'Muff'in Dome

Category Archives: Education

Monterey Bay : Homeschool-Style

school of fish

Our trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium is turning into an annual tradition. My mother, the savvy homeschooler of 25 years and counting, knows the ins-and-outs of just about every field trip offered in California and set us up for a visit again this year. The Aquarium offers a series of homeschool days where admission is free {a HUGE steal when tickets are normally in the $30-$40 range}, but you have to reserve tickets months in advance. We settled on the beginning of January back, I think, in September, hoping for the best, that nothing pressing would pop up and derail our trip. My girls barely made it after fighting a horrible cold for the two weeks prior.

We extended our trip an extra day this year, arriving two days before so we could settle in and explore more things. It just makes sense when you’re driving 3 hours+ to make the most of it.

wading Raphy

We stayed in the quaint town of Carmel {my favorite place on earth}. We were sad to find our favorite breakfast place still on holiday so we settled on Friar Tucks for a quick bite to eat. Lucie had her first experience with a Bumbo seat. I believe these things are supposed to be secure in holding children inside but she kept attempting to test the limits.

L in bumbo

We attended Mass at the Carmel Mission from the very last pew in the church. Evelyn switched between relatives’ laps every 5.6 seconds and asked to see the fountains outside which she could easily spot from any seat. Lucie didn’t try too hard to sing with the choir which was fortunate as the acoustics were quite wonderful. We toured the grounds after Mass, making sure to stop at each fountain for a viewing.

at the fountain

fountains!

Carmel facade

from the fountain

cross at Carmel

details at Carmel

courtyard at Carmel

succulents

Bl Junipero Serra

{Sidenote: Did you hear this guy ^^ is going to be a saint come September?? So exciting!!}

The afternoon was spent resting and the evening with college friends of mine who live in Pacific Grove. I, sadly, didn’t capture any photos while we were there but the girls had a blast playing with their girls and the children of another family that was over. The adults were definitely outnumbered. 🙂

On Aquarium day, we headed to Monterey early to meet Aunt Teresa and the girls’ cousins at Dennis the Menace Park. If you are ever in town with children, this place is a must. I still have very fond memories of exploring it as a child. {Although, they closed down one of the main attractions — an old locomotive for exploring — due to safety issues. Sometimes these mandated safety regulations are just over the top. Let kids be kids.}

swinging at Dennis the Menace

flying high

lulu

green slides

sand play

more sand play

over the arch

sliding with Uncle Raphy

Teresa and Rosie sliding

kisses at the bottom

racing to the top

cousin love

Owen climbs

train at Dennis the Menace

After grabbing a quick bite for lunch, we showed up on time for our 12:30 entrance to the Aquarium. We got there just in time for feeding time with the divers. They were hand feeding squid to some of the larger fish in the tank. {Made me squirm — I don’t like slimy cephalopods.} The kelp forest was captivating.

underwater

feeding time

Aaaand I definitely got photo-bombed by a shark.

shark photo bomb

Highlights of the day included a wetlands viewing, petting mantarays, standing inside of the ocean waves, a visit to the ocean depths, and watching the sea otters receive their dinner.

sea anemones

sanddollar forest

starfish

 

wetlands viewing

underwater

L and mama at the bay

We finished off the day indulging in chocolate treats at Ghirardelli just down the road.

ice cream!

so big

Our day of departure dawned sunny and bright. We planned on a quick trip to the beach which turned into several hours. But how could you not with a day so gorgeous and DOLPHINS entertaining us with the jumps and flips?? Plus, Lucie had to get in some exercise. 😉

at Carmel beach

digging in the sand

push ups!

wading Raphy

Look carefully at the waves in the next three shots. You can spot dolphins “surfing” the waves! {Sorry for the half-naked man in these shots — he and the surfer were out there with their go-pros trying to catch a few great pics. ;)}

dolphins!

dolphins!

dolphins!

dolphins!

A few more souvenirs in the bag {including some expensive diapers because mama can’t count well when packing} and we were off to Mission San Juan Bautista so Uncle Raphy could get in a viewing for a school paper he is supposed to write. We captured the gorgeous sunset there.

