Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Nobody, Shedidit, Hedidit and Jacobdidit...

On facebook recently I posted this on my status:

Nobody spilled the milk on the table, Nobody left dishes in the living room or clothes on the floor, Nobody opened the dishwasher before it was done and didn't shut it again, Nobody pulled sisters hair and my favorite... Nobody let the dog get into the candy. I'd like to take Nobody out to the woodshed and switch the hell out of Nobody cuz Nobody is going to drive mamma straight to the funny farm.

To which my mother responded:

I was always trying to find shedidit.

Given the fact that my mom had just us two girls that makes perfect sense. :) It reminded me of a story we use to tell and joke about a lot though. When we first moved to our current house we had 2 kids, Bobby who was about 8 and Joe who was 15 months.

As I've mentioned previously, I had a very close friend where we lived before in the student housing. The one I started homeschooling with. At that time she had three children the oldest boy being Jacob. Well, after we moved about 120 miles away, we started seeing a bit of a pattern. When ever we would ask the question "who did ______" we would get the answer back "Jacob did it." LOL Poor Jacob was blamed for a good many things in the first few weeks here, though he'd never stepped foot in the house. It always amazed me that the words so easily slipped out of the mouths of our kiddos. It was quite a long time after that where "Jacob did it" became the catch phrase for just about every incident good or bad possible in our home.

Good friends, good memories, and the precious things we loose when we don't write them down when we catch hold of them again... I'm glad I was reminded of this so I could jot it down. :) All of these kids are so much older now - time just flies...

And Jacob - you are such a wonderful young man now, and you have and continue to make your family proud. Keep it up, you'll do great things. :)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

KONOS unit studies

One of the curriculum that I have used and that we had a lot of fun with was KONOS unit studies. One of the main focus points is character traits, which are always good to integrate into your daily lessons. I was using this when my older son was in 4th or 5th grade. At the time he was the only one doing “school” on a regular basis. I was having a hard time getting our son to agree to any curriculum, but when he heard that he could dissect a cow’s eye he was sold. Of course the curriculum gave me the freedom to jump to what ever lesson I wanted, but we went through the attentiveness lessons with the finale being the dissection.

The amazing thing about KONOS is that it is very hands on, and creative. You can choose which activities you want to do and with very little imagination you can swap the suggested books based on what you have available and still make a great lesson of it all. You can also utilize the library and a good many “around the house” items. The hard thing about it is that you have a LOT of prep work to do. Gathering books and supplies and making sure it is ready when you need it. KONOS has done a good job of putting together a second option called KONOS in a box, where they provide a good portion of the books and supplies you need, but of course you pay more for the convenience.

During our attentiveness lessons, and in particular the Sight/Seeing unit we were able to study the human eye, find out what it would be like (sort of) to be blind, learned about interesting people like Helen Keller and really got a good idea of everything we use our eyes for. Amazingly enough, while we were in the middle of this unit I had to go to the eye doctor and I happen to choose one that was great with kids and had some patience. My son started talking about our lessons, and pointed out the parts of the eye he recognized on the poster in the exam room. The doctor was impressed by what he knew and allowed him an inside peek at my eye – there is nothing like the real thing to really set a kid talking. By the time we left the office that doctor was convinced he had just met with a future optometrist. That was never an option really, but it did give me one of those “ok, this is why we homeschool” moments.

When we were through with that year we had made and crawled through an ear, dissected that cow’s eye, dissected an owl pellet, gotten a very good start on a time-line that covered the wall, made a knights shield, sword, and tunic which was worn to Medieval Times and impressed all the actors, and walked two miles through a store and the post office blind folded, with ear plugs just to get a small taste of what Helen Keller’s life might have been like. There were many more things I can’t recall right off the top of my head but it was a fun year and I hope to do at least one like that with each of the kids. It’s harder now, because it is a lot more work to do that for more than one grade level at a time. It can be done – there are people who have used it for many children all through their homeschooling years.

There will be a link at the side bar if you want to find our more about it.

Curriculum – what to choose and what to stay away from?

There is not an easy answer to this one. But I will put a few tips here that might help wade the deep and sometimes rough waters of finding your tools.

Curriculum always drove me crazy. It did not help that, at first, I insisted on going to the homeschool fairs to do all my research. A few words of advice I got on the fairs a little too late:
1. Leave your checkbook at home. You can always go home, think about it and then order the items you want. In the end it might end up cost a little more (not always) but spending a little extra on shipping is still better then going home with the wrong fit.
2. Don’t take your kiddies, it is a distraction to you AND to the other attendees. Most of the fairs are very kid friendly but when you have your littles tugging at your legs while you’re trying to listen to a speaker, or listen to one of the vendors tell you why their curriculum will solve all your problems, you tend to make rash decisions. The exception to this would be the high school years. There are usually speakers and activities directed toward the high school students. It also is very good for them to hear how much work is involved in getting transcripts together, thinking about collage applications and or career choices.
3. Take notes and brochures and put notes on your brochures and if you have a camera on your cell phone – take a picture of the vendor with a piece of their curriculum. You’ll never remember all of that information, no matter how much they impressed you.
4. Take an extra bag for all the brochures, samples and that one or two items you just can’t leave without. Even though I warned you to leave your checkbook at home…

Also, I have found that just because a curriculum works for one kid does not mean you’ll be able to use it for all of them. Saxon math is a good example of this. I love Saxon math, well I love it AFTER you get into the 54 book. I used Saxon with the first, after struggling through others of course, and I used it for the second too, BUT we had to take a break from Saxon and used Math-U-See instead. Now the first used Math-U-See once too, but it just did not work for him. It can be trial and error, and it can be that for each and every child or you can get lucky and find one that works for multiple kids.

