Wednesday, December 16, 2009

No Christmas Cards for You!

For a few years we sent out Christmas cards. Then one year we didn't get around to it. Or the next year. Or the next. And we moved. This year it really, really shows. We've gotten Christmas cards from the chimney sweep, the accountant, the insurance agent and a few friends, but otherwise our mailbox sits neglected and empty -- bereft of Christmas cheer.

I am tempted to send cards. After all, we have more than a few friends that lost track of us when we only had three children. On the other hand, what with five semi-heathens running around, it is hard to find the time to write letters and explain our dropping off the face of the earth for years on end. Or I might just be lazy.

Do you send Christmas cards?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Missing Days in Bullet Points

  • My father and older brother arrived from Ohio the Monday before Thanksgiving. Shopping at stores not available in small Ohio towns ensued.
  • We celebrated Thanksgiving with the aforementioned family members, plus friends. Seven adults + two teenaged boys + eight children of various sizes = no turkey leftovers, no mashed potatoes leftover, no gravy, no cranberry sauce, etc. We did have a few slices of pie leftover, but only because we had four pies and a rhubarb cobbler represented (and I might have started hording).
  • On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, we had a birthday party for my oldest. He's simply going to have to stop being so friendly, because we didn't even manage to invite everyone he wanted to ask and we were still over run by boys. Because I am not above copying an excellent idea, we made the boys marshmallow guns, gave them lots of mini-marshmallows and sent them outside to shoot each other for a few hours.
  • Advent began. I had plans to have a lovely, simple time with lots of good books, craft making and math as our school. Ha!
  • On the first Monday in Advent, I took the 3 year old to the pediatric urologist. He needs minor surgery in a delicate location.
  • All the kids (except the littlest) went to the dentist for cleanings on Tuesday. It was also the oldest's actual birthday. My baby turned 10. I made a second cake, because there can never be too much cake.
  • On Wednesday, the ten year old had Latin and I watched a couple of neighbor kids so their mom could go to the doctor. Then we went to the park to visit with another homeschooling mom and former neighbor who was home for a visit.
  • Thursday brought gingerbread house making with our homeschool group, a First Thursday Mass that was offered an hour late because our priest tends to overschedule himself and forget that he can't be two places simultaneously, and the Nutcracker ballet in the evening.
  • On Friday we got to stay home! I read the kids lovely Christmas stories, we drank copious amounts of hot chocolate and it was good.
  • Saturday I did grocery and Christmas shopping. Even though I got out all by myself (the kids and Justin stayed home and cleaned the garage), the process was exhausting!
  • Sunday we had Mass, of course, and then we got a tree. The oldest made a paper chain garland with 305 links (of course he counted).
  • Yesterday, I took the kidlets to Belle Meade Mansion for their Victorian Christmas homeschool program. Then we decorated the tree. We own too many ornaments. Something about putting ornaments on the tree and lots of children brings out the Scrooge in me. I was about ready to chuck the children and the tree out in the cold after an hour or so, but putting on Handel's Messiah helped some what.
  • Yesterday, the vet also came and gave the dog a check up. He probably has thyroid problems and if so will need to be on synthroid for the rest of his life. For a fairly low maintenance creature, he's becoming medically high maintenance.
Now you are up to date on Adams' family doings. The rest of this week brings more excursions, both of the fun kind and the doctor visit kind. Pictures of some of the events above may follow -- or not.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thankful Thursday Three

Listen up whippersnappers. Back in the old days when the blogosphere was young and all, there was a most excellent blogger who went by the name of PossumDaddy -- or Terry Oglesby -- whichever you preferred. He was one of the funniest, bestest bloggers out there in the digital land. And then he up and got a better job that required actual work and the fun came to an end. Possumblog was gone. Except when Terry decided Not to Blog (tm) about something now and again. Sigh.

Back in the day, Terry also hosted the weekly Thursday Three, when he posed three questions and if you answered them wrong you fell into a deep gorge. Or something like that. For Jim Smith's birthday (one of the Possumblog entourage, as it were) there is a special, all new question and answer session. Which I feel compelled to take part in.

1. What one person are you most thankful for this year?

My husband. He puts up with me and gets up and goes to work every day just to see that we're all clothed and fed. Not to mention the fact that he's awfully handsome.

2. What one thing are you most thankful for this year?

Maybe not what I'm really most thankful for, because I'm not sure what I'm really most thankful for (maybe the roof over my head?), but I'm very, very glad to have a copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I do so much more bread baking and pizza making and similar things than I ever have before.

3. What one event are you most thankful for this year?

It's an ongoing event, but I am most thankful that I can stay home and educate the kidlets. Even when, like now, it means I have jars of dirt and water on my window sill (an experiment don't you know?) and in the rest of the house the dirt isn't so well contained.

AND, as a big fat bonus unquestion:

4. So, how’s it going? How’ve you been lately?

I'm tired. I never get as much done as I would like, but some how the days keep going by anyway. The kids keep growing and so do I, but not in the same direction.

Any of you out there are welcome to join in the Old Skool Not-Blogging Frivolity at Terry's Place or just let me know in the comments -- what are you thankful for and what are you up to these days?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dividing the Work

Recently some friends and I have been discussing how we divide the work of the household with our husbands. It fascinates me to hear how different couples sort these tasks out. Naturally, I tend to think the ways my husband and I have settled into are great and I shudder to think what some women put up with. But they seem satisfied with their division of labor.

Although in our house, we stick to traditional gender roles for many things -- my husband works outside the home and I stay home and raise the kids -- we aren't perfectly traditional. I do most of the cooking, but my husband can and does lend a hand and cooks great meals. I may do most of the laundry, but I certainly don't do all of it. Those tasks aside, it is my husband who is the better house cleaner (except for bathrooms) and organizer. He's also the one with the better eye for decorating.

I admit to not using most of the power tools around here. Other than the Sawzall and drill, I stay away from them. I might try the jigsaw eventually, but I'll never be as good at fixing or building things as my husband is. I mow the lawn almost as much as Justin does, but I never weed eat. I also don't change the oil in the cars or check the tire pressure most of the time.

Some of my friends divide things pretty strictly along inside and outside lines. If it is in the house the wife does it, outside the husband takes care of it. One particularly energetic wife I know, does the cooking, cleaning, child rearing, power tool operating and everything else. I'm unclear on what help she gets, but since she doesn't seem to feel sorry for herself, I'm not going to feel sorry for her either (even if that situation would drive me crazy).

I know at another family with almost the opposite divide -- the husband earns most of the money while the wife stays home, but the husband also does the cooking, much of the cleaning and laundry, and takes care of all basic home maintenance and repairs not hired out. The wife does almost all of the yard work though.

So who does what around your house? Does it change with the arrival of new babies or the kids heading to school (or staying home for school)? With enough children around can both parents sit on the couch eating bon-bons?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Quick Takes

--1--

With the birthday this month of my now five year old, I have the perfectly odd family. (No cheap shots about how my family was already perfectly odd!) The kids are now ages 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9. Unfortunately, the oldest has to go and have a birthday in December and spoil it all.

In the meantime, my lovely five year old is commonly referred to by her parents as The Beeb for her incessant news reporting (sometimes called tattling) and the fact that she often acts as a one girl grievance committee.

Despite this, when she is good, she is very, very good. Incredibly smart, sweet and fun to be around. I think we'll keep her.

