Wednesday, December 31, 2008

4 wasted hours

This morning I had lots of plans for the day: school, piano practice, a trip to Rockville to pick up my new sewing machine... I knew I needed to take Timmy in to get that last stich taken out of his head after I tried to take it out (to save myself a trip to the ER) and failed, but the plan was to go tomorrow after Mass and leave the rest of the children home.

But then...

Will was finishing up his "sofa stuff" with me and Charlie came upstairs, "I have a bead in my ear." It wasn't life-threatening, but it required us to ditch all other plans and bundle up to brave 50 mph winds for a trip to the ER. While we were there we did get Timmy taken care of too. The staff was great once we got back to a room, but the 90 minute wait in the lobby made me have to reach into my magic Mommy bag more than once to keep the boys occupied. Stickers, sippy cups, Fig Newtons, and audio books of Thomas the Tank Engine and Elmo all came out of the bottomless tote, reminiscent of Mary Poppins.

I guess it was our turn in the injury department this week, after all, we hadn't had anything bad happen in well over a year. But now that I have had my fill, please let our next trip in to the hospital result in a baby in my arms rather than just a blown up glove serving as a balloon.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Please pray

for the soul of Emile Lemmons, a Catholic mother of 2, writer, and blogger. She was diagnosed with soft-tissue sarcoma while pregnant last year.

May God's peace be with her family during this time of tragic loss.

latest quilting project

As Tim's retirement draws closer, I have been contemplating what I can do to bring in an income if I was suddenly responsible for supporting the household. While he is perfectly healthy, it is smart to plan for the worst and hope for the best. Since I love to quilt we have been investigating starting a craft business to sell my quilts on-line.

To encourage this endeavor, Tim surprised me on Boxing Day by suggesting that I go by the quilt shop and look at new machines. I ended up purchasing a new Bernina and a quilt table with rollers for each layer so I can quilt large projects. The old machine was ready to be picked up so I brought it home and quilted a top that I made 6 years ago.

The top one on Mary's bed I made for Tim to take on the ship when he was deployed and the one on Maggie's bed is the new one I just finished. I didn't realize until I stepped back to take the pictures that they are mirror images, not exact duplicates.

Can you spot the reversed block? The Amish do this on all their quilts to remind themselves that no human, but only God is perfect. I can't make that excuse, I just did it accidentally. Guess I should practice better quality control if I am to sell them!

carnival of homeschooling

This week's carnival with a reflections theme is being hosted by Practical Homeschooling.

Monday, December 29, 2008

back to school today

"Do you think school should actually be 6-7 hours long?

I mean yeah, i definitely think we need school, but 6-7 hours long?? It seems a little steep to me! I think the teachers could shorten their classes. Please share your thoughts and opinions!"
Yahoo questions

A new friend was amazed when I told her that Will finishes all his schoolwork for 5th grade in less than 3 hours a day and that Mary typically took about 90 minutes to complete her 4th grade assignments. They don't have homework and still manage to get all A's on their report cards from Seton and score in the 85-99% percentile on the CAT. Of course they don't spend the rest of their day staring at a screen or eating, we do lots of educational things the rest of the day. I just don't consider that "school". But they are certainly not trapped in a stuffy and germy room with only kids their own age who seem to want to only "teach" each other what is hip and who is cool.

I am a firm believer in small doses of information with lots of repetition. Haven't we all heard of younger children learning prayers, arithmetic facts, and historical tidbits just from absorbing what they have heard every day from their parents and siblings?

Of course the above questioner seems to think that teachers have control over such issues as how long classes are held. They are just as trapped as the children, not even able to use the facilities if they need to. I think of homeschooling as a much more child-friendly educational system that allows children to play and learn, not just be trapped in a cinderblock box for most of their day.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

This morning the three big kids and I hopped on the METRO for another field trip, this time to the Basilica located on the campus of Catholic University. Since all the students were home for the holidays the cathedral was pretty quiet, which made it lovely to explore.
There are 60 chapels, almost all dedicated to Mary. The overall feeling is one of sacredness and majesty, especially in the two chapels containing tabernacles. There is an abundance of marble and mosaic as seen here in this tiny niche.

The nativity scene in the front of the upper church was very moving, especially since the staff laminated prayers on the kneelers in front. We prayed for my mother and lit a votive candle for the soul of my mother in the Our Lady of Guadalupe chapel. Then after asking directions from two people, we finally found the confessional where I took advantage of the sacrament.
I have to say that of the two Cathedrals we visited, this one is by far the prettier and holier building. I think it is entirely due to the fact that Jesus is truly present in this sacred place and the attitude of the visitors is one of pilgrim, rather than tourist. While I don't see us returning to the Episcopal Cathedral, we will certainly be back many times during our time here to visit and pray at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Friday, December 26, 2008

stone carvings and stained glass

We decided to take advantage of Tim's time off courtesy of POTUS and enjoy the Christmas decorations at Washington's National Cathedral. We only stuck with the tour guide for 10 minutes before we realized that the little ones were starting to get bored so we wandered off to see the high altar and the multitude of chapels. I had been on several field trips as a child to this church and even served once as an acolyte during my teen years. The guide,a middle age woman wearing purple "vestments" played up the ecumenical aspect of this Episcopal Cathedral. She mentioned that Muslims, Buddhists, and leaders from other religions have used the altar for their own worship. We pointed out to the children (after they asked) that since it is a Protestant building there is no Tabernacle and Jesus is not present.

This is the main altar which contains 100 carved figures. Tim's has told me several times about his sweet old landlady when he was in living in DC 20 years ago. Her husband had been an Italian stone carver who spent his entire adult life working on the National Cathedral. The workmanship we saw was equal in beauty to what we saw during our tours of churches in Italy.

This is the Space Window with a chunk of real moon rock from the Apollo 11 mission (it looks like an eye) presented by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins. The other stained glass windows in the main sanctuary were very "artistic" which defeated one of the original purposes of these colorful pictures: to educate those gazing on them of the truths in the Bible. The very large Rose Window above the doors is supposed to represent the 7 days of Creation, but even the tour guide could not differentiate the days because the design was so modern.

This plaque is for Helen Keller and her companion Anne Sullivan who are both interred in the wall behind the Joseph of Arimathea chapel. Also downstairs was a collection of unique nativity scenes, most of which were very primitive, though I have to admit it would take a lot to impress me after seeing the exquisite and elaborate creches in Naples. The children had a much better time pretending they were jousting on the front lawn before we headed home for lunch and a much needed rest.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas from our family to yours

Most of all we hope that your Christmas didn't involve a trip to the ER and 2 stitches in your toddler's head the way ours did. Timmy apparently was very brave and only said, "hurt" once as they were giving him the anesthetic. Playing with his new Elmo talking book was a lifesaver during the wait and a chocolate lollipop afterwards made him forget all about his nasty gash.

Buy different stocking holders, ones that are not sharp and don't fall easily.
Next time try not to let the children get injured 30 minutes before dinner is served.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

the answer is to buy the girls...

real jewelry.

"...the Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) failure (is) to truly protect children from unsafe toys. Now The Wall Street Journal reports that consumer vigilantes affiliated with the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) are taking matters into their own hands. CEH members are going into stores armed with handheld X-ray guns that detect unsafe levels of lead in children's toys. These vigilantes are able to find violations that the CPSC can't seem to find.

...which type of toy typically has the highest concentrations of lead? Jewelry trinkets. The Wall Street Journal article reports the CEH found a frog jewelry charm with high lead content at Wal-Mart."

Just kidding, I'm not a big advocate of letting little girls wear costume or real jewelry since all they would do is lose it or look like they are trying to be grownups, neither of which is appealing. However, we have been playing beauty parlor recently and I painted the girl's fingernails. Maggie likes Pepto Bismol Pink which she chews off after a few days. Mary prefers the classic and understated colorless polish.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

carnival of homeschooling

is up this week at janice campbell with a Christmas in Paris theme.

being pregnant with #6 means...

I have worn my maternity clothes so much that the elastic in all my pants have lost their spring and I have to yank them up every 20 minutes.

I don't look forward to OB appointments like I did the first time around. Now it is just another chore that involves traffic, parking nightmares, and trying to keep the kids behaved. Don't even get me started about the waiting around for 2 hours for the glucose tolerance test and the fun Rhogam shot (that was yesterday).

It doesn't matter what I eat, I am 5-10 pounds under what I weighed at this stage in earlier pregnancies. With 4 floors and no intercom system I am exercising all those Christmas cookies off.

It amazes me that a year ago I was in 3-4 mile races (and doing very well). Now, I am huffing and puffing after every trip up and down the stairs.

I don't have the baby's room ready and Timmy is still happily sleeping in the crib and I am not anxious about it at all. After all, I discovered that my babies sleep best for the first 4 months in their car seat.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

take the little rugrats to church

Children born into religious families are far less likely than their peers to experience educational or behavioral problems, a new sociological study has found. The new study, sponsored by the Family Research council, shows that American children who live with their biological parents and attend religious services regularly are five times less likely to be forced to repeat a grade in school. The children are also mentally and physically healthier than the general population. The study found the same dramatic differences occurring regardless of the families' income, ethnicity, and educational backgrounds.

