Domestic Bliss Report

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

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I finally got asked.

"What do you do when you don't know something?"

This was from a very nice mother of a teammate on Dale's soccer team. She had asked what grade the other kids were in and, after I'd tried to explain, I told her we're homeschooling. There was a game on, after all, and our sons were on the field. Then she asked her question.
I turned away from the game to look her right in the eye and spoke very clearly. "She's in second grade."
I don't know if she realized how insulting the question is and she certainly wasn't trying to be. She explained that her fourth-grader brings home some math she doesn't know (probably Fuzzy), so...
I tactfully pointed out that I have the teacher's manuals, so really it's not an issue. Seriously, folks, do you really think an elementary school teacher, especially in the upper-grades, has all of the answers right at the tip of the tongue? That's why they HAVE teacher's manuals.
A difference is that I've been along for the ride. I'm not going to be surprised by something in seventh grade; I'll have been along for sixth. That difference is more important than one realizes especially when it comes to math or science.
Back when I was teaching other people's kids, besides, I never claimed to know everything. My students would say, "You're a teacher, you're supposed to know everything." I don't know where they got that idea, but I'd tell them, "No, a good teacher doesn't necessarily know all the answers. She knows where to find them."

So what do I do when I don't know? The same thing employed teachers do--look it up.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

This financial crisis

has me all atwitter. I'm using a British-level understatement; I never have studied economics so this whole thing goes mostly over my head. I just see the effects of surviving the Depression on my mother (she's Silent Generation, not Boomer like most folks my age) and part of me curls up in darkness. My grandmother was worse, I'm told, so I was spared that.
I suppose I should be grateful. My husband has about as secure a job as can be imagined, and it has benefits. My children are healthy for the most part--and what would fall under "unhealthy" can be managed. We have a home with all the modern amenities--electricity, running water, a working furnace. Among my family, that hasn't always been the case. My kids even have dance and swim classes. We have food in the fridge and two working vehicles (knock wood).
While love doesn't fill the stomach, it does fill the heart in ways I can't quantify. Love we have in abundance.

I think of those who don't have all of these advantages--a secure job, health, a home, plus the fringe benefits. We all need prayers.

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Must be that Fuzzy Math.

Pittsburgh Schools declare all assignments half done. Is that optimism? Or delusion?

You know, I don't think this is going to help their math scores.

I don't think they'd accept this from homeschoolers.

Come on, I know you have some quips ready on this. The snark just writes itself.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Damage controlled

A few years ago, the summer after Dale was born, we as a family had our first experiences with head lice. [No, we're not dealing with it again.] Neither of us parents had ever had it--kind of remarkable, considering all the facts. The horror of it was overwhelming.
My husband asked me, "What do we do if Dale has them? He's not even six months old!"
I told him, "Boys are easy. You shave their heads. Girls, if you want them to keep their hair, are much tougher." It was irrelevant, anyway; he didn't have them. He needed hair first.
Madeleine and I, however, were right infested.
The Late Great Christina came over and went through my head. She even brought some homemade eucalyptus oil, or some scent we humans didn't mind but the little critters did. We joked about a pin she had: "Friends help you move, good friends help you move bodies." I said it needed a third line: "Really good friends come over and pick your nits."
Anyway, we dealt with the little suckers twice that summer. The second time, I told my husband in tears that he couldn't leave me with the situation. There was no way I could do all of the necessary laundry, check Madeleine's head, and take care of both small kids on my own. I didn't care what he told them at work but he was staying home to help me. He did.
When I found out where we'd gotten them, I was really kicking myself for my softheartedness. I had continued to take Madeleine to her aunt's once a week to see her cousin, even though I was home for the summer. One of the other little girls, whom I'll call Jenny, imported the bugs... twice.
It gets longer than that. Where was Jenny getting them? Hmmm. This little girl had an older brother. He had one daddy, the little girl another, and Mom was married to a third guy. Jenny spent alternate weekends with her father, who had a girlfriend. Jenny would go with Daddy to visit his girlfriend, who had daughters... that for some reason, couldn't manage to eradicate head lice.