--2--

For months, I have said I was going to try making my own yogurt and for months, I have kept buying tubs of yogurt at the store. Finally, on Monday I did it. I made my own. It was easy and delicious! I used these two recipes, upping the dry milk to 1 cup. I like how the former of the two recipes gives temperatures, not just times, because my crockpot burns a bit hotter, I guess and I was able to use my oven thermometer to verify that I needed a bit less time than the Crockpot365 recipe suggested. With 1 cup of dried milk added, the yogurt isn't even particularly runny. We've been eating yogurt every day since and I've even made a second batch already. Woo hoo!

--3--

Just in time for St. Margaret of Scotland's feast day on November 16, I've added a coloring page of her to the side bar.

--4--

Last week the one year old had a stomach bug and milk was making her vomit. Apparently, one can develop a temporary (at least I hope it is temporary) milk intolerance. Fortunately for my sanity, she does fine with kefir and yogurt. Kefir, however, is liquid gold, which is one of the reasons I finally broke down and made my own yogurt. Throw some frozen fruit and yogurt in the blender and it's close enough to please a 1 year old.

--5--

What is your favorite vegetable recipe for Thanksgiving? I can make a great turkey. My cranberry sauce is awesome. I love our cornbread dressing and all the rest, but I can never seem to hit on the perfect Thanksgiving vegetables. I'm open to suggestions! With the caveat that green bean casserole is right out.

--6--

My five year old is almost finished with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. As one of my homeschooling friends mentioned recently, the word "easy" in the title should be dropped. It's been a long slog through the book and it is the fourth time I've gone through it, with at least two more kids left to teach. It's a great method, but teaching phonics is like potty training. I dread them both.

--7--

Coming up with something else to add is taking too much brain power, so I'll just wish you all a pleasant weekend!

Quick Takes hosted by Jen, as always.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dress Up Opportunities

It's time for another better late than never post. My children consider every day to be a dress up day, but Halloween is a special dress up day, because you get to walk around and extort candy from people.

This year they dressed as Johnny Tremaine, a princess, a cowgirl, Laura Ingalls, and an Army man and much candy was acquired.

Since we became Catholic, All Saints' has become a day to dress up yet again and even if there is less candy, there is more partying and they like that too. Some how I failed to take a picture of all of the kids together, but here is St. Teresa of Avila.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Well, Now

Some time ago, it feels like it has been ages, I got to go out on a date on a Thursday night, with this lovely gentleman that I like to call my husband. I like to call him that because he is my husband. Heh.

I had a cold, but getting out on a date was fun any way. Then came Halloween, a birthday, All Saint's and the one year old got sick. Just as she was getting better, that cold I had had all along migrated into my chest and sinuses. Finally, after antibiotics, I'm healthy once more and can go back in time to tell you all about my date night.

When I was a kid, I would ask my dad about bands and music that seemed like it must have been from his time. Often he would deny all knowledge of it, saying,"That came out after your mom and I got married." As a kid, I thought this was crazy. Clearly, life didn't stop when one got married. How could one's ability to keep up with current music fall so quickly by the wayside?

Then I grew up and got married. Work and children, cooking meals and keeping house all quickly became my priorities. If I had extra cash, I wasn't heading out to buy the latest album with it. I finally understood my father and what he meant when he told me that getting married ended his interest in keeping up with the latest tunes and bands.

So when I got offered tickets to go see Five for Fighting (and go on a date) and I had to admit I had never heard of them. Being a homeschooling mama of five (whom I love very dearly, but am never apart from) I'm loathe to turn down a night out sans kidlets, even if I have no idea who I'm agreeing to go see.

My first surprise was to discover that Five for Fighting is not a group, but one man, John Ondrasik. Naturally, I was pleased to find out that he's got a great voice and a flare for capturing a kind of Americana in his music.

Being a Five for Fighting neophyte, I went into the concert cold. Everything was new to me. I wasn't disappointed and I think I've definitely become a fan. My favorite songs? "Slice," the title song from his new album, his ode to the family car "65 Mustang" and a song inspired by his daughter "I Just Love You."

Even though I've been married almost 12 years, I predict new music will be coming to my iPod soon and when my kids hit their teenage years and ask me about music from years gone by, perhaps I can redeem myself in their eyes and look a little cooler, at least for a few minutes.

Anyway, thanks to Alli and Barbara Jones of One2One Network for the chance to get out of the house sans kidlets and to spend a little time with my husband.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Ugh

Two concerts, Halloween, a birthday party for my now five year old, All Saint's, dinner with our priest, and now a sick baby with explodo diapers and extra laundry. I will return.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Making Breakfast Cereal

Ever make your own non-granola breakfast cereal? Making this particular kind isn't hard at all, though it does require a bit of planning ahead. It comes out a lot like Grape Nuts. The original recipe is found in Cooking from Quilt Country, though as with almost every recipe, I've tinkered a bit.

Graham Nuts

3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
1 teaspoon orange zest (optional)
2 cups buttermilk or soured milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, spices and zest, if using, in a large bowl. Gently stir in buttermilk and vanilla. Mix completely. Spread batter evenly onto a large, well oiled, baking sheet with a spatula.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until firm and medium brown. Remove from pan and cool for several hours or overnight before proceeding to the next step.

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Break cake into chunks (and try not to let your kids eat too many pieces as a snack). Put the chunks into a food processor and pulse until it forms large crumbs. Divide between two large baking sheets with sides and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes until crumbs are deeply toasted.

Allow to cool completely and store in an airtight container.

In my family, some people prefer to eat with milk, as with any other cereal. Others prefer to mix it into yogurt. Do as you see fit.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Camping and Critters

Over the weekend, the whole family went on a camping trip to Montgomery Bell State Park. It's only an hour or so from home, but fall seems much further progressed there. The trees were lovely and the air was cold.

The former was a good thing -- the latter, not so much.

We went with our homeschooling group and stayed in rustic cabins. Rustic means, in this case, unheated and full of critters. The first night seemed filled with sounds of rustling and scampering and I saw a mouse when I went to the bathroom. In fairness, it isn't as if we don't have mice at home. In fact, we came home to three dead ones caught in traps, but at least we catch them in traps, mouse poop isn't covering every surface and I don't hear them doing mousey tangos across the floor at 3 a.m.

And as I mentioned, the air was cold. The one thing that allowed me to get any sleep was my three year old. If one must go camping when it is cold, take a three year old with you. At that age, they sleep pretty soundly, they are warm and cuddly and they are still small enough to fit inside a sleeping bag with you. I do not recommend one year olds however. At least not ones that are used to sleeping in their own bed, because although said child might decide to scream for hours in the cold and unfamiliar portacrib, she doesn't actually want to sleep with you either. One year olds tend to wriggle, cry and start slapping you in the middle of the night. My husband and I played musical children, trading grouchy one year old back and forth for the nice, cuddly three year old.

After the first night, I swore we wouldn't be staying a second. After the second, I was glad to be going home, but also glad we had toughed it out for the whole trip. We had good company and I will probably even consider doing it again next year, if we get a chance. But first, I need to recover from this trip. Right now, I'm glad to be in my moderately warm house with mouse traps to catch the critters.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Quick Takes

-1-

It's turned definitely fallish around here in Tennessee. It is grey and rainy, but we haven't had a frost yet, so many plants from the summer are still trying to hang on. They look pretty pathetic though. My basil lives, but I don't think there are enough good healthy looking leaves to make more pesto. I hope I got enough to carry me through most of the winter.

