Friday, September 21, 2012

In the Thicket

I watched many hours of "Pirates" movies recently with my husband and son. Jack Sparrow had one line that caught my attention more than all his zany mannerisms. He offered, "If I might lend a machete to your intellectual thicket..."
Good line, Captain Jack. I need that machete, I'll take it! And I'll hold tight to those friends (none of them pirates, though) who lend me the machete on an almost daily basis. It can be challenging to bushwhack through all the thickets I find myself in. When I hear advice like: "Don't overanalyze," or "Let it go!" I have to laugh, because who do those advice-givers think they're dealing with?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

How many sleeps?

John woke up this morning and made the peace sign with the two first fingers of his right hand. I asked why he was doing that and Bethanie chimed in, "He's saying two sleeps til his birthday."

Just now I went to shut his bedroom door. I paused just for a moment and heard him take a deep, sleepy breath. My heart melted. Only two more nights of being four.

Earlier this evening I got a schedule for the junior high youth group at our church. Joe will go to his first meeting soon. As I typed it into my calendar, I felt dizzy with disbelief.

Two more sleeps til my youngest turns five.
Three more sleeps til I take my oldest to junior high youth group.
How many sleeps til high school? Driver's license? College?

It's not so many sleeps since I didn't sleep much because they were all newborns.

As I go to sleep tonight, I'll be thankful for all these various countdown sleeps. And for the zillion moments that have brought us to this night. It won't last very long. And then tomorrow comes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Great Expectations

A priest recently told me I need to get out more. No kidding. He might not have said it exactly that way, but I swear that was his point. So, I'm being obedient. I have plans the very second my husband returns home after work. My "great expectations" are that this time away - a weeknight out - will restore my sanity.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

New Daily Venture

I'll write this in my blog today and hopefully come back to read it in a half a year or so: we are starting to try to go to daily Mass. I don't want to. I would rather sleep in a bit more and get up slowly and only have to go downstairs, not get in the car and arrive somewhere. But my children would like to go to daily Mass. Where do they come by this piety? Despite my resistance for selfish reasons, I know there will be grace abounding when we go -- or even on days when we don't recognize it, there will still be value in trying. Pray for me, I need it. And now I gotta go to bed because suddenly I have somewhere I gotta be first thing in the morning.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Plato and the Sillybillies

I'm reading Plato's The Republic. Just started today. Thank God I have friends to read it with me. I need someone to share my reflections with as I go along. In other words, I am glad I have someone to text when I come across sentences like this: "What folly, Socrates, has taken possession of you all? And why, sillybillies, do you knock under to one another?"


I asked my friend what her translation says. Not "sillybillies." Hers uses the word "idiots." She, apparently, has the grown-up, uncensored version and I have the sweet elementary schoolgirl version. Sillybillies is just not a word I expected to find in this work. Reading on to see what other surprises are in store.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Evening to Remember

I was sitting at the park last night with ninety-plus Catholic homeschooling associates. It was our annual back-to-school potluck picnic. One dad cooked hotdogs; another had oodles of boys on the field playing Frisbee; older girls stood chatting; younger ones were cartwheeling and running free; babies were being passed around; new people introduced. I loved it. I love these friends, their kids, my kids, and for that matter, this park with the close mountains on one side and a view of our sprawling desert city on the others.

Kevin and Joe missed the picnic for a Scout campout in California. Today, Cayna told her dad what a wonderful park it was. She loved the vast expanse of grassy field and said breathlessly, "It was as big as twenty-five mansions' backyards!"

