Sunday, May 30, 2010

final, no more, last DC field trip

I remember back 30 years to my childhood trip to the National Zoo so we decided to spend Saturday using up our Metro card money by saying goodbye to the elephants and tigers. There was a deja vu feeling when we strolled up to see the elephants just as the trainers came out to start the daily show, just like last time we were here.
However, that time we only had 5 children and I was enormously pregnant with Julia Ellen. It was obvious how much she enjoyed seeing the animals, pointing at the elephants, trying to communicate her interest, "Hey, look at those strange creatures!"
She liked seeing the orangutan swinging above our heads as we were eating, but her favorite animal of all was the mallard duck who came over to beg some peanut butter and jelly crusts off of the children. She waved and smiled and giggled and seemed like they were best friends forever, until Mrs. Mallard decided the pickings might be better off at the next table.
Julia Ellen didn't care, at least not when she saw the prairie dogs. You could see her mind working, "These guys are cutie pies AND they don't try to steal your lunch."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

it's all a matter of perspective

To a van full of little kids seeing red lights flashing and the crossing gate going down is a reason to get excited and practice counting. For a baby boomer in a convertible, it is a reason to make a u-turn and find a way to get on the Beltway and go home.

"Look! It's a diesel! I love diesel engines." "What are in those cars Mommy?" "One, two, three...seventy six. That's a lot of box cars." "Bye-bye train."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

carnival coming up

Next Tuesday I am again hosting the Carnival of Homeschooling. The Cate family at Why Homeschool have faithfully organized this weekly event for over 2 years now. The carnival gives us an opportunity to read about new ideas, news in the homeschooling world, and be exposed to fellow bloggers we haven't yet heard. I urge you to submit a post about what is going on in your homeschool by clicking on the submission link and sharing your blog title, blog url, post title, post url, and a short summary of your entry by Monday at 6 pm. I won't reveal the theme, but end-of-year event posts would be most appreciated!

Monday, May 24, 2010

May I have another please?

Pressing her entire plate against her face is Julia Ellen's method of telling us she wants another helping of food. It is an especially disgusting method of communication after she eats macaroni and cheese or pancakes with syrup. She also hasn't quite gotten the hang of raising her sippy cup up so she can drink, so instead of asking politely ('cause she can only say dada and yeah!), she holds her cup up high in the air to inform her royal servant (that would be her mother) that she needs a drink of milk.

Friday, May 21, 2010

the big show

Tonight is the girl's first ballet recital. I remember being in their shoes, feeling all jittery in my tummy for fear that I would forget my entire dance, lose a part of my costume, or get lost and not be able to perform. None of those things happened, though I was always a step ahead or behind the rest of the girls throughout the performance. The New York Performing Arts Company was certainly not knocking on my door the next day offering me an audition.

It is amusing that my girls seem nervous for different reasons, Mary is like me and has to be in the back so she can watch the other girls, while Maggie is only afraid that her friend Sierra won't remember the steps. I'm grateful that they both are wearing lovely costumes, some of the hip-hop gear is horrible with the worst costume featuring gold and purple lame and over sized baseball hats. None of the moves we saw at the two dress rehearsals were as bad as the ones in the You-tube video that surfaced last week showing 7 year old girls in bikini tops prancing around like they should be performing in an "gentlemen's club", the kind of club with no windows and advertised by billboards near the Navy base. I didn't want to overburden the children so we are taking the day off from school today to simply play games, paint, and read. Mary has two more shows on Saturday and then ballet class will be over for the year.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

interruptions from every direction

Between contractors calling wanting me to pick their company to clean our carpets, the baby waking at the crack of dawn and not wanting to be put down ever since, the new property manager calling to bug me about the weeds in the flowerbeds, and the little boys requesting something every 30 seconds all day, "Can I have a Popsicle (2 minutes before lunch)?" "Can we set fire to something?" "Can I go play with the neighbors down the street?" "Can we watch a movie?" I am about to collapse in exhaustion and frustration.

What I don't need right now is the phone to ring again, another kid asking me for something, or to hear a single argument between siblings. What I really need is a extra large strawberry daiquiri with a tiny dab of whipped cream on the top.

Unfortunately I don't have any strawberries or rum.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

turned the corner

Last week I was griping that we still had soooo much work to do in the school year, but this morning as I flipped through the kid's binders, I was startled at how much they have accomplished. Will is plowing through his book report on The Winged Watchman at amazing speed and Mary just finished reading Red Hugh, Prince of Donegal. Mary has only 6 subjects left and Will is going to match her once he takes his final test in history. Maggie is down to spelling and the last few pages of math and is racing through the CAT while Charlie is slowly plodding through his phonics book and only has 2 more catechism questions for the year.

