Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Time4Learning - Homeschool review

After we made the decision to homeschool Mairead for Kindergarten, next came the decision on whether or not to use a curriculum for her. After much debate, Kevin and I decided not to use any specific curriculums that would require a lot of work, after all, one of the main reasons we had decided to homeschool Mairead was to let her be a kid, enjoy life and not have to worry about having so much school work to do. We wanted to teach her that just because we weren't sitting in front of a book or a computer that we could learn, and learn a lot. And even though we were happy with that decision, we felt as though we wanted some outlets to fall back on that were proven and had positive reviews.

We researched different types of curriculums for a few weeks before deciding on Time4Learning. We liked the idea of having everything on the computer, and having some control over what she was going to learn, and how much or how little she could do in a day to day basis. I liked that we could use it as a sole curriculum or as a supplement to something we already was using.

We introduced it to Mairead and she thought it was great she could log on and navigate by herself. It took her a few times (1-2) until she could get to her unit independently. In the beginning she really enjoyed the different modules. She'd sing along to the catchy tunes in the various language arts modules for Kindergarten. Even my preschooler (3.5yrs) would sing along with her.

Fast forward about 5 or so months and we are still using Time4Learning on a regular basis, about 3-4 times per week. Mairead still enjoys it but gets frustrated with the directions at times. Mairead doesn't need a lot of "baby'ing" and can get frustrated when the directions on what to do get longwinded. When this happens, she loses concentration, doesn't follow the directions correctly and can get some of the information wrong. Once I review it with her, it is obvious she knows the material, but she just didn't follow the directions. My husband gets frustrated because he says it is too slow, but, even if she were in school, some children will need the detailed directions, and she needs to work on her listening skills. Either way it can be annoying.

Mairead has really enjoyed the science (we had to set her at first grade to get the science modules for Kindergarten, and not super clear that you need to do that) modules. I think the math was really easy for her in the beginning and I found myself letting her to right to the quizzes or the tests at the end of the modules. She hasn't really experimented with the "playground" at all, merely because she really enjoys Starfall, and generally wants to explore there after her work is done.

At this point, she is about 3 modules away from finishing the Kindergarten language arts curriculum and about 2 modules away from finishing the math curriculum for Kindergarten as well. I like that we will be able to continue at our pace, and advance her as necessary.

For the price of $20/month I think this is a great program. I really couldn't see this being used as a complete curriculum, but as a supplement or for the unschoolers this could be a great addition. You cannot use it on an iPad because it does utilize flash, but I have used it on my Kindle Fire with success.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Have you ever tried...

A few weeks back, we were at a friends house for some playtime and lunch. She made mac n' cheese for the kids and put yogurt in it. I kind of thought it was weird at first, I'll admit...until, I tried it, and 

OH MY. It was definitely not weird! 

It tasted SO GOOD. It was almost like it was made with cream! 

So, the last few times I've made mac n' cheese, I've substituted milk for fat free stonyfield farm organic plain yogurt - just a few tablespoons per box. The kids don't notice a difference, and I honestly think it tastes better. It is so creamy and awesome. 

Another way to give up milk! Try it, once you try it, you'll never go back! 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Little girls & earrings

Do your girls have earrings? Are you considering earrings for your daughter?

Well, read this first.

Do you ever have one of those horrible mama moments where you asked yourself "how the hell did I miss this??" 

Yeah. I do. 

Keep reading. 

When Mairead was about 2.5 she started asking for earrings. She would see mine and just drool over them. So, Kevin and I decided for her 3rd birthday, we would allow her to get earrings. She did great, never touched them, no infections, nothing. She flaunted her little diamond studs to anyone who would look. 

Then, when Lilah turned 3, we allowed her to get earrings just like her big sister. Just like Mairead, she did very well. No problems, really...though, she chose diamond flowers, that would get caught in clothing, and sometimes fall out, but no infections or anything like that. 

Fast forward a year and a few months later. Santa brought the girls some new earrings. He thought it had been long enough for the original studs to be in, so out came the original earrings and in went the new ones. 
Well, everything was fine up until this morning. We were up and getting our morning started when Mairead scratched the back of her ear and there was crusty blood. I was surprised, she had never complained of any ear pain, and any time I've had bloody ears like that, my ear HURT. 
Kind of blurry, but you can see the backing
imbedded in the back of her ear lobe.

