Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Thought for New Year's Eve

A worthy way to end each day, and certainly the year:

"When night comes, and retrospect shows that everything was patchwork and much that one had planned left undone, when so many things rouse shame and regret, then take all as is, lay it in God's hands, and offer it up to Him. In this way we will be able to rest in Him, actually to rest and to begin the new day like a new life."

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Thanks so much to Elizabeth for putting this in my path today.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Giving Thanks

Although I don't set the best example, I want my children to acquire the habit of sending prompt, thoughtful thank you notes. We've started our post-Christmas attempts.

From the beginning (almost two decades now!) I've used a standard format for these letters.

Read all about it at Phases of Womanhood.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Beautiful Music

I've seen references to the Cajun musical trio, L'Angelus, in several places on the internet lately. Over at Phases of Womanhood, Mary Lenaburg has posted her interview with one of the siblings in the group. Go read it, listen to the musical sample, and leave a comment for a chance to win a cd.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Hung by the Chimney With Care

Len hung the stockings several weeks ago. After the lighted tree, the mantle is my favorite Christmas decoration. I smile whenever I look at it.

These stockings are an ancient family tradition, being almost as old as me. ;-) My mom's friend, Sue, made mine when I was little. Mom copied it, creating new ones for each of my siblings. Every stocking was uniquely decorated, but mine was the best--the Christmas tree adorned with bits of cast off jewelry. When Len joined the family, Mom made his with animal ornaments. I took responsibility for Lauren's stocking, and eventually made hers with a tree like mine.We (Mom and I both made some) then followed tradition, making different designs for succeeding stockings.
Eventually I was no longer satisfied. David didn't like his, I didn't like Daniel's (the sequin snowflakes got bent when I ironed webbing on the back), and Joe's ornaments seemed babyish after a few years.
When Marianna was a few years old and overdue for her own stocking (this non-sewer procrastinated but wouldn't let her mom make one, either...), I decided to remake the boys' while creating hers. I wanted everyone to have a Christmas tree.
It was fun to map out the different decorations. Every tree has a candy cane and a garland shaped like mine.
Putting them together was NOT fun, especially because I waited so long. As I remember it now, I had a crew going in the basement, sewing on trinkets and writing names with fabric paint--Mom, Len, Lauren, me, and maybe my dad, too. When the Christmas Eve festivities were over at my in-laws', Mom and I stayed up LATE putting the pieces together. Of course, my mom did most of that work, since she can sew. Maybe that's when I glittered on the names. It's all a bit hazy now...
As the years have passed, I've also made stockings for the young women who have lived with us, plus some of their babies and my Rebecca, usually finishing the ordeal at the last minute. Although satisfying to complete, I have to admit I'm relieved to not be making any this year!
Here are a few more close-ups:Sorry, the rest of my photos came out even more blurry or dark or bright, and I'm not retaking any now! Instead of indulging myself by posting I should be making egg nog or cinnamon rolls or onion soup or breakfast casserole right now, or maybe wrapping presents. It's still too early to run out for the last groceries. :-)
Enjoy your day and have a blessed and happy Christmas.Still waiting for Jesus...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Pleasures of the Season

One of my absolute favorites: turning on the tree lights early in the morning, while the house is still quiet and dark. Len had to hunt all over this year (MANY stores were sold out even two weeks ago!) to find enough working strands, but his efforts were well worth it. We decorated our Christmas tree this weekend, and it's beautiful, but I'd be satisfied with just lights and the treetop angel.

Coziness: sipping hot hot chocolate [as opposed to warm hot chocolate :-)] while watching a dvd with Len in a quiet house. David got us interested in Burn Notice, a tv show about a burned spy stuck in Miami. There are the gratuitous shots of bikini-clad women (who probably don't drink hot chocolate), but so far the episodes are fun (tricks and cons) and short (no commercials!)--light entertainment. We're only a few hours in to the first of three seasons, so consider this a preliminary recommendation; some acceptable shows seem to push the envelope more as time goes by.

Also popular: listening to Christmas music. Right now my favorite cd is John Michael Talbot's The Birth of Jesus, because it includes some gorgeous Advent hymns: "Of the Father's Love Begotten", "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence", and "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming", as well as "What Child is This" and "O Come, O Come Emmanuel". I'm happy to putter around the main level (or more likely, in the kitchen), listening and singing along.

