Friday, August 31, 2012

7 quick takes

I can hear the babies stirring the dog water with spoons. I'm pretty sure they have put all the food from his bowl into the water. I could get up and freak out. On  the other hand, I can hear where they are. So if I freak out they will just go do something worse, probably.
Emily asked how we deal with whining and I've been wandering around the last two days thinking about what we do. Clearly, whatever we're doing works only part of the time or I wouldn't be using the word 'whine' as often as I do. It is like battling down the Assyrians. You may have them off your back for a few minutes but the second you think you can relax, there they are again.

So what are some things that have worked? It entirely depends on the child.
Elphine doesn't whine, much, so that's a great help.

So far Gladys doesn't whine either. She does have a high pitched mosquito voice but that's only because no one really listens to her. You can usually get her to stop screaming by pressing on her head and making her say it slowly. Usually she just wants to tell you that she needs another band-aid.
Romulus goes down at the end of his sentences, in a charmingly authoritative, though unacceptable way and so it doesn't sound like whining. When you tell him to stop, he nods his head and widens his eyes and stops, for a tiny minute.

So it really comes down to Alouicious, who is a preeminent whiner, and Marigold.
Marigold, for the moment, just has to be given a fried egg when she starts whining. She is usually too busy to eat and so when she starts to do this horrible dying cow moan, its time to fry an egg. In the last month she has whined less and been saying things like, 'I hungry egg' or, 'I thirsty water'. This has been an enormous help not only so that we don't loose our minds, but also in the matter of everybody else figuring out what a Helping Verb is.
Alouicious is like water dripping on a stone. My first response is usually, 'Stop whining. The Israelites whined in the wilderness and they all died. God hates whining. Stop it.' And then, because that doesn't stop it, I say something like, 'Stop. Lower your voice. Ask me again in a normal way.' And then, 'Here is what you sound like. WEeeeeeaahhhhhhh. Now try to sound like me.' And I lower my voice way down low and sing 'Old Man River'. And then we figured out that Alouicious is usually fine if he has some control over his life. So, so far in the last three weeks There Hasn't Been Any Whining Yet because I gave him his list on the first day and told him how much time he can have on his kindle and let it go. He reports to me obsessively even though I have very little interest in where he is on his agenda. Of course, he reports to me obsessively about everyone else as well, and that is not acceptable.

My other life long parenting strategy is to give as little information about what's coming next as possible. There is nothing worse than everyone thinking they're going to the library for a few hours and then have it not happen. So, we don't tell them Anything and then, when its time to go, do a drill sergeant routine to get them dressed and in the car as suddenly as possible. It takes ten minutes and there's no time for anyone to say, 'Where are we going? Why are we going? What are you going to get me? Can I have a muffin? I'm hungry. I need to go to the bathroom. I don't wannnaaaa go.' If you go from lolling about playing to suddenly scrambling to get in the car, there is no anxiety about the future and no time to get something out of your mother. I also rarely give warning that someone is coming over to play because that way, if someone gets sick or cancels, I don't have to hear about the horrible disappointment for the rest of the week.
Well, clearly, that should have been its own post. In possible later posts, How to Fail at Potty Training Every Single Time.
I have been longing to watch the Republican Convention but I honestly can't stay up for it. Why on earth does the main stuff have to start so late? I go to sleep at 9 o'clock! I did watch Ann Romney yesterday afternoon to see what all the hype was about and...well....really. I'm not married to Mitt Romney. In no way do I want to go home from any dance with him. And this little American Experiment, to me, does not even remotely resemble a dance. I'm not looking for a candidate who will make me feel 'safe' or who will be the hardest worker ever, or who will relate to me personally. What on earth with the 'relating personally' factor. Even Anderson Cooper's poor sad beautiful eyes as he tries to get his panel to figure out whether or not Romney is being 'personal' enough does not move me to care. To channel Mark Steyn, the modern world is coming to a fiscal end. Why isn't everyone running around the stage tearing their clothes, pouring ash on their heads and wailing with repentance and fear? That, I would stay up to watch.
If this is true, it would be amazing. I used to throw my malaria prophylactic into the building site at my boarding school, hoping to get sick to avoid school banquets. I got sick often but never missed one of those difficult and uncomfortable evenings. In fact, one year, I fell horribly ill on a Monday before but then was well enough the night of and was forced to go. Still, I was gorgeously thin. Well, maybe not 'gorgeous', maybe more gaunt.
I guess I better get up and feed the ravenous pack. There wasn't enough free bread at Shepherd's Bowl so I'll have to make pancakes instead of french toast. And we're out of syrup so they'll have to have jam or expensive golden syrup. And Romulus will cry because he would rather have 'Hot Cereal'. And I will get angry because what kind of horrible little kid would rather have Cream of Wheat from a box than real pancakes.
Yesterday I got up to find that Matt had not just given Alouicious a cup of coffee, but had given ALL THE CHILDREN COFFEE, including the baby.
"What" he said when I started crying, "they wanted to know what it tastes like."
"Well" he said, "Its mostly milk and sugar."
"Not with your new routine" he said, "You should have been up two hours ago."

