Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Year's End

We began 2008 on an up-note, spending our very first night ever in the Purple House on January 1. It was exciting -- and freezing. That first week of January was very, very cold and we did not yet have any insulation. The kitchen was not yet functional and all the bigger kids were piled together in one bed in the family room. The one year old slept in our closet. Can you hate a house enough to stop taking pictures of it? I did.

On February 1, we moved out of the Purple House even though it had gotten better with the addition of insulation, a kitchen and a sink in the master bathroom. We left all that luxury living behind and went to England, with a stop in Virginia where I got to meet one of the handsome hunks of the Blogosphere.

After taking the British Isles by storm (or not) we returned home in mid-March on Palm Sunday and dragged our very sleepy selves to Mass.

In April, I turned 33 and invented cheesecake tart recipe.

In May, my mind turned to gardening and the impending arrival of baby number 5.

By the end of June, I was feeling rather huge.

July was an overwhelming month. My husband's grandmother died and our baby finally arrived.

We started our homeschooling year in August and I began dealing with some postpartum depression.

My friend Jo-Lynne came to town in September, which was especially exciting, since it was the first time we've met in the nine+ years we've known each other. And my five year old turned six.

Then someone else turned two in October (Never mind the three candles he is only two).

On All Saint's Day we celebrated yet another birthday.

I discovered the baby had a hemangioma and we survived hosting Thanksgiving for twenty.

December has run me rather ragged with a ninth birthday,

busy social schedule, Christmas and all the other stuff, but it's been a good month and a good end to a full year.


Happy New Year, Y'all!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Social Whirl

I generally don't think of myself as having a busy social life or much reason to get out of the house generally, but the past several days have involved flying from one thing to another.

It began last Thursday when the kids and I built gingerbread houses with our homeschooling group after The Boy's Latin class. The next day the oldest girl had a Little Flowers meeting, followed by a grocery trip with all five children. When we arrived home there was a message on the phone inviting us to a dinner with people from our old church. Since we don't get to see these old friends all that often any more, we piled into the car and headed to that. And didn't get home until 10. Yikes!

Saturday I went to Recollections in the morning, got home around 1, headed back out with the rest of the family to meet up with my husband's siblings, and then came home and cooked dinner for friends.

Sunday we went to mass in the morning and spent the afternoon at a birthday party.

Monday evening we had an Advent program at church and didn't get home until late.

Tuesday the oldest and youngest had check ups at the doctor. The oldest is getting so big. I knew he'd had a growth spurt, but he's even shot up a bunch in the height percentiles -- still skinny though. The baby is staying on the same curve she was on a month ago. No huge weight gains, but no losses either so that's good news.

Wednesday the kids and I went to a belated celebration in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The kids acted out the story of Juan Diego, did some craft projects and ate quesadillas.

This morning the littlest had another doctor's appointment. This time with a dermatologist to confirm that the lump on her back is indeed a hemangioma. I guess it is good to know that it looks good and is unlikely to cause any problems, but that was an expensive 15 minutes, I'm sure.

Tomorrow evening we go to my husband's work Christmas party. It's a family party and always fun.

Saturday we have tickets to the Children's Symphony in the morning and agreed to go caroling with some friends that night.

As far as I know we only have mass scheduled for Sunday and next week doesn't look too busy (although we do, I hope, have some friends coming over on Tuesday and there is that whole, um, Christmas thing), but if you don't hear from me for a while, it is probably because I have barricaded myself in the house and refused to have any further contact with the outside world.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Please Step Away From the Radio

You know you might have been listening to the radio too much, when you are helping your six year spell the word "princess" and after she says "P-R-I-" you want to add "Public Radio International."

Friday, December 05, 2008

Quick Takes Again

It's Friday so it must be Quick Takes time.

1. Twenty people for Thanksgiving is totally do-able and I have a couple of tips to make it go well in the future for all of you. Have appetizers. Kids eat more vegetables off a veggie tray than off a dinner plate and some cheese, veggies and crackers make it easier for everyone to wait. Also, although we actually have the space/chairs/dishes and whatnot to seat 20 people all at once (though not at one table) at the suggestion of one of my friends we tried feeding the grownups and littlest kids first while the food was at its hottest and the rest of the kids played. Then we reset the table for the kids and let them have their own party. The kids busied themselves with card games, weren't starving thanks to the appetizers and barely noticed that they weren't there at the table first. It worked well.

2. I have recently been concerned about whether anything physically was wrong with me that might be causing my 4.5 month old not to gain weight as fast as she should. After a checkup earlier this week, I'm glad to say I'm perfectly healthy. My thyroid is fine and so is everything else. So back to wondering what is wrong and if I'm just a lousy breastfeeder unable to feed my babies enough. I do think the 24/7 feeding schedule is helping though and that the baby is looking chunkier. I'll find out when we go back for a weight check.

3. It may be better for you, but whole wheat pasta tastes horrible. Whole wheat bread, yes! Brown rice, (mostly) yes! But whole wheat pasta -- just say no!

4. We're going to get a live Christmas tree this year for the first time in seven years. We used to go for real ones, but after our year in Fairbanks where oddly enough real ones are more trouble and/or more expensive, we've always used a fake. But back to reality this year and I'm looking forward to it. We're also using real greens. We picked up a bunch of free cuttings at Home Depot and used them on our mantles and I even made my own wreath for the front door using florist's wire and a wire hanger. Since I already had the wire and the hanger (and ribbon to decorate it) it was free. Yay free!

5. Two of my favorite teas are for sale again -- if you are looking for Christmas presents for the tea lover in your life -- I highly recommend The Republic of Tea's Comfort and Joy and Tea of Good Tidings.

6. My two year old alternates between loving his baby sister and trying to squish her. He's also taken to asking frequently if he can "hold him." At least he hasn't yet tried to pick her up.

7. I have a long list of things I want to make for Christmas. Have I even started most of them? Of course not. I'm in big trouble.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Book Meme

�Which book or books are you reading now?

I'm in the middle of Eats, Shoots and Leaves. It's funny, but I can only read about punctuation for so long at a time before my eyes glaze over. I just returned But Didn't We Have Fun? to the library. I wanted to like it, but the author who is trying to write an informal history of baseball's early years wasn't informal enough for me.

�What is your favorite time to read?

Mostly in the evenings, because otherwise there are too many interruptions.

�And your favorite place?

Bed or the bathtub

�Who is your favorite novelist?

It depends on my mood and the moment -- sometimes Jane Austen or P.G. Wodehouse or sometimes someone else all together.

�You favorite poem?

I don't just pull poetry off the shelves to read it all that often, but I am rather fond of Robert W. Service.

�What is the most difficult book you�ve ever read?

The most difficult book I ever have finished was Kafka's The Castle, but then there are books like The Grapes of Wrath and Plato's Republic that for me have been such a long hard slog that I've never finished them.

�What was the first book you remember reading?

I think something by Dr. Seuss, but I'm not sure. I do remember checking this book about Edith and a Bear out very frequently from the library before I could read.

�Do you have a comfort book that you re-read?

Several. The Anne of Green Gables books, some Wodehouse, mostly books I read first when I was a kid or a teenager.

�What is the most erotic book you�ve read?

My friends and I got our hands on Anais Nin one time, but it isn't a category I dabble in much.

�Which classic should you have read?

Lots of them. I some how graduated from a college that is famous for its English major without taking a single English class. Which means I missed out on many things I should have read. But I've probably read more German literary classics than you have. Not that I remember them anymore though.

�Which book did you never want to end?

I can't think of a single book, but I wanted the Anne books and the books about Betsy and Tacy to continue on forever.

�What is your most overrated book?

Besides anything by James Joyce?

�Which character could you have an affair with?

Mr. Darcy

�Who is your favorite character?

It all depends. There are so many great characters in books, it would be hard to pick just one.

�Which character do you most dislike?

Again, I'm not sure. I mean there are some really evil characters to hate out there. Kafka excels in some, for instance.

�Which character do you identify with most?

I always liked Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy and Anne, when she's in trouble. Maybe Ramona. And of course, Elizabeth Bennet.

�Which book changed your life?

Oddly enough (because I am not Eastern Orthodox) it was a book called Facing East: A Pilgrim's Journey into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy by Frederica Matthewes-Greene that started me down the road to Catholicism.

Meme highjacked from Robbo.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Why Can't a Woman Be More Like a Man?

