Sunday, September 30, 2007

toy recalls

Mattel was forced to deliver a humiliating public apology to ‘the Chinese people’ on Friday over the damaging succession of product recalls of China-made toys that the US toymaker has announced in recent months.

Perhaps Mattel should deliver a public apology to the American people for outsourcing manufacturing of children's toys that harm, rather than entertain them just to make more money. I feel sad whenever Will looks at the bottom of a toy and says, "Made in China. How come no toys are made here?"

If Mattel didn't sell Matchbox cars I wouldn't ever buy another one of their products.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

I miss Maine

Here is the latest photo of our garage/apartment on the farm. See the tractor and truck in their homes for the winter? The leaves are changing, the air is crisp and cool and the wild turkeys are out in full force. What a contrast to sweltering North Carolina where it is still close to 90 F most days!

Friday, September 28, 2007

comments comment

I have a troll writing nasty things so I will have to switch over to moderation.

the long haul of homeschooling

Here is an excellent blog post entitled, "Freshening the Homeschool Plan". It is for homeschooling moms of older children.

A plan and purpose to child rearing combined with the thrill of quality books and a deepening interest in history and science creates a momentum in the home that few outside the homeschooling movement really grasp. That momentum sustains many families for years, often right through junior high for the oldest child.

Lots of great ideas, including getting back out of the house, keeping up Mom's hobbies, and finding big-kid projects for parents and teens to do together.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

can we say "waste of time"?

Okay, let's say you are new to an area and join a Internet group of mommies who live in the surrounding towns. There is a get-together put on by the homeschooling moderator so you sign up, take a shower, make pumpkin bread, get juice cups organized, print out directions and spend 30 minutes in the car to knock on the door. You expect to meet other homeschooling mothers and possibly find some friends for your children.


What you find is someone who does "school" with her preschooler and sends her oldest to public school and a mom who is considering homeschooling because she is unsatisfied with her 5 year old's preschool. I spent most of the visit keeping Timmy from eating the decorations and the other part picking up the flood of toys that seemed to wash through the house.

I know there are all kinds of homeschoolers: unschoolers, school-at-home moms, classical types, traditionalists, and likely another half dozen variants. But they school their children at HOME, not send them to public school and claim to be a homeschooling expert. I'll just say that I won't find my bosom buddy through this venue.

Luckily I have spent part of the past week finding more helpful social and supplemental activities for the kids.
Brownies - check
Cub Scouts - check
Piano lessons - check

I also have found yet another little boy Will's age in the neighborhood who homeschools. The best news is that his older sister babysits, hopefully available every afternoon so I can go running without waiting for Tim to get home at 6 before heading out the door.

Here's hoping for better luck next time.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

breakfast time

This morning I heard a great deal of whispering downstairs and then Will called up, "Don't come down yet!" I took my time getting dressed and doing my face (yea right) but Maggie came up to whisper that the older kids were making me a surprise breakfast of toast.

It was a lovely gesture to be greeted with my cup of hot cocoa all made, even if it was presented by Will's protests, "I wasn't ready yet!"

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

boys and their cars

Today I took the little kids on a quick run to Kroger, leaving the older ones to clean up the playroom. When we pulled into our parking space, Charlie pointed, saying, "Look Mommy a bus!" I looked around, trying to see if he had spotted a city bus, but saw nothing even close. He called out again, "Mommy, a bus like Daddy's!" When I had gotten all of them unstrapped and around the van I saw it, a very beat-up 1970's Volkswagen. Charlie was just right, Tim has a model of a VW with the same paint job on a shelf in his study to remind him of the one he owned in college.

I have a feeling that Tim will be proud of his little boy, for it looks like he will turn into a gear head just like Daddy.

Carnival of Homeschooling

The 91st carnival is up here with a fairground theme. My favorite food at the fair? Steak bombs, with heaps of shaved meat, onion, and pepper on a huge roll. What's yours?

our own Shirley Temple

Maggie likes to sing in the car, much to the chagrin of her older brother and sister who want perfect silence for their reading pleasure. However, I love to hear her trill whatever comes to her head. She doesn't sing songs performed by professionals, but her own lyrics, which make me giggle regularly.

"Oh, we are going over the tracks, over the tracks, over the tracks, the railroad tracks."

"Going home, going home. Home for dinner, chicken nuggets and peas."

Once last year when we were picking Maggie up from preschool her teacher made the cryptic comment, "It is obvious that she comes from a large family," but delivered it with a grin that made me assume this was a plus. As the third child she has to adapt and get along with those who are bigger and bossier, as well as the little boys who get more attention because they are babies. But I don't worry about her being left out or forgotten, because she demands our attention with her megawatt grin and lyrical patter.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

where's Timmy?

