Life These Days

Somehow we have hit a rhythm that is working this semester. Maybe it is working for me because I get to sleep until my Lyme diseased body is ready to wake up, and the professor is doing the work of getting the children up for the day. But I think that perhaps he is okay with things as well, especially since we put our feet down earlier this year and made all the children ages 5 and up responsible for getting themselves ready and fed in the morning.

I have been waking up around 8 am most days to the sound of my children laughing and playing outside my door. By the time I am dressed and out of my room, the school aged children are hard at work at the dining room table, and the professor is working beside them. His sabbatical has become a semester of studious contemplation for us all. Once I am able to manage the school and teach the subjects that need teaching (about half of their work is independent requiring very little one on one instruction), the professor disappears to do his work away from the chaos of four children.

I guide the children through school until lunchtime at 12:30pm. We have fourth grader, second grader, kindergartner, and a three year old bundle of energy this year. Mostly the younger two entertain themselves with continual reminders to play somewhere else when they intrude upon school space. I do make time to work on math, reading, and handwriting with my kindergartner, and my preschooler is gleaning all sorts of things like counting, colors, playing blocks, building duplos, coloring, from his older sister.

We have found our rhythm in the elementary school level as well. I am used to our curriculum for each subject now (though fourth grade singapore math is getting intimidating–I can’t remember at what grade level I learned the order of operations…but we just covered it!), so teaching is going smoothly.

Lunchtime has become super easy as well since we instituted the “make your own lunch” rule. To clarify, we have guidelines about this for them–they choose from a small variety of healthy options. The older children then move the dishwasher along after lunch while listening to a fairy story from the Andrew Lang Fairy Books (which we learned recently were actually compiled by his wife and some of her friends!).

After lunch is nap time for the three year old and quiet time for the rest of us. The girls and I start of each quiet time with a short prayer time where I read the daily Mass readings to them and then we reflect quietly (or look through saint books or children’s Bibles) for ten minutes. They go off to their quiet time spots for an hour and I settled into reading theology for about an hour (trying to get through St. Gregory the Great’s Morals on the Book of Job before Christmas), and then whatever writing or editing work I need to do for that day.

We have streamlined dinner meals to be shorter an easier these last few years, so I can usually get away with working until 4:30 or so before I cook dinner (which I have been able to do these past two weeks…this Lyme will be beaten!).

At dinner we will often have a discussion topic. We cover one painting and one work of music a week. Lately, we have been reading through the Constitution and discussing it. About once a week we watch Ken Burn’s National Park’s documentary with dinner, and that sparks discussion as well–our kids are turning into environmentalists! Sometimes we will discuss a question from St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae. Then the professor reads to us from the Bible–a chapter of the Old Testament and a chapter of the New Testament in order. We have been doing this for over three years and it is so great to hear it, and for the children to learn salvation history in a family setting.

After dinner, I take my crazy amount of meds (had a morning dose as well), and help the professor clean the kitchen.

We get the kids to bed in a leisurely way with family prayers, stories, and lots of “last drinks” and visits to the bathroom. The professor reads to the older kids from a chapter book. They just finished Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, and are reading The Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle. It is the second time through for King Arthur, but the younger kids do not remember it.

Once everyone is in bed, the professor and I have been indulging in Star Trek: Enterprise. We were both into Star Trek in high school, gave it up in college, and tapped back into it our first years of marriage. This series is new to us, and has been a good way to enjoy the evening quiet while I have been sick. We usually have time for reading as well. I just finished Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray, and am now plowing through my second reading of Framely Parsonage by Anthony Trollope.

So, despite the annoyance of being sick since we got back from our wonderful trip Out West, I am finding a peaceful enjoyment in the studiousness of our life these days. I think it is good for the kids and for us to spend our days in study, even if my two afternoon hours does not seem like that much, it does wonders for me. This is the home school life I dreamed of, and I wish the professor’s sabbatical would last forever…and maybe we could avoid all the extra curricular activities that have not yet started…

Seven Quick Takes: Cake, Planners, and Flowers

I am linking up, yet again, with Kelly for Seven Quick Takes.

