Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Love and Silence

I am (slowly) re- reading through Dietrich von Hildebrand's Man and Woman. While I ride my exercise bike......Go figure!

Life is busy. It always is, I know, but now all our activities have started up, it is really, really getting busy. I almost cried in the car Sunday, on the way home from a meeting, as I mentally reviewed the coming week. I realized we were there - full-blown schedulitis! We only have one evening free each week. And like last year, ArtGuy and I will be doing the whole revolving door thing, where he comes home and I go out, or I go this way and he goes that, or we meet here and pass this kid to you and leave these with me and see you later baby!

We are fully in charge of our own schedule, and we can stop everything if we want (I swear! We can stop whenever we want!). We have reviewed our activities and our children's activities, and we are committed to these things for this year.

That aside.... We are busy. I am not a good "busy" person. I know women who are very high-energy. They go, go, go and then go some more. They do a million things all at once, and do them well. They thrive on it all. I wish I were like that. It would make my lifestyle much easier, or at least closer to what is in my head!

I am a low-energy parent. I need a daily dose of quiet, a daily shot of "alone" time - even if it is only ten minutes. Some days that does not happen.

Still - I am busy. My family is busy.

Back to von Hildebrand and the subject of love. Love. Glorious love. Love in its truest meaning and sense. Love is grounded in seeing in others the face of God, in hoping for and helping the beloved attain their highest ends, their best qualities. The value of love is not in what we are given, but what we give (although receiving love is a value, too).

Von Hildebrand makes the startling statement that "we should strive continually to be impressed with the greatness and seriousness of love and also with the realization that love is much deeper and more important than most professional activities." (most, not all).

He continues - "This should be noted especially in our day when work so often makes up the only serious side of life and when the quest for amusement and recreation stands in the way of everything else."

How often do we bend our mind to work, to what must be accomplished, to what will earn our bread and our place in this world? Not that work is bad. Work can be a real path to God and provide a real brotherhood with our fellow beings. Providing for our families is a good thing, too. But when this is the only, or most often only, time we dedicate our whole selves to a "serious" matter, we begin to disconnect from things of true importance.

All things in love. Serve others with love. I hear the words of Blessed Mother Teresa, of the Little Flower, of almost every great saint and holy person march through my mind with the regularity of a drum beat. Love, lovel, love.

Hildebrand follows this with: "But this is possible only if we rescue ourselves from the whirl of activity and the anticipation of the next moment's confusion which deprives us of any full awareness of the present. In other words, it can happen only if we provide a special place for contemplation in our lives."

Love, the true attainment of love, is not possible if we do not provide a "special place for contemplation in our lives", If we succumb to the "hurry-hurry" mentalilty, we lose.

Let's be real. I cannot think of one person who is NOT busy. The issue is not whether we are busy or not. The issue is do we make time for silence? Do we carve time out of our schedule for comteplation? Are we ever still and silent - on purpose?

Without this time for quietness, reflection, and yes, for awe, we lose a piece of who we are meant to be. Love - real love, becomes much harder to practice. I would even say that when we do little but hurry, and we do not take the time to "be", we cannot see others in their true value. Other people become more of a hindrance, a "something to be done next", and less of a person with whom I can interact and engage.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Rought Start

Today was a rough start to the week! Whew!

I think the marathon lego meeting Friday wore me out. Saturday was fine, but then Sunday was busy all day. All good things, but busy. As a result, I am starting this week tired and draggy. Not a good way to begin!

I was thinking about hormones and emotions the past few days. The ebb and flow of hormones in a woman's body can cause a chain reaction of emotions at times. These feelings can seem random, sudden, or out-of-proportion.
I know the good side - four times in my life I have received a life within me. I nurtured those lives, felt them move, and knew them in a way my husband cannot even really comprehend. That is the beautiful side of it all.

But on the "minus" side, ArtGuy can go through his days and weeks without the major interruption of crazy, hay-wire feelings running amok. He is very unlikely to say, "I just feel sad today, and I don't know why"! I envy him this, and I so wish God would let him try on the emotional shoes of a woman (a PMSing woman would be best) for a day. It sounds like I am mad at ArtGuy, but I am not. I am just frustrated with my own crazy emotions and the toll they can take on me.

