Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Adventures at the library

(loving the iPhone Instagram app!)

Once upon a time there was a mom with 4 small kids who loved to go on outings. She was the type of person who gets energy and motivation by being around people. From a very young age, this mom thrived in a social setting where she could interact with all sorts of people.

So naturally, when this mom got married, she looked forward to the days of having a little gaggle of chicks to enjoy her days with. The children started coming and she fell in love with each one of them. They were so unique and yet also had so many personality and physical traits of their mom and dad.

She enjoyed spending every day and night with her little ones. They would venture out of their nest several times each week...gathering worms, visiting with other birds, and exploring the world around them. But as the babies kept coming, the mom had a harder time getting out with all those little chicks. So she started staying around the nest more and more.

They enjoyed their time at home, but the nest started to feel smaller and smaller, and the long days were wearing on this mama. So here and there, she'd get out for trips to the store, and of course visits to family and friends, or homeschool activities. Doctor visits were another necessity, and every now and then an outing to the mall, to the pool, or even to the library would take place!

The library is an intimidating place for a mom of 4 little chicks. So on this day she made sure to fill them up with chicken (er..worms), and make sure the busiest of chicks was sound asleep in the stroller when they arrived. She was able to lead the big girls to the table for summer reading sign-ups, and she even searched on her phone for some special book titles and authors for the girls. She let the baby crawl around a bit and all was well.

But soon enough, as always, the baby started getting whiny and wanted to nurse. The sleeping boy woke up and wanted his own set of books, while the big girls wanted their mom to help them find a few more books for them. The mom started to get up and help them when she suddenly caught a whiff...

So into the little "kid only" bathroom they went, leaving the book basket and stroller outside the door and letting the girls wander around some more. There was of course no changing table, so the diaper situation had to be dealt with on the floor. It was a bad one, but at least there was a swimsuit for this little one to wear!

As the swimsuit was being located in the diaper bag on the stroller, the baby crawled over and pulled up on the toilet! Big brother had soap all over his hands but couldn't reach the faucet. Biggest sister came to the rescue, but was still asking for help finding books about magic. It was time to bust her bubble and gather the chicks to leave. Quickly.

They found a few more books while the baby was wrangled into the stroller and given some lipstick to hold. Off to the checkout! The girls insisted on using the self-check, even though the mom tried to dissuade, knowing that one of the cards was bound to have a fine and not work on the self-check computer. That would be little sister's. She didn't want to use anyone else's card so they had to wait in line to talk to the librarian. The fine was only $1.30, but as she could see the predicament, the librarian waived the fee for two weeks. Meanwhile, it was realized that the baby had dropped the lipstick and so big sister was sent off to find it.

The baby was not having it, being strapped in the stroller while all this was going on. He kept throwing his daddy's library card which was given to him in hopes of appeasing his frustration. So some nice young man, likely a library volunteer, came and entertained him during the rest of the checkout fiasco, and the mom gave her sunglasses to the baby as a last attempt at consoling him. Little sister wanted no assistance with her check-out, so the mom did what she could to make sure the computer didn't shut down with its 30 second timer for each scan.

Big sis started out the door at some point and the alarm went off. Turns out the return cards hadn't been added to some books, which set off the alarm. That was dealt with quickly while the little gaggle figured out how to get the books out of the library without their hand-held shopping baskets. Grateful for the automatic door buttons, they finally made it into the lobby with all the children and all the books, but not without a casualty. The beloved sunglasses had been thrown down by the baby in the doorway and were broken.

The mom took a moment to catch her breath on a bench before making it out to the car. There was a thanksgiving prayer that all but the sunglasses made it out in one piece, and a promise to herself that she would not attempt this again anytime soon. After another quick errand the mama bird made it safely with her chicks back home to their nest.

And so, the moral of the story is that this mama bird still needs to find more contentment in her nest. She needs to leave places when the situation gets hairy, and she needs to insist that no self-checkouts be done when she has more than one child with her. She should have wipes, dipes, and a change of clothes for baby with her at all times.

And the most important lesson...never give the favorite sunglasses to the baby.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Last T-Ball Game

Last weekend was also Steven Joseph's last t-ball game of the season. What a crazy day! Steven was at work, the girls had their swim meet, and my parents arrived just in time for me to rush home with the baby and SJ to get to his game (with him kicking and screaming, literally. He wanted to stay at the swim meet with his grandparents who just got there!). Once we got in the car, he was fine and he enjoyed his last game, thrilled to get his trophy (even though it broke in the car)!

Here are all the kids lined up after their little YMCA pledge


Running home (with the coach pointing it out, lest he forget where to run!)

