Friday, August 31, 2007

for K.

Please say a prayer for someone completely dear to me as she undergoes testing and surgery next week ... please pray for courage, comfort and peace for her and for her whole family.

Thank you!

Carnival of Children's Literature

I have nothing to say today!
I'm sending you away. Again!
Enjoy the Carnival of Children's Literature.

I mean it, buddy.

I don't know if he meant for this to be a poem

from my friend Tim, the Frustrated Gardener.

Most flowers fading.
Cut back Lion's Tail and Dr. Seuss bush.
Roses coming back
for a second round,
albeit smaller flowers.
Second batch of corn
taller than Ryan,
Black Zucchini
larger, wider
than Ryan.

Loving and Hating Homeschooling with Danielle Bean

As always, she gets it right.

Writers, take note:

of this post at People of the Book. Jim mentions that Google has begun including books at the top of search results, and includes this link to the Google Book Search program, so that you can sign up.

Poetry Friday: On Having Misidentified a Wildflower

This is an amusing little poem and you can hear it read by the poet, Richard Wilbur, here at the Internet Poetry Archive. He includes, too, a fun story about the origin of the poem.

And, as long as you're there listening to Richard Wilbur, listen to The Writer -- one of my favorite poems -- one more time.

The Poetry Friday round-up can be found today here, at Mentor Texts, Read-Alouds & More.

And, do be sure to read this post at Read, Write, Believe about all the poetry goodies found in The Washington Post.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Vintage Betsy

The girls have been reading through old memory books.

Memory books? you ask. Do you mean those things we used to use B.B. (Before Blog) to write down all of those sweet and funny things the kids said when they were little?

Why, yes, that is exactly what I mean.

Here are a couple of old favorites from Betsy.

When she was four:

She made a remark about my handwriting not being perfect.

"Well, nothing's perfect," I said.

"Except God," she replied.

"Yes, God is perfect," I said.

After a pause, her eyes widened and her face lit up with a sudden inspiration. "Hey!" she said. "He could teach us to be perfect!"


Exasperated one day with her big sister, she cried out to Anne-with-an-e, who had committed some now-forgotten transgression: "You'd better repent!"


When she was five:

"People should dance almost all the time."

Feeling Invisible, Mom?

Heidi has a few words for you here, at Mommy Monsters, Inc.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A word about all these planning posts

I just mentioned, in the language arts post, that I don't usually break our life down so neatly into these things called "subjects."

I rambled on about subjects in this post.

I'm not abandoning my position, though it may seem that I am. ("Hey, Karen, I thought you disliked subjects ... and now you've got one post after another about your subject plans this year ... whaddaya, schizophrenic or something?")

Well, yeah, I am.

But, there's a method to my scattered brain. And it's called, Take Advantage of the Beauty of Homeschooling and Do What Works for You and Your Kids.

Back to that in a minute, but first, the subject at hand.

Even though I'm breaking our studies down into "subjects" -- partly for my own convenience, partly for my off-and-on, anal-retentive tendency toward "neat and tidy" -- I still believe that nothing breaks down perfectly, or perfectly neatly, into one "subject."

Our history studies are full of literature. Our literature covers history. When my kids read a good book and later tell me that they understand how awful WWII internment camps were, I can check off a box called "reading comprehension" without ever purchasing a workbook made for "reading comprehension." (I don't actually have boxes labeled "reading comprehension" mind you ... unless you count the anal-retentive boxes in my brain. I check those off frequently.)

Our science, similarly, overlaps with literature and history. And faith. Our faith overlaps and envelops everything. And, math ... wait a minute, math is just a specter, haunting us, taunting us ... no, sorry, not true ... We have Math-U-See now.

You get the point. "Subjects" are never neat and tidy, and life is too integrated to fully separate them.

Subject labels can, however, be helpful in planning and categorizing, and that's what I'm doing, in my schizophrenic way. So, back to Take Advantage of the Beauty of Homeschooling and Do What Works for You and Your Kids.

What works for us this year is to incorporate a bit more structure and planning than is usual for me. For various reasons, I feel the need to have a few more prefabricated resources "in place" as we head into this school year. I fear the unschoolers among us will toss me out, but, this is what will work best for us this year. Next year may be different, but that, again is the beauty of homeschooling. It's fluid and flexible and adapts to our ever-changing needs.

I love that in an education.

Our plans this year: Language Arts

I don't usually call what we do "language arts." Yes, it's true that we read, write, spell, expand our vocabularies and strive for correct grammar and usage.

