Friday, March 16, 2018

{SQT} We're A Little Bit Tired

I am ready to sleep for about a week straight. With Chris gone for seven Kid Bedtime Routines on a business trip, then four bedtimes due to attending our parish's Lenten Mission (our oldest two enjoy those priestly talks so much), and, like a cherry on top, a last bedtime away attending a necessary client dinner, all during the week of the dreaded Spring Forward Daylight Savings Time, plus overnights continuing to be bad due to respiratory junk . . . I am tired down to my bones. Just sayin'.

1. Music Notes

A month late--due to technical difficulties in recording--I shared Mary's violin pieces from Federation in February: click here.

I also posted about the children's successful participation at Charlotte Piano Teachers Forum ("Forum"), last Saturday: see here.

2. Handyman

Me harping about requiring children doing household chores is a common theme on this blog. A new aspect that is emerging in our home is doing not just drudgery chores, but a young person learning skilled handyman tasks.

Chris is successfully teaching John real repair work . . . and John is a very eager student! This week, John began his project of replacing all the hinges and most of the doorknobs in our 40-year-old home: his dad taught him once, then set him free to work without supervision. The handyman who quoted us the cost of doing this job was going to charge hundreds of dollars in labor, so having an eager and perfectly capable 11-year-old son on staff is of real value.

3. Seven Months of Sweetness

David James turned 7 months old: click here.

4. Tennis

In between a bit of snow on Monday and a bit of snow on Wednesday, the children were so grateful for some sunny weather to play tennis on Tuesday!

5. Medical Appointments

I took John and Mary to their first orthodontist consultation. Considering that neither of us parents ever had braces, this is an entirely new world to us!

I also had my eyes dilated for a follow-up examination of a Weird Little Thing that had been found in my eye at my last regular exam. Thankfully, all is well for now!

"You should see the other guy!"

AAAAND . . . it looks like later Friday afternoon we're taking Margaret in for an x ray to see if she has a fractured wrist!

6. Melamine Foam

Given that one day this week my two-year-old colored with marker across the entire length of my kitchen, I am prompted to share a little tip I received years ago: instead of buying Magic Erasers (more than $1 per sponge), one can buy generic melamine foam (such as this one, but there are many options, including packs of 100 sponges for us large families!) for less than half the cost.

7. Choosing Family Activities

I greatly appreciated the articulation of an important topic in this article about "Family First Activities" at Raising Arrows. As a larger-than-typical family, we have to be prudent about choosing our activities. Our large family has to stay home enough hours to homeschool (for real!), and keep a regular-enough routine for the younger set to rest and have free time to play, and to have family meals together most of the time.

Go read the article, it's so good and helpful!

It may seem to some blog readers like our family "does so much," but the activities are very carefully chosen and often I, personally, leave the house only twice per week (Fridays and Sundays).

Scottish dance: This is an activity everyone can enjoy. Once a child turns eight, he or she may join the class, which is all ages 8 to 100. (In the meanwhile, the younger siblings are playing together on the playground.) The classes are at the same time, and provide multigenerational enjoyment and physical education for everybody. They lead to scholarships to travel to Scotland, which both broadens the mind and looks great on a resume. The dance outfits are modest, the music is wholesome and not worldly, the class prices are dirt cheap. Even with all that, we could do this class only if my husband could continue to be committed to driving the children there, which he can for now.

CCE co-op: This benefits all the ages of my children, is highly educational, I drive them to one place, I stay with them, the youngest ones don't need to be away from me.

Altar server practice and Fraternus: These happen back-to-back in one place and are highly formative for the boy's soul, plus they provide physical exercise and healthy socializing. My husband takes our son and participates in the activity, or I get a ride for John from another family, as I'm not going to take my little kids out past their bedtime to wail and cry in the car to benefit only one sibling. (Next year, our daughter will reach the age of being able to audition for the girls' choir, but that's only a possibility because it meets at the same place and time as these two activities.)

Sports: So far, despite a few dabblings, we have always rejected sports as an activity that works with a large family. We're not willing to pay the price of losing one family dinner per week to a child's practice, nor willing to lose every Saturday morning of family housecleaning chores to go play the game. And that's just with one child enrolled in a sport! With multiple children, the chances are high that multiple evenings will be lost to practices, and game times will spread across Saturday. However, we have recently begun trying tennis lessons: a sport in which we can take lessons without playing it competitively (no tournaments required!), the lessons are all at the same time, I can stay nearby with my youngers playing on a playground, the clothing for girls can be made modest, and the old-enough children can walk to and from independently because the courts are a few hundred feet behind our home! Also, our oldest son regularly plays pick-up football at two activities per week and dodge ball at Fraternus, which is a great way to play a sport with many of the benefits but without the costs.

