Thursday, April 30, 2009

not so good vibrations

At my 6 week post-partum doctor's appointment I mentioned this chronic upper back pain I have been experiencing. She said it was likely due to carrying Julia Ellen around and recommended a massaging pillow. Since getting my new sewing machine I have been doing a lot of quilting and this past week have been working on some yellow star baby quilt tops.

Then it hit me, the pain in my back wasn't due to the baby, but to vibrations from the machine going right up my back. Our rental house was so cheaply built that a toddler walking across the floor sounds like a 400 pound man is jumping up and down from underneath. The light bulbs in the basement have to be replaced every month because of the effect of this vibration. Since then I have put a carpet pad under my chair and a pillow on my chair with no effect.

I don't want to stop quilting, especially right after buying such an expensive machine and frame, but I don't want to risk permanently damaging my back if I continue. Luckily this isn't going to be our residence forever and I will ask the builder up in Maine to reinforce the joists or whatever needs to be done to make sure I can quilt in the future.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

carnival of homeschooling

Corn and Oil is hosting this week's carnival with a No Child Left Inside theme, check it out!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

warts and all

Today we almost had the perfect homeschool day: everyone got their work finished, no one watched a movie, and we got in extra science lessons. While working around the Verizon dude who spent almost 3 hours in our basement and backyard to fix the busted internet connection, Will set up a little study area out on the back deck and finished Science for the year.

Mary finally completed her 4th quarter Phonics test and I put Maggie's CAT in the mailer to take to the Post Office. While we were working, the younger children found a huge toad in the backyard and proceeded to dig up the grass to find juicy worms, spiders, and rollypolly bugs. We hope to see our new pet again, since Mary apparently taught him the commands, "Stay! Sit!" See how well he is obeying?

Good Mr. Toad.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

sad news

Our prayers go out to Ann Coulter (I think she is just hysterical) who lost her mother to ovarian cancer this past week. May God bless Nell's family and have mercy on her soul. She sounds like a great mother and a fine lady, even if she did raise a real firebrand!

complete disconnect between the ears

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 23, 2009 ( -

Vice President Joe Biden, a strong abortion proponent, said, "You know there is no excuse for violence against a woman or child. There is no excuse," during an awards ceremony at the Law Center of the Jesuit-run Georgetown University yesterday.

The vice-president's appearance at the university had been condemned by pro-life Catholics, who argued that the event violated a directive from the U.S. bishops that pro-abortion politicians should not be honored by Catholic institutions.

Why is it that the same people who proclaim themselves the defenders of women, minorities, gays, and children are the ones who are in favor of killing, intimidation, and violence to get their way?

Friday, April 24, 2009

shopping spree?

While I was on Amazon buying Liberty and Tyranny (because no local bookstore in our liberal town happened to have one in stock the day after it was released) and Any Child Can Write, I scrolled through the Saxon Math books and found a copy of 7/6 about $5.

All About Spelling appeared on our doorstep on Saturday so Mary and I stayed up late sticking magnets on the back of all the letter tiles. We stayed on my bed the entire time and still managed to lose one tile (they all come on a laminated sheet to cut apart, so I know it was in the box). Anticipating and opening all these boxes made me wonder what else I could buy to bring the big brown truck back to our house. Actually, I don't even know what the UPS man looks like, but it is always fun to see our jolly and friendly mailman Tom.

Then it hit me: cloth diapers. I am getting a bit tired of shelling out $15 a week for disposables. We tried cloth ages ago, but living in a hotel for 4 weeks with no dryer soon put an end to that adventure. Apparently these days diapers are much more user-friendly and if given a good nudge, I might be persuaded to try again.

So... any suggestions on brands or tips for use?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

no, she's MY baby!

Yesterday one of my former high school classmates brought her 4 very polite and well behaved children over for a playdate. The kids played inside while it rained and after the sun came out we headed over to the nature center for a little "educational time" and a stroll through the woods.

