Friday, July 31, 2009

7 Quick Takes 7/31/09

Still have to learn to do the doohickey thing for this. I feel I am being rude or doing something slightly unethical by posting under this title!

1. Music Camp is over! Hurray! Becky got a lot out of it and and Sean soldiered through it and now it's over. I forgot how emotional the kids get at the last day. A ferocious spat erupted immediately on the way out of the building and I did not handle it well. Becky cried for 1/2 hour (felt longer!) after we got home.

2. This has not been a great parenting week for me. I have become irritated with each child in turn; (except for Josh; he's my current favorite because he's quiet and does as he's told!) so irritated that I feel like I'm looking at them through the wrong end of a telescope. They are far away and alien; these couldn't be my children, could they? The moments pass, of course. I really do love my children, but I also think I am burned out a bit by parenthood. I think it is the crazy, every day is different, element of summer. Our usual rhythms are gone. Of course the usual rhythms also burn me out, so maybe I just can't cope in any situation!

3. I am determined to go to confession this Saturday. This determination has doubled after typing out Take no. 2 above.

4.When I'm not acting out my irritation with my children, I am busy reading to them. I am deeply enjoying reading Johnny Tremain to Becky and Sean. I read it eons ago and I had forgotten what a treasure it is. Amazing writing! Becky and I are also reading through On the Shores of Silver Lake and finding it wonderfully enjoyable.

5. Speaking of reading, one of the books I'm reading to myself is How the Scots Invented the Modern World. It is the type of book I'd like to read slowly with a pen and a highlighter so I can actually get all the wonderful knowledge into my brain. But, alas, I am reading it before I go to bed which means my eyelids start to droop and I spend most of my reading time trying to keep them open and struggling in vain to comprehend the very interesting words in front of me. I'm about halfway through the book and I've gotten to Adam Smith of Wealth of Nations fame. Did you know he was Scottish? My husband the Econ major who actually read Wealth of Nations did not know that! Anyway, one little factoid I found interesting is that Smith thought that the natural division of labor that capitalism would produce was mostly a good thing but he feared that it would have a narrowing effect on the human mind. Each person would only be engaged in his particular division of labor and would necessarily grow ignorant or suffer from, as Smith put it, "mental mutilation.' So he thought that the government should get involved! Not in trade but in ensuring that this narrowing didn't happen by establishing a system of education for its citizens. I thought that was really funny, because, wasn't it Dewey or some such educator who wanted the U.S. public schools based on assembly line systems so that the students would be able to go out and get jobs in our workforce. Hmmm, not sure that broadening effect Smith envision worked out the way he thought!

6. I made homemade cream of tomato soup yesterday from tomatoes I bought at the farmers' market. However, even though I followed the recipe exactly, I did not get the 2 cups of tomato puree out of my fresh tomatoes, more like 1/2 cup. So then I had to add a cup of tomato sauce to quick make up for it and the soup still wasn't tomato-y enough. I liked it and Hannah's friend who was eating over with us, liked it (or she said she did but then she had to be polite!) but no one else ate it. I hate cooking for my family.

7. Today is the feast of St. Ignatius! I ask you, dear Saint Ignatius, to pray for my dad who had a good Jesuit education. And thank you, St. Ignatius, for all you did. I shall pray for the order you established that they may turn away from apostasy and instead be faithful to your leadership.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Seven Quick Takes - 7/24/09

I have to learn how to put the doohickey on for the 7 quick takes that Jennifer at Et tu? has. But I'm plunging ahead with this post without doing that first! I haven't blogged all week. It has been busy!

1) After reading Real Food I was inspired to try to actually cook for my family this week! I also got the Nourishing Traditions cook book which was interesting but intimidating to read. What the heck is piima cream? I've never heard of it! Anyway, this week I made spaghetti, baked chicken, vichychoisse(!!!!) and today poached salmon. I even used fresh herbs that Rick brought home from a co-worker who was dealing with surplus from her garden. I also tried to make homemade oatmeal (instead of McCann's instant.) I thought it was wonderful because I guess I undercooked it and it was chewy. I've always liked the taste of oatmeal but I've never liked the texture which makes me gag. Too slimy and mushy. But no one else in the family likes their oatmeal chewy like I do. I'll cook it longer next time. I also tried to prepare and eat more veggies. The green beans I bought at the farmers market were bland, starchy and really stringy. But the tomatoes were to die for and the corn and the plums were out of this world! That's another thing that was different, instead of going to Harris Teeter this week, I went to the local Farmer's Market and Trader Joe's. I got a huge thing of blueberries and instead of letting them go bad in the fridge, I remembered to get them out and serve them with many meals, breakfast, in salads, as snack, so we actually went through two pounds of blueberries this week. We also used homemade butter from the farmer's market and fresh eggs too. So it was a pretty good week for cooking. Alas, because Sean and Becky are in music camp, I stocked up on bagged pretzels, goldfish and chips ahoy to stick in their lunches and everybody has been filling up on those things. Ick. I really want to get rid of white sugar and white flour from our diet.

