Saturday, September 30, 2006

Pretty Is As Pretty Does

Found: Nicholas in a diaper with patches of black on arms and chest. Black substance is dark, oily and appears, in places, to have a strange linear pattern.

Also Found: Zachary weilding a mascara wand.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Good News!

God's numbers are up in the polls. He might just stand a chance at being elected Author of All We Know and Have Yet to Discover.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Half Done Half Bath

Nearly three years ago when our realtor walked us through the main floor of this house, we knew two things. One, that this house was the right one for us. And two, that the half bathroom off the kitchen would need a complete overhaul. The tile floor was broken, the sink stained, and the toilet was rusted in places. The wallpaper had been freshly removed, but much of the glue had remained and the medicine cabinet and light fixtures were old; not charming, just old.

After we bought the house, however, we learned a few more things. We found that the attic needed to be insulated and the heating system needed to be replaced or supplemented. These new findings took priority and sapped all our energies and resources, and so the bathroom had to wait. I made it usable by covering the broken tile with a throw carpet, putting a half shelf over the toilet, and curtains in the window. It was just that, usable. It would buy us time.

But carpet in a bathroom used mostly by little boys is not a good thing, especially when that bathroom is just off the kitchen. I washed that carpet over and over again and yet I was never able to kick the smell completely. It was a gnawing frustration for me, but our attentions never seemed able to focus on it. After completing the insulation and heating jobs, we found other, seemingly more important, home improvement projects that demanded our attention.

So one day recently, when I went to clean that bathroom I just couldn't do it. I couldn't bring myself to wash that carpet or mop that floor one more time. "This floor doesn't need to be cleaned," I thought to myself, "It needs to be smashed up and hauled out of here." And so I went and got a hammer and a crow bar and began ripping it up. I didn't really have a plan for when or how we would fix it up. I just tore it out. Later, Jeremy finished the job, removing both the toilet and the sink. And so it is right at this moment.

Although I did not have any immediate plans for remodeling the bathroom, it felt good just to have gutted it. It went from being a project that needed to be done to a project that was begun, and that felt good. It was a small accomplishment, but I have learned to appreciate every accomplishment. It was a small step, and one without the promise of near future steps, but it was in the right direction. I was satisfied.

If I have learned anything from living always with just a little less than I think our family needs, it is that satisfaction is a choice. It is not something that we should be chasing after. It is right here and it is now. It is the choice to turn away from envy and jealousy and greed. It is the choice to look around and wonder at all that we have been given. It is the choice to be grateful for every good, however small.

That night, as I stood staring through the doorway at the newly gutted bathroom and wondering how best to redesign it and where we'd find the time and money, Jacob came up beside me and wrapped his arm around my hips. "MMmmm..." He said admiringly, "I like it. Are you happy with the new bathroom, Mama?"

"Yes, Jacob," I answered honestly, "Yes I am."

When Benefits Become Drawbacks

The only problem with the new Ultimate Care Bleach made by Clorox that looks and smells almost exactly like detergent and can be poured directly onto your clothes.... is that it looks and smells almost exactly like detergent, can easily be mistaken for it, and be poured directly onto your colored clothes.

Ooops. Are stonewashed jeans back in style yet?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Well, it has been almost a week now since I began the pom-pom project and so I thought it might be a good time to report on our progress...

There certainly has been a great deal of talk about what each boy plans to get once he fills his container and a good deal of searching through catalogs and circling things. I directed them some in this area so that they would set their sights within my budget and sensibilities. (Did you know Hearth Song carries something called "Bloody Putty?" It's basically red slime that comes in an IV bag. Yuck.)

In the first few days, I had to help the boys see what kinds of actions would merit a pom-pom and which kinds of actions would cost them one. I made suggestions and gave them ideas. Now, I would say, they have less need of my suggestions, though they still need reminders.

I do not know if he has suddenly matured or if the pom-poms are to be thanked, but Simeon seems more able to help me than just a short time ago. When he sees that I have my hands full, he attends to the other children's needs without being asked.

"Could you hand me that nipple?" he asks as he fills a bottle with milk.

"Sure," I say, handing it to him.

"Thanks." he replies.

"Thanks?" I wonder. "Thanks for what? When did your goals become my goals? Now I'm helping you by taking care of the little ones?" That's nice. Very nice.

Alex, also, has been more helpful. He won't find things on his own, but I can now ask him to clean a room, a whole room, and he will. For a pom-pom, he will. This, also, is nice.

