Saturday, July 31, 2010

School Prep

Two days until school starts, and I am not ready!

Today is a cleaning day - clean the school room, put away last year's work (which I was only too grateful to ignore during our summer break), and get this year's books and supplies out and waiting.

I always loved the first day of school. New pencils and pens, new books, new classes, new promise. The beginning of school always held that note of promise, that this year I would shine, this year I would find my way, this year would be full of fun and growth. Well, I was always a nerd!

I hope my kids get that same experience, in spite of homeschooling in classes of one! They always seem excited about the new supplies, and they greet each new package of new books with sequels. I know they are excited about the start of our homeschool coop, about a month away. They love those classes, and being with their friends for a while.

So now, it is tidy and organize! At the moment our school room is a mess, as I have dragged the Mad Toddler's toys out of his bin. It is time to put away the little baby stuff and face the fact that it is no longer links and rattles, but trains, cars, and blocks that amuse him! At just over two, I will need to come up with some items to occupy him during school time. He is not quite ready for the preschool "While I Wait" box I assembled for Romeo when he was 3 and 4. I have kept back some special art supplies for him, among a few other things.

ArtGuy has all the boys at the community pool for the moment. I am blasting some cool music while I try to tame the mess around me. The air is heavy with the scent of cleaners as I scrub shelves and windowsills. It is blissful!

Now, back to work!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Just a Friday

I have absolutely nothing profound or wise or witty to say today! It is one of those days in what has been one of those weeks.

I have been feeling quite insecure this week, for many reasons. I always thought (when I was a teenager) that I would outgrow these moments, but I never have. I refer to it as my "perpetual existential crisis". This week has brought a heavy dose of it all. I am ready to put it behind me and pretend it doesn't exist!

One good thing the week has brought - an nearby major intersection is shut down for two weeks while they widen the road. In order to do this, they have actually torn up the intersection and are re-building it all. We must go around this intersection (via parking lots) in order to get to our nearby church. Plus, my bank is right there, as is a CVS we frequent. The train and "beeg truck" lovin' Mad Toddler has been in heaven! We must stop and watch all the big trucks, while he breathes heavily in my ear and sighs with ecstacy from time to time. Just once every trip he has to try the question - "Go touch the beeg trucks", to which I always have to respond no. Cheap entertainment!

The second good thing the week has brought is a few new clothes - a lovely gift from my mom who hit a great sale. I am depressed how big the clothes have to be in order for me to wear them, but I appreciate the cute new things!

Yesterday was the last day for PHAT camp, the wonderful middle school camp at our parish. The Young Adult had a great time, and is utterly exhausted! A miracle! Cookie Boy is excited to attend next year!

The Young Adult ready to go home and SLEEP!

The Mad Toddler post-cupcake at the end of PHAT camp potluck!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Homeschool Budgeting

Homeschoolers are rarely without a budget. Most of us are one or one-and-a-half income families. Buying books or curriculums for multiple kids every year really adds up. Not to mention classes, coops, sports, etc...

The past two years have been a rough time, budget-ly speaking (I know, "budget-ly" is not a real word, but what can I say? I am a word-smith!). The home-birth-turned-emergency-c-section two years ago, followed by the "surprise appendectomy" left us in more than usual financial distress.

I am blessed to have work from time-to-time doing a few different things. It does not add up to much, but I usually try to pay for our homeschool items with it. Except for the past two years, when everything got tighter than normal (and normal is usually pretty tight around here!).

One thing we love about the start of a new year is ordering our new books. However, because of budget concerns, this year it has to be done in drips and drops. Luckily, Romeo and Cookie Boy already have most of their books, since Romeo inherits Cookie Boy's books and Cookie Boy gets The Young Adult's. That really helps.

We received the first of our new books today. It is Classical Writing's Aesop and Homer for Older Beginners. Whew! I got a headache trying to figure it out. I am going to have to sit down and seriously prepare for that one!

Usually, I order books throughout the year. It helps ease the budget and allows me more time to earn what I need. We often have a course or two that need finishing from the year before, and that can tide us over. For example, Romeo still has some Singapore 2b math to finish before moving on to the next set. We will get 2b finished first, then I will order 3a. That gives me a little time, and allows me to purchase other books first.

In the meantime, I am saving my dimes and nickels!

Okay - this is just for fun. A few weeks ago, one of the boys' friends was spending the night. The next morning they all woke up and played video games all morning. Around 11am, I made them take a break, and we all went out for a walk around the block. There were some clouds to the south, but they were not too close. Or so I thought! The boys all out-paced me. The stroller-bound Mad Toddler and I reached the end of our street when the first few drops splashed down. I decided to turn back instead of going around the block - just in case it rained any harder. Well before we reached the house, the heaven opened! It poured!!! All the big boys were still on the next street and raced home. The Mad Toddler loved it, and refused to come in! Of course, this is Texas. The rain lasted about five minutes. While the big boys were toweling off inside, I called them back out to witness the sun blazing merrily in the sky! Crazy!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Six More Days

Six small days until the start of our school year! Yikes! Where did the summer go?

Hanging with friends

Being silly

Oh, yeah. I remember now. We also have been doing(are doing, in fact) a fair amount of swimming and bowling, too. A good summer, indeed!

The plan is to start school Aug 2, and get a little bit of schooling in before vacation. Then, a vacation, and back to school with time off for out-of-town family and other things.

My goal this summer was to re-organize large chunks of the house. We have lived here officially one year now! (cheering and clapping in the background - can you hear it?) However, the first half of that year was spent in me recovering from an burst appendix and other things. In fact, we were partway moved in when my appendix went, and afterward I couldn't lift anything over 20 pounds (including my baby!). Needless to say, the move was not very much in my control!
So, one year later it is time to reclaim the house! I have tackled several rooms. The goal? Unpack boxes, organize, throw out clutter, arrange items. The result? Not too bad. I tackled my bedroom, my closet, the schoolroom/linen closet, the laundry room, and the room Cookie Boy and Romeo share. Whew! So far, so good. Today, I work on Cookie Boy and Romeo's closet.
Remember, I am no domestic goddess! The results are not worthy of Better Homes and Gardens or anything. Just  a little less like a zoo where animals live (you know, the burrowing kind) and more like a home where semi-tamed boys dwell!

The Young Adult is spending this week at a middle school church camp, called PHAT camp (People Meet, Hang with counselor, Adore God, Tour the Metroplex = PHAT. Get it? I love telling people we are sending out super-skinny 12-year old to PHAT camp,and watch their faces!) Yesterday was a service project day, followed by a trip to tour the new Cowboys stadium! How cool is that? The Young Adult actually called me from the middle of the stadium (using the youth leader's phone) because he was so excited by it. Today it is a group ropes course.
The rest of us get to stay home and clean! Lucky boys!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Homeschooling Boys

All week long I have been blogging about the various aspects of raising a houseful of boys, with no girls to help tame the wild beasts!

