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Monday, May 26, 2008

Subway & Scholastic Slip Up

It seems that Subway has made a rather foolish mistake. They (and the co-sponsor, Scholastic), have a writing contest going for school aged children which specifically excludes homeschooled children. It does include preschoolers and kindergarten children, who presumably and with rather rare exception are not old enough to be writing stories with a beginning, middle and end about their sandwiches.

The grand prize includes $5000 for athletic equipment for the winner's school. Now, I guess I can understand that they didn't want to give this to a homeschooling family. I suppose. But they forget that there are co-ops which meet at churches, synagogues, community centers and even schools that could have used that equipment. Not to mention a homeschool winner donating it to a park, or local school of their choice.

I am not really outraged about this, the way some people are. I save my outrage for other things. I believe in capitalism, Subway is a private company, as is Scholastic, and both are entitled to include or exclude whomever they wish in their contest. Aside from sniggering at the misspelling of United States (they wrote Untied) and their use of the word Bastket instead of basket, and a snide thought that they were concerned that a homeschooled six year old might find their spelling and grammar mistakes, or beat the pants off of the other contestants (the way the national spelling bee and some math competitions have gone) it's not really my concern. It is a shame that they specifically chose to exclude quite a large consumer base from their promotion, and I think that will come back to bite them. Subway might be excused for not realizing how large a group they were excluding, but Scholastic makes quite a bit of their money from homeschoolers, and should know that already. As an aside, there is a reading program sponsored in part by Pizza Hut, that awards free pizzas for a certain number of books read per month, and which limits the number of homeschooled children, presumably because they tend to read more than other children, which bothers me more than an outright ban does.

We have chosen to use other publishers and distributors for books rather than Scholastic for other reasons, and so, for at least two years now haven't bought anything from them anyway. However, we do occasionally visit Subway, and I am sending them a respectful letter telling them of my disappointment in this exclusion, and reminding them of the millions of homeschooled students (and their parents) who may choose not to patronize Subway, which is just as much their right as it is Subway's right not to include them in promotional contests. You may wish to write to Scholastic at either P&CConnects@scholastic.com or CConnects@scholastic.com and submit a polite comment to Subway at their Customer Service page to let them know what you think about this decision.

There was a rather petty, but slightly humorous contest entry a three year old supposedly made that can be found here which I have to admit I laughed at, even though it is a kind of silly gesture.


Thursday, May 22, 2008


I don't have much time to write today. I've been meaning to share some of these for some time, though, so I thought I'd take the time to post some links.

This is Jack's parents' blog. Jack has a tumor on his back. He was born this morning, and God willing, he will be having surgery soon. I got to know Jack's parents a little bit through friends of friends who gave them my e-mail address, since they knew we'd gone through something similar with Elijah. Elijah especially has been praying for Jack's health and safety. Please offer a prayer for Jack, that his surgery would be successful and that he'd recover well from it, and also for his parents, Cynthia and J-L, who won't fully know how tough they have it now until they are out of it for a while and can look back on what they've done and seen.

Here is a lovely post on homemaking, housekeeping and housewifery by a woman who has nine children, eight of whom she is homeschooling, one is away at college and another is due in December. Elizabeth is not judgemental or condemning, but she is honest and challenging.

Mere Comments has a new post up about a boys' school built on the classics where the boys recite poetry, play rugby and juggle. The comments are interesting also.

This last one is from Mark Shea and has to do with just how much Church Tradition shapes all of Christian doctrine and thought, even for those who do not believe in the authority of Church Tradition.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Reading to Learn

One of the best practical educational ideas I've gotten from the book The Well Trained Mind is how to use the library for our children.

One of the authors of the book described how she went to the library with her children. She told them they could check out seven books each: one biography book, one science book, one history book, one practical or arts & crafts type book and three books that can include fiction, poetry or non-fiction. She said she went in weekly, which is why she chose seven books, I'm assuming.

I have modified this is bit. Our library checks books out for three weeks. Some of the books our children choose will take more than a week to read, at least for the older boys, so I have them pick out books monthly rather than every week, and I choose subject appropriate stories, histories, science books, biographies, etc. each week, according to where we are in our study of history. Elijah and Amira get stories from their preschool program each week, plus their monthly picks, and all of them have pretty much free reign over the books we have here.