I've thought of that lately and the environment my kids are growing up in. Their friends, their cousins, their parents all come from two-parent, married-couple families. It's all they know. My son even noticed enough to ask where Grandma's husband is on his own. ("Heaven," his big sister told him. "That's Mama's daddy and he's in Heaven.") I want this to be normal for my kids--Mom and Dad married to each other. Period. I don't want to explain parenting time, custody arrangements, holiday transfers, step-relatives, or any of it. I don't want that to be normal.
I read some study that found that even if children come from stable two-parent homes, if a significant number of their classmates don't, it raises their incidence of at-risk behavior. From classmates.

You know, maybe head lice isn't the worst thing they can pick up from school. At least you know when it's gone.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Our sparkler

Not that long ago, on a Friday afternoon, I was nursing my young son to sleep. It was a cold January day; too cold for a walk with small children. I was thinking of my husband and the episode of ER that had aired the evening before.
From out of nowhere I felt a pinch in my abdomen, about midway between my navel and my hip. It was hard enough that I jumped. What was that? I wondered. Was that what I think it was? That wasn't what I think it was. No, I've never had mittelsmerch before. No, it wasn't... but I knew. It was.
And we got Rachel. Our headstrong, sparkly, loving, curly-haired, beautiful little girl. She's Daddy's Contessa, our pink-clad tornado of high-spirited girl power. She has a Princess Party last week for her fourth birthday, after which she was willing to start school. I just have her trace her letters on a wipe-off Dora placemat; she's already reading so I don't want to gild the lily.
She would wear pink dresses every day if I'd let her but I know it's just a ruse. Our younger daughter is as subtle, delicate and soft-spoken as a freight train (a trait she shares with her mother).

I know her birthday was already a week ago, but she doesn't read my blog yet. Happy birthday, Racheldoll.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

They seem so normal.

The girls like dolls, princesses, and pretending. The boy likes cars, messes, and explosions. Then they come off with things like (and yes, this conversation really happened)...

After finishing Madeleine's rainbow birthday cake, I hear, "Rachel, you look like a vampire!" She'd apparently had the red part.
Rachel, grinning: "Bleah!"
Me: "What do you guys know of vampires?" I read Anne Rice. I know vampires.
Dale: "They're monsters that try to get you." Apparently, he's gleaned something from Scooby Doo on Bomerang--but that's a whole different post.
Me: "No, they get you and drink your blood."
Dale: "And eat your brains!"
Daddy and I together: "No, that's zombies."
Rachel: "Bleah!"
Daddy: "How do you kill a zombie, son?"
Dale: "Shoot 'em in the head!"

I can envision it now. We're at DIA for one of their family days. For ease of identification they're all wearing their Little Lebowski Urban Achievers shirts. Madeleine asks, "Is that Judith with the sword? Where is Holofernes' head?" Dale is wandering around singing to himself, "I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay, I sleep all night and I work all day..." Rachel is pirouetting about, telling complete strangers how much she likes Red 40. Lou mercifully has fallen asleep in the stroller.
A museum employee taps me on the shoulder. "Are they all yours?"
Yep. Completely.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

There's a first time for everything.

I saw something for the first time yesterday. One of the moms watching her son in dance class was holding and feeding her youngest son, who has a cleft lip and palate.
I've never seen one in real life before, just pictures. My knowledge of the condition is summed up thusly: There are degrees of it, it's tough or impossible to breastfeed directly, prosthetic nipples are expensive, and it's correctable with surgery.
This mother and I struck up a conversation. The little guy is four months old and it's been tough for her, having to pump every three hours for him (I had suspected it wasn't formula in the bottle). I imagined how expensive it would be if she were buying formula too, and that little guy could probably use every health advantage he could get.
He smiled at me from his stroller, and Madeleine whispered to me, "That baby is cute." She did repeat that to his mother.

This was in contrast to the chilling conversation I had this weekend. It was a political discussion and I admitted there was just no way I could vote for Obama. The fact that he voted against the Born Alive Infant Protection Act sickens me, regardless of any other stance he takes on any issue. (I'm pretty much a single-issue voter. So sue me.) After I explained the BAIPA, he shook his head. His stance boiled down to this: Those children of botched abortions probably have other medical issues because of that and would be better off dying. Better to die than to "drag all of us down."
I couldn't believe what I heard. I was horrified. I've known this person his whole life--or so I thought. I would have thought with his knowledge of Nazism he could recognize the similarity. No, he's not a child of a Holocaust survivor, but World War II was a not-uncommon topic of conversation at the dinner table. He repeated "diminished mental capacity" like that's all it should take. Someone with "diminished mental capacity" would "drag all of us down," and thus we should spare ourselves from that person seeing the light of day. Eugenics, anyone? I couldn't believe the outright evil I was looking in the eye. I thought of Trig Palin in this, though neither of us mentioned him.
I pointed out as gently as I could what he sounded like and that it's a very slippery slope from "optional" to "recommended" to "obligatory." I don't know if that sunk in.

