Saturday, February 27, 2010

snowsuits, boots, and mittens

This morning (after everyone practices the piano) we are heading up to my SIL's place for Mary's long delayed birthday party. They still have much of their snow from the big storm with a few extra inches added last night. So, the car is already stuffed full with 7 coats, 7 snowsuits, 7 pairs of boots, and the emergency bin is all packed with extra gear in case anyone gets wet. This may be the last big snow the kids see in a while so I want them to really be prepared and able to stay out for several hours. I'm sure I will forget something, but as long as no one loses a finger or toe to frostbite then we will be fine.

Friday, February 26, 2010

new quilting project

Even though I haven't sold any crib quilts on etsy, I have this overwhelming urge to create and sew, so I started a larger version of my very pretty and so easy star quilt. This blue and white twin size version will have a flannel or fleece backing so it will be perfect for cuddling up with on the sofa while reading stories to toddlers. I came downstairs before the children awoke this morning to work uninterrupted. Julia Ellen thinks it great fun to crawl right through the middle of the blocks and start scrunching them in her mouth. Obviously I don't get a great deal of sewing accomplished while she is awake.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

packing up and moving out

With the economy in turmoil and the job outlook for next year not looking good, Tim and I have decided to stay in the Navy for an extra year and move down to Portsmouth. We have spent many sleepless nights debating the merits of staying in vs getting out, weighing the opportunities of living on the farm in Maine vs having a steady paycheck. It would be heartbreaking to move our family up there and then have to sell the farm because we couldn't afford to stay.

So, over the next several months I will organize all our belongings from the basement to the bedrooms, take Julia Ellen househunting, and finish up the school year and all our activities here in Washington, DC. We can find a new piano teacher, ballet studio, YMCA for swimming lessons, but one thing that will be much easier will be finding a church home.

Our favorite parish in the world, St. Benedict's, will soon be opening their new sanctuary and we will find many of our old friends sitting in the pews. There, Will won't be the only altar boy under the age of 20, though he won't be able to serve every Sunday. There, we will be able to send the children to CCD, using the Baltimore Catechism. There, we will be able to get involved in parish suppers, cleaning the church, helping with the homeschool group, and attending retreats. I will also be able to visit with my elderly grandmother and bring flowers to Mother's grave regularly. I will know where everything is, from the best thrift store to the grocery that makes the best raspberry pies I have ever eaten (best heated with a scoop of Breyer's vanilla on top).

Our delay of moving up to the farm makes me a little sad, for I want to move up there with my whole being, but a short delay is not a tragedy, after all, the children will still spend much of their summer in Maine with trips to the lake, to the top of mountains, and to the lobster pound.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

prayer request

I ask for your prayers for my brother and his wife.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Last evening after bathing the little children I scooted on down to Trader Joe's (or as we call is Trader Jim Bob's) to pick up some more juicy clementine oranges. The kids went through the bag I bought on Saturday morning in about 1 day. The last bag on the shelf was passed over for good reason, there were two nasty looking fruits sitting on top so I asked a produce guy, "Are there any more of these in the back? and "Can I get a discount on these?" when he said that they were the last ones in the store. I went up to the "Captain" at the front and explained the situation and again asked for a discount. After much hemming and hawing about not being able to give discounts she said, "Just take them."

Of course, after a productive morning at co-op there are only 5 tiny fruits left (out of 35) and now the kids are clamoring, "Can you get some more of those yummy oranges?" I doubt I'm going to get more free food, but I would rather they fill up on fresh fruit than artificially flavored "fruit" gummy snacks.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

reading assignment

Tim wrote a piece The Pill and Breast Cancer, of which I've cut and pasted a snippet:

Which brings us to the crux of the issue. There is evidence that birth control pills, especially when used by young women, increase a woman's risk of breast cancer[ix]. Given that we're talking about the most widely used class of drugs on the planet, and one of the commonest forms of malignancy in women, the implications are not trivial. But the spin of the medical establishment, as well as cancer charities including the National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, and Susan Komen Foundation, is to push these findings under the rug.

The whole thing was published today in American Thinker. Go check it out!

Saturday, February 20, 2010


There are few things more likely to put me on pins and needles right now than a 44 day cycle. Gosh, I'm so bad at this NFP thing, especially while nursing.

Friday, February 19, 2010

This is fun!

Here is the t shirt quilt I just sent off to my homeschooling Ora board friend Mary Ann for her daughter's graduation. She said, "The quilt arrived!!!! What an awesome surprise:) It is beautiful and perfect and I love it!!!!! I know Em will too:)"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

it's a good thing

that we decided against sending the kids to Catholic school, because we would have discovered (likely right after writing a big deposit check) that we couldn't have enrolled them anyway. Apparently, while the public school children in Maryland can claim religious exemption for certain vaccines that were created using aborted fetal tissue, the Archdiocese of Washington does not allow any conscious or religious exemptions. Since we don't contribute in this manner to the culture of death, we would have been pressured to vaccinate. I hate to feel that I am more Catholic than the bishop, but...