Music: We have invested as music as "the thing our family does." We use one studio for everyone. At times, we've driven to the studio for lessons (all back-to-back) but right now, the teachers come to our home (which is ideal). The hardest time of year is competition season in the spring when we are at events every Saturday for a couple of months. However, the kids are only gone a couple of hours at each event, one parent can take them while the other keeps the younger set at home, and we think the benefits to the brain and the virtues of character (diligence, perseverance, good sportsmanship) are worth the cost.

For more 7 Quick Takes Friday, check out This Ain't the Lyceum.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Federation 2018: Violin

On Saturday the 17th (a month ago!), Mary performed on violin at the National Federation of Music Clubs' festival and we congratulate her on Superior scores on her two solo songs and her one concerto! (Videos are at the end of this blog post.)

We really didn't know if she could pull it off: Like breaking her wrist two weeks before her Guild performance of ten songs last year--it's really a story worth reading here--she caught influenza two weeks before Federation this year and lost an entire week of practice. This flu makes a person so weak, there is no stamina hardly to walk slowly around the house, let alone to stand erect and practice violin for 45 minutes.

When Mary was finally no longer contagious and could get to a violin lesson with her teacher, the teacher doubted that Mary could pull it together in time. But Mary is nothing if not a spitfire, and she rose to the occasion!

She had a lesson on Thursday, and then her teacher sent her home to practice for an additional hour. On Friday morning, Mary woke with instructions to practice for another hour before showing up for yet another lesson . . . and then Friday night, Mary voluntarily practiced for yet another hour that day. Saturday dawned, and Mary got up early to show up at Federation two hours early to get in more practice with her teacher-accompanist! It's that kind of grit that develops excellence, and we're far more proud of Mary's developing character than any score on a certificate.

Mary performed three pieces:

Boccherini's Minuet

Paganini's Witches' Dance

Violin Concerto No. 5, 1st Movement, in D Major by Seitz

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

David James at 7 Months!

Baby David is seven months old (as of a couple of days ago)!

We wondered if we should wait to take his seven-month photos since he has a big ol' shiner on his face, but ultimately decided that his black eye is representative of how mobile he is becoming!

David isn't crawling yet, but he is "locomoting" by scooching around on his bottom or lurching forward in a half-crawl. He transports himself here and there, pulls up on furniture (started a week ago!), and then falls if nobody is right there.

Thus: his first goose egg and resulting shiner!

Thankfully, he's a happy guy and doesn't long remember his misadventures.

Will we get to say he's crawling for real by eight months?

Other than that, he still has two teeth, not more, I haven't remembered to keep up with offering him solids after his first couple of tries (which went well), as he's doing so well nursing exclusively (up to 18 pounds?). David takes two solid naps per day, and I don't know how often he wakes up overnight because he's already in my arms.

We love the little guy!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Charlotte Piano Teachers Forum 2018

This is the season of music competitions when we're at events nearly every weekend for a couple of months.

On Saturday, John and Mary competed at Charlotte Piano Teachers Forum ("Forum"), where John received wonderful praise as a contestant who has "arrived" and is "so musical," now the "big threat," and Mary placed First in her division of sixty contestants! This was her first blue ribbon in her years of music and she will get to play at the Winners' Recital in May.

Both siblings scored perfectly in Theory and only one point apart in their Piano scores. More than any score, ribbon, or trophy, we are so pleased with their diligence in practice, perseverance through challenges of learning, as well as graciousness in performing.

The pieces they performed were the same they played at NCMTA last weekend, which you can listen to here.

Friday, March 9, 2018

{SQT} The Week of Arctic Water

This post contains affiliate links.

1. "May You Life in Interesting Times"

This was an exciting week that involved my husband traveling on business Sunday through Friday night, two kids catching a cold that caused them jointly to wake me up and get me out of bed TWENTY TIMES in one night and FIFTEEN TIMES another night, a toddler clogging a toilet badly enough that I wondered if I'd have to call a plumber (I didn't), and the water heater breaking, so that I did need to call a plumber and we had only ice cold water for five days. Washing dishes with boiled water and taking showers at the neighbor's house got tiresome pretty fast. While my husband was gone for such a long stretch and I wanted to use the Electronic Babysitter more often, our TV went on the fritz and I couldn't access any of Netflix or Amazon Prime. My school computer had problems connecting to the Internet and then, even when I got that fixed, wouldn't print, all of which made doing school exasperating as well.

