Sunday, August 30, 2009

tomorrow is the big day

We officially begin the 2009-2010 school year at 9am. Luckily I pulled out all the books and stacked them on Friday because it was apparent that we were missing Charlie's and Mary's religion books.
Luckily I was able to just call Tim and he found them on the proper shelf, boxed them up, and mailed them early Saturday morning. This will be our 7th year of homeschooling and I am getting so excited about all the new things we will learn, adventures we will have, and time spent together. Some days will be good, some fair, and some downright awful but I wouldn't trade my job as a homeschooler for anything in the world.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

a bit too competitive

This morning I woke at 6am, fed and washed Julia Ellen, showered, woke up the children and headed out the door at 7:30 for the last day of the Union Fair. One of the pedal tractor race prizes was a $190 Ford tractor and with 3 children eligible to compete, the chances of one of them winning this year were pretty good. Other activities scheduled for the day were children's games, the parade, and another free bike drawing.

Any normal person would have realized that it just wasn't a good day to drive over an hour on narrow back roads, but knowing that Maggie won her bike last year on the last day made me decide to press ahead. With temperatures in the 60's and a steady rain falling, the fair officals canceled everything, so we turned around and stopped for a hot breakfast. On the plus side we managed to get all our town errands taken care of on the way home. There will be plenty of years left for pedal tractor races, pig scrambles, and bike drawings and many more lazy afternoons filled with piano practice, mugs of hot cocoa, and playing I Spy on the computer.

Friday, August 28, 2009

call, call, call

A few weeks ago I called my Representative to ask when he was holding town hall meetings. His staff member said, "He is too busy to have a meeting." Today I called him and my Senators and I urge you to do the same. The more I hear about Obamacare, the more scared I get. Government bureaucrats having access to our tax returns, bank accounts, and medical records and then deciding if individual citizens get medical procedures. Abortion paid for by taxpayers. Death panels (Obama already said that Granny is to take a pain pill instead of getting a pacemaker. If you think that he will cover bone marrow transplants, treatments for folks with stage 3 or 4 cancer, or any other expensive medical procedure you are delusional) Rationed care will be the norm for everyone (if there is a limited supply of a "free" good or service then not everyone will be able to obtain it)

Reading published statements from Ezekiel Emanual (Obama's health care advisor) on how the deck would be stacked is chilling.

"However, other things are rarely equal—whether to save one 20-year-old, who might live another 60 years, if saved, or three 70-year-olds, who could only live for another 10 years each—is unclear." In fact, Dr. Emanuel makes a clear choice: "When implemented, the complete lives system produces a priority curve on which individuals aged roughly 15 and 40 years get the most substantial chance, whereas the youngest and oldest people get changes that are attenuated.

Dr. Emanuel concedes that his plan appears to discriminate against older people, but he explains: "Unlike allocation by sex or race, allocation by age is not invidious discrimination. . . . Treating 65 year olds differently because of stereotypes or falsehoods would be ageist; treating them differently because they have already had more life-years is not."

The youngest are also put at the back of the line: "Adolescents have received substantial education and parental care, investments that will be wasted without a complete life. Infants, by contrast, have not yet received these investments. . . . (, Jan. 31, 2009).

The time to fight this is now, not after the American people are subjected to the same horrors as the British have for years now. Every day another story comes out about old people not getting fed and washed while in hospitals, women giving birth in hallways for lack of beds, months long waits for cancer treatment, etc. I told the staff members how I think it is appalling that this is being pushed as a memorial to Teddy Kennedy when his own decisions were the exact opposite of what this bill pushes. He and his family made the decision to go to Duke when all the other surgeons said there was nothing that could be done. He fought to live, not go peacefully into that good night like any average 73 year old under Obamacare would be told.

For children, for the elderly, for ourselves I urge you to call and tell Congress, "No Obamacare. No rationing. I want to make medical decisions for myself and my family."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

lots of helpers

Yesterday we headed down to the Union Fair so the kids could spin, chug, twirl, and fly to their heart's content. I knew that it could turn into a logistical nightmare at any time with 2 big kids, 2 medium sized kids, one toddler, and a baby. But, other than one brain fried dude, the Rockwell Amusement staff made it a pleasant and relaxing day for me.