San Juan Bautista sunset

Mission San Juan Bautista at dusk

gang at San Juan Bautista

An alternative route up I-5 was necessary so we could stop at Pea Soup Andersens for supper. {If you’re not a fan of split pea soup, this place will make you change your mind.}

pea soup

Somehow, we made it home before ten and quickly, sleepily all crawled into bed. And I wish I could say slept soundly through the night, but certain ones of us haven’t mastered that skill yet. 😉

Books I Read in 2014 and Books to Read in 2015

readtilyoudrop

{I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.}

Read ’til you drop. That’s my motto and, apparently, I’ve  instilled it well in my daughter too. When I went in search of the books I had read this year to write this post, I was rather surprised at the number I got through. Then, I realized that most were read while I was sitting hugely pregnant with my second and I haven’t read much since then. So we’ll see how many I can actually get through this year. I have high hopes.

Read in 2014:

Novels

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty – I picked this up because What Alice Forgot wasn’t available yet at the library. A quick read and definitely justifies why it vitally important that one is open and honest with one’s spouse.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty – An interesting, quick-read novel about a woman who wakes up having forgotten the past 10 years of her life. Makes you think: Would you go back and do it differently?

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – The topic of assisted suicide has been greatly discussed this year with Brittany Maynard’s social media presence about her decision to end her life. This novel addresses that topic on the side of pro.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – I loved her book, The Secret Life of Bees, so picked this up to read. I didn’t realize until later that this is work of historical fiction based on the life of Sarah Grimke. Interweaving the lives of a slave girl and her owner, it addresses the struggle for the ending of slavery and the abolition movement. Still not sure if I liked this one or her previous one better.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – This may be a young adult book but it was one of the best I read all year. Dealing with those facing serious illness as young people, it emphasizes the hope and joy that can still be found in this life even when you know your time {or the time of one you love} is short.

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls – I, honestly, had to peek at the plot again as I couldn’t quite remember what this one was about. {Although, I think I read it in January so it’s been a while.} It’s a story of overcoming adversity and understanding how to cope and thrive despite the shortcomings of others in your life that negatively affect you. It was good, but not a favorite.

Historical

Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves by Jason Evert – This is a beautiful reflection on the life of our late and great pope. It is incredible all he did and the influence he had the years God gave him on this earth. Definitely recommend.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown – A fantastic telling of this amazing crew from Washington. Historical tales can be dry but this one certainly wasn’t. Particularly good for those who have done crew themselves.

Paris by Edward Rutherfurd – This book was fun for this Francophile. It tells the story of fictional characters in the settings of historical events that happened in Paris over the years. Well-woven tale by the author.

Parenting/Education

Don’t Move the Muffin Tins: A Hands-Off Guide to Art for the Young Child by Bev Bos – Great ideas for hands-on projects with young children using things you probably already have in your home.

1,2,3…The Toddler Years: A Practical Guide for Parents and Caregivers by Irene Van Der Zande – Picked this up after having it recommended for dealing with toddler independence but didn’t find it particularly helpful.

Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin – Read this before giving birth to my second and I am convinced it drastically helped me get through labor with its pain management recommendations. Highly recommended especially if you are aiming to achieve a medicine-free birth.

Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen – This was helpful for gathering ideas in how to educate without being didactic. I love Montesorri’s method and am hoping to incorporate it into our home education.

The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home by Leila Lawler and David Clayton – Although I haven’t done much to implement what I’ve learned {that comes in 2015!}, this book has been revolutionary for me in considering how to bring Christ more into my home and life. Check out Leila’s blog with her daughters for more practical tips on running a Christ-centered home.

Self/Home/Family Improvement

The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith – This isn’t exactly a didactic how to make your nest, but more a philosophy behind how to make your house a home even if you don’t have much money to make it happen. The author has mostly lived in rentals and has moved often so it was great to hear how and why it’s important even if it isn’t your place and you won’t be residing there for long.

Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Everyday Life by Gretchen Rubin – Another fun one by the author of The Happiness Project. She gives a lot of insight in ways to better improve your quality of life just by slight changes in attitude and habits.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg – Discovered this one through Anne of Modern Mrs. Darcy and loved it. The book describes so well how habits are formed and how forming habits as a leader in those we lead can have great {or disastrous} consequences.

Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Tsh Oxenreider – I love Tsh’s blog so this was a must-read. Her experiences attempting to live simply in an ever-increasing complex world are both refreshing and inspiring.

Just Married: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Five Years of Marriage by Greg and Lisa Popcak – I read this first on my own and then Steve and I were working through it together. Really helpful in cementing your relationship on a firm foundation in the first few years. {And a good refresher later on.}

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell – I love Gladwell’s books and this one was no different. This book addresses how the sufferings and obstacles in this life can ultimately be great blessings when faced properly.

Memoirs

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen – Middle-aged memoir of the author. Probably more appropriate for someone in that age group, but good to read of things she would have done differently as a young woman.

Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Nequist – Food memoirs are my favorite. So many special moments happen gathered around the table. The author shares some of her family’s memories connected to food and a collection of great recipes. For every woman who loves to love her family with food.

Cookbooks

One Pot: 120+ Easy Meals from Your Skillet, Slow Cooker, Stockpot and More by Editors of Martha Stewart Living – We’re all about efficiency around here most days getting meals on the table so this book which tells how to get it all into one pot was a must. I’ve only done one recipe {and loved it} but I have quite a few others dog-eared for later.

Whole Grain Mornings: New Breakfast Recipes to Span the Seasons by Megan Gordon – With several {maybe all} suffering from hypoglycemia in this household, having breakfast meals that have long staying power are essential. This has been a great resource for adding new recipes to the morning {and evening because who doesn’t like breakfast for dinner?}. The author has a great blog too.

 

Hoping To Read in 2015:

Novels

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Historical

The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough

Parenting/Education

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen

The Temperament God Gave Your Kids by Art Bennett

A Homemade Year by Jerusalem Jackson Greer

Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting by Laura Kelly Fanucci

The Homegrown Preschooler: Teaching Your Kids in the Places They Live by Kathy H. Lee

Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising Almost Perfect Kids by Gregory K. Popcak and Lisa Popcak

Self/Home/Family Improvement

Small Victories: Spotting Improbably Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott

Open Heart, Open Home: The Hospitable Way to Make Others Feel Welcome and Wanted by Karen Burton Mains

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman

Memoirs

Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulweiler

Cookbooks

Homemade Decadence by Joy Wilson {Joy the Baker}

Delancey by Molly Wizenburg

Make It Ahead by Ina Garten

Date Night In: More Than 120 Recipes to Nourish Your Relationship by Ashley Rodriguez

The Kitchn Cookbook: Recipes, Kitchens and Tips to Inspire Your Cooking by Sara Kate Gillingham and Faith Durand

Creativity

Hand-Lettering Ledger: A Practical Guide to Creating Serif, Script, Illustrated, Ornate and Other Totally Original Hand-Drawn Styles by Mary Kate McDevitt

Weekend Sewing: More Than 40 Projects and Ideas for Inspired Stitching by Heather Ross

Gifted: Lovely Little Things to Knit and Crochet by Mags Kandis

What to Knit When You are Expecting by Nikki Van De Car

 

What’s on your list for the coming year? I would love your recommendations!

 

 

This post contains affiliate links. By clicking on them, you provide me with a teensy-weensy bit of income that might mean I can read a few more books. Thanks for your support!

Museum Exploration with Young Children

painting details

Visiting museums with young ones can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. With a little planning and prepping, the visit can go well and you might actually enjoy yourself too!

legion of honor painting

A couple weeks ago, we accompanied Steve on the train down to Sacramento for the day, so that we could visit the Crocker Art Museum downtown. {Stay tuned tomorrow for a special guest post from a friend of mine on how to travel by train with young children!}

on train with daddy

with mommy on train

I had done my research and discovered that they do a special, hands-on toddler art class called Artful Tot {and others different days for older kids} on the first Tuesday of every month. Evelyn is beginning to enjoy the crafting process so I signed us up to go.

out the window

We arrived about an hour early in order to explore the artwork before class started. We meandered through the galleries taking time to stop at a few favorites along the way and discuss what we were seeing. Evelyn talked to me about what colors she predominately saw in certain paintings and what objects were depicted in statues.

look!

so many colors

She even took a few moments while I stopped to nurse Lucie to discuss with Pooh Bear the finer points of art viewing. 😉

Pooh museum tour

The toddler art class was fantastic! They had five different projects going at once which the kids could switch between at their own speed. Evelyn’s favorites were rolling and stamping playdough with various stamps and painting with a large dot brush.

dot art

stamping playdough

spilling the beans

We also encountered glue for the first time, and she was confused as to why it didn’t work like stickers after it dried {i.e. you couldn’t replace it once you removed it}.

gluing

We stopped in the courtyard for a snack after class before making the trek to Steve’s workplace to meet him for lunch. All in all, I believe we spent about two hours at the museum, a sufficient amount of time to explore much but not get overwhelmed.

