Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Listening better... and birthday wishes

Well, I took my own words to heart and tried... really TRIED... to make sure I listened to all of my kids today (but especially the one I mentioned yesterday). I hope he noticed that his mom gave him all of her attention -- a smile, eyes looking at him when he talked, and giving him real feedback (rather than an "um hum.")

In other news, it's Christopher's birthday tomorrow! (He's the one holding the little guy in the picture above. Wow... that picture is soooo old). He will be turning 12, which is painful to think about -- another one of my babies becoming an (almost) teenager.

And speaking of teenager-ness, I must say that I am thoroughly enjoying the teenage years of my children. By God's grace, we are having a blast! The conversations, the laughter, the genuine enjoyment that we have in being together is a gift, pure and simple. I am privileged to be living with these people!

But getting back to Christopher, he is turning 12 tomorrow. As per our family tradition, he made his own cake this evening. I know that sounds terrible. I made LOTS of birthday cakes over the years, but it turns out that one gift they all looked forward to the most was helping me make the cake. So, starting about 5 years ago or so, that's what we do. The birthday person and I go to the store together to get the ingredients and then have a great time in the kitchen. No other little ones are allowed to help. (Joseph, the baby... who will be turning [gulp] 4 this year -- see? That picture IS old! -- is already planning out HIS birthday cake. It's getting more elaborate with each telling!)

I'd take pictures, but right now the boys have taken my camera and are busy in their room making stop-motion films. They are having so much fun, so I'll just have to wait for pictures tomorrow.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Back again

Taxes are done...
our homeschooling year is almost over...
craft projects have been completed...
and books that were piled on my desk, mocking me, have been read.

I've gotten a lot off my plate, and I feel like I can sit down and blog again.

Of course, I've probably lost everyone who ever wanted to read what I had to say, so this will be more of an on-line journal for myself.

For now I would like to say praise God for Dr. Kathy Koch, who recently spoke at the Southeast Homeschooling Conference. In just one session she explained 18 years of trying to figure my husband out, as well as some of my questions about my kids. And she did it all by talking about the 8 different kinds of intelligences that we all have, in some combination. I am so grateful that I can finally see that what I considered to be a defect was, in reality, a different kind of intelligence.

I am also grateful to learn that my need to talk is, in fact, another kind of intelligence.

I am the sort of person that needs to discuss a show I saw, or a book I read, or a homily I heard, in order to "process it." I need to talk it over and get feedback from others before it can really gel in my mind; otherwise, it's just floating out there, nebulous, and I feel lost.

Unfortunately, my need to discuss things often exceeds others' capabilities to listen. My friend M, God bless her, is a saint. She understands more than anyone else that this is how I think things through, and has shown great patience as I've hashed out the great mysteries of the universe... along with the latest episode of The Walking Dead... and the books that I'm reading.

Truly, she deserves a medal.

My parents also have gone over and above what could be reasonably expected of others, and never made me feel like I was some obnoxious twit. I had no idea I talked that much (although the fact that I always got in trouble for talking in school should have given me a clue) They never sighed or looked bored. They always made me feel important because they LISTENED.

It's unfair, though, to depend on others to fulfill that need. People are fallible and often those closest to us make us feel unloved and unimportant when they fail to listen.

Tonight was one of those times.

After driving around in the car for awhile, having a good cry, I asked Jesus what I was supposed to do with this. One of my children immediately came to mind. He is someone a lot like me, who needs to share what is on his heart and to be HEARD. So often I have failed him, because I have viewed our need for talking as a defect -- I figured we both needed to hush and speak only when we had something important to say. Seeing it as a form of intelligence, however, is a different story altogether. He needs to process it out loud -- just like I do -- and needs someone who is willing and wanting to listen.

Comparing my reactions to him and my mom's reactions to me is, well, laughable (if it weren't so sad).

Final result: I'm going to try to remember how horrible this feels, and use it to make me a better mom for my son. I have no desire to make him feel this way. I want him to look back on his childhood with great joy, and say that no matter what, "My mom took the time to listen to me."

