Monday, March 30, 2009

now the government wants to ban gardens?

I hope someone told Michelle Obama that her new garden might be illegal before she even takes a bite of her home-grown arugala, but knowing these politicians, they would stick an exemption in the bill only for 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

The Feds are working on a plan that could ban organic farms and backyard gardens. Small farms and backyard gardeners could be placed under direct supervision of the federal government under new legislation making its way through Congress.

The sponsors of House Resolution 875, the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009, are lurking in the shadows of Congress to quietly pass a bill that levies up to $1 Million in fines to those food ‘rebels’ who dare to use organic fertilizer and not the chemicals and pesticides from companies like Monsanto, etc. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn) introduced the bill in February of 2009. (DeLauro's husband is a consultant for) Monsanto – the world's leading producer of herbicides and genetically engineered seed...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

mission accomplished

Boy did Julia Ellen howl during the blessing of salt and the annointing with chrism, but once Msgr. Olszyk made the Sign of the Cross on her head and started pouring water on her forehead, she quieted right down.
Part of the story behind the Christening bowl is that when the Yankees came during the Civil War to evict the family and burn down the plantation house, they allowed 1 wheelbarrow load of goods to be taken. The bowl fell out among the bedlam and broke, but was repaired later at Tiffany's in New York. All of the children, save Mary (who was baptized in Italy), have been among the 14 generations who have had water dipped out and poured over their heads to remove Original Sin.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

say excuse me!

"She really does sound like a truck driver when she burps!"

It is hard to believe that this tiny 3 week old cutie can make such a vulgar sound.

(I sincerely apologize to any operators of 18-wheelers I may have offended)

Friday, March 27, 2009

why is it...

that the little kids tromp in with muddy shoes, muddy pants, and spill yogurt on their shirts, the baby poops, the older children have long writing assignments, and I leak milk on my shirt, all 10 minutes before we have to leave for a doctor's appointment?

Mommy Murphy's Law I guess.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


"Do you understand? (Will, Mary, Maggie, or Charlie)"
"Yes, Ma'am."

"Timmy, Do you understand?"
"Yes, SirMa'am"

Well, at least he is trying to say the right thing...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I feel...


Yes, I know I'm only 2.5 weeks post-partum, and perhaps I need that little cushion to support the baby during nursing, but 22 extra pounds on a person who is vertically-challenged makes that person look like Augustus Gloop in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I don't care that I was still wearing maternity pants 6 weeks after having Will, I don't care that I could still only fit in one skirt 8 weeks after having Charlie, I miss my regular clothes and my regular shape (that shape would be flat, not round).

So... yesterday I didn't follow the advice of resting for the first 6 weeks in my favorite (incidentally the only one I have ever read) weight loss book, Outsmarting the Female Fat Cell After Pregnancy,

I went running and my legs loved it. After a mile, however, my abdomen and my chest were not having much fun so I turned around and ran more slowly back home. But it was my first exercise in about 7 months so hopefully before I know it I will be wearing that size 8 pink skirt that I picked up at the consignment shop about 3 weeks before I couldn't zip it up anymore. Maybe it isn't that I dislike being fat so much as I am too cheap to buy a whole new wardrobe. I guess it doesn't matter why I want to lose the weight, be it clothes, my health, or wanting to place in a 5K, just as long as I do something about it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

what my husband did on paternity leave...

Instead of bringing me a cup of hot tea, washing dishes, or getting up with the baby in the middle of the night Tim wrote this piece on Obama's incongruous anti-cloning but pro-embryonic stem cell research position currently on the docket at American Thinker.

