Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Boys Are Gross

Boys are gross.

I just don't know how else to say it.

Wednesdays are bathroom cleaning days in my house. Everyone has a job. I clean my bathroom, the Young Adult cleans his (which is also the downstairs restroom visitors use), and Cookie Boy and Romeo clean the bathroom they share with the Mad Toddler. All was well, until I went to check Cookie Boy's progress in his bathroom. Despite the fact he had already given everything a going-over (Romeo was on the couch, sick), I could not ignore the smell of....well, unclean bathroom emanating from the smallish space. (Notice I am sparing everyone pictures of said grossness.)

I thought about a lecture on how to clean the bathroom (one I have given countless times), but I reconsidered. The sheer magnitude of that smell was not something Cookie Boy could tackle. So, I grabbed bleach, an old cheap toothbrush to be used in cleaning, some paper towels, and a lot of elbow grease.


After several minutes of cleaning around the toilet, I called Cookie Boy in and showed him the evidence. The pile of yellowish paper towels in the trash, the crud on the toothbrush, the color of the toilet hinges ("they are supposed to be white? Who knew!") - the only thing that gives me any hope at all is that Cookie Boy at least felt disgusted by what he saw.

Then I DID proceed to give a helpful lesson on how to clean the toilet area (including the floor behind the toilet). I also explained that if this were to be done every week, the problem would not get so bad.

It isn't entirely their fault this time, I guess. Since I host the First Lego League meeting with 10 boys running around, that bathroom has had a lot of visitors in recent weeks. ArtGuy calls one "The Mad Flusher". Every week, we have to unclog a toilet after the meeting. "Uh oh," ArtGuy will announce, "looks like the Mad Flusher has been at it again!" This week, the group will get a kindly, firm lecture on the proper amount of toilet paper to use in a single sitting.

Yesterday was a rough day in my house. I had a mini-meltdown, and part of it resulted in a lecture that went something like this:
"I know I am the only girl in this house, and all the rest of you would probably be happy rooting around like pigs, but I am not! Most girls would not be happy like that. If you ever have a hope of having a girlfriend or a wife, or you even want to be friends with a girl, then you had better learn to pick up after yourselves, or you will all end up sad, lonely, single guys when you are grown up."

This was followed by my downing three brownies - and they were worth every single Weight Watchers point!

Poor, poor pitiful me, 
Poor, poor pitiful me!
Oh these boys won't let me be
Lord have mercy on me..
Woe, woe is me!  

(Terri Clark's song Poor, Poor Pitiful Me)

(A reminder that all content and pictures are the right and property of Deep in the Heart, unless otherwise stated. Please do not use without express written consent)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mass Story

If you have young children, you will have a "Mass Story". You know, a tale of the cute/embarrassing/unbelievable thing your child uttered/screamed/cried aloud during Mass, usually when it is dead quiet and very crowded.

This is my "Mass Story".

My mother was able to chose my birthday, thanks to a planned C-section. She chose August 15, for the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Therefore, I have always attended Mass on my birthday. As a child, I did not really like it, even though I knew it was special. As I grew, I appreciated it more and more. It is now always a special part of my day.
When my oldest children were 3 1/2 and 1 1/2, my birthday rolled around. I carefully packed them up for the morning  holy day Mass, determined to enjoy my birthday feast day with a spiritual start to the morning.

It fell apart as soon as we entered the church. As we sat down in an empty pew, the three-year-old began whining - a brain-liquefying whine. We immediately got up, went to the lobby, got a drink of water to compose ourselves, and had a gentle motherly reminder of Appropriate Mass Behavior (and "it's my birthday, pleeeease be good for me"!).

As we made our way back, a brightly colored brochure caught the eye of the three-year old. He was fascinated with brochures at the time, so I grabbed one, hoping it would hold his attention through Mass. Upon re-entering the church, the one-year old mutinied, refusing to go down the aisle. I noticed Father and the rest of the procession taking their places in the doorway, and urged my little group forward, saying, "The priest is ready to come down the aisle. Let's go sit down so we can see him." Whereupon the one-year-old threw himself to the floor, kicking his legs and waving his arms, screaming, "NOOOOOO CHRUCH! NOOOOOO PRIEST"!

