Monday, June 30, 2008

IHM Conference notes: Pope Benedict XVI and the Mass

Yesterday was our last hour long trek to attend the Traditional Latin Mass in North Carolina. After searching on-line for a church home up in DC I found a parish less than 10 miles from our new home that offers a 1962 Mass, CCD, Scout groups, two daily Masses, and Eucharist Adoration. After the past year, I am hopeful of attending a welcoming as well as devout place to worship God. Here are some notes from Father Fessio's recent talk about the Mass:

Homeschooling today is the equivalent of the monastery of the Middle Ages, it restores a connection with the culture of Catholicism in a traditional sense of music, art...

The center of Pope Benedict's life is the Mass

The reform of the reform options are to take the 1962 Mass and reform it to update or take the Novus Ordo Mass and reform by using Latin and most traditional canon available. Visually it would look like to this to impliment what the Council leaders intended:

1962 Mass ---> Vatican II <---Novus Ordo Mass

In the Jewish liturgy there are two separate components, synagogue worship which focused on scripture and temple worship which focused on sacrifice. They are brought together in the Catholic liturgy. The Spirit of Liturgy is a book on the Mass focusing on the renewal of liturgy by Pope Benedict XVI.

Father Fessio then discussed his early friendship with the Pope and their written correspondence through the past 15 years. His own transformation into a lover of the Gregorian Rite (a new name for the TLM) began with saying Mass facing Our Lord. That experience so moved him that he gradually pulled more and more aspects of the 1962 Mass. He shared these impressions with his old friend and found many of the same thoughts reflected in response.

My impression from Father Fessio's talk that we are experiencing a historical moment in the life of the Church and what happens depends a great deal on priest's and bishop's following the successor of Peter. The opportunity for a glorious renewal of Catholic life is upon us and we should take every step possible to support Pope Benedict's effort in this regard.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

another "study" that states the obvious

Bradford Wilcox, a sociology professor at the University of Virginia, analyzed three national studies... His research led him to conclude that men who regularly attend Christian services are engaged in happier and stronger marriages and are more involved in the lives of their children than men who do not.
"70 percent of husbands who attend church regularly report they are 'very happy' in their marriages, compared to 59 percent of husbands who rarely or never attend church," explained Wilcox, who also said that the studies indicated that wives experienced more marital happiness when their husbands attended regular religious services....married couples who attended regular Christian services were approximately 35 percent less likely to divorce then those couples who did not.

Fathers who attended regular Christian services spent an average of two more hours a week engaged in ...activities with their children. Christian fathers also spent more one-on-one time with their children and were 65 percent more likely to hug and praise their children.

The studies also found that children born inside of wedlock had much more "involved, affectionate, and consistent relationships" with their fathers. This is an important statistic given Wilcox's findings that church attending men are more likely to have children inside of wedlock then non-church going men.

"I find that fathers who are religious, and who have partners who are religious, are - on average - more likely to be happily married, to be engaged and affectionate parents, and to get and stay married to the mothers of their children." LifeSite News

A statistic that gets thrown around a lot in orthodox Catholic circles is that married couples who use NFP only have a 2% rate of divorce. I don't know if that is based on actual studies, but following the logic of the above mentioned study, it seems that the more a couple allows God to be part of the decision-making, the more likely God will give them grace to persevere in times of massive difficulty such as death of family members or financial troubles.

Friday, June 27, 2008

homeschool success stories

Apparently somewhere on-line some not well educated person started it by saying, "It’s good that Christians homeschool. We need citizens to clean our toilets and mow our lawns. Perhaps some homeschooled Christians will be able to fill these types of jobs. The rest will be unemployable retards like their parents."

To prove a point the folks at the The American Vision then asked home educated graduates to leave a comment describing what kind of work they are doing since completing high school.
The responses are an amazing testament to the educational excellence of the home education movement. This is only a typical post:

We home schooled all three of our children through high school.

oldest, Luke, is a Supply Officer in the U. S. Navy, responsible for $2 million dollar annual budget onboard a nuclear powered submarine.

Our daughter, Shannon, has an associates degree and will be leaving in August for a year in China teaching English as a second language.

My son Matthew is a 3.8 GPA college student entering his Junior year at the University of Oklahoma this fall.

