Thursday, October 4, 2018

What's in your Mass bag?

They're so cute! Who would guess how mischievous they can be? If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed me mention that taking my kids to Mass on Sunday is, ah, not exactly a breeze.

There do exist kids who are naturally well-behaved at Mass. I've met some of them; in fact, one of them is my sweet nephew, who from a young age liked to stand quietly at the edge of the pew watching everything and never making a sound. Magical.

My kids are not like that. They are rowdy, rambunctious, very loud, intensely active little monkeys. To give you just a tiny handful of examples - Frankie spent many Masses trying to escape the pew and circle around the entire church, and he succeeded more than once when I was too pregnant to chase him; he went through a phase of shouting "AHH!" at random intervals (and always when it was quiet); Kate likes to try to crawl under the pews around us to escape and run down the aisle; both children have, at times, flopped down onto the ground in front of the altar during the communion line and gone utterly limp, so that we have to carry/drag them back to the pew; and in the event that they are actually occupied looking at a book, they like to describe every picture VERY LOUDLY, just in case anyone in a five-pew radius wasn't aware there was a picture of an elephant at hand.

Listen, if you have one of those naturally well-behaved kids in Mass, just click on out of here to another blog. Because you are probably going to be shocked and horrified at how I handle Mass with children.

After 4 years of trial and error, I finally feel like I have found a system that works really well for us. I am (almost always) able to sit through all of Mass, and even pay attention to a decent part of it. So in case this might be helpful to someone else out there, here is my system. I'd love to hear what works for your family, too!

I have a special “mass bag” which is filled with toys and activities that they *only* use at church. The bag is huge. I keep it in the trunk of the car so we never forget it, and so that they don’t have access to it outside of church. Here is what is in it:

-STICKERS. The single best thing to keep them occupied for a long time. Here’s a link to the ones I buy; I’ve ordered them several times and my kids love the variety of images, taking the sticker sheets out of the little plastic covers, that they’re puffy so they’re easy for little hands to pick up, and they’re not actually very sticky so it’s no big deal to remove if they stick one on the pew or missal (as they inevitably do). This sticker set will last us 4-6 months of masses. *Important note* At the start of mass, I grab an extra copy or two of the bulletin, and give it to them to put stickers on. Then I throw it away when we leave. So we always have a fresh page for stickers and I don’t have to remember to bring one!

- Water Wow. We have several of them and the kids will play with them for a long time.

- I took a big package of animal flash cards, hole punched the corners, and put them on a binder ring. I also did the same with prayer card images of saints. The kids will look at those for a while, especially the animal one. They also enjoy looking for new prayer cards in the back of churches to add to their collection.

- Any kind of lift-the-flap book or peekaboo book. Here is one with TONS of flaps that my kids love, but any will work! This usually keeps them busy for a while.

- A mini Magnadoodle for coloring (we actually have 2 so they can each color - thanks Abuelita for giving them those!)

- Lots of picture books, mostly religious. I have A Missal for Toddlers, Our Friends the Saints, The Saving Name of God the Son, a Latin Mass cloth book, and several other Catholic board books. Those will usually interest them for a few minutes between other activities.

- A baby-doll carrier (ours was made by a friend, but you can find similar ones on Etsy!): If all else fails, I put the carrier on them with a small stuffed animal inside and tell them they have to be quiet because their baby is sleeping. Somehow this has worked really well for both my kids!

- I know bringing food to church is controversial, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I usually bring a small, non-messy snack like string cheese, along with a full bottle of water for each child. We’ve also started a tradition that they can each have a small package of gummy fruit snacks during the homily (because it keeps them quiet for a while), which is a treat they eagerly look forward to. I'm not concerned about breaking this "habit" when they are older; I was allowed to have snacks in church as a small child and very much understood why that stopped once I was old enough to receive the Eucharist, so I'm sure it will make sense to my kids as well.

I have found that toys don’t keep them occupied for very long; if I bring dolls or cars, they throw them on the ground. So I mostly stopped bringing toys, maybe a stuffed animal or something that won’t be loud if they throw it. Prayer cards used to get thrown around which is why I put them on a ring. It’s like they need something to *do* rather than just a toy; they need an activity or project, if that makes sense. I bet a Mass busy book would be amazing to have and I hope to buy or make one at some point!

I spend all of Mass doling out these activities and snacks so it’s not exactly peaceful, but at least they are mostly quiet. Since I put together these things in the Mass bag (especially the stickers!), I'm able to sit through most of Mass with minimal noise or disruption from the kids. We almost never have to take them out for being loud anymore. Now, taking them out for 37 trips to the bathroom each... that's another story!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Conversations with Iggy

Terrible lighting but it's borderline impossible to get a pic of Mr. Contrary really smiling these days!

