Friday, November 9, 2018

{SQT} Visiting Atlanta Served a Better Purpose

1. Soccer

We delayed our departure for Atlanta because Joseph had his last soccer game and his pizza party that morning. He was excited as a five-year-old boy can be!

Meanwhile, in the afternoon, John had a playoff game (which his team won!) and, best of all, he earned the Captain's Armband that week. Each week, the coach gives the Captain's Armband to a player who exemplified some particular moral virtue or effort in that week's game, and the player gets to keep it for a week. This is an honor earned by merit, not something Coach is rotating through all his players, and sometimes an excellent player would earn it two weeks in a row. Well, this week, my eleven-year-old earned the armband and it was worth more to me than any goal he could have kicked.

2. Seating Auditions

Simultaneously as the soccer games were Mary's seating auditions for orchestra, so Chris and I had to divide and conquer. Mary is happy with her seating placement and we are happy with her diligent hard work!

3. Atlanta: The Best Laid Plans

Our trip to Atlanta was a comedy of errors all overshadowed by a major medical event that caused the cancellation of my in laws' marriage blessing at Mass and their big 55th anniversary party.

It drove me to dark, doomed thoughts when my baby screamed his head off for the last 90 minutes of our long drive, arriving so beyond his bedtime at ten p.m.

It made me think I would go loony when I had almost nursed him to sleep and Chris marched into the room to tell me that our HVAC wasn't working, that he'd called the hotel maintenance man, and that he'd be arriving in two minutes to work on the panel, which was right next to the bed in which I was lying with my nearly asleep baby.

It made me feel positively acerbic when my baby woke for the day at 5:08 the next morning, thanks to Daylight Savings Time, even though he had not fallen asleep till six hours earlier.

But God ordained that we would get to be there to visit our loved one in the hospital instead of being comfortably and too-far away at home.

That Sunday, we visited our old parish and got to see the children's godfather.

Three monkeys on a luggage cart

The drive home on Monday morning gave Chris and me a rare chance to talk without interruption and for more than five minutes, so we talked through all kinds of parental issues, and planned our Thanksgiving, Christmas, and a couple of upcoming trips, as well as plotted out some dreams for the future.

4. Voting Day

We took a whole family field trip to vote on Tuesday . . . six kids in the steady rain . . . a great time was had by all!

5. Tennis

Mary tried out for the more advanced tennis class (that John has been in) and was invited to join by Coach! She has been practicing in her free time to gain the skills to be ready, and she is so excited about what she will be learning in her new class.

David (14 months) running around in an empty court during tennis lesson

6. Homeschooling

7. Landscaping

John mows lawns in the summer and now he's tried his hands at raking leaves in the fall! Leaves are a serious business in our wooded neighborhood and this week--instead of having recess breaks--John raked up sixteen 75-gallon bags of leaves from our neighbor's yard.

Three-year-old Thomas got right to business in imitation of his big brother, donning the safety ear muffs in order to "mow" the lawn.

The fall is bringing not only major leaves but major Wildlife Sightings to our property: deer! We are seeing deer in our yard or directly across the street almost daily. Last Tuesday at dusk, as we walked home from tennis through the rec club meadow, four children and I suddenly froze and realized we were standing in the midst of a herd of deer! That is actually a dangerous predicament, so we proceeded very carefully to get through them and get home. And tonight we spotted a buck on our driveway!

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

Friday, November 2, 2018

{SQT} The All Saints Day edition

1. Wildlife Encounters

Last Saturday, I was upstairs when five-year-old Joseph came racing in from out of doors, screaming, "This is an emergency! This is a big emergency!" I was fumbling and bumbling to get to him quickly, while myself screaming, "What is it? Tell me immediately!" Joseph was so distraught that all he could do was keep shrieking that "this is a big emergency, Mama! Come quick!"

I feared the three-year-old had run down the street again, or maybe even been scooped up by kidnappers at the bottom of our driveway.

I grabbed the baby and flew down the stairs, following Joseph who couldn't stop screaming. Outside we raced and then he gasped and pointed, "The garbage can is moving! I think there is something alive in there!"

Indeed, the garbage can was pitching and rocking, with something alive scrabbling around inside of it. I crept up to it with my cell phone on 'camera', pointed my arm way over the can, snapped a pic, and then looked at it to find out what was in there. I thought it would be a raccoon and that I might peer my head over the garbage can, only to be bitten.

But it was a little squirrel, scared out of his wits.

I snapped some closer-up photos of the little guy, knocked over the can, and set him free. It was a big emergency, but only for the squirrel!

Later that same afternoon, Chris was gone again--always gone for the wildlife!--when a fat mouse waddled through our kitchen in broad daylight, with kids running around, and then stopped to casually clean his whiskers while he watched me.

2. John's Master Class

Last week, John had the privilege of being invited to participate in a Master Class to polish the dynamics of his Concerto in C Major by Haydn with David Brooks of Wingate University. I was so glad he had that experience!

