Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Poetry Tea May 2016

On Wednesday, we were tickled to host a Poetry Tea with another family--you can read more about such Poetry Teatimes at Bravewriter (click here).

There are many useful lessons to be learned through such a lovely gathering!

My children got to practice meal planning as we shopped at Aldi's (the discount grocery store) the week before and picked up so many delectable treats for a steal. They got to practice time management as we still did a full day of school before cleaning up, decorating, and cooking for tea time.

The dining room for the older children

We set up two tea areas: one in the dining room for the four oldest children (where the baby got to be the 'mascot') and one in the kitchen for the four youngest children.

Poetry books for the older children

Food for the older children

Our older children

We got to practice our manners (and see which ones are oh-so lacking!), our recitation of poems (memorized or not) with volume and emotion, and paying attention politely to others.

John chose all his readings from Shakespeare.

The table and food for the younger children

Poetry books for the younger children
Margaret (5) was the oldest child at the younger table, which is a precarious social position to hold. She protested once, noting that she was really "almost the same age as A-----." "Well, no honey, she's almost three years older than you, actually." I pointed out that she would be the oldest child at her table and could be a 'table captain' of sorts, a hostess and teacher of the younger children how to behave at a tea. Being in charge is a pretty good deal, if you have to be at the little kids' table!

One mommy reading to the younger children

Being at separate tables allowed the younger children to be finished first: once they seemed antsy, they were freed to go play in the back yard. The older children lasted longer and really enjoyed the round robin of reading poetry aloud to each other. When they were finally done, they got to practice clearing the table (and later, my kids: cleaning up from the whole event) before going in the back yard to run off their energy while the two mothers chatted.

All in all, a success and an enjoyable break of the routine!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Mondays: Why Always So Hard?


Oh, Mondays.

It doesn't seem to matter how much I prepare us for Mondays, complete my lesson plans ahead of time, and make sure we are rested, Mondays are just hard.

(There is no inspiration offered in this post.)

This Monday started, as probably too many of them do, with me informing my husband that THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE.  Every morning in my prayer journal, I read, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phil. 4:13) and I know intellectually the Bible is true, but I still don't see how Jesus could have meant that it's actually possible to care for home and educate the children all at once. "All things except homeschooling . . . "

Here was my Monday school load, totally typical . . . and I'm still teaching only the younger years. No real writing assignments, no algebra, no science, no real foreign language . . . .

MONDAY--typical of every school day

Morning Basket with All Children

·         Faith
o    Saint of the day
o    Baltimore Catechism
o    “Under Angel Wings”
·         Science
o    “Animals in the Bible”—reading about horses
·         Literature/Poetry
o    Reading “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” plus memorizing excerpts

Margaret (Pre-K)
Mary (1st)
John (3rd)
Kumon “Are You Ready for Kindergarten?”
Right Start #18

Read Life of Fred Chp. 2
Right Start #83

Xtra Math 10 mins.

Read Life of Fred Chp. 12

Continue discussing Galileo with Mama
AAR #27
AAS #11
AAS #19

Read Chapter of Narnia, complete Memoria Press chapter study guide
Read Chapter of Narnia, complete Memoria Press chapter study guide
One page
One page
P. 17

Grammar pp. 183-184
BJU English pp. 127-128

Read “Elements of Grammar” pp. 8-9

Read “St. Stanislaus Kostka”
Read “St. Stanislaus Kostka”

Read lesson 7
Piano practice

Music theory worksheets
Piano practice

Violin practice

Read Schumann biography Chp. 4
Piano practice

Read Schumann biography Chp. 3

In addition to teaching all of the above by noon--while monitoring a baby (who ended up napping on my back) and a wild three-year-old--there was laundry, three meals, chores of the day (bathrooms), exercise, completing my spiritual journal assignment at morning and at night (attempting to preserve my peace of heart, right?), and so many long-term tasks, it daunts me to consider them.

When will I have time to watch all the IEW DVDs to learn its writing program before the fall? When will I have time to return those three purchases, make new piano binders for 2016-17 season, de-clutter all our rooms, closets, and garage (today I donated two big bags of ten-year-old clothing I'm never going to fit into again!), file our monthly receipts, lose all this baby weight, complete that packet of paperwork required by the doctor, research which new math curriculum to buy, figure out what to do with the battery acid that got on an heirloom baby blanket, open Margaret's bank account (only three months since we promised her), set up the Kindle we were gifted for school use (only a month behind on that task I've promised daily to do), plan the week's meals, plan something for Father's Day upcoming, and on and on and on and on . . . . I feel like doing any one of those tasks with five children swirling at my feet is impossible, let alone doing all of those tasks while I keep going every minute of the day without rest, always with five children needing me--and be sure always to remain peaceful, calm, and self-possessed or you're a bad mom who is damaging the children!