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Knock your socks off inspirational quote

“God accepts our desires as though they were a great value. He longs ardently for us to desire and love him. He accepts our petitions for benefits as though we were doing him a favor. His joy in giving is greater than ours in receiving. So let us not be apathetic in our asking, nor set too narrow bounds to our requests; nor ask for frivolous things unworthy of God’s greatness.” 
 
 ~St. Gregory Nazianzen~

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Happy New Year!

The first food I ate in 2014...

 ...was a cricket.

 How many people can say that?

And yet, there you go.

 My husband has had this interest in going beyond his comfort zone and exploring other sources of nutrition (i.e. "bugs") for a few months now. Nothing obsessive -- more along the lines of, "Could I possibly get past my American upbringing and eat something that many in the rest of the world consider normal?"

 Enter the Eat a Bug Cookbook that went on his wishlist for Christmas this year.

I was NOT about to get him this, so I thought I was safe... until my brother came along and decided this was JUST the book my husband needed.

Not one to back down from a challenge... or to slow down when a specific course of action has been decided upon... my beloved ordered bugs, which arrived my the big brown van on New Year's Eve. We returned from Mass to see the box upon the front steps, and I knew that my fate was sealed.

We were going to eat bugs.

Now, to be fair, there was no way that he was going to ask any of us to do it... but there was also no way that I was going to let him walk this path alone, nor was I going to let it be said that I was a coward who backed down because it was too "ooky."

Yes, those are crickets that have been baked in an oven. Nice and crunchy.

And this is me, in all my blurriness, actually eating one. To be fair, judging totally by taste alone, it's a bit like eating pork rinds. A bunch of crunch, with just a hint of aftertaste. In reality, however, I ate a bug. A real, honest-to-goodness bug. And I was not happy about it. I was on the phone at the time, talking to my parents, and sharing the experience with them as well. I'm pretty sure a lot of "eww! Eww! Eww!" was said during that time.

Next came caterpillar cookies. Actually, those are wax worm caterpillars.. or whatever... on top.

And yes, I muscled down one of those, too. I pretty much just went for the caterpillar because, quite honestly, I think white chocolate is just as gross, and I wasn't about to add that to the list of insults my mouth was enduring. Again, going simply by taste, there really wasn't much there. But mentally, this pretty much sent me over the edge.





The final round was crickets in orzo. By this time I just grabbed a forkful, ate it to show my kids that I wasn't going to let them go anywhere I wasn't willing to go, and called it done. This was actually the least offensive of the bunch, and if you didn't see their little faces looking out at you, you might actually eat this one with no trouble.

I could show you pictures of all my kids taking turns eating what Daddy made, but let's just leave it with this little guy:




Joseph, who knew full well what he was eating... but doesn't have the sense of cultural taboos that the rest of us do... found his cookie to be delicious and ate the whole darn thing.

My two oldest boys ate everything without the slightest hesitation. My third son, Thomas, wanted firm promises that the caterpillar cookies would not come in contact with any of the REAL cookies in the cookie jar.

My girls tried just about everything, but were less than enthusiastic in their responses.

My mother-in-law, ever the optimist, was eager and willing to try it all... and try it she did. Being the farm girl that she is at heart, she was much more able to get past the mental block that the rest of us have, and was able to judge it more on the merits of taste. While it wasn't anything that she would run to as a first choice of food, she saw nothing wrong with any of it, and would eat it if that was what was on the menu. My husband was able to say the same.

Thankfully, after a morning of trying all sorts of new things, the kitchen was turned over to me, and I was able to cook a very NORMAL meal of pork roast, cabbage/onions/sausage, mashed potatoes, and stewed apples/cranberries for our New Year's meal.

In more exciting news (for me, at least)

I made a sock!!!!
A real, honest-to-goodness sock!!!!

This is really huge for me, because I have ALWAYS been intimidated by projects such as these. Only REAL knitters (or crocheters) could pull off something like this. Not me.

