Monday, July 30, 2007

The Power of Creamsicles

I think we might have taken the first steps towards conquering Little Mark's first and only neurosis. I mentioned in a previous post that he, put mildly, didn't like the fireworks on the Fourth of July. Since then he hasn't set a foot outside the back door without crying and screaming in utter terror. If I put him outside, he screams and stands clawing at the glass door until someone opens it up to let him in. I've tried to take him to the swing set or to the trampoline, but he clings to me with his face in my chest, looking over his shoulder as if something were climbing up out of a dark hole to get him.

It's a little weird. But, not as weird as Margaret's old fear of the chimney.

She used to be afraid of our chimney. Lord knows how that happened, but she wouldn't go any farther from our house than the point where she could see, or see the shadow on the ground of our chimney. At that point she would look over her shoulder as if something were creeping up on her, and run back to the door in a panic. It's been a fun thing to talk to her about since LMark has developed a similar fear. She talks about it in such a clinical tone of voice that you would think she is a survivor of a major illness. She tells LMark, "See? It's just a chimney! I used to be afraid of the chimney!"

Tonight I sent the kids outside with a creamsicle: the orange popsicle with the ice cream inside. LMark began to behave as he had previously, but then began to focus on the creamsicle. After a while, he began to whine, but not about the chimney--or whatever he's afraid of out there--but being "keekee" ("sticky" -trans.). So I wiped off his hands and face, and he watched Max ride his bike around in circles. I could tell that he wanted to get his little car, but didn't have the nerve. All the same, it's a step toward healing.

Barbeque Again

This year was our church's fifth? sixth? annual barbeque. Every year but one we have done better than we had the year before. If I recall, the only reason we did poorly on that one is because we tried to have two barbeques within a few months of each other and we didn't have the overhead paid for. But it seems to be our best fundraiser, and the most fun to participate in for everyone.

There were some little leaguers down the road doing a bbq fundraiser too. The little boys in their uniforms jumping all around and hollering at cars going by must have been difficult to pass up. But they made a fatal mistake in their marketing: someone set up a tent with a big Clemson Tiger paw on each corner. The two times I drove by, they didn't seem to have nearly the number of customers we had. For people in our area, cute kids will make up for a lot, but not a big orange tiger paw.

Max is sick again. He was in our bed last night, afraid of a shadow that his comforter was making on the ceiling. This morning I attributed his lethargy to lack of sleep. But he awoke from a nap this afternoon with a slight fever. I think we'll continue to
blame it on the cousins.

We started our Veritas Press Omnibus today, and I'm very pleased so far. In the preface of our textbook there are a few lines that stood out, and made me like the author immediately:

G.K. Chesterton said somewhere that if a book does not have a wicked character in it, then it is a wicked book. One of the most pernicious errors that has gotten abroad in the Christian community is the error of sentimentalism--the view that evil is to be evaded, rather than the more robust Christian view that evil is to be conquered. The Christian believes that evil is there to be fought, the dragon is there to be slain. The sentimentalist believes that evil is to be resented...A classical Christian school or a home school following the classical Christian curriculum must never be thought of as an asylum. Rather, this is a time of basic training; it is boot camp.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Hallows End

As we were driving home last night there was a spectacular lightning storm. It rained and blew all the way, and didn't let up till we got home safely, thank God.

I finished The Deathly Hallows Wednesday morning and I loved it. Rose was significantly ahead of me in the book, but I began to catch up to her by Tuesday as we were drove to Charleston. Mark & I kept hearing her gasp and groan from the back seat. Then she wailed, "Mom, close the book right now!" She was in tears, but not just the quiet, embarrassed kind of tears you have in a movie. She was unabashedly crying like I haven't seen her cry in years. Over the next few hours and on into the night, I found her hiding in quiet corners of the house, reading, with tears streaming down her face. I began catching up with her, and finished the book Wednesday morning. I wholeheartedly believe Rowling has pulled it off in every way, and I can't wait to hear more from her about the story.

