Slim Pickings

Bill overheard a conversation between Katie and a non-homeschooled friend.

“Who is the cutest boy in your class?” the friend asked.

Now, I was born boy-crazy (I think my first “marriage” was when I was 5 or 6 to a boy named Scotty, and my handwriting notebook was covered with the names of two boys, Patrick and Joseph, whom I adored in 2nd and 3rd grade), so this aspect of the conversation doesn’t bother me.  It does, however, make me thankful that I, as a parent, have been mainly spared, so far, all this love/crush-drama.  We don’t have cute or not-so-cute boys to distract from our studies, just the constant din of an active household, which is quite bad enough.

I did, later and without referencing Katie’s overheard conversation, ask Katie if her friend knew she was homeschooled…I mean, really knew what that meant.  She knows, but I think she doesn’t really know.  Sometimes it’s hard to visualize a completely foreign lifestyle.

Bill lingered to hear how Katie would respond.  Would it be Fritz, the oldest whose jaw is starting to pop out in a masculine way?  Would it be Peter, the imp, who has a mischievous spark in his eye and cheeks that you just want to squeeze?  Surely it wouldn’t be Billy, who is so close in age that they tend to be rivals more than friends.

After some pondering, Katie answered, “Well, my dad, I guess.”

Good girl!  Good answer!  All is right with the world if Daddy is the cutest “boy” in your life.

And I’m partial to him myself.

Expect the expected

“Mommy, do you know where the pliers are?”

This question, from Katie, is not a normal occurrence.  I wasn’t sure whether I should be proud…or very very worried.

“Why do you want pliers?”

“Oh, we’re making necklaces and we need them for the ends.”  Of course.  Silly me for getting a bit excited at the prospect that she was spending her summer delving into electric circuitry.

“Did you look in the toolboxes?” I suggested.

“Oh,” She said, “OK.”  With a shrug that seemed to say: I’ll give it a try.  I’ve looked in all the reasonable places I could think of, why not the toolboxes.

She hasn’t returned, so I assume that she found one.

Maybe we’ll do circuits next summer.

Arranging marriages

The girls were moaning because their friends had gone to their grandparents’ house.  I explained that they had gone to do yard work and other helpful things.  “When I’m an old woman, won’t you come to my house and do my yard work?” I asked.  “Won’t you drag your children and make them help?”

Katie said she would, but she said she would live next door to help all the time.  I suggested that perhaps her husband would not be interested in living next door to his mother-in-law.

“Then I won’t have a husband,” she declared.

“You’d best not have any children either,” I reminded her.

So she thought perhaps all would be well if her husband’s parents lived on the other side.

“That would be a cozy neighborhood,” I said.  “Can I pick your husband based on who I’d like as a neighbor?  How about the M** boys?”

“Oh,” she practically gushed, “Thomas and Anthony are nice boys!  They would make good husbands.  They won’t beat us.”

Such high standards.  I shall remind her in 20 years when her husband is working 2 jobs so she can stay home with their growing family, and she complains that he never buys her flowers or writes romantic poetry, that all she cared about when she was 9 was that he wouldn’t beat her.

“We don’t get to pick our husbands,” said Jenny.

“Yes, we do!” insisted Katie.

“No,” Jenny said firmly, “They have to propose.”

True, that it is something you have to work around.  And Thomas and Anthony’s mother has declared her boys all future priests (although her daughters are available for marriage, a point which I have mentioned is grossly unfair to those of us with girls).  Perhaps though, if I assemble a suitable dowry, they can be persuaded…

Random Procrastination from my Chores

Given the long list of things I have to do to prepare for an impending vacation (laundry, putting away Christmas decorations, calling the kennel), it was with amusement that I discovered myself vacuuming the garage.  I’m sure there are many who will think that vacuuming the garage ever is sheer lunacy, but for every one of you, there is someone else nodding her head in agreement.

And for every one of those, there is someone else saying, “What’s the big deal?  I vacuum the garage weekly.”


Another really important task that absolutely had to get done before vacation was dropping off the various bags of items I’ve been assembling to give to Goodwill.  As I furtively loaded the car, I impulsively grabbed the exersaucer and loaded it up too.  I’m not sure if this means I’m (a) admitting I am done having children, (b) thumbing my nose at Murphy and his laws, or (c) sick and tired of the bulky thing taking up space in my garage.  I’m leaning toward the last one.


