Domestic Bliss Report

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

Sunday, September 30, 2007

With freedom comes responsibility.

I've had a while to think about this homeschooling versus... institutionalized schooling? public school? You know what I mean.
I was a teacher. I subbed for four and a half years, taught in a Catholic school for one, then four years in public school. I have an idea how the system in general works.
There were a lot of decisions I didn't have to make, which simplified things. Which text to use, how long to spend with each subject per day, how many days we'd spend per year... I didn't have to figure that out.
Of course, that wasn't always a good thing. If I planned to give the last test on the Wednesday before school got out, and then was later told that was the day we were attending the local amusement park, I was out of luck. Can you imagine? "Mrs. Price's Spanish I students, please report back to the bus. It's time to head back for your exam." So I got to adjust my schedule.
The text was chosen by the whole department. I had a say, but I was one of five making the decision. If I thought it was rotten, I was pretty much stuck with it.
I only had so many days to get through what I could. If the school year ended before we got through the eight or nine chapters, oh well. There was no calling students back into July to cover material. Off they went.
Those things were out of my hands and I didn't feel guilty about them. I had little or no control over them. I let them go.

Homeschooling, on the other hand, allows a LOT more freedom. Use this text, or that one, or none at all. Move up to second grade reading after one quarter? Sure. Leave math and spelling aside for three weeks? As you wish. Skip school on days of doctor's appointments, weekends, and good-weather days? Okay. Finish in an hour, use manipulatives all week, spend a month on nothing but science experiments? If that's what floats your boat, go for it. We have that freedom.
But then, it's up to me to see that my children are educated. If they're not, I can't blame the system, amusement park days, the administration, or bad textbooks. It's all on me. Freedom brings responsibility. Is it any wonder I sometimes get a little stressed about it? I think that's a sign of sanity.


Friday, September 28, 2007

Life and little things

I realized again this morning how my life is composed of a thousand little things. I don't save lives as a medical doctor, nor do I engage in million-dollar business deals. I'm not a mover or shaker in international politics and I'll never be on the cover of a supermarket tabloid. (Thank Heaven especially for that last one.)

No, my world is much smaller. I find joy and satisfaction in Rachel shuffling out to the kitchen, pants around her ankles, trailing four feet of toilet paper, a slightly manic grin on her face. As I wash dishes, I relish the early autumn sunshine. I watch my children out the window and realize the younger two must be being pushed on the swings by their big sister. I feel Louis kicking and look forward to meeting him face to face. I fold laundry and smell wafts of "line dry" as I pull items from the basket. I anticipate my husband's return from work and plan dinnertime accordingly.

Are there Big Things I touch? I suppose. My son is precipitously close to reading, which could be classified as such. But what impact, if any, will one four-year-old's learning to read have on the wider world? Just because it brings tears of joy and pride to my eyes doesn't mean it matters to anyone else. The coming birth probably falls into the category of Big Things. But what is the birth of another child to anyone beyond our family? Even my obstetrician has delivered hundreds already.

I think of the words repetition and rhythm. One connotes boredom, the other security. One is redundant, the other flowing. Today is a day I find solace in the predictability of my life, the confidence that my children are growing up healthy and well-nourished inside and out, the absence of the Joneses and having to keep up with them.

I like my little things. My children's laughter, my husband's kiss, the breeze in the trees, the feel of the sunshine. My life is made of such things. And I wouldn't trade it for anything.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Well, THAT will be easy.

The Boy just informed me he wants rocks for his birthday. (He's a budding geologist, with frequent questions about earthquakes and dirt.)

I guess I can cancel any last-minute shopping trips for him. But if he gets them in his Christmas stocking, will he think he's been bad?


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Maddie's artwork

The writing says, "This is us. Dale is inside geting drid off. love Maddie." She means herself (in the water) and her little sister, who is receiving the ribbon for her sand castle.

The explanation about her brother reminds me of those old polar bear in a blizzard pictures, sort of.


Suggestions requested.

It was discussed at our most recent moms' Bible study the idea of a specifically Catholic support group. Not a socializing group for the moms; we all have that through nondenominational Christian groups or something. We're talking a forum for curriculum exchange, tips on celebrating various Holy Days or saint's days, advice on raising our kids Catholic, sacrament preparation, et cetera. Stuff non-Catholics would either not know or not care about.
For example, it would be really nice to be able to put my hands on a Saxon math kit before I put out the cash, and conferences usually happen once a year. Or to be able to compare the two history tracks from Kolbe and get ideas on covering them. Or differences between MODG, Kolbe, Seton, and OL of the Rosary.
Note to the non-Catholics reading this: it would NOT be an "exclusive" thing, where if you're not Catholic you can't come. Neither would it be a forum for religious debate. Answering sincere questions, though, would be encouraged.

