Tuesday, March 31, 2009

getting a piano

was totally worth it, even if all I ever can do on it is imitate this guy.

"OH, I'll never get it, I'M SORRY LUDWIG!"

save the date

Maria's planning her wedding...

with an Oriental Trading catalogue that came in the mail today.

So far she absolutely must have one of these,,,

,,,and some of these napkin rings...

And, just for future reference, at her future baby shower she definitely wants to use this set of partyware.

We are the proud owners...

Of a new to us piano! My camera isn't working, of course, though I did finally find it again and plan to drop it off to be fixed on Thursday.
This picture here shows an almost identical one though. Ours is apparently a little newer, 1919 instead of 1909, but it looks almost identical. The carvings on the front and legs are just a little different. And of course ours isn't restored like this one is. But I'm just thrilled to death with it, it's just beautiful. I never figured on anything like this. I thought we'd be picking up a dustier version of the kind of piano my junior high music teacher used. This is lovely dark beautifully carved hardwood! Real ivory keys! It needs to be tuned badly of course, and hopefully we won't find out the innards are damaged. All of the keys are working, that's a good sign, but as little as I know about pianos that doesn't tell me a whole lot.

Moving it was an adventure. This is a BIG piano. There were times I thought we weren't going to make it, and driving down the highway with this ratcheted to the back of my friend's utility trailer was nerve wracking for sure. But it's here. We all survived, and I owe several people a lifetime of favors, but it's here.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

asking, and receiving- the story of music

A while back I picked up the Duggar's new book. I do recommend it. Aside from having my curiosity satisfied by learning some of the logistics that go into raising a family that large, I did find the book inspiring as well. Their commitment to their values and ideals is something remarkable. But one of the most interesting things I noticed was how they often prayed for very specific, albeit small, needs. I honestly don't do this. If there is a crisis, sure, someone having surgery, someone very ill, that kind of thing, of course I'm praying for those kinds of intentions, but it never really occurred to me to pray for, say, a needed piece of furniture or for help in selecting the right math curriculum. I'm not sure why. It's not that I think God isn't interested in the small details of our lives. I guess I've just kind of felt like God knows what we need and will guide us to what is His will in all circumstances as long as we are living in a state of grace. And I guess I didn't feel like these trivial things were "important enough" to trouble God with. It kind of reminded me of this old sketch on Saturday Night Live in which Phil Hartman plays an exasperated Jesus who is tired of being called on to hear this housewife's every waking thought. Anyone remember that one?

Anyway, this of course is silly, God is not Phil Hartman, and so I've been trying to work on this in myself this Lent. It has been a fruitful experiment. I find it has been very freeing, mentally, to lay all of this *stuff* before God, all these trivial concerns and small things that I've thought too trivial, even if almost subconsciously, to bother Him with. Because these things may be small, but they are important to *me*, and I find I am able to let go of them and stop fretting over them once I give them to God, whether it's something as pressing as an argument with John or just my ongoing internal discussion on whether we really need a second toaster or not.

(We really do. I just don't want a junky cheap one, and I don't want to fork out the cash for a nice one.)

Lately, we have been praying for a piano for Jack. Well, it would be for everyone, and I've wanted a piano for quite some time, but mostly it's for Jack that we've been praying for one. Jack is very musical. This has been obvious to us since he was a baby. Unfortunately, his parents are marginally musical at best. We enjoy music, John can even play the guitar a bit, and I can give emotion-filled performances of Hot Cross Buns on several different instruments, but Jack...Jack is really very musical. I don't know if it's musical in the sense that he will be composing his first symphony before he turns 5 necessarily, but he *loves* music, especially classical, and he *loves* instruments, all kinds. We have bought him toy instruments, many kinds...a toy violin, keyboards, rhythm instruments. He loves "pinanos", and everytime we are visiting someone or someplace that has a piano he spends the entire time trying to get at it. But most people aren't thrilled with having a four year old bang on their piano keys, and he is crushed every time I drag him away from it..."But I *LOVE PINANOS*" he wails. And he does. He loves pinanos.

