Saturday, January 31, 2009

Star Spangled Banner

While in DC for the March for Life, we spent some time in the newly renovated American History Museum. We wanted to see the flag that flew over Ft. McHenry during the War of 1812, inspiring our national anthem.

We arrived just in time for an impromptu recital by the Boys Choir of Kenya. In town for the inauguration, they sang The Star Spangled Banner (right outside the flag exhibit), America the Beautiful, and an upbeat African song. They were fantastic! It was very moving to hear them sing our patriotic songs so beautifully.

Near the end of the exhibit there is a montage of photos and recordings of the anthem. Included is a bit of my all time favorite rendition--Whitney Houston singing at Super Bowl 25 in 1991, when we were involved in another Middle East conflict. Thanks to the wonders of today's internet, I can enjoy her talent once again.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Okay, maybe sledding on ice at the storm pond wasn't such a good idea...

Yesterday Becca and Joe hit a tree (or really big bush, depending on who's telling the tale), and Becca hurt her leg. She spent the rest of the day on the couch, only crying when anyone tried to bend her right knee or foot (no swelling or obvious bruises). Last night was miserable (for several of us), so today she went to the doctor and came home with a cast and a diagnosis: hairline fracture of the right tibia.

This experience has brought to the forefront some big blessings:
  1. Becca's siblings--Yesterday we took turns sitting with her and holding her hand, as she didn't want to be alone. Her brothers, and especially Marianna, spent time watching movies, reading books, and playing games with her.
  2. Our wonderful neighbor, who works for a large orthopaedic practice. She was able to not only recommend a fine physician, but to also help us make an appointment on this post-ice day, surely a busy one for such a group. Thanks, M!
  3. My husband--He was off from work today, and so took Becca to her appointment. He knows medical language and can read an x-ray, so I had more peace of mind knowing he was there. I think Becca did, too. She's been wanting me to snuggle and hold her hand, but when it's time to carry her to the bathroom or from place to place, it's Daddy she calls for.

She'll be in her purple cast for up to 5 weeks. So far there's a lot of couch time; we've also brought in the big stroller to use as transportation and easy chair. I'll keep you updated.

Thank you, Lord, for keeping Rebecca from permanent harm. Please speed her healing.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Soup Buffet

I don't know exactly what this says about me (Thrifty? Organized? Crazy?), but my kitchen freezer is full of pint-sized freezer bags of soup.

When we're getting tired of leftover soup (from soup night or a regular dinner), I'll freeze a portion or two. I tell myself they'd be great for Len to take to work (he always forgets) or for the homeschoolers to eat for lunch (we never do).

So last night we had a snow day soup buffet! I pulled it all out (at least 8 varieties) and let everyone choose a bag. Since we could microwave just a bowl or two at a time, I gave the thawing/warming process a head start by tossing all the chosen bags into a sink full of hot water. In just a few minutes, they were ready for the final zap of heat.
And that was dinner--soup, oatmeal muffins, and fruit. Cozy and easy.
Today I had soup for lunch. Can you believe no one finished up the butternut bisque last night? ;-)

Snow at Last!

Yesterday we FINALLY got some snow. Only a few inches fell, but it was enough for us to cancel art co-op, eat lunch early, and declare the rest of the day recess.

The snow was a combination of powdery and packable. There are gentle sledding hills on either side of the house, and faster (steeper) ones at the nearby storm pond. Various children tried one or the other or both. Rebecca loved the steep hills--maybe she'll be a roller coaster fiend like Lauren and Daniel.

Joe spent a lot of time playing with Becca, then it was my turn. When I got tired of climbing up the hills, we built a snow mound which David tried to turn into a snow volcano. Then he stayed and played with little girl. She is blessed to have so many older siblings to play with.You think you have problems with your teens? This one CLAIMS he was aiming for my torso, but I don't think I'm buying that one... My avenger? ***********************************
Today schools were closed thanks to ice and freezing rain. I lured folks out of bed with scones and bacon, and we did a little homeschooling. Now everyone's playing. I'll do some more work with Marianna this afternoon, if the forecast rain and warmer temperatures make the outdoors less fun.
Our Japanese maple is a "coral bark" because the bark turns bright red in the winter.
I wish I could show you how much fun Dusty's been having in the snow. He stays around, off-leash, running, rolling, chomping, chasing sleds, etc. Today's crustiness made it more difficult to play (for a dog, anyway), but he still had a lot of fun out there with the gang.

