Monday, August 29, 2011

Chore Master

Romeo at work

My house is - generally - a mess.

Now, my mother is probably one of the few readers of this blog, and I would hate to make her choke to death. So, Mom, if you are reading, please do not eat or drink for a moment. Let me just make a statement.

I hate a mess.

Go ahead and laugh, Mom. You just really cannot say things like that to people who knew you when  you were 13.

It is true. I hate messes, but I live in a perpetual one. And I mean "MESS". I can handle the daily mess, usually. But living with five males.....well....mess just comes with the territory.

I cannot keep up with the cleaning, and it spirals downwards periodically in the school year, with brief periods of "rescue cleaning" in between closing my eyes to dust, dirt, and ick!
I have tried Fly Lady, The Queen of Clean, Better Homes and Garden's "Clean Your House in a Year", and many more. I have not been able to make them work (admitting that it is due to ME,  not to these fine programs!).

So, last week I instituted the Family Cleaning Plan.

Every day the boys have to clean their rooms in the morning, take out trash and recycling, clean the cat's litter box, and feed pets. They are used to that. Now we also have daily "special" chores. It looks like this:

Monday - dusting
Tuesday - vacuuming
Wednesday - clean bathrooms (They were already doing this one)
Thursday - misc. chores
Friday - Mom vacuums again, while boys empty trash throughout house

The aim is not "Sparkly House", but "livable, controlled chaos". I mean, the whole plan sounds great, but 13, 11, and 9 year old boys are responsible for executing the chores, so I am not exactly expecting perfection.

It was a little scary today. I cannot remember exactly, so thankfully I do not have to lie in order to avoid telling you how long it has been since my living room was dusted. I did have to convince the boys that the dust balls did NOT have teeth, and would not hurt them....I think.

Almost anything will be an improvement!

The Young Adult, flexing his dusting muscles.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Changes to the Liturgy: What and Why

We are on a countdown in the Catholic Church. On Sunday, November 27, 2011 the season of Advent will begin, and along with it will come changes to the Catholic liturgy. We have been familiar with this form of the liturgy for over 30 years - a lifetime for many of us. So, what is this all about?

First - what? The changes actually already happened, in Latin. The liturgy is revised every so often in order to update the list of saints and feasts days. In 2000, the Jubilee year, Bl. John Paul II announced a new revision of the liturgy was in order. The Roman Missal (3rd edition) was finished in 2002. Once the Roman Missal, which is in Latin, is released it becomes necessary to translate into the various languages for use around the world.

Now, anyone who has taken a foreign language can tell you that translating is a tricky business. A word can have more than one meaning, or there can be shades of variation in a word.
For example, in English, the word - "happy". Happy can be happy, but it might also be "joyful", "glad", "ecstatic", "giddy", and so on. Each word has a slightly different flavor to it. If one is translating into English, you would have to pick the word that best describes what kind of "happy" you mean. One translator may choose "happy" while another choose "ecstatic". So you might have:
  • The new puppy made the children happy. 
  • The new puppy made the children ecstatic.
Both sentences mean the puppy was a good thing and the children felt happy, but one implies a greater degree of feeling than another.  Each sentence has a slightly different connotation. 

Back to the liturgy ....

As the theologians, translators, and bishops began to look at putting the 3rd edition of the Roman Missal into English, it became more and more clear that the liturgy we are all so familiar with had been rather loosely translated at some sections. This called for a deeper look at each word in the liturgy, and a decision to return to a more faithful, if formal, translation.

This translation will debut the first Sunday of Advent, 2011. However, many parishes are now putting things in motion. Choirs are learning new or revised mass settings, DRE's are preparing to educate the congregation, and the pastor is getting ready to ruffle some feathers! Uh, I mean, the pastor in getting ready to present it all to a congregation.

That was the what, now for the WHY.

Why are we doing this? I have already been hearing grumbles from the pews. In reality, it is a great question. Why?
Does it REALLY matter if we say "And also with you" versus "And with your spirit"? Is God going to, shall we say, get His panties in a bunch if we translate "Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabbaoth" as "Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of power and might" (instead of, as the new translation will read, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts").
Will God blessings rain down upon us more now that we will say "I believe" at the beginning of the Nicene Creed, instead of "We believe".

