Friday, August 29, 2008

“Mommy, Why are you screaming?”

Sarah Palin is a faithful Catholic, pro-life, a member of the NRA, a mom of 5 including a soon-to-be-deployed to Iraq soldier, a dynamic speaker, and a politician with loads of experience. As I drove the kids home from sailing lessons this afternoon listening to her inspiring and patriotic speech in Dayton, Ohio I started crying. This is a politician I can be enthusiastic about, someone to vote for rather than just the better of two bad choices.

God bless John McCain for today’s pick. As a former leftist feminista I want to see a woman succeed - but now I am excited when that woman is conservative. She blows the liberal candidates out of the water with her life experiences and her positions.

I was skimming about on-line and found this great bit from Mark Hemmingway at NRO:

"One of McCain's recurring jokes is that in the Senate he's not known as Miss Congeniality. Well, it turns out that back in her beauty pageant days, Palin actually was Miss Congeniality.

Which is not to say Sarah Barracuda is soft. While I was familiar with her political accomplishments and a few personal details, until I read that piece in the Alaska Daily News linked above, I had no idea how compelling her biography is. Her credentials as a committed wife and mother on top of her political success are excellent and I suspect they will appeal to soccer moms and — dare I say it — those with a feminist streak. As for men, she's a hunter and a former championship basketball player and sportscaster. She clearly knows how to connect with the overwhelmingly male electorate in her state. Also, her husband, who Palin calls "the First Dude", is an oil worker, fisherman and three time winner of the 2,000 mile Iron Dog snowmobile race, who sounds like the kind of manly hombre NASCAR dads will appreciate.

(Remember how giddy people were over the fact that Hillary did a beer and a shot on the trail? I suspect Palin could down a whole bottle of Wild Turkey and still hit six more campaign stops that day.) This is an admittedly informal indicator, but based on the way my inbox is filling up and my phone is ringing, nothing the McCain campaign has done to date comes close to generating the enthusiasm of the Palin pick. "

updated: Gov. Palin isn't Catholic, thank you Karen for letting me know. With no internet at the house, I can't research like I am used to doing. There may be many theological differences between Catholics and evangelical Protestants, but our love for country, God, and family puts us on the same side on many political issues.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

the start of school approaches

I had 3 summer homeschool goals: for Will to write his field trip report for history, for Mary to slog through Singapore 2A math, and for Maggie to start Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Despite moving (twice!) and squeezing in sailing lessons, horse 4H time, and expeditions to the beach, we have managed to get most of these goals met.

The whole crew went to Prospect, Maine and learned about Fort Knox which was begun in 1844 against a possible British naval attack and was never finished, much less used. The kids sat on cannons, climbed into dark passages, scaled the roofline, and almost got completely lost.

We also braved our (okay, my fear) of heights and whooshed up 42 stories in the fastest elevator in the state to the top of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge. The view was superb as we could see the entire fort, the Penobscot River, the town of Bucksport, and as far as Blue Hill. Later Will and I sat down and worked on his report, sending it in to Seton the next day.

Mary is finishing up week 11 in her math, and despite the moans, groans, and demands for a Skittle for finishing her daily work, she has mastered addition and subtraction. While I am not pleased that we wasted 2 years using MCP workbooks, I have hope that one day she will at least be able to balance her own checkbook. Slow and steady will lead to mastering arithmetic and I am finally willing to back up far enough to accomplish that rather than succumb to my own pride at having a child be “a year ahead.” One of the benefits of home schooling is allowing each kid to work at his own pace- ahead, behind, or the same as kids in public school. Mary is evidence of that by being in 4 different grade levels in her studies.

Maggie is my most eager learner and we have dutifully spent most afternoons plodding through 100 EZ Lessons, having finished #33 today. She has gone from struggling between L and I sounds to reading 2 sentence stories. In addition, I have bought several Random House Step Into Reading books struggling through on the first go-around, only to hear her reading them fluently over and over to Charlie in the following days. She has been my most predictable reader, which I appreciate after “perhaps I will learn to read before I go to college” Will and “ I taught myself to read in secret” Mary.

