Monday, December 31, 2007

last day of the year

I think 2006 needs to be crammed in a jar with a tight fitting lid, put up high on a shelf and never be opened again. Today seemed to sum up my past year. I cleaned up cat vomit off the carpet early this morning, since even Iams Digestive Care does not seem to eliminate the kitty's tummy issues. While we were doing school, the middle kids broke Mary's new dollhouse rocking chair (fixed now with a little wood glue), wrote on the door, and emptied several boxes of puzzle pieces on the floor. Later, when I went to the store I lost Charlie within minutes of walking in the door. I frantically flagged down an employee, "My 3 year old is missing!" He apparently decided to stroll to the other end of the store while I was distracted by the grapefruit display. Luckily, a nice cashier followed him on his trek and brought him back.

"Hey, don't forget all the good things that happened this year!" a little voice sings. Mary did make her First Holy Communion, Timmy did learn to walk, Charlie sort of learned to use the potty (we are back to bribing with chocolate chips, but it seems to be working), we had a great time up in Maine, and our house sold right before the housing market fell flat. We moved to a new place, free of ghosts of the past and we have settled into a routine of sorts. But in general, it has been a pretty tough year and I am glad it ends today.

May 2008 be a better year for all of us!

its raining, its pouring!

North Carolina has been suffering from a 100 year drought, in fact, I think I can count the number of times it has rained since we moved here on one hand. The cities and counties in our neck of the woods have been counting down the number of days before the taps would go dry, on Christmas it was down to 90 days.

Yes, I know we use a lot of water, I run the dishwasher and wash 2 loads of laundry every day, plus daily bathing for 7. We are not the most conservative folks on the planet when it comes to water, but we try not to waste it either. We have been trying not to flush the potty quite so often, but Timmy has just discovered how much fun it is to flush and watch the water swirl down. I have been trying to remind the children not to let the water run when they are brushing their teeth, but now every time Tim runs the faucet for more than 1 minute the children holler, "Turn that off, don't you know we are having a drought?"

"But dear, isn't it nice to know the children are listening?"

Yesterday it rained all day, a steady patter than likely put us back over the 100 day mark. We took the opportunity to watch movies, my selections this time, since I have already had to suffer through all 3 original Star Wars movies that Will unwrapped on Christmas morning. Pride and Prejudice is not quite so romantic when every scene is interrupted by "that's a big horse," "who is that again?," "Charlie stop playing with the xylophone!," and seeing a toddler's head bouncing in front of the screen every 10 minutes. But I enjoyed my film and I think the rest of them, except Will, liked seeing something that was light saber, star ship, and alien free.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

recession? inflation? deflation?

Tim has been reading a lot in the last 6 months or so about the financial health of our country and our dinner conversations have used a lot of words like bullion, hyper-inflation, sub-prime lenders, the gold standard (thought up by Sir Isaac Newton), and debt. Fewer economists are thinking that the economy will remain the same as it has been. Likely something bad is going to happen, but we don't really know what that entails. More frequently are news articles popping up stating the same, including this one:

New-Home Sales Plunge to Lowest Level in More Than 12 Years, Heighten Recession Fears

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The housing market plunged deeper into despair last month, with sales of new homes plummeting to their lowest level in more than 12 years.

"I think you can classify what we are seeing in the housing market as a crash," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "Sales and home prices are in a free fall. The downturn is intensifying."

Would-be home buyers have found it more difficult to secure financing, especially for "jumbo" mortgages -- those exceeding $417,000. The tighter credit situation is deepening the housing slump. Unsold homes have piled up, which will force builders to cut back even more on construction and look for ways to sweeten the pot to lure prospective buyers.

Foreclosures have soared to record highs and probably will keep rising. A drop in home prices left some people stuck with balances on their home mortgages that eclipsed the worth of their home. Other home buyers were clobbered as low introductory rates on their mortgages jumped to much higher rates, which they couldn't afford.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan recently warned that the economy is "getting close to stall speed." The big worry is that the housing and credit troubles will force individuals to cut back on spending and businesses to cut back on hiring and capital investment, throwing the economy into a tailspin.

The most important thing you can do to prepare is reduce the amount of debt you owe. If money becomes worth less than it is today than large debt will become insurmountable, and if jobs become scarce than it is better to be as unencumbered as possible. Just like a smart coastal homeowner buys extra batteries and has an evacuation plan ready during hurricane season, the smart citizen of today will batten down the hatches of his finances for the likely on-coming storm.

Friday, December 28, 2007

self teaching

On a recent trip to the library Will found a book entitled How to Be the Best in Everything, which seems to be another version of several "how to be a boy" books which are very popular right now. Of course, if more boys were allowed to be rambunctious and daring, doing dangerous stuff with their friends and dads, instead of being surrounded by women and abandoned by their Peter Pan fathers, these books wouldn't be so needed. However, Will did learn in 2 tries how to knot a tie after following the simple instructions and graphics given. Since I have no knowledge of tie tying, being a girl, I am glad that I escaped the fate of having to teach this subject. Luckily I don't now have to go out and purchase said tie, because we found one when we went to Mother's a few weeks back. In the same box was an old pleated skirt in the same MacKenzie plaid and Mary wore it to Christmas Day Mass. The two of them looked so cute in my brother's and my old clothes that I had an emotional moment.

I think it is great that he can now do this and will likely teach his brothers many years in the future. I do have a funny feeling though that our slowpoke Will just got a new excuse to be the last one out the door on the way to Mass. After all, it takes a couple more tries to get a tie to look just right than just clipping one on. I really am impressed by his new ability, I guess that is the next phase of parenting: having your child know something you don't, I just didn't expect it at 9.

Carnival of Homeschooling

The 104th edition is being hosted by po moyemu.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

gifts and learning

When you homeschool, it is easy to put educational gifts under the tree. There are no comparisons around the lunch table, "Hey, I got a new Wii and 800 music downloads for my Ipod. What'd you get?"
"Uhhh, I got some books and a science kit."
"Boy, you are such a loser!"

No, in homeschooling circles a see-through model of a car engine and a handful of Mad-Libs is enough to earn rave reviews in the 10 year old boy crowd. An American Girl doll is something to ooooh and aaah over, rather than a condescending, "I got makeup and new clothes. When are you going to grow up and stop playing with baby toys?"

Our top play with right-away gifts this year:

Will: architect kit, halogen bulb nightlight for reading (doubles as a pretend cell phone), wooden kit of a dinosaur skeleton (I found this several years ago at the thrift shop for .45)
Mary: American Girl Nikki doll, horse plaster mold and painting kit
Maggie: American Girl Samantha doll, horse painting kit
Charlie: 4 John Deere tractors, Usborne Puzzle books
Timmy: new wagon in John Deere colors with huge rubber wheels

The children were given lovely things by their aunties and granpa, it was truly the year of the horse and tractor. I think all of us wish we were celebrating Christmas on the farm in Maine with real horses in the fields and a tractor in the machinery shed, but the toys are a good substitute for the time being.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

singing carols

I have always carried around in my head a nostalgic scene of Christmas, a family standing around a piano singing Christmas carols. Everyone is well dressed, cheerful, and participating. Well, after 3 years of piano lessons we have achieved a semblance of my vision, but just missing a few things, such as everyone being well dressed and cheerful. Will and Mary can each play about 5 carols so they are holding games with their friends, "Hey, guess what Christmas song this is!" Out comes a garbled variation of Jingle Bells, Good King Wenceslas, or Away in a Manger played so fast Alvin and the Chipmunks couldn't keep up.

Today we are baking ginger cookies and reading stories, playing the piano (slow down!), and anticipating opening our gifts. However, I have tried this year, as I have in the past to slow down our activity and anticipate the Lord's coming. Join with me this day and week in welcoming friends and family into our midst, and joyfully praising the coming of our precious newborn King.

God Bless and Merry Christmas to you all!

Friday, December 21, 2007

school is out!

Today was our last school day, but the poor little children will only get 1 week off before it is back to the grindstone. Even with a bit of time off we will still have piano practice and be working on Will's book report. I feel that school needs to be finished before we move, otherwise it will never get done.

Currently we are on week 15, but we might soon slow the pace down a bit. Last week, the local homeschool group's Christmas party was hosted by one of the moms and as she showed off her son's ultra-organized Lego Technic studio, I thought, "Will would just love this." Well, she is teaching a class Exploring Simple Machines, one of a multitude of Friday enrichment classes offered by the group. Mary, the little artist, got all excited when I told her about the Drawing for Fun class. The other two classes I am looking into are Essentials of Physics 1 for Will and Mad Science for Mary.

