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The story of our precious little girl's 17 months of life with Trisomy 18 (July 4, 2010 - December 15, 2011) and of us, re-learning to live "after Lilly."
"I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made ...." Psalm 139:14

Sunday, September 28, 2014

I HEARD a HERD of goats

Earlier this month, our goats had a fun surprise.

Our goats (left to right): Nutmeg, Pippi, Christa
They got to have a goat family reunion out in our goat pen.  The L. family brought their goats over for us to take care of while they were out of town.  The goats really enjoyed it as it was a big family reunion for them.

Christa got to see her daughter Daisy and meet her new granddaughter Buttercup:

Nutmeg, Buttercup, Daisy
Nutmeg liked butting heads with Buttercup, all in fun:

Nutmeg & Buttercup
Nutmeg got to see her sister Cloves.  She found out she was also an aunt.  Their Spice Girl family had grown as Cloves had two babies - Coriander and Cocoa.

Cocoa, Coriander, Cloves, Nutmeg, and Buttercup(in back)
I especially enjoyed having the baby goats.  They were fun to watch.  Buttercup was fascinated by Solomon for some reason.  The L family's goats wore bells which made a neat sound.  Whenever we'd bring them some shrubbery to eat, they'd all run towards us and the sound of all those hooves running was just cool.  :)

When the goats when back home, our goats seemed to really miss them!

The above pictures did not turn out very good at all.  The sun was too bright for my camera I guess.  I am not having an easy time with the camera I bought earlier this year.  Lighting, and motion, are my struggles with this camera. (I find many of the pictures I take of the kids turn out blurry - even if I try and focus first.)  I took this picture, right before the above goat pictures, and it turned out fine - I guess because the animals were in a shady part of the yard:

Sherlotta, Exhaust Pipe, Dixie.  Part of Tabby's flock of chickens.
I think the below picture of the guineas is funny.  I find them fascinating how they are ALWAYS together.  Amazingly they all seem to get along with each other.  Unlike people!  When they walk across the yard in this formation it reminds me of the old cowboy movies where the cowboys all lined up, ready for a gun fight.

On a different note, I am always coming up with ideas of things we can make to try and sell.  (I seriously need to open an Etsy shop soon!)  An idea I had recently was to make cinnamon scented pine cones.  I first shared the idea with Tabby.  She wanted nothing to do with it.  However Hunter was interested.  So he got busy collecting pine cones.  I found this recipe online how to make them.  We went outside and collected pine cones to try a batch.  Yummmmm .... they turned out wonderful.  Hunter sold two bags of them right away.

Then we advertised and within 2 days, Hunter had orders for 9 bags.  (We put 24 pine cones in each bag along with several cinnamon sticks.)  Sold for $5.00 a bag.  Bam!  Hunter made $55 in less than a week!

I gotta tell you though - that was a lot of pine cones!  :)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Today is Mesothelioma Awareness Day

Earlier this week, Solomon's lead levels were tested again.  Unfortunately, this time, they were back up.  To 5.3 which puts him back in the "we need to find out what is going on" stage.  This level is not dangerous - it would need to be much much higher for him to suffer brain damage.  But it was high enough that we had to go back to LabCorp a few days later for a re-test, at a deeper cellular level.  Assuming those results don't come back under 3.0, that means it's time to try and find the source again.  I am praying that the county worker with the "lead gun" will finally get motivated to come out and do the investigation for us.

But why?  Why does Solomon have an elevated lead level when Hunter was tested and does not?  They're both young and live in this house.  I've been continuing Solomon's detox.  But one thing I completely slacked off on since this summer is that I have not been damp mopping the floors every other day like I was.  Did this contribute?  Lord willing we will find out more soon.

What makes some people more susceptible to some things and not others?  Why did Lilly have that 3rd copy of the 18th chromosome but most other babies in the world don't?  God knows, but we haven't figured it out yet.

Recently I was contacted by a family who's mission is to spread awareness about Mesothelioma cancer. This is an aggressive cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, that affects the membrane lining of the lungs and abdomen. The family asked if I would write a blogpost sharing their story.  I was intrigued.  I have heard of people getting cancer from asbestos, but didn't know it was called Mesothelioma cancer and didn't know anything else about it.

