Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas pictures

Please excuse any popcorn litter on the living room floor. My vacuum was clogged up with pine needles and needed to be taken apart, and Jack had strewn popcorn everywhere... :)

Here's our way-too-big-for-our-living-room tree.

Here's the top of the tree. It bumps up into the ceiling fan...must think smaller next year.

The advent wreath turned Christmas wreath.

My dad and kids....we were singing Happy Birthday to baby Jesus after Christmas Eve mass before having....

birthday cake! What else? This is one of my favorite little traditions...a fun way to remind the kids why we are really doing all of this.

New Christmas Eve pj's

Christmas morning...Jack with his new toolbench.

Kain after emptying his stocking. That's a "pet tornado" in his pocket.

Jack with new books. I was tickled with the way he immediately grabbed them and ran off into a corner to check them out.

Kain got a couple of new Lego kits...he's really getting into them.

Jack on my parents' land later Christmas day. It ended up being warm and beautiful!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas recovery

Well, my week hasn't gotten off to the slammin' start I was planning. We didn't start school, and we are still working on putting the house back together. I'm working on putting everyone back on their usual routines today, and I guess we'll wait until Monday to start up school.

I've been putting off posting Christmas info because my camera is MIA...but I'll just post pics when it turns up. Christmas Eve we went to our parish's pageant and mass. Maria was singing in the choir, and Kain was a shepherd and did well this year as best I could tell...last year we had an issue with him head-butting a kid sitting next to him...but honestly it was hard to pay attention. Jack talked *nonstop* through the whole pagaent and the whole mass. His church behavior has gotten much better. We don't usually have to take him out anymore. But he talks the whole time, this running monologue about what he is seeing, echoing parts of the mass, etc. It's so cute, really, but distracting to those around us I'm sure...but I can't seem to get him to stop! I hate to squelch his sweet attempts at participation anyway. It's just that he gets pretty loud. Here's a sample from Christmas Eve...

"Angels! Angels! Red flowers!"
"Mary and Joseph! Joseph, Joseph! Baby Jesus, Jesus in the manger, Jesus in the manger with STRAW! STRAW in the manger!"
"Shepherds! Lots of shephers guarding their SHEEP! HEAVENLY HOSTS! HEAVENLY HOSTS, MOM!"
"Holy Spirit be with you ALL!"
"Life of the world to come! Momma say LIFE OF THE WORLD TO COME!"
"Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, Holy, Holy, Holy Lord"
"Communion, it's communion, COMMUNION, MOM!"

I kept urging him to whisper, but it didn't help much. Thankfully the Christmas Eve mass is full of noisy, cranky, yelling kids and I don't think he was noticed too much. And really, I know I have to reign him in for the sake of other parishoners,,,but I hardly think he offends our Lord. He is enthusiastic, he *likes* going to mass, he is involved and paying attention, which is probably more than can be said for 70% of the adults that would be offended by his noise. Still...I've gotta teach that boy to whisper at least...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas Eve Eve

This will probably be my last post until Tuesday evening. We are in the final haul here. I'm having a bit of a mood today, isn't that terrible and un-Christmas-y? Just lots of stuff to do this week and lots of things that aren't working out quite right...from a way-to-big-for-our-living-room tree that bumps into the ceiling fan and is hard to even function around and that is already dropping it's needles and ornaments from drooping the cranberry walnut bread I tried to bake for Christmas gifts that is coming out gooey in the the 15 pounds of fudge I made that just wore me out to no end. Tonight I will put the boys to bed and go upstairs to wrap the gifts, all of which I've managed to save until the last minute. Hopefully a night's sleep will improve my mood.

Plans for the coming week...

Monday- Wild flurry of cooking and cleaning until my parents arrive, then we will head off for our parish's Christmas pageant and mass. Kain is a shepherd and Maria is in the choir. We will come home to chili cheese dip, spinach spread and pumpernickel bread, eggnog, and Jesus' birthday cake. The kids will get to open two presents, a new ornament and new pajamas. Then I'll play Santa and wait for John to come home from work.

Tuesday- We will do the whole present shebang and then drive up to my parents/Little Portion Hermitage for Christmas dinner and visiting. This is where almost half the fudge will go. John will be off too! We'll make the long drive home and collapse, thankful to have managed to pull of another Christmas.

Wednesday- I will balance accounts and bills and assess holiday damages before payday. The kids will get the day to enjoy their Christmas presents and relax.
We will read The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey for tea time.