I have never signed up for co-op classes before so I am looking forward to hanging out with other homeschool moms as well as have the kids learn some science.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

but I brush!

Yesterday Will, Mary, and I headed over to the dentist's office for our bi-annual checkup. While the little kid's visit was uneventful, I knew that this trip was going to involve a big $$ referral. Every 6 months we would go to our family friendly dentist who would say, "Will is going to need to see an orthodontist and soon." Well, now Mary has developed the same severe crossbite from her Daddy (not me!) and they recommended them seeing someone now, rather than waiting 6 months until we move. Then the big boom hit,

I have a cavity.

Me, who brushes more than everyone else put together, who buys 5 different toothpastes, who coaches the children how to brush, and lines up the brushes on the sink so I know who has brushed their teeth. I got the cavity.

On the bright side, I would rather it be me than one of the kids undergoing the dreadful dentist drill.

Now, go brush your teeth.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

women don't need more clothes

I don't know the state of other women's closets, but from watching several episodes of Home and Garden shows where they TV staff purges mountains of stuff from people's homes, I think we might have finally realized that we have enough stuff in our dresser drawers.

I have never understood the fascination with being "in fashion" after spending my hard-earned money in high school for a yellow neon sweatshirt so I could be like everyone else, only to find 2 months later that the exact same item was passe and had to be thrown away. I learned my lesson and have since stuck with classic dress clothes such as wool skirts and sweaters, cotton Liberty of London type summer skirts, and jeans and t shirts for casual wear. I buy almost all my clothes at thrift stores and can't recall the last time I went to the mall.

From high-end dresses to bargain coats, spending on women’s apparel dropped nearly 6 percent during the first half of the Christmas season, compared with the same period last year...
Analysts blamed a rough economy, which has discouraged women — and mothers, in particular — from splurging on clothing for themselves and a lack of compelling fashions this winter.

Even high-end women’s apparel companies like Coach have warned of a slowdown because of higher energy costs, a tight credit market and slipping home prices.
John D. Morris, senior retail analyst at
Wachovia Securities, said that with less money to spend on gifts for their families, mothers “pull back on spending for themselves first.” New York Times.

It is refreshing to see an article mention sacrifice, especially for one's own children. After all, gifts for others is much more important than splurging on yourself, unless you are giving up buying yourself new undies so you can by Junior the latest Wii component.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Carnival of Homeschooling

The 103rd edition is up at The Common Room.

a phonics lesson

Yesterday, while I was instructing Will on the rules of -y endings, Maggie was coloring Joseph's coat many colors, and Mary was making many cursive Xs. There are 3 rules: if a word ends in 1 -l, then double the -l before adding -y, if a word ends in silent -e, drop the -e before adding -y, otherwise just add -y. After changing a list of words, he had to use those words to fill in the blanks in sentences. He was having a hard time because some of the words were not commonly used in our home, eyes getting misty, stuff like that, so I was reading them aloud to help a bit. Then we got to this sentence, "Catholic families should be ______ when they shop for clothes."

Maggie hollered out, "Quiet!"

I started laughing so hard my eyes got misty. She does listen to my instructions when we go into stores!

The answer was supposed to be thrifty. Catholic families should be thrifty when they shop for clothes. That topic is on deck for tomorrow's post.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

How homeschool friendly is Mike Huckabee?

While so far I am an undecided voter, I am following the 2008 presidential contests very closely. This past week Mike Huckabee has come out saying he should be the favorite among homeschoolers. I have read some quotes from homeschoolers saying, "We can trust him to do what is right."


I am very leery of this candidate, he doesn't seem to understand American feelings on immigration and another reason frankly, is his religion. He seems to think that as a Southern Baptist minister that he speaks for all Christians. Likely he thinks that all homeschoolers are evangelical types as well, not taking into account our wide diversity. I also question his support of homeschooling with his 1999 signing of a bill limiting freedom for parents in Arkansas.

The enactment of House Bill 1724 on April 5, 1999, gives Arkansas the unique distinction of becoming the first state in the nation to add restrictions to its existing home school law. ...the new law, among other things, establishes notification deadlines and imposes a 14-day waiting period before parents are allowed to withdraw their children from public school to begin home schooling mid-semester.

While I understand the legislators were up against the big bad public school union lobby, there is no excuse for the governor signing any legislation that restricts homeschooling to appease its foes. We have learned well over the past 40 years that liberals will use any means to further destroy the institutions that are pro-family and pro-morality in our country. They want to recreate our nation in their image and giving any ground only emboldens them. The liberals are like terrorists, any sign of weakness or capitulation gives them more strength and resolve. Huckabee should know this and if he is this weak on a simple issue like homeschooling, then what will he be like in international politics?

edited to add:
Here is a very well written and researched essay on the presidential candidates and their ideas about homeschooling.
Here is another article about Huckabee and reasons why I don't trust him one little bit.
Here is another article about Huckabee's endorsement by the NEA.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Carnival of Homeschooling

Seeking Rests in the Ancient Paths is hosting the Carnival of Homeschooling this week.

lowering standards

I like to think of our school as an affordable college prep school. Will and Mary both diagram sentences, write book reports, memorize their math facts, learn about chemistry and astronomy, and read much of the day. Practical skills are covered as well, this morning Will is making Christmas cookies all by himself. While they don't enthusiastically rush to their schoolbooks each morning, they will do extra work for fun and help the younger children learn their letters and colors. The curriculum reminds Tim of his elementary school years at good old St. Paul's. In addition, I have high standards because I am responsible for teaching them and they are responsible for learning. There is little room for blaming someone when the teacher is also the parent. Failure is not an option.

After teaching for a few years in the public school system I refused to put our children in that atmosphere of apathy and general stupidity. (and that was among the staff) Few children are encouraged to do their best and many otherwise smart kids are told to suppress their talents to fit in with their peers. This article gives us a hint of the racist and economic prejudices of the administration that wants to dumb down the material so more children will pass the tests while not expecting them to work any harder. The attitude of blaming someone else, usually parents, is very common in the public schools.

"If you are not passing more than 65 percent of your students in a class, then you are not designing your expectations to meet their abilities, and you are setting your students up for failure, which, in turn, limits your success as a professional. Most of our students come from the lowest third percentile in academic achievement, have difficult home lives, and struggle with life in general. They DO NOT have a similar upbringing nor a similar school experience to our experiences growing up."

If you read between the lines it says: Our little minority students are too stupid to get good grades. They have parents who just don't care and so that lets us off the hook in terms of educating them. They are doomed to a miserable life.

Excuse me? Many studies have shown that parochial schools, given the exact same students, can turn out educated children. Many children who were deemed hopeless and in need of special services have been pulled out of the schools by their parents and excelled in homeschooling.

Public school creates its own failure by its existence: low expectations combined with an environment which stifles excellence leads to 65%+ failure rates. If I could say something to these parents it would be, "Pull your kids out of these schools that are failing your children. Pull them away from evil and destructive influences and fill their minds with good things." This may be difficult or almost impossible for many parents to do, but I find it hard to believe that a loving parent could do a worse job than the schools which assumes so little responsibility.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

its beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Not outside though, the forecast is for a high of 75 and sunny, but inside we are baking, making the Lionel trains go around the track, and listening to Christmas music. Today is the second day of Christmas cookie baking for gifts with a few doled out to children who beg so sweetly, like Will yesterday evening, "My mouth is just watering looking at the lemon bars Mommy. Pleeeease may I have just one teeny-tiny piece?"

Only a few snags, I have already once run out of sugar, and this morning I must return to the store for eggs to make more chocolate crinkles. My deadline is this afternoon to get them all in the mail to the aunties. Good thing Harris Teeter is only a mile down the road.

Delicate lemon squares

bottom layer:
1 stick butter
1 cup flour
1/4 cup confectioners sugar

mix together and pat into 9x13 pan. bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.

top layer:
1 cup sugar
2 T flour
1/4 t baking powder
2 eggs
4 T lemon juice

combine and pour over baked bottom layer. bake another 20 minutes. while warm sprinkle with confectioners sugar. cool and cut into 2" squares.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Carnival of Homeschooling

Is up at Dewey's Treehouse.

paying for excess children

I knew that it was only a matter of time before those in the global warming crowd clamored for the elimination of people from the planet, because we are destroying it. But it didn't surprise me that one of the proponents of this is an obsterician. It is exactly like the push for abortion rights from the National Education Association, there is a mental inbalance present of wanting to kill your patients or students.

