Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Mysterious Disappearance -- Explained

I suppose there are probably one or two of you out there wondering where I've been for the past months.  I shall now explain.

My classy children picking Einstein's nose.

It all started with a family trip to Legoland. I'm not sure what got into us. We never say yes to anything, but when the kids asked if we could go to Legoland Florida when it opened, we agreed. It was a lot of fun and when we went, in the off-season and when the park was in its second week, it wasn't jam-packed, lines weren't too long and the rides were fun.

When we got home after a week of Lego-ing and hanging out with my inlaws, I meant to write several posts, but I was exhausted. And then there was Halloween.

A monkey, Legolas, Snow White, Arwen, Hermione, and a Little German Boy -- in case you were wondering.

And then I found out why I was so exhausted.

Indeed. And thus far this has been the most miserable pregnancy I've ever had. Up until now, I've been the perfect pregnant lady in the first trimester. No nausea. Minimal exhaustion. Hah. The rules change when you get old and are on your seventh baby. Now, compared to my friends who spend weeks and months actively hanging over a toilet, I have still had it relatively easy, but I spent many uncomfortable weeks feeling constantly seasick.  The exhaustion has really done me in though. I've been falling asleep extremely early and longing to sleep late whenever possible. I can't seem to focus on much of anything, and that, coupled with an early bedtime, is the real reason my blogging has become non-existent.

I'll try to be back soon though, if I can just wake up a bit.  I have much to say.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Days are Long

Although, I have recently been trying to remind myself that the years are short, too often I find myself stuck instead in the long days.

Last night my husband and I found ourselves awake at midnight putting our bedroom back together after a hard struggle with an awesome and gigantic wool rug, I'd snagged before it headed to the dumpster, because it was too big for the spaces in which people needed a rug. So I didn't start off the day with a full complement of sleep.

Naturally, the baby has a fever and doesn't want to be put down. The oldest is mad at me for not buying him the math program he really wanted to use, and the kids in between are all really loud.

I long for peace and quiet. I hear that some day the kids grow up, move out and you long for a little noise. Right now I could just do with a nap.

Instead I'll just keep repeating,"Bedtime isn't so far away."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

That's Not Quite It

Moments after the five year old pounded the three year old for trying to erase his drawing and she pounded him back in retaliation, I overheard the following from the five year old, "You should remember the Golden Rule. It says, 'Do unto to others what they do to you.' So if you hit me, I can hit you back."

Back to the religious and general kindness education drawing board.

Beautiful Butterflies

Our caterpillars are slowly emerging from their chrysalises as big, beautiful butterflies*.

*Spot the allusion.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Quick Takes -- Meet the Bloggers Version

One of the best things about blogging, in my opinion, is the chance to meet really nifty people, whose paths might never have crossed mine otherwise. There are a whole lot of people I'd love to meet that I haven't yet gotten to, but I have had the pleasure of meeting many awesome ones too. Yesterday, I got to hang out with the Darwins and Betty Duffy on their way to New Orleans and in honor of their visit, I present seven cool bloggers (or former bloggers) I've been lucky enough to meet and hang out with.


Meredith. Not currently blogging, as far as I know, but even her archives are wonderful. When we first realized we lived in the same city, we met up at the library and then she, always the lovely hostess, invited me over. Since then we've done many things together, even going to the same parish church. Happiest for me, my husband and I were honored to become Godparents to her youngest.


Robbo. Living all the way over in Virginia, I didn't figure I'd get to met him, but my family spent a day in Virginia on the way to England a few years ago and got to hang out with one of the original Llamabutchers. My children still call him Mr. Llama, I think.


BusyMom. I first met her back in 2004 or so, when blogging was newish and all. We don't hang out often, although we also live in the same city, but she's such an interesting blogger and she's been at it a long time.

Angie. The force behind Catholic Mothers Online and other projects, I got to meet her and chat and pray the rosary at Blissdom a few years ago. She's a lot of fun in person and has many great online ventures.

Terry Oglesby. His blog may be mostly dead or pining for the fjords, but in its day it was my favorite stop on the internet. He's got a way with words and a perfect sense of the ridiculous and his commentors were their own little special group. We got to stop and have lunch with Terry, bring him a stuffed toy possum and meet his Volvo project car one time on the way through Alabama. It was awesome.


Betty Duffy. I just got to meet her this week. Yay. Made me happy!


Mr. and Mrs. Darwin. Instrumental in a weird, blogging way for our conversion to the Catholic Church, they've dropped by on their way through town twice now. Once with many little Darwins and once this week. Nashville was a good stopping place to have a flat tire fixed and fortunately, we have a tire place down the street. They were nice enough to give me time to hide the dirty laundry and clean the bathroom, which is always good.


There are many other bloggers I've gotten to meet,  particularly at Blissdom, and then there are the people I have known before I knew them online in blogging -- Jo-Lynne, Tertium Quid, and Nadja.

Then there's the time my daughter tripped over Glenn Reynold's laptop bag at a Panera in Knoxville, but I don't think that counts as a blogger meet-up.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Honeymoon in Chattanooga

When my husband and I got married, I was in the middle of grad school and he was a senior in college. Needless to say, we didn't have a lot of money to spend on a honeymoon. We also had no intention to go into debt for a fantastic destination honeymoon either, because let's face it -- our honeymoon priorities didn't involve a whole lot of site seeing.

We married in December near our college campus of Sewanee and had our reception in the student union building. For our honeymoon, we stayed close by and drove down the mountain to Chattanooga.

Our hotel reservations were for a modest room in the a fancy bed and breakfast, now known as The Mayor's Mansion, though at the time it bore the name Adams-Hillborne.  When we walked in, still in our wedding finery, the owner of the hotel was at the desk. She took one look at us, and upgraded our reservations to the honeymoon suite, which was full of lovely antiques and a giant soaking tub.