The study doesn't say what happens to the mental state of parents who have a large family and therefore always have an infant or toddler who must be taken out of said religious services. Are parents who miss 75% of Mass on a weekly basis because they are standing in the vestibule with a fussy child as spiritual as those who don't have such distractions during prayer? Today was a real doozy with Tim hauling not one, but two screaming little boys out to the car right as the priest said, "Ita Missa Est." As I walked out to the parking lot an elderly lady said, "Your boys were quite the handful today. I don't envy you a bit."

"Well, God has certainly been kind to us, this one (while patting my tummy) is a girl!"

interesting comparison

I have fallen off my talk radio wagon recently, the news out there is so depressing and the only thing worse it is listening to others whine about it. But I do still scan through National Review Online to keep informed. This piece by Jonah Goldberg really caught my eye about the difference in treatment of Sarah Palin, a woman from very humble roots and with a very blue-collar life story, she worked with her steelworker and professional-fisherman husband to provide a life for their large family. She got involved in the PTA. She became mayor of her small town, then rose, by dint of her dedication and almost naive fearlessness, to the job of governor and Caroline Kennedy, "with a resume perfectly suited to being a Kennedy and little else, is a Cinderella who deserves a Senate seat because, well, she just does."

Friday, December 19, 2008

on their best behavior

Today I was almost out of milk, bread, flour, and sugar and the ever necessary ketchup. So, despite the cold and rain I reluctantly piled everyone in the van after the babysitter left and headed out to the Commissary. The kids were not perfect (but they never are), but I let them talk me into buying the milk and meat at the Penn Dutch market (they begged to go because there is a little sweet shop with dozens of different confections).

While the military grocery has hormone-free milk in skim and 1%, I dislike buying my ground meat in pressed cubes that is obtained from who-knows-where. The stuff they sell at the market is hormone, antibiotic, and steroid-free and tastes better than grocery store beef so there is a always a long wait that leaves the kids antsy and liable to be naughty. I figured that since we were just standing around, the two older ones could take their pocket money and buy (with the stipulation that they share) a bag or two of candy by themselves.

They were paying for their purchases when I finished and headed over to get the milk. "Your children are so well behaved," a lady next to me at the cheese counter said, "Your son was helping his little sister pay for her candy. He was really being sweet to her." I told her thanks, and we chatted for a bit and the fact that the kids were homeschooled came up. "Oh, that's why they are so good, because you homeschool!"

It struck me when we got home how much I needed that little bit of encouragement, just like children need a little treat now and then. I have been overwhelmed with school, pregnancy, and keeping up with the house and have been much more grouchy than normal with everyone. Her cheerful comment and a week-long break from school will do me a world of good.

So, while the weather may be frightful, our warm house is delightful, we haven't have any place to go...let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The 12 days of Christmas

Recall all those comments in the grocery store (or anywhere else) whenever you take all your kids out? This family of 9 made a youtube video incorporating all of them in a Christmas greeting. I was impressed at how the kids managed to keep their parts straight.

h/t Theresa

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

a wasted trip...

The other day I spotted a sign for the grocery chain Aldi's and decided that I would return while the big kids were at piano lessons and check out all the fabulous savings that were much-talked-about on frugal sites and blogs. I get to the front door with tote bags in hand and found something I hadn't seen since our days in Italy: grocery carts that you had to put a coin in to unhook from the rest, a innovation that keeps the carts securely near the door, but is super annoying if you don't have any change in your wallet.

Once inside I perused the aisles, not hearing a single other English-speaking shopper and pallets covering the floor filled with some never-heard-of store brand containers of different foods. I was hesitant to buy generic items since they could be made in countries like China that do not have the best reputation for quality and safety.

Glancing at everyone else's overflowing carts, I looked again at the posted prices and realized that the military Commissary prices on 99% of the items were cheaper and they were brands I recognized and trusted. After much flailing about to get 3 small children and an empty cart out of the store (so I could get my precious quarter back), we headed down the road to the library to kill time before we collected the rest of the brood. Today we will try again to buy our much needed coffee and kitty litter, combining the benefit of Commissary shopping and my small stack of coupons.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

carnival of homeschooling

This week's carnival is being hosted by Small World.

the best laid plans...

After 6 months of having my sewing stuff in boxes because of a lack of space and incentive to start quilting again, I promised I would make a quilt for injured soldiers recovering in Germany to replace one of the ones stolen last week. Mary and I pulled out all the boxes, moved bookcases around and unpacked the miles of fabric I have collected over the past 10-15 years.

We sorted all the quilt tops and picked this pretty red, white, and blue one to quilt

and after about 30 minutes of actually sewing I got a little too close to a safety pin and did some unspeakable damage to the machine. So... I took it in to G Street Fabrics and hopefully I will get it back in 2-3 weeks. In the meantime my job is to keep the baby from spilling all my stacked fabric onto the floor.

Monday, December 15, 2008

can I adopt this kid?

Jonathan Krohn looked just like any average 13 year old as he sat in the coffee house drinking his hot chocolate, squirming in a too-large sofa chair. But he is not just any teenager; he’s an author and an up-and-coming political analyst.

Krohn’s book, “Define Conservatism,” is a primer of conservative political values for all ages that does just what the title says – it defines four basic principles all conservatives must share. The son of an engineer and a drama teacher, neither of whom is very interested in politics, the home-schooled Duluth boy has been listening to talk radio and political commentary for several years now.

“I don’t want it [the book] to be my own idea of conservatism,” said Krohn, “I want it to be the ideas that conservatives agree on. be a conservative, I believe that you have to base your core values in these principles.”

Krohn is convinced his book and the basic values within would lead to a better America if only conservatives would stick to them.

“If we spent less money, lowered taxes, made everybody personally responsible and the government didn’t take responsibility for people’s actions, respect the dignity of life and that life begins at conception, and we respected the constitution and everything in it; if we did that then most certainly the nation would be a lot better off.” The Beacon

Amen Jonathan.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

the three stooges go shopping

Yesterday we planned time to go shopping for a Christmas tree. Since our two modes of transportation are the "big-mama" van (with no roof rack) and a Jeep, we had to rent a trailer from U-Haul to get the thing home. An errand that takes most families an hour or so turned into 4 hours because some unnamed person forgot the key to the trailer hitch and then the checkbook.

But all is well now with the tree decorated with 80% of the ornaments on the bottom 1/3 of the tree, garland strung on everything that will stand still, including the piano, and some of our pretty Nativity sets on a red cloth on the sideboard. These two I bought in Italy, one is a Capodimonte and the other is made of beeswax.
Baby Jesus is missing from the porcelain set, he will be put in the crib on Christmas Eve by the youngest family member, an Italian custom we picked up during our tour.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Skipping the needle...

Those of us with pre-adolescent girls have been reading ads and hearing pediatricians expound the merits of having our daughters receive the Gardasil vaccine against HPV. On the surface it sounds wonderful, after all who doesn't want to protect their child from cancer? However, this drug has been linked to 21 deaths, hundreds of hospitalizations and thousands of adverse reactions. Reading more in-depth should give anyone pause about offering up their child's health and life on the altar of Merck's accounting books.

Non-promoted facts about Gardasil:

1) It is not cheap and there are known and unknown side-effects.

2) There have been no long term (10 yrs plus) studies on Gardasil's safety when used in humans. We do not know the long term ramifications on these girl's reproductive systems.

3) There are more than 90 strains of HPV - Gardasil only protects against 4 - other HPV viruses can cause cancer.

4) HPV can take up to 20 years to cause cancer. The effectiveness of Gardasil is questionably 5 years. How many booster shots will be required?

5) We do not have an epidemic of cervical cancer, the majority of women who develop it are in their late forties.

6) Cervical cancer is not a public health crisis, it is already preventable through pap smears.

7) An HPV infection will clear up in the overwhelming majority of women. Only a few get an infection that stays - only few of these will develop precancerous lesions and only a few of these will develop cancer.

8) The test carried out in young girls by Merck only looked at the immune response not whether it would prevent cervical cancer.

9) Gardasil provides less than 70% protection from all the HPV strains known to cause cancer. Your daughter will not need this vaccine if she does not smoke, is not sexual active, or if she is - gets an annual pap smear, has no family history of reproductive cancer or DES use, and has a healthy diet.
Life Site News

Friday, December 12, 2008

cookie recipe

I have been on a sweet binge this past week, making chocolate glop, brownies, and 2 batches of these snickerdoodles. They are really flat and crunchy, wonderful warm right out of the oven.