But something happened during Advent, as I was working on various projects. I began to see that there is not just one, "right" way to do a heel, or a cuff, or whatever. Once I saw the "why's" of the various steps, I was able to see a bit more clearly where I could change things, or fudge, or whatever. It became a more fun process... like cooking, for me... and less a series of steps that I had to follow slavishly or risk ruining the whole thing. That mental shift done, I was able to enjoy it and the end result was a "Christmas sock" (you have to say it like Mr. Bean) that fit my daughter's feet perfectly.

Hallelujah!

Happy New Year, y'all!



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Amazing commercial

My pastor sent this to several moms in our parish yesterday, and it was just too good not to share.

If you're not crying happy tears after it all, well...


Monday, December 09, 2013

10 Most Influential Books

Julie over at Happy Catholic asked her readers a few days ago to participate in the "10 Books That Have Stayed With You" meme.  Being the avid reader that I am, I thought this would be an easy exercise... but it wasn't. I could think of tons of books that I have read... and many that I quote from, or reference, often in my life... but which ones to list?

I must admit that I felt very lowbrow after reading everyone else's list. There were many, many classics on there that I've either never read, or never got much out of (oh, for shame!)

But, I can't be what I'm not, and my list is... well, my list. So here, in no order of importance, is my list (as of Monday evening. Ask me tomorrow and I may change the list completely!)

1. A Man Called Peter (Catherine Marshall)
This is the book that started me on my faith journey, as it were. I was born and raised Catholic, but I never really got the whole "WE are supposed to have a relationship with Jesus" idea into my head. I assumed that was for saints, and the rest of us schmucks just have to make due as best as we could. I would read the stories of the saints and try to live vicariously through them, imagining what it must be like to have Jesus love you like that. I picked this up in the library thinking this was going to be about St. Peter, my favorite apostle. My bad. Instead, it was about Peter Marshall, the Senate chaplain in the 1940s. In this story I saw a normal, everyday guy... and a PROTESTANT to boot!... who had that sort of relationship I was craving. Totally rocked my world. Of course, it also was the start of my foray into the Protestant world, but I digress (fast forward to the end of the story... I came back)

2. John, Son of Thunder (Ellen Gunderson Traylor)
3. The Big Fisherman (Lloyd C. Douglas)
I checked these two books out over... and over... and over again, until finally my good friend (who happened to be an atheist) went out and bought The Big Fisherman for me for my birthday. God love her! They both got me to contemplate the mind-blowing fact that Our Lord became HUMAN. The Incarnation never fails to stun me.

4. Surprised by Joy (C.S. Lewis)
This wasn't my first C.S. Lewis book, but it was the one where he described (oddly) what he means by joy -- and that definition stuck with me, and I can't experience an autumn day... or take a walk around my block in the evening... without his words coming back.

5. Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis)
Great book, with so many quotes I bring up repeatedly. It's worth reading, and rereading, and reading again.

6. Yours, Jack (C.S. Lewis letters)
Pretty much EVERY book by C.S. Lewis should be on this list. I've been changed by all of them. This one, however, is a compilation of the letters he wrote as "spiritual direction" in one form or another. Not only was it spiritually uplifting, but it also rekindled in me the desire to WRITE letters to others (as in cursive with a paper and pen... not banging out something on a keyboard)

7. The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien)
8. The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien)
Alright, I'll admit this. I read both of them, but the books didn't do much for me. The story brought to the big screen, however, did. Now, I will say that my older kids have read (and reread, and reread) these stories I can't begin to say how many times, so it's just me not getting much out of the printed story. The movies, however, have brought me to tears, and affected me deeply.

9. And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie)
My 5th grade teacher read this aloud to us, and this was the first (and only) time I was read to after being taught how to read... and the experience stayed with me. So much so that here I am, many decades later, still doing read alouds to my kids (even my teenagers) and loving it. (and yes, I read this one to them over the summer.)

10. He & I (Gabrielle Bossis)
Amazing, amazing book. Jesus talked to her, and she wrote it down. Simple as that, and yet I think I have underlined something on every single page.