The discussion on Granger's site about the Christian ending is excellent. The image of Voldemort over Harry's body reminds me of Pauline Bayne's illustration of the White Witch over Aslan's body.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Storms and Salami

We had a nice time visiting with Mark's dad & step-mom Marilyn. We went to the water park near Charleston the first day, and drove down to Mark's dad's house in Savannah afterwards. On day two we went from Savannah to Tybee Island for a day at the beach. It stormed from the time we got on the highway till we got there. We weren't sure what to do. I told the kids to pray for blue sky, because we can't really come back another day. Mark & I were already making alternate plans for next week, or the next. We followed the signs for beach parking, but it was storming there too. But then, out of nowhere appeared a patch of blue sky. So we drove toward it, and found it about two miles away, right above a lovely little beach in between a pier and a jetty. It was an answer to prayers. We were, needless to say, delighted and thankful.

Before we left that day Mark's dad warned me of letting the kids swim alone because there had been several drownings recently. Since seeing Jaws about 25 years ago I've been exceedingly--compulsively--cautious of the ocean, and any salt-waters deeper than belly-button level. The one day I did venture beyond waist level with my sister, we waved at a man in a boat floating about twenty feet from us. After returning to shore, we noticed that he was pulling his boat in, and a crowd was gathering around him. We joined the crowd and saw that he had caught and pulled in a nine-foot shark. My sister might say it was a three-foot shark and the boat was much further from us--but it was a shark nonetheless.

So I lost sight of Margaret for two minutes--it might have been thirty seconds--and I imagined the worst. As it turned out she had gone to the towel to eat a sandwich. She began throwing bread to the seagulls, much to the delight of the children on the beach blankets nearby. When Little Mark discovered how to attract birds, he was relentless, and spent nearly a half hour with two fistfulls of salami walking after three or four pigeons that didn't seem to want to fly.

We went to see a show called "Return to the Fifties" at the Savannah Theater on Thursday night which was lots of fun. It always seems to happen that one of my kids gets called up to the stage when we go anywhere that calls for audience participation. This time it was both Ella & Margaret. They were invited to hula hoop on stage. Once Margaret was asked to participate in a chicken race at the Dixie Stampede in Orlando. Another time Rose was in Branson with her grandparents and she was "levitated" at a magic show. I can't recall all the other times, but those are the most notable.

Monday, July 23, 2007

All Wet

Two days ago I spent an hour or more mopping the kitchen floor. My pristine white-linoleum-days are gone. Now I am happy if I can achieve a dullish grey even with a good amount of bleach. There are nicks all over the floor where the children have dropped knives in the process of emptying them from the dishwasher. It's a pretty frightening sight to see Meggy casually walking around with three knives the size of her arm in each hand shouting, "Knives comin' through!!". Ella is much more cautious and will take them one at a time from the dishwasher to the drawer about six feet away.

Little Mark used the potty on his own today. He pulled off his pants and made some poop. With great fanfare I congratulated him, flushed, and gave him his reward. I then went upstairs to sing his praises to the rest of the family. As we were all upstairs, he took this opportunity to flush his pajama pants down the toilet. When I returned, I found the foyer and hallway flooded. With horror I looked into the bathroom as little Mark was pulling his pants out of the toilet. The bathroom rug sat atop the water like a raft, while toilet water artistically flowed over the edges of the bowl like mall fountain. We did our best to shop-vac the water up, but towels did the best job.

On a happy note, I had been meaning to mop the hall and foyer, but LMark expedited the work for me. Moreover, without my new washer and dryer, taking care of the towels would have been a two-day job. With these new appliances, the 14 towels are almost dry.