Yesterday we spent the afternoon visiting several farms during North Carolina's Farm Tour Day. While the children wandered about looking at all the farm animals like sheep, cows, and goats Tim and I took turns asking questions about fencing and shearing. We had a great time, but after a few hours in the 90 degree heat we put all the hot and tired children in the van with a bag of juice each for the ride home.

After unloading the cooler and gear, I headed back out to the local cheap Chinese joint to pick up our order of General Tso's chicken and Pepper Steak while Tim put the two icky little boys into the tub. When I got back I set the food out on the table and called everyone to supper. We said grace, but then noticed that the baby was not in his high chair. "Where is Timmy?" All of us got up immediately and started calling his name. Mary finally found him in the front yard, being watched by a man taking his toddler for a walk down the street. I snatched him up and carried him back in. Later Tim was out chatting with the neighbors and discovered that the baby had actually been in the road, which scared the daylights out of me. Nothing like this has ever happened to any of the children, because I naturally keep close tabs on where every child is, especially the under 5 year old set.

Now I can't sleep because when I close my eyes I imagine what could have happened and what might still happen. My fears of drowning, snatching, rare childhood diseases, and car accidents wake me up regularly, but I usually reassure myself that those fears are unjustified. But the combination of the facts that the two storm doors in this house don't latch by themselves and that Timmy now likes to push on said doors for fun leads me to imagine a very bad outcome. Monday morning I will head to the hardware store for some hook and eye closures, but I tremble at the thought of one of our neighbors thinking us poor parents from this episode and calling social services on us. Maybe I am a bit paranoid, but after reading so many articles from HSLDA and magazines about children being taken away from their parents, I worry.

Tim and I consider ourselves very good parents. We keep them all clean and fed, educated and entertained. We kiss them often and tell them daily how much we love them as well as make sure they are not spoiled or materialistic. We urge them to be artistic, independent, and well read. My heart just stops at the thought of something terrible happening to any one of these precious souls entrusted to our care. I feel very vulnerable right now. I worry for their safety from physical dangers as well as the government agencies that supposedly protect them.

Friday, September 21, 2007

HPV Vaccine update

...the United States launched the mass HPV vaccination of girls beginning in June last year. In just little over a year, the HPV vaccine have been associated with at least five deaths, not to mention thousands of reports of adverse effects, hundreds deemed serious, and many that required hospitalization.

Three deaths were related to the vaccine, including one of a 12-year-old. One physician's assistant reported that a female patient "died of a blood clot three hours after getting the Gardasil vaccine." Two other reports, on girls 12 and 19, reported deaths relating to heart problems and/or blood clotting.

As of May 11, 2007, the 1,637 adverse vaccination reactions reported to the FDA via the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) included 371 serious reactions. Of the 42 women who received the vaccine while pregnant, 18 experienced side effects ranging from spontaneous abortion to fetal abnormities.

One of the major complaints by physicians is that the HPV vaccination program has been implemented before adequate testing has been completed. Long-term effects of the vaccine remain unknown. Many are asking why the huge, seemingly reckless rush?At least one answer to that question comes from the fact that Merck currently is the sole provider of an HPV vaccine with its Gardasil product. A competing HPV vaccine, Glaxo Smith Kline's Cervarix, is set to hit the market in January 2008.US sales of Gardasil are expected to reach $1 billion in the first year of its availability. Life Site News

I can't begin to write about how this vaccine is such a bad idea, but I will let you read what my dear husband wrote about it several months ago over at Catholic Medical Weekly.

life is never dull around here...

Baby Timmy learned a new trick yesterday. He can flip the light switch located directly behind his high chair so eating our chicken dinner was similar to trying to eat in a dance club. On. Off. On. Off. Then Charlie found the other switch on the opposite wall. On. Off. On. Off. Faster and faster the lights flashed. Until...

Mommy said, "Basta!" (Italian translation: enough already, stop!)

And all was still.

Yeah, right.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

dear doctor

Yesterday I filled out a new patient form at the Family Practice clinic which contained all sorts of odd questions, some of which I would like to share. Nothing too personal, mind you...

Are you happy with your weight?

No. After 2 weeks of stuffing my face with Doritos and Krispy Kreme doughnuts to fill my emotional ache and not being able to run off the calories for a month, I have gained 6 pounds. While some of the larger sizes allow for more pounds between sizes, there is only about a 5 pound difference between size 6 and 8. I am now pushing into the size 10 range. I am definitely not happy with that.