As for mowing the lawn? My homeschooler does it and is thrilled to receive his $4 pay, after all he is only 9. I have drilled into the kids at every opportunity that there are no good paying jobs for uneducated/unskilled people these days, they all been outsourced overseas. If they want to be able to support a family and live a comfortable lifestyle they need to do well in their studies. Otherwise they will be standing behind the counter at McDonald's asking, "Would you like fries with that?"

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Museum of Life and Science

Yesterday afternoon I sneaked out with the 4 older children while Timmy was napping (Tim was studying) and headed over to a museum that has been on my to-do list all year. Afterwards I so wished that I had insisted we had gone earlier than 2 weeks before we move so we could return again and again. The admission fee is pretty steep, requiring almost $50 for our family to just walk in the door, but on Wednesday afternoons with just a copy of our water bill we were able to enjoy all the exhibits for a minimal donation. The main building is sort of a hodge-podge of science and learning such as a mock-up of the lunar lander right next to a collection of animal skulls and an enormous leaf-cutter ant farm.

A walk past the crowded playground led us to a tiny barnyard and the bug building - a collection of gigantic cockroaches and millipedes, microscopes to see live beetles and fruit flies, and a tropical conservatory with dozen of butterflies flitting from branch to eager outstretched hands. Another 1/4 mile walk led to the wind exhibits which made Will and Mary gasp in their eagerness to try out the remote controlled 2' long sailboats.

It was a long wait to get a turn but everyone got a chance to steer and trim the sails.

When we finally pulled into the driveway 4 hours later all the members of my crew were hot, tired, and thirsty. They had such a nice time that I might finagle a way to go back next week and see if we can get a ride on the tiny steam engine as well as play ram your sister's boat at the pond.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

IHM Conference notes: Homeschooling High School

Ginny Seuffert gave another inspirational, funny, and informative talk answering why should we and how we can homeschool our teens.

Why should we homeschool high school?

In public school teens have to go with the flow, the tribal mentality is overwhelming. Many teens are just trying to find ways to be angry.
"I wouldn't want to be shut up there for hours and hours each day, why would I force my kid to do it?"
The horrible materialism in terms of technology and cars that is present in high school leads to ostracization if your kid can't keep up. If you are a family with a single income you can't keep up even if you wanted to- which you don't. The teenager who was perfectly content at home suddenly begins to look critically at his own family for not having stuff. Appreciation for sacrifices only comes much later.
Don't worry about academics, the kids are reading all kinds of trashy, politically-correct, and anti-family garbage.

How can we homeschool high school?

Community college classes and the use of their library is a good resource for upper level subjects. Family, not school should get credit for raising learners. Beat the bushes for opportunities for your kids to learn a foreign language (pretty darn easy these days to find a Spanish speaker), sports (local clubs), or theater (community group).

Start at the same early time every day. Teach them to be punctual and hardworking- the number one thing most employers find lacking in employees these days.

Have a plan, be organized, and expect your teen to do a lot of it themselves. Get child to come up with a plan if things go wrong such as emergencies or vacation that cuts into schooltime.

Limit the number of hours doing school. However, they can't spend schooltime helping Mom to the detriment of learning. They need to be serious about their schoolwork. Kids don't want to write, but nothing is more important to future success in career and persuading others about the Faith than writing.

Make your school a school of virtue: teach your teens good habits such as social skills- being able to say sincere things, "I'm so sorry to hear of your mother's death," and writing thank you notes. Encourage close relationships between siblings and to parents. Talk about scandal and the responsibility of giving good example to younger children. They should be taught about modesty and respecting parents. Whether we like it or not the world does judge the entire homeschool community by our kids.

When dealing with teens who want freedoms they are not ready to handle, "You are not an orphan, someone cares about you and wants to know where you are." "I trust you, but I don't trust your judgement." "Don't tell me you will be back later, come to me with a plan."

God offers two crowns: green for fertility and red for martyrdom, we must accept both. Yes, it would be nice to ship them off to school and be free, but this is the self we need to deny. Give our whole self to God, this time to our family, and we will be richly rewarded in the end.

