Saturday, January 31, 2009

where do you want to live?

While I am proud that we are a military family, one of the big downsides is the fact that we don't get to pick where we live. Navy hospitals are always in big cities surrounded by endless suburbs, be it Portsmouth, VA, Washington, DC, or Naples, Italy. So the whole family is looking forward to the big retirement day when we can unpack our things for the very last time and sit on our front porch and see just trees, fields, and sky. To get an idea of the scale, that little dark blob in the middle of the field is a large JD tractor, we can only see 1 house from anywhere on our farm.
Apparently many of my fellow Americans feel the same way:

...Pew Research Center survey out today on where Americans would most like to live. Whether they favor cities, suburbs or the countryside, almost half wish they lived somewhere else, the report found. City dwellers are more likely to dream of living somewhere else, and men in rural areas are far happier living there than women.

• 46% would prefer to live in a different type of community from the one they now reside. Adults 50 to 64 who live in cities are the least likely to say they live in the ideal place; two-thirds of those in that age group who live in the country say they couldn't imagine living anywhere else.

When Joe Higginbotham goes to town, he never runs into traffic jams. He never has to circle to find a parking spot. And he never has to worry about safety. "I can park my car in the street, get out, leave the keys in the ignition," says Higginbotham, 57, a retired instrument engineer for a large paper company. He runs errands at the bank, store and post office and makes a stop at the local saloon and "nobody bothers anything. … I love it here." What Higginbotham calls "his little piece of heaven" is Palisade, Colo., 15 miles east of Grand Junction. Population: 2,793. Traffic light: one. USAToday

When I head up to the nearest grocery store from our farm I might see 3 cars during the 10 mile trip. When I went to the Commissary yesterday afternoon it took me 3 cycles of the stoplight to simply cross Georgia Ave.

Friday, January 30, 2009

the bad, bad Tooth Fairy

After the first few children have gone through the ritual of putting their baby teeth under their pillows and receiving cash, I admit that this time around my excitement has faded. (maybe it has something to do with knowing the cost of orthodonture for 6 children) While I should be thrilled that Maggie lost her first tooth, I was just too tired to remember to sneak into her room for the switch.

The next morning a very disappointed little girl said, "I tried to stay up all night to catch the Tooth Fairy, but she never came!" I escaped parental purgatory by pointing out that her ziplock baggie wasn't under her pillow, but on Mary's bed so how could the Tooth Fairy be expected to find it? However, during the course of the day the clear baggie disappeared (much like a certain alligator, could we have Borrowers in the house?) and Tim told her, "No tooth, no money."

But little Maggie was determined indeed, she wiggled her other bottom front tooth and dashed into my room at 9pm Wednesday night, "I lost the other tooth!" You can just guess... I forgot again!

Thursday morning we put the little pearl in a special wooden box and Maggie made a Kleenex bed for it to stay safe. We also wrote this short letter to the Tooth Fairy explaining all that had happened.

Luckily, this poor excuse for a Mommy Extraordinaire remembered long enough to slip that $2 under Maggie's pillow and enclose my own note.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

how many babies CAN fit inside a pregnant woman?

There is the scientific answer:

...the largest reported number of fetuses in one womb was 15...The largest set of children to be born together and survive—not including this week's octuplets, who are all still alive—is seven.
How do so many babies fit in one woman? The limit isn't so much the number of babies as their volume and weight. In general, once the total weight of the babies inside reaches about 12 pounds, the uterus goes into labor. The greater the number of fetuses, the earlier the labor will occur. (The rough formula for due dates is to start at 40 weeks of gestation for one baby and subtract three weeks for each additional child: 37 for twins, 34 for triplets, etc. It's remarkable, then, that eight fetuses were able to gestate for 30 weeks, as in the California case.) ... If the uterus gets too big and the fetuses too heavy, it can be difficult for the woman to breathe. The amount of placental tissue can also cause the mother to develop pre-eclampsia, or pregnancy-related hypertension. seniors world chronicle

And the Mommy with a 34+ week baby inside her tummy answer: 1 is plenty!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

where did Quickfoot go?

Yesterday was a zoo. Between not waking up until after 7am and then the kids clambering to get outside in the snow, I was off to a rough start. Timmy pulled the typical toddler act of wanting to go out, but taking more time getting his snowsuit and boots on than he spent outside. I must have taken off 12 pairs of boots, dried 14 pairs of gloves, and swept the kitchen floor 6 times to get rid of the snow. I was certainly dreaming of a future mudroom with vinyl floors, hooks for coats, and a place to lay out mittens and hats to dry. One day I will have these things, but in Maine where they will be needed on a daily basis, not just once or twice a year.

The other thing that threw me off was the missing header picture on the blog. It just disappeared. Well, easy enough to fix, I'll just find the photo file and put it back in. No luck, I took that picture with my non-digital camera, it is stored on the old computer in Maine, and I have apparently lost the disk.

Plan B would be to take another picture of the two alligator bath toys. But.... I could only find one, even after looking all over the house two times, stooping uncomfortably to peer under beds, in toy chests, in the basement. Then I remembered that we had spotted the exact same alligator at the thrift shop last week and the kids begged me to get it. Maybe it is still there a week later?

