Thursday, December 30, 2010

teaching another child to quilt

One of the benefits of homeschooling is having free time to work with each child on subjects that are dear to us. Tim has been able to instill in the boys an interest in antique cars and the space program, and both boys love building model cars and airplanes without fear of being taunted by peers for being "weird." Both older girls have developed an desire to run in road races with me, especially ones that offer prizes (their mother is super-competitive in such things). Both Will and Mary have helped me piece quilts in the past and made each other gifts from my scrap bag and now it seems that it is 8 year old Maggie's turn to learn to follow Mommy's footsteps.

This week with no school on the schedule for the little ones, we have had plenty of opportunity to sew and press blocks on a new top I am making for our bed. I really like the lap quilt I made last year with a flannel backing, it is incredibly warm and fuzzy, but certainly not big enough to cover a king-size bed. This new project is very ambitious with 81 stars of various blue fabrics on a white muslin backgroud. In just a few days we have gone from a smattering of 6" squares on the carpet to 32 pieced stars because of Maggie's help.

Yes, I have to stand beside her and lay the pieces under the presser foot exactly to ensure a 1/4" seam and it does take time to pick out some of her seams, but she is learning. In time perhaps she will make this her hobby for life, one in which she can express herself artistically and keep her family warm at the same time.  

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

carnival of homeschooling

Janice Cambell is hosting the carnival this week with a Making Time For Things That Matter theme.

Carnival of Homeschooling

wintery weather

Yet again I am so grateful for the purchase I made last year about 2 weeks before the DC Blizzard of '10. Our 40" of snow was easy to shovel off the driveway (I had to do it alone as Tim and the children were sick with the stomach crud) with my brand new, super-duper yellow snow shovel. I only bought the thing to have my purchases qualify for free shipping, but it has been a blessing, not only to our family, but to several of the neighbors here who borrowed it to clear off their own driveways.

It started snowing Christmas night and by the time St. Stephen's feast day was coming to an end we had about 11" of snow on the ground. Tim had to venture out in the Jeep to the storage unit to retrieve the children's snowsuits (who would have thought?) so they could get out and explore. Other than a trip to the grocery, we haven't gone anywhere. Now the roads are are combination of slick ice and dry patches our van is still safely parked in front of the house. I did go running yesterday for the first time in 4 days, but I should have waited until today, worrying I'm going to be hit by a skidding car at the same time trying to avoid ice patches is not much fun, though it did get my heart rate up. The kids did have fun as these pictures can attest.

Monday, December 27, 2010

another milestone reached

Yesterday morning I stepped onto the scale and found that after many long months of running faithfully, I have finally gotten back down to my pre-Timmy weight. My size 6 jeans I had stored in the closet fit well in the morning, but are a little too tight by 6pm. It was such a lovely feeling to see those magic numbers on the scale that I let out a huge, "Whooooo!" and scared Tim so much that he came running. "What's wrong??"

What a lovely Christmas present to be able to fit in some of the clothes I have had packed away for 5 years. Luckily grey and black wool never go out of style.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

are parents of large families selfish?

My grandmother is the youngest of 5 siblings born between 1910 and 1922. The brothers and sisters have all lived in the same small city for most of their lives and have been best friends for 60+ years. Genealogy has been a hobby of many an ancestor so we were all steeped in family lore and family charts dating back to the first family member to step foot in Virginia around 1632. Every Christmas season for 35 years the clan has hosted traditions such as decorating graves at the cemetery, taking bags of gifts to each other's homes in a sort of moving open house party and culminating with a party at noon on Christmas Day. I have group family photos of every Christmas since I was 8 and it is amusing to see various hair and fashion styles as well as remember great aunties and uncles who have passed away.

This is a very educated bunch, every person over the age of 20 has a college degree so they can all count and use logic. Each of the 5 "greatest generation" siblings had 2 or 3 children and about 1/2 of the baby boomers had children, none more than 2. So far there are 13 children in the 4th generation and 6 of them are mine. One of the reasons I wanted a large family of my own was due to a desire to emulate my grandmother's close familial bonds. So it seemed that this was the last place I would hear grief about my family size. 

Yesterday, at the annual party, while Tim was holding a sleeping baby and resting his eyes he overheard some unidentified boomer say, "It is selfish to have more than 2 children." That statement has filled me with hurt in a way that no stranger's rude comment could. After all, if their grandparents had limited their offspring to 2 more than half the people at the gathering yesterday would not exist (including myself) or not be included. It is very likely that the deceased in the graveyard would not have their annual gift of beer or cookie, and the other traditions that gave given us all such a sense of continuity and pride would not exist.

I also find that logic seems to escape this person's thought. If Tim and were selfish we would have limited our family size and been able to have free time and more toys. I don't "lunch" with the ladies, I teach my children at home. Tim doesn't have a sailboat like he used to, instead he spends his time teaching Will his math and taking the boys to Scouts. Our disposable cash is spent on piano and dance lessons, not the latest electronic gizmo. I'm sure the last time either of us slept past 7 am was over 10 years ago. So, I would not describe anyone who has 3 or more children as focusing on their own comfort. I might be selfish for wanting a Christmas filled with a plethora of family members, all grateful for each other but I wouldn't consider it a sin worthy of public chastizement.       

Thursday, December 23, 2010

what's wrong with dessert?

I think I would keel over dead in a day or so if I didn't have sugar to prop me up: hot cocoa (chai tea did horrible things to my tummy) in the morning to get me going, a Coca-cola after my run to cool me down and not let me take a nap, and a mid afternoon snack to propel me through until dinner. But the powers that be in St. Paul, MN; a panel of parents, teachers, school nurses and administrators have taken it on themselves to deem the city's public schools "sweet free zones." Dessert and salty treats are banned from the buildings in much the same way we saw school declared drug free and gun free areas in the 1980's and '90's. (Did that work so well? Say, at my alma mater, Virginia Tech?)

I think the student quoted has a much more clear concept of personal freedom than the grownups who have restricted their own food intake to somehow reduce the number of fat children.

"All my friends say, 'This really sucks,'" said Misky Salad, a 10-year-old fifth-grader at Chelsea Heights Elementary. "A lot of us feel it should be up to us to determine what we should do with our bodies."

Superintendent Valeria Silva, who was hired a year ago, decided to take action after a study determined 40 percent of St. Paul's fourth-graders, most of whom are poor and minority, are obese. That's 11 percent higher than the national rate. Star Tribune

My vote is to have the 1st graders go to Superintendent Silva's home, as well as everyone on the wellness panel who thought this up and raid their fridges and pantries. Take out everything that could possibly be "dangerous" food items such as coffee (stunts your growth), sugar, oil, chocolate, chips, soda, liquor, cigarettes, matches, white flour, soy, salt... and give those who deem it "responsible" to dictate what goes in the mouth of others a taste of their own medicine. 

