2021-22 Homeschool Midyear Review

I’m sitting in the hospital with Teddy while he recovers from a stomach bug (he’s doing much better), so why not a mid-year homeschool review to make me feel good about all the learning we’ve managed to do up to this point? (With the obligatory affiliate links dropped in at a few spots.)

UPDATE: As of 3:30 p.m. Friday, we’re getting discharged!

The last time a hospital stay interrupted our school year was November 2019, which was also the last time Teddy had a stomach bug. It’s been a good run, but this year after getting in 12 weeks, we took a few weeks off as Teddy underwent and started his recovery from back surgery. We got a few “light” weeks in just before Christmas, but only really got back in our groove after Epiphany. I was thinking about scheduling a break at the end of February, but decided we should plow through until Addie and Byron are both on spring break. I’ve planned numerous field trips to break up the long, cold month of February, but despite still masking in crowds, washing hands, and generally not being around a ton of people, Teddy caught a stomach bug and threw a wrench in my plans. It’s slightly more stressful than usual because Fulton has not been getting all his nursing hours covered, so we don’t reliably have an extra set of hands around to help with his care.

It’s another reminder that we are never in control and there is never a “normal” homeschooling week. And with that lengthy introduction…

Mood.

Byron

His fall classes at the community college went well. He’s only taking two more this spring, and he’s also taking an online financial literacy course that Addie also took. (It’s free and very thorough; I highly recommend it.) He got his first college acceptance letter from John Paul the Great Catholic University. He’s waiting to hear from a few others before making a final decision.

Edith

Edie got to take one Time4Writing Course before the platform discontinued its program. So, for this semester, she’s taking a similar course from Write At Home.

Everything else is actually still going according to plan except for her restarting guitar and taking art classes. But she’s now the bosun for her Sea Scouts troop and she finished sewing a regency style dress (with matching bonnet!) so, it’s not like she’s wasting time. I continue to rely on Google Classroom for collecting and grading work and it remains a godsend for me. (Plug for my ebook that can teach anyone how to use Google Classroom in their homeschool.)

Fulton

Through the app Speechify, Fulton has been reading a bunch of great history books tied to the Middle Ages. We’ve been doing narrations but found that speech to text on his iPad doesn’t work well when Teddy keeps talking loudly in the background…on purpose. So I type up his narrations instead.

The new math program I purchased lasted only a few weeks before I got too frustrated with it. Had I started using it from the beginning it might have worked, but it assumed I understood it’s unique way of presenting topics (which I didn’t because I was started a few levels in) and it also assumed the student could work through problems with it’s special manipulatives on his or her own, which obviously wasn’t the case for us. I tried to work through problems with Fulton but ultimately, I went back old reliable Abeka math. Instead of hands-on manipulatives, I’m using online Montessori tools that allow Fulton to visualize and work through the problems independently on his tablet. Montessori tools can be used to work on pretty high level math problems so it’s worth checking out if you have a student who needs a new way to see a problem. Just Google “Montessori” and the math concept you need help with and see what comes up. I’ve found lots of great videos and posts.

I’ve also created a curated collection of educational videos for him that he enjoys watching. They relate to history more than anything as his current interests include the Byzantine Empire and the Spanish American War, but really anything war related is fair game.

Teddy

No changes from my original plan except that he never choses to do Mind Benders. I consider them optional, so I don’t push, but it may be something I make him do over the summer instead.

Family Subjects: From Morning Meeting to Afternoon Tea

We’ve kept all the same subjects (Shakespeare, Latin prayers, art appreciation, music appreciation, geography, and Bible) but we switched to the Michael Kurek site for music (highly recommended). None of the kids would recommend Shakespeare’s play King John (you’ve been warned). We also moved our meeting time from the morning to the afternoon a couple weeks back and so far so good. Tea, hot cocoa, and biscotti make everything better apparently…but not King John. Seriously, spare yourself.

Wednesday’s have become our science, history, and art project day for Fulton and Teddy. We don’t always get an art project done (simply because it’s challenging to find projects for the boys to do to their satisfaction), but we’ve been making progress through the Middle Ages (as evidenced by our growing timeline) and our Geology unit.

I did stop using the grammar program I’d selected (because I just hate studying grammar), and instead of listening to more historically based stories during afternoon stretches, we’ve been working through the Harry Potter series (which Teddy has read, but Fulton has not). Although we’re currently wrapping up Across Five Aprils which is a good Civil War story and free with my Audible account.

So school is going “according to plan” for the most part, and I’m not feeling the same level of burnout I did back in October, but I am frustrated by the lack of time I have for anything else during the day, especially with constant nursing shortages. I am already exploring different options for the next school year.

How is your school year going and how are you making it through the cold, dark month of February? (And if you live where it’s not cold and dark, your comments aren’t necessary.)

Winter Happenings

It’s been a minute, so I thought I should post an update so 1. everyone knows our home is COVID free now and 2. I can document all the usual things that have happened. Otherwise, I’m gonna start forgetting things.

Byron tested negative for COVID on Wednesday, January 19. He still had a bit of a cough, but I knew that could linger for awhile so I had him retest and it was negative! What a relief! No one else in the house ever got any symptoms, and those of us that tested were all negative. I don’t know how we managed to be so lucky.

I know other special needs families who worked harder than us and still had COVID invade their homes and infect everyone. It’s so discouraging. Illness makes caregiving harder. An illness, no matter how mild often sets our children back for weeks or months; long after typical kids are “back to normal”. We’re already faced with our child’s mortality more often than other parents, and whenever things slip outside our careful routine, we immediately slip into defensive mode. We know what it’s like to see our children fight for their lives and there’s trauma in having to go through that process over and over again. Please pray for my friends fighting COVID in their homes right now, and those adapting to the lingering affects on their families.

Addie tested negative on the same day as Byron and was happy to head back to classes (which started on the same day due to the MLK holiday and then a snow day on Tuesday). However- PLOT TWIST! – the school required her to take another COVID test on Friday and it was positive! Since she’d had the negative test on Wednesday, they told her she needed to quarantine until the following Thursday. So, after 36 hours of freedom, it was back to quarantine. On Monday morning she got a call that she actually needed to quarantine in a different, private room, in another dorm (I think to protect her one roommate who’d never had COVID). So she rode out the rest of her quarantine elsewhere. Thank goodness she was actually healthy enough to move all her stuff across the street and up to the 18th floor of another dorm. We assumed that since she would be released on Thursday, she would be able to compete over the weekend at Notre Dame with her fencing team but no! of course the NCAA has a very lengthy “back to play” process for athletes coming off of COVID quarantine. (Which I think was a surprise to her coaches since they used her photo on promotional images and had already booked her hotel room for the event.) So while she got to travel along to the competition, she didn’t get to fence. The athletic trainer expects her to be cleared in time for the competition this coming weekend at Northwestern. Hopefully, the rest of her semester is uneventful going forward.

We celebrated not having germs by going to the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton last Tuesday. It was fabulous. We were the only patrons in the museum until after lunch, which meant I let the boys drive all over yelling at each other with very little interference on my part.

Dinosaur skeletons fighting? Yes please! Every other natural history museum take note.
“MAMA! Take my picture with these paintings! They’re so ugly!!”
Edie matching the exhibits. (If you can’t tell, her vest and earrings are Egyptian inspired.)
Bully!
The only time Teddy wouldn’t smile for a photo. Large chunks of ice on the Delaware river behind us.

