Friday, November 30, 2007

Making Room

Me: Do you need that cut up?

Little boy: (On a third piece of pizza) Oh, I'm full.

Me: You can't eat anymore?

Little boy: BBbbbbuuuuurrrp. Now I can.

From the Inbox

I finally got around to checking my email today and was surprised to find this there...

Ms. Temple,
I noticed the below posting on your web blog:

TigerDirect encourages you to buy their products by offering to donate a portion of the proceeds to Planned Parenthood...Ahem, I mean the Komen Foundation.

We take your concerns about our charitible [sic] efforts very seriously. Our goal was not to offend anyone & we apologize.
Our customers are the reason we exist, & we will take your message into account going forward.
Thank you for being a Tiger customer & best wishes for a nice holiday season.
Best Regards,
[Mr. Tigerdirect representative]
VP - Business Development

My response:

[Mr Tigerdirect representative],

I truly appreciate your response to pro-life concerns and hope you will make changes going forward. I have been a TigerDirect customer in the past, but so long as any company donates to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, I will not be buying any of their products.

Though I appreciate your apology, it isn't so much that I am personally offended as it is that I cannot, in good conscience, give to so-called charitable organizations that support the abortion industry--an industry that does such irreparable harm to women. I find the Komen Foundation particularly insidious because it does so under the guise of only helping women to fight breast cancer, a cause that is dear to many of us on account of its devastation.

Thank you, again, for your consideration. I look forward to seeing what direction Tigerdirect takes in its selection of charitable organizations in the future.

Sincerely,
Suzanne Temple


Thursday, November 29, 2007

The True Meaning of Christmas

So, how many catalogs did you get in the mail today? We got twelve--thirteen if you count doubles.

JCPenny offers "last chance savings" and invites us to "unwrap the magic."

Lands' End. How many catalogs does this company have? It seems we got a different Lands' End catalog yesterday and yet a different one the day before that...and the day before that.

TigerDirect encourages you to buy their products by offering to donate a portion of the proceeds to Planned Parenthood...Ahem, I mean the Komen Foundation.

Mindware sent us two catalogs today. One addressed to "Temples" the other addressed to "The whole family." I guess the first one was just for some of us?

Back to Basics Toys. They do make them like they used to! Which is good. For some things.

A Crate&Barrelholiday looks like it is celebrated with lots of martinis and what looks like little cupcakes with caviar on them.

Oriental Tading Company. Made in... the Orient?

Brookstone assures me, "IT'S NOT TOO LATE!" Which is true, because Advent hasn't even started yet.

Then there's Hearthsong, Highlights, and Bits and Pieces. I've never seen that last one before but it claims to be my source for "clever puzzles and intriguing gifts."

And last, but not least, American Girl. Again, I ask, how did we get on their mailing list?

Doing Stuff

Alex has been very busy "doing stuff," and that's what boys do best. The "stuff" he's been doing has mostly involved nails and wood and bits and pieces of things he's been finding in the garage. He tells me he's building a sled and it is serious work demanding serious time and concentration if it is to be done before the first snow fall, expected this coming Sunday.

Every afternoon, when his schoolwork is complete, Alex rushes outside to get to work on his sled. I send the others out, too, but they're in before I can move the laundry or a pay a bill complaining that it is "too cold" to play outside. Alex doesn't come in. He's "doing stuff."

Yesterday, when I was juggling a hundred things at once Alex came to me and asked for more nails. I answered with my automatic "not now." I hadn't even noticed that I'd spoken the words so I really wasn't prepared when he reacted to them with such earnest emotion.

"But I was using the nails that were in that can and there aren't any more of the ones I need and I think there are more downstairs but I can't go there by myself and I just need..." he rambled on, his voice cracking, his shoulders slumped forward in disappointment. This boy really needed those nails. I thought we could get him those nails, after all. We got him those nails and he was gone in a flash, back to work. "Doing stuff."