The point is curriculum is a funny thing. I’ve only found a few things that I was thrilled with and each of them had their draw backs, and I have not found one thing yet that really, truly worked for all the kids. Some of them only needed a tweak rather than a complete change, which was nice. Some people have had the “perfect” curriculum or program, so it isn’t that you should give up all together, just don’t be disappointed if the first thing you try just doesn’t do all you thought it would.

One more suggestion I have for curriculum, borrow, borrow, borrow… get with a homeschool group and ask if you can look over some of their books. Use some of it for a while, if you really, really like it then go ahead and buy it for yourself. If you find out you hate it – well you’ve just saved yourself some cash, go get yourself a coffee and celebrate.

Remember that the internet is a fantastic resource! There are any number of freebies and even some sites that charge a small fee that are very useful. I’ll have some links in the side bar of my blog, but don’t be afraid to just spend some time with my dear friend Mr. Google. It can be time consuming, but no one site is going to have all the good ones listed.

One more thing: HAVE FUN with this!

Why do you homeschool?

Homeschooling was not something I thought about until... until my son was in 1st grade and things started to nag at me.

Things like preschool teachers coming to my home and telling me in front of my son that he would never be a "star" student, the same teachers who told me he could not zip his jacket or tie his shoes. The same jacket and shoes I had him zip and tie everyday before heading to school. They told me he didn't climb the stairs correctly, never mind that I had taught him a certain way so that he would be less likely to fall down the 30 or so stair steps he climbed every day several times a day at home. The same teachers that put a 4 year old boy on one side of a large classroom while the rest of the class played on the other side in clear view, and expected him to take a "test" of skills and pay clear attention only to them.

Things like the kindergarten teacher - we took our son to meet her the day before school actually started. On our way home my son was telling me he thought it looked fun except - except that the teacher hugged him. I explained to him that if he did not want hugs he didn't have to hug, and next time to stick out his hand so she could shake it. I took him to school the next day and knowing the teacher meant well but might not catch his signal I told her that he was uncomfortable with her hugging him and our solution. Instead of understanding that he might just be a bit shy, she turned to me and said "well in my experience, it's the kids who don't want the hugs that need them most." WOW, what a slap! I told her to shake his hand until he indicated it was ok to hug, assured her that he would eventually as he was a pretty affectionate kid and left it at that.

Then we had first grade. In first grade they told me he could not read well enough, wanted to put him in title one reading. Ok, I thought, it'll get him extra help in reading how could that possibly be a bad thing? Throughout the year, I noticed him more and more reluctant to read, that was backwards. When we went in for parent teacher conference we had a few discussions that didn't go well. The first was about the reading. They were not taking him out of normal reading time for the title one reading. They would take him out of computer time, or math time, and while the teacher was teaching phonics the title one teacher was using whole word reading. This first grade boy was mixing the rules (imagine that) and getting scolded for it. By the time the year was over, he would not read for me at all.

Also in first grade, they decided on some diversity training at the school. Ok, I figured they would also keep it appropriate to the grade levels. Unfortunately, their idea of appropriate for first grade was much different than mine and that became abundantly clear when our son came home with that weeks button on his chest. "It's ok to be gay." I understand the public school thoughts on diversity and their thoughts on it's necessity, but first grade? That was too much information way too soon. After all it was earlier in that year that I had to explain to him that "no, just because the little first grade girl and the little second grade boy had kissed, did not mean they had sex." How on earth was I going to explain to him what his button meant?

Next first grade tip off was when we decided that summer school might help with the reading block. (What on earth was I thinking?) Through the course of summer school, the teacher decided to let me in on a secret. My son was eligible for FREE ADD/ADHD testing. Isn't that fantastic? Turns out she didn't have any particular reason to offer that to us except that each student tested got money for the school. She presented this to us as if she felt our son NEEDED the testing, all the while there was no real reason, except that my 6/7 year old son could not sit in his chair for the length of every class of the day without fidgeting. Hmm, I've yet to meet a 6/7 year old boy who can do just that.

Throughout that first grade year I was also going to school. I had heard about this homeschooling thing from a couple who lived a few blocks down in our student housing area, and the seed was planted. But who was I to teach my kids? I didn't have a degree, or training beyond the few education classes I had taken so far. I started to do research, and talked about it occasionally with a neighbor. How could I do this AND go to school? The wheels kept spinning. This was 1997, homeschooling was not new, but it was not nearly as popular as it is now. All the research I did showed that tools were available, laws were easy to follow, I might be able to do this...

My neighbor and I went back and forth with this, but one day we both hit on it at the same time. And we thought about how we could work our schedules so that we could help each other, then it was time to let the husbands in on it. I handed all the research I could find to him, told him the summery of what I had learned and let him go do his own research. He was working in the collage admissions office at the time and went in to the office of the head of admissions. I don't know how the conversation went exactly but I imagine it started out something like this: Boss my wife wants to do this crazy thing called homeschooling..." then went the questions about getting into collage after being home schooled etc. The boss handed my husband a file and told him there was a lot of information there, and further he told him something that gave us enough confidence to give this a try. He said that there were actually colleges out there who were actively seeking homeschoolers. Why? Well, not so much because they knew it all, but because they knew HOW to learn and that was even more attractive. Even some Ivy League schools were looking FOR homeschoolers.