As I have written many times on this blog, there seem to be very few fat homeschoolers. I don't know why, but perhaps it is because those who want the best for their children take on the responsibility for both their education and health, rather than foist it off on some government entity or that homeschoolers spend more time doing active things than sitting in a desk all day. One reason is not that homeschoolers are denied the opportunity to eat a little something sweet after their lunch.  

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


The last few days before Christmas are so empty of activities it seems unreal, no piano, no violin, no Scouts, no dance. If it wasn't for the strange feeling I have of being behind then I could actually relax and appreciate the fact that all the gifts are bought, most are wrapped, and the only things on the schedule are a trip to the cemetery to decorate graves on Christmas Eve and Mass followed by the family party on Christmas Day.

Of course the little children are ahead in their studies, Charlie is finished with 1st grade history and 1/2 way through religion, even though he isn't even officially enrolled in 1st grade yet. Mary has 1 more paragraph to write for her last 5th grade book report, and Maggie is so far ahead in her studies that she is likely to graduate at the age of 14 at this rate.

Will, on the other hand, has only written a vague outline for his book report that I need finished by January 3 and he has wiggled out of a complicated English assignment 2 days in a row. So, if I could put all the other children on ice for a week or so and work with my 12 year old 8 hours a day I would allow myself to feel sufficiently ahead enough to take a little eggnog break. But since that isn't going to happen, I better go downstairs, turn off the electric train, and march my crew up to the schoolroom to get to work.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Homeschoolers 12 days of Christmas

Welcome to the Carnival of Homeschooling! With only a few days left before Christmas, I thought I would take the opportunity to help share what our family and many others are doing to prepare for December 25th. There is on youtube a large family 12 days of Christmas and a public school 12 days of winter version (thanks CMR!).

On the 12th day of Christmas, our homeschooling family is reading books together...
because homeschoolers do this every day! On the first Sunday of Advent I gather all our Christmas books and put them on the coffee table so we can read a few every day

nak presents an in depth post featuring the songs and books about Good King Wenceslas posted at Sage Parnassus.

Karen presents some tips on teaching your children to read aloud in A Lost Art and Why It Matters posted at Candid Diversions.

Jenn at Home Is Where You Start From branched out from the Sonlight history curriculum with books and websites in Knights and Medieval History-Learning Without School.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word shares some great Christmas books and crafts in Christmas around the World: Mexico posted at Hope Is the Word.

Annie Kate presents a common homeschool problem in Too Many Books and a Lot of Learning posted at Tea Time with Annie Kate. (with our 10 bookcases of children's books, I can relate!)

On the 11th day of Christmas, our homeschooling family is building snowmen...
because homeschoolers don't have snow days, just recess. This is the earliest snow here in Virginia that I can recall (though I remember many a Christmas Eve wearing short sleeves) so the children have already made snow forts in both the front and back yards.

Steven gives a response to parents who think bullying in public school builds character in Are we depriving our homeschooled children? posted at Hudson Valley Geologist. Hey, what do you think happened after the boys built that snow fort? Snowball fight!

ChristineMM's son combined dry ice and LEGOS to learn in Son's Self-Initiated Science Experiment posted at The Thinking Mother.

Annette teaches her son about animals, such as arctic hares changing their winter fur white in Creation Camouflage - DNG Review and Contest posted at A Net in Time.

On the 10th day of Christmas, our homeschooling family is shopping with mom... 
because homeschooling moms don't have the luxury of being able to shop without some of the kids in tow. Luckily mine can keep secrets so they don't tell what the other ones are getting.

Barbara writes about job skills that really matter in our homeschool graduates (just today I saw the cashier at KMart texting while ringing up purchases) in Our kid's competition for future jobs at Barbara Frank Online.

Alejandra presents The Best Christmas Gift posted at A Guide to Raising Great Kids.

Janine at Why Homeschool shares her family's struggle with how to squeeze in exercise in We have a new PE program.

On the 9th day of Christmas, our homeschooling family is singing carols...
I try to play our holiday CDs in the car all of December. I found some very nice Christmas music on piano CDs at the dollar store last week. 

Cheryl at Chrysalis Academy shares with us her lovely story of their homeschool journey in Why Homeschooling?

Mrs. White gives us a glimpse of  her home in The Little School at Home posted at The Legacy of Home.

On the 8th day of Christmas, our homeschooling family is cleaning the house...
So we can host family and friends without them calling child protective services. (just kidding since I vacuum almost every day)

Michelle is cleaning up the carpet after one of her 6 kids spill juice in My work is never done at Rosetta Stone

On the 7th day of Christmas, our homeschooling family is lighting the advent wreath...
Our family's tradition is that the children take turns lighting the candles and blowing them out each evening when we say prayers. It is so sweet to see Mary holding her baby sister and letting Julia Ellen blow some out.

Maureen gives us a lesson in the gifts from the Wise Men in Studying Frankincense and Myrrh posted at Homeschool Mo.

On the 6th day of Christmas, our homeschooling family is wrapping presents...
It is so sweet to see the older children buying (with their own money) and carefully wrapping gifts for their siblings. I think they have as much fun picking them out and cutting ribbon as they do opening their own presents.

Jessica helps us to think about presents to those less fortunate than ourselves in The Gift of Giving posted at Teachable Moments.

On the 5th day of Christmas, our homeschooling family is working math problems...
I take the days between Christmas and New Years to help the children get some of the more time consuming assignments completed, such as book reports. Yeah, all the public school kids have 2 weeks off, but I tell them, "some homeschoolers do school year-round, so stop complaining!" 

Marlis presents a great and cheap way to teach little ones their numbers in Early Childhood Math Concept posted at The Itchy Homeschooler.

Alasandra tell us that homeschoolers are unique in the reasons they teach at home in Homeschool is not religious undertaking it is an educational choice at Alesandra's Homeschool Blog.

Linda shares her family's homeschool journey in You Can Help Your Child Learn: The Learning Coach Approach posted at PARENT AT THE HELM.

Jamie presents her reasons for homeschooling in Changing the Game - Blogs - Parent Community and Forum posted at Homeschool Online.

On the 4th day of Christmas, our homeschooling family is making crafts...
Paper snowflakes, cotton ball ornaments to really elaborate sculpted clay creches (I'm not saying we do any of these crafts, but I do know that other homeschoolers do).

Shay shares Homeschooling Revisited, her take on what homeschooling is really like as opposed to what she expected at Wonderfully Chaotic.

Carletta gives us some fun ideas with little ones in Last-Minute Christmas Crafts at Successful Homeschooling.