I brought her downstairs to get a better look and when I really looked at her ear, I almost fell over with what I saw. The backing of her earring was almost completely imbedded in her earlobe. I was shocked. I asked if she had any pain and she said no. I didn't believe her. How did that not hurt? I sat there flabbergasted. I didn't know what to do, and that says a lot. It takes a lot to make me squeamish, but, I was afraid to touch her ear.  I called Kevin almost in a panic, but I tried not to show Mairead how concerned I was with what I saw. I called our new pediatrician and they said to bring her in. I had 50 minutes to get four kids and myself dressed and ready. Mairead was nervous. She sensed my nervousness. I kept looking at her ear, but I just didn't know where to start. 
The hole in her ear after I removed the backing
We went upstairs and the girls jumped in the shower. It was the best thing Mairead could have done. While she was in the shower, she admitted that she often played with the backing, making it tighter. After almost 3 years of never touching them, she started with her new earrings. 

When she came out, I took a Q-tip and cleaned it up to see what was really going on with her ear. I could barely see the backing. I saw one little corner of the backing, but it was such a small piece, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to get my finger on it to pull it out. I tried once, but Mairead asked me not to do it, so I obliged. After all, I knew it was going to hurt. Bad. A few minutes later, she came back to me and asked to try again. You see, we had plans with a friend, and she knew if we went to the doctor, she'd miss her play date - gotta love ulterior motives in children. So, I attempted one more time. I cleaned it up, and took my left hand, and tried to put pressure on the lobe to force the backing to come to the surface more - I am not kidding when I say about 85% of the backing was imbedded. Then, with my right hand, I was able to grasp the corner of the visible backing with my thumb and forefinger. I pulled a little bit, and it came easily. I told Mairead I thought I could get it, and she told me I could continue. And there it was. 

Her ear lobe started bleeding pretty bad, so I kept pressure on it for a few minutes. Mairead was so incredibly brave. Not one tear shed. I walked her through everything. And with not a few minutes to spare, she was saved of her playdate. I called the doctors and told them I was able to get it out myself. 
When I really looked at the earring and backing, I saw the exact problem. Every time she played and tightened the backing, she bent the earring post, which made the backing dig into the back of her ear lobe. Also, you can see the backing in the photo below - it has flesh imbedded in the holes. Yes. It was really that gross. The poor kid. I am still in shock that she never once complained of pain, even when she noticed the dried blood. 
Can you see the flesh inside the backing? This shows just how deep the backing was in the lobe...and you can see the post on the earring is bent - 

Note to self: Never buy cheap earrings. And always remind them never to tighten the earrings themselves. 

So, as a lesson to all you mammas out there - earrings are great for little kids, but can surely cause just a little bit of drama!!! Don't let my mistake be your mistake ;)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Small House Living

Lilah: top, Mairead: bottom
Kit & Kanani at the end of the bed.

Since we've made the decision to move our family back to Maine, the last few weeks have been planning on how we will live in a three bedroom home with four children. Our house here in Virginia is large, too large, but, the best thing about our home here is all the kids have their own bedroom. And it is nice, really nice. But, in the last few weeks, the girls have been requesting more and more to sleep in the same room and now, in the same bed. And for the most part, they do really well together.

Part of me is really excited to live in a small house again with a lot of outdoor space, rather than a large house with minimal outdoor space. This house is a bear to clean. I have a very hard time keeping up with everything because there is just so much space, and with homeschooling the kids, my time is not spent cleaning. The kids tend to spread out their toys throughout our large home rather than the toys just being spread in a confined space in a small home :) - less places for toys to get lost. Toys, shoes, etc can get lost for weeks around here, where in our house in Maine, they were usually found in no time at all!

Kevin and I have decided we will be having all three girls share a room. Stupid, you say? Yeah. You're probably right, but I think they will enjoy it for a while. Callum is little still and he deserves his own room. Once he gets bigger then we can decide if we want one of the girls to room in with him, but for now, the prince will get his own space. Lucky boy.

So, three girls all together in one room. That makes my mind spin just a bit. Trying to plan out how we will make it work while ensuring we do not give up any storage space. It's going to take some planning. As of right now we have:

One full size bed/mattress
Two twin beds/mattress
One crib

Pinterest has been one of my all time favorite websites lately. The ideas there are just never ending, and when I saw this set up, I could just see this in our home! It completely fits in with my beachy style while integrating lots of storage compartments, too, which in our house is a must! The problem with this set up is that we would have no use for our full size mattress and bed, and would have to purchase a new twin mattress. Thankfully, Kevin is pretty crafty and we have some friends in Maine who are willing to help us whip this up for our crew!

