From Happy Wife and Mom

Oy, The Things They Ask!

Sunday, after Mass.

The 8-yo: “Mom, what’s an orgy?”

Mom, after brief prayer to the Holy Spirit: “It’s a party where people go really wild and do bad things.”

8-yo: “Mom, are we going to have a snack later?”

Sometimes I think the Holy Spirit responds, not by giving Mom awesome wise words to share with her children, but by confounding their young minds so they shift focus IMMEDIATELY. JUST. LIKE. THAT.

(Sunday’s Second Reading was Romans 13:11-14.)

The (Forgotten) Paternal Instinct

Over the last few days, my head has been swirling with thoughts about fathers. My hubby being gone a lot these days for work and scoutmaster training, we’ve noticed a change in the boys that can only be remedied by some intensive daddy time. Which is why I took all the boys — big and small — to the park yesterday and left them there for 2 hours while I ran errands. They went boating for an hour, threw frisbees and just hung out together. At this time in their lives my two older boys need their dad more than they need me. They’re young men eager to take on the world and I know it will take a man to mentor them from this stage to the next with as little damage as possible. Dads are good for that because they don’t get as emotional as Mom, and my boys need a good dose of manly, no-nonsense advice as well as the perspective that only a man who’s been there and gets it can give.

I’ve also been thinking about fathers because my Papa’s birthday is coming up. He’s turning 82 this year. We have indeed been blessed that he’s still very much active, putting around the house, cooking, tending his garden and growing all manner of beans and tomatoes and squash and bitter gourd. I always feel a bit nervous about fall and winter coming, recalling how in years past he’d found it difficult to stay put in a warm house, often preferring to brave the biting cold and slippery streets just so he can get out a bit and *do something*. Because that’s how he is. He does things. He keeps busy. And though I love that he’s able to nap whenever he wants to — one of the biggest privileges of being retired — I know in the wintertime he can’t wait for spring to arrive again so he can get back to his garden. Having written all that I am now thinking that what I need to do is hunt for a tiny farm hereabouts that we can perhaps share, if I can ever convince him and Mommy to move closer to us. We’ll have fun picking out seeds in the winter, since he’s grown to like catalogs and I’ll be happy to introduce him to more… I can try and get him interested in wintersowing perhaps… maybe even plant a winter garden. And if he wants to take a walk around the farm in the middle of winter I can drive him there myself so he won’t have to navigate sloping driveways or unplowed roads. Hey, a daughter can dream.

But getting back to fathers. The past weeks I’ve been reading so many books (this is what a homeschooling mom does when her boys devour books — she is compelled to pre-read them, even if she would normally forego science fiction and other non-Jane-Austen selections) and it seems lately there’s always a father figure in these books that’s missing… an absence that was keenly felt by the main characters, both fictional and non-fictional. An absence that clearly explains why certain choices had to be made, paths taken that otherwise would have been ignored or altogether gone unnoticed…. an absence that’s a growing reality in much of the world today.

My cousin has been posting pictures on Facebook. Several of them has my mother’s father’s smiling face in them. He passed away the day of my church wedding, seven hours before the ceremony. We were in sudden, deep mourning, and though it was a day to celebrate, we decided we just couldn’t dress up when Lolo was lying in the hospital and not going to wake up again, at least not here on earth. So we got married in jeans. Through my mother’s stories I have come to know the man even more than I knew him when he was living. Though my grandfather had faults of his own, I am mostly left with the profound realization that he was a man who sacrificed, and gave, and gave, and gave, until he hurt. I still tear up at the memory of his particular heartaches and physical sufferings…. earthly burdens that he often chose to downplay or shoulder quietly, for the good of many.

I am very much aware that my life is the way it is because of fathers who were FATHERS in every good sense of that word…. my own Papa, then my Lolo who lived with us the last four years of his life, and now my husband, whose daily actions constantly speak of commitment and caring and self-denial.

I think of great fathers I’ve known through the years…. fathers who relish every moment of being a parent, the ones that take pride in pulling out those 2×3-inch portraits of their children, the ones that tell you of their kids’ latest accomplishments in sports, or music, or academics; the ones who have lost jobs and now take their children to daily Mass; the ones who hang around at parties even when it’s mostly the moms that are there and the dads mostly end up lost in the storm of chatter; those who take jobs thousands of miles away, enduring loneliness and separation, just to provide for their families; those who are torn apart from their wives and children to defend and protect an all too often ungrateful country….

I’ve been thinking of wannabe fathers…. the ones that have always wanted kids, and yet were not gifted with any. The ones you just KNOW would make AWESOME dads, but it just didn’t happen for them. I think about the father who has been married 12 years and who finally got to hold his newly adopted daughter just a few months ago. I think of the father who was left by his wife, and now keep dreaming about children that might not come. I call him a “father” even though, technically speaking, he isn’t yet, because I know in his heart of hearts he already is, he’s just waiting for his dream to be born.

I also think of fathers who, for one reason or another, have a somewhat limited view of what fatherhood is and could be. The father who dotes on his three beautiful children, but who insisted on getting a vasectomy because he just didn’t think he could handle any more. The father who left his wife and four children to travel halfway around the world to father three more by another woman. What was going through their heads?

