Monday, July 28, 2008


I was plagued by headaches all weekend and woke up with a bad one but it is starting to fade. I was going to work on something else this a.m. but it's on the study computer and that computer has suddenly gone all funky on me. So I'm here feeling like I ought to be doing something useful but not quite up for it physically and frustrated in my attempts to do what I wanted anyway.


I've been thinking about music, the last category St. John Bosco really focused on giving his boys in their education. We like music a lot around here. We listen to all types from classical to hard rock to Celtic to Klezmer to jazz to sacred. We are truly eclectic in our tastes. Through the years we've done lots of music lessons, mostly piano, with varying levels of un-success. However, as the kids get older they tend to want to make music more a part of their lives without any help or direction from me.

H - loves singing in the church choir. She's sung in choirs for years. She took a year of voice lessons and talks about taking voice again at the community college. She hated piano lessons as a little girl but now she's older she sits down at the piano and plunks out tunes. She wants to get really good at sight reading; she's getting there.

W - has a lot of native talent. Very creative and takes to playing whatever instrument he picks up with ease. However, he had real trouble learning to read music and I think has a mental block about it. Last summer he picked up a guitar and has progressed phenomenally. He is obssessed with it. He is now taking guitar lessons with the School of Rock and is in one of their bands. He's getting ready for their Beatles White Album concert where he plays lead guitar on several songs. He wants to stay with the SoR depsite not caring much for his fellow students who are foul-mouthed bratty public schooled kids. But they are doing a Led Zeppelin concert in the winter. He loves Led Zeppelin. He would also like to work on piano again but I think this school year is too heavy academically to take on another instrument. He has taught himself music theory, is a walking encyclopedia about all things musical, writes beautiful melodies and started his own band called the Hypotheticals.

J - Josh has technical abilities. He learned to read music right off the bat and he's the one that pays attention to HOW you are supposed to play the piano. He is not as enthralled with music as his siblings, but he likes it very much. He'd like to continue with piano or perhaps try the flute. I'm not sure what we'll do this coming year.

S - has terrific native talent. He blows me away. He loves classical music and can pick out Mozart melodies and then figure out both hands all on his own. He was doing this at age 7. He write lovely melodies too and wants to be a composer. We had a falling out with the piano teacher who was so good for S and we've been in a slump since. I want S to go to the Levine school of music. I think he'll thrive there. S also wants to join the children's choir at church.

B - I think B is a singer. She makes up songs and sings all the time. She also wants to take either piano or violin lessons this coming year. She's too young for the children's choir but next year she could join.

In addition to formal music lessons, we'll just be doing what we always do, listen a lot, occasionally learn something specific about a particular composer, go off onto rabbit trails when they occur. I want to focus on American folk music and composers this year. I got an absolutely stunning cd featuring Stephen Foster songs. I think we'll also focus on musicals, Berstein and Copeland. As well as the New Word Symphony by Dvorak.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Quote of the day

Seems H has acquired a new boyfriend. This boyfriend's parents apparently disapprove of H because she is homeschooled. H was telling me this while S was present. We started talking about how people have weird ideas about homeschoolers.

Nine year old S said: "Some people think homeschoolers don't have any friends! I have friends. . . and only a couple of them are imaginary!"

Friday, July 25, 2008

Physical exercise/sports

The second thing that St. John Bosco tried to emphasize in the life of his students was lots of outside play and activity. He'd tried to have some kind of a field nearby the location of his Oratorios so the boys would have lots of room to run around and play ball. He really felt it was a great way for the boys to release the stress and tension in their lives. These were kids he took off the street who lived lives of dire poverty. They had no fun in their lives and they were hard-scrabbled urchins. They needed a wholesome outlet for their youthful energy. St. John Bosco really believed in the benefits of physical exercise. He, himself, was a natural athlete who taught himself acrobatic tricks which he used to entertain his boys. Of course now we know all the benefits of lots of healthy exercise; how it keeps you not only physcially fit but also keeps you on an even keel emotionally, all those endorphins. I think St. John Bosco also thought it helped to keep the boys chaste. And just this week we finally got the pyschological report back after all that testing we did all spring on poor William. One of the recommendations to help Will concentrate better was consistent, daily exercise. So all the benefits that good John Bosco wanted for his boys have been upheld by scientific research.