First there has been the gradual acceptance of artificial birth control and abortion, now some professors are calling for fining parents who have more than the acceptable 2 children. What next? Making those 3rd and 4th children illegal, like in the children's novel Among the Hidden?

"Professor Walters, clinical associate professor of obstetric medicine at the University of Western Australia and the King Edward Memorial Hospital in Perth, called for condoms and "greenhouse-friendly" services such as sterilisation procedures to earn carbon credits.
And he implied the Federal Government should ditch the $4133 baby bonus and consider population controls like those in China and India.
"Every newborn baby in Australia represents a potent source of greenhouse gas emissions for an average of 80 years, not simply by breathing but by the profligate consumption of resources typical of our society," he wrote.

I do like the response of this sensible lady:

Australian Family Association spokeswoman Angela Conway said it was ridiculous to blame babies for global warming.
"I think self-important professors with silly ideas should have to pay carbon tax for all the hot air they create," she said. "There's masses of evidence to say that child-rich families have much lower resource consumption per head than other styles of households."

Sunday, December 09, 2007

drippy drawers

Supposedly Charlie was potty trained this past summer up in Maine, right after he turned 3. However, a great deal of the training was on my part, remembering every 20 minutes throughout the day to bark, "Charlie-go potty!" and swing him up onto the toilet. Despite all this he has been wetting his pants at least once a day, usually only seconds after he squeaks, "I gotta go." He has wet in stores, outside, and this past Friday wet his pants a record 7 times before bedtime. With all of Saturday's activities I decided to put him in a Pull-Up and found that he only dampened them once the whole day. Sunday Mass I tried the diapers again and was surprised again at his dry state most of the day.

It is such a relief to not be in hyper-vigilant mode about urinary issues that I am considering sticking him back in diapers for a few weeks or months. None of the older children had accident after accident, in fact Will was trained in 3 days. The girls were both about 3 as well, and while I recall some nasty scenes out with Maggie, within a few months they were both good to go. I worry about Mary on the other scale, she can go 5 hours without needing to go potty, maybe she got the lifeboat size bladder while Charlie got the teacup size.

All this goes to show me that I learned the perfect way to raise children before I gave birth, learned that each child is different after the 3rd kid, and realize that I know nothing about rearing children now that I have 5. Perhaps I will be reinstated with expert status if/when we have a 6th child, but somehow I feel that that baby would throw me for a loop too!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

whew! what a day!

A few weeks back I filled in our social calender with a Christmas parade on Saturday morning and Will and Mary's piano recital on Sunday afternoon. However, 1 week ago I found out that the recital was changed to Saturday as well. I learned early in this parenting gig that I can usually only handle one event per day, especially with toddlers in tow.

I waffled for days, until 8 am this morning whether we were going to let Will ride on the Cub Scout float and let Mary walk with the Brownies in the parade or we were going to skip the whole traffic, filling diaper bags, finding bathrooms in strange towns thing. Well, I'm glad we all went 'cause the kids were good and the parade was pretty impressive with 3 bands, antique cars, more scouts than you can shake a stick at, and loads of candy.

We had just enough time for lunch and to change into nice clothes before we piled back into the van to head out to the recital. Tim had to hold Timmy in the hallway most of the 90 minutes, Charlie and Maggie quietly munched on cookies for the last 30 minutes, but it was a beautiful recital. The children ranged from a Kindergartner to high school seniors, and while there were mistakes, parts forgotten, and shy performers, it was lovely to hear both the perfect and the errors. It showed the children that if they practice enough and have the drive they can play Moonlight Sonata, and that they are doing well compared to children their age. We are going to continue the increased practice times we have been insisting on and perhaps one day we will hear our children play beautiful classical pieces by Mozart and Beethoven.

Timmy is napping soundly and the celebratory Mexican restaurant dinner might have to be postponed, but I sure hope not because I need a bottle of Corona brought to me along with a dinner I don't have to cook or clean up after.

Better make that 2 Coronas.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

grocery savings?

For the past 2 months I have been combining coupons with sale items at the grocery store to make up for the higher food prices we have been seeing this year. Every trip I manage to save between 25-65% off my bill, but Tim questioned whether the time spent checking ads, clipping coupons... was doing us any good.

I got out a sharp pencil and my trusty orange solar calculator and calculated how much we averaged per week shopping 6 months ago and how much we are spending now. The results were startling to both of us. Comparing our current spending with our former usage of the military commissary, which doesn't have any profit markups, we are still saving about $200 a month. Our pantry is bulging with food and I am now to the point that I can selectively shop for just the best deals.

It is so easy to give it a try, most weekly ads are now on-line and even have point and click shopping lists to print out. Several grocery stores have additional coupons you can load on-line and combine with manufacturer coupons and sales to purchase items for pennies. Several good websites I reference are couponmom and hotcouponworld.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

its snowing, its blowing

Not here, but on the farm up in Maine. Whenever I think about future winters I envision a scene reminiscent of Little House on the Prairie with the family sitting around the wood stove reading and quilting. I also see myself trudging out through the snow to feed and water the sheep and cows, but I have always wanted a farm and am certainly not going to let a little cold weather deter me from my goal.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Carnival of Homeschooling

The 100th Carnival is hosted by Mom Is Teaching.

where the water comes from, where it goes

Last week we drove out to our city's water treatment plant and took a walking tour of the facility where they clean and purify our drinking water. The little kids liked seeing the water fall from one tank to the next but I had to carry Charlie since he kept trying to stand dangerously close to the edge of the tanks. The older children were grossed out by the grey foam created by the chemicals that attach to dirt particles, but liked the models of the sand, charcoal, and pebbles that help trap dirt.

Part two of our field trip was driving this morning to the city's wastewater treatment plant and getting to see how dirty and smelly the water becomes after it is used and flushed by the thousands of residents. It was a chilly morning, but with mittens and a hat on baby Timmy we walked outside for 45 minutes looking at tank after tank of murky mixes of sewage, water, and sludge. Charlie, our fearless adventurer yet again had to be carried to keep him from falling in. The water became cleaner and smelled better as we followed the water and finally we saw the clean effluent spill onto rocks in a stream bed headed for a local creek.

Both field trips helped us tie together the concept of the water cycle we have been studying in science, our conservation efforts during the drought, and a curiosity about where the water in the tap comes from and where it goes after it gurgles down the drain. The tours were easy to set up for just our family and I think the director and operators who walked us around liked the interest and enthusiasm of the children. If you need a fascinating, but slightly smelly science field trip call your local water department!

Monday, December 03, 2007

over the river and through the woods

The girls and I went to my Grandmother's house this past weekend to pick up some of Mother's furniture and stuff. It was not the most relaxing trip, as my grandmother thinks children should been seen and not heard. However, I brought homemade chicken pot pie and we shared supper with my 97 year old Uncle Henry, the most cheerful soul I have met.

Saturday morning I went through many pictures and handwritten cookbooks and cried while reading Mother's recipes for Grandma's Orange Cookies in her elegant script. A mystery that I will pursue on the internet was the finding of a fraternity pin I never knew she had. I too dated a Pi Lambda Phi in college, but was never pinned, an old Southern tradition symbolizing a pre-engagement commitment.

The highlight of the trip for me was going to Mass at St. Benedict's and immersing myself in the worship of God. The Gregorian chant made my heart soar and the Host was like nectar on my tongue. Afterwards there was much hugging and greetings from old friends and I almost wished we hadn't left. We needed to break away from the area, because if we had stayed much longer I don't think I could have left even to go to Maine. Tim often shared stories of co-workers who never got to pursue their dreams of living in the country because their wives insisted on staying where the kids were enrolled in school and because of the shopping opportunities. I do miss our parish and wish we could have found its equivalent in North Carolina. Overall the trip cemented my desire and hope that when I become a grandmother that I will only be a blessing to my children.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

getting those veggies in

My sister-in-law sent me a book a few weeks back called Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld (yes, wife of Jerry Seinfeld).

Here is some background as to our home food wars.

