Wednesday, April 30, 2008

toddler time

Next month baby Timmy will be 2 and not much of a baby anymore. While he still sleeps in the crib and has a vocabulary of only about 5 words he is starting to develop his own personality and is turning out to be a pretty funny little boy. We giggle and grin at each other, especially when it is just the two of us. Tim, brave man that he is, took the rest of the gang this afternoon to Sears and Target in preparation for the big Cub Scout overnight next weekend. Timmy and I had a fine time playing outside, chasing birds, watching the sky for airplanes, and snacking on almonds. He will do anything for a roasted salted almond, all I have to do is shake the can and he comes running. "Here kitty, kitty... whoops! Come to Mommy and get a treat."

Timmy might be our last baby so I have tried to snuggle and enjoy his baby antics and sweet smell, his wispy blond curls and tiny toddler teeth, his eagerness to ride piggyback down the stairs and his fetching our shoes to show how much he wants to go outside. Of course there are some things I won't miss such as washing all those sippy cups, changing nasty nappies, and the constant vigilance required to make sure he doesn't wander off into the street or into the pond. But just as Will is always going to be my "Babydoodle" and Maggie will always be "Baby Gator", little Timmy likely will always be my "Baby snugglemuffin."

Even when he is 32.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Thank goodness for Walmart

This morning I packed all the children in the car for another trip to attend a low Mass in Latin. (Here I am before we got into the car, notice the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle hat Barbara wanted to see)

I was just about to get off the highway when I heard, "I don't feel so good," from Charlie. Of course I didn't make it to a place to pull over before he got sick all over himself, the carseat, and the towel underneath. I stripped him down and tried to mop up the mess in the carseat, but it was just hopeless.

Fortunately for all of us I have a handy-dandy bin with extra wipes, diapers, and clothes for just such a circumstance. I said a silent prayer for the homeschooling mom who wrote about her emergency bin's supply list on her blog and inspired me to do likewise.

After cleaning everything up, dressing Charlie in new duds, and switching seats around we made it to Mass on time. After I dumped the nasty one into the dumpster, we swung by Wallyworld in the next town. Whatever bad things you may say about big box stores undercutting local stores and underpaying its workers, the big benefit is that you usually find what you need. This is the second carseat that Charlie has caused us to toss. Maybe I should keep a stash of doggy bags in the fancy cupholder so I don't have to buy him yet another.

I won't post a picture of what I looked like afterwards, I'll leave that to your imagination.

Monday, April 28, 2008

reading circle

After swinging by the library on Friday afternoon I came home with several recently released novels which I almost devoured. Since I love to quilt, I snatched up the latest of the Elm Creek series which presents my fantasy career of running a quilt camp in a an old manor house. Then I almost shrieked when I saw that Nancy Atherton is out with a new Aunt Dimity mystery, a sweet series that makes me want to find my own thatched cottage in England complete with a extraordinary nanny and a guide from the beyond.

Both series focus on family and friendships, life in a small town, and how everyone needs an outlet for their creativity. While I may never move across the Atlantic or host hordes of quilters on our farm, I would like to settle down roots in a small town and find a business opportunity that gives release to my passions and creative juices.

What have you been reading lately?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

old hat, new hat

Most ladies who attend the Traditional Latin Mass wear a head covering such as a hat or lace veil. From our first visit to St. Benedict's I resented wearing a bit o' lace on my head. I had 3, then 4, then 5 children to keep quiet and attentive at Mass, and with mothering duty it would constantly slide off even using industrial strength bobby pins. After a while I switched to square silk scarves tied under the chin, but with both I just felt silly, not pious. After reading about why women were encouraged to wear them I did as the Romans did and even kept the basket in the vestibule stocked with homemade lace circles (and bobby pins) for visitors or forgetful parishioners.

After reading some Catholic blog a month about the history of headcoverings, I learned that most British and American Catholics before Vatican II didn't wear veils, but hats to Mass. Off I trooped to Sears and Macy's where I found two lovely numbers, a red felt for winter and a white straw for summer. However, this morning when I went into the closet to pick out a blouse and skirt I was drawn to a taupe linen skirt with embroidered flowers and a short sleeved lilac cotton blouse with taupe sandals.

Neither hat would do.

