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?