Thursday, October 28, 2010

Book Recommendations Welcomed

Not too long ago, Robbo mentioned reading Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop. I'd never read it and probably wouldn't have appreciated it in my non-Catholic youth anyway, but when I was at the library and happened to walk past the C's on the shelf, I nabbed it, read it and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I was a German literature major in college.  I have an MA in it too, and yet I haven't taught my kids German and I seem to read very little literature these days that doesn't have pictures on every page. I know that Joshua and Prudence have many nice and useful parts. I've got The Big Red Barn down pat. I have been rereading some of my favorite L.M. Montgomery books lately, but I doubt they'll be on the great literature lists any time soon.

However, what I liked about Death Comes for the Archbishop was, in some ways, what I like about books Montgomery's Blue Castle or Tangled Web. They are about life and not always beautiful or perfect lives, but at the same time life is worth the living. In other words, they aren't like the German books I spent my early adulthood reading.  One reason I decided not to get a PhD in German lit (besides discussions like this) was an ever growing weariness with a feeling that all great literature seemed focused on misery and death.

Sure death comes for the Archbishop in the end, but it isn't the kind of tiring, romantic death that someone like young Werther seeks.  It isn't the painful, pointless, frustrating death of Gregor Samsa.  If Cather had focused the story on Magdalena and her misery, the book would have seemed more like the German literature I spent so much time reading. Instead, Fr. Latour's and Fr. Vaillant's small and large sufferings seem to have a purpose and bring them through long lives to a worthy end.

I appreciated the book, because it was a good story; one I wanted to stay up late reading.  It wasn't a slog to get through. Not a book I had to spend time analyzing to understand and enjoy, but one that later on, I am still thinking about.

Of course, this means that I am now back to entertaining myself with One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and need to figure out what to check out next time I'm at the library. Fun reads. Fine literature not necessary, although certainly welcome as long as it isn't on the German model. Suggestions?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Year of the Butterfly

My whole childhood, I read about caterpillars forming chrysalises and metamorphosing into butterflies.  I wanted to see it, but I never did.  Caterpillars never seemed to survive in my youth and in recent years, it seems all we ever find are ugly caterpillars that turn into ugly moths.

This year we got wonderfully and amazing lucky. First, I plucked a fat squishy caterpillar off my carrots and brought it in.  The first day the kids marveled at how much the caterpillar pooped, and we identified it. The next day we saw it tie itself onto something and slowly over the course of a day turn into a chrysalis.  We were surprised to find it still wiggled when bumped (or poked and prodded) and in about two weeks we had a beautiful butterfly.
A black swallowtail
Even more butterfly luck came our way. A few days after the black swallowtail flew away, I was cutting dead plants out of my flower bed and into my hand fell another chrysalis. Totally different from the first one. Small, green with gold on it. It would have made a beautiful piece of jewelry. I couldn't identify it by the caterpillar, but Google helped. We had a monarch chrysalis! About two weeks after I found it, we came home from the grocery store to another lovely butterfly.

We may be studying chemistry in our homeschool this semester, but I couldn't have asked for a more wonderful chance to admire butterflies up close.  And I finally, after all these years, got to see some actual examples of the metamorphosis of a caterpillar.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Four Years and a Couple of Weeks

I've been mostly not-blogging these days, it seems, but my kids are getting educated. I'm cooking real meals, and the house is moderately clean.  However, I do need to show my face around here too.  For instance, my adorable, sweet, sometimes belligerent second son turned four a few weeks ago.
I can't believe he's four already. The years have flown by, at the same time they dragged every day. When he was still in utero, we first looked at the big purple house. We sold our tiny, comfortable, non-drafty house when he was still a tiny baby.  Now he's a full-blown super hero.