We made the decision and let the district know just two weeks before classes started for the fall, and I went out in a mad rush to get workbooks and information so I could begin. My friend did the same. Both of our husbands said to us "we will try it for a year, see how it works out." 12 years (and several kids later for both of us) our families are still homeschooling our children. It has been a roller coaster of a ride as is any adventure when you throw children into the mix. Twice I got serious about quitting, both times God gave me a big slap on the back of the head and told me we were still on the right track and to keep at it. I'm so glad I listened.

My oldest, the only one of my children who has ever gone to public school is currently attending USMAPS, the prep academy for West Point. I am still teaching the others I have children in 7th grade, 4th grade, Kindergarten, and the youngest is 3. I'm also pregnant and due in April. With all that there are sure to be a lot of stories for me to put here, as well as some of my favorite tips, curriculum, and ideas. After all this time I still don't have it all worked out so this should be endless. I hope you enjoy it all and come back often. :)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

What is my idea of Christian Charity?

That is a question I believe we should ask ourselves periodically, I know I catch myself being uncharitable, and I have to bring the meaning back into it's true form.

Hate the sin not the sinner... well that kinda covers it - but I don't think it is complete either.

I am thinking about how we are so quick to jump on each other for our differences. I'll give a few examples.

Women: Boy we are mean to the core, and we are nasty and vial to each other. I stay at home with my kids and for some reason that gives working moms the right to belittle me. I've heard it all, I'm taking away from my kids because I don't help bring in the cash, my kids suffer because they can't do or have all they want. I homeschool and there fore I am horrible because as a Christian, I should send my children out to be the light in the darkness, the example. I am not allowing them to develop "normal" social skills. I am secluding them. I am a wife who will cook and serve her husband breakfast - oh Lord he is such a tyrant! and I'm horrible to allow it. And of course the women on the other side of those bridges hear some things about themselves too.

Christians: Well, I've touched on that a bit, but it just kills me that Christians can sometimes be the WORST at expressing Christian charity. If I go to one church instead of another then I'm lost, if I watch a horror movie then I'm lost, if I allow my children to read certain books well I'm sending them straight to hell in a hand basket. There are times when I feel the most judged by my Christian friends. And further more, since I'm Catholic some of them don't even consider me Christian. In our church Christian means one who believes in and follows Christ. I don't know a Catholic around who isn't being taught to do this. Of course we are not perfect - show me someone who is and I'll worship them, because as far as I know Jesus was the only human who was also perfect.

Parents: You see where I'm going with this. At first I didn't really separate this category, but after the recent saga of "balloon boy" I had to add it. Why is it that all were so worried about the boy, then the news broke that he was safe and the FIRST thing out of some peoples mouths were abuse, neglect, etc??? I mean how many parents out there don't have some story about how they were scared by something their child did or got into and the tables could have been easily turned on you as well. Now, of course we find out that the "balloon boy" was not all it was cracked up to be, fine charge them. My issue is with people who will cry "unfit parent" and every parent who's child is hurt or lost etc. Kids are kids folks and sometimes they get into trouble. There is not a parent out there who has not at one time or another thought "gee, I should have..."

So my point in all this is that we need to have a little more charity towards one another. Don't be so quick to point a finger, try instead to support those who do things a little differently. If you feel it is your duty to "save" someone you better look at the log in your own eye first, because I guarantee that there is someone out there who can find your faults.

I'm not saying we don't try and build each other up, help each other grow etc. but telling me that I'm sending my kids to hell for letting them read a book - well frankly I just want to tell you where to stick the book rather than to rethink my position. I'd much rather let my kids read Harry Potter and discuss it with them in regards to magic and spells not being real, and how they can't really fix their glasses with a few words and how nice it is that the kids stick by their friends side, and help each other out, then to listen to you judge me on something so superficial. If you truly think I am endangering my children, there are better ways to approach me then to basically call me an abuser and a heathen. Stay at home moms can help support working moms and vise versa - you don't have to be at each others throats. Homeschoolers, we fight the school, we fight the media, we fight a battle upstream against ourselves "are we doing enough" "can I be doing something more" etc. we do not have to fight against each other as well.

Christian charity is a lot about hating the sin but not the sinner but it is also about recognizing that no matter where we are on our path of being a good person or a good Christian NONE of us is perfect and NONE of us can presume to be better than another in all areas of our lives. We need to learn from each other, support each other, help each other and look into our own house to see where we are willing to seek or accept help.

Remember that no matter what we've done in our lives we always have the chance to get to heaven, we all have the chance to repent to the only one who matters. And in judging others harshly, you have some repenting to do as well. You see we can judge to a point but it is not our job to decide who is lost or saved. I can keep my children from hanging around with drug dealers, and I can judge that their actions are not what I want my children to emulate - but it is not my job to say they are going to Hell. Because you see God has told us that they have as much opportunity to receive HIS blessing and mercy and forgiveness.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Expanding our family tree...

This post is from what seems like a lifetime ago. I just published now because it was here... and still nice to see. The Kidd as I call our first born who is now at West Point, has been there for 1.5 years. Time flies. This was from when his journey started at USMAPS. What a trip. USMA 2014 ... graduation will be here soon.

