Monday, March 31, 2008

Baby Punishment

No, I am not punishing Oob! I am thinking of Barak Obama's comment that if either of his daughters ever "made a mistake," he would not want them "punished with a baby... or an STD."

Part of the sting of his words, I'm sure, is that I know 3 couples who are struggling with infertility, one of whom was just victimized by an adoption scam. Part of it is my own mother's struggle with more than a dozen miscarriages. Part of it is the sight of my own little fluffy crowned crane "punishment" crawling around.

Mostly it's the worldview contained in that statement. Laying aside the equating of pregnancy with an STD, laying aside the thought of planning the demise of your grandchildren while your own children are in grade school, I am most disturbed by the cultural idea that a baby, except under the most controlled conditions, is a terrible thing: an unrecoverable disaster, the ruination of your life, a terrible punishment for an innocent mistake. As if the conditions under which you became pregnant were random and unavoidable, like taking the wrong turn in a DC traffic circle.

When people ask me the standard questions: are they all yours, do you want any more, etc., I think they are asking essentially two questions: Did you have this many kids on purpose? Are you glad you did?

Senator Obama's comments crystallized my answer. This is how I feel about having 6 kids: I don't deserve it. The culture tells me, why yes, a college educated woman does not deserve the burden of a large family. It's a punishment for taking my religious views too seriously and refusing the enlightenment. Quite rich irony there, if they could see it. I don't deserve even one of my precious children, let alone six!

With each child I have seen more clearly exactly what it is that we are doing when, with the help of God, we create a baby. I see more and more the astounding miracle that each new person is, and the love and perfection of their being. Not just my children, every child. Not just children, every person no matter how they were created, loved into existence by God, each one a creature of unspeakable beauty. How could I ever deserve the privilege of helping to create a person?

But that's the thing about love, isn't it? You can never deserve love, you can accept love with humility and awe, and you can love with all your soul in return. My sadness for Senator Obama lies in this: if he can see a baby as a punishment, he has never really seen his own children.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Happy Easter Sunday!

During the octave of Easter, we pray the same psalms in the Office for the whole 8 days. This is intended as a fore taste of the eternity which the Resurrection promises us. In practical terms it means Easter Sunday lasts for 8 days! Do you do regular schoolwork on Easter Sunday? NO!

We've had a week of egg hunts, games (Big Brain Academy is a whole 'nother post), art projects, and hanging out. Amidst all this, we took a trip to the Arboretum and soaked in the Beauty.

I have been thinking about Lissa's thread about parenting, so after we picnicked amidst the magnolias, when Leena asked to explore up the hill, I said, "Sure". We discovered this view:
We also discovered that it was worth the long trudge up the hill to fly at breakneck speed down the hill.Lastly, long after I had planned to head for home, we discovered a pine forest and tromped around the woods for a good hour or so. We were explorers and pathfinders and scientists wondering why and how and who. It was fascinating and lovely and fun, and it reminded me of why I love to home school. I feel I am at the turning of a tide in my home school. A new tide, something important and good is coming in. We did much more at the Arboretum than we usually do. We visited the fish (too early in the year to feed them), perused the herb garden with it's fantastic arbors (which the Zoomlians call Troll Caves), played hide and seek at the "castle" (the old capitol columns, set up to look like ruins), and played beneath the grand Higan weeping cherries whose graceful flowers cascade nearly to the ground. It's like being in the heart of a waterfall of blossoms, maybe the heart of Spring, in some sense a revelation of the mystery of Easter.

What Do You Think?

Does the fluffy halo of baby-fine, sticky-outy hair on the back of Oob's head make him look like a crowned crane?

Incidentally, it's like that all the time, although I couldn't get a shot that showed how circular the wispy crown is.

This particular tuft of Ooby cuteness should not be confused with bed head. This is bed head.

Also cute, but not the same thing at all!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Happy Easter!