(just kidding about that washing dishes part, Tim loves a clean sink, but Julia Ellen and I were the only ones awake at 3am)

the baptism that wasn't

I had spent much time in preparation for this Sunday morning; making arrangements to get a letter from Julia Ellen's godparent's priest (they live in Maine) stating that they are Catholics in good standing, asking new friends to be proxy godparents, getting the family Christening bowl up from Portsmouth, talking with both priests involved in our parish, writing the thank you note, and making sure the baby was fed up before Mass so she wouldn't cry. I packed the tote bag with the usual Mass items such as religious coloring books, board books, and holy cards to sort. I was ready and needed to be since there was only a 10-15 minute window available immediately after 8am Mass for the baptism, since Father had to leave to say Mass in his other parish in South East DC.

We all got to the church on time, sent Will back to put on his vestments, and settled everyone into the front two pews of the little stone church. Tim went to park the car and came in a few minutes before Mass was to begin, leaving the Christening gown and bowl in the van for retrieval afterwards.

Then it happened...

Charlie said, "I feel sick," and started vomiting all over himself, Tim, and the pew. This is every parent's worst Mass nightmare, especially since the priest was just about to come up the aisle. Right away we hauled him out and I said to another parishioner who was just walking in, "I need help!" While Tim took the little boys home to clean up, the kind gentleman and I started gathering paper towels, water, and a trash bag to sop up the mess right in the middle of the Prayers at the foot of the Cross. We got it all clean and tossed out the coloring books, cloth diaper, and other items that were not salvageable. I was grateful that my 10 year collection of holy cards missed Charlie's aim.

"Well, obviously we lost our window of opportunity," I explained to Father after Mass, "Tim hasn't gotten back yet." "We can just do the baptism next week, it will be fine," he reassured me. Afterwards in the parish hall he did bless little Julia Ellen, just as Father Corapi (of EWTN fame) did to Maggie when she was 3 days old. (our priest at the time wouldn't baptize her until Tim came home from deployment)

So, I will pack up all the gear: the bowl, the gown, the letter, the thank you note, the board books and holy cards, and fresh coloring books in the tote bag next Sunday morning and we will make sure to add to that stash a barf bag so we don't have to postpone Julia Ellen's welcome into the family of God yet again.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

future vocations?

On Thursday afternoon a fellow mom picked up the girls for their American Heritage Girls meeting and Timmy was in the middle of a nap, which left the bigger boys alone in peace to play. Instead of getting out the light sabers for their daily practice, Will set up an "altar" and credence table with all the proper Mass supplies. I snuck down the stairs after feeding the baby and giggled at the sight of Will instructing his 4 year old brother on how to be an altar server, "hold the cruets like THIS... kneel right here... NOW ring the bell..."

When they asked for hosts I said they could use club crackers, but they soon found that Nilla Wafers work much better. I can't tell you how many times they received "communion" but that box went from being full to close to empty before the girls came home.

Friday, March 20, 2009

soooo tired

After reading two chapters of Understood Betsy to the older children on my bed I pulled the blanket over me and shut off the light... at 7:30. Baby Julia Ellen woke up at 9:30, 2, and 5 to eat. The next thing I heard was banging on the front door. "I accidentally left my keys in the house. Did you hear me calling and knocking for 3 minutes?" Tim asked after I wearily unbolted the front door.

This house is odd in that a dropped sippy cup sounds from the floor below like a bomb going off, and you can hear conversations in the basement guest room from the MB bathroom, but everywhere else sounds are completely obliterated. After Tim left I crawled back into bed and didn't emerge from my warm cocoon until 7:30. A large cup of hot cocoa has perked me up, but I think only another 12 hour sleeping session with a few nursing interruptions will put me to rights.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

carnival of homeschooling

The Homeschool Cafe is hosting this week's carnival with a St. Patrick's Day theme.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

thank you for the help

Sometime in my childhood it was impressed on me that accepting charity was wrong, but this got garbled over the years to include any assistance whatsoever. As an adult I pride myself that I can manage a household of now 8 people; keeping the house tidy, food served promptly, children clothed and clean, and everyone on time to Mass and activities without help from anyone. But this isn't a very good and Catholic way to live. One thing every mother of 6 needs is another pair of hands and yesterday was a good example of that.

