Friday, August 31, 2007

why Italy is child-free

This article in the London Telegraph explains reasons why Italian women are not becoming mothers.

When we were stationed in Naples the baby shortage was explained as the result of couples marrying later since it triggers a flood of expenses. The wedding has to be "just so" and there is the new custom for the parents to buy/build the newlyweds a house.

My observations were different. The past few decades have seen a shift from spoiling children and then expecting them to become mature, productive members of society to expecting that they never have to grow up. Selfishness is expected from 6 year olds, but 26 year olds? No one seems willing to give up the goodies of life to have bratty children of their own.

In all likelihood, Italy, will continue to shrink to the point of extinction. What will the Vatican do in 50 years, surrounded by empty buildings or worse? I do not know, but the future does not look rosy for the churches, art, cuisine, and culture of bella Italia.

The Japanese have exhibited a very similar cultural shift, a population cannot pass down a culture to the next generation if they are only being concerned about themselves.

"Dogs in prams dressed in frilly T-shirts, dogs with their own cafes and boutiques, dogs taken on holiday to health spas -- meet the child substitutes of a trend-setting group of Japanese women. Dogs now outnumber children aged 10 and under in ageing, infertile Japan". (NY Times)


Mother's health has gone dramatically downhill in the past 2 days. She was taken to the hospital yesterday because she hadn't kept anything down for 18 hours. They have put her on an IV and given her pain meds so she can finally sleep and be comfortable.

Tim has changed his leave and plane reservation yet again (I really hate the word non-refundable) and will arrive here this weekend. Both he and my family agree that it would be dangerous and foolhardy for me to throw the children in the car and attempt to drive back alone, especially on Labor Day weekend. The New Jersey Turnpike already gives me nightmares and unexpected things can happen - last year we were stuck for over 2 hours with no water and no bathrooms in the heat because an oil tanker tipped over. We will pack everything up and prepare to leave, but if Mother stabilizes then we can slow the pace and let Tim enjoy a bit of his leave.

My mind is racing with figuring out what needs to be done and who has to be called to get everything squared away. The tenant moves in October 1 so the house has to be empty and clean. The fields need to be mowed, the boat and mower winterized, and lots of details taken care of. Today is officially purge day, so whatever that is not valuable enough to pay to store or take back to NC is going to the dump (the politically correct title is Transfer Station). That brown lumpy sofa bed that no longer opens? Dump. The high chair that smells no matter how many times I scrub? Dump. The enormous basket full of Lincoln Logs no one plays with? Thrift store. The 6 quarts of wild blueberries I stored in the freezer, thinking we would have another month to eat them? I made Blueberry Cake, which is wonderful warm with vanilla ice cream. It tastes like a large blueberry muffin.

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 tsp vanilla
2 beaten eggs
1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup wild blueberries (if fresh mix with bit of flour)

Cream the sugar and shortening. Beat in the vanilla, eggs, and milk. Sift (but I don't) the dry ingredients and beat in. Beat the egg whites and sugar and fold into the mix. Add the blueberries and pour in a greased and floured 9x9 cake pan. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Anyone have any great blueberry recipes to share?

6 quarts is a lot of tiny blueberries.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

reason #786 why we homeschool

As a teen, instead of posters of bands like Bon Jovi and Duran Duran I had dozens of National Geographic maps on my bedroom walls. This love of geography has been passed down to the children, if I can gauge by their enthusiasm for MCP's Map Skills book. We pull out the globe and atlas almost daily, especially during history reading. I am sure that the older ones know exactly where the US is, as well as the 7 continents, and the 4 oceans. All I can say is that if Miss Upton was a honor student and a future college student it doesn't say much about academic excellence in today's public schools.

"After being stumped by a Miss Teen USA pageant question on live television Friday night, Lauren Caitlin Upton's confused, mangled response has been drawing a lot of attention.
The 18-year-old got a chance to redeem herself Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show when she was again asked why one-fifth of Americans can't locate the U.S. on a map.
...her previous response included "U.S. Americans" and mentions of South Africa and "the Iraq."
... many (have) harsh remarks for the Lexington High School graduate who plans to attend
Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C.
Upton's former principal Creig Tyler remembered her as a well-rounded student.
"She took college-prep and honors courses and performed well," Tyler told The (Columbia) State newspaper.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Carnival of Homeschooling

Is up at Heartkeeper Common Room. Its a big'un with over 50 posts, so go check it out!

bad news

My mother was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer back in February and underwent the first round of 5 chemotherapy treatments. Unfortunately, the doctor gave her bad news yesterday and said that the tumor is growing and blocking organs in her tummy. She is scheduled for a CAT scan and another round of chemo. All her hair and eyebrows are gone, she has been almost confined to bed for much of the time, and she has felt miserable. My mother is so brave to endure and still smile through the pain. Her two favorite activities, knitting and reading have had to be put aside because "chemo brain" causes her to not be able to concentrate.