But, the reason I haven't called it "language arts" is that I haven't really broken these things into their own separate "subjects." More about that later. For now, here's what we have in mind for the coming year:

The girls have enjoyed doing a little bit of writing on their own blogs. Though their poor blogs have been quite neglected this summer, we'll get back to them soon. The blogging's been good for coming up with fun and creative ideas for posts, for spelling skills, and for typing practice.

We've been tossing around the idea of a writing group with a couple of friends. Several things about that are up in the air, and I don't know if it will come off, but sharing writing with friends can be a great way to hone skills.

We dabbled in spellers from Catholic Heritage Curricula last year, and to my surprise, the girls both liked them and wanted to do them again this year.

Betsy is a checklist kind of person, and she also requested a grammar book. I'll use a little of CHC's Language of God for her checklist needs.

I haven't done much formal grammar with Anne-with-an-e, but I've seen her grammar skills develop quite nicely from all of our reading and real-life writing. This year, we're going to run through Grammar Smart Junior to see if we're as on-track as I think we are.

I also got my hands on Hillside Education's Lingua Mater for writing ideas that the girls can pursue independently whenever they like.

As always, we'll read, read, read, and talk, talk, talk. History and science and faith all offer opportunities to read some wonderful stuff, and Betsy wants to read some Shakespeare.

That'll be Ramona's lot in life this year, too: read together, talk, laugh, point out words, talk, read together, watch Leap Frog's Talking Word Factory, read, talk, write, copy everything she asks to copy, talk, read together. You get the idea.

We may not often call it "Language Arts" around here, but the art of language is one we love.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Feast of St. Augustine

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!

You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all.

You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed you fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you.

I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

~~ Confessions

More St. Augustine from past posts here, here and here. And one more here.

And, go visit Jean at Catholic Fire for a post brimming with St. Augustine stuff.

Ramona prepares for the Middle Ages

by drawing her own creation, Princess Genevieve.

She says she also has a story brewing in her mind, and has asked me to write down her list of character names. In addition to Genevieve, her story will feature:


She asked if I could also show her how to spell the word said, because, as she said, "People who write stories usually have to write things like, 'Nesquit said' ... right?"

Oh, so right, Princess. I can't wait to hear that story.

Our plans this year: Math

I have one hyphenated word for you:


It's our newest discovery in the world of numbers, and I wish I'd started it a long time ago. I switched to it just last spring, so we don't have a lot of experience with it under our belts, but I've seen some light bulbs going on, I'm making sure foundational knowledge is there (and growing), and the kids love Steve Demme.

I think I love him, too.

Understand, please, that we've never really found math to be wunth-erful here. We're more interested in words about math than in the math itself. I love to listen to mathematicians wax poetic on how sublime is the math they revere. Really, I can appreciate that, and I never meant to create such enmity in my children toward this whole, beautiful system that God dreamed up. But, alas, it seems to be the natural order of things, given the Karen/Atticus combination of genes. Atticus, though I know him to be one of the most brilliant people I've ever met, says he was a dolt in math. (I still think he's exaggerating, describing interest-level as ability.) I did fine -- even managed A's -- for as long as math was required. But, as soon as High School Requirements said, "No more math is required of you," I dropped it instantly. I simply did. Not. Care. Anne and Betsy seem to have picked up on that.

Note my categories, over there to your right ... I have four posts labeled "Math" and one of them is a complete rerun. (Now I have five posts on math, and two of them include reruns. So, really, I have only three original posts on math. Wait, did I do that math correctly?)

We could (and may) go on forever reading great, fun little books like Math Curse and The Grapes of Math or the Sir Cumference books, but, for us, those are all about the clever wordplay and the fun with language.

It's usually not about the numbers.

Which is probably one of the things we love about Steve Demme -- he likes wordplay, too. To the groan-th degree, at times, but kids love that. And I love that they love that.

I can thank Melissa Wiley and her enthusiastic endorsements for the nudge I needed to look into this program. (Oops -- I missed one ... here's another. I do believe Steve Demme is a demi-god in the Lilting Bonny Glen House. But, u-can-see why.)

Enough. All good things -- except numbers -- come to an end and so must this post. This turned into a lot more than just one hypenated word, eh?

Oh, just one more thing ... Ramona's math? Well, we'll measure and bake, count hugs and kisses, play games, read books and just live. That's what Kindergarten math should be, I think.

And, it'll be wunth-er-ful.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

It's even worse than that writer's thing

Ramona was heard complaining:

"I don't know what to play. I have player's block."


Also heard at our house:

Ramona: "Mommy, may I have some cocoa starter?" (her new phrase for milk)


When I yelled in the general direction of the children that it was time to get ready for bed, Anne and Betsy yelled the following back in my general direction:

"Can we just bring Ramona out of cardiac arrest first?"


