Friday, April 27, 2012


I was going to write about our summer curriculum today, but I feel the need to get back to why I started this blog. I'm part of a local Catholic homeschool yahoo group; even though I haven't met many of the women on the boards, I get the posts in digest form in my email every day.  Even though I personally know at least seven Catholic families in our area who participate in Classical Conversations, the moderators of the board are convinced that the organization is somehow anti-Catholic and will not allow us to post announcements about CC or attend the local Catholic homeschool conference as a vendor.  (Seriously - we offered to pay for a table this year so we could present our materials to the Catholic community, and they flat out refused us saying they only permit Catholic or secular vendors.)

This is incredibly frustrating to me, as I love the Roman Catholic Church and I also love CC.  I completely understand wanting to support Catholic companies such as Classically Catholic and Catholic Schoolhouse, but the truth is that CC is a wonderful organization.  I have heard that, in some parts of the country, Catholic families have been made to feel unwelcome in CC communities, but that is not a mandate from CC corporate; Leigh Bortins herself states that she welcomes all orthodox Christians, including Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox. 

Classical Conversations does not teach religion. The company's motto is "To know God and make Him known," and that Christian spirit is evident in the communities - but there is no doctrinal teaching in the curriculum.  Instead, the focus is on teaching children using the classical method by focusing on history, geography, math, science, English grammar, and Latin.  There is Bible memorization - for Cycle 3, we memorized John 1:1-7 in English and Latin, and for Cycle 1, we will memorize Exodus 20:1-17 (the Ten Commandments) - but there is no discussion of theology.  Even in the Challenge program, students are told that their parents are the spiritual head of the home and doctrinal questions should be discussed with them rather than decided by the tutor. 

And yes, I know there is a timeline card that references the Reformation.  You know what?  That's something that really happened, and we need to discuss it with our children.  Maybe I have a different perspective on it because I was not born into a Catholic family - I began considering the Catholic faith when I was in college, and finally completed the RCIA process just five years ago when I was pregnant with Sophie - but I don't see a problem with discussing controversial topics with my children.  I can answer any questions they have with confidence and teach them how to answer their friends who may challenge them in a respectful and educated manner. 

I suppose it comes down to this: I do not plan to raise my children in a Catholic bubble.  That is not why I chose to homeschool.  I feel called to homeschool because I truly believe I can provide my children with a significantly better education at home than they would get in a public school setting, and I also appreciate that they are being spared the relentless peer pressure that abounds even in private school settings.  I want my children to know there are other world views out there, and still understand the sacredness of our Catholic traditions.

I chose Classical Conversations after much research, and I stand by that decision.  I chose to become a director of a CC community rather than starting up a Catholic Schoolhouse community or creating a Classically Catholic co-op because I have seen CC in action and I love it.  I do not believe that I am somehow violating my Catholic conscience by participating in CC.

I just wish I could make the leaders of the Yahoo group understand that.  Let Catholic families make the choice for themselves; talk to those of us in the local community who participate in CC, and don't just mandate that it's anti-Catholic and therefore should not be afforded the same privileges that Catholic and secular homeschool vendors receive. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Almost Done!

With school, that is - we've nearly finished everything I wanted to accomplish for the 2011-12 school year.  This year was essentially PreK-4 for Sophie and kindergarten for David, though I think we're actually a little ahead, particularly in math.

Last year, I really only did "school" with David, as it was his PreK-4 year and my experiment to see if I could handle homeschooling.  I attended a seminar on homeschooling preschool, and instead of purchasing a packaged curriculum, I bought Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons to use for phonics and Math-U-See's Primer books to use for math.  We also did a minimal amount of handwriting using worksheets I printed off the internet.

I loved both the math and reading that I did with David, so this year I repeated them with Sophie.  To save a little money, I pulled the pages out of the MUS workbook and put them in sheet protectors; David did the problems using a dry-erase marker, which I then erased, so Sophie was able to use the same workbook.  I also realized that a four-year-old has not quite mastered the fine motor skills needed for successful handwriting, so I didn't do much of that with Sophie this year (though she can write her name).

