Homeschool Mom Crush

As a young homeschooling mom, I have many older friends who’ve been in the trenches longer than I whom I look up to and admire. They’ve homeschooled tons of kids, gotten their children accepted into colleges or prepared for religious life, all the while maintaining a full head of hair and some semblance of sanity.

I’ll admit it, I’ve developed some crushes. I get all a-twitter and my tongue gets tied when I see one of them. “Oh, oh….should I just ask her what math program she uses or wait to see if she brings the subject up. What if she hates, Abeka? I love Abeka! Should I point out the fresh stain on her shoulder? No, no! Don’t stare at it! Aaaaaa!!!

I always want to sound like I’ve got my act together and my house is in order, but somehow all I manage to say is something like, ¬†“The baby thinks the Hillside Press books taste the best.”

D’oh!

But thankfully, these Sibyls don’t mind my questions or puppy dog eyes as they tell me the best science courses for middle schoolers, or their full-proof method for occupying a toddler all morning. And if we start talking about special needs education and alternative teaching methods, oh, be still my heart !”It’s time for Mass? But I could listen to you expound the benefits of fish oil for hours!”

In my mind, I imagine my kids becoming best friends with my crush’s younger children. Maybe one day, my son with marry her youngest daughter and we’ll be related, sort of. ¬†I can try to have her whole family over for dinner some night when she’s not busy on the homeschool prom committee, or yearbook committee or running the local co-op, selling products through home parties or shuttling her 13 kids amongst private music lessons, ballet practice or township sports in a spotless 15 passenger van.

Sigh, she makes it all look so easy, and glamorous. I mean, why don’t I look that attractive in a bleach stained nursing top and denim skirt? Why does my hair always have to be washed to have that much body and shine? And she says she only drinks tea in the morning with no sugar. If I didn’t love her so much, I’d hate her. (But she did admit to using full fat cream cheese on her bagel so she’s got that untamed, wild side too.)

 

Sometimes I try too hard.

 

Plus now, the internet has exposed me to a whole new group of women who homeschool and blog about it. Most of these woman are so above me with their 10,000 followers and professional headshots, I know I’d never have a chance to be a part of their inner circle of friends and confidants. It’s like the nerdy freshman trying to buddy up to the homecoming queen. Even amongst the smaller blogs, I feel like I’m trying to make my way into an exclusive club. Should I comment on every post? What if I have nothing funny or intelligent to say? Can I link to a post of hers in every one of my posts? Maybe just once a month? And Oh Goody! she just commented on my blog! Crap; do I respond right now or wait until later. Do I want her to think I’m online all the time? What kind of homeschooling mom would that make me? Do I profess my love for her blog now or wait until I’ve answered her question about truck balls?

I panic every time a younger mom starts coming to me with lots of questions on a regular basis because¬†I fear being on the receiving end of a homeschool mom crush. It would only end badly. “Well, I can’t do a playdate for my preschoolers on Thursday because my older kids have drama. Friday? Well, I don’t know. Can I just call you? It’s not because of the books is it? You can just keep the books you borrowed. I don’t need them back, honest. A girls night out? I’m sorry I need to go the baby is crying!”

I don’t have the answers; my oldest is 9! I can’t provide the stable relationship you’re looking for. I change curriculum more often than my kids change their underpants.¬†It’s not you, it’s me!

I feel like I’m 13 all over again. I try to gauge how attractive I am to other homeschooling moms by asking my close friends loaded questions. “Do you think my homeschooling philosophy sounds well-developed? My kids always look clean to you right? ¬† Be honest, does this denim jumper make me look like I’ve had more than two kids? What if I wear it with ballet flats instead of sneakers? On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being Michelle Duggar…okay forget it.”

So far, I don’t know if any of my crushes know I exist, except as just “friends.” Maybe some day they’ll admire my style and skills the way I worship their’s. ¬†Maybe, they’ll share a link to my blog, tweet my latest post and tell all their friends to like me on Facebook. Until then, I’ll continue to favorite their posts in my Google Reader feed and corner them with my frivolous questions after Mass on Sunday, giggling all the while. “You tell me your favorite school supply store! No you go first! No you! Tee-hee hee! And that mantilla really brings out your eyes. No I mean it! Really!”

 

Take Seven Quick Takes And Call Me In The Morning

If you’re wondering on my recent lack of posting, here’s this week’s Seven Quick Takes quickly produced under duress to bring you up to speed on my lost days spent hiding under the covers, pail by the ready.

1. Friday I was diagnosed with a salivary¬†gland infection or stone. ¬†And because my father-in-law once had stones in his salivary gland, and it had to be removed and something went wrong and he almost died or something, I kept thinking, “If I die, I’ll never see my new kitchen completed!”

2. Saturday brought the joy of ¬†a German festival in my hometown of Lancaster, PA with all the beer, brats and saurkraut you can handle. We came, we consumed, we polka’d and we looked like complete amateurs next to the 80-year-old couple in a dirndl and lederhosen who nearly plowed us down on the dance floor with no mercy.

3. Sunday I got the sneaking suspicion I was succumbing to a slow death by salivary gland infection, before throwing up and having Addie come in our room and throw up. Either Addie’s salivary gland was having sympathy pains or we were dealing with something else.

4. Monday was me laying in bed or on the sofa wanting to die, but not wanting to die because I want to see my finished kitchen.

5. Tuesday I tried to lay around less and that was bad. I told Tony to go back to work, that I would be okay, and I was wrong.

6. Wednesday I really needed to start trying to tackle the rubble left in the wake of my illness. ¬†Apparently, when I’m sick no one knows what to do except let the work back log for me to do when I’m feeling better.¬†I went to the grocery store that night and ¬†I found myself in the pasta aisle thinking, if I threw up right now, would they let me finish shopping, cause, I really need to get food.