Naturally, the Holy Father has been a lot on my mind lately, especially as he visited England where he’s got quite a few wayward children 🙂 . How his leadership is so, so needed by our world today. There are two words I often use to describe the fathers I’ve admired: GENTLE yet FIRM. They’re attributes that aren’t present in every dad, but blessed are the children that can describe their dads this way. Those two things are how I perceive Papa Benedict at any rate. Then, of course, there are the ones we’ve called “Father” through the years, these men who choose to live their lives in the service of Christ and His Bride, the Church. I’m tickled pink that I recently found (thank you, Google!) the priest who married us 20 years ago; he’s only 6 hours away. The last time we saw him we had one child. We kept in touch through letters for a while, but the last time I wrote him we had three children still. I can only imagine how pleased he will be when we present ourselves at his parish in Chicago, with two more…. one of these days, I hope.

This being “40 Days for Life”, I can’t help but think of the many, many fathers who have lost children through abortion. Often when I read articles or blog posts, I am struck by the overwhelming support for the mother…. regardless of whether the writer is pro-life or pro-abortion (funny how that works). Hardly, if ever, is the choice of the father mentioned. I’d like to believe that more men would step up to the plate and be the fathers their children need them to be, if only society would give them a fair chance. In working so hard to give women a “choice” (and there’s a good reason that word is in quotation marks), I fear we have left many men without any. The continued emasculation of our men fueled by the lie masquerading as “women’s reproductive health” is hurting us more than we care to admit.

It is a pity that we now have, in our world, what seems to be two distinct types of men: those who would embrace fatherhood and everything that that entails wholeheartedly, and those who shun it like it’s a dreaded disease. We purport to give women “freedom”, but we seem to have forgotten that women will always carry in their genes and in their hearts something that’s called maternal instinct. Whether we accept or deny it isn’t relevant, as it is imprinted in our very natures, like indelible ink that won’t scrub off no matter how many showers we take or how many drinks we down or how many pills we pop. Guess what? There’s such a thing as paternal instinct too — that undeniable yearning to beget an offspring: flesh of one’s flesh, blood of one’s blood. It is a desire that cannot be quenched by mindless sex, if there is indeed such a thing. It is still a wonder to me how in one breath we boast of being learned, modern intellectuals, supposedly holding our destinies in our own hands, and then in the next proclaim that we are mere animals, ruled by our passions, and that the only way we can minimize the “consequences” of our actions is through such artificial means as the pill, or failing that, the ultimate control freak’s weapon, abortion. No room for abstinence, no room for mastery of self.

That there is incredible pain in abortion seems to be unbelievable to a good loud segment of our society. But it really shouldn’t surprise, should it, given that what we tear away from women’s bodies isn’t a bunch of dead cells like our hair or our nails. It is a living, breathing organism that’s as much a part of us as, or rather even more so than our pinky or our ear. Given that this other person isn’t simply an extension of us, ourselves, but the extension of another human being as well, its father — is it any wonder that fathers hurt too? We all hurt.

I think we sell our men short when we either tell them we don’t want or need their children, or we don’t need them but for their seed, or we don’t need them at all, or when we deny them the very choice that we then demand is our right: to govern our bodies and those of our unborn. In insisting that we are masters of our own bodies and our babies’ we deprive our men of the freedom to be fully men. Too long we have yelled from the rooftops that we want freedom, freedom, freedom… refusing to understand that what we call freedom is that which enslaves us and that what we fear will tie us down will actually set us free. Too long we have expected men to give up responsibility and then we are disappointed and devastated when they do just that. We tell men that they can freely sow their seed, and leave to others the cultivating, the tending, the watering, and yes, if we so choose, the weeding, the exterminating. And when they champion the cause for extermination (because that’s what abortion is) that shocks us even more. But we cannot expect to reap what we did not sow.

How often I have seen immature men grow into mature adulthood by becoming a father. (Surprise, surprise, it happens to women too.) I’m not saying that that’s the sole purpose of children — to bring men to maturity, but it does happen. I say let our men be men. Let them be fathers. They just might surprise us.

More thoughts on men and fatherhood:

40 Days, Abortion and Men
On Father’s Day: Abortion Debate Should Include Forgotten Dads, They Hurt Too
Fatherhood Forever
Reclaiming Fatherhood
When Daddy’s Dream Died, Daddy Died Too
Cohabitation: Why Not?
Facing Life Head-On: Men Hurt Too
Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem

And I am no rap fan, but this one contains a powerful message, one that needs to be heard.

I’ve Had It! Converting to Mac

It’s about time I switched. This is the first time I’m able to blog in WEEKS!! My laptop is always at 100% CPU usage, it’s driving me crazy. Something that used to take 10 minutes to do now takes me 3 hours.

This is our third Dell. Hubby’s on his third too…. but his is company-issued so any problems that he encounters he just has to take it in and they take care of it. I don’t have that kind of luxury and I’m tired of spending time and money on repairs.

