Archive for August 2008

Surviving off of Macaroni Salad

August 30, 2008

Well, the babymoon is over.  I remembered how relatively easy they are when they are newborn and all they do is eat, sleep, and dirty diapers.  Then they hit three months and then they are awake more of the time with nothing to do.  That’s when they really start throwing a fit to be held ALL of the time.  And that’s where we are with DD#3.

I have two aces in the whole this time.  First of all is my wonderful Maya Wrap sling.  It is no longer kept in the car most of the time.  While I can’t do everything while wearing the baby, I can do more than I could if I was just trying to hold her.  I can’t afford to buy one of the slings made for back-carrying (and I don’t know if I have the guts to try it), but I bet it is more convenient around the house than front-carrying.  My second ace in the hole is that the baby has two wonderfully entertaining older sisters that she loves to watch sing, dance, argue, and everything else.

However, I still finding myself very frazzled and hungry.  The secret to my slimness–I am too busy and too stressed to eat.  I actually forget to eat.  People think I’m crazy when I say that.  I start out meaning to eat and then I remember that the clothes need to be put in the dryer, which means a new load needs to be put in the washer, and the finished load needs to be folded.  So I plan to eat when that is done.  But then one of the kids wants something to eat, so I plan to eat after I fix them something.  Then the baby starts crying because she’s bored or needs a diaper change.  And on and on and on….Suddenly I’ve been up six hours and all I’ve had is a cup of coffee.  (In case you are wondering, I often find the time to blog while the baby is nursing, so put that visual in your mind.)

It’s pretty hard (and sometimes dangerous) to attempt cooking myself something while holding the baby.  So the temptation in the past has been to grab a pack of Swiss Cake Rolls or two, or three, and scarf them down with a glass of milk.  Or I start to feel guilty that I’m tempted to go for the Swiss Cake Rolls when I should be eating something healthier for me and my baby, and I don’t end up eating anything at all.  Honestly, I probably only get around 1500 calories a day.

I’ve been trying to combat this problem in a few ways.  First of all, I’ve been doing some long overdue mainstreaming of lunch.  I’ve been basically choosing what the kids will eat each day for lunch (instead of two separate haggle sessions) and trying to make enough for all of us.  Secondly, I’ve been reaching for a banana more often.  My husband considers bananas to be diet food, but I figure a few healthy calories is better than no calories at all.  Third, I’ve been trying to find recipes that can be made up in a large batch and eaten a little at a time easily.

So, this week I’ve been surviving off of macaroni salad.  I found this recipe off of the Hillybilly Housewife’s website.  I substituted chopped broccoli and carrots for the celery and peppers and Miracle Whip light for mayo.  I also used a quarter table spoon of onion powder instead of minced onion.  It’s quick and easy to make then I stick it in the fridge and I graze on it whenever I get a few minutes.  I just pop the top of my plastic container and grab a fork.  Voila!  Much healthier than Swiss Cake Rolls and almost as tasty, in a different sort of way.  In fact, I’m munching on some right now while I feed the baby and write this blog.

Carpet Crayon Catastrophe

August 29, 2008

Monday I went to vacuum the all the downstairs carpet. In the kitchen we have an area rug in the “office” section and then we have this horrible white carpet in the living room (actually all the rooms except the basement) that is the bane of my existence. Well, somehow a blue crayon got sucked up and stuck in bristles of my vacuum. When I first noticed the blue streaks appearing on the carpet, I examined the vacuum and didn’t see anything. I assumed it had been a tiny piece of crayon that had rubbed itself out and continued vacuuming. Then more blue streaks appeared. That was when I found the culprit and with the aid of a knife pried the inch-long piece of crayon out and threw it away.

I finished my vacuuming then, but had to wait a few hours before I could try to tackle the blue streaks on my horrid white carpet. (Have I mentioned that I really hate the white carpet?) I decided to check the internet to see what home-made solutions were recommended. I really did not want to pull out the heavy chemical cleaners, but that’s what most sites recommended after ironing up any remaining crayon.

Well, I didn’t want fumes, and I don’t pull out the iron unless the kids are out of the house (which they almost never are without me). At first I tried scrubbing an area with white vinegar. When that didn’t work I sprinkled some baking soda on the vinegar areas. That didn’t work either. And now I think the vinegar
may have actually made it set in worse.