So, after dropping off Will and Mary at piano we searched the toy aisle but of course it was gone. We did find a close substitute. I bet Will $5 that we will find Quickfoot (one of the two baby alligators in the picture book, No Fighting, No Biting by Else Minarik) when we pack up this house in 2 years, but until then, the lizard will have to do.

For fun read Creative Minority Report's adventure of Dad trying to get 5 kids to the doctor's office in record time and finding out 1/2 way there that 1 kid forgot his shoes... I haven't laughed so hard in a long, long time!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

carnival of homeschooling

Life on the Road is hosting this week's carnival: The Adventure Edition.


This is the first morning in 2 years that the children have woken up to snow dusting the ground. I stumbled downstairs at 7:15 to notice and issue a proclamation, "No going outside until everyone finishes their schoolwork!"

30 minutes later Will is working on his 3rd subject, a speed record for my pokiest child.

Monday, January 26, 2009

say what?

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi boldly defended a move to add birth control funding to the new economic "stimulus" package, claiming "contraception will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government."

Pelosi, the mother of 5 children and 6 grandchildren, who once said, "Nothing in my life will ever, ever compare to being a mom," seemed to imply babies are somehow a burden on the treasury.

The revelation came during an exchange Sunday morning on ABC's THIS WEEK.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Hundreds of millions of dollars to expand family planning services. How is that stimulus?

PELOSI: Well, the family planning services reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children's health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those - one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.

It is all about the power over the people. These are the folks who want to give you "universal health care" and have the power to dictate medical treatments for every American: if 85 year old ladies get cancer treatment, if babies with genetic disorders are quietly "put to sleep", if mamas of 6 kids are sterilized without their knowledge, if teen girls are injected with birth control, if doctors and nurses and Catholic hospitals will be required to participate in abortion...

To say this is scary is putting it mildly.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

winter scene

The builder up in Maine just sent us updated photos of our barn/machine shed that he is working on. The kids saw and immediately lamented the lack of snow we have here in DC. "There will be plenty of snow, even for you, once we move up there, I promise."
I was impressed that Timmy recognized the garage, "Our farm!"

Saturday, January 24, 2009

a blessing for all of us

Millions of rosaries have been offered for the reconciliation of SSPX and the Vatican, including one every day for the past 4 years by my dear husband Tim.

This just came out this morning:

Press release
of the Superior General of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X

The excommunication of the bishops consecrated by His Grace Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, on June 30, 1988, which had been declared by the Congregation for Bishops in a decree dated July 1, 1988, and which we had always contested, has been withdrawn by another decree mandated by Benedict XVI and issued by the same Congregation on January 21, 2009.

We express our filial gratitude to the Holy Father for this gesture which, beyond the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X, will benefit the whole Church. Our Society wishes to be always more able to help the pope to remedy the unprecedented crisis which presently shakes the Catholic world, and which Pope John Paul II had designated as a state of “silent apostasy.”

Besides our gratitude towards the Holy Father and towards all those who helped him to make this courageous act, we are pleased that the decree of January 21 considers as necessary “talks” with the Holy See, talks which will enable the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X to explain the fundamental doctrinal reasons which it believes to be at the origin of the present difficulties of the Church.

In this new atmosphere, we have the firm hope to obtain soon the recognition of the rights of Catholic Tradition

Menzingen, January 24, 2009
+Bernard Fellay

Friday, January 23, 2009

ditto what she says...

As Kathryn Jean Lopez said about the March for Life in this article from National Review Online, "This is what feminism looks like." (the text was imposed over a picture of Pope Benedict XVI)

homeschooled boys learn...

how to use reference materials by first asking, "Mommy where is that book that shows all the synonyms of words?" then shuffling through the pages before proclaiming, "Mary is malodorous!"

Not my preferred method of learning new vocabulary words, but it was good for a chuckle. After all, he doesn't really believe she smells, she simply has girl cooties.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

why we are not going to the March for Life today

I just don't think I can handle being 7 months pregnant with no bathroom access, trying to keep track of 5 children in freezing weather, no means of parking my enormous van at a METRO station, and hauling enough food and supplies for all of us. We will say a Rosary for those who are traveling to DC today to take part in the March for Life. I wonder if all the trash that was left all over the Mall has been picked up yet. I don't recall seeing a single piece of litter after the March I attended a few years ago. Who are the environmentalists again? Can someone say, Leave no trace?"

This is going to be a very difficult time for those of us who love life, President Obama has already reversed the Mexico City policy of the US not paying for foreign abortions and rescinded President Bush's executive order that gave physicians and medical personnel freedom not to be forced to participate in abortion.

Here is a statement by Archbishop Burke for today:

Today is the 36th Anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous decision in the cases Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, by which the highest court of our nation took away the safeguard of the most fundamental of all rights, the right to life, from the most vulnerable members of the human family, the unborn. Rightly, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has, for some time, designated this day as a Day of Penance for Violations to the Dignity of the Human Person, and of Prayer for the Full Restoration of the Legal Guarantee of the Right to Life.

January 22nd is to be observed “as a particular day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion, and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no. 373). The legacy of the just-mentioned decisions has been an unconscionable decline in the respect for all human life.