Well, we are not an Oratorio founded by St. John Bosco. We are a homeschooling family whose chief officer (me) is out of shape and has never been very athletic. I am a natural born couch potato and all my life I've had to struggle against that tendency. Not only am I a natural born couch potato but I'm also an approaching-fifty-30-pounds-overweight-with-achey-knees couch potato. I also have kids who don't seem to take to team sports. Various children have tried various sports (Becky being the only exception; we haven't tried anything so far) but all petered out fairly quickly. For one thing, they all seem to have this vision tracking/convergence problem which makes it very hard to see the ball and then react quickly enough to catch it. Their eyes don't focus as quickly as they should. Just a nano-second makes a big difference. The one exception to this aversion to sports has been tennis and this is mostly because our homeschool group has tennis lessons every fall and spring, so the kids get to hang out with their friends. The instructors are great and have worked with us for years. Basically they treat it as a PE class, so it is low pressure but lots of fun and lots of exercise.

Because I get nervous about us sitting around getting out of shape, I tend to overplan lots of physical stuff and then it gets overwhelming having to get kids to and fro and interferes a lot with our weekend plans. So I think this year I'm going to try to rely on really basic things: lots of walks/hikes, our elliptical machine, tennis classes, swing dancing, a once a week karate class for Josh and Sean at the local rec center. At the same time, Will wants to do weight lifting at the same location. B has been begging me for ice skating lessons so I guess I am going to sign her up for a session of that.

So here's the breakdown for the whole family, person by person:

R - he says he'll join me in that Walk to Rivendell challenge that I've seen around the internet. I need to get a pedometer for each of us. Since we have Tillie now we need to walk her anyway, so hopefully once she gets a little older we can go for some longer walks with her.

R could also do some biking with the kids this fall.

Encourage each other to use the elliptical when the weather gets cold or rainy.

R was going to start doing push ups again. He used to be really good at push ups!

H - Hopefully they'll be once a month swing dances for the teen group and hopefully this will encourage lots of swing dance practices. I had H signed up for tennis last spring and she really wasn't into it. I don't think I can force her this coming fall. If she does, it will be great but I'm not counting on it. H does like to walk so maybe she'll be doing some of that. But really I think she needs a regular exercise routine like at a gym. We were signed up at Curves but stopped going. Maybe though she can find a girlfriend to go with her a couple times a week. If she could get into a regular habit with that, I think it would really benefit her. I think she'd sleep better, eat better, feel less moody and in general just have a better sense of well being. She just needs to stick to a routine for say 3 months in order to really feel the benefits. Who am I to speak, though. I never stick to anything exercise-wise either.

W - Well, since Will got this recommendation from the psychologist, I think we really need to emphasize daily exercise with Will. He has gone through phases in the past where he's lifted weights a couple of times a day (short 5 minute bouts). He also likes to walk and bike. I get nervous about biking around here since the roads are windy and narrow and people drive like demons. But he is 16 years old now, and getting ready to get his driver's license, so hopefully his judgment is good. If he takes his bike into the neighborhood across the dangerously busy and windy road, he'll be pretty safe to bike. So he can work in biking, walking, jogging, elliptical (he does this sometimes while watching TV anyway). He also likes to swing dance, mows the lawn and does all the heavy lifting around here. He wants to take a weight lifting class at the rec center too. Also, he enjoys the tennis classes. He plays ultimate frisbee every Wed. before his CLC class though I don't think he works very hard at it. In the winter the CLC boys go into the school gym and shoot hoops. Will wasn't very good at this but I noticed the few times that I picked him up instead of H that he was in there dribbling the ball and trying to shoot baskets with the rest of the boys.

J - J has been coming with me Bluebird Monitoring at the nearby nature center/park. This entails about an hour of hiking up and down hills and along the river. But he doesn't do much more that. He is willing to do the once a week karate class as well as the tennis classes. In addition to his he can hike with us and ride his bike with Will and R.

S - S was so into gymnastics last year. He was amazing! But he has dropped it like a hot coal. I just can't figure that kids sometimes. He doesn't want to sign up for it in the fall and he really doesn't want to do karate anymore. I think though I am going to insist on the karate. I really like the approach in the class. It is very non-competitive but they really get those kids excercising. The boys are wiped out afterward an hour of intensive hours. But that is good! And I have to figure out how to get all this done with a minimal amount of driving. If we do Karate that's 3 kids who are taken care of (J, S at karate and W at weight lifting) and maybe B and I can do something at the same time there. Don't know what.

B - doesn't want to do gymnastics either. She really lost her enthusiasm for it because S kind of took it over. She wants ice skating and I guess I'd better give it to her! I also want to really focus on getting her riding her bike without training wheels. I think all our other kids were fairly confident bike riders by the age of 7 but since Rick's hip was so bad and then his operation, he hasn't really focused on her and he's the one who does the biking in the family.