Cameron, Lily, Heather
When Heather Von St. James was 36, she diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma.  She had been feeling really, really awful and had been losing 5-7 pounds a week.  Then she began to feel like a truck had parked on her chest and she couldn't breathe.  The diagnosis came only 3 months after she gave birth to a little baby girl named Lily Rose.  She was told she had about 15 months to live.  Thankfully she had good doctors and finally was able to have surgery.  One of her lungs was removed.

mother & daughter - still together
This happened 8 years ago.  Heather is incredibly fortunate to be a survivor and her daughter is so blessed to still have her mother.  With her husband Cameron, Heather seeks to share information about asbestos and mesothelioma.  Below are some things that I learned, from information they sent me.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral in the earth.  So it will always be here.  However, it sounds like we need to leave it alone and not use it, as it has been classified as a human carcinogen.  About 30 million pounds of asbestos are used in building materials each year in the United States.  It surrounds us as it is in many homes, schools, and buildings.

In spite of the 30 million pounds of asbestos still being used every year, that number is actually down.  Asbestos use was at its peak from the 1930s through late 1970s.  During that time it was also commonly used in over 3000 consumer products including toasters and hairdryers.

Mesothelioma is most commonly diagnosed in men between the ages of 50-70.  However it is on the rise among women.  Those with the highest probability of having asbestos related health problems are U.S. Navy veterans who served during World War II and the Korean war.

I find it strange that it takes so long for mesothelioma to surface - it is dormant in the body for 20-50 years after exposure to asbestos.

Heather's diagnosis was rather unusual since she was a young female.  But cases like hers are on the increase, due to second hand exposure.  When Heather was a little girl, she often put on her father's work jacket when she went outside.  Her dad worked in construction and would come home from work with drywall dust just coating his jacket.  So Heather's exposure to asbestos was second hand, through her father's jacket.  (Heather's dad died earlier this year, from kidney cancer.  Was it related to his work with asbestos?  Doctors don't know.)

Every year, between 2,500 - 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma.  On average, they are given 10 months to live.  This number seems" low," compared to the huge amount of people that must be exposed to it every day.  But why?  Why the 2,500-3,000?  Why not more?  Again doctors don't know.  I asked Heather for her opinion.  She replied:  "I imagine genetics play a huge part.  Amount of exposure, type of asbestos exposed to, etc etc ... Too many factors to weigh ..."

There is currently no cure.  In fact, it is tricky to even diagnose because it mimics so many other respiratory conditions.  Symptoms include: chest pain, chronic cough, effusions of the chest and abdomen, and the presence of blood in lung fluid.

However, once the mesothelioma diagnosis is confirmed, chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery can help.  Heather's removal of her lung certainly helped her and she continues to feel great, 8 years after.  I think her obvious optimistic attitude and fighting spirit helped her too.

To learn more, here are a few links:

1) Heather's mesothelioma awareness website:
Be sure to watch Heather's video of her story - this makes it all so real:

2) Mesothelioma informational website, for patients and their families:

3)  Direct link from the above site, about treatment:

Heather says she and Lily are inseparable
I pray none of you reading this ever receive the mesothelioma diagnosis.  I'm sure many - if not most of us have been exposed to asbestos many, many times.  I am not sure but I seem to recall my dad saying he was exposed to it during his years of construction work in his youth.  I wonder about our wonderful old farmhouse we live in - it was rescued from it's dilapidated state and redone in the 1970s.  What about the stores we shop at, the offices we work at, the schools we attend, etc. etc.?

Of course we are not to live in fear.  But it is good to stay armed with information so that we can make wise decisions.  Just like with Lilly's 17 months of life.  I wish I had had more knowledge and wisdom about Trisomy 18 when she was born.  But I did the best I could and now, like Heather and her husband, our family seeks to spread awareness.

Thank you Heather and Cameron, for sharing your story with me and in turn, everyone reading this blog.  May God continue to bless you to touch many lives in your awareness work.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Continuing Montessori activities with Solomon

I love seeing pictures of activities other children are doing so that I can get ideas for things for us to do.  For example, Monday morning I printed out a photo from the blog "Tesha's Treasures" of some leaf art pictures her children did.  I think it will be a fun activity for us later this week as a part of nature study.

