Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cloth Diaper Update.

I've now been on this cloth diaper thing for a little over a week. I honestly don't know how others do it all the time! I find myself having a difficult time changing, cleaning, and washing the diapers. Part of the problem is that I'm still a newbie when it comes to putting the diapers on. It takes me forever to fold the diaper and put it in the diaper cover! I guess it doesn't help that Christian is wigglier than ever.

As for the cleaning and washing...it's not fun! I don't know whether to swish soiled diapers in the toilet or not. I read that you are supposed to dump the waste in the toilet; but the poop just doesn't come off!! It's all pressed up against the diapers. I'd have to scrape it off, and personally, I'm just not into doing that. That means that I have to pre-soak the diapers and then put them through 2 washes. Hmmm...sounds like lots of work to me!

Ok. So here I am wanting to make the world a better place and I'm complaining about it! I was so excited about this just a little bit ago and now I feel like I'm eating my words. I guess this post shows that we are definitely not all what we seem sometimes. For all I know, everyone who read my previous post thought that I had become the cloth diaper, baby changing champion of the world. But I'm not.

I'm actually at 50/50 with this whole cloth diaper thing. Disposables are just so darn convenient. I just have to ask myself if the extra effort is worth it and does it make a difference? I've decided to keep trying, but I not going to stop buying disposables yet!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Car Seats.

I've been putting off shopping for a new car seat for Isabella for the past 5 months. I finally decided that it is a chore that has to be done, since Christian has outgrown his infant carrier and he needs to move up to a front facing car seat.

After looking at all the available options for a booster seat, I came to the conclusion that I am a baby gear snob. Yup. It is a difficult thing to admit, but I think it's true. Go with Graco? No way. Evenflo? Not good enough. We all know that Britax is the BEST. Just ignore the hefty price tag. After much consideration, I finally made a decision based on what was going to work best. I wanted a booster that still used the 5 point harness, so that narrowed down my choices. In the end, I gave in and purchased the Britax Frontier in red.

Now I'll just shift Christian into Isabella's Roundabout. That, of course, requires searching for a whole new cover.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Making a Switch.

I have always been a fan of organic food. I have been one of those moms who has always made homemade baby food and bought as much organic as possible. In terms of anything else, I just purchase what I like. Lately, I've been really thinking about what kind of footprint I want to leave behind. The truth is, I want to be as kind to nature as I can. Perhaps going cold turkey with buying non-organic is not realistic for me. But I figure I need to start somewhere.

With all the late research about baby products containing harmful chemicals that are later found in infants' urine, I really started thinking about how harmful many products are. So little by little, I've decided to make the switch to natural, organic products. I'm starting with Christian. I am planning on slowly making a transitions to cloth diapers. Maybe I won't use cloth diapers ALL the time, but I am certainly going to cut back on the amount of disposables we use.

I actually have TONS of cloth diapers that I received as baby shower gifts ages ago. I just never used them as actual diapers. They were my handy burping cloths. Yesterday, I went and took out my cloth diaper stash. I can't believe how many I have...and most of them are new!

My next step was to purchase some diaper pins. I was a little weary about using pins due to the possibility of sticking the baby or myself. So I did a little shopping and found a great product.
Snappi Cloth Diaper Fasteners. I had actually seen a friend using them on her baby...so I knew what I was looking for!

Now that I had my fasteners, I needed some diaper covers. I visited a local organic baby store, O Baby Organics, and found some excellent diaper covers. You can find information for them at Bummis. They are really cute and I purchased a few to get me started. By the way, if you use Bummis, you don't need any fasteners. You just put your cloth diaper into the cover and it has it's own Velcro tabs.

I own a Diaper Genie diaper pail (not the kind you twist). Not at all convenient for cloth diapers, but I did find a really great product to help make cleaning up easier. It's a diaper pail liner specifically for cloth diapers! You can find more information at Wahmies. With this neat liner, once it's full, I can toss it into the wash along with the diapers! Seems very convenient. I'll probably just use my old Diaper Champ for cloth diapers and keep the Diaper Genie for disposables.