Christ has risen, alleluia!
We had a great Easter!
Mumpy and Pa and Grammie visited.
We went to the sunrise Easter Mass.
We came back and had Bacon, Bacon, Bacon.
We hid the Easter baskets,
then the kids hid the Easter eggs for the grown ups
and then we rehid the eggs for the kids.
The Emperor had a long bout with Super Mario Galaxy.
I got a lovely long walk alone with my parents.
We had a yummy Easter feast and tons of chocolate and sweets.
We just relaxed and played together and enjoyed each other.
Thanks be to God!
Indeed He is risen, alleluia!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Of Turtles and Click Beetles

This belongs to that substantial section of my mothering career that falls somewhere between brilliant and appalling.

Oob learned how to turn over when he was a few months old. After he learned, I always set him down on his tummy (unless I was doing a diaper change). Lo and behold, he forgot that he could turn over. I can imagine, if you have no kids this age, wondering why this would make me happy. After all, if he doesn't remember how, doesn't he just lie there and cry like a stuck turtle?

Well... sure if you leave him there for long enough. But if you let him get mad about it, he'll figure it out again. No, no, the beauty of it is this: when you changed his diaper he just lay there like the cutest, patientest stuck turtle you've ever seen.

Had I no fear that this would come back to bite me? As it turned out, I didn't. At least not enough. Now, at 10 months, he figured it out.

Have you ever seen a click beetle? They are long skinny beetles with a joint in the middle. When frightened, they play dead by rolling onto their backs. They then right themselves by springing into the air and flipping over with a loud click. Oob does this without the click. I'd say it's more of a chuckle as he races away without his diaper.

Did You Know That

if your 2 year old calls that truck that cleans the road a "Sweep Streeper" enough times, you will start calling it that in adult company? Then you will have to start calling it "That Truck That Cleans the Road" and people will think you are losing your marbles.

It's true.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Selective Echo

The Emperor took the kids out shopping today while Angel and I did some Spring cleaning.

At the hardware store, Mxyl wondered why people used a laser in a fancy level. The Emperor explained that you can use the laser when it is really important that your lines be straight. Choclo then repeated, "Laser...Portent...Straight! " for the rest of the trip. I wonder what the passersby made of that.

Then they went to a pharmacy. Klenda wondered why grownups use deodorant. The Emperor explained that Mommy and Daddy use deodorant so that they aren't stinky. Choclo cheerfully and repeatedly announced:"Mommy... Daddy... Stinky!"

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Fossil/Gem/Mineral Show

We had a great time at the Fossil/Gem/Mineral Show yesterday. This is the 3rd or 4th time we've gone (we go every other year) and we get more out of it each time. These are the folks who got us into collecting fossil shark teeth.

If you don't live near the Chesapeake Bay (Delaware, Maryland and Virginia) you may not know that you can scoop up a handful of sand on any of the western beaches and find fossil shark teeth, ray plates and other fossils. Maybe not every handful on every beach, but at least one fossil in ten handfuls. They are all from the Miocene era, about 30 million years old. If you're ever in the area, don't miss it!

This time at the show, Mxyl and Klenda were big enough to use large, dangerous looking machines to shape and polish stones. We saw all kinds of cool displays, collected a bunch of free samples and showed off the Devonian fossils (400 million years ago!) which we found a year and a half ago in West Virginia. That was our first non shark tooth expedition. It was fun, aside from the ticks, but that's another story...

The show also had a huge dealers room and we bought some lovely fossils for our collection: a split and polished ammonite (like the first picture here), a perfect free (not in stone) trilobite, petrified wood and, my personal favorite, fossilized squids!

Zorg also bought a large piece of leaded glass cut as a solitaire diamond. Quite dazzling, really. He's been using it as a top and as a prism.

The Last of the Lenten Gospel Desserts

Yet another plan vs. reality post, I'm afraid! I had planned, last Sunday, to construct Lazarus' tomb out of rice crispy treats (not cut into squares, just molded while warm). Instead, we continued celebrating Leena's birthday with her third and final birthday cake: the Squirrel Cake. She loved it!