Ten points to the first person to spot the quotation.

Apparently (and my husband will be very surprised) I am 98% male. Actually, I think this merely means that my writing style isn't so girly as Andrew Sullivan's.

From the also quite manly Janis.

Smart Mice

We have an old drafty house. We have lots of kids scattering lots of crumbs on the floors. We have no cat. What do we have lots of mice roaming the premises.

So far I've seen five mice and we've only killed three. The other night I looked up from the computer to see a mouse sniff the mouse trap and head the other way. I thought peanut butter was irresistible to them, but apparently this particular mouse was smart enough to resist temptation.

Having no desire to move to glue traps or poison, we'll have to see how long they can hold out against the lure of peanut butter. Resistance is futile (I hope).

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I Need a 28 Hour Day

My fall wreath is still on the door. There are ceramic turkeys on the dining room mantle and over the house sits a distinct lack of Advent or Christmas decoration. Yesterday was the oldest boy's ninth birthday. Once he was tiny. Now he is big. How the heck did that happen?

For his birthday he got a watch from us, a 100 foot tape measure and a Lego Brickmaster subscription from one set of grandparents and a bunch of Tom Swift books and a trip to Opryland Hotel from the other grandparents. He also got a collection of Smurf episodes on DVD. The lovely thing about this child is that he loves and appreciates all gifts. Had I gotten him a brick and a lump of coal, he would have been happy. Had he gotten nothing at all, he still would have found joy in the day. I wish I could be more like him and always find pleasure in where I am and what I have.

We had a party for him on Sunday afternoon. I let him pick one family to invite and so we had over some friends who have three kids around my son's age. The kids played, ate pizza and cake and made a good party of it.

Yesterday we went to Opryland to see the Christmas decorations and enjoy the tourist feeling in our own city. In the evening we went to an Advent program at our parish.

Now I need to get back to the everyday and get in some schooling along with taking down the autumnal decorations and putting out the wintery ones.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Almost Thanksgiving

My husband thinks I'm crazy, because we'll have twenty people at our house for Thanksgiving. I'm looking forward to it, but as you can imagine, it is keeping me busy!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

Friday, November 21, 2008

More Quick Takes

1. I intended to post more this week, but have instead spent most of the week with a baby attached to my chest. Before moving on to formula and totally ruining my supply, I'm trying to get it up instead. I'm taking Fenugreek, nursing a lot and trying to make sure I am drinking more fluids. I don't want to supplement with formula if I don't have to, but this is hard to keep up and I am not sure the kids have really gotten much school done this week.

2. A few years ago we read The Penderwicks and loved it. I just checked out The Penderwicks on Gardam Street on CD for us to listen to in the car. I think the kids and I will like it, but the prologue, in which the mother dies of cancer shortly after giving birth to her fourth child, is hard to take. I was crying hard.

Since I've just recently read The Four Story Mistake and The Moffats to the kids, I want to know -- what is up with killing off one or other of the parents?

3. I love Math-U-See! The kids seem to get it and I am not overwhelmed by prep work as I was with Saxon Math.

4. It seems that Thanksgiving is coming up. I need to figure out what we're making. Turkey, of course, cornbread dressing, apple-cranberry sauce, and our maple-bourbon pumpkin pie with a praline crust (which may be a long name, but it is yummy). I suspect we'll also make mashed potatoes and then I am left with the decision that is always hardest for me -- what vegetables to make. I'm always inclined towards either brussels sprouts or creamed spinach, but those have not exactly been favorites with my children in years past. I'm considering broccoli with a lemon-garlic sauce. I know they like broccoli.

5. My husband and I are going on a date tonight. I'm very excited. We haven't gone out in a long, long time.

6. My children have formed a band of super-heroes. The oldest has dubbed himself Super Strength, the next child is Power Girl, then comes The Amazing Chuckle Bunny. They've decided the two year old shall be known as Super Pork and the baby is to be called Super Short. I'm well protected by my band of heroes.

7. The baby calls. It's time to start nursing again.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Size Matters

I've been nursing babies for 80 months of my life. That's 6 2/3 years. You'd think I'd have it all figured out by now. I thought I did. The first three kids nursed happily and with no problems.

When my fourth child was six months old, I discovered he had dropped off the weight charts from a normal mid-range percentile for his first several months down to the first percentile or sometimes below. We started stuffing him with extra calories, adding formula to his cereal and other foods. He still gets Carnation Instant Breakfast along with his regular meals, but he's stayed tiny. He seems more than healthy and robust enough.

My fifth child is now doing the same thing. She was over 9 pounds at birth and at four months only weighs 12 pounds 2 ounces.

Am I just too distracted to feed the kids any more? Is there something wrong with them or with my milk? I just don't know. The doctor wants us to start supplementing with formula, which makes a happy breastfeeding mama very unhappy. But if a baby needs to eat, I'll see that she gets fed. I'm also going to try to get in and get my thyroid and other things checked out. I hope to get some answers and find out why I can't seem to feed the little ones any more.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Quick Takes

Because it's theoretically easier than writing long posts (not that I write those either) and to show my slavish devotion to Jen of The Reluctant Atheist, er, Et tu, Jen, er, Conversion Diary, I thought I would join in her Quick Takes blog-a-thon.

1. Can you ever have too much tea? My friend Jo-Lynne, who hates tea would say yes and my friend Meredith would probably agree with her, but I think that just means there is more tea out there for me to drink. When I was growing up tea was always drunk hot. I came to college in the South and if you asked for tea it came cold and sweet, unless you specified "hot tea" or asked for it without sugar.

I'm so flexible I can drink tea hot or cold and even enjoy a cup of coffee, but the true comfort drink for me is hot tea. You can imagine that my trip last winter to England was tea nirvana, right? And I brought home several boxes of some new favorites -- my most favorite of all was Fortnum and Mason's Rose Pouchong. And then I used it up and was sad. Now I'm very happy again, because my friend Patricia, back from her own extended journey through London, sent me enough Rose Pouchong to fill the air with rosy tea scented goodness for a long, long time.

2. My six year old has decided this is the week to develop an act of great oppression every time I announce it is time to do schoolwork. We've tried taking breaks and doing things she's more interested in, but eventually one must learn to do a little math, history and spelling. I'm out of creative solutions.

3. The baby has decided that the sleeping through the night thing that she's been doing for the last three or so months has been going on long enough. I think she heard me plotting to move her to her own room. She can stay with us, but I want my sleep back.

4. When you learned punctuation, assuming you did learn punctuation, how many spaces were you told to put after a period? I was told to use two. My husband informs me that in the age of the word processor, the double space after a full stop is unnecessary. I do recall reading that a lot of journals have done away with the extra space as a space-saving measure (heh) but I think it may be a sign of barbarism. Do I really need to retrain my thumb to leave out that extra space?

5. Twitter -- do I need to drink the Kool-Aid?

6. Yesterday my friend brought her four children ages twenty months up to seven over so that she could go to her first midwife appointment. They wound up staying about three hours and all the kids were great -- no fighting or fussing. Other than her little one nearly giving himself a black eye when he tripped, it was easy. Who'd have thought nine kids could be so little trouble?

7. For those of you who are Catholic -- do you fast during Advent? Some people I know do, but it seems like most don't. However, to really prepare for the coming of Jesus, fasting does make sense. We're thinking about doing something as a family, but the selfish part of me doesn't really want to do anything that would interfere with all the Christmas parties that take place during the time before Christmas.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Opus Dei Kool-Aid

I haven't actually drunk the Kool-Aid, but I did go to their monthly Recollections service last weekend. What else could I do when my husband said, "Go to Recollections. I'll watch all the kids."?

Although not held at my parish church, most of the women there were familiar faces and one of my favorite priests gave the talks. I've never really had a chance to go to any sort of Adoration all by myself and it's amazing how much more one gets from silent prayer when one isn't watching several children and whispering over and over for them to stop wiggling, stop talking and sit still.

I don't think I'm interested in joining any extra groups, but I did like going to Recollections.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Elephant-y Goodness

I realized over the weekend that Advent is almost upon us. I'm not planning to make every present we give this year. Some people just don't appreciate a handcrafted gift and a gift is for the recipient, not the giver, after all. But, I do like making presents when I can and I have several things in mind for this year.

My first craft of the season is a little stuffed toy for my 1 year old nephew. I bought a copy of Horton Hears a Who for him and although I wasn't up to trying to make a Horton look-alike, I thought an elephant would go nicely with the book. Especially, because his room is decorated in a jungle theme.