First, I want to give a thank you to Bethany, over at Confessions of an Organized Homeschool Mom, and her post about "The Important of Community". It was reading this post at the beginning of the week that got me thinking about all this and inspired the week's blog topic! Thanks, Bethany!

Bethany nailed it right on the head talking about the absolute necessity of having friend time for moms when you homeschool. Especially having time with other homeschooling moms, who know what you face day-in-and-day-out.

I am not a very outgoing person. It is very difficult for me to make new friends and feel comfortable in group situations. I can get up and sing in front of 1,000 people, or give a workshop to a room full of attendees, but put me in a cozy, social situation, and I am like a caged cat. Well, I won't bite, but I might run for it at any moment.

It takes work for me to make friends. Yet, that is exactly what I have had to do. Without other adults, I am afraid my mind would melt into a tiny, itty-bitty puddle. It is close enough, just as it is!

Time with friends, both homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers, is essential to a homeschooling parent's well-being!

One last note about homeschooling only boys - it can be very difficult to find that social time for myself.

In my neck of the woods, in my homeschooling circle, there is a wonderful group for girls. It is really and truly cool. But almost all the girls are involved. They meet frequently, and have lots of fun. So, their moms meet frequently and have fun and at least some time together. And many of those girls have brothers, so the brothers get together while the girls get together, and they all have fun and are forming friendships.

As a family of only boys, we do not get to do this. A few people have suggested I start a similar group for boys. But it isn't the same. You get a group of boys together, and there is no fellowship for moms. You are too busy making sure they are not dueling with kitchen utensils (been there), or finding ways to get around the room via furniture without ever touching the floor (done that!)! Boy meetings are not restful!

I am doing one anyways. I am coaching my first ever First Lego League, where we are going to build motorized Lego things and compete. It will be fun, but not too much socializing.

So, I guess my point is this. Homeschooling only boys can make it much more difficult to find socializing times with other homeschooling moms. In fact, it rarely happens. Mostly, I have to do it after-hours - through moms groups and other things.

To quote Forest Gump - And that's all I have to say 'bout that.

It is Saturday! Enjoy!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Educating Boys, Pt 2

"Of all the animals, the boy is the most unmanagable."  - Plato

Yesterday, I began with "Educating Boys, Pt 1".

A review:

Boys need 10 things:
  • patience
  • space to move and play
  • boundaries
  • clear expectations
  • challenges/goals
  • praise
  • physical challenges
  • strong role models
  • the chance to be silly
  • love, love, love

Today we pick up with -

5. Challenges/Goals -  Boys work best when there is some goal in mind. For example, The Young Adult was really struggling in math. Yes, we grade his work. When I was in (public) school, there was a certain amount of shame involved in getting handed a paper with a failing grade on it. I knew my teacher knew how poorly I had done, and so did the chick sitting next to me who couldn't keep her nose in her own business. Shame - healthy shame (and it does exist) - can be a powerful motivator. So can recognition. But when your mom grades all your papers, and you are the only one in your class, a failing grade (or a string of them) or a perfect grade just seems like another number. The Young Adult seemed to understand the math concepts, but when it came to doing his homework, he was not doing well at all. ArtGuy finally hit on an idea - offer The Young Adult $1 for every 100% he received.
The Young Adult became almost obsessed with doing his math homework well. In other words, he took his time with the homework and paid attention - something we were certain he was not doing before! He would sit by my side while I graded his tests. 100's are still few and far between, but the goal is there.
     The same is true of challenges. Now, "challenges" is a different word than "frustration", and sometimes there is a fine line between the two. Boys need challenges. Why do you think they are so attracted to stories of knights, battles, wars, adventure? There is always a difficult or "almost impossible" challenge to them. I listen to my sons and their friends while they play, and their play often involved challenges. "Bet you can't do more than I can", "beat that", "dare you", and so on. Many boys are attracted to video games because of the challenges involved - beat the level, beat the boss, beat the game, find the secret room, discover the extra life, etc...
A boy loves a good challenge. And they never grow out of it. ("Oh, I can fix that leaking pipe, honey. I know nothing about plumbing, but I can figure it out. It'll be fun!" Sound familiar to any of you ladies out there?)

6. Praise -
Boys need recognition. They get all kinds of bad recognition, but they need to be caught "being good" as well. This is true for all of us, I know. But boys seem to hear so many more negative things (you are too loud, knock that off, be quiet, be gentle, be nice, be neat). And they need praise for the things which make them a boy! Not the burping and farting (although an appreciative "nice one" from mom can go a long way), but the little man things they do. Opening doors, remembering to say please and thank you, fixing the remote, figuring out how to put the vacuum cleaner they just took apart back together, sorting rocks into piles, or when the 2 yr old hands mommy the booger instead of eating it - praise him!

7. Physical Challenges -
Boys need activity. Even quiet ones need to be active. Sometimes it is hard to look at a little boy's body and imagine him a man with arm muscles and chest hair and all. But it will happen. They need to be encouraged to grow those muscles and work those bodies to develop into strong lads. We keep light weights and a jump rope on hand. My boys pick up the jump rope several random times a day and see how far they get (goals). Then, they like to report to their brothers - "I did 57 today. Beat that!" (remember challenges?)

Physical activity also helps the brain. When a student becomes restless, often a little physical activity can settle them back into a learning mode again. ScienceDaily reported in 2009 about research linking physical activity and learning:
"The research, led by Charles Hillman, a professor of kinesiology and community health and the director of the Neurocognitive Kinesiology Laboratory at Illinois, suggests that physical activity may increase students’ cognitive control – or ability to pay attention – and also result in better performance on academic achievement tests." (see article here)

When my boys get fidgety in school, I ask them to go run around the block, or do 25 jumping jacks, or 15 minutes of Wii Fit.

Also - a note about sports. Sports are full of challenges and physical demands. If at all possible, involve boys in sports. They can be non-traditional. Romeo is my only athletic child. He loves soccer and riding bikes and wrestling. But Cookie Boy and The Young Adult failed mserably at soccer and baseball. They hated it. They just are not into those type of sporting events (remember, there is a thin line between challenges and frustration!). Cookie Boy has found Speed Stacking. Not a traditional sport by a long-shot, but one he feels comfortable doing. This spring, he even competed against 500 kids in a regional contest. And anyone who knows Cookie Boy will tell you that it was surprising for him to do that. But he found what motivated him and challenged him.
Likewise, you have probably seen my posts of The Young Adult. He is a Scottish Highland dancer. ArtGuy and I never saw that coming! The Young Adult is a typical boy in many ways, and is tall and handsome for his age. He loves the rich history behind Highland dancing, and what many of the dances represent. He also has benefited greatly from the physical demands of the sport.