Tony and I have been working on small home projects on the weekends and I’ve spent the rest of my time working on the second month of the Accepting the Gift Religious Education Curriculum. Check it out HERE! I have two more projects I need to layout and launch before the March curriculum release so you’ll understand if blogging remains light. Eventually, I do want to hire more people to help with editing and layout, but until I get my taxes done and know how much money Uncle Sam is leaving me for the coming months, I’m still trying to DIY a huge chunk myself.

Edie is busy planning Sea Scout meetings, and is already getting information from every Maritime college in the country (or at least it feels like it). She’s also baking a lot which makes Addie’s absence easier to deal with.

We’ve moved our homeschool ‘morning meeting’ to the afternoon and are now trying afternoon tea time, which is a big hit because snacks. It means even Byron is trying to join us to steal some biscotti. Teddy is also happier because then he can get all his schoolwork done in the morning. Fulton is the only dissenting voice to the new routine because it required change. I’ve got some more field trips planned for the next few weeks to help me through winter. It’s been too cold for the boys to be outside, and now we’ve got about a foot of snow on the ground which is too deep to even slide around on the patio. At least the wheelchair repair guy finally made it out, albeit without the correct batteries for Fulton’s chair. Also, daylight is lasting later and later everyday and I’m clinging to that brief glimpse of spring with all my might.

Have a great week!

COVID In Da House

The inevitable has happened; COVID has entered our home. On Tuesday, after a couple days of mild congestion and coughing, Byron took a COVID test (we had several at home thanks to Fulton’s nursing agency) and it gave a positive result pretty quickly. We assume he picked it up at work. Tuesday was also the day Teddy got his second COVID shot. I guess I knew that someone in the house would eventually get COVID, I’d just hoped that Teddy would be further out from his second shot before we had to test everyone’s immunity.

Addie took a test and was negative. She headed back to school on a Greyhound early Wednesday morning (like, 3 a.m. early). Initially, she needed to get back early for a fencing tournament, but she got word on Tuesday that it was cancelled due to COVID. She elected to head back early anyway, and I don’t blame her. I think she wanted to get back to her private room and life of relative silence. Unfortunately, she started feeling sick on Saturday. Is it COVID? The flu? Did she get it at home, on the bus, or from a roommate? Who knows. The soonest she can get a test is today so long as the campus testing center isn’t closed for the holiday. I was so happy she was able to head back for in-person classes for the spring semester, but it looks like she may miss some classes anyway. She had a bad cold in the fall, and I’m bummed she’s already sick again.

Edie also took a test and it was negative. She and the rest of us remain free of symptoms. We’re all staying put, and Byron is quarantining in the basement. Whenever he needs to come upstairs he puts on a N95 and avoids the rest of us. The community college pushed back its start day by a week so at least he’s not going to miss any of his classes. McDonald’s requires him to be symptom free for two days before returning to work.

Since we’re all vaccinated, I’m less worried than I would’ve been a year ago at this time. But even a mild infection could lay up either of the boys for awhile, so hopefully they remain symptom free. One of the biggest downsides is that three of Fulton’s nurses won’t work in our house if there’s a positive family member. I’m not mad at them, but the agency is short staffed, so as long as Byron, or anyone, is positive, I’ll be flying solo for half the week (we usually don’t have coverage on Sundays).

Teddy is now two months out from his spinal fusion surgery and is doing well. His back isn’t bothering him, but he continues to have nerve pain around his right hip, and down his right leg. We started school this week, and resumed our usual stretching routine. I need to take things slower than usual, and he’s stiff, but I’m hopeful that his pain will decrease and his flexibility increase. Fulton dealt with similar pain in both legs and I know it took awhile to completely resolve. Teddy has required some pain meds at bedtime and thankfully, he’s swallowing pills with no problems. We fought for so long over the awful tasting liquid medicines, and I was so afraid of pills being a choking hazard, but Teddy actually swallows pills easier than me so yay for progress in whatever form it takes.

Our back to school week included more take out than expected, but unfortunately, not the scheduled field trip. Repairs to the boys wheelchairs also got delayed for the second week in a row due to the repair guy being sick. But all in all, its all minor inconveniences compared to so many.

We’ll see how this week plays out. Thankfully we don’t have much going on, so staying put isn’t that difficult. But your prayers that everyone else stays healthy, and that Addie and Byron recover are much appreciated! Thank you!

Advent and the 12 Days

I wanted to lump all my Advent/ Christmas/ Epiphany stories and photos in one place, even though it probably would have been easier to write multiple shorter posts throughout the last two weeks. But, after taking the last two days to undecorate and reorganize ALL. THE. THINGS. I’m finally exhausted enough to sit still and write my post.

A big Advent highlight worth mentioning; I entered three of our family’s favorite cookies in our town paper’s Christmas cookie contest and took 3rd place for my bar cookie, and two honorable mentions for my chocolate chip and holiday cookie entries. WOOT! I actually got a medal (which I have yet to pick up, but which will feature prominently in an upcoming photo shoot for sure).

We started decorating on Gaudete Sunday following Tony’s near impossible tree hunt. Even though we buy our tree later than most, we usually are still able to find a really nice tree. However pickings were slim this year. Once all the decorations were on, the tree looked fine, but we only got one candle lighting in this year instead of the usual three to four; it just dried out too fast.

For the last two years I’ve made limoncello as a gift for Fulton’s nurses and the girl’s fencing coaches. This year, I made Kahlua and Irish Cream and got no complaints.

We added two other trees to our home as well. I wanted a vintage looking silver tinsel tree for the basement with some of those bubbly lights. I also added some of our older glass ornaments in gold and pastel colors. It made me so happy every time I saw it. Tony wanted a tree on the screened in porch since he likes to sit outside in the evening, so he got a small flocked tree and added some white lights. My tinsel tree came with some colored plastic balls so Tony added a few to his tree since we didn’t need to worry about the wind blowing them off and breaking them.

Merry Christmas circa 1960.

We traded our purple and pink Advent lights for colored lights on Christmas Eve, and after attending our friends Christmas Eve party, we came home, lit the candles on our tree, and sang carols before Addie and Tony prepared for midnight Mass. I had actually managed to get all the gifts wrapped a few days prior so I didn’t need to stay up too late arranging everyone’s presents around the living room.

Christmas morning started around 7 a.m., and by 8:30 a.m. all the presents were open. The big surprise was we bought the boys an XBox. But don’t feel bad for the girls; Addie got a Samsung smartwatch and Edie got a photo printer. What I noticed now that the kids are older is that the piles of gifts were significantly smaller. Only Teddy got a HUGE toy (from grandparents). It was the same amount of stuff, but teens tend to want smaller items. There was less packaging and less mess than previous years and I AM HERE FOR THIS PHASE OF LIFE.

It’s a lot of packaging, but those are the biggest items they got. So portable!
Look at that tiny pile of gifts!! All that will easily fit in his bedroom somewhere.
Meanwhile, here’s Teddy’s new Hot Wheels garage which is actually larger than our own garage. It also takes 4 D batteries or the equivalent of one small coal burning power-plant.

