Sunday, May 31, 2009

"what a fat baby!"

was the comment made several times recently on excursions to the grocery store and the thrift shop.

In HSLDA's magazine there is a regular feature by Dr. Roger Sayre, a homeschooling dad of 11. This month is about nursing babies not getting enough nutrition when Mommy is under stress and how homeschooling can result in low weight babies if care isn't taken. The 4 conditions to produce milk that is both high in quality and supply are: good health, good nutrition, adequate rest, and a quiet comfortable nursing environment.

Obviously with an almost 3 month old who is in the 95th% for weight and height Julia Ellen is getting plenty to eat. In fact, I had to go out and buy her "new" clothes because what I had planned on her wearing all summer are not going to fit more than a few weeks. My comfortable nursing space is my bed. I can put a glass of cold water or iced tea on the table, prop a book on my knees, and let the baby nurse as long as she wants. Maggie loves to climb up with me to get a little one-on-one time with me and the older kids watch the little boys while Julia Ellen slurps and gulps her way to "Bubba Gut" status.

I'm not trying to crow about this, in fact, I feel a little guilty that perhaps I'm not doing enough with the other children that would cause me to be stressed out. No, we haven't played as many games or read as many stories as usual the last few months, but I have given the children a brand new playmate who smiles and coos and is just as cute as can be.

And that is something to be proud of.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

and I thought I was getting too old...

Having a baby at 38 is much harder than having one at 28: the recovery, the sleep deprivation, trying to lose the weight. I bought some beer at the mini-mart the other evening and the clerk took one look at the wrinkles around my eyes and didn't even ask for ID. I just feel so much older than I did 1 year ago and it is all from being older and pregnant. I can't even imagine becoming a mother again 20 years from now.

The 66 year old unmarried British businesswoman Elizabeth Adeney is almost eight months pregnant following IVF treatment. Elizabeth, of Newmarket, Suffolk, will take the title of Britain’s oldest mum.

The OAP has converted a room in her £600,000 home into a nursery for the tot, which is due a month before her 67th birthday in July. Elizabeth, who has also hired a live-in nanny was given IVF treatment using a donor egg at a clinic in Ukraine. ... she told friends she wanted a child to inherit her money. The mum-to-be is managing director of a plastics and textiles company, and was married briefly before filing for divorce in 1990.

Friday, May 29, 2009

way to go Henry!

Our "on-line friend" Henry Cate who runs the Carnival of Homeschooling is quoted in USA Today. Coming across this reminded me that I forgot to link to this week's carnival at The Common Room.

Profound shift in kind of families who are home schooling their children
By Greg Toppo, USA TODAY

Parents who home-school children increasingly are white, wealthy and well-educated — and their numbers have nearly doubled in a decade, a new federal government report says.

As of spring 2007, an estimated 1.5 million, or 2.9% of all school-age children in the USA, were home-schooled, up from 1.7% in 1999.

The new figures come from the U.S. Department of Education, which found that 36% of parents said their most important reason for home schooling was to provide "religious or moral instruction"; 21% cited concerns about school environment. Only 17% cited "dissatisfaction with academic instruction."

Perhaps most significant: The ratio of home-schooled boys to girls has shifted significantly. In 1999, it was 49% boys, 51% girls. Now boys account for only 42%; 58% are girls.

That may well be a result of parents who are fed up with mean-girl behavior in schools, says Henry Cate, who along with his wife home-schools their three daughters in Santa Clara, Calif. "It's just pushing some parents over the edge," says Cate, who writes the blog Why Homeschool.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

my time is valuable too

Yesterday Julia Ellen had her 2 month well-baby check, the prerequisite to getting several vaccinations. The only appointment I could procure was at 9:20am so I packed up the kids after a quick breakfast, battled the Beltway traffic, and found the last slightly legal parking space on base. There were not many people in the waiting room in the pediatric clinic so the kids spread out to read and look at picture books. The corpsman called our name and I whisked Julia Ellen back for a few minutes alone to get her measurements. (13 pounds, off the chart!) A short while later they called us again so I gathered up the small children, leaving Will and Mary in the lobby, and followed a nurse back to a small examining room. I entertained the kids by balancing Timmy on one knee to read storybooks while simultaneously nursing Julia Ellen until the intern came into the room.