How I wish I'd gotten a better pic of this tree in central park. I love the shape.

In the meantime, as stated earlier we are expanding our family tree. Driving 4000 miles, even while breaking it into 1000 mile increments, is not fun while going through the whole morning sickness thing. And as I see people who know I've been gone they always ask "how was your trip?" My answer has been a mix... It was fantastic, I saw things I might not ever again, it was tiring, it was long, it was fun, and I love that my little ones have a whole new story to share as a result.

Now that I've had a couple of days of thinking about it, there were some really awesome points to our trip that I will never forget, so putting the tired, and long trip behind me, I'm going to focus on the best things about the trip. Watching my son walk across the field in his uniform to greet us - THAT WAS AWESOME, and the highlight. Getting to hear about more of his "prep school life" that was neat too, walking around New York with my husband showing us all the things he had seen and thought we should, going to the church across from the world trade center area flooded me with tears and renewed my sense of pride in all those who do what MUST be done, regardless. We saw trees that I could have sworn someone had painted, but found out they actually chip in layers so that they look like the digital cammies my son so proudly wears. The tree in central park that caught my interest, the pictures will remind me over and again of all the little things that just swept me into a different world.

Amazing the little things that do that isn't it? And now, we have yet another child coming along and I have had conversation after conversation about how each child is different, and their place in the family is different. This little one will know less of his or her oldest brother, he won't be here to swing him/her on his arm or over his shoulder, but there will be a different bond there. And the second in line will figure out what it is like to be the oldest, and that bond will be different, non the less we all will be on the same page - why? Because the family tree is still connected, and each branch is still important in the composition of the whole tree.

The distance, we sometimes feel as our family members set out to do what they need to do in the world can be overwhelming, but the world of family will always remain small, and close.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I am in awe today!

I am in awe at the beauty God has put around us.

Today I am thankful to God for:
Putting a man in my life that cherishes me.
My children.
My family.
A beautiful sunrise.
The grass.
The beauty of words well spoken.
Music in all forms.
The smell of fresh chicken noodle soup.
And chocolate cake.
For marriage and childbirth.
And for guiding me in love so that I may see all I have to be thankful for.

Thank you Father! I am a child of God, and I know that I am loved.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A few truths...

“The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be” Marcel Pagnol

I like to write, different styles of writing, doesn't matter I can be journaling, blogging, working on a story I may never finish, jotting down a list... it does not matter what I'm writing it makes me happy to write. It would be gratifying if someday I could make some money on this, and I have recently gotten discouraged because I simply don't know how to make that happen, but after reading a few of the blogs on the happiness project the thought crossed my mind - why do I write? Did I begin writing to make a buck? No, I write because I love it. I might not even be good at it, so I have to get back to the core reason I write and leave the rest of it behind. You see, by getting bogged down in the "new reason" to write i.e. to figure out if I can make some money, I have opened up a door of frustration which was then linked to my writing. I was not enjoying it as much.

Being creative makes me happy. I love pictures, and photography. I love working with my hands, drawing, beading, cooking. But all of these things can become tedious, and I need to use my creativity to come up with a solution.

For instance - I love working with photos, but for me to work with scrapbooking makes it frustrating, because my house and children are not organized in such a way that I can leave it out and come back to it later. Each time I have to pack it away and then bring it back out. Solution: digital scrapbooking. There are any number of free sites on the net that allow you to use digital photos and elements to come up with beautiful, stunning, funny, or exciting scrapbook pages. Most of the sites will even print them out in book form for you - for a fee of course.

Another example would be cooking. I really do love to cook, but when it comes to cooking dinner I usually revert to old standbys and am in a hurry. My solution: a friend recently reminded me about once a month cooking. So I'm thinking that if I set a day aside, gather everything I need and start with a clean, organized kitchen cooking could be fun again. Now to some people cooking for an entire day would be a nightmare, but what makes this a good solution is that I set aside the time, so it isn't like I'm just fitting it in because I have to.

I hate cleaning. Not because I don't like a clean house, but because with 6 or 7 people in the house I always felt like I would get one room done and go to the next only to find the first room a mess when I came back in. Solution: We've started a chore book. Each kid, including the 2 year old, have chores to do on a daily basis. They do not do them perfectly, however, I find that if they are doing their chores while I do mine it keeps them busy cleaning instead of messing. My house is still not perfect, we have clutter (which I now have a little more time to try and deal with) but things are going a little more smoothly.

Another bit of happiness making that I have run into lately is this. Things do not change overnight. I have done chore charts before and they have failed. Why? Because before I expected things to change immediately, because of course I had given the kids a set of tools. This time however, I had been listening to a friend who had done the same thing, and I learned that not only was she giving her kids the tools, but she was being patient while they learned how to use them. Imagine that... they needed time to change their ways... hmm. I have found that if I acknowledge that things are not perfect just as long as it takes to tweak things a bit, but mostly focus on the progress we are making it gives me a good feeling.

So that was a lot of information for one blog, but these solutions have been coming a little at a time over a long period of time but I was sparked by some of Gretchen Rubin's blogs on her happiness project that kind of brought it all together for me. I'm 42 years old, a mom of 5 (with a baby on the way), and about to celebrate my 23rd wedding anniversary (tomorrow). For all this to come in to place now is awesome. Why, well because I have a lot of years ahead of me to put it all into action and I can see that the next part of my life is going to be, in a lot of ways, so much better than before. The time before wasn't all that bad, so the prospect of better yet - THAT MAKES ME HAPPY!