Have a great weekend and go check out Jen!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

a canine interlude

It was vouchsafed to me yesterday that I had mentioned only to a few people that we found the owner of the white dog--just a few minutes after I snapped this picture in fact.

The night before our first day of school--because I can feel that the devil, or someone, doesn't really want me to do school every day, including yesterday and possibly today and even some days last week--we took the dogs for a little walk and on our walk someone recognized him and stopped us and then ran to get his owner while we went home and waited. Joy abounded, as you can imagine, except in the hearts of all six children who started our first school day with long tearful prayers for the health and safety of 'Bonzoo' as we finally had been calling him. His name turned out to be Brutus...hardy har har.

For many subsequent days Marigold wandered around asking for the location of 'Bonzoo'. "Where Bonzoo?" she would whine pitifully and then answer herself, "Bonzoo gone." Balancing her distress was Matt's euphoric good mood. He practically jumped and skipped through the week, grinning and talking about the providence of God in caring for the dog and his owner. Everyone secretly wanted to hit him.

Turns out, in the end, that Asherbanapal also probably missed him. Ashy has been suffering an increasingly funny tummy and we've been having longer and longer walks while he tries to sort everything out. Yesterday we ended up at the vet with rather an embarrassing mess and a long, and finally, expensive amount of clean up. Woe is me. "What can cause the excessive growth of this little bacteria?" I inquired of the nurse as the vet hadn't really had time for us after the awful foul scene of the poor dog's derriere.
"A change in routine, stress, loss" the nurse rattled off.

So, there we are. Ashy must have missed Bonzoo. I can't think of any other big changes in his placid and routine bound life. And no, I don't accept that being sat on by six children would be "stressful". Children, you might remember, are a Gift from the Lord and therefore "not stressful". (That was just a little joke.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

a little learning

So what are we doing this year, for school?
Some of you asked, perhaps foolishly, but maybe you know best.

For poetry Elphine and Alouicious will be memorizing a couple of Tennyson poems--"The Eagle" and "The Flower in the Crannied Wall" even though I think its been identified as one of the worst poems ever written (where did I read that?)--and working through the new Roman Roads Media Grammar of Poetry, the first three lessons of which have been fun and interesting. Romulus and Gladys will go memorizing poems we happen to come along that we like. Right now those are "The Owl and the Pussycat", "The Puffin" and "Custard the Dragon".

For Grammar and Writing we're using Classical Writing again. The two oldest are doing the Aesop books. Romulus will be working through Memoria Press' Story Time Treasures if he could just.... remember... the..stupid....alphabet. We're already behind because its either been fall behind or run screaming around the yard from frustration. I jest, but only a little. Romulus reads just fine when he chooses to remember the letters. His intelligence is matched almost perfectly by his indolence.

For literature/vocab we're using Memoria Press Lit. Guides. Elphine is starting out with Heidi. Alouicious is finishing King Arthur from last year because it's really a fifth grade guide and he needs a lot of help. After those we'll do The Trojan War by Olivia Coolidge and then they can pick what they'd like to do next.

For history we're listening to The Story of the World volumes one and two, carrying on with the Veritas Press history cards in chronological order and doing both Memoria Press' Famous Men of Rome and D'Aulaire's Greek Myths.

Are you bored yet? WE AREN'T. We are mesmerized by the beauty of all these books and the chance to read and read and read and read and read and write and write and write some more.

For geography we're doing Memoria Press' Middle East, North Africa and Europe with a constant soundtrack of Geography Songs to pep it up.

Math, what can I say, we ditched Singapore Math and jumped into the Life of Fred boat. And what a marvelous boat it is. The constant squabbling over who gets the book when is charming.

But we didn't totally drop Singapore, we're using them for Science, overlaid with Lyrical Science songs.

As for foreign languages, Marigold, Gladys and I are dabbling in Pimsleur Mandarin, Elphine and Alouicious are whining their way through Visual Latin and all of us together are doing French with the Memoria Press Student Guide as a base but that's just so we'll do it.

