Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bless Your Beautiful Hide

I can't help it! Every time I make pancakes for dinner for my brood of men, I seem to channel Seven Brides for Seven Brothers!  Though, I just can't seem to manage it in that beautiful bass voice Howard Keel managed in the movie!

Bless your beautiful hide, wherever you may be
We ain't met yet but I'm a-willing to bet
You're the gal for me.....

....Pretty and trim but not too slim
Heavenly eyes and just the right size
Simple and sweet, and sassy as can be!
Bless her beautiful hide
Yes, she's the gal for me!

Now I know I only have 5 men to cook for, not seven, but still. As fast as pancakes are to cook, my men can wolf 'em down even faster. I made 26 pancakes, and guess how many were left? NONE! Ditto that to the 12 slices of bacon (which the Mad Toddler did not eat, neither did Cookie Boy, our resident vegetarian).

All my manly men like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.  When I get on to ArtGuy for...poor manners ( read: bodily noises), he likes to reply, "What do I need manners for? I already got me a wife!" (another great quote from the movie). 

Who says life doesn't imitate art?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Random Things

Cinnamon rolls for dessert last night! Yuuuuuuuummy!

Waiting for our bowling lane this morning. I really hate pictures of myself!

Luckily I brought snacks for the Mad Toddler. Last time we only got one game of bowling, so that is what I thought would happen today. Instead, they went ahead and gave us two games, so we were bowling quite a while - right into the lunch hour!

Romeo gets ready to bowl! He usually creams us, except for this time. This time I managed several strikes to pull out a victory. Romeo came in second, though!

Lovely patch of blue sky in the midst of last night's storm.

Not the best pic - was trying to get a good shot of the wall cloud.


Monday, June 28, 2010

All Bark, No Bite

Or, all clouds and wind, but no rain!

BOO!  We seem to miss all the rain in the general Dallas/Ft. Worth area. There is an official drought, but only in my neighborhood!

Here are some pictures, and just because you are extra good, a lesson plan on clouds!

Following: my dead grass.

Oh, those teasing clouds!

And now, just for you:  follow this link to a lesson plan on Clouds I did a while back for Suite101, and which the National Weather Service used for their Home School packet this past year. I know it is summer, but learning is for any time of year!

May rain blanket your yard and kiss your plants (but drown nothing)!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Music in the Church, or Kickin'it Old Style

As a member of the Catholic church all my life, I have had a great variety of exposure to many styles of music in worship. Some good, some not-so-good. But "good" is not an objective word, is it? (Well, "good" is not objective when it comes to music, I should say!)

What is "good" music? And what is "good" music, liturgically speaking?

(I am only beginning a better study of the subject, so this is more of an introductory editorial than a well-researched thought. Hopefully I will get to that point! And this is of course, an excuse for any of my facts that are off - I am still working on it!!! )

I was a child of the Catholic Charismatic movement. This movement is steeped in the rich tradition of the Holy Spirit. A great deal of music was produced during the start of this movement, in the 1960's, '70's, and early '80's. Think of it as a precursor to modern-day praise-and-worship.

At the same time, I have been in parish life since birth, and thus exposed to the more traditional elements of the Catholic faith.

In other words, I can jam with Mercy Me, Tim Hughes, and Newsboys as well as chant "Tantum Ergo" (in both English and Latin)!

Music is emotional, there is no denying that. We love music because of the connections we feel, the emotions it evokes, the way it transports us out of ourselves. That is the attraction to praise and worship style music. It can help us establish that feeling of awe and wonder, that feeling of being in front of something so much bigger than ourselves. It is a private worship at the same time it is communal.

Chant, usually associated with Gregorian chant, is a very old style of music, named after Pope Gregory the Great. It is often monophonic, or without harmony, but can be polyphonic. It is beautiful in its simplicity. It is very powerful, for it connects the singer directly with the text without fancy musical frills. There is a beautiful austerity to chant.

In the wake of great sweeping reforms after Vatican Council II (1962-1965), many worthy things were (mistakenly) thrown out. As the liturgy experienced many changes, Latin chant was dropped just as Latin was dropped from the order of the Mass. Many of these changes were good and timely, but in an effort to undertake so many changes that were not better understood until much later, you often had the case of "the baby being thrown out with the bathwater".