So I’m making the switch. I figure better do it now before I’m old and crotchety and refuse or unable to learn new tricks.


Some notes:

  • We’re finally on our last week of the Africa Unit Study. Since I wasn’t able to blog the rest of the study I’ll just put everything into one document and post it sometime.
  • I shopped for school supplies early this year! Which I never do since we shop for them year-round anyway. But this year we’ve got piles of (15-cent at Target and Meijer!) notebooks, and a new case of Ticonderoga pencils and gluesticks from Costco, and a new pack of washable markers.
  • Aisa and I have been inducted into the Ranger’s Apprentice fan club here at home. We are ALL eagerly awaiting the 9th book in the series, Halt’s Peril, due out October 5th. I’m thinking of pre-ordering to surprise Paco, but he’ll probably see this post anyway. 😀 I’ve allowed Migi, who’s 11, to read the books up to Book 7, which to me is quite violent… but no further, at least for another year or so. I’m *so* tempted to order that book on Amazon that someone brought in to the US from Australia. But. I will be patient and set a good example.
  • Paco has decided what to do with Kolbe. Going for honors but not Summa which isn’t flexible. Nice to see my curriculum still holds sway over him. I’ll try to post it sometime, perhaps after I get the Mac.
  • Aisa’s paying for 1/4 of it since she wants it for Garage Band. I’d RME but I know she’ll make good use of it. Now if I could only find software that will transcribe music for me, so I can get all these songs off my head and onto paper.
  • Our big ones are off to Santa Clara, CA for the YFL-SFL conference.
  • Hubby’s best friend of 25 years (?) was here with his family last Tuesday. B got home that evening from a 10-day trip to Germany and Bogie and family showed up a couple of hours later. Soooo good to catch up with old friends. We really miss the brods out in NJ. Fun fun fun evening looking at old pics (Alex’s comment, that was you, Dad? You were so ugly!) No he wasn’t, but he was (and Bong too) way THIN in those days. LOL.
  • Hubby brought home my much-coveted Greengate spoons from Koln, along with really cute clothing for the kids. I’m married to the sweetest guy ever.
  • This week I am cooking from Mario Batali and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Spanish food tour cookbook simply titled “Spain”. Tonight it’s grilled fish with a garlicky vinaigrette. Sometime this week Caldo Gallego, with shelling beans I got at the farmer’s market. Gravel Knolls is the only one who’s got them! A mix of cannellini and some black and greenish beans whose names I forget.
  • Nino, the little imp 🙂 , is having fun signing. I was getting a little worried there for a bit, but he’s catching on quite nicely, I think. Thank goodness I had a brother who didn’t talk ’til 2, and Migi didn’t talk much until this age either. But prayers for his tongue to be loosened more would certainly help. The not-talking seems to not affect his naughtiness and sense of humor though.
  • I’m trying, again, to get back to once-a-month shopping. It’s been a while since I did this — let’s see how I do. Supposedly I’ll be saving time and money doing it this way. Don’t even remember how it turned out the last time. I’ll post a list of my monthly shopping list next time.
  • I have *lots* of pictures to upload. But again, will have to wait until I have a working computer again. I’ll have my computer whiz brother convert the Dells into Linux so we can get a bit more mileage out of them.

Thanksgiving and To-Dos

At the beginning of this week, my mind was all set to do a VENT post. As things turned out though, there was no time to do a vent post and instead I have time today to give thanks.

What did I need to vent? Oh, the usual. What I thought of on Sunday as “financial woes”. A couple of months ago, the van’s windshield cracked. Just like that, no warning. Two weeks ago, the windshield on the car cracked. It made me want to pull my hair and blurt out my 19-yo’s current favorite, “REALLY!!!???” But that’s not all. The van’s brakes also needed fixing, and there were a number of small expenses that just couldn’t be helped, kids needing shoes, clothing, etc. Oh, and how could I forget the oven that died last week and needed a repair? And on top of all that dh’s mom is recovering from surgery and she needs extra care so there go some of the savings….. (I am not complaining at all about that, though — we are half a world away and the least we can do is send some much needed cash to her caregivers to whom we are indebted much!) But yeah, you could say my head was spinning a bit watching those savings dwindling right before my eyes…. and especially since I’m hoping we can save enough money soon so dh could get a new (old) car. Not that he wants one — he’s not the type to complain and he’s the type of guy who will drive a car to the ground — maintaining it as best he can — you wouldn’t hear one peep from him about liking this or that model, though I know he notices some of the spiffy ones, him being Mr. Engineer and all. But his car is a ’93 model and it’s rusting a bit in places and if I could go out and get him a trusty little Honda right now I would. But….

So, my fingertips were itching to type exactly that and many more little grumblings about this and that and how life is unfair sometimes and how the secular world is driving me crazy — between the oil spill and Lady Gaga and Kagan and the lawsuit against the Vatican and various other things I had gotten wind of somehow even though I don’t spend nearly as much time as I did a month ago online…. okay, Stef, breathe. Sigh.

Let’s try this again, shall we. I said this was NOT going to be a vent. So I’ll stop right here and instead ask you, dear reader if you’re out there, to pray with me for several families who need MANY MANY MORE PRAYERS than we do.

