Friday, May 25, 2018

{SQT} Ants, Ants, Everywhere Ants!

1. Travel Over the Hill and Dale

It's inaccurate when someone like me kvetches, "I feel like a single mom!" It's not true because a single mom has to bring home the bacon, too, but I will say it is very challenging during this stretch of what will be something like six weeks of Chris traveling weekly, being home only a couple of days at a time.

2. Ants, Ants, Everywhere Ants

While I was managing the homefront, all alone on the frontier, so to speak--exaggeration for effect--I had to deal me with some varmints.

On Monday night, I gathered up the children to drive to church so I could drop off John for his final altar server practice of the year and a special dinner and talk by a visiting priest: lots of fun! He didn't want to miss it.

Little did I know that some other "little friends" were loading up with us too. Two nights prior, Chris had taken five children to dinner, so had borrowed two car seats for his own vehicle. Then when he departed on his business trip, he had taken the crumb-laden car seats out of his vehicle and set them down in our garage, where a swarm of ants had taken up residence inside of them, enjoying a feast in undisturbed silence.

Lo, came that Monday when I took those two car seats, installed them back into my van, and drove down Park Road at rush hour.

About two miles down the road, I heard the first cries of, "Ants! Ants!"

The black ants--and I thanked God that they were black and not red--were swarming out of their car seat nests and onto my children. This was basically like some torture practice of strapping down a person onto a giant ant's nest, but in modern form!

I pulled over as fast as I could as the screaming was reaching a fevered pitch. Kids were panicking!

Armed only with a pack of baby wipes on the side of Park Road at rush hour, I unbuckled the children and tried to wipe the ants to death as they came streaming out. I had nothing else!

I remained calm, and I knew I was going to have to strap the children back into the seats in order to continue driving down the road, whether I drove on to church or turned around to go back home. And, unlike the children at that point, I knew there would be more ants hiding. 

Poor kids. Poor ants.

We did manage to drive on and drop off John at his event. Each time my two-year-old would call out that another ant was crawling on him, I'd hand him back a fresh baby wipe to battle it.

Thus, we found ourselves at the car wash establishment that early evening. Normally I leave the car washing to my husband, and neither one of us would take five children with us for the task, but I felt it was urgent to vacuum out the van.

Weren't we a sight! My nine-year-old helped while my five- and seven-year-olds wandered too far. My baby remained strapped into his car seat and screamed bloody murder the whole time. My two-year-old had to be unstrapped to vacuum out the car seats, so, with the loud vacuum sound as cover, he escaped out the rear van doors and wandered into the parking lot a bit before I found him and caused a scene as a Panicked, Flustered Mother.

All around me were solitary adults, dressed in professional garb, vacuuming out their sedans on their way home from their careers, while we were a scene of Great! Bustling! Life!

All the crumbs, trash, and remnants vacuumed away, I went to find the 5- and 7-year-olds, who I immediately discerned had bulging pockets. There was no patience left inside of me, so I demanded that they empty their pockets. When reluctance was shown, I reached into the pockets myself and pulled out all the contents without ceremony. 

They had been going around to all the car washing stalls and collecting the trash other drivers had thrown away.

I know that one man's trash is another man's treasure, but all I could think of were GERMS and YUCK, so I threw away all the colorful bits and pieces in the nearest garbage can with exclamations. My 7-year-old could handle this with merely some resentment at the injustice of it all, but my 5-year-old was crushed deep in his soul. Big fat tears began to flow fast down his cheeks and he wailed in sadness, such that I had to take him by the hand and guide him to the van so we could make our final bow and exit.

3. Violin

Margaret is developing a passion for her violin, although we have not put her in formal lessons at this time. I have to require her to do her school work before she can practice violin, as she then has been spending probably an hour and a half cumulatively playing violin!

 Big sister Mary has begun teaching her, and it is a joy to this mother's heart to watch their enthusiastic interaction over this shared instrument.