When I stopped at the recycling center, I learned that they no longer took glass.  I rarely have aluminum cans, but always have some glass to recycle.  When I bemoaned this fact to a long-time resident, her response was, “What recycling center?”  I will never again feel guilty about tossing a cereal box in the trash bin.


I don’t get 9 year old girls.  They are foreign creatures, and I deny ever being one.  Case in point:

“Katie, would you please play Play-Doh with Mary instead of doing your school work?”

Moan, whine and wail: “But then I have to clean it up!  Why do I always have to clean it up?  I don’t want to play Play-Doh with Mary!”

“OK, then.  Fritz, would you please play Play-Doh with Mary instead of doing your school work?”

“Oh, sure!”  For a 12 year old boy, the choice between Play-Doh and schoolwork is obvious.
Moan, whine and wail: “But I want to play Play-Doh with Mary!  How come I never get to play Play-Doh with Mary?!”
Sorry…I thought “I don’t want to” meant “I don’t want to.” 
My husband has explained to me that this behavior is typical of all females of every age.  When you see him, ask him if he gets a good night’s rest on the couch.
The 3 year old girl is doing her best to exhaust me.  Frequently she interrupts my day to announce, “I have to go potty.”
“Then, GO,” I will say.
She will start to leave, but then will tum back and say, “You’re not coming, Mommy!”  And she’ll wait for me to get up and come.  If I’m not fast enough, she’ll do a little dance to show how urgently I need to move.
When there, I’ll try to help her pull down her pants.  “I DO IT!”  Fine.  I’ll try to help her up on the pot.  “I DO IT!”  Fine.  I’ll try to help her wipe.  “I DO IT!”  Fine.  Pulling up her pants, washing and drying her hands: “I DO IT!”  Fine.
But that’s only half the time.  The other times, she needs me to do everything for her, and there’s no telling which mood she’s in.  If I leave her independent self alone in the bathroom, she’ll call me back in.  I’m beginning to think she just wants the company.  Katie and Jenny tend to go to the bathroom together, another behavior I just don’t get.  I generally manage to hit the restrooms without a partner.  Maybe I can get Mary to ask her sisters to tag along instead of me. 
But then I’ll probably hear moaning, whining and wailing.  “I don’t want to!”
It’s been a long time since I had a little 5 year old boy to school.  Peter, who has always charmed me with his brilliance, is nevertheless still just a little boy.  He’s not too happy with school, because I actually want him to sit down and do it.  I watch him squirm and fidget and move up and down and all around, and it drives me nuts.  For the first few months of the school year, I seriously thought there was something wrong with him.  Jenny wasn’t like this; Katie wasn’t like this.  But then I stopped to think.  Jenny isn’t a boy; Katie isn’t a boy.  Billy?  Fritz?  Oh, yeah, wiggles and wriggles big time.
I pity kindergarten teachers.
Fritz had to write a ~700 word essay.  He chose to write about the Greek gods. 
Editing that paper was…painful.
I pity middle school teachers almost as much as I pity kindergarten teachers.
And since I feel bad if I mention only 4 children in a random post, I have to add a few things about my other 2. 
We did a morning chore swap, and now Katie and Jenny are emptying the dishwasher instead of Fritz and Peter.  While I no longer have to help Peter differentiate between the big and small forks (which have different receptacles), I now have to guess in which drawer Jenny decides various utensils belong.
A friend loaned me the complete Harry Potter series, and I’ve worked my way up to the 4th year (I had read books1-3 previously, but I re-read them so I could remember what happened).  Billy discovered the stash and dove right in.  He now disappears for hours on end, and is up to the 3rd book (I need to get moving!).  Unfortunately, I have to hide the book in order to get him to do chores, schoolwork, eat, go to the bathroom, play outside in the sunny, mild weather, etc.  It’s a good thing breathing is an automatic thing.
And now, back to work.

Definition of…

I have been blessed with a daughter who likes to dust.  Yesterday we were all tidying up the house, and I asked Katie what she wanted to do.  She offered to dust, as I knew she would, and I told her that was a great idea.  I do not prefer to dust.

I have also been blessed with a daughter who likes to clean sinks.  Jenny enjoys swishing the water around.  I have sent her off to clean sinks many times before and not been overly impressed with her efforts.  She is only 7, and I haven’t been there showing her how.  By the time I check up on her work, she’s off and playing.  I keep forgetting that “next time” I need to supervise her.

