Thursday, October 28, 2010

October Break

I love a break from school.  A day to just hang out in our pajamas, play, read, and make special treats.  Today is one of those days.

Two of the children woke up wanting to have a Halloween celebration. They gathered everyone to dress in old costumes, then decorate bags, the older children helping the little ones.  They went around to the bedrooms collecting little toys and treats.  Some music was turned on, and they had a little dance party.  Finally, we made some Rice Krispie Treats with black bat sprinkles. 

ten year old planner helping one year old

Twelve year old dressed in lion costume he wore when he was four.  Two year old was thrilled to be Pooh.

Eight year old in homemade Patrick costume from 2 years ago

One year old didn't wear this for long

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ten ways to help your child prepare to read

My nine year old enjoys Pokemon and similar books these days.
Learning to read is one of the most exciting and important things your child will ever do.  We all know this, and that is why panic often reigns in a parent if a child can’t read fluently by the end of kindergarten.  We need to keep in mind that children don’t learn at the same pace.  For some kids, it will take time, but it will happen.  Your job is to get your child to enjoy books and reading.  You are to lay the groundwork for the teaching your child’s teachers (or you if you homeschool) will do.  So relax.  You get to do the fun part! 

Ten dos and don’ts to help prepare your child for reading

1.  Do read to your child!  Even before your child is a year old, he will sit for bits of time to listen and look at the illustrations.  Every day, more than once a day, read to your child.  Make the library a common errand and check out lots of books each time you go.  Get a variety of books, both fiction and non-fiction.

2.  Don’t make your child read to you!  If you force him to read before he is ready, he will hate books and anything having to do with them.  You would simply be proving to him, in his mind, that he is not smart.  Read to him, and if he asks to read to you, let him and help him.   Then read to him some more.

3.  Do read with enthusiasm!  Do you like listening to a speaker who talks in a monotone?  Neither does your child!  You don’t have to use different voices for each character, but use the emotions reflected in the book.  If the character is sobbing, sob.  Keep it interesting.

4.  Do take the time to look at pictures and ask questions!  The illustrations tell as much of the story as the words do.  Point out the expression on each character’s face, discuss the setting, ask your child to predict what will happen next.  Find things in the book that compare to your child/family/life.  Really get your child involved in the story.

5.  Don’t buy programs, videos, flashcards, or workbooks to teach your child!  You will hear people swear by them.  That doesn’t mean you need them.  Videos can’t listen to your child, flashcards don’t give your child any context for words, and your child will get plenty of workbooks in school.  Your child needs you to help him prepare for reading.

6.  Do make letter identification a game!  Find letters and words everywhere you go.  To keep kids busy in the checkout line, have them find each letter of the alphabet in the names of the candies.  Use paint, chalk, or even mud to write the alphabet, the child’s name, or any words he’s interested in.

7.  Do let your child see you reading!  Children do what they see others (especially parents and older siblings) doing.  If you watch TV, they watch TV.  If you read, they read. 

8.  Do let your child have books of his own to be well-used (torn up)!  Keep books accessible and let your children have free reign to them, even when they are still toddlers.  You don’t want them stressed about keeping the books in perfect condition.  Your child will have certain books to which he is drawn, and those books will fall apart over time.  It’s ok. 

Each bedroom has a bookshelf, including the toddler/baby room.
This is in the room shared by the three oldest boys.

My two year old looking through Bear Snores On
9.  Do activities to go along with the books you read!  If you read a book on science experiments, do the experiments.  If you read a book about a duck jumping in puddles, go jump in some puddles.  Connect books to your child’s everyday life, and help him see the benefits of reading.

10.  Do turn off all electronic devices for most of the day!  If given the choice, most children, even kids who like to read, will choose TV or video games over reading.  Take that choice away. 

Take a look next to the post for a list of some of my family's favorite picture books. 

Let me know what your favorites are, as we are always looking for more!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The dreaded bat

photo thanks to

We were simply putting the children to bed, reading books and brushing teeth.  I hear a child yell from the hallway that something just flew through, and call for Husband to see what the child is talking about.  With a pale face, Husband informs me that we have a bat in the house.  Huh.
Since I was reading to the kids, I told him to just go get something to catch it.  I'd help him if he needed it when I was done.  He braved his way through the house, and came back with a blanket and a tennis racquet.  I laughed, wondering what he was going to do with them, but by this time, the bat had gone into hiding.  We put the kids to bed (with doors closed so the bat couldn't get in) and prayed that it found its way out.  No such luck.
As I was getting my PJs out of the drawer, a shadow went over me.  I looked up to find the bat circling around the room.  I yell for Husband, telling him that I found the beast.  He crawled into the room with the blanket draped over him and handed the racquet to me.  After 11 years of marriage, preceded by 7 years of dating, you would think that I would know that he was scared to death of bats.  It really would have been helpful to know this before we moved to a house surrounded by bats.  Alas, I took one look at Husband and realized I was going to have to take care of this.
The bat was doing lazy laps of our room.  Down the hall, back to circle our room, down the hall, back to circle our room.  Luckily, one of the windows in our room doesn't have a screen in it.  I opened the window and waited for the right moment.  It was time for all of those tennis lessons back when I was 10 to pay off.  Down the hall, back to circle the room, down the hall, back to circle our SWISH BAM!  I served that bat
right out into the clear night sky.  No one is more surprised than me that this plan worked.
Over the past five years we've had four other bats and one bird get into the house.  Apparantly Husband is afraid of anything that flies.  He has tried, though, to conquer his fear.  He will still hide under the blanket, but he will also wield his own racquet and flail around blindly to maybe get lucky and at least stun the bat.  After almost being hit in the head by his flying racquet, we came up with a deal.  I will take care of the bats. His job is to take care of the influx of mice every harvest.  Oh, I hate mice.