We snacked on panettone before heading to 10:30 a.m. Mass; but not before putting the Turducken in the oven! We came home, had an appetizer spread and I worked on some side dishes. We had our dinner around 3:30 after the John Madden documentary wrapped up. (Did you know he was Catholic?) The Turducken (which is a deboned duck, stuffed in a deboned chicken, stuffed in a deboned turkey with layers of stuffing in between) was good, but we don’t need to eat it every year. We did a Zoom call with my parents and extended family and just enjoyed a relaxing food-coma filled day at home.

Appetizer Menu:

  • Crackers (way too many types) and multiple cheeses (Brie, cheddar, gouda, orange cheese spread, and something Spanish)
  • Italian deli meats (also way too many)
  • Spinach dip with fresh bread
  • Shrimp cocktail

Every year I think, I don’t need to get so many appetizers. It’s only going to ruin our appetite for dinner! But then I worry we won’t have enough snacks to hold us until dinner is ready and I buy a few more items.

Dinner Menu:

  • Turducken
  • Mashed potatoes with gravy
  • Homemade ravioli (I actually forgot to make these on Christmas so we ate them the next day after Mass.)
  • Fruit salad (I forgot to buy the supplies for this so Tony made it for New Year’s Eve.)
  • Roasted green beans with almonds
  • Creamed corn casserole
  • Fresh bread

Desserts (I always bake cookies a few days before Christmas and try to save the bulk for dessert on the day…with limited success.)

  • Creme de Menthe bar cookies
  • Dates stuffed with peanut butter
  • Spiced chai cookies
  • Double Delicious Bars

During the following 12 days we took a day trip to visit my parents in Lancaster. (We were concerned with how Teddy would do, but he did well with the car ride. He is still experiencing some nerve pain in his right leg but it’s at the level we expected for right now and it’s not holding him back from what he wants to do.) We got snow, and with the new patio Fulton and Teddy went out and drove around with minimal slipping, sliding, and sticking. So technically it was a white Christmas, even if it wasn’t on the first day of Christmas.

Of course everyone played lots of XBox games together, and Fulton got Warhammer 40000 so Tony spent much of his week off work assembling figures for the game. I put the finishing touches on the new home-based religion curriculum for Accepting the Gift whenever I got a spare minute.

SO MANY TINY PIECES.
And we made a gingerbread house. We chilled it outside between steps and that seemed to make stick together better. In general our screened in porch becomes a second refrigerator during the holidays.

A friend gave us a traditional Christmas pudding so we lit it on fire (as instructed!) and gave it a try. New Year’s was rainy, so we didn’t walk downtown to see the giant blueberry drop, but we could stream it online. Addie made a king cake for 12th night (Fulton found the hidden “baby” and was king.) Tony and the older four went to Epiphany Mass on the 6th while Teddy and I streamed it at home (due to his leg being sore and sensitive by the end of the day.)

We start school up this week, and Addie heads back to Cleveland early Wednesday morning. It’s been a wonderful break and Christmas season and I found myself sad, for the first time in many years, that it was time to take the decorations down (I did leave up two ceramic light up trees, and the nativity to keep the Christmas feeling going until Candlemas). I got quite a bit of reorganizing done, though I have a few more shelves to hang, and I’m caught up on uploading Edie’s school work, so I’m feeling less overwhelmed with stuff and school than I typically do heading into January. I’ve got several more Accepting the Gift projects to launch in the coming weeks so we’ll see how long I feel “less overwhelmed”.

I hope all my friends and followers had a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s! Feel free to drop a link in the comments if you posted your holiday memories anywhere.

2022 New Year’s Resolutions

It’s time to review last year’s resolutions (including one I’d totally forgotten about) and set some goals for the new year, as well as select a new beast to guide me in monstrous fashion through 2022.

First things first; how’d I do with last year’s resolutions?

  • Eat healthy as a family. – Spurred on by reading another health book I resolved to phase out vegetable oils from our family’s diet. I’d hoped to introduce some other healthier foods into our diet as well, but ultimately only the reduced vegetable oil part stuck. In the beginning, it was tough to cut out certain foods, but in time I found substitutes for many things, and others we made do without or enjoyed them only on special occasions. In general, once school started back up in August (which is also when we have a lot of family birthdays) more vegetable oils creeped back into our diet, but it’s now a lot easier for me to meal plan, grocery shop, and prepare meals sans vegetable oils. I had my own personal health goals that I adopted later in the year that I was pretty successful at, and I’m going to devote another post to that topic exclusively at some point in the near future (not because I think you’re all dying to know, but because I want to document some stuff). But overall, I think there were some good changes made.
  • Commit to a daily prayer time. – Eh. Definitely haven’t developed a habit, though there were times during the year that I was consistent for long stretches.
  • Continue to grow Accepting the Gift. – This was where I was probably most successful. Competing in the OSV Challenge opened up a world of opportunities for my ministry. I’m now working on projects with a team of a contributors I couldn’t have imagined last year at this time.
  • Read more books. – I’d really fallen behind in reading in 2020 and so I set a goal of 30 books for 2021. I finished 27, so not too bad. I’ve set a new goal of 40 books for 2022 that I’m not making an “official” resolution, so I won’t stress out about it.
  • Engage with my followers in a balanced way to ensure a successful book release, while not tying myself to social media. – There were times I really tried to up my engagement on social media, especially on Instagram, in the last year. But honestly, I just didn’t want to, and many times it felt forced. I do like scrolling and seeing what others are up to, but I simply don’t want to post more on social media. Did it affect my book release? I don’t know. I’m sure more social posts would’ve helped but it would’ve come at the cost of homeschooling, housekeeping, sleeping, and I was already struggling in all those areas post-OSV Challenge. I really couldn’t find a good balance.
  • Catch up on all my own medical appointments. – Oh hey! I made this a resolution! I did get to an eye doctor in February, and then forgot to make any other appointments.

And now onto 2022!! In reading through my past resolution posts I find there are some typical resolution categories: prayer, diet and exercise, social media, writing or “professional”, and the all encompassing “how to deal with the overwhelming chaos that is my life”. It’s good to see how I’ve actually achieved some of the big goals I set for myself through the years (exercise regularly, write a book, read War and Peace, organize our digital photos, grow my ministry), but it can also be frustrating to see how some things never seem to change. One year I made a list of a few big things I accomplished that were not resolutions, and that helped to put things in perspective.

For 2022, I want to:

  • Continue to work on building a habit of daily prayer and incorporating more silent prayer and time in Adoration.
  • Continue with the changes I’ve made to our family’s diet while always striving to do better, specifically through including a wider variety of whole foods at each meal.
  • Continue with my exercise routine and try to increase in strength.
  • Not take on any new projects!!!!!! I have a list of projects to work on for Accepting the Gift, and I’m compiling a list of home and crafting projects to focus on finishing. At the end of the year, hopefully I’ll have a list of accomplishments to be proud of.
  • I would like to get off social media entirely and deactivate my accounts, however, that might become a big project if I try to move groups or save information from various platforms. So, I need to think about this a bit more, but maybe just figuring out logistics should actually be the resolution.

And my beast? I’m going with BIG FOOT! Strong, hairy, silent, able to invoke fear with just a glance; that seems about right for 2022. When things get tough, I can just escape to the woods to sulk and take grainy selfies.

Don’t forget to pick your own beast with my RANDOM BEAST SPINNER!!! Who needs a word or a saint when you can have a whole epic beast???

