Monday, December 13, 2010

Two Years Ago

Dh and I were in China, on the thirtieth floor of a hotel, waiting to meet our newest daughter for whom we had waited more than three years.

Today I was thinking about how fast these two years have gone. How much our lives have changed. It seems forever ago that we were so anxiously waiting to see this beautiful girl's face. How long that wait seemed, how I would check for news, how I longed to hold her.

Now she is with us, and all those anxieties have melted. Each day I am blessed with her smiles, her budding personality, her amazing sweetness. She was definitely "Worth the Wait."

The music is a song by Tia Ciferno on her Heaven Sent album. Her sister is a member of our homeschooling group, she gave me this CD when Gabe was born. It is beautiful. Every song was touching.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Snapshot of My Morning

  • Get everyone up, dressed, and breakfasted.
  • Start older girls finishing up school so we can start our Christmas break.
  • Sort through box of new sweaters and dresses from Grandma for our Christmas pictures.
  • Double check my Christmas sweater will arrive today for Christmas pictures.
  • Locate appropriate pants, tights, hair clips, socks, skirts, undershirts, etc to go with sweaters for six kids so I am ready for Christmas pictures.
  • Plan bath time, hair cuts, and laundry so we are ready for Christmas pictures.
  • Walk around the house looking for any appropriate spot to hold a family of eight for Christmas pictures.
  • Vacuum stairs in preparation for Christmas pictures.
and then:
  • Clean up blood, and ice down goose egg on a little boy's forehead, because tomorrow we take Christmas pictures.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bear Turns Eight

It is hard to imagine eight whole years have passed since the day this little one brightened my life with her birth.

Each day little Bear seems to be growing into a more beautiful girl. She is still my fiery, active, always moving little girl, but it seems hardly possible she is already eight years old. Already a good student, a big help around the house, and a favorite playmate of my little ones. I am so blessed to have this sweet girl for a daughter.
Today, as I have on all of her birthdays, I entrust her to the care of our heavenly mother. She has such a special day for her birthday! I pray for her continued growth in virtue and am thankful for another year with her.
Bear's birthday also ushers in our birthday marathon. We have five months of birthdays, so this scene will be played out often in the next few months.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy Feast of St. Nicholas

My children had a wonderful party at our parish over the weekend. They made beautiful cards and ornaments, and the party was capped with a visit by the jolly fellow himself. The girls enjoyed the crafts, Mom and Dad enjoyed visiting with friends, Joseph enjoyed the snacks. Since dh forgot the camera, good friends stepped in to take some pictures of my crew. We are blessed with many, many wonderful friends willing to lend a helping hand and save poor dh from the wrath of an over tired Mom who spent a frazzled morning getting everyone picture ready.There were so many flashing cameras it was as if we were surrounded by paparazzi. Joseph particularly enjoyed all the attention.
In the excitement, he decided to go for the laughs of his captive audience.
Mom and Dad had to step in and put an end to the hullaballoo.
I have a feeling Joseph is going to add some real excitement to our holiday season.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

O Captain, My Captain

This, I am blessed to say, is my wonderful dh. Today the "old" man is entering his late 30's. For his birthday I mopped the floor, allowed him to get nap, and the girls bought him new dishcloths (mostly because his flat panel tvs came two weeks ago). For his birthday dinner he wants take-out pizza and a cold beer, no cake-just rice pudding. All that, and the picture, say a lot about this man don't they?

Happy Birthday Dh! I am so glad to share another year with you!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Overheard at the Dinner Table

Bear asks, "Why is there a pink candle on our Advent wreath? What is it for?

Banana responds in a very knowing tone of voice, "It's for Al dente Sunday."

This on a night we were having lasagna for dinner...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Oh, God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry,

When I have work,
help me to remember the jobless;

When I have a warm home,
help me to remember the homeless;

When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer;

And remembering, help me
to destroy my complacency
and bestir my compassion.

Make me concerned enough
to help, by word and deed,
those who cry out
for what we take for granted.

Samuel F. Pugh

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Story of a Name

In yesterday's general audience the Pope spoke of St. Juliana and her contribution to the Feast of Corpus Christi. It reminded me of a beautiful saint, and it made me glad we had chosen Juliana as Juju's given name.

The naming of children is a wonderful privilege for parents. It seems immediately after finding out about a pregnancy the next question is, "Do you have a name?" and there are often beautiful stories behind why a certain name was chosen for a child. My very young girls already discuss what they will name their children, and even though I know this will change over and over again, it demonstrates how important giving our children the right name can be. For our family, we wanted a connection to our heavenly family so all of our children are named after Saints.