Phyllis Bergenholtz shares an art lesson with her boys in All Things Beautiful: Flexibility or Connecting to the Now posted at All Things Beautiful.

On the 3rd day of Christmas, our homeschooling family is baking cookies...
Our family takes several days off from school and bakes many kinds of cookies to send to relatives. Of course there are plenty left over for us.

Pamela turns baking bread into a homeschool lesson in Flour, Water, Salt, and Yeast posted at Blah, Blah, Blog.

Jennifer in OR was successful in organizing a group craft in Gingerbread...hut? posted at Diary of 1. (we actually attempted graham cracker houses this summer in Maine, our efforts without the proper kind of "glue" were not pretty... but tasty.)

On the 2nd day of Christmas, our homeschooling family is decorating the tree...
Perhaps with all those ornaments the children made during craft time?

Alejandra shows us how to get along better with those family members in Seeing The Good in Others: a necessary daily struggle posted at A Guide to Raising Great Kids.

Cristina gives us a glimpse of what her tree decorating (and ours to be honest) is really like in Home Spun reprints #296-8: Christmas Decorating 2008 posted at Home Spun Juggling.

Rachel Lynette presents Christmas Analogy Fun posted at Minds in Bloom.

On the 1st day of Christmas, our homeschooling family is setting up the nativity scene...
Tradition has it that Mary and Joseph take one step each day during Advent toward the stable and that the youngest child puts the baby Jesus in the manger late on Christmas Eve.

On a very sad note I regret to share the loss of Mattias, Dana's at Rosecommon Acres little boy. Our hearts grieve and our prayers go out to her family.

Merry Christmas from our homeschooling family to yours!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

carnival of homeschooling coming up

I am hosting the carnival next Tuesday so please submit any posts you have about homeschooling, Christmas, and what your family is doing this week to prepare would be appreciated. You can email me directly (see sidebar)or use the carnival submission form here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

baking days

In order to have a variety of cookies to send to all the aunties (and one lucky blog reader to whom I owe a certain item) for their Christmas gift, we have taken several days to put aside most of our schoolwork and mix and bake. This year we stuck with some old favorites and added some new ones, with mixed results. The almond macaroon recipe called for way too much egg white so we had to send Tim to the store to buy another 2lbs of confectioners sugar to absorb all the extra liquid. After 4 batches that spread out too much and stuck to the cookie sheet, I used that parchment paper that was waaaay back in the pantry and then we finally experienced success. The kitchen was covered in flour and powdered sugar, but with a little help from my 6 elves, we had the place spic and span before their daddy got home.  

 A selection of our sweet treats for your enjoyment:

In case you are one of the lucky recipients of our efforts, please note that these are NOT prepackaged cookies that someone in our family passed off as homemade, but the product of 3 days of work. All the children helped, some more than others, and all of them washed their grubby little paws beforehand.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas pagent

The Saints come to the Manger pageant was a phenomenal success, especially the portrayal of St. Nicholas by Father Burne. Even Timmy caught the gist, "Be good for your parents and don't beat up your brothers and sisters, follow the Commandments and you shall receive toys and cookies." The boys were very convincing shepherds with Timmy cradling a stuffed puppy and a lamb, while the girls made very beautiful Saints. After Benediction the children were rewarded with candy canes, which the boys flipped over and over all the way home, "J for Jesus, and a shepherds cane, J for Jesus and..." I am so grateful that our family has the opportunity to participate in such a lovely pageant again after a 3 year hiatus and learn about their Catholic history at the same time.

Let me add that I'm glad that the pageant was yesterday, I looked out the window and found that it is snowing. Today is baking day when we made Christmas cookies until the scent of sugar and spice permeates out all the doors and windows.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

what a long, long day

I work the girls up at 6:45am so we could be up and downtown before their 1 mile race began and my 5K race started. It was very cold, especially with the wind coming off the water, but Maggie insisted on running in just a long sleeve shirt, no jacket. The chill must have made her run faster and she finished 5th with a time of 7:35. Her older sister crossed the finish line 15 seconds later. They then cheered me on as I claimed a personal adult best with a chip time of 22:54 (2nd place age group finish). (I got an email 2 days later that there was a chip error and I actually placed 1st) We stopped by the library before swinging by home to pick up the checkbook and measure our ceiling, and then picked out the first Christmas tree we saw at the lot. 

But everything hit the brakes when after putting the tree up, fighting the shopping hordes while going to the store for functioning lights, and decorating the entire thing, the tree fell over, breaking ornaments and spilling over a gallon of water on the carpet. Two hours later the tree is back up with the stand screws in much deeper and tied to the wall- that sucker is not going anywhere now. I still had to sew and glue costumes, but the children are finally all ready for the Christmas pagent tomorrow. Mary is Saint Adelaide, Maggie is Saint Margaret of Scotland, and the little boys are shepherds.

I'm about as tired as one can be while still able to stand so while the children and their father watch A Christmas Carol, I'm likely to read for about 3 minutes before crashing for the night.     

Thursday, December 09, 2010

baby Houdini

Julia Ellen has taken to propelling herself out of her crib and wandering about the house in the middle of the night. We haven't gotten a good night's sleep in weeks. The only thing that worked to get her to take a nap yesterday was putting the babygate across her door frame so she couldn't escape the room, after 30 minutes of frustrated crying she fell asleep on the floor in front of her crib. I have never had a child this agile or determined not to sleep, all the rest were in toddler beds by now and stayed in it for naps and night. My first plan of attack is the babyproof door knob cover so she will stay in the room and if that fails (waking up Mary and Maggie or destroying their things) then I guess I will have to get a tent that traps her in the crib like a wild animal in a cage.

Is this a cruel practical joke, 5 children you can't get out of bed with a crowbar and 1 very loud and squirmy night owl? 

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

it's beginning to look like a Walmart-free Christmas

I don't like crowds so I don't take the children to events like parades (except in Maine, there doesn't seem to be such a thing as a crowd there) or amusement parks. We certainly avoid going anywhere that sells retail on the day after Thanksgiving. Perhaps it is because I'm getting older or the fact that Walmart contributes 8% to our trade deficit with China, but I just don't have any desire to even look for a parking spot in front of America's largest retailer. Now I have an even bigger reason after reading the headlines on Drudge:

WASHINGTON -- Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today announced the expansion of the Department’s national “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign to hundreds of Walmart stores across the country—launching a new partnership between DHS and Walmart to help the American public play an active role in ensuring the safety and security of our nation.

While we were living just outside of DC I always had the feeling that Big Brother was constantly watching due to the preponderance of police, multiple cameras watching our every move, and nanny-state types ready to call the cops if the children play in the front yard unsupervised seems to be spreading across our country. Big Sis wants us to spy on our neighbors and report any "suspicious activity" to the authorities. I keep thinking that one day the American people are going to realize that our government has crossed the line and put a stop to this sort of intrusiveness in our lives, but it hasn't happened yet. Instead of figuring out who the bad guys are by profiling, the Obama regime wants to treat all citizens like criminals who need to have a close eye on them.   

