Over the last decade, I’ve come to rely heavily on my PC for basic things. I haven’t had batteries in my big scientific calculator for a long time, since I have Excel that does more than any hand-held calculator could ever manage. Check book register? I use Quicken. The few checks that I “write” a month, are actually printed out. And of course, the word processor and the scanner are two of my biggest friends in my job as teacher.

And then there’s email and the internet. The few errands that I ran yesterday reminded me why I avoid shopping with children in tow. Online I can find most things I need and have them delivered to my door at minimal additional cost. I use online banking to pay bills and see how much is left, as we approach the end of the month, in the “cash” account funded by my tenants. I’ve stopped getting a newspaper: weather and news are a few clicks away. I get directions to places I want to go, reviews on products I might want to try, alternative opinions on new and interesting topics discussed at an outdoor barbecue, and cut-rate prices, the best I’ve ever seen, on new or used books.

When we moved here, I guess we’ve been here about seven weeks, we were forced to put my desk in what should be the dining room, but is so small it won’t fit a table that would accommodate more than four people. The living room and dining room are combined. It’s a bit tight, but we’re managing. It’s only ten months, we keep reminding ourselves. And the desk is located well with a good vantage over most of the indoor and outdoor activity. Unfortunately, the cable guys could not, would not run the modem lines into that room. We had permission from housing, but they said they couldn’t do it within the scope of what housing deemed acceptable alterations.

No problem, they said. Here’s a wireless adaptor that plugs into your USB port. As long as you install it, you can have it for free. Wasn’t that nice of them?

I swear this thing had a mind of its own. And it was a twisted, malicious mind that derived pleasure from torturing this already harried woman.

It took us a week, and another visit from a different cable guy, to figure out how to get the thing to work in the first place. Even the cable guy sat and scratched his head for quite a while with a puzzled look on his face. After that, it has performed its job sporadically at best. It would tease me by saying, oh yes, I do see a signal…but it would refuse to connect to it. Or it would connect with limited connectivity, which really meant no connectivity. Or it would connect at a fraction of the available speed rendering its service more frustrating than helpful. And then, perhaps just as you were about to place an order on some books for your husband for his birthday, it would drop the connection. Oops, sorry, it would say, I’m just too tired to go on right now.

Every time we devised a new plan to get the thing to work, we would have a few days of trouble free connections, and then, like a child under a new discipline regimen, it would rebel and the magic tricks we used would suddenly no longer be of any use. Last Sunday, I woke up and tried to check the news and weather as usual with my morning coffee, but the adaptor had flat-lined. All efforts of resuscitation were futile.

Sunday wasn’t too bad, but Bill went off to school on Monday leaving me with the rotting corpse. And then I realized how much I use the internet as a linchpin for my sanity. There’s a world out there, beyond these sometimes confining walls, and my computer helps me to connect to it.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t live in the boonies. I have plenty of very nice neighbors with whom I am friendly. And my normally well-behaved children would love to help me escape our solitary confinement by going and visiting someone. And even without leaving the home, I have lots of people I could call and spend hours venting my frustration over these kids who seem to be taking turns coming up with new and unusual ways to push all my buttons. But I really didn’t want that. All I wanted to know was how hot it was going to be that afternoon, did anything in the world blow up, did my husband’s birthday presents ship, where should patches be sewn on an adult leader’s scout uniform, and what Herculean people was the furniture repair guy going to find who could lay my piano down flat without breaking it or this house.

Without an internet connection, I was frustratingly helpless to do these basic things, and it made me very cranky. I told myself that perhaps I should offer up this suffering for the souls in purgatory, but then another voice would shout that voice down. I shouldn’t be suffering, it said. I have an inalienable right to a functioning internet connection. And, actually, if I could have patiently suffered, I likely would not have been as motivated to fix the problem. I did try to not be grumpy with my family…I tried. But true calm did not descend until I had come up with a reasonable solution.

I considered putting my desk in the already crowded living room where the cable modem is. It’s only ten months, I reminded myself. But finally, I called a local computer shop and ordered a 46′ long ethernet cable which was surprisingly inexpensive. They promised it for Monday night, but didn’t have it ready, and I wasn’t able to get it until yesterday. But it was okay. I knew my problem would be fixed, and I could now offer up this waiting time. Naturally, sensing it was headed for the garbage pail, the wireless adaptor began to function again, in it’s taunting way, and I had a tenuous connection from Tuesday night through last night. Before dinner, my wonderful husband ran the newly purchased ethernet cable under the three rugs between the modem and the CPU – not a small feat considering the furniture that was on top of the rugs – and the wireless adaptor sits here in front of me on the desk, a worthless piece of junk. Who’s mocking who now, eh?