-2-

Speaking of fall, I finally put up my fall wreath on the front door. Replacing the - ahem - spring wreath. I kind of forgot all about summer this year.

-3-

The little one is extra cute these days. She says more and more. Her first sentence was, "I need mil." She's not weaned yet, but she really likes a cup of milk. She also brings me her shoes and says "Shushushu" whilst thrusting them insistently at you. Only 15 months old and already worried about fashion.

-4-

This tough guy had a birthday this week. He may be only three, but if you ask him, he says he's ten.

-5-

I'm reading the kids the second book in the Tom Trueheart series now. We read the first before the second was even written. It ain't great literature, but it's a page turner for sure. Any book recommendations for when we're done?

-6-

Thanks to a friend giving my seven year old a crochet hook and yarn for her birthday, we're both trying to learn how to crochet. The basic chain isn't so hard, but I'm not getting how to turn very well. I think I need to schedule an actual lesson with my friend soon. YouTube and written instructions aren't cutting it.

-7-

Sometimes changing things up is just what the doctor ordered. My Kindergartner has been fighting reading lessons a lot of late. She's making us both frustrated. Yesterday, instead of doing Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (a book I do highly recommend and that we're almost finished with) we did several lessons in Little Stories for Little Follks. We did more and she loved it. In fact, she was extra happy, because we did worksheets! Kids are weird.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mr. Smiley

As soon as he learned how, my little boy has been Mr. Smiley. He smiles and smiles and smiles. Sometimes he smiles in good cheer. Sometimes it is more of an evil grin.

He's full of mischief. He's terribly bad sometimes and my walls are covered in his art. But when he smiles at me and wants to "tuddle," my heart melts. I'm afraid for all his naughtiness he might just have me wrapped around his finger.

Happy birthday, boy!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Covering Their - - -!

I need to address a very serious problem in modern parenting. Okay, not really. It's more like a very minor annoyance. Some diaper companies do not provide any differentiation between diaper sizes.

My two children in diapers wear almost the same size and some diapers come without numbers, design changes or any other way to indicate size. Since my kids are only one size apart, it isn't even that easy to hold up the diapers and compare sizes. One could, I suppose, use cloth diapers, but I don't want to.

Some companies understand this. Costco's Kirkland diapers have a different animal on each size. Luvs print a teeny tiny sizing number on them (so as long as you aren't blind you can tell the difference), but the scenting in Luvs makes them unacceptable for children with eczema. It has been so long since I bought Huggies and Pampers mark their diapers, I think, but it has been a long time since I bought any.

But the two store brands that I buy most often -- Kroger and Target have not figured this out. I opened new boxes of diapers for my children the other day and they are covered in adorable blue and green polka dots. Identical polka dots. Baffling polka dots. I took a Sharpie and wrote initials on the bigger kid's diapers, so I could tell the difference. How hard would it have been though to make numbers on the diapers? It could be the store's way of testing everyone for color blindness -- "If you can't read this number, you need to get your eyes checked!" Or something.

It's not a matter of large importance in the world, but I deal with the little things all day long. They get to me. I may not be ready to promise the world change they can believe in so that I can win a Nobel prize, but I do change a lot of bums, and a logical marking system for diaper sizing on all brands and styles would help me out a lot.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Has It Been a Whole Week? Back for More Quick Takes...

-1-

It's been a busy week all around, beginning with the oldest girl's seventh birthday party on Sunday. We had several of her friends and their families over for hot dogs, s'mores, cake and lots of play. I can't believe she's seven.

-2-

Somebody (probably "Not Me") had an accident in the powder room, it seeped under the toilet and the whole room smells. Ick!

-3-

I didn't get around to making lesson plans for this week and it is really showing. I've been fumbling around trying to figure out what we should be doing and this week has been kind of a wash. However, the birthday girl got sick to her stomach on Monday, kids went on a field trip to a play of Tom Sawyer on Tuesday, we went to the park on Wednesday, had a First Thursday Mass and home school group meeting, where I started feeling weird and went home to spend the rest of the day in bed. So today is the first normal day anyway -- though I still feel weird.

-4-

I can't decide if I'm sick or not. I don't have a fever, but I'm extremely tired and just strange feeling. I just want to crawl back in bed, but my children always seem to follow me and make lying in bed some what less than restful.

-5-

My outside laundry drying seems to be at an end for the season and I am surprised by how much I miss it. For two weeks it rained pretty much every day and when the sun finally cam back it was much cooler. I, rather excitedly hung clothes out to dry on the morning of that first sunny day. By evening, many of them were still damp. The sun's angle has changed quite a bit, and without the direct sunny and heat of summer, the clothes just aren't drying. So I suppose it's back to the dryer. However, I doubt I would have loved hanging the clothes out in the dead of winter anyway.

-6-

After hearing about them from several friends, I picked up one of the Mitford books the other day. I accidentally started with the second. I'm still undecided as to whether I loved it or not, but it was a nice, gentle read. Nothing too extraordinary and nothing dirty, but just a nice snippet of lives in a small town. I think I'll check out another next time I'm at the library.

-7-

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Our Little Flowers and Blue Knights groups are making holy cards for each of the saints the kids study. On the front the kids are coloring a picture of the saint and on the back they glue a prayer or passage of scripture, and then we laminate them. We wanted to give them something to color so that they would be more involved in the process. I turned to my favorite source for beautiful saint coloring pages, but Charlotte does not have a drawing of every saint we need for the year. Since I can scribble a bit myself, I offered to draw coloring pages for our group and since I'm going to the trouble of making them, I figured I might as well put them out there for other people to use. I have discovered I am not good at fingers or eyes, but these have turned out ok. Check the side bar for those I've done so far. I'll be putting more up throughout the year as we study more saints in Little Flowers and Blue Knights.

More Quick Takes at Jen's.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Quick Takes

-1-

It's after 10 a.m. and we haven't started school yet for the day. The kids are supposed to be putting away their laundry and making their beds. I'm beginning to think they may never be coming down. Is it wrong that I'm not too upset by that?

-2-

A few links for you.

This saint story just blew me away.

The new blogging venture of a dear friend.

It makes me very happy that the Patum Peperium's are back to posting occasionally after settling into their new chateau in a new city.

-3-

My two year old drew this the other day. I think it is pretty awesome for a two year old.

-4-

My second born is going to be seven next week. Yikes! She wants a pocket knife, a doll, books and various other things. She's an interesting kid, that one.

-5-

One of our cars has had the check engine light glowing for quite a while. For various reasons, we were pretty sure it wasn't indicating anything terribly serious, so we ignored it. Unfortunately, it won't pass an emissions inspection to renew the license plate if the check engine light is on, so we need to fix it by the end of the month. Nothing like waiting until the last minute, huh? Naturally, although not a serious issue, it also isn't cheap. Bah.

-6-

It has rained so much lately that my vegetable garden which thrived this summer has finally been drowned. The okra has fallen over, the tomatoes are all rotting and moldy and the squash has simply ceased. All good things come to an end, but the suddenness of the last of the garden always comes upon with too quickly. I should know by now to expect it, but I never seem to remember that as with other parts of life, I have no foreknowledge of what will be the end.

-7-

On the non-philosophical gardening front, I started yanking out the dead sunflowers, cone flowers, zinnias and such from the front beds during a break in the rain clouds the other day. It's itchy and some what depressing work. My beds are overrun with weeds. The gout weed and something else have all but killed my vinca and a bunch of other stuff. I don't think I have the heart to rip everything out and start all over again, but that's about what it needs. Sigh.

