Sunday, August 31, 2008

My 2 Cents

Wow, what a week!  I think we can all agree, after having either read or seen Nancy Pelosi's pathetic performance on Meet the Press last Sunday, she can really bring out the best in people. Wingnut wasted no time before hitting the political blogs and refuting The Speaker of the House's fallacious remarks about Saint Augustine.  I thought it was particularly fascinating to see the rapid response from some of our wonderful Bishops.  I can't recall the last time there was such clear and resounding teaching from our American Bishops.  Bravo!  Our own Archbishop Wuerl not only responded personally to Pelosi's deception, but instructed his priests to preach on Church teaching regarding the sanctity of life, from conception to natural death, during Sunday Masses throughout the Archdiocese.

Then there is the apparently brilliant choice of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate. While I have mixed feelings personally about whether mom's can effectively work full-time outside the home and mother their children, I actually feel as though I am being represented in this choice by McCain.  Don't get me wrong, McCain is far from perfect and I can think of several other candidates I would have rather seen run, but I believe I will be able to vote for McCain/Palin to defeat Obamanation with a clear conscience.  Wingnut thinks Palin is untouchable, as far as criticism and political attacks go.  That remains to be seen, but at least I am no longer stressed and depressed about this year's elections.

Now if Gustav would just blow off and leave Louisiana in peace.
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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Highlights from Williamsburg

We took a little mini-vacation to Williamsburg, Thursday and Friday.  I bet you didn't even realize we were gone.  It was a bit spontaneous (we sometimes to spontaneous here) as we were uncertain of the weather and of Wingnut's schedule but we were able to take off in the morning on Thursday and head south.  

We had fantastic weather and even more fun.  We hit Yorktown in the afternoon and were able to see several demos of artillery and weaponry.  Baby Wingnut loved the guns and cannons!  We then headed to the hotel to relax with a swim in the pool.  Just kidding, there is no relaxing in a pool with six kids, but it did work the excess energy out of them before dinner.  We then had a nice late dinner and headed back to the hotel for a family rosary and sleep. 

Friday morning we made our  5th annual "pilgrimage" to Busch Gardens, made possible by the generosity of the Anheuser-Busch Company's "Here's to the Heroes " free tickets promotion for active duty military and their families.  It ended up being a perfect day to go.  The weather was warm and a bit steamy and the lines were comparatively short. We all agreed, it was one of our best trips so far.

Baby Wingnut asked for a repeat performance of the rifle demo after seeing it for the first time in Yorktown.
I loved this photo of Special K and Baby Wingnut.  I always wonder what is going through their sweet little minds when they have expressions like this.
Stat Boy, OJ, Karate Kid and Special K flashed some kind of family gang symbol while riding the Log Flume.
If you look really closely, you might be able to see the look of terror on Baby Wingnut's face. You'll have to trust me that he wanted to go again once he got to the bottom.
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Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Boy, a Spray Bottle, and a Paper Towel

No, it's not spring cleaning.  It's good clean end of summer fun with a spray bottle filled with water.
Even with his tiny little hands Baby Wingnut was able to work the pump on his spray bottle.
Wash, wash, scrub, scrub.
Check out the concentration on his sweet little face.
He even knew to check for a streak free shine.

Yep.  I think he just may have a vocation!
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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Birthday Haiku for Wingnut

forty years today
love you now more than ever
a happy birthday

Hmmm, a birthday haiku seems so inadequate when you really look at it.  Hon, I hope you have a wonderful birthday and may God bless you with many, many more.  You are so totally awesome! Hugs and kisses.

With All My Love,
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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Don't Blink. . .

or your baby will go from this . . .

to this. . . 

Karate Kid is an extraordinary young lady; creative, smart, funny, athletic, responsible, faithful, and a terrific role model for her younger siblings.  I often feel sorry for her. Being the first born, she is the first to experience our parenting for good or for bad.  

Just this morning I was left with a sinking feeling, wondering when did she go from compliant obedience to confidently challenging our autocracy? Gone are the days of the submissive "Yes, ma'am" and "Yes, sir".  She has become a young woman with her own ideas, opinions, and free will.

I remember, as a teen, telling my mother, "You just don't understand me!"  Now I am the mother and that teen is right in a myriad of ways.  I didn't believe I would be so blind-sided by my children growing up, but I have been.  Her younger siblings are blessed to have been born after Karate Kid.  We won't be taken so off guard by their growth into independence and autonomy.

