Friday, October 21, 2011

This, That and the Other Thing

This morning when I went outside to grab the newspaper, I could see the morning star.  Had to rush in and get Little Brother away from his breakfast so he could see it too.  (He thought it was worth it.)

Speaking of breakfast, Little Brother is a major-league toast eater.  He'll go through 6 to 8 slices each morning.  But that wasn't enough to get him through until snack time.  Now I serve him 1/2 cup of vanilla yogurt before the toast.  For snack, he has fruit and a string cheese.  He says mornings are much better now.

I am doing my best to resist the open bag of candy corn that's sitting in my kitchen.  But I've got some Count Chocula in the kids had never eaten it before so I just HAD to get a box.

Generally I am not a flavored-coffee person.  But I highly recommend Godiva Coffee's Pumpkin Spice.  It pairs equally well with candy corn AND Count Chocula.  Note to self:  go back to Wegman's and get another bag of this coffee before it disappears!

Looking forward to tonight's activities.  I schlep the kids around a lot to things they do.  But tonight's event is really for me.  It's the first rehearsal for the Festival of Lessons and Carols in the parish where Little Brother attends school.   Little Brother will be in the children's chorus, and Big Brother will play various musical instruments.  I'll be singing and playing guitar.  I have no illusions of having the kind of musical ability that many of the other singers/musicians possess.  This is an amazingly talented bunch of people!  But I find that I sing and play better when I'm challenged by being among musicians who are better than me.  Time to stretch!

I don't get to bring my guitar tonight, though.  It's just a vocal rehearsal for the first day, which kind of freaks me out because my guitar is definitely my security blanket.  It's hard for me to sing when I don't have something for my hands to do.

I'm still hoping against hope that I find the earring I lost the other day.  It's not a valuable or expensive earring, but it was a really cute pair of earrings and I liked them a lot.  I should have an earring more than 8 days before I lose it, I think.

Last night I took Middle Sister shopping.  She had a really weird shopping list:  shoes for the Homecoming dance and a blanket sleeper (known in this house as a "woobie.")  The sleeper is for her Halloween costume.  The last time I saw her wear one of those, she was 4!  After trying on a lot of shoes with insanely high heels, platforms, sparkles and the whole nine yards, she settled on a beautiful and feminine pair of black silk pumps.  Grown-up shoes and little-kid pajamas, all in the same shopping trip.  I guess that's life with a teenager.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Advanced Math

Math has never been my strong point.  I managed to get through college by fulfilling my math requirement with "Introduction to BASIC."  And I always send the kids to TheDad when they need help with math homework.  He had several semesters of calculus, so he's way above my pay grade in math.

But math has been plaguing me all day today.  First, I got an email from my New York Cousin, who wanted to know how many servings one of my favorite potluck recipes (Dr. Pepper Baked Beans) would make.

That became a word problem:  How many 1/2-cup side-dish servings do you get from a dish that fills about 3/4 of a 4-quart cooker?

For the record, I'm guessing 20 to 25.

Figuring all that out was a lot easier than helping Little Brother with his math homework this afternoon.  Unlike me, he has always been good at math (he gets it from TheDad).  I don't know if the school changed its math curriculum this year or what, but suddenly he's having a really hard time figuring out what to do with the homework problems.  "I don't get how to do this," is a daily refrain around here.  He used to whiz through his math homework, and before this year, my biggest concern was getting him to slow down enough to write the numbers legibly.

I'm not very good at helping him with the homework, either.  I can add, subtract, multiply and divide.  I can even manage fractions and decimals, usually.  But they're asking the kids to do things in strange ways.  I can find the answer, but not using their method.  It's strictly "Old Math" for me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Eyes Have It

...and it's pink.

No, not breast-cancer-awareness pink (ironic when you consider that Susan G. Komen foundation funnels money to Planned Parenthood--and their contraception and abortion industry is linked to higher rates of breast cancer).

Just plain old pink.  As in pink-eye.

Don't worry; I'm not contagious.  I am 100% certain that this is an allergic reaction.  Unfortunately, I am 0% sure of the cause.

Yesterday I went to my Secular Franciscan meeting about an hour early so I could catalog some new books for the fraternity's library.  When I opened up the meeting room, I could smell something--kind of perfumey, but nothing I could put my finger on.  Being asthmatic, I made sure I had my inhaler and worried that as I spent the next few hours in the room, I might need to use it.  Then, after looking for candles and plug-in air fresheners and other likely suspects and finding nothing, I opened the 2 small windows that could be opened and got to work.

