Friday, February 26, 2010

This is Getting to be a Habit -- Friday Quick Takes


I didn't mean for a whole week to slip by, but although I find myself longing to check my e-mail during the day (even though it's not like I have a million important e-mails waiting for me even at the end of the day), by the time I get my nightly computer time, I don't feel like blogging all that much. In the meantime, life has gone on.


The most exciting event of the week around here was the ordination of a new priest in our diocese. It was exciting for our family, because the new priest has been the deacon at our parish and we've enjoyed getting to know him. It was also exciting and busy for our family, because my husband's schola sang much of the music for the Ordination Mass. And it was exciting and historically noteworthy for our diocese, because this particular priest was ordained under the pastoral provision and is the first married priest in the diocese.

We pray that he and all the other priests out there are guarded from evil.

And if anyone wants to throw in their two cents about married priests in general, they can do it elsewhere. Any snark and I will delete it. I do not see a conflict between asking men in the normal routine to take on a discipline of celibacy and also offering a special provision for converts who, when married, never had considered the possibility of the priesthood, but nonetheless felt called to serve God as priests.


School continues around here, and I daresay at a better clip than usual. I just ordered Math-U-See Zeta for the oldest and a new student text for Math-U-See Alpha for the five year old. The five year old is obviously the math genius of the family (or maybe not, but she really seems to have a great grasp of numbers and how they work). She whipped through the Primer book in no time and is ready to move on.

As for the seven year old, I'll be moving her to a different math program next year. I think it will be a better fit for her and will cut down on the competition if and when her little sister passes her by.


Speaking of homeschooling, I think I have decided on all the books I want to buy to grind a little knowledge into the heads of educate my children. I'll post a list eventually.

It seems as though I need new books (by new, I mean new to us -- I'm perfectly happy to buy said books used when I can find them) in almost every subject. The oldest, of course, being the oldest, needs new books because he is journeying into uncharted waters. The next oldest needs different materials than her brother used, because she is a totally different kid and what works for him does not, as a general rule work well for her. The five year old, however, only needs a few new things that fill in for consumable workbooks we've consumed in the past. Otherwise, she'll just be reusing what we have or coming along on the subjects I'm buying for her siblings.

When considered in terms of the cost of private school, homeschooling is a downright bargain. But books sure aren't cheap.


The baby girl is chattering up a storm these days. Often coming in to tell on her older siblings, although since the only word I can usually make out in her complaints is their names, they usually get off pretty lightly. Not to mention that an infraction to a 19 month old can be something as minor as someone playing with their own toys. She's lucky she's cute.


Now that the week is almost over, the weekend looms large. Up this weekend -- cooking for 100-ish. A friend and I are making a brunch to celebrate our new priest's First Mass. I am hoping we don't have a lot more people than usual show up. First Masses can be a big deal, but on the other hand, as a convert, he didn't have a whole lot of people he wanted to invite.


Also on Sunday, the seven year old's First Confession. She's very aware of her sins, as she has informed me. If she can manage a little actual repentance that would be helpful too. I can't believe she's so old. And I have to come up with a First Communion veil next. Yikes.

More Quick Takes to be found at Jen's place.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Very Late Quick Takes


So far, I have actually managed successfully to stay off the internet during the day. On Ash Wednesday, I woke up wanting check my e-mail before even getting out of bed. The temptation was huge. By evening, I think I was going through computer withdrawal, and I was grumpy. Yesterday was a bit easier. Today was busy enough, with activities for the kids away from home all morning, that there was only a short window when I was craving my internet fix. Needless to say, anyone that addicted to checking in on the internets needed a break.


When I told my kids that I had chosen to stay off the computer during the day as part of my Lenten fast, my seven year old clapped. Obviously they need a mother with a face other than a computer screen.


I haven't officially signed up for the Faith and Family challenge to rid my home of 40 bags of clutter in 40 days, but being offline has encouraged me to do some decluttering. I went through and got rid of a few things from my closet (though I could stand to do a lot more), sorted out some duplicate books or ones I don't want any more, and am hoping to do plenty more sorting and editing of the stuff around here. It's always liberating to get rid of stuff (except when I start looking for something only to realize I gave it away). D'oh!