I sketched out an elephant shape (which my son informed me looked like a Republican elephant -- I wonder why I had that in mind?) cut it out, pinned it to some fabric I'd had lying around. I cut a fairly regular seam allowance around the edges, traced the pattern shape onto the back of the fabric to make it easier for me to stay true to the shape, braided some yarn for a tail and pinned the whole thing together inside out with the tail in between the pieces.

Then it was just a matter of stitching it all together, making sure to give extra strength to the parts that need reinforcement. I left the spot between the legs open, snip snip snipped around all the curvy spots, and then turned it all right side out. The trunk was hard to turn, but do-able. It was also hard to stuff, but again, it could be done. Once the shape was stuffed, I hand-stitched it closed, embroidered on the features and called it done.

I think it took about an hour and that was with a lot of "helpful" on-lookers, commentary and a nursing break.

Monday, November 10, 2008


We're rather fond of her.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Dooty Time

Is it wrong spirited of me to tell my two year old that I'm giving him a diaper change he can believe in?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Forever Geeky

Usually when we're driving in the car (that is when the kids and I are in the car), we either listen to a story, the Math-U-See skip counting CD or I pretend that since nothing is coming through the speakers that the bickering in the backseat is really the "sound of silence." I thought some music might be a nice change yesterday, so I popped in a little Frank Sinatra.

Groovy. The kids were enjoying it and so was I. Then the song "Jealous Lover" came on. "Mom, what's a jealous lover?" asked the six year old. I told her the singer's girlfriend is afraid that the singer wants to find a new girlfriend. That was a good enough answer for my six year old, but then my eight year old chimed in, "Oh good. He's using jealous correctly. So many people misuse it these days."

Keeping It Hidden

After five babies, I have finally discovered a system of clothing that works for me and allows me to nurse without showing my belly -- which after five babies, I know you'd agree, needs to remain hidden.

I didn't have much of a problem after baby number one. I wasn't toned and flat of tummy any more, but everything seemed to be covered fairly easily, but as shirts got shorter and the skin on my abdomen stretched more and more, I tried several different options and was pleased with none. Nursing camisoles were a pain and always squished my chest into a mono-boob. Plus they too were shorter in the waist than I liked.

This time around though, I went to Target and bought a few long Hanes tank tops. They tuck in and are long enough to stay tucked in and the neckline is low enough that I can just pull it down when I'm settling in to nurse. No flashing skin and with our old drafty house, extra layers in the winter are welcome for their warmth as well.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

We Do Live in Music City

Sigh. I'm glad I went to bed early, because being relatively well rested is about the only good news I got this morning.

Still, my children have become song writers and in a spirit of sharing their, um, "talent" and because well, I don't want to be a sore loser, here's their latest musical offering:

Joe the Biden (to the tune of Yankee Doodle)

Joe the Biden went to town a-riding on a pony,
Stuck a feather in his hat and called it Mccain-roni.
Joe the Biden keep it up,
Joe the Biden dandy,
Mind the polling and the step,
And with Palin be handy.

We can always laugh.

Monday, November 03, 2008

I'm Not a Doctor, But I Practice on My Children

My diagnosis of my baby daughter's lump as a hemangioma seems to be correct. Friday morning, I took the wee one to the local children's hospital for an ultrasound. Other than the patient wanting to coo and wiggle rather than lie still, the ultrasound was easy enough and we were told we'd hear the results on Monday.

On Saturday morning, I got a phone call personally from our pediatrician. I love the pediatrician we go to. Other than our year in Alaska, all my children have seen her since the day they were born. She's calm, not interested in over-medicating when a simple solution exists, and calls me herself when she has fairly important things to talk to me about.

The results of the ultrasound were indeed consistent with a hemangioma. There's little else for us to do at this point other than keep an eye on its growth, but as a precaution the pediatrician wants us to talk to a pediatric dermatologist, which won't happen until December.

Until then, I will just be hoping the lump won't grow much.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Eats, Shoots and Leaves

On a lighter note, I hope all of my readers know where their apostrophes and commas go. Test yourself here.


Some of you (I'm pretending that more than three people are still visiting this poor neglected blog) may remember that my second daughter had a large hemangioma right in the middle of her forehead. At first it looked like a caste mark, then like she'd bumped her head and then like nothing but a big red bump. Then it started fading, she grew bangs and now other than a slight discoloration and wrinkled skin, I hardly think about it. The two year old boy didn't have any birthmarks, which wasn't too surprising because these things are more common in girls.

Now I have another baby girl. A week or two after she was born, I noticed a teeny red mark on her neck. Something about it made me suspect that it wasn't going to get huge like her big sister's mark and so I didn't do more than point it out to the pediatrician and move on. That would have been that, except that on Tuesday afternoon when I was giving the baby a bath, I noticed a rather large lump on her back at the base of her neck. Not in the spot where the tiny red mark was, but a new place with another tiny red spot on top of the big lump.

Although I was pretty sure that this too was some sort of hemangioma, it is certainly different from the other kinds I've dealt with. This one seems to be more rapidly growing and deeper under the skin than my older child's. So we went to the doctor. The doctor agrees with my basic diagnosis that it is benign and probably some sort of hemangioma. It still isn't a great thing to have growing on your little girl's back.

Tomorrow morning we'll be going to the hospital for an ultrasound to try to get more information about what's going on and how the lump is growing. Personally, I wish it would all just go away.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Gruesome Game


"Hey kids! Remember those two princes that Richard III had murdered? Remember the staircase in the White Tower where their bodies were found? Let's play a game about it!"

That's not a conversation we've had recently in our house, although my kids probably do remember the two princes and the staircase where their bodies were found centuries after the fact. However, I was flipping through the Story of the World Activity Book and noticed that one of their activities for the chapter on "The War for the English Throne" is a "Princes in the Tower Game."

I know from experience that coming up with exciting ways to fix the stories of history in kids' minds can be a challenge, but I want no part of playing this grisly little game. Two young boys were murdered. That's hardly the stuff of children's play and I'm a bit disgusted.

Monday, October 20, 2008


The word for last week was definitely overscheduled. A wonderful friend of mine from college arrived last Monday to spend the week with us. We haven't seen her since last fall, so it was wonderful to have her here, but it was also good that she's perfectly capable of entertaining herself most of the time, because other than our Wednesday all day trip with my five children to our alma mater two hours away from here, I wasn't a great hostess.

Every day seemed to have overlapping and conflicting requirements and schedules. For instance, on Thursday the oldest had Latin, two of the others had check-ups in another part of town. My husband was in court and I had to get a friend to bring the oldest home while I raced back from the pediatrician's office. On Friday, I'd agreed to watch a friend's five children while she took classes to get started on her doula certification. Since she helped me with my last labor and birth it was the least I could do. Except that I forgot I was supposed to take my six year old to the other side of town for a meeting with her Little Flowers group. My husband had to stay home for the morning so both could be accomplished.

Saturday found me up bright and early driving with the baby over to the fabulous Blissdom conference sponsored by Epson and filled with lots of wonderful and interesting bloggers. I got to meet some local bloggers like those behind Blonde Mom Blog, Front Porch Legacy, Mrs. 007, and Sarcastic Mom. I got to renew my acquaintance with Michelle, Karla, Alli, Elizabeth and a few others and of course met lovely bloggers who had come in from far away like Tsh. I'd show you pictures, but my camera decided to die.

Of course, going off to something like that couldn't be simple. I couldn't stay for the whole thing. My friend was still in town and I wanted to actually see her some before she left. Plus there was a lecture at 1 o'clock about my confirmation saint. So promptly at noon, I bowed out of Blissdom not having gotten to hang out nearly as much as I might have liked, raced for the car, wolfed down some lunch at home, picked up my friend and sped off to the Cathedral to hear about St. Gianna. I suppose I could have gone back to Blissdom, but I'd lost momentum and was exhausted. I just wanted to sit down and let some one else take care of the baby for a while since I'd been carrying her in the sling all day long.

