Thursday, April 30, 2009

Small Successes

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"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 my list for the week:
  1. I completed the clothing season sort for one child (hey, small successes, right?). Marianna was low in the spring/summer hand-me-down department, so we squeezed in two quick shopping trips, picking up 5 t-shirts, 2 prettier tops, 4 pairs of shorts, and 1 pair of "skimmers"--knee length shorts. We called the trips "special time", and it really was fun to be out as just the two of us. The wardrobe choices were refreshing, too--plenty of inappropriate clothes, but also plenty of long enough shorts and shirts (down to the hips!).
  2. I organized the spice rack. This should probably count against me, since the time should have been spent on some other more pressing project, but it was uplifting nonetheless. I wiped off YEARS (maybe a decade!) of dust, threw out a few oldies-and-not-so-goodies, and put it all back in pristine alphabetical order. Too organized, you say? Well there are 84 little containers on that rack, so I need all the help I can get!
  3. I baked a three-tiered cake. Does it count for this list if I've already posted it? Let's hope so, because that's all I 've got, folks!
Find more inspiration and encouragement at Faith and Family Live.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Slow Going

So far so good...Or so far to go?
I thought two weeks (of testing and then Easter break) would be enough to finish this thing, but here we are in our second week back at school without the school table!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Me and My House

Here's a little news about everyone (See all the things I'm NOT posting about?):
  • Last week Len went on a three day kayaking trip in MD and WV with some local and northern (NY? New England?) paddlers. His favorite part was the first drop on the first day--Swallow Falls, a place we've hiked near Deep Creek Lake.
  • Tomorrow is Lauren's last day of classes. Freshman year is almost over. Wow!
  • David attended his school prom on Saturday. He looked sharp in a black suit with a black shirt, white tie, and black hat. No, I don't have a picture--it was a crazy day! This weekend he'll be a guest at the local homeschool prom.
  • Daniel is sporting a big bruise, earned as the lacrosse goalie of his middle school team. He's enjoying the sport and camaraderie.
  • Joseph recently auditioned (violin) for a local youth philharmonic orchestra. We'll learn in mid-May whether or not he advances to the next try-out. Joe's also (finally, he says!) joined Boy Scouts, and is serious about gathering camping equipment and exercising to prepare for advancement.
  • Marianna has started a "Go Green" club with the neighborhood girls. They pick up trash, imagine ways to save the planet, and spend a lot of time getting wet and muddy in the creek.
  • Rebecca still isn't sure whether she wants to take gymnastics, ballet, or Irish dance lessons. Meanwhile she's pleased that it's warmed up enough (upper 80's!) to fill up the plastic pool under the maple tree. Yay, spring!
  • You already know about my cake. Most of my time is actually spent cooking, cleaning, driving, etc. (okay, sometimes schooling). Yesterday I volunteered at the library book sale, and in the evening Len and I taught an NFP upgrade class (bringing "old method" students up to speed) followed by a postpartum class.
I'm sure that's not all the news, but that's all you're getting for now!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Parenting With Positive Phrasing

I believe word choices matter, and I try to reflect that in my parenting. While directing a child, there is usually both a positive and negative way to say the same thing.

My earliest memory of choosing the positive phrase is calling out, "Walk!" to my little ones at the pool instead of, "Don't run!" Do you see? Same result, but one sounds better. ;-)

Goodness knows I still say no and I still lose my temper, but I hope that consciously choosing the gentler direction will have a cumulative, positive effect, or at least sound less like nagging.

Some other examples:
"Remember ______." instead of "Don't forget ______."
"Talk like a big girl." vs. "Don't talk like a baby."
"Please [do such & such]." vs. "Don't ______."

I'll bet you've got powerful phrases of your own--care to share?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Rise Up and Walk

Four year old Peter had his giant cast removed today! Even better news is that he didn't need the four-week follow-up (smaller) cast. There is much rejoicing in Michigan, let me tell you.

I realize it will be awhile before he's actually up and walking, but the light is sparkling there at the end of the tunnel. Praise God!

Let Them Eat Cake

Every spring, Trinity's 8th graders celebrate their study of the Middle Ages with a Medieval Banquet. Teachers and parent volunteers help put it all together. My contribution was the cake: For authenticity I wanted to avoid foods that were popularized later, like citrus and chocolate, so this cake is hazelnut with raspberry jelly inside. I was shooting for banquet-fancy, and I'd say this is!
Our kind neighbor allowed me to snip some blooms from her tree. Aren't they gorgeous? Simple, and elegant too.The sliced almond details are my riff on the Trinity symbol used by the school:
Daniel and his classmates had a lot of fun dressing as medieval folk (Dan was a Franciscan monk because we already have a long brown robe.). They enjoyed traditional foods (rustic bread, lentil soup, roast turkey, vegetables, and fruit) while a king and queen presided and a jester entertained the group. What a great tradition!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Metamorphosis: the Final Chapter

You may remember that we nurtured some Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillars last fall (click on the "butterflies" label to see those posts). A few weeks after they formed chrysalises, two of the four butterflies emerged. The remaining two entered our indoor winter (the basement fridge) to wait for spring--most EBS's do overwinter in nature.