So now the next step? I guess just getting into the routine of actually using cloth diapers. I expect to continue to use disposables at night and when traveling. But with this change alone, I feel like I'm making my own contribution to keeping the earth a little cleaner. And every product I purchased is 100% organic!!

Of course, now I have to go and start buying organic baby products. All the research about baby lotions, shampoos, and baby powder has got me really worried!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Adding to our Preschool Activities.

I love Kaplan Early Learning Co. They have a giant selection of all things related to early childhood learning. From tables and chairs to books and curricula. They pretty much offer everything. Lucky for me, we have the Kaplan catalog showroom near our home. I go there every few months to check out their clearance section.

I have purchased our school furniture as well as a great alphabet rug from Kaplan. I also like to keep our preschool/toddler activities stocked with something new, and Kaplan is the perfect place to find those educational toys that keep the little ones busy. Here are some of my newest additions and favorite buys.

The Laurie Sorting Set is a favorite. I like that I can interchange the disks to create a new activity. The foam shapes are also fun to handle.

Wooden musical instruments. We have a small collection of instruments at our home and the wooden ones are my favorites. Every once in a while, I will take them out and do circle activities with the kids. Playing musical games teaches the kids to listen, follow directions, follow a beat, create a rhythm, and so much more! Exploring through music is just fun!

Lacing Shapes from EduShape. These are nice and flexible. They kind of look like the set to the right.

Activity Cube. We all know that toddlers and babies love those fun activity cubes. The one in our collection is like a soft shape sorter. It has extra tiles so that you can change the cube with different activities including a mirror, a felt tile, and a magnetic tile. The cube has interlocking pieces, so it's easy to take them apart and turn the cube into individual activities. I see this as a great toy for Anthony and Christian.

Junior Stilts. We still haven't tried these, but they look like so much fun! They are a great way for the kids to practice their balance and coordination.

Lego Dacta Duplo Numbers Package is our most recent buy (at the best deal imaginable). This is the educational division of Lego, by the way. This package came with tons of number and symbol tiles. Also included are double-sided activity cards, a storage tub, and large building plates. These are going to be great for all kinds of math activities and I'm excited to start using them!

You can certainly tell that I am a big fan of Kaplan. Actually, I really just like that I can purchase so many of their great resources as such low prices.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Do You Know Your Baltimore Catechism?

Woo-Hoo!! I'm pretty impressed by my score! So I really CAN teach my kids religion!


You are a 91% traditional Catholic!

Congratulations! You are more knowlegeable than most modern theologians! You have achieved mastery over the most important doctrines of the Catholic Faith! You should share your incredible understanding with others!

Do You Know Your Baltimore Catechism?
Make Your Own Quiz

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Reviewing our Enrichment Literature.

The kids are almost done with all the Literature Pockets that I was wanting to do for enrichment. I decided to film them reciting their nursery rhymes in order to close the unit up. Leave it to Marco to turn it into something silly! I posted our first nursery rhyme recital.



It turns out that Isabella wants to do all the reciting and Marco wants to do all the acting.

We'll be finishing up our Nursery Rhyme Literature Pockets within the next couple of weeks. After that, we'll be moving on to the VP First Favorites, followed by more Folktales & Fairy Tales Literature Pockets. They are definitely a big hit around here!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Discovery Education. United Streaming.

After thinking about using United Streaming (and trying to ignore the price), I signed up for the 30 day free trial. It is awesome!! I am at the point right now that I am sure I'm going to sign up for it. My main reasons for acquiring this completely educational resource?