I'm really glad that Maggie emailed me (my kids are already asking for another get-together), but it surprised me when she said her 3rd child didn't like it when baby Elizabeth first showed up on the scene. My kids love new siblings, the charm only begins to fade once the baby is mobile and starts getting into their gear.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

a treasure trove

With all our activities cancelled due to the rain I made an executive decision on Monday to make our own fun: lunch at Chick-fil-a and a trip to the library. One of our neighbors mentioned the previous day that this library has a fabulous book sale every day in the basement. After filling up our tote bags with borrowed movies and picture books I led the children into the stacks to see what we could find for sale.

With 10 bookcases full of children's books (all newly organized), we don't really need more... but Will found a stack of Hardy Boys and Mary seized upon a handful of the Magic Treehouse series. My find was a $2 Landmark Book titled John F. Kennedy and PT-109, which normally sells for between $10-15.

I don't envision such a haul every week, but it is nice to bring home a new (at least to us) book every so often.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

carnival of homeschooling

The Common Room is hosting the carnival this week, chock-full of articles you will want to peruse at leisure.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I'm so blue...

After figuring out how to quilt straight lines with my giant quilting frame I have been working furiously on baby quilts to sell. After finishing the two pink Ohio Star quilt tops I cut out enough fabric for 5 blue star tops. Right now I'm on blue top #4 and while they go together in only a matter of 2 hours or so (less when Will helps piece), I'm a little tired of blue stars and am excited about a ladybug print I just found with a yellow background.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

sweet dreams

With every baby a month or so after birth I have awoken terrified, only to sneak in to the nursery to check that they are still breathing. Julia Ellen has been gradually going longer at nights between feeds, but last night she officially hit the 8 hour mark.

Of course what that means is that instead of going back to bed and getting more rest, I'm wide awake at 5am and find myself padding downstairs for a little blog reading and posting.

Friday, April 17, 2009

what a beautiful day!

Well, with Julia Ellen being stuffed up and throwing up from coughing so hard we bailed on the Homeschooler Day at the National Portrait Gallery and took advantage of the first 70 degree day this spring to go to the National Arboretum. Free admission, free and ample parking and the opportunity for the kids to run made it a pretty easy choice over having to negotiate the Metro, an overtly politically-correct program, and a no-stroller policy at the museum.

Our first stop was the pond with giant carp which was such a huge hit with Timmy and Charlie that I was afraid they would fall right in.

Then we strolled through the Bonsai exhibit (after a firm don't-touch-anything warning).

Apparently they fascinated Mary so much that she asked me 5 times to buy her a little bonsai. I told her that she could read about their care at the library and then we could consider it. I want to encourage her to learn about plants, after all, I was a horticulture minor at VA Tech, but, I know the likelihood of it getting destroyed during the 10 hour trip to Maine is high.

We next walked around the herb garden and walked up to the columns which once graced the Capitol building.

The Arboretum is quite large (440+ acres) so we drove over to the Oriental gardens and the dwarf conifers before eating a picnic lunch. I plan to make this a regular Sunday afternoon expedition, especially with the opportunity to hike up a hill covered with 15,000 azaleas and a view of the Washington Monument and Capitol from the top. I highly recommend a trip to this tranquil spot filled with flowering apple trees, budding Japanese Maples, Virginia bluebells, and late blooming daffodils.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

how can we improve?

This time of year I always seem to be in a mad race to finish up the school year, after all, we only have about 10 weeks until we hit the road for Maine to spend an idyllic summer on the farm. But it is good to look back over the last 7 months and examine what went well and what subjects we could improve on next year. All in all, the children learned a great deal, especially about biology with our home-grown lessons in fetal and infant development!

Will's writing has improved and his vocabulary and spelling have been outstanding. This is the last year he has in handwriting and his math skills have dramatically improved, so I think he will start Seton's 6th grade next year with only a small tweak or two; Apologia's science book instead of the standard text and continue Story of the World in the evening after prayers.