And Jacob, sweet Jacob, is trying so hard. I appreciate that.

There has been a lot of back and forth, with pom-poms flying from jar to containers and from containers back to the jar again. But in general, rooms have been cleaner, closets more organized, schedules more followed, activities more calm, and toilets more aimed at. For these, O Lord, and all of your blessings, I am grateful.

Let's do the numbers...

Simeon: 15 pom-poms

Alexander: 11 pom-poms

Jacob, sweet Jacob: 3 pom-poms

The Fall Guys

 Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 25, 2006

Despite My Best Pom-Pom Efforts...

...there was an incident. Last night, just before dinner, the boys broke glass. It was the beautiful "Endangered Species" puzzle the two oldest boys and I had made, working together each evening, over the course of a few weeks. I had framed it and put it above Simeon's bed.

Oh, they didn't mean to do it. They had been playing a game, and the game turned into a race, and the race ended on Simeon's bed, and, naturally, they had to "tag" the framed puzzle to signify the end of the race.

They told on themselves right away, and they were so, very sorry. There were many heartfelt tears and promises to never, ever do anything like it again. For running in the house, standing on beds, and slapping wall decorations, they lost three pom-poms each.

All through dinner, I battled desperate thoughts and feelings. Broken glass is a very upsetting thing. First, there is the loss of the thing that is sadly broken, and then there are the glass shards that threaten future harm. Broken glass must be dealt with immediately, the children must keep clear while you pick it up, and then it must be disposed of safely. No matter how often it happens, one just does not get used to it. (How I wish I did not know that.)

After dinner, and after I cleaned the kitchen, I thought it would do me some good to go for a run. I did not notice until I had got back that though I had run my usual route, I had done it in nearly half my usual time. I went upstairs and took a long, cool shower. There, I wondered to myself if the pom-pom project was really worth all the effort. Are the boys gaining anything from it at all? Are these behaviors simply beyond their control? Was this whole thing doomed from the start? Just what was I expecting to play out: Curious George (times five) meets Supernanny?

After my shower, I went downstairs to do my part in the evening read aloud. I sat on the couch and Jacob brought me his choice. I hadn't read "The Poky Little Puppy" in some time.

The story opens, "Five little puppies dug a hole under the fence and went for a walk in the wide, wide world." (Funny, I hadn't remembered that there were five little puppies.)

When the puppies smelled rice pudding they went running home, but their mother was greatly displeased. "So, you're the little puppies who dig holes under fences!" she said. "No rice pudding tonight!" And she made them go straight to bed. (Good for her)

The next day there was a sign in front of the fence that read "Don't ever dig holes under this fence." But the puppies did anyway and when they ran home for dessert, their mother scolded them again and put them all in bed. (They dug right out from under the sign?)

The next day, the sign in front of the fence read, "Don't EVER EVER dig holes under this fence." But (you guessed it) the puppies did anyway and when they returned home their mother scolded them a third time and sent them to bed with no dessert. (Mama Puppy, I feel your pain)

But then, when they thought their mother was asleep, they ran out and filled the hole under the fence, and when they turned around, there was their mother watching them. "What good little puppies!" she said. "Come home and have some strawberry shortcake."

It may seem strange to you, dear reader, but this simple little story brought me so much peace. I was doing the right thing after all. My efforts were not without merit. The pom-pom project was not in vain. I was correcting my children when they needed correction and affirming them whenever they did well. This is my job. This is love.

God has written the law on our hearts and etched it in stone tablets. He proclaimed it through the mouths of the prophets, and fulfilled it in the person of his Only Begotten Son. And though we break this law intentionally and unintentionally seventy times seven times a day, He does not cease to guide us, but puts up "signs" at every turn and in every possible way. And when we turn from doing wrong, He sees us coming from far off and He runs out to greet us. This is perfect love.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have five little puppies to put in bed.

Howto Folda Shirt

Laundry done in no time, thanks to this instructional video.

Thanks, April H. for the link!

Arithmetic or Optics?

Looking over Simeon's math work...

Me: Simeon, what's the difference between six and nine?

Simeon: One is right-side-up and the other is up-side-down.


The race is on...

I'd run out of detergent last Wednesday and didn't pick up more until yesterday. Now I'm paying for it.

Lights, colors, bleach...lights, colors, bleach...

May the best woman win!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Crowded Tub

There's too many [boys] in this tub.
There's too many elbows to scrub.
I just washed a behind
I'm sure wasn't mine.
There's too many [boys] in this tub.