Even homeschooling moms have crazy days!

Joshua asleep on the silly wig 

Warning: Toddler at Play

uh oh! He found the suncreen. Why was it with the toys?

I know, I know - look at that face! How can I call him the Mad Toddler?

The Young Adult, the original Mad Toddler!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lazy Saturday

Other than a parent meeting for our homeschool coop this morning, we had nothing else going on. The Young Adult is out at a potluck/games night for middle school kids. And the rest of the boys were invited to a Star Wars movie and fun night at a friend's house....only I forgot. I forgot to RSVP, forgot to put it on the calendar, forgot everything. Bummer! I just saw the hostess's status, and she referenced the party and THAT is when I remembered! Dang!

Yesterday's four hour First Lego League session left me wiped out! Not just me, apparently. We all struggled to stay awake today, except the Mad Toddler. He sat in his bed for over an hour, yelling and calling our names, refusing to take a nap. Little toot! ArtGuy and I dozed off during a late afternoon viewing of Blue's Clues, and I found The Young Adult asleep in his bed about 15 minutes before our friends picked him up for game night! Cookie Boy flopped around on the couch all afternoon. Romeo went out to ride bikes with friends, so he managed to feel energetic, as well!

And that's it, people! No deep thoughts, no moods, no intellectual exercises....my brain has shut down! Time for a little light snack, and then off to bed so I can haul my patootie up at 5:30am in order to cantor the 7am service in the morning. La la la la laaaaa!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lunch - Bento Style

This week I have been totally inspired by Ang, my friend who also blogs over at Jolinta Jotter. She has been posting about the new back-to-school lunch trick she is using to improve the nutrition of her kids' lunches, and to make eating exciting! (She can also remodel a bathroom, build a cute bed from scratch, kick butt in the gym, and is a photographer. So when she starts a new project, I usually listen closely. I can't even begin to remodel a bathroom, but when it comes to food, I might be able to learn something!)

Bento, or obento, is Japanese for a boxed lunch - literally, a lunch served in a box. There are all kinds - very elaborate fancy-pants meals, picnic meals, and super-creative meals usually involving making cute things for kids.

This kind is much simpler - just a boxed lunch, really. Part of the point is to serve smaller portions of more things. The main goal is to up the nutritional value of what we are eating. Smaller portions gives the chance for greater variety. Smaller portions means you can slip something unusual in there, and since there is just a little bit, maybe it will get eaten (or at least, tasted). Think more color and less processed items.

I have started looking around, and there are so many sites to learn more about bento lunches, and to get great ideas. I am excited about this new way of thinking about lunch. It will take a while to learn more, but it will be worth it! The boys are super-excited, too! They love the whole approach. Every bento feels feels a little like a buffet - so many choices!

While we homeschool, we are not always at home. I hope to use bento lunches for our coop days, among other things.

I purchased some Ziploc Fresh Portions On the Go containers. They have one large compartment, one small one, and one medium. I also bought paper muffin liners to help hold smaller items, like raisins or nuts.

For our lego meeting tomorrow, the kids all have to bring a lunch. Although it is at my house, I will not have time to prepare lunch at noon, so I did it tonight. All I have to do is whip them out tomorrow!

I started with deli ham and a slice of cheese in a tortilla. I rolled it up and cut it into 4 smaller sections.One serving of grapes went into the medium section. The small section is filled with yellow pepper, a few slices of cucumber (we will see if those get eaten), and a few grape tomatoes. I did put in some Oreo Cakesters this time. Cookie Boy, the vegetarian, and the Mad Toddler each have a similar box, but they got peanut butter and jelly sandwhiches cut with cookie cutters into fun shapes.

Obviously, this one is not terribly creative. Just a basic lunch. The other night after Highland dance class, the Young Adult was starving, so I served him a bento-style dinner. I presented him with 6 muffin liners. One had yogurt, one had raw orange peppers, one had spinach leaves, one had pizza rolls, one had grapes, and one had two small cookies.

Here are some more great places to look and get inspired. Every site can have a slightly different philosophy or take on it. Like anything else, read, absorb, and make it your own!
Just Bento
Lunch in a Box
LapTop Lunches

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Faith Wednesdays

The schedule we follow for homeschooling has some subjects that are daily (Latin, math, composition, history, Logic for The Young Adult), and subjects that we highlight once a week. Mondays are Literature days, Tuesdays are US Geography, Wednesdays are faith, and Thursdays are science.