  1. My friend M and her husband, who’s been out of a job for I don’t remember anymore how many months…. that he will find employment soon.
  2. My friend C and her husband M, who’s been out of a job since January. They have six kids.
  3. Our friends D & F, whose family is apart right now because of jobs, etc.
  4. Old family friends S & S, who live in New Orleans… what else is there to say, huh? Still recovering from Katrina and the oil spill and then with the threat of storms…. you get the picture.

And I should have done this first, but I have a LONG list of Thank You Lords that I’m trying to focus on instead of doing the pity party:

  1. for a husband who saw fit to take Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course and follow its teachings
  2. for savings in the bank, food in the pantry, a roof over our heads, cars to drive, and clothing and shoes
  3. for friends who love and pray for us — our lifeline
  4. for beautiful children who keep us inspired and keep us laughing and give us reason to work our butts off daily
  5. for my God who remains faithful no matter how neglectful and dismissive I get
  6. for my marriage and its many many joys and blessings
  7. for a Godly husband who knows his priorities
  8. for the health of my parents
  9. for our priest who is as sane and constant a shepherd as any sheep could want
  10. for the upcoming family reunion, which excites me no end….

…. and which brings me to: THE PLANS!

– dear youngest brother requested a picnic, so we’re having one this weekend! At one of our favorite parks!
farmer’s market on Saturday — hopefully to get some picnic items!
Momofuku’s chicken wings! I hope we have enough time to get some cooking done together! Four chef-wanna-be’s in the same place…. could get hairy! 😀 My other brother is *the* chicken wing connoisseur so this one’s for him.
– I’m also hoping to make some really healthy smoothies for my mom and dad
– fireworks with the kids

Okay, gotta go. I’ve got laundry to finish up, two loaves waiting to be baked, and almond butter to be whirled in the Vita Mix. (The Thank You list is actually much longer, but I had to stop typing at 10 to get to the end of this post.)

Notes from the Journey

Just some musings through the past few weeks.

  • Am on Day 40 of my “100 Days Offline (Mostly)”…. and surprise, surprise! I am still on “Day 2 Project” — our photo albums. I have finished SEVENTEEN photo albums so far, and I am 10 years away from being done. After buying a third album this month, I told dh, I know now what the problem is: we are far too attached to our pictures, that we keep every single one, even blurry ones and poor shots, etc. BUT. I will not worry about that now. I’m too far into the project to restart…. so I’ll just finish and go back to it in a few years…. I’m just glad the photos are now out of boxes and bags and envelopes and into photo albums so we can actually enjoy them. I am absolutely *dreading* finishing up 2003 and having to organize DIGITAL pictures. Between pictures in old desktops (two), two of *my* laptops, plus hubby’s laptop, and dd’s, and the ones already on CDs, plus some that are stored online…. hubby says again, “one project at a time, one day at a time”.
  • Aisa is on break. A *real* break this time, where she actually has NO studying whatsoever to do, NO residual homework… NOTHING. So we’re having a GIRLS’ WEEK (WAHOO!! 😀 ) and taking a drive to Columbus for Pistacia Vera, Tensuke, and Wasserstrom. The last because she has a few more items she needs for her arsenal… namely, needle-nose pliers (for boning fish), clam knife, oyster knife, and fish scaler. Wishing now we had stopped by E. Dehillerin when we had the chance. Although, I have to say we have quite the selection in this country now, and it has just steadily gotten better since I got married 20 years ago when the fanciest piece of equipment I laid eyes on on my first visit to a real cookware shop was a chinoise. Have we come a long way since then.
  • Camping time. Paco graduated from his leadership training camp yesterday. No voice at present, keeps saying he sounds like a girl as he can make nothing but high-pitched squeaks. Poor guy. But he came out unscathed and in good spirits, and raring to try out the things he learned. I will not post here what it means but I learned a new acronym this weekend — KIBO. These boys. Is that what roughing it does to them? 😛
  • Migi’s an altar server!! He got some training in last week. I love how he is at the age where he is really getting into the Liturgy and getting serious about catechism and apologetics and just asking question after question and really seeking to understand God’s word and His teachings. This is such a beautiful time and I cherish being able to share it with him. I *also* love that My Catholic Faith Delivered gives me “third party credibility”.
  • Yena sang Born Free to Papa today for Father’s Day. I had her listen to it on YouTube after we fell in love with the book Born Free from our Africa Study. Papa used to sing it as I was growing up so the song holds many lovely memories for me. She’s such a sweetie and I’m glad Papa got to hear her sing it. Cannot wait to see them next month!
  • Nino is such a daredevil. Today at the picnic he dragged me all over the playground, and chose to climb the big kids’ jungle gym and slide down the highest slide. He sure tired me (and himself) out. He’s currently zonked right beside me. Silly boy. You should have seen him make a beeline for the food table after his nth slide — apparently looking for something to drink.
  • My oven is dead. Good thing “perfecting macarons” is #43 on the list instead of #3. I was briefly deliberating buying a Zoji bread machine finally and maybe giving up a real oven for a couple of years so we can save up for my dream wall oven…. but common sense has reclaimed its place, so I’ll be calling the repair guy tomorrow.
  • DH broke my heart Friday. 🙁 In mid-May the whole family dug out one of our garden plots, cleaned, weeded, and prepped it for planting. In the middle we put in a bunch of gladioli, the four corners got dahlias, and the sides got lilies. We’ve been waiting for them to bloom and finally the gladioli are showy in all their tall pink creaminess… the lilies are still hanging back behind the wings. Rather disappointed in the dahlias as they’re not as big as we had anticipated… but the kicker is that when dh mowed the lawn Friday he got overly enthusiastic with the weed whacker and cut down two of the dahlias too. WAAAAH. I *almost* threw a tantrum. Then he treated me to sushi, so now we’re friends again. Besides, it’s Father’s Day. 😀 …. I jest. If you knew my husband in person, you’d know how difficult it is to stay mad at him for any considerable length of time. Lord, thank You so much for sending me such a saintly man.
  • One more thing about Nino…. the kids and I have been making it to morning Mass for the past month…. except the week we were sick… and the days Nino was sick… and the days Dad and Ais had the two cars… but other than that we’ve been good and I am ever so grateful that the Holy Spirit inspires my kids to jump out of their beds every morning eager to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. What a blessing!! Even were I to feel lazy about going (and I admit there have been days….) there’s no way I can let them down and ask that we miss Mass when they want to go so much! But back to Nino…. the kids have been going to Mass… but I rarely am able to stay for the whole because Nino’s at that age where he just can’t sit still or keep quiet for long periods. If left to his own devices, I’m pretty sure he’ll investigate every square inch of that church and still have energy left over to run outside.
  • The Vita-Mix I got for Mother’s Day is getting used EVERY SINGLE DAY. I don’t think I’ve ever had a machine that got so much use the first month. It is a total workhorse and I’m so glad we got it. Everyone loves the carrot-apple-orange-strawberries smoothie, and the carrot-apple-orange-pineapple-peaches smoothie, with some coconut oil and flax seeds thrown in (and some hemp when I can get away with it)… but the chocolate-banana-strawberry-spinach smoothie is well-received only by the older set (Dad, me and the two big kids). I’ll keep working on it.

