Wednesday, February 28, 2007

my mommy has cancer

We didn't get the good news we were hoping for today. Mother has ovarian cancer and will begin chemo in a week or two. Right now I have to cry a lot, say how unfair it all is, and hold her hand.

Hugging little children helps a lot. Having lovely children who say, "I love you Mommy," and ask me if I would like some water helps too.


Our generous and gracious priest posted a notice on the doors of our chapel this morning asking for prayers for my mother, who is having major surgery today. Wednesday is our weekly day of adoration following low Mass and Benediction.
I beg you to join with them in prayer.

God bless your child Julia,
keep her in your embrace.
Guide the surgeon's hand,
and give her your peace.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

My absolute favorite picture books

This wasn't exactly a meme, but several bloggers, including Wisteria, are passing around lists of their child's favorite story books.
I think I would rather focus on the 25 books that, if stranded on a deserted island with my kids, I would be able (without going absolutely nuts) to read to them over and over and over and....
Many of these books were my favorites from childhood, and though my copies are dog-eared and covered with yellowing laminate I can't bear to replace them. My mother taught reading for 15 years and instilled in me a love of good kiddy lit, with words that sing and pictures that compliment the story and are beautiful in themselves.

1. Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
2. Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey
3. Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman
4. Mr. Pepino's Cabbage by Diane Wilmer
5. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
6. The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
7. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee
8. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
9. Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag
10. Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall
11. Roxaboxen by Barbara Cooney
12. Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack
13. Ferdinand by Munro
14. Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban
15. Spooky Old Tree by Stan and Jan Berenstain
16. Go Dog Go by PD Eastman
17. Little Bear by Else Holmelund
18. Christina Katerina and the Box by Patricia Gauch
19. Euphonia and the Flood by Mary Calhoon
20. Dr. Seuss ABC by Dr. Seuss
21. Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel
22.The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
23. Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel
24. Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
25. No Fighting, No Biting! by Else Holmelund

Monday, February 26, 2007

house for sale

Our house goes on the market later this week so I have been madly organizing and cleaning for about 3 weeks. It looks like a Pottery Barn catalogue in here with baskets holding toys, sweaters, school supplies, and paperwork. Today I super vacuumed and steam-cleaned most of the carpets and now have damp socks. However, the pressure washing and exterior painting contractor has not started yet and I am stressing over what the outside of the house looks like.
I've never owned a home before, and therefore have never sold one. I don't really know what to expect. Will hordes of people tramp in and out of our home every day? Will I become so stressed about trying to make it look "Better Homes and Gardens" perfect that my head actually explodes? (Just what I don't need, I would have to re-clean the carpets!)
I know perfectly well that it isn't really the house that I am worried about, I'm just transferring my anxiety. My mother is very ill and while I can't perform surgery or wave a magic wand to cure her, I can scrub my baseboards with a toothbrush and vacuum out the fireplace with a vengeance.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

4th grade slump?

According to this article from Newsweek, the critical year in elementary school is 4th grade. In the earlier years the technical aspects of learning are emphasized and school is usually entertaining. But as children become more mature the real work begins and they gradually lose interest. Learning and reading for pleasure can easily be choked out of a child's life by over-indulgence of sports, TV, computer games, and hanging out with peers. We must balance fun in our children's lives with the long-term goals of wisdom, knowledge, and perserverence.
Another aspect is parental exhaustion. Children these days have been pushed to get ahead since toddlerhood and when they can finally take on some responsibility for their own learning the parents feel they can take a much-needed break. However, this time frame is critical for learning content, analyzing material, and becoming creative thinkers.
"For a lot of kids, fourth grade is a turning point. According to the National Assessment of Education Progress, known as the Nation's Report Card, American kids' reading scores are improving in the early years of elementary school. After fourth grade, test scores are flat. "While there's no question schools are doing better with young children," says Timothy Shanahan, president of the International Reading Association, "kids just don't continue to make the same gains." Kids read less as they get older, too. In a 2006 survey by Scholastic Inc., 40 percent of kids between the ages of 5 and 8 read every day. At fourth grade, though, that rate declined to 29 percent."

Now, we haven't begun 4th grade yet (we will in 6 months), but I can see how critical it is that 9 year olds find books that interest them and expose them to a wide variety of subjects to better understand the world around them. Will loves anything mechanical and engineering related and I encourage that with suggesting gifts such as Snap Circuits and Physics Workshop, and bringing home umpteen books that explain how things are made. I can also see that Mary has been entranced by all things equine and is currently speed reading through the "Pony Pals" series designed exclusively for the 6-9 year old "horse-crazy" girl market. My job is to continue to promote reading and keep them excited about learning about all sorts of things. My other job is to not burn them out with testing. Luckily this is not difficult since they are not in the public school system and we only test them for 3 days each spring, using the CAT survey test.
"Testing may be contributing to the slump in subtle, curricular ways. At every level of schooling, says Jeffrey Wilhelm, a reading expert from Boise State University, "kids need to use a wide range of reading materials—nonfiction and expository writing—and lots of vocabulary words." But in an effort to "teach to the test," many schools are replacing social studies and science with reading instruction in the early years, and that hurts kids. Without this critical base, many kids aren't equipped to do the abstract thinking and learning required of them as they move on."
I also think it is important to continue to read aloud to older children since this allows them to be exposed to more advanced books and makes reading more respected as it becomes a family activity. Reading aloud helps keep reading entertaining because adults can use speech in creative ways. It is important to find books that are engaging, luckily this is not difficult.
Currently we are reading The BFG (link in sidebar), an entertaining tale about a young orphan girl kidnapped by a giant who refuses to eat people like all the other inhabitants of Giant Country. His speech is gramatically incorrect since he only uses present tense and mixes up many nouns and verbs. My children, who have been accused of being the "grammer police"("That's not right! It 'is my birthday', not were!") to each other, love to hear me read sentences such as, "You is a human bean and human beans is like strawbunkles and cream to those giants... I is a dream-blowing giant. When all the other giants is galloping off every what way and which to swallop human beans, I is scuddling away to other places to blow dreams into the bedrooms of sleeping children. Nice dreams. Lovely golden dreams. Dreams that is giving the dreamers a happy time."
Keep your 9 and 10 years olds reading for content and fun, read aloud to them each day, don't over-emphasize standardized tests, fill your home with books and you will likely have children who become life-long readers.