After we ate, us planning types gathered to put dates on the calendar for yearly parties and field trips. It was twilight. Kids were laughing and playing, the littler ones approaching the circle of moms and dads occasionally to check in or get a water refill. I had many of my closest friends right beside me, or nearby, and my children were happy and my mind was free of the usual clutter that piles up on most days. I remember being aware of my friends but suddenly everything seemed oddly quiet to me - like the moment in a movie when the director gets super-artistic and wants a special scene to be engraved in the viewer's memory. Even the ever-present soundtrack pauses. It couldn't have been actually quiet - not with that many people in close proximity. Twenty-five yards away, on the baseball field, the dad who led the Frisbee game was now flying a remote-control biplane. It climbed and dipped and landed, sometimes harshly if a little boy was helping - but mostly glided and swooped and caught my attention a hundred times. During that quiet moment, the airplane had my attention - while my children and my friends filled my heart. The moment wasn't lost. The director did a good job. I'll never forget that moment in the park going into our fourth year of homeschool with sweet children, good friends, mansion-grass, and a red, white, and blue biplane.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Guilty Cantaloupe

Yesterday I received a voicemail on my home phone from Smith's Grocery store. They were informing me of a recall on whole cantaloupes purchased between August 29 and September 8. Indeed, I purchased such a cantaloupe. And indeed I already ate it! The voicemail was as heartwarming as a death knell could be - they politely thanked me for being a loyal customer and using my Smith's Rewards card so that they were easily able to contact me, knowing I had purchased the tainted fruit.

Those who know me know that I am calm, slow to react, and completely rational in every circumstance. So I didn't immediately start feeling as if I had Hepatitis A. Not at all. The kind recall notifier person left a phone number to call "if I had any questions." Side note: it was a number with a 559 area code, which I recognize as a California Central Valley area code (I used to live there). I suppose it was the direct number to the cantaloupe farm.* This was Smith's way of making the farmer be accountable to the people his cantaloupe may have infected.* Of course I called the number. I wanted to determine exactly how long I had. It was busy.

I stopped in to Smith's today for a few groceries, mainly produce. (This should strike you as funny.) At the checkout, Big Brother (I jest! I jest!) asked, "Did you receive our recall notice?" I wanted to say, "Yes! Who wants my doctor bill?" but I didn't. When the manager had to be called over to clear the register of the "verify-customer-has-received-the-recall-notice" warning, I asked why the cantaloupe was recalled. They "don't know." They are "awaiting an email." It will be nice to know I have not contracted any terrible virus so I can tell you I am safe to be around. Checker guy proceeded to tell me it's always the American fruit that gets recalled. "Bad water,"* he said, which will give my husband an aneurism* since he is a water infrastructure engineer and all.

This chatty checker guy proceeded to tell me that his grandparents had come to America from Germany to find a better life. But now he is attempting to go back to Germany for the same reason they had come! He made a reference to the challenges of being a grocery store checker. Things are tough all over.* Try being a cantaloupe farmer.

*pure conjecture

Friday, September 14, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!

Thanks to Jennifer for helping me out with this "posting every day" idea. And to her guest host - I gotta love a girl who has an NFP link on her home page. Here are my very own Quick Takes for today:

1) My neighbor's always-half-naked pre-schooler has a penchant for war-cries in his backyard just before seven a.m. almost every weekday. I heard him this morning. And though I always admire those country homes situated on acres and acres of rolling hills with barely a neighbor in sight, I wouldn't want such a home. I like my close-quarters suburban spot. I don't even mind early morning hammering, dogs barking, or lawn-edging. All of those noises remind me that I'm not alone. I mean, you know, the Holy Spirit reminds me, too - but his job is a little harder since he has to be heard over the neighbor kid.

2) On my list of things to do this weekend: reruns. Or maybe you call them rewatches. Whichever. I want to rewatch "Dead Poet's Society," and "Shawshank Redemption." I need to hear all those great quotes in their context! And, heck, let's be honest: I've been sick all week - I need an excuse to sit in front of my TV for four hours! (After the kids go to bed, that is. Lest you think I expose my children to Robin Williams when they're still so tender.)

3) This week, with five of us battling head-colds one after the other, was not challenging enough. I have scheduled a biopsy on my neck for next week (yes, another one! - not another neck - another biopsy... I had one in June and it was so fun I'm going back) followed by two molar extractions for my eleven year-old. Tooth fairy still visits him, what do I get for undergoing the biopsy?