By now, you are familiar with the latest and most heinous anti-life legislation the people of the United States of America are facing: the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). The passage of FOCA would lift all restrictions on procured abortion, force taxpayers to participate in the funding of procured abortions; revoke all informed consent, parental notification and conscience protection laws; and force even Catholic hospitals to perform abortions, which clearly would necessitate the closing of Catholic hospitals. I ask you to pray for the defeat of FOCA and to do all you can to work against its passage, while also working to protect existing pro-life legislation. For more information on how to become involved, please visit the USCCB website at

In a special way, I address you, the members of the Marian Catechist Apostolate, on this Day of Penance. Reflecting on the circumstances in society which give rise to the necessity of a Day of Penance for Violations to the Dignity of the Human Person, I am deeply conscious of the much needed service of the Marian Catechist Apostolate in the renewal of society. I take the occasion of this most sad anniversary for our nation, to encourage you to redouble your efforts to grow in personal holiness and knowledge of the Catholic Faith, that you may always be equipped to share generously and courageously the richness of the Faith with others, for the transformation of society.

...Please join me today and always in calling upon the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe for the transformation of the culture death into a civilization of divine love and life. Invoking God’s blessing upon you and your home, I am Yours devotedly in Christ,

(Most Rev.) Raymond L BurkeArchbishop Emeritus of Saint LouisPrefect, Apostolic Signatura of the Supreme Tribunal

you got that?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

time to break out "the book"

A friend gave me a copy of On Becoming Babywise about a month before our oldest child was born (gosh, that was 11 years ago!). The premise is to put your infant on a sleep/wake schedule so they have a routine to their day and start sleeping through the night quite early. We have followed most of the plan and this very light-sleeping mommy is happy to report that all our babies started sleeping 6-8 hours stretches at night at around 2 months of age. In their own room.

Now, over the years I have heard many, many critiques, angry comments, accusations of neglect... from other mothers for following this plan. But what is so evil about making sure that a baby eats and is awake every 2-3 hours during the day? What is so horrid about making sure a baby doesn't sleep all day and stay up all night? I do have other children that need my attention and if I had experienced much more sleep-deprivation I doubt we would have had more than 1-2 children. I certainly have not had to deal with issues like these (from Faith and Family's coffee talk board this week):

I have an 18 month old who will sleep for a few hours on his own in a crib but then starts waking beginning about 1 a.m and wakes several times during the night. I have taken to bringing him into our bed and letting him nurse. However, he ends up nursing most of the night, latching on and off every 5 to 10 minutes... I love my son dearly, but my husband and I are suffering from sleep deprivation. I’m in my seventh month of pregnancy and having great difficulty being comfortable nursing and sleeping with my pregnant tummy.

We co-slept with our babies and they have never left! They are between 6 and 10 years old now and they will not, cannot sleep by themselves. We tried putting them in a room with each other but it wasn’t not enough. They are scared, they want snuggling, etc. They can’t even go to sleep until one of us lays down with them. So here we are, still all together. We’ve tried to force the issue several times over the years but we caved after all the wailing and sleepless nights.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

lines worthy of the DMV

Well, God didn't grant my prayer request for a massive blizzard on this most depressing day, but at least all the Obama-fans got a little taste of what the next 4 years are going to be like if our new President has his way...

Lines of thousands of people snaked around the perimeter of the Cannon, Longworth and Rayburn buildings and down Independence Ave. as many ticket holders waited as long as four hours to clear security to enter the House offices to obtain their (inaugural) tickets.

"I'm freezing!" exclaimed Janae Wills of Decatur, Ill., who waited outside the Cannon House Office Building.

Her congressman seemed just as exasperated. "This is the craziest system I've seen," said the Illinois Democrat. "They should have opened every door. They should have gotten extra security. I can't shut people out. People (from his district) traveled 700 miles for this."

On a typical day, everyone except lawmakers must pass through a magnetometer and have their bags and cell phones X-rayed before entering the House office buildings. But on Monday, U.S. Capitol Police required all visitors, congressional aides and credentialed journalists to remove their shoes before coming inside.

carnival of homeschooling

Beverly is hosting the carnival this week with a cute theme about a found hat. We picked up a John Deere baseball hat for Will at the thrift store yesterday (everything was 50% off, how could I NOT go?) and I'm afraid he will remember to wear it more often than his retainer.

"Take that thing off at the supper table!"

Monday, January 19, 2009

the longest week of the year...

is week 15 of the school calendar. We follow Seton's lesson plans pretty faithfully and I find that that particular week drags on and on. There another 3 weeks to go before the end of the quarter and the dreaded book reports still have yet to be started. Then it seems like BAM! we break through and we reach the promised land of week 17.

Usually what I do is let the stack of work get progressively shorter as we take the quarter's tests, starting fresh after we send the whole packet out in the mail. However, this year with Baby Sunshine due in 7 weeks, I am pushing ahead on these subjects until all the assignments are completed. So while Will is still on week 16 in history

(they put down reading the whole chapter in 1 day which is too much info to process and retain), he is on week 20 in science (bees are very interesting creatures). Mary is on week 17 in most subjects, but week 19 in history and week 20 in science.

