Friday, July 29, 2011


    Last year, I was invited to take part in a “blog hop” on Fridays entitled “kids say the darndest things.”  It was fun while it lasted but then the host disappeared from cyberspace abandoning her blog, and the Friday fun ended.  For a while, I  kept saving my stories of funny-kid-sayings just in case it started up again.  This is an old one I found but never posted.  Since it is Friday, I thought I might share it even though there is no “hop” to link it to:

     Tim and I were discussing finances at dinner the other night.  Usually a depressing conversation around here but this time we talked about the mysterious credit we have had at the pediatrician’s office for the last few months.  Neither one of us can figure out how but every time we have taken the children in for check-ups we have been informed that we have a credit and have not had to pay our co-pay.  Obviously this has been helpful if not completely baffling.  Anyway, I suggested that maybe we had an anonymous benefactor helping us out.  My youngest son listened to the conversation for a while and then said, “What if someone named their baby ‘Anonymous’?”
    Where does he get this stuff?  Unfortunately for any future children we may or may not have, Tim loved this idea!  He loved the idea of someone signing their check “Anonymous”. Someone filling out job applications with the name “Anonymous”.  Someone named “Anonymous” trying to buy a house, obtain a driver’s license, write a letter to the editor.  Poor person would never get any credit in life, or maybe would get credit for so many things he or she might not want credit for!  The thought that Tim would actually consider naming one of our children “Anonymous” just for all the fun and confusion it may cause in the world may be enough to convince me that we are done having children….

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Finally, some good news

    It was about 2 months ago now when Tim got the news that he was being “laid off” from his full time youth ministry position.  He was told he would have a job only until the end of July.  We were scared, not knowing how long it might take to find a new job, especially in the horrible job market we are experiencing.  But thankfully, he was able to find something else almost right away.  After just a few weeks of applying for any and every job he could find, after a ton of phone calls and quite a few interviews, he was offered the one job he really wanted.  The one job that wasn’t just, “well, this would work in the short term, to get us through until something better comes along.”  The one job he was actually excited about, and really, really cared about doing.
    So, in a few weeks, my husband will go from being a full time youth minister to being a middle school religion teacher.  He will still be blessed to work with young people.  He will still be able to share his faith with them and teach them about the beauty of the Catholic church.  He will still be able to support our family, paying the mortgage and putting food on the table with no break in income.  We are very blessed to have found gainful employment so quickly and so easily.  God is good and has provided as we knew He would.  But, I can’t help but wonder if the school even realizes how very blessed they are as well.  How lucky they are to have found such a wonderful new religion teacher.  How fortunate they are to have such a strong Catholic man to guide their students in learning about the teachings of our Faith.  How passionate he is about the subject matter and the importance of sharing it with the kids.  I’m not sure who is luckier, them or us, but I sure am glad we have found each other.  May we all be blessed abundantly by this next step in the journey of life.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Home with my baby