But that is not all. Oh no, not nearly all..... Feeling like the mother of little pagans, I gave up. I was in the early stages of pregnancy and had little energy to handle two upset children alone in church. I had to pick up the one-year-old, still screaming ("No Church! No, no!"). I took the three-year old by the hand, and we left. We reached the parking lot. I had parked in the back, nearest the street, so there was quite a ways to go. The one-year-old was still crying and wriggling, making it difficult to hold on to him. The three-year-old became more upset, wanting to go back for another chance to behave well, so now he, too, began to struggle to free himself from my hand. In his struggle, he let go of the brochure he was still carrying, that for whatever reason was important to him.

Everything paused as we watched in horrified shock as the wind picked up and blew the brochure across the lot.

I quickly assessed the situation - I had two struggling children, and it would be almost impossible to safely pursue the paper. Besides, he would not have lost it if he had listened to me, so I figured maybe this would be a good lesson to him. We continued on to the car. When the three-year-old realized we were not going after the brochure, he desperately tried to break free of my grip, screeching at the top of his lungs. I was frantic to reach the car as my arms were getting very tired, and I was frazzled to the extreme. After what seemed like an endless struggle across the parking lot, we arrived at my little compact car. Both children were struggling so hard, I almost had to wrestle them into their car seats (I distinctly remember using my legs to pin the thrashing three-year-old down in the seat). Both children were finally restrained. I shut the door, standing outside the car. My arms ached, my back ached, my head ached. The children's shrieks penetrated to the outside. I turned my back to them, leaned against the car door and took a deep breath to calm myself before the undoubtedly loud ride home.

Feeling more composed, I raised my eyes.....and my heart sank. Across the small street from this particular parking lot is a neighborhood fire station. They had chosen that morning to have all the firemen outside to wash the trucks. Several firemen were trying hard to pretend not to watch us. They had witnessed the whole thing (the outside part, anyway!). I had sudden visions of Child Protective Services showing up on my doorstep that day (my birthday), saying, "Uh, ma'am? We received a phone call from a local fire station saying they had witnessed a very disturbing scene."!

I am sure that it looked terrible.
I laughed and cried all the way home.

Going to church with very young children is always an adventure!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Beautiful Monday

It is a gorgeous Monday here in North Central Texas! I woke up this morning to find the upstairs thermostat reading lower than the AC settings! Whoo hoo! It will get warmer again, I have no doubt, but this does mean summer is officially over!

A friend, Fara, gave birth to a son this morning. Welcome to the world, Baby Z! What a great day to be born!

Today is "What's in My Laundry Monday"! Let's see what I unearthed in the last week:

Okay - at the 12 o'clock position we have a pink feather. Yup. In a house of all males, you can guess where that came from. It was mine! The cat found a pink feather boa and attacked it, scattering feathers all over the house. This one ended up in my laundry.
At the 3 o'clock position we have a metal ball. I think that is from one of the boys' magnet sets.
Next is a rubber band. Then we have a penny. At the rate I am collecting money from the laundry, I should be able to afford a trip to the movies by the time I am 80! After the penny we have a purple "jewel". This came off a craft project from Romeo's "Kings, Queens, Knights, and Castles" class.
And lastly we have a dragon beanie baby. He sneaked in and now his hide is bright and gleaming!

The Mad Toddler drew his first smiley face today! ArtGuy is thrilled. The boys were full of praise. It was exciting moment in our household!

The Mad Toddler's first happy face

The Mad Toddler did not nap today. Bummer! I did, however. I ignored his babbling and calling my name and grabbed a quick nap (he was in his crib). After I woke up, I figured we might as well walk down to the park for a quick play time! It was beautiful outside. Cookie Boy went with us.
Awesome weather!


Cookie Boy
Now I am off to bake some brownies for Cookie Boy's feast day! Yumm-o!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Black Hole of Perfectionism

Today it is cloudy, rainy, and full of the promises of fall. Very lovely.

I am paralyzed by indecision today. I hate these moments. I mean to act. I want to act. But I stall out in the deciding to act.

Self-defeat is a form of perfectionism. A really, really stupid form. It stops you before you even start. My children can be such perfectionists, as well. (Wonder who they get that from?). I hear from Mrs. Murphy, the Young Adult's Highland dance teacher - "He is so hard on himself. Such a perfectionist".

The type of perfectionist we tend to be does not equal perfect products. It displays itself more in the form of  never being happy with what we do. Nothing is ever "right" or "good enough" or "well done". It is always "bad", "needs work", "could have been better", or the perennial favorite - "okay". And it often leads to never starting something, because you already know it will not be the way you want it to be.