On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays we say Morning Prayer (rite two, 1979, and believe me, I feel guilty every other day) with The Shorter Catechism for Young Children (not the Heidelberg, yet, sorry Matt) and John 3 plunked in instead of lessons and singing instead of the psalm (things like "O the deep deep love of Jesus", "New every morning", old ICA songs, and "Jesus loves me") . Don't worry, we read the bible in the evenings...sometimes...when we don't have to be somewhere.

On Fridays we'll do art and music, even if it kills us.
And that's about it.
(OH! Elphine and Alouicious are having proper piano lessons as well.)
As if that wasn't enough.

Monday, August 27, 2012

a new school year, all fresh and shiny

 The children swimming in that beautiful lake.
So we've been back to school for two weeks. The weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth has been within bound and reason. It's hard for everyone to switch over from waking up and playing to waking up and whining about having to work. Phew. Me chief of all. Add to the insanity that I decided I ought to wake up half an hour earlier this year and you have a less than placid kick off. The first week I wandered around in a drowsed stupor and the second week I skipped waking up early because of our little unplanned holiday. So this week will be just like the first week.

But I gain an awful lot in that half hour. First of all, I actually get out of bed, work out and do laundry. And then while the kids are waking up and asking stupid questions ("Are we doing school? Should I get dressed? Can I go buy a toy at the store?")  I get breakfast made and the house picked up. By pushing heartily through the early morning, when the children finish up school in the afternoon, I am not facing another mountain of house work. Instead I lie back in my new chair and think about blogging. Except that so far I haven't actually had the mental energy to do it. But I'm really hoping that will change as we acclimatize ourselves to structure and work again.

A friend recently asked "How do you do it all!" with a generous measure of admiration and possible disbelief in her voice. I've thought about this often since she asked, nearly every day in fact, and I think I have an answer. First of all, I don't do it All. I do a lot, but I don't do it All. I do a lot more than when I had one and then two and then three and then even four children. With each child comes a greater capacity to work. You discover that getting up one more time with a vomiting child isn't going to kill you, its just going to make you very very angry and tired. And along with the capacity to work comes the ability to discover what you really care about. So, over the last few years, I've discovered that I have to have a clean house (I know, my mother finds this hard to believe). I don't have to be on top of the laundry, I don't have to read books, I don't have to cut everyone's fingernails, but I do have to have the house picked up in order to be able to think.

Second, the babies stop being babies. I wish someone had told me this a long time ago, although I may not have been in a position to hear it so never mind. When you have a couple of babies to haul around, or even one, then why on earth are you trying to DO anything but make dinner and occasionally go to the mall? Babies don't need enrichment or school. They just need regular food and regular attitude checks. Bigger kids need enrichment and school, but babies, so help me, need to spend more time napping.
Third, big kids can do a lot of work. And work is so good, so life giving for everyone. School itself is interesting and fun. Cleaning the kitchen and having it look gleaming and pretty is satisfying. Making your bed and having your room picked up makes it possible to think AND to have friends over to play.

Elphine really loves to tick things off a list. Alouicious doesn't care so much, but its helpful to know what to do every day. He likes to wake up very early and do everything he can before other people wake up to distract him. Romulus, on the other hand, is learning about timing.
"Are you ready to do some work?" I asked the other day.
"Nah," he said, "I need to finish this game."
"Okay" I said cheerfully because I didn't want stop sweeping the floor. But three minutes later when I had started to make bread and he came in and announced imperiously, "Now I will do math."
I said, "Oh no you won't. I just waited for you, now you'll wait for me. And don't talk to me that way."

Maybe another time I'll write about what kind of curriculum we're using, unless it sounds boring to all you Gentle Readers. I am extremely interested in the subject but am told by Matt that it can be tiresome to hear too much about it. Well, he didn't say it quite like that but his eyes glazed over and I heard a gentle snoring after a few minutes of telling him about how many Literature Guides I thought we could do in one half of a year. More interesting to me is this cake--Nigella's Baby Bundt cake--which I made for my birthday. It has a hint of lime and needed a hint of brandy or something but that addition seemed a touch extravagant at the time. After eating it with fruit, a drizzle of golden syrup and full fat cream, you can eat it again three days later lathered in jam. And when your child says, "I like syrup more than jam," you can say, "how can you like bought syrup more than my gorgeous home made jam, you little twit" and then he can say, "well, I do really like your jam" very sheepishly. And now I'm going to remove a large marker from the baby and put her to bed because, remember, Babies Need More Naps.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

happy birthday to me, I'm 100 and 3

So starts a ghastly song made up by the children last year. It goes on

And I'm still in pre-school
And I want my Mommmyyyy.
But my Mommy's at work
And she gave me cheese pizza
And I want my ice-cream.