350 F oven

mix together in bowl:

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

in mixer, cream together until fluffy:

2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cup sugar

add 2 eggs and beat, then add flour mixture

scoop out tablespoon-sized pieces and roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture before baking for 8-10 minutes. Makes about 36 cookies, but with 5 children and 1 hungry Mommy they last about 20 minutes max.
Reminder: save some for Daddy!

the things you learn in the waiting room...

While waiting for Will and Mary to be outfitted with expanders and retainers at the orthodontist, I was reading Parents magazine. This is one of those rags that makes moms feel guilty for not being the perfect mother who has polite, quiet, well-adjusted, social, clean their plate, thin, beautiful, sleeping through the night at 2 months, and constantly smiling babies and toddlers. I have never even been tempted to subscribe to such a stress-inducing periodical, but will indulge if I have nothing else to do, such as in yesterday's environment.

After screening out all the garbage and ads, I was surprised to learn that hauling around box fans all over creation for white noise has perhaps saved our children from SIDS. Theoretically, at least.

In the October issue of the Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine, researchers at Kaiser Permanente looked at whether the use of a fan in the room where a baby sleeps can help reduce the incidence of SIDS. Kaiser researchers found that infants who slept in rooms ventilated by fans had a 72 percent lower risk of SIDS compared to infants who slept in bedrooms without fans. Using a fan appeared be most effective with infants in high-risk environments, such as those sleeping in overheated rooms or on their stomachs. Researchers hypothesized that fans may improve ventilation and decrease the chance that babies will rebreathe exhaled carbon dioxide (an explanation for SIDS known as the "stale-air hypothesis").

The other interesting tidbit was a study at the University of Arizona who tested all kinds of public surfaces. They found that shopping carts were loaded with more saliva, bacteria and even fecal matter than escalators, public telephones, and even public bathrooms. Somewhere in the article it said that over 50% of cart handles were contaminated with fecal matter. Yuck! I always looked at those new moms who swathed their toddler in huge fabric seats at the grocery store to be a little overly neurotic, but I am certainly going to start wiping down the handles before plopping Timmy in the seat from now on.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

going to the post office today

to mail our Christmas packages and Christmas cards. I always make up a short letter describing what our family has been up to over the past year. It is a good way for friends and relations to be brought up to date, especially when it comes to pregnancies, births, and the children's modest accomplishments. I laughed when I read this quote from Sarah Palin's speech at the Republican Governor's meeting:

reporting on her last year, she said, “I had a baby, I did some traveling, I very briefly expanded my wardrobe, I made a few speeches, met a few VIPs, including those who really impact society, like Tina Fey, but other than that, it was pretty much the same old, same old.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Guns were the topic of conversation...

in the van on the way to my ultrasound a few weeks back. I told Tim that, even though I have only shot a rifle once, I want to buy something powerful like a Glock to protect our family. Tim said that Obama couldn't possibly inact a gun ban within a month or so of inaguration and I need to take a gun safety class. "But I need a gun to take to the class," I whined. "They have guns you can borrow to try them out and see what works best for you. But you need to wait until after Baby Sunshine is born because of the noise," was his calm reply.

So Tim has signed up for the class since even though he has a marksman ribbon on his uniform, he hasn't fired a gun in 15 years either.

Gun sellers say the election of Barack Obama is helping them avoid the recession. Sales of new guns are booming - up an estimated 50 percent in the suburbs.

... the gun lobby spent big trying to defeat Obama this year, outraged by his promise to reinstate a ban on military-style assault weapons. On talk radio, he was denounced as a "gun grabber." Now, as Obama heads to the White House, millions are rushing to reload.

After all this hype, Obama is telling people they don't need to worry, but once again his record and his words don't lead me to trust him.

As gun sales shoot up around the country, President-elect Barack Obama said Sunday that gun-owning Americans do not need to rush out and stock up before he is sworn in next month.
"I believe in common-sense gun safety laws, and I believe in the second amendment," Obama said at a news conference. "Lawful gun owners have nothing to fear. I said that throughout the campaign. I haven't indicated anything different during the transition. I think people can take me at my word."

But National Rifle Association spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said it's not Obama's words — but his legislative track record — that has gun-buyers flocking to the stores.

"Prior to his campaign for president, his record as a state legislator and as a U.S. Senator shows he voted for the most stringent forms of gun control, the most Draconian legislation, gun bans, ammunition bans and even an increase in federal excise taxes up to 500 percent for every gun and firearm sold," Arulanandam said.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

carnival of homeschooling

Is up at Super Angel. (I always turn my speakers off when going to sites with automatic music, as I tell the kids, "I can't do 18 (or even 2) things at the same time.")

Advent activities

Yesterday, after much changing of our plans (flexibility!) most of the children and I drove down to Virginia and enjoyed a lovely potluck lunch with some other homeschool moms. We shared some of our Advent traditions while the little children played and the older ones worked on crafts. We even managed to squeeze in a trip to the Commissary on the way out and avoided most of the Beltway traffic before picking up Tim and Will at the hospital. Will had a nice lunch with his daddy and even got to go to Admiral's call, a real treat.

In all our racing around trying to get every one's shoes on, brownies made, coloring books and sippy cup ready for Mass, I forgot to bring anything to show the group. So here are some pictures of our Advent preparations. I set up the nativity set with just the animals waiting for the Holy Family next to the scraggly Advent wreath that we made the first winter we were in Italy.

We also have a nativity Advent calender, which the children take turns putting up (each piece is numbered on the back) and the chocolate Advent calenders are always a big hit.

I have a huge stack of Christmas books which we read from every night, which include some of my favorites.

Monday, December 08, 2008

the first line of my job description...

of Mommy is that flexibility is required.

No, not that I can do some bizarre yoga position, but that I can reassess our schedule if need be. The plan is for us to wait here for the furnace man to come recheck things since the heat went out Saturday morning (and it snowed that day, brrrr) and then go to Mass and an Advent event with Michelle and some fellow homeschoolers. However, I was awakened at 2am by Will who had been complaining for a few days of headaches and then was in severe pain from his ear.

So... we will take it as it comes and do the upward facing dog pose for a while. Yeah right.

I wish we were there...

While it may be cold up in Maine, it is cold here too and if I have to endure a non-tropical winter then I would rather be looking out the window at our new barn going up, not to mention the frost tipped fields:

Sunday, December 07, 2008

some people are just plain evil

Linda Ferrara, a California mother of a soldier killed in Afghanistan with three other sons in the military, organizes charity blanket drives for the troops. She and other volunteers hand-sewed patriotic blankets and other items worth an estimated $8,000. Ferrara had stored them in her RV while preparing to send them off. Over the weekend, some &*^%#@ broke into the vehicle and stole all the goods. Michelle Malkin

I am going to make a quilt and send it in to replace the ones that these horrible people stole. The injured soldiers coming into Germany from Iraq and Afghanistan fly in with only the clothes they are wearing, sometimes with holes in them or ripped apart.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Who doesn't like Christmas?

The annual battle for Christmas has begun early this year, with the announcement that the internationally known fireworks company, Grucci, has pulled out of an annual Christmas event on Long Island in protest against the town of Patchogue’s decision to break with its 15-year tradition of holding a Christmas Boat Parade and instead to rename the event the Patchogue Holiday Boat Parade.

“Christmas is the only holiday that is singled out by these authoritarians. They do not object to Jewish or Muslim holidays, nor do they object to holidays like Martin Luther King Day. And they relish Kwanzaa celebrations. But when it comes to Christmas, they quickly become censors."

For as long as anyone can remember, Christmas trees adorned with lights and ornaments have greeted holiday season visitors to UNC Chapel Hill's two main libraries.

Not this year.

The trees, which have stood in the lobby areas of Wilson and Davis libraries each December, were kept in storage this year at the behest of Sarah Michalak, the associate provost for university libraries. Michalak's decision followed several years of queries and complaints from library employees and patrons bothered by the Christian display, Michalak said this week.

Some good news on this front is the story of JoEllen Murphy who singlehandly started a website and raised $40,000 to counter the anti-God advertising on the Washington, DC Metro buses. Also Matthew at Creative Minority Report found a hilarious Youtube video promoting shopping from catalogues which actually use the words "Merry Christmas" in their advertising.

Friday, December 05, 2008

science accomplished for the day...

by watching this photo shoot of the world and astronauts. Will stood behind me absolutely riveted by the images.

30 minutes a day, that's all I ask...

Top US diplomat Condoleezza Rice took time out from her busy diplomatic schedule Monday to play a little piano -- in the form of a recital at Buckingham Palace for Queen Elizabeth II, royal officials said.
The secretary of state, in London for talks with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, was accompanied in her performance of Brahms by Foreign Secretary David Miliband's wife Louise, and three members of the London Symphony Orchestra.
Rice is an accomplished pianist who started playing when she was a child.
A palace spokeswoman told AFP that Rice "expressed a wish to play at Buckingham Palace and the queen offered her to play in the music room."
The queen listened to part of the private performance and afterwards, presented Rice with a recording of the recital as a present.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

get those kids away from the screen

I would think it would be pretty obvious, if a child is spending most of their time in front of a screen watching (and usually snacking) then they will likely be fatter than kid who is walking, reading, playing, or interacting with others. We have been commercial TV-free for 12 years now, and there is not even a monitor in the Maine house, but I have been relying too much lately on the VCR/DVD entertainment option to keep the little ones quiet while Will is finishing up his schoolwork.

