Monday, June 30, 2008

Smelling the Flowers

We have been in San Francisco for the past three days. Mr warillever will be attending a conference this week and we all came along for the trip.

Yesterday was full of urban exploration. We took the Caltrain into the city, a cable car down to the bay, and then ambled around the piers for a while. The kids rode on a carousel, and then it was back to the hotel on BART and a bus.

Our little gearhead (Agent 002) loved the trains, but it made for an awfully long day. As we tried to figure out the logistics of today's adventures we realized that public transit just wasn't going to cut it. We rented a car from the lot across the street. Agent 002 loved that too -- he was enamored with the PT Cruiser we rented.

We started the day with mass at the local parish, then returned to the hotel for breakfast. After that it was off to the San Francisco Zoo. Agent 004 loved the kangaroos; Agent 002 liked climbing the giant spider web outside of the Insect House. I loved seeing them have so much fun. The giraffes weren't so bad either.

Later in the day we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge (which the kids knew all about from the book Pop's Bridge) and went to Muir Woods. I was reticent to spend the $10 entry fee charge for a short walk in the woods, but my husband reminded me with a smile that this is why we spent a thousand dollars to fly out here in the first place.

And it was so worth it. I have never seen anything so amazing. Plus it was free because it was after 6pm. I'd show you a picture, but my camera battery had expired by then. I don't think that pictures would do it justice anyway.

So I will leave you with a picture of my Baby Girl smelling the flowers in the hotel parking lot.

What does she think, that she's on vacation?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Future Blogger

Agent 002 has started his own (offline) journal. While he learns basic skills, we are using the same book for creative writing and copywork -- he writes as he "hears" the words, then I show him how it would be written "in a book." He ends by copying what I wrote with all of the proper spelling, letter case and punctuation.

Thus far he loves it. He has been showing it to everyone. I hope that he will learn to enjoy writing and to see its power as a communication tool.

In this entry he is talking about the MonsterJam race we watched on Saturday.

The race was more fun than I could have ever anticipated, and he now has a favorite monster truck -- GRAVE DIGGER.

Grave Digger won the very scripted competition with flair that included car-stomping, wheelie popping excitement.

I have submitted this post as a "Works for Me Wednesday," because it really is a good way to get a new writer to practice and hone his skills.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Snowflake Flowers

The Unplugged theme this week is "old," so I am blogging about an old project -- our Mother's Day "snowflake flowers."

This is one of those rare "original" creations, not something that I borrowed from someone else's blog.

To make the flowers:

  1. Trace and cut two construction paper circles for each flower.
  2. Make half of the circles into "snowflakes" -- fold the circle in half twice, then make various cuts into the wedge.
  3. Unfold and glue the snowflake onto a contrasting circle.
Use strips of green construction paper for stems, then glue paper grass over the base of the stems. The grass is simply a wide strip of green construction fringed by cutting slits through all but a small bit at the bottom.

I love this kind of project because it is open-ended enough for the kids to get creative, but there are some parameters so they get practice following multi-step directions. If you look closely at the upper-right bouquet, you will see that Cousin F made a collage on top of the middle flower; the lower-left bouquet has a beautifully simple flower made with an oval glued onto a circle.

Morning Prayer

Found some years ago on a prayer card in a hospital chapel:

Help me, dear Lord, to live this day
As you would wish me too --
And if I fail, then please forgive
The wrong things that I do.

Give me the strength to comfort those
Who need a helping hand
Give me a loving heart
That I may better understand.

Help me to solve the problems
That are sure to some my way
But not forget the blessings
That are part of every day.

And finally, Lord, walk with me!
My faltering footsteps guide
For I need never be afraid
If you are by my side.
Alice E. Chase

Friday, June 20, 2008

Get Your Television Out of My Books!

Charlotte Mason though that books that are dumbed down insult the child's intelligence. She called them "twaddle."

On the other hand, I will read my children almost any book they hand me. I read book after book about trucks, shapes, numbers, and other tedious topics. I draw the line, however, at printed transcripts of television shows or blatant advertisements for expensive toys.

