Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Forest of Wonderland/Adventures in Homeschooling

Tracy has already documented part of our adventure in (what her 2nd daughter dubbed) "The Forest of Wonderland" but I just found a bunch of really pretty photos and a video of that day so I'll post them before I do my Thanksgiving post and my Niklaus' birthday post!

The pictures do NOT do this wonderful place justice. I don't want to tell anyone where it is because it's so pretty, and surreal, and...magical! There were all kinds of colorful fungi/mushrooms and berries. I doubt we could have seen those things in the summer because of the foliage so, even though it was very cold and windy, it was worth the trip. Going into the depths of the forest, the wind died down and we really enjoyed the hike. Even with a crabby Mari who ended up being carried by me most of the way, it seemed like our angels were with us because my back didn't hurt at all from carrying the two little ones for several miles.

We also went to Alexandria again to visit Daddy at work. We stayed in the same hotel we stayed in last year. It was very cold so we were only able to go to the Runestone Museum again and swim a little at the hotel but it was a nice break and good to see Daddy while he was out of town (which he has been for so many weeks this year!). He's going out of town again soon to Red Wing, MN and we hope to meet up with an old friend and her children and see what there is to see there.

One more head on the Nielsen Totem Pole

1800s version of Wal-mart

"Oooooh! A TEA PARTY!"
"MARI! The sign says 'do not touch'! Don't go under the rop...never mind!"

Every day is a tea party day for Mari! Analise and Mari wake up every morning planning what dress they'll wear and what treat they'll make for the tea party. Sometimes Mari wears her dress up dress all day long. Actually, almost EVERY DAY she wears her dress up dress all day long.

For your listening pleasure, our pipsqueak princess, Mari singing "Bye Baby Bunting":

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Good Cause



Holy Family Catholic Adoption Agency is the only pro-life Catholic adoption agency that offers adoption at extremely low cost for couples wanting to adopt a baby (only $350 for all our adoption services). We do not charge our adoptive couples the normal fees associated with adoption. Instead, we ask them to pray at least one hour a week before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and we encourage them to join us on the sidewalks outside abortion centers where we pray and offer help to the abortion-bound mother and a Catholic home for her baby.

Since we do not charge the normal adoption fees, our agency subsists on donations. We are the only pro-life Catholic adoption agency that goes on the sidewalks outside abortion centers to offer help for the abortion bound mother and adoption if she wants to place her baby in a home.

We are in need of donations at this time. Our Agency has been involved in placing 15 babies into good Catholic homes in the past 6 years.

Any donation can be sent to:

Holy Family Catholic Adoption Agency

525 Thomas Ave

St Paul Mn 55103

Monday, November 24, 2008

Texas Obsession

I can't explain when it started or why, but my children are all about Texas. Every time someone mentions that state, it sets off a huge conversation about where they would go in Texas, what they might do in Texas, what and who they might see, and all kinds of questions get fired at me about the history and terrain of a state I've never been to (except for a layover in an airport once) and have no real pressing desire to visit (at least not as pressing as THEIR desire!). So, Bocker all of the sudden yesterday started talking about our old neighbors who moved months Texas, of course:

Bocker: Mom, why'd they have to move to Texas?

Me: Because their daddy got a job there.

Bocker: Why can't they move somewhere in THIS world?

Me: ? (No answer for that one. I know that Texas is probably nice in places and maybe a really different place to visit but I didn't realize it was...otherworldly!)

Bocker: (pausepausepause) Mom? Does Texas have real cactuses?


Just now, as I was reading this article to the kids, Bocker came up to me, shared some of his freshly, self-frosted cupcake and asked:

"Mom? If someone eats frosting off a knife can they get worms in their brain?"

Friday, November 21, 2008

Real Women, Real Saints

NO, it's not a "list of people I know" and "how much I am JUST LIKE THEM"'s a book review!!!

I normally don't read those "compilation of little stories" books. You know the ones...Chicken Soup for the Color Blind..., 101 Things To Do While You Are Waiting For The Dryer To Stop, coffee table books, "good to read on the toilet" books? This one is that sort of book, but I'm willing to suspend my "normal" book reading genre for a little variety, as long as I think it's worth it!