It is easier to say, "Sure, 1 movie," then to listen to bickering and stomping all over the house during that last hour of math and English lessons. Hiring babysitters 3 mornings a week has helped a great deal curb the video watching, instead they play house, Charades, train, Play-dough, and read stories on the sofa.

SAN FRANCISCO, California, December 3, 2008 ( - Children who spend too much time watching television, playing video games, and surfing the Internet are at an increased risk for a plethora of health problems, concludes a survey of several studies published today.

The review found that 80% of the studies showed that greater exposure to such media was linked to various health problems, particularly childhood obesity.

One study cited showed that children at the age of three are more likely to be obese by the age of seven if they watch more than eight hours of television a week. Research shows, however, that American children, including toddlers, usually watch far more than eight hours a week.
The study reports that the average American child spends nearly forty-five hours every week with media... By comparison, the report says seventeen hours a week are spent with parents, and thirty hours a week in school.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

the moment has finally arrived...

after 5+ years of homeschooling. One of my kid is finally smarter than I am, at least in one subject.

You can't really blame me, Will started diagramming 2 years ago in 3rd grade, while I spent 2 days on the topic in 8th grade. Guess who is is getting a repeat of all the subjects she didn't learn the first time around?

Don't even get me started with arithmetic...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

carnival of homeschooling

Is being hosted by Po Moyemu.

where do they go?

We have had a spate of lost articles in our home the past few weeks. Sippy cups, erasers, pencils, Geraldine the giraffe, highlighters, library books, and my red maternity t shirt have all been searched for up and down 4 levels, mostly by the fat mama with the tight belly. I don't know where they go, we don't have that many hidy places and eventually they all turn up, sometimes not for a while in the case of the missing t shirt (it must have been in Will's dresser drawer because it was found on Will after a day of wearing it, what was he thinking?).

Someone really should invent a GPS chip for sippy cups, I had 4 last week and now only 2 remain in the cupboard. Occasionally one is found with curdled green milk inside, prompting me to chuck it and buy new, but what about the ones we never find? I recall the time we dismantled the ugly gazebo in the backyard of the Virginia house, unearthing a pacifier. Maggie was our last baby to get "plugged in" and she was almost 5. Are the cups hidden behind the water heater or the toilet downstairs potentially causing funky smells to waft through the house and a future resident to say, "Gross!"? Let us hope that St. Anthony finds all our lost things, saving me another trip to Wally World for non-spill drink holders.

Monday, December 01, 2008

changes in latitude, changes in attitude

One thing I have noticed in living in both Maine and other places is the difference in attitude toward anything "green." In Maine recycling is a way of life, even tiny towns have dozens of recycling bins for almost everything at the transfer station (otherwise known as the dump), cashiers use as few plastic bags as possible, and nothing seems to be wasted in the trash - no finding antiques out by the curb for sure!

In Virginia, North Carolina, and now DC, every trip to the grocery results in a pile of over 30 plastic bags on my kitchen floor. I hate to throw them away, instead using them as trash can liners all over the house. The baggers at the Commissary are the worst offenders, even though I ask to not have the milk, diapers, etc. put in bags they end up encased in double layers of plastic anyway. My tipping point was yesterday when I went up to the Giant to get a copy of the paper for the coupons, which weren't even there because it was a holiday weekend, and they put the newspaper in a bag!

I guess I will hit the thrift shop while the big kids are at piano lessons Tuesday and pick up 5-6 tote bags to pack up the groceries (my others got left up in Maine by accident). My only question is how long will it take to use up all the plastic bags I already have stuffed under the sink?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

what a hit!

This morning was our last field trip for December unless we somwhow squeeze in an art museum after Christmas. While the temperature was 35 F at breakfast, it warmed up to a lovely 50 F by the time we filed out at the Cleveland Park METRO station. Our destination was the National Zoo, which I hadn't visited in 25 years. Knowing that we only had a few precious hours before crankiness set in due to exhaustion (myself and the little boys particularly), we hit the high points of pandas, elephants, big apes, and seals with the promise of another trip in the not-too-distant future. One highlight of the day was the elephant training session outside in the yard,
but the kids asked many times on the walk back down the hill if they could return just to see the feeding of the hippopotamus. Unfortunately her companion hippo died this past year and she will be relocated to another zoo sometime before they finish building the new elephant exhibit. The children loved seeing her scarf down those strawberries, which is one of my favorites as well, but even while in my temporarily fat stage at 26 weeks of pregnancy, I guarantee that in no way, shape, or form I resemble this creature.

Friday, November 28, 2008

well, every field trip can't be extraordinary

Thinking that everyone else in the area would be fighting over parking spaces and deals at the mall on Black Friday, I assumed that the crowds would be thin at the National Mall. The kids and I had been to the Natural History Museum back in March, but I thought it would be nice to see the sparkly jewels upstairs since we couldn't even move up there due to the mob scene last time.

After finding and visiting the potty in a back corner, we were able to see the Hope Diamond in all its glory by ourselves. Starting on the second floor was a good move, as by the time we circled around all the gems and minerals and headed downstairs it was very crowded with families pushing gargantuan-sized strollers. We looked at the dinosaurs and prehistoric fossils before another bathroom break (the downside to taking Charlie anywhere) and a quick run through the mammals. By then it was getting close to lunchtime and the kids were starting to get cranky and hungry so we made a quick exit and hopped back on the train. After lunch consisting of 2 boxes of macaroni and cheese, Timmy and I shared leftover pecan pie for dessert (I had the leftover pumpkin pie for breakfast this morning, yum!).

There were just so many people, even though it isn't anything compared to the summer crowds, that the trip consisted more of keeping tabs on all the children rather than examining the exhibits. Some days are like that, but 2 days of it in a row would be too much. I'm rethinking the plan to go to Mt. Vernon tomorrow, we might go the more relaxed route with the National Zoo instead.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

whenever you think you are doing the hardest job imaginable...

you find someone who really does.

Though Cpt. Kirby Vidrine will soon head to Iraq for a year, the Fort Bragg chaplain insists his wife is the real hero. "She is the backbone of our family,” Vidrine said of his wife, Wendy. “I definitely married up."

Wendy Vidrine cares for the couple’s eight children – ranging from 12-years-old to 11 months – and she is pregnant with their ninth child due in June.

A typical day involves Wendy Vidrine homeschooling all of the children, cooking, cleaning and taking them to music lessons. It takes a 15-passengar van to transport the family around.

Pray for Captain Vidrine and his family as well as all our soldiers in harm's way on Thanksgiving.


It is hard to find the true story of Thanksgiving these days. We didn't create the holiday to thank the Indians, but God. The Pilgrims were not grave robbers, racists, bigots, or socialists, they were very strong and brave settlers who crossed a huge ocean in a leaky ship for the opportunity to worship God and to live in peace. They were constantly hungry, cold, and in very real danger of being killed by the local Indian tribes. (study up on the Massacre of 1622 and the Drapers Meadow Massacre from my home state for starters) However, they persevered and give us, almost 400 years later, hope and gratefulness for our country.

Read this great story "Grandpa" told around the dinner table, including,"The first seed had been planted for the American Revolution. People were free to practice their religions as they saw fit and were free to keep the fruits of their labor. This had never happened before in the history of mankind."

This was my favorite comment:

"Our Pilgrim ancestors dealt with all the hardships it took to settle this land. They had to deal with cold, hunger and death while the average lefty gets upset if Starbucks runs out of cream. So now that this country provides us with what we need and all the comforts the world has to offer, this puke has the nerve to criticize those that made the sacrifices."

Another example of a wacko reinterpreting Thanksgiving, a professor in Indian lit in California and mom of a kindergartner "wrote the letter upon hearing of a four-decade district tradition, where kindergartners at Condit and Mountain View elementary schools take annual turns dressing up and visiting the other school for a Thanksgiving feast. This year, the Mountain View children would have dressed as Native Americans and walked to Condit, whose students would have dressed as Pilgrims.
Raheja... said she met with teachers and administrators in hopes that the district could hold a public forum to discuss alternatives that celebrate thankfulness without "dehumanizing" her daughter's ancestry.
"There is nothing to be served by dressing up as a racist stereotype," she said."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

carnival of homeschooling

The Common Room is hosting this week's carnival, check it out!

book review

I just finished reading Sisters, Catholic Nuns and the Making of America that I checked out from the local library. It was a fascinating book, full of stories of wild west adventures, the first female American CEOs, the rapid expansion of private schools and hospitals, and the collapse of female religious after Vatican II. Did you know that of the 4 American Saints, 3 are nuns?