2.)Sean has been having a rough time at music camp. He loved it the past two summers but he seems to be in with a bad bunch of kids his age. They won't eat lunch with him. He is going through a very self-conscious stage and he is not handling this well. He also really doesn't like the cello. I think this is the first instrument that didn't come easily to him. He says he doesn't like his teacher either. So Thursday I let him stay home. I told him he didn't have to go back. He'd stuck it out for 1/2 the camp period (1.5 weeks; the total camp is 3 weeks) but he decided on his own he'd take Thursday off and then go back. He didn't seem happy about the kids but he did, for the first time enjoy cello! He even showed me what he'd learned when he got home!

3) Becky has been having a great week at music camp. She is Miss social butterfly and can get along with a wall! You don't have to talk back to her, she'll supply the conversation! She's also gone over to her friend, Esther's 3 times this week. Josh is going over too. He wanted to learn woodworking and Esther's Mom is an artist who was just getting ready to custom build a bench for her new screen porch, but she'd hurt her shoulder so she said she'd teach Josh if he would be her helper. Deal! A bonus is that she also is a potter and is teaching Josh how to work the pottery wheel, which, it turns out, he loves! So they've both had fun this week.

4) Hannah was very sad that she didn't get a letter from her boyfriend, who is at Marine boot camp in San Diego. She's been getting one every Thursday. She hasn't written him either in a week and half, three months gets to be a long time two months into it! She's going with his parents out to San Diego to see him graduate 8/21 (I think that's the date). I've been reading a diary of a Marine Corp recruit and I feel I've been a bit immersed in it. It certainly is grueling and brutal. But I do admire the discipline. I think I even dreamed about it last night. And I can't get all the foul language in the book out of my head. I haven't read that much nasty language in maybe 25 years. I usually just don't read books that use language like that. Ick.

5) Will seemed a bit lost this week. Staying up extremely late (into the wee hours of the morning) then sleeping late, then kind of wandering around aimlessly. He isn't even practicing music like he used to, though he is still doing some. And he seems blue. I feel terrible because I'm impatient with him and keep nagging him about his Driver's ed study.

6) In an attempt to light a fire under my teens, in terms of learning, I got the Teaching Co. lecture series "How to be a Superstar Student." I thought they were going to revolt when I told them I was going to insist they at least watch some of it with me. I have to say I heard some grumbles at first. But Hannah at least seemed to warm to it for the second lecture. I think because the teacher was talking about preparing for study at the college level.

7) Rick and I went to see Carmina Burana at Wolftrap last night. It was incredible! I had only heard bits and pieces of it and Rick didn't know what it was but we were both amazed by it. During the performance there was a terrific thunderstorm. I felt terrible for the people on the lawn and very glad that Rick bought tickets for inside the actual pavillion! We came home and looked Carmina Burana up on google, only to find it was big with the Nazis and the Carl Orff the composer was probably a Nazi sympathizer. Hmmm, sometimes ignorance is bliss. I wish I didn't know that now. I feel guilty enjoying the work so much!

(Note: I wrote this on Friday, but I have developed a habit of writing up blog posts and then forgetting to publish them. It's like I really only need to write out my thoughts but don't need to actually publish them!)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A little bit of progress

