Domestic Bliss Report

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

Thursday, November 30, 2006

I admit it: I must be nuts.

The convergence of trying to raise our kids well, Christmas killer shopping, and not wanting disappointment on Christmas morning are all converging to drive me insane. How, you ask? Here's the backstory in all three areas.
1. In that Michelle Malkin kerfuffle about the fauxto of her in the bikini, I saw the list of "old-fashioned" toys: Holly Hobbie, Strawberry Shortcake, and My Little Pony. I never got really into the later two, but I liked Holly Hobbie. I had a doll, a lunchbox, and a puzzle. I think because of that resemblance I was told of to Melissa Gilbert in Little House on the Prairie... I'd have had more if I'd gotten an allowance before I was 10, but that's another story. So what did I do when I saw this list? Hit eBay to start adjusting their taste to the old-fashioned and simple. And it's worked. To a point.
How do I know? That brings us to Circumstance #2, Christmas Killer Shopping. I noticed a while back new Holly Hobbie, wearing jeans and a denim hat. Oh, interesting, I thought, but I like the vintage ones better.
Maddie saw the new ones on a commercial and likes those. "The hard ones, where you can play with them and put the clothes on?" she said. Until three days ago, all she wanted was a Cabbage Patch Baby.
So I start looking online for the dolls. And looking. And looking. Try it yourself. I'll wait.

(cue Jeopardy think music)

Fifty bucks on eBay for a doll is NOT on the agenda. It was not reassuring to see "VHTF! MIB!" next to several listings. Great, my kid wants something trendy. Exactly what I was trying to AVOID with this Holly Hobbie bit! God sure has a sense of humor.
Which brings us to Circumstance the Third, Disappointment on Christmas Morning. We were actually looking to buy one of those dolls at something less outrageous than $50 and were outbid. So this is getting to me like a loose tooth. I called my mother, who has a better chance of being at a store unaccompanied and able to get one.
It still rankled. And lurked. And stewed in the back of my mind. You may have guessed by now that this has a happy ending, as I'm able to write a coherent sentence (if not paragraph). This afternoon, Madeleine came to me quite contrite. "Mom, I broke her arm off. It was an accident, I just went with my thumb..." It was Polly Pocket. For those who don't know, Polly Pocket is the equivalent of PG-rated Barbie in miniature. You know how annoying Barbie's shoes are? This is worse because they're a third of the size.
But in my insanity, what did I do? "Okay, Madeleine, we'll get you a new Polly Pocket." Right now, this afternoon. I decided we'd have leftovers for dinner and trucked all three of them out to the minivan. It meant we had an excuse to hit the toy section today. Otherwise, I'll have nightmares about Holly Hobbie. Yeah, I'm that way.
What did I find at our local megamarket? A new Polly Pocket, this time with the pet store instead of the quick-change car. Madeleine was happy with that. Dale was consoled by a $5 pack of Hot Wheels, and Rachel's silence was bought with a small My Little Pony knockoff.
What of the Holly Hobbie? They had several, one of which came home with us. But it's for the Giving Tree girl, as far as Madeleine knows. She chose a tag that says "4 year old girl toy." Mom just might make a mistake when wrapping and slip in something else for that.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

We interrupt our usual posting schedule for this series of updates.

On prayer requests
1. Lily is still in the NICU, but is up to almost two pounds. Her next step is to transition off the respirator to something whose acronym I don't remember, but the step after that is the cannula which will not keep her in the hospital. Her abdominal problems persist and may require surgery once she's big enough. Prayers still in order.

2. I have reason to believe that the individual concerned in the Oregon flooding is safe and sound, so prayers of thanks are appropriate.

On personal stuff
1. What did we do about the girls' birthdays? We had cupcakes the day of and a very small party the Saturday between. By "very small," I mean grandparents and one friend whose mom I've known since before Madeleine was conceived. Since that little girl is also in speech (like Dale!) we played Chipper Chat instead of the usual party games. And I was relaxed enough to actually enjoy myself for a change.

2. What about that book I was looking for? Turns out we did find it, thanks to my husband picking up that R. L. Stevenson poetry. I was looking for Fairy Tales and Fables, illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa. Thanks to Alibris, now we own it. Somewhere I had an email with the cover but it's gone.

3. How is Maddie doing on her reading? The term I'm looking for is "snowballing fast." At least once a day she comes up with something new. Sunday it was "NO TURN ON RED." And she knew it meant you aren't supposed to go when the light is red.

