A (bath)room with a view

If you walk through the front door, you are in the living room.

This is open to the dining room, which leads to the kitchen, which is connected to the sunroom, which has the door to the master bedroom.

The master bedroom has a master bath.

This house was originally a ranch with the typical three bedrooms and one bath. At some point someone built an addition with the sunroom and master bedroom. They converted one of the original bedrooms into the master bath and left the original door.

So the master bath opens to the hallway with two other bedrooms and the one original bath.

And the hallway leads to the living room.


Peter wakes up in a happy, drowsy mood and curls up in my lap. Within minutes though, he begins to squirm as he realizes that he needs to go potty. So he and I and Mary (because she has decided she wants my lap, too) go from the sunroom, through the master bedroom and into the master bath. I put Mary on the floor (half the floor is carpet), lift Peter up on the potty and sit on the edge of the tub and wait.

This is my morning routine (slated for 7:18 am).

I don’t close the doors, because he’s three.

Today, I should have closed the doors. I didn’t realize that today I live in Pamplona. The poor baby almost got trampled by the children running ’round and ’round, followed by the dog, of course.

This master bath is decidedly the most highly trafficked bathroom I have ever known.

Real Heroes

My sister’s husband left for Iraq a little over a week ago. Pray for them.

“Send me a picture of Bill,” I said. She married a guy named Bill, too. Makes things easy for my Dad. “I want to keep it out so I see him all the time and remember to pray for him all the time.”

So she sent me a picture of him taken as he and his unit were leaving.

“Why is Uncle Bill carrying a gun?” asked one of my sons.

“Because he’s in the Army,” I said in my Duh-voice. It’s funny. My boys play Army all the time. They even argue about whether or not the General would be carrying a gun, and frequently discuss which war they’re fighting in for the tactical nuances in their games. But for them, and for most of us, we forget that it’s real people who carry real guns and go off to fight a real war.


Yesterday we went to the pool at the Officer’s Club. The kids couldn’t help but notice the man with one leg who went to the lap pool for a workout. “Did somebody cut off his leg, Mommy?” asked Peter. The older kids accepted my explanation that he lost it in the war, but Peter is too young for that. I just agreed that someone had cut it off because it was broken.

real peoplereal war


Bill flies to Atlanta today. Last night I asked him, “Are you flying in civvies?”

“No, I’ll go in uniform.” And then he explained how the Army thinks it’s good for regular folks to see them.

“Well, if you see somebody do this (I put my hand to my chin and then extended my arm – the ASL way to say “Thank you”), it’s not meant to be an obscene gesture.”

But my husband doesn’t need a thank you. He doesn’t feel he’s doing anything heroic. He’s just a guy doing his job. And even though he wears a uniform, he doesn’t carry a gun to work.

{As an aside, please feel free to participate in the Gratitude Campaign. Believe me, that soldier may just be doing his job, and may not have ever deployed, but it’s not just an ordinary job. It does deserve a thank you.}

Last month, Bill flew from Virginia to Ohio to meet me and help us drive the last leg of our trip to our new home. He was in normal, everyday, vacation clothes. There were two soldiers in uniform on his flight, one sitting near him. The stewardess offered the soldier an empty seat in First Class, but the man, of higher rank than my husband, declined. “Give it to somebody else.”

Like my husband, he probably gets embarrassed at thank yous. Like my husband, he probably recognizes that there are many others who have done more, sacrificed more, suffered more, lost more, deserve more.

Like the man with one leg.

Like those in harm’s way right now.

Like the family members left behind to wait and worry.

Real people. Real war.

Real heroes.

Slipping Down the Slope

What do a communist election and euthanasia have in common? In the practical application, you are left with only one “choice.”

Since the spread of his prostate cancer, 53-year-old Randy Stroup of Dexter, Ore., has been in a fight for his life. Uninsured and unable to pay for expensive chemotherapy, he applied to Oregon’s state-run health plan for help.

