Domestic Bliss Report

Motherhood is hard work. If we don't stick together, we'll all fall apart.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Yeah, this is incentive!

I want my kids subjected to this!


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Music post

Okay, I got tagged for the music meme. Apologies to those who disagree; come up with your own answers. Here are mine.

Best title ever for a piece of music - Fire Woman by B.O.C. I know horoscopes are fake, but being a redhead and a Leo just makes it inevitable.

Most underrated guitarist - I can't really comment on this one. I barely remember band names, let alone the individuals therein. Perhaps Bob Seger, as he gets remembered more for his lyrics than his guitar. He might be a mediocre guitarist. I can't tell.

Music that moves me to tears - The World is Stone by Cyndi Lauper. It reminds me of my semester overseas, the last semester before my dad passed away. It was all over the radio.

Most unusual lead instrument in a piece of music - The banjo in Billy Joel's The Entertainer. Yeah. Banjo.

Coolest name ever for a Rock 'N Roll band - The Doors. No, I'm not advocating the lifestyle; just the catchphrase "There are things known and things unknown, and in between are The Doors" has stuck with me. And I visited his grave in Paris after someone had stolen the bust.

Worst genre of music ever - Muzak. Anything that takes the likes of Air Supply and instrumentalizes it is beyond help. Then again, dropping the sickening lyrics could have been a good thing.

Best guitar jam - Slash's Sweet Child of Mine solo, or most anything by Eddie Van Halen.

Music that's ever scared your kid - Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Madeleine thinks it was mean to put that on the same CD as Mozart's Petite Musique de la Nuit.

National Anthem that most gets the blood pumping - The Star Spangled Banner beats Oh Canada, the only other one whose lyrics I know. Sorry.

So there you have it. Who wants it?

What do 24, Dora the Explorer, and General Hospital share?

After reading this article about Dr. Phil, I was just sad. I admit I used to watch him as well as Oprah. I don't recall what stopped me; it might have been Rachel's arrival, or the commercials for Maury during Phil, or I may have just figured I had better things to do with my time. Or a combination of all three?
A friend once told me she didn't watch any talk shows. I tried to defend Oprah and Dr. Phil as intelligent, but her reasoning was simple: it's all people airing their dirty laundry for attention, regardless of who's doing the interviewing.
Yep. Psst, Diane--you were right.

I guess I'd rather watch something I know is fake and isn't pretending otherwise, than something purported to be real and offer honest debate and only to find out it's all a put-on.

There's no such thing as reality TV.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Baseball memories

I don't remember my first Tigers game. Red Wings and Pistons, I do. But baseball? It's too far back.
I remember the Sunday after my tenth birthday we went to a baseball game. I was wearing my sundress with the yellow flowers on it; Mom had said it needed a petticoat. We went right from 10 o'clock Mass and had lunch at the Red Devil restaurant right across from the stadium.
I remember going to a Family Night game on a Monday that stretched to 19 innings. It was tied 3-3 at the end of the ninth; somewhere around the twelfth it went to 4-4. We were questioning if the time rule would go into effect; we knew they wouldn't start an inning after 1 AM. When the other team (Yankees?) broke it open in the top of the nineteenth, we packed it in. It was the first time my dad left a baseball game before it was over.
I grew up on stories of my mom taking the streetcar with her little brother to go to games. My dad told of going to Opening Day dressed for summer and realizing April sure could be cold, despite it being baseball season. I remember Dad explaining the difference between reserved and box seats (the poles impeding the view) and telling about when bleachers cost a dime.
George Kell and Al Kaline were the sound of Saturday afternoons, and Ernie Harwell sang me to sleep from my mother's radio more times than I can count.
I remember being a Bleacher Creature in 1984, swinging my shirt over my head at a Yankees game before they had towels (I was wearing a tank top--don't panic). 35-5, first loss to Kansas City. Once they had it, they kept their 7 game lead. Lou, Tram, Gibby, Lance Parrish, Darrell Evans, Tom Brookens, Chet Lemon, Larry Herndon... Dave Rozema, Aurelio Lopez, Milt Wilcox, Tanana, Willie Hernandez... Our next door neighbor had PASS for the first time that summer and we didn't even have cable. We were over there a lot of evenings.
I remember when the "Bo Knows" campaign got hijacked to "Bo don't know baseball," referring to Bo Schembechler instead of Bo Jackson. I was sad not to be at the Hug for Tiger Stadium and wouldn't touch Domino's Pizza for years.
Once in looking for our seats we went past the door to the players' locker room, and some of them were talking to the press just outside it. I was so surprised at how big Alan Trammel was. I'd only seen him on our 19-inch television before that.
My junior year of high school my mother pulled us out of school for Opening Day. The attendance monitor at school was suspicious when all three of us showed up in his office with our identical notes at 11 AM, stating we were to be excused for "personal business." He had the temerity to ask what that was. We were pretty brazen: "We're going to the ball game."
"Do you already have tickets?" he smirked.
"Oh, really? Where?"
"Upper deck reserved. Can we go now, as we're planning on having lunch before the game."
Mom was out in the parking lot, after all.