4) Today I saw the words "Pumpkin-Spice Latte," in an email and now I know Fall must be close. I would really like a pumpkin-spice latte. Perhaps the biopsy fairy will bring me one? I think she will.

5) My soon-to-turn-five year-old, John, recently announced the theme he'd like for his birthday party. The theme is: toilet paper. We have friends who recently had a Mary birthday party for their daughter. As in, Mary, Mother of God. These same friends say that their daughter wants to marry John. I'm not sure they'll think it's such a good match if we compare the desired birthday party themes.

6) Week 3 of this homeschooling year is now behind us. My observation this week - It is a cruel joke that although I was so poor in math, and so exultant to have finished my education, never to have another math problem to worry over - I am now educating four children at home and math takes more time than any other subject. Folks, I may have to learn decimals and percents after all. Dang it.

7) Picture of the week, and further evidence of Fall approaching:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

In Mothering, as With Cake Decorating...

...there are fairy tale moments. Enjoy them. It's marvelous when everything seems to be coming out great, and is photo-worthy so you can show your friends and relatives that you've got this thing under control.
But there are also those times, especially when the kids are really young, I think, that everything is difficult. It's all new territory. So the best you can do is toss a store-bought candle on a nine-inch round and try to ignore all the crumbs mixed in with the frosting.
With age, and with subsequent children, comes wisdom. You just can't do it all! I got this cake at Costco, where I also learned how to discount shop AND push four kids in a cart.
Taking the easy way out doesn't always pay off, but that's okay. It may save you some stress, but you'll have to learn to lower your ideals and "get what you get." Even though the cashier at Baskin Robbins was clearly NOT a decorator, and her words were far from poetic, or even heartfelt - she did get the job done. And it's hard to go wrong with an ice-cream cake.
Be grateful for your husband's help. I can't make a teepee. I can't even always make dinner. But my husband is my right-hand man. He always comes through in a pinch. Heck, he always comes through even when it's not in a pinch.
Sometimes your best efforts turn out like poop. And you want to sigh and throw the whole thing in the trash. But it turns out your kids are happy and pleased and don't seem to think anything is amiss. This is eye-opening. Stop being so hard on yourself!
Planning ahead can save the day! So can your friends and family. Before I could get this cake decorated, I started to miscarry my eighth pregnancy. Thankfully, my husband had already assembled the doll stickers and my sister-in-law and my treasured friend from across the street put the cake together and managed the whole party while I sat in a chair and tried to smile.
Enlist the help of professionals! You know, professionals like the folks at Williams-Sonoma. Or a marriage and family therapist. Whichever is needed. I've used both. These cupcakes are thanks to stencils from the pros at Williams-Sonoma.

It's okay to repeat some of the things your parents did. I don't know why, but when I turned five, I had a cake decorated with forest animals and a ballerina. It made no sense! My mom was probably responding to an idea my little five year-old brain had concocted. Kudos to her. And years later, for my own daughter's fifth - I did the same. She absolutely loved it.
Don't freak out. My almost four year-old changed his mind about a birthday theme nearly every day. When it was time to send out the invitations, I just went ahead with all four of his favorites.

There you have it. Every piece of advice given in bold italics above can apply to mothering and cake decorating. Consider yourself equipped to handle parenting responsibilities as well as birthday commemoration. Glad I could help.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sacred Heart Home School

Joe has the task of producing a yearbook for our homeschool. This has made me realize a few things we're lacking, such as a school name, colors, and fundraisers to pay for things like yearbooks!

In the recent past, I've brought up the idea of naming our school, but no one was super enthusiastic about it. I was hoping that one of the other five members of my family would make a prayerful decision, announce it, and we would all bask in the obvious glory of the revelation. Well, no one really got into it, so I prayed about it and was struck by an obvious answer - the Sacred Heart of Jesus! This is only obvious to me because in May, one of the resolutions I made at my yearly silent retreat (at the Sacred Heart Retreat House, no less) was to try to increase our family devotion to the Sacred Heart. We had already had a priest come to our home to perform an enthronement of the Sacred Heart at this point - so I believe maybe I was just hearing God's call to "step up" our understanding and devotion. Voila! Name our school! Put an image in the school room! Choose some symbolic colors to pull it all together and now we can bask in the obvious glory of God's revelation!

