Two Simple Boredom Busters

My kids have all loved these Learn To Draw books:

Simple tracing paper keeps them busy for hours:


A Typical Sequence of Events on a Regular Weekday Evening



To My Good Baby Matthew

Dear Matthew-
You know you are the 'good baby'.

(Yes, I have labeled all my babies...I think I have admitted this before.)

But you were awful that first day in the hospital.  I was scared...scared about my ability to handle three children.  I called my mom home from a distant work venue, crying.  "I know I said I didn't need help but I changed my mind!"   I remember I was down a hall at the very end by myself.  The hospital was understaffed.  I had to ask for diapers several time.  I walked up and down those halls about 12 hours after giving birth, because you were so unsettled.  No one checked on me.  I think they forgot we were down there?  It actually would have nice if it hadn't been so extreme.  By the time I left (couldn't be fast enough) and my mom was at my home, you had morphed into 'good' baby.  You made me look like a fool...I didn't mind.

Here's why you were good:
You never cried except that first night.  Really, NEVER.

You slept.  Imagine that?  I had a baby who SLEPT!
I could lay you down in your swing, your crib, your bouncy seat, your car seat...and you would fall asleep.  No music, no fans, no bouncing forever, no walking up and down streets, no rattling brain on my part, or stressful family moments for everyone. 

When you were born, we had just moved into our Second Street house.  Major pit.  You would watch me paint for HOURS in your Exercauser.   You'd spin occassionaly, you'd eat Cheerios sometimes, but you'd mostly just watch.  Contentedly.  I redid that entire house with you watching.  Thank you for that.

You had double, triple doses of "good baby scent".  It's weird but it's true.  You just smelled SO strongly like a baby and I loved it.

Some other things about you:
1. You once almost ate a worm.  It was going from little fingers straight to mouth when I screamed and you dropped it.  I have a feeling there were some other times I might not have caught?  You once pooped out a small one-dot Lego in your diaper.  Part of being #3.

2. You were a master escape artist.  You learned to take a broom stick and pop my hook and eye locks I had on every door.  (Paybacks for the easy-baby stage...for sure.)

3. You have always been very confident in your decisions.  Once, after preschool was finished, you told me you weren't going to Pre