Rose is sick upstairs. Since initially writing about the stomach bug we picked up in Greenville, there have been only one or two days where someone hasn't been exhibiting symptoms from one end or the other. Ella was sick when we missed the feast of the Apostles. The Sunday following that Rose stayed home with a sick Meggy. We almost missed St Elizabeth day because Ella and Meggy were sick early that morning (tandem vomiting). Max was throwing up yesterday morning around 5:30. And now Rose is sick again. I can't think of what the kids might be eating on a regular basis to get them so sick--so we'll just continue to blame it on the cousins.

We're leaving for Charleston & Savannah tomorrow. I won't be done with the Deathly Hallows by then, so I'm looking forward to reading it on our trip.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Night

Well, tonight is the night. The final HP book comes out. Rose is at Nell's house drinking butterbeer and making predictions about the next book. I am so grateful that I was influenced to read these books by someone whose taste I trust. I am grateful that I didn't dismiss them because I sometimes like listening to Christian radio. I think now that there has been so much talk among the Christian talkers about the fact that the plot of these books might be Christian that they've come out with a new tactic: Why read Harry Potter when you can read C.S. Lewis or Tolkien--or the Bible?

I remember talking to my mom about HP a couple books ago. I mentioned the blatant Christian symbolism--the phoenix, the stag, etc (all pointed out by my husband and John Granger--I wouldn't have gotten much of it on my own). I suggested that she (and no doubt many of the casual readers of modern fiction) will shamelessly read books filled with cuss words, sex scenes, and brutality, but will recoil when a fictional teenager wields a wand and recites a Latin derivation which sounds magical. It seems almost too made-to-order: like the WWJD bracelets and the fish bumperstickers, and all of the other various consumerist evangelical plastic muck that they have to put on their car, refrigerator or wrist to prove to everyone that they are Christians.

Ella & Margaret were sick all early yesterday morning: from about 3 AM to 6 AM. Fortunately I was already awake around 2 AM when the boys came into our bedroom to visit. Mark once caught Max sneaking into our bedroom so comically that he couldn't help but allow him to stay. Since then Max hasn't been so secretive.

The other day I was getting Margaret and Ella into the car for a trip to WalMart. Ella was talking about her shoes; Margaret was talking about her hair, and discovered a green barette in the seat. She began to fiddle with her hair, trying to get the barette into it. Ella, always the surrogate mother, says "Margaret, buckle up first. Remember: safety before fabulous!" Truly, it is encouraging to a mother to know that her children know the important things in life.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Half-Blood Prince

I decided to pick up the most recent Harry Potter book, The Half-Blood Prince. I've gotten past page 41 in that, but not in Brothers Karamozov. In picking up the HP books again I realized that I probably have too-high hopes for the last story. I really want the plot to be so entirely and obviously Christian that it destroys the shallow critics. The library has them sitting in the back, waiting to be cataloged. I don't know how I would resist if I were a technical services librarian. I'd have to peek.

I was going to launch into my love for HP & John Granger's exposition of them, but I just caught LMark naked. From the den came Ella's cry: "Mom! Little Mark's naked!" I caught him standing in front of the kitchen sink on a stool with a spatula in hand looking very official--but naked.

LMark is in the midst of potty training. When he was about 9 months I tried him on the potty and he went like a pro. He went as often as I put him on there--until he learned to walk. Since then he's been in more control of the situation than I have been. But there were a few glorious months where we were changing only one diaper a day. I do believe it's possible to potty train an infant. My cousin has done it with his daughter, but they have only one child to devote every waking minute to. I have a few more than one, so we do our best. As far as training an older boy, I've discovered it's easier to teach a boy to tinkle on command when he's standing up, than when he's sitting on a potty seat. We start with him standing in the tub, splash warm water on his tinkler and he goes within seconds. If I put him the potty seat, he sits for ten or more minutes--in privacy--and manages to destroy the bathroom in the process: pulling off all the toilet paper; playing in the toilet water; and doing things I would be afraid to publish.

