Friday, December 21, 2012

Quick takes

1. I just realized I didn't post any pictures of Advent week 3 on here, so how's this...
2. Jonathan got home at about 11pm last night from a five day trip to a cabin in the mountains of Alabama with a great family that we've known for over 13 years. He had a lot of fun.
3. Doesn't Jonathan look exceptionally old in that picture? You know what? He is pretty old. In fact he is on a date right now. I know dating is a touchy subject, for some people, but I'm good with it. It is a Friday afternoon, they are at a geriatric mall seeing a Disney movie and I think it's the cutest thing. This morning Madi said to Jonathan, you should maybe buy her movie ticket, his response was "Well, duh!" I'm very proud of my boy! 4. Looks like we've got a Jonathan theme going here. He got the results of his second round of SATs today. He went up considerably. It isn't at the Bright Futures 75% mark yet, but it's definitely within reach. For a kid who has limited (read: no) classroom experience this is really great. Proud again! 5. I'm not ready to attempt to write anything about the Sandy Hook tragedy, I may never be. 6. Jake and Madi and some friends sang at a nursing home yesterday.
7. St Patrick's had a St Nicholas breakfast at the beginning of the month which included collecting and wrapping presents for needy families in our parish, collecting and making food baskets for tons of people in need, and collecting and assembling homeless bags to pass out as needed in the community. The bags have granola bars and water bottles in them as well as information about where to find help and our church's free Christmas dinner open to everyone. We've had the opportunity to pass out three bags this week. It's great to have these bags ready in the car instead of our typical seeing someone in need and frantically searching under the seats to see if we can find anything resembling food or drink. They have also come in handy when I picked Madi up from her class on our way to Orlando and forgot to bring her breakfast. They can easily be replenished. There was some entertainment including Jake and Madi and some of that video may someday make it's way on here. St Nicholas was even there.
I think I'm a binge blogger, when I was at #3 or 4 I didn't think I had anything else to say, now I've met my standard seven and have all kinds of thoughts. Like I'm heading downstairs in a few minutes to make my new favorite treat dirty snowballs (crushed oreos mixed with cream cheese and dipped in white chocolate). Or about all the events and pictures that I'm behind on documenting. Or about how the world didn't end today (even though I keep thinking about how it ended for all those victims and their families last week). Or about how I'm glad that it is finally chilly here again. Or about all of the good, bad, and ugly thoughts that swim around in my mind all day and show up all convoluted in my dreams at night. Or about how much I love my children. Or about how I've seen more than one comment about people fearing for their kids safety that ends like this "I mean what are we supposed to do HOME SCHOOL?" In the comments I'm talking about it definitely comes out like it's a dirty word, also it is written as two words because it hasn't found it's way into their normal vocabulary. I have soo many thoughts on this, but there is no way I'm ready to articulate them, so they'll just have to keep swimming in there a little while longer. In the meantime I'm off to crush some oreos. After hitting publish I did the typical quick peak on facebook before heading for the oreos and saw this.
While I'm under no dilusion that I said anything similar to this in my post, this is what I meant to say.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