As Ramona snuggled up on my lap this morning, I let out a bit of an "oomph" as she shifted her weight.

"Mommy!" she said, sounding a little alarmed. "Can you breathe?"

"Oh, yes!" I assured her. "I'm fine."

"Oh, good," she said, sounding relieved. "I do want you to be alive."

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Our plans this year: Science

Last year, I cobbled together our curriculum, as it were, from a multitude of sources, ranging from the library to long-forgotten books on our shelves. I admitted that I love to buy new books, but that I don't always need to.

And, last year worked well for us. I had fun researching, gathering, discovering good things at the library. But, it was, alas, quite a bit of work.

This year, I gave in to my inner curriculum junkie and we're looking more structured here than we have in awhile.

For science, each of my girls wanted her own book. So, I've tailored things to their desires and interest.

Anne-with-an-e is very interested in all things animal, and for the last two years has been insisting she will be a vet when she grows up. I know that most girls, at some point, want to be vets when they grow up. And, it's true that this may be a passing phase, but it may not. For this year, anyway, we're focusing on the life sciences with this book from Catholic Heritage Curricula.

Life Science: All Creatures Great and Small is recommended for Anne's age, and appears to be a good fit. It's more textbook-ish than we're used to, but I have no qualms about adapting such resources to our needs, style and purpose. I tend to leave out the busywork and get to the core.

Add to the above Anne's almost daily habit of reading the encyclopedia for recreation, and some volunteer time at the local animal shelter, and we've got science.

Betsy was a little harder. She wanted variety, and so did I. I was looking for areas in which we may be weak, may have overlooked some things. Then I found this Science Daybook at Rainbow Resource. It combines reading about the day's science topic with journaling and looking at related snippets of literature, poetry or magazine articles. It appears to be a living sort of textbook, and Betsy is pleased with what she's seen so far.

I am, too.

I also plan to stick to my commitment to follow up on the idea in this post of Melissa Wiley's, wherein she notes:
I've been looking for the passage I know is in one of Charlotte Mason's books about making sure children have one or two favorite nature-spots to visit on a regular basis: a park, a garden, a particular wood, a shore, that is visited over and over in all seasons, so that the children may grow familiar with the plants, birds, and beasts that live there, and see how things change throughout the course of a year.

We were at a local lake yesterday, marveling at how much its banks have risen with the recent buckets of rain, and spotting a variety of wriggly little creatures that we don't always see when the lake stays within its usual confines.

I imagined us returning much more regularly this year, through every season. And, now I'm itching to buy some lovely, new nature notebooks. Oh, I know the ten-cent ones from Target will do, but ....

Friday, August 24, 2007

Regina Doman

has published a new book!

Find out more about Waking Rose: A Fairy Tale Retold, and more about the author here, at her website.

H/T: Nancy, at Flying Stars

I don't mean to make you sad on this Poetry Friday ...

... although this quotation sounds terribly sad:

"As imperceptibly as grief
the summer lapsed away."

It's just so ... so ... so Emily. So perfect.

Here's the whole thing:

As imperceptibly as Grief
The Summer lapsed away—
Too imperceptible at last
To seem like Perfidy—
A Quietness distilled
As Twilight long begun,
Or Nature spending with herself
Sequestered Afternoon—
The Dusk drew earlier in—
The Morning foreign shone—
A courteous, yet harrowing Grace,
As Guest, that would be gone—
And thus, without a Wing
Or service of a Keel
Our Summer made her light escape
Into the Beautiful.

~~ Emily Dickinson

Visit The Book Mine Set for today's complete Poetry Friday Round-up.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Snippets of our days





Jennifer kindly alerted me to this Illuminated Lettering Kit. At a great price.


You know those very cheap
little plastic letter holders?

They make very good little book holders:


Things I love about Anne-with-an-e's brain: Today, when I asked her what she was thinking about, she said, "Oh, nothing. Well, actually ... about how monkeys can get malaria."

I also love that she has used ear buds as little defibrillators.


I'm not done spending money. Did I say I was? Nah ... you must have misheard me.

Dover Publications has several great little books about The Book of Kells. See here and here and here and here.


Mr. Cable Guy was back today. We are no longer obsolete, thank you very much.


Ramona's assessment of the quiche we had for dinner: After pushing aside the very tiny helping of quiche that I'd placed on her plate, she pointed to the cantaloupe, the honeydew, and the crescent roll, and pronounced, "These are the items that I like." Pointing back to the quiche, she said, "This is the item I don't like."

We've had these quiche conversations before.