Now this type of perfectionism usually only applies to one's self. Yes, I tend to have fairly high expectations of other people, but I am much more forgiving of people's faults and mistakes - just not my own. Trust me - you can criticize me all you want, but you will never be as hard on me as I am on myself.

For example - when the Young Adult was 18 months old, he loved to draw. A month later, he put down his crayons and did not pick them up again until he was around 4! Why? He could not make his scribblings come out the way he saw it in his head. He would get so frustrated he would just scream! His preschool teachers finally gave up making him do art.

It is something I have had to fight all my life. That is okay - we all have the things we must work through. But I hate seeing the same thing in my children. I hate knowing that they (or at least some of them) will struggle with the same thing.

All my (unfinished) writing projects

I am learning a life lesson I am trying to pass on to my children - the lesson of "jumping in". Stop dithering, stop worrying, and just do it! It may go all wrong. There are a million questions - what if I offend someone? what if I say something stupid? what if the things I hope and dream never happen? You may totally bomb and suffer public embarrassment, but it will be brief. You may upset people at times.

Like Mrs. Frizzle says, "Take chances, make mistakes, get messy."


Friday, September 24, 2010

Growing Up


I remember when the Young Adult could fit into my arms.

Now he is 12 1/2. He stands currently at 5' 8", with the same shoe size as his dad. It is hard to believe.

The other day, ArtGuy was going around, telling each of us good-bye before he left for work. I was not watching as ArtGuy approached the Young Adult, but I could hear. ArtGuy said, "Good-bye, Young Adult", and the Young Adult replied, "Good-bye". That does not sound too out of the ordinary, does it? The really, really weird thing is that I could not tell who was speaking! Their voices sounded exactly the same.

The same.

My 30-something year old husband and my 12 year old son have the same pitch and depth in their voices - they sound exactly alike.

It was weird, I tell you. Very weird.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Theme of the Day

The theme of the day is...trains!

The Mad Toddler has two great passions in life: big trucks and trains. We spend a lot of time talking about both!

I am thrilled he loves trains. The Young Adult did, too. The middle two boys liked train, but did not love them. I was so happy when the Mad Toddler fell in love with trains. Maybe because it takes me back to the early days of parenthood, but I like to think it is because trains are just fun!

We read a lot of  Thomas the Tank Engine. A. Lot. The Mad Toddler can quote entire stories. The following clip features the Mad Toddler singing a song from a Thomas story featuring the engine named Gordon, who falls off the rails and into a ditch. Some boys come along and sing a song "Silly old Gordon fell in a ditch". This is the Mad Toddler's version:

Below is a Thomas a friend passed on to us. Thank goodness, because the Mad Toddler's Thomas has been missing for two or three weeks now.
Thomas the Tank Engine, of course

Henry and James

More trains.

We have multiple train tracks all over the house. Miles of train tracks. The boys all make tracks from time-time. 

Even the cat gets in on the fun. He likes to place his furry body right on the edge of the tracks. Livin' on the wild side!

Big trucks - the other love

 I am just thrilled I managed to get a pic of the Mad Toddler sans boogers and fully clothed (potty training, remember!). It has been one of those snotty weeks.

a rather handsome engine

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wednesday Thoughts

Happy Hobbit Day! Today is the birthday of both Frodo and Bilbo Baggins! Awesome! We started the ay with a viewing of Veggie Tales' Lord of the Beans. Later in the afternoon, we watched just the beginning of Fellowship of the Ring. You know, the intro and the birthday bit.

Tonight also marks the official beginning of the autumn season. I look forward to cooler weather around here, that's for sure! I saw the forecast this morning, and it gives me hope!

Today has been a stressful day. First Lego League is awesome, but as a first time coach, it is very overwhelming. There is so much to consider, so many details to handle, so many things to do. I am very, very glad to be doing it. The boys have been a delight. It is so much fun to watch them learn and grow.

Well, that is it for tonight. No deep thoughts or anything!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Beautiful Sky

This morning The Mad Toddler was itching to hit the outdoors at 8am. So, out we went. It was actually decent out. Not cool, but nice enough. What was best? The clouds!

Why do clouds look so different in each season? The tall, well-built summer clouds do not look at all like clouds wisped across the sky in the winter.