Here are some photos of one of the statues at the Retreat House, along with the promises attached to the devotion. There's nothing on there about paying for yearbooks, but I'm really looking forward to the much bigger and better graces associated with a stronger devotion to Jesus. Now, anyone want to design a logo and embroider some school shirts?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Pain of Beauty

If I want this blog to keep on the cutting edge of mom blogs, I have to address a few embarrassing topics. Today: unwanted facial hair.

It's true, I'm getting old. Something hormonal is happening, because out of nowhere, I have a mustache.
I have never had a mustache before, and wasn't sure what to do when I discovered it. So I did what any girl would do, I called up my friend and said, "I have a mustache. What am I supposed to do?" This friend is quite beautiful and quite bald-on-the-face and, I also happen to know, goes to professionals to keep her face looking young, hairless, and vibrant.

I need someone who knows their stuff, because I am a special case. My skin is super sensitive so when I've gone to get my eyebrows waxed (not out of necessity - you can't see them either - but more out of a desire to be like all the cool girls) the waxing and brow-yanking leaves wide red marks above my eyes that last a couple days. Here I am leaving a salon shortly after an innocent eyebrow waxing:
By the time the red marks subside, the eyebrow hairs have grown back, so it's all a big waste of time. Obviously, I don't want a wide red mark on my mustache-area, so I was hoping for hot tips from my beautiful friend. She told me, in her most salon-professional voice to go to Walgreens and buy a bottle of facial hair-removing product. I picked a mid-priced brand and went home and hid the bottle in a secret location. Yes, my husband has seen me give birth four times, usually with no makeup on, but he does NOT need to be alerted to the fact that I have a 'stache. 

I wasn't sure when would be the right time to work on this secret project, so I bided my time. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a head cold! With a runny nose all day, it suddenly occurred to me that this was the perfect time to experiment with the hair-remover! If all went wrong, I'd just blame it on the nose-blowing. Perfect! Well, don't try my method. I discovered that applying hair-removing chemicals to a sensitive upper lip, already chapped from tissue-burn, is like rubbing lemon juice on an open wound... with sandpaper.

You don't get an "after" photo. There's no point. I look no different. Except I have a red strip across my upper lip that looks like I've been guzzling cherry Kool-Aid. Hope my cold lasts for a while.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Early Onset Alzheimer's and One Night in Baker

Taking my cue from Layla and her efforts against early onset Alzheimer's worries, I will write about my own fears and thereby dispel them, immediately. Good plan?
I, too, have a fear of Alzheimer's. I've lost two close relatives to the disease, though they didn't have early onset. Uncle Don made it look alright, (though I know it wasn't)- singing "Home on the Range," to the nursing home staff. Grandma didn't sing so much. Aunt Laura told us all, "Don't use anti-perspirant. The aluminum contributes to Alzheimer's." I've tried. But then I stink. It's the true sign of skewed priorities when memory loss is favorable to stinky pits.

Other items on my "fears and worries" list include: being sentenced to prison; having to spend a night in a motel in Baker, California; and walking a dog while riding a bike. Let's take them one at a time.

1) Being sentenced to prison. I think reason dictates that we all be afraid of this. Keeps us on the straight and narrow. My actual fear is that I'll be wrongly accused of something and have to go innocent to the slammer. One wonders how a suburban housewife could fear being wrongly accused of something serious enough to earn prison time. Well, maybe one is not watching enough TV.

2) Having to spend a night in a motel in Baker, California. This one's a doozy. Every time I drive through that town (and it happens often), I shudder at the thought that I'd get stranded there. Baker is not even a real town - there's no library, churches, or town hall. I think it's an overgrown rest stop. And I puzzle continually about where the local restaurant employees live. I'd do research, but I'm too creeped out about what I might find.