I remember being disappointed that I couldn't get the Tigers game on the radio when I went off to college. After I graduated, my mother called one Sunday morning from church: "Someone's giving away two tickets to the ball game today. Can you be ready to go by the time I get home? I'll just pull up!" They weren't just box seats, they were Tiger Den tickets. We didn't realize it until we were trying to find them at the park.
In August 1995, I remember being at a game with Dale discussing an upcoming wedding. "If you want a date, Dale, I'll go with you," I told him. I had taken care with what I wore that evening and even wore makeup.
I remember being at one of the last games at Tiger Stadium, a few months before we got married. We only made one game at Comerica Park since. Kids get the better of schedules and money.

Until last night. Now I can remember the only baseball game to which I wore long underwear and drank hot chocolate. Instead of a sunburn, I ended up with windburn. But they won. And we were there.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Our First Roadblock

is in math. What a surprise.
Counting, no problem. Back in June, when we were first trying on homeschooling, we had to put the math book aside as she didn't quite have the fine motor skills to write the numbers. We picked it up again in July or so. Then, we zipped through addition. Reading number sentences, left to right? Zoom! Subtraction, not as easy, but a little coaxing and we're good. A little motion to the minus sign and she corrects herself.
We've spent two weeks on money, though, and we still have bumps. It's just pennies, nickels, and dimes, but if you slap one of each in front of her, she'll tell you, "Three." Not "Sixteen."
I'd just like to say, of all of the things to have trouble with, counting change--while unquestionably basic and necessary--is also the cheapest and easiest to supplement. And the manipulatives certainly are easy to come by!


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Tandoori chicken...

is some yummy stuff. Just ask my kids.

It was a favorite meal of an ex. I tried to make it for him... and failed. Years later, knowing my husband's taste for the spicy, I tried again.
He got home half an hour late that day and I wasn't even mad. The thirty minutes he'd been deprived of that stuff was punishment enough.

I made it again tonight. No, this wasn't the third time in my life, but it has been a while. Madeleine ate three drumsticks, a new feat. The Boy had seconds, too. I've figured out that six pieces aren't enough; this time I made nine and it was barely enough. The kids passed on the couscous to have chicken. Small children, passing on starch for protein? Wow.

I've said it before. My kids are weird.

UPDATE #1: They did go back and finish off the couscous, but about an hour later.

UPDATE, 10/18: The recipe is slightly modified from the book, but I don't think you folks will mind. This is what I do.

2 1/2 tsp unseasoned meat tenderizer
1/3 cup lemon juice

1. Take your skinned chicken parts. You want them with bones, as the meat will turn to soup on you when it cooks if it doesn't have SOMETHING to cling to. Slash the meat diagonally about 1/2 inch deep and about an inch apart. I aim for about 3 slashes per piece.
2. In a bowl deep enough to hold 'em all, pour the lemon juice mixture over the chicken. Mix them around and rub it into the slashes so they all get a little attention. Cover and leave it alone for 30 minutes.

