Saturday, September 06, 2008

Friday, May 30, 2008

Busy, Busy - and WOW!

First of all, I haven't posted because I've been super busy trying to get back on track with our school work.  Teaching 3 (actually 4 as the youngest *has* to be involved, too) is just mind-numbingly busy - love it, but it leaves me very little time for anything else!

I have been blogging here with just a log of what our days/weeks are like, if you are interested in that sort of thing.

Today, though, we have set aside our formal school work to watch a very special program.   The Ordinations of the FSSP priests, live on EWTN.  We saw one of my parish priests there, the boys thought it was pretty neat to see him on TV!  You can check out this link for pictures and commentary.  It is truly amazing.  My prayers are definitely with those amazing young men!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

First Confession and brothers...

It's been a crazy busy week. Not much to say today, but thought I'd share some pictures.

A2 had his First Confession on Saturday. He wore a tie for the first time, and he looked sooooo handsome!

He was a little nervous, but he did great! The Church is so wise to have this sacrament offered to 7 and 8 year olds. A2 was a bit teary the night before when it finally really sunk in that he had to talk about the things he'd done wrong. I think that's indicative of the development of conscience, and that niggling conscience is so prevalent at this age. How wonderful that our faith gives us a means to obtain the forgiveness of God!

Afterwards, we went out to lunch to celebrate. Look how angelic he looks after receiving the sacrament!

Now for some "brothers" pictures! Here's all of them on the way to church:

Here's N4, being silly at the restaurant:

Here's J1, looking so grown-up!

LOVE this picture of S3 and A2!

Can't believe my guys are getting so big!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Fun with the 5 year old

Yesterday I took N4 out to the Dollar Store. He was feeling a little sad because on our date this weekend (Yes! We actually had a babysitter and went on a real date, when it *wasn't* a special occasion - first time in, oh - at least 7 years we've done that - it was SO COOL! :-) we stopped at a bookstore and got a couple of books for dh, but they are ones that J1 enjoys, too. So N4 felt left out. "But *I* wanted something! Why didn't you get ME anything?" So, feeling somewhat bad, I decided that he probably just needed some one on one attention, and told him I would take him to the dollar store and give him $2 to spend, and then he could go with me on the rest of my errands. He was thrilled.

Yesterday he was very talkative while we were out. One of the first things he said to me was, "Mom? Did you know that I don't know everything yet?" Giggle. I put a positive spin on it, talking about how much there was to know, and it was *fun* to learn new things. He agreed, thankfully! Later he asked me, out of the blue, "So. How DO you get pregnant anyway?" I about choked - convinced I'd misheard him. I ask him what he meant. "You know - how do you get another child?" Um. Hmm. Thankfully he was satisfied with a rather simple answer. I told him just that mommy parts and daddy parts come together and make a baby, which grows in a special place inside mommies. "Yeah," he said, "that's what my new body book says, you know, the one I got on Easter? I really like that book, mom!" Much (MUCH!) like his oldest brother, he has a complete fascination with the science-y stuff about the human body. J1 and N4 are so similar that it can be kind of eerie!

Later that evening, he had a little melt-down when we asked the brothers to clear the table after dinner and I found him hiding under the computer desk because he didn't want to do it. Of course, I demanded he go out there and pick up a dish, and he had one of the biggest tantrums he's had in quite some time. I explained that we all need to help make the household run smoothly because we're all a family, and he informed me, "I don't want to be in this family any more!" I told him he didn't have a choice about the matter, that we were family, we'd always be family, and no matter what we'd always love him. "You don't really love me!" he said pitifully. Because to a 5 year old, if we REALLY loved him, he'd get whatever he want and do whatever he wants, right? Thankfully he was actually grateful when I went to him and gave him a huge hug, and he later tearfully apologized for everything. "I'm SO sorry about everything, mom!" he says with tear-filled eyes. It's so interesting to see them develop their little consciences.

I find 5 year olds to be such challenging creatures! Funny ones, too, even though they often don't realize it! :-)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Last week's funny...

Eavesdrop on our dinner table conversation a few nights ago...

J1, "Dad! I can't get that song out of my head. That one that you sang in the car today, about the little bunny in the forest? It just doesn't make sense!"

Dh, "You mean 'Little Bunny Foo-foo?'"

J1, "Aarrrgghhhh! I forgot about the 'foo-foo'"!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Opening Day

I had hoped to get this post up actually on baseball's Opening Day. Alas, life intervened, but I still have to share my thoughts on this subject near and dear to my heart!

I love baseball. I really, really do. I grew up with baseball. I played T-ball and then softball for many years. My entire family loves baseball. My mom and dad laugh and say they almost didn't get married because my mom didn't want to miss a single minute of the 1968 Tigers' run through the playoffs. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve listening to Tigers baseball - to this day hearing Ernie Harwell's voice brings back long summer days and the freedom of being young. (There has never been, nor will there ever be, another voice of baseball like Ernie Harwell!) The best baseball period ever in my life was , The Roar of '84. The Detroit Tigers went "wire to wire", leading their division the entire season after a record 35-5 start, culminating in a World Series win. That's the only time "my team" has won a championship when I was following them. And it doesn't matter to me. I love baseball, win or lose.

My boys don't play much baseball. We play in the yard a bit, and they did a season with a homeschool baseball league last year. I have so much respect for my friend Megan's family. Her boys are so involved in baseball that she named her blog "Bases Loaded"! I just can't imagine being so busy with 4 different boys on 4 different fields on lots of different days. Being that busy just doesn't go well with my family of homebodies. It might have been different if we had started the boys in t-ball and Little League at the appropriate times - unfortunately, circumstances and finances prevented us from joining teams when they were the right age, and it's now hard for them to step in the middle with their lack of knowledge and skill.