    My kids and I are together all the time.  Really, I don’t leave them very often.  I get an occasional night out with my friends at Starbucks but I almost always leave the house for our "mom's night out" after putting the kids to bed.  Tim and I get dates once in a while but “once in a while” means four months sometimes go by between our dates.  So, I am with my 5 beautiful children ALL the time.  They go to Wal-Mart with me, they go grocery shopping with me, they sometimes go to the bathroom with me (in all honesty, only the baby is ever permitted into the bathroom with me, and then only if she really insists).  But, you get the point.  The only consistent break I get is on my nightly walk, and it is not at all unusual for one of the the older kids to join me even then, biking alongside as I stride briskly around the block several times.   My walks, which last about 45 minutes or so, are a very traumatic experience for my youngest child though.  She is almost 2 and still in that crazy mommy-love stage where it pains her to be apart from me for even a minute (thus, the insistence that she join me in the bathroom sometimes).  Anyway, when I leave for my walk my baby stands at the door crying as it shuts in her face.  She is fine, of course, as soon as the door clicks shut and I set off down the driveway.  The tears are for dramatic effect, as with all toddlers.  Recently it got to a point that every night upon my return, the dramatics would start again though.  Not dramatic crying and carrying on, but a dramatic reunion, as though I had been gone for years.  As soon as I’d open the door the whole family would look to the little one and say, “Mommy is home!”  and she would smile and run to me and want to be picked up.  She would snuggle with me, no matter how sweaty I was from my workout, and wrap her little arms around mine and say, “home.”   At first, this little scene only ever occurred after our long nightly separation.  But lately, it has been happening more and more.  If I go back to my bedroom to talk on the phone in peace for 15 minutes, leaving her in the family room playing nicely with her siblings, she will come to me as soon as I emerge and hold my arm tightly saying, “home”.   If I manage to take the laundry out to the washing machine without her following closely on my heels, she will find me as soon as possible and look up at me and say, “home”.  
    Lately, when we are out she will look up at me and say, “uppa” (which means pick me up).  Then, when she is as close to me as possible, she will clutch my arms and say, “home”.  She has done this at church, at the store, in line at the post office.  Wherever we are together and she can hug me tight she will look at me and say, “home” all comforted and happy.  It is the sweetest thing.  My oldest daughter thinks her little sister is adorable and hilarious.  “Wherever you are is home for her,” she tells me laughing.  My daughters are both right.  The little one is referring to being with me as being home.  And, home is not at all about the place we are or the walls around us.  Home is about being with the people we trust, the people who love us and care for us.   Someday, the word “home” may no longer be associated with me in my little girl’s mind, but for now I am just grateful to be able to be home with her everyday.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Friends all over the world

    Getting the mail at our house has become such an exciting endeavor the children fight over who gets to check the box everyday.  It is not that they are excited to peruse the mountains of junk mail that are stuffed there daily by our friendly postmistress.  It is not that they are anxious to collect the bills that seem to come in a never ending stream of white envelopes with little plastic windows either.  It is because lately, in the midst of the piles of boring deliveries there has been, for the child lucky enough to make it to the box first and brave enough to burrow through the store circulars, brochures, flyers, and requests for money, a few little postcards from exotic locations.  Yesterday we received one from Australia and one from Germany.  We don’t actually know anyone in Australia or Germany.  We don’t even have friends that have been traveling there on overseas vacations.  Yet, the postcards we received were addressed to us and included personal hand written notes. 
    So, how did our postcard pals from the other side of the globe ever find us?  From a little website we heard about recently that is connecting people from all over the world.  We discovered after reading about it in a magazine.  The magazine featured an article about fun ways to teach children geography.  Postcrossing was just one of the suggestions.  It was, to us, the one that sounded the most fun, so we signed up.  I can not tell you how much we are all enjoying it.  I am so glad we decided to try it out, despite our fears about sharing our address with complete strangers around the world (as Tim pointed out our address is already on the internet, everyone’s is.  At least, postcrossing has allowed us to remain somewhat anonymous by making the use of real names optional and permitting usernames of our choosing instead).  You create a profile where you can share as much or as little as you want about yourself.   You can use your profile to request certain kinds of cards as well, though there is no guarantee your requests will be honored every time.
    You must send out a postcard before you are eligible to receive one.  So we requested our first address and sent off a card to far away Russia, hoping our words about life in Florida would be well received.  We quickly sent off 4 more cards, until we hit our limit of 5 traveling at a time.  It took awhile before we started to receive cards but finally one arrived from Great Britain, then another from the Netherlands, and then, yesterday, the two I mentioned from Australia and Germany. 
    So far, we have had no problems.  One of the address’ we were given to send a card to, included a profile asking for cards with pictures of tattoos.  Our children found this surprising and unusual but we simply explained that while we would never ever get a tattoo, other people had other ideas.  We sent her a card with pelicans on it.  Her message to us upon receiving the card was very sweet and appreciative.   
    It has been such a great way to learn about and connect with people from other lands.  I actually made up a jar of little slips of paper with ideas like: "learn about sports native to that country", "eat a food from that country", and "find out what their major industries are", written on them.  When we get a new card, we pull out a slip of paper and learn something extra about the country.  We have had English tea biscuits while listening to Beatles music, watched youtube videos of fierljeppen (a fascinating sport from the Netherlands), and learned about organic farming in Australia.  
    We love!!!!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Book Review- Homeschooling with Gentleness