So givens this fall: tennis (W, J, S &B), karate (J,S), ice skating (B), biking (R, W, J, S & B), walking/hiking (all).

Somethings that might also happen:

Sometimes the homeschool group has a pick up kickball game at the park on certain days on nice days. We used to attend pretty regularly. S and J enjoyed this and sometimes B.

The new homeschooling support group I joined was talking about having a PE time once a week. The kids in that group tend to be young but that might be something that we could attend.

There is a homeschool gymnastics program that I might look into. I think it is on Mondays at 2 or something. That's a little early. That is when I was hoping to get art lessons in, but maybe we can work around that.

Once a month we'll be going on fieldtrips which will probably entail some walking. I am also hoping that we attend lots of stuff at the same park where we do our Bluebird Monitoring and that could include a couple nature hikes a month until the winter weather moves in.

I'm thinking about getting the kids Wiifit for Christmas. They love anything videogamish. Last winter they got really into Wiitennis and Wii bowling, now there's something new out???? I'll have to check into it. Anyway, it sounds like something that would be great for those dark winter months.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Prayer and the sacraments

St. John Bosco's approach to helping the impoverished street boys of Italy focused on providing three things that he felt would really benefit them: 1)prayer and the sacraments, 2) physical exercise/sports and 3) music - which he felt ennobled the soul.

I find myself, in an attempt to take on yet another year with the overwhelming task of homeschooling my children, (this is our 12th year, yet I always and forever find it overwhelming. Overwhelmed is my middle name!) trying to find ways to simplify things in my mind. For the academic portion of our lives I'm using the principle of multa non multam as expressed in Andrew Campbell's Latin Centered Curriculum. Things necessarily get complicated though as kids enter their teens and begin to prepare for the next stage of their education: college. One needs to start thinking about nitty gritty details like the SAT and what transcripts will look like and how many credits do you really need to graduate high school. Are there enough math and science credits, how many years of language should one take, etc. etc. So there is only so much simplifying one can do, realistically speaking. Life just isn't simple with three teens in the house!

But for a wholesome and godly way of life, I'm looking to the three elements St. John Bosco believed would be so healing and helpful to his poor abandoned boys. So for the next couple of posts I think I am going to try to examine where we are as a family in each category and how we might develop each over the coming academic year.

I myself have been going through a particularly dry time in my spiritual life. It is there intellectually (when my brain isn't too tired!) but it hasn't been resonating with me as it has in the past. It hasn't felt like a source of comfort and strength especially. A lot of times I'm just going through the motions. This tends to perpetuate itself. I used to really make an effort to get to at least one daily Mass a week, besides Sunday, but this practice fell to the wayside slowly until now it has been several months since we last attended a daily mass. H and W tend to go but not me. I had dreams of going a lot this summer, but I've yet to go once at all!

I used to get up and say the rosary pretty much every morning. I haven't said a rosary in at least six weeks, let alone have any regular time (though I did pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet several times during my mother in law's passing). Part of that is the change that summer brings, though that isn't true now that I think about it. Last summer I got up almost every morning and walked and said the rosary. I'm really in a slump.

And summer is always a bit of strain on us for going to Mass. During the winter, H sings in the choir at 8:15 a.m. Mass and so we have a regular routine. During the summer though we go to any Mass and often to Masses in other parishes because we are too lazy to get out the door in the a.m. We wind up finding an evening Mass somewhere and sandwiching it in just before dinner. While I enjoy an occasional mass at a different parish, I do like going to my own parish because I feel connected to the community. It makes it feel like it is more smoothly woven into my life.

Also during the school year when H is singing in the choir, I get once a month e-mails asking me to sign up to pray for an hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament (my parish has adoration for 24 hours before First Friday). So I usually go and pray once a month. I love this time! Love it! But I never think to do it unless I get those e-mail requests.

And I haven't been to confession since Good Friday! I can't seem to get to confession once a month which at one time was a goal of mine; our weekends get so busy. Then I was trying to go every two months but that fell by the wayside. We seem to go once a season, once in fall, once in winter (Advent), once in spring (Lent) and once in summer.

I feel in bad shape.

On the other hand, I feel the Lord really blessed us during the time of my mother in law's dying and death. We had a lovely experience of praying the Our Father with her over the speaker phone and we have continued to do this occasionally with my father in law either when he is staying over or is chatting with R on the phone when prayer time arrives. I really felt the workings of the Holy Spirit through out that time even though the prayers and the rituals were Reformed Judiasm. But then I have always grown in my faith when it is in relief against another. And that isn't even really true of Judiasm because so much of Catholicism is drawn directly from that well. So mostly it was the joy of recognition, the familiarity of it all that made me feel God's presence.