Because seeing other people's postings helps me, I am going to post more of Solomon's Montessori type activities below, in case they help give anyone else some ideas of things to try with their children.  (My first posting of a week of activities is here.)  These are all things we've worked on since my last post on them.

Practicing with wooden screws and a screwdriver.  The block of wood has holes in it for each of the screws:

Solomon liked this in spite of the fact that the screwdriver seems a bit big for him to work with it easily.  This is an activity he has repeated a lot.

Tossing bean bags into a laundry basket.  Throwing them from different positions:

Solomon really likes this and makes up his own variations, like throwing the beanbags into the trailer of his tractor.

Wooden puzzles.  One day I gave Solomon several wooden puzzles and he is enjoying them:

His favorite is a John Deere tractor puzzle.  No surprise!  We do have a couple puzzles that were a bit too advanced and frustrated him.  I put those away for now.  Challenge is good - but not TOO much of a challenge.  :)

I've noticed that flower arranging is a Montessori activity I frequently see.  I find that interesting for some reason.  I don't think I ever thought about flower arranging as a kid.  So one day when Hunter asked to gather and identify wildflowers for Nature Study, I thought that would be fun for Solomon to join us.  (He's usually napping during part of our school time.)  The boys hopped on their tractors and drove out to the road:

Our area is full of wild sunflowers growing along the roads:

Solomon just couldn't get the concept of picking flowers and leaving some stem.  Oh well.  When we got back to the house I gave him a little bowl of water and he floated his flowers in it.  We put the bowl of flowers where he sat at the table and he was just so proud of the flowers and pointed them out every time we sat down to eat.

I picked some flowers for my kitchen window sill.  I have a little booklet called Sparky's Guide to Roadside Flowers and it is a fantastic little book for identifying all those flowers you see along the sides of the road.  Nice color pictures - my kind of identification guide.

Magnets.  Hunter and I were doing experiments with a magnet set he has and Solomon was fascinated.  So the next day I put the magnet set on a tray for him and he stayed busy playing and experimenting a long time:

Pouring.  I gave Solomon two containers and he poured chick peas (garbanzo beans) back and forth:

Whenever he spilled some, he would carefully pick them up and put them back into the container.  (Another good thing about having the tray under where he's working - it kept the beans from going far.)  Solomon really really liked this activity and worked at it for a long time.

Then I blew it.  I said "You're doing such a good job pouring!   When you get really good you can practice pouring water."  Solomon's concentration was broken.  Then he started getting upset that he couldn't try pouring with water right then!

A big thing in the Montessori approach is to let the children work and focus and NOT to interrupt them!  It's sort of ironic that here in the U.S. parents are encouraged to be cheerleaders.  "Oh you're doing a great job!" "Keep it up!"  "Way to hang in there!" etc.  Yes that has it's place - to a certain degree.  But not when we're pestering or even falsely building them up.

Sort by colors.  Lately Solomon has become very interested in what color things are.  I have been in the habit of telling him colors of things throughout day.  (Ex.  "Please put the blue plate on the table.")  But since he keeps asking, I thought maybe some color sorting would help.  We're started with blue and green.  I found several blue objects and several green objects and showed him out to sort them on the colored foam.

It took him a few tries to get it right.  (And me wondering if he was color blind!)  But then he did it.  Then said "Again!" and put everything back and did it again.  And again and again ...  Finally he sorted the colors into little wooden bowls.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

More broccoli taste testing and a fire!

Last Sunday I wrote about our taste testing experiment and how we started with broccoli.  This past week I made two more broccoli recipes for us to try.  The first, called "party pasta" was from the book which started all this for us, Getting to YUM: The Seven Secrets to Raising Eager Eaters by Karen LeBillon:

Party Pasta
Little bits of broccoli were mixed in with pasta and Parmesan cheese and a few more ingredients.  Tabby loved it.  Of course.  Hunter said "I don't care for it."  No surprise especially since he does not like pasta.  Frank had his straight, serious face and said it was better than the other broccoli recipes because the boring/plain pasta covered up the taste somewhat.  Solomon ate it OK.  I "did not care for it" either.