I got an oil change this morning. The vehicle I drive has a sensor that tells you when it is time for an oil change... oil life 15%, oil life 5%, oil life -27...that's how low it got. The plan was to bring the car to the local Honda dealership and get all of the recommended maintenance done, but since a free half day to sit at the car place is not really an option at this time of year, and the flashing -27 was stressing me out, I took a short-cut. I pulled into the local quick lube place and was out of there in 7 minutes. I am a big fan of short-cuts. Sometimes that's the only way that things can get done. Lest you think I am a complete loser driving around in a timebomb, the oil life was 5% yesterday morning, the usual daily in town driving brought it down to 0 and then the negative numbers started racking up really fast -3, -4, -10, -11, which brought me to -27 by the time I pulled into the lube place. On my way there I first had to drop off the overdue car payment (not too overdue, don't worry) (and it's not for the vehicle with the -27 oil life so don't worry about that either), and then I hit the library where I paid for my overdue fines with can goods for the needy (a December tradition around here). Are you starting to see a trend here? Jake is currently in the driveway cutting his fingernails, an activity that was way overdue. Jonathan and Madi need to finish up their online PE class this week so we stop getting the automated emails and phone calls about them needing to finish the semester (the actual teacher things they are amazing and is totally fine with their timetable, but the automated overdue notices stress me out like the flashing -27). It is a well known theme among homeschooling moms (and probably all moms) that you can't do everything all the time. Either the house is clean and the kids aren't getting taught, or the meals are super healthy and from scratch and the laundry is overflowing, or you try to some extent to keep up with all of these things and car maintenance, bills, and fingernails are neglected. There are only so many hours in a day, no one can do it all. Every minute of a mom's life is met with decisions, do I vacuum or read the history lesson with my child? Do I cook a healthy dinner or run errands? Do I pay bills or play a game with my son? Some of these decisions and responsibilites have easy short-cuts, like today's oil change. Some are more important. I recommend short-cuts when they apply so there's more time for the really important things of which there is no short-cut.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Talk talk talk

According to a recent survey, the average married couple in America has only 30 minutes a week of communication outside of exchanges that take place at the dinner table, and between parent and child is only 14 minutes. I just copied and pasted this from a facebook post from Catholic Heritage Curriculum, I have no idea how true it is, but it seems like a good place to start a blog post. Lately, in our family, we've been talking about how much we talk. It is very common for me to say something like "ok everyone get to work," or "go do your math" or whatever and then two minutes later be like, "Oh Madi did you hear about blah blah blah?" or "Jonathan what time do you need to get to the theatre today?" inevitably these conversation starters will morph into long discussions. I'll eventually end the discussion with, "How come you aren't doing your work?" only to start in a few minutes later with something else. Jonathan is currently on the Civil War both in History and in his English virtual school class (American Literature), almost daily our History discussions will bring up current topics so that we'll go from how split the nation was during that time (brother against brother and all that...cue the song from EPCOT's American Adventure) to how split the country is today, to how people are not necessarily being heartless when they don't understand that a baby really is a baby from the moment of conception, and how we can teach people this, to the fact that I had an ultrasound when I was 6 weeks pregnant with Jonathan and I got to see his heartbeat before you could hear it. This was something I apparently had never told him before and it came out because we were discussing the Civil War. A few posts back I talked about stories and how listening to stories helps students' writing skills. We have now spent a good amount of time discussing this very thing in our family. I am now even more convinced that Jonathan and Madi are both great writers because we talk and listen so much. No, they don't listen so much to things like "clean your room" and "put your laundry away", but truly listening to things like that probably doesn't do much for writing skills anyway. They listen intently however to any family story about the past, or any book read aloud to anyone else in the house, or any book on CD. It has even occured to me today that the Catholic Mass is a great place to hone one's listening skills, especially when you are an active participant like an altar server, choir member, or the guy running the powerpoint. Back to that original quote about how infrequently families interact, I'd venture to say with every school subject that my kids do each day we take at least 14 minutes per subject out of actual book learning to actually discuss something usually completely unrelated to the subject. This adds up and when you combine it with the conversations we have between home and theatre and home and church and theatre and church etc etc, it really adds up. This is good since our dinner interactions very often involve Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer, at least cumulatively we're trying to stay ahead of the average family.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Advent week 1

From the Heart Giver of all good things, teach me to give as you do, abundantly and without price. May my gift-giving come from the heart and reflect your holy name. Amen. — from Sharing the Word