7. Thursday I felt mostly normal but becoming quickly overwhelmed with all the school and housework that had accumulated. I became Godzilla in my effort to destroy the Mothra of clutter and made things much, much worse. I was shrieking and waving my arms and the kids were all running from me in terror. Not one of my finer moments.

A salivary gland infection will give you green mouth glow. And yes, my thighs are that big.

 

Today, I’m not leveling coastal towns quite so much and the radioactive breath has died down considerably. I might even get something done. If your week was great or otherwise, take two, call me in the morning and head on over to Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes.

Seven Quick Takes of Absurd Random Proportions

How long ago was it that Jen mentioned people who always have themes for the SQT? Last week? Two weeks ago? Yes, that’s usually me. Trying to be organized, with all my loose ends tied up, at least here on the interweb. However this week I’ve been unable to maintain a train of though for longer than 4 minutes. And so I present my first random Seven Quick Takes! Yay insanity and disorder!

1.¬†Unbeknownst¬†to us, we hired a 76-year-old man (!) to finish all the drywall work related to our kitchen renovation project. We were ecstatic when he finished in one day more work than my father-in-law, husband and former contractor could complete in a couple of weeks. He’s originally from Austria, played professional soccer in Europe for 11 years, worked out at the same gym as Arnold Schwarzenegger and credited his vigor to ¬†drinking a glass of wine, plus a scotch on the rocks daily and hard work. This man is the stuff legends are made of; a veritable Paul Bunyan of drywalling. I almost fell prostrate at his feet when he was done.

2. My youngest, whose vocabulary consists of go, uh-oh, Nona and Mama (but only when necessary) and other various Wookie noises, will say Sponge Bob. “Do you want a drink?’ Nods head. “Nap time!” Shakes head no. “Can I read you this book?” Grunt. “Who’s this yellow guy?” Spa Ba!!! Good to know he’s got his priorities straight.

3. I survived a weekend home alone with only three kids. It was one part quiet, one part terror and a whole lot of ¬†“I feel like I got the short end of the stick.” My husband was insulted that I wrote in the event of a zombie apocalypse, he and the kids would be goners. As if playing Doom 3 on a nightly basis makes him a police sniper or something. After watching him play last night for a bit, I stand by my original assessment. We’re all zombie fodder unless we take up running and outfit Fulton’s powerchair with assorted weaponry.

4. My youngest daughter almost died from boredom during the same weekend, if I didn’t kill her first for saying “I’m bored” every two minutes. Thankfully once the older two got home it was business as usual.

 

5. I tried to take a self-portrait for the blog. FAIL. Better luck next time. And by next time I mean I’ll pay my oldest a dollar to draw my picture “really good” and we’ll leave it at that.

Clichéd bathroom reflection shot. If you dye my hair purple, and coat my eyes in black makeup it's a duplicate of a shot I took at 17.

 

Not too bad if you ignore the fact that I'm completely out of focus except for my knee. And my shirt is stained. And my glass is almost empty.

 

Having drank my wine I resorted to an artistic Photo Booth shot of me, Han Solo and Chewie. I'm kinda like Leia...if you squint and use your imagination.

 

6. Because I’m having a hard time coping with the chaos that is my house during construction, I’ve decided to create a new chore system and method of punishments and rewards for the kids. Oh, and why not dust off my eight week schedule of menus too and revise them? Re-organizational¬†therapy! Once we’ve reached utopia, I’ll let you know. Pinterest is making me feel really, really¬†inadequate¬†about everything but I can’t. stay. away. Oh, and I’m unstylish. Pinterest has taught me that too. Hooray for awakening¬†adolescent¬†self-esteem issues!

7. I made three jars of¬†refrigerator¬†jam out of our strawberries. We have a large patch out front that no likes picking from accept my kid’s friends. This was my first attempt at jam of any sort and I failed, but only partially. Seems I actually made a really good batch of strawberry syrup which goes great on pancakes. So, in the end, the kids think I’m awesome. Take that Pinterest!

All aboard! Next stop on the crazy train, the rest of the SQT submissions at Conversion Diary.

A Messy House vs the Chore Chart: Finding the Lesser of Two Evils

HOUSEHOLD CHORES!!

You just cringed didn’t you? Admit it, chores hang over your head like the sword of Damocles. The multiplying piles of laundry on the dining room table. Your fireplace mantle covered with children’s crafts, dust and baking soda from the science experiment that got completely out of hand. The casserole pan that’s been soaking so long in your sink, your youngest thinks it’s part of the sink.

Household chores are never done. All one can do is find ways to manage them so that, at any given time, not everything is a mess all at once. Everyone has a system for their house, or they just live in a pig sty. Not having a system is a recipe for disaster, or so I’m led to believe. If you like to visit/waste time on Pinterest, you’ll see tons and tons systems moms have created to organize their home and keep them that way. Search chore charts and you’ll be bombarded with hundreds of images of charts; magnets, wipe-off, pocket, printable, sticker, on-line, picture only, etc. Who’s job is it to take the time to download / purchase/ assemble this thing? Can “managing the chore chart” go to the oldest child or is that one more task for mama? If I can’t reliably empty the diaper pail, it’s not likely I’m going to be able to stick with a chore chart.

“Mama is this magnet for ’emptying the trashcans’ on my column or Byron’s column?”

“I don’t know, which ever it’s closest to.”

“It’s on a line.”

“Nu-uh, it was on your column and you moved it!”

“Okay, let me see. Who did this chore last week?”

“Me!” they answer in unison.

And about ten minutes into this conversation is when I throw the new chore chart into the overflowing trashcan and take it outside myself.

Chores are fun! And so is busting out the power tools and Modge Podge! I can't wait to blow a whole weekend making this chore system!

