Friday, June 07, 2013

St. Florian, Pray for Us!

St. Florian is the patron saint of Firefighters, and although we've only had one encounter this year  that required calling firefighters, we've had three fires since the first of the year.

First, came the New Year's Day fire, when I noticed smoke curling out from around the edges of the hearth. After ripping out all the cement board, insulation, et al. it was cooled down. It is still more or less as we left it that night, though now we are just waiting for our tile to come in, so we can finish it. 

Then came the electrical fire. My husband and oldest son were on a camping trip. I was rushing around on a Sunday morning getting everyone ready, when I heard someone calling me. It didn't sound urgent, so I kept doing other things. Until my six year old came up and said, "Mom, the tea kettle is smoking." The ten year old had had the presence of mind to unplug it, but it hadn't occurred to her to open the door and let out the smoke, so the kitchen was pretty unpleasant.  But there were no casualties other than the electric tea kettle.  We suspect, it got bumped on with no water in it one too many times.

However, the doozy fire of the year was when my husband was pumping gas, and the guy at the next pump said, "Hey, your car is smoking." And then there were flames licking up around the hood. And then the hood was engulfed.  Though, the firemen did say cars hardly ever actually explode like you see in the movies, that thought is not all that comforting while your car burns at the gas pump. We have no idea of the cause, though we suspect either the wiring harness or the battery.  Either way, as one can guess, the car was a loss and my husband has a new vehicle now.

No more fires of interest have occurred since then. I'd like to hope no more will. Since all of these ended safely and nothing terrible happened, I am considering taking up more prayers to St. Florian. Apparently, he's been looking out for us.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

School's Out!

The last few months have been consumed by finishing this year's schooling and planning for next year, when I will be educating five! kids and have both a Kindergartner and a freshman in high school.

But finally we "finished" our school year on the last day of May. I put quotation marks around that word finished for several reasons. First, the oldest isn't quite done with math or history. Second, I want all the kids to do a little math during the summer to keep their hand in, and third, I haven't finished grading or recording yet. However, I do feel like a bit of a weight is off my shoulders and the pressure has slacked a little.

It really is not enough slacking from my point of view though. This week and next, the oldest three are taking golf lessons through First Tee. The oldest started in the spring and enjoyed it, so we signed up the girls as well for the summer. You can't beat the price for lessons, and the kids are provided with equipment and can golf for free at the course closest to my house.

In the midst of that, my almost three year old also started speech therapy, which is no where near my house. We've long suspected that his frequent failure to say consonants, leading to speech that somewhat resembled Hawaiian, was not typical. When we had his evaluated and found he was two standard deviations off the norm, I knew my suspicions were correct. So now we start speech therapy.  In the fall, we may have our first encounters ever with the public school and try to do therapy through their special services. My tax dollars at work.

However, now that our school year is mostly over, I am going to work on planning for next year. I have a teetering stack of books and lots of ideas of how to put things together. If I can only just make it all work.

Gratuitous standing, but not quite walking, cute baby picture

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

More Meatless Meals

Detailed menu planning as you can see. Yes we eat on the weekend,
I just don't always get around to planning it in advance.

Another week of meatless meals around here (go here for last week's menu):

Chana Masala
Aloo Ghobi
Mango Lassi
Naan (from my favorite bread book)

Burritos (with refried beans, Mexican rice, lettuce, cilantro, green onions, guacamole, and cheese)

Broccoli Potato Soup (from Marcella Cucina, a cookbook we got as a wedding present)

Salmon with a maple-soy glaze (follow the cooking directions for salmon here--the rest of this recipe is awesome too by the way--and then brush with a mixture of 2 parts maple syrup or brown sugar to one part soy sauce reduced by about half)
Brown Rice
Green Beans

Pesto Ravioli (Just frozen cheese ravioli with pesto sauce that I made and froze last summer when basil was growing in my garden.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lenten Reading (or at least what I'm reading right now when it happens to be Lent)

I've heard it said that one should read good Catholic authors during Lent. Taking this to heart, I headed over to Amazon and ordered Will Mrs. Major Go to Hell?