    I love home schooling books.  I love them almost as much as I love desserts.  I find myself craving home schooling books like I crave chocolate.  Over the years, I have found a steady diet of successful home schooling stories is the healthiest way to sustain me through my crazy journey of educating my 5 children.  So when the cravings come, I satisfy them as best and as quickly as I can.  When I am feeling insecure about my teaching (or juggling) abilities, I rely on my home schooling books.  When I am in need of encouragement, I turn to my home schooling books.  When I want to be inspired, it is my home schooling books that inspire me most.  My shelves are full of them, yet each summer, when I have more time to read and am preparing for another school year, I always look out for new books to add to my home school library. 

    I ordered Homeschooling with Gentleness, after hearing author Suzie Andres’ name on more than one occasion, and was so excited to receive it in the mail. It was like anticipating a bite of birthday cake or an ice cream sundae.   When it arrived, I dove into it with gusto.  The book is organized into three parts.  As I read Part One entitled “Unschooling”, I was disappointed.  Instead of being inspiring or encouraging, Ms. Andres came across just as insecure and unsure of herself as I often felt, at certain parts, maybe even more so.  She referred so often to a Mr. John Holt and his writings, quoting him at length over and over again, I wondered if I should put her book down and read one of his instead.  She reminded the reader, often, that she was writing as much to reassure herself as to inform and inspire others.  Her need for reassurance showed.

    Part Two addressed the Catholic outlook on home schooling in general, and then, more specifically, an unschooling approach.  Her writing style still did not particularly appeal to me because she continued to write about what she was writing about, explaining herself over and over. However, her research seemed solid and her arguments appropriate.  Her confidence seemed a bit stronger as she shared her own family’s experiences. 

    Though Part Two is heralded as the “heart of the book” it was not until I reached Part Three that I felt I finally got a little of what I was hoping for.  It was as she wrote of “trusting in nature” and “trusting in God” that Ms. Andres’ passion finally shone through.  It was in Part Three that I began underlining line after line, feeling more excited to face my own home school again. 

    In the end, I found more of a kindred spirit than a mentor or expert in the pages of Homeschooling with Gentleness.  Overall the book was  a letdown, yet I saw enough enthusiasm and zeal in its last few pages to whet my appetite for more.  Strange as it may sound considering my disappointment, I am curious to check out Ms. Andres’s second book, A Little Way of Homeschooling

You can purchase this book here.  I wrote this review for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods, your source for Baptism Gifts and First Communion Gifts. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.
Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.

I receive free product samples as compensation for writing reviews for Tiber River.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Harry Potter, welcome here...