I feel so helpless, wishing I could wave a magic wand and restore her to health. I am 1000 miles away and can't get down there for 5 weeks. As soon as we get back down to North Carolina I will head up to see her, but all these conflicting thoughts fly through my head about it. I have to determine if it would be a good idea to take any of the children. I don't want to take the baby, he is so demanding, but still nursing. Weaning wouldn't be an evil thing, after all he is 14 months old. The older ones might be okay, but they would get bored fast and I want to spend time with Mother. Tim would have to take all 5 to Mass by himself if I went alone, not an impossible task, since I have done it all summer, but... I have 5 weeks to sort out and plan the trip, all while worrying and praying.

Please pray with me for Julia, but don't feel you have to help with the worry part.

Monday, August 27, 2007

roughing it

Yesterday afternoon I loaded the kids in the van to visit a farm with a group of farmers and wanna-be-farmers. The couple who own the land have 2 draft horses, 2 cows, 2 pigs, and a mess of chickens. We toured the pastures and asked lots of questions about fencing, manure, and pasture rotation before we headed back to the barnyard where most of my children had been playing in her toddler's sandbox and admiring the poultry.

As I stood chatting with the mom, Charlie came up, "Gotta go potty!"

"May we use your bathroom?" I asked her.

"Well, we don't have a bathroom, but the outhouse is right over there."

After I excused myself to help pop a little one on and off the seat and pull up his drawers, I admitted that I felt badly now about complaining of our future accommodations. "We will only have one bathroom next summer, and with 6-7 people..."

"We have only been living here for 5 months and it is already starting to get too small. I don't have room for a crib so the baby sleeps with us. I would love a moment during the day with no one pushing, grabbing, or spilling on me," she said.

While I know it would be cheaper and less wasteful to not have indoor hot water or a bathtub, I'm not the kind of girl who would be able to stand it for more than 2 days. Apparently my sister in law is the same. She refused to marry her true love until his log cabin in the woods became one with a flush toilet. After we drove home and the little ones were in the bath, I was never more glad that my love is also someone who appreciates the benefits of 19th century technology.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

baby development

The experts and older mothers tell us that babies change so quickly. It is true that the newborn stage only lasts about a month before they turn into plump infants and before you can blink your eyes they can roll over, crawl, and take that first step. Timmy is my earliest walker, about 4 months earlier than Will. With that first child I was so worried because he hadn't started walking at 14 months, hadn't started talking at 30 months, hadn't learned to use the potty before he turned 3. Finally, with the confidence that children will eventually do all these things before they go to college, I get a baby who achieves these skills before "the books" says he should. Alleluia! I guess I needed some humble pie so I wouldn't feel like I was some sort of super-perfect-mom with super kids. What did I learn? That children develop on their own timetable, crawling, talking, or learning to read. Moms can help children learn to crawl by spacing Cheerios along the floor, they can read to their children daily and teach them phonics, but you can't force any it.

When Tim flies up next month to enjoy his short vacation and help get us all back to suburbia-land, he will see some startling changes in the children. Will is much more independent, able to ride his bike downtown and buy treats for his siblings at the mom and pop grocery store. He picks out his own books at the library, and makes his own friends.

Mary has become more motherly, if such a thing was possible, making little dollhouses out of drawn figures, and cooing at her new baby doll. Her sailing skills have improved and she is less shy than even 2 months ago.

Maggie fell, with bad scrapes on her chin and face in her first attempt to start her big-girl bike by herself. All summer I have heard, "Mommy, get me started!?" Any day now she will screw up the courage to try again and be zooming off down the street. She is also eager to do real school, though it mostly involves coloring and learning her prayers.

Charlie is now potty trained, but can't get his shorts up and down by himself. When I hear, "Mommy, need help going potty!" I drop whatever I am doing and race for the bathroom.

And little baby Timmy? He is toddling about, usually heading for the street or the stream bank, yesterday slipping at the edge and tumbling down onto the dry stones. No damage done, but a little developmental discernment would be appreciated. That will come in about 10 years, so I have a steady job until then - keeping these children safe and on the right course.

One day they will all be grown up and I won't have to worry about them getting burned on the stove, or falling off the dock. However, those older moms who repeat, "they grow so fast" say there will be other fears and worries involving cars, dating, and temptation into serious sin.

Sure, one day that will happen, waaaay off in the future. After all, I've been changing nappies every day for 9 years.

Friday, August 24, 2007

reading stats

People read books much less these days but among those who do read, women and older people are the most avid and religious works outstrip popular fiction in popularity, according to an AP/Ipsos poll of 1000 people. It found that one in four adults read no books at all in the past year.

The median number of books read was nine for women and five for men.