Tonight as my husband was tucking Alex into bed, Alex had a lot to say about his sled project. It seems to be coming along nicely. Alex was also thinking about his upcoming birthday. He thought he would like some tools. He doesn't have a wrench and he'd like one. The saw blade he uses now is a little bent and quite dull. He's thinking he could use some other tools, too. He has a hammer he borrows from his father, but he thought he would like a hammer of his own.

I think we can get him that hammer.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Picture of the Day


Cortes meets Montezuma, by Simeon.
Notice how poor Montezuma looks defeated already.

Enough About Me, Let's Talk About My Blog

Subtitled: A Word About Comments

I have disabled comments on recent posts and many of you have been kind enough to email me and ask why. It seems every time I respond to someone on this matter I have a new take, but I think it all boils down to this...

Comments can be distracting. Good comments, bad comments, nice comments, nasty comments, lack of comments, too many comments can distract a busy mom from her real life obligations in a great variety of ways. I realized that if I am to keep blogging--which I would like to do--I needed to limit comments to selected posts.

I have really enjoyed "meeting" many of my readers through comments and I hope this change doesn't appear ungrateful for your thoughtful and often funny responses. I do hope you will continue to email me if there is something you would really like to say, or if you have a question, or an idea, or anything. I would love to hear from you and I will make every effort to respond.

Also, I plan to continue reading the blogs I do now and leaving comments as I always have. I'm not advocating that everyone turn off comments. I'm just doing what I need to do for my own peace of mind.

That said, I don't think I'm special at all or alone even in my feelings about comments. I've read enough posts from others that indicate otherwise. Comments, I'm learning, can cause a variety of troubles.

I would encourage anyone who feels owned by their blog in any way at all to make whatever changes necessary to keep it in its place. Your blog should serve you, not the other way around.

Comments Open...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Got This T Shirt

Thanks to all you lovely people who followed my link below, a web editor from mental floss followed your trail back to me and offered me a free shirt. How cool is that? It makes me think I should write a post about how I would like to have a million dollars, but then where would I link? Donald Trump? No, thanks. I think I'll just be happy with my tee shirt.

I Want This T Shirt


Courtesy of the Mental Floss blog. Check out some of their other shirts, too. I like the Jung and Freud shirts and "When life gives you Scurvy, make Lemonade!" Oh, and how can I leave out the "Lady MacBeth hand soap?" Scrub your conscience with the best!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Busy Little Elves

Because our Thanksgiving break is over and there is laundry to do, bathrooms to clean, schoolwork to complete, wood to stack, and dinner to prepare...we've been busy elfing ourselves, instead. Here and here.


H.T: Michelle

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Precipitous

I wasn't there, but I'm told by their father that today's woodland adventure led the boys up to an eighty foot drop with a lake at the bottom. Do you suppose that's why they call that destination, "Plunge Pool?" Thank goodness for that safety wire thingie. I mean, without that incredibly safe-looking barrier someone could...AAAaaaaa...I don't even want to type it.

Good Knight

As I made the rounds last night to check on each boy before I went to bed I found Simeon with his head where his feet should be. Alex had his sheets piled high on top of himself in a great big ball. Jacob's hair tufted out from under his blankets. Nicholas was breathing deeply, his wide chest rising and falling. And Zachary was wearing a chain-mail shirt over the pajamas I had put him in, a cape draped over himself for a blanket.

Christ the King


He is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation; for in Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities--all things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.

Colossians 1:15-17

This is the last Sunday in Ordinary Time. Remember to pick up your Advent candles this week.

Image: Detail from Ghent Altarpiece. Jan Van Eyck

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Buffing the Bluff

Effective parenting, I've found, employs the bluff to full advantage. It isn't always easy coming up with on-the-spot consequences and true words rarely strike fear in the hearts of those we love, so the bluff comes in handy from time to time. The right words, conjuring up the right images, spoken in just the right tone of voice can achieve amazing results even if it is entirely meaningless.