Yes, the changes are, overall, minor. Minor in the sense that some parts of some prayers and responses are being changed. It isn't like we decided to get rid of the Liturgy of the Word or anything of that magnitude.

And no one really likes change. So.....why?

  1. Accuracy has meaning. My name is Christine. I grew with a lot of people calling me "Christina". It really irritated me. Why? Both names are basically the same. They have the same meaning, and they are forms of the same name. I knew people were talking to me, even when called me "Christina". So, why did it matter to me? Because my name has meaning for me. I am Christine, not Christina. When people I had known for a decent period of time could not call me by my proper name, I felt they did not really care who I was. Christina was close enough. But that was not my name. Accuracy has meaning.
  2. There are inherent meanings and identities in words. When something is named, that name becomes part of that thing's identity. Look at the creation story in Genesis. One of the important jobs Adam had was the naming of the animals. To give something a name is to give it a meaning. This goes along with accuracy.
  3. There is a long history to suggest God does care about the minutiae of worship and rite. The Old Testament is full of it. God himself gave Moses the 10 Commandments. A look at the first five books of the Old Testament will quickly show you exactly how closely God involved Himself in proscribing the worship of His people.
  4. While Jesus came and made it clear that we are not to trip ourselves up over form and rite, he did not abolish form and rite.
The way some people will react to the liturgical revisions will be with skepticism and sarcasm. But that is because all some people hear when they are at church is this:

.But that is not what we are meant to hear. If that is what we hear, we are not really listening.

If we really listen and participate, we are taking part in a mighty prayer that is about worship. Worship. About the kneeling down - no, the falling on our face before the God of heaven and earth. The God who made everything. The God who chooses to come to us at each and every mass - present - actually present in our midst. Before that God, our lips do not, should not move in meaningless mumbling, but in meaningful, thoughtful adoration.

The way we worship has meaning. And that is the beauty of the Catholic liturgy to me. Really, it is why I embrace these changes to the liturgy with a joyful heart. They confirm what I have always believed about my faith - the beauty of meaning. Each word of the liturgy is so precious, so important, that it actually DOES matter if we say "We believe" when we should say "I believe".
Does God get mad if we say "We believe". No. Revising the liturgy is not about anything so superstitious as God being angry or pleased because of one word. Rather, our word choices, our union in translation, are another way we worship God. When we go to Mass, we need to know what every word uttered there is like a pearl from our lips - precious, important, and beautiful. "Let my prayer be incense before you." (Psalm 141:2).

The changes to the liturgy are a'comin. Are you ready?


A useful, handy side-by-side comparison of what will change:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Low Day

The word of the day: inadequate.

The first 15 minutes of today started just fine, albeit sleepy. But since then, it has been a definite downhill avalanche.

Nothing major, like when my sister was dying. That kind of stuff can tear your soul apart. Yet it also requires a kind of heroic strength just to make it through the day, which can carry you through. At least for a time.

Nope. Today is about the small stuff. The little stuff. The stuff of drudgery and dullness. It won't tear your soul apart. It will just drive you mad, like water dripping from a faucet. Drip - drip - drip...

Apparently, I am expected to keep stuff around until people feel like putting things away. Or else, I am to ask about every little thing before I take care of it. In this instance, it was something I did not know was supposed to be kept. Or something that I was told not to throw away five days ago (but I cannot remember ever hearing it, which means I totally forgot), which now makes me totally and solely responsible for either putting it safely away, like the cherished treasure that it is, or else living with it taking up space in my work area until the owner sees fit to care for it.  It was sitting on the middle of the island in the kitchen for five days, but I guess that was not enough. Silly me, I threw it away.  And got caught. And lectured with a look of incredulity, although in a kind voice. It made me feel quite inadequate.

Drip - drip - drip....

I also finally threw down the laundry from the middle two boys' room. Only the top layer has been skimmed off each week. For starters, I never finish the laundry because I have the world's worst dryer, and it takes me 3x as long to do laundry as everyone else in the modernized world. Anyway, the middle boys have not taken care of their clothes, and I finally decided to do it. The clothes in the bottom came out in one big clump. Euw.

Drip - drip - drip....