But that's ok - we all still love baseball, and that's what matters. We listen to almost every single Braves game, and we try to go to at least one game a year. We also follow the Tigers and the Minnesota Twins. This year I'm interested in the Diamondbacks, too, since we came close to moving out to Arizona.

Yes, I know that baseball is tainted by drugs and money. I hate "money ball", I far prefer teams that work within their own farm systems and nurture home-grown talent. I despise performance enhancing drugs and the culture that promotes and accepts it. But I think that baseball has always had ups and downs, because it is made up of human beings, with all our failings and strengths. It's one of the best thing about the game - because despite incredible talent, it's still a very human game. Not everyone can imagine growing up to become a hockey player, or a football player. But just about anyone can dream of playing baseball. I love that!

And Opening Day is what it's all about. It's my favorite time of the year. I love spring training, but it's bittersweet, because you always know that some of these guys won't make the team. As the season wears on, some teams are clearly out of contention, which is always a bummer, and sometimes the stress of having a team trying to make the playoffs is a wonderful yet terrible feeling! But Opening Day is grand. Everyone has a chance. Every player could become MVP, every team has a chance at the playoffs.

I just love baseball, and I'm so excited about being able to listen and see it for the next 7 months!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What a sweetie!

My 11 year old paid me quite the compliment today.

"Mom," he said, "Thanks for answering most of my completely meaningless questions!"

At least he notices that I try to meet his need for a walking, talking encyclopedia - most of the time!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


This was taken right before we left for the Easter Vigil. I'm so glad we went to the Vigil service (especially since we missed the Christmas Midnight Mass this year due to transportation issues). The Easter vigil was very, very long (almost 3 1/2 hours), and very, very late (it started at 10:30pm, and combined with travel time we didn't get back home until 3am). But every single one of us just loves going to Christmas Midnight Mass and the Easter Vigil. I want to encourage those of you with kids to consider trying a vigil mass next year! We have gone to vigil services as often as we were able to for years. I think we first took J1 and A2 to midnight mass when J1 was almost 3 and A2 was still a baby. When my kids were really little, we would let them go to sleep if they wanted to before mass, then wake them up and carry them to mass in their PJs. Now that they're all a bit older, we just make sure we let them sleep in as long as possible the morning of the vigil service and they stay awake until we leave. Now, we are night owls, which helps - none of my kids are in bed much before 11pm most nights, so it's not much of a stretch for them to stay up until midnight or even 1am. But even years ago, when my kids actually went to sleep at a decent time of night, we could still make it work. We let the youngest ones (those who are younger than First Communion age) fall asleep in the pews during vigil masses. This year S3 and N4 were asleep about an hour into the service. J1 and A2 were awake and paying attention through the whole thing. (A2 is definitely ready for his First Communion next month!)

The Easter Vigil mass at our Latin Mass parish is just absolutely beautiful and amazing. We light the Easter Fire outside, then we all process into the church, where it is dark except for candlelight. The first third of the the mass is in darkness, with bible readings and the renewal of our Baptismal promises. Finally, my favorite part of the whole liturgical year occurs. The lights in the church are flipped on, the altar servers ring the bells, and the choir sings the "Gloria" for the first time since Lent began. Just so beautiful, so moving, to hear, see, and feel Jesus' resurrection!

If you get a chance, check out Pope Benedict's sermon from the Easter Vigil (you can find a transcript here: What Does the Prayer Really Say?) Lots to chew on here, definitely. I liked this part especially:

"(In Baptism) God’s light enters into us; thus we ourselves become children of light. We must not allow this light of truth, that shows us the path, to be extinguished. We must protect it from all the forces that seek to eliminate it so as to cast us back into darkness regarding God and ourselves. Darkness, at times, can seem comfortable. I can hide, and spend my life asleep. Yet we are not called to darkness, but to light."

Hope you all are having a very happy, peaceful Easter season! Blessings to you and yours from me and mine!

Seven Years Ago

My husband had a stroke. A massive cerebral hemorrhage, to be exact. It's not an anniversary you want to remember, but it's tough to forget.

It haunts me sometimes, to remember waking up that Sunday morning, having no idea how dramatically different things were going to be. Life can change in a heartbeat. I don't know how I could cope with that knowledge without my faith.

It's been seven long years. Years of recovery and job loss and losing just about everything we had except each other. Years of slowly trying to rebuild our life. When it happened, I remember sitting in the ICU waiting room, thinking to myself that this was bad, but it would be ok, and if we could just make it to the 4th of July we'd be fine. It is such a blessing that I had no real insight into what the future would hold, because it would have been an unbearably crushing weight. God is so good to protect us from knowing the future!

Seven Years. Life is good. I have my husband with me today, and he is amazingly healthy and strong. I have my little miracle baby, N4, who was conceived less than a year after my husband should have died, and all my children are wonderfully well. I never take our health for granted anymore. We have a home again, dh finally has a really good job again. Life seems stable, for the first time in seven years. I know that perhaps tomorrow everything will change, that's just how life is. I also know, with absolute certainty, that God will see us through.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Random Loose Ends...

It's been a tumultuous couple of weeks here at the AAA house. Thought I'd catch up on a few things and post some pictures before I shut down my computer for the Easter Tridium.

First of all, for those who are wondering - we are NOT moving to Arizona. The position they were trying to create for dh got shot down by the board of directors - basically, they didn't feel they should be adding an executive position in this economy. We are essentially happy and relieved. We like our life here, and we've already had 4 different homes in 5 years, so we weren't anxious to move cross-country. Plus, we really like dh's current job, which is stable and flexible - two things that mean a LOT to us. It's also good to know that dh can honestly compete for a job of that nature should we ever decide to pursue something like that. We sure do like his current job, and there's already talk of a couple of potential promotions, so we will probably be happy and satisfied to stay put for quite some time.

