Thursday, December 31, 2009

doing a lot of reading

Amazon received quite a few of our Christmas dollars this year, I got 6 books under the tree and had read 2 by the time I turned out the light on St. Stephen's Day. I had asked for the trilogy by Pamela Aidan featuring the story of Pride and Prejudice from Fitzwilliam Darcy's point of view. The story has a few racy spots, but complement Jane Austen's classic very well. Tim had a set of children inscribe the first page of each book which added a lovely touch.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

carnival of homeschooling

Life Nurturing Education is hosting this week's carnival with a Winter in Idaho edition.

an educational Christmas

You can only buy so many Brio train pieces, so many wooden blocks, so many picture books for gifts for the younger ones, but once the children are over 10 the possibilities of neat things to buy expands dramatically. Will loves all things science oriented so his haul from parents and aunties reflected that in Snap Circuit parts, a book of knots, a volcano making kit, and a solar car kit.

Mary had a very crafty Christmas with embroidery floss for making friendship bracelets, stencils and a drawing pad, and kits to make cards, erasers, and a latch hook rug.

In my ever super-thrifty way I found several of their gifts at the thrift store. My guess is that lots of kids out there don't consider science or crafts fun and discarded these gifts from grandma in favor of playing another round of Wii. When the children asked me if this was true, I said, "You could have 1 gift under the tree if I buy them at Target and 4 if I buy some from the thrift store. Which do you choose?"

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

on the flying trapeze

My mother lied when she said I had no coordination. It takes skill and dexterity to climb over a baby gate with 3 books, a digital camera, and a cup of chai latte in one hand. One slip and I would have fallen to my doom. I don't think I'll press my luck by signing up for this rock climbing expedition.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Herbert Prentis has competition

I shouldn't get upset, after all some of the gifts the children received came from me, but now we have boxes of craft projects and coloring stuff to add to the cramped girl's bedroom, which was already full of doll beds, doll clothes, horse stuff, and books. Maggie can't even walk to her bed, she has to leap from the middle of the room and try to miss the piles of clothes she hasn't put away before she can go to sleep. It is a real trial for Mary to share a room with her messy little sister.

There is a clear line of demarcation down the center of the room with Mary's jewelry arranged just so on the dresser, neat lines of plastic horses with flowing manes at the foot of the bed, and clothes stacked by color in the drawers. Maggie's side is strewn with damp towels, American Girl clothes, and when we pulled out everything from under the bed last week we found 14 dirty socks. I have already bought the child several under the bed boxes from IKEA, shoe and sweater organizers for the closet, but still the mess spews forth like lava from Mt. Etna, threatening small children in its wake. Julia Ellen can't go into their room due to my fear of her eating beads or paper that are liberally strewn across the room. I cringe whenever I walk by and soon expect Mary to ask if she can move in with the baby. I have lots of ideas for shelves and such once we move to Maine, but since this is a rental we can't yet.

The solution that Mrs. Piggle Wiggle conjured up for little Herbert (who was trapped in his room because he wouldn't put his toys away) of offering him to lead the town parade if he could put away his things and escape his self-imposed prison won't work simply because Maggie doesn't have any place she can put all this stuff.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

carnival of homeschooling

Dana has put together an incredibly funny carnival this week despite a hacked blog and multiple showings of their house to deal with. Go check it out!

it's beginning to look a lot like...

a house in Maine rather than a hole in the ground. Note the circular driveway (my idea) which is now paved so the kids can go around, and around, and around... on their bikes and roller blades. It has the added benefit of keeping the gravel bits out of the apartment and house. I wish we were up there so I could send the kids out to slide down the hill on their sleds rather than have to pack up everyone in the car and drive 10 minutes to the nearest good size hill. Today we are just going to do 3 subjects of school, practice the piano, and then bundle everyone up to hit the slopes.

Monday, December 21, 2009

projects completed

One good thing about all this snow is that while the baby is napping and the older children are perfecting tunnels through their snow fort, I have had some quiet time to sew. First I finished a tshirt quilt for Ora board friend Susan's teenage son. The internet made it so easy to send pictures of my progress and allow her to chose colors and approve the final layout.
I had Tim cut some slats for a doll bed that my grandmother had played with as a child. I made a new mattress out of a ruined quilt that had wool batting (someone threw it in the dryer and it all felted) and scrap fabric. Then I made a crisp white top sheet and a pillowcase for Samantha, Maggie's American Girl doll. The doll quilt was left over from a Little Quilt making phase many years ago, but fit on top perfectly.
My next project is a more elaborate tshirt quilt for another Ora friend Mary Ann, whose daughter is heading off to college next fall.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas

and if the weather stays cold we will certainly have one. 18" of fluffy stuff fell yesterday and the kids have been out (and in and out and in...) playing in the huge pile the snowplow left last night. Yesterday I trudged 5 blocks to the nearest grocery to get a couple of gallons of milk, and while 16 pounds gets heavy really fast, it was nice to take a quiet walk bundled up in my snowpants and duckboots. My plan once we move to Maine is to take a walk every day, even on cold winter ones like this.

This morning after Julia Ellen went down for a nap, Timmy came in crying and complaining that the snow was too deep. I stripped him down, got him changed, and cleaned up the fallen snow and then went back to my project. 5 minutes later Charlie came in needing help removing all his snowy gear. Again I helped him strip, sent him upstairs to change, and swept up the snow he tracked in. Back to my activity, only to be interrupted twice more when the girls came in 15 minutes apart. Will can pull off his own boots and pants, thank goodness.

I'm all set to make another batch of cookies this afternoon and fortify myself for another bout of buttoning them all into their snow gear only to take it back off 45 minutes (or less) later and dump it all over the front hall. I'm hoping that by the time we move to Maine more children will be able to get themselves suited up and am planning on lots of hooks in the mudroom to hold all the wet stuff.

Friday, December 18, 2009

look mama!

I can play the piano (but I need a little help from Will to sit)!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

sink or swim?

Yes, I know the drowning metaphor is now overkill, but it really shows how I feel these days; attempting to struggle to the surface to breathe but pulled down by unseen hands. From the moment I wake to the instant my head hits the pillow, the past few months have been a constant struggle. I'm hauling a 20 pound baby up and down the stairs, holding her struggling body to keep her from eating and ripping up everything, trying to get the older children to be peaceful and get their schoolwork done, attempting to keep Timmy's pants dry, and all the while being pulled at and shouted at, and fussed at by 6 children. I don't have a moment's peace. Ever.

Yesterday, even with a babysitter in the house minding the little boys, I googled the local Catholic school and actually called them. I'm sure I sounded hysterical, "I can't take any more!" and then made it worse by accidentally dropping the phone down the stairs ('cause of course I was carrying babydoodle too). I don't really know what sending them to school means since they haven't been since nursery school, but I know it means getting everyone out the door by 7:30am, packing lunches, helping with homework (sometimes taking as long as we do during the day now), and uniforms.

It also means a change in status for me and I'm not sure I like that part. No, I don't like doing the job of 6 people all by myself and I don't like feeling angry and stressed out all the time, but homeschooling has been my life for 6 and 1/2 years now and who am I if not a homeschooler? If we do this I want it to be a stop gap solution for the next year or two. I really love teaching my kids at home, but I just don't think I can do it with 4 kids, a toddler and a baby, no family, and a husband who works 12 hour days. What if I really like them in school (and out of my hair)? What if they do better away from me? Does that make me a homeschool failure? The only thing worse than seeing them flourish is if they fail. What if they can't do the work, make friends, fit into the parochial school culture? What then?

We expect a call from the principal next week and an interview/testing to follow shortly. I'll be writing lots of questions and fretting a great deal in the meantime. Please keep our family in your prayers.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I made it!