For a look at Gretchen Rubin's happiness project please see her blog HERE.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Happiness begins with straightening out an attitude or two or six.

So today it began with fighting and fussing and the usual "I don't want to" or "Get me some" and as I listened to my children it became very clear to me that we all needed an attitude adjustment.
For my part I need to realize that with 6 people in the house (remember the oldest just went to school) and a dog, that things will sometimes seem chaotic even if they aren't really. Get three kids playing - in the house - and it can sound like a full blown battle raging. :)

Turning my attention to my four little ones however it seems they need an attitude adjustment as well. You see they have fallen into the same pit that I believe is also getting out country in some trouble. It's called the 'pit of entitlement'.

You see, I've had to explain to my children that although they are "entitled" to nourishment so that they may grow, they are NOT entitled to go in and out of the refrigerator as they please. That would be a privilege, and if abused, it can be revoked. Along the same lines, they are entitled to clothes to keep them warm and healthy but not to brand names just because. They are indeed entitled to have a safe and warm place to sleep at night but no one ever said that would have to include all the frilly stuff hanging over the beds, or blankets that are purple instead of rust colored. They are entitled to have a place to wash up, but not an hours worth of hot water in the shower. And in this large family you are entitled to a certain amount of privacy, but you are defiantly not entitled to a single room to yourself for an extended amount of time. You are entitled to let you feelings be known but not to scream it at the top of your lungs. You see where I'm going with this. :)

We have allowed our children to live in a certain amount of luxury, not as much as some but more than others, and they have come to expect that as the minimum. And frankly I've done a lot of things to make sure they have the things they now deem essential. So attitude adjustment all the way around. I'm going to stick to a standard, regardless of how many compromises that might mean and we are all going to learn to live with it.

Mind you the expectation is that things will get worse before they get better. I fully expect that there will be whining, and fit throwing. But in the end I think we will all learn a valuable lesson and also we will all learn to be happier with what we are provided. :)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Clutter ... shhh in my house that's a four letter word.

Clutter is a four letter word because if we have clutter that's a sign that things must leave, in boxes, by force, and usually with one or more of us screaming and kicking that "it's our favorite".

This happiness project comes with goals. The main goal is to make "happy" the focus of my house and my life, because frankly right now even though we are blessed beyond measure, we live in chaos. I see this process like a huge beautiful tree.

There are so many branches to the tree, and each main branch is a goal. Each main branch has smaller branches which is how I will treat the goals, with different sub goals to tackle. Of course we also have leaves - those are my ideas for each branch.

I can have several goals, and I can work on different branches each day so that when it is all said and done the tree is still balanced and full, and beautiful which will in turn give us strong roots.

Now I have tried to destroy clutter before but because I saw only one branch at a time it didn't make the tree very happy.

I made a friend long ago, but because I was stuck in chaos my friend got stuck in the closet. Her name is Flylady and she has a system.

My problem the first go round? Well, I saw the Flylady as a solution, not a tool. And her system used a lot of emails, and as I fell farther and farther behind, my friend the flylady seemed more like a pest.

So what's different this time? Well, I know that it will never be "perfect", my house will never be without some kind of clutter, BUT I have an attitude of gratitude I know that we are blessed, but we LIVE in our home. So Flylady here I come again, keeping in mind that you are a tool to use and shape and mold into my own working system.

Clutter will always be a four letter word in our house, but from here on out, maybe clutter and I can compromise and it will lend to less chaos.

BTW this lends itself very well for my "symbol" for my Project. A tree! :)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Happy news...


Once again we've been blessed. We are expecting our 6th baby! The news did not come as a complete surprise, but it did send me for a loop - for some reason I just wasn't thinking that it was time.

God's timing very rarely works with our own, but we are excited, and feel blessed. It has been quite a year for us. Our oldest getting off to the prep academy for West Point, and the news of a new baby on the way.

Sickness and stretching and joints that creak. But the joy and awe at having a little one growing inside you is just overwhelming.

And what a time as I go through the happiness project.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Bread of Life

Reading 1
1 Kgs 19:4-8

Elijah went a day’s journey into the desert,
until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it.
He prayed for death saying:
“This is enough, O LORD!
Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree,
but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat.
Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake
and a jug of water.
After he ate and drank, he lay down again,
but the angel of the LORD came back a second time,
touched him, and ordered,
“Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!”
He got up, ate, and drank;
then strengthened by that food,
he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.

This was today's 1st reading, and then our deacon gave a homily that touched me. :) He was reminding us that when we take the Eucharist we are taking in the bread of life and like that hearth bread, it will give us much more strength than would make sense in our earthly minds.

I will admit that I have more or less "punished" myself by not taking the Eucharist because I did this or that and did not feel I deserved it... Here is the problem with that. God has given us different sacraments to help us along the way on our journey to Him. One of them is the sacrament of Reconciliation which is the one I should have employed EVERY time I felt unworthy to receive the Eucharist, and then of course the other I would tie in here is Communion.