More to blog, but it will have to wait. Big plans tomorrow.

Kid Funnies

It’s a tradition in the family that when there’s a sick child, they get to eat whatever they want to eat, even if it’s something we don’t usually purchase/make (with the exception of really unhealthy stuff like candy and Spam). So this weekend when Yena was sick I asked her what she wanted Dad and Mig to buy on their home from the cycling trip. She wanted

“That soup, Mom.”
“What soup?”
“You know, the ‘cream of’?”
“Cream of what?”
“Uhm…. cream of tartar?”

Cleaning the basement today. Looks like the only way to get things accomplished around this house with a toddler in tow is to BE WHERE HE IS and clean that area. So while Nino was checking out the boxes of old unsorted toys, I took to getting rid of the old Franklin planner pages we had used through the years…. I’m still not that detached that I just junked them all… I’m actually going through each page to see if there’s “something important”… I did find two pages where I took notes of Aisa’s names for everything (when she was 6 — maybe I’ll post it sometime).

Nino, in the meantime, found a teeny-tiny rocking chair from the Playmobil line, gently put it on the floor right side up, and proceeded to try sitting on it. Thankfully he didn’t squash it. LOL, he has no concept of how big he is compared to the toy.

Day 9 of My 100 Days

Nine days ago I announced to my online circle of friends that I was going offline for 100 days.

The goals are many, my list is long. My family has been very supportive.

This is a huge thing for me, considering that I’ve been online in one fashion or another since college. Back then the screens were just green text on black, and our printers were dot matrix…. this was around 1989. But a few friends had started using e-mail and my first job called for me to buy a new PC and get online service, so I could work weird hours especially after having our first child. My first boss was super-flexible and super-tech-savvy that I only mostly went in to work when hubby came home and we could all go as a family. By then the offices at the research facility were closed and most of the people were gone, except my boss who stayed late sometimes. I had the most basic of services, I think America Online at $5.95 a month (hah!), and OF COURSE it was dial up. My boss had designed, together with his computer team, a software that allowed our computers to communicate.

So, online for 20+ years… though I’m not 100% offline during these 100 days. Still check my e-mail once or twice a day, and still blog. But the fruits have been undeniable. This was actually the result of a Lenten experiment that had to do with SILENCE. I have been reading, learning, studying this virtue…. maybe one of these days I’ll blog about it as well.

The projects (sigh) are endless — like the photo albums that have stood neglected for the past 10 years or so as we moved from place to place, had two more kids, got back to homeschooling, traveled…. it is tedious work, but B encourages me with his usual and pithy “One thing at a time”. Day One was easy: declutter my dresser drawer. “Work on pictures” was on Day 2 of my 100-day list, but I’ve been working on it for 7 days now. I’d suffer from total burnout if it weren’t for the fact that looking at these pictures, sorting them, rearranging them, sifting the good from the bleh, brings back so many memories, promises of days to come, dreams realized.