Tim was away this week, not to anywhere scary like Kobul or Bagdad, but to Saratoga Springs, Newport, and Groton. I wasn't afraid for his safety, but for my own. On Monday we had 3 activities, on Tuesday 2, 1 each on Wednesday and Friday. I had to make sure we got everyone bundled up, packed with the right gear, and in the car with enough time to get to Mass, co-op, and lessons on time. All this plus get school done, feed everyone, keep the house tidy, and decorate the house for Christmas.

Tim is a very involved dad, but much of it is below the radar, so it is only apparent how much he does when he isn't here. He picks up kids/takes them to lessons, bathes or cleans up for dinner each night, takes care of the checkbook, fetches milk on his way home, teaches Will math, gives hugs and kisses, reads to the little boys, changes nappies, puts up the babygate, holds Julia Ellen, and a myriad of other things that make our daily life run smoother.

This week also makes me appreciate other moms like Michelle and Mary Ann more, those who's husbands are gone for 6 months or more in service of our country. They have to pull the weight of 2 parents for so long as well as keep their spirits up for their children's sake. May God be with those who are serving in harm's way and shower comfort and blessings on their families back home.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

carnival of homeschooling

The Homeschool Post is hosting the carnival this week with a Christmas ornament theme. I love it when the host picks a theme, partly because it shows they put some effort into reading and tying all the posts together (which is a daunting task when you are dealing with 30-50 some posts coming into your email inbox over the course of a week), but it highlights the idea that there is a link between homeschoolers, despite the different curriculum and methods we use.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

I'm not drowning anymore!

On Monday morning we hit the highway and drove to St. Paul's in Ellicott City (a really quaint and charming town). We brought our schoolbooks and lunch and met some great Catholic moms who are teaching each other's children twice a week. The kids began with Gregorian chant choir practice and then they all scattered to different rooms to begin their work. I made sure mine were comfortable and then took Timmy and Julia Ellen to join in the fun in the nursery where we played, picked up, read, picked up, ate snacks, picked up, nursed, and picked up one last time before lunch. Will and Mary then complained that they were still starving and didn't have any more work to do so we called it a day and headed home (with a short stop at McDonald's).

It will be a little different having to comply with someone else's speed for getting the work completed (Will was 2 chapters behind in history, but 4 chapters ahead in science), but between the co-op and Elizabeth coming another 2 mornings a week, my head is finally above water and I can see us getting through the rest of the schoolyear without sinking. I like hanging out with the toddlers and babies without simultaneously instructing the older children. Somehow I feel that I have stepped back 8 years in time when all I did all day was make towers with blocks and read The Poky Little Puppy 800 times in a row.

Credo in unum Deum

Clearly, I cannot resist taking a stab at defining what a modern ultra-Catholic is. Some temptations are difficult to resist. Briefly, in today's multi-descriptor world, an ultra-Catholic is one who is a believing Catholic, a fairly rare bird. The country is full of ex-, disagreeing, non-practicing, right-to-choose, leave-me-alone Catholics. They tell us that they are better than their hapless co-religionists who naively think Catholicism is credibly the most intelligent thing on the public or private scene. In the public area, the most often cited "authority" on what Catholics believe is the dissenter. Catholics are the one group about which no one has to speak accurately.

A be-knighted ultra-Catholic holds the Nicene Creed as true. He thinks divine authority exists in the Church. He knows that he, a sinner, needs forgiveness. But he does not make his sins into some social-justice crusade. He does odd things like go to Mass on Sundays, even in Latin. He thinks it is fine to have children. He prefers to work for a living. He also knows that the Church is under siege in the culture. He belongs to the real minority.

The above quote is by Rev. James V. Schall, S.J. who teaches political science at Georgetown University. His latest book, The Mind That Is Catholic, is published by Catholic University of America Press.

Read the whole thing at

Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and we ask Mary, ever Virgin, to pray for us that we may all be ultra-Catholic.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Momma, I'm hungry!

Julia Ellen has been waking up between 1-3 am for the past week. I've been nursing her and putting her back to bed, but one night she was awake for 2 hours so I desperately tried feeding her oatmeal at 4 in the morning. Obviously she is not getting enough to eat (though she is still pleasantly plump) so we started her on mush and yogurt in addition to Cheerios and chopped up raisins. Hopefully she will start going back to sleeping through the night 'cause Momma is tired!

Friday, December 04, 2009

keeping the boys out of my hair

This week we invited Elizabeth, a local homeschooled teen into our home to assist me in my daily tasks. She played with the little boys, took them on walks, and read LOTS of stories to them. Tuesday was a little stressful because the big kids wanted to play too instead of doing their work, but Thursday ran so well that I had time to clean one of the bathrooms and run down to the camera shop and pick up my Christmas card photos. I cheated this year and used one of the 40 pictures I took of the kids up on the top of Mount Battie in Maine. No one has really changed all that much in 3 months and I hate coaxing them to all smile simultaneously as much as they hate hearing me say, "Just one more photo. Can you all look this way, smile, and not close your eyes?"

We finished up the last of 1st quarter's work today and I think it was partly to Elizabeth's help and my extra energy at having gotten that help. I'm looking forward to Monday morning (except for the leaving the house at 7am part) to check out the Catholic co-op and meet some fellow homeschooling moms.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

super sensitive official Mommy hearing aids

My children can't hear me. It isn't their fault and it isn't a medical issue, its just that our house is on 4 floors so I'm constantly calling down the stairwell, "Hey, can someone bring me some grocery bags?" or "Get back up here and brush your teeth!" with no response. Maybe it is sadistic to wish for little electronic collars for each child so I could zap them instead of huffing and puffing up or down the stairs looking for that one child who forgot to make his bed. But my hearing is keen to the point of eeriness.

Last night I woke at about midnight and through the background noise of the fan I heard a little noise. A very little noise. There it was again but the pressure from my bladder increased in proportion to my alertness so I visited the kid's bathroom. As I was about to flush, I heard THE noise: Julia Ellen just starting to fuss. She is going through a growth spurt and obviously needs more milk. It amazed me that I could hear her breathing change as she woke up and realized she was hungry despite the fact that she was in another room with her fan going and the door shut. Maybe it is Mommy ESP, but I know that I certainly don't need that product advertised on the radio for auditory deficiencies.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Is the USS Homeschooler going down?

Sometime in the past year we have been transformed from a relatively calm homeschooling household to one that is barely staying afloat. The older children are mean, the younger ones whiny and I'm about to jump off the deck. While we have done lots of field trips, signed up for lots of lessons, and prayed the Rosary, things are out of control. Last week we decided to set up an appointment with the principal at the nearest Catholic school, so when my friend Delores asked after Mass, "How are you doing?" I replied, "Not so well."

"I'm about ready to give up, school is a constant struggle, the kids have few friends, and I'm lonely!" But Delores didn't bat an eye and pulled out her address book and a pen while saying, "You give this lady a call. She runs a Catholic co-op not very far away with all Seton students. It's once or twice a week and they do all their lessons for the week and have real homework. It also gives the moms the opportunity to get to know each other. It is a real blessing."