Yesterday, again, I asked her to clean just the downstairs bathroom sink.  I had cleaned the upstairs bathroom during bath time the night before and had spot wiped the downstairs toilet.  The sink area, though, really needed attention.  I asked Jenny to do it, and she readily agreed because she likes this chore.

Just the sink?” she asked for clarification.

“Yes, honey, everything else is fine.  It’s just the sink that needs to be cleaned.”

I was busy elsewhere, and forgot to supervise her, again.  When I checked later, the sink looked like it hadn’t been done at all.  Yet I had seen her in there, running water and having a great time.  I stopped and looked closely.

The porcelain, the bowl of the sink, sparkled and shone like a jewel.  It was the counter area that looked deplorable.  But I hadn’t told her to clean the counters.  I told her to clean just the sink.  So she did.

Next time…

Digital art

Fritz needed to use some software to make a picture to earn his Computer Merit Badge for Scouts.  I generally use (it’s free), so I gave him a quick tutorial and set him loose.  He and the other kids thought this was the greatest invention ever.  Now, I see them “drawing” all the time. 
At my desk. 
It has done nothing to reduce the amount of paper being used here, but they are certainly becoming talented computer artists.  This drawing, by Katie, reminds me of their early hand drawing work.  I figure in a few months, with lots of practice, they’ll be very proficient at computer graphics.

It’s a talent I may be able to use in the future.  I see professional looking invitations for the most mundane of events (“Mom’s playdate, my house, 3 pm, BYO Margarita glass”).

Good times

Oh my.  What a day.

Confessions are at 11 am at the Cathedral on Saturdays, so we hauled our sooty little souls down there this morning.  I noticed the line was moving quickly, which meant our usual favorite priest wasn’t there.  The kids went first, then me.  Bill was hanging in the back with the little ones and went after the three people behind me.

A sign inside explained the short confession time:  Deaf Priest.  Do not whisper.

This would have been a good day to have mortal sins.

So, no lengthy explanations, no probing questions, no nothing.  State your sins, say you’re sorry, get forgiveness, get out.

After confession, I like to compare penances.  I got one Our Father.  Billy said he got three Hail Marys.  Goodness!  Fritz admitted he couldn’t understand what the elderly Irish priest had said, so he did the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, Angel of God and St.Michael prayers.  Covered his bases.  Katie said she, too, had not understood so she did three Hail Marys.  Then Billy admitted he didn’t understand the priest either.  (Was that a lie he told right after confession?)

I asked the kids if they saw the sign that said the priest was deaf. 


They asked about the man being Irish.  Jenny, being somewhat out of the loop since she hadn’t gone to confession, asked, “Are all Irish people deaf?”

“No,” I answered, “He happens to be Irish and he happens to be deaf.  Not all Irish people are deaf.”

“Oh,” she said, “He’s deaf and he’s Irish.  All Irish people are deaf.”

“No!” my husband said.  “You’re part Irish.  Are you deaf?”

Cheekily, my 7 year old asked, “What did you say?”


Then we went to the store to buy some pants, socks, and shoes because my children keep growing despite my expressly stated order that they should mature, but not grow.  Growing can be done when they have jobs to pay for clothes.

By this time, they were starving, and we decided to feed them even though, for sure, my son would grow a half inch during the meal.  While we waited for our food, I suggested we play a game to keep everybody’s mind off the fact that we were waiting for food.  I suggested that everybody pick a new name and we would all call each other by these different names for the rest of the weekend.

“My name is Empress Maria Theresa.  You may call me Empress or Your Highness and you certainly may curtsy or bow when speaking to me.  Please speak in German or Czech.”

Bill selected Hector.  Fritz wanted to be called Bob.  Billy, Hades.  Katie, Nancy Drew.  Jenny picked some fairy name, then said she didn’t want to play.  Fine.  Foo on you.  Peter first picked Carson Palmer.  Mary is Mary.

At one point, Peter was acting like a 5 year old and Bill suggested that he act like Carson Palmer, meaning, like an adult.  Images flashed in my mind of the notorious behavior of professional athletes, so I began to protest, “Well, I don’t know if that’s such a good idea…”  Then I pointed to Billy, “He’s HADES.”

“Good point,” said Bill.

Peter changed his name to Joe Hardy.


It was a steak place, this restaurant, but the children’s menu did not have steak on it.  The adult menu had 12 oz steaks or larger (or a 6 oz filet mignon for more than the 12 oz sirloin).  There was no steak salad or steak burger or anything small and less expensive, so I told Billy he could not have steak.  Feeling bad for our carnivorous young son, my husband ordered a steak and gave him some to supplement his chicken finger lunch.