  • Today started off a bit discombobulated. I couldn't find my car keys. Becky woke up sick and didn't go to music camp. Then because I couldn't find my keys which had my Curves pass on it, I didn't make it to Curves which I had promised myself I'd do.
  • Spent a lot of the morning with Becky. We started On The Shores of Silver Lake and read lots of it. Then she listened to her new audiobook she got for her birthday, Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat.
  • My sister came over and dropped Josh off and visited some more.
  • Picked up Sean from Music Camp.
  • Housekeeping: I cleared off the credenza in the dining room and began the rudiments of the Religion center.
  • Cleaned off the dining room table. That hasn't been done since Passover. Things were piled a mile high on it. Sean helped me a little. Fill a big trashbag but it still needs more clearing.
  • Found a lost library book! Found a handwritten draft of 5th grade reading schedule I had drafted a couple months ago for Sean based on the Faith and Family reader and A Book of Gratitude.
  • Typed up the reading schedule. It is for 3x a week from September through Christmas.
  • Took Hannah to the metro. She was going into town with her friend to visit an art gallery. This was good because I needed to use (her) car. She's actually reading a book on her own! It is the diary of a marine in bootcamp. Phil's mother sent it to her. I started reading it when she ran into the bank to deposit some checks. It was actually well written and interesting! Took Will to his guitar lesson. Will then went to VT afterwards and then walked to the library only to find it closes at 6 p.m. now. I guess that is the result of budget cuts. Seems a bit early to me!
  • Bought a roasted chicken at the store for dinner. Picked up Will.
  • Found my car keys! Hurrah!
  • Read Johnny Tremain out loud to Becky and Sean. They are starting to enjoy it.
  • Poor Becky is still sick. Sore throat and headache and absolutely no energy. No fever though.
  • Will moved the little bookcase from the basement up to the third floor where I plan to create a reading center.

So in spite of Becky's illness and visits and running around, I am happy that I started to tackle some decluttering and organizing.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Trip to Boston

Didn't get much done at all today! My excuse is my sister came to visit. She is my dear, sweet, wonderful sister who I don't see very often because she moved to Winchester and she works as a school teacher so I hardly ever see her during the school year, but now she's on summer break. It was lovely chatting with her. She took Josh back with her to spend the night. Josh and her son Anthony have been best friends since babyhood. They are the same age.

In between picking up Becky and Sean from music camp and ignoring the house, I've been planning our trip to Boston instead. I've just started reading Johnny Tremain aloud to Becky and Sean. Today while googling around I discovered this! I think to do a walking Johnny Tremain tour would be very cool indeed!

I also want to do the Duck tour which gives you a general overall understanding of the city and is fun as well. I'm also hoping to get a visit to the Children's Museum, the Science Museum and perhaps the Aquarium (though we've been to the one in Baltimore numerous times so I don't think that is really high on our list.). I also hope to visit the U.S.S. Constitution which I remember finding really fascinating. And I think that was located pretty close to Bunker/Breed Hill. I do want to go to Salem but I don't want to drive there. I'm hoping that the hotel can give me some kind of advice on a tour bus that goes there perhaps.

I did manage to get to Office Depot and buy a big wall calendar that I've put up on the side of my fridge. I also bought all the material for making my workstrips that I'm going to post on my cabinet doors. I bought other stuff too, like graph paper for the kids to do math on; graph paper really helps them write out their math problems more clearly so they don't make as many errors. I also bought another compass and protractor. Those things always wander off somehow and can never be found when needed.

I got Sean and Will to VT. And then we ate dinner at the Greek Dinner because I was craving Greek and was too busy reading Real Food to do any actual cooking! LOL! Then I got Will to his CLC meeting.

Becky and I finished reading On the Banks of Plum Creek. It was very pleasant. Becky made a bed for herself out on the table on the screen porch and I read the last 5 chapters aloud in one sitting until the sun had set and I could barely make out the words, but we just managed to finish it as the last light gave out.

Tomorrow I'd like to declutter my desk and the counter under the kitchen windows and maybe, maybe if I have tons of energy, I'll start on the credenza in the dining room.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Day Two - Summer housekeeping

Didn't get much done:

  • Got trash out! You wouldn't think it was a big deal but as soon as the trash guys picked up our two full containers, we got the 4 bags out of the kitchen, plus 4 more from Hannah's deep clean of her room over the weekend. And then two more bags from my cleaning out our pantry. Which brings me to the other big-ish thing . . . .

  • I cleaned out the pantry. There was actually something in there that expired in 2007!

  • Will finished mowing the lawn and did a load of laundry.
  • Went to the library and got many books out on food! I am so bored and burned out and we eat way too much junk food and I really need to lose weight! I already skimmed/read What Would Jesus Eat? which was pretty interesting. Now I'm reading Real Food by Nina Planck. I am feeling inspired to try to rejuvenate my cooking. Here are my tentative plans:
  • Start buying at the Vienna Farmers Market on Sat. a.m. I've been meaning to do this for a couple of months now. So this Saturday I am really making an effort to get there and check it out. It seems it has dairy too which would be so cool. I'd really love not to have to run to a grocery store as frequently as I do to buy questionable stuff, just because I don't plan well or think things through.
  • Maybe start buying stuff from Neshiminy Valley? I understand there is a co-op around here. I'll have to check that out.
  • Get a good recipe for bread for our bread machine. It needs to be something wholesome and healthy and also something my family will actually eat. They tend to want only white bread but in the past they've like honey-oatmeal from the bread machine, so I just need find the healthiest but most palatable one out there and start using it.
  • Buy Nourishing Traditions. I find it really intimidating but maybe it would inspire me. I added a NT blog to my sidebar. Many of the recipes actually look like something we'd eat.