I did recall seeing some old straw hats in the dress up bin so I imitated one of my favorite children's literature characters, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. "She wears felt hats which the children poke and twist into witches' and pirates' hats and she does not mind at all. Sunday mornings she takes one of the hats off the closet shelf, gives it a few thumps, pulls it firmly down fore and aft and wears it to church." A good thump certainly put my hat to rights and with a dash of lipstick I have to say I looked pretty glamorous, not the least like Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

winding down

Last night Mary went to her next-to-last Brownie meeting, a crafty party with all the mothers chattering about tents, chair rentals, and the weather forecast. Because you know, 1st Holy Communion day at the local parish will be in 2 weeks and all of the other girls in the troop are preparing. One mother was saying how she is renovating her house and hopefully it will all be finished in time, she can't have all 110 people and the kiddy DJ they are expecting to have to fit inside if it rains. Another was lamenting that she can't believe that she completely forgot to buy white shoes. Even the most down-to-earth mom was saying how she couldn't possibly fit in a trip to the strawberry patch this week, it was too close to the big party. No one mentioned anything religious in regards to the day, except for the renovation lady who said, "Its a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and besides, religion is a good excuse for a party."

I guess I have been overly sheltered, I hadn't met any folks who turned this most special and holy day into a freak show. Apparently I just hadn't been Catholic long enough. Or maybe it is because I usually socialize with homeschooling moms who place much more importance on spiritual readiness than on the externals.

Our other activities are winding down as well: 5 piano lessons, 3 Cub Scout events, and 3-4 more weeks before the babysitter moves away. I wanted this year to be a quiet one, spent mostly at home doing school. What I didn't expect was a complete lack of other moms around who are homeschooling, orthodox, and/or welcoming. It has been tough and I've been very grateful for the friendships I have through my homeschooling boards and this blog. While I am glad that Tim did this fellowship, I will be very grateful for the upcoming move and its increased opportunities, both for the children and myself.

Friday, April 25, 2008

baby news

Congratulations to Sarah Palin, Alaska's governor. She recently delivered her 5th child. She is definitely one of the good guys, being strongly pro-life and a former homeschooling mom.

"Alaskans know I am pro-life and have never wavered in my belief in the sanctity of every human life."
Palin expressed disagreement with the Alaska Supreme Court when it overturned a 1997 parental consent law in 2007."She feels parental consent is reasonable because it is required in nearly every aspect of a child's life. It's a parent's right and responsibility to be involved in their child's life," spokeswoman Sharon Leighow told the Juneau Empire.

On Friday, Palin gave birth one month earlier than expected to a child with Down Syndrome. "We knew through early testing he would face special challenges, and we feel privileged that God would entrust us with this gift and allow us unspeakable joy as he entered our lives. We have faith that every baby is created for good purpose and has potential to make this world a better place. We are truly blessed."

Palin stated her decision to give birth to her child is unusual, since currently more than 80% of children with Down Syndrome are aborted.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

strawberries anyone?

This morning after forgoing schoolwork to attend a TLM about an hour away, the children and I stopped at a pick-your-own strawberry field just down the road from the church. They were all excited and constantly hollering to each other, "Hey, look at this huge one!" "No, this one is bigger!" The berries were so plentiful that we filled up 5 buckets in all of 8 minutes.

Unfortunately in my enthusiasm I forgot one essential ingredient: cash. We live in such a "charge it please and thank you very much" world that I can go for weeks without seeing a flash of green in the wallet. Luckily the folks were very nice and understanding as I popped everyone in the van to swing by the grocery. All the way home the kids pleaded for shortcake after supper. Of course I need to stop by the store again to get buttermilk and whipped cream. When we go back down on Tuesday for Mass and another strawberry picking day I will try extra hard to remember the $$.

added: less than 24 hours later we have eaten 2/3 of our harvest, mostly due to the fact that I allowed the children to eat strawberry shortcake for breakfast. Instead of the dry Bisquick shortcake my mother used to make or the sponge cake you can buy at the grocery, I prefer a no-fail buttermilk biscuit. Will makes these for breakfast often with honey or jelly smeared inside, so if a 9 year year old can make them, anyone can.