I'm still planning.

The cool, sweet breeze that sustains me

Recently, I had an email exchange with a friend about things that bother, gnaw at, weaken, or paralyze us. You know the things I mean -- the ones that begin to loom large in our minds, worries we can't seem to banish. Or, the habitual sins ... those things from which we try to flee, but seem only able to inch away, slowly and painfully, and only a bit at a time.

All of these things were on my mind when I went to bed that night. I woke up about 4 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep. The windows were open, and I felt very hot and sticky.

And as I lay there, all those things -- the worries that gnaw at me, the sadnesses that sometimes permeate life -- seemed overwhelming. And, just as some tears welled up in my eyes, an unexpectedly cool breeze blew in through the window ... over me, around me, through me. It was lusciously sweet, and welcome relief from the heat.

And, I thought of how God's hand in my life is like that ... just when I begin to think that I can't take whatever cross or sacrifice He's asking of me now, just when I think it's too much, just when I begin to cry, He sends a cool breeze. Deceptively simple, at times: an unexpected note from a friend, a prayer I've stumbled on, sublime moments spent in Adoration, provision from a surprising source, a small kindness bestowed ... These breezes blow over and around and through me, and remind me that He is there, that He is everything. That He is, really, the only thing.

And, after I've been refreshed, I know that I can go on. I can and will assent to whatever He wants, whatever He allows, whatever He sends.

He is, and will always be, the cool, sweet breeze that sustains me.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

This screams "cute"

in a good way.

Check out this little sweetie, reciting the 23rd Psalm, on GodTube.

Thanks to my great sister-in-law, Lisa (pastor's wife, teacher, awesome mom and perhaps even more talkative than I am -- in a good way) , for sending it my way.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Stop! My budget can't take you people ....

I'm getting lots of great ideas for our trek into the Middle Ages.

Check out the comments on this post for suggestions and much enthusiasm.

I know I said to keep the great ideas coming, but I think I promised Atticus that I was done spending money on books. For now.

For this month.

For the first part of our Middle Ages study ....

I want these Alphabet books ...

... even if Ramona doesn't need them.

Yesterday, she read, "Blogger: Kare...." on the taskbar as I was composing a post. So, she's doing fine. She's past letter recognition.

But, I really like the looks of these:

An Alphabet of Catholic Saints, published by Catholic, looks very sweet indeed.

And, who doesn't need more books about the saints?

Discovering Nature's Alphabet looks like an awful lot of fun.

Just because my child doesn't really need alphabet books at this stage doesn't mean I have to stop buying them, does it?


(H/T: This thread at 4Real)

Another reason to love my husband

Reason #4,567,322:

Because, when we are transitioning from his meal-planning and cooking (all summer) to my meal-planning and cooking (the rest of the time, except for weekends, which he always takes on), he doesn't mind if I write:

Tuesday: Frozen Pizza

on my list of proposed meals for the week and call that "meal planning."

Don't you love that in a man?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Our plans this year: History

We're headed into the Middle Ages here, and our reading list (or, at least its beginning) reflects it:

Augustine Came to Kent
Son of Charlemagne
If All the Swords in England
The Hidden Treasure of Glaston
Big John's Secret
The Trumpeter of Krakow
Robin Hood
The Black Arrow
Twelve Bright Trumpets
King Arthur (Jim Weiss audio)
Parts of The Once and Future King

Reading about some saints of the time:

Francis and Clare
Elizabeth of Hungary
Thomas Aquinas
Joan of Arc
Catherine of Siena
The Holy Twins by Tomie de Paola
Mark Twain's Joan of Arc

Some of our Artists and Composers of the Month will dovetail nicely.

Activity Books:
I got Knights and Castles from our library, but haven't given it an in-depth look. Opinions?

For me: Mike Aquilina's The Grail Code

Other favorite resources for the Middle Ages, anyone?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

(Qualified) Joy

Ramona: "Mommy, I love my life."

Me: "Well, I'm so happy to hear that!"

Ramona: "We-e-e-ll, I like it, anyway. Most of it."

We now resume our regular programming

I think all the writing links in the sidebar work now.

A Mother's Prayer Time

Another in my series of attempts at creating workable links to writing that has appeared online. This essay first appeared in Canticle magazine about five years ago, and later on Catholic Exchange. I wrote it seven years ago, when Anne-with-an-e was 6, and Betsy was 4. My children were old enough that I could (and needed to) get back into a schedule of prayer. But, if I could change one thing about this essay, I would remind mothers that there are seasons in their lives wherein "scheduled prayer" is nigh impossible. Pregnancy, newborns, illness ... all can lead to times when prayer is offered up (desperately, it sometimes seems) only in the carrying out of our duties at mothers. Walking the floor at 3 a.m., rocking the screaming baby, feeding and feeding yet again ... they are all forms of prayer -- the prayer of the moment -- when given to God.