Please pray for this individual. He is near and dear to me so please don't call him names, but help him to find God's mercy.

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

A quiet moment...

I love this picture. I got it from here, who got it from elsewhere (read that post, and it's not safe for kids, but you're warned).

For those who don't know, that's Governor Palin's daughter Bristol holding her baby brother Trig. The young man next to her is her fiancé, Levi Johnston.


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Math question--any help?

I think Dale is experiencing "math burnout."

He's about halfway through the MCP Mathematics A (first grade--the green one). We're working on addition, sums to 18. He gets the concept, easily. But doing a single page, all I ask of him, has become an exercise in diminishing returns. It doesn't hold his attention, it's not fun, it's not even interesting. It has taken an excruciating three hours, wherein I remind, cajole, scold, coax, nag, yell, threaten, and banish to his room before I do something I really regret. I've tried working for half an hour, then he can run two laps around the backyard. By the third trip outside, though, my patience is shot and he's still not done.
Hence, the burnout suspicion.
I do not wish to buy a whole new math curriculum. I'm thinking a vacation, of sorts; after a given period of time, (a month?) we return home to MCP with renewed interest. Or at least the ability to grasp the idea of staying on task.
I'm thinking something like Starfall but for math. Does it exist? Is it interesting to kids?

Would puzzles like Sudoku keep math-type stuff on his mind? What about a tangram puzzle? Any suggestions for a five-year-old boy?

UPDATE 9/5/08--A touch more background. This kid would sit, willingly, enthusiastically even, for over half an hour and six pages a year ago. He's not having trouble with the concepts; I think he's just looking for a change of scenery, math-wise.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Yeah, it's been quiet.

We've got Maddie's birthday party coming up and we're doing our darndest to flush the house. I've even incorporated the kids into the task force and I think they get it.

For a first, I'm actually looking forward to hosting this party. In the past I always got wound up hoping my siblings wouldn't cause a scene; this time, it's an all-girl event of friends so that issue isn't applicable. The Birthday Girl even chose a theme: the Wizard of Oz. She's read the Great Illustrated Classic, I'm going to work on her reading the original. She is only turning seven, after all.
Honestly, too, I was worried with homeschooling that my kids wouldn't have enough friends and birthday parties. I'd listened to the wrong sources, I realize now, but it was still there. So who is coming to this?
1. Her cousin Megan was the most important to her. This is the same cousin she spent lots of time with before her brother was born.
2. A friend T. from preschool, who came to her fifth birthday too. This girl was terribly shy and I prompted Madeleine to be nice to her, since her mother and I had been on the same commission at church and were both in the moms' club. Now, T. comes over to where we sit after Mass every Sunday to visit. I don't know how much Madeleine played with her at preschool, but apparently it had an effect.
3. A homeschooling friend, E., who might wear a Dorothy costume. I think that would be great, myself.

I was thinking that five little girls (Rachel's sticking around for this) would be enough--I can handle this. There was another we invited but I think they have a family commitment that day. This afternoon was Park Day and we got talked into going. A family we hadn't seen in a while was there--and there was much rejoicing. As we were packing to leave, though, Madeleine got me. "A. says that Wizard of Oz is one of her favorite movies, so can she come to my party too?"
I thought a moment, mentally calculating guests and plates. "Ellen, Madeleine's birthday is Saturday..."
And yes, that makes six little girls that are going to be over for an afternoon of cake, pizza, Shrinky-Dinks, and ruby slippers. I'm nuts enough to be looking forward to it.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Don't try this with dialup.

It's a whole Catholic TV station on the internet. It's the station I tried out for in July and now they're on. There's news, Saint of the Day, etc.

Go. Check it out. It's based in fashionable Ferndale, so in my book these are local boys. Yay!

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