Preschool Homeschool: Letters G and H

Monday, September 28, 2015

This is an ongoing series on our homeschool preschool adventures. You can read more about what curriculum we're doing and why here:

Also catch the previous installments:

These weeks were a lot calmer than our usual on the homeschool front. Matt went on a business trip most of H week, and we were still getting unpacked and back into a rhythm from our Yosemite trip during G week.

We did manage to do some fun stuff! Here are my top picks.

G Week

We made gummies! These were Elderberry gummies. I like the concept of making homemade gummies, but next time I would use something that was not so tart. Even with two cups of honey these were still too tart even for my taste (much less the three year old.)

I just poured them into a glass dish and cut into squares. You can buy cute molds online and make all kinds of things!
Our favorite book from G week was Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox.

We actually found our copy in one of the many Little Free Libraries that are everywhere in this area. John knows this one by heart, and he was excited that it was one of his "school books" this week.

This is John reading to Therese back when she was six months old.
"This is the red sheep and the blue sheep. They lookin' for the green sheep. I save that one for you Therese."

H Week

One of the difficulties with H week was finding an H manipulative to make our letter picture. I finally just did highlighter.
John decided that one must complete the box on the capital H.
John made a Sacred Heart of Jesus! It is meant to look like it is on fire, but I only had orange tissue paper and decided that was close enough.

Fire happens within the heart for John.
Favorite book from H week was Honey, Honey, Lion! by Jan Brett.

I have not seen too many Jan Brett books before this homeschool preschool adventure, but I'm a fan of the little pictures in the margins that remind you of what just happened and foreshadow the next scene. John liked trying to guess what was going to happen next.

And finally, Holding!

This little one is seems allergic to using her legs when holding on to a person, but she is becoming a champion furniture holder.

Learning to stand is totally school when you're one, right?

Michaelmas! + WIWS

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Yesterday was my first ever Michaelmas party! The actual day of Michaelmas falls on Tuesday, September 29th so there is still time to celebrate!

This was an event with our parish young adult group. One of our new members graciously offered to host. This offer was very much appreciated because she has a YARD. An honest to goodness yard! In this area, those are rare features that are not often in the hands of someone under 40.

The yard was important for the star of the show: our devil pinata!

It was handmade by one of our core team members. It is way better than anything I could have hoped to make! He has a future in custom pinata making.

I'm pretty sure this conversation looks more serious than it actually was.
The food was really yummy! We had smoked turkey sandwiches, glazed carrots, and lots of little nibbles. We had two blackberry cobblers and lots of pinata candy for dessert!
Deviled eggs - along the lines of the devil theme.

Black berry punch! This was delicious added to the blackberry wine spritzers.

I can never convey in photographs how mouth-watering it is to watch a dessert that is still bubbling from the oven!
There were also little pound cakes but they didn't make it through dinner.

We waited until the kids got antsy before doing the pinata. John LOVED it. Therese cried every time someone hit it. Can't win them all.

Hitting the pinata was just too funny for John.

It took a lot of effort to hit the stationary object,

One of the better pinata hitting action shots.

And we succeed in defeating the devil!
Overall, it's a lot of fun and I would really recommend it. If you have never heard of Michaelmas, Haley, at Carrots for Michaelmas, has a good explanation and more ideas for celebrating!

And here is What I Wore Sunday with Fine Linen and Purple!

Dress: JCPenney
Belt: came with the dress
Shoes: Macys
Necklace: Christmas gift from my husband 

7QT: The "It's Fall!" Edition

Friday, September 25, 2015

It's fall, it's fall, it's fall! Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum to bring you 7 Quick Takes with all of the reasons fall is my favorite season.

I will preface this by saying that this opinion comes from experiencing falls in North Texas growing up, and the San Francisco Bay Area college and beyond. My falls have been pretty temperate so far.

1. It has two big holidays but they are at the END, or late middle, of the season.

I love holidays! Making fun themed things, throwing parties, excuses to dress up - all things that cause me to spend a lot of time scrolling Pinterest. But I feel like I get so much more time to slowly DIY decorations and attire with fall holidays. There is all that lead up during September and most of October that is just begging to be used for projects!

These may be some of the things one could look forward to seeing at my place come Halloween....

2. Football!

I'll admit that I got way more into football when I started dating a guy (my now husband) who was REALLY into football. Because our teams (Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles) are in the same division, we will never play each other in the super bowl. But that still leaves a lot of "friendly" competition for all of the other games, and the inevitable knock out of the playoffs by one or the other.