Buttermilk biscuits

2 1/2 cups flour
2 TBL sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup buttermilk

mix the dry ingredients well, add shortening and mix with fingers, add buttermilk and stir and turn out onto counter. Pat out to 1-2 inches high and cut out in circles. Put in pan touching and bake at 425F for about 12 minutes or until sides of biscuits are dry.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

operation househunting

I feel like a battlefield general preparing for a major offensive in my on-going search for a house for our last duty station. "It is only a rental, stop obsessing," Tim says. But a house is so much more than a place to just lay our heads at night, it has a tremendous impact on our lives, especially when we are usually in it 20 hours a day. For instance, while the house we are in now is okay, the cheap carpet has given me allergies ever since we moved in (and I am NOT a hypochondriac), the lack of storm windows increased our heating bills, and the fact that I couldn't open most of the windows for much of our stay was a major hassle (and dangerous).

So far the realtor sends me daily updates on all the local rentals, I have set up a trip up in about 3 weeks staying with my SIL, and have designated a special notebook to list all the houses that fit our criteria and location, rent, space, acreage... On top of these basics I have printed out a map of the county and marked out the train line and am in the process of plotting via MapQuest the 35 houses on my short list. By the time I drive up to tour and select a house I will have at my fingertips a page for each listing the benefits and downsides and take notes as I go.

One of the houses is on 2 fenced acres surrounded by an estate with a lovely view of a pond, however, it also is very far away from Tim's work and the master bedroom appears to be lavender. A new listing is closer in to town, on 3 acres, but is on a main road and with no pictures posted it could turn out to be a really horrible house. While the looks don't matter much, the layout, the amount of space for the kids to play outside, and a schoolroom are important. The funny thing is that after all this planning and research we will leave within days of moving in to spend the summer in Maine and won't return for 3-4 months.

Michelle, over at rosetta stone, is PCSing to the same general area as we are, but instead of doing all the above mentioned junk, a perfect house fell into her lap. I don't want to covet her good fortune, but I sure do want this over so we can just get to the fun: summer in Maine!

good time to grow your own food?

I would seriously think about planting a garden if we weren't moving in a few months. If only I could grow macaroni and cheese bushes and bread trees (is that the same as breadfruit?). I can only plan our garden and orchard at the farm on paper and drool as I look through catalogues at all the different varieties of blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and apples.

Our government should be more concerned with global starvation since this man-made food shortage has already caused more anguish and destruction than Al Gore's made up global warming crisis.

Experts told The Times yesterday that prices of rice, wheat and vegetable oil would rise further. They also forecast that high prices and shortages — which have caused riots in developing countries such as Bangladesh and Haiti — were here to stay, and that the days of cheap produce would not return. Food-price inflation has already pushed up a typical family’s weekly shopping bill by 15 per cent in a year.

The price of rice, which has almost tripled in a year, rose 2 per cent on the Chicago Board of Trade yesterday as the United Nations food agency gave warning that millions faced starvation because aid agencies were unable to meet the additional financial burden.

Gordon Brown responded to mounting concerns about the global rise in food prices by signalling that he might scale back Britain’s commitment to biofuels, which critics say has exacerbated the food crisis because land has been given over to grow crops for energy rather than food.

Carnival of Homeschooling

This week's carnival is up at Principled Discovery.

Monday, April 21, 2008

note writers

I once thought that since the children were not in school they would have little use for writing and passing notes. Lately I have been inundated with scribbles as well as lengthy paragraphs.

Poor Tim has 1 week left of the horrible 15 hour day rotation and is sick so Will posted this on our bedroom door one Saturday morning.

And he was better, for a spell.

This was from Mary, a reminder to her brother.

This is Will's persuasive plea for a cap gun he saw at Cracker Barrel. I let him use it for a paragraph assignment for school. However, he said yesterday that he didn't deserve it because he had been nasty to Charlie and Timmy.

I guess he was listening when I told him he could get one when he proved he was responsible. This scrupulosity has shown that all the hours we spend memorizing the Baltimore Catechism are paying off. However, we need to spend a little more time on the 5th Commandment, which includes not being mean and cruel to your siblings.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

race results

While I ran a new adult personal best in today's 5K (23:02), I only managed to snag 3rd place in my age group. However, this might be my last race in North Carolina. By mid-May it just gets too uncomfortable to run more than a few miles. While some folks train and race marathons during the South's gripping heat, I prefer to not overexert myself, but instead sit under a tree and sip lemonade.

Who makes the rules around here?