Monday, December 06, 2010

all God's children are unique

Yesterday afternoon the three older children were in their music school's Christmas recital. It seems that every day someone tells me, "Your children all look so much alike," but it struck me during the performance how emotionally they are so different. Maggie eagerly practiced The Mermaid by Faber over and over from the time we got home from Mass to the moment we got in the van. I was thoroughly sick of listening to it, but she performed it flawlessly and sported a huge grin before practically skipping back down the aisle. Mary practiced The Queen's Harpsichord by George as few times as possible beforehand and was so nervous before she walked up to the grand piano that she refused to sit with us and had a blotchy face from a sudden crying nervous spell. She only hesitated one time during her performance and escaped from the sight of strangers as soon as possible. Will practiced Jingle Bells by Pierpont enough to know he could play it at a normal speed (his teacher constantly has to urge him to slow down from warp speed) and played it flawlessly, but I was disappointed by the slight scowl on his face during the walk back to his seat.

Of course the other three children are each different in personality as well, keeping me on my toes to encourage and discipline each one in a way that is effective. This is the biggest challenge in raising and homeschooling a large brood, what works for one child doesn't necessarily work for another and each requires an intimate knowledge to attempt to help them grow into saints. Our efforts sometimes are lacking, but in realizing that each child is a unique soul is the first step in achieving success.  

Thursday, December 02, 2010

wanting to give is a gift

This is the first Advent that I can recall every child clamoring (well, except for the baby) to buy each other presents with their own money. Maggie gently cradled her piggy bank in her arms as we walked into Michael's where she refused my crafty idea of buying large letters and painting them for her sister's wall, but instead used a 40% off coupon (we keep a stash of them in the van) to purchase a black velvet coloring poster with unicorns. Mary bought all her siblings enormous bars of chocolate, and Will found army men at the dollar store for his little brothers. But Charlie was the sweetest of them all when he wrapped up one of his stuffed animals and enclosed $1 on top for his oldest sister.

This spirit of loving and selflessness is one I treasure and what I hope will bloom into many acts of love and mercy for one another their entire lives. Sisters helping sisters with new babies, brothers giving each other a hand in friendship. A tiny glimpse of perfection in the daily grind of changing nasty nappies and correcting children is sometimes all that is needed to give one the purpose to continue on.

Monday, November 29, 2010

first phrase

The children and I have been playing the fun "identify the body part" game with Julia Ellen. If a person mentions aloud, say, "head" then she pats her top, so we go faster and faster to confuse the poor child. The other amusing activity is for everyone to say, "Thank you" after a meal and she attempts to repeat it by saying, "Ank ooow."

I know it won't be long before she is screaming, "Mommy, I want..." so I better enjoy this phase while I can. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

With most of the children still snug in their beds (oh, that's next month), I drove up to the Mariner's Museum to run a 5K Turkey Trot, but left before awards were given out (I had to get our turkey in the oven). I do know that I can't manage to get below 24 minutes, no matter how hard I run, and I was the 17th woman to finish (I counted heads at the turn around point). So I was absolutely famished for dinner, which was served at 2pm. Even though the children were only allowed one piece of plain toast all day, they still, for the most part, turned up their noses at my lovely meal. Most children would be gorging on sweet potato muffins, homemade stuffing, perfect mashed potatoes, and juicy turkey with gravy as well as the veggies, but not this picky bunch.

If I played as much as they did I would be so hungry that I would willingly eat the roasted leg of a musk ox, but they all seem to survive. The debate of the day is whether pumpkin pie will be offered to all or just the ones who managed to choke down some turkey and stuffing.    

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I got scanned today

This afternoon I hauled some of the children to the Navy Hospital and got my first mammogram. Since my grandmother has had breast cancer and my mother died of ovarian cancer, I've been a little stressed out over getting some variety of cancer myself and leaving Tim to raise 6 children alone. But, after enduring smushed bosoms, I got to see the images and didn't detect any glaring abnormalities. I have great faith in the protective power of nursing since studies show a 10% decrease in risk (pre-menopausal) of breast cancer for every year of breastfeeding. I have nursed a total of almost 8 years, so my risk should be pretty close to zero.

Yeah, you thought I went through the TSA harassment at the airport, didn't you? After doing umpteen trans-Atlantic flights with infants and toddlers, the airline would have to pay me a lot of $$ to get me on a airplane.

baking day

The day before Thanksgiving is always filled with pans clattering, flour drifting through the air, and the smoke alarm going off at least one time. The kids will do a minimum of schoolwork so we can prepare for the big feast tomorrow. Tiny sweet potato muffins, pumpkin pie, mashed potato, green bean casserole, and stuffing will all be sitting in the fridge in the morning, leaving the oven free for the turkey. Prepping allows my stress level to not go out of control since I am not a good cook, especially under time pressure.

One of the other good reasons to prepare a day early is that I signed up for a 5K Turkey Trot at 8:30am on Thursday. Fitting this event into an already busy day might seem counterproductive, but I certainly won't feel any guilt about going back for seconds! 

Monday, November 22, 2010

musical events

In addition to the children's music lessons, I want to expose them to listening to live music, but even cheap tickets end up costing too much with 7 of us attending a performance. After reading the local paper I learned that some of the churches downtown offer a variety of classical music once a month from handbells to choir. Today we got most of the schoolwork completed before we heading out to hear a pianist and violinist give an hour long free concert. The violinist wouldn't have earned a spot in the Virginia Philharmonic, but the children did learn that playing a stringed instrument is far more difficult than the piano. I ended up standing in the back with the little children, but since it doesn't seem fair to the older ones to miss out on all cultural experiences because they have a host of younger siblings we just do the best we can. To reward everyone's cooperativeness, we stopped at Pizza Hut for a couple of free pizzas through the Book It! program and had a picnic in the park.   

Saturday, November 20, 2010

benefit of homeschooling #468

A principal in New York state is in trouble for going into the home of some truant students and asking them to get out of bed and go to school. The principal of our school (Tim) goes into the boy's bedroom every weekday morning and wakes up our 12 year old to get him going before leaving for work. I guess we better not let Will see this article, or he might be thinking of pressing charges.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

reason # 568

Will went on a 4 day field trip/service project to Philadelphia with his Boy Scout troop, the itinerary was jam-packed with touristy trips to the home of Betsy Ross, the US Mint, Independence Hall...