Sunday was mostly a day of rest, but even with a nap, I was still tuckered out and having trouble getting out of bed this morning. My plan for this week is to keep it simple. Stay home, educate the children, do laundry and try to go to bed early. Let's see how it goes.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Book Review Time

I've been mulling over the last book I read for most of the last week. The funny parts have returned over and over and made me laugh almost as hard the second or third time around as when I first read them. The poignant and thought-provoking parts also wander in and out of the recesses of my brain and I ponder what they all meant. For both poignancy and humor I loved the book, but can I truly recommend a book to anyone else that contains frequent use of the f-word (among others) and where the main character has, um, shall we say a vivid imagination about his wife?

Oh well. I'm recommending it anyway, because despite those parts, I think the book is definitely a worthwhile one. I have not giggled, chuckled and laughed so hard reading anything quite a while. Nor have I read a book that made me think about life and the living of it in quite the way this one does.

I suppose you want to know the title? It's Straight Man by Richard Russo. The story of a middle aged English professor coming to terms with middle age, his parents, and the fact that he can't pee.

I haven't lived in academia for some time now, but I'm the daughter of a professor and I have two graduate degrees, so I have some inkling of the dysfunctional side of academic departments. Russo's imagined English department is more dysfunctional than any I've ever seen in real life, but he catches the essence of academia and raises it to new levels of craziness as the protagonist Hank Devereaux reluctantly leads the department through a job search for which position there is no funding, a general lack of budget for the coming year, rumors of a mass layoff threatening even those with tenure, and, of course, dealing mediocre and downright crummy students (and faculty).

While the English department carries on its usual unhappy and back-biting way, his wife is out of town, his daughter's life is falling apart and his long gone, philandering father is returning to Hank's mother. Through it all, Hank finds himself unable to pee and often yearns more for that than great deeds or marvelous events. He is a man of middle age, learning that he is what he is -- no more and no less.

Although I am not middle age yet, I have, of late, been struck by the need to be what I am -- to be content where I am and living the life I have. Which is not to say that one cannot strive to be the best at what one is, but I sometimes need to realize that if we were the ones to do great deeds we would have done them -- as Hank considers that if he had been meant to write more than one novel, he would have written it. This is what has been sifting through my mind, although with all the laugh lines. Sometimes the smallest of physical things are what we need and long for most. The great deeds that in our youth we imagined within our grasp were never there, but the life we are leading as we age, the path we wandered down in living is a good one and a valuable one even without the splendid palaces and golden crowns.

I don't know. Either I'm making too much of it, or there is probably more there that I'm missing, but I still say in spite of the, ahem, naughty bits, it's a lot more than those and worth the read -- even if just for the laughs.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Old Grey Mare, She Ain't What She Used to Be.

The older kids were blowing up some balloons for an experiment we are doing, when the six year old said, "Hey, that looks like a nur-nur!" (Nur-nur being the word in our family for the mammary glands themselves as well as the milk and act of feeding a baby.) At first as the only family member with these particular appendages I might have been almost flattered at the thought of full balloon shaped bosoms, then I looked up and noticed my oldest was blowing up one of those long, skinny balloons. Sigh.

Is Catching Up with Old Friends a Good Thing?

A while back I signed up for a Facebook account. I can't remember why exactly -- curiosity or boredom probably. I really didn't understand the point of it all, but signed up for an account. Before I'd filled out any details at all, my friend Blair had found me. I still didn't really get it. I have her e-mail address and she has mine. If we want to keep in touch we already can.

Slowly, I started adding friends, although I went through a mini-crisis trying to decide what the meaning of "friend" is. If I actually stuck to real friends -- people I care a lot about and really want to keep in touch with on a regular basis -- I would probably have about five Facebook friends. I soon discovered that friend on Facebook really often means you have a fleeting memory of passing some one in the halls of high school or college and saying "Hi!" once in a while. I'd feel pretty popular with my seventy-two friends, except that there are a few people who asked to be my friends that I remember only the face and/or name of. I don't even remember saying, "Hi!" to them back in the days of my youth.

I do "get" Facebook now. I really enjoy seeing the status updates and sending brief little messages back and forth with people. It has been nice to regularly be able to check in with actual friends I often only heard from once in a blue moon and there have been a few people I've become reacquainted with about whom I often wondered "Where are they now?".

On the other hand, I've also found out where these people are now and sometimes am struck by how weird they now seem to me and how weird I am sure I seem to them. A few past acquaintances have radically altered their political positions. Others are now followers of pagan goddesses. Some of the more wild ones have settled down -- gotten jobs, spouses and responsibilities. I'm sure also that reading about my being Catholic and having five children has raised more than a few eyebrows amongst people I haven't heard from in years.

Facebook has been an interesting experience to see where I came from and figure out where some of us have gone, but the "friend" thing is still strange to me. Would I be friends with these people now? Would they be friends with me? Some would and are. Others, if we hadn't chanced to grow up in the same town or go to the same college, would never be people I'd seek out in my daily life as it currently stands -- even if we were all back in the same place again.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Seriously Disturbing

My six year old is sitting across the room reading Llama Llama Red Pajama and amusing herself by substituting Obama for the word Mama in the text. A cute story becomes rather icky this way. Where does she learn talk like that? She certainly didn't hear it from me, even if I am supposedly a centrist.

I will now return this blog to the usual state of apolitical babble.

A Centrist???

You are a

Social Moderate
(41% permissive)

and an...

Economic Conservative
(66% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also : The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

And I wonder, am I the only person out there who finds it slightly appalling to be described as a centrist?

I thought I was a totalitarian swine!
Isn't that what conservative mothers of five are being called these days?

Monday, October 06, 2008


Nobody threw up on me today. Nobody wet the bed. Nobody went to the ER. Nothing horrible happened and yet I'm having one of those days any way.

I suppose it all began with my first grader flunking her language test. We've been working on these spelling words for a week and she seemed to understand and know what she was doing. But a little phonics and spelling test undermined that notion. She just doesn't get it at all today.

And the eight year old makes a lot of careless errors in his math and he constantly writes "w" instead of "u" when doing cursive.

It was all getting me down; so I gave them some free time to play and read.

Then whilst making lunch, I let the water boil out of the pot I was using and came near to ruining it. It's my favorite and I use it for everything, of course.

When I was reading to the older kids, the three year old wrote on the tablecloth in crayon and told me her brother did it -- he was taking a nap at the time. Then I caught her scratching the finish off the end tables with a fork.


Am I the only one who has days like this? My husband informs me that this wasn't a bad day, but it sure feels like one. Everything seems not to be quite right. Annoyances are more annoying today and I'm tired of doing all the usual things. Laundry piles engulf me, dishes are never ending and there is always another meal to cook. I know these things need doing and it isn't all about me, but I am tired and having a hard time adjusting today.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Friday Fun

Myrna Loy

You are class itself, the calm, confident "perfect woman." Men turn and look at you admiringly as you walk down the street, and even your rivals have a grudging respect for you. You always know the right thing to say, do and, of course, wear. You can take charge of a situation when things get out of hand, and you're a great help to your partner even if they don't immediately see or know it. You are one classy dame. Your screen partners include William Powell and Cary Grant, you little simmerpot, you.

Find out what kind of classic leading man you'd make by taking the
Classic Leading Man Test.

Take The Classic Dames Test at HelloQuizzy

From Diane, the quilter extraordinaire!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

For the Love of All Things Anne

Last week on library day when I was walking through the new fiction section, a book with a yellow cover and a photo of the back of a young girl with two long red braids caught my eye. "Hmmm," I thought, "Before Green Gables? I wonder if it is dreadful?" I'm such an optimist about these things, obviously.

As most of the women I know do, I love Anne though and have read and reread all the books about her many times over. (As an odd aside, although I own several L.M. Montgomery books -- practically everything else including tons of short stories -- I've never owned any of the Anne books.) The author of this book, Budge Wilson, though I had never heard of her, seemed to be a writer in her own right, which made me wonder, "Would she stick to the story Montgomery hints at in Anne's past or would she try for something different?"

Obviously I had to check out the book. I got home and started reading. Despite my original skepticism, I think the author nailed this. It's a darker book in many ways than the Montgomery books, but then the story of Anne's early life has always hinted at being rather dark with death, "intoxicated husbands" and the drudgery of a great deal of hard work with women who never really wanted her.

In the midst of the difficulties, a reader learns about Anne "meeting" Katie Maurice, kindred spirits who befriend her, and how a young orphan girl with little schooling knows so many big words and bits of poetry before she gets to Prince Edward Island.