3. Just for Fun Traditions

Fall is full of little traditions and has a knack for a lot of "just for fun" traditions.

In Texas we have these things called homecoming mums. . It was fun to pick out the little extra ribbons, bells, and other add ons with my mom and sisters at Michaels, and the hot glue bonanza, back at home, to attach them all.

I was really bummed out when I learned they were not a thing outside of Texas

Note these are not the monstrosities that require straps and other supports. Those are way too over the top. If it can't be held on by a safety pin or two, then your mum is wearing you.

4. Making New Decisions

With wrapping up summer adventures and getting back into the school/work swing, fall has been the time for making new decisions for me. Maybe I will go make that faith study group! I always did want to learn how to knit. What if I just went and auditioned for that play?

It's in the air to make new decisions, and hopefully better decisions, in the fall!

5. Airing Out the House!

Fall brings that first (relatively) cool breeze! It's finally not too hot to open up the house, and not yet cold or rainy. I love how it feels inside when I have every possible window open!

6. Harvest Festivals and Pumpkin Patches

I'm new to the harvest festival and pumpkin patch thing.

Our CSA puts on a pretty awesome harvest festival called Hoes Down Harvest Festival up in Guinda, CA. We can't make it this year, but the whole thing is filled with great stuff like sheep wool shearing/carding/shipping/knitting, a hay pyramid for kids to climb on/through, and a lantern lit fire show on the river when it gets dark.

I went to my first pumpkin patch my sophomore year old college. Corn maze, haunted house, the works!
Corn mazes are a lot of this.

Rewarded with a little of this. I'm the one in the white shirt, if you haven't guessed yet.

7. Halloween

Halloween, in my opinion, is the most fun when done with kids. Kids are the ultimate excuse to do celebratory stuff and skip the adult awkwardness.

Carving pumpkins! John is already asking when he can "scoop out the pumpkins". Baby Therese can probably help this year!

Halloween parade in Oakland! Loved this little parade. It ends in Mountain View Cemetery, and they have crafts, bounce houses, food trucks, and a pumpkin patch.
This Halloween it's a Harry Potter themed bash! I could not resist the pinterest ideas any longer!

We do celebrate All Saints and All Souls days as well. I like to visit a cemetery if we can on All Souls. I'll also write down the names of everyone I know who has died on a paper heart that is placed on our family altar with a vigil candle. John finally knows enough saints to choose one for an All Saints dinner this year! 
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A Little Mid-Solo Parenting Adventure Update!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Since this morning is, roughly, the halfway point, in this solo parenting adventure - I thought I would post a little update on how we're doing around here without Matt.

It's...not that bad?

The days are fine - it's really not too big of a difference from the usual routine.

But the nights. Boy howdy, the nights!

We had a fun first day on Sunday: hanging out at church, visiting with friends, and having a football party (to watch the Cowboys win! And tragically lose Romo for a long long time.) Low key evening where we just had dinner, straightened up, and talked to Matt on Facetime.

But we were in the middle of a heat wave. In the Bay Area, where we have no AC or good insulation, that translates to Days of Misery.

The first night John didn't sleep until after 9pm (normal is 8pm). Wake ups at 10:45, 12:15, 1:00, 4:30, and finally 6:15.

Remember that post where I said I don't fall asleep quickly, and thus Matt does a lot of the nighttime parenting? Yeah, that reasoning still stands. Got MAYBE two hours of sleep that first night.

I was not a very happy camper the next morning.

Breakfast also brought a learning curve. Apparently "cereal" does NOT mean Cheerios (silly mommy). "Cereal" only refers to store brand Honey Bunches of Oats.

Matt, being the awesome husband that he is, had insisted on setting up some babysitting time for two of the mornings he was gone. I thought it wasn't necessary before he left, but I was very very wrong. It was the best thing ever.

We had a sitter we used to have a lot, so she already knew the ropes about our complicated cloth diapers and baby carrier. She took the kids out for park time and picnic before it got too hot, and I got to get in some blessed quiet time.

I still can't nap on demand, so napping didn't happen, but I did manage to do things like: go to the grocery store (by myself!) and get the milk and bananas we needed to get through the day, and do laundry. I even got a flu shot! And got some caramel chocolate treats because they give you a 20% off coupon when you get a flu shot at CVS. Seems like they would like me to get a treat, so I think I will.

Kids took a good nap, and it felt more like we were back on track by the afternoon.