1. We celebrated the Nativity of Our Lady yesterday, and the girls wanted me to make all of ours favorite cake. It was inspired by the peanut-butter cup cream pie I always order for my birthday. It is chocolate cake, frosted in chocolate with peanut butter frosting decorations and chopped Reese’s cups on top and on the side, and the middle layer consists of a thick layer of peanut butter frosting, chocolate frosting, and more chopped peanut butter cups. It is sooooo good. We figured if Our Lady was having cake with us for her birthday, this is the one she would want.

2. The girls devised a new way to elect a president while I was working on the cake.

The girls:
“We should have whoever can make the best cake be the next president!”
“Yeah, that would be awesome!”
“Mom makes the best cakes.”
“Mom, do you want to be the next president?”

“Not really, but I bet I can make a better cake then the people running…”

It might be time for the 28th amendment, but I hope someone else can make a better cake than I do.

3. I featured our house growing morning glories a month or so ago, but we also planted them all along the fence adjacent to the driveway. They are pretty stunning these days.

4. We also have some blue ones on the house, which are our particular favorite.

5. We sent the professor off to his first day of school this semester, and because we had already started school a month ago, I did not mind as much the fussing of a certain toddler-baby. He had been so cheerful all of August that I knew it was just him feeling unwell. The school week went fine after that, and we are peacefully anticipating the weekend!

6. Blessed is She made a liturgical planner for the school year, and I have been using it and loving it. It makes my life feel so much more ordered.

For some reason it is helping to have my day written down, instead of scheduled in my head. It is not that I am doing things any differently than I was before; I am just writing it in the planner. It is absolutely lovely as well, with a full two page calendar every month, notes for planning things at the beginning of each week, and hourly slots for each day.

So, so, nice. They are taking preorders right now for one for the 2017 Calendar year. Don’t miss out if you are interested!

My friend Anna is doing a giveaway of the 2017 one. So, you could take your chances over there.

7. Speaking of Anna, and our friend Jacqui, all of us were featured together in an article in The Catholic Spirit, the Archdiocesan newspaper for the Twin Cities. Check it out, mom-bloggers are so interesting… πŸ˜‰

Lazy Summer Days

It is summer break time here in the Spencer home. This means that we get to experience all the benefits of having a professor in our home. The grading is finished except for a few stray papers, and we can enjoy each and everyday as a family.

The professor likes to spend his summer weekdays working. He starts work in his study shortly after the kids are dressed and fed or after we go to morning mass, and the girls go to play. I am experiencing a new freedom in having older children. They are mostly self sufficient when it comes to entertaining themselves. They go outside or stay inside and imagine and play all together.

I serve up the occasional snack, lend a hand in the occasional bodily need, and serve out just punishments when necessary. The baby tags along with the girls or plays on the floor wherever I am. It is slow, lazy, and wonderful.

I have a long list of things to do that I did not get to over the past few months when school time was the priority. We have weddings to go to soon and vacations planned. But we also have the long lazy days of summer. We have the grilled meats and vegetables, the cool salads, the iced tea and cold press coffee. We have the hours for reading and writing. We have the joys of family activities. We have the green things growing in the garden.

I can’t help but think of what the professor wrote about yesterday when he spoke of the end of lilactime.

“But it is also well that the lilacs die. There is something enervating about too much spring vitality. One longs at moments, even as summer swells its glorious fruit, for the hard angles of Winter. To be ever soft and rococo, to turn the good sentiments of love to the banalities of tenderness and sentimentality–this is intolerable.”

The summer is only sweet because we have persevered through the winter. We had a lovely autumn, a cold winter, waited with anticipation at the bursts of warmth we had in spring and finally a final frost in mid-May, and now we can fully appreciate the glories of summer. But summer, too, will come to an end, as lilactime has. But for now, I am anticipating and savoring everyday of this warmth, and the joys of cold salads and cool drinks and lazy summer days.