Billy, I mean Hades, when given his portion, responded, “Thank you for your offering.”

If you don’t quite get that, you obviously haven’t read the Percy Jackson books.


More errands.  Mary falls asleep.  The kids are given an option to stay in the car instead of going into Home Depot for air filters and light bulbs.  Katie and Jenny want to come, but the rest will stay.

“Fritz, sit up front and look 12,” I say.  He’s been affecting a “mature” look since he was 11 1/2 so I could run quick errands while leaving a sleeping tot in the car.

“I am twelve!”

“Oh.  Yeah.  Good.  Sit up front.” 


At Bass Pro shops, nobody wanted to stay in the car.  That’s OK.  I came prepared with a book.  I happily stayed with Mary.

Bill wants to take me out to shoot shotguns.  I know, I know.  What a lucky lucky gal I am to have a husband with such romantic ideas for dates. 

He said he needed ear protection.  He said he knows I’m sensitive to things touching me, and thought perhaps the stick-in-your-ear ear plugs might annoy me.  “It’s OK.  I’ll just go deaf,” I said.

After the errand, he showed me the stick-in-your-ear $0.99 ear plugs he bought – for him.  And he showed me the full-cover-over-your-ears, much-more-than-$0.99 ear protection he bought – for me.

This is love.


On the way home, I read him a few snippets from Rachel Balducci’s book.  The theme of these excerpts was Chuck Norris.  Chuck Norris is not well known in my home…yet.  I noticed how eerily quiet the car became when I was reading.  My cell phone rang, and I spoke for a minute to a girlfriend.  The din from the back of the van was the usual volume – loud.  But when I hung up and went back to the book: silence.


We went home and somebody said something else very funny.  I can’t remember it.  But I do know that Fritz said, “Mom, you have to put this on your blog!”  It doesn’t matter what it was, really.  His comment wasn’t at all narcissistic, self centered – somebody else was the clever one.  And he has very little clue that complete strangers read this blog.  He knows my blog is our family history.

We ran errands and took care of business.  We ate lunch and spent the day together.  We had fun.

It was just an ordinary mundane Saturday, but we want to remember it.

But wait, there’s more…

First of all, I have to say that I failed to mention the laptop, cell phone and iPod on Katie’s birthday list. I figured most people would assume they were there. She’s nine, and my daughter and a modern girl, too.

And the only reason a pony isn’t on the list is because we’ve been over that one a dozen times. The military won’t move your horse.

One other item that was on her list was a light for reading at bedtime that clips onto her bed. Her brothers each got one for the feast of the Epiphany last January. She and Jenny were very disappointed that they did not also get one.

So I got her one, just like her brothers’. In fact it was so very like her brothers’ that it even had a sticker on it with a St. Nick and words addressing it “To: Katie, From: The Three Kings.” She and her sister had been misbehaving last January and I threatened them with one less Epiphany present if they did not straighten up. They didn’t, so these lights have been shoved in the back of my closets (here and the one in Virginia) for 7 1/2 months.

She was happy with this one (not Silly Bandz squealing, just normal happy) and laughed when I pointed out the sticker. Jenny asked if that meant she was getting a light for her birthday next month.

“Put it on your list,” I said.

Birthday presents

Back in March, Katie was upset about something and decided that all her personal issues with life hinged upon the fact that WE (her father and I) NEVER get her ANYTHING that she requests for Christmas or her birthday. Ever. That’s right. We make every effort we can to spoil her days and make her cry.

So, I told her that from then on, all requests for gifts would have to be made in writing, signed in blood, sealed and filed for future reference.

Several weeks ago, with a birthday looming, I requested her list.

“TWO pages?” I asked, incredulous, as I stared at her notebook.

“Actually, it’s three,” she replied and turned the page.

“Uh, you need to rank them. Give me your top 3 to 5. And I make no promises…” I warned. With the finalized list in hand, I sat down at the computer to shop.

Umbrella. OK.

Backscratcher. Hey, if a $3 gift floats your boat, no problem.

LEGOS. Yes, 99% of the LEGOS we have a very boy-like. Of course, 99% of the LEGOS made are very boy-like.

And last, but not least, the item she wanted most and which elicited the greatest shouts of glee: Silly Bandz. And she immediately opened the package and put all 27 of them on her arm. Whatever.

She is 9. Half of my children are halfway (or more) to adulthood.

Happy birthday, Katie.