Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Mustaches?

They didn't last long, but they were...

...worth every penny.

He Makes His Mother Proud

On the way home from the Halloween party tonight...

Simeon: I'm really good at eating donuts off a string. At first, they bounced off my teeth, but I didn't let that stop me. I just kept at it until I won first prize.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Best of Fall

Hurry over to The Virtual Kitchen. Kristen has compiled a virtual harvest of tempting fall flavors for the festival of the season.

Thank you, Kristen!

Monday, October 29, 2007


Yea Red Sox! Now we can all go to bed.

I'm so sorry it was a sweep, Mopsy. I know you had tickets to game five. I thought of you in that last inning and even kind of hoped the Rockies would pull through, just for you.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Only on a Sunday...

Only on a Sunday can you leave the laundry behind, decide to start those long overdue curtains some other day, postpone staining the deck, and leave the house without a care as to what you might serve for dinner--all guilt-free. The sun was bright and the air was crisp this afternoon and so we left it all behind and walked the two mile boardwalk over and around Little Pond. The boardwalk is narrow and the water is deep-- some places covering the walkway by an inch or so, but we had no problems. I wasn't even all that anxious. This is definitely a new stage of family life.

The autumn colors are still here.

This was an interesting pumpkin-colored fungus.

Jacob got some burrs in his sheep.

It was a lovely day. An almost perfect kind of day (If only that one hadn't bitten that other one's finger for repeating everything he said). It was a day of rest. It was a Sunday. Thank you, Lord, for setting this day apart.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


A reader asks...

I admire your tenacity in keeping the television service out of your home. Do you ever miss "the news"? I am wondering how you felt on 9/11? That was one of those moments that I wanted to share with the world and I'm asking myself if I wouldn't have been crazy without my TV for news/information? What did you do that day? Just curious.

I say...

Well thanks, but don't admire my tenacity too much. The truth is that while I say it is a point of pride for me that I have kept television out our home, it is more out of laziness than anything else. Even the most liberal of parents knows that television requires monitoring-- A job I don't need or want.

If I pay someone to pipe programming into my house, I will then be required to become familiar with it all in order to judge which programs I want my children to watch and which I don't. I should say, too, that I am inviting the very real possibility that my choices will differ from my children's and I will have to say "no" to some things they will want to watch.

Once I've found programs that are educational or harmlessly entertaining that my children want to watch, then I have to concern myself with the commercials. If it isn't a familiarity with adult medical "issues" I want to shield my children from (when I was a kid, ED was short for education) it is the marketing of toys they don't need that they will beg me for and I will have to refuse them.

Lastly, even if I find ways to watch our favorite programs without commercials, I will have to monitor the amount of time my kids spend in front of the tube. Access to many channels and many programs offers round the clock zoning possibilities and I am not one to pull quiet children away from programs in order to find healthier ways occupy them--ways that require my energy, my thought and my time. No, if my kids are quietly zoning in another room, I tend to look for a good book and put the kettle to boil.

For the reasons mentioned above, we subscribe to Netflix and keep four DVDs in the house at a time. Four to eight hours of preselected, commercial free viewing in the house at all times plus twenty four hours of limited instant watching a month at the Netflix site has proven sufficient for our young family. I don't think my children feel deprived or left out of anything just yet. They may one day, but not now. It helps that Netflix has such a wide selection.

Preselection also guarantees that my children exhaust their stores eventually and come up from the family room for air. They will draw, read books, or whine at my feet as I try to make dinner. The important thing is that they come up on their own; I don't have to pull them away from the set. If we had television, I certainly wouldn't pull the two year old away from the set. Why, so he can whine at my feet as I try to make dinner?

On 9/11 I was one of the first among all my friends to know what was going on because I listen to the news on the radio every morning. NPR reported as the planes were hitting and continued throughout the day. I hung on every word. Later that day, I watched some news coverage on the internet. I don't think it will be long before we all have more programming selection choices as the internet and television medias influence one another and/or converge.

Until then, I will continue to rely on the internet, preselected viewing sources, the radio, and on occasion the cheap-o rabbit ears I picked up for tonight's game...

