Saturday, October 30, 2010

Quick Post

I have about 10 things I want to write about, but am too tired by the time I get a chance to actually write! Someday soon, perhaps?

I think a lot of my "creative energy" is being taken away by legos and children. Who knew?

The Rangers finally pulled a win out on the big World Series stage! whew! They are better than they played in games 1 and 2. I had to laugh at ArtGuy. He is not a huge sports fan but has been known to get a little rowdy with the Dallas Mavericks. I have never seen him like this with baseball, though. I made him turn off game #2 (before it was 0-9, actually)! It is cute to see him and the boys all into it.

The Mad Toddler has a serious diaper rash. There is nothing sadder than a teary-eyed two-year old coming up to you and sniffling, "It hurts on my botis (bottom). I can't sit down."

Halloween tomorrow. Something I grew up without. Still is strange to me. Romeo will be Frodo, and ever inventive Cookie Boy is going as a box. The Young Adult has declared himself too old for such nonsense,and at 5' 8" and a voice deeper than many grown men's, I think he would scare the pants off homeowners.

Speaking of the Young Adult...praying for him and all the other boys at the big Boy Scout camporee. Sigh. I always worry when he is gone.

Threw my back out again this week. Sigh. Pain every minute of every day. I hate it.

Off to relax before a 5:30 alarm clock wake-up in the morning. Nothing like the early Mass to get your day going!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Problem with "Nice"

"Be nice."

I tell my children this all the time. "Play nicely", "behave nicely", "be nice to your brother", "is that a nice thing to do?" These words come out of my mouth constantly.

Nice is good. Nice is great when you are trying to get along with others. There is a place for nice.

Nice helps you to talk to others. When you are not nice, conversations tend to go badly.

But "nice" isn't always nice.

In a blog being passed around by several of my friends, Msg. Charles Pope reflects on the problem with "nice". Nice is not the same as "holy". And too many Christians think it is, or have let themselves be shushed up by the argument that nice people do not make a fuss. Holiness is usually a virtue that draws attention to itself. Not that the one who is holy deliberately seeks the spotlight, but that the virtue itself is like a beacon, drawing the eyes of those who see it. It can be a confusing thing, a scary thing, a thing which challenges and defies popular belief.

Next Monday is All Saint's Day in the Catholic Church. One of my favorite feast days of the year. All those stories of men and women, boys and girls who lived their lives totally for others and for God. Some gave their lives for that love. Many of them were not "nice" by today's standards. Oh, they loved, but they also stood up firmly for their faith.

"Nice" is possible to fake. Holiness is not. How many times have you witnessed someone you know being polite and nice to someone else, only to see them turn around and say "Oh my gosh!" and launch into a diatribe as soon as that person leaves? Sometimes "nice" helps us when we feel like being uncaring - "nice" can help us remain decent when we don't feel like it.

But that is the challenge, right? To go beyond "nice". "Nice" is like a pretty covering for the ugly underside. Holiness makes it all clean and pure - it takes "nice" and elevates it to something far more. Holiness challenges us to truly respect all around us.

Holiness is a challenge, to us and to all around us. Sometimes holiness means we speak up and speak out. Holiness means sticking with the true and good, and that is often not a very popular way to go.

Nice is not a bad word, but it is a much lesser form of the ideal. Why shoot for nice, when you can be holy?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

House Wife

"What do you do?"

I get that question a lot. There are a lot of answers - mom, teacher, singer, writer......housewife. Ugh. I hate that word. "Housewife". It smack of pearls and high heels and 'just running a vacuum cleaner oven this floor before I get the roast out of the over. Whoops! Hubby's home - better make sure my make-up is just right."

Maybe that is why I rebel. No makeup, no heels, no pearls, no pot roasts, and almost no "running the vacuum cleaner" over anything!

I do try. Really. In all honesty, I run the vacuum a lot. And the washing machine. Everyone who really knows me knows I absolutely hate doing laundry. I have always felt that way, but even more so now, with nothing but smelly male-laundry to handle. And even especially right now, as my dryer has not worked well in months. It takes 2-3 tries to get a load dry. That makes doing laundry like water torture. Even when I want to get it done, I go to find the load in the dryer is still wet...again!