4th place

Well, yesterday morning was the ideal racing day. The cold froze the dirt so it crunched underneath my feet, the wind wasn't too stiff, and the sun was shining. I ran my first 8K and just missed taking home a trophy at the conclusion of the 3 race series. If only I had run a bit faster that first race. If only I had known the course better on the second race and hadn't started kicking too soon. If only I had trained a little harder. Well, these things cannot be helped now, I can't change the past. I can only look forward and try to do better.

Somehow running is parallel to life. Whatever trouble you and I are facing in our lives: sin, disease, or loss, we can only look forward and attempt to imitate Christ.

Friday, February 23, 2007

tempting, tempting...

The new Catholic Heritage Curriculum catalogue came in the mail today and was a delight to look through with glossy descriptions of books and lesson plans, helpful articles, and lots of testimonials from homeschooling moms.

I have bought some books from this provider, but when I looked at their lesson plans to compare them with Seton's, I found that the work was generally too simple and the plans were already printed in the planner. While some moms relish this delegation of work, I find one of the most pleasurable aspects of homeschooling is the filling in of all the little boxes in my teacher planner. However, I did buy ink stamps (special order) to print each subject title so I didn't have to write each 72 times in pencil. Lately, the children have become excited about checking off each assignment themselves. The result is that schooltime has been shortened almost in half over the past two weeks!

This very idea of planning books and checking off of assignments was the first tip in an article by Nancy MacArthur, entitled: Ten Things I Wish I'd Known When I Began Homeschooling. The second tip she offers is one that I am champing at the bit to get started on: a 365 day drawer. She has a file folder labeled with each day of the year to put ideas for holy day projects, Saint day festivities, photos and reminders of anniversaries such as sacraments or the death of a relative. The folders get fatter each year with more notes and she reflects that this system helps her follow the liturgical year more closely. This is such a wonderful idea and I never would have learned about it if not for reading this catalogue.
The testimonials are what make me look longingly at the "gentle" lessons and lovingly described books they sell (that's why they are there, I know).
"Your books and lessons make teaching such a joy, instead of tiresome drudgery like those other providers," is a broad paraphrase of many of the quotes.
Well, we use one of those "other" providers that is widely chastized for it's apparent "drudgery" and guess what? We have plenty of joy-filled moments. Both children have already finished phonics because they kept asking, "Mommy can I do one more page? This is so easy!" Will is 4 days ahead in math because he thinks geometry is the coolest thing ever. I only have to call out, "Science project time!" for them to turn off the TV and race downstairs to help blow up balloons with air molecules.
If I had more time and lots more money perhaps I would make up my own perfect program with materials from all the curriculum providers. However, I see with my own eyes how what we are using works well for my children and how it saves me time and energy. Perhaps though, when I re-scan the glossy pages I will pick out a few books to suggest for First Communion gifts and supplements for our home library.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Doctors chastized for being moral

The tone of this article assumes that contraception, abortion, and euthanasia are positive medical advancements and that religious doctors are "bad" for objecting to, and not promoting their use. The freedom of all Americans are being whittled away, not by the Homeland Security Act, but by our politically correct culture.
No mistake about it, the left wants to remove God from the public, as well as the private sphere. Note the message that unless a physician is willing to act against his own conscious, he should not be employed in certain specialties. How have we come from "do no harm" to "unless you are complicit in the culture of death you have no right to practice medicine"? If a man cannot practice Christianity and his profession, then what religious freedom do any of us have?
"Nearly 100 million Americans are at risk of being denied "legal medical interventions" by religious doctors, according to a feature article in the New England Journal of Medicine. In the light of numerous news stories about health care workers who have refused to dispense contraceptives and editorials in leading clinical journals, doctors from the University of Chicago polled about 2,000 of their colleagues to assess the scale of the problem.
They found that it was big -- and implied that it was quite scary. About 14% of patients, more than 40 million Americans, may be cared for by doctors who do not feel obliged to disclose information about treatments which they object to. And 29%, or nearly 100 million, may be cared for by doctors who will not refer to other doctors for morally controversial practices such as "terminal sedation" (sometimes described as euthanasia), abortion and providing teenagers with contraceptives without parental consent. Since 52% of doctors objected to abortion for failed contraception and 42% to contraception without parental consent, the authors feel that patients should be worried.
The study also found that male doctors with religious convictions are the least likely to endorse full disclosure of their prejudices and referral to more compliant colleagues. "Thus, those physicians who are most likely to be asked to act against their consciences are the ones who are most likely to say that physicians should not have to do so," say the authors.
The study shows that "a lot of physicians out there... are not, in fact, doing the right thing," commented David Magnus, a Stanford bioethicist. He said that since emergency contraception is considered standard care in ER, doctors who are opposed should avoid working there. Many doctors may have solved the dilemma by acting against their conscience. The lead author of the study, Farr Curlin, says that although doctors tend to be slightly more religious than the public, they are much less likely to carry their beliefs into their workplace, with 58% saying that they do, compared with 78% of the public.
The issue of conscientious objection for health care workers also troubles the Vatican . The Pontifical Academy for Life will host a conference on the topic later this week in Rome , with speakers from the US , Australia , England and France , amongst others." ~ NEJM, Feb 8