A Mother’s Prayer Time

One recent morning, I was awake long before my daughters. It was 6:15 a.m., and I settled onto the couch with my prayer book, relishing the thought of uninterrupted, fruitful conversation with the Lord. I had allowed my habit of early morning prayer to slip, and I was eager to reestablish the routine.

I began by asking the Lord to grace me, above all else, with patience on this day. “Give me the patience,” I implored, “to be the mother You want me to be.” The next sound I heard was the unmistakable creak of someone coming down the stairs. My fruitful conversation was ending already! My four-year-old peeked around the corner and asked, “Mommy, can I have some pancakes?”

“Yes,” I sighed, setting down my prayer book. “Would you like them to be green or purple?” Our family has a long tradition of colorful breakfasts.

“Green!” she shrieked, and ran full-force to meet and tackle me with a hug. The day had just kicked into high gear.

As I dropped food coloring into the batter, I rued the loss of my prayer time. I’d been looking forward to meditative, meaningful prayer and had barely begun before the interruption. “There was just that prayer for patience,” I thought, and was suddenly struck by the realization that the Lord had directly and powerfully answered my prayer. The moment I asked for patience, He gave me the chance to exercise it. Oh, how careful we must be about what we ask for! He sometimes has a much better sense of humor than I’d like Him to have.

I had to laugh at myself, and at my impatience over the interrupted communion. What better way, at that moment, could I convey how much I love Him than to put my daughter, the child He gave me, first?

This is not to say that as mothers we don’t need quiet, contemplative time to be in touch with our Lord. Most assuredly, we do. There must be time to “come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile” (Mark 6:31) but it will not always be as we envision or schedule it. We are not in control of exactly when and how the Lord will come to us in “fruitful conversation”, the thing for which I was so longing. He, being the Father of all fruits and the director of every conversation, will in the end determine the depth of our prayer lives.

But we, too, must play our parts. He cannot imbue our prayer lives with meaning if we don’t keep the appointments we make with Him. When I let my early morning appointment fall by the wayside, I felt the loss and was all the more eager to have prayer on my terms the day I chose to reestablish the meeting time. The Lord, in His infinite kindness, quickly reminded me that our lives are not on our terms, but on His. He also reminded me that while He will always answer my prayers, He may answer them in surprising and exasperating ways. I prayed for patience, and He said, “Very good -- here’s the chance to have some.”

He always knows best how to help me grow, even when I don’t care for His methods. What I wanted most that quiet morning was “my prayer time.” What I needed most was to make pancakes, and to do it with love and surrender. What did I need the next day? To get up again at 6:00, give it another try, and see what He had in store for me.

As mothers, we often find it difficult to keep our prayer lives strong because of the unpredictability of our days. If we remember a simple guideline, both our prayer lives and our motherhood can be strengthened: our duty is to make an appointment with our Lord, and to keep it. If He allows our appointment time to be consumed by making pancakes, settling a fight, or getting a Band-Aid for a scraped elbow, that’s His choice. Our end of the bargain is to patiently, faithfully follow His lead, attending to whatever He has deemed to be the most important prayer of the moment. Sometimes that prayer will be profoundly contemplative, lifting us nearly to the heights of Heaven. Sometimes it will be as simple and earthly as showing our children we love them enough to put down a book, look into their eyes, and say, “Will that be purple or green today?”

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Beautiful and perfect

Sean P. Dailey, editor of Gilbert Magazine, and blogger at The Blue Boar, posts this letter from Regina Doman, in which she beautifully -- and wrenchingly, especially given the terrible loss of her little boy last summer -- explains the ways in which the final Harry Potter book touched her.

The death, the grief, the catharsis and the faith in what lies beyond ... all the things she mentions in this letter are the things I loved about this book.

Yes, there are spoilers in the letter, so if you haven't finished the series, don't peek.

(H/T: Studeo)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Poetry Friday

My contribution to Poetry Friday today comes at the end of Atticus's first week back at school. He started back to work on Monday, and students arrived on Wednesday.

We miss him already, and this poem makes me think about settling in with him tonight and chatting about our week.

A Drinking Song
by William Butler Yeats

Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.

The Poetry Friday round-up is here, at Kelly Fineman's blog.
The Poetry Friday button was designed by Kim at Hiraeth
Check the upcoming Poetry Friday schedule at Big A little a
-- look for the button in the sidebar

Ramona and Atticus

Ramona, to Atticus: "How does a mom getta a wiener dog?"