In light of all this, here are my thoughts:

1) Try at least once this week to get up and walk and say a rosary.

2) Next week I can try to get up once and say a rosary and I can also try to attend a noon mass near the music camp so I can easily pick up the kids from camp.

3) When I go on vacation in August, I like to attend daily mass there. Everybody sleeps in and my usual pattern is to get up and take a walk on the beach and then quick zip off to morning mass. I'll see if I can't do that while down in Nag's Head.

4) I heard this tip somewhere on the Catholic homeschooling internet blogosphere: I want an alarm clock to keep in my living room. I'm going to set it for 8:15 a.m. and when it goes off that tells everybody it is rosary time. I'll do that when we get back from vacation.

5) Since we'll be doing a Friday co-op that begins at 10:00 we can try to go to a Friday Mass at the church that we will literally be passing on the way. They have a mass at 9:00 a.m. That will fit so neatly into our schedule that I think it will be pretty easy to establish as a routine.

6) Things will be more on a regular schedule once the school year starts up, so things will necessarily tighten up then. We'll be meeting at breakfast again and doing regular readings in Scripture and the saints. We'll be studying catechism and it is going to be a big year for sacraments as B is receiving her First Confession and first Holy Communion and J is receiving Confirmation.

7) I'm feeling a bit better about the state of my/our spiritual life just by typing this out. Things ebb and flow and right now is simply an ebbing time. I am reading Ann Ball's book about Blessed Miguel Pro and his courage and faith is so inspiring. I think that may help put things on an upswing!

So: Blessed Miguel Pro, St. John Bosco and St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

One Word Meme

I got this from Karen E.

1. Where is your cell phone? Car
2. Your significant other? Rick
3. Your hair? Brownish-gray
4. Your mother? Cherished
5. Your father? Missed
6. Your favorite thing? Books
7. Your dream last night? None
8. Your favorite drink? Tea
9. Your dream/goal? Peace
10. The room you’re in? Kitchen
11. Your church? Catholic
12. Your fear? Highways
13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Learning
14. Where were you last night? Home
15. What you’re not? Athletic
16. Muffins? Blueberry
17. One of your wish list items? Grandfather clock
18. Where you grew up? No. Va.
19. The last thing you did? Eat
20. What are you wearing? Sweats
21. Your TV? Blaring
22. Your pets? Pains!
23. Your computer? New!
24. Your life? Rich
25. Your mood? Sleepy
26. Missing someone? Rick
27. Your car? Messy
28. Something you’re not wearing? Swimsuit
29. Favorite store? Used-book-stores
30. Your summer? Hot
31. Love someone? Much
32. Your favorite color? Green
33. Last time you laughed? Morning
34. Last time you cried? Funeral
35. Who will re -post this? Nobody

St. John Bosco

I have spent all morning (practically) trying to figure out how to make a blog list here. I think I succeeded. I am really pathetically non-techno and nobody is here to help me. So all morning I've been working away ignoring my puppy, my house, my older children. (the older children don't care though because they are busy sleeping in). My younger children however are out at their music camp so at least I didn't have worry about them. If they were here I wouldn't be able to focus at all, since I need to use every single brain cell I can muster to try and figure this stuff out.

Anyway, I've decided this year to make St. John Bosco the patron saint of our homeschool. I think Willa always starts off each year devoted to a different saint. I've always thought of St. Thomas Aquinas as our overall homeschooling patron saint so I hope he isn't insulted if I want to particularly ask the blessings of St. John Bosco for 2008-2009.

St. John Bosco has been popping up a lot in the unschooling Catholic world, thanks mostly to Leonie at Living Without School. She inspired me to go on line and read some of his letters and about his life. Then earlier this summer I read the Vision book about him to the younger kids.

And I really like the quote I've made my little tag line.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Getting ready

These three weeks that S and B will be in Music Camp are my time for really delving into organizing, cleaning and preparing to start up formal studies the week after we get home from vacation.

So far I've:

1) Gotten a new planner, MomAgenda, which I really like!

2) A new fridge-magnetic blank weekly schedule: You can see a picture of it here:

3) I also have a blank to do list pad stuck to the fridge for jotting down needed groceries as we realize we need them, reminder to myself, etc.

4) I got a desk top file box (pretty bamboo, so it looks nice on my desk) where I can file things according to child or subject matter.

5) I've cleaned out the fridge and the pantry and the bread drawer!