We made a chocolate cake as a just for fun thing for mom and kids. We still have plenty left for movie night!
John insisted on putting most of the sprinkles, very carefully, in the center of the cake.
It occurred to me that I manage to cook a pretty decent dinner without Matt on regular days, then I should totally be able to do it while he's away too! We made this Honey Garlic Chicken. So good!

I changed the recipe a little bit by cutting the chicken into nugget size, and I didn't bother with dredging the chicken with egg. I have found the secret to getting that delicious crispy texture is to fry them twice! I cook them mostly through, let them cool off a little bit on a plate with a paper towel, then put them back in the flour dredge and fry them again. It takes a little longer, but the results are so so worth it!

Next time I would also make some rice because the sauce also turned out really delicious!

Yummies! Also lots of steamed green beans from the farm box. Green beans are like crack for my kids, but only if you put NOTHING on them. I put butter on them once and they did not like it. Lesson learned. 
This is how John felt about getting to have cake.
Last night was a better night. I was feeling discouraged with an 11:45 wake up, but they held it together until almost 6:00 after that. I'll take it!

The kids really really miss their Dad. Therese will scoot down the hall saying "Dada, Dada!" if she hears the outer door close in the afternoon. John had taken to asking more and more frequently "Where is Dad?" Thank goodness for Facetime and Skype! It helps that they can see him and say goodnight to him.

We have movie night to look forward to this evening, and another sitter break tomorrow morning. We're doing it!

Why I Throw Parties When my Husband is Traveling + WIWS

Sunday, September 20, 2015

My husband Matt left this morning for a work trip. It'll be about four days and nights without Matt. Typically, the advice to get through many solo parenting shifts in a row seems to be along of the lines of: "hunker down, eat frozen stuff, you will survive!".

I'm ... throwing parties.

Well they're not pinterest-worthy, amazing parties. I invite people to my house, make something yummy, and the kids and I get to spend some quality time not driving each other crazy.

Today we're having a football party to watch the first Cowboys/Eagles game of the season (Matt's from Philly, I'm from Dallas. It's a thing.) I'm making Crockpot Buffalo Wings and a Spicy Italian Crescent Ring.

On Tuesday we'll have a movie night. It very well might be Steel Magnolias. Watch it to understand the Southern women in your life.
Friends are getting pizza, and I'm making a big salad plus mint juleps and iced tea (what else would one make?)

I have really tried to do the "spend slow hours at home together" thing, but I always end up feeling like I could climb the walls. I need other adults around, at least once every 24 hours, who are going to say something besides: "They're so cute! How old?", and "Would you like a bag?"

I've learned I'm also like this post-partum too: I didn't even make it two weeks before I showed up at the parish wine and cheese social with the baby in a moby wrap. I know a lot of other women do really well with the babymoon concept, holing up in bed with the baby all day, but I tried it and I just wither. It's just not what puts me in a good mental place.

So if you are a little like me, and prefer having at least one  conversation a day that doesn't involve insisting the other person quit trying to speak to you in monkey - let's get together! I don't care if it has to be via email, but I think us extroverted introverts need to stick together sometimes.

And here's What I Wore Sunday!

But it's really What I Wore Saturday.
Because we went to the vigil mass.
Because of the husband leaving town thing.
And the I-can-handle-one-kid-with-me-in-the-choir-but-not-two thing.

Dress: JCPenney
Belt: JCPenney
Sandals: Target
And this is Who I Wore Sunday!

Baby: Therese - 12 months
Carrier: ErgoBaby Original in Grey

7 Quick Takes: The Endow Post!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Linking with with This Ain't the Lyceum to bring you another round of 7 Quick Takes!

One of the ways I manage to get in some of the learning and studying of the Catholic faith (that we're supposed to keep doing as Catholic adults) is to find a way to do it with some accountability and incentive. For me, Endow (Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women) has been that way.

Here is why I like them so much:

1. They bend over backwards to make sure this is something solidly Catholic

All of the studies have received the Imprimatur. Before I could start a group, Endow had to be approved by my bishop to be present in the diocese, I had to have personal recommendations from a priest and a lay Catholic, and my pastor had to approve of Endow coming into the parish.

It seems like a lot, but I really appreciate a group that makes sure to cover the bases. It beats getting problems later from being too hasty.

2. There is no homework!

Like seriously, no homework. We take turns reading the chapter in our weekly meeting.

3. It covers topics that I know I should learn about, but am still unlikely to do on my own.

LTW  AQUINAS 1   God Is Love Cover 

So far we have covered Pope John Paul II's Letter to Women and St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae. Thursday begins our third run with Pope Benedict XVI's Deus Caritas (God is Love).

