Saturday, September 29, 2007

Cashing In

I stumbled upon's Mom calculator and created a paycheck for myself based upon the number of children I have and the hours I put in each week teaching, cooking, and cleaning. The check was for $167,000.00.

As you can see, they put my annual pay all in one paycheck. Slightly inconvenient, I think, but I won't complain.

Also, interesting to find that I would earn slightly higher than the national average, $138,005, for stay at home mothers. This is most likely because I have slightly higher than the national average number of children.

Make yourself a paycheck today!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Deep Thoughts Between Burps

We are in the process of sealing our driveway. It hasn't been done probably ever-- and so it is a big job. We've filled the cracks once, applied the sealant, and realized we need to fill the cracks again before applying a final coat.

This project seems like it has been going for ages, with the boys wearing its unwashable black stains on their skin. Many a short sleeved shirt and pair of shorts has had to be thrown away as well. Sigh...Today, I thought I'd hurry it along and so I started work on it when all the children seemed absorbed in their own projects and games.

After a long while Jacob came out with a can of soda, "Can I have this?" he asked.

"Sure," I said, "but only if you stay out here with me where others won't see you drinking it and want one of their own," and that was the best decision I made all day.

Instead of working in silence, I had the pleasure of listening to Jacob's interesting thoughts spoken between his soda induced burps. He said things like...

"I can't count to one hundred, but some day I will be able to. You can count to one hun-(bbbuuuurrrp)-dred, Mama, and there is even such thing as one thousand and that's bigger. I think you could count to one thousand, but it would take you all day and you would have to do your chores late at night because you would have spent your whole day counting. So, in one way you can count to one thousand but in another way you really can't...Burrrrp...I think people who don't have chores could count to one thousand."

"I'm not sure if there's such things as dra-(buuurrrrp)-gons. I don't think there is such things as giants because they are so BIG and if there were such thing as 'em, I probably would have seen one. Maybe there is such thing as leprechauns because they are small and so even though I have never seen one, they...buuurrrp...might still exist."


"You got married to Papa in the olden days-- I know because I saw pictures of it...buuurrrp... and everything was black and white. You were not my mother then. I must have had a different mother, but I can't remember her at all."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

When Given the Choice...

...between coloring a penguin in front of an igloo or a butterfly over some flowers,

Nicholas chose "The Ice Duck."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Humble Pie

My husband kindly pointed out at dinner tonight that I mis-spelled "Sweden" on my map of Europe. I spelled it with a double "ee." Oops. My apologies to all of Sweeeden!

History News

You may remember when I confessed to ordering this beautiful three ring History binder after seeing it at Michelle's place. I love the binder idea for a timeline and this one is really good quality. You can order it from Homeschool in the Woods.

While I ordered the binder, I did not order the computer software or pre-printed clip art that Homeschool in the Woods offers with this timeline. While the clip art truly is beautiful, I knew my kids would rather make their own depictions of historical events. It may not be as clean looking, but I am happy with this decision.

Pictured above: Top left: "1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue." Bottom right: 1497-98 Vasco Da Gama successfully sails around Africa, from Portugal to India on a trading expedition.

Thomas Aquinas College Chapel Photos

Wow! There are some pictures up at Shrine of the Holy Whapping of the progress of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel at our Alma Mater, Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, CA.

Recently, a professor from the college told me how large the chapel was going to appear on campus and we had a discussion about how the term "Chapel" does not refer to the size of a building, but to its diocesan standing. Very interesting, but I didn't get a real sense for the proportions until I saw these pictures. Wow!

H.T: Studeo

G.I. Joe or Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Program

This just in...G.I Joe inspires virtue around here like nobody's business.

My oldest child just earned the reward of his choice after filling his pom pom jar with the tangible evidence of his hard work in the areas he most needed to improve. This child was looking for ways to help out in order to cinch the deal and finally get his hard earned paratrooper.

"What can I do to help?" he asked me sweetly this morning.

"Uh..let's could wipe the table down after breakfast."

"Thank you, Mama, I am glad to help. I will do these things even after I get my G.I. Joe."

"You will?" I said incredulously.

"Yes. Oh, yes. I mean...I should. I should do these things anyway, right?"

Well sure. It's hard to argue with that. But I thought to warn him,

"It is very easy to make promises when you are happy and about to be rewarded, but it is very difficult to keep such promises."

"Is it? That's too bad. I wish I could always be so good."

And I wish I could be as well, dear child... I wish I could be as well.