6) I have mostly cleaned or somewhat organized my books in the study, but this is not quite done completely. Hopefully today will be the day to finish that up.

7) I've cleaned out the mud room and gotten all the many shoes and gloves, scarves etc cleaned and sorted. Many went into give away. That is another errand I need to do, a trip to Good Will. Though I just remembered that the National Children's Center Truckis coming by on Tuesday. So nix Good Will for now.

8) I cleaned through the dining room credenza and now 4 out of five children have their own 'cubbies' Josh's cubbie is really a milk crate (same as he used last year). Will has once section of the credenza, Sean - another and Becky the last section. Hanny will have to keep her books up in her room. I want to help her organize her room a little so that she doesn't keep loosing her books as she did last year.

9) Organization Binder: I've also cleaned through my O.B. - took out the old calendar and updated the daily chore schedule. I also stole, lock, stock and barrel, Willa's list for seasonal things to do,

10) Yesterday on the way to Mass, R and I (and H too) talked about how our morning routine will go. R wanted to meet daily with the teens at 7:00 a.m. While I admire the spirit of this, I think it is entirely unrealistic, as the only thing that gets dear R out of bed at that time is a)a plane flight or 2)a meeting with clients. Nothing else is important enough to give up his sleep! Not that I want to discourage him or anything. But I said that I thought it would be wonderful and so incredibly helpful if he met with the teens on Monday mornings at 7:45 a.m. to go over their duties/deadlines/activities for the week. We'll see. I really want to hand oversight of the older teens over to him.

11) Also yesterday, I got up early and decluttered the kitchen island and table. I was feeling so disgusted at how junky and dirty everything looked. Then in my mind I just focused on keeping those two spots clear. Everytime I walked through there (which is all the time) instead of ignoring it or thinking that I'd take care of it later, I would pick up one or two things. I unloaded the dishwasher so that everytime someone had a dish or cup I'd tell them to put it into the dishwasher right away. I also called backed J and H to clean up after themselves. I was so pleased! The island and table looked so good all day!

12) This inspired me to make up a Habit of the Week and tape it over my desk to remind me and others. The sign says: Habit of the Week: Regular Tidy Up Times. Then it goes on to say when those tidy up times should be: a couple of minutes each morning in the bedroom to make beds and neaten. A general tidy up time before or after lunch in the kitchen and family room. An evening tidy up time (kitchen, family room, basement) and finally, all the things that accumulate on the stairs should be taken up as everyone goes to bed.

13) We got our quarter cow on Saturday. So I won't need to buy beef for the next 5 months or so. That forced me to clean out the freezer in the garage. So I feel very togther about that! It is so satisfying to open the freezer and see one big box of ground beef and one of roasts and one of steaks, etc.

14) I've definitely been better about mail: throwing out the junk mail right away, sorting it and making R aware of what's come in that he might be interested in. Alas, we did not get through all the mail on my desk. And he is leaving for San Franscisco tonight for the week.

Today: finish the study, do a recycling run if necessary, work on chapter. Also we need to finish learning the Greek alphabet before we go on vacation. So that means we need to learn 6 more letters this week and the final six next week. So I'm going to focus on that.

Alright, it is past due time for me to get B and S up, pack their lunches, feed them breakfast and get them off to music camp. They stayed up so late last night though. Rick wanted to finish reading the sequel to the Mysterious Benedict Society before he left on his trip. I dread trying to get B up.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Goings on

H. got her first paycheck job at Starbucks! She's been babysitting for years but this is her first 'real' job. Congratulations H!

W is really into his guitar, but he's expanding his horizons to things outside the world of Led Zepplin and Eric Clapton. The other day I found him listening to Requiem by Faure! He thought it was cool!

J is winning the reading contest here. So far this summer he's read: The King's Fifth, Bud, Not Buddy, The Golden Goblet, a couple of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery books, Fahrenheit 451 and Watership Down. He's my reader, God bless him!

S has stopped his obsession with gymnastics. I don't think he's done one gymnastics move since the class stopped a month ago. Instead he is pouring all his obsessive tendencies into Super Smash Bros. On the way to music camp this a.m. (a full 35 minute drive), he kept up a non-stop monologue on the minutae of Super Smash Bros. Whew! However, he came home from camp with a flute. I see the beginnings of a new obsession!

B is enjoying music camp very much. She really loves her piano lessons there. She chatters nonstop on the ride home about every little thing that went on at the camp; new songs, new dances, what new things she learned in guitar and piano, what crafts they did, who she talked to at lunch, etc. etc.