Monday, October 25, 2010


For years Husband and I have wanted to join the adult volleyball league at church.  We have a few friends who play, and it sounds like so much fun.  We've never been able to, though, because it would require us to hire sitters for an hour and a half every Saturday night.  It would have bankrupted us.  Plus, when we moved out here to the farm, the drive to get a sitter would have just been a pain.  Well, the time has come.  Our oldest is of babysitting age. 
I have never been more worried about my children as when we pulled out of the driveway, leaving the 12 year old in charge of his 5 siblings.  Granted, we had already put the two little ones down for the night.  We had made the expectations completely clear to the rest of the kids before we walked out the door.  They had all the phone numbers they could possibly need.  The doors were locked.  The dogs were on alert.  And yet, every horrible scenario went through my head in the 30 second trip down the drive.  I only let myself call home once, and when we got home, of course everything was fine.  They are good kids, and they were ready for this.  It doesn't mean I like my children growing up.

My job as a mom is to raise my children to be independent, confident, responsible, generous, and happy.  From the day the oldest was born, I have kept this in mind.  Regardless of the fact that I hate to see them grow independent of me, that is what God wants.  They are not mine to keep under my wing for their entire lives.  With each milestone, from taking first steps, heading off to school, or staying home alone, I have to encourage them and be excited with them, because they certainly are excited.  They are doing what they were born to do.  By helping them do this, so am I. 

By the way, we had a blast playing volleyball.  Their growing up does have some perks.

our six little darlings-one year ago

Saturday, October 23, 2010

One down, fourteen to go

Before we ever had kids, my husband and I debated which one of us was going to be allergic to dogs and cats when any future children started asking for one.  We had no interest in having pets.  I was scared to death of dogs.  I had been attacked twice in my life, and in the stream of dogs that went through my childhood home, I didn't get along with a single one of them.  And then we move to the country with four children.  Coyotes run free out here.  We had to get a dog to protect our kids.  We searched for a large dog that was good with kids and could live outside.  We found what we think to be a Burmese Mountain Dog named Roy at a Humane Society foster home, and he fit all of the criteria.  So, one month after moving into our new home, we brought home a dog.  In hindsight, we really should have had one more criteria, considering we had free-range chickens all over our yard. 
The moment we got home, I snapped a leash on Roy and took him for a tour of the property.  He enjoyed stretching his legs, exploring the barn, and urinating on every third tree.  Then he took an interest in the rooster.  I let him follow a few feet behind the chicken, and all seemed fine.  We came around to the front of the house, and right smack in the middle of the walkway to the front door the rooster spun around three times and landed in a heap.  All I could think was, "What in the world just happened?  Do chickens play possum?"  Thanks to the dog going crazy, I was able to shake myself out of the shock and scream for Husband to get his rear end up here.  I let him nudge the bird to see if it was still alive, but no such luck.  Apparantly, chickens don't play possum, but they do have heart attacks.  Who knew?  Nothing of the kind was mentioned in our chicken raising books, that's for sure.  So, I learned a hard lesson about chicken behavior (granted, not as hard a lesson as the chicken got), the children learned a lesson about life cycles, and Husband learned how to dispose of a dead chicken.  Valuable lessons all.  Too bad it was only the first in a long, long line of hard lessons.  For the next year, the most frequent phrases out of our mouths were, "Is that normal?" and "Now what are we supposed to do?"

Friday, October 22, 2010


Children go through phases.  We all know this.  Behaviors and preferances come and go.  The one that astounds me every time is the sleepless phase.  Why do toddlers who usually get up at 7:30 all of a sudden start getting up at 6:00?  And at the same time, only take one hour naps instead of the usual 2 hours.   If they woke up happy, I would understand a bit more.  Unfortunately they wake up so very sad, and stay that way for days, until their little bodies get back on track. 
We are in the middle of such a phase right now.  My dear little two year old loses his mind when he doesn't get enough sleep.  We've hit an all new level this week.  He cried for 5 minutes at breakfast, because his dry Kix wouldn't stay in a pile on the side of his bowl.  Later, he cried for 10 minutes, because he wanted a diaper change.  He doesn't wear a diaper.  There were no tantrums, just sad, pitiful crying, repeating his request over and over.  There was no reasoning with him, even though I actually showed him that he had underwear on.  Nothing could go right for him all day.
I can easily see what is wrong with him.  If he would only sleep, all would be well again.  But as with horses with water, you can take them to their beds, but you can't make them sleep.  All I can do is take pictures during these meltdowns in order to make fun of him at his high school graduation and make sure that I am getting enough sleep.  It would be really bad if both of us lost our minds at the same time.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How we became hobby farmers

When we bought our first home, we had one child.  Three years later, we had four.  As they got older, the two bedrooms we had for them to share became far too small, mostly because there were three boys for one room.  It was time to find a larger place.
We fell in love with the first and only house we looked at.  It was a 140 year old Victorian on 7 beautiful acres.  There were six outbuildings, one of which was an actual outhouse (with toilet paper still in it, no less).  We were ready to put a bid on it, except for one issue.  There were 15 free-range chickens wandering all over the yard.  My husband and I are cul de sac kids, having only laid eyes on a live chicken once our twice in our lives. 
We did try to negotiate the chickens out of the deal, but it wasn't going to happen.  If we wanted the house, we were going to instantly become hobby farmers.  We read a book about raising chickens, figured it couldn't be too hard, and went ahead with the purchase of our dream home.
Our great rural adventure began.