We spent the next day walking around the art district, drinking coffee, and visiting the local Indian restaurant. The following day it snowed and made the whole place a bit slippery, but beautiful. On the third day, it was time to pack up and drive to my tiny grad student apartment in Tuscaloosa and begin the real work of married life.

I think our brief honeymoon was a preview of how things would continue on. We still rarely travel far from home. We still like antiques, Indian food, and just hanging out together. And my husband and I have frequently recommended to friends getting married, when they've asked for our opinion, that they take into consideration what they really want out of a honeymoon, because often it isn't really about the amazing destination, but the start of a life together.

Linked up with Betty Beguiles' honeymoon discussion.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The State of the Garden

The state of the garden is pathetic.  Actually, my garden is supposed to be like a reverse mullet -- party in the front (flowers) and business in the back (veggies). The veggie part is mostly pathetic, but the tomatoes and some of the herbs carry on. But the front yard? I've given up -- at least for this year.

No doubt to my neighbor's dismay, the milkweed, hackberries and crepe myrtles are trying to take over and doing a pretty good job too.  However, even in the chaos, there is beauty -- not in the plants, of course. They just look terrible.

But butterflies have been hiding in the weeds (and in my dill) and now their eggs have become caterpillars. We've collected a whole host of black swallowtail caterpillars munching on my dill.

I found a monarch caterpillar in amongst all the milkweed yesterday and most beautiful and special of all, I actually found a monarch chrysalis hanging out in the weeds too.

Much more exciting than an overpriced butterfly kit and a lovely gift from my neglected garden.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Homeschooling Meme

If you get tagged on the internet and it takes you almost a month to catch on, does that make you a doofus?  As the lovely and talented Kimberlee of Pondered in My Heart notes, there's nothing like a meme to help pull one out of the not-blogging slump, though it does take noticing the tag to make that happen.

A brief background to our homeschool -- this is the sixth year I've been homeschooling. My oldest went to preschool and Kindergarten at a hippie, German (ie Waldorf) school. None of the others have ever been to school outside of our house. I'm fully schooling three of my sixth children this year and slowly adding in my almost 5 year old with reading and math lessons.

One homeschooling book you have enjoyed:
Limiting myself to one book is always terribly difficult, but although there are several books, I love and find influential, the book I turn to first, last and most often is The Well-Trained Mind. Honorable mention probably goes to Elizabeth Foss's Real Learning.

One resource you wouldn't be without:
The internet. I use it for research both of new curricula and things we want to learn more about. Youtube videos on history, architecture and science help us round out studies and there are wonderful science resources out there to add to the kids' understanding of all sorts of topics, making them clearer than just our simple experiments or my explanations.

I also find the friendships I've developed to be instrumental in keeping me going, when the companionship of 6 short people begins to wear me out at times.

One resource you wish you never bought:

There are various products that haven't worked out all that well for us. One science curriculum that I thought sounded lovely with lots of books to build and hands-on crafty projects, that I tried twice and both times my kids begged me to stop and never do again. My one venture into Catholic spelling and grammar books was kind of a wasted year in those subjects and everyone was grumpy. But most things I've used have worked out pretty well at least for someone. Sometimes the perfect program for my oldest has been a dud with my next child, but I don't think there has been too much I regret greatly.

One resource you enjoyed last year:
Last year, we had a lot of great hits. My oldest daughter went from hating math to loving it with Teaching Textbooks. We loved studying language, poetry and writing with Michael Clay Thompson's books. My daughter's got a fun introduction to Latin with Song School Latin. And I loved, loved, loved the simplicity of teaching writing to my girls with Writing with Ease.

One resource you will be using next year:

I'm not really ready to consider next year yet. This year everyone seems pretty happy with just about everything, at least most days.  Those things which will be appropriate for use again next year, I'll definitely reuse and now that I've tried my hand at putting together my own history plans, I may do that again (although I've had to revise these several times as we've gone along, already).

One resource you would like to buy:

More bookcases? I have a very hard time resisting the purchase of good and/or beautiful books when I find them calling to me from thrift store bookshelves. Our house may some day collapse from the weight of our library and even my homeschooling friends, who have a lot of books themselves, are impressed by the number of books we have lying around.

One resource you wish existed:

Hmmm...children-safe bottom and lip glue? My days would go so much more smoothly if they stayed in their seats when they needed to do things and didn't chat all day long when they need to concentrate. On the other hand, our days would be a lot less interesting and far too quiet. 

I suppose I would settle for an automatic assignment grader. Or a 28 hour day.

One homeschool catalog you enjoy reading:

It's funny, but some of my favorite catalogs to flip through are ones I order nothing from.  I love the Timberdoodle catalog and the Catholic Heritage Curricula catalog is so lovely and makes it all sound so nicely planned, I want to love their materials, but much of what we've tried hasn't been a big hit.

Tag six other homeschool bloggers!

I can't think of 6 others who haven't already been tagged, but here are the ones I'll add (and anyone else who feels inspired that I've forgotten):

Marcia from Mother Wonders Why
Angie from Many Little Blessings 
Mrs. Darwin from Darwin Catholic

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Funnix Math for the Short Set

Back in the summer, I downloaded Funnix Math to use with my almost 5 year old. They offered it for free for a month as an introduction to their new program and that's my favorite price, so how could I resist?

My pre-schooler has been slowly working through the lessons and there are many things I like about the program. I like that it is slow and incremental. It doesn't assume any prior knowledge and starts with number recognition, counting and other basics, but builds nicely up to addition and subtraction.  I also really like that since it is on the computer, my role is to cuddle the little one, move the mouse and click a button now and then. What's even better is that when I'm cuddling someone else or teaching someone else something, one of my older kids can do math with my son, which the big kids love and so does their little brother.