Dh and I celebrated our 16th anniversary this past weekend. How can it possibly have been 16 years ago that we got married? Actually, it's been 16 years since our legal marriage - our marriage wasn't blessed by the Church until a bit over 7 years later. But, we count 16 years as our anniversary as that's how long we've been together, and we have a second celebration on our blessing day.

We had planned to go to downtown Atlanta to a nice restaurant to celebrate. Then the tornado moved through right where we had planned on going, so we decided to stick closer to home. We had a young man we know from church and our homeschool group come over to watch the boys, and they had a great time. After we dropped him back home, S3 asked, "Mom? On your next anniversary, can we order him again?" I got the biggest giggle out of that! The great thing is, this young man was awesome with our kids (and even cleaned up my house a bit!), so we are hoping that we will actually be able to use him as a regular babysitter. After 16 years and lots of crisis, we really need to pay some attention to our marriage.

The boys are doing well. I wanted to share this picture with you. Whenever we have a task or project for them, we call out, "Four Boy Attack Squad!" and they come running. Lately they have not only come running, but stood in line in age-order, saluting.

They really do this, without prompting! And then they will go and do whatever task I set before them. One thing I've noticed with my boys, they just need to know exactly where to put their efforts, and if they work together they can be truly a force of nature.

I really like this picture of J1 - "a boy and his dog":

Now that I know we're not moving, I really feel energized. I can barely stop my mind from going a mile a minute, thinking of all the projects I want to tackle, and how much school work we're going to have to get accomplished in the next few months. I'm also really pondering the direction of this blog. I'm not sure what my purpose is - am I here to just update friends and family? That's a good thing. I have so much I want to say that I don't really feel belongs in a family blog. But I often can't keep up with this blog, so I don't really want to create a second one. Actually, I don't have much to say about much of anything lately, but I still have a surprising number of visitors, so some people apparently find me interesting from time to time! I think that perhaps my little niche in this massive blog world is to be a sort of poster child for not being perfect, for being humbly real, as a homemaker, homeschooler, and mom. I sometimes read other's blogs and while I often gain incredible inspiration, at the same time it can be discouraging. It can be tough to read about the fabulous things other people are doing when most days I struggle to get my "minimums" done - especially when it took me months to get up to speed with just my "minimums". So maybe that can be my place, to show the non-idyllic side of homeschooling a bunch of boys. Especially since, despite my lack of perfection and effort (or perhaps because of it?) they are amazingly wonderful young people!

Monday, March 10, 2008


We had guests after church this weekend (had a lovely time, too!) During Saturday's dinner, we talked with the boys about it. What would happen, what kind of behavior would be appropriate (play nicely and gently with the younger children, don't act like obnoxious cartoon characters, etc.), that sort of thing. I've always found that if I give my kids information, and let them know what we expect of them, things tend to work much, much better all around. So, I tell them about our guests, and they discuss things a bit. "How old are their kids again?" and "What will we have for dinner" - typical questions, I suppose. Then S3 pipes in:

"So, we'll have to use our manners, right? Like use utensils for the salad?"

I looked at my husband in horror - oh my goodness, I'm such a terrible mother that my kids usually use their fingers for their salad! Then I just busted out laughing. Because guests definitely deserve the use of forks, and at least my boys know *that* much!

Monday, February 18, 2008


Wow! We sure did have an awesome thunderstorm yesterday afternoon! And there was no damage (at least in my neighborhood) so that's a good thing. We did end up in our basement for awhile, though.

When I was little (really little) I was terrified of thunder. I could hear thunder far, far off, about 20 minutes before my parents could, lol. Used to drive my mom nuts! Then I had some close encounters with severe weather that made me realize that the thunder was not what was to be feared! For about 5 years, every time I went to summer camp, there was some hideous, horrible storm. The first time was at girl scout camp, it was a severe storm with high winds - it occurred during a meal in the "mess hall", which turned out to be a really good thing, because one of the tent areas (not mine, thank goodness) was completely destroyed. Then there was swim camp, and me and about 50 other girls were crammed into 3 bathroom stalls (safest internal room in the dorm) while a funnel cloud was sighted about a mile away. Last time was at music camp, and it was truly terrifying. It was a woods-y kind of camp, with cabins and no good safe areas. So, when the tornado warning sounded, the director drove through the camp on a golf cart with a bull horn and screamed at us to grab a blanket and run down to the beach. We spent about 40 minutes, huddled together on the shores of the big lake (lowest point of the whole camp area, apparently), blankets over our head that didn't protect us at all. It rained, and hailed, there was wind, thunder and lightening like I've never seen before. At each flash of lightening, I watched the roiling, pea-soup clouds and prayed (even though I didn't consider myself religious at the time!) We all were ok, but there was a tornado about a quarter mile outside the entrance to camp.

Amazingly enough, after that experience, I grew to love storms. After being outside in a storm like that, I came to appreciate watching from a distance and having shelter at my back if I needed it. Plus, the experiences probably reinforced that "invincibility" you feel when you're young. No storm could harm me, obviously (haha) so aren't they cool to watch?

And then I became a mother.

Right after we moved into our very first home up in Minnesota, we got a series of terrible storms. One night, J1 had fallen asleep in the bedroom upstairs. Dh and I were still awake downstairs, watching TV, and a severe t-storm warning came on. We listened to the storm rage outside, and I kept asking, "Should I go get J?" and dh would say, "Nah, he's ok, let him sleep." (because at that time, getting him to sleep was such a rare victory, ya know?) Finally, the winds picked up hard, and I ran up the stairs to grab my baby. And as I'm on the stairway, we hear a sickening crack and a loud "BOOM" - let me tell you, I think I teleported the rest of the way upstairs to grab J and get into the basement - I truly have no memory of scooping J up and going down 2 flights of stairs, I only remember that crack/boom and then suddenly I'm in the basement with my baby! Turns out a very large tree in the neighbor's yard had fallen across the road (the end of it landed just 10 feet or so from our living room) and that's what we heard. Dh and I were both just sick - we had a very large, very old oak tree in our front yard that was about the same size as the tree across the street that fell. If our tree had fallen, rather than the neighbor's, it would have landed right across our stairway (while I was going up to get J). I would have been injured, at best, and J would have been trapped upstairs. And that whole storm was not a tornado, just wicked "straight-line winds" - caused tremendous damage across the entire city.