To all my friends and followers, Happy New Year, and may all your resolutions come true!! (You can check my track record by reading all my resolution posts HERE.)

2021 Year In Review

It’s the 2021 Year in Review post! For when I want to take a stroll down memory lane quickly, without having to scroll through all my uncategorized posts. I’ve got some favorite books listed (affiliate links), popular posts, updates on the family, and some pictures. It’s like the Christmas letter you used to write for the extended family you never saw, except at funerals.

January

We entered a new month, and a new year that felt strangely like the previous ten except colder. But to make staying home even better, we finally installed hardwood floors in our living and dining rooms, and I intituted a new family diet free of most vegtable oils. (Seriously. I’ll outline it all in another post.)

Favorite Read

Bourbon Empire: I drink bourbon and whiskey now and act like I can tell the difference between various brands. I didn’t plan on becoming pretentious this year, but here we are.

Date night in a plastic igloo with a heater and drinks. No problems staying warm!

February

We enjoyed substantial snow for New Jersey (much to the kids delight), and Byron dislocated his elbow while learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Not the worst injury one could get while learning MMA fighting, but it prevented him from practicing his driving or working at McDonald’s for longer than I expected. By this point, many of the older kids activities resumed (fencing, FNE scouting, MMA) with masks and distancing, and Edie even added a new extra-curricular to the mix with Sea Scouts.

Popular Posts:

I also went over the top for the Superbowl with our new snack stadium.

March

The boys worked together with Byron’s friend to create a film contest entry that still makes me laugh. I completed my book edits and looked forward to a fall release. We celebrated one year of quarantine by, surprise!, not going anywhere. While the older kids worked and did activities, we were still cautious with Fulton and Teddy and usually attended the less crowded Saturday evening Mass at our parish, and continued to avoid large gatherings. But at the end of the month, I got my first COVID shot and we all started getting more hopeful.

Happy Mothering Sunday to me!

April

We started the month with a large Easter feast to break our Lenten fast. My 20th Easter as a Catholic! A few weeks later I started torturing myself in new ways by lifting weights in the basement. I can’t remember anything else from this month which means I must have been stressed out about something.

Favorite Read

I discovered Peter Lovesey mysteries at my library and enjoyed several. They’ve become a favorite go to when I need a fun mystery.

Easter dinner!

May

I spent most of May fighting for the second time in six months to keep 12 hours of nursing care for Fulton, and filling out paperwork for the OSV Challenge. Little did I know that this was only the beginning of the OSV Challenge taking up all my free time!

We still managed to squeeze in a beach day amidst it all.

June

I lost my appeal to keep nursing care, and, exhausted, gave up the fight for the time being. Instead we celebrated our new ceiling mounted lift in the boys room and Fulton becoming a teenager on the 28th! I also learned that all that OSV paperwork paid off, and my fledgling apostolate Accepting the Gift was selected as one of 24 semi-finalists and awarded $10,000. We also learned that Teddy would need spinal fusion surgery this year, and I picked a date in November that might impact the holidays, but would assure he’d be recovered enough to attend summer camp in 2022. #priorities

July

WE WENT TO FLORIDA! The boys enjoyed a week at summer camp. Tony and I enjoyed a week to recharge our batteries. The older kids learned that staying home alone just equals more responsibilities, and we topped it off with van trouble that extended our trip by a day. But that wasn’t all! We managed to hold our annual Nativity of St. John the Baptist party, and, after missing a year, went all out with a whole roast pig and fireworks. I started the OSV Challenge Accelerator program and realized the rest of my summer was shot.

Favorite Read

The Dyslexic Advantage: Excellent must read book for any dyslexic adult, or parent of a dyslexic child, especially very severe cases. If your child is six and still reversing letters, you don’t need to read this book. But if you have a struggling teenager, this is the book that will help you understand how his or her brain works, and identify his or her strengths.

Popular Post

August

Tony turned 43! He continued working from home this year, with no end to that arrangement in sight. It’s a dream come true. Edie and I drove with Addie to Cleveland to drop her off for her sophomore year of college, and her first year at Cleveland State University. It was quite the adjustment to not having one of my kids at home. I also learned that Accepting the Gift was not selected as a finalist in the OSV Challenge and wallowed for a solid weekend about that. We started our XXX year of homeschooling and recess improved exponentially by the addition of a large concrete patio in our yard.

Great read

Hillbilly Elegy: I think most people have heard of this book by now, especially since it’s been made into a movie. It’d been on my ‘To Read’ list for years and I finally got it from the library at the urging of a friend. Very enlightening look at a side of life in America we don’t hear nearly enough about. If we want to understand why people act, or vote, the way they do, we need to listen to a wider range of voices.

Popular Post

September

Byron finally gets his drivers license, and in the process becomes a master at parallel parking. He can now get himself to all his classes at the community college. I turn 43, and Addie turns 19 away from home. My parents visit with her and leave her with lots of cake.

Favorite Read

Talking to Strangers: Another interesting book from Malcolm Gladwell about the ways we misunderstand one another to the detriment of all parties involved. Also a reminder on how without doing a lot of digging around, you rarely know all the information surrounding a sensational court case.

Popular Post

I’m hardly sweating at all!

October

After years of work, my book Better Than OK launched on Teddy’s 11th birthday. I held an Oktoberfest themed party to celebrate (the book). Tony and I celebrated 20 years of marriage on the 13th and another ongoing “project” wrapped up (or maybe just began) as we became licensed foster parents. We wrapped up the month by adding another adult to our home by celebrating Byron’s 18th birthday on the 29th.

Popular post

November

Don’t worry! I didn’t get to sit back on my laurels and enjoy my accomplishments for too long! The day of Teddy’s spinal fusion surgery at Shriner’s Hospital in Philly was upon us before I knew it. Everything went well, and we held Thanksgiving at our house for the first time ever (thanks to the hard work of my mom) as Teddy continues to recover at home. Addie made it home from Cleveland for the first time since August and immediately was overcome with all the noise…and love; noisy love.

Favorite Read

The Dorito Effect: Learn about why unhealthy food tastes so good, and why healthy food tastes worst than it should.

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December

We start the month with some exciting college visits for Byron and Addie finally got word from the NCAA that she can officially fence for Cleveland State. It’s been a long battle that started her senior year of high school, but thankfully, she’s now a Division 1 fencer and her first tournament was at Ohio State. Edie turned Sweet 16 on the 16th and I thought about preparing for another driver. She continues to love Sea Scouts and was promoted to Bosun for the coming year. Despite having an emergency room visit, and an inpatient hospital stay, we didn’t have any emergency illnesses that resulted in an inpatient stay for the second year in a row which is HUGE for this family. Byron got promoted to manager at McDonald’s and everyone is looking forward to a Christmas break of food, Minecraft, boardgames, movies, and time with friends. We can thank God for another blessed year.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my readers!!!!

College Planning 2.0

Coming to you from the backwoods of Maine, its a long-winded post on visiting colleges, a.k.a. I thought I knew what Byron would be doing next year, but when I actually asked him, he had other ideas (plus a stroll down memory lane as I recall my own college selection process).

(If you want an update on Teddy, know that he’s doing well enough to have started school back up this week much to his dismay. He was also able to go to our local church just down the street for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Not sure he’s up for the 25 minute drive to our usual parish, but it was nice to all go as a family again.)