"Crowded Tub" by Shel Silverstein
[brackets mine]
Posted by Picasa

Just How...

...did we get on the "American Girl" mailing list? Oh well, the boys are perusing the catalog anyway. Interested, I suppose, in seeing how the other half lives.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Rise and Shine

I am not a morning person. I tried for years to change this fact about myself. When I realized that I couldn't change it, I developed ways to work with it.

One recent development was to have Simeon be "in charge" of breakfast. Since he turned eight, he can be trusted to operate the toaster without hazard and carry a gallon of milk. He serves breakfast to everyone while I take a shower and acclimate to the new day. This has worked beautifully for some months now.

Yesterday morning, however, Jeremy decided to take Simeon with him to the 7:00 am mass. I'd lost my morning chef, what was I to do?

At first, I thought maybe the other boys might just sleep in while I took my shower. No such luck. As I was heading toward the bathroom I met up with Alex (5).

"I'm hungry," he said.

"Well, Simeon is not here," I told him, "You can either wait for me to get out of the shower or...or (I hesitated) (I knew it wasn't really a viable option) (...But I didn't want to go downstairs and deal, unacclimated, with the chaos that is breakfast with four well rested boys and so I said it...) or you can be "in charge" of breakfast this morning.

"Me?" He asked, his eyes growing wide, "Really? I can?"

"Uuhh...sure," I said thinking the other boys might just all sleep in, Alex could serve himself, and I'd keep the shower short.

When I came out of the shower, however, I noticed that all the other boys had gone downstairs already. Even Nicholas had been taken from his crib. The sounds coming up the stairwell were in no way alarming, though, and I did not smell fire. I dressed myself and headed downstairs with measured apprehension...

Upon entering the dining room and kitchen area I saw that Jacob(4), Zachary(2) and Nicholas(1) were all seated with a bowl of dry oatmeal, milk, and brown sugar. They each had a slice of toast and were eating contentedly. There was a smell of vanilla extract in the air and Jacob was wearing Alex's night shirt. I found Alex, standing without a shirt by the toaster waiting for something.

"It's for you, Mama," he said proudly as an english muffin popped up (I've eaten an english muffin for breakfast every day for nearly two years now.)

"Why is Jacob wearing your shirt?" I asked him, wondering.

"Jacob was cold," he said, "and so I gave him it."

Ok, there was quite a bit of dry oatmeal on the floor, vanilla extract was spilled on the counter, and my english muffin had not been split but was toasted whole, but I didn't see any of those things.

All I saw was my little kindergartener stepping up to the plate. All I saw was that he understood, at five years of age, that authority carries responsibilities and often requires self sacrifice.(Heck, sometimes it requires the shirt off your back!) And all I saw was that he considered his service and sacrifice a great privilege.

For the rest of the day, the thought of my little shirtless Alex standing by the toaster warmed my heart and encouraged me to see my authority over these little ones, with all its responsibilities and sacrifices, as the privilege it truly is.

God Bless the Archbishop of Malta...

for giving this sermon. And may many more bishops and archbishops do the same.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Solution

While I can't claim to have solved my homeschooling problem until I have successfully implemented this plan, I have been talking with other, more experienced homeschooling mothers (wise oldest sister) and researching this topic online and I think I see now what it is that I need to do.

Suzanne's Top Ten Suggested Solutions for Handling Homeschooling While There's a Toddler in the House (Or Two)