All week, I did not set a Christian example to my children about how to handle stress. I was an embarrassment, and that's the plain truth.

2. NCMTA 2018

But, before my husband left town . . . last Saturday was a bustling day for our family: Chris escorted John and Mary to the NCMTA piano competition, I dropped off Margaret at her First Holy Communion retreat, and I took the little boys to the Nature Museum!

You can listen to John and Mary's beautiful music pieces here. They both got Highest Honors Gold, and John (because of his age) advances to state competition!

3. First Holy Communion Retreat

Because our dear Margaret is a third child, I didn't even take a photo of her at her First Holy Communion retreat, which was also her first-ever drop-off event. Yes, I'm apparently that distracted mom, and I'm embarrassed.

The experience of the retreat was fine, but Margaret, who had said the night before that she was very excited to finally do a drop-off event just like her big siblings, was quite homesick for her family and spent the latter half of the event repeatedly walking to the window to watch for me in the parking lot. She complained that she had "none of my brothers or sister with me!" and later told her daddy that "the best part of the retreat was when Mama came back."

4. Nature Museum

Meanwhile, I had to occupy my two- and five-year-olds for a couple of hours, so we went to the Nature Museum a half mile from the church. In a large family, it is so hard for the younger set to get one-on-one attention and little adventures like the first children experienced. (And how humorous that I now think my solely taking care of children 5, 2, and 6 months is "one on one attention.")

I was delighted to take my boys alone to the Nature Museum where I could give them my full(er) attention to see butterflies, snakes, turtles, and other small critters. The bee hive was particularly thrilling for them.

5. More Outdoor Time

We visited the playground, where David (6 months) enjoyed his first swing. He was looking merely perplexed . . .

. . . until a big sibling began pushing him higher than Mama felt comfortable with. That was fun!

6. Scholastic Scenes

My children, ages 2 to 11, are all loving the 12-CD set of Maestro Classics they received for Christmas. These are also available individually and I recommend them heartily! As of late, my 5-year-old has been checking out one of the CDs from my library each day for Quiet Time, and he pulls up his little antique chair adjacent to his CD player and listens intently. I'm not kidding: he sits still in his chair for an hour listening to the CD. When was the last time you saw a five-year-old boy sit still for an hour?

I don't currently have time to do workbooks or direct teaching of music appreciation, but the Maestro Classics CDs are so excellent in explaining what the orchestra is doing and why the composer wrote what he wrote that even my tiny tots are learning much. Plus they simply enjoy them tremendously! The kids are listening to them at Quiet Time, at bedtime, and on our car drives.

This week, I tried moving our school computer into a new location: Daddy's home office!

We want greater supervision over the computer because children can sometimes drift off into taking too long at their computer-based subjects (e.g., math), instead re-arranging the icons or changing the background, or drawing pictures in Microsoft Paint that I later find . . .

. . . such as this beauty of the twin hearts. Oh, what's a Catholic mama supposed to do? Hug the child or scold him or her for failing to be diligent?!

Having the school computer in Daddy's office will also help by it being a quiet study area, and a place with closing doors so that the two-year-old is far less likely to rip the keys off of this computer like he did the last one.

7. Miscellaneous

My oldest and youngest beautiful boys . . .

Speaking of my youngest . . . I set David sitting on the kitchen floor while I was cleaning up, then turned around to find he had pulled to standing on his own at six months old!

One day Mary did her violin practice while wearing her big brother's Airsoft gear, which made for a disconcerting sight.

I had just been asking my husband to let me know if he knew of ways I could connect with and bond with my five-year-old son, who right now isn't getting enough of my loving attention. Well, lo and behold, Joseph came to me on Thursday asking me if he could light Wikki Stix on fire. I told him no three times--because obviously setting fires should never be done from a 40-year-old mom's perspective--before the light bulb went off in my head that stopping what I was doing and saying 'yes' to my five-year-old wanting to set a supervised fire WAS a way to bond with him.

So, we did it!

For more 7 Quick Takes Friday, check out This Ain't the Lyceum.