Friday, September 25, 2009

Quick Takes Friday

It has seemed like a rather LONG week, but then again, I can't believe it is Friday today...the paradox of adulthood...

This week we stayed home. VERY unusual for us...usually I can count on us visiting my in-laws at least once in a week, but after we spent last Thursday with them, we decided to stay home on Sunday, and they ended up coming down here on Tuesday to celebrate new SILs 22nd birthday, so we didn't even have to travel.

This weekend we are not staying home...on Saturday afternoon we are planning on taking the girls to stay with grandma overnight. Hubby and I have been hoping to have a movie date all week because...well, hubby loves to sit in a movie theatre, and I would like to see the movie Julie and Julia. It was playing last weekend in MILs town, and this weekend in ours...the schedule worked out best for us to see it here and the girls to spend the night with grandma. Then, on Sunday we are going to go shopping in a town about 1 1/2 hours away after church, then DH has a Knights of Columbus district meeting in a town 1/2 hour away from the shopping town, then we will go home by way of MILs house (which really isn't on the way at all, but I guess we should pick up the kids).

Story time at the library started for Eva this week. She enjoyed it as much as ever. Unfortunately most of my friends kiddos are in the earlier story time group, and Eva is in the I get to hang out at the library with a bunch of moms that I have very little in common with. Fortunately, I can spend some of the time wandering around if hubby is off work and comes too...if it's just me, I'll be sort of trapped into hearing all of their conversations because they all sit in the kids play area with their little ones, and of course, Charlotte is too young for story time (I did point out the irony that if Charlotte had been premature, she would be old enough to be in story time to one of the librarians...dumb age rules...)

I finally am getting back to menu planning after a LONG time just seemed like too much work to plan out a menu, but honestly, this week with a menu plan has gone VERY smoothly. We have moved things around and skipped a few meals that were planned out, but being able to look down and see what our meals are supposed to be today and tomorrow is so nice, and not doing the last minute "what do you want for dinner" thing at pretty much every meal is much less stressful than having to ask the question as soon as I have finished making each meal...

Hubby changed the heading picture of the blog last night...with a picture he took last night while I was off at Bible study. Eva, being the goofy kid she is said that instead of "cheese" she should say "Hail Mary!" since they were getting ready to pray.

About two weeks ago, I went through all of the girls clothes, and at the time I asked hubby if I should just pull out their shorts and tank tops and put in their winter clothes, and he thought I should put in their winter clothes but also leave in their summer stuff. Well, this week it has RAINED and RAINED and, naturally, Eva came out in a long sleeve shirt and pajama shorts the other day to go outside. I should have just put away all the shorts while I was feeling ambitious, because I sure am not feeling ambitious this week.

WE HAVE HARDWARE!!! Our kitchen cabinets have been an ongoing project since we bought this house (in November 2005). We could afford the house because it was unfinished...of course, we don't really have the skills to finish much of anything...but apparently we have the capability for living a very long time with things unfinished. There were almost no doors when we moved in...and we hired some guys to make doors to finish the kitchen and laundry room (we have 31 cabinets with doors and 15 drawers...I think there were 7 doors with hardware on them when we moved in) but to save money, we didn't have them stain or install the unfinished cabinets sat in the garage for quite a while. Then hubby came up with a system, and eventually we had doors and drawers everywhere. Well, then we lived with some doors and drawers having hardware, and some not. When I had my Bible study group pretend they were home buyers to see what our priority projects should be, they all agreed that the lack of pulls on some, but not all of the cabinets was a big eyesore. So, this weekend, hubby drilled and I helped put on drawer pulls and cabinet handles. They look sooo much better now, it makes me wonder why we waited this long to do them.

That's it for me this week, but there are more quick takes over at Conversion Diary!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Because I Said So"

Anyone who, like me, had a parent who would sometimes respond to questions about a particular decision with the phrase "Because I said so" probably grew up with at least a little frustration toward that assertion of authority. Also like me, probably most of those people have gone on to use the same phrase with their own children!