The Bible and religious works were read by two-thirds in the survey, more than for all other categories. Popular fiction, histories, biographies and mysteries were all cited by about half, while one in five read romance novels. More women than men read every category of books except for history and biography, confirming that men prefer nonfiction. ~

When I read statistics showing that the average American watches 2 hours of TV daily then I feel sad because some poor, brain-dead kid must be watching 10+ hours a day to make up for our TV-free home. But the opposite is true as well, if we are reading 4-8 books a day, then there are people who haven't read a book in over a decade for 9 books a year to be the average. Okay, the stats above are about adults. But, sheesh, I read at least 6 books a week. Grown-up books with chapters and no pictures.

Will started reading his first adult book, Thunder Below, this summer. It is about submarines in WWII, so it is obvious that his reading taste is going to mimic Tim's much more than my indulgence in chick-lit. As for their future reading habits? I certainly like what I see when all the kids are sprawled on the floor reading, looking at pictures, or in the case of Timmy, chewing on books. Hopefully, I am raising a house full of readers, ones who will snuggle down on the sofa with history, science, and good murder mysteries.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


This is the funniest listing on ebay I have ever seen, the bidding on this bunch of Pokemon cards ended at $142 because of the essay of how this mom of 6 came by them at the bottom of her grocery bag.

h/t to Beth at Ora et Labora

trip to the pond

I am so grateful to a friend for sharing the location of the local secret swimming spot. Our family is not welcome at the pool because of their "no float" rule - no life jackets, no wings, nothing. With 1 semi-swimmer and 2 non-swimmers I just don't have enough Mommy arms to go around.
The pond is only 15 minutes away and I can pull the van in right beside the short curve of gravel they call a beach in Maine.

Actually, it is quite lovely, a primitive spot with a view of nothing but sky, trees and water. There are tadpoles and frogs in the shallows, leeches in the swampy part, and a short trail out to the point. Last time we ventured out it was a chilly windy day so we had the place all to ourselves.

The older kids take the little ones out for rides in the inflatable boat. They play games, build towers on the beach, and just enjoy the short Maine summer. The temperatures are already drifting down, it didn't get above 80 today and is dipping into the 40s at night. This is the last week of summer fun left before everyone begins school, so we have to cram trips to the beach and pond and a day in Freeport in the next week.

Enjoy your summer while it lasts!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

prayers for Gloria

What a positive article about a large Catholic family and their little 11 year old girl with neuroblastoma in a coma up near Seattle.

After seven bouts of chemotherapy, three experimental drugs and a stem-cell transplant, Gloria has reached the point her family dreaded.

Before Gloria's diagnosis, Kristen believes, God told her Gloria would have an incurable disease. She says he left her with this: "When I heal her, I will change the lives of many."
Four months ago, Dr. Julie Park, Gloria's oncologist, told the family she had only weeks to live. So the Strausses stopped treating her cancer, focused on managing her pain and turned to their faith for a miracle.

On Thursday, they tried to explain the entire situation to the kids. The two other girls — Alissa, 13, and Maria, 9 — fully understand. Joe and Anthony do not understand the complexities, but they know Gloria could die. Sam, 3, grasps even less. And baby Vincent is only 10 months old.

"We do worry about our children," Doug says. "It's hard. We want to make sure we're not missing anything that could cause them problems down the road. We're not pretending like this is just going to be OK."

homeschool carnival

Is up at Homeschool Buzz.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

down to the county fair

Yesterday we drove down to the Union Fair, home of the Wild Blueberry Festival. It is our favorite fair, a real old time treat with lots of farm animals, rides, and fair food. Yesterday was bracelet day so the kids could go on as many rides as they wanted, and they did for 5 hours. Mary is the daredevil, reveling in the thrill of the giant swings and the swinging boat. Will is the mechanic, driving the bumper car ride 15 times, figuring out how the thing worked and strategizing how to ram his sister at top speed. Maggie and Charlie loved the little rides like the cars, the merry-go-round and the train.

Me? I love the giant slide and got to go down with Charlie a few times. I love scary rides, in fact I was in a commercial for Busch Gardens in Williamsburg after a talent hunt at the park. I got off the Loch Ness Monster roller coaster to someone with a camera asking, "Are you local?" A few months later Mother drove me up for costume and makeup after which I played the part of an English girl watering flowers out a window. The director said I was a natural. It was a hoot, since months afterwards I would walk down the hall at school hearing, "I saw you on TV last night." The royalty checks that came for several years weren't too bad either.

When the crowds began to get a little heavy and darkness settled in, I decided it was time to gather the troops and hit the road. When we pulled into the driveway at 9pm everyone was sound asleep. Will and Mary did wake long enough to tell Tim on the phone all about their afternoon, "We had a stupendous time!"

After a day at the fair devoted to the children, we will go back Saturday for my favorite event, the antique tractor pull. The parade will follow and the fair will be over for another year. But we'll be back next year, even though it will be a longer drive.