"OH! Do you want me to come back?" "No, she is all finished," I reassured him. Interns usually begin their year in July, but this guy seemed very inexperienced as he asked question after question, "Does anyone smoke in the house? What does she ride in in the car? Which way do you have the car seat facing? How do you manage 6 children? Does anyone in the house shoot? Does anyone in the house smoke? How do you deal with stress?How old is your house? Do you smoke? Is your husband going to deploy? How to you discipline 6 children?...." It felt more like a police interrogation than a medical checkup, with a cop trying to confuse a suspect into admitting he did it.

It seemed that he wanted to get a confession out of me, "Yes, I'm so overwhelmed every day. I don't know why I had 6 kids, no one should do this! I beat them to get them to behave like the angels they are being right now. Call social services and take them away so I can get a full night sleep!" I was polite, but getting a little irritated and he finally finished and said that the staff physician would be right in.

10 minutes ticked by... 20 minutes ticked by.... 30 minutes came and went. After almost 11 years of waiting and waiting for military pediatricians to show up, I finally snapped. I began to rant aloud, "How long is a well-child check supposed to take? 2 more minutes and I am out of here!" The 2 minutes passed very quickly as I got Julia Ellen back into her clothes, "Let's go!" I told Will and Mary who had been patiently reading while strapping the baby into her car seat.

I did call the clinic later and ask if I could go back and get her shots at the immunization clinic without the physician's signature on the chart. They took my name and number and finally at 4pm the doctor called to simultaneously apologize and blame me for what happened. "I understand that this is a teaching hospital, but with this many children I have been the guinea pig more times than the average. I certainly don't think it is fair to expect me to keep 4 small children quiet in a tiny space for over an hour and leave a 9 and 10 year old alone for that long."

This summer I plan on getting the baby's 4 month shots at the local family practice clinic in Maine, just paying out-of-pocket. I have a feeling that I won't be kept waiting for over an hour for him to pronounce her fat and fabulously healthy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

it's my computer!

This past weekend the girls went to their aunties' houses and brought home trinkets for themselves and for their brothers. One of the treats were horse cards (think Pokemon or baseball cards) called Bella Sera. Well, their expert eyes found on the bottom of each card and Mary has been asking before breakfast, "When I finish my work, can I play on the computer?" While dressing horses and feeding them is perfectly innocent, I don't really care for the children to spend their free time on the computer, but prefer that they read books and play games.

I'll give the newness of it about 2 weeks and then it is off. After all, I want to check my email, chat on-line, and get back to playing Tumble Bees. (Actually this has been beneficial in a way. I have finished 3 baby quilts in the past 3 days. Keep playing guys!)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

too many people?

Last week I finished a very interesting book, Confessions of an Eco-Sinner,

which tracks the source and impact of what we use/purchase. The author travels to the depths of a gold mine in Africa to see the process of extracting tons of ore to refine the few ounces of gold used in his wedding ring, explores the deep sea where many fish are being hunted to extinction, visits a green bean farm in Kenya and prawn hatchery in Bangladesh that both fly food thousands of miles to Britain, and witnesses the vast desertification of Uzbekistan in order to grow cotton for our clothes. It was amazing to catch a glimpse of how many ordinary items are produced and shipped all over the world so we can pick them up and purchase them at the local Walmart.

It is only at the end of the book that the author goes completely eco-crazy and gives us his solutions for the global crisis: grow more food in cities to reduce shipping, get rid of cars, stop burning fossil fuels for energy (he against nuclear for purely emotional reasons, so where does that leave us?), and stop having babies. This last "suggestion" has been debated many times over the past 20-40 years with the greenies saying there are too many people in the world and the Catholics saying that civilization and humanity will self-destruct if we contracept and murder our way to a smaller global footprint. Then this morning I read a blurb from LifeSiteNews which reported that several of the world's rich and powerful have met secretly to discuss reducing the population to "save the world."

