Saturday, March 25, 2017

Royalty 2017

On Saturday, Mary (8) competed for the second year in a row at the invitation-only competition called Royalty (hosted by North Carolina Federation of Music Clubs) here in metro Charlotte. It is a small, statewide competition, with each regional competition limited to 20 students, and each invited studio may send only one student per age bracket.

She played Titanium Toccata by Dennis Alexander, which I recorded her practicing a few days earlier.


Mary was the Runner-Up out of of the four girls in her "Page Girl" category (K-3rd grade) with an average judges' score of 98%. (She was Runner-Up last year too!) If for some reason, the first place winner can't attend state finals, then Mary will go in her stead.

Congratulations to Mary!

Friday, March 24, 2017

{SQT} The Big Baby Reveal

1. Daylight Savings Time

I believe we are never going to recover from the spring forward time change. What is worse is that the two littlest ones adjusted easily, but the three oldest have not, so the little ones are getting up on time (early) for our school routine and the older ones are staying up way too late, so I'm burning the candle at both ends.

2. Esther Auditions

On Saturday, John attended auditions for six hours (having memorized a monologue and song with which to audition), and on Sunday, he and Mary attended for three additional hours, to participate in Esther, the Musical at our parish this summer.

The play is mostly for children 10-18. John (10) is Courier 3!

Young siblings of a 10+ may participate if ages 8-9, but they won't be given a speaking role. Mary (8) is both one of Queen Vashti's attendants, in which role she will play a violin solo while moving across the stage, and she is in the Ensemble as a Jewish townsperson.

They'll each be in four scenes out of the 16, like all Ensemble cast.

Let the summer fun begin!

3. Margaret's Birthday

Click here to read about our third-born baby turning six years old!

Margaret received roller skates for her birthday, and she passed on her Grow-with-Me skates to Joseph (4), so the two of them are learning to skate together.

4. Chris' Knee Surgery

Chris had athroscopic surgery on Monday (Margaret's birthday) and it went very well. Through the amazing accomplishments of modern medicine, he was home two hours later, and off of prescription pain medicine and walking without crutches within 48 hours.

Big thanks go to my in-laws who stayed with us for several days to help with babysitting.

5. Mama's Anatomy Ultrasound

In case you missed the announcement, click here to see if we're having a boy or a girl!

6. Power Outage

On Tuesday, the power went out at 4:00 a.m., so I got to discover anew how overly reliant we are on electricity.

Power outage on Tuesday
Toddler wakes up when his white noise machine shuts off. Mama can't brew her coffee. Mama can't work out without a television to babysit her two littlest boys. We can't even read books without lights. We can't cook breakfast.

The three boys and I who were unlucky enough to be awake just sat there. Well, John lit candles and that was fun.

7. Miscellaneous Moments

This is what happens at 9:30 a.m. when the baby mysteriously decides that four o'clock in the morning is time to wake for the day and nothing will dissuade him otherwise. (Also, refer above to Mama feeling like death warmed over from lack of sleep.)

At least someone gets to nap

Catching a lizard with the grandparents . . .

When my closest pair of siblings (20 months apart) is fighting like cats and dogs, it sure helps to get out an enticing Preschool Workbook for my four-year-old and have the six-year-old suddenly transform into a gentle and loving teacher. They tempest ended with a poof and they then occupied each other very happily!

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


For the first time ever, we found out the sex of the baby ahead of time . . .

The note sent home in an envelope from the ultrasound technician

Now the ratio will be 4 boys to 2 girls. The baby looks healthy as far as we can tell. Praise God for his blessings!

My new midwifery practice event sent me home with a DVD of video clips from the ultrasound. It never ceases to strike me as a miracle to watch a live baby hidden inside of me.






Monday, March 20, 2017

Happy 6th Birthday, Margaret!

Happy 6th birthday to Margaret!

We enjoyed a quiet family celebration at home with visiting grandparents.

Margaret had free choices and her selection for her birthday dinner was grilled cheese sandwiches! A girl after my own heart . . .

"Look, Mama, I'm a goat!"

We watched a movie of Margaret's choice, opened gifts, and went to bed way too late for little bunchkins. Fun was had by all!

Friday, March 17, 2017

7 Quick Takes Friday: the Tech U. edition

This is the "Tech. U." edition of 7 Quick Takes Friday, as once annually Chris must leave for eight days to attend a training course ("Tech U.") across the country for his employer. Of all Chris' travel, this is always his longest absence for me to manage.

1. Spring? Winter? Either Way, It's Zany!

I wrote a piece (click here) on the upheaval to routine in springtime. Embrace it, embrace it, this is a blessing.

2. Forum Competition

Click here to read about how John advanced to the final rounds of the Charlotte Piano Teachers' Forum competition!