Mary has rebounded remarkably after switching to Singapore Math, finishing 2 levels and currently 1/2 through the next. While she wants to go on to Saxon Math next year I think we will stick with this program next year. Her reading and vocabulary work is wonderful, but she can't spell anything and cries every time I ask her to write a paragraph. The 10 words a week drill and quiz method is just not working so I investigated other programs and much to her delight, I ordered All About Spelling, a phonetic-based spelling program that many homeschool moms rave about. I also stumbled across a book titled Any Child Can Write at the library and finding a gold mine of lessons and tips ordered it on Amazon. We will be incorporating both of these into our lessons immediately, not waiting until fall to have her filling her notebooks with creative and descriptive stories. So, Mary will continue her all-over-the-spectrum homeschool next year, beginning again in spelling, starting 3B level in math, 6th grade art, and 5th grade in everything else.

Maggie has almost finished all her 1st grade work, with only math and spelling left each day. We started on the CAT this week and I found that her reading skills have dropped since she finished her last Faith and Freedom reader last month so I put the 2nd grade reader in her stack which she can reread in September. I don't think we will change anything for next year, but I have to remember that she would be starting 1st grade this fall if she went to public school and not to push her beyond what she can handle.

In addition to the 3 older children, Charlie will be starting K this year. Hopefully I can convince Mary to be my assistant in teaching him phonics and numbers. That only leaves Timmy and Julia Ellen as my "preschoolers." I realize that one fall morning in the distant future (2014) we will have 6 homeschoolers: Will in 11th grade, Mary in 10th, Maggie in 7th, Charlie in 5th, Timmy in 3rd, and Julia Ellen will start her very first day of Kindergarten.

carnival of homeschooling

This week's Peter Rabbit themed carnival has some very good posts. Check it out.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

the best laid plans...

I have so many wonderful kid-friendly field trip ideas, but having 6 children tends to make carrying out those plans very difficult. Between softball/baseball, choir, piano, Boy Scouts, and American Heritage Girls we have very few free days available to go anywhere and those seems to be characterized by a child with a stuffy nose and a fever. If somehow we happen to all be well and our daily plans are cancelled, like Monday, something else prevents us from getting down to the Metro station such as waiting all morning for the plumber to replace the leaking kitchen faucet.

Today I wanted us to participate in one of the hundreds of TEA party protests, in which we would be standing with signs, "Obama is worse than King George III ever dreamed of!" and "Thomas Jefferson, my fellow right-wing terrorist!" Instead we will be doing school in the finished basement, nursing baby Julia Ellen (who's nose is a bit stuffy), and making brownies. Hopefully we will squeeze in some good field trips this month. Excellent destinations in the spring include the National Arboretum, Mount Vernon, the Naval Academy, and the National Zoo.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

falling through the cracks times 10

I just finished reading a new book from the library, The Trouble With Boys by Peg Tyre which details the gender gap that exists today. Boys are expelled from preschool, are doped up on prescription drugs, are disengaged from extracurricular activities, take few AP classes, don't apply to college, and as a result are less educated and earn less than their 20-something female peers. Something has gone terribly wrong with how we raise and educate boys and this book explores some of the reasons behind the problem.

I wouldn't want to condense this book to a few short quips, but imagine yourself as a little boy growing up today expected to sit still for hours each day with no opportunity to race around or play the kind of games that come naturally, pushed beyond your developmental capacity, surrounded all day by women who seem frustrated and disappointed by your behavior, and not given good examples of how to become a man. You might just end up frustrated, tuned out, and spending your days playing video games too.

What should we do as homeschooling parents to help our sons and encourage other parents? Give boys lots of opportunities to blow off steam in free play, don't expect them to sit still all day- Mary Kay Clark, bless her soul, suggests having boys jump rope between subjects (she mentions this in every talk, but she has raised 7 sons, so she does know from whence she speaks), encourage reading but let them learn at their own pace (my oldest didn't really read until the beginning of 2nd grade- a big no-no these days in public school), get them involved in boy-centered activities such as Cub/Boy Scouts, encourage extracurricular activities other than just sports, find them fun but educational hobbies such as model building, and pray for them.