I have tried to explain my need to get as much school finished as possible before the baby arrives, but I still hear whining, "I took the test in this already!" The only subject I haven't gotten any complaints about is Will's science text, Apologia's Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day. I am glad we chose this alternative book, we are learning lots about birds, bats, flying dinosaurs, and insects and it is presented in a Christian and colorful manner.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


is National Sanctity of Life Day:

All human life is a gift from our Creator that is sacred, unique, and worthy of protection. On National Sanctity of Human Life Day, our country recognizes that each person, including every person waiting to be born, has a special place and purpose in this world. We also underscore our dedication to heeding this message of conscience by speaking up for the weak and voiceless among us.

The most basic duty of government is to protect the life of the innocent. My Administration has been committed to building a culture of life by vigorously promoting adoption and parental notification laws, opposing Federal funding for abortions overseas, encouraging teen abstinence, and funding crisis pregnancy programs. In 2002, I was honored to sign into law the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which extends legal protection to children who survive an abortion attempt. I signed legislation in 2003 to ban the cruel practice of partial birth abortion, and that law represents our commitment to building a culture of life in America. Also, I was proud to sign the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004, which allows authorities to charge a person who causes death or injury to a child in the womb with a separate offense in addition to any charges relating to the mother.

America is a caring Nation, and our values should guide us as we harness the gifts of science. In our zeal for new treatments and cures, we must never abandon our fundamental morals. We can achieve the great breakthroughs we all seek with reverence for the gift of life.
The sanctity of life is written in the hearts of all men and women. On this day and throughout the year, we aspire to build a society in which every child is welcome in life and protected in law. We also encourage more of our fellow Americans to join our just and noble cause. History tells us that with a cause rooted in our deepest principles and appealing to the best instincts of our citizens, we will prevail.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 18, 2009, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day. I call upon all Americans to recognize this day with appropriate ceremonies and to underscore our commitment to respecting and protecting the life and dignity of every human being.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.


Saturday, January 17, 2009


Michelle of Rosetta Stone asked when she and her 6 kids came over on Wednesday for a playdate, "How do you get any sewing done?"

Yesterday afternoon while Timmy napped I let the kids loose with a box of brownie mix and Mary's EZ Bake Oven. While the kitchen looked like a bomb had gone off in a truffle factory, I was able to put another row on each side of my on-going project.

Friday, January 16, 2009

It was pretty much a given...

that the heroic pilot of Flight 1549, Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger is a military veteran. Following proper Captain protocol, he walked the plane twice to make sure no passengers were left behind before getting off himself.

I bet even the liberals on board were grateful for the tax dollars required for training Navy and Air Force pilots. May God bless all our military and retired military members this day.

it wasn't me!

A conservative mom of 5 called Rush Limbaugh the other day:

CALLER: I'm in my thirties, and I see the hypocrisy, the double standards of our government, particularly the Democrats, and it's frustrating. I do it right. You know, my husband has a good job. We didn't borrow too much money and we put 20% down on our house and now I'm told I have to sacrifice; I have to give. Well, wait a minute. My husband works hard. I work hard. We raise our family. We take care of our family. I just want the government to leave me alone. Let me raise my family.

RUSH: I agree a hundred percent, but unfortunately the American people elected somebody that doesn't want to leave you alone... They elected somebody that wants to blame people like you! ...You are in your early thirties, and you got five crumb crunchers?

CALLER: -- ...yes, five children that my husband and I could afford, we could raise. We can love. We can take care of. But to liberals, I am a terrible person....You know, the world's overpopulated, I'm contributing to global warming, and --

RUSH: ...they'll start attacking you personally. They'll start attacking the people you believe in. I mean, it's fun to do if you can keep your sanity about it, but, look, the hypocrisy...You're seeing all these double standards... There's a different set of rules for Democrats and Republicans.

I'm going to tell you why that is, Danielle. The reason why Republicans are held to higher standards is twofold, two reasons. One, they actively suggest that they have higher standards that they seek to reach and attain. At the same time, they are despised (this is the second reason) by liberals and the media precisely because they attempt to maintain standards.

The left, on the other hand, they don't talk about maintaining any standards -- behavioral, personal, or otherwise. There aren't any. Liberalism, in fact, is not based on standards. So they really can't commit ethics violations, ...But a party that maintains it has no standards -- in fact, standards are judgmental, standards are discriminatory, standards are unfair.

There are two sets of rules. Nothing's fair, and the so-called arbiter of the rules have chosen up sides, the media, and they've thrown in entirely with the Democrats.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I'm proud of my clothes shopping venue!

This article from Britain reminded me of seeing the cover of the National Enquirer when it announced, "Angela Jolie: pregnant again with twins!" Real moms know that she doesn't actually take care of all these children, her staff does that. She can still get up at 8am, take an uninterrupted shower, do a 60 minute workout with her trainer, eat a prepared breakfast, and put on her makeup without 3 children asking her, "Mommy, why are you putting goop on your face?" The only thing that Mrs. Brad Pitt does is attempt to make American mothers feel guilty for not looking as glamorous (but with no hired help).

The premise is that a aristocrat goes slumming to see what all the hubbub is about in the English equivalent of $ stores. But the message is all about class status and how one should not venture beyond one's sphere, including shopping venues. This is the exact opposite rationale in my all time favorite money books, The Millionaire Next Door. Most American millionaires drive 10 year old cars, many clip coupons, and they don't show off their money. My guess that most British bigwigs didn't actually earn their money, they inherit it and the pompous attitude comes for free.