I don't have any inspiring or hopeful note to end on. Mondays are just incredibly hard.

I will be back with my regularly scheduled inspirational posts by Friday, but never on a Monday.

Friday, May 20, 2016

7 Quick Takes Friday


The brand new ten-month-old has begun climbing furniture, and in a lot more precarious ways than in this photo.

It begins.


Meals This Week

  • Saturday
    • Quarter ham
    • Corn on the cob
    • Crescent rolls (from the tube)
    • Salad
  • Sunday
    • Chris took the oldest two to a concert and out to dinner
    • Mama stayed home with the younger three.
    • For Pentecost Sunday, I served Pentecost Sundaes.
  • Monday
    • Brats on buns
    • French fries (frozen)
    • Salad
  • Tuesday
    • Leftover quarter ham fried in maple syrup
    • Brown Sugar Oatmeal Pancakes
    • Frozen blueberries and blackberries cooked into a fruit topping for the pancakes
  • Wednesday
    • Ribs (thanks, Aldi's)
    • Corn bread
    • Salad
  • Thursday
    • Change of menu plans (pork tenderloin), as we went to Confession as a family, then to a restaurant. Double yay!
  • Friday
    • Who knows? Mama went to a homeschooling conference!


We got some great little purchases from the community garage sale last week.

We have now all been introduced to the game of Othello, of Chris' fond childhood memories, and it is a really fun, compelling game.

John asking me to play Othello first thing in the morning, over my coffee

I picked up this dart set with nicely strong magnetic darts in particular to occupy Joseph (3) during school time. Little did I realize that the occupation would be between both of the littlest boys fighting over the darts!

We found this beautiful wooden easel and art set, full of brand new pastels, watercolors, and pencils. The art supplies alone were worth the cost of the set. Mary is eager to take the set outdoors and draw something in nature.

Mary coloring during Morning Basket read-aloud time


Family Books of the Week (in progress or completed)

This week we began studying Shakespeare in History and Literature, focusing on "A Midsummer Night's Dream," including memorizing passages. So much fun for me!


On Wednesday, we dodged the rain-all-week and joined numerous homeschooling families for an Almost-End-of-Year party at Stallings Municipal Park. The children had a grand time playing for three hours and eating a potluck picnic. This is our second year of this delightful tradition we hope to continue.

Chris joined us for the event!


The babysitter is hired, the chores will be completed, and I'm due to attend our local homeschooling conference Friday and Saturday. I've been unable to attend a homeschooling conference in two years, which is a real loss since a conference so well refreshes and encourages the parent-teacher. Please pray that no disaster happens in my absence, like Mary getting a concussion 30 minutes after I arrived at last year's conference (click here for a trip down Memory Lane)!


Bonus Reading

(1) "In one state, more children homeschool than attend private schools" by Genevieve Wood--Yes, that's our state of North Carolina!

(2) "The Post That Never Happened" by Jenny Ryan--You may want to sign up for "Mothering Sunshine" if you haven't already. Even a mother who comes across to me as SUNSHINE wrote something I feel regularly:
"I wrote a blog post in my head last week. It went something like this:

"Life is really hard. And it will always be hard. And you will never figure it out. So just give up trying now. The End."

(2) "James McKenna and Breastsleeping" by Mary Francell--Love, love, love. I want to encourage mothers who wish to "breastsleep" to do so! It has been a joy of the last ten years I will fondly remember all my later years when there is no little nursling baby latched on all night.

"In the current issue of Acta Paediatrica1 Dr. McKenna and Dr. Lee Gettler propose the concept of breastsleeping, because;
'neither normal human healthy infant sleep, nor normal human optimal breastfeeding is understood independent of the other.'
"Breastsleeping refers to a sober, breastfeeding mother sleeping with her baby on the same surface in the absence of all hazardous factors. In his research, Dr. McKenna has found that breastsleeping dyads synchronize their breathing and sleep cycles so that baby latches on and mother adjusts coverings, kisses baby’s head, etc. without either waking up fully. Breastsleeping babies also maintain higher body temperatures and breastfeed double or triple the number of times during the night compared with solitary sleeping infants. Both increased nighttime arousals and breastfeeding protect against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)."