Monday, August 20, 2007

husband nervous about homeschooling?

I love Ginny Seuffert's column every month in the Seton newsletter. She is a witty mom of 12 who helps moms organize their households and homeschooling, and is most famous for her white towels talk at the IHM conference. This is certainly a lady who has been there, done that more times than most of us can count.

I hooted loudly when I read her column this month,

"Often the objection I hear from discerning mothers is, "I would love to home school, but my husband won't let me. He thinks the children will be weird." My advice to the mother is to drag dad to the nearest mall and find the weirdest young person there. You know, the the kid with nuts and bolts drilled into his face, tattoos all over his body, and purple hair. Go right up and ask him if he is home schooled! Let's face it; any honest father will have to admit that all the really weird kids attend institutional schools."

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Sneakers, Chapter 4

Titled: Shocks 'n Struts over at Catholic Medical Weekly.

"Vicki, I wish I hadn't had the abortion. I don't know what I would've done, maybe put the baby up for adoption. It was wrong, Vicki, what I did. I had that life inside of me, and I killed it. Me."

Look, I'm leading a trend!

Having three or four kids is a new status symbol among America's wealthiest families, according a report on national public radio. In the past 10 years, the number of high-end earners who are having more than two children has shot up nearly 30 per cent. Some say the trend is driven by a generation of over-achieving career women who have quit work and transferred all of their competitive energy into motherhood.

(we are NOT in the same economic realm as these folks)

It has struck me how efficient economically it is to have more than 2-3 children. You already have the "stuff" like car seats, a crib, clothes, stroller, and likely a mini-van. Though I always chuckle at folks with 1 child who feel it imperative to own a car that holds 7.

On the other hand, having more than 2 children is harder. There is more work for a mother on a daily basis including tidying, laundry, breaking up arguments, potty accidents, dealing with sulky moods (children included), dishes, and baths. It means more years of changing diapers and nursing. Babies are wonderful, but lots of work. I certainly wouldn't advise someone to have another child simply because it was the trendy thing to do. If status is what you crave, get a $800 dog, not a soul that needs to be nurtured for a lifetime.

If you are a good mommy, not necessarily a competitive one, then certainly once you invest in all the equipment, it makes sense to keep producing warm, soft, smiling, kissable babies.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

building progress

Here is the garage/apartment out at the farm. Everytime we drive out there and I get to walk around I am filled with peace and contentment for about 10 minutes before I start to make a to-do list. Fencing, outbuildings, orchard, berries, garden wall, compost piles, a line for the laundry, it all have to be planned and made. But I am so excited, since this is the sort of project I revel in. We are going to be farmers, yeah!

I posted a picture of the new tractor here.

Friday, August 17, 2007


Yesterday I was having a bit of a pity party because it became apparent that someone whom I considered a old friend doesn't like me anymore. I don't understand why, but it really hurt my feelings. A shopping trip up to Bangor helped as well as a juicy cheeseburger and blueberry cobbler in a truck stop restaurant.

Listening to the radio on the way home made me cry even more, but it was not for myself, but for others. Hearing about the devastation from the earthquake in Peru, the trapped miners in Utah, and the 3 Navy pilots missing in the Atlantic puts my little sob-fest in perspective. Is this that famous Catholic guilt? When there are so many that need our prayers and assistance, I should feel guilt over wanting everything perfect in my life. I have been so blessed with my family, faith, and opportunities and will remember to be more grateful.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Carnival of Homeschooling

The 85th edition is up at Dewey's Treehouse.

Are they all yours?

On Sunday we drove over an hour to attend the Latin Mass in Newcastle at St. Patrick's, the oldest Roman Catholic church in New England. The sanctuary is only capable of seating about 60, but its beautiful decorations draw the tourists as well as faithful Catholics. Large paintings of Jesus and Mary flank the altar and the Stations of the Cross are little masterpieces. Ours were the only children in Mass and keeping them quiet in the silent and stuffy room was extremely difficult. However, afterwards while they played in the woods and Mary caught a toad no larger than my thumb, a half dozen parishioners remarked on the beauty of our family and how good they were during Mass. (I won't let such things go to my head, since I see them all the time, not just in their Sunday best) One gentleman even asked Will if he would like to help serve Mass next month.

Later we stopped for lunch and a quick trip into Shaw's grocery store in Rockland for a loaf of bread. I don't like to shop on Sundays, but it was needed for supper and I had been told by a friend of the great deals she regularly gets there. Last week she mentioned saving 50% off her grocery bill, just from sale items so I wanted to take a peek.

While I was pushing a cart loaded with children and several more trailing behind, an elderly woman asked, "Are they all yours?"

"Yes," I replied with a smile, expecting another compliment.

"Are you sure?"