Many thanks to Jennifer for the hosting of Quick Takes.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Brown Sugar Chess Pie and an Easy Pie Crust

There just aren't enough pies in the world. And what better to make than one that uses stuff I always have around anyway? Okay, perhaps not better if I ever got serious about losing all that baby weight that is still hanging around. But then what would I whine about?

These are recipes gleaned from a couple of my favorite Amish cookbooks by Marcia Adams.

Pat-in-the-pan pie crust

1 1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons cold milk

Place the flour, sugar and salt in a pie pan and mix with your fingers until blended. In a measuring cup, combine the oil and milk and beat with a fork until creamy. Pour all at once over the flour mixture. Mix with a fork or your fingers, until flour is completely moistened. Pat the dough with your fingers up the sides and across the bottom of the pan.

The shell is ready to be filled. If you need a pre-baked crust, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Prick the surface several times with a fork and bake for 10-15 minutes, checking often and pricking more as needed.

Brown Sugar Chess Pie

1 unbaked single pie crust
2 1/3 cups light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
3/4 cup half-and-half
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
Ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare pie crust, put in pan (if not using the pat-in-pan method) and set aside.

With a mixer on a low speed, combine the brown sugar and flour. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then slowly add the butter, half-and-half, vanilla and salt. Mix well, but don't over beat.

Pour into the pie crust and sift cinnamon over the top.

Bake for about 1 hour. The top will be quivery, but the center should be bubbly. The pie will set as it cools. Cool on a rack completely before serving.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Little Weekend Fun

A Star Trek Barbershop Quartet -- who knew?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Two Years

Two years ago, yesterday, my family entered the Catholic church. In the past two years, we finally moved into our purple house, went to England, had another baby, started homeschooling our third child and spent a lot of time on the ordinary things of life. Some days being Catholic seems so normal and routine. Other days, I look at my children and think how strange it seems that they are little Catholics. The problems of family and conversion are still there, still awkward and perhaps even more pronounced. Some things don't just go away as time passes by.

For all the difficulties and sorrows, I wouldn't undo it. Some times I wonder what it would be like to turn back to the way things were before, but I find it harder and harder to even ponder what that would be like. Finding the Holy Mother Church is an amazing blessing for me and for my family. It's not easy. In fact, I have often pondered how much more I believe is expected of me now than I ever felt compelled to do before our conversion. But those things that I now must do are a joy (most of the time) and I have far more hope than I once did for those things of the future.

We celebrated our anniversary of coming into the church by going to Mass yesterday evening and out to dinner afterward. It's good to be home.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Fairest of Them All

Our next door neighbor is a school teacher and on Monday, she brought over three extra tickets to the school night at the State Fair. Being stick-in-the-muds and curmudgeons, we haven't been to a state fair since we had one child and were living in Fairbanks, Alaska (for those of you keeping track at home, that would have been about 8 years ago). Naturally, my kids really wanted to go to the fair and just as naturally, their parents were hoping for rain.

And yesterday dawned grey and rainy. Woohoo! No Fair -- or the kids thought, "It's not fair!". Except it cleared up and turned nice towards afternoon. I suppose we could have just said a categorical "No" but instead we loaded up the van, stopped at a ATM because we were not so naive as to think free tickets wouldn't prove to be awfully expensive, and went to the fair. Of course, the one thing I forgot was a camera.

We ate terrible fair food for dinner (though boy was that funnel cake yummy!), saw the animals (the kids were especially impressed by the size of the "boy parts" on the pigs) and wandered along enjoying the flashing lights and bustle. Each kid got to choose a ride, the older two chose bumper cars, and the younger (who were too short for most things) went around and around in a little train.

It wasn't cheap. The food wasn't healthy. The kids sure did have fun though. They are still talking about it today

Friday, September 04, 2009

Quick Takes Friday

(1) You know you've fully embraced all the crazy Catholic stuff when you ask your priest to celebrate a First Thursday Mass for your homeschooling group because there is a plenary indulgence attached to it during the Year for Priests. We had our first First Thursday Mass yesterday, as well as lunch and an early birthday cake for the Blessed Virgin.

(2)Look what we found in our garden (as drawn and painted by my Kindergartner).

I don't think I've ever found a Monarch caterpillar in the garden before, but this year we've seen two. Must be because I've let the milkweed get a bit out of control. A pleasant result from the mess that is my front beds.

(3) My oldest is such an academic already. He started his Latin tutorial this week and was counting down the days and minutes until it started. Afterward, he told me it was everything he had hoped it would be and that he loves his new book. I have to keep reminding myself that I have little to do with how easy he is to instill with knowledge, lest I get frustrated with my more normal, less academically motivated children.

(4)One of my new favorite quick and easy meals is homemade pizza. How can that be quick and easy? Take this basic bread recipe and a pureed version of my simple pasta sauce, roll out the dough on a pizza pan with olive oil and cornmeal, spread on the sauce, add fresh oregano if you have any, plenty of cheese, any toppings you like, and bake at 500 degrees for about 12 minutes. Awesome.

(5)I checked out one of the Genevieve Foster history books from the library and I think I have finally found the history books I am looking for. I just wish there were more of them!

(6)There is a photo of my husband when he is about two, wearing a powder blue suit, standing at a tiny pulpit and playing preacher. Today my almost three year old, solemnly carried his wooden sword around the house as a crucifix, playing altar boy. I sure wouldn't have seen that coming a few years ago.

(7)And speaking of walking around, look who else is toddling along these days.

Read more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

What We Did Yesterday

Our neighborhood homeschooling group visited a neighbor's garage, where he is building his own airplane. He gave a great talk to the kids about building the plane as well as some of the important principles of aerodynamics. It was most cool.

And his airplane does have a retro, Bearcat kind of look to it (and he hasn't put a propeller on yet, if you are wondering at the lack on the kids' paintings).

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

New Environmentalism

You know the world is a bizarre place when you see two overweight smokers, pulling out of Wal-Mart, loaded down with junk food, in a Smart Car.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Quick Takes

(1) It's been a few, ahem, days since I wrote anything. Life, homeschooling, the garden and other things intrude on my computer time. The past few weeks have been really, really busy and I haven't even been able to stay home and keep up with my routine as much as I like.

(2) What life do I have outside of homeschooling and gardening, one might wonder. For one thing, sucker that I am, I agreed to co-chair the Women's Group at my parish. For someone who hates meetings as much as I do, not to mention hating responsibilities and generally feeling incompetent, this is a lot of hard work. I have to call people! And schedule things! And be in charge (though I did tell my co-chair that she's the one who is really in charge). I know the need was there and there was no good reason for me to turn down the job, but part of me thinks I probably got this job based on my husband's competence at everything. If they only knew how bad I am at handling these sorts of things...but I'm going to try.

(3)On the homeschooling front, one of the best things I've implemented this year is a circle time at the start of our days. It has really helped me accomplish a lot of my goals for the school day in a short amount of time and I think the kidlets like it a lot. If we only got circle time and math done in a day, the kids would be getting quite a bit of education. Although my plans are not as elaborate as many people's out there that one can find, I'd be happy to share them if anyone has interest in taking a look at what we've been doing.

(4)On this past Monday, I took the kids on a field trip to the Belle Meade Plantation for a Civil War lesson (complete with the firing of a canon). I've never been on a tour there before, but they do an excellent job and the price was very affordable. We're definitely going to try to go back for more of their homeschool days throughout the year.