The only information I have been able to extract out of my normally talkative boy is how uncomfortable the beds were at their Scout campground. Why am I harboring the thought that the event was conducted like a typical school field trip and they hustled through each site, never stopping for more than 5 minutes, and certainly not absorbing any historical knowledge?  

carnival of homeschooling

Nerd Family is hosting this week's carnival with an Open House theme, go check it out!

Monday, November 15, 2010

on your mark, get set...for angst

Early Saturday morning the two big girls and I hopped out of bed and laced up our running shoes in preparation for a 8:30am race up in Newport News. The beneficiary of the run was the local Catholic school run by 4 Nashville Dominican nuns. Mary and Maggie were signed up for the 3K race, while I was entered in the 8K run. However, the shorter race began 10 minutes after my race, leaving me in a bit of a bind. I approached a nice looking lady surrounded by girls, "Are you running in the 3K?" I asked. "Yes." "Could you do me a huge favor and watch out for my girls?" Of course she agreed and chatted for a bit before I moved up to the starting line.

I did pretty well, 2nd place in the women's Masters category (40+) and found my daughters eating granola bars and begging me to let them attempt the Army's rock climbing wall. After we got back home I noticed that Mary was a funk, refusing to practice the piano and snarling at everyone. It turns out that her brief exposure to Catholic school girls left her jealous and resentful that she didn't go to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, have mountains of girlfriends, and go to classes led by the young, sweet looking nuns. I explained to her, after doing a little internet research, that we couldn't afford to send our children to Catholic school, especially one an hour away, that cost $21,000.

A friend at church consoled me and I again commiserated with Mary that for right now, homeschooling is our only school option. Yes, it is a lovely fantasy that my children could walk to an excellent Catholic school staffed by loyal priests and sisters, filled with merry classmates, just like in the stories in their readers, but that is just not going to happen anytime soon. For now, I need to look harder for other opportunities for Mary to find more friends in our neighborhood and local homeschooling community.  

Sunday, November 07, 2010

a blogging pause

Lately things have hit a rough patch and I need to focus like a laser on the children's behavior and their school. This morning I almost broke down in the confessional (after making the three big kids skip part of CCD so they could go to confession). It dawned on me that the solution begins with me, a regular schedule every morning with breakfast, brushing teeth, and starting school on time, rather than letting things slide so I can read the political news. I need to spend more time supervising my children rather than writing about them. So... I'm going to take a little blogging break and hopefully will return with lots of good news to report on the parenting and homeschooling front. May God bless all of you.

Friday, November 05, 2010

reason #567 why we homeschool

Our family is obviously very patriotic with Tim serving 19+ years in the Navy and my family tree sporting a number of patriots going all the way back to several members in Virginia's House of Burgesses in the 1600's. We expect the children to love their country, respect the flag, and be good citizens. My children are not taught garbage like this:

The theory that Americans are better than everybody else is endorsed by an overwhelming majority of U.S. voters and approximately 100 percent of all U.S. politicians, although there is less and less evidence to support it.

Obama was asked during the 2008 presidential campaign whether he believed in American exceptionalism. He said, “I believe in American exceptionalism just as I suspect the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” Newt Gingrich’s gloss: “In other words, everything we cherish about America, our president thinks is not so very special, not so very different from any other country. ... No longer, in the left’s view, are we the Americans of the frontier, the sturdy, independent farmers.”
Michael Kinsley, Politico

Instead, my children read stories about American Exceptionism from their Faith and Freedom readers (a reprinted Catholic series from the 1950's which emphasize family life, prayer, and being good Americans). Yes, some of it is hokey on occasion, but they learn stories of America's founding, the Saints, and what it means to be a good Catholic in a series that gradually increases in difficulty.

One commenter summed up what American Exceptionalism means quite well:

we do believe that America is a superior country because of our freedoms and form of government, and the productivity and innovation that those freedoms allow. If somebody from another country becomes a citizen and works in pursuit of their goals and dreams, they become one of us as well.

This week, the United States of America has been given another chance to turn away from  the lure of socialism (fair, but equally miserable outcomes) back to the promise of liberty and equal opportunity. Let us reject the notion that America is "just another country" and teach our children what a blessing and privilege it is to be American citizens.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

election 2010

Yes, there were some disappointments such as Barbara Boxer, the most anti-military Senator in history keeping her seat, but for Mainers the results were pretty positive. Paul LePage, who famously said that he will tell Obama to "go to hell" won the governor's race and the state legislature is in the control of the Republicans.

In an historic repudiation of nearly four decades of Democrat policy, the latest returns show Republicans reaching 20 seats in the Senate and at least 76 seats in the House, establishing firm majority control of both bodies.

Perhaps now the state will move from dead last in business climate and we can gain jobs. Our family is going to need one or two of those jobs soon so we can actually move to our farm.   

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

emerging readers

Charlie was given a new windup flashlight yesterday morning in a little ceremony. I told him that he was now a reader after he sounded out the first 4 Bob Books. The flashlight allows him to join his older brothers and sisters as they stay up late in their beds flipping book pages. I observed Timmy this evening telling baby Julia Ellen, "You can't play with that flashlight. It is Mary's. You will get your own flashlight when you get big and read books." 

Since our typical trip to the library is almost an hour in length and concludes with us toting 3-4 huge bags of books out to the van, I'm sure in no time we will have 6 competent readers.

Monday, November 01, 2010

candy wrappers everywhere

Due to participation in our chapel's Fall Festival and 2 hours of trick-or-treating, the children all have pillowcases stuffed with sugary confections. Unlike some moms who dole out the candy one piece a day, I prefer the "get it over with" method of letting the kids gorge on candy for 3 or 4 days before packing up the remainder and sending it in with Tim to work. They get to eat all their favorites, I get to sneak a few packets of sweet tarts and peanut butter cups and a week after Halloween our home is back to normal. However, for those few days I am constantly walking around with a wet wipe in my hand to wipe sticky mouths and furniture.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

1st place!

Okay, okay, 1st place in my age bracket (though I beat all the women in the ages above and below me as well). The time? Not so great. 24:03, but I did have to swerve, shimmy, and wiggle around a whole lot of folks who shouldn't have started anywhere near the front. Mary came in 4th among 10-14 year olds (which seemed to be a very competitive age) with 29:00.

Our next race will be in 2 weeks, the girls will be running a 3K, while I'm in the 8K. Good thing it has finally gotten cooler here in Virginia, earlier this week I was walking and wheezing due to 80+ degree temps plus 99% humidity. This morning we were hopping around before the start and definitely ran faster just to make own own heat.

Friday, October 29, 2010

a spelling tip

While prepping your reluctant children for the upcoming spelling bee (yes, we found a local bee for homeschoolers), don't simultaneously read American Bee, The National Spelling Bee and the Culture of Word Nerds. After reading about 9 year olds who can spell regicide, caldera, and anemology without a hitch, it makes a parent unnecessarily agitated when the 12 year old misses such softballs as tomb, gene, and volley.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

how did I get here?