Even though my oldest is only going into 5th grade this fall I still needed this pep talk, You can do it and here is how." Thanks Ginny.

using the grocery store as a bank

Americans wasted over $4 billion on ATM fees last year, according to Some giant monster mega-banks are pushing their non-customer fees as high as $5! There's a better answer than getting ripped off. You can go to a credit union or a community bank and get real customer service and not have to pay for ATMs. Quite often, your credit union or community bank will have an ATM network that's fee-free.

I haven't been to an ATM or bank in the last 8 years. Why should I when our credit union allows me to get cash back at the grocery store checkout? I am steamed when I hear about all the folks who are getting horribly treated by their banks (the latest is folks in high foreclosure areas getting their credit card limits being lowered without notice), but irritated that people will allow a business to give them such horrible service and pay lots more for it. Credit unions are typically a much better choice.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

carnival of homeschooling

This week's camp edition of the carnival is up at Dewey's Treehouse.

Monday, June 23, 2008

gas prices keep going up

Now I know why the public school officials were so friendly when I called last week to understand Maryland's cryptically worded homeschooling law. I probably saved them hundreds of dollars just in diesel costs.

Another great thing I found was that having the kids enrolled in Seton helped me evade the onerous superintendent supervision of their education which includes up to 3 yearly visits, extensive portfolio requirements, and the potential of some government entity stating, "You aren't doing a good enough job, you have to enroll them with us." It made me wonder how many of those school buses are filled with kids who can't read on grade level and don't get to pursue their own interests in history or science. How many days do they waste on learning to take a standardized test? How many hours in the day do they actually spend on-task?

Just like I don't want to get cleaning tips from messy Molly or be subjected to childrearing articles from a psychologist with screwed up kids, my take is that when the public schools are graduating children who are all academically excellent then they can give direction to the homeschoolers, but certainly not in the today's climate of overwhelming school failure.

Here's how rising fuel prices affect an organization with a fleet of 1,273 school buses: The Montgomery County school board today will consider giving Superintendent Jerry D. Weast emergency powers to make students walk farther to school, if need be, in the coming academic year.

The school system's diesel costs have more than doubled in four years, from $3.6 million in fiscal 2005 to a projected $7.9 million for fiscal 2009, which begins next month. It's a hardship shared by the Fairfax County school system, with more than 1,500 buses; the Prince George's County system, with 1,285 buses; and other area systems that transport tens of thousands of students daily and are paying more for fuel than the average parent.

Should prices continue to rise, the school system could save money by raising maximum walking distances for students, because more walkers means fewer buses. Currently, elementary school students walk up to a mile, middle school students 1.5 miles and high school students two miles.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

silly test

I still have a lot of work to do if I wanted to be a perfect 1930's housewife.
hat tip to Barbara (who scored 99)


As a 1930s wife, I am
Very Superior

Take the test!

reading circle

I just finished (while on the way home from Mass) Stolen Innocence, My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs by Elissa Wall. I can't say that I know much about Mormonism in general or the FLDS (the group that runs Yearn for Zion ranch in Texas), but this book gave me more insight into the brainwashing that goes on in such a place. It was frightening to read about her repeated pleading not to marry a man she despised and then be pressed into "man-woman relations" without having learned anything from her mother about such things. It amazed me how Elissa could develop a stong inner conscious after being subjected to such abject cruelty and limited education. Her courageousness at facing down the "prophet" Warren Jeffs is inspiring.

The epilogue mentions the April 2008 raiding of the FLDS compound in Texas and how Elissa assisted the authorities in communicating clearly with the members. She gives great credit to the CPS and the police in their effort in reaching out and understanding the culture of the FLDS while investigating child abuse. I admit that I can see this side of the argument better now. On the other hand, I still am angry over the image of dozens of little children taken from their mothers and put in foster care based on a single anonymous caller. This is many homeschooler's biggest fear and one that has made me wake out of a nightmare covered in sweat.

What was the right thing to do? I think it is such a difficult and multi-faceted problem involving freedom of religion, property rights, marriage laws, and child abuse that it will take minds far more intelligent than mine to find the morally correct answer.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


The rapid discoloration and swelling on my left cheekbone is not from any violence on the part of my spouse (as if!) or children, but due to my own stupidity. If you happen to be cleaning up the yard today and spy a large dead branch hanging down, do not yank with all your might. It could swing back and whack you in the face. I wish that someone had warned me 30 minutes ago.

