Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Magnets!

Back to Works for Me Wednesdays, which, sadly, will not be about Dr. Seuss.  Try as I might I just couldn't figure a way to work him in.  I was really going for a full week of Seuss, good and bad, if you hadn't noticed.  Also, quick note: it's a leap year!  We get a free day.  How cool is that?  Anyway, onward ho!

In my extremely small kitchen there is no room for just about anything (including cooking, at times).  Last week, when I wanted to participate in the Stations of the Cross project, I had to use the small space between the burners on the stove as my work station.  Safe, right?  I'm sure anyone still reading this knows that this kitchen is the current bane of my existence (that, and Zumba, with whom I am developing a love/hate relationship at the moment).  There's one wall on which to hang anything I may need to hang.  In a basic kitchen that serves only as a place to prepare and possibly eat food this isn't a real problem.  In a kitchen that is also a classroom, it kinda totally sucks.  One of my solutions for working with this one wall is to make the display space, what little there is, as changeable as possible.  And so, I give you: The Magnetic Strip!

I don't front.  This is what my strips looked like
when I decided to start taking pictures.
These strips come in varying lengths and widths, but for my purposes, I chose the 1/2" by 24" size, in white, so as to not be jarring against the cream colored walls of our kitchen and therefore be just a background on which we can hang our "stuff".  Trust me, if you think there's a lot of "stuff" from regular school, try actually living in the school room, 24/7/365.  "Stuff" abounds in the house of a homeschooler.

Each strip comes with essentially super-strong double sided mounting tape, which I hope won't destroy the paint when I remove them.  Even if they do though, I think paint might be easier to fix than holes left after removing screws.  It comes with about eight magnets and, while they do the job, they are the one thing I complain about.  They are literally just the magnets: small metal disks, with nothing to prevent anyone, like an adventurous 18 month old who climbs onto the kitchen table the moment her mother's back is turned, from swallowing one (this hasn't happened yet, thank God, but I really need to switch out those magnets soon).

This is what it is supposed to look like most days.
Neat and orderly with schoolwork and projects
hanging, well, neatly.
Some Dr. Seuss independent activities
Note the ridiculously small magnet.










We have two of them hanging below the posters and above the table, so this gives us 48" of hanging space.  At the moment, I try to keep the boys' work on separate strips, but that won't work in the Fall (because I'll have three students).  I tend to use them for just the basics.  Once a math assessment or spelling test is done, up it goes on the strip with all the fanfare it is deserving (after getting a sticker of course) and remains there for a respectable amount of time (until, say the next test is ready).  If there's a back side to a page that is to be completed at a later date or time, it goes up on the strip to keep it in my line of sight.  I tend to forget things like papers when they go away into folders, even if it's supposed to be temporary, so this helps me remember silly things, like math worksheets.

Makes a nice place to hang Valentine's
While we generally use them for a basic bulletin board of sorts, there are many different uses I can think of for a classroom setting, let alone for use in an actual kitchen (read: not a classroom).  On birthdays, we hang up pictures of the birthday child.  On holidays, you could hang up all the fun homemade decorations that really don't fit anywhere else but can't be thrown out (just yet).  There's also the possibility of using it as a "Do Now" activity station, where you simply hang a couple of different worksheets (I use this term loosely) across the strip and let the child choose which one to do while you finish your coffee prepare your supplies.
 
Dr. Seuss independent activities
If you're not a homeschooler, these are still a great way to display your child's artwork or your own photos and even to use near a desk for holding papers you can't afford to lose on the mass of slips that is your desk (it's not just me, right?).  The possibilities are practically limitless.  That's why these magnetic bulletin strips work for me.

So now I want to know: do you have any clever space saving display ideas?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On How to Not Give Money to Planned Parenthood Inadvertantly

If you're pro-life, like I am, then you probably have serious issues with Planned Parenthood, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the March of Dimes, and several other organizations.  Then there's the people you most likely take issue with as well, including Kenneth Cole, Gwyneth Paltrow (and her mom, Blythe Danner), and President Obama and his entire cabinet and staff, among others. Much as we all know to stay away, keep back, hide our wallets when these clear offenders against life come knocking at our doors, there are other, less obvious individuals and groups from which we should be withholding our financial support -- such as Dr. Seuss.
If only Theo. S. Geisel was as
sensible as Dr. Seuss and Horton
I know, I know.  I love his work.  I really do.  It's fun, it's catchy, it's a part of American (in particular) childhood that most of us share.  It's loved by kids and grown ups alike.  And the proceeds still go to his widow, who, along with her husband while he was still alive and continuing to the present day, presents large donations to Planned Parenthood.  That's right folks.  Every time you purchase a copy of Horton Hears a Who, with it's beautiful message that "a person's a person no matter how small", Audry Geisel (Theodore S. Geisel aka Dr. Seuss' widow) receives a portion of the price, and with that money, she supports the murder of innocent, "small" human beings by donating to Planned Parenthood.  It's not a small thing to consider, especially when one thinks about the millions of copies this book in particular and all of his books have sold worldwide.  All those individual sales add up, and even just a percentage of a percentage is a large amount when talking Dr. Seuss sales.

Now, I'm not saying drop Dr. Seuss and his zany characters like a bad habit.  Far from it.  What I am saying is to be careful as to how you procure copies of his books. If I flatly refuse to give money to Planned Parenthood via Seuss, how do I satiate my thirst for more Seuss you may be wondering?  Easy peasy.  I got this.

How to avoid giving Planned Parenthood money and still keep reading those rhymes:
  1. Use the library, fool.  They are a great resource and, what's more, the librarians in the children's sections are usually more than happy to do Seuss read alouds if they have a crowd.  At least, mine are.  If yours aren't, I feel for you.
  2. Used book stores and websites offer a wide variety of both titles and pricing.  And you can take advantage of somebody else already making the purchase you didn't want to make (because maybe they didn't know or, sadly, didn't care).  No money from you is going to Planned Parenthood.
  3. Curriculum swaps.  Especially if you homeschool, you can not afford to not be on at least two to three different swap lists.  People are constantly trading, selling, and sometimes outright giving away extra copies of books that are simply collecting dust in their homes but will be joyfully put to good use in yours.
  4. Ask your relatives and friends.  I don't know about yours, but my family and friends are a great resource for old books, especially of the children's variety.  Then again, my family could easily populate a small country on its own, so maybe scratch this one.  Aw hell, go for it.  What's the worst that could happen?
And if, after all that, you still can't find enough Dr. Seuss without purchasing new copies (which I highly doubt, but just in case), remember the words of Dr. Seuss in Horton, and juxtapose them with Theodore Geisel's actions.  He preaches respect for life, "no matter how small", and then proffers money to the single largest abortion chain in the country.  No amount of funny words or silly sounds or giggling is worth more than a single baby saved from abortion because the Geisels didn't have your money to donate to Planned Parenthood.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Seuss on the Loose




That's my all time favorite Dr. Seuss book.  I love the (even more than usual) zany rhymes and the ending, where Mr. Knox gets Mr. Fox in Socks, sir, and the latter is a "tweetle beetle noodle poodle bottled paddled muddled duddled fuddled wuddled".  Reading this aloud to my kids is one of my favorite things to do. Listening to their squeals of delight get louder and louder with each crazy line that is added to the tongue-twisting fun can help anyone find their silly side.  Dr. Seuss' left us with some truly worthwhile childhood entertainment and when it is read with any semblance of feeling and fun, the result is nothing short of infectious laughter and a bringing out of the child in us all.