Atticus: "I don't know -- how?"

Ramona: "She just has to stop nursing!"


Ramona was eager to show Atticus our spoils following a trip to a second-hand shop. She took him to the laundry room, where the small pile of new clothes awaited her presentation. Atticus pulled out one shirt after another, looking for Ramona's new find, which she proudly showed off.

I asked him later if she had shown him the results of our bargain-hunting, and he replied, "Yes, and I had a Gatsby-esque moment there."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sharing the Wealth

Amazing and generous people + their clever ideas = Lots of great free stuff

Here are a few links to some of that great stuff:


A thread (at 4 Real) on planners and free pages/suggestions for making your own

Another 4Real thread with great ideas for storing nature finds and treasures

Free Coloring Pages of Saints

Coloring Pages of great works of art (en Francais!)

Open Wednesday (readings, notes and ideas for parents, to help prep kids for Sunday Mass)

Mater Amabilis
(a free, online Catholic Charlotte Mason curriculum)

A Good Catholic Family

(This article originally appeared in New Covenant magazine, and later appeared on Catholic Exchange.)

A Good Catholic Family

We see five kids, or six … or seven. Maybe one on the way. And we know. That’s a good Catholic family.

And they certainly are. Their openness to life is an apparent and beautiful witness. But what of those families whose children number only one, two or three? Are we to surmise anything about them?

The question is more than hypothetical for many. My husband and I, for example, strive to be faithful Catholics, to live out all the teachings of the Faith, including those on marriage and children. We have three children -- on earth. In Heaven there are five other souls whom I hope to meet someday. As we have suffered through miscarriages we have gained powerful prayer warriors in Heaven, but our large family isn't visible to the world. This is painfully clear every time I am confronted by the issue. The questions range from well-meaning to thoughtless (though never, I am certain, ill-willed):

"Do you want more?"
"Are you going to try for a boy?"
"Three? You need more!"

Awhile back I met a friend’s mother, and the conversation turned to children. I had two children at the time and I proudly rattled off my daughters' names and ages. She smiled politely. When another guest mentioned her five children, my acquaintance lit up. "That's wonderful!" she said. "So few people have that many these days!"

Ouch. She didn't mean to hurt me, but her words stung as surely as if she’d slapped me on the cheek. I had just lost a baby two weeks prior. I wanted to shout, "I want more -- I have more! They're in Heaven -- does that count?"

Of course she’d have been horrified to know that her words hurt me and of course I said nothing. Charity often demands silence. And it's worth noting that some of my reaction stems from pride. In the presence of people who value life I want them to know that I value it dearly, too. My openness to life is hidden in Heaven with my babies who (I hope and trust) pray daily for their mother to be less prideful and more able to handle the little stings that come her way. But still ... still ....

It hurts to be judged, yet it can be a vital wake-up call to not judge others. A few years ago I similarly judged an acquaintance. When I overheard her being asked about more children, I dismissed her curt response as that of one who is closed to life. I later found out that she’d been unable to conceive again, and I was jolted back to the reality of my own pain and my uncharitably quick judgment.

"Therefore, do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts" -- 1 Corinthians, 4:5

I was reminded not to judge by the visible number of children. Good Catholic families come in all sizes and "only" one, two or three children may be the visible sign of parents who have suffered.

Conversely, families with many children can struggle in their own ways with openness to life. Occasionally, mothers-of-many can, during difficult or overwhelming times, feel just as "closed" to life as those who don’t understand Catholic teachings on contraception. It seems a cruel irony that a woman with eight children yells at God for the latest positive pregnancy test on the same day that another woman blames Him for the loss of her baby.

It is not a cruel irony, but a holy one. Only the Lord knows exactly what we need -- He is purifying each of us in His own way, allowing what He knows to be best, as we struggle to understand His movement in our lives.

And so, I turn to Him each day, both to understand His will for our family, and to ask for the grace to avoid judging others unfairly. Having struggled on both sides of the issue, I can say that perhaps the best response, when we hear, "Kids? Yes, we have two," is a simple, "And what blessings they must be!" Then, let's pray for one another. Now, that’s a sign of a good Catholic family.

(I am republishing essays that originally appeared online at Catholic Exchange, as not all the links -- via "old CE" -- are functional. That should be resolved at CE soon, but in the meantime, I hope to create new links to those pieces here on the blog.)

Our plans this year: Art

I love this book.

We haven't used it yet -- I just got it -- but I love the look of it, love the ideas I've perused, and love the method it employs.