The other day, my mom called and told me to put on HGTV. They were designing a bedroom for a set of triplets who would be sharing a room. While our girls are obviously not triplets, there are three of them, and we do need space conservation badly! This trip bunk appeases me because it would utilize our full size mattress on the top, and allowing our two twin mattresses to go on the bottom. This also would make it easier to accomodate guests as we could push the twin mattresses together making a king size bed for our parents or any other visitors. This would obviously be much easier to build than the one above.

Clearly, moving into an 1800sq foot, 3 bedroom home is not going to be ideal, but less is more. We will make it work with a little planning. The good news is we know the ins and outs of our home. We know about the space issues, and we know how to work with it, it's not like we are going in blind.

Do you live in a small home with a lot of kids? How do you make it work without costing an arm and a leg? What about awesome storage solutions? I would love to hear any ideas and/or comments you have! Please share!

Monday, February 20, 2012

The foods we eat.

I've blogged in the past about baby food and baby led weaning, but I haven't talked about how our older children eat, and more importantly how we at as a family.

In the past few years, I've started to make changes to the foods we buy. After watching Food Inc. I believe that we "make a vote" in what we buy at grocery stores. If we buy from non-local, large chains, then we are telling society that this is okay to buy their crap, processed, chemical filled foods. While we lived in Maine, we bought local milk, fruits, veggies and eggs whenever possible, and try to buy the important organic items such as the ones on the dirty dozen list. And I think to this day, we do a pretty good job. I hate spending more money on the healthy, organic food, but it is something I feel strongly about. I try to buy all organic chicken, and some organic beef, but it gets expensive, trying to do it all. I buy all organic milk, but I still think that this isn't good enough. I waiver from going to raw milk, but have mixed emotions on this as well. Maybe when we get back to Maine. At least our kids aren't huge milk lovers, one 14oz milk cup per day, and the rest is water.

One additive I am really scared about is SOY and the unknowns of soy. It scares me and soy is in everything. And I mean everything. Even organic foods. Every time I think I am buying something healthy for my kids to snack on, I look, and there it is. Friggin' soy. Some people may think "BUT. I thought Soy was HEALTHY???" and I know people who eat a lot of Soy. Hell, I think I probably do without even thinking about it. You may ask "why is soy unhealthy?" or "is soy healthy?" and I knew things like how it mimics estrogen (phytoestrogens) within our bodies causing all sorts of issues and potential for causing early onset puberty, etc....but one factoid I learned today from Wellness Mama was this:

These phytoestrogens are so strong that a baby consuming only soy formula is consuming the equivalent hormones of 4 birth control pills a day!

WHATTTTTTTTT?!? UM, REALLY?! Is this true!?! I sure hope it is not.

 First off, I can breath a sigh of relief. All of my children have been breastfed two years and beyond, no formula, and certainly no soy formula. Secondly, that is just a scary factoid, fairly disturbing, don't ya think? I have only been on the pill a few times in my life and in my personal opinion, I just don't want to take a pill that manipulates what my body should do, and I would certainly not want my children to go near anything that is equivalent to ingesting birth control pills at all, especially infants and small children

If you click on the Wellness Mama link, it will bring you to the Is Soy Healthy? link. If you are anything like me, you will leave shaking your head asking yourself what can be done about soy in our food. Yeah. I completely follow the belief: everything in moderation, but soy being in almost everything (besides meat, fruits & veggies) we consume is not moderation. My kids want snacks, and I want snacks, and how do I avoid this nasty ingredient? I thought we were eating a healthy bread without any sugars or other unnecessary ingredients, but when I looked at the ingredients yesterday, there it was. Again. Freakin' SOY. In bread? Really?

Because this information seemed so.....crazy, I googled it and did some information. Yes, there is a lot of information out there that says the same thing, but there is also information that says the non-committal we are not sure YET. And some of these websites are probably right, pure soy is most likely harmless, but what about all the other types of soy?

I wish I had answers. I try to do the best I can. Breastfeed. Cloth Diaper. Buy Organic foods. Buy whole foods. And splurge on the occasional junk food that totally makes me feel like shit after I eat it. But, every time I turn around, there is something that that gives me shivers down my spine.