3. Broadway Revue

On Saturday night, I had the privilege of taking my oldest three to the fourth annual Broadway Revue at our parish. The teenagers sing a variety of Broadway tunes and it is simply a blast!

4. Let It Snow!

After a bizarrely short winter and an extended early spring, such that I'd already gotten out our summer clothing in March, it snowed on Sunday . . . two or three inches!

5. P.E. Class at the Y

This week marked our first P.E. class at the YMCA, designed specifically for homeschoolers. This particular YMCA has two days' worth of homeschooler classes each week, from academic (e.g., writing, science) to sports (e.g., track, swim, general P.E.)

The 4- and 6 (next week)- year olds are in one class together while the 8- and 10-year-olds are in another class. Joseph (4) was very concerned about what exactly did this P.E. class entail. The throwing of balls? But what if they throw a ball at my chest? What if I get knocked down? Will this class hurt? I promised Josey that this was not a "hurting class" and that he would have fun and be with his sister (this being his first ever away-from-Mama class), plus we went outside one day and practiced throwing a ball back and forth to build his confidence.

The class does fall right during the baby's nap time, which is going to be awkward now that Thomas is in that glorious toddler phase of taking one three-hour nap immediately after lunch. My goal is to walk the quarter-mile track during the 50-minute class while I'm waiting for the kids, and I'll hope that Thomas will at least rest in the stroller.

On the first day, Josey was pretty nervous, so I stayed in the gymnasium and watched as he quickly became happily engaged in the lively games the coach led them through. I walked my laps around the gym and got in 2.2 miles! The older pair really enjoyed their class as well, playing a rousing game of dodge ball.

6. My Cup Runneth Over

Remember when Thomas broke the mug my dad gave me probably 25 years ago and which I've used every morning for coffee for at least 10 years? (Click here.)

Look what showed up in the mail this week? That exact mug.

My replacement replica mug

Thanks, Dad.

7. Thomas Speaks (and Reads!)

Of course, Thomas (20 months) doesn't really read, but he loves board books. We read them before bed, he takes them into his crib and reads them till he falls asleep, he brings a book with him if he transfers into our bed in the middle of the night (clutching it while he sleeps), and he brings a book downstairs with him upon waking so I will read it to him on the couch. Also, the sibling sitting next to him in the van reads to him while we drive anywhere.

Then Thomas sits and looks at his books while he waits for his bowl of cereal.

10-year-old brother reading to 1-year-old before breakfast

The current expressive language of Thomas (20 months):
  1. Mommy
  2. Daddy
  3. Wow!
  4. Cheese
  5. Dah-dah for diaper
  6. Ball.
  7. Wah-Wah for water
  8. Weesh-weesh! for sweep
  9. Nah-nah-nah! imitating Mama saying No-no-no!--new this week!

Thomas dancing

For more 7 Quick Takes Friday, check out This Ain't the Lyceum--a review of a great concept this week.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Spring: A Time of Wild Growth

Five years into full-time homeschooling and I'm now understanding and accepting that Spring is zany.


Out of routine.

Fun . . . but discombobulating.

I find that the Christmas season is full of much liturgical focus, then January and February are cold, wet, and a good time to hunker down in a solid school routine.

Then the sun begins to shine and a number of previously planned and forgotten field trips pop up on the calendar. Various days get taken off of school for those fun outings. I always feel guilty, but then I remind myself that children enrolled in school-school also take off days from regular study to go on field trips.

Don't forget the bevy of spring concerts, recitals, and recitations . . . plus our family happens to schedule our annual standardized testing in March/April. During certain weeks in the spring, we're lightening the school load because the music practice time gets intense in preparation for the many competitions.

We participate in CCE, which ends in April, so we'll spend these final weeks reducing some regular school load to memorize as best we can the various 24 weeks worth of memory work. On the penultimate week, the students test out in various subjects, trying to earn certificates for knowing all 24 memory facts in one, multiple, or all seven subjects.

Our family faces several weeks in a row of a colorful, whirlwind of a calendar.

This particular week, I set aside to cut out almost all our regular schooling to give the children the time to write fiction stories to enter in writing contests. We've participated in the PBS Kids Writers contest for the past two years (and been winners! see here and here), so this year Margaret gets to enter that for the first time. Mary is in her last year of eligibility, and I had to find another contest for John to enter. Well, the one I found for John has a much higher word-count limit, so, of course, Mary wants to enter that one, so she's going to try to enter both contests. It's all very rewarding to see them writing and illustrating wonderful stories, but can I just say it's taking up all my time this week?

On top of that this week, we're preparing for the oldest two to audition for Esther, the Musical this Saturday and Sunday. This means hours spent memorizing and practicing a song and monologue.