Go Red Sox!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Meet the Robinsons

Family movie night was a hit with everyone.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Weakened Resolve

I confess. It's been a point of pride for me that we have five children and do not have television service of any kind. Most everything is available from Netflix these days, so a little patience and the willingness to be a season or two behind offers near perfect control over viewing choices and provides a commercial free home environment.

BUT... watching the Red Sox play the World Series only AFTER it is all said and done would be like renting news of the 2004 presidential election. Hhmm. No, thank you.

There are some events that you just want to experience along with American society. In order to do that, you need to experience them as they are happening and television really is the best way to do that. I thought of all this while driving home this afternoon, after having watched the first game of the series with my parents at their house and trying to figure out a way I could get television hooked up to my house before tonight's game.

Go Red Sox!

Fall Festival

I'm posting from out of town and contending with a fickle touch pad, but I wanted to get the word out about the Fall Feast that Kristen will be hosting at The Virtual Kitchen next Tuesday, October 30th.

Be sure to leave her a link here to your favorite fall recipe and be sure to visit The Virtual Kitchen next Tuesday to harvest all the best flavors of fall.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It's all in the Presentation

Zachary: I want grapes. I want grapes. I want grapes.

Me: You may have some grapes if you ask for them properly.

Zachary: May I please have some grapes?

Me: Yes you may. (I give him a handful of loose grapes)

Zachary: No, I don't want these.

Me: But you just said you wanted grapes.

Zachary: Yes, but I want them on the hanger.

Monday, October 22, 2007


My husband's mother, good woman that she is, had been storing boxes and boxes of my husband's things for many years in her garage in California. She has recently moved to the east coast and she brought these boxes with our garage. We spent the day looking through them and discovered many wonderful things, mostly books, but the boomerang also deserves mention and among my husband's art work, we discovered this. This is a paint and pencil piece my husband created long before he had sons. It is amazing to me because I think I know this boy. He could be any one of ours.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

All Hallow's Eve, Eve, Eve, Eve, Eve, Eve.....

My boys have been living in their Halloween costumes for almost a week now. It has its drawbacks--When I call for my oldest son, Darth Vader answers and there is a certain Crusader I have to keep kicking out of my kitchen. The theme music that follows them all around can get to be a bit much as well.

I try to focus on the positives. For example, I've been spending a lot of time alone with the handsome, young Prince Philip. I'm tutoring him in phonics, you know. Maybe he'll just forget all about that Sleeping Beauty and stay with his mother where he belongs--at least until he can tie the laces on his boots himself and his mustache is no longer the kind that comes from drinking milk.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Frankenstein Meets the Headless Horseman

An Ed Emberly Afternoon

Perfect, just perfect for a foggy and rainy October Friday. We'll be using black pens on orange construction paper. I knew when I bought this book in August and hid it in my closet that this day would come.

* * * * *

This just in from the combox. Thanks Dawn, for letting us know that today is Ed Emberley's birthday. No, I had not realized that. Thanks also, Dawn, for directing us to his way fun web site.

Bookmark This Picture

Or: A Pumpkin for every Foot

Wouldn't this cropped out picture of Alex from a larger group photograph make a fun fall bookmark for him?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Unexpected

Last night I had an unexpected night out. I hadn't known I would be getting out for some time with friends. I remembered the plans late in the day and wasn't sure I would be able to swing it. It was unexpected, but happily it worked out.

I also didn't expect that my husband would take the occasion to make caramel apples for the boys while I was gone, but he did. There they were in all their sticky and potentially disastrous glory lined up on a baking sheet with their sticks upright like so many caramel bombs ticking. They were unexpected, but there they were.

I fully expected a messy kitchen when I came home, but it didn't happen. Counters were smooth to the touch as I ran my hands over them and floors showed no sign of caramel drippings. I saw no dishes or abandoned clothing. Everything was pretty much as I had left it. This was an unexpected and pleasant surprise.

But the story isn't over.