The result today is that many people (not all, but many) who lived in the Church before Vatican Council II are nervous to approach anything smacking of the pre-Vatican II era. It seems (to them) to be a return to the "bad ol' days" of secrecy, firmness without charity, and the divisive wall that seemed to fence the lay faithful out of the holy of holies, the inner sanctum of the heart of the church.

But to those of us who are adults now, born in the 1970's, 1980's, and so on, we feel a loss. We grew up so near to Vatican II, but too near, usually. Our parents and grandparents often moved forward without a backward glance, and so Vatican II became a word we knew, but an idea we were unfamiliar with. We knew there were changes, we knew mass was in the local language and not Latin, but that was about it.

Only as a college and grad student did I actually learn about Vatican II and more about the changes it made and the huge amount of information that was only beginning to be processed, some 30 years later. The Church is still trying to get to the heart of it, after all this time.

So, as this is getting a bit wordy, I think I will end it here and pick it up again later!
For now, think about music, church, and worship. What are good and bad songs? What is good liturgical music? Bad liturgical music? What songs make you cringe? What makes it feel like a great Mass?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Book Review: The Magicians

The Magicians, by Lev Grossman.

To be fair, my younger brother warned me. He said something like, "You are welcome to take this book. I started it, but couldn't finish it. It wasn't very good."

However, my younger brother is the kind of guy that reads books on smart-people's books lists. I like 'em light-and-fluffy! Plus, I love fnastasy books, and almost always finish a book just to see what happens. So, even though he did not care for it, I thought I would probably find it tolerable.


Lev Grossman admittedly tips his hat to "CS Lewis, JK Rowling, and TH White", but it often feels more like a sneer in their direction than any kind of homage.

The main character in the book is Quentin, a young man who finds he can do magic and gets into an exclusive school of magic (sound familiar?). But where the Hogwarts of Rowling is a well-realized place, Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy seems to have little purpose in the book, except as a place for a bunch of unappealing magical young adults to hang out. Although this is supposedly a college, the characters in this school act like 13-year-olds, think like 13-year-olds, and explore their morality like 13-year-olds with too much freedom. Their sum total of college is to drink and hook up. Magic seems to be something they neither value or appreciate.
 Quentin thinks that this discovery of his magical abilities will bring happiness to his life, in spite of never having been a happy person. It does not. Grossman had an interesting idea here, to explore the idea that happiness or contentment comes from within, not from outside things, even from the dicovery of a special ability. But it just doesn't work in the end. Quentin is neither transformed by his experiences nor challenged to grow.

Underlying the whole story is the world of Fillory, an imaginary world from Quentin's favorite childhood books. Quentin wishes it were real, but when he finds out the truth of Fillory as an adult, it is not the idyllic fantasy from childhood. There is a battle with "evil", but one cannot say it is a battle of "good" vs evil. More like evil vs. drunken rich-kids.

There seems to be no subsance to this story, as there were in CS Lewis's works or even Rowling's. In the latter, the underlying themes ranged from loyalty to courage to faith. Grossman loses his way. A good story needs a good framework. The underlying themes of The Magicians seem to be wasting your life away and the dissollusion of childhood dreams. Nothing redeeming here.

There is a good amount of gratuitous sex and language. Neither does much for the story, besides leave the reader with a deeper feeling of ick. Added to that is the horrible relationship Quentin has with his parents. Grossman never explains this in a satisfying way. Quentin appears to hate his parents because they love each other too much, and they are never that interested in him. However, this relationship seems more like a convenient way for the author to dismiss having to deal with the parents than a real, interesting part of the main character or the book.

In the end, Grossman, who has an impressive resume, leaves us with a book with no purpose. There is no moral, no good tale, no desire to go on, and what it more, this reader was not even entertained.


Ah, Saturday

It is always nice to reach the end of the week.

Yesterday I went out to lunch with two long-time, dear friends. They have known me forever, through teen angst and life changes. We have been connected electronically, but have not been face-to-face in a while. I actually got a sitter for the boys (well, really the Mad Toddler), and skipped out the door to Mimi's - yuuuum! I felt crazy decadent, leaving the boys behind while I lunched out!