Lord, give me the grace I need to guide my children into holiness. Amen.
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Monday, August 25, 2008

What We Are Using for Homeschool This Year

An itemized list of the curriculum we will be using this homeschool year along with the least expensive website to purchase:

Special K: 1st grade

Religion: The First Christians: Act of the Apostles for Children from Sophia Institute; Saint of the Day from Daughters of Saint Paul website

Math: Saxon Math 1st grade from All Catholic Books

Lang Arts: Little Stories for Little Folks from Catholic Heritage Curricula; This is Our Family from Seton; Explode the Code 1 1/2 and 2 from Christian Book; Getty Dubay Italic Handwriting Series Book B from Amazon

Science: Weather Dude CD and Activity Book from Weather Dude; Earth Science Unit using various sources listed in a previous post

History : Map Skills book A from Seton; American History 1789-Present using various sources including historical fiction

Music: Our Musical Year from Emmanuel Books

Art: Artistic Pursuits K-2nd grade Book 2 from Artistic Pursuits

PE: Ballet classes, swim lessons

Skoshi A: 4th Grade

Religion: Same as Special K

Math: Saxon 54 from All Catholic Books

Lang Arts: English for Young Catholics from Seton; Spelling Power from Christian Book; Wordly Wise 3000 Book 2 from All Catholic Books; Historical fiction to supplement study of American history; Getty Dubay Italic Handwriting Series book E from Amazon

History: Map Skills Book D from Seton; Same as Special K

Science: Same as Special K

Music: Formal piano lessons

Art: Same as Special K

PE: Ballet classes, swim lessons, tennis lessons

OJ: 6th grade

Religion: Same as Special K

Math: Saxon 7/6 from All Catholic Books

Lang Arts: English for Young Catholics 6 from Seton; 7th grade Lightning Literature from Hewitt Homeschooling; Wordly Wise 3000 book 4 from All Catholic Books; Creative writing class taught in a friends home; Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing 

History: A History of US books 6-10 from Amazon; Map Skills book F from Seton; Biographies of famous Americans to supplement history texts

Science: Concepts and Challenges book 2 from Emmanuel Books
Music: Formal flute lessons

Art: Artistic Pursuits: Jr High book 1 from Artistic Pursuits

PE:  Same as Skoshi A

Stat Boy: 8th grade

Religion: Same as Special K

Math: Geometry a Teaching Textbook from Christian Book

Lang Arts: 8th grade Lightning Literature from Hewitt Homeschooling; English for Young Catholics 8 from Seton; Vocabulary from Classical Roots book A from Christian Book; Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing; Creative writing class taught in a friends home

History: Same as OJ; Map Skills book H from Seton

Science: Same as OJ

Music: Formal piano lessons

Art: Same as OJ

PE: Taekwondo, tennis lessons

Karate Kid: 10th grade

Religion: Acts of the Apostles and The Letters of Saint Paul Navarre Bibles; Church History and Apologetics through homeschool co-op

Math: Saxon Advanced Mathematics from All Catholic Books

Lang Arts: Medieval British Literature Lightning Literature from Hewitt Homeschooling; Mid-19th Century British Literature from Hewitt Homeschooling; Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing; High School Intensive Essay CD from Emmanuel Books

History: Medieval and Renaissance European History curriculum from Emmanuel Books with several required titles purchased from Amazon

Science: Chemistry curriculum from Kolbe Academy including tests, answer keys and virtual lab cd 

Foreign Lang: Rosetta Stone Italian 2 

PE: Taekwondo, tennis lessons

Music Elective: Formal piano lessons

Art Elective: Artistic Pursuits High School book 1 and 2; Photography class through homeschool co-op

Latin Elective: Henle Latin 1 from Memoria Press
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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Olympic Fever

Well, the Olympics are finally winding down and our kids have chosen their heroes.  Karate Kid has followed the medal quest of the Lopez family in Taekwondo.  Stat boy admires Michael Phelps.  OJ is an aspiring track star and our little girls have become miniature versions of Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin.  Wingnut had to draw the line when Baby Wingnut showed up wearing a pink leotard and announcing he was Alicia Sacramone. He's two and just parroting what his sisters tell him to say, but for Wingnut it is still too disconcerting.  We enlisted the help of Stat Boy to outfit Baby Wingnut in karate gear.  He is now marching around the house chanting, "I Steven Lopez.  I took bronze!" and "Hi-yah!" all the while kicking and punching imaginary foes.

While I don't have photos of Baby Wingnut in his pink leo, I did take a few of him dressed as Taekwondo medalist Steven Lopez.

Stat Boy helps Baby Wingnut with his form.
Baby Wingnut's most intimidating "Hi-yah!" with a kick.
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Thomas the Communist Tank Engine: A Bedtime Story

**Just for Fun**

This was written by Wingnut after reading my previous post on Thomas.  Our two teens have wicked senses of humor and greatly enjoyed reading their dad's interpretation of Thomas, the Communist Tank Engine.

The Great May Day Festival had finally arrived on the Island of Sodor and Thomas was very excited.  He saw Gordon chuffing along a distant track, delivering copies of Das Kapital to all the little boys and girls.  This made Thomas jealous until he realized the collective goals could only be achieved by subverting his own selfish desires.  He was sad for feeling like a capitalist.

"Hello Comrade Gordon," Thomas tooted.