What was your weight when you were 21?

105. What on earth does how much I weighed 15 years ago, and will never come close to again, have to do with my health now??

Are you under stress?

Let's see. My mother, my best friend just passed away, I have 5 small children, I homeschool, and I can't even find the grocery store without help from MapQuest. All of these induce high stress, especially since the job offers no pay and no time off.

When was the last time you were happy?

Today. With all these children there is always some reason to smile, a reason to laugh every hour, a reason everyday to hoot and giggle and snort like a pig.

Carnival of Homeschooling

Is up at About Homeschooling with an autism theme. My favorite post is about incorporating more art into the children's studies.

your tax dollars and mine

As owners of two pieces of property in the great state of Maine we pay a staggering amount in taxes. The breakdown of where the money is distributed show that about 75% of our yearly bill in each town goes directly for public education.

This editorial in a Illinois paper proposes that residents who have no children in the school system receive a reduction because they don't use the services provided. Since vouchers and tax credits for homeschooling are likely never going to become law, the idea of putting the cost of a "free public education" on the plates of those who use it seems pretty fair. Perhaps if more homeowners were given the financial incentive to opt out, more families would switch to private school or homeschool, forcing a radical change in the educational system in America.

What do you think??

Why should a household without kids in school pay the same as the next door neighbor with several kids in school? Surely the "no kids" household should pay something, but not the same amount.
Or why should the 80-year-old widow whose home has appreciated to, let's say $400,000, pay more to the schools than the $150,000 home owner with several kids using the public school system in the same district?

Here's a proposal: Tie the school tax amount directly to the parcel number at a specified dollar amount, not the value of the property. Now, multiply that dollar amount by the number of children residing at that parcel number.
Have more kids; pay more for the use of the public school system. Everyone has a "multiplier" of at least 1. No kids in school, multiply by one. One kid in school, multiply by one. Two kids in school, multiply by two, etc. As the number of kids from a particular parcel number decreases, so does the multiplier, down to 1.
After 12 years without a kid in a public school, the multiplier drops to 0.5, 0.25, or perhaps zero. If zero, that property owner would no longer be able to vote on future school referendums.
This would apply to those who home school or send their kids to a private school.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


The past several days I have walked around the house in sorrow, just wanting to pick up the phone and call Mother and tell her how rotten I feel that she died. After pondering what would happen if I fell ill and was gone in 6 months, I convinced myself that I have cancer. Sleepless nights with access to heavy medical textbooks with color photos does not help the situation. Timmy would never know me, Charlie and Maggie might have vague recollections of a mother, and Will and Mary would forever be angry with me that I died. I would never be able to move to Maine, never try to shear a sheep, never grow my own veggies, and never see my children grow up.

Tim says all this fretting is perfectly normal, but I am going to the doctor anyway.

It certainly doesn't help to come across articles like this one that say:

"US researchers... found the more children couples had, the worse their health and the more likely they were to die early."

Sunday, September 16, 2007

comparison shopping

One of the hardest things about moving to a new place is just finding out where things are, such as grocery stores, the library, and thrift store for kid's clothes. I have tried Food Lion (too dirty), Harris Teeter (too expensive), and Kroger, but was hoping to find one where I could find staples such as oil and King Arthur flour as well as hormone-free milk.

Friday after we finished school I printed out the Map Quest directions for the nearest warehouse club as well as Super Target, but was sadly disappointed in both. Sam's Club doesn't carry many brands we eat, most of their foods are just pre-made expensive meals in large quantities. I realized that I would be too tempted to buy junk as well as the feeling of being conned by paying for a "membership" to shop in their store. We didn't do much better at Target where I tromped an extra quarter mile to find the baby food and diapers. They didn't have any whole wheat flour and the only milk was a $5 a gallon generic brand. After we got all the way to the back of the store I heard, "Mommy I gotta go potty!" so back to the front we went. By the time my groceries made it to the cashier I was sweating, but then discovered that the "associates" wearing red shirts don't bother to put your bags in the cart for you.

The truism "try, try again" came to mind after asking a neighbor where she shops. "Whole Foods has great stuff, but can be pricy," was her response, so off the girls and I went to do a little hunting and gathering. We were running out of milk since I could only bear to buy 1 gallon of milk the day before. Eureka! The fruits and veggies looked fresh and exciting, the meat case was enticing, there was a hot bar for lunches on the go, reasonably priced fresh organic bread, and best of all, the ever elusive BGT-free milk was only $3.50 a gallon! After ooohing and aaahing all over the store I picked out some roasted green bean and sweet pepper salad from the deli for my lunch and we headed home. So, after finding a church last week and finding grocery stores this week I am finally beginning to settle into our new environs. Printing out directions for every trip is a drag, but before long I will have my mental map all squared away.