Even though recent demographic study has revealed a great looming threat of demographic winter, the richest of the rich seem to believe that overpopulation is the top priority for their philanthropic endeavors. John Harlow writes today in The Times about a secret meeting of the global financial elite, convened by Microsoft mogul Bill Gates, at which attendees agreed that curbing the world's population should be their top priority.

In "Billionaire club in bid to curb overpopulation," Harlow recounts that a May 5 meeting took place in Manhattan that included "David Rockefeller Jr, the patriarch of America's wealthiest dynasty, Warren Buffett and George Soros, the financiers, Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, and the media moguls Ted Turner and Oprah Winfrey." Harlow notes that the general agreement that population control was a major priority came at Gates' instigation.
Gates' enthusiasm for population control comes as no surprise since he has himself admitted to being strongly influenced by the views of Thomas Malthus, the fear-mongering overpopulation guru of the late 18th century.
Yes, we need to live more simply and be more mindful of where our clothes, food, and energy comes from, but killing our fellow human beings is not the solution. Are these folks suggesting that Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, and Lenin were the best of men? After all, they reduced our carbon footprint. We would be wise to remember that each person has a unique soul created by God and we have a responsibility to defend the weakest among us.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

exercising the 2nd Amendment

Way back in February I was concerned (along with a lot of other people) that our 2nd Amendment rights were likely to be threatened with the election of Barack Obama. Tim took a gun safety class in February and yesterday it was my turn. I had a few logistical issues to overcome such as producing enough extra breast milk to leave for Julia Ellen and then pumping and pitching in the bathroom periodically during the 5 hour class.

I was so proud when the instructor asked twice, "Are you sure you have never shot before?"

Saturday, May 23, 2009

it is so quiet...

Yesterday the girls left for a weekend sleepover at their aunties' houses and it is amazing how my work load has diminished with only 4 children in the house.

Only 4 children... it seems funny, because when I had 1 child it seemed like there was an impossible amount of work and effort to get through the day, but now if I only have 3-4 kids at Mass or while running errands it is a mini-vacation. It seems too bad that I didn't know how easy 2 children could be when I only had that number, I could have saved myself a lot of whining and complaining. I certainly don't regret the large number of little people I have to feed and clothe and cuddle, the joy and laughter far outweighs the loads of dirty laundry and arguments that must be broken up every day.

Friday, May 22, 2009

please mr. postman...

is there a letter in your bag for me?

This week our field trip was a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Union Station Metro stop, the National Postal Museum. Tucked away inside the old DC Post Office, the museum is full of neat kid-friendly exhibits,

an example of every method of delivering the mail,

folk art mailboxes,

and Owney the dog who was the railway mail service mascot during the 1880's.

We learned about early mail routes between Boston and New York, early machines that manufactured envelopes, and direct mail (also known as junk mail). The children even got to sift through hundreds of stamps and start their own collection. Each picked a theme, Maggie chose birds, Mary chose people (including Louisa May Alcott, her favorite author this week), and Will selected 6 striking stamps from European countries.

On the train ride home we chatted with a nice man after Timmy accidentally whacked him and when we said goodbye, they asked the question that means a field trip was a success, "When can we go back?"

Thursday, May 21, 2009

sweating again

After a few weeks of not being able to run due to Tim's long hours at work and being away I finally have been able to run 4 days in a row. So far it hasn't resulted in any weight loss, but I'm sure that they will come off, especially since I found Gmaps pedometer which allows me to plan out new routes and calculate the distance down to hundredths of a mile. I might have to run clutching the directions in my sweaty palm, but I can get 4-5 miles in without having to go on the main roads and risk getting run over.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

those who can't... teach?

I recall standing on the sidelines of a soccer field a few years back listening to a young woman complain to her friend, "Please pray for me this weekend. I have to take the Praxis exam again, 'cause I flunked it the last 2 times." Now, I had to take calculus II 3 times because I'm not the brightest person out there when it comes to numbers. (for the record I did get a B on the 2nd go-round at the local Community College, but the policy required I take it again at Tech, where I got a C) But these standardized tests are so easy that even a non-mathematically inclined person like myself managed to score 187/190 on the math portion of the Praxis exam.