Many years ago, when I was but a young lass, I used to hide behind the chair in the living room and read National Review.* Though I mostly read the cartoons, The Week, and Notes & Asides, my favorite thing and the only one I can still practically quote from, unlike anything I ever read by her brother Bill, was the annual publication of a Christmas article by Aloise Buckley Heath, a woman with to my young mind an absolutely astounding number of children (10). Who knew then that these formative ventures into reading were not only molding me politically, but also would one day see me a Catholic convert with seven children screaming through the house and climbing the walls?

One might suggest that something that makes you guffaw while still just reading the dust jacket isn't typical Lenten fare, which is probably true, but for now it's what is on the bedside table. I'll just keep snickering along while reading things like this, "Tommy's mother went to Hell/ On the Donkey ticket. / And Now she knows a Johnson vote/ Is very, very wicked." Remember, St. Francis de Sales said that "A sad saint would be a sorry saint."

* This is not to suggest that in my childhood home, one found it necessary to hide whilst reading such magazines as NR. My parents, of course, were the ones with the subscription. I just liked sitting behind the arm chair and flipping through magazines.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lenten Disciplines -- Meatless Meals

During Lent one tries to discipline oneself in various ways. I've been getting up a bit earlier in the mornings and praying Lauds. I love having the iBreviary app to make that easier, because I am consistently baffled by all the ribbons, especially before seven in the morning.

I'm also taking a daytime Facebook break and concentrating on all the other people and things around here that need attention. Like the one with his head on  my lap saying, "I want water." Excuse me.

And now I'm back without your even missing me. Ahem.

We also try to do a few things as a family for Lent. As much as possible, barring sick children and the like, we go every Friday evening to pray Stations of the Cross. We've been praying the rosary as a family every night, and we've been abstaining from candy and meat. Yes, meat. All week long, though we will eat it on Sundays.

I thought I'd share our meal plans since Ash Wednesday last week through this Friday, just in case you are interested. If you aren't interested, move along.

Ash Wednesday:
Since this was a fast day, I made a hearty loaf of bread with whole wheat flour, rye flour, wheat berries, and oatmeal, mostly following the Vollkorn Brot recipe from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The kids weren't fasting, but that was a pretty sustaining bread for my breakfast and lunch. For dinner, we had split pea soup (using water rather than broth).

Pita bread
I was going to make tabbouleh as well, but ran out of time. So we just had some greens from the garden (and I can't even really believe I'm still able to pick fresh greens from the garden).

Black bean enchiladas (I have no recipe for this online, because I used a chicken enchilada with a white cream sauce recipe, but substituted black beans and zucchini for the chicken.)
Mexican rice (made with water rather than broth)


Our day to eat meat. I made a Thai chicken recipe from an old well-loved cookbook, and Pad See Ew.

Mattar Paneer (my recipe actually comes from 660 Curries)
Curried Vegetables (from Royal Indian Cookery)
mango lassi

Although I have a favorite barley soup recipe from Twelve Months of Monastery Soups, I decided to try this Barley soup recipe and it was delicious.
Bread from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Black bean chili (from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook)

Baked potatoes that will probably get topped with leftover black bean chili.

Tuna noodle casserole (gussied up a bit, because the sauce for this recipe has goat cheese in it)
Green beans, sauteed with herbs and garlic

What's up for next week? I haven't figured that out yet. But I am perusing the meals posted at Tales from Astoria for good ideas. What about you?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Time to Eat the Doughnuts!

It has become the family tradition to make doughnuts on Fat Tuesday ever since, thanks to Healthy Breads in Five Minutes a Day, I discovered that making doughnuts isn't all that hard. Especially when I realized I even already had a doughnut cutter.

It takes a bit of planning though. First you have to mix up the dough, which I did yesterday afternoon. You need a brioche or challah dough. These are sweetened with some honey, but yield a lightly sweetened doughnut, not the Krispy Kreme style.

After letting the dough rise and chill in the refrigerator, you roll it out:

Cut it:

Heat up oil to instant death levels (360-370 degrees) and fry them for a minute or so per side:

Then roll in sugar:

And enjoy. Today, at least, my six year old ranked Fat Tuesday slightly above Christmas, though I suspect that isn't a long term ranking.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Coloring Pages

A few years ago for Little Flowers, I drew a bunch of coloring pages, which I put up on Scribd and linked here. Then Scribd went to a pay for download model and moved/deleted a bunch of the files, so they disappeared and the links didn't work. After being too pregnant and tired (or lazy) to deal with it at all, I eventually took down the links from my page altogether. But now I have finally moved all the files to Google Drive, so if you were dying to find any of the following coloring pages, they are back. I'm including the links here and you can find them on a page up above.