Friday, November 30, 2012


I read a few things this week about stories and if I were a person with extra time or a really good blogger I'd find them and link to them, but I'm not so I won't. One of them was about how most schools in the country are working toward a common core curriculum. Apparently finding out that things like the FCAT and Sunshine State Standards and other state's versions aren't having the desired results, the push is toward everyone not just being taught to the test but being taught to the same test. Anyway this is not a criticism on schools, my young son is very likely going to public school next year {how do you like how I just slipped that in there?}. The gist of this particular article was that in these so called common core standards, fiction will play a very small role. This is truly sad, I love stories, and think that you can learn a lot from them. Ironically the other thing that I read this week was a quote from a pro-homeschooling guy Andrew P-something who sells a well known homeschool writing curriculum. In essence it said the opposite about fiction, specifically 'listened to fiction' (as in read aloud or audiobook) is one of the best things you can do for your kids (or yourself)... actually I'm copying and pasting because these people said it better than I can...It's especially critical, Pudewa says, to read aloud after children are reading fluently to themselves. He differentiates between what happens when a child is reading to himself, and what happens when an adult reads aloud to him. They are both important, but too often we value independent reading over listening to oral reading, and that, he says, is a huge mistake. Kids who read copiously do not just evolve naturally into good writers. Good writers have a storehouse of sophisticated language patterns, and those have to come through the ear. We've got to read aloud to our children in massive, massive quantity. This is music to my ears and I know it to be true. We are huge story people around here, and let me tell you there are lessons to be learned from even the most mundane of stories. We have homeschooled exclusively with the exception of Jake going to preschool, Madi currently taking one high school class, and Jake's plans for next year {there it is again!}, and prior to 'high school' my kids did not do a Language Arts curriculum. Not only that, because of his eye issues, Jonathan really avoids what I call reading with his own eyes (or I guess I should say eye, since he only uses one at a time), but we read aloud and listen to audiobooks ALL THE TIME!!! My first point is, in her public school English honors class, Madi is getting a 99% and in his virtual school English class for the third year in a row Jonathan is also getting an extrememly high A. This is because we listen to and talk about stories ALL. THE! TIME!! Madi just finished Romeo and Juliet and Jonathan is in the middle of Uncle Tom's Cabin, but I'm not only talking about classics here. I'm even talking about TV show "stories" like The Brady Bunch, Seinfeld, and The Big Bang Theory. We talk frequently in our family about themes in TV shows and books. We just finished listening to the third Richard Paul Evans book in The Walk series. This is a book written for adults, but Jake enjoyed it as much as the rest of us (I had already read them with my own eyes, so it was my second time through the story). The other day I was asking Jake some questions about Star Wars because all of my life I've managed to get by not watching or understanding much of it. He was watching one ot the newer ones where Annikan is the cute little boy and I was asking Jake to explain to me how he turned into meanie Darth Vader (Vadar?). He said to me, "You know how in the Walk books Alan is walking because his wife died, well that's sort of how Annikan ended up as Darth Vadar (er?)". Themes like picking on somebody to avoid being the one picked on come up all the time, I specifically bring up The 100 Dresses and Blubber and sometimes even Pontius Pilate when these themes show up. Today we saw a great play in Orlando about Christmas spirit and how you have to believe, that is certainly a popular theme. A point that I'm trying to make here in my jumbled roundabout way is that my 17 year old can appreciate the merrits of a play written for 4th graders (especially if they have good lighting) and my 4th grader can understand some really deep themes in literature as well. The best part is we can and do enjoy these things together and discussing them afterwards contributes immensely to understanding. This understanding leads to greater empathy for others. Whether my kids schooling is happening online, on the couch, or in a brick and mortar building, much of their education will continue to take place in the car, in a theatre or even in front of the TV immersing themselves in a good story and then discussing it with people they love.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Just trying to catch up

Here's the thing about life, it keeps happening everyday. There's no time to catch up on it because it just keeps coming. There are tons of things that I'd like to blog about, but in the meantime, here are a few pics about what we are doing instead of blogging.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