Me - I'm trying to organize and clean up the house, but since I'm lazy and hate housework, I'm going about it in a very irresponsible way!

R - well he works and pays the bills and occasionally comes home for dinner and reads to the kids. He is reading the sequel to The Mysterious Benedict Society to J, S and B. He watches the Simpsons every night with W and J and sometimes H (if she's here.) We've both been really tired lately. Like bone-weary feeling. I don't think we've had an extended heart to heart kind of conversation in a couple of weeks!

I've decided that we are going to start school up Tuesday, August 12, that's right after we get back from the Outer Banks. We'll start out real slow and loose. I'll just do LCC with B and S. J can just get started on all that reading he'll need to do for Kolbe. W can decide when he wants to start. He can wait for H. Her first Spanish class is Monday 8/25, so I think I'll make that the first official day of high school for them both. But he can start earlier with the younger ones if he chooses.

Oh and we got a new toilet today! We've had a broken one for the last month. The new one flushes and everything!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Happy Birthday B!

My youngest is now 7 years old. Wow, I can't believe how time passes!

She turned 7 on Sat. 7/12. We had a Reptile birthday for her at her request. It was going to be a Disney Princess party but she suddenly took a fancy to toads since we had run across a few of them. She remembered that Josh had the Reptile Lady as his birthday party entertainment two years in a row, so she made the request. (Yes, we know toads are amphibians; the Reptile lady also brings frogs and toads along in her show.)

So Saturday morning I got up bright and early and got bagels as per my usual Sat morning routine. The Korean bagel guy knows my order: 8 plain, 2 poppy, 2 everything and one blueberry. He often lets me get my small coffee for free.

Then I ran to the store and bought all the last minute stuff that I'd managed to put off until the last minute. Came home and baked a lemon cake. Hannah frosted and decorated it for me. B requested specific hor d 'oeurves (how the heck do you spell that???) So we had Hebrew National little hot dogs in buns, little squares of cheddar cheese, grapes and b-b-q potato chips. While I was doing all this R took B out to shop for party favors and balloons. W mowed the lawn and J and S helped clean and then put together the party favor bags.

R is the present shopper around here so right before the party he gave her: a disney princess camera (which she loves!), her own little pink watch (she's been telling time for us all constantly), and the American Girls Molly book set. I've been reading Molly Learns a Lesson to her now.

The party started at one. We had 14 kids here. We played pin the tusk on the Triceratops (that was the closest we could get to reptiles!) then the Reptile lady did her show. We saw a bearded dragon, a milk snake, a small crocodile, a huge bullfrog (named Jeremiah), a tortoise and a boa constrictor. The kids were completely wowed! A huge hit!

After that we had the kids all line up and wash hands thoroughly and then had ice cream and cake.

Then presents, then all the little kids went home. BUT I still had my sister and brother in law here with their two and my sister Lisa here with her two kids, plus my father in law. So we wound pretty much hosting another party for dinner. Rick made an incredible barbeque of hot dogs, hamburgers, delicious tuna steak, filet mignon and some satays that he got at at the store. We boiled up 16 ears of corn. I made a huge salad and we all had a feast.

That was Saturday. Becky had a most wonderful birthday!

Sunday, H had planned a trip to an amusement park about 1.5 hours away from here with a bunch of her friends. R was the chaperone. He took grandad along with him. However, everybody had to get up for the 8:15 Mass and then meet afterwards to caravan down. Well, I could not get Miss B. up in time. She was worn out from partying! So she and I stayed behind and we had a nice mother-daughter day.

We went to 10 o'clock mass together and then out for breakfast. Then we went and saw the Kit movie which was wonderful! The filming was beautiful, it was well acted, it really had a 1930's feel to it (mostly). Very well done.

After that we came home and played with some of her new arts and crafts kits (she got several for gifts.)

Then Lisa came over again because her son had spent the night and gone to the amusement park with everybody. So we had a nice long sisterly chat over cups of tea.

Today, B and S started their 3 week music camp. H, W and J all are volunteering at the church VBS this week. So everyone had to get up early and out the door in a timely fashion. This was very hard for us to do! Major feat!

By the time I got home from dropping B and S off at their camp it was already 10 o'clock. Grandad was hanging with me. I did finally finish cleaning the kitchen from Saturday. I'm ashamed to say there several pots and pans that were neglected for that long period of time.

Anyway, I am feeling wiped out. I gotta go grocery shopping for the week. I feel like I've been to the grocery every single day but I never seem to have everything I need. And my house is a mess AGAIN! And the rooms that are constantly a mess that I keep wanting to get to to work on, I just never seem to get to!!!!!