When the Professor went to Boston in the Fall…

I don’t know how some moms do it all the time: parent for days without their husband or even make it through the night with an infant without their husband home and available for backup.

Some cute kid in Boston in the Summer of 2010.

The Professor went to a conference last weekend, and his wonderful mother cheerfully agreed to fly out from Michigan and help me while he was gone. The great thing about my MIL being here is that she makes not just bedtime and mealtime easier without M, but she makes all day long easier. The kids are happy to play with her, she is happy to give them all of her attention, but she also helps keep them disciplined. She even held baby T more than he normally gets held.

When I picked M up from the airport (30 minutes after dropping off his mother for her return flight), he said, “You know, it sounds like you actually had a good weekend.” And he was right, I think that I did. But I did because I put myself into survival mode, and anything beyond the minimum was a bonus. And we got beyond the minimum after the first day.

My biggest worries when M is gone revolve around sleeping. I worried the whole week leading up to his conference whether I would be able to handle the baby at night without him. I have said this before, but this baby is not the best at nursing right back down at night and often requires means beyond nursing to get to sleep. So, I was imagining being up ALL NIGHT, EVERY NIGHT and not being able to get the baby to sleep. (Keep in mind he has had teething bumps in his mouth getting bigger daily.)

But this was not the case Thursday night. Thursday night, I had no trouble getting T to go back to sleep when he woke up. The trouble was that he woke up every hour. I was such a zombie when he woke, that I did not think: maybe he is waking up because his diaper is full since he has nurse like 6 times already since 7pm or I am cold and maybe I should turn the furnace on and the baby might sleep better.

So, Friday it was the minimum, well even less than the minimum. The minimum required the morning at our twice a month co-op. I left F(normally I fight her to stay in the nursery classroom) at home with Grandma, and spent all of the co-op holding the baby and drinking coffee in the mom’s hangout/discussion part of co-op. In the afternoon I took a nap, and ordered pizza for dinner. I had planned a dinner that takes about 15 minutes to put together, but I could not even do that. That would mean explaining it to my MIL and I had no ability to do so. So, we ordered pizza. That was good.

I started asking people for prayers that T would let me get some sleep that night, and took a few precautionary measures for Friday night. I turned the furnace on so the baby would not get cold, and made a plan to not nurse him if he woke every hour but try walking and bouncing him instead. But he only woke every 2 hours, only requiring nursing, which was great in my book. And I got him back down every time!

Saturday went well. My goals for me were: grocery shopping, running, and showering. And we got them all done around playing with the girls, getting T to nap, and the afternoon quiet times. We went out to our favorite family restaurant for dinner and T slept the whole time there.

Saturday night: I had been reading Bl. Zelie Martin’s letters. In one she talked about how she had her daughter pray to the baby brother who had died in infancy to intercede for the healing of a two week long awful ear infection. The ear was better the next day. So, I thought, why not pray to our little one, JP, and ask for him to intercede for T to sleep comfortably, because I have been attributing bad sleep to teething. Well, we had three longer stretches, including a 3.5 hour one.

Then, Sunday Mass: WE ALL STAYED IN THE PEW! There may have been a lot of whispering from the younger girls, but for the most part, everyone behaved well. Hooray!

In the afternoon, we picked up the Professor, and as we were circling through the passenger pick up, waiting for M to be let off his plane, the girls reflected on how it is “just not the same with Daddy gone.”

And now my survival mode is over; we made it! This morning (thanks to academic schedules M was home most of today), we sat and drank our coffee chatting for about a half an hour before I had to start school. It was so pleasant to have a normal day begin, and I feel about 10x less stressed this week than I did last week, like I might be able to do something beyond home schooling this week.