I'm noticing that everything on my "happy list" is quiet and solitary (or nearly so). I read once that there are two kinds of people: those who recharge by socializing and those who instead need solitude. While I do enjoy the company of others (and have only lived alone for a few days in my WHOLE LIFE, which I did NOT enjoy), I am absolutely a quiet time re-energizer.

Whichever you are, I hope you are treasuring these last few days of Advent.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Small Successes: 8 Days A-waiting


"It’s important for moms to recognize that all the small successes in our days can add up to one big triumph. So on Thursday of each week, we do exactly that."

I don't know about you, but my Advent is getting crazy! I'm trying so hard to multi-task that my primary duties (like schooling...) are being neglected. The latest sign of this frenzy: while enroute to see the Rockettes yesterday afternoon, I noticed that I had still not put on my mascara. You dark haired beauties may not think much of it, but let me tell you, a redhead with invisible eyelashes for an entire day is a woman on the edge!

Success can be a matter of perspective, though. Here's what's gone well:
  1. Our family went to Confession last night, a) getting there before Christmas, and b) getting there ahead of the big pre-Christmas rush (and long lines). My favorite quote of the evening was from my encouraging confessor: "Allow God to love you."
  2. I spent some time on Sunday writing up a detailed school plan for the week. I should do this all the time, but don't. It could have been a BIG success if I actually followed the plan instead of multi-tasking so much (see above). My older two, at least, were able to stay on track (and pull me back to work) better with everything written in their planners. Poor Becca hasn't had much regular work, but she has used her time well, with puzzles, making cards, imaginative play, and other "good stuff".
  3. A while back I was at Like Mother, Like Daughter and ran across Leila's buttermilk baking mix recipe. I put together a batch, and have made biscuits four times in the past month! I generally consider baking to be precision cooking, but having the mix ready has allowed me to wing it quickly and easily.
How's your week been? Be inspired by other moms here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Don't Let Your Kids Read This Post

Or, How the Rockettes Reminded Me Why We Don't "Do" Santa

The Rockettes brought a version of their famous Radio City Christmas show to Virginia this week, and I attended with my mother-in-law and the two little girls.

The dancers are definitely talented: energetic, coordinated, and athletic. Some of their costumes were too scanty (faux see-through) and some of their numbers had as much posing and writhing as [what I would call] dancing, but their "can-can" feats and tin soldier precision were truly impressive. Overall, the show was a bit over the top, not exactly my taste, but whatever...

It was the Santa stuff that got me thinking deep thoughts, however. This "right jolly old elf" was on stage several times, which was fine...but...

There was a skit about two boys encountering Santa: a 14 year old skeptic (maybe the toughest kind there is) and his younger brother, a "believer". The boys were transported to the North Pole and back, acquiring the perfect last minute gift for their little sister, and in the process the teen became a "believer" too. The script emphasized over and over again the magic of Christmas and the need to believe in the magic.

I remembered that a Nativity scene was coming up later, and that's when I had my moment of clarity. Putting all that empasis on the importance of believing in someone who's not real and something that's not true can make it harder to believe the mystery of the Incarnation--the eternal God becoming human--infant, sacrifice, and Savior. When the gospel was read by the same characters (and good for the producers, not making a 100% secular Christmas show), it could almost as easily have been another pleasant, inspiring tale, like the Santa episode.

And that's why our family doesn't pretend Santa is real. I don't want to encourage my children to believe truth AND untruth, don't want the potential confusion, don't want to lie (that's how it feels to me).

I know most other families have made a different decision, and I'm okay with that. Not that anyone has asked for my opinion or permission! :-) As it happens, I grew up in a "Santa family", and don't even remember "finding out", so apparently it was no big deal for me. And I'm absolutely NOT writing this to say my way is best, but to explain where I'm coming from, what I've believed for the past 20 years.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Small Successes


"It’s important for moms to recognize that all the small successes in our days can add up to one big triumph. So on Thursday of each week, we do exactly that."