This is an excerpt of a letter written by Jennifer O'Brien whose daughter was dismissed from a local Catholic preschool because she didn't have the varicella vaccine.

not only was the Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Patricia Weitzel-O'Neill, well aware of the connection between the vaccine and abortion, but she would continue to require the vaccine for all students attending Catholic schools in the Archdiocese. She has no intention as of now to change the policy, which allows for only medical exemptions from vaccines; no ethical, religious or conscience exemptions are allowed for vaccines in Archdiocesan schools.

The refusal to acknowledge a parent's right of conscience regarding the abortion-tainted vaccines seemed rather odd to us, especially since a medical and religious exemption is allowed in the MD public schools. So, our child can currently attend a public school without the tainted vaccine, but cannot attend a Catholic school.

Is not the Archdiocese, as well as Catholics around the country, currently fighting for the right of conscience regarding the health care plans? Why are we okay with the right of conscience in health care, but not in our own schools?

We are not anti-vaccine, but we are pro-parental rights and pro-conscience. In our quest to change the policy, we have been in contact with Bishop Barry Knestout. He was unaware of the nature of the vaccine, and thankfully researched the topic and read the information we sent. As of right now the policy is still unchanged, partly because of the lack of people contacting the Archdiocese to let them know this is unacceptable.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

carnival of homeschooling

Small World @ Home is hosting this week's carnival with lots of wonderful sounding posts in a Think Spring theme.

snaggletooth grins

For at least 5 months people have been telling me whenever they see Julia Ellen with her fingers in her mouth, "Oh, she must be teething!" But I knew better since none of my children had their first tooth emerge before 9 months of age. Will was the latest at 11.5 months, leaving me to endure well meaning Italian grandmother's advice for ages. Our household was starting to take bets as to whether Julia Ellen was going to eat her birthday cake with no teeth, when at supper last night I slid my finger along her bottom gum. When I grinned and said, "It's here!" Will crowed with delight at retaining his much coveted record.

Not 5 minutes later we were subjected to Maggie complaining that she couldn't blow a bubble with her Valentine Day gum because of her super duper wiggly front tooth. "I'll get a bit of gauze and see if we can get it out," I said as I pulled down the wooden box in which we store medical supplies on the top of the fridge. It only took a mere touch to extract her dangling tooth, but then she found she couldn't blow a bubble because she doesn't have enough teeth left to pull the gum back over her tongue. Apparently those same genes which drags out seeing that first baby tooth are also responsible for their adult teeth to slowly emerge from the gums. Not one of Maggie's 5 lost baby teeth over the past year has fully come in. As a result, the poor child looks like she was recently in a bar fight with a brawling biker named Otto. I am grateful for the umpteenth time that we homeschool and my poor child doesn't have to put up with horrible little boys calling her names. But in the name of socialization we will tease her a little. A very little, for she is still a beautiful child, despite the gap tooth grin.

Monday, February 15, 2010

guerilla shopping

This morning Mary and I awoke with the birds, fed the baby, and then left the rest of the crew home with Tim while we hoped to beat the crowds at the local thrift store. This particular chain has everything 50% off on holidays and I promised Mary a shopping spree for her birthday. We stood in line outside in the 30 F cold for 45 minutes so we could be one of the few shoppers able to snag a grocery cart. The place was a mob scene with the aisles filled with voices chattering in several languages.

I snagged some great items including 2 Hanna Anderson dresses, fuzzy sleepers for Julia Ellen, a pair of oars for our rubber boat (the boys destroyed one by trying to dig up gravel), warm socks, puzzles, and a bag full for Mary. Over and over people asked me if they could have my cart, but I refused to give it up until I spotted a young mom with a baby and a toddler, "Excuse me, but you look like you really need a cart. Would you like this one?" As we were navigating the hordes of cars and people in the parking lot Mary asked if I could wrap up her gifts so it would be like a "real birthday." "We can also make a cake this afternoon after you finish school and piano," I said, "especially since you can't take cupcakes to the next co-op since it is Ash Wednesday." Almost a full week after Mary's real birthday we will actually celebrate our oldest girl hitting double digits with gifts, cake, and many happy wishes.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


On Friday Tim went back to work and I was determined to get a path cleared to our front door and mailbox. Tom, our mailman, slithered in between the bushes and the house to get our mail delivered on Thursday (the first delivery of the week), but it wasn't fair to expect him to continue to do that. He is the most cheerful, friendly mailman I have ever met and with all the extra walking he was to do these days (not being able to cut through yards), I didn't mind creating a path for him. 20 feet of packed snow, 23" high, is a lot of work to shovel so after a couple of sessions during nap times I managed to get it finished.