8. Strong Role Models -
Boys need examples of good men (and women, yes, but in order for a boy to grow into a good man, he must know what a good man is!).
Good, interesting biographies are a great way for boys to get to know some real men. Stories of the saints are also excellent. Good documentaries are also a help. We talk to the boys when we can about these things. For example, we were all watching "Design Star" on HGTV this past Sunday (which stinks this year, by the way. But that is another issue!). The design task was to design a room in two separate firehouses for New York firefighters. A person on screen made a comment about the bravery of the New York fire department. The Young Adult said, "What is the big deal? Why should firefighters get cool stuff just becuase they are from New York?"
We used that opportunity to discuss what firefighters actually do, and how they risk their lives. We talked with them about what the New York fire department did on 9/11, and how that bravery was not a one-time thing. It became a teaching moment on good brave heroes - and the boys completely changed their attitude.
There are enough flashy role models for our boys out there. They promote money, ease, and the rich life, and often end up doing very stupid things. Our boys see the cool stuff - the awesome cars, the clothes, the "hot" women, the apparent happiness, and they buy into it. That is what they want!
But real role models last a lot longer. Their lessons are bigger than money. They usually involve sacrifice of some kind, and often end up touching the lives of many people in many ways. Feed boys on the real role models whenever you can!

9. The Chance to be Silly -
Boys are silly by nature. They can make sound effects from the cradle. They love dumb jokes. Our neighbor, 8 year old Speedy, loves to tell the "What's under there?" (underwear - hah hah - you said underwear!). He tells it over and over. I let him. I fall for it almost every time. Why? Boys are boys, and they revel in sheer silliness (SpongeBob Squarepants, anyone!).

10. Love, love, love -
I am sure this one is self-explanatory. But it is true. They need love, and they need to know it. It is easy to cuddle Romeo, who at 8 is still very much a little boy. But The Young Adult is several inches taller than me, wears the same size shoes as his dad, and is beginning to take on man features - when I touch his face, it is the thick, tough face of a man. Gone is the soft, little-boy flesh. Even still, I pat his cheek, grab him for a hug (and he is not allowed to give me any "beaver-lodge" hug, either!), tell him he is great. Give high-fives, pat his back, ruffle his hair, lightly punch his arm. And from time to time, actually say those words - "I love you". It is like sunlight for the soul!

"Besides, the best have to get through the hobbledehoy age, and that's the very time they need most patience and kindness. People laugh at them, and hustle them out of sight, and expect them to turn, all at once, from pretty children into fine young men. They don't complain much - plucky little souls - but they feel it. I've a special interest in such young bears, and like to show them that I see the warm, honest, well-meaning boys' hearts, in spite of the clumsy arms and legs and topsy-turvy heads."
                                                                              - Louisa May Alcott, Little Women, Ch. 47

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Educating Boys, part 1

"Boys. I want to open a school for little lads - a good, happy, homelike school, with me to take care of them, and Fritz to teach them."
..."I like it," said Mrs. March decidedly.
"So do I," added her husband, who welcomed the thought of a chance of trying the Socratic method of education on modern youth.
..."I've always longed for lots of boys, and never had enough; now I can fill the house full, and revel in the little dears to my heart's content. Think what luxury - Plumfield  my own, and a wilderness of boys to enjoy it with me!"
                                                          -Louisa May Alcott,  Little Women, Ch 47

Perhaps it is a bit cheeky of me to quote Louisa May like that, but it does echo the sentiments in my own heart. Despite the fact that four boys hardly constitutes a "wilderness". Especially when we know a family with 6 boys and one with seven. Still.

If you want to find out how we ended up homeschooling, you can always hit the link at the top of the blog, titled "How We Ended Up Homeschooling". It tells our story and explains why I, the reluctant homeschooler, am getting ready to start our 8th year as homeschoolers.

Regardless of what many people think, boys and education do go hand in hand. But the education of boys is a delicate thing. Like any wild creature, if you keep them chained up somewhere, they tend to either wither away or learn to bite any hand that comes near.

Boys need 10 things:
  • patience
  • space to move and play
  • boundaries
  • clear expectations
  • challenges/goals
  • praise
  • physical challenges
  • strong role models
  • the chance to be silly
  • love, love, love
I am sure there are more than 10 things boys need, but I like that number, and I am saying it with confidence!

I hear stories all the time of the difficulties parents face with their young sons in formal school. Not that public or private school is a bad thing.

Please, let's be clear - I am not a homeschooling nazi. I do think it is a great way of education, but it does not work for everyone. And there are many wonderful public and private schools. And children get through even the bad ones, and often learn to do well. I was public school educated, and did just fine! I am trying to not step on anyone's toes. I will probably fail. Please take what I have to say with an understanding that I do not judge parents based on the type of schooling they choose. I just want to share my experiences.

1. Patience - Mothering boys needs a great deal of patience. Educating boys often needs more. In some ways, boys are natural learners. Given the right subject they are motivated, hard-workers, and creative thinkers.  Patience is needed to help them through those subjects that they do not take to naturally. Some boys are natural organizers, but many are not. A lot of patience must be given to help boys understand the rules of society and education and how to implement them.
I am naturally a low-energy kind of parent. It took many years to reconcile myself to the loud noises that come naturally to the male gender.
And have I told you about their bathroom?
Patience, patience, patience!

2. Space to move and play -  Formal schooling is often a trial for young boys. Boys of five, six, and seven were just not designed to sit in a classroom all day. Some boys find this more difficult than others. These boys tend to need to get up and move in order to process information. Yes, the way some brains are wired, information is process best when the body is involved. This type of learner is a kinetic learner. Many young boys who are kinetic learners wrongly end up being diagnosed with ADHD, simply because they cannot sit down to learn, especially for hours a day.

I have worked with children since I was 16 - as a day care worker, as a student teacher, as a substitute teacher, as a counselor, a nanny, a babysitter, a teacher, and a mother. I have been with children who probably are ADHD, and they are usually quite different from many other children who are labeled ADHD.

Many young boys simply need more room, more play, more activity, more freedom. Homeschooling has given us the ability to merge the natural needs of boys with the demands of education. Boys can often perform quite well in more serious study if they have the chance to get up and move from time to time. Educating boys well means giving them small breaks throughout the day and bigger breaks to get active.
Boys also need space. Even a small space can be adapted, as long as there is somewhere for a boy to go where he does not have to worry about breaking something or hurting something.

3. Boundaries - Needing to be free to move and play does not mean boys do not need rules. Boundaries for boys are very important. Boys often behave better when they know there are boundaries. Boundaries are the guidelines in which one places one's behavior. For many boys, these boundaries need to be generous, but they do need to be there.

4. Clear expectations - This goes hand-in-hand with number 3. There need to be boundaries, and they need to be made clear. Boys work best when they understand exactly what is expected of them. It is not enough to tell a boy, "Go clean your room" if you have never told him what that means. To him it may mean pushing everything in the closet and throwing all his books in a pile, while you are expecting the books to be lined up, spines out on the shelf.
Spell it out - write it down, go over it with him - tattoo it on his chest if you have to - just make your expectations clear!

  My nephew and a young Young Adult with their ziggurat
Stayed tune for part 2!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Growing Boys

Boys are strange creatures.

