"THEN Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry. And the tempter coming said to him: If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. Who answered and said: It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God." Matthew 4:1-4

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

An Inspired Mom

Check out Karen's post on the beauty of life with children.

She juxtaposes Wallace Stevens' Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird with her own thoughts on motherhood and does a beautiful job of sharing this moment with us.

Just beautiful.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A funny overheard

I took the boys with me to the grocery store yesterday. Ice cream was on the list. And so were waffle cones.
We're walking along and Dom is speaking to no one in particular and all of us in general.

"I love waffle cones, but I really love cup cones better. If you have a cup cone and you have an itch then you can just sit your cone down and scratch it. If you have a waffle cone, you have to ask somebody to help and hold your cone and then they might eat your ice cream, so that's why cup cones are way better."

I wish I had a chronicle of the commentaries of all these children.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Now we're "outed"

Thanks, Good Morning America. Thanks a whole lot. Now there is like a moral obligation to post more about our schooling adventures...because we are unschoolers.
 Sort of.
I've always liked my friend Lissa's Tidal Homeschooling  moniker best. It fits: we're in; we're out; we're becalmed; we're paddling like mad. We're resting on the beach. But whatever we are doing, we are learning.
But that's the thing about unschoolers, defining them is like nailing jell-o to a wall.
The thing they have in common is their passionate desire to help their children follow their dreams, their destinies, the Call of God in their lives -- although there are many unschoolers who would argue the existence of God or call the Lord by some other name - like maybe Gaia. Those folks don't change reality, they just need to find Him in a different direction. Which is not to say that I agree with their assessment - I respect their right to exercise their free will in that manner and they, in turn, respect my right to live in such a way that they might become curious about the Gospel of Christ and our faith in Jesus and the Church. If given an opportunity, I speak. Otherwise, I pray.
There's a place where radical unschoolers abandon folks like me and the label slips off. I define myself by a set of beliefs called Catholicism. I totally believe that this is the best way to know, love and serve God. It encompasses everything I do - or at least I hope it does - this tradition of beliefs and teachings. I've examined this issue from many angles and I always return to the surety that this is Christ revealed to us in all the fullness of His humanity and divinity. It is rational - And so I teach this to my kids. They learn it and live it and so far they love it.
I am aware that they have the freedom to someday reject this. I hope they won't, but that freedom is given them by an authority greater than mine.
So I don't get to use the radical unschooler label.
I like Charlotte Mason's method and loosely use this method. Sometimes. As a guide.So I don't get to use that label either.
And I've always liked Classical Education - Latin, Greek, memorization. Some of my kids do this, some don't. The one thing we don't do is school-at-home. It just hasn't fit. Ever. My mom got sick and required care; we pitched in to help; a new baby came; we had a huge crisis in our family; Bud was out of work for five months; the Big Helps went away to college; Bud took jobs that required him to be gone and us to pinch every penny until it screamed for mercy; I had to get a job and work outside the home (but not be gone all day so we continued to homeschool);  life never stopped happening and we were required to live and flex and adjust and find joy and happiness and peace amid the wreckage of a few really tough years.
So really no curriculum ever fit perfectly. We use a little Sonlight, a little Catholic Heritage Curricula.
Or maybe we're Montessori learners. I love Dr Montessori's writings

Most days, we read, we play, we build with Legos, we plant seeds, examine flowers, identify birds,tell stories, travel here and there, do science, explore, explore, explore.
I don't know that I could ever quantify all that they know. I keep a running catalog of what I think they don't know and then - WHAM - they say or do something and I have to tick something off the list-of-places-where-I-have-failed-as-a-homeschooling-mother.
Thus we learn. Preferably without labels - even the ones that society thinks are good or important. We know who we are, and we endeavor to become more.