Luckily here in America there is no social stigma from shopping at the thrift store. In fact while we were stationed in Italy the officer's wives club held a luncheon, complete with a runway modeling session showcasing all the fabulous clothes one could purchase at the on-base thrift shop they ran for charity. It was a stitch watching the Marine Brig. General's wife helping the Admiral's wife zip up the back of her dress, "Isn't this lovely, can you believe it was only $3!"

The Daily Mail on-line The daughter of Lord Wyatt and Hungarian baroness Veronica Banszky von Ambroz, she's not your average shopper.

What is a girl like me doing in a shop like this? My idea of a bargain has always been the Harvey Nichols sale, while my food has been sourced locally from Waitrose. This week, I read about a chain called Poundland...

Edmonton Green does not exactly shriek with chic. No fashionista would be caught dead in such a shopping centre. Half the shoppers look grey and sort of hopeless. The other half look like criminals.

The majority of Poundland customers are of the social class C1 and C2. Store manager Mike Fields later tells me that 'a lot of people used to look down on us, but things are changing. We have seen an increasing number of middle-class shoppers. They can't afford to look down on us now.'

I approach a middle-aged woman who looks as apprehensive as I do and is wearing a silk scarf. She says her name is Mary and she started coming here a month ago. 'The area's a bit dodgy', she whispers. 'But in this economic climate I can't afford Waitrose. I do feel there is a bit of a social stigma attached, but what can I do?'

There are more middle-class shoppers here, looking furtive, as if they'd been caught in a massage parlour. I approach one well-dressed woman and tell her I'm writing an article. 'Go away,' she hisses, holding her hand to her face.

To my astonishment, I spot a young woman wearing an expensive Emilio Pucci scarf and clutching a Louis Vuitton bag. Are things as bad as all that, I ask? Is her husband an unemployed hedge-fund manager? The young woman, who is called Elizabeth, grins. Her husband, who is dressed like a preppie, appears from the gardening tools section and looks equally amused.
'I'm not bankrupt, but I come here because it's cheap and why not save money?' he says in an American accent. 'We've just come here from the States and we don't understand this English thing about being ashamed to be in a store like this. You Brits had better change.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

educational opportunity or just a big mess?

I have never been very sympathetic with homeschooling moms who buy curriculum at the drop of a hat and then abandon it, leaving their bookshelves full of stuff they don't use (after all, that stuff is really expensive). But I do have the tendency to collect games and puzzles at the thrift store which I justify by them being both educational and fun. Who can argue against purchase of a brand new River Crossing game for the low price of $2?

We have geography games, trivia games, word games, and thinking skills games. We have wooden puzzles for the toddler set, 24 piece puzzles for the preschoolers, and 100-500 piece puzzles for the big kids. Unfortunately we only have one place to put all these boxes and if Maggie or Charlie pull at a puzzle they tend to make the stacks unstable, leading to them toppling all over the floor.

While we do play with some of these games and spend much time putting together puzzles, I wish there was a better way to organize and schedule time to play together as a family. Every so often we have movie night, but maybe we should have a regular weekly night to actually play all these wonderful learning games. Otherwise the collection is just a very colorful wall decoration.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

carnival of homeschooling

Alasandra is hosting the carnival this week with a teal theme in honor of cervical/ovarian cancer awareness month. Please keep up-to-date on your pap smears and read over the symptoms of ovarian cancer. My mother passed away in 2007 from this silent cancer, living only 6 months from diagnosis.

making a list, checking it twice

You would think that by baby #6 I wouldn't need very many clothes. As luck would have it I thought we were all finished with that part of our lives and gave away 5 bags of baby clothes (mostly girl things) 3 weeks before I found out I was pregnant again.

After last week's consumer "protection" scare I made a list of everything I could possibly need in the near future. By guessing a great deal, I figure we shell out about $800/year for outfitting 6 kids by buying used, while buying the same clothes retail would cost over $3000/year. With the possibility of this valuable piece of paper getting lost, I decided to go ahead and buy what I needed. $200 later we have only a few pairs of boots to search for and the whole crew as well as baby Sunshine are ready to be outfitted for the next 4 years.

I just really hope that the ultrasound tech was quite sure that it is a girl!

Monday, January 12, 2009

story time

this from The London Telegraph:
The poll of 3,000 British parents - by - revealed a quarter of mothers now rejected some classic fairy tales.

Sarah Pilkinton, 36, a mother-of-three from Sevenoaks, Kent, told researchers: "I loved the old fairy stories when I was growing up. I still read my children some of the classics like Sleeping Beauty and Goldilocks, but I must admit I've not read them The Gingerbread Man or Hansel and Gretel. "They are both a bit scary and I remember having difficulty sleeping after being read those ones when I was little."

Two-thirds of parents said traditional fairytales had stronger morality messages than many modern children's stories. But many said they were no longer appropriate to soothe youngsters before bed. Almost 20 per cent of adults said they refused to read Hansel and Gretel because the children were abandoned in a forest - and it may give their own sons and daughters nightmares. A fifth did not like to read The Gingerbread Man as he gets eaten by a fox.