I have been recording funny things my 3yo son says, for over a year and a half, in a note on my phone! I figured it was time to share some of these gems.

The first few are from when he was 2, when his speech wasn't as clear (but so cute!). The rest are from the past 6-ish months when he talks mostly like an adult. So I've marked them into two separate sections.

Comments from age 2:

Any time I cleaned his hands with a wet washcloth:
"Thank you said the Little hands!"

After I went to the grocery store:
"Oh! You got me avocados?? Wow! You a good mama!"

"Donald" the reindeer (the name changed every time)

When something went wrong:
"Uh oh! Sup-a-ghetti oh!"

When he was excited (trying to say "yay"):
"Lay! Lay!"

Comments from age 3:

"If I were a dinosaur would God still love me? Even if I rawr at him?"

After my parents took him to a local Civil War reenactment:
"Mama, in this life, there are real soldiers. But they don't kill you. They just are friendly."

One day at preschool, the teacher reported that Frankie had colored all over his arms with markers. When he got home, I asked him why he did it and he said,
"I was making TATTOOS!!"

After his first time carpooling to school with his BFF Frances:
Him: Can I go in Frances's car again?
Me: Yes, you will tomorrow. Do you like going in her car?
Him: yep.
Me: why do you like going in Frances' car?
Him: because she's so sweet. And she's beautiful.

"I want Dada to be the zookeeper instead of the dad. Me and Kate can be animals. Actually penguins."

"My daddy is so big and strong! Bigger than tropic world!"
(Tropic World is the monkey house at the zoo.)

"If Daddy comes to gym class, I can teach him to play football."

Randomly in the middle of the day:
"I know what Daddy is doing right now! He's having tea at his office."

One day he was working at his art table and I heard him say "hey that's my spot!" ... to the other chair... which was empty.

Describing his use of colored pencils:
"They sound like the wind because they shiver."

We argue pretty much every day about whether or not his beloved local train store is open right now.

One day at preschool, the teacher couldn't figure out which sweatshirt belonged to him. She asked him if his name was in his sweatshirt, and he replied, "I'm 3T!"

I was explaining marriage one day, and I told him that Frank and I always have to take care of each other if one of us is sick. He replied,
"Mama, you were so sick when you had Kate, and Dada took care of you... Can we get a new baby now? ... Can we have 17 babies?"

"You're not the best mom actually, because you always say it's time to leave and it's NOT."

One day he told me his toy shark is named "narwhal zoom-zom finger-pop" and "he's a football player" and "he runs around all the goals."

"Mama, I love you more than the moon and stars. I love you more than kate or daddy. I love you the BEST." 😭

"I'm a frog who blessed the rains in Africa."

On All Saints Day, we were talking about all the different saints we could think of.
Me: there are four Saint Theresas. St Teresa of Avila, St Teresa of Calcutta, St Teresa Benedicta of the cross, and St Therese of the Little Flower.
Him: and one more!
Me: who??
Him: you!

Describing Kate:
"Aww, look at her little chubby hands!"

Randomly before Thanksgiving:
"Mama, tonight when we are sleeping, Santa is going to rise from the dead!"

"Mama, you are so pretty. You are more pretty than the moon and stars and PASTA!"

Once when Kate destroyed his train track:
"Kate, you are the wickedest and snares of the devil."
(He got that from the Saint Michael the Archangel prayer)

Describing Thanksgiving:
"First they were all England people. But the king wanted to put them in prison. So they went on a ship to the Indians, and then a big feast!"

While sharing his dinner with Kate:
“I gave the little walrus some meat!”

We walked past two cement mixers and he said:
“Thank you guys for your hard work making the sidewalk! Mama, I hope they are done soon so we can walk on it.”

"Mama, can you leave the keys in the car so I can drive myself to preschool tomorrow?”

He wanted his cousin to come over for a sleepover and said he wanted to share his pajamas with him.
Me: why can't he wear his own pajamas?
Him: because if you have a lot of pajamas, you should share them!
Me: who told you that?
Him: ... my Lord!

Me: What did you get me for Christmas?
Him, whispering and patting my arm: It’s a surpriiiiiise.

When Frank explained that he couldn't stay home from work and play:
"Tell your boss that Iggy said you should stay home today!"