This morning, I encountered the unexpected again in the form of a half eaten caramel apple in the hamper entwined in shirts and underwear. Unexpected? Yes. Pleasant? No.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Masterpiece of the Week

The Tooth Fairy

Jacob lost his first tooth last week. Then he lost another. This is the picture he drew on the envelope that he placed under his pillow for collection the second time around.

The fairy has wings, but walks through the room while happy little Jacob appears to float in his bed. Speaking of the bed, please notice that the legs have an M.C. Esher-esque structural illusion to them where the front bottom leg becomes the top back. Absolutely adorable. I never much cared for the teeth; it's gifts like this one that make being the tooth fairy worth my while.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Geography With Michael Palin

The funny thing is...I was just talking with some friends about interesting science and history documentaries when one woman asked, "Does anybody know any good geography films or audio? I really would like a video or audio that makes geography more interesting." There was an awkward silence followed by one woman's attempt to say that geography is more about maps and there just isn't any way to put that on audio or in a film. Hhmmm...

Michael Palin of Monty Python fame found a way. Palin's travels all over the globe can be followed in six BBC productions Around the World in 80 Days, Pole to Pole, Full Circle, Hemingway, Sahara, and Himalaya. A new series, New Europe with Michael Palin is being filmed now through the end of October. Palin's official travel site has information, pictures, and maps of the journeys documented in the films.

We have only watched the first of this series so far, and though it is far from fast paced, my children want to watch it again and again and again. We will most certainly get all the ones that are available from Netflix. Palin's running commentary throughout the series, while not of the Monty Python class of hilarity, is very witty and delightful. My children love these videos and who'd have thought it-- but I do, too.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Friday, October 12, 2007

A New Season

Remember my summer mug? Well, so much for summer love. It's over between us. Why? Well it's a new season in my life and I was just looking for something different. Please meet my fall mug. He's a Cappuccino mug and it just so happens that I love Cappuccino. He's the color of Cinnamon, and it just so happens that I love Cinnamon on my Cappuccino. I think we'll get along fabulously... for a while.

Have You Ever Had A Conversation Like This?

The kids are in bed, the kitchen is clean, and you sit down to have a cup of tea with your spouse and catch up.

Me: How was your day?

Him: Good. I heard about something interesting...blah...blah...

Me: (In my head) It's the end of the day and I don't even feel tired. Life just doesn't feel like so much of an effort anymore. Art. We haven't been doing much art this year, but that's probably a good sign. We were doing an awful lot of art right about this time last year, probably because it was the only thing that we could do peacefully...Oh, wait, he's talking. I asked him how his day was and I should listen to the answer. OK, I'm listening...

Him: Blah...and the whole system is in the Roman alphabet. I mean, what are the Chinese supposed to do?

Me: Right. What do they do?

Him: Well, now they are going to develop ten new...blah..blah...

Me: (In my head) You know what else I haven't been putting as much time into besides art is baking. And dinners. We've been eating rather poorly. No, that's not true. I've just found some simpler ways to cook. That doesn't necessarily mean the food is unhealthy. Funny how I associate convenience with lack of nutrition... Hey, you said you would listen and you're not listening. Listen to him would you?

Him: blah...blah...and you see what a huge opportunity this will be for large law firms?

Me: Oh yea, I see....Um...Wow.

You have had a conversation like this one? Well, I haven't.

I always listen to every word you say, Honey. I really am listening, just please don't quiz me on this one when you get home. I'm sure I'll be too tired to remember.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Off Season Solutions

Don't like the way your hands numb up when eating a freeze pop on a cold and rainy October day? Don't let that stop you.

Zachary suggests putting on your mother's oven mitts.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ten Reasons to Study World History

We just finished listening to A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich, read by Ralph Coshen. Ana-Braga Henebry recommended it at the Love2Learn blog and we would like to thank her for introducing us to this remarkable audio. We loved every minute of it, and that's saying a lot because it is nine hours long!