Thursday- School schedule. Aren't I mean? I know, it's still Christmas, right? We've had a very slacker Advent as far as school is concerned, and we all feel the need to get some structure back. I'm starting to have some discipline issues as far as chores and all go, and the fix for that is to get back on routine. Also, I got Maria's new high dollar spelling program, Phonetic Zoo,,,it's recommended for kids with visual learning issues. I'm anxious to start it. Here's hoping it helps, the child still has so much difficulty with spelling, (sigh). Instead of our regular afternoon subjects though, we will finish up some things we didn't get to during Advent...this day I plan to read Country Angel Christmas and make gold glitter stars.

Friday- We will do a bit of school in the morning before heading out for a park day with our homeschool group. In the afternoon we will read Clown of God for tea time.

Saturday- Grocery shopping and, if the weather cooperates, a nature walk. Hey, you gotta get out in the winter too! If the weather doesn't cooperate, we will read Legend of the Poinsettia and make tissue paper flowers.

Sunday- Mass and hopefully a day of rest. Today was not one.

Hope you have a blessed and holy Christmas! Please join me in not getting so freaked out over the holiday that you lose the meaning of the holy day.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My Jack

Isn't he beautiful? No, really. See, here's a close-up....

In these pictures he is singing to his nativity scene. He does this several times a day right now, arranges his velcro Advent wreath, then lines up all the wooden nativity pieces just so, and then he sings,,,he doesn't know many songs yet, so he just sings "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Holy, Holy, Holy Jesus" over and over again until tears come to my eyes. This simple devoutness he possesses is a quality I've not seen in the other children, nor is this the first time he has shown it.

This child is the sweetest part of my day. I hope my others won't someday read that and feel slighted. I love the other two dearly, I'm really not playing favorites here. I'm just saying that somewhere in between Maria's pre-teen hormones and Kain's unending, unfulfilled needs, there's this little person, this unconditional love and total uncomplicated sweetness. That's not to say that preschoolers don't have their, ah, issues now and then. But he wakes up calling "GOOD MORNING, MOMMA" and beaming at me from his crib and climbs on my lap for sweet snuggly kisses at random moments during the day. He loves, loves, loves everyone in his world in that gentle way so like his father. Now that he is finally talking in actual sentences, he is constantly revealing how he sees the world and the thoughts in his head...and often leaves us amazed or laughing out loud. He still smells like a baby and has that soft fine baby hair. I can hold him tightly and it feels like he was just born yesterday. But no...he is a big 3 years old now and will soon be a big brother. I love you Jack.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

role reversal

Maria- Dad, why are you so grouchy?

Me- He's not being grouchy towards you. He's ticked off at me.

Maria- Why is he ticked off at you?

Me- Because I got ticked off at him. So now we are going to see who can be ticked off the longest.

Maria- Oh. That's mature.

John- She started it!

story of a Christmas photo

"HEEELLLLOOOOO!!! Everyone look at the CAMERA!"

"KAIN, COME ON! LOOK AT THE CAMERA!!, and KAIN, quit making that weird face and just SMILE NATURALLY!"

"MARIA, Jack's HEAD is in front of your FACE!"

"(sigh) Whatever. Good enough."

Monday, December 17, 2007

a Christmas meme...because I'm procrastinating cleaning...

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? I prefer wrapping paper...but sometimes gift bags just make more sense.

2. Real tree or artificial? Real. I love real trees...until the needles start falling off and I start cursing the darned thing for the rest of the season and think maybe an artificial one wouldn't be such a bad idea...but I always come back to the real ones.

3. When do you put up the tree? Um, I still haven't put up our tree. It's sitting in a bucket of water next to the garage. We usually do it the third Sunday of Advent, but we had a very full day yesterday, and John is working today...he is off tomorrow, so we will do it then.

4. When do you take the tree down? After Epiphany.

5. Do you like eggnog? It's pretty good. I like Bailey's Irish cream better! We usually make some on Christmas Eve...but none for prego momma this year, so I may just stick with a virgin eggnog.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? Hmmm...that's hard. I remember getting a swatch watch one Christmas. I desperately wanted one, and my mom said they were too expensive and I would lose it, but she got me one anyway, and it was *SO COOL*. A couple of weeks later I left it at the playground...I was crushed, and so embarassed to tell my mom, but she was very cool about it.

7. Do you have a Nativity scene? Yes, see Advent week 2 post below.

8. Hardest person to buy for? My in-laws, for sure. They have everything they need or want and not really any hobbies we can supplement or anything. Always an issue...

9. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Hmm..I can't remember a specific gift. I remember one Christmas when I was 14 or 15, I found all the gifts before Christmas and opened them (sorry Mom!)...that Christmas really sucked. lol...serves me right I guess.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? I really don't do many cards at all. I will email a note with a Christmas picture to a couple of long distance friends I don't see often, and I'll send a Christmas picture with a note to my in-laws with their gifts, but I don't do Christmas card mailings any more.