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Homemade baby food hack / cheap food pouches

I wasn't quite sure what to call this hack since it makes my life easier in so many ways - it saves a ton of money, makes a cheap yet healthy snack for my toddler, AND allows my 8-month-old baby to feed herself!

My toddler pretty much lives on yogurt pouches, and now the baby eats (and loves!) them too. They're the ultimate on-the-go kid snack. But at $1 each, or more, those little suckers add up fast.

In an effort to save money on pouches, I bought some reusable food pouches a while ago. But I never knew what to fill them with. I wanted to recreate the flavors of the yogurt pouches my son loved, but making all the ingredients from scratch was daunting.

Until I thought of this. And now it's super easy!

Ready? Here goes:

1. Buy reusable food pouches (we have this set and it's perfect and look how cute! Don't forget the valve tops so your kids can't squirt them out and make a mess!)

2. Hit up your local Aldi for a giant tub of unsweetened applesauce and a giant tub of whole-milk vanilla yogurt. (You can also save even more by making vanilla yogurt in the crockpot - incredibly easy and delicious!)

3. Combine in blender. (OPTIONAL: Throw in some extra fruit/veggies like spinach, carrots, blueberries - whatever you have on hand. I used spinach and some leftover steamed carrots.)

4. Fill your food pouches...

5. Voila! The baby can feed herself. Also she can play with the pouch and top for approximately 45 minutes and buy you ample time to cook dinner. 😂

You can also go the old-fashioned route and spoon-feed her... but I prefer letting her feed herself. Saves so much time and she has a blast!

This stuff was really good, by the way. My toddler happily downed a pouch of it at the same time. I taste tested it too, and it was delicious!

Here's an official recipe if you want one. Note that these are estimates; I just eyeballed it. You can adjust ingredients to taste.

1 cup raw spinach
2/3 cup steamed carrots
2/3 cup applesauce
2/3 cup vanilla yogurt

This lazy method of making "homemade" baby food has been a game-changer for me. I hope it can be helpful to someone else! 😄

Monday, January 23, 2017

A few homeschool programs for preschool

Y'all know I love talking about education. Lately I've been researching various programs for homeschooling in the preschool years. There is a lot out there! I thought I might as well put what I've found together in one place.

I'll preface this by saying that we are actually planning to send my son to "real school" for preschool, because I want him to attend Montessori school for at least a year—I think it will form a good foundation for homeschooling. We found a local Montessori program that also offers Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, something that is a priority of mine for my kids. We haven't made a final decision but it's very tempting. After a year of preschool, we plan to homeschool from kindergarten on up.

First, you've got to read this article, 6 Ways to Early Years You Won't Regret. I kind of want to memorize it, maybe tattoo it to my arm. I'm often tempted to start pushing academic stuff, but my son is TWO. No need for that yet. This article is a much-needed reminder to just enjoy this time together ... and do lots of reading aloud.

These are the programs I've found so far. I know I must be missing some—please share any others in the comments!

A few friends have recommended The Homegrown Preschooler, which seems to be pretty simple and play-based. Good stuff.

The Joy School program is great if you have a few neighborhood friends interested in doing a little homeschool co-op. It's non-denominational but vaguely Christian, and seems intended to offer preparation for going to "real school" down the road.

Five in a Row is a program based on reading aloud children's literature. It looks like a lot of fun, to be honest, and I look forward to exploring it more closely.

For a slightly older crowd...

Mother of Divine Grace is a classical, more traditional, Catholic program. It seems comprehensive and rigorous, and I think we may use this program when we start homeschooling, although I haven't done enough research to say that for sure yet.

The Kolbe Academy program is also classical and Catholic, and I'm not actually sure how it differs from MODG. Clearly I need to do more research on that. Fortunately I have time.

What are your favorite resources for beginning to homeschool in the early years? I'd love to hear what else is out there!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Introducing our girl

Catherine Rose was born on Halloween. I'm going to have to start figuring out how to handle a Halloween birthday party from now on! She goes by many nicknames, mostly Kate or Katie Rose. She is the sweetest, squishiest little person and makes us all so happy.

Photos thanks to my dear friend Giedre of Walking Dot Photography

Matching kimonos thanks to my sister Catherine, our little Catherine's godmother. She's rocking the fairy godmother role already!

The new big brother and cousin trying to help burp the baby  - cracks me up!

About the birth... I tried to have a VBAC with a very supportive midwife group, but despite another horrible, long labor with a posterior baby, I ended up with another c-section. Eventually I will blog the birth story. Not yet. It's too soon. I'm heartbroken that I had to have another c-section. But I'm completely in love with my darling baby and so grateful she is here, safe and sound.