So I'm not one of those together moms who has her Christmas shopping done; I'm not even close! Here, however, are three accomplishments from the week past:
  1. I made mashed potatoes for dinner. Ho-hum, you say? Fifteen pounds, I say! We now have plenty packed in the freezer, ready for Christmas dinner. Our entree is not yet finalized (probably steak--I bought some porterhouse on sale yesterday), but I can serve mashed potatoes with just about anything and expect pleased customers.
  2. While sitting in the hallway at Joe's youth orchestra rehearsal (this time on a stool brought for my aging self), I finalized my winter menu cycle. It's four weeks long, includes some new favorite dishes and is ready to go--hurrah!
  3. Our family has been mostly faithful to reading, praying, and ornamenting our Jesse Tree. We're still in the Old Testament and are covering big sections of Scripture rather than just the few verses suggested for each ornament. The younger children are able to listen to longer passages since this school year we began the habit of reading at least one gospel chapter each day.
How about you and your Advent? Be inspired by other moms at Faith and Family Live.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Screwtape Letters

If you haven't read The Screwtape Letters, you should! It's a brief, witty, thought-provoking book.

And if you live in the DC metro area, consider going to the theatrical version (December 16-January 3). I saw the production last year and enjoyed it so much that I organized a group outing through the boys' school.

The show's not just for "hard-core" Christians,either--C. S. Lewis's insights into human thought and behavior are enjoyable for all but the most ardent atheist.

More info from the Fellowship for the Performing Arts:

"C. S. Lewis’ brilliant novel, The Screwtape Letters, explores the theme of spiritual warfare from a demon’s point of view. When first published in 1942, it brought immediate fame to a little known Oxford don whose field of study was medieval English literature. Its wit and wisdom have made it one of C. S. Lewis’ most widely read and influential works.

Fellowship for the Performing Arts has adapted and produced this best selling classic into a thoroughly engaging and entertaining ninety minute theatrical production.


Set in a strikingly eerie, elegant and austere office in Hell, the play follows an ironic senior devil, Screwtape, who is equal parts charming intellectual, urbane psychologist, and cutthroat psychopath - and his secretary, Toadpipe, a creature who transforms instantly into recognizable figures with whimsical movement and wordless wit.

The mission: To instruct a novice demon, Wormwood, on the fine art of tempting a young Christian away from “the Enemy” (Screwtape’s name for God) and bring him safely down to the ravenous “our father below.”

Beloved by both audiences and critics alike, the stage version of The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis offers an entertaining and provocative theatrical experience that will change the way you think about the influence of demons in your every day life."

Saturday, December 5, 2009

It's Nice to Have a Doctor in the House

My thumb hurt for a few days, and there was a speck visible under the skin, probably a splinter. I figured it would just work its way out, but the spot became more bothersome and a bump formed over it. Time for surgery.

Len got to work, with tools that quickly escalated from naked eye to flashlight with magnifying glass to the stereo microscope set at 20 X (another benefit of homeschooling!). When he finally dug out the uncooperative bit, it was longer than I had expected (maybe 1/4") and wider at the end, too. I just HAD to have a look under the handy 'scope.

Bumped up to 40 X, this thing looked like it had come from outer space! It was dark grey, and attached to it were minuscule pink globes. Weird!

A light finally dawned--it must be a thread from an SOS steel wool pad. I'm no super dishwasher, but I had used one in an attempt to remove labels from our Advent letters (like Elizabeth's here) before painting. (It didn't work, by the way; I finally succeeded with lighter fluid.)

So ends another excerpt in the continuing saga, "Yes, I'm Easily Amused." And, yes, my thumb feels much better, thank you.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Small Successes: Moving in the Right Direction


"It’s important for moms to recognize that all the small successes in our days can add up to one big triumph. So on Thursday of each week, we do exactly that."