Fr Mark just called me from church, to make sure they weren't all going to be blown away in a tornado. I checked the news, and it looks like they aren't. Tonight is the vigil for St Elizabeth Day. Tomorrow is our parish feast day. I believe it is our ninth celebration of the parish feast. We celebrate our tenth anniversary on 11/21. It's hard to believe it's been this long.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


It's because he's supposed to resemble a snake that he has no nose. I would have thought of that before if the actor playing Voldemort wasn't so good looking with the nose. I liked the movie, though. The actress playing Umbridge is perfect perfect perfect. I liked the Luna Lovegood character very much. In the book her character struck me as something of a hippie comic relief. But in the movie she had a purity and a simplicity that was almost heartbreaking.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Pillow Talk

On Wednesday we ended an era and threw away one of the few things we have left over from our pre-marriage days. It was a queen-size pillow that was part of Mark's man-dowry and which, for the past 15 years of our marriage was being used either by him or one of the children. Out of curiosity I looked up the shelf-life of a pillow. It appears we have been using it about 15 years too long. Pillows should be replaced every one to three years. Mattresses double in weight every 10 years because of all the allergens, dust mites, skin, and miscellaneous gunk our bodies ooze out while we're sleeping. Who knows how much this pillow weighed 15 years ago. So LMark threw up on it the other day and I (I should say "we" since I called Mark for permission) decided to say goodbye.

Because I was so disgusted by the 15 year-old pillow, I decided to get new ones for all the kids (Max didn't need one so he got underwear as a consolation prize). When I began putting the kids to bed last night the little girls began to moan about missing their pillows. Ella's was a nasty foam-thing whose only use should be in a decorative pillow sham. But she loved it and wanted it back. Margaret wouldn't let me take hers, but cried out "Don't take Smelly Smith!" I had heard this name before, but I thought it was a joke. It isn't a joke. She calls her pillow "Smelly Smith", and if you remove the pillow case you can easily see why--I wouldn't suggest smelling it. I think I'll wait a few days till she gets used to her new pillow to send Mr Smith to the dump.

Right now we're watching Christina so Svetozar & Ruta can go see the new Harry Potter movie. Rose and I (maybe Mark instead of me--if something comes up) are going to the 8:45 showing tonight. When I saw the trailer I got chills. I love the books and I like the movies. The only thing I have a problem with is Voldemort's missing nose. I wonder why he doesn't have one. If you are evil and you lose your soul, do you also lose the cartiledge in your nose? I wonder about this because every plot seems to be interconnected and have either symbolic significance or leads to another twist in the story. I'm probably the only person in the world wondering what's up with his nose.

This is a picture of Little Mark driving the refrigerator. He takes my keys, my phone, my sunglasses and my purse and tells me he is going "bye-bye in de car"--which is actually the refrigerator.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Feast of Sts. Peter & Paul

Mark, Rose & I went to the SCAIHS office today to meet with our curriculum counselor. It wasn't as bad as I feared, and the counselor really just allowed us to tell her what we wanted to do. She offered advice, but only when we asked for it. Mark was wearing his cassock, so maybe that makes him look like he knows how to teach Honors World Literature. The kids & I had to miss church this morning because Ella caught the stomach bug that LMark had. It seems that it lasts one or two vomits and then it's over. Thank the Lord for that. Meggy will probably have it tomorrow, and then on down the line.

I started Brothers Karamozov last night, and had to pick it up around 2 AM because Max woke me up and I couldn't get back to sleep. It's not an enjoyable read when it's that early in the morning. I hate to read about children being abandoned by their profligate fathers, even if they are fictional. I did, however, have a revelation after beginning the book, that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is due out in nine days. I wonder if I'll be past page 41 in BK before then.