I thought that when I was 6, then when I was 16, and now at 36, the thought is STILL the same!

Boys delight in flatulence, burping as obnoxiously as possible, laughing like hyenas, and dirt. Well, most do. My oldest was never that fond of dirt, actually. The Young Adult was one when we bought our first home. We were so excited to take him to the new, big backyard and let him root around. After a few minutes playing under the tree, he held up his little chubby hands covered with dirt and said, "Eeeuw".

Well, everyone is different!

Sometimes the job of raising children completely overwhelms me. I am on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I usually cannot even leave my motherhood at the bathroom door. I cannot tell you how many times I have been "occupied" in the bathroom, finding myself yelling, "Leave your brother alone!", or "Will you please just give me 2 minutes to pee in peace!"
At other times, I am so in love with what I do. I love knowing about their lives. Watching them grow. Seeing them make new discoveries.
And at other times, I am awed into contemplative silence. Those are the moments when it hits me - really hits me - that I am not just a "mommy". I am raising men. MEN! I have the awesome privilege and terrifying task of taking small beings who think a dirty clothes bin is wherever they drop their sweaty socks, and who have a running contest to spot as many bio-waste words as possible in the ordinary English language (the day I asked them if they wanted a hot dog wiener for lunch was quite memorable) and turn them into productive members of society who will not make a grown woman blush! Not only is this difficult in and of itself, but it is incredible.

Who am I to think that I have the skills it takes to do this? Well, I will tell you - I don't! I am learning as I go. I sometimes make a huge mess of it all. Sometimes, through grace, I manage to hit it just right. 

One day we went to church. This was pre-Mad Toddler. So it was me with four males - all healthy, intelligent, physically capable people. We reached the front doors, and I stopped. I am an old-fashioned kind of girl who likes old-fashioned kind of things.  I do not insist (usually) on a gentleman holding a door open for me, but dang it if these four males were going to wait for me to do it! And that is what they did!!! They all stood there for a moment, looking at each other in confusion. There was no sign of a light-bulb moment coming, so I had to come out and say it (another thing you have to do with men) - "You are four healthy males with one female. One of you will open the door for me!". They did, and on we went.

On the other hand, a few years ago I was griping at the Young Adult for doing such a shoddy job cleaning the bathroom. I quickly learned that while it is a good thing for the boys to have their own bathroom, it is not something I ever want to touch - ever! Eeeuuuww! Anyway, I said to the Young Adult, "Who do you think is supposed to clean this?"
"You!" he answered with heat.
"Why should I clean your bathroom?" I asked him.
"Because cleaning things is woman's work!"

It silenced me for a moment. While I am an old-fashioned kind of girl, it only goes for the opening doors and polite manners kinds of things. Otherwise, I like my men modern!

"Where did you come up with that notion?" I asked my eldest child, in horror.

"Little House on the Prairie and Little Women - the women did all the housework," he replied with confusion.
 "Well, that was over 100 years ago, son. Times change. Grab a toilet brush."
I decided then and there I had to make sure that boy read something a little more modern! Classical education is great, but a modern sensibility is, too!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Little Boys - a poem

Little Boys

Little boys
asleep at night,
all curled up
and holding tight
to dinosaurs
and battle droids,
little cars,
and other toys.

Books the size of boulders
lie underneath their shoulders.
Five pillows and three sheets
surround them while they sleep,
dreaming dreams of forests deep,
of dragons to ride,
rescues to keep,
battles in ships among the stars,
caves of wonder in lands so far.

Guardian angels smile so wide
to watch these boys with their eyes
closed in peaceful slumber.

Knowing full well that when they wake
the earth will tremble, the earth will shake
with growls, yells, and roars,
with races fast and fights with swords.

God loves the little boys -
They fill his heart
with wild joy!

copyright C. Alcott 2003

Raising Boys

If you did not know by now, I have four boys, ages 12, 10, 8, and 2. I also have a husband (which is code word for "bigger boy") and a male kitten (which means "baby boy"). I also have fish, but I will not hazard a guess at their gender. Knowing my luck, they are all boys. Every last one of them!

Having only boys, we get a lot of stupid questions and/or comments!
  • Did you ever try for a girl? (Well, ma'am, you would have to ask my husband. He is in charge of gender selection. I only take what is given to me.)
  • Are you sad you have all boys? (Only when I clean toilets or try to watch a girly movie. Wanna clear a room in my house? Try turning on "Hannah Montana: the Movie", or any movie with kissing.)
  • Are you going to try for a girl? (Do you think I have had  control up 'til now?)
  • You almost have a basketball team! (ummmm....I guess?)
  • You sure have your hands full! (Doesn't every mom?)

    There are many advantages to having all boys.
    • I am the only woman they really know, for now. That is at times depressing, scary, or really amazing - it all depends on my mood.
    • Creative punishments in public: if they misbehave in the store, they have to go bra shopping with me. Shuts 'em up every time.
    • Creative punishments at home: Romeo was misbehaving one day. To punish him, I pinned him down, held his eyes open, and made him watch 5 minutes of Barbie: The Three Musketeers. I turned it on right as a song came on. Sah-weet!
    • They have really cool toys!
    • They are getting stronger than me, and can open all kinds of jars!
    • They are not just brothers, but best friends (some times!)
    • I am raising young men! How cool is that!
    There are times it really and truly hits me that I am way outnumbered. Like, when I use the bathroom and realize the toilet paper is out, and has been for days, probably. No one but me would notice this. Or, when I am having an "emotional time". Then, every male in my house tiptoes around me, with furrowed brows and shrugging shoulders. Or when I want to go shopping.

    But then, that's what girl friends are for!

    Saturday, July 17, 2010

    Martha and Mary, but Mostly Mary

    This is the second part examining the Gospel readings about Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42 (busy Martha and listening Mary) and John 11:1-45 (the death and resurrection of Lazarus). If you have not read part one - go back and read it! It'll all make more sense!

    Last time I took the first half and looked at how Martha learned her lesson of choosing the better part. After being corrected by Jesus the first time for forgetting to choose love, Martha came out with a stunning statement of belief in Jesus as the Messiah, in spite of the fact that Jesus had not answered their plea to come until it was too late.

    After Jesus had tested her new, strong faith, and she passed the test, Martha goes to get Mary.

    "When (Martha) had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, 'The teacher is here and is asking for you." (John 11:28)

    Now, we have to use our imaginations. We often do in scripture, because it rarely gives all the details. That is one of the beautiful things about the brevity of the Bible - we have to play the scenes out in our minds.

    So, now we have to ask ourselves, where was Mary? Why did she not go to meet Jesus? Remember her in the story from Luke? Mary "sat beside the Lord at his feet, listening to him speak" (Luke 10:39). Mary, who knew how to drop everything to be with Jesus, did not even stir from the house when a friend announced his arrival.