While naming children is a privilege, it can be quite a perplexing task. For some of our children we knew from the beginning what was the perfect name. For our last, we couldn't decide on a name until entering the delivery room and even then we were still debating. For other children, we had names picked out, only to change our mind at the end. There were times when the name we picked just didn't seem to be the right name for that particular child.

Juliana was one of the latter. During our long (over 3 years) adoption process, we had called the little girl we were waiting for in China, Therese. We prayed many times to St. Therese to watch over our little girl. We counted this child as a rose from heaven and we knew St. Therese had prayed for a priest in China. We called her Therese for so long, we had even decided on a nickname, Tess. We referred to Tess quite frequently in our family conversations throughout the adoption journey.

Then referral day came. We were sent a beautiful picture of our new daughter. After experiencing the birth of my three daughters, I was amazed at the emotions a picture on a computer monitor could elicit. I knew instantly she was an integral part of our family. I also, after recovering from the emotions of finally seeing our baby, knew Tess wasn't the right name.

Juliana's Chinese name was Xiu Lian meaning beautiful or delicate Lotus, and is pronounced shoo leon. At some point it hit me that it sounded quite a bit like Juliana. Unlike our other children, named for cherished family saints, I didn't know of a Saint Juliana, I just liked the name. So I started doing a little research on any saints named Juliana not wanting to cross it off the list. I came across St. Juliana of Cornillon. When I read of her involvement with the establishment of the Feast of Corpus Christi, I knew we had found the right name. While Saint Juliana may have been unknown to me, Corpus Christi has always been a favorite family feast day. St. Juliana was even an orphan!

Two years later, Juliana is definitely suited to her name and I am thankful I learned, and am still learning more, about this beautiful saint. I hope that our dear daughter Juliana can, like her namesake, help answer the Pope's call to "renew our faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist."

A friend once said to me that sometimes we don't find patrons for our children, their patrons find them. This certainly seems to be the case with our little Juliana.

P.S. We couldn't forget our beloved St. Therese, Juliana is blessed to have her for a patron as well and thus bears her name as her middle name.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Memorizing The Ten Commandments

A few years ago, when Banana was a third grader, dh began teaching third grade CCD at our parish. I wasn't sure how this would go, but I constantly have parents telling me what a great teacher he is. This happens so much I wonder if he shouldn't be schooling our children, but alas, he won't quit his day job. I guess that's a good thing.

The first year he taught, his assistant introduced a method for memorizing the ten commandments which he has modified and continued to teach. A friend was asking about this method, so I thought I'd share it here.

1. Hold up one finger- God should be first-- No other gods before him.
2. Hold up two fingers- This forms a V for vain-- Don't use the Lord's name in vain.
3. Hold up three fingers- This forms a W for worship-- Sundays are for worship and rest.
4. Use four fingers to salute- Honor your Father and Mother.
5. Use five fingers to make a fist- Don't kill.
6. Use three fingers on each hand to form a heart- Don't commit adultery.
7. Hold up two fingers on one hand, use all five fingers on the other to grab the two fingers- Don't steal.
8. Use four fingers on each hand to form binoculars over your eyes- Don't bear false witness. This also forms the number 8 when you take them off your eyes and turn them sideways.
9. Hold up the ring finger (other nine are down)- Don't covet neighbor's wife.
10. Use all ten fingers to cover your eyes- Don't covet neighbor's goods.

I hope he doesn't mind me sharing his trade secrets. He claims this works so well that he can ask any of his kids to tell him any commandment and they answer correctly and promptly. Now, if only he could find a method for teaching fractions :)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gabe's New Motto

Never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lie down, never stay awake when you can sleep.
Anonymous from the Army and the Fire Service

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mid-Semester Progress Report II

Subtitled: Homeschooling with Little Ones, or perhaps Barriers and Baskets

As previously mentioned, each year of homeschooling has brought new challenges. While I have had to entertain little ones in years past, this year new strategies were needed to corral four young children eager to play and interrupt me or their older siblings while we attempt to learn new grammatical concepts or pursue mathematical endeavors. In order to succeed this year, I desperately needed a solution to the question, "What do I do with these rug rats?" (I do mean that very affectionately)
Our newest challenge is under the weather. Poor guy has his first cold.

I have tried many solutions. Fancy toys, play doh, moon sand, switching out toys, playing with the little ones first, finding crafts for them to do. In the end, these strategies left me exhausted and further behind in schooling the older children. The fancy toys lost their luster, the crafts left me with more mess than I could handle, the little ones still cried for my attention when I left, and, honestly, who has time to switch out toys on a schedule? I was still left with a messy house and not enough time to devote to schooling my older students (who, btw, are steadily becoming more independent learners), and an overwhelming sense that I was failing everyone.
Bophie is my ultimate Little People town builder. These toys keep her imagination busy for hours.