INGREDIENTS for marinade
2 cloves garlic--minced from the jar is great
1 TB chopped ginger root--not the powdered stuff, but the one in the jar
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp red pepper
1 TB paprika
1/3 cup plain yogurt

3. Mix all of the ingredients for the marinade together until smooth. When the half hour from Step 2 is up, pour the marinade over the chicken and then toss the pieces around until it's all covered pretty evenly.
Here is the part that requires planning: the chicken now needs to sit, overnight in a fridge or at least four hours on the counter, with occasional visits and flips around. I know, it sounds vile to leave raw chicken out for hours, but trust me. It's worth it.
4. In a roasting pan, lay out the chicken in a single layer. It's okay to pour the marinade over the chicken. Cover and roast at 525 degrees (see why it's okay to leave it out?) for half an hour.

It just falls off the bone. Delicious.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Unleash the power of the blog! Such as it is...

In a neurotic attempt to provide for my children some of the highlights of my youth, I've tried to get them some of the books I remember. For example, Great Illustrated Classics. When I was young, they were sold at Farmer Jack and were about four inches square, an inch thick, and paperback. They had a picture on every other page and I could knock one off in a day. My mother actually carried around a list in her purse so we could get them all (we never succeeded, but I admire her effort still). I read Black Beauty, The Wizard of Oz, Little Women, and The Count of Monte Cristo so many times they fell apart. That last one helped me through French III in high school as well, as I didn't need to read it in French. I just had to be able to read the questions on the quizzes.
Now, they're available larger and in hardcover. The text and pictures are exactly the same as I remember, and our collection is still growing in fits and starts (it's at about 24 so far). I so look forward to the day when the kids can read them for themselves.
We also had a Children's Bible. It was hardcover and it had the famous stories in it, though no quotations per se. I liked the colorful pictures, frankly. When I found it at the book sale at the homeschoolers' conference in June, we got it.
But there's still a book eluding me: a book of Aesop's fables. I couldn't tell you the actual title beyond it had Aesop in it. It was hardcover, and big--about 10 by 13, though still not very thick, about an inch. On the cover it had an orange Oriental dragon with a monkey on his back, if I remember right. Inside the front cover was a drawing of a forest, lots of dark green. The pictures inside weren't all in color; some were just black and white. I remember, though, the picture of Thumbelina meeting her prince was in color. The one for the wolf and the "sour grapes" was in black and white. It was probably published in the early '70's.
Anyway, if anyone happens across such a book, let me know. Or buy it and I'll pay you back.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Maturing education

When your baby crawls up to the outlet, you just say "No!" and remove or distract the child. You don't get into a big lengthy discussion; it would be water off a duck's back.
When your five-year-old approaches the outlet, you say "No, you get hurt. There's electricity there." Or something of the like; a little more information is appropriate.
When your fifteen-year-old brings up the outlet, you can discuss alternating versus direct current, voltage, amperes, et cetera. Electrocution, death, circuit breakers versus fuses are all up for grabs.

The same goes with religious education. When we're just starting to learn, we hear all of the "Thou shalt nots" and the "good children don't" because that's where you start. I mean, you hear "No running in the halls" as a rule, and nobody considers it restrictive and repressive. You don't really need to go into deep discussions of injury to self and others by running.

On a similar note, children don't even know where babies come from at five years old. Trying to explain the implications of embryonic stem cell research compared to life beginning at conception involves a more technical discussion than I think my kids could handle.

The problem is folks don't continue their religious education into adulthood. They stop at eighth grade. After that, they're left to optional (and all-too-often imperfectly orthodox) Youth Groups, unless they're in Catholic schools (and those aren't a given as far as orthodoxy, either). Is there any other subject we toss to the winds before high school? Just speaking from my own experience, I was required to take at least three years of math, three of science, four of English. Even a semester of swim class was mandatory. This was public school.