Tomorrow. There's always tomorrow. Grandad is back in Baltimore now, so I think I can really focus. And all the kids will be gone. And I'll be rested up a bit.

So tomorrow, that's when I really start deep cleaning.

Okay, gotta run to the store AGAIN!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Really neat website/blog

Stumbled on this while perusing the WTM boards:

American Literature class

Now onto something fun!

I've been planning our American Literature class. As usual no curriculum I have seen out there in homeschool land fits my criteria, so I'm going to rely heavily on Lightning Lit for the first two-thirds but pull together my own for the last 1/3.

Week 1 - Intro and Poetry of Ann Bradstreet (Major American Authors textbook)
Week 2 - The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (Lightning Lit)
Week 3 - The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Week 4 - Poetry of William Cullen Bryant (LL)
Week 5 - Narrative and Life of Frederick Douglass (LL)
Week 6 - Poetry and short stories of Edgar Allan Poe (LL)
Week 7 - Transcendentalism - Emerson and Thoreau (MAA)
Week 8 - The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (LL)
Week 9 - The Scarlet Letter
Week 10 - Poetry of Longfellow (LL)
Week 11 - Poetry of Walt Whitman (LL)
Week 12 - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (LL)
Week 13 - Huck Finn
Week 14 - Huck Finn
Week 15 - Poetry of Emily Dickinson
Week 16 - Short Story by Jack London (LL)
Week 17 - The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett (?)
Week 18 - My Antonia by Willa Cather (Glencoe)
Week 19 - My Antonia
Week 20 - My Antonia
Week 21 - Long Day's Journey into Night by Eugene O'Neill (internet?)
Week 22 - Bernice Bobs Her Hair by Fitzgerald (???)
Week 23 - Poetry of Robert Frost
Week 24 - Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (internet)
Week 25 - Grapes of Wrath
Week 26 - Grapes of Wrath
Week 27 - A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner
Week 28 - A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
Week 29 - A Raisin in the Sun/Langston Hughes
Week 30 - The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Week 32 - The Crucible
Week 33 - A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor

I'm not sure of my timing. I think I might need two weeks for A Long Day's Journey into Night, if I'm doing two weeks for A Raisin in the Sun or The Crucible. And I'm not sure how I'm going to teach those two plays anyway. . . .

Coping with teenagers

I'll admit my teens are wonderful and I'm proud of them. They are smart, creative, funny, insightful, ethical.

But they are also teen-agers given to laziness, self-absorption and occasional bouts of obnoxiousness.

And often I don't handle myself too well when confronted with the downside of teenage behavior.

So this morning I lost my temper big time with H because I wanted everyone to be at the breakfast table by 10 a.m. Imagine, having the nerve to want a 17 year old to be at the breakfast table that early in the morning! What kind of cruel, unreasonable mother am I? Of course she has gotten into the habit of talking into the wee hours of the night with her friends on her cell phone which makes her not want to wake up until noon or 2 or so. She thinks of it as a God-given right for a teenager to be able to sleep in however late she might choose.

It is that sense of entitlement and all the arrogance and selfishness it engenders that really, really gets my goat.

But I didn't behave well. I called names, I ranted, I got vicious. And then I felt so rankled at her for making things so. Why can't she just be nice???? Why can't she make an effort once in a while to do something that doesn't have some ulterior benefit to her. Why is she so disdainful and impatient with everybody else. To tell you the truth I have had to deal with various levels of this attitude from her since she was about 2 or so. You'd think I'd be used to it by now.

But now I'm just getting myself worked up again. Forgiveness is very important. Gotta work on that.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

More Organization

Yesterday, I tried to fight my ennui and get organzing on my desk which was a mess!

Got rid of the 'in box' that was just an excuse to pile stuff a mile high instead of putting things away. Yea!!!! Liberation!

Instead I went to the Container Store and picked up a pretty bamboo file box and some hanging files. I made up a file for each of the following: the kids each got one, H, W, J, S & B. The pets got one folder, businesses (like receipts, cards etc) got one file, and one file is entitled "of interest" that is for stuff that doesn't fit into any other category but I still want to keep on hand. I also made a file for each of the things I'm involved in for the fall: Blue Knights, Co-op and the High School American Studies class.

I also got a mail holder. It holds the envelops vertically and will only hold so much. So I figure this will help me to go through the mail on a weekly basis to keep down paper clutter.

I also got a bookend and I've put my Household Management Binder and homeschool catalogues there.

