Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Thirteen Months

We call this girl Trouble. It's hard to look at that angelic face and think that, but it's true; she, like most babies her age, is a whole heap of trouble.

Oh, no doubt, she's darling. And she's sweet, too; quick with a smile, a laugh or a hug.

She's close-ish to walking. She can stand now with no hands for short bursts of time, as seen above. But she's a class-A crawler and climber, even without knowing how to walk or stand confidently.

Still, though, boogers and all, she's too much cuteness for me to handle most days. I can't help but smile through my fatigue at her antics and troublemaking. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Two more wedding pictures

Elisabeth was, without a doubt, the most meticulous flower girl ever. She was careful to make sure that each and every petal was properly placed and, so, at the end of her walk down the aisle she still had a basket full of flowers which, at the end, Diana helped her unload.

Wedding Pictures

Many (most?) of you have seen the pictures I posted of my sister's wedding on Facebook, however a few of you have mentioned you're not on Facebook and you'd like to see pictures already.

The wedding site at Abbey Springs in Fontana, Wisconsin (that's Lake Geneva in the background).

My dad with my sister and me.

Diana with the prettiest junior bridesmaid and flower girl I've ever seen.

The bride being given in marriage by my dad.

Joe and Caroline at the reception.

And, finally, Cloe and Blake's first dance.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

DK Biography: A photographic story of a life

Have I told you about the DK biographies yet? If not, shame on me, because you're missing out if you've not yet heard of them.

I received Joan of Arc's biography for Christmas this past year, and I immediately fell in love with the series. They're short, compact in size and all do, as their titles suggest, contain scads of photographs.

I've burned through my library's scant collection and I found that while they sat in a basket in our living room that houses our library books, Madeleine read them too.

I am hoping Madeleine will show the same interest when my newest requests in transit through our library's system make their way into our library basket (Revolutionary War era notables like George Washington, Abigail Adams, etc.).

They're no great works of literature, and most adults will make short work of them, but I find them immensely enjoyable and, if you have kids around, you might find their interest is piqued by the welcoming size and the non-threatening heft. And, if not, so what? There are worse ways you could spend an hour of your life than learning a bit more about Annie Oakley then you know at this moment.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fun Game

I love this game. Maybe it's not really a game. Hm. I guess it technically probably is.

Whatever. It's fun. It's addicting. And it just so happens to be educational.

You're given a blank map of the United States. A state is shown and you need to drop it in where it goes which, sometimes is tricker than you'd think (like pinpointing Kansas' exact spot without any of its neighboring states to reference).

But instead of having you try again if you get it wrong, it highlights your error in red, which is great for kids who are still figuring out where each of our nation's fifty states go.

I think I might be the most addicted member of this family, with Hank-- a lover of all things electronic-- a close second. I hope you all enjoy it just as much.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Grandma's Birthday

Want to see something really neat? It's a video of six of Grandma's kids (Joe's grandmother), their spouses, eight of her grandkids and their spouses and countless (fifteen? sixteen?) great-grandchildren singing* to her to help to celebrate her 85th birthday this past Saturday.

And, it's worth noting, I think, that Joe's cousin Tammy (a blog commenter) did such a great job organizing the whole, huge shindig, and I thought it was especially cool that one of Grandma's grandkids flew in from Texas for the weekend with his gorgeous wife and daughter.

But the highlight was the singing, as it always is. Just watch the video.

*To learn more about what we're singing, click here

Friday, September 17, 2010

Lucky Me

There comes a time, shortly after you have a fourth child, when you suddenly realize many people think four kids is a lot of kids-- maybe too many. Maybe, Reader, you are one of them. I, however, was unaware of this phenomenon, mostly because I had never given it much thought.

After Caroline's birth I slowly started to become acquainted with this mindset as I realized I would get a lot of lingering looks when I was out with all four kids and then The Question. The one that once surprised me has now become all too common: Are they all yours?

I am certain that every parent with four children has heard this question eighteen hundred million bazillion times. Maybe more. The question is asked in a variety of tones: curiosity, astonishment, fear and judgement among them. And after answering in the affirmative that the four little darlings in question, are in fact, all mine, comes this little gem: Wow, you must have your hands full!

The statement befuddles my ability to make polite small talk because I do, in fact, have my hands full. If the comment is made with a smile and a friendly tone (rare) I am apt to respond cheerfully and agree that I do, in fact, have my hands full, but if the statement is accompanied by that look, that wild-eyed, astonished look, the one that says What the f*&% is wrong with you?!(common), I am flummoxed, and left without a response. I am a polite person; I have trouble responding to rudeness and so, usually, I respond with some affirmative mumble and a hurried exit.

The other day I rushed the four kids into our local grocery. It was lunchtime and we were hungry, a bit tired from our library trip and in a rush to grab odds and ends and to get home. I began my ritual of loading the younger girls into the grocery cart while the older kids twirled around the vestibule and, as I hoisted Elisabeth in the back of the cart, I tensed as I heard the all too familiar question: Are they all yours?

I looked up at the questioner's-- a woman-- face. She was short. Probably in her fifites. She was decked out for grocery shopping as many do in our town: high heels, expertly applied make-up and perfectly coiffed hair. She looked put together; certainly no toddlers had spilled their milk on her lovely shirt earlier that same morning. I glanced at down and my jeans and sneakers, ran my hand self-consciously over my ponytail and silently told myself I was not going to respond politely to the impolite remark I was certain was coming.