If I were to cover these on my own, it is very unlikely I would have gotten as deep of an understanding as I did from discussing them in the Endow group.

4. It makes the complicated approachable.

A lot of these texts are not easy! They have lots of philosophical terms, important historical contexts, and Latin. Lots of Latin.

To make it easy, Endow defines new words and fills in historical context in the side bar. No feeling weird about needing to ask what they mean by "Vatican II"!

5. Groups are kept small

This isn't just about getting material into your head. It's also about getting to know the other women in the group, and being comfortable enough to share personal stories.

Endow groups are capped at twelve members, and it is laid out in the first meeting that personal stories are understood to stay within the group. Any bigger than twelve, it becomes more difficult to participate in one discussion, and not everyone can be heard.

6. It lends itself well to a wide range of women.

We have a great mix of women who have been in our Endow group! Grad students, young mothers, retirees, grandmothers, single women, working women, introverts and extroverts.

When I started this group, I was in search of something to offer that didn't require that you know someone who knows someone. I wanted a woman new to the parish to look in the bulletin and see something she could join, and get to, easily.

7. We really do become good friends!

We're not discussing the weather in Endow! The deep material, real stories, and shared struggles mean that the women quickly become real life friends. We've been there for births, marriage struggles, engagements, and faith questionings. We're welcoming new women with every new session (they typically run eight weeks) and welcoming back regulars.

If you like how this sounds, and are thinking Endow might be a good thing for your parish, you can become a facilitator!

Girl Genius-Defining Dignity     Girl Genius-Forming Friendships     EDW-GG-Cover-5.5x8.5-LovingLeadership-Final True Beauty Revealed

There are also three middle school studies and one high school study. Consider leading a group for those middle school girls!

Expectations: Finding the Holy Medium

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Linking up with Blessed Is She this morning to talk about expectations. #BISsisterhood

Did you know we actually have scientific surveys on happiness? The World Happiness Report was established in 2012 and claims to measure international happiness. The survey asks respondents to think of a ladder, with the best possible life for them being a 10 and the worst a 0. They are then asked to rate their life on this 0-10 scale. 

You know who consistently scores the highest? Denmark. 

But the Danes themselves don't actually think they are all that happy. What they have are low expectations.

The Danes consistently rank their expectations for their lives pretty low at the beginning of the year. When life turns out not to be as terrible as expected, they are content with the year, and thus rank highly.

While this strategy of low expectations might score the Danes highly on these international surveys, I'm not really sure it's true happiness.

What if we were to try the Danish strategy with finding happiness in our prayer lives? Instead of being able to look back on a year that really wasn't all that bad, I think one would be more likely to find a year filled with missed opportunities, apathy, and a growing distance from God.

We really can't get away with low expectations in our prayer lives, because it doesn't function like a work life - it's more of a love life. It's a relationship, and relationships are something that need expectations.

Low expectations in prayer life seems akin to trying to figure out the bare minimum one can get away with doing. Perhaps the relationship will limp along by doing that, but I hardly think it's a recipe for happiness.

As Catholics, we are called to find the holy medium in many things - expectations being one of them. Low expectations are out, and expectations that are too high will cause a "crash and burn effect". What one needs is to find that beautiful, and holy, place where you are reaching for God from where you are - not where you wish to be.

As much as I would enjoy being in a peaceful convent where I could do my work and pray at all of the appointed hours - it's not where I am. I'm called to be a wife and mother. Right now, that means being a mother to small ones who have big, sudden needs for me.

I fulfill the needs of my children while also expecting prayer time to happen. I also expect sleep to happen and eating to happen. These are needs I have as a human being, and I can't make them less so by lowering expectations.

I can change my expectations on the hows and whens, but I can't let my changed expectations become no expectations. God doesn't stop asking for a relationship so neither can I.


Monday, September 14, 2015

And we're back! Yosemite was pretty awesome and I think we're calling first family vacation a success!

Getting some early morning breakfast in.

I would say Therese qualifies as a morning person, but this baby is happy most of the tine.
Since our hotel didn't start check in until 4pm, we drove straight into Yosemite Valley from Berkeley.

We parked and used the shuttle to get to the visitor center. Therese was so happy to be out of the car seat!
 I really love visiting ranger stations. We also got John one of these little Passport to Your National Parks books that you can stamp like a real passport at the ranger station at all of the parks/monuments, etc. in the National Park system.
Here I am thinking the mountains would be cooler than our little Berkeley heat wave...
 We drove over to swinging bridge and had a picnic next to the river. It was pretty hot already, so the breeze and shade felt so nice! Therese decided she had had it with the heat and put herself to sleep.