The most popular book read at bedtime is now The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.
The simple tale, which features a greedy caterpillar eating too much food, was written in 1969.
(perhaps with the current epidemic of childhood obesity this one should be struck from the list too)
It also emerged 65 per cent of parents preferred to read their children happier tales at bedtime, such as the Mr Men, The Gruffalo and Winnie the Pooh.
Three quarters of mothers and fathers try to avoid stories which might give their children nightmares and half of all parents would not consider reading a single fairy tale to their child until they reached the age of five.

Top bedtime stories of 2008:
1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle (1969)
(okay, we have this one)
2. Mr Men, Roger Hargreaves (1971)
3. The Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson (1999)
4. Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne (1926)
(we have my childhood copy)
5. Aliens Love Underpants, Claire Freedman & Ben Cort (2007)
6. Thomas and Friends from The Railway Series, Rev.W.Awdry (1945)
7. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame (1908)
(another one from my childhood bookshelf)
8. What a Noisy Pinky Ponk!, Andrew Davenport (2008)
9. Charlie and Lola, Lauren Child (2001)
10. Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Robert Southey (1837)

Top 10 fairy tales we no longer read:
1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
2. Hansel and Gretel
3. Cinderella
4. Little Red Riding Hood
5. The Gingerbread Man
6. Jack and the Beanstalk
7. Sleeping Beauty
8. Beauty and the Beast
9. Goldilocks and the Three Bears

10. The Emperor's New Clothes

We own all 10 of these "non-read" books and have almost read them to pieces. I guess we aren't very PC or worried about scaring our little tykes. The funny thing is that I can't remember the last time any of our kids had a nightmare. Children are very observant and can tell the difference between a real story and a fairy tale. Mine are always asking, "Is this book true?" I do admit to adding commentary during some of the stories, such as in Jack and the Beanstalk, "Would you trade your cow for some magic beans? (isn't it a fairy tale ponzi scheme?) The giant's wife is pretty dumb, isn't she? (Would you let some stranger in our house?) How did the mother know that was Jack's father's magic hen? (don't all chickens look alike?) How would they get that dead giant out of there? (the smell would be pretty awful. I would think they would have to move?)" The kids giggle and we read on.

A few weeks ago the older children and the girls next door put together the play of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. They copied the text, rehearsed, made props, labeled the seats for the parents, and put on the production. It was a hit! I was amazed that 3 year old Kate could remember her lines, and they even offered refreshments after the show. I would reassure British parents that no one seemed to be frightened of bears or little girls with no manners.

If a child is never exposed to stories that have drama and heroics then they will be limited in their thinking and problem solving skills. Children also need exposure to tales in which good triumphs over evil. I urge parents of little ones to read classic fairy tales and other good stories to their children every day, for if they do, they will one day find their 8 year old huddled in the bathroom at 9pm staring at a novel.

"What are you doing? Get back in bed."

"But, I LOVE to read!"

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I would like to think...

that if we had been in that METRO station I would have had the kids sit in a circle around Joshua and just listen. A museum can wait, it will still be there next time, but to hear this is priceless.

I don't know who wrote this, but it certainly made an impact on me:

A man sat at a metro station in Washington, DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousand of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule. A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk. A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.
The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tugged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.
In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.
No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.
Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.
This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of an social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?
One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

Friday, January 09, 2009

update on Consumer Products Act

I just got off the phone with a nice lady at the Consumer Products Safety Commission and feel much more calm than I was a few days ago. Yesterday the Commission put out a bulletin that stated that used products were exempt from lead testing. So thrift stores and children's consignment stores as well as the parents who shop there are safe from closure.

However, there was still the issue of small and cottage industries such as moms who make diapers, slings, quilts, etc. from having to test every item which folks say costs between $500-$4000 per component. It seems that the onus for safety should be on the manufacturer of the fabric, leather, metal... instead of the person who uses it to make something. Why should the regulations be different for a person making a dress for themselves vs. making one to sell to their neighbor? Shouldn't the materials be safe for all?

So after expressing these concerns to the Commission's staff member she stated that they will be issuing more clarifications and exemptions in regards to these very citizens. She said she couldn't tell me to ignore the law, but she said that they will be focusing their efforts on those products that pose the greatest risk and I should "read between the lines."

So... it seems that we won one small battle for American families and small businesses, but we must be constantly vigilant, since there seems to be ever more pushing for Brave New World policies in our nation.

grammar police again

effect: a noun that means "as a result of"
affect: a verb that mean "to cause"

advice: a noun that means "suggestion to another"
advise: a verb that means "to give a suggestion"

Please, homeschooling mothers look uneducated and incapable of teaching even 6 year olds if they can't distinguish between a noun and a verb. And don't even get me started on using "I or me" and "good or well."

Thursday, January 08, 2009

playing nicely together

The children are down in the dark, cold basement playing with an assortment of rope, clothes hangers, an old treadle sewing machine base, and lots of empty boxes.

"Get ready to dive!!"

"Four degrees down!"

"What are you playing?" Mary asks as she descends the stairs after practicing her Gregorian chant.


"Cool, I wanna be Captain Nemo!"

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

no more thrift shop bargains??