Here are some folks who shed light on unschooling:

Sandra Dodd


Unschooling Catholics

Resa Steindel Brown

Suzie Andres Homeschooling with Gentleness: A Catholic Discovers Unschooling

I watched the GMA report. I thought that George S and JuJu were very funny. What schools did those two attend?  In a school children are not exposed to *different* or *diverse* ideas, opinions or materials. They are each given the exact same book and told to study the exact same thing as all the rest of the children. In the area of socialization, if they deviate from whatever the most popular children do, say, wear, think, they are scorned, mocked, shunned or bullied. But this is not a blog about what happens to children in public schools - or a generalization that such things happen to all in children in every school. You know what things are like in your local schools. And it doesn't impact my life any more.
I read this great piece by a friend of the family who was featured on the boobtube show. Mindful parenting, mindful homeschooling, doing things intentionally. Loving well and unconditionally. That's all we're doing.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I succumbed

We've made dozens of the recipes from this book:
All of them wonderful.
So, naturally, now that my Starving Student appears to be gluten sensitive, we had to have the companion.

I am not sure that Kindle for PC is such a great idea.
No weight for the camper, no wait for the reader.
OK, so it's AN AWESOME THING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What do you think? beer bread with the fried catfish? Or pumpkin spice dinner rolls? I think either one would be wonderful.
There are several gluten free recipes that we will eventually try before sending a hardcopy and the ingredients to our dear Starving Student.

Loving the Church

Some years ago, a friend of mine, challenged me with this: "The question is do you love the Church?"
I could not answer no but I was then unable to give an unreserved "yes."  A, "yes, but."
That is not the right answer.
One does not love if one's yes is followed by but.
Christ loves us, He doesn't love us, but....
That's a hard concept for most of us fallen humans: we love our spouse but [insert whatever thing s/he does] makes me nuts; we love our kids, but, under the guise of wanting what's best for them, we try to make them be more like *us.*  We love this person or that person, but....
That's not love - love loves - it doesn't matter what the person does or doesn't do. Even the things that we as parents say we would reject a child for - that is not love.  If our child chooses a path down which we would not have him go - dangerous, sinful, deadly, wrong - we are obliged to try to stop him. If our child chooses a path which causes us discomfort but which is not immoral, our love must allow him this freedom - because True Love allows him this freedom.
Human love, constrained by our inability to overcome the Fall, does not always love as it ought.
I realized that "I love [fill in the blank], but.." was not the right answer.
I began to try to overcome the but in my own life. To love my husband and children without buts. This is not easy. Unconditional love requires an understanding of one's own limitations more than the limitations of others.

It requires a response like so, "I love my husband even though I struggle with my own prideful need to be right."
Because Biblically speaking, love prefers the beloved and love surrenders itself to the needs of the beloved whether it's own needs are met or not. That is the Love of the Holy Cross.

That's not a popular idea. And it sounds a little out-of-date to love the Church, especially right now.

Consider this: all through the New Testament, the Church is referred to as the Bride of Christ. From the very beginning of the Bible, we are told that a man and his Bride become as one. Therefore, (skipping over several intermediate steps of logic) the Church and the Lord are in essence, one flesh. For Catholics, this is borne out further in our love and regard for our Lord in the Eucharist - our Holy Spouse provides for and nourishes us. Pope St. Leo the Great taught that we become what we receive. So in a nutshell, we are the Bride of Christ and we are one flesh with Him, and so by extension is the Magisterium. One may not separate us/them/Church/Lord. It is not only impermissible, it is impossible - nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Except maybe our own ignorance. So get to know the Church. Read some of the Documents, the Early Fathers, Pope Benedict.

Loving the Church - read the documents, see the beauty - is easy actually. Loving the members of the Church who have caused great grief and harm is not. There are a lot of those folk out there right now- not all of them are abusive priests. Some of them are well-meaning sinners like me.
Love the Church anyway. And in so doing, you can aid in the restoration of Truth, Beauty and Goodness.

A First for Us

We've been parents for 23 years now. If you add them up, we're logging almost 115 kid years. We've learned to expect the unexpected and that each child is his or her own person and different from all the others. But some things tend to repeat themselves and grow old over the years.