These clouds this morning all seemed to whisper "fall" to me. We are so close. All the 100 degree days should be over and done with. The clouds seem to hold the promise of autumn.

Fall officially begins tomorrow, September 22, 2010. The clouds today were a foretaste of my favorite season of the year (not that it amounts to much in Texas, but I keep autumn in my heart).

Feast with me!

Clouds to the east of me...

Clouds to the west of me!

da plane, da plane!

Romeo giving the plants a drink

The Mad Toddler enjoys the morning weather

Romeo took this picture

Romeo tried to capture the ladybug on camera! We will work on the blurriness!

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Most Under Appreciated Piece of Furniture in the House

We are in a new phase with The Mad Toddler - potty training!

Really, it is not so bad, so far. He is only 2 years, 4 months, and he has been potty training for a week now. Let's see - the Young adult was 3, Cookie Boy was 4 (long story), and Romeo was 3 1/2, so you can see that we are very, very happy.

The Mad Toddler does not even protest much. He is glad to be a "big boy". He has even managed two...well, number two's (if ya know what I mean) in the past two days.

I forgot how much enthusiasm it takes to potty train. You, as the parent, have to be in it for the long haul. One "Yea, good boy" is not going to cut it. It calls for unbridled enthusiasm....every.....single....time.
A little M&M reward after a #2

One thing I have learned - The Mad Toddler was drinking entirely too much. The first day we started, he went something like 15 times during the day. By the evening, I was hanging on to enthusiasm by a thread. Not that potty-training isn't great. But I had to stop what I was doing through-out the day to launch into the "Wow! That is so great! I am so proud of you" and take it all to flush away- while I was getting dressed, brushing my teeth, conducting a Latin class, teaching math to Romeo, eating lunch, preparing dinner, and so on.  If I did not stop then and there, The Mad Toddler would enthusiastically take the little potty-training bowl out to bring it to me!

It made me think about the toilet today. Yes, I did just say I was thinking about the toilet today.

Sad, but true.

I do believe it is the single most under appreciated piece of furniture in the house. We take it for granted, until it is leaking, or running, or we have an urgent need for it, or we have to use it and can't get to it.

So, thank you, toilets everywhere!

Moving on.....

I am going to try something, for my own amusement. I know some of my family members probably think I have absolutely no sense of humor, but contrary to their beliefs, I do.  Mine tend to involve household cleaners or Ancient Greek philosophers, not body functions and gross jokes. Sorry for the confusion.

Anyway, I think every Monday I will show you what I find in my laundry during the week. I am always amazed by what I pick out of the washing machine or dryer. Usually there is no one to share my amusement with except the dryer lint, and since dryer lint is known for its poor appreciation of the bizarre, I will share with you instead.

Let's start in the middle, shall we? Obviously, there is a piece of Cub Scout equipment there. Although Romeo took the time to unbutton said item from his Scout shirt, its still ended up in the dirty clothes, to be washed by me. Thanks, Romeo.
Moving clockwise, we have a rock. Even the boys were confused by that one. However, they would be surprised by the sheer number of rocks, pebbles, and occasional boulders I pull out of the wash each week. Next, is a nickle. The rule is, if Mom finds money in the wash, it now belongs to her, so check your pockets carefully! Cha-ching!
The next three items all come from the Lego family: some weird piece, a flower from the Lego pick-a-brick, and finally a helmet from, one would presume, the Ancient Greek or Roman era.
Following these, we have a marble (which also pass through the laundry on a regular basis). And lastly, we end with two small shells. Yes, shells. We live about 300 miles from the ocean. Go figure.

Happy Monday!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Snippets

Sunday Snippets are hosted  at This, That, and the Other Thing!

I have missed it for a while! It is good to be back!

Here are a few:
Eyes on Your Own Paper - reflecting on comparing our lives' to others
Catching Up - reflecting on my oldest child
Mommy - if you have ever had a toddler, you must read this. About the love toddler's have for saying their fav word!


Eyes on Your Own Paper

"Keep your eyes on your own paper."

I remember hearing that quite a bit back in my school days. Every test, the teacher would watch the room, looking for straying eyes. Not that my own eyes roamed - I was too much of a good girl to even lift my head. 

I never was even tempted back then. So, why is so difficult now?

Women, on the whole, are notoriously bad about comparing themselves to other women. We mentally compare body sizes, clothes, children, cars, men, careers, talents, happiness, and spin it all into a tale of such perfection, it could be a Hollywood film setting.