"You're going to get up off that floor and change your attitude or I'll change it for you," resulted tonight in the transgressor's immediate compliance, leaving me behind to laugh at myself and wonder what I'd have done if he had called my bluff.

Turkey Talk

It's official. I've become my mother. I realized it on Thanksgiving day when I was cooking in the kitchen and asked my companion,

"Are you getting cold? Here, let me put this on you. It will keep you warm."

You might think there's nothing strange about that, but what if I told you my whole family was gone on a walk? What if I told you I was talking to the turkey?

I love my mother. I really do. She's the salt of the earth, that woman is, and saner than any of us with the one exception that she always talked to the Thanksgiving turkey as she cooked it.

Ah well, I've often prayed to be more like my mother. This isn't exactly what I meant, but it's a start.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Leftover Turkey Casserole

Casserole makes my list of top ten least photogenic things. I think it is much harder to get a good picture of a perfectly still casserole than it is to get the perfect Christmas picture of five boys under the age of ten, and I would know. The problem with casserole is that it tastes much better than it looks, but looks aren't everything and this is a perfectly wonderful casserole, so feast your eyes on this...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Our Lady of November


Testing, testing... My new, new camera seems more my style.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Caramel

This recipe comes to me through my mother's family. It is a wonderful drizzly caramel sauce that goes great on anything you might think it would. My mother is French Canadian and so I remember this condiment as breakfast food, spread on toast. It's also great on ice cream and I'm thinking it would compliment apple bread quite nicely.

Bon Appetite!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm taking a blog break for an undetermined amount of time. I just need a break. So, until we meet again, our family wishes you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving!

When the Turkey Hits the Oven


What is this thing?

This, friends, is not a chunk of space rock or the amazing results of a homeschool science project. This is nothing other than a gerbil sized mass of burned up food stuff found at the bottom of my oven. Two years ago we had something of a small fire in our oven and after I doused it with baking soda I closed the door and never looked back. Sure, there has been a faint smell of burning every time I've used the oven since, but I didn't let that inspire me to face the music.

Since we aren't traveling for Thanksgiving this year, I realized I will need to cook a turkey in that oven for several hours. I'd rather not burn the house down on a family holiday and so today, I'm cleaning my oven.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Conversation Lesson (for me)

Read the questions and answer using complete sentences...

Q: What happens to snakes in winter?

Simeon's Answer: I would really like to know, but I have no idea what happens to snakes in winter because my mother does not like snakes and therefore she never buys me books about them.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Picture of the Day

Among all the scraps, cuttings, and crumpled paper I cleared off our school table this afternoon, I found this little two inch by two inch illustration of a hero. Simple and sweet, he really made me smile.

Six Questions I asked Myself Today

  • If our wooden train whistle is this chewed up, does that mean somebody in this house ate all that wood?
  • Are these light saber pieces in the lost hardware drawer?
  • How many pieces does a game have to lose before I can throw the whole thing away?
  • If I sew these decorative buttons on this living room throw pillow again, will they still be on by the weekend?
  • Is there a centrifugal force in the universe that acts on Lego, spreading it to the furthest corners of a house?
  • Could magic eraser remove red crayon from most of North America? On a globe, of course, but if Nicholas keeps up his current rate of Crayola coverage, the continent is in real danger too.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

If A Picture is Worth...

A Thousand Words,


This one says one hundred times over, "I got my new camera today. I don't like it. It's going back."

Nicholas is still cute, though. Him, I'm keeping.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

What I Have to Say

I've lost my voice. I feel like a silent observer to my own life. When the boys are wrestling in the back of the van, I have nothing to say. I hear giggles past bedtime and all I can do is walk in to the room and hope my stance carries the weight of stern reprimand.