    Martha is like an adult convert. Her faith was kindled late, but when it came, it came with zeal and fire. Martha has a convert's heart. Mary has the faith of a cradle believer. She believed from the beginning with a quiet assurance. Mary's faith never questioned, doubted, or wavered.

    So when the sisters sent the message to Jesus to come quickly, they knew he would come. Mary probably smiled gently in the face of the grief of those around her as her brother neared death, simply because she was completely sure Jesus would turn up to be with them, the friends he loved.

    Especially if Jesus were the Messiah, the son of God. God promised. Mary would have turned to the scriptures for comfort through the illness of Lazarus.

    "O Lord, to you I call; hasten to me;
    hearken to my voice when I call upon you." (Psalm 141:1)

    "I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart,
    for you have heard the words of my mouth;
    in the presence of your angels I will sing your praise...
    When I called, you answered me;
    you built up strength within me.
    Though I walk amid distress, you preserve me."
    (Psalm 138:1,3,7)

    "The Lord will guard you from all evil;
    he will guard your life."
    (Psalm 121:7)

    "In my distress I called to the Lord,
    and he answered me."
    (Psalm 120:1)

    Mary knew these words, and took them to heart. If Jesus, the Messiah, the fulfillment of all the Jewish people had been waiting for for over 1,000 years, were near, he would come.

    Only he didn't. He could have, but he didn't.

    Mary was wounded in a deep, personal way. She trusted without fear, and Jesus not only did not come, he was silent. No note or messenger arrived.
    That is the pain of Mary. She who left everything undone to be with her Lord encountered silence when she reached out to him in her need. For Mary, the grief was not so much about Lazarus (although she loved him, and this grief was present, too), but about the silence of God. Her wound is a lover's wound.

    She felt betrayed, in a way. After all, look at her - she had believed long before Martha learned to worship. Mary was the example Jesus used in order to teach her sister a lesson, for goodness' sake! Mary, sister of Lazarus, believer in Jesus, found that her faith was unshakable - until it encountered silence.

    So, you could say Martha was successful - it took her longer to "get" it, but when she did, she proclaimed her belief firmly. Mary represents failure - she believed from the start, but found her faith to be much more fragile than she ever thought possible. Mary was so upset by the silence of Jesus that she could not even stir from the house when he did arrive.

    I say Mary is a failure, but only a failure like the rest us. Especially those who have believed a long, long time. We know those scriptures, we try our best to live our faith. We even trust in trying times. But sometimes something comes along that will knock our world upside-down. We reach for God, only to encounter that silence. That terrifying echo that makes us question if everything we have professed to believe is really a lie, after all.
    All Christians must face this test at some point. To believe without seeing, hearing, knowing. To believe in the face of silence. Many of us fail that test. There is a terror to that (apparent) emptiness that reduces us to rubble in a way trials and tribulations often do not.
    Mary faced this silence, and stumbled. Yet when Martha comes to her and tells her Jesus is asking for her, she goes.

    "As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to meet him." John 11:29

    Mary still longs for Jesus, in spite of her bruised heart. She goes to him, even though he is still not close to the house.

    "When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, and said to him, 'Lord, if you had been there, my brother would not have died." John 11:32

    I think this verse is quite telling, as well. As much as Mary longed to see Jesus, she was still hurt and angry over his silence. So much so that when she did reach him, she could not even look at him in the eyes.She fell to the ground in front of him, ashamed and overwhelmed by the anger, frustration, and abandonment her heart was full of.

    Remember - upon meeting Jesus, Martha also said, "Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died." (John 11:21). While the words of the sisters upon greeting their Lord are the same, one gets the feeling that they mean two different things. Martha was merely stating a fact, a fact that was by no means a hindrance to anything Jesus wished to do. The words of Mary, however, pour forth from her lips as she hits the ground. Mary's words are an admonishment to Jesus, an accusation. She is saying, "Where were you? I called, and you did not come." They are the words from the Song of Songs, "I opened my door to my lover - but my lover had departed, gone. I called to him but he did not answer me." (Song of Songs 5:6)

    This more than anything touches Jesus. He sees the people who had followed Mary weeping, and he sees his faithful friend, Mary, crushed. He knows her faith has been shaken.
    "When Jesus saw her weeping. he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, 'Where have you laid him?" (John 11:33)

    Mary's crisis of faith did not cause Jesus to do anything differently. He had already tried to warn his disciples that Lazarus would be dead, but that he would raise him up, to the glory of God. He also hinted at it to Martha, by declaring himself to be the Resurrection and the Life. So, plans did not change. Yet the grief of Mary moved him deeply.

    The sorrow of the people around him moved Jesus to tears. "And Jesus wept." (John 11:35)

    We all know the end to this story. Lazarus is raised from the dead. He is reunited, for a time, with his sisters. They are allowed to recover from their grief, and to witness the power of Jesus in a profound, tangible way. But eventually, Lazarus will die again - maybe in a few days, maybe 30 years from that day. But die he will. 

    Mary also must reconcile herself to the fact that she, the quiet, steady believer, lost faith for a while, even if only a short while.

    There is a popular thought in Christianity today that God wants us to always be happy. Always joyful- yes. Always happy? No. God never said that. Anyone who tells you that is lying, even if they mean it and are loving. We can never, ever separate the Cross from our lives. Nor can we stop those we love from encountering the Cross, themselves. Jesus did not spare his dear friends this experience. Jesus himself was not spared this suffering. How can we be? If we follow him, we will know the Cross. And sometimes the worst of it is the silence.

    Not that God is really and truly gone. Just like with Martha and Mary, where Jesus knew what was happening to his friends, God is always aware of our joys and our pains. But he often has a much different plan than we do. We cannot see the fruit of it, just like Martha and Mary did not know that in the end, Lazarus would be returned to them, and they would get to witness a miracle, to boot!

    The story of Mary and Martha is an insight to how faith can grow and be challenged. Martha and Mary are both challenged in their faith- at different times and in different ways. Both women both fail and triumph.

    What a privilege to know these two dear friends of Jesus - Martha and Mary, women of faith.

    Martha and Mary, but Mostly Martha

    This Sunday's gospel reading is the Martha and Mary one. You know the one I mean. Sitting Mary = good and Busy Martha = bad.
       Martha runs around, getting the food and drinks ready, making sure everything is organized, while Mary drops what she has and sits to listen to Jesus. Martha, understandably, is frustrated, and asks Jesus to make Mary help. Instead, Jesus tells Martha, "There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her." (Luke 10:38-42)
      I like the way Lisa Reno explains it in MagnifiKid: "Martha forgot that her work needed to be done with love, and so she felt bitter and sad. Hard work can be a beautiful way of loving, but work without love becomes a burden." There is a mighty lesson for parents in those sentences!
      For the most part, when this reading is the Gospel reading, one can expect the usually homily or sermon on finding time to listen to Jesus, to carve time out of the busyness of the world in order to rest in prayer, the most important work.
      And Martha? Martha always gets a bad rap. Too busy, too naggy, too angry, too frenzied.