Discovering Great Artists uses the work of the masters to teach techniques as well as art appreciation. Very nice.

Ann Ball's Catholic Traditions in the Home and Classroom: 365 Days to Celebrate a Catholic Year will also fall under "faith studies" and "observing the liturgical year," as well as history. I just got this book, too, and so far, I'm very impressed. There are so many ideas that it will be easy to pick, choose, and plan ahead.

And, especially for Ramona, because she loves St. Francis so much, I found Francis of Assisi: Activities and Coloring Fun for Children. It has paper dolls, coloring pages, connect-the-dots, mazes and puzzles, stories and a poetry activity.

It's enchanting.

Artist of the Month

Last year, I was loosely following some of the ideas for artist studies on the 4Real forum. I love the idea, and it fits beautifully with my informal approach to these kinds of studies. I'm also very grateful to the wonderful moms who took the time to put together the monthly artists and composers. Thank you to Amy, Mary, Sarah, Helen, and Stef for all the work they put into their monthly posts (and to anyone else I'm inadvertently omitting), and thanks to Elizabeth for starting that 4Real ball rolling in the first place.

This year, I'm going to take a slightly different approach. Our artist of the month will be based on various depictions of the Blessed Mother, and the paintings we look at will be a springboard to other works from that month's artist. The pictures above are from an old calendar I saved years ago (those packrat tendencies can come in handy, no?) We'll start with the three above -- Michelangelo, Fra Angelico, and Murillo.

Composer of the month

Same idea as above.

Another old calendar from this packrat.

Hungerness is my new favorite word

Ramona: "Mommy, my tummy hurts of hungerness."

And, one other Ramona Observation, made as she helped me prepare last night's dinner:

"You know, Mommy, rice looks good. But, really ... it is not."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Still Updating Categories

I'm not as prolific as I look, dear Subscribers ... lots of old posts showing up as I update my categories.

Please bear with me, and thanks.

The Solemnity of the Assumption

A blessed Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary to you!

Learn more here at Catholic Culture, and here, at the Catholic Encyclopedia.

(Painting: Guido Reni, 1475-1642)

Such is life


I had so many repair-type-people running in and out of here yesterday that I felt like Nina in Truly, Madly, Deeply (imagine Alan Rickman's voice pronouncing, ''This is a terrible flat ... terrible ... really, Nina, you're hopeless.")

The plumber will be back today. For most of the day, I believe. Feel sorry for me.

We have internet again, though the cable guy must come back again and replace our "obsolete" box. Who knew?

I dropped my cell phone on the concrete floor in the garage and it fell apart. Turns out those things can take a lot of abuse.

While we were blanching and cold-shocking and cutting the corn off many cobs, we had a contractor walking through the house, assessing a window situation. I waved my knife at him (in a friendly way, you know) and left the rest to Atticus.

And, by the way, why is pulling the husks off of corn called "shucking" instead of "husking"? And why is pulling it off the stalk called husking? I've lived in Nebraska for all but 11 years of my life, and I still don't think I'm "from" here. There are certain things about Nebraska that I will never get.

The kids are still great, with one minor blip: Ramona threw up yesterday and I thought we were going to add "stomach flu" to an already vibrant mix of events, because, doesn't stomach flu always accompany plumbing problems? But, God took pity on me, and we now think that poor Ramona's problem was just the heat. She perked up last night, and now seems fine.

Since I'm not going anywhere (other than into my basement to ask the plumber, "How's it going?") I hope to catch up with some posts later today.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Quiet here because ...

... there's a lot of stuff going on.

Plumbing stuff (you don't want the details ....)

Internet stuff ... it's that love/hate relationship thing (I keep losing access ... arrgghh .... )

Kid stuff (all good stuff here, but you know how busy they keep a blogger ....)

Back soon!

Cruisin' down the Homeschooling Superhighway

Jennifer, at As Cozy as Spring was looking for ways to reassure her husband (and herself) that she was actually spending enough time doing school work with their daughter. He was thinking that perhaps "school" should take from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

I put it this way:

Tell your husband to compare it to driving down the freeway at rush hour vs. off hours -- you reach your destination so much more quickly without all that added traffic.

One of the beauties of homeschooling is that we get to do so much in the "off hours" ... and traveling can be so much more pleasant that way, can't it?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Thank you

An enormous Thank You to my blog-tinkering, techno-savvy friend for helping me complete my migration from new-Blogger to newest-Blogger, giving me more flexibility here, as well as a better way to find old posts by category. (I still have some work to do on streamlining my categories ... I've been profligate in my use of them ... so please continue to bear with me as I clean them up. Thanks.)