There's a very different title huh? Sunday morning getting ready for Mass, Jake called me into his room and I noticed he was wearing black jeans and a green golf shirt. Not the best church clothes, but ok. Jake was going to be altar serving so he'd have a robe on anyway, and he was wearing his black dress shoes. The next kid I saw dressed was Jonathan, in the kitchen, a blue golf shirt and nice jeans. Ok too I guess. Jonathan runs the power point screen for 9:30 Mass, and since he was needing to go right from church to the theatre it made more sense than dirtying more laundry. Now it was almost time to leave and there comes the girl down the stairs...more jeans! Now I was getting a little annoyed. Is this the best thing our kids can find to wear to God's house?! Madi had to be there early to sing with the choir, so there was no time for anyone to change, but we had some words about it on the way to church. Or I had some words anyway. "Seriously, none of you could find something nicer to wear to church?" "Blah blah blah blah!" And then I had even more words inside my head, "Where did I go wrong?" "Shouldn't I have taught them better?" And sadly, "What will people think?" Fast forward 45 minutes, Mike and I are sitting alone as is typical because Jonathan is at the power point, Madi is in the choir, and Jake is on the altar. Father Robert is giving the homily and he's talking about the widow who gave her last few cents and how that meant so much more than the people who gave from their surplus, he's talking about not doing things to be show-y, he's talking about how he doesn't really like to wear the fancy vestments, but how their purpose is so during the consecration we are not looking at him as Fr Robert but as a representative of Christ, he's talking about how when he was growing up jeans were not necessarily everyday wear, but dungarees (as they were called then) were work pants used to do service. He's saying maybe dungarees or something less show-y are more appropriate for doing God's service. There are my three kids clad in their dungarees (can't you see I'm liking using that word), doing God's service. There is God in the person of Fr Robert telling me to chill out about what people will think and to stop sweating the small stuff. There is God smacking me upside the head on a Sunday morning. I'm sure there will be many more instances where I will stress over minor details. It's good to know God cares enough about my minor details to answer my prayers about them sometimes audibly and sometimes even before I ask.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


My titles are getting far less creative that's for sure. Jake is going to be done with his "break" in a few minutes and will be ready to do his math on my computer so I'm not sure how much time I have. I found myself wondering this morning, is the country divided more than ever or is it just that in this day and age we get to see and hear what everyone is thinking all the time? I'm choosing to believe it's the latter. Jake is now standing in front of me, so I'm going to let him strike while the iron is hot. I guess I had even less time than I thought. Now I'm going to eat some applie pie (I made it last night) it is a symbol that we still live in the greatest country in the world. Ok, I'm back. I've had my pie and done some history with Jonathan. Jake is done with math (and all his schoolwork) and is outside with the airsoft gun he got for his birthday. I am really not comfortable with guns, even toy ones. Jake got this almost 2 weeks ago and today is the first time I am letting him use it. As he was opening it and loading it I was freaking out, "AHHH be careful where you point that," the kids were laughing at me. Now he's back in reloading and I'm freaking out all over again. We do so much talking around here, I know a lot of education takes place, but the jabbering does little to get the curriculm accomplished. I am double spacing these paragraphs, but I'm pretty sure they will be all jumbled when I hit publish. I started out thinking I was going to get a little bit political (very little bit), but that mood is gone. It's chilly out today. It feels really good. I've been meaning to take pictures of fall colors in Florida, they are far more subtle that northern colors, but the benefit is we have color all year and a lot of people with vibrant colors right now (or a month ago) will have to suffer with grey for the next 6 months. We are possibly going to host a Chinese exchange student (a boy) for 5 months in the Spring. It is not through the same program we've done the summer hosting, and he will go to a local Christian High School. I'm thinking that means I will be driving him and to and from school everyday. We are probably about 75% interested in this right now, but we need to come to a firm decision soon because the lady in charge needs to know asap. Madi is doing Wii fit right now. (read: she is watching Friends and doing the wii fit stair step) Jonathan and Madi are both taking PE 'virtually'. The class is actually called Health Opportunities in Physical Education and it involves projects and research etc, but they are supposed to have documented physical activity with each module. Madi does a ton of dancing at theatre and assists at homeschool PE, but she's hot and cold on the documented physcial activity. Now she's found a away to waste time and make it count for something.