Other books in my list (if it went on) would include:
11. The Body (Chuck Colson)
Read this during my Protestant years, and was moved to TEARS by the story of St. Maximillian Kolbe. I had never heard his story before, and it reminded me that yes, Catholics were in fact Christians as well (I had a rough couple of years)

12. The Confessions of St. Augustine
Read this in my Western Civ class in college (again, during my Protestant years) and was again slammed with Catholicism... AND the fact that saints were real people, just like us.

13. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
Again, no to the book, but yes to the BBC series with Colin Firth. Amazing story, and I'm just sorry that I couldn't slog through the book (I don't do well with 19th century literature in general... although Moby Dick and The Count of Monte Cristo were surprisingly fun reads... well, except for the chapter on whales...) "Alas, Flask was a butterless man" is a standard phrase in our house!

If anyone reads this post and would care to contribute in the comments box below, I'd be thrilled!!!

Friday, December 06, 2013

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving post, a day late

I hope everyone had a blessed and joyous Thanksgiving!

We started our preparations early this week, adhering to that time-honored tradition of making hand turkeys.

Yes, hand turkeys.

Everyone gets into the spirit of it all...









Including my oldest... God bless him! (who made the lovely "Quetzalcwaddle" seen above)

And, of course, everyone helped out on the actual day, chopping, cleaning, and cooking. The kids wound up making everything, from the stuffing and mashed potatoes to the rolls and desserts! My job was mainly supervisory, which is just fine with me -- I love being in the kitchen with all of them, and I love seeing them getting so excited about cooking!





[I was trying to load more pictures of the kids cooking, but I can NOT get blogger to upload them, for some reason! Grrrr.]

The new tradition for us this year was all thanks to my dear friend P, who invited us to take part in something she and her daughter did last year -- walk to Mass. We live between 3-4 miles from our church (I've never actually checked), so we knew we could make it if we gave ourselves an hour.

It was COLD (somewhere in the 20s) when we started out in the morning.


Our daughters...

My husband said the only thing I was missing was the shopping cart.
I didn't care... I was warm, warm, warm!



What struck me most as we were walking was that, until this past century, this was the way most people went to Mass -- leaving exceptionally early and traveling long distances to make it there. While I can't say our walk was a "hardship," it did require extra thought, extra planning, and effort on our part to make it there. It felt good to give up a little something -- extra sleep, the comfort of a warm car -- to spend time with Jesus. (Now, before I start sounding like I'm patting myself on the back, do you see me making sacrifices to spend time with Him daily? No, sadly you do not...)

I was further struck by something I discovered a few weeks back. P and I went on a mom's retreat to the mountains of NC, and I was in charge of finding out the Mass times for the churches in the area.

Notice my two mistakes: I assumed churchES, and Mass timeS.

Instead, I found ONE church that was in the area (meaning within a 30-40 min radius) that had ONE Mass time for the ENTIRE.WEEK.

Now, living down here in SC, I am used to there being only one Catholic Church in the area.

What I did not realize, however, was the LUXURY we were being given here in our town. We have daily Mass, twice weekly confession times, Adoration every Friday, and I -- having a key to the church -- have access to the Blessed Sacrament day or night.

WHAT am I doing WASTING that??? I can drop in any day, and yet I'm too busy? Am I insane?

So that was our day... a day to thank God, to put forth a little effort to be with Him, to spend time with my beloved family, and to rest.

May God bless you all!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Whadya get...

... when you combine Frodo and Bilbo's birthday (September 22nd) with the Feast day of St. Pio (September 23rd)?

 No, I'm not kidding. Here at Chez Ouiz my kids are HUGE LOTR fans.
Seriously.
They even know the names of all the SWORDS, for goodness' sake.
It's intimidating.

So, what DO you do when you combine two "feasts" of such magnitude?

Well, you make a dessert, that's what!