Of course we are going to dinner tonight at a work colleague's home. I'm hoping that they just think that Tim's wife is a closet biker chicks who just happened to be in a bar fight.

I think I'll go put an ice pack on my face and go lie down....

Friday, June 20, 2008

pool party

Every evening after supper is cleaned up I help Timmy into his swimmy nappie and instruct the older children to grab a towel. Then we walk around the pond, constantly watching out for snakes lying by the path. I slip both the little boys into their float gear and they jump, splash, and paddle for over an hour before we hike back home for showers and bed. The exercise has been great, ensuring that they will start snoring as soon as each head hit the pillow. They have made quite a few friends. I actually didn't realize how many children lived in the neighborhood until we met them poolside.

Maggie has learned to dive off the diving board. Her signature hop at takeoff always sends me into a giggle fit. Even Charlie tries to dive, pointing his little fingers before he does an enormous belly flop. As his body is encased in buoyant foam pads it doesn't seem to bother him because he climbs up the ladder to give it another go. Timmy performs a jump, splash, bob to surface, climb, jump, splash sequence which keeps me on my toes to make sure the little daredevil doesn't drown. I broke down the cost of the prorated fee we paid for half the summer and it must be the best deal out there: $5.50 a visit for the whole family to get wet, get fit, learn new skills, and have a great time.

As if I could put a value on this smile.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

IHM Conference notes: Homeschooling Boys

Dr. Mary Kay Clark homeschooled her 7 boys so it is appropriate that she give a talk explaining the delights and distractions inevitable in sitting down in the schoolroom with a young male. I have to say that my experience has been pretty typical with Will taking forever to learn to read, being easily distracted by everything outside of his books, loving science projects, and having more of a knack for understanding numbers than his sister. I cringe when I think of what he could have experienced if we had put him in public school: doped up on Ritalin and placed in a track to special ed just for being a typical boy. Every child develops at their own speed but there are some generalizations that are true for boys that are not addressed in our female dominated school systems.

Boys learn differently than girls and they surprise us with their goodness. We can harness that desire to do good by helping them practice the corporal works of mercy and teaching them by example. Our goal is not just to raise brains capable of getting into Harvard, but to raise good Catholic men, the future's priests and fathers.

How boys learn differently:

Boys like active learning- moving while studying, hands-on science projects, serving Mass. They use few words but they will excel at competitive activities such as crossword and code puzzles, cryptograms, and Scrabble. Most importantly for their academic success is teaching them to read and to love reading. Explain pictures and diagrams in textbooks before they start reading a section. They hate to write, but you must patiently and diligently make them do it. They have short attention spans so don't drag school out longer than 6 hours. They would rather be finished than accurate so the parent must be on top of the situation. Math problems can be graded right away, preferably by the boy after each problem is completed so he doesn't continue any errors. Boys are generally not good listeners, but if they start playing a musical instrument then their ears become better trained.

Young men look to their fathers and those who share hobbies with their boys have many opportunities to teach them about being a man. It doesn't matter what they are doing together, fixing cars, fishing, sports, or electric trains, that time together gives the father the opportunity to be a role model and discuss "man stuff." Boys like a challenge so utilize competitive opportunities such as quiz games and spelling bees. Lastly, boys like to be in control so let them make choices early so they can gradually develop the ability to be in charge of a family.

All through this talk I saw many heads nodding their agreement with Dr. Clark's assessment of how boys learn best. So far we have incorporated many of these ideas into our own homeschooling but I will have to check out the Mr. Wizard science shows that she mentioned were now available on DVD. I know Will loves seeing these experiments, I just don't want to blow up my kitchen in the process.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

IHM Conference notes: The Place of the Passions in Education

Father Paul Scalia, son of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, gave a wonderful (sometime over my head) talk on the role that emotions play in education.

Our doctrines are not to be held just intellectually, but with our emotions as well. We should feel with the Church and through the development of a sound conscious develop a gut instinct for what the Faith holds.

Two errors of the passions:
defect-a stoic attitude that trivializes the emotions
excess-viewing of emotions as the end-all-be-all

Disordered passions cripple our ability to think, but with trained emotions everything works more serenely. To teach our children we first need to train our own- discern what is a proper emotional response.