In less than one hour I had talked on the phone with the co-op leader, arranged with a local homeschooled teen to babysit the little ones two other days each week, and have a lot more confidence that we can right our listing and leaky homeschooling ship. I love teaching the children and don't want to give that up. But I need some help and it looks like I may have found it.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

treasure hunt

Charlie decided yesterday to take the cushions off the sofa and stuck his hand waaaay down behind the springs. "I found something!" he yelled with his little fingers gripping a Matchbox car. His hand plunged down again and snagged a book. I got into the spirit and felt around and before we knew it, we had found:

5 pencils
1 pen
3 puzzle pieces
3 holy cards
7 hair elastics
1 rosary
2 books (1 was a rather large library book of recent vintage, I'm so glad we found that one)
3 ancient keys
4 vehicles (including a very tiny surfboard)
a handful of rosary beads (we used to make them for the missions before Charlie put one in his ear)

I then plugged in the vacuum and sucked the crumbs and dust that have been accumulating for 10 years before putting it all back to rights.

Makes you want to examine under your own cushions, now doesn't it?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

one child policy for America?

Robert Bonelli has written a very chilling piece at American Thinker about how, through government health care, we might see forced sterilizations and abortions to limit the "surplus population."

We talked about "death panels" in reference to the health care bills now under consideration by Congress, but another approach is simply to control the number of people entering the system -- new births. Naturally, it will all be "for the public good."

Should we be concerned? Consider that one of Mr. Obama's close advisors, his Science Czar, is John Holdren. Mr. Holdren is a radical thinker who can, and has, rationalized the use of forced population control if economic conditions warrant it. If government-run health care begins to reveal a shortage of medical care supply versus a dramatic increase in demand for medical care -- as is a predicted result of the legislation before Congress -- Mr. Holdren will be at the president's side with his suggestions. Those suggestions will be to force a downsizing of the population. A one-child policy will be an easy first step for this man and for this administration.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

carnival of homeschooling

Speaking of southside Virginia, Norfolk Homeschooling Examiner is hosting this week's carnival.

it's beginning to look a lot like Russia

It seems that a normal person can't breathe (or cough) these days without being charged with doing something illegal. Here around Washington, DC there are cops on every corner, cameras at every intersection, and brown shirt citizens who delight in ratting out their neighbor. People here are meaner than what I'm used to, both in southside Virginia and in supposedly uptight Yankee Maine. They cut you off in parking lots for the last spot, push their grocery carts in front of yours without a glance, and glare at you if they have to slow down to allow your passel of children to cross the street.

But our elected representatives show understanding, or do they? It becomes more apparent every day that politicians consider themselves above the plight of the common man. They exempted themselves for many years from paying into the Social Security Ponzi scheme and now exempt themselves from the same medical rationing bill they are trying to force down the throat of the American people. They block traffic for hours so they can buy groceries, and both here and in California they don't even obey the traffic laws.

The Web site on Monday posted photographs of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger getting into a silver convertible Porsche in a red zone, where no stopping, standing or parking is allowed. The celebrity site says the violation occurred Saturday in Beverly Hills.
The city typically issues a $90 citation to red zone violators.
The governor apparently didn't learn from his wife's mistake. Last month, Shriver was caught on video parking her Cadillac Escalade in a red zone in Santa Monica.
That tape surfaced after several other videos showed Shriver holding a cell phone while driving, another violation of California law.

Monday, November 23, 2009

where are they??

Until this weekend Julia Ellen had never been apart from her brothers and sisters. She apparently now needs to hear, "It's mine! No that is MY toy! MOMMY!!" to go to sleep at night, have small children haul her around by wrapping their arms around her middle to feel loved, eat treats from my plate on her high chair to satisfy her hunger, and have 5 children sticking their face in hers and saying, "Who loves baby best?" to make her smile. Mommy and a bunch of grownups just don't cut it. Little moppet and I sat in Grandmother's living room and chatted, went for walks, and shopped for Christmas gifts, but she wasn't happy. Her worst was at bedtime where she cried and fussed on and off until 2am. I thought I was going to jump out the window into the river to escape her fussing and my grandmother asking, "What is wrong with that child?"

It didn't dawn on me that she missed all the bickering, complaining, and arguing until we got to Mass and she looked around and her smile lit up the sanctuary. Children! Lots and lots (and lots) of slightly noisy, wiggling babies and toddlers and big kids. Her mood immediately dampened when we got in the truck and headed for home, but she was even more excited when we finally dragged in the door at 6pm and she saw the rest of her family. Joy! Bliss!

Friday, November 20, 2009

on the road again...

My whole childhood revolved around my grandmother's house. She watched us while Mother was working or going to grad school, helped us with our homework, fed us, and bought us clothes. Until I headed off for college I had never lived more than 15 minutes away, but I haven't been able to see her in over a year due to being pregnant, having a baby, and going to Maine.

Tomorrow baby Julia Ellen and I will hit the road southward to visit, put some flowers on Mother's grave, and perhaps eat a little BBQ. I've had such a horrible week that I'm looking forward to rolling down the windows in the truck, turning up the radio, and singing along real loud. I'm sure the baby won't mind hearing some country music, and if she does she can't complain too much.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

100 degrees F

Last night baby Julia Ellen started crying at 1:30am, an unusual occurrence. The poor little dear was burning up and I hunted madly for a thermometer, only to find a very old digital version that took 5 minutes of holding it under her armpit to finally determine a reading. After nursing her and holding her for almost an hour, I put her to bed and collapsed into my own. She is still hot today so we cancelled our outings and are planning stories, games, and perhaps a little movie time this afternoon so Mommy can get a rest. Guess who is going to be receiving a new temporal scanner thermometer in her stocking?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

carnival of homeschooling

A Pondering Heart is hosting this week's carnival with a Homeschool Blog Award theme. I've had a tough week with too many activities, both my sewing machines on the fritz, and being accused of neglecting the children. I'm looking for a mother's helper and an incentive plan for Will and Mary to get their book reports finished. Any volunteers?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

England is slipping into totalitarianism

Conservative talkshow hosts and bloggers have been warning that by allowing the Federal Government control over our health care, bureaucrats will gain the right to intrude into every aspect of our lives. News reports out of Canada and Great Britain have described in detail the rationing and death panels that are inevitable in a government run program. But even more shocking is the proposal that just by having a child in England means that any government worker has free access to your home in the name of "protecting children" and reducing healthcare costs.

Our house would be a virtual goldmine of violations for these people. No caps on the outlets, no locks on the cabinets, a babygate at the top of only one set of stairs, and no rubber guards on any piece of furniture. Amazingly enough we have been to the Emergency Room less than a dozen times in that many years of parenting. I don't have to be too paranoid to imagine an Orwellian England in which children are taken from their parents to be raised by "right thinking" government officials.

Health and safety inspectors are to be given unprecedented access to family homes to ensure that parents are protecting their children from household accidents.

New guidance drawn up at the request of the Department of Health urges councils and other public sector bodies to “collect data” on properties where children are thought to be at “greatest risk of unintentional injury”.

Council staff will then be tasked with overseeing the installation of safety devices in homes, including smoke alarms, stair gates, hot water temperature restrictors, oven guards and window and door locks.

Nice also recommends the creation of a new government database to allow GPs, midwives and other officials who visit homes to log health and safety concerns they spot.

The guidance aims to “encourage all practitioners who visit families and carers with children and young people aged under 15 to provide home safety advice and, where necessary, conduct a home risk assessment”. It continues: “If possible, they should supply and install home safety equipment.” UK Times

Saturday, November 14, 2009

a victory for marriage in Maine

On November 3rd Maine's #1 ballot initiative asked voters whether they wanted to repeal a law allowing same-sex marriage that had passed the Legislature and was signed by Democratic Gov. John Baldacci. The Catholic Church was instrumental in getting signatures on the ballot initiative, getting out the message, and getting out the vote. Every Sunday all summer there were inserts in the bulletin explaining the position of Bishop Malone to define marriage "as it has been understood for millennia by civilizations and religions around the world."