I hate to complain about a free product, but I do have one big one; a complaint that almost makes me want to ditch the whole thing. It's the language. No, there isn't any &@^*@^#!! There are several instances where I hear the teacher make subject-verb agreement errors (usually when a prepositional phrase falls between the subject and verb). They use the term box instead of square, which drives even my other children crazy, and seems like an odd way to teach shape names. But the thing that really, really, really makes me psychotic is the constant less/fewer confusion. How is a child going to master this basic English when the program always asks things like, "Does the top group have more lines or less lines?"

Just in case any of you out there are confused and don't know that the above should say "fewer" and not "less," I found The Grammar Girl, who has already explained it all.

So, while I recommend the math part of the program, I have serious reservations about recommending any program with such egregious English. Just in case you were wondering. As to our own continued use, so far, we carry on and correct the man in the computer every time I hear him.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Leader of the Resistance

The Oldest child is holding the Youngest on his lap. The little guy is wiggling to get down. His sister demands that he be let go, but the Oldest categorically refuses. 
 "That's it!" she declares, "I'm starting a Baby Brother Liberation Front!"

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What I did on My Summer Vacation

Labor Day is long past. The kids are finished with their seventh week of school and I still am wishing for that summer vacation that never happened.  I feel like I lost the summer of 2011. Not that it wasn't swelteringly hot, but I never seemed to get into the swing of things this year. Why not? Here's the count.

Children with pneumonia: 3
Children in the hospital with pneumonia: 1
Various other unrelated fevers in the children: 6
Mastitis: 1
Flea infestation (due to caring for sick people and forgetting to give the dog his medicine): 2 rooms
Lesson plans written: 4 kids worth
Sprained ankle: 1

That last entry happened last weekend. On Saturday morning, my husband and I got up early and went for a walk. Something we'd started doing last spring and in the craziness and illness of the summer had given up in June or early July. After our lovely walk in the cool morning air, we came home, drank coffee and my husband cooked breakfast. I busied myself around the house and got up on a chair to push back the curtains and let the light in. Then I stepped off the chair. Wrong. I hit the floor, the piano, and everything felt like my ankle was on fire.

Fortunately, it wasn't broken, but a week later, it is still bruised and swollen and when I spent yesterday morning helping 12 young girls in the kitchen to make angel food cakes, I had to spend the rest of the day on the couch with plenty of ibuprofen and ice.

You probably wonder why, with all this extra time on my hands to sit around, I haven't been blogging more. I'll just claim that the dog ate my homework.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Theology According to My Four Year Old

My three year old and four year old got into the clean laundry and decked themselves out in my t-shirts. Then they started dancing and spinning while chanting, "Alleluia."

I was mostly ignoring them, but semi-watching the dancers with amusement, when my four year old son pulled out a book and started "reading:"

"Once upon a time, St. Jesus went to the Cross. They screwed him onto it. Then he went to a bed in a garden and he never ate or drank anymore, but now people eat him and drink his blood. Amen."

Then the two went back to dancing and singing. Alleluia.

We'll work on teaching them about the evils of liturgical dance another day.

Friday, August 05, 2011

The One Year Old

The one year old's Godfather demands to see pictures of him wearing his new birthday onesie. Note: he's been very cranky this week, since he's cutting several molars. Mostly, I've been seeing this side of him:

When he isn't screaming and/or clinging to my leg, he's usually doing this:

I'm sure you cannot imagine why we call him "The World's Worst Baby."

Quick Takes: Can I Dip the House in Bleach? Edition


All my happy thoughts that everything was better...Hmph. Since posting last, my oldest got pneumonia too. The youngest got swimmer's ear, though he hasn't been near the water. Wednesday my three year old got a 102 degree and was still running it when she went to bed on Thursday night. This summer shall be known in the family annuals as The Summer of Great Pestilence and Divers Maladies.


We started school anyway, doggone it. I am happy with the things the kids are doing, but I have chosen rather a lot of Mom-intensive materials. Which means the days are long, simply because they have to do a lot of things with me. My oldest also remarked today that while he so far likes the history program I laid out, it is in his words rather "rigorous." I did wonder as I was creating it if I was putting too much into some of the days, and now only a week or so into it, I can categorically say, "Yes." Revisions will follow.


The one year old, who could climb before he walked, now can climb on the dining room table, my  very high bed, and really any place he decides to climb. Nothing is safe.


As part of history, I have been reading a children's version of Beowulf to my second and fourth graders. My 4 year old son has been listening in. I asked the girls to illustrate a scene from the book and they both drew Beowulf ripping off Grendel's arm. Gruesome much? Then the four year old got out some paper and colored pencils and drew his version too. I'm not sure whether to be proud or worried that I've psychologically warped the children.


My three year old has fewer potty accidents than her almost five year old brother, and she's only been potty trained for a week and a half. What's up with that? Is this a common boy thing? My oldest child is a boy too, but being the oldest and just being who he is, these issues did not come up. My four year old just doesn't care all that much, and mostly gets ratted out by his siblings for smelling unpleasant, rather than being appalled by his own wet or stinky underwear.


Have a wonderful weekend and please throw in a prayer or two that my family will get out from under the cloud of disease eventually.

More Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fourth Grade Booklist 2011-2012

Since I am nosy interested in other homeschoolers plans and booklists, I thought I'd go ahead and share mine. I hope all you find it interesting/useful.

  • Teaching Textbooks 4 (and moving on to 5 sometime next semester) This program took the fight out of math for us, which was great last year.
  • Life of Fred: Apples (While my oldest has used Life of Fred for a few years, this is the first year that there is a new set of books for younger kids. We're going to begin at the beginning, because a little fun review never hurts.)

