Friday, April 30, 2010


Yesterday Maggie was up at the crack of dawn in anticipation of an afternoon pool party. We made mini cupcakes with chocolate chips on top for the festivities and piled everyone in the car, only to find the driveway empty and no one answering the door. After sitting in the car for 10 minutes wondering where everyone was, the mom who was hosting came down the steps. "Did I get the date wrong?" I asked her. We quickly discovered that I had written down the date in April rather than May. All is well, we ate all the cupcakes after supper, but it shows how overscheduled I am trying to finish up school, pack, squeeze in doctor and orthodontist appointments, and get the kids prepared for their recitals before we move.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

carnival of homeschooling

Dewey's Treehouse is hosting this week's carnival with a Superhero theme.

Cub Scouts targeting homeschoolers?

In the latest Scouting magazine, sent to all Scout leaders, there is an article entitled, "Plug Into the Network" explaining why homeschoolers and their parents make great additions to any Cub Scout or Boy Scout troop. The author stresses that homeschoolers are very involved parents and have the time to make badge requirements part of the school day. He does warn that homeschoolers tend to have larger families and can't be expected to all sign up as leaders.

We have found Cub/Boy Scouting to be a wholesome, educational part of Will's life and look forward to many more years of Scout meetings, long drives to camp, and helping out with service projects. We have saved all his old uniforms in the dress up bin and the little boys love to wear them around the house. Charlie starts as a Tiger Scout next year and I am sure that he will enjoy being a real Scout much more than just playing one.

Monday, April 26, 2010

a motrin please

The girls and I went up to visit the aunties this past weekend and I need a day to recover. My sister-in-law and her husband are turning their former farm into a private wooded park full of birds and wildlife. We walked on the grassy paths and walked down to the stream, where Maggie actually went swimming with the trout.

I love working outside in the quiet and after 8 months or so away from the farm, I wanted some quality time with a pair of pruners. I spent hours hacking at low hanging branches and brier bushes, resulting in scratches all over my hands and painful arm muscles. Later I scrubbed down in a really hot shower after finding, not one, not two, but three ticks crawling on me. Then I jumped at the chance to do it all again in the misty rain on Sunday afternoon (luckily no ticks that time around). Tomorrow we will go back to our regular schedule, but for today we decided to play hooky and not make Mommy do anything more strenuous than reading under the covers with a bag of chocolates.

Friday, April 23, 2010

an invitation

I love checking out the postings at American Thinker and am proud when occassionally I see my husband's name on the byline. I started reading there after the site was mentioned several times by Rush Limbaugh and found a great source of entertaining and provocative writing on the events of our time. I jump into the fray every so often and was surprised to find this in my email inbox this week:

As a long time moderator for Mr. Lifson's American Thinker comment section, I get very peeved with commenters who use gross generalizations and stereotying like I did with my silly comment about no fat people in China... but your comeback was good. I like it a lot. You've got a wonderful way of expressing yourself - smart and gritty. I was wondering if you'd be interested in giving our moderator team a whirl? ...I try to find people who have rock bottom common sense and who can express themselves with civility, as you do.

It sounds like an interesting proposition, but the snag is our summer in Maine with the dreadful slow dial-up internet connection. What do you think?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

poor phone etiquette

Yesterday mid-morning I was reading aloud to Mary on my bed and the baby woke up. She desperately wanted to be up on the bed so I gave her the phone to play with so she wouldn't stray too close to the edge. I figured she would hit some buttons and keep herself entertained while we finished up our work. Apparently she hit 911. A few minutes later two officers appeared on the front porch and we marveled at how a baby who hasn't even said her first word keyed the correct sequence. They told me that it happens a lot, but I was so mortified that I decided to not give Julia Ellen access to the phone again until she is 14.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Michelle Obama would not approve

The little boys lately have been stuffing their footed pajamas full of pillows or stuffed animals and saying, "I'm fat!" before bumping into each other and exploding into fits of giggles. I'm sure they got it from an out-of-print Richard Scarry Little Golden book called Just For Fun. Charlie zips up an entire pillow in his jammies, while Timmy puts Geraldine and Fluffy (his giraffe and dog that isn't fluffy anymore) around his waistline, making him resemble someone with a serious cellulite problem.

I, for one, am grateful that they picked this page out of the book to copy, they could have decided to replicate turning my kitchen chairs into a steam shovel or painting pictures on the walls.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

carnival of homeschooling

Home Spun Juggling is hosting this week's carnival with a cartooning theme.

Monday, April 19, 2010

ballet gear

Both Mary and Maggie are taking ballet class this year and while I like the totes they sell at class, at $15 each they are too pricey for my budget. Instead I went to the thrift store and bought Maggie a pink backpack for her birthday (I filled it full of crayons and art supplies) to haul her tap and ballet shoes to class.

