Saturday, January 31, 2009

Only the Most Important, Most Prestigious Blog Award Ever!

My blogging buddy Dawn conferred this award upon me after reading my hibernation post earlier this week. The enviable Hot Tub Award is the best award I could ever imagine.

I normally don't accept awards on my blog.  My blog is much too isolated and I don't have a ton of blogging buddies to pass awards along to.  This is one award I am very happy to accept and to pass on, especially since there are absolutely no strings attached.  The happy recipients of this award are under no obligation to pass it on.  Just accept it as an act of friendship and general good will on my part.  Sardonic Catholic Dad is the first nominee because he makes me laugh almost every day and as the dad of 12 kids (11 with one in the oven) I can think of no one more worthy of a soak in a hot tub than him, except his saint of a wife, Sam.  Sorry Sam, I can't bestow this one on you due to your "condition" but you could take a nice warm bubble bath instead.  My second nominee is Mom to 5 Minnies.  She's undergoing oral surgery here very soon and she really needs to relax in the "hot tub" before she goes under the knife, so to speak.

Hope you all enjoy a good soak!

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Friday, January 30, 2009

21st Century Weapons

When my brother, sister and I were growing up, circa 1970, one of our favorite games was cowboys and indians.  We have some very cute home movies of my brother wearing his cowboy hat and toting his little six shooter and there I'd be giving orders in the background.  Our parents (read mom) began our childhood as peace-loving flower children and were bound and determined no son of theirs was going to know about or play with toy guns.  They quickly learned that every boy is born knowing about guns, and anything from egg beaters to tinker toys can be turned into a gun.  My brother's favorite gun building media was legos.

Here's a tired cliche: The more things change, the more they stay the same.  True isn't it?  Case in point.  My children have grown up in a 21st Century world and have spent their childhood hours playing out 21st Century battles a la the Star Wars universe.  I don't think our sons have ever seen a six shooter, but everything they have touched has become a light saber. Sticks, pencils, straws, color crayons, and craft sticks have served as their weapon of choice.  This morning Baby Wingnut challenged me to light saber duel with light sabers made of linking cubes.  Watch out universe, here comes Yoda.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Small Successes

I love this idea from Faith and Family Live.  Sometimes we need to give ourselves a high five just for making it through another day.

1. I got up and had coffee with my hubby and even packed a lunch for him.  This is a feat in itself because I am in serious hibernation mode (see post below from earlier today).

2. I folded 4 loads of laundry AND put it all away.  Anyone who lives with the "laundry monster" knows this is no small task.  And yes, I did match and fold Wingnut's socks.  We have temporarily called a truce in the sock wars, although I am still having trouble matching two particular pairs of socks correctly.

3. I tried to say yes to all the little requests my children made today.  I have a horrible habit of almost always saying no first and usually for no good reason.  I don't know why I do that but I am working on it.
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Please Do Not Disturb. Hibernation in Progress.

We have been having the hardest time getting ourselves out of bed in the morning.  Wingnut says it's our circannual  rhythm, or some such thing.  Not only am I sleeping past 8:00 most mornings, but I'm also having difficulty getting up off the couch during the day.  Wingnut can usually find me huddled up under a quilt or down comforter when he gets home.  This, of course, means not much housework is getting done around here and my promise to myself that I would get out and exercise again is not happening.

Thankfully, today is Small Successes Day over at Faith and Family Live.  Hopefully I'll get a little something done today.  I'm sure we'll start to come out of this hibernation as spring approaches, but then "spring forward" will happen and our rhythm will be messed up again.  
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Obligatory Photos of Kids Frolicking in the Snow

Baby Wingnut was beside himself with joy. "I have a snow ball fight!" he declared.

It snowed yesterday.  He is too young to remember snow from last year and I could not wait to send him out in it.  He did not disappoint.  He outlasted Special K and ended up coming in at last because he kept losing his boots.

This was our first real snow of the winter and the children enjoyed the 1.5 inches as much as they were able.  Today it is a complete ice rink.  I honestly think one could truly skate in our cul de sac.

The best aspect of having ice and snow here in DC is all the children's activities will be cancelled for today.  I love being snowed in and not having to chauffeur everyone around. I'm going to make a huge pot of white bean soup and homemade bread!

As soon as I opened the door, these two took off running.
Skoshi A with Baby Wingnut enjoying our pathetic little patch of snow.
Now this is truly sad.  OJ is building a snow fort.  That would be the little mound of snow she is so lovingly patting down.  Very rarely does DC get a good fort building snow.

This would be our skating rink.  Yes the tire marks are from Wingnut's car.  He had to leave bright and early this morning to defend our freedoms.  Thank you Wingnut!  I said a little prayer for you this morning as you headed out on these treacherous roads.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Passive-Aggressive Much?

Domestic Engineering can be a pretty thankless job.  Just ask any homemaker.  It can be particularly thankless when the family is running around getting ready for Mass and the devoted wife hears her loving husband grumbling over a pair of socks.  

He asks, "Who folds these sock?"

Dutiful wife answers, "Why, I do."

"You'd think you'd notice they are two different colors and are two completely different socks," he complains.

"Oh yeah?" 

Adoring wife then decides she will show him.  She doesn't fold his socks for a week.  He'll thank her next time for the mismatched socks.

Funny, this strategy comes back to bite her in the . . .  Every morning, for a week, thankless husband turns the bedroom light on at 6:00 a.m. to dig through his drawers and the laundry basket, looking for his socks.  Vengeful wife is usually still sleeping at 6:00 a.m.

Revenge is not so sweet, after all.
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Monday, January 26, 2009

Are We Having Fun Yet?

One of the many reasons one might have for deciding to homeschool is the tacit rejection of the established educational system. Children are bogged down with text books and testing schedules. Rote memorization is the order of the day. Fostering the love of knowledge and life long learning very often does not take place. So what does a home school mom do when she suddenly realizes her homeschool looks, feels and acts just like this pariah she was trying to avoid in the first place? The home learning environment gets an extreme make-over!

I didn't begin homeschooling using textbooks.  We used to sit together and read from multiple resources and then work on experiments and extension activities where the children's learning was almost completely experiential and fun. But over time we have gradually moved away from learning outside the box to becoming trapped inside the box. Active and needy toddlers and the fear I was not giving my children the education they needed to get into college were part of the reason I turned to textbooks and packaged curriculum.  As time has gone on we have had more and more difficulty getting our son interested in anything related to school.

Homeschooling was supposed to be fun and he was supposed to love learning but it has become a chore for him and his poor homeschool mom. I was beginning to consider other options for schooling our teenage boy when providence led us to two resources that helped us discover what we might do to remedy our son's lack of interest in anything resembling a useful education. The first resource is an excellent interview with a Legionary of Christ priest that I came across on Zenit and then later in the week my blogging buddy Sam sent it to me (divine providence, anyone?). You can read "7 Things Teenage Boys Most Need" here.  I first saw the second resource on Faith and Family Live.  Boys Adrift is authored by renowned pediatrician and psychologist Leonard Sax, who also wrote Why Gender Matters.  Among the five categories leading to lack of motivation in boys, his book gives some very compelling arguments against conventional public and private education.  While I don't agree with all of Doctor Sax's conclusions and solutions (he does come from a heavily secular/humanist point of view) I was able to draw some conclusions of my own that will help me change the way I have been homeschooling our son.

Last week I revamped how we homeschool several of our subjects.  First of all, Stat Boy is not a writer, yet.  I've tried several different programs trying to get him to write with little or no success.  His assignment last week was to write about the up-coming Super Bowl and to make predictions about which team might win.  My sports crazed son wrote six very long paragraphs without a single sneer.  I couldn't believe it!  

We also changed our approach to science.  I've been using the fantastic Concepts and Challenges texts.  I have to confess the reason I chose this series was the fact that most lessons included experiments and extension activities I thought my kids would enjoy.  We have NEVER done a single one in the two years I've used the texts.  I have just assigned the reading and had them complete the comprehension questions.  Boring!  Last week I looked over the last 10 lessons and culled 5 experiments we could do.  We had a "lab" week.  At first our son seemed disinterested but after a few minutes I could see a spark.  By the end he was thinking for himself and coming up with ways the experiments could be expanded.  I actually heard him say, "I wonder what would happen if . . ."  I was floored!

What I'm trying to express in this very long post is, if it isn't working look at it another way. Look at your children another way.  You do not have to lock yourself into a failing curriculum or program.  Constantly reevaluate your homeschool and make sure what you have is what you had planned and prayed for your homeschool to be. 

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Welcome to the World of Manly Men

We had a beautiful day yesterday.  The sun was out the temperature was a balmy 53 degrees and I shoved the kids out the door to get some much needed vitamin D.  Wingnut was home for the day and decided it would be a good day to get out the paint ball markers (yes, markers, not paint ball guns, I'm not sure why, but don't call them guns).  After hunting down our two oldest in the woods adjoining our house, Wingnut thought it was high time Baby Wingnut joined the world of paint ball goodness.  Baby Wingnut could not wait to get his little mitts on one of those markers. He sat astraddle his dad and popped off a few hundred rounds into the woods.  He took it very seriously, so seriously that Wingnut wasn't sure if his little guy really enjoyed himself.  That concern was put to rest when Baby Wingnut came marching up to me all manly like and declared, "That was fun!"

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Friday, January 23, 2009

A Reminder to Think and Be Positive

I came across this on Danielle Bean's site several weeks ago.  I like the way this homeschooling mom thinks ;-)

Five hidden benefits of homeschooling
1. Fewer clothes. We save a lot of money on clothes and shoes. The children would need more of both if they were in school. After all, no one says, "Didn't you wear that outfit on Monday?" And we need not be slaves to fashion: The kids wear what looks right and fits well; fads be durned.

2. Health. The children have been (*knock on wood*) exceptionally healthy, and I attribute that to the time they don't spend in classrooms or school buildings.

3. No artificial peer group. The kids have spent their time with people from a much wider circle (age, socio-economic, ethnic, etc.) than one finds in a typical classroom of same-age, same-town peers (and even in a typical homeschool support group or co-op, really). This has enriched their souls and informed their confident communication style.

4. No time-wasters. No pointless assignments. No busy work. No fundraisers. No assemblies. No mismanaged field trips. No parent-teacher conferences. No P.T.A. meetings. No study halls. No waiting for the others to catch up. No testing. Homeschooling, at least in our experience, makes the most of each minute, even when that minute is spent simply staring at the birds on the feeder or poking around the mind's (lavishly furnished) rooms.

5. Emphasis on family. Homeschoolers do not have a corner on strong families, but, for us, the family-centered learning project has, in fact, built this family from bricks and concrete. Each of us feels a sense of centeredness and, yes, strength because of our relationship. I'm not sure how we would have done this, in fact, I'm not sure if we would have done it quite so easily were it not for homeschooling. Print Friendly and PDF

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Small Successes February 22, 2009

In honor of us everyday moms from Faith and Family Live:

1.  I drove my two oldest to a local parish so they could catch a bus to the March for Life.

2.  I rolled out and then cut out store bought cookie dough so my remaining children and a friend could frost and decorate sugar cookies, just for the fun of it.

3.  I was able to sneak away to my favorite prayer spot and say a Chaplet for those marching today.
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Praying for a Miracle

The president of the March for Life wrote a stirring letter to President Obama inviting him to speak at the March today.  Hope springs eternal!

Meanwhile, lets lift up those participating in the March today in prayer.  My two oldest are leaving for the bus in just a couple hours to make the annual trip. 

*The above photo is of Wingnut and Skoshi A at our first March for Life in 2002.
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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Let Them Paint

I, like many home school moms, can attest to the fact that home schooling while having a toddler in the mix can be among the biggest challenges for a home school family.  It helps to have a plan. Just as we might write lesson plans for our school aged children, toddlers need a lesson plan.  I do admit that I do not do this in any formal way.  It might actually help if I did, but I don't.  I do keep a box of manipulatives and small activities for Baby Wingnut in our hall closet that are only used during school.  He actually wants to sit at the kitchen table with me in the mornings as I teach Special K. He has stickers, flash cards, sewing cards, colored chips to sort, a dry erase board to draw on, and he also loves to count pennies.  If I can manage to keep him quietly occupied for the 45 minutes it takes to work with Special K every day, it is a successful day.  As he grows older we have more successful days than frustrating days.

This morning, Stat Boy set Baby Wingnut up with a sheet of butcher paper, a box of gel paints, and covered him rather well with an apron.  Today was a successful home school day.

*Don't you just love his little tongue sticking out with such concentration and determination? Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, January 19, 2009

Kids Get to Have All the Fun

Our house backs up to a narrow patch of woods.  Our children have enjoyed exploring in the woods from the time we first moved here.  Usually they spend their time exploring the creek they discovered in the woods and so we get regular updates on the conditions of the creek.  For a time the creek was swollen with flood waters from all the rain we'd been getting.  Now, much to their joy, the creek is frozen solid.  I'm thrilled, that even while in this deep chill, our children are getting much needed fresh air and exercise.  They are just thrilled to be able to slide around on a patch of ice. Print Friendly and PDF

Saturday, January 17, 2009

He was the Right Man for the Job

No matter what we may think of President Bush, I am proud to say I voted for him twice and I'd probably do it again.  That is not to say I agreed with every decision he made, but at least he made decisions based on strong, honest, conviction.  As an Air Force wife I am thankful for the leadership President Bush gave.  He served our country with strength and integrity when we needed that kind of leadership most.  May history reflect kindly and honestly on his presidency and may God bless George W. Bush and his family in the years to come.

As often the case, seasoned, professional writers often give better voice to my own thoughts and feelings than I can give proper justice.  The following commentary was printed in the Archdiocese of Washington Catholic Standard.  It was written by noted author George Weigel.

Why We Should Thank George W. Bush
Published: January 15, 2009

The following is best appreciated if read aloud in the best Irish accent you can manage:

Paddy, the local scoundrel, was dead. The entire population of the village where he spent a lifetime making others miserable attended the funeral Mass—some, doubtless, to make sure he was really gone. Knowing the congregation’s sentiments, the wise old pastor said to his people, before the final commendation, “Now, dear brother and sisters, before we commit our brother to the sod, it would be an act of charity if one of you were to come forward and say a good word about ‘im.” No one moved. “Come, now, brothers and sisters,” the pastor pleaded, “surely there’s someone who can say a good word for the man.” Total silence. “My dear people, I’ll be tellin’ the sacristan to lock the door in a minute, and not a one of you’s goin’ to leave this church until someone comes forward to say a good word for this departed brother.” Finally, an ancient villager got up, shuffled to the side of the casket, turned his back to the pastor, and said in a clear voice, “I think his brother was even worse. ”

As he leaves office, George W. Bush could be forgiven for feeling like Paddy, were he a man given to self-pity. Happily, he isn’t. And it’s emphatically not in the spirit of, “Well, James J. Buchanan and Herbert Hoover were even worse” that I should like to praise President Bush at the end of his two terms. For what, you ask? For many things that ought to count for Catholics.

I should like to praise him for his steadfast support of the pro-life cause, domestically and internationally. Thanks to President Bush, we have two more Supreme Court justices who likely know that Roe v. Wade was terrible constitutional judging, and dozens more federal district court and appellate court judges with similar convictions. Thanks to President Bush, the U.S. government drew an important moral line in stem cell research, even as the administration accelerated bioethically sound research strategies that have produced real results. Internationally, the Bush administration stood firm against the Gadarene rush to use international law to declare abortion an international human right and a necessary component of the emancipation of women; as one senior Vatican official put it to me, a year ago, “We know we’re never going to have another American administration as supportive of our core issues as the Bush administration has been.”

I should like to praise the president for his work to rid Africa of the plagues of AIDS and malari a and to relieve the suffering of those afflicted with those awful diseases. George W. Bush may be an object of ridicule in certain U.S. zip codes; he is the subject of veneration among those in the “bottom billion” whose lives his policies have saved or enhanced.

I should like to thank the president for offering Pope Benedict XVI such a warm welcome on the South Lawn of the White House on April 15, 2008—a welcome that ought to have put paid, once and for all, to the notion that there is something incompatible between robust Catholic faith and a mature gratitude for the political miracle of American democracy.

I should like to thank President Bush for his personal decency, manifest in his (unpublicized) personal attention to our wounded and to the families of the fallen; in his refusal to become bitter in the face of outrageous slander; and in his calm amidst tribulations that most of us can’t imagine. I should like to thank him for his unapologetic confession of Christian faith, and for his testimony to the importance that prayer plays in his life. And I should like to thank him for not giving a hoot about the mockery that such a witness draws from a secularized mass media, from American high culture, and from Euro-secularist snobs who spent eight years sneering at the evangelical cowboy in the White House while their continent was dying from spiritual boredom.

Thank you, Mr. President.
George Weigel is distinguished senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. Print Friendly and PDF

Friday, January 16, 2009

Food Network Junkie

Have I mentioned I love cooking?  I also love cooking shows.  One of these days it would be awesome to attend a culinary school, but that will have to wait until we are empty nesters, and hopefully that won't be anytime soon ;-) Anyhoo, we have discovered a cooking show on Food Network that can honestly be called "educational".  It has everything a homeschool mom could want: math (measurements), science (chemistry, animal anatomy, food chemistry), history (the show has a food anthropologist regularly featured), health (food safety), and language (especially etymology).  To top it off, it is quirky, funny, creative, and smart.  My two teens have become faithful watchers and have yet to realize the show is educational (wink-wink) .  The show is called "Good Eats" and is hosted by Alton Brown, who also narrates/hosts the very cool "Iron Chef America" on Food Network.  So far every episode we have watched has been kid friendly and incredibly informative. Bon appetite! Print Friendly and PDF

Thursday, January 15, 2009

You Have a New Friend Request from Jesus?

I began to Facebook a couple of months ago.  Originally I was checking it out to see if I would allow our oldest teen to keep a page and then I began using it to keep in closer touch with my brother, sister and dad.  They all live on the West Coast and are busy with their families, very much like Wingnut and I.  Phone calls don't always work out with the time difference and our schedules, but we keep each other up to date almost daily on Facebook.

I recently saw a sidebar bit on Danielle Bean's webpage that talked about Jesus having a Facebook page.  Sure enough, he does.  If you Facebook, you know you can request to have friends add you to their page.  Jesus' face was there, beckoning me to send a friend request, but I hesitated.  I then began to contemplate, "Why did I hesitate to ask Jesus to be my friend?" And here it is, confession time.  I was ashamed to let Jesus see my Facebook page.  Before you start to freak out and wonder what I have on my page, don't.  It's nothing earth shattering, but I very often post my daily frustrations on my page, especially my daily frustrations with my children.  

As I've posted before, I try very hard to remain positive and uplifting on my blog.  I let my children read my blog and so I do keep my posts fairly uplifting and attempt to set a good example with my daily journal writing.  Occasionally I may go on a rant, but for the most part I post funny, helpful and hopefully inspiring stories on my blog.  

I do not, as a general rule, allow my children read my Facebook page.  I began to think of it as my private space, where I could vent and gripe.  I didn't want them reading about that.  In turn, I didn't want Jesus to read that.  Trust me, I know Jesus knows every thought and feeling I have.  It just really gave me pause to philosophically acknowledge that he knows what I am writing on my Facebook page and that possibly he would not approve.  So, without further eloquence, and with the strong conviction that I should write nothing I could be ashamed of,  I am asking Jesus to be my Facebook friend.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart find favor before you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

-Psalm 19:15 (Confraternity Text of the Catholic Action Edition; 1953)
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Phone Hog

Wingnut called to let us know he was on his way home.  Baby Wingnut pushed his chair up to the phone so I thought I'd let him answer it.  I successfully coached him to say, "Hello."  

He then took wing on his own and asked, "Who are you?"  

His eyes lit up as he squealed with glee, "It's daddy!"

He then promptly took off with the phone.  Of course, daddy must have called just to talk to him.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Let Kids be Kids

I managed to sneak upstairs, alone to say a few afternoon prayers.  The peace and quiet did not last long.  There was a huge ruckus on the main floor.  Our three youngest were running the circuit, beginning in the entryway and going through the kitchen, dining room, living room and into the entry again.  As they ran, chasing each other, they whooped, hollered, and screamed bloody murder.  They also laughed hysterically.  Every few minutes they would stop, breathless from galloping and laughing, only to catch a second wind and begin again.  I kept waiting to hear one of them run into a sharp corner or countertop.  I knew I should stop them, but I couldn't bear to end their enjoyment of each other.  I should have stopped them, but it is rare, indeed, to take pleasure in that magnitude of decibels.  Print Friendly and PDF

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sometimes it Takes a Man to Get it Done Right.

Clearing toilet clogs has been part of my job description for the last 15 years.  In fact every job involving poo has been my job 99.99% of the time.  I'm not complaining (although I very often do).  I mean, after all, I'm the one here 99.99% of the time.

The children let me know their toilet needed attention last night as they headed to bed.   I have no idea how they do it, but 100% of the time it is their toilet that needs a good plunge.  The bugger would not clear.  I plunged and plunged but whatever was plugging the darn thing would not budge, and then I made a colossal mistake and flushed again.  Toilet water flowed profusely over the bowl and covered the floor and I began to cry.  Wingnut came up for a peek and told me to leave the toilet alone.  The disaster was mopped up with old towels and then disinfected with bleach before we could turn our attention again to the backup.  Convinced the blockage would not be cleared by the plunger, I entreated Wingnut to use the plumbers auger.  It was a mess, a ridiculous mess, but at least we were finally laughing about it.  Without going into the dirty details, let me tell you my hands are cracked and sore from washing my hands in scalding water and anti-bacterial soap repeatedly.  The auger didn't turn up a thing, so Wingnut gave it a try with the plunger, and of course he was able to clear it with a few well placed and timed plunges. He then gave me a lesson in plunging 101, complete with a video from eHow.  Did you know there is a correct way to clear a clog?  Who knew? 

Anyway, I have banned white anything from the kids diets and they are all on a strict diet of fruits, veggies, and whole grains. I am dead serious.
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Monday, January 12, 2009

Sunday Dinner

I love cooking shows, cooking magazines, cooking catalogs, cooking gadgets, and cooking in general. I have truly only one dream that is all my own.  I dream of a custom kitchen with double ovens, gas burners, indoor grill, built in refrigerator and dishwasher and tons of counter and cupboard space to hold all the cookware and gadgets Wingnut has gifted me with over the years. A girl can dream, can't she?

My new Williams-Sonoma catalogue arrived in the mail on Friday and it featured this beautiful provencal pork roast on the cover.  I decided I needed to try this recipe and let me tell you it was fantastic.  I served it up with fresh chopped brussel sprouts sauted with minced garlic and freshly chopped parsley.  Karate Kid said it reminded her of a holiday dinner. It was that good. If I were to make it again, I'd increase the leeks and the pears.  They were absolutely delicious. This dinner, as written, fed 9 of us (we had a dinner guest) with plenty of left over roast for sandwiches tomorrow.

*The photo at the top is from the Williams-Sonoma catalogue.  The photo at the bottom is my actual plated dish.  I know it's not Bobby Flay, but just look at that beautifully caramelized pear and those bright green brussel sprouts! Print Friendly and PDF

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Rancid Butter?

I thought I had made it quite clear and understandable to Baby Wingnut earlier in the week.  You have to have butter on your toast if you want the cinnamon and sugar to stick.  I very calmly and clearly explained this to him and he happily acquiesced.  Our agreement quickly fell apart this morning with Baby Wingnut loudly declaring there was to be no butter on his toast.  I asked his older brother to spread some on, on the sly, but Baby Wingnut is way too observant.  He fell in a heap on the kitchen floor and wailed, "No stinking butter on my toast!" Print Friendly and PDF

Friday, January 9, 2009

This Kid has Got it Made

I left Baby Wingnut sleeping peacefully in my bed this morning.  As I was enjoying my morning mocha and the other children were working on their breakfasts, we heard the familiar howling that is Baby Wingnut stirring from hibernation.  I didn't even have to move or ask, three girls raced each other to the stairs to go rescue the baby.  Boy, he's got it made!  I wonder how much attention I might get if I began howling like a wolverine.  Print Friendly and PDF

Thursday, January 8, 2009

May He Rest in Peace

American Catholics lost a giant today in Father Richard Neuhaus.  He had been a favorite convert, priest, author, and commentator of ours for several years.  Wingnut subscribes to First Things which was headed by Father Neuhaus as founder and Editor in Chief. The articles are typically too heady for me, but I could always read and enjoy Father Neuhaus' regular contributions in the While We're At It section of the periodical.  He was incredibly intelligent, well-read, and witty.  I will never forget his beautifully sincere reaction to the election of Pope Benedict in 2005.   I watched Father's reaction live on EWTN during the ongoing Papal conclave commentary co-hosted by him and EWTN newsman, Raymond Arroyo. His approval and excitement were so completely evident, and it was charmingly obvious he could barely contain his glee.

While he will be sadly and sorely missed, we are happy for his release from the sufferings of this world.  Eternal rest grant unto him, and let perpetual light shine upon him.  May the soul of Father Richard John Neuhaus rest in peace. Amen.
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She Wears Her Veggies, Too.

Special K has been making birthday plans.  Her special day isn't until May and we have a rule around here that you cannot discuss your birthday until it is your turn to have a birthday.  It's a long story, but trust me, we had to make that rule.  Like I said, we normally have a rule about not making birthday plans until your birthday is the next one on the calendar, but Special K is actually so cute and guileless about it, that I normally just let her chat away.  Her plan is for a little luau and she has her outfit picked out and ready to go.  She was describing the cute hawaiian print shorts she could wear beneath her hula skirt (we're all about modesty around here).  

She then said, "I tried on the shorts with my zucchini top and it was really cute." 

"Zucchini top?" She had my attention, now.

"Oh, I can't remember the name for it." She giggled.

I believe she meant TANKINI top.
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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Boys, Boys, Boys

Any mother of both boys and girls can tell you they are breeds apart. We have had a "girl" house, for the last 12 years or so, much to the chagrin of our eldest son.  Two and a half years ago we were blessed with another son.  He is such a different creature than his sisters. Baby Wingnut is all about kicking, punching, and destruction of every kind.  Stat Boy wasn't like this at all.  I can't explain why Stat Boy was so much more docile as a toddler, but I don't recall that he ever hit, kicked, or bit one of his sisters.  Baby Wingnut, on the other hand, beats on them regularly.  It's never mean or malicious, it is all in fun.  Fun for him, that is.  He will readily admit his transgressions when his sisters tattle on him, and will very readily apologize and give hugs and kisses.  I think he absolutely needs to punch, growl, kick and act like a boy.

Let me explain why I believe the above statement.  We have several friends with "boy" families: boys born in rapid succession to each other without girls in between.  I've had time to observe these sets of brothers and this is what I've discovered.  Boys need to be touching each other at all times. Affectionate caresses will just not do.  They need to roll around on the ground like bear cubs. They need to ruffle each other's hair.  They need to poke, bump, jostle, and push on each other nearly constantly.  While they are doing this, they are almost always smiling and laughing or at least have that mischievous twinkle in their eyes.  This is how brothers express their love and devotion to each other.  This is how they communicate with other boys.  I believe this is how they NEED to communicate with other boys.  It really is fascinating to watch.

I'm almost envious of those families that have brothers so close in age.  I know Stat Boy was so thankful to finally get the brother he had always prayed for, I just wish it could have been sooner.  God's will be done.  Someday, I hope my two bear cubs are just as thankful for having sisters.
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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Comfort Food

I  believe I've posted it before; I love to cook and I love good food.  It's a gray, rainy day here and that makes me crave comfort food.  You know the kind of food that is hot off the stove or out of the oven and warms you through and through.  In our family, comfort food is usually eaten with a spoon and is full of filling ingredients and a dash of love.  In honor of comfort food I'm posting a couple of our family's favorite meals for cold, gray, rainy days.

Ham and White Bean Soup

1 pound dried navy beans (or any white bean)
1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
1 pound ham pieces cut into bite sized pieces
8 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
3 carrots( shredded, chopped or diced)
3 stalks of celery (sliced, chopped or diced)
one onion (diced)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 teaspoon dried thyme

In a large pot, soak beans covered in water overnight. Drain and rinse beans and set aside. In dutch oven or heavy pot heat oil over medium high heat. Add onions and saute 5 minutes until they are just translucent. Add carrots and celery and saute another 5 minutes until they are softened. Add thyme and garlic, saute about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add beans and toss just to coat with veggies before adding chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Cover and let cook about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Test beans for doneness and then add ham. Increase heat for several minutes and heat ham through. Add salt and pepper to taste. This makes about 16 servings. Our family of 8 will often go for seconds and still have enough for lunch the next day.

You can also make this in a crockpot. Just do all steps through adding broth and water and cook on low to medium low all day. About 20 minutes before serving dinner add the ham so that it will be heated through.

Chili Con Carne

Two packages of stew meat (it is usually sold in cubes for stew or chili along side other cuts of beef)
3 to 4 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion diced
3 cloves garlic minced
4 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes (you can use crushed tomatoes or petite diced tomatoes too)
2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce minced (optional, but gives the chili a little heat and nice smokiness)
8 to 10 cups water
Juice of 1/2 lime
2 cans black beans drained and rinsed

Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium high heat. Add 1/4 of the meat and brown on all sides ( this should take about 5 minutes) remove with a slotted spoon. Add another 1/4 of the meat and repeat process, adding oil as needed until all meat is browned. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to now empty pot. Add onion and saute until soft and browned 8 to 10 minutes. In a small bowl put garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Stir in 1/4 cup of water to make a chili paste. Add to onion still in pot and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomato paste and saute with spices until fragrant and tomato paste begins to darken, about 2 or 3 minutes. Re-add browned meat and toss to coat with onion and spices. Add tomatoes, water and lime juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook on low for 2 hours. Drain and rinse beans and add to chili. Stir until heated through. Our chili recipe is more on the soupy side. If your family prefers a thicker texture you can thicken by stirring in a slurry made from 2 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons of water. Garnish with lime wedges, chopped cilantro leaves, shredded cheese, sour cream, diced red onion, sliced jalapenos, tabasco, etc. Serve with Frito's Scoops or homemade cornbread. This will make 14-16 servings. Once again our family will often go for seconds at dinner and there will still be enough left over for a couple folks to have for lunch the next day. Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, January 5, 2009

He's Been a Bad Boy

For a two-year-old, Baby Wingnut has been a relatively easy child.  There could be a few reasons for this: he's the youngest of 6 and has plenty of folks paying attention to him and taking care of his every need; he is just easy going by nature; Wingnut and I are just better parents as time goes on and are therefore more easy going; Baby Wingnut is extremely intelligent and it doesn't take much at all to get him to understand what is being asked of him. As a result, Baby Wingnut spends very little time here. . . 

His dinosaur, on the other hand, spends countless hours in this position. . .
According to Baby Wingnut, he(the dinosaur) has been a bad boy.  Evidently he bit Karate Kid. 
I just don't know what we are going to do with him!
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Sunday, January 4, 2009

The 12th Day of Christmas

Mass readings for January 4, 2009.

Today marks the Church's Feast of the Epiphany.  The word Epiphany means manifestation or revealing, usually indicating a sudden revelation or understanding. Epiphany is usually celebrated on the 12th day of Christmas, but here in the United States the feast is commuted to the nearest Sunday and can be celebrated anytime between January 2 and January 8.  For the best detailed information regarding Epiphany check out this article at New Advent.

One of the many traditions associated with this feast day that our family enjoys is the Epiphany Blessing of the front door of the house.  Along with the following form of prayers the father of the family inscribes +20 C+M+B 09+ on the lintel of the door using blessed chalk (you may have to ask your local priest to bless a piece of chalk for you.  You can find the form for the blessing here).  The letters have a dual meaning.  One represents the traditional names for the three wise kings: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthassar.  The second represents the latin: Christus mansionem benedicat or May Christ Bless the house. The numbers on either end represent the year.

Here is the form for the blessing as handed out at our parish.  You can find other forms online as well.

All gather at the principal door of the home.  The father of the family, or in his absence, the mother leads the family in the following prayers.

Leader:  In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
All: Amen.

Leader:  O Lord, hear our prayer.
All:   And let our cry come unto you.

Leader:  Let us pray.
Father, you revealed Your Son to the nations by the guidance of a star.  Lead us to your glory in heaven by the light of faith.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.
All: Amen.

The father says the following:

Through the intercession of the Three Holy Wise Men, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthassar, may almighty God watch over this house and all who dwell in it, throughout the year 2009.

He then makes the inscription: +20 C+M+B 09+ on the lintel above the door with the blessed chalk.

Leader:  Let us pray in the words our Savior taught us.
All: Our Father. . . 

Leader:  May almighty God bless us, defend our home from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life.
All: Amen.

(The inscription may be repeated over other doors in the home if desired)
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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Christmas Pictures Part 2

Karate Kid was thrilled with her Christmas gift, a full set of sparring gear.  Watch out Stat Boy, she's ready to take you out!
Every year we have two of our favorite families over for what the kids affectionately call the Machenias Party.  Machenias is a combination of our families' names.  Baby Wingnut did a terrific job sharing his trains with Benja.  I had to snap this cute photo of the two of them carrying on an in-depth conversations through their trains.
At one point the two-year-olds decided to have a screaming match.  The two of them were inches from each other seeing who could scream the loudest.  Of course, once the camera came out, one of them decided he'd had enough.  Benja's dad gave it a try with Baby Wingnut.  Benja seems to be thoroughly enjoying the match.
On New Years Eve, we took a quick trip to the National Shrine for confession.  The best way to start out a New Year is with a clean soul.  The Shrine was decked out for Christmas so I had to take a couple shots leading to the altar.
After the Shrine we headed over to Mount Vernon.  It was very cold and blustery but well worth the trip.  Mount Vernon has many special exhibits and traditions every Christmas that we tried to take advantage of.  I forgot to get pictures outside of the mansion, probably due to the cold, but I did get a shot of the gorgeous gingerbread replica of Mount Vernon, created by White House Executive Pastry Chef Roland Mesnier.
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Christmas Photos

Photos from Christmas 2008.

Wingnut and I were able to head out to a work Christmas Party this year.  Thank you Betty Beguiles for leading me to Shabby Apple for my very cute and modest party dress.  I loved it and felt incredibly pretty for the party.

Every year we make a family favorite passed down through my Norwegian side of the family. This is lefse, a scandinavian flat bread made from riced potatoes, flour, a little cream, sugar and salt and then rolled into see through rounds and cooked on a round electric skillet, or lefse baker.  We usually serve this with a very slow cooked and tender pork roast, butter, cinnamon and sugar, or honey.  OJ got the award for thinnest rolled lefse, this year.
Karate Kid got the award for roundest lefse.
JP just wanted to roll and eat his own lefse.  He's not picky about looks, but he did a fine job.
This was the first time Special K rolled her lefse all on her own.
Skoshi A was the first in the kitchen and could not wait to roll her own lefse.
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Friday, January 2, 2009

The Star of Bethlehem

Wingnut and I watched part of an intriguing show on EWTN last week called The Star of Bethlehem.  While visiting the National Shrine on Wednesday, I happened to find the DVD of this program and bought it.  We watched it in its entirety last evening, and it was, indeed, very compelling.

I'm sure most of us have been to planetarium shows and have seen their Christmas programs about the Star, but those are shown through the eyes of secular, although professional, astronomers.  The creator of this particular program is not an astronomer, but an inquisitive, Christian lawyer, who has learned a lot about astronomy and ancient history on his search for the Star of the Messiah.  His presentation is given through the eyes of a believer searching for the historical truths regarding the Messiah. As a bonus, the program includes some stunning astronomical information on the day of Christ's crucifixion. He does a fine job of describing his quest and lays out his findings in a thorough, interesting, and easily understandable manner. He draws extensively from scripture, ancient historical texts, and modern tools available to astronomers.

Our family enjoyed the DVD and will most likely make it a part of our Christmas and Epiphany tradition.  As far as understanding the science and meaning of the findings, I can recommend this video for junior high students and up, but our 9 year old was able to understand quite a bit as well.  You might check programming schedules on EWTN to see if they might offer the program through Epiphany.  There is also a website, run by the creator of the program, where there is more amazing information and the DVD is available for purchase.  
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