The opposition brought in gay activists from Seattle to claim that marriage is a "right," that same-sex marriage wouldn't be promoted in the public schools (but it has next door in Massachusetts), and wouldn't fundamentally change our culture.

Gay marriage has now lost in every state — 31 in all — in which it has been put to a popular vote. Five states have legalized gay marriage — Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut — but all did so through legislation or court rulings, not by popular vote. apnews

In this on-going struggle (we may have won the battle, but not the war) we did succeed this round. Many bishops across the US contributed to the effort, as well as many individual citizens.

Here is the list of the Top 12 Dioceses That Contributed to Support Marriage in Maine:
Phoenix $50,000 - Bishop Thomas Olmsted
Philadelphia $50,000 - Justin Cardinal Rigali
St. Louis $10,000 - Archbishop Robert Carlson
Kansas City, Kan.$10,000 - Archbishop Joseph Naumann
Newark $10,000 - Archbishop John Myers
Providence $10,000 - Bishop Thomas Tobin
Youngstown $10,000 - Bishop George Murry
Fall River $5,000 - Bishop George Coleman
Rockford $5,000 - Bishop Thomas Doran
Crookston $5,000 - Bishop Michael Hoeppner
Pittsburgh $5,000 - Bishop David Zubik
Arlington $5,000 - Bishop Paul Loverde

American Papist

Thank you to these wonderful bishops, if one of them is yours please tell them thank you from all Mainers!

Friday, November 13, 2009

carnival of homeschooling

Janice Campbell is hosting this week's carnival. I'm feeling a little miffed because yet again I submitted a post and it didn't show up on the carnival. It is not that big a deal, because after all, there are millions of Americans without jobs, wives who are waiting anxiously by the phone to hear from their husbands in Afghanistan, and people sitting in the hospital hearing ,"Your loved one has cancer," and for me to complain about being overlooked on the internet is a bit silly.

The real reason I'm upset is that we are supposed to go on a field trip to the National Gallery of Art today with the local homeschool group and I don't know where or when we are meeting. I signed up weeks ago and emailed the lady in charge and I'm obviously getting snubbed. I feel like the new girl at the local elementary school who doesn't know where the cafeteria is. But I'll get over it and if she doesn't tell me we will go anyway and have a marvelous time. 'Cause I'm not 8 anymore and if I can't find the lunchroom, I'll just go to McDonalds. So there.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

worth staying up for

Every so often I come across a passage in a novel that is so perfectly aligned with my experience that I wonder if the author and I are twins separated at birth. Last night I had a little too much chai tea and couldn't drift off to sleep and instead padded downstairs with a stack of books. Only after I finished the last page of Everyone is Beautiful did I climb back into bed.

It was nice to be doing something that was only for me. I had been longing for something that was just mine for years now. I had tried to explain to Peter once, and he had been obtuse about it. "The kids are yours," he'd said.
"They're mine, but they aren't me."
"But you are doing a great job of raising them."
"Sometimes," I said. "And sometimes they are unraveling every roll of toilet paper in the house while I sit on the sofa with my head in my hands."
"You can't tell me they aren't great kids."
"No," I said. "And I wouldn't want to."
"Peter had a gleam as if he'd won.
"But," I pushed on, "when Toby picks his nose and wipes it on the couch, I don't exactly beam with pride and say, 'I did that! That's all me!'"
Peter shook his head.
That was the tricky part. You poured inordinate amounts of time and attention and affection into your kids, but the result was indirect. You didn't point out a cat to you one-year-old and then watch him, minutes later say, "Cat." Instead you pointed out a hundred cats to your one-year-old and then one day, watched him point to a cat and say "Mama."
That was what I wanted Peter to understand-that everything you did for your children was filtered and refracted through their personalities. There was nothing you could take credit for. You just tried to hold yourself together, give them lots of hugs, get them in the tub at least once a day, and hope for the best.
What I needed so desperately, and did not have time in my life, was something I could point to and say, "I did that." Something that was a direct reflection of me.

Housework is only gratifying if no one disturbs the perfection of a polished coffee table neatly stacked with books, no one dribbles urine on the newly cleaned toilet seat, no one spills the bowl of popcorn kernels all over the freshly vacuumed rug. Cooking is only an art if no one grumbles during the partaking, "This is yucky. Can't I have cereal?" Children, as Katherine Center puts it so well, are not little puppets, able to recite Latin proverbs for their relatives on cue just to prove your parenting prowess. And they rarely say "Thank you," for all the work, time, sweat, and tears. This is why I blog, why I quilt. I need something that is mine and I can say, "I did this!"

I this wrote on my etsy profile which sums up this feeling: Quilting relaxes me, feeds my creative nature, and allows me to produce something that will last. With 6 children to take care of, sometimes my life only seems to be full of dirty dishes, laundry, and diapers. Quilting allows me to produce something of beauty and fills my life with color, order, and a finished product.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

chore chart

A few weeks ago, inspired by the story of the Duggar family, I instituted a chore schedule for the older 4 children. I was worn out every day by noon from trying to get every kid's teeth brushed, making and cleaning up from breakfast, starting school, and getting the bathrooms and floors clean.
If all the big kids were away all day at school I could manage it all, but attempting to do all this and teach 4 grade levels of material was impossible.

The chart is on the wall in the upstairs hall and each kid has a daily list of basic hygene items and 1-3 chores. Will and Mary alternate taking down the laundry and hauling it back up.
Other jobs they must complete are cleaning bathrooms, emptying trash cans, vacuuming the stairs, dusting, and cleaning up the playroom. They get paid on Fridays (I don't assign chores on the weekend), 3 cents per mark. They average about $1 a week, but I am finding that I am slipping back into the nagging mode again so starting tomorrow I am instituting a penalty. If they do the job they get paid, but if they don't do one they get a fine.

Monday, November 09, 2009

happy birthday to me!

After Mass on Sunday the girls and I went to La Madeline's for a light but scrumptious lunch to celebrate my birthday. I am in agreement with the majority of Americans who are trying to reduce their consumption during these tough economic times. Instead, I listed 3 crib quilts for sale on in hopes of turning my hobby into one that pays for itself.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

depressed is one word...

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 7, 2009 11:15 p.m. Eastern Time ( - The U.S. House passed the historic health care reform bill Saturday evening by a very close 220 to 215 vote. The Democrats needed 218 votes to pass the bill. One Republican voted for the bill.

The bill includes the Stupak Amendment which basically contains the provisions of the long standing Hyde Amendment prohibiting any coverage of elective abortion by a government program.

The bill still requires approval by the Senate.

Yes, the USCCB made a statement that abortion should not be federally funded. But if they had come out 18 months ago and stated that voting for a pro-infanticide candidate for president was a moral sin than maybe we would not be in the situation we are in today. The federal government will exert more and more control over the lives of individual citizens to the point that we will be looking at the freedoms in China and Venezuela with envy. If I think about what has happened this weekend I feel sick. May God have mercy on us all.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

US Capitol

Yesterday we got up early and left the house at 8am heading downtown to a scheduled tour of the US Capitol (I wouldn't last long fighting this traffic every day). I packed extra clothes and nappies, a few Matchbox cars, and parked in front of our church near the closest Metro stop.

We arrived at Union Station with plenty of time before our tour so Will, Mary, Maggie, and I stayed and chatted for a bit with my cousin Ann who volunteered to watch the three little ones at her house before walking over to Senator Collins' office. After cooling our heels in the Dirkson Building for 20 minutes or so our tour guide escorted us on the little train that runs under Constitution Avenue into the basement of the Capitol. We wandered around the Rotunda looking at the statues and paintings, such as this rendering of the signing of the Constitution,

and the painting The Apotheosis of Washington, which was painted by Constantino Brumidi while suspended nearly 180 feet (55 m) in the air. It is said to be the first attempt by the United States to deify a founding father. Washington is depicted surrounded by 13 maidens representing the original colonies.