The news headline today is, "Pope worries big powers control decision making", referring to Pope Benedict's UN speech, while after hearing of the debacle of the Washington, DC Mass I worry that the biggest power in the Catholic Church doesn't control decision making. After reading books by the Pope about the importance of the liturgy, the need to return Mass to a focus on God and the Redemption, rather than the current parish community hug-fest, I was sadly disappointed that the Papal Mass was so bad. One watcher said that the Pope rolled his eyes several times during the service. If the Emissary of Christ can't find a good Mass, then what can the poor souls in middle-American pews supposed to do to improve the Church?

Perhaps it was a good thing that the Pope, who gets to attend daily TLM with Gregorian Chant, has to suffer through what the average Catholic does every Sunday. Maybe he will get fed up and actually use his power to force some change rather than speak in diplomacy gobbledy gook. "Please," "It would be preferred," and "One should do..." don't cut it in today's world. "You will do..." "This is forbidden..." stated forcefully to bishops and priests might get us somewhere though.

I am just saddened to see an apparent disconnect between Pope Benedict's words and actions. This is from an article Friday: "some Catholics believe they have "a right to pick and choose" in the faith, "maintaining external social bonds but without an integral, interior conversion to the law of Christ.""We have seen this emerge in an acute way in the scandal given by Catholics who promote an alleged right to abortion," he lamented. It is this internal betrayal by Catholics that seems to most deeply distress the Holy Father. Besides the much publicized cases of sexual abuse by priests, and the proliferation of homosexuality within certain seminaries, the scandalous behavior of a majority of Catholics in political life also gives rise to the Pontiff's deep sadness. However he personally allowed Nancy Polosi, John Kerry, and Ted Kennedy to receive Holy Communion at the DC Mass. What does this show bishops who have refused Communion to pro-abortion politicians? What does this show to the average Catholic?

Friday, April 18, 2008

facts of life - review

Remember a month or so ago when my neighbor gave Mary and our homeschooled babysitter books about the birds and bees? Well, when I asked another homeschooler on our block if she had ever had any weird vibes from this guy she pulled out a book from the shelf and said, "No, he's never said anything to the children, but he did give me a book he wrote in the 1980's. It seems to be the opposite of what you are saying. The title is Raising a Child Conservatively in a Sexually Permissive World."

Well, I couldn't find the book on Amazon because I couldn't remember the exact title, but happened to recognize it while browsing the shelves at the local library. After reading as much as I could stomach I realized that my homeschooling neighbor surely didn't read the book, just assumed from the title that it was conservative and morally acceptable. However, it is graphic and is very liberal/leftist in terms of giving children explicit information at a very early age. Their main emphasis is that educating children about sex will magically produce morally responsible adults. They claim that sex-education reduces teen pregnancy, STDs, and fosters a sense of responsibility. Well, since 1983, when this book was published, almost all public schools have adopted this sort of sex-education curriculum and now we have an epidemic of teen sex, 25% of teens have had an STD (some of which will give you cancer and/or are not treatable), modesty is almost unheard of in high schools, and dating has become so disturbed as to include sending potential dates nude phone pics.

I think the Gordons (the authors and my neighbors) have helped foster this sexually explicit atmosphere by their writings. In the chapter pertaining to young children they state, "We've rarely met children of school age who were not aware and exciting, interested in and affected by the sexual aspects of their lives." They suggest telling preschoolers about sex, about how erections feel nice and proceed to encourage teachers and parents to tell 6-10 year olds about birth control, tampons, incest, and explicitly describe sex. While I am less concerned that my 85 year old neighbor is a sexual predator, I worry about the world that he has helped promote, a world obsessed with sex, with no controls, and too much information.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

wildflower walk

This morning the kids flew through their schoolwork, amazing since it took Will until 1:30pm to finish yesterday. So, while they were finishing up their math, I made up a picnic lunch and put everyone's shoes on. We flew out the door and had a wonderful trip to the Botanical Gardens for about 2 hours. We toured the more formal gardens first and then headed across the road to the nature trails where I often run in the afternoons. The spring flowers were out in force, from the delicate Anemones to the sturdy Mayapples. Often I called the kids back from wherever they had run off to, "Come see this rare Trillium! Oh, look, the wild ginger is blooming!"

I never knew when I was 16 how much one class project would influence me, but a huge part of our grade in AP Biology was from our wildflower collections we worked on during the 2nd semester. I decided, along with one other student, to not take a partner and do the entire project by myself. I have wonderful memories of Mother and I going to various parks and gardens, pulling over on the side of the highway, "STOP! I see a flower I don't have yet!" In those days before digital photography and good automatic cameras, I snapped pictures and dried flat over 400 different flowers. All these years later I can still remember names of many of these fragile and beautiful flowers.