11. Favorite Christmas Movie? I *love, love, love* A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott. And Charlie Brown Christmas. And of course, It's a Wonderful Life.

12. When do you start shopping for Christmas? As soon as possible, and I do most of it online. I have one more thing to pick up for Kain, and candy for stockings, then I'm done, woohoo!

13. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Not that I remember!

14. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Does the Bailey's Irish Cream count? :) I love peppermint bark, and peppermint milk shakes...and I make a really yummy, really easy, really fattening hot chili cheese dip that sits in the crock pot when we are gone to Christmas Eve mass,,,then we come home and have that, put the kids to bed, and have Bailey's. :)

15. Clear lights or colored on the tree? White lights, much to my daughter's irritation. I do put the colored ones outside.

16. Favorite Christmas song. O Holy Night. Also love What Child is This, and I remember crying to Away in a Manger when I was a kid...because Jesus didn't have a "crib for a bed". :)

17. Travel at Christmas or stay home? We travel, but just less than 2 hours away to see my family.

18. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer. Yep!

19. Angel on the tree top or a star? Angel

20. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas morning, except for a pair of new pj's and a new ornament the kids open Christmas Eve.

21. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Just one? Ok, I'm really irritated by non-Christians that celebrate Christmas in a totally secular way and then get irritated the Christmas is "too Christian". To take one of the most holy days of the liturgical year, secularize the heck out of it, and then be irritated that it's still a Christian holiday to the rest of us is just profane and insulting. Christmas is a Christian holiday. If Christianity offends you, then don't celebrate a Christian holiday, celebrate something else!

crazy homeschool family video

This is really funny, and only a couple minutes long. Go check it out! My favorite parts are the geeky dad and the looks on the neighbors' faces...heehee.

And while you're wasting time on the computer, this is a funny one too, 12 Day of Christmas meets Toto, found on the Testosterhome blog.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A bit disappointing....

Well, it's just before noon or so, and here's what's left of our snow...if you look hard, you can see a bit in the shade of the telephone pole.

The snow started yesterday and came down fast and furious for maybe an hour at the most. Then it slowed to nothing but a few flurries for the remainder of the evening. This morning is warm and sunny, barely worth putting on a coat for, and the bit of snow we had is melting fast. Poor Kain is quite irritated about it.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Advent- week 2

This week was a much slower paced one, what with our assorted cooties and an unexpected car repair that left the kids and I stranded at the public library and required a two day juggling act back and forth to the car dealership.

We did manage to put up our nativity scene....

Our nativity scene is an odd mix of two sets. I got the white porcelain set from a flea market before Maria was born. The very breakable pieces have seen better days. Many have tell tale fracture lines where they have been superglued back together. They are being replaced at the rate of one or two a year by a much more durable (and expensive) Fontanini set. I started with the Holy Family, and then moved on to replacing the saddest looking pieces first. This year I bought the sheep.

They were a welcome addition, as a couple of our previous sheep had lost most of their legs altogether and required some serious propping up.

The other missed activities have been shifted to next week or dropped until next year. I did really want to have a celebration dinner for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as well as take Maria to the midnight mass at a nearby parish, but that was the day of the aforementioned car we just read this book instead.

We also helped package and deliver baskets of food for our parish food bank this morning. It was a good experience for the kids. It's very easy to donate food to the food's another experience altogether to go out to people's homes to deliver the food. The whole thing only took about an hour and a half out of our morning, and it made me appreciate those that spend all year working for this ministry.

Friday, December 14, 2007

funny linkage...

The rules for this were to google the answers to these questions and pick an image from the first page...

1. Age at my next birthday:

2. Place I'd like to travel:

3. Place I've been:

4. Favorite food:

5. Place I was born:

6. Place I live:

7. Name of past pet:

8. Best friends' nickname:

9. My first name:

10. First job:

I find myself wanting to explain all of these,,,but then that seemed to make it less funny. So, I have left it open to interpretation, but I'll explain any if you'd like. :)

Let it snow!

Here it comes! Our first snow of the year! Any northerners reading this will roll their virtual eyes at me, I'm sure,,,but here in the south snow is a treat. It's rare that we get enough to play in before January, and some years we don't get much at all. Last time I checked the forecast they were calling for 1-3 inches...but that may change. Snow forecasts for this area are often wrong, and when we do get it, it doesn't last for long...the weather usually warms in a day or two and we watch it quickly melt away. I can never imagine what it must be like to live in an area that has snow on the ground most of the winter! Hopefully we will at least get enough to have some fun. We are all ready to go...everyone has snow boots and snow gloves, we have real maple syrup for making snow taffy, and John is even off of work this weekend so we don't have to worry about him commuting. Bring it on!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

the first cooties of the season....