I don't have any definitive evidence of this, but it must be counterproductive to use television characters to lure children into reading. Read them quality books and they will want to read more books; read Dora books and they will want to turn on the television. And the books are BORING. The storylines are trite, the vocabulary infantile, and the illustrations awful.

Unfortunately, these books are EVERYWHERE -- grocery store endcaps, fast-food giveaways, and even at bookstores. Well-meaning relatives continually present Agent 002 with Disney-Pixar Cars themed books, which is at least better than the Disney-princess books given to Agent 004.

Look at the current selection of books available from Scholastic:
Filled with twaddle!

I do make an exception for Grover (The Monster at the End of this Book, Grover's Resting Places and Hide and Seek are three of the best books I know), and of course Curious George was in books before he hit the big screen (although oddly enough we prefer the newer books done "in the style of" H.A. Rey like the ones in this treasury).

So maybe the distinction is Mason-like; I avoid meaningless books, preferring books with good narration and superior illustrations. Even if they do feature a furry blue monster or an inquisitive monkey.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

It all Started With a Popsicle

I was trying to be nice.

I thought that the kids would like popsicles once the day warmed up, so I ripped three tubes of "Flavor-Ice" off of the block.

Ripping one of the tubes right in half.

Red goo spilling on the floor, on my foot, all over the contents of the cabinet.

The day that I had planned on spending outdoors? I wound up inside, cleaning off the outside of every package in our pantry.

The kids I had planned on making smile? I snarled at them as I scrubbed congealed sugar off of the pasta boxes.

How does one little snack make such a mess? I will never know, but 6 hours later, I had a very neat pantry...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Smile at Jesus

I remember some time ago a very big group of professors came from the United States and they asked, "Tell us something that will help us." And I said, "Smile at each other." I must have said it in a very serious way, I suppose, and so one of them asked me, "Are you married?" And I said, "Yes, and I sometimes find it very difficult to smile at Jesus because he can be very demanding."
Mother Teresa, 1977

I have been reading Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light with the book club at our parish. It has been a good read, but did not touch me deeply until last night.

It wasn't one section in particular that touched me -- rather it was the way in which Mother handled the constant demands that Jesus put on her, the determination to show God's love even when she herself could not feel it. To smile at Jesus.

She phrased this in various ways throughout her life --
Love demands sacrifice. But if we love until it hurts, God will give us His peace and joy ... Suffering in itself is nothing; but suffering shared with Christ's Passion is a wonderful gift.
to Jacqueline de Decker, 1953
let us love Jesus with our whole heart & soul. Let us bring him many souls. -- Keep smiling. Smile at Jesus in your suffering -- for to be a real Missionary of Charity you must be a cheerful victim.
to suffering co-workers 1955
You must allow Jesus to make you the bread to be eaten by all those you come in touch with.
to Fr. Michale Van der Peet, 1977

In other words, it is never about me. It is always about Jesus. When I am most worn down and impatient with my children is when I am most called to let them "eat me up;" to let the depths of God's love shine through.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Parenting Tips

If one of your children strips down to the altogether in the middle of a crowded beach, do not scream out that child's name and say "put some clothes on!"

Father's Day Creations

Father's Day was fast approaching, and I had yet to decide on a present from the kids. I was looking for fun, personalized, and useful. And easy enough for 3-year olds to create. Creativity was failing me, and by Thursday I had resigned myself to handing the Dads marker-drawn cards.

But then the internet returned and I saw Mom Unplugged's masking tape decoupage creations. Tape, glue, paint and mess -- who could ask for anything more?

The goal was to cover containers with masking tape, then decoupage that with a tinted glue solution. The result would be a "useful pot for holding things" for Grampy, Papa, the Cousins' Daddy, and all four Godfathers (Uncles Jethro, Jimbo, Ichabod and Mr. R).