So, we started praying for one, a free one or the funds to buy one. Lo and behold, several days after we started praying we saw one posted free for the taking on our local freecycle list. This sounded promising, even God-sent, but I had no idea how we were going to get it to our house. We don't own a trailer or a truck, nor are we "good enough for mooching" friends with anyone who owns one. I called around and found out that it would cost $200 to move it, money we couldn't spare for such a thing on such short notice. I had serious doubts we would manage to work anything out. The people with the piano were moving and it needed to be picked up by April 1. Even if we managed to secure a trailer, we would need lots of manpower to move the thing. But the fact that we had been actively praying for this piano gave me confidence. I took a leap and tentatively claimed it and posted a plea for help on our local homeschooling lists. It was hard for me to do. I'm not a "plea for help" kind of person. And I was kind of disappointed when I only got one reply for concrete help. It came from another homeschooling mom, one in our Catholic homeschool group that I honestly don't even know super well, but it was a good reply...not only did she have a big trailer, she would attach it to her Suburban and drive it to pick up and deliver the piano. Even though her husband would be working the day that we needed her. Even though she would need to bring her six very young children along. God love her.

So, there were still a lot of details to work out, but to make a long story, well...shorter...we managed to secure the use of the trailer and it's owner on John's only day off between now and April 1st. We managed to talk my two brothers and one of their friends into helping John move the piano in exchange for a homecooked dinner afterwards. And so, tomorrow evening, if God continues to will it, we will be owners of our first piano. There's still a lot to go wrong. For one thing, at this very moment, it is snowing like mad. And my brothers, perpetual 15 year olds that they are, can be very flaky people...and without their help there will be no piano moving. We've never moved a piano before, so we really have no idea what we are doing, and all kinds of potential disasters come to mind. I've not seen so much as a photograph of this piano, so I only have this kind stranger's word at the condition that it's in...it has been stored in her garage for three years and I'm sure at the very least it needs a really good cleaning and tuning, but I'm afraid I might find out it is unusable and be stuck trying to get rid of it myself. But the snow is supposed to melt by tomorrow night, and so far we have everything lined up to go. If our manpower comes through, we will take the leap and pick it up. And all I really know is that if God wants us to have this piano, then it will all work out.

Friday, March 27, 2009


We just finished the kids' basketball season. Jack calls these guys "black and white basketball complainers".

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I'm alone. I'm completely all alone. I can't even remember the last time I was alone. Heck, I can't remember the last time I went to the bathroom alone.

Kain is at his dad's house.
Maria is at a friend's house.
John took Jack to the park.
Tess is asleep and has been asleep for two hours.

Somebody pinch me.

So far I've cleaned the kitchen and had lunch while watching a whole and entire tv show uninterrupted. Now I'm going to clean the playroom.

When stuff like this happens, the little devil that sits on my shoulder says, "Pssst....hey, this is how it could be EVERY DAY if they were in school." Which is true. But I would miss them. I really would. For now, for today, though, it's a very nice way to spend an afternoon.

I know I haven't blogged in forever. And I'm behind on *your* blogs too. That's because I've recently discovered The Office. I know, I'm way out of sync with TV programming. That's because prime time is also bedtime at our house, and so I never get to watch anything that hasn't gone into reruns. I love The Office, I've become addicted, Oh Pam with your sensible button-up shirts and Jim with your crooked smiles and Dwight with your various concealed weapons...and I'm spending all my computer time watching old episodes on Netflix. But now, I'm clicking away from The Office and I'm going to do some more cleaning. Not that it wouldn't be more enjoyable to spend the day here.

That's what she said.

Monday, March 16, 2009

disaster planning

Elizabeth Foss is writing a series of posts about planning...a subject near and dear to my obsessive-compulsive little heart. I've had a small epiphany with my own planning lately and have been meaning to share...it goes something like this....

Plan for Your Plans to Go Down the Toilet.

Because they will.