Homeschool Carnival #60

Is up at HomeschoolHacks with a Presidential trivia theme.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

spanking bill not introduced

Apparently the much-publicized notion that spanking should be a crime in California has not been introduced to the state legislature. My imagination leads me to think that legions of parents called this politician threatening to drop off their naughty children on her doorstep to deal with if they could not swat little bottoms to get them to mind.
Even my calm husband had his fill of our 2 year old's antics during Mass this past week and had to take Charlie to the bathroom for a little man-to-man. When they came back into the sanctuary he had tears running down his cheeks but was calm for the rest of the service. However, he didn't get his usual doughnut afterwards, which sent him on another fit. Mrs. Lieber should have been grateful that California is so far away because I would not have minded dropping off my own hysterical child.
“This home-invasion bill has been stopped cold by parents and grandparents who know that to love children is to discipline them and show them the way to live,” said Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families (CCF), a leading nonprofit, nonpartisan California-based pro-family organization, which has been strongly opposing the spanking ban. “Because so many people have spoken out, the Democrats in Sacramento realize that their liberal agenda is offending a whole lot of people.”
For two weeks, Lieber has publicly pushed to make spanking your own child under age 4 a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both. Now she’s retreating, as evidenced by two published reports that she intended to introduce her no-spanking bill no later than today.

Lent is coming

One of my favorite movie lines is in Steel Magnolias, when one of the ladies is sharing her recipe for peach cobbler,
"You really need to serve it with ice cream, to cut the sweetness."
Yesterday I made steaming apple crisp and to top off my decadent treat I added a scoop of Breyers vanilla.
I think for Lent we are going to go whole hog and give up sweets. However, the Lord's day is a feast day and exempt from Lenten sacrifice. So, perhaps I will start making a fancy family meal complete with cake or other decadent dessert on Sunday evenings. Whenever I read about farm families in novels they always seemed to set aside this day for a special meal and invite friends and relatives to join them. Since we will soon (4 years) be a large farming family I think it would be good to start practicing now.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Children of God

Will went with his daddy this afternoon to a local parish with 150 other Scouts to receive his Parvuli Dei religious emblem from the bishop. Some of the requirements were busy work, but there were also Bible readings and tasks such as praying for someone you did a good deed for that pulled together the Cub Scout creed and the Catholic tradition. He was one of only 2 Bears (3rd graders) to receive the emblem, all the rest of the boys were Webelos (4-5th graders).
It was too long a day for the little ones so I stayed home. They told me all about the service afterwards, including that Will's prayer intention happened to be one of the 8 chosen to be read aloud at Mass. The scantily-clad teen chic lector stumbled over the word purgatory(had she ever heard of it, I wonder?). Supposedly the Bishop looked perplexed at why they were all praying for the Russians. I think this prayer has to do with consecrating Russia to Our Lady, but I'm not quite sure.
God bless everyone who has been so good to us, everyone in the world, all the souls in Purgatory, and please help the Russian people to find God. Amen.

what kind of cookie are you?

You Are an Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

On the surface, you're a little plain - but you have many subtle dimensions to your personality.
Sometimes you're down to earth and crunchy. Other times, you're sweet and a little gooey.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Don't what?!

Last night at dinner Maggie asked, "Mommy can you open my piece of plastic cheese, and don't lick it!"

Why on earth would she even think that I wanted to lick her Kraft processed cheese slice?

Friday, February 16, 2007

A Housekeeper is Better Than a Divorce

This is the title of a book I found at my local library last week. Not that I am about to quit the family (like Mary tried to do yesterday), but it is a practical guide to exploring the idea of hiring someone to clean, calculating hours of service, hiring and handling personel problems, fulfilling legal obligations, and organizing instructions and training.

Did you know that 100 years ago there were an average of 2 servants per family of 5? 50 years ago most households enjoyed time-saving milk and grocery delivery. These days, especially in the homeschooling community, it is expected that 1 mother, even with a cartload of children, can cook, shop, clean, educate, decorate, exercise, and socialize, all with no outside help. This translates into a lot of pressure and an almost impossible standard. The tasks that almost always gets neglected are the household chores, the cleaning of the bathrooms and vacuuming, the dusting and the mopping of floors, the changing of beds and folding the laundry. While I do keep up with the daily household chores, I currently have a nice lady who comes for about 3 hours once a week. However, what I need is her coming 3 times a week to really keep things ship-shape.
Tim has promised me that once we move down to NC I can look for someone to come and help with these household chores so I can be free to teach the children and relax a bit! This book has helped me figure out the details of such an endeavor.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

vacuum woes

This morning I couldn't make our new vacuum cleaner work, no matter how many times I passed over a particular piece of dirt. Of course my first thought was, "Oh, nooooo, not another vacuum cleaner down the drain!" I flipped it over and feeling no suction, assumed out loud, "there must be a clog somewhere."
Will casually mentioned, "Is the dial set on hose or on floor?"