Barring a reprieve, regulations set to take effect next month could force thousands of clothing retailers and thrift stores to throw away trunkloads of children's clothing. The law, aimed at keeping lead-filled merchandise away from children, mandates that all products sold for those age 12 and younger -- including clothing -- be tested for lead (which apparently costs between $20,000-$50,000) and phthalates. Those that haven't been tested will be considered hazardous, regardless of whether they actually contain lead.

"They'll all have to go to the landfill," (millions of pounds of perfectly good clothing will fill up already strained landfills) said Adele Meyer, executive director of the National Assn. of Resale and Thrift Shops.The new regulations take effect Feb. 10 under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which was passed by Congress last year in response to widespread recalls of products that posed a threat to children, including toys made with lead or lead-based paint.
Among the most vocal critics to emerge in recent weeks are U.S.-based makers of handcrafted toys and handmade clothes, (think of the thousands of moms who make clothes, quilts, diapers, sweaters, hats, etc. who will lose their businesses) as well as thrift (think of the millions of dollars that goes to charity each year that will be lost) and consignment shops that sell children's clothing (just what we need during a recession, more people forced out of work)." We will have to lock our doors and file for bankruptcy," said Shauna Sloan, founder of Salt Lake City-based franchise Kid to Kid, which sells used children's clothing in 75 stores across the country and had planned to open a store in Santa Clara, Calif., this year. (apparently this law also includes yard sales)

Stephen Lamar, executive vice president of the American Apparel and Footwear Assn. "The law introduces an extraordinarily large number of testing requirements for products for which everyone knows there is no lead," he said.

The regulations also apply to new clothing. That won't be a problem for large manufacturers and retailers, (makes you wonder who was pushing for this? Walmart and Target who would be the only place for parents to buy reasonably priced, though shabbily made and immodest clothing) industry experts say, but it will be a headache for small operators such as Molly Orr, owner of Molly O Designs in Las Vegas. Orr has already produced her spring line of children's clothes. She says she can't afford the $50,000 it would cost to have a private lab test her clothing line, so she's trying to sell her inventory at a steep discount before Feb. 10. After that, she is preparing to close her business.

Thrift store owners say,"We really provide a service to the community to help people get clothes for their children they otherwise couldn't afford." (with millions having lost their homes and jobs people are having a hard time putting food on the table, now Congress is asking them to shell out thousands of dollars they don't have to dress their kids in new clothes) (One owner) plans to contact her congressional representatives and senators to ask them to amend the law but says there's not enough awareness about the repercussions of the law to force anything to change.

Many retailers and thrift stores appear to be unaware that the law is changing. Of half a dozen Southern California children's thrift stores contacted by The Times, only one had heard of the law. LA Times

I called my Senators and Congressman to complain voraciously about this Consumer Products Safety Improvement (hah!) Act, how it is anti-family and anti-child. It in effect criminalizes the only way to clothe our children for a reasonable cost. I hope and pray that enough parents find out about this law and complain enough to get it recalled in some fashion, but just in case I have made a master list of clothes my kids will need for the next 5 years and will be hitting the thrift store multiple times between now and February 10 to stock up on shorts, shirts, and those all-important-in-Maine winter coats while it is still legal.

update 1/9/09: The new law requires that domestic manufacturers and importers certify that children’s products made after February 10 meet all the new safety standards and the lead ban. Sellers of used children’s products, such as thrift stores and consignment stores, are not required to certify that those products meet the new lead limits, phthalates standard or new toy standards.
The new safety law does not require resellers to test children’s products in inventory for compliance with the lead limit before they are sold.

We are safe, but it doesn't mention home-based businesses.

dropping new teachers into a war zone

Recently I finished the book Relentless Pursuit, A Year in the Trenches with Teach for America by Donna Foote. It describes a school year from the perspective of 4 college graduates who have volunteered to teach in an inner-city high school in Los Angeles, CA. If ever a parent has doubts about the merits of homeschooling, they should read this book and be grateful for the opportunity to teach their own children in a safe, clean, disciplined environment.

The imagery of what daily life was like brought bad unpleasant memories of my "student teaching" experience, which was a cheap version of TFA. I was paid a meager amount of money, most of which went for classroom supplies, to teach in a slightly safer version of Locke High in downtown Norfolk, VA. The same uninterested student body, the same unsupportive administration, and the same lack of assistance in lesson planning mimicked the experience of these fresh recruits in the fight to reform poor school districts.

After my first day of being shown where the teacher's lounge and restroom were, I was left in an empty room with no idea how to start teaching 60 incoming 6th graders reading and history. As I had been substitute teaching in the suburbs for several years I was deemed qualified to be on my own, but I had always been given lesson plans, and given weeks in class to prepare the simplest lesson. Not only did I not know where to start helping children improve their reading when the class ranged from 1st to 5th grade levels, the books available in class sets were dull, politically correct drivel. At least for history I was given textbooks, but not the Virginia Standards of Learning that were supposed to be followed and posted every morning.

The entire endeavor was an exercise in frustration and failure. I never left the stage of being utterly overwhelmed shown by all 4 TFA newbies in the first few months of their school year. I did see signs of the TFA organization recognizing and addressing the lack of preparation and assistance to future teachers in Relentless Pursuit. As for my experience I was "medically boarded" out after several months when I kept threatening miscarriage every time I stepped foot back in the door at my school. A few years later I decided that my baby, born 7 months later, was never again going into a public school classroom. He has been homeschooled along with 2 of his younger sisters and I have found that I make a much better prepared and calmer homeschooling teacher than a recruit in improving disadvantaged schools.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

carnival of homeschooling

The very large 3rd anniversary edition of the carnival is up at Why Homeschool.