I just started definitely feeling the wee one wiggling now and then. I might have been feeling some movement for a while, but now it is getting pretty definite. My favorite part of pregnancy!


To go with my favorite part of pregnancy, I've also developed many of my least favorites. Heartburn. Insomnia. Faintness when standing still too long or when kneeling. Nose bleeds. And many other unpleasant things that I'm not going to mention. I suppose one must take the bad with the good.


The next two weeks are going to be quite busy with my husband's schola singing for 4 different Masses (a regular Novus Ordo Mass, an Extraordinary Form Mass, the Ordination Mass for our parish's deacon, and then for his First Mass at our parish). I am in charge of planning and executing a luncheon after the First Mass for our newest diocesan priest and the same morning, my second grader, who will be receiving her First Holy Communion this year, will be making her first Confession. Plus, we have regular things like a children's symphony concert, a birthday party for a friend, and school, of course. I suppose it is just as well that I am planning not to be distracted by the cyber-world.


I got a new cell phone last week. My husband and I both did, actually. Our phones were both almost 3 years old. Mine had stopped charging (the battery would claim to be charged after about 15 seconds but would be dead after one phone call) and my husband's phone was constantly turning itself off and on, making it almost impossible to use. As much as I really, really, really wanted a smart phone of some kind, the reality is that that was definitely not a need. So we got some plain phones that were only $10 each after all their specials and whatnot. But I did get mine in red. Some things are just fun.

More Quick Takes to be found at Jen's place.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fat Tuesday or Getting Ready for Lent

I meant to make pancakes for breakfast this morning, but I slept in a bit and so that didn't happen. I made them for lunch instead and was greeted with cries of, "Mom, this is the best lunch ever!"

This evening, I set some bread to rising, because if you are going to be eating only one real meal on Ash Wednesday, you ought to have some good, sturdy bread to help you along. This is the Vollkorn Brot recipe from the Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day book. And don't you like my improvised heat lamp to help the dough along in my frigid house?

While the bread was rising, we burned last year's palms from Palm Sunday and the kids all colored pages with the word Alleluia on them. We sang Alleluia one more time and then hid the pictures until Easter.

Tomorrow we'll do some readings about Lent and Ash Wednesday as part of our school day and go to Mass in the evening. As I mentioned before, part of my personal discipline this year will be staying off the computer during the day while the kids are up. So if you need me, expect to hear from me in the evenings and any posting I do around here will either be at night or set to publish at a later day time hour.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Quick Takes


Things underwear designers never think of: some of my 3 year old's underwear have a picture on the backside. Therefore, he insists on wearing them backwards so that he can see the picture when his pants are off. That can't be comfortable.


Jo-Lynne helped me add this third column to my blog yesterday. I like that everything doesn't scroll way off down the page as much, but I think it might be cluttery. How does it look to you? My husband suggests that I shorten the blogroll, but I happen to love my blogroll (and everyone on it -- not to mention all the people I visit and forget to put on it).


Any remedial math teachers out there? I've been noticing for a long while that math is just not my seven year old's forte. Drama, yes. Math, no. She learns things and forgets them immediately. She can't see why it is obvious that the answer to 11-7 is not 10. She's about a year behind in math already and she's only in second grade. At least by homeschooling, we can plug away at her speed.

Having had some experience with one of my brothers being a math incompetent, my mother sent me an article on dyscalculia. It was quite enlightening and I think it explains a lot, including why learning violin isn't going well for her either (even though she can whistle anything). This has sent me on a trail of reading over the past few days. It seems that many people recommend Math-U-See for those with trouble, which is what she has always used. My daughter does do pretty well if she builds everything with blocks, but otherwise she isn't doing all that well with the program. But maybe she'd do worse with something else. I am having trouble figuring out what to do with her for next year. If the best program out there doesn't work, then what?


I had a check up at the OB's office yesterday. There's a little person in there. It's a weird time in pregnancy, because other than my belly already being enormous and my being constantly starved, I don't feel all that pregnant.

My next check up will include an ultrasound. I'm not planning on finding out whether this one is a boy or a girl, though it is always a bit tempting.