"Her hair looks so good. Not like mine. Mine is gross today. i tried to cover the grey with a headband.
         Oh, and look at her cute dress! I love that pattern, and she can pull of those heels, too. I look like a badly dressed nanny today.
         I wish my stomach looked like that! And her arms - so fit!
        How does she get her children to behave so well? And their outfits are so adorable. I had to tell Romeo he was wearing the Mad Toddler's shorts today (granted, they are big), and then did not have the heart to tell him that the next pair he put on were Cookie Boy's. Oh well! They are baggy, but they aren't slipping down.
         How does she look so together? I rush here and there and still know I am a flighty ditz who has forgotten something even in spite of all the preparation I did to get everyone out of the house."

And on and on like that.

The funny thing is, while I am looking at her, thinking these thoughts, she is probably looking at someone else, thinking along similar lines.

It is difficult to live a contented life while our eyes are straying elsewhere.

So, eyes on your own life, please!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Catching Up

So, have I mentioned it has been busy lately?

I hate it that I am not writing every day on this blog. It was such a great thing for me. I miss summer and the carefree way we spent our time. It is harder because it still feels like summer, with heat that will peel the skin off your body, but the schedule says fall!

However, I can hardly come up with an original thought, or a pithy saying, or a wise insight (if I ever had 'em to begin with). My mind is so filled with Lego Mindstorms and First Lego League, teaching a preschool Bible class, teaching an elementary physics class, and homeschooling my own posse, I cannot think outside the "mommy" box at the moment! It certainly has been a day-to-day existence!

I had a sad moment today. Not truly sad, like illness or death, but a retrospective kind of sad. Our Bible story this week in my little preschool class will be Noah and the ark - always a classic! We are going to sing "Arky Arky". You know -
Rise and shine, and give God the glory, glory

And so on. I started to sing it today for fun, and the Young Adult just looked at me blankly. BLANKLY. Then he said, "Huh?" 
I sang that song to him quite a lot when he was little. We did all the motions together (you know, back when I was a more active, dynamic mom who did creative, fun, spontaneous things with her kids). He cannot remember it at all. 
It makes me a little sad. I am glad I have these memories tucked safely away in my head to take out and cradle from time-to-time. But it makes me wonder. What does he remember?
Does he remember the countless nights we rocked when he was a baby, when we were all alone and all was quiet. Does he remember how I gazed into his cloudy blue eyes and softly stroked his soft head? Does he remember how I eagerly followed every new achievement he made?
Does he remember all the games I played with him, in order to stimulate this very bright boy? How about the tapes I collected to teach him songs and finger plays. We would sit on the floor and do as many as he wanted, while his little brother toddled around the house. 
Our first year of homeschooling, I researched like crazy. Our short school days were filled with creative centers and fun little learning exercises. None of the other boys got that - I was far too tired by the time they reached Kindergarten. Oh, they received a fine education, but the luster of excitement and joy I had the first time around just was much harder to conjur up.
What does he remember? The mad mom? The mom who is always tired? The mom who is on his case about cleaning the bathroom, cleaning his bedroom, cleaning his Scout stuff? The mom who always seems to expect more and more. 
Oh, there is plenty of love now, but it exists side-by-side with the rest of it, too. I hope somewhere in there is a memory, maybe faint and dim, of the time when he was the only one, and I was all his. 
I am still his biggest fan. 

That is what the word "mom" means, after all.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Popcorn revisted and Schedule Nightmares

Thanks to intrepid reader Katy, I think I have fixed the popcorn link from the previous post! THIS link should get you to Cookie Boy's popcorn account!

Buy popcorn, or donate to the troops - support scouting! :)

Moving on....

Schedules - ugh! The word itself makes me shudder!

I admit it - I over committed this semester. Seriously. I have one night a week free. I hate that. I do not delight in being busy, nor in bragging about how little free time I have.

Mondays are Boy Scouts, but ArtGuy handles that; Tuesday evenings are dance for The Young Adult; Wednesday is a triple threat - soccer, youth group, and choir; Thursday is dance, but ArtGuy will pick up The Young Adult, so I just have to drop off (which is still an hour of driving round-trip); Friday is coop and Cub Scouts, and Saturday evening is First Lego League. And Sundays....sigh. Sundays can be brutal. Every other week I cantor at the 7am service, which means getting up at 5:30 am. Then grocery shopping for the week on the way home, drop off food, and run to choir at the 11am service. Then home for lunch and a nap, then chant in the afternoon!