My solutions:

1. My philosophy has been simple-- to contain. Contain the little ones and the havoc they seem to wreak on every room they entered. I put up a barrier that corrals them in the family room. They are free to play with whatever they like in that room, but they must stay in the room. I put up gates that block them from escaping to other areas in the house. Yes, they are capable of climbing my barriers. The barriers are placed as a visual reminder to them not to leave the room. They know there are consequences to moving outside their humble confines. I use a Super Play Yard to accomplish this in my house. I pull it out after breakfast and place it between my kitchen and living room. A smaller gate blocks off the other entrance to the room. Both are easily placed and easily taken down so that at the end of the school day my house returns to normal.
Please ignore the laundry on the couch. I wanted to quickly show my gate, no time for cleaning :)

No, I am not suggesting you cage the little ones, but rather find one area in which they can play. Our living room suits this purpose for me. There are enough toys in that room for twelve preschoolers. They may play with all of them to their heart's content. Since school mostly occurs in the kitchen and our first floor school room, I am able to attend to any other need they may have. I just can't have them all over the house. Since employing this system, I have found it much easier to maintain a basic level of order in most of the house. The living room may be a disaster, but I can handle one room.
Before corralling the kids, this room was a disaster every single day. Now I can snap a picture without picking up first.

2. Baskets, buckets, containers, and more baskets. The truth is, the living room being the primary play area on a school day is a necessity not a preference. In my ideal world, the living room would be a picture perfect room to relax, grab a good book, play a board game, or converse with a loved one; not an obstacle course of dolls, rocking horses, balls, and puzzle pieces. This compromise has been accomplished through fancy baskets and containers. Basically any toy that has multiple parts is stored in some type of container, even if it is just a ziplock bag. Experience has shown me that kids are more interested in playing if there is some organization. If everything is just thrown together, they lose interest quickly.

My living room can be quickly returned to an orderly "lived in" but not "ransacked" state in a few minutes using the basket system. In my living room there are bins for Little People (a favorite staple in this house), baskets for Leapster equipment, a basket for books, another basket for baby toys, a bin for the tea set, and a rather large bin for the extra toys that seem to accumulate. Just to name a few. There is even a shoebox in a cupboard for diapers so I have them on hand when needed. I also have one corner dedicated to the few toys that won't fit in the bins, the doll stroller and rocking horse. Each morning the little ones destroy that room, but as I am making lunch, I challenge the older girls. If they can pick up the room before lunch is made, they may have a piece of candy after lunch. It works.
They all delight in a bin of old toys.

3. Some rotation and special toys. I have enough going on in my day that I do not want to put the demands of a toy schedule on my plate. However, there is some benefit to new toys. It is amazing how something new or special will keep the attention of toddlers. The basket and bin system really helps me with this. Even the toys in our basement are organized into bins or baskets or even bags. This allows me to occasionally pull something new out to be played with on a rough day. I may not want to put all the puzzle pieces away on a daily basis, but bringing up the bin of puzzles on a day I need some extra time to teach long division to a Math-despising fifth grader may give me the time necessary. It might be worth picking up all those pieces.

Every house needs a high shelf or closet to store toys that are painful to repeatedly pick up. Toddlers like nothing more than to dump out any nicely organized bin of toys, and so it is necessary to keep them out of reach. Otherwise, countless hours will be spent sorting toys into their appropriate bins. I am fortunate to have a closet in our basement play room and a well-placed high shelf in the play room (it was one of the first updates we made to this house). In the closet and on the shelf I have bins of building blocks, a box of alphabet blocks, a container of stringing beads, a box of counter pegs, giant floor puzzles in bags, you get the idea. These are things that I don't want to pick up all the time. I keep them out of reach and pull them out one at a time on particularly rough days. The kids get a kick out of a toy they haven't seen in awhile, I get a few extra minutes. Pulled out one at a time, these things aren't the chore to pick up.
The shelving in our basement playroom.

4. Lastly, every little one craves a schedule. This one requires you find a balance that works for you. I am not able to follow a minute by minute guide to what should be done. I don't even want to be bothered with an hour by hour guide. I simply need an order or flow to my day. We have breakfast around 8, the girls help tidy the kitchen then begin their schoolwork, the gates are put up and the little ones play through the morning, we pick up before lunch around noon, after lunch I put little ones down for a nap and we finish school, then after 3:30 or so, the girls have some free time and I try to tackle housework. It doesn't go this smoothly everyday, but it is what we strive toward. If I tried to add more, I would be overwhelmed. However, the kids need at least this much to be comfortable. They know what comes next. They know what to do and when to do it. It works for us.
Banana diligently working on Math.