But religion? Mass weekly (or weakly, depending). But thinking long-term, is there any more important subject than the Faith? You learn "Thou shalt not commit adultery" in third grade. It gets covered again later, but not in any real depth. And it withers away to silence once the hormones kick in. In high school, or adulthood, when the student can comprehend the dignity of the human person, the cheapening of human life effect of contraception, the sacrament that is matrimony, the need of a child for both parents, the unconditional acceptance of a spouse exemplified by the marital act, and marriage as visible symbol of Christ and His Church, you're on your own.

What are the results? Among others, the idea that the Church is a negative religion full of "Thou shalt nots" with some celibate dictator in his ivory tower not letting anyone else have any fun either. Or it's a disconnected set of archaic prohibitions set up long ago with little meaning in the modern world. And the Bible is a collection of stories written by men (gasp!) in order to repress others (usually women).

What are some solutions? Better homiletics? Adult formation programs? A cutting edge public relations campaign? Okay, that last one is a joke.

We can start on the grassroots level, in our homes. Take responsibility for our own children's education and wait for the trickle-up effect. Educate ourselves and share what we know with willing listeners. Blog (just ask Dan Rather). And pray.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Two more reasons

to homeschool...

Rich Leonardi's and Mama's.

At home=doing nothing?

I wonder where that idea comes from. It has become apparent that since we're homeschooling, that translates to others (no names) that I'm "not doing anything" and am thus available to babysit at their convenience.
Um... no. On top of homeschooling, I do at least 6 loads of laundry, at least 7 loads of dishes (no dishwasher), vacuum, sweep, make a dozen meals or so, take the kids for walks, write out the bills, lesson plan, drive the kids to library time, Mass a couple times a week, and occasionally like to sit down and read a book or the newspaper. Not to mention Rachel still needs a nap and Dale does more often than not as well.
Individually, none of those things take a whole lot of time, but cumulatively they sure do add up to consume my waking hours.
I don't think this is just when one is homeschooling; I think it's societally conditioned that stay-at-home mothers are just sitting around watching soaps and eating bonbons while being fanned by palm fronds. That's the thought until I did it. And how many women think, "Oh, once I have this baby and I'm at home, I'll be able to finish writing my novel/clean out the garage/redesign my stock portfolio. I'll have so much time!" HA!
I've been told that this presumption of availability isn't just my family, but I'm wondering what others do when these calls happen. Any input?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

In defense of Disney princesses

Recently over at Danielle Bean's has been a discussion on princesses. I read some of the comments, and generally agreed with the idea of limiting a girl's exposure (boys kind of self-limit their exposure to princesses). The objections were varied and some were conflicting--like the recent Disney princesses are more independent young feminists and they didn't like that, where others didn't like the helpless portrayal of the older ones. I'll just come clean and admit I'm a sucker for a good classic.
Cinderella has been a fairy tale for centuries, I think. Generations at least. Let's not get ourselves into a snit about a Grand Example of Finding a Prince Charming to Take Me Away From All This, shall we? If Cinderella is your daughter's only example of an adult woman, where have YOU been?
Beauty and the Beast is my favorite, primarily because it's originally French. I realize it's been altered in that the original doesn't have a character remotely like Gaston, but it does have a happy ending. "True love sees beyond appearances" and "it's tough to make friends when you're a snot" are values I can live with.
I used to object to Aladdin until I watched it again recently. Keeping one's promises is important, even if it makes your life harder. True love comes out of honesty instead of deception. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. See previous paragraph.
Sleeping Beauty is our recent favorite. Prince Philip is given a Shield of Virtue and a Sword of Truth to fight what Maleficent herself says are the powers of Hell.
I know one objection is the wardrobe of the princesses and have heard tell of digital alteration to increase their voluptuousness, but I wonder. Is that adults projecting onto the kids' stories? I mean, Dale likes Belle because she wears a yellow dress (the same color as Scoop), not because he thinks she's falling out of it. And how much of that alleged alteration is a reflection of our own creeping waistlines in 21st century America?
I recall one of the objections is how little the prince and princess actually know each other before they're declared "in love." Well, I just read Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and some of them got proposals with less conversation than Cinderella and Prince Charming. And that's literature.