  1. Time Warp Trio. This is a favorite around here! I am planning on incorporating it into our history studies. The problem is that when watching on Discovery Kids tv, you can't choose which episode they are going to air. With US, you can choose the episode that will go along with your studies (Gladiators, for example).
  2. Spanish. we are doing Spanish this year with Espanol para chiquitos. US offers online Spanish classes that will greatly enforce all that we learn. It's like having them in a Spanish class where I don't have to teach!
  3. Lesson plans. Enough said! You can pull up lesson plans on just about anything.
  4. History. They have so many segments to go along with our study of the ancients this year.
  5. Science. Ok...this is Discovery. Of course they are going to have GREAT science resources!!
So far, those are my top 5 reasons as to why US is going to be worth the $129. Just make sure that you go through Homeschool Buyers Co-op to get that wonderful price!!!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tweaking our Schedule.

It has been a few weeks of trying to follow our daily schedule. We have had some great days and some not so great days, but nothing too unexpected. I have been slowly adding subjects to our day to start off our new school year. Today is the first day in which we will have incorporated all the subjects in our core! That means that we'll be doing math, phonics, reading, grammar, religion, and history.

I did get the idea of slowly easing into the new year from some veteran homeschool moms at the WTM boards. It has worked well and now I'm glad to see that we are in full swing! I must admit that our days are COMPLETELY full and I miss the more laid back days of kindergarten.

Today I was able to fully implement some changes I have made to our schedule. Previously, I had been starting school at 9am. I have found, however, that the kids are done with breakfast and chores by 8am. Morning is when they are fresh and happy, so I decided to start school at 8:30am at the latest. Today, we were up and doing our lessons by 8am!

Other changes that are making a big difference:
  • Starting school with devotions and religion lessons. This seems to get us more focused and the kids are more compliant knowing that all good works are for Him.
  • Implementing a "recess" after snack time at 10am. The kids get to run around outside and play until 10:30...and I get to ring a bell to bring them back in!! It's a great way to make sure they get some morning exercise in.
  • Start lunch at exactly 12noon. My kids are like clockwork when it comes to eating and having lunch on the table at noon saves me from major whining.
  • Start quiet time and nap time at 12:30pm. Having 30 minutes of free time before quiet/nap time usually just wakes the kids up more. This overcomes the obstacle of getting them to wind down.
  • Use our Time Tracker for quiet time. Isabella usually spends quiet time asking every 5 minutes if it is over. The solution? Use our Time Tracker to let her know when her time is up (we usually just use it for piano and free time).
  • Alternate helper days. The kids are always fighting over who gets to help with dinner. I've now scheduled days for them to help. Marco gets Monday and Wednesday; Isabella gets Tuesday and Thursday.
Our schedule is always going to be a work in progress. But I'm so glad that I finally decided to make one and stick to it. My days are smoother and if we get off track, we can always jump right back in!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Story of the World and Connecting with History.

I finally finished my long awaited project of combining Story of the World 1 with Connecting with History Volume 1 from RC History. I had been very skeptical of using CWH as our spine since I found it to be more work than what I wanted in terms of organizing and planning. I also felt that it didn't cover all that I wanted as it omits several ancient civilizations from history.

But after reviewing and thinking it through, I decided that CWH would have to make a good part of our history curriculum because I really want to introduce history from a more Catholic point of view. In the end, my spine is still going to be SOTW, but I'm including the recommended readings from CWH. I am also looking forward to the background reading provided in the CWH materials.

I have posted the schedule below, but you can also find the SOTW/CWH schedule here. Getting the dates to match is tricky when using more than one history curriculum. At this point, however, I am not concerned with exact dates. A first grader is just beginning to understand the concept of history, so exact dates aren't as important as getting the general idea of when things happened.

Included in my schedule are some readings and activities I have chosen to do. Most of the books listed were chosen because of their availability from our library or because I own them. There are certainly so many more options when it comes to choosing books. You can find a complete book list in the activity guide for SOTW as well as one in the CWH book or on their website.



Thursday, July 17, 2008

Science...Again?!?