Needless to say, ever since then - I still love storms, I really, really do. But I have a very healthy respect for severe weather. So yesterday, when the severe t-storm warning popped up on my computer and the warning said there was "no tornado sighted, but some radar indicated rotation" within the storm, my caution senses went on high alert. Then, the kids mentioned that it suddenly got foggy, and we realized no, it was just raining so hard it looked like fog. Dh mentioned that the rain was actually moving sideways, almost parallel to the ground, and I got a bit anxious. Then, J1 and I looked out our back door, at the many large trees in our back yard as they swayed violently in the wind. J1 made the comment, "Look at those trees, mom - could they fall on us?" and I flashed back to about 10 years ago when I almost didn't grab my baby in time, so I made the kids go down the basement - just in case.

The kids freaked out a bit. A2 made the comment, "Will we die? Oh well, if we die we'll all go to heaven, so it's OK." I was so happy to see his faith in action, especially as he approaches his First Confession and First Communion. Ah, the faith of little children!

All turned out just fine for us yesterday, thank goodness, and we got a bunch of much-needed rain. I was glad to have a basement, and very glad we didn't really need it after all!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bluebirds, recovery, and other odds and ends...

Wow! Can't believe I didn't write at all last week! The cold I had just really knocked me down, hard, for almost a full month! I am finally feeling better, though I'm still not 100%. I did manage to keep up my "minimums" in school and housework, but that was about all I could do last week.

This weekend I cut all the boys' hair. We went out to lunch after church, and as we're walking in, a lady who held the door for us glanced at the boys and started to say to her friend, "Wow, do you think they're all hers?" then looked at them again, startled, and said to me, "My word, you can definitely tell they're brothers!" Yeah, you really can! Here's a picture - try to look at those cute smiles and not my falling-apart couch, lol!

School type stuff is going pretty well. A2 is still really struggling with the reading thing, though. I'm frustrated - we were going along quite well in 100EZ Lessons, and then along about L 54, he just ran into a wall. He says there's "too many words", and we both are frustrated. I've tried to use different books with him, step back a little bit. The tough thing is - he's basically functionally literate - he can read enough to get by quite well, it's not that he *can't* read. He's just not fluent enough to read books, and that's obviously where we want to go. He's getting on towards his 9th birthday now, and I'll admit it's starting to be tougher to say "he just needs more time". S3 actually reads a bit better than A2, though he is also not fluent. The frustrating thing about him is I think he *could* read books if he wanted to - but if I have him read out loud to me, after about 2.5 minutes he'll tell me his "mouth is tired." Considering how much he talks throughout the day, I'm definitely not buying *that* excuse! So, reading is a bit of a struggle for my middle two. I'm still really happy with the Math U See math program for them, they're both coming along quite well with their math. Catechism - A2 will have his First Confession in less than a month now, and I'm really not feeling like he's as ready as he could be. His CCD class really focuses on rote memorization, and that's definitely not my teaching style. We're spending so much energy helping him memorize that I feel like his heart is left neglected. Dh thinks I worry too much, though, and says he's doing just fine. Since he has the theology degree and teaches in the CCD program, I suppose I should listen to him, lol! Handwriting is coming along for both of them. I will say that IS a subject where physical maturity has made a big difference for my boys. Believe it or not, though, J1 is still struggling. I'm not entirely sure how to help him - his handwriting is barely legible. Any ideas? J1's doing great, other than handwriting which has pretty much always been the bane of his existence. Oh, and we're still looking for a good grammar program for him. If anyone has any great suggestions, let me know! And I lost my Latin teacher's manual for J1's latin program, which is really irritating me. I have suffered from a decided lack of large-scale organization this year (ie, my lesson planning and binders are great, but the books, bookshelves and desk type stuff is not), and let me tell you - it won't continue into next year!

Speaking of which - I am definitely feeling a wee bit overwhelmed. There is a small, but definite chance we will be moving to Arizona, as soon as 8 weeks from now. The thought of moving cross country in 2 months is daunting. Especially because we won't know for sure for about 5 more weeks (we might know in mid-March, we might not now till the end of June, we'll just have to wait and see...) Thankfully, the relocation package dh would get includes the purchase of our current house and reimbursement for all moving expenses, so we don't have to worry about getting the house ready to sell or anything like that. But, I mentioned my lack of large-scale organization for school? True throughout my entire life! So, I pretty much have (potentially) 8 weeks to figure out what is worth keeping, what would go into long-term storage (we would live in a fully furnished and equipped corporate house while we look for a home to purchase out there) and what we would need right away. I figure it's a good project regardless. If it's not worth keeping if we move, why in the world is it taking up space in my house right now? Especially with our space needs, given our small-ish house and 24/7 presence here. At any rate, we definitely have our work cut out for us. I can't decide if it's good to have a deadline or not - on the one hand, it's a good motivator, but quite honestly, when I think about it, I feel sort of like a deer in headlights!

Oh - and one of the many reasons why I hope we *don't* move? My bluebirds came back! Remember, I saw them about a month ago? Yesterday they hung around our house most of the afternoon, eating the dried mealworms I'd set out, and even visiting the suet. I did get a couple of pictures, but they were through my windows so they didn't turn out well enough to put up here. Dh even said he saw one of them coming out from my bluebird house. Oh, I'm SO hoping they'll decide to nest at my house! At any rate, I'm just happy they're still coming around.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

One of our best weeks ever!