"Well I was there, so yes."

Her tone seemed to change and she said in a nasty voice, "I certainly hope your husband has a good paying job."

My mind seemed to go blank and then raced for an appropriate response. "Why yes, we do contribute to the tax base of Maine, rather well I might add." would imply that those who need state assistance don't deserve the gift of children. I could have lied and made her feel guilty by saying, "Yes, he is currently serving in Iraq." But he isn't and that would have dishonored those who's husbands are serving in harm's way. "I can't see why it is any of your business," didn't seem particularly nice directly after receiving Holy Communion. In the end I just mumbled, "Yes he does," and felt guilty over all the things I could have/should have said and that I shouldn't have been shopping on Sunday anyway.

What would you have said?

Monday, August 13, 2007

did you know...

that no amount of bleach will return boy's Dockers back to khaki after they have been washed with a red quilt?

I have 6 days to find another pair of pants for Will to wear to Mass, because neither he nor I think a 9 year old should wear pink pants to church.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Sneakers, Chapter 3

Chapter 3, The Maze is up at Catholic Medical Weekly.

"Do you want an abortion?"

The Sneakers, Chapter 2

Chapter 2, Stupid Pill is up at Catholic Medical Weekly.

"I'm just a little bit pregnant"

short story

Read the beautifully written 5 part series The Box byAntique Mommy. It will make you hug your children extra tight.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

wild blueberry season

Today we drove up to the farm to check on the painfully slow progress on our garage/apartment. After discovering that nothing has been done since the concrete was poured Monday I let the kids shovel and climb on the fill before piling everyone in the car for the long drive back to town. I can only sit and look around at all the brush that needs to be cleared, the fields that need to be mowed again for so long before I start to get frustrated.

You see, I make lists and actually check off each item within a few days. I also expect promptness from others, including the older kids, whom I have threatened with leaving behind if they don't get in the car NOW. But I can't get any of my work done on the farm because of baby Timmy. He can't be left while I mow, he can't even be left alone if I try to saw and hack down the brush. The bugs swarm to his face and arms leaving him a little pockmarked baby. My job is to brush away the bugs, the builder's job is to build- and he doesn't seem to be doing it.

But... maybe his real life tends to be like mine. I went to bed last night with the intention of getting up early and doing chores and writing a post. The baby woke up twice with a fever, needing to be nursed and I didn't wake until 7am. I sat down after the little ones were fed, hoping to at least write a post, forgetting the chores. Then I smelled that someone was poopy and needed to be changed. It was Timmy and after his 1/2 quart of blueberries for supper he really needed a bath, wipes just wouldn't cut it, blueberries leave a grainy residue behind.

Expect some light blogging in the next few weeks during wild blueberry season. I'm going to have to supervise multiple baths each day. Hopefully, the builder will get some work done on the garage and I will get some chores done, I just have to be patient with myself and everyone else.

$5 milk?

Having 5 children means buying large quantities of some grocery items like milk. Since our family drinks over 7 gallons a week I have made an effort to buy hormone-free to reduce the risk of early puberty development. Down in Virginia that meant I had to get our milk delivered at almost double the wholesale cost, but up in Maine all the milk in the grocery case is without hormones. Oakhurst dairies, which supplies all of Maine was the first large dairy to go hormone-free and got a lot of legal grief for putting that claim on their packaging. Now Hannaford and Hood brands have found that the demand justifies the lower milk output and have done the same.

While our milk costs have decreased since we now buy it at the grocery, the cost per gallon have been creeping upwards all year.
*dairy farmers only receive approx. $0.96 a gallon for milk, the majority of the cost per gallon is paid to the processor and the grocer.

Growing appetites for dairy in Asia and limited worldwide supply are among a number of factors driving prices of the dairy drink to record highs.

In China and elsewhere in Asia, chains such as McDonald's and Starbucks are introducing unfamiliar taste buds to cheeseburgers and lattes, increasing the region's demand for dairy.

Paying more for milk is causing an uproar in Germany, where families consider providing children with an affordable glass of milk a fundamental right. It is also a concern for consumers in the United States and elsewhere in Europe.

Milk prices hit a record last month in the United States, where consumers paid an average $3.80 a gallon, compared to $3.29 in January, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It forecasts prices will remain high throughout the year.

Prices are likely to remain high worldwide until dairy farmers add more cows or shift production to powders, which are more easily traded than the liquid stuff.

International dairy prices increased 46 percent between November 2006 and April 2007, with milk powder prices increasing even faster, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

Companies like candy giant Hershey Co. that use dairy for their products are feeling the pinch. But in many parts of the globe, dairy farmers are cheering.

One of the farming books I have bought and studied this summer has been about raising dairy cows. Goats might be an option as well, I will watch a friend's experiment in goat dairying next spring to see if that might be a better option for us. The thought of raising our own animals and drinking their milk has great appeal, we know exactly how the animals have been treated and that the milk is fresh and almost free.