Mary asked for a special ballet bag last week so she didn't have to use the tote bags I use for carrying groceries and library books. There weren't any perfect ones at the thrift store so I bought her a pink twill purse with the intention of appliqueing a picture on the side. It only took about 30 minutes to draw, iron, and zigzag stitch the edges and Mary has a unique bag that she is proud to take to class.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

surrounded by boxes

I have found over the many military moves we have made (6 in the past 12 years) that it makes for a smoother move if I prepack stuff such as books, fabric, and off season clothes. My basement has been a repository for empty boxes and as of Thursday all of them were filled, labeled, and sealed.

Yesterday during ballet class Mary and I tried to get some more from the liquor store (the absolute best source of heavy-duty boxes and the perfect size for packing books) but they said that they couldn't give me any until Monday. We did score about a dozen banana boxes from Safeway, but they have an unfortunate hole in both the top and bottom. Finally this morning, I asked the deli stocker at Giant if I could scrounge some flattened cardboard so I can patch up the holes. In one week I have packed all my fabric and about 1/2 of the children's books.

Over the next few weeks I'll try to collect dozens more free boxes and hopefully can cut down the packer's time. Standard military protocol is to feed whoever comes to pack out and I figure by working slowly one box at a time, I can save myself at least the cost of one lunch for 6 burly men.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

saving the best for last

Yesterday was another beautiful day so the kids did a tiny bit of school, practiced the piano and I packed a picnic lunch before heading down the road to Annapolis. We squeezed our large van through the narrow streets, parked, bought tour tickets, and were escorted out the door in a very efficient manner (actually, before we even had time to go potty, but miraculously there were no accidents).

The children were very impressed by noon formation and asked lots of questions as the midshipmen paraded into lunch. As our tour progressed Will walked closer and closer to the guide to listen and ask his own questions about engineering courses and daily life at the Academy.

The little ones were a little on the hyper side, but they were quiet as mice inside the chapel and crypt. It was facinating to learn that it took many years to find John Paul Jones' grave in Paris and that he had been preserved so well that they could identify him visually.

We were disappointed that the usual Wednesday 4pm dress parade was a non-event, but we enjoyed the museum and visitor's center on campus, as well as wandering through the front of Bancroft Hall. Anyone interested in American naval history, the space program (52 astronauts are alumni), and French-style architecture would be impressed.

I relented in my usual mean-Mommy attitude toward gift shops and allowed them all to pick out 1 item and I bought Will and Mary each a shirt and a book. The Naval Academy Candidate Book explains how to prepare, get in, and survive. Will snuck it out of the bag last night after prayers and stayed up until 10pm reading it before I called, "Lights out!"

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

grocery shopping

Usually I like going to the commissary, the prices are good and they have good sales on after-Easter candy, but yesterday's visit was the pits. There were only a few bags of sugar, no high efficiency laundry detergent, and no sausage on the shelves. The contrast between the government run grocery and your average chain store is striking- the commissary features boxes down the middle of every aisle so you can't pick up items from the opposite shelves or get around anyone else's cart, I have had to throw away jugs of milk that weren't even close to the expiration date because they were sour, surly cashiers who don't swipe all the coupons, and foods in the most bizarre locations with frequent placement changes. For example, baking items such as spices, cocoa, flour, and chocolate chips are all on different aisles. The self check-out machines take twice as long because they require you to track down an employee to show your ID, weigh produce, and then tote up the total.

Think of shopping at "government foods" with the same efficiency and customer service as the Post Office, the DMV, and any public school system. I ask you to project into the future and see that Obamacare will turn the health care system into: long waits, limited services, and a bloated bureaucracy filled with people who have no incentive to be pleasant.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

carnival of homeschooling

Christine at Our Curious Home is hosting this week's carnival complete with many pictures of their kids on field trips, playing, and learning.

Monday, April 12, 2010

the kid can dance

None of my children, thank goodness, have shown any interest in pop music, rolling up the window if some thug wanna-be with a pavement vibrating stereo pulls up next to us at the stop light. Will and Mary set their alarm clocks on the local classic music station and often ask me to play Beethoven's Wig CD set their Auntie Cheryl bought them for Christmas.

However, Mary and I had a blast standing in an aisle of Safeway the other night opening and closing the plethora of musical cards on display. Timmy received a Thomas the Tank engine card for Valentine's Day last year and drove us nuts playing it over and over for months, but we couldn't resist buying Julia Ellen one that might be an even bigger hit. For a mere $5 we get to see the baby bounce and smile her way through the old wedding hit, The Chicken Dance. Watching reminds me of the youtube video featuring a baby bouncing to Beyonce, but accordion music is about as cutting edge as we get around here.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Thursday, April 08, 2010

speedy school

Today was our first day back with Mommy at the helm and the downstairs schoolroom activity went much faster than usual due to the girl's desire to play with their friends next door. Maggie and Mary were finished by 10:30am, and that included practicing the piano. I can only imagine how much free time we would have if there were other children ready to play with every day.

While the kids are going to miss both sets of neighbors here (only Will doesn't have someone next door his age), our new house apparently has 3 children next door (according to those little happy family stickers on the back window of their minivan). I'm sure between our new neighborhood, church, and homeschool groups, they will make many, many new friends.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010 you still wanna homeschool?