Monday, January 26, 2009

News Flash: The Overwhelming Power of the Media Can Work for Good!

We watch almost no broadcast tv, but when Dad isn't home for dinner we sometimes turn on Wheel! Of! Fortune!

Well, a few months ago (I'm thinking pre-Thanksgiving) there was a commercial for broth, of all things. The mother used it to make a tasty dinner, and her children kissed her for it.

That started a revolution here! It began as silliness (I think), with kids kissing me in thanks if I made something nice for dinner, but it is now an entrenched tradition. Becca leads the way, kissing me for everything from grilling flank steak to buttering her toast. Her dinner kisses usually lead to other children getting up to kiss me, too. It's funny and fun, especially since I used to receive either negative or no feedback.

Thank you, Swanson!

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Becca's birthday party (in November) had a butterfly theme. We sent the guests home with just a few goodies: butterfly stickers, gingerbread cookies, and ornament/sun catchers they decorated themselves. The ornaments were made with shrinky-dink, a plastic sheet that shrinks and thickens in the oven.

It's really a simple process:
  • Trace and cut circles of shrinky-dink.
  • Trace chosen design on smooth side with permanent marker.
  • Make a hole in the top with a standard hole puncher.
  • Decorate rough side with colored pencils.
  • Shrink according to package directions.
  • Hang with 1/8" ribbon.
Below is an illustration of the original size of the design, and a suncatcher after shrinking (see the coin for scale).
This kind of project has multiple applications. We made ornaments for our Jesse tree last year, and Marianna made Christmas and Hannukah ornaments for many of her friends this season.

You might think it's difficult to find the right design to trace, but it's not. Use Google images to search for coloring pages of a specific design (butterfly, candy cane, angel), and you'll get many choices that can be copied to a document. Then manipulate to make it the size you need. Easy! (I got this idea from Danielle Bean's website--she finds pictures to put on top of birthday cakes.)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

March Views

We marched for life on Thursday. Some of us spent time in the natural history and American history museums with another family, then met Len, David and Daniel at the rally on the mall. It took a long time to funnel so many people onto the street, but then the walking was steady.
An event like this one leaves my thoughts and feelings bouncing all over the place. It was exhilirating to be part of such a large, enthusiastic group. It was discouraging to think that it may not effect real change. I was close to happy tears seeing how many young people care about life--this crowd is mostly young! Yet I know many people don't understand how damaging abortion is to women (let alone their babies), and are so vehemently opposed to ending it.
Some quotes from the day:
From a sign:
Easy way out
...for men
(so true--so many women are pressured into it by fathers and families)
From another sign (you can just see it on the edge of the above picture):
And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that, "Our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you." President Obama's inauguration address
While I was feeling discouraged, someone mentioned Mother Teresa, and I remembered something she once said, "God doesn't require us to succeed; he only requires that you try."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Holiday Schooling

Local schools were closed yesterday, but not ours! It was not business as usual, though...

It didn't seem like a full day, but as I write it down, it looks more accomplished:
  • 9:00 mass
  • Easy Grammar
  • Daily Grams
  • Math-U-See
  • Calculadder
  • History: watching and discussing the inauguration
  • CCD (a little bit)
  • Science: watching and discussing ("Pause!") an episode of "The Life of Birds"
  • Piano and violin practice
  • 30 minutes of reading (The Silver Chair, Men of Iron)
  • Art: no co-op, so we made collages!
We've had Eric Carle's Klutz book (You Can Make a Collage) for years, but haven't used it lately. I was inspired to play with it again, but the only reason it really happened is that I mentioned it to the children. When I was ready to wimp out, they nudged me to stick with the plan. I'm glad they did--it was fun!Rebecca did almost all the work on Humpty Dumpty--most of the cutting, and all the painting, gluing, and drawing. Marianna is sticking with her garden theme.
Here's a closeup of Joe's snake chasing a mouse.Daniel used some of the liner paper for his sand dunes.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Words of Hope

Or perhaps irony. We shall see, as actions speak louder than words.

From President Obama's inaugural address:

"We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness."

This line was met with applause. Just who does Mr. Obama mean by "all"? So far it doesn't look like he means humans in the womb, no matter how close they are to being born. But we can always hope. And pray.