Friday, August 10, 2007

smart babies

Parents hoping to raise baby Einsteins by using infant educational videos may instead be dumbing their children down, according to a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics. Researchers found that, among babies aged eight months to 16 months, every hour spent daily watching programmes such as Brainy Baby or Baby Einstein translated into six to eight fewer words in their vocabularies compared with other children their age.

The hundreds of millions of dollars parents have spent on these videos is money down the drain, according to Dr Dmitri Christakis of the University of Washington in Seattle. The videos, which are designed to engage a baby's attention, hop from scene to scene with minimal dialogue and include mesmerising images.

Children whose parents read to them or told them stories instead of showing them videos had bigger vocabularies. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television for children younger than 24 months. ~ Boston Globe, August 8

Mr. Raymond Moore was one of the early proponents of homeschooling in the early 1980's, writing books Better Late Than Early and Homegrown Kids. Two ideas were forefront in his writings; starting formal schooling late, and reading aloud daily.

Unconsciously I have integrated those two concepts into our homeschooling from our first days as parents and homeschoolers. While we use Seton to make sure the basics are covered, much work is done orally so we only spend a minimal time on academics each day. This allows the children loads of free time to explore and play. Gradually the time spent at school increases from 20 minutes a day in K, to 90 minutes in 3rd grade. By the age of 9 a child can spend a few hours working without having their enthusiasm crushed by years of formal school and homework.

As for reading to the children daily? I couldn't imagine homeschooling without having the biggest children's book collection on the block, daily discussions about children's authors and stories, and consciously spending more time at the library than in the movie theater. We started reading to Will while in utero, as soon as the books said his ears were developed. Tim even brought The Wizard of Oz to the maternity wing to finish up the last chapter. Three stories a night has sometimes morphed into an hour-long reading marathon, but I don't mind. I refuse, however, to read the same story over and over, being known for surreptitiously culling books that I can't stand. These days Will and Mary pick out books and read voraciously on their own, but they still fight for space on the bed while I read to the little ones.

It takes time and effort to help children develop into life-long learners. Plopping babies in front of a screen is a cheater's method and now is shown to actually hinder their language development. Spend some time today at the library, picking out stories with depth and meaning and read aloud to your children, be they little or big kids. Here are some of my favorites if you need a guide. The memories of time spent together and the exposure to the written word will be well worth it.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

summer nights

Yesterday evening the children were bathed and fed early so we could go downtown for a library presentation with Farmer Minor and his famous potbelly pig Daisy. This is the most spoiled pig in the world who sleeps between the farmer and his wife each night, rides around in a stroller, and is scrubbed behind the ears with Johnson's No More Tears shampoo during her daily shower with Farmer Minor. After everyone had hugged and kissed Daisy we headed back in the direction of the car.

I didn't want to go straight home on such a pretty evening, so we walked past the van and headed down the hill to the ice cream parlor. Will and Mary headed straight for the high stools at the back counter where they all say quietly licking their cones and helping Charlie clean up the errant drips. I sat at a nearby table with my scoop of coconut and periodically sharing with Timmy.

"Excuse me," I turned as I heard an older gentleman say, "you have such a beautiful family. It is so nice to see such well behaved children. Please let my wife and I pay for your ice cream." I didn't really know what to do, so I just said, "thank you, that is so sweet." We chatted for a few minutes and found that they have 5 grown children, 3 boys and 2 girls as well. While we are perfectly capable of paying for our own treats, it was a pleasant surprise and was the perfect ending to a lovely outing.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

while the cat is away...

One of the downers of being up in Maine senza marito are the lonely nights after the kids are all put in bed and I hang up after Tim's nightly call. While I do have books to read and magazines to peruse, it is not the same as having him there to snuggle with and... all that other stuff.

On the other hand, Tim doesn't care for me to eat snacks in bed, stay up late reading, or get any dishes dirty after he has finished the evening cleanup. "What do you mean, you want to make chocolate glop at 8pm? I don't think that would be a good idea." While he is sleeping peacefully 1000 miles away I can make bruschetta and eat it in bed while reading a smashing romance. I can make my favorite childhood comfort food and leave the dishes in the sink. I can even squirt whipped cream right out of the can into my mouth with no one frowning at me.

Part of me figures as long as the kids are taken care of, the house is clean, and I don't end up weighing 800 pounds by the middle of September it shouldn't matter if I break free a little. After all, I'm certainly not enticed to venture out to enter the $1000 singing contest at the karaoke place, visit the guys on Harleys outside the biker bar, or even indulge in $1 Mexican beer night. The other side of my brain does feel a twinge of guilt when I think of Tim in North Carolina working 12 hour days, coming home to a lonely bowl of cereal for dinner. The situation will right itself in a few weeks and maybe I can convince him to join me in a midnight feast involving chocolate, whipped cream, and two forks.

pick me up

Barbara nominated little ol' me for a Blogger Reflection award on her blog, Praying for Grace. Isn't that sweet? Thank you so much!