3) Walking a dog while riding a bike. Frankly, I'm surprised we don't hear about more fatalities resulting from this dangerous practice. In a park recently, I saw a guy riding a bike around and around for an hour, talking on his cell phone beside his dog trotting on a leash. As far as I know, they went home alive, but it made me cringe. That particular park is chock-full of rabbits. All it would take for disaster is for that dog to spot a rabbit, bolt off after it, and next thing you know you've got a mangled mess of dog, rabbit, bike, cell phone, and cyclist. My safety tip is this: walk the dog. THEN go for a bike ride. THEN have your cell phone conversation. Furthermore, I saw the guy enough to overhear that he was talking about real-estate finance. Not just fluff. With all that brain-power engaged in a significant conversation, he was asking for trouble. But I know my safety tip will fall on deaf ears. There are people far more worried than I am about things like driving actual automobiles and cell phone use - they're passing laws about it! And people still don't listen. Beefing up the laws on bike use/dog trotting/cell phone use is still years away. In the meantime, at least it has helped me to talk about it with you.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

and Sunday.

I don't like bailing on a commitment and it was my idea to blog every day of this month. Well, I bailed. But at least now I have a post for each day and a little bit to remind me of the past few full days. Now I'm going into a new week with some wisdom gained from the first two weeks of this school year, a tiny head cold, lots of ponderings about friendships, determination to build our model of the Ark of the Covenant in under a week, and huge thankfulness for really comfy pajamas. I'm "back on the saddle," Layla! Hope I can keep on galloping!


On Saturday, I started the day by attending the Opus Dei recollection, which bolstered my heart and refreshed my soul. I went to Confession and attended Mass, then had lunch at Panera with a good buddy before she was off to her daughter's soccer game and I was off to spend my two-month-old birthday gift certificate at The District. Spent most of my mom's day out shopping and doing errands but came home to have some talk time with my hubby while I gave myself a pedicure. Then we hugged the babysitter and headed off to meet great friends for dinner and drinks and LOTS of laughs. I love that kind of laughter. Made me feel so good! Didn't want it to end.


On Friday I hosted a couple kids for science experiments and drove across town for First Friday Mass at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and went swimming with some friends mid-day and said, "this is the life! only homeschooled kids can go swimming in the middle of the school day!" and drove home to make dinner for our friends who just had their seventh baby and then sat outside to watch the sun go down.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Magic Desert

I am not one of those people who think the desert is ugly or horrible. It's not that I particularly like high temperatures, but I've learned how to survive through the summer months with good air conditioning and a swimming pool. I also truly enjoy the unique beauty of the desert - especially its mountains and plants - and creosote after the rain.

Plus! Plus, there aren't a lot of other places where rivers appear and disappear like magic! Yesterday afternoon a tempestuous thunder storm rolled over us with a roar. Afterward, we went to Pittman Wash with my dad to behold the brand new and temporary river.
I've run that asphalt trail along the wash numerous times, but never when it was a riverfront route. Usually it looks like it did today, when we went back to the same spot to see.
So - as the hand is quicker than the eye, let's see that again. Now you see it:
Now you don't:
Magic! Now why would you want to live anywhere else? Well, except for Colorado. Or Pennsylvania. Or the English countryside. Every place has its charm - and its magic. I'll relish our magic while I'm here.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Seven-Word Realization

If I don't talk, I can't yell.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Why the Tears?

Why does this poem always make me cry?

You know the one:

The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost

 Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Last week my oldest three kids started memorizing poetry. I decided that I would join them, and I chose this one, an old fave. On the first day of school I read all the poems out loud and I couldn't get through mine without crying. I tried a few times and it actually became funny. At dinner, with Kevin joining the audience I tried again and I cried again! The line "knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back" is the tear-jerker, along with "I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."

I know that we can't do everything in this life - we can't choose more than one path. This bugs me, and I guess that explains the tears. I've often said I'd like to try everything at least once, but I don't have the time, true desire, or aptitude for all the paths that sound fun to me. I'm a dreamer, but I'm also finite. I guess that explains the sigh in the last stanza. And also my own tears.