But there was a price (other than my sore biceps). My boots are completely trashed. I have found that duck boots are one thing I shouldn't buy at the thrift store. So far we have had 2 pairs undergo the same problem, they look fine in the store, but once they are exposed to freezing cold the rubber dries out and cracks.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Was I spared?

Tim and Mary and Maggie came down with a particularly nasty stomach bug Tuesday night and were sick in bed all day Wednesday during the blizzard. On Thursday morning it hit Charlie and Will, and then last night Timmy and Julia Ellen were vomiting. I had to change my pajamas as the baby threw up down my front. "Can you please put her in the bath?" I pleaded with sleeping Tim, "I can't go in the hall bathroom naked!" (it looks out onto the street, not that anyone would be standing out there in the snow at midnight, but...)

School has been suspended for at least one child the past few days, but they all seem to have recovered and today most of them are back in their snow gear and sinking up to their waists in the fluffy stuff. I haven't had a twinge so either God deemed it necessary for me to stay well just to nurse everyone else or I have the constitution of an ox. I can say that things go precariously downhill when Mommy gets sick as I recall a day in Italy when I came down with the flu and Tim was TDY in Sicily. When he got home that night it was not a pretty or pleasantly fragrant scene. So, whatever the reason, I am grateful this day for children who can eat more than Rice Krispies, electricity, and at least one healthy parent in the house (and doubly glad it is me).

Thursday, February 11, 2010

why is homeschooling so popular in America?

The Economist has a very short and poorly written article beginning with:

UNLIKE many of the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” that have sought refuge in America, the Romeike family comes from a comfortable place: Bissingen an der Teck, a town in south-western Germany. Yet on January 26th an American immigration judge granted the Romeikes—a piano teacher, his wife and five children—political asylum, accepting their case that difficulties with home schooling their children created a reasonable fear of persecution.

The piece then describes the laws and attitudes regarding homeschooling in several European countries. Why America is more free in its educational opportunities is not delved into, but some of the commentators do discuss the questions that the headline teases us, "Why some countries welcome children who are taught at home and others don't," such as who is responsible for children, the state or parents? What is the point of forcing children to attend the state-run schools, equal education (or equal lack of learning)? Should children be taught the religion of their parents or secular humanism?

As someone who has taught both in the public school system as well as homeschooled for 7 years, I can tell you that most homeschooling parents take their job very seriously (sometimes almost too seriously) and want to give their children a quality education. They see the low expectations, emphasis on politically correct lessons and pop culture, lack of discipline, and mob rule mentality and want more for their own children. They know that the system is rotten and there is no way that they can change that to benefit their own offspring. So they bypass the system and teach at home. They can do that in many different ways and methods from reproducing a traditional curriculum to following the child's interests.

Studies have proven over and over how effective and successful homeschooling is with higher test scores and being more socially involved, to homeschool graduates stating that they want to homeschool their own children. America has always been a land of freedom and opportunity and homeschooling gives families the ability to be independent, to be innovative. It is socialist big government vs the free market on a micro scale. We choose to be free and it is evident in several comments how far we have lurched politically to the left that they can't see this obvious fact.

Our nation has become great because of innovative thinkers and designers such as Ben Franklin, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Thomas Edison, Samuel Morse, Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, and many others who thought outside the box. All homeschoolers want is to encourage freedom, educate their children in the best way they know how, and to be left alone from the educational lockstep of the government schools.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

plague central

This was supposed to be a lovely day, at least the way I planned it weeks ago. We were to go to co-op bearing cupcakes and have everyone sing Happy Birthday to Mary at lunchtime. We were to have presents and a trip up to Auntie Melinda and Uncle Mark's house on Saturday for more cake and several long walks in the fields.

However, Maggie and Mary started throwing up right around bedtime and then Tim started in at midnight. My morning has been running to put laundry in, filling glasses with ice water, and holding basins under chins. The little boys are on their own and Will is in charge of the baby. Even if we were feeling up to it, the blizzard outside would prevent us from venturing any farther than the driveway. The family party has been postponed and I haven't even been able to buy Mary a gift.

If you could, a Hail Mary for our crew would be appreciated, for a return to health for the invalids and especially that no one else comes down with the crud.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

carnival of homeschooling

Raising Real Men is hosting this week's carnival.

didn't dodge the bullet

There we were, watching movies, sewing away, piddling around on the computer while to our south and west people were sitting in the dark. Then we got hit and our house got mighty cold mighty fast. When Julia Ellen woke at midnight crying because she was shivering all alone in her crib (despite several layers of jammies) I nursed her back to sleep in our big bed. But trying to sleep with a kicking baby left me tired when dawn finally broke on Monday morning. Last night we checked into a hotel for warm beds, warm food, and hot showers, but Babydoodle awoke again at midnight and I tried nursing her back to sleep again less successfully. The cardinal rule of staying at hotels with children is not to disturb your neighbors so I only got about 3-4 hours sleep before Will and Julia Ellen and I snuck down to the breakfast buffet.