3. Trump Rally

On Friday night, Chris took John to the President Trump rally. We're not much for throngs of people or loud noise or getting 'amped up,' but the president coming to town was a pretty special experience and worth checking out. People starting to line up 24 hours in advance--and for 24 hours of a rainstorm and weather in the 40s!--but our fellas still got good seats.

They had great fun!

4. Reel Scottish Weekend

Meanwhile, back at home, I took the kids to the Friday night concert of Reel Scottish Weekend, which is a Scottish dance event for which people fly in from all over the world. Folks were invited to perform at the concert, which was a presentation of piano, accordion, violin, voice, and some demo dances.

John was invited to perform but had the schedule conflict with the rally, so only Mary performed.

Chris was then in charge of taking the kids back on Saturday for a dance workshop, a dinner, and a social dance.

5. Haircut

After the hustle and bustle to get to Mass on Sunday, I was settling in when I looked hard at our three-year-old for the first time.

Proud of his self-hair cut

"Thomas, did you cut your own hair?"

"Yes, Mama."

Thinking hard. A three-year-old has no concept of 'why' or time, so how could I find out more details?

"Where were you when you cut your hair?"

"Me was in Margaret's room. Me was trying to cut paper. [serious pause] It's not an emergency, of course."

6. All Saints' Day

Click here to read all about All Saints' Day!

All of us endeavoring to become saints!

7. Miscellaneous

I try to bring my little ones close when I'm cooking so I can keep an eye on them. It's so hard to cook with children around, but it's harder to interrupt cooking repeatedly to break up fights and get them out of mischief.

On Sunday, I parked the one-year-old by the utensils drawer and let him dig through it, including throwing forks on the ground; I let the five-year-old cut potatoes with me; and I let the three-year-old transfer already-cut potatoes into the bowl. Each of the boys felt Very Important.

You can hire a professional baby-proofer to come to the house, but you can't babyproof away all the stools, chairs, and random objects that a 14-month-old can stack and climb to get where he wants!

Big sister teaching little brother how to skate

Margaret (7) composed a piano piece titled, "Surprise."

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

Feast of All Saints 2018

This was a different year for Halloween, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day, but very pleasant and refreshing!

I share my experience for other mothers of large families who feel like they have to be able to Do It All but Can't.

Two weeks ago, I stood in the kitchen crying to Chris about how I couldn't possibly do everything that was upcoming over a 9-day span:

  • maintaining a full homeschool load, 
  • trick-or-treating (preparation, mess afterward, kids eat too much sugar, stay up too late), 
  • all the work that goes into taking the kids to the parish All Saints party the very next morning,
  • obligatory Mass that day, 
  • plus I had to pick up the entire house for the monthly housecleaners (not to complain, but my part of the preparatory job takes 3-4 hours), 
  • the laundering the eight sets of sheets they just washed on the same day I'm catching up on all the clothing laundry because it's also the same day I'm packing up the family for a road trip, and 
  • then missing a day of school because of said road trip, and 
  • then being on the ground with only three days to spare to plan Mary's tenth birthday celebration (an elaborate one because it is double digits).

Thankfully, God gives us husbands who are more pragmatic and less tender about never wanting to disappoint the darling children.

Chris advised me immediately to start throwing ballast overboard: Cut activities! Nothing is a sacred cow!

Through a circuitous route, Chris' admonishment led to a fellow large family, who also felt that they could not manage all the work required for the parish party, inviting us over for a very simple All Saints dinner and party.

Mary and Joseph sitting alone way up front

Because of the timing of the party, we attended the Wednesday evening Latin Mass, which we prefer to a Novus Ordo, to fulfill our Thursday obligation. Well, that meant we were missing trick-or-treating because the Mass was at 6:00 p.m.

We even asked our kids what they'd prefer and they voted for going to our friend's house rather than the parish party, even though it meant missing out on trick-or-treating, too.

Mass was lovely and unearthly quiet (because who would be there during trick-or-treating?). We sent Joseph (5) to sit up front where his sister (9) has sat for years, and he behaved his best ever: angelically quiet, prayerful, and listening to instructions. I see a new seating arrangement for our family!

After Mass, we went to dinner, the restaurant gave us a back room to ourselves, turned off the music and television per our request, and we played darts and had one of the best family dinners we've had in a while.

We even got stuck driving through a ritzy neighborhood while dozens of kids ran around trick-or-treating and our kids did not whine, complain, or mention their loss except to cheerfully admire the others' costumes. I could hardly believe the beauty of the whole situation.

We woke up rested on All Saints Day because we hadn't gone trick-or-treating, and we did school and house preparation chores instead of racing off to a morning party. In the afternoon, the kids arranged 90% of their own costumes while I cooked a batch of chili and typed out three saint clues for the kids to take to the party.