How smart! My mechanically inclined 8 year old is so astute!
(Now that I think about it, I think he might have had something to do with it being set wrong in the first place, in which case he is the cause of the malfunction, not the source of the fix.)

thirsty monsters

I never know when the thirsty monsters are going to strike. Last night was an especially busy, as they came at 1am, 1:30am, 2am, and 2:30. At first the voice is soft, "Mommy." Then it intensifies as I roll over and pry my eyelids apart, "Mommy, thirsty!" Now, I'm not the one who needs that sip of water to fall back into dreamland, but I reluctantly fling back the covers and stumble to flip the switch in the hall bathroom. One thirsty monster will then ask for the ceiling fan to be turned on and the next one will ask that it be turned off. Luckily the first is already back asleep and won't notice until an hour later and I hear that soft voice calling me again.
The thirsty monsters will grow and become peaceful slumberers and a new crop of thirsty monsters will take their place. One day we will have no thirsty monsters and supposedly I will miss these nights, just like I will miss the excitement of when baby first learns to crawl and I have to keep a vigilant eye for all chokables on the floor. And as the baby learns over time to not put every tiny LEGO piece into his mouth for inspection I will again sleep peacefully all through the night with no monsters to disturb my dreams.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Catholic Blog Awards

The 2007 Catholic blog awards are in the process of being voted on as we speak. There are tons of nominees in each category, which shows how much talent we Catholics have in writing as well as making fun of ourselves. I am nominated for Best New Blog, but I would really appreciate it if you would vote for my dear husband's blog Catholic Medical Weekly in the Smartest Blog category. He works very hard on his weekly medical ethics essays, including a brand new one about the Texas governor's mandate that all little girls be vaccinated against the HPV sexually transmitted disease.

Happy Valentine's Day

I can't be the only woman in America who doesn't need Valentine's Day. Maybe I'm cynical, but I sneer when I see ads in February for flowers and candy and jewelry. I figure this overly-commerical Hallmark holiday is for those women whose husbands are indifferent the rest of the year.
My husband? He sent love letters every week when he was deployed on the other side of the world. He leaves me notes with little hearts on them for me to find at breakfast (yes, I save every last one). He brings me flowers home when he feels I need it and tells me every day that he loves me. He also tells me often how beautiful I am and how proud he is of me for raising 5 children and stuffing bits of knowledge into their little heads. He is my cheerleader, my guide, my companion, my love.
What am I getting for Valentine's Day? A new bread machine. Ours died yesterday and the old one is already in 300 pieces on the schoolroom floor.
A bouquet of roses: dead in a week.
A new kitchen appliance: helping feed our family hot and delicious bread for several years to come.
No contest.
I love you sweetie, thanks for all the romance!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Confederate receipts

The kids and I hit the downtown library's book sale today. I was looking for an old set of World Book encyclopedias to fill out our home library's reference section. After mentally comparing $430 for a 2006 new set on ebay to the $20 for a 1988 set, I quickly decided to lug them to my car. Some other finds included horse books for Mary, The Way Things Work for Will and a 1960 reprint of an earlier 1863 receipt book to help the Confederate housewife cope with shortages as a result of the war. It was interesting to read some of the directions for making soap and ink, especially comparing it to how we procure these items today.
"Soap. Pour 12 qts of boiling water upon 5 lbs of unslacked lime. Then dissolve 5 lbs of washing soda in 12 qts of boiling water, mix above together, and let the mixture remain from 12-24 hours. Pour off all the clear liquid, being careful not to disturb the sediment. Add to the above 3 1/2 lbs of clarified grease, and from 3-4 oz of rosin. Boil this compound together for 1 hr and pour off to cool. Cut it up in bars for use and you are in possession of a superior chemical soap, costing about 3 1/2 cents per lb in ordinary times."
Ink. To make 5 gallons of good cheap ink, take 1/2 lb of extract of logwood and dissolve it in 5 gal of hot water, and add 1/2 oz of bichromate potash. Strain and bottle it.
Charcoal Tooth Powder. Pound charcoal as fine as possible in a mortar, or grind in a mill, then well sift it and apply a little of it to the teeth about twice a week. It will not only render them beautifully white, but will also make the breath sweet, and gums firm and comfortable.
After reading this, I feel guilty for complaining about how much work it is to take 5 kids to the grocery store. Make list, drive in my heated van to the commissary, park, throw items in my cart, pay, tip the bagger, drive home, and have children empty the car and put away the groceries. Whew! It is nothing compared to these poor women with little food in the cupboard and a husband off at war, having to make household items with recipes that all seem to involve large quantities of scalding liquid and caustic substances.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

ship tour

Will and I went with his Cub Scout den this afternoon on a tour of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This aircraft carrier, with a deploying crew of 5000 sailors and airmen, is a small city with mess halls, a bank, gyms, and even a museum with a moose head (shot by TR himself). We got to walk on the flight deck and see where the cables to arrest a fighter jet's landing are attached and sit in the captain's chair up on the bridge. The boys were impressed with the cavernous hanger bays and the brig where prisoners are made to scrub and polish for hours each day.
The thing that made the biggest impression on me was the berthing- 3 bunks high with small curtains across for privacy. Each junior enlisted member of the crew, who usually live on board full time, are allotted only a small locker to store all their possessions. I would encourage any of my children who decided to follow in their father's, grandfather's, and great-grandfather's footsteps of serving in the US Navy to first get a college degree. Officers are entitled to certain privileges, the most important (to me) being assigned a stateroom shared by only 1-3 other crew members. Even though it is a huge vessel, the general feeling I had was one of feeling enclosed and smushed. It was a relief to walk down the gangway and onto the pier after only a few hours. I can't imagine what it would be like to have to eat, sleep, and work in such a confined space for months on end.
Today I salute and pray for all the men and women who sacrifice for our country in unpleasant places around the world, in sandy deserts, in submarines, and on big gray ships.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Happy Birthday Mary!