Gordon answered, "From each according to ability, Thomas.  You do not seem to be giving to the best of your ability.  You certainly will not get according to your need."

This made Thomas cross.  He was giving according to his ability and he didn't care what Gordon thought.  Just then Commissar Topham Hatt came around the side door at Tidmouth Sheds. "Thomas, you must deliver these criminals to the other side of the islad to work in the re-education camps.  They have not been Really Useful People."

Thomas was excited.  He would show that Gordon what "give according to one's means" really meant.  Thomas quickly loaded 60 really useless people in each of his coaches and locked the door from the outside.  Nobody was going to escape from Thomas.

Thomas quickly built up his speed as he imagined himself grinding the bourgeois and capitalist swine under his shiny wheels.  Blood spattered his cow catchers red and this made Thomas happy.  "I'll show that Gordon who's really useful!" he thought to himself.
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Friday, August 22, 2008


Wingnut has this beautiful tradition, with our children, of reading each of them the entire Chronicles of Narnia series.  He is currently on his fourth run through of the books (Karate Kid and Stat Boy were a "two-fer").  It's Special K's turn this year and she cannot wait for him to get home from work at night, so that they can cuddle up on the couch and read a new chapter.  It's especially sweet to see the older children sidle in for a listen, too. Print Friendly and PDF

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Going Political

I don't know about you, but this election is an especially agonizing one for me.  I am completely stressed out about it.  Up until just a couple of days ago, I was very much at peace and pleased with my decision to vote third party for president.

Quite frankly, I cannot abide John McCain.  There is just something a little weaselly and disingenuous about him. Politically speaking, there are so many levels at which I don't agree with him.  He claims to have a 100% pro-life voting record but if you check his record at NRLC you'll find that claim is a misrepresentation (a nicer word for LIE).  

I wouldn't even consider voting for Obama.  He and I do not even live in the same universe. The information flooding the blogosphere about him via Jill Stanek, his Saddleback Forum performance, and the NRLC really turns my stomach.  And then there is the promise he has made to Planned Parenthood to overturn every piece of anti-abortion legislation by enacting NARAL's Freedom of Choice Act.  To think, all the hard work, blood, sweat, and tears of pro-life groups and legislators being flushed down the toilet by this utter megalomaniac.  It's enough to make my blood boil.

So, I am left with these choices: A) vote third party for a candidate I can agree with on most issues. In essence, "throw away" my vote as a statement against the two party system and the miserable candidates they have pushed forward; or B) vote for McCain hoping my one little vote prevents Obama from being elected.  I cannot believe I am actually considering voting for the "lesser of two evils", but I am worried that I might have a moral obligation to vote for McCain. It makes me sick and literally brought me to tears on my walk this morning, as I was thinking about this absurdity.  This would be so easy if Sardonic or Wingnut were running for president (and actually had a hope of beating Obama). What's a Catholic, pro-life, mom to do? I guess, get on her knees and pray hard for guidance.

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Feeling the Love at Rita's

Baby Wingnut loves Rita's and it has become the reward of choice for good behavior at mass. He has earned Rita's four masses in a row, now.  And no, Sardonic, we don't have Stepford children. We just know how to bribe them ;-) Print Friendly and PDF

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Homeschool History and Science: Part 2

History was covered in a previous post here.


1) Kym Write has written a series of Learn and Do Unit Studies that include lesson plans, hands on activities, and resources.  Our absolute favorite in this series is Learn and Do: Microscope Adventure.  We used this unit study when Stat Boy showed an interest in the microscope Karate Kid had received through K12.  We had an absolute blast looking at microscopic life, making slides, designing experiments and filling out the included lab sheets.  I don't think any of the kids realized we were actually doing school.  Obviously, you would need a microscope and slide making kit to use this unit and this may mean a bit of an investment.  Two of our favorite science materials suppliers are Tobin's Lab and Delta Education.  Both suppliers have a variety of microscopes and accessories to fit most any science budget. 

2) One of the great things about homeschooling is that you can really dive into subjects your children are interested in.  In years past, our kids have been interested in space, animals, insects, geology, weather, etc.  Great Science Adventures has titles for many of these interests. I came across this fun curriculum when searching for resources to use while studying space with our elementary aged children.  This series is great for younger kids, especially emergent readers.  Each unit comes with little science readers that can be read aloud or independently. Each chapter has extension activities, resources, and graphic organizers that help illustrate new ideas and concepts.  Our family enjoyed both Great Science Adventures: The World of Space and Great Science Adventures: The World of Insects and Arachnids. For the astronomy buffs in your family Astronomy Magazine has a great webpage for kids.  For your lovers of creepy crawlies, be sure to check out What's that Bug?

3) We all love gardening and many years we use our garden to study botany.  To supplement this we've used a variety of books and resources.  We've used Science with Plants by Mike Unwin and Green Thumbs: Radishes from TOPS, both of which provide ample experiments and hands on activities for exploring plant science. For gardening supplies and educational materials on composting we use Gardeners Supply Company.  Kym Wright has also written a Learn and Do Botany Adventure Unit for high school students interested in continuing their biology studies with a more in depth look at the world of plants. 