 

My husband and I believe that children need to do chores. Everyone contributes to the household running smoothly, and they do it because it’s what you do as a family member, not because you get paid or because it’s a punishment for wrong doing. I do the laundry because I like to see my kids in clean clothes on a semi-regular basis, not because the hubby slips a fiver in my wallet each week or because I got too sassy with the piano teacher. My husband washes dishes in the evening because he understands that the dishes represent the good home-cooked meal I took the time to prepare (during the witching hour,¬†surrounded¬†by five noisy children.) I provide no financial (or other- wink, wink ) incentive for him to do this. When my kids get in fights, or break the rules, I hesitate to have them do extra chores because I don’t want them to equate housework to punishment (no matter what I may think of it sometimes.) Kids, and all people, respond to incentives, but I want to dangle the correct carrot in front of my kids to get the jobs done.

Chores are meaningful ways that our kids can contribute to our family, obtain  a sense of accomplishment, learn responsiblity and self sufficiency, plus, come to  understand what it takes to manage a home (with a large family.)  If my kids never did chores, or completed them only as punishment I think their future spouses would kill me.

“I know the sink is full of dishes honey, but what’s in it for me??? You know Macy’s is having a sale, hint, hint.”

So, if I’ve admitted my kids need to do chores for all the above reasons, why don’t the fancy charts and planners work for me? And I know other families that work great with financial and disciplinary incentives. ¬†Why don’t I just try their methods despite my reluctance? Because amazingly, we are eking by with no system. Or at least, things aren’t falling apart by me just asking the kids at random to do chores and having them complete each task immediately. (I also have a mother-in-law who loves doing housework. Seriously. The upside is, she helps with my dishes and laundry when she’s here. The downside is, my husband gets used to having his underwear neatly folded in his drawer. )

However, I’d like to do better than just getting by. I’d like the day before a party to not be a mad dash of playing catch up. As it is, the kids love when we entertain, but they know I’m pretty much a tyrant for the 24 hours leading up to the guests arrival and therefore avoid me at all costs, which isn’t helpful when stuff needs done.

“KIDS! KIDS! Someone needs to get all these books off the sofa and watch Teddy while I vacuum and Tony, polish the silver!!!”

“But honey, we don’t have any silver. Besides, it’s a picnic. I thought we were eating on paper plates with plastic forks and knives.”

“WHAT?!? Don’t question me! I want to see my reflection on every surface in this house !!!”

“Kids, who wants to come with Papa to pick up some ice?”

Then when people arrive, I’m exhausted. I think it’s why hosting on Memorial Day wiped me out for a week. The time has come for a better system, especially since my Mother-in-law is away for three weeks. Although, maybe I’m just √ľber distraught by the state of the house since kitchen construction has made everything a mess. And when my life is disorganized in a way I can’t control, all I can think to do is bring order to some aspect of my life seemingly within my control. Therefore, if the front of my house must remain a disaster until the new kitchen is completed, then something- chores, our school day, my nightstand,¬†something must be reworked so my life feels less chaotic. Perhaps that’s the underlying issue, parts of my life are in turmoil so rather than just prayerfully deal with those issues, I’ll just create a whole new problem to conquer so that I can feel good about accomplishing something. At least I’m honest with myself.

Part of me would love to throw out half of what we have so I no longer need to care for it, but I learned a long time ago that having lots of kids, and homeschooling them, tends to equal lots of stuff one can’t discard. Even with twice yearly purges of toys, clothes, books and the like, we’re left with tons of “essentials” that we need to find room for. And if I need to keep all this stuff for these kids, I’d better find a way for them to help take care of it all, cause if one more Barbie shoe or Lego brick winds up in the baby’s mouth, I can’t be held responsable for what comes out of mine.

I’m going to revisit the FlyLady and my Martha Stewart Housekeeping¬†Handbook (which is gathering dust) and work on creating a schedule of chores; what must get done daily, weekly, monthly and seasonally. Then, I’ll figure out a way to distribute the jobs fairly without having to whip out the laminator, the RotoZip or create three dozen magnetic labels. ¬†I’m curious to hear what everyone else does to bring order to their home. And how easy is it to get back on track once you have a lapse in the system for a time. (If you tell me you have a perfect system and you never lapse, I will block you from commenting in the future. Unless you’re Martha Stewart. Then, I love you.) Share your stories! The fate of my household depends upon it!

 

Silent Night or the Horror of Being Home Alone

I’m alone in the house overnight with only two kids, three and under. This hasn’t happened since, 2004 or something. My oldest two are off camping in Upstate New York with their father, ¬†and #3 is spending the night with her grandparents. The youngest two went to bed by 8:30 and now the house is blissfully quiet.

How to celebrate?? I could watch a movie, read a book, eat the kid’s candy; the possibilities are endless. But ultimately, what I’ll wind up doing is tossing in turning in bed half the night worrying and fretting about all sorts of horrific calamities.

I can’t help it. I’ve always had an overactive imagination. It’s great for impromptu story times, not so great after watching say, “The Ring.” I was in my mid-twenties when I saw that movie and seven days after I saw it, I was terrified every time I woke up at night and had to walk past the TV to get to the bathroom to pee. It got to where I formed a strategy in my head so that if/when the girl appeared I would close my eyes, jump on her head and beat her with a children’s book (hardback of course) in order to protect my sleeping newborn and unsuspecting husband. ¬†(You don’t even want to know what happened the time I watched “The Shining” the weekend I was home alone in high school.)

Now that I’m in my thirties, I’m not scared of fictional horror movie characters when I’m at home alone…usually. I’m dwelling on more serious matters, like the possibility of a horrible car accident on the way home from the camping trip that leaves me a widow and without two children. That was the scenario that kept playing over and over in my head last night (mixed in with a fear of this being the weekend someone decides to break into our house and steal our priceless heirlooms…of which there are none.) Becoming a widow is my number one fear. Every time my husband is late from work, away at late night adoration, out with the guys-anything, I’m convinced he’s been cut down in the prime of his life and I’ve been left alone. Laying alone in the dark, blanket pulled up to my ears, I started making a mental list of my job skills, experience and whether or not I would keep the house or sell. ¬†When I started thinking about seeking out a potential sugar daddy, I knew it was time to start saying my prayers and really try to go to sleep.