I've also changed some of the book categories. I add autobiographies to biographies, and I want them to read good fiction, so it is a required category, leaving two "free" books that can include more fiction, the poetry or non-fiction of their choice. This gives us both a framework and a place to start when we are at the library. I help them find age appropriate and parental approved material, but subject matter and type of story are pretty much up to them. It has been amazing seeing what they have learned just from reading what they want to read.

Most parents, when their children are young, think in terms of children learning to read. This kind of provides the reading to learn. Dominic loves African and Middle Eastern mythology. Alexander is interested in all things avian. Both read adventures and mysteries like they are going out of style. They read books of science experiments like novels and come up with the ones they want to do at home.

I really despise the trend to make learning "fun." Not because I think it should be drudgery, but because there are parts of it that are, and I think even children should be trained to do what isn't fun for the value and reward that comes of doing it. However, this is a little bit like making fun into learning. They'd be reading anyway. All of the children love books, reading and being read to, so it's no great stretch that we spend time in the library anyway. This way, what they're reading and hearing puts something beautiful, truthful and useful into their minds.

One thing I've learned to relax about is what age the children learn to read. It was a huge deal to both Rich and me that Alexander and Dominic were not reading fluently until kindergarten. Both of us read early, around three and a half and four, and so we did not get why the boys were taking so long. I was starting to get especially worried about Elijah, who in kindergarten now, still doesn't quite grasp reading, though he's making the connections slowly. Amira, on the other hand, is raring to go, and she is learning letters and words, and memorizing stories to "read" to Jerome.

The research I've read basically said that a child who learns to read at four and a child who learns to read at seven or eight both end up with the same level of comprehension at ages 10 and 12 and later. So, since I read about statesmen and authors and scientists and more who didn't learn to read until they were eight or nine, and since compulsory schooling isn't even required until age eight in our state, I've let it go.

Elijah is excited about books and words, and he can read very simple things, spell his name, and wants to learn. That's the big thing for me. I just make sure that when he wants me to read to him, I am available to do it. Since Jerome shows the same kind of interest in books that Amira has and that I had, I imagine he will be ready to read much earlier than his brothers. I just don't have the personal stake in it that I felt like I had with the older boys. As long as we are willing to teach them, and read to them, and expose them to books, they'll learn to read and love reading more easily than if we force them to sit down and work on the letter A all week.

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Sirach 26:16

A gracious wife delights her husband, her thoughtfulness puts flesh on his bones;

I have physical proof of a scriptural truth! Rich thinks maybe there's a little too much thoughtfulness, though.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Wedding Bells

We had a beautiful day yesterday, pretty hot for May here, about 89 degrees and bright sun. It was gorgeous, though, and in the later afternoon some breezes and shade arrived to relieve us all.

We all went to a family friend's daughter's wedding yesterday, and our children looked so beautiful. The wedding was in our friends' backyard, which is gorgeous, they are extraordinary gardeners, and there is a pond and stream and gazebo, with bridges and benches. Several photographers there were grabbing shots of our little ones, all dressed up. The older three boys were in shirts and ties, Amira was in a pretty yellow floral dress and Jerome was in pinstriped pants and a white, short sleeved dressy shirt. They looked so nice, and except for the heat causing them some trouble during the ceremony and a little fit from an almost two year old who needed a nap and got a stern talking to, they behaved even better. All of them were so excited to see the wedding and watch the ceremony. Amira was disappointed because we didn't get to see the couple open the presents. She kept asking when present time was going to be.

The children played with our hosts' grandson and had fun watching the tadpoles in the pond. While the reception was going full swing, they were watching squirrels in the trees and racing around the lawn. At one point, they took over the golf cart, then Rich took the keys out so we wouldn't have to worry about them running themselves into anything. It was a lovely day.