3 goals of education:
intellect- know what is truth
will- do what is good
emotion- passions trained to delight in and be pained by things that we ought

How do we train the passions?
We need to preserve the capacity to wonder by exposing our children to the fine arts. Learning about classic music, painting, literature, poetry, and sculpture teach children a standard of beauty and how to respond to them properly. With our emotions properly formed we are drawn to goodness and moved by the greatness of the Incarnation. The purpose of educating our children is to assist them in reaching Heaven and the goals above do this by helping them know, love, and serve God in this world so they can be happy with him forever.

It is certainly humbling to realize that Father Scalia is the same age as I am and has accomplished so much. What do I have to show for my years of study and work? Then I realize that God gave us far different vocations and therefore distinct gifts to produce success. My goal in this life is to teach my children to long for Heaven and help them attain eternal life as well as assisting my spouse to do the same. If I do my job to the best of my ability then one day I will hear Our Lord say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

homeschool carnival

This week's large carnival is hosted by Apollos Academy.

Monday, June 16, 2008

IHM Conference notes: Surviving Siblings

Ginny Seuffert, mother of 12 has to be one of the funniest speakers in the world of homeschooling. She gives out practical advice on organizing a household and educating children of many ages at the same time. Her talk this past week included the "S list":

strict not stern:
be loving and kind, start discipline early and often, enforce rules 100% of time, never allow your children to argue with you.

schedule set in stone:
create one that makes sense for your family, children do better if they know what to expect, little kids will play better on their own in morning, brainstorm to solve time problems.

spic and span not squalor:
do the best you can- surface clean counts, a certain level of cleanliness is needed, don't procrastinate, get rid of stuff you don't need to reduce clutter.

be very mindful of any activity that takes time away from homeschooling.

sense of humor:
don't be so serious- keep a joy of family life, accept bad stuff with calmness and prayer, remember the eternal view- keep a big smile on your face, joy is proper for a Christian.

steadfast in faith:
see Jesus Christ in the face of everyone-especially our children, we would sacrifice our own life for our child- we should sacrifice our daily life for their soul.

I made a point to tell Ginny what wonderful talks she gave this weekend and how lovely it was to hear someone who shares my basic homeschooling philosophy. She really shows mothers how we can pull it together and have a loving attitude toward our families. When I think of homeschoolers I would love to be more like, Ginny Seuffert is close to the top of the list.

learning to read

Maggie and I sat on the sofa this morning with set 1 of the cute Bob Books that I picked up at the bookstore a few months back. She is a very smart little girl and declares to everyone who will listen, "I am going to be reading by the end of the summer. I want to be able to read in bed with my flashlight, 'cause I'm a big girl!" Unfortunately I can't tell with the first 6 books if she is sounding out the words since Mary read them aloud and helped her memorize the stories. Maggie can rattle off the text almost before I turn the page. I think that we will only spend a week or so finishing up the set before we begin Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Both Will and Mary gained a lot of skills and confidence from the simple stories even though neither got past lesson 62. I can tell that Maggie is right on the brink, if I work with her for just 10 minutes a day she will be soon be staying up until midnight with her wind-up flashlight and a copy of Make Way for Ducklings under the covers.

Friday, June 13, 2008

driving alone

I left North Carolina Thursday morning with ample time to get up to DC for the IHM conference,my suitcase packed full of clothing more modest than I typically wear and my tote bag filled with lists of Landmark books, catalogues, and my completed enrollment packet. Seton offers a $30 discount per child if you sign up at a conference, so with 3 kids in school next year that pays for 1 night in the hotel. About 2 hours into the trip I realized, barring huge delays, that I would be arriving before check-in so I decided to stop at Petersburg's National Battlefield.

While taking a class in Virginia History at college I wrote a research paper on my great-great-grandfather, John C. Ashton, a Civil War veteran who fought in Petersburg at the Battle of the Crater and was captured and taken to Maryland. According to family lore, his mother traveled up to Washington, DC to plead with President Johnson to release all the boys from Portsmouth, including her son. Soon afterwards he returned home via the Eastern Shore where he was forced to cut off the CSA buttons off his jacket so he wouldn't be harassed by the occupying Union forces on the ferryboat.