Back to college planning. Just to back track a bit, I’ve never been the type to stress about college (at least until Addie’s senior year of high school). Getting my kids into an Ivy League school has never been our goal as parents. So I always figured college, or trade school, or religious life, or a gap year- whatever! would just sort itself out. I don’t recall my parents ever directing me. They took me to one college fair, and one admissions presentation for RIT, and basically said they couldn’t afford to send me to any of the places I was interested in so keep looking. I saw a presentation for a small two year art school in the fall of my senior year of high school and decided that’s where I’d go to study photography. It was the only place I applied to and I toured zero campuses. When I realized I made a mistake pretty much right away, I applied to Kutztown University (a PA state school) because someone at the art school I was attending said it had a good photography program. My mom had attended there, but graduated with a degree in education. I’d never toured the campus or knew anything else about it. I started there in the spring of my freshman year. Thankfully, it worked out and I graduated in May 2000 with a BA in General Studies (meaning I designed my own major to include primarily writing and photography courses).

All this is to say, I have no first hand experience of how to stress about “getting into the right school” or even deciding between multiple schools. Tony looked at a few schools, picked one to play football at, and when that didn’t work out, and he decided to switch majors, he wound up at Kutztown University with me his sophomore year. All both of us have ever been concerned about is helping our kids graduate college (if they choose to go to college) with as little debt as possible. We had minimal debt when we graduated and that made all the difference for us. So, while there are several very nice Catholic colleges that my friends rave about, getting my child to attend a Catholic college, or say Harvard, has never been our primary goal. (I understand the spiritual benefits to attending a Catholic college but I’m just not sold on the idea that my children NEED to attend one of a select number of colleges to be good Catholics.)

When Addie started looking, fencing was a big consideration and it was only then I learned about all the NCAA regulations. It threw a huge monkey wrench in my low stress, laid back approach to college. (As did COVID and a freshman year spent at home.) Ultimately, now that she’s settled in at Cleveland State University and approved by the NCAA to officially fence (yay!), we can heave a sigh of relief and say it all worked out for the best. It’s an affordable education in the field of her choosing. It’s allowing her to fence competitively at the collegiate level, and she’s found a good spiritual home there, along with good friends and teammates.

I thought I could try the laid back approach with Byron. He’s been taking lots of art classes at the community college, as well as regular classes for dual credit and I thought he would graduate high school, and within another year, get his Associates in Fine Art from the community college. But in checking with Byron as we planned out the fall semester, (“Is this still what you want to do???”) he said that while he enjoyed art he realized he didn’t want to make a career out of it. He instead wanted to study creative writing with the goal of becoming a screen writer, and he wanted to go away to college, (far away actually), rather than continue to attend the community college after graduation.

“That’s FINE!” I said with no discernible surprise. “We just need to totally revamp what you’re doing this year then. NO BIG DEAL!” And so he signed up for the SAT, we picked classes for his senior year with a goal of attending a four year college, and we started looking for affordable colleges and universities where he could study creative writing. We picked a couple to visit before winter break, and he’ll spent his free time around Christmas applying to his top choices. Thankfully, we’ve already got the FAFSA filed. I know it will all work out fine, JUST FINE THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

But it’s all so last minute again. Edie will be a junior next year and I’ve finally learned that as much as I want to be laid back, we’ll need to do some planning in the spring of 2023, if not before.

But geez, I can’t think about Edie now, let’s get back to Byron. We visited my alma mater Kutztown on December 3. It’s been 21 years since I walked over the campus and obviously, a lot has changed. I took zero nice pictures of Byron and I and about a million of random things I needed to text to Tony. “Look! They still have this ugly sculpture on campus!” “They named the stadium after Andre Reed!” “They finally fixed up the alumni brick grills!” I also had to text my former roommates as the building we had stayed in our senior year is now the “Honors Hall”. Ha! I’m putting that on my resume. Byron liked Kutztown, and being there made me strangely nostalgic. It’s super affordable, and I can attest that the writing program is solid, so I’m probably a bit biased, but I think it’s a good contender.

Sculpture I’ve been making fun of since 1997.

This weekend, Byron and I are in Farmington Maine. MAINE! I’ve never been so far north. Byron wants to be somewhere colder, so we looked at the Maine state college system and he decided to tour University of Maine Farmington. We flew into Augusta from Boston on a Cessna 402, which is a tiny plane. It was us and one other passenger and the pilot. As we walked onto the tarmac to board I started to question what I’d signed us up for. There’s something about a huge plane that feels safer to me. All I could think was, is this the type of plane JFK Jr died in????? (Google search determined it was not.) But it was fine. It was a beautifully scenic flight that brought us to Augusta’s tiny airport. I’d reserved a compact car but all they could offer me was a Ford F150 pickup. Of course there was already snow on the ground.

Here I am, not worried about dying like JFK Jr and Carolyn Bessette at all.

We took the campus tour in 17 degree weather with snow blowing all around us, sat for an exciting admissions presentation (any other parent of a high school junior/senior knows this is a bold-faced lie), and then got a free lunch in the cafeteria. I will say that Byron is much more enthusiastic about University of Maine than I am. I’m not super excited about traveling back and forth to Maine but we’ll see what happens after all the applications go out. I think I’ll be sold if I see a moose while we’re here. There’s two other schools he’s considering that we won’t tour unless he’s accepted.

Here’s Byron already thinking about his move to Maine.

Figuring out this college thing is quite the adventure. As a homeschooler I’ve always had a much larger say over my children’s education than most parents. Now, I’m turning all that over to them to figure out on their own, to follow their own educational pursuits, and hoping that I did enough and didn’t put them at a disadvantage.

My one big piece of advice to other homeschool parents is that taking community college courses in high school has definitely helped us all. Me by outsourcing higher level courses, and the kids by exposing them to other teachers, acclimating them to a “college scene”, allowing them to choose courses related to their interests, and helping them save money down the road with transfer credits.

I’ll let you know how COLLEGE DECISION 2.0 goes in subsequent posts in which I also consider why a child of mine who wishes to pursue writing so adamantly dislikes my preferred genre of non-fiction. So much more self-reflection and second guessing to come!!

Teddy’s Surgery Journal, Part 3

Happy Black Friday! I’m not selling you anything!

I just wanted to give what’s probably going to be the last update on Teddy for awhile. Long story short- he’s doing really well, so all the progress now will just be slow and steady with hopefully no surprises. We’ll start where the last post left off and move forward to today.

Monday Evening

Teddy continued to do well Monday evening. He was a bit gaggy in the evening, and had a minuscule appetite (I think I at more of his hospital meals than he did) but kept down what he did eat and drink and his usual daily medications. He didn’t want pain meds overnight and was fine- phew! I finally took the time to research the antibiotic he was on and realized that the most common side effects matched all his GI symptoms and the strange itching. I was relieved to finally understand what was bothering him (and since the antibiotics were stopped after the drain was removed on Sunday, it explained why he was markedly improved on Monday.)

Tuesday

We were both up early and the surgeon was in to see us before breakfast. He checked the wound and changed the dressing on Teddy’s back and gave us the okay for discharge. We will need to keep the wound covered until our follow-up on December 22. If I remember correctly, Fulton had a different kind of dressing on his wound, plus nursing care, so I didn’t need to change anything. This is really the only different aspect to our discharge instructions from last time. We left late morning and although Tony and I were worreid about how Teddy would handle the drive home, he did great with minimal discomfort (vs Fulton who threw up from pain on the drive home after his surgery). In fact, Teddy stayed up in his chair for most of the day once we got home.