Getting his medal

and getting his trophy!

It was fun to watch our little man participate in his first team sport. The season was a bit difficult due to illness, swim and ballet commitments, Daddy's work schedule, and the far location of the field. But we tried our best to make all the practices and games we could handle. The first couple weeks he was so excited, he was asking every morning if that day was t-ball practice! Now he's saying that next year he'll be a grown up on the Astros team! Way to go, Steve-O!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Last Home Meet--Swim Team

Today was the Divisional Meet, the last meet of the season where all 6 teams of our division compete. It was indoors and crowded so I didn't get any pictures. They wouldn't have been worth seeing. This year it was at a local high school and was absolutely miserable. With 4 small kids in a "sauna" for 7 hours with no room to move, and competing in only 4 events which each take less than a minute...suffice it to say that I'm not thrilled about another year of swim team!

But here are some fun memories from last week's meet at our home pool. The last meet of the season against the Otters!

Here are all our friends playing so nicely together

and even letting Thomas join in the fun!

My sweet swimmers!

and the big strong guy

Ellie took off a lot of time on her backstroke

She won her heat!

And here's Mary Clare in the green cap, starting her race

So now our sports are over for the season and we're reading for a calm summer with hardly anything on the schedule. I'll be doing lots of prep for the new school year though, and registering for our new classes and co-ops.

I'm very proud of my swimmers, it's a lot of daily hard work on the swim team! I also look forward to spending some lazy days at the pool (not at 8am)! Go Sharks!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday-Crawling 9 month-old Edition!

He's a crawling, cruising big boy now!

Look at those lashes and big baby blues

Peekaboo, happy boy!

Precious chubby babies in Oshkosh overalls, in the famous NeNe chair, makes my heart happy.

Can't you picture him as a little boy in a few years with this little grin?

Glowing boy showing off his teeth (he has 4 top and 2 bottom and can munch all sorts of finger foods now).

Last, but not least, this makes me want to go kiss those squishy cheeks right this instant!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

{pretty, happy, funny, real}

~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~
Every Thursday, at Like Mother, Like Daughter!

A week of iPhonePhuzzyPhotos!


Mary Clare must have taken this of some of the work she's been doing at NeNe's. For more beautiful party and gift items, see my parents' website :-)


He just makes me laugh all day. He was calling this baby sun hat his "swim cap." Such a sillyboy who always keeps me smiling!


Thomas puts up with Steven's antics as much as he can. Everyone was anxious to get to the pool, so this photoshoot was not appreciated!


Yes, real life and motherhood are very messy.
Yes, that's spit-up on my shirt!

Left my camera at my parents' house today. Lots of good photos to add as soon as I have it back. As praying friends, let's offer some extra prayers for Fr. Corapi today (If you aren't Catholic and haven't heard of him, don't worry about Googling, just offer a prayer for him).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


A reflection on Motherhood and Homeschooling

(with random photos from a party last week)
Next month, Steven and I will celebrate 10 years of marriage. We've now got about 9 years of parenthood under our belts. This week marks the end of 3 years of "official" homeschooling, although I joined our homeschool support group about 6 years ago when Mary Clare was only 2! Now that we're in our mid-30's with 4 kids, we're starting to feel like "old fogies" these days! I can't believe how fast time flies. Steven always says that we're going to wake up tomorrow and be 50! I can see that coming true.

I know we still have a long way to go in parenthood, and we're just now entering a more academic phase of homeschooling as Mary Clare starts 3rd grade. Third grade always seems to be a big jump in workload and academics. But as the years have gone by, I'm starting to gain a lot more confidence and security in who we are as parents and as homeschoolers. I know this will ebb and flow, and I can easily imagine myself a week from now facing a new challenge and thinking I know nothing about this vocation to motherhood!

But overall, after 10 years, I'm feeling grateful about the choices we've made for our family. They are different than other families' choices and are not better or worse than theirs, because they're ours. Our family is unique and in no way exactly mirrors any other family on earth. What a beautiful thought! God has created our family and given us each other to work through our faults, to grow together on Earth, and to be happy in Heaven together with Him one day. No one can better help us to do this than our spouse and children.