Okay that's all I am going to attempt at this time!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Household diary

The blog address of this blog is householddiary because I started it way back when I had the Dumb Ox blog. I wanted a separate blog where I could just journal daily stuff, like learning and housekeeping. Then I started having technical glitches at the other site and I am really stupid and impatient with that kind of thing, so I just gave up and moved over here.

Anyway, summer is the time I really try to deep clean my house and get some semblance of organization going because once September rolls around and outside activities and classes start up, I am too distracted to really focus on the house other than maintenance and a few seasonal cleanings.

Starting today Sean and Becky are at their music camp every morning from 9:30 to 1. This goes on for three weeks, so I am going to use this time to declutter and organize. I'd love to do a deep clean of all the kitchen cabinets and drawers as well as my closet which is absolutely horrible (as is every corner in my room and both dresser tops.) And I have the ever present problem of organizing my books in the study and elsewhere. I also want to declutter and reorganize the basement. This would be especially great to do with Becky gone in the a.m. because she does not want me to ever give anything away. And on top of all this we plan to repaint the bedrooms.

Today was just the first day. I am using that thought to comfort myself on how little I got done and how little energy I had to do it! After getting back from dropping Sean and Becky off, I did declutter the family room which was horrendous. I asked Will to clean up the dvd/cd area under the wide screen. Josh mowed part of the lawn (we have a big lawn) and loaded the dishwasher for me. That was his contribution to chores today. I also decluttered the front hall marble top. That was all I got done before I had to go pick Sean and Becky up again.

The little thing I am most proud of is that I washed down the mantel of the fireplace. I don't think it has ever been washed since it was painted 6 years ago. There were fingerprints, etc all over it. I got one of those Magic Eraser things and got it really clean, except for the big green candle that I guess should have been sitting on a plate. Now there is a green circle on the mantel that won't come off! Grrr. But if I keep that candle right there, everything else looks clean. I also cleaned all the fingerprints off the door that goes to the mudroom.

This afternoon I had to take Josh over to his friend's house who lives 25 minutes away. That took awhile. But I did finally unpack all of our stuff from the beach and I've put away a load of laundry, have another in the dryer and a third in the washer. I made Sean and Becky help with that.

Hannah's friend, Katie, offered to come over and help me. She's been cleaning out her own house at her father's request (though, her mother who is a packrat is resenting the whole deal; they are working against her will!). I on the other hand, fully acknowledge my own dysfunction and would absolutely love to have Katie help me! So I need to call her and arrange that.

One thing that will really help me get more in the spirit of things is getting the trash out. Our housesitter while we were at the beach turned out to be a dud. He never took the trash to the curb! So I have two very full trashbins that won't hold another trashbag and smell terrible! Then because we've had birthdays and such this weekend, plus just the normal trash a family of 7 makes, I have four more bags indoors waiting to go out. If I don't put the bags in the bins the crows come and spread it all over the street. I am really mad at our housesitter for falling down on the job! But trash is tomorrow morning so all that will be well soon!

So I am going to chronicle my housekeeping stuff over the next three weeks. Should be pretty boring!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sweet sunrise

Today is our last morning at the beach. Yesterday evening Rick told Becky he'd get her up early to see the sunrise over the ocean. Later Becky told Hannah this and Hannah said, 'I remember Daddy getting me up to see the sunrise when I was your age!" So this morning at 5:30 a.m. Rick woke up and went to Becky's room and she was already awake and waiting for him, all eager anticipation. It was a sweet father-daughter moment.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Fun at the Beach

We've been having a very lazy, low-keyed vacation by the sea. I love the little town of Bethany. It is very quaint and relaxing, though also pretty crowded with lots of people relaxing along with you. Everybody is very friendly. Some vignettes:

  • We have bunnies living in our yard. I am watching one graze on clover as I type. That is rather charming, don't you think? We've also seen numerous toads and a great big green bullfrog. Some seagulls but not as many as I remembered. I haven't seen any dolphins. Last time we were here we saw several dolphins swimming in the ocean just off the shore.
  • Becky, Sean and Josh all love playing in the waves and running along the seashore.
  • We got passes to use the pool at Sea Colony next door but only Sean likes to go. It has been beautifully cool here and the pool water is cold! Becky and Josh last about 10 minutes and then they emerge with chattering teeth and blue lips but this does not affect Sean who really loves swimming. He's like a polar bear. He doesn't even need anyone to play with; just being in water is enough for him. So out of 5 children I have one who actually enjoys swimming.
  • We love being able to walk into town. Bethany has a really cute boardwalk. The kids like this independence a lot! Since we live in a neighborhood at home that isn't walking distance to anything really, like a store, we are isolated unless you want to walk for an hour or ride your bike down narrow busy roads. But here Josh is old enough that if he wants to go, Sean and Becky can go with him and they can roam around the shops, bookstores and eateries by themselves.
  • Becky's been so busy. She's been into doing experiments. She says she can't decide whether she wants to be a nanny, a hairdresser or a scientist when she grows up. I bought sugar cubes at the store, something we very seldom have and first thing she did was put one in a glass of hot water and watch it dissolve. She was fascinated. Another experiment she conducted: She got two balloons from a pizza place here. She tied them to the lampost out front and she solemnly told me she was experimenting to see if the green or the yellow balloon lost it's helium first. Another thing she did and I have no idea where this came from, but she pretended to be a newscaster. She got some paper from Hannah and drew 4 screens. One was for reporting the weather. She drew a sun, a dark cloud and a cloud with rain falling. Next, on another piece of paper, she drew several cars lined up on a road. Then on another sheet of paper she drew a baseball game, with the batter in mid swing. Lastly, she drew a picture of what I think is a news conference; there is a stick man standing at a lectern while several other stick men sit in chairs and listen to him. After drawing all this she hung them on the wall in the corner and then proceeded to report the news. So she covered weather, traffic, sports and politics. Being her mother, I thought the whole thing was adorable.
  • Sean has discovered Winnie the Pooh. This time he is reading it to himself or requesting Rick read him a story, and he's delighting in the tongue in cheek humor, which I don't think he got before. He keeps saying that guy who wrote Winnie the Pooh was a really good writer! The funny way he says things!"
  • Josh has been reading too. He's read bits and pieces of several books. He read The Case of the Missing Cutthroats which is a middle school easy read by that author of My Side of the Mountain. Now he's been reading The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul. I brought lots of books to read with us and we've also hit the local bookstores several times.
  • Hannah and her friend have kind of been off in their own world. Hannah did take the kids out to dinner so that Rick and I could have a date. That was very nice.
  • Will has been out of it because he's been recovering from a cold (I have a little touch of it as well), but yesterday, he, Hannah and Jean Marie (the friend) went to see Johnny Depp in Dillinger. Will's first uncensored R rated movie (He's watched a couple with Rick, but Rick edited out the unsavory stuff). He is 17 now. He's been playing lots of guitar as usual. Last night at midnight he went out to the beach to play guitar for a while. At 2 o'clock in the morning he was downstairs watching Spirited Away, a movie he brought with us to the beach. He's watched it a lot lately.
  • Rick and his brother Steve have been hanging out a lot. It is nice for the kids to be with their uncle. I'm glad Steve can have a little vacation.

So that's the news from Bethany Beach. We go home day after tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

An unschooling moment

I've been noting little unschooling math moments with Becky and Sean.

Yesterday, Becky took the little thermometer we usually have propped up in our kitchen window and was examining it. She wanted to know what the F stood for and the C and why there were different numbers on either side of the mercury strip. Then she wanted to know what mercury was. I explained to her what Fahrenheit and Celsius meant and the difference in the numbering and what mercury is.

Then all on her own she decided to conduct an experiment. She got a cup of ice water and lowered the thermometer into it. Then she had me put on the timer for 10 minutes. At the end of 10 minutes she took out the thermometer. "Mommy on the C side it says 0 and on the F side it says 30. So then I explained that 0 is Celsius means the point water freezes and 32 on the Farhenheit side means the same thing. She wanted to know why mercury moved up and down the thermometer and I explain from my very little pool of knowledge that heat makes mercury expand and cold makes it shrink and someone a long time ago figured out how much mercury to put in a thermometer to make it move to the accurate temperature. I am not sure if my explanation is correct. I need to look that up today.

The other unschooling thing she did was take the Jenga blocks (my kids have never actually played a game of Jenga all the way through!) and made the letters for Hannah's name. She got confused because the letters changed direction (the n's were the problem) depending on which side you were looking at her 3d name. She had never realized that things change direction depending on your viewpoint. It was a good lesson for her.