Don't take this defense as universal. I won't let The Jungle Book into the house until my kids have read the original Kipling, that's for sure. And let's not discuss the violations of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I get too upset.
And the merchandising machine is obscene and ubiquitous. But controllable.
I wonder how much furor is justified and how much is imagined. When Rachel likes her nightgown and calls herself a princess when she's wearing it, is that a bad thing? I don't think so.

It's a pink party at the Prices'!

My goal color is "amoxicillin."
As in, Friday night in the bath Madeleine started complaining of her ear hurting. Okay, we'll take care of it if it continues. After pajamas, stories, prayers, and cuddles it was causing enough grief to get whimpers. Quick, Mom! To the ibuprofen!
The next day was the same though the ear had switched. Magically, the pediatrician has Saturday morning appointments where we discovered a double ear infection.
Then last night, same story, different child. At least Dale was consistent as to which ear. While on the way to the doc's this morning, he was protesting that Apple Jacks had made his ear feel better. "They'll make a lot of things better, but not ear infections," said the doc. "Has she been sniffly too?" he asked, indicating Little Miss Magic Green Nose Goblins.
So, three children and four infected ears. At least he saved me a trip by checking Rachel (against her wishes).
Yeah. At least getting them to take the amoxicillin involves pouring their dose in a measuring spoon and handing it over. Rachel actually asked for more today at lunch.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

On science

I was a French major. I ended up with a Humanities minor, which was an amalgamation of art history, philosophy, and literature (read: hooey). I got the minimum required 12 credits of science in geology (lots of field trips!), astronomy, and psychology (required for teaching certification anyway).
In high school, I loved biology. I understood it. Physics made sense to me and I could memorize the formulas pretty easily (force equals mass times acceleration, gravity is 9.8 meters per second squared). Chemistry was another story. I maintain my teacher was making it all up, as neither his lectures nor the text made any sense to me.
Liking biology was a carryover from seventh grade when we first really studied life science. I was such a geek that I asked for (and received!) a microscope for Christmas. Seriously. 100, 600, 800, and 1200 power. It came with some made-up slides with rabbit hair and a goldfish scale, but my favorite things were those I made myself. Letting some rain water sit outside, then putting a drop of it under the 'scope and watching the little paramecia swim around... It was so cool.
I have long recognized my academic shortcoming in the whole science arena and have made a deliberate effort to make up for it since before we decided to homeschool. Sure, from those 12 or 16 pages of newsprint I could get a host of sticker books, merchandised stories, media tie-in lift-the-flaps, but I didn't. I gravitated toward the Usborne's, First Reader Planets, kindergarten workbooks.
Then came the homeschooling decision and a new host of worries. I didn't want kids who could quote Shakespeare and Augustine but don't know Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species. I mean, it's great if they can list the popes of the last century and their important encyclicals, but if they have no idea the structure of an atom I'll have missed something.
I happened to be shopping at the local mecca of modern civilization (24-hour all-inclusive grocery store) and I found Parragon Publishing. Here were hardcover books, about 9x12 and an inch thick, with titles like: The World of Science, Earth & Space, Wild Wild World (animals), Mighty Machines, and My First Encyclopedia. That first one has seven chapters--the last of which is all experiments. Then we saw 150 Great Science Experiments discounted to $7 at the bookstore. That's one a week for three years. Including summers.
Plus our umbrella school has a brand spanking new science text series (okay, copyright 2005).
And my old microscope? My mom found it right where I asked her to look, under my bed. With a new pair of AA batteries, we were set. I'll bet Rachel is the only two-year-old I know to have seen microorganisms.
I said I had overcompensated.