Yes...it seems that my mind is never satisfied with what we have for science. At least not yet. We have been busy with Living Learning Books lately, but I keep finding myself trying to adjust it and add more to it. Dh does the lessons and he is always like, "That's it? That was too easy!" Not that Marco needs something difficult, but the coloring and crafts seem a little on the simple side for a first grader. I mean, how does making a paper snake teach you about snakes? I just think we need something a little more meaty with less busy work. If anything, I think it is perfect for the pre-k to kindergarten bunch.

Science was the one subject where we diverged from what was recommended at Angelicum Academy. Since I already had the LLB materials, I didn't want to go out and purchase a whole new science curriculum. Not only that, but we were planning on using the Harcourt science text as well beginning in the fall with our co-op.

For these past 2 months, I have been going back and forth with HSP Science (Angelicum's text of choice) and wondering if I should just give up what we are doing now and trying this text out. After much thought, I have finally decided to chuck LLB and go with HSP Science.

We are still planning on using LLB with Isabella and Anthony. Mostly because it does offer those crafty ideas and great book lists. I know we won't have time to do 2 separate science curricula, but I'm thinking of just setting some books and things to do aside for an occasional crafty science time.

Regardless, this is definitely it. I don't plan on switching or second guessing myself anymore. I'm sticking with this science choice for the year. I'll have to post about what my thoughts are once I get all our materials.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Creating More Space.

I finally figured out that I need more space to put all those centers and assignments. It's been getting too difficult now that Marco and Isabella are doing more and more school work. So today I ordered some hanging wall files for the school room.

I'm hoping this will help me keep all the paperwork organized and I have enough wall space to put up to 3 sets. Lately, I have found that our flip board is just not cutting it. It is constantly getting in our way and I keep having to roll it all over the place. With the new hanging files, I'll have a place for all our centers and I can move the flip board downstairs.

Another awesome addition to our school has been our new all-in-one printer! We just got it over the weekend and I LOVE it! I was getting so tired of making monthly trips to Kinko's or forgetting that I needed an extra copy of something. I also like the ability to scan and fax. I really can't believe that we hadn't gotten one before. It was really more putting it off than anything. We kept thinking that we didn't really need it.

So now it seems like we are just getting better prepared for the long homeschooling journey ahead. If anything, I really thank God that we are able to keep our kids at home and that he has put this in our path.


Friday, July 11, 2008

Having a Helper.

Every Tuesday and Friday I am blessed to have a mother's helper/babysitter for the morning and part of the afternoon. It is the time of the week when I can run errands with no children, make appointments, get some serious housework done, or just sit down one on one with Marco for school. It is such a big help because I am able to do things more quickly without the distractions of kids.

This was my last week having her come bi-weekly. We are making the move to Friday only. It's a bit sad, since knowing I had some backup during the week really helped me relax about the day to day tasks. But now that Isabella is joining the mix with homeschooling, it just doesn't make sense to have her over on Tuesdays anymore. I'm resigning myself to staying indoors until our work is done and I'm shifting my habit of going on errands and appointments twice a week to just Fridays.

Eventually, I'm assuming that we'll outgrow the need for a helper. For the time being, I'm really starting to get into schooling more with the kids. 1st grade has brought so many new subjects and projects that I just can't take any extra days off. I rather save the days for vacations, field trips, and time with Dad.

But having a helper is probably the best thing for a mom with lots of littles running around. Even trading days with friends is worth it (something I'm planning on trying out soon)!! We'll see how the rest of the summer goes with a little less help.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Working on Character.

Lately, I've been working on some character/discipline training with the kids. The first on my list? "No" is not allowed. Instead, the only 2 words to be uttered are "Yes, Mami." So far, it is working really well. This is especially true of my 6 year old. Now he knows that there is no need to argue with me about anything, because the only 2 words I accept are, "Yes, Mami."

As for Anthony? This is really hard for the both of us. He is very strong willed and following through with discipline is very tiring since I have to do it so much! But I'm still going at it. Isabella is doing well and she is never usually a problem with requests.

Here are the main character/discipline traits that I have made a point of creating into good habits.