So, today is Wednesday! Faith day! We are using Memoria Press's Christian Studies I (which they say takes one year to complete, but it takes us 2 years every time I do it!). In addition to that, I plan on crafting a faith program for us to use.

So, every Wednesday, we will learn
  • a new prayer
  • a saint
  • something special about our faith
  • our Christian Studies lesson
Prayer of the Week : The Angelus

The Angelus, by Millet

This is a beautiful older prayer that helps us to remember that God became man and dwelt among us. It praises the sweet "yes" of Mary at the moment the angel Gabriel came to announce she would be the mother of the Messiah. It ends with a prayer that reads like poetry, asking for grace  from the God of the Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection to be united with him one day.

This prayer was traditionally recited at 6am, noon, and 6pm. The ringing of the Angelus bells called the faithful to stop and pray. The Angelus bell can be rung a total of nine times, in three sets of three, with a pause between each set.

Leader: The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary
All: and she conceived by the Holy Spirit
All: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinner, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Leader: Behold, the handmaid of the Lord
All:  Be it done unto me according to Thy word
All: Hail Mary, full of grace....

(bow or genuflect, as a sign of respect for the moment of Incarnation during the following lines)
Leader: And the Word was made flesh
All: And dwelt among us.
All: Hail Mary, full of grace...

Leader: Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God
All: That we made be made worthy of the promises of Christ

All: Pour forth, we beseech thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts;
that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel,
may by his Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Ressurection, through the same Christ our Lord.

 Saint of the Week:  
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (Kolkata)

Right now is a wonderful time to celebrate the life of this extraordinary servant of God. Thursday, August 26 would have been the 100th birthday of Mother Teresa. September 5 will be the 13th anniversary of her heavenly birth.

Mother Teresa was both a simple woman and a complex person. Her faith was deep, but so childlike. To her, the will of God was all there was. As God called her to serve "the poorest of the poor", that is exactly what she did. Mother Teresa is remembered for her passionate defense of life - each and every life in every state no matter what. This tiny dynamo had no problems admonishing the so-called great of this world to defend life and care for each person in their reach. Yet she also tenderly loved the ill, the sick, the dying, the abandoned, the ones who needed love the most.

As I prepared this part of the lesson, it amazed me to think that none of my children were born when Mother Teresa was alive. True, I was a few months from giving birth to The Young Adult as I sat watching Mother's funeral. Still, they are familiar with her name.

There are so many resources for learning about Blessed Mother Teresa. 

Available now is an absolutely stunning special edition of Time magazine, featuring Blessed Mother Teresa (see the picture above). I was making an emergency stop at CVS last week when I saw it, and despite it being $12, I had to buy it. The photographs are gorgeous. The stories are moving. Every one of the boys, not to mention ArtGuy and myself, have been reading and re-reading through this magazine.

We also used a beautiful book by Demi, simply called Mother Teresa. The illustrations are lush and colorful. The story of Mother's life is told simply enough.

Netflix has one video, "Great Souls: Mother Teresa" on demand. It is not really suitable for young children, but older children and adults might enjoy it. It uses a lot of authentic footage, so it is interesting to get a glimpse into India in general. But there is a really creepy section on the riots early in Mother's residency in India.
Netflix has several other choices via mail.

I have different books of Mother Teresa, her words, her quotes. I never fail to come away happier and more inspired from even a brief reading.

"It is not how much we do but how much love we put in the doing that makes our offering something beautiful for God." - Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

EWTN is running a show called "A Day with Mother Teresa" on Aug 26 at 2am and 5:30pm Central time! They also have a great commemorative site for Mother Teresa!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fun with Cards

Playing cards is a popular pastime in my house.

The boys have really been into solitaire games. These are great! They help fill those, "I'm bored and don't know what to do" moments. They are challenging. They are entertaining. And there are so, so many variations!

Cookie Boy is playing "Superior Demon, a version of Canfield". Or so he tells me. Whatever.