Not so with Dominic.

We visited this little shoppe in Utica, IL called Flutterby's Gourmet Popcorn. (Get some, it's amazingly good.)
Being good, but not exactly wealthy tourists, we purchased a few items - each kid picked a popcorn ball and I got a bag of cheese and caramel mix - mmmmm. And some cashews for my nutty husband.
 Dominic got a caramel popcorn ball.
Apparently, popcorn balls and loose teeth aren't the best combination. Or maybe they are.
(I was not home, I am reporting events as they were told to me.)
Bud to Padrecito, who is going back and forth between two mirrors, showing his teeth: "What are you doing, Son?"
Son: "Well, I checked this mirror 'cause I thought that one must be confused."
Bud: "What?"
Son: "Well it shows that my tooth came out but I didn't feel anything."

Yes, indeed, after 120+ other baby teeth, the seventh child swallowed his.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The really important stuff first

Eventually a homeschool mom finds just the right book to light the reading fire. Boys are a little more of a challenge for me because, well, I'm not a boy. They love the books I read to them, no matter what. But finding just the thing for them to delve into solo, that's a little different.

Dan has been particularly challenging. He didn't read very well at all until he was 11 - just this past fall. It does make one worry, but there are studies, "nothing to worry about," yadda, yadda. But I KNOW if he were in *real school* there would have been tests and special ed and probably Ritalin recommendations. It's hard not to compare and just trust the process. At home, one must just breathe deeply, pray and meet the child/student's needs. In October, Dan turned 11 and he was still picking through the sounds of decoding. Dave was nine and half when he hit fluency, so I wasn't overly worried about Dan until he turned 11. Dominic, well, we aren't exactly sure how long he, at 7, has been able to read, but we think he started decoding at three, so he's a pretty good reader thanks only to his own initiative and the *magic* click that just seems to happen for natural readers.
So there we were.
Then one November day, Dan could read a sentence without sounding everything out. Then a paragraph in a chicken catalog - not exactly standard primer material. Then, suddenly, he could read - he knew he could do it, and he, along with Dad and I, breathed a sigh of relief.
But we were still looking for the Book. You know the one from your childhood that made you realize that There's A Whole Big World to Explore Page By Beautiful Page.
For me it was:

The book I remember as being the first book I read to myself and LOVED. It led to so many more : The Betsy-Tacy (Betsy-Tacy Books) , which I loved beyond reason until I discover the March sisters and the Five Little Peppers and the list goes on and on. (I was told that I own more books than a small elementary school library...so you get the idea)
need my kids to read and to love to read. It's part of why I homeschool - there isn't enough time in the day for good and beautiful stories and books if one is in school all day learning "twaddle."

But back to Dan, and those who know him might, say, well, duh.
His book is:
Well, of course, duh. But one cannot fall in love with this book if one is struggling to decode. This week, the child struggles no longer, he is no longer an emergent reader. He  reads. He swallowed this one whole, devouring it in 3 days. All 372 pages of the unabridged (we scorn those 'round these parts) version that I bought on a whim in Hannibal, MO. Now, Nin is required to overnight the rest of the series that is at home to us. Happily, though, Dan has his very own copy of Farmer Boy to cherish and reread.

This afternoon, I believe he will start on either Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter or Laddie: A True Blue Story same author.
I call him Freckles on this blog because he loves that book and has been trying to read it ever since...he has followed along with the Librivox recording for years. But, now, now, it's different, he can savor every word in print.

He's read four books since last weekend - three of the Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne and Farmer Boy.  Pretty impressive for my boy who could barely read 5 months ago. Congratulations, Daniel!

(in the first picture, Freckles and Padrecito, are exploring a pilot house at the Corps of Engineer Lock and Dam in Utica, IL. Following pictures, Dan caught in the act of reading in a tree)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Oh, the ingratitude of it all

From the daughter who used to be my favorite....