Since I'm a reviewer for The Catholic Company, I had a choice of several books to review and since Weazy is a HUGE saint junkie, I chose the book Real Women, Real Saints-Friends For Your Spiritual Journey and read it as if it were a book book. Front to back. I think it should NOT be read that way. I enjoyed the little tidbits about each of the saints (and even learned some things I did not know before about some saints) but I should have read it little by little or maybe even "a saint a day" style. I found myself wishing I knew more about fewer saints rather than less about MANY (102 or so) saints.

At the beginning of each little tidbit (and when I say "little", I MEAN "little. On average, I'd say each story is only about 4 paragraphs long), there is a sort of annoying little, kind of "preachy" paragraph that prepares you for the story of that particular saint. I would rather just hear the facts, ma'am than have someones opinion about how this saint or that exemplified a particular virtue that makes her oh-so-understanding of my particular problems. I do understand where the author was going with that format but it just isn't my cup of tea. Here's an example from the book:

(Re: Saint Mary Magdalene De Pazzi 1566-1607 p.20)
"Faith flourishes in the dark. Trials, temptations, spiritual dryness and suffering are all opportunities for our faith to grow stronger. We can, of course, neglect these opportunities to allow our faith to wither and die. But those who praise God in life's difficulties will experience the opposite effect."

See? See what I mean? Maybe you don't and that's okay. It's just that when I read those preachy statements (even when they are true) my eyes kind of glaze over and I get very bored. When the author tries to "spice up" the story with modern references or language (it doesn't happen often, just once in a while), that kind of bugs me too. I'm a horrible writer so I know it would be hard to compile a bunch of historical info, put my own twist on it, and actually make it interesting to read. I'd probably be inconsistent and scattered in my writing but that's why I DON'T write things like this book! I hope I don't turn off someone who might actually LIKE books like this but I have to be honest about how I felt about it (even if that means the author gets all mad at me or that the people who solicited the review say "bye bye" to their new, crabby reviewer!).

I would recommend this book for a lukewarm Catholic woman friend who may not have time for heavy, theological reading, or maybe a new convert that isn't convinced that the saints actually were human persons who had sinful thoughts, feelings, and/or actions. I would not recommend this book to the Catholic woman who has a lot of books about saints flowing over on her bookshelves and who knows her saintstuff pretty well already (no, I'm not bragging about my saint IQ, I'm just saying that someone who has a lot of saint reference books might be... underwhelmed by this one. That, and it doesn't even have any pretty pictures!).

I'd give it a two star rating out of five.

The Catholic Company has a lot of great books and neato gift items so go check them out asap!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Help A Soldier

On Veteran's Day, we went to our local program held by the American Legion. It was a very sweet tribute complete with a reading of the names of all of our local veterans of past wars and current men and women serving in the military from our area. There was a representative of a local Operation Minnesota Nice group that encouraged us to "adopt a soldier" and we were so excited to be able to do this! Last night, in the basement of the American Legion, we packed our very first box for our soldier and it was SO FUN! It was so wonderful to hear the letters and responses from soldiers and even one from a fallen soldier's mother who thanked the sponsor after she found cards and letters from that person in her son's belongings sent home from Afghanistan.

We went to Wal-mart and bought some cocoa and cookies for ten soldier's boxes. When we got to the packing, we just put one thing each in the 8-10 boxes on our table (there were 8 on our table last night and each of those people brought things to put in each box as well) and then used some of the extra stuff people had donated from a group table on the side to fill our box to bursting. We brought the box home, and since it's a Christmas themed box, we are going to wrap each little thing individually and include some info about our family and our gratitude for our soldier's service and sacrifice. It's SO SIMPLE and (literally) takes only a few dollars and MINUTES of your time. If you are one of my MN peeps, PLEASE consider doing this once a month for a soldier. Your kids will LOVE doing this and it feels so good to help in a small, but concrete way.
(you can also do a one time, Christmas shipping!)
...or contact me if you're from around my town and I can get you in touch with our local group's leader.

One Handed Blogging

Dedicated to multitasking mommies everywhere!