Today we are back home with clothes in the washer, the pantry restocked, and the furnace blowing out heat. However, another storm is fast approaching, the threat of 20 more inches of snow makes us worry about the power staying on. Up on the farm in Maine we have the tools we need to stay warm and fed at home: a backup generator to keep the lights on, a tractor to plow the driveway, and wood heat to keep warm. Down here in suburbia we are so dependant on the utilities that if they go out we are helpless. While I appreciate the cultural opportunities we have so close to Washington, DC, I would prefer to live like the pioneers who managed to survive winters without government "assistance", but relied on themselves and their neighbors.

Sunday, February 07, 2010


According to Accuweather, our little part of the world got hit hardest: 40" of snow in a little more than 24 hours. Tim is outside shoveling that last foot or two from the end of the driveway to the plowed track down our road. Last night the kids and I stayed out past 8pm shoveling out a neighbor's driveway. Before the plows came through, I was sinking down to my knees in the middle of the road. With the children coming in and out, our kitchen looks like a bomb went off at a knitwear factory with mittens, hats, and scarves covering every chair and throw rug.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

what a snowstorm this was!

My guess is that about 30" of snow have fallen in the past 24 hours. The first picture was taken yesterday about an hour after it started and the second was taken just before supper today.
I'm so glad we didn't lose electricity like so many folks in DC and Northern Virginia. We made pumpkin and chocolate chip cookies, dried many loads of mittens and snowsuits, and I was able to quilt for several hours. Another thing I was determined to do was clean. Despite the snow coming in the kitchen door every time a child came in and the mess of wet socks, boots, and snowsuits they hung over every available chair, I was scrubbing the bathrooms and vacuuming under the beds. The light seemed brighter today with the snow and I wanted the inside as clean and bright as the outside. There is still plenty to do, but I'm taking a well deserved rest tomorrow and playing in the snow with the kids.

Friday, February 05, 2010

slacker day

Since we have to get up and out the door by 7:20am on Monday and Wednesday mornings and Elizabeth rings the doorbell at 8:45 on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, Friday is the day when we don't rush to start the day. We relax over a cup of hot cocoa before getting dressed and slowly get all our schoolwork completed for the day. I don't take the day off since the harder we work in winter results in many more hours of playing outside up in Maine (and everyone agrees that they would much rather be stuck inside here).

With the public schools already cancelling classes for the anticipated snowstorm (28"?), we might have a knock on the door from the neighbor girls wanting to play. But as we told one of Will's friends at Boy Scouts last night, "We don't do snow days since we only have to walk downstairs to get to our books."

Thursday, February 04, 2010

more snow expected

Yesterday we didn't have co-op due to the weather and this weekend we are expecting another 20" of snow. I think the Father/Daughter dance for American Heritage Girls will be cancelled, putting Mary and Maggie in a funk since they were looking forward wearing the dresses they had picked out. The news yesterday was that the public schools had already used up all their built in snow days and might have to tack days onto the calendar in June. We not only didn't use up a snow day, but Maggie finished another subject for the year. My busy bee has completed her books for science, history, art, handwriting, and now phonics. I'm debating if I should order her some 3rd grade books so she can get a head start for next year.

I guess this is what every winter is like up in Maine so I better get used to putting on little kid's snowpants and boots, wearing boots to Mass, and making sure the kids wear their slippers all day to keep their toes warm. The local populace scoured the dairy shelves yesterday in preparation of the storm so I'm heading back down to the grocery this morning. Here's hoping that Trader Joe's got a fresh delivery so I can get our 6 gallons of milk without having to engage in a fistfight for them. (just kidding, we have plenty of powdered milk just in case)

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

what a nice surprise

The other day my sister-in-law called and we got to chatting. "I didn't want to influence you, but I have to say that I am so glad you decided to continue homeschooling. I read how awful the schools are now and am glad that you are keeping them away from that." Now, Cheryl has always been a fabulous sister-in-law and wonderful with the children, but I never really got the impression that she was all that gung-ho about our educational approach. I guess I had wrongly assumed that she wanted us to plop them on the yellow bus every morning and be able to have my house "just so."

Yes, it is lovely to have a lot of support from other homeschooling moms, but it means so much when a family member says, "You are doing the right thing by your children and a mighty fine job of it too."

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

carnival of homeschooling

For My House is hosting this week's carnival with the theme of What Matters Most. Getting a new stash of books matters to me a lot this afternoon since we are expecting another 3 inches tonight. The big kids and I are going to a Candlemas High Mass this evening and I just hope we won't get stuck on that hill on the way home. Maybe I'll put my boots in the back of the van "just in case."