The most useful portion of the book for me was the findings of a 1982 study by 3 sociologists that showed, "students from widely differing economic backgrounds and from parents with different levels of education performed better, as a group, in Catholic schools." They found that the achievement gap between races was narrower than in public schools. The four reasons given for their high level of achievement were the higher level of discipline, that parochial school teachers had a base of moral authority, that all important decisions were made at individual schools, and (very important) the "steadfast resistance" to educational fads.

Of course the days of squadrons of nuns in habits teaching classes of 60 1st graders with complete control are long over. Most parochial schools are at the most staffed by 1-2 nuns with lay people, sometimes not even Catholic, teaching children watered-down curriculum. But many Catholic homeschoolers embrace all 4 of these principals. I wonder what studies will find in decades to come, perhaps we will be reading lines like, "90% of religious vocations coming from the homeschooling movement?"

Monday, November 24, 2008

don't have to pretend no more

President-elect Barack Obama has yet to attend church services since winning the White House earlier this month, a departure from the example of his two immediate predecessors.

On the three Sundays since his election, Obama has instead used his free time to get in workouts at a Chicago gym.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

brains, babies, and broken bones

This morning we piled everyone in the van, navigated slowly through the Thanksgiving parade, and drove onto the Walter Reed Army Hospital grounds to meet Tim Clarke of the National Museum of Health and Medicine. After apologizing for being late, we took the tour (with several outs for potty breaks) winding through exhibits showcasing surgery from several wars, a leper colony, the history of microscopes, anthropological identification of remains, development of the fetus, and the organs of the body.

Anyone expecting a dry, dusty place filled with boring bones would be startled at how interesting and exciting the displays are put together, and how intertwined they fit together with other subjects we have studied in science and history.

Any homeschooler worth their salt knows that Paul Revere was a silversmith who rode through the countryside of Massachusetts yelling, "The British are coming!" But did you know that he was also a dentist (think silver fillings) and performed the first dental post-mortem identification? After Dr. Joseph Warren was killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill, Revere IDed him by recognizing his own handiwork using these very tools.

The museum has been in several locations in DC including inside Ford's Theater where President Abraham Lincoln was killed. This display shows casts of Lincoln's face and hands, bone fragments from his skull, a blood-stained cuff from the surgeon who attended the autopsy, and the bullet itself that ended the life of this great man.

This microscope was built by Robert Hooke, the English father of microscopy. He re-confirmed Antony van Leeuwenhoek's discoveries of the existence of tiny living organisms found under the microscope in a drop of water. Hooke made a copy of Leeunwenhoek's microscope and used it to confirm other observations and improved upon his design.

Major General Daniel Sickels had his leg shattered by a cannonball during the Battle of Gettysburg. Shortly afterwards he offered the bone to the museum and would visit it on the anniversary of his amputation while he served in Congress.

And for the non-squimish folks there are preserved organs showing disease, legs of folks with elephantitis and leprosy, skulls showing damage from pistol and saber, and containers with fetuses in every stage of development. The kids held real brains, kidneys, intestines, and lungs that have been injected with plasticine and looked at cross-sections of a person on the computer.

While a few of the displays are not for those with easily upset tummies, we all thought it was wonderful and well worth the trip. Cousin Ann met us in the lobby and said, "This was fascinating! I have been meaning to come here for 40 years." Don't wait as long as she did to see this museum: small, but chock-full of gore and gross.

I have to include one last picture of a hairball removed from a 12 year old girl's stomach. This is the reason I told Mary long ago that she was only allowed her to grow out her hair if she does not put it in her mouth, otherwise it will be chopped off.

you can't be both Catholic and pro-choice

Even though Maria Shriver says she is a good cafeteria-Catholic. My question is how can she possibly consider herself Catholic at all?

The Baltimore Catechism states, "To love God, our neighbor, and ourselves we must keep the commandments of God and of the Church." The 5th Commandment is not nuanced, "Thou shalt not kill," and the laws of the Church sum up the abortion issue with, "God the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves, Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes."

The catechism also defines a heretic, "the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith."
Of course with so many of her fellow pew sitters voting the most pro-abortion candidate into the White House she has a lot of company.

California’s first lady, Maria Shriver considers herself "a Catholic in good standing" despite the fact that she openly advocates abortion. "I find I don't spend a lot of time trying to square my own daily life with the institutional Church," said Shriver. "I pick and choose."
Shriver called herself a "cafeteria Catholic," a term that is most often used in a derogatory manner, referring to individuals who only selectively submit to Church teaching and authority while still calling themselves Catholic.

On the disparity between Church teaching and her belief on abortion, Shriver told Quinn, "I often talk to my daughters at the dinner table about the difference between being pro-abortion and being pro-choice." She explained that she believes supporting the right to choose an abortion is different from supporting abortion.

The older kids were complaining the other evening about my refusal to let them play with the neighbor's girls after 7pm. "You go to bed at 8pm. Just because they let their kids stay awake until 10pm doesn't mean we start doing so. Their parents apparently don't believe in the 5th Commandment, (their Obama sign is STILL up in the yard)that doesn't mean we do the same."

Friday, November 21, 2008

cold and windy

Today is the perfect day to cuddle up under a blanket, eat peanut butter M&Ms, and read a tawdry romance (well, it is "Christian" so not very tawdry). I am very grateful that we homeschool just because I haven't had to go outside except to throw out the trash.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

3 strikes and I am out

This afternoon I got the girls all jazzed up about going to American Heritage Girls, a Catholic group similar to Girl Scouts. I map quested the directions to the house where we were meeting and got nappies changed, sippy cups ready, coats snapped, shoes tied, and all the other things that need to happen to get 5 kids out the door in 40 F weather.

But... when we got to the huge house at the end of the road no one answered the doorbell and when we asked a boy dribbling his basketball around the side if there was anyone around he said to go in the garage door. "Yooohooo! Anyone home?" I called in while opening the door a crack. Nothing. After another round of trying the front door I gave up in frustration and decided to try plan B: dropping some supplies to a lady collecting them for the Missionaries of Charity nuns AIDS house. Despite the written directions I never saw the right road and gave up that quest in frustration.

Okay, well there is always Plan C: going to the local hobby shop to find Christmas gifts for Will. We found the right shopping center, only to find... the place empty and a closed sign on the door.

Aggghhhh! What is going on here? I looked at their web site last week filled with pictures of a thriving store, lists of merchandise stocked, and hours of operation.

In a desperate attempt to salvage something of the afternoon and saving a car seat from certain wetting by Charlie, we stopped at the Penn Dutch farmer's market and bought some wheat germ, some warm rolls, and gummy lobsters. It wasn't the scene of camaraderie that I envisioned, but at least they were some mighty good rolls.

more education hypocrisy

We all have heard that Barack and Michelle Obama have been school-shopping for their 2 daughters. Sidwell Friends ($28,000/yr) and Georgetown Day ($29,000/yr.) are the two contenders in who will educate 10-year-old Malia and seven-year-old Sasha. I guess the very well-funded but horrible DC public schools are not in the running. But what sort of education does Mr. Obama want the rest of the country's children to obtain? Look no further than the credentials of Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University education professor and one of Obama’s advisors, (who) will head the Education Department transition team that is tasked with drafting policy for the incoming administration.

Darling-Hammond is a self-described advocate of “progressive” education, the methods of which she believes are “grounded in a deep sense of curricular intentions, arise from compelling questions, and include rigorous intellectual challenges such as critical thinking and problem solving across disciplines.” The best progressive educators “engage in a dialectic between the subject and the student” and in so doing, the student “is constantly moved to a broader and more thoughtful place in the curriculum.”

Such eye-glazing edu-speak manifests itself in a staunch opposition to traditional testing — i.e., testing that might ask history students, say, to answer specific questions about history. And indeed, Darling-Hammond, when she was a professor at Columbia University in the early 1990s, worked to move New York’s Regents Exams away from paper-and-pencil tests and toward personalized performance portfolios that she said would give pupils “multiple ways to show their learning.” Such as demonstrating what they know about George Washington through, say, a song-and-dance routine rather than an essay. (Liam Julian, National Review)

Bet you $5 that Mrs. Darling-Hammond wouldn't be allowed within 200 feet of either of the prestigeous private schools the Obamas are considering. Because if she was, the caliber of education there would be as dismal as it is in the rest of the district.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

we still have a friend in the White House

The "Freedom of Choice Act" which Barack Obama promised Planned Parenthood he would sign on his first day in office is a life-destroying bill that wipes out all abortion restrictions across the nation. Parental notification, waiting periods, partial birth abortion bans, and conscious clauses for medical personnel would be eliminated. This last part is very distressing to our family as well as thousands of others who have studied and worked for years to have a professional career to help others in the community and provide for their families. If FOCA passes then many physicians, doctors, and pharmacists would be forced to participate in the horror of abortion, despite their religious objections or leave the field entirely. With 20% of hospitals in the US run by the Catholic Church it would compel these institutions to either close or embrace the culture of death. I don't know what this plan of President Bush's would be able to preserve, but at least he understands the severity of the issue.