Usually on Tuesday afternoons after I drop off the big kids at piano practice we swing by the library to restock our coffee table with picture books and my bedside table with more grown-up fare. It was our first time doing this with Julia Ellen in tow so I made sure to give her a good feed before we left the house. Nursing in public while simultaneously trying to corral 3 little ones is not something I am up for yet. I thought briefly about throwing the double stroller in the van, but decided against it. Bad move. Once I pulled into the parking lot I wondered how I was going to walk 50' carrying 2 tote bags and an infant carrier, while also holding two small hands. Somehow we made it inside with no one getting run over and filled our bag full before we emerged back outside. Timmy wanted to run right into the street and while I ran to grab him an older lady asked, "Do you need some help?"

After a pause, I said, "Yes, that would be lovely, my big helpers aren't with me today." As she held Timmy's hand she told me about her 4 year old twins. (I have always thought that moms with multiples have a much, much more difficult job than I ever could.) As I said thank you to her I realized that while I could have managed to get them all to the car by myself, it is sometimes a good thing to accept help. This week we have been the recipients of several meals from fellow homeschooling moms and it has been a real blessing. My children have learned to eat foods they wouldn't ordinarily have on their plates and I have been reminded to welcome charity when it is offered. Yes, the kids could have subsisted on ramen noodles and boxed mac and cheese, but I don't have to be supermommy all the time.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

hard times

One of the benefits of being a military spouse is a secure job, we don't have to worry about Tim getting laid off. Even at this point in my frustration with no parking on-base, Tim working 14-15 hour days, the crummy (non-rural) places we have to live... at least we don't have the stress of trying to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table after a layoff. I feel very sorry for the thousands of Americans who have lost their jobs in the past few months. I thought it telling of the age we live in when reading a blog post describing what a fellow mom could never give up, no matter how bad the economy became. For me, these "have-tos" were frivolous; new clothes for her children (no thrift store duds for them!), multiple lessons/activities for each child, and the internet (high speed, I'm sure).

Tim has several times predicted a future Brave New World government (which we seem to be heading towards) in which the computer is the coercive mechanism that makes all US citizens acquiesce our freedoms and liberties. This already happens in the military, if you don't get your dental checkup, vaccinations, or any mandatory paperwork completed then you cannot log on to do your actual job. This could easily transfer to all Americans, requiring people to check in each morning, restrict access of political sites, and allow some faceless bureaucrat to make medical decisions for us with the simple threat of cutting off our internet access.

What are two things I couldn't do without? Food would be the first, I have quite a few food indulgences, including m&ms and Stouffers frozen dinners (for lunch) that would make me cranky if I had to go without them. The other would be homeschooling. (and I'm not alone) Internet access is a luxury, not a necessity, as my relatives who still use a dial telephone and don't have answering machines can attest.

What are 2 things you couldn't live without, no matter the circumstances?

Monday, March 16, 2009

magazines at grocery checkout

No, this is not a rant against scantily clad cover models, sensationalist celebrity gossip, R rated teasers, constant Obama mania stories, but my own personal addition to them:

Lose 17 pounds in 1 week!
Eat all you want and still lose weight!
Cookies, cakes, ice cream diet!

*in tiny print on page 32: must be willing to gain 35 pounds over previous 9 months. As a bonus gift for using our weight loss method you will receive a brand new adorable baby.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

countdown: 5,4,3...

The number of times I have gotten up the past few nights to feed Julia Ellen. Last night she slept for a 4 hour stretch, giving me the best night's sleep I have had in about 10 days. My recovery has been extraordinary, but she seems to have to relearn latching on at every feed, sometimes taking up 5-10 minutes to get the milk going down her throat. Soon we will have this down pat and can venture out in public. For now I will nurse upstairs where no one can see us get so frustrated we both cry.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


The book report is finished! Completed! In the manila mailer!
Tim took a week of paternity leave and I gave him one task: get Will's book report written. Yes, I doubted, and really started to panic when Thursday morning dawned and he hadn't started writing actual paragraphs yet, but was still working on the 9 pages of study questions. But after an 8 hour day of sitting at his desk, he finished up at 6pm. Yes, he acted like he was dying, he fell off his chair from "exhaustion and hunger" but since the child only works about 3 hours a day on a regular school day, I think he was overdoing the "poor pitiful Pearl" bit.