The boys and I went into the woods this afternoon down by the hammock. The boys climbed trees while I lounged and put off the laundry for another afternoon. The weather is much cooler than one would expect it to be in mid-July. It's hot, but not unpleasantly so. After about 45 minutes we went back to the patio to get hosed off. The kids usually come in with chigger bites if we don't do something about them immediately. Meggy & Ella were all bitten up last week from being in the woods. I didn't hose off, but I wasn't climbing trees either.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


I shoud have been more precise in my previous post: Fast free barbeque makes me happy.
Barbeque during the fast depresses me--because I am usually either craving it or eating it covertly.


Last night we had several friends over as a good-bye party for Sarah. Her sister broke her neck in a car accident a few months ago, so she's been in Florida with her. She needs to go back to her home in Colorado to help her family, while her mother is with her sister in FL. We don't know if she'll be back. Fortunately her sister won't suffer any significant damage from the neck injury. The Lord is good.

Little Mark got sick in the middle of the night, and threw up outside our bedroom door, and then in our bed. Unfortunately this seems to always happen after getting together with the cousins. The cousins are more exposed to germs in their preschools than we are, so they are walking incubators of stomach bugs, runny noses, and ear infections. But, really, it's not a big deal right now. Hopefully he won't pass it on to the others.

We are going to go to the library today to get the kid's prizes for the summer reading club--french fry coupons, or ice cream cone coupons. I think I'm going to try Brothers Karamozov again. I can't seem to get past a certain point in any book these days and it's driving me crazy. Mark showed me an article called "The 41 Page Syndrome" by Will Manely, which was about a man who was a voracious reader all of his life, but who suddenly wasn't able to read past page 41 in any book. After many months of suffering from this problem, he discussed it with a friend who had a similar ailment. Together they discovered that it began happening after the birth of their children. Unfortunately the article didn't discuss the cure--or whether the man was ever cured. Since I'm no longer nursing, LMark doesn't try to crawl in my lap when I sit down to read. However, all of the kids think I'm their personal mattress so if I recline on the couch with a book, they have to join me, and at least one ends up sitting on my head...which isn't conducive to reading. I've been thinking about setting out bright orange pylons when I don't want to be disturbed.

Tonight I need to put together Rose's syllabi for her various subjects. I meet with the curriculum counselor tomorrow after church to discuss what we have chosen so far, and to get some ideas for what else we need to do to comply with their regulations. At least I'll be able to get some barbeque afterwards. I truly believe that barbeque makes me happy.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Back from Greenville

We're back from Greenville, and only a little sunburned for the wear. We had a lot of fun boating, swimming, and eating; eating, swimming, and boating. Little Mark & Blakely both went out on the innertube with me and had a marvelous time. LMark almost fell asleep, until we hit the wakes of another passing boat and began bouncing like crazy. We couldn't go slow or we would have dragged at an uncomfortable angle, so the speed kept us horizontal.

My parents came up on Sunday after they went to church. Jennifer, knowing that I was missing church to be in Greenville, offered to take me to what she calls her "U2 church". She terms it so because the first time she went there they played a U2 song as part of the worship music. It reminds me of my Catholic upbringing at Queen of Apostles in Dayton, Ohio, where they were on the cutting edge of Vatican II. To show how well they embraced the reforms the church was making they sang Barry Manilow's song, "Daybreak" as their worship music. I also remember the jaunty tune we would sing with the creed.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Off to Greenville

Tomorrow we head off for Greenville to visit my sister's family at the lake. My brother will be up at his lake house with his family too. I'm not sure whether my folks will be able to come since they're getting back from Canada tomorrow. I wouldn't want to tack a weekend onto a long trip, and top it off with nine grandkids, eight of whom are seven and under.

But both Jim & Jennifer have pontoon boats so this promises to be a fun time. I love getting together with my siblings. I was told that Hadley, who just turned 6, knows how to play blackjack so the Ella & Meggy are excited to play with her.

