Sunday, December 31, 2006

Catholic prayer tag

Tracy over at Woodland Word tagged me with this about prayer life:
1. Favorite devotion or prayer to Jesus?
The Fatima prayer, O my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of hell...
2. Favorite Marian devotion or prayer?
Hail Holy Queen
3. Do you wear a scapular or medal?
I wear a Miraculous medal, though I lost mine a few weeks ago at my last road race. My sweet husband bought me another for Christmas. I got the chain at the pawn shop and now realize that it is better to buy chains new. Maybe I'll get one for Valentine's Day (hint, hint).
4. Do you have holy water in your home?
Yes, I bought an exquisite ceramic font in Vietri, Italy when we were stationed in Naples. It is elaborately sculpted with a small roof and columns with a small bowl underneath. A painting of Our Lady and the Infant Jesus is positioned above the bowl. I use it every time we leave the house. Watching Charlie dip and smear some water on his head makes me laugh every day!
5. Do you offer up your sufferings?
As a convert I find this one of the lovely things about the Catholic faith, a constant offering of oneself to others, even one's suffering. However, this is one of those things I haven't yet learned to do well. Pray for me that I will do this more. Think how many souls in Purgatory could be released if I stopped griping and silently offered up my difficulties.
6. Do you observe First Fridays and First Saturdays?
One of us usually tries to go to Mass these days, if only because Will is serving. It's another one of those things my mind hasn't fully grasped yet.
7. Do you go to Eucharistic Adoration? How frequently?
No. Going to Mass with my crew is enough crowd control for the present time. Maybe when the little ones get older or I have a live-in babysitter.
8. Are you a Saturday evening Mass person or Sunday morning Mass person?
Sunday morning.
9. Do you say prayers at mealtime?
Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts... Maggie is our prayer police (not that we need it), "Say GRACE!" In the past few days she hurries to her seat, says grace alone and starts eating. She doesn't understand that we should say it together if possible, "I SAID grace already Daddy!"
I have finally gotten over my own childhood embarassment over saying grace in public, hopefully something the kids will never pick up.
10. Favorite Saint(s)?
St. Therese of Liseux. She made it possible for the ordinary of us to know the way to become a Saint. I don't particularly want to become a Saint by martyrdom and can't consecrate my virginity (too late with 5 kids and being married).
11. Can you recite the Apostles Creed by heart?
12. Do you usually say short prayers (aspirations) during the course of the day?
Though usually it's "Help me Lord Jesus".
13. Where is your favorite place to pray?
We have a little prayer corner in a quiet room in the house. Kneeling in front of the crucifix and a statue of the Blessed Mother helps me focus.
14. Bonus Question: When you pass by a automobile accident or other serious mishap, do you say a quick prayer for the folks involved?
Yes, we say a Hail Mary when we hear an ambulance or fire engine too.
If you read this you are tagged!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Perfect Christmas Gifts

We really try to limit the number of gifts the children receive at Christmas. We don't have room for too many things in our house and the more toys they have the less they appreciate them. So, we and the relatives try very hard to look for what would suit each child. This year seems to be a success with perhaps some ideas you might use for your children in the future:
Will: Snap Circuits Extension Kit (he got the Jr version last year) with lots of electrical projects, just right for an inquisitive boy. Physics Workshop with lots of experiments. I Spy Fantasy computer game. (I still like playing the Pirate one better)
Mary: Let's Ride computer game with barrel racing. Paint-by-number of a horse's head. Horse puppet to go with the new puppet theater. (see a theme?)
Maggie: I Spy Puppet Theater computer game. Squeeze n Brush paintbrushes (the paint is in the handle-easy clean up) and a roll of paper to fit the easel.
Charlie: lots of cars and vehicles (I think 10 total!)
Poor Timmy didn't get anything from us but the usual love, kisses, mush, and Mommy milk. That is all a 6 month old needs anyway.

Charlotte's Web

I don't take the kids to movies very often, in fact, I don't go to movies very often myself (2 in the last 2 years). However, when my mother suggested we take several of the big kids to go see Charlotte's Web I agreed. (Boy, ticket prices are really through the roof! It was over $30 for 5 matinee tickets alone)

I really liked this movie. It was very close to the book (which in my eyes is a good thing) and the Maine scenery was breathtaking. The state really is full of hills and fields in soothing greens in the summer and brilliant oranges, yellows, and reds in the fall which is one of the reasons why we like to spend lots of time there. The story was funny, full of puns and jokes and then heart-tugging when poor Charlotte (with the voice of Julia Roberts, I believe) dies. My first reaction when the lights went up was, "Well done!" I highly recommend it to the 4 year old and up crowd in your family.

However, the preview for Bridge to Teribithia was horrid, full of scary fairies, a terrifying living tree, and magic castles. It is a far cry from the story of a innocent friendship and adventure that I read and loved as a child. My mother kept looking at me during the trailer plaintively saying, "What have they done!"

Friday, December 29, 2006

Praise of Homeschooling

According to this mostly positive Business Week article, homeschooling is the hip "new" thing, and some parents think that it might be the fast track to a Harvard acceptance letter.
No longer the bailiwick of religious fundamentalists or neo-hippies looking to go off the cultural grid, homeschooling is a growing trend among the educated elite. More parents believe that even the best-endowed schools are in an Old Economy death grip in which kids are learning passively when they should be learning actively, especially if they want an edge in the global knowledge economy. "A lot of families are looking at what's happening in public or private school and saying, 'You know what? I could do better, and I'd like to be a bigger part of my kid's life,"' says University of Illinois education professor Christopher Lubienski.
In some circles homeschooling is even attaining a reputation as a secret weapon for Ivy League admission.Homeschooling is also more prominent in the popular culture, which is helping to de-stigmatize the choice and lend it some cachet among kids and their parents.
The near-perfect SAT-scoring Scot, a contestant on last year's ABC (DIS ) reality show The Scholar, was homeschooled. Home-learners have long swept the national spelling and geography bees. This year the $100,000 prize awarded by the famed Siemens Westinghouse Competition went to homeschooled 16-year-old mathematician Michael Viscardi.Viscardi's neuroscientist mother and engineer father pulled him out of the tony, oxford-and-shorts private school St. Mark's in Dallas because administrators wouldn't accelerate Viscardi in math, even though he was doing high school-level work in the fourth grade. Michael's mother, Eunjee Viscardi, says Michael initiated most of his own learning. The challenge was dealing with her fears that she was ruining his life by isolating him, something he countered with heavy involvement in the community youth orchestra. Michael is set to enter Harvard University this fall.
(It makes me chuckle, because we are members of the religious AND off the cultural grid crowds)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

New Homeschool Carnival

A Year and A Day is up, looks like it is full of interesting reads. Take a look!