Yesterday morning I called Tim to check up on the kids, especially Julia Ellen who apparently made it through her first night without Mommy without incident. In fact, she slept 12 hours straight for the first time in weeks. He interrupted our chat several times to bark orders to various children, "Take that laundry downstairs. Sweep the floor."

He seemed confident that they would get the schoolwork I left completed, the piano practiced, and everyone clean and fed. "Maybe after I retire, I should stay home and teach them and you can go out and work," he remarked. I didn't get a chance to ask if he still felt the same way after a day of keeping the little ones out of trouble and supervising and assisting the older ones, even though I didn't leave any time consuming writing assignments.

Homeschooling is hard work, and while Tim is my biggest supporter, it is easy to dismiss the workload unless you actually attempt it. There are many positives about the lifestyle though that make it "tolerable," such as no clock to punch, autonomy, and a chance to flop down on the bed every afternoon for a tiny, short rest.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

ooooh, what a day

So, on Easter Sunday morning at 7:30 as we are heading to Mass, my phone rings and I wonder, Who could that be?" since the only person who calls my cell is sitting next to me in the van. Of course it is bad news, my grandmother is calling from 4 hours away and saying, "I can't move my legs, I can't get out of bed." Well, what on earth am I supposed to do? She has someone coming in less than 15 minutes and I pray for her all through Mass. Afterwards, after several phone calls to my aunties I finish packing and hit the road. Luckily nothing is wrong with Grandmother other than severe dehydration and a slight infection- no stroke of which, Sharon, the NICU nurse who comes every morning was suspicious. So, after a good dinner and few glasses of wine we are all settled in and getting ready for a cozy evening.

Poor Tim is right now getting the boys in the bed, saying prayers with the older children and threatening them with violence if they don't turn off the light. I left one day's worth of schoolwork for him to complete with the older children, hopefully they won't give him too hard a time of it. Hopefully also Julia Ellen won't make a repeat of last night where she woke at 10pm demanding to be nursed. She is 13 months old and should be able to do without Mommy for a few nights, but...

Why is it that he can go away for weeks at a time and supposes that everything will proceed normally and I have been away from home for less than 12 hours and have to pray that the children will still have all their digits when I get back? Mommyhood is one big worry session and it doesn't stop when the children turn 18 or move out. I can see my grandmother looking at her two remaining daughters and see the concern on her face. It has finally hit me the truth of the quote by Elisabeth Stone, "Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." For the rest of my life I am certain I will wish for this day, one in which all of my children are at home, safe, and healthy.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

off to pick a house

I've cleaned the house, well, scrubbed the bathrooms and vacuumed the stairs at least. I cleaned the basement last week for the property manager to walk through and the next day the kids trashed it in their zeal to uncover all the Easter baskets and eggs. That's just how it is these days, I can't clean faster than they mess up.

I've almost packed my suitcase and picked up 4 bags of Otterbein's cookies (the thinnest and crispest sugar cookie on the planet) for my grandmother. I've looked at pictures of houses until the images all run together and whittled the list down to 12 rentals to pick from. I think we have taken buying a house off the table unless they all balk at the size of our family.

I have also weaned Julia Ellen so I didn't have to take her with me and listen to her holler all the way down in the truck and have to stay up every night shushing her because she won't sleep through the night in a strange place. It seems strange to not be pulling up my shirt for her 6 times a day, but she has adjusted very well to sippy cups of milk and eating more table food. Meals with her are such a treat, she eats mushroom soup, chicken and rice, and scarfs down broccoli like it is chocolate cake.

It will be strange to be without any children for a few days, but I'm sure that Tim can handle it and likely will have the household chores delegated and completed far better than I usually manage. Hopefully I can complete my house-hunting mission and be back before they even notice that Mommy is gone.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Mt. Vernon revisited

Is it a field trip if you don't bring your camera?

I realized just after we crossed the American Legion Bridge that I had wiped my memory card clean and checked the batteries, but promptly left the camera sitting next to the computer. But we did bring our annual passes and since Charlie was still under the age limit to get in free, we saw George Washington's farm for cheap. Yeah, we spent a goodly sum on ice cream and an ornament for our Christmas tree, but in all we got to enjoy the 80 F weather and immerse ourselves in 18th century farming.

It is always important to have every child go to the bathroom at the same time as we learned the hard way today. Mt. Vernon has a child-friendly room in the museum where they can dress up, do puzzles, fit together a pottery bowl... but they are very strict that all children (18 and below) must be accompanied by an adult at all times. Well, of course we had several urgent potty trips while we were there so I had to gather everyone up, make them take off the gear, go down the long crowded hall to the bathroom, wait for them to emerge, and attempt it again. Finally after the 3rd time that a little person said, "I have to go," I gave up and after a visit to the last public bathroom I want to see in a long time, we went to the gift shop and home.

Only 2 more field trips left on our list: a return to the National Zoo and the Naval Academy. I think on Wednesday afternoons there is a field parade at USNA starting next week, but for that trip I will triple check that my camera is in my purse.