Friday, February 01, 2013

Quick Takes

In reference to her brother, the ten year old announced at dinner the other night, "He's drunk the Doctor Who-laid." But it isn't like she isn't slightly insane herself.

"Mom?" questioned my six year old, "A long time ago when George Washington was alive, did they have to use the old red kind of plunger that isn't as good?" When I explained more, he was kind of grossed out by the standard facilities of colonial times.

Maybe potty-training would go better if he wore the underwear a different way?
Toilets? Potty Training? It stinks. Literally and figuratively. After two weeks of not getting it, I've backed off for a while. I'll keep trying, but I ordered these Flip trainers. Not quite underwear, more like a cloth diaper. They just came today, so I don't know if they will be helpful, but I can't take the urine soaked pants (and furniture) much longer.

Really, my preferred training method is the same as Margaret's, but for some reason I tried to branch out with this kid and I really am wondering why.

The Husband and I have discovered some excellent French movies on Netflix. Not artsy flicks that make one want to smoke in a cafe all day whist wearing black, but movies that are just fun to watch even if you have to read subtitles. First, he watched Anthony Zimmer, which I hear is a terrific action movie, but I don't watch action movies, so you'd have to judge for yourself. Then we watched Romantics Anonymous, in which two of the most socially awkward people you've ever seen fall in love. Hilarity ensues. And finally, last week we watched I Do. When the mother and five domineering sisters of a middle-aged single guy decide it is high time he gets married, he decides to hire the sister of a friend to get them off his back. And hilarity ensues. 

Movies like these will make you forget that you might once have referred to the French as "cheese-eating surrender monkeys."

The fireplace guys are here today rebuilding the firebox (that actually wasn't part of the work made necessary by our little fire, the mortar was just deteriorating and needed to be fixed -- yay! warranty!). We are undecided on what to do about the tile, once that part is done. We can't decide between marble tile (little white ones) or an antique style ceramic in something like gold or celadon. Neither is exactly what is on the other fireplaces in our house, but I think either would be acceptably historically suitable.

I am grateful that today has been uneventful thus far.

Yesterday, I overslept and when I came out of my room, the two year old greeted me with the news he'd wet his bed. Then the thirteen year old came in with a wet spot on his side. He'd slept with the two year old. Later, I found the same two year old sprinkling my makeup all over the bathroom. The eight year old announced her stomach hurt right at her belly button and started crying hard. I ordered pizza for dinner, since my husband was working late for the third night in a row. The two year old peed on the dining room chair during dinner, and as the eight year old kept crying about stomach pain, I began to fear appendicitis. Then she threw up and felt much, much better, thank goodness.  I never thought I'd be glad about vomit, but after keeping an eye on her all night and having no more pain or nausea, it seems to be just a passing stomach bug.

This episode of nausea and vomiting meant that for the third month in a row my kids and I missed our homeschooling group's First Friday Mass and play time due to a sick child. I think I miss it as much as the kids, but obviously no one wants to share our germs, so we stayed away.

Duplo-playing baby cuteness. We start them on Lego products early around here.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

In the Bleak Midwinter of Homeschooling

February begins tomorrow, which is when the thoughts of homeschooling mothers turn towards anything besides the curriculum they are so extremely tired of implementing. Usually I translate this into a need to start figuring out my plans for the next year.

This time that planning takes on extra significance because the oldest is in eighth grade. As we all know that means high school comes next. High school means real planning and preparation, because those four years are what prepare you for college. Ack! So I have to really map out my son's plan for the next four years to make sure he'll have what needs to graduate in a timely fashion. My first inclination has been to register with a school like Kolbe Academy but now I'm waffling about that.

Next year, I will also have a kindergartner, first grader, fourth grader, and sixth grader. I actually need to plan now, or I'll never be ready.

And I really am tired of everything we are doing right now. I think I need to find something to inspire and refocus us during Lent. More planning!