A couple of hours with friends, and I felt like a new woman.

So now we are at Saturday. The Mad Toddler has already had one time-out confrontation today. Whew - thank goodness ArtGuy was here this time! Although, the Mad Toddler was clearly trying to play us. He would yell at me, but he would be all sweet with ArtGuy. Again, the little boy did not want to put his bottom on his chair. It was another 30 minute tussle, but in the end, he sat!

Today I hope to finish the grocery list and continue to work on my projects. My goal now is to finish a book that was supposed to be a present for a niece almost ten years ago. I chickened out of giving it to her at the time. Now I am going to clean it up a bit and see what I can do with it.

Well, in between soccer games, that it! Go USA!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Fine Art of Discipline

Ding ding! In this corner we have "The Mad Toddler". He only looks sweet. Underneath that soft chub lies a will of steel! Don't let those big, brown eyes fool you - he is out to break your spirit in two like a toothpick!

In the other corner is Mom, aka "The Toddler-Tamer"! She has all the time in the world when it comes to waiting for time-outs to happen. Think you have what it takes to defeat her? Think again!

Yes, The Mad Toddler has reached the point where he has decided to not obey, on purpose. All things can be going along fine and dandy when the Mad Toddler turns on a dime, with a shriek and a whine. Suddenly, trains are flying across the room, crackers are ground into dust in the sweaty, chubby palm of his hand, and a furious foot is kicking out to catch whoever is nearest.

At that point, I take his little blue chair into the hallway, where he must sit for two minutes until the timer says "beep beep"! So, far he has been amazingly docile to this treatment. It was only a matter of time. Today was the breaking point.

Today the Mad Toddler decided to not stay in his chair for timeout. I dug in my heels and told him the timer can't run until his bottom is on his chair. So, the Mad Toddler sat his little rear in the chair. Then he planted his feet, placed his shoulders on the back of the chair, and raised his butt up in the air. All the while looking me in the eyes! I told him he had to stay until he could put his bottom in the chair, and walked away. Everytime I returned to check on him, he would be sitting - until he saw me. Then, no matter how he had to contort himself, he would find a way to get his rear off the seat!

What a battle of wills, I tell you! This went on for quite a while.

In all reality, I love this stage of development. You can almost see the gears of their brains turning. The Mad Toddler is finding another way to establish his independence and test his will. He is finding he has a voice (but mine is louder) and an opinion (mine is stronger!). 

But guess who won?

Let the records show that Mom wins again!

For now......

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Desert Island Question

Okay - so you are going to be stranded on a desert island. Why? I don't know! Make up your own story, and just be glad you have some warning! And where? Any island you want to imagine, as long as you are alone!

Now, back to the question -

You  know you are going to be stranded on a desert island - with five books! What books do you take? And let's just say that if you want the Bible, it will already be there! So, don't count that one.

I think I would have to have:

  1. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen (I read through this one several times a year)
  2. Gaudy Night, by Dorothy Sayers 
  3. The Two Towers, by JRR Tolkien (although I would break down and buy a all-3-in-1 set of Lord of the Rings, and slip them all in there)
ooooh - only 5? This is hard...

     4. the Catechism of the Catholic Chuch (that would keep me busy for a while!)
     5. I Don't Know How She Does It, by Allison Pearson - makes me laugh and cry and is fluffy enough for me to float away from my cares!

Okay - that will have to do, although I cannot stand the thought of leaving so many good reads behind!

What do you have on your list?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Strike as in bowling, that it, not baseball!

Today we went for our first "Kid's Bowl Free" bowling. It was a little crowded when we got there.  The bowling alley we went to has many, many loud, obnoxious games in the arcade, and laser tag and all that, so there was a lot of noise.

For some reason, I have a headache. Not sure why.