I am not proud of the fact that I behaved in this manner, it is not at all in the teachings of the Catholic church, but sometimes when we feel so overwhelmed with our own sins we do not think to clearly. I have to say that since I have learned to just give in to the sacraments as they should be used I am a happier person for it. The sacrament of Reconciliation is so healing. To get the sins OUT instead of letting them haunt us and then to HEAR the words "you are absolved", well that truly is a little bit of heaven here on earth. Then to acknowledge just before communion that we are not worthy, and then receiving the Eucharist and after as I kneel I do try and meditate on the fact that I am asking God to strengthen me against committing those sins again. That is also healing, and it does help me immensely to know that I have taken that step to improve myself and live better for God, to please Him.

It gives me much peace to go trough these sacraments, even though it is difficult and stressful I always feel better.

Today's reading is a very good reminder of WHY we take the Eucharist.
Have a blessed Sunday! :)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Fighting against the known

I just finished Gregory Berns's book Satisfaction: The Science of Finding True Fulfillment. He argues that novelty and challenge are key components of satisfaction. Other studies confirm that people who do new things—travel to new place, learn a new game—have a greater sense of well-being than people who stick to the familiar. Gretchen Rubin

Since I have not read the book she sites here I am taking what she has said here as my guide. I must say that I have been fighting against something that I know to be true - for years. Routine will make a happier home. At first that may seem to contradict what Gretchen has stated above, but in order to do something out of the ordinary first you must have an ordinary.

I have never done well keeping a schedule, or a routine. This weekend I have some time with which I can do whatever I want, I don't have to work around anyone's schedule or worry about what anyone would "like me to be doing". I'm going to spend the weekend looking through old systems that I have tried in the past and work up a simple routine that I can build on. My intention is to get a start, take baby steps, and think about what parts of those systems will make it easier for me to achieve my number one goal before school starts.

Goal #1: Make this house a welcoming home.

In the past that would have meant just cleaning. But I really would like to feel relief when I walk in the door of my home not more chaos. I want to walk in and know that I am in a comfortable place. I am tired of walking in my home and being struck with all that needs to be done. I want to walk into my home and FEEL cushioned from the rest of the world.

Once I get a routine down, then "new" and "challenging" and "novelty" won't be the norm but truly welcome differences.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Beginning My Happiness Project

I began here:

I'm not sure I'm doing this "right" but since she does not have her book completed yet, I'm beginning where my brain tells me I should - the beginning of her blog... I'm just going to go through it adding bits as I go along. So far I sent for her monthly newsletter... then started reading her blog.

What I have decided that it really does not matter where I start, the goal is to become happy. My goal is to be genuinely happy more often than not. No more asking myself at the end of the day "what am I doing here" because in reality I know what I'm doing here, but I have a hard time being content with that.

So the first project I found to put on myself is to write my commandments. She has a list on her blog. Of course that gave me ideas on where to start mine. And really her first commandment (be gretchen) is a wonderful place to start.

1. Be Maxine.

Not to try to fit into the image of what others want me to be, think I am, or think I should be. I want first and foremost to be true to myself. How can I teach my children to be true to themselves if I can't do it for myself?

2. Be Content.

Be ok with all that I have and all that I don't have. This does not mean that I never strive or wish or work for something more. What it means is that I am content with what I have right now and even when I have the "wants" they don't have to be the focus of my thinking.

3. Laugh.

Be silly with the kids, laugh with my husband. Laugh out loud. Laugh.

4. Be a gentle giant.

Gentle giants do not have to yell to be heard or stretch uncomfortably to listen. I want to be a voice of reason, not the voice of a banshee. And I want to HEAR with others are telling me.

5. Be faith-FULL

Be so full of faith in God, in family and in myself that I am no longer afraid of every day.

6. Be generous.

Generous with my time, my money, my patience, my talents. BE generous.

There is the beginning of my list.
That is the beginning. It may change, it may grow, we will see. :)

Peace Be With You

Today's world is so hurried and busy that it is easy (at least for me) to forget that we have a guide to go by each step of the way. I have been smothered in worry and anxiety recently and I knew I had to find a way out or find myself on meds...

Here are a few things that I found that are helping me put things into perspective, I hope they can help you as well.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not; in all your ways be mindful of Him and He will make straight your paths." Prov. 3:5-6 (NAB)

"Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Phil. 4:7-8 (NAB)

"(Jesus) said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you."" John 20:21 (NAB)

Prayer for Peace
O Lord Jesus Christ, Who said to Your Apostles: "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you," regard not my sins but the faith of Your Church, and deign to give her peace and unity according to Your Will: Who live and reign, God, world without end. Amen.

Book of John - Chapter 14
27 Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace which the world cannot give, this is my gift to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.

Book of Luke - Chapter 1
79 to give light to those who live in darkness and the shadow dark as death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Book of 2 Peter - Chapter 1
2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of our Lord.

Book of Psalms - Chapter 34
14 Turn away from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.

Book of John - Chapter 16
33 I have told you all this so that you may find peace in me. In the world you will have hardship, but be courageous: I have conquered the world.

Notice that some of these promise peace and others tell us to SEEK or FIND peace. It is good to remember this, because far too often we expect God to GIVE without us seeking... one will not come without the other.

Peace be with you in your days. :)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

We all need...

reminding sometimes that we are not the center of the universe, and so we get knocked down by our own pride and arrogance... at that moment it is imperative that we heed the warning and KNOW that we are loved...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

St. Mary Magdalene

Today is the Feast day for St. Mary Magdalene. She is also my patron saint.