It isn't just my toddlers who needed this. This year is the first year as a homeschooler that I put into place a specific start and end time to our school days. It has been wonderful. In the past, we schooled until Dad was on his way home, or until I felt we accomplished enough, or until one of the girls folded under the workload. None of this was good, dh comes home at a different time each day, some days early others late. I quite rarely was able to accomplish all I wanted to finish any day, and I had a tendency to demand more and more out of the girls. With a set end time, we do what we can, but at the end of the day we're done. The girls work harder knowing they will have some free time. I have some time to recover and finish some housework. We all are much happier. I tend to want to cover more and more material, and this system has put balance back into our schooling.

Balance. That's what it's about for me. Striking the right balance and again reminding myself to do the best I can right now and offering that, and the rest that isn't done, to God.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mid-Semester Progress Reports

Which has now become a late mid-semester report, and an insanely long blog post...

The beginning of this school year was much like last year. After about two hours of the first day, I was ready to call it quits. I remember that last year (when I only had four children), I felt as though there was too much on my plate. Dh called around lunch time and I was practically in tears. Now, here I am with two more-- boys no less, and four little toddler munchkins. I certainly have moments of chaos, and plenty of moments where I wonder if I can really do it all. After day one this year, I seriously was ready to call it quits. Certainly any alternative was better than me losing my mind and causing those around me to deal with my sharp tongue and frazzled attitude. The more overwhelmed I feel, the more sharply I speak, and then I simply shut down.
That being said, we plodded through, we survived that first week. I gained some perspective on why we chose to homeschool. We put some new boundaries in place (those are a separate post), and plodded on in our education endeavor. Those who look in on homeschoolers often wonder how we do it. Truth is, I wonder how we do it. Looking back at where we started this year and how things are progressing now, I know there has been quite a bit of divine intervention. A friend once told me we have to be empty in order for God to fill us. If we think we are doing a great job, we probably aren't letting God do His job. These first weeks of school reminded me that only by relying on Him will I be successful in any education of our children.

That isn't to say that this has been a stellar semester for us. I am still struggling to get it all done. The housework is suffering, the girls are still playing catch-up, the little ones need more direction. However, we are moving forward and gaining ground each day. I end each day wishing I had more time, but I am learning to number the accomplishments and worry less about the unfinished tasks.

My motto this year has been simple. I try to focus on what I can do in each moment. There are times when there is so much going on at one time that I fear I will lose all control of this house and my children, not to mention my sanity. I try to stave off those overwhelming feelings of inadequacy by saying a quick prayer (I always like, "Jesus, Son of the Living God, Have mercy on me, a sinner." as I breathe in and out), then I focus on tackling one thing at a time. I realize there is only so much I can do, as long as I set about doing what I can, I shouldn't worry about doing what I can't. When I employ this method, I typically find that within a few minutes order is restored.

It hasn't always been easy to do this. The only way I can let go of all of the tasks I leave unfinished, is if I am confident I have done all that I could do. That means that I have to constantly be asking myself, is this the best thing I can do right now to live out my vocation as a wife and mother? Is this what God is asking me to do right now? I have to make sure that I am giving each moment in service to God.

This, by no means, implies that I am working all the time, or that I have to be going each moment. In fact, there are many moments I am serving God better by letting go of work and being attentive to my own need for respite, for prayer, or my children's needs for my attention. Yesterday, I had to let go of the dishes in the sink to sit and rock two little boys who weren't feeling well. This may be easy for some, but I have a difficult time when the house is not orderly especially when dh comes home. I also recently picked up crocheting again. While this seems like the most difficult time in life to pick up a hobby, it is important I get time to myself to unwind. Crocheting is a nice hobby for me, because I like to add prayers to my stitches, so I am multi-tasking-- prayer time in my down time.

On the flip-side, I have also become aware of time-killers. For me this is often computer time. I have had to offer up computer games that tend to suck me in and eat up countless hours. I have to try to save social media until after school hours. I have also had to settle for good enough on housework I have typically done more thoroughly. I am also finding myself spending a little more on convenience items. I opted to purchase this year's saint costumes rather than make them. While I enjoy the creative outlet, at this stage I need projects without deadlines. Again and again I find myself asking, is this best for my family right now? Is this the best thing I can do with this minute?