  1. The Containment Solution: Enclose small children in a playpen, playroom, or an outside deck where they can be seen easily enough. Give them balls or favorite toys that are only used during school time.
  2. The Great Outdoors Solution: Weather permitting, take it outside. Small children are usually happier outdoors. While they swing or play in the sandbox, you can work with older children at a pic-nic table.
  3. TV/Books-on-Tape Solution: While we don't want to just "plug" our little ones in and forget about them, we shouldn't feel guilty about buying time in this way, especially if we choose wholesome entertainment.
  4. Make the Most of Nap Times: Need I say more?
  5. Whole-Family Education: As much as possible, plan activities in which the whole family can participate, each at their own level. Take a nature walk, tour a museum, or go to the zoo. At home indoors, read lower age level books so all can follow along. One of our favorite "whole-family" books is an illustrated dictionary. The younger children like the illustrations, the preschoolers build vocabulary, and the older children learn second or third meanings of words they already knew.
  6. Change Your Perspective: Look at the whole day, or maybe even the whole week as an opportunity to get work done. Do not limit yourself to the first few hours of the morning Monday through Friday. While those hours are generally the best for concentration, they may not work for you and your family every day. Also, rethink where learning is done. Use driving time and times when you are folding laundry or preparing food to work one-on-one with a child. (Tip: Clipboards are very useful for making worksheets portable.)
  7. Use Smaller Blocks of Time: I suppose this is a corollary to the last one. The logic is simple, buying 10-45 minutes from a toddler is easier than buying 3 hours.
  8. Rotate Subjects in the Best Time Slot: Determine the time slot in which you get the most done. Is it first thing in the morning, nap time, or in the evening when Dad is home? Rotate the subject studied in that time slot to gain a more uniform benefit.
  9. Get Some Help:If you don't have older children to help out with the little ones, consider getting some extra help. A mother's helper or a grandmother could make life a little easier.
  10. Make A Plan: No one of these solutions will serve you all day, every day. Variety is key to keeping the little ones happy and you on track to providing all the children with a well rounded education. Take some time each week to lay out a reasonable plan of action. For example, solution one may work well on Mondays and solution three on Tuesdays...etc.
Lastly, I need to remember that this is a relatively short season in my family life. My two little ones will, in fact, grow and grow rather quickly.

What is a problem today will not be tomorrow. If you have a smaller family, the little ones will be doing the work of the big kids in no time. If you are blessed with many children, the older ones will soon be able to help you with the babies. Do not worry, tomorrow will have its own set of problems.

For everything there is a season, enjoy this one. I, for one, plan to make the most of it.

Wish me well.

Nature's Defenses At Work in the Home

As I was getting the children ready for their dental appointment...

Me: Jacob, we need to get your teeth really clean so I want you to use the stronger toothpaste.

Jacob: But I can't use Simeon's toothpaste.

Me: Why not?

Jacob: Because Simeon told me there's venom in it.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Rising Up and Hoping To Be Called Blessed

I visited my younger sister recently and was so impressed by all that she has and does to help her children make good choices and behave well. I was impressed, too, with her organized and well kept collection of educational toys and games.

It's not that I haven't tried similar things myself or that I have never bought my children educational toys and manipulatives. In fact, there once was a time that I had to fight the temptation to buy those things like some women fight the temptation to buy more shoes.

So what happened? When did I stop and why? Was it that week after Christmas one year when EVERY SINGLE ONE of the carefully chosen fun and educational gifts was broken, lost, or missing pieces? Was it because the boys were using the Montessori materials as guns and broke a window in the classroom? Was it because they were chewing the Playmobil like bubble gum? Honestly, it's enough to make us consider giving a donation in each boy's name to the charity of his choice for Christmas. (I am so mean)

And when did I stop trying creative methods to motivate my children to take better care of their things and use things for what they are meant to be used for? When did I accept their carelessness as an unfortunate fact of life? Was it the day I realized that I was the only one who cared about the cute, motivational sticker chart on our refrigerator? Or was it the moment I learned that boys don't take to rules quite like most girls do?

On a certain level, I do think I need to accept these circumstances as a reality that will be with me for some time, but I also think it is good to try new motivational techniques on occasion.

Today, I was inspired.

Each of the three oldest boys now has a colorful smiley snack box and whenever they treat our possessions respectfully or behave well in the specific area each is working on they can put one of the colorful, metallic, pom-poms inside. Whenever they fail in their designated area, they must put a pom-pom back. Should they fill the container(I'm guessing about thirty good actions assuming no transgressions) they may pick an educational toy or game of their choice.

So far, in the half day we have been doing this, I have already benefited by one clean and organized closet, a tidied back yard, prompt obedience, and less laundry due to dry pants and better table manners. Not a bad start, eh? Perhaps they are getting tired of playing with broken toys.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

In Loving Memory

Two years ago, today, we lost Jeremy's father. Jeremy and I were married young and so I could really look to his father, in some ways, as my own. And although I was Catholic and he was Southern Baptist, he took me into his family and, I believe, into his heart.

He was a man of demonstrated faith, boundless generosity, and tremendous warmth. He was loved by all who knew him. From his example, I saw that a generous heart receives much, that a good listener will always have friends, and that a good life is one lived in tireless service to one's neighbor because of one's living and growing love for God.

We are grateful for the beautiful time we spent with him in the mountains of West Virginia just weeks before he died. This picture of him with Alex was taken during that trip.

We miss you, Dad, and we love you! Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 18, 2006

You Know A Kid is Homeschooled When...