Previously, I've had all these nicely laid plans...homeschooling plans, housekeeping plans, laundry plans, menu plans....they looked great. Sometimes they even worked. But they only worked if things were all caught up and our days were going the way they were "supposed" to. The housekeeping plans assumed that housekeeping was caught up to start with. My menu planning didn't work if I had a cranky baby that wouldn't let me cook or if we had an extra 6pm dance practice sprung on us at the last minute (as is the case this very evening). The homeschooling plans only worked as long as we were on, say, Week 12 Day 3 in all our subjects for both children. They didn't take into account the day that Maria didn't do the Latin she said she did, or the day that I only got halfway through school with Kain before giving up on the day altogether. They sure didn't work when we would want to take advantage of a last minute field trip opportunity or ditch school for an unseasonably warm day in February. We would inevitably fall behind in one area or another and I would be stressed out and scrambling trying to make my plans work. I would hang onto my plans because "someday" we would be all caught up and they would work again, but that day doesn't seem to arrive very often. It seems to arrive less and less often as we add more children, which makes sense I guess. So now I

Plan for My Plans to Go Down the Toilet.

I keep ingredients on hand for meal "emergencies"...meals that require me to put a box of something in the microwave or open a couple of cans...I've spread my cleaning and laundry plans throughout week so that when we are having some crazy, rushed days (like we have been last week and this week) and the house starts to look scary (like it does now) I can do the best that I can and then jump back into my routines when things slow down again and within a few days things start to fall back into place.

My biggest sanity saver has been the change in the way I plan our school work. I wish my camera was working so I can show pictures of my weird little method that has evolved over this school year. Kain and Maria both have a 3 ring binder with 8 of these pocket dividers inside. Each side is labeled week 1, day 1/week 1, day 2, etc., all the way through week 4 day 4....four weeks worth of work, or 16 days. Then I print out 4 weeks worth of lesson plans, hole punch them, and put them in the front of the binder. I pull out the papers needed for each day and put them in their respective folders. For example, I've got Kain's binder here in front of me...in week 1 day 4 he has a lined paper for his grammar lesson, his math worksheets, and a sheet from his map skills workbook. Other assignments are either done orally or in workbooks of some kind and are referred to in the lesson plans. I go through the lesson plans and highlight things that they can do on their own. Then we are all set for the next four weeks. Today we are starting on week 1, day 1 and we will work through until we are all done with what is packed into the binder. Every four weeks I have a "catch up week" planned. During that week, we will catch up any assignments missed during this four week period. If we are all caught up (HAHAHA!), we will take the week off to do some fun things. More likely is that we will have at least a few things to catch up on, but we should still be able to take a very light week.

This has worked out wonderfully for us. The really neat thing is the motivation it gives to older children. Maria knows that if she stays as caught up as possible she will get to have a nice break in four weeks. As a result, she is more motivated to get her work done and not drag behind. I only wish I had been doing it since the beginning of the school year. This method works quite nicely for schooling year round. Our syllabi have 32 weeks of lessons. If you take a catch up week every four weeks, that gives you 40 weeks of school altogether. We take two weeks at Christmas, two weeks at Easter...that's 44 weeks. Even if we take a nice month long break in the summer, that still leaves us with 4 more weeks to play with. Next year I will probably use some of that extra time around Lent/Easter and Advent/Christmas to allow an easier pace and more time for liturgical year activities without the stress of feeling like we need to "keep up". It would also come in handy for extended illnesses (something we've been blessedly free from this year) or when a baby is expected (no, we aren't expecting one! hehe...)

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Reconciliation-- a moment fit for Lent

The woman approached me while I was sitting in a chair with Tess at the church's blood drive. I wasn't surprised...we were often approached by older women at church wanting to make the baby smile and to comment on how big the kids are getting.

"Your kids are getting so big," she told me. "I sit on the other side of the church and watch you all with all your kids and your husband is so sweet with that baby."

I smiled and agreed, yes, the kids are getting big, yes, my husband is very sweet with the baby. She turned to go and suddenly, impulsively, turned back, leaned over and wrapped her arm around my shoulder and kissed me on the forehead.

I couldn't have been more surprised.

"I want to apologize for what I said a long time ago," she said. Her face looked embarrassed and almost tearful at the same time.

"What do you mean?!" I asked, honestly bewildered.