Several years ago, I bought a book called Lucky 13:Solitaire Games for Kids

Even though the title says it is for kids, I use it all the time. There are many varieties of solitaire in the book - even a two-player version! The boys have learned a lot of new games, and can play many by memory now.

So much fun!

Monday, August 23, 2010

At the End of the Day

I am sitting in my living room. It is 9:30pm. The house is quiet. I am alone. Cookie Boy and Romeo are upstairs, tucked in their beds. Not asleep, but reading. The Mad Toddler is asleep, with a bead toy and 5 trains, not to mention a stuffed monkey, a stuffed dog, and a fluffy white polka-dot pillow. ArtGuy and The Young Adult are probably on their way home from Boy Scouts.

A few minutes all my own, to savor.


A little poem to end the day!

courtesy of morguefile.com


Sometimes I wonder
     when I am alone,
Where do stars come from
     and where do they go?
Do they have a place
     to call their own?
When night is over
    do they go home?
What do they do
     when day breaks up dark skies?

The moon watches over
      each little one.
It’s the last to bed
     when night is done,
Fading out slowly
     when the sun has come,
After the stars
     each one have run
Home to where night rests.

The moon has the stars
      to oversee.
I watch the moon,
     but who watches me?
The One who made
     sun, cloud, and breeze,
He made the nighttime
     skies to see.
He watches over them
    and he watches over me –

The Maker of moon and stars.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Seeking the Good

Life involves a lot of choices. Sometimes the choice is between two bad or difficult things. Sometimes the choice is between a difficult, but worthy thing and an easier, more comfortable thing.

But sometimes, one must choose between a good thing and another good thing.

I have been re-evaluating my life, my mission, my purpose, my whatever-you-want-to-call-it. We finally settled down after the move, after the surgeries, after the newest addition to our family. It was time to find my way again. For eight months now I have been looking at different aspects of my life and my family's life.

Being a stay-at-home mom can be rough in the area of "personal fulfillment". Not that it is all about me. It isn't. That is kind of the point. We sacrifice a lot for me to stay at home.  Earlier in our marriage, ArtGuy was the one at home while I worked outside the home. But the Catholic Church pays a whole lot less than advertising and design, so ArtGuy gets the corner office and commute and I get diaper and laundry duty!

Anyway, back to me. Not that it is all about me.....really.....

I have been at home now for 10 years, almost 11. As time has gone on, I have found, like many other stay-at-home moms, my sense of self slipping away. As much as I am willing to sacrifice for my family, as much as I pour myself out in loving service to my husband and children, if I cut out everything outside my family - if I do not nurture who I am - I damage myself and my whole family. We are not meant to be faceless, expressionless automatons, but lively people of character.

God calls each person to a unique expression of self, and to different works. Some women I know find total fulfillment in those works of the home - cleaning, creating a beautiful environment, cooking, teaching, birthing, and raising children. I think it is lovely. But even these women need nurturing themselves, be it through mom's night outs, book clubs, or crocheting class. But some of us who are called to be in the home hear a call outside the home as well. It can get quite confusing. It requires a daily humbling of self before God, asking "What do you want me to do with these feelings?"

Over the past few months, I have been seeking ways to nurture my family and myself.

So I find myself in the position now of having too many wonderful things to chose from, so many things and ways to be involved in the community, in personal development, in enrichment for my family and myself. An embarrassment of riches, indeed!

I have been struggling with looking at my schedule for the coming school year. I have been questioning what paths I should take, and feeling guilty for not getting involved in some things or groups I feel I should be more a part of.

So, I went to Artguy for advice. Poor ArtGuy. Usually when I talk to him and he tries to advise me,  I yell, "Stop trying to solve my problems, and just listen to me"! Now I had to assure him several times that I actually wanted his advice before he gave it to me! His advice was so, so good. He told me to categorize all the activities in question, and see if they were balanced. For example, as I looked at my schedule, he told me to group all the activities that really just benefitted the kids into one group, ones that were just for my enjoyment in another, spiritual activities in a third, family things in a fourth, and so on. If I saw that most of the activities fell into just one or two groups, then it was unbalanced. If they were evenly spread out, then I could feel better that I was not neglecting any one area.

That was great advice!