And you thought they were there to learn

New York City education officials last year quietly approved more than 50 research projects related to health, psychology, race, ethnicity, gender and religion - mostly on kids in the poorest neighborhoods, a Post investigation has found.
Nearly 200 studies - some of them financed by multimillion-dollar grants - were OK'd.
All of the studies were conducted with parental consent. But as an incentive, parents and kids often were compensated. The city allows "modest cash payments" to parents and teachers and gift certificates for kids, education officials said.
"We have a laboratory of guinea pigs," said Granville Leo Stevens, a parent activist who refused to allow his daughter, Savanna, to participate in an NYU study at MS 104 in Manhattan last year.
"The Department of Education markets our kids like they're a piece of meat," said Stevens.
Some of the studies target students by race and ethnicity.
Maria Kromidas of Columbia Teachers College is doing a project about "Children and Race in New York City" by observing kids in a Queens elementary school with a largely immigrant student base. She wants to find out how children of different races get along.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

It was inevitable that we homeschool

A recent research paper has been published by Eric Isenberg, titled: The Choice of Public, Private, or Home Schooling. It is a weighty tome, 36 pages in length and full of algabraic formulas calculating which families are more likely to homeschool or send their children to private school if they are dissastified with the local public school. Some of the of the variables studied include family size, other adults in the home, religion, public school quality,population density, and mother's education.
Situations which increase likelihood of homeschooling:
Low academic public school quality, especially when the parents are well educated
Mother is better educated (when children are young)
Father with higher education
Rural areas with no or few private schools
2 or more school-aged siblings
Families which include an infant and/or a toddler
Religious families (70% of homeschooled children are in very religious families, compared to 61% of private school children and 45% of public school children)
Evangelical Protestants (Catholics are more likely to use private schools)
Mothers with much time and little income (those with little time and much income tend to choose private schools)
The cumulative effects of all these factors can be strong.
The combination of our household having 2 educated married parents, being very religious, having an infant and a toddler at home, and having a mother with lots of time and no income has seemingly made it statistically impossible not to homeschool.
The decision to homeschool is not just a rational one, but emotional as well. Our decision about schooling incorporates what we think and feel about each choice available. We decided long before we had children that we would not send them to public school with its secular humanistic world view, its low academic standards, and the incredible peer pressure among students to be popular rather than smart. We would have considered private school if any offered a genuine Catholic education. However, our local Catholic elementary cost $4500 per child for a watered-down: "Jesus loves me, this I know; but I don't know much else" curriculum. That left homeschooling as our best option.
With 3 years of experience and test results under our belt we feel that we have made the right choice. However, homeschooling is the most challenging school option. It requires sacrifice, pure devotion, and courage to be successful. The more positive examples we hear from veteran homeschoolers the more it strengthens us. The internet has become a wonderful tool in encouraging homeschooling with email groups, bulletin boards, and of course blogs! So, if you know of a family that fits in some of the criteria above tell them your experience, they might decide to take a closer look at homeschooling.

Monday, December 25, 2006

From our family to yours

Merry Christmas!
We watched A Christmas Carol with G. Scott after dinner and baths last night. I had forgotten how scary and exciting this movie is. Will ducked his head behind a chair occasionally. Mary curled up into the smallest ball possible on Tim's lap to be protected during any frightning scenes. Maggie kept racing down the stairs and hiding in the kitchen so she didn't have to see or hear anything eerie. Gratefully Charlie was put to bed about 5 minutes into the movie. Timmy nursed and fell asleep before the opening credits even rolled. Afterwards we tucked everyone in with extra hugs and kisses, extra blankets and sips of water and said our usual, "Goodnight, sleep tight, see you in the morning."
This morning Will is serving 8am Mass, his best possible gift to Jesus. We will all attend 10:30 Mass and then come home and open gifts. Later this afternoon there is the obligatory extended family cocktail party.
"May God bless us every one," Tiny Tim said as he raised his cup.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Teacher Truency

Boy, don't I wish I could take a day off from teaching and head for the beach on a sunny day. I can imagine the breeze blowing my hair, the sun beating down on my face, a tacky romance novel in my hand while resting in a low-slung chair and my feet nestled in the sand. Or I could spend the day at the outlet mall, my arms laden only with packages and spending lunch in a cute cafe with exotic fare, then indulging in a chocolate treat.

I relinquished that option when I started homeschooling.
However, I'm possibly more deserving of a mental health day than public school teachers. They work 185 days a year and get 10 days paid sick leave. (a standard professional career requires 260 days of work with perhaps 10 days vacation) I teach well over 180 days of school, chaperone all field trips, act as the lunchroom monitor, serve as the bus driver, function as an advisor for music and sports activities, and supervise my students as well as their siblings for all other days of the year as well.
On the other hand, I don't have a school district tracking my sick days and trying to find out if I am home coughing into a hanky or skipping school for the day. If I want to brave the beach trying to balance a baby in arms and keeping fearless children out of the waves I am perfectly free to do so. If I want to slog through traffic for an hour listening to Toddler Time tapes and then drag cranky kids through outlets looking at fine china, then that is my decision (however insane it may be).
No matter how few days vacation I receive (0) or how little compensation I am given ($0) I am still glad that we are homeschooling. It isn't just a job, it is an exercise in love and commitment. Sometimes I just need a little reminder of that when I hear that siren song from the sand and surf.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Rice Mush- Yum!

Timmy has started eating cereal and pureed fruit, but since he can't sit up in the high chair yet he is on the floor in his bouncy seat. Today the kitty sat next to Timmy and kept pushing on my hand for a scratch- while I was holding the long-handled feeding spoon. After a bit he became interested in what I was feeding the baby and gave Timmy's face a few swipes with his rough tongue. It was pretty humorous, if you are not neurotic about kitty germs (which I'm not). Of course when I put the bowl on the floor he completely ignored it. "I just wanted to lick the kid, not the mush," was my translation.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Homeschooler's Christmas poem

Twas the Night Before Christmas Homeschool Style(Author Unknown)
'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the home,
Children were still studying for their test on Rome.
Mom was planning, she had just an hour,
To teach 'one more lesson' before their night shower.
A whole week of vacation, the children were thrilled,
But Mom saw the lesson plans, and the blocks were still filled.
"Can I stop for a day, much less a whole week?"
Just the thought of time off made me shudder and shriek!
Would they remember anything, would they fall behind?
"Lord, I need your help, just give me a sign!!!"
Then out on the sidewalk, I saw my four boys,
And I heard them say, "it's not about toys."
To the neighborhood kids, they explained Jesus' birth,
And how through Jesus, not toys, we gain our worth.
At that point, math and spelling and learning to write,
Meant little to me as I had lost the sight
Of what teaching at home was truly about.
Then I sat at my desk and began to pout.
The pouts turned to sobs, "Lord what have I done?
It's not about grades, but to follow your Son!"
"Please guide me and show me my job is to teach,
and turn them to you, and of Jesus I'll preach."
Now we'll put away books and not open them 'til later,
We'll focus on Jesus, our Lord and Creator.
It's His day and so we will all celebrate,
I'll never mention the words "behind" or "we're late".
So, Thank You, Lord, for blessing me,
With such a great husband and family
.Now homeschooling moms, TURN OUT THE SCHOOL LIGHT!
And, "Happy Christmas To All And To All A Good Night!"
This week is our Christmas vacation, other than a few wrap-up writing assignments. The rest of the week will be spent on Advent activities, Mass, and cookie baking.
I just let the kids loose in the kitchen with icing and sprinkles to decorate our 5000 Christmas cookies while I type. While they are not the most beautiful cookies (they still wouldn't be even if I did it myself), the kids are extra proud that they helped bake them. What are Christmas baking days if not a day to leave a floury cloud on the counter, a mess of crumbs on the floor, and a spattering of sprinkles on the table?
Don't worry dear, it will be cleaned up before you get home!