I am a convert, I was baptized, confirmed, and took my first communion in 1997. I took forever to pick a patron saint, but in the end what made me choose Mary Magdalene was that she was a notable sinner, not just an average sinner - she had seven demons that needed to be cast from her. Well, I had a list at the time of what I thought were my "worst offenses" it was something I had done throughout my RCIA process. I'm not talking the normal little things, of those there were many. :) But this was a list of things like taking birth control, and turning my back on Jesus and the Church for a time, even after I knew the truth - you get the idea. The list was seven long.

Then there is her story, she was such a sinner that she was "highlighted" in the bible but her sins were not really the worst of the worst, yet she was put there on the pages to be held as an example. She was there, asking for forgiveness - and getting it, she was there at Jesus feet as he drew his last breath, she was there to help take care of his body and get him ready for the tomb and then she was given a tremendous gift (at least in my view).

She was the FIRST one to see Jesus after he rose. Of all the people who had followed Him, and believed in Him, and obeyed Him it was Mary Magdalene He showed Himself to. It gave me such comfort. That was the story that made me understand that we are ALL welcome to receive all that God had to offer us. That no matter how low we had let ourselves sink, He could pick us up and make us clean, and THROUGH HIM, we can become the light that can lead others to Him.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Stress, stress go away...

Stress, stress go away

don't come back another day.

I've had about all I can take

another decision I can not make.

Kids are screaming and I have to say

I'll be screaming for three more days.

Baby says up, more, up

My arm says wrap, hot, wrap.

Messes and dirt all over the floor

holy cow I can't take any more.

He hit me, she pinched me, a pull of the hair

oh me, oh my, can I find a new lair?

One grumpy stressed hubby and five grumpy kids

I think we have finally all flipped our lids.

The night has just begun, busy we will be

a change in the schedule, I must hit my knees.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, do you hear?

I need your help and to feel you near.

Lord, you plans for me I can not see,

how do I become the person you want me to be?

I feel like a failure to this family you've given,

don't keep the path you have for me hidden.

Open my heart, ears and eyes,

don't let Satin mislead me with lies.

I pray to you with a tired soul,

help pick me up and make me whole.

Thank you Lord


Pumpkin Stew: Beautiful for fall ... thinking ahead.

This was so easy, and wonderful for a cold snowy day. I would love to make this for a pot luck sometime. Even though the stew looks kind of soupy in the second pic there, as soon as I put a spoon in it was a really thick and hearty stew.

I will definately do this again!!!

Pumpkin Stew

2 lb. Beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes

3 T. veg. Oil, divided

1 c. cold water

3 Large potatoes, peeled and cubed

4 carrots, sliced

1 large green bell pepper, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion, chopped

2 t. salt

½ t. ground black pepper

1 can tomatoes, I used diced the recipe said whole

2 T. beef bouillon granules

1 sugar pumpkin

1. Heat 2 T oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Place beef in the saucepan and cook until evenly brown.
2. Mix in the water, potatoes, carrots, green bell pepper, garlic, onion, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer approx. 2 hours (I only did for 1 hour).
3. Dissolve the bouillon into the beef mixture. Stir in the tomatoes.
4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
5. Cut top off the pumpkin and remove seeds and pulp. Place the pumpkin in a heavy baking pan. Fill the pumpkin with the beef mixture. Place top back on pumpkin wrapping the stem with aluminum foil. Brush outside of the pumpkin with remaining oil.
6. Bake in the preheated oven 2 hours or until tender (I cooked mine for 1.5 hours). Serve the stew from the pumpkin, scraping out some of the pumpkin meat with each serving.


An Angel says, 'Never borrow from the future. If you worry about what may happen tomorrow and it doesn't happen, you have worried in vain. Even if it does happen, you have to worry twice.'


1. Pray to Mary and the Saints

2. Go to bed on time.

3. Get up on time so you can start the day unrushed.

4. Say No to projects that won't fit into your time schedule or that will compromise your mental health.

5. Delegate tasks to capable others.

6. Simplify and unclutter your life.

7. Less is more. (Although one is often not enough, two are often too many.)

8. Allow extra time to do things and to get to places.

9. Pace yourself. Spread out big changes and difficult projects over time; don't lump the hard things all together.

10. Take one day at a time.

11. Separate worries from concerns. If a situation is a concern, find out what God would have you do and let go of the anxiety. If you can't do anything about a situation, forget it.

12. Live within your budget; don't use credit cards for ordinary purchases.

13. Have backups; an extra car key in your wallet, an extra house key buried in the garden, extra stamps, etc.

14. K.M.S. (Keep Mouth Shut). This single piece of advice can prevent an enormous amount of trouble.

15. Do something for the Kid in You everyday.

16. Carry a Bible with you to read while waiting in line.

17. Get enough rest.

18. Eat right.

19 Get organized so everything has its place.

20. Listen to a tape while driving that can help improve your quality of life.

21. Write down thoughts and inspirations.

22. Every day, find time to be alone.

23. Having problems? Talk to God on the spot. Try to nip small problems in the bud. Don't wait until it's time to go to bed to try and pray.

24. Make friends with Godly people.

25. Keep a folder of favorite scriptures on hand.

26. Remember that the shortest bridge between despair and hope is often a good 'Thank you Jesus.'

27. Laugh.

28. Laugh some more!

29. Take your work seriously, do not take yourself seriously.

30. Develop a forgiving attitude (most people are doing the best they can).

31. Be kind to unkind people (they probably need it the most).

32. Sit on your ego.

33 Talk less; listen more.

34. Slow down.

35. Remind yourself that you are not the general manager of the universe.


'If God is for us, who can be against us?'