So, now I can see that things are pretty balanced. So that is good. Now I have to evaluate my committment level to different groups and events. Some of my activities require a huge gift of self. Coaching the First Lego League team is an example of that. In order to do the job right, I need to devote a good chunk of time and energy to this group, until the season is over. I am getting a lot of out learning a new field, challenging my brain, and working with a wonderful group of kids.

Some activities only require basic skills - like driving kids to sports practices and dance classes. Time commitment - moderate, personal commitment - low, personal fulfillment - low. One of my new activities is being in a group that is learning all about Latin chant. We have formed a schola and are working through the basics of chant. It is all so cool. It is exciting to learn something new, especially about church music, which was losing all sense of wonder for me. Time commitment - moderate, personal commitment - moderate, fulfillment level- high.

And so it goes. Some things I have had to accept that I am either not going to be involved in at all, or only in a small way. There is only so much one person or one family can do. Sometimes I feel guilt over it. Not that I am really letting anyone down, but because I feel guilty for letting a good thing go.

I have to keep reminding myself of something I heard at a retreat several years ago - not every good thing is good for me right now.

Sometimes we have to choose between a good and a good. And that is okay!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Labor of Love

I absolutely hate cutting hair.

The little cut hairs get in my face and in my nose. They pierce my skin and sometimes get caught like splinters in my feet.  As the hairs fly off and land on my arms and hands, it feels like little needles or glass shards all over.

There are five males in my family, so the technicality of the hair cut is not difficult. It is the ick factor, I guess. And when you add up one haircut at $12-$15 times 5.....well, it just makes so much more sense for me to do it and save us all the money.

I have been doing the ol' Catholic thing and trying to "offer up" more of the things I find distasteful or irritating. Like this. So, all through the hair cuts, I prayed for each one as I cut their hair - thanking God for their unique gifts, asking for help for their health and safety, praying for guidance on the path of life each one is on. And I bit my tongue really, really hard to not say, "I hate cutting hair"!

Did it make it easier to bear? Not really.

But hopefully it made it more fruitful.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

New Strategy

A little Latin

So, I made a realization.

I am not a "fun" person between the hours of noon and 3pm. No matter how much sleep I have gotten the night before, I regularly bottom out right around noon, and do not recover until around 3 o'clock in the afternoon.
A science project involving simple machines

Now, some of this time period falls during the Mad Toddler's naptime. So, I put him down for a nap, and then I am faced with a dilemma: do I nap while I can, and leave the boys to do...something, or do I soldier through the fatigue and get that schooling done?

Sometimes I try one approach, and sometimes another. Both results are, in the main, less than stellar.

So yesterday it hit me - why try at all? We homeschool, dang it! Why should I be teaching during this time when I resemble a walking zombie? In the work world, I would not have a choice, but as a homeschooler, I do!
Cookie Boy getting ready to review

Today saw us trying a new plan. Every day we break for lunch and refreshment from noon to 1pm. At 1pm, the boys usually return to school. But today, I gave them their video game time at 1pm. After video game time, they had a study period. They could choose to work on homework, or to tackle a subject where there was some available independent work to be done (previously discussed with me). I, on the other hand, had a nice, refreshing nap, followed by a wake-up period. Around 3pm, we returned to school to finish up. The Young Adult and I completed the last subject at 4:50pm.
A picture showing 1)the time we finished school and 2) that my stove needs a good cleaning

It will not be possible to do this every day - some days may be to busy, or we may have activities in the late afternoon or evening. But on the whole, I think this new approach will help us all to do better work.
the casual observer

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Not for the Fainthearted

Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart.

We began the week of August 2, with a light "welcome back to school" week. That was followed by a week of vacation. This week marks the real, hard-core return to school. Yesterday, I was so tired that by 6pm I felt like I was hauling weights underwater. I moved in slow motion, using every bit of will I had to remain upright.

 The Mad Toddler is not super happy about school starting up again, either. What happened to all the swimming and bowling, he wonders. Where did the lazy mornings go, when Mom watched fun documentaries and played trains?

 I wonder, that, too. Yes, I chose this - this life, this career, this choice. I still believe in it. But it takes a lot of will-power and energy to do it.