On Sunday we inspected all the ride requirements so we knew ahead of time which ones each child could go on. My worry was the bumper cars as Maggie and Charlie were tall enough to ride with an adult, but not alone. What was I to do? Have Will or Mary sit with the 3 little ones for 10 minutes and wait while I went on the ride and then switch? But the guys let each child ride with a sibling and the same thing happened at the giant slide after I took Timmy down a few times. Timmy needed help getting on the carousel horse, but after I pointed to Julia Ellen one of the workers stood behind him in my place. Will and Mary were very generous in taking the little kids on so many rides, taking them to the potty, and independently buying bottles of cold water.

One worry homeschooling mothers have is raising children who can't function alone in public, after all they don't set off on the big yellow bus every day and have to navigate the halls of academia alone. Going to the fair and allowing a 2nd grader to ride the giant swing on the other end of the midway alone and giving a 5 year old permission to ride the bees by himself is good practice.

Yes, this non-helicopter parenting method did come back to bite me when Maggie didn't come back to the meeting spot, leaving us all searching for one short sprite in the aisles filled with flashing lights and ominous looking pierced and tattooed teens. But Will found her and we headed to the car with bags of cotton candy to munch. A few minutes after tucking the children into bed, I peeked in to see them all sound asleep and dreaming of fair rides, cotton candy, and another chance at the pig scramble next year.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

carnival of homeschooling

Homeschool Bytes is hosting this week's carnival with "We've got style" theme.

what we've been up to...

watching out the window.

In addition to the horse riding lessons, swimming lessons, trip to the Fair, finding a coyote den while pruning, hoeing the garden, helping with the haying...

Monday, August 24, 2009

time to earn your keep

Yesterday was the first day of the Union Fair, which we have attended every year since Will was about 3. It is an old fashioned county event, complete with 4H displays, pie eating contests, tractor pulls, farm animals, and lots of fair food. We pick one day to buy bracelets for the kids to ride as many rides as they can stand ($19 this year) and participate in other activities like the free bike drawing.

This year we decided to sign Mary up for the pig scramble, unfortunately she wasn't picked, but it was still highly entertaining. I had never seen such a thing before, 10 kids with mesh sacks chased, grabbed, and jumped on 9 squealing piglets. The children who managed to capture a pig could either take them home or sell them to the burly guys who sidled up to each contestant, "Hey, I'll buy your pig for $25." The same animals can be found for sale in Uncle Henry's for $50-75, but any parent who doesn't want to transport a pig in the back of their sedan is happy to take the cash. Will's turn for the scramble is Wednesday, hopefully he will be picked to chase pigs and recoup the cost of taking him to the fair.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

hurricane prep

I grew up in hurricane country and am used to preparing for a big blow. I recall Hurricane Gloria (1985) like it was yesterday, trying to sleep in the upstairs hallway, the only place in our cheap townhouse that had no windows, listening to the radio announcer describe the wind speed and the damage throughout the city. I hightailed it to my grandmother's house in 2001 during Hurricane Isabel with Will and Mary in tow, figuring that her house had withstood many storms in the past 175 years (and they had electricity). I even managed to get to class at Virginia Tech through Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and see the enormous devastation to the forests 300 miles inland.

But hurricanes in Maine? Not supposed to happen. But I do know what to do:

charge Coleman lanterns- check
bring in everything outside that could blow away- check
close all barn and garage doors- check
set up generator and practice plugging in and starting- check

roll up the windows in the van - uh-oh. Someone's going to be sitting on towels on the way to Mass and hoping the wet doesn't seep through to her skirt.

Friday, August 21, 2009

on my own again

Tim leaves tomorrow (in the midst of Hurricane Bill) for DC and will return in about 4 weeks. Yesterday I took advantage of the opportunity to hit my favorite used book store and get out of the house with only the 2 little ones in my care. After an hour Tim called on the cell, "Where are you? Why are Maggie and Charlie out in front of the garage alone?" 5 minutes later he called again to ask if the dishes in the dishwasher were clean. I gave up on a trip to the library with great Wi-Fi (I had more pictures for the farm chores post but they wouldn't load on dial-up at home) and headed back. Again the phone rang, but this time I had left my purse in the back seat and refused to stop the car to answer it.
Every time I have a hard day or a mini-crisis up in Maine he suggests that perhaps I shouldn't stay up here alone with 6 children, but he can't manage without me for 2 hours (at that with only 4 children)? Now to be fair, he did apologize profusely when I got home and he is very capable, even managing to meet me in town for the loan closing with the 4 little ones in tow.