We will start in earnest on schoolwork in a week or so, but I still want them to be able to enjoy our last remaining month in Maine catching frogs, working on Pine Stump fort deep in the woods, and riding bikes with no fear of cars. The kids have dutifully practiced the piano, worked on Cub Scout pins, and read more fiction than I thought possible. As we start our 6th year of home schooling, I think we are better prepared than ever and sufficiently rested to tackle another challenging, yet fun session of learning.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

making Maine memories

Summer in Maine has finally appeared, though a little too late for vacationers and kids going back to school. The sun has been shining for more than a few hours allowing hay to be cut and baled. Our little crew took advantage of the warm weather and headed out to our favorite quiet swimming spot. While it now takes about an hour’s drive, including a long slog through the woods to pull into sight of the water, we were rewarded with hours of fun.

Will and Mary blew up the inflatable dingy and proved their rowing prowess by taking the smaller children on rides.
After Mary took Maggie and Charlie on a hike out to a small rocky point, Will met them with the boat and took them across to a tiny island dotted with scrubby bushes.
While there weren’t any blueberries on the island, Mary and Timmy and I found bunches on the hike back and sampled a few of the dainty treats. I tried to take the boat out, but found out that rowing is a lot harder than it looks. All I managed to do was go in circles.

We spotted a bald eagle soaring overhead, but when 3 cars pulled up I decided that the beach got a little too crowded and packed everyone in the car for the trek home. These sorts of afternoons are what the children remember about their summers in Maine, as well as the days of exploring the woods and fields on our farm. While one day I might be able to push off the beach in a canoe for a peaceful paddle, I will treasure the memories of a noisy day at the pond in my mother’s heart.

Friday, August 22, 2008

the highlight of summer

I love going to the fair. Not the state fair, with hundreds of thousands of people and big name musical acts on stage, but the small home-town Union Fair, held each August in Union, Maine. There are chickens,



and cows
from local farms competing for prizes, ox and antique tractor pulls, greasy and sticky sweet fair food, the demolition derby, and of course amusement park rides - the kind your mother wouldn’t let you go on as a child because they didn’t look safe.

We have been attending this fair since we only had 2 children, which goes back 5-6 years, always letting the kids have 1 day to get bracelets so they can ride as many times as their stomach will allow. Every year there are the old favorites such as the carousel, the giant slide, and the fun house, new ones such as the Speedway, and surprisingly the “Spooky Ride” returned from a 2 year hiatus to the older children’s delight. Poor Timmy wasn’t tall enough to ride anything but the motorcycles that went round-and-round , but he enjoyed his 2 turns so much that I had to pry his little hands off the chrome handlebars.

7 hours might seem to be plenty of time to see all the sights, but it comes too quickly for little ones. Despite the howls of protest I knew I had picked a good time to go when I looked in the rear view mirror a few miles outside of town and saw 5 snoring children slumped over the seats of the van. By the time we got back to the house it was pitch dark and I had to shake both Will and Mary hard to get them to wake up long enough to climb the stairs and get into their jammies.
I was proud of my crew, they were well behaved and responsible for each other so there were no temper tantrums or frantic searches for lost children. In fact, since they were so good I promised a return on Saturday for the pedal tractor races, the parade, and another shot at the free bicycle raffle.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A fine day in Maine

The other day we had some old friends visit the farm, and we all had a fine time showing off the apartment/garage, the garden, the fields, and the new building project. For the past few mornings two dump trucks, an excavator (which I always call a steam shovel in honor of Margaret Wise Brown’s Mike Mulligan), a bulldozer, and a roller have all been in place in our front yard. Our machine shed/barn is now well under way with at least 15 truck loads of gravel already spread and packed down. When we found that 6 year old Daniel was coming, I exclaimed, “You picked the perfect day, it is construction central around here!”

My favorite scene was seeing all 4 boys lined up against the garage doors for over 30 minutes staring at all the equipment in use. First the dump trucks took turns backing up and letting go of their load, the bulldozer scraping it all smooth, followed by the roller smashing it all down to a shiny finish.

Later all the kids played on the swing set, picked huge bouquets of wildflowers, and erected a rope swing in an old oak tree. Will got out several saws and the boys hacked down enough saplings from the edge of the woods (I wanted them down anyway) for everyone to have their own. For the next 20 minutes they raised them up to standing, only to shout, “Timber!” and giggle as they crashed to the ground. Amazingly enough, no one lost a finger from the sharp saws or an eye by the plethora of falling branches.

Our little guest very politely walked up to me next to the garden and said quietly, “Thank you Katherine for the nice time. I liked playing on your farm.”

Anytime Daniel, anytime.

Monday, August 18, 2008

switched at birth?