The trip through Anne's early years is well done, well researched both historically and in reference to the original books. The author has her own voice, but also stayed true to Anne and L.M. Montgomery. Anne's indomitable spirit shines and I feel a great need to read the rest of the original books again. I think I know what I'll be checking out on the next library day.

Monday, September 29, 2008


My oldest daughter turned six over the weekend. How did that happen?

In some ways things haven't changed very much. She was a spitfire as a baby and she's grown into a very dramatic child, often costumed and also often getting into trouble for punching a sibling who angers her. She can almost simultaneously be the most lovely and delightful child, helping cook in the kitchen, telling me about a story she's read or caring for a sibling and also the most annoying, aggravating kid.

I find myself completely baffled by her sometimes and at other times I think she may be the most like me. Maybe that's why she baffles me.

She certainly looks the most like me, although as much as I wanted glasses as a kid, I never got them. For her they have made a world of difference. Before she got them, she never drew anything, her ability to read went backwards and we were both frustrated. After glasses, a whole new world opened up. Now I have a hard time prying her away from books, she draws lovely pictures and she's writing as well as most of the other first graders I know.

Even though she still has the, ahem, lively personality she's always had and a sometimes interesting perspective on the truth (her first famous bout of trying to blame someone else for her misdeeds came before age 2, when she claimed the dog had taken a bite out of each apple), I marvel at the chance to be around someone so fascinating.

Whatever she does that may at times drive me completely insane, and my husband can attest to the fact that more than anyone else she does make me crazy, she's also the child which when I think about I just have to say, "Wow! What a kid." I worry more about her and pray more about her. If she just uses her powers for good, the bad guys better watch out!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Nashville Gas Shortage

As many of you have probably heard on the news, Nashville has been experiencing something of a gas shortage. There have been long lines at the stations that had gas at all and many, many stations have just been sold out and shut down on and off for days. Not being old enough to remember the gas lines of the 1970s (I guess I lived through them, I just don't remember it), I have never seen anything like it.

Fortunately for the Adams' family, I filled up the tank on the Friday before Ike swept through Texas and Nashvillians went gas crazy. We usually only use about a half tank per week, so we're doing fine and not particularly affected by the local gas woes ourselves. Still, it is definitely a problem for a city to run out of gas.

Obviously one person was bored while stuck at home without gasoline -- and so I present a hilarious (although filled with foul language) video about the current difficulties faced by my city.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Truth in Advertising Division

Due to some comments and e-mails I have received, I have decided that I need to elaborate a bit on the photo of me at the side. Everyone has been universally complementary of it and if I do say so myself, it is a rather nice picture, however while it is a photo of me -- it is not a photo of the whole me.

You see, that photo was taken when I was a seventeen year old freshman in college. By my calculations, I only have one more year until that was taken seventeen years ago. The girl in that photo is just that -- a girl.

Since that photo was taken, I've met a nice boy and finished college. I finished two graduate degrees. I got married and have lived in several different states from Arizona to Alaska. I've also had five babies and have either been pregnant or nursing a baby (or both) since 1999. I've also gained, ahem, a bit of weight since my college weight of barely 100 lbs.

So that photo is me, but it is only a part of the history of me. I wouldn't really want to be just that seventeen year old college girl again (though I wouldn't mind weighing what she weighed). I'm glad I've grown up since then and become the woman I am now. Thank you all for the kind words about the photo, but some time soon I'll probably show you something a little more recent.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Nerd Boy

"Mom, those math problems were fun! Can you print me out another sheet of them?"

"Mom, I've memorized the Canadian provinces and territories. Can you quiz me on them?"

"Ask me the state capitals."

"Listen to me recite the Pater Noster."

What do I do with a precocious third grader? Keeping up with him is already keeping me on my toes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

All Through the Night

Guess who slept from 10:45 to 7:30 in her bassinet! Woohoo!

Note: The above photo is not from this morning. I do not keep pillows in the bassinet.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Big Catholic Families

"I like being Catholic," said the eight year old. "Not only because I love the faith, but also because I have so many friends now. Before at church there were only four kids around my age. Now there are more than fifteen!"

Not all Catholic parishes are bursting with children, but we attend one with lots of large families. In fact, my husband and I were joking that with our five children we've just met the minimum quota. Of course, this isn't true, but there are an awful lot of families that take up two pews on a Sunday morning.

There are kids every where. There is noise and life. There are wiggly kids and kids who have to go to the bathroom. There are babies nursing and children fussing. And they aren't always only my children!

It is always comforting to be in a group with others like you. When doing something different, like raising a large family, it sure helps to have older moms and dads who have been through all this to talk to and friends who are doing it right now to commiserate with.

Over the weekend, we had our Catholic homeschooling group over for a potluck and annual planning meeting. By my count we had thirty-two kids and a lot of families didn't make it and some left their older children at home. I'm glad to be part of that group; to have found so many people to help me through all the tough times that come with raising and educating the children.

My son is right. It is nice being Catholic.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Apparently I'm Not a Man


I scored 10/15, which is "just enough knowledge to be dangerous." That fits me pretty well. Which is why I generally let the man in the family do the fix-it projects.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Another Anniversary

As goes without saying, the world is different today than it was seven years ago. Seven years ago, I was in Alaska and woke to the phone ringing at 7 a.m. My husband away in California was calling to tell me of the attacks that had happened and the towers that had fallen. It had all happened before I even woke up. I watched the news in shock and horror until my little boy, not quite two years old, took notice of the TV and started babbling about airplanes and smoke.

I couldn't stand the thought of him seeing the horror of it all and at the same time I was so grateful that I could shield him from it by shutting off the television. There were some parents in the thick of it, who could not do the same; those traveling on the planes with their children; those in the Pentagon and the WTC who knew they weren't going to be coming home to their children. There was no off-button for them.

Seven years later that little boy is almost nine and I have four other little ones that I hang on to and endeavor to teach and protect. The war that started that day is still going on and turning off the news won't stop my children from knowing what's happening in the world for long. Nor should they be kept entirely in the dark. Those who died and the tale of that horrible day should not be forgotten and so we have to tell the story and pray for those who were lost.

Today is a day to mourn and never, ever forget.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


  • You know those days when things get done, the house isn't a wreck and the kids are learning? How come those don't happen more often?

  • I'm going to pretend the brown streaks on the bathroom wall are just mud as I scrub them away, okay?

  • I'm having a million homeschooling kids and their parents over on Saturday. It might thunderstorm. Eeek!

  • My son, breastfeeding advocate. Said five year old, "I'm pretending to be a newborn and I'm drinking out of a bottle because my mom doesn't nurse me." The eight year old looks up, "Don't play that. That's really sad."

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Idiot's Guide to Hockey

I love Terry and I miss him a great deal now that he's "not blogging." However, even when he's "not blogging" he still puts up the occasional "not blog post." Terry's Guide to Hockey is absolutely on par with some of his other classics, like his post explaining the difference between cheese puffs and cheese curls.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

On this, the feast of the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta the kids and I painted and read her story.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Trouble and the Fusspot

I'll leave it to you to figure out which is which.

A Get Together

I'm slow to mention this, but the other night I had the chance to meet up with several Nashville bloggers (Meredith, Malia, and Shauna) and my friend Jo-Lynne, from Philadelphia. Jo-Lynne's been blogging for a while, but I've known her for nine and a half years, since we started chatting on-line when we were pregnant with our first children. It was fun to finally meet in person. Also pictured, two of my girls and my friend Nina, who has also been chatting with Jo-Lynne and me for the last nine and a half years.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

My three year old sat at the table firmly resisting my demand that she take a bite of her squash, red pepper and carrots. "Eat the carrots," I told her. "You like carrots."

"Not anymore," she told me. "I got used to them."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sanity in a Bottle


I've been dealing with this depression thing. It isn't totally gone and it's a pain in the neck, but I've found a powerful aid in the fight. No, I'm not downing any Tennessee whiskey nor am I popping any prescription anti-depressants. I stumbled upon a much healthier and cheaper alternative -- my multi-vitamin.

I'm not exactly sure what vitamin or mineral I've been needing a boost in, although my OB informs me that one study showed about 40% of women got as much PMS help from extra calcium as from Zoloft, but whether it was calcium, a B-vitamin or something else, taking my daily vitamin has become something of a sanity booster around here.