Several weeks in advance, the four year old to be told me he wanted a monkey cake. If you've seen some of my other cake decorating attempts, you might know that I'll try just about anything, but the results are generally not all that pretty.  I like to tell people that while I am a good baker, icing is my downfall.  Sometimes I even just buy icing out of a can, and I still can't seem to pipe it properly.  This time I tried chocolate marshmallow fondant. Much better results (even if no one will ever hire me as a professional cake decorator, I think it's better than some of the professional cakes I've seen) and it tasted good too. What's on the inside? A banana layer cake, of course.  What other kind of monkey cake would one make?

Friday, October 22, 2010

All Saints' Art Trading Cards

Back in May, the kids and I made tiny pictures of the Blessed Virgin for a fun art trading card swap hosted by Kimberlee at Pondered in My Heart.  We had fun making our cards and even more fun getting new ones in return.

Now Kimberlee is hosting an All Saints' swap and we're participating again.  Please join in the fun.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Homeschool Planning, Again

I've been working writing our second quarter lesson schedules in between trying to actually school the kidlets. This year has gone well so far and I'm happy with the resources I've chosen, but I see now both why people buy a full package of school materials and why people charge a lot of money for such things.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Those Kinds of Days

It started off just fine.  We were taking my visiting aunt to the local botanical gardens to see the Chihuly exhibit since she's rather fond of his art and we hadn't seen it.

I got the kids fed. We were on time to pick her up and everything seemed to be going smoothly.  Admission paid up, we set out on the path.  At the second stop, I noticed my eight year old sitting on the ground looking at the sculpture, but I also noticed her lips were white.  She claimed to feel fine though and set off at her usual quick pace.  But a few minutes later she declared her stomach to feel weird and then she leaned over and barfed all over the grass, which I thought awfully considerate of her -- the kids usually choose to vomit on me.

We headed back toward the exit. The four year old fell and scraped his knee and was dripping blood.  Of course, he also needed to visit the bathroom again. The two year old refused to hold my hand in the parking lot and screamed herself into a full blown tantrum when I picked her up and carried her.

By the time we got back to the van, the queasy one was feeling sick again, but couldn't seem to bring anything up.  Finally, I had to let her in the vehicle and not having anything to catch vomit, I gave her my sling to puke on, should she need it (fortunately, she didn't!).

My aunt, who never had children, was treated to the full family experience.  Vomiting and bleeding children, excessive potty breaks, and on the trip home blood-curdling screams from a two year old that waken both the dead and the sleeping baby, who decided to get in on the screaming contest.

Needless to say, I was glad my family did not run into any curious strangers and by the time I got home, I was ready for a strong cup of tea and a nap. At least I got the tea.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Warning! Breeder Alert!

I have been blessed through my years of parenthood to run into very few nasty or rude people.  I've never been told I can't nurse a hungry baby in public.  Most people who see me out and about with my entourage either say nice things or make the stock, "You've got your hands full!" comment, to which I can only agree.  There was the one fellow at the library one day who suggested that I needed to get a TV, but generally, I don't attract too many shocked looks or strange comments when the whole gang is with me.

Today I was out shopping at my local, teeny health/organic food store, where I buy spices in bulk, as well as steel cut oats, turbinado sugar and green lentils among other things.  Now, I don't live in the suburbs where all my Catholic mom friends with their mega-sized families live.  I live near downtown in one of those hip, trendy, urban neighborhoods, although I am not and never have been hip or trendy.  What kind of people mostly live in hip, trendy neighborhoods?  Singles, confirmed bachelors (if you know what I mean) and young-ish couples who might have one or two kids.  Not women who drive 12 passenger vans and regularly cart around half a dozen children. But there you have it, I live amongst those who are not like me.  But we occasionally shop at the same stores.

So here I was shopping in the hippy store (let's face it, that's what those stores are and they have the patchouli to prove it), and we ran into a friend with her son along. So even though my oldest happened to be off on a camping trip and not in attendance, I was still surrounded by six children when a woman came into the store looked at me with shock and said, "Please tell me these aren't all your children."  Well, they weren't, so I didn't claim them all, but my friend's son was quick to point out that my children weren't even all there.  More shocked looks.  But the woman regained her composure, told me I had a beautiful family and after I thanked her, I thought we were free to move on.