Jessica gives meal and dessert recipes using pureed veggies and fruits to give children the nutritive value of these foods without letting the kids know there is anything amiss. While she gives detailed directions on how to steam and puree fresh veggies, I have found that it is easy to substitute a jar of baby food, such as carrots or sweet potatoes without all the mess and waste involved in doing it all from scratch.

So far I have made pasta sauce with cauliflower, spinach, and carrots, brownies with spinach, chocolate cupcakes with spinach, and pancakes with beets. Even I couldn't tell the difference in most of the foods and like pulling a fast one on the children. I have spooned jar after jar of veggies in their mouths, only for them to turn up their noses once they hit the age of 2. Using these recipes and supplementing boxed mixes of cake and brownies I can give them some of the vitamins and antioxidants they need to grow strong bodies and brains.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

active and nonexistent imaginations

Last evening's conversation with the 5 year old:

Maggie: "Did someone just go outside?"

Mommy: "Daddy just went out to get my keys out of the van. We wouldn't want someone to use them to let themselves into the house while we are all sleeping."

Maggie: "You mean someone we don't know... like a giant or a bear?"

Yesterday Will's loose tooth came out and he left this note under his pillow, along with his wallet, and the ziplock baggie containing a nugget of ivory:

please leave the money in my wallet and put (the money in wallet) it in ether of the top drawres of my desk.
thank you.
your son,
It didn't help the tooth fairy's cause to forget said tooth, so around mid-morning I found a note on the night stand with a small drawing of a tooth underneath:
Hopefully I won't be so exhausted this evening, but since I practically collapse into bed every night around 8pm, a friendly reminder is a good way to ensure a dollar under the pillow.

Monday, November 26, 2007

books, books, and more books

This week I have been ignoring my looming Saturday deadline for a writing assignment and retreating to the bedroom to read and eat Special Dark chocolate bars. The stack comes straight from the new book selection at the local library. Usually when I go trolling for books I have exactly 15 seconds to look at the cover and flap before I pop it in my tote or shove it back on the shelf. After every book I have to scan the children's section and count little bodies before I go onto the next title. Tim often asks me after flipping through the selections, "Why on earth did you bring this home?" He doesn't understand the multitasking that go into getting any grownup books home at all while I am surprised that I end up with so many good reads.

American Food Writing by Molly McNeill, a 700+ page anthology of foodie writing and recipes from Thomas Jefferson's adventures with ice cream to a snippet of Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation. My favorite chapter was one I had read before by food critic Ruth Reichl when she found an exquisite sushi place by following a Japanese fashion plate and asking the waitress to bring her, "whatever she is having." While I doubt I will ever try eating beautifully presented raw fish, Garlic and Sapphires is a wonderfully written account of her job dressing in disguises and eating in the most famous restaurants in New York City.

Good Little Wives by Abby Drake, a murder mystery set in upper crust trophy wife suburbia land.

I Wear the Maternity Pants in this Family by Susan Konig, a cute, but shallow look at life with 4 children.

The Other Mother by Gwendolyn Gross, an okay, slightly interesting read about 2 mothers in suburbia land and the stresses each has, one as a stay-at-home mom of 3 and the other as a working mother of an infant.

Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr, a image-rich view of living in Rome for a year with newborn twins right around the time that Pope John Paul II died and the election of Pope Benedict XVI. It took me right back to our first few months in Naples, especially since we arrived in Italy with a baby the same age as the Doerrs. The food, the noise, the customs, the contrast of decay and exuberance that typify Italy was shown in a thoughtful and introspective way. This was my favorite of all this week's books and if you want to transport yourself to those sad, yet historic days try to find this one at your local library.

Okay, now that I have had my reading escape from needed tasks, back to writing words children might want to read.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

gifts from the grave

Last week a large package arrived from Virginia with the girl's names on the front. We tore open the brown paper to find two items, a very large doll and a small stable complete with 4 horses. A note from my stepfather said that he had found these while cleaning out Mother's things and as soon as he saw them he knew that she had bought them for the girl's birthdays before she was diagnosed and got sick.

Mary is my horse-crazy girl and has slept, played, and eaten with the horses constantly since they were unwrapped. Maggie is no less enamoured of her present, an enormous Groovy Girl doll which stands at the same height as the 5 year old and can wear her clothes. Maggie insists that Sally, the doll, change into jammies every evening and a tshirt with corduroy overalls in the morning. "I already get two little boys dressed and nag the rest of y'all to get dressed every day, not to mention telling all of you 800 times to brush your teeth and hair and make your beds. Why should I have to get someone else dressed too?"

However, Sally doesn't fuss or run away, she just lies there and smiles. I think these were the perfect gifts and it makes me glad that they will help the girls continue to have fond memories of their Grammie.

Friday, November 23, 2007

justifying abortion to "save the planet"

I recall when I was about 17 and didn't know much about the world that I never wanted to have children. Bodily fluids and pain sounded horrible and if they could rip it all out so I would never get my period again then so much the better. I listened to NPR and read Organic Gardening magazine and thought that the Earth was going into an Ice Age and humans were doomed. I twisted both these thoughts together in my mind and turned my disgust and misinformation into something virtuous and selfless. But I grew up. I read more books. I learned that God is in control, not us.

After reading this article in the Daily Mail, I was struck by how the two women interviewed and photographed had that same twisted logic. Humans are destroying the planet by merely living on it and if we stop existing then the world will be a better place. It is misplaced religion, as we have shifted from to a post-Christian culture people have turned to worshipping the Earth. Read of how one of the women justifies her abortion to satisfy this "god":

"I didn't like having a termination, but it would have been immoral to give birth to a child that I felt strongly would only be a burden to the world.
"I've never felt a twinge of guilt about what I did, and have honestly never wondered what might have been.
"After my abortion, I was more determined than ever to pursue sterilisation.

The other woman who was interviewed justifies her decision to undergo sterilization for the planet's sake, because she says if she became pregnant then it would be a hard decision to keep the baby. Guess it would be impossible to save face after spouting off to the entire world how you think children are so horrible.

Most young girls dream of marriage and babies. But Sarah dreamed of helping the environment - and as she agonised over the perils of climate change, the loss of animal species and destruction of wilderness... "I realised then that a baby would pollute the planet - and that never having a child was the most environmentally friendly thing I could do."

Mark adds: "Sarah and I live as green a life a possible. ... we do everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint. But all this would be undone if we had a child.
"That's why I had a vasectomy. It would be morally wrong for me to add to climate change and the destruction of Earth.
"Sarah and I don't need children to feel complete. What makes us happy is knowing that we are doing our bit to save our precious planet."

No, I don't think every married couple should have 8 children just for the sake of being able to, folks have different emotional and financial limits. But not having children because you want to personally "save the planet" is silly and immature at best, and likely just trying to put a politically correct spin on being selfish and egotistical.

Carnival of Homeschooling

Thanksgiving Week's carnival is hosted by Homeschool Buzz.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

my first 8K

This morning I woke at 6am to head out for a Gallop and Gorge 5 mile race. You would think that the early 8am start on Thanksgiving morning would result in low turnout, but there were over 800 runners. It was a chilly and wet start, warming up quickly in the bright sunshine. My time was 38:55, which roughly averaged a 7:45 minute mile. I felt good the whole race and passed people up until the end. Running up and down hills on local trails has improved my stamina.

The turkey is in the oven and everyone is playing chess, cutting out pictures from catalogues, or reading. I spent a little time googling a wrist GPS I saw someone wearing this morning. It tells you how far you have run, as well as your time and pace. At only $200, I think it would make a great Christmas gift!

With a clear conscious I can now eat 2 helpings of everything this afternoon and later eat 3 pieces of pumpkin pie. I already ran off all those calories!

Happy Thanksgiving

"In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast which is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. This harvest meal has become a symbol of cooperation and interaction between English colonists and Native Americans. Although this feast is considered by many to the very first Thanksgiving celebration, it was actually in keeping with a long tradition of celebrating the harvest and giving thanks for a successful bounty of crops.

Historians have also recorded other ceremonies of thanks among European settlers in North America, including British colonists in Berkeley Plantation, Virginia. At this site near the James River in December of 1619, a group of British settlers led by Captain John Woodlief knelt in prayer and pledged "Thanksgiving" to God for their healthy arrival after a long voyage across the Atlantic. This event has been acknowledged by some scholars and writers as the official first Thanksgiving among European settlers on record. Whether at Plymouth, Berkeley Plantation, or throughout the Americas, celebrations of thanks have held great meaning and importance over time. The legacy of thanks, and particularly of the feast, have survived the centuries as people throughout the United States gather family, friends, and enormous amounts of food for their yearly Thanksgiving meal."