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is fantastic.  I love that it is scripted, so you know exactly what to say to encourage the child as they learn - which is not to say I never got frustrated with the kids while using this system; we certainly had challenging days, but overall it was a great experience, and I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking a reading curriculum that is very easy to implement.

Sophie finished Lesson 100 last week, and yesterday she read  P. D. Eastman's Are You My Mother? to me with minimal help.  Not bad for a child who's not even old enough for kindergarten yet!

Math-U-See is fantastic.  I was worried at first that it was a little too simplistic, but then I realized it was just that I had no idea what an early mathematics curriculum should look like!  I do think I've gotten both kids a little ahead of grade level, though that wasn't my intention.  It seems that most people do Primer in kindergarten and Alpha in first grade, but I did Primer in PK-4 with both kids and Alpha in kindergarten this year with David with no problems.  Just to test his knowledge, I gave him the Saxon placement test and with his scored he could start Saxon Math 2 next year if I was inclined to switch curriculum - which I'm not, as we both just love the MUS manipulatives!  The only thing Saxon covers that MUS hasn't so far is money (values of coins, etc.), and we'll get to that eventually.  I may even work on it with them both a little bit over the summer.

We just completed Lesson 29 (David in Alpha and Sophie in Primer), so by next week we'll be done with all our math - though I'm sure we'll do some worksheets or flash cards over the summer just to keep it fresh in David's mind!

The only problem with using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is that I didn't know where to go from there.  My sister-in-law recommended The Writing Road to Reading, and I bought all the materials that Spalding offers hoping to implement that in kindergarten; but though the system made sense to me overall, I could not for the life of me determine how to implement it on a daily basis at a K level.  After a few frustrating weeks, I ditched it (thank you,!) and went searching for something else.  I ended up buying McRuffy Press' Phonics and Reading package, and that's what I used with David this year.

I have mixed feelings about the McRuffy materials.  The handwriting book was excellent, and gave David plenty of opportunities to learn and practice each of his letters - though I do wish it had included a section on numbers, as I had to supplement with sheets printed off the web to teach that.  The phonics/reading program was a little too basic for his skill level, and we ended up skipping through many of the early lessons.  He enjoyed the readers, even though some were so simple that they didn't challenge him at all, but I was a little frustrated that some of them had errors (a few spelling errors, and even more binding errors) - but nothing was impossible to fix.  It's a very reasonably priced program, and I did get another workbook so I can use it with Sophie for kindergarten next year, but overall it's not everything I'm looking for in a language arts program.

And of course we use Classical Conversations materials for history, geography, science, Latin, English Grammar, and more math.  Those are the best materials of all, and I look forward to getting my new timeline cards next week so I can see how different they are from the Veritas cards!

Tomorrow I'll talk about what I've got planned for the summer, and next week after we've wrapped up our official school year I'll tell you what we're going to be doing in the fall!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Summer School

Look what I got in the mail today!

As we're wrapping up our school year, I've begun thinking about what I want to work on over the summer. Handwriting is at the top of the list, do out of curiosity I did a web search for Catholic handwriting materials and found these. They look like a great way to integrate faith and handwriting, and they're pretty inexpensive, so I got one for each of my kids.

I'll post a link to the publisher later - I'm attempting my first Blogger entry by phone, and haven't mastered the intricacies of it yet!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday Madness

Actually, today has been relatively calm - the madness occurred Friday, Saturday and Sunday! 

Thursday night at 11pm, I was about to go to bed when my phone rang. It was my friend H, whose beloved grandfather had passed away earlier in the week; I knew she and her husband had to drive two hours to a nearby city for his funeral on Friday, and when she told me her babysitter had cancelled at the last minute, I told her to bring the kids to my house in the morning and we would party all day.  And we did!  It was a bit chaotic, as I imagine all households with four kids ages five and under are from time to time, but overall we had a great (if exhausting) day.

On Saturday, we packed up our van and drove to Tallulah Gorge to go camping with H and her family.  It wasn't tent camping, though this campground has great facilities if you are a camping wimp like me (I need showers!  And toilets that flush!) - she had rented a small cabin that turned out to be just the right size for our two families.  H and her husband slept in one of the small bedrooms, and my husband and I slept in the other; all four kids camped out in the loft upstairs, and though I'm not sure any of them got a decent amount of sleep, they had a fantastic time!  There was a river running through the camp, and some fabulous rocks for them to climb on, and bunches of tadpoles - plus a campfire and marshmallows after dinner. 