All sung to the tune of 'Happy Birthday'. They sing it loudly all year. Fortunately for me, I haven't heard it once today, even though it is my birthday, because Five, read FIVE, whole Kennedy children are up swimming themselves silly at a little cottage on a beautiful lake. The baby only remains to me for the rest of the day and she is napping.

And so, to celebrate the quiet and the occassion, I'm going to make
And then I expect I will be so exhausted I'll have to have a lie down.
Here is me, having lived through another year.
Clearly, to maintain my girlish figure, I won't be eating the jam nor pie nor cake nor even the bread, but I will smell it and look at it feel sad about the impermanence of life due to the terrible ravages of sin in the world. That's the sort of thing I like to do on a birthday. Given an empty jar and a dead balloon, I will happily put the balloon in the jar and take it out again and help everyone around me to see that life should be taken seriously. A foolish man jumps about and sings and eat cakes, but the man who mourns on his birthday isn't surprised by anything. Isn't that in the bible somewhere?

Friday, August 10, 2012

7 quick takes

It is gray and pouring rain. It feels like we're about to have winter already. Seriously considering taking up a seasonal affective disorder because, well, it seems to be there for the taking.
We're starting school next week anyway. Let it rain because the children will have LOTS to do. Think its going to be a little shock for their poor tender selves. Can hear the agonized whining already, just because they've had to make their beds and practice the piano this morning.
If you can call that plinking that I'm listening to right now, "practicing the piano".
We have a proper piano teacher! And so it won't be my problem when they have to explain why they don't know the song. Hard to put into words how happy I am about this.
So what do you do on your last full day of summer holiday and its pouring rain? If you're a child that is?
Watch this funny little guy.

My mom thought that "beyblading" was some cool Olympic sport. Sorry Mom! It turns out to be the above. And All Six of my children do it all day long, even the baby. She picks up anything she can find and flings it down hoping it will spin--plates, forks, grapes, books, everything--shouting what sounds to be 'epic battle' but I can't really tell.
But if you're me on your last day of summer "holiday" you fold laundry, finish making up a strict school schedule and wait for the last evening of VBS. Five evenings of four children going to hear about Jesus and two children going to bed early has brought about white fish baked with curry powder rubbed all over (I don't care, I like ordinary curry powder) and laid over a bed of stir fried vegetables from my garden. Well, I say 'stir fry' but that's just because I stirred them around in a pan and lathered them with butter and curry powder until they were practically fried. AND then, the next night, I sauteed shrimp with garlic, chives, some kind of old chili pepper from the back of the fridge and tomato from my garden, swirled round with a dollop of greek yogurt, a cutting of basil and a lather of hot chili oil at the end. So delicious. Honestly, I would have paid ten dollars to eat it.
Tomorrow we will have been married eleven years. Eleven years of remarkable eating. Eleven years of a wrecked house and constant cleaning up. Eleven years of pastoring and studying and preaching and teaching. Eleven years of pretty good, though sometimes very cheep, wine. Eleven years of stupid exercise. Eleven years of arguing about which documentary to watch. Eleven years of shouting at children to go back to sleep. Eleven years of talking theology and politics. Eleven  years of reading the Onion, Failblog, Cakewrecks, and other stupid stuff on the interwebs. Eleven years of the common things of life. Eleven years of sheer bliss.
So now I guess I'll go have a stab at that "strict schedule". You have to make it, you know, so you can have something Not to do. Every morning over the next ten months I'll wake up and look at my plan for the day and say, to myself and anyone else standing around, 'boy, that was a dumb idea. Who thought of that?' And then go on and do something entirely different. But if I didn't have the plan, where would I be? This year I've got a fourth grader, a third grader, a first grader, a kindergartener, a preschooler and a menace. ALL that will be accounted for in my plan, as well as blogging, laundry, exercise, tea with a friend, occassional Shepherd's Bowl cooking, Sunday School teaching and organizing, maybe a little Altar Guild, some texting and internet surfing and then, also, constant Pimsleur Mandarin CD's in the background so I can shout 'BE QUIET, I JUST MISSED THE ENGLISH!'

Saturday, August 04, 2012

on a saturday evening

Lately we've been exclusively eating frittata on Saturday evenings.

Eighteen or so eggs, a dollop of full fat cream, chives or sauteed onion or something, a golden mound of some kind of cheese, sometimes some sausage, all whipped together and plunked into a pan and into the oven at 350 for a while--until its golden and puffy and a knife comes out clean.

And a massive loaf of bread sliced up and lathered with butter. And a big salad.