Sugar, Spice, and all things...Pink

I love pink awards, I really do, especially ones with ribbons on them--and the shoe full of flowers in the center is just beyond anything I ever dreamed I could pull off posting here.

Seriously though, I would like to thank Mary Ellen from O Night Divine, and Aimee from The Mother Load for giving me this very nice award! It is so very much appreciated. I know niceness and charity are not the same thing, but it is nice to be thought of as nice. People like nice people, and it is so nice to be liked. Thank you!

I tag...

1. Is there anyone nicer than Alice?

2. Celeste is soooo nice.

3. I think Johane is very nice.

4. Jane is a nice blogger, too.

5. And Donna Marie is about as nice it gets.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Question: Why is the bathroom rug ALWAYS covered in toothpaste?

Answer: I saw the two year old this morning gently place his toothbrush on the bathroom rug, bristles up. Then, he very carefully opened the bottle of Cool Mint Colgate and holding it about three feet over the brush, he aimed and squeezed. You know, he actually got a surprising amount of toothpaste on the brush itself. I was impressed.

Our Coats of Many Colors

All Saint's Day is around the corner again. Consider ordering one of these lovely and reasonably priced costumes this year. Your family will treasure these "coats of many colors" for years to come. Place your order now to receive it on time.

For Sale (not really)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Exploring the Old World

We've been working on these maps to help with our history studies. We've spent plenty of time with maps of America in the last several years, but when you read about Europe discovering the Americas it helps to have some familiarity with Europe, too. Top: My watercolor map. Bottom: Simeon's map of European flags, some points of historical interest, some wildlife, and some industry.

My favorite illustrations of his: The school of sardines off the coast of Sardinia, The pizza in Sicily, the Loch Ness monster in Scotland, Mother Theresa for Macedonia where she was born, the cuckoo clock in Germany and, of course, the beer stein.

This was a great exercise for both of us and we'll be referring back to these maps in the future, I am sure.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Breathing In

Nicholas is my companion this morning. He is following me around asking questions and seeking my attention.

"I want different pants." He complained tugging at the jeans he just grew into, "Don't like these...Don't like 'em. They're too big." They are too big, but not for him. He is a very large child, this baby of mine and the jeans were Jacob's just last spring. Too large for a baby, indeed, but they fit him just fine. I took them off and searched for something else.

"How about these?" I asked holding up shorts. "No, I...don'" These? "No." These? "No" and so on... Finally, I grabbed a pair of dark blue sweats. "These are cozy," I said putting them on him. "No, they're...cold." he replied, "Don'"

"Owwie," he said pointing to a tiny speck of blood on his arm, "It's blood!" he panicked. "Go get some tissue," I told him and he came back with enough toilet tissue to embalm himself with--head to toe. I tore off a small piece and held it to the ghastly speck wound. He played with my thumb nail and ran his other hand up and down my arm, "Mama's arm," he smiled. "Yes, Mama's arm."

He discovered my keep sake hat box on the hope chest and began digging through the pictures. "Here's Simeon... I see Alex... Look at Jacob," he said staring at his own birth announcement. "Who's the baby?" I asked him. "Baby's cryin'," he said dismissing the child and handing me the photograph.

He found another picture from last year's family vacation and recognized us all, but I couldn't help but notice how much each of the boys has grown. Pudgy-cheeked smiles with little, round milk teeth have given way to more defined jaw lines and large, razor edged grown-up teeth. Legs are longer, hair thicker, chests broader. They have all grown so much.

Then, Nicholas found the double-sided, fine toothed infant comb I had been given at the hospital when he was born. "What's that, Mama?" he asked. "That's your comb, Nicholas," and so he stuck it in his long, thick curls and tried to comb his hair. The comb was useless on him now-- even ridiculous-- and I was tempted to feel sad. I was tempted to miss that baby Nicholas and his sweet smelling head, those little infant hands once always in motion, now frozen forever in this photograph. I can make out the little palm and the long thin fingers, I can feel them on my face and neck in my memory--so delicate and soft.

I suddenly and keenly felt a need to appreciate what I have of him today and just breathe it all in--his thick dark curls, his dirty feet, his chunky legs, often sticky face, and how he always smells faintly of peanut butter. I am so happy to have this child, a little companion who wants to be with me-- who follows me around. One day even those big jeans he wore this morning will look very small. One day, I will miss these wide and dirty feet almost as much as I miss those delicate pink infant fingers. He won't always want my attention so completely; he won't always bring me his "Owwies," or gently rub my arm with round toddler fingers.