Yes, I said, clearly. They're all mine.

The woman appraised the four children. Two were sitting peacefully in the cart and the other two were, by now, at my side, staring curiously at this woman. After a long look a smile broke over her face. You are so lucky! she remarked warmly and, with that, off she walked.

I don't know if that woman could have possibly known how thankful I would be, still, even a few days later, to hear her words.

Yes, they're all mine, I definitely have my hands full and I can't imagine having it any other way. How lucky I am. Indeed.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Ft. Pitt Project

I decided, this year, to stretch history out and spend longer times on each of our units instead of rushing through. My thought was we could spend more time immersed on whatever period we're studying with supplemental books, movies and, most importantly for the kids, projects.

Yesterday was the first of our projects. We decided to follow the instructions in our Story of the World activity guide and make a three dimensional model of Ft. Pitt. I could try and paint some idyllic picture of happy kids contentedly molding the fort out of modeling clay and cutting out blue construction paper for the rivers, but I would be totally lying.

Really, the project consisted of a lot of fighting, crying and large egos. Somehow, though, the project was finished successfully and, even with all the ridiculous turmoil, it still ended up being worth the effort since, when the kids weren't fighting and crying, they talked about the French and Indian War with interest and some level of mastery.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Book Round Up, Early September 2010

The truth is, I don't read a lot in the summer. I can't say why; I just don't, really. Because I don't, books were off my radar the past few months and what my kids or husband did or didn't read escaped me.

But now, here I am, back in the literary swing of things, so let's talk books.


I have been reading the September issue of Vogue. I know. Pathetic. In my defense, I just finished a really sweet book by Curtiss Anderson called Blueberry Summers, and I just wanted to read something completely unimportant and unnecessary. Plus, I love looking at clothes, and this massive issue is the perfect fix to satisfy that craving!

In history, the kids and I have been studying the French and Indian War and I finally think I am ready to read The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, which I have always meant to read and never have. After realizing the book that is widely considered Fenimore Cooper's most important work takes place smack dab in the middle of the war, I'm going to take a stab at it and see if it grabs me. Or maybe I'll read it through even if it doesn't. We'll see.


Joe never reads fiction anymore; it's all politics and theology, and right now it's theology. The book is called The is My Body by Hermann Sasse. While I am sure the book is riveting, I'll wait for Joe to give me the Cliff Note's version in lieu of reading it myself.


Madeleine was the lucky recipient of a gazillion books for her birthday and, in true Madeleine fashion, started many of the books simultaneously. Since she started four or five at once she is, as you might suspect, still in the middle of most of them. They are The Wide-Awake Princess by E.D. Baker, Fablehaven by Brandon Mull, Where the Mountain Meets the Mood by Grace Lin, and Molly Moon and the Morphing Mystery by Georgia Byng, which Madeleine says are all really, really fun. For school she's reading Henry Reed, Inc. by Keith Robertson which, yesterday, was pronounced sort of dull, but now, at page eighty-seven, has been deemed a fantastic book.


I don't know how I feel about abridged books. I mean, I know I am supposed to hate them; they take wonderfully written books and dumb them down. Except, I don't always hate them. I sometimes feel they can be a wonderful introduction to a classic story that a child may not yet be ready to read.

I have a story from my childhood that it still so vivid in my mind, it might as well have happened yesterday. I was in my bedroom. For a change, my bedroom was clean. Sunlight was pouring through the windows. I was lying in my bed. Somehow, a graphic version of Jane Eyre had fallen into my hands, and I was reading it. Mom walked by the door of the bedroom and paused. "What are you reading?" she asked, a trace of disgust lacing the question as she saw the cartoonish pictures.

"Jane Eyre," I replied, thinking Mom would be proud I was reading what I vaguely understood was a classic novel.

"But..." she sputtered, "It's... a... cartoon! Don't read it-- you;ll spoil the book!" And, with that, Mom walked away. I am convinced she was certain she had won the exchange.

But she hadn't. You see, I continued to read the graphic novel and after I finished, I could not get my hands on a copy of the real version of Jane Eyre soon enough. I devoured the book, and then I went on to read Wuthering Heights, so I could better understand the difference between the Brontë sisters.

So, yes, I am supposed to hate abridged versions of classic novels. I know that. But I don't as much as a I should, and I really thought the Children's Illustrated Classics edition of The Last of the Mohicans would appeal to Hank. It did; he is devouring the book and I can't help but believe this will gently pave the way to reading Fenimore Cooper's classic at an earlier age than he otherwise might have.

For school Hank is reading Meet George Washington by Joan Heilbroner, and he has loved how this book has overlapped with our history lessons; it's a great easy, short biography of Washington's life.


This girl likes to read anything and everything. Her favorite book right now is A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker, but she always enjoys a wide array of books. The Pinkerton books by Steven Kellogg. Ian Falconer's books. You name it, she's game to snuggle in and have it read to her.


As a family we're reading The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. It's been fantastically fun to note the ways the book has differed from the movie we are all familiar with, and we're anxious to find another series we can enjoy as a family. Perhaps this will be the one!

The kids and I are listening to The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare on tape during our school day. This book, while fiction, corresponds to the period we are studying in history, and cuddling on the sofa with blankets and this tape is a nice, quiet way to end our school day. We are all enjoying the story immensely.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

First Day of School

We are, ex-ci-TED, yo!

Or, at least, accepting the end of summer as graciously as possible.

And, of course, still maintaining a certain level of ridiculousness.

How was your first day?