The kids ran and played in the stream, ran and climbed on dead trees, ran and ran and ran. By the time we ate lunch and headed home all of them were wiped out. Timmy went right to bed and slept for almost 2 hours. I hope to repeat many more trips like today so the children can not only reel off the names of flowers but have their own precious memories of woodland walks.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Carnival of Homeschooling

This week's carnival is up at Nerd Family.

One year ago...

I was driving across the Monitor Merrimack Bridge Tunnel with a van filled with my weekly commissary haul when the radio announcer broke into my usual classical music with, "There has been a shooting at Virginia Tech. So far the police confirm 14 dead with more likely." I immediately began to cry for those poor teens, their families, and all my fellow Hokies. One year later I still can't comprehend the hatred and cruelty of the shooter, the enormity of the tragedy.

Virginia Tech is pausing to remember the victims of last year's massacre that left 32 victims dead.
A sea of people wearing orange and maroon flowed onto the school's main lawn, some clutching single roses, on the first anniversary of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Virginia Tech President Charles Steger told the crowd, "We remain deeply and profoundly saddened by the events of that tragic day."
Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine ordered state flags flown at half-staff, as well as a statewide moment of silence at noon followed by the tolling of bells. A candlelight vigil is set for the evening.

weekday mornings

This is the scene (senza bambinos) on a typical weekday morning in our little schoolroom. Will sits on one side of the table and Mary on the other, with me in between to keep down any scuffles. When we first started homeschooling I only was teaching Will so this small table fit the bill perfectly. However, now with two more children and their books, pencils, and cups of hot cocoa it is becoming a bit crowded.

While many homeschooling moms teach at the dining room or kitchen table, we have been blessed to have a seperate schoolroom. I like having all our resources in one place, keeping down the clutter of books, papers, and pencils out of the rest of the house. Will's favorite's are non-fiction books about technology while Mary is a speed reader of novels. Maggie, Charlie, and sometimes even Timmy like to sit on the floor and pull book after book off the shelves and "read" quietly. My kiddy-lit collection began when I discovered I was pregnant with Will. By the time he was born I had amassed over 400 books and haven't stopped since. These are a total of 8 bookcases in the schoolroom. Even with all these beauties, I am still looking forward to visiting the used book vendor at the IHM homeschool conference up in Washington, DC in June!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


This past week I received a letter from Cricket Magazine asking me to rework an article and resubmit it. After getting many, many reject letters, I had given up hope of writing for children, but for the past two days I have been parked in front of the computer ripping out paragraphs, researching, and flipping through the thesaurus to find comparable words for treasure and beach. Please send a little prayer my way that the perfect words simply flow onto the page!

Monday, April 14, 2008

striving for Heaven

This weekend Mary and I headed over to St. Benedict's for 10:30 Mass and saw many of our old friends and dear, kind Father Willis. I had been disappointed that I was not able to attend the Una Voce talk on Friday evening by famous Father Zuhlsdorf of WDTPRS (What Does the Prayer Really Say?) and was slightly shocked when I turned during the processional to see him coming down the aisle. He said a beautiful High Mass and his homily really made me think about my own holiness. You see I was brought up to be critical and cynical, the sort of person who says, "If you don't have anything nice to say about anyone, come sit by me." That attitude began to change when I entered the Catholic Church 9 years ago. It has been a long, hard slog these many years to become a more kind and gentle person and it is hard to not fall back into those habits. I admit that I am jealous of my friends like Jennifer in Maine who are naturally sweet and mild, but they also inspire me to practice these arts for my family's sake.

Father's homily reflected on the question, "Which is the greatest Commandment?" Jesus' response, "Love the Lord your God with your whole mind, soul, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself," is about having an ongoing conversation with ourselves, God, and our neighbor. Examining our conscious, praying, and exhibiting the fruits of the Holy Spirit are evidence of a strong faith. I think that, while I have a very, very long journey to Sainthood, I have become less inclined to sin, feel closer to God, and exhibit perhaps a few of those precious fruits of the Holy Spirit. When we feel like we are on a treadmill going nowhere, it is good to look back and see our long term progress.

Friday, April 11, 2008

see you Monday!