If I offer up to God each moment, each minute, and I focus on what I can do right now, I find myself less overwhelmed with all that I need to accomplish in a given day. My To-Do list is never ending, I am never going to finish the laundry, there are always going to be more dishes to wash. There is always going to be another subject I would like to delve into with the girls, more to teach them, or more to explore with them. However, if I give them each moment, if I work hard right now, I am amazed at how much I can accomplish (or more accurately, what God accomplishes through me).

All I have to offer to my children, my husband, my family, God, is right now. I can offer this moment. I must chose right now, each moment, how best to serve them. If I am doing this, I shouldn't be worried about what I couldn't do.

"Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible."
Francis Of Assisi

Monday, November 1, 2010

What the World Needs Now

Is definitely NOT this...

I have blogged before about my feelings on girls' clothing. In many ways, having four girls has been a real blessing and joy. I enjoy their tea parties, their love of Little House and Anne of Green Gables. I love buying them hair clips and bows, cute tights and socks, purses and beads.

That being said, I DREAD clothes shopping for these girls after they pass the 4T size. In particular, I loathe casual clothes shopping for anyone over 5 when I am forced to purchase smaller-sized street walker clothing, or pay a small fortune for more appropriately styled clothing.

The article reads, "Little kids are so status-conscious about clothing now, more than ever," said Eli Portnoy, a branding strategist based here. "It was a natural evolution for young college, teenage brands: 'Why not go after them younger and get them hooked into our brands?' "

Status-conscious? Really? My Banana is 10, smack-dab in the horribly titled tween years. She is just starting to match her clothing, you know stripes can't be worn with plaids kind of thing. Her clothing choices revolve more around her interests. Her favorite shirt? It's the purple one with the soccer ball on it, certainly not because of the status it represents, but rather the fact she enjoys playing soccer. She spends more time trying to turn her clothing into outfits that resemble those of whatever books she is reading than deciding what sort of status it displays. Perhaps if we, as a society, were busier trying to market good books and activities, we would have less time to worry about making sure our 8 year olds were brand-conscious.

Both of my older girls are certainly entering new stages of their lives. Each day I am reminded they aren't the little girls they were, and I wonder how they grew so fast. Banana is starting to ask if her hair looks ok. Rather than six randomly placed clips, she has mastered pony tails and headbands. Bear is almost 8 and is a little more advanced in these areas because she has Banana as an example. They both have started to express clothing preferences and have started raiding my jewelry box. They get a real kick out of using my cucumber bath spray, pale pink nail polish, and clear lip gloss. I can't think of anything more harmful to their development than to have them more inundated with societal views of fashion.

Why can't we let them be kids? Why push teenage angst on 7-year olds? Marketing specifically to them shows how much materialism has permeated into every aspect of our society. My goal is to raise girls who can see beyond silly "status-conscious" clothing to see real beauty. I do hope to teach my girls to present themselves as the young women they want to become, but for now I am content to have them learn multiplication tables and the rules of soccer.

I also thought this quote was particularly interesting: "They've been dressing their penguins on Club Penguin or their Webkinz online," she said. "You put them in a shopping mall, they've got that behavior of 'I love to shop.'"

For a long time, dh was vehemently opposed to the Webkinz fad. I relented to them thinking that as long as we monitored their activity and did not allow our children to spend too much time with them, they were relatively harmless. Now I am beginning to wish I had listened a little more to his objections. He quickly saw the materialism and disliked how the whole Webkinz page was more an advertisement to buy more and less a child's game. He was more aware of the ploy to get kids to be consumers, teach them early the temporary happiness of materialism, real or virtual. I am not saying that Webkinz are evil, but I do wish I had thought a little more about the materialism I was introducing to my very young children.

Happy Feast of All Saints

"Today, my dear Christians, is a day on which, more than on any other, the faithful look up to heaven and reflect, how supremely happy the saints are who enjoy the bliss of heaven at the throne of God; a day on which, by meditating on the never-ending happiness of the saints, an ardent longing is stirred in our hearts that we may one day take part in this happiness."

"Dear Christians! We all have to-day the desire—yes, even the ardent longing—to enjoy one day with the saints in heaven their glory and their happiness. But let us consider well that the Christian whose thoughts and actions are only directed toward transitory treasures, honors, and pleasures is not on the path where the joys of heaven are found. Christians must not desire what is earthly, but what is heavenly; not what is false, but what is true; not what is temporary and fleeting, but what is eternal and never-ending. Therefore our hearts must not be set upon the treasures, honors, and pleasures of this world, so that we may not miss the end for which we were created—heaven. "For what doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?" (Matt. xvi. 26). Our Saviour calls to us Christians and exhorts us to strive after the happiness of heaven with these words: "Seek first the kingdom of God" (Matt. vi. 33). "The fool," says St. Ambrose, "holds with them who are of the world; the wise man prefers the eternal glory of heaven" (Serm. 37)."