Next week is, well, simply insane. In one week, we have Chris' knee surgery (so he can't help me all week), Margaret's birthday, piano lessons, violin lesson, music theory lesson, PE at the YMCA, my 19-week anatomy scan, a pediatrician appointment, Scottish dance class, CCE (and it's a week we have to prepare three presentations), and extra music practice all week for Saturday's music competition. Just writing that out makes me want to crawl under the covers right now.

Then we get through our annual standardized testing before heading to the beach for a few days . . . then it's the heavy liturgical activities of Holy Week . . . followed by the time off of Easter octave.

It will be the last week of April before I have any normalcy at home! That makes me want to cry because I really thrive on order and a routine of the day. I really like having the kids do their three spelling sentences daily and finishing one lesson per week, and magnify that little-bit-daily times all of their dozen subjects. Chug, chug, chug, finish a bit every day and wonderful progress is made over time.


Zany. Wiggy. Out of routine. Fun . . . but discombobulating.

This is when I have to remind myself that this flexibility is one of the freedoms and joys of homeschooling. We have had a very good school year with much solid routine and progress. Now is a season of excitement and change, and that is very good too.

I have to be on my game to continue to find new, makeshift ways to give the kids structure, despite all the changes, so that they know what to expect and can behave well. I find when they don't know what is coming, their behavior devolves fast.

Then the oppressive heat of summer will come and we'll get in a couple more months of solid, routenized school days before the baby makes his or her appearance . . . and it all gets topsy turvy again!

Three cheers for the flexibility of the homeschooling life!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Forum Competition 2017

On Saturday, Mary and John participated in the Charlotte Piano Teachers' Forum competition, and John advanced to finals the next day!

Mary (8) competed in the Primary age group (grades K-3) and scored a Superior, but a few points shy of placing. I recorded her playing her songs at home:

 Mary performs "Musette in D Major" by J.S. Bach (18th Cen.)

 Mary performs "Prelude in b minor" by Alexander Morovsky (19th Cen.)

 Mary performs "Hungarian Folk Song" by Bela Bartok (20th Cen.)

John (10) competed in the Elementary division (grades 4-5).

 John performs "Minuet in G Major" by Petzold (18th Cen.)

 John performs "Innocence" Op. 100 No. 2 by Friedrick Burgmuller (19th Cen.)

 John performs "A Warlike Dance" by Kabalevsky (20th Cen.) 

The Music Theory exam at the Forum competition is used to break ties. Both our children scored 100 on their exams, which made all the difference for John: there was another student in our studio who also earned a 98 on piano, but he earned a 98 on theory, so John advanced to the finals while he didn't. These events come down to hair differences!

Daddy took the kids to doughnuts afterward.

Chris had to dash straight to the airport after Mass, so I managed to get all five kids (including the 20-month-old who hadn't been able to nap yet) to John's final competition. I was so grateful that another couple we know was there, so we two wives went in to watch the competition while the husband stayed out with both our sets of younger (louder) children.

Parents weren't permitted to take photos, but you will simply have to envision John performing in the main performance hall at the university, on a huge stage in an auditorium that probably seats 1,000 people (although was filled only with us few parents). I was so proud of him for walking that long walk down the aisle alone and performing with poise up on that stage, which can be such a daunting experience.

The finalist right before performing

Tonight, we celebrate with delivery pizza and ice cream!

Friday, March 10, 2017

7 Quick Takes Friday

1. "This Is the Day the Lord Has Made"

Mary (8) surprised me one day this week with a theater set up so she could perform a song originally composed by her called "This Is the Day the Lord Has Made." She had hired her four-year-old brother for a bite of chocolate to be her drummer.

The song was really quite delightful and I thought she had been taught it somewhere until she said she made it up herself. I won't share the video because she is shy, but it is a treasure.

2. And Then There Are These Moments

Precious, godly moments like the above help make up for horrible child rearing scenes like the afternoon I took all five kids with me across town during rush hour to the YMCA to sign up for a homeschoolers' Physical Education class. Their behavior was across-the-board so publicly humiliating that I can assure you, I have no belief that I'm some amazing, wonderful Catholic mother.

3. Making Meals and Sewing Nightgowns

In a wonderful moment of serendipity, I discovered that Thomas (20 months) will be occupied by playing with the kitchen toys for hours, a discovery made on a day I wanted to sew all day!

I had two sick kids last Friday (and I had caught the yucky cold by the end of that day), so we stayed home from CCE with no plans, so I grabbed the opportunity to sew nightgowns for Mary and Margaret, my having bought patterns and fabric a couple of weeks earlier. I could send kids outside to play, but what could I do with a toddler too young to go outside without my constant shadowing?

I locked Thomas into the girls' and sewing room with me and noticed he set up a little "tea party" all by himself. He'd arrange the food, then he'd pray (fold hands together and mumble), and then he would pretend to eat! Especially because he says so few words, seeing sophisticated play really eases my mind.