I remember all the calls and the questions I had for my friends and mentors after Mary Clare was born. Just how do you "co-sleep?" What do you do with a wet cloth diaper? Do you wear a sling? We had all sorts of ideals before we had children...everything from opinions on Santa Claus to diapering, to our plans for me to stay home with the children and homeschool. As time went on, we realized that many of these things were not as black or white as we had once believed. They would be different for each family, and we had to grow as our own family to see how God might be calling us in each of our parenting decisions. I credit the NFP Board for giving me a great perspective on Catholic motherhood and even just on various life experiences. I could (and can) ask my questions to hundreds of mothers, many who have similar ideals as I do, and get such unique perspectives and advice. Of course I get a lot of this from my real-life friends too, and Facebook is now another good source of perspective for moms.

Our form of baby and child care has ended up being what I would call very "attached." I am rarely away from my babies, and spend nearly every day and every waking hour with my older children too. Our infants nurse on demand until they're around 2, and we co-sleep with our babies and toddlers for several years. It is a very demanding and exhausting lifestyle, but also one that brings me great joy and many rewards as I watch them grow every day. I pray that it will help maintain a close bond that we form in infancy and continues throughout childhood between the children and parents, and the children and each other. Sometimes on hard days, I think I might be a lunatic for choosing this kind of parenting approach, but honestly I can't imagine doing things any other way.

As we moved into a homeschooling lifestyle, I began to realize that my background in education really didn't give me that much of an advantage when it came to teaching my own children. In fact, it hindered me in many ways to have a classroom mindset and certain expectations based on the children I taught in the past. A homeschool is so much different than a classroom, and each day I learn more and more how to educate my own children in their very individual, very unique ways.

I had planned on following a "classical" approach to education, mainly because that was what some of my friends used, and it seemed like a logical step for our family to study the classics and in particular a Catholic classical curriculum. The problem was, I didn't know what a classical education really was until recently. I've read the books, and followed the syllabus, but it didn't click in my brain until our co-op meeting last week! Can you believe that?

Susan Wise Bauer of the Well-Trained Mind defines classical education:

Classical education depends on a three-part process of training the mind. The early years of school are spent in absorbing facts, systematically laying the foundations for advanced study. In the middle grades, students learn to think through arguments. In the high school years, they learn to express themselves. This classical pattern is called the trivium.
And Laura Berquist of Mother of Divine Grace states that:

Experience has shown that in the earliest years, kindergarten through second grade, one needs to emphasize the first tools of learning: reading, writing, and arithmetic. One should also work on observation and memorization, and filling the imagination with noble and heroic images.

For some reason, these thoughts have finally solidified for me the past few days. The "nuts and bolts" that Mary Clare has learned these first few years of homeschooling will be the foundation from which she moves into the "logic/dialectic stage" of learning in the coming years. The facts she has memorized, poetry she has learned, rules of phonics, observations of nature, etc. will be the basis for her to begin to formulate her view and understanding of the world around us.

I don't need to worry yet that she isn't reading novels or that she doesn't know how to write an essay about what she has learned. Those will come with time and she will have many years to spend time reading novels and writing essays. These days of playing "grocery store" and "dress-up" are numbered, and so allowing her to spend a lot of time in play with her siblings each day. along with her schoolwork, is still important. The slower pace of this classical approach in the early years is not what I had initially imagined for my children, but so far it has been just what they've needed.

Tonight, Steven was showing the children a YouTube video about Yosemite National Park. He told them that valley and rock formations were formed by a glacier, and that we knew that because of their shape. The kids were content with that answer and went about their play. I can see how in the future, these kinds of discussions will move from facts to logical explanations. They will want to learn more, and they will begin to piece together the story of the world, as they delve into each of the different subjects they will study.

Also tonight, Mary Clare was looking through a little science discovery book about trees on her own. She told me a fact about how if a certain tree was planted on top of a building, the roots would fall 40 stories down below. She is asking more questions about correct spelling, and wanting to learn about the presidents. All these little bits of information she is learning will be soaked up and pulled out again and again over the years. It is so much fun to watch them learn and get to the point where they can read and learn new things on their own!

And so, I've rambled on a bit here, but I am confident with where we are right now. I hope that these years of experience will continue to build us into the family that God calls us to be. I still fail every day at being the best mom I can be. I make bad choices and am lazy and distracted. I am not the work horse that is needed to run an efficient and orderly home of young children. I hope and pray that the children can look past my faults and remember just how much I cared about each of them and tried my hardest to give them the best education that I could.

As we learn about the world together, and grow in knowledge of God together, I know that we will look back on these days with fondness, rather than remembering all the chaos. I hope that I can treasure each one of these days and be content in them without longing for the future. Because they are a treasure. Each child, and every day spent with them is a gift. Every one of them is a joy.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Our Homeschooling Year in Review

We are nearly finished our THIRD "official" year of homeschooling! Yay! Mary Clare is completing 2nd grade and Ellie completing kindergarten, minus a few lessons to be completed this week. I'll review by subject area for my own future reference, as well as for others who might like to read about how we've liked our different curriculum choices from this school year. I'll also add in what I plan to use next year.