After last week's post I had a good half dozen people contact me to tell me they liked roasted or sauteed broccoli.  Cooked very crisp - almost blackened.  So yesterday I made roasted broccoli for supper: I tossed broccoli in olive oil and lemon juice and sprinkled it with salt and pepper.  I forgot to take a picture until everyone had been served, so that's why only a few little pieces are showing:

the remains of the roasted broccoli
The verdict?  Tabby "I love it!"  Hunter "I don't care for it."  Frank "The pasta dish was better."  Solomon ate a few pieces.  Me - I can not believe it - I actually really liked it!  I even went back in the kitchen and got those little remaining pieces on the pan.  And ... I am looking forward to eating it again.  What a major triumph - broccoli in a form that I like!

LOL - this must sound ridiculous to so many people.

The biggest excitement of the evening (to Hunter anyway) was when I went to get the food out of the oven.  I saw that the heating element was on fire.  I told Hunter, who was in the kitchen with me, that it was on fire. I turned off the oven.  The fire did not go out.  (Several inches of the heating element was smoldering - no flames. Yet.) I thought about the fire extinguisher, but Hunter knew exactly what to do "Turn off the switch in the fuse box!" he shouted and ran out of the kitchen.

I followed at his heels - he opened the box and I began scanning the labeled fuses.  I threw the switches of everything labeled kitchen and for the rooms around it.  The stove area stayed on.  (When our house was built in 1907, it was before electricity in homes out here.  So it was added later and the groupings in the fuse box are bizarre, in my opinion.)

I again tried turning off some more switches and the oven still remained on.  Hunter kept yelling "Turn off the main power switch!"  I hesitated.  That just sounded scary to turn off ALL the power!  But then Tabby hollared from the kitchen "There are BIG FLAMES now!"

OK - I turned off the main power switch.  We ran back to the kitchen.  The oven was finally off and the fire died down quickly.  Thank goodness it happened inside of a place made to get really hot!

Hunter led the supper prayer shortly after that and thanked God over and over in different ways that the fire did not hurt anyone or come out of the oven and that God helped him know just what to tell me to make it stop.  :)

So - I am afraid a new oven in on the "to buy" list for this week, even though it is not in the budget.  Just the week before, an appliance repair guy came out to see about replacing the thermostat on the oven but he said that it was so old he doubted the parts were still being made.

What I would love is one of these vintage looking, but new ovens:

from Google images
Of course it's way too expensive.  But I think it's really neat how there are a few companies out there that are either refurbishing antique appliances, or making new ones that look like old models.

When our house was built, the original owners had a huge cook stove in the corner of the kitchen.  The fireplace chimney is still on the other side of the wall.  I wonder what it was like to cook on something like that.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wedding dresses turned into burial garments

Monday was Solomon's 2nd birthday.  He was born 9 months - to the day - that Lilly died.  I am so grateful for these 2 years of healing and joy he has brought.

Last year, I posted about the "angel burial pouches" I made, to go in our "angel box" donations to the hospital.  In the burial pouch post, I gave step-by-step instructions with photos on how I made them.  Recently I received a comment from a woman who had sadly given birth to a stillborn son at full term.  She joined a hospital charity and decided to make the burial pouches.  She used my instructions to do so and said the result was great.  She also mentioned that another woman in the charity group had had a little girl named Myla born with Trisomy 18.  She lived one day.

Earlier this week, my mom forwarded me an e-mail from someone that mentioned she was getting rid of her wedding dress and had gone online to see where she might donate it.  She found an organization that turned wedding dresses into burial dresses.  I had heard about that from my sister-in-law Nikki awhile back and I forgot to mention it here.  (At least I think so! I couldn't find a post about it.)

Anyway, I think it is a wonderful idea.  I did an online search and found a group called "The Mary Madeline Project" that does this.  From their website, here is there mission statement:

It is the purpose of the Mary Madeline Project to provide comfort and support to grieving families that have suffered the death of a baby. It was founded in memory of Madeline Marie Erickson who died at seven weeks of age and in honor of all the babies before and after her that have touched our lives. We are a non-profit organization that donates infant / baby burial gowns and blankets to  hospitals for bereaving  parents.  Women donate their cherished wedding gowns to the project and volunteers give of their time, talents and love by making the baby burial gowns and blankets.