Then I tried just using baking soda and a wet towel in a different area, and it started coming up. The carpet actually looks whiter in those spots than the rest of the carpet. I don’t know if it got the carpet that much cleaner, or if it would have ruined carpet of a different color. So, I would test in an inconspicuous area before scrubbing your whole carpet with baking soda and water.

I really want to replace the carpet, but we don’t have the money at this time. Unless we move before then, I hope to replace it after the last child is potty trained. Only 3 1/2 more years to go. In the mean time, it gives me something to complain about.

Hail, Holy Rosary…

August 28, 2008

I am not sure what year Holy Rosary Academy opened, but the first graduating class was in 1867. I deduced this because I graduated in 1995, and we were the 128th graduating class. I know the school started out as a co-ed grade school. I am not sure what year it switched to an all-girls high school. I know that Sister Suzanne, who worked in the office, and all of her sisters and brothers graduated from Holy Rosary. I am going to guess that this may have been in the 1930’s or 1940’s. (A complete history of the school was printed in my Freshman yearbook to celebrate the 125th graduating class, but my copy is somewhere at my parents’ house in Kentucky.)

The school had a few different locations before settling on Southside Drive, where I attended. The building was kind of L-shaped and sat on a corner. The long part was the three-story school, and the short part was a convent. There was a door in the main stairwell called the Cloister that the nuns used to use to get to class. By the time, I started it was used as a closet. None of the nuns who lived at the convent taught at the school. Behind the school was the parking lot and the field hockey field.

There were usually between 40 and 60 students in each grade level, divided into two or three homerooms. Each grade level was divided into three two or three sections for Math, English, and Science: honors, regular, and remedial. There were about 16 classrooms and the library divided between the second and third floor. The first floor had the school office, principal’s and vice-principal’s offices, the teacher’s lounge, gymnasium, and stairs down to the cafeteria. Other than the library and one classroom, the only air conditioned rooms were on the first floor. On very hot days at the beginning and end of the year, classes would sometimes move to the first floor or outside or school would dismiss early.

I don’t have the time or details at hand to go through the entire history of the school, but there was a sense of being a part of history there. The walls in the school hallways were lined with class pictures from the sixties, including the mothers and aunts of some of my classmates. The previous ten graduating classes were displayed on the main floor, so every day I would pass my sister’s picture on my way in and out.

Like most Catholic high schools, Holy Rosary had its own traditions. Every incoming Freshman was paired with a Senior Big Sister. Or in my case, I had two Big Sisters and two Little Sisters due to variances in class size. Before school started there was the Big Sister/Little Sister picnic, and a few months into the school year Little Sisters were expected to present their Big Sisters with homemade pillows for Pillow Day. On Pillow Day one of my big sisters gave me a thin gold bracelet that had been handed down from her Big Sister’s Big Sister. I wore it for special school events until I passed it down to my little sister (the other had transferred to another school before Pillow Day).

Usually the first day at lunch was a shock for the Freshmen. Sophomore and Freshmen ate together at second lunch. (Sophs went down five minutes before the bell to keep the line from backing up too much.) Usually one class sat on one end of the cafeteria and the other on the opposite end. About the last ten minutes of second lunch everyday for the first week the Sophomores would teach the Freshmen the school cheers. The Sophs would start clapping and singing, “Sophmores rock! Na,na,na! Sophomores roll! Na, na, na! Sophomores rock, Sophomores roll, Sophomores rock and roll!” (Stomp, stomp, stomp!) The Froshes would always stare dumbfounded. Then a few Sophs would go to the Freshman side and start singing “Freshman rock! Na, na, na…” By the end of the week, the Freshman didn’t need any help joining in. This was important because every school assembly, except religious services, started with the cheers from Senior to Freshman class ending with everyone cheering “Ramblers rock! Na, na, na…” (By the way, the Rambler was our school mascot; it was really just the Roadrunner from Bugs Bunny cartoons. I have no idea why, how, or the legal ramifications.) There was another cheer that ended “Get up, get up, get up, get up! Woo!” And “V-I-C-T-O-R-Y! That’s the Senior battle cry!”