Pirate Princess liked the swag
Much as they tried, the Target near us did not provide this experience during their Dr. Seuss Storytime this past Saturday.  Oh there was a nice enough space cleared out of the ladies accessories department, so the kids could sit on the carpet, and as I didn't know what to expect, I thought this was decent.  There were a couple of signs directing people towards the story time area and when we got there (about a half and hour after it started, the first group of kids was just leaving.  We sat the kids down (except for the young Scientist, who for some reason was refusing to leave my side) and a Target "team member" gave us some actually quite nice kiddie "swag", in the form of a reusable Lorax shopping bag with a snack (apple juice, crackers, and fruit snacks), and some coloring stuff, and even a felt Lorax mustache/bookmark.  Then, one after the other, two different Target peeps sat in the reader chair and read to the children who had gathered.  The first read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and the second read another of my favorites, Green Eggs and Ham.  We waited for the fun to start.  If we had stayed past those two books we'd still be waiting.

After the nice bags and the buildup from the website, I have to say, I was disappointed here.  I'm sure the team members who did the readings were trying their best, but the readings were just...flat.  There was hardy any emotion in either.  It was as if they had never heard these books being read before.  The one man even called him San-I-Am.  SAN!  Can you believe it?  Then it hit: there's a good chance they hadn't ever heard those books being read before.  That just made me sad, but I digress.  It was such a shame to have those books read by people who just didn't seem to get it.  Reading to kids is all about knowing how to be silly, to be vulnerable, to let childhood come storming back in with a bang and how to not be afraid to sounds like a total dork while doing it.  These team members did not tell a story.  They read the words on the page.

Seuss 'Stache Smiles (they're hiding)
After the requisite fifteen minutes (we felt it would be rude and set a bad example to the kids to leave without staying for a polite period) we walked away to find a less crowded spot and let the kids explore their bags.  The boys particularly loved the 'staches, and Reagan had quite a treat with the fruit snacks.  Hester just loved carrying her own bag around the store (granted, we decided to do a quick bag inspection as we got the the checkout lane, because neither the husband nor I wanted to deal with any possible accidental shoplifting incidents that day.  Not on Rex Manning Dr. Seuss day.)  All in all, though the reading itself was lackluster at best, the day was not a total wash.  We even reread the books from the morning during our evening story time, more to get the "bad taste" of the earlier readings out of our metaphorical mouths than anything else.  And, the kids now have new library book bags, which is good, because I start to feel like a lazy parent when we use the Dunkin' Donuts pumpkin bags from Halloween past St. Patrick's Day.

So now I want to know: what is your biggest pet peeve about bad reading?  Or, how do you make read alouds enjoyable (for you and your kids)?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Silent Sunday

I have no idea where this image is
from, but when I saw it, I fell in love

The Memorare

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.
Amen.
(I plan on trying to keep Sunday as the Lord's Day, and not a blogging day, so I won't be posting more than a picture and prayer each week, unless I really feel called to it.  No promises, but it's a plan for now.)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Second Book!

Look who just finished his second real book! It's his first library book and we didn't get to post a picture after his first book last week, so he made new promise to share this one with everybody. I don't know which of us is more excited, him or me. I love nights like these.
The book is Jake Skates, by the way, and it was adorable and a good choice for little boys.



I'm Not Being Facetious


If you have kids, or are close to kids, then you know that they say the most amazing things all the times.  Sometimes though what they say is particularly awesome; so awesome in fact that you think about the child and the words all week, tell everyone you know, and want to make sure that there isn't a person you haven't told of the awesomeness that is this child.  This week, I've had a couple of those moments.  (I have 5 kids, I'm bound to have multiple awesome things, right? It's something like the law of probabilities, I think.  I'm not really sure as I don't do "math").

She loves "Hims", she just can't
remember His name.
Last Sunday, as we were trying to get out of bed, my four year old came into my room and started his usual Sunday morning rant.  You see, while we don't generally have any issues with letting the kids watch TV, we have this rule, about Sunday mornings.  Simply stated: no TV.  It's not a religious thing; I just hate being late for Mass, especially for no good reason.  To me, watching TV is not a good reason.  So little man and I go through this every week.  He rants at me that he just has to watch TV, that I'm a mean mommy for not letting him, that he isn't going to Mass (because apparently he thinks we leave four year olds home unattended?), that I have to let him watch something.  I respond with a string of "no", "I don't care", "there you go again, mistaking me for somebody who gives a damn", etc.  The usual.  This week, however, I had some help in the rant response department, and it came from an unlikely source: my two year old daughter.  Now, granted, she'll be three in April, and granted, we try to expose our children to as much of our Faith and beliefs as they can handle, but I still was not expecting this exchange:

Her: "Mom, what's Hims name?", as she pointed at the crucifix on my wall.
Me: "Hims name is Jesus, baby."
Her: "Mom, Hims have lots of boo boos?  Jesus?"
Me: "Yes, baby.  'Hims' have lots of boo boos."
Her: "Yansom, Hims, Jesus (again, pointing), have lots of boo boos.  We needs to go to Mass to make Hims boo boos feel all better.  Yeah, we do.  We needs to go to church."

I personally think that's a pretty good lesson on theology from a two year old, even if she is almost three.  We do go to Mass partly because in praying and uniting our sacrifice with His, we are striving to alleviate His suffering.  It was definitely a moment of feeling, "At least I must be doing something right."

If I'm doing something right in the theology department then I'm not sure what I'm doing in the math department.  My six year old son told me he was being facetious the other day.  We finished part of our math lesson and I told him we only had one more page left.  He responded with, "Oh fun."  I apparently mistook his meaning, because, when I said that I was happy because he really does seem to enjoy this part of math, he stopped me to make sure I understood what he was trying to say.  "Mom, I was being facetious.  I didn't say, 'Oh! Fun!' like I was excited.  I said, 'Oh, fun.'  I was saying the exact opposite of the words I was using.  I was being facetious."  Should I be upset that he doesn't enjoy math as much as I thought, or excited that my six year old is correctly using the word facetious (one I find far too many adults confusing with sarcastic)?  I'm not really sure here, but I'm going to go with the excited response.  He might not love math but, clearly, his vocabulary skills are not lacking.

