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.