So - it is a little stressful this semester! There is so much prep work for coop and First Lego League. Well, and homeschooling, too.

Luckily, ArtGuy is taking on more himself. And next semester, I take a break from coop!

So, the past few weeks have been trying to get a hold on these things. Only I forgot about scout meetings and campouts when it came to scheduling lego meetings!

Now on to laundry!

Monday, September 13, 2010


It is that time of the year again.

Time to sell Cub Scout popcorn.

The boys are always feeling gyped beause people get so excited about Girl Scout cookies, but not about Cub Scout popcorn!

Thankfully, this year you can buy online. So no matter where you live, you can buy popcorn from us! Awesome!

The good thing about it is that so much of the sales goes right back into Scouting. Our pack runs on these sales.

Here is the link for Cookie Boy's popcorn! It makes a great Christmas present!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Rainy Wednesday

Wow! Tropical storm Hermine is dumping rain all over us! So far, we have gotten somewhere between 6-7" in my area, and it is still pouring down! I was worried about ArtGuy driving into work this morning. He has a Beetle, and it doesn't exactly handle water well, but ArtGuy assured me that he would be so low to the ground, he could just float to work! Yikes!

view of our street

the "river" between our house and our neighbor's

We walked out the front door this morning to find every single ant in the neighborhood had come up during the night and built a home around the front porch (and in Texas, those are fire ants)! I attacked them all, even the ones marching up the bricks. The rain probably washed it all away, but I tried!

It is so dark, we are all tired and sleepy. It is hard to get motivated for schoolwork or anything else! Poor Romeo and the Mad Toddler are still sick. No pics of the Mad Toddler, because as cute as he always is, no one is cute when their face is covered in snot!

Today is a writing kind of day. I have not had much of a chance to write since school began (and legos - oh First Lego League! I love you and I fear you!). I wrote a little children's book six or seven years ago. I rather like it. ArtGuy has always been too busy to do any illustrating for me, but thanks to the modern marvels of facebook, I have reconnected with an old friend. She is an artist, too, and she has taken on the illustrating of the book. We are both excited about the project! Children's publishing is a pain to break into, but we are going to try. It will be next year before we are done with this, but it is something to look forward to!

The above picture is not a magic trick! Romeo went to get some ice this morning, and found a piece of my hair had frozen in 2 ice cubes and linked them by a "magic thread"!

We are happily hunkered down in our home, listening to the rain, watching the weather reports of area-wide flooding.

Happy "Windsday", in the words of Pooh!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Monday far!

Here I sit, in the school room, on Monday morning. The sky outside is gray, with even darker clouds in the distance, making their way here. Rain drips down the windows. The AC switches off.

Two of the four boys are sick. The Mad Toddler runs around, with a snot-encrusted face (not for lack of washing it off!), chattering and playing. Poor Romeo is asleep on the couch downstairs. Both kept me awake last night, rubbing backs, comforting, praying.

Like clockwork, my kids seems to get sick every September. Their sick season runs high until just after the New Year, with something new every new week or two. This year I hope we can do better.

At the moment, the week overwhelms me. Coop begins this week, and while the lesson plans have been ready for a while, there is still a lot of prep to do. Soccer, dance, cub scouts, Boy scouts, choirs, and so on dominate the schedule. And then there is First Lego League (FLL).

Ahh, FLL!  It is so cool, so exciting, so much of an opportunity. I love each of the nine boys involved. They are sweet, energetic, bright, and enthusiastic.

But trying to find a meeting time has become my major stressor. Everyone is busy. I am busy. We just have to make something work. I hope it doesn't end up with too many people hating me!

Ah - the dark clouds are here and have revealed themselves to be full of heavy, multitudinous raindrops. It pounds outside.


Saturday, September 4, 2010


Hard to believe it is September. But it is. So far, it has been a lovely weekend in North Central Texas - one of the nicest Labor Day weekends I can remember. Usually it is still so hot you can feel your skin blister up on the walk out to the driveway. But this weekend, while still very warm, is so pleasant compared to the 110 degrees of two weeks ago.