So... the question is how dumb are all these Elementary Education majors that they can't pass a very easy standardized test? And do you really want them teaching your children? I have much more confidence in parents who care enough to take on their own kid's education and are willing to sacrifice to do so.

MALDEN, Mass. (WPRI) - According to state education officials, nearly three-quarters of the people who took the state elementary school teacher’s licensing exam this year failed the new math section.
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released the results Tuesday. They say that only 27 percent of the more than 600 candidates who took the test passed. The test was administered in March of this year.
The teacher’s licensing exam tested potential teachers on their knowledge of elementary school mathematics. This included geometry, statistics, and probability.
Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester was not surprised by the results. He told the Boston Globe that these results indicate many students are not receiving an adequate math education.
Tom Scott, executive director of the
Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents , said "The high failure rate puts a shining light on a deficiency in teacher-prep programs."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

carnival of homeschooling

Home School Dad is hosting this week with a baseball theme, perfect for my post today.

a beautiful day for baseball

it is very hard to really whack a baseball off a tee in our suburban front yard. It is likely to either hit a car, a house, or go down the storm drain, and the backyard is worse with a narrow yard and a steep hill that goes down to a stream. So after weeks of the kids begging to practice at a local field, I decided that if everyone finished their work and piano before lunch yesterday(very easy since 1/2 the subjects have been finished for the year) then we would gather up mitts and balls and head over for a little hitting and fielding practice.

Of course Will's and Maggie's mitts were missing, as were all of the baseballs ( I have bought about 8 of them this spring) so we stopped at the thrift shop and picked up 5 balls at $1 each and 2 more mitts at about $3 each. Parenting "experts" would tell me that I should employ logical consequences when the children lose their toys and make them work to pay for new ones or make them miss practice, but with 6 kids, how am I supposed to know if they lost their own equipment or a younger sibling simply misplaced it?

Every kid got a turn at bat, but the little ones soon drifted away to play in the gravel or pick "wild strawberries" so Will and I played for a good long time before we ran out of water and finally gathered up our things to go home.

Monday, May 18, 2009

and on the 5th day....

there was POOP!

Maurisa, you were spot on, it was explosive and got all over her outfit, her socks, her blanket, my jeans, my hands... I'm so grateful she did this at home (and not out in public), not at dinner time, and when most of the children are with their father at baseball. One bath later she is a sweet smelling and clean little babydoodle again.

Notre Dame and Obama

Michelle Malkin has some fabulous commenters up at her piece about Notre Dame.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

our own personal physician

There have been many time over the past 11 years that I have been spared a trip into the pediatric clinic by getting medical advice from my husband. "Is this cut deep enough to warrant stitches?" (Yes) "Should I be worried about this rash?" (No) This weekend I asked, "Is there something wrong with Julia Ellen's digestive system?" (Not likely)

I noticed on Thursday after I started using the two bags full of cloth diaper liners that Michelle brought me, struck me on Friday after only changing wet nappie after nappie, and concerned me on Saturday when evening came and the child still had not pooped. Now it is Sunday and by the time she went night-night she still hasn't gone. She is happy and belching and "making bubbles" so everything seems to be in working order, but if I didn't have Tim reassuring me that, "there is nothing you can do," I would be hauling her into the ER wailing, "My kid won't go potty!"

I'm quite sure after expressing all this anxiety about the situation she will wake up tonight at 3am with an overflowing nappie, simply to expose me for the Nervous Nellie Mommy that I am.

Friday, May 15, 2009

stocking up

This past week I printed and clipped a huge stack of on-line coupons before heading out to the commissary. The bulky items such as toilet paper, nappies, and coffee filled the cart halfway through the store so I had to send Maggie out and fetch another one. She is pretty good at pushing the cart for the first aisle or so because then the packages inside block her view. Needless to say it was a comedic sight with 3 small children racing around in circles while I was throwing rolls of paper towels over my shoulder and steering both carts. Luckily Julia Ellen didn't even wake up until we got back into the van. I learned many years ago to give babies a good feed right before going to the grocery to prevent unpleasant episodes.