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

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Discovering God's Will for You as a Housewife

"If the mother looks upon her children as obstacles to the prompt response to grace, she is missing the whole point. If the children look upon their mother as preventing their development in God's service, they have not yet begun to love God."

Excerpt from Holiness for Housewives and Other Working Women by Hubert van Zeller, Sophia Institute Press, originally published 1951

Discovering God's will for you as a housewife
"The only thing that really matters in life is doing the will of God. Once you are doing the will of God, then everything matters. But apart from the accepted will of God, nothing has any lasting reality. So if God wills that you should be bowed over the sink instead of over the pew in your favorite church, then washing dishes is for you, now, the most perfect thing you can possibly do.
"Once you really appreciate this truth, and act according to its implications, you save yourself a lot of unnecessary heart-searching and resentment. The whole business of serving God becomes simply a matter of adjusting yourself to the pressures of existing conditions. This is the particular sanctity for you.
"You will be tempted to say that it is impossible to serve God while worrying about the upkeep of the house; you will tell me that you get so irritable that you cannot see this principle of substituting your present duty for the envied prayer time; you will point out your inability to direct your intention toward God when you are so exhausted that you cannot think; you will quote your repeated failures, your bitterness, your manifest decline from wha tyou were before you came to be overwhelmed with household cares. You will say you are unsuited temperamentally, physically, spiritually, by training . . . . 
"But none of these things disqualifies. It can only be repeated that your whole business is still to look for God in the midst of all this. You will not find Him anywhere else. If you leave your dishes, your housekeeping, your telephone calls, your children's everlasting questions, your ironing, and your invitations to take care of themselves while you go off and search for our Lord's presence in prayer, you will discover nothing but self.
"This is the first lesson for the Christian wife and mother today: to let go of what may once have been--and under other circumstances might now be--a recollected self, and take on, with both hands, the plan of God. Indeed, it is the lesson for every Christian in every age: it is the gospel principle of dying on one plane in order to live on another."

The Polish Madonna

Monday, May 16, 2016

Discovery Place Museum Homeschoolers' Day 2016

We enjoyed a long day spent at Discovery Place Museum for Homeschoolers' Day: it was crowded due to the event, but the pricey admission was about 50% discounted, which made it well worthwhile.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Pentecost 2016

Within the last week, my husband learned that Pentecost was or is considered the second most important feast day in the Catholic Church, information that he passed on to me, equally as surprised as he. Of course, this reflects that I hadn't much thought about it: given that society hasn't overshadowed this Catholic feast day with worldly traditions (like Christmas gifts), the day hadn't much caught my eye. 

(For those who are curious: no, Christmas isn't first! Easter takes preeminence, Pentecost second, Christmas third. Google "Pentecost second most important" and you'll see many interesting articles pop up.)

Given only a week, I haven't even had time to research the traditions much, but I'd like our family to begin making notation of this feast day in much greater ways in future years. First note is that, traditionally, the day before any great feast day is one of fasting and penance, so I'll need to look into that.

This morning, I made our Sunday breakfast a bit more festive, using a red table cloth (red for the tongues of fire that came down upon the apostles), decorated with pink roses in beautiful, wee vases we bought at the neighborhood garage sale yesterday, put out our Easter book that ends on the subject of Pentecost, and made French toast with brioche bread from Aldi's (one version plain, one version chocolate chip).

After Mass, Chris took the two oldest children to the Charlotte Youth Orchestra's spring concert, at which our friend and fellow music student Santiago Matute was performing. What an honor!

Back at home in the evening, we celebrated the birthday of the Catholic Church, founded by Jesus Christ, which is what Pentecost is! Mary created a Holy Spirit dove decoration, which we hung from the chandelier. We prayed the Come, Holy Spirit prayer as a family.

Then we denuded my week-old Mother's Day roses and re-created the tradition even from the early Church to release thousands of rose petals from the roof of the church (click here for video of this tradition being done at the Pantheon in Rome). This kind of delightful tradition makes an impression on young and old alike.

To top it off, I took an idea from Catholic Icing and made Pentecost Sundaes using vanilla ice cream, strawberry topping, and Dove chocolates. Get it? Doves?

Next year, I hope to make this feast day more memorable . . . if you have any family traditions to share, please post them in the comments!