I should have taken note that Mom Unplugged did this project with her 7-year old daughter, not with her her younger children. The project requires hand-ripping masking tape, which was difficult for my 6-year old and nearly impossible for the 3-year olds.

Despite more adult involvement than I would have liked, the kids did an incredible job. Agent 004 in particular was very interested in the project. She enjoyed painting layer after layer of paint-tinted glue onto the containers. She experimented with drizzling glue which led to some interesting effects. She also painted subsequent layers in different colors, which was pretty neat too.

Unlike Mom Unplugged, I colored the glue with washable paint instead of food coloring. My reasoning was that it is both cheaper and easier to removed from clothing. I am not sure how different the final result is.

I apologize that there are no process pictures -- my camera was recovering from a night out in the rain. I do have some cleanup pictures however:

There is nothing more fun that cleaning a glue-covered table with shaving cream.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Hello Birdie!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Moving on Up

My little boy is visiting his first-grade classroom today. How can that be?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hello Again

We returned Sunday evening, but the internet service was down.

I have several posts drafted in a text editor that I will try to publish later today.

Off to "play house" with the Agents and Cousins.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Icky, Sticky, Yummy

We do sticky things every week:

we sculpt,

we knead,

we glue,

and we use plenty of tape.

But we were not ready for the weather to be so incredibly sticky this week!

I was caught completely unprepared for this heat wave -- as of three weeks ago we still had a snow bank in our backyard. I had barely gotten warm weather clothing out of storage.

Did anyone notice that there were no popsicles in my freezer inventory last week?

The weather just called for a frozen treat, so I created "bananasicles" by inserting a salad fork into a half banana, drizzling it with honey, and rolling it in corn flakes. I then froze the whole batch for two hours.

It was very messy, extremely sticky, but incredibly refreshing.

My only suggested improvement for next time would be to substitute wheat germ for the corn flakes, which would result in a nuttier and more nutritious snack.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Bizy. Backson.

We have spent our whole day cleaning, packing, and doing errands.

Heading off to Ant P's birthday party first thing in the morning.

I have only gotten through one half of my to-do list, but the van is packed and I am ready for bed. Good night, y'all!
*10 points to the first person who identifies the source of my post title.

Reading in the Rain

All the rain this week has been good for the garden and wonderful for our reading habit. I have read the kids at least thirty different books 5 to 70 times each.

I will spare you the laundry list and describe our four new favorites.

As expected, If You Were My Bunny Board Book has been a big hit. Each of six animal mothers comforts her baby with a lullaby set to the tune of a familiar classic. For example, the mother bunny sings

Hush little cottontail, don't you hop.
Mama's going to bring you a carrot top.
If that carrot top should wilt,
Mama's going to bring you a clover quilt.
If that clover's buzzing with a bee,
Mama's going to bring you some dandelion tea.
If that tea spills on the ground,
You'll still be the sweetest little bunny around.
On a similar note, the Agents love Daddy's Song. Their affection may be due in part to the fictional father's similarity with their own Papa -- a geeky bespectacled man who sings his children to sleep every night. The book is told in easily singable verse. The illustrations are an amazing blend of realistic and ridiculous.

With our new tenants and our neighbor's new chickens, the kids have been talking about oviparous animals all week. Always eager to latch on to the kids' interests, I pulled Leo Lionni's An Extraordinary Egg off the shelf. The illustrations are as wonderful as you would expect from Lionni, and the story is very funny. Agent 004 has a new favorite book.

Mr warillever and I have both enjoyed reading Bedtime for Frances this week. Probably more funny to the parents than to the kids, the story is about a badger (Frances of Bread and Jam for Frances fame) that has a difficult time falling asleep one night. Father Badger might just be my new parenting role model. Julie, I think you may agree with me on this one.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Plugging in Unplugged Ideas

I have often said that I am not creative; I just keep an eye out for good ideas.

I especially like exciting new art techniques.

There were several great ideas in the Unplugged projects yesterday.