In the last week, not only has Margaret learned the basics of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and "Lightly Row," but she taught herself by ear "Good King Wenceslas."

4. Reading Aloud

I do not take it for granted how much our family enjoys reading aloud good books. It's a culture we've built up for a decade, and I still thrill that most nights of the week, even while we're still cleaning up the dinner dishes, some child or other will ask if I will have time to read aloud to them that night.

Lately, one child has been building me these Reading Thrones, as I think of them--complete with a fresh glass of ice water and our book set out--for me to discover when I finish tucking in the younger boys.

Since last winter we chose "David Copperfield" to read aloud (for the ages 7, 9, 11), and it's a hefty tome, I feel like we'll take nearly a year to get through it. I keep thinking the kids will get bored and want me to skip to some shorter read-alouds, but they don't. And they know exactly where we are each time we sit down to read anew, recounting the plot line and characters!

To the 2- and 5-year-old boys, I'm almost done reading aloud "Old Yeller."

5. Scholastic Scenes

A quiet moment when the 11-year-old was studying grammar, the 9-year-old was studying Latin, the 7-year-old was playing violin, the 2- and 5-year-olds were playing outside, and the 9-month-old was napping. I take these organized moments and embrace them!

I'm planning for my oldest to do the IEW Speech and Debate Boot Camp video classes over the summer and, given missing a few weeks due to travel, that means starting the 11 lessons this week.

Younger sister has determined to join in as well, and in the background of the first video lesson, I was teaching them how to take notes while somebody is lecturing.

I love that time of year when we start finishing books right and left!

Latin went from a subject Mary "hated" to one of her favorites.

Bonus Reading: "It’s time for the checklist homeschool moms to stop apologizing" by Pam Barnhill. I'm a checklist mom all the way and it has saved my sanity (such that it is) and our homeschool, making our time spent much more efficient and freeing us up for other pursuits.

Example of my third grader's weekly assignments

6. Thomas

Thomas (2-3/4) said, "Take picture me, Mama!"

When you wait until Mama steps away momentarily to scoop yourself half the jelly jar into a bowl and eat its entirety neatly with a spoon, you and your full belly get to spend some minutes in timeout.

7. Miscellaneous

Tennis continues

Thirty seconds of a laughing David worth your time, I think . . .

For more 7 Quick Takes Friday, check out This Ain't the Lyceum. Read her ideas for how to celebrate Memorial Day as a Catholic! We have typically gone to a cemetery to pray for the dead as well as have a picnic there.

Friday, May 18, 2018

{SQT} The Mother's Day Edition

The professional photographs from Margaret's First Holy Communion became available so I updated my blog post with them. They are so very beautiful and I invite you to check them out: click here!

1. Garage Sales

Last Saturday, we enjoyed our tradition of shopping at our annual neighborhood garage sale. We don't carve out time to "go garage saling" any other time of the year, but it is sure fun to check out all the sales of our neighbors.

This is not Chris' preferred pastime, so he was contented this year to have the excuse of having to take Mary to a music competition while I drove around hunting for bargains.

David was now all better from fever-and-misery, but poor Thomas had caught it as of Friday night. But, as there were no bodily fluids involved, he was very contented to be given an iPad while he rode around in his car seat--a foreign concept since we don't hand out electronics in the car!

Our most exciting purchase was humorously dull: 22 perfect mullions! Mullions now go by the more Plain Jane name of "window grids." Our brood of children have broken virtually all the mullions in our entire home over the last decade, but they're shockingly expensive nowadays, as they are no longer made. One searches eBay for mullions and finds them at $40-50 per window!

Well, you should have seen how quickly and sharply I whipped my 15-passenger van to the side of the road when I saw that gleaming white stack of mullions. Apparently the couple had replaced all the windows in their home (a home just like ours, with windows just our size) with the fancy new kind with windows embedded in between two panes of glass so that wretched children cannot break them. Her husband had told her just to throw away the mullions--"nobody will ever want those!"--but instead she priced them at one dollar apiece, and I quickly took them off her hands and sped off in a cloud of dust before she realized how much more she could have charged.