I feel like we're still in Thanksgiving trip recovery mode, but we are moving forward.
  1. I'm proudest of the clothing-sort. I have scaled the MOUNTAIN of Rebecca's hand-me-downs, sorted by size (too small, fits, save), selected outfits, and given away the remains. This was an even bigger job than you think. First of all, the clothes have been strewn about my room for several weeks. We half-sorted before the trip, so there were many piles. Becca is, um, particular about her clothing--it can't be too tight or too loose (imperceptible differences, I tell you!), no turtlenecks, must appeal to her sense of fashion, etc. The most dreaded excuse (because how can you answer it?) is, "It's ITCHY!" At last it's over. I took FOUR kitchen trash bags of clothing to the thrift shop today. And the final bonus: for the first time in her five year life, none of Becca's clothes reside in my room! Everything is in the closet and dresser she shares with Marianna. Rejoice with me!
  2. In a nod to trip recovery, I cancelled the Soup Night scheduled for yesterday. It sounds like a step back, but was truly the best decision for my sanity and the peace of my family. I had fewer second thoughts than expected.
  3. We cleaned out the fridge pretty well before our trip. Since our return, I've prepared four dinners and three days' worth of food without a trip to the grocery store. We were scraping the bottom of the (produce) barrel last night, but I was able to wait until Len's day off to go out for supplies.
How about you? What are the bright spots in your frantic life? Check out others' accomplishments here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


From this giant wall calendar: And this hefty wallet/planner combo:
To a walletAnd a slim calendar/daily to-do list:The contrast is much greater than it appears here:The planner served me well for several years, but it was impossible for me to keep two calendars updated. I started using the planner mostly as a to-do list, but then stopped opening it because it was so bulky. Even finding the proper purse (now that I don't need a diaper bag size!) wasn't easy.
Now I've got ONE calendar. It's on the phone table or in my purse, so my family knows where to find it. The monthly page is smaller than ideal, but the daily list section is more than generous, so all-in-all I'm coming out ahead.
What I like best at this moment is how light and easy my new system is. My purse is significantly lighter, and manuevering the calendar in and out is a breeze. I've ditched much paper and also heavy coins--I contend that one really only needs to carry 99 cents anyway.
Most of the extras I carried in the big planner (menus, lists) will move to a homemaking notebook that will stay on my desk.
I'm having fun right now. I feel more organized (barely, but looking at a list is better than having tasks roaming aimlessly in and out of my brain). It's the same kind of self-improved feeling as losing weight or getting a really good haircut; it may not last forever, but it's oh-so-refreshing for now.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Making Advent Special

Once upon a time, Christmas was in December. Then it crept into November. Today, the stores are filled with ornaments, gifts, and tinsel by Halloween, if not sooner.

While I doubt it’s possible to actually reverse the rushed, commercial direction of Christmas, I do believe we can use these December days to prepare our hearts for celebrating Christ’s birth. In fact, the Church has already mapped out a plan for us—the four weeks of Advent.

Read the rest at Phases of Womanhood.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cop Out or Not?

I'm cancelling this week's Soup Night.

72 hours after a five day trip, it's just too much for me to pull off. I've got youth orchestra tomorrow and a zillion things happening Tuesday, with no time to get to the grocery store and prepare two soups if I want to take care of my true family duties. Something has to give, and this time it's my hostessiness (new word).

BTW, I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. We sure did. I even played soccer for two hours with other aging adults and lots of nimble kids--great fun!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


No brainer: It's no fun to suffer.

Not as obvious (to me): It can be gut-wrenching to watch another suffer. It's hard to know a friend is in pain and I am helpless to help. Yes, I'll light the candle to remind myself to keep praying, but that doesn't feel like enough. I want to FIX IT. Oh, well.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Um, Yeah, Thanks a Lot

My neighbor friend surprised me with a candy sampler--artisan chocolates. I had already considered myself a chocolate snob; for one thing, I won't eat milk chocolate even if I'm hungry.

Now I'm ruined, possibly for life! These confections are so beautiful and so dark and so delicious that everything else is second (or third or...) best. As my friend said, "There's no going back!" So, yeah, thanks for raising the bar yet again.

At least now I know what to ask for on special occasions. ;-)


One positive aspect of food snobbery is the strengthening of my "just say no" ability. As I try to eat moderately (i.e. without gluttony), it's easier to avoid food that isn't "worth it", even though I do still need to make a conscious effort to be temperate.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What If by Nichole Nordeman

This song really struck me when I heard it on the radio months ago. I wanted to post it here, but couldn't find it on YouTube because I guessed the title incorrectly. Reinspired the other night, I finally located it. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Small Successes

"It’s important for moms to recognize that all the small successes in our days can add up to one big triumph. So on Thursday of each week, we do exactly that."