SO, as you all know, this year has been a real struggle for me, school-wise. When dh was unemployed this fall, the stress and lack of routine really negatively impacted our life. My continuing health issues and medications sap my energy and motivation. It's been very difficult, by far the most difficult year yet of homeschooling. For the first time ever, I began to question my abilities to do this at all.

I threw myself upon God's mercy. I prayed with my whole heart and asked for help, admitting that I couldn't do it on my own. I asked my husband and children and good friends to pray for me. Nothing spectacular happened immediately. But over the course of about 3 weeks, I began to feel better. I got new ideas for how to manage everything, and somewhere got the energy to implement some ideas I'd had for years.

God is so good! Last week was probably the best week of school we've ever had.

Sure, I didn't do any wonderful, creative art projects with my kids. No lap books or posters or scrapbooking. Sadly, I didn't read out loud a single book (though that is definitely on my short list of things to add in to my week). We didn't take any productive, exciting field trips or do any of the other fabulous things you read about homeschoolers doing.

But, every single day, we completed my "minimum" list. It's sort of embarassing to put that out there, that I find it such a victory to complete my "minimums". But I think it's important for homeschoolers to see that sometimes, just completing the basics is really great, and is Enough.

J1 did math, handwriting, and catechism every day. He did rather poorly on his first science test, but understands better what is expected of him, which is a good thing. He'll be ready for his second test by Wednesday of next week, and we're on schedule to finish both Saxon pre-algebra and Apologia's Intro to Physical Science by the end of our school year (7/31) - which puts him several grade levels "ahead" in those subjects. He successfully reviewed and got back up to speed in his Latin book, and next week will be ready to move to a new lesson. We discussed grammar and have decided to get a new program as we're both unhappy with what we've got right now. I'd like to do more writing instruction with him, and I need to get him some history books so he can do some independent study in that subject. But, all in all, I feel like he's doing well.

A2 and S3 did math every single day, and got through 5 lessons in Math-U-See "Alpha". The have complete mastery over 2/3rds of their addition facts, and have learned about solving for unknowns and skip-counting. I find Math-U-See to be a difficult program for *me* to use (it's so much easier for me to just pull out a workbook, rather than watch a video and build with blocks, etc.) but I am *very* pleased with how it is increasing my kids' math understanding. Especially with A2, who had already worked through his addition and subtraction facts in another program but didn't seem to have that intuitive understanding of numbers until Math-U-See. So, I feel like even though A2 is working below "grade level", math-wise, he is really getting a good solid foundation in math understanding, and teaching the two of them together (they're only 15 months apart, age-wise) is definitely much easier for me! In addition, all 3 younger kids worked in "100 EZ Lessons" each day this week. A2 is on lesson 53 now, and is definitely reading - but it just hasn't "clicked" with him yet, he hasn't reached fluency. He's working hard, though, and improving, and I'm pretty sure that if I can just work with him consistently, every day, for about 2 more months, he will make great strides. S3 is so funny - he reads so well - but it's only sight-reading words he knows, he can't sound out new words, so I'm starting him at the beginning in "100 EZ Lessons". I will often catch him reading the parent instructions, rather than the sounds and simple words that the student is supposed to read. He definitely isn't going to take long to reach that fluency, he just needs to focus a bit on what things *are*, rather than what he expects or wants them to be. I've started N4, too, though I'm not certain he's ready. He doesn't complain, so I'll just keep going along with him, and who knows what will happen? His biggest problem is going to be he wants to read books like his big brother J1, not "books with pictures", as he calls them. He'll cart around "Mara, Daughter of the Nile" for two days, pretending to read it. Not sure how I'll convince him to read Dr. Suess first, ya know? The younger boys also worked on handwriting 4 days last week, and I'm actually surprised by how well they're doing, considering how little instruction I've given them so far. In another couple of weeks I"ll start some simple copy-work with them, start having them copy words and simple sentences. I find copy-work and dictation to be one of the easiest, most efficient ways of learning handwriting and grammar at a young age! And, of course, we also worked on Catechism, especially with A2, who will be receiving his First Confession in just 6 weeks.

The other really wonderful thing about this week? Not only did we consistently do our minimum schoolwork, but we kept up with the housework! I will describe our chore system in another post, but I am absolutely amazed at how easy it is to keep the house fairly picked up and clean with all of us working together.

We even did all of this with my cold lingering on, so I actually feel worse than I usually do. Once I finally get over this cough, I will add things in, like art and read-a-louds, things I do think are important in our homeschool. But I'm just so pleased, after barely being able to get started for most of this year, that we finally had a really good week where I feel like we really accomplished something. And it didn't overwhelm me, I don't feel like I put all my energy into a few days and now I'm exhausted and unable to continue (yes, that's how most of the year has gone until now!) This slow, steady pace is something I think I can sustain, and that, I believe, will be the key to our success.

So, if you're feeling overwhelmed, go to God. Pour out your heart to Our Lord, who loves us, and ask for help and guidance. Ask your husband, children and friends to pray for you. Figure out what your "minimums" are, and ask older kids what they want to do above your minimums so that they are self-motivated. I really believe that just completing the minimums will be enough for most kids, especially when they are young. Get together a simple chore plan so that everyone works together to maintain the household matters. And pace yourself, so that you don't find yourself exhausted after just one day.

You can come back from "burn-out", overcome obstacles, and get back on track! And it is oh-so worth it! Being with these wonderful kids every day, teaching them - it is such a joy!

I think we need to work on "telling time"!

A2, noticing one afternoon that the clock on the stove said "12:00".

"Look mom! It's midnight in the morning!"


Thursday, January 24, 2008

My Birthday Boy

With each passing year I realize more and more just how quickly these kids grow up. My oldest, J1, turned 11 years old this week. It sure seems like just a couple of months ago that he was born in the middle of a raging Minnesota snowstorm. Now he is teetering on the bring of becoming a full-fledged "young man."