I suppose It's a Good Sign...

...when you describe your week of learning with the children to your husband in the evening and his response is...

"I'd like to be a boy living in this house."

Geo Jokes

Simeon: Which country is shaped like a stomach and located in the center of Europe?

Me: Which?

Simeon: Hungary.

Friday, September 21, 2007

This Learning Stuff is Messy Business

Friday afternoon after a good week of learning. Time to clean up and start dinner. I can hardly believe the weekend is here again. Time does fly when you're having fun.

Spelling: A Naturally Planned Approach

We are having such marvelous success with our spelling program this year and so many people have asked me to forward them the information on it, that I just decided to write a post about it.

While Spelling Workout appealed to my children last year, our problems with spelling were such that a random list of words to memorize for Friday and forget by Monday just wasn't improving our writing skills any.

We needed a more planned and targeted approach. Natural Speller by Kathryn Stout is a non-consumable word part based speller for first through eighth graders. This single workbook contains spelling lists based upon the easy phonetic spelling rules ay-/long a/ gray, say, play, etc. used for first through third graders-- all the way up to lists based upon Greek and Latin root words such as agon: struggle, contest: agony, antagonize, protagonist, etc. for use in higher grade levels.

In addition to word lists, Natural Speller provides ample suggestions for activities used to study the spelling of words. Ideas include hands on and multi-sensory activities like writing list words in clay, general practice ideas like breaking words up into their syllables, dictionary skills such as alphabetizing spelling lists, and grammar skills like identifying parts of speech, changing tenses of list verbs, number of list nouns, and adding -ly to list adjectives to make them adverbs. Author, Kathryn Stout, also provides simple and clear instructions to help parents find the activities that will best suit their child's age, interests, and abilities.

Next, in order to target and study the most important words to spell correctly, I referred to my Reading Teacher's Book of Lists (mine is an older edition). There, I found a list of the most frequently used words in the English language, ranked in frequency order. The first hundred of these words compose almost half of all written material! If your child has difficulty spelling, these are the words to study first. Here is that same list on the web.

I tested my children on the spelling of the first hundred of these words and marked all the words they struggled with or misspelled. Then I looked over all the words they missed and grouped them according to the child's mistakes. Incorrect spellings such as Hiz, wuz, iz, and uze, for example, show a need to learn the rule of s /z/. I wrote these words in a spelling notebook with the rule clearly stated at the top and found this rule in the Natural Speller as well where more examples were given to add to my words and form a complete list. I now had a list of ten words that exemplified this rule and each day we completed a new, short and enjoyable activity using the list words. We wrote them in clay, composed short sentences using them, spoke their spellings aloud, highlighted the letters in each word that exemplified the rule, and drew word pictures.

By Friday, the rule was learned and the words were spelled correctly. The child continued to spell the words correctly the following Monday and since seven of these words were on the list of hundred most frequently used words, that child's general spelling ability was improved by roughly three and a half percent in just one week! By the end of our second week, spelling was improved by seven percent, and by the end of our third week, roughly TEN percent.

I plan to work through the first thousand most frequently used words in this same manner-- composing lists and using activities from the Natural Speller. Working this way, we are receiving the highest payback for our efforts and the spelling lessons are short and pleasant. I don't think I will buy another spelling book again.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Zachary's Tiger

Do you remember using Paint With Water pages as a child? You know, the coloring pages with dots or grids of dried watercolor in the area to be colored-- and all you had to do was use a brush dipped in water to fill in the spaces? These are great for preschoolers because it doesn't take much skill to get a pleasing result.

I loved the magical way the paint appeared when I used these as a kid and now I love the way they provide my littlest ones with relatively mess-less painting fun!

I had completely forgotten about them until I saw them at our local parent/teacher store. I bought this one and another by the same company. I also found Tonka, Babar, and Dick and Jane at Amazon. And though I don't see a picture, this Bible Stories Paint With Water book sounds like a great idea.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Picture Post: Part Two

Scenes From Chincoteague

We have our new monitor and I have full and easy access to all my pictures again, so here is a little scenery from Chincoteague. Our school year is off to a great start, by the way, and I will write more when I find the time.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

An Integral Part of Comprehensive Auto Insurance

I think I should receive a discount from my insurance carrier not for parking our new van in the garage, but for buying five new pairs of these grips for the boys' bikes-- also parked in the garage.

Monday, September 17, 2007

False Alarms

We sent our main computer monitor out for repairs shortly before we left for vacation. We have been anxiously awaiting the gift card promised from the vendor to replace that monitor and it arrived in the mail today. Simeon was delighted and I promised to take him with me to purchase a new monitor after dinner.