I figured I'd do a great Palm Sunday dessert: a long coffee cake alternately sliced to look like a palm branch!

Actually, we had our Medieval Feast today, and so ended up eating spice cakes with stewed apples... Sometimes it's hard to do all the themes at once.

Here's what happened. The Emperor was slated to go on a rare trip to a teacher's conference. When the kids got wind of it, they flipped! Klenda declared, "One night without Daddy would be terrible! Two nights would be horrible!!! Three nights, I couldn't stand!!! BUT, I CAN'T LIVE FOR FIVE NIGHTS WITHOUT DADDY!!!"

So, what did they do? They all began to pray feverishly that Daddy would not go. That was Sunday, he was supposed to leave Thursday. When the Emperor went into work on Monday, he discovered that The Powers That Be had actually forgotten to send in his registration and hotel reservation. So, he couldn't go. That thumpity-thump-thump sound was the noise 4 pairs of knees make as they hit the floor to praise and thank God.

So we could have had the feast Thursday after all, but then it was too late. We rescheduled for Sunday but Leena woke up with a fever. She's OK now, but we couldn't have guests... The upshot was the 8 of us and an enormous feast and a lot of leftovers.

Still, we had a great time! The reports went well and there were lots of questions and answers. It's always interesting to hear the kids discussing with each other what they have learned. The Zoomlians had learned more than I had realized!

Tomorrow the castle will come down and Holy Week stuff will go up.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Happy Birthday, Leena!

Queen of the Squirrels, Queen of the Snow, Queen of the Flowers, Leader of the Mermaids and Dolphins, happy golden birthday Leena!

Friday, March 7, 2008

A Short Tirade

HT to Danielle Bean for bringing this article to my attention. It's a long tirade against Angelina Jolie and other stars (and presumably ordinary women) who have large families. It's all a compulsion it turns out. They/we "collect babies" because they/we are really depressed. Oh yeah, and anecdotal evidence (do I have a statistician in the audience?) suggests "that children from large families don't fare as well..." To be fair they do have some opposing comments.

It's 4 pages long, but what got my goat was the phrase "collecting babies." The biggest problem with the world view presented by the article is a lack of understanding about what babies are.

Newsflash! Babies aren't items we can collect or own or even deserve. Babies are... small... young... people. People do not exist to satisfy our needs and wants. They exist to be loved.

Helmets R Us

Ask about our line of practically authentic tabards, too!

Here is Leena with our original style helmet. It is simply 2 pieces of construction paper cut in an arc and stapled together for the basic helmet. The visor is a third piece of paper, folded in quarters and cut on a diagonal. You can then cut slits in this shape either horizontally (use small staggered slits) or vertically (as here). One time we did this and added ostrich plumes (an enchanting extravagance!) but we had to make do with paper plumes this time.

Alas, our older knights are getting bigger heads, and the 9 x 12 paper wasn't big enough for them. I'll get bigger paper, but for now, the historically earlier soup can style works well. Staple 2 sheets into a cylinder and use a third sheet to cut out a cone with a slit. Tape the cone to the top. They added a nice red plume after i took this shot. Much scarier than the visored model. That's Klenda posing as the Black Knight and showing off her tabard.

You ARE Celebrating Crazy Shoe Day, Right?

Surely we can't be the only ones!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Fringe Benefit

of having a toddler "in training" at the same time as a baby: diaper changes with play by play narration! This is immeasurably enhanced by Choclo's new favorite phrase, "Hooo-ly mack-ER-el!"

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Do NOT Try This At Home!

Or anywhere else! I mean, of course, the flour paste stained glass leading. Not only did it slip and drip while drying, but, as it dried, it shrunk, peeling itself off the window into teeny tiny pieces all over everything. Bah, humbug! Wax paper stained glass it is!