I see so many different stages of childhood - newborn (first 6-8 weeks), baby(until they walk), toddler(walking to about age 3), young child(3-6), boy/girl(6-11/12?), young man/woman (12-16/17?), man/woman (17+?). Obviously I'm not so certain on when the older stages begin and end, given my oldest just turned 11! But, I'm sure that you all know what I mean - sometimes you just look at your child and sense - "wow, he's not so much a baby anymore," or "wow, he's almost a real boy now!" Does anyone else do that? My youngest, who is 5, he's getting on towards just being a boy, rather than a young boy. My J1 - he is definitely growing from a boy into a young man. It is truly awesome to see. And bittersweet, like so many things in parenthood. The years we have left to have him in our proverbial little nest don't seem so very many right now! And the milestones loom - in 2 years he'll be a "teenager"! In 5 years he could be driving! In 7 years - 7 years! - he can vote and move out if he chooses to do so! He's only 10 years - 10 years! - younger than I was when I got married! The mind just boggles...

And I am just so proud of him. He is just such a good kid. I felt so bad for him on his birthday day. We were all sick, which I knew was going to happen (thankfully he felt a little better, though), and we planned to have a "light" birthday, with a second day for cake and activities when everyone felt better. But, on his "real" birthday, he opened one present in the morning, and then he waited patiently all day for dad to be done with work so we could have cupcakes and he could open the rest of his presents. Finally, it was time. I drove him nuts, snapping a few pictures.

Well, about 3 seconds after I snapped this picture, both N4 and A2 started throwing up! S3 ran and hid from the sights and sounds of it all - we couldn't even find him for 10 minutes! Dh and I were frantically trying to clean everyone and everything up, and J1 just sat patiently at the table, a bemused smile on his face, laughing with us at the absurdity of it all. He could have easily freaked out about it, threw a fit, cried and been disappointed (I sorta wanted to, myself, lol!) - but he didn't, not in the slightest. He was worried about his brother A2, who got the most sick and felt really REALLY bad about the timing of it all, and was desperately afraid he would miss the unwrapping. I was just so very proud of J1 for handling it all with such aplomb.

And that is really just indicative of him and how he is. He has his moments, don't get me wrong, we all do! He whines a bit still sometimes, he is prone to becoming very stressed out (I blame myself for that one!). But he helps me so much, mostly without complaint. He is kind to his brothers, and respectful of his parents. He loves the Lord and his faith astonishes me at times. He truly enjoys life, and he seems to get along with just about everyone he meets. He is smart, and funny, and we all just love him so much!

Happy Birthday, J1. I know that your 11th will be one you won't ever forget!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

One more funny!

Ok, this one's funny, too - everything a mom says in a day, put to the tune of "William Tell Overture" in 2 1/2 minutes. LOL!

Crazy funny!

Check this out! But don't drink coffee or tea while you do! :-)

h/t: Wittingshire

Monday, January 21, 2008

Quote of the day

N4, "Mom? Why do we wear skin?"

Winter colds and other obstacles...

My poor, pitiful children! They've all got a nasty winter cold. It sounds like a sick ward over here - sniffles and hoarse voices, and awful coughing. My throat's sore today, so I'm going to be the next one down. And poor J1! His birthday's this week, and it looks like we're all going to be under the weather. We've agreed he'll have cake and presents, and then when we all feel better he'll have a second birthday day, where we go to the movies and do a couple other fun things we had planned. Plus, I don't think we'll get much schoolwork done this week.

I'm awfully frustrated with how our school year is going. It just seems like one obstacle after another. Two weeks ago I had yet another early miscarriage. Even though it was super early, I was barely even pregnant at all, in fact - it still makes me feel all hormonal and yucky. Then I saw my doctor, and she wants to increase the dosage on one of my medications, and it's the one that makes me feel just horrible. Tired, depressive, like I'm walking through water all day long. Unfortunately, there are no better alternatives to that medication, given that I still hope to get pregnant, so I realize that I just need to learn to cope with it. The doctor also suggested I have a thyroid ultrasound, which determined that I have "multiple small cysts". We're not sure what that means - could it be the reason why I feel so awful all the time? Is it something serious? From what I can determine, it's most likely that it's probably nothing, but we're waiting for the endocrinologist to call so I can get an appointment to check things out.

Basically - I have not felt well, both physically and emotionally, all year long. Every time I think things are going to start going better, something happens. A miscarriage, a cold, or something.

And you know what? I've decided - it's OK. This is life, we'll push through, we'll do as much as we can do. I get frustrated sometimes, because my best is so much better than this. But, I'm just not able to give 100% right now, so I'll simply do the best I can. I was feeling really down about it all, but my dear husband pointed out that discouragement and despair are not what God wants of me. I think it's more important for the kids to see me happy, with a good attitude despite the difficulties. And it's better for me, too, of course! Being cheerful is sometimes a challenge for me, though, I'll admit. (Prayer helps!!)

But honestly? We are very, very blessed, and I know it. Dh finally has a stable job after years of illness and career interruptions. My kids are happy, they are secure, they love me and their dad, they love each other, they love God. They have occasional attitude/character issues - but it's rarely more than very minor troubles. They are just great kids! Despite the occasional cold, they are healthy. They're smart, they're capable, and they will be fine.

I just refuse to get too discouraged when I have such great kids, a husband who loves me, and the strength of my faith.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

And it just keeps snowing!

We went back outside after dinner - it felt like the whole neighborhood was outside, enjoying this "once every few years" occurance.

Notice the socks on the hand? A friend of mine (thanks!) recommended that for those who don't have gloves, and since we could only find two of our four pair (because we almost never use them, ya know!) we tried it - it worked out pretty well. But what a horrible picture of N4 - here's a better one!