The thing is, it's just a lot easier to say, "Because I said so" in the middle of the action of our daily life than to enunciate what we really mean when we say it. More or less, I think most of us really mean: "Because I have a plan and, even though I don't have time to tell you all the details and considerations that went into developing this plan, rest assured that I have your best interest at heart and will do all I can to see that you aren't hurt because I love you. You're just going to have to trust me." Kind of a mouthful, isn't it? You can see why we use the shorthand of "Because I said so!"

All this has come to mind in the days following this Sunday's Mass and, particularly, Father's homily on this week's Gospel reading, in which Jesus tells his disciples, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Father primarily focused on the humility it takes to do as Jesus says, citing first the phrase "Thy will be done" in The Lord's Prayer, but then referring to the procedure the Vatican follows when approving Marian apparitions.

"What is the first test the Church uses to see whether an apparition may be 'of God,'" Father asked us. Several responded with some variation of, "By its fruits." When told that this wasn't what he was looking for and asked again, "By its fruits" was still pretty much the only answer offered by anyone in the congregation on the second (or even third!) try. The correct answer, apparently codified in new rules by the Vatican earlier this year, is "Whether or not the visionaries are obedient to the Church's request to remain silent about the apparition until further investigation has taken place."

I don't know about anyone else in the parish, but this was really food for thought for me. The first thing I thought of was Međugorje, and my vague recollection from earlier this summer that a priest at the center of this so-far unapproved apparition had been laicised. Looking up the story to refresh my memory, it turns out that, besides the flashy-headline-charge of inappropriate relations with a nun, Fr. Vlasic was also accused of "dubious doctrine, the manipulation of consciences, suspect mysticism and disobedience towards legitimately issued orders." Disobedience... maybe Father was onto something.

Not long after, I thought of Christ's command to Peter, James and John right after the Transfiguration "not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead." It was only while preparing this post that I really noticed that the Gospel passage referred to in Father's homily also begins with a desire by Jesus for secrecy ("Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it") and that this passage is only 21 verses further into the same chapter of Mark than the story of the Transfiguration. Interesting: I know that I and others I've talked to have often wondered why Jesus asked everyone to "keep it on the down-low." So what was Christ's explanation to His disciples for these instructions?

As far as I can tell, He never really offered one. It may not have been too much different, in some respects, from the Church's explanation for its policy of skepticism-first toward Marian apparitions - maybe best enunciated (in my limited experience) by Fr. Jean Honoré, Archbishop of Tours, in "The Tide of Vain Credulity: the Church's Role in Apparitions." But in both cases, the most likely answer is ultimately, "Because I said so," which, as I said earlier, is shorthand for "I love you... and you're just going to have to trust me."

Friday, September 18, 2009

Quick Takes Friday

Why is it that every Thursday I have a mental list of things to do for quick takes, but by Friday morning, I've always forgotten ALL of them???

We've had our new car for a week now, and are adjusting pretty well so far to one car living. I did, however, almost manage to bounce the $15,000+ check this week, because I put a cash deposit into our checking account twice (once I put it in as a transfer, and then I just put in the total from my bank trip involving 3 different checks plus the cash, forgetting that I had already put the cash in Quicken...I am SUCH an idiot!)

I'm not sure if I ever posted about the girl's Halloween costumes...probably not, because it got pushed aside by the car fiasco last week...while we were up in the city for appointments, I made a stop at a thrift store to look for some long sleeved shirts, dresses and PJs for the girls...when I walked in they had a HUGE selection of Halloween costumes, so I called MIL and the girls and made them come in. Charlotte declared that she wanted to be snow white, and amazingly enough, we found a snow white costume IN HER SIZE for about $8 (I saw the same costume with a couple of accessories at Sam's Club for almost $30 later that day...and just saw it at Walmart for $20), and Eva picked out a pink velvet princess dress (Renaissance style) but said that it looked like Mulan, so we are working out a Mulan costume for her out of it. Yesterday, we got a couple of bottles of black temporary hair dye...since they both want to be characters with black hair, it sounded like fun, and a makeup kit to do the white face for Mulan, etc. Eva didn't want any of it, until I mentioned that it all washed off...then it was okay. Is it weird that my kid seems to think I would be willing to dye her hair permanently black for a Halloween costume???

