Monday, November 28, 2011

so, that's why they call it classic literature

On our recent trip up to the farm I made a decision not to check out any books at the Bangor Public Library or to even walk through the door. The director's decision to invite the Occupy protestors to camp out in the park next to the children's entrance makes me furious. I don't want the kids to be exposed to the lies written on their signs or the violence and disease that these unwashed and uncivilized lay-abouts seem to produce (apparently that is isn't all they produce). 

Instead, I had to rely on the 3 bookcases full of books up in Tim's study to choose from. Mostly they are military, which I don't care for, and Catholic books, which I have already read and make me feel guilty for not being holier, but on a lower shelf is a leather-bound collection of classic books. Except for Pride and Prejudice I was turned off of the classics by a brief stint in Honors English in 8th grade because the class was reading one of the most boring books known to man; Silas Marner. But on Wednesday morning in the midst of a snowstorm and desperate for something to read, I pulled out Jane Eyre and found it riveting and then started in on The Complete Sherlock Holmes. 

Well, I think I can boycott the Bangor library far longer than the occupiers will stand a Maine winter living in a tent, so come spring likely I will be more educated and entertained and be able to venture back into the stacks and catch up on a 6 month backlog of new books. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

holiday prep = snow?

A few days before Halloween, Maine experienced a freak snowstorm, dumping at least a foot on our driveway. Luckily it melted away in a few days. This morning I awoke to snow covering the lawn and more falling sideways. It has snowed all day, a dry snow combined with frigid winds, making even a trip out to dump kitchen scraps in the compost bin a long tough slog (and I ran 8.5 miles yesterday). 

I didn't anticipate this weather and hurriedly packed for a long week at the farm, letting the kids pack the hats and gloves. A mistake on everyone's part for sure, since there aren't enough of anything for more than 3 kids to go outside, and no snowboots or snowpants for anyone. But we are safe and snug inside with the gas fireplace going, Maggie reading Matilda aloud to the boys, everyone progressing on their book reports, and Thanksgiving dinner thoroughly prepped. Hopefully, Tim will make it up here unscathed and we will give thanks for each other, our faith in God, and the foresight of purchasing a automatic generator a few weeks back.   

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

last race of the series

The past few weeks I have really pushed myself to improve my speed, a free turkey was on the line as well as a chance to break a 3-way tie in the Sub 5 track club series standings. I was so sure that I would win my age bracket that I made room in my fridge for the prize bird.

However, despite a 21:18 time (7:07/mile pace) I came in 4th in the middle age women category. No free turkey, but Mary did win a pound of Tim Horton coffee. So after a late lunch the kids and I stopped on the way home and picked up our Thanksgiving bird ($9 after coupon).

I have to admit that whoever wins the series deserves the prize (I came in 2nd), there were some tough races (the Labor Day 5 miler with the steep hill up to Steven King's house comes to mind) and some easy ones (the Garelick Milk Run 1 miler - all downhill) and I know that I can do even better next year having some idea about the courses. Perhaps I will never run another race above 10 miles, but I want to keep running until I'm too crippled to do it, the lure of racing and competing is strong.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

my life is a giant jigsaw puzzle

NFP is not an exact science, and when I was 4 days late recently, my mind raced between picking out baby names (Henry James or Elizabeth Ann, if you care to know) and utter panic (a year without running, where would I put a baby in this house?). Since everything I do, from the moment I awake to the instant my head hits the pillow has to be fit in like a giant 500 piece puzzle, I didn't relish the idea of having to fit more pieces into my daily life.

Tuesdays are my worst days: Mary at the elementary school at 8:50 for art and gym, Charlie at the primary for gym at 10:00, pick Mary up at 10:10, pick Charlie at 10:35, Maggie at the primary for gym at 11:15, pick up at 11:55, drop off 3 children at piano at 2:00, drop off Will and pick up 2 children at piano at 3:15, pick up remaining children at 4:00, fit into all of this school for 5 children ("Will, this is how you do this algebra problem, I want to see the rest completed before I get back."), laundry, breakfast, lunch and dinner, tidy the house, etc. etc. etc. There are always errands to run, doctor/dentist/orthodontist appointments, groceries to buy, and a phone call, "Can you do this?" thrown in for good measure. At any moment I feel like the whole puzzle is in danger of being tipped off the table by one or more of the children. Yesterday Julia Ellen got hold of a pair of children's scissors and not only cut her own bangs days after I trimmed them so carefully, but cut up the first page of a library book, and cut off the kitten's whiskers. 