I drove along the 4 mile road, stopping a few times to look at cabins and the massive earthworks that both sides erected during the 18 month campaign. Finally I arrived at stop 8 and walked to the modest crater that the Union forces created when they blew up the Confederate battery with explosives packed into a 300 yard long tunnel. It was a peaceful place with even a sight of a white-tailed deer grazing on the old battlefield, a far cry from the smoking and bloody scene on a hot July day almost 150 year ago. My last opportunity to take the children to see this battlefield will be after our packout while driving to our next duty station so I expect that over the next few weeks I will be conducting a short lesson on the Civil War and their ancestor's part in the conflict. One day we will live in the most Yankee state there is, home of towns created in the 1860's with names like Union and Unity. They may have slight Maine accents, but I will insist they were Virginians first.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Kudos to my husband

He was a first place winner in the 2007 Catholic Press Association Awards. He is a wonderful writer and humble to boot.

Ethics and Medics, Philadelphia, Pa., “The Pill and Breast Cancer Risk” by Timothy P. Collins, M.D.
Dr. Collins lays out the case that birth control pills are bad, not only because they violate the teachings of the Church, but they also pose serious health risks. He states his intention clearly in the opening paragraph, then lays out a convincing case for his thesis. He sums up his argument, showing that the Church and science agree on this subject. This essay stands out in that it is well organized, written clearly, it stays focused, and it effectively proves its point.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Carnival of Homeschooling

The Common Room is hosting the carnival this week.

I am amazed that someone with 7 kids could plan and stay on the computer long enough to collate all the posts, but likely they have much higher speed internet than my dinky 7 year old over-taxed computer. Tim just got a new laptop and wants me to try it out to see if I want one just like it. Only if I can get a mouse with it, I can't handle all the fingertip coordination you need to operate a standard laptop.

happy that our second amendment rights are secured

The North Carolina miltia is now armed and ready for any future battles.

Monday, June 09, 2008

crack the code

There are a lot of words any family uses that have special meanings forged by shared experiences and old jokes. An outsider could feel like they are listening to a foreign language. "Basta! Do not make any more bubbles," translates into, "No more! Stop passing gas." Four pairs of eagle eyes are ready to chant, "Mommy rolled her eyes, Mommy rolled her eyes!" when someone utters a far-fetched statement or tells a really bad knock-knock joke. Now Charlie and Timmy have expanded the family linguistic repertoire with their own code. In 24 month old speak, "NO!" means no and "no" means yes. Danielle Bean posted about this very same phenomenon with her toddler.

"I'm a little kid," from soon-to-be 4 year old Charlie translates into, "I want a sippy cup, to be carried, I can't eat all the food on my plate," while, "I am a big kid," means "I want special privileges reserved for the older children such as a glass of juice, a trip somewhere in the car, or a later bedtime." All this means that I am constantly asking both boys for a translation, "Does your no mean no or yes? What is your status today Charlie?"

Charlie summed up his fluttering back and forth very well, "Right now I'm a little kid, but I need to eat a lot so I can get big and do lots of stuff."

Sunday, June 08, 2008

supersoaker or no supersoaker, that is the question

Some days it is hard to be the baby in the family. Yeah, sure you have lots of bigger people smiling and cheering every time you do something new, like walk down the stairs or say a string of new words, "duk, itty, Mawy..." But then there is the constant, "No, Baby Timmy, not for you." It is a real drag.

Now that the pool has opened our evening routine has shifted to dinner at 5, cleanup, pool at 6:30 and bath and bed at 8:30. Timmy loves getting his tiny red Crocs out, holding my hand and pointing at all the ducks in the pond, and shimmying into his inflated ring to paddle around in the shallow end. His first few dips were spent clinging to Tim's neck, but now he climbs in and out, splashes around, and even kicks his feet to stay upright. His eyes 'bout bugged out of his head when a child brought a humongous water gun tonight and let all the kids try it out. Even though he couldn't make it work Timmy still loved pretending that he could shoot water like everyone else. Watching them play, I thought, "Wouldn't these make great birthday gifts for the little boys?"

But then the fireworks started. After his very long turn Timmy fought vigorously against handing it back to the gracious 6 year old owner. When that didn't produce the desired result of the gun back in his hands he howled and screamed for what seemed like an eternity, but was likely about 15 minutes. After I realized that he wasn't going to give up I scooped him up and barked to Charlie and Maggie, "Follow me home!"