Overall, I've been glad to have the Mother of Divine Grace (MODG as abbreviated below) Catholic Classical syllabus and lesson plans to use for Mary Clare, and I plan to use them with both girls next year. Depending on how this year goes, we might enroll so we can have a consultant the next year, or at least when we add Steven Joseph into our homeschool the following year. I change out a few of the curriculum choices but do like to have a "spine" to use for our basic lessons each week.


We used Faith & Life 1 and 2 this year, picking and choosing different chapters. We also used the New St. Joseph First Communion Catechism for a lot of our First Holy Communion preparation, along with the beautiful little novel The King of the Golden City. We read saint stories from various books we have, and Mary Clare started making a saint book with pictures and dictation from the stories. We also read bible stories from the Jesus Storybook Bible many mornings this spring. Mary Clare attended Faith Formation and Sacramental Prep courses at our parish in the fall before her First Reconciliation, and then in the spring we changed parishes and did the rest of her preparation for her First Holy Communion at home, aside from a nice interview with our pastor. The girls also both attended our monthly Little Flowers class, which I led for our homeschool group this year where we did lots of learning about saints, virtues, and scripture. We also learned some basic Latin prayers together to help us better participate in the Latin Mass.

Next year, we'll do much of the same, adding the New St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism, and A Child's Bible History for Mary Clare, along with the First Communion Catechism, the Faith & Life books, the Baltimore Catechism, and the bible/saint stories (which we'll hopefully add more bible/saint stories to their books). The girls will take part in a girls' club which our friend is putting together where they will study saints, virtues, and scripture, along with learning handicrafts like sewing and crochet. Our classical co-op will do memory work, including the Baltimore Catechism, Latin prayers, Church history, etc.

Language Arts

This year Ellie learned to read with the Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons book and completed her Handwriting Without Tears and Explode the Code workbooks. Both girls have shown great progress with the Funnix computer-based reading program. Mary Clare worked through the Sound Beginnings intensive phonics program and the Writing Can Help handwriting and Explode the Code workbooks. They both memorized a variety of poems, mostly found in The Harp and the Laurel Wreath.

Mary Clare has shown some real strides in reading and some short dictations/copywork, although neither of the girls has taken off with a lot of independent reading yet. But I'm becoming more confident in our Classical approach, and feel that the nuts and bolts they are learning with their phonics instruction, handwriting, and poetry are going to be a great help to them as they slowly take off as independent readers and writers.

Next year we'll continue with our Funnix software, and possibly purchase the Seton handwriting books, since I have yet to find a handwriting program that is thorough and takes the girls longer than a month to complete! As of now, for phonics we'll begin The Writing Road to Reading and Primary Language Lessons for Mary Clare. I'll probably buy an Explode the Code or another phonics workbook for Ellie.


We are still happy with Math U See; Mary Clare is finishing her Beta lessons this week and Ellie has finished lesson 17 out of 30 lessons in her Alpha (1st grade) book. Mary Clare will move into Gamma next year and Ellie will continue with the Alpha book, moving into Beta whenever she is ready. They will do some math skip counting memory work in their co-op. And that's about it!


Mother of Divine Grace doesn't do much science/history until 3rd grade. Mary Clare had a few books...Science with Plants, Seasons and Living Things, Know Your States, and she has learned most of her capitals with the States and Capitals flashcards. We've read a few books about famous Americans like Abraham Lincoln, and they've participated in our homeschool group's Nature Club. We are raising honeybees in the backyard, which is likely the best science lesson they got this year!

Next year Mary Clare will use the Abeka books recommended in MODG for Science, History, and Geography...Exploring God's World, Our American Heritage, and Our American Heritage Map Study Skills. She will also continue learning her states and capitals. Ellie will listen along and maybe we'll do some more nature walks and lessons this year. We are planning to register both girls for some excellent homeschool science classes at the downtown Museum of Natural Science once a month. They will also be learning some timeline memory work and science lessons at our co-op twice a month.

Fine Arts

As all my blog-readers know, the girls are very accomplished little ballerinas. They are getting instruction in ballet technique, body control, and self-discipline, and lots of exposure to classical music through their Christian ballet school. Next year, Mary Clare will take 2 hours of ballet and 1 hour of modern each week, while Ellie will take 1 hour each of ballet and modern. As for art, I'm not crazy about the Child-Sized Masterpieces program recommended by MODG, so I'm considering using the Seton Art for Young Catholics program. I'm also open to suggestions of other art resources! Mary Clare worked thorough the Let's Learn Music #1 book and I think we'll continue with #2 unless I find some other music option for them. We will also be doing art lessons and some crafts at the co-op and the girls'club this year.