I am scared for my kids. I am scared for my girls - I don't want them to have early onset puberty. I want my kids to be healthy, and learn to enjoy healthy foods. Lead a healthy lifestyle. Enjoy exercise and all positive things in life that make us feel good. So where do I go from here? At least that's what I ask myself. How far do I go? Where do I stop? Do I take information like this serious?

Do you ever feel like every time you turn around there is new evidence about how dangerous something is? This whole info on soy is not new, there has been studies dating back to decades ago, but what about on things like soaps and lotions and detergents? While we are not ingesting them, they are being absorbed into our bodies? So, do I take it another step further? I don't know, probably to a point, husband thinks I am insane to a point, and maybe I am. We cloth diaper our kids for a lot of reasons and one of the several reasons is chemicals.

There is something to be said to those who grow their foods, make their own soaps and detergents and have chickens and cows. I wish I had more answers. I really do. But, I don't.

Friday, February 17, 2012


Does your husband act as though the world is coming to an end with the sniffles?

Does he act as though the strain of the "sniffles" he got is worse than anyone else in the house?

Does he moan and groan until he's blue in the face? (or until you are blue in the face)

If you answered yes to more than one of these questions above, then your man could be suffering or has suffered from what is called THE MAN COLD.

What is it with men and colds or any sickness? I just don't understand. There must be some sort of genetic mutation that causes men not to be able to handle a case of the sniffles as well as a normal human being.

I've told Kevin that if the baby isn't fussy, then he can't be either.

Do you dread your husband getting sick more than your own children?

I do. 

No, really, I do. If my husband has a cold, it is not unlikely that I hear about it less than 20 times per hour. You know, comments such as "My snot is less" or "I am not sneezing as much" or "I think I am losing my voice" or "I have only blown my nose 2,324 times today" or "I am going to get some ice cream to soothe my throat" - the complete play by play of the disease  illness - almost like you were watching a football game - Every.Single.Detail. 

As I type this post, I am reading it to my husband. He is not pleased. But it is the truth. I am sure we have all fell victim to THE MAN COLD. Ya just gotta laugh.

Why is it the mothers have to suck it up, continue to run a household, but the men get stopped cold in their tracks. Laying on the couch moaning and groaning, expecting to be waited on hand and foot because they have a little runny nose? Or love to talk about just how horrid they feel?

Okay, Okay. Maybe I am being a bit overly dramatic...or maybe I am not. But, the truth is, men handle sickness a lot different than us women.

You see. Our kids have had a little cold over the last week. Nothing horrible, thankfully, but the last day or two, Kevin has seemed to acquired this disease "cold" from the kids.....and I have had a bit of a runny nose and sneezy today. Kevin has mentioned it a few times today, but just now he told me he didn't realize I also had been "suffering" from the same exact cold.

Ah. Man cold.

I am not a fan. Are you?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Little Valentines

The last few days have all been about "celebrating". On Monday, it was my birthday....ugh, 33. It's really starting to pinch a little, and yesterday, Valentines. But, I take solace in knowing Kevin is several years older than I, it doesn't quite hurt as bad.

Me and my crew on my birthday
Kevin made my cake!!! Impressed? Yes, I was.  We only had those candles...sure, I'll pretend to be 22, but he was nice and wrote "33" on the back side of the candle! 
Kevin and I aren't really big Valentines people, so on Sunday night we had a date night to kill two birds with one stone - my birthday dinner and a valentines dinner. We went to this European restaurant in search of good Spanish tapas - we left fairly disappointed, but it was just nice to get out, have quiet conversation without kids. I joke around with Kevin saying he gets off easy because he can "group" Valentines and my birthday together - thanks to my parents for screwing me from getting two distinct days all to myself ;)

My birthday was quiet, but nice. Kevin took the day off, and the girls really wanted to go to the American Girl store. Yipeeeeeeeeeeeee! Exactly what I wanted to do on my birthday, but at this point, watching the smiles on their faces was good enough for me, birthdays aren't about me anymore really.... We had lunch and Churros out, and enjoyed a nice dinner together - we saved the big dinner for Valentines!