Monday, January 05, 2009

I wasn't going anyway...

No strollers near the Capitol, ( and no diaper bags, no backpacks or no chairs) ...while many people say the inconvenience is a small price to pay to witness the swearing-in of the nation's first black president, others are scratching their heads, trying to figure out how they will sit, snack, carry diapers or transport tired tots.

Parenting blogs are abuzz with complaints about the less-than-kid-friendly restrictions. Thermoses, coolers and backpacks are out at both the Capitol and the parade route.
"Of course, they're not going to say, 'no children,'" said Sunny Chanel, a San Francisco-based contributor to, a parenting Web site. "But they're definitely not making it easy for parents with smaller children to go."

...some people are worried about packed Metro trains now that officials are sounding warnings. Metro has said its bathrooms will be closed for security. The option left for parents wanting to change stinky diapers? Hundreds of portable toilets that the transit system and park officials are providing downtown.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

happy boy

While there have been moments of the famous "terrible twos" with Baby Timmy, I am constantly amazed by his cheerful attitude and willing spirit. Rarely now does he need to be hauled out of Mass (well... today he spent almost the whole time in the vestibule), he clasps his hands when we say Grace before meals, and after I gave him a sippy cup of apple juice and a baggie of Kix cereal and asked, "Are you happy?" he responded, "Yeth." He willingly plays along with the older children's game of "where is ___?" and points to the right body part or the right person, even pointing to my tummy when he is asked, "Where is Baby Sunshine?" He even tries to play the piano rather than banging at the keys, so it is obvious that Timmy is the perfect toddler.

I am so grateful for this little walking and lisping ray of cheer in our home and pray that he keeps his sunny attitude all the days of his life.

Friday, January 02, 2009

the tax increase is beginning

Oregon is among a growing number of states exploring ways to tax drivers based on the number of miles they drive instead of how much gas they use, even going so far as to install GPS monitoring devices in 300 vehicles. The idea first emerged nearly 10 years ago as Oregon lawmakers worried that fuel-efficient cars such as gas-electric hybrids could pose a threat to road upkeep, which is paid for largely with gasoline taxes.

Who would get hardest hit by a change from taxing gas by the gallon to taxing mileage? Hybrid owners. Those who bought little tincan cars that get 60 mph. Who would benefit? Service industries that drive gas-guzzling trucks such as electricians, plumbers, cleaners, not to mention those who drive big-mama vans that only get 13 mph. That is the only thing positive about this road-tax tinkering politicians seem to be engaging in these days.

I really don't like the gradual elimination of individual privacy from our government. I don't want them to have any more of my personal information than they absolutely have to know. I don't want them knowing where I am driving, how fast I am going, even how many trips I make to the library. This issue is being raised by lawmakers in many states in reference to the Real ID program, which would create a national ID card and allow the government to track every citizen.

Critics also claim that Real ID diminishes privacy, and they object to a national ID that would have to be shown for everyday identification purposes.
"Certainly people should be identified by high standards when that's called for, but it's not called for when you're going to buy beer," said Jim Harper, director of information policy studies for the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.
"If we're going to have our identity recorded every time we buy beer or use a credit card or buy gas, that turns into one big surveillance system," he said.

I can only see malicious things coming from it. Remember the use of information to smear Joe the Plumber??

And do you thing that somehow states could accomplish this without increasing road use taxes 50%-100%? They are already working on that.

Motorists are driving less and buying less gasoline, which means fuel taxes aren't raising enough money to keep pace with the cost of road, bridge and transit programs.
A federal commission created by Congress to find a way to make up the growing revenue shortfall in the program that funds highway repairs and construction is talking about increasing federal gas and diesel taxes.
A roughly 50 percent increase in gasoline and diesel fuel taxes is being urged by the commission until the government devises another way for motorists to pay for using public roads.

Didn't the government ask us to use less gas and buy more fuel efficient cars? So now that many Americans did, the feds complain because the tax money isn't flowing in as fast to the treasury. North Carolina did the same thing last year during the severe drought. The counties asked people to reduce their water consumption by 40% as some areas were at risk of completely running out, but then the pencil-pushers in Raleigh decided to raise rates to make up for the shortfall in tax revenue.

girl's afternoon out

Yesterday after 8am Mass (the heat was out and it was COLD) Mary and I went up to Rockville to pick up my new sewing machine and get some fabric for the new king size quilt I am working on. It is going to look like this one I made for our bed,
just in reds and whites, rather than the blues. Afterwards we went next door to La Madeleine's for lunch and sat next to the fireplace nibbling on salad and a luscious sandwich, followed by a chocolate croissant.

I don't know if it is good or bad that I didn't buy enough fabric and have to go back for another 1/2 yard. The lure of another good lunch might be too much to resist.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

I hadn't laughed so hard in weeks...

as when I read this story about the LA liposuction doctor who was powering his and his girlfriend's SUVs on fat he sucked out of his patient's bellies. Tim thinks it is the grossest thing he has heard in a long time, but I think it was pretty clever.