Our darling Mary is 7 years old today. I still recall standing in our apartment in Italy, waiting through intense labor pains for my friend Gloria to arrive. She watched 17 month old Will while Tim drove madly down the Autostrada and the Tangenziale, flashing his lights and honking his horn in order to get us to the hospital in time. Rush hour was about to commence and if we didn't make it in time there was a real possibility that I would deliver on the side of the road. (It happened to another American a few months after we PCSed)
Mary today is a smiling, motherly, helpful, and kind little girl. She takes after her mother, with her freckled nose always stuck in a book. She loves babies and helps bathe and dress Timmy, spooning mush into his mouth when I need an extra hand. Mary reads to her little brother and sister, keeping them occupied on long car rides. She loves to play "beauty parlor" and get her slick brown pageboy cut blowdried after bathtime.
Thank you God for my precious Mary Mac, of extraordinary nose-wrinkling fame!

Friday, February 09, 2007

What does the general public think of homeschooling?

I often go to internet news sites to read articles about homeschooling. They tend to be faintly pro or blatantly anti, but the majority fall into "obviously homeschooling is better academically, but what about ...?" (usually socialization)
I came across a rather bland article out of Scotland that fit this pattern, but it was the comments that shocked me. Some folks, even those not sucking on the educational system teat, don't even admire homeschooling, they are repulsed by it. Some of the comments and my reaction:

"Most home schooling parents keep their children out of public schools to indoctrinate them with a private brand of religion. It’s not a horror of public schools so much as a horror of exposing their kids to people who don’t believe the seas will turn to blood in their lifetimes, etc.
And publicly funded education made us a world power. It was intended so. And it has been defunded, and most importantly depopulated, by what is essentially classism and racism. All else is jibber-jabber."
Only 35% of students are homeschooled for strictly religious reasons. However, it is a perfectly legitimate reason to homeschool since parents don't necessarily want their children to be indoctrinated in the religion of secular humanism found in public schools.
We are a world power for many reasons, mostly due to the economic and political freedom available only in the United States. It is certainly not due to our 150 year old dumbed-down school system. Most of the founders of our republic were homeschooled. Just as a child's test scores fall the longer he goes to government school, our country's scores fall further behind other countries the longer we subsidize a corrupt and socialist system of education. Defunded? The school system gets a majority of property tax dollars, going up every year. More money is not the answer to the Education Department's ills- it needs to be dismantled entirely.
"I live in the South, in a relatively small town without a lot of options as far as private schools. The local Catholic school has recently closed and it never went past the 8th grade. The black:white ratio is about 60:40. So as you can imagine there are several people that either home school or have moved to a small school district nearby that is mostly white."
If a parent wants better for their own child, knowing they can't change the system, people on the left simply starts calling names like racist. Is it racist for me to want my children to not be exposed to rampant materialism, sex, and drugs? (available at our local "great" public school)

"I would love to have been home schooled had it not been some form of social suicide, seems like a great way to learn though."

"Home schooling is a good option for “kids who don’t fit in” or those at the IQ extremes. However IME it’s more for parents who can’t get along with others’ ideas, whether those are religious, academic, or social. The results are a mixed bag. You’ll never hear about the kids who fall through the home school cracks."

"I can related to this in a way. An ex-neighbor of mine had four children, three were being home schooled while the oldest had just entered the 10th grade due to wanting to play sport. The first time I meet their two youngest I swear I thought they were retarded. They acted like they were scared of everything outside and seemed to stare and grunt a lot. Later I learned the mother was home schooling and knowing her I wondered just how bad the kids would end up. While other kids played outside these kids stared from behind windows or bushes. The second one began interfacing with me in odd ways. Treated me like an idiot and was rather insulted when I’d put him in his place. His father finally explained to me how his son, 15 expected more respect from me, especially since I was not a memeber of their church. Well thank goodness they moved. It took me a year of disrespecting their cult like living, but it worked."

"I always thought home schooling was a way for over-protective parents to isolate their kids from society. It ends up doing more harm than good because even though schools don’t have the greatest curriculum, what they are good at teaching is human interaction. It’s really the social context of schools that ends up being the best education for children being prepared for the adult world. Its social skills that lead to success, not book smarts."
I knew a great many socially inept people during my childhood, and guess what? All of them went to public schools. Social skills are pretty simple to learn. Do we really need to spend tens of thousands of dollars simply to teach how to play well with others? If our society in general is an indication then that reason is a complete failure. Simply look at our crime and litigation rates. As for the idea that social skills are the key to success, we can't produce engineers with no knowledge of math and physics, physicians with no knowledge of science, lawyers with no knowledge of history, and writers with no knowledge of grammer.

