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.

Thursday, October 8, 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."

While sometimes I'm too frazzled to participate, the exercise of searching for three little victories can perk up my attitude if I'll let it. Here are some bright spots from the week past:

  1. Our family went hiking on Saturday. Part walk-in-the-woods, part hop-on-rocks-in-the-creek, part rock-climbing, it was a pleasant outing. Sunday we enjoyed our "end of summer reading" dinner out.
  2. I endured shopping for much needed fall/winter tops, and managed to bring home five keepers for $57 (sale plus coupon!). Marianna and Rebecca came along, racing around as I searched for suitable shirts ("my" colors, correct size--so few left!, not too tight, not too baggy, not too long) to try on. Then they stayed with me in the dressing room as I tested at least two dozen. Yeah, that part was fun--hah! They tried not to pay too much attention, but Becca did make one remark about my tummy, to which I calmly responded, "That's because I've had six children, honey."
  3. After calling two branches for shelf checks, I found the library book I "remembered" returning in the "going downstairs" basket under a pile of tablecloths and dishtowels. At least it wasn't overdue!
How's your week going? I'll bet you can find some good news if you look hard enough (yes, feeding and/or clothing your family can count...). Be inspired by other moms here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Turning five this November, Rebecca is our youngest kindergartner ever. She had some formal schooling last year, but not as much as she would have liked. :-)

This year she's thrilled to have her own checklist, with an array of subjects: phonics, math, Bible, piano, handwriting, memorization, and other stories. We're learning together about persevering with learning whether in an eager or reluctant mood.Rebecca is an orderly child. It can take her a long time to make her bed or tidy her kitchen area, not because she is dilly-dallying, but because she is so, um, particular about how everything should be arranged.

Sometimes her orderliness veers into perfectionism and begins to cause trouble. During school this is most obvious when we work on Bible stories together. Here's our routine: Mom or Dad reads a Bible story aloud. Becca retells it as the tale is typed. She then illustrates the printout.

I have had my children draw their own pictures, sometimes helping brainstorm (for the Garden of Eden: an apple, the snake, Adam and Eve, the snake in the tree, Eve with the apple, etc.). I might also coach the drawing, make a sample (a simple ark, maybe) to copy, or even draw part of the illustration for a frustrated child. Their effort and creative work have always been more important to me than the actual product.

That hasn't been working with Rebecca. She started out well enough, but even on Day One was frustrated that her drawing didn't match her vision. The Creation picture below (Saranac Lake, our bank, and Tommy's Rock) was NOT her first try.

Each day became more of an ordeal than the last. Here are a few more "coached" drawings:Next came parental tracing or drawing. I outlined Joseph in his coat of many colors. Rebecca colored it in and drew his head and face. I traced the fat cow of Pharaoh's dream and then semi-traced the skinny cow.Eventually I began finding pictures online. Now I use Google Images to preview designs (search for coloring pages, like "Red Sea coloring page" to find simple choices) and copy them onto the story even before I type it up.This technique is a winner. Becca is no longer anxious about her drawing, which makes her more willing to work on the story itself. Sometimes she even helps pick the design; like me, she shies away from the silly (babyish) versions.My older children might tell you I've gotten soft. I will admit to mellowing, but I think that for Rebecca at least, this solution is the best for now. She can think about the story as she colors rather than obsessing about executing a drawing that meets her standards.

Let's remember, too, that way back when the first children were retelling the Bible, our internet connection was that amazingly slow dial-up, not really conducive to googling!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dinner Plans

We rarely eat out and don't buy much convenience food, either. I rely on a (3 week) cycle menu that gets tweaked every week. This helps me plan shopping, thawing, and preparation.

I've been intending to write about cycle menus for those of you who haven't heard about them or haven't tried them yet. Meanwhile, here's a glance at this week. Most days I'm cooking for 7.
  • Monday: grilled chicken and mashed potatoes (for 5)
  • Tuesday: quesadillas (The marinated chicken was frozen with enough to feed 8-10, so there will be plenty leftover.)
  • Wednesday: soup night (for 25-40!)--beef barley and clam chowder
  • Thursday: gyros (also from the freezer)
  • Friday: sesame noodles
  • Sat/Sunday: flank steak

The sides aren't much planned yet. The gyro veggies are in-house already, we have plenty of salad fixings, and there's a 3# bag of broccoli florets in the fridge. I bought apples to make sauce, but don't know when I'll get around to making it. I can serve that any day to great cheers. :-)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Summer IOUs

Our summer reading program was a success, but not all the rewards have been collected. I still owe one movie rental, one ice cream feast, three breakfast-in-beds, and four pizza-sleepovers!

Tonight we enjoyed our traditional final prize, a family dinner at a local restaurant. We hardly ever eat out, so this is still an "event" for us. Primping in the parking lotThe raspberry limeade was popular. Almost everyone chose a big, juicy burger.
Instead of dessert out, we let the food settle, then made hot fudge (Thanks, Mimi!) oreo sundaes at home. Now to get those other prizes redeemed...

Friday, October 2, 2009


These children just keep on growing!
  • David turned 17 this summer.
  • He's been taller than me for a long while and has the deepest voice in the house.
  • He recently received a letter of commendation for oustanding performance on the PSAT--not the very highest rank, but still in the top 3%.
  • On Wednesday his paperwork made him an official VA driver. We still must go to court to obtain the plastic copy, but it is already legal for him to drive solo. So far he's managed to wangle the keys in order to buy me some hard-to-find pasta and to get himself a haircut. He seems to be on the "errand a day" plan. ;-)
  • With his participation in choirs, band, Sea Scouts, and work, and preparation of college applications, one might be amazed he has so much time left for online friends and videos...
Too soon I'll be missing two.

Thursday, October 1, 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."

Not much to say except we're still hanging in there.
  1. School has been starting on time (give or take a few minutes) since we began. We've been faithfully praying our rosary decade (with meditation verses) and listening to a chapter of the Bible (the gospel of Matthew right now) every school day.
  2. The laundry is caught up. The hampers are not empty (are you kidding?), but there aren't enough dirty clothes to run a new load yet.
  3. Even with plenty of afternoon driving and activities, we've had a week of tasty dinners. Okay, the children didn't appreciate Friday's curried tofu and chickpeas (yes, really! with coconut rice!), but everything else was acceptable: steak kabobs (Joe's meal), chili, pot stickers, pork lo mein, and beef BBQ. Tonight: quesadillas. Tomorrow: manicotti.
What are your successes this week? Be inspired by other moms here.