Moments like these

There is nothing more funny than to glance out the window and spy a little girl sprinting across the lawn wearing a dress and a matching blue latex swim cap. Unless you look up a minute later to notice that she has added wings and a halo.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

New Homeschool Carnival

The next-to-last Carnival of the year is up at Principled Discovery.

Glad we are Roman Catholic now

The storm clouds in the Episcopal church have been building for years now, first with the acceptance of contraception, then the ordaining of female priests, and now with a openly gay "married" bishop. I converted to the Catholic faith from this Protestant denomination and feel that while the social aspects are somewhat lacking (those Anglicans do know how to give an elegant party), there is much more hope for reform within the Catholic Church. Certainly there are similarities liturgically and a "High Church" Anglican service is aestheticly more satisfying than a Novus Ordo Mass. However, I know that the Catholic faith alone contains the fullness of Truth. I am proud of these parishes for separating themselves from the Episcopalians, but would prefer them to jump the Tiber completely and come home.

© 2006
Bush, who has not made any secret of his Christian faith during his presidency, sometimes has attended St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington while he's in the area. But the Episcopal church as an organization is being torn into pieces these days because of the dispute over endorsing homosexual relationships.
... two of the leading Episcopal parishes in Virginia,
Truro Church in Fairfax and The Falls Church in Falls Church, whose members announced plans to leave the Episcopal denomination and place themselves under the leadership of Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria.
Akinola has described the church organization's widening acceptance of homosexual lifestyle choices as a "satanic" attack on the historic church organization.
The Episcopal denomination in the United States is a local division of the Anglican Church worldwide, and has been roundly condemned by many Anglican leaders in other parts of the world for its approval of an openly-homosexual bishop, V. Gene Robinson, as well as other related moves, in recent years.
"We are saddened when individuals decide they must leave the Episcopal Church, for we are diminished when any brother or sister departs from the community," Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in a statement.
Four Virginia congregations earlier announced their disaffiliation with the denomination, and several others have scheduled a vote. And one entire diocese, in Fresno, Calif., has begun the process of leaving the denomination.
The arguments going on now will be much more than spiritual, too, since under the Episcopal church structure, the denomination itself retains ownership of church buildings and property.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Mindless Eating

I noticed the title of this book, Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink on Danielle Bean's blog, so when I spotted it on the new bookshelf at the local library I snatched it up. It is a combination of diet book and research study on such topics as how much people eat if their soup bowl mysteriously refills itself and if people eat more of a food with a fancy description on the menu. The results of these and other studies conducted by the author show us how we can easily be fooled into eating more and therefore gain weight. One of the studies had to do with eating favorite foods first or last.
"almost nobody ate either their favorite food or their least favorite food in the middle. The seemed to use one of two "eating strategies." They either "saved the best for last" or "ate the best one first."
...we discovered that people who ate the best one first often shared one of two characteristics: they either grew up as a youngest child or came from large families.
The people most likely to save the best for last, on the other hand, had grown up as only children or as the oldest. They could afford to save their favorite foods as a reward, knowing it would still be waiting for them at the end of the meal. It's different for children in big families, particularly of they're not the oldest. There is competition for food, even when there is plenty to eat. If you don't eat your favorite food first, you might lose out all together. Get it while you can."
I still remember being in cahoots with my mother on grocery shopping days. After the food was put away we would sneak some special treat like an huge platter of hot nachos or two entire tubes of Pringles before my brother realized they were there. He was the typical teenage boy with seemingly hollow legs, Mother could never make enough food to fill him up. On weekend mornings she would find him still comotose from his late night TV and snacking episodes, empty ice cream cartons and potato chip bags scattered around him. If there was no sweet items in the pantry he would just pull out the sugar bowl and eat heaping spoonfuls, leaving nothing for the next person who wanted a sprinkling on their cereal.
For a long time I would chow down after grocery shopping to mimic this childhood behavior. However, since now I have a husband who is content with only one comfort food: Breyers ice cream, the rest is left alone. I do realize though that in a few short years I will have several teenage boys in the house who might have inherited their uncle's hollow legs.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas pagent time

Our little Latin Mass chapel has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 10 years and likely now has more children than adults in the congregation. Our family fits right in as there are many homeschoolers and 5 children is pretty close to the average. Participating in the Mass here has really given me hope and joy and is one of the few things I will miss when we move.

Today is the parish's 3rd annual Christmas pagent. One of the parishoners wrote it and it is the most Catholic pagent I have seen. Entitled "The Saints Visit the Manger" the play tells the traditional story of the Nativity and then announces, "there are some already with the Holy Family in Heaven, the Saints, who bring their gifts to the baby Jesus." A brief biography of each Saint is read as they come forward with their gift, they kneel before the infant and present it to Him.
Every child in the parish is welcome to be in the pagent and be any Saint they choose. Many of the great Saints are portrayed such as St. Joan of Arc, St. Rose of Lima, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Martin of Tours, St. John Bosco, St. Michael, St. Agnes, St. Patrick and of course St. Nicholas. Yesterday was the dress rehersal and it was the typical zoo, with lots of noise, confusion, and exasperation on the part of the CCD director. Amazingly enough, it all comes together on the day of the pagent and looks smooth and almost professional.
Our family is well represented in this year's production. Will is St. Maximillian Kolbe again and Mary is going to be St. Martin of Tours. She wanted to be a girl knight but St. Joan of Arc was already spoken for. Maggie is an angel for the second year and Timmy plays the part of the baby Jesus.
It is a beautiful pagent and I'm sure the Holy Family and the Saints in Heaven will be pleased.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

homeschool carnival submissions

If you would like to submit your blog article to you might have it read by thousands (okay, dozens) of other homeschool moms. It's fun, easy, and informative (do I sound like a late-night infomercial yet?) They are looking for articles and it does get your blog out there-try it!