During dinner Alexander complained that his stomach hurt, but this didn't keep him from eating all his pizza and even vying for seconds... and then thirds. He did seem a bit out of sorts, however, as Simeon and I were cleaning up the kitchen in an anxious flurry trying to get out the door.

"My stomach hurts, " Alex complained as he crawled up the stairs and put himself to bed early. The other boys sat down to watch some Pink Panther as Simeon and I slipped out the door.

Once at the store, Simeon surveyed all the monitors on display. He got right to work on the lap top that controlled the display monitors and started surfing his favorite places on the web. As I compared the many options and tried to find one that matched the qualifications my husband would have wanted, Simeon pulled the lap top out a bit too far, setting off the store's alarm system. As the sirens wailed and I frantically tried to set things right, my cell phone rang.

"Alex is really in very serious pain and I don't know how to help him," my husband sounded very concerned. "We're coming home," I responded. I hung up the phone, explained the situation to Simeon, and apologized to the store personnel that were now gathered around us-- keys in hand-- trying to disable the alarm.

When I arrived home, I found Alex doubled over, walking from bathroom to bed. "Where does it hurt?" I asked and he moaned. Curled up on his bed, he motioned to his abdomen. He seemed in extreme pain, unable to walk upright, and when he spoke it was only to say, "Help me."

I turned to jelly as I dialed the number to his pediatrician. The nurse on call asked a series of leading questions that concluded in what I already knew--we must take Alex to the emergency room. Jeremy dressed him carefully as I spoke with the doctor on call . She wondered that his pain seemed located centrally, but urged us to have him seen. I agreed. We carried him out to the car and I took him to the closest hospital.

As I carried him though the parking lot, many people offered help. One woman fetched a wheel chair for us while another gentleman insisted that we rest a bit and lean on his car. I felt a bit silly leaning there while all I wanted was to get my child in where he would could receive the attention he needed. I felt plenty strong and able, but it seemed rude to refuse the help of such kind people and so we leaned on the car and waited for the wheel chair to arrive. I wheeled him inside where we settled in and he began to feel a bit better.

"Can you stand?" I asked Alex in the waiting room and he thought he could. He stood upright and began to cry. "There's something in my throat," he said and then...he really had had a lot of pizza and it all came back with force in that hospital waiting room, down the hall, and into the corridor where I finally gave up searching for a bathroom.

We were bumped up the waiting line and admitted immediately. The nurses brought Alex a cute pair of pajamas to change into, clean socks, and a pink bucket. (Why are those kinds of buckets always pink?) He seemed to be feeling better.

We were directed to a bed in a hall where Alex settled down and he pulled a blanket over himself. He asked to go home and I could see he was no longer in pain. All thoughts of appendicitis floated away and I was now sure that Alex just had a nasty stomach bug.

An elderly lady watched us from the next bed over and explained to me that she had been waiting for four hours in that hall. She lived in a nursing home, she explained, and had had a bad fall. She looked gently at Alex and seemed pleased for the company. A man arrived on a high bed right off an ambulance. He seemed cheerful despite his circumstances and when they wheeled him up beside us, he winked at me and called Alex his "buddy." "You aren't feeling so well Buddy," he said," I'm sorry." Three women that looked like his wife and daughters came to his side and he asked, "Did you see my little Buddy over there?" he eyed Alex as the women gently tried to get him to rest.

A man from the waiting room passed by us then and recognized Alex. He stopped a moment to ask if we were feeling any better. A doctor came to see the woman who had fallen and we waited. Alex closed his eyes.

Moments later the doctor came and had Alex walk a short distance and jump up and down. When he could do those thing, we were given the papers to go home. As we were leaving, the woman who had fallen was wheeled past us. "I hope you are well soon," I said and she reached out to me with her hand. I took it firmly and she whispered well wishes and blessings as they wheeled her away.

Alex was all chatty on the way home and pleased to show off his new pajamas, wrist band, and pink bucket to Jeremy as he came bounding up the stairs to his bed.

All is well.