4) Ok, I haven't used this one yet, but I'm already convinced it will be a favorite.  Special K has always been interested in weather, especially wild weather.  I found this great site run by "The Weather Dude" and ordered his weather songs cd and accompanying activity book.  The website has plenty of extras for budding weather enthusiasts.  I do have to say the music and lyrics are pretty cheesy, but then Special K and Skoshi A do love cheese.

5) Ok, I haven't used this one yet either, but geology is kind of a family thing.  Wingnut's dad, brother, and sister-in-law are all geologists and my kids have all been bitten by the rock bug at one time or another.  This site is a terrific one for your rock hounds. I also plan on supplementing with a variety of Usborne and DK books for the fun of it, as well as getting out the rock kits, scratch tiles and rock identification books to explore.

6) We studied oceanography in co-op last year and I pulled most of my information from the web.  I used Missouri Botanical Garden's wonderful site to teach about biomes with a specific emphasis on marine ecosystems.  The Sea and Sky website has great information on a variety of sea life. Discovery Education has a great sub site devoted to ocean science, with lots of resources, teacher tips and fascinating facts.  To wrap up our study of oceanography, each student gave an oral presentation on their favorite marine animal.

7) If I find my kiddos have an interest, and I'm unable to find an adequate resource to use, I often end up writing my own curriculum.  I did this for zoology last year.  We learned to classify animals using Linneaus's taxonomy and spent a lesson on each division/sub-division of animal. We supplemented with the DK Eyewitness Books for each classification.

8) To make sure my children have a good understanding of basic science concepts before high school, at around 6th to 8th grade I begin using Concepts and Challenges.  These simple texts provide the foundational knowledge in life, earth, chemical, and physical science needed to succeed in high school science and beyond.  I would like to note these texts are a tad dated, but for your science achievers this flaw can be a springboard for further exploration into more updated content.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Blogging So Far

I've been blogging for two months now, which has lead me to ponder upon how it's gone so far. To begin with, writing and keeping this journal of our life has been truly enjoyable. It's helped me recognize what a wonderful life and a terrific family I have.  I already knew that, but writing has helped me reflect more on how blessed we really are.  I'm actually surprised at how much I have to consider and write about.

Secondly, my family is really enjoying reading my blog.  It's my aim to keep it that way. This is a rated G blog because I want my children to be able to read everything I write, especially since so much of it is about them.  I'm sure our children know we love them.  We tell them every day and we show it in the loving care we give them, but I want them to know how much we enjoy them, their individual personalities.  I want them to know how terrific we believe each of them is and how they make us smile and laugh and cry and "wax rhapsodic" (to borrow a term from The Pioneer Woman).

My third reflection is that I need to be careful of the amount of time I spend blogging.  It can be addictive; constantly checking to see if I have comments, keeping up on other blogs I read, checking my site meter, etc. I'll really have to monitor and limit my online time even more once we start back to school.  I don't want blogging to take away from the time I have to give my family, after all if this is truly for them, it shouldn't end up becoming a drain on my attention to them.  

Lord, help me to do all things for your glory and in moderation!

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death. Amen
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Monday, August 18, 2008

Happy Birthday, Queen Monkey!

Happy 9th Birthday to our. . .

Precious Angel
Graceful Ballerina
Make-up Crazy Clown
Beautiful Flower
Loving Big Sister, Little Sister, Daughter and Friend!  


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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Go the Extra Mile

Danielle Bean has been giving marriage advice at Faith and Family Live.  I wish we had had that kind of advice when we first were married.  It might have saved us from experiencing some of the rocky times we had during our pre-Catholic days. Reading through some of the posts I'm finding ideas for continuing to improve our marriage now.  It's worth a look.

I posted a couple tips at Faith and Family Live, but I thought here I might take a slightly different direction.  My advice for currently married folks, newbies or veterans, is to choose something to do for your spouse and go that extra mile with it for 40 days. 

While I was pregnant with Baby Wingnut, I decided I would get up every morning and make coffee and breakfast for Wingnut during Lent.  I had chosen this as a Lenten sacrifice for two reasons.  First, Wingnut often would joke with me in the mornings and ask if I was going to get up and make him breakfast.  It was a joke, because he knew I wouldn't do it.  I really, really like my sleep.  Secondly, I had already given up everything else due to being pregnant (read I gave up eating well and exercising :-o). As a Lenten sacrifice, I decided to do this one small thing for my husband that I knew he truly wanted.  

At first it was very difficult getting my pregnant body out of bed, but over the 40 days I came to look forward to that quiet time we spent together in the morning over our cups of coffee.  I enjoyed it so much that when Lent was over I continued to get up with Wingnut.  Once Baby Wingnut arrived I had to go back to the old routine (we are nuts and practice attachment parenting and share a family bed with our youngest children), but one of these days I'll be able to show Wingnut again how much I love and appreciate him by joining him at the  breakfast table each day.