I did find several Landmark Books I couldn't live without, but I managed to not succumb to the desire to purchase the very rare #120 Medical Corps Heroes of World War II, priced at $125.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

farm chores

This summer was almost the summer that wasn't. It rained every other day for much of June and July and has finally been hot enough to hay the fields. One of the neighbors down the road came the other day to mow and yesterday Will and Mary helped stack the bales on the wagon. Now the front field is clean and the rest of the baling should be finished today ahead of the hurricane coming up the coast.

My garden was finally dry enough to till, too late to plant anything that we could eat, but we planted some seeds from the discount bin at the hardware store so the kids could get the general idea of where their food comes from (well, not their food since they don't eat veggies, but normal people's food).

I hauled a few loads of horse manure from the pile at the dump (excuse me, transfer station) and together with lots of spare hay I made an enormous compost pile. The kids have gotten into the habit of not complaining too loudly when I ask them to dump the scrap bucket I keep in the kitchen.

The last project I have been working on is going out in the early morning with the pole saw and hacking back branches that overhang the fields. I realized during my tractor driving lessons this week that branches that seem safe while walking about are right at eye level when on the seat of a tractor. With enough bug spray and a huge floppy hat I can chop chop chop for about 90 minutes before needing sustenance and a short nap.

All these chores will help us in future years, but we all can't wait for that day when we will be up here for good and don't have to schlep back and forth to DC. 23 months left, but who's counting?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

carnival of homeschooling

Home Spun Juggling is hosting this week's carnival with a juggling theme.

I don't wanna buy more baby gear

When you are expecting your first child you get the newest and most fashionable stroller, clothes, and crib. When you are expecting your second child you spluge on more stuff like an Ultrasaucer and a changing table.

When you are expecting your sixth child you need new stuff because the other 5 kids have destroyed the baby gates, lost the breast pump parts, and turned the Boppy Pillow into a 2" high pancake. So you either suck it up and buy more stuff or resort to what people used before BabiesRUs existed.

Monday, August 17, 2009

stereotypical Maine summer day

Yesterday I told the kids to pack up the van with beach gear (we went to Mass on Saturday afternoon so we could hit confession beforehand) and we headed out on to Knight's Pond. Saturday was a hotter day, and not just because I ran a 5K (2nd in my age group), and the race ended in a parking lot with the smell of trash wafting from the Bangor City Dump. They remembered all the life jackets, the inflatable boat and paddles, the cooler, and the blanket to sit on. My only job was to pack pb&js and change Julia Ellen's nappie. We left Tim happily mowing the field edges and spent the afternoon splashing, riding about, and chatting with the other families.
After cleaning up ourselves and the van we headed back out to go to the lobster pound for supper, a yearly treat. Lobster pound dining runs the gamut, some eat off the tacky Styrofoam trays with a plastic fork while the more glamorous cover the picnic table with a tablecloth and pull out bottles of wine, appetizers, and salad to accompany their boiled lobster. Before I tucked into my twin special (2 lobsters on a plate) the children picked up lobsters from the tank. "I picked up two at one time!" "Look at this big one!" (yes, I know this is a crab, but the others were dark)
Eating an ice cream bar back home finished up the day with promises that we would visit the pond several more times in the coming weeks.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


We are finished with school! While Maggie finished 1st grade months ago and Mary finished about 4 weeks ago, it took Will forever to write and polish his book report on St. John Vianney. The California Achievement Test is knocked out so all that is left is for me to drop off the mailers at the post office.

This is the latest is has ever taken us to get through a school year in our 6 years of homeschooling, but it is the first time that we had a baby born in the middle of the academic year. Of course we are all ready to start back up in about 2 weeks, but we will take advantage of the hot temperatures and sunny skies that have finally arrived in Maine. Today we are planning a trip to Knight's Pond, a secret spot in the middle of nowhere with a tiny beach, blueberry bushes, and a resident Bald Eagle.

In the meantime Maggie and Charlie have been clamoring to begin phonics and mathematics, so who am I to say they can't?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

mommies of large families are psychotic?

In 2007 alone, American women birthed more than 4.3 million babies — the highest number ever. More than a quarter of those were to women having their third or fourth child, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some women may like being pregnant a little too much, often driven to rapidly reproduce out of insecurity, a craving for attention, or feelings of abandonment by their own parents.

Having babies isn't addictive in the way that alcohol and narcotics can be. But bumpaholics feel compelled to procreate for many of the same reasons that substance abusers turn to booze or drugs.