And zombies. Every shadow on the wall looked like a zombie staggering down the hall. And I had to think, do I just yell to wake up Edie, or do I go and get her, or do I try to get to the shotgun first? What if there’s more downstairs? How quickly can I reload? What if the zombie apocalypse is upon us? ¬†They’ve got limited cell phone service in Upstate New York; Tony and the kids are doomed!!!

Last but not least, I almost got out of bed and tested the smoke detectors. What if this is the night all that shoddy wiring goes kaput and catches these tinderbox walls on fire? Maybe I should put pajama pants on.

Needless to say, it was a fitful nights sleep. I awoke at dawn and was glad to see the sun streaming in on the bed and not a serial rapist hovering over me with a dagger, which is what I convinced myself would be there if I breathed too loudly and took the covers off my head too soon.

I’m hoping tonight goes better, though I’m pretty sure I can feel strangers watching me through the windows as I type. And damnit ever since The Crescat wrote about her fear of mirrors years ago, I’ve been unable to look in a mirror, or any reflective surface, ¬†after dark. I’m pretty sure the Candy Man or Bloody Mary herself is in there waiting for me if I so much as take a casual glance.

I do miss my kids and especially my husband. Without him here, there’s no one to check on that weird sound downstairs (watch out for booby traps!) or hide behind when Jason Voorhees shows up. Thankfully he’s patient with me and only has amorous thoughts when I snuggle in close to avoid imminent death. Yes, our bed feels big and empty and downright dangerous without him here.

I’d better wrap it up so I can start locking and re-locking all the doors. What was that sound?! Oh wait, just my stomach. Good grief, ¬†Sunday can’t come soon enough.¬†¬†St. Giles, pray for me!

{p,h,f,r} exhaustion

Memorial Day weekend kicked my butt this year. We cooked out Saturday, Sunday and Monday, hosting twice and traveling once. We’re blessed to have such great family and friends but man, I am still seriously sleep deprived. Curiously, Teddy and the rest of the kids have been invigorated by the past weekend’s activities and continue to wake up at 6 a.m. screaming for more fun and excitement. The first picture is of me with my three college roommates. I look ready to pass out. I’m only supported by the deck railing and my friend on the left. But what a great time we had. Old photos, good laughs and all the kids ran around the yard having fun for hours. You know you’re old when an afternoon with your college friends wipes you out more than a whole weekend of bar-hopping with them used to. Interesting fact; I have the same amount of kids as three of them combined. If you would have told me that when we were all roomies, I would have laughed my men’s pants and black t-shirt right off.

 

{pretty} & {happy}

 

{funny}

This is Fulton pointing a sword at me and giving his best pirate face. He asked me to take his picture, which he never does, so I couldn’t resist. Arrrrrrr matey! Teach me some Latin!!!

 

 

Since I started participating in the {p,h,f,r} meme, I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to include a photo that captured the awesome sunsets we are privy to here. (We also get great sunrises but don’t expect a picture of one of those until December.) Even these pictures don’t do the view justice, but I liked the neat rows of tomato seedlings in the foreground.

{real)

 

 

And that’s about it. Be sure to head over to Like Mother, Like Daughter for more {p,h,f,r}. I’m going back to bed.

Books You’ll Want to Run Out and Buy…as soon as I write them.

I must confess that when I started this blog, in the back of my mind I had grandiose plans of gaining a huge following and somehow landing a huge book deal and becoming a major celebritey…amongst female Catholic writers.

However, since there’s a lot of competition in the blogsphere I thought, maybe I should just write a best-selling novel first to bring more attention to the blog. Then, I can just start entertaining TV and movie offers. The sky’s the limit! So, humor me as I present my seven potential book ideas. I tried to take subjects I’m familiar with- being Catholic, motherhood, homeschooling, etc., and combine them with popular and trending topics in order to reach the broadest audience possible.

1. ” Zombie Homeschooling; Education for the Coming Apocalypse” Because if you don’t look out for your child’s brain, the zombies will.

2. “The Hungriest Child Games”  Find out where in your home to hide snacks so your children won’t find them.  Cause you’ll kill ’em if they eat all your dark chocolate squares again.

3. “50 Shades of NFP” A tense erotic thriller full of charting, basal temperature readings, and hot and steamy moments of frustration during periods of intense abstinence.

4. ¬†“Wizards and Witches are Evil and How You can Prevent Your Kids From Ever Reading Anything About Them” or “Wizards and Witches are Totally Awesome and How You Can¬†Incorporate¬†Them Into Your Unit Study.” I’m not quite sure which of these would sell more.

5. “Rome Sweet Vampire” From the dark woods and pagan cults of 15th century Transylvania to St. Peter’s and the catacombs, this is the moving conversion story of one vampire’s journey home to the Roman Catholic Church.

6. “Latin for Pirates ” Because if I can teach a pirate to speak Latin, you can learn too. Or at least, your child won’t scream when you try to teach him or her.

7. Or maybe a children’s picture book;” The Pigeon Wants to Take a Poo on Mommy’s New Sunday Dress” or maybe, “If You Give Your Mama a Mocha, She Won’t Yell At You So Much Before Breakfast”

Let me know which one you’d buy so I can figure out which one to start working on ASAP.

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real outdoorsy

Nothing says, “Happy Feast of the Accension” like a bonfire. In fact, every major feast that does not occur during a blizzard is a reason for our family to light up a bonfire. We’re blessed with a large yard (for New Jersey) and in the back center, we have a large pit my husband loves to fire up in true caveman style. He almost did have to drag me out there by the hair the other evening ¬†since the thought of keeping an eye on the baby in the presence of a blazing fire and sharpened marshmallow sticks was sorely lacking in attraction.