H's husband taking the kids for a walk by the river.
 The next day, after H and her husband cooked an enormous breakfast for all of us, we went back down to the river to let the kids play for a while longer.  We debated hiking the gorge, but decided that should wait until the kids are old enough to know we aren't going to carry them if they start whining.  Around lunchtime, we headed home.

Today I'm playing catch-up - tons of laundry, grocery shopping, school, and a few other things I didn't get done on Friday.  Maybe one of these days I'll get around to giving my house the thorough cleaning it truly needs...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Being a Good Daughter

This post is going to be extremely painful to write.  It's also not about my Catholicism, my homeschooling, or anything else I've written about here previously.  It's about the most difficult relationship I have in my life: my relationship with my mother.

My sister called me this afternoon, and since the kids were at Tae Kwan Do I had a few uninterrupted minutes to chat with her.  She told me something we'd been expecting for nearly a year had finally happened.  My stepfather has left my mother.

My mother and father were married for forty-four years, until he died from a heart attack in 2003.  (He passed away five weeks after my wedding, but that's a story for another day.)  I never thought my mother would remarry - I wasn't opposed to it, as I knew she was lonely, but I just didn't think she'd find someone who'd adore her the way she always wanted.  As the youngest of four children, and the only one at home after age eight, I had a significant amount of insight into my parents' marriage and knew it wasn't particularly happy.  I loved both of my parents and was glad they never divorced, but it wasn't easy growing up in a home that was too often full of conflict.

Anyhow, four and a half years ago my mother mentioned that her old boyfriend from high school and the early years of college had called her out of the blue.  It seems he'd carried a torch for her all those years (fifty, I think), and when he heard my dad had passed away he jumped at the chance to court her again.  Either they didn't remember why they broke up in the first place, or they didn't want to talk about it, because neither of them gave us a straight answer when we (my siblings and I) asked about it. 

So we took it on face value - a fairy tale, a once in a lifetime love story, two lovers reunited after five decades of separation.  I hoped against hope for a happy ending; above all, I wanted my mother to be happy.

They got engaged in the spring of 2008, and immediately I began seeing things in my mother that I didn't quite now how to handle.  My father was a government employee, and due to her age we learned that she would not lose his pension even if she remarried; added to her own Social Security income, and her income from her full-time job as a university professor, she may not have been wealthy but she certainly didn't have anything to worry about financially.  However, she harped on how much money she thought her future husband had; she insisted on a two-carat engagement ring and a monthly clothing allowance that nearly exceeded what I spend on clothing in a year.  I tried to shrug off my doubts, thinking my future stepfather had plenty of money and didn't seem to mind spending it on her, so who was I to get involved?

Their wedding in the summer of 2008 was beautiful, and they seemed truly happy that fall.  However, in January my mother called with some startling news: my stepfather had not been completely honest with her regarding his income, and had in fact taken out a very large mortgage on his house to buy her the engagement ring and keep up with the extravagant allowance she demanded.  I was taken aback by this dishonesty, but knowing my mother's fundamentalist Christian values, I assumed she would put her material desires aside, find a way to forgive him, and work on their marriage.  Either that, or she would send him packing.

She did neither.  Instead she kept him around for three full years, and never let him forget for a day that he lied to her and she was now the one with all the income in the relationship.  She harped on him to get a job (the man is 78), and complained about every single penny she spent on him - from buying him a plane ticket so he could go with her to a conference where she was speaking to picking up the bill if they went out to dinner.  It was almost physically painful for me at times, because it was reminiscent of the kind of arguments she'd had with my father, but while I knew my dad loved her and would never leave I wasn't so sure about my stepfather.  By last summer I had watched him go from a happy-go-lucky, carefree guy who liked to fish and enjoyed spending time with my family to a harried, stressed old man who seemed on the verge of snapping.  When she complained bitterly about the cost of buying him a plane ticket to go see his dying brother in another state, he responded by getting in his car and driving almost twenty-four hours to go by himself.  He stayed for nearly two weeks, and I was afraid he wasn't going to come back.