The whole one car thing is going to get much more complicated in October...Eva will have ballet lessons on Monday and Wednesday afternoons, Charlotte will have a coop preschool on Wednesday mornings, and Thursday afternoons Eva will have storytime at the library. The good news is that everything but the coop (which I think will move from house to house) is very walkable, if the weather is good...we'll just have to see how the weather cooperates!

We are getting closer to having hardware on all my kitchen least, we have enough of it purchased. Hubby got 6 drawers drilled and installed this past weekend, and I am hoping that we can finish it all this weekend. My contribution was removing hardware from the cabinets in the laundry room and from the drawers that already had pulls, because we ended up finding a cheaper coordinating pull to put up in the laundry room and on the drawers in the kitchen. I think it will look very nice when all is said and done. Of course, it is another one of those projects that would probably not be done for a very long time if the whole selling this house thing wasn't on the table again.

Can I tell you how very sick of explaining that we are homeschooling I am??? Eva is now old enough that the first question anyone asks her is if she is in preschool now. EVEN with people who I have told numerous times we are homeschooling. Then there's the whole shocked look I get when people do ask me how homeschooling is going when I tell them we are on a short break right now. I know that the public schools just started up, but WHY ON EARTH would I use the public school calendar??? I have no kids in the schools, no one in our house works for the schools...why would I care what they are doing???

I went to a deanery meeting for Altar and Rosary society yesterday. For those of you lucky enough not to be familiar with this, Altar and Rosary society is a women's group in the parish that theoretically pray the rosary and take care of the altar cloths...they have this theory that EVERY WOMAN in the parish is a member of Altar and Rosary because they are women...deanery is the meeting of all of the regional Altar and Rosary societies where they bring together the things they have been doing for distribution, have a program, a business meeting, a Mass and a lunch. For about the first half an hour, I started to think that maybe it wouldn't be that bad to be involved in Altar and Rosary stuff again (I had some REALLY bad experiences last time I was involved...LONG STORY) but then, during the business meeting the woman who was elected president of deanery (who orbits another planet, and is just WAY out there) asked a question, to which several of the women WOULD NOT ANSWER THE QUESTION, but instead turned it into a lecture on how exactly the letters should be sent out to invite the parishes to the deanery meeting (what should be on the letter, who should send the letter, criticism of the way she was doing everything) and they never got to the question she was asking. Now, these catty old ladies are only getting what they deserve for electing a space case as president...not to mention they elected my MIL to secretary (trust me, she is NOT the woman you want in charge of anything organizational...) Anyway, that ten minutes was enough to remind me why I never want to be a part of Altar and Rosary again (beyond the technically being a member because I am a woman...)

Okay, I guess that's it for me, but there are plenty more quick takes at Conversion Diary!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Quick Takes Friday - the new car edition

1- Well, the bad news came in Tuesday. The girls and I were up in the city for doctor's appointments with MIL when hubby got a call from our mechanic...there were metal shavings in the oil filter, which equals dead car. So, MIL and I stopped by one car dealership for a look at vehicles to see what the price ranges were.

2- Hubby decided on Tuesday night that he would take Thursday off work so that we could go buy a car. Of course, that meant we needed to come up with some amount of money for car buying.

3- Wednesday was spent calling MIL a billion times with questions and concerns...her talking to her credit union about cashing out her CD early, and me calling ours to find out if they could get the money in our account right away so that we could write a check on Thursday. Also, researching the inventory of about a dozen car dealers.

4- We took an extremely scenic route to the first car dealership we wanted to check out a vehicle out...and because of that detour, we rearranged our whole shopping plan. We test drove 3 different vehicles, a 2005 GMC Envoy XL, a 2006 Dodge Durango with third row seating, and a 2006 Ford Explorer with third row seating. Hubby really was rooting for the Ford before we test drove any of them. I was rooting for the Envoy. Hubby ended up liking the Ford the LEAST, the Dodge was in the middle, and the Envoy was his favorite. As for me, the Envoy was my favorite, but I probably would have put the Ford next, then the Durango. Obviously, since we agreed, we ended up purchasing the Envoy.