"Women who are obsessed with being pregnant are literally filling an emptiness inside of them, just as alcoholics and drug addicts use substances to fill a psychological void," says Beverly Hills psychiatrist Carole Lieberman, M.D. Every one of us at some point encounters this void, adds New York family therapist Bonnie Eaker Weil, Ph.D., author of "Financial Infidelity." "You want to have a purpose in this world. You want to feel less lonely."

Or some of us could be us just love babies, like our children, and are trying to follow the God's teaching. There are days like today that I feel psychotic, but that is because I have 6 children, not the other way around.

Friday, August 14, 2009

dirt in the...

house, dirt in the car, dirt in kid's hair, dirt caked into the kid's clothes. Where did all this dirt come from? A big hole in the ground- the foundation for what will be our house 18 months from now. In the meantime, we have lots of dirt to play in. Dirt for playing house, playing roads, playing that they are dogs,
that they are bulldozers, that they are at war, and dozens of other games that I can't figure out. But the children are outside in the sunshine and using all those Tonka toys I bought the little boys for Christmas. Charlie now wants an excavator after getting to sit in the cab and move the levers.

Anyone want to come over and play in the dirt?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

this is the face...

that apparently stops people’s prayers. We were sitting in Mass this past Sunday and the folks behind us couldn’t stop raving about how beautiful Julia Ellen was. During the passing of the peace we were told by the woman in front of us how pretty she was. Then when I had dismissed the children, “You may go downstairs and have a doughnut,” cleaned up the crayons and was getting ready to genuflect another woman said, “What a beautiful baby!”

If I hadn’t had 5 other babies who looked exactly the same I might me thinking I have a child model on my hands. Yeah she is chubby and smiles a lot, but gee, I feel like I’m back in Italy, the land full of people who love children but don’t have any of their own. Chio bella!

Monday, August 10, 2009

where is Mary??

I forgot my kid. I didn’t lose her, I just forgot about poor Mary in the locker room at the pool while we were on the playground across the parking lot. There she was sitting on the bench in her underpants and t-shirt while I had her shorts in my purse. I tried to give them to her after her swimming lesson but all I got was, “I can’t take them, I’m all wet.” So, for 30 minutes she felt alone and abandoned until I called everyone to get in the van and realized that I hadn’t seen her outside. I should tell her to not feel bad, both my parents forgot my baby brother once, only realizing ½ mile down the road that he was still back in the house.

I am constantly counting heads when we are out, “Do we have everyone we came with? No extras?”

All is well, I gave Mary the privilege of choosing the pasta for naked spaghetti (or should I say naked macaroni?) tonight. I’m forgiven and perhaps she will take more responsibility for her own things next time we go to the pool.

Friday, August 07, 2009

lobster dripping with butter

This losing weight business is for the birds. I should be so grateful that within 5 months of Julia Ellen’s birth I can fit back into most of my clothes. This morning I weighed myself after running and nursing and found the scale showing that I am only 2.5 pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight. Switching from an all-you-can-eat pregnancy diet where I had at least one soda a day and M&Ms every night while reading in bed, I would think that I would be back in size 8 in weeks. No such luck.

The problem? Every time I lose a pound my appetite increases to the point of me thoughtlessly scarfing down half a bag of cheese popcorn or doing something else insane, sabotaging my efforts. Then it takes super-human effort for several days to see that same number on the scale. This week's stress of driving Will and Mary an hour each way to sailing lessons hasn't helped matters, a Coca-a-cola keeps me calm enough to not drive like a mad woman on the twisty back roads just to shave off a minute or two.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

carnival of homeschooling

Beverly is hosting this week's carnival with a game day theme, I wonder if some of our top five favorite games are listed?

1. Mad Dash
2. Clue Mysteries
3. Puppyopoly
4. Junior Scrabble
5. Uno

We usually have several jigsaw puzzles being put together and the big kids and I play Rummy after the little ones go to bed. (they bounce on the bed and mess up the cards)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Force feeding a cultural education

Last Monday night we drove into Bangor (the “big” city) and went to an evening concert hosted by Kneisel Hall, a Blue Hill summer program for young talented musicians. Now, any parent of small children will state that evening activities, especially ones that involve being quiet are bad ideas. But I really wanted Will and Mary to see Emely Phelps, a prize-winning pianist, currently studying at The Julliard School. The options were to take everyone and pray for good behavior or forget the whole idea. Until 20 minutes before we left the house I wasn’t sure we going to go, but Timmy had a long nap so we changed into nice clothes after supper and hit the road.