Ninety-eight projects to go.

I’m detaching, and re-attaching. It’s been a remarkable journey, so far.

Too Many Brownies, QoTD, Faith Talking, the Menu, Devotion #2

It’s 2:09 am and yes, I’m still awake. Made allergy-free brownies for Aisa’s party with her college friends (+the Walshes) and I forgot that I made it with regular coffee, STRONG-BREWED even… and now everyone’s asleep and I’m still awake. I’m going to be dead in the morning, just when little one will be running around wreaking havoc everywhere. But yum. Haven’t made those in a while and forgot how good they were!

Yena’s Question of the Day:

“Mom, when I’m older, will I go through “the phase” too?”

What phase?

“You know, the one that Paco’s in right now and that Ate Aisa went through….?”

Oh, *that* phase. 😀

I love eight-year-olds!!

So Michael and Amy Walsh and Josh, Aisa’s friend, were talking and talking and talking tonight. Bibles (Douay, 2 NABs, Navarre AND Google — we couldn’t find our RSV-CE) on the table. I interjected a comment or two here and there. Aisa too, of course. But wow, *love* these conversations. I wonder if that’s the kind of exhilaration Augustine and his friends felt all those centuries ago…. talking about the faith, asking each other questions, challenging each other’s beliefs, reasonings, etc., mulling, turning things over, digging, scrutinizing. I *love* being around people with this kind of passion for Christ and for understanding His teachings. It probably could have gone on forever were it not for the kids who were sleepy and the homework (and real work, as in JOB) that the college studes had hanging over their heads…. but yeah, we have to do that again.

Elvin and Candice, if you happen to see this, we missed you. You would have loved it.

Oh and yeah. The menu. We made/served

spaghetti puttanesca
crisp spiced nuts
mild cheddar
smoked whitefish salad with water crackers (I promised Paco we were going to get this and we did, finally!)
warm lentil salad
olive oil citrus cake with grapefruit glaze (Yena made this), and strawberries
iced chai green tea
allergen-free brownies

Michael and Amy brought salmon fish head curry and quinoa
PJ brought some potato casserole with chex mix something that was all kinds of delicious
Alyssa (?) brought a marbled yellow/chocolate cake with chocolate glaze
Josh brought a mesclun salad topped with blue cheese, pine nuts and cranberries
Aaron brought palmiers and pastry cream
and Joe brought quinoa and his guitar
Navid brought chicken that looked very tempting (it’s Friday!)

So it was actually a feast, on a Lenten Friday, no less…. but there were reasons the party had to be held today….

while they use the world and the things of this life, they use all such purely and honestly, and no further than is needful for their condition—such are the truly devout.

To the devout, EVERY SINGLE THING can and will be and is used solely as a tool to draw oneself closer to the Almighty.

Love and Devotion, Pussy Willow, Miquelrius


Love is a fire, which when fanned into a flame, becomes devotion.

The love which we begin with early on is a tiny bud, which we water and feed and grow under the light of His Grace… until it becomes DEVOTION. Love brought us together, bound us together… devotion keeps us together. By constantly attaching ACTION onto the EMOTION, love is allowed to flourish and bear fruit. It’s when we try to live on EMOTION alone that we neglect the needful things…. and when there is no evidence of fruit then discouragement and disillusionment sets in, and we mistakenly think that LOVE has ceased to exist.

The same applies to our relationship with God. The action that proves our love for our God is also the food which allows this love to grow and bear fruit. It is a cycle that never ends. If we truly want to be DEVOTED to God, our love needs to be motivated into ACTION.

Reading: Introduction to the Devout Life

So I bought a bunch of pussy willow branches, just because I’ve always wanted some in the house. They are now at the fireplace, in a vase much too big for them… to look nice, it will need at least 5 more of these bunches. I guess I need a pussy willow vase for them to look “proper” but if I tarry too long even the vase will not be necessary. Nino (14 months) has been pulling the little catkins off the branches, at first attempting to eat them… and after being reprimanded he is now simply caressing them with his index finger. Pussy willow all over the carpet, the couch…. I suppose I should be glad I don’t have to get a real kitten for him.

He has also started to draw. We made him muffin crayons the other day from saved Crayola pieces. He seems to prefer the Derwent pencils though.

Unlikely place to find my favorite notebook, but there it is. My beloved Miquelrius, in the stationery aisle at Target. An even lovelier surprise: my beloved Miquelrius, in the CLEARANCE aisle at Target. I jumped and bought 5 of them, one for each of us. What I love about Miquelrius: the color coded pages, perfect for separating subjects without the use of tabs. Made in Spain. Quality paper that takes fountain pen ink really well. Yummy yummy.

The kids have started new notebooks. I was inspired by a conversation at the 4RealTL…. and was reminded that we haven’t done a proper notebooking project in a LONG while. (Did I mention I *strongly dislike* 3-hole-punched lined paper?) But the kids have been using it for years so it’s hard to break the habit — everytime I propose switching to notebooks they balk. But Miquelrius changed their minds this time.