We are reading a great many Thanksgiving books this week and reminisce about past Thanksgiving celebrations. Here is a snippet of last year's post:

One of my aunties used to rent an apartment in the barnyard at Berkeley Plantation, back before it became a popular tourist site. I always delighted in trips there and have wonderful memories of that historic farm. When our family drove up for a weekend we would spend an hour or so hunting in the corner of one of the fields for long brown beads the settlers used to trade with the Indians. They were scattered around where only sharp eyes could find them, because they were the same color as the dirt they had lain in for 300 years.

On the weekend before Thanksgiving we would be invited to the annual oyster roast near the river, where long grills were covered in gray, bulbous shells ready to be pried open with curving knives. My younger brother and I each would slurp down at least a dozen of the hot oysters during the evening. It was quite a party with music blaring from a boombox, but no matter what the weatherman predicted, it was always necessary to bundle up against the cold wind coming off the river and stand as close to the roaring bonfire as possible. Early mornings I would go for a run alongside the fields, sucking up every bit of beauty with my eyes and every molecule of country air before we had to return to the suburbs. Thanksgiving Day always reminds me of those trips and makes me grateful I had the experience. Hopefully, our summer trips up to Maine give my children similar happy recollections and perhaps one day soon we will go and live on our own farm.

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

fun vocabulary quiz

I don't know if the United Nations actually donates any rice to poor people through this website, but the quiz is fun to take. You can play as long as you want so just quit when you have had enough. I donated over 1000 grains of rice and got a vocabulary score of 40 this morning. Try to beat me!

what a blog is, and what it is not

I have been accused of censorship by moderating comments because a disgruntled atheist wants to write nasty things on MY blog. Sorry, a blog is a combination of diary, letter, newsletter, and photo gallery, it is not a government entity or a newspaper. I do not have to present both sides in any debate whatsoever. If you want to express your opinion and it is not something I want to be associated with I suggest you get your own blog.

(again I don't want this to be a debate board, there are plenty of those out there in internetland. This is a place to express my thoughts and to participate in the exchange of ideas among other moms who have large families, homeschool, are Catholic, or just like to read about our lives.)

thanksgiving trimmings

The past few years we have hosted Thanksgiving dinner with Mother and my stepfather and grandmother. Worried that I would ruin dinner and trying to help make things go smoothly, Grandmother would insist I buy a boxed dinner at Kroger and give me a check for the amount. I did insist that I could make my own mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potato muffins, and the world's best secret ingredient pumpkin pie. It was always a wonderful meal and evening, and having the premade gravy helped out a great deal. With Mother gone and being 3 hours away we decided to keep the day simple and focused on the blessings God has given our little family. We aren't football fans so if you walked up to the front door and peered in the glass you would find us playing board games, scooping turkey and mashed potatoes onto plates, and spooning pumpkin pie into Timmy's mouth. This year I planned ahead, trying to reduce our grocery bill, so I think every item on our table this year was bought combining sales and coupons.

turkey: bought 3 weeks ago (frozen) when on sale for .19/lb
stuffing: onions were on sale $3 for 2 bags and chicken broth was on sale with doubled coupon for .45. I have been cutting up leftover bread for weeks and putting in freezer too.
green beans: on sale and doubled the fried onion coupon
potatoes: 10 lb bag for $3
pumpkin: on sale for .79, bought 6 (I do so love pumpkin pie)
Parker House rolls: 2/$5 and with doubled coupon for $1.50
yams: on sale for $1.25

The only thing I need left is some whipped cream and milk from Whole Foods. We will do school today and start baking and cooking in earnest Wednesday morning. Thursday I am going to run an 8K at 8am so the turkey will go in the oven when I get home.
I will post my Thanksgiving memories of childhood later this week, but mostly we will be spending time together, not blogging.

May God shower us with many blessings, may we thank him for all he has given us, and help us thank each other for the love and kindness we have received. Amen.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

what love for God and neighbor looks like

A Russian couple who fled their homeland when doctors insisted on aborting at least two of their unborn quintuplets have seen all of their children delivered safely in an Oxford hospital.The procedure required a team of 18 doctors Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital working in teams of five, each delivering a baby and then rotating to the next team.

The couple, Dimitri and Vavara Artamkin, decided to come to Britain when doctors repeatedly refused to handle the quintuplets' delivery unless the couple agreed to abort at least two of their unborn children. They are Russian Orthodox and reject abortion as immoral."Our families are very religious people - Varvara's father is an archpriest - and the church teaches that abortion is murder. Varvara and Dimitri wanted all their babies and they would not agree to such a condition," Dimitri Artamkin's grandmother told Britian's Daily Mail.

The couple had connections in Britain through Vavara's father, but were unable to travel there until they received a generous contribution from a group of Russian benefactors who have remained anonymous. The donors will pay for the care of the children and their parents until they return to Russia. The babies, who were born 14 weeks premature and weigh roughly one to two pounds, face serious risks, but are receiving intensive care at multiple hospitals."For me, that they were born alive was a miracle. It was all in God's hands and I was elated. We will go to church and light a candle for each baby," said Dimitri's sister Maria.
By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

dinner and dancing

Last night Tim and I got dressed up and attended our first date in over a year, the local Marine Corps/Navy Birthday Ball. The girls helped me get ready, first watching me put my hair up in curlers and then deciding they wanted to dress up too. By the time the babysitter arrived, even Charlie was wearing a dress and halo over his footed jammies. The evening was hosted by the local colleges ROTC groups so there was less gold ribbon and certainly more cleavage than I am used to seeing at these events. I wore a pretty black Liz Claiborne beaded collar sleeveless dress I had found at the consignment shop a few weeks ago. Tim, in his dress uniform and with all his mini-medals lined up on his fitted dinner jacket looked very dashing.

The main speech was given by some Admiral who spoke about the Navy and Marine Corps these seniors are entering into, "Our nation might not be at war, but our men and women in uniform certainly are." He spoke of sacrifice, of a willingness to give for country, for something bigger than oneself that most of their fellow college seniors are not. We chatted over dinner about tours in Okinawa, France, and Italy, ship port calls all over the world, plane and helicopter squadrons, and duty stations we had all seen. It was a lovely evening and when we arrived home we found all the children asleep in their beds and a good report from Gwen, "No problems." The evening certainly gave me hope for the future, in more ways than one.

Friday, November 16, 2007

bedtime ritual

Charlie and Timmy go to bed around 7pm, both requiring a last gulp of milk or water before hitting the hay. Usually I give Charlie his cup of water and kiss him goodnight before shutting off the light. Lately though he has insisted, "Sit down, wait for me," before he hands the cup back, "look at the stars." It is not something I normally do these days, life in a family with 5 little ones to bathe, read to, and put to bed does not encourage star gazing. But Charlie's bed backs up to the window giving him ample opportunity to count dots of light while he drifts off to sleep. I find it peaceful now to sit with him in the dark and look up and then down in wonder at two of God's creations.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Carnival of Homeschooling

Nerd Family is hosting the carnival this week with an I am Thankful theme.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Want to make it to 100 years old?

If you want to live to a ripe old age of beyond 100, then take up farming, have lots of children and stay trim but not thin.
That is the advice for men who want to live long lives, from the husband and wife team of Leonid Gavrilov and Natalia Gavrilova at the Centre on Aging, University of Chicago, who are about to present the results of a survey of centenarians they conducted to pinpoint how people can live a long and healthy life.

They found that living beyond 100, which was only managed by around two or three in every 1000 born in America at that time, was linked with the following factors:

A trim figure, most of all. In fact, those who were obese at the age of 30 were almost three times less likely to become centenarians.

"It is very good to be a farmer," said Dr Gavrilov. "This result is consistent with our previous findings suggesting that children raised on farms (boys in particular) had higher chances to become centenarians.

Having more than four children at the age of 30 significantly increased the chances of exceptional longevity, trebling the chance over average of reaching the age of 100.
Perhaps they help people live long because children "care for you when you are old," he said.

instant justice?

MICCOSUKEE TRIBE INDIAN RESERVATION, Fla. (AP) - A man who jumped into a lake to flee police was killed by an alligator more than 9-feet long, officials said Tuesday.
The man, whose name has not been released, was allegedly burglarizing a vehicle in the
parking lot of the Miccosukee Resort and Convention Center on Thursday. He ran when police arrived at the scene, said Dexter Lehtinen, one of the tribe's police legal advisors.