WARNING: Attention to all and sunder available young gentlemen. My mother has recently married off the first of her four daughters. The Mrs. Bennet effect has been set in motion. Wickhams be forewarned, Mr. Bennet is an excellent shot. Mr. Darcys, as always, are welcomed with opened arms. Mr. Bingleys, please bring your backbones. Also, Professor Bhaers, Lauries, and John Brookes are considered acceptable.
Colonel Brandons are borderline at best, and Willoughbys should take the same warnings as Wickhams. Vampires are right out, but Rangers' applications will not be overlooked. Good luck to all.
Carolynne J. Estis.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Divine Mercy Sunday

The Lord's Mercy
endures forever
Holy is His name.

More later. The same wind that blew us into Hannibal, MO, gently set us down next to friends from Alabama. We were able to make it to Mass last night - St Munchin's in Cameron, MO. 
Today, we visit, share and explore.
That's what I'm talking about - so not average.
(By the way, did YOU know there is a St Munchin? First I heard.)

"My Life is [SO NOT] Average"

My older kids follow this blog called My Life is Average.
They tell me about is all the time. Very funny stuff and cute and common sensical.
But my life is so far from average, I don't know what to do with it half the time.

My life is one continual gift after another. Everyday. The Lord opens His hands and blessings flow forth. And I can scarcely believe it.

Down to the teensiest detail, I depend on Him and He does not disappoint. Want a for instance?

For instance, we have a wireless card from Alltel. It's not supposed to work with Windows 7. No, really, I called Alltel and they say, "No go. Get a $200 router or get a new card." I wrangled around with settings and things and it worked for five months. We drive down the road connected tot he internet and never think twice (I am going to miss Alltel when they are AT&T!) about it. Then Microsoft sent an update. My card would not work, no matter what settings I applied or hpw many times I rolled back drivers or tweeked this or that..  (My wireless printer quit working wirelessly at that very same time, too. So I think there is something weird in that update. Generally, I don't do MS updates because I am running older peripherals on this new system. But I am not the only person to use this computer and someone else clicked) OK, ok...

So for the whole of our stay in York, we had free wi-fi at our campsite. See how God provided?
Yesterday we had to leave York.

Right before we left York, NE, I stuck my wireless card into its little USB slot.  Mostly so I'd know where it was. (You'd be amazed at how quickly one can lose things in a 35 foot moving house.)
I said a tiny prayer, because College-in-a-Camper has school work to do.
There is no wi-fi here in the boonies of Missouri. But you're reading this, aren't you?
Of course it worked.
Because my life is not average.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Moving Day

Today we are heading to Hannibal, Missouri - land of Huck and Tom. It's good to be on the road again. We get so used to moving that when we are still, it is unusual.

It's a seven hour drive from here to there and we need to try to make Mass this evening or we'll be hoofin' it again in the morning.  Bud has to work tomorrow and the Masses are at 8 and 10 - nothing in the evening... So we make the 5:30 tonight or we get up early and walk. If possible. Which is a happier thought than being too far to walk and having to disconnect and reconnect the camper to drive to Mass.

So, off I go to another adventure.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Last night's bread

Using the Peasant bread recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking, we made pita bread.
There was leftover lamb and steak from Easter Dinner.
So mock gyros for dinner. We love gyros and Alton Brown's recipe
is our favorite when we have ground lamb.
Last night, though, we thinly sliced the leftover Easter meat, quickly sauteed it in some olive oil with a little garlic, salt, pepper and a sprinkling of mint and parsley. We made tzatziki from Greek yogurt, salt, pepper, cucumbers, mint and a little balsamic vinegar.
The pita bread was amazing. But I think maybe I cooked them just a minute or so too long on my brand new stone - gift from Bud! One side was a little tougher than I wanted it to be. Next time we will probably cook the bread like Naan. The consensus was that they really liked the pita meat wrapped rather than stuffed into the pocket. OK whatever.

Tonight, we are making pizza - sounds like we eat that a lot, huh? But it is the Birthday Boy's choice and he asked for Hawaiian Pizza. It will be interesting to see how it comes out on the stone!