We haven't been in our new home very long, but somehow we have acquired another charge. The next door neighbor who seems like a typical helicopter parent has taken to letting her 5 year old only child hang out at our house every afternoon after preschool. While I think it is good that Maggie has another little girl to play with, I feel like I'm being taken advantage of, especially since her mom has insinuated that I'm not being responsible by allowing my older children to stay home alone, but she hasn't offered to have the girls play in her house. Seven children is a lot to manage, and I am feeling resentful knowing that the neighbor has her house to herself for most of the day.

Am I wrong for not wanting to play hostess every day? Any tactful suggestions?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

carnival of homeschooling

Susan at Corn and Oil is hosting this week's carnival with a Clark Kent theme.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

pluck, pluck, pluck

No, we haven't gotten chickens on our little 1/2 acre suburban plot, but Mary has begun violin lessons. The child has been begging me for almost a year to let her take lessons, though I think her idea was to switch from piano to violin, where my compromise was for her to try out violin for 3 months in addition to piano. As I was telling the ladies at Bunko about it, the hostess pulled a case out of the closet and handed it to me. I don't know what Mary's musical future is, but I do know what her writing assignment on Monday morning will be: a lovely thank you note for a beautiful violin she can grow into.   

Saturday, October 23, 2010

the terrible twos already?

Julia Ellen has always been her older sibling's sweet cuddly baby, that is until this past week. She has transformed herself into a toddling monster who screams at the drop of a hat, refuses to nap, breaks tea cups with abandon, flings herself out of the crib with a trapeze artist's flair, and wakes at the slightest noise when the girls creep in to go to bed. The big kids have gone from doting on their baby sister to running away and keeping their doors shut. Will has gone so far as to turn the boy's bedroom door into this:

I think we need to work on a little cooperation as well as spelling.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Since returning to Virginia I have wasted no time in finding activities and lessons for the children and last evening finally resumed my own social life. Our time in DC was not very fun for me, despite the fact that there were almost 100 Catholic homeschooling moms in our county. Everyone lived so far away and were so busy that almost every attempt at an outing were perpetually put off. I was even rebuffed by the officer's spouse club and just waited out our tour to return to the more hospitable South.

Thursday night was such a pleasant evening with old friends, a little adult beverage, yummy snacks, and a big $$ win (3 bunkos and 7 baby bunkos assured my success). I might not be able to attend lunch bunch with 6 noisy children in tow (not to mention the cost), but scintillating conversation with people over the age of 12 is certainly appreciated.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

where do vitamins come from?

I have been reading a very interesting book entitled Twinkie, Deconstructed, My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods Are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated into What America Eats.

What amazed me was the complexity of processing in every box, bag, and jar of ready to eat food on the grocer's shelf. For every ingredient there is a long chain from farmers/miners to factories to make those substances into something edible. Many of the vitamins and minerals that make their way into pills and enriched flour are made in China, which does not bode well for our future security and health. This danger was emphasized today at this news:

China, which has been blocking shipments of crucial minerals to Japan for the last month, has now quietly halted some shipments of those materials to the United States and Europe, three industry officials said this week.

Our trade imbalance with China is so severe that any attempt to put tariffs on imported goods could result in a scarcity of One-A-Day bottles on the grocery store shelves or a return of such vitamin deficiency diseases such as beriberi (caused by an absence of thiamine, B1). What a mess we have found ourselves in today because of a 30 year transfer of manufacturing from the US to overseas. There are few items we really need to import from hostile countries, but vitamins are vitally important ones we don't think about.   

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

carnival of homeschooling

Homeschool Buzz is hosting this week's carnival with a celebrity birthday theme.

Monday, October 18, 2010

another state, another round of deciphering homeschool law...

I might have done something really dumb or perhaps not last week when I attempted to track down an opportunity for Will to participate in a local spelling bee. He does have a knack for learning difficult words (photogenic, enthusiasm), though he can also spell rifle incorrectly (rifel) two minutes later. I figured it would be a learning experience and, knowing that the local public school allows homeschoolers to participate in some activities and classes, called up the middle school and was directed to the "homeschool liaison." Well, when the woman called me back she was direct in saying that he would not be allowed to be in the school's spelling bee and that I was required to fill out a notice of intent to homeschool to be legally homeschooling in the state.

Now, we started our homeschooling adventure in Virginia 8 years ago and I was informed way back then (same laws were in effect) that because we were fully enrolled with Seton Home Study School that we did not have to interact with the state in any way because the curriculum was on an approved list in Richmond. The impression I was given by the Chesapeake superintendent's office was that using Seton was the same as sending them to Portsmouth Catholic, it was a private school and neither set of parents have to notify/get permission from the state.

However, now I am concerned that this is not the case, so with a phone message waiting at HSLDA, I am attempting to understand the law so I comply, but do not give more information or power to a school district that should spend its resources teaching the children under its care, rather than harassing families who are educating their own offspring. 

edited to add: after talking with a HVEA representative, I was all ready to submit my paperwork, but then the HSLDA attorney called me back and informed me that legally the children are NOT homeschooled, but are private school students. I promptly called the homeschool liaison (public school bureaucrat) and informed her of the same. We are not obligated to submit intent forms, standardized testing results or have any interaction with the city or state. 

But since the past 7 years have looked, sounded like, and felt like homeschooling, I will in non-legal conversations consider myself just as much of a homeschooler as ever before!    

Saturday, October 16, 2010

a homeschooling family

Since Will shows some aptitude in the areas of science and math we are encouraging him to contemplate engineering as a career goal. Even though he is now only in 7th grade we found that we must adjust his courses so he can take Calculus and Physics while still in high school. Right now he is working through Saxon 7/6 at double speed to be able to finish it in one semester and then move on to Algebra 1/2 next semester so he can be taking Algebra 1 in 8th grade. 

With this goal in mind, Tim has taken over Will's math instruction, leaving me to concentrate on teaching his other subjects as well as the other 4 children's schoolwork. After a few weeks I have been pleased to note that this change has worked out well for all involved. Will is getting better grades since his father is more skilled in explaining numerical concepts, Tim is spending time with his son in a constructive way, and I am relieved of the entire burden of educating 5 children and keeping a toddler out of mischief.

Even though Tim works incredibly long hours, it speaks volumes about what a great dad he is to sacrifice his little free time to sit every evening with a sometimes surly boy to go over his errors, teach him the new material, and grade his lessons. I'm very blessed to have, not only a husband supportive of homeschooling but one who is willing to pitch in when the going gets a little rough.  

