Showing posts from January, 2011


image credit: West Point Steak House We bought another fire-bellied toad today. (We've sort of lost a couple in the past...but we've reformed our weak terrarium-covering ways and that won't be happening anymore.) Anyway, this isn't about the toad, whose name, for now, is Bob. This is about fuel. On the way to the East Bay Vivarium , I noticed I was perilously close to running out of gas. Cenzo asked me what happens to the gas to make it go away. I sort of stumbled through an answer until I hit upon an analogy I knew he would relate to. He loves to make fires in our outdoor firepit, so I told him it's like adding wood to a fire; eventually, you need to add more fuel to the fire because it burns up. The same thing happens with car fuel; the engine burns it up. To sum up, I said: "So it's fuel. Just like you have to add more wood to a fire, you have to add more gasoline to a car." And my cute little 8 year old carnivore piped up: "

Sad and Wrong on So Many Levels

We are a great and powerful country. We have a grand and proud history. We stand for human dignity. We stand for freedom. Apparently, that freedom includes the freedom to do really, insanely stupid things in the name of capitalism. Exhibit A: Further evidence that maybe we should all adopt the following motto: Just because you can do it doesn't mean it's a good idea. I'm sorry I stumbled on this because now I can't get back that 60 seconds of my life; I thought I'd share with you all so I wouldn't have to suffer alone. * * *


image credit: It occurred to me today, while responding to at least three interruptions while I was taking a shower in a locked bathroom, that parenting five children is a lot like playing Whack-a-mole. I am required to be ever vigilant, watching for little heads to pop and need something. Instead of whacking them (don't tempt me), I must quickly discern what the situation requires and deliver it promptly, leaving me free to respond to the next popping head. Put your head down on a pillow? A head pops, needing a band-aid or a barf bucket. Sit down to Facebook? A head pops, needing a time-out or a missing sock. Attempt a conversation with another adult? A head pops, needing to process hurt feelings or exhibiting signs of developmental upheaval by shrieking at regular intervals. Try to watch something on TV or read a book in peace? Two heads pop, requiring you to step in as referee, which will inevitably end with one of the heads thinking you are evil and m

Lessons from Egypt

I sat down with my kids to watch the news from Egypt this week. Yes, even the little ones. I wanted them to see people demonstrating for freedom and standing up for what they believe. The experience has led to some interesting conversations. First, shortly after I told them how the Egyptian people are tired of a leader who treats them unfairly and doesn't let them have their freedom, it was time for our evening chores. The 10 year old announced: "Mom, I'm fighting for my freedom! I am not going to do my chore!" So...I am Mubarek in this scenario? Civics are more complicated and nuanced than I thought. Second, one of the kids asked me this question: "Mom, if you lived in Egypt, would you be out there in the streets doing what all those people are doing?" I told them that I would. I said it was important to stand up for yourself, for human rights like freedom and dignity, for something you believe in. Then I thought about them: where would these ki

7 Quick Takes: Volume 26: The Feel Better Edition

Friday. Deep fry day? French fry day? Small fry day? Fish fry day? Bats in the bell-fry day? Makes no difference to me, I'll take Friday any way I can get it. Welcome to 7 Quick Takes Friday. This edition is short and simple, due to the fact that I am tending to little vomiters and cannot ignore my kids with my usual gusto. So today, I bring you a list of 7 things that make me feel better when I am overwhelmed or feeling like too much is going on around me. I will be doing all of these things today, which will hopefully carry me straight on through to bedtime. ~ 1 ~ Running my washer and dryer. Something about the sound of those machines humming along in my garage makes me feel efficient and capable. Go figure. ~ 2 ~ Straightening my couch cushions and pillows, and folding blankets. A tangible, immediately gratifying way to make order out of chaos. ~ 3 ~ Setting the timer for 10 minutes and putting things away. I'm always surprised by what a difference I ca


While waiting at a stop light today, I saw the following phrase on the back of the truck in front of me: "If you can read this, your to close." The lettering had been professionally painted, in fancy cursive script, and then outlined in a contrasting color. It was quite pretty, and clearly a certain amount of painstaking hard work went into the effort. Too bad no one threw any of that care and attention in the direction of a grammarian. I wish I had been too far away to read it; instead, I sat at that light for what seemed like an eternity, staring at not one but two grammar offenses, waiting for red to turn green, so I could be on my way. Grammar errors bug the crap out of me. Maybe it's obsessive or cynical or just plain weird, but bad grammar – public bad grammar – confirms my worst fears that our culture is dying a slow, painful, pathetic death. You'd think I wouldn't have time to care about such things. Unfortunately for me, apparently I do. * *