The Young Adult did not do YET another assignment. He "forgot". I love how they forget to do homework when I am not home in the evening. If I am not there, it will not get done. Unless I make sure it gets done, or make sure someone else makes it get done.

Drip - drip - drip....

Add to this the looks of disbelief  that a school day means school work. And when the work "runs out", Mom expects a student to review or, God forbid, study.

Drip - drip - drip....
And Romeo forgot what the shape of Africa looks like.

Drip - drip - drip....Drip - drip - drip....Drip - drip - drip....

Yeah....It is the little things like Incontinence of Continents that does a person in.

Inadequacy can be tied to the endless round of work that being a homeschooling stay-at-home Mom entails. It never ends, it repeats endlessly, and it can be quite lonely being so outnumbered.
Don't get me wrong. I DO love what I do. I do try to appreciate the blessings in my life.
But some days are just trying.
I do not get paid for what I do. I do not have a measure by which to measure myself, unless I look at other homeschooling families I know, which just makes me feel even more terrible. (They have six kids, all of them Rhodes scholars. That other family's house is always clean, her husband takes her out on a date every freaking week, they work family mission trips together, AND the kids are all Rhodes scholars. And this family...well, they have five kids, the mother is expecting, the house is always clean, the children are all athletes or musicians, they pray the rosary every night, the husband takes his wife for get-away-weekends, she cooks gourmet meals, AND the children are all Rhodes scholars.) No - measuring myself against the yardsticks of other homeschooling families does not help.

Yes, I do it all for my children, and they are my measuring sticks. They are great boys, and a credit to their parents. However, daily exposure to said-amazing kids can be less than uplifting for the one responsible for their education, their manners, their religious upbringing, their character development, their ability to do chores, their understanding of work, and their ability to one day grow into men who will truly consider their wife a partner in life and will not make her run away screaming that she can't live with a husband who cannot handle a flipping load of laundry.


Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"Hello? Who's There?"

Last week, ArtGuy and the Monkey were playing cars on the floor in the living room. I sat next to them, listening to their cute conversation.

Suddenly, my cell phone rang! That may not sound too exciting, but you have to understand
a) that not many people call my cell phone,
b) ArtGuy and I only have pay-as-you-go phones. We are bare-bones when it comes to cells.

I jumped up to grab my phone, which was ringing out with the theme from "Star Wars" (trust me - this is a great ringtone! Very exciting!) from the piano, and checked caller ID. Who could it be? Lisa? Maggie? Brandi?

None of the above. It husband?

But my husband was sitting right in front of me...

And suddenly, I knew - I had just been butt-dialed.

My husband, ArGuy, is a FBD - Frequent Butt Dialer.

Not familiar with the problem?

Watch this:

This could be ArtGuy and me. It happens with regularity.

For example, two weeks ago, my phone rang. I saw from caller ID that it was ArtGuy calling on his cell phone, during lunch. I figured, great! He must be out shopping and found something cool to tell me about, or, maybe he just misses me. So I answered, in my cutest "wifey-at-home" voice, only to hear background noise.

I had just been butt-dialed...again.

So you can imagine my excitement last Friday when ArtGuy announced he was ready for a new cell phone! Yea - no more butt dialing!

Here is the old phone:

Here is the new phone:

Notice the difference? Me, neither!

I guess I better get used to intercepting some calls from "down under"!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Summer Assessment

Even though we officially started school last week, I am still mulling over the end of summer. Probably because it is still a bazillion degrees outside.
My feelings exactly!

My goals for the summer, according to a post I made in May, were:
  • clean the house ("clean" is a relative term, but the end of the school year usually means a slide into messiness. So, time to regroup and return the house into some semblance of order). I actually did some of this! The school closet got a re-haul, and other things got a straightening up. Not a stellar job, but an adequate job!
  • swim - lots and lots! I started out strong, but then it got so hot and I got so lazy, I kind of stopped. However, I promised myself and the kids we would get a lot more swimming in this week!
  • write...something....  Nope. Did not happen. Besides the blog, anyway.
  • potty train the Monkey Yeeeeessssss!!!!
  • get the Monkey to sleep in his own room. Double YEEEESSSSSS!!!!
  • just have fun! ??????
Making the "big boy" bed!