(Romans 8:31)

It's all in the job...

Originally posted to my myspace March 28, 2008.

Waking up feeling old and pathetic because you’ve been squished between two babies all night.

Getting gooey chocolaty kisses because the baby snuck into the Easter candy.

Telling the same kid no 100 times only to be told they are tired of hearing that word, in your head your thinking then stop asking the same question.

Getting tackled with hugs from the same kid later in the day.

Contemplating the 18th birthday of your first born.

Contemplating the 18th birthday of your first born.

Hearing your children fighting and saying horrible things to each other first thing in the morning.

Watching them play soon after like nothing ever happened.

Cleaning up a counter you could have sworn you had just cleaned a few minutes before, realizing the kids were eating AGAIN!

Having one kid lead the other ones into a cleaning spree without being asked.

Being so frustrated with the things going on around you that you ask "where’s the baby?" and hearing the three people in the room with you say "in your lap".

Being able to laugh at yourself when you do something so ridiculous as to loose track of the baby sitting on your lap.

Someone once said if we were to see the job of mom listed and described in the newspaper no one would ever apply.

Too bad though because along with all the frustrations, worries, tears, fears, fights and hurts the job comes with benefits beyond measure.

It’s all in the job of being a mom... I wouldn’t trade it for any other job in the world.

Rules of the "Wild West"

Just for laughs...

Rules of Colorado , Wyoming , Montana , Utah , Idaho , and the rest of the Wild West are as follows:

1. Pull your pants up. You look like an idiot.

2. Turn your cap right, your head ain't crooked.

3. Let's get this straight: it's called a 'gravel road.' I drive a pickup truck because I want to. No matter how slow you drive, you're gonna get dust on your Lexus. Drive it or get out of the way.

4 They are cattle. That's why they smell like cattle. They
eat and crap; smells like money to us. Get over it. Don't like it? I-80 & I-90 go east and west, I-25 & I-15 goes north and south. Pick one and go.

5. So you have a $60,000 car. We're impressed. We have
$250,000 Combines that are driven only 3 weeks a year.

6. Every person in the Wild West waves. It's called being friendly. Try to understand the concept.

7. If that cell phone rings while a bunch of geese, pheasants, ducks, doves are comin' in during the hunts, we WILL shoot it outa your hand. You better hope you don't have it up to your ear at the time.

8. Yeah. We eat trout, salmon, deer and elk. You really want sushi and caviar?! It's available at the corner bait shop.

9. The 'Opener' refers to the first day of deer season. It's a religious holiday held the closest Saturday to the first of November.

10. We open doors for women. That's applied to all women, regardless of age.

11. No, there's no 'vegetarian special' on the menu. Order steak, or you can order the Chef's Salad and pick off the 2 pounds of ham and turkey.

12. When we fill out a table, there are three main dishes: meats, vegetables, and breads. We use three spices: salt, pepper, and ketchup! Oh, yeah . . We don't care what you folks in Cincinnati call that stuff you eat . . IT AIN'T REAL CHILI!!

13. You bring 'Coke' into my house, it better be brown, wet and served over ice. You bring 'Mary Jane' into my house, she better be cute, know how to shoot, drive a truck, and have long hair.

14. College and High School Football is as important here as the Giants, the Yankees, the Mets, the Lakers and the Knicks, and a dang site more fun to watch.

15. Yeah, we have golf courses. But don't hit the water hazards - it spooks the fish.

16. Turn down that blasted car stereo! That thumpity-thump crap ain't music, anyway. We don't want to hear it anymore than we want to see your boxers! Refer back to 1!

A true Westerner will send this to at least 10 others and a few new friends that probably won't get it, but we're friendly so we share in hopes you can begin to understand what a real life is all about!!!

25 Tips For A Better Life

I am posting this on my desk today. And on my mirror. And in a note on my phone. And placing it in my purse... :) Enjoy!

25 Tips for a better life

1. Take a 10-30 minute walk every day. And while you walk, smile. It is the ultimate anti-depressant.

2. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day. Buy a lock if you have to.

3. When you wake up in the morning complete the following statement, 'My purpose is to __________ today.'

4. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured in plants.

5. Drink green tea and plenty of water. Eat blueberries, wild Alaskan salmon, broccoli, almonds & walnuts.

6. Try to make at least three people smile each day.

7. Don't waste your precious energy on gossip, energy vampires, issues of the past, negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.

8. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a college kid with a maxed out charge card.

9. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

10. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

11. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

12. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

13. Make peace with your past so it won't spoil the present.

14. Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

15. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

16. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: 'In five years, will this matter?'

17. Forgive everyone for everything.

18. What other people think of you is none of your business.

19. GOD heals almost everything. . . and He can heal everything if its in His plan. We just need to trust His bigger picture.

20. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

21. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch!!!

22. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

23. Each night before you go to bed complete the following statements: I am thankful for __________. Today I accomplished _________.

24. Remember that you are too blessed to be stressed.

25. Please Forward this to everyone you care about.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Finding inspiration everywhere

Being Catholic Today

So in finding my happy place I have discovered many new ways to find my faith. Well, not so much find my faith as to find what my Church teaches and then finding a way to submit to those teachings. :)

The above article was very inspirational to me. I hope you like it too. :)