(5) Speaking of the garden, I know it is incredibly juvenile, but this carrot I pulled out of the garden makes me giggle.

(6) Last weekend was rather hectic, with a big homeschooling party at our house on Saturday. As a result, I never got to the store for a real grocery trip (although I had stocked up on milk and a bit of fruit last Friday). I decided to see how long I could go without hitting the store. I'm happy to report that we made it through the week. It was helpful, of course, that our garden is still producing lots of stuff. We're out of several things like eggs now. Today's breakfast of Sue Gregg's waffles made with a banana instead of an egg, were not as successful as I would have liked, but at least we had something to eat.

This has been a good reminder to make use of what I have before heading out to the store for something new and different.

(7) Also in the past week of frequently eating hyper-local food, I was also thinking about how glad I am to have grocery stores to provide all the things I do not make and do not care to provide for myself. I am glad for the fact that all my food does not have to come from my own garden nor for a 100-mile radius around me. Last night I made chicken gumbo. It included okra, peppers, celery, tomatoes and thyme from my back yard. But I still needed oil, chicken, flour, rice, an onion, and a bay leaf from the outside world. For all that I like to garden, I'm glad I'm not a subsistence farmer!

Quick Takes hosted by Jen, as always.

Monday, August 17, 2009

150 Years and Counting

On the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, my parish celebrated its sesquicentennial anniversary with a solemn mass con-celebrated by two bishops. Before the Feast came nine days of holy hours and a public novena to the Blessed Virgin. Many, many people worked very hard to make it all happen and even those of us who were mostly just there participating were very busy (especially those of us with extra long hours of single parenting so our husbands could be busy helping out).

Especially as a convert who never gave the Mother of God a thought before beginning on the path to conversion, it still all seems a bit foreign to think of being part of such a Marian parish, dedicated to the Assumption, which is something I had never heard of three years ago. Yet, what better example could we have than she who said, "Be it done unto me according to your word." And in making the mother of our Lord our example, what hope we have in heaven.

My family is fortunate to worship at such an orthodox and beautiful parish church, with a long history, a lack of wreck-ovation. We are fortunate to have holy men to guide us and fellow parishioners to strengthen us in the journey.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Simple Spaghetti Sauce

When the tomatoes are plentiful, you have to do something with them.

This is a simple way to use up a bunch for now or frozen for later. I don't can, so I don't know if any alterations would be necessary to make it shelf stable.

Simple Spaghetti Sauce
Makes about 2 cups, and can be doubled

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 lbs tomatoes, cored, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 teaspoon of salt
extra grated vegetables (if desired) -- I often throw in some yellow squash or zucchini
pinch of sugar (if desired)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
pepper

Add olive oil and garlic to a large, cold skillet. Cook on medium until the garlic is fragrant and starting to sizzle (but not brown). Add tomatoes, salt and extra veggies, if using. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat, add in basil and season to taste.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Breastfeedng Baby Dolls

As many of you know, I'm a breastfeeding mama. I now have 89 months of breastfeeding under my -- ahem -- shirt, and no plans to be finished any time too soon. Naturally, all of my children are used to breastfeeding and what they are used to, they play.

It's been very common around here to see a child (and I say child because the boys and girls both do or have done this) walk by first with a baby doll (or stuffed animal) shoved under their shirt, that when "born" is held to their chests to "feed." My kids see nothing weird about breastfeeding their dolls and toys. It's how babies get fed around here.

And I think it is not only just fine, it's also pretty darn adorable.

Now there is a breastfeeding baby doll on the market. You'd think I'd want to run right out and get one for my breastfeeding little Nipple Nazis, huh?

I think it is one of the stupidest things I have ever seen. Not because I think it "promotes the sexualisation of young girls."

Girls (and boys) play house. They pretend to have babies. They feed their babies. Duh. No big whoop. No "sexualization" there.

Both the feeding of infants at the breast and the playing of "mama" with dolls are perfectly natural. What is most ridiculous about this toy is how unnatural it is. Why would anyone need/want to pay for a battery powered, sucking, mewling infant doll? If you want to promote breastfeeding, nurse around children so they think it is normal. Give them a rag doll and see what they do with it.

The doll isn't going to warp any little girls that get it, but it sure would be expensive, annoying and stupid.

I Heart Tomatoes

This heart shaped Kellogg's Breakfast Tomato from my garden weighed in at a whopping 2 lbs 4 oz. And I didn't do anything to encourage it. My favorite kind of garden plant.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Friday Quick Takes: Homeschooling edition

1. We started school this week and I have been making a concerted effort not to get on the computer until the main work of the day is done. It sometimes makes me a bit twitchy, but I think it has helped all of us keep on track better and finish the school day earlier, which is after all one of the best things about homeschooling.

2. Our morning circle time is going really well. It is doing what I want it to do. Bringing a coherent beginning to the morning, setting the right tone, giving us some prayer and story time together and all that sort of thing. I'm very pleased and plan to keep it up. Specifically this week during circle time, our hymn has been Jesus, my Lord, my God, my all and our poem was The White Clover Fairy by Cicely Barker. We read Pelle's New Suit, Tom Thumb, The Story of the Grand Canyon and Jenny Wren Gives Peter Rabbit an Idea.

3. My second grader is having lots of math troubles. She just doesn't seem to catch on. Even +1 facts seem too hard some days. Flash cards only seem to work in the moment, but are forgotten immediately later on. Any suggestions to help her out?

4. My oldest reads way too fast for me to keep up. I gave up a long time ago on reading everything he reads. I've assigned him one novel to read per week and do actual schoolwork on. He actually grabbed the one for the first week of school (Journey to the Center of the Earth) off the shelf last week and devoured it in about an hour. And he's been perfectly able to handle the work I throw at him. Maybe I should give him two assigned books per week.

5. My pre-K/Kindergartner is doing great. So far it is mostly reading lessons and math around here. She loves Math-U-See primer and would do a lot more lessons in a row, if I'd let her. We're supplementing with counting everything in the house, finding shapes inside and outside, and making big numbers, little numbers and all sorts of numbers on all sorts of surfaces. She doesn't love reading quite as much, but I think that's mostly because she hasn't realized she can read actual books yet. I've been showing her all the words in books that she can sound out by herself.

6. Probably the kid's two favorite things we've done this week?

Art: studying Carl Linnaeus and pulling up our own plants from the yard to sketch and paint.
History: acting out the history lesson about Sir Walter Raleigh with Legos.

7. It is a family tradition, of German origin (as is all of my family), that the child starting Kindergarten gets a big cone filled with school goodies, toys and perhaps even a little candy to make the first day a bit less intimidating and even more exciting. Being homeschooled may not be as intimidating, but my aunt has been making school cones for every niece and nephew since we started going off to school (I still have mine) and she is still making them now for her great-nieces and nephews. So here's the latest little one to get a cone:

Many thanks, as always, to Jen for hosting.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Planning the Days

I have come to the realization that I am not an "unschooler." I am also not capable of buying a nicely laid out curriculum and calling it a day. Some times I wish I were one or the other, but instead, I believe I am a tinkerer, but I am also not a natural teacher and curriculum creator, so I do need some help with making school run smoothly.

I spent much of May or so considering the books we've used in the past, deciding what worked and what did not. I ordered the some new stuff for the areas where I thought I needed work and stuck with books that the kids have done well with. In June, I ignored the book stacks sitting around, but in July, I started working on my plans for this new school year.