I realized that the impending conference had been weighing on me, but I also realized that I can do the baby care alone at night if I need to. But it is still really nice at 5:30am when the baby won’t quite settle to be laying in bed, knowing that he will be put back to sleep by his father. What is even nicer is that M has such a good touch with this baby that he resettled him at nap (while I was running) and extended the baby’s nap by two hours. Baby is awake and kicking now, but and awake baby is much easier to blog next to than anyone else around here…

Ten Things We felt Guilty about Buying when my Husband was in Graduate school

A recent online discussion among friends in my husbands philosophy department made me remember something that I have known for years. We were discussing the unjustly low average salary of professors in the colleges of arts and science, and while it would be really nice if it was higher, it really is enough. In fact, it is much more than what we lived on for the first four years of our married life.

We got married in 2008, three months before the famous economy collapse, and as Sam Rocha wrote in his album Late to Love in the song Always Already Blues, “they say the economy is bad and things ain’t going like they should, don’t ask me, I wouldn’t know, you see I was broke when times was good…” We were already planning on living on a tiny income anyway (graduate student stipend plus whatever income I could earn until we had our first child). 

So, we survived all four years of graduate school, M was one of the lucky philosophy PhDs to get a job, and we moved on to a salaried lifestyle. Now between a higher cost of living in general in the Twin cities (as opposed to Buffalo, NY) and higher insurance premiums, the money did not seem to go as far as we would have liked, but still, it is enough.

We have enough for a nice house in a nice neighborhood. We have enough to insure and maintain two cars. We have enough to eat healthy and diverse foods. We have enough to replace clothes that are worn out. We have enough to pay our heating bill. We have enough to keep our home nice. We have enough to have a garden. We have enough for fun presents for our children. We have enough to afford the medical expenses of a growing family. We have enough to feed four or more children. We have enough.

I knew when I married M that philosophy professors don’t get rich, but I also knew that we would make a single income work for however many children we were blessed with. I knew that we would have to be frugal. I knew that we would make some sacrifices.

But we really have it much better than we did before, and so I present to you ten seemingly trivial things we felt guilty about buying while my husband was in graduate school:

Everyone thinks I am a boy in my green and yellow. Oh, the shame.

1) $5 pink hats and an Easter dress after my first daughter was born. We did not find out her gender until the moment after her birth, so her wardrobe was largely yellow and green. I felt extremely guilty spending a few dollars to buy her a pink hat so that everyone would know that she was, in fact, a girl. We had plenty of other gender neutral hats for the end of winter in Buffalo, and so I felt guilty. I also felt the need to dress her up at 4 weeks for her first Easter.

Easter 2012: I bought this $12 dress for a wedding with the gift card bought sweater to match. L’s dress is handmade and G is in hand-me-downs.

2) Clothing. I felt we really had no money to spare on extraneous clothing, and so felt guilty whenever I wanted to buy a few new clothing items. When I did, I made sure I had just redeemed cash on my credit card (we did not carry a balance, it was for building credit and getting the cash) or had Christmas gifts to cover the cost. I would never spend more than $10 on an item for myself and preferred if I could get it for even less. I still feel guilty for spending more than $10 on items for myself. Frugality becomes a habit… and don’t even ask me how much I have to spend on nursing friendly undergarments.

3) Yogurt in a large tub after I learned to make my own in the crockpot. You would think that buying not single size yogurt would be frugal enough, but no, I discovered I could cut the cost in half by making my own.

4) Pregnancy cravings. In early pregnancy I always have trouble eating, so I largely eat what I know I can stomach and what I crave. But a whole lot of guilt went into buying the foods I could eat, like Cheetos, pickles, ramen noodles, breakfast sandwiches at McDonalds (we saved a lot of money my second pregnancy because I could not go through the drive through with a window that would not role down. I also felt guilty buying the relatively healthy things I could stomach. They all cost more than our normal diet.

Books, books, books!

5) Books. My husband loves books, and buying books has been part of normal life for him since he was a child. But when we had libraries to go to, spending money on books seemed like a guilty pleasure. So, we often limited book buying to when we had gift cards or as Christmas or birthday presents.