The Young Adult has been having a good run of it lately. 12 can be such a finicky age. And Lord knows we have butted heads a lot over the past year or more. Lately, though, you can see the sweet young man shine through. More than that even, at least to me, I can tell how hard he is trying. He tries to be thoughtful, he tries to be polite, he tries to make up when he does something wrong or just plain silly, he tries to be helpful, kind, and responsible. Even his homework and schoolwork bear the signs of his effort - the handwriting is such an improvement and the work that goes into things shows every effort he has been making.

I am so very proud of him. He has all the makings of a really amazing man in him.

My first baby - my guinea kid!

God bless him!

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Lately, I hear voices. Well, not "voices" - just one voice. Over and over and over and over.

The Mad Toddler.

It sounds a lot like this:

Some days I think my head will literally burst open from the repeating sounds that fall like hammer blows on my ears!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Faith Wednesday: St. Gregory the Great

Welcome to Faith Wednesdays! Every Wednesday in our homeschool is the day we have our faith lesson. We will doing a new prayer and a new saint each week.

Prayer of the Week: Kyrie Eleison

Chant, baby!

In honor of the feast of St. Gregory on September 3, the prayer this week will include chant.

In the modern Church today, many see Gregorian chant as antiquated, a relic of pre-Vatican II days. In fact, it is very relevant, just as it has always been. I am discovering chant now, as I am singing in a new chant group, Plano Schola Gregoriana. It is a new world for me, and one I am finding increasingly beautiful.

 Music within the liturgy is a special type of music. It is different from praise music or worship music. Its sole purpose is to help people participate in the Mass. Chant seeks to fill these needs by simply being sung prayer.

We already do chant in the modern church today, but we do not always know it to be chant.

For example - the traditional litany of the saints is a chant:

Here is a link to the words.

Following is a neat interview with two monks about chanting.

So, for this week, we are going to be learning:
The Kyrie (which is Greek, not Latin, but is still a Latin chant! Go figure!)
In English, this would be :
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

In Greek, the words are simply:
Kyrie eleison. (key-ree-ay   a-lay-ee-szon)
Christe eleison. (Chrees-tay a-lay-ee-szon)
Kyrie eleison. (key-ree-ay   a-lay-ee-szon)

Saint of the Week: Saint Gregory the Great

Saint Gregory the Great accomplished many, many things in his lifetime. He is called the father of the medieval papacy, and his efforts helped to bring about the Middle Ages. Some of what he did even influences our modern Church today.

Gregory was born in Rome around 540 AD. This was after Rome first fell to outside invaders, but when some of her glory still remained. Gregory witnessed in his lifetime the true end of the age of Rome. At the age of 6, Gregory lived through the sack of Rome by the Goths (who returned for a repeat performance in 552). From this time on, Rome would endure many sacks and sieges, wars and looting.

Gregory's father was a patrician who much later would give up his wealth to enter a life of prayer  and his mother, Sylvia, went on to become a canonized saint, herself (so did two of his aunts!). Little else is known about Gregory's young life or his education. By all accounts, however, he was well-educated and entered a life of public service to Rome.  At the age of 33, Gregory became Prefect of Rome. The position had lost most of its glory and power it had during Rome's empire years, but it was still a position of respect and honor. Most of all, Gregory had the chance to help his people, who were tired and weak from invasions, barbarian rule, famine and disease.

In 574, after a great deal of searching and prayer, Gregory gave up his career and wealth to become a monk. He offered his various land holdings to the Church for the building of monasteries. He entered one of these, St. Andrew's, and lived a life of prayer, fasting, and the monastic life. After only three years, the Pope called Gregory back to become one of the seven deacons of Rome.

At this time, Rome was about to be attacked by the Lombards. After years of wars and decline, Rome could not face this attack on her own. She needed help, and the best place for help was the Byzantine Empire.  The Pope sent Gregory, and a few of his fellow monks, to the Court at Constantinople to ask for aid.

Gregory did not care for life in the worldly court. He kept as much of a monastic life as possible, clinging to prayer in the midst of splendor. What was worse, it became clear to Gregory that no aid would come from Byzantium. Rome, and Italy, was on her own. She would have to find new ways of becoming strong and facing the world again.