Friday, November 2, 2012


In the five years that I've been blogging, I think I've written about this particular theme numerous times. I often bring up the story of when I was chatting with my classmates in 4th grade and the topic was how fat or thin our mothers were. My mother had always told me she was fat, she was very often on a diet. I didn't want to have to actually say those words aloud, and thankfully I didn't have to. As the conversation got around to my side of the table two different classmates chimed in "Julie's mother is thin!" I remember thinking "she is?" she always said she was fat. This is my perspective story. It turns out everyone is either fat or thin depending on who you are comparing them to! This is the homeschooling conundrum. When your kids aren't being compared to their peers in a standardized test fashion, you often wonder how they stack up. There are so many sidebars here, not the least of which is that standardized tests don't really do a great job of measuring these things anyway, but assuming they did... how do we know our kid is "getting it"? Just today I talked to a freshman in highschool whose course-load sounds much more like Jonathan's than Madi's. I think Madi and I both bristled a little at this. On the other hand in her Freshman English Honors class at the local public high school, Madi is kicking butt! I think she has about a 98 average. She comes home daily with stories of how these honors students don't know who Helen Keller is or don't know that Italy is in Europe. Seriously, I couldn't make this stuff up. Everyone is advanced or behind depending on who you are comparing them to. Someone will always be a little taller and run a little faster and someone else will always be a little shorter and run a little slower. This reminds me of another elementary school story where in 8th grade I made the cheerleading squad as a second alternate, "second alternate" meant you really stink but your aunt is the assistant coach and you're a nice girl. I knew this was pretty low, and was fairly down on myself until someone who hadn't made it at all congratulated me. That girl would've probably given anything to be second alternate (or to have her aunt be the assistant coach). Life is hard when you're trying to be the best, there's always going to be someone better. It's even harder when this applies to your kids and you're the teacher. This is not to say that I'm pushing my kids to be the best, I'm really just encouraging them to do their best. It's just complicated when you are their teacher and life gets in the way. Of course we put the schoolwork aside when friends from out of state come for a visit, and we put it away last week for the Florida Theatre Convention, and we put the actual curriculum away so much of the time to discuss actual life... elections, faith, poor weather conditions and damage where a lot of friends and relatives live. When it this the right decision? When is this the wrong decision? Will we ever know? Jonathan had a "tech audition" at the Florida Theatre Conference this weekend. This meant he stood at a table with his lighting design portfolio and representatives from colleges came around and talked to him about it. He specifically hit it off well with two of the representatives that really liked him. One of these schools is in Philadelphia (YIKES!!). Today Jonathan had to drop everything and go program lights for a nearby highschool that doesn't have anyone there who can do it. One day last week he had to drop everything to help two adults at our theatre figure something out. Needless to say, we are starting to get a tiny bit behind on the virtual school pace charts. This is stressful. I guess if all my kids did was school it wouldn't be that hard to keep up, they are just very full in the life department. Most of the time I know this is ok, sometimes not. It's all about perspective. By the same token, if all my kids did was school and it was happening somewhere other than our home with someone other than me as the teacher, my house would look considerably different (read: cleaner) than it does. A few weeks ago in his homily Fr Robert talked about how sometimes things aren't what they seem. He mentioned how brilliant people tend to score poorly and true/false or multiple choice tests because they read more into it. Along with perspective this is a theme that is frequently in the forefront of my mind. When Jonathan was about 5, he did a worksheet where he had to pick which thing didn't belong, the items were the sun, moon, star, and a book. He said the sun didn't belong because the book was a bedtime story and the stars and moon are out at night when you read a bedtime story. I knew then he was homeschooling material. A few weeks ago Jake had a similar example where he had to find a synonym for the word "hit" the choices were like, hand, strike, and paint. He knew they were looking for "strike", but he just couldn't bring himself to circle it because in baseball a strike is actually the opposite of a hit! I am so blessed to be able to spend so much time with my kids and can give them time to explain their thoughts on questions like these. On a standardized test they would just be marked wrong.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