Within the hour my nose started running.  At least that symptom is manageable.  Partway through the meeting, my eyes started itching.  By the time I locked up the room after the last person left, I looked like I'd spent the entire afternoon crying.

I knew I needed Benadryl, but I had to take Little Brother to a track-and-field awards ceremony last night and was afraid to take Benadryl before driving somewhere, so I toughed it out until I got home.  It didn't do much good; this morning, my eyes are still red and swollen and painful.

It'll pass.  It's an inconvenience and big discomfort, but it'll pass.  What I really want to know is:  what was in that room that caused this?

Monday, October 17, 2011


Fall is my favorite season.  I love the colors at this time of year!  So I loved the "Real Life Adventures" comic in this morning's paper.
image credit
Normally, this is not one of my favorite comic strips.  Dads/husbands are usually portrayed as idiotic buffoons.  Maybe that's why I loved today's strip even more!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Reelin' In the Years

Middle Sister had four of her friends here earlier, and they were all lining up to primp in front of the bathroom mirror before I drove them to the football game.  As she left the room, one of them asked, "Is there a guitar pick in your bathroom?"

She never asked about the Army Guy, who stands only about an inch away from the guitar pick.  He's been guarding the bathroom for at least 3 years now--possibly more.  It's been so long that he's part of the landscape, and when I clean the bathroom I just put him back on the counter, in the same place he was before.

Sure, it would be easy enough to carry the Army Guy over to Little Brother's room.  It's only across the hall.  For that matter, I could just toss the Army Guy in the trash can.  Earlier this week, I cleaned out the family-room closet and toy box, and boxed up all the Army Guys along with the other stuff Little Brother no longer uses.  My guess is, he'll never notice it's gone.  After a suitable interval, I will donate the usable toys to our school's pre-K or Goodwill.  (Tuesday's good.)

I can't get rid of everything, though.  When I pulled the battered copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar off the bookshelf, there was no way I was putting that into the donation box.  The same goes for the entire "Little Critter" series (Middle Sister was a big fan) and The Little Engine That Could, which we memorized during Big Brother's childhood and hid during Little Brother's.  We just couldn't go down that road (track) again.

Some people have scrapbooks, all beautifully decorated and labeled, full of photos of their kids.  I've got their entire libraries, as well as a few Army Guys, Matchbox cars, and an American Girl doll.

"The things you think are useless I can't understand..."

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Disorganized Student

I was very happy to see that the fourth-graders were required to have "trapper" binders, loose leaf paper, and pocket folders this year. Little Brother has a good handle on academics but not on organization.  In his school, the fourth- and fifth-graders share two teachers for the major subjects, so there is some traveling between classrooms and getting used to two different sets of expectations.  It's a good way to ease the kids into the middle-school mode.

I figured that since his teachers asked for a particular type of binder, they'd be devoting some time, early in the school year, to good use of this organizational tool.

And week after week, I'd see him come home with all kinds of loose papers stuffed into one of the pockets inside his binder, which also contained his homework planner, pencil case, 200 sheets of looseleaf, 5 dividers, and 3 pocket folders.  The looseleaf?  Unused.  Dividers?  Divided nothing.  Pocket folders?  Empty, except for one which had a paper from Spanish class inside it.  Other Spanish papers were stuffed into that same pocket that held Scholastic book order forms, tests I'd signed, and a homework project due September 27--completed, but never handed in.

One month into the school year, it wasn't looking like his teachers were doing anything to make sure the students were using the supplies they'd been required to have.

So this morning, since there was no school, I had Little Brother empty out that binder.  He recycled all the papers he no longer needed (most of them).  He put all the Spanish papers into the Spanish folder.  He's already sort of in the habit of keeping Spanish stuff together, as that teacher encourages that habit in class.  And we labeled one pocket folder "Take Home" and "Hand In."  He will put anything to come home in the "Take Home" side.  When it's finished (homework complete, tests signed, forms filled in) it will go to the "Hand In" side.  We'll see if this works, and I can reinforce this system at home.

We labeled the dividers too, though there's nothing to divide at the moment.