It was difficult to fill out this week's list of three, but here goes:
  1. David and I went "shopping" for some new school pants. He doesn't outgrow them anymore, but still frays the hems, makes holes in the knees, and/or stains them with asphalt. At least he's a dream purchaser--QUICK and decisive.
  2. We hosted company for dinner on Tuesday. I'd pat myself on the back for accomplishing this on a school night if only I hadn't lost so much school time getting ready! Any success was a group effort, too, with significant cooking and cleaning assistance.
  3. This afternoon I tidied my walk-in pantry. Not the whole thing, mind you--just the floor and bottom shelf--but that was the only out-of-control area, so it looks (and functions!) much better now.
I hope your week isn't too frenzied. Be inspired by other moms at faith and family live.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rainbows and Butterflies

Rebecca is feisty, but she can be girly, too. Last year's birthday theme was butterflies. This time Becca requested a rainbow cake. Here's what I came up with:A big thanks is owed to Len, my sous chef, for taking care of most of the decorating while I prepared a rather elaborate early dinner. He touched a round pan to the top of the cake to ensure a symmetrical rainbow, which is made of (semi-sweet, of course) m&m's. The flowers are tiny silk ones just stuck in through the coconut grass. Like the pot of gold?

Below is the picture taken by our favorite photography student:
Since this is not Becca's "party year" (we alternate), she invited a few friends over just for singing and cake. We ensure that folks won't bring presents by waiting until the day of to ask them over.
Another cake note: it's on a board covered with freezer paper (slick side up, taped underneath). It looks good, means I can use any appropriately sized board (no matter if it's a bit grungy), and clean up is QUICK! Great stuff!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Birthday Treat

Rebecca turns FIVE tomorrow! Last night, Lauren called and told her there was a birthday surprise on the driveway...

Lauren is home for the weekend (no classes on Fridays this semester)! Hopefully she'll be able to stay long enough for Sunday's (tomorrow is too full) special dinner and candle-blowing. In any case, it's wonderful to have everyone home.

Last night was treat-time for me--I got to see prints Lauren developed and computer images she created, and hear the latest about her classes. The next few weeks are jammed with projects and papers as the semester winds down. In fact she has a lot of homework even now, but can do it at home since she doesn't need the darkroom this weekend. Lucky us!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Small Successes: the Getting There Edition


"It’s important for moms to recognize that all the small successes in our days can add up to one big triumph. So on Thursday of each week, we do exactly that."

This week I've focused on going places:
  1. Monday was my first turn to drive to Joe's youth orchestra rehearsal. It's far enough away that we (the little girls come too, as this is the one evening Len and the teens are not home) need to stay there, and we're gone from 6:00-9:50 p.m.! All went well--traffic was tolerable, the girls watched a movie on Len's laptop, I did my Bible study homework, and we remembered to bring Becca's pj's (even though she didn't fall asleep on the way home). Not my first choice for how to spend four hours, but it worked.
  2. Tuesday we attended an open house at the National Portrait Gallery. It was fun and most of our writing co-op was there, too. On the way home I took a wrong turn and got lost in DC. The small success is that I didn't panic (even though my map was at home on the kitchen table), and was able to find my way back to a familiar street after just a few minutes of driving around.
  3. I successfully made reservations or RSVP'd for a sports banquet, 2 nature programs, and a play.

What's been going right for you this week? Meet and be inspired by other moms here.

Have a great day. I'm off to walk in the rain--a dog makes a wonderful exercise program!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

This Just In

Via email: David has been accepted to Christopher Newport University!

The snail mail has yet to arrive, and we don't yet know whether David will be offered scholarships or entrance into the honors program or the President's Leadership Program, but still--hooray!

Our family traveled to Jamestown, Yorktown, and CNU just before Halloween. I'm hoping to post about that trip someday...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


No, not flubber--blubber.

We experienced how an animal's body fat can help it withstand cold temperatures, concentrating on whales, seals, sea lions, and walruses.Each child wore two gloves on one hand, then held it in ice water as long as tolerable. They didn't last long. ;-)It was funny, actually--Rebecca held out more than four minutes, about twice as long as Marianna and Joseph. And she was nonchalant (compared to Joe, above): "Isn't is cold, Becca?" "Not really."