Overall, it all turned out pretty good. The heat is killing us, but hopefully it will all be over in a month or so!

So far, I do not have goals for the Fall. Yet ....

    Friday, August 12, 2011

    7 Quick Takes vol 3

    Okay - it is FRIDAY!!!!! Yea! Thanks to Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary for hosting this. It really gives me a goal each week!

    So, here are seven things tumbling around my head....

    1. This was our first week back at school! We survived. What did I learn? One should never start school and one's "visit from Mother Nature" at the same time.


    2. The Monkey.

    He is a handful.

    Today is a good example. He is exhibiting a high level of crabbiness today. This is the note ArtGuy left me this morning. It has made me laugh all day.

    3. August is a great month for saints. I mean, every month has great saints, but August just seems to be filled with many of my favorites. Every day, I feel like I am saying, "Oooo, ooooo, look who is the saint today!"
    Aug 4 - St John Vianney
    Aug 8 - St Dominic
    Aug 9 - St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross/Edith Stein
    Aug 11 - St. Clare
    Aug 14 - St Maximilian Kolbe
    Aug 20 - St. Bernard of Clairvaux
    Aug 27 - St. Monica
    Aug 28 - St. Augustine
    and many more! Not to mention that Aug 15 is the Feast of the Assumption of Mary!

    August is an awesome month for saints!

    4. August is my birthday month! Whooo hooooo! Par-tee, par-tee!
    I love birthdays. The presents, the cake, the..specialness.
    I get so excited! I am NOT happy about being another year older, but I do love feeling special!

    5. And my birthday brought an extra "gift" this month. I had to go to our local DMV to renew my driver's person! Lucky me!
    The good news - all the people that worked there were really all very lovely.
    The bad news - it took over two hours, one hour of which was spent in a line outside. With the Monkey.

    It was also my first driver's license picture as a fatty. I hate my round face. Blech!

    I needed a very large Dr. Pepper when it was all over.

    6. This week, along with the beginning of school, we are trying something new. The boys and I are reading through the readings for the upcoming Sunday every day. The first day we just read them out loud. The second day, we reread them, and began discussing what they might have meant historically. The third day, we listened to the psalm. The fourth day I was stuck in line in the DMV. Today we ended by discussing what the readings could mean to us today.
    It helps us to "break open the word", and helps the boys gain skills in looking things up in their Bibles.

    7. I love reality shows about cooking, interior design, and fashion. They are my guilty pleasure. I think it is because I do none of those things well - cook, decorate, or understand what fashion is or how to wear it!

    And now it is time to go put the Monkey down for a nap. Hallelujah!

    And Happy Friday!

    Monday, August 8, 2011

    Beginning School

    Today was our first day back at school! Year NINE for our homeschooling venture. Sheesh! Hard to believe!

    The Monkey was so excited to begin. He rushed me all morning so we can "go do our special school"! He was thrilled with his new school shelf and items. However, as the day wore on, he got this look like, "This is what school is? I think I am going to go play trains...."

    Ah well! He will have good days and rough days, like his brothers. He would do so well in a preschool program, but there is just no money for that.

    I have been working hard to get ready for him. It has been a while since I have had preschool at home!

    Our calendar. The Monkey was convinced that the days of the week actually read "Some boys give big farts on Sunday." Whatever!

    Our button key chain to mark the date

    Thanks to Counting Coconuts for all the ideas. It is a site that both inspires me (with its wonderful ideas) and depresses me (because I will never in all my life be that creative). Anyway, I have gotten a lot of ideas from there. Thanks also to my friends Leah and Christy for turning me on to the site!".
    The pockets on the calendar are for our "Number of the Day" and "Letter of the Day .That is all we are doing for now. We can add more later, as the Monkey warms up to school.

    My season wheel. We will place a clothespin on the correct season.

    The I Spy jar

    The I Spy Jar

    I have wanted to make an I Spy jar for a long time. I was so glad to finally do it! I used a plastic container (that used to hold jelly beans - mmmmmm!), and filled it with bird seed and little items. I plan on changing the items out from time to time. We have all been looking in it!

    I wanted to make some felt items for a felt board. I combined that with a desire to work on clothing and seasons and weather to make our Felt Man. He is going to be fun to learn with. The Monkey likes to take Felt Man and play with him already.