It is very difficult to shop for a baby burial garment when a baby dies. For premature babies, it is often difficult to find something small enough. The baby burial gowns and blankets are given to Neonatal Intensive Care Units for babies who die in the neonatal period.  They are also given to labor and delivery units for stillbirths.

I was curious about Madeline's story.  She lived 7 weeks and had glycogen storage disease.  You can read her story here.  Here is a picture of her, from the website:

The Mary Madeline Project website has a bunch of the burial outfits they have made at this link.  I copied the below pictures of burial outfits, all from that page, to show you examples:

The blue portion was made with a prom/bridesmaid dress
I just noticed on the "To Contribute or Help" page that they are unable to accept any dresses at this time.  So I just went online again and found the original group I had heard about earlier this year.  It is a group from Texas called NICU Helping Hands.  A newspaper article about their work is here.  Here is a sample of a gorgeous dress from their website:

You can help NICU Helping Hands by donating a dress, money, or your sewing skills.  You can get all the details here on their FAQ page.

Well I know that burial gowns isn't the most cheerful topic.  But it IS important.  As I have written here several times, I am so very thankful that I already had a beautiful dress that I could bury Lilly in when she died.  Going shopping to find "the perfect dress" would have been just about impossible for me to handle.  I love groups like the above two and what they are doing.  One day when I have more time, I would like to do something on a big scale like that too.  In the meantime, I'll just do little projects here and there as I can.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Taste testing: broccoli

When I was growing up, we had at least one vegetable every night for supper.  Unfortunately I did not, and still do not, like many vegetables.  And I am embarrassed to say, that even at my age, I still involuntarily gag trying to eat some veggies.  I think it was in the 1980s that broccoli was put on the "anti-cancer diet."  My mom, a big broccoli fan, quickly fell in to the habit of feeding us broccoli several times a week.  Yuck.  If we kids dawdled too long over eating anything, we would be served a second helping.  We always had to clear our plates.  (And I bet my mom is reading this thinking "you don't have cancer do you!"  No mom I don't nor does any one else in our family.  Thanks to the broccoli??!!)

So last month, when I read Getting to YUM: The 7 Secretes of Raising Eager Eaters by Karen Le Billon, I was excited thinking "maybe I will finally learn to start liking more vegetables!"  Oh yeah, and I want my kids to eat them well.  (Tabby already does though.)  And ... for Frank to eat more too.  The author wrote, and used evidence, that repeated exposure to a food can help a person develop a taste for it.  Hmmm.  I was very skeptical when I read this because I've eat lots of "yucky foods" - besides broccoli - hundreds of times and still despise them.

However, she pointed out that when the French teach their children to like foods, they expose them to that particular food in many different forms.  Interesting.  Thinking back to my childhood I remember only eating broccoli cooked one way.  (Sometimes I was allowed to smother it with cheese, so maybe that counts as two ways.)

And, I reflected on an amazing broccoli experience I had earlier this year.  Tabby had asked me to make a recipe called "broccoli bites" from a cookbook I have called Effortless Read Food:  Taking the Kitchen Approach to Health by Wendi Michelle.  In this recipe, you mix sharp cheese with lightly steamed broccoli and them roll it into little balls and into a mixture of salt, Parmesan cheese, and breadcrumbs.  Fry in grape seed oil.  I forced myself to try one and was surprised.  IT WAS NOT BAD!

So I knew that I could tolerate a little bit of broccoli prepared at least one way. In Getting to YUM the author states broccoli is one of the "mildest green vegetables."  (Really?!)  I decided to start our experiment in taste testing with broccoli.  I would prepare it several different ways for several days.  I would use the recipes in Getting to Yum.  We would discuss what we liked and didn't like about it.  Life happened though, and we only had two recipes.  Two more to follow this week.

First I made "George's Broccoli Puree." I managed to eat several small bites without gagging.  Frank didn't say a word and had his serious face on as he ate.  Hunter tried it and said "I don't care for this."  Solomon ate half of his without protest.  Tabby smiled with the first bite and said "YUM!  I really like it!"  She was happy to get to finish up the boys bowls of puree.