Valentines day was a great day! Usually on Tuesdays we do "Tidy Up Tuesday" before gymnastics class, but instead, the girls made valentines for all the kids in their gymnastics class, I guess my messy house can wait, and honestly, I'll take any excuse I can make up not to clean my house. Mairead and Lilah were so excited to pass them out to everyone! The kids were all decked out in their pinks and reds and looked so freakin' adorable. I love that they're finally getting why we are celebrating these little "holidays"!  While the big girls were at gymnastics, I took Clara and Callum out and got our fondue, lobsters, filet mignon, steamers (clams), dessert and of course, wine! This is our 2nd year that we celebrate Valentines night as a family and make a special dinner together. It's a lot of fun for everyone.

I couldn't wait for dinner! The big girls chowed down on their steamers and Kevin and I loved the fondue. As much as our kids love cheese, they don't like fondue???? I think they must be crazy!?! They are stuffing themselves with CLAMS but will not eat cheese and bread??? Weird. The lobster was fab, wait, everything was just oh, so good!

Callum just loves his sisters. In this photo, Clara was making Callum laugh hysterically! 

Monday, February 13, 2012

My favorite things! For surviving parenthood...

So, I thought it might be fun to do a "favorite" things post to highlight a few (lifesaving) things I think make my life easier with four kids who ultimately rule my life...

1. Kangaroo Korner Pouch - unfortunately, they've gone out of business (I do not know why...). I will be honest, I almost cried when I found out they had closed. We've been using their fleece and cotton pouches since our oldest was 7 months old. So, you can't buy a new Kangaroo Korner pouch, but I highly suggest buying an adjustable pouch if you can find it, and if you can find a fleece one, grab it! The pouch is ideal for the wee ones - easy to keep warm, snuggly and very easy to nurse in, too. Once they get a bit older, the hip carry is one of my favorites. Baby wearing for me didn't start in full force until my 2nd daughter was born, then it was an absolute necessity for reasons I could go on and on for. I am on the search for a pouch that is as amazing and high quality as these ones were for us! Let me know if you find one or know of one!

2. Ergo Baby Carrier - by far one of my favorite, life saving items. If you are a mom, then you must purchase one of these. I've had my original one since Mairead (purchased in early 2007) and now onto our 4th child, it is still in perfect condition with lots and lots of life left in it. It has made shopping with my four kids by myself easier than you can imagine. The ability to carry a child on my back gives me the opportunity to do things like clean my house, shop, go for walks, hike, etc. I don't use the hip carry very often - I use my pouch for that, but have friends who do, and say it's great! I would say the ergo is ideal for babies 5 months and older unless you have an infant insert! I have used the baby bjorn (very briefly with baby #1) and honestly, I found it very uncomfortable once baby hit about 10lbs, and I don't think the baby looks that comfortable just hanging there. With the ergo, I've carried my 2-3 year old toddlers on my back before quite comfortably, actually!

3. Aden + Anais Muslin Wraps - Having worked as a labor & delivery nurse before kids, I swaddled like a pro, which was a lifesaving ability having children who loved swaddling. After three kids, I was always on the look out for a lightweight, stretchy swaddle blanket for my babies, especially since all four of them were obsessed with being swaddled! I heard of Aden + Anais and thought it would be a great thing to try! And let me tell you, I wish I had learned of these before my forth child. They are awesome! They are big, lightweight, stretchy, breathable and cute! These are even great if you have a spring/summer baby who is loving swaddling but you're afraid baby will get overheated - not with these! Go check them out!

4. Brookstone white noise machine - I don't know about you, but my kids have turned me into a white noise junky. With our 2nd daughter, Lilah, she was an amazing sleeper, but it had to be quiet. She didn't want to hear a thing. At first, we used a fan, but then, it didn't seem loud enough. So, I did a little research and came across this one. Now, we are still using the same one with our 4th child. It is great because it is compact, and works with a plug or with batteries, which is great for traveling! It has white noise and various other "baby soothing" sounds. The price is a little steep ($69) but, it has worked very well for our family, and we've used it for 3/4 of our children, and has traveled all over the place with us! I'd surely say we've gotten our money worth out of this!

5. Zutano Cozie Booties - I am not quite sure how I missed the boat on this product. After Clara was born, my parents had given a pink pair. I had never seen them before, but I knew they would be just perfect since she was a small infant in the winter in Maine, these were probably the best thing anyone had given Clara. They are soft. Cozy. and they stay on....and most importantly, they keep the tootsies nice and warm! They are machine washable, and they come out super soft and clean! I had always used robeez, but these I have to say are far superior to them, and they just look comfortable! Now with baby #4, zutano cozie booties are an absolute must. Callum has a pair of brown and creme, and he wears them everyday. No joke. I am also a fan of zutano because they are a Vermont based company that takes pride in good products. My children have worn zutano clothing and it is always high quality, comfortable clothing. The one thing I wish they would do is add some non-slip grips to the bottom of the bigger booties for the new walkers and walkers!