It's Not Just About Changing Laws

It's about changing hearts, too.

(My thanks to Elizabeth and Danielle.)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Our Tuition Dollars at Work

I'm being facetious--Lauren is working hard and getting plenty of value from VCU.

Her art foundation courses require many "outside the box" projects, so Lauren gathers material where she can. When someone offered her a big mirror, she knew immediately that it would become "art bits" (my term):

Len helped her carefully pack up the shards for the drive down to Richmond. That box was HEAVY! And they both needed to vacuum before the play room was safe again. ;-)
Lauren had her laptop at Thanksgiving and Christmas and so was able to share much of her work with family and friends. She may have gotten tired of leading us through the drawings, paintings, videos, and installations, but we were all impressed with the quantity and (especially) quality of her projects. Can you tell I'm a proud mama? :-)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Impulse Buys

I plan my weekly menu (someday I'll write about the cycle) and go to the grocery store:
  1. once a week,
  2. with a list
  3. and (usually) NO children.
Once in a while I'm stuck blessed with their company. That's when some impulse buys may end up in the cart. The items selected tell a bit about the requester:
  • Mom: post-holiday turkey at $.49 per pound (Boring!)
  • Kids: ranch wheat thins, blueberry bagels (yuck!), orange tic-tacs
  • 16 year old: select ground coffee beans, wedge of romano, dark chocolate bar with almonds and dried cherries
So why is the teen more sophisticated than his mother?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


What does it mean to "go to bed by 10:00?" Is it really under the covers with the lights out?

Could it be reading in bed by 10:00?
How about being in pjs?
Maybe it means going upstairs at 10...
Or is it enough to push away from the computer by then?

There are so many ways to talk oneself out of doing what needs to be done...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Skill I'd Rather Not Have

I have now successfully plunged three toilets in a row, and can no longer deny my competence. Life was more, shall we say, pleasant when I was so inept that all plunging had to wait for Len to get home.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Time Again for Prayer and Fasting

I've received a couple of emails urging nine days of prayer (like in the upper room) and fasting for the intention of stopping the "Freedom of Choice Act". Barack Obama has promised to sign it into law if/when Congress passes it, which could happen as early as next week.

From the Fight FOCA website:

FOCA Would Wipe Away Every Restriction on Abortion Nationwide
This would eradicate state and federal laws that the majority of Americans support, such as:
--Bans on Partial Birth Abortion
--Requirements that women be given information about the risks of getting an abortion
--Only licensed physicians can perform abortions
--Parents must be informed and give consent to their minor daughter's abortion

FOCA would erase these laws and prevent states from enacting similar protective measures in the future.

We're going to talk to the children tonight about this novena. Right now I'm thinking of commiting to a family rosary every day, along with fasting (probably giving up sweets--a biggie for most of us) and a pro-life prayer. Many Americans are starting on Sunday (ending on January 19th), but I'm thinking of starting Monday and continuing up through the inauguration on the 20th.

Soon it will be time to call our legislators, but for now let's pray together.

Friday, January 9, 2009


I'm going to be a labor coach next month, and last night was childbirth class #1. Looking around at those couples just beginning the voyage of parenthood does make me wistful. Their hopes, their fears, their baby sweet.

At my age it's hard to imagine another pregnancy being God's will for our family. Most of the time I'm fine with that, but once in a while I hear that "one more time?" whisper.

Anyway, there you have it. I realize it's an emotion rather than prudence. Time to move on.

Summer in Winter

A family Christmas present this year was a trip to Great Wolf Lodge. We went the second day most schools in our area started back, and so had the place almost all to ourselves. The boogie board ride was broken, but the lack of lines made up for that.

GWL is a hotel with a big indoor waterpark.It's got a lazy river, two hot tubs (Becca's favorite!), wave pool, regular pool, toddler area, water fort, and four sets of slides/rides. The Howlin' Tornado has a big drop before you slide back and forth in a big funnel. I loved it but SCREAMED every time.

So we bonded over water time, games, and cable tv. ;-) And hot chocolate. And Christmas cookies. We brought nearly all our food. It was actually relaxing to eat in the suite, and more convenient, too.Sorry the pictures are so dark. Last year, when I went with three kids, I didn't manage to take any, so consider this an improvement. And please tell me you have trouble getting a decent group shot as well--it seems that difficulty increases exponentially with each additional person!Good grief...