Rich and I got to dance to the first song we ever danced to, nearly 14 years ago, and we were able to visit with some friends we haven't been able to spend a lot of time with lately. The mother of the bride, and another woman, are two women I used to meet with weekly. I'm trying to work it out so I can start doing it monthly, at least, and it was nice to hear that they still missed me. These are women who prayed with me, cried with me, rejoiced with me, helped us unpack when we moved here, and shared so much of their lives with me. It was wonderful to be there with them and share in this celebration. We knew the priest who married the couple, Rich had worked with him on a Cursillo weekend a few years ago. This was the last child married from this home, and they are blessed to have approved of and gotten along with all of the men their daughters married. Each wedding has been a cause for unadulterated joy.

Watching the young couple at the altar, I again thought of how close we are to something like that. We're still measuring the distance in years, but they will rush by, I know. Alexander, Dominic and Amira were watching the proceedings pretty intently. I think Dominic and Amira had a special interest in it, since Amira is all about weddings and being married and a mother, just the other day she was telling me about how when she grows up and gets married, she will be "preganent," and Dominic has had his bride picked out since pre-school. He has also told us that they are having 10 daughters and living with us. He has since amended that, he wants at least 10 children, but they don't all have to be daughters now.

Our children know the service well enough to be able to follow along and participate without a service book, so we helped with the responses, since it seemed like many of the guests didn't know what to say or do, and there weren't any service books provided. You could tell which of the readers were used to standing up and reciting scripture (or anything else), and who had been picked for other reasons and didn't practice, nor have the familiarity with the process enough to speak slowly and clearly enough that they didn't trip up and have to start sentences over again. I had not thought of that as a benefit of our church until now. It is a skill that is useful to have, not quite public speaking, but a sort of preparation for it anyway.

Since it was so warm, and I am so pregnant, we were getting ready to leave just before the bride and groom. We stayed long enough to throw lavender at them as they made their get-away, and then headed home to rest. Amira still feels cheated that there was no present opening.


The Usurper

A couple days ago, Jerome was playing around my desk while I was doing some stuff on the computer. He came up and grabbed my heel while shouting, delightedly, "Feet, feet!" I turned to him and asked him if we should have named him James.

Jerome immediately went and grabbed his brother's James in a Mess book and told me to read James please. He loves choo-choo fains. Since the stories in this book are a little more involved than his board books, I pretty much just told him what was happening in the pictures. We got to a picture of James looking grumpy, so I said that James was grumpy. Jerome repeated: Blumping.

Poor Jerome, he is sick with congestion and a cough. Please pray for him to get well, quickly.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

New Car!

We bought our new car yesterday! It is a 2006 Toyota Sienna. We had our mechanic come with us to the lot to check out the four cars I was considering. This one was my favorite, as it had the lowest mileage, was relatively new, had darker interiors so the messes wouldn't be such a pain to deal with and I just liked the color. Two of the other cars in the running had features which might have been better than this one, so we asked him about their value versus the price of the vehicle versus what kind of headache would it be to fix if they should have problems, etc. His opinion knocked those two out of the running. The other one I was looking at was white, with leather interiors, which I did not like, it was also a year older with about 27,000 more miles on it than the newer one, it was however, nearly $2500 less expensive, which was the biggest draw for me.

It is funny, because things that are basics and standard on newer vehicles are really cool extras to us, so it really doesn't take much to impress us on the extras. We emphatically did not want a dvd player in the car, so that knocked off one of the eight vehicles he had on his lot that were in our sights before we even pulled our mechanic in on the consideration. The fellow selling the cars was telling us how they weren't anything extra special, just came with the standard factory amenities (with a few exceptions on a few of them), and we were just ecstatic that we'd have a cd player in the car and things like all working windows and power seats. This is what comes of us buying eight to 15 year old cars since we've been married.

So, our mechanic looked at the four to which I had limited our choice, and we asked him about the benefits of various extras, and he helped us reduce our choices even more. When he checked out this car, he said aside from needing to rotate the tires, replace them in about a year and a slight scratch on the plastic part of the bumper which was touched up, it was gold. He said that with the mileage as low as it was, what he saw under the hood, and how it drove, we were basically getting a new car. Also, this fellow was pricing his vehicles about $3000 below the blue book value, so although we didn't have as much wiggle room to negotiate price, we were already getting a really good deal. So, since this car had nearly 16,000 miles on it, two very short term owners and no accidents on record, was in good condition, both physically and mechanically, he said go for it. He told us he was trying to find things to rip it apart, and just couldn't. So, we bought it. I will post a picture of it as soon as we make that other purchase for the computer. We are now ready for our new baby. We have room for her in the car, all the things we need for her here, and we can await her arrival without concern for material needs.