4. How is Christmas shopping? It's roughly half done, but it's all chosen. We just need to actually order the stuff and wait for Melchior the UPS Guy to do his job.

Did I miss anything? That's what the comboxes are for.

Monday, November 27, 2006


We did the Thanksgiving thing at my in-laws. For those new here, I love my in-laws. If I'm around my MIL for any length of time, she will say something off the cuff that, superficially, is just making conversation, but if you think about it, it really comes off as a compliment. Example: "Your kids eating so many vegetables must come from your side of the family, Heather, as it certainly doesn't come from this one!"
The presumption is that eating veggies is a good thing. Superficially, it's just an observation on my kids' diet. If you scratch the surface a bit, it becomes a compliment to how I'm feeding her grandchildren and how my mom fed us growing up. See what I mean?
So, we're up there for a few days. FIL and Dale go sit in their deer blinds on Saturday, and MIL suggests a trip. She knows my feelings about too many battery-operated, designer, trendy, NEW-AND-IMPROVED!! toys. Where does she suggest we go?
The local Amish general store. Yeah.
Madeleine chose a sewing machine. I can't really call it a toy, as I think it really works. Rachel chose a Beanie baby sized lamb, and Dale got a(nother) toy tractor. What are you going to do?

Welcome back. Regular posting will resume.

If Erma Bombeck did convent life...

this would be her blog.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Yeah, this fits.

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Literate Good Citizen

You read to inform or entertain yourself, but you're not nerdy about it. You've read most major classics (in school) and you have a favorite genre or two.

Dedicated Reader
Book Snob
Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Perspective changes

There are things you don't really notice until your perspective changes, just a little bit. Changes you don't notice until you're there.
Take, for example, the Barbie aisle. Our girls aren't there yet, but are edging toward it. I acknowledge this, and while not a big fan of Barbie (as another mom put it, "Barbie never ends"), at least she's been monogamous, to college, a career woman, a bride, a mom, and well-traveled.
But she doesn't seem to be the clotheshorse she once was. I noticed a variety of dolls and lines, but no clothes sold separately. What happened? That was part of the fun! Were the clothes discontinued because the profit margin was too narrow? Was I just in the wrong store?
Another example is the coloring book market. Yes, there are still coloring books marketed for every personality that might be remotely familiar to any child (and some who shouldn't be so familiar), but there's a new component to those racks.
The workbooks. When did these come about? Am I just noticing them now as a parent and homeschooler? Seriously, folks, if you haven't been to that department in your local grocery/department store, check it out. You can get a fair shake at a whole early elementary education curriculum from your friendly neighborhood Kmart. Language arts, math, health, science, flash cards, the whole schtick. No joke.
Now, because I'm the kind of person I am, I wonder why. It can't be all the homeschooling market, it's not that big (yet). Seriously, if every homeschooling kid got their entire curriculum from the grocery store, that would be what, two million? Three? In a nation of how many? Three hundred million, says the voice from the back of the room. One percent of the population? It can't be the homeschooling market.
So is it the "helicopter" parents, those whose kids are in violin, soccer, and oil painting by the time they're four in order to give little Ashleigh a head start? Would that be enough? Hmm. Maybe. But when would they have time around enrichment lessons and parents' work?
Or is it the rest of the parents? The ones who see invented spelling and fuzzy math and watered down "social studies" instead of real spelling, math, or history? It seems they would be the biggest market.

Hm. One of those things I wonder about.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sometimes, Mom is wrong.