I just don't think I can add one more thing to my day, my life, my world. So, when, of Parents magazine emailed me asking me to be in contention for their new homeschool blogger position, with the obligation, under contract, to produce 3-5 posts a week about homeschooling, I was pleased about the recognition, but knew in my heart that I could not accept. When I say I will do something then I try my best to honor that promise, whether that obligation be daily prayer, marriage, children, art lessons, or employment. I didn't think I had a table large enough right now to work on a 1000 piece puzzle, no matter how much I wanted to. 

However, I realized on Friday morning that if God asked me to take on the 750 piece puzzle we could make it work. I can say no to some things, but not to another precious life.  There are only so many hours in each of our days and we must pick and choose how we will fill them. In 2011, I have chosen to teach my children at home, supplement with public school classes, and be a homemaker. In 10 years that situation will likely be different, but I do hope and pray that one day I will see the completed puzzle of my life, including 6 (or more?) beautiful children and a happy husband.    

edited to add: it was a short-lived false alarm, but I found that 36 hours are plenty of time to be horrified, be resigned, and be prepared, before being disappointed.

Friday, November 11, 2011

serving penance

I could never be a hypochondriac or suffer from Munchausen syndrome by proxy (when parents make up illnesses in their children for attention). Both are simply too much work when you have more than a couple of kids. Yesterday we had an appointment with a pediatric cardiologist to check out a heart murmur that the nurse-practitioner heard a few weeks ago when we took Timmy in for a checkup. Tim said it would be nothing to worry about and this turned out to be the case, but I felt that we had to go just to be sure. After sitting in a 10' x 10' room with 4 children for well over an hour, I was ready to admit myself to the hospital just for a little peace and quiet. We exhausted all our books that we brought, blew up a "balloon" made out of a laytex glove, and Julia Ellen played "open and close" with every drawer in the room. By the second hour, the little boys were climbing all over the examining table, the chairs, and me. 

Finally the doctor did a quicky ultrasound which showed Timmy's heart pumping away, while the toddler repeated, "Want the lights on," over and over and over. Finally we drove home in the dark and rain with the same 2 year old screaming from boredom and exhaustion. I am so grateful that there is nothing seriously physically wrong with any of our children, since more than one doctor's appointment a year for each is beyond my capability, mentally and physically. My heart goes out to those parents who do have to repeatedly suffer through long waits in the doctor's office with not such happy conclusions and their children are in my prayers.       

Thursday, November 10, 2011

early birthday present

The other day I was out running my 9 mile loop, a little later in the day than usual and was almost to the turn for home when a car pulled over ahead of me and a man got out of the car. He was holding a blaze orange hat and offered it to me, "You look like a deer to any hunter out there." Turns out he works for Fish and Wildlife and didn't want me to be shot on the way home. "Do I look cute?" I asked after I put it on and adjusted the fit. "Yeah," after a slight hesitation. I figure either he was afraid of a sexual harassment charge or was honestly thinking that few people look good after running 8 miles. 

On my birthday Tim brought home a basket of flowers, the children made me a card and gave me a pin that I swear I gave to Mary from my mother's jewelery box, and my dad called to wish me a Happy Birthday (I thought it was an hour earlier because I haven't changed my computer's time yet). No, I didn't receive a trip to Hawaii, but a lovely pair of cross country skis so I can continue to exercise despite the cold and long winter arriving soon. The important thing is that Tim thinks I look cute in my new baseball hat and he didn't hesitate to tell me so.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

smushed pew syndrome

This past Sunday we did not attend the TLM in Lewiston, but instead went to the NO Mass in Bangor. While Tim was heading up to pick up Will from his campout at Acadia, I took the remaining 5 children to the 10:30 service. I forgot that they had changed the time and arrived 20 minutes early and snagged one of the back pews. While the children behave better when sitting up front, I choose to sit in back so I can be sure to receive Communion from the priest and am able to "switch sides" to make that happen. But in the last 5 minutes before Mass began we first made room for an older lady on one side and then a couple squeezed in on the other side while I wasn't paying attention. Then Charlie announced he had to go potty and in the period of his absence the first woman scooted over to make room for 2 more people. So, what started out as spacious accommodations, turned into our large party of 6 being smushed into a space that could really only accommodate 3. As I was getting my tights snagged by the toddler's velcro shoes and listening to children complaining about being elbowed by their siblings, I uncharitably told them to elbow their adult neighbor instead. 