2. Royalty

Meanwhile, Chris had taken Mary to the state-level Royalty Competition. After two years of Mary coming in second in our local division, she had placed first at the locals and now was representing our geographic division, of which there are three in our state.

And the winner was . . . MARY!

Grabbing a bite to eat

After the competition, the winners from Royalty and from the previously held Federation-hosted events all performed at the Winners' Recital and received their prizes.

We are so proud of her diligence. At nine years old, Mary now manages her own practice. Even though she'd won a first place earlier, she didn't rest on her laurels. When her teachers told her there was room for improvement in her dynamics, she spent the week working her song backwards, measure by measure, and then forward, starting at a very slow beats per minute and increase five beats at a time, as well as playing it only with her right hand, only with her left hand, and, obviously, together. Methodical, scientific practice at great length.

3. Yet More Sickness

Back at the homestead, by late afternoon, a third child had fallen sick with David's bug.

And by the time Mary got home from the competition, she was sick too.

I find myself meditating on those experiencing truly serious medical struggles.  I have a friend whose infant spent this week in the hospital being fed by tube while they ran tests, another friend who had to take into the hospital her profoundly disabled daughter for tests, and on Saturday prior to Mother's Day I received a prayer request for Baby X. who was hit in the head by a falling tree limb from 100 feet up and whose prognosis was not good: the next day, that three-month-old died.

There are always sufferings and, pretty often, there are others with sufferings far worse than ours, even if it is a dreaded vomiting virus sweeping through a large family for a couple of weeks (No! We haven't had that in months!). I've been Catholic for ten years and I'm still trying to learn how to offer things up, to accept my crosses, and to remember others.

4. Mother's Day

Over Mother's Day, half our kids were in various stages of this 48-hour fever sickness, so that threw a little wrench in things. Nonetheless, they presented me with homemade cards and a lovely Tiffany-style lamp as a gift for the bedroom table where I usually sit and read aloud to the children.

I got to take an early morning walk and Chris made us a feast of French-toast croissants (inspired by those at Metro Diner).

I caught the sickness going through our home before the day was out!

Bonus reading: "A Little Mother Prevents Big Brother" by Stella Morabito

5. David Is Nine Months Old!

David turned nine months old last week, which I forgot amidst the hustle and bustle.

He's crawling speedily, pulling up, cruising on furniture slowly, and letting go of furniture so he stands alone for a second or two.

What he is not doing is eating solids without gagging hard and vomiting, so we met with a feeding therapist this week and made some helpful discoveries already. We'll be working on some techniques that I think will get David on track. (Below he is experimenting with the texture of banana.)

6. May Crowning 2018

Chris and I hosted the May crowning for homeschoolers on Wednesday. I've got a system for it after all these years, and I'd be happy to send my notes/instructions to anyone who wants to host a May crowning at her own parish. It's a beautiful tradition.

The two first holy communicants

Procession into the church


Margaret crowning the statue


Ice cream social

7. Miscellaneous

I remember years ago visiting with large families and being amazed that they had enough children to play group games together. I think we haven't quite "arrived," but we "are arriving." The top four children now regularly play baseball and soccer in the back yard, as well as various kids' tag games (all of whose names and rules I cannot keep track).

It can be challenging to find peace and quiet for studies in a large family, so during the loud mornings, certain children very much like to sit outside to study. (Then after lunch, it is Quiet Time and actually very quiet in the house.)

I know that the deer inhabit our neighborhood like rats, but I do so enjoy them anyway.

Summertime "life hack" that I'm trying . . . 

I bought cheap 16-oz water bottles and I'm assigning each child to drink a certain number of bottles per day. I'm calculating water thus:

body weight divided by 2 = ounces to drink

Example: 80 lbs divided by 2 = should drink 40 oz water per day

The water bottles can be used for days or weeks or however long they might last. I wrote the child's name and number of bottles to drink (e.g., "John 3") on each one. Double win to reduce anonymous cups being left around, abandoned, and I have no idea whose they are. We shall see if this helps!