Spring in Nebraska

 So, I was right. Here in Nebraska, these poor, deprived folk really have no concept of "Spring" as the season which segues into "Summer."  These two seasons of the year evoke thoughts of flowers, grilling, and warmth. And in the Deep South, perspiration ("dew" for the ladies) and ice-filled quart jars of sweet tea.  Followed immediately by the dread of next month's "light bill!" Usually in the 300 dollar range. Sigh.

Apparently that is not the case here. It's in the thirties and it snowed all morning.

But that's OK. A certain young man got a real kick out of the snow today.
"Wow. I NEVER thought it would ever snow on MY birthday."

And he's right, back in Alabama it's 90 degrees by April.

Boy Howdy's Birthday

 Today, our oldest son turns 13. He's a fine boy. Polite, quiet, funny. He got new sneakers a week or so ago. On Holy Thursday, he said, "Mom, I think I've outgrown my church shoes."  I looked at his feet, and, yep, one could see his toes crowded into the top of the shoe.
"What size are those, Son?"
He looks. "Eight and a half."
The new sneakers are 10's...

This is our fifth encounter with a child becoming a teenager. We've had teenagers since Nin was 13 almost 10 years ago. And we've had at least two of them for eight years. For two or three years, we had four teenaged girls. But in February, when College-in-a-Camper turned 20, the Soprano remained the lone teen. Now, though, we have a new and interesting phenomena, a teen-aged son.  I think this might be a little different from four teen-aged daughters at once.

He's been different from the beginning. He's our fifth child, born after eleven years of marriage. We had this parent thing licked. [Insert big cosmic laughter Hahahaha]. All this required was adjusting to the idea that one needed to be really quick when changing the diapers. No problem.
 Yeah. Right.
A boy is a different critter.
When Boy Howdy was just barely walking, we visited his grandma's house. She was having some construction work done on her driveway. There IT was. A delightful, dump-truck load of dirt.
He took off on all fours across the yard, IT needed to be explored. Crawled on.
We watched, amused and indulgent. The little boy righted himself and sat on the edge of the dirt heap. He sank his little one-year old fists into it. Picked up a handful and let it sift through his little fingers.
We laughed, isn't he cute.
Then, with the lightning speed that only toddlers exhibit, GULP.
Yep. That's right. That stuff needed to be tasted.

That's when I knew for certain: this was to be a much different journey than the one I had been on. No self-respecting daughter would have crawled onto that pile of dirt and certainly not one of them would have EATEN it!
I could see the destruction of block towers and tea parties. Pink was going to fade away into the sunset, replaced by the red of bloodied knees and the green of grass stained knees. Dave's been joined by two younger brothers and the balance of power has shifted to the testosterone side of the scales. (Much to Bud's delight and amusement.) And indeed, pink has faded and life has changed. (Although sometimes, we still have tea-time.)
And it is good.
"I think I will like being a teenager!

Dave loves the snow!
Happy Birthday, David!
I am sure the snow was sent just for you!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

News from the Vatican

Roger Cardinal Mahoney, Archbishop of Los Angeles is to retire next year. Pope Benedict XVI has made an historic appointment: details are all over the blogosphere, of course.
Here's one from the Sacramento Bee.

I get a good laugh from secular writers trying to fit the motives of the Pope and the Church and the Lord into their little pigeonholes. I enjoyed this one from the Telegraph in London.

Really, though the best place to find out about Archbishop Gomez is at the website of his Archdiocese, San Antonio, Texas. There are many good articles written by the Archbishop. He was one of the first to head to Haiti after the earthquake. 