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Tongues of Flame

Our barbecue went very well. Even considering that it was mother's day, we still had a good turn out, 28 people including us. Our priest pointed out that Church feasts took precedence over national or common holidays, and that if we wanted to focus on Mother's Day as well, we would do well to remember Mary, the Mother of the Church.

I made a pot of stuffed grape leaves (waraq 'ounab), about 80 of them. We barbecued a chipotle rubbed flank steak, chicken breasts marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper, polish dogs, bratwurst, cheese bratwurst, and two legs of lamb, which I butterflied in five seconds with the knives our butchers use to slice up the carcasses of meat in the shop, rubbed with a paste I make of garlic, salt, fresh rosemary, oregano, thyme, mint, chives, and parsley. I had marinated another flank steak in a bourbon and brown sugar marinade that I got from the new issue of Fine Cooking, but we were all so full, that we just saved that to grill for last night's dinner. We didn't have any shrimp or fish this year, but we also had a smaller turn out than normal.

People brought coleslaw, baked beans, carrot sticks, the bratwursts, cakes, cookies, and we had sodas, coffee and the fancy pants wine we bought over Easter break. A friend also brought a sweet German white wine. Except for the buns, we didn't have bread this time around, and not much in the way of chips or other side dishes, but we still really enjoyed the food. We were all pretty much in need of a post-food nap, and the children all ran around outside and worked off their lunches/dinners.

I mentioned before how Rich is a serious meat eater. This was a perfect meal for him. It makes his dedication to the biweekly meat fasts so much more admirable. It's not much of a sacrifice for me, and I make a conscious deliberation to focus on Judas' betrayal and Christ's crucifixion, as well as trying to make personal penance on those days. I follow the Church's teaching on dietary rules in obedience, and also because I do like meat, so it is something I would normally eat during the day, even if not for every meal. Rich, though, I think spends much of his penance on not eating meat. He works right next door to the airport restaurant, and they are invariably grilling burgers or cooking up prime rib while he's at work on Wednesdays and Fridays, and the wind blows all the smells toward his office. It takes quite a bit of fortitude on his part to abstain from meat on those days. The hardest part for me is being near a teriyaki place every Friday and smelling their food. It's really the only time I am challenged in my determination to eat meatless. Since Sundays are always little feast days, remembrances of Pascha, we can eat as we wish on those days. Having a major feast on a Sunday is a great treat, especially for Rich who sacrifices so cheerfully something that is so difficult for him during the week, and even more so during Lent. The man lives for Bright Week and the 12 days of Christmas, in which there is absolutely no fasting permitted.

One of the things we love about the Church's liturgical cycles is how it makes the events of our faith something we live out daily and weekly and monthly and annually. It is a good way to help our children understand the faith, as well as making the holy days and events tangible and not just something we've read about. Jessica Snell writes about this in her blog, how as a homemaker and mother, she is able to live the church year in her home and with her family. She wrote a great article in Touchstone about living the church year at home and the blessings and graces that are available as a mother and wife practicing at home with her family.

This life provides a backbone and rhythm to our faith life which then defines the structure and pattern of our life as a whole. It is cyclical, as we observe the same seasons, events and holidays each year, but each year it is a reinforcement and an opportunity to delve deeper into the life of faith and into the mind of God. Contrary to many people's assumption that it is rote and meaningless, it is rote the way that knowing one's name is, the way that knowing that 2 plus 2 is 4 helps you understand other math problems. The cycles, feasts, fasts, physical prayers like the Sign of the Cross, genuflecting for the Presence, or bowing to the cross, the daily lectionary and prayers, do not make God more remote, but instead imbue one with a foundation of faith and a consciousness of God in daily life. Doctors have studied alzheimer's and senile dementia in many populations, but some of the more interesting studies to me have been in closed populations such as convents. These women often forget everything about their lives and what they know, but in the depths of their minds, out of the foundation of their souls, the words that come out are the Lord's Prayer, the Hail Mary and the Glory Be. I've talked to people and read about elderly men and women who cannot remember who their family is, but can still recite the Nicene Creed. This is their base, this is what they know without having to think about it.