I have pack-rat tendencies I try hard to regulate. What results is that I keep on top of things, but barely. I love the word "declutter", but am not sure how good I am at that.

Sometimes my chores pile up around me. At our last house, about three years ago, our master bedroom closet got so cluttered, I threw in the towel and just let it go. The problem soon reached hideous proportions. I actually called my best friend and told her that if ArtGuy and I were to die anytime soon, no one was allowed to go through our closet except her - especially not my mother! I didn't want my mother's last memories of me to be this unclean ghost! And I wasn't kidding! I made her swear she alone would clean out the closet in the event of our demise.

Well, I finally got that closet clean, and the ban was lifted. I have not let that happen again!

Why am I writing about this today? I am sitting here waiting for the dryer to finish drying the current load (the third attempt). Earlier today I scrubbed the table clean, only to find it an hour later covered in foody goo, courtesy of the Mad Toddler!

Whoops - dryer is done! Let's go fold some clothes!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fair Weather Fan

Okay - I admit it. I am a fair weather fan.

Not that I haven't loved the Texas Rangers all my life. I have. But it has been a Tough Love kind of love. So much heartache and hurt - I had to show them the back door until they could clean up their act and show a sincere commitment to improving their life.

Every....single.....year.....for as long as I can remember, my mother and my younger brother have said, "This is our year." Granted, this may have been a valid statement in 1986 or 1989, but certainly not in, say....1985 or 1992 or 2004.
Some years began promisingly enough. But as every Rangers fan knows, you never count your chickens (or baseballs) until after the All-Star break. How many years have we Ranger fans began to get excited, only to see the whole season tank after the July All-Star break? So much so that I taunt my mother and brother every year when they begin to speak words of sweet hope. As they begin  to extol the virtues of this year's promised-messiah players, I softly chant, "All Star break" until they hear me and usually scream something at me. But I am always right.

Until this year.

This year has made 38 years of waiting worth it. The Texas Rangers have finally fulfilled every single hope and dream any fan of theirs ever had (and despaired of seeing come to fruition). For the first-time ever, their pitching is there. Not just one player, but pretty much the whole dang bullpen. That is a change, for sure. And the hitting? It is something special. It makes you stand up and cheer, even in your own home.

Maybe it is a "girl" thing, but there is something else. They are a team. A classy team. I need something more than just talented, but big-headed, chest thrusting condescension (Lakers! Cowboys!!!) from my team in order to love them. The Rangers do not just meet that expectation, they blow it out of the water.

Josh Hamilton, when interviewed after being named the MVP of the ALCS, said he didn't want to talk about himself, but about his team. Because baseball is a team sport. Something many other players seem to forget. Anyway, it was the absolute right thing to say. It is about the team. Josh could never have been MVP of anything without his teammate. He probably shouldn't even be alive, the way things were going for him for a while.
You want a comeback story? Read up on Josh Hamilton. Sure, we all know that many sports players have rough lives or problem with substance abuse or drunk driving or illegal dog fighting or secret doping. It happens. It is an ugly side of talent, money, and the stress of proving yourself every time you step into your chosen arena. But not many fight against it the way Josh has.
And not only is he committed to a life-long war against his addictions, his team is in it with him. They stand alongside him. They encourage him. They give him shoulders to lean on, hands to hold. They celebrate their vistories with ginger ale, for heaven's sake! All so he won't be left out.

That is what sets this team apart. Now, I have read that many San Francisco fans have labeled this behavior as "right-wing, conservative, bible-thumping" Texas behavior. First, do they know most of the players are not from here, or live here, or will stay here long? That is just stupid.
And it might be their undoing.

"United we stand, together we fall".

The Texas Rangers have not only proven to their fans that they are worthy of admiration and devotion due just to excellent, exciting ball playing. They have given us all a reason to love them.