-- Cure de Ars, excerpts from Sermon for the Feast of All Saints

Happy All Saints Day!

Friday, October 29, 2010

My Beggars

The gang all ready to head out for Trick-or-Treat night.

Gabe the Giraffe hung out with Grandma at home to pass out treats.

Joseph thoroughly enjoyed his new train wheels. He also was quite fond of going door to door to get candy. Once he got the hang of it, he was full steam ahead.

Juju the Ladybug was easily frightened. Steam machines, masks, and people running amok made her quite nervous. This was more than made up for by the cute way she would say "tank oo" to all the neighbors.

Bophie, always my princess, is forever caught between being a "little" kid and a "big" kid. She spent the night trying to run with the older girls as Dad lad them on a quest to make it through all the houses in the neighborhood. He ended up carrying her for the most part.

Bear, a pilgrim/St. Eliazabeth Ann Seton (once I dye the cap black), packed on two pairs of jeans and three shirts under that costume. It was cold out there!
Banana, a doctor/St. Gianna Molla, led the quest for candy. She also handled pumpkin carving this year like a surgeon.

I should've taken pictures of the loot. Five beggars, two hours, and generous neighbors make for a house too full of chocolate for this low on will power, sleep-deprived mom.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wednesday Afternoon

In Pictures

Just call him Scooter. Our little Gabe is finally on the move. He isn't crawling, he puts his arms down, moves one leg back and scoots-- everywhere. His current favorite scooting locations are the fireplace to see his reflection (and leave lots of fingerprints that drive Dad crazy), and the dog's water bowl (must be a boy thing). Don't tell dh he is wearing his Baby Legs (dh calls them leg warmers, the girls call them his caterpillar legs), they are really handy for diaper changing, and I think they are cute!

The girls are schooling outside this afternoon. It is unseasonably warm, but forecasters are calling for a cold front. So we are taking full advantage of the sun and warmth. This is, after all, reason 326 for home schooling.

In case you missed it, here is a close-up of little Bophie. This is what happens when Mom is too busy to help in the morning. A dress two sizes too big. I think I put those pigtails in on Monday and her hair hasn't been brushed since. Most of all the shoe choice. Not only mismatched, but in typical Bophie fashion, the shoes are on the wrong feet.

Ooooo Gross!

After a decade of life with girls, Joseph has brought a whole new level of "gross" to this family. Leave it to the boy to eat the dog food, incessantly play in the toilet, pull off his diapers and leave it for the dog, and.... well, I am sure you've heard enough.

Today, one can only hope, was the heighth of grossness for us. After finishing a grammar lesson with Bear, I walked into the living room to see Bophie playing with Little People. Joseph is uncharacteristically quietly watching her. I look down to see dog poop. Yuck! I quickly try to move everyone out of the room. As I pick up Joseph, a piece of slobber covered poop comes falling out of his mouth. Y.U.C.K!!!

Now, I am in panic mode. How sick is he going to get from dog poop? Am I going to get sick cleaning up this poop? Really, kid, dog poop?!

In the process, I move Bophie's pretty little purse to find more dog poop falling out of the purse. There is even a white piece in there! White? How did the dog poop in the purse? Then it suddenly occurs to me, this isn't poop. Thank goodness, it was only rocks.

Note to self: no collecting small rocks that when wet may closely resemble dog poop. Let's stick to the white, colorful, larger rocks, especially when stuffing our purses with them :)

It also really says a lot when I am relieved the boy was eating rocks...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

We Will, We Will

In Juju speak "Bock tyou!"

While walking through the park, one child turns to Joseph and says, "You have mud on your face!"

The older girls in unison respond, "You big disgrace, Kicking your can all over the place!"

Dh replies, "It really says something about what you are teaching our daughters when they respond to such statements with refrains of Queen."

This sort of thing only happens during college football season :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I'm No Supermom

I'm just a regular soccer mom...

Last night Banana had her last practice for the fall season. Her team was the regular season champs and are headed into the tournament in the #1 seed. This is really fantastic for a team that didn't win a game last season. I am so proud of her. She is working harder each day to be better at something that doesn't come easy for her. She may never be the best soccer player on the team, but I am truly impressed with her diligence and good attitude.

Since we home school, soccer is my one affiliation with other moms in our community. I am blessed to have a wonderful home schooling support network, as well as a parish that is chock full of large families. These sometimes become a little bubble world for me. Soccer takes me out of that bubble. I am forced to confront society at large. Except that by society at large I mostly mean the middle class, suburban, society that is my local community.