Lent is coming up. Last year my family gave up meat for the whole of Lent. I have realized that I just can't do that this year. I seem to need a lot of protein with this pregnancy and I find myself craving meat all the time. As I mentioned in the comments at Kate's site, my plan for myself is to go on a day time internet fast. I think for me that will be a lot harder than giving up meat was last year, but if, as I plan to do, I can learn to fill that time with more productive things like prayer, it will be a very good experience. But don't expect to hear from me quite as often or as fast.


I realized something shocking on Facebook yesterday. Those people I didn't have anything in common with way back when? I still have nothing in common with. Amazing, I know!


My little brother is learning to be a classical artist. He's pretty amazing after several years of study. I'd love to have him paint my children some day, but he insists they have to learn to sit still first. That's not going to be happening any time soon, sadly. Anyway, my brother's website doesn't seem to have any of his most recent stuff, but these things are beautiful. (Warning though -- classical painters paint a lot of nudes. So if that bothers you, be forewarned.)

More Quick Takes to be found at Jen's place.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Minestrone in the Crockpot or on the Stove

My family loves soup. We eat a lot of it in the winter and it's not that rare in the summer either. Soup and bread make a great meal. Although I have no Italian roots to get in touch with, I do love minestrone.

My favorite recipe is one derived from the Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook. I love my crockpot, but I'm also really bad about remember to start dinner when I'm cleaning up after breakfast, so one thing I really like about this recipe is that it is also adaptable to quickly cooking on the stove top, when you remember dinner at 5:30.

I'll note changes to make to get this from the chopping stage to the table quickly throughout the recipe.


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2-3 carrots, diced
2 ribs celery, sliced
1-2 zucchini, cubed
1 15-ounce can kidney beans (or the equivalent in pre-cooked dried beans -- you have those in your freezer right?)
1 teaspoon salt (I find I need a bit more, because I tend to unsalt broth when I make it)
1 bay leaf
black pepper to taste 1/4 cup parsley leaves, chopped (I suppose flat leaf would be ideal, curly works fine)
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (or two smaller cans or the equivalent amount of diced tomatoes from your freezer or garden, but they need to have been de-skinned)
1 10-ounce package frozen baby lima beans 2 1/2 cups chicken broth Swiss chard, Napa cabbage, or my personal favorite Spinach (however much bulks up the soup correctly)
1/2 cup red wine (or white if that's what you happen to have on hand) 1 cup elbow or small shell noodles Freshly grated Parmesan (Did you know the real stuff will keep practically forever in the fridge? Stay far away from the stuff in the green plastic bottle.)

  • If you are cooking this in the crockpot, start with a large skillet and saute the onion, carrots, celery and zucchini in the olive oil until softened (about 5 minutes). If you want to cook it on the stove, throw the same ingredients in the big pot you will be cooking the soup in and saute.
  • For the crockpot, transfer the vegetables to the crockpot and add the beans, salt, bay leaf, pepper, parsley, tomatoes and their juice, lima beans and broth. Add water to come up an inch above the ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours.
  • On the stove top, add the beans, salt, bay leaf, pepper, parsley, tomatoes and their juice, lima beans and broth on top of the softened vegetables. Add water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and cover and simmer for about 30 minutes.
  • If you are cooking the soup in the stove, boil a pot of water and cook the macaroni noodles until just underdone according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  • After 30 minutes on the stove, add spinach and wine. Bring back to full heat (especially important if you are using frozen spinach as I often do). Add the noodles. Stir and serve with grated Parmesan.
  • Now back to the crockpot, after 5 hours, add the spinach and wine, replace the lid, and continue to cook on low for another 2-3 hours.
  • Stir the uncooked macaroni into the soup, recover the pot and cook on high for about 30 minutes until the noodles are done. Serve with grated Parmesan.
And there you have it, one recipe and two ways to prepare it. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Physics as Told By They Might Be Giants

I sent this video to my dad, the physics professor, last night. No word on whether his students might benefit from it, but it's not a bad introduction for my short set to the difference between speed and velocity.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Dignity of Motherhood