"I had to go to college for four years, take numerous tests, and get a license just to teach one subject. But if parents think they can teach their kids every subject better, then more power to them.
I no longer teach high school because I got sick of kicking kids out of class, having the police come to my class room to arrest one of my students, and hearing about how a student was absent the day before because he was home with his dad smoking pot before his dad had to go back to jail. But I’m sure all those were the fault of teachers…"
Education degrees are so simple to get that you might as well be able to send off for one with cereal box tops. The Praxis national teacher exam is easy, yet I hear all the time of local graduates having a hard time passing on the 3rd and 4th try. These are people I want teaching my kids? I don't think so. There is certainly no corollary between a degree and knowing how to teach. This profession has the highest percentage of people who quit in the first 5 years because colleges do not prepare their students for the chaos of the public schools.
The homeschool community has addressed the issue of teaching complicated subjects in many areas with co-ops, tutors, and computer tutorials. If I managed to get through my local high school then I can easily teach my children how to learn to read, do arithmetic, and write a coherent paragraph.
I wish I could show these people all the great success stories in the homeschooling world, such as Jonathan Bate, the #1 ranked graduate at West Point. However, just as people did not believe in Jesus even after seeing his miracles with their own eyes, these blind souls will never see the good in homeschooling.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

frugal hot drinks?

While I love Starbucks Chai Latte Tea (especially with whipped cream), I can't justify spending over $4 for a cup. The mix at the local store is almost as expensive at $5 for a small can and the commissary sells a big tin for the same price. So I became interested in trying Kim's recipe for homemade chai latte mix.
After buying the ingredients at the grocery over the weekend I mixed up a batch in a large ziplock baggie. Then I taste-tested it against the commercial version. Pretty close, but I think if I add some ground anise seed it will be a bit closer. I haven't figured out the price per cup difference, but one ingredient puts a dent in the wallet- cardamom. A small bottle was $10! Never having heard of this spice, I looked it up on Wikipedia:
Cardamom has a strong, unique taste, with an intensely aromatic fragrance. It is a common ingredient in Indian cooking, and is often used in baking in Scandinavia [citation needed]. One of the most expensive spices by weight, little is needed to impart the flavour. Cardamom is best stored in pod form, because once the seeds are exposed or ground, they quickly lose their flavour. However, high-quality ground cardamom is often more readily (and cheaply) available, and is an acceptable substitute.
(3 days later)
I did find anise seed, but it wasn't ground so I tried to grind it myself. Didn't work. After a few days of taste-testing, I find there is too many bits in the bottom of the cup to make it enjoyable to drink past 3/4 of the cup. So, unfortunately for my wallet, I think I will go back to the store mix. What will I do with the cardamom? I wouldn't want to waste it-supposedly it is good in apple pie and blueberry muffins, two of my favorites. I think I'll mix some muffins up for breakfast this morning and add a dash of my newest spice.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Wednesday Quiz

You are a 100% traditional Catholic!

Congratulations! You are more knowlegeable than most modern theologians! You have achieved mastery over the most important doctrines of the Catholic Faith! You should share your incredible understanding with others!

Do You Know Your Baltimore Catechism?
Make Your Own Quiz

After 3 1/2 years of teaching religion using Seton's books this quiz was embarrassingly easy.

I had a dream the other night that we were at an interview for a local Catholic school. After looking around, I asked a bunch of questions, including, "Do you incorporate Catholic teaching in every subject?" Of course the answer was, "No."

I am so glad that my children (and I) are learning about the Catholic faith and history in English and Spelling, Science and Reading, as well as their Religion and History texts.

You know the Bible 100%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
Create MySpace Quizzes

This too was very easy. We read a story aloud from the Picture Bible every evening. I didn't even have to guess about Ruth, we reviewed that book in the Bible last week in Little Flowers. (So much for Catholics not knowing their Bible)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Monday, February 05, 2007

thrift store shopping

While we were stationed in Italy I ended up being one of the managers of the base thrift shop. It was actually exciting to bicker with the Italians who usually came in to shop for items they then resold at local markets. It was also fun to chat with the ladies as we went through mounds of donated items.
Upon moving into an on-base apartment or a house in town, each family was loaned one pressed particleboard wardrobe per person. Most new arrivals apparently could not fit everything in so we got the discards. (Italian homes have no closets, no cabinets, and sometimes no sinks). I wasn't the exception to the norm- my pink prom dress ended up in the donation bin as well (where was I going to wear it?).
At the end of a tour, when families were preparing to PCS back to the states it was common that they had bought so much local wrought iron and ceramic pieces that the weight limit was exceeded. Again, we were the recipients of the overflow.
I quickly saw the benefits of shopping used and brought home a bag every week for the kids to grow into as well as clothes for myself and Tim. The wives club actually put together a fashion show from thrift shop finds one fall, it was dazzling and fun to see the brigadier general's wife and the CO's wife stroll down the "runway" in their designer duds.