We finally got a lane after a 20 minute wait, but not without drama (see - what did I tell you before - a houseful of boys does not mean an absence of drama). I have talked to the boys about this before - sometimes I have to interact with another person - usually a cashier - like this time. When I do that, my head actually turns away from the Mad Toddler for a moment. Since the Mad Toddler is two, he senses my attention is elsewhere and off he goes! No one else notices. No one else sees. My head was turned for 40 seconds to give the nice young man our shoe sizes and to hand him my card, when I looked around and managed to see the flash of the Mad Toddler's shirt disappearing in the bowling lanes.

It was longer and messier than this, so I will spare you the details. Suffice it to say I was shouting like a banshee by the end (trying to make my voice louder than the combined noise of bowling balls, kids, arcade noise, and piped-in music). I think I amused some other moms and am sure I disgusted some. But, as I pointed out to the boys, that is the price they pay. They want to do fun things? Then, I may have to turn my head to pay for those fun things, leaving them to watch the Mad Toddler for a moment.  To quote one of my favorite book series - CONSTANT VIGILANCE! (name that book!)

The drama finally resolved and we got around to gearing up to bowl. It has been a while since I put on a pair of them there fancy bowling shoes and hit the lanes. And it showed!  But, oh! It was so much fun! Even the Mad Toddler had a good time. I would like to personally thank his guardian angels for protecting his feet each time he managed to grab his 5 pound bowling ball and haul it to the ramp before I could reach him (usually dropping it millimeters from his tootsies!). Who know a toddler hefting a 5 pound large, round weight could be so fast?

Romeo trounced us all. I managed to come in second, after finding a better groove in the later part of the game, ending with a strike! Cookie Boy came in a respectable third, followed by the Young Adult (who surrendered to the bumpers after a terrible beginning), and then the Mad Toddler.

I told the boys we would go back in the morning, but I totally forgot the US World Cup match in the morning! So, no deal, boys! Besides, we are going to purchase shoes. If we want to go bowling often, then shoes will pay for themselves in as little as a week!

Math Woes

Ugh! Math! Remember the scandal over the Barbie that said, "Math is hard"? Well, frankly, I didn't understand what the fuss was all about, because I AGREE! (Okay, okay - no angry comments! I do actually understand what the fuss was all about. It was just a literary device to show exaggeration. Honest.)

Frankly, I hate math. It was the bane of my existence in school (along with chemistry, which is a story for another day). My mother actually checked with the school when they placed me in an advanced math class in 8th grade.  Geometry - barely passed it! Algebra - prayed my way through it!

This particular life truth makes teaching math to my kiddos a challenging process. I chose to use Saxon Math, simply because it came with a script for the teacher! Yes, a line-by-line reading of exactly what to say. That made me much more comfortable when in the beginning of our homeschool journey.

Recently, Romeo has decided to try Singapore Math, and I actually like that, too. He wants to continue next year. I am down with that! Cookie Boy is happy with Saxon and has no desire to move. That is good, too!

The problem is with the Young Adult....again! Always drama there. A houseful of boys does not mean the absence of drama! The Young Adult has never liked math per se, but has always done well. Until this year. This year, it has been like watching the Titanic sink...slowly....over and over.

He is still working on finishing Saxon Math 7/6. With another 20 lessons to go, we are talking another month of work. The problem is his grades, which have been slowly dropping all year. He seems to understand the lessons, but mangles homework problems and tanks tests.

ArtGuy was supposed to be on the case, but after a week of two of helping out, disappeared from the homeschooling scene, much to my stress and sorrow. So, it has been back to me. And trust me, I am not a good one for explaining where you went wrong in a math problem.

Now I am trying to decide if he needs to repeat this particular year in math. Also, I am thinking of using the Saxon Dive CD's to help teach him. For now, we are going to take a Saxon break and do some Singapore math to change the pace. The Young Adult is getting quite discouraged, as is his mother!

Strawberry Soup

It is hot here in Texas. Really, really hot. Like triple-digit heat hot. Now, admittedly that is not unusual for Texas, but it is still mid-June. That is hot, my friends!

What better on a hot day to start dinner with a little strawberry soup? This cool, delicious dish perks the palate right up.

I got this recipe from the Quick Cooking 1999 Annual Recipe book, page 64. Or you can go straight to their website and get it there! I used the old-school Starwberry Soup recipe (uses sugar), but I noticed on the website there is a lighter, healthier stawberry soup recipe I will try next.

