Thursday, December 31, 2009

doing a lot of reading

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

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

carnival of homeschooling

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

an educational Christmas

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

on the flying trapeze

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

Monday, December 28, 2009

Herbert Prentis has competition

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

carnival of homeschooling

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

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

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

Monday, December 21, 2009

projects completed

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

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas

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

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

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

Friday, December 18, 2009

look mama!

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

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

sink or swim?

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I made it!

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

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

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

Thursday, December 10, 2009

carnival of homeschooling

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

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

I'm not drowning anymore!

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

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

Credo in unum Deum

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

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

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

Read the whole thing at

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

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Momma, I'm hungry!

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

Friday, December 04, 2009

keeping the boys out of my hair

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

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

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

super sensitive official Mommy hearing aids

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

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