Usually the 90 minutes that Will and Mary spend at piano is enough time to shop, drop off the perishables at home, and still have time to return before they spill out the front door of their teacher's house, but this time we were almost 20 minutes late due to the cashier examining each coupon with microscopic intensity in an effort to reject them, but despite his efforts, (since I am honest to a fault) I managed to save over $40 off my bill.

Kraft, owner of the Maxwell House coffee brands, raised retail prices on its Colombian blend by almost 19 per cent last month due to the rising prices of Colombian coffee beans. Nestlé declined to comment on whether it has been raising prices on Nescafé.

Separately, sugar prices in New York and London rose last week to their highest in almost three years. White sugar prices rose above $450 a tonne, a 52 per cent gain from mid-December, as traders bet that India, the world’s largest consumer, will require hefty imports to compensate for the failure of the local crop.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

not too cool to wear shades

our Stevie Wonder impersonators

if you pull on your fingers the bug tattoo wiggles!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

learning US geography

While growing up, instead of posters of pop bands or movie stars, I covered all 4 walls of my bedroom with National Geographic maps. Right next to my bed was a map of the United States which I traced with my finger the routes and places in my reading. By the time came to officially memorize the capitals I was ahead of the pack. Seton requires memorization of this information in the last quarter of 5th grade. While Tim was quizzing the children at supper the other night I realized that our method actually worked, both kids could spit out the capitals with ease, even Charleston, West Virginia which I'm pretty sure he thought was Wheeling.

Every day for weeks we have played Mad Dash, a fun geography game I picked up at the thrift store followed by filling in a blank map of the US, xeroxed from Uncle Josh's Outline Map Book.

When she could fill it all in with no trouble we switched to my homemade color-coded flash cards to match states and capitals.
In less than 8 weeks she is better educated in US geography than many of today's high school seniors.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

carnival of homeschooling

Walking Therein is hosting a Mother's Day themed carnival this week.

rain, rain GO away!

During the past month Tim has taken the older children on Monday evenings to homeschooler baseball/softball, leaving me home with "only" 3 small children to bathe, read stories to, and put to bed. But with Tim up in New England this week I had to fight the traffic and haul the whole crew across the county, only to have the rain come pouring down about 45 minutes later. The kids had a wonderful time, and Charlie got to practice with the little boys, but in our mad rush to the van I forgot to pick up my new library book off the ground and didn't realize it until I was putting the children to bed.

"Well, we will go back up there after every one's schoolwork is finished just to get it out of the mud," I told Maggie this morning. Then I sat down at the computer to read an email from one of the other parents saying he found the book! Yeah! I'm thinking that that $20 I was going to give to the library should be used in some way to say thank you for small blessings.

Monday, May 11, 2009

putting away the Easter candy

Between not being able to run much this month (Tim's been working really long hours) and eating too much sugar, my weight has bounced up and down. My goal this week while he is away is to hide the 1/2 price candy and not eat any sweets. Right now I can only fit in 2 pairs of shorts and I'm getting very frustrated on Sunday mornings about my choices in what to wear to Mass since most of my skirts are in smaller sizes than what will currently button around my waist.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

happy mother's day!

Since a crowded and expensive dinner out with 5 kids and a 2 month old is not my idea of a good time, our little clan will be heading out after Mass for a picnic lunch and stroll at the National Arboretum on Sunday. The 15,000 azaleas are in full flower and I am looking forward to the show.

I recently read this in our church bulletin, "I go to Mass every week and thank God for the blessings of my husband and children. I also go to Mass every week to pray to get through another week with my husband and children." May I be a good mother to my children and a good wife to my husband, after all, they likely pray to survive another week in my company as well.

May we all pray for our mothers and grandmothers. For those who are still with us let them know how much you love them. For those who are deceased Eternal rest give to them, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon them.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

treasure trove

This morning we were supposed to go to the National Zoo with the American Heritage Girls, but like baseball earlier this week, it was cancelled due to rain. I think it has rained 10 out of the past 14 days, reminding me of this past summer in Maine when I almost went mad being shut up day after day in a very tiny apartment with 5 children.