We ate the soup while we waited for the last of the meatball pot pies to cool down.

Yes, we are nearing the last of the freezer-ready meals I made in May. They lasted even longer than I had planned. I have a list of new things to try. I think this weekend will be a cooking weekend.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Monday, Monday

Happy Monday to you all!

Mondays are trash and recycling pickup days. Translation - Mondays are toddler-heaven days! Every Monday we have to go outside to watch the trucks rumble down the street! The Mad Toddler loves those big trucks. We spent a couple of hours outside this morning, listening to the sounds of the trucks in the neighborhood. It took a while for them to make their way to our street.

When the trucks came, the Mad Toddler got scared of the loud noise and jumped into The Young Adult's arms. As the Young Adult pointed out, it is no bad thing for the Mad Toddler to have a little healthy fear of large, dangerous vehicles!

They're here!!!!!!

While we waited outside this morning, I tackled the garage. Well, I started anyways. Like the rest of the house, it is disorganized and messy. I made a little progress, but in so doing brought boxes and "stuff" into the laundry room.You know, the room I cleaned out last week.

One step forward, three steps back, I tell you!

11 hours with the Mad Toddler is feeling a bit beyond me today. Must be Monday!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

Father's Day - that day when dads all over the what? Take a nap? Barbeque? Go to the lake?

Well, however you spent your Father's Day, I hope it was fun.

We started off our day by letting ArtGuy sleep in! I got up with the Mad Toddler and watched some World Cup. Then, we started breakfast preparations. ArtGuy loves waffles, grapefruit, and sausage, so that it what he got! Of course, he also loves orange juice, but since I forgot to pick that up, he did not get to enjoy that!

I used a waffle recipe from Epicurious for Belgian Waffles with Glazed Bananas! Yummo! The recipe called for "firm" bananas for the topping. Mine were somewhere between "good for banana bread" and "what is that oozing out the side". It still tasted excellent, and the bananas were really spreadable (being mushy), and combined with the maple syrup, tasted like warm, buttered banana bread. Sigh!
Here is a picture of the waffles, sans bananas!

Artguy received a framed picture of the rest of us for his office wall. You know, so he can remind himself what it is all about when he is home-away-from-home! We made him a special book, and Romeo drew his dad a portrait of himself (ArtGuy, that is). Then, we relaxed!

We ended the day by celebrating a very special Father's day. Mark, someone I have known from childhood, has married a lovely woman. They have had difficulty starting a family. She announced she was expecting last year. We watched her at church with joy, until the Sunday she did not show up. Mark told us things were not going well, and she was on bed rest in the hospital for the time being. But as long as she did not show up at church, everything was fine.
   Last September, they walked into church together. Our hearts dropped. If she was there, then there was no baby. Through tears, we learned they had delivered a boy, and he was still alive. He was born in early September, but was due after Christmas. He was only 23 weeks in utero at birth, and weighed just over one pound.
  Against all odds, little baby B as made it. He is a beautiful boy, with gorgeous eyes. He has the power to completely distract me at church when I sit next to him. He is a real miracle, and his parents have made it through a tough road to celebrate their first Mother's Day and Father's Day this year.
  Today we were honored to be part of the celebration of this little guy's baptism and life.

Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 19, 2010


A father is a precious thing. You know when you lose yours, through death or desertion, that a father's absence leaves a big hole in your life.

It was a regular summer day, August 8, 1984. We had been out for a picnic in the heat and were glad to be back home. The phone rang. My mother answered the call that changed our lives forever. My father, at age 42, had suffered a heart attack while walking his postal route in a large suburb. One of the homeowners found him. Death was instantaneous.

It was one week before my 11th birthday and 3 weeks before my younger brother's 9th birthday. My sister had only been married 5 months and my older brother was about to head back to college.

Our lives crumbled around us. My father, George Nichols, was one of those men. You know the kind - the kind you always wish was your dad. He was funny, at least in my little girl eyes. He was loving. He always had time for me. I remember his enjoyment of cartoons, and the funny way he said jello (it always got a laugh). I remember standing at his knees while he played guitar and sang. I remember him letting me stroke the guitar strings and I remember him singing "Puff the Magic Dragon", "Mountain Dew", and "Froggy Went A'Courtin'".