I shudder to think what would come from my mouth, if I could not control it. Rich and I have talked about how to develop a heart and mind that will produce the creeds and the prayers rather than abusive language and angry expostulations. Living the life of the Church is part of how we do that. It is part of the foundation we are laying in our children. We do not want to be bitter old people, we do not want to meet our maker with only rottenness and anger in our hearts. We want to go out of this world with the words of Christ and the Church in our minds, on our lips and in our hearts.

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Monday, May 12, 2008


I was reading a light piece of women's fiction last night. I find this series somewhat entertaining, but the writing is pretty obvious, and there are frequent social/political MESSAGES that are preached at the reader. They are interesting enough and are quick reading for when I need some mindless entertainment.

Last night, I read a profound statement in one of these books. One character was describing motherhood and the changes wrought in a woman's life when she becomes a mother to another character who is expecting twins, her first babies. This is a conversation Rich and I have had with many couples looking at having children, or getting ready for delivery. It is so much easier to quantify the bad things about being a parent. It is much harder to quantify the good. The good really does outweigh the bad, but it is hard to define that to someone who hasn't experienced it. It always seems to sound like morning sickness, heartburn, labor pains, sleepless nights, dirty diapers, trouble with babysitters, trying to find time for oneself and marriage, etc. Those things don't actually define motherhood, though they are a reality of it.

There are moments of pure joy, of surprises that reveal just how valuable your work is, delight in seeing the world anew, in watching your children grow to be beautiful people with gifts and talents and character. At 6:25 a.m. yesterday morning, Rich and I heard a knock on our bedroom door. We are used to this sort of thing, and basically rolled over and answered, "Yes," meaning, of course, "What do you need?" We were answered by a chorus of all of our children wishing me a happy mother's day. It was such a sweet surprise and only got better. We didn't get out of bed immediately after that, but Elijah asked if he could come in to have us read him a story, so we scooted over and Rich read to him. When we got ourselves out of bed, we found that the children had all gotten up, cleaned up, made their beds and gotten ready for church without being asked. That was the best surprise.

Anyway, in this book, the experienced mother was on the cusp of an empty nest. Her youngest son was going away to college in the fall, just a few weeks away, and she was telling her friend how she would trade a year of her life for just one day of the troubles, messes and hard work having a small child around still. She advised her friend to enjoy her children. "The days are long, but the years are short."

This is so true, and it is a hard truth. I look around at my eldest son, my firstborn, who was a tiny baby just a few minutes ago, who frustrates me and does things he's not supposed to, and takes care of things without me asking and is considerate and compassionate. We have about nine years more with him before he heads off to college or work, and then marriage and family. This little person who used to fit in my body is now almost my height, and growing into a young man. We see it every day, and watch them growing up to leave and make their own lives and families, and it is bittersweet. We joke that that is the real reason we have more babies, so we never run out. There will come a day when they are all gone, and we will be able to spend money more freely, organize our time the way we like better, have more time for each other (which is why we put so much into our marriage now), have a cleaner house where we can leave things and find them in the same place, put things away and have them stay away, do laundry once or twice a week instead of once or twice a day, keep on top of dishes and have more time for our hobbies and interests. We will also miss out on the sounds of a family, of laughter through the house, of smiles and kisses and hugs that spring out of nowhere, of messy decorated cakes (my Mother's Day "surprise" from our children), of tightly grasped wilted flowers, of someone who wants and needs your attention and time for stories or talks or questions, of games and songs and family jokes.

For all the positives of owning our own time, I wouldn't trade this life for the world. When it comes time to trade most of it back, it will be a difficult exchange. For now, I hope to enjoy it more and remember that it will not last as long as we would like.


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Itty Bitty Knitty

I'm finally making something for our littlest girl! I have given up the second pair of leg warmers for now. I will return to them when my brain is working a little better.