    But I think you cannot understand Mary and Martha, especially Martha, without the rest of their story. You see, this story from Luke is only the first half of what they have to teach us. The second part comes in the tale of Lazarus (Lazarus the dead guy, not Lazarus the beggar guy).

    "Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha...So the sisters sent word to (Jesus), saying, 'Master the one you love is ill'." (John 11:1,3)

    Mary and Martha felt confident that as soon as Jesus received word about Lazarus, he would hurry there. Why not? They were all good friends, and Jesus was clearly someone very mighty and holy. So, they did what every good Christian is taught to do - they called on God for help and trusted completely in His answer.

    "Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was." (John 11:5-6)

    Huh? Jesus loved them - okay, got that. So because he loved them, he did not hurry to them, but decided to wait two days? How does that make any sense? You know Martha and Mary were expecting to see Jesus any day. As Lazarus grew more and more ill, and the people around them began to mourn and try to prepare them for their brother's death, Martha and Mary remained calm and serene. They knew Jesus was coming....right away. They trusted completely.  They had no idea he was waiting.

    Lazarus died. Yes, died. With no Jesus in sight. Not even a note to say he heard about it, he is coming, he loves them - nothing. Martha and Mary believed until Lazarus's last breath that Jesus would show up. And he didn't.

    Jesus finally decided to go, even though it required that he go back into an area where he was a hunted man. The disciples thought he was crazy, and tried to dissuade him. Jesus told them he was going, and then said to them "Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to waken him."

    I love this part. Sometimes, the exchanges between Jesus and the disciples sound like a situation comedy. So Jesus told them Lazarus was dead, but he didn't come right out and say it. He used flowery language, saying Lazarus was "asleep". And the disciples, bless their hearts, replied in confusion. Hey, if he is just asleep, that must mean he is getting better!

    "But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought he meant ordinary sleep. So then Jesus said to them clearly, "Lazarus has died." (John 11:13-14)

    So off to Bethany they finally went, to discover that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. Not four days since Lazarus died, but four days since he had been placed in the tomb. Jesus was really, really late.

    There was a crowd of people with the sisters, staying to comfort them. Someone there spotted Jesus and the gang coming and ran to tell the sisters. And one of them came out to meet Jesus.

    Now, back to our first story. Remember what happened - Martha was too busy to sit at the feet of Jesus, while Mary dropped everything she had to spend time with him. So who went out to meet him, after their brother died?

    Martha. Martha came out, leaving guests and death rituals behind. Martha could not even see Jesus at her window yet. All she had to hear was that someone spotted him up the road, and this time it is Martha who left everything and everyone to go and seek Jesus.
    "When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary sat at home." (John 11:20)

    Martha wasted no words. "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you." (John 11:21-22)

    Who's got faith now, huh? Jesus tests it just a little. "Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise.' Martha said to him, 'I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.' Jesus told her, 'I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?'" (John 11:23-27a)

    Martha here replies with such a strong statement of faith. "She said to him, 'Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.'" (John 11:27b)

    Very few people in the New Testament ever make this statement, and almost no women. Yet these words - this declaration of Jesus as the Messiah - were given to Martha to speak, not Mary. Martha had taken the words of Jesus to heart - the better portion was now hers.

    The next part concerning Mary is also very, very interesting. Look for it next time!

    Thursday, July 15, 2010

    Cinammon Apples

    Wow! This has been a busy week! So busy I cannot seem to even find time to write the way I want.

    A house full of boys, some who have picky appetites! It can be a challenge to find side dishes that everyone will eat. Luckily, I found a great recipe for cinnamon apples. The longest part is peeling the apples, but once that is done, you are in business! I find this recipe is not enough for my family of 6, so I have to make at least 1 1/2, or to make it easier - I just double everything!

    Since this recipe is under strict copyright protection, I will just link to it in this blog!


    Warm Cinnamon Apples

    Monday, July 12, 2010

    A "B" about the "Y"

     photo courtesy of JPPI, via morguefile

    (a Blog about the YMCA)

    Today, I read this NY Times article online, about the YMCA "re-branding" itself as "the Y".
    YMCA rebrands itself as "the Y"

    “It’s a way of being warmer, more genuine, more welcoming, when you call yourself what everyone else calls you,” said Kate Coleman, the organization’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer.

    First, while I am no marketing expert, I do understand the need to rebrand a product or company in order to remain current. The benefits of rebranding are numerous, or can be.

    At the same time, rebranding can also mean a step away from the original intent. I think the comment by Coleman quoted above is a bit ridiculous.  I realize I am probably thinking about this from the ontological and existential perspectives, and not from any business model.

    Names have meaning. They convey what something means or who someone is. Why do you think parents usually work so hard to name a new child? Because names have meaning. Now, obviously you can have three men all called Bob, and they would not be the same person, but the name still has meaning - an identity.

    The YMCA is an abbreviation of the Young Men's Christian Association. That is a name with meaning. Maybe the meaning has worn away, but to think that one letter is a better description of  the group is silly. How is the letter "Y" warmer? "More genuine"? "More welcoming?" I guess if you are scared of Christians, maybe. Or young men. But that is the group's origin, and to try to hide it is like so many other things today - afraid to offend anyone for any reason.

    Kentucky Fried Chicken has become KFC. This is more "warm", I suppose. You can toss it around with less syllables, or tweet it much more quickly. Does it mean the identity changed? It does not change the fact that it is still a restaurant that serves fried, unhealthy food, but it does mean the company does not want you to think about the word "fried" so much. Stealthy eh? (not to say I do not get some mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans, and chicken strips from time to time!)

    We often "rebrand" our family members' names on our blogs and website. But it is for safety reasons, not in order to make our family 'warmer'.

    Not that all name-changing is bad, or all rebranding stupid. But, really? "It’s a way of being warmer, more genuine, more welcoming, when you call yourself what everyone else calls you"???

    Well, in that case, my name is no longer Christine, but Mom. Or more like, "Moooooooooooommmmmmm".

    My husband will be "Honey.
    All three of my boys will be "Hey, you!" Well, the 12-yr-old may have another name, but I do not know if I trust his middle school friends to come up with it. It will probably be "Doofus" or "Slim" or something far worse.

    And the Mad Toddler - well, let's change his name on the birth certificate, then.

    Shall we take polls to find out what the majority of people call us, so we can come to some consensus, change our names, and make all around us feel more welcome, so we can convey a warmer image.

     Of course, it is all Shakespeare's fault. He was the original proponent of rebranding.

    'Tis but thy name that is my enemy:
    Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
    What's Montague? It is nor hand nor foot,
    Nor arm nor face, nor any other part
    Belonging to a man. O be some other name!
    What's in a name? That which we call a rose
    By any other word would smell as sweet;

    So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
    Retain that dear perfection which he owes
    Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
    and for thy name, which is no part of thee,
    Take all myself.