Friday, December 15, 2006

I was wrong

Charlie is terrified of the Advent Wreath candles. When I put it on the dinner table he gets down from his high chair and runs to hide upstairs. Even if Will blows out the candles Charlie still says, "Put eath way! Put way!"
We constructed our little bedraggled wreath 7 years ago while in Italy and this is the first Advent we have not lit it and said the special prayer before dinner. While it upsets me to not continue the tradition, Charlie will be a year older and more reasonable next year. However, I am aware that it is entirely possible that Timmy will then be old enough to make a similar protest.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

It's all about the money

Our school doesn't have substitute teachers, movie days, sick days, field trip days, or teacher prep days. Well, we have them, but I certainly don't count them as one of our official 180 days of "school". Substitute? Poor Tim tried to teach them once. Math alone took 2 hours. Movies are relegated to afternoons (after schoolwork is finished) with bad weather. If a kid is sick then they don't have school or we do a bit in bed, but I don't count it. Field trips are great, but we still get our regular work done too. Teacher prep is on Sunday afternoons with a cup of tea. See a trend? We, and most homeschoolers, only count a day of school as a day when we get get schoolwork done, unlike the public schools.
Superintendents seem to believe that if a child is in the building they are learning something and now they give prizes for just showing up. Somehow I don't think the Wyoming schools are giving any of the homeschoolers with perfect attendance a free car.
CASPER, Wyoming (AP) -- Public schools commonly reward excellent attendance with movie tickets, gas vouchers and iPods. But some diligent students ...are now hitting the ultimate teenage jackpot for going to school: They have won cars or trucks.
In most cases the car or truck is donated by a local dealership, and the prizes typically are awarded through drawings open only to students with good attendance.
"I can't tell you that it's increased attendance," district spokesman Terry D'Italia said. "But what it has done over the years is just kept a focus on it and kept it at the top of kids' minds."
Jack Stafford, associate principal at South Tahoe High School, said attendance increased slightly last year, the first year the school system gave away a car, and is up slightly so far this year. He said changing times call for such incentives.
Only 98 of Natrona County's 3,200 sophomores, juniors and seniors were eligible for last year's drawing. They were allowed only one excused absence, and no unexcused ones.
Districts have a lot to gain and little to lose by holding car drawings. The vehicles are usually free. And in Wyoming, even a one-student increase in average daily enrollment means another $12,000 in state funding for the year.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

North Carolina, here we come!

Tim just got word that he was invited (and given permission from the Navy) to do a fellowship. We are all so excited! Sure, it will involve work such as packing up, house hunting, and leaving friends and family, but there are new adventures in front of us. My mind races, "What do I need to do now to get ready," but I caution myself, "there will be plenty of time. Focus on the here and now-Advent and Christmas". One thing I can and must do now is to say, "Thank you, dear Jesus for this opportunity. May we remember to thank you every day for this gift and not grumble when things get difficult".

Family roots and branches

A few weeks ago, while reading Seton's 3rd grade history text The Catholic Faith Comes to the Americas Will and I stumbled across something interesting. Apparently, after the Maryland Colony's Toleration Act of 1649 was passed, a Virginia Protestant named William Claiborne led military attacks into Maryland. He hated Catholics and captured Father White, SJ. The priest was put in chains and sent back to England.
Well, that struck my interest, especially because I have a cousin named A. Claiborne. We pulled out the huge geneology charts that everyone in the family were given as gifts one year for Christmas (great for looking for baby names) and ah-ha, found old William (1600-1677). I looked him up in Wikipedia and in the on-line Encyclopedia Britannica, but struck paydirt when I spoke to a pleasant girl also named Katherine at The Virginia Historical Society. She directed me to several promising titles I could request over inter-library loan: Virginia Venturer, A Historical Biography of William Claiborne and Papists and Puritans in Early Maryland (a doctoral dissertation). Well, the library called yesterday so I am eager to begin reading to see what I can find.
This reminds me of doing research for a paper in my History of Virginia class in college. I spent hours scrolling through microfilm rolls to find census records and Civil War paybooks. My finished paper was bound at Kinkos and given as gifts to all the aunties for Christmas that year. I somehow don't think they would be as keen to receive a story of how old anti-Catholic William Claiborne is likely rolling over in his grave due to some of his decendants converting to the Catholic faith.

new homeschool carnival is up

At Apollos Academy. It's a huge carnival and promises to include lots of ideas to help make your Christmas a little calmer and your homeschooling more festive. (or is it the other way round?)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

If I do say so myself

Getting ready for Mass on Sunday I told Maggie, "You look as cute as a button."

She shook her head no and said, "I look as cute as a flower growing."

Yesterday, after I put her wispy hair into two curly "pinktails" she announced, "Mommy, look at me. I'm adorable."

We sent out our Christmas cards a few days ago and while Mary is sulking in the picture, Maggie more than makes up for it with her impish little grin and her head sporting those adorable "pinktails."

Monday, December 11, 2006

Christmas blog quiz

Your Christmas is Most Like: A Christmas Story

Loving, fun, and totally crazy.
Don't shoot your eye out!

It still takes a family

Ol' socialist Hillary is out there warming up, getting ready for her big presidential run in '08 and one thing she felt she needed to do was update her "parenting" book, It Takes a Village.
Maybe Hillary grew up in a place and time when most children had intact families and neighbors felt free to offer advice and correction to all the kids on the block. But, it isn't like that anymore, due to folks like Mrs. Clinton. The feminists, the liberals, and their ilk left America a much more expensive and more lonely place to raise children. The 50+% rates of divorce and illegitimacy have wiped out the financial and social stability effect of the family. Fewer mothers stay home with their children due to the oppressive tax structure we now have, not to mention the social stigma of "wasting a college education to change nappies". Elites have also turned parenting into a competitive sport, trying to pit moms against each other in every aspect of child-rearing.
Her entire concept of big goverment replacing what is a simple and efficient structure is horrifying to me. We have seen where this is leading socialist Europe: a increasingly elderly population with high taxes and very few children. According to social scientists Italy, Greece, Spain, and Germany will, in the next 40 years, basically cease to exist simply because of demographics.
This was one of the reviews of her original edition on Amazon:
The book in its introduction describes how family life used to be.
Its primary focus is the need for "investment" to end great social ills such as poverty, homelessness, and illegitamacy. While well intentioned this ignores the failure of government intervention to solve these problems. In the almost 40 years since the New Frontier was first proposed we have seen only limited results, from increased "investment" (taxes). That increased tax dollars have marginally narrowed poverty, abuse, and neglect found within inner cities.
Government funded good intentions are often the greatest enemy to the same people Ms. Clinton is trying to protect. Often leading many to be unable to escape griding poverty, illegitamacy, and abuse she is trying to protect.
The focus should be on greater self reliance, rather than on creating a whole new generation of children who are unable to escape the stranglehold of increasingly repressive Orwellian system.
I am a big advocate of a limited goverment that doesn't take most of the money we earn, stays out of our personal lives, and allows parents to exercise the God-given right to educate our children as we see fit.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

great race!

Yesterday I braved the icicles on my nose and freezing fingertips- (okay, it was only 35F) to run another 5K. I beat my previous best (adult) time by almost 90 seconds. I really don't think I should count times from 20 years ago as a reasonable goal. Do you?

New best time: 23:40.

Tim took all 5 kids to Mass and then hung around at church for Mary's Little Flowers meeting.

Isn't he a great husband and father? I think so too.