A Hormones Classic

Four more days in my cycle to go, I wanna be sequestered Nothin' I can do nowhere I can go, I wanna be sequestered Just get me a hot pad, put me in my bed Hurry hurry hurry 'fore I whack you in the head I can't control my hormones so I'll let them rage instead Oh no no no no no Three more days in my cycle to go, I wanna be sequestered Nothin' I can do nowhere I can go, I wanna be sequestered Just get me some Motrin, stay out of my way Hurry hurry hurry 'fore I regret what I say I can't control my temper, I scream and yell all day Oh no no no no no Two more days in my cycle to go, I wanna be sequestered Nothin' I can do nowhere I can go, I wanna be sequestered Just give me peace and quiet, shut your damn pie hole Hurry hurry hurry before I go loco I can't control the bloating I can't control the flow Oh no no no no no Twenty-twenty-twenty four hours to go, I wanna be sequestered Nothin' I can do nowhere I can go, I wanna be sequestered Jus

You know you have a big family when... are at a cafe all by yourself , and you grab a stack of napkins a foot high to use while you sip your tea and eat your red velvet cupcake. * * *

Barrier Schmarrier

image sourc e Apparently, my kids have decided that today's homeschooling lesson will be to play with the sound barrier and see if they can break it. I think they're damn close. * * *

Daybook, 25 January 2011

Outside my window....bright, cold, sunny, gorgeous, with a side of police car siren thrown in. I am thinking...that I'm never going to survive my to do list. I am thankful for...friends with good advice about not trying to survive my to do list. Do what's right in front of me, right D'bee? From the kitchen...chocolate chip zucchini bread. I am v-neck t-shirt, black work out pants. I am own personal chaos theory! I am beat someone with my to do list after I roll it up into a baton. I am reading...the situation, which is telling me I have no time to read my current book, which is (if memory serves) Diary of a Country Priest. I am hoping...for 26 hours a day in an 8 day week. I am daughter singing "Lean on Me." Around the house...two new sets of bunk beds are in boxes in the living room, waiting to be put together. One of my favorite things...listening to my daughter sing. Offkey. A few plans for t

Late Night with Lady E

Daddy, can I have some of your blue painters tape so I can put it over my mouth? Because I want to go to sleep, but I'm all like "chat chat." -- Lady E * * *

Little T and the Cherry Pit

Little T is something of a force of nature, as documented here , here , and here . And a few more places I am sure. So I was surprised the other day to come upon her in a puddle of tears, shaking and crying from fear. She was super freaked. What's wrong, Little T? Imagine a squeaky little miserable cartoon voice, with indistinct R and L sounds, attempting to speak between chokes, gasps, and sobs: " I was twy-in ... to eat dis che-wy ... and accidenta-wii ... da pit got down inside me ... I swa-whoa'd it, and it's in deh-w and I can't get it out! " All of this was relayed to me with big, fat tears streaming down her panic-stricken widdle face. So I gathered her up and reassured her that, while we do indeed tell her not to eat the pits, one widdle pit will not hurt her, and she is going to be just fine. (Note to self: ease up on the doom and destruction pit-eating warnings. Apparently, they left an out-sized impression. Interesting that the DO NOT

Can You Tell? You Can Tell, Can't You

When I re-read posts I've written about homeschooling, I am painfully aware that they fairly scream WE ARE NEW AT THIS AND WE (i) FEEL THE NEED TO DISCUSS OUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS MORE THAN MIGHT BE SEEMLY OR NECESSARY. I read other blogs, written by homeschoolers, that are not quite so...obviously newbie. Oh well. Someday, I'll be a veteran. * * *

Sometimes, We Learn What We Need to Learn

Yesterday was a particularly awesome day of being a homeschooling family. I was so high on the day's awesomeness, that by 1:30pm, I had pronounced the day a screaming success. Rick, in a very Glass Is Half Empty And Probably Has A Crack In It fashion, kindly reminded me that there was plenty of daytime left for things to go haywire. I countered that no matter what happened next, this day was already in the books as awesome, end of story. So why was it a Pinnacle of Awesomeness? This was a day where I had just enough ideas for things for the kids to do: not too many and not too few, and no expectations about what they would do with my suggestions. I had a couple non-negotiables. Chores. Reading. And for my oldest, who would play Wii all day long if I let him, I actually made a list of things I wanted him to do. One of those was that I wanted him to look at an Anatomy website I have heard about. Getting savvy, instead of telling him I wanted him to learn something, I told