He certainly looks like he's enjoying his math.
The way I see it is this: we only have them for so long while they are actually "ours", to mold, to teach, to impress upon with our beliefs and quirks, our tastes and spirit.  I'm going to choose to see both of these as successes in the parenting collumn, partly because they aren't as common as I'd like, but mainly because, childhood is too short to be beating ourselves up looking at the down side.  My children are learning.  The little girl may not remember that "Hims" name is Jesus, but she certainly knows what is what in the theology department.  The big boy may not love math, but he can correctly use a word that gives some adults pause.  To me, those should be celebrated now.  We can sort out the bad bits later and fix them up then.

So now I want to know: do you celebrate the small things or sweat them? What's your parenting style in these situations?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Good Times, Guilt Free

I went out to dinner last night.  I don't mean to McDonald's or Pizza Hut, either.  I went to an actual restaurant, with real plates and silverware and *gasp* cloth napkins.  There was nice lighting and interesting foods on the menu (disclaimer: i don't eat interesting foods, but I like reading about them).  Best of all, there was good company.  Grown up company.  Company that wanted to converse and laugh, to discuss religion and dance class and all manner of various and sundry things.  Company who did not want me to cut up her food or get her a new pack of crayons for the hostess.  Company that just wanted to be companionable.  It was so pleasant.

We laughed.  We laughed loud and long.  I laughed until my sides started to hurt.  We tried new things.  Yes, I actually tried new foods.  See that "s" there?  It means more than one.  I tried goat cheese and pizza with egg on it, and they were both delicious.  We even had desert.  I haven't had spumoni in years, but I had it last night.  The evening was, to say the least, good fun.

We like to document when I try a new food, just like we do
with babies, b/c it's almost as auspicious an occasion.

In case you couldn't tell from reading the above, I don't get out much.  Not like that, at least, with a couple of girlfriends (or a sister and her girlfriend, whatever), and no kids, and no need to rush back home at a moment's notice because someone got sick or won't sleep or any number of other reasons.  It's not that I can't.  The husband is pretty good about being left home with the kids.  It's that, usually, I prefer to stay home, to stay with the kids and the husband, and that doesn't make for a lot of grown up time.  But tonight reminded me that, even a mom to five kids can and perhaps get away from it all from time to time, if only for the night.  I feel refreshed,  and ready to take on the next however many weeks or months of just being a mom.  I feel like I could cut up a million hot dogs, refill a thousand sippy cups, and do laundry 'til the cows come home.  It's easy to feel guilty about leaving our kids, or our spouses, for any time, especially when it's for something as unnecessary as a dinner with friends.  But I'm starting to think that, once in a while, it is actually absolutely necessary.  It's amazing how one night out, without the kids but sharing stories about them, can not only recharge your batteries, but remind you how much you really do love doing all those mommy things.  I really do love being a mom, a stay at home mom, all of it, even the parts that often keep me from often having evenings such as last night.

So now I want to know: what one little respite from Momdom helps you reboot and feel ready to face it all again?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

God is Good, Because I Have The Green Machine

Very like The Green Machine, but mine is actually green,
with running boards.  Oh how I love those!
I have a 12 passenger van.  I love it.  I don't mean I kinda like it.  I don't mean it's sorta nice to drive and has the space I need so I'll keep it.  I mean I seriously love it.  I know I shouldn't be this attached to anything, but I can't seem to help it.  It's my favorite "thing" in the world.  When I drive it, I feel like I'm literally on top of the world, surveying the other, tiny cars from my seat up oh so high.  The ride is smooth and the seats are comfy (the driver's seat at least, and I don't ever sit in any of the others, so I can't comment), and when the AC is on, it's so nice and cold.  I love this van so much that, on our trip down to Disney World this past summer, I chose to do the lion's share of the driving.  The trip is 1000 miles each way.  Like I said, I love this van.
Soooooo many seats. :)
Other cars I've owned, not so much.  A few years ago, another time when we were a one car family, if I needed the car for the day, I'd have to drive the husband to work.  This involved getting up earlier than usual, getting the kids all dressed and bundled, hauling them outside regardless of the weather, driving to his office, and then doing it all in reverse by myself to get home.  I hated that car; "Ugly Car", as I called it.  It was small and cramped, a Ford Escort, in white, with dark tinted windows.  I shudder just thinking about it.  I would try to put on a good face, but all that hassle just to go to a doctors appointment or weekday Mass, or anything else I may have needed to do during the day seemed like a lot.  I know I would grumble about it more than I liked and more than I should have.

God is good.  Whenever I started inwardly griping, He would send me the reminder I need that He has blessed me in incredible ways.  Inevitably, it would happen.  I would see "her", the mother with the stroller, usually covered in a clear plastic rain shield, with a baby practically swaddled a la Randy in "A Christmas Story" to keep him warm in the driving rain.  As I drove past, inwardly complaining about how hard the morning was, there she would be, walking to work or probably to the babysitters and then on to work, with a baby, in the rain, in the cold, in a stroller.  Have you ever seen a grown woman shrink to about three inches tall?  That's what it always felt like.  Here I was, in my (now) nice, warm, DRY, car, with my children in car seats and, more importantly, not out in the nasty weather.  Here I was, with my (overwhelmingly) good life, with a husband who worked so I could stay home, with a backseat full of healthy children, and a home to go home to, where we could spend most of the day dry and cozy until it was time to pick said husband up from work.  Sure I owned a stroller, but in car insurance terms, it was my "pleasure vehicle", not my primary means of transport.  If we went for a walk, it was because we wanted some exercise or fresh air, not so that we could get to work, and it was never in the rain or snow or cold.  Seeing "her" always put my life, and car, into perspective insanely fast.  I had it good, and she, she was the one with a right to complain.
My "other ride"
One might think that having seen "her" once, I'd never have this problem of grumbling over the good things I had again.  Of course, one would be wrong, or this wouldn't be much of a post.  It still happens from time to time.  When I feel worried over the loss of "our" job, and the hard times ahead, I hear about a friend who was abandoned in her time of need, and I remember that my husband is here until the end so comparatively I have it great.  When I feel like I have too much laundry to do or clothing to wash or [insert random daily household task here] I remember that there are some women who would love to have the work, because it is only because I have five healthy children that I have almost 50 pairs of socks to wash each week.  I have it so good it hurts sometimes.  I just haven't figured out the trick to remembering it constantly, and so, from time to time, I'll begin to grumble.  I'm thankful that, when I need Him most, the Holy Spirit gives me a good kick in the pants to stop complaining, and start being thankful for the many blessing I have that other's don't. God is good because I have (among other things) the Green Machine.

So now I want to know: is there one thing that is constantly popping up to remind you to be thankful for all the blessings in your life?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ashes, Ashes

Artist's rendering.  Real "crosses"
usually a dark smudge, am I right?

We all fall down.