Mary and I are leaving this afternoon to visit my grandmother this weekend. Please pray for a safe trip for us and that Tim will be able to hold down the fort while we are gone.

grocery savings

The past few weeks have been very good to us in terms of deals at the grocery store. Despite newspaper articles about double digit inflation in food stuffs and riots over grain in other parts of the world I have still managed to save money. After scouring the ads right after we got back form Washington DC I hotfooted it over to Kroger and was very pleased when the register tape stated, "You saved 60%." Then last week Harris Teeter had triple coupons so I saved 50% off the bill. However, when I went back to Kroger this week I was disappointed before I reminded myself that 41% is nothing to sneeze at.
The little boys took advantage of my combining sale prices with coupons to construct a huge tower out of some of the 20+ rolls of paper towels I bought.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Traditional Latin Mass in Maine

The last week or so I have been reading, emailing, and calling trying to find out more information about a proposal from Bishop Malone in Portland. To serve the traditional faithful he has decided to set up a chaplaincy to offer the TLM in Portland and Lewiston, both cities in the southern part of the state. The bishop stated in a previous letter, "The chaplaincy will exist as long as there is sufficient funding to meet its expenses." The chaplain who has been appointed to this post is Father Parent and he recently released a letter saying that the project needs to raise $18,000 before July 1 to proceed. Now all kinds of charges of simony (charging for the sacraments) are being raised across the Internet.

I have done what I feel is right by talking on the phone with a committee member as well as Father Parent and getting answers to some of my questions. What will happen is dependent on many factors, but I will contine to pray with hope for a Latin Mass parish in Maine for our family. May God bless this chaplaincy.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

prayer corner

A few years back I got tired of saying our evening prayers sitting on the sofa since it seemed so disrespectful praying while propping my feet up on the coffee table. Kneeling in there wasn't much better as we were facing the fireplace. So I set up a little table with a lace cloth and a crucifix. While I would like to do more, such as make purple shrouds for the statues during Lent, I really like how it has given us focus for our prayers.

Underneath the table we have a children's picture Bible and book of Saints so we can read about the Saint of the day and a Bible story every night, as well as a missal for the grownup's personal prayer time, and our prayer binder. The prayer binder contains pictures of each Station of the Cross and Mystery of the Rosary in plastic sleeves as well as the 4 pages of basic prayers for morning and evening (they are in really BIG type). All the standards are included: Angel of God, Our Father, Hail Mary, prayer for vocations, Morning Offering, Act of Contrition, all our God Blesses (God bless priests, the Pope, our Godchildren, our school, those who are sick....), prayer for Poor Souls, Fatima prayer, Hail Holy Queen, and the St. Michael prayer. The kids like to flip the pages and it helps them behave a little better since it mimics using a missal at Mass.

I don't claim that our little prayer corner is the fanciest or the prettiest out there, but it does the job of getting us to focus on Our Lord and that is what is important.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

homeschool carnival

The Workout Edition of the Homeschool Carnival this week is up at A Pondering Heart.

Monday, April 07, 2008

have a lot of kids? you snob you

This article, Three kids? You show offs. , from the Washington Post is amusing looking at it from the perspective of someone who has a lot of children and doesn't think it necessary to hire baby coaches, a nanny, pay private school tuition, or push junior around in a $800 stroller.

...the desire to have another child opens one up to charges of elitism and status consciousness. In many major U.S. cities and their suburbs -- especially New York, where I live -- having three or more children has now come to seem like an ostentatious display of good fortune, akin to owning a pied-Ã -terre in Paris. The family of five has become "deluxe." Last year, novelist Molly Jong-Fast mused in the New York Observer, "Are people having four or five children just because they can? Because they feel that it shows their wealth and status? In a world where the young rich use their $13,000 Birkin bags as diaper bags, one has to wonder."

I am no Betty Crocker

Saturday night was Will's Cub Scout Blue and Gold Banquet. There was lots of food, skits, games, and announcements about the end of the year activities. Will participated in the art display, making something out of recyclables and I have to say that his was the best of the bunch. He put a lot of work into his Landing Module and Command Module, even making sure they could connect, just like the real things.