The Young Adult is in 7th grade this year, and so far, his courses are tough. Unlike other years, I need to work with him more this time around. Less "independent study" and more structure. Last year, we ran into a lot of problems with quality of work and timely turn-ins. So, we want to avoid that. Plus, mainly, this year his courses demand more: more intellect, more work, more effort, more direction. We began his Logic course from Memoria Press yesterday. I was almost totally lost! Both The Young Adult and Cookie Boy are moving on to First Form Latin this year, and it looks to be a definite increase in skill-level.

All three school-aged boys have moved onto much more advanced work this time. Even Romeo, who entered 3rd grade, crossed the line from a younger form of school to a more "big boy" work ethic.


Oh, it will take a few weeks, but my hope is that it will all settle down into something more like a routine. We do not have locker combinations to learn or hallways to navigate, but we do have to dive into new texts, new learning methods, and new subjects. Eventually, the foreign aspects of the new year will become familiar, and I will get a better sense of who to let go and do their own thing when and where and how and why.

But for now....whew!

Plus, there is still all the laundry and cleaning and exercising and writing and cooking to do. Or should do.

And maybe a little bit of swimming still to come!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Middle School Blues

Homeschooling a middle school child can be hazardous to one's health. And it definitely should not be allowed the day after one's birthday, when the glow of cake, presents, and lots and lots of love still hangs in the air. And then the adolescent child squashes it flat. Like a pancake.

I love my children. All of them. Most of the time.

The Young Adult is bright - very bright. He was the toddler who, by the time he was 18 months, could count to 20, say the alphabet, and identify about 10 letters. So, yes, he is smart. But not as smart as he thinks he is. In his mind, he knows far, far more than his intellectually pitiful mother (obviously), and usually is much wiser than the pantheon of teachers (both in-the-flesh teachers, book teachers, and video professors) who shape his vast mound of wisdom.

I actually have inspiring sayings concerning adolescents taped to my bathroom mirror. I study these each morning, chanting parts like a mantra. It is similar to a warrior donning armor before going into battle.

The attitude....dear God, the attitude!

I feel like I am close to waving the white flag.

He wants to homeschool. He enjoys learning Latin, logic, reading literature, exploring different subjects. It is the actual work he does not care for. Oh, he will do the work, but it is trying to convince him that the work must be done well. That is the problem. Yes, the answers may be technically correct, but I am a stickler for things like grammar, spelling, and legibility. Silly me!

I am trying to remain calm and explain my expectations clearly. Work will have to be redone. Rudeness will not be tolerated.


Might be a long year!

Yah-hoo, it's Monday!

So, here it is! Monday! Post-vacation, post-birthday, back-to-reality.

So far this morning I have:
  • watered the lawn
  • cleaned off the front porch
  • washed the Oklahoma dust from the "swagger van"'s windows
  • chased a gecko out of the house
  • disposed of another gecko who ended his life in my dishwasher
  • cleaned the kitchen
  • mopped the entryway
  • made my children dust and do laundry and clean
  • started school
Whoo hoooo!

I am ready for a nap.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Birthday Joy

A birthday breakfast of M&M pancakes and fruit salad! Yuuummmm!

Birthday card wall
Cookie Boy's homemade gift certificates - love!

Romeo and Cookie Boy
ArtGuy presented me with this poster of a picture of Hobbiton done by Tolkien himself. He had to send off to England for it!
I love Lord of the Rings. With a passion! Artguy pre-ordered these LOTR plushies for me!
Previous pic: orc and Legolas. This pic: Gandalf and Frodo
A late lunch at Manny's in Frisco.
I love the chips - they are crispy and not at all greasy.
All kinds of yum! Beef enchilada and beef tamale! Much of this came home with me for later!
The Mad Toddler fascinated with the ending of Star Wars IV.

Well, okay. So today is not technically my birthday. It is tomorrow, August 15. But due to family committments, we are celebrating today!

First let me say that there were two things I hated about my birthday as a kid. First, a birthday in the middle of August.....in Texas? There is never much one can do. It is far too hot. Every....single....year! This year, for example, it is around 106 degrees, which is not too unusual. Blech!

The second thing I always hated about my birthdy was church. As a Catholic, my birthday happens to be the same day as the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. This is a big church fesitval day. A holy day. That means church. When I was young, I hated knowing I had to go to church on my birthday!