Me: Simeon, how long is a yardstick?

Simeon: They're all different lengths.

...he thinks a yardstick is a stick you find in the yard.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

First Encounters With Biography

Jacob: Johnny Appleseed was real until they put him in a book.


While the folks over at The Skeptic's Dictionary don't seem to think much of aromatherapy, I'm a firm believer. Oh, I don't know about the power of aroma to heal physical ailments, but I have no doubt about the power of aroma upon my mood and general sense of well being.

As you might imagine, I frequently encounter hard-to-deal-with smells. I'll spare you details, but I've noticed the negative thoughts and feelings these smells produce in me. Bad smells have a way of making me feel inadequate, overwhelmed, and defeated. Bad smells send messages to my brain like, "No matter how much effort you exert into cleaning this house, it will never be enough," and "You call this a healthy environment?" and "I knew it. We really are white trash."

To counteract the negative effects of these smells upon my psyche, I have carefully chosen products, the scents of which send me positive messages, placed throughout the house.

There are the basics:

1. Pine-Sol says, "Clean."
2. Bleach says, "Disinfected."
3. Murphy's Oil sings, "The dirt is finished and the finish is fine."

But it's nice to have subtle, more therapeutic smells about the place, too, like my pricey salon shampoo. In the peaceful bliss that is my morning shower, it whispers, "You are every bit as good as the professional woman. Your hair is just as important as hers and so is your job."Then my rainy-misty-mountain shower gel seems to say, "Every day is a new day. Make the most of this one. You can do it!"

It is always good, too, to take advantage of the power of scent to evoke memory. I like to drop a few drops of Whisk scented oil on a new vacuum bag. I do this partly because I love the smell of it and partly because it has a way of "Whisking" me back eight years to when I first learned this technique. This scent asks me, "Remember when you had hardly anyone to clean up after and yet you cleaned obsessively? Remember when there were no nose-and-mouth marks on your windows, no handprints on your walls, no food caked to your kitchen chairs?" Somehow it feels good to remember that.

Orange Blossom Honey handsoap, made by Trader Joe's, is another memory scent I've discovered recently. It takes me back to my college days in Southern California. There, I studied the Great Books of the Western World, formed lasting friendships, and met my husband. "Remember who you were." this scent seems to say, "Do not forget your ideals."

Lastly, I can't fail to mention my emergency floral, feminine-affirming room spray made by Crabtree and Evelyn. This stuff just screams, "Girlie-Girlie-Girlie!" It wouldn't surprise me if it were one day clinically proven to lower testosterone levels.

So those are a few of the therapeutic aromas that help me get by. I'm sure many of you could share some of your own. It's pretty cheap therapy, if you think about it. Now, if only we could buy bottled silence.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Highlighting the Problem

I guess you can't see it too well in the picture, but Nicholas did highlight the front of his shirt . Posted by Picasa

How I Manage Around Here

Last night, while vacuuming the dining room rug the top part of the vacuum suddenly separated from the bottom part of the vacuum. Not a problem.

1. Look closely at where the vacuum parts come together and notice the screw holes and missing screws.

2. Check where the screws come out the other side and note approximately how long the screws need to be.

3. Look in special drawer in the kitchen where all the hardware the boys bring me is kept.

4. Find two long screws there and one bolt that look right.

5. Unscrew the register vent in the foyer.

6. Reach in the heating duct and find the other bolt there.

7. Replace register vent, screws and bolts.

8. Finish vacuuming.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

And I Thought I Had It Rough

There's an article in the Wall Street Journal today with the title, "Extreme Juggling: Parents Home-School the Kids While Holding Full-Time Jobs." The articles states that,

"Amid the expansion of home-schooling in general, the involvement of parents who are employed full time or almost full time is increasing even faster."

Many of the employed full-time and home-schooling interviewed for this article keep late hours or insanely early ones, work seven days a week, and sometimes worry that they might be shortchanging either work or their kid's education. Even so, they believe that fitting a school day into a work day is not unrealistic.

What motivates these parents to take their children out of school and take on the arduous task of educating their children themselves when they are already employed full-time?

The article doesn't answer that question, but states in general that parents aren't choosing to home-school simply for religious reasons anymore and that some parents have concerns about peer pressure and the quality of public education.

If parents, in increasing numbers, are willing to take on such heavy burdens in order to keep their children out of the public school system then something just has to change.