Of course the kids were so looking forward to a field trip that when morning dawned and it wasn't actually raining yet... I said we could ride the Metro and go to the National Aquarium. I printed out my school group discount sheet off the internet and we hit the road. I had to wrangle for a minute or two with the ticket guy, "Are you discriminating against homeschoolers?" but it did shave $1 each off the kid's regular admission. The aquarium is pretty small, but we did like the piranhas, the alligators, the electric eels and this medium-sized snapping turtle.

After a quick snack/light lunch of Triscuits and blueberry muffin we headed over to the Mall on our way to the Botanic Gardens, but were waylaid by two huge tents full of exhibits by every government entity that exists. The kids filled up tote bags with balls, pencils, stickers, magnets, calenders, flashlights, tape measures, puzzles, and CDRoms. In the military tent they saw a dozen landmines (they were inert), a table full of guns to hold (no bullets), and talked to many soldiers and reservists. The paratroopers helped Will test out a parachute and explained how to jump out of an airplane.

We never made it to the Botanic Garden, instead visiting the very nice restrooms and lobby of the Smithsonian Castle before heading home to dump out the loot all over the living room floor.

what a beautiful life

Irena Sendler - who recently died at 98 years of age, was a 2008 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee During WWII, Irena was given permission to work in the Warsaw Ghetto, as a plumbing/sewer specialist, but she had an ulterior motive. Being German, Irena knew what the Nazi plan was for Jews. Irena smuggled out infants in the bottom of a tool box she carried in the back of her truck. She used a burlap sack for bigger children. She also had a dog in the back that she trained to bark when Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto. The soldiers wanted nothing to do with her dog. The barking covered noises of the infants and children.

Irena managed to smuggle out and save 2500 infants and children, before she was caught! The Nazi's broke both her legs and arms, and beat her severely. Irena kept a record in a jar buried under a tree in her back yard of all the children she smuggled out. After the war, she tried to locate all parents that may have survived to reunite families, but most had been gassed. The children she could not reunite were placed with foster families or adopted.

Irena was nominated for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize. She was not selected. Al Gore won for a slide show on Global Warming.

Thank you to Delores for sharing this. After yesterday's outing in which we were subjected to extreme rudeness, learning about Irena gives me a renewed hope in humankind.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

our oldest child

When I first went to Tim's apartment while we were dating, a little orange and white fluffball stretched out his paws on my leg to receive a head scratch. When we married and moved to our little bungalow overlooking Scott Creek I would find a little furry purring bundle on the end of our bed waiting to be patted. When we were standing in the Norfolk airport waiting for our flight to Italy to be called a little pink nose pushed out between the mesh of his carrier to be rubbed. Every summer we would load that same carrier in the back seat and attempt to soothe an anxious kitty as we prepared for the 10-15 hour trip to Maine.

Freddie has been through it all, 17 years worth of moving, bringing baby after baby home, always underfoot waiting for someone to give him attention and hiding under the bed when visitors came. While I am a cat person in general, Freddie is by far the most affectionate and sweet feline that has ever existed. He has never scratched or bit anyone and we have reciprocated by teaching each child in turn, "Must be nice to kitty. Give kitty a pat." He has been getting sicker and thinner in the past few months and it is time for us to say goodbye. But he is the only pet the children have ever known and so will stay in our memories and even in our family song.

Yes, we have a family song and I'll share it if you don't laugh:

I love you
You love me
Together we are family.
With a Mommy and a Daddy
And a Will, and a Mary, and a Maggie, and a Charlie, and a Timmy, and a Julia Ellen,
Don't forget Fat Freddie too,
Don't forget Fat Freddie too.

(tune is the Barney song)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

carnival of homeschooling

A Spring Fever edition is being hosted by Atlanta Homeschooling Examiner.

saving my pennies

The IHM homeschool conference is next month and my favorite vendor (besides Seton) is Keller Books. The booth is always crawling with used book aficionados and I learned to take my highlighted list of Landmark Books with me, after finding out the hard way, that when faced with dozens of titles I can't recall which ones we already own.