Especially since I got home late, due to having to stick around longer than I anticipated to collect my 3rd place medal (thank you very much), and poor Tim was shoving rice mush in Timmy's screaming mouth to pacify his hunger. We all pitched in making lunch, I nursed Timmy and got all the babies in the bed. Then I could finally share the race highlights with my husband. He runs, but doesn't see the point in racing for fun. However, he encourages me and listened to my play-by-play of the race. The not-being-able to find my friend, Coralie, until 5 minutes before the race started, the easy 7 min first mile, the back and forth battle between myself and another woman runner for 2 miles, her encouragement "come on, keep it up!" at the last turn, the pulling out all the stops at the end, and the doughnuts (Krispy Kreme, yum) and hot chocolate feast afterwards. After my report, I took the girls Christmas shopping while the boys worked on a model airplane.
The only downside was when I got into the shower I realized that my Miraculous Medal was missing. I must have pulled it off when I took off my sweatshirt before the race. Please pray that I find it. Tim gave it to me for Christmas a few years ago and I haven't taken it off since.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

homeschoolers get to hug

This article doesn't explain why a 4 year old is in school, but it does show why it would be better for them to be at home. In a Texas government school system a small child that gives a hug can be suspended for "inappropriate touching". What rot!! Little children need to be hugged and to give hugs- that is just the way they are designed. It makes me so grateful, yet again, that we homeschool and I don't have to worry about such nonsense. Maggie, our 4 year old, loves to have her back scratched, to give Italian kisses (on both cheeks), and to lie down with her head in my lap. All these acts are sweet and innocent and natural.
By homeschooling, our children are also not exposed to "sex ed" in their early years, destroying their innocence and purity. Will finally asked on the eve of his 8th birthday how a baby come out of a mommy's tummy. I gave a scant explanation and assume one day in the next few years he will ask how the baby gets in there. These subjects should be discussed in the context of living a moral life, by parents.
However, the government schools can't seem to keep truly scandalous predators away from our children. From this story we can read:
No single national agency tracks sex-related cases against teachers. However, it's estimated there are at least several hundred such incidents each year across the country, said Nan Stein, director of a project on sexual harassment in schools at the Center for Research on Women at Wellesley College.
In 1998, Education Week searched newspaper archives and computer databases and found 244 cases in a six-month period involving allegations ranging from unwanted touching to sexual relationships and serial rape.
(We had one of these teachers at my school when I was in junior high and while she eventually went to prison it destroyed the youth of several boys)
Parents instinctively protect their babies and toddlers from all harm, physical and emotional but then hand over complete control when the child reaches the tender age of 5. Protect them from the public schools, which seem to be chock-full of adults who at the same time do not know what is natural behavior for children and also desire to scandalize them. If you don't homeschool your children, consider it.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Raising Citizens, not Consumers

I have written about this before, how grateful I am that our children have not been sucked into the materialistic culture, mostly by our not having a TV. Tim and I also try to emphasize that "things" are not important and how living simply brings us closer to God. We haven't bothered giving the kids an allowance, but do pay them for extra chores like vaccuming out the van. So these few bucks might get spent at the Dollar store for a plastic gun, but usually it just languishes in their piggy banks.
Children under 14 influenced as much as 47 per cent of American household spending in 2005, amounting to more than $700 billion, marketing consultant James McNeal estimates. That figure is made up of $40 billion of children's own spending power, $340 billion in direct influence ("I want a Dell") and $340 billion in indirect influence ("I know little Timmy would prefer us to buy the Lexus"). "The parents have ceded control. Children are making decisions about most household products," says McNeal. Companies have discovered that it is often more effective to recruit a child as an in-home marketer than to try to convince a parent to buy their products. Advertisers are lining up to buy time on Nickelodian, a children's TV channel. offers games and colouring pages to teach children about the joys of owning a colossal sport-utility vehicle. ~ The Economist, November 30
At first I laughed at the thought of the kids asking me for specific purchases. Will and Mary got the idea yesterday of writing Christmas lists. Mary went through the dictionary and came up with 15 items, including a puppy, fish, and a turtle (all her items were spelled correctly, I might add). Will's paper was titled: "Wat I want for Cristmas: 1. a gun 2: a cell fone 3. butse" (boots).
Their Christmas gifts are already purchased, and let me say now, there will be no animals, guns, or electronic devices under the tree.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Christmas Joy

Charlie (2) is so excited about Christmas and his enthusiasm is catching. We haven't put up our tree yet, but wherever we go, the YMCA, Walmart, the library, he runs to the Christmas Tree displayed hollering, "Mismus Tee, mismus tee!" Don't get between him and tinsel, ornaments, or lights, I'm warning you now. He touched the lights yesterday at the YMCA, "ot, Mama, ot." "Yes, Charlie, they are hot." Mary then reached to touch. "No, Ary, ot!" It's all so new for him and makes us all smile and removes all possible wearyness about preparations for the holiday. Even the molded chocolate image of a Christmas Tree under the flap on his Advent Calender made him burst out in excitement at finding yet another decorated tree.
Will lights the Advent wreath at dinner after we say grace each evening. Charlie's eyes get huge, "ire, ire!!" At first I thought he was frightened by the flame, but soon figured out that he wanted them all lit.
We started playing Christmas music a few days ago so Charlie likes to lie on his tummy in front of the speaker listening. When one song ends and the random shuffle is randomly shuffling he begins to despair, "uhhhh, no usic!" I can't tell you how many times I have had to say, "It's okay Charlie, the music will start...," as I hear the strains begin, ""
I am a little wary of what is going to happen when we bring our own tree home and then Tim puts the Lionel train around the tree. Charlie is going to generate so much friction racing around that he may just spontaneously combust.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Domestic Monastery

I came across this beautiful article while reading my friend Tracy's blog archives.
Here is a snippet:
" Moreover, the demands of young children also provide her (the mother) with what St. Bernard, one of the great architects of monasticism, called the "monastic bell". All monasteries have a bell. Bernard, in writing his rules for monasticism, told his monks that whenever the monastic bell rang, they were to drop whatever they were doing and go immediately to the particular activity (prayer, meals, work, study, sleep) to which the bell was summoning them... The idea in his mind was that when the bell called, it called you to the next task and you were to respond immediately, not because you want to, but because it's time for that task and time isn't your time, it's God's time. For him, the monastic bell was intended as a discipline to stretch the heart by always taking you beyond your own agenda to God's agenda.
Hence, a mother raising children, perhaps in a more privileged way even than a professional contemplative, is forced, almost against her will, to constantly stretch her heart. For years, while raising children, her time is never her own, her own needs have to be kept in second place, and every time she turns around a hand is reaching out and demanding something. She hears the monastic bell many times during the day and she has to drop things in mid-sentence and respond, not because she wants to, but because it's time for that activity and time isn't her time, but God's time."
Boy, this sums up hard-hitting reality that I fight with every day. My time is not my own. I am called by God to respond to the needs of the moment, to serve with love. My selfishness comes to the surface many times a day when that bell rings (a baby with a nasty nappy, a thirsty toddler, a hungry infant, a injured preschooler) and I don't want to stop what I am doing to respond. But I do, and need to learn to do it without grumbling. For this is what God wants me to do, to hear that bell and respond with a cheerful heart.
Last night I read a beautiful prayer by Mother Theresa, which I had to add to this post:
Sweetest Lord, make me appreciative of the dignity of my high vocation, and its many responsibilities. Never permit me to disgrace it by giving way to coldness, unkindness, or impatience.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

new homeschool carnival is up

The week seems to fly by, everytime I turn around there is a new homeschool carnival (boy, they sure have a lot to say). Here is this week's at Corn and Oil.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Baby teeth

Will lost a baby tooth yesterday (his 4th) at breakfast so I put it in a ziplock baggie and placed it on the kitchen counter. Last night as I was shooing the kids up the stairs to bed I remembered it and went into the kitchen to retrieve the bag.