I still shop our local thrift stores for clothes for all of our family, only drawing the line on undergarments, socks, and shoes (those come from the exchange).
Tips for shopping:
Go through each child's wardrobe and note needs. Every 4-5 months pull out what can be worn for the next season and make a list of what you should look for. I have large bins for each age and gender so I can do this quickly. When something is outgrown put it away, but be ruthless- toss or donate anything that has stains or other defects. There are plenty more cheap clothes available.
Look for solid colors and basic styles- coats, jeans, khaki pants, t shirts, turtlenecks, jumper dresses, and dress shirts that can be worn interchangeably. Finding clothes for myself is easy, since I go for the classic look (no fashion craze chic here!)
Check all the zippers, hems, and knees for stains, rips, or holes.
Bring a list of sizes of each child (and spouse) since most stores do not have dressing rooms and remembering sizes for everyone is likely impossible.
Go alone if possible. Most thrift stores are not very child-friendly (though I have found a few) and the kids will bug you to no end to buy them every toy available. I take mine freely to the grocery, but do my best clothing shopping with just the baby.
Look for books. I have amassed (the movers will be agast) well over 2000 children's books from the used book store and the thrift shop.
Shopping at thrift stores is akin to panning for gold, once you strike it rich a few times you become hooked for life!

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Housekeeping Meme

Aprons – Yes, I have one. It was a Mother's Day gift with the kid's handprints on it. I don't use it enough though.
Baking – What is your favorite thing to bake?- Cookies, Pumpkin bread, pie, biscuits, I love to bake them all! Still warm chocolate chip cookies and thin crunchy oatmeal cookies are my favorites.
Clothesline – Y/N? Nope
Donuts – Have you ever made them? Nope. Why, when Krispy Kreme ones are soooo good?
Every day – One homemaking thing you do every day: Pick up the toys and debris off the floor. I grew up with extreme clutter and abhor accidently stepping on things.
Freezer – Do you have one? No.
Garbage Disposal – Y/N? Oh yes.
Handbook?- I like Mother's Rule of Life.
Ironing – Love it or hate it?- I like ironing, especially for quilting, and am proud to say my ironing basket is empty!
Junk drawer – Y/N? Where is it? - Yes, several, but I am in organizing mode due to the upcoming move and sale of our home. My goal for this month is to organize/clean one space each day. Yesterday was the baby's closet- check that one off.
Kitchen: Design & Decorating?- Knotted pine cabinets, Williamsburg green trim, plain counters, cute wallpaper with houses and matching tiles over the stove- overall, a subtle country look.
Love: What is your favorite part of homemaking? Sitting down on the sofa after it is finished in peace.
Mop - Y/N? Me, mop? I have a lady that comes every week to clean- she scrubs it all. I Swiffer on occasion.
Nylons - Wash by hand or in the washing machine?- washing machine, but I mostly wear tights. They last longer and keep my legs warmer during winter. For summer I don't bother.
Oven - Do you use the window, or open the door to check?- Open the door.
Pizza - What do you put on yours? Cheese. We make homemade pizza every Friday.
Quiet - What do you do during the day when you get a quiet moment? Blog, or read a book while lying on my bed.
Recipe card box - Y/N? A binder with plastic pages.
Style of house -Charming, custom built Cape Cod. (can you tell it is for sale?) 9 rooms (we added on a sun room/schoolroom). I love our house and even found plans for building one almost exactly like it for our eventual retreat in Maine. Though in the plans there is a real laundry room and not just a closet like we have now.
Tablecloths and napkins - Y/N?- Plastic placemats and paper napkins. We have lots of milk and syrup spills.
Under the kitchen sink - Organized or toxic wasteland? The only things under there are dishwasher soap, scrubbies, and empty egg containers I am saving for art class.
Vacuum - How many times per week? Four times a week in the living room and back hall. No one actually uses the front door of this house, everyone comes in the back entrance by the garage so the hall gets nasty despite a mat, throw rug, and a hall runner.
Wash - How many loads of laundry do you do a week? About 15.
X's - Do you keep a daily list of things to do and cross them off? Yes. I'm a big list maker with an ongoing grocery list and a to-do list.
Yard - Who does what? Will (8) mows the grass and I enjoy picking up pine cones, planting, pruning, and general puttering. I have a degree in this field but you wouldn't know it from the state of our yard! With 5 kids, who has time to weed and I don't have the extra $$ to do it right.
Zzz's - What is your last homemaking task for the day before going to bed? Putting away the laundry from my bed- I can fold and put away 3 loads in 10 minutes-it is certainly not precision folding, but who cares?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

what to wear?

I am not a clothes horse, in fact I only own one dozen pairs of shoes, including one pair of black Liz Claiborne pumps and one pair of brown LL Bean flats for church. After Tim took the older children to 8am Mass and CCD I started to lay out my clothes to change into.

One black pump was missing.

Now, the girls like to dress up with this pair, since it they are the only ones with heels, so I figured it was in their closet.

The problem was it wasn't.
I searched the entire house, wasting precious time looking for that blasted shoe. Downstairs closet- nope. Under the sofa- nope. (I have started cleaning in earnest for our move and have cleaned all the upstairs closets already) Took a chai time-out for myself before deciding that I would change my outfit and just go with brown pants and the brown flats.
Then I discover one of those is missing too!

At this point, I almost break down in tears because I have been frantically searching now for stupid shoes for almost an hour. I can't go to Mass in tennis shoes and wonder briefly if this constitutes a valid excuse for missing Mass. Nope, I'm sure it doesn't. I then look at the suitcase next to me and look inside, then pat down the outer pocket.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Science: the subject with the most prep and cleanup

Mary's second grade science book included an experiment that she wanted to replicate. We enthusiastically bought 3 different bird seeds, labeled them, and set them out in the backyard to see which one the birds liked best. Her project seemed doomed though when, within an hour the evil squirrels knocked over, first the blend with dried fruits, and then the one with sunflower seeds to gobble as much as he could hold. Mary went out to try to repair the trays, but soon the squirrel was back. Before we knew it all 3 trays were empty. I feel badly for her, especially since she went to so much trouble making a chart to record her data. We might have to simply notice which seed the squirrel did not eat first- the cheap one with lots of millet in the mix.