(P.S. Don't you just love those finger dimples?!)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

God Reminded Me

I went to check on my sister's boyfriend's nephew (Mason caringbridge site) and found that his mother had provided some links of people to pray for. I always loved the name "Liam" so I was drawn to his site:

Here is a mother in the worst moments of her life.

As I was reading the whole journal, Niklaus came downstairs for his story (that I promised him if Tommy fell asleep about 3 hours ago). How could I tell him, "No, just go back to bed!" because it's late and he should be sleeping? How could I waste one minute of time or attention from my beloved children when there are mothers out there just praying desperately for one more minute with their dying child?

PLEASE, if you could offer some sacrifice for her baby today, if you could just pray for some sort of miracle for her. I think she's at the end of her rope as she watches her baby slip away from her so painfully. Please pray.

Thank you.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Speaking of Words

Does "Catholic" have two syllables or three?

I say it with two but I think there's a sneaky syllable in there. I hate those sneaky syllables.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Saturday, November 08, 2008

A Vote That Will REALLY Make a Difference

Go here and then go vote for Thomas Peters. He's so super cool and he really works to make his blog a good one. He deserves a break for school and the vote only takes a couple seconds!

Plus, he's got one of the coolest headers on the internet!

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Word

"IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."

I can't say anything more profound than this, but I want to talk about my love for words and where I think it comes from.

(boring post alert...please feel free to completely ignore the following introspective blather)

I really love words. I love to hear them, see them, read them, write them, say them, touch them (raised letters embossed on things). I've always loved them. I've been told that I always spoke very clearly (the neighbor girls made fun of my super-pronunciation) Before I went to kindergarten, my mom taught me to read and I still remember the first book I read all by myself and understood. It was "The Secret Three" about a club of boys by a lighthouse. I remember the day I actually grasped that the words formed an idea, and that idea made sense, and was a good story! I read it over and over again (even though we had lots of books in the house) because I had such joy in that discovery. I probably ran through the house reading to anyone who would listen. Maybe I even read and re-read it to my baby sister, Katrina? I just was so excited to be a part of the bigger story of man. It was as if I had joined a club that I could never be kicked out of. No matter what happened socially, I was a part of some bigger world that would grow exponentially now that I had the key to decoding mankind and all of its mysteries.

Okeydokey, that's getting a little deep. I was just a four year old and learned how to read a little book. But it was SAWEEEEET!

Fast forward to my school years. I know I've written about this before but it comes back to haunt me that I really don't remember much about grade school. I do remember the smell. I am shocked that the smell of the school hasn't changed (when I go back there for book sales and things). I do remember my teachers and funny things that happened in between classes but I sure don't remember any lessons or anything they taught me. I also remember almost all the words to every song we were ever taught.

White coral bells
Upon a slender stalk;
Lilies of the Valley deck my garden walk.

Oh, how I wish
That I could hear them ring.
That can only happen when the fairies sing!

I had my head buried in a book during every class. If it was impossible to read (teacher sees me!) I would be dreaming about what was coming up next in the current book I was reading or looking out the window, making up some fantastical story about "what would happen if..." and imagining some crazy scenario where one of the students would do something totally out of character and how the teacher would react. Basically, I had plays running in my head all through the lesson. I would do my homework very quickly and roughly so I could get back to my passion, reading (okay, I also watched a fair amount of cartoons when I didn't have a book to read). I would have read all of the teacher's books by the middle of the school year and I had already read everything interesting in the library so I was often bored by winter time.

Looking back, I guess I could have poured some of that energy into actual studying of my subjects. I did love English and reading class, of course. I could have probably found geography, history, science, social studies a little more interesting if there had been stories that illustrated some of those concepts. I just had trouble processing anything on a chart or on the chalkboard...anything NOT in book form! Math just sucked always. There are no good books about math, lets face it.

Now, because I have so little time to read books (although I've been hitting them hard lately and have some good reviews coming up), my word fix is online or the captions on the TV, or listening to talk radio. I can't totally express how much joy it gives me to turn on the radio in the morning. I love the words, the laughs, the funny parody songs. LOVE IT. It's not an addiction, it's a gift. It's a necessity for life for us to have these words and these sources of light in a dark world. I'm probably dramatizing things a little but when I'm at my lowest, a kind word or just the company of words can lift me up again. Total darkness isn't absence of light, it's absence of communication!