"Where is Will's tooth?" I asked Tim.

"Ooops. I accidently put it in the trash."

Usually Tim is not concerned with things I consider valuable like newborn wristbands from the hospital, treasured stuffed animals, a child's first scribblings. You know, the stuff you want to present to them when they grow up to prove you loved them and treasured every stage of their life. Luckily, he realized how precious this baby tooth was to me and averted a crisis by immediately offering to go through the trash can, already at the curb. Ten minutes later the baggie with tooth was safely under Will's pillow with a quick explanation.

The dollar the tooth fairy left (yes, they know there is no such thing, but they play along for the cash) has been burning a hole in Will's pocket all day. He hasn't spent it yet, but had a lot of ideas of what he could do with his precious dollar.
I am so grateful that I have a husband who is willing to go out on a cold night with a flashlight to search for an 8 year old's bit of childhood.
Maybe one day I could make a necklace out of all the children's baby teeth, like the bear hunters of yore. With 5 children's worth of ivory hanging around my neck people would hear me coming from a mile away. Luckily, I'm not much of a jewelry enthusiast.

How much does it cost to educate a child?

Some homeschoolers can educate their children for almost free with resources from the internet and the library and a lot of imagination. Other parents can end up spending thousands on every new book, workbook, game, reading program out there.
We use a middle approach, enrolling in Seton, which costs about $450 per child per year, but not spending much beyond that in extras. I really benefitted from reading a lot of homeschooling book from the library. All the authors stressed not going overboard on spending at conferences and over the internet. I recall hearing Ginny Seuffert (a homeschooling mom of 12) relate how she hears from moms, "I tried Singapore Math and MCP Math, and then Saxon, and I found all these flaws in each. We are going to try Math Power game next..." Ginny said, "The mom spent so much time and money trying out all these programs to "best" fit her child. If she had spent some of that time teaching the child math using nothing but a stick in the dirt outside he would have learned the math by now!"
Can you imagine spending $50,000 to homeschool one teen? An article from explaining how homeschooling has even penetrated the Big (liberal) Apple with parents who want the absolute best for their children.
The most wasteful example is Washington DC, which spends over $9000 per child in the public school system and has the worst results of any state/district. Bill Gates (who sends his 3 children to private school) finds big problems with public schools, but he simply wants more money thrown at the problem. "Pay teachers more, find better teachers" is the mantra.
No amount of money alone will help a child learn. That comes from love, a stable family, and parents who are inspired to help their children learn.
And that is priceless.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Our Jesse Tree

Well, I had grand intentions, envisoning a beautiful tree with delicate ornaments hanging from its branches. I had high hopes of children calmly sitting at my knee, each taking turns raising the pictures from the Bible onto the branches, and asking eagerly, "please Mommy I want to hear more stories before we open our Advent calender."
"Get real," I should have told myself.
The kids decided that they would draw the pictures for the tree, so we had 5 ornaments to put on the first night and 6 the second. Each is only identifiable by the owner, "That's an apple! No, it looks like the world." These handcrafted pieces of art are each tied with red ribbon to hang on the tree. The tree itself is made of branches fallen in our yard and spray painted silver. They are sitting in a quite lovely Chinese bowl filled with sand.
As soon as I start tying the ribbon on someone gets distracted by the Advent calenders, one of which is a charming wooden nativity scene that you add a figure to each day. Today Maggie lost the first piece we hung up last night (will Leaflet Missel sell us one shepherd?) Then the commotion grows as they realize that soon, and to them it means now, it will be time for opening the chocolate Advent calenders from the commissary. I lose my temper and threaten, "No Advent calenders if you don't sit down!"
I did buy several Christmas stories at Barnes and Noble today, including Advent Storybook (the link is on the sidebar) and The First Christmas Stocking. A few days ago I pulled all my Christmas books so we have a large stack to choose from, but I always include The Little Golden Book version of the Nativity story each evening. However, I change the part of the angels speaking to the shepherds to read "peace to men of good will".
So, it might not be the most beautiful Jesse Tree out there, and it may not be the calm I sought, but through reading about and creating, and hanging those soon to be dozens of ornaments, we will hopefully see the true meaning of Christmas.
(update: Charlie found the missing shepherd Monday morning)

Friday, December 01, 2006

Manners 101

It tickles me everytime I am downstairs on the computer early in the morning and I hear the slap of tiny feet on the stairs. "Why? Doesn't that disturb your only quiet time?" you ask.
Well, yes, but it's because I get to hear Maggie's or Charlie's squeeky voices say, "Good morning... May I please have some hot cocoa (Maggie) or milk (Charlie)?" I couldn't stand it a while back when they would come downstairs and demand me to fetch them breakfast. This way is much more civilized and leaves everyone in a better mood.
I am so glad we have taught our children to say please and thank you, to address other grownups as Mr. or Miss, and to call us Sir and Ma'm. And I am glad we are not the only ones doing it as this article from the Washington Post shows. The key is starting young. Charlie is able to say a lot of words now, but at 2 he is still at the "look Mommy big boat!" "two school bus!" phase. He sounds so darn cute that usually I will give in when I hear "Uce Peas" and pull myself away from the computer to fetch him that juice. My reward? "Tank ewe".

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Christmas cookies

The week before Christmas we scheldule a few days for cookie baking. We give a lot of them as gifts. Most people these days don't have time to bake and the kids have a blast helping measure and sift, as well sprinking all the different kinds of decorations, "Look these are baby Christmas trees!" It does take a long time due to the fact that I get interrupted by pressing things like nursing or putting on fresh nappies so I can't do an all day baking marathon. We have to make lots so we can eat them hot out of the oven and to have plenty for Tim to sample after he gets home from work.
Usually we make sugar cookies, lace cookies, chocolate crinkles, snickerdoodles, and these ginger cookies from Virginia Hospitality Cookbook. The recipe came from Stratford Hall, built by Thomas Lee. I like to say that these cookies were enjoyed both by his grandson, Robert E. Lee and Traveler, Robert's famous horse.
Ginger Cookies
1 1/2 cups butter, melted
1/2 cup molasses
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
4 cups flour
4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
Preheat oven to 350 F. Add molasses, sugar, and eggs to the butter. Beat well. Sift together and add to this mixture flour, soda, and spices. Refridgerate the dough for several hours. Make into small balls (one of those mini-scoopers is perfect). Roll in sugar. Put on baking sheet and press down on each with glass dipped in sugar. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
Makes 8-9 dozen cookies

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Christmas lights and tinsel

All the neighbors spent the past weekend stringing lights and garland, hanging bows on the doors and putting candles in every window. I counted 8 Christmas trees already decorated on our block. Though the traditional Catholic practice was to put up the tree on Christmas Eve, there is debate over this in many households (we usually put it up on Gaudete Sunday).
According to the talking heads on the radio the "Christmas wars" have already begun in ernest with some retailers refusing to acknowledge the Christian Holy Day, instead making it out to be a pagan feast with presents. I am already starting to feel a little like Scrooge-it's not even Advent yet, for crying out loud! But most people it seems have no clue that Advent even exists, that we are supposed to be waiting for Christ's birth patiently.
God planned his Son's birth perfectly, there was certainly no need for Mary to rush about like most women in their 9th month, "oh, is this it? Let's go back to BabiesRUs for more crib sheets!" We need to imitate Mary's calm attitude in our preparation for Jesus' birth as well.
I like to spend my days in Advent getting ready with one task per day or two. Since my Christmas cards are here, and my list of gifts is complete (I made the list, not that anything is checked off yet), I already have a head start. I have even printed out the directions for our first ever Jesse Tree. My friend Barbara suggested copying the images onto Shrinky Dink sheets for pretty permanent ornaments. I bought the Advent candles, but who knows where they are now.
Christmas will come in the same amount of time whether we act like crazy women, trying to get it all done now, or behave in a calm and soothing manner.