I hope this helps him.  Next step:  dealing with the "flash cards" that are floating around his backpack.  I like that the teachers encourage the kids to make flash cards when they need to remember important terms or lists.  But they do no good when they wind up in the bottom of the backpack, in a jumble of subjects and topics!  Does anyone have ideas for how he can organize and carry these index cards around?  It's not like he can put a 3X5 file box in his backpack.

I really think he'd be better off with an accordion file, but I still think that teachers require things for a reason.  There will be conferences with the teachers in mid-November, so I'll give this another month and see how we roll.  If it's not working out, I'll talk with the teachers about it then.

Ideas for organizing a smart but scatterbrained 9-year-old will definitely be appreciated!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Bright as Butterfly Wings

No matter how sad the day (and it was a very sad day) there are always those bright spots that help get you through it. I'm grateful for these:

  • hogging a baby (did I say hogging? I meant hugging. I would never hog a baby. No, not me) whom I'd only seen in pictures up until now, and who was so absolutely good-natured about being passed around among cousins who couldn't wait to give him a squeeze 
  • cousins.  So many cousins.  12 out of the 15 in my generation were there
  • lots of reminiscing, lots of comfort carbs
  • the chance to rib my dad about the very fashionable (in 1974) plaid sport coat he wore in one of the many old photos
  • Snoopy, hand-me-downs, and good news about cousin John's cancer treatment using his own stem cells
  • a phone call from a friend to find out how I was getting through the day--and to let me know that the Irish were winning the game
  • and coming home to a lovely sympathy card that a teenager in the church folk group cared enough to send
After the Mass, we gathered outside the church while my aunt, who teaches her first-graders a fascinating science lesson each year using Monarch butterflies, explained that in Mexico (the endpoint of these butterflies' migration) there is a legend that if you whisper a message to a Monarch, it will carry that message to a loved one in Heaven as it flies.  She and her oldest grandson then released a big bunch of butterflies into the air.  Many loving messages went up to Uncle Pat with those butterflies.

And then there's that moment that makes you laugh instead of cry--and you always need at least one of those moments on that kind of day.  The priest explained that when Uncle Pat was baptized, the Paschal candle was nearby, burning brightly.  Then he gestured toward the Paschal candle standing near the casket.  Little Brother turned to me and said, "It's the same one?"

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Going the Distance

It's time my kids learned something about doing the right thing with the right attitude. It's not a lecture I want to deliver, but I think I'm going to have to. The thing is, while the lecture is needed, I don't think I'm going to be able to manage a graceful delivery. And since TheDad is out of town for the next couple of days, I'll have to fly solo on this one.

My uncle passed away Monday night. Until very recently, we didn't know just how sick he was. While we had mentioned a few times to them that he was in the hospital, kids are kids and teenagers are teenagers and some things just don't get through their heads very well, especially when they concern a relative who lives 2 hours away and whom we've seen 3 times in the past year.
I gave Big Brother, who's away at college (but not TOO far away) a heads-up on Monday evening when I heard that Uncle Pat had taken a turn for the worse. I hate to deliver that kind of news via text message, but there's just no good way to do it. Texting him to say "call home" isn't any better, really. And he was as gracious as you can get in a text, commenting "that's not good" and "let me know if you hear anything else." Tuesday morning, after I heard the news and dithered about how I was going to let him know, I got back a :[ and "ok." For him, that's as compassionate as it's going to get, I guess.
I have the feeling that my daughter, when I told her, was busy calculating just how many soccer games/soccer practices/trips to the mall/bonfires with friends she'll have to miss to attend the out-of-town funeral this weekend.
Little Brother is going to absolutely blow a gasket when he is informed that he won't be playing soccer on Saturday. To his credit, he did give me a hug and kiss when I told him the sad news.
Meanwhile, I grieve for my aunt and my cousins and my cousin's kids, two of whom are infants and who will have to grow up with no memory of their grandfather. I grieve for my dad, who has lost all 3 of his younger siblings to cancer. I mourn the loss of a veteran, a firefighter, the "fun uncle."
May you rest in peace, Uncle Pat. And may I find the grace and the words to guide my children through this time of mourning.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The Blunt Truth

Don't miss this on the feast of St. Francis--The Crescat puts into words, in no uncertain terms, the real deal about the "patron of animals and ecology."

Stop selling St. Francis short and read this article.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Pretty pictures

Big thanks to the very talented Esther (the Catholic Mom in Hawaii) for my beautiful new header image!  I had to redecorate to show it off to its full advantage.