Well, the long and healthy summer was fun while it lasted. Frankly, I'm impressed we made it this far, what with all the asthmatics in the house and all the stuff I know has been floating around out there. Kain and I started coughing a few days ago,,,then Jack started coughing yesterday. I was holding out hopes that it was just asthma stuff (all three of us have asthma). When I went to bed last night, my own coughing was keeping me awake for about an hour until it finally settled down enough for me to sleep. Then, around 11:30 last night, I heard Jack over the baby monitor coughing hard in his sleep, then crying. I went downstairs and got him a drink of water and he seemed sleepy and settled quickly, but soon after would start again. By my third trip down, he was wheezing and hot with fever. So, I brought him, his sippy cup of water, and an inhaler and spacer upstairs to my bed and we spent the next several hours trying to doze and hitting the albuterol...both of us. He finally fell into a hard sleep early in the morning and slept until 7ish. He woke up feeling somewhat cooler but breathing fast and hard...and coughing, of course. So, we went downstairs and broke out the nebulizer. That worked much better and he has seemed pretty comfortable today. Around 10am he started looking coughing again, developed circles under his eyes, and just looked pretty worn out, so I gave him another nebulizer treatment and put him back to bed. He's still there, but I can hear him stirring and talking to himself, so I guess I'd better go check on him.

So, here's to all the moms out there, in my first of many nights this winter, I'm sure, up with sick kiddos! :) Here's your checklist....the corporal works of mercy

To feed the hungry- check

To give drink to the thirsty- check, check...lots of water pushing going on.

To clothe the naked- actually, I kind of stripped the naked down to a onesie once the fever started....

To shelter the homeless- right in my very own bed.

To visit the sick- That's a given, especially after spending the morning watching Little Einsteins.

To ransom the captive- from his very own crib.

To bury the dead- Well, thankfully it hasn't come to that...

Thursday, December 06, 2007


So, today is the feast day of St. Nicholas, and at our house he puts chocolate coins in children's shoes and leaves a family gift of some kind, a gift that contributes something new to do during the long winter evenings indoors...last year it was the Chronicles of Narnia dvds. This year he was about board games, leaving Homeschoolopoly (doesn't that look silly!), and Payday.

The problem was that I misplaced St. Nicholas' chocolate coins. I bought them when I bought the little candies for the Jesse Tree bags, and I stashed them....somewhere. I looked last night for a little while, but I was so tired my head was spinning, so I decided to go to bed and look in the morning since I'm almost always up before the big kids. I was up at 6:15, tearing the house apart, digging through all my usual hiding places,,,high kitchen cabinets, empty vases in the hutch cabinets, top shelf of the pantry...nothing! I finally located them in the back of a bookshelf. I'm sure hiding them there made sense at the time. It was 6:45, and the kids woke up at 7. Phew! Wish I could still have coffee!

To further celebrate today, we will read The Real Santa Claus. Then we will dig out The Polar Express (St. Nicholas brought this the year before last) when Jack goes down for a nap and have some Hot, Hot, Hot, Hot Chocolate to drink while we watch. I feel a little mean about doing this during Jack's nap, but the truth is that, 1.he really just doesn't sit through long movies very well yet and will just be a distraction to the big kids, and 2. the big kids will surely be watching it again and again anyway. This movie is just magic for Kain, and I want to make it special for him especially...with an ADHD kid, that means no distractions.

Tomorrow we will read The Legend of St. Nicholas and watch St. Nicholas, the Boy Who Became Santa....if we can get the VCR to work. It is dying a slow death, and we can no longer find a replacement that is not a VCR/DVD combo. This VCR/DVD thing is a pet peeve of mine...but that's another post altogether.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Why is it that food that a child was shoving into his mouth suddenly become too gross to touch when it comes time to rinse his plate in the sink 3 minutes later?

Why is it *so gross* to have to flush the toilet after a forgetful younger child, but it's not gross at all to neglect to wash your hands after using the toilet yourself?

Why is it that an 11yo girl deems it very necessary to spend a considerable amount of time picking out the perfect outfit in the morning, but is unconcerned about the dirt under her fingernails? Or will spend 20 minutes hunting down the headband that matches her shirt, but has to be harangued into actually washing her hair on a regular basis?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

First Sunday of Advent

Our preparations began a few days ago with digging out our purple altar cloth and advent wreath, and making candles. The candle making was new this year. I found a kit on ebay with pink and purple beeswax sheets.

Here's Maria using a blowdrier to warm the wax sheets...this makes them easier to roll....

...and also softens the wax enough to let her taper the ends.