However a steady stream of cheese puffs and a huge pile of freshly mowed grass kept the baby away from the fire and largely entertained while I relaxed, fed Fulton cheese puffs and watched my older children run through the yard in their church clothes which they never changed out of. I’m trying to suppress the memory of the huge grass stains all over Byron’s only pair of dress pants that don’t expose his ankles.

{pretty}

Look mom, I can be cute even when I’m absolutely filthy. Take my picture than pick me up and let me put my orange hands all over you.

{happy}

This photo, obviously not from the bonfire but still outside, shows Fulton at work with one of the preschool games I’ve created for him. A talk by my friend Kellie from Building Cathedrals¬†at a local homeschool conference¬†helped me create a clearer picture on how to teach him without relying on the same workbooks the older three used. (A nagging problem I first mentioned here.) I took some of Kel’s ideas plus many more gleaned from Pinterest, the internet and using games and materials I already had around the house, like the Melissa and Doug stacker pictured. I’ve introduced them to Fulton to see what he thinks, and he is loving it! For now I offer him three to four activities to work on (usually with his nurse helping) for 15 minutes each. We’ll see if the novelty wears off, but for now its good to know he’s willing to sit for up to an hour working on games that will help develop fine motor ¬†skills, plus basic color, shape, number and letter recognition.

{funny}

 

The reason for the grass stains was this awesome game they created where they ran full speed at the fire, leaped up, then dropped to the ground and rolled away.  Sort of a high intensity stop, drop and roll drill I guess. I was informed the blue plastic sunglasses are for protection.

 

{real} relaxation

 

 

If you’re not headed outside, why not stop by Like Mother, Like Daughter for more {p,h,f,r} pics?

The Importance of Family Prayer Time…with a bit of my conversion story thrown in.

I’d really envisioned just writing a quick post about how ridiculous our family prayer time has become lately, but it got me thinking on other things… so forgive my long-windedness.

Growing up Methodist, somewhere along the line I got the impression that church and religion were Sunday things, but only when extremely convenient, and that prayer was a private thing between you and God, and it usually just happened as the words came to you.

The focus of our church service was the music and the sermon, and the highlight of the day was visiting with friends and family. Once I left the building, I don’t know how much I carried with me besides some cute songs and bible stories. It certainly wasn’t enough to sustain me when I hit my rebellious teenage years and started asking questions about everything. It didn’t help that the minister who interacted with the youth group was a real ……well, let’s just say we didn’t get along, and in answering my questions he typically tried to make me feel simple-minded and foolish.

Besides meal time prayers, I don’t remember my family ever praying together. In fact, I don’t remember ever really discussing religion at all. And on Sunday’s, children typically attended their own service or sang in their own choirs, ¬†so we rarely ever sat together.¬†Even after being confirmed, I couldn’t recite the Apostle’s Creed or tell you what a Methodist actually believed or what made us different from other denominations.

By seventeen, I didn’t know what I believed in or why I should believe it and I didn’t feel comfortable discussing these things with my parents. It was then that I met my husband, another seventeen year old with a completely different outlook on religion.

Growing up in Lancaster, PA, my husband was the first Catholic friend I ever had. We hung out with a large group of mutual friends before we started dating towards the end of our senior year (I actually asked him to the senior prom.) In his car he kept a rosary, and his family’s house was adorned with religious art, palm branches, statues, the whole nine yards, which naturally led to lots of questions from me. He answered all of them patiently and almost¬†instinctively, ¬†I knew what I was hearing was the truth. There was no question I put to him that he couldn’t answer, or wouldn’t quickly find the answer for. And it all made sense. Had I been more well versed in my own faith, perhaps I might have tried to challenge him more, but our relationship, from the very beginning, is what kept me from completely turning my back on Christianity. ¬†It was as if all my previous angst had left me an empty pitcher just waiting to be filled.

I’ve grown a lot in my faith from our early talks at his parents house, to my reception into the Church at a really, REALLY, liberal Ordinary form parish in Syracuse, NY to our home now at an¬†Extraordinary¬†Form parish in Berlin, NJ. I’ve never looked back with longing on my days as a Methodist. I’m so happy to be Catholic. For all the snark in my blogging, I hope that some of the joy I experience as a devout Catholic rubs off on people. ¬†I won’t win any apologetic wars with a Bob Jones graduate, but maybe one person will see my family and think, “huh, those papists might be on to something.”

And now the real point of this post, family prayers! Good heavens, with five kids under ten they’re a real nightmare sometimes, but almost every night, we sit down as a family and pray. The goal is to say at least three decades of the rosary for a specific intention, plus our family’s litany of saints and then any special prayers (currently a novena to the Holy Ghost.)

Tonight’s prayers got sidetracked early on by a discussion of Mexico and whether it’s safe to travel there, which got the husband and I off on a tangent about NAFTA, then drug smuggling, but not before I uttered the expression “pissing and moaning.” So then I got lectured by the husband for using such language in front of the kids..again…but not before I had to explain what I said, what makes it “coarse and crude” and how they’re never to repeat it.

“Can I just tell Frankie?,” asked Byron.

“I’m sure Frankie already knows,” I sighed.

“Can I just remind him?”, Byron asked.

“NO!,” said the husband, me and the oldest daughter.

When we actually started, Edie kept giggling because she was¬†hiccuping, Fulton kept pointing his finger at someone and yelling ‘BANG!’ while the older two, who’ve taken to leading the decades, kept trying to pray louder than whomever was the current leader.