We have already tried one of them:

Marble painting.
(from World Preschool Mom)

The technique is simple:
  1. Place a sheet of paper on the bottom of a box (we taped ours in place for good measure).
  2. Put a dab of paint on the paper. Use as many colors as you would like.
  3. Place 1 or more marbles in the box.
  4. Roll the marbles back and forth over the paint.
  5. If desired, put a cover on the box and shake like mad.

The process is soothing, and the results are dazzling.

I think these will make wonderful notecards.

Our New Tenants

Robins in the woodshed

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Painters Three

This week's Unplugged theme is "paint."

As much as I like to involve all of the kids in our projects, I decided to work on this week's while Toddler P took his morning nap. I think that we made enough of a mess even without him :)

These Mothers' Day flowers were once beautiful, but had long since withered from neglect. I decided to give them new life by using them as paint brushes.

I put two large sheets of paper on the red room floor and let the kids go wild. Here is Agent 002 making mum-prints:Agent 004 used smaller flowers like a traditional brush:

Cousin F followed her lead:
It wasn't long before they started to involve body parts:
Which made for a very nice effect, if I do say so myself.
The paintings were gorgeous,
but a bit too large to display,so we used them as wrapping paper!

What's in Your Freezer?

Here is the freezer inventory:


  • 3+ pounds hot dogs
  • 4 1-pound chicken tenders (one marinated)
  • 1.5 packages boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound cubed steak
  • 1 5-pound pork butt
  • 2 packages 1/2-pound cubed pork
  • 1 package turkey kielbasa
  • 1 [freezer-burned] pork sirloin
  • 1 chicken carcass
  • 1 ham bone
  • 1/3 bag chicken nuggets
  • 1/4 bag brown-n-serve sausage
  • 2 bags broccoli (4 meals)
  • 3 boxes spinach
  • 3 bags peas
  • 1/2 bag lima beans
  • 1 bag pepper strips [serve with cubed steak plus one more meal]
  • 1 bag cheese ravioli
  • 2 bags potato and onion pirogies (1 meal)
  • 3 bags steak fries (4 meals?)
  • 2 pounds mixed berries
  • 2 pounds butter

Now to create a menu plan.....

The Meme of Fives

The rules:

  1. Post the rules of the game at the beginning.
  2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
  3. At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read the player’s blog.
  4. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

What were you doing five years ago?
I was living in glorious South Bend, Indiana. Mr warillever had a summer internship downtown, and we both biked to work every day. I was taking my first class toward a Masters in Library Science.

What are five things on your to-do list today?
  1. Do a freezer inventory
  2. Create a menu plan that will use up everything in the freezer before we leave for vacation.
  3. Call social worker to schedule the agents' final post-placement report
  4. Write "Unplugged" post (it will be a good one!)
  5. Go to book club at 7pm
What are five snacks you enjoy?
  1. Carrot sticks
  2. Mini pretzels and sharp cheddar cubes
  3. Goldfish crackers
  4. Black licorice
  5. raw green beans
What are five things you would do if you were a billionaire?
  1. Adopt one child a year for the next 15 years or so
  2. Pay off all of our debt
  3. Set up a charitable foundation so that mr warillever could make pro-life advocacy his full-time job.
  4. Donate to (yet-to-be-determined) charities.
  5. Travel. And bring my parents along.
What are five of your bad habits?
  1. Starting new projects before I have completed the previous one.
  2. Chewing my fingernails.
  3. Spending way too much time on the computer
  4. Forgetting that Agent 004 is only 3-years old
  5. Taking mr warillever for granted
What are five places where you have lived?
  1. Massachusetts
  2. New Hampshire
  3. Vermont
  4. Indiana
  5. Moscow, Russia (a college semester abroad)
What are five jobs you have had?
  1. custodian
  2. store clerk
  3. day care assistant teacher
  4. high school teacher
  5. library aide
Five people I tag (links to come)
  1. The Library Despot
  2. The OCP Librarian
  3. Capt. Walton
  4. Frances
  5. Stretch Mark Mama