Go, Rangers!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Once A Month


Once a month I become everything I hate. I have to endure myself for a week or so, and worse still, my family has to endure with me. Being all males, they are not particularly suited by nature to understand this difficult time on the calendar. 

I know, I know. I shouldn't even talk about it. "We" don't discuss such things. "We" being nice girls, good Catholic mother-bloggers, or homeschooling representatives. I will probably get reprimaded by someone (gently, of course) for choosing to share such things, for daring to show the world that yes, even good-girl-Catholic-homeschooling-mothers have bad days, bad weeks, times they dread every..single...month.

But what can I say. I am an artist and my medium is words. Sometimes I paint pastoral scenes and sometimes it is wacky abstracts of fish in toilet bowls. I will not complain about you if you don't complain about me.

Here I sit, somewhat bitter because I was supposed to be on a trip, starting today, for the weekend, with my best friend. A road trip involving the wild world of Gregrian chant - it would have been awesome! But when I did a few calculations and realized how this trip and my - let's call it a "schedule", shall we? - were to collide, I had to back out the the trip. Whatever.

Age or repeated motherhood or birthing four man-children or some combination of the above has made this "schedule" of mine more difficult to bear as the years go by. Now I am like JK Rowling's character, Professor Lupin - once a month I have to stay hidden in my Shrieking Shack and hope I don't bite the hell out of someone!

Although Weight Watchers is working miracles for me, at this point I am ravenous - a black hole for salty, sweet things. I will not even tell you how many 100 calorie chocolate covered Mr. Salty Pretzel packs I just knocked back. Weight Watchers will never know, because I refuse to weigh myself until this monthly monster leaves me alone. Whatever.

My hormonal headache is pounding away. I just blissfully ignored the heel of bread laying on the kitchen floor and the dried-out-stuck-like-glue piece of generic Apple Jacks that is stuck under the table. I boarded up the fireplace with butcher paper and tape hoping to stop the daily procession of wasps down the chimney, but they are finding another way in. One is dying on the windowsill and here I sit, pounding on my keyboard. Any other time of the month, and none of this would be happening. I hate food on the floor and I hate, hate, HATE insects in my house. But right now - whatever.

I have become the stereotypical monthly crazy woman.

"Have a happy period"?


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

14 Years

When you have been married one year, you order pizza because you are so poor even that seems like a big deal, but it doesn't matter because you have been married a whole year.

When you have been married two or three years, you go out to celebrate wearing your sexiest clothes, and then hurry home for.....some "alone time".

When you have been married for 14 years, you wear whatever is clean, wait until the toddler has gone to bed, leave instructions with the big kids, and then hurry home so you can make it to the store before it closes so you can grab some milk because you are all out at home (and so you can watch the Rangers finishing whomping the Yankees!).

ArtGuy and I today

Yeah, things change.

ArtGuy and I 14 years ago

Yesterday was our 14th wedding anniversary. Pretty amazing how much time has passed. At times it feels pretty amazing to have made it this far.
Sometimes marriage seems like the biggest joke in the world and sometimes it is the sweetest gift known to humankind.

Happy Anniversary!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sports Blues

Our house is not the most athletic household. ArtGuy and I are neither one particularly gifted in the sports department (although I bet I can still totally march like a pro! That is a marching band reference, for all you non-Band Geeks out there!). As you have read, The Young Adult chose Scottish Highland dance as his sport, after a dismal attempt at soccer and baseball. Cookie Boy prefers chess. See a trend?

It is Romeo, and probably the Mad Toddler, too, who carry the athletic genes in the family. Romeo was only one when his big brothers started sports. We literally had to bring extra balls to their games and practices to play with him. He could not wait to be old enough to join a soccer team. And he hasn't stopped since! He loves soccer with a passion. He plays his heart out every game.
Romeo ready to attack

I have seen him dripping sweat after a practice in 100+ degree heat, only to look up at me and say, "I just love soccer"!