Well, I still hate the hot weather! There is no getting around that. As far as the church part, that has changed. I love knowing my birthday is a Mary feast day. In fact, my mother chose my birthday. She knew it would be a c-section, and she got to pick the day. She chose August 15 in honor of Mary, and hoped I was a girl. She dedicated me to Mary when I was born. My middle name is Marie.

There is more to come today. ArtGuy, Cookie Boy, and Romeo made me a delish ice cream cake. And tonight there will be a family movie.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Vacation Joy

Cookie Boy entering the water from via the ladder

We spent this week in Oklahoma, enjoying the natural beauty there. We did the same thing four years ago, and vowed to go back every year. But, it didn't happen! So this year saw our return to OK, and again we are determined to go back every year.
When you live in the plains of North Central Texas, where else can you drive two hours and be surrounded by forests and rivers! Or drive three hours and be in the midst of rolling hills and cold-springs so frigid that you can barely stand to get in the water, even in the middle of August?
A view of the Blue River from our dock

Ahhhhh! Our little cabin was set in the middle of gorgeous woods. The front of the cabin had a lovely yard area that went down to a small dock on the Blue River. There was a rope swing for splashing into the river, a canoe and a flat-bottom boat for paddling around, several picnic tables, a cute bridge that led to a campfire area, and nature, nature, nature!
A view of the front of the cabin from the dock

When we first got there, we were walking around. The Mad Toddler was very wary of this strange place without concrete and traffic! Everywhere we stepped, little frogs jumped away. They were cute, but the Mad Toddler was nervous about them. I was carrying him, trying to follow some frogs when a huge insect slammed into my neckline. All I heard was a loud buzzing and felt insect wings and I yelped loudly. (Once, when I was around 11, a wasp got stuck in my hair and I still have nightmares about it!). The Mad Toddler thought I was screaming at the frogs, and it scared the poopy out of him! He clung to me and would not get down, and kept saying, "The fwogs bite you, Momma!". It took several days of me chanting, "The frogs did not bite momma. The frogs are good. A big bug landed on my shirt and scared momma". The Mad Toddler would recite this every time we stepped outside. After a day or 2, he finally agreed to actually walk on the lawn!
A large moth or butterfly. We also saw frogs, a hummingbird, and tons of flying insects!

This cabin and this setting were an ideal vacation for my boys - all of them! ArtGuy loved the rope swing and did some crazy jumping on it. I was impressed he could swing so much and not be sore and tired! He has kept in good shape! All the boys suffered mild rope swing injuries at some point. The rope was thick and long and when you take physics into account, there was bound to be some misunderstood force and power in there!
Waiting for a turn on the rope swing off the dock
The Young Adult
About to make a big splash!

We all loved taking the boats out, as well. There were small falls just up stream from our cabin. Cookie Boy and the Young Adult usually took the canoe while the rest of us piled into the boat. I was impressed with my two oldest sons and their ability to handle the canoe. I know they are scouts and this was not new to them, but it is amazing to watch these boys handle a canoe like young men. They were strong and confident and much, much, much better at paddling than their mother!

The Young Adult and Cookie Boy on their own!
The view from our boat
reaching one of the little falls along the Blue River

We also took a day trip to the Chickasaw National Park, one of our favorites! Not only is it beautiful, but the water there comes from cold springs. And when I say cold, what I mean is near freezing! We did not remember the water being as cold as it was this time! The Mad Toddler would do no more than put his feet in, and even the older boys were chattering! But it is an awesome place to play. There are lots of little places to park and get into the water, which really just keeps going in a big network from site to site.There are falls here and there, most of them small and fun to climb on (but slippery).
braving the cold water at Chickasaw

ArtGuy and the Mad Toddler sitting at Bear Falls, Chickasaw
My guys outside the Nature Center at Chickasaw National Park

It was excruciatingly hot. So it was odd to feel the sun almost blistering our backs away but to submerge our bodies in water so cold it took our breath away!

Relaxing on the front porch

Other than swimming hours a day, the boys did a lot of playing games. Cards, especially solitaire games, were popular, as was chess. We lounged around, living in our bathing suits, swimming whenever we felt like it, enjoying being far out in nature (so far that when we were driving to get there, we could not get over how "out in nowhere" we were!).

It was a truly lovely week!