6. Britax B-Ready Double Stroller - Strollers are one of those things I have a love hate relationship with. Being a huge advocate of attachment parenting, I am not a huge stroller person, but with four kids who are all close in age, and a mamma who prefers to be on the go, a good, easily maneuverable double stroller is vital to a successful outing! We started life off with the Zooper Tango double, and that was just not good. It was hard to steer, it was hard to shop with, and storage was difficult. Then, we saw this one. I ordered it after reading great reviews (I never even laid hands on it before purchasing), and I have to say, all the reviews were right. It is a great double stroller! It can be pushed with one hand, it's like having a single stroller, but easily suits two children with ample storage space! It is a bit heavy, but it folds very easily. I love the versatility with this stroller, allowing Callum (the baby) to face forward to me or face outward. The big girls love to sit in the "jump" seat as we call it. The fabric is easily cleaned. The storage is big enough to store one of my kids. This stroller is awesome in a mall or any tight spaces, it really is like using a single stroller. I get stopped frequently by people asking what I thought of it, and honestly, I think it is great as far as strollers are concerned. Of course, there are negatives, but there are negatives with every stroller I have owned, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. I will be honest though, there were a few little "annoying" problems, like the back wheels squeaking, so I called customer service and Britax and without any serious questioning, new wheels were in the mail - free. Then, the jump seat wouldn't close, all I had to do was send in a photo, and the wheels still squeaked, so what did Britax do?? They sent me a completely brand new stroller and jump seat! We've had the new one since September, and we haven't had a single issue with it. So, A+ for customer service from Britax! So, if you're like me, and hate to drop a pretty penny on things like strollers, have no fear, because you know Britax is going to stand by their product 100%.

Stay tuned for more reviews of lifesaving products and a few other fun things I have in store for my blog - this could get exciting!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Lesson: Making others feel good

Today we visited a local assisted living facility with other homeschoolers. We all made our own valentines and handed them out to the residents of the facility.

Growing up, my mom worked as a nurse at a nursing home. I used to love volunteering there and spending time with the residents. I have fond memories of the many people I met during that time, and I remember always leaving feeling good about myself. When I found out about the opportunity to bring our girls into a facility, I jumped. I love the elderly, and I feel like there is nothing like watching them interact with the little ones.

This afternoon, me and the big girls (Lilah & Mairead) made some valentines for the residents. Kevin was able to come home a little early so I didn't have to drag Callum and Clara with us - though I know the residents would have thoroughly enjoyed them, too. I didn't want the little ones to take away from the big girls first experience.

Before we left, I sat down and explained to Mairead where we were going. They were a little confused, but I knew they would enjoy their experience. When we arrived, the faces of the residents lit up when they saw all the children (about 10) all their just to hand out valentines. We watched their faces light up, and some were just so delighted that we were there to spend time with them.

We walked around the facility to see if there was anyone we missed. We came across this one woman who was so delighted to see our children. When I told her why we were there, she had a big smile on her face, and started to tear up as she said how thoughtful we all were for coming, and thanked us for making her day. Another women told Mairead that our visit was the highlight of her day and she would hang all of her valentines on her board in her room. Anther told her just how much our visit meant to her as "we don't get special visitors like this" very much. Who doesn't feel good after hearing things like this?

As we said our goodbyes and walked out, I asked the girls what they thought. Mairead said she really enjoyed it. I asked her why. And her response?

"because I made people smile..."

Yes, Mairead. That is why we are here. To make others feel good and do good to others.

And this is what life is all about. Giving. Making people feel good. Because in turn, it makes us feel good.

And these are the things that I really enjoy about homeschooling our children. Life lessons that truly make an impact.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Today, our sweet, amazingly strong little Callum John is 10 months old. And boy, has he come a long, long way!

I am so not ready to sing Happy Birthday to our little boy. It just does not seem feasible he could be only two months shy of his very first birthday. And honestly, I am not ready to relive all those sad moments we had, and how I still wish I could have those first few hours of his birth back again without all those scary moments. I still yearn for those 'newborn moments' I was able to have with our girls. Holding them, nursing them and staring at them well into the night when I should be sleeping but can't. I don't want to relive all those scary feelings all over again, and I will try not to think about the bad things, but the good things, the amazing things, like how he is growing and developing into a normal little boy. He continues to remind us how strong he is in every way of the word.