His idea to recreate the Command Module in baked goods was a total flop thanks to me. I tried to make it out of cupcakes and glue it together with icing, but it was lumpy and collapsed in the middle almost before it was finished. It was laughably the ugliest cake I have ever seen. In Will's old pack the cake baking contest rules stipulated that only males could participate so I suggested that we pretend Will made the whole thing by himself, but that didn't fly. Will still won an award for most creative which was very generous of the judges.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

3/4 of the way through the academic year

This past week I put Will and Mary's 3rd quarter packets together and mailed everything off to Seton for grading. With weekly Mass and Friday Enrichment taking up two weekdays, I have been anxious about getting school finished before we move this summer. It took some real effort to get all the math tests and the book report finished, but now we can start with a clean slate on Monday.

While we were waiting for everyone else to show up at the Blue and Gold banquet last evening I wandered through the halls of the local Catholic school and peered in the doors of some of the classrooms. If I had an extra $24,000 I might be tempted to enroll the three big kids and have some free time, but then I would miss out on so much. I wouldn't know what they were learning and wouldn't be learning so much myself. After all, my knowledge was lacking in such topics as Napoleon's reign, the shortcut in dividing 3 digit by 2 digit numbers, Saint Josaphat's miracles, how an engine works, and how to diagram a complex sentence, but we have learned these things together. While I am looking forward to a summer of visiting, moving, reading, and exploring, I am excited about where our homeschool journey will take us next.

Friday, April 04, 2008

keeping things tidy

My family and I went to visit another big homeschooling family. I've known this woman to be gracious and lovely. She is always nicely dressed and her children are always tidy and beautiful. The public areas in the front of her home are neat and welcoming. On this day, though, my husband was going to help with a repair, so we went into the parts of the house which were not public. Everywhere I looked was clutter. There were books and toys strewn about and piled high in the family room. The bathrooms were dingy. Upstairs, the beds were poorly made, if made at all, and the mattresses were sinking. Wallpaper was peeling. It was a shocking experience. Here was someone who clearly placed a great importance on her public image, but in the private parts of her home, there was no care at all. It mattered to her that her home welcome friends, but clearly she did not care to make it a haven for her family.

After reading the commentary by Elizabeth Foss of another mom's housekeeping deficiencies I have vacuumed 4 rooms and the stairs, cleaned one bathroom, and picked up an untold number of toys.

Looks pretty good.

At least until Will and Mary get home from Enrichment and the movie the littles are watching gets turned off.

Housekeeping is a touchy subject in homeschooling circles. Keeping up a home seems an impossible task for one person, especially since the mom essentially has 3 full time jobs: teacher, mom, and housekeeper. When is the laundry going to be folded when a 4th grader needs help with math and the toddler just spilled milk all over the kitchen floor? Every minute seems to be accounted for in a large family, simply getting everyone up, dressed, and fed can take almost 2 hours. It always seems that when the living room needs vacuuming the toddler is spreading toys out faster than you can pick them up.

Some moms hire help, I did this for 6 years, and it helps tremendously but is very expensive. Some moms are so ultra-organized that the house seems to clean itself, but I personally don't know any of these! Other moms just let it all go to pot and the bathrooms look like they haven't been scrubbed in years, yuck! But there is, I believe in the majority of homeschooling homes, a balancing act between clutter and obsessiveness. It involves just doing it, not going up the stairs or down with empty hands, having one job going on constantly, enlisting the kid's help, and a myriad of other tricks to have a house that is clean enough.

One day I will have a clean home that is decorated just right, but I think it will happen when all the children have moved out. Until then I will just practice my housekeeping tightrope walk.

the mud people

Yesterday after I finished my run and emerged from the house all showered the babysitter and I were horrified to see several of the children playing in the hole in the front yard. Digging the hole was Will's idea and it was so deep that he could lower his baby brother into it and make the top of his head disappear completely. Well, after 9 months of drought we have had a spell of rain, enough to fill all the lakes and spill over a little. So, of course our little digging project was full of sticky mud. Three creatures out of a horror movie came out of that hole, formerly recognizable as Mary, Maggie, and Charlie. I made them each strip down and carried them each up and safely over the carpeted stairs to the tub. After everyone was restored to their recognizable selves I asked, "Why did you think this was a good idea?"

"But you didn't say we couldn't!"

I guess I need to make up a new list of rules for our house after this week, including:

Do not jump in mud up to your eyeballs (above culprits)

Do not play games involving racing laps around the house at top speed with the swinging doors closed (Will, Mary, Maggie, and Charlie)

Do not stick your fingers in the holes in the ends of the Brio train track pieces (Charlie)

Do not play surgeon with your doll baby using a real needle (Maggie)

There are quite a few bruises and hurt fingers around our house, but so far no trips to the Emergency Room. Let us try children, with our new rules in place, to keep it that way.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

My idea of roughing it...

is moving into our new 2 bedroom, 1 bath apartment on the farm this summer. Not strapping 5 kids in the back of a pop-up camper and setting off on a 8 week American West trip using a 5 gallon bucket for a potty.