Siblings squabble. It's the nature of the beast. Even my wonderful, angelic children have been known to have a cross word amongst themselves. Usually, nothing but feelings are hurt; an apology and a hug and we move on.
Yesterday, though, it was not the case. After we watched The Football Game, the kids were having some grapes. Madeleine reached for Rachel's, but Rachel wasn't in a mood to share. With a resounding "No!" and a swing, Ms. Toddler defended what was hers.
"Ow! My eye!" cried Madeleine, covering her right eye. Tears. Protests. I admonished Rachel for hurting her sister, but reminded Madeleine that she shouldn't have gone after the grapes.
I thought her protests about her eye were symptoms of overreacting. I could see nothing wrong. I have contact lenses, I know eye pain. I've had eyelashes under the lens, or sand, or lenses inside out. Blink a little bit, it will go away.
An hour and change later, she's still crying about it. Her eye was still red, I thought partly due to her regular rubbing and partly due to her crying. Daddy points out, "She's not one to play it for sympathy." Fine, maybe you're right. It's after 8 and I don't feel like making a big drive to our doc's hospital when we have one a mile away. It's an eye--yeah, it's serious, but does it need a pediatric ER?
So we called the pediatrician, where we were told the close one should be fine but we definitely needed to take her in.
She slept most of the time we were waiting, but once the doc saw us, all was better. He didn't lie, the anesthetic stung for about a count of 10 and then it was all better. He put on the gloves, which I informed him were her favorite color. He played that up with the ultraviolet light: "I use this one because your eyes are blue. I have a brown one for girls with brown eyes." She cooperated as much as you can really ask a five-year-old to do so, and once the dye went it, you could see the scratch. We're talking maybe a half inch the way it squiggled around. Little sister got her good.
She came home with a blue glove to try to blow up (doc had been unsuccessful), a popsicle (to make up for the glove), an eye patch, and some ointment to go on thrice daily.
She's all better now, and Rachel has had a manicure. And I've apologized for not believing her when she was really hurt.


Thursday, November 16, 2006


Madeleine actually laughed during her reading assignment. She said it was "fun!"

I made four pints of apple sauce, and my wrist is sore from sending it through the food mill. Whose idea was this?

We watched Cars for the fifth time since Saturday. Rachel requests "Mader an da Dote Ite."

Madeleine got a taste of making change for the first time. Tomorrow we'll review addition (and subtraction?), with fractions to start next week.

We went for a walk with our heavy coats on carrying our umbrellas.

I got to rake leaves out of our drain--again-- and dig a narrow trench from the sidewalk to the street for drainage.

In other words, it was just another day that will blend into so many others. No catastrophes, no major victories, many small steps along. Meals were made, dishes washed, laundry attended to. We all got a day older, progressed a little further on the road of life.

Days like this used to bother me. I didn't contribute to the GNP today! I didn't read or write anything related to the Great American Novel! This day was without meaning!

Then I look at my children, my husband. No day with them could lack meaning.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Today was a great day for Madeleine.

She was wonderful at daily Mass, no big surprise. We then went to the last session of Storytime at our local library. What made today a big deal: she got her library card. I had her take my license and the form up to the librarian, while I stood back with a camera (not digital--sorry). She printed her whole name on the card herself. I know when her handwriting improves it will be time to retire it, but it will go into a scrapbook. She even let her brother use it to check out a Felix the Cat video, while she got Stellaluna and a book on cable cars (for him again).
My father remembered getting his library card; he realized with that, and the ability to read, nobody could stop him from learning about whatever he wanted. I pointed this out to her in the minivan after. Whatever she wanted, mummies from Egypt or princesses or castles or growing a garden of flowers or vegetables or building a house or stories that were true or made-up or anything she could name.
They didn't have The Picture of Dorian Gray, which is the next book in my new reading group. It was at the branch where the kids had swim lessons this evening, so I just asked Dale to pick it up.
Which he did. While Daddy was checking it out, Madeleine and her little brother examined the fish tank.
"Daddy! I know what this sign says! PLEASE DO NOT TAP ON THE GLASS! I sounded it out myself! It's on both sides. I'll show you."

I'm not worried about her reading anymore.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I love my husband.

A few weeks ago, I asked for help in finding a book. None of my two or three dozen readers were able to help me, or so it seems since nobody commented. I resigned myself to never knowing, just lost in the mists of time.

Then last month, our church had its annual "garage sale." Because I was at our archdiocese's women's conference, I didn't make it. Dale went to the Mass for Life and then the sale. Among his treasures, he got some books for the kids--A Child's Garden of Verse, by Robert Louis Stevenson. He picked it up for the author's name.
I looked at it, noticing the wonderful illustrations. They weren't all in color, which gave me pause. I knew this style.

I think I've found it.

You know, I hear all kinds of stories about the Internet. I know anything is available for a price, and the Internet just makes it more accessible. What have *I* found?
1. The teaspoon completing my grandmother's wedding silver, lost around 1932
2. An exact replacement of the same grandmother's sugar bowl after it got broken (ebay)
3. Support for homeschooling, from bargain textbooks to entire curricula to social groups
4. An online classics reading group, which more easily fits into my schedule than a live one

Now this. Maybe Al Gore isn't as dumb as his Global Warming discreditors would have us believe.
(I'm joking on that last line.)