5- Buying the car took longer than I had anticipated (but with all the getting lost and running around, I wasn't all that surprised!) I had originally said "no way" to car shopping on Thursday, because my bible study group was meeting at our house at 6:30 when we finally got done at the dealer (about 3:45 pm) I called to tell people to let themselves in if I wasn't there, and to change the menu from stuffed peppers to stuffed crust pizza. I got home about 5 minutes before people started to show up, and was just lighting candles (the whole house reeked of onions from my prep work for the stuffed peppers) and opening blinds when everyone arrived. It all worked out okay in the end, though.

6- We had to say goodbye to our little red Saturn, which we traded in...and also to our blue Olds (that we had JUST UNDER one year...not making the list for best purchases ever...) which was picked up by the salvage yard (had we found a way to deliver it to them 90 miles away, they would have paid us $150 or $200)

7- Today has been all about car insurance quotes, since we only have 5 days to get our insurance updated or changed. So far Progressive Direct has the lowest quote, hands down. Still waiting to hear from our current agent (and not thrilled that he hasn't called yet) and hubby's family's agent (who was supposed to call sometime after's now 7:30 and we haven't gotten a call.) So, by Monday I hope to have all the quotes and a decision made!

Here's a picture of what our new car pretty much looks like, from

More quick takes at Conversion Diary!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Joy and Work

It's funny how God seems to send you little notes of encouragement when you most need them, if you open your eyes enough to see them.

As you may have guessed from some of the posts below, 1) we're having car problems right now and 2) we ain't exactly wealthy; as a result, we're going through a fair amount of angst right now, waiting to find out what exactly is wrong with our car and how we ought to deal with the problem of family locomotion in the near future. Between that and some physical (and impending fiscal) pain from a minor procedure I had this week, I've literally been sick to my stomach the last couple of days.

Fast forward to today, while I'm taking a little break from delivering mail, and I pick up a copy of Rolling Stone that turned out to be undeliverable. Years ago, I read this magazine pretty frequently, but neither my interests nor my sensibilities really line up with it anymore. However, the current issue features Stephen Colbert on the cover and, while I don't get to see his show very often because we don't get Comedy Central, I like a lot of what he represents - mostly based on Deacon Greg's fairly frequent mentions of him on his blog. What really got my attention was the description on the cover of Colbert as a "God-loving square." So, I got "ahold" of a copy and read the article. It turned out to be pretty extraordinary.

I already knew from Deacon Greg and a couple of other sources that Colbert is Catholic, but this article (in Rolling Stone of all places) illustrates just how important the faith is to him, and how unashamedly he discusses it. Looking on the magazine's companion website, I found out that he not only practices his faith, but even shares it with the next generation by teaching the First Communion class at his local parish!

A couple of things that stand out for me, especially given our family's current stress level, are Colbert's takes on work and suffering. Discussing the first, Colbert shows the author (Neil Strauss) two notes he has stuck to his desk. One says, "Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God." The other simply says, "Work" because, in Colbert's words, "nothing ever gets better unless you work." He further explains, "So I have 'work' here and 'joy' over there, and I try to put the two together somehow."

As for suffering, Colbert talks about having experienced the tragedy of losing his father and two brothers in a plane crash when he was a child and, when asked whether going through the "dark period" that resulted has helped him do what he does or made it more of a challenge, Colbert responds:
Not to get too deep here, but the most valuable thing I can think of is to be grateful for suffering... To be grateful for your suffering is to be grateful for your humanity, because what else are you going to do - say, 'No, thanks?' It's there. 'Smile and accept,' said Mother Teresa. And she was talking to people who had it rough..."
Reading this actually spoke quite eloquently to our situation, and in many ways it was exactly what I needed to hear. In sum: be glad for what you do have (even the suffering), work to change your life for the better, and - most importantly - do everything you do with joy. As Colbert says about his show, "...if you can do it with joy...then it's 'The Joy Machine' as opposed to 'The Machine.' Considering the speed at which we do it, we'll get caught in the gears really quickly unless we also approach it with joy."

Again, this really was just what I needed to hear, and from a really unexpected place. I highly recommend you read it if you have a chance!