Romeo plays in a recreational soccer league. I love it. I love his team and his coach. We were extremely fortunate to land on a really, really good team when we moved. The coach is knowledgeable, challenging, funny, and invariably kind.

Romeo is not the best soccer player, but he is good. Many of his teammates are extremely good. But as I listen in to the parents talking, I start to hear things. Like how many of their sons are on multiple teams. Some are on this soccer team, plus a pre-select soccer team, plus basketball, plus baseball! Or any combination thereof.

My head spins hearing about it.

Are we holding Romeo back? Would he be an awesome player, instead of merely okay, if we put him in other leagues, on other teams, and enrolled him in camps spring, summer, and winter? I don't know. Part of me feels like I am a liability to him.

If he wants to keep playing, and he does, should I seek out other forms of competition. I mean, Artguy and I can barely work with him at home. First, we are really busy. Second, I know little about soccer. We put the Mad Toddler out in the backyard with Romeo, because we figure the Mad Toddler is way more aggresive than any peer of Romeo's!

Besides, I looked it up and that pre-select team costs over $1000 a year. Too rich for us!

I have no objection to kids who are really, really into sports playing competitively, or being on multiple teams. But 8 seems too young to me. Will they still love it at 10 or 12 or 15 or 18?


Friday, October 15, 2010

Mystery Picture

So, I was cleaning the house yesterday for a little get-together I was having. I decided to dust the bookshelves in the living room (the ones ArtGuy lovingly made for me last December). As I moved the CS Lewis books around to straighten that shelf out, my hand hit something hard.

I pulled it out and stared at it. Several thoughts went raced through my head, then I finally realized what it was.

So, let's play....Mystery Pic!

Let me know your best guess!!!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Swagger Van of Shame

About 8 1/2 years ago, we bought a mini-van.

The Young Adult was 4, Cookie Boy was 2, and Romeo was a couple of weeks old. Before Romeo's birth, I broached the subject of a larger car with ArtGuy, but he convinced me I could manage with the 15 year old Toyota Camry I already had. (By the way, the Camry was absolutely my favorite car I have ever had, so no offense to the car!) It only took a few weeks of trying to get three kids into car seats/booster seats in the backseat of a small, 80's compact car to know we HAD to have a larger car.

ArtGuy went shopping and brought back our first ever mini-van. It wasn't anywhere near new, but it was a great van. For 8 1/2 years it has carried us around to soccer games, to practices, to classes, to church, to vacations. It has brought home thousands of groceries and carried camping supplies to many parks and preserves.

I know, it sounds a bit like an obituary. I could only wish. My van is like a horse with a broken leg that no one can stand to pull the trigger on.

The paint is peeling all over. Worse, it squeaks. ArtGuy is going to get the brakes looked at next week, but it is embarrassing. You can hear me coming from a mile away. Squeak - SQUEAK - SQUEEEK- SQUEEKA-SQUEEK!
Car acne on the hood

Top acne

It also randomly dies. Thank God not while I am driving it! At random times when I go to start it, nothing happens. It can go weeks without dying, then - BAM! Nothin'. Sometimes ArtGuy can jump start it, sometimes we have to leave it overnight. We have been told it isn't the battery.
In fact, it just happened...again. We were all in the van, ready to take the Young Adult to practice while we went to the store. We piled in the van, turned the key several times, then all piled back out and trooped back into the house. 
it will come down on our heads one day


We have no money for a car payment. Since we will be paying off the Mad Toddler and my appendix for years to come, we are stretched quite thin enough, thank you.

the automobile version of liver spots

But something will have to be done...soon.

I need a fairy Carmother!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Texas State Fair

We finally got to the Texas State Fair this past Saturday. The only reason we went then was the Young Adult and his fellow Highland dancers were performing that day. I didn't realize until a few days before that there was a big football game that day at the Cotton Bowl. Boy, I will never make that mistake again!

Still, we went. The Young Adult did a fabulous job. He was really grown a lot in this chosen sport of his. Artguy and I were really proud.