I know this has nothing to actually do with Lent or Ash Wednesday, but I always find myself thinking about it as I prepare to "get my ashes".  For some reason, it seems quite profound to me, even if it does come from a childrens' rhyme.  It reminds me that, during Lent in particular, "we all fall down", purposefully, prostrating ourselves before God to try to repent and return to Him who is our Salvation.  "We all fall down" to beg God's forgiveness and to do penance.  "We all fall down" to take up our cross so that, in doing so, we might lighten the load that we have placed on Christ's shoulders.  "We all fall down" so that, come Easter, we can rise with Christ, singing a joyful Allel...you get the point.

And so, today, as I receive our mark of the ashen cross on my forehead, I will try to remember that "Ashes, ashes" is just the beginning of the powerful season of Lent, where we are given daily opportunities to fall down so that we might be raised up at its end.  Just something to think about.

Possible Lenten Activities (in case you haven't decided yet)

1) Stations of the Cross weekly (at least) with the kiddies.  (I had better at least try this one, after making that giant display)
2) Purposefully practice the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy
3) Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet daily
4) Read from a classic work on Catholic spirituality, theology, hageography, etc.  Basically, holy reading :)
5) Fast daily
6) Abstain daily
7) Picket abortion clinic weekly
8) Pray the Rosary daily
9) Attend daily Mass
10) All of the above. :)  J/k

Works for me Wednesday  projects will return next week.  Something in me doesn't think that crafting posts are quite appropriate on Ash Wednesday.  That, and most of those reading will probably not have the functionality of a rock by the time they read this post, what with the fasting and all.

So now I DON'T want to know what you will be "doing" for Lent, as we're not supposed to ask those things, right?  But, if you have any other ideas to add to the list, please feel free to share!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Stations for Le. Rheims

Hi!  I gather you're here for the Stations of the Cross post I wrote in February.  The thing is though, I've moved the whole shebang over to Wordpress.com.  So, please, click the link below to check it out over there.  And, if you like it, why don't you hit the Facebook "Like" button and maybe even start following me by email.  Thanks for stopping by!


Monday, February 20, 2012

Are You Ready?

Because Lent starts on Wednesday.  I know, right?  I've been trying to prepare for it for the last two months (pretty much since right after Christmas) and it has still managed to sneak up on me.  So far, aside from pinning a whole bunch of awesome links to my Pinterest boards, I haven't really done much to make ready.  I have so much to do today and tomorrow, like buying a purple table covering of some kind (preferably wrapping paper, for our bulletin tabletop), and hitting up the craft and dollar stores for the supplies for several of the projects I'd like to attempt with the kids.  Whew! That's a lot to do in two days, not counting the schoolwork and library trip I've been promising them for about three weeks.  So, in case you are as far behind as I am this year, I thought I'd write a post sharing some of the ideas I've found thus far that are still very doable in the time left.  Hope they help!

1) This year, we plan on burying wrapping the Alleluia!  Since we live in an apartment, we don't have a yard, but the idea is still the same.  On Tuesday, after reminding the kids what Alleluia means and why we sing it and more importantly why we don't sing it during Lent, we'll take out a prettily printed piece of paper with the word on it, place it in a nice box, and wrap it up.  We'll leave it on display where the kids can see it, but not touch it.  Then, on Easter Sunday (or whenever we get home from Easter Mass) we'll unwrap it and sing it up!  Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?  Maybe that's why singing "Jesus Christ Is Risen Today!" has always been my favorite part of Easter morning.

2) This next idea I got from Lacy over at Catholic Icing.  We're going to make up a sacrifice box.  Basically, each of us, mom and dad included, will pick one or two things that we will give up for Lent, and place them in some sort of box, which will then be put away until Easter.  In our family, we don't count Sundays as part of Lent, so we may be letting the stuff out for Sunday afternoons.  I haven't decided yet, but a good, small-space friendly idea, either way.

3) Our main Lenten daily activity will be the merciful cross I found on Pondered in My Heart.  With little more than a construction paper cross and some flower shaped Post-its, we'll have a very visible reminder of how much (or how little) we've done for our fellow men in the way of the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.  It's a nice little lesson, and again, very easy to do in a small space.

4) In addition to those, we'll also be using Lacy's Lenten calendar for kids, as it will easily fit in to our Saxon math meeting book routine.

As for weekly ideas, we are already, thank God!, in the habit of saying a daily Rosary, so to add prayers into our Lenten routine, we're going to try for at least weekly, if not (I hope) daily Stations of the Cross.  That apartment idea will be posted tomorrow, on How Tuesdays.

Speaking of Tuesday, tomorrow is Fat Tuesday!  How excited am I?  It's the one day of the year when I really don't mind if my kids eat as many treats as they want.  What is the point of the austerity of Lent if we have nothing to miss?  I'm hoping to actually start the day off with Nan's potato pancakes, for the husband, and possibly doughnuts, as that is, apparently, some kind of German tradition, which the husband says we need to incorporate into our childrens' lives because they are part German.

So now I want to know, do you have any special Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Fastnacht Day, Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day?  Anything special planned for Lent?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Thank God She Wasn't Typical

Feast Day: February 18th in France
April 16th everywhere else
Always listen to your Mama.
We all know the story of St. Marie Bernadette Soubirous, right?  I mean, she lived in the mid-1800s, was poor and uneducated, but holy and honest.  She lived a simple life, tried to learn her Catechism (with children half her age), and help her mom with the housework.  Oh, and at the age of 14 the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to her and used her to spread devotion to Christ and His church and to her name as the Immaculate Conception.  No big.

Except that it was.  As Bernadette was out for a walk with her friends, just gathering some firewood, she was left behind.  She wasn't as healthy as the other kids (on account of her living in an old jail cell that wasn't considered fit for the prisoners to live in anymore) and so she was a little slower than they were.  All of a sudden, she heard the loudest gust of wind ever.  She looked up and saw that none of the trees were moving, which was weird, but she figured it was just a fluke and went back to what she had been doing.  She heard it again, and right before she [probably] thought, "OK, this is just getting weird", she looked up again, and there she was, the beautiful "Lady in White", shining and sparkly and as amazingly gorgeous as anything Bernadette (or any of us) had ever seen.  She was all dressed in white, with a white Rosary, a blue sash around her waist and with the absolutely coolest "shoes" ever: a yellow rose on each foot.  Now, while Bernadette was at first confused as all get out, as  I'm guessing most 14 year old girls would be, before long, it was as if she had known this "Lady" all her life (because she had, right?) and she felt completely at peace.  This is when it gets interesting (because visions of beautiful glowing women apparently aren't where it ends).