Language Arts
  • Michael Clay Thompson's Island series for grammar, vocabulary, poetry, and some writing
  • Writing With Ease 3 I was very happy with this program last year and love the downloadable .pdf workbooks where all the lessons are planned out. Although one can also buy The Complete Writer book as a guide and choose your own lessons, which is cheaper, but not simpler.
  • Spelling Workout D
  • Various literature related to history, good books as well as some reading comprehension based on the Father Brown Reader and questions.


History & Religion


She'll use this for the first semester. In the second, I want to get into more specifics of where things are, but I haven't decided how to teach that yet.

Art & Music
  • I had planned on just using our collection of art books to do a little art history, but then I found this site and this site, which I may well use instead.

How will all this fit together? We'll also do circle time in the morning, which I have yet to map out for next year and here's a link to my first quarter lesson plans.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sixth Grade Booklist 2011-2012

Since I am nosy interested in other homeschoolers plans and booklists, I thought I'd go ahead and share mine. I hope all you find it interesting/useful.


Language Arts
  • Michael Clay Thompson's Voyage series for grammar, vocabulary, poetry, and some writing (We used the Town level last year, and it was the first year that my oldest truly loved grammar. And he wrote some good poetry too.)
  • WriteShop (We haven't tried this one before, but so far I like the looks of it, once I figured out how it worked.)


History & Religion
  • It uses a lot of different books (probably too many, but we'll see how it goes). The main spine for my sixth grader will be A Light to the Nations.

This may be too easy for him, but since we did take a year off from Latin and since my brain can only handle scheduling one Latin class right now, he's going to be doing with his sisters. If it is way too easy, we'll either reconsider next semester or he can teach it for me.

"Mom, why'd you get a book to teach us how to argue?" As if they needed any help...

He'll use this for the first semester. In the second, I want to get into more specifics of where things are, but I haven't decided how to teach that yet.

Art & Music

How will all this fit together? We'll also do circle time in the morning, which I have yet to map out for next year and here's a link to my almost completed first quarter lesson plans (I haven't yet scheduled in logic, since the book arrived just today).

Friday, July 22, 2011

Quick Takes in July


Yesterday morning, my newly minted three year old came down stairs and announced that she wanted to learn to use the potty. I hate potty-training, but I'll be happy to only have one child in diapers -- and she is three -- so I jumped on that. Though two pairs of wet underwear immediately after sitting with her on the potty for long stretches made me doubt myself.  So I did what any lazy brilliant mother of many would do -- offered to pay my 8 year old $5 if she takes her sister to the potty for me. I'm getting off cheap, and we've actually started making progress, because the 8 year old is far bossier than I am.

In the midst of pneumonia, potty training and the such like (I just love that Southernism), I've been in full school planning mode. First I decided to write my own history plans, which took over a month. Then I started planning the first quarter's schedule for the oldest, which took weeks. Yesterday, I started the schedule for my 4th grader and was done in hours. Does that mean when I get to the 2nd grader and preschoolers, the timing will drop to minutes and seconds? Some how I doubt it. I'll be posting lesson schedules for this year, as they develop.

It was so helpful to me to have them last year. We stayed on track, even when we got off schedule, and since I typed the schedule, rescheduling wasn't all that daunting a task.


Speaking of which, look in the links above for the name we finally decided on for our homeschool. The children are fine with St. Bede, but they disagree that they are wayward.  We have wanted to pick a saint for our school name for a while now, and nothing quite seemed to fit, until we finally remembered St. Bede. We are very fond of all things English. We are very fond of St. Benedict (and St. Bede was a Benedictine). I think he picked us. Now to make a good t-shirt design.


Have I mentioned that he's The World's Worst Baby? He's been walking since he was 11 months old and even before that climbing. He already can climb my very high bed, all chairs, etc. Fortunately for his head, he seems to be pretty decent at climbing down too.  Even the pediatrician noted the wicked gleam in his eye as he grinned at her.  And everyone thought my 4 year old was the wild one.
From early in the spring

My garden is terrible this year. It looks beautiful. My husband built lovely raised beds from our scrap lumber and has mulched everything well. But nothing is growing well. My tomatoes are doing terribly. The okra is growing, but not producing like usual. I got not a single zucchini before the squash borers killed the plants. It's been a frustrating year, and now it's so hot I don't even feel like tending to such recalcitrant plants.

When it is so hot outside or when your kids are really sick, I have been very glad to have Netflix. I'm very annoyed that they are raising their rates so dramatically, but it's been such a good thing to have at times -- and we aren't big TV watchers around here.  That said, my kids love Inspector Gadget cartoons, Andy Griffith, Dick Van Dyke, and, of course, The Addams Family tv show -- so they always have something they actually can agree on watching, when I let them have video time.

A good friend of mine started a new blog about her preparations for a home atrium. So nifty.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Better Things Ahead

My oldest daughter is home from the hospital. Her lungs are sounding much clearer and she's full of her usual energy.  Actually, by the time I got to see her in the hospital on Friday, I could already tell she was feeling much better.  We went for a walk around the hospital and she posed for the picture above with dancing statues. Other than the hospital bracelet on one wrist and the IV heplock on their other, you'd never have known she was sick. She told the nurse that she'd taken a vote and that, "the disease lost." Although coughing a lot at that point, her snarkiness was back and I knew she was recovering.

All those prayers certainly helped, as well as the albuterol, oxygen and antibiotics they filled her up with.

As for the rest of the crew -- my oldest never got sick, my middle daughter got pneumonia as well, but not as bad, and the other three all got fevers but it didn't attack their lungs.