Reasons to homeschool numbers 3,000,091 and 3,000,092

As I was in the shower today (enjoying one of the few moments of silence in my life) I started thinking about different things going on, and I won't explain the progression from one item to the next (it started with thinking about going to Mass tonight, and ended with my two new reasons to homeschool...) I ended up ranting inside my head, and thought since blogs are basically for ranting and raving, I'd come post my thoughts here.

So, the first one, reason 3,000,091 to homeschool is this: I know all schools, both public and private, do fundraisers...and that reason alone is a much lower number on my list (Colorado spends $8167 per student, among the lowest funding, with New York spending over $15000 per student) Even with Colorado's low school funding (for comparison, we don't expect to ever spend more than $500 per kid, per year)I find the fact that schools feel they need fundraisers to make ends meet disconcerting.

Due to the dumb cut off date, Eva is finally old enough to be going to PRESCHOOL (yes, we are over half done with Kindergarten) so, several of my friends kids have just started preschool. At our last Bible Study, one mom was telling us that the PRESCHOOLERS are required to do the fundraising, as well as the older kids. I mean, honestly...making 4 and 5 year olds sell crap for the school??? Just ridiculous. It just means that they expect the parents and other family to buy stuff, because I am ASSUMING they don't want 4 year olds going door to door selling stuff! (I guess what they probably REALLY want is the PARENTS to sell stuff...) And of course, there are rewards for selling the crap for the get some sort of money "school bucks" or something like that. These "bucks" can be used at the school Christmas shop where you can buy cheap crap to give as gifts to your parents and siblings. As if that's not enough...the school wants the parents to come in an run the Christmas shop.

While I am on the subject of cut off dates (although this has nothing to do with homeschooling), I am very aggravated with the library. You see, at our library, they have an awesome story time program. Unlike other programs I've heard of, the kids must be signed up for an official time, and must be 3 to be a part of storytime. Of course, Charlotte won't be 3 until November, but the library says that it's cut off date is that they must be 3 before storytime begins (in late September...) and she can't just join a group in the middle of the year. NEVER MIND that EVERY SINGLE LIBRARIAN has told me that Charlotte is more than ready for story time...she doesn't fit into the dumb age schedule, so she is not welcome!

And of course, the reason 3,000,092 is President Obama's address next week. Last time I checked, the schools weren't doing the most fabulous job of educating students...for instance, this says that 75% of high school graduates are not ready for, lets waste time with a "stay in school" speech by the president followed by questions such as (for the younger kids) What is the president trying to tell me? What is the president asking me to do? What new ideas and actions is the president challenging me to think about? What specific job is he asking me to do? Is he asking anything of anyone else? Teachers? Principals? Parents? The American people?
Teachers could extend learning by having students:
· Create posters of their goals. Posters could be formatted in quadrants, puzzle pieces, or trails marked with the following labels: personal, academic, community, and country. Each area could be labeled with three steps for achieving goals in that area. It might make sense to focus first on personal and academic goals so that community and country goals can be more readily created.
· Write letters to themselves about how they can achieve their short-term and long-term education goals. Teachers would collect and redistribute these letters at an appropriate later date to enable students to monitor their progress.
· Write goals on colored index cards or precut designs to post around the classroom.
· Interview one another and share goals with the class to create a supportive community.
· Participate in school-wide incentive programs or contests for those students who achieve their goals.
· Write about their goals in a variety of genres, such as poems, songs, and personal essays.
· Create artistic projects based on the themes of their goals.
· Graph individual progress toward goals.
Or, for the older kids, great questions like: Why does President Obama want to speak with us today? How will he inspire us? How will he challenge us? What might he say? Do you remember any other historic moments when the president spoke to the nation? What was the impact? What resonated with you from President Obama’s speech? What lines or phrases do you remember? Whom is President Obama addressing? How do you know? Describe his audience. We heard President Obama mention the importance of personal responsibility. In your life, who exemplifies this kind of responsibility? How? Give examples. How are the individuals in this classroom similar? How is each student different? Suppose President Obama were to give another speech about being educationally successful. To whom would he speak? Why? What would the president say? What are the three most important words in the speech? Rank them. Is President Obama inspiring you to do anything? Is he challenging you to do anything? What do you believe are the challenges of your generation? How can you be a part of addressing these challenges?