But, being short on time (today was a l....o...n...g day of homeschooling) and not much inclined to spend hours making a traditional Italian dessert, we punted and did what we at Chez Ouiz do best -- being creative and making do! I looked at various tiramisu recipes on line and decided that (1) I have no idea what marscapone cheese is, nor do I want to make a dessert with it and (2) I don't have hours to "let the flavors blend." So, I went my normal route and fudged, made do, and created my own. (I am NOT a good recipe-follower. I use it as a guide, mostly)

Lady fingers? Yellow cake mix is fine.
 Frangelico liqueur? Kahlua will make a fine substitute.
Marsapone cheese? Nah... chocolate whipped cream frosting with kahlua will be a smashing substitute.

So, off I went!

I made two yellow cake "sections" (what do you call them??) and after they came out of the oven, I brushed a generous helping of kahlua all over the top of it... while reassuring my children that no, they would NOT be getting drunk after eating this.

Reilly made an amazing chocolate kahlua whipped cream frosting that was uber yummy.

What REALLY made it special, however, was the decorations.

 We wanted to celebrate BOTH "feasts," but how?

 Voila!

Yes, indeed...  you are, in fact, seeing a link of hobbits and elves led by Gandalf without the hat, which looks amazingly like Padre Pio.

The banner, which they are carrying, reads:

HBDBAF (We love you!)
HDDPP (Pray for us: we need it!)

Translated, that is:
"Happy Birthday, Bilbo and Frodo"
"Happy Death Day, Padre Pio"

We were laughing so hard in the middle of a gruesome Latin assignment over the possibility of such a dessert, that we decided that we had to stop and make it... and so we did.






Better view of Padre Pio, leading the way for the elves and hobbits.

I am truthfully not worried about the mixing of LOTR and Padre Pio, because we had a great time this evening talking about Padre Pio and the wonderful miracles and such attributed to him... and LOTR is such a huge part of our family lore, and we are well aware of all the Catholic symbolism in it. 

If it helps my children to remember, I am ALL for it!

So, Happy Feast Day, Padre Pio!
And happy birthday, Frodo and Bilbo!

[and yes, I'm already contemplating a joint "Feast of the Annunciation/Fall of Sauron" decoration that will forever fix in their minds the melding of the two]

God bless!









Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Amazing science videos!

As the very few who read my blog may recall, I talked about reading this book


and how amazing it was, dealing with the beauty that is to be found in the world around us and in the "subjects" we teach our children, primarily those of the quadrivium (mathematics, geometry, music, and astronomy). Since this ties in closely with all that I learned at the homeschooling conference this summer, I was thrilled to jump right in and read it. I have an inner math geek that I never knew existed before, and my children keep hearing me say things like, "This is like the fingerprint of God! Isn't this amazing????"

Well, thanks to something I had never heard of before (but read in this book), I present -- for all of those who long to see the beauty in the simplest of things -- this video:



Now, I can't even BEGIN to explain this, so I'll just say that as the frequency is increased, the geometric patterns formed by the sand become even more complex. As a total non-scientist, I just look at this and am amazed that sound has a shape and form that we can see (I'm sure I've gotten that totally wrong, so please, no one attack me!)


The next video was also exciting, because several of my children have gone through a pendulum unit in their science course...




Is that not beautiful? Patterns exist where you wouldn't think they would (or never took the time to think about them before)

Followed by an amazing water experiment video:



And finally, this mindblowing anamorphic illusion video...



ENJOY!

Sunday, August 04, 2013

First week was a success!

Praise the Lord, the first week was a great success! We were able to jump right in and tackle the entire syllabus for each child with no difficulty! Adding another year into the mix (I separated the two youngest girls into first and third grade, instead of doing most of their stuff together) didn't cause as much of an additional workload as I was expecting, which is another victory!

The biggest help, however, was my taking the time during the summer to type up Sean's 10th grade syllabus for the entire year. I also went through all the other syllabi, weeding out assignments that just didn't work, or substituting books when I found something that seemed like it would be a better fit.