I can see myself now, complaining to a grown son and daughter-in-law, "Well, when I was home-schooling my boys we didn't have all the nice [tax benefits, vouchers, government money, flex-time employment options...whatever it is] you have now."

When We Get Big

We're not there just yet, but when we get a full-sized van I'm going to slap one of these on the back of it. Maybe find one of those handy stop signs that open off the side.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Nicholas Sets the Record Straight

Now look here, I just read what my mother wrote about me in the last post and I think she's looking at the whole thing in the wrong way. I am not the problem here, it's all of them.

You see, up until about three days ago I had a really great life. Every morning when I woke up my mother would take me out of my crib and cuddle with me, then I would play with my four older brothers. Every day we spent hours outside as a family sometimes walking, sometimes playing tennis, sometimes going to the park, but most of the time we went swimming at the pool or at the beach.

Ah yes, my life was full of sand, and water and sunshine and fun. But then a terrible thing happened. Everyone started talking about "school" whatever that is, and I just ignored it thinking it didn't have anything to do with me so it wouldn't affect my wonderful life.

Boy, was I wrong! The next morning everyone got up and it was all serious-like. Hurry, hurry, hurry... no cuddling, no playing, no nothing but chores. Then they all sat down at a table and scratched at paper with pencils. Where is the fun in that?

"What's the matter with everyone?" I asked, but nobody paid any attention. They were all too busy with the pencils and paper. "Hey look" I said dumping the pencil shavings onto the floor to remind them of sand, "Remember sand? Remember fun?" Still nobody listened, and so I went to the sink. "Water! Guys! Remember water?" I turned on the faucet and splashed around a bit. That got my mother's attention.

Did she take me upstairs and change me into my swimsuit, pack a beach bag and head to the van? Alas, no, she stripped me of my clothes and sent me off to play with a very crabby Zachary. I'll admit that I was rather annoyed at this point and I may have caused some trouble because of it, but I was just trying to restore some sanity to this household. You can understand that, right?

He Ain't Trouble, He's My Brother

We have just completed the third day of school here at Temple Academy. The boys are very motivated and they are doing beautiful work.

I can see already that the light summer program that I did with Simeon is really going to pay off. He's forgotten plenty of things from last year, but not everything and that will really ease his transition into third grade.

Alex is doing a Kindergarten curriculum, and if anything he isn't challenged enough by it. I may need to supplement and find more fruitful work for him. He is so proud of all he does and so am I. I love the way his ears go up when he smiles and the little pleased-with-himself sound he makes when he learns something new.

Jacob is eager to keep up with Alex and he very nearly can. (At least he puts on a good show.) He isn't interested in the colorful everything-you-need-to-know-for-preschool books I bought him and he doesn't want to color anything. He wants to work with a #2 pencil and write letters and numbers. I let him do what he can.

So, you'd think we're off to a pretty good start and I suppose we are....but (and this is a pretty big BUT so I had better capitalize it) there is just one little problem. His name is Nichloas. Oh, I suppose there are two problems, Zachary and Nicholas, but one is soooo much more trouble than the other that he eclipses him almost entirely.

DAY ONE: Nicholas dumps a potted plant, empties the contents of the electric pencil sharpener three times, pushes a stool up to the kitchen sink, turns on the water and soaks himself all in the first hour. It didn't get any better after that. It may have gotten worse, if you can believe it.

DAY TWO: On the advice of a very wise older sister, I try television. Thomas the Tank Engine buys me one half hour of good work time. Thank you, Thomas! Thank you wise older sister! Zachary watched the whole thing and I think Nicholas wandered the playroom quietly, but when the first show ended they both came screaming up the stairs.

DAY THREE: On the advice of a very gifted younger sister, I try inviting Nicholas to join us at the work table. Ok, she told me I should restrain him in a high chair and I didn't because he screams whenever he is restrained, for as long as he is restrained. Anyway, he crawled all over our work, threw pencils, and adjusted the chandelier. (Hmm...I hope that can be fixed.) At this point I sent him off to play...see DAY ONE.

I am open to suggestions if anyone out there can help, but short of hiring a babysitter I don't believe there is a solution to our handsome little problem, unless bearing with him, juggling time-buying techniques, and accepting a less than ideal work environment can be considered a solution.

At the close of our day today, Simeon was reviewing his addition flash cards. Nicholas climbed up on his lap and was slapping the table and shouting garbley-gook that sounded like the numbers Simeon was saying.