This is by far our favorite part of Advent...our Jesse Tree ornaments. Here's the garland where the ornaments hang during Advent, each numbered one through twenty-five. So, technically, you use it during the first 25 days of December.

This is what the ornaments look like on the other side...for those who are unfamiliar, Jesse tree ornaments trace the lineage of Christ all the way back to Adam. So, each ornament has an image representing different bible stories and ancestors of can see, if you click on the picture, the dove with the olive branch for the story of Noah, tablet of 10 commandments for Moses, the stories of Abraham, Isaac, Samuel, etc., are all there, all the way up until the birth of Jesus there at the end. You can't tell from here, but those are little party favor bags like you find in the wedding section of craft stores. Inside the bags are three pieces of candy, one for each child. The last few days also have the O Antiphons in them with little "gold coins" (yellow cardstock circles) for each antiphon.

Each day during Advent, a child gets to take down a bag, pass around the candy, and hang the bag on the "tree" (dead branch from the back yard). We read the bible story related to the ornament while the kids have their small treat...a little taste of Christmas. By Christmas day, the garland is empty and the tree is full and pretty.

Then, per this Advent unit study, we read Merry Christmas Strega Nona. It's set in Italy, so Maria and I made spaghetti and meatballs, caesar salad, and garlic bread for dinner.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

A busy weekend....

of my big payday grocery shopping haul...

of two birthday parties (for friends, not for my own kids)...

of baking 4 dozen cookies for the church cookie walk...

of readying Advent decorations and supplies (photos to come tomorrow)...

and PSR starting after a nice two week break...

I know I said I'd be posting a "day in the life" homeschooling post, but we haven't, um, been really doing much schooling, what with waiting for new materials to come in and all the holiday stuff going on. We've been watching Bill Nye the Science guy,,,and Maria did a science kit on magnets,,,does that count?

On a less busy note, last week was our last day of co-op until late January, woohoo! The kids aren't as happy as I am...but I was ready for a break. Here's a random photo of Maria with her science concept map project on polar deserts that she made this term in her Environmental Science class. Surely *that* counts as school....
and it was nice to see her take such pride in something school related. Gives me hope. She has also said that she can already tell that reading is much easier after a month of vision therapy!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

baking cookies

Yesterday, the kids and I baked snowman cookies.

We had lots of fun, lots of warm, fuzzy moments in the kitchen and I wondered why we didn't do this more often. They worked so hard decorating their own snowmen. Here's Maria's....I don't know why she has that spacey look on her face...

And Kain's, a chocolate snowman...

Jack's didn't last long enough to get a picture before he dug in....

Then the drama started. Jack dumped two large bowls of sprinkles all over the kitchen floor. And Maria bumped into Kain, causing him to drop his cookie, frosting side down, on the living room rug. This caused Kain to have a nervous breakdown...he *did* work a long time on that cookie...and it was still perfectly edible, but, you know, it just wasn't the same. I wasn't thrilled either. You can't tell in the picture above because of the chocolate frosting, but that sucker was doused in blue icing and after scrubbing my way through four rags and half a can of Resolve, my carpet still has a blue tinge.

Friday, November 23, 2007

my new baby...and my big baby....

On new baby news,,,we heard the heartbeat today! It never gets old. After a few weeks of feeling more "old self", it was a great affirmation that baby is indeed there and well. John was working and couldn't be there, so in a great act of corny enthusiasm that made the midwife chuckle we used my cell phone to call our home voicemail and leave a recording of the heartbeat for John to hear when he gets home tonight.

As for my big baby...we've been trying to move him into a toddler bed in Kain's room without much success. His current "bedroom" is actually our large school/play room. It's a cold and drafty room and when the temperature dropped I decided he needed to move to Kain's much warmer bedroom. I bought a little toddler bed and Jack was quite excited about the whole thing. However, he won't actually stay in the bed. After a few nights of tearful battles, John pointed out that he obviously just wasn't ready for this. I protested..."He's 3 years old! Maria moved into a regular bed at age 2 and with no problem!" But John wisely insisted that, still, *Jack* wasn't ready for this. So, that very evening we partially broke down the crib, shoved it across the house, put it back together, and wedged it into Kain's now very cramped bedroom. The toddler bed will stay where it is simply because I don't have anywhere else to put it. And even though it's a big and lunky, mattress-less, in the way eyesore, a relative peace has returned to bedtime.