After the past few weeks I am convinced that none of the children living here actually belong to me. Oh yeah, they are all the spitting image of Tim and I, they all share common traits, and Mary was actually the only baby present at the Naval Hospital in Naples during our 2 day stay, but their behavior recently has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are strangers.

I am a relatively quiet person, introspective and needing blocks of quiet time each day to recharge. I cringe when immersed in constant upheaval and noise. The cramming of 6 people in 4 rooms for rainy days on end has resulted in my head pounding from the bickering, the fussing, and the mess I have been subjected to by these little creatures. Tim is even more of an introvert than I am, so it would make sense for us to have 5 bookworms who love to read for hours, take long rambles through the woods, stay neat and tidy, and finish what they start. The only place these children are quiet is at Mass, which I am grateful for, but it would be nice if they were like that all the time. My other proof, backed up by elementary genetics is that NONE of the children are left-handed, despite the fact that both their so-called parents are, two recessive genes automatically result in that recessive trait in the offspring.

So, there you have it. If you know of any quiet, nerdy left-handed children that don't seem to fit into your household perhaps we could consider switching them back to their proper families. I would enjoy the reduced noise level, but would miss hearing, "I love you Mommy," and, "Goodnight, sleep tight, see you in the morning."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

blueberry pie

So far this month I have not had any lobster, but I have made blueberry muffins, blueberry bread, and yesterday undertook the baking of my very first blueberry pie. The children practically inhale both the bread and muffins, but the 5 cups of blueberries enclosed in flaky pie crust were for my enjoyment alone. Every summer I wait anxiously for the first week of August when the fields are filled with backs bent low raking through the shrubbery. It appears to be exhausting work, I willingly skip the pick-your-own fields to buy a large box already winnowed and pack them up in the freezer to enjoy all summer.

This afternoon we are in town yet again, this time to visit the car dealership and visit the local diner that serves delicious soups on yet another rainy cool day. Will had been clambering all week for the opportunity to camp out in the tent, but at 4am was driven inside by drizzle. I can only be grateful that we have plenty to keep us occupied after I decided that the children were better served by starting school than staring out the window or playing computer games. Several acquaintances have related stories of vacationing friends who have been forced inside during their entire stay, not being able to swim, bike, sail, or hike due to the horrible weather. I am expecting that the sun will begin to shine again and the temperature to rise once the public schools officially begin, leaving the parks, beaches, and beauties of Maine for those of us unconstrained by the rigid schedule of such institutions.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

oh where, oh where is that global warming?

Since arriving in Maine 3 weeks ago we have experienced only 1 day of summer. I am so grateful we took full advantage and spent the afternoon paddling in the surf, digging holes, and getting sunburnt at the lake since almost every other day we have experienced mist and rain and temperatures more in keeping with October in New England.

Yesterday we were all trapped inside with the heat turned on and with a background symphony of tinny music punctuated with a frequent honk of blowing noses and sneezes. I only brought one computer game to help entertain the children, but even The Oregon Trail gets boring after playing it daily for 2 weeks. Perhaps it was a bad idea but in desperation, I taught the older kids to play Spider Solitaire- a time-sucking, mind-numbing game if ever there was one. Tim promised that he would find and send several old favorites such as I Spy, and even the builder offered to look through his kid's stash for anything appropriate. I only hope for a return to blue skies and the opportunity to kick all the children outside and enjoy a currently elusive beautiful Maine summer.

Friday, August 01, 2008

light blogging ahead

Well, we are up in Maine and Tim left this morning to head back to check in at his new command. He certainly enjoyed driving his tractor, moving dirt piles and mowing the acres and acres of grass. He also bought a rototiller attachment so I now have 300+ square feet of garden to rake and plant. The apartment is almost finished and it is so bright and easy to clean that I actually look forward to dry mopping all the rooms and sweeping it all up in the mudroom at the bottom of the stairs. However, one piece in the puzzle is missing, the internet one. I tried for 4 hours to get simple dial-up installed on my ancient computer, but gave up for good when the modem crashed and burned. My next step is to convince Tim that a laptop would be simple because so many libraries and and places have wi-fi and I wouldn't have to sit on hold for 30 minutes with the phone company again. So, for now my only access to email or the blog is at the library while listening to a riot in the background, "Can I play on the computer now? " "Mommy help me look for a new Littles book." "I need help in the potty!"

So bear with me and soon I shall be back on-line with time to read and write about what is going on in the world, at least the large Catholic homeschooling family part.