    Thanks a lot, Shakespeare. Or should I say "Bill"! 

    photo coutesy of  morguefile

    (please realize I am writing this while listening to my 12-yr-old tell me a joke about 3 guys named Shut-Up, Manners, and Poop (more rebranding???), while my toddler babbles about the kitty cat on my lap and demanding "Bab de Bill-er" - that would be "Bob the Builder", clearly rebranded to be more welcoming to a 2-yr-old. It is hardly a well-thought out work, and not entirely serious.)

    Simple Joys

    Lately, I cannot get this one song out of my head. (And no, ArtGuy and Cookie Boy - despite the fact that you want to ingrain the Lord of the Rings theme set to vuvzelas into my brain through your incessant humming, that is not the song I am talking about!)

    The song is "Little Church', by Donovan, from the 1972 movie "Brother Sun, Sister Moon".  Being educated at a Franciscan university (Franciscan University of Steubenville), the song became quite familiar to me! The movie is dated, but I never get tired of the story of St. Francis. Kind of like the movie Apollo 13 - I can hear it over and over and over!

    If you want your dream to be,
    Build it slow and surely.
    Small beginnings greater ends.
    Heartfelt work grows purely.

    If you want to live life free,
    Take your time go slowly.
    Do few things but do them well.
    Simple joys are holy.

    Day by day, stone by stone,
    Build your secret slowly.
    Day by day, you'll grow, too,
    You'll know heaven's glory.

    It's really those 2 lines that get me - "Do few things but do them well. Simple joys are holy".

    As a mother of four boys, I can safely say I rarely ever "do few things" in any given day. It is always "wash this, clean that, wipe this, direct that, teach this, make that, drive this one here, drive that one there" and so on. Not that I am making a litany of complaints. It is simply a reality of mothering young children.
    That tendency to be scattered as a mother often leads to scattered-ness in other things as well. I often read a little of this, then that, while writing this article, then working on that book, all the while researching this area. In the end, I do nothing slowly (except for those things I procrastinate on), and often forget to look at the simple joys.

    My simple joys are: a sunset, the smell of a young child's freshly washed hair, reading a book to a cuddly toddler, holding hands with my husband, playing cards with the boys, and listening to music.

    What are your simple joys?

    Sunday, July 11, 2010

    Sunday Snippets - A Catholic Carnival

    Awesome! This is  my first time posting to Sunday Snippets, hosted by RAnn at This, That, and the Other Thing!

    Well, I will link to a few posts outside of this week, for the sole reason that this is my first time here! So glad to be a part of a new group! I cannot wait to read some new blogs and make some new friends!

    Here is to a great new week!

    Christine, texasmom

    Saturday, July 10, 2010

    End of the Week

    This week brought us a new addition - our new cat, Joshua! He is small and sweet. He likes attention, which is a good thing with so many boys to dish it out! A friend of ours had four kittens to give away. We went over Friday to pick one out, and fell in love with this guy!  His name was originally Mikey, but the boys decided to rename him. On the way home, for some inexplicable reason, they were all in agreement on the name Joshua! So, Joshua it is!

    This summer is already slipping by. With the drama of the past two years, I really have forgotten how relaxing a summer can be! We have the community pool, we go bowling (thanks to KidsBowlFree), and we hang with friends. One day this week, we had seven boys in the house, playing video games and building with Legos. Sweet!

    Speaking of bowling....

    We were bowling a few days ago. The Young Adult has not been able to find his groove. He has consistently come in last every time we go. Until this week, that is! A few days ago, The Young Adult seemed to bowl strike after strike, decimating the competition. Cookie Boy, on the other hand, was not having a good day. He was behind, and just could not knock down more than seven pins in any turn. At one point, Cookie Boy's lips quivered, and tears spilled down his cheeks.
    I called him over to me.
    "Honey, it is okay," I said. "You are improving every game. Today, The Young Adult is just having an incredible game."
    He nodded his head., but the tears kept coming.
    "Cookie Boy, you just do your best. You will see," I ended.
    Cookie Boy nodded his head, calming down.
    As we were talking, the Young Adult finished another awesome turn, and then a new frame began.
    Every single one of us bowled a strike that frame, except Cookie Boy!
    It just wasn't his day.

    The Mad Toddler has perfected a trick I like to call  "Slippery Fish". This is when I am trying to pick him up, or am already carrying him, and he goes limp and floppy, making it as hard to hold on to him as a large, mad fish. I am in desperate need of a massage and a chiropractor!

    Wednesday, July 7, 2010

    The Domestic Goddess

    All my life, I have only wanted two things: to teach and to be a mom.

    (Well, I wanted these things more than anything else. I also wanted a yellow Honda Prelude, to be a size 6, and of course, world peace.)

    When I was little, I held play schools, and roped some area kids into being my "class". We lived way out in the country at that point, and the kid pool was low. Some of the moms finally had  pity on me, and let me have their little ones. I remember lesson planning and everything. I knew teaching was my calling all my life, even in spite of the number of my own teachers who tried to dissuade me.

    My mind never wavered until college. Then, for a number of reasons, I changed my mind, and ended up with a BS in Mental Health and Human Services and a MTS in Theology (never saw that one coming!). But in the end, I teach. I teach my own children every day, I teach other kids in a variety of classes in a homeschool coop, I teach adults in different classes - I teach and I love it.

    I am also a mom. Never would have guessed I would have a posse of boys, but they are my light and my joy.

    The problem - well, it is all the other stuff. I guess I just always assumed that because I wanted kids and I wanted to stay home with them, I would be good at the things that go with that. You know - cooking, cleaning, home decoration, organization, creative parenting. I always imagined that I would be a domestic goddess.

    Well, I am not. Good at those things, that is.

    Hanging pictures? Always crooked! Painting - well, ArtGuy will not allow me to do that on my own anymore. I am good at spilling paint! Gardening? I hate bees, wasps, ants, and dirt. So, no - gardening is not for me.

    I am lucky my gang tends towards rather plebeian tastes, as far as food goes, because I am no Julia Child, or even Rachel Ray! After a day of teaching and boy wrangling, I rather dread having to get a meal on the table. I often forget a step, or misjudge the time, or forget a course. My sister-in-law, Sarah, is a great cook. She just seems to have that flair. Everything I have ever eaten of her's is rather great, even the simple stuff. She makes homemade breads and chili, for goodness sake! If a green thumb means you are a successful gardener, what kind of thumb does a good cook have? Not red, 'cause that would be gross. Well, whatever color thumb good cooks have, Sarah has it.

    Cleaning? Hah! There is always a load of laundry in the washing machine, and please! Do not look at my kitchen floor! A neighbor told me that she has been religious about keeping shoes off her carpet and she has to have a spotless kitchen floor.  My kids build their immune systems based solely on the variety of germs and dirt that inhabit my flooring. Not to paint myself as a slob, because I do clean them all! I sweep about 1,000 times a day. But as soon as I turn my head, there are cereal pieces under the table or a crushed Goldfish crunching under my heel!

