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.