John enjoyed some rock throwing. Probably the most scenic rock throwing picture he will ever have.
 We did the Falls hike, but there are no longer falls. There is a moistened sliver of cliff and a rock garden. I'm deciding it still counts as finding the falls on our letter F scavenger hunt since the name of the hike was falls.

We also found a fawn at the end of this hike! A total of three fawns were seen, but this one was REALLY close to the path so John could really tell what it was.
Sad result of the drought.
 Matt was super husband and arranged for a babysitter with the hotel for our first night so we could have a date night!

We took the kids for dinner first. They got to order off the kids menu for the first time! Typically they just get a smaller plate of what we're eating.

John got mac and cheese and Therese got a quesadilla.
 We decided that it was probably our most productive date night ever due to the zero travel time. We got to go to dinner, get drinks, play pool, walk around, and STILL have plenty of time to get back.

We left early the next morning for Glacier Point. We had learned our lesson that earlier in the day would be better for babies need to beat the heat.

Plague is endemic in California, but there have been a few cases lately. Put a whole new importance to my rule about not sticking your hands in dark holes.
 On all of these hikes people were so nice! I'm pretty convinced that Yosemite gets really nice foreign tourists.
They were all very impressed with Matt for wearing the baby. He got so many "atta boy" type remarks.
Busy being super dad in front of Half Dome.

I should have added fog to the scavenger hunt but it became difficult to tell the difference between the fog and settling smoke from the forest fire.
John liked looking the waterfall that WAS actually flowing on the other side of the valley. It was one that required some serious hiking to get to. Maybe we'll do that when he's 5.

This is the best picture I could get of the forest fire.
 The Tenaya Ridge fire had been reported the day before we arrived. Conditions were not too bad in the main parts of the valley, but North ridge hiking and backcountry sites were evacuated and closed.

Pretty feather! Check that off the scavenger hunt list.

John was having some deep thoughts here.

John called this "the castle".

Dirty shoe contest! I think I win.
 We made sure to head back on the earlier side the second day. On the way back we stopped in Wawona to check out Pioneer Village.

Therese had never seen string cheese before, but she decided they made fine teethers.
 Pioneer Village was neat. To get there from the parking lot you have to walk over a covered bridge built in 1857.

The whole place is filled with representative buildings from this earlier period of valley history. John's personal favorite was the Powderhouse Jail Cell.

They actually did keep prisoners in there sometimes back in the day. However, the one time they put two auto thieves in there they just dug their way out. So maybe not a high security option. 

He found the chain and started trying to hook it on. He has great aspirations. 
 We spent the rest of the day at the hotel. We stayed at Tenaya Lodge and they had a pretty great pool area for little kids. Think giant wading pool with zero entry, mushroom dripping water structures, and built in water guns!
Built in water gun in action!
 We checked out early our last day so we would have enough time to stop at the Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County.

It was eerie throughout the valley. The combination of farm activity and smoke from the fires made everything look yellowy-orange and hazy.
Eerie sun. This picture doesn't do it justice, but the sun looked very red.
 The fossil center was a big success with John. It's next the Fairmead landfill which apparently happens to be the site of one of the largest middle-Pleistocene fossil excavations in North America. It's still an active site with Paleontologists following the earth movers, staking flags were they seeing anything promising, and excavating it. Once the excavations are complete, they fill the hole as landfill.
John was very impressed with these sculls.

The magnifying glasses to look at small bones, shells, and rocks were also  big hit.
 For $4 you can participate in a mock dig! They give the kids a bucket, shovel, and brush and teaching them some unearthing techniques. They also give the parents an identification guide to you can tell what animal the mock fossil is meant to be.

Therese got some tools to play with for free.

So much dusty dirt!
 They also had a native plants pond where we found frogs (check on the scavenger hunt list!) and a replica Yokut building.
Apparently if you set Therese inside a Yokut shelter and leave she is not fazed.
It got really really hot on the last leg of the drive through the Central Valley. Here's proof!
We had a lot of fun doing this. Here's the review of how we did on the scavenger hunt list.
ü fossils
ü flowers
ü fawns
ü fire (forest and fireplace)
ü flying
ü forest
white fir tree
ü ferns
ü feather
ü fog
ü frog
ü falls (as in waterfall)

Pretty good!
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