Random notes

1. Lily Updates can be found to the right, at Catholic Cricket. So far, she's doing well. Prayers still appreciated.

2. We're having tandoori chicken tonight for the third time in six weeks. Has anyone else made it? What do you think?

3. My brother recently got a job at Sears. I have no problem with their merchandise; I've found lots of pretty, appropriate stuff for both myself and Maddie. But if they aren't celebrating Christmas, I'll shop elsewhere. At least for the season. If anyone notices, please keep me posted.

4. Madeleine has started putting up a fight with reading. It's not that it's difficult for her; I think it may be the book, but she fights it. "I have to do it all by myself!" We're using the McGuffey's Primer. Her daily assignment is a whole five sentences and I cuddle her for the duration. Mind you, she reads other things on her own--signs and cereal boxes. Suggestions for avoiding the battles?

5. I've been trying to post daily to lift my daily page views; it's ego-gratifying to have regular readers. Thanks, folks.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Not to be demanding, but...

I have another prayer request. This took a little more muddling for me, though.

Let's just say I used to know someone who could be affected by these floods. Prayers for all those affected would be great.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Prayer request

Lily Clare Siekierski was born at 9:11 AM today via emergency caesarean at almost 28 weeks gestation. She weighs one pound, seven ounces and is twelve inches long. She is on the respirator, but is breathing more on her own than with it.
I didn't see Heather (Lily's mom) at the hospital; she was still too nauseous and in pain. I did see Matt (Lily's dad) and Lily herself. My finger is thicker than her arm; my fist is larger than her head. I have never touched a baby so small.

Any prayers appreciated. Lily is their fourth child, so Peter (4), Evelyn(2.5), and Mya(14M) could use some help, too. You can leave them here, here, or here (this one has a picture!).

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Kids, adults, and repetition

I was thinking about kids and repetition earlier because, well, with three small kids around all the time I can't help it. Anyone who has been around small children knows about repetition. Reading their favorite book or watching their favorite show the nth time in fewer days because that's what the child wants, and you read about how it's important for kids' development to be able to predict what happens and familiarity is good for emotional health. Yadda yadda yadda, it's not really consoling when you're reciting The Cat in the Hat instead of reading it, but it's what parents do.
Because, after all, adults don't need repetition. We need novelty, don't we? New things, people, places, activities. That's why we have video rentals, the Internet, news tickers, new TV shows every season, a dismay of reruns over the summer. More novelty, more newer faster. Right?
But wait. We still buy things like DVDs of entire seasons of TV shows, or CDs from our favorite musicians. And when we do have a favorite, don't we listen to it over and over? We sing along with our favorite songs, don't we? We watch favorite episodes again and again. Why? Do adults need repetition too?
Are some children's books, stories, and movies less annoying than others? Why?
Is it because they still speak to us, even the dozenth time in a week? Even as we're reciting, are we admiring the rhyme scheme and details in the illustrations? There's a reason fairy tales have been told and retold for centuries, a reason people still read and analyze Plato, Shakespeare, Aristotle, the Bible. There's a wealth of thought there that one perusal doesn't reach.
But we're told in our culture that we need more-newer-faster. Out with the old, in with the new. It rubs off on our children and primes them for the consumerist mindset, neglecting the rich history from which we've come.
I think people of all ages do need the repetition of good stuff. It's just easier to find the "good stuff" in the old where you know it's survived the test of time (centuries or decades), instead of trying to filter out the bad in what's new.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Show of hands: who had hand-me-downs?