We wandered through Statuary Hall, featuring several American Catholics studied in Seton's first grade history such as Blessed Junipero Serra, who started 9 missions in California:

and the Crypt. We all rubbed our foot on the marble star that is the exact center of Washington, DC before peeking into the Old Supreme Court room

for a few minutes before our guide said that our tour was complete. "Won't we would be able to see the Senate and House chambers?" I asked. "Those need separate tickets, we can go back to the office and get them," she replied. Of course by then it was already lunchtime, Julia Ellen was likely getting very hungry, and my childless cousin was probably overwhelmed with the care of the boys. I wished that the staff member who I talked to on the phone had mentioned this to me last week, but I had to decline the too late offer.

Lunch resembled a quiz show with my cousin's husband grilling the children on their tour, schooling, and extra-curricular activities. His obvious disdain for our large family/homeschooling lifestyle, our politics, and our eating habits made it an uncomfortable experience so as soon as possible we took our leave. We finally arrived on our doorstep at 3pm, quite wiped out. It wasn't our best field trip to date, but at least I can check one more DC tourist spot off our master list.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

carnival of homeschooling

The Informed Parent is hosting this week's carnival of homeschooling.

are we homeschooling if we don't open the books?

My week is turning into one long carpool. Yesterday we only hit the books for an hour before attending All Soul's Day Mass and then back-to-back piano and ballet lessons. Today was worse because due to various arcane rules I have not able to schedule Julia Ellen's 6 month well baby appointment and only by talking directly with the clinic was I able to convince them that denying her care until December was not an option. When I finally talked to a clinician they said the only open appointments were 7am or 9am today. I gulped and picked the later time. This only meant that I had to get all the kids up, dressed, fed, and out the door before 8am to fight the DC traffic instead of 6am. I circled the two available parking lots for 30 minutes trying to find a place to park. After missing my appointment time I called the clinic and they gave me a new appointment an hour later (why couldn't I have gotten that time in the first place?) Finally I pleaded my case to a cop (who was in the process of ticketing an illegally parked SUV), "I have been driving around and around with a baby who needs to nurse and two little boys who need to go potty!" They directed me to a parking lot that I thought was off limits and off we trundled into the building.

The first peds clinic clerk said I was in the wrong place and directed me to the other elevators, "4th floor" but the ones I thought she meant only go up to the 3rd floor. Timmy had the first of 3 morning meltdowns in front of the whole staff and other moms over being able to hog every book we brought but we managed to get through the checkup in record time and then headed downstairs to immunizations. (I won't mention that the elevator made one trip down with 4 children and no mommy) The wait was an hour due to folks getting the flu shot (no H1N1 was available) and finally, after 2 hours we crowded into McDonald's for a much deserved lunch.

Tomorrow we are heading downtown to tour the Capitol through Senator Collins' office while my cousin Ann watches the little boys, followed by lunch at her house. Thursday and Friday we will hopefully squeeze in a little schoolwork in between Scout meetings, American Heritage Girls, and ballet class. Good thing about homeschooling, we can do all those extra activities, the problem is knowing when to say, "enough, no more!"

Monday, November 02, 2009

I need a rewind please

Yesterday morning we all woke up refreshed from an extra hour of sleep, hustled the children into dresses and oxford cloth shirts, and headed off to 8am Mass. "My purse is stuffed with coloring books, extra nappies, and crayons. I don't need my wallet," I thought out loud before we left. As we pulled into the parking lot Tim spied a sign in front of the Knights of Columbus building, "Pancake Breakfast: 8-12 today." He suggested we go instead of hitting the doughnuts after Mass and I agreed saying that I would pay for it with cash left over from the Maine trip. I only remembered the left behind wallet at the end of Mass, "Never mind, go get your doughnuts kids," I whispered.

I so wish that I had stuffed that wallet somewhere in the car or my overstuffed purse, as when I was waiting in line for a cup of tea Charlie reached up and pulled a lady's cup of boiling hot coffee down his front. He started screaming and writhing on the floor. Tim acted fast, hustling him off to the bathroom to wet him down. Luckily his pants were heavy twill and nothing got through them, but he did get burned on his tummy. A little antibiotic ointment, some Tylenol, and a bandaid later he was better, but it was the open bag of Halloween candy that made him forget all about his injury. As I was holding his head and his seat belt strap away from his stomach so it didn't chafe on the way home, I keep thinking, "This wouldn't have happened if I had brought that wallet. We would be chowing down on the all you can eat buffet."

It amazes me that we haven't had more accidents with all these children but our guardian angels have been looking over us well. Charlie will recover, the kids will think twice about grabbing stuff, and I am looking forward to the next monthly breakfast. I think I'll buy a bigger purse just for the occassion.

Friday, October 30, 2009

bad mommy

Yesterday Maggie turned 7 and I forgot. At breakfast when she announced, "I get to pick what we're going to have 'cause its MY birthday!" my face went white and very still. I knew it was this week, but Thursday seemed so far away that there was still plenty of time to make a cake, buy presents... no need to think about it now. Until it was Thursday after Maggie's announcement and I knew there was no way out. No time to buy the sweetest gift, no time to make a cake, no time to eat it with the girls going to ballet and then 30 minutes before Will had to leave for Scouts.

I called Tim, "Today is Maggie's birthday!" "Oh no." I sat down with her on the steps and proposed an alternative, "You can go to ballet tonight and we can celebrate your birthday tomorrow with pizza and presents. How about that?" "Sure!" I swear that she should get extra gifts for being so agreeable, but then she already is my most polite and cheerful child in the bunch.

Happy Birthday again my sweet Maggie Mae.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

more quilting

While I was at the fabric store the other day buying bias tape for Mary's service project I just happened to glance over at the quilting fabric. Many women have a "I can't live without it" reaction to a pair of shoes or item of clothing, but I get that way about certain bolts of cloth, as the overflowing cabinet holding my fabric stash can attest. A hip floral print caught my eye and before I knew it I was saying to the clerk, "1/3 yards of each of these please." Since I already had the pieces for one crib quilt cut out, I finished that top...
and then proceeded to cut out squares and triangles in very stylish aqua, green, and brown. I did raid my stash for most of the fabrics so not too much guilt was incurred by my rash purchase.
I think it will look smashing in my etsy shop once I get Tim to set it up. In the meantime I'll just keep sewing away.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

back to the tourist list

Now that we have settled back into a routine, I called my Senator's office and scheduled a tour of the Capitol. With ballet class two evenings a week, dropping off children at piano lessons twice a week (Maggie goes on Monday and the big kids go on Tuesday), and Boy Scouts on yet another evening, the only day each week we have free is Wednesdays. I know by now that I cannot haul 6 kids downtown on the METRO and then expect any of us to function well afterwards. I also stipulated to the girl on Sen. Collins' staff that we have to be heading home well before rush hour so none of my children get lost or trampled in the subway station.

My original list of 23 "must-see" Washington, DC sites has been worked over and now only contains 7 places we haven't seen yet. There are a few that I want to revisit such as Mount Vernon (especially since I bought season passes) and the National Zoo. While I'm not as eager to jump on the METRO as I was last year (I don't have quite enough hands with another child in tow to feel safe), my sense of perseverance will require us to check off every last cultural/historical destination deemed educational. We still have 2 years left on this tour, but I'm the type who doesn't like to let commitments dangle, be it thank you notes, school assignments, or my own hastily scribbled "want to see while in DC" list.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

happy anniversary sweetheart

Yes, today makes 13 years of wedded bliss. I am fine with it just being a regular day with no gifts or such, but if today was a movie it would be more of the Steve Martin version of Cheaper By the Dozen rather than the Frank Gilbreth, Jr. version.