On a last note - go Rangers!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Best Laid Plans

The end of our week runs like delicate clockwork - take Young Adult here, switch cars with ArtGuy, ArtGuy takes kids home while I go to a meeting, come home, finish preparing for my Friday coop classes. And then Friday and Saturday go in a likewise crazy manner.

Unless the Mad Toddler starts barfing right after he falls alseep for Thursday nap.  Which he did.


That was a lot of cleanup.

He stopped before bedtime, and today seemed better. Until he skipped his nap. It is 4pm, and at the moment, he is in his room (for chucking trains at my head), banging on his door, screaming bloody murder.

Long day.

Romeo's friend Speedy just came over to ask if they could ride bikes to the park and play. I said only if the Young Adult agreed to go, which of course he did not. Speedy said it was okay with their dad, but I said no. It requires crossing a fairly busy major neighborhood road. It would be away from parental eyes. Not always a good thing at a park. Not when you are 8. But his dad said it was okay! I feel bad, but no! I am trained in safe environment with the Mental Health Asc. of Greater Dallas, and with the Diocese of Dallas. I am not going to give in to parental peer pressure.

But it all adds up to feeling like a bad mom today!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hello, Gorgeous!

I love October! That is why I chose that month for my wedding! It is a beautiful month, even in plain ol' North Central Texas.

This week the weather is superb! Stunning! Gorgeous! Amazing! Makes me even forgive the brutal heat of August and September!

We have been taking advantage of the weather all day long. In and out. Playing ball, playing sand, sitting on the porch, having class in the backyard - bliss!

In other news, the Mad Toddler has taken to calling me "Big, Fat Mommy". So nice to hear, especially as I am still quite a bit overweight! Kinda smarts, you know? That is okay - I am working on it. Almost two months on Weight Watchers has only brought a little bit of weight loss, but I am feeling really, really good. One major change I noticed this week - I am losing weight on my tummy. However, having had 4 children (and the last two being 9 1/2 pounds and 10 1/2 pounds respectively) has done its damage. As I can start to see what a flatter tummy is going to look like, let me just say I totally get tummy tucks now!

Regardless, I know the Mad Toddler doesn't "mean" it! He is so totally in love with me, it is smothering at times. He is in that "possessive" stage of infatuation, and no one does anything like mommy can!

Happy October!

Plane watching is always fun! One of the joys of living near an airport!


Romeo practicing some moves!

Cookie Boy blocks a goal attempt

Joshua says, "I wanna come out"!

Aw, man!

Cool reflection

Wow - windows slim me down - cool!

One happy Mad Toddler

Go, Cookie Boy!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tuesday Things

Yesterday was Laundry Monday, and I forgot! Since you are dying to know what I found in the laundry this week, here ya go!

At the 12 o'clock position we have a brown scapular, belonging to Romeo. He was wondering where that went! Going clockwise, we have a Lego figure at the 2 o'clock place. I like that he looks upset have having gone through the wash! Next in our loop is a marble. I wash shocking amounts of these.
The last two items in our laundry round-up last week are actually the property of ArtGuy. A receipt, and some candy. I always tell him I find all kinds of little candy wrappers in his pockets. I know he thinks I am exaggerating, but it is true! Here is proof!
That is all for the laundry this time. I...well....I kind of did not do much laundry last week. I am paying for my sins now, though.