Vitamins haven't solved all of life's problems. The baby is still a fusspot, the almost two year old writes on the furniture, the three year old mouths off, the five year old never completes any assigned task and the eight year old won't stop talking about Legos all day long, but some how just taking a regular old vitamin has kept me from screaming my head off, locking myself in the bathroom with a book and telling them all to fend for themselves.

I'm not a doctor and can't tell whether anyone else out there needs something stronger, but for me a vitamin has been a major booster of mental health. And it's cheap too!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Meals My Kids Won't Eat

"What do your children like to eat?"

I was frequently asked that question as kind and generous people brought me meals after the baby's birth. Unfortunately, I usually answered unhelpfully that I really didn't know. They liked everything, nothing, and something in between. I also callously added that if they didn't like the meal, I didn't mind letting them starve. (Okay, I might have said that, but in reality there is always a peanut butter and jelly sandwich just waiting for them to make it and even the three year old can make her own.)

Knowing the likes and dislikes of any group of people is difficult and I find my children to be almost completely unpredictable. One week they love string cheese. The next they won't touch it. Do they love cashews or do they think they are repulsive? The answer varies from child to child and from minute to minute. I may spend all day every day with these guys, but they are still individuals for whom I cannot predict everything.

Let us examine two recipes I recently made here at home. The first was Mujedrah (recipe below the fold). I was skeptical about the reception by the brood of a meal of lentils and rice. They like both, but would they really want that to be their dinner? The yogurt sauce was gobbled down by two kids from the beginning, eyed with suspicion by one because "yogurt with vegetables" was not on the approved list (but then the child ate about five helpings once it was taste-tested) and the fourth ate no yogurt sauce. All of them, however, loved the basic dish and I've been asked to make it again.

The second recipe was for coconut macaroon pancakes. What's not to love? A lot. One child decided that coconut was not her thing. Another child declared "hairy pancakes" weird. One crumbled them and fed them to the dog and the fourth ate a ton. The one who ate them is my pickiest eater usually.

Who can know the eating habits of my children? Their ways are not my ways and their tastes are mysterious.

Crockpot Mujedrah and Yogurt Sauce
3/4 cup dried lentils (brown or green)
3/4 cup parboiled (converted) rice
3 cups water
3 chicken boullion cubes (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
Onion Topping:
2 medium onions, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Yogurt Sauce:
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup finely diced or grated cucumber
1 tablespoon fresh mint, torn
1/4 teaspoon salt

  • Rinse lentils under cold water and drain. Combine the lentils, rice, water and boullion in the crockpot. Cover and cook on high for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the liquid is almost completely absorbed. Add salt and pepper and stir gently.
  • For the onion topping, heat oil in a large skillet. Add onions, salt and pepper, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for about 20 minutes. The onions will brown, but do not allow them to burn.
  • Meanwhile, make the yogurt sauce. Mix together yogurt, cucumber, mint and salt; cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • When serving, top the lentils and rice with the onions and offer the yogurt for people to use as they see fit.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Slithery Questions

Five year old to three year old: Why do you think a viper is called a viper?

Three year old to five year old: I don't know. Is it because they viperate?

Five year old, with air of superiority: They call that slithering.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Music Nerds

First my husband starting talking about scholas. I didn't know what one was, but I soon learned. Then he started talking about the Missa Simplex and the Missa de Angelis. Then he was organizing a schola for our parish, recruiting people, and practicing. He was also singing the Kyrie, Sanctus and Gloria as he walked around the house and teaching them to the kidlets. This was all good, although it's a little odd to hear mass parts echoing throughout the house day and night and I don't particularly like watching all the kids while my husband is practicing with the schola.

It's moved into the nerdy and weird now, though. My children know the music for the Missa de Angelis so well now, that they are chanting everything. Conversations at the dinner table are sometimes chanted. My 22 month old will chime in with "a, a, a, a, a -donk' which is his interpretation of part of the Kyrie. And the other day in the car, my children started trying to figure out the best way to chant "Pattycake, pattycake baker's man."

In this family one has to chant to get along, it seems.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My Little Helper

My children, although often the cause of the distractions and messes around here, are usually good helpers. I expect a lot of help from the older ones, but generally I assume the almost two year old won't be doing much. He's been surprising me lately though.

He feeds the dog (you do have to stop him before the dog gets overfed and overweight), he likes to help with laundry and turn on the dryer, and he likes to help out with his little sister. (Note, I would never, ever leave an accident prone toddler alone with a baby.) Yesterday though, I was in the kitchen and I had to put the baby down to do something.

My daughter is a big believer in attachment parenting. In fact, she believes she should always be attached to me. When I put her down on the ground, she immediately started squalling. A minute or two later, her littlest big brother came dashing in, holding a pacifier he'd found some place, and stuffed it in her mouth, saying, "Oh no. Baby cry."

And my heart might have just melted into a puddle on the floor.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

It's Been a While

The last week has been rather overwhelming.

We've been getting back into school and although we're only in the second week, I haven't once been able to completely follow the schedule I set up. I think that may mean the schedule needs some revisions. Over all school seems to be going well though. We've hit all the main subjects and some of the extras. I did find out that this year our umbrella school, under which we register the kids for their homeschooling, is requiring standardized tests for grades 3 and up. This means my oldest is going to need to learn how to take a standardized test and it means one more thing for me to worry about.

And as for worrying, I've been doing more than my fair share of that, along with crying, and other jags of misery associated with postpartum depression. I'm not particularly inclined to discuss it more than that, but I will say that when a wave of depression hits, it knocks me pretty hard and I don't like it.

Moving on to a happier note, our house is slowly coming together and turning into a house. We spent the last week, when not schooling the kids or crying, unpacking and sorting books and cleaning out the family room which had been mostly a storage warehouse up until now. Not any more -- it is now a room devoted to school, play and other pursuits of that nature.

Eventually, we'll paint it, because I not only don't like its orange walls, but I like them even less with the various white patches where the plaster needed to be repaired. Of course, it also needs some art on the walls, but all those things can come in the distant time known as "some day" because I don't like hanging things on plaster walls much. It always pains me when I hear the plaster keys falling down behind the wall no matter how carefully I drilled pilot holes. So I leave those things for my husband -- if the wall collapses I have someone else to blame.

Until then, what I've learned in the last week is that we have a lot of books; too many books. A surprising number of duplicate books that we've been hauling around for who knows how long have finally been weeded out though and set aside to be removed from the premises.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The First Day of School

I'm starting the school year with the kidlets today. Naturally, this means (1) I broke (or think I probably broke my toe) yesterday when my three year old dropped a plate on it (2) the 21 month old is running a 103 degree fever (3) I still haven't unpacked all the books I plan on using (4) my mother-in-law is going to be stopping by this afternoon (5) the house is a wreck. In spite of all this, we have indeed made it through math, history, story time and the oldest is working on a geography project sneakily disguised as fun by yours truly.

Friday, August 01, 2008


A little bit of this and a little bit of that:

  • Congratulations to Michelle on her cute new arrival.
  • It rocks my world to think of Robbo being anywhere other than the Llamabutchers, but go visit his new blog The Port Stands at Your Elbow.
  • I'm really enjoying the Faith and Family blog these days. All sorts of encouragement over there.
  • Speaking of encouragement, I think Elizabeth Foss is always encouraging, but I particularly needed to read this post today.
  • One benefit in using old books in the public domain for homeschooling -- when you haven't unpacked the books yet, you can find a copy online.
  • Isn't this bag the coolest? It makes me want to go shopping just to acquire some interesting plastic bags.
  • Unpacking and moving the kids upstairs goes slowly. Well, the kids are sleeping upstairs, but everything upstairs and down in in chaos at present.

And finally, isn't she cute?

And isn't he frightening?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Home Front


Yesterday we passed our electrical inspections and my husband called for the final inspection upstairs. I didn't expect them to schedule it so soon, but the codes inspector arrived today. He looked around, checked things out and passed everything. So all our permits are finally closed out. We can unpack the upstairs and finally put the kids in their rooms. The oldest is especially thrilled at the prospect of not rooming with his sisters for the first time in over a year (and who can blame him?). After all this time, I'm really looking forward to unpacking and settling in.

And on another house note, thanks to Jeanne for making me glad we put in wooden and not granite countertops.

Monday, July 28, 2008

It's That Time if Year

What time of year is that you ask? The time of year when I remember that I never did spend time early on figuring out what we'll be doing for homeschooling this year and so I must figure it all out quickly, make any necessary book orders, figure out a preliminary school day schedule and send in the homeschooling application. It's also the time of year when I flip through the Rainbow Resource phone book sized catalog and the Montessori Services catalog and decide I want to buy everything.