The best advice Wingnut gives to pre-Cana couples we mentor is, "Real love is not a feeling. It is an act of will." He is so right.  Those pitter-pat, fuzzy, love feelings are not always there and we cannot depend upon them. We are all fallen and the root of our sinful nature is selfishness, the "I will not serve!" Married love is not exempt from selfishness. It takes extraordinary grace and an act of will to say, "Yes, I will serve!"
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Saturday, August 16, 2008

When it Comes to Pets. . .

. . . I'm no Saint Francis.  We have two cats and we all despise them.  I swear they conspire to irritate us as we try to leave the house.  If they aren't trying to sneak past us into the house they are sitting directly beneath the garage door, preventing it from closing.  Earlier this week, the two of them were tag teaming it as I tried to close the door.  One would wander in under the door into the garage as the door began its downward motion, causing the sensors to send the door back up.  The next one would wander out of the garage as the door began coming down again.  This happened several times and there I was, in the 12 pass. muttering at the "stupid cats".  The ridiculous animals finally made up their minds and the garage door finally closed.  The entire ride in the van, Baby Wingnut kept asking each of his siblings, in turn, if they had seen "dose 'tupid tats". Thanks a lot you 'tupid tats!

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Muffin Mix Madness

In a previous post I mentioned a new muffin mix I was using for breakfast.  OJ has really gotten into making the muffins each morning.  She even assembles the mix we use each week and makes sure I know ahead of time which ingredients are running low.  I think she actually may end up becoming the baker in the family, but who's going to clean up the mess? Print Friendly and PDF

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Catch and Release

We have a huge Butterfly Bush in our front yard and the children have really enjoyed watching the different creatures that are attracted to it.  We have Praying Mantis, moths, butterflies, bees, and humming birds visiting regularly.  Baby Wingnut enjoys the creepy crawlies so much that he devised a new game that I call "Catch and Release."  We played this for nearly an hour this afternoon.

OJ won this neat bug catcher at a summer party.  If you look closely you might see a small moth fluttering around in it.
This is the "release" part of our game.  This part was particularly satisfying for Baby Wingnut.
"Catch another one, Mama!"

As a side note, if you have any bug and insect collectors/enthusiasts or you've come across a bug you just can't identify,  check out this really cool site: What's That Bug?
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Thomas the Tank Engine: Card Carrying Commie

Our two year old loves Thomas and we spend the better part of each day steeped in Thomas trains, tracks, books, videos and songs.  Have you ever watched a Thomas video or read a Thomas book?  You should, they are pretty eye-opening.  One of the pervasive themes of Thomas material is usefulness.  Many of the episodes end with Sir Topham Hatt declaring, "Thomas, you are a very useful engine!"  One of my older children pointed out how utilitarian and communistic this message can be.  The trains spend many episodes worrying about being "scrapped" for not being useful.  If that message doesn't get across, I'm sure our little ones will pick up wonderful virtues such as the envy, spitefulness, trickery, vengefulness, and discrimination that occurs between the "steamies" and "diesels".  I know, it's a children's series for toddlers and preschoolers for pity's sake. Baby Wingnut should grow out of the Thomas stage in a couple years, so I guess I won't worry until he starts quoting Marx; but seriously, he and Special K have begun singing with british accents and it's beginning to gall me. Print Friendly and PDF

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

All That Glitters

My children and I are huge fans of the Olympics and have truly enjoyed watching local hero, Michael Phelps, make Olympic history.  Living on the East Coast means we have been getting to bed rather late due to our favorite events being aired past primetime, but even our six year old couldn't hit the hay until she had seen Phelps win the gold in the 200 meter fly.  I'm sure we'll all be paying for it later today, when she gets a good case of what Wingnut calls "the sleepy hypes."

Women's gymnastics didn't begin until 10:30 last night and that is where I drew the line for the kids, promising to let them watch online this morning.  Wow, what a difference there was between the hopes and expectations of America's women compared to those of the American male gymnasts.  It's hard to believe we are disappointed with a silver medal, but we are. 

Our children were competitive gymnasts until about a year ago and so we have somewhat of a clue about what is expected.  I was awed by the Chinese women, especially on the parallel bars. Not only did they have wicked skills, but their form, lines, and execution were impeccable.  At one point I declared, "Wow, they really are amazing!"

To which Wingnut responded, "Yes, but at least our girls could tell you what a Big Mac tastes like and can identify their own parents."

Amen to that!  We are so blessed to live in freedom and dignity here in the United States.  As disappointed as our gymnasts may be with their silver medal, I bet they wouldn't trade places with the Chinese for anything.
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Homeschool History and Science

I believe most homeschool veterans would agree, a hands-on approach with lots of supplemental reading in subjects their children are interested in, is the best way to tackle history and science. Depending on what we choose to study, we usually only spend one or two days on science and history during the elementary school years.  Here are the curricula and resources that are the best of what we have used in years past.