He was a mailman. Yup, that is right. A simple mailman. He never had high ambitions and fancy dreams. He wanted to be a good husband and father. He was both. He loved people and got to know many of the people on his routes throughout the years. He even once received a invitation to Gladys Harrington's birthday (She was around 90, I think , at the time. She was one of the important people who helped grow Plano, Texas from a farm town to an important suburb. My father delivered mail to her for a while). My mom threw the invitation away, thinking it was just a city-wide event- junk mail, basically! When Mrs. Harrington expressed her sorrow that she missed my father at her birthday, they realized it was a personal invitation to a private event!

My father left a huge gap in our hearts and lives. My mother fought to carry on, and boy, did she! She eaned her nursing degree and finished raising my younger brother and myself. Pretty impressive. But she could never marry again. I asked her why, once. She replied, "It wouldn't be fair to another man. I would always be comparing him to your father."

I am so grateful this Father's Day to have had such love from an earthly father, even if only for 10 years. I am also grateful to all the other men who stepped up to mentor me in my youth. I never looked for a father-figure, because I never wanted one. I was happy to have my father's influence in my life, and did not need a replacement. However, some men were kind enough to help me along the way, just by being "dad" for a sad girl's heart. My life is a living legacy to those men who fathered me along the way.

Thank you.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Cleaning Up

Wow! What a match today in the World Cup! The US and Slovenia tied 2-2, but there were some very bad calls by the ref. All in all, a nail biter!

I continue on my crusade to clean the house! I cleaned the linen closet/school closet upstairs. That was all last week. It is a major triumph to get that done. It was one of the first things I organized last year when we moved in, so we could get going with school. It has been in heavy use all year, and it deserved a good reorganization!

Today it is the laundry room. Well, at 5x6 or whatever, it is hardly a "room". Still, it is probably the hardest working area of the house. Four boys generate a lot of laundry! It is also one of those areas that seems to get random stuff crammed into it. Not sure what to do with that box? Put it on the washing machine!

Speaking of the washing machine, I have to sort through the cup of "stuff" that falls out of the boys' pockets and laundry baskets - rocks, marbles, legos, pennies, magnets, and so on. I have decided all money shall be donated to the Laundry of Mom!

The Mad Toddler is in fine form today. We have had several time outs, and lots of tantrums. Thank goodness for his big brothers, who are there to help and give me a little relief when things get rough!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Lesson in Ruling Your Subjects

"You will do my bidding."

Well, that is what he would say if he could. The Mad Toddler is 2, and like my other boys, very verbal very early. But not that verbal. What he does not accomplish with words, he communicates in screams, shrieks, squeals, and physical commands.

For example......

The Mad Toddler calls his three big brothers to come get on the floor.

Like sheep, they meekly obey and line up, as per instructions.

The Mad Toddler repositions Cookie Boy.

At this point, I am wondering what he has in mind with this little set-up. Only Cookie Boy shows any prudence by placing his hands protectively over his head.

Is any game going to be fun if you must assume the same position as if a tornado was coming?

AH HAAAA! A flying leap reveals what has been in the Mad Toddler's mind this whole time. The boys still don't realize.


Correcting a reluctant subject.

 Even after being jumped on, the Sheep Brothers allow the Mad Toddler to crawl all over them. And yes, I documented it all.

Time to get those boys a backbone!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Happy Birthday

(the new design is a tribute to ArtGuy's birthday, and will not be permanent.....I think.....)

To a man who  is never too busy to play with his kids

To a man who is patient and kind

To a man who has a crazy sense of humor

To one of the best fathers, ever. When our oldest son was born, the nurses all told me, "He is so protective. He is obviously in love with this baby. He is going to be a great dad." They were right.

To a man who supports me, whatever I want or need to do

To a man who is a true artist and craftsman

To a man who is fun

To a man who deserves a wonderful birthday jubilee

Happy birthday to my wonderful man!

We have some fun things planned this week to honor with this amazing husband and father