A less endearing tradition was Tray Day. One day a year the Sophomores got to hand over their lunch trays for the Freshman to clear away. It was kind of banned after a few classes of Sophomore started rubbing ketchup and food on the bottom of the trays to make a mess for the Freshman; it made a bigger mess for the lunch ladies. And the tradition Freshman disliked the most was that after every assembly, they were responsible for cleaning up all chairs, tables, or anything else that was used. The rest of the school would be dismissed, usually for the day, in class order while the Freshmen had to stick around and clean up.

The best tradition was Thanksgiving dinner. It was always the Wednesday before the holiday. It was a dress-up out-of-uniform day, as opposed to a casual out-of-uniform day. We only had two or three classes, then we went back to our homerooms to clean and decorate for Christmas. (Prospective students were invited to an open house the next week, so they wanted the school to look its best.) After that the whole school would squeeze into the cafeteria for a holiday meal. The teachers acted as our waiting staff. We’d give them change to go fetch us drinks from the soda machine and take away our trays afterwards. Then the Seniors would find a clean cup to collect change from all the students. Once the tables were cleared the stereo in the cafeteria would be turned loud and the teachers would start dancing on the tables in exchange for the collected money; the money was then donated to charity.

Seniors wore their caps and gowns three times, including graduation. The first time was the Baccalaureate Mass, an evening or so before graduation. The second time was for Awards Day, which was usually the same day as graduation. Awards Day was a school assembly where students from all grade levels would receive certificates and medals for being the best in a subject or plaques from other special contests or scholarships. The most important award was the Rambler Award. It was given to a graduating Senior chosen by the faculty who exemplified the perfect Holy Rosary Student. It usually went to the most well-rounded student: someone who was athletic, did well enough academically (but not always an honors student), who was generally liked by all the faculty and her peers, and had a lot of school spirit (but not necessarily a cheer leader).

At the end of every assembly, the principal would say, “Seniors, will you please lead us in the Alma Mater.” The Seniors would start the school song a capella and the rest of the classes would quickly join in with the singing. Freshman usually carried note cards the first few times, but then it was quickly memorized. The singing of the Alma Mater was always the most poignant part of the Baccalaureate and Graduation ceremonies, even for those who couldn’t wait to graduate. There was just something about knowing that these were the last times you were going to be singing it with all your classmates that brought most people to tears.

To give and not to heed the cost;To start anew when we have lost.

Friendship, love, and sincerity; These and more are a part of thee.

Hail, Holy Rosary, of thee we sing; And may our loyal hearts forever bring.

Honor, fame, and joy untold; As through the years our lives unfold.

Upon the, Rosary, our dreams are laid; And may thy shining glory never fade.

When the time comes that we must part; Memories will linger in our hearts.

Hail, Holy Rosary, of thee we sing; And may our loyal hearts forever bring.

Honor, fame, and joy untold; As through the years our lives unfold.

Ok, so maybe it’s not: “Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts…” The history and traditions, though, are part of what made Holy Rosary so special.

Seuss Therapy

August 27, 2008

Earlier today DD#2 discovered our copy of Green Eggs and Ham and asked me to read it to her.  This was my favorite Dr. Seuss book as a child; I always thought The Cat in the Hat was highly over-rated.  The Sneeches is my second favorite.  And I really like The Lorax, of course, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  A new favorite that I discovered just before my oldest was born is There’s a Wocket in My Pocket; it’s just wonderfully inane.

So, I’m sitting down to read Green Eggs and Ham with DD#2 (and DD#3 who is pretty much attached to me at all times), and I start doing a gruff voice for the guy who keeps refusing to eat the green eggs and ham.  (Does he have a name?)  The more I read of the story the more I started putting different frustrated, angry, and exasperated tones in my voice.  After a while, it started to feel kind of cathartic.  I could yell and rant and rave and spill out all of those emotions and entertain my children (and not in the “Ha! Ha!  Doesn’t Mommy look funny when she is having nervous break down and crying hysterically?”  kind of way).