Carnival of Homeschooling

This week's carnival is up. Lots of great articles (including one of mine).

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

the time for nightly toothbrushing is at hand

How did it happen that with only 5 children (4 with teeth), there are 8 kid-size toothbrushes in their bathroom? And why is it that I am the only person who happens to know which toothbrush belongs to each child? And how did it happen that each child now insists on using their own particular brand of toothpaste? Will-Crest, Mary-Crest for Kids, Maggie-AquaFresh, Charlie-Little Bear for Toddlers. (you did want to know, didn't you?)
So much for the concept of efficiency of shopping in the large family. At least they all use the same soap. Oh, they don't anymore. Its bar soap for Will, gel and a poof for Mary (she gets shampoo and conditioner too since she is the only one with enough hair for that), and lavender baby gel for all the rest.
Can you imagine the brain power I am exerting keeping all this straight? I haven't even mentioned keep track of which clothes go in each child's laundry stack each day. However, I cheat a bit on that one with the dot system on the socks and the girl's underpants. 1 dot for Will, 2 for Mary, and so on. If an item gets passed down it gets another dot so I can see at a glance who it belongs to. Pretty smart? Maybe I should put dots on the toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes. Then someone else (Tim) could lay out the brushes and paste. Now that would be smart.

Monday, November 27, 2006

blocks are better than Baby Einstein

A new study from the University of Washington (Canada) shows that children 18mo-30mo who played with blocks scored significantly higher in language development. The children's parents were given a packs of plain blocks and blocks containing people and cars. They also received suggestions of things to do with them such as sorting and stacking. The parents then kept track of how often the children played with the blocks, played with other toys, and watched TV. On any given day, the study group children were more than 80% less likely to watch TV than the children in the control group. This researcher found in previous studies that TV watching in early childhood leads to language and cognitive delays as well as attention problems.
In our playroom there is a handmade wooden box (made by my father) filled with smooth, ash-colored blocks that I played with as a child. I used to love making tall towers and roads for my brother's matchbox cars. Now, my children build castles and bridges, but find that they have to do so quickly since Charlie, the 2 year old King Kong, knocks them down with amazing speed.
Part of me is glad that this study shows how much better creative play is for children than sitting like a zombie in front of the tube, but we all already knew that, didn't we? However, I don't like the implication that if we ban all electronics and only give kids blocks to play with then they are automatically going to be the smartest toddlers on the block.
I have proof, in my oldest child Will. (note that we had no TV at all and I read to him every day for hours from birth, actually even in utero) He went to (gasp!) daycare while we were stationed in Italy so I could volunteer on base for a few hours a week. The staff had all the children tested by base child development services and found that since Will didn't say more than 5 words and nothing in public at 24 months then he qualified for speech therapy. Hey, I had a newborn and the offer of someone coming to my house and playing with my toddler for an hour for free every week sounded like a pretty good deal, so I said okay. For 6 months, "Miss Karen" came over and blew bubbles, played Pooh house, and chatted with my silent little boy. The week before we packed out to come back to the States, she said, "He doesn't need any more sessions from me since he can use the word xylophone in a sentence. However, you should sign him up for services in Virginia in the school system." (I wisely passed on that suggestion)
I had done everything those child development experts said would make him talk earlier than his peers, but genetics plays a big part in language acquisition too. Will had achieved every milestone a bit later than "the books" say from getting his first tooth at 12 mo to taking his first step at 15 mo. It also turned out that both Tim and I started talking late, so why were we (okay, I) so worried about it with our child? Luckily, with his siblings I have become a lot more mellow about hitting those "should be able to do X by this age" stages and Will now has a ever-expanding vocabulary and is reading at a 5th grade+ level.
Do I think blocks are good and TV is bad for kids? Yes, but while it is nice to encourage our babies and toddlers in an academic sense, it is much more important to keep it up during the elementary years with story time and creative play. That is the time we tend to fall back and let the schools take over and many studies show that children in these grades begin to fall academically. We as a society are overly enthusiastic about teaching our infants and toddlers when their brains are mostly working on automatic pilot. However, we are much less concerned when those children are at a stage when they can actually learn information and skills. We are putting children's work and play in the wrong order. Let babies be babies and focus on academic effort with our older kids.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

reading tag

1. How old were you when you learned to read and who taught you?
My mother (a reading teacher) taught me to read when I was 4. Funny though, it was during the '70's when whole language was popular, so I never learned phonics until I started teaching it myself.
2. Did you own any books as a child? If so, what’s the first one that you remember owning? If not, do you recall any of the first titles that you borrowed from the library?
Oh my, I still have laminated copies of some of my favorites: House on Pooh Corner, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Bread and Jam for Francis, Wizard of Oz, Ballet Shoes, Misty of Chincoteague, and Little Black Sambo. I got my first library card at the Portsmouth Public Library, an enormous stone structure that looked more like a town hall than a simple library (these were people who took reading seriously). I would stack my selected tomes up to my chin and check them out before I realized that I had to carry the stack 8 blocks home.
3. What’s the first book that you bought with your own money?
I really don't recall, since we got books for gifts in our Easter basket, for Christmas gifts, and for birthday presents. No matter what else we lacked, we always had plenty of good books.
4. Were you a re-reader as a child? If so, which book did you re-read most often?
I think I re-read Gone With the Wind 16 times by high school. In 6th grade, a friend and I decided to memorize the first page for fun. "Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it as caught in her charm as the Tarleton twins were. In her face were too sharply blended the delicate features of her mother, a Coast aristocrat of French descent and the harsh ones of her florid Irish father." Impressed? I can only imagine what I could have learned during that time instead-quantum physics, molecular biology?
5. What’s the first adult book that captured your interest and how old were you when you read it?
If GWTW is considered adult, that that, but otherwise it might have been Pride and Prejudice. It certainly wasn't Silas Marner from my brief foray in "honors" English class. I literally read more than any other person in the school (teachers included, I'm sure), but dreary old Silas kicked me back down to English for average folks in about 1 month. Yuck.
6. Are there children’s books that you passed by as a child that you have learned to love as an adult? Which ones?
Nope, I read most of the books on the children's floor of that library by methodically searching shelf by shelf for anything interesting. My goal was to read every children's book of merit there and I likely did. I did read much twaddle as well which I won't expose my children to, such as all the Sweet Valley High books. I recall getting in big trouble with my math teacher in 6th grade for hiding one of those paperbacks behind my textbook and reading all through class. (no wonder I failed college Calculus the first time around)
If you read this, tag, you are it!