7 Quick Takes: Volume 25: The Link Love Edition

Hello Friday, my old friend. I've come to talk with you again... Welcome to this week's 7 Quick Takes! Today, I'm sharing links to sites and resources that have helped me this week to think, laugh, eat, pray and/or waste time I could have otherwise used to fold laundry or fill my childrens' minds with knowledge. Please visit Jen at Conversion Diary , our host and author of the original 7 Quick Takes ; check out the links to other people participating this week. ~ 1 ~ I am always searching for new ways to make math interesting...okay, palatable, to my boys. My girls seem to be fine so far, but my boys think math should be prohibited by the Geneva Convention. Somewhere in my searching, I found The Math Mom , and signed up for her newsletter. She is awesome. The latest gems I found via her are: (a) that wonderful video clip of Donald Duck learning a little Pythagorean math (I remember this from some former life) and (b) an amazing series of videos called Mathe

A Good Vocabulary Is Overrated

My six year old was a little stinker today. She was flashin' tude right and left, and shaking her hips like...well, like she shouldn't be able to. At Mass this morning, I pulled her from behind me right after I had received the Eucharist, so she could receive a blessing from the priest. She wasn't pleased. I think she just wanted to hide behind me, and I thwarted her. So right there at the front of the church, as I turned to take the cup, she stomped her foot, crossed her arms over her chest, gave me her best Stink Eye, and then whirled on one foot and stomped all the way back to the pew we had been sitting in. Near the back. I calmly received the cup, said "Amen," crossed myself, and headed back to have a few choice words with her. I gently took her head in my hands, leaned down to speak into her ear so that the parishioners lost in prayer wouldn't hear me, and whispered her the riot act. She dissolved into tears. My work was done. At least, until

What God Wants

My four year old has had a bout of the runs today. Nothing too serious, but awfully unpleasant for the little sprite. She had to change her underwear once, and was fairly devastated. Tonight, after sending the three girls off to get ready for bed, to brush teeth and change into pajamas, Little T spent about 5 or 10 minutes in her room howling for me to come. When I finally got to her, she has hiding behind her door, buck naked, and squeezing her little bottom cheeks together so hard her legs were shaking. She was trying to hold back the tide. I felt terrible for not arriving sooner. Off to the bathroom we went. Without being too graphic, let me just say that the leg-shaking clench did not quite do the trick, so we had some clean-up to do. While I was cleaning her up, we had the following exchange: Little T: " Can God change me into you? " Me: " Oh, I think God wants you to be Little T, just the way you are. " Little T: " No. (said emphatically an

What the Heck is THAT?

You know how google generates targeted ads, based on content from your emails or searches? I use gmail, so on the right hand side of my screen, ads appear that usually have something to do with a keyword in a recent email. It's kind of creepy, but I'm getting used to it. Today, over there on the right, there is an ad for a Feminine Husband Bra . I cannot for the life of me figure out what content from my emails might have generated this ad. I'm afraid to click on it, because I really don't want to encourage similar ads being put into my sight lines. But I'm curious. And I have all kinds of odd images floating through my head. And I want them to stop. The Virtual World is a strange, strange place indeed. * * *

7 Quick Takes: Volume 24

Welcome to 7 Quick Takes Friday! Friday's child is loving and giving. May I deliver no less to my own children this Friday. Especially since Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were somewhat lacking in that department. Please visit Jen at Conversion Diary , our lovely host and author of the original 7 Quick Takes ; sample the links from other Quick Takers playing along this week. ~ 1 ~ My calendar is killing me. We are juggling: art class, theatre workshop, soccer clinics, soccer practices (the ones for my kids' teams and the ones for the team my husband is assistant coaching), guitar lessons, indoor soccer games, futsal games, plain old soccer games, girl scouts, and carpentry class and that's just the stuff I can remember off the top of my head. Chances are I'm leaving something, or someone, out. Last night, I spent FOUR HOURS in my car. I finally broke down and let the kids bring the portable DVD player with them, since the three who got to watch it w

What is a Meatball? My First Giveaway!