In the midst of all that, the radiator on my husband's car blew and our air conditioning went out, but everything is fixed now. We certainly got a big dose of misery all at once, but it is nice to be out from under the cloud for a few days and with the hope that the sun will shine for a while.

Two bright spots -- birthdays for my two youngest, who are now three and one!  I say it every year, but where does the time go?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Missing My Girl

I'm a pretty hands-on Mom, most of the time. I'm here with my kids all day long. I take them places and see that stuff that needs doing gets done. I teach them. I feed them. I take care of them when they are sick.  I try to anyway.

These last several weeks have been a struggle, because I haven't been able to do much other than dose child after child. Hardly anyone is hungry. No one has energy for more than watching TV. Life has slowed way down and not in the pleasant, old-fashioned way.

But things are on the mend. Five of my children are not feverish, do not have sore throats, and aren't coughing either. Unfortunately, my oldest daughter is not in that number. She's the child of 105 degree fevers and a cough that has had me worrying a lot. Today I took her in for a recheck of her lungs, and all was not well. We went for a chest x-ray, and all was not well. They checked her oxygen levels, and all was not well. They did a breathing treatment and checked her oxygen again, and all was not well.

She's in the hospital. I'm here at home. I know she'll be fine. Her dad is just as capable as I am to watch her in the hospital, but it pains me not to be there. It seems wrong not to be. What kind of mother am I? But my other children need me too. I tried several times to get out the door to be there with her, but something always seemed to stop me -- even with two friends in the house to watch the other kids and allowing me to go one little thing after another came up. Then I discovered the air-conditioning upstairs had come to a complete halt, and as I called and waited for the repairman, I had a feeling that the hospital was not where I was needed most.

My little girl is at the hospital, and I'm not there, but she's in good hands.  I want to hold on to her, watch her take easier breaths and get better, but not tonight. Tonight, I pray at home, but her father and her Father are watching over her.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

In the House of Pestilience

The good news:
Today is my youngest daughter's third birthday. She's adorable, and not currently feverish. The oldest isn't yet sick and is very helpful. We have a good pediatrician. We have a car to get us to the doctor. We have insurance (crummy insurance, but insurance). We have wonderful friends; one baked a birthday cake and another brought us dinner.
The bad news:

My oldest daughter is still (8 days and counting) highly feverish. She has pneumonia and, based on the fact that the doctor heard both crackles and wheezing, may have asthma as well.

My middle daughter, who started it all, developed a new high fever yesterday. She and my middle son, who has been feverish since Sunday, are complaining that it hurts to eat or swallow anything. I think I might see white spots in the back of their throats, so I'm thinking strep.

My baby son also is feverish, and we noticed on Sunday night that one of his ears smelled as though something had died in it. He has a burst ear drum. He also woke up last night at 11:45 and nursed all night long.

Now I'm waiting for the pediatrician to reopen after lunch, so I can call about those throats.

Thursday, July 07, 2011


I'm not planning on killing the old blog, though appearances might suggest otherwise. It's simply that I have not one, but two children with pneumonia at the moment -- and the second child, being prone to one-upmanship, is running a fever of over 104 every time the ibuprofen wears off. We were trying to finish up our school year (done, finally!). And I am busy writing my own Medieval history plans for 3 kids, which is pretty much taking up any unused brain cells. Add to this an almost 1 year old who walks and climbs, and you have a recipe for little time to blog.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Sarcasm Becomes Her

Overheard snippet of conversation from the backseat of the car, between the eight year old and the six year old, "That's where you're wrong, my friend. That's where you're so wrong."

Friday, June 03, 2011

Looking at a picture of Adam and Eve, the four year old noted that they weren't wearing any clothes. Now in our family, we have had to emphasize that certain body parts are rather germ-laden and should not be touched more than necessary (and I don't just mean fingers in noses). So looking at those unclothed people, the boy was a bit concerned.

"But mom, they aren't wearing any clothes.  They'll get the Garden germy!"

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


  • The husband and I have been dragging ourselves out of bed early and going for walks the last few mornings. It's hard to believe how hot and humid it already is before 7 a.m. It's going to be a long summer.
  • You know you heard too much end times theology recently (curse you NPR for talking about this so much) when you hear yourself explaining regrouping in addition by saying, "See, the ones get left behind, while the tens are carried up."  
  • Why does something like, "Get your toe out of the yogurt!" even have to be said?
  • The baby has taken as many as two steps at a time. He's only 10 months old.  This does not bode well.
  • The eight year old cracks me up. She decided to take her oral spelling test the other day with a different accent for each spelling word.  It might have made me slightly twitchy after a while, but it was funny too.
  • I'm heading to Kentucky for a homeschooling conference this Saturday and then coming home to hosting 3-5 Totus Tuus missionaries for a week. It's going to be crazy and I think I might need to clean house.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Conversations, Unedfiying but Amusing

Conversation #1
Location: Target walking past the undergarments

My two year old daughter points and shouts as we pass the particularly bright, colorful and skimpy stuff: Mom, you have some of those!!!

After hearing her shout it out a second time, since I tried to ignore the comment and keep moving, I respond: Yes, but not in those shapes or colors.

Two year old: Oh. But they are pwetty!

Conversation #2

Four year old:  Mom, how old are you?

Me: I'm getting really old.

Four year old suddenly looks as though he's about to cry: But Mom, when you get old, you die. If you are old, you're going to die. Who will take care of us?

I reassure him that I'm not planning an imminent demise, and let him know that several people would be willing to take care of him should that unlikely event take place any time soon.

Four year old, still looking sad, but somewhat less upset: Well, I don't think you're old anyway. Your hair isn't gray. When you have gray hair, you are old. And then you will die.