And now I can email the furniture repair guy about his insane idea for replacing the rusted wheels under my piano.

Life seems so much sunnier now.

Let them eat…cookies

Today is my husband’s birthday. It’s his last year of being “in his thirties,” and I hope it’s a good one for him.

At the grocery store yesterday, I loitered on the baking aisle staring at the rows and rows of all kinds of flour: all-purpose, self-rising, bread, cake, whole wheat, organic whole wheat…and I wondered where in the store they would have hidden the rye flour, since that was what I wanted and logic told me to look with the rest of the flour. Not there. And it didn’t come jumping out at me a few aisles later, so, once more, I hold off on baking the darker breads my husband prefers.

The kids were all gleefully dancing around the cake mixes and icings.

“Let’s get this one for Dad,” suggested Billy.

“Dad asked for a cobbler for dessert, so I’m not making a cake,” I informed him.

“Oh. Where are the cobbler mixes?” he wondered.

I sighed and explained that I was making one from scratch.

“Oh. Do I like cobbler?”

“I hope not!”

If you can’t say something nice…

…don’t say anything at all.

It helps if your computer won’t connect to the internet, too.

This third trimester is hitting me hard. I’ve got sciatic pain down both legs. It’s still hot. I’m grumpy.

The kids are acting like school is an oppressive burden. When offered the choice between their schoolwork or going to the local school, they want Option C: play all day long.

Peter now has three stitches in his chin. Of course he hurt himself at bedtime. Last night was a late night.

And my computer has not been connecting to the internet. Things I would normally do, like use Mapquest to confirm directions to the new piano teacher’s house, weren’t easily done (my husband’s laptop has been fine, but it’s inconveniently located and not connected to a printer…). So instead of confidently arriving on time for our lessons, I show up 20 minutes late and practically in tears because I was just so very frustrated…and hot…and uncomfortable…and traveling with grumpy kids who don’t want to do anything educational.

Tomorrow is the first weekday in this entire month that is blank. I’m baking cookies.

No Bubble Boys Here

Just in case you were wondering about “socialization” – oh, you know, that crucial issue raised by those who oppose homeschooling…

…the point being that you are depriving your children of something by not sending them off to hang out with their peers in a classroom all day long….that they’ll miss out on real life experiences…that you are overprotecting them by keeping them home…that your children may seem a little “off” or not “with it” or something…

I would just like to reassure the whole world that, indeed and most unfortunately, my sheltered children are being properly socialized. Heaven forbid that our decision to homeschool should keep us from a typical scenario experienced, I am sure, by thousands of parents every year such as the one we had last night at the dinner table when one of my sons demonstrated a gesture which he had learned and had explained meant “stupid.”

On the one hand, it’s so very nice to know that my children are unafraid to show off to their loving parents the wonderful new social graces they acquire in the neighborhood, and I am glad that his father and I are there to explain, calmly, that the middle finger does not, in fact, mean “stupid,” that it means something much worse, and that under no circumstances should he employ such a gesture ever.

On the other hand, having taught my children that saying “stupid” is akin to cursing, I question the common sense of my son who would nonetheless demonstrate to me a non-verbal way to use the term.

And I really question the common sense of both my older sons who continued to discuss with us, in almost scientific terms, all the knowledge they had obtained regarding the use of the middle finger (including physical demonstrations), until I quickly interrupted them and pointed out their three younger siblings who were listening, most interestedly, to every detail.

And have I mentioned that we call the toddler Pete the Parrot for obvious reasons? It was about three nights ago that Jenny taught him the lovely phrase “Shut up!” Thank goodness, he forgot it after about five minutes. That little girl is on a roll with causing mayhem.

And so, dear world, it is quite evident that homeschooling in no way detracts from proper socialization. My children have not yet reached double digit ages, and yet they know enough to get their front teeth knocked out by an older boy who really knows what the middle finger is all about. I’m sure a discussion about condoms isn’t too far in the future, since the first time I heard the word “rubber” was when I was ten. I had no idea what it meant, but I had enough sense to know that asking my mother meant asking for trouble.

My friends taught me that.