My boys are touring the aircraft carrier the USS Hornet today. As their guide, they have my dad, a former Navy pilot who flew off of this historic carrier back in his glory days. (This was before he lived in Africa, where he had a pet monkey and from whence he brought back a real, but dried and hollowed out, elephant's leg, which we kept our toys in when we were kids. It was our toy box. It was also before he was a hippie potter living in San Francisco and carting his kids from street festival to street festival; I loved those days, and the inevitable face-painting that went with them. It was way before he was an entrepreneurial Irish pub owner in Sonoma, California. He's actually had several glory days.) In order to prepare the boys for their trip today, he gave them some questions to answer, and sent them links to YouTube videos about naval aviation. I watched them with the kids, and learned a few things about flying. I post the same links here for your education

I Am Blessed

I am blessed. I have five beautiful children, all of whom are wicked smart, kind, and funny. I have a dining room table that is mostly clear of clutter. It is a clear, cold day, but the heater is turning the house cozy. My husband made me coffee, which is gently and deliciously bringing me into my day. I have big plans for a wonderful day of reading with the kids and delighting in the fact that we need not leave the house. But give it time. Those five wicked funny kids are all still asleep. In another two hours, I'll be writing another post entitled "I Am Cursed," about my chaotic house, my unruly children, my failure as a parent, and the general decline of Western Civilization. It's an exciting life I lead, teetering as I do between abject despair and soaring gratitude. I changed the kids photo on my home page, and I think the new caption says it all: my family -- my life -- makes me dizzy. For now, I am peaceful. I'm off to shower, so that at least

7 Quick Takes: Volume 23

Ah, Friday. I dare say I love you more than Robinson Crusoe does. After a brief 7 Quick Takes hiatus, I have returned today with 7 bits of randomness. Please visit Jen at Conversion Diary , the host of 7 Quick Takes ; check out the links to other people who are participating. This week, Jen is not writing her own, for reasons explained on her blog, but she has still made it possible for the rest of us to play along. OK, here we go. ~ 1 ~ As I mentioned in yesterday's post , we just finished reading Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator . In case you are not familiar with this book, at the very end, the President of the United States invites Willy Wonka, Charlie, and Charlie's whole family to a big party at the White House, to thank them for their extraordinary service to the United States, rendered when they saved 136 people from certain death in an orbiting space hotel. So my son says wistfully today: " Wouldn't it be great if our family did something really


Today, my 10 year old son's chore was to clean the bathroom. For a kid who complains about chores as if he were a bottle of Angostura Bitters, he actually does a pretty good job on the bathroom. So today, after I saw how much better the place looked, I complimented him. "You did a great job in the bathroom today, sweetie." Apparently, he's been in there more than once today, because he replied: " Isn't that kind of a little too personal? " * * *

Thank You, Roald

Today, finally, we finished reading aloud Charlie and The Great Glass Elevator . We started this short book quite awhile ago...and I'm chagrined that I let it go for so long. I wish I could tell you that we have been so busy excelling academically that we just haven't had time for the frivolity of Mr. Wonka, but alas, this would not be true. Instead, our reading together just fell by the wayside, another victim of our chaotic life and my poor planning. Sometimes, I feel like there is too much going on to make sense of anything. So imagine my delight, when I arrived at the last page of the book and read the motto that Roald Dahl lived by: " My candle burns at both ends, It will not last the night, But ah my foes and oh my friends It gives a lovely light ." I am hereby stealing this motto from Mr. Dahl. Today, I will travel through the world with a lovely, crazy, unsustainable but exhilarating light. * * *

The Abandoned Road

I drove past an abandoned road the other day. It was an old farming road, not paved, and it bent away from the main highway and into marshy hay fields that bent and swished in the breeze. An old and unconvincing fence stood across the entrance to the road, keeping out people, but not time. The marsh lands had begun to take the road back, grasses and weeds encroached its edges, rising up along its center and asserting their quiet, persistent strength against human enterprise. About 75 yards down the road, off to the left, stood an empty threshing house, only its frame still standing. The concrete floor was swept clean by the breeze, as if at any moment it could be used once more to catch, cut, and cube bales of hay for a prosperous farm. But it too was abandoned, no longer an active or thriving place. I had a few moments to gaze at this essentially empty scene, sitting as I was in an unmoving line of bumper to bumper traffic, impatiently waiting to thread through a two lane highw

Wise Words for 2011

"Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do." –Pope John XXIII * * *

What's Her Secret?

One of my New Year's Resolutions is to ask the questions that lurk in the corner recesses of my mind, to face the things I wonder about. So here's one: My kitchen windows face my neighbor's kitchen window, the one right over her sink. She has a young family, like me; she's got four kids, and is a stay at home mom. So can someone please tell me why I never see her standing at her sink? Or why her kitchen light is never on? How is it that she spends so little time in the kitchen? I am always in mine. Sometimes, like now, I'm sitting at the kitchen table surfing the web and blogging, but my lights are on and I'm moving around, making coffee, cleaning up messes left behind from last night, planning for another 21 plates full of food (today's three squares for 7 family members), and her kitchen? Dark and quiet, as usual. What is up with that? * * * Happy New Year everyone! May we all find answers to life's tough questions this year.