Bernadette didn't know what to tell anyone, so she kept her mouth shut.  Should she have told her mother that she saw something she couldn't explain? Probably, but she was after all only 14.  Her friends though, got the story out of her.  Luckily for her, they were good friends.  They told her mom.  Mommy Soubirous, not used to this sort of thing (since, after all, Bernadette was the first, OK only, one of the family town to have a miraculous vision).  She forbade her daughter going back to the grotto where the "Beautiful Lady" had appeared.  Normally, Bernadette would have stuck to any command from her mom like glue, but for some reason, she couldn't stay away.  Perhaps she knew somehow that listening to her one mom would be keeping her away from her other Mom?  Who knows?  But Bernadette totes went back to that grotto.  Could you imagine if this had happened today?  If Bernadette's mom had been all, "You are not going back to that grotto?!" and Bernadette had been all, "It's my life, mother, and if I want to spend it going to see the 'Beautiful Lady', I will."  Thank God it happened when it did.

Anyways, so the "Lady in White" asked Bernadette to keep coming back for two weeks.  Over those weeks, people started following Bernadette, even though she didn't ask them.  The crowds grew larger and larger.  Bernadette was hauled in by the police to be questioned, she was criticized by her parish priest at first, she was even examined to determine her mental state (read: is she cray-zay?).  Eventually, her pastor recognized that Bernadette was one special girl, but for those first two weeks, she was attacked on all sides.  The only thing that kept her going was her special friend, the "Lady in White".  On the ninth visit, the Lady asked her to drink from an invisible spring.  To all the onlookers, it appeared that Bernadette had really lost it this time, as she was, for all intents and purposes, "drinking" mud and eating grass.  Of course, over the next couple of days the spring did pour forth, and as we all know now, that spring has healed thousands of people.  Good thing Bernadette wasn't a typical teen of today, right?  ("You want me to do what? Eat grass?  Suuuuure..." *backs away slowly from the Lady*)

Eventually, the Lady asked for a chapel to be built.  And Bernadette, being Bernadette, made the request, plainly and without question.  The priest asked for the Lady's name.  Fair enough.  You want a church, I want to know who it's for.  Bernadette asked the Lady, and, even though she didn't understand the answer, she took it back to the priest: "I am the Immaculate Conception".  Word, right?  Bernadette hadn't a clue as to what those words meant in and of themselves, let alone what they meant in that way as that phrase.  But, being Bernadette, she carried them to the priest, repeating them over and over in her mind.  This if finally when the tide began to turn for her.  Her pastor knew that, while he knew what that meant, there was no way that Bernadette, at 14, poorly educated, in a poor, rural area, could possibly know what they meant unless God Himself, or, you know, His Mom, had told her.

Throughout all of the trials, Bernadette never once wavered in her steadfast love of the Lady.  She eventually entered a convent, where she was treated badly by the jealous prioress.  Bernadette returned the jealousy, not as we might want to (in my case it would be in a true "Bitch, please" style), but with love and humility.  After suffering for many months, because, as Bernadette said, the healing spring "was not for [her]", she died.  Her last words were about the beautiful Lady, Mary the Mother of God, who had been with her always.

St. Bernadette's quiet courage could teach us all a lesson: don't worry about the perils or pitfalls, about the trials or troubles you may face in the world; just keep coming back to our Lady and she will lead you straight to God.  I try to remind my children, my sons in particular at the moment, to think of the saints as their friends.  It's easier to do this with a saint as flatly normal as Bernadette.  But I also try to remind them of her greatness.  In just being her, in just following the Lady, she gave hope to millions around the world, and her example still reminds us all that God chooses not as men choose, but the smallest and least likely among us for the biggest trials and tasks.

In the end, God rewarded Bernadette with an extra special gift: her body is still, over 130 years after her untimely death at the age of 35, totally incorrupt.  For reals.  Look:

I'm dead, but my skin looks fantastic.
To quote one of my all time favorite songs about the incorruptable saints (because apparently, there's more than one): "Saint Bernadette still looks mighty fresh though she's been dead for years / Her cheeks still have a pinkish hue and there's color in her ears."  It's almost like He was telling everyone who persecuted her here on earth, "She's with Me. Back off."

St. Bernadette, Pray for Us!

So now I want to know, who is your favorite young saint and why?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Lost Post

This is the one where I'm so tired I can't remember the fantabulously mind-blowing topic I had in mind for posting.  It was amazing, I promise, but I can't remember it at all.  I'll ramble on for a few minutes before deciding that watching my daughter sleep on my husband's lap isn't more entertaining than writer's block, and then I'll attempt to bring it on in for a landing that somehow makes sense.  It's classic Bridget.

Le. Rheims is noisy.  It's full of life, but not full of community, so instead of hearing friends and neighbors, I mostly just hear noise.  There's a difference, you know.  Friends and neighbors sound like good times waiting to happen; like conversations to be had and jokes to be shared; like if one were to step outside her apartment door she might just find a party about to happen that was just waiting for her to arrive before it started.  Instead, here, one just hears the clamor: the noisy neighbors above who apparently let their infant toddle around in mommy's high heels until she topples over; the ones on the top floor who usually come in late at night, talking loudly at each other and over each other all the way up the three flights of stairs; the ones across the hall who are friendly, but tend to have very loud, very late, very bass-filled musical get-togethers with their church group.  In a house filled with children one hear's (very loud) life and laughter.  In an apartment building that lacks community one hear's noise.  Here, we are all basically living in barely overlapping spheres.  We all keep to ourselves and no one calls the landlord when the kids in apartment four make too much noise or when the family in number nine has a wild party that goes on until four in the morning.  We all politely say hello as we pass each other on our ways in and out, but that's where it ends.  This is why Le. Rheims is noisy.  We can all hear each other but the sounds coming through the walls have nothing to do with us.

So now I want to know: do you live in a amongst friends and neighbors, or is there a distinct lack of a communal feel to your neighborhood?

See? That was pretty much a ramble. I mean, I kind of tied it into the whole "we live in an apartment" aspect of the blog, but that's about it.  This is what happens when Bridgie's don't get enough sleep.  Because of kick-ass Hanson concerts.  I'll be back tomorrow.  Until then, go read some of my more coherent posts, like this one or this one.

Best! Husband! Ever!

Really!  It's true.  He is.  Why, you may ask?  Because, not only did he go to a Hanson concert with me (and our niece), but he managed to snag me an actual, authentic, USED, Isaac Hanson guitar pick.

Isaac guitar pick!  Snazzy logo and all!

This is my fifth Hanson concert, and I've never once managed to get one of these babies.  So yes, it's true: my husband rocks.

(And, husband, in case you think I didn't hear, I heard you singing every last line of "Mmmbop ba du ba dop ba do bop, ba do ba dop ba do bop, ba do ba dop ba do ooo ooo.  Whoaa yeah!"  And it was adorable.)

Also, he totally isn't freaked out by my love of Ike Hanson.  This is always a plus in a husband. (Upon reading this, he says he "reserves judgement" on that statement.)

Oh, Ike.  Yum.
Here's hoping that I can make it through dance class and schoolwork today, because right tnow, I'm just a touch giddy, high on the power that is bubblegum pop turned grown up happiness music.

(Sorry for the terrible quality of the pictures.  Cell phone.)