  • Always say "Yes Mami" or "Yes Papi." (BTW, these are the Spanish versions of Mom and Dad...or Mommy and Daddy. It's what the children call us.)
  • Use kind words.
  • First time obedience.
  • Be considerate of others.
  • Include siblings.
  • Clean your space after every meal.
  • Pick up after yourself (keep all personal spaces neat).
  • Complete all chores without arguing.
  • Use manners at all times (respecting others, proper table manners, respect others belongings)
  • Be ready for bed and in bed on time.
I'm sure I can come up with a whole lot more, but this is enough to tackle for now. I can honestly say that I am seeing improvements in many of these areas. It just takes time and most of all, consistency.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Zone Cleaning.

This week I am going to be focusing on zone 2 of my home. This includes the laundry room and living room. Since I have purged all the toys from the upper levels (for the most part), the living room always stays pretty neat. So I'll be concentrating my efforts on washing the carpets, dusting, hanging fresh curtains, cleaning under the sofa cushions (I usually forget to do this on my daily vacuum routine), cleaning the furniture, and washing the walls & windows.

Our laundry room is really small, so I don't have too much space to clean. But that doesn't mean it stays clean. We keep the cat's litter box and food in there so it can get messy. For this room I am needing to organize the shelf, vacuum, mop, clean the tops of the washer & dryer, and wash the walls & door. We clean the litter box about every 2 days so that it doesn't get all nasty and full. I really don't know how people with cats clean their litter boxes once a week (or at least that's what I hear the average is). Just knowing that I have a litter box in the house grosses me out. But what can I do? Cats need to go too!

If you are wondering how I am getting the kids involved in this, here is the breakdown of what they need to do.

Marco, 6 years old
  • Vacuum
  • Wash walls
  • Polish furniture
Isabella, 4.5 years old
  • Wash windows
  • Pick up anything on floor and put away
  • Clean furniture
Anthony, 2.75 years old
  • Pick up anything on floor and put away
  • Dust baseboards and chair rail

Saturday, July 5, 2008

First Haircut.

I've been meaning to post the pictures of my baby's first haircut. I really didn't want to cut his hair until his first birthday, but I was tired of people asking if he was a girl. DH also didn't appreciate Christian having his hair in his face all the time.

He was certainly a wiggly baby! So I had to entertain him on the floor with toys while I snipped away with some blunt ended scissors. He looks like such a little boy now! It really is sad for me!!



Before his haircut.




Trying to get him to stop moving.



All done!!


My baby is growing up!

Did We Start?

So the big question from this week is, "Did you start your new year?" I guess the answer can be more of a no. I worked on our schedule and put out our materials; but in the end, we all got sidetracked by all the projects that went on. The kitchen counters were redone on Monday, we went to a pool party on Tuesday, on Wednesday we ran errands and had our plumbing fixed, on Thursday we did crafts, and on Friday we celebrated 4th of July. We did, however, manage to do math and phonics all week except yesterday.

So now here I am again. Ready to start...again!! But I do feel greatly motivated and inspired. I always make the realization of how great homeschooling is. We get to decide on our own start date; and if we have to change it...it's not a problem! Maybe later I will post our weekly school schedule, just to get an idea of what we have to tackle!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th of July!!!

Happy Independence Day!! Today was great. We were able to go to a 4th of July parade, the first ever attended by my kids and the the first since I was a kid. It was a little disappointing, but the kids had a great time getting all the candy. It seemed like it was a parade of cars (with only a little flag waving) as opposed the the heavily decorated and more animated 4th of July parades of my childhood.

Once we got home, I was lucky enough to have our babysitter over for a couple of hours. This gave me plenty of time to set up our work stations and get some supplies together. It also gave me a little time to myself! After Anthony was down for a nap, the babysitter left and we started on some craft projects. The kids made stars, banners, and puzzles.