Then I realized my predicament. If I went ahead and bought Timmy the very toy he fussed so much over then that might give him the idea that he just has to pitch another fit and another to get his next have-to-have item. Before I know it, he could be 16 and having a throw down temper tantrum over a sporty red truck.

So... I can put a little money aside each month for truck payments if I buy him the gun or the same amount toward therapy if I don't buy it.

I might be overreacting, but doubt it, since I came "this close" to getting that red truck myself. My grandmother still talks about that day. It wasn't pretty.

Friday, June 06, 2008

do you have house lust?

I just finished speed-reading the new book, House Lust: America's Obsession With Our Homes by Daniel McGinn. It was facinating to get the inside scoop about the excesses of square foot mania, new home neurosis, renovation psychology, tempting TV shows, flipping failures, agent career stats, and vacation home valuation. It seems that the home tours, including bathrooms, and discussions of real estate values over the past five or six years I experienced at parties were not some local fad, but part of a nation-wide obsession with houses as the ultimate trophy to prove something to the neighbors and ourselves.

I certainly have been part of the craze, scanning real estate sections on Saturday mornings to see what homes were going for in various neighborhoods, including my own. I have watched a few episodes of HGTV, at least enough to know that if we had cable I would be addicted to at least a couple. Our own building project is far enough away that I can't camp out at the job site every day. However, I am starting to gear up for the main house project, one I know will involve many more decisions and could easily spiral out of control. Reading this book helped me plant my feet firmly in the smaller, more efficient house camp, after all, the kids will start leaving the nest 6 years after we move in.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

art totes and toting babies to the arts

This morning I packed the kids in the van and escaped the oppressive heat (the heat index today is over 100F) at the North Carolina Museum of Art. After clicking around on the website I found that the info desk offers a tote bag program for kids. In our quest we explored the African and Modern art galleries, which I wouldn't have ventured into otherwise and found some lovely pieces, including a magical butterfly sculpture. Hundreds of glittering metal butterflies seemed to dance over delicate flowers above our heads.

The 4 ziplock bags contained activities corresponding to a painting, each child put together a modernistic puzzle to match this piece,

played a color search game

with this impressionist,

stroked fabrics contained in a portrait of the 5 year old King Louis XV, and listened to a story of how the african leopard got his spots. Except for having to listen to Timmy whine about having to stay strapped in the stroller instead of running around toucing valuable art works, the 90 minute visit was just long enough to be educational and just short enough to be fun.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

summer reading program

We used to enroll the kids in the local library summer reading programs with their game cards, cheap plastic prizes, and coupons to Chick-fi-a, but finally it became too much trouble for me. Our children simply read too many books to keep track of minutes read or titles. After fighting with the librarian yesterday over several returned items (I remember putting them in the slot but they are still on our cards) I realized that we have checked out over 800 books this year. Okay, we paid $15 or so in overdue fees, but with a family of voracious readers like ours, the library is the best taxpayer funded public service by far.

I am so grateful to philanthropists who organized and sponsored public libraries in towns and cities all over the world and the librarians who staff them. Here are some of their many beneficiaries:

(note that the book is upside down)

(this one is reading his sister's Pony Pals books):

I hope your summer is filled with many trips to the library!

homeschool carnival

This week's carnival is up at Tami's Blog.

I got home really late last night from the "bombs and bravos" show-and-tell with some other homeschooling moms. Once I recover, I'll write about some of the books/game titles I scribbled down.

Monday, June 02, 2008

pray with me

I am not one of those folks who line up to see celebrities or idolize famous people in the media, but was startled to check my email this morning and discover that Teddy Kennedy is having surgery, not 30 minutes from here, at Duke University for a malignant glioma brain tumor discovered two weeks ago. I immediately recalled a conversation a few years ago with a priest in Maine who said, "If you had come with me last week over to Islesboro for Mass you would have seen Teddy Kennedy. He was here staying with a golfing buddy." At the time I wasn't too fond of the pro-abortion Catholic from Massachusetts, but didn't have the nerve to ask the priest if he gave him Holy Communion.

Today's news article states that the Senator plans to return to his political life and,"help elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States." Perhaps our prayers will change his heart to follow Catholic teaching regarding abortion. Sen Kennedy has a terrible prognosis and will likely soon meet Our Lord in the Particular Judgement. Our prayers now are with him and his family for conversion and comfort.