George's Broccoli Puree
The next recipe we tried was called "Mollie's Enchanted Broccoli Rainforest."  (The author of the book said that it has been proven that people like things better when they like the name.)  It was a fun sounding name.  Reactions:  same as first night, though we thought it did taste a little better than the puree.  Tabby once again ate it smiling.

Mollie's Enchanted Broccoli Rainforest
Sigh.  I was hoping for fast results.  I know, I know, that was only two tries.  Two more coming this week.  Then after that, it is time for carrot taste testing.  I am determined to expand our eating horizons!  (I know any "foodies" reading this must be shaking their heads in bewilderment!)

I thought I would share one recipe - a non-broccoli one!- that I have been obsessed with this summer.  It is from the book Trim Healthy Mama by Serene Allison & Pearl Barrett.  It is called "Fat Stripping Frappa" and the author's describe it as a "creamy, icy, chocolately drink."  It reminds me of a fluffy Wendi's Frosty, but not as overly sweet.  It will fill you up for hours and is a great drink for losing weight.  I don't need to lose weight but am addicted to it anyway.  :)  The recipe is on pgs. 240-41 of the book, and I have re-written it below, using the amounts of everything I use:

1 - In blender, put in 1/2 c. of milk AND 1/2 c. of water (I use our goats' milk - the authors suggest almond milk).
2 - Add:  1 heaping Tbs. cocoa powder, 1/2 tsp. glucomamman powder, 2 pinches sea salt, 1 tsp. NuStevia Pure White Stevia Extract Powder [or Truvia], and a splash of vanilla.
3 - Blend well, then add about 20 ice cubes.  (It gets really thick - I use our Vitamix and use that push down thing that came with it to get things to mix when it's on).
4 - Add 1/2 to 1 scoop of plain whey protein powder and blend again.
5 - Pour into a quart sized jar and enjoy.  YUM ....

On a non-food related note, I bought Solomon his first pair of rubber boots last week.  It was so funny seeing him learning to walk in them. (They are up to his knees so I'm sure it felt weird!) He had lots of short practice sessions one morning and then by the afternoon was walking pretty well.  Now he gets so excited to put on his rubber boots when we go outside and put ours own.  When you live on a little farm like we do, you WANT to wear boots outside.  ;)

Friday, September 12, 2014

The book list - August

I spent much of my reading time in August researching various sources to prepare for our current homeschool year.  So for regular book reading, I only finished 3 books.  Still, considering statistics show that less than half the adult population read literature of any kind anymore, then 3 books in one month is not bad.

Goofing around - using shorts for a hat
Song from the Ashes by Megan Whitson Lee - Last month I dedicated a whole blog post to the wonderful book written by a dear friend.  You can read it here.   If you just want a short summary, here is my review:
"This well written, engrossing novel pulled me in, right from the beginning. It is a modern retelling of Edith Wharton's novel "The Age of Innocence." I read Wharton's book shortly before reading "Song from the Ashes" and it is was fun to see the parallels. My heart ached for Landon, and the struggles he had in whether to stay with his wife April, or leave her for April's fascinating cousin Ella. Landon knows what the right thing is to do before God, but just like with real Christians, temptations are there. April and Landon have a baby, born with Trisomy 18, a genetic condition. I cried through that whole section, because I had a little girl that lived 17 months with Trisomy 18. (Most people do not know about Trisomy 18 and this book helps spread awareness and basic knowledge.) The author does a wonderful job in showing how through all the struggles of the different characters in the book, God's plans are perfect and He is constantly weaving them into our lives. I highly recommend this book!"

school fun - Tabby's house built with toothpicks and mini marshmallows

Getting to Yum: The 7 Secrets of Raising Eager Eaters by Karen LeBillon - In April, I read French Kids Eat Everything, by this same author.  (See my blogpost here.)  It was such an interesting book, I bought this book shortly after that.  It is full of proven strategies to get kids - and adults - to eat a wide variety of foods.  As I read it I was once again amazed in thinking about the huge variety of foods that kids in France eat, and actually like.  Unlike in America where we have so many foods specifically for kids - kid yogurts, kid cereals, kid lunchables, kid crackers, etc etc.  And of course many American kids are stuck on only wanting to eat a few basic foods like pasta, white rice, and crackers.  Why?  Because in general, we don't expect anything different from them!  Rice cereal is the standard 1st for for babies in the U.S., in spite of all sorts of research showing it should not be.  But Americans introduce bland foods and keep them bland.  Babies don't learn to like lots of flavors and textures.  This book has ideas and games to help correct that, no matter what your age.  We have started working through the suggestions, and I will blog about our first week, hopefully this Sunday.