He definitely doesn’t seem to be in as much pain and discomfort as Fulton was at this point. I don’t think it’s because he has a higher tolerance, I genuinely think he’s in less pain. The hardest part is when he’s laying in bed and getting repositioned at night, getting dressed, or otherwise moved around. His chair seems to be the most comfortable place for him, which again is just so different from our experience with Fulton (who preferred the comfort of his bed).

The rest of the week.

Tuesday and Wednesday were filled with Thanksgiving preparation, the majority of which were completed by my mom. Tony and I only prepared a few pies and purchased some locally produced libations. We’ve received, and appreciated greatly!, meals from friends. Our freezer is still pretty well stocked. Fulton and Teddy were off school both weeks, and Edie was off all of this week.

Tony picked Addie up at the bus station Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. It was a great Thanksgiving, in which I took zero photos. We ate tons of food, watched the Macy’s parade and football, and generally enjoyed being together as a family. I’m maintaining the lazy tempo through this weekend. We’re not driving Teddy anywhere for a bit yet, so we’re focused on family activities at homes for the remainder of Addie’s visit. We played Secret Hitler (my lone affiliate link) last night (highly recommended!), and today as I write this, everyone is on Minecraft…yelling loudly (for reasons unrelated to physical pain). I think we’ll do a bonfire at some point. So long as Teddy remains comfortable, and there’s no surprises (i.e. infection, wound re-opening, etc.) I hoping we can ease into Advent and December and get through this recovery without any problems.

Thank you (again) for all your prayers! Please continue to pray that there are no surprises, that his pain and discomfort (specifically in the evening and overnight) continue to lessen, and that his appetite and stomach discomfort improve too.

Teddy’s Surgery Journal, Part 2

I went into this whole thing with less anxiety and worry because, “I’ve been through this before with Fulton! I know what to expect!” And it’s true, I did know what to expect, up to the point where Teddy’s recovery diverged from Fulton’s. The last few days have been humbling for me as Teddy struggles in ways I didn’t anticipate.

Friday

The day started well enough (I even got a smile out of him!), and after morning pain meds, we got Teddy up into his wheelchair for the first time. He lasted for two and half hours before getting in bed and taking a long nap. But later in the day he started having GI issues that were making him really uncomfortable. By Friday night, he wasn’t eating anything, only taking small sips of his drinks, and gagging or throwing up. In addition, something he was on was making his face itchy, and I was constantly scratching his face. Despite everything, he slept well overnight.

Saturday

It was a rough day. He was in a lot of pain around his abdomen; he didn’t even mention his back. He got up in his wheelchair again and barely lasted two hours. By late afternoon, I requested to get him back on IV fluids, since he hadn’t had much to eat or drink since dinner the day before. The doctor agreed and even as some GI issues resolved themselves, Teddy was nauseous and unable to eat or drink much. The doctor offers to give Teddy an anti-nausea drug but I know from the great stomach bug fest that was 2019, that Teddy doesn’t respond to that anti-nausea drug. After Teddy receives pain meds at 8 p.m., I head home and Tony takes over. It’s not a peaceful night. Since the 8 p.m. pain meds made him gag so much, Teddy refuses pain meds later in the night and is up a lot asking to be repositioned.

Sunday

While I’m at home, Tony keeps me updated on Teddy’s condition. I learn that Teddy’s still not eating, not drinking much, and still gagging or throwing up. He also continues to refuse pain medicine. Teddy did get in his chair twice, and spent lots of time driving around the hospital. His drain was taken out, and the bandages on his back changed (which is pretty painful, and the only thing Fulton was sure to warn Teddy about). I arrived and after talking with Tony, we asked to have some pain medicines given to Teddy so he could hopefully sleep better. We opted for medicine with the smallest oral dose, and unfortunately, it still caused him to throw up.

As I write this, I have no idea if he will be discharged tomorrow; it seems unlikely. I packed clothes and snacks assuming I would still be here with him on Tuesday. I hope we can figure out why he feels the way he does. I will update this post when we have a game plan for the next 24-48 hours.

UPDATE: Monday, 4 p.m.

Teddy slept well from 8 p.m. until midnight. He seemed uncomfortable so I insisted on pain medication. He took it and kept it down without gagging, and slept well until 4 a.m. At that point he refused pain meds again, but thankfully he remained comfortable and fell back to sleep for a couple more hours. He was taken off IV fluids around 6 a.m. He’s been in better spirits today and even requested a big breakfast; I thought, “An answer to prayers!!” He only ate maybe a piece of bacon, and drank one cup of OJ, but he didn’t have any gagging or stomach pains afterwards. (He was not a fan of the hospital scrambled eggs and spit them out.) Teddy was up in his chair by 9 a.m. and stayed in until almost noon. He drove around, and enjoyed the Xbox in the teen lounge. We didn’t see the surgeon this morning. I don’t know if we missed him while we were in the lounge, but a nurse practitioner we chatted with mentioned taking off some bandages tomorrow, so I’m assuming we’re looking at a Tuesday discharge. He ordered a big lunch, but once again didn’t like the sandwich he chose and only ate some mashed potatoes. But he drank his entire Gatorade and it all stayed down with no discomfort. While I would like his appetite to increase, at least what he’s eating is finally staying down and not causing him pain. He’s been up driving in his chair more this afternoon, and got another round of x-rays. I can tell his back is bothering him, but he’s still refusing pain meds. I’m not going to insist on anything until bedtime because otherwise, he can’t sleep soundly (and neither do I).

Thank you for your prayers! Please keep them coming. Updated to add – I’ve seen a marked improvement since I published this post last night.

And thanks to everyone who has sent things. He has enjoyed having mail to open.

Teddy’s Surgery Journal

What I realized as I met with Teddy’s surgeon on Monday, was how little I remembered of the technical details related to Fulton’s spinal fusion. I wish I would’ve taken more notes because as we discussed Tuesday’s game plan I was surprised at what I’d forgotten. (Like the fact that Fulton had a small opening left in his fusion so he could continue to receive Spinraza injections via lumbar puncture. Not an issue for Teddy since he and Fulton now take an oral medication.) Most of my memories were related to Fulton’s discomfort and little else. So please forgive all the details in this post. It’s written more for my memory than for my readers.

Tuesday

We arrived at 6 a.m. and Teddy was in his usual spirits. As they explained risks and had us sign paperwork in the ER, most was unfamiliar to me. (We signed documents outlining details of the surgery, its risks, risks of not performing the surgery, and an explanation/risks of blood transfusions, of which Teddy needed one, not surprisingly.) Tony remembered more of it than I did. We gave our last kisses to Teddy just before 7:30 a.m. and they wheeled him away. Tony and I then began the waiting process, or as I told Tony, our last peaceful moment for the next six weeks. I had meal prepped breakfast and lunch for us because I’m trying to eat healthier and also the Shriner’s cafeteria is smaller with a limited selection and shorter hours of operation. I read, listened to a podcast, did some stuff online, walked laps around the floors, while Tony worked. I was happy to see the courtyard “play area” was open. It had been off limits for much of COVID and I was afraid Teddy wouldn’t get to enjoy it during his stay. Tony and I took advantage by playing air hockey, ping pong and shooting baskets. We got calls from the OR every two hours with updates. Everything went well and the surgery was wrapped up on the early side by 2:30 p.m.. The breathing tube came out within 40 minutes post-op, which is great since breathing issues are always a concern when it comes to anesthesia and SMA.