So that's a basic review of our homeschooling year. Hope it helps some others as much as it helped me to write it out!

Friday, June 17, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday

I am so happy tonight. It's very late and I should be in bed. But I am very excited about a new homeschooling opportunity that I learned about tonight. There will be a local Classically Catholic Memory co-op starting nearby and it looks like it will be a wonderful fit for our family! It's only twice monthly and is similar to the protestant Classical Conversations program. I think it will give us all some new excitement for learning and me for teaching! We have gotten into a bit of a rut this year, just doing the basic minimum to get by. Now we'll get to do some extra enrichment learning with friends! I can't wait!

I think we're waterlogged. With daily swim team practice, and visiting my parents' club pool and our YMCA several times in the past 2 weeks, we are getting lots of time in the water. Hey it's 100 degrees so where else can you go? Only a week left of swim practice (and one t-ball game tomorrow), and then we'll have pretty much no plans for the rest of the summer.


Tom-Tom is eating finger foods now. And I think I can claim that he's officially crawling. He turns 9 months this week. He has now cut 4 upper teeth and is about to cut 2 more on the bottom. He is not napping well at all. Only if he's nursing. Today he took three 20-minute naps! I'm exhausted!

Have you seen that baby food that you can just squirt in their mouths? Pretty cool. Just wish they had veggies for my vegetable-loving baby!

"My Maria" (the housekeeper) saved me yesterday. The walls were closing in on me and I couldn't figure out how to even begin to clean my house. A kind gift was used for this very important sanity-saving outsourcing. It had been 8 weeks since she'd last made a visit. I think I can make it about 6 weeks before losing my mind. Housework is not my strength, if you haven't noticed.

Maybe we'll have a new bee video this weekend. The bees have gotten very aggressive in the past couple weeks, so the guys haven't really been able to get in the hive much. Our neighbor made his own smoker to use on the bees, so we'll see if that helps. I think they need to get a bee suit; wouldn't they "bee" so cute in that kind of outfit? (Steven hates when I call boy clothes an "outfit") They sure do look cute here, don't they? Look at my little mini beekeeper!

This kid makes us laugh all day. His antics are hard to explain. One of his favorite phrases right now is, "I have a qwrestion for you." He talks, and talks, and talks. Today he put non-washable pink marker all around his mouth because he wanted to look like me! What an honor :)

At a party today, he came in from swimming and said, "Is it time for the cake, or what?" And he wanted a picture of himself holding this Capri Sun up high. Thought it was hilarious. When he's not biting us or whacking Thomas and me with a football jersey, he's quite a charmer.

I've got to schedule his MRI for later this summer. Please pray for me. I have a little mental block at making this call and being one step closer to his open heart surgery this fall. I am just not ready to face this yet. Oh how it will be nice to have that giant hurdle behind us! (Update: scheduled the MRI for August, thanks for the prayers!)

The girls went horseback riding for the first time at a party last weekend! They've always been a bit scared of this, so I was very proud of them!

Read more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Swim meet vs Cypresswood

Some great action shots by Steven, as well as one of the Shark moms (pics with bluer-looking water). A great meet! They swam really fast!

Me and my blondies

Ellie swimming freestyle

Mary Clare winning her heat in freestyle! She took off almost 5 seconds! She wore a friend's pink flowered swim cap this week since I accidentally ripped her green one while putting it on Ellie. You might also notice Ellie has various goggles on; hers were lost that morning!

Mrs. V always brings great toys!

Ellie swam breaststroke for the first time and was in the same heat as MC.

Take your marks. (right next to each other!)

Mary Clare loves swimming breaststroke

Ellie did a great job but should have been in an earlier heat. I think she was the only 6 yr old swimming this event. They both got DQd as do about half the little ones with breaststroke. It's a hard stroke with no flutter-kicking allowed (Ellie) and no arms below waistline (MC).

Ellie checking out the competition

Steven Joseph would run over to his sisters for a high-five after each race. So cute!

Not crazy about my side profile, but fun memories of me with my sweet Tommy boy.

NeNe and Aunt Kathy before they melted in the heat!

Mary Clare so happy to be lining up for her backstroke

Serious concentration

Love this one from that other mom, a great close-up of my hardworking swimmer!

Way to go, girls! A great meet!
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