But he did, to my surprise, and I thought things might get better - but she complained more bitterly that he'd gone without her, and now truly nothing he did could make her happy.  On her 75th birthday, he bought her a lovely pair of diamond earrings, and she sneered at them in front of all the friends and family he'd gathered for her surprise party because she'd wanted something else.  I tried to talk to her about it, approaching it as delicately as I could and saying that perhaps they should go speak to a pastor at their church if they weren't happy (which everyone could see they weren't), but she refused.  I wonder if it's because she didn't want to hear that her behavior was partly (if not mostly) to blame for the situation?  I don't know, and now I think it's too late.

My sister lives very near my mother (they're about a day's drive from me), and my stepfather volunteered at the school where my sister teaches a few times a week.  She said he told her on Wednesday that he'd started shipping things to his daughter's house in another state and was packing the rest of it in the car; he'd tried to talk to my mom about how they could better the relationship after a particularly poignant sermon at their church on marriage, and she'd said she was too busy and couldn't be bothered.  When he asked if there was anything he could do to improve things, she just harped on the finances once again.  It's like she refuses to admit that anything else could be wrong in their relationship - she blames it all on him, and won't admit any other possibility.

My sister drove by their house today and saw that his car was gone; she doesn't know for sure that he's left, but judging by the last conversation that they had, she thinks it's the likely possibility.  Our mother is oddly private about some things, and her relationship with my sister is even more challenging than her relationship with me, so it's unlikely she'd talk to her about it first.  I'm going to call her tonight and see if she mentions anything to me. 

The problem is going to be giving her a proper amount of sympathy.  I know this will be a shock to her; she probably believed he would never leave her unless she asked him to move out, which I honestly doubt she ever would have done.  She's a bit of a manipulator, and one of those people who isn't really happy unless they have something to be unhappy about, if you know what I mean?  My father could never do enough to make her happy (she still says she wanted twelve children but he would only let her have four, among other things), and in retrospect I should have known it would be the same with anyone else. 

But I truly see my stepfather's side of this story; it's not like he ever confided in me, we were not especially close though he was always quite nice. I just saw the way she treated him and the way it changed him, and I can understand why he wouldn't want to continue living like that.

But I need to be a good daughter.  I need to listen to my mother and give her a shoulder to cry on, if she wants one.  I need to bite my tongue and accept that it is not now, and it may never be, the time to tell her this is probably mostly her fault - that if she had lived out the Biblical principles of marriage that she gives lip service to in church, she would have sought to give him love and not just take things from him. 

I need not to judge.  I know this, but it is hard for me.  Though I wasn't especially close to my stepfather, in some ways this feels like losing my father again, maybe because I'm going to have to put aside my own feelings for a time to help her deal with the loss.  I also get to explain to my kids that their beloved Papa, the only grandfather they've known on my side of the family, won't be there anymore when we go to visit Grandma. 

Pray for me.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Monday Blues

I don't have any real reason to be blue today, yet somehow I am.  It happens from time to time - I've struggled with anxiety and depression for years, and though it's pretty well controlled with a low dose of medication, some days I just can't break out of the melancholy.

Fortunately we've had a pretty easy day.  We did school this morning, and this afternoon I'm taking the kids to their Catechesis of the Good Shepherd class.  I hope they don't need me to volunteer today, because I could really use a child-free hour to clear my head.

In the meantime, I will try to meditate on this prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola:

O Christ Jesus,
when all is darkness
and we feel our weakness and helplessness,
give us the sense of Your presence,
Your love, and Your strength.
Help us to have perfect trust
in Your protecting love
and strengthening power,
so that nothing may frighten or worry us,
for, living close to You,
we shall see Your hand,
Your purpose, Your will through all things.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ann Romney

Romney may not have been my first choice as a presidential candidate, but when liberals criticize him by going after his wife, who stayed home to parent her five children full-time, it really raises my hackles. I don't care if she was born into a wealthy family and had full-time help, raising five kids is a HUGE deal no matter what - and anyone who implies stay-at-home moms somehow "have it easy" is someone who has obviously has never tried it. 