Teddy before surgery.
Teddy after surgery.

But even a successful surgery means a painful recovery. I wasn’t prepared to see Fulton that way, but thankfully, I was ready to see Teddy; I knew what to expect and I knew that he would not remember most of the next 12-24 hours so I didn’t need to beat myself up if I couldn’t make him comfortable or happy. I knew that he was going to be unhappy and while I could adjust, and help him, nothing was going to make him feel 100 percent better right now and thankfully he wouldn’t remember any of it.

Resting in the PICU.

For most of the evening he was acting like an angry drunk, making unreasonable demands and then trying to get away with doing the things we said he couldn’t do (specifically – roll himself into other positions). Then he’d yell at us and pass out. Going through it all before helped me see the humor in it rather than worrying about things I couldn’t change and that were normal to the healing process. Tony and I ate dinner together before he left for the evening.

I was prepared to be up adjusting him two to four times every hour throughout the night and he didn’t disappoint. I knew to expect the alarms, the nurses, the respitory therapists and so I laid down to sleep at 730 p.m. and didn’t feel too awful when I woke up for the day with Teddy around 5 a.m..

Wednesday

A day on hospital time. They started weaning Teddy off different medicines and he was able to try eating lunch. They moved him to oral pain meds vs IV and thankfully he tolerated the meds fine. Fulton experienced a lot of nausea from the pain meds and that created its own set of issues. Thankfully, that has not been the case for Teddy. He passed the day by watching sports commentary shows. I think I will come away from this experience never needing to watch another sports show again. He was moved out of the PICU and into a regular room in the evening. Teddy ate some dinner, and Tony arrived with my dinner shortly afterwards. I went home and got a great nights sleep.

Thursday

More steady progress. Teddy sat up in his wheelchair for the first time for about 45 minutes. His chair needs several modifications to accommodate his new, taller stature. He still needs constant repositioning, and remains uncomfortable. Tony kept me updated through the day while I caught up on laundry, some school things, and phone calls at home. I went to a bookstore and bought a few books for Teddy to enjoy and actually accomplished some Christmas shopping.

As Tony and I run back and forth, my mom has been keeping the house in order, playing as many board games as Fulton, Byron and Edie can handle, and making a steady stream of baked goods.

I came back after supper, bringing dinner for Tony, and I’m settling in for two nights. Even on a regular floor, we can expect visitors at 10 p.m., 2 a.m., and 6 a.m., minimum. Tomorrow’s plan is to get Teddy up in his chair twice. With the right adjustments to the wheelchair, maybe he can even drive around the hallways.

Watching another sports show. I asked him to smile to let everyone know he’s doing better, and he’s still not feeling good enough to smile. He gave his pain as being at 4-5 at this point which seems to be his baseline right now.

Thank you for your prayers everyone! He’s on the right track towards recovery- slowly but surely. I’m hoping to do a blog update on the weekend and discharge early next week. I’m assuming he’ll be heading home on Monday. Be sure to visit Instagram for any updates in the meantime.

It’s Time To Fuse Some Spine!

Welcome to my first blog entry post Seven Quick Takes. I’ll be honest; it was nice to not arrive at Thursday evening wondering what I was going to write about, wracking my brain for ideas and becoming frustrated that I was losing precious sleep in the process. While I was not shocked that many readers were surprised and disappointed by the retirement of Seven Quick Takes, I was taken off guard and humbled by many of the kind comments, messages and emails I got from y’all. Thank you for being such great readers. I’m glad so many of you enjoyed the link up for so long, even as it dwindled and blogging fell out of favor.

The big news this week is that tomorrow is Teddy’s spinal fusion surgery. MAJOR PRAYER REQUEST ALERT!!!! The good news is we’ve been through this before and we know what to expect. We’ve been able to answer Teddy’s questions based on our experience and I personally am having less anxiety. The bad news is we’ve been through this before and we know it’s going to be a long, painful recovery and there’s only so much we can do to make Teddy comfortable. (Read about Fulton’s experience here.)

Our parish friends have set up a meal train, grandparents will be helping out, and I’ve tried to clear our calendar for the rest of the year. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to just focus on Teddy getting better. I will update here, and maybe Instagram, through the week. We expect him to be in-patient for about a week. If you could pray for the following:

  • That the surgery is successful and there are no complications.
  • For Teddy’s comfort during the recovery process.
  • That Teddy tolerates his pain medication.
  • That Teddy eats and drinks enough post-op.
  • Related to the previous two requests; for no GI problems.
  • That Teddy, Tony, and I can get sleep.

Teddy doesn’t need balloons, flowers, or stuffed animals but he would enjoy getting cards or pictures. If you’d like to send him some get well mail (it’s a great way to get rid of some of your child’s old artwork or earn homeschool art class credit) you can send it to:

Patient Theodore Mantoan 
Shriner's Hospital
3551 N Broad St. 
Philadelphia PA 19140

If you live far away, email me and I will give you our home address as otherwise the mail may not make it to us before we’re discharged. Teddy loves football (especially the Kansas City Chiefs), Marvel movies, Harry Potter, and history (specifically anything related to wars). He’s a big reader so book recommendations are also welcome. His patron saints are St. Anthony of Padua and St. Theodore.

I know Teddy won’t have much of an appetite post-op so I figured I’d let him indulge in all his favorites over the last week. He helped me with meal planing last Monday and picked out all his favorite foods, plus one meal of fast food. We also made sure to get him the sacraments of reconciliation and anointing of the sick. So his stomach and soul are ready to go.

The only meal he didn’t get to pick was for Martinmas. We had our usual duck, and then broke in our new fire pit and roasted up some s’mores. I texted Addie pictures to let her know she was missed and that we were eating lots of delicious food without her.

Hi Addie! How’s that cafeteria food??? We miss you, but now there’s more duck for the rest of us.
Fire pit selfie! Now it’s fall.

Last weekend we also made the decision to start a mid-season fantasy football league. I hadn’t thought of it at the beginning of the season, but when I explained how it worked to Fulton and Teddy, they didn’t want to wait until next year to try it out. Thankfully, the ESPN fantasy site and app let you start a league at any point in the regular season. There’s six of us in the Mantoan family league: me, Tony, Byron, Fulton, Teddy, and my mother-in-law who know more about football than any of us. Fulton’s team is the Roasted Turkeys (“Let’s get roasted!) and Teddy’s team is the Fat Moose (“F-A-T-M-O-O-S-E; FAT MOOOOOOOOOSE!”). It doesn’t really matter what the rest of us named out teams (or chose as our team cheers) after that does it?

I knew Fulton and Teddy would enjoy fantasy football, I just failed to realized how much more annoying watching football would be with numerous family members screaming out random stats and family team scores every 38 seconds. And smack talk. So. much. more. smack. talk. I have not been successful in turning any of this experience into a teachable moment on good sportsmanship. At least we can all agree to dislike the Cowboys.

That’s a wrap for this week. Once again, please remember Teddy in your prayers tomorrow. It’s a long surgery so pretty much any time you think of him, there’s a good time he’ll still be in surgery. I’ll be back with an update soon!