First I downloaded some of the lovely lesson planning pages from Donna Young. Then I wrote a list of the subjects to cover and books I wanted to use for them (which I mostly already had developed when back in May). Originally, I had grand plans of writing a whole year's worth of plans before school started. Ha! Well, a semester? I settled on four weeks. I'd love to have more than that, but truly after a month, things will go wrong. Someone will get sick and I'd have to revise it all any way (which is also why I've typed it all in Word instead of handwriting everything out).

My basic every day plans are not complicated:

Monday, all three school kids will be working on English (spelling, grammar, reading and writing -- at the appropriate levels). They will also begin a math lesson for the week and we'll do some history.

Tuesday brings math games, flash cards, geography and spelling reviews as well as science.

Wednesday, I plan to make a light day with Latin, art and formal religion work, as well as a trip to the library or the park with other homeschoolers in our neighborhood.

Thursday will be the day to do more English, a spelling bee (which if the kids can spell all their words correctly lets them out of a spelling test on Friday), continuing their math lessons and more history.

Friday will also be rather light, completing math (assuming they are clearly grasping the concepts and don't need to work on the lesson for more than a week), finishing up English work and more science.

In addition, to that plan, the two oldest have a book or story to read each week and do some additional things with.

That's the basic, weekly schedule, which is not much different from what we've done in past years. However, one thing I tried last year that went well and then died out from lack of planning on my part was to start the days with "circle time." It's a great way to make the school day a bit more formal and remind the kids that this is not the part of the day where we can run off to play Legos or dress-up and remind myself that this is not the part of the day where I can go play on the computer.

I used these lovely plans as a springboard for my own, figuring out what I wanted to cover and accomplish in the 30 minutes or so that we will spend together to begin the day. While I was tempted to just borrow those plans outright, I can't leave well enough alone don't have all the books she uses and anyway had a few things I wanted to do to make things suit our family and my own style better.

Our circle time will follow the pattern of a morning offering and daily intentions, followed by a hymn, followed by the kids filling out a blank calendar and marking the weather, reading the story of the saint of the day, a poem (which stay the same all week), sometimes a simple craft or finger activity, a story or an art appreciation lesson.

I loved the idea of making each week seasonally appropriate, but I also knew I would tear my hair out figuring those details out especially if I had to make sure I always had all the books I wanted checked out on time. Instead, I wanted a simpler plan that relied only on books I own. A rotation system will work better for this time of the year, though I think we will switch to something more seasonal for Advent, Lent and Easter. I'll be rotating through 5 different books each week. On Mondays, we'll read from My Book House, volume 5 (if you run across these out-of-print treasures in a used bookstore, buy them!), Tuesday's stories come from The Children's Book of America, Wednesday Children in Art, Thursday The Illustrated Treasury of Children's Literature, and on Friday we'll read from The Burgess Animal Book. Some of these books contain a lot more stories than others, so as we finish one up, I'll put something else into the rotation.

NBTSbloghop

Thursday, July 30, 2009

2009-2010 Homeschooling Booklist

Here is our basic booklist. This does not include all novels, short stories and other works of fiction that we will read during the year. I can't seem to plan that far ahead.

Fourth Grade

Math-U-See Epsilon
My Catholic Speller D
Language of God C
Writing Strands 3
Great Science Adventures: Discovering Earth's Landforms and Surface Features
Our Pioneers and Patriots
Discovering Great Artists
Stories of the Saints
Catholic Mosaic
He'll also be continuing in Latin, but I'm not sure what book the tutorial will be using this year.

Second Grade

Math-U-See Alpha (halfway complete) and Beta
Language of God A
My Catholic Speller A
Great Science Adventures: Discovering Earth's Landforms and Surface Features
Our Pioneers and Patriots
Discovering Great Artists
My Bookhouse, volume 4
Minimus

Pre-K/Kindergarten (depending upon how it goes)

Continue Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
Little Stories for Little Folks: Catholic Phonics Readers
Math-U-See Primer
She'll also sit in on and participate in other subjects as her abilities allow, especially science and history.

The littler kids usually just play and do their own thing while the older ones do school, so I have nothing planned for them. Later, I'll give you a post with a plan of how I hope the days and weeks will go.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

It's still July and thus I consider it fair game to still post a picture of the kidlets on the 4th.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I'd Show You a Picture, But It Disappeared too Fast

I was making my umpteenth loaf of zucchini bread the other day and decided half-way through the recipe that I wanted to do something different. I needed chocolate. And thus a new recipe was born.

Marbled Chocolate Zucchini Bread
makes 2 loaves
(recipe can be halved)

2 lbs zucchini (or yellow squash)
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 large eggs
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons vanilla
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

  • Heat oven to 375 degrees and coat two 9x5-inch loaf pans with vegetable oil.
  • Shred the zucchini or yellow squash, either by hand or with the grater attachment of a food processor. Place zucchini between several layers of paper towels or cheesecloth and squeeze out moisture.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, melted butter, eggs, yogurt, and vanilla.
  • In another large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  • Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the zucchini and the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture, stirring until just combined.
  • Meanwhile, place chocolate chips in a microwaveable container (I like to use a Pyrex measuring cup) and melt for about a minute. Chips won't look melted until you run a whisk through them.
  • Take 1 1/2 cups of the batter and combine it with the melted chocolate.
  • Alternate spoonfuls of plain batter and chocolate batter, when filling the loaf pans. When pans are full, draw a knife through the batters to complete the marbling.
  • Bake until a toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs, about 50 minutes.
  • Cool loaves for 10 minutes on a wire rack before removing from pans and then cool for at least an hour before cutting.

And that's that. Happy eating!

Monday, July 27, 2009

When Housewifery Doesn't Work Out So Well

I find that having shredded chicken and chicken stock in the freezer help me throw a lot of recipes together quickly. So I frequently buy a whole chicken or two to roast (either in the oven or the crockpot), shred the meat and use the carcass as the base for stock. This works quite well most of the time, but not so much when you roast up two beautiful birds and then go to bed leave them sitting on top of the stove all night long. Sigh.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday Quick Takes

1. Babies everywhere. My baby turned one. A dear friend at church had the most beautiful baby boy. Another friend from the first place we started attending mass had a gorgeous baby daughter and smiled during labor! And another blog friend had a baby boy.

2. The Adams' School will be starting up again soon. Since August weather in Tennessee isn't pleasant, we usually start up then, which gives us more wiggle room to goof off when the weather is more conducive to outside activities. I can't believe I have a fourth grader, a second grader and a child that may or may not be a Kindergartner.

3. My children have been on a Star Wars kick of late. Despite our telling them that the prequels do not exist (or at least we prefer to think so), they some how finagled us into letting us watch episodes 1 and 2 (I consider 3 to be too scary and violent -- I am one of those overprotective homeschoolers after all). And I was impressed by just how bad the lines and acting are. My memories weren't playing tricks on me. Those movies were that bad. Being some what influenced by their parents' opinions, or their own good taste, the kids prefer the older movies. My six year old is partial to Han Solo and I think she has good taste.

4. Just because I love the smell, I planted lavender in the garden this year. It's doing quite well and blooming. But other than sachets and herbs de Provence, is there anything I can use it for?