After arriving at the church, we sat next to the door off to the side so I had a quick escape route in case of noise or bathroom emergency. A lady came over and graciously asked if the baby was a quiet one, “Oh yes, she is very good and I will cut out if she fusses.” I didn’t take offense, but put myself in the position of the musicians who have practiced and studied for weeks to learn their pieces. I certainly wouldn’t want to spoil the concert with 6 loud, unruly children. Will of course paid perfect attention to the concert while the others were much less interested. Why I folded a copy of Mother Earth News magazine (I only read it for the articles and try not to go ballistic over the enviro-wacko anti-child editiorals) into my purse I don’t know, but it is likely that it saved the evening for over a hundred people. Charlie spent an hour examining each photo within, spending most of his time on the tractor ads. All anyone heard from our pew was a little gurgle from Julia Ellen before I started nursing and a faint repeating hiccup afterwards. The first trio played pieces by Haydn for 20 minutes and the second group (a string quartet) played Mendelssohn’s #6 for 40 minutes. The wiggling and shuffling was getting more noticeable so I made an executive decision to cut our attendance short and head out during the intermission.

A good plan for both a comedian or parent is to always leave them wanting more, the audience that is. Several folks complimented the children’s behavior as we scooted through the crowd, but I knew that if we had stayed we would have ended up leaving in disgrace.

I recall a discussion a few months back on someone's blog about rewarding the children when they are praised by strangers (for their behavior, not their looks) and I felt that they certainly deserved a treat so when we were all strapped in the van I said, “Sundaes at Dysarts!” Even though it was way past their bedtime I was very impressed by their manners and consider the outing a great success.

It occurred to me while we were listening to the beautiful music that I was in a similar position to those young adults in a way. They worked and practiced every day for years to be able to play difficult scores and make it appear effortless, while I have worked, endlessly it seems, for over a decade to have children who can be trusted to sit quietly in church. All the Masses standing in the vestibule, bribing the children with doughnuts, training them in the proper behavior made it look easy. I can’t say that it will be clear sailing from here on out, but this outing would have deemed impossible only a few years ago. So, for those with only little children I give you hope that one day you will be able to listen to the beauty of Mass with few distractions, at least from your own pew.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

let them howl

Ever since Will came home from Boy Scout camp he has been eager to use some of his new skills. Our backyard has turned into a campsite, complete with a roped off wood chopping area, 2 tents, a screened pavilion, and now a fire pit. He did a good job constructing all this on his own (I helped put up the pavilion) and the second attempt at fire building was much better than the first. Last night we roasted marshmallows and I let the big kids read in the sleeping bags for 45 minutes after dark.

Charlie couldn’t make himself brave enough to walk out alone to the tents in the dark, so he nestled next to me in bed and was soon sound asleep. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of walking down myself to fetch the rest of them, and to prove my point the second after I poked my nose in the tent, I heard a coyote howl in the not so distant woods. Maggie propelled herself out of her sleeping bag and followed the other sprinting children across the grass and up the back stairs into the safe and secure house. Tim and I conference on the phone and decided that letting the 4 big kids sleep in the hay loft in the barn is a good compromise, they would be camping out, but not accessible to hungry wild animals.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Miss Poopy Pants

I overbought size 1 diapers for Julia Ellen, the poor child had red impressions of the elastic on her thighs when they were wet and swelled up. Now that we have finished up the last package I am free to resume using the cloth diapers that Michelle so graciously lent me a month or so ago. Since the diapers were free and I picked up a few vinyl covers at the thrift shop for less than $1 each I am saving several dollars a day by using cloth. Not to sound like someone’s grandmother, “Back when I was a little girl a Coca-cola cost a nickel,” but way back when my first child was a baby the name brand disposable diapers were about 15 cents each, now they are hovering around 23 cents apiece.

Now down in suburbia land the magic trash truck comes every Wednesday morning and makes all those stinky diapers disappear, but up here in rural Maine you have to take all the trash to the dump (politely and accurately called the transfer station) yourself. Most towns even charge up to $2.50 a bag for the privilege of throwing it away and disposables take up a lot of room. I figure that washing is almost free since we have a well and septic system. Julia Ellen really likes having her nappy changed so the frequent whisking away of wet underclothes makes her smile and kick her feet.