A sign at the lake warns people: "Danger Live Alligators." Wood said in other alligator habitats, signs also warn people not to feed the creatures.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Is this how I sound?

Mommy: "Anyone up for a book?"
Mary: "You don't need to read to us. We are busy playing school."
Maggie: "stories?" (a hopeful expression on her face as she looks up from writing ABC's 20 times)
Mary: "No time to play, get back to your work Maggie!"

Sunday, November 11, 2007

drawing the line

Since becoming Catholics, Tim and I have done our share of parish-shopping. We didn't have a choice the first few years in Italy, it was the base chapel or a local Mass in Italian so we just went to the elementary school cafeteria with everyone else. We liked the priests, but enduring the screech of folding chairs, posters of food groups on the walls, kneeling on dirty tile floors during the Consecration, and the overwhelming odor of french fries made it a bit lacking. "When we get back to the States we will find a real church again," we told each other. Then we got back to Virginia and would attend Mass in one parish for a few weeks before we attended one too many liturgies that grated us the wrong way. One too many homilies with sports or movie themes combined with a denial of some Catholic teaching that we knew hadn't been eliminated from the Catechism.

We ended up bopping around 5-6 parishes in 3 years before finding St. Benedict's Chapel, offering the Traditional Latin Mass and priests who really taught the Faith. We spent 4 years there, making many friends and happy as could be in a truly Catholic community. Now we are in liberal la-la land in North Carolina and have started the parish shuffle yet again. We have cringed through the two local parish Masses and struggled through the TLM an hour away. That priest has many issues, one of which is a lack of charity toward those parishioners with small children. After being chastised yet again for Timmy's chatting I don't wish to return.

Today we went to the Cathedral and it was pretty good, the only issues being loud clapping at the end for both new folks and the choir and that the priest ran out of hosts just as we came forward for Communion, leaving us to receive from the lay person, which I feel strongly is wrong. Now all this leaves me in a dilemma: I know the arguments for attending your geographical parish, but there is a line in the sand that distinguishes between a priest's duty and a parent's. Yes, a priest has the responsibility of caring for the souls of his flock and if they stray because of him then he will answer for that. But a parent has those same souls in their care and have a greater responsibility to make sure they are properly educated and nurtured in the Faith. (The same case can be made by parents who homeschool their children and don't send them to the local Catholic school.)

But the problem is where is the line? Is before or after:

invalid Consecration (bread with extras in it, added words...)
ideas contrary to Catholicism offered during homily
co-Consecration with non-Catholics
multitude of lay women in skimpy outfits distributing Communion
teens giving the homily
folk tunes sung during Mass
improper respect given to Blessed Sacrament (in a multitude of ways)
Mass treated as entertainment rather than sacrifice

Every parent, given their different background, will likely draw the line in a different place. Of course many Catholics today find all of the above acceptable, which is the reason we have so many liturgical abuses at all, but that is for another day. Today we are just trying to find a church home that brings us closer to God and sustains us through the week. My last idea is to call the local Catholic homeschool group and see if there is one parish many large families attend. It is likely that that one would be more orthodox than the others, but if we just have to spend the next 8 months ignoring everything around us in Mass except for Jesus we will do so. There are many places in the world where martyrdom and torture make it much harder to be a Catholic than just having to endure a poorly executed Mass.

On Veterans' Day

Thank you to all who serve our country to help keep it free, no matter the personal sacrifice. May our country honor you and may God bless you and your families.

O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen thro’ the mist of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
’Tis the star-spangled banner! O long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner, in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our Trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

glory days

This morning, as I picked up my bib for the 5K sponsored by a local fraternity, it was obvious that I was the only competitor over the age of 20. But I had something that those young nubile things did not have: a large cheering section.

On the last turn, 100 yards before the finish line I heard, "Go Mommy! Run faster!"

One spectator counted heads after the race and looked me up and down, before asking me in an incredulous voice, "Are they all yours?"
I don't think I exactly fit her preconceived notion of a mom, especially since I beat a great many of the college girls (and boys).

Final time: 22:08 (best adult time ever)

Friday, November 09, 2007

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me...

Tomorrow I am running a 5K sponsored by a college fraternity to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House. Tim seems concerned that being surrounded by a bunch of cute college guys will make me decide that being a homeschooling mom of 5 is not my cup of tea any more and run off.


1. I really like my life, I am fulfilled, loved, and busy. I have many freedoms and responsibilities and am grateful for both.

2. No dumb frat jock could tempt me away from my husband. He is wonderful and I am so grateful for his love and friendship.

3. I AM 37 today. I can't compete against anorexic, silicone-enhanced 19 year old girls with the money and lack of modesty to buy skin tight clothes and the time to do their hair and makeup just so, and I don't WANT to. I have earned these wrinkles, stretch marks (small though they are), bad feet, and the nursed-out bosum.

stop complaining

LONDON, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- The average British gasoline price hit $8 a gallon Wednesday and more increases are on the way, Britain's Automobile Association said.British motorists are paying an average $14.65 more to fill up a car now than they were at this time last year, the association said..

And I thought it was bad when we were in Italy and gas was $4 a gallon (2100 lira/liter if you want to figure it out yourself, but factor in inflation and the change from lira to euros). American military families got gas coupons so we could pay the tax free price of about $1.20/gal.

So... perhaps Britian and the other European countries with over 50% taxes added onto the cost of their motor fuel could LOWER the tax rate the poor drivers could get some relief.

I don't think they will either.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

changes in family dynamics

These days I am feeling a bit overwhelmed. We have started a new 9 weeks and the books are stacked on the table in 3 neat piles, an sight that will lead to much wailing and gnashing of teeth after the kid's little vacation. Parts of the house look like a bomb exploded with toys and books strewn everywhere. I could spend an hour picking it all up before the children awake, but it would return to the same state an hour after breakfast. I'll let them pick it up later. But the big issue is that Tim has recently switched rotations and instead of slaving away 12 hours a day, he is now writing mostly from home. I like running together in the afternoons and having dinner at a decent hour, but the change has thrown my schedule and autonomy out the window. If I leave the dishes in the sink for Mary to wash or spend more than 10 minutes on the computer I can sense his disapproval. He doesn't understand that one of the few indulgences of being a stay at home mom is the independence. I don't get to go shopping and "lunch" with the girls. But if an activity is in the house or involves the children then I don't see the problem of letting the laundry wait. I feel a bit stifled. It reminds me of when Tim came back from deployment. I was thrilled to see my best friend, my love, but the balance between the responsibility of caring for 3 children for 9 months alone and the freedom of eating chocolate for breakfast was upset. I had another adult to talk with and help with bathtime, but had to give up reading in bed until midnight.

Marriage is a slow dance between two people. There are lots of stepped-on toes at first, even doing the box step. As the dance gets more complex the couple has had enough practice to even attempt a few dips without falling. Finally by the end of life are they able to smoothly glide with perfect form. The trick is being more concerned about your partner than yourself. I'm trying to do that, which is why I haven't been posting much.

Let's dance!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Carnival of Homeschooling

Principled Discovery is hosting the Homeschooling U themed carnival this week.

Monday, November 05, 2007

65% off

Today Tim asked me if I really needed to go to the grocery store. "After all," he said, "the pantry and pie safe are stuffed full and I can't even see what is in the freezer it is packed in so tightly." Yes dear, you see these dozen items are on sale and I also have coupons, which means I can practically get them for FREE. As for room, we have plenty of space under the bed.

So, after school work was finished I chased Timmy around the house shouting, "shoes, let me put your shoes on little boy," before grabbing my bag and coupon box and pushing them all in the van. Six stops later... after CVS, Kroger, the dentist office to pick up a left-behind library book, Staples, Whole Foods, and Burger King for a little sustenance (for me, though I did toss a few fries into the back seat) I showed Tim my Kroger receipt and crowed, "I saved 65% off all this stuff (and it is stuff we use)! That's the best I've done yet!" I think I even saw a smile on his face when I told him about his new stash of shaving cream.

My friend Genna is so enthusiastic about this shopping system that she gives talks about couponing/rebating at churches and women's groups. Her husband made her a spreadsheet with which she keeps track of her savings. Amazingly enough, in the 9 years they have been married she has saved $27,000 at the grocery store. I called her this afternoon to tell her my awesome score, she said I really need to get a freezer in the garage. If I can keep Tim well supplied with Breyers ice cream on sale he will get on board the savings train.