Anyway, we were kicking around ideas for a name for such a group. I suggested we try something in Latin, and that went over big. The problem is, none of us know Latin (yet). So I'm asking for suggestions, Gentle Reader.

Ideas? Thanks!


Monday, September 24, 2007

I'm always the weird one.

Back in the end of my employment days, I was compelled to attend a staff meeting. I taught middle school French and Spanish, and anyone who tells you "Middle school teachers are no different from anyone else" hasn't talked to more than one. So, there I was, putting in face time at the end of the school year, nothing left to do. My sub had already given and graded the exams as well as marked the report cards. But, since there was next year to think about (about which neither of us cared), we had to go.
"I'm not even supposed to be here today!" kept going through my mind. Who would recognize that quote? Who?

I surveyed the crowd. Too old, too mainstream, too conservative... I finally found the band teacher. It was familiar but he couldn't place it. Sigh...

Then last week we were all at the homeschool park day. One precious child was trying to bring down a leafless sapling. The tree was two or three inches in diameter and was swinging violently back and forth. When his behavior was pointed out to his mother, she went over to stop him.
I watched her go and giggled. "I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay, I sleep all night and I work all day..." I sang.
Nobody recognized it.

Even among those termed non-mainstream or off the beaten track, I'm the weird one. Ah well. I'm used to it.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Excitement, continued.

We last left the city employees with a gas line break.

It was a good time for a break. We went home, had PB & J for lunch, watched the gas company vans come and go (one of which brought a SECOND BACKHOE--oh, frabjous day!), and left for my homeschool Catholic moms Bible study. (Oh, and I did call the city to tell them I appreciated Mr. Blue Shirt's presence of mind to tell me to get the kids out of there. I figure they get enough complaints; why not tell them when someone does something right?) When we returned, the trucks and heavy machinery were gone. The hole was filled in and surrounded by barricades and yellow CAUTION tape. Dale was a bit disappointed but when I assured him the backhoe would be back the next day, he was okay with that.

Sure enough, it was. It was a new crew; I later learned Thursday's had been switched to midnights as of Monday and had the weekend off to adjust. The new guys weren't working for more than 45 minutes when they created an even louder hissing than the day before, again hitting the gas line.
I closed the windows. Madeleine has mild asthma, Dale had a runny nose that morning, I was getting a headache. I knew despite any outward signs the gas wasn't doing Rachel or Louis any good.
I gave up. We just went to a playplace and got snacks for the morning. There went my nice, calm, stay-at-home day where I could catch up on chores. Ah well; we arrived at the playplace early enough that they were still serving breakfast. French toast sticks, my favorite...

That afternoon, I talked with one of the workmen. He called it the worst job he's been on in two years--the tree roots, the mismarking, hitting the gas line twice. None of them were happy. I could understand his frustration.

My beloved husband took his family out to dinner that evening. They were working when we left and continued we got back. After dark, I heard a chain saw and smelled tar. Saturday morning dawned with one less tree and an asphalt patch instead of real sidewalk, but I think they've got the lines repaired.

I wonder when the cement mixer is going to show up to repair the sidewalk, though. I think that one is Rachel's favorite.

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Disappointment doesn't even begin to summarize.

I'll keep the background brief.
In my quest to find wholesome, creative, imagination-inspiring toys (and dolls, for the girls), I've encouraged Madeleine in her fondness for Holly Hobbie, modern version. I admit I started it not knowing a modernization was in the works, but there you go.
So we have a couple of the videos and some of the dolls. When asked, I make that suggestion to those as to what to give for her birthday. I'm planning on more for Christmas--filling in holes and the like.
I'm told at birthday time that Holly Hobbie toys were tougher than the dickens to find and Toys R Us itself didn't have much of a selection. I attribute it to a single location and bad timing and shrug it off. I didn't make any connection with having found a couple of the dolls on clearance at Meijer a few weeks before.

