

Thomas seems to have decided that laying for some "Tummy Time" is not such a bad deal at all and can be quite enjoyable. As long as your sisters don't lay on top of you hug you too much. And he has concluded a diaper change is not always worthy of being cried over.

Cecilia finished reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and has moved on to The Silver Chair. I confess I can't quite remember which order Lewis wrote them in, but I've told her after this one she should read A Horse and His Boy and The Magician's Nephew before reading The Last Battle. All three of my reading girls read books daily, and especially at bedtime, but I try to encourage Cecilia, and a bit Felicity, to read chapter books in addition to all the picture books and comic books.

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Home Improvements I

We moved into our first house the week of Labor Day, but it is slow doing much to the place when you are so pregnant or with a newborn. 

Every. Single. Wall. And ceiling in our house is textured to feel like sand. Why anyone would want their home feeling like sandpaper I don't know, but to each their own. That said though, I'm not about to paint anything without trying to sand first, so no painting has commenced. 

While it was very helpful that the previous owners left almost all the window blinds and treatments, I hated the one in Brigid's room. 

 It was a hideous dirty beige that would get stuck when opened and closed and I managed to cut myself on the hooks holding it. So I was ecstatic when we replaced it with this sheer blue one.

The second thing we did was get rid of an old, rotting wooden step that was nailed to the side of the house. Honestly, I tried to use it once while I was pregnant and forbid anyone from using it I was that worried about it just falling off and someone getting hurt. When my father-in-law, who had worked in construction and concrete for decades, was visiting, I joked how I wish I could have hired him to pour us some concrete steps. He said that there were places that sold concrete steps. I said, "Really?" and "Aren't they heavy as hell?" Yes. And yes. So James and his dad went and bought a double step and used a dolly to roll it to the back door. 

Yes, we still need to even them just a smidgen but they are so much safer than what was there! You can see the remnant of the step on the ground beside it and the board that matched it still attached to the house. And now we can actually use the back door! Yay! 

But the most important improvement so far has been a back yard fence, courtesy of my parents:
 The posts went in two weeks ago. The white vinyl not only gives us a low maintenance privacy fence but also matches the front of the house.
James and his dad removed a large bush (more like 3 that became 1) that was about 10 feet tall and about 10 feet wide that was right where I wanted the fence to go. My goal was to maximize the space of the back yard for the kids but keep that utility box outside the yard and to do that meant the bush had to go. (Frankly I didn't care for it anyway.)
 The rest of the fence arrived and was put up last week. James and his dad also cut off the bottom branches of the two beautiful pine trees, which were planted by the sons of the previous owners, so that the kids and dog could run under them without getting lost or becoming sap-drenched pine-needle porcupines. They had to rent a truck and make two trips to cart the bush and the branches to the dump. Alas, I was too pregnant to be of use.
 After a month of waiting, the fence is finally in and done. And the kids can run out back and play. We will get our playground back up there, but the fence was the priority. And we've already had offers to help put up the playground from a few seminarians James teaches. (Extra credit? :) )
 Cecilia is so excited about what we might plant in the Spring. She wants an apple tree. I'd love to get a dogwood planted, though maybe in the front yard. And she wants to plant tomatoes, cucumbers, crocuses, hyacinths, lilies, and a host of other plants and flowers.
 We have a flower bed already in the front that is in need of some major improvements, so some of the flowers could certainly go there. I was thinking of planting a vegetable garden along the fence near the house to the right of the pine trees. The fence should certainly help keep the deer from it. Rosie will have to keep the rabbits away.
 I want to get rid of the little tree and bushes around the patio too... they just crowd the only concrete play area the kids have in the backyard and will be attracting bees right next to their play table and sandbox come spring but I think their demise will wait until after winter.
 The only gate, and now padlocked, for everyone's safety, especially Teresa's. :)
Rosie has certainly been enjoying the yard although I discovered today at lunch that she has found a way to get under the fence and out of the yard. My thought is to buy some logs and just put them around the inside perimeter of the fence. We could even bury them under the fence, which might help keep the rabbits from any garden as well. We will see. One thing at a time, but we are making progress. It is just slow-going what with 6 kids including a newborn and 3 homeschooling. :)