Yes, we have access to some good libraries where we can find updated biographies and histories, but I have found that my kids are more apt to read The Story of WWI or The Building of the Transcontinental Railroad if it is sitting on the shelf in our home. Some of the particular titles I will be hunting for are The West Point Story, The Story of the Paratroopers, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. To pay for all these purchases I have been trying not to go to the thrift shop, the drug store, or the quilt shop, but instead trying to organize our shelves and see what we really need for next year.

Monday, May 04, 2009

breakfast of champions

In southern Virginia strawberry season begins around April 20 and in North Carolina a bit earlier than that, but 250 miles to the north we expect the berries not to hit peak for another 3-4 weeks. This is a shame 'cause the kids have been pestering me (with good results) to buy them strawberries at the grocery. These children looooove strawberries, last year we ate 8 buckets worth over the course of the season. This morning I made buttermilk biscuits with a little extra sugar and covered the split halves with cut berries, and smothered them in homemade whipped cream.

During the meal as we watched the public school bus pull up, I said, "Now aren't you glad you are homeschooled? You are sitting here eating shortcake while all those children probably ate cold cereal before going outside to stand in the rain." Will said, "Yeah, on my hike Saturday I told the other boys about homeschooling, now they want to do it too!"

Sunday, May 03, 2009

my classic kid

Charlie is the epitome of a 4 year old boy: squirmy to the point that he sometimes looks like a marionette and fascinated by anything/everything gross. Currently he is driving us all crazy with his constant antics, hitting a peak on Friday by ruining his perfect blond bowl haircut by chopping off his bangs to 1/4."

This morning in Mass Tim had his hands full trying to keep this one child from doing back flips, while I was able to pray and get the 4 others to stand/sit/kneel without breaking a sweat. One day this child will be 5 (in about 8 weeks) and he will mellow and sit still for longer than 2 seconds, but for now, Charlie is my bouncing (off the walls) little boy.

Friday, May 01, 2009

the father of all field trips

Yesterday morning we woke up bright and early to strive with the Beltway commuters to visit Mount Vernon. This was the field trip that I wanted to do right, but was convinced that something horrible would go wrong as it combines the 3 big dangers: a long drive to get there, high admission fees, and a lot of irreplaceable historical artifacts. The night before I had nightmares that we would get lost, get a flat tire, lose a child, or they would break something. Luckily my fears were not realized and we pulled into the driveway 8 hours later with the same # of children with which we started.

It took me the entire drive to decide to splurge the extra $20 on annual passes, figuring that we will return in the fall after the children learn many useful facts about George Washington and amaze the socks off the docents. "Wow! Those kids know so much, they must be homeschoolers!" To accomplish this I let them dress up in colonial garb in the Hands-on-History room while I visited the Teacher Resource Room. I love the room for little ones (3-8 years) where they can piece together a pottery "artifact," pretend they are eating colonial food, do puzzles, and read stories about Washington. Diana Cordray, the Education Center manager seems to love homeschoolers and put together a huge packet for me of great material, chatted with the children, and oohed and aahed over Julia Ellen. She said the best times to visit were in October, January, and February for the smallest crowds and more interaction with the docents.

The kids really liked their own Adventure Maps which gave them puzzles to solve while we walked from the gardens to the blacksmith shop to the grave site of our first President.

Off the beaten path, but worth the walk was the farm exhibit with a replica of the 16-sided threashing barn that George Washington designed himself. We listened to the colonial-garbed ladies explain about all the animals raised on the farm, including many mules used for plowing and pulling carts like Kit and Kate shown here.

I think doing all the outside things first before returning after eating lunch was smart, but it still took an hour of waiting in a very long line... (this was only about 1/3 of it)

to walk through the house and see the bed where George and Martha Washington slept and the very ornate dining room where they ate dinner. All in all, it was a very long day, but well worth the traffic issues and having to say countless times, "Charlie, put the gravel down. NOW!"