So, yesterday, I started the Buttercup Sundress from Cozy Knits for Cuddly Babies for our newest girl. Except, I am making it in a blue/purple colorway, with a blue skirt, so it is more like a delphinium sundress or a bluebell sundress. It combines my knitting with my newfound sewing skills, also, which is very nice. As far as I can tell from the directions, you don't actually sew the skirt closed, which I don't like, no reason for my daughter to have to wear a hospital gown, so I am sewing the skirt seam as I like. I am leaving the bodice open in the back, it is small and has a button closure at the top which will keep it from flopping open, but this whole diaper waving in the breeze thing does not sit well with me.

I'm using Berroco Cotton Twist for the bodice and some pretty blue eyelet I got on sale at the fabric store for the skirt. If I do this right, I can take her home from the hospital in this little dress with, perhaps, some frilly little socks or slippers and a lacy cap.

I have all of Amira's pillow cut out, but I've been too tired to use an iron and sewing machine at night, so I'm hoping that one of these weekends I'll get a chance to put it together and have something else finished around here. Also, that would mean that the fabric, pattern pieces and all the pins wouldn't be piled up on the corner dresser anymore.

Wish us luck finding the next computer. We missed out on a really great deal on a used one, and we're debating the merits of buying a brand spanking new one and picking up some extra software to go with it versus waiting around to see if we can get another deal on a used one. Either way, I will get DSL and be able to post photos again. In the past two months, our children have grown up quite a bit and gotten cuter and cuter, and you are missing it!

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Cwying Tank You Much

Poor Jerome. Being the fifth child, he doesn't get the sympathy we might have offered to Alexander. Mostly because we've seen all the fake crying and fits that children can do, so he has to work harder when he's trying to manipulate us.

When he is upset with how things are going (ie. not his way), he will fake cry and say "cwying, cwying," you know, in case we didn't notice the no tears wailing performance he's putting on for us. Very occasionally, he will say this when he is genuinely sad, or hurt or needy, and then it is truly pathetic and really does tug at our hearts.

We are not heartless, it's just that we've seen pretty much every act and deception that a child can come up with to try to get his way, even when that way is bad for him or will hurt him. The other night, though, Jerome woke up crying and sad, and was thirsty. I came and gave him a hug and he said to me "Muk pease" in a little sad boy voice. I said that I couldn't give him a cup of milk in his crib at night, but that I'd bring him water. Then he started screaming at me, "No!" and told me he was cwying. When I brought him the water, he threw the cup at his crib slats and screamed some more. So, I gave him a hug and a kiss and laid him down, with his cup beside him in hopes that he would drink it and go to sleep. He did rather quickly, but it was heart wrenching nonetheless.

What is somewhat funny about this is that just that morning, at church, he had seen another little girl who is about two months younger than he is, crying and acting fussy and he immediately said "Nap!" He's gotten pretty good at evaluating when he needs a nap, and he'll fuss and start to be fractious and actually request a nap. This is a new thing to us, none of our other children ever acknowledged their need for naps this way.

He's much better at getting his way when he is sweet and mannerly. We do encourage this, because we figure it's better to let him have his way, within reason, for asking politely and being nice than for screaming, fake crying and being melodramatic. So, the same day as his nap pronouncement for Kyrie at church and his sad little fit in the middle of the night, he said "Tank you much!" to me when I brought him a piece of bread to go with his dinner. I said "You are very welcome!" quite enthusiastically, and praised him for his good manners, which of course led to him saying it repeatedly and laughing. I am encouraged by this.

He is mostly a sweet boy, who has his moments. Because he is so verbal, his moments are getting fewer and farther in between, which is nice. He is almost as verbal as Amira was at this age, and more verbal than Alexander was, and those two were our most articulate babies. In fact, we're pretty sure that some of the things they got in trouble for were because they were so articulate and could say the things that perhaps their brothers thought but couldn't use words to describe.

Amira once got in quite a bit of trouble at just a little older than Jerome is now, because after she and Elijah were warned about their behaviour at the lunch table by both their father and me, she continued and then said in a little taunting voice to Elijah "I'm disobeying!" She learned what the consequences of such cheeky attitudes were. Elijah, two years older than she was, probably thought exactly the same thing, but couldn't really form a sentence about it.