Thank you!

(Kind of) Domestic Me

Awhile back, I mentioned that I was longing to knit something. A few of you very kindly asked what I planned to knit, or mentioned that you hoped I'd post the results. I wasn't sure the results would be worth posting (I'm still a Novice Knitter), but here they are. The first hat, below, is now offically labeled "Practice" because the back of it is quite messy (will someone please explain to me how to connect the edges neatly? I'm hopelessly sloppy.)

My model, Mr. Putter, was extraordinarily patient with me as he posed for this. He did, however, have a disgusted look on his face just moments after this photo was taken.

The second hat turned out really well, as the chosen tool (a Knifty Knitter loom) did all the work for me. I added little bows that pull up the brim, and I was pleased with the final result. That one is for the little girl of a FOCUS Missionary couple we help to sponsor. For their new baby boy, I'll be knitting a new edition of the hat Mr. Putter is modeling, sans messy back seam and cat hair.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Pardon our dust ...

... as a friend and I are tinkering with the template.

Umm, no, wait. That's not entirely accurate.

My very clever, techno-savvy friend is tinkering with the template. I am doing things such as saying, "Oh, wow! You mean that will work? That's great!"

The main things I hope to gain are the ability to take you to older posts at the end of a page, and complete access to categories, as well as some of the other benefits of the new Blogger layouts. I've been reluctant to migrate completely, for fear of what I'd lose in the move. You know how moving is. Stressful and time-consuming. Unless you're my friend. She's probably the kind who could move an entire household in a weekend.

In the meantime, I see that I've been going crazy with categories that are all over the place, so bear with me as I update and change posts/categorization/labels. If you're a Bloglines or Google Reader subscriber, and it appears that I have 107 new posts later today, you'll know why ....

And now, I'm off to spend a little time with my girls and find out why Ramona is telling me that I should have named her "Leah."

(Photo courtesy of Garrison Photo, via

Friday, August 10, 2007

Poetry Friday

I'm afraid I'm not terribly poetic today.

I am capable, at the moment, only of sharing these precise and perfect words from Jane Austen (which are close enough to poetry for me), with gratitude to Google for helping me find them:

"What dreadful hot weather we have! It keeps me in a continual state of inelegance."

If you'd like to visit some real Poetry Friday people, please go visit Kelly at Big A little a today.

Win a book!

Go visit Donna at Embracing Motherhood -- she is running a contest and you have a chance to win her wonderful book, The Heart of Motherhood.

Check out all of Donna's books here.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Kids off with Daddy for Two Days + Me, Home Alone =

getting some things done around here.

No time to report on those two days now, other than to say this:

When I asked Ramona what her favorite part of her trip with Daddy was, I mean, what was the absolute, greatest, most fun thing she did, (thinking she would choose the zoo or the newly remodeled Children's Museum), she said:

"Coming home and finding you."

St. Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross)

Today is the feast day of an amazing, inspirational woman, St. Edith Stein, also known as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

Read more about her here at Catholic Educator's Resouce Center, as well as here. And here's an entry at Catholic Culture.

"God is there in these moments of rest and can give us in a single instant exactly what we need. Then the rest of the day can take its course, under the same effort and strain, perhaps, but in peace. And when night comes, and you look back over the day and see how fragmentary everything has been, and how much you planned that has gone undone, and all the reasons you have to be embarrassed and ashamed: just take everything exactly as it is, put it in God’s hands and leave it with Him. Then you will be able to rest in Him -- really rest -- and start the next day as a new life."

~~ St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A new blog from a fellow Catholic convert, fellow Nebraskan ...

... and, it would seem, all-around great fellow.

Check out Jeff Baker's Defend Us in Battle.

And, be sure to read his moving and inspiring conversion story here.

Welcome Home, Jeff!

Cool stuff

Barbara Nicolosi, at Church of the Masses, talks about the possibility of A Severe Mercy making it to the big screen.

If you haven't read Sheldon Vanauken's A Severe Mercy, do yourself a favor and get your hands on a copy. You can read a little more about Vanauken here, here, and here.


Scott, at Left of the Dial, has a link to a quiz, "Which author's fiction are you?"

I came up Jane Austen ("Jane Austen wrote you. You are extremely aware of the power of a single word") but I can't get the code to work and at the moment have the sense and sensibility to say that I shall waste no more time trying to make it work. Pass the tea and the quill, please.
My cool sister-in-law, via her cool teen-age daughter (who saw this cool guy in person) sent me this YouTube clip of the Jesus Painter.

Coolness all around, and Jesus, too (Who is, of course, Beyond Cool.)