Monday, September 3, 2012

I Am Science-y

In case you don't think this blog delves into human experimentation enough, I'm happy to report that I recently conducted a study. I don't think I have many readers who come here for my science, but just in case, I'll write up my findings in an official way:

Teri's Human Study #4,313 
(I am constantly involving my children, and people I see at the grocery store, in my human studies. So I have quite a bit of experience. I just don't have time to write down all my results but I'm guessing I've done at least this many studies. If not more. For a complete, typewritten list of what I think I've studied scientifically, send me a self-addressed, stamped envelope, along with $45.00)

Question: In a blind taste test, using 13 human women, which of the following brands of coffee would be most popular: Folger's? Peet's? Mystic Monk? or Dunkin Donuts?

Materials: 13 human women; 4 coffee makers; 4 brands of coffee; 52 cups; a Sharpie, writing utensils, and scoring sheets.

Procedure: Cups are labeled A, B,C, or D. A secret list is held by me, the study facilitator, which reveals which brand of coffee is designated by which letter of the alphabet. Coffee is brewed, poured, and sampled. Findings are written on sheets of paper in order of preference.

Disclosure of Errors: The coffee makers kept overloading the circuits in our laboratory, thus shutting down the power and stopping the brewing of the coffee. It was annoying. Also, I did a poor job of grinding one brand of coffee, essentially ruining it's quality and producing a coffee drink similar in taste to sewage. And not even good sewage.

Hypothesis: Subjects will like the most expensive brand. Or maybe the cheapest one.

Results: Dunkin Donuts received more votes for "favorite" than any of the other brands. Mystic Monk was least favorite. This was the brand that I messed up with poor grinding skills, though, so it should be stated that Folger's was the next least favorite. ("Next least?" Is that how a real scientist talks?) Ten of the thirteen subjects are daily coffee drinkers. One admitted to drinking an entire pot a day by herself. I will say she's a chipper type, and now I know why. Keurigs are popular. So is Splenda (these facts were revealed in the data that each subject provided). All 13 subjects wrote legibly and one used a green pen. One shared that she gets coffee free from hotels and now I'm curious how often she stays at hotels. And why. And what brand of coffee do hotels most often serve? This is a study for someone else, I haven't the time.

I participated in the study, and it should be noted that my husband insists on buying a brand that I rated #3, followed only by the sewage-flavored brand.

Conclusion: Subjects liked the mid-priced brand. And our laboratory needs some electrical work. And coffee is better with cream and sugar or fake sugar. And next time we should do wine-tasting. In the name of science, I mean.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Spacewalks and Hang-Gliding

For reasons only a professional therapist can explain, the above scene is what often pops into my brain when I consider my homeschooling experience. Maybe it's the adventure. Perhaps the otherworldliness or the loneliness. With all those comparisons, it's hard to think of what differentiates space walking from homeschooling. Maybe the biggie is that I don't have to fear getting hit in the face by micrometeoroids traveling at up to 27,000 kilometers per hour, whereas astronauts do.

If I was to consult that therapist, perhaps she could also provide some insight into why I chose this little guy as my homeschool mascot:
Yes, Hang Gliding Smurf has adorned my desk shelf since my first year of homeschooling. He symbolizes the action-packed, daredevil nature of my decision to homeschool. Maybe you don't see it. Maybe you're happy to adorn your desk with a traditional apple. I'm not against the apple. But for whatever reason the risk and wackiness displayed by Hang Gliding Smurf are more appealing. As is my decision to educate my kids at home.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Mom on the Sofa with Sun

Sitting on the sofa listening to one of the kids read. Sun coming through the window. Four year-old takes a snapshot with the iPhone, as he often does. But the photos are usually of the carpet, stuffed animals, siblings, or art work. If I'm in the photo, it's a less-than-flattering view of my backside because it's funny to take butt-shots, or because I just got in the way. This time, he got me in a rare quiet moment. Not yelling, or commanding, or directing. Just listening. I'd like to listen more, it makes for a nicer picture.