Jerome is very much like her verbally, but more easily consoled, it's kind of the best of both worlds. We understand him more, he's able to express himself more, but he's not as volatile. He also doesn't seem to take the same pleasure in disobedience that she did. Fortunately, she grew out of most of that, and we've trained much of the rest out of her. Since we have less of that to deal with in Jerome, I'm hoping we have a head start on it.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Weekend Ramblings

I finished Amira's little bun cover about a week ago, and it is very cute. I started on the second pair of leg warmers, but I am just not getting the st pattern to work out the way I like. I keep plugging away at it, in the hopes that it will get better on its own, but that doesn't seem to be working. I think I am actually going to have to frog and try again.

Tonight I am trying to work myself up to sewing the side seams on my ballet top. It is very little work, but I have put it off for a long time. I didn't even bring it to the conference, trying to get those leg warmers right.

There were several knitters and crocheters at the conference, which was nice to see. The talks were great (with one exception), and it was inspiring and encouraging to us as we are finishing up our first year of homeschooling. We learned a lot in terms of practical day to day ideas and methods, as well as picking up some inspiration for the big picture of what we are doing.

One of the speakers we particularly enjoyed spoke about homeschooling highschool. She and her husband did this with their boys, and both are in rather nice colleges now (one may have graduated recently, I can't remember). They were accepted at every college to which they applied, as well. The real kicker, of course, is that although their test scores and academics were high and in the same range as their fellow applicants, they did the best in one area, which pushed them over the top with admissions and awards. Can you guess what it was?

Socialization. One of the major things that made the administrations really look at them was how well they were able to speak to people, relate to those of their own age, as well as present themselves to the interviewers.

I have to say that any of my niggling doubts about our childrens' socialization have disappeared watching how the children are able to hold their own in conversations with people of any age. Obviously, Elijah and Amira are not as well spoken as their elder brothers, but all of them are able to speak respectfully, and confidently with anyone and are so capable and poised. It's not that I expected them to be otherwise, but I have seen a real change in how they carry themselves, just in the short time we've been doing this.

I don't know that being in a group of 20-30 people their own age, with one adult supervising would have socialized them so well. That was one of the things the fellow I met at the homeschool PE said to me, that first of all he wasn't concerned about his daughter's socialization, as she was learning to converse with and relate to people of all ages, religions, philosophies, etc, in her day to day life, but that a major part of why they were homeschooling was exactly the kind of socialization that happens in schools. They didn't want her to be socialized like that.

That reminds me, I did find two publishing houses that create/sell Jewish curricula. The first is more geared toward religious formation and the second incorporates general academics with the religious education and seems to integrate it well (from my cursory search of their website). If anyone is interested in either of them (I was thinking of you, especially, Alina), they are Torah Aura and Behrman House. I haven't done deep research, I don't know how Orthodox they are, nor how rigorous their materials are, but I thought it was encouraging that there is a homeschool market aimed toward Jews, like there are for Christians of various stripe.

Anyway, one of the nice things about this conference this weekend, was seeing how the children interacted with other children there. The older children were thoughtful and looked after younger children, and all of them played together. Even the teenagers. Also, it was not considered weird to have five children, and when people saw that I was pregnant, they were excited and happy for us.

Rich commented to me that something that he notices continually is how attractive and radiant us mothers of many children are. He said that with the way our culture thinks about how motherhood and pregnancy changes women, you expect that mothers with four or more children will look run down, dowdy and unappealing, but he kept seeing me compared to other women, and our priest's wife who is a mother of six, and various other women at our church and in other circles who have four, or five, or six, or even up to nine or more children, and that you'd never guess they'd had that many children. There was a lady with her baby in a sling at the conference. She was sitting near us, and Jerome was playing with her son while he wasn't in the sling. Rich asked her if this was her first, and she pointed around the room to her four other children. She was a beautiful, young looking, capable, well spoken woman, who looked joyful. Now, Rich also said that he attributes some of this to our being believing women, and that our hearts show up on our faces and in our appearances, but he said it surprised him how well us mothers of multiple children looked, considering how our society seems to think that children will run you down and ruin your looks.