    Felt Man in his undies, showing his casual clothes

    In casual clothes, showing winter clothes

    In winter clothes, showing beach wear!

    In beach wear, showing rain wear

    The rain wear is my personal favorite

    Beach accessories!
    Ah - fun!

    I placed an old small bookshelf in the hallway by our schoolroom. This shelf is now the Monkey's school shelf. I will change items out. That is about the whole plan at the moment!

    This week we are starting with a puzzle, wooden ABC/Noah's Ark blocks, counting bears and a sorter tray, paper and stickers. I may change the paper items out this week, and add in a nursery rhyme activity in a day or two.

    The other boys slipped right back into school. Really, we are just finishing up what we did not complete last semester. For the most part, it is "old" subjects. Everyone is starting new literature. Romeo gets Roman Myths. Cookie Boy starts on The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, and The Young Adult is devouring Treasure Island!

    Happy new school year!

    Friday, August 5, 2011

    7 Quick Takes - vol 2

    Happy Friday, everyone!

    Thanks to Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary, for hosting 7 Quick Takes!

    1. This week, in an effort to find something good about this record heat in north Central Texas, we tried dashboard baking some cookies. Some friends yesterday suggested cinnamon rolls. I am SO going to do that. But it is too hot to go to the store right now....

    2.  I am kind of bothered by a current fashion. Okay, let's face it. I am bothered by fashion of any kind. I am not, nor ever have been, a fashionable kind of girl. I admire fashion. I love looking at fashions. I wish I could understand fashion.
    First, I just have no interest. Second, I have the totally wrong kind of body for any kind of fashion, outside of mumus and really, really big t-shirts and shorts.
    And that leads me to the fashion trend that bugs me - short dresses and skirts. Let us first admit that we were in middle school in the eighties when mini-skirts were all the rage. Let us second admit that we did, ourselves, own one or two of said mini-skirts. Let us third proclaim that all pictures featuring this writer in those mini-skirts should be burned, lest the damage anyone's eyesight.
    The fashion - short skirts and dresses are "in".
    See this example from Wet Seal. 
    The problem - very few women have the figure to really pull it off (and this is aside from all modesty issues).
    Girls like me - and there are lots of us out there - those of us with big hips, rounded curves, and speed-skating-worthy thighs, should  NOT, under any circumstance, wear such clothing. Short hemlines do nothing for us, except make us look rounder (and not in a curvy way), stockier, and less feminine.
    In short (hah hah hah) - it just isn't pretty.

    3. Today is/was a First Lego League meeting. I said "is" because I began to write this at 10am this morning. I said "was", because people started coming, and now it is almost 4pm, so the meeting is done and over! Whew! Meeting days are crazy! I love First Lego League. It is an amazing experience for the kids and adults, alike.
    If you don't know about:
    1. First Lego League - check this out
    2. The cool special to air on the ABC network on August 14, check this out!
    3. My own FLL team, Storm System, check this out!

    4. I need a haircut. I want that haircut to make me look fabulous.

    5. How do you pray? Do you have a formal time each day? Do you just fling some "Lord, have mercy's" up to heaven throughout the day? How do you connect and make time?
    Some days I manage the daily readings. Some days I mutter throughout the day, looking like some crazy woman  (but I am praying, honest!). Some days I work it in when I wake up and when I get to bed. Some days it is in action, as I bite my tongue, or patiently play cars with the Monkey...again....

    6. So, when did life get so complicated? I remember college. Everything seemed so clear-cut, then. I had a job (to study), a goal (to graduate), and a mission. I believed there was "something" for me to do, that God had a plan. Even the early years of our marriage and family seemed like a clear path before my feet.
    Prayer was easier then. 
    Flash forward 16 years, and I know I still have a job (be a mom), a goal (to raise kids), but my mission and my "something" still eludes me. I guess it is just in the nature of motherhood, especially while mothering young children, than life gets messy. I often feel like I am a snowglobe, and I keep getting shaken up. The snow swirls like a blizzard, and I cannot see my way. But I am searching.

    7. MmmmmMMMmmm....I said the word "blizzard" in #6, and now I am thinking Dairy Queen. Ice cream. Yuuuummmmm.....

    Wednesday, August 3, 2011

    Dashboard Baking - FINISHED!!!