Back to work.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Late Nights, Early Mornings

Squawk squawk! The weather alarm went off at 1-something telling of impending severe thunderstorms. I went back to sleep. At 2-something it went off again with tornado warnings, but not for our part of the county. I almost drifted off again, but squawking began again and this time it sounded much closer to where we live and it woke up the baby.

Stumbling out of bed, not really awake, we checked the TV weather and based on the satellite images, we decided it might be wise to wake up the kids and go to the basement. Children don't like being woken up in the middle of the night and dragged down to the cold, scary basement.

But we hung out, briefly in the dark before the power came back on, and then put the kids back to bed. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get back to sleep, but of course the real problem was waking up again when the two year came bouncing in bright and early.

Children never realize the sufferings of their parents, but I can tell you I'm really, really looking forward to bedtime tonight.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


I'm spending the week learning self control and teaching it too.

Most of my children have spent the last several days in various stages of sickness. Stomach pains and low fevers lead to lying on the couch and general whining. I'm trying hard to carry on, doing all the laundry, dishes, cleaning and other tasks, while bringing in extra ginger ale and jello. Sometimes, I manage without whining myself.

My two year old is also in the midst of potty training. Teaching a child to control his bladder and other parts, ahem, is one of my least favorite things. I avoid it and consequently my children are generally older than other people's kids when I finally get around to it. However, when my two year old checked his diaper last week, announced the contents therein, closed it back up, fetched a clean diaper and wipes, and laid down with his bum in the air, I realized that like it or not, the time had come.

But this child is the most stubborn, cantankerous person ever. One false move and I might sink the potty training for a long while. Here is where my self control comes in. I cannot get annoyed over poop in underwear, pee on the dining room chairs, toilet paper unrolled whilst I wait, or any of the other things that make me want to groan, shriek or pull my hair out. My other kids might tolerate my grumps, but not this kid.

So I take long breaths, say many a Hail Mary, and run quickly to the potty and return with chocolate chips and lots of false joy when the puddles aren't too bad. No one ever said self control was easy.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Quick Takes

This has been quite a year so far. It began with us almost burning down the house on January 1.

When we bought this place and began a long and depressing year of renovations, one of the things we worked on was having a filled in fireplace restored to working order. This involved having a new firebox and chimney built, and by the end of that we never quite got around to the completion of the hearth or tile. We did put down insulating fabric and covered it with cement board, but after five years that wasn't enough any more.

The cement board had started to disintegrate, and so on the first day of the year, as we were about to put kids to bed, I noticed smoke trickling around the edges of the hearth. Ashes or something had worked their way under the cement board and insulation and started the framing smoldering. Fortunately, I noticed it, so we were able to get everything ripped out and cooled down without waking up to a conflagration.

We have already had contractors out to give us a quote on actually finishing the thing.

So if a late night stopping your house from burning down isn't enough excitement, the next morning our two year old came down covered in vomit. He spent several days getting back to normal and also passed on a milder version to me. Thanks kid. Not.


In better news, shortly before the new year, my husband and I celebrated our fifteenth anniversary. We were sure a couple of kids back in those days. We also used to discuss whether it would be better to have two or three kids. Silly people.


If we'd stopped at Baby #3, we wouldn't have an adorably cute six month old right now. I can't believe it has been half a year since she was born.

My ten year old is writing a pop song, which as these things go, is pretty good. She thinks she wants to be the next Taylor Swift. I suppose it is true that everyone living in Nashville is an aspiring musician.

My oldest child is very into Doctor Who and has passed this obsession on to his siblings. Their father and I take great pleasure in annoying them by referring to the character as if his name was Doctor Who. It never fails to get a rise.

However, I knew the entire set of children were Doctor Who obsessed when my son printed out a Thomas the Tank Engine coloring page for my two year old, who looked at it disdainfully, crumpled it, and said, "Don't want 'ain. Want color Dalek."

As I mentioned, we've had a few rough spots at the beginning of this year, but others have had it much, much worse. On Epiphany, Lily, the eleven year old daughter of a friend of mine, had a stroke. She's since had surgery to relieve pressure on her brain and will have many more tests and other things to be done on the long road to recovery. Please keep her and, of course, Jennifer Fulwiler, in your prayers. Also pray for Kelly and her beautiful, but too early, little daughter.

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