This issue is not just one that affects parents of boys, but our entire culture as we shift from a traditional family model to one in which 1 in 3 wives are out earning their husbands and dominate almost every professional field. I do have hope that the pendulum is swinging back toward doing right by boys and this book gives examples of how we can assist in educating all of America's children well.

Monday, April 13, 2009

busy as a bee in spring

This is what I've been doing the past two weeks:

Now I need to go to G Street Fabrics and find something wild for the borders and start on some blue baby quilts, then I'll be ready for etsy!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

This morning was a cold, but sunny day and we had our first incident-free Mass in almost a month. Will was complemented on his serving, the girls on behaving so well, and the little boys for not having to be removed from the pew. I am in the midst of preparing Easter dinner and hope that your day has been as filled with eggies, fancy hats, and (at least perceived) holiness as ours.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

spring organizing

Well I might not have alphabetized the 10 bookshelves of children's books in the schoolroom, I haven't sorted the toys into bins in the playroom, I haven't even managed to fold and stack neatly all the new fabric I have bought recently, but... I did tidy something: socks.

We keep this big basket in the kitchen with all the children's socks so that when it is time to go somewhere the kids don't all scatter, leaving me to follow when they call out, "I can't find my socks!" I finally switched to Hanes brand for everyone because they have those easily identifiable colored letters on the bottom (thanks Danielle!). To make it even more simple for those who can't recall which color cooresponds to which child, I made this chart:

Now that I've tackled that big project, maybe I'll start to work on those bookshelves....

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

grey fuzzballs

Last week a very rare set of three wild baby eagle chicks hatched at the Norfolk Botanical Garden. You can watch live footage here as well as link to video clips of Mommy and Daddy Bald Eagles feeding their young eel and fish. Checking out the eagles is now part of our daily routine, yesterday Will and I watched one eaglet go potty!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

please pray for our nuns

While we were stationed in Naples we became good friends with a group of Benedictine nuns at San Vincenzo al Volturno in the Abruzzi mountains. I have been very worried about them due to the massive earthquake which struck L'Aquila on Monday, destroying buildings and killing over 200 people. Please pray with me for all the people affected by this disaster.

carnival of homeschooling

A Pondering Heart is hosting this week's carnival with a theme in honor of April being National Gardening Month.

Monday, April 06, 2009

do ray me fa so...

I've plucked the book Raising Musical Kids off the shelf at the library after one of the ladies started a discussion on the Ora board about the best series to teach piano.

We have been through 3 piano teachers due to military moves and have been very happy, despite or perhaps because of, our serendipitous method of finding a teacher. Our first instructor was the church organist who played at our wedding. When we moved to North Carolina both kids had a great year after Mrs. Hillman called me in response to fliers we posted around the neighborhood. This past year I had one week to find someone before leaving for Maine and was referred to their current teacher by a national piano teacher association.

The book covers when to begin music study, how to find a good teacher, choosing the right instrument, and the best chapter: describing what good practicing looks like. Usually I read books like this and mentally file away the useful information, but I am hitting Office Depot this afternoon to xerox this chapter to keep on hand. Apparently Will has been doing something that Robert Cutietta, a musician, music teacher, parent, and writer recommends; playing a fun and well known piece at the end of each practice. Everyone in the house is pretty sick of hearing "Ghost Ship" when he plays it as his finale every day, but it gives him confidence (as well as an opportunity to make everyone roll their eyes in exasperation).

Sunday, April 05, 2009

lots of cherry blossoms and people

For years I have heard people rave about the cherry trees blooming in Washington, DC, but have never managed to be here in April, so yesterday morning we decided to see what all the fuss was about. I didn't realize that the Japanese festival was taking place, the official parade was at 11am, that everybody and their brother was going to be downtown, but we soon found out when the Metro Center station was so crowded that we couldn't get on the train going to the Smithsonian and decided to walk. Then we stopped at a bookstore to use the potty and I tried to nurse Julia Ellen but was rewarded with milk upchucked all over my pants and her outfit. Only 15 minutes later did we run into problem #3 with the parade route cutting off our access to the National Mall and the view of all those famous trees.