Rain, Rain, Don’t Go Away

Last night my sleep was interrupted by a loud kaBLAM of thunder. I smiled and snuggled deeper into the pillows. Nothing beats a good storm in my opinion. My eldest daughter disagrees, though, and she appeared at the door a moment later in tears frightened by the noise. I told her it was just a storm, nothing to be afraid of (thrilling, not scary, child) and invited her to sleep in “her spot” on the floor where we throw our shams at night.

We finally have a few days’ reprieve from the oppressive temperatures, and today’s high is only expected to reach about 80 degrees. Looking ahead at the 10 day forecast, we go back up to the 90s early next week for a few days and then settle down to the low 80s with overnight temps in the 60s. I am looking forward to opening windows and sitting outside on my swing.

But today should be rainy. Swimming is over, which means we should get school done early. I hope to knock out my long list of to-dos and errands and maybe even get in a nap. Or maybe we’ll just get comfy on the couch and read a few chapters of The Secret Garden and enjoy the rain.

Pool School

Hooray! Today is the last day of swimming lessons. I look forward to doing school in the mornings and having my afternoons free to do really important things.

Like nap.

I have been hauling books to the pool and having the kids do some work while they waited for their siblings to take their lesson. The young ladies who run the desk have been learning about Lief Erikson and getting a review on addition and subtraction. The other moms with tots running around and their older children safe in classrooms likely think I am nuts. But they smile friendly smiles, so it doesn’t matter.

Billy’s lesson ends just before 11 am when lap swimming begins, so often various adults begin filtering in and sign in at the desk right where we sit. The other day, I read an Aesop Fable to Katie called The Hares and The Frogs. She randomly picked this story out of our Fable book, and I had no idea what it was about. After I read it, she drew a picture in her blank book to go with the story, and then her assignment was to retell the story to me, and I would write down what she said on the page with her illustration.

Just when we got to the retelling part, an older man came in to do lap swimming. There was no attendant at the desk right then – just a sign that said she’d be back in 5 minutes. So he waited. And he listened to Katie tell me this story:

All the hares think all the other animals are their enemies. If they all run away, they will drown themselves. All the hares went to the pond. They saw frogs jumping in like they were drowning themselves. One of the hares said, “Stop! It doesn’t matter whoever you are. Don’t drown yourself. Somebody has it worse.”

Taken completely out of context, I really wonder what that man thought about my 6 year old’s story. Yes, sir, for school today our first graders will be discussing the pros and cons of suicide…


What happened to Prolifesearch dot com?

Esther posted this same question last week, and I’m reposting it here in case someone who reads me and not her knows. Barb reminded me that I still had their link on my sidebar, and I have removed it. I did know that following their link took you to a website devoted to The Cure (as in the band, not as in help for mankind’s ill health). I don’t mind the website on The Cure, but it’s not very useful if one is trying to search for local cub scout supply stores.

I do suspect hacking, but it’s been a long time now – months – since their search engine has worked. They seem to have fallen off cyberspace.

Rise and Shine…

…and give God your glory, glory!

This is what I’m singing this morning despite the protests of my 17 year old son…oh, no, wait, he’s only SEVEN. I’m a bit confused, but it’s understandable given his reluctance to get up at a decent hour.

Of course, it wouldn’t be so difficult to get UP if one went to sleep when one was told to do so. But instead of sleeping, we find our boys talking, laughing and playing cards by the light of the moon…

…the moon, the moon…playing cards by the light of the moon.

On the one hand, I think it’s amusing. I love that he and his brother are sharing that time together. I love that my kids enjoy playing cards, since that is a pastime of many happy memories from my own life with my family growing up.

But I am a morning person, and I believe that getting up at a regular and reasonable hour every day is a matter of good discipline. Besides, if he were in the local school, he would have to be there by 8 am!

And of all my children, this one doesn’t get any breaks. If he could dress, eat and do his morning chores in a short period of time, then he might be granted maternal dispensation to snooze for another half hour. But this child of mine can take twenty minutes just to put on a pair of socks. Oy vey!

Up and at ’em, buddy. Reveille was over an hour ago!

A New Tradition is Born

Today is Katie’s 6th birthday.

This past weekend I tried to find a gift locally. The toy department yielded nothing of interest, but I did manage to find one outfit that I think might be good in the girls’ department. It has a skort, but that seems short, so my hope is that if it’s inappropriately short the waist will be too big for her skinny little body, and I’ll have an excuse to return it.