Today was a good school day. All three school kids had history tests. Not sure the stars have all lined up that way before! History has been a little bit tough for us. All three big boys actually like history. They enjoy our curriculum, they like the stories and the information. It is remembering it all that is hard. And the maps. Yikes! The maps!!!
Romeo is using Memoria Press's Famous Men of Greece. He is still in the first part, where it is mainly mythology, which he loves. I simplified the test a little for him. I gave him a word bank for the 28 "identify" questions, and only had him answer one of the essays, instead of the six given. At eight, his writing process is fairly slow, and I don't want him to feel discourage. I also simplified the maps this time. They wanted 25 places identified on the maps, including Lake Stymphalus, Nemea, and other more obscure places around Greece and the Peloponnesus. I had him stick to the "classics", like Crete, the Hellespont, Troy, Athens, and so on. He made an 98!!!
Cookie Boy is using Memoria Press's Famous Men of the Middle Ages. If you ever have read the Harry Potter books, you will be familiar with the History of Magic class Harry took with Professor Bins, filled with crazy named goblins, wizards, and other creature. Well, this part of the Middle Ages reminds me of History of Magic! It is full of crazy names, like Theodric the Ostrogoth, Aetius, Genseric the Vandal, or whatever! I did not pare down any of Cookie Boy's test, including the map. He made an 88%! I was very proud of him. A tough test, but a great grade.
The Young Adult is using Story of the World volume 4. He loves modern history, but wow! Susan Wise Bower jumps all over the globe. One week he is studying 19th century China and Britain, and the next he is reading about Paraguay and the Triple Alliance, and Canada and the British North American Act! It is hard to keep up with, and a MUCH more thorough grounding in world history than I ever received! The format is quite a bit different than Memoria Press, which he did for several years. Poor Young Adult has been making C's on all his tests, really struggling with processing the right information. Well, today he scored a 100%!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I was so proud of him! He was proud of himself, too!

Monday, October 4, 2010

St Francis Day

Happy Feast of St. Francis to everyone!

St. Francis is one of those saints beloved the world over, by people of many faiths. How cool is that?

This is from a saint card ArtGuy made and I wrote a few years ago for  class I taught

Today is Romeo's feast day, as his middle name is Francis. He is the only child to not carry a family member's name for his middle name! Both ArtGuy and I went to different Franciscan universities, and we loved the whole Franciscan way of life. Believe me, we certainly live the "poverty" part of it, although quite unintentionally! So, Romeo's middle name is Francis, so today we celebrate in a big way!
Happy feast day, Romeo!

Our parish held a noon mass outside in honor of the day. It was really cool! It isn't often we get to go outside for church. The birds were singing, the sun was shining in a blue sky, and a cool breeze caressed our faces - how perfectly Franciscan is that?

Waiting to begin

It sure was sunny!

St. Gabriel's

After Mass we spent a few minutes frolicking in the playground, until the Mad Toddler had a big #2 and had to be carried screaming and wailing off to the car. He was in quite a mood today, anyway!

We are too cool for this playground


Trying to get a pic of the 4 boys. Notice the Mad Toddler standing defiantly in the background?

...and there he goes!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I'm A Big Kid Now!

The Mad Toddler made a surprise appearance at our Lego meeting yesterday. After bedtime. Apparently, the Mad Toddler climbed out of his crib and toddled downstairs to be with the rest of us.

Then again at 6:45 am, he toddled into our bedroom.

That is way too scary for this momma, so bye-bye crib! Hello, big boy bed!

kitty will help clean the bed!

watching the crib come down

my arms look super-fat, but oh well!

All ready! Monkey is testing it out!
Ready for night-night!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Mass Lego Confusion

So tonight was our weekly First Lego League meeting.

Wow. Can't do that on Friday again. That was a long day! Four hours at coop followed by bringing home 9 boys (plus the Mad Toddler) for hanging out, a pizza dinner, then diving into our meeting.

I literally have been dreaming of Legos for weeks now. Not good dreams. One night I woke up and was 30 minutes into planning a meeting before I even realized I was awake and thinking about Legos again! This madness must stop!

Our team is just sooooo far, still. 10 boys make a lot of noise, and that noise can lead to confusion and chaos, and that is what is happening. Plus, a few strong personalitites take over and a few shyer ones draw back. Each week we regroup and reform and try new strategies.

There is progress. They are grasping new ideas and absorbing new concepts and trying to plan. So many ideas and not enough time or group patience to hear them all.

Without our computer programming expert we would be sunk! Kenneth's example and demos give light to their eyes. That part is working great.

I love the boys to death. They are fun and a joy to me to be around. I so desperately want this to work for them. At least enough so they do not feel discouraged.

So, we plan and continue on! And hopefully tonight, no dreams about Legos!!!!