After we finally got across the street, we wandered up to the Lincoln Memorial and took the elevator, bypassing all the stairs and then walked past the White House, not even attempting the closer Metro station.

Poor Charlie was so tired he fell asleep while I was giving him a piggy-back ride. Our bedraggled crew practically crawled into the house where Tim cooked up a triple batch of pancakes and renewed their energy enough to play outside. While I was pointing out flowering trees on the car ride home Mary said, "You mean we could have just seen the cherry trees on our block and NOT had to go through all that?"

It certainly would have been easier on all of us, that's for sure.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

what are you feeding that child??

Yesterday Julia Ellen had her 2 week pediatric appointment. Yes, she is 4 weeks old today, but they said since I was an "experienced" mom they would not require me to drag her back so soon after birth. The military hospitals in DC have major parking issues (there is none) and I have the added difficulty of not being able to fit into the parking garage so the closest I can park is 1/2 mile away with a huge flight of steps in between (try that with a double stroller).

After the corpsman weighed her: 10lbs 3 oz., the resident examined Julia Ellen and exclaimed, "She looks like a 6 week old!" Obviously she is thriving and the conversation somehow turned to homeschooling, "How do you do it? How can you do 1st grade in 30 minutes when public schools take 6 hours?" It was funny to see myself through their eyes, this confident got-it-all-together mom of many.

Yeah right.

Any pride evaporated when we had to travel back down those long set of stairs to the parking lot and Timmy pulled his hand away from mine, sprinted down the hill, and jumped with both feet into an enormous puddle. He not only soaked himself up to his waist but got Charlie wet too.

As for the original questions: What am I feeding this fat little baby?

Evidently pure cream.

Friday, April 03, 2009

rousing the troops out of bed

This morning is First Friday and the homeschool Gregorian Chant choir the two older children attend sings at Mass at 8:00am, which wouldn't be too bad except the church is 45 minutes away. Luckily another mom volunteers to take them, only leaving me to get them up, fed, and presentable by 7:15.

A few weeks ago the group gave a concert in Baltimore the day after St. Benedict's feast day in St. Benedict's Church, which is run by a group of Benedictines- very appropriate! They did a marvelous job, though I don't think Will opened his mouth once and Mary spent the entire last chant trading elbows jabs with the boy next to her.

We had the added excitement of me losing my car keys and only finding them in the sanctuary after begging the gift shop lady to let us back in and praying quite a few Hail Marys. While I can't sing a note without mangling it, chant is a wonderful way to glorify God both in prayer and voice.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

carnival of homeschooling

Janice Campbell is hosting the carnival this week with a Spring Fever edition. This week is the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC and we are going to try very hard to get the big kids downtown this weekend to see the riot of pink flowers. Maybe we will run into Michelle and her kids strolling around the Tidal Basin.

discipline issues

Recently the older children have been giving Tim and I more problems (it really has been going on for a while, but I have been ignoring the situation) with disrespect and poor attitudes. So I listened again to my CDs by Dr. Ray Gurendi from last year's IHM Catholic and Family Life Conference in Chantilly, VA. He and his wife have raised 10 children and he offers very practical, been-there-done-that techniques to get your children to become pleasant, positive people, rather than sullen nasty little brats. A few days ago I printed out this essay for when they give me a hard time

and I can see an effect after the 5 + times they have copied it.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

sweet rest

Last night I awoke with a start at 2:15am to perfect silence. Then I put my head down on the pillow and heard a faint cry from the next room. As soon as I opened the door and turned on the light Julia Ellen quieted and waited for me to offer her Mommy milk. Gradually she has gone from 3 hours between night feeds to 6 hours of sleep for her, resulting in 5 hours for me (going to bed at 8pm would be nice, but...).

As I looked down at my little girl and stroked her soft head I was so proud (hopefully not in a sinful way) that every ounce of her body, every drop of food she has consumed has miraculously come from me. What a satisfying feeling, not at all what Hanna Rosin, a liberal writer had to say about how babies keep mothers tied at home and not productive. Anyone can get a job and earn a few $$, but only I could assist in the creation of this tiny and precious child.