6) Ordering Out Food. Sometimes it is nice to not worry about cooking or cleaning. We gave ourselves a reasonable for our income recreation budget, but it was still hard to stomach the expenditure and not mentally compare the cost it to me preparing the same food at home.

This bottle we got from M’s parents. They had owned it for 20+ years.

7) Alcohol. I spent a lot of the time in graduate school pregnant, but when we could we liked to enjoy a bottle of wine or a beer. This too seemed like an unnecessary extra when money was already tight. When we did buy it, we made sure the cost fit within the limit of our allotted recreation budget.

8) Internet Service.
We actually lived without this at home for a year. I would use the internet at work or at the library and M had access on campus. But after the birth of our first, I asked if we could pay for internet access. I always felt guilty paying so much for it, but the life of a stay at home mom of a newborn gets lonely without the instant socializing the internet provides.

Craigslist crib, super on sale rocker, M’s college trunk, and fleece curtains.

9) Home Decor. We decorated our home with things we already owned in our first apartment. When we moved into a two bedroom, I very guiltily upgrades to bedroom curtains from our fleece blanket curtains we had in our first bedroom. We also hated to buy any new furniture, and if we did we had to find it at the lowest price possible.

Wegmans was better in most areas, but Tops French Roast blend had better flavor and a better price tag when there was a sale.

10) Groceries and Tolietries not at the lowest price. I price checked everything. I knew where every item cost the least, and I would only buy it there. Also, most store brands are just as good as the name brand. (I still shop like this, but get over the guilt a little bit faster if I have to buy it somewhere else).

Even with more financial freedom, we still try to remember to limit our expenditures. It is good for our souls to live simply, and to remember the lessons we learned about prudent spending habits when we had so little. But really, we have always had enough, and I would say we have flourished.

A Year for Recovery

We are at the beginning of our second straight school year without the birth of a new little Spencer. It is the strangest thing for me to not have a little one coming every second school year. (Our lives always have and always will revolve around the college school year, it is kind of a big deal here.) During the four years M was getting his PhD we had a baby every other school year and our first school year in St. Paul we had our third.

This December we were hoping to have another, but God had other plans as He called our little JP home in April. The truth is that I did not feel quite ready for another during my pregnancy with JP. We had no grave reasons to postpone the bringing of a new life into our family, so we went ahead and trusted God. God gave us a baby, and then He took our baby away. It was hard. It is always hard to lose a child, no matter what age.

My hopes for the next year dissolved, and now each month we are wondering if and when a new child will join our family. But the thing is, I feel more ready now. I look at the ages of my children and realize that everyone is right when saying the first three are the hardest. If we are blessed with another, I know that I will be able to handle the transition well.

As I prepared for our home schooling year, I realized that we are going to be baby-less the whole school year. I saw that I could plan a full year without the break a newborn would naturally cause. And I began to wonder, maybe this year is a gift for me and my family.

It is a year to recover from all the change we have experienced in our six years of marriage. It is a year to recover from losing a baby. It is a year to recover from two bouts of PPD in 17 months. It is a year to recover from the fear that we were going to lose my Dad in January, and a year to focus on supporting and praying for his full recovery. It is a year to enjoy our new home, post basement renovation, post decor hunting, post exterior work and painting. This year I can focus on my life, now, as it is. I can enjoy teaching my children, without the added stresses that we have had.

I know that new stresses could come unexpectedly, but for now I see this time as a gift. Maybe I will get pregnant and have to deal with the tiredness of pregnancy. Maybe another family problem will arise. But as I have been praying, I really feel peaceful about what is to come, no matter what it is. I held a friend’s sleeping newborn the other day, and I did not feel the ache and longing I sometimes feel when I hope for another baby. I felt a thankfulness for the children I do have and for the time I have now with them and a hope that one day we will have another to hold.

We are so incredibly blessed by all that we have, and I feel I do not deserve it all. But isn’t that the way God is, all we have, all we are given is grace. And I am so thankful for the grace of this year.