Six long years later, Gregory was recalled to Rome. He became the abbot of his beloved monastery of st. Andrew's. During this time, Gregory met some men from Briton. There are differing stories about this, and as Gregory lived so long ago, we do not know which one is correct. One story says the group he met were free men visiting Rome from Briton. Another story says it was a group of English boys being sold into slavery. Either way, the Anglo-Saxons impressed Gregory, and he greatly desired to travel to England as a missionary. The Pope granted him permission, and Gregory set off with a few monks for Briton. The people of Rome had come to depend on Gregory during this tumultuous time in history, and they were not happy he left. They chased after him, catching up to the monks three days outside of Rome, and carried Gregory back to the city. Gregory accepted that, as much as he wanted to go to Briton, now was not the time.

In 589, terrible disaster befell an already weak Rome. Floods caused homes and crops to be washed away all over Italy. In Rome, the banks of the Tiber overflowed, carrying away even the Church's granaries with precious food for the people. Many people died in the floods and many homes and goods were lost, but that was not all. The waters also brought diseases. A terrible plague swept through the city, leaving so many dead the bodies were stacked up waiting to be taken outside the city to be buried in mass graves. Disease does not care who or what you are. Pope Pelagius himself died of the plague in 590 AD.

The people turned to Gregory (today the college of cardinals elects the Pope, but at the time the church, the government, and the people all had a say in it - the church was much smaller then, and more political, so it made sense). Poor Gregory! He did not want to be Pope. He wanted to be a monk. If he became Pope, he would have to give up much of his monastic life to enter a much more public life. Gregory wrote to the Emperor, asking him not to confirm Gregory's election. But the prefect of Rome got the letter, and never sent it to Emperor Maurice! The prefect believed Rome, and the church, needed Gregory. So, Gregory received the letter with the schedule of his official election. Some stories say Gregory even tried to run away so he would not have to be Pope!

But in the end, he accepted it with grace as the will of God. Gregory became Pope on September 3, 590 AD.

There were so many things Gregory wanted to do now he was Pope! He wanted to get rid of the pages and attendants in the church, and replaced them with monks and priests. Gregory always maintained the heart of a monk. He was the first monk to ever become Pope, and he kept as much of his monk's life and habits as he could. He thought he should live simply. He had a vision of the Church as a service to the people. Gregory gave all his money to caring for the poor and ill and hungry, and preached this message to all the clergy. He was the first Pope to call himself a "servant of the servants of God", and Popes since then have taken this same title.

Gregory's job as Pope was very difficult. He not only had charge of the Church, but he was also in a great way in charge of Rome. Rome was weak and battered and in danger of ceasing to exist. Gregory had to help direct the military as well as everything else, so that Rome had some chance of surviving the regular attacks from invaders.

And the plague. Remember the plague that came after the terrible floods in 589 AD? After Gregory became Pope, the plague continued. It was terrible. The people of Rome might not have to worry about invader any more, as it seemed they would all die of this horrible disease. Gregory ordered that a large and public procession take place through the city of Rome. People (men, women, children, priests, nuns, monks, government officials - everyone!) would meet in all seven of Rome's regions and begin the march, praying all the time, to the center, where they would all meet up at the Basilica of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Now here occurs another beautiful story. As the processed through Rome, begging God to save them from this plague, Gregory passed the bridge of St. Peter's, angels seemed to appear to some of the people. The heavenly defender, St. Michael the Archangel was seen on top of Hadrian's tomb, putting his flaming sword back in his sheath. Gregory could hear angel voices singing praises to God. The people took this to mean the time of disease was over, and God was merciful to them. To this day, Hadrian's tomb is also known as Castel San' Angelo, and a statue of St. Michael rests on top of the tomb, as remembrance of the saving of Rome.

Castel San Angelo, courtesy of clarita on morguefile

Gregory's name is also connected to chant, the music of the Catholic church. Gregory founded two houses for chanters in Rome, one near St. Peter's and one near St. John Lateran's. Gregory believed that music, music in the liturgy, was not to be an end in itself. Music within the liturgy was sacred, and should never distract from the sacrifice of the Mass. Music should be a background for drawing the hearts of the faithful to God, and should never draw attention to itself.  Liturgical music should help draw people's hearts and minds to God to love and reverence Him more and more.

Gregory made numerous reforms to the liturgy itself, invested in land and property for the Church, wrote many, many letters shepherding his people and guarding against heresies, and yes - he did get to send missionaries to Briton!
All that Gregory did and wrote and accomplished is far too much for me to include here. He is a Doctor of the Church. Gregory guided the Church and Western civilization from the end of the decline of Rome into the Middle Ages.

He is remembered on September 3 as St. Gregory the Great!