"Oh, well, good, you've forgotten then. But I am sorry, I wasn't feeling well that day and I shouldn't have said what I said and I felt badly about it for months and I wanted to apologize." The words came out in a rush. And suddenly I realized who she was. She was the woman I wrote about in this post two years ago.

I was overwhelmed. That was a really difficult time for me. I was very hurt by the way she had acted and felt like I wasn't wanted in my own parish. That day led me to move to the other side of the church because I was too embarrassed to sit among the older people that populate the front of the church, and I was painfully aware of every peep that came out of my children for a long time afterwards. I was angry with this woman for a long time, and part of me still was, because, unfairly, she had become the face of every impatient old person I'd encountered since then. Every turned head in restaurants, every look on the walking trail of a nearby town of retirees, every glance in the grocery store...some of them may not have even been thinking anything unkind, but my heart was on guard and I assumed that they were, every time, that they were irritated by our very presence, these people that had finished raising their own children and now had no patience left for anyone else's. "You're just like her. You don't want us here."

And then she apologized. And in that moment, she just became what she was...an old woman unused to the commotion that follows young children, someone looking forward to a quiet weekday service at church free from the noisy young families that populate the Sunday morning mass that follows our parish's religion classes, someone that said something she shouldn't have said and didn't really mean.

Have you ever done that? Said something stupid to someone else? Wanted to reach out and snatch back your words when you saw the fallen look on their face? Yeah, me too.

"That's ok," I answered softly. "Thank you."

Friday, March 06, 2009

Sensory input

Upon getting Jack out of rest time and finding him stripped from the waste down---

Me- (swearing under breath) Jack, did you poo in your pants?

Jack- No!

Me- Oh. Well, that's good!

Jack- I went peepee.

Me- Where's the peepee?

Jack- Over there!

Me- WHY did you peepee on the floor?!

Jack- It looks like water and made a splatter!

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Simple Woman's Daybook- March 2nd edition

For Today...

Outside my window- Sunny and bright, a bit muddy from melted snow. Cardinals, male and female, are at the feeder.

I am thinking- That I am sleepy. Tess was really restless last night, and she and Jack both woke up super early this morning for some reason.

From the learning rooms- Maria is doing her Latin at this moment. It is a quiet school day. Kain is visiting his dad today, so that has slowed us down to a leisurely pace.

I am thankful for- Warming weather, sheets drying on the line.

From the kitchen- salad and leftover macaroni and cheese for lunch, banana bread for this afternoon, grilled cheese and tomato soup for dinner...we've given up meat for Lent. :)

I am wearing- gray capris, navy blue tshirt, bare feet. Yes, I am a bit cold, now that you mention it.

I am reading- A bunch of back issues of Mothering a fellow homeschooling mom gave me. To Jack- "Stories for the 40 days", to Kain- I'm not sure. We just finished "Squanto, Friend of Pilgrims" and haven't decided what will be next yet. Maria is reading "Mara, Daughter of the Nile". Tess and I read "Goodnight Moon" this morning.

I am hoping- to see crocuses blooming out front soon, and leaf buds on the dogwood trees.

I am creating- A vegetable garden! We planted tomatoes, peppers, and lettuce indoors this weekend, and I'm planning to plant some peas and spinach outside this week.

I am hearing- Jack watching Super Why on PBS.

Around the house- Laundry in piles waiting to be folded this evening. I'm working on some mess in my bedroom, mostly piles of outgrown kid clothes to sort and put away as well as a couple of pieces of baby equipment Tess has outgrown (sniff, sniff).

One of my favorite things- This salad dressing from Paul Newman that I have for lunch almost every day.

A few plans for the rest of the week- No co-op this week! Dance class for Maria, basketball practice for Kain and Maria, moving on to cleaning out the toy closet once my bedroom is done.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you- wah! My camera isn't fixed. Here's an old favorite....these were taken two years ago, so Jack would have been 2 1/2. I remember how very, very proud of himself he was...he worked so hard to build this. He still loves "building towers". Also reminds me how irritated I was with this toy. It was a set of wooden nesting boxes that cost $30 and they fell apart soon after this. Grrr.

What a chunky butt he was! He's so skinny now, my leggy, knobby-kneed preschooler.

H/T Peggy at Simple Woman's Daybook