5. When doing my lesson planning, I've been very frustrated with the Catholic history programs out there. The two that I most like and would love to use History Links and Connecting with History don't get much past 1066. I've been using the M.B. Synge books and before that the Story of the World books, but neither suited my most fidgety child. Most of the other options out there that sound great are also so heavily Protestant in flavor that it makes me tired to think about adapting them to suit our needs. I finally bought Bishop Furlong's book Pioneers and Patriots and plan to use a lot of living books, which we always have, but why can't what I want be out there waiting for me? Hmph!

6. In order to better organize for the school year, I wanted a filing cabinet drawer of my very own. In order to get one, I cleaned out a lot of old papers. We usually hang on to bills and such for about a calendar year, but we hadn't cleaned things out in a while (since before we sold our old house in 2007) so I had a lot of papers to go through. In the end, I sent 3 big bags of stuff to my husband's office for industrial shredding. It felt great to get all that done, which makes me wonder -- why did I put it off so long?

7. This NFP stuff would be a whole lot easier if I worked like a textbook. And I'll leave it at that!

Quick Takes hosted, as always, by Jen.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dropped Off the Face of the Internets For a Bit

I didn't intend to disappear, but life outside the computer and in other sections of it has overwhelmed me recently.

Outside in the garden, the cucumbers continue to swamp me. I have no idea what to do with all of them. Most of my kids don't like them and wouldn't touch a pickle with a ten foot pole either. I've been sneaking them into other foods, taking cucumber salads to every event we're invited to and giving them away as I can. I still have a lot. The zucchini and summer squash are also doing great and we've had a lot of zucchini breads as well as various savory dishes made with them. The okra is coming in strong and we've been eating and freezing a lot. I've made a big batch of pesto and today I made my first batch of pasta sauce from my tomatoes. The only thing not growing is my pepper plants. Neither the hot peppers nor the bell peppers have done much of anything, much to my disappointment.

Inside and mostly at the computer, I have been busy signing the kids up with a new homeschooling umbrella school (which is how things work in Tennessee) and planning their first few months of school. In the past I haven't been a good planner and things tend to devolve rapidly. When I have had more of a concrete plan of the basics, the basics and more get done. So planning is quite necessary for me. At the end of last year, I almost decided to just buy one whole program and be done with it, but then I started looking at the ones that interested me and thinking that maybe I'd change the science book and the math book and maybe do this or that a little differently. And by the end of that, it seemed silly to buy something that I was going to have to rewrite anyway.

Now after two weeks of plans and printing, I can again see why it would be nice to have someone else write out all of those plans. But I also know I'd still tinker too much with them to make them worth my while.

In a later post I'll go into my plans in more detail, but for now I must go back and check on dinner.

Monday, July 13, 2009

On to Year Two!

A year ago, she was fresh from the belly and wondering where she was. Who were all these loud creatures looking at her all the time?

Now she's one of the brood. She gets into the fray and tries to hold her own against her two year old brother (sometimes more successfully than others).

And she's just so cute.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Three Dozen

Three dozen is the number of full-sized slicing cucumbers awaiting us upon our arrival home from a visit to my hometown. Even a family of cucumber lovers might be overwhelmed by this number, but not everyone in this family will touch the things and even those of us who like them are getting a bit tired of cucumbers.

I've become one of those crazy neighbors begging everyone to please take a cuke or two. I suppose it was only a matter of time.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

A Tea Party

A while back, Meredith wrote about saying yes instead of the routine no that moms are often guilty of. So often, I find myself answering every question with no, later, or "Go away kid, you're bothering me." Okay, maybe I don't say that last one, but I think it.

When the girls came and asked if they could have a tea party, I bit my tongue and said, "Yes!" We got out the tea pot. Made cucumber sandwiches, peppermint tea and set out some fruit and slices of plum bread and had ourselves a tea party. I even got out my hats for the girls.

And the world didn't end for me. I spent time with my kidlets and had fun. I need to say yes more often.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Benefits of Good Soil

In the Biblical parable, we are told of the seeds that fall in different locations and what happens to them. Of course, there is a deeper meaning to this passage, but for a purely visual image of the seed grown in good soil, I present to you a volunteer sunflower growing in the spot where our compost bin once stood.

This is also evidence of how much it pays to know your seedlings. When this and a companion sunflower (blown over in a windstorm) as well as several tomato plants sprouted out of the compost bin's soil, I could have yanked them. But I knew fairly quickly what they were and let them grow. Now I have beauty and tomatoes. Yay!

(Please ignore the tall weeds, brick pile and rotting fascia as best you can.)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Airing My Clean Laundry

For the past month or so, I've been engaged in an experiment. Since my children operate under a "No Light Turned Off" policy, I thought it might be a good time to try reducing our electricity use some place else. It's hot. It's sunny. I've been drying the clothes outside.

I don't have a clothes line and I only have one medium sized drying rack, so I usually have to press the patio furniture into service, but it gets the job done.

Although hanging the clothes outside isn't as fast and easy as throwing in the dryer it has been useful. I've caught several stains that didn't wash out the first time through that would have been permanently set by the dryer. The wrinkles on clothes are also vastly reduced, so that we don't look quite so much like a bunch of ragamuffins.

Sadly, what wasn't reduced was our overall electricity usage. It was slightly higher than this time last year. I suppose to look on the bright side though, just imagine how much even higher it would have been if I'd been using the dryer.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Too Tired for Destruction

This is what I found by the front door the other day. I can only imagine the conversation in his head...

"I have a hammer and now I can destroy any...thing...I...want...right...after...I...lay...my...head...

ZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz"

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Driving the Behemoth

It seemed inevitable that we would eventually need one of these. No, this isn't an announcement of impending Adams #6. However, the kids we do have fill every seat in a small minivan and they keep growing bigger. The minivan keeps adding on more and more expensive problems. So every once in a while, I browsed Craigslist, just to see what was out there.

The other day I ran across an ad not far from Nashville for something I'd heard about in van legends, but wasn't really sure existed -- the mythical double side door van. So, even though it was white and looked like a cargo van. And even though we don't need it at present, I dispatched my gallant knight to take a look at it.

If you have to buy a used car, buy it from a car fanatic. This van has lived all its life in a garage. He had special options and upgraded wheels put on it. The poor van is going to go from being the prized baby to workhorse. We have no garage (that will fit it or that we use for cars, being in the backyard and unreachable by driveway) and it will go from carrying two excessively neat adults, to 5 slobby children and their not that much better parents.

It's roomy and clean and my kids are very happy with the new seating arrangements, but it is going to take some time for me to get used to driving such a huge thing. I've never driven any kind of truck before and that's exactly what this is -- a large truck.

So give me a wide berth on the road for a while, but I can drive a lot more kidlets around now.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wordless Wormy Wednesday

From a sunny day a few months ago

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Iced Coffee

The other day Robbo mentioned that he considers iced coffee to be the nectar of the gods on a hot afternoon. But when I asked, I discovered that the poor sap isn't making cold brewed coffee for his tasty caffeinated fix. He doesn't know what he's missing.

Making cold brewed coffee is very simple and although you can buy a cold brewing system from Amazon, it isn't at all necessary. We use our French press, but that also isn't necessary, just convenient.

So how does one make cold brewed coffee? The basic recipe is a 3:1 ratio of water to coffee grounds. So we start with 1 cup of medium grind coffee and 3 cups of cold water. Pour it into a French press or a large jar and stir. Cover and stick it in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.