I proceeded to sew for most of the entire day and Thomas spent long stretches of hours next to me, quietly playing kitchen.

I finished Margaret's nightgown in time for bedtime, and almost Mary's as well, but Mary's needed some more thinking time to finish up because I accidentally cut the bodice too small.

After three tries, I ended up cutting and sewing together an appropriate "extension piece" for the bodice, then adding lace to cover up the oddly placed seam.

4. New Lawn Service

Guess what strapping 10-year-old is taking over our lawn mowing this spring?

Checking out the new mower

Engine not running, just posing . . . no child of mine will mow with exposed feet

5. New Wheels

Click here to read all about our new-to-us Big Van and the road trip to Florida to pick it up!

6. Mama's Free Time

While the gang was in Florida and I was relieved of teaching duty for two school days, I had the best time with my two littlest boys.

Once I saw the family off, I fed the littles lunch and put them down for rest. Simultaneous rest. The four-year-old actually napped for once. The one-year-old napped for three hours. PEOPLE: I HAD THREE HOURS OF SILENCE TO MYSELF.

Has this happened once in the last year? Two years? Maybe, but maybe not.

We took an afternoon walk in the gorgeous sunshine. Thomas toted along a slice of bread and his water.

I cleaned out so much paperwork from the house, throwing away old, expired paper left and right. I got my email inbox down to about 20 emails needing my attention. It was glorious.

I treated the boys to a little dinner out, where their behavior was complimented. I picked up some summer clothing for the kids at the consignment store and meditated that--except for shoes--I might not have to spend much more than that $37 to equip the five of them for the warm months. Yay.

I listened--actually listened--to my four-year-old and all his questions, which so often get ignored in the hustle and bustle. Why do birds have yellow beaks? What do birds eat? What do ants eat? What is inside chocolate? What number comes after this one, and what color comes after that one?

Thursday was much the same, with my productivity through the roof because the duties of teaching were relieved.

I had exercised and fed us breakfast by 7:30, mopped the kitchen floor by 8:00, and has us dressed and ready to leave by 8:30, so we showed up at the grocery store upon opening at 9:00 to do our week's shopping (in person! unheard of!), and were home by 10:00 so I had time to supervise the boys playing outside for an hour before lunch. They had had a rough night's sleep, so were yawning and I put them down for (SIMULTANEOUS) nap at 11:30, which meant I got to lay down for an hour  (resting my body, resting my mind, refreshing my attitude for the afternoon) before doing chores in blessed silence for two more hours. The afternoon was more of the same: really efficient housecleaning and organizing before being free to take the children on an afternoon neighborhood walk. Such a beautiful day of childhood.

It was just glorious and a travel back in time to those halcyon days when I felt like a Good Mother and a Good Homemaker. When kids are so little, playing with them outdoors and taking them to the grocery store and just talking to them all the time is so good for them and counts as great teaching: they don't need formal preschool whatsoever to blossom. But now my time is eaten up from 8:00 to 3:00 teaching Latin, composition, spelling, and so forth, and, just like a real teacher in a classroom, I can't be simultaneously teaching my older grades while housekeeping or taking my preschoolers on springy walks. So, then my ego takes a big hit as I feel like a Bad Mother and a Bad Homemaker both.

I wouldn't trade homeschooling, I really wouldn't, but it does have its trade-offs.

7. Thomas Speaks

The current expressive language of Thomas (20 months):
  1. Mommy
  2. Daddy
  3. Wow!
  4. Cheese
  5. Dah-dah for diaper
  6. Ball.
  7. Wah-Wah for water
  8. Weesh-weesh! for sweep--new this week!

For more 7 Quick Takes Friday, check out This Ain't the Lyceum. (Her post on "7 Things that Are Working in our Homeschool Right Now" is very similar to a post I've been drafting about our homeschool! I hope to publish it soon.)

And You Thought a Minivan Was Big

With Baby #6 coming, we've upgraded to a more spacious van. Mary made us a model in advance of the real thing arriving home.

We purchased our new-to-us (used) Ford Transit from Chris' uncle, who owns a used car dealership in Florida, which gave Chris a great excuse to take the top three kids for a road trip to go pick up the van. Said kind uncle also arranged a car rental for Chris for a bargain, so imagine Chris' surprise and John's ten-year-old boy ecstasy when he showed up at the rental agency and picked up a Camaro!

John's top interest these days is All Things Cars, so getting to ride across three states in a sports car and then tour his uncle's car dealership is going to make these two days one of the highlights of 2017.

The crew arrived home safely with the Big Van on Thursday night and we went out for a little celebratory ride, and so I could drive it briefly before my driving it on Friday morning to regular CCE. It feel like I'm taxiing in an airplane!

On this topic, we found this Family Review of the Ford Transit very helpful in making our decision--and very humorous to boot. Watch for the father's seven boys to keep popping up in the background of the film!