Ten Reasons to Study World History:
  • World History is the story of where we came from.
  • World History puts us in contact with those people and cultures that developed, discovered, and or invented many of the things we rely upon for life today. This way, we know who to thank for our alphabet, for example, language, numerical system, religion, or system of government.
  • The study of World History presents a broad tapestry of human thought and behavior throughout time which gives us insight into human nature.
  • History repeats itself. While we may not be able to change the course of modern events entirely, we can take the lessons from history and use them to change ourselves and influence our culture.
  • The study of World History makes us grateful for the blessings of modern life. I'd rather pay a mortgage on a house in the suburbs, for example, than live in a cold and drafty castle-- thank you.
  • A study of World History assists in the moral life. History is replete with examples of good men to imitate and bad men to learn from by negative example.
  • The study of history helps us to understand the meaning of historical references in literature, poetry, and political writing. What, for example, is the proverbial "Gordian Knot?"
  • The study of World History breathes life into the study of world geography. With a rich understanding of World History, maps come alive with the stories of the people who lived there, cultivated the land, and explored the seas.
  • The study of World History helps us to see how people viewed themselves and events during their lifetimes and how those same things are viewed today. It is a lesson in perspective and objectivity.
  • The study of World History helps us to see how very small we are, and is the backdrop on which we place all detailed studies of particular histories.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Scene From the War Going on in Alex's Closet

I don't think we'll see peace for many years yet.

Monday, October 08, 2007

A Letter to Our Shepherds

If you have followed the infringement of religious liberty taking place in the state of CT concerning the legislature's forcing Catholic hospitals to administer "Plan B" contraceptive pills to victims of rape-- which pills are believed by the medical community to cause chemical abortion in some cases-- then you are probably aware also of how the Bishops of Connecticut protested at first, but have since backed down and have no further plans at this time to fight this unjust law.

This is a matter of great concern to faithful Christians in the state of Connecticut and everywhere. If we allow the state to dictate whether or not the care we offer in Catholic hospitals is in keeping with the teachings of the Catholic Church we are inviting further encroachments upon our religious liberties in our hospitals, in our schools, and eventually in our churches and our homes.

I am proud to say that a letter written by my oldest brother, Michael, to the Bishops of Connecticut concerning this matter appears online at First Things today.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Quote of the Day

Better to build schoolrooms for "the boy,"
Than cells and gibbets for "the man."
--Eliza Cook

Family Movie Night

"The Fighting Sullivans" (1944)

This is the true story of five close-knit Irish American brothers growing up together in Iowa during the Depression. The movie opens with baptism scenes from each son, George, Francis, Joseph, Madison, and Al and follows them through their childhood adventures as they slide down the banister each morning to greet a new day of fishing, sailing, or even getting into a scrap with some neighborhood boys that lands the youngest Sullivan, Al, a "Shiner" the day before his first communion. Through struggle, adventure and fun, the Sullivan brothers learn to direct their "fighting spirit" and work as a team-- as a family.

So, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the five Sullivans knew what they had to do--They were going to join the Navy and serve together on the same ship. They had to petition Washington in order to do so and when Washington granted their petition, their fate was sealed. Tragically, in November of 1942, All five Sullivans gave their lives in service to their country, fighting together to the very end.

A little corny in parts, but very enjoyable and well worth watching. Thank you Mr. Hardware store owner who wouldn't stop recommending this movie to us when we marched into your store the other day. You were right, this movie was perfect for us!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Poetic Justice

The boys' Natural Science teacher at our Memorial Park this year is...Mr. Greenwood.


And, of course, the boys just take this for granted. After all, isn't the repair man in the Richard Scarry books Mr. Fixit? And the plumber, Mr. Leaky?

We're off to our Nature class now. It lasts all day. We'll probably stop in at the grocery store to get a bite to eat around noon, see Grocer Cat and Farmer Alphalpha and maybe, if we're lucky, we'll bump into Lowly driving his big apple car.

Many a Post...

..has been brewing in my head.