{SQT} This Is The End

Seven years ago this month, I started “filling in” as the host for the very popular Seven Quick Takes link-up. One month later, on December 5th, 2014 I became the new permanent home for Jen Fulwiler’s blog party baby. Seven Quick Takes celebrated it’s seventh anniversary in October 2015 and I celebrated with Link-toberfest. At this point, I have actually been hosting Seven Quick Takes longer than Jen, thought most people still associate the link up with her. At its peak under Jen, Seven Quick Takes would sometimes bring in more than 200 participants. My first week as the official host brought in 101 bloggers. The number has slowly dwindled down through the years and now I have a very devoted group of about a dozen bloggers.

Blogging just isn’t the same anymore. Many bloggers have closed up shop or moved to posting exclusively on social media. Those Seven Quick Takes are now shared as seven posts/videos on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or TikTok. We don’t need a link up to bring together those random Takes anymore; we’ve got other ways to share our fleeting thoughts on the internet. And so I am ending the Seven Quick Takes link up. This will be the last week to link up your seven random thoughts.

I have been thinking about this for awhile, but it only seemed fitting to bring things to a conclusion seven years after they began. I didn’t want to pass the link up on to someone else; I fully believe Seven Quick Takes has run it’s course. Certainly bloggers can still organize their random thoughts in seven bullet points each Friday, but I will no longer be hosting the party.

Seven Quick Takes is where I first met many of my blogger friends, and it will always hold a special place in my heart, but the format and date of publication stopped working for me awhile ago. In fact, over the last 2 to 3 years, there were several times I wanted to quit blogging entirely. The only reason I kept going was because I was working on a book and I thought maintaining the blog was important to it’s success. Now that the book has been released, I want to give up that which I no longer enjoy. The need to post every Friday is one of those things. I still plan on blogging, but I don’t want to have an obligation to do so.

Ultimately, I’m glad I kept blogging, even through the rough patches when I wanted to stop. I love having the posts to look back on now, and I want to keep writing and recording all those memories for the future. So don’t worry, This Ain’t the Lyceum isn’t going anywhere. If anything, I’m going to pull back more on social media and compile everything here for posterity. I think I will still occasionally post something deep and meaningful, or random and ridiculous, but I believe this blog will remain mainly a family journal of sorts, with my ministry Accepting the Gift being where I write more “seriously”.

I am definitely still a writer vs a photographer, videographer, podcaster, or influencer. But I honestly don’t know what my future posting schedule here will look like going forward. I don’t want to give up writing, but a personal blog needs to move lower on my list of priorities. If you want to make sure you catch all my posts, regardless of when they appear:

I was going to try to find my seven favorite Quick Takes posts, but I’ve got at least 812 and I don’t think I have enough time to sort through them all. If you have a favorite Quick Takes post of your own, be sure to include it in your Takes this week, or leave a link in the comments below. Thank you to everyone who has linked up with me these last seven years. It’s been my pleasure to host you here on my corner of the internet. I look forward to reading your posts one last time.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

{SQT} October Wrap Up

Happy Friday! How about a round up of everything I’ve done this month besides launch a book and complain? Let’s go!

1. The younger three and I went to Valley Forge…on my 20th wedding anniversary. (Don’t worry romantic stuff later!) I’d been wanting to go for awhile but had waited until the visitor’s center was reopened. There’s a great museum as part of the visitor’s center that I was anxious for Fulton and Teddy to see. It’d been ten years since our last trip there, so none of the kids remembered much, or in Teddy’s case any, of the previous visit. OF COURSE the museum was under construction and off limits, and the ranger had no idea when it would be completed. But don’t worry! The gift shop was open so I could purchase more plastic army men in Revolutionary War apparel.

2. The next day, Tony and I went out to dinner at a great Irish pub we discovered last winter because it offered outdoor dining in plastic igloos. And then we walked on the boards in Ocean City and enjoyed some frozen custard. I was surprised so many businesses were still open, but the boardwalk, while not crowded, definitely had a good amount of people out given that it was a Thursday evening in October.

3. I’m still working behind the scenes at Accepting the Gift. I’ve started doing live streamed prayers on Instagram (vs our private Facebook group), and I’ve discovered a new love of using spreadsheets for project management. I’ve got a great staff of writers contributing regularly, and I’ve got three other projects in the works; a toolkit for parents to teach them how to advocate for their children at their parish, a guide to help parents set up support group meetings at their parish, and I’m hammering out the details on a religious education curriculum that special needs parents can use at home with their children. And I’ve got no shortage of future projects. It’s exciting to watch things come to life, and tough to squeeze them in around everything else, but progress is being made!

4. We’re off school this week which mean costume construction! Byron mentioned to me yesterday that when he got home from the gym the garage smelled like spray paint, “That’s the smell of Halloween!” I’d have to agree. Is it even a Mantoan Halloween if I’m not rummaging in the recycle bin for cardboard and spray painting armor? Costumes will be in next week’s post, but I’ve made great progress this week so hopefully swearing will be at a minimum before trick or treating starts at the way too early time of 4:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Lest you think I’m on my ‘A’ game this Halloween, I should probably let you know we have yet to buy pumpkins. The weather has been very warm, so waiting was smart as carved pumpkins purchased even a week ago would be super gross by now, but we might wind up carving All Souls pumpkins or something…which is probably the more Catholic option anyway.

5. I went out to dinner with a friend I hadn’t seen in forever. We used to take all our kids to Chuck E Cheese during the week. It was always just us and a few moms with toddlers. I used to wonder why some parents hated Chuck E Cheese so much and then I went on a weekend and I was like, yeah this is actually one of the lower levels of hell.

We ate at a fancy upscale restaurant (I believe the kids today call it “bougie”) and talked about how we’ve moved from ball pits and preschool playdates, to college and kids contemplating marriage (her daughter, not mine!). We are the homeschooling veterans, the moms the young ones come to for advice, even though we’re still figuring things out. It was nice to be out and talk to someone who gets life at this stage. She even had me sign her copy of my book, though I don’t think she’d read enough of it to know she’d made an appearance.

6. If you read last week’s post, you know I’ve felt burnt out and over-extended. When I get this way, I usually like to reorganize something. Bringing order to some part of my life makes me feel somewhat better, even as other parts of my life feel out of control. Rather than tackle a room or closet (my usual method), I’ve started organizing the archives of my blog. I’ve got almost ten years of memories on here spread across almost 900 posts. Some of the posts contain family memories, some are useful or silly posts still worth sharing, and others are taking up unnecessary space on the internet (and making it hard for Google to index my site). So working from the first post to the present, I’m ‘no indexing’ most posts, assigning new tags to posts to find them easier, saving others as drafts, and updating the SEO info on posts that are still funny or helpful. It’s not necessary work AT ALL but updating a few posts at a time is scratching the organizing itch and making me feel a bit more together. It’s also been a nice stroll down memory lane. I don’t know what’s more surprising; how much my kids have grown or realizing that for the longest time I blogged three or more times a week.

7. Lastly, I have another adult in the house! Talk about surprising – today Byron is 18! WHAT IS HAPPENING?!?!?!?!

Here’s the Byron I’m familiar with. This is how he looked just yesterday.
WHO IS THIS TOWERING GIANT?!?!?!?

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