The next stage involved one glove and a layer of "blubber" (we used shortening) covered with a second glove.As you can imagine, installing the second glove was difficult, so when it was the girls' turn, I wrapped their shortening in plastic wrap--so much simpler.Since we used wrap instead of a second glove and were unable to apply identical thicknesses of fat, this was a demonstration rather than a true experiment. Nevertheless, the difference was dramatic.With a blubber layer, the children all kept their hands in for over 20 minutes! Their hands were taken from the water due to boredom and our need to get on with life, rather than discomfort. Basically, Mom said, "Enough already. We get it--time to move on!"Even though we didn't follow the scientific method, I don't think these three will ever forget the insulating property of blubber.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Not for Girls Only

Boys like breakfast in bed, too. :-) Yes, I'm still redeeming summer reading prizes!
Please notice the manly "bouquet" of seasonal branches. I convinced Daniel to eat an egg to help him last through two hours of tae kwon do, but I'm fairly certain the slab of jam cake was his favorite dish. Other nice touches: a tiny dish to hold the sugar cubes, and a fruit salad with fresh citrus sections. Marianna even thought to bring up the Sunday comics (delivered a day early here).

Friday, November 6, 2009

7 Quick Takes


Jennifer at Conversion Diary hosts 7 Quick Takes Friday. As I understand it, the idea is that one can share 7 bits that are interesting but not "big enough" for a real post. I love reading hers, but was sure I'd NEVER try it myself. I usually post a few days a week, and couldn't imagine having SEVEN extra things to write about. Well, never say never...


In a similar vein, when we moved back to Virginia (more than 20 years ago), I remember laughing with disbelief on learninig that the library's limit is 50 books per card! I was checking out a maximum of three at a time so I wouldn't lose track of them. Fast forward to the homeschooling years. Now I manage 7 cards--14 digit account numbers memorized, placing holds and renewing books online, etc. Our record as a family was having over 230 books on loan at once! (And no, I hardly ever pay fines--due dates are on the main calendar and the ability to manage renewals from home makes it do-able.)


It was supposed to go up in October, but yesterday I finally put up my fall wreath.

Speaking of fall, my walking wardrobe has been progressing with the season. First came the jacket, followed by the sweatshirt, jacket, and gloves. Then the hood went up. Now I'm wearing my coziest socks and thermals under my sweatpants. Still to come: the winter coat and scarf/hat combo under the hood.


Yesterday Len was home so I had the privilege of running errands by myself during school hours--bliss! In under two hours (door-to-door) I made it to five stores, returning, shopping, etc. I hardly ever stray from my grocery store/library/kid activity routes, so making it to so many "out of the way" spots seemed like a big deal.


But the biggest deal for me lately is my age. Since I have a September birthday, I tend to look ahead, feeling just a little older than I really am. I subtract my birth year from the current one and think, "I'm almost ____." So I just turned 48 and I am still TOTALLY FREAKING OUT. It feels like I'm going to be 50 any minute, even though it's almost two full years away. Turning 30 was nothing; good grief, I only had one child. Even 40 was no big deal. But 50 sounds OLD-OLD-OLD. Time to take a deep breath...

Fun fact: You know how you can see your breath on a cold day? That's what we notice when a whale is exhaling. It's not spouting water; warm (mammalian) breath is condensing and becoming visible water vapor. I love homeschooling! :-)

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Small Successes


"It’s important for moms to recognize that all the small successes in our days can add up to one big triumph. So on Thursday of each week, we do exactly that."

Here's what's been going right around here lately:

1. I joined that Bible study I mentioned earlier, and have been attending AND doing my homework. At first glance the questions seem overly basic, but after the requisite pondering and discussion, I realize that the answers are simple yet profound. I'm so glad to be enrolled--"official" deadlines are the best way for me to do what I want/ought to.