I have never been one for setting up science experiments in the kitchen, but I am making a lot of effort to try to replicate the experiments in Will's science book. So far we have made rain from steam, poured air, and made a scale using a clothes hanger, Tim's socks, and all my teaspoons (as weights). While I am more apt to enjoy setting everyone on the sofa to read history or stories, science does seem to be more fun, with all the children wanting to participate.

Friday, February 02, 2007

just another morning...

It was an early start this morning at 5:30. After Timmy nursed and went back to sleep, I surfed the internet until Charlie appeared needing a nappie change and bath. I then turned into a whirlwind, tidying in earnest for our cleaning lady's appearance. Around 9:00, while Maggie and Charlie worked on jigsaw puzzles and Timmy crawled around near my feet, Mary and Will got some school work completed.
When Elizabeth arrived we were all in the room over the garage, some playing while Mary and I sewed blocks together. It was difficult with Timmy seemingly trying to cause a mess. He usually goes straight for the cat's water dish, knocking it over 4 times this week. I laid out the quilt squares on the floor to get the right placement and he immediately raised his head to notice, "Vroom, he is off! Timmy, the racing extraordinare, will cross the room in 3.4 seconds. A new speed record!" announced Will.

It took every ounce of patience to simultaneously put socks and shoes on the little ones, nurse the baby, and stuff everyone in sweaters to head out for our Friday errands. Kroger was a disaster, including an argument over carts at the front of the store and 2 preschoolers running in the path of the UPS truck on the way out. (it was 1/2 a block away) Poor Timmy in his stroller somehow ended up hanging upside down when Will hit the curb the wrong way (luckily he was strapped in). I ran to rescue the baby, got everyone in the car, amazingly without losing it.
We soldiered on to the hobby shop at the mall for a birthday gift for Maggie's schoolmate. The store has a train table with the exact same trains we have at home. However, Charlie simply didn't want to leave the store, and had to be carried under my arm screaming and wailing out to the car.
As we got in the car I thought, "Wouldn't it be nice to go to Olive Garden for lunch? Soup, salad?" I have been craving these for 3 months now, but it was not meant to be yet again. The kids wouldn't agree to be pleasant so then I made a decree that I was going to go to a drive-through and let my little monsters starve. On the way I wisely decided to bag the entire outing and head home for lunch. Perhaps I will save my $20 for Saturday and ask Tim to watch them while I take a much needed lunch out.

Sooooo, that's what you meant

Tuesday is P day at preschool so the children and staff are going to wear their pajamas to get into the spirit. Perhaps they could be served popcorn and popsicles for snack?
Maggie's teacher relayed this conversation:

Miss Kate: "Maggie, are you going to wear your pajamas on Tuesday?"

Maggie: "I don't have any pajamas."

Miss Kate: "Well, what do you wear to bed then?"

Maggie: "Jammies!"

My first thought was that the teacher thought that poor Maggie, being one of 5 kids, didn't wear anything to bed. On the ride home we came up with as many names for nightclothes as we could: pjs, jammies, pajamas, nightgowns, sleepers, footies, and our favorite, jimmy jammies. After we got that straight, Maggie and I discussed taking a pineapple (which will get rave reviews and I can eat it afterwards) or an enormous stuffed panda bear on Tuesday.
I have mentioned letter day before. She and I look through the picture dictionary for creative ideas so she will bring something unique. For N day I said, "Everyone will bring a net, (sure enough, there were 3) but no one would bring a nail." This was no ordinary nail though- we went to the hardware store and bought a 10" long roofing nail (only 35 cents). The teacher cracked up when Maggie carried it to her seat. It is just as well we homechool, can you imagine me gearing up if the children did school projects?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Silly quiz time

You Are Bobby Brainy

Ultra competitive, you will do almost anything to win. From pull ups to pool sharking, you're very talented.
And while everyone is aware of your victories, they still (affectionately) consider you to be a little brat!

dressing up

Yesterday the kids raided my closet as well as their dress-up basket. Charlie squeezed into his bee costume (likely for the last time) and Maggie put on her angel dress (inside out and backwards), wings, and her halo. Mary quickly got into the act with a few bandanas strategically tied to become a pirate, and they all stuffed poor Timmy into his dragon costume from Halloween.
There is nothing so much fun as pretending to be somebody else when you are young. Sometimes I wish I could pretend to be a high-powered, generously compensated professional, leaving the world of dirty diapers and shoving rice mush into a ravenous child behind. However, I would also leave behind the beauty and joys I enjoy everyday. I would miss the "Good Morning, Mommy," I hear as the little children wake and come downstairs to find me at the computer. I would miss the squeals and excitement of the other children as they watch Timmy "walk" with help from Will. I would miss seeing the older kids draped over the chairs in the living room as they race through the new Magic Schoolbus books I bought. I would miss teaching Will the multiplication tables- okay, I do wish to miss this one!
Thank you God for my vocation, thank you Tim for allowing me to fulfill it, and thank you, my precious children, for calling out, "I love you Mommy," when I need it the most.