She could not.  Five seconds later, she followed me around the corner to ask me how I managed to take care of them all.  I told her one at a time and day by day.  I'm never good at snappy comebacks.

When we got to the yogurt section she was still trailing behind, still shocked and still discussing the size of my family.  When we got to the checkout line there she was asking, "So did you wait at all before popping them out?  Are they all 9 months apart?" And then addressing my five year old, "How old are you?"

It was starting to get a little weird.  I don't expect not to be something of an oddity.  There aren't many families with a million children out there, especially not in neighborhoods full of urban hipsters, but I do like to eventually be left in peace and I really hate discussions about my children that involve the expression "popping them out" -- especially conversations carried on in front of those same children.

In the end, after following us out to her car parked next to ours and gawking at what she had probably assumed was a delivery van, the woman left us alone and drove away.  I knew I was going to have to head over to my blog and write about the encounter, and I can only wonder if she headed home to do the same.

"I saw a woman at the store today with, like, a zillion kids! What the ^(&@!!@ is she thinking?  Doesn't she care about the environment?  Do you think she hasn't heard of birth control? Man, was she ever surrounded by kids! And you should have seen her van. O.M.G. It was huge!"

Friday, October 08, 2010

Quick Takes


For the first time in about a year, I started weeding one of my flower beds.  It is now apparent to me that I can grow children or flowers, but not both. Does anyone know where to buy Agent Orange?

In the spring, gardens are so full of promise.  The weeds haven't grown out of control. The bulbs come up and bloom all on their own. It seems so beautiful and so easy.  By mid-summer, even when I'm not pregnant, I tend to feel worn out and the weeds creep in.  By fall, everything seems to be in an impossible shambles and in the winter it will look dead no matter what I do.  But spring always comes again.  There's something philosophical in there, but I'll leave it to you all to tease it out.

JH went to the infant development lab at the local major university, where almost all of my kids have been taken in for experimentation.  They've mostly done studies on language development, but this one is looking at how kids learn to grasp at things.  Or something.  Mostly I like being able to say, "Kids, we've decided to sell you for scientific experiments."


Since I'm already doomed for posting that last clip, I might as well go ahead and post my other favorite song poking fun at Catholics.


One of my grade school teachers just asked to be my friend on Facebook.  Fortunately, it was the one grade school teacher I actually remember and liked.  It's still weird though.

Of course, if you really want to discuss weird -- my best friend from college is marrying my brother.  I'm happy for them. I am totally supportive of having a sister-in-law that I like.  However, I still think it may be crazy and it's definitely weird.


Moving back to further media related randomness, when Tony Curtis died last week, everyone mentioned Some Like It Hot, which is a great film.  However, no one mentioned my all time favorite Tony Curtis movie -- The Great Race. It's awesome.

Visit Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Oatmeal Fruit Muffins

I stayed up way too late last night, but we had muffins for breakfast this morning.  Not muffins from a box either.  Real muffins.  I did all the prep work last night, so this morning all I had to do was heat the oven, mix everything together, and wait for the muffins to bake.  Yum. 

It's a filling recipe, and even pretty good for you. I've modified it quite a bit from wherever I originally got it, so I thought I'd share.

Oatmeal Fruit Muffins
makes 12 regular muffins

2 large eggs
1/3 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons orange juice
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
zest of one orange
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 to 1 cup dried fruit (I use cranberries, cherries and chopped apricots)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray muffin tin thoroughly with oil.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs and add maple syrup, orange juice and milk.  Continue whisking and add vanilla, the spices and orange zest.  In another bowl, mix together oats, flour, baking powder and salt.  Stir flour mixture into egg mixture with a spoon. Fold in fruit.

Fill the muffin tin with batter (each cup about 2/3 full) and bake for 15-20 minutes, until muffins are firm in the center.

But what's even better than a tasty muffin?  A smiling baby, of course.

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