My apologies to all of you who went gray early, the four year old says you're doomed.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Strawberry Tapioca

Remember the stuff my husband calls "Pink Stuff" that appears at every potluck? It's made from strawberry jello, cottage cheese and fluff (or something like that -- I've never actually made it). It tastes pretty yummy, although I've always been a bit weirded out by the ingredient list. So when I found a delicious looking recipe for strawberry tapioca in one of my Amish cookbooks, I wanted to try it.

Unfortunately, the recipe, if followed exactly turned out an end result that has earned this dish the name of Oobleck in our house. So, I have rewritten the recipe so that it doesn't quite glue everything in its path together. It's not really all that much like "Pink Stuff" although it resembles it in looks, but it is delicious, doesn't have a weird ingredient list, and is an excellent use of all those strawberries that are currently in season.

Strawberry Tapioca

2 cups strawberries, washed and hulled
1 cup sugar
3 cups boiling water
1/2 cup quick cooking tapioca
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons butter
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup whipping cream

Mash strawberries with 1/2 cup of sugar; set aside.

Combine boiling water, tapioca, and salt in a large saucepan. Allow mixture to stand for 5 minutes. Then cook, stirring frequently until tapioca mixture boils. Remove from heat. Stir in remaining sugar, butter, lemon juice and almond extract.

Then stir in strawberries, mixing until well combined. Chill for several hours.  For an almost fat free dessert, you can serve this way. For ultimate creamy deliciousness, whip the cream and stir into the chilled tapioca. Garnish with mint leaves, if desired.

Monday, May 16, 2011

More Old School Reading

If one is looking even further back in time for reading suggestions, than the aforementioned I See Sam books of my youth, one could introduce their child to Singing Wheels, which my parents read and loved when they were in school in the 1950s.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Whadda Ya Mean You Don't Eat No Meat?

So the English bishops are bringing back meatless Fridays. A sensible thing to do, in my opinion. When, after having been Catholic for a year or so, we discovered that Fridays were supposed to still be penitential and you were still supposed to abstain from something, we implemented meatless Fridays in our family. Actually, we often have meatless Thursdays as well, so as to have meatless Friday leftovers for lunch.

Knowing that giving up meat was the longstanding practice of the church made going meatless an obvious choice. I think that not only do a whole lot of Catholics not even know we're supposed to still practice some sort of Friday abstinence, but with the variety of possible choices open to everyone, it's hard to know what to give up. If meat goes back to being the standard, the discipline actually becomes easier -- and it is nice knowing that all your fellow church-goers are doing the same thing along with you.

Although, one also should probably remember that even though an excellent pan-seared salmon meets the meatless criteria, it might not actually be penitential.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Beginning Readers or the Trouble with Phonics

I've taught three kids to read with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. As one friend of mine noted, however, although it will teach your child to read and contains 100 lessons, the easy part is subject to interpretation.  It's never been exactly easy, and my fourth child to go through the book -- now on lesson 50 -- is making me think there has got to be a better way. At the very least, this child needs a break from this particular book.  He's been alternating between hiding and tears when the reading book comes out.

I don't want him to forget what he has learned though, so I was excited to discover a blast from my past on the web. (I could tell you about the other blast from my past to pop up this week when someone I did not go to high school posted on Facebook that a high school physics teacher I had for one semester was marrying her boyfriend of 40! years -- but that's another story). It really shouldn't surprise me as much as it does that so much great educational stuff is out there free on the web; that so many people have devoted time, effort and money to putting so many resources up.   Sometimes it is surprising though to find things I haven't seen or thought about in 30 years -- like the I See Sam books.

The originals are probably in my parents' basement in Ohio some place, but in the meantime I've printed out several. My son is enjoying the books and unlike the dreaded reading lessons he hides from, he actually asked if I would print out another book this morning.

There are many choices for beginning readers, of course. Bob books, CHC Little Stories for Little Folks, etc. We have those too. But if you want to go old school and/or free -- the Sam books are a fun way to start.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Home Improvements

When we bought a 99 year old house a few years ago, I somehow thought it would be more or less renovated eventually.  What was I thinking?  It's 102 years old now and though quite livable nothing is every really finished around here.  Or if one thing gets finished, some child whacks a hole in the plaster.

Mostly, I vacillate between dreaming up projects and bugging my husband about why he doesn't take them on in all his spare time. I'm not nearly as handy as I like to pretend that I am. Painting on a little shellac on some trim now and then probably doesn't qualify.

Recently, our home improvements have actually been outside -- building new garden beds, moving plants, planting new plants  and all that. But I really hope that the summer can bring about some other projects -- the installation of a new dishwasher, fixing windows (for heat retention and lead abatement purposes), and maybe, just maybe, we could get around to giving the kids some closet doors.  If I get really motivated, I might even get around to painting our laundry room or something -- although the window and door trim has never been put up.

Or maybe...

Maybe I'll just sit back and ignore all the stuff that could be done, it sounds like too much work.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Cooking with Jordana

And these are just the cookbooks I keep in the kitchen...

If you came to my house, you would see that I have a lot of cookbooks. Although I do look up recipes on the internet, not infrequently, I still prefer a well-edited cookbook.  Naturally, amongst the all the books I have, there are those I turn to almost weekly and those I use less often, but can't bear to part with either.  Here are my current favorites. What are yours?

1.  Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day
I love bread, but I've been a yeast-o-phobe for years. I couldn't even make good bread in a bread machine consistently.  Then I found these books and I bake stuff all the time. You can find the basic bread recipe on-line, but there are so many wonderful recipes in these books -- broccoli cheese bread, whole wheat brioche (which I used as the base for the hot cross buns), pizza dough, naan, pita bread, Volkorn Brot, panettone. I've liked everything I have made.