"Eighteen," Simeon would say in that urgent I'm-doing-flashcards sort of way. "AAaahteen," Nichloas would repeat in the same urgent tone. It really was adorable and I had to laugh.

"YOU ARE SO MUCH TROUBLE," I said affectionately.

"He's no trouble to me." Simeon said ingenuously and kissed Nicholas's soft baby head. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Tell-Tale Toucan

I know..I know, I have been rambling on and on about our vacation and it's time to start writing about other things, but if you'll indulge me in this one last story I don't think you will regret it.

It has become a tradition of ours to stop for a meal at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and Restaurant at least once when we are driving either to or from vacation. The boys just love Cracker Barrel. From the oversized checker games and rocking chairs on the porch to the ole American country-type gizmos and doo-dads that supply this restaurant's atmosphere and decor to the breakfast all day option and the little individual-sized bottles of warm maple syrup, this place was just made to amuse travel-weary little boys. The good thing, too, is that the boys are usually so happy to be there that they behave perfectly well for us the whole time.

The only problem with this "everybody wins" situation is the "Old Country Store" part of the deal. In the lobby of the Cracker Barrel is an amazing array of old fashioned toys, games, and candy for sale. There are swirly lollipops the size of your head, and clear bins of jelly beans, candies, and chocolates in the old-fashioned style. In the aisles are Slinkys and Weazel Balls, sock monkeys and Magnetic Wooly Willies. Interspersed with all these exciting attractions are items for the grownups, too. There are wine glasses and pottery, beautiful statues and figurines as well as quilts and sweaters and candles and so I am always nervous letting the boys loose to see all that they can see.

On the way to Cape Cod, we stopped at a Cracker Barrel in Providence, R.I. After a game of checkers on the porch we headed into the lobby. Almost immediately the boys discovered a new toy: A toucan perched on a plastic branch that would repeat anything you said in a voice that sounded very much like your own, but somewhat squawkier.

"Polly Wanna Cracker," Simeon said and the toucan repeated it twice in a Simeon/toucan voice. So exciting! The boys were thrilled and they took turns making the toucan say all sorts of silly of things until they were all laughing and giggling so loudly that the toucan was doing nothing but giggling and laughing, too, and doubling the noise level. It took all my patience to calmly tear the boys away from their newly-found, fine, feathered friend and usher them to our table.

After the meal, while we were making trips to the bathroom and paying the bill, I did all I could to steer the boys away from the toucan and in the direction of other toys. "Look at this snow globe," I said and they seemed half interested.

It was my turn to use the bathroom and when I returned I found only Jeremy and the two littlest boys by the snow globe. 'Where are the boys?' I began to ask but was interrupted by the unmistakable sound of a toucan belching... and then belching again.

I was so embarrassed and so out of patience, I marched up to the boys unthinkingly and said, "Stop it. You are done here. Go to the door." And then I immediately regretted it.

"STOP IT," snapped the toucan in a tone much harsher than one I had used (or so I thought) "YOU ARE DONE HERE," he scolded, "GooOOOoo to the door." (Did I really drag out the word 'go' so long?) As I hurried the boys to the door the toucan repeated my words one last time for all to hear and I saw more than a few pairs of eyes looking at the toucan and then over at us...sigh. Very humbling.

The good news is that we took advantage of Cracker Barrel's books on tape loan program for the first time and got this wonderful treasure. "Gone Away Lake" by Elizabeth Enright (1957 Newbery Honor Book) is a delightful and entertaining tale for grade levels 3-6. The story is beautifully written with rich language, displays an intimate understanding of children, and does not fail to entertain the adult reader/listener as well. It made for a very peaceful rest-of-the-ride experience.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Our Lady of the Kitchen Sink

If the kitchen is the heart of the home, then the kitchen sink is a main artery. We mothers spend so much time in front of the kitchen sink that it only seems natural to place an image of the Blessed Mother there. She stands before us as a blessing upon the home, a companion in our day's work and a model and inspiration to virtue.

I remember the statue my own mother had over her kitchen sink. We would bring her the prettiest flowers we could find from the yard. Buttercups, Violets, Wild Roses and even the occasional Lady Slipper (though it was rumored that those were illegal to pick in New Hampshire) would find its way there. I don't remember when or who began calling her "Our Lady of the Kitchen Sink," but it stuck.

While my boys don't spend too much time picking flowers, they are devoted naturalists and they love to bring me gifts from the yard all the year round. In April, Mary is decorated with Crocuses and bird's feathers. In June, she is adorned in large pink climbing roses while Quartz, Mica, and other semi-precious stones surround her. In October, she wears an impressive display of colored leaves and has acorns strewn at her feet. And in December, she holds a sprig of Holly and stands among Pinecones.