I also re-re ad some books to the kids and included these new titles: America Is..., The Story of America's Birthday, and Me on the Map. The last book was a great way to let the
kids have a deeper understanding of what America is and where they stand on it. We located ourselves on a U.S. map and then located the U.S. on a world map.
It was fun to decorate our school room and decide where to hang things up. The kids were excited to see their artwork adorn the walls. They are definitely more aware of the meaning of the holiday now and I feel like I have accomplished something positive. I think for next year, I'll expand the celebration for a whole week in order to accomplish some more projects. I'm thinking along the lines of creating a lapbook.

At the end of the day, we made a cake and celebrated with some fireworks out in the driveway.So now our school room is now officially decked out in American attire. We really got into the 4th of July spirit and it will be fun to have it all up for the rest of the month!

Check out the pictures of the kids and their triptych below. These were made yesterday. We decided to fold them into a triangle and hang them from the ceiling. I was amazed at how wonderfully they colored the images! Dh didn't believe they did it all by themselves. To accomplish the results, however, I did have to sit next to them the whole time and tell them what colors to choose. It was time well spent!!


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Thursday Fun Stuff.

Today I decided to prepare the kids for the 4th of July. We'll be doing our regular math and phonics in the morning and following that with patriotic readings and crafts. Here is our list. I'll post pictures of all completed projects.

Our reading list include books such as How to Bake an American Pie, The 4th of July Story, and The Story of America's Birthday.

I don't think the kids have any real idea of what 4th of July is or why we celebrate it. Hopefully by the end of the day, they'll have a clue! I think it helps to dedicate the day to doing all things 4th of July. And for tomorrow, the actual holiday, we can spend the day making patriotic food.

As for crafts, we are making a Catholic, patriotic triptych with the images of the Virgin Mary, an angel holding a flag and book that says "God Bless America," and an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This project (along with the images) are from the Teacher's Helper by Nippert & Co ARTWORKS. I purchased the 17 CD subscription at the IHM Catholic Conference. It is full of great Catholic artwork and projects. Super cute stuff!!

Also in our line of 4th of July crafts are some stars to decorate the room and a windsock. Tomorrow we'll be making some cupcakes and re-reading some of the books mentioned above. I also have some activities from Evan-Moore that include cut and glue puzzles, coloring, and balloon rockets. I'm also thinking about taking them to a 4th of July parade or doing some other patriotic outing.

Overall, I hope they have fun and learn a bit about the great country we live in!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Back to Organizing.

I'm back into organizing the cleaning areas of my home. I have split the house into 5 zones and now I'm going to dedicate a week of every month to a particular part of the house. This means that each week, I'll be concentrating on deep cleaning the zone that is assigned for the week. This doesn't mean that I'll neglect the other parts of the house; I'll just be keeping things tidy and surface cleaning will be enough for those zones.

Since there are typically only 4 weeks per month, I decided to schedule zone 4 & 5 the same week. The kids will be mostly responsible for their rooms, but I'll help them along the way!


WeekZone
Week 1Zone 1: Entry, Hall & Bathroom
Week 2Zone 2: Living Room & Laundry Room
Week 3Zone 3: Kitchen & School Room
Week 4Zone 4 & 5: Upstairs

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Back Again.

We are back from our camping adventure! Although I would love to share pictures, we left the camera due to last minute planning. You'll have to wait until our friends send over their copies!

It was a great weekend and we visited Deep Gap, NC. We stayed in a beautiful cabin with a creek in the back. We enjoyed hiking with the kids and on Sunday we went to Blowing Rock for lunch before heading back home. It was a really relaxing weekend and I'm looking forward to going again.

Now that we are back, however, we are far from settled in. We jumped right into school on Monday, but I still feel a bit unorganized. Yesterday we finally had our granite counter tops installed and it took all day. The whole process left me feeling exhausted, even though I did none of the work. Now I feel like I have a whole kitchen to organize!

So for now, my posts will have to be a little less involved. I'll post our before and after pictures as soon as I load them into the computer.