And still, I felt she was too young to get only clothes for her birthday. She needed a toy of some kind. So after swimming lessons, we headed for the Super Walmart (open 24 hours!) that is 20 miles away.

Deserted rural highways prevent the drive from being too long.

I promised them all lunch and then Katie would be able to select a gift (I held ultimate veto power, of course). This idea was a big hit with all of us. Once she understood that she couldn’t have everything that she liked (she had to replace one item in order to get something else she wanted more), she was content in her choices. I’m happy to not have spent money on things she didn’t like. And the other kids are excited at the possibility of being able to do the same thing on their birthdays (although Billy will tell you how very far away February is).

And I received a birth-day gift as well. The kids behaved nicely in the food area. Most of the other customers were elderly men and women. A man at the table next to us asked if they were all mine. I smiled and said yes. He and the two women with him all nodded their approval.

“They are very well behaved,” he said. “Do you homeschool?” Local schools are in session around here.

“Yes, I do. It’s my daughter’s birthday, and we’re letting her pick out a present after lunch.” I guess I feel the need to justify my presence in public during “school” hours.

But they weren’t critical of my being out for lunch. Instead they turned to each other, and I could vaguely make out favorable comments directed toward homeschooled children from large families.

Thank goodness for these good days. May the memory sustain me through the bad ones.


It wasn’t that long ago that I was still nursing Peter to sleep. We gradually tapered things off, but shortly before his birthday at the end of June, we stopped. That was, what, eight weeks ago, perhaps? Not a long time, but it seems like forever.

From the ashes of our breastfeeding time rose our pre-sleep snuggle time. At night, in a dark and quieting house, I would sing him a song and rock him for 5 minutes or so, then follow an exact tuck-in procedure: carefully positioning his little puppy next to him, placing his blankie just right over him and the puppy, turning on the little birdies that sing Beethoven (always after asking him), singing one last stanza of whatever I had been singing before, and then I would tell him goodnight and that I had to finish the dishes now (even if they were all done). He would happily hug his puppy and smile a goodnight and drift off to sleep.

In the afternoon, it would be harder for him to settle down with the sunlight streaming in and the distant sounds of his siblings having fun without him. But it would only take about ten minutes of gentle swishing in the glider rocker, and he would be fast asleep. None of my older four children ever enjoyed being rocked for longer than a few minutes, and it was a pleasant surprise when he started doing it.

An obnoxious voice in my head tried to tell me that rocking him to sleep was establishing a bad habit that I would have a hard time breaking. Years ago, I might have heeded that voice, or at least it would have caused anxiety as I fretted over managing his nap time routine while caring for the upcoming newborn. But I am older and wiser now. I pooh poohed that voice, reminding myself that rocking babies is the stuff that lullabies are made of and permitting myself to fully indulge in the pleasure of a toddler hugging me tightly as his little head grows heavy on my chest.

And I knew it wouldn’t last long.

As surely as all change is, my gentle rocking ceased to soothe his excited and active body to sleep. I’m not sure how long it’s been, maybe as long as two weeks; transitions with children play havoc with a mother’s sense of time. Five days can seem like five weeks or even five months as we fight our way to new routines. I’ve been leaving him to get himself to sleep for his nap (sometimes with disastrous results). Soon, he’ll be out of the crib, and it will be another wild adventure as he learns how to rest despite the temptation to wander.

I’ve missed the rocking.

On Friday, Jenny wasn’t feeling well and by evening it was clear that she had some virus. She went to bed with a fever after napping most of the afternoon. Around 1:30 am, Pete woke up crying fitfully. He, too, had a fever. After a 40 minute bedside vigil, I brought him into my bed where I hoped we could both get some rest. Instead, he spent the next two hours rolling and fussing and kicking one parent or the other. Finally, I put him back to bed where he fell into a deep sleep and stayed there until nearly 10 am yesterday morning. The rest did him good, and he awoke with no signs of illness (Jenny spent the day on the couch).

Naturally, there was no chance this child would take a nap, and I didn’t even bother. But after dinner, he started getting cranky, and I decided an early bedtime was appropriate. He didn’t protest, but with the din of a household not yet ready for bedtime, I opted to see if rocking him would help him block out those noises.

He snuggled in my arm, taking a few minutes to find a spot around his unborn sibling who now takes up most of my lap. Within minutes his little body had completely relaxed and his head became a heavy weight on my shoulder. And still, I held him, not ready to let go of this moment.

It is not the child for whom this is a hard habit to break; it’s the mother.