In Cape Cod, the boys were particularly generous. All week long they gathered the loveliest shells and brought them to me. They understood that I wasn't anxious to hold the crabs they found or the kelp they collected for themselves. They understood that what I liked were pretty shells and they delighted to give them to me. I brought their gifts home in heavy pockets each night and placed them on the window sill over the sink.

When we returned home, one of the first things we did was to place the shells around Our Lady of the Kitchen Sink. So now, when I am scrubbing pots, I can look up and see this Queen, who rejoiced in her lowliness, decorated so beautifully in the humble and generous gifts of five little boys. Blessed is she, the Mother of Our Lord, among all women everywhere. And blessed am I in my little home among my little men.

Our Lady of the Kitchen Sink everywhere,
Pray for us and the Little Ones in our care. Posted by Picasa

And the Last Four Thousand Words...

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Because A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Hearing the Call

During consecration at mass today I whispered into Zachary's ear, "That's Jesus. That's Jesus." The acolytes rang the bells and Zachary asked, "Jesus on the telephone?"

We "Heart" Cape Cod

In fact, we heart it so much that we almost bought a bumper sticker that said so, and we have NEVER had a bumper sticker. Cape Cod is quintessential New England. It is classic; it is quaint; it is romantic, fascinating, and beautiful.

I've been to beaches before but have never spent so much time so close to the ocean and seen it in so many different ways. We visited the bayside beaches and ocean side beaches, beaches full of rocks, shells, and crabs, and beaches with miles of soft white sand where seals play near the shore. We explored salt marshes, waded through wet lands and tidal pools, walked through sand dunes and by cliffs that drop into the sea.

Then there were the shops, the restaurants, and the art galleries. We didn't visit too many of these with all the boys, but it was enough for me to smell the delicious food cooking inside and view the quaint New England style shop signs.

No we didn't eat out too often, but that didn't keep us from eating well. By the fishing pier in Chatham where the fishing boats come in there was a wonderful fish market. We chose our dinner there nearly every night. Swordfish caught that morning, prepared with a Nantucket rub and grilled to perfection and homemade New England clam chowder with crusty fresh bread were two of our favorites. Then there was the night we had steamed clams. The boys had befriended a local clam digger by asking him questions about his sport. He gladly took them all out and showed them how to dig for clams. They caught several species of crab, plenty of kelp, and about twenty hard shell clams. We steamed them in ocean water when we got back to the house and enjoyed them with butter.

Then there was the Rail Trail. Cape Cod has a bike trail that is 25 miles long. The traffic on this trail is heavy enough for shops and restaurants to have opened up all along side of it. We rented bikes and rode the Cape Cod Rail Trail 10 miles from Brewster to Orleans and back, stopping only for lunch. I had the two babies in a kiddie trailer, Jacob was on a tandem behind Jeremy and the two oldest each had their own bikes. We all rode happily along in the warm air smelling, on occasion, the candy-like smell of ripe grapes in the sun. We were together, but each of us alone with the day, with the motion of our bikes, with the gentle breeze, and with our happy thoughts. I felt the warmth of the sun on my face and I thought to myself,'This must be a bit like heaven.' In heaven we will, all of us, be happy and together but each of us will be alone in some way too, with God.

And so I could go on about the lady that took the boys out on her kayak or the fisherman who gave Simeon a live starfish, the neighbor who let the boys use his swing set whenever they wanted or how the boys completed all the required tasks to become Junior Cape Cod National Seashore Rangers, received badges, and slept with them on.... but I think I've made it quite clear that we had a wonderful vacation at Cape Cod, more than I could write about in one evening or two... and so I will end this post with a heart felt 'thank you' to everyone that wished and prayed for the good weather we had.

Besides, tomorrow is the first day of school.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Buried Treasure

When we went to pack for our vacation we discovered a small suitcase filled with unused diapers and pull ups! Whoo-hooo!!

My sister-in-law's mother-in-law (my husband's sister's husband's mother) bought those last year when she heard we were coming to her home state of Virginia with five boys. Jacob was still training then, so we had three in diapers. She sent the diapers over with Jeremy's sister to the place we were staying and so we never met the kind woman who supplied all the diapers for last year's vacation and, as it appears, will contribute substantially to this year's as well. Thank you!

We're off. Wish us good weather!