Lane Individual Practice Association (LIPA), which administers the Oregon Health Plan in Lane County, responded to Stroup’s request with a letter saying the state would not cover Stroup’s pricey treatment, but would pay for the cost of physician-assisted suicide.

Next up, doctors deciding who lives and who dies with no regard for the wishes of the patient or the family. After that, we’ll start targeting people with pricey conditions.

Mr. Jones, I regret to inform you that you have diabetes. Please call this number to schedule an appointment with a Life Planning Agent who will help you and your family arrange for your Afterlife Procedure. Be sure to bring all financial documents with you. They will also help you make a will, if needed, and other arrangements. We have some nice package deals with Sunnyside Funeral Home (they put the FUN in funeral!).

A Day Off Work

I didn’t move back to the area soon enough to go to the National IHM Conference, and my good friend (and my favorite vendor) aren’t going to the Catholic Family Expo in Baltimore, so I pretty much decided to not go to any homeschool conferences this year.

Then Margaret said she was going to the Family Centered Learning Conference, and Lancaster isn’t too too far away, so I decided to go.

And I’m so happy I did.

Homeschool conferences, especially faith-centered ones, are like day spas for your mind. It is so refreshing to be in a room full of funny, intelligent, charitable women who share your daily struggles and have similar hopes and dreams. It is nice to listen to speakers who do liturgical crafts with their children or one-on-one preschool time with the little ones even though they too have a large family. It is good to be challenged to challenge your children in their reading and writing and inspiring to hear how one woman struggles with a large family and a special needs child and still manages to be full of joy.

I’m glad it’s still summer, and I have another month to relax and think about school but not actually do it. I need this time off to recharge my energy level and my spirits. And even though I didn’t really know it, I really needed that conference.

Reading Level

I’m putting these links here so I can find them again, but perhaps there are others who could benefit from this information.

This link is a reading level assessment. There are two word lists and the student simply reads until it is too difficult. Note that this doesn’t judge comprehension. Billy was able to accurately pronounce the word “enumerate,” but he has no clue what it means.

This link gives instructions for evaluating the reading level of a document in Microsoft Word. The one bit of instruction left out is that you then do a spell check, and it will give you the information after that is complete. There are many uses for such a tool. You could type in a few paragraphs from a library book to see if it is a good level for your student. But most useful, I think, is in evaluating the student’s writing. It’s nice for evaluating your own writing too.

To understand the Flesch Reading Ease number, go here.

Mirror, Mirror, on the floor

Hi, I’m Mary, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Lovely outfit. And your eyes are so sparkly! Really, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more delightful baby.

Golly, you’re making me blush!

Exactly what color are your eyes? Blue? Green?

Yes, I have one of those “cracker” things too. Simply delectable. I especially love how they disintegrate all over the floor. I have one of those things that automatically picks up all the crumbs…I think they call it a “dog.”

Please, taste some of mine.

My! You are so sweet, I could just eat you up!

From the battle front

What a quagmire.

We got involved in what should have been a simple “humanitarian” relief effort. Providing food for the less fortunate. A real feel good project.
We set up several drop off points to ensure direct aid to those most in need.

The locals were happy…at first.

Then the warlords moved in and seized most of the supplies.

We’re now on the brink of war.

Kinder, gentler members prefer tactics that prevent the warlords from gaining access to the supplies. But the budget is already stretched to meet these charitable efforts and any additional resources will reduce the amount of actual relief given.

Additional troops have been brought in to assist in defending key distribution points.

Some ideas are just simply not viable.

Unfortunately, certain members are strongly urging for a more permanent solution.

Only one thing is certain: we’re in this for the long haul. There is no “quick-fix” solution, no “get-in-get-out” answer. We can only hope that, over time, we can win the hearts and minds of the locals who will either help defend against the warlords or help convert them to a more equitable distribution of the goods.
Your prayers, in this time of crisis, are appreciated.