Chow time!  Notice the chickens coming up to the porch.  Their pushiness in trying to get the dogs food resulted in the death of a chicken this past Monday.  The dogs are now fed before the chickens are released from their coop in the morning, and again after the chickens go to bed and the coop is closed for the night.
Once Upon an Island: The History of Chincoteague by Kirk Mariner - I picked up a copy of this book when we visited Chincoteague island in Virginia in June 2012.  (You can read about LillyBear's adventures in Chincoteague in this post.)  I started reading the book shortly after that but then Solomon was born and then when he was 3 weeks old we moved, and I never picked the book back up.  But last month I decided to finish it and I am glad I did because it really is a book full of interesting facts about Chincoteague and it's neighboring Assateague islands. Most people only know about Chincoteague from the Misty of Chincoteague series.  But there is so, so much more rich history to this little island.  Interesting people, terrible natural disasters, destructive fires, etc.

Post contains affiliate links.  If I make any money through this program, 100% of it will be contributed to Trisomy 18 causes.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Homeschooling with Charlotte Mason and Marie Montessori

During the last week of August, I was finalizing my lesson plans for our first two weeks back in homeschool.  Part of my planning included making a list of Montessori activities for Solomon to try.  These activities were to help him stay busy while I was working with Hunter in the mornings, before Solomon's nap time.

Of course making that list took some time, as I went through several books for ideas.  While I worked, Solomon worked hard cutting velcro play food.  (My kids have ALL enjoyed this activity.)

When he finally finished that activity, I handed him a big baggie full of sea shells.  He didn't really know what to do with them.  So I got out several little plastic bowls and plates and put a few seashells in each one.  When I was done, I poured them all back into the bag.  I told him to try.  I was amazed, he stuck with this activity for a good 30 minutes, only stopping when I needed to go inside to make supper.  Every time he finished he'd say "Again!" and put away the shells and start it all over.  It gave me pause to reflect that we tend to think that little kids automatically "know how to play."  But children are older than their toddler years before they really start to do imaginary play.  So I am trying to remember to show Solomon how to play with certain things.

My homeschool curriculum choices have always been a rather eclectic mix of styles.  This year though, I am trying for a Charlotte Mason style across the board.  Karen Andreola recently wrote a blogpost with an excellent, short summary, of what a Charlotte Mason education is.  Click here to read it: 

We are following most of the suggested readings from Ambleside Online.  Hunter is in "Year One" on Ambleside's website - click here to view his curriculum.  (You then click on "detailed schedule" to see actual assignments.)  I like that we have structure, yet for other subjects, I make up my own curriculum.  (I LOVE the freedom of homeschooling, and tailoring it to each child.)  Tabby's schedule is a bit more complicated than Hunter's.  But still, our first week went - mostly - smoothly and I feel like they will get a very good education following this plan.

Back to Solomon, my little guy likes to be busy with his hands.  And as I've written recently, I have become fascinated with many of Marie Montessori's methods for teaching children.  I like that the activities are structured and that they build skills.  They teach children to do things independently and how to help out.  Solomon knows how to clean up his own messes, including wiping his high chair down after eating and cleaning up food under his chair.  He is my constant helper in the kitchen.  It is so neat seeing what he can do and how much he enjoys helping.  (And yes - it does take me longer and is messier.  But it is worth it.)

So along with our homeschool, Solomon's "Montessori preschool" started this week.  Each morning, I would show him how to do a new activity, and then leave him to it so I could begin working with Hunter.  (Still in the same room.)  Here are the activities from last week:

Tuesday - stringing wooden spools onto pipe cleaners:

Solomon dutifully worked at this for about 5 minutes.  Then he put it away and did not touch it again.  So that activity, for him, was a dud.