A last-minute Bush administration plan to grant sweeping new protections to health care providers who oppose abortion and other procedures on religious or moral grounds has provoked a torrent of objections, including a strenuous protest from the government agency that enforces job-discrimination laws.
The proposed rule would prohibit recipients of federal money from discriminating against doctors, nurses and other health care workers who refuse to perform or to assist in the performance of abortions or sterilization procedures because of their "religious beliefs or moral convictions."
It would also prevent hospitals, clinics, doctors' offices and drugstores from requiring employees with religious or moral objections to "assist in the performance of any part of a health service program or research activity" financed by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The protest from the commission comes on the heels of other objections to the rule by doctors, pharmacists, hospitals, state attorneys general and political leaders, including President-elect Barack Obama.
Obama has said the proposal will raise new hurdles to women seeking reproductive health services, like abortion and some contraceptives. Michael Leavitt, the health and human services secretary, said that was not the purpose.
Officials at the Health and Human Services Department said they intended to issue a final version of the rule within days. Aides and advisers to Obama said he would try to rescind it, a process that could take three to six months.
The proposal is supported by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Health Association, which represents Catholic hospitals.
Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, said that in recent years, "we have seen a variety of efforts to force Catholic and other health care providers to perform or refer for abortions and sterilizations."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bishop Malone showing some spunk in super liberal Maine

LEWISTON - In a letter read during Masses over the weekend, Bishop Richard Malone voiced opposition to news conferences held last week urging Mainers to end marriage discrimination and calling on state legislators to enact same-sex civil marriages.

In the letter, the head of the Diocese of Portland wrote that marriage - as ordained by God - is an institution exclusive to one man and one woman who "are then given the responsibility to procreate the human race, and to nurture, educate, and pass on shared values and mores to their offspring."

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in Maine went on to tell his membership of nearly 200,000, or about one-sixth of the state's population, that redefining marriage to include same-sex couples ultimately strips away what the church considers an essential component - namely the ability and obligation to have children."

To strip marriage of this essential component is to render marriage meaningless and open it up to endless revision and redefinition," Malone's letter went on to say.The bishop's letter comes in response to ...more than 120 religious leaders representing 14 different faiths from throughout Maine have formed the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry in Maine.

Monsignor Marc B. Caron of Prince of Peace Catholic Community in Lewiston said that the Catholic perspective on marriage has never wavered over the course of history. Marriage by Roman Catholic standards has always represented a life-long relationship between a man and a woman."For us, marriage doesn't belong to the state," Caron said. "The state doesn't have the authority to transform it any other way."

State laws view marriage as a contract between two people for as long as they want to be together. But for Catholics, entering into marriage is a holy sacrament in the eyes of God that is meant to last a lifetime.

carnival of homeschooling

Tami is hosting this week's carnival at Tami Fox's Thoughts and Views.

Monday, November 17, 2008

well that's done...

Maggie got back her 1st quarter grades from Seton: 8 A's and 2 A+'s. Mary's packet went out last week, and Will finished up the book report this morning, lifting that weight that was hanging over my heads and putting a little spring back in my step.

I love the start of a new quarter, nightly making a stack of books on the floor for each child's next day's work, the freshness of the lesson plan pages just begging to be scribbled through and highlighted, and the opportunity to find a new method of organizing their papers and time each morning.

Writing this down makes my life sound quite pathetic, but it is likely more productive than spending my days shopping and lunching with the other suburbanites. While quelling screaming matches and getting the older ones to practice the piano isn't worth much in many folk's eyes, I'm a blessed and lucky girl.

the vodka box in the background is NOT my weekly stash, but tapes and CDs that I haven't found a place to store yet!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pompeii revisited literally

Yesterday I took the 3 older children downtown on the METRO and visited the Pompeii exhibit currently being shown at the National Gallery of Art-East. While I wish we had shoved off a little sooner it was a thoroughly enjoyable hour touring the 5 rooms filled with frescoes, sculpture, mosaics, and paintings. Since we toured Pompeii, Herculaneum, the Archaeological Museum in Naples, and many smaller Roman sites throughout the Campania region of Italy it was fun to revisit the culture and language we were immersed in for 3 years.

The 10 minute film gave a very good overview of what life was like for the Romans in 79 AD as well as the historical background. While our knowledge of Greek mythology is lacking, the older children had just studied some of the early Roman Emperors in Story of the World and could spout facts about Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar when we came upon busts of the two men. We sat on the floor in the red dining room and pretended to eat, we called each other by our "Italian" names, and imagined the riot of color that would have surrounded us if we lived like the Romans with mosaics on the floor, frescoes painted on the walls and ceiling, and painted statues in the courtyard.

The whole lifestyle of Pompeii's elite sounded so luxurious until I remembered that almost all the inhabitants perished in a particularly gruesome way. We finished off our time downtown with a very gourmet lunch at Cousin Ann's of lovely roasted chicken and tuna sandwiches, chips, fruit, and cookies. The next stop on our family's tour of DC involves body parts, antique medical equipment, and the history of medicine in America. Read my review of the National Museum of Health and Medicine next week.

Friday, November 14, 2008


The kids are downstairs playing "school," complete with a blackboard and a "teacher" lecturing to her students.

Charlie: "I need to go potty."

Will: "Teachers don't allow pupils to use the bathroom."

(both students escaped shortly thereafter to watch Lady and the Tramp, despite Mary pleading, "Charlie, recess!")

praise effort, not talent

I didn't really need to read this article or book, I have learned the value of praising effort from my 8 year old. Mary doesn't like to be ooohed and aaahed over, such as when I look at her and remark, "You are beautiful." She immediately squishes up her nose. "Okay, you're ugly then," I tease with a smile. What Mary does like is to be quietly told, "I like how you were kind to your little brother/sister," or "You worked very hard on that piano piece."

A growing body of research is finding that praise based on talent and intelligence -- as opposed to effort -- not only doesn't help kids achieve success, it actually backfires.
Children who are praised as smart, special and talented stumble at school when faced with challenges that don't immediately reinforce the mantras they hear at home. They're also more likely to avoid tasks at which they may fail than children who are praised instead for their hard work. And they are more apt to lie and cheat well into their university years. Psychologist Polly Young-Eisendrath calls it the self-esteem trap.

"It's the expectation of being exceptional and the pressure on oneself to be exceptional which creates a kind of restlessness and sense of self-consciousness," says Dr. Young-Eisendrath, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Vermont.
What's more, according to her new book,
The Self-Esteem Trap: Raising Confident and Compassionate Kids in an Age of Self-Importance, overpraised children don't outgrow these setbacks.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

ultrasound day

This morning we drove through the rain and awful traffic down to Georgetown Hospital and found that our van won't fit in the parking garage. Luckily we took Tim with us so he drove the kids around and around for 45 minutes while I went upstairs to the prenatal ultrasound department. Everything looks great and the best news: ITS A GIRL!!

playdate for mom and kids

Yesterday afternoon Michelle of Rosetta Stone and her 6 kids came over for a visit.

10 kids running up and down, 'round and 'round, in and out
1 baby chewing happily on refrigerator letters
2 moms sharing stories from the trenches at the kitchen table
1 smashed thumb followed by a bowl of ice cream
2 pairs of wet pants from falling in the stream

Mixed and stirred together produced a lovely time, let's get do it again soon!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

National Geographic

This morning being a federal holiday, after everyone was dressed and fed, we parked for free in the closest METRO station and rode down to Farragut North to see 2 exhibits at the NG museum and headquarters. They did a good job with the display of two impressive whale skeletons, many computer simulations just right for elementary age children, a huge model of a whale heart that was a hit with the toddler crowd, and a sound booth to listen to all the different whale songs and clicks. We also briefly wandered through some wonderful old exotic photographs from all over the world, including one of Eastport, Maine. If I could only pick one "animal" museum to visit, I would definitely go with the Smithsonian's Natural History, we still had a good time. I was right, the highlight was the trip on the train, it was a great way to get them to say goodbye to the whales.

Monday, November 10, 2008

upcoming field trips

Tomorrow we are all heading down on the METRO for some sort of science, either the Natural History Museum or the National Geographic Explorers Hall. Saturday's plan is to ride the rails again for the temporary exhibit on Pompeii at the National Gallery of Art followed by lunch at my cousin Ann's house. Bet you $5 that the highlight of the trip for some of our crew will be sitting directly behind the subway driver and following our route on the METRO map.

birthday girl

Yesterday was my birthday and in addition to a beautiful jewelry box, Tim gave me a weekend away with the girls, including a trip to the hair parlor. It was the first time in 4 years I have gotten a salon cut and with my fake blond about 1/2 grown out, it looked more than a little strange.

When I showed the stylist a picture of what I wanted, "highlights to blend everything, not much change in length, just layers with a flip and low, low, low maintenance she said, "This look is perfect for you and will be very easy to style." And it is. I like it more today than when my sister-in-law saw me walking in her kitchen Saturday afternoon and said, "Wow!"