Since buying everything out there wouldn't actually help me and would impoverish me, instead last week, I sat down and figured out my basic curriculum for the two oldest, who will be doing first and third grade work this year. I think it will go well, although one can never tell, I suppose. For some subjects, we'll be using the books I planned to use last year, but that we put aside in December when we moved into our house and never picked up again, opting for a more unschooling approach during the spring when we were traveling, renovating and getting ready for the baby. I'm buying a few new books, but not all that much.

The subjects I mainly intend to cover are: Mathematics, English, Science, History, Religion, Art, and Music Appreciation. The oldest will also be doing a Latin tutorial. To keep things simpler for me, I've decided to do the same science and history for both kids. I will probably require more from the older than the younger (certainly I will at first, because other than her name the five year old can't write anything yet). Both kids will continue to work at their levels in Math-U-See, which we started using last year and which we have all been very pleased with. For English, the oldest will be continuing on with Serle's Primary Language Lessons and I'm going to try a new book with the first grader called McRuffy 1st Grade Phonics And Reading.

Besides doing Sunday School classes at church, we'll continue to study the catechism at home, use Catholic Mosaic to learn more about the Saints and just try to develop a better sense of the liturgical year as we move through it. We'll be doing artist studies every month or so and I'll make up related art projects as we go along and we'll be taking the kids to the symphony and introducing the music and composers they will here there. I'd like to sign them up for piano lessons, but we'll see how my sanity is holding up before I take that step.

If I can get all that going along with all the regular reading, thinking and stuff of that nature, I think we'll have a year that covers a lot and in which we all learn a great deal.

Things That Make Me Happy Today

I've got various things I want to get done today, and if I get them done, I may return, otherwise I present you with a list of my happy things.

  • Zinnias blooming in the garden. Most things are looking a bit tired and crispy these days, but the zinnias are a bright spot at the moment.

  • Losing 27 lbs. of baby weight. Not all I'd like to lose, but it is a nice start.

  • People who brought us dinners for the past two weeks. I'm going to have to start cooking for myself soon, but those meals sure were nice.

  • Getting the stuff ready and sent off for this year's homeschooling application.

  • A baby who slept almost all night -- even if it did mean certain parts of me were very uncomfortable in the morning.

  • Passing our electrical inspection. We only have the final upstairs inspection and we can really unpack and settle in up there.

So that's what makes me happy. How about you?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Note to Self

That timer is going off because you set it. It is not some strange beeping unrelated to anything in the house. You set the timer so you would remember to turn off the soaker hoses, but if you can't remember that you set the timer or that the hoses are running and can't seem to find the timer on the oven in the kitchen but rather just sit and wonder where that annoying beep is coming from, then you really are spacey.

Self, I always suspected as much.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I Did It!

I have successfully gotten five children out the door and buckled into the car all by myself twice now.

The first time was yesterday when I got them out, picked up my husband and left him in charge of the kids while I raced to my doctor's office a few minutes before they closed to verify that I did, sadly, have a UTI as I had suspected. As if recovering from child birth weren't bad enough by itself!

Today was more fun, but also more work. I decided that we all needed to get out, so I suggested to the bigger kids that if they were to straighten up the living room, sort out the library books and put their shoes on, we might be able to make it to the library. That spurred them into action, because they love a trip to the library.

I think it took us about an hour from my proposal of the outing until we were actually headed out the door, but we weren't working under the pressure of any schedule so that was fine. The baby slept in the car on the way there, in the sling almost the entire time walking around the library (except when I sat down for story time, but she nursed and went back to sleep) and so she was primed for a wide awake, screaming fit on the car ride home. Fortunately, the ride isn't too long. In the meantime though, we got to show her off to some of our favorite librarians and check out a new supply of approximately 50 books. It always feels good to get fresh reading materials. I wanted to stop and get something for myself, but I knew I wouldn't actually have a chance to read anything right now and so passed by the grown-up section.

I'm not sure how an outing where we have to be some place at a certain time will go, nor am I excited about venturing out to the grocery store with all five children in tow, but I'm glad to know that I can make it out the door and bring them all home in one piece.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Aging Gracefully

Here's a slideshow called "Classic Beauties: How They Aged." Some of the beautiful movie stars of yesteryear aged well. Some did not. What's really telling though, is that all of them aged. They do not look like strangely taut, alien versions of their formerly youthful selves. They look like real people who got older. It doesn't seem like movie stars allow themselves to do that any more.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Saturday, July 19, 2008

One Whole Week

A week has gone by since the not-so wee one was born. She's doing quite well, sleeping most of the day and night. Her nursing is rather vigorous, but the cracks I developed in the first days are getting better and I don't wince at the thought of her latching on any more. She's awfully sweet, although since she pretty much wants to be held 24/7, I never feel free or able to get much done.

My husband had this first week off from work, which I enjoyed. On Friday though, he did have to go out and do work related thing. I started out ok, sending the bigger kids outside to play in the sprinkler and pick tomatoes. But later when the littlest came inside and got into one thing after another -- dialing the phone, throwing the freshly picked tomatoes all over the kitchen, etc. I was ready to give up. It's really hard to chase down and manage a very busy toddler when you are one handed and holding a baby.

My older kids are big helpers. They hold their sister when I need a minute to get something done. They help with the laundry and other tasks, but they are kids themselves and sometimes they too can be the source of extra craziness.

Crazy and loud, full of adjustments and all, this first week has flown by far too quickly. I'm settling in a little, but it's going to take me a while to figure out the care and management of five.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Further Details -- The Name

All through the latter half of my pregnancy, we got frequent inquiries about what name or names we had chosen and surprised looks when I would tell people we hadn't really come up with anything. Eventually, I had whittled down the list of boys' names, but nothing I had on the long list for girls was quite right.

Then my grandmother-in-law died and was buried the day before our daughter was born. Although none of my other children have family names, it seemed appropriate to remember my husband's grandmother in naming this little one. We did not go with exactly her name, but chose a variation on both her first and middle names -- winding up with us naming new our daughter Juliana Caroline. I think it suits her well, although I do fear it sounds a bit like my name and might some day get confusing.

Although, I am generally not one to be superstitious, perhaps she was born when she was and perhaps we had no decided name for a reason. It all came together in the end.

Details -- Laboring

I went to the hospital on Saturday morning dilated to 4 centimeters and 80% effaced. This time around I wanted to try laboring without an epidural and in order to help me with that goal, I brought along not only my husband but a friend, who is thinking about training to become a doula.

Labor was not terribly uncomfortable and I was managing very well on my own. My doctor came in around noon and offered to break my water, but having heard that labor gets a lot more painful once your water breaks, I decided to wait on that and let it break on its own.

By about 2:30, I was getting more uncomfortable, but coping pretty well with the contractions. My doctor came in at 2:50 and checked my progression. I was at 7 cm, but the baby was still at -1 station. Going back over my other labors, which he had all his notes on, it looked like I would probably have another 3 or 4 hours.

About a minute after the doctor stepped out of the room, my contractions became unbearably painful and I decided I no longer could manage without pain medication. The nurse called for an epidural and about a minute after that I started wailing and telling everyone it was too late; I'd waited too long and that I was pushing without wanting to. They told me not to push, but I wasn't pushing voluntarily. The nurse checked and the bag was bulging, her head was right there and I was ready to deliver. All while I was screaming for pain medicine that I knew wasn't going to be coming. I had gone from coping quietly, breathing deeply and being able to relax, to suddenly being in one giant contraction, not being able to relax at all and definitely being noisy about it.

My doula told me the baby would be there soon and I told her I didn't want the baby -- and at that moment, I realized I would not handle torture very well. Apparently, I'll even sell out a baby to stop pain. It was not my finest moment and I suspect I scared every other woman in Labor and Delivery into requesting an epidural immediately.

My water broke, just as the baby was crowning, and my doctor was telling me to stop pushing so hard so I wouldn't tear too badly (and I wasn't trying to push at all). And there she was with a full head of hair and multiple chins, only 17 minutes after I had been at 7 cm.

I really thought she would be a boy and my doctor thought she'd be around 8.5 lbs. We were both wrong. She missed being my biggest baby by an ounce -- weighing in at 9 lbs 1 oz.