So this weekend I'm doing our regular grocery shopping and I wander past the toy section of a different Meijer. What the heck, I'll see what they have here, I thought.
In the Barbie/Bratz aisle, I find one thing. One single item with Holly Hobbie on it. ONE. I looked and looked some more until my vision blurred. There wasn't even a place on the shelf for any of it. That's a bad sign.
The good news is, I found more stuff. All of it was in the clearance aisle of the toy section with orange tags on the shelves. There was a satisfying amount to choose from, but the fact that it was all on clearance... With no sign in the stores of a comeback, and Christmas looming... I did what any sane parent would do in that situation.

I got one of just about everything they had. Hey, it was on clearance. But how disappointing that something so genuinely good gets knocked aside by the likes of Bratz?

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Excitement in many guises

My son (the extrauterine one) loves backhoes. He has for years. His favorite color is yellow because Scoop is yellow.
So yesterday morning, when one pulled up in front of our house, it was officially A Great Day. Then it became a Deliriously Happy Day when said backhoe went to work a mere two doors south, easily visible from our largest window in the house. Large blue Water Department trucks accompanied the backhoe, but no matter.
I took them over to watch more closely, as I have done with heavy equipment before. I learned our neighbor was having sewer trouble--tree roots. Ah, we know that song.

One of the three gentlemen came past us; he was wearing a blue shirt. I explained The Boy wants to grow up and drive a backhoe. He shook his head discouragingly and his words were concise: "Stay in school." I said, "It's that or drive the space shuttle." He laughed and advised the latter.
Some digging, some testing with tools, the blue-shirted man came over again.
"Arer they all three yours?"
"Yep," I said with a smile. "And we've got a baby brother coming at Christmastime."
"Wow! Busy!" he replied.
"Well, I just find my husband irresistible." I smiled. "And what will I have in thirty years?"

"Peace of mind?" he guessed.
It was a series of errors for these men. They worked for two hours, tore up three slabs of sidewalk, and couldn't find the sewer line. They had to take a break for more equipment to arrive, which enabled them to discover the line was two slabs south.
While they were waiting, he came by again. "So are you going to homeschool them?"
I was surprised that he would guess. "We already are."
"I don't blame you. More one-on-one time with your kids."

A bit later, when his boss was there, he pointed over to us. "Look! Homeschool!" he shouted in a tone that implied vindication, not zoo animals. His boss looked over. "That's so much better for the kids. Individual instead of one of thirty-five. It makes so much sense."
[Side note: I've heard of anti-homeschoolers, but I don't think I've ever met any. At least, none opinionated enough to shoot their mouth off. Maybe they're like unicorns. Or Bigfoot.]

So they finally got digging with the backhoe in the right spot. A few minutes of this and there was a sudden loud hissing from the hole. I saw what could have been steam; I thought maybe the sewer line. I waited for the smell to hit.
I was wrong. "Get your kids out of here!" hollered Mr. Blue Shirt.

It was the gas line. To be continued...
(Nobody got hurt, just so you know that much.)

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Monday, September 17, 2007

If you say you've never done something like this...

And you've been a parent for more than 20 minutes, YOU'RE LYING.

Her: "Oh, this page has minuses too. What's six minus nine?"
Me: "You can't do that yet. You're not into negative integers."
Her: "Mom, what's six minus nine?"
Me: "Put up six fingers." Done. "Now put down nine." All six go down, a confused look occurs.
Me: "That was only six. You were supposed to put down nine."

She tried again. And a third time. She would have continued, but Daddy finally interrupted my evening entertainment.

Party pooper.

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Sickened by violence.

Heather insists that I post this. Beware--it's not for the faint of heart.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Advice to new-ish moms

This isn't to brand-new moms, trying to figure out if their child can make it another half hour in the diaper they're wearing. It's to those with some miles on them.

If you're getting dolls, cars, or action figures, don't get just one. It won't have anything to do or anyone to play with. Your child loves Holly Hobbie? Get Amy or Carrie too. Loves Matchbox cars? Get two so they can race. Do you follow?

I figured this out just in the past two weeks. Back when Madeleine was first discovering Holly Hobbie, I had no clue. Now the tall version has no friends. When Rachel discovered her, she lost her clothes, too. I'm thinking maybe Santa will bring her Amy this year; we'll see how that goes.
I'd even go so far as to recommend that they should be friends, not the good guy and the bad guy. Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader can only have so many light saber battles, after all.

Baby dolls may be the exception to that, with that whole pretend-you're-the-mom aspect. But Barbie without Ken or PJ or whoever her friend is... is boring.