     We are a little Harry Potter crazy around here these days.  There was a time when Tim and I were very anti-Harry Potter.  When the books first came out and we had only one child, just a baby, we heard so much about how the books glorified wizardry and the occult.  How they were a bad influence on good Christian children and good Christian parents should not allow their children to read them.  We decided, then and there, that we would be good Christian parents and ban the books in our house.  Even as my parents, siblings, and nephew delved deep into the world of Harry Potter, raving about the stories and the characters, we stood firm.  We would not go there.  We would never allow anything that promoted anti-Christian values and pro-witchcraft into our house. 
    Fast forward a few years.  A blog Tim followed, a good Catholic blog, featured a post about Harry Potter.  The blog author had read the books, all 7 of them, one after another, in about a week’s span.  He wrote about how he had heard the negative impressions from other Christians but went ahead and read the books himself to see if he agreed.  In doing so, he discovered wonderfully written stories exploring themes of good vs. evil and, in his opinion, promoting the noble values of sacrifice, love, and friendship.  Now at the same time Tim happened upon this blog, we were struggling to find worthwhile books for our (then) 8 year old son.  Our son, like the rest of us, is a voracious reader, flying through books at an alarming rate.  He also happens to read at a reading level about 6 times above his grade level.  This presents quite a difficult dilemma.  I want to encourage my children to read books that challenge them, that teach them, that help them to be better people and that help them to understand themselves and others better.  For an 8 year old who reads like a high schooler this is a difficult challenge.  He had read all the Narnia books, he had read the Hobbit and he had read countless other books, many of them mindless, that we found along the way.  It was getting to be very hard to find books that were worthwhile.  He was, at that point, spending most of his reading time with his nose buried in Hardy Boys books, age appropriate maybe, but certainly not very educational or literary.  So, we considered Harry Potter.  Was it possible these books we had written off as evil, could actually be acceptable?  We researched as much as we could, browsing Catholic website after Catholic website to get as many opinions as we could.  There were, as expected, various viewpoints and mindsets.   We decided there was really only one way to find out for sure if the books were good or evil, Tim and I would read them first.  Neither he nor I really wanted to.  I had no interest in wizard books.  He had little time for pleasure reading.  But, about three pages in, each of us was hooked.  The stories are well written.  They do explore the battle of good and evil.  And like good stories do, they suck you in.  With rapt attention, Tim and I both flew through the books, all seven of them, on the edge of our seats the entire time.  After we finished each book we would anxiously await the other finishing so we could discuss the twists and turns of the plot and speculate about the characters. 
    Needless to say, we have decided that Harry is welcome in our home.  We have allowed our oldest to read all the books, though we were still cautious about it.   After the third book the themes become much darker and more disturbing.  So our son, who is now 10, has only been permitted to read the first three books.  He has read them each several times over.  Harry Potter is not a perfect role model for children.  He is sneaky at times.  He is disobedient quite often.  But in the end he chooses good.  He chooses sacrifice over personal comfort.  He chooses to care for his friends rather than do what is easy and safe.  He chooses to stand up for what he believes in.  The stories do promote the values we want to encourage in our children.  They have opened up a lot of discussion about good vs. evil and about magic and the occult.  They have offered Tim and I the opportunity to teach our children things about our faith and the teachings of our Church that had not yet come up in life before reading Harry Potter.  
    The last Harry Potter movie debuted today.  We were not quite so Harry-crazy that we were in line at midnight to see it.  In fact, our children have only seen the first two movies, so far.  Though we love the stories we are not quite ready to expose our little ones to the intensity of the later movies.  Still, Tim and I do hope to get to the theater sometime in the next few weeks so he and I can see it. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Meeting a movie star!

Winter the dolphin and her "adoptive mother" Panama

Three of my children watching Winter up close!

Winter shows off what is left of her tail

The river otters were pretty cute too
Two of Winter's prosthetic tails- her current one and a "baby" one
    Florida has always been known for beautiful winters.  It is warm and sunny and wonderful here in winter.  For the last few years, Clearwater, in particular, has become a little bit more famous because of its Winter.  In 2005, a baby dolphin was found entangled in a crab trap and sent to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA), just 15 minutes down the road from us.  The dolphin was named Winter and, though she eventually lost her tail due to her injuries, she is doing fine today.  Winter’s story of adapting to life without a tail and then being given a prosthetic one has been featured in a book and even on the national news.  We had visited Winter’s home at CMA years ago, long before she was even born but this past weekend we finally had the chance to go and see her for the first time.  The aquarium, which is really more of a sea creature rehab hospital, has not changed much since our last visit.  It cost a whole lot more now but that may be because there are a whole lot more of us now.  It was also a whole lot busier.  That Winter sure knows how to draw a crowd!  Still, despite the crowds we had a lot of fun learning about Winter and her “family”. 
    In September a movie all about Winter will be coming to a theater near you.  It was filmed at CMA and stars Winter as herself.  From the trailers, it seems Hollywood has, of course, put their own spin on things but the aquarium staff assured us that though the people parts are made up, the dolphin parts are still true.   I don’t usually “plug” movies on my blog but that little dolphin was so darn cute and her story is so positive and sweet.  You can check out the trailer here, and see more about CMA and Winter here