Hitting transition and having it go so hard and fast was scary. I wouldn't like to repeat those last 17 minutes any time soon. On the other hand, if transition is always that painful, I'm glad it didn't last long. I know the last part of my labor would be enough to have scared me off from considering natural childbirth for a good long while in the past, however, I did learn something from the experience -- at least for me, the recovery after a non-medicated birth is remarkably better. Within a few hours I felt almost human again and could get up, move around and although definitely exhausted I didn't feel like I was nearly as worn out physically as I had been with the others.

I won't say for sure that I wouldn't get an epidural the next time, if we do this again, and I would have really, really liked to have it while I was in labor. We'll just have to see. There were definite benefits, though, to making it through without pain meds.

It's a Girl!


So much for my powers of prediction! I told everyone I thought this child was a boy, but not so much...

I'll post more about her birth, size and all that later.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Although I would love to have a clean, well-organized house right now, we have instead reached the point where we can empty the POD that we've had forever. If we get it emptied and taken away by Monday, we won't have to pay for another month. On the downside, we actually can't put everything away yet. So basically, we're just bringing more stuff into the crowded rooms and making a bigger mess than before. Just what the stressed out, over due pregnant lady needs!

Of course, I am fully on-board with this course of action, even if it is making the house a wreck, because I can see a lot of value in saving the rental price of the POD and unloading it and carting it away will make me very happy. Even so, I wish I could have the tidy spotless house (if only for a short while) that one dreams of when about to have a baby.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


First of all, in case anyone is wondering -- I'm still pregnant. I blame my friend Frazier for predicting the child's birthday as being July 15. Who knew she had so much power?

Second, my grandmother-in-law died yesterday. Unfortunately, she lived and will be buried about two hours from our home -- too far for me to travel at present and probably too far for my husband as well. We are thankful though that we got to see her and say goodbye to her here in Nashville. I wish I had had the chance to introduce her to her fourteenth great-grandchild.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Sound of Summer

Do the people who drive ice cream trucks go insane by the end of the summer or are they already deaf?


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

US Geography: The Lucrative Way

My eight year old discovered the state quarters recently, when his great-aunt from Arizona gave him a newly minted Arizona quarter. Since then he has become some what obsessed with his collection of state quarters.

His collection has grown rapidly. He hit up his grandfather for quarters and came away a great start to the collection. He's been doing extra chores and saving change to buy state quarters from his parents and when we recently went to a grown-up friend's birthday party, he told the guests he was collecting the quarters and came home with eleven he didn't have yet.

If he were only collecting coins, this wouldn't be much of an educational experience, but he's used his collection to start an interest in the history of the states and when they joined the Union, and also US geography. Thanks to a book called the Scrambled States of America and his quarter collection, he's really getting a sense of the US, where the states are located and generally what's what.

This morning I offered to print out a blank map for him so he could fill in the states. He was thrilled at the idea and sat right down to fill it out. He wasn't perfect. He mixed up New Hampshire and Vermont and on the first try moved Georgia to Missouri. He also needed to be reminded that state names are proper nouns.

I didn't start learning states and their capitols until fifth grade, so I think my rising third grader is doing pretty well, but I always new he was a kid who liked to learn on his own and he needs only a little help a guidance to get ahead. I didn't devise this US geography lesson, but I think it has actually been a great system for getting a kid interested in the States. The knowledge he's gained has been rather costly to his friends and relatives though.

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Circle of Life

This morning I woke up early and realized we had a voice mail on our phone -- a voice mail that hadn't been there when we went to bed. Most of our phone ringers are turned off, because they have a tendency to ring and wake up napping kidlets, but this time it was the grown-ups who slept through the call.

When I woke up around 4:00, I checked the phone and got a message from my mother-in-law that her mother-in-law (my husband's grandmother) was in the hospital and my in-laws were headed north from their home in a far southern state. Through more phone calls, we learned that the situation was serious and unlikely to get any better.

Since my dad is here in town staying with us, we left him with the kidlets and headed over to the hospital. My grandmother-in-law had something happen yesterday -- they don't know for sure what -- but it left her with severe bleeding on the brain and probably brain dead. The doctors took her off the respirator, but this beautiful woman, full of so much life and vitality, has a heart that keeps beating and lungs that keep breathing steadily on. No one knows for sure what the time line will be.

And so we stood together and chatted as families do. Crying at times. Laughing sometimes. Thinking about all the stories one can tell about a person who has lived a long and full life. I'm relatively new to her life, having only known her about 14 years, but she's been such a lovely person to know in those years. I've learned a lot about gardening from her and owe most of the day lilies in my garden to her. I was hoping some time to go up to her house again and divide more plants, but I have so many already that I can look at and remember her and the corner of the world she filled with flowers and beauty. She also loved books and loved to give books to her great-grandchildren for all occasions. We have those to help us think of her often.

It seemed and still seems wrong that we've been in the hospital much of the day for the wrong person. I've been planning to go to the same hospital any day now for weeks. Planning to welcome a new person into the world. My plans never involved watching someone leave it.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Waiting Game

Waiting on the baby is driving me crazy. I was going to say "slowly insane" but the descent into madness is happening faster rather than slower.

I try to teach my children patience, but I'm afraid in this instance I'm the one without any.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Independence Day


The Eight Year Old: What is it we celebrate on the Fourth of July again?

Me: Our independence from England.

The Eight Year Old: Oh right. Shouldn't we call it Independence Day then?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

I Interrupt This Whining to Show Today's Harvest


In our backyard, we have two purple leaf plum trees. Everything I can find out about such trees is that they are largely ornamental and fruit from them is "negligible," however this year our trees produced fruit. It's true that the branches aren't bent and breaking from a surfeit of plums as I've seen some plum trees do when they produce, but it's more than enough to meet our needs and wants.

I've never made any kind of jam or preserve before, but I think the kids and I might try this freezer recipe. And maybe make some plum bread as well.

Or maybe we'll just eat them all.

Misery and Woe

One of our hardwired smoke detectors wasn't actually wired correctly. About 2 a.m. the back-up battery gave out and it started beeping every minute. My husband got up and took it down, but I didn't get back to sleep until 5 and then slept until 7.

Long hours of insomnia are really getting me down.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Things Crazy Pregnant Women Do -- Or an Update on the Home Renovations

I can't speak for all crazy pregnant women; ones who are smart enough to know not to mow the lawn and things like that. I can actually only discuss the crazy things I do, and actually I haven't been that crazy lately. I'm too tired.

I had really hoped that before the baby arrived, the upstairs of our house, which was originally an attic, built out in the 1960s or 1970s and gutted by us, would be completed and the kidlets sleeping up there. We're very, very close, but it isn't looking likely to happen now.

For a long time, one of the major things holding us back was a railing on the upper half of the stairs and around the landing. When my dad came a month or so ago, he and Justin built that and solved a major safety issue.

After my father left, Justin put the base shoe in one room and then set about working on the attic access doors. Because the roof on our house is a pyramid shape, there is attic space around the sides of each room. When we framed and drywalled the rooms, we weren't sure what we were going to do with these areas exactly, so we left them open 60" wide and ignored them for a while.

Then Justin framed out the space for a 30" doorway, drywalled the rest, built jambs, doors and hung them up, and put up trim.

My dad is back helping us out again and standing by should the wee bairn decide to arrive. While Justin was working on trimming out the doors, he's been putting up more base shoe. We had enough for 2 1/2 rooms, but we needed to buy more for the last bedroom and half of the bathroom. Yesterday, during all my errand running, we bought the necessary trim and last night started putting shellac on them.

You can get into all the enviro reasons to like shellac, but mainly I find it very handy for things like this because it dries fast and adds color to the wood at the same time as the finish. I'm all about being lazy. Today, I gave the trim a light sanding and put on a second coat. That's where the crazy pregnant part comes in, although I worked outside and finished up quickly, so I don't think it was that crazy.

The trim for everything but the last part of the bathroom (that trim will be painted) is now ready to put up. We're waiting on our final HVAC and electrical inspections. We've passed the final plumbing inspection and I think all we have to do for the final, final inspection is get all the doors hung. Of course, hanging doors isn't exactly what one would call simple when one is dealing with old doors and not pre-hung ones, but we are awfully close.

As much as I'd have liked to be finished before the baby arrived, at this point I would rather be done with pregnancy than have the upstairs finished first. Physical discomfort can change your mind like that.

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