Monday, August 06, 2007

13 hours later...

we gratefully pull into our own driveway. Whew! What a marvelous day we had, but oh, so long. I started taking bets at 8pm, still an hour away from home, how many frantic messages there were going to be from Tim, "Where are you? Why aren't you home yet? I do hope nothing bad has happened." As soon as we walked in the door I called to reassure him we were not all dead in a ditch and proceeded to bathe, dress and kiss goodnight the 2 babies while simultaneously informing him of the events of the day. The others did not protest one bit when they were put to bed 10 minutes later. After a small reward of popcorn and m&ms for getting through the day, I fell asleep in utter exhaustion.

Mass was lovely, and afterwards we took the opportunity to go to confession. I'm sure the elderly and very deaf priest didn't hear any of my sins, instead waiting for the silence to blurt out, "Is that it?" Not the most rewarding trip to the confessional, but it is the absolution from Jesus that counts, not the counseling or lack of it. I don't like going to the priest in town because no one else goes, making me feel like the only sinner in a town full of saints. We got lost several time looking for the banquet hall where a FSSP (Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter) priest spoke after lunch for over an hour to a large group on the recent universal indult and what it means for folks like us. I sat in the back at the kiddy table and gratefully watched my children become ravenous monsters since the food didn't arrive until 3:30pm. Apparently the food wars have has some effect.

Father deliberately and carefully went over each portion of the letter and clarified meanings, pointed out mis-translations, and was very helpful in giving clear instructions as to what our job was in this age of opportunity. I came away with hope and purpose, and while I am not a leader in any sense, I think if will fall to me to gather the group of orthodox/traditionally-minded Catholics in town to approach the priest for a Latin Mass in the 1962 rite. While he has already told one inquiring parishioner, "I didn't learn Latin, I don't ever plan on learning it," we must ask him formally so we can report it to the bishop for furthering the cause up the chain of command. Once the bishop says, "too bad, so sad," we can write the Vatican committee to get some recourse. Now that the law is on our side after 40 years of prayer and toil, the pressure will fall to the bishops to accommodate our requests. The priest mentioned that even bad will from the bishops can be overcome, simply by demographics, since the bishops likely will become so desperate for priests that they are willing to take anyone, even those who only say the Latin Mass.

I am so glad we spent the day making new friends, seeing old ones again, and learning much. We are in the midst of a great renewal in the Catholic Church and it is exciting to be part of it. May God be given the glory and honor due Him, every day, in every place, and in every heart.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Cathedral Day

This morning we are driving to the "big city" to attend a Traditional Latin Mass at the Cathedral. It is going to a hectic morning since we must leave at 8:30am for noon Mass. First we are picking up a fascinating lady whose daughter has 8 children and lives in a Catholic commune in Arkansas. Then we will meet to pick up more folks about an hour down the road. My van will be full. I feel so popular, but I suspect it is the 5 empty seats I have available! Afterwards there is a lunch and then the long drive back.

I know there will be some difficulties with the children, but if I am prepared with extra clothes, snacks, books, and tapes then I think I can cope. I am looking forward to meeting some of the other Catholic homeschooling families I have been corresponding with via e-mail. But mostly I am looking forward to attending High Mass again. While I know I shouldn't make decisions by how I feel, but when I attend the Mass of the Ages, the Mass attended by so many Saints, I feel like I am part of the holiest thing imaginable on earth. It draws me closer to God, it persuades me to put away sin and strive for perfection. It simply helps me be a better mother and wife and child of God. I took the service for granted when we were in Virginia, but I treasure the opportunity I have today to experience a little piece of Heaven.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

7 weeks gone, 7 left

Since we have arrived in Maine I have painted 6 rooms, hung new curtains, primed and painted the outside trim, and painted the steps outside. I have pruned, shredded branches, spread compost, made a new compost pile, spread mulch, dug up several large bushes, and managed to keep my sanity (just barely).

Today the kids and I moved the woodpile outside so there will be room in the garage for our tenant's car. The house is cleaner and prettier than it has looked in many, many years. With these chores out of the way, I can envision resting a bit from my labors. However, I will likely find a few more projects. No matter how much work I find to do, it doesn't really seem so bad with the cool ocean breeze, the afternoon trips to the pond, and the small town atmosphere to enjoy.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Sneakers, Chapter 1

Chapter 1 of Tim's short story is up at Catholic Medical Weekly.

(Vicky finds out she is pregnant and all he** breaks loose.)

dinner out

At lunch everyone was gobbling down their spagetti except Maggie who looked on her little meatball with horror. I stated to the children, "Everyone has to eat, otherwise they will starve to death."
Will piped up, "There is a species of insects that never eat anything and only live for a few hours. Is that what you mean?"