Now all I need is for Rick to fix my laptop. He keeps trying and it keeps breaking again. I think its gone. It gets so hot so quickly. Also, he got me my own printer which is small and will fit on the counter next to my desk, so no more writing something at my desk and then having to find a working printer to print stuff.

School Plans

Well, since I re-read the Latin Centered Curriculum in March, I've been swinging away from full unschooling and towards focusing on learning the basics (English, Latin, Math) a la LCC with lots of great read alouds and free time to pursue passions.

So in the sidebar here I've listed our plans (subject to change). Hannah and Will never wanted to unschool to begin with. Josh is enrolled with Kolbe for next year, in preparation for possibly attending the classical high school near here. So I'm really only doing LCC with Sean and Becky. They've got English, Math and Latin plus our Friday Co-op (if that ever comes to fruition).

Saturday, July 5, 2008


I realized that I had never ordered a new Catholic Woman's Planner for this coming school year. I felt a little defeated because I realize I haven't actually used the Planner since maybe January. So I did some deep thinking about exactly what I want in a planner. I like the Catholic Woman's Planner a lot, mostly because it has all the saint's days listed. But there was a lot that didn't work for me either. I got the big three hole punch to put in my binder, but I never used it. What I really need is something I can carry around in my purse. But the binding on the smaller purse-sized planner didn't look like it would hold up to lots of abuse. I wanted something sturdy and bound. So I went to Melissa Wiley's old post on planners and saw her mention MomAgenda. I looked into that and it looks like what I need, sans all the saints days and prayer intentions. I discovered that a nice stationery store in our town carried the MomAgenda planner so I had a nice little shopping trip this a.m. to check them out. I bought one! Bright green so I'll be able to find it in my purse. I also bought a family weekly schedule planner that goes on the fridge.

So here's my new system:

Use MomAgenda in my purse as the master planner. This will work better than having that big binder planner. I never brought it with me anywhere so I'd always make appointments when I was out and then would have to remember somehow to put it in the planner which I never did. Instead I'd write it on the calendar over my desk but the calendar is too small to actually write more than one appt on it. The MomAgenda has room for lots more, plus it lists all the holidays including Jewish ones. For the Catholic planner, I'd have just the Catholic stuff but not the Jewish and since we do both, it was kind of annoying. The MomAgenda is bound really well. It's beautiful and looks like it will take lots of pounding. It's got room for listing birthdays and addresses and notes.

I am going to get a Catholic calendar to hang in the area above my desk and next to my bookcase. The Catholic calendar will tell me all the saints days. That is right where I need it. I can just glance at it and then look in the bookshelf at one of my several saints books, so I'll be able to read a saints biography out loud at breakfast very easily.

Weekly Family Schedule - this pad that's on the fridge looks like a great management tool. Each week I'll write out all our appts, events, etc. That way I won't be always explaining to people what's happening. They'll be able to look themselves and see. They can write up their own appts etc too. And I won't forget appts because I'm trying to keep it all in my head.

I think this system could work! I'm feeling hopeful!

Friday, July 4, 2008

July 4, 2008

Hmm. This blog has been deserted for months. Think I'll start journaling again.

Got up at 6 a.m. with B waking me saying she'd had a nightmare. I got up and she did too. Came downstairs, took care of Tillie, made B an English muffin. B curled up on the couch under a blanket and watched Between the Lions while I checked e-mail. Couldn't convince her to go to Adoration with me, so I went alone. Only stayed about 20 minutes but did some praying. I've been so dry in the praying department lately, so it did my soul good to make the effort.

Went to the grocery store and bought stuff for breakfast and also lots of stuff for cookout tonight.

Came home and made bacon and eggs. S was up as well as B. Grandad came up from the guestroom in the basement. He's staying with us since Grandma died. Fed him breakfast too. Got him a jigsaw puzzle to work on. Poor man is so sad. My heart aches for him.

As soon as Rick got out of shower I hopped in (but read some more of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Eva died!). Then took Rick's car (mine was out of gas) and went to pick up J. He spent the night at M's. Had nice chat with I and her mother and R. whom I had not seen in many months but who happened to be over at the time.

Came home, did laundry. Rick took grandad and all the kids to see Wall E. Actually H just went out to lunch with them. She had an job interview at Starbucks at 4 so couldn't stay for the movie.

I've been putzing around the internet for too long, feeling very lazy. I must clean the kitchen (still messy from breakfast) and start making prep for cookout. It is very overcast and anyway we are too sad to really celebrate the 4th. I really don't feel in spirit at all. Can we just cancel the holiday for now?