Just sayin'.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Today I got an email from a woman who was enrolled in another local CC community this year telling me she's going to switch to my community this coming fall!  She had come to an information meeting a few weeks ago, so I knew she was considering it - but I also know how difficult it can be to make a change like that, especially when you (and your children) have developed friendships in the other community.  However, the church where my CC will be meeting is literally in her backyard, so I was hopeful that she'd make the jump - and I'm thrilled that she has!

When she came to the info meeting, she brought one of her neighbors as well, and that woman was clear that she wanted to enroll her daughter in my CC - but she had to run the numbers by her husband before she could give me a check for registration, which I completely understood.  Today, the first woman (let's call her R) must have called or emailed the neighbor (let's call her K) when she made her decision, because we were at Homeschool Soccer this afternoon when K came running up to me and said, "I heard your community is filling up!  Do I need to give you a check right now?"  I had to laugh, because R is really the first person to officially let me know she's going to be in my group this fall, so I'm guessing she heard from my Challenge A director that we'd had a good info meeting on Tuesday night and taken that to mean that people were signing up in droves.

We did have a good meeting on Tuesday, though - four moms came, two who had let me know beforehand to expect them and two who had seen my postings on local homeschool message boards.  All four of them seemed very interested, and hopefully all of them will decide to enroll with us soon!  Our next info meeting is in two weeks, and I'm hoping for another good turnout then.  My Challenge A director is planning to come to Homeschool Soccer next week and hand out flyers, hopefully that will inspire more people to come learn about CC!

If you're not familiar with CC, you're probably wondering what Challenge A is and why there's another director.  I will be directing the Foundations and Essentials programs, which is designed for children ages four to eleven and essentially constitutes K4 through 6th grade.  Challenge is CC's 7th through 12th grade program, with Challenge A & B roughly the equivalent of 7th and 8th grade and Challenge I, II, III, & IV being grades 9 through 12.  I would probably not have considered homeschooling through high school before I learned about the Challenge program - knowing what I know now, I can confidently say that (God willing) we will homeschool our children until they go off to college!  Anyhow, each Challenge level has its own director, and that director is also the tutor for that group of students.  (In contrast, I will be director for up to eight Foundations classes and as many Essentials classes as we need - but I will not likely tutor, unless we are absolutely unable to find enough moms who want to tutor to offset tuition costs.) 

I've had a very exciting day :)  I know it's just a start, but I'm so hopeful that great things will happen with this new community!  Now I need to pray for families for Challenge A.  I love my Challenge A director, and she needs at least four students to have a program; so far the only one she has enrolled is her own son. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Info Meeting

Tonight I have my second info meeting as a CC director.  I've got a bit of stage fright, plus I'm slightly concerned that no one will show up.  Eek!

I don't think I ever wrote about why I decided to direct my own community.  I was part of a fabulous community this past year, but it was about 20 minutes away from me, and many of the families (particularly those with kids the same age as mine) lived even farther away.  As much as I love CC, my dream is to develop a community that is actually in my area, so my kids can have the chance to develop meaningful friendships with people we can see more than once a week even if the cost of gas keeps rising. 

My old community was at capacity - CC corporate dictates (rightly so) that communities cannot exceed eight classes of eight children, for a max of 64 students total in the Foundations program.  One February afternoon, I was talking to the director while the kids ate lunch and played with their friends, and she mentioned that she'd had a lot of inquiries from people who lived in my area, and that there would probably be a lot of interest if a new group were to start up near me.  I brushed it off initially, thinking I could never direct my own community, but the thought wouldn't leave me - and as I was driving home that afternoon, I passed a church near my house that had built a new facility right across the street from the old facility.  I thought that might be a good location for a CC community to meet, and so I sent them an email when I got home, and received a fairly quick response indicating they were open to the possibility. 