So now I want to know: what piece of concert/music memorabilia makes you giddy with glee to own?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

He Never Asks, "Downton What?"

Today, I'm thankful for my husband, who, despite my previous post, still loves me.  I'm thankful for a number of reasons, but right now, today, I would have to put two of them at the top of my list: he appreciates Hanson and he watches Downton Abbey.  As many women know, these are rarities among men, and for them, I am thankful.
It says Hanson...
For reals.
Tonight, we are going to a concert.  Not just any concert, oh no, but a  Hanson concert.  With our niece.  A Hanson concert, my fifth to be precise.  One where, despite the aging population of the crowd, no longer full of  teenage girls and their parents, but now full of grown women who are the parents, still sounds like it's full of teenage girls.  It's an amazing thing, walking into one of these.  It's as if every woman there somehow got into the way back machine and landed in 1997 at the age of 15 with her first true (musical) love.  We all know we're grownups, but as the strains of Mmmbop start playing, no one feels like it.  Amidst the screams of adoration for the three "boys" (now grown men with families of their own), there he'll be; my husband, holding my hand and letting me bounce like a giddy kid whenever my favorites are played (which will be almost every song).  He won't just be listening either.  He'll be singing along and appreciating the fact that Hanson is more than just their big hits, because he didn't dismiss like them so many others when I said (at the age of well past when most stop admitting it) that my favorite band is Hanson.  He gave them a try, and he realized what I already knew: he liked them.  And so, for this, a husband who isn't ashamed to admit he likes Hanson enough to go to a concert with me, I am thankful.
As for Downton Abbey, I honestly don't know which of us gets a bigger kick out of it.  On Sunday, when he realized that we had to pick between Once Upon a Time and Downtown, I was a little surprised when he picked the one about the landed gentry in early 20th century England over the one about goblins, dragons, and, his usual favorite, swords.  While most guys turn and run at the sound of "costume drama", he willingly sits and watches, pays attention, and talks about it later.  He knows what Edith did to Mary and how Mary got her back but good.  He knows that I have hated Jane since the first moment I laid eyes on her, and why, and he agrees.  To put it plainly, he knows who "the Chicken Lady" is, and he loves her.  Having someone who is not only willing but happy to watch Masterpiece Theater with me on a weekly basis has basically fulfilled one of my lifelong dreams, and for that, I will be eternally thankful.
The Husband could totally tell you the names of everyone
in this picture.  Even the Chicken Lady.
So now, I want to know: what silly thing makes you thankful for your spouse?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I Don't Have Bulletin Board, Either

I described my ridiculously small homeschool space last week.  Because of the small space i have to work with, I generally need to think outside of the box when it comes to standard issue classroom things, such as chalk boards.  Since we don't have room for that useful item, you may have guessed, we also don't have room for other, "frivolous" things, such as bulletin or cork boards.   For quite some time, I tried to figure out a way to get around this in a similar way to my solution for the chalk board situation, but, alas, mini white boards do have their limits.  Finally, it hit me.  The answer to my problem was literally at my fingertips.


I give you: The Bulletin Tabletop!

It's hard to take pictures in my kitchen
without them being on a weirdish angle.
From homeschool work space to snack central without
the hassle of removing all of the learning materials.

That's right folks, for under $4 at Walmart, I was able to pick up two yards of heavy duty, ultra polished, extra clear vinyl, which I then trimmed to fit my own table.  Now, we use it for a variety of things.  Sometimes it's a replacement for the usual bulletin board displays in classrooms, with seasonal decorations and the like.  Often though, it's a place to keep copies of "need to be studied" words and math facts.  I place them at the appropriate child's normal spot, and voila!  Instant passive reinforcement.

Our current display
At other times, such as around the holidays, it can be used as a display for typical classroomy things, such as the month, the birthdays (although with homeschooling, there's really not that many in the whole school to worry about), seasonal symbols, holy cards, basically anything that is flat and appropriate to the time of year.



A third use, one I haven't tried yet, at least not on purpose, is for practicing letter formation and sums.  Dry erase markers wipe right off of the vinyl with a soft cloth or even the kitchen sponge, making it the perfect spot for constant practice without constantly replenishing the paper supply.


Artist's recreation
Finally, on a practical note, I now understand an Italian grandmother's urge to cover her entire home in plastic.  My son got a non-washable, non-dry-erase marker out without my knowing it the other day, which would normally have been fine.  That day, however, he went a little, crazy.  He started out intending to draw something on a piece of paper, but ended up scribbling all over that and the tabletop surrounding it.  I mean, it looked like a hyper chihuahua covered in red ink had danced a jig on my kitchen table.  Thankfully, before I freaked out, I remembered the vinyl.  Less than 2 minutes later, and the whole thing was cleaned up.

So there you have it.  My bulletin tabletop made with $4 of clear vinyl.
Do you have any creative solutions to the problem of no wall space in a class room?  I'd love to steal hear them.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How to: Incorporate Your Husband into Your Every Day Life