"Almanzo was out there in the corn field for hours pouring water on those frozen plants so they would have enough to eat. Would you be pitching in, or lazing in bed? This is your work- do it!" (we are still reading Farmer Boy)

Yes, we have another challenge on the horizon: Mary still has to do her book report on Black Beauty, but Tim has to go back to work on Monday...

Friday, March 13, 2009

worst parenting advice

Apparently lots of people have gotten and given bad advice (100 pages worth), but the big ones include giving babies whisky on the gums to soothe teething pain and that tickling a baby causes stuttering. It amazes me when reading comments to articles such as this one how dumb and uneducated most people who look at the internet are, the spelling and grammar are just awful. A frequent comment on the pregnancy boards (that I no longer read) is how dumb so-and-so's OB doctor is. These are women who couldn't tell you how many bones a human has or answer basic pregnancy questions, but of course they know better than any physician.

My grandmother must tell me every 6 months how a friend of hers got extra sleep when her child was about 9 months old by crunching up bacon and sprinkling it all over the crib. When the baby woke up he would scoot around eating up the bits. Between the grease splotches, choking hazards, and nitrates why would any rational person think this was a good idea?

Do you every been given any completely off-the-wall parenting advice?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

carnival of homeschooling

Life Nurturing Education is hosting this week's carnival with a school supplies theme.

she is a very real baby

Recently there have been several articles in the news about fake babies, a Japanese phenomenon that apparently has caught on here and in Britain, especially among older childless women.

Some women dress the dolls, wash their hair, take them for walks in strollers and take them shopping.

One woman in the BBC documentary, married and in her 40s, said she wanted a real baby, but was too busy to commit to caring for a real one. A reborn doll satisfies her maternal instincts, she said, without all the carrying on and mess. Reborns, she said, “never grow out of their clothes, never soil them. It's just fabulous. The only difference, of course, is these guys don't move.”

Of course this is very silly, grown women playing with dolls and pretending they are real children. All the wonder and joy of babies is in their being, their expressions, especially newborns- the satisfaction you can see on their faces when they poop, that coy smile when they are utterly content because they have a dry nappie and a full tummy of warm milk. Before I delivered, Mary was carrying around her doll in a car seat every day, but since Sunday, the doll baby has been abandoned in the middle of the hall, replaced with an almost constant mantra, "May I hold Julia Ellen?"

Of course she may kiss her good night and good morning, help change her itsy-bisty outfits, and help give her baths. She needs all this love and attention because she is real, so very real.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

the little red schoolhouse in our basement

I thought that over the years I had read every lovely classic children's book in existence. I read the standards of Oz, Little House, Anne of Green Gables, the Shoes trilogy, and all the Misty books as a child, even enjoying such oddities as Miss Minerva and William Green Hill, and The Gift from the Mikado. In college I took a kiddy lit course and found a few more good reads that hadn't been available in the basement of the Portsmouth Public Library. But the other day I found a undiscovered gem by Dorothy Canfield Fisher titled Understood Betsy, published in 1917.

This story is set around 1880-1890 by my best guess and is about a 9 year old orphan girl who at first lives with her emotionally smothering aunt and great aunt. When illness strikes the household, frail timid Elizabeth Ann must be sent away to stay with the Putney cousins in Vermont, whom Elizabeth Ann has always been warned about as "horrid." Instead, she finds a warm, loving home and becomes a more independent and happy child. The day she is sent off on her own to the school in town she begins to understand what learning for learning's sake is all about and the benefits of a small school with only a dozen pupils. When the teacher puts her in books that suit her aptitude, she feels dizzy,

"'Why-why,' said Elizabeth Ann, 'I don't know what I am at all. If I'm second-grade arithmetic and seventh-grade reading and third-grade spelling, what grade am I?'