Paco has started one for Technology, Migi for Weapons, and Yena is picking 4 different topics, Birds being the first one. She’s thinking of Engineering, Weapons, and Plants.

Mine is the “master notebook”, where I’m keeping track of all their projects and mine.

Shameless Bragging

Since this is my blog, I’m allowed to brag once in a while, right?

I also post this as an encouragement to myself and other homeschooling mothers who worry about their children’s writing skills. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it in the past but Aisa was very resistant to formal writing classes/lessons. I tried so many books on her — The Latin Road to English Grammar, Voyages in English, Exercises in English, an online writing course, etc., etc. Finally around the 10th grade I gave up. I just continued to feed her good and great books, fueled by my own passion as well as hers, and just let her write, as she wished. Mostly on her blog. There was very little (emphasis on the VERY) in the way of formal writing in our homeschool. I did give her Format Writing to do on her own (because by that time I was frustrated with her non-cooperation and I frankly didn’t have time to go through her work and put up with the little annoyances of back-and-forth argument about what to do and how to do things. I don’t want to give the impression that she’s argumentative or stubborn. She’s very sweet, but I had to learn to strike a careful balance between giving her advice on her writing and basically just keeping my mouth SHUT. Most of the time I ended up doing the latter, just to avoid unpleasantness. Sometime before 12th grade I gave her The Elements of Grammar, figuring if she at least read that short book she’ll have the basics, even if we never did anything with it.

Well, she finished high school a year early and took several months off to relax and travel with us. She starts college in the fall. She’ll be in Honors English and asked a couple of people to write recommendation letters for her to submit to the committee. Yesterday, she got this from her Anglo-Saxon lit teacher, and needless to say we are mighty proud of her:

July 22, 2009

To Whom it may Concern:

I highly recommend Aurora (Aisa) P for entrance into your Honors Experience program. Her writing ability and critical thinking skills stand out in my memory as exemplary. I had the pleasure of teaching Aisa in the Fall 2008 semester of Virtue and Heroism: An Introduction to Anglo-Saxon Literature. This class is presented to junior and senior homeschool students as an honors-level writing and literature class. Its structure was based on the honors seminar classes I had in college and emphasized critical, text-based interpretation of literature and written analysis. Assignments included reading Anglo-Saxon works in translation, answering 3-4 analysis questions weekly, and writing a final paper incorporating elements of the semester-long study.

Aisaʼs writing throughout the semester was pointed and precise, supported with detail from the text. It was technically proficient, devoid of grammar errors and small mistakes, and submitted punctually. She followed directions precisely, except where combining answers to two questions on an assignment produced a more complete essay. She also far exceeded the minimum paper length, and yet her work was focused and didnʼt ramble. Her vocabulary is expansive, having been fed from a steady diet of great books.

In addition to writing competently, her thought was well-formed. The question on the final paper was to sum up the virtues of a good Anglo-Saxon man and woman. She drew connections between the class-assigned literature to works she had read in different courses, and to her contemporary faith and to her extra-curricular role leading a youth group. Chesterton was quoted alongside Bede, and Peter Kreeft, along with Beowulf. She was able to see the big picture, and often compared or contrasted one weekʼs assigned reading with that of a previous assignment. These skills are often found in upper-college level work; finding it in a younger student is a rare treasure.

Aisaʼs insights and academic ability would make her an excellent scholar in your honors program. I would be happy to answer any questions you have, and can be contacted by phone and e-mail. With my highest recommendation, I hope you accept her in your program, beginning her freshman year.


Thinking About Thinking

It’s summer, so a particularly appropriate time to think about thinking. This is the season when I usually go through past curriculum, evaluate what worked for us and what didn’t, get rid of books taking up space in the shelves, buy books and materials that fit our philosophy and learning styles better (yeah! my favorite part). It’s also time to not only evaluate the what, but more importantly, the why. These are my favorite authors, whose works I come back to over and over… I have their books scattered in various parts of the house — my bedside table, my planning shelf, our living room, etc. They’re beneficial not only because they’re Catholic but because they’re the products of great thinkers… and I find myself wishing often that when I grow up, I want to become, think and write and like them.

Pope John Paul II

Peter Kreefthere’s his website

Mortimer Adler – I’ve only read part of his How to Read a Book and Paideia Program
but I want to read more. Here’s a website with his works.

Here’s a guy whose works I really need to delve into more [sigh]:

G. K. Chesterton

New to my wish list:

My oldest child is 18. She’s done with high school. We promised each other we’d have our own little book club — she “prescribes” a book for me and I prescribe one for her. Right now I’m reading Anne of Green Gables and she’s reading Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America and The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. While she’s not in college we’ll try to do this course on Logic that we planned on doing and didn’t. Oy. Something tells me she’ll have a family of her own and we won’t be done, as both our lists are extensive. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being a “homeschooler” even when my kids are grown. I love getting them to think, and I love when they make me think. The learning is endless.

Italy Tips, for EB&Kids, Part III

Part 1 is here.
Part 2 is here.

The Condo, cont’d.