I then burped, which caused everyone to laugh, except my husband, which made me snicker……

And you get the picture. ¬†I actually consider this a good night because the yelling is in fun and there’s no crying. But, despite it all, I wouldn’t give up family prayers for anything. I honestly wish I could be more on the ball about keeping up with more prayers and devotions during the day, but so far, we’re failing miserably at our attempt at a daily Angelus. ¬†Thankfully, we are better at observing liturgical traditions, mainly because my husband, a devotee of Dom Gueranger, spearheads them. For example, we recently had a Rogation procession around our yard, complete with incense, to bless our gardens and animals. We’re also good at hosting dinner guests or parties on specific feast days (St. Martin of Tours and the Nativity of St. John the Baptist are two that come to mind.)

And, my husband and I, we’re still talking religion. It’s been an ongoing conversation for the last sixteen years, and now, we’re including the kids in it. Our Catholic faith is why we go to church on Sundays and so much more! ¬†It drives our decision-making, our dealings with others and, obviously, heavily influences our schooling choices.

I can’t assume my kids will become devout Catholics because we prayed together, but I feel confident in saying their faith would suffer if we didn’t. And I won’t assume that weekly attendance at Mass and CCD classes are a¬†sufficient¬†substitute for a rich spiritual¬†home life. I hope we’re laying a foundation that will ¬†give them solid footing during those rough teenage years. Plus, maybe some memories and family traditions to pass along to future generations. Despite all the distractions and noise, ¬†I’ve come to the conclusion that family prayers are worth enduring patiently not only for the short-term blogging material, but as an insurance policy against future spiritual struggles. In 25 years, I’ll write the follow up to this post and let you know how it worked out.

What prayers does your family try to say together on a regular basis?

Seven Quick Takes as I Drive By

What mom, homeschooling or otherwise, doesn’t spend an¬†enormous¬†amount of time behind the wheel playing¬†chauffeur? Since I live in the most densely populated state, everywhere I go, from the grocery store to¬†the¬†gynecologist, ¬†means slogging through bumper to bumper traffic. It doesn’t help that we’ve situated¬†ourselves in the middle of nowhere in order to achieve some sort of peace and tranquility¬†reminiscent¬†of our childhoods in Lancaster, PA. (The “middle of nowhere” in Jersey still means we’re only 15 minutes from a Target.)

In logging all these hours on the road, I notice things, including the people in the vehicles around me. Many times my drives are filled with normal folks with nothing memorable in their looks or driving disposition. But other times, it’s like someone¬†polluted¬†the water supply with crazy and gave everyone a free car. So, without further delay, seven scary road people. Some of them really make me want to return to my hometown and hitch up a horse and buggy.

1. The song bird or her brother M.C. profanity. Look, I confess to singing in the car when I’m out alone but only with the windows closed, and I swear I change all the inappropriate words to butt, witch, etc. (And if it’s a guy singing to a girl, I change genders too because I’m not singing my heart out to a girl. ) But so many times, I stop at a red light and next to me is some chick belting out the latest song like she’s auditioning for American Idol. Or it’s a guy, bass cranked up, spewing forth filth from the fifth circle of hell. Oh hey, is that Eminem driving next to me? ¬†And it’s always, always when the kids are with me. (“Mom do M&Ms really sing like that?”) So there I am, struggling to quick pop in a kid’s CD or something when the kids start asking me vocabulary questions. The light changes, we speed off… for 100 yards before we hit the next red light and the cycle continues. If I’m lucky the baby will be crying from the uncomfortable thrust of inertia and I’ll get a dirty look, and nothing else, from the¬†aforementioned¬†singers, like my screaming kid is killing their groove.

2. The reader. Yes, several times I’ve seen people with books, balanced on their steering wheels reading and driving at the same time. No, not stopped in traffic, but while driving down the highway. I never know whether to speed up and try to pass them or hang back and hope when they run off the road I can get around them somehow. Or pull up along side and ask what the heck their reading that is worth risking life and limb.

3. Lady who’s got something important, other than a child, in the backseat. Hey! Turn around! We’ve missed four cycles of the left turn arrow because you’re giving your teacup Maltese a pedicure or spot treating the floor mats or something up there. ¬†And the¬†crotchety, honk-happy ¬†guy driving a rusty truck full of scrap metal behind me, thinks I’m to blame. Either pull over or have a child that can do things for you while you’re driving.

4. ¬†Nose picker. We can all see it. Sitting in a car doesn’t make you invisible to the world. ¬†Stop it. How can I tell my kids not to pick their noses in public when you keep showing up next to us? (Okay, this guy or gal isn’t scary but gross, just really, gross.)

5. Rubberneckers. Accidents happen. They close lanes and create traffic jams. However, curious folk who want to upload gruesome photos to Instagram don’t have to. Keep it moving!

6. Couples who make out in their cars while stopped in front of me. So you had a great dinner at Olive Garden, fine. Save the dessert for when you get home.

7. Mr. Handy with his seven pieces of plywood tied to the roof of his minivan. ¬†Surely those pieces of twine and that hand of yours placed aside the lumber as you drive will prevent them from sliding off and crashing into my van at the next red light. At least when you’re hauling a mattress set, I can expect my family truckster to¬†emerge¬†relatively unscathed. Maybe you’ll even knock free that Smart Car that’s been stuck in my grill for a month.

And this doesn’t even include the obvious cell phone talkers and texters, the angry drivers who use their middle finger as a turn signal and the Sunday drivers of all ages who think 25 mph is the universal speed limit. If you consistently use a turn signal, know how to correctly merge and only use the left lane to pass or drive fast, I invite you to add your suggestions to my list, and of course, view the other Seven Quick Takes.

 

Laugh, Think, *TINK*, Drink… your way to mental health.

I was deeply touched by the outpouring of prayers and support after my last post. I know I’m blessed to be surrounded by such a caring group of friends and family, online and off. I know I promised more laughs this week, and I think the combined efforts of writing out all my frustrations plus the prayer contributed to me feeling less anxious about the surgery. And box wine, several glasses of box wine. Unfortunately, as of this writing, Fulton is congested and woke up with a fever. That means the surgery will have to be delayed¬†indefinitely. I can only assume he’s not meant to have a G-tube placed right now for some reason. I’ll keep you all updated. Now back to our¬†regularly¬†scheduled blogging.