The teacher laughed. 'You aren't any grade at all, no matter where you are in school. You're just yourself, aren't you? What difference does it make what grade you're in? And what's the use of your reading little baby things too easy for you just because you don't know your multiplication tables?'"

This is the beauty of homeschooling our children today, tailoring grade levels and subjects to our children's strengths and weaknesses. Our Mary is 9, the same age as Elizabeth Ann, and has the same academic talents by being a very strong reader and having an aversion to learning the times-tables. After we finish Farmer Boy this week we will certainly be reading aloud Understood Betsy, a beautiful story about expanding a child's heart and mind.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

biology 101

Having a new baby is definitely a learning experience for the other kids, they have learned anatomy (how does the baby get out?), nutrition (can the baby eat chips?), development (look how much bigger Timmy's fingers are than Julia Ellen's!), and physiology (all she does is eat, sleep, and poop!). They are fascinated by every aspect of her being, constantly wanting to hold her, show her off to their friends, and watch her eat. In fact, nursing has become a spectator sport in our household with them likening her latching on as a "jaguar pouncing on a rabbit" when she waggles her head and attacks my bosom. Good thing I'm not modest as lying on the bed I am surrounded by 4-5 children all intently staring and saying, "I can hear her gulping," and "Does she always poop while she's eating?"

Sunday, March 08, 2009

what a night!

I've been reading Hospital by Julie Salamon, a year in the life of Brooklyn's Maimonides Hospital. It is an interesting story of both the small scale local personalities and large scale American health issues at work. Apparently, Maimonides, which was started for the Orthodox Jewish community delivers the most babies of any hospital in the nation: 6230 in 2003. One interview with an ER resident just made me laugh,

"I did a month in labor and delivery," he said. "It was funny, 'cause a young girl...would come in and say, 'I'm having a baby, I'm having a baby.' You say, 'Yeah, yeah, sit down. I'll have a look.' Then you examine them. They're having a baby? They're not having a baby. They'll have a baby in about 12 hours. But when an Orthodox Jewish woman comes in and says, I'm having a baby,' the red flag goes up. You say, 'What number is this?' They say, 'Eleven.' You say, 'Let's go!' I'm not kidding... When the Orthodox women say they're having a baby, the baby is right there ready to drop out."

Friday morning I had another false alarm with contractions all night, but once I got hooked up to the monitor in L&D they disappeared. We made another OB appt. for next week and went home. That night at 2 am I woke up with awful contractions, I sat through 3 of them before hopping in the shower. When I literally crawled out from more intense ones, Tim said, "Do you want to go to the hospital?"
What followed was a mad race through town, me howling in pain, Tim running 3 red lights and screeching to a halt in front of the ER doors. The closest corpsman threw me in a wheelchair and ran clattering over the tile floors and upstairs to L&D. Within 5 minutes of opening the elevator doors I was on the table and pushing. "I want someone to do this for me!" Of course no one could and within a few moments Baby Julia Ellen was born. We came home today and the children couldn't be more pleased with her. They have made her cards, taken umpteen turns holding her, read her stories in the car and on the sofa, and kissed her pretty little head.

As for me, I'm very grateful all the waiting and anxiety is over and can't wait to steal her away to nuzzle all that soft hair and those fat cheeks myself.
7lbs 11oz
8/9 Apgar

Friday, March 06, 2009

homeschool tip

When your 5th grader finishes his math test, make sure that it is put away in the binder before his scissor-happy brother decides to turn it into an art project.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

doing better

Thank you so much Michelle and Mary K for offering to take the children. Knowing that they will be in good hands when I go into labor (plus an Ambian) helped me sleep well last night.