She ate the meatball.

The lobster enchiladas were not quite as fabulous as I remember, but the virgin pina coladas hit the spot on a hot, hot day!

Catholic priest in Iraq

Please read this fine article by Father John Gayton about his tour at Camp Fallujah .

My friends, listen to me when I tell you that faith does not only survive out here, it thrives, it grows, and it spreads. In the shadow of this faith, I am deeply humbled and greatly comforted. I look into the faces of these young Marines and Sailors and I see God gazing back at me with love.
I hope that you will join me in praying for these fine young warriors. Semper Fidelis!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Carnival of Homeschooling

The 83rd edition is up here at Mom is Teaching.

school supplies

A big brown truck pulled up to our house Tuesday afternoon, prompting the children to run shrieking out the door to ask the UPS man what he brought them. I didn't hear the exchange, but I watched as Will, Mary, and Maggie came back triumphant, yet staggering under the weight of three boxes. Just then the doorbell rang, "Maggie is here!" and the boxes were unceremoniously dropped in favor of the baby sitter's attention. However, when I returned from my run there were the children's brand new school books scattered all across the living room while the boxes had been transformed into shields, swords, and daggers. Later in the afternoon I cleaned up the debris, stacked up each child's book stack, and started what seems like the 4,000,000th to-do list since I have become a parent.

School supply lists are fun to shop for. I can anticipate the excitement of learning to read, mastering a page of math, and performing science experiments in the kitchen that explode. I became giddy in the Back To School aisle, "I'll get two packets of brand new pencils, and three packages of erasers, and four bottles of glue, and hey, look at the art supplies! What magnificent artistic creations might emerge from this set of watercolor paints?"

This year I splurged on custom-made rubber stamps for each subject. While I love sitting down and transferring instructions from the lesson plans to each child's assignment book, I despise writing out "reading, phonics, handwriting..." 108 times. It takes a week for the stamps to come in, but every minute since the books arrived the children have been hounding me, "Can we start school today? Can I teach Maggie? Can't I start something?" While this enthusiasm will fade, I would love to jump into things while the anticipation level is high. But I can't get prepared without those darn stamps, and I am not quite ready to buckle down yet. It is still summer, time for festivals, the fair, and trips to the beach. I know the kids want to open the readers filled with new stories and break into the bags of school supplies, but I want to wait another few weeks.

Perhaps I'll let them have some things for drawing and painting and later restock the supply shelf. But I know that when I see the displays of brand new folders I won't be able to control myself. I think I can justify the expense to my husband when I point out that a trip to Walmart is certainly cheaper than tuition at the local Catholic school.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

food wars, day 2

Thank you for the suggestions, but I think I have given the wrong idea about what meal time has been like in our house for the past few years. The children (except Mary) will not eat anything but bread, cereal, pasta, fruit, and cheese. They will just not try anything new and they have only gotten pickier over the years. It is not healthy for children to have so little protein or iron in their diets, especially for their brains. The options for serving something everyone will eat have dwindled down to grilled cheese and mac and cheese. One won't eat pizza, one won't eat pb&j, none will eat veggies, and only one will eat meat. Well, change that last one. We had some progress at dinner this evening. I know it sounds cruel, but I am willing to have them suffer for the short-term in order to emerge with some more healthy eating choices. If, in a few years we live on a farm we should all be eating eggs, chicken, and vegetables that we raise, not leaving them for me to eat and then begging for potato chips for supper.

Tuesday tabulation:

Breakfast: oatmeal with milk, butter, cinnamon and raisins
Will: ate nothing
Mary: polished off her serving in record time
Maggie: ate nothing
Charlie: picked out all the raisins and then ate nothing

Lunch: beanie weenies
Will: ate nothing
Mary: picked out hot dogs, scrounged everyone else's hotdog rounds, ate 2 bites of baked beans
Maggie: ate nothing
Charlie: ate nothing

Dinner: chicken nuggets and peas
Will: ate 1 nugget, 1/4 cup of peas and 1 peach, handful of raisins, and 6 dried apricots
Mary: ate 4 nuggets, 1/4 cup of peas, 2 peaches, and tried a tomato slice
Maggie: ate 1 chicken nugget with much dismay and lots of ketchup
Charlie: ate 1 chicken nugget

Maggie commented after her shower, "I think if we have chicken again I will like it. But please can I not have the peas?"

I promised that if everyone eats 1 complete meal, any meal, then we will go to the local Mexican restaurant that serves cheese quesadilas and lobster enchiladas. This and the announcement that we will be going to Pizza Hut on Friday for supper have caused much excitement.

I'm rooting for them as much as the next guy, in fact, I can almost taste that lobster.