First we started off very late due to a long day yesterday tromping around the fields at my sister-in-law's house. Then I got the not-so-brilliant idea of making BBQ. From scratch. Making my own dry rub. In the blender.

As Cayenne pepper odor drifted over the tops of the kid's cereal bowls the phone rang. It was Tim telling me to expect his old friend from college and family for supper. Now, Tim's idea of entertaining is buying an extra box of pizza from the local shop so I don't really have to stress, but I do like a clean (and clean smelling) house.

It got worse. In quick succession the baby woken up from her nap and began screaming in her crib, Mary informed me that a wire in her braces was broken, and Timmy pooped in his underpants. There were 3 loads of laundry that must be washed and folded. I had to pick up all the playdoh that has been mashed into the rugs. School is cancelled for the day. Mary got Timmy dressed, Will is reading to the little ones, Maggie is vacuuming the stairs, and I am waiting for the floors to dry after a good scouring with citrus cleaner. We also have Maggie's first piano lesson and Mary's ballet class to squeeze in this afternoon. Hopefully we can get to the orthodontist by 11:45, the house will air out, and I can manage to make sure we have plenty of drink and salad to go with la gourmet pizza.

An anniversary trip to Bermuda sans children doesn't sound too bad right now.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

what a writer!

Not the Mother I Want to Be... you must read this if you feel doubts, like I do sometimes, about your ability to be a great mother to more than 1.2 children.

Friday, October 23, 2009

a family of readers

Yesterday while waiting in the lobby of the ballet studio a little red-head was cracking open a Magic Treehouse book. "How many of those have you read?" I asked her. That started a discussion with her mother about children's books, the local library (their children's librarian is very knowledgeable), and how much time I make them read. I explained in a flip way that since I have to pry books out of the kid's hands so they will eat and sleep, it isn't a matter of making them. My job at the library is to make sure the books they check out are appropriate (no more Star Wars), and that they assist in carrying them to the car.

Exposing the children to a "print-rich environment" and giving them a "literary-filled childhood" is pretty simple, especially since I need to renew my own bedside stash on a weekly basis. And while I do like to read to the little ones (as long as it is not re-reading Spooky Old Tree for the 800th time), there are few things sweeter to witness in this world than a big girl reading to her much younger brothers.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

jumping back into quilting

I missed my sewing machine while we were up in Maine, but I can't possibly pack all the gear I would need like a machine, cutting equipment, and fabric. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and I have been busy as a bee, quilting my second crib sized top and making some pillowcase dresses with Mary. Her American Heritage Girls troop is making these as a service project, but she wasn't able to go so I volunteered to have her make a few at home. All that is required is a pillowcase (or about 1 yard of fabric), elastic, and double fold bias tape (I bought extra wide). They are so easy, only taking about 20 minutes to make, I may have to get some more bias tape so we can use up a few more of the wild fabrics in my stash.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Maine: The Postcards Don't Lie edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling

Welcome to the #199 edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling!

One of the great benefits of educating our own children is the ability to be free of the standard school calendar. Our family takes advantage of this by spending 16 weeks each summer in Maine. I want to share the beauties of our adopted state with some snapshots and fun facts.

Maine is a land of forests and shore. The tides rise and fall about 8 feet so there is a stark contrast between low and high tide so even little children can tell the difference and can figure out scientifically if the tide is coming in or going out. (Hint, look at boats on their moorings to tell which way they are being pulled)

Tom DeRosa presents The Very Exact Science of Guessing posted at I Want to Teach Forever.

Carol J. Alexander presents a neat way to teach the value of 100 in Place Value Game posted at Everything Home...with Carol.

Barbara Williams presents 100 Useful College Tools for Homeschoolers posted at Online Degree

Shakira Dawn presents The World’s 10 Weirdest College Campuses: Crazy University Architecture posted at College

Maine has many potato farms and blueberry barrens. We visit a local farm in August and buy quarts of berries to freeze for pancakes, muffins, and bread. The pickers only work in the early morning to not bruise the fruit and use blueberry rakes as it would take hours to handpick each tiny berry off one bush. Local teens can earn up to $300 a day raking but it is hard work.

Many of the towns along the coast have lobster pounds where lobstermen sell their catch and folks can eat a boiled dinner on picnic tables. Some partake off of plastic trays and drink cold soda while others prefer unpacking elaborate baskets filled with china, hors d'oeuvres, and bottles of wine. Since I’m the only member of our family who likes lobster I splurge and get two!

Angela Mills presents Tea for Two: The discipleship of your sons and daughters posted at Angela Mills.

Michelle scores big at the library with one of my favorite Maine storybooks Blueberries For Sal with Book Review Bonanza Part III posted at Rosetta Stone.

Dave Roller presents Apple Butter Day posted at Home School Dad.

Christina presents Canadian Thanksgiving posted at Lesson Pathways Blog.

The beauty of Maine is legendary in coffee table books as well as children’s picture books. Robert McCloskey’s One Morning in Maine features a family who summer on Little Deer Isle and go into Buck’s Harbor for groceries and an ice cream cone. While driving through I indeed saw a sign for Condon's Garage.

John Mastro presents The Educational Benefits of Audiobooks and Children’s Learning posted at got audiobooks?.

Dana presents Treasures from the library book sale posted at Principled Discovery.

Jeanne shares her favorite children's books at Books and Brownies.

Cristina shows what many homeschooling families (including mine) look like at the library in Home Spun comic strip #403 posted at Home Spun Juggling.

Mrs. White presents Mama and John's Bible Plan posted at The Legacy of Home.

Kaitlyn Cole presents 25 Speed Reading Secrets Every Student Should Know (for required, not pleasure reading) posted at Online

Amber presents Book Review: Five Little Peppers posted at The Mommy Earth.

There are dozens of picturesque towns along the coast like Belfast, a mecca for art lovers and sailors.

Carlotta gives us some great reasons her kids thrive on textbooks at Successful Homeschooling.

Sarah presents Studying Art posted at SmallWorld.

Henry Cate ponders on how homeschooling saves souls in the wonderful recovery of his developmentally delayed son at Why Homeschool.

Annette Berlin presents 10 Easy-To-Craft Educational Toys posted at Craft Stew.

Rachel Lynette presents Make a Soma Cube posted at Minds in Bloom.

Fall is the most beautiful time of year in New England with the trees turning into torches of red, orange, and yellow.

Kim Kautzer presents Fall- and Thanksgiving-themed word banks posted at In Our Write Minds.

Rose presents Halloween Stencils: Adorable Scarecrow posted at Fine Craft Guild .com.

Jennifer presents Fire Safety Unit Study posted at schooling memoirs.

A hike up to the top of Mount Battie shows a majestic panorama of islands dotting the Penobscot Bay.
There are not many homeschoolers in Maine and only one store dedicated to them located in the lovely town of Hope.

Alasandra presents Nominees for Best Homeschool Blog 2009 posted at Alasandra's Homeschool Blog Awards.

Susan presents Corn and Oil » A Narrow, Homogeneous Life? Not for Homeschoolers posted at Corn and Oil.

Barbara Frank shares a story of love despite adversity in Jaycee Dugard Homeschool Mom at Barbara Frank Online.

Patti presents A Few Favorite Online Resources for Lesson Planning and Worksheets posted at Indie Education.

Laura presents Montessori Pink Level Available for Free posted at Practical Homeschooling.