Laugh

The electrical inspector came out yesterday and gave us the go ahead to finish the kitchen. After so many delays, I was willing to do just about anything (that a good Catholic homeschooling mom would do) to get that permit secured. I wore a skirt that showed a little of my knee, I brushed my hair and put on some fresh Chapstick; I was dressed to impress. He showed up, lectured me on there being no clear number on the house, I profusely apologized and considered offering him a beer when he remarked on the wiring, which is fine. The inspection took a minute, tops, after which, upon noticing three kids in the dining room, asks me how many kids I have. “Five,” I said with a smile that said “Finish signing the damn permit!” “FIVE?!” He exclaimed. He then said I didn’t look much older than seventeen (can’t you see me blushing like a school girl?), before adding, “You poor child with all these kids.” Then he stuck the approval sticker on the window and walked out, leaving his cigarette odor behind him. I think I will let my husband deal with him on the final inspection.

Think

Social media and the internet are a huge distraction for me, but when it comes to prayer requests or disseminating info quickly, you can’t beat it. ¬†Just when I think people are tired of reading my updates or prayer requests regarding our family, I get an overwhelming response. It reminds me how many people out there are just waiting for me to ask.¬†Within the last few days, it seems I wasn’t the only one reaching out online. Several writers made much more eloquent requests or observations on their own tragic circumstances but the response was similar; lots of comments of support and incoming prayer. In talking with friends yesterday, I realized other families I knew were struggling with new health or marital issues. Once home, I was able to¬†quickly¬†jump online, ¬†send off messages to some, and let others know of a name to add to their prayer list.¬†Online connections can’t replace face to face time, but it has certainly helped tighten the bonds I have with many people. Where distance and circumstance have placed obstacles, social media steps in to bridge the divide.

TINK

The silver lining to this ¬†week is our basement hasn’t flooded for the first spring since we’ve been here, despite¬†a deluge of rain recently. My father-in-law made it a pet project to plug up all the leaks in the old walls and it seems he finally succeeded. But for the kids, it’s actually a downer because they enjoy going down there in their rain boots and sloshing around. Who wants to play around outside in rain puddles when you can wade around in a dark, dank basement?

Drink

After homeschooling my three oldest, I had one thing down pat. Preschool. It was nothing fancy. Three workbooks they all loved, full of tracing, coloring, cut and paste activities. They learned their ABCs, 123s and various religious stuff. We read lots of stories and that was that. Of course, none of this, except story time, will work with Fulton because his fine motor skills simply are not conducive to these activities. So I’m forced to start over. He has an iPad loaded with education games, however once he figured out how to download podcasts containing vintage cartoons or Lego videos the games were quickly forgotten. Which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing since most were pretty craptacular. ¬†I always thought it would be nice to supplement the workbooks I chose with preschool busy bags or Montessori type activities but I¬†think I painstakingly assembled only one “hands on” math game for Edie. She loved it for about two seconds and almost destroyed it out of anger within the next two. And I also hate little pieces. I’ve resisted every hands on math program with counters because the thought of them getting dumped on the floor makes me want to pour burning coffee in my eyes. But for Fulton, and Teddy, I’m going to do it. I’m going to create a wonderful, hands on preschool program that is fun, teaches the basics and engages all their senses if it kills me.

 

How’s your week been going?

Ok, seriously. No jokes.

Note: This is a serious, laying my soul bare kind of post. If you want to read something funny, check back later this week.

The toughest thing about writing a humor blog is that life tends to have periods when nothing seems humorous. I’ve been struggling with lots of un-funny stuff for weeks now, and trying to gain the upper hand. I use this blog for my own benefit, to document the humor in my life, and hopefully in the process, entertain others. I usually don’t feel the need to rehash the hardest parts of my day. I live them; once is enough.

If you know me, you know the serious part of my life. If you’re new, let me fill you in. My sons Fulton and Teddy are both diagnosed with a serious neuromuscular disorder known as Spinal Muscular Atrophy. ¬†It’s why in photos, you see my 3 1/2-year-old Fulton in a power wheelchair and body brace. My youngest son Teddy, now 19 months, ¬†is not as¬†severely affected, however, he also cannot walk and will probably need a wheelchair within the next year or so. There is absolutely nothing funny about SMA. It is horrible and has no proven treatment or cure. It is slowly robbing my boys of their voluntary muscle movement.

That’s just a quick summary. As you can imagine, my daily life is greatly affected by the care of two handicap children; Fulton’s care especially. I finally admitted I needed help this fall, and in February I started getting nursing care five days a week to help with Fulton. For now Teddy does not require any additional care over that of a normal baby. It is only the added inconvenience of scheduling one more set of physical therapy and doctors’ appointments.

I don’t really know how I get through each day. With God’s help, I just do. I started this blog to help record all the funny moments in our day because I need to be reminded myself sometimes. It would be very easy for me to become overwhelmed with sadness, hopelessness and anger. There was a period following the diagnosis of Fulton that I didn’t think I could find joy in life again, ever. How could I so much as smile, while he was asked to endure such an existence? After a period of shock, I was depressed for several months. It was only after reading this book from Father Benedict Groeschel¬†that I started to feel better.

Once I learned my youngest son would also have SMA I sank into a spiritual depression that I think I am still recovering from. It’s why I’m not writing a blog containing the deep insight I’ve gleaned from parenting children with physical disabilities or how I’ve reached greater spiritual depths because of our situation. I’m not there yet. I’m still struggling.

As it gradually became clear that Teddy’s condition was not as severe as Fulton’s, I was able to start allowing myself to hope again. Yes, things would never be simple, but they could be normal.