I've been sending Nicholas with whispered instructions to go get so-and-so or tell so-and-so to come downstairs. It hasn't been very effective. I never knew, until now, how often that poor child is ignored.

It's been something of a silent retreat for me all weekend, in fact, and it hasn't been all bad. I've been frustrated here and there that someone doesn't understand what I need, but I haven't once been frustrated for having said the same thing five times.

I have wished that I could read to the children, that's true, but mostly I've just been surprised by how little my voice matters around here. Oh, I don't mean that I'm unimportant. No, no, no, I don't mean that all. What I mean is that it's more in the being here that I'm important than in the what I have to say.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Science Friday

Life here is always exciting, but never has it been more announced than in recent weeks as my kids have grabbed on to a new phrase.

"Preeepare to be Amazed!" can be heard about fifty times a day, mostly in reference to the electronic invention-thingy they are...um...inventing?

Normally, I'd take a picture of it but since I can't I will attempt to describe this battery powered device. Imagine, if you will, a McCann's steel cut oatmeal tin turned upside down. On top of that are the pieces of wires, tabs and stuff taken from a small audio player once part of a cackling Halloween toy they trick-or-treated. There are several bolts as well, the top part of an outdoor hose, some bread ties, bottle caps, industrial staples, and a 12 watt light bulb. These things are all tangled up together and the boys are just trying to figure out how to attach the batteries to make this invention "work."

It is just a matter of time, I am sure. Gives me plenty of time to prepare to be amazed, anyway.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

It's Here!


Bella is now showing in CT! Get your tickets for the weekend!

Television Update

Since I am enjoying the benefits, I feel compelled to admit here that ever since I attached the rabbit ears to our television for the world series, my kids have been hooked on PBS kids.

I see now that while Netflix provided plenty of viewing for our older kids, we very rarely used our selections to choose programing for the youngest set. The older kids didn't want to "waste" their options on Barney or Mr. Rogers or Thomas the Tank Engine, but those programs and others have something to offer my little ones. What's more, there are no commercials and I benefit from a less crowded, less stressful work table with my older students. PBS kids really helps me to balance the juggling act that teaching multiple ages can become.

OK, so it is still a huge temptation to just let them stare at that screen and so monitoring them for time spent in front of the tube becomes necessary. Ah well, sometimes it's good to shift your pain.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Kodakless Moment

The kids have been especially cute now that I'm out a camera.

Right now, for instance, Zachary and Nicholas are all curled up together asleep on the couch like a little ball of kittens.

I keep walking past them and making shutter sounds, click, click, click.

Memories

All the best conversations happen after bedtime.

As I was sitting by Zachary's bed tonight listening to his thoughts on life, I had this sudden urge to freeze him in time. His little teeth, his light colored hair, his sweet, sophisticated way of talking. I'm probably thinking along these lines because Jacob lost yet another tooth today--you really do lose the little boy with the little boy teeth.

"You're my little Zachary," I told him.

"And Papa's, too," he added.

"Yea, well, we share you." I said and his eyes lit up as he suddenly remembered something. He took a deep breath and there was some explaining and hand gestures before I understood what he meant. He was remembering a summer day when my husband and I had taken either of his hands in ours and we were swinging him up in the air between us as we walked. This, to him, was the image of our shared love.

I often wonder what my children will remember of these years under our roof. I'm not always perfectly confident that it will be the kinds of things I want them to remember. It did my heart good to hear this little one's happy memory tonight.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

For Your Protection

Timeline of Events Leading up to My Standing Here in Disbelief, Hanging up the Telephone, and Discovering a Grilled Cheese Sandwich in my Purse

Monday, August 20th


1:00 PM Someone steals a lap top out of a car in a public parking lot. That lap top belongs to an employee of the Department of Revenue Services in the state of CT.

Wednesday, September 12th

2:00 PM I receive notice that my personal information was on that lap top and that I have the option to sign up for credit protection, 3:00 I sign up for credit protection.