We got out an old rubbermaid container lid and used it as a sled - the boys had a *blast*!

They tried to make snow angels:

They turned out pretty well, considering we only have about 1/3rd of an inch of snow, lol!

Alas, it's starting to turn to sleet and rain - I don't know if any snow will be left by morning. Which is just how this former Northern girl prefers it, but the kids are a wee bit sad at the thought! We'll just have to wait a couple of years and have some more fun for a few hours!

Southern Snow!

The boys are SO excited! We've only seen snow once in the almost 4 years we've lived here. It's awfully pretty - but I sure am glad it won't stick around for long!

Poor boys - we don't even own winter coats! They still had a lot of fun running around in the flakes. I do NOT miss boots and snowpants, though!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Such timely little creatures!

Guess who I saw today? Oooh - I'm so excited! You have to guess! :-)

My bluebirds are back! Well, actually I only saw one. And alas, I was not quick enough with the camera to get a picture. But he seemed to be checking out the bluebird house I got last year. That thrilled me to no end - I would love, love, LOVE to get a nesting bluebird pair!

And the weird thing? Guess when I first saw them last year? On Friday, January 12. I find the fact that today is Friday January 11 to be absolutely amazing! They only stuck around for about 3 days last year, so I figure that perhaps I have a little window of opportunity to convince them to stay around here.

I am going out this afternoon to the bird feeding store and getting myself some live mealworms. Yes, it's true, I will keep little worms in my fridge for my precious bluebirds. Last year I shied away from getting the live ones, but the bird feeder store lady insisted that bluebirds love their food moving. If I have a house and wriggly wormies for them, maybe this year they'll stick around! I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Books! Books! Books!

A dear friend of mine pointed me to this book challenge. Eight books in eight categories in 2008. Wow! Other bloggers I respect are also talking about their book reading plans this year, and quite a few reviewed their reading for 2007. Quite honestly? I love to read, but I have gotten into very bad habits of reading nothing but fluff (modern mysteries, romance, that sorta thing). The idea of having a plan for books I want to read is totally new to me. Silly, I know! I lost many brain cells having 4 children in 6 years (lol!), and then the years of stress since my dh's stroke left me with little motivation to stretch myself mentally. But, like I mentioned in my last post, I am determined this year to really start living and stop just surviving. So, dh and I spent a great deal of time over the last several days developing our 888 reading plan. It was SO much fun! We've already got a 9th category and lots more books we want to read in 2009! I'm embarassed to admit that I had no idea there were so many fascinating books out there to read - I mean, I did, but I didn't, kwim? Dh and I are doing 7 of our 8 categories together, which should make for some interesting discussions and help our motivation. It's quite an ambitious plan for me - just about the only thing I'm being ambitious about in thinking about 2008, to be honest! In choosing books, we put in plenty of classic books we've always wanted to read, plus lots of more current books, especially related to our faith, in areas that we're truly interested in and really looking forward to exploring. Some books were chosen because we already own them yet haven't read (or only one of us have read). I also put in more than a couple that are against what I believe, and a few in subjects where I'm not sure where I stand. I want to challenge myself to understand opposing viewpoints and differing ideas. Not everything is classic and difficult, but it's all about things that interest me and my dh. I am SO excited!

A star after an entry means it crosses categories (you're allowed 8 cross-overs, though we didn't take them all). I reserve the right to make changes to this plan! :-) If you have a plan for reading in 2008, please let me know in the comments - I am so fascinated seeing what other people are reading! In no particular order, here is my list!

Category 1: Classic Fiction

1. A Tale of Two Cities/Charles Dickens

2. Sense and Sensibility/Jane Austin

3. Gone With the Wind/Margaret Mitchell

4. Fahrenheit 451/Ray Bradbury

5. Lord of the Rings (at least #1)/J.R.R Tolkein

6. Screwtape Letters/C.S. Lewis

7. The Three Musketeers/Alexander Dumas

8. Far From the Madding Crowd/Thomas Harding

Category 2: Current Events/Non-fiction

1. The Cube and the Cathedral/George Weigel

2. Catholic Bioethics and the Gift of Human Life/William May

3. Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam/Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Marcello Pera, Michael F. Moore, and Benedict

4. Architects of the Culture of Death/Donald De Marco and Benjamin D. Wiker

5. Origin of the Species/Charles Darwin *

6. The God Delusion/Richard Dawkins

7. Oracle Bones: A Journey Through Time in China/Peter Hessler

8. Eugenics and Other Evils : An Argument Against the Scientifically Organized State/ G.K. Chesterton and Michael Perry

Category 3: Biographies

1. Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles/Raymond Arroyo

2. Madame Curie: A Biography/Eve Curie

3. Witness to Hope: The Biography of John Paul II/George Weigel

4. God’s Choice: Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church/George Weigel

5. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin/Benjamin Franklin *

6. Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Season/Jonathan Eig

7. The Joyful Beggar: St. Francis of Assisi/Louis de Wohl *

8. Ginger: My Story/Ginger Rogers

Category 4: Spirituality

1. The Joyful Beggar: St. Francis of Assisi/Louis de Wohl *

2. Mere Christianity/C.S. Lewis

3. Orthodoxy/G. K. Chesterton

4. City of God/Augustine

5. Introduction to the Devout Life/St. Francis de Sales

6. The Interior Castle/St. Teresa of Avila

7. Papal Encyclicals (all of Benedict’s, and at least 5 of past encyclicals – will list when chosen)

8. The Basic Book of Catholic Prayer: How to Pray and Why/Lawrence G. Lovasik

Category 5: Political

1. The Servile State/Hilaire Belloc

2. The Outline of Sanity/G.K. Chesterton

3. The Crisis of Civilization/Hilaire Belloc

4. Charlie Wilson’s War: The Extraordinary Story of How the Wildest Man in Congress and a Rogue CIA Agent Changed the History of Our Times/George Crile