"I promised to take you for better or for worse, but not for lunch."
That's the end of a joke my father always told, about the wife of a recently retired man, who expressed her frustration with her husband's new presence in her day to day routine by saying her vows said she would take him "for better or for worse, but not for lunch."  I always felt kind of bad for the husband.  It wasn't his fault that he had retired and had nothing else to do but spend his days at home.  I always thought it was kind of, if not mean, then not exactly kind either.  Let me just say, I now know how she feels.  And the feeling is most assuredly mutual.
My husband has been out of work since last April.  Since that time, he's been home.  A lot.  Like everyday a lot.  Like some days I think up errands for him to run just to get him out of my hair the house a lot.  He goes to Costco once every other week and takes care of filling up the car with gas and going to bank when the occasion arises, but aside from that, there isn't much to fill up his days.  There's only so long one can spend applying for jobs and researching our options.  I look forward to taking the boys to dance twice a week because it is an hour away from the constant togetherness each time.  The drudgery that was once laundromat day is lightened by the knowledge that the husband will not be accompanying me.  At the risk of sounding  touchy-feely, I need some me time, or at least some husband free time.
For the husband, it's the same.  He still hasn't gotten used to the idea of being an at home dad.  The constant replaying of Go, Diego, Go! and Tangled on Netflix are not his idea of stimulating entertainment.  Wanting to help but not knowing exactly how things get done all day doesn't help either.  He feels a little like he's adrift and bumping in to the routine the children and I had before his "break" from the workforce, rather than a contributing member of the team.  He jumps at almost any chance to run those errands I think up as fast as I can think of them.  Don't get me wrong, we love each other.  What's more, we even like each other, and really enjoy spending time together (we're even planning an outing together this week); just not every waking second of every day.  This is just not how life is supposed to be; not for us, at least.
For us, Daddy goes to work during the day, and Mommy runs the house.  Daddy has his office, Mommy has her kitchen and schoolroom.  Daddy supports the worldly needs of the family by earning a paycheck, and Mommy doles out sippy cups, kisses skinned knees, reads the same two books ad nauseam but always with a cheerful voiceand mends broken teddy bears and friendships.  We each fulfill specific needs in our family's life, and when one of us doesn't have his part to fulfill, the temptation to step in and take over the cares that are still very pressing and present is great.  But then, what is Mommy to do?  My life was full and fulfilling before I had the added "help" of my husband being home all day and night.  I like what I do.  I don't want to give up jobs that have always been mine and mine alone, such as the homeschooling, just because he wants an occupation and mine looks like fun.  Am I being selfish?  Most assuredly yes, but not only for my self.  Yes, I love homeschooling, but that's not all that's involved here.  You see, I know that, one day, I hope not too far off, my husband will be back at work, and our lives will return to one where he's out/I'm in all day.  I don't want the kids (or I) to become too accustomed to Daddy being the teacher so that it is a hindrance when he returns to work.  I don't want what should and will be a good thing to feel bad because of all the new changes it will mean.
And so, we are left with a dilemma that we haven't quite sorted out even though it's been 10 months.  We've gotten better than we were and are still not quite as good as we could be.  For instance, in the morning, I work on the schoolwork (one of my "things) while he entertains the younger kids.  They used to all cram in at the kitchen table and color during school time.  This, I must say is a huge help, and I'm glad to have it, and will be sad to see it go.  He has taken over the bathing routine (another of my "things") while I am able to catch up on the dishes that have filled our sink so that we can both actually relax (together) after the children are asleep.  We are working together to develop a plan for studying science with the kids, something that will be all on him, even when he gets a job.  Most importantly, we have managed to carve out a sturdier family prayer life by insisting on saying the Rosary every night at bed time.  Our life has changed, but we are managing to have the changes be fore the better.
As for those errands, I have a feeling we'll both be looking forward to them for the foreseeable future.  Everyone needs a few minutes to breath and be apart from his or her spouse from time to time, even if it's only for just long enough to realize you miss him or her.  What matters is that each of us feels that we are both participating in family life, working together, and not simply bumping along side, hoping for a chance to jump in and help out.  Giving over some of my "things" has helped my husband feel that he has a purpose again.  It's a small price to pay for such a reward.
So now I want to know: do you feel that you and your spouse have met your "limit" of together time?  How do you deal with it?

Monday, February 13, 2012

So Small, So Great

This is what I found when I walked in to the kid's bedroom to see how much cleaning I would need to do last night before we tackled bedtime:

How did I get this blessed?

When I asked him what he was doing, he said, "Just sweeping up the room, Mom.  I put away all the toys, and it's gonna be totally spotless by the the time I'm done in here."  He didn't look for praise.  He didn't ask for help, and he didn't wait to be asked to help, either.  He just saw a job that needed doing and he did it.  I was so amazingly proud, and I felt so amazingly small.

As a mom and a homemaker, I find that I don't always do things unprompted, and I don't always do them with no thought of praise, either.  Sometimes, I let the dishes pile up in the sink for days because I just don't feel like dealing with them, especially when I know that no one will notice if I do them and will probably only notice if I don't.  Sometimes, I forget to sweep ignore the Cheerios and crackers that are crunching under my feet in the kitchen.  And sometimes, I scold my children for, let's face it, behaving the exact same way.  So when I walk into a bedroom that I am fairly certain was practically trashed like a hotel room after a rock star convention and saw the above, pretty spotless room, I felt first, hugely proud of my little man and second, about three inches tall.  I guess this means I should work harder at both fulfilling my own tasks with cheerfulness and without ulterior motives AND that I should be happy that, even if I don't feel as if I've had much to do with it, I have an amazing son, amazing children, and that I am truly blessed to share in their childhoods.

So now, I want to know, have your children ever surprised you by being the person you hope to be when you grow up?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Death by Fire? Bring It.


I can only imagine that, had she lived today, those would have been some of the last words uttered by St. Apollonia (Feast day Feb. 9), our featured saint on Saintly Sundays this week.  At least, that's how I paraphrased the version of her life and death that appears in my go-to book for basic, day-to-day hageography, Lives of the Saints, Illustrated, when I read it to some of my  nieces the other day.  Turns out, she's the patron saint of dentists.  Think about that for a moment.  Now, take a wild guess as to what happened to her.  Go ahead.  Guess.  Can't figure it out?  "Well I'll tell you..."

St. Apollonia was a deaconess (cool, right?) who lived during the persecution of Decius, during the 200s.  After spending most of her life being seriously awesome in the way of caring for orphans and the homeless and poor, and basically, being Christ's hands on earth, she was caught up in an angry mob who were hell bent on destroying anything even remotely reeking of the Church.  While they had her, not only was she beaten, and kicked, and punched, spat upon, too, I imagine (I have an active imagination, especially where the Saints are concerned), she then...wait for it...wait for it...had her teeth knocked out.  Ouch.  Did you guess right?  I bet you did.  You seem like a smart one.

Anyways, after all of that, they decided to take her out (and I don't mean on a date).  Being the kindly martyr-makers they were, they decided to offer her a choice: either worship some pagan gods, or be burned to death. She asked for a few minutes to mull it over.  Turns out this was just a ploy to buy some time, because, as soon as the fire they had started grew large enough, she broke away from her captors and ran toward the flames, diving in head first.  Seems she had already made her decision.  When given the choice of denying Christ or having her skin seared, there was no question in her mind at all. Fiery death?  Bring it.  Torturous pain?  Bring it.  Meeting Christ face to face that much sooner?  BRING IT.

And so, I seriously believe that those may have been her last thoughts, in today's vernacular at least.  I feel like that should become a motto for Catholics living in the world today.  Getting dirty looks at the check out line because you refuse to buy a March of Dimes bootie?  Bring it.  Being told you're heartless for not donating to Susan G. Komen?  Bring it.  Refusing to stand by while the first amendment rights of all people are being attacked by Barry O. and his policies? Bring it.  Being looked at as a freak for constantly railing on and on about the evil that is abortion?  BRING IT.  Maybe, if we're lucky, and we really do adopt this attitude, when we finally meet Christ at our own judgment, He'll tell us, "It's already been brought.  Now get in here, My good and faithful servant."  At least, that's how I picture it.  Like I said, I have a crazy active imagination when it comes to things like this.

So now I want to know, what saint inspires you to want to "bring it"?
And don't forget to check out (The Infant of) Prague Blog, where my brother gives far more scholarly (and still quite amusing) accounts of the Saints on an almost daily basis.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

This week...

I started to keep this blog, in earnest this time.  I appreciate all of the support and reposting I've received from my friends and family.  Please, by all means, keep sharing.  I can't wait to see where this things goes.

He really likes Math.

Both sides of my mini white boards. (The right is a kick ass
illustration of a paper clip chain.)

"CHEEEEESH!"

St. Valentine's Heart Chain
I've been crafty.