Seven Quick Takes: Friday, June 20

1. It was 97% humidity here when we woke up this morning. It was like breathing water. I am not sure how the weather manages to do that without us all being in a cloud. M said it felt like he had spiderwebs all over his skin. Things dried up as it warmed up, but at least it wasn’t that humid and 90 out like a certain city is all summer long. Tomorrow is the first day of summer…woohoo! It is time to soak in summer while we can, and get a good dose of heat and humidity before the six months of dry and cold.

2. I took G(5) and L(3) for haircuts today, and the stylists could not get over how cute L was. I mean all the kids are really cute, but L just has that extra cute personality that get to you and then you can’t stand how cute she is. It must be something like the charm that the Flyte family has in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. You simply cannot resist it. Her teenage swimming instructor kept on shooting me “your daughter is so cute” glances at the pool this morning. We are lucky that no one has thought she was so cute that they had to eat her up, you know.

3. M has decided that it is really important to make sure that our children do not fit into society at all, even when they grow up. The thing is, I never really felt like I fit into mainstream society, nor do I think I ever could. When I venture places like the hair salon, I can manage small talk about kids, but, nope, I am not really normal. When the stylist asked L about what she wanted her hair cut to be like L responded,

“I want to grow my hair all the way down to my feet!”
The stylist smiled and replied, “Oh, like the girl in Tangled.”
L gave her a blank stare.
I chimed in, “How about like Rapunzel. Do you want hair like hers?”
L then smiled and said, “Yeah! Like her! We read about her in a book!”
Yep, we are a little different, aren’t we?

4. M has been doing a little a lot more child watching since his break began, and F (19 months) is getting pretty used to him working while watching her. He came up from his study just before dinner the other night, and she had been whining at my feet in the kitchen. When he offered to help, I asked if he could watch F. He asked her what she wanted to do, and she led him down the stairs and into his study. She pointed at his chair and demanded, “Sit down!” Then she pointed at his books on his desks and said, “Do that!”

5. We are starting to get a harvest from our garden this week! I made our first pesto pasta of the season, and am so glad that I planted two basil plants this year. It is nice to be able to make pesto this early in the summer without using the whole plant! We also have been harvesting our lettuces. I read on some random website that you can do a later summer planting and Fall harvest of lettuce. Is this true for Minnesota?

6. I have been working through a couple of things parenting-wise this week. The first is how to deal with screaming children who want to argue whenever I say ‘no.’ I am learning to be more firm in my ‘no’ and not debate out the issue. I really do not want to be having arguments with a five year old about things she has no authority over. The second is gently encouraging less daytime nursing with F. She often asks when she is just hungry or thirsty. I have been offering foods and then informing her of when the next time she will nurse (which is usually naptime or bedtime).

7. And there was something I was going to write that I even told M yesterday about, and neither of us can remember. So, if we remember I will update this… if not… here is a really quick take. Take it or leave it…

Linking up to Seven Quick Takes Friday hosted this week by Kathryn.

A June Wednesday

Planning ahead…
So, we are going on one of our family road trips at the end of month, and M has decided that I am going to take a vacation from my blogging as well. I could see myself seizing the extra free time with other adults around and writing more, but he thinks we should just relax and read Michael O’Brien novels. I am totally up for that, but I am a little sad to set my writing aside for a few weeks. (I am also sad that we are not vacationing with college friends Up North again this summer.) Maybe it will help me come up with more good ideas to take a break. I always seem to have a hard time writing when I stop for awhile, but maybe I really just need a good vacation.

The only thing I do not look forward to on vacation is sleeping, because I know that the kids will not sleep as well as they do at home, and therefore I will be tired. We are going to see how F does in a room with her sisters and us since night weaning (and sleeping through the night for the past month). I imagine she will do better than we ever expected.

Food for the Winter…
I am praying that the strawberries at our favorite picking place are ready by my birthday next week. I want to pick 30 lbs this year and can about 50% more jam than we made last year. We just ran out mid-May from last summer and I am hoping to make it through the year with some to spare and more to giveaway. I love the taste of my homemade jam in my homemade yogurt for breakfast or a snack.