Like a marathoner hitting that last mile or two, we know that the finish line is just over the next hill. Yes, they still have to churn out several more book reports each, but with the majority of their schoolwork for the year behind them, the freedom of summer will be gloriously sweet.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

carnival of homeschooling

Under the Golden Apple Tree is hosting this week's carnival of homeschooling. Check it out!

Monday, May 17, 2010

attempted read aloud

The other night I decided to resume our big kid "storytime" after the little boys and the baby went to bed. I remember reading A Wrinkle in Time as a child and during packing I set it aside for Will. However, I only read 3 chapters aloud before he snuck the book off my nightstand and stayed up until 11pm to finish it. The next night I read to Mary while Will was in the shower and that night she took a hint from her brother, took the book to bed, and finished it before breakfast! Now they want me to swing by the library today and get the next volume in the series. I guess this is a good strategy to get Mary off of her Sisters Grimm, Lemony Snickett, and Shadow Children series kick. I wonder what I shall pick to entice them to finish next, perhaps Anne of Green Gables?

Friday, May 14, 2010

art class

Tim is wonderful at drawing. While on a deployment many years ago he sent Will and Mary their own letters with pictures of trains, boats, and cars every week. I managed to take art for 4 years in high school and was in a show featuring local students. But teaching art is more difficult and we have put lessons on hold for the past few months while trying to get the more academically rigorous subjects mastered. This past week we have turned our classroom into a little studio with the older children working on sketching and shading. Will was so proud of his apple that he taught me how to scan the drawing into the computer so I could blog about it!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

maybe too good an eater?

Julia Ellen is such a delight at mealtime, especially after dealing with picky eaters for the past 10 years. I finally figured out (yes, a slow learner) that baby food is not good to feed babies. The rice mush and pureed veggies set up a train wreck down the road when they won't eat anything that has texture. Giving babies and toddlers a wide variety of foods cut in small pieces leads to much better eating habits down the road. Julia Ellen, despite only having 4 teeth, eats a plethora of foods, including cut up and steamed veggies, eggs, oatmeal with raisins, chili, and pizza. Unfortunately, having that last item for supper has kept her up at night the last two times we partook. My guess is that the salt content, even in homemade pizza, is so high that it makes her really thirsty and she started screaming at 10 pm. She drank about 2 cups of milk and after lots of cuddling and an attempt to have her sleep with me, finally settled down and slept at 11:30, way past my bedtime.

If I could time travel back to 1998 and was making that first bowl of food for baby Will to eat, I would throw away all the jars and boxes of baby mush and feed him pasta and peas, eggplant and pizza, for a few bleary night wakings doesn't begin to compare to the endless battles over getting five children to eat what is on their plates.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

carnival of homeschooling

Apollos Academy is hosting this week's carnival with a gardening theme.

serious packing

With only about 3-4 weeks until we officially pack out, we are already up to our eyeballs in boxes and strapping tape. Over our many military moves I have learned that it is smart to pack all our books (all 15 bookcases worth), all my fabric, and all our various art, school, and beauty supplies well before the guys from the moving company actually arrive. With only a week to unpack at the other end before we hit the road to Maine, I like to know what is in each box and know that like things are with like. And if I'm going to organize every item, throw away the trash, and call the Purple Heart to pick up unwanted items, I might as well put it in the box and tape it up so the kids don't undo all my hard work.

I methodically separate all our school books that we will need come September and put those in a marked box and label my Landmark and Biography collections so I can assign a child to put them in the right bookcase in the new house. The problem now is that our rooms are starting to fill up with boxes,
leading to some creative temporary storage solutions. I could only fit about 1/2 of the boxes of Tim's books in the coat closet, but at least he can now get to his desk.
Recently we were reading one of the Little House books and I was so grateful that we weren't traveling by covered wagon to our new home because the horses wouldn't pull the load more than about 2 feet.

Monday, May 10, 2010

only 14 days of school here

Between orthodontist appointments to get Will and Mary's braces off, Mass on Ascension Thursday, and a doctor's appointment for Will's camp physical we only have 14 days of school in Maryland left. Somehow, despite starting school in September in Maine, taking only 2 snow days during the February blizzard, and working every day, we still have at least 6 weeks of work left in some subjects, 9 weeks left in others.

How did this happen? Yeah we stretched out the study time for some of the tests (especially the 6th grade religion tests so Will could memorize 15 specific catechism answers perfectly) and we took our share of field trips, but I can't figure out why we are still behind (being a relative term since we don't have a set deadline). Was it being in the co-op? Are Seton's lesson plans so jam packed that they would be impossible to finish in less than 200-220 days?