I am not going to dwell into the past and think about the negative. I need to look at our boy today and think of how very lucky we are to have him with us as healthy and feisty as he possibly could be. I want to act so very thankful to each and every person who prayed for our family, helped our family in one of the most difficult moments emotionally for our family, and it is because of Callum that we were shown the true meaning of family and friendship.

Today, Callum continues to be the easiest going baby. He is happy and smiling every day (even after a little stomach bug we all had, he'd puke, look at me, and go back to sleep). He loves to snuggle, loves his mamma and loves to explore all the new surroundings independently. He is crawling, sometimes on all fours, but with all the wood floors, it is difficult for him because he slides. He can pull himself up pretty much anywhere. He is not really into his exersaucer anymore, as he does not want to be confined. He.Is.Everywhere. I am having to vacuum and scour the floor for small pieces of whatever may be found every second of the day - have I mentioned how much I hate crawling???  He can get into a sitting position from a crawl, and can sit on his knees like a big boy. He seeks out his big sisters more and more, trying to find where they are, and starting to spend more time in the room they are in. After all, they are much more exciting than I am!

And if this trait doesn't scream BOY, I am not sure what does - He cannot be held by me without him sticking his hand down my shirt. I am not sure if this is a boy thing or what, but his big sisters never did this. He loves them. And he will even squeeze them multiple times when he is really wanting to nurse and he can squeeze HARD. He loves to nurse, but has also taken a lovin' to table food, too. He is eating two full meals per day, and starting with a small snack at lunch time in the last few days. He loves fruits of all kinds, eggs, waffles and yogurt for breakfast, and will eat pretty much anything for dinner - steak, chicken, fish, pasta, you name it - he loves it. He loves to drink out of a cup, too. Will scream and smack his lips if he sees me or anyone near him drinking from a cup. Orange juice? He loves it.

His sleeping waxes and wanes - and I am getting ready for him to nurse less and sleep more at night! He takes one really good nap in
the afternoon, about 2.5-3hrs, sometimes a cat nap in the morning, but those are becoming less and less. He is asleep before 8pm at night, and will wake up anywhere from 12am-2am - I am a much happier mamma when it is 2am, and not 12am. He will usually be up around 4-6am, and then for the day around 730-8am. I can't complain. He can put himself to sleep, he loves his cribby and he is a very happy, easy for now, I will be patient. After all, he won't be a baby forever...I am trying to enjoy all of these baby moments with him...

He has no teeth and no signs of any, but, I know it could be anytime. The girls were between 10-13months when they got their first teeth. He loves to play outside and be wheeled around in his little tykes car. He loves to swing at the playground. And he loves to dance! I joke around with Kevin that Callum will be our "tiny dancer" ;)!  He isn't saying mamma yet, but he is really close - he can say baba and babbles a lot, just no mamma or dadda yet. The girls said mamma first. He loves to clap at himself and at his sisters when they're swimming, and has just started signing 'more', too! He is changing so fast. He is starting to look more and more like a little toddler than an infant. I am not ready to not have a baby in the house...So not ready...

Monday, February 6, 2012

One of those days

Today was one of those days.
You know...where everyone gets together. The kids behave. And we are all enjoying each others company. I wish all days could be as good as today! 

Mairead having a blast! 
This morning we got dressed and headed out for a drive to the Algonkian Playground. Before we hit the swings and slides, we drove around the park to see the countless deer roaming the area. The girls love to see the deer roaming around in their habitat. Mairead says "Mom! I can tell that one is a girl because it does not have a p.e.n.i.s!" 

Yep. Never mind that it doesn't have antlers ;)

Here is SuperCAL on the swing! He didn't like it or anything ;)
After our little exploration, we hit the playground. We were the only ones there. It was peaceful. The sky was a deep February blue. The sun was warm. And the air a little brisk. 

Clara & Callum on the swings
Callum and Clara had a blast on the swings together. It was Callum's first time on playground swings and he giggled every time he was pushed! 

Cutie pa-tootie Lilah
The girls played happily together for well over an hour. I wish we had brought our lunch because the kids did not want to leave! 