Yeah...couldn't they use all this time to actually TEACH and LEARN something???

Okay, rant over!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Quick Takes Friday

We were just talking about how reliable our ugly old car is the other day, so naturally, when we went for a drive yesterday, it started making horrible noises and we couldn't get it above 35 miles an hour. So, hubby dropped the girls and I at home, and took it up to our mechanic (thankfully it made it home AND to the mechanic!) Our first guesses were something with the transmission (yuck) or something with a belt (we were crossing our fingers) or something else entirely. It's looking like something else entirely so far...and maybe not in a good way. Today they are going to drain the oil to see if there are bits of metal floating around in it (that would be very bad...terminal, in fact). If that is okay, they are going to look at some cover somewhere in there to see if it is cracked (that would be a best case scenario). They are going to call us every step of the way to see if we want to proceed to the next diagnostic thing. We obviously don't want to put too much money in this car, because we were planning on replacing it in the next year (probably more like 6 months) anyway.

Neither of us slept very well last night. I had a hard time going to sleep, and hubby had a hard time staying asleep. Not good when we are both worrying that much. We have been researching vehicles a little bit (it does tie my stomach up in knots to think about at car loan, but that's what we'd probably do...) Any recommendations for SUVs with 4WD or AWD? We'd love to get something bigger (that could seat more than 5) if we are going to keep it for a long time, but it is looking like those will be out of our price range if we need a car sooner rather than we are not discounting 5 seat ones.

Eva's birthday party was awesome. It was really nice not having to worry about much, and just getting a chance to relax with family and friends. We had about 8 kids there, and almost 20 adults who acted like kids were swimming (plus another half dozen non swimmers that wandered in and out during the swimming part.) I was really glad that Eva got simple presents this year...she so often gets SOOO much stuff...but she got some dress shoes, some books, a magazine subscription, some candy, some bracelets (made by a friend who has 4 boys), an inexpensive digital camera, and ballet lessons and clothes from MIL. I even managed to tell my parents about our upcoming move before they came out, so that MIL and FIL didn't have to try to keep it quiet.

Upcoming move? you say...well, I don't think I've actually blogged about the whole deal, but since most of our town knows, pretty much all of hubby's hometown knows, and even my parents know, I figure it is probably safe to blog about now. Hubby comes from a farming and ranching family, and his dad has farmed and ranched with his brothers for a very long time now. To make a REALLY long story short, the brothers agreed to split up the farm, and so in January FIL will be on his own...well, not entirely, because hubby's little brother is already out working for the farm, and sometime in the new year we will be moving out to the farm, too. Of course, we don't have any little piddly details like "when will we be moving?" (not that I like to plan or anything) but that is the main reason why we are looking at SUVs to replace our car (if, in fact, the problem is terminal or too expensive to bother with on that old of a car).

I have been combing the net for zucchini bread recipes, because I STILL have zucchini coming out the ears, and have enough frozen shredded zucchini to make a batch a week and STILL not run out before next summer. Here is the one that I made last night...not the healthiest of options, but very tasty! Donna's Chocolate Zucchini Bread

ONE MORE DAY OF SCHOOL...I've been having to force myself to finish up 3rd quarter of Kindergarten with Eva, and I just about have no ambition left. I had planned to finish it up a couple of weeks ago, then start 4th quarter on September 8th. Now I am just hoping to start 4th quarter by the end of September. We got a few new items for school, including a home ec curriculum that is driving my MIL crazy. The title of it used to be Home Economics for Home Schoolers, but it also is published as Lessons in Responsibility for Girls. THAT is the part that just ticks off MIL...she doesn't think that things should be published for girls (never mind that we have TWO GIRLS so far...) and thinks that all home ec stuff should be gender neutral (wanna guess what decade she was a teenager during???) But, as we only have girls so far, I know my first two students will be fine with the "for girls" title.

And finally, I'll leave you this week with a self portrait of Eva, taken with the camera she received for her birthday:

More quick takes over at Conversion Diary.