All three of my kids have hand-me-downs, and should more come, they will too. We have two nieces a year older than Madeleine and more than that in nephews older than Dale.
I sometimes worry about what it does to Rachel, if she grows up and realizes how much of her stuff was secondhand. I thought it wonderfully convenient to have had a second girl in September, making it much more likely she'd be the right size to reuse most everything, but I thought it was just practical. Erma Bombeck wrote about hand-me-downs--books missing pages, everything scuffed and stained. Would she think she was second best, too? I vowed she would have some new things if I had to contrive them.
I didn't worry about Madeleine. She'd have new, except for stuff from her cousins. She has always gotten excited when the kitchen bags of clothes come over, too. She even has been a good enough child that most stuff survived to be packed away for her little sister. I didn't think much of it.
Ah, there's the rub. Madeleine has a memory that scares me. As we unpack boxes for her sister, she has asked more than once, "Did that used to be mine?"
Last week, we had a bout of tears. "Where is my yellow nightgown?" I had packed it away already; she was a hair's breadth from outgrowing it and I was clearing out summer stuff anyway; it just went into the box. The tears abated only after I told her she could choose the nightgown's final destination: her little sister, St. Vincent de Paul, or possibly made into a pillow. She chose, to my surprise, a pillow for herself.
So now I have a new worry, to add to those I have already. Is Madeleine feeling usurped by her little sister? Is she going to feel erased, like footprints in the sand? While Rachel is thrilled to be like big sister, will Madeleine feel like she has nothing left of her own childhood, that it all got taken over by younger siblings?

I try to remember the rare piece of wisdom from my sister: You don't get to choose what your kids need therapy for.

It helps. Sometimes.

Monday, November 06, 2006

True, good, and beautiful

When I began this mothering business, I didn't quite have all of my priorities in the same order I do now. I still labored under that delusion that since a newborn sleeps some 18 hours a day or so, I thought I'd be able to do lots of other things.
Since that particular myth has been dispelled, I settled on some minimums: something good to go in, something good to go on; the rest could take care of itself. Translated: dishes, meals, and laundry were my priority chores. Vacuuming, sweeping, dusting, et cetera would get done when I got around to them.
What do I mean when I say "something good to go in?" Like their diets. My kids eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Bananas, apples, pears, grapes, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, oranges, corn, squash, sweet potatoes, celery, peas, green peppers, green beans. Dale loves tomatoes and will eat them plain. Madeleine's favorite thing to eat is lima beans. I don't serve veggies with a lot of sauce, though I do put them in soup. And they eat them. They eat whole wheat bread, skim milk, regular doses of low-fat meat (and fish). Fast food is a special event. There's "true, good, and beautiful."
What about "something good to go on?" Their wardrobe. I want their clothes to be clean, well-fitting, and correct for the weather; there's the "good" and "true." The "beautiful" comes in with the style--attractive, modest, and age appropriate.
Somewhere along the way, that "something good to go in" came to include their minds as well. And somewhere else along the way, I realized that the Catholic perspective of "true, good and beautiful" dovetails quite nicely. The books they're read and will read, the music they hear, the television shows they watch. True, good, and beautiful puts a different spin on it.
When I realized that the bare minimum standards I'd figured out were so simpatico with the Church's idea of true, good, and beautiful, and it applied to their minds as well, I couldn't help but notice how well that goes with our decision to homeschool.

So on we go. Today it was in the low 60's and sunny--a hit-or-miss event in November. After math, we went for a bike ride (I followed on foot), then we played in the leaves in the back yard until lunch. We went outside again after nap and reading until supper.
Would we have been able to do that with a school schedule? Did my daughter learn enough today? More importantly, did she miss anything?
I don't think so.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Dance

I watched from the wings, so I saw her approaching. The pretty brunette came up behind my son and whispered in his ear. He smiled shyly and turned. His arms slid around her spaghetti-strap clad shoulders and away they went. They moved gracefully, her hazel eyes smiling encouragement into his brown ones. Their lips were mere inches apart. I held my breath. My vision blurred.
I blinked. His swim instructor brought him back to the side of the pool gently, told him "Good job!" and went on to the next student. I shook my head to clear it. He is still only three, after all.

UPDATE 11/8/06--I found out tonight that the odd little tag his swim instructor wears really is what I thought last week, a scapular. And she's been homeschooled since first grade.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I know this isn't the first time

A local school district has pulled Huck Finn from the curriculum.

I'll admit right now that I haven't read it, though I know I should. I have some questions about this whole issue. If reading it for class is okay, why not aloud? Why not acting it out? Is the N-word critical to the plot? Could a version with only *N* excised, no other changes whatsoever, be made or would that be desecrating a classic? Are people being too sensitive and seeing racism where there is simply history? Did the word have the same insulting connotation when the novel was written? Was Twain making exactly that point? Is *N* and its treatment thereof the reason it has been read for over a century?

I know kids read a lot of mediocre-or-worse stuff in school, so saying "It's better than reading (insert trendy fishwrap here)!" is irrelevant. Stick to Huck Finn.