David (14 months): A ladybug on Noah's Ark

Thomas (3): St. Juan Diego

Joseph (5): St. John the Baptist

Margaret (7): St. Margaret of Scotland

Margaret (7): St. Margaret of Scotland

Mary (9): St. Clotilde of France

Mary (9): St. Clotilde of France

John (11): The Bonnie Prince
 The Bonnie Prince is a new devotional image about which you can read by clicking here.

John (11): The Bonnie Prince

All of us endeavoring to become saints!

The family party was such simple fun! We ate a delicious potluck. The kids told each other all about their saints, we prayed the rosary as a group, roasted s'mores over a bonfire, the kids played outside in the dark while the adults talked, and they came home with one sack of candy each, containing all of about ten pieces of candy. My kids were thrilled by it and, even though our family is far from being health nuts, I'm thrilled that we won't have ten pounds of candy causing problems in our house for weeks.

And now it is the Feast of All Souls and I'm ready to move on to my next two big endeavors with kids who are cheerful and not exhausted. This year was a 'win' all around! It gives me much meditation for what I might want to do in 2019.

Friday, October 26, 2018

{SQT} Happy Birthday, Chris!

1. Fall Weather

And just like that, our weather shifted from the heat of summer to crisp fall with highs in the 50s most days, introducing the cries for Mama's homemade cocoa and popcorn for afternoon snack time. I think I'd better pick a new read-aloud if I've got their attention held captive!

2. Carolina Renaissance Festival

Click here to read about our big adventure at the Carolina Renaissance Festival!

3. Chris' Birthday

Chris enjoyed his birthday on Wednesday. We were busy for several evenings ahead of time and then were going to be busy that night and three more nights--notice a theme of being too busy?--so we celebrated by going out to breakfast together.

We experienced a humorous moment at the restaurant. The friendly waitress, who has served us before, carried a tray with eight water drinks on it until she accidentally dumped the two adult-sized iced waters (each probably 16 ounces) . . . right on my baby! She was mortified and I laughed so hard and long I had tears coming out of my eyes.

Thankfully, most of the ice filled up the back of David's sweatshirt hood, and the water poured down the back of his sweatshirt like water off a duck's back and pooled on the floor. I took off the soaking sweatshirt and his outfit was still dry inside, so he was startled but not cold or bothered.

In fact, the whole thing revealed that I'd had such a harried morning that he was still wearing his pajamas from the overnight!

The lady was so sweet about her mishap and I certainly knew how these things do happen sometimes.

Daddy enjoyed opening his kiddos' cards, including appreciating John's three-dimensional Lego card!

4. Scottish Dance

John received his kilt on Thursday! Congratulations, honey!

After class, obviously not wearing his dance shoes

In our Scottish Dance class, students dance in their own clothing (according to a dress code) and aren't allowed to wear a kilt until they've earned the privilege and honor, something that has taken John two years of hard work. The dance teachers (who are Scottish) secretly purchased the kilt, according to my measurements, while in Scotland this past summer and presented it to John this week.

They had planned it with me ahead of time, so instead of dropping off John at the door, I followed him into the dance studio and quietly got out my smart phone. I had charged it, I had made sure enough photos were deleted so it had memory, I had set it on 'video' . . . and then when I pushed 'record,' I must have committed an Operator Error . . .

Still photo taken by an audience member

I thought I was filming when the male teacher gathered around all the students and gave a warm speech about my son, and then presented him with the kilt, but apparently I pushed 'record' when I thought I was pushing 'stop,' and therefore I came away with a seven-minute video from inside my purse recording the audio of me then taking the little boys to the bathroom. I was so disappointed to lose that special moment!

Still photo taken by an audience member

5. Scholastic Scenes

This week we began a new History unit: I always enjoy the process of swapping out the books I've planned, repopulating my history-and-geography bookshelf, and printing out the new blank MapQuest maps we're going to use during the unit.

Even the 3-year-old insists on coloring maps

6. Messy

Life on a blog can seem misleadingly perfect. While I want to encourage, I never want to mislead.

My life is not perfect.

What does one do to keep one's school room neat? Our play room and school room are the same room. I dream of a school room I can keep locked and no children are allowed in there unless I am in there teaching.

But the reality is that this room doesn't even have a door, let alone a locking one, and it is where the kids, even the baby, go play unsupervised throughout the day.

And then when I show up to teach, it looks like this: covered in a patina of Legos, art supplies, so much torn paper, scissors, paper clips, and glue lying about on the carpet, uncapped markers that are ruined, books tossed about and lying open on their spines, and often many, many more toys dumped out that in the above photos.

I can't teach when the room is not functional, tables not clear, floors not passable, room not even safe for the baby to be in there. So I spend time straightening it up and then our teaching time is lost.

I doubt there is a perfect solution. I've locked up a lot of toys to cycle through them, given away others, the kids are assigned to pick up the room at regular intervals, plus I do it myself (properly!) several times per week.

It's just exhausting. That's all.

7. Clever Things that Are Working

I have no idea how to end each day with a neat School and Play room, but click here to read what I hope is a new blog series called Clever Things that Are Working.

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