5. The Republic/Plato

6. The Prince/Niccolo Machievelli

7. The Communist Manifest/Karl Marx

8. Capitalism and Freedom/Milton Freedman

Category 6: History/Historical Fiction

1. The Peloponnesian War/Donald Kagan

2. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin/Benjamin Franklin *

3. How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization/Thomas E. Woods, Jr.

4. 1776/David McCullough

5. Janson’s History of Art: The Western Tradition/Penelope J.E. Davies, Walter B. Denny, Frima Fox Hofrichter, and Joseph F Jacobs

6. The Guns of August/Barbara W. Tuchman

7. Angels in Iron/Nicholas C. Prata

8. Triumph: The Power and Glory of the Catholic Church/H.W. Crocker III

Category 7: Food&Nutrition/Science

1. Good Calories, Bad Calories/Gary Taubes

2. The Dirt on Clean: An Unsantized History/Katherine Ashenburg

3. A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature/ Benjamin Wiker, Jonathan Witt

4. Origin of the Species/Charles Darwin

5. Darwin’s Black Box/Michael Behe

6. Darwin Strikes Back: Defending the Science of Intelligent Design/Thomas Woodward

7. Real Food: What to Eat and Why/Nina Plank

8. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle/Barbara Kingsolver, Camille Kingsolver, and Steven L. Hopp

Category 8 (Jen’s) Hobbies/Crafts/Home/Parenting/Homeschooling

1. MaryJane’s Stitching Room/MaryJane Butters

2. Christian Courtship in an Over-Sexed World: A Guide for Catholics/Thomas G. Morrow

3. Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook/Martha Stewart

4. The Family Manager Takes Charge: Getting on the Fast Track to a Happy, Organized Home/Kathy Peel

5. Beyond Survival: Abundant Life Homeschooling/Diana Warring

6. The Underground History of American Education/John Taylor Gatto

7. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity/David Allen

8. Holiness for Housewives/Dom Hubert Van Zeller, Hubert Van Zeller

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year's everyone! Hope you all are enjoying your Christmas season. We are doing fine here at Aquinas Academy. Looking forward to getting back into a more regular routine of school-ish things after the Epiphany, that's for sure, but thoroughly enjoying this beautiful season.

I do have to admit that this time of year makes me feel very awkward and out of step. Our liturgical season begins a new year at the beginning of Advent, and I sort of feel like, as a Catholic, I should make my "New Year's" resolutions then. But, the world pulls at me, and I put it off until Jan. 1. Then, Advent begins, a season of pentinence and preparation for us, and yet the world is joyously whirling about in a frenzy of Christmas - music, advertisements, parties, etc, while worshipping all things material in preparation for their feast of greed on Christmas morning. Then, Christmas comes, and to the world, the holiday ends at around 7pm on Dec. 25th (have you noticed some radio stations start playing Christmas music the week before Thanksigiving and stop around 7pm on Christmas Day??) Meanwhile, we put our tree up on Christmas Eve and leave it up, celebrating through the Epiphany on Jan. 5th. I always feel sort of drained and awkward in this brief period between Jan. 1 and the Epiphany - we should still be celebrating! But, the world marches on. Anyone else feel this way?

I actually haven't made any New Year's resolutions this year. I feel so depleted from all that's gone on in 2007 (really, since 2001, the year of my husband's stroke) that I don't have the mental or physical energy for grandiose promises.

Instead, I am doing two things. One, when I plan - I am planning baby steps only. I am good at creating elaborate plans that promptly fail when I become overwhelmed. And thus, I feel like I have done nothing but survive for almost 7 years now. It's time for me to start living, not surviving!

So, for example - when I plan for school, I am continuing to plan only what is essential. I've come to realize that I'm just very busy because I am teaching three young children to read - that is a LOT of work. I think part of the reason I have not done much school-work this year is because I'm just overwhelmed with the needs of all my kids at this point. Well, that and all that added stress of dh's unemployment, of course. So, I'm re-arranging my priorities a bit. I am now going on the belief that my oldest, who has gotten almost all my attention so far, can fend for himself for awhile - he is so far ahead it will not negatively impact him in any way. He'll do his catechism, math, some writing, a lot of reading, and whatever else he decides. That will free me up to really focus on those 4 r's with his younger brothers.

Another thing I need to focus on is my health. We really hope to have more children, and I'm not getting any younger. I simply must lose weight to have any hope of having a healthy pregnancy (or, any hope of another pregnancy at all). Rather than start out with the idea of "I have to lose 50+ pounds," my dh and I are talking about taking it in chunks. It is fairly easy (relatively! ;-) for us to go low-carb (the *only* way I can lose weight in my pre-diabetic/PCOS state) and lose 15-20lbs. Then, though, we get tired of it, and discouraged, and we go off low-carb, re-gaining all the weight quicker than we lost it. So, we've decided we're going to focus on losing those 15lbs, then, if we're feeling tired and discouraged, we will work to simply maintain that loss for a month or two, before gearing back up for another round of hard-core, losing another 15-20lbs, hopefully. I suspect that perhaps that's more realistic for us than losing all the weight we need to all at once. And I know that if I lose 30-40lbs, I will be at a weight where, in the past, it has been easy for me to get pregnant. I am contemplating starting another blog about our weight-loss efforts, and doing low-carb while feeding our children in a healthy manner (I believe children can go low-*er* carb and be *very* healthy - but obviously not as low as dh and I need to go to lose weight.) In the past, it's been difficult for me when we go low-carb because I feel like I'm fixing two different meals every time we eat, and I am focusing on how to work more efficiently, and be healthy for all of us.

Two, I am making one grandiose plan, but it is for something I am excited about, not something I look at with dread. It has to do with books, and I'll post about it in a little bit.