Wednesday - tractor card matching game.  I made this myself - picked 6 different tractors from Google Images and then printed two of each picture onto cardstock, then laminated them and cut them out.  I showed Solomon how to lay one set of tractors down, then to match the other set.  It took him a few tries to get it.

Verdict:  AWESOME!  Solomon - who loves tractor of all kinds - played with this over and over and over.  Many times a day, every day for the rest of the week.

Thursday - hammer time!  I gave him a play hammer, 5 wooden golf tees, and a chunk of "plant foam."

Solomon really liked this activity and has done it many times now.  Only downfall - the hammering makes a rather obnoxious noise when I am trying to read to Hunter!

Friday - a transferring activity, to practice fine motor skills.  I gave Solomon my strawberry huller and some balls and showed him how to grasp the balls with the huller and move them to the other side of the tray.

This activity didn't have "tractor card status" but Solomon still seemed to enjoy it and worked at it for quite awhile.

You may have noticed in the photos, that I Solomon works at a mat.  (This is just a small, cheap rug I bought at Walmart.)  Mats are used in the Montessori method to "define work space."  It teaches children not to spread their projects all over a room.

I also give him his projects in wooden trays.  (These are all cheap trays I picked up at A.C. Moore, and the nicer ones - still very cheap - off Ebay.)  Again, this is a way to keep things organized and define a space.

Solomon carefully puts his trays up on his shelf when he's done.  I have the activities laid out on the two-tiered shelf where he can easily see and reach them. I plan to switch them out every other week or so.  I'm keeping a watch as to what he reaches for over and over and what he ignores to give me ideas for what to put together for him next.

Our Montessori shelf is actually an old cart.  (Thanks M.J.!)  It has turned out very nice because I can push it to wherever we need it.

If you have any activities that work well for keeping your little ones busy - I'd enjoy hearing about them!

Friday, September 5, 2014

"Lilly - cracker"

When Solomon was a baby, I decided to teach him a little bit of sign language to make communication easier.  I had several friends who had done so with their children and had success.  It worked for us too - Solomon learned essential signs and it alleviated a lot of frustration for both of us.

We don't watch TV, but we do have selected dvds.  The one thing Solomon loves to watch are the "Signing Time" dvds we have.  (You can see the dvds on the Signing Time website here.)    He watches them and repeats (verbally) the words and try to sign with his fingers.  We recently found Signing Time dvds at our library and have been checking them out.  Our routine at the library is I will hand him a few dvds off the shelf and he shouts "Time! Time!" and I tell him "shhhhhh!"

For a couple weeks now, Solomon has been pointing to the Lilly collage that is on the wall across from where he sits at the dining room table.

Whenever he does, he says "crack-er" and does the sign language sign for "cracker."  (The sign is to tap your elbow with your fist.)

Then he points at the Lilly collage again and says "crack-er."  We could not figure out why he was doing this. There were no pictures with crackers in the collage!  Finally I got up on a chair, and held him up to the collage and said "Where is cracker?"  He promptly pointed to the picture of Lilly in the white dress:

Ohhhhhhh!  I finally got it!  Notice Lilly's arm that is bent and touching her chin.  He thought she was signing "cracker."

(Solomon just now looked at the computer screen and pointed at the above picture and said "crack-er."  Ha!)

For the past month or so, sections of our yard - and the chicken coop - have looked like a giant feather pillow fight has taken place.  Our hens that we bought last year, are now about 18 months old and are having their first molt.  I didn't know it at first, but when they molt, they don't lay eggs.  So all of the sudden, our egg supply had greatly dropped.  I was convinced the hens were being rebellious and hiding their eggs and I spent a lot of time looking for the eggs.  Then one day Tabby said in passing "chickens don't lay when they are molting."

Oh.  I am sorry for the accusations, hens!

Thankfully the group of chickens we bought this past spring are about old enough to start laying.  One is doing so consistently.  Then I found this tiny egg in the coop earlier this week.  Doesn't it look so tiny next to the (normal size) Americana egg?

This past week was our first week back to homeschool.  I hope to blog a little about that this Sunday and share the Montessori activities that I introduced Solomon to this week.

Have a blessed weekend!