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

Friday, May 11, 2018

{SQT} What a Whopper of a Week!

I didn't miss a Seven Quick Takes Friday over Christmas, nor over Easter, but I was truly too busy in the last week! I guess this mama's breaking point is taking care of two sick little boys, getting sick myself till her voice is lost for days, hosting guests, hosting our third daughter's First Holy Communion, and finally burying the remains of my mother and stepfather.

Every woman has her limits and I met mine!

1. Aunt Erica Visited

My beloved Auntie arrived for a visit, it having been two years since I last saw her. This was a gift from God I didn't know if I'd receive: given her station in life and mine, neither one of us can easily travel.

Arrival breakfast at Metro Diner

The kids found a worm snake.

She and the children played many games, such as Bird Bingo, Othello, Life, and card games. I think we turned on the television for an hour one time over the course of a whole week, instead filling our time with so much conversation and sweetness.

We spent much time outdoors, with her pruning for us, and teaching the children proper pruning techniques, as well as just sitting and sipping a cold drink.

Auntie pruned a lot for us!

I, for one, was too busy with special occasions the whole week to do any reading (aloud to the children or silent personal reading) but Auntie got to read aloud to the kids most nights for which we were all grateful.

Reading at bedtime

It was a wonderful visit of a week and we pray that it is God's will that we will be able to see her next year too.

2. Margaret's First Holy Communion

Click here to read about our Margaret celebrating her First Holy Communion on Sunday.

3. The Forum Winners' Recital

We really are closing in on the end of competition season. On Sunday night, Mary had to dash away from the festivities to perform at a winners' recital: click here to listen.

4. The Funeral

My mother died six years ago and my stepfather died nine months ago, so on Monday we were finally able to have their cremated remains properly buried in a local cemetery, which you can read about by clicking here.

5. More Sickness

The little boys had developed a respiratory bug the prior Saturday, then I caught it Monday, and I'm still getting over it almost two weeks later. Meanwhile, the next Monday, my baby caught a new bug which caused 48 hours of fever, made particularly not fun because he is not accepting any solids yet, and that includes liquid Tylenol. (Guess who is being evaluated by a feeding therapist next week?)

By Tuesday, I'd had five hours of sleep in the prior 48, and my voice had been gone for several days. It's just been tough, and I thank God for various visiting experienced matrons who helped lighten my domestic duties.

6. Guild

On Tuesday morning, John and Mary were due to audition at the American College of Musician's "Guild" event. I had been distressed by the timing, as it requires a great amount of practice leading up to the event, yet the time slots we were offered this year were Saturday during Margaret's celebration dinner (no), Monday, the day of the funeral (no), or Tuesday. We accepted Tuesday's time slot, but that meant the children had to squeeze in an hour daily of intense practice during this very Big Weekend.

John and Mary each performed their ten pieces with accompanying scales and cadence chords and received the highest rating. Now they can relax! (Well, almost . . . Mary has two more competitions this month!)

Congratulations on their accomplishments!

7. Back to School

We got back to school on Wednesday after five school days off while Auntie was here. Kids doubled up on academics ahead of time and are doubling up on work now to make up for that.

Jennifer Cabrera wrote a fabulous piece, "Confessions of a Curriculum Junkie," that I could identify with word for word. It is so delightfully funny and embarrassingly true! I wish I had had enough functional brain cells remaining to write what she wrote.

We have three weeks of school remaining, with an end-date goal of Friday, June 1. We are counting the days. I have sketched out all our remaining work: every math, grammar, Latin, and history lesson to finish all our units/books!

Meanwhile, for about two months I've been in stressed-out but hog heaven planning our curriculum for 2018-19.

Tick tock, tick tock, the year is almost done!

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