That is all. Carry on.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

My apologies...

I got tagged for this some time back and just now am getting to doing it. Last weekend we were relatively offline, visiting the in-laws and attending the last of three reunions (Dale's high school--I think he already posted how many years it's been).

So I didn't see it until Tuesday, and... Whatever. Get to the dirt, right? Here goes.

Where did you meet your husband? We were introduced by one of his fraternity brothers whom I happened to be dating at the time outside of one of the computer labs. The introducer was back after Christmas break to pack up his stuff after flunking out. We broke up by Valentine's Day. One of my wiser dating decisions, that breakup...

What was the first thing you said to your husband? Probably something like "Hello." Remember, my then-boyfriend was right there.

Where was the first kiss? first date? First date actually came first, and that's kind of subjective. We'd been spending time together for about a year while the long-distance relationship I was in finished its death throes. His already had. The first time I wore makeup and actually gave some thought to what I was wearing, we went to a Tigers game. First kiss came probably two months later, on a Sunday afternoon walk at the end of our college's homecoming weekend. We'd climbed a small hill to better see the sunset. And yes, to complete your nausea, it did make me a little wobbly-kneed.

Did you have a long or short courtship/engagement? Well, we courted for two and a half years before he proposed. That seems long (like forever), but I've heard of longer. His grandmother asked to see my hands when she found out. "You've had your fingers crossed for that for so long, I was sure they'd be mangled." The engagement was pretty normal, I think--a year and a half.

Where did you get engaged? Define "engaged." He proposed while we were sitting on the couch of his apartment during the first intermission of a Red Wings playoff game. He missed Don Cherry to pop the question, which is really meaningful to those who don't know hockey. He gave me the ring a number of months later (the jeweler did layaway but not credit) on the beach in Port Austin the day of my sister's first baby shower.

Where did you get married? At the church I grew up attending, where we still go, where all of our kids have been baptized, where my mom chairs the bingo... It's like Cheers sometimes. I have my moments where I'm a traditional kind of girl.

How did the reception go? The food was great, even the videographer seemed to have a good time despite working, and the DJ was forgettable--how he's supposed to be. We knew our families and plied them with hors d'oevres before the main meal--had to have something to absorb the open bar. My uncle thought they were the dinner they were so good. I have to take his word for it. We were off for more pictures.
They're on the video, though.

How was the honeymoon? We were the only guests at the rental cabins on Lake Huron in Port Austin in October. It was wonderful. It got paid for with the cash we'd received in cards at the reception. We left on a Sunday; how were we supposed to put it in the bank?

That was fun. I tag Mama, SFO Mom, and Diane (even though I think I know most of her answers). And apologies if you've already done this one.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Is a house fire an option?

I heard tell of a family with two sons. When their second was born, they wanted to have everything new: crib sheets, clothes, the whole caboodle. I thought they were nuts, or at least dreadfully impractical.

At this moment, I'm seeing their point.

I'm putting away laundry and looking ahead at the great looming task of cleaning out drawers for the change of season. It goes like this.

For Rachel: "Is this still wearable? Short sleeves don't need to be packed away. Sundresses and shorts, however, are going to go. What might fit next summer and thus shouldn't go far? What can be packed away long-term until the next girl is this size, which means at least 3-4 years? What am I not attached enough to and can give away? What would I be embarrassed to have my child seen in because of repairs or stains and thus can be thrown away?"

Repeat for Dale... and Madeleine. It's currently compounded by my own changing size and the weather, where I get to pack away my own summer maternity clothes for... someday. Sigh.

Then comes the inevitable, "Where by all the saints do I put all of this stuff? And exactly how hard is it to prove arson or insurance fraud, if I just set the whole lot on fire?"

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

It's now official.

As of today, I can't legally abort my child in Michigan.

On April 23, my period didn't arrive, I had no PMS, and I knew I was pregnant. The next morning I confirmed with a test. His heart, though only two chambers, was beating.
I could have aborted.

On April 30, I saw my OB where she confirmed the pregnancy and drew blood to check how far along I was. We scheduled a preliminary ultrasound to check for a fetal pull.
I could have aborted.

On May 10, we all went in together. The tech found the tiny but growing white smudge. That was the awaited fetal pull. This 4.5 millimeter being in my womb had arm and leg buds, eye and nasal pits, and the somites that would mature into his spinal cord.
I could have aborted.