The Laundry Room

… is small and serves as the “1/2 bath” — so you can go to the bathroom while doing your laundry, I suppose 🙂

There’s a small Electrolux washer that holds about 1/3 of what my American washer does. And there’s a sink to do your handwashing, but mostly the kids have been using that to rinse after-the-beach things. There’s also supposed to be some sort of electric dryer above the toilet, but the condo owner said it was broken.

– Aisa: ~ Hanging the clothes outside can be time consuming, but it’s a very pleasant thing to do. Note that the sun is on the extreme left end of the balcony, the end that opens up to the two smaller bedrooms.

The bathroom

… is again, small but adequate. There’s a bidet opposite the toilet, but we are just not bidet people. The tub is as long as ours at home, but much narrower — I believe about 18 inches wide (the interior, that is). And don’t forget the shower curtain because you’ll be bumping into it as you take a shower if you’re not careful. The sink is huge as far as bathroom sinks go. We’ve been opening the bathroom window a lot, actually all the windows in the house are kept open when during the day and when weather permits — just better air circulation, hence healthier for us too. And the paint has been peeling off the bathroom ceiling, and steamy showers don’t help.

The bedrooms

There are three — one master and the other 2 for kids. The master bedroom has — I think — a king-sized bed. It feels bigger than our old queen-sized one, but smaller than our American king bed, so I don’t really know. S.ra Farina provided some sheets and pillowcases, but we needed more. I hadn’t planned on buying these when we came here, but I did find Italy-made sheets that were quite affordable. We bought our own towels as well. Common sense should have told me I should have prepared for a “move” as opposed to a “vacation” — but we didn’t even bring our most basic stuff (at least I remembered the knives!) that we take with us when we move from house to house. Esp. crucifixes and other religious items that we want around the house.

The balcony

This is one of my absolute favorite features of the house. It’s wrap-around and spacious, such that the kids can play balcony soccer (Paco invented the game and the rules, I’m sure he’ll be happy to teach Christian about it). The living room, kitchen and all three bedrooms all have exit doors to the balcony. You can view the beach from here. And check out what people are wearing so you have an idea of how chilly or warm it will be.

The condo complex itself is quite green and kept up well. In early April we were woken up several days in a row with machine sounds… turns out the landscaping guys were pruning all the trees around the condo buildings and planting flowers, etc. There’s a little grassy area in the middle/front of the complex, with seating — so the boys should be able to play there a bit. Not much running around, though, since there are cars coming in and going out, busier at certain times of the day than others, of course. Kicking balls is not allowed either, apparently. One disadvantage of balcony soccer is that the kids sometimes kick the ball out of the balcony, which means Paco has to make a quick run downstairs to retrieve it. Luckily we are on the first floor (counting the garages as “Piano 0”).

The neighbors are friendly and always ready with a Ciao or Buon giorno or Buona sera. S. Enzo occupies the door across ours. His wife died three years ago — he describes her as “bellissima” and quite clearly still misses her a lot. On the upper floor there is a little girl and her mom — they like going out for gelato. And then there’s a guy we affectionately call “Old Navy” because we don’t know his name, but he was in the Air Force and speaks good English. He has all kinds of tips on where to go and what to see, etc. Other neighbors in the condo complex are similarly amiable, so living here and coming and going are pleasant affairs. I have yet to meet an Italian who’s nasty. (Thank you, Lord.)

Next up: Shopping!


In Rome today, our third day here. Staying at Holiday Inn-Eur Parco De Medici. Funny, feels like home — maybe because the hotel rooms are much like those we stay in when we’re traveling with hubby. Restaurant (La Serra) has good food — a bit on the overpriced side, but considering that we were dead tired after coming home last night and they serve food ’til 10:30, you won’t find me complaining. My timballo with gamberi was actually well executed (no pics, we forgot to take the camera when we went downstairs), and made me think of Filipino palabok, but spicy. DD-17 had her favorite — pasta with carciofi (artichokes).

Yesterday had breakfast at the Beehive — we were the only ones in their cafe at 9 am, and the cafe only seats about 10 anyway, so it felt really cozy and home-like. Nixed plans to get in line for the Colloseum and instead went to Feltrinelli (the boys’ request) so they could read/buy some English books and had lunch at Dagnino. Give the boys books, give me and Aisa food, and give Yena a souvenir and we’re all happy. Mostly we wandered around Feltrinelli, and spent most of our time at a place that we loved-loved-loved: Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri. Later we attended Mass at Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. Too late we found out that all cultural sites were free for the week (last day today) because of Natural Culture Week or some such event… but eh. It was nice and relaxed to just wander and not have a schedule or goal in mind.

Friday we had come in early and parked near the Villa Borghese, and again wandered in and out of streets and alleys, with the goal of Trevi Fountain on one end and Santa Maria del Popolo on the other. Made it to both but the church was closed, so we didn’t get to go in. Had gelato at Giolitti (try saying that 10 times) and shopped at Vertecchi, mostly for stuff Yena and Paco will need for their sacramental prep albums. Major finds of the day:

— whoops, sorry to run, but aisa’s laptop is out of battery!! Don’t know when we’ll get back online, but hopefully soon.