Stair Jumping! 
After we arrived home. The girls had a picnic lunch outside. And Lilah finally figured out how to start on her own with riding a two wheeler! She has been riding two wheels since fall, but has been struggling to start solo - but she's doing it! She also learned how to stop, which is pretty important around here with the hills! 

Monkey'n Around
Then we came in, had a rest, and did a little bit of school! Mairead was super focused today and did great with her telling time and counting coins worksheets. Lilah did an awesome job with her cutting and sorting activity, too! 

Beautiful February Sky
Now, us girls are sitting on the couch watching a video on Valentines day enjoying a little quiet time before we head off to swim school later! 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Homemade chicken soup for babies

When Mairead was starting off on solids, she refused anything pureed. She insisted she feed herself. So, after a few frustrating weeks of figuring out what to feed a 7 month old who refused anything pureed, I stumbled upon the baby led weaning approach to introducing solid foods.

As a first time mom, I was amazed that babies this young could eat anything and everything without ever buying a jar of baby food. It was so cool! But it seriously works. No joke.

One of Mairead's favorite foods to eat when she was little (under 1) was chicken soup. It was the only thing she would let me feed her with a spoon! I was new at making homemade chicken soup, but I thought it was the perfect meal for when Kevin and I were having something that didn't suit her well enough (which was a rare event) or when Kevin and I had soup, but wanted to use bigger ingredients or different ingredients.

Now, three babies later, the baby led approach is the way we start our littles on solid food. No purees. No baby food maker. Nothing. And it is easy. And they love it. To this day, our kids eat anything and everything. At 10 months, Callum has no troubles eating any kind of meat, fish or steak.

The other night, we cooked an Organic roaster chicken. I bought an additional bone-in breast because I was going to make some homemade soup, and this time, I would be making a separate soup for Callum. Cooking a roaster chicken is great because it is cost efficient and if you plan it right, can make several more meals.

For us, I never make a separate broth for the baby. They get everything we do - basil, garlic, rosemary, pepper and all the good stuff in the broth. Nothing like starting early with developing a taste for all different things. No bland food for our little fairies and prince! Who likes bland food anyways!?!?

I boil the carcass for several hours. You can either put it in the fridge or freeze to make another day or do it once it cools. Turn off the heat and let the broth cool down. Once that happens, I separate the broth from all the meat, mirapox (Trader Joe's brand that has celery, onion and carrots) and seasonings. I take several cups of broth and put it into a smaller pot for Callum's soup, and the rest of the broth is for us. Depending on how "strong" the broth is, I may or may not add a little bit of water.

When our babies first start eating soup about 7 months, I will shred the chicken very fine, and sometimes will put all the veggies into a food processor to really get them tiny, but not pureed. Now, Callum is about 10 months old, and I will just dice them up for him. Once they cook, they'll get super soft, so they'll be perfect. As they get older, it's the perfect meal for them to attempt to eat with a spoon. It's mushy, and perfect for little spoons.
Going through broth for chicken

Small chunks of chicken
I will put the remainder of the chicken into our broth.

Once the chicken is done, I will get together my veggies. Today, I am using carrots, summer squash, zucchini, sweet potato and peas. The possibilities are endless here. Sometimes I'll use regular potatoes, or whatever you can think of, add it. Just make sure you have enough broth to support the amount of veggies/extras you put in.

Diced veggies - squash, zucchini & carrots (peas & sweet potatoes added next)
Cook the veggies until they are nice and soft for baby. Once the veggies are super soft, add the pasta.

Chicken with veggies in the broth
For the pasta part, I use pastina, orzo or star pasta that is really tiny. I use about 3/4 of a cup. Don't use too much or it will leave you with no broth! Once the kiddos get a bit older and eat the "adult" soup, I will use tortellini or egg noodles.

Soup cooking with the pasta & veggies
Once it is all cooked up, I will let it cool a bit. I have the glad tupperware containers that are the perfect "baby food jar" size. I will separate the soup into these containers, cover them up and throw them in the freezer! With the older kiddos, I like to use the bigger containers, like lunch size ones, and freeze them.

They are perfect for those nights you order pizza, go out to dinner or are having a meal that doesn't quite suit baby or kids (which is not very often in our house)!

And if you're looking to sneak some veggies into your toddlers, make the soup, and just really puree different veggies into the broth so they don't even know they are there. Our girls are not big potato/sweet potato fans, so I will mash up the potatoes super soft, and voila! The vegetables disappear and They love the soup.