It occurs to me how much grief I have brought myself as a parent when I have tried to push my kids to do something before they are ready, insisting that they "should" be ready,,,,even if they just aren't. I do try to measure such things by the "when they are in high school" yardstick. It works like this. You take the problem and plug it into this sentence...."He/she will surely be able to (insert problem here) by the time they are in high school." Possible problems that have worked here for me include weaning, using the potty, tying their shoes, pushing themselves on the swing, eating without wiping their hands on their shirt (this may be a reach), remembering to flush the toilet, learning to read, understanding fractions, sleeping through the night, and sleeping in their own bed. My theory is that if a problem fits in that sentence, it is an issue of maturity and the child should just be allowed to mature at their own pace in the name of family sanity. Not that I still don't nag Kain to use a napkin. But it does help keep things in a "this too shall pass" perspective. These are the kinds of problems that almost always resolve on their own and leave you later wondering why they caused you so much grief in the first place.

my elves

Here's our family of elves...these are so cute!

The Almost Worst Thanksgiving Ever

Yesterday morning was a rush of activity...John was working, so I was getting the kids ready to leave for Thanksgiving dinner, making our salad, cutting up our giant slab of finally cooled fudge, packing diapers, sippy cups, and coats for the soon to be below freezing temperatures. We needed to leave by 11, and it was tight. To top it off, the kids were fighting like a pack of wild cats and I was dreading even spending the next hour and a half trapped in a car with them. Finally, right at 11, I was gathering everything for the kids to haul out to the car, and I couldn't find my car keys. Not an altogether unheard of occurance around here, I dispatched the kids to look in all the usual places...under piles on the kitchen counter, in the couch cushions, etc. After several minutes, I was feeling desperate. I called John at work, something I try to avoid because he's always busy. Sure enough, he was in the process of transferring a patient to the ICU when I called, but he did come to the phone long enough to tell me that he had accidently taken *my* keys to work, which meant now we had to find *his* keys. After several minutes looking in *his* usual places (the pockets of previously worn pants and jackets, various drawers he likes to stash things in), he called back to say that he actually had BOTH SETS OF KEYS. Starting to cry at this point, I hung up the phone quickly, not really angry at him (much), because I knew he felt really lousy and because I'm air-headed enough to have done similar things in the past, but just so disappointed to find our day unexpectedly shot to hell. I told the kids, and we sat down on the couch and cried (Well, Maria and I cried. Jack was off playing with his trains and unaware of the whole drama, and Kain asked if this meant he could get back on the computer.) I sat there and tried to gather myself together, realizing that I could still pull off a decent day for the kids at least if I could get over my own disappointment. I was racking my brain for possibilities....Walmart was surely open, I could go over there and see what I could find to put together some kind of Thanksgiving-ish dinner...maybe Blockbuster was open and we could rent some movies...or I could buy a couple of new board games...and then the phone rang again. It was John, and he said that actually there was a spare key in the back of this one drawer (one of his places to stash things). Sure enough, there it was, the original dealer tagged key. And just like that, the day was turned around. We finished loading the car, the kids now happy and getting along, perhaps realizing now that getting to go to this dinner was a gift. And, on our way out the door, we offered our day for those that were alone for Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Turkey Day preparations...

Today we are making homemade fudge, as well as a 7-layer salad as our contributions to the family Thanksgiving dinner. John will be working as he does every Thanksgiving- a small price for having Christmas Eve and Day off. We will have our own little turkey dinner here at home on Sunday for him. And for us. You can't have too much turkey! And I do make a yummy one, if I do say so myself.

On our own menu, our usual list of favorites....

...sage stuffing (aka, "turkey butt stuffing", something I named it as a kid and refused to eat it because I really thought it came from the turkey's butt)
... cranberry sauce
...mashed potatoes
...sweet potatoes with cranberries bean casserole
...7-layer salad (yep, another one. It's my dh's favorite, so we need one for him.)
...pecan pie
...pumpkin pie

Enjoy your holiday! Yum!

Monday, November 19, 2007

2nd trimester

Well, boys and girls, I am 14 weeks today. Feel free to applaud. Here's a baby photo....

The kids are horrified to learn from our baby book that Peanut is *peeing* now. "EWWWWWW!" I tried to convince them that it was all sterile and not a big deal, but they remain unconvinced. The baby can also suck it's thumb and make facial expressions. I sometimes, especially at night when I'm in bed, think I feel tiny little stirrings in there...but it's not strong enough to really convince myself yet.

I'm feeling better...I'm not nauseated anymore. In fact, I'm hungry,,,*very* hungry at times. That bone-crushing fatigue is gone. But, I don't feel quite like myself. I feel rather PMS-y the last couple of days. Hope that doesn't does everyone I come in contact with, I'm sure. We've been doing a lot of running around, a lot of eatng on the go, and my diet has not been great. I'm buckling down and adding some more protein and getting back to my big daily salad. On the whole, I'm feeling rather un-pregnant, in fact, what with the first trimester symptoms gone and no baby kicks to report. I have another midwife appointment this Friday and I'm hoping to be able to hear the baby's heartbeat. That would be a nice lift!