1) History Links: Integrated Learning for Catholic Families has been an absolute favorite for our family.  It is written by two former history teachers who now homeschool.  These are fairly inexpensive guides for studying history using a multi-level approach with lots of hands on activities and lists of resources for exploration  and additional reading.  There are two draw backs to this curriculum.  The first being, this series requires some advanced prep work from mom/teacher in order to get the most out of it and secondly this series also requires the homeschool to acquire a certain amount of supplementary materials and resources from the library or favorite suppliers.  Our two favorites from this series were the General Studies Unit and the unit on Ancient Israel.  

2) Mapping the World by Heart is an extraordinary geography program written by a junior high teacher in Massachusetts.  We adapted this curriculum for our homeschool co-op and it was amazing how much the children were able to pick up in such a short time.  This program is easy to use and includes lesson plans, black line masters, introductory video, and an excellent website with resources and tips designed especially for homeschools (see link above).

3) Reading Your Way Through History project comes from one of the very first online resources I ever used:  For avid readers this is a wonderful approach to history in which historical biographies, lives of Saints, and historical fiction are read in a chronological order beginning with Ancient Egypt and following through to current history.  The books and resources are divided nicely into a timeline of significant eras.  There is also now a link to the Reading Your Way Through History blog, another great homeschool resource with frequent updates on the project.

4)Laura Berquist of Design Your Own Classical Curriculum and Mother of Divine Grace School has teamed with Emmanuel Books to provide some fantastic high school history curricula to homeschool families.  She has written several syllabi for different historic eras.  Our oldest used the US History, Geography and Literature syllabus last year and loved it.  The plan pairs a Catholic history text with lots of extra reading from speeches, biographies, primary sources and historical fictions.  The syllabus does not provide any testing but it is fairly writing intensive and that is what I used for deciding a grade in this particular subject.

5) For historical maps, I've come to depend on Knowledge Quest.  This is a great homeschool company that specializes in providing blackline maps of world history and timeline materials and resources.  We also subscribe to their email updates and can often get great bargains and new ideas via email.

6) The following web sites are several of the online geography resources and games we use just for the fun of geography: Test Your Geography Knowledge; Map Puzzles; GeoBee Challenge; I Like to Learn Geography; and Atlapedia

This blog post has become quite long and so I think I'll save our science favorites for another post.  Have fun diving into history!
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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A "Blurst" to the Past

A wonderful friend and her three angels took us to a living history town this past week.  It is similar to the archeological digs at Williamsburg, Jamestowne, and Yorktown but on a much smaller scale. Amazingly, this little educational haven is only 20 minutes from my house, and I had never heard of it.  We had a lovely time exploring the grounds and trying out old equipment. One of the carpenters working on reconstructions, even gave us a tour of the garden and one of the rebuilt homes.
The kids all tried their hands at grinding and sifting corn for corn meal.
I just thought this was a cool perspective for a photo, taken from the attic of the rebuilt home.
The "Lost Towns Project" is reconstructing many of the buildings of the original town.  They were happy to let the children help with sawing planks for the rafters.  Here is OJ working hard.
And Skoshi A had a turn at the saw as well.  She was nearly lifted off the ground each time the saw was drawn up.  She is such a little bit of a girl.
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Monday, August 11, 2008

Creative Vocabulary?

This was the word of the day, on Friday, from Merriam Webster.  Mau-Mau is a nickname Wingnut uses for me from time to time although he doesn't pronounce it the same way.  I didn't know I was soooo intimidating and militant and secretive! Print Friendly and PDF

Saturday, August 9, 2008

True Princess, NOT!!!

We rarely resort to spankings with our children.  We really don't need to spank at all, because we have Wingnut on the parenting front.  He is very creative when it comes to punishments and he is extremely capable of coming up with punishments that both fit the crime and the criminal.

This morning he came up with the perfect punishment for a whining Tornado.  She was dressed all in pink and wearing her favorite "True Princess" t-shirt.  She was having one of those drama filled mornings complete with screeching, whining, and tattling and Wingnut had had enough.  He ordered her to her room to change out of her "True Princess" shirt and told her she was not allowed to wear it today because she was not acting like a "True Princess".  You would have thought the world had come to an end.  She was devastated.  "True Princesses" don't whine and screech and tattle.  So far, so good.  It has been rather peaceful around here since.  Wait, I think I spoke too soon.
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Friday, August 8, 2008

Holy Cow! It Really Was a Blurst!

This was our trampoline!  That "blurst" of a storm picked our tramp up and carried it several yards and then smashed it down.  It is irrecoverable.  One metal support leg and the metal support ring that forms the trampoline both snapped.  R.I.P.  We loved you, our fun, fun, bouncing thing.

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Creative Vocabulary

We've had some atypically stormy weather this summer, which has led to our little Tornado to be a bit more timid during storms.  We had a nice little thunder storm last night, during dinner, and when it passed Special K commented:

"That was sure a blurst of storm!"

blurst verb
blurst-ed; blurst-ing

1. a combination of burst and blast; a sudden and violent issuing forth: a blurst of wind from a storm
[origin: aft. 2008; Modern Childese, blast, burst; akin to break]
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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Curriculum We Use Year to Year

We've been homeschooling for 10 years now and I've used a lot of wonderful curriculum and discarded a fair share of not so wonderful curriculum.  As the old year winds down, the wheels begin turning and I begin planning for the next year.  We are currently homeschooling 5 of our 6 children (Baby Wingnut is not quite ready for prime time just yet).  I have a few die hard standards our family will use until our homeschooling days are through.

My number 1 curriculum is Saxon Math.  I use this beginning in 1st grade.  The first three years are teacher intensive but after that it is all self taught from the text with occasional help from me and the Bob Jones University  D.I.V.E. CDROMs (I know, what is a good Catholic family doing using anything from BJU?) for Algebra II and beyond.  I am confident my kids will have a great math background using Saxon.  This is also the one text book I require my kids to finish each year, as in math each years knowledge builds upon the previous.

After years of trial and error, I finally found a spelling program that I can use with any child. Spelling Power covers all the learning styles: visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory. . . Ok, not olfactory, but wouldn't that be cool if you could learn spelling through smell? This program is multilevel, meaning one can use it with all the kids at the same time.  With Spelling Power, your children only work on the words they do not already know how to spell.  I have a couple natural spellers and a couple "creative" spellers, and they all improved their spelling using this curriculum.

I have come to realize, there is no better way to teach grammar than by using workbooks with lots of examples and drills.  We use Seton's English series to accomplish this.  These work texts are simple, inexpensive and Catholic.  They cover all the parts of speech and provide ample opportunity for sentence diagramming, if you're into that.  This curriculum will give your child the strong foundation in grammar, usage and mechanics they will need to become coherent writers and communicators.

For teaching our younger set to read, we use a combination of Teach Your Child to 
Read in 100 Easy Lessons, Little Stories for Little Folks Catholic Phonic Readers, and Explode the Code. Depending on a child's learning style we use one more than another in combination.  Our little ones particularly like the Catholic story lines in Little Stories.

Science and history are my absolute favorites when it comes to homeschooling.  There are so many possibilities and with a decent sized family we have many interests.  We study something different every year and we all get excited about studying something new.  In another post, I'll give some of the best ideas for science and history we have used.
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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Um, You've Got a Little Something on Your Chin

I know I've blogged about Baby Wingnut's dietary quirks here and here, but this is too cute. He really loves shredded parmesan cheese.  I usually have to hide it behind a big bowl if we are serving it with dinner, because he will eat the entire bowl.  Not only does he have a weird diet, it's an expensive one.

This photo does not do justice to the amount of parmesan on his chair, the table and the floor.
He ends up having a pretty good parmesan beard going by the time he is finished eating.
His Italian godparents would be proud.  What a prosciutto!
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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Mission Accomplished

It took the better part of the morning but I finally transformed this--

Into this!

You might think this doesn't look like a lot of school books for five kids and you'd be right. This is just the "working cupboard".  I have two more bookshelves with school materials in them. One is for my high schooler, as her materials just do not fit in the "working cupboard" any more.  The other shelves our read a-louds for religion, history and science.

We are almost ready for school.  I just have to order math for Stat Boy, Latin for Karate Kid, and music for the Tornado.  When Labor Day wraps up we'll be ready to go.
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The Line Worth Standing In

Saturday we made our monthly pilgrimage to confession.  Our parish loves confession and there will always be a line no matter how early we get there.  We arrived just 8 minutes after confessions began and the line was a dozen deep.  We added our half dozen to the end of the line and waited. 

Our pastor was on vacation, leaving his associate to hear confessions.  He is a lovely, young, vibrant priest and does not cut corners in the confessional. He is a wonderful confessor but we all knew we were in for a long, penitential wait.  

Our two youngest almost immediately began their little passive/aggressive techniques of trying our patience.  Baby Wingnut kicked and squirmmed, wriggled and writhed in Wingnut's arms. The Tornado primly sat herself in a pew and began primping and preening, occasionally glancing over to see if anyone was watching her.  When that no longer worked in gaining attention, she began tapping her sandals on the pew and rattling my purse straps.  As I inched closer to the confessional door, Baby Wingnut had had enough and began protesting loudly. Wingnut had to take him outside and "adjust his attitude" with a stern scolding mixed with equal parts threats and cajoling.

It was nearing the beginning of the vigil mass and we were all nervously checking our watches and sizing up the folks in front of us for holiness. Thankfully our family made it through to the box, but a few poor souls were asked to come back after Mass.  It was just another typical First Saturday in our parish and it sure did my soul good to be standing in that line.
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Monday, August 4, 2008


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The Task Before Me

It is August and the new school year is hot on our heels.  Here is the task I have before me this week. 

Getting this stack of homeschool materials. . . 

into this cupboard, while simultaneously reorganizing and expunging last years materials.

But not today.  My two cynical teens are out, acting all grown-up at a friend's house, so I am taking the four younger children to the park.  We're going to ride the miniature train and the carousel, visit the farm animals, and play to our hearts' content on the playground.  Have I mentioned I'm just a bit of a procrastinator?
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Sunday, August 3, 2008

Spiritual Slacker Trying to Live with A Mother's Rule of Life

Last summer I finally read Holly Pierlot's book, A Mother's Rule of Life:  How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul.  Now, I'm a pretty organized person and I rarely feel life has digressed into complete chaos around here, but Holly actually had something to offer that I could really use.

As explained in her book, a Rule of Life is usually found in religious communities, but lay folk can also benefit from living within a Rule.  Basically, it's an ordering of one's life based on one's vocation.  Holly divides the vocation of wife and mother into a hierarchy of priorities: Prayer, Person, Partner, Parent and Provider.

In my personal life, prayer is the one aspect of my vocation I could really use some help with. How to set aside time throughout the day to spend in quiet contemplation and prayer.  Holly's book really helped.  I wrote a basic plan for my day with all the daily necessities included; taking care of myself, making meals, teaching school, cleaning, laundry, taking care of the baby's needs, running to and from activities, taking time for my hunny, etc.  Interspersed throughout my plan I scheduled time to pray.  I knew that if I didn't schedule it, something else would come up and I would never spend time in quiet prayer. 

This schedule worked great all of last year.  I remembered to pray morning, noon, evening and night.  I planned a nice, long, quiet time of prayer while nursing Baby Wingnut for his daily naps. He was always a very good napper and went down right after lunch everyday, and then, all of a sudden, he stopped following that schedule.  It wasn't like he gradually changed his sleeping pattern it was a complete and sudden turn about.  Ever since, my plan has been turned upside down and my prayer life has greatly suffered.  I didn't realize how important that period of afternoon prayer was to my spiritual life.  I guess its now time to get Holly's book out again and rework my rule.  If I'm not praying regularly throughout the day, I cannot do what I need to do to be a good wife, mother or Catholic.

Holy Mary, Queen of Peace, Pray for us!

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Saturday, August 2, 2008


I love gardening.  I grew up on a sort of farm with a 1/2 acre garden that my brother and sister and I spent many summer mornings weeding.  I hated gardening then but somehow I did manage to get the gardening bug and a pretty decent green thumb to boot.  My dad and my grandmother are master gardeners, so I think I must have inherited it from them.  My kids also love growing things--notice I said GROWING things.  They must have inherited my loathing for weeding.  

It has been lovely being able to put down roots (pun intended) in one place for such an extended time.  We've been here for 7 years, which by military standards, is a life time.  Nearly everything in our flower gardens(excluding trees and shrubs) I planted myself when we first arrived here. The kids and I had always wanted to grow things we could eat, but I was reluctant to dig up our backyard for a vegetable garden as we didn't know how long we would be homesteading here. A few years ago, I purchased easy to assemble garden beds and several large planters.  

Each season, the children get to plant whatever they  like in two garden beds or planters. We've grown sunflowers, zucchini, watermelons, tomatoes, peppers, heirloom plants, flowers of every kind, and several varieties of herbs.  This year promises to be a bumper crop, mostly due to the unusual amount of rain we've had.  My kids are pretty enthusiastic about planting their gardens, but not so good about caring for them.  Meaning, their plants usually do not get nearly enough watering.  This summer, nature has taken care of the garden with little interference from us.  We have a completely tangled, wild, mess of a garden but we have already been enjoying its bounty.

One of the many tomato plants.  I have no idea why the children keep growing tomatoes.  I'm the only one in the family that eats them.  We don't use chemical fertilizers or pesticides so I eat them right off the vine(the tomatoes, that is).  

Karate Kid loves things hot and spicy.  She is growing several different types of peppers.  These are Habaneros.  Habaneros have a heat intensity of 300,000 SHU.  I think Karate Kid wants to grow hair on her chest or maybe this is an indicator of what she really thinks of my cooking.

Special K has a completely untamed patch of carrots, tomatoes, 4 o'clocks and Cosmos.  My grandmother would love this combination.

Herbs are my favorite thing to grow.  These are my basil and thyme plants.  Have you ever made your own pesto?  It is absolutely delicious!
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Friday, August 1, 2008


Ok, it isn't always perfect, but there are days when I see my children grow right before my eyes, and they are playing so happily, and enjoying a beautiful day, and they are young and fancy free. I just take a deep breath and sigh with joy.  Isn't motherhood just grand.

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