Thank you Tim, Melinda, Mark, Cheryl, and all the kids for a great birthday.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

back on the horse

My husband Tim, after the fellowship year from h&%* down in NC, is back to blogging about Catholic ethical issues from a medical perspective. He is much smarter than I am and is a better writer and can be found at Catholic Medical Weekly.

What I want to know is, with two parents who enjoy writing, how come getting Will or Mary to write 1 book report a quarter the only task I despise in homeschooling?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

a little more nature study than we expected

Thursday afternoon we drove over to the local nature center for Mary's first meeting with the local homeschool American Heritage Girls. A Catholic version of Girl Scouts, the group has about 30 girls and after only a few minutes of hiding behind me she started chatting in a circle with several new friends. I checked to be sure what time we needed to return and took the rest of the crew off on a little nature walk. We hiked up, we hiked down, I carried Timmy, Will carried Timmy. We spotted a deer, not a rare site in suburban Maryland where we often see them chomping on the azaleas in the backyard.

When we finally got back to the snack tables Will took off toward the car with my tote bag, only to return with 2 homemade light sabers. "Where is my bag?" I asked casually. "Uh-oh." Of course it was locked in the van along with the keys. After deliberating for a bit, I borrowed one of the mom's cell phone and called Tim. He said he would leave work early and after writing down the directions he promised to be there within an hour.
"There are a lot worse places to be stranded," I kept reassuring the other moms as the story was passed around and they asked me if I needed any help, "I could be on the side of the Beltway." We spent the next 45 minutes in the center itself, watching turtles and snakes, playing on the computer game, and doing puzzles. It might have been a little longer field trip than I anticipated but all ended well, and the kids learned something. I just hope they also learned to be a little less careless with the keys.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

hiring help

Over the past month I have had a very hard time trying to teach the older kids with 2 little boys underfoot. It didn't help that the schoolroom and the playroom have occupied the same space, leading to much complaining, "Make them be QUIET!" Finally I just gave up and let the boys watch movies in the next room so we could get work accomplished.

"I need help," I told my husband but after investigating nannies on the net, I realized at $500 a month, we just couldn't afford a "professional" to watch them each morning.

"Think, think, think of another option," I told myself and then put out the call on our local Catholic homeschool yahoo group and asked a neighbor to do the same among the local Orthodox Jewish community. Within a few days I was inundated with offers of babysitters. We settled on two girls, a homeschool teen comes on Friday mornings and a college girl comes Monday and Wednesdays, each for 2 hours. Working efficiently Will and Mary can get most of their work done and practice the piano by 11am. Both girls have been great with the kids and today we cleaned the bottom basement and put all the toys down there with a clean square of carpet so they have somewhere better to play.

With baby #6 cooking, I realized that I just couldn't do it all alone: clean the house, care for the kids, teach the older children, cook the meals, and run the errands. Help has arrived and I have found in the past week that our daily routines have become much smoother because of it.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

already feeling a bit queasy

I used to really like rollercoasters, the bigger the better. Once some friends and I rode the Loch Ness Monster at Busch Gardens 21 times in a row. Every time I would sit in the front car and as we were slowly clicking up the first incline I would yell, "I changed my mind, I want to get off!" But I loved the thrill of speed, knowing that all the harnesses kept me safe.

The results of this election leaves me peering over the edge of that peak, realizing that there is no safety gear to protect us, and while forces many keep us in the seats for a time, the loop-the-loop is coming up quickly. Some are going to fall out and we won't be able to do a darn thing about it. Higher taxes, more babies killed in the womb, defeat snatched from the jaws of victory in Iraq, and a loss of freedom and liberty that we cannot even imagine. Our nation was at a crossroads of who we were and who we wanted to become and I am sure we will look back at some point and wish we had made another choice.

May God have mercy on us.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

voting day

Since I voted weeks ago by absentee ballot I will not be participating in the gauntlet of campaign workers, standing in the already long lines with 5 cranky children, and avoiding the exit poll takers. But I certainly urge everyone else to get out there and vote, no matter the hassle.

Go Sarah!

Monday, November 03, 2008

All Souls Day

Yesterday after Mass and their monthly group piano lesson, Will and Mary and I hopped on the METRO and went to Arlington National Cemetery. Thousands upon thousands of brave American soldiers, sailors, and Marines are buried in straight rows. This hallowed place is quiet and leaves me with the questions, "What would our country be like if these men had lived? What would the world be like if they had not fought?" I think that we might be better off with more heroes in our midst and their succeeding generations, but our world would be dominated by fascists and dictators and we would be in more peril today that we could possibly imagine.

Unfortunately, I didn't check the hours Arlington was open until we got into the visitors center and realized we had 35 minutes before the gates were locked. Quickly we used the grave locator on the computer, booked down Eisenhower Drive as fast as 8 year old legs could go and were able to pray a Hail Mary for my sweet, dear grandfather and all our family and friends that have left this world for the next.

We did make it over to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and watch the Marine guard for a while in silence before jumping back on the subway riding to Union Station for a bite to eat and home again for baths and bed. We will certainly go back during our stay here, to visit, stroll, and remember.

Eternal rest give them, O Lord.

And let perpetual light shone upon them.

May they rest in peace.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween costumes, another benefit of homeschooling

I am so glad that our family has escaped attempting to be better than the neighbors in terms of how much we spend on our kids. We don't have TV so we have not been subjected to, "I gotta have XYZ cereal, toy, or brand of jeans." We don't send the kids to school so they don't have the influence of other children who are caught up in what is popular to wear, eat, or play with. It saves money for sure, but it also creates a more giving atmosphere in our home.

As for Halloween, we do let the kids go trick-or-treating, but they wear costumes depicting Saints. Will is St. Francis of Assisi, Mary is Blessed Kateri Tekawitha, Maggie is St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Charlie is St. Stephen, and Timmy is going as a bee. The last one is a leftover of our pre-Catholic life and we can always pretend that he is part of St. Francis' entourage. Saturday we will go to the All Saint's Party with the local Catholic homeschool group, and then the costumes can go back in the dressup trunk, all ready for dressup play.

As many parents have learned the hard way, the scariest part of Halloween isn't living in the same home as an opened bag of fun-sized Milky Ways. It's the tyranny of the costume. With costumes selling for $30, $40, even $80 a pop, the pressure on kids to have the "right" costume - and on parents to buy them - is ratcheting up.

In fact, even as consumer spending drops - Halloween spending is rising. The National Retail Federation predicts Halloween sales, on costumes, candy, decorations, and the like, will hit $5.77 billion this year, up from $5.07 billion last year.

"Halloween is an important holiday for many children," said Detris Adelabu, chair of the department of human development at Wheelock College. But "finding the right costume can be challenging and stressful for children and parents."

Good luck trying to get off cheap. As Pamela Paul, author of "Parenting, Inc.," wrote in an e-mail interview with the Globe: "I think parents have come to see ALL celebrations - birthdays, Halloween, Xmas - as if they're some kind of referendum on how much they care about their kids, with the barometer being how much money you spend. (Boston Globe)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

carnival of homeschooling

Halloween edition is up at Why Homeschool.

Will gets into the act

After Tim and I went to bed on Tuesday night I heard some scurrying up and down the stairs, but was too tired to get up and investigate. In the morning there was a stack of homemade campaign signs on the kitchen table: NO BAMA, Micane/Palin, and NO BIDEN included. When I explained to my enthusiastic political consultant that he spelled Sen. McCain's name wrong, he quickly made up a new batch and wore one proudly on his shirt all day.
We now have signs on both doors and the kitchen window, in stark contrast to our liberal neighbors on both sides. Barbara wrote a very good post about post election relations with the neighbors at Praying for Grace. I love this sign and would be VERY tempted to replicate it if some goon throws a brick through our front window, but we don't own a gun (except for that BB gun we had to leave in Maine since our county in Maryland does not allow them) Here is video of a rotten 9 year old kid in our old stomping grounds of Chapel Hill, NC trying to steal someone's McCain-Palin sign, only to be electrocuted. (only slightly)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Happy Birthday Maggie May

My enthusiastic, precious little munchkin. This is the child who tries to make everyone smile, who always tries to help with chores, who would have spoiled me for sure if she had been the first born.
God bless you Maggie on your 6th birthday and may you keep your Pollyanna attitude intact all your days.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Do you know who the real Barack Obama is??? Think again...

Who is supporting Obama? Hamas, for one.

PA daily reports that Gaza residents are randomly calling American homes trying to convince Americans to support Barack Obama for president. Can anyone seriously believe that young Palestinian men are allowed free and easy access to operate an internet phone bank in the impoverished and violent Gaza Strip — and bring that effort to the attention of the international media — without Hamas’ knowledge and approval? The support that Barack Obama is receiving from avowed terrorist enemies of America should bother him. The fact that it does not bother him should bother us even more than the fact that terrorists see something in him that they really like.