Friday, November 24, 2006

breastfeeding in public

I recently read about the mother who was asked to cover up while nursing her 22 mo old daughter on a Delta flight and then ejected from the plane when she refused to do so. Now there is a nurse-in going on in many airports to protest the airline's likely illegal act. Breastfeeding in public is legal in all 50 states because of past experiences such as this one. Now, some (including my husband) think that the woman should be completely discreet by covering up with a blanket, going into another room, or not going out while nursing at all. However, I have nursed 5 children, some for over a year, giving me a different perspective on the matter.
We left the States for our Naples, Italy tour when Will was 8 weeks old, and over the course of the next 3 years, made many trans-Atlantic flights with nursing babies. I have nursed in Pompeii, on hydrofoil boats (to Capri, oooh, la la!), in churches and cathedrals, in markets, and on-base. It was amusing how many times I was asked by Italians if I was nursing and how they then smiled and enthusiastically wished their daughter or granddaughter had babies and breastfed them. I think the Italian people love babies more than any other and it makes me sad that the young married couples don't have more, but that is a different issue.
Only one time was I asked to stop nursing and that experience stuck with me and makes my blood start to boil even today. Will was 17 mo old when his little sister was born so the days of nursing any-old place came to an end. It had to be somewhere where I could contain a rambunctious toddler for at least 20 minutes, which was not easy to do in crazy Naples. So, one afternoon, I found myself at the airport base and hurried into the nearly empty library to snag a chair in the back to feed fussy Mary. Imagine my surprise when I was interrupted by a American woman on the staff who announced loudly, "you are not allowed to breastfeed your baby in here, please leave." Apparently, they had closed-circuit cameras at the front desk and were watching me for at least 10 minutes. I was livid, to say the least and stormed over to the CO's office to make a complaint. In the end, the woman was forced to admit that she had no place to ask me to leave, but I rarely went back and certainly never nursed in that library again.
It was offensive to be asked to stop doing something that was good (even the Pope says so) and not bothering another soul and therefore I can relate strongly to this woman on the airplane. In fact, the first article mentions that she was nursing in the back of the plane with the only people able to see being her husband and the flight attendant. I'm not asking that Americans become as enthusiastic about babies and breastfeeding as the average Italian grandmother, just that they extend a little sympathy to nursing mothers who are trying to do the best thing for their babies.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

a few links

Tami has the new Carnival of Homeschooling up.
Tim has a lovely post about Thanksgiving at Introibo ad altare Dei.


I stepped on the scale this morning and found the magic number staring back at me (no, I won't tell you what it is). My pre-pregnancy weight goal has been achieved.
Now, to lost those 10 pounds from the previous 4 pregnancies!
Yes, it does seem strange, almost 400 years after those Pilgrims and Jamestown settlers were thankful for having enough to eat, I'm very thankful today for not eating too much food.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


I am thankful for:

Faith in God
Hope in eternal life
Love for my fellow man
my family
food to eat
a warm house
being an American

Everyone knows the story of the Pilgrims inviting the Indians for a feast to celebrate the harvest after that first terrible winter in Massachusetts, but did you know that the first Thanksgiving was held in Virginia?
Visit Virginia's Berkeley Plantation, and see where English colonists first held a thanksgiving celebration, one year and 17 days prior to the landing of the Pilgrims in Massachusetts!
Thirty-eight men from Berkeley Parrish in England prayed thanks for their safe arrival to the New World and proclaimed Dec. 4, 1619 as a day of Thanksgiving to be celebrated every year thereafter.
The first Thanksgiving occurred when Captain John Woodlief led the newly arrived English colonists to a grassy slope along the James River and instructed them to drop to their knees and pray in thanks for a safe arrival to the New World.
On this day, Dec. 4, 1619, these 38 men from Berkeley Parish in England were given the instructions:
"Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrivall at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God."
This saying is now carved on a brick gazebo, where it is believed that Woodlief knelt down beside the James River.

One of my aunties used to rent an apartment in the barnyard at Berkeley Plantation, back before it became a popular tourist site. I always delighted in trips there and have wonderful memories of that historic farm. When our family drove up for a weekend we would spend an hour or so hunting in the corner of one of the fields for long brown beads the settlers used to trade with the Indians. They were scattered around where only sharp eyes could find them, because they were the same color as the dirt they had lain in for 300 years. On the weekend before Thanksgiving we would always be invited to the annual oyster roast near the river, where long grills were covered in gray, bulbous shells ready to be pried open with curving knives. My younger brother and I each would slurp down at least a dozen of the hot oysters during the evening. It was quite a party with music blaring from a boombox, but no matter what the weatherman predicted, it was always neccessary to bundle up against the cold wind coming off the river and stand as close to the roaring bonfire as possible. Early mornings I would go for a run alongside the fields, sucking up every bit of beauty with my eyes and molecule of country air before we had to return to the suburbs. Thanksgiving Day always reminds me of those trips and makes me grateful I had the experience. Hopefully, our summer trips up to Maine give my children similar happy recollections and perhaps one day soon we will go and live on our own farm.

Today is officially baking day so I will be in my element with all the children helping make sweet potato muffins, green bean casserole, pumpkin pies, and lace cookies. I expect lots of messes, including dropped eggs, flour dust covering everything, and messy faces from licking batter, but if I anticipate these things it doesn't seem like such a disaster when it does occur.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

list of accomplishments

Occasionally, I read about strangers in the grocery giving pop quizes to kids once they find out they are homeschooled. This happened to Will today when we went to watch Maggie's preschool class give their Thanksgiving presentation. "Oh, so you are in 3rd grade? What is 9 X 3?" Will said that he hadn't started multiplication yet so the conversation went into a different direction. However, it made me start to worry if he is learning everything he needs to this year. Luckily, I am enrolled in an established program so I feel confident most of the time that both children will exceed what is learned in the public school system. Even so, sometimes it is necessary to stand back and reflect on what our homeschooling has achieved. I tend to get mired in the day-to-day tasks of pages done, books read, and book reviews written and miss out on the bigger picture.

In the past 10 weeks Will has mastered up to 4 digit addition and subtraction, become more comfortable with reading and writing, learned many spelling rules, learned 100 new vocabulary words, learned many new concepts and songs on the piano, started diagramming sentences, and memorized the 10 commandment catechism questions. He has worked hard in swimming and being an altar server, and is slowly becoming a helpful and polite boy.

Mary has mastered 2 digit addition and subtraction, improved her handwriting, made strides in learning spelling rules, learned many parts of speech, memorized the 10 commandment catechism questions, and has developed into a phenomenal reader. She is also working hard at swimming, and is keeping up in her Little Flowers group. She just started riding lessons this week and seems to be enthusiastic about it. She is becoming more helpful to me and is willing to try new things. Her drawing skills and writing have expanded and she loves making gifts for people.
They have learned stuff, become more social creatures, and made the world a little brighter. We will get to the multiplication tables soon enough.