I’m flexible, I swear

Several months ago, Bill and I attended a marriage retreat. One of the talks centered around our expectations: conscious or unconscious, realistic or unrealistic. The moderator asked for any examples. I raised my hand. My husband groaned.

It wasn’t until that talk that I was able to pin down a source of friction in our marriage. Bill had always come home at dinner time…or later. The house was reasonably tidy. Dinner was nearly ready. If it was a late night, the kids were in their PJs and it was let’s-be-quiet-and-read-stories time, or they were already in bed. Over many years, I had conditioned him to expect a relatively quiet and pleasant home. In fact, he was usually home so late the year before our year in Kansas, that the kids were often not even awake when he got home, and the “baby” was a toddler not an infant. He was pretty much out-of-the-loop on 90% of the daily chaos that filled my life, and I was pretty much in-the-groove and managing just fine.

In Kansas, his school building was a five minute walk away. Classes were usually over by 1230 pm, or he might have to return after lunch for a guest speaker or one more class. He would come home around 1 pm to find a disaster. As I struggled to have my three students finish up their schoolwork for the day, he would have to blaze a trail from the front door to the kitchen through toys, books, puzzles, clothing and whatever else my mobile little ones had gotten into while I tended to the newborn and tried to keep students on task. In the kitchen, the breakfast dishes would be buried under the lunch dishes, and the counter would be covered in peanut butter and jelly and bread crusts. The floor would be sticky, and the milk would be getting warm sitting in the open. He would start yelling at the kids, and I’d get mad because they would only have a half hour more work to do, and I didn’t want to prolong the school day.

“So, it was unreasonable for him to expect a clean house when he got home at lunch time?” the moderator asked.

“Yes,” I said to a chorus of agreement from all the other stay-at-home moms with little ones.

But in recognizing my husband’s expectations, however unreasonable, I could address the issue or at least be more understanding of his irritation. I tried harder after that weekend to stop at some point in my morning to do a kitchen clean up before he got home and even to at least offer to make him his lunch, and I think he was more tolerant of the debris littering the floor.

For me, a schedule isn’t about knowing exactly what I’ll be doing at 3:17 pm. It’s about recognizing my family’s needs and priorities and assuring everyone that there is enough time for important things, including snuggling on the couch. It’s about managing expectations, so that the kids know mom isn’t going to suddenly interrupt their play because she just discovered the by-products of an hour-long art project or that dad won’t cancel their promised bike ride when he sees the mess in the kitchen. It’s about everybody knowing their role in the smooth functioning of the household, and it’s about dividing up the housework into small jobs done at different intervals so that nobody is overwhelmed.

It’s about me having the freedom to say “yes” to a child’s request for attention because I already have dinner in the crockpot, but also about me not feeling guilty for spending the baby’s morning nap time on the treadmill.

And so, here is my loose, flexible daily routine with plenty of margins:

7 am breakfast and cleanup, grooming and morning chores
9 am school (or free time)
12 pm lunch and cleanup
1 pm quiet time: naps or reading or coloring
2 pm free time (or finish school) and TV time if earned
430 pm afternoon chores, tidy house, dinner and cleanup
630 pm family time: reading or games or just talking
730 pm baths and pajamas
8 pm prayers and bedtime

Prior to 7 am and after 8 pm is “adult” time with obvious exceptions for sick children or extended family time. The children’s chores don’t usually take very long (“feed dog” = 1 minute, “vacuum dining room” may take 6 or 7 because of all those chairs that have to be moved). And the afternoon “free time” is for the kids, since that’s my time to prep dinner, make phone calls, pay bills, plan meals, etc. Even then, I don’t mind interruptions once I have dinner prepped, especially knowing that at 430, the whole household begins to tidy up and work together to get dinner on the table.

Speaking of interruptions…Bill is home and we’re off to his company picnic. Woohoo, no kitchen cleanup!