Amy LeForge presents Fun For Your Friday posted at Earnest Parenting.

Erin Manning gives us some reasons why so many Catholic parents are homeschooling in What's Wrong With Catholic Schools, posted at And Sometimes Tea.

With the long winters and short summers, folks here get together often for public suppers, grange events, and town festivals. Homeschoolers tend to host picnics and playdates at the pond for socializing and swapping curriculum ideas.

Stacie Young presents 50 Excellent Blogs About Education Reform posted at Online Schools.

Lara DeHaven presents A Not-So-Perfect Life posted at Texas Homesteader.

Psych Syke presents Dangers of Black & White thinking… No Tolerance Policies posted at Psych-Syke's Blog.

Katie shares a day in her life at elocutionist.

Chetan presents Learn to get College Scholarships for Mothers posted at College Distance Degree Online Courses .

Maine is an affordable, family-friendly, homeschool friendly state. I hope I have sparked your interest in its beauty and hospitality. Thank you for stopping by this week’s Carnival of Homeschooling. See you next week at Consent of the Governed.

Monday, October 19, 2009

you can't win if you don't play

Tim was slightly miffed a few weeks back when some friends had to cancel a visit for the 3rd time. One of the children was sick and I explained to him that when one has a lot of children the likelihood that someone is ill is greatly increased. So when I took Maggie to her very first real ballet class on Friday and 10 minutes later the teacher stuck her head out the door, "Someone peed on the floor," I just knew it was my child. Poor Maggie had gone before we left home, but due to a combination of nerves and sudden shyness just thought that ignoring the urge would make it go away.

The homeschooler's Murphy's Law? Just after you tell another mother that you teach at home is when one of the children will do something embarrassing, rude, or completely out of character, justifying their prejudices.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Is sex-ed hazardous to your child’s health?

Read all 4 pages, I beg you.

The industry line is, argues Dr. Miriam Grossman, a psychiatrist who has worked on college campuses and seen too much pain and illness that the sexual revolution has wrought. She’s the author of the new book You're Teaching My Child What?: A Physician Exposes the Lies of Sex Ed and How They Harm Your Child, and took questions earlier this week from National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

you're asking me if you should get jabbed?

I have had several friends email, knowing Tim's interest in medical ethics and immunizations including the flu, asking if they or their children should get the swine flu vaccine. As a homeschooling family who doesn't come in contact with thousands of potentially sick children on a daily basis, we are going to skip the shot. I don't feel comfortable giving medical advice to others. I'm not their doctor and I don't want the guilt if they decide not to get it based on something I've said and then they are hospitalized with H1N1 in the future. I did think this article from CBS interesting since my friend Jennifer mentioned that her cousin, a New York nurse had her resignation papers at the ready over this issue.

Health care workers in New York will no longer be forced to get the H1N1 swine flu vaccine, CBS 2 has learned. A state Supreme Court judge issued a restraining order Friday against the state from enforcing the controversial mandatory vaccination. The order came as the Public Employees Federation sued to reverse a policy requiring vaccination against the seasonal and swine flu viruses, arguing that state Health Commissioner Richard Daines overstepped his authority....for now the vaccination for nurses, doctors, aides, and non-medical staff members who might be in a patient's room will remain voluntary. The health department had said the workers must be vaccinated by November 30 or face possible disciplinary action, including dismissal.

New York was the first state in the country to initially mandate flu vaccinations for its health care workers, but many health care workers quickly protested against the ruling. In Hauppauge, workers outside a local clinic screamed "No forced shots!" when the mandate came down at the end of September.

In 1976, there were some deaths associated with a swine flu vaccination. Registered nurse Frank Mannino, 50, was also angry. He said the state regulation violates his personal freedom and civil rights. "And now I will lose my job if I don't take the regular flu shot or the swine flu shot." When asked if he's willing to lose his job, Mannino said, "Absolutely. I will not take it, will not be forced. This is still America." The protest also shook Albany. Hundreds of demonstrators demanded freedom of choice.

There is also a strong resistance to the vaccine from the general public. A new Harvard University poll shows that only four in 10 adults intend to take the vaccine themselves, and only six in 10 plan to give it to their children.

Friday, October 16, 2009

how to fix education by Michelle Obama

This article in USA Today by the first lady (who sends her children to $40,000/year private school) attempts to tell America how to improve the nation's public schools. She first gives the standard reform speak: more educated teachers, more responsibility by parents... but then the real agenda comes out with ... we need government to support significant efforts to recruit and retain teachers and to reward high-performing teachers. Along those lines, President Obama is already investing more than $3 billion to turn around struggling schools. And he has proposed a nationwide Teacher Recruitment Program to attract more people to the profession, especially in high-need schools.

Let me give you a hint Michelle, the system itself is broken. Until the stranglehold of the NEA is cut and there is accountability (as opposed to the circular blame game that happens now) for each child's education, there will be no improvement, no matter how much money thrown at the problem. Why do I have a gut feeling this is major pay-back to the union?

We need universities to double down on their efforts to prepare teachers and to improve and expand effective alternative routes to certify teachers. What universities do now is indoctrinate education majors about the need to drug little boys who are fidgety, promote multiculturalism with a pass on how to teach engage students in real learning, and use flowery language to intimidate parents and sound more "professional."

We need to encourage more experienced professionals to consider teaching as the next chapter in their careers. What retired engineer, businessman, or physician in their right mind would consider degrading themselves to teach in a classroom today with an administrative system which treats them like children? As a former public school teacher and the daughter of the same, I saw good teachers criticized and punished by incompetent bureaucrats (who hadn't taught in 15 years). To use the military in comparison, good generals and admirals expect officers to be competent and back them up, they don't treat them like lowly E-3s right out of boot camp. But this is what the public schools do regularly, they refrain from giving veteran teachers any authority and undercut them when any criticism comes their way.

And we need to treat teachers like the professionals they are by providing good salaries and high-quality professional development opportunities. They already get good salaries and excellent benefits, especially considering they work 8 hours a day with planning time for only 180 days. Professional architects, physicians, and engineers work 12 hour days, 250 days a year.
We need parents to do their part as well to match that leadership in the classroom with leadership at home. We need to set limits and turn off the TV. We need to put away those video games and make sure that homework gets done. Teachers blame the parents and previous teachers, parents blame the school, and administrative types act like they are above the fray. Homeschooling eliminates this merry-go-round of evading responsibility. If my child is not reading then I try my hardest to find out why and fix it. There is too much blame in the public school system and not enough responsibility. My guess is that an evaluation of why homeschooling works would show that a return to more local control improves children's education.

We need to reinforce the example that's being set and the lessons being taught at school and make sure that learning continues at home. One of the reasons many parents teach their children at home are the poor/dangerous examples and lessons in the public school setting such as bullying, drugs, gangs, zero tolerance policies, excessive testing, sex education, and the dumbing down of the curriculum and materials.