We also have had to shift and scale back the Feast somewhat since The Emperor's trip landed on that date.

Oh, yeah, it turns out that if your kids toss dirt into the heat pump while it is running in order to watch it spew back up, it will unbalance the fan and burn out the motor. It's been a day for small disasters.

In happier news, we did the tabards with markers and we are currently working on the helmets. We have branched off into making different helmet shapes. I think we also wowed, or at least baffled, the heat pump repair guy. Pictures to follow...

Monday, March 3, 2008

Plan vs. Reality

The mud pie near fiasco made me think about all the things I plan and what actually happens. I will confess, I am a planner. I love to make lists. Every week I make a Week Plan (all the appointments, meals, things to do, buy, etc), and I have another plan for each day roughly in the order I think it will happen. Things don't have to go according to the plan but there has to be a plan or...I'm doomed, basically. 6 kids+no plan=BAD.

Looking back at the post about the Middle Ages unit, I was interested to see my plan and where we've gone so far.

We really did make paper! Here's how, if you are interested. I always wanted to do that, and now I am set up to do it at will! Huzzah! This did turn out to be a Klenda and Mxyl project unless you count feeling the pulp as a sensory experience.

Still, the older kids loved it! They added glitter and feathers and tiny wisps of colored paper. They used their paper to write impressive letters to their godparents! We tried writing with quills, but all I had was duck quills. A little too small to be practical, but fun to try. We also tried a pen with a metal nib, but settled on calligraphy markers as the most practical solution. We had a fascinating afternoon looking at a book of 200 calligraphy alphabets and trying different styles.

We have gotten somewhat off on the research front, mostly because I've been reading aloud every knight and castle themed book in the house. I'm almost done, I will start The Black Arrow tomorrow as a grand finale. I have an animated movie of this too, for later. Hm. I also have Robin Hood and The Court Jester.

Today we tried the first of the planned stained glass projects. This involved designs for the windows, a flour paste 3-D colored leading and translucent paint. This looked terrific, except that I can't seem to get the consistency right on the "leading" and it keeps sliding down the window in a slimy mess... I'm giving it one more try and then I'll move on! We'll try the wax paper/crayon/iron thing next. I am also contemplating tissue paper. We'll see!

I dug up a fascinating book on heraldry and all the kids have been drawing (yet more) coats of arms from the book. Tonight I cut out tabards: long rectangles of white knit material with a hole for the head (real knights wore woven tabards over their armor to display their crest and colors, but, then, they had people willing to hem the fabric). The kids will paint coats of arms on them tomorrow. I will also be making construction paper helmets. These are very cool and easy. I will look for a link or just post a how to when we have examples to show you.

I have printed the 3D castle I linked to in my original post, but we haven't started it yet.

We did make and eat a medieval pottage and bread. I own a medieval cookbook called Pleyn Delyt, but I haven't found it yet since the home school books are overflowing onto the cook books. I can't find Men of Iron, or A Hole in the Wall, either! At on point I thought I would plan this unit around those 2 books! You see why I need a plan.

We have a date for the Feast (3/13) and have invited some honored guests, so that establishes a trajectory for the research projects and everything else. We'll wrap up just in time for Holy Week.

We haven't done the embroidery yet, but we still might!

Finally, Zorg wrote and illustrated a short report on how to attack a castle! That was a happy surprise. Just don't let him near your castle.

Mud Pie for Lent

Yes, we did do the mud pie for this Sunday's Gospel (man born blind, healed with mud)! Did I do the recipe I had posted? No! I had nearly none of the ingredients! Oops.

Ah, well, I did have some leftover brownies from Saturday night. I smooshed those into the pie plate. I found some really good vanilla frosting in the fridge (leftover from the Transfiguration dessert) so I put on a layer of that. Then I made some chocolate pudding and piled that on. Then we discovered that I really do have every kind of sprinkle known to man, so we put on candy dirt with (candy) ants and gummy worms. Yum! Yum!