I got in touch with my director, who shared my excitement over the possibility, and she put me in touch with the Support Manager for our area.  I began the application/hiring process, and proceeded through that smoothly while I was waiting to hear back from the church I'd initially contacted.  They seemed to be taking their time, so I also put out feelers seeking another church in my area, and went to visit another, smaller church that seemed truly idea.  The first church eventually got back to me requesting a pretty steep (and, by CC standards, completely unaffordable) facility fee, but by then I was in love with the second facility so I didn't mind too much.  I met with the other church three times, and they agreed to give me a sliding scale on the facility fee based on how many students I have enrolled in my program; that agreement just became official two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, someone in my old CC group was talking to a mom in another CC group who attended her church, and found out this mom wanted to start a Challenge A program (basically the CC equivalent of 7th grade) this coming fall - but her current facility didn't have space to grow a Challenge program.  My friend put her in touch with me, and we hit it off - we're both Catholic, and we're both passionate about CC, and the location I'd begun negotiating with was perfect for both of us as well.  So in the course of a few weeks I went from having no idea I'd be directing a new community to finding the perfect location and a new friend who wanted to help grow a Challenge program at my location as well!  As my old director would say, this was totally a God thing - not only the perfect location for my CC group to meet, but also, and someone to hold me accountable and work with me to build the new community!

I don't want to give the impression that everything has come easily in this endeavor - for instance, I don't have any families actually signed up for the fall, though I do have three I think are very interested.  I'm not exactly getting a plethora of inquiries off the website, though I do get a few now and again - just enough to keep me encouraged!  I know that many communities start small - my old community began with just 19 students their first year, and I will have 13 (counting my own children and my Challenge director's Foundations-age kids) if we don't get any more interest, so I'm not in despair - but I would like to have a few families be enthusiastic enough to pay a registration fee now to hold a place for their kids!

As a new director, I'm supposed to hold at least one information meeting a month for interested families.  I held my first meeting a few weeks ago, and had five families attend - and I was thrilled, as I hadn't expected to have nearly that many!  I'm advertising every way I know how - I've posted notices on every homeschooling board I can find online, and handed out flyers at Homeschool Soccer - but I never know for sure how many people are actually going to show up at an info meeting.  I'm also a little nervous about public speaking, though I'm passionate about the material so that eases a bit of the nervousness. 

If you're reading this, offer up a prayer for me around 6pm tonight :)  I hope to have good news to report tomorrow!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Happy Easter!

We made it to the Stations of the Cross service at noon on Friday, and went to mass at 7am yesterday.  It always amazes me to see how crowded the church is at Christmas and Easter - it's more than a little sad that so many people think those are the only times they need to attend services.  I am so renewed by the Sunday mass that I hate to miss a week (though I do on occasion); I truly don't understand why people would go to church twice a year.  Why bother going at all? 

Anyhow, we had a blessed weekend and I hope your family did too.  My children finished off their Easter candy after breakfast this morning, so hopefully the sugar buzz will wear off soon :) 

We are headed to the Children's Museum this morning with some friends.  I love Atlanta's Children's Museum, it's so much fun!  I've heard that the one in Chattanooga is even better, one of these days we will have to make a day trip to Tennessee to see that and the Tennessee Aquarium. 

Tomorrow night is my second info meeting for my new CC group - I'm nervous and excited, and hoping for a decent turnout.  I'll write more about that tomorrow.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

CC - Week 24

Today was week 24 for our Classical Conversations group - if you're familiar with CC, you know that means this was our last week of the 2011-12 school year. It was bittersweet for me. I've learned so much about CC and educating my children classically throughout the year, and we've made some good friends - but we won't be with this same group in the fall since I'm starting my own group, so it's a little sad even though I'm excited about what the future will bring. It wasn't really goodbye today, as we'll see almost everyone at our end of the year picnic on Saturday afternoon, but it was still a little strange pulling out of the parking lot knowing I won't be back in that setting with those families again. I've been so nervous about the details of starting my new group that I hadn't really thought about what it would be like to leave this group behind. In my heart of hearts, I'm still a little afraid that I might not really get my group off the ground, and if that happens I'll just have to hope they have space for me in the fall. I truly believe it is God's will that I start this new community, and so I'll just keep praying for His blessing on my endeavors. And I'll never forget this first year of CC, and how much I've learned about implementing a classical model of education in my own home.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


This morning, I logged on to Facebook intending to quickly check my messages and get on with our school day - but then I saw that our favorite local u-pick strawberry farm was opening for the first day of the season at 10am!  I knew it would be a zoo, since this is spring break for our county's schools, but we go every year and I hate to wait because they're only open until the berries are gone - so I quickly got us all dressed and headed out the door.