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

that Boy Scout training paid off

While Will doesn't qualify to receive a Medal of Heroism, he does get kudos for responding to my shrieks and his excellent first aid skills. I wasn't being the smartest mother on the planet when I pressed on the foot pedal while threading the needle of my sewing machine and the needle went right through my index finger nail. He raced upstairs and saw me sitting on the floor looking very pale and yelling for him to get the pliers. After he yanked the needle out, he patched me up with antibiotic ointment and a bandaid.

I did sit back down at the machine later in the afternoon and finish making his St. Benedict costume for the All Saint's Day party as well as sheepskin looking vests for two future shepherds in the Christmas pageant. I'm not so sure I need a tetanus shot since it wasn't rusty, but I'll go get one anyway because Will is so insistent.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

carnival of homeschooling

Small World at Home is hosting this week's carnival with an Autumn theme. I always get so many great ideas and laughs from reading each week, I hope you become an addict as well.

Monday, October 11, 2010

a useful tip

If, by chance, your 19 month old manages to lock herself in the bathroom, don't panic. Don't call your husband on his cell phone and hysterically ask, "What should I do?" Don't take the doorknob apart. Don't call the fire department.

What you should do is calmly look above the door sill for the tool to unlock the door. Or you could go in the garage and get a big screwdriver and mallet and take off the hinges, which is what the firemen eventually did. 

The little boys really got a kick out of seeing the big red fire engine stop in front of our house. I'm grateful they didn't get to hear the siren as it came down our block. What the neighbors must think, "Those people with ALL those kids have only been here a week, I wonder what they are going to do next?"

Saturday, October 09, 2010

10 little, 9 little, 8 little pumpkins

We harvested 20 some pumpkins out of our garden this summer and I wheedled enough to get Tim to put every last one among the bikes and suitcases in the back of the truck to bring back to Virginia. I spent a lot of time and effort growing those babies and I didn't want to just toss them in the compost pile like the tomato plants (though we did have a fun, but messy afternoon playing tomato baseball).

The children have  decorated the front yard and claimed several of the large squash with taped-on signs, but I have snagged 2 pumpkins since we have been back to make pie. After reading advice from several of you, I roasted chunks of fruit in the oven for an hour, let it cool, and cut off the rind and pureed it in the blender. So far the pies taste a little less robust than tinned pumpkin pie and much lighter in color, but since there haven't been any leftovers, no one seems to be complaining. At this rate we might not have any pumpkins left in the yard by Halloween.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

the library card blues

Despite owning enough children's books to open our own lending library (this isn't even all of them), the kids and I went down to the local library on Monday to get some fresh things to read, complete with our two items showing proof of residency. The city where we moved requires a hefty deposit paid in person just to turn on the water, so if my stepfather hadn't gone downtown for us, we would have shown up at the new house at 1am with no water. Apparently all the city services are so used to being abused and taken advantage of that they don't know how to react to decent folks who don't skip town owing hundreds of dollars.

In the past 3 years we have lived in 4 states: North Carolina, Maryland, Maine, and back to Virginia and have encountered the library policies in several towns in those localities. The Montgomery County, Maryland library system gave me grief for wanting to know the titles my children had out so we could scour the house and return them, because I was violating Will and Mary's "privacy rights". We resolved the situation by getting a household card with a 100 book limit, which is about how many books a family of 8 can carry out the door. The three libraries we frequent in Maine are very generous with their checkouts, I don't think any had a limit as long as you didn't owe any fines. But the library here has a 30 book limit per card, which is not very many when you are counting up picture books or short chapter paperback series, such as The Boxcar Children. So, after only 4 days we were back at the branch library to renew our stash only to find half way through checking out out that we hit the limit. I said, "Well, we will just get Charlie a card," but found out that we need to show all the proof of residency yet again (sorry, I don't store the power and gas bills in my purse). I'm of a mind to get every child their own card the next time we go in so our household limit will be 240 books just to irritate the powers that be at the library.

Homeschoolers as a general rule are more responsible with materials than the average Joe, check out more books, and return them more promptly. I will also write a letter to the library board asking for a large family/homeschool option to check out more than a skimpy 30 book stack limit currently in place.   

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

combatting shyness

Mary is my shy child, unable to even speak to others when she is in a new situation and it takes all my patience to not get frustrated with her. Yesterday she started piano lessons with a new teacher (her 4th teacher due to our constant moving) and ballet class. Perhaps I shouldn't have scheduled both on the same day, she was so nervous by the time we got to the ballet studio that she felt nauseous. The staff was very kind and she sat and watched the other girls for 20 minutes before joining in. Tap class starts this evening and we will see how she handles yet another new experience. I'm sure she will eventually grow out of this fear, but for now the first day of class is hard on all of us.  

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Is November 2nd here already?

'Cause I already voted. My absentee ballot arrived in the mail while we were still up in Maine and with listening to the radio, I was very familiar with all the candidates and issues on the ballot. I was even polled 3 times during the summer, a new experience for me. I'm not going to say who I voted for, but I would be quite pleased if the new governor was the one in hot water recently for stating, "If you elect me, I'll often be on the front page of the paper telling Obama to go to Hell," meaning that he will fight against encroaching socialism.   

Sunday, October 03, 2010

safe at last

There have been a few memorable trips up and down the East Coast highways, an all day rainstorm, a couple of accidents that halted our progress for hours, but this trip combined all of these, making for a very long 2 day expedition. We attempted to leave the farm at 4:30am on Friday only to be forced to turn around when some engine and electrical issues in the van gave us concern. They seemed to resolve themselves and we again started out 2 hours later. The remnants of tropical storm Nicole was our companion through Massachusetts and Connecticut which left my hands sore from the physical exertion in keeping the van on course. We decided to stay the night in New Jersey only to find out after a very long traffic jam that the van's brake lights had been non functional for much of the day (it was only due to the diligence of our guardian angels that we had not been rear-ended).

After a long night with little sleep for me (Julia Ellen didn't care for the sleeping arrangements) we again took to the road and finally arrived back at our Virginia house in time to get some Chinese take-out for supper. I have a lot of organizing and arranging to do in order to be able to do school on Monday, the schoolroom/sewing room is a huge mess and I'm at a loss of how to begin. First though we will go to Mass and receive spiritual nourishment and grace from the Sacraments. I'm sure the task ahead of me, just like the 800 mile trip we just completed, will be accomplished one small task at a time.  

Thursday, September 30, 2010

our last day in Maine

Between Mary's morning riding lesson and afternoon piano lessons I have a long to-do list to get through today. Get cash for tolls, buy snacks and a few toys for the kids to play with in the car, pack schoolbooks and clothes, clean the apartment, and return 60 books to the Bangor library. Actually, we have been working like fiends for several days now cleaning out the barn and garage and sweeping all the dust bunnies out of the corners of the bedrooms, scrubbing out the freezer, and returning library books to the other 2 towns we visit. We have pulled up the tomato plants, taken 2 bags of veggies to the food pantry, and put all the stalks and stems in the compost, while stacking the stakes and cages neatly in the barn.