Toot toot!

reader quiz

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Literate Good Citizen
Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Saturday, November 03, 2007

our home library

Yesterday afternoon Will and I headed over to the local library to pick up some books the friendly and helpful librarian found for us on classical music. Unfortunately for Will he couldn't find any more old Hardy Boys books and he didn't want to read anything else so he left empty handed. Later when he complained that he had nothing to read, I said, "Will, you must be kidding. There are literally thousands of books in the schoolroom that you can pick from." Then I went through the shelves pulling out "boy" books he might enjoy, just like the helpful librarian. We went through the selections together, discussing the merits of everlasting life in Tuck Everlasting, the differences in the movie and book Charlotte's Web, and his dissatisfaction with the dryness in Swiss Family Robinson. I shared how Danny the Champion of the World and My Side of the Mountain were some of my favorites from childhood.

Later in the evening Tim whispered for me to come look at what Will was doing. He was hunched over a drawing pad copying a picture of a birdhouse out of the book Learn How to Draw and was even using an architectural scale to get it exactly right. He went on to draw a bowl using perspective and shadowing. I have to admit that it looked better than some of my art class projects in 7th grade (this from a member of the Nat. Art Honor Society).

While the 3 bookcases full of picture books have been read and reread to the point of falling apart, I am finally beginning to see some fruit from my 10 years of searching and scouring used bookshops for quality "big kid" children's books. While part of me never thought the children would really ever be old enough to read real books, I wanted them to have instant access to all the classics and my old favorites. Even if they don't enjoy every tome, I hope by the time they grow up they will have at least skimmed every book on the shelves.

Friday, November 02, 2007

kids need sleep

I found this article in NY Magazine facinating in that after reading it it struck me how these studies promote the homeschooling lifestyle. When Tim tells me about the kids he sees waiting for the bus at 6:30am driving into work I feel sorry for the poor children, wrenched out of a cozy bed and the poor mothers who have to get them out the door. Perhaps my main reason for homeschooling is that I love my sleep, the little boys go to bed around 7 and the older kids at 8, leaving us all plenty of time to snooze.

According to surveys by the National Sleep Foundation, 90 percent of American parents think their child is getting enough sleep. The kids themselves say otherwise. In those same surveys, 60 percent of high schoolers report extreme daytime sleepiness.

It has been documented in a handful of major studies that children, from elementary school through high school, get about an hour less sleep each night than they did 30 years ago. While parents obsess over babies’ sleep, this concern falls off the priority list after preschool. Even kindergartners get 30 minutes less a night than they used to.

There are many causes for this lost hour of sleep. Overscheduling of activities, burdensome homework, lax bedtimes, televisions and cell phones in the bedroom all contribute. So does guilt; home from work after dark, parents want time with their children and are reluctant to play the hard-a** who orders them to bed.

The surprise is how much sleep affects academic performance and emotional stability, as well as phenomena that we assumed to be entirely unrelated, such as the international obesity epidemic and the rise of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. A few scientists theorize that sleep problems during formative years can cause permanent changes in a child’s brain structure: damage that one can’t sleep off like a hangover. It’s even possible that many of the hallmark characteristics of being a tweener and teen—moodiness, depression, and even binge eating—are actually symptoms of chronic sleep deprivation.

Suratt notes: “Sleep disorders can impair children’s I.Q.’s as much as lead exposure.”
Convinced by the mountain of studies, a handful of school districts around the nation are starting school later in the morning. The best known of these is in Edina, Minnesota, an affluent suburb of Minneapolis, where the high school start time was changed from 7:25 a.m. to 8:30. The results were startling. In the year preceding the time change, math and verbal SAT scores for the top 10 percent of Edina’s students averaged 1288. A year later, the top 10 percent averaged 1500, an increase that couldn’t be attributed to any other variable. “Truly flabbergasting,” said Brian O’Reilly, the College Board’s executive director for SAT Program Relations, on hearing the results.

While the neurocognitive sleep discoveries are impressive, there’s equally groundbreaking research on how sleep affects metabolism.
Sleep loss increases the hormone ghrelin, which signals hunger, and decreases its metabolic opposite, leptin, which suppresses appetite. Sleep loss also elevates the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is lipogenic, meaning it stimulates your body to make fat. Human growth hormone is also disrupted. Normally secreted as a big pulse at the beginning of sleep, growth hormone is essential for the breakdown of fat. All the studies point in the same direction: On average, children who sleep less are fatter than children who sleep more. This isn’t just in the U.S.; scholars around the world are considering it, as they watch sleep data fall and obesity rates rise in their own countries.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

bits and pieces

Here is an excellent article in the American Thinker about why conservative women are NOT likely to vote in masse for Hillary, just 'cause she's a fellow chick.

The 96th Homeschool Carnival is up at Sprittabee, but since going to the site makes my ancient computer seize up every time I try to go there I will give you the Why Homeschool link if you want to risk it.

My time in the 4K Pumpkin Run this past week was 19:20, no pumpkin for 1st place, but it was a fun run with lots of kids and even one Olympic athlete. Having the babysitter come every afternoon has increased my running frequency, I logged over 80 miles in October!

After attending Mass today with Will at the local parish (everyone else was coughing and not feeling well) I am glad I don't send the kids to its school. All the students were in attendance and it sounded more like a pep rally than Mass. Maybe I'm an old fuddy-duddy, but I don't think children older than 2 should wear shorts to Mass and Catholic school teachers shouldn't wear revealing clothing like this to work, much less Holy Mass.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Oh, when the Saints say "trick or treat"

I have finally finished up the world's supposedly easiest Halloween costumes, but making Will look like he has been shot full of arrows has proved to be a difficult task. I started with dowel rods with paper feathers glued on, but couldn't figure out a way to attach them to his tunic. Plan B,C, and D were all discarded after failing miserably (I didn't want to put holes in the fabric so I could use it again for someone else). Finally I sewed straws onto the tunic, filled the ends with glue and stuffed the dowel rods down the holes. I am waiting until they dry to see if they look realistic.

Our traveling evangelization team this evening: St. Stephen with an aluminum foil rock sewed on his shoulder, St. Agnes holding her lamb, St. Sebastian with the cursed arrows, an angel (for the 3rd year), and a little bumblebee (left over from our pre-Catholic days).

Hope your little ones don't bounce off the walls half the night from a sugar rush just in time for Mass tomorrow on All Saints Day.

good news coming from the Vatican

Since the issuance of the Summorum Pontificum there have been many bishops who have tried to squash the Pope's mandate to free the Traditional Latin Mass. Some of their tactics include demanding priests to take Latin tests, insisting on hundreds of petitions from parishioners, and trying to squeeze modern practices such as altar girls and communion in the hand into the old Mass. Having the Pope say the TLM and a clarification of some of more vague language in the original document would go a long way to help spread the liturgy. So it comes as a great delight to hear the following rumors from the Vatican:

Rorate Caeli

(1) a document is being prepared by the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" explaining some points of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, including what criteria may be used to identify a stably existing group (no specific minimum number) and clarifications regarding the differences between the calendars of both forms of the Roman Rite - the document may be published, accoding to Ingrao, "in the next few days"

(2) the possibility of a traditional Mass celebrated by the Pope in December (according to Ingrao, not in Saint Peter's, but maybe in Saint Paul Outside the Walls)

(3) the probability that the excommunications of the Bishops involved in the consecrations of June 30, 1988, in EcĂ´ne, Switzerland may soon be lifted.

Monday, October 29, 2007

garage progress

This is the view from the second floor apartment on the farm. Underneath is a 3 bay garage presently housing the tractor and the truck. In July after we PCS to our next duty station, we will be moving in for the summer and early fall. There are certain issues that concern me like only having 1 bathroom for 6-7 people, but I have to contain my excitement about getting back to Maine. I certainly don't want to wish away 3/4 of a year away because there will be many fun times in between, but...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

change in Mass

This morning, instead of the usual 4.5 hour excursion to attend the Traditional Latin Mass, we instead went to Mass in town. With a myriad of afternoon scouting activities we decided it would be the only way we could fit everything into the day. I prepared myself as best I could, but I couldn't help gritting my teeth throughout the service.