Nothing the federal government does, save the military, is as efficient as what can be done by the private sector. Everything from delivering the mail, running the trains, saving for retirement, collecting tax money, delivering health care to seniors, and teaching our children is financially wasteful and time consuming. Instead of admitting this and allowing the competitive market to work, the Obama administration wants to throw more money at the problem. I, like many of my fellow American parents, decide every day to remove ourselves and our children from this unending carnival ride and teach at home, collecting both the responsibilities and rewards of educating our children.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Very often I will ask Timmy a question, such as, "Timmy, do you need to go potty?" He will blurt out, "No!" and then think and say quietly, "Actually, I do." Of course with him being 3, it comes out as, "ashkwally." His other new funny pronunciation is our builder's name which he says as "Miker Schwiker." It takes superhuman effort not to giggle whenever he mispronounces words, but some will go into our family's lexicon along with yumyum for M&M's, sketti for spaghetti, and eggpecially for especially.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

keep it in perspective

I've got the theme for next week's Carnival of Homeschooling, I've got the beautiful pictures of our state to prove that Maine: the Postcards Don't Lie, and my house is clean because I implemented a new chore system. However, Blogger won't save my post if I download photos onto it. So.... how can I show the beauties of Maine with no pictures? Hopefully the situation will resolve itself and I can remember that there are many much larger problems in the world and in my own backyard.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

strapping on the old trainers again

With no running races to prepare for, I didn't run a single step in September. Luckily I still managed to retain my summer weight loss and after unpacking my clothes from Maine, I put all the pants in the "fat clothes" box in the closet and pulled out the next smaller size. Now, I still have about 8 pounds to lose to get back to my super-skinny-running-machine weight, but at 7 months post-partum I'm doing pretty well.

Tim gets home from work pretty late in the evening and with ballet and Scout meetings my running time was squeezed out. So, I awoke at 5 am this morning determined to begin my training regimen again, ran a very long mile and came up the stairs to the opening bars of Julia Ellen's wake up song. "Feeeeeed meeeeee. I waaaant millllllllllkkkkk!" At least that is what it sounds like to me. To everyone else it is, "mmmmmmmm. AAhhhhhh. Mmmmmmmm."

Now it is time for the other part of our new routine: 7am wakeup and I am working on a chart system for chores and such so I don't have to ask every kid 8 times, "Have you brushed your teeth? Have you made your bed?" I got the idea from reading the Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar's new book The Duggars: 20 and Counting! If you ever want to feel inspired and humbled at the same time I suggest you read this one. It made me feel like such a slacker for complaining about the workload with 6 kids, but gave me some great ideas about how to better organize our household.

Monday, October 12, 2009

safely home

We arrived back in Maryland at 3am with 6 sleepy children and unmade beds, but I managed to get them all tucked back in before Tim returned from the minimart with some milk. Yesterday was a mix of naps, unpacking, and a lot of guilt about not making it to Mass. I hopped in the shower with enough time to get Julia Ellen and I out the door, but then little heads started popping out of doors demanding hot cocoa and my tiny window of opportunity slammed shut.

Today is a trip to the thrift store (on minor holidays they tend to have a 50% off sale) and Mary starts ballet. Since I have never put her very long hair into a bun before we might have to practice and get some new hair geegaws to make her look like a prima ballerina.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

on the road again...

We are leaving Maine today, so please say a Hail Mary for our safe travels. I've been taking lots of pictures of our adopted state for ourselves and to prepare for the upcoming Carnival of Homeschooling I am hosting later this month. The theme?

Maine: the postcards don't lie

Friday, October 09, 2009

on an expedition

This afternoon after Julia Ellen went down for her nap the 4 big kids and I again set off into the woods with compass, flagging tape, and loppers. Autumn is one of the best times to wander in the woods (other than during deer season when if one is crazy enough to venture into the woods at all, one should wear blaze orange from stem to stern) because it is easier to see more than 15 feet in front of you. First I stood on the rock wall and got my bearing correct on the compass: 5 degrees off due south. Then Will scouted ahead and stood where I could barely see his red jacket in the line of where the property line should be. I would shout, "Stay right there!" and push through the scrub to tie a fresh day glo orange ribbon on the closest tree. We leapfrogged like this with the younger children following us across fallen tree trunks, through pine saplings, and around dead stumps.
Apparently our compass reading was well done as we found many trees with old spray paint marks from previous owners and an enormous pine tree marking the southwest corner that we can see from our windows. Now that we have a sense of the boundaries of our little farm among the hundreds of acres of woods, we can better plan out some trails to work on next year.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

a good life

Yesterday my grandmother called to tell me that her older brother Henry passed away Monday evening. My great uncle Judge MacKenzie was the jolliest, most cheerful person I have ever encountered with a big hug and smile ready for even the youngest child. One of my favorite memories of him was listening to his gruff voice and watching him get excited over my interest in family history. I am so grateful that he and my cousin Ann sorted and wrote down many stories, letters, and recipes and made binders for everyone for Christmas one year. We all knew Uncle Henry couldn't last forever, but making it to 99 is pretty darn close. I will add him to my list of deceased family I pray for at every Mass and ask for a Hail Mary from all of you for his soul.

carnival of homeschooling

Join me today at Our Home School: Carnival of Homeschooling #197, hosted at Walking Therein.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

in awe of surveyors and pioneers

Last year Will and Mary and I took off into the woods with no compass, no hatchet, no water and managed to get lost for over 3 hours. Soon afterwards all 7 of us tried to follow the property line and couldn't even make it to the southeast corner, but luckily managed to find our way back (Tim is a much better woodsman than I am).

This afternoon the big kids and I gave it another go since we are leaving Maine this week. Every so often we came across a tree spray painted with an orange blaze, but for the most part we just flailed around. Luckily Will brought his newly sharpened hatchet and he blazed a trail so we could follow it back to civilization. It is embarrassing that I can't manage to follow a rectangle in the woods (though it is a pretty big one) especially after reading about the early pioneers who hacked their way west or escaped from Indian captivity.

One day I will be able to walk all the way around our 23 acre woodlot, but not anytime soon. Winter is the best time to make paths, the leaves are all down so you can see farther. I have such plans for our farm: a sweet Jersey cow and woolly sheep, plump Buff Orpington chickens, a pond to splash in, hiking trails for spending quiet time alone, a big patch of jeweled raspberries, and an orchard full of crisp apples and pears. In the meantime we will return to Washington, DC to resume our "other life" complete with piano lessons, Scouts, American Heritage Girls, field trips, and the daily grind of living with a mile of the Beltway. 21 months before we can start all the projects I long to undertake, but who's counting?

Friday, October 02, 2009

is more school better?

"Now, I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas," the president said earlier this year... The president wants schools to add time to classes, to stay open late and to let kids in on weekends so they have a safe place to go. (Because you don't trust parents? Because you believe children would be better off with unionized employees?)

"Our school calendar is based upon the agrarian economy and not too many of our kids are working the fields today," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. (No, but children need time to play, discover, explore, to relax. They will be slaves to the 40+ hour work week soon enough.)

Does Obama want every kid to do these things? School until dinnertime? Summer school? And what about the idea that kids today are overscheduled and need more time to play? (Maybe I feel this way because I just read an old classic of homeschooling by Raymond Moore who emphasizes starting late and unschooling, but children think better when they are free to explore, to research their own passions. Studies prove that earlier and longer schooling is not better.)

Obama and Duncan say kids in the United States need more school because kids in other nations have more school. (Haven't these people ever been asked, "If everyone else starts jumping off a bridge are you going to join in?" So... if Japan has kids committing suicide because they are overstressed by testing, then we should too? Instead of thinking along the same tired lines of "need to make more jobs so the union be bigger and will campaign for us," perhaps the administration could actually take a look at what actually produces bright, creative kids and attempt to recreate that model for public schools.

What is it about America that has given the world more inventions and ideas for improving the world? It certainly isn't the concept of locking children in prison for 12 years of their life. It is freedom and the opportunity to become wealthy from one's own work. Socialism and Communism squelch this drive because there is no incentive to be better than mediocre, to create something for posterity. Why study and invest and toil just to have one's reward be taken to give to another who didn't study,invest, or toil?

More school is not going to fix any of the problems inherent in the current system. It will push out those children who just don't want to be there sooner, it will dull the minds of those who don't play the game, and it will only enrich the coffers of the NEA.)

blue print is from yahoo