It is a lot of work, but well worth it when we return in June to find clean floors and all our gardening supplies ready to begin another season. It isn't an exciting last day of vacation, but a dinner out at our favorite truck stop restaurant might compensate for hours of packing, cleaning, hauling boxes downstairs, and packing it all in the truck. (Hint, hint)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

baby needs new shoes

Actually, Mary and Charlie need new pants, but don't want to give up their old ones. Charlie's camouflage trousers have split down the crotch and both knees have ripped, even after being patched. Mary's pants have been patched once already and now are threadbare to the point of being able to see her panties through the backside seam. But since they are the "favorite" and most comfortable thing to wear, all I've heard this week is, "Pleeeease fix them! Don't throw them away!!"

The question of the day is, should I sneak them into the trash before we leave Maine in a few days or attempt another repair job?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

1st race in over a year

Boy, it has been a busy week here on the farm. Tim arrived on Tuesday, and I started painting the apartment because 3 summers of muddy fingerprints have left a real "impression" on the walls. School is progressing along, despite the 7th grader giving me grief about his workload. Yes, he does have more work than everyone else, but the girls finish first usually because they start to whittle down their stacks the night before.

But Saturday was the busiest day of all, starting when I took the big girls up to Bangor to watch me run in a 5K (23:50). It was a very small race, but a good re-entry into the world of competitive running.  When we got home the sun was blazing so we all worked outside on likely the last warm day of the year. After harvesting the last of the pumpkins, Tim tilled up a brand new bed for next year. The children picked out rocks and spread mulch hay all over the garden beds. The boys made a compost bin for me out of leftover pallets and Tim used the loader on his tractor to combine 3 compost piles into the bin to rot over the winter.

Tomorrow will be a much more relaxed day with friends coming over after Mass to see the progress on our house and to say goodbye for another year.  

Monday, September 20, 2010

cleaning up the joint

In anticipation of Tim's Tuesday arrival, the children and I have been cleaning like mad. Saturday was our official put away day and we began after breakfast by making a list of chores that needed to be accomplished and put a child's name down next to it. By 2pm the barn was tidy, the garage was clean and swept, the tent was collected from the clearing in the woods and put away, the bikes were lined up, and the inside chores were finished as well: laundry, changing sheets, mopping floor, etc, etc, etc.

However, making things tidy on Saturday is a far cry from keeping things clean until Tuesday. For of course, the garage was a mess again after the children creatively turned it into a bowling alley with cardboard blocks substituting for pins and boat lines delineating the lanes. Will, Julia Ellen, and I have been sick so it was inevitable that the baby coughed so hard that she not only threw up two evenings in a row in her own bed, but once in mine. My freshly mopped floors have been baptized with spilled milk several times in the past 2 days, and someone smuggled crackers into bed, leaving a huge crunchy mess on the floor.

I still want the place to look nice for Tim tomorrow, but the only option left seems to be to cancel school on Tuesday, scrub everything before the children wake up, and hustle them out of the house until his plane lands. Yes, it will all be back to sticky floors and piles of clean laundry waiting to be folded soon enough, but there will be that 20 minute stretch of time when he can see that we really did miss him and made an effort to please. Welcome home honey!  

Friday, September 17, 2010

our new pet

The other day, after a good hard run of 5 miles, I saw a little dark spot up ahead on the side of the road. I have been "rescuing" red salamanders from the possibility of getting smushed by throwing them back in the grass, but this was bigger. When I came upon it I realized it was a tiny 1" long snapping turtle. We had stumbled across this little guy's mama several years ago on a visit to our farm before we had built anything and I certainly wouldn't want to meet her again, but this little guy was cute. I picked him up and carried him home calling, "Mary, I have a present for you!" 

We quickly got the little turtle ensconced in his new home (the burned out stockpot, newly scrubbed) after a short stint in a aluminum pan (he climbed out) and Googled 'how to care and feed snapping turtles'. He seems to be happy in his new home, eating the tomato bits and crickets the children have collected for him. The child most enamoured of our new friend is Julia Ellen, who squeals every time he moves and can now say "tur-tle" with glee. 

As a children's literature enthusiast, we of course named the newest member of our family after a famous picture book turtle. I don't have a prize on hand, but would love to see if anyone can guess the name of our new pet.   

Nope, nope, nope on the guesses. I didn't think it would be this hard. Think classic kiddy lit and a clue: he eats raisins.

Yeah, Zina!

Skipperdee is apparently a Alligator Snapping Turtle, which doesn't seem to eat raisins, but prefers worms, crickets, lettuce, and an occasional cherry tomato cut in half. He doesn't bite, but does have sharp claws and a very long neck.

As for Eloise, it was one of my favorite picture books as a child and our copy has been with me for almost 40 years. Some of my favorite frequent literary quotes are in its pages, such as, "Charge it please and thank you very much," and "____ makes a very good hat." (we, like Eloise, think Kleenex, and many other items made lovely headwear) 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

soup from h&*%

In my effort to productively use the tomatoes we have been harvesting from the garden, I scoured my battered copy of Joy of Cooking for recipes that require fresh tomatoes before heading to the commissary a few days ago. I stocked up on garlic and basil for bruschetta and heavy cream for tomato soup. Since real Italian bread wasn't available, I decided to go ahead and make the soup, which ended up being a huge mistake.

First, I chopped some onion and put the oil in the pan, turning my back for a moment to tell Mary to chop up the tomatoes, only to hear her scream, "Mommy!" Turning around, I discovered that the oil in the pot had caught on fire and was shooting 18 inches above the rim, almost hitting the exhaust fan. I yelled, "Open the back door!" and grabbed the pot, ran out onto the back porch and threw the whole mess into the grass below. After racing around the garage, I found a trash can and filled it with water to dump on the smoking pot.

With my only large pot permanently out of commission, I proceeded to make the soup (I didn't even have to cut up another batch of onions) and put it in batches in the blender. Another mess ensued with even a 1/4 full container swirling up and burning my hand and spattering red goo all over the counter.

Finally after a big cleanup, I served my homemade tomato soup to a unenthusiastic audience. Every child asked for a piece of bread as an alternative to eating my preparation-intensive dinner. Maybe that was a good thing, since eating a large bowl of the stuff made me more sick than I have been in a long time. So... I think in my effort to use up the rest of our garden produce I will refrain from any more culinary experimentation and take it all down to the food pantry so someone who's tummy can handle tomatoes will put them to good use.