Friday, November 2nd

11:00 AM We start to get ready for the All Saint's Day Party. 12:15 I ask a child to hold my camera as I gussy up the dragon standing between St George and St Michael. 12:16 Said child drops camera to stone walkway. 12:30 Camera is pronounced dead.

Saturday, November 3rd

8:00AM I begin research on replacing camera.

Sunday November 4th

12:00 PM Research continues.

Monday, November 5th

2:00 PM I'm narrowing the selection down to a few.

Tuesday, November 6th

12:30 PM After a morning at the library, I decide to just head to the store with all five children and get a closer look at the camera I want. 12:31 Children say that they are hungry. 12:45 We take advantage of Big Box Mart's resident eatery and order milk and grilled cheeses all around. 12:47 Alex is done. 1:10 Everyone, except for Zachary, is done. I ask that he hurry it along. 1:20 I plead that he hurry it along. 1:30 Zachary agrees to move along if he can keep his sandwich. I put it in my purse.

1:35 Everyone has to go to the bathroom. Bathroom stop.

1:40 We arrive in electronics department and I begin looking. I find my camera. 1:42 Nicholas stands up in cart and demands to be let down. 1:45 Jacob is standing on a box and nearly falls. 1:50 Zachary has to go to the bathroom again. Hu? Bathroom break.

1:50-2:45 Whirlwind of migraine-inducing shopping with the children.

2:45-3:00 We wait in line to buy the camera.

3:05 My credit card is DENIED. Whoa. Why? 3:06 I try again. Denied again. 3:07 I don't want to make a major purchase on any other card and know there must be some mistake so I decide not to make the purchase. We walk out leaving behind a cart with the camera, a box of oatmeal, a toothbrush holder, a box of diapers, and a bag of chocolate animal crackers inside.

3:30 We arrive home. I settle the kids with some projects, grab my purse, take out my wallet and call the credit card company.

After the woman on the other end of the line is sure that I am me, she says that there was some questionable activity on my card today and wanted to verify it. She named the store I was just at and the exact amount I was trying to spend.

"Yes, that was me. "

"Oh, good," she says "that was all."

I hang up the phone and look down in my purse...

When Colds go from Bad to Worse

Me: How's your cold?

A: Is boogerier a word?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Explode the Code


I think it is worth mentioning that the makers of Wordly Wise also produce this valuable reading and writing phonics series, Explode the Code.

Though the "code" is the same for each, the process of reading,"decoding," and the process of spelling and writing, "encoding," are separate skills. Often, students who have learned to "decode" language are automatically able to "encode" using the same rules, but this isn't always the case.

Explode the Code is not meant to be a complete phonetic reading program or a spelling program, but a supplement to other programs that helps the student assimilate phonetic reading with proper spelling.

Readers with poor fluency may benefit from the extra phonetic practice and poor spellers only stand to gain from this series. On account of the humor and children's illustrations, my children find these books very appealing. There are no grade levels, but books one through eight are intended for use between the first and fourth grades.

Friday, November 02, 2007

More Q&A

A Reader asks:

When you have an experience like you had last night at Mass...does it ever cross your mind that your precious boys might end up having to go to a private/public school if you were to enter your eternal reward? I'm a homeschooler wannabe (not enough courage, perhaps??) but I must confess that one of my hang-ups is that I don't want my children's education to be totally dependent on ME and ME alone. Now perhaps you have a fabulous support group in your area, or perhaps your husband is able/willing to continue the work should you be called Home. I guess the concern I always grapple with is...do I want the sum total of my six children's educational experience to be dependent on ME and ME alone? Because ME doesn't seem like enough most days, I'm afraid.

I say:

ME is NEVER enough, whether our children are educated at home or are enrolled in schools. A parent's job is endless and our perfections, unfortunately, are not. So, YES, often the huge responsibility of being the sole provider of these children's education weighs on me. I wonder, though, how a teacher of twenty or more children must feel if I have these concerns with my five.