On June 8, I heard the tiny heart beating via doppler. The medical assistant had warned that it was on the early side to try but she succeeded. His heart was beating strongly enough to be heard at that point.
I could have aborted.

On August 6, we went for the "real" ultrasound. Louis waved the physical evidence of his masculinity at us with pride; we saw his fingers, toes, and face. The doc told us that despite my age, the pictures and my blood test results gave us a 1 in 15,000 chance of a Down syndrome child. Age gave us a 1 in 350.
I could have aborted.

Our other children have kept track of how big he is. "About as big as my hand now." Or "Maybe as big as your Beast doll." They have sat in my lap and felt him kick. They have been talking to him, singing to him, planning books to read to him for weeks.

Now it's official. We'll keep him.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Light posting, I know.

We've been trying to start school, the holiday weekend, the last reunion this one, beautiful weather calling us outside... You know the story.
Which doesn't mean I haven't been mulling posts to get your opinion. Here are some questions that have been entertaining me while I wash dishes and wetjet the kitchen.

1. Do I feel like I'm starting over with this motherhood thing because Louis will be back at square one while the others are all fairly self-sufficient? They can all use the toilet and dress themselves on their own (or almost). They can all walk, feed themselves, and sleep through the night.
It's not like I'm turning them back in, though. I get to keep them. Even if I did have to turn them in, I'm a lot wiser than I was six years ago in this motherhood thing. I feel like I'm just continuing down the same path instead of starting over.
I know it will be tough, though. I think that's one of the contributing factors to the prevalence of only two children. "I forgot how hard this is! Trying to take care of a newborn/infant and preschooler! Eek! I can't do this again a third time!" Where if you have them closer together, you're less likely to think of yourself as "done" with any particular phase.

2. Kathy Schaidle had a post or two on the "new catholicism" and, in a word, fashion. It resonated. I can say I have in recent months started to dress more "modestly" with more and longer skirts. I've never really been a follower of the trendy, though. (Those who have known me for years--stop laughing at the understatement.) Is it possible to dress modestly and fashionably? I think so but it's not always easy.
Then summer hit and I'm pregnant. We don't have it in the budget to start over with maternity clothes (which it would be, with getting rid of the shorts, etc). And have you tried looking for modest, fashionable, inexpensive, maternity clothes for summer? Heh. I think it's tougher than trying to find maternity clothes with nursing access. Can you say 'niche market,' Gentle Reader?

3. I haven't put it in the sidebar, but I'm reading Tom Stanton's Ty and the Babe. My father believed Ty Cobb was the greatest player ever, though being born in 1935 he never actually saw him play. He did hate the Yankees, wanting them to finish in last place for 30 years and then go on a losing streak. He raised us with the same ethos.
I'm getting some insight into my dad's belief and can feel him reading over my shoulder. See? That's what makes a good ball player. He wasn't the complete @$$hole he's portrayed as now. I see the fierce competitor, but not the villain.
I'm wondering about Babe Ruth, too. Was he good for baseball? In the short term, he brought in the crowds which meant money. But he changed the game and created the demand which is entirely possible to have brought us the steroid controversy we get to deal with today.

There you go. Children, fashion, sports. Enough variety for all!

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Happy New School Year!

Today in Michigan is the day most kids return to school. They are probably wearing new clothes, still itchy from where the tags were. Their new shoes still pinch in an odd spot that will be worn down by next week. Their books, even if not brand-new, will make that gentle "crack" when they open afresh.
Some will open up their new box of crayons. Others will figure out how to put fresh lead in their mechanical pencils. A third group will figure out that "erasable pens" really don't exist, no matter what the advertising says.
Their names will be mispronounced... once. Their teachers will get them right after that. They will reunite with old friends and start to make new ones. They'll learn their teacher's name, the location of the bathroom, pencil sharpener, and office.
They will all have said good-bye to a parent or two at a door, whether school, classroom, or car. I'm sure a few give a kiss goodbye, but not as many as parents want.

Then there are mine. We just plodded on, almost indifferent to the majority activity. Madeleine has done a page of math and one of phonics. Dale did a lesson of reading and asked his daddy this morning for a phonics book. His big sister says it's easy, so he wants to try it.
We scheduled his speech sessions with the teacher and went for a walk around the block. This afternoon, while little sister naps, we'll do some grammar with the big one and he can do some math. We'll hang some laundry and play in the yard later. She'll hide in the tree house or the little house with a book of her own choosing, and he'll dig for worms.
I like being on our own schedule.

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