When warm weather arrived, we took the jar out of the fridge and set it in the kitchen. It usually takes 2-4 weeks for an EBS to emerge. The chrysalises start out bright green , although some turn brown (probably in response to attaching to rough vs. smooth wood). One of ours was still green, while the other had darkened to almost black, usually signifying a dead butterfly.

Well, on Easter Sunday morning, I noticed that the green chrysalis was now semi-transparent! I've seen pictures of Monarch chrysalises going from opaque to see-through, but have never noticed this change in our years of hosting EBS's.

The first two photos below show green chrysalises in the fall. Third is a picture of Easter's chrysalis. Can you see the spots inside?
What an exciting image for Easter! That body, encased as though in a tomb, transformed and reentering the world.

Every now and then the chrysalis would move, jerking from side to side. Len managed to catch some of the action on camera. The frame wiggles a bit (he was holding the stick in one hand and the camera in the other), but it's still very cool: video

We didn't want to miss the butterfly's entrance and so took the jar in the car on our way to the bluebells. As we drove home it emerged, although even Marianna (who had the jar on her lap) missed the actual moment!

The butterfly's wings were wrinkled. It took a while to pump them up with fluid and get ready to fly; at one point it fell to the bottom of the jar. I "rescued" it using a trick learned from a book: I offered it the bristles of a soft paintbrush as a way back to the branch.

Here's a picture of the butterfly readying its wings. Notice the spots on its body and then look again (below) at the transparent chrysalis. Wow! Updated to add: Yes, the blackened chrysalis held a dead butterfly (we opened it). It had darkened in the fall (at about the same time the other two completed their cycles), so we weren't surprised to see a dried out body this week.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Some New Recipes

New on my cooking blog:
as well as discussions of store-bought pie crust and whole wheat pasta.

Maybe We DID Take Enough Field Trips This Year

As we drove across the bridge into DC yesterday, on our way to visit the Supreme Court and the Capitol, Becca (age 4) looked around and announced matter-of-factly, "It looks like we're getting close to the art museums."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Small Successes

FaithButton

"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 find myself looking forward to looking back ;-) on the week and finding bits of brightness. Our Easter break is yielding fruit in the form of both relaxation and the best kind of busy-ness: play dates, soup night, dinner out for Mom and Dad, maybe a family movie...
  1. One of our Christmas gifts to the little girls was the promise of a trip to Clay Cafe to decorate a plate and mug each. Tuesday I finally redeemed that certificate, and the three of us spent a fun TWO HOURS painting pottery. The girls stuck with it, adding the multiple layers of paint needed to get bright colors (I did the occasional back-of-the-plate second layer to give them a break.). Marianna's major themes were flowers, hearts, and ladybugs, while Rebecca chose a rainbow design.
  2. For the FIRST TIME EVER, our family is attempting to say the Divine Mercy novena, which began on Good Friday. So far we haven't missed a day, even though I was out of town Wednesday night. The children prayed it themselves even before Len got home from work!
  3. I'm sorting through my jewelry and two dresser junk drawers. Everything is spread out on my bedroom floor, but I know it WILL be finished, because I WILL NOT put the drawers back until everything is sorted, distributed, or thrown out (and a fair amount has already been tossed). So although it's technically a work in progress, I am confident. Because how long can I keep stepping over all that? ;-)
Find more encouragement at Faith and Family Live.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Susan Boyle's Audition for Britain's Got Talent--Wow!

Embedding is disabled for this video, but you can follow the link and watch it on YouTube.

Maybe you're more tuned in to what's on tv than I am, but this was news to me. I found the story at Ouiz's; she got it from Fr. Longenecker.

On Comparing Oneself to Others

Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly.

- St. Francis de Sales

This is a lesson I've been learning, but I had some tough years before it started sinking in.

It's enough of a challenge to live my vocation as God wills. Why would I try to be someone else? It's one thing to be inspired or educated by another, but it's just wrong to criticize myself because I don't write like her or school like her or keep house like her, if I'm truly doing MY best. We don't all have the same gifts (or challenges).

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Happy Easter!

We had a wonderful day!

It actually started Saturday night, when we all went to the Easter Vigil Mass (Daniel served). With a combination of naps and/or caffeine, everyone made it through the 2 1/2 hours (ending near 11:00 p.m.!). It's the best and biggest Mass of the year, with a fire, candles (lit twice), bells, lots of Scripture, Baptisms, Confirmations, First Communions, and "Alleluias", which we couldn't say during Lent.