2. 660 Curries
I cook Indian food almost every week and I have several good cookbooks, but this is my new favorite.  My husband got it for my birthday a year or two ago and I turn to it more often than any of my other Indian cookbooks. Favorite recipes include: chana masala, mattar paneer (my oldest son's very favorite Indian dish of all), aloo ghobi, and lentils with garlic and bay leaves.

3. America's Test Kitchen: Family Cookbook
You won't find any more thoroughly tested recipes than those from America's Test Kitchen. Though I occasionally complain that some of their recipes are fiddly or a bit too complicated, they always turn out very, very well. There are so many recipes in the book, from exotic to comfort foods and I always pleased. I love their recipe from Indian-spiced Lentils (again with the Indian food, I know!), German apple pancake, tuna noodle casserole, Mexican rice and many others.

4. Ken Hom's Foolproof Chinese Cooking
My husband grew up as a missionary's kid in Taiwan, so he has fairly high standards for Chinese food. He always seems to enjoy the things I've made from this book and although I tend to stick to the same favorites, everyone gobbles them down. I love the simplicity of the fried rice (although I add a few extra vegetables to it),  the kung po chicken is always a favorite (okay, I add some carrots to this one too) and the broccoli and green bean recipes are absolutely awesome.

5. Marcia Adams' cookbooks: Cooking from Quilt Country, New Recipes from Quilt Country, and Heirloom Recipes
I got one or two of these cookbooks from my husband's grandmother.  I can't remember where I picked up the third, but I love them all. Maybe because I grew up in the heart of Ohio Amish country or maybe because the recipes are just fantastic and hearty.  The pies are especially wonderful, although I have to admit that I didn't exactly love the sauerkraut chess pie all that much.  I make the cornbread muffins from the Heirloom recipe book almost weekly and the strawberry tapioca pudding makes my children cheer.

6. The Barefoot Contessa cookbooks
Although I grew up cooking and messing around in the kitchen, I think these books were part of my growing into a much better cook. It doesn't hurt that she uses a pound of butter in most of the baking recipes, of course. Yum.  The pan seared salmon and lentils in the French book? So simple and so delicious.

7. Twelve Months of Monastery Soups
Especially in the winter, I cook a lot of soup. I love soup and always have.  However, growing up, good soup came from restaurants and at home soup came from a can. I never knew as a child that you could make soup -- let alone broth.  What a revelation that was when I finally, as a teenager, figured out that soup didn't have to come out of a can and be reconstituted.  When you love soup, what could be better than a cookbook of soups?  Not much.  And this one is full of delicious, simple, often vegetarian soups.  Perfect for Lent or Friday meals -- especially when paired with a loaf of crusty bread made from the cookbook at the top of the list.

So, those are some of my go-to cookbooks. As I asked before, what are yours?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Quick Takes


I'm back! Did you miss me?  Besides not perusing blogs during Lent, I sort of fell head first off the blogging bandwagon.  But the kids and I did finish their third term of the school year, take a field trip week to the Parthenon, Tennessee State Museum, and Cheekwood (Nashville's botanical gardens).  We made it through the long, late nights of Holy Week, whilst my husband and his schola sang beautifully.  Now we're on spring break. School starts back next week (I just need to finish writing the plans!).

Our parish does not have a deacon and so, for the past three years, my husband, as chief Schola geek, has had the job of singing the Exsultet on Easter Vigil. You can hear him here. He's done a great job every year, but I think this was the best yet.


What kind of mother forgets to take any photos of her kids on Easter? Um, that would be me.  However, it's still the octave of Easter. Maybe I'll get the kids all dressed up tomorrow.  We did dye Easter eggs with our own natural dyes (which we've done for several years now -- boiling up batches of cabbage, beets and onion skins doesn't smell so great, but the colors sure are beautiful). I also made hot cross buns for Good Friday. So the kids aren't totally deprived, even if they'll look back some day and wonder why their mother took more pictures of food than of them (hint: food stands still and poses nicely).


The world's worst baby continues his reign of terror, stuffing every bit of dog hair, stale Cheerio, piece of paper or Lego in his mouth. I have become far more vigilant about sweeping, vacuuming and picking up bits of child detritus than ever before. Of course, when he can't find stuff on the floor, he has taken to pulling books off the shelf and ripping and gnawing them to bits.

In spite of the penchant for eating and putting things in his mouth, he seems to be following his two closest siblings in not growing.  He was almost ten pounds at birth, but is now only 17, which puts him in the 4th percentile for 9 month old boys.

In those rare moments when he isn't choking, gnawing or trying to climb things and plunge to his doom, he's awfully cute and I seem inclined to keep him.


We've entered a new era in the family. Our oldest can mow the lawn without any help from me or his father.  Sadly though, this isn't working out quite as well as I would like, because April and May bring out horrible seasonal allergies for the boy and he spends those two months with swollen, itchy eyes, a runny nose and a cough.  So I had to mow the front yard yesterday.  As I posted on Facebook, "I used to think that there was something soothing and meditative about mowing the lawn. Today I had to mow the lawn myself for the first time this summer, and I have changed my mind. It is much more soothing and meditative to sit on the front porch and watch your oldest child mow the lawn."

I've been planning next year's school curriculum and books.  I've even bought a few things.  Every year I think how nice it would be to just buy a whole package from someone and have one big box arrive with all the books and plans neatly laid out in front of me. I still that would be nice, but I can't imagine actually doing it. What do those of you who homeschool do?  Do you buy it all in one place or piece it together?


Pray for everyone in Alabama.  I lived in Tuscaloosa for a year while I got my master's in library science from the University of Alabama.  I haven't been back in years, but from the looks of this video and the angle from where it was shot, I'd be very surprised if my grad school apartment was still standing, and I know there was no place in that apartment to hide from a tornado. 