Monday, July 11, 2011


    It doesn’t seem possible that ten years have passed.  There is just no way it was a decade ago that I went in for a doctor’s appointment and was told it was time to meet my baby.  It was on July 11, 2001, that my midwife told me she wanted to induce labor and gave me the choice of that very day, the next, or the day after- but no later than that.  I was not ready to have a baby that day.  If I waited two days, my baby would be born on Friday the 13th.  It was an easy choice, I opted for the next day, the 12th of July.   Tim and I went to the hospital first thing in the morning, after dropping our 2 ½ year old daughter off at a friend’s house.  They hooked me up to all the I.V.’s and we were off and running.  Labor progressed nicely.  I made it most of the day without an epidural and then, just 45 minutes after I got it, they turned it off because baby’s heart rate was dropping dangerously.  Thankfully, at 5:01 pm, our baby boy was born perfectly healthy- with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and tied in a perfect knot.  He was a monkey right from the start- and not much has changed.  He loves climbing trees and, at times, walls.  He seems to take pleasure in pestering his siblings, and stirring up trouble around here.  Yet, he is also sweet and charming and impresses us all the time with his spirituality.  He is inquisitive and creative and so smart I sometimes have trouble keeping up with him.  He shares with me more than any of his siblings do, telling me all the time what he is thinking and how he sees the world.  He often asks deep or interesting questions I don‘t have answers for, so he and I discuss what the answers might be or learn together about new things. 
    Tomorrow we will celebrate the milestone of double digits!  It really does not seem possible that it has been ten years since I held my first newborn son in my arms.  When I look at him now though, with his mass of auburn hair, his mischievous smile, and his insightful ideas, I realize he really is growing up.  If only it wasn’t happening so quickly!!!!!!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Families share...unfortunately :(

    It all started with my youngest niece.  It may have been a little carsickness, she had been strapped into a car seat for about 12 hours (on her way to Florida for our family reunion) when her little tummy revolted.  But then her cousin, my youngest nephew, fell victim, all over my mom’s carpeting.  After that it pretty much rampaged through the entire family.  Our family reunion, a week we had hoped would be spent sharing joy, turned into a bit of a plague.  22 people, half of them sleeping together in a two bedroom condo, sharing beds, sharing laughs.  Of course, the stomach bug would be shared too.  I had thought my own branch of the family tree might be spared.  We were not sleeping at the condo with everyone else.  We made it through most of the week without even a tummy cramp, but alas…  Friday night, all was quiet in our house.  The kids, our own plus two of their cousins, were all quietly, peacefully sleeping in one room, all cramped together, sharing beds, when our oldest daughter came to our room and announced she didn’t feel well.  She looked a little green.  Her baby sister joined her in nauseous fun an hour or so later, and when morning finally came, after a long and messy night at our house, we found out my brother-in-law, sister, and the littlest niece, who we thought had started it all, had spent the night in similar fashion, back at the “condo of infirmity.”    
     Families share, I always tell my children.  I, of course, don’t mean viruses when I say it but….   I guess it is true in all things.  Families share, whether you want them too or not.  This was one week I actually hoped to be a little left out. 
    Despite the illness, our reunion was not totally ruined.  It really was a lovely week.  There were many fun moments between the tummy aches and we did make memories, as expected.  Not the ones we expected but memories just the same…


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