Then it will be time to move again.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Summorum Pontificum

A Day of Great Joy!

Today the pope's letter freeing the Latin Mass goes into effect today. Priests and laity have the opportunity to take back our Catholic heritage. While some areas will see immediate changes, more liberal dioceses like Maine will wait years to see a return of the beautiful and pious liturgy.

Our plan is for me to take the older children to High Mass tonight with the bishop in attendance. We had some heated discussions about our new parish, and while I'm not too thrilled going to Mass celebrated by a priest who doesn't like small children, I am willing to give it a trial period. After all, it is the ONLY Latin Mass within 3 hours and we are only here for another 9 months. Yet again I didn't know how good I had it until it was gone. Our priest at our former parish, Father Willis, is a gem in the Church, the finest homilist I have heard, and a plain nice guy.

If you have cable and don't have the opportunity to attend the Mass of the Ages today, watch EWTN for the first televised Latin Mass ever.

Watch the SOLEMN HIGH MASS EXTRAORDINARY FORM OF THE ROMAN RITE Celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass from the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama.
Sept. 14 8:00 AM - Live
Sept. 14 6:00 PM Encore
Sept. 15 12:00 AM Encore

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

rest in peace

Today I will drive up to Virginia and attend my mother's funeral. We all have our faults, and perhaps I focused a little too much on her lacking as a grandmother over the past few years, but I will mostly remember Mother as a kind woman who was loyal and dependable. Her circle of friends had a shared history of over 40 years, in fact, she and her best friend Margaret became pals when they were 16. They were with her until the end, giving the same love and loyalty right back. I always envied my mother's lasting friendships and will try harder to be a good friend and to be more kind to those I love.

Perhaps I will start by expressing my gratefulness to the most generous husband a woman could ever ask for. After 1 day to ride his tractor until next summer, Tim patted his John Deere goodbye and helped pile all the children in the car before driving 13 hours of the 16 hour trip. I remember falling asleep on the floor of the van beneath Charlie's dangling feet in Connecticut and waking up in Richmond, Virginia. After a quick shower and a hasty dumping of all the luggage and boxes, I left him alone with all 5 kids, including still-nursing baby Timmy. He kept everyone fed, clean, and busy during the few days I spent in Virginia. It was likely a shock for him, since the last time he watched the children alone for more than a day we only had 3 children. I could tell he was overwhelmed on my return by the sight of the house strewn with toys and books, unmade beds, and a clean laundry pile that almost reached the ceiling, but I didn't hear any complaints. He is a rare gem of the highest quality and I love him with all my heart.

The other person I will be forever grateful to is my friend Jennifer up in Maine. She watched some of the kids, along with her 4, so I could pick up Tim at the airport and pack boxes. She graciously took all our groceries, including the last 2 quarts of wild blueberries. She is a sweet woman who gives me a good example of what a Catholic mother should be.

Thanks to many prayers I was able see my mother before she slipped into a fog of unconsciousness. When I walked into her hospital room she grinned and said loudly, "Katherine!" Over and over people told me how she said she was trying hard to hang on on so I could make it to her bedside. It was truly a blessing to be able to tell her how much I love her and that I was grateful for her being my mother. Less than a week later we will put her to rest and I will resolve to be as strong and brave as she turned out to be.

Julia G. Todd


May God hold you in the palm of his hand

Carnival of Homeschooling

The 88th carnival has an eating theme (ate-eight, get it?) at consent of the governed.

Monday, September 03, 2007

packing and praying

My mother has been kept at the hospital in order to provide end-of-life care. Her prognosis on Saturday was dire, she had 12-24 hours left. Luckily in the past day or so she has rallied, leading me to believe that she is holding out for me to be there. We have talked on the phone many times since then and I have told her I don't want her to suffer unneedlessly on my account. If she wants to let go, she should have peace in her heart.

Hopefully I will still make it to her bedside so I have been frantically packing up all our gear, schoolbooks, clothes, and linens, as well as cleaning and organizing the garage. The dump opens tomorrow and I will be there with my 5 bags of trash, the sofa, and a pile of junk. Hopefully the U-Haul place will have a trailer for us in the morning and we can pack and then hit the road.

Prayers for Mother, our trip, and my family would be welcomed. This has been a long, hard slog and all of us are filled with grief.

Obviously blogging comes in distant second to life and death so I will return when it is appropriate.