I’m beginning to think that maybe I should pull that book out to read more often.  Maybe once a week will help get out some of that pent up negativity.  If the older two don’t want to hear it, I can always read it to the baby.  Until she gets mobile, she’s my prisoner.  Maybe that will help me keep my cool when one of the girls is spilling stuff everywhere, another one is screaming over a non-issue, and the baby is crying that annoying cry that only really young babies make.

Of course, I know some of you are just shocked that the baby-wearing, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, homeschooling stay-at-home mama of three could have so much rage trapped inside her.  Just imagine how much worse it would be if I wasn’t a baby-wearing, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, homeschooling stay-at-home mama.

My High School Academics

August 27, 2008

Recently I posted about my grade school experiences.  I thought I would continue on to talk about my high school.  I’m not expecting whoever comes across my blog to be enraptured with the details of my life, but I’ve come to realize that this blog is at least part personal journal.  Who knows?  Maybe one day my kids or grandkids will be interested in reading this.

After I graduated grade school, I went on to high school at Holy Rosary Academy in Louisville, KY. It wasn’t my first choice. I originally hoped to go to Assumption High School. First of all, I knew that very few girls from my grade school went on to Assumption and most went to Holy Rosary or Holy Cross High School, so I thought I could get a fresh social start at Assumption. Secondly, I didn’t want to go to HRA because my sister had graduated from there six years before and had a few problems with some of the teachers. I didn’t want to be compared to her, especially since she and I were not getting along at the time. I also knew that Assumption also had a slightly better academic reputation than Holy Rosary.

So, I took my high school placement test at Assumption. As I sat in my assigned class room, all of the girls already seemed to have friends. I realized that they had all come together from the various Catholic grade schools in that area of town. I was very insecure, and not a single person talked to me. I felt like I was just going to be shut out socially even more if I went there. When the test was over, I got in the car and cried to my mom that I didn’t know where I was going to school, but I wasn’t going there. I think my parents were relieved because Assumption’s tuition was more expensive and transportation would have been a real problem.

Ideally, I would have gone to Butler Traditional with my best friend Stacey, but I felt that public schools weren’t even an option. Looking back, I think my parents would have let me go if I really asked, but I don’t think I ever even broached the topic. A few months after the placement test I shadowed a friend of a friend who went to Holy Rosary for a day. It was really just as something to do, but I did end up liking Rosary. So, that’s where I ended up at after all.

Freshman year the only classes we were able to choose between were Spanish or French. I chose Spanish. Otherwise, I was put in English I, Religion I, and P.E./Health. Since we had taken Algebra I in eighth grade, another girl and I were put in Geometry and Biology with Sophomores. We also had a study hall called RGP (Research and Guidance Period) three days a week and music class two days a week.  Sophomore year I continued with Religion, English, and Spanish.  World Civilizations replaced P.E., music class was dropped, and I moved up to Algebra II and Chemistry. Because of my advancement in Math and Science, my RGP got really messed up. We spent three days a week in the vice-principal’s office and the other two in the library because no teacher wanted to spend an hour babysitting just two students.

Just before Junior year started I received a call at home from the vice-principal. First of all, I and a few other juniors had been approved for parking passes, but we had to park in these really crappy spots. Secondly, she was in the middle of coordinating all the student schedules and there were some issues with mine. Religion III was offered the same times as Pre-Calculus and college-credit Spanish. Mrs. Maze, the vice-principal, didn’t want me to miss either class and I couldn’t miss Religion, so she offered to do Pre-Calculus with me as an independent study in her office (she also taught the pre-cal. class)

So, I did that instead of RGP, and I loved it. Mrs. Maze would go over the concept, assign a handful of problems, tell me to check them myself in the teacher’s manual, and if I had leftover time I could work quietly on other things. It was almost like homeschooling. Because we had completed the science requirements, they didn’t know what to do with us so they stuck us advanced Juniors into Lifespan Psychology, a Senior elective. I also had English, Religion, AP U.S. History, college-credit Spanish, and Art as an elective.

Senior year the only required classes were English and Religion. As my electives I chose college credit Spanish IV and Typing/Keyboarding (on very antiquated equipment even then). It was very strongly suggested that I take an extra science, so I chose AP Biology. It was assumed that I would take Calculus, even though, I had no desire to go into a math-related field after high school. Technically, though, Holy Rosary didn’t offer AP Biology or Calculus, so first and second period of Senior year I commuted to our “brother” school DeSales High School for those classes. My last class of the day was RGP.