I wonder, too, how much lighter my burden would actually be if I had my children in school. As parents, we are the primary educators of our children. We may perform that duty by putting our children in good schools, but our responsibility does not end at the bus stop. We need to monitor our children's performance at school closely and find ways to supply for what is lacking. To compensate for problems of all kinds or provide opportunities for giftedness, parents often find themselves putting as much work in after hours with their child as the average home schooling parent does in a day.

Also, there are many options for homeschoolers today. Classes geared to the needs of homeschoolers are cropping up all over the country. From martial arts to painting, music and theater, to Latin and chemistry. You can sign your child up for these classes that offer expert instruction by professional teachers who have the advantage of being NOT YOU. There are also online courses, co-ops, support groups and clubs of all kinds. Some people take such advantage of these things they call themselves "van schoolers" because they are never home. More options for homeschoolers means greater flexibility to tailor your home education to suit the needs of the whole family.

OK, so all the planning and preparing and supplying for and driving to these opportunities still falls on your shoulders. That is true and maybe that's more than you can or want to manage. If it is easier for you to have your children in school and they are thriving in that environment, that's wonderful. Why change?

Personally, I really enjoy homeschooling. I find education the natural follow up to gestation and lactation--only far more interesting. I feel the relationship I have with my sons is centered around our learning together and while it can be painful at times--like nursing was-- I know that I am providing them with the most perfectly-suited-to-them nourishment for their minds and souls. I don't think I could find another job that could give me that kind of satisfaction.

Picture Words

The Natural Speller recommends having the student make these "picture words" with spelling list words. This is, by far, the most popular spelling practice activity of the week. I think some of these pictures have helped my "picture thinkers," and I always enjoy seeing what they come with.

"holiday"

"clown"

"spray" and "play"

"space"


"fly" and "shy"

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I Hope the Saints are Willing to Wait for Me

I made the decision to go to Mass by myself this evening, thinking it would better afford me the ability to pray on this the glorious feast of All Saints. It wasn't long after I had settled myself in the second pew, however, that an unearthly cry came from the back of the church. I didn't turn to look at who or what had let out such a noise or why. The Mass proceeded as usual.

In the middle of the first reading the sound came again-- this time much closer. A man in a long coat and boots approached the altar. He waved his hands high in the air and was shouting nonsense intermixed with words from the liturgy. He stopped before the altar rail and fell to the ground in some sort of posed prayer. He stood up suddenly, shouted again, and took a seat RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. I was terrified.

I eyed the people around me and even tried to catch the attention of the priest with my powerfully persistent stare, but nobody seemed as put out by this man's strange behavior. When he shouted again and reached into his coat, I thought for sure this was the end for me. I knew it. I had always known it, ever since first grade when I had learned the meaning of the term "martyr" and wondered how I might be called to die for my faith. How else than to be shot down in a church, and on the feast of All Saint's no less?

I considered reaching for my cell phone, dialing 911 and leaving it open on the pew. I knew I was a goner because I was this man's first shot if he turned around, but I figured I might save some lives that way. That's when the priest stood up and stepped forward. As Father demanded that he leave the church, the strange man took his hand out of his coat and pleaded to stay. He didn't have a gun, it seems. When father asked for volunteers to escort the man out, several parishioners came forward. He left without much of a struggle, but shouted strange things all the way, poor soul.

Once he was gone, the woman who had been sitting beside him turned to me and said in a quietly concerned voice, "I thought he was going to shoot us all." "So did I," I replied through a relieved half smile and pressed her extended hand.

And that was it.

I suppose I should be rethinking my whole life now and making dramatic resolutions to change, but honestly, I am just relieved. On the drive home all I could think or feel was relief that the Lord hadn't called me--yet anyway-- to the quick and obvious martyrdom of my childhood imaginings. I was only too pleased to return again to the slow, daily grind of death to self.