I have a rule that when meeting someone new I can mention that I have six children, OR I can mention that I home school. However, it is in my best interest not to divulge both in a single conversation. Either one of those things is so out of the norm for these soccer moms, that one can be somewhat explained, both must mean I am a certifiable.

Thankfully no one has been downright rude (OK, one of the soccer dads said, "Ohhhh, you're one of those crazy people" when I said we homeschooled-- of course following my rule, he had no idea I had six children. I just blew him off.). Mostly I hear things like, "You must be supermom." "You must have a lot of patience." "I could never do that." or worse, "You must be a saint."

What am I supposed to say to that? Do I offer some half hearted, even if it is true, rebuff at my parenting skills? Something that lets them know I'm no expert, and occasionally (truthfully, quite frequently) make just as many parenting mistakes as the next soccer mom. Do I mention how little patience I have, especially in those moments where the baby is fussing, Joseph is again playing in the toilet, while I am attempting to give a spelling test to Bear, Banana is asking some Math question, and Juju and Bophie are again bickering over a doll that is adding its own silly cries to the rabble that seems to be growing louder by the minute? Really, does anyone want to hear that? Do I really want to divulge those gory details of family life to practical strangers? (Better to divulge them to complete strangers by posting on the Internet :) )

On the other hand, I could agree with them, tell them I am supermom. I mean here I am (always with at least one extra kid in tow) on time to practice, after finishing a day of school, preparing dinner, and, usually, I even make it a point to shower and be presentable. As any homeschooling mom of six (with four under five) knows, this is quite the feat of superhero proportions. Never mind that I am well aware that I am anything but a superhero. Do I try to explain that I am only a saint in as much as I try, albeit very feebly, to live out this vocation I am called to? Would they even know what I meant by vocation? Not a job, not a chore, not a responsibility, not a choice, but rather a calling.

In the end, I mumble something mostly unintelligible. I fumble my words. I am quite certain my face turns about six shades of red. I stammer, look down, and then do my best to change the subject.

The truth is, I want to say something. I want to tell them how great my kids are. Tell them that each child brings a new wonderful dimension to our family. That life without anyone of them would seem somehow incomplete. I want to explain about the grace God gives me each day to handle a task that, while often overwhelming, brings innumerable and completely unfathomable rewards. That, yes indeed, my life is chaotic, noisy, and busy. My vocation as a mom is tiring, overwhelming, and often menial, but it is my calling and in the midst of immense chaos there is a truly beautiful peace that I know I am doing the will of God and fulfilling that call.

Since I can't seem to eloquently respond, how could anyone (least of all frazzled and inarticulate me), encapsulate all the beauty of the vocation of motherhood in a sound bite? I only hope that when they see me on Saturdays schlepping all the little ones through the soccer fields, they can sense it. That somehow God's light shines through the chaos of snacks, diapers, and keeping little ones busy while cheering on older ones.

After all, I can't do this all on my own, I'm no supermom.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Almost Wordless Wednesday

**Game Day Edition**

Gratuitous Cuteness

Our Ohio attempt minus one little boy

He was "helping" his dad make the chili :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I Need One of These

Or rather Joseph needs one of these so his father and I can keep our sanity at the dinner table, especially after this weekend's squash soup encounter. Unfortunately, there are no videos of that.

This could also be filed under the "Why didn't I think of that?" category.

Friday, October 15, 2010

An Experiment

I would consider myself a rather demanding mom. I set high standards for my children and I work hard to meet or exceed those goals. When situations become difficult or challenging, I look for new ways of accomplishing our goals rather than lowering the bar. I expect quite a bit from my children; good behavior, excelling schoolwork, cleaning up after themselves, help with household chores, and I work hard to encourage their growth in their faith.

Discipline, not necessarily just punishment, of my children is important to me. I strive to maintain a well-ordered home and an atmosphere conducive to learning during the day and family life in the evenings. This is accomplished through well-disciplined family members. To this end, I have been known to bark orders, to expect immediate obedience, to push children in their education and in their own self-discipline. I hold the bar out there and expect them to sail over it. I need to be demanding, I need to care that my children succeed. I should absolutely want the best for them and expect the best from them.

That being said, my kids need to know that my high expectations are in place only because I love them and want the best for them. I want to push them to be the best they can be because I care so much about them. While this seems intuitive to me, it probably isn't intuitive to my two-year-old, or for that matter even the ten-year-old.

I was reminded last week that I need to tell my children I love them often. That doing so is one way of giving them help over that bar. I need to do this not just when tucking them into bed, although I wouldn't want to forget that, but many, many times throughout the day. We all like to hear those beautiful words, I love you.