Think about it: true hell would be not evil demons torturing you mercilessly and endlessly, THAT would be kind of funny after a while. True hell would be not knowing anything about where you were, where anyone else was, why you were there or why no one would visit you. True hell would be no communication between you and your loved ones or any other person. If we had total ignorance of any word, we would be in a living hell. One saving grace I have in a world of darkness is that voice inside me that can create imagination and stories, songs and praises. I could be locked in an endless cave with total darkness and no stimulation around me but, because of my past with words and how to use them, I have a treasury of beauty inside me that could sustain me indefinitely!

I've been thinking a lot lately about how words have affected my life. I get into trouble a lot for the words I choose to use. I always try to pray before I speak but I'm imperfect and don't always say the right or the most succinct thing. I find it hard to write properly without injecting my voice or way of speaking (onomatopoeia much?). I don't write in the best way or use my writing to further God's glory always. I will always try, but I often fail. I often think, "If you can't say sompthin' nice, don't say nothin' at all!" but then my mouth opens and the words spill out. I wonder sometimes if God has something to do with that? I wonder if he hotwires my brain to circumvent that little, nagging voice that tells me, "HEEEEEYYYY, don't you DARE say THAT! It's gonna make you enemies and cause you all kinds of problems, lady!" just so I can learn my lesson and maybe do a better job of listening the next time? I wonder if He makes me learn from my mistakes so that I have greater patience with people who are a little farther back on the path than I am in any area in life? It's a lot to think about.

I'm obsessed with other languages and accents. I love how all of our words are connected by a very few degrees of separation. I wish I had more time to study all of that (maybe when the kids are grown?)!

Okay, so some questions you can answer (you don't have to answer them, just think about it):

What are some of your favorite words?

Which words make you happy just when you hear them?

What are some made up words that you have in your family?

What is an "old word" that you wish would come back in style?

Do you use "proper words" when you speak in certain situations but not with your friends or family? (for instance, when I'm in public and I bump into/almost bump into people, I say, "pardon me" but not around my family...I usually just say, "get outta the way!" hahaha, just kidding)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

All Saints Day

We have an annual party for Halloween/All Saints Day/Lexi's Birthday (Nov. 1) over at my brother Nick (Deb)'s house.

They went all out this year and had wooden cutouts, nice hay bales with decorations all over the place, fun food, outdoor projector for movie, firepit, and four wheeler hay ride.

I took about 100 pictures and it was really hard to narrow it down so here are some highlights.

Nick (patient with...exposure issues) Deb (doctor)

Pete as Obama. (I guess he is trying to stop smoking by dipping instead?)

Pete and Sofiapuppy

The birthday princess, Lexi


Lovelylovely Lucia


...yeah, I...

...ahem, well, er...


...just, like, wow, um...

...okeydokey, then...

One thousand apologies to those of you who think the denim jumper is the height of fashion for all modest, Catholic, traditional, homeschooling, shapeless moms. I just couldn't resist.

Oh, and the hands down winner of the costume contest (in my head, we didn't actually compete):

My brother Rudy.

Try and hold yourself back. OH YEEEEAHHHHHHH, he is VERY single!

Oooooohhhhh, alright! One more bonus shot, just for the single ladies out there:

You're WECOME!
Don't say I never did nothin' fer ya.


My blogfriend, Antonia (private blog) is having her baby today (in England) and needs lots of prayers to get through. She has the worst form of placenta previa so the wish list for good results is long:
-an easy delivery
-little loss of blood
-healthy mom
-healthy baby
-fast recovery (she's been in the hospital for MONTHS...she needs OUT!)
-nursing success
-good hope for more babies someday

Please pray for her today. Thank you!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Hear The Cry of the Poor...

(dang, it's getting LOUD in this country heh heh)

Life goes on. It really does! I swear!

So, now that we're under siege, here's what I'm going to do:

1. Keep praying and fighting for life. The poorest among us are the unborn/unseen humans. They can never be forgotten or ignored.