For the most part I had fairly good teachers. I think they were doing the best they could with what they had to work with. I was mostly in Honors classes, and most of the girls had some natural aptitude but very little desire to learn. I think the expectations were kept low as a result. I probably could have had a more rigorous academic education at Assumption or Butler, but I don’t know that I would have had a more personalized one elsewhere.

When I graduated high school, I had 14 college credits (8 Calculus and 6 Spanish). But I had barely passed Calculus with a C, so my college GPA was shot before I even officially started. I also had 3 hours for AP English that I didn’t really need because my college released me from English 100 based on my ACT score. I was Valedictorian of my class, but I don’t think I had much competition from my unmotivated classmates. I don’t think I was necessarily the smartest in my class, just the one who enjoyed learning the most. Like I’ve said, I am a nerd. And I doubt I would have been Valedictorian at another school.

What Holy Rosary lacked academically, though, it made up for in heart. In fact the theme one year was “The Little School with the Big Heart.”  And I’m thinking that at least two more posts are going to be necessary to explain what Holy Rosary meant to me.

Goals for the Fall Semester

August 25, 2008

Today is the first day of the Fall semester at my husband’s college, and it is the first day of public schools around here. Like many homeschoolers, I’ve been putting the finishing touches on our plans for the upcoming semester. I really like to think of ourselves as year-round homeschoolers, learning all the time, but the start of each college semester is usually a good time to start a new routine. Usually, by the end of each semester the house has devolved into chaos again. Things also tend to be a little more hectic when my husband is on break as I take advantage of having the vehicle available and my husband, who is pretty spontaneous anyway, starts getting restless.

This year also marks our somewhat “official” bucking of the school system, as DD#1 would be starting kindergarten today if she were going to regular school. So here are my formal goals/plans for the upcoming semester:

Goals for DD#1 (age 5 1/2):

  1. Work with her two times a week for thirty minutes.
  2. Finish her Singapore Math Early Bird Kindergarten workbook 2B.
  3. Work with phonics/reading activities.
  4. Continue to work with her on using the telephone, telephone etiquette, and memorizing our telephone number and address.
  5. Slowly go through the World Book list of the typical course of study for kindergarten to address anything we may have missed so far.

Goals for DD#2 (age 2 1/2):

  1. Read at least one book with her every day during the day.

Goals for DD#3 (age 3 months):

  1. Read Beginner’s Bible with her every day.

Goals for both older girls:

  1. Do one craft, science, or other activity project with them once a week.
  2. Incorporate into housework more.

Goals for me:

  1. Limit internet time until after at least half my chores are done, and extra time in the afternoon or evening.
  2. Follow newly developed housework schedule.
  3. Try not to complain about unpleasant things.
  4. Be more patient with kids and husband.
  5. Find some more cheap and tasty recipes that are based on rice, potatoes, or pasta.
  6. Get together a Birthday/Christmas suggestion list for the family.
  7. Buckle down on our budget.

I’ve been slowly gathering a collection of science and craft projects to do. My goal is to get 52 on my list (one for each week). I still need about another 30. And then I need to put them into some sort of rough schedule, so we can be holiday appropriate. I am such a non-crafty person, but we have a ton of craft materials that I requested for Christmas last year. And my oldest daughter really likes organized projects, so I’m giving it the old college try.

Mystics, Mavericks, and Merrymakers

August 21, 2008

I recently read Mystics, Mavericks, and Merrymakers by Stephanie Wellen Levine. Ms. Levine spent a year living in the Crown Heights area of Brooklyn observing interviewing teenage Lubavitch Hasidic Jewish girls. I really recommend this book to anyone who is interested in orthodox religion and the social development of teenage girls. There were so many things that caught my attention in this book, but I will try to limit it to a few examples.