So last week I started saying it over and over again to my children. Randomly throughout the day I grabbed them for a hug, or patted them on the back, or even just looked them straight in the eye and told them I loved them. After wiping hands, while setting the table, correcting a math problem, walking through a room, anytime I caught one of them, I took whatever opportunity I could and told them I loved them. It isn't that I didn't do this before, it's just that I tried last week to do it more-- a lot more.

I have been amazed at the results. No, this was not a magic solution to all my parenting dilemmas. I am still reminding them to make their beds. I still find clothes strewn on the bathroom floor. There are still bedtime blues, and bickering-- oh the bickering. The thing is, they smile at me. I see in their little faces how much they like hearing me tell them they mean the world to me. It makes telling them no a little easier. It makes asking them to do something extra a little easier. Their eyes have more sparkle and they seem happier.

The kids aren't the only ones who've benefited either. In fact, I think I have gained more from this little exercise. I am reminded of the blessings they bring even when I am asking for the fourth time for the same toy to be picked up off the floor. It also has, on occasion, reminded me to keep my sharp tongue in check. More importantly, those little smiles are like rays of sunshine during our hectic days. It warms my heart to see them so happy. Those three little words do more to bring them happiness than any toy, or candy, or privilege and I love bringing that joy to them.

I'd love to hear the results of your "I love you" experiments.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Vacation Part 2

Vacation was almost a month ago for us, and yet it seems as though we are still recovering.
For the second leg of our vacation we headed to Williamsburg, VA. We were able to get an amazing deal (specifically for homeschoolers) on a resort condo near Colonial Williamsburg. It was beautiful, much better than a hotel room. The girls were able to sleep in their own "princess room" and we had a full kitchen in which to prepare meals. This being vacation, we opted to only prepare breakfast. There was also a beautiful outdoor pool area. Since it was unseasonably warm, we took advantage of the pool every day we were there. We would see the sites (which often left us dusty and hot), come back and go for a quick swim to cool everyone down, put the little kids in their jammies, and then head out for dinner.Our first few days were spent in Colonial Williamsburg, where the town is set up as if it were the brink of the Revolutionary War. We had prepared for this by skipping to this era in our History course, watching a few documentaries, and, since we have girls, watching (and reading) the American Girl Felicity movie.
My girls had such a good time. We enjoyed touring the buildings, watching court proceedings and plays, and talking to the characters. The girls really immersed themselves in the whole "living history" thing. They bought their mob caps, and tried to put together their own colonial outfits. It was amazing how well Banana did this. She probably ruined a beautiful white skirt, but she tried very hard to fit the part of a colonial girl, and learned quite a bit in the process, so I think it was worth it. New colonial dresses are in the works for all the girls, although I wish I had thought of this before the trip.We also visited Yorktown and Jamestown. The Jamestown Museum was recently renovated and is one of the most beautiful museums we have visited. There was also a recreation of the Jamestown settlement that had replicas of buildings that were most likely part of the original settlement. There was also a recreated Powhatan village where we could contrast how the early settlers lived vs. the Native American Indians. There was also a riverfront area where we were able to tour replicas of the Godspeed, Susan Constant, and Discovery. It is amazing how these men and boys sailed across the ocean.
While the trip was obviously educational, we all really enjoyed ourselves. The girls enjoyed it so much, I am not sure they realize how much history they absorbed. Even dh and I learned a few things and had a few discussions about the founding of our country. Of course, these talks didn't last long as traveling with the little kids left us pretty much exhausted. We fell into bed at the end of most days.The other wonderful part of this vacation was that once again we were able to meet up with good friends. While the sites were educational and fun, and the lodgings were luxurious, the company really made the vacation for me. We were able, once again, to meet up with a family we met while traveling to adopt Juliana. The friendship began on that journey has been a real blessing for our family.
They invited us all for dinner on our arrival to VA. We had a great evening of good food and great company. The girls enjoyed the zip line in the backyard, Joseph enjoyed emptying their sandbox, and Juju enjoyed the attention. Later in the week, dh was able to try out the water balloon launcher and I have a feeling I know what one of Joseph's Christmas gifts will be :) Denise was also kind enough to go along with us to many of the local sites. It was such a blessing to have an extra set of hands. The girls enjoyed the company of B and K.
We weren't sure we were up to such a trip with our young brood of children, but we made it. It had been quite a while since we had a family vacation. It was nice to get away from the daily grind. The trip home (two got carsick) might be enough to persuade us to wait a little before attempting that much of a drive, but the memories made will most likely win out, and we will all look forward to our next family adventure.