Living today…
M had a conference on campus to go to this evening, and he was hoping to meet one of our old professors from Franciscan University for lunch. This plan fell through because of flight delays, but M has been gone since this morning. I managed lunch, nap, dinner, and bedtime alone, which I really loath doing, but I did it! And L only came out twice!

This morning L (3.5)  had her first ever “class” with an adult instructor who was not me. She had been on the waiting list for swim lessons and got in after the first two of eight classes. She was so excited to be like her sister and even listened to the instructor. It was so sweet to see her big smile and excitement as she followed instructions. It is less frightening to have a second child do these things than a first.

Growing children…
G had her second vacation Bible school last week, and she is so much more mature than she was last year! It is really neat to see how much more mature she is than she was a year ago. Even with her reading lessons which we started last September, she is doing so much better with. It is like she reached a level of intellectual maturity that she had not been at before.

Wrapping it up…

Since M is still out at his conference dinner and talk, I am making myself a lime daiquiri. The only catch is that I had to make the simple syrup as well, and it has to chill. So, while it is chilling I am chillin’ at the blog. I last made a daiquiri when M was off interviewing for jobs when L was 15 months old. It may have even been an evening when he was on the very same campus that he is on tonight. It is he same bottle of rum, since M does not drink rum. He prefers scotch or gin. When the few ounces that are left in the bottle are gone, I will have to ask: why is the rum gone?

My new food processor is totally photo-bombing here. It is upset that I have not yet featured it photographically on the blog.

Seven Late Takes: Sunday, June 1

1. Happy June 1! June is pretty much the best month in the calendar year. We get my birthday and our wedding anniversary. So, you can’t do much better than that.

2. Am I being way to hopeful about the possibility of a curly haired child? 

It was hard to get a non-blurry shot.

 With these warm humid days we have been getting lately, I am really starting to suspect.

Here she is putting clean tissues in the trash.

 Is this a normal way for curly hair to appear. Her hair is much coarser, thicker, and darker than her sisters with dirty blonde, straight, silky hair.

3.  We bought a tree this week, and planted it in the front yard with the help of M’s farmer boy cousins who were in “the cities” from rural Wisconsin for the Catholic home school conference. I am hoping that it will one day shade our front window.

It is a snowdrift crabapple, which means it has white blossoms in the spring and red-orange fruit on the tree all winter. This means we are going to have a color besides white and dirty white outside our front window all winter long. Hooray!

4. Speaking of the home school conference. The boys babysat our girls for us while M and I went to the conference and looked at curriculum ideas. I am feeling pretty peaceful about what we decided on for the kindergarten/first grade level G is going to be at next year. The way I chose what I liked was purely based on whether or not I felt overwhelmed browsing through each book. When I looked at a book and I thought, “I can do this! This will make home school doable!”, then I knew it was a good choice. Not sure if that is the best way, but it is a start.

5. We had a lot of fun playing games with the cousins this weekend; and I even exerted my prowess over the eldest of our cousins by defeating him in Settlers of Catan after losing to him in our first game. They are really into board and card games, so that is about all we did with them when the children were asleep. That is why my Quick Takes are so late. I was playing games…

6. We have a nice Catholic family down the street from us of a school music teacher and three adopted boys, ages 6, 3, and 1. We have been seeing them a lot more since the kids have all been playing outside. Yesterday they invited us over for a May Crowning of their illuminated statue of Our Lady, which was situated in front of three bales of hay and surrounded by Christmas lights. Our kids were already in the bath, so we had to decline. This morning, when we arrived home from Mass, there was a fire truck in front of our neighbors house and the hay bales were blackened and smoking. It turned out to be an electrical fire. The cool thing was that Mary came out of it intact with just a little brown on the back of her head.