I don't really want to drag school out very long when we get up to Maine where the fields and woods are calling our names, but it looks like the children, especially the older ones, are going to be putting in an hour or so with the books between breakfast and exploring/building time. I don't want to cut into August trips to the pond, sailing and swimming lessons, and hikes so the next few weeks is the time to put our noses to the grindstone.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

what a wonderful Mother's Day gift

Maggie made her First Holy Communion today and participated in the May Crowning. Afterwards the three familes involved had cake and cookies for everyone in the parish hall. Monsignor Hughes did a great job and Will got to hold the paten for his little sister. What I didn't think about beforehand was how Maggie, my pickiest eater, would respond to the taste of the host. She didn't think much of it and asked afterwards, "Do I have to have it again next week?" I'm sure she will get used to the appearances of Holy Eucharist, especially taste, and will stop screwing up her face after receiving.

Saturday, May 08, 2010


Charlie is the first of our children not to go away for preschool and with baby Julia Ellen born last year, we didn't do anything at home either. Of course we read lots of stories every day, went on field trips, and he listened to the older children do school, but we didn't work on learning the letters or writing his name. This year he started kindergarten and we have already finished 3 math workbooks and are almost finished with his catechism book. While he knows all the 10 Commandments by heart and can add and subtract, the child can't identify letters, much less sound out any words. I know that one day soon something will click in his head and he will wonder, "Why did I think this was so hard?" but for right now we are both frustrated. Every morning we work on a letter and the sound it makes and it is obvious the next day that he can't remember any of it.

Charlie is such a bright boy and thoughtful toward his siblings and friends. There isn't anything wrong with him and I have to remember this as I agonize over his lack of progress. All the memories (mostly repressed) of teaching Will the same concepts over and over again come flooding back. But that was years ago and after teaching two girls how to read I had almost forgotten how difficult it is sometimes for little boys to grasp phonics. At least my little boys, perhaps everyone else's are geniuses who teach themselves quantum physics while sitting on the potty at age 2. "Mommy, can you believe that it took Einstein 26 years to figure out the theory of relativity? It is soooo obvious!"

All I can do is keep plugging away with those letters and their sounds as well as reading lots of Curious George and Dr. Seuss. One day pretty soon he will be so envious of his big brother and sisters being able to fully understand a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip collection that he will force himself to figure out how to read. Of course I am a little nervous about exposing him to all of Calvin's antics as it will give him new ideas as to how to torment his mother.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

missing Starbucks

Since I'm within 2 pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight (actually I have been for about a month with no downward progress) I have decided to cut out my daily chai latte addiction. I was drinking several of these a day so I wouldn't be tempted to have a Coca-cola, though they might not have fewer calories. Today is the 5th day with no hot and sweet beverage. With my desire to fit in my old size 6 jeans without the little muffin top look, I know I have to make some sacrifices. The problem is that despite cutting out at least 300-600 calories a day, I haven't lost a single pound!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

early adolescence

I finished reading Our Last Best Shot: Guiding Our Children Through Early Adolescence a few days ago and it made me feel both encouraged and depressed at the same time. Encouraged that I am doing a lot of good things for our older children in terms of who they associate with, what activities they participate in, and nurturing their ambitions for the future. Depressed because so many children don't have the same opportunities that my children do with poor schools, few good friends, and even fewer quality role models. So many adolescents are ruining their prospects by engaging in sex, drugs, violence, and topping it off by flunking out of school.

I see such a disconnect between the care and hyper vigilant parenting that goes on with babies and toddlers and the emotional neglect of older children. It seems that parents spend so much of their time and energy baby proofing every room in their home and taking toddlers to music lessons and Gymboree that they plum burn out by the time the child is ready for school and certainly before they are pre-teens. I have seen some bad behaviors that cause me to worry in my own children, but for the most part they are good kids who know who they are, gave good friends, are getting a quality education, and have other adults in their lives to help guide them.

Monday, May 03, 2010

1st confession

Maggie is making her First Holy Communion next week, but since our parish doesn't have daily Mass, she said her confession yesterday. Luckily they got to cut in line, because there were already 8 people waiting when we arrived at 7:35am. I don't want to hear anyone say that people don't go to Confession anymore, they just need to offer it before Mass and then there would be lines out the door. This was the first child I have prepped for any Sacrament, Will and Mary went to CCD and my only job was to make sure they had the Act of Contrition memorized and buy the clothes. Maggie did a great job and asked me to say her penance with her afterwards. She is very excited about next week and has been nagging me every day to buy some Nilla Wafers, m&m's, or oyster crackers (just for practice!).