Lord have mercy.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The 4th

Last night we had some friends over for barbequed portabella mushrooms and fireworks. I think this is our third year grilling portabellas and they've become a big hit in the crazy crowd of fasting Orthodox we run in.This fast has been a particularly difficult one for me. The Apostle's Fast lasts forever, and it throws a monkey wrench into summer. The trip to Vegas first messed me up, and getting back into the swing of fasting has been difficult. But fortunately there's only one more week of this. It's not the fasting that is overbearing, it's the guilt associated with breaking it when I do. I need to stop looking at the fast as if it were a contest, and more like a medicine, which I suppose is closer to the intent of the Church.

This is the biggest fireworks display we've done yet. When I was growing up the most amazing thing we did was the whistling bottle rocket. Little Mark didn't like any of it. When I picked him up he was shivering all over. He is usually blissfully confident, so it was unnerving to see him as frightened as he was. It made me want to plug his ears and hold him all night. But he wanted to go to bed. When I left to take him upstairs Mark was sneakily setting up smoke bombs in the corners of the patio. However, he had accidentally picked up the wrong thing (which he claims "looked exactly like the smoke bomb") and inadvertently set off a noise-making firecracker which began tossing out dancing fireballs in the midst of our guests. When the children were in bed, Mark & I sat on our driveway watching the fireworks on the horizon with Max. He was lying on his belly with his elbows on a pillow and his chin in both hands. I hope I don't forget how that looked, because it is a very sweet memory. It was a nice end to the evening.

In previous years July 5th was rainy. As a result, the remnants of the night before were always soggy and mushy. It was a several day ordeal to pick up all of the cardboard and plastic stuff scattered throughout our yard. This year we had something called a Saturn Militia (?) which had fifty plastic bullet-shaped things which shot high into the air and exploded with a loud crack. I picked those things up all morning--half of them anyway.

I think I might have found a history program. It is by
Veritas Press which seems to be a good classical homeschool resource altogether. They are much less confusing than Sonlight, whose web site and catalogue make my head hurt. I'm watching the Omnibus I on Ebay right now. It would be about a $100 savings to get it used.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Leavetaking...

Today is the Leavetaking of Mark's Nativity, i.e. my birthday. It was suggested that we celebrate the octave but I think we'll just call it a septave, and leave it at that.

Yesterday LMark brought in a little car from the outside covered in sand and old brown grass-clippings. He rode it all through the kitchen, hall, foyer, den, and living room, leaving a trail behind. Max wanted to ride it this morning but LMark put up a fuss and tried to tear it away from him. They had a pulling match and proceeded to get all the remaing clippings all over the newly mopped kitchen. Max won the pulling match and Little Mark, to teach him a lesson, threw a plate of peanut butter-toast and apple slices at him. The toast, according to Murphy's Law, had to land face down--every last piece. I made both the boys pick up the mess. But for some reason, in the midst of their work, they got the giggles and made up. To solidfy the deal they began eating the grass-and-sand-covered peanut butter toast and apples. I didn't want to interfere in their peace process, however gross it was to watch.

I taught Rose, Ella, & Margaret how to play 5 card draw yesterday, and blackjack. I remember my dad taught us kids when we were little. We'd play for pennies which we didn't keep. The girls loved the game with the pennies. Ella & Meggy learned how to play rummy a month or two ago, and I had to make up a rule that they couldn't get up before 6 AM to play cards. Who knows what will happen with their learning poker. However, I did tell them they weren't allowed to broadcast the fact among their friends or their friends' parents. I can't even begin to imagine the questions I would get from my Evangelical friends--or what I would answer.

Rose & I are reading Little Women. She wants to try out for a part in the Little Women Musical at the Village Square Theater this spring. And I encouraged her to do it. But I just found out that the practices run through Lent and the final performance is on Pascha Sunday. I haven't the heart to tell her, because she would make a perfect Beth: small, thin, and I think she could pull off frail and sickly. She won't be happy about this I'm sure. Maybe I'll get Mark to tell her.