Most of the Palestinians feel hatred towards USA, whose administrations have always stood by Israel...

Palestinian brothers inside the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip are listed in government election filings as having donated $29,521.54 to Sen. Barack Obama's campaign. Donations of this nature would violate election laws, including prohibitions on receiving contributions from foreigners and guidelines against accepting more than $2,300 from one individual during a single election.

Rashid Khalidi, the one-time PLO spokesman who now heads the Middle East Studies Department at Columbia, is not distancing himself from his past. Consistent with what you’d expect from someone who justified PLO attacks on civilians in Israel and Lebanon from 1976 to 1982, Khalidi routinely refers to Israel as a “racist” and “apartheid” state, and professes to believe in a “one-state” solution to the conflict. Guess which country would have to disappear for that “one” state to come into existence?

The Khalidis and Obamas were good friends. In his capacity as a director of the Woods Fund, Obama in 2001 and 2002 steered $75,000 to the Arab American Action Network, the brainchild of Rashid and Mona Khalidi. Obama mentioned that he and Michelle had been frequent dinner guests at the Khalidi home (just another guy in the neighborhood?) and that the Khalidis had even baby-sat for the Obama girls.

Even less attention has been paid to the man Obama appointed as his emissary to the Muslim community in the U.S., Mazen Asbahi. Asbahi, it turned out, had ties to the Islamic Society of North America, which in turn was an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation case. The Holy Land Foundation was accused of being a front group for Hamas. When news of these associations became public, Asbahi resigned from the campaign to “avoid distracting from Barack Obama’s message of change.”

Many American Jews preparing to pull the lever for Obama have never heard of Asbahi. But they surely know about Jeremiah Wright. They know that he gave a “lifetime achievement” award to Louis Farrakhan; that he supported efforts to get U.S. businesses to divest from Israel; that he gave space in the Trinity Church bulletin to Hamas; and that he has accused Israel of “genocide” against the Palestinians. They are preparing to vote for a man who tamely tolerated all of that (and more) for 20 years.

What does Barack Obama feel about the Constitution? He thinks it is fundamentally flawed.

Thomas Jefferson must have been mistaken when he said, "To take from one because it is thought that his own industry and that of his father's has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association--the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it." --Thomas Jefferson: Note in Tracy's "Political Economy," 1816.

Check out these quotes from Obama in 2001:

“You know, if you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the courts, I think where it succeeded was to get formal rights in previously dispossessed peoples -- so that I would now have the right to vote, I would now be able to sit at a lunch counter and order, and as long as I was able to pay for it I'd be OK. But the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society.And to that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn't that radical. It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it's been interpreted, and the Warren Court interpreted it in the same way that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. It says what the states can't do to you, says what the federal government can't do to you, but it doesn't say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf. And that hasn't shifted.

The court's just not very good at it, and politically it's very hard to legitimize opinions from the court in that regard. So, I mean, I think that although you can craft theoretical justifications for it [redistribution of wealth] legally, y'know I think any three of us sitting here could come up with a rationale for bringing about economic change through the courts. ..…”

Can a good Catholic support Obama? No.

Last week the Roman Catholic archbishop of Kansas City, Kan., declared abortion should be the most important issue for Catholics to consider when deciding on who to vote for in the upcoming presidential election. Archbishop Joseph Naumann, said other problems facing the United States today, including the war in Iraq, should be considered less important than the right to life.“The church in the United States always cherished its rights and its responsibility to form the moral (conscience) of the country,” he said during his visit at University of Kansas’ Dole Institute of Politics.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is an abortion supporter. Obama’s running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, a Catholic, also supports abortion. In contrast, Republican presidential candidate John McCain and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin oppose abortion.

What will Obama do to win the election? Cheat.

In Ohio as many as 200,000 new voter registrations in that state are suspect, yet Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner is refusing to follow the 2002 Help America Vote Act that requires her to verify these registrations. The Ohio Republican Party sued Mrs. Brunner, but the Supreme Court said the GOP lacked standing. Justice does have standing — it is charged with upholding that law — but has ignored the fight. The Justice excuse is that it isn't appropriate to file litigation so close to Election Day.

Yet that hasn't stopped the Civil Rights Division this month from filing a lawsuit against Waller County, Texas, to correct alleged violations of the Voting Rights Act; a lawsuit against Vermont for failing to report accurately on overseas ballots; and an amicus brief in a case filed by a civil-rights group that is suing to stop the Georgia Secretary of State from complying with voter verification rules. Justice's election suits always seem to side with liberal priorities.

It doesn't help Justice's credibility that attorneys charged with supervising voting issues are avowed Barack Obama supporters. According to Federal Election Commission data, James Walsh, an attorney in the Civil Rights Division, has donated at least $300 to Mr. Obama. His boss, Mark Kappelhoff, has given $2,250 — nearly the maximum. John Russ, also in Civil Rights, gave at least $600 to Mr. Obama.

And what happens to those who dare question this man? Retaliation.

Angry over a hard-nosed interview during which Barbara West of Orlando’s WFTV peppered Sen. Joe Biden with the kind of probing questions the pro-Obama mainstream media refuses to ask, the Obama campaign has completely banned the television station from future access and interviews. "This cancellation is non-negotiable, and further opportunities for your station to interview with this campaign are unlikely, at best, for the duration of the remaining days until the election," wrote Laura K. McGinnis, from the Obama campaign.

During the interview, West asked Biden: "Aren't you embarrassed by the blatant attempts to register phony voters by ACORN, an organization that Barack Obama has been tied to in the past?"Biden appeared flustered by the question, but quickly gained his composure and denied that Obama had been close to ACORN. Biden claimed that the campaign had not paid ACORN any money to register voters. West did not challenge Obama on this point, though during the Democratic primary in Ohio, the Obama campaign had, in fact, paid more than $800,000 to an ACORN-backed group. West did note that Obama has worked with this group in the past.

West again stung Biden, asking him about Obama's statement to Joe the plumber that he planned to "spread the wealth around." West queried: "A Gallup poll showed 84 percent of Americans prefer the government focus on improving economic conditions and creating more jobs in the U.S., as opposed to taking steps that distribute wealth. Isn't Senator Obama's comment a potentially crushing political blunder?"

Biden dodged the question, but West bored in, quoting Karl Marx's "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs," and asked Biden, "How is Senator Obama not being a Marxist if he intends to spread the wealth around?"

Biden appeared stunned and asked, "Are you joking? Is this a joke?"

West then asked Biden about his now-famous statement that Obama would be tested and would not be able to stand up to the challenge without help. "Are you forewarning Americans that nothing will be done and that America's days as the world's leading power are over?" West asked. An obviously annoyed Biden responded by asking West who was writing her questions. West is a veteran TV news journalist who had worked as Peter Jennings' producer at ABC News.
West returned to the “spreading the wealth” question, asking Biden what he'd "say to the people who are concerned that Barack Obama will want to turn America into a socialist country much like Sweden?" Biden again ducked the question,…

What happens to a normal American citizen who questions Obama tax plan? TV broadcasts showcasing every private detail of his life.

Government computers in Ohio may been used to illegally access personal information about Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, otherwise known as "Joe the Plumber," according to the Columbus Dispatch.

During their October 15 debate, presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain referred to "Joe the Plumber" constantly. In the days following the debate, information on Wurzelbacher's driver's license or his sport utility vehicle was retrieved from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles database three times, the Dispatch reported.

With access to such information limited to legitimate law enforcement and government business, state and local officials are now investigating whether the information was obtained illegally. The information was retrieved using accounts assigned to the Ohio attorney general's office, a county child support enforcement agency, and the Toledo Police Department, according to the report.
An Ohio spokesman for the McCain campaign told the Dispatch that the information breach may have been politically motivated. "It's outrageous to see how quickly Barack Obama's allies would abuse government power in an attempt to smear a private citizen who dared to ask a legitimate question," Paul Lindsay told the Dispatch.

What about that promise that 95% of Americans would pay less taxes under Obama?

Well, only if you don’t consider letting the Bush tax cuts expire a tax increase, don’t consider a recall on tax breaks for IRAs a tax increase, don’t consider that the “standard” for rich folks getting it socked it them keeps changing in Obama’s plan disturbing (rich last week was $250K, this morning it is $150K, who knows what it will be tomorrow?), and knowing that 40% of Americans currently don’t pay income taxes and therefore a tax cut would constitute welfare.

Oh, and your pension that you are counting on to keep you fed and warm in your old age? Joe Biden promised last week, referring to CEOs, “Their pensions go first," he told the cheering crowd. Meaning what? We're going to take 'em.
He's going to take away people's pensions. If you let that happen, he can take away yours.

Stop and think about what our America, the land we love, could become under a socialist president with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid eager to do his bidding.

Sources include National Review Online, What Does the Prayer Really Say?, Rush Limbaugh, AP, and Columbus Dispatch.