2. So far we've tried every activity and demonstration (no true experiments yet) in our science book. Below is the life-size outline of a leatherback sea turtle--it's 9' long. (Can you see? It goes all the way back to the couch.) I have pictures ready for a post about blubber, too. :-)
3. I created and laminated a "What's For Dinner?" chart. As I finalize my weekly menus, I've started copying them onto the chart using dry erase markers. I'm already reaping the benefit of increased sanity, as the daily WFD question no longer needs to be asked of me. Again. And again. And again.
What are your successes this week? Be inspired by other moms here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Where Am I?

Home, but not blogging...

It feels like I haven't posted in years!

These days life is either:
  1. so busy that I can't justify the time to sit down to write, OR
  2. so crazy that by the end of the day I can't string two coherent thoughts together.
I hope you miss me. ;-) I hope I'll be back soon.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Friday, October 23, 2009


Remember when I mentioned that Rebecca is orderly, sometimes in the extreme? This is how she put away Candyland. Each character covers a stack of a single color of cards. I decluttered the front of the fridge and put up two sets of magnetic words. While not hugely popular, some alphabetizing and sentence creating has been going on.
Becca's "keyboard", complete with a space bar:My favorite message:On Tuesdays, after writing co-op, the children follow a "how to draw" video. The large group (15-ish), has already been sitting for more than hour, so sometimes they get a bit restless. We're sticking with it, though, figuring it's still an effective use of our together time.
Here's what Marianna drew at home after the first bird lesson:Another mom had asked for pictures for a nursing home, but didn't suggest a subject.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Simple Truth

Pats on the back are interrupted for this news flash: morning people need to get to bed at a decent hour!

After too many post-11:00 p.m. nights, I could barely make it out of bed to walk the dog today. While this morning bore no evidence of yesterday's productivity, at least I didn't fall back to sleep after turning off the alarm (5:00!), and school started on time.

I'm shooting myself in the foot when I start the night with six hours or less of potential sleep. Must. Discipline. Self.

Are you good at balancing work, leisure, exercise, and sleep? I still struggle to make myself do what I know works best. Suggestions are welcome.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Yes, I Am a Morning Person

I'm ten times as productive before 8 a.m. as I am after 8 p.m. Today's activities are a more dramatic example than usual, but here's what I accomplished this morning:
  1. Baked a dozen muffins and prepared the second pan for later risers to put in the oven.
  2. Walked with Dusty for an hour (rosary included).
  3. Cleaned my bathroom sink, mirror, and shower (LONG overdue).
  4. Started a load of laundry.
  5. Took a shower.
While not officially on time, I was dressed and ready to start school by 8:05. Not bad! Of course, not everything was done: makeup, hair, breakfast, and laundry transfers are taken care of when I run back upstairs "for a minute" during little school breaks.

All is well if I get to bed by 10:00. That doesn't happen often enough, which explains my legendary propensity for falling asleep sitting up, even while reading aloud ("Mom! MOM! MOM!").

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Me and My House

This blog category is named for one of my favorite Scripture verses, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24:15

A little news about everyone:

Rebecca enjoyed her soccer games this week. She ran about her tiny field (U-6 plays three on three), focused on the ball and SMILING!

Marianna and a friend have "moved up" to a higher dance class. It is challenging, so we struggle to remember to practice throughout the week. She'll begin wearing hard shoes around Christmas.

Joseph, I think, wins our award for the most activities: homeschool soccer, violin lessons, youth orchestra, Boy Scouts, ConQuest (Catholic boys' club), and tae kwon do (though we haven't been much lately). His birthday party (12!) will be next weekend.

Daniel is enjoying playing soccer on his school's team. The game and practice schedule is the biggest reason he and Joe aren't making it to tae kwon do.

Dan's braces will be off as soon as the latest rubber bands reverse the over correction of the previous set.

David has submitted his first college application, to Christopher Newport University. He sent it in this early so he can participate in a leadership event being held there on October 30--during fall break, and on the same day our family was planning to be field-tripping in nearby Jamestown. Talk about an alignment of the stars!

After my urging (keeping the Sabbath holy), David requested to work Saturdays more often than Sundays, and his boss has honored that as much as possible. An added benefit is that Saturday's shift is 3 hours longer, giving David more money to spend on music and food save for college.

Although I thought I had permission, Lauren was chagrined to find I had emailed pictures of some of her classwork to more family. I guess you're never to old to be embarrassed by your mother!