After much time has elapsed, if you used a French press, press the coffee, pour into a jar through an extra coffee filter if you want to remove all sludge. If you didn't use a press, just pour everything through a coffee filter into a jar. Store in the fridge for up to a week or two (though it won't last that long).

What you've made is a coffee concentrate. When you want to drink it, you will probably want to add some water to thin it a bit. The original recipe I used called for mixing the concentrate with equal parts water, but I found this to be too weak. I think 2/3 coffee concentrate to 1/3 water tasted much better.

Pour over ice, adulterate as you see fit, and enjoy the nectar of the gods.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Summer Colors

In spring, I've noticed that most of the flowers in my garden wear shades of purple and pale pink. It's a soft a peaceful place. In summer, though, the color riot begins and although I can't say I actually planned it this way, I think the colors of the flowers suit the season (right down the the brown dead things in the winter garden, that I never get around to cleaning out until the new green peaks through).

I love spring and I love spring flowers, especially the bulbs that arrive year after year, heralding the end of the cold and the arrival of new things. I love the fact that spring bulbs come back without any real effort of my part.

But for all that I find peace and hope in the crocuses, tulips and daffodils, I think I love my summer garden of splashy colors even more. It's bright. It's cheerful. It's kind of crazy with reds, oranges, yellows and hot pinks -- tall things, short things and a mess of weeds always trying to take over, but it's the right kind of crazy. The kind that makes you want to swing on a porch swing with a drippy popsicle while kids catch fireflies and turn cartwheels.

A lacecap hydrangea my neighbors were tossing out.
My gardening style has generally tended towards taking whatever plants anyone will give me and putting them in the ground somewhere and hoping for the best -- knowing that most things can be moved of divided as needed. And some how, with a little water, weeding a mulch, the gardens give me back so much more than just flowers alone.

Soft spring or bright summer -- what would the world be like without flowers?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Like P. G. Wodehouse with Sex

The Mrs. P may single-handedly bring a forgotten author back into popularity.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Eleven Months Old

My dear child, how did you get to be 11 months old so fast? I suppose it actually has been that long since I was enormous, uncomfortable and telling you it was about time to think about vacating the premises, but it has truly flown by. You are rather clingy, not wanting to be held by just anyone. You'll smile from your mother's arms, but given the chance to be held by others, you let the world know that, like Bartleby the Scrivener, you prefer not to. Usually, I don't mind, though there are times when I wouldn't mind being able to pass you over to someone else. Fortunately, you do let one of your big sisters carry you, even if you seem impossibly big in her arms, which is odd because... Like your just older brother, you have embraced skinny shrimpiness to the point of worrying the doctor a bit, but also like your brother, there is nothing lethargic or slow about you. You crawl, cruise, babble, smile, and show acute annoyance when your siblings or parents cross you. So now it's only one month until your birthday. I suppose cake and presents are in order, but what my child does one give a fifth child, whose older brothers and sisters already own every toy known to man?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Welcome Back!

It's only been about 5 years since Curmudgeonry lived on Blogger, but I've returned to the fold. Pixy Misa and the Mu.nu guys have been wonderful, but it was time to make a change. I know Blogger isn't perfect, but it sure is a lot better than it was in the bad old days. So change your links as necessary. It's going to take some getting used to for me too.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Quick!

1. My nine, six and four year old children have been going to a Totus Tuus program all week. Technically it's for rising first graders and up, but for some reason they let the almost five year olds come too. The program is in its second year in Nashville and it is great. The kids have a lot of fun and enjoy learning a lot about their faith from very joyful college students and seminarians.

I admit that I've been some what enjoying the quiet with only the two littlest at home, but I miss the big kids and I hate making lunches every day and trying to shoo everyone out the door so that we can arrive on time. I can manage for a week, but how does anyone do it for a whole school year?

2. It's also been baby week around here. Tuesday morning, I got to meet my new little nephew, and Wednesday evening I got to go back to the hospital and meet the newest son of some dear friends. It's always amazing how tiny these little people are when they first arrive on the outside. Even the relatively big 8+ pounders that these little boys were, look so tiny and fragile. My ten month old is a petite little girl, but seemed like a giant next to a newborn.

3. My dad has also been here visiting this week. When he comes projects get done. Two or so years ago, my mom got us a set of used kitchen cabinets at the Habitat for Humanity store and they've been filling up the garage ever since. Now they are finally hanging on the laundry room walls. Still no countertops or laundry sink, but the cabinets alone are a big improvement.

4. My two year old seems to be very close to being potty trained in re #2 and yet he wets his pants all the time. Isn't #2 supposed to be the harder one? Not that I'm complaining.

5. After throwing the Art of Natural Family Planning at a wall in frustration a few months ago, we signed up for a class which just ended last month. Now we're supposed to turn in charts to the teacher for the next six months. I guess she probably wouldn't believe us if we never ever marked that any, um, relations, occurred, but sharing that level of detail is so not me. Not that we do things like that. Never.

6. And moving right along, the oldest took the Standford Achievement Test a while back. To brag just a little -- he did very well. So well, that we haven't showed him his scores. I know he would like to know, but I don't know whether telling him might go to his head a bit. Opinions? Wisdom? As his mother, though, I was unsurprised that his worst score was in listening. Because if the words "Lego" or "Star Wars" aren't in a sentence, it might just not be too important.

7. I am contemplating moving the ol' blog off of mu.nu. After the last craziness where a post from 2005 was on top for a bit last week, I think it might be time. Would the seven of you, who still come here once in a while follow me off to a new domain or would I really be stuck talking to myself and the voices in my head?

Quick Takes Fridays are, as always, hosted by the lovely Jen.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Optimist or Pessimist?

The two year old goes running past, tushie bare, not particularly interested in putting on pants after jumping off the potty.

Says I, "Hey, you're half naked."

Says he, "I half not naked, too."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

If You Are Looking For Me, I'll Be Hiding Under the Bed

The morning started out well. The oldest came in and announced he had started making breakfast. That's always a nice thing to hear, even if he chose a recipe beyond his competency level and we had to help him a bit, I admire the initiative.

After breakfast, the kids did a bit of school and then tortured me by playing Star Wars music on the kazoo. Now I hear that the CIA has been a bit of trouble lately for torturing terrorists, but let me note that water boarding cannot be compared to the metal anguish caused by listening to Darth Vader's theme song for the thousandth time in a row on the kazoo. So if you have an Al Qaeda operatives that you need to get talking, send them over to meet my children.

Such exuberance on the part of the short set being coupled by my own desire to get outside on a lovely spring day, I proposed that we set aside the books until after lunch and head to the park. And we had a lovely 30 minutes or so until the big kids decided to borrow bikes from the community center. Within ten more minutes or so, one of the kids was on the ground writhing in pain and I was packing up for a trip to the ER, because blacking out due to pain can't be good.

Fortunately, my husband was able to meet us at the ER and stay with the patient while I took the other kiddos to the waiting room and then on to the hospital Taco Bell and Ben and Jerry's. We'll pretend it was an educational trip -- how not to ride a bike for one of them and the others got to pet a sloth visiting from the Nashville Zoo.

By the time we got home, the injured party was feeling much better and we just need to keep an eye out for any problems that could crop up though none are expected.

To add insult to the day though, my mostly potty-trained (but obviously not quite) two year old presented himself to me with an explosion of the bowels that had reached his shoulders. I'm not sure I've ever seen the like before and certainly hope never to do so again.

And so, I'm in hiding. Tomorrow has got to be better. Right?

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