    Aw yeah! It is THAT hot!

    This week is brutal weather all over the nation. Here in North Texas, it is about 110 this week. Currently, as of 3pm, it is 107 degrees, according to the Weather Channel. But I am pretty sure that is wrong. What is the temperature on the sun? It is about 10 degrees cooler here.
    The hot part of the day goes from 4-6pm here. So, you can imagine...

    Let's make lemonade out of lemons, shall we????

    1:30pm - we arrive home from errands. We pull into our sunny driveway, and roll up all the windows.

    2:30 pm - The interior of the van reads 175 degrees. After just an hour.

    After one hour of pre-heating.... Scary....

     I had the temp gauge with me on errands, and even with the windows open, when we returned to the car, the interior was 150 degrees.

    That is why we do not leave children or animals in vehicles, folks. Check twice!

    2:30-2:45 pm - we prepare our food. I chose to use Nestle's take-and-bake cookies, rather than mix it up myself. Because it is that hot.

    Cookie Boy adding "Chocolate Chip Lovers" Nestle break-apart cookies!

    Looking good!

    The Young Adult adds Nestle "Oatmeal Scotchies". I think those are going to be yummers!

    Might as well rustle up an egg, too!

     2:45 - We head to the van....

    ...and then the genius brothers headed right back in to PUT ON SHOES! Duh!

    2:45-2:55 - we arrange our food. We placed the cookie sheets on paper and pot holders to protect the dashboard. After only 5 minutes in the car, I touched the pan to move it, and burned my finger!
    Um, yeah...looks hot....

    The chocolate immediately began to melt.

    2:55pm - we finish, close and lock the van.
    Cook, baby, cook!

    3:20 - We check on our food, after letting it bake for 20-25 minutes. The interior of the van is almost at 175 again (it went down to 160 while we were placing the food inside).

    The cookies are spreading quite well. Scary!

    The ones in front are more melty than the ones in back.

    While not cooked yet, the yolk has clearly "set".

    3:40 pm - I went outside to turn the pan around. We want those cookies to bake evenly, now!
    You could actually hear the aluminum foil popping.

    4:10 - Went out to check. The one small tree in our teeny-tiny backyard was starting to throw shade onto the driveway.
    Shade=bad; sun=good. At least, when you want to bake cookies!

    So, I pulled the van down the driveway, into the seat, and back into the full heat from the sun.
    I had to use pot holders to touch the steering wheel.

    Park and bake!

    The egg yolk is very set.

    The cookies seem to be almost done. You can move the edges. But they are still a little too soft. So, 10 more minutes....

    And - for the record - it smells FABULOUS in the van!!!!

    4:30pm -

    We head back out to check on the progress of our van cookery.

    Shoes ON!
     They learned their lesson well. If it is hot enough to bake cookies in a van, it is hot enough to burn your feet on the concrete!


    The egg was done.

    Firm enough to touch (but Cookie Boy kept complaining it was hot!)

     A practically perfect yolk!

    The yolk is soft enough to pick up via fork, but firm enough that it does not slide off.

    The yolk was fully cooked. Really, it was over-cooked. The outside was kind of rubbery. It was soft inside, but not at all runny. The egg white stayed transparent, but was very hard to the touch!

    The cookies were not quite ready. Close - but still a little too soft in the middle.

    Almost ready!

    5:30pm - the cookies are DONE! The temp gauge stayed between 150-175, and it took a total of 3 hours to get the cookies fully baked.

    It smells soooo good!

    Shhhh - don't tell. I tried one out. Someone had to make sure they were fit to eat....

    They smell amazing.
    But we are waiting until after dinner to eat them.

    6:30pm - DESSERT!!!!!
    The cookies were very, very yummy. They were home-baked soft. The chips were still melty.

    Cookie Boy digs in. Stinker! He took the one I wanted!

    Blissfully happy!

    The Young Adult tries out, and approves, the Oatmeal Scotchies!

    Fully baked front

    Fully baked back


    This was a very successful experiment. While we wish it was not so hot, at least now we have some kind of reward for this miserable weather! And we did not heat up the house to do it!

    THE END!