Should I write about dirt, my arch enemy, and how I think it has finally conquered me? Dirt, I don't like you. You are so dirty...and so everywhere. I DEEP CLEANED for two whole weeks (not long ago it seems) to get rid of you and yet you are back. You are so NOT welcome but you are everywhere-- on my walls, on my children, on my floors, on my chairs, on my children...on my WALLS! OK, maybe I won't write about that.

Should I write about homeschooling and the Ferris Wheel Effect that I thought only applied to discipline of the children and my own spiritual life? I put the effort in, I concentrate, I plan, I pray and we make progress...up...and...up...and...up we go, reaching summits we never thought possible. It is so beau-ti-ful up here!...Wheeeeeeeeee...down we go and there is no more effort. It all goes so smoothly until we hit some predestined bottom where the stars are aligned just so and EVERYONE cracks all at once. Then, it is all about climbing again, but this time the novelty has worn off. Creep...Discipline...Work...Effort...Pain. It will pay me back, I know. I've done this enough times.

Or should I write about boys and the new theory I've hatched about how they are "rule blind." I don't mean they are disobedient-- I don't think they are. I think they just have some sort of inborn sense of natural authority and they just don't get rules. Rules, they reason, are for mothers and for our dear mother's peace of mind. They earnestly try to respect that, but they don't understand it any more than I understand their need to ride bikes barefoot. Just a theory...

...or, should I write about how things are actually going very well here. So well, in fact, that amidst the dirt and struggle and seemingly unrewarded effort of daily life, I am still able to see a larger picture--a picture of progress and growth that can't be marred by the pain it takes to accomplish it.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Yet Another Reason to Love the Internet

You might remember in one of my posts about our vacation to Chincoteague, VA I mentioned that I wished I had gotten a picture of the house where Marguerite Henry had written Misty of Chincoteague. Well...

...on online friend has gone and had a mini vacation there after reading about ours and sent me this picture as well as many others of the house.

Thank you, Kimberlee!

Go see more of Kimberlee's pictures of Chincoteague at
Pondered in my Heart.

Measuring Distance With Time

How far are you from the New York border? Oh, about forty five minutes.

Where does your mother live? Two and a half hours north of here.

Forty five minutes traveling by horseback to the New York border? Does your mother live as far north as a snail would travel in two and a half hours? I think most people understand the measurement of distance by time as the time it takes to travel by car, observing speed limits (reasonably well), and without traffic.

I had occasion to reflect on this this morning when my oldest son mentioned that the ancient Chinese people could more easily use Indian ink for their beautiful writing because, as he put it,
"China was at least a whole month closer to India than either Portugal or Spain."

Not by car, surely, but by seafaring vessels that took precarious routes around Africa? Yes.

***Of course, none of this has anything to do with the fact that the Chinese made their own "Indian ink."

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Writing Exercises to Make Me Thin

Dear Mother Nature,

I am not a squirrel, a raccoon, a bear, or a beaver. There really is no need to encourage me to "fatten up" for the winter. Should I find myself cold one December day, I could just make myself a hot cup of tea, put on a sweater, turn up the thermostat or any number of other things. I simply do not have to rely upon personal body fat for warmth or for survival.

So, when you encouraged me to buy all those snacks from Trader Joe's last weekend, you weren't doing me any favors. And when you just wouldn't stop reminding me that I hadn't yet consumed them all, you were actually ruining my chances of "fitness" which some have given us to understand is directly related to our survival.

I thought I finally had you in control late last night when I decided to go to bed, partly in order to make myself stop snacking (the early hibernation trick). But you are very clever, Mother Nature, and somehow you managed to arrange it so that my pajamas were in the dryer. In order to get to the dryer, I had to pass the pantry where snacks were waiting. And, of course, I had to pass them again on the way back.

Please consider carefully what I have said here, and perhaps you will see how unnecessary it is to make me desire baked pasta dishes, meatloaf, potatoes, stuffing, and gravy when the weather turns cooler. Maybe you won't make me think of fresh baked fruit pies, cookies, muffins and breads. Maybe roasted poultry and glazed vegetables will lose their appeal and you could arrange things so that all I will want is cold salads and carrot sticks all the year round.

Thank you.

Monday, October 01, 2007