My week rocked. Capped off by Fringe night with Aisleigh :)
Also, apparently, two of my sons just didn't exist this week.  I guess I have to try harder to  force them to pose get more pictures :)
So, how was your week?


Friday, February 10, 2012

If You're Bored, You're Boring

I heard my Mom say that to someone once (not to me, of course, as I'm the life of the party).  At the time, I thought to myself, "Whoa.  Mom.  That was cold."   Now, though, I think I've come to understand what she meant (or at least I hope so, because if this isn't the explanation, then, wow, Mom, ouch).  I'll explain.

Have you ever lived with kids?  How about five kids, going from say, 6ish, down to about a year and a half old?  I do, every day (for reals).  We live in a not so large apartment, with no outdoor space save a "courtyard" that is really just a walkway with a gate.  My kids are cooped up inside for most of the Winter.  Despite this, I rarely hear the words, "I'm bored," coming out of their mouths unless they're being forced to clean up the mess they've made of their room that day.  Don't get me wrong, they aren't angels (far from it some days) but they aren't bored.  They always manage to find something to do with themselves (or with my yarn or their father's paint or anything else they shouldn't be playing with, you get the idea) or by themselves, which is far more to the point. Whether it's building "epic" Geotrax loops that span the room and incorporate the Batcave and the Little People doll house or using their bunk beds as their own mini-apartment building or having a no-holds-barred  light saber battle of (again) "epic" proportions (perhaps I need to broaden their vocabulary?), they are constantly doing something, anything.  They color, all the time.  They look at books (not quite reading them just yet), even the littlest one.  When all else fails they run in circles in the living room.  They aren't bored because they aren't boring, that is, they can entertain themselves with what's at hand, and I think this can be said of most kids.  Their little minds are constantly seeing what can be done, the possibilities for fun and activity.  It's impossible to be boring when you are constantly looking for fun, and you can't be bored when you are constantly finding it.

Think about it.  Have you ever really been bored?  Really?  And don't think for a moment that spending hours every night watching TV means you were bored.  It may just mean that you, like myself, enjoy watching TV, which would be the opposite being bored for either of us.  In a doctors waiting room, do you stare blankly at the wall ahead?  Or do you at least pick up a magazine, even one you would normally never think to read?  I personally prefer reading the pamphlets on random conditions I will never suffer (such as prostate cancer and the like), but to each his own.  Most of us aren't boring.  Boring people can't keep themselves entertained so why should one expect them to keep others so?

The ability to entertain oneself is one of the best talents one can have, and it's one I hope my kids manage to not lose as they grow up.  I've met one or two boring adults in my life.  Trust me, it's not a pretty site, watching someone twiddle their thumbs because they are clueless as to what to do without someone else laying it out for them.  Children have an inherent ability to be awesome, and part of that is knowing how to keep occupied and have fun.  (On a side note, I do think we are in danger of having children and then adults who are boring, very soon, if we don't stop over-scheduling every moment this generations lives, but that's a topic for another post.)  I don't know when that magic age is when some of us lose it, but I hope to hell my kids never do.  I don't think I ever did.  I could not deal with days full of constant what-can-i-do-nows, either from myself or from the kiddies.   After all, Mommy isn't looking to be occupied.  She has plenty of stuff to do, books to read, yarn to use children.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Thank you, Ron Paul

Today on "Thankful Thursdays", I want to thank Ron Paul.

I recently read an article that talks about his stance on abortions after rape.  His stance, as he apparently clarified to that pinnacle of interviewers Piers Morgan, is that, if a woman comes to an ER claiming an immediately preceding rape, then she should be given the drugs or hormones necessary to cause an abortion, but that, get this, it wouldn't actually be an abortion.  Let that sink in for a moment.
Now, I'll say what we're all thinking: an extremely incredulous "what?!"  Basically, Paul's reasoning that this is permissible is that we don't really know if fertilization has taken place so it's okay to possibly murder a theoretic human being so long as we aren't sure if they're there or not.  Apparently Paul must have been in opposite land on the day he swore that part in the Hippocratic Oath where doctors promise to err on the side of life, just in case, because here he is clearly acting in that way.

Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. 
If it is given to me to save a life, all thanks. 
But it may also be within my power to take a life; 
this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and 
awareness of my own frailty. 
Above all, I must not play at God.
(sadly, from Wilipedia)

To him, those last words (emphasis my own) must mean that we should "play at God", but only in cases of rape, and especially when we just aren't sure. So thank you, Ron Paul, for clearing that up for me. The only thing you had going for you (not that I would ever have voted for you with all of your whack-a-doodle ideas on foreign policy) was your totally pro-life stance and your understanding that, as Horton says, "A person's a person, no matter how small." I thought that you were a libertarian who understood that one person's right to the life they want does not outweigh another's right to life. I'm glad you could clear that up for me.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

But I Don't HAVE a Chalk Board!

As most of you reading this probably know, I'm a glutton for punishment homeschooling parent in an apartment.  Everyday, we struggle with the space in which we have to work and how it's never enough.  That being said, we do, somehow, manage to muddle through by a series of trial and error attempts at other people's ideas and a smattering of my own ingenuity.  On "Works for Me Wednesdays", I'll be using this space to share some tips and tricks for making life easier as a homeschooler in a small space. (I'm sure I can't be the only one this insane.)

One of the main problems I had for a long time was the constant call for a chalk/white board, especially in subjects such as math and spelling.  I have a kitchen that is technically eat-in, in that we have squeezed a small Ikea table and four chairs (and two stools) up against one of the walls.  This small table, 46" by 29", is the only one in the apartment (aside from one end table in the living room and a night stand in the bedroom).  We use it for eating, playing, coloring, and of course, schooling.  The was it is on is full of typical school room posters (Days of the Week, Months of the Year, etc).  It is the only wall in the kitchen that is not taken up by cabinets or windows.  This is also the only wall that would be suitable for a chalk board.  Do you see my dilemma? Should we eat, or should we have a magnificent 4' by 5' chalk board, perfect for writing out our addition facts and this week's spelling list? Ultimately, my husband convinced me that the table was more useful for the family as a whole, and that my playtime with chalk could wait until we owned a house.  What was I to do?

I give you: The Mini Whiteboard!

(I just noticed the typo on the last line hehe)

I purchased two at Target a couple of years ago, and have found them indispensable since.  These are from the Board Dudes, I think, and are unruled on one side and 1st grade ruled on the other, with the dashed guide lines and all.  They even have a place to hold the dry-erase marker up top. 

I like these particular boards, but I'm sure there are any number of suitable replacements out there.  The lines make it easy for the boys to use when they need to write things on the board, and the blank side is perfect for when I need to literally illustrate certain points in our lessons.

Homeschooling in a small space is possible, it just takes a little extra finagling at times, and a little improvisation at others.  These mini white boards work for me; maybe they'll work for you, too.  Do you have any small space alternatives to the giant, oft dreamed of, wall-mounted chalk board?