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.