We made our way to Harry Stacy Farms, which is about half an hour away from our house, and it was indeed a madhouse.  Usually you can park in front of the farm, but it was so packed that we had to park about two houses down and walk!  We arrived to find a long line at checkout, which was new - in past years, they've sold baskets so you paid up front, but this year they had a problem getting the baskets so they were handing out buckets and having you pay by weight after you pick the strawberries.  We got two buckets and were off to the lower field, which seemed less crowded.

It's such a delight to watch my children grow up - the first time we came to this farm was probably four years ago, when my son was not quite two years old and my daughter was a baby.  I remember putting her in my mei tai wrap on my back and how much pain I was in by the end of the picking experience; it gave me new sympathy for people who have to work in fields all day, especially women with babies!  Every year, it's fun to watch how my children act and react to the u-pick experience, and this year they were simply delighted to be there.  I did have to coach them a little bit to pick only the ripest, reddest berries, but it only took us about twenty minutes to fill up our two buckets.

We waited in line for what seemed like an eternity to pay (again, spring break madness!), and then we headed home - stopping at the store to get some whipping cream so I could make strawberry shortcake.  After lunch, I put our Classical Conversations memory work review songs on and got down to business - the business of preparing strawberries for various recipes!

I made two recipes today - or at least, I've started on them.  One is the strawberry shortcake that I make every year, and the other is a new recipe for fruit leather that I found on Pinterest.  I've never made that before, so I hope it turns out well - it cooks for an astonishing amount of time, albeit at a very low temperature, but it's rumored to be absolutely amazing!  I had a minor kitchen catastrophe when making the fruit leather - I had just finished blending the strawberries with a little bit of sugar, but when I went to pick up my blender I twisted the wrong part and ended taking it apart rather than just lifting the pitcher part up, resulting in an enormous mess.  Fortunately, I had placed one of the prepared cookie sheets next to the blender, so I was able to salvage about half of the puree.

In other news, my kitchen is now remarkably clean :)

And now it's time for school - the kids have finished their CC review and are getting restless, so I'd best get to it!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Holy Week

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, marking the beginning of Holy Week.  It's also the first week in ages that we've had peace in our home, since nearly all of our activities are on hiatus this week.  I am so looking forward to it!

We generally attend 8am mass on Sundays, and yesterday was no exception.  Most weeks, the kids attend PREP (short for Parish Religious Education Program) classes while my husband and I are at mass, but because the public school system's spring break coincides with Holy Week this year, they got to go to mass with us yesterday.  I thought they would enjoy the Palm Sunday festivities, and they did - but not quite like I'd expected.

The congregation gathered just outside the church for the blessing of the palms and the first gospel reading, and as soon as he was handed his palm my 5-yr-old son began attempting to light-saber-battle everyone in our immediate vicinity.  My 4-yr-old daughter waited til the gospel reading had begun to turn to me and ask loudly, "Mommy, why did Jesus die?"  Obviously I know what I need to focus on here at home during Holy Week!

As a mother of young children, I often feel a little left out of parish activities during Holy Week.  We'll go to the Stations of the Cross at noon on Good Friday, but our church also has beautiful evening services on Thursday and Friday - but both services start at 8pm and don't end til close to 10pm, and my little ones go to bed at 8:30pm.  Short of finding a babysitter, I simply can't attend - the kids would be a wreck by the time the services ended, and so we'll just have to wait til they're older to participate in these beautiful, solemn occasions.   There are other things we can do with them, such as the blessing of the Easter foods on Saturday afternoon, and of course the aforementioned Stations on Good Friday; I just have to remind myself that this is only one season of life, and I'll miss the sweet moments that come with having small children when they're all grown up!

Meanwhile, it's time to start school.  We've gotten a little behind in recent months, between winter illnesses and traveling, so we can't take this week off; but I'm going to break out my copy of The Big Book of Catholic Customs and Traditions for Children's Faith Formation and find some activities to keep our household focused on Christ and his Passion during this week!