    In my head, I am a fun, accomplished wife and mother. In reality, I am more Valkyrie than domestic goddess. Thank goodness my husband is impressed with me. He sees me rather through the eyes of love, for which I am truly grateful.

    I was lamenting to him only last week that I was really and truly trying to get the living room clean. ArtGuy gestured towards the room littered with toddler toys and a layer of dust that gave everything a nice, pearly sheen, and said, "But honey! To me this IS clean!"

    Bless his heart!

    Over the years I have learned to let go of that domestic goddess image I always held in my head. To (mis)quote a variety of wise women (The Little Flower, Mother Teresa, and FlyLady), no matter how imperfectly I serve my family, by truly serving them from my heart, with love, each imperfect chore becomes a blessing to each and every person in the home.

    Love can transform anything. Love can even make a mere weak mortal woman into a very, very minor domestic goddess - at least to her own family!

    Tuesday, July 6, 2010

    He's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Toddler

    So, my afternoon was spent with a mad toddler. He was grouchy all afternoon! Most friends cannot believe I call him the Mad Toddler, because he seems so sweet in public. He is fiesty though!

    Saturday, July 3, 2010

    Happy Independence Day

     The Mad Toddler is sick or teething. Either way he is running a fever and not feeling well. Poor baby. Looks like a quiet 4th for me!

    Tomorrow is the 4th of July. One of the beauties of our country is our freedom - freedom to not even like our country. There are so many things about the US that make me frustrated or angry, but so much I love, too.

    We have freedom. Freedom like many places in the world have never known, or have only known for a short time.
    I have been privileged to travel to countries where freedom was not the same. Paraguay in 1986, which was under the regime of Streossner. Crossing military checkpoints as we traveled around Paraguay. Witnessing the poverty of the majority of the population, watching those who did not carry their national id get taken off of the bus when the military stopped to check. Glimpses of life in Argentina and Bolivia. And again in 1993, a trip to Slovakia, which had gained its independence only in January of that year. My host family served me white flour buns for breakfast. I was told this was a treat that they could not afford for the family, but gave me as the honored guest.
    Not that all these places are necessarily the same today, but the point is I have known freedom my whole life. I can, and do, criticize my government. I can and do, exercise my right to vote (never forgetting that women were once denied this freedom). I can, and do teach my children the rights and duties of being a citizen of this nation.

    Here, on the eve of the celebration of our country's ideals, are some of the words of that precious document, the Declaration of Independence.

    When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.

    Thursday, July 1, 2010


    Like many others authors, I have tried my hand at poetry from time to time. And like most writers, I write mediocre poetry. And since it will never see the light of day otherwise, I can at least put it on my blog!

    I forgot about this one until I found it hidden among some other papers today. I wrote this in the year following my sister's passing.


    I am seeking,
    I am searching, 
    I am stumbling,
    I am lost.

    I thought I knew
    where I was going
    and I did not
    mind the cost.

    But, to my disappointment,
    my faith was built on sand.
    A strong wind blew 
    and knocked me over;
    I fell and dropped Your hand.

    Now I struggle through the twilight
    of doubt and of fear.
    I search to see Your purpose,
    Your voice I try to hear. 
    I think of those who went before me,
    whose tales are well known.
    I walk their well-worn footsteps
    and now their stories are my own.

    I am the beggar
    who is begging,
    I, the blind man
    who cannot see.
    I am Lazarus
    in the grave
    waiting for You
    to set me free.

    I am the deer
    yearning for the stream
    so thirsty, almost fainting.
    I am the watchman
    on the tower
    in hopeful darkness waiting.

    I am Mary  at the tomb
    longing for Your face.
    I am the children
    who hear Your voice
    and want to run
    to Your embrace.

    I am the woman 
    who has sinned
    and now falls at Your feet.
    I am the parent 
    whose child is ill
    and seeks Your healing
    in the street.

    I am dry,
    I am broken,
    so weak
    I cannot move.

    I am frail,
    I am empty,
    my tears 
    my only food.

    This dark night of the soul,
    I know it cannot last
    Though I may never understand
    why these things have come to pass.

    Every day is a struggle
    to stand on solid ground,
    to hold on in spite of
    a faith turned upside-down.

    I have made a choice
    and on this I stake my faith,
    Though I no longer hear Your voice,
    Though I cannot see Your face.

    To love in spite of loss,
    to keep going, though I can't move 
    And to hold with all my might
    to a Savior I can't prove. 

    I will sing the song of faith
    with my voice, wan and weak.
    A song so full of grace
    with music pure and sweet.

    Using lyrics that are true
    for Your strength is in the weak.
    I believe with all I can.
    Now Lord, help my unbelief!

    copyright C Alcott 2006

    A Simple Life

    It is July, and a surprising 80 degrees here in north central Texas! After a scorching June, it was so nice to step outside today and be met with a refreshing breeze, and a sidewalk that will not blister the skin off your face.

    Romeo and Cookie Boy have not been feeling too good the past two days. They decided they were not up to bowling or the library today.  Spending a day in the house yesterday did not sit well with the Mad Toddler. We had a "challenging" day, to say the least. So I knew I had to come up with something, quick!

    We have been so blessed to move into this neighborhood full of kids. Even better, Tank, age 10, and Speedy, age 8, live 2 doors down from us. They are kindred spirits (to quote my beloved "Anne"). Right as I was trying to come with alternative plans for the morning, Tank and Speedy rang the doorbell, to invite Romeo over to make baking soda-and-vinegar volcanoes. Romeo ran over, and the Mad Toddler ran out! I chased him, and that was when I realized the amazing weather we are having.

    So, out came the sidewalk chalk! What fun to sit out all morning IN JULY and make the driveway all artsy! It kept the Mad Toddler happy. The Young adult attempted to play marbles. Eventually, the Young Adult, Cookie Boy, Romeo, the Mad Toddler, Tank, and Speedy all ended up in the driveway drawing tanks, airplanes, semis, and  -best of all - tracing each other's body outlines so that the driveway ended up looking like a horrific crime scene where odd shaped gingerbread people were off'ed! Awesome!

    I was just telling ArtGuy the other day that it feels so odd to be relaxing this summer. I feel...guilty. After thinking about it, I began to understand why. Last summer was crazy, with moving and all. In fact, exactly one year ago today, on July 1, my appendix burst, and our move was interrupted by my recovery. Thanks to family and friends, we got all moved in and settled. And the year before that happened, I had a new baby and was recovering from giving birth to a 10 1/2 pound boy via emergency c-section. So, it has been a while since I have even had the opportunity to

    Relaxing, slowing down, is essential to well-being. We often miss the point of it. Without leisure, we become less human. I know Josef Pieper had something to say on the subject. I am going to have to go read up on it.

    So, enjoy your summer! Relax and take a break! It'll be gone before you know it!

    The Mad Toddler working on a few principles of physics, thanks to the chalk and to the nice slope on our driveway: "what goes up, must come down", and "bodies in motion tend to stay in motion"

    Colorful pants!