2. Go to my city council meetings and school board meetings and try to get one of those seats or support someone who is good to be on those boards. I don't think it's enough to just educate my children myself. I really do care about my neighbor's children and my relatives. I hope to have some impact on school choice and accountability to make our schools the best they can be.

3. Go to the tax cut rally next April.

4. Help the Republican party to understand that the main reason John McCain even won ANY state's electoral votes was ONLY because of Sarah Palin and if they try to shoot HER down as the reason he lost (which I heard is already happening, the b******s)...they are farther gone than is worth saving.

5. Try as hard as I can to build the Republican party up from the base to follow our platform as it is written and to kick every lily-livered, spineless, "middle of the road", "reachacrosstheaisler" OUT never to return and destroy any chance at all to bring back the ideals of our founders and take this nation BACK to being the best country, the most envied of all nations, the greatest form of government of all time.

6. Register for a weapon. I looked at some really SAWEEEET handguns today at Cabellas. I think I'll start saving right now (I WAS going to buy a nicer camera but I think my point and shoot piece will have to do until it conks out...I really wants me a GUN, pilgrim.)

So, what are YOU going to do? Really! Tell me about it! Tell me anything else I can do to keep my sanity and my hope alive!

Now, back to your regular, scheduled program of craziness.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Swing Voters?

I brought the kids to the polls with me today at around 1pm. There was no line at all and the whole thing took only 10 minutes or so. The only "trouble", I would say, that I encountered was this scenario: There was one lady in front of me as we were walking in the door. The helper asked her if she was registered and she didn't know so he, with a huge smile, offered to look in his book before she went in. After she went in, he turned his attention to me (the lady with the school aged kids and a baby on her back in a to life...conservative lady, maybe??) He gave me the stiff, fake smile (no smiling with his eyes like he had for that other lady) and directed me to the table when I said I was registered (he looked disappointed).

Oh well, the kids got the "you'd better be quiet and just watch what's happening, keep your hands and eyes to yourself, be respectful of others, don't embarrass me..." lecture before we went in and they were excellent. I made sure to take extra care to fill in the circles slowly so they could see how to do it. I had to chuckle when we were standing in line to drop our ballot in the box and a helper lady asked me, "did you leave a baby over here, is this your baby?". For one, brief, crazy moment I thought I had left a child over there (small room but it could happen!) but laughed when I saw that Mari had left her doll by where I voted.

Afterward, we walked over to the park (where we parked the car, I had a Michelle Bachmann bumper sticker that I didn't want to get in trouble for!) and played for a super long time until it started to sprinkle. It is amazingly warm and beautiful today! Tommy got his very first swing ride from Niklaus.

Matty hates posed pictures, can you tell? How do you like their shirts? I know, it's just wrong that I am encouraging them to become big-time, political nerds like me (also, I got those shirts from work for just a couple bucks so I couldn't resist).

Sunday, November 02, 2008

I Approve This Message

We went to my brother and sister-in-law's annual Halloween party (my niece's birthday is on the 1st of Nov. so it's a nice day for us to get together) yesterday (Sunday). My bro, Nick hooked up a snowmobile trailer to his four-wheeler and added some haystacks for a hayride for all the kids (maybe about 25 or so of them). Some of the grownups were given scary masks and fake knives and stuff to scare the hayriders on the path through the trees.

Butch happened to grab a mask that had a... unique quality to it. He put it on and fluffed up his hair. Then, he put his glasses on the mask and, well...he looked very familiar. Everyone said the same thing when he did that..."Oh my gosh, you look just like...!"

So, MN peeps? Who does this look like to YOU?


SUPER SCARY (in more ways than one!)!!!!!

By the way, MN Peeps, go HERE for a sample of your ballot and if you have any good idea of who are good judges to vote for, let me know.

Also, if you are in school district 885 who is good for the school board? I heard a commercial on the radio for the Minneapolis school district for a lady who is a homeschool mom and the only one NOT in favor of a tax hike to "improve the schools:" and "reduce class sizes" (BS, as usual. There will NEVER be enough money for the teacher's union) Her name is Kari Reed. She sounds like the only voice of reason in that district. VOTE FOR HER IF YOU HAVE ANY GOOD SENSE!