As far as Opus Dei is concerned, one ought to do them justice by reading about them. The Way: The Essential Classic of Opus Dei's Founder
Dan Brown ought not be one's expert reference on Opus Dei any more than I ought to be your expert reference on horse racing or any number of other subjects!  Including those found within the Blog. (Except for maybe my husband, on some matters. After 24 years, the man still has some surprises tucked away. Like for instance that he likes barbeque. As in SOUTHERN barbeque - take a big hunk of pork, cook it until it's stringy in some kind of smoky tasting sauce and eat it with a roll, tater salad, slaw, maybe some beans and a slice of poundcake. NOT my idea of deliciousness.)

Easter Tuesday

We had such a lovely holiday.
One of Bud's co-workers spent the day with us. He went with us to Easter Vigil Mass and that was really a treat. Nice young man. This job is tough for families - which is why we are RV'ing across the country - most of the guys are out here for months at a time. (I think Bud's personal best was March to October of 2007. I think he came home in October that year, if not it was December. We went to see him twice that year before we had the RV.) They miss the everyday things. A decent dinner, kids' report cards, lost teeth, growth spurts. Even the annoying things that make family life interesting - like empty toothpaste and broken appliances. There are some occasional perks to having a husband who is merely a regularly-deposited-paycheck, but not many; being a single parent gets old fast, and making all the decisions is just not fun for the long haul.  And, according to my husband, there aren't really any perks to being a husband who is merely a paycheck. And, if there are some niceties to being married but alone, there is absolutely no upside to being an absentee parent. Fifty phone calls a day can't fix it. It gives one a lot of empathy for service men and women and their families.

So big thank you to all those folks who are serving to keep us free.

As usual, I digress. LOL

back to Easter Weekend

Easter is just the most wonderful of all the Christian holy days. Joyous celebration after the solemnness of Lent and the darkness of Good Friday and Holy Saturday. The most amazing about this Easter - it's Bud's fourth anniversary as a Catholic - was being away for Easter Vigil. And the stunning (but oh-so-obvious! duh!) realization that as we celebrated Easter Vigil, our daughters and other friends and family were all also attending Easter Vigil in various locales around the country. I was just kinda amazed by the beauty of that.

And, of course, that calls for all kinds of celebration. Egg hunts and candy and Cadbury Eggs Benedict for breakfast.

And for Easter Dinner: lamb chops and steak (for those who don't eat lamb); cheesy smashed potatoes, asparagus, cheesy dinner rolls and our guest wanted to make the corn, so we also had a lovely side of seasoned, sauteed corn. Condiments? Oh yeah! Mint jelly. Mmmm. Never saw it Alabama. It's as yummy with lamb as I remember! We had chocolate-covered cheesecake for dessert.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

There are more than a million places to read interesting things about this day.  I like this one. For myself, it is time to shut the computer down for the remainder of the Triduum!
See you Sunday - when we celebrate the Great Feast of Easter.
God bless you!

Holy Thursday: Novus Ordo done reasonably well

Last night we were privileged to be able to attend Holy Mass.  Fr. Mark Tasler at St Joseph's in York, NE celebrates a beautiful Mass.  No silliness, no nylon net, no women getting their stockings wet. Sixteen Knights in full regalia escorted the Blessed Sacrament in procession to the Altar of Repose. Even a clapper! Which is a wooden instrument traditionally used in place of the bells at Consecration. Very cool. On this journey, we have suffered through some sad and horrendous abuses of the Liturgy, we are thankful to be *stuck* here where there is a sane parish.

Our parish at home is quite conservative. We have a chant choir and they sing chant and polyphony. There are some issues that could make it better, but it's a work in progress: "Save the Liturgy, save the world" not happenin' overnight (although that does beg the question Why not?). Anyway.

Here there were a few we wish had been different - mostly musical. Bring back the chant, Father, and restore it to its pride of place and even more persons will return, for we all seek Truth, Beauty and Goodness and the Mass is the only place left to find such treasures.

About Me

Welcome! The most important bread is the Bread of Life. I am Catholic and do my best to know, understand and live what that means that I might "know Him, love Him and serve Him." My husband, Bud, and I have been married for 24 years and we have seven children. Because of his job, we travel the country in an RV with five of them, learning as we go.