One of the fathers there had a shirt that Rich wanted to get for himself that said on the front, "Before you ask," and on the back continued "We're not just a large family, we're a dynasty." This family of seven children joined us all at the Friday night swing dance. We had such a good time with that, too. Amira and Dominic danced together, Rich and I danced together and sometimes with Jerome. Alexander and Elijah played with Jerome and some other children who weren't dancing. Toward the end, they did a hula hoop contest and a limbo contest, which all the children enjoyed. It was so funny to see Amira leaning backwards to go under the limbo stick when it was being held about a foot and a half above her head. It was great to see young people, children, parents, even some grandparents, all of these different people dancing together and having a great time. It is exactly the kind of life we have wanted to foster in our family. We've wanted to create an environment where our children will want to celebrate and play and have fun with our family and with other families where family parties and activities include everyone from the youngest infant to the oldest great grandparent.

That is a part of what we love so much about our church family, we really are in each other's lives, and our families are so much a part of every other family. We share joy and sorrow and work and play. It is a sense of community that I think is missing in much of our country now.

I've been rambling for some time now. I wanted to make a plug for a restaurant we went to on Friday: Pabla in Renton. It was fantastic! We eat meatless on Fridays anyway, and this is a vegetarian Punjabi style Indian restaurant. Rich isn't as excited by Indian food as I am, but he likes it enough. We had a discount for it in our Entertainment book, so he figured we might as well try it. My so-so on the Indian food, meatatarian husband was wowed. He loved the food. Dominic also was entranced. He said he wished he could eat like that every day. We all enjoyed it immensely, the service was superb, and they even had a dish that was named after the region my maiden name comes from, so we ordered that and got to tell the children how that dish came from where their ancestors did. The prices were also reasonable (and they have a lunch buffet that looked like a great value), and we fed our family of seven with appetizers, extra breads and a full dinner with some left over to take home for less than $70, including a good tip. Oh, also aside from being vegetarian, it is also Kosher, and had their certification information there, so if that matters to you, you can check that out. The food was simply amazing, and we will definitely make our way back there sometime, even though it isn't really in our neighborhood.

Now, I ought to get offline and go make my long suffering husband some strawberry shortcake. He hasn't had any, and I've made it for a bible study group and our children, with him not getting one bite. He's had to watch me make it and then take it away. So, since he was up most of last night working on a presentation he had to do, I thought I should make him one tonight.

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Avocado Whine

I learned this past week why you have never heard of avocado wine or liquor. We had a few small avocados that had been in the house for a week, and I was making burritos for lunch. I sliced them open, scooped out the pulp and spread it on my burrito. It looked like it was a tiny bit overripe, and needed to be eaten immediately, but it was still green, no mold or anything like that. Well, I took a bite and realized it had fermented.

Let's just say that I don't think there will be any great demand for avocado wine. It was so revolting, and was squished all over my burrito, so I had to toss it. I still shudder when I remember the flavor.

I was only able to recover from this by eating lots of chocolate. Which solves many problems.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Ascension Day

We in the west celebrate Ascension day today. The 40th day of the Resurrection, when Jesus returned to Heaven with the promise to return in the same manner. In 10 more days we will celebrate Pentecost, which is actually the second most important holiday in the Christian year. Pentecost is the day when the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled, and when the Apostles received power to do the tasks our Lord gave them.

This year, Pentecost falls on Mother's Day, so our Tongues of Flame barbecue may be little attended. I've always wanted to have a talent show for Pentecost, since the gifts of the Spirit were bestowed that day. We haven't managed to pull that off yet, but we celebrate with our tongues of flame barbecue like the tongues of flame that descended on the disciples.

Jesus told the apostles to wait until they were endued with power, He blessed them and told them to wait. So today we, too, wait, praying as we did this morning:

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe thy only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ, to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

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Modeling Clothes

I haven't posted any quotations from the randomizer lately, and this was one she gave us a few weeks ago.

Amira came downstairs for our family evening prayers and asked me why the baby Jesus needed modeling clothes.

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