Doesn't it sound all golden and lovely?
But here's the thing. Tonight There Were No Leftovers.
Let me repeat....There Were No Leftovers. The wretched children ate every single scrap of food and then cast their eyes about for whatever else there might be.

Which just, well, it just made me angry. Leftovers are such an integral and necessary part of a well functional household. If you  don't have leftovers, well, where are you? Stuck making a dinner every single night, that's where.

Its a crying, as they say, shame. Two nights ago I made gorgeous mounds of strawberry shortcake. Two cups flour, one tablespoon baking powder, pinch salt, two-thirds cup lard, one cup milk, and, just to be really special, a spattering of cinnamon and a Whole Third Cup of Real Sugar, mushed together onto a baking pan at 350 for a while till a knife came out clean. And then a whole glorious bowl of strawberries with sugar until they were  running with juice and sweetness. Only three of the six children were there so I figured there would clearly be a chance to nip in well after dark and just finish it up. What? You don't bake with an eye towards that last closing of  the fridge whenever everyone else isn't around?

Anyway, There weren't Any Leftovers. None. Three children, one vat of strawberry shortcake, No Leftovers. It was almost enough to make me give up. Really, what's the point. I might as well just crack open a can of spam and climb under my bed.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

the fence post

As many of you know, we live right next to our place of work, Church of the Good Shepherd (COGS). Matt once did a little video of his 30 second "commute" with much smug hilarity. On Sunday mornings we get all dressed up and trip lightly up our little walk to the back door of the church. Of course, when I say we, I mean Matt and all the children. It takes me a teensy bit longer to get there what with the fact that I can never find my shoes and someone has walked off with my Sunday School Lesson and then it turns out that the person who hid my shoes had also carefully scattered all the other shoes in the whole house all over the living room so that if we invite anyone home for a nip of sherry they will have to remove a wide ranging assortment of all fashions/all season's footwear. So anyway, this is the view out of my bedroom window. Matt "opened up a bed", a habit to which he has recently become addicted, and then, in a stroke of brilliance, filled it with all this lovely pebble so that we can sit about feeling practically French (except that it's way to muggy and buggy just this moment).
 If you stand on our walkway this is the view towards the parking lot. I've said before that if you sit quietly in this little area you can hear everyone going by across the parking lot, to and from the bus and grocery, and you can hear everything that's said in the church kitchen. Not that I would every sit and listen, mind you, but it may be that other people, who might be in my back garden, might be sitting quietly. You never know. Mostly, though, I don't sit. The moment I sit I leap up again to destroy some weed or slug or horrible beatle or something.

The space between our house and the church is very sheltered and safe. But by the point of the walkway, there has been a wide open vast expanse of green encompassing a straight shot to the main road on one side, and a straight shot to the other quieter, though highly foottrafficked road on the other. Either way, if a child or dog or cat wanted to make a break for it, there wasn't a thing besides our vigilance to stop them. Although, to be fair, my children, because of all the fear of God we threatened into them, are pretty obedient. Its all the strangers walking by and/or breaking into the church (well, I say 'all' but its only happened twice) that make me really nervous.
So now, when you look at the church from the quieter road, here is what you see. And who knows how many children and dogs might be back there? None, maybe, or a dozen. Ha!

And notice that the lovely big church airconditioner is outside of my bit. So guess whose children aren't out there wrecking and breaking everything? That's right! Mine aren't. They're on my side wrecking and breaking their own toys.

And here is that same section from the otherside, in what is now a capacious amount of lawn and what will eventually be filled with beds of flowers and vegetables. Matt is planning to "dig out beds" until there is only one tiny section of grass and there he will put in a "water feature". Knock yourself out, babe.
We chucked the pink plastic house fifteen minutes after Gladys climbed up and then slid down head first. I'd been biding my time for an excuse. Its the innoncence of children, I always say, that leads us forward.

Here is the fence in its initial stages.
There was a whole day of a huge post hole digger and cement mixer and many people to help put in the posts. And then another hot week of dedication by Wardens (that's an Anglican thing, not a prison thing) themselves who put the whole thing together, slat by slat. Every morning the dogs would rush out to attack and then stop for a long pat.
Alouicious, after observing the proceedings from some amount of time, realized that the space was quickly narrowing up and pitched a little fit. Turns out, though, that when we sit about eating our suppers of a long summer evening, when they go over to the other side of the fence, its much quieter. On the whole, a beautiful arrangment.

And here are the old arborvitaes. All green and fine and sheltering. Matt watered them faithfully until we started having rain every single day. 

 I hope to plant fruit trees all along here, or something. Who knows what tomorrow may bring.

Meanwhile, the children strut around and complain about how everything is too hot. Stupid northern children. Don't they realize this is the right temperature?