Coming up after Turkey Day...a "Day in the Life" of our new and improved school plans, as well as our Advent celebrations. I love Advent, and we have lots of fun traditions in place already, as well as a new one or two to try.

one reason it's weird when your husband's a nurse

John, calling me from work at 9am- Hey, I might get to come home in a little while.

Me- Cool! How come?

John- Three people died last night, so they don't need me.

Me- Oh,,,well, that's, um,,,,great, honey!

Monday, November 12, 2007

changing homeschooling gears

The time has come (the walrus said) to make some changes. Homeschooling has changed for us this year. I don't know if it's adding another child to the mix, or pregnancy and the addition of midwife appointments to our schedule, or Maria's changing workload and the addition of vision therapy to our schedule....but school is not fun. Somewhere in the last few months I turned into Fascist Mom, dragging unwilling kids through a list of assignments, just trying to "get it done" in between loads of laundry and dishes. I can't even remember the last time we did anything fun, much less anything fun *and* educational. It's all become drudge, plug, plug, plug away during the week and then exhausted Mom tries to recoup and catch up on housework all weekend. I like our curriculum, I really do. But it's not been the best fit for my hands-on learners. And the stress of trying to keep up with the syllabus is getting to me, especially with this baby's birth looming in May.

When we first started homeschooling, I tried putting together my own curriculum for a while, and it was a bust. I tried to put in too much. Every cool resource I saw I wanted to use, and keeping up with my self-imposed lesson plans was harder than keeping up with someone else's. So now....I'm going to try something different. Something that's less than a lesson plan but more like a sequence of events. Instead of having this list of stuff that needs to be completed in 5th grade grammar, I'll have a list of grammar goals to be met over the course of their education before high school, written loosely with plenty of time for the child to work at their own pace and for life to happen around us. I am also switching to materials more suited to my kids and easier for me to use but still based on Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum. The morning work looks something like this...

Reading/Phonics/Spelling- We have Teach Your Child to Read in 100 EZ lessons, though I'm thinking about switching to something different for Jack. Once about a third of the way into the book, start the Explode the Code series. When this series is completed, start Phonetic Zoo for spelling. They also have reading time assigned after lunch.

Grammar- Once working well in Explode the Code, start First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind, a pair of books with three years worth of oral grammar exercises. Begin the Easy Grammar workbooks and hopefully finish in time to start 9th grade. We will also still memorize poetry from Harp and Laurel Wreath.

Writing- Handwriting without Tears, copywork, narration and dictation, and then finally composition exercises, mostly related to history and religion reading. Maria is also learning to type.

Math- We'll continue with Saxon. I researched other programs, but although Saxon drives me batty sometimes I still think it's got the best long-term track record.
Since we school year round, we skip a big chunk of review in the beginning of the books.

Religion- This will largely still follow the course laid out in MODG...memorizing the St. Joe's catechism, reading Faith and Life and stories of the saints, the Bible, etc. The kids enjoyed all these things.

Art/Music Appreciation- We will use Seton's Art books which are a combination of art appreciation and applied technique, depending on which year you are on. We also use Mommy, It's a Renoir in the early grades. Music is pretty loose, mostly selections used in the car. I'm hoping to get a piano in the spring and start piano lessons as well.

Latin- We will continue to study this pretty much as outlined in MODG. It's a slow, manageable pace. Starting around third grade, we work through English From the Roots Up flashcards, then Prima Latina, Latin Christiana I and II, aiming to finish LC II in time for starting Henle in high school.

All of this takes about 3 hours of morning work for Maria and I, about half that for Kain. I start with half an hour or so working with Jack, and then work with Kain while Maria works on her own, and then working with Maria for what she needs. We do not do it all everyday. We try to hit math every day, and religion, and the rest falls in as time allows. Then we will take a long break for lunch, rest, chores for mom...

So, are you still with me? In the's the fun part...I have a rotation of four days.

A.- Nature walk with guides and journals. I want this day to happen weekly, even if it means losing one of the other days below in busy weeks.

B.- History- We are starting a chronological study with Story of the World, a series we've used before and loved. The first day will be doing the Story of the World reading together, doing any maps and coloring sheets, Maria will read the related material from Kingfisher History Encyclopedia on her own while Kain and I do related library read-alouds. Kain will do a narration from the Story of the World while Maria will outline what she reads in Kingfisher. Then Maria will read from a related library book. Maria will also work on a timeline.