What were these people thinking? Why would you deliberately box in a family with lots of little children that need room to breathe and access to the aisle? All this relates to Father Z's blog post about obnoxious ushers and the comments by perfect parents with children who never utter a peep inside the sanctuary for fear of being beaten. I'll refrain from commenting there, but I wanted to share with the childless adults who attend Mass: you reap what you sow, if you smush my 2 and 5 year old children who just want a little room so they can color their Catholic coloring books you deserve the glares and elbows that will inevitably come your way. Yes, I will pray for you, but it will be likely, "Dear Lord, please induce this person to sit somewhere else next Sunday."    

Monday, November 07, 2011

chased by cows

Every night, several times a night, Julia Ellen wakes up screaming. I hold her tight for several minutes, pour her a cup of water, and hold her again on her bed before she sleepily puts her head back on her pillow for another 3 hour "nap." I asked her if she had bad dreams and she said, "Yes." "What was so scary?" No response. "Were there scary animals?" "Yes." My mind raced with the possibilities and wondered aloud if she was frightened by rampaging heifers. The mind thinks strange thoughts in the middle of the night, especially after being awakened out of my own nightmare of sorts by piercing screams. 

Today is the first day of the younger children taking supplemental classes in gym and art at the local public school so that was the topic of my nocturnal musing. The daily logistics of getting 5 children educated sufficiently, as well as cleaning the house enough so it won't be condemned,  preparing adequate food so no one will go hungry, and squeezing in my daily run is difficult enough, but now it might be impossible. In this nightmare that Julia Ellen mercifully cut short, not only did I not get a chance to run, but between dropping off and picking up children for these extra classes, we didn't get a single assignment completed, nor practice one piece on the piano, nor read a single book. 

Not that this scenario is likely to play out today with only one child taking one class, but it reminded me to focus on the importance of the basics of our curriculum and not be focused on marauding cows, however frightening they may appear to be.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

farmer Kat

Tim took a few days off so we could come up to the farm this week and I have been very busy. First I worked on clearing the brush alongside the driveway (and it is a long driveway) so we can see the stone "wall" separating our land from the hay field on the other side of a narrow strip of woods. After wrestling with the crummy loppers for several hours and getting a huge blister on my palm, I'm almost finished with that task. Then, with Julia Ellen's help, I staked out where some fruit trees will be planted in April and fertilized, limed, and covered each spot with a big pile of wood chips. 

Thursday and Friday were spend making umpteen trips to the dump to collect more wood chips to cover another of my four long garden beds. I was able to cover most of one in October with horse bedding/manure before the dump got rid of all their piles available to residents (they now just have shredded wood chips from brush). It took 2 days because I had to pitch into the truck bed and then remove at the garden one scoop at a time. I did become more efficient at removing the chips when I lined the truck bed with cardboard boxes (yes, I scavenged these from the recycle container at the dump) and pulled them out onto the garden, but it was still slow going for most of the day. I think I shoveled and spread 7 pickup truck loads in the cold and my arms really can feel it. I know that my plants will appreciate all my hard work next year by the addition of all this organic matter. And since I'm not hauling another 14 loads to cover the two remaining beds, I will be able to scientifically compare the effect in next year's vegetable production.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

shadow a student

Yesterday Will went to his first day of school and loved it. He went to all the 7th grade classes with a nice, polite boy we met at the open house. Why 7th grade? Tim and I decided, with Will's input, that transitioning from being taught at home to a highly competitive environment in the middle of 8th grade, with 9th grade looming would be too hard on all of us. Will has never studied for a test without me, never taken notes in class, and never had to listen to and contribute to a lecture.  On the other hand, he has focusing on his work with a myriad of distractions around him down to a science. He would be a very young 8th grader and a slightly older than average 7th grader and this allows him to take Algebra 1 next year and be able to advance to Calculus by 12th grade. As he has always been interested in engineering, I would like him to have the prerequisites on his transcript. 

Apparently he had the most fun in gym class playing dodge ball, was the only child in science who understood the process involved in wastewater treatment, and contributed the fact in geography class that he had lived in Italy. I am sure that we will continue to teach him Seton's religion at home, as the classes at school are a watered down version of what he currently studies and much more touchy-feely than I am comfortable with. Of course we will be very involved parents, I can't imagine being any other type as Will's and his sibling's education has been the main focus of my life for the past 9 years.