The great benefits of homeschooling are the increased academic rigor, the family closeness, the ability to teach children virtues and morals that are absent from our mass culture. The downside, especially in larger families, is the difficulty in making friends for ourselves and the children. Add in the stress of back-to-back military moves to exotic locales such as North Carolina and DC and I am surprised that I didn't have an emotional cry-fest months ago. When one is stuck inside doing schoolwork and projects for most of the day and then rushing around from one activity and errand to another, it is almost impossible to find an hour to talk to other moms, much less find some you want to have a cup of coffee with.

Living near a big city makes the opportunities more difficult since traffic and parking issues turn the simplest trip into a potential disaster. Maggie's weekly ballet lesson that I thought would be so fun takes 3 hours out of the day- 45 minutes for the instruction, over 2 hours to fight the bumper-to-bumper traffic getting there and back.

While I'm not willing to put the kids on the big yellow bus at 8am so I can have a chai latte from Starbucks with the other mommies at the bus stop (I would still have 3 little ones in tow), I so wish for more opportunities to meet and make friends with other women who share this homeschooling lifestyle.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

a request

Please pray for me, I'm having a very hard time right now emotionally. I feel very alone.

carnival of homeschooling

Nerd Family is hosting this week's carnival.

My only homeschooling news for the week is that it amazes me how quickly some children can get their schoolwork accomplished when there is 6" of snow on the ground. it also amazes me how much room 5 snowsuits, sets of boots, coats, jackets, hats, and mittens take up. Maybe we should enlarge the plans for the Maine mudroom and include lots of places to hang and dry all this gear.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

"say Grace!"

Just like most Catholics, our family says Grace before meals. One tradition we have developed is also asking the Saint of the day to please pray for us and trying to read about that Saint during breakfast.

The most enthusiastic child by far in saying his prayers before eating is Baby Timmy. He usually (he didn't like getting his picture taken and kept turning around) folds his little hands so daintily and if he somehow decides that he wasn't paying strict attention he calls out, "Ay Ace!" (say Grace!) and I have to repeat it with him.

He hasn't started trying to make the Sign of the Cross, but I'm sure that soon he will begin with the same gorilla chest beating that Charlie used for so long.

Monday, March 02, 2009

military wife duty

When I was 7 months pregnant with Maggie and Tim deployed that summer, I had to continue mowing the lawn. When he was still deployed the following spring I had to resume mowing the lawn. Today, when it snowed 6" and Tim is an hour's bus ride away, I propped up a ladder against the side of the van and scraped the ice and snow off most of the windshield. I would rather be uncomfortable this morning and then be able to change into dry pants and socks than be scraping and having to pause for contractions or in the worst case, be trapped at home in hard labor and have to put my study of, "What to do if you have to give birth with no one around," into effect.

My guess is with all this preparation, one false alarm trip already to L&D on Saturday, and contingency plans posted on the fridge, I'll go to 41 weeks and have to be induced. But at least the windshield will be ice free.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

get me to the confessional!

After several weeks one of us missing Mass due to sick kids, a sick husband, and late nights of contractions, this morning our whole family were sitting in our two regular pews. It had been pressing on my heart to go to Confession before I went into labor just in case something terrible happens. Nothing will I'm sure, but I worry anyway. It must be genetic, my grandmother could win a gold medal if fretting and worrying were Olympic events.

However, there was a note on the front door when we pulled up to the church, "No Confessions today." I got all the little ones in their seats, pulled jackets off before going next door to use the facilities. When I got back into the vestibule Tim said, "They are having confession, hurry and get in line." Luckily I didn't waste any time, he only heard 4 confessions before needing to vest for Mass. While I feel bad for the 10 people behind me that didn't get to go, I feel much more prepared to bring a new child into the world with my soul free from mortal sin. I just hope the baby comes soon or I'm sure I'll have to get back in line next week!