While I am certainly not a Dressing With Dignity aficionado by refusing to wear anything other than skirts or dresses, I do think it appropriate to wear one to Mass. However, I counted less than 20 women wearing something other than pants in a crowd of 350+. I didn't realize how radical it is these days to look feminine, even to church.

The songs were the same dreary old 1970's stuff and the whole congregation blessed the children and the RCIA candidates with a Heil Hitler looking salute. The homily involved much audience participation, with the priest asking many times for people to raise their hands and mentioning several times that we needed to watch more TV. There also seemed to be two additional portions of the Mass: the lengthy offertory add-on where an army of little children fought to take up the money baskets, and the liturgy of the announcements, which took more time than communion itself (since they used an army of EEMs). After Communion the church was half empty with folks that mistook partaking of Our Lord Jesus's body with the drive through at McDonald's. Before Mass it was chat, chat, chat, and afterwards was the giant sprint for the door with little time for reflection or prayer. All in all it was pretty awful, but likely typical for today's suburban American Catholic Mass.

Next week we will resume our cross-country journey to attend Mass with prayerful silence, the recitation of the rosary, a solid homily, and a beautiful church with not a felt banner in sight. Unfortunately the parish seems to have its own share of problems, one of which is a dislike of any noise, especially from little children. Our next duty station will have multiple options for attending a Latin Mass, I am sure we will find one that is like St. Benedict's in Virginia. Sure, I appreciated our old parish, but it took today to make me realize how much I miss a community of like-minded Catholics who take their faith seriously as well as have smiles on their faces.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

spelling lesson needed

Michelle's post over at rosetta stone involving her daughter passing notes reminded me of Will's recent spate of signs on his bedroom door. Note "No Fiting" and "No Litering." There were also "No Smoking" signs on every door in the house last week, but since no one in our house smokes and I doubt Will has ever seens anyone smoke, I am still trying to figure out its origin.

(sorry for the non-rotated photo, I tried for 40 minutes to fix it, but as I have said, I am not talented with such things)

Friday, October 26, 2007

playing tourist

The children and I have been so focused on school the last month that we have done outside our little sphere of home other than grocery shopping and going to the library. Last week several of the children's aunties came for a visit and we got our of our usual boring routine to play tourist.

Here are the giant lily pads at the Sarah Duke Gardens. They reminded us of the maze in Puzzle Island. The koi silently gliding underneath were also a source of amazement. The children ran and hid among the banana tree grove, the bamboo forest, and walked precariously along the edge of a little bridge. Maggie has begged to go back on Monday for her birthday treat so this time we will take some bread for the many ducks.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

new year, new organizational method

For the past 4 years we have been enrolled in Seton, but have not really utilized the lesson plans. After my student teaching days of frantically trying to write lesson plans from scratch on the weekends perhaps I felt that being sent instructions for each day was cheating. I religiously rewrote all the assignments in planning books and checked off each assignment. This job alone took hours of precious time, but I felt it was important that I had a book in hand if some "authority" ever came to the door. This year however, Will's 4th grade assignments were more than "do pages 45-46" so I had to come up with a better system. Of course I realized this after I had spent upteen dollars buying rubber stamps for the planners.

I think the system I have come up with (actually many other Seton moms have recommended this, but I felt like I had to reinvent the wheel) is to have a small 1.5" binder for each child. The big kid's binders contains an attendance record and the lesson plans for the current quarter. The pocket in the front is for finished work and tests that need to be completed that week and the one in the back is for me to organize the quarter's packet to send in to Seton. Each day's work is highlighted in the lesson plans and then scratched out with a marker as we complete it. All the rest of the material: lesson plans for the rest of the year, progress sheets, tests... are all in huge binders on the shelf. Maggie is also affected by this sudden disregard for planning books, I haven't checked off an assignment or kept attendance. She is happily doing as many pages as I will let her and not being officially old enough for Kindergarten I am willing to let it take as long as necessary to get through the books. We certainly don't seem to be as overwhelmed by the volume of paper and work that needs to be accomplished by June and I haven't lost anything yet!

This method seems to keep everything accessible and is much more workable than rewriting all the lessons in the planner. It also seems to be less likely to result in a lost folder than the every subject in a separate folder method. It only took me 5 years to get to this point of not having to do everything they way they taught me in grad school. Maybe by the time the kids are teens I will progress all the way to unschooling, but I doubt it.

Moral of the story: learn from other's experience and strive to make mom's work easier. Both will lead to less hassle and more time to teach and play after the schoolwork is finished.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I would lose my head if it wasn't attached

Recently I have been losing things at an amazing rate. First it was my little calender that I recorded my running miles each day. Then I left my to-do list at Kroger last week. Today I was going to drive over to the course of a local race and check it out, but unfortunately my keys were nowhere to be found. The last time I had seen them was the afternoon before when we went to get the mail.

I then realized with horror that I had let baby Timmy play with them and watched him drop them in the front yard. Yesterday. But they certainly weren't there today and the babysitter clock was ticking away. (at $10 an hour I don't want to waste a minute) I badgered the children about what might have happened to them. I even bothered Tim at work and asked him if he had seen the keys. Nope. So, I bagged my plan and ran a loop around the neighborhood. Again. The loop is not long enough, well, it would be if I ran two loops but it is way too tempting to stop at the 2.6 mile mark to run past our driveway. On the way back in for some water and a shower I saw them. In the wagon.

Where I put them yesterday.


Today, in the Tridentine Rite, is the feast day of St. Anthony Mary Claret, the founder of the Claretians. I know that the patron saint of lost items is St. Anthony, very likely a different saint entirely, but thanks to them both for helping me find my keys. Now if that running log would just turn up...

update 10/27: running log turns up in Will's Webelos book. Yeah!

Carnival of Homeschooling

This week is hosted by At Home With Kris.

last night at supper...

During the usual discussion of how school went I have recently started mentioning what writing assignments the children completed each day.

Me: "Will wrote middle sentences about a priest who worked with the lepers."
Maggie (interrupting): "I remember when we had leprechauns in preschool once. They knocked down all the chairs and tables."
Me: "There is a slight difference between lepers and leprechauns, dear."
Will: "That didn't REALLY happen, there are no such thing... are there?"
Maggie (very indignantly): "I'm thinking about it right now. So it IS true!"

Tim and I looked at each other and tears started coming out our eyes we were trying not to break out laughing.

A 4 year old's logic seems to be similar to talking heads on the TV, "I'm thinking about it, so it MUST be true."

Monday, October 22, 2007

comments again

Oh! I am sooooo sorry that I haven't been moderating very well. I assumed that the only comments I was getting were coming to my email box, so I published those. However, there were tons sitting in the moderate comments box in blogger. I'm not the most computer literate person around so please forgive me.

Isn't it true that we only learn from our mistakes?

Sunday, October 21, 2007


I have wrestled over the past few months with trying to fulfill all the children's reading needs, but I was overwhelmed. Maggie and Charlie love to sit and listen to picturebooks, the more familiar the better, but Will and Mary are only interested in are chapter books, such as Little House, but for the most part they have determined that because they cover the pages so much faster when they read silently, listening to Mommy read is BO-RING.

The obvious solution would be to read to the little kids and let the older ones read Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys to their heart's desire, but it always seems to be Charlie's bedtime just as I finally make it to the sofa with a stack of books. Tim has come to the rescue by taking over putting Charlie to bed and giving him his own story time before he turns out the light and says, "Good night, sleep tight, see you in the morning." Apparently the preferred book this week has been The Little Puppy, in which the main attraction is a brown and white floppy eared Spaniel named Charlie owned by a freckled face boy, Tim. Charlie loves seeing his name in print so much that he has taken to sleeping with the book under his pillow.

Since I recall this book and the others in the series (Kitten, Bunny, Pig, Duck) when I was about 6 or so, Tim and the other children are likely now in their 40's and all the pets met their demise long ago. Still, they are appealing in that they show animals growing up and the mischief they get into, just the way our little ones grow and mature over time. Puppies become dogs and toddlers become adults, though it takes ever so much longer than 1 year. Still, I am beginning to see what older moms mean when they say, "They grow up so fast." Will and Mary don't want to hear about The Little Puppy anymore, they are closer to being adults than infants. Part of me wants to turn back the clock, while the other part longs for the day when the little ones won't be so physically demanding.

Enjoy these years of storytime, don't let them slip by without many nights cuddling on the sofa together reading a worn copy of a childhood favorite.