When we got home, everyone stayed up for a while. Some of us took down the Lent decorations--purple ribbons, purple wreath, crown of thorns (de-thorned by then), etc.--and set out Easter decor: colored egg wreath, "Alleluia" letters, crown of flowers, and more. This is the first time I remember changing everything as a family (vs. Mom doing it while everyone's in bed), and it felt truly festive.Here are the letters we painted gold during Lent and then hid away. They're up above the doors into the study. During Lent we posted (in purple, of course) "Repent".

I woke up early, put the coffeecake in the oven, and took Dusty for a walk. I was back in time to get the cake out, and eventually we enjoyed our special breakfast. We went to Len's parents' house in the afternoon for Easter dinner and an egg hunt (his sister's family came, too), but before that we went to see the bluebells.

Bull Run Regional Park has [one of?] the biggest stand of bluebells east of the Mississippi, and they were in bloom this week. Sunday was a beautiful, sunny day, perfect for a visit. As usual, it was plenty muddy, but we wore our boots and sloshed around quite happily. May YOUR Easter season be full of blessings.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Small Successes

FaithButton

"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."

Well, it's been an up and down sort of week (with lots of down--see my previous post), but there are some bright lights:
  1. I have already filled the 100 plastic eggs (20 per child) for our Easter Sunday hunt. This is usually accomplished the night of Holy Saturday, so it's a relief to have it DONE! It may not sound like a big project, but we have A LOT of eggs, and they're not all stored "connected", so just matching them up takes a while.
  2. I've been using a real list this week to organize my activities, and so have accomplished a bit more than just the usual cooking and laundry.
  3. The last standardized test was finished today, so I only need to pack and mail it off tomorrow.
Find more encouragement at Faith and Family Live.

I Should Have Read This In the Morning

Instead of now, just before bed:

The worst way of speaking is to speak too much. Therefore speak little and well, speak little and gently, speak little and charitably, speak little and amiably."
- St. Francis de Sales

I've been in an overwhelmed funk for several days now. Yesterday seemed to be the beginning of recovery, but oh, I was snappish today. I didn't speak too much, but neither was I consistently gentle, charitable, and amiable.

It's time to really offer my words (and attitude) to God tomorrow, and make it truly GOOD Friday.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Drumroll, Please...

SHE'S IN!!!

We officially have a photography major in the family! Lauren picked up her portfolio today. Even before she noticed the acceptance letter inside (yay!), she saw the "list of required equipment" and KNEW.

A relief and a blessing for a most deserving young woman.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Puzzling Development

This is the school table for Holy Week (and possibly Easter Week, too)--a 2,000 piece puzzle of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. I put it out so late last year that only a little sorting (see the small bags of edge, sky, and flowers?) got done before we needed the table back.

We'll be doing our standardized testing this week (making shorter and easier days than usual) while public school is on break, then be off full time after Easter.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Waiting

Freshmen in VCUarts take a standard fundamentals curriculum. Now that Lauren's first year is winding up, she must be accepted into the photography program to continue in her major. She submitted her portfolio a few days ago, and will have her answer before Easter.

I was surprised when Lauren first explained this to me. Just getting into the art school was so competitive that I thought she was "in" for good. She says that moving into her major is definitely NOT guaranteed--I think she said the acceptance rate is 50%!

The portfolio submissions, for the most part, document projects from her freshmen classes. The criteria of how and what to submit are very detailed (what size file, thickness of cardboard, number of items required/allowed, etc.); in fact, Lauren had to attend a workshop full of instructions regarding just these logistics.

My favorite art student was only allowed to submit a few non-class items. One she included is a photo of leaves and algae under ice in a puddle. I love this picture! It's so close-up that it looks like an abstract. The textures--thin ice, tiny bubbles, furry algae--and colors--bright green, orange, brown, silvery grey--are gorgeous. What do you think? (If you click on the picture, you should be able to see a larger image.)Meanwhile, it's a waiting game. Prayers are welcome!


Updated to add:
Here's a self-portrait Lauren had to draw for class. It's charcoal on Lenox. Nice, eh?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Small Successes

FaithButton

"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 my accomplishments are indeed small, but that's okay:
  1. I did my share of the week's driving without whining or falling asleep at the wheel.
  2. On Saturday I cleaned sinks and mirrors in three bathrooms, then rewrote the chore chart to distribute jobs more evenly. Training begins THIS weekend.
  3. We have not run out of clean clothes or food, although our stock of fresh fruit is down to 1 apple, 1 banana, 3 oranges, and some lemons and grapefruit. The veggie bin doesn't look much better. A grocery run is on the schedule for tomorrow!
Find more encouragement at Faith and Family Live. Have a great day--Easter is almost here!