Monday, April 04, 2011

Achoo. Pardon the Dust.

You don't sit down to blog for a few days and suddenly weeks have gone by. I have been mostly off the computer during the day and when I get on at night, I've been working on planning my curriculum wish-list for next year. I have learned to start planning early, because a lot of the good sales run in April or May, and I need to know what I want to buy in order to find those sales.  Add to that, that with time away I've felt like I've lost whatever little bit of a writing voice I had.

Life fills in all those "usually on the internet" spaces. Kids turn out to be far-sighted.

Toddlers dress themselves.

Lego competitions are carefully built for and entered, if not won.

Add in Stations of the Cross and other extras, and the days truly are full. The kids are finishing up their third quarter of the school year this week, next week will be field trip week, and then we'll take a spring break until after Easter.

I'll keep searching for my lost voice and perhaps be back sooner than you'd expect.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


I like to pretend I'm pretty average in my tastes and preferences. I like to imagine I'm not part of the cultural elite or a self-parody straight out of Stuff White People Like, but then again I do have an unhealthy attachment to NPR despite their recent antics -- and then there are my children.

Sure, I have enough of them to make most sane people blanch, but I'm not sure even that makes me nearly "of the people" no matter how many Duggar references it might inspire. But back to those pesky little children -- it is their eating habits that really mark me.

I'm not a hard core enforcer of any particular food craze. My kids eat whole grain bread baked by me (sometimes), whole foods, organic foods, ethnic foods, and all that jazz, but they sometimes drink soda and eat a Happy Meal. We follow the everything occasionally and Indian food a lot diet, but I may have just introduced them to a few too many foods and turned them into elitist foodies.

I became aware of the problem several years ago when we blithely shipped the oldest off on a church outing only to find out upon his return that he'd informed the parents cooking breakfast that he preferred his eggs sunny-side up and runny and his orange juice to include mango as well. I laughed it off as one oddball kid (and besides I was used to him).

I was sure my children were perfectly normal, after all they pick the tomatoes and mushrooms out of everything I cook. It is probably not really them.

Or maybe...

Today I was chatting with the four year old about things that are red. "What fruits are red?" I asked. He thought for a minute and then said, "Pomegranates." Later when we'd moved on to green things he offered, "Edamames are green."

I didn't think we were so far off the beaten path, but maybe we just eat weird around here.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011


I haven't given up blogging for Lent, although I am going to be away from the internet during the daytime. I'm just busy doing real life. Too many coughing sickies, visitors, reading lessons and times when a four year old wants to sit down and "talk 'bout aminals." I'll be around when I can.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Quick Takes


We had a big wind storm blow through Nashville last night. We lost our big, very old plum tree. I'll miss the blossoms in spring, the plums in the summer and the kids climbing in it and swinging on it, but I sure am glad it didn't fall when we were outside playing around it. Judging by the roots, it wasn't as sturdy as we had thought.

We also lost our small patio table, but it was pretty inadequate for a family of eight, so I'm not lamenting it too much.

My eleven year old is so torn up about his climbing tree and that his chance at a tree house is now gone, that if he doesn't stop wailing soon, I'm going to start calling him "Dogmatix."

At least this is a good time of year to get new trees. I'm thinking of a couple of new plum trees and maybe a few apple trees for good measure. Perhaps we will even consider a playhouse or something for climbing purposes.


My eight and six year old girls are off on an adventure with their grandmother, great aunt and my younger brother in Atlanta. They sound like they are enjoying the trip.  I miss them. Who knew it could be quiet in a house with only four children?

He tries to keep it from being too quiet and dull though.  Can you believe he's over seven months old? His current accomplishments include: crawling, sticking everything he can find in his mouth, pulling up, falling down and babbling.

I've been busy thinking about next year's school curriculum.  I've been pretty happy with how things are going this year and with the books we have been using, so thinking about next year hasn't been as involved and overwhelming as last year. Even though I'm pretty content with most of my choices this year, looking forward towards next year is always more exciting and interesting.

I can't believe I'll have kids doing sixth, fourth, second and pre-K work. Yikes. We'll be combining a lot of subjects -- as many as I possibly can. I'm also looking at several things that come with DVD or computer lessons.

Sometimes, I wish I could be happy with a prewritten schedule and a preselected curriculum. It would make my life a lot easier, but I never have found something that uses all the books I want to use, so I'm on my own.


Lent is almost upon us. Have you figured out what you will be doing? Last year I turned off the computer during the day, allowing myself computer time only at night. It helped me focus on my family and remind my children that my face wasn't a computer screen. I've never quite gone back to the previous bad habits, but I could use a refresher, so I'll probably do that again. Our family usually gives up meat, as well.

The kids track the days of Lent on a calendar and do special tasks to earn money for the poor. We don't do a lot of lapbooks around here, but I won a CD of Lapbooks for Catholics last year at a homeschooling conference, so we may try to do the Lent lapbook.


My six year has learned to ride her bike. A little over a week ago, my husband go her out in the back yard and started teaching her. At first, he tried the drill sergeant tactics which worked to teach my oldest (a boy). They didn't go over well with my dramatic, grumpy daughter. She claimed he was "murdering her" and she started a flailing, kicking, screaming fit.

New methods were required. Putting her on a slightly undersized bike and offering a bribe of extra Wii time for feet traveled on the bike, she was suddenly much more motivated.  A week later, she is zooming all over the place and learning tricks like riding "side saddle" and pedaling with one foot.

It's cool to see them learn something.


My two year old the nipple nazi. When I sit down to feed her brother, she likes to bring a doll over and tell me she's "noorsing" her baby too.

More Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

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