 

baby and art

To recap, some quick tips to help you enjoy a museum visit with your young children:

  • Spend some time beforehand doing research on what to expect when you’re there. Grab a map at the front to figure out where bathroom and rest stops can occur. Tickets are often free or deeply discounted for young children.
  • Take advantage of children’s programs at the museum. This includes literature. They had a great pamphlet at the Crocker that explained how to enjoy the artwork with children as young as Lucie’s age!
  • Bring snacks and take frequent breaks so children (and you!) don’t overtire. Make sure to do it in an area designated for food, though, if you’ll be eating and/or drinking. {They frown upon that in the galleries.}
  • Discuss what you are seeing with your child. Engage them in the works. Don’t do this with every one or you will burn out quickly, but stop when they show some interest or point out something in one that you know will be of interest to them.
  • Bring a stroller, if they are allowed {check because sometimes they’re not} or a baby carrier or wrap. You can’t back carry with little ones for fear they might damage paintings inadvertently, but you can do front carrys. I swapped the girls back and forth between a stroller and Ergo. {I explored the Getty Museum with Evey when she was about two months old for half a day, carrying her in the Ergo, and it went splendidly.}
  • But most of all…ENJOY! 🙂

painting

Where I’ve Been!

 

DSC_0008Laurel has written the past eight posts. It’s my turn! I’ve obviously been absentee from the blog, but thankfully, I haven’t been absentee from my family. Instead of writing posts, I have been spending a lot of my time in the evenings watching Evelyn try to roll over, babbling long stories to me, and my favorite, playing peekaboo.

DSC_0010

It’s quite funny since she’s just starting to react to it, and hasn’t really grasped the concept yet. I’ll say, “peekaboo!” and she’ll get a big grin, which would otherwise be a toothy grin, had she any teeth. Then, she turns away with a shy little look on her face. It’s so cute! Right now, Laurel is doing a fantastic job taking care of her, but she’s a little fussy (I mean Evelyn, not Laurel).

DSC_0007

I’ve also been busy with something else. It’s the reason we went down to Los Angeles recently. I am in the Masters of Public Administration program at the University of Southern California! Fight on! For those who are not familiar with what this degree is, it helps train government or nonprofit executives. Further, it helps with policy analysis and its implementation.

usc

Many lobbyists, management consultants, and public relations professionals also get this degree. It is, in my opinion, the most valuable degree for those interested in politics. This will play nicely with my law degree, and so will the fact that USC is in the top 10 Masters of Public Administration programs in the nation. While I’m taking my classes online, USC has a satellite campus in Sacramento, which I’m sure will be useful. Their alumni network is strong here, and I’ve already made contact with many of them!

 

 

Turning the Page!

Laurel is still carrying the baby, but this time, IN HER ARMS! On November 9th, Laurel gave birth to a beautiful 7-pound-11-ounce, 20-and-a-half-inch Evelyn Rose Muff. It’s been a while since the last post, but now you know why. The tiny little girl made us both too exhausted to write, but what a blessing! I am finally regaining enough energy to communicate and attempting to return to work tomorrow.

We chose the name Evelyn because it’s the name of one of my all-time favorite people. My grandmother. Evelyn Pervier passed away last year after a long struggle. Before the health issues arose, she was the funniest woman, full of spunk and life. Let me tell you – our little Evelyn is probably going to be quite similar! This will be a grand adventure and Laurel and I are looking forward to every minute.

What a whirlwind! After all that, in short, Laurel and I are doing well. God has blessed us abundantly and we have much to be thankful for this season other than turkey and pumpkin pie.

%d bloggers like this: