Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Best Worst Time

Last Tuesday we opened our home to our dear friends, who happen to be Lil' Wingnut's godparents, and their six children. After more than a year, they had finally sold their beautiful, but crowded townhouse and had bought a roomy house with land down the road. Tuesday was to be closing and moving day. They had done their part and were ready and willing to close with their buyer, which went off without a hitch, but when it came down to closing on their new property someone along the line had dropped the ball and had not done the work they had been expected to do. The new house should not have even been on the market, having an outstanding deed for two years worth of back taxes. The title agency should have known this and should have made sure the deed was paid prior to the agreed upon closing date. The mortgage company should have known this and should have insisted the deed was paid weeks ago. The county should have known this and should have pressed harder for the money they were owed months ago. Without a free and clear title, our friends could not buy their home. They were literally homeless. Not to worry, they were more than welcome to stay with us longer than the originally planned two days. Certainly this would be cleared up before the approaching weekend. It was not.

Another storm was brewing and threatening the weekend. Irene could not have planned her timing more poorly. Our two families took stock, shopped, made somewhat haphazard plans, and battened down the hatches.

The Godparents' youngest had his first birthday. Blew out his single candle on his lovingly baked birthday cupcake just before Irene took out the power. Irene raged throughout the night and left very little damage, save for the loss of power. We all settled in with candles and flashlights for what we hoped would be just a day or two without electricity.

Life without electricity was certainly liveable. We managed to conserve the hot water for a handful of very quick lukewarm showers for the adults while the children waxed poetic about their love for icy bathing. We had lovely cold milk for our morning cereal, thanks to frozen jugs of water placed strategically throughout the refrigerators that kept the interiors chilled. The children rediscovered imaginative play and the glory of the great outdoors, unfettered by video stimulation. We grilled kingly meals upon our Green Egg. We prayed our nightly rosary in candlelight and we felt blessed indeed.

Sunday, no power, no problem. Monday, no power, and I began to worry about losing the organic grass fed beef and the free range chicken I had just stocked our freezers with in the last couple weeks. Monday afternoon Wingnut managed to get his hands on a generator and we powered up our fridges, the espresso maker, and a couple lamps. Wednesday, no power, and while the children still claimed to love their icy showers, I just could not do it. Dear friends, blessed with abundant electricity, allowed us hot water and laundry facilities. Wednesday night, just before our rosary, the power returned. We were radiant with thanks, and yet, as the children voiced their evening prayer intentions they remembered those in our parish and hometown that were still without power.

Returning to the plight of our homeless friends, they are still here, a week and a day later. Fannie Mae has left them dangling with no time line other than promising a September 6th closing date. One agent expressed rudely in an email, "Mr. Buyer should just go back to work. We have nothing new for him." Recently there has been some movement on the payment of the back taxes and our friends are currently awaiting their "go-ahead" call that should come at any moment.

Despite it all, the children continue to have a glorious time together and we adults have relished our quiet evening conversations. Knowing that they are homeless and should be miserable with worry, one of their children declared, "Mommy, this is the best worst time I've ever had." We all feel the same way.
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Thursday, August 25, 2011

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} Abbreviated

round button chicken

{Pretty Happy}
Our very pretty 11 year old turned 12 last week. Oh, happy day!

{Really Funny}

This is my dining room during the yearly great homeschool book exchange. Out with the old and in with the new, plus tons of reorganizing of bins. I'm happy to say it is all finished with the exception of returning the bins to their storage spot in the basement. I think we are ready for school.
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Plan 2011/2012

And so another school year is upon us. I love reading what other folks use for homeschooling. I am assuming other homeschoolers are interested in what we use, right?

This year we are down two students--one off to college and the other off to a private convent school--and we are adding one more. I can't believe Lil' Wingnut is ready for school! Actually he should be pretty easy seeing as he is already reading at a 3rd grade level. The challenge will be to keep him interested and on task.

Unusual or newer curriculum are linked so that you might peruse them. Hopefully as the year progresses, I will post on our progress and satisfaction with our plan.

Lil' Wingnut: Kindergarten/1st grade

Math: Saxon 1 (Saxon works and so we have stuck with it throughout our homeschooling career)

Reading/Language Arts: Explode the Code 3, 31/2 and 4; What Do You Like to Do?; Getty-Dubay Handwriting A; Faith and Freedom Readers 2-2, 3-1 and 3-2

History: Medieval and Renaissance Europe alongside his older sisters; we use a literature and chronological approach and so will use all sorts of sources including appropriate titles from Learning Through History Magazine.

Science/Health: Behold and See 4; Lil' Wingnut and Special K have developed a keen interest in the human body so we are going to capitalize on that!

Music: Instruments and Composers; I will be using the San Francisco Symphony's website as well as Carnival of the Animals and Peter and the Wolf audio recordings

Religion: Saint of the Day, daily prayers, and our wonderful parish CCD program

Special K (4th grade)

Math: Saxon 5/4

Language Arts: Seton English 4; Spelling Power; Getty-Dubay Handwriting E; Vocabulary from Classical Roots 4; Historical fiction and fairytales; Favorite Poetry Lessons; 50 Writing Lessons that Work

History: Medieval and Renaissance Europe; Maps Charts and Graphs E

Science: Behold and See 4; Human Anatomy and Health

Music: Private piano lessons

Art: Teach Me to Draw DVD series

Religion: Saint of the Day, Magnifikid, Seton Religion 4 and CCD

Skoshi A (7th grade)

Math: Algebra 1/2

Language Arts: Seton English 7; Hewitt Lightening Lit and Comp 7; Spelling Power; WriteShop; Vocabulary from Classical Roots A; Historical fiction; typing/keyboarding using Mavis Beacon

Science/Health: The Universe in My Hands (this is a new science curriculum for us, but I thought it was a perfect fit for Skoshi A)

Music: Private piano lessons

Religion: Saint of the Day; Magnifikid; Seton Religion 7; CCD
Lil' Lamb is needing my attention making it necessary for me to save our high school plan for JayP for a future post.
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Monday, August 22, 2011

Letting Her Go

A little more than a year ago, Oleander came to us and asked if we would allow her to enter a new school that was going to open in Pennsylvania. This particular school is an Aspirancy school run by the Sister Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of MatarĂ¡, the female arm of the IVE (Institute of the Incarnate Word). We told our thirteen year old we would not even consider sending her away to school.

Several months later she again came to us, armed with information about the school, and asked us if we would let her go. Wingnut told her that if she really wanted to go, she would have to make it happen. Knowing our girl was fairly shy and reserved, we thought putting the burden of entry on her would be the end of the Aspirancy. Embarrassingly, we completely underestimated the strength of will in her. Before we knew it, she had contacted the Mother Superior asking for information for an application. The school, being not yet opened, was not quite prepared to send out an application, but Mother Ephesus assured Oleander she would stay in contact with her as things got up and running. Mother's word wasn't completely enough for Oleander, she continued to call Mother from time to time, just to be sure she wasn't forgotten.

The long expected paperwork for application arrived. Oleander, of her own volition, secured all three letters of recommendation needed, including a letter from our parish priest vouching for the authenticity and strength of Oleander's Catholic faith. I know this part of the application process was not easy for our normally shy girl, but she didn't hesitate a second. She then kept on top of me, asking me daily if I had completed my parts of the application. I needed to obtain medical and dental records and releases, provide an official school transcript and grades, and fill out several forms. The girl was patiently persistent.

In June our family traveled to the convent and school in Pennsylvania for formal face-to-face interviews. Our family was welcomed, in charactaristic IVE style, with warm fondness and regard. Following the interviews, Oleander was measured for her uniforms, a clear indicator that her desire had been realized. On Saturday, this week, we will leave our precious fourteen year old at the convent boarding school to begin, what she hopes and God Willing, will be four years of discernment and formation, culminating in a vocation to religious life.

This has not been an easy decision for us to make and follow through on. We've prayed for guidance and we finally based our decision on the strength of the conviction of a fourteen year old. Crazy, I know. She has not been without voices of dissent among her family and friends. Many, many of our family and friends have been truly excited and supportive, and several have been lovingly concerned. We have appreciated both!

As Oleander begins her journey, we ask for prayers for her and prayers for a family that will immensely miss her quiet smile, her gift for never forgetting a name, and the beautiful faith she lived out in our home each day of her life.
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Friday, August 19, 2011

Crazy Busy

Wow, we are crazy busy around here this week. We've needed to catch up after our bout with illnesses, emergency room visits, and a brief stint in the hospital for Lil' Lamb. Our oldest leaves for Mount Saint Mary's University on Sunday and she is frantically organizing, reorganizing, packing, storing, and shopping. Next weekend Oleander leaves for the Aspirancy school in Pennsylvania. In the meantime we will be busy getting our stuff together for the upcoming school year and helping some good friends move into their new home. I have posts rolling around in my brain, and hopefully I'll be able to write more next week. I have posts addressing our homeschool plans, how we ended up sending our daughter away to a convent boarding school, as well as lots of photos of the happenings around here. Have a blessed weekend and stay tuned for better blog posting in the near future :) Print Friendly and PDF

Thursday, August 18, 2011

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} 8/18

round button chicken


This time of year the Buddleia Bush is covered in butterflies. I loved the angle of this shot.


Special K designed this little cross stick all by herself and spent an afternoon happily stitching away. I'm pretty impressed with her creativity!


This is my teenage son and his hilarious play on planking. He calls this "deering". I laughed until I cried when I saw this.


This is our sweet Lil' Lamb receiving one of the many nebulized breathing treatments he's needed this past week. Most of the time he was pretty docile and calm. There were a few occasions when he'd just about had it and would have none of the smoking mask. I would then enlist the help of his sisters in entertaining him by singing and dancing so that we could finish treating his wheezing. Poor baby, he was a real trooper this week. God Willing, we'll never have to go through the same ordeal again!
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Monday, August 15, 2011

Book Review: The Help

One of my Facebook/blogging/real life buddies posted she had just finished reading "The Help" and had loved it. Before her rave, I had about zero interest in either the book or the movie. It wasn't that the subject was not compelling -- an exploration of the relationships between african american domestics and their employers in the deep south during the cusp of the civil rights movement. It was the fact I generally shy away from secular modern literature. There is very often too little truly good literature written today, in my opinion.

This was the first book I've read cover-to-cover on my iPad, which I've owned for just over a year. I just haven't been able to adapt to reading without an actual book in my hands that has actual pages to turn, but I was finally so intrigued by the idea of this novel, I couldn't wait for it to come in the mail. You've got to love the instant gratification of downloading a book and being able to dive into it immediately. Being immensely satisfied by my first iBook experience, I know I'll be reading on my iPad much more frequently!

I loved this book. It was absolutely captivating in its style, characterizations, and plot development. It seems the exploration of the theme was one the author had first hand knowledge of, having been raised by an african american maid, herself, giving the story a genuine feel and plausibility.

The novel weaves its way through the story telling, alternating accounts told by three different characters. First is Skeeter, a young ambitious southern white woman who has just graduated from college with a degree in writing/journalism. Having returned home to find her childhood maid has mysteriously disappeared her eyes are at once opened to the plight of the southern domestic. She approaches the maid of one of her childhood friends asking for answers and then for help in writing a book exposing the increasingly tense relationship between maids and those they serve in Jackson, Mississippi.

Skeeter first approaches maid Abileene for help in answering questions about the disappearance of her family's maid, and then brazenly asks Abileene to tell her story as part of a book project Skeeter decides to undertake. Abileene is the second character given voice in the novel. She is a maid specializing in caring for the children of the household. Having worked in white households for decades, Abileene has seen it all; the good, the bad, and the ugly. She has taken it all in stride, but has also attempted to leave her mark on the white children she has raised with the hope they will be different and will one day be able to look beyond color.

Minny is the third voice for the story. A domestic like Abileene, she has failed at taking it in stride. Her character is mouthy, opinionated, strong and yet incredibly vulnerable. Known as a great cook, her reputation is intentionally ruined by the spiteful, racist president of the Lady's League, and main story antagonist Hilly Holbrook. Minny is relegated to working for the apparently crazy Celia Foote who is too naive or stupid to realize she will never fit in with the proper white ladies of Jackson because of her beginnings as white trash. Fed up with working for a nut and having her reputation ruined, Minny agrees to help Skeeter and Abileene with the book.

The book project is an incredibly dangerous undertaking for all three women. Ostracization, unemployment, and lynching are all risks these three brave women are finally willing to take to make a change in Jackson. It becomes their personal civil rights crusade.

Stylistically this is an easy and enjoyable read. While I normally prefer to not read books containing profanity, this novel did have a fair share, but it wasn't as distracting nor disturbing as I normally find it. I would recommend this book to older high school students and adults due to profanity and adult content and themes.
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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Experiences in the ER

We've been battling a respiratory virus in this house for a couple of weeks. This virus was particularly wicked for our two youngest. Lil' Wingnut ended up in the emergency room. He received two breathing treatments for wheezing and retracting and was sent home with antibiotics, which seemed to knock the infection right out of him leading us to believe his was a case of bacterial bronchitis.

As he recovered so quickly, we thought all was well until Lil' Lamb began dripping and coughing on Sunday. By Monday he was really hacking away but I wasn't worried as he was happy and playful and the cough was pretty wet and productive. Monday night things went south very fast. Lil' Lamb barely slept a wink, neither did I. I called his pediatrician in the morning because he sounded so rattly, but they seemed to think he would be fine as long as he stayed hydrated and in a humid room helped by a cool mist humidifier. By three in the afternoon he was retracting and wheezing quite badly so I called the pediatrician again and they recommended I take him to urgent care. Sure enough, his O2 level was well below normal and they gave him two breathing treatments, a dose of steroids, x-rays, two more breathing treatments and then drew blood. The doctor had also requested an IV, but after sticking Lil' Lamb twice in each arm and having absolutely no luck, the ER techs had mercy on our baby and left off, temporarily. At the end of the third breathing treatment the doctor reassured us we would likely go home with our precious guy with a prescription for home breathing treatments until his issues cleared up. By the end of the fourth treatment he backtracked and revealed he had found something abnormal in the blood work they had drawn. Lil' Lamb's blood sugar was twice the normal limit and he wanted to consult with Children's Hospital in DC. He then proceeded to tell us that this might indicate Type I diabetes or even a particular heart abnormality. My heart nearly stopped. Seriously? Diabetes? Heart problems? Being a mom so many worries and worse case scenarios ran through my mind. It was a terrifying moment. We immediately sent out texts, emails and a Facebook status update calling for our prayer warriors to cover us in prayer.

Children's Hospital did decide they wanted to see our baby and so an ambulance was sent for at around 7 pm. As we waited, and waited, and waited, we were ignored, ignored, ignored. I finally sent Wingnut home and told him to get some sleep because it was obvious I was not going to get any and I knew I'd need to have him cover for me the next day so I could get an hour of sleep here and there. At 10 pm I finally got the attention of one of the ER nurses. He confessed that this delay was often the case with Children's Hospital but reassured me he would get a new ETA from them and that indeed this was important enough for me to stick around and wait. The ambulance finally arrived at midnight and the paramedics once again tried to get an IV line in using veins in Lil' Lamb's feet. It took two attempts but they were finally successful. Lil' Lamb was strapped into a gurney and off we went to the hospital ER in DC. The paramedics were truly wonderful and really jumped through hoops trying to entertain the baby. It was heartwarming to see them coo and make funny faces trying to get that rare smile from a sick little one.

After arriving at the ER, the doctor indicated Lil' Lamb's blood work was now normal and that a side effect of taking steroids is elevated blood sugar and seeing Lil' Lamb had had two breathing treatments (which uses steroids) and an oral dose of steroids, it was no wonder his level had been so high. I could have just throttled the original ER doc! Seriously, why in the world would he have given us such a horrific prognosis? Lil' Lamb and I sat in Children's ER for another 5 hours and he was examined by no fewer than 5 doctors and 3 different nurses. By that time it I had had 3 hours of fitful sleep in 24 and yet I was still going. I know it was the prayers of dozens of friends and family that sustained me. Lil' Lamb was finally admitted and we were taken to one of the many pediatric wards in the hospital. The nurse got us settled into our room and went over the rules with me. I warily eyed the crib in the center of the room and knew there would be an issue. We haven't used a crib since our third babe was born 14 years ago. As expected, co-sleeping was against the rules. I indicated Lil' Lamb would likely not sleep while hospitalized, but that we'd give it a try as we had no other choice. He drifted off to sleep not too long after admittance at 5 am. I gently coaxed him into the crib. He didn't even stir. I managed to make up a bed on the couch and held my breath that I might get some sleep myself. Miracle of miracles, he slept in that crib for an hour and a half and may have slept more if he hadn't needed another round of breathing treatments. As the day progressed, he began to improve and became more restful. He slept most of the day and most of this sleep was in the crib. I managed to sleep here and there and I continued to survive on the backs of all the prayers being offered for us. He improved so impressively they decided he was well enough to go home later last evening. We were home by 7 pm. He was mauled by his loving siblings and played happily with us until he finally went to bed for the night just after 10. We slept mostly peacefully until 10 this morning. I couldn't believe it when I woke and saw the clock! I haven't slept in that late since I was in college!

Lil' Lamb continues to improve. We are treating his breathing at home with a nebulizer. I am personally so grateful for all the prayers that were said on our behalf. Without them, I would have been an absolute basket case, would have likely lost patience and my temper, and could never have survived on so little sleep. God is good and merciful!
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Monday, August 8, 2011

Movie Review: Cowboys and Aliens

Initially my thinking on this movie when I saw the previews was, "Boy, does that ever sound like a dumb idea for a movie." After some more thought on the concept I began thinking, "The idea sounds so dumb, it has to be great." I should have stuck to my original thought. The movie is as bad as the title. I can think of absolutely zero redeeming qualities. And that, in a nutshell, is my review. Print Friendly and PDF

Friday, August 5, 2011

Lil' Lamb 6 months

It's his very happy 1/2 birthday :)

He is growing and changing so fast. In this last month alone he has begun rolling both directions, reaches and grabs whatever he can (especially shiny, sparkly objects) sits up without support, sits in a high chair and grocery cart, begun babbling "mamamamama", decided he will take a pacifier from time to time (thank you very much), has cut two teeth, has moved from baby bathtub to the kitchen sink for bathtime, and has taken his first tastes of real food (neither bananas nor watermelon struck his fancy).

He's adorable.

And every day he tries on a new funny face. Thank you God for this precious gift!
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Thursday, August 4, 2011

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} 8/4/2011

round button chicken


Special K had her special day out with mom (and Lil' Lamb). She had her hair cut at the salon, spent her allowance at Clair's, and had Chick-fil-a for lunch. I love her new hair style. A very pretty cut for a very pretty little girl.


We are still keeping up with our one fun project a week goal this summer. Last week we made homemade spray paint. Mix equal parts cornstarch and water and add food coloring in empty spray bottles. This was a lot of fun for about 10 minutes. It took more time to mix our concoctions than it did to empty the spray bottles. The kiddos still really enjoyed it, and I'm sure we'll do it again.


After nearly a week cooped up indoors with a sick little boy, we were able to escape this week and made a quick trip to a local park. Here is one of my funny little monkeys, dangling from the monkey bars.


This is the arsenal of remedies for poor Lil' Wingnut. Official diagnoses was bacterial airway infection. Thankfully a strong antibiotic and lots of prayers from friends and family knocked the infection right out of our lil' guy. He is up and about and back to his normal mischief.
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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Where Choice Leads

I know this is not a new story, but the trend of sex selection and sex selective abortions is growing rapidly. The article lists troubling social consequences being felt already in Asia. This is a monstrous, barbaric, and most vile evil practice being committed on little girls in the womb. Where are the feminists, now?

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Monday, August 1, 2011

No Rest for the Weary

Thank goodness it is August! I look forward to August every year because it is the one month we take a break from almost all of our activities--no tennis, no piano, no ballet, no flute, no school work etc. It is the month we get caught up on everything we've let slide all year, especially house work. So of course, Lil' Wingnut would get scary sick and need to go to the emergency room which sets off a round of visits to the doctor (he's doing much better, but is taking a course of antibiotics for a bacterial upper respiratory infection). Of course three kids will need to see the orthodontist; three kids will need to have haircuts; three vehicles will be due for oil changes and two kids will be preparing to leave for school. Of course we'll need to attend a retirement, plan two birthdays, and plan a graduation/send off party. Yep, all that house work will just have to wait, darn it. Print Friendly and PDF