There are so many things that I've not blogged about. Jonathan's birthday (17), Jake's birthday (10), a broken dryer... which means I can only do laundry when it is sunny out (thankfully in FL that's pretty often), our church's first youth praise and worship Mass (where Madi sang and Jonathan played the bongos), Captain Louie (where Jake is the lead today at 2:00), last Saturday's Friends of the Poor Walk followed by the kids' performance at an event to help homeless schoolchildren in our area, my frustration over the fact that both Captain Louie and the praise and worship Mass were not well attended, how it might be a good idea to slow down a little on the volunteering when you're starting to get resentful about it, how I have to have jury duty this coming week which means I have to ask for help from an army of people to get my kids to and from the places they need to be, how I am taking an army of people to the Florida Theatre Conference at the end of the week and there my son will interview with some colleges... how can this be?!? There's plenty more, but it's time to get the clothes on the line while the sun is shining!

Monday, October 15, 2012


Above is the farm picture from 9 years ago that Tiffany posted last week. Five of those little girls are in this picture from this weekend...
Does that make you feel old or what!?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Little Boys

I realistically have about 5 minutes to write this. I currently have a 4 month old baby boy nestled on my bed, he is content for only the moment. I have a 2 1/2 year old enjoying bristle blocks on my floor. This is the first time I've shared these with him, and he is enjoying them. I probably have about 10 minutes with him before he is looking for something else to do. There is a half eaten lollipop and an episode of The Backyardagains with his name on them downstairs. My own baby boy is only days away from "double digits", he is outside with the neighbors, but will need to come in and eat very soon because he is going to an extra theatre rehearsal in a little while. My first baby boy turned 17 last week. As if that weren't enough he took the SATs on Saturday and we went to a college fair on Monday!! How did this happen? One day they are making trains with blocks and pooping in their Mickey pants and the next day they are considering higher education. How did this happen? I'm glad I get to spend time with these little boys have an opportunity to remember what those early physically exausting early days of parenting were like. It gives me a little rest from the mental exhaustion of raising kids that are growing up!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

More granola bars

I was just perusing the internet a little while ago and came across these. Within 10 minutes they were cooling on my counter. No-Bake Chocolate Chip Granola Bars yield: 10 bars adapted from a pinterest recipe that was adapted from Rachael Ray Ingredients: 1/4 cup butter 1/4 cup honey 1/3 cup packed brown sugar (I used 1/4 cup) 2 cups quick cooking oats (I used old fashioned) 1 cup crispy rice cereal 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (I forgot the vanilla) 2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips (I used regular size choc chips and mixed them in before pressing in the pan) Directions: In a large bowl, stir oats and rice cereal together. Set aside. In a small pot, melt butter, honey and brown sugar together over medium high heat until it comes to a bubble. Reduce the heat and cook 2 minutes. Pour in vanilla and stir. Pour over dry ingredients and mix well to moisten all ingredients. Pour into lightly greased small jelly roll pan {about 12x8x1} and press out to be about 3/4 inch in thickness. {If your pan isn’t small enough, pack the mixture into one side. You really want to press them down so they stick together.} Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips and press down lightly. Cool on a countertop to room temperature for two hours or until the chocolate chips are set before cutting into bars. Wrap in parchment or plastic wrap and store at room temperature. (I put them in an 8x8 pan)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Lots of catch up pics.... no particular order with no descriptions.