One of my many favorite writers on the web, Betty Duffy, recently wrote this:
Motherhood already has an inherent dignity because it is the biological design of women to be mothers, but in a worldly sense, mothering our kids is a pretty good deal. What I want to know is why we are still apologizing for following the natural design of our hearts and bodies? Why are we still yearning to be the workhorses of the boardroom, the bedroom, and the kitchen? It feels counterintuitive.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

How NOT to Prepare for a Blogging Conference

This is the third year that I've gotten to go to the Blissdom blogging conference here in Nashville. You'd think by now I would have learned something. And yet, before hand, these are the things I do that are fine for life in general, but won't get me anywhere in the blogging.*

  1. Schedule doctor's appointments and homeschool events the week before.
  2. Try to squeeze five days of homeschooling into four.
  3. Spend all "free time" looking at various things you might want to get for next year's curriculum.
  4. Deal with plumbers for two days.
  5. Forget to write any blog posts for most of the week.
  6. Forget to write that "About Me" page you meant to write last year.
  7. Stay up too late every night so your stamina is shot.
  8. Leave the kitchen a wreck, so that you have to call and apologize to your husband on your way to Opryland.
I'm sure I came up with several others that I've already forgotten. I had a very fun time though and will return with actual information that I learned soon.

*Not that I'm, um, actually trying to get anywhere, so that might be the point.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Deductive versus Inductive Reasoning

Today at the Adams School we had a lesson in deductive versus inductive reasoning and why a second opinion is a good thing.

A little background information for you. As part of our home renovations a few years ago, we put all new plumbing in the house, but we did not do anything to the main line coming into the house. This was for two reasons, you can see that the pipe coming into the house is copper and when we bought the house there was an indentation in the yard leading to the water line, so we figured it had all been replaced not that long before.

Besides not messing with the main line, we also left a weird, very, very old hose connection in the flower bed by the house that is attached directly to the main line before the shut off for the house. Every time we have a deep freeze and rapid warm up, the pressure fitting in that pipe blows and spews water all over everything. You have to shut the water off at the street to put it back together, and it takes a very strong person lying flat on their stomach to turn it off. I can't do it even when I'm not pregnant.

I've had to call Justin and get him to come home from work to shut this spewing pipe off more than once (good thing we live close to his office). So we finally got tired of this and called a plumber out to talk about fixing it several weeks ago.

The first plumber came out dug around a little, told me he couldn't put his threading machine on the old pipe, because it would snap. He never dug down to the main line, but informed me that it had to be galvanized pipe because a good plumber would never stick galvanized pipe into copper pipe. Nor would they reattach old pipe to new. He told me that we'd probably need to replace the entire thirty feet of pipe from the street to the house -- all without taking a look at the pipe underground.

This my friends, is DEDUCTIVE REASONING. Take a set of assumptions -- starting with the idea of what only "good" plumbers would do, for instance, and working from there to a conclusion without investigating the facts.

Today, the plumbing company sent out a different plumber. He said he'd seen all sorts of odd things done to old houses and pipes and before he unloaded the big digging machine he decided to actually check what was down there with a shovel. In other words, he went looking for facts on which to base his conclusions. INDUCTIVE REASONING.

Maybe no good plumber would have stuck an old galvanized hose pipe into a copper pipe, but that's exactly what was done at our house. At some point a new main line had been run from the street, as we'd always believed. There is nice new pipe all the way along. But when those plumbers, before we bought the house, ran the line they kept the ancient galvanized hose pipe and fitted it into the new copper pipe.

Pulling out the crummy pipe and capping it cost almost exactly $1000 less than running a whole new line. If the first plumber hadn't been lazy and not wanted to dig the first day, we would have gotten it fixed weeks ago when we first called them. I haven't yet decided whether the first plumber was trying to up his amount billed this month or not.

And of course, if we had done the digging ourselves ages ago, we would have known what the problem was and could have gotten a cheaper plumber to come out after hours and fix it for far less. Still, I practically feel rich without the giant bill I thought was headed our way.

Remember folks, the more facts you have the better position you will be in to figure out a solution. Faulty logic sets you up for a mess.

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