C.- Science or Geography- We will work on science projects of interest, whatever strikes our fancy. The kids wanted to do something with "animals", could they be any more vague? So, we are working our way through Kingfisher's First Animal Encyclopedia and making a big classification display on the wall with photocopied and colored pictures. We will bring home related animal books and videos from the library as well. After the animal project, I'm thinking maybe a human anatomy unit with "My Temple of the Holy Spirit" from CHC, and then planting projects from "Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots"...but those are just ideas. Maria is also working with her monthly Young Scientist kits and loves those. We will also work through Catholic Heritage Curricula's geography projects, Tour a Continent and Tour a Country, and a study of Arkansas history. Again, this is all over the next few years, not just this year!

D.- History- On this day we will do a hands-on history project from the Story of the World Activity Book and continue with our library reading. Maybe the occasional related library video as well.

We are also going to make time for our favorite thing, liturgical year projects, and the above mentioned afternoons will get the boot for a day or two to make room for celebrating various seasons and feasts. I am in the process of putting together the materials for this Advent unit study, and this will take a good couple of afternoons a week during the Advent and Christmas season. The kids will also work on their Blue Knights/Little Women materials on these days.

So there we are. It looks like a lot, but remember, this is over several years! And the beauty of it all is that there's no deadline. There's no "finish this stack of books by June". We will be able to work at a pace that keeps things sane, taking off days for fun field trips and weeks to enjoy the new baby. On slower-paced weeks we can be more productive at home and on crazier weeks we will do what we can do and Mom will *not* have a nervous breakdown. When each school year starts, we will keep going where we left off. When we hit high school with Maria...well, who knows what will happen then? At this point I imagine we will enroll her with MODG and have her follow the syllabi for their high school courses.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

our first brush with cooties

Last year's cold and flu season was pretty brutal to I've been trying to gear myself up after a long and healthy summer. Last week we had a small taste. Maria, John, and I had a bit of cough/sore throat, and my cough settled in my chest where it has wrecked havoc with my asthma for days now.

Today Maria, Jack, and I went to Hobby Lobby because Maria had some allowance and tooth fairy money to burn. Jack had woken up twice the night before for undetermined reasons, but he seemed fine by morning. He started doing this little coughing thing while we were shopping, but nothing too dramatic. Then, while we were in the check out line....he blew chunks of curdled milk everywhere. It was all very sudden. He just kind of gave a little cough and up it came. I stood there helplessly, my hands bowled under his chin trying to contain it all (being a nurse gives me a high tolerance for wading in body fluids). On a burst of brilliance, I barked at Maria to get a diaper out of my bag and open it up. She did, and reluctantly held it under my hands while I emptied the contents into the diaper and wrapped it up. That saved the floor, but Jack was still hit pretty hard. I left Maria to pay for her purchases and moved Jack out to the car. I striped his messy shirt and wiped him down, thankful for the unusually warm day. On a previous burst of brilliance, I had stashed several empty walmart sacks in my trunk and used these to hold Jack's shirt and the wipes.

On the drive home, I felt a little irritated that no one in the vicinity had offered to help or even a kind word. But then I realized that I had done the same in a very similar situation. What is it about other people's sudden catastrophe that freezes us to the spot sometimes? For some, it may have just been repulsion at approaching the puke, but not for everyone...not for me. Somehow when something like that happens right in front of me, my first reaction is to feel like the person would resent my interference for some reason. That's rarely the case of course, and times when I have stepped in to help someone they have always been why do we still hesitate to jump in and help others?

Jack, anyway, seems fine now. Once home, he had a cautionary lunch of saltines and water, took a long nap, and hasn't thrown up since. When I was changing his diaper and finishing his clean-up at home, he said, "Hobby Wobby". I said, "Yes, did you throw up in Hobby Lobby?" And realizing that he didn't really know what that meant, I acted it out for him, much to his amusement. He got it. He nodded seriously and said, "Yes, it got spilled."

Thursday, November 08, 2007

things kids say....

Me-- Kain! Jack dumped your legos out all over the floor! I told you to make sure to put them up where he couldn't reach them.

Kain--- Aunt Mel, sometimes my brain just gets full of too much stuff.


The docent at the museum we visited today-- When I say the word "Cherokee", what image comes to your mind?

Maria--- The casino?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

quick question

So, if we bolt out the door after dinner to get Maria to choir practice, and upon returning home, when I go to the kitchen to clean up the leftovers I find that one of the cats has attacked a piece of ham steak and dragged it to the kitchen floor, it would be *wrong, wrong, wrong* of me to pick up the steak, use kitchen shears to trim away the chewed on edges, rinse the steak off, and return it to the plate to be feed to my husband when he comes home. Right?

Monday, November 05, 2007

All Saint's Day pictures...

Jack as St. Gabriel....

Kain as St. Louis IX....

And Maria as St. Anna Wang, chinese martyr....