Last evening I went to listen to 3 homeschooling moms talk about homeschooling on the road, some in Cadillac style and others using more modest transportation. We heard about great places out west to collect trilobites and petrified wood, as well as the best place to watch free movies when it rains for 9 straight days (Hingham, Mass. public library). After my initial interest in setting off to study American History by actually being there, I decided that I don't really want to spend hundreds of hours researching places on the Internet, buying a motor home, making camping reservations a year in advance, and sharing a bathroom the size of a mouse hole with 6 other people. I think it is great that some homeschoolers travel with their kids, but my crew will have to be content with textbooks, living books, and movies to learn their geography and history. I've had more than my share of travel adventures and don't want to purposely create any more.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

I want to do what God wants

The best reading material I have bought my little ones has been the Treasure Box series edited by the Maryknoll Sisters. The series was originally mailed monthly to subscribers and the first 20 have been reprinted by TAN publishers. Whenever we went to the local Catholic bookstore and the children were good I would pick up the next #. The stories of Saint Therese make my children try harder to be obedient, and the adventures of Sunny John and Wupsy the Guardian Angel in Africa are just plain exciting.

However, the series originally continued to volume 40 and I wanted to know "what happened" to John and his fellow villages in Mantongu, as well as reading the hilarious rhymes on the back cover about naughty children like Thankless Theodore and Licking Lilly. Luckily for us, a friend in Maine found a box containing the original #21-37 at a yard sale and allowed me to xerox the whole stack. It took several hours to copy and collate the issues, all the while trying carefully not to damage further the delicate paperbacks.

Every 6 months or so we reread the entire series, giggling at the crafts made from such obscure items like bottle caps, plastic fruit baskets, cigarette boxes, and toothpaste tins, as well as repeating the prayer of St Therese, "I want to do what God wants." I really do see an increase in virtue among us all after reading these wonderful books and encourage mothers of little ones to buy a set to read aloud.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

a wild wedding day

Six years ago today my mother got married. Why she and my step-father picked April Fool's Day to stand before a judge I have no idea, but with all the crazy events that day it almost didn't happen. I woke up feeling very queer and having a pain in my middle and since I was about 8 weeks pregnant I started to panic. We had just been through two very early miscarriages in the previous 12 months so my anxiety was justified and I called my doctor. She said to go in to the ER and get an ultrasound so Tim came home from the ship to watch Will and Mary.

While I was sitting in the lobby I was startled to find my grandmother. Apparently Grandfather had had a episode of not being able to breathe (he had Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and was being worked on. She was scared, so when I was called to go in to be scanned, I invited her to come along. Just before we went it the CO of the hospital came over to ask about Grandfather and say hi to me (he was our previous CO in Naples, Italy). When he followed us into the examining room I was worried that he might stay and watch! But he took his leave and Grandmother and I soon were happy to see a little embryo bounce around the sac, heart beating wildly.

After I was released we were told that Grandfather was stable and had been moved upstairs to a room and was likely to be able to return home after a few days. By now my mother, soon to be step-father, and his sister (my mother's best friend) had joined us in the hospital lobby. It was decided that the wedding was going to go on, but with relatives descending from out of town the wedding was going to be a little bigger than the 5 people originally planned for. I, of course, was not invited since I had 2 little children in tow. Since I was worn out already I left them to the planning and went home. The ceremony went off without another hitch, but the morning's events produced a wedding day that was certainly memorable.

Since then Maggie (the dancing embryo) has grown to be a twirly 5 year old who bounces to music whenever she can. Grandfather succumbed to COPD a mere 3 years later, and Mother died of ovarian cancer before her 6th anniversary. She has been gone now for 6 months and a day doesn't go by that I don't miss her and wish I could call her and tell her about our latest adventure. I will be sure to call my step-father today and give him my sympathy. I'm sure the overwhelming feeling of loss and grief will fade over time, but for today I will look back on that April Fool's Day and be consoled by the love shown that day.

Carnival of Homeschooling

With an April's Fool theme is up at Why Homeschool.