While stomach flu is nothing to celebrate, it sure beats surgery. And though I am not looking forward to the bill, I couldn't help but feel that our visit to the hospital was a positive experience. Tonight, I saw many people who were sick and suffering and who took the time and energy--despite their own ailments-- to reach out to me and my sick son. There was a certain solidarity, a shared feeling of vulnerability, and a definite sense of mutual encouragement and love within those hospital walls tonight. Thank you Lord, for that.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Zachary's Paradox

It is very troubling when you are three years old and looking forward to seeing your uncles, who you are told will arrive "tomorrow." You may wait all evening patiently asking several times when they will come and be told every time "tomorrow." You might go to sleep happily knowing that tomorrow will be there when you wake up. But then, after breakfast when you are certain you have waited long enough you ask your mother,

"Is it tomorrow?"

Only to be told, "No, it is today. Tomorrow comes after you go to sleep and wake up again."

That's when you might break down and complain that if it is always today, and tomorrow is always the next day and if your uncles are coming "tomorrow", they will never come.

Perhaps this paradox is the reason that Zachary's uncles have changed their plans and rather than coming "tomorrow" like Zachary was told all day yesterday, they have decided to come "today."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Who's Building Whose Vocabulary?

From Wordly Wise:

Me: tentacle n. A tentacle is a long, thin part that grows out of some sea animals.

Simeon: Yes, and aliens too.

A Wonderful Discovery

The World Made New by Marc Aronson and John W. Glenn, National Geographic 2007, 68 pages. Illustrated.

This new National Geographic book has become a fast favorite around here. The World Made New is a slender volume, but each page is filled with enticing illustrations and fascinating facts that fill out the many causes and consequences of the Age of Exploration. The World Made New presents these ideas from an innovative and global perspective, namely that the events that followed Columbus' voyage changed the entire world. The age of discovery did not merely result in the adding of the Americas to European maps, but rather when the Old and New worlds that had developed an ocean apart came into contact with one another for the very first time, the direction of the entire world's history was significantly altered. While Europeans explored America's lands, the first American tomato came to Italy; the American potato, to Ireland; the American chili pepper, to India. This book looks at the Old and New worlds before they came into contact, describes the persons and events that brought the Americas into contact with the rest of the known world, and traces the global consequences of this turning point in world history-- simply spellbinding.

Front cover photo-illustration by John Glick, mouse+tiger, combining the world map c. 1565 by Paolo Forlani and The Romance of Discovery by N.C. Wyeth.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Picture Post

...because I'm too busy for much else.

Nicholas with his tongue out at the beach.

Nicholas with his tongue out on the lighthouse trail.

Rockin' at Cracker Barrel

Can you see the black and yellow spider in our garden?
Hint: It's right above that odd zig zaggy web.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety-Jig

We're home; we're happy; we're tired; we're tan. We are drowning under piles of dirty and clean laundry and yesterday we vacuumed a third of Assateague Island out of our new van--I had to shampoo the trunk and use a good deal of Febreeze, too, because something in our shell collection died back there and made the whole van smell like low tide. It took about five hours of hard work, but I think I've got it back to good as new.

We really had a great time. The weather was perfect and it was wonderful to see Jeremy's family and meet some new cousins for the very first time--mighty cute cousins, I must say.

We learned about the area wildlife and geology and earned the Assateague Island Junior Ranger badges. I just love the National Park system and programs! The boys found so much by exploring on their own and then they learned more about those things by completing the activities and taking the tour required to earn their badges and "graduate" to Junior Rangers.

We saw Marguerite Henry's house where she lived when she wrote "Misty of Chincoteague." I wish I had remembered to take a picture of it. We saw the Chincoteague lighthouse up close.

We sat on the steps, but didn't climb inside because it was a hot day and they don't air condition lighthouses and it just wouldn't have become cooler as we'd have gone up. Then we served as lunch for an aggressive swarm of vicious mosquitoes on the walk back to the car.

We rented bikes and took them on the bike trails and to the beach.

We explored marshes and went digging for clams and oysters and muscles.

We caught fiddler crabs, and ghost crabs, and mole crabs, and blue crabs.

Jacob and Alex ate all the shellfish we caught.

We went swimming in the ocean almost every day.

Nicholas loved the enormous sandbox in front of the ocean.

We saw deer, and geese, and ducks, and cranes, and plovers, and pipers, and the great blue heron. And yes, we saw ponies. But we never saw the wild ponies this close. We mostly saw them as dots on the horizon or penned up in town giving rides for a charge. My brother in law lucked out on a bike tour and took this picture.

We're happy to be home and once we've cleaned up we'll be jumping into a routine. My computer monitor is out for repairs so I'm updating from a laptop that isn't as easy to use. Blogging may be sporadic in the next week or so, but I wanted to say "hello" especially since I've been getting email from some of you wondering where I am. Thank you for asking. We're glad to be home.