THEN (and this is the key), my husband was able to take all the spreadsheets that I had and imported them into the program he created for me. This program keeps track of all the assignments listed and only clears them when they are finished.

Why is this such a big deal?

Because in years past, if I had to change any syllabus for any reason (say, a child didn't understand the math lesson and needed an extra day, or someone got sick and we had to skip a day or two), I would have to change the ENTIRE year's syllabus. It was a nightmare -- something I wasn't going to do willingly -- so I wound up pushing everyone to finish what was listed because I did NOT want to have to change the syllabus.

I couldn't see any easy way to make those sorts of changes in the spreadsheet, so I asked my husband to write a program for me.

He did, and it is truly a Godsend!

As a result, now I can R-E-L-A-X and give everyone the space and time they need to finish assignments that may take longer without having to change anything. If they don't complete the assignment for that day, I just don't check it off and it carries it to the next.

Furthermore, the syllabi carry over from year to year, so I don't have to "reinvent the wheel" every time.

As a result, I was just able to check off everyone's assignments for the week, and get their new weekly schedules printed, in about 30 minutes. That's SEVEN different weekly schedules!!

Hallelujah!!!


We are still sticking with Mother of Divine Grace for all the kids, with one substitution -- starting in 6th grade, I'm trying out Seton's grammar workbooks rather than Voyages in English. Don't get me wrong... I thought Voyages in English was great... in fact, it was one of my favorite books to use... but it took too much time for me to sit down with each child and go over each exercise, and the tests that are included in the book just blew their minds. It was very frustrating. So, we're going for a much easier solution, and trusting that all the grammar we are getting in Latin will continue to be the core.

I hope everyone else had a great weekend! God bless!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Pray for us...

... as we and many of our friends here start homeschooling tomorrow!

(Cheesy post, but I DID it... I posted every day this week, as I said I would! I hope I will be more faithful now that I've had a "kickstart," but I can't guarantee it. One day at a time, people!)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

I DID IT!!!!

Praise the Lord, I did it!

Seven (homeschool-aged) children.
Seven different grades.
At least 6 subjects per child.

ALL PLANNED OUT FOR THE YEAR!

That is such a HUGE load taken off my back!

All I have to do now is generate goal sheets for each child (I've got them all except for the two oldest, I believe) and I will be ready for Monday!

Thank You, Lord!

Friday, July 26, 2013

I've been busy...


10 jars of peach jam (the 10th one is already in the refrigerator. I think peach is the new favorite!)
5 loaves of bread
16 pints of diced tomatoes

(the rest of the fruit is what I didn't get to can today. Grace arranged it nicely for me!)

So far, this is just one big learning adventure. Jam is ridiculously easy, and so is bread (if you have a wheat grinder and a bosch mixer!), but tomatoes were a bit more iffy for me. They are right on the border of "not acidic enough," which scares me. All the books said that adding lemon juice would do the trick, but there's always that "what if" that runs through my mind.

I wish I had a place that I could display all my hard work... something like this... but we don't. Now that our dishwasher passed over into the great beyond, perhaps my husband can take that space and turn it into a walk-in pantry.

"But Ouiz! Don't you miss your dishwasher?"

I do, but then again, we never had one growing up, and with (almost) 3 teenagers in the house, I think we can handle washing dishes. It's annoying, but not devastating by any stretch of the imagination!

I must say, however, that I have absolutely NO clue how Ma Ingalls did this on a regular basis. Well, for one, she didn't have nearly the variety of food available that we do today (thank You, Lord!), but the time and effort required to put up food for the winter is simply unfathomable. If my family had to live on what I personally was able to can or freeze, we'd be gnawing on our shoes before the end of October.

My dear friend P has been at this much more wholeheartedly than I have been, and she has put up all sorts of things, from tomatoes, jam, corn, and beans to crowder peas (???), salsa, and spaghetti sauce. I was given a tour of her beautiful pantry this evening, and even with as much work as she has put in (and it has been substantial!) she would not be able to feed her family through the winter. That's scary.

How did these pioneer women do it?