First of all, a lot of the codes for Hasidic Jewish behavior were not that different from many I hear coming from the conservative Christian and orthodox Catholic circles I encounter on-line. For the sake of modesty, girls are required to wear skirts or dresses that go past their knees and tops that go past the elbows. The less skin you show the more devout you are perceived to be. Like girls in Catholic schools some girls try to push the limits by “skirting” the requirements in little ways. Furthermore, no dating is allowed until the girls are prepared to be married; in Christian circles this is referred to as courtship. The Lubavitchers take it a bit further forbidding all interaction between members of the opposite sex who are not related to each other (beyond simple pleasantries or necessary business), and young people are set up on dates by matchmakers, usually becoming engaged after only three or four dates.  The Lubavitch community is also against using artificial birth control unless one got permission from the Rebbe.

The Lubavitch Hasidic have an interesting view about their place in the universe. They believe that every ritual act or good work performed by a Jew, whether they are orthodox or not or even have any belief, contributes to speed up the Messianic era. This leads them to a kind of evangelization or missionary work. Lubavitchers have the goal of getting as many secular Jews to return to orthodoxy or at least perform little orthodox rituals as possible. I particularly found their ideology particularly interesting given the arguments I sometimes encounter between various Protestants and Catholics over salvation by works, faith, or grace. Catholics are often falsely accused of believing in “salvation by works”, but I think the Lubavitch Hasidic really fit the description best.

The book touches on young people who rebel against the strict moral and social codes of the community but usually end up returning to the fold at marriage time. However, there is also a small percentage of questioners who end up rejecting the community they were born into. While a higher proportion of these questioners can only trace their Lubavitch heritage back one generation, some even come from the oldest Lubavitch families at times. This puts me in mind of devout Catholic families that lament their child falling away from the Church, usually when they go off to college. They wonder what they did wrong and how can they protect their other children from the same fate. The day after I finished the book I caught an episode of “Life on the Rock” on EWTN about keeping kids Catholic in college, and they talked about how even in the best of families children will sometimes slip away.

I particularly found the conclusion of the book slightly humorous. The author became very fond of the Lubavitch community, and she had to admit that the teenage girls were happier and more well-adjusted than she expected them to be. In fact, she kind of expected them to be even more depressed and lacking in self-expression and awareness than groups of mainstream teenage girls who have been studied, given the religious “repression” the Lubavitch girls live under. Despite how impressed she is with the community, Ms. Levine spends the whole book being adamant about how she has no desire to be anything but a secular Jew (to her parents’ relief); she just likes pork chops and blue jeans too much.

So she spends the last part of the book trying to find ways to get the good results of growing up Lubavitch without being religious. She suggests a few single sex classes in schools or activities, hoping to build up the mainstream girls self-confidence. While she acknowledges that the Lubavitch message that their actions carry cosmic importance help to keep the girls from sinking into normal teenage apathy, she refuses to acknowledge that you can never really have a true sense of cosmic importance if you don’t have religious faith.

Ms. Levine is so concerned that everyone have all of the choices in the world, that she can’t see that maybe part of the problem is that there are too many choices. Too many options can make someone feel just as powerless as having no options at all. That’s why they tell first-time parents to only give their toddlers two or three specific choices; otherwise little ones get overwhelmed and melt down. She never suggests that maybe parents should take away a teenage child’s option to date until they are ready for marriage, even though, she acknowledges that this contributes to the positive traits of the Lubavitch girls. How dare we limit the choices of teenagers to have committed relationships and engage in sex? They must have their choices.

At the end of the story, a Lubavitch woman gives her a stack of Shabbos candles and asks her to try lighting them once. Stephanie Levine knows that this is partly because her friend believes that just by lighting the candles Ms. Levine will help bring on the Messianic age. However, Ms. Levine refuses to even open the candles, because she knows that one way Lubavitchers try to trick secular Jews into becoming more orthodox is by suggesting they light candles. Shabbos candles are just a gateway drug for Jewish orthodoxy, and I am afraid that Ms. Levine has just bought in to the whole idea of moral and religious relativism. I believe that she is afraid to decide for herself what is true, because if you take the stand and say that you believe something is true that sometimes means sacrificing your choices. She wants the peace and happiness of the Lubavitchers without working for it. She wants the cure without having to take the medicine. I found this very intriguing and sad.

I highly recommend the book, though. It really can put things into perspective, even for goyim.