Normal is ¬†defined as ‘The usual, average or typical state or condition.” Thankfully, we have a typical day like most of you. I just also have a nurse in my house and maybe a therapist. Instead of running to activities in the afternoon, I’m driving to another therapy visit. There aren’t many toys in the downstairs bedroom because we have wall to wall medical equipment, ¬†but there’s Lego displays on the dresser too. The average day includes school, activities and medical treatments. It’s no longer weird to us. My kids don’t understand why other kids stare at Fulton or why some families are extra nice to us. Five kids with one in a wheelchair? No biggie around here.

And finally, due to the in home nursing care and Teddy finally sleeping through the night, I was able to see the humor in our everyday life again because I wasn’t so overwhelmed with worry, or exhaustion or frustration. There is joy and laughter; we have not been beaten. So I started sharing all these funny observations here on my blog and I found joy in typing them, re-reading them, sharing and receiving feedback on them. It reaffirms for me that yes, ¬†I am blessed! I pray daily for a cure, ¬†medical or miraculous, but if it never comes, I can still be happy.

Maybe you’re wondering why I decided to share all this now. Well, Fulton has surgery scheduled for this Thursday the 17th. It’s been rescheduled twice due to illness. He’s getting a feeding tube placed directly in his stomach to help supplement him. It’s just really hard for him to eat and drink enough to stay nourished and hydrated. I’ve been assured it’s a simple procedure, but he’ll be in the hospital for three days due to his underlying medical condition. As his mother, I’m obviously terrified…I’ll admit it. I always imagine worst case scenarios.

For weeks this has been hanging over me, the hassle of trying to reach anyone to reschedule. The additional doctor visits due to illness. Insurance “issues.” Everything has been completely out of my control and while I keep saying to myself, God’s in control, God’s in control, I’m still a spaz. (And it doesn’t help that our flake of a contractor just quit mid-job leaving our house in disarray.)

So I’m pouring my heart out and asking for prayers. I think I’d be dead now if it wasn’t for all the people who pray for me and our family. I’m really so spiritually inadequate to tackle everything on my own. ¬†I know Fulton will come through this and we’ll get back to normal. Our renovation work will get completed and everything will proceed as usual. I just need a pep talk or some cheerleaders, now that we’re down to the wire.

In conclusion, I want to thank you, and everyone who’s been reading my blog these last few months. I know I’m not the funniest site on the block, but knowing a few people are reading and getting enjoyment from my posts is good medicine. ¬†Thanks again; ¬†I will remember you all in my prayers as well.

Vintage pretty, happy, funny, real photos

I’m sure you’ll be surprised to hear that my last post did NOT result in me being bombarded with review and advertisement requests. I guess I’ll have to accept that I’m doing this blogging thing just for personal enjoyment and¬†therapeutic¬†expression. ¬†Back to work!

I’ll admit up front that this is the {p,h,f,r} “vintage” edition¬†because it includes some old photos. But since I haven’t posted any of them here, I consider them fair game.

 

{pretty} ¬†This is our cat Whiskas. He’s actually rather¬†handsome, but this isn’t the {handsome, happy, funny, real} meme so pretty will have to suffice. What makes him awesome is that he has a mustache. I friend of mine suggested I name him ‘Kitler’ but that was vetoed. Whiskas would be the perfect cat if he didn’t attract so many ticks. Letting him in the house for a snuggle on the couch is a sure-fire way to wind up with a screaming child and a pair of tweezers in the bathroom later that same day. I’ve always been a dog person, but since having a litter of children, I’ve found I don’t have time for a dog. Whiskas is a good¬†substitute.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

{happy} ¬†Was it Linus who said happiness is a warm blanket? I think snuggling with a sleeping child must be a close second. By now you’ve noticed I didn’t take this picture, but let me assure you, once I knew my son was sound asleep I hissed for my husband to grab my camera and secure this photo. Not only did I want to¬†immortalize¬†what I knew was a cute shot (I told my husband where to stand and everything) I wanted to document those awesome PJs I was wearing. As the official family photographer, I don’t make it into many snapshots, so I’m especially happy we captured this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

{funny} ¬†Look, it’s my daily schedule. Everything is planned to the hour. Funny thing is, the only things we’re able to stick with are meal and snack times. But I’ll tell you what, just having it hanging there where¬†visitors¬†see it makes them all think I really have my act together.

On our evening out to Home Depot (date night!), my husband and I started talking about our schedule lately; the disarray in our house due to the construction and how it’s affecting us and the children. We both agree we need to regain order, through trying to finish the kitchen ourselves in a timely manner (our contractor quit last week) so we can get the downstairs reorganized. And, most importantly, trying not to complain about everything in front of the children so much. Our frustrations and shortened tempers have helped push them into a new phase of whiney disobedience.

Time to crack the whip! On ourselves and the kids. Next week we’ll be off school due to minor surgery for my middle son. ¬†Hopefully, we can all regroup and I can spend the long quiet hours at the hospital (the only upside) in prayer and on creating a daily routine that isn’t laughable.

 

 

 

 

 

{real} ¬†See that sheet of material in my son’s hands? What do you think it is? A friend of mine saw this picture and thought it was linoleum-wrong! It’s all the layers of wallpaper on our old living room walls! It really is as thick as vinyl flooring. Large pieces are coming loose and I’ve been taking it off to make way for new drywall or just because it’s falling off and I don’t want the baby to grab a piece and pull. Old houses are so much fun!

 

 

 

 

 

What a week. If our electrical inspection goes off without a hitch, I’ll post some pictures from the fun drywall hanging party my husband is hosting this Saturday. (He’s actually calling it a Work Bee ’cause he’s cool like that.) Maybe in my haste to reorganize, I’ll create some great downloadable charts and planners!!!!…..but don’t count on it. Share your thoughts on cute cats, snuggly kids, plans gone awry and old house antics below, and don’t forget to check out all the other links at Like Mother, Like Daughter.