P.S. to my sisters: There's a GWL resort in the Poconos, too!

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Desk: Continued

  • Day 3: Found the shrinky-dink butterfly ornament Becca made at her birthday November. It's been missing (and missed) ever since.
  • Day 4: Worked for 10, but also moved papers from the island to the desk. Old habits die hard.
  • Day 5: Worked the requisite 10 minutes--I set a timer--not just before bedtime (it's been my last hurrah every night so far), but before dinner!
And what's that in the photo? See that bit of green? It's not mold, it's not spring, it's a little bit of the desk surface poking through! It's still dusty, and the remaining piles are getting harder to deal with, but progress continues.
Yes, I see those boxes underneath. Yes, I'm going to deal with them too.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Come to the Table

The latest recipes over at Come to the Table are fancy salad, baklava,
and banana muffins. Enjoy!

The Desk: Day 2

Well, it doesn't look much different, but I can feel the change... I:

  • set the timer for 10 minutes, but worked longer.
  • renewed my subscription to Faith and Family magazine.
  • found the Irish dance payment slips and wrote January's check just in time.
  • tossed papers into the recycling box--the easy stuff.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Then and Now

Growing up, we lived (for five years) an hour and fifteen minutes from my mom's sister and her family, but we only saw our cousins a few times a year. It was always a big production, and usually for an occasion--Christmas, a First Communion, etc. Sometimes we'd spend the night.

As young adults, my sisters and I marveled over that bit of family history. Seventy-five minutes was NOTHING. Driving was NO BIG DEAL. What was with those grown-ups of long ago?

Now I live an hour from one of MY sisters. Visiting is usually a big production which includes multiple calendar negotiations and rush hour planning, plus a sleepover to make the driving "worth it." The cousins get together more than a few times a year only because my sister and I are consciously working to make it so.

The more things change...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Desk: Day 1

The island usually has a little pile on its corner. When it's time to clear up, that paperwork might be dealt with, but will most likely just be transferred to the black hole previously known as my desk. Can you see a desk under there? And I seem like such a together person online... ;-)

I'm going to spend 10 minutes every day for a week dealing with this pit of despair. Hopefully those little snippets of time will make enough of a difference to inspire continued progress and a sustainable habit. I'll keep you posted!

What I Learned in 2008

Although I'm not an articulate, deep thinker, I do have a few reflections on lessons learned this past year:
  1. I have no reason to complain--ever! I've seen families suffering real hardships and losses this year. My life has its challenges, but they are on a MUCH smaller scale.
  2. I need to go to bed by 10:00 p.m. I am a morning person and I get up before 6. When I stay up late, I'm not catching up on the to-do list, let alone getting ahead. I'm aimlessly wasting time and sucking energy out of TOMORROW. Fatigue decreases my patience, piety, and productivity.
  3. My husband is the biggest blessing God has granted me. Our marriage has always been a good one, but every year is better than the last. It's not that we've settled into a rut, either--we just continue to grow in our care and appreciation of each other. Len is a strong and godly leader, helps with "my share" of family duties, and loves me deeply.
  4. My children need gentleness, attention, and physical affection, even if they act like they don't. I've spent so many years lavishing attention (nursing, diapering, cuddling) on the youngest baby or toddler that I lost the habit of being affectionate with the rest of my crew. Consciously looking (away from the computer or book), hugging and kissing, and speaking with gentleness (see #2) will help my children feel my love for them.
  5. A menu plan is a huge time saver. I'm back on a cycle (3 weeks this time), and it's making the whole process easier--planning, shopping, and cooking.
  6. I CAN parent a young adult. Well, duh--this was bound to happen eventually, but I didn't know how I would "be" at it. This is the time for relaxing my parental grip while still being a support. There's a lot I can't (and shouldn't) control about her life; the relief for me is that this doesn't make me crazy. (It probably helps that Lauren is a wonderful young woman; she's training me well?)
  7. I CAN'T fix everything. We've had four young women stay with us in the past 16 months. We've made a positive difference in their lives, but not as much as I would like. This is not an easy lesson.
  8. God is Good. He's showered me with blessings--husband, family, activities, routines, mass, etc. I need to work on a habit of gratitude.
Reading back, I see that most of these lessons are not new, but the time spent reflecting is a good way for me to prepare for 2009. May your new year be blessed.