One of her professors has made the Wednesday before Thanksgiving class optional, so we'll be able to drive to NY that morning rather than traveling through the bleak night with the innumerable masses (traffic rather than TRAFFIC). Hurrah!

While his partner is on holiday, Len has been working more days and hours than usual. Before Dr. B left, he blocked out an appointment for Friday and told Len that someone was coming to "see about some cages." The homeschoolers and I surprised him with lunch and a batch of brownies. The air crackled with excitement, whispers, and giggling as we hid in the office waiting for him to appear. It was a nice break in a long (8-8) day in a long week. Added bonus: science class consisted of observing a real veterinarian neuter a dog. Cool.

Me? My news is up here most days. I feel a bit frazzled lately, as though I'm spending too much time cooking and cleaning rather than planning and schooling. Here's something Jennifer at Conversion Diary wrote (one of the 20 things she learned after a computer-free week) that speaks to me:

"Planning is a critical element of having a peaceful life. I realized that it's almost impossible for me to make optimal choices once the chaos of the day has begun; if I don't have a plan, I drift into survival mode where I just do the bare minimum to get by. Preparing for each day in the evening before by getting things ready and visualizing my goals makes a huge difference in my life."
(emphasis mine)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Small Successes


"It’s important for moms to recognize that all the small successes in our days can add up to one big triumph. So on Thursday of each week, we do exactly that."

I don't really have time to be blogging, but here are some accomplishments anyway:
  1. For the first time since school started, I followed the master schedule and began teaching Marianna to sew. This is EPIC (as my kids would say) because I don't enjoy sewing, I'm not especially skilled at it (funny how those go together!), and it's not always easy for me to spend time on the softer side of school.
  2. I registered for a Catholic women's Bible study that is starting up in our parish this month. It was hard to make the weekly time commitment, but I've needed something like this for a long time.
  3. I've been faithful to my weight-lifting program. I skip days here and there, but work most. I've increased the weight (still miniscule) on several exercises and am back up to 20 reps. Someday I'll be strong!
How about you? Look for your mini-achievements, and be as happy for yourself as you would be for a friend. Find more successes here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ballerina for Hire

Sets the table with minimal grumbling.
Possesses superior egg-peeling skills. Stray earring:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Homeschool Soccer

Last Wednesday the children played their first soccer games against teams from another park. It was a windy, sunny, fun day.

I kept time for Rebecca's team and so watched only a few minutes of Joe and Marianna's playing. Len was also able to be there with the camera (and Dusty). Rebecca spent her time alternating between energetically chasing the ball, crying in my lap, and walking on the field while holding her coach's hand.
This week it's our turn to travel. Wish us lots of fun with no injuries!

Monday, October 12, 2009


Some years I wait too long, then wake up one morning to the blackened leaves of frostbitten basil. Not this time!

Last night I dug it up. The entire harvest is now sitting in a tub with a bit of water, waiting for me to make pesto.I've cut down basil before and kept it flourishing for weeks in water; sometimes the plants even begin growing roots again. Actually digging them up and keeping some dirt is a new technique for me.


"It is far better to do a few things well than undertake many good works and leave them half-done."
- St. Francis de Sales

Good advice from the 17th century. Any takers?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Ocean Box

As I've mentioned before, we homeschoolers are studying swimming creatures. Our science book recommended building an ocean box and filling it throughout the year.

So far we've had two successful clay sessions!The first week, Joe and Marianna made dolphins. One is under the water while the other leaps above.Didn't they turn out great?As you can probably imagine, Rebecca wanted to participate but was frustrated with what her four-year-old self could produce. Eventually someone suggested she make an underwater volcano and her cheerfullness reappeared.

Whales were this chapter's topic, so Marianna made a gray (baleen) whale and Joe built a narwhal (toothed). They have been doing their own work, too. This Friday I didn't even stick around to offer moral support; Len was home so I went to the grocery store. :-)
We still need to hang the narwhal so it can "swim", and we're planning to cut the gray whale and glue part above and part below the lid to simulate breaching. Meanwhile, here's what they look like:Rebecca wanted to make a surfer. Marianna helped her come up with this beauty, who I've been told looks like me (green IS one of my colors):

The red squiggles are surfboard decorations.