7. Oh, and M is finally on Summer break with grades submitted. This does not mean that he is going to play stay-at-home dad until September. It means that I have to try really hard to not bother him all day while he works in his study doing research and writing papers. We do have couple of vacations planned and some visits with family here, but otherwise he will be working away. It is nice though that I can run errands during nap/quiet time or do some exercise without worrying about kids needing me.

And that is it for Quick Takes! Linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary.

Seven Quick Takes: Friday, May 23

1. When most people write their Seven Quick Takes, they include in the title a few details of what they discuss. I think that I like it a little better this way. It is like opening a present. You know you are getting to read something interesting and fun, but you don’t know what it is until you click the link, right? I was really bummed that I did not get to writing these last week, especially after so many of my dear friends and readers expressed how much they like to read them, but I literally had no time to sit down and even write very quick takes. So, I hope by starting to write them on Thursday, I can get them up for everyone by Friday. πŸ™‚

2. Last Friday we had M’s 400 level (how do you write that out?) philosophy students over for a dinner of my mom’s spinach lasagna made with the sauce that I had cooked to perfection. The students consisted of one woman who hopes to be a cloistered Carmelite nun after college, two lay philosophy students, and eight seminarians finishing out college seminary. It was a very pleasant dinner, and G and L managed to find two willing seminarians to play with them out in the backyard for most of the evening. They told us at the end of the night how much they had enjoyed playing with the girls, which is great. They left us with enough lasagna for another dinner for us, but managed to eat all of the salad, which cracks me up, because I know a few teenage male cousins who will not touch salad.

3. On last Thursday I spent the evening baking 235 cookies:

Here we only have 229, since a few had to be sampled. Don’t ask who ate 2… πŸ˜‰

I bake these for M’s last day of classes every year, mostly to have a reputation of generosity towards his students and to be known for my cookies. His medieval philosophy class knew of these particular cookies as the “Anselmian” cookies, that is those-cookies-of-which-no-greater-can-be-thought. They were a hit in the classes, and I managed to get the rest of them eaten by the seniors who came over on Friday. Please pray for M’s sanity this next week as he grades 114 papers…

4. Remember the four baby bunnies I told about in our garden a few weeks ago? Well, there is now a sole baby bunny and her (G and L insist on calling the baby a she) mother living under our shed. The mother has always lived there. I do wonder what happened to the other three, especially since two took off the moment we discovered the garden. I bet the survival rate of baby bunnies in the wild is not that high. We re-rabbit proofed our garden and since then have only seen the bunnies in our yard. The girls and I have daily viewings of little Cottontail from the breakfast nook windows:

“Now my dear,” said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, “You may go into the fields or
down the lane, but don’t go into Dr. Spencer’s garden:
Your father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. Spencer.” 

 (Actually, the only rabbit I ever cooked was flambΓ©d.)

5. The girls have been pretty crazy about dandelions, and I have mixed feelings about our whole backyard turning into a dandelion field with absolutely no grass. I can’t imagine that that is very pleasant for little feet to play on. I am digging up the few out of our front yard, but we are leaving the back for now. On a recent walk, they found a jackpot of dandelions in a neighbor’s yard and now we have this on our table:

Only a mom would allow this many on her kitchen table…

6. This morning, while the children were waiting for me to get my act together (I was doing things like vacuuming…) to read to them about flowers (our “unit study” preschool science), they, of their own initiative, built there very first blanket and kitchen chair fort.

For some reason it makes me really happy to see them doing things kids do. F is not really happy about it since she cannot seem to squeeze her toddler belly past the chairs. I am leaving it up for them during quiet time.

7. Another thing I finally did this morning was get out the summer clothes for F. The poor kid has been stuck in long sleeves during this nice warm week (which also means she did not get sunburned like her sisters did…woops). As I went through them I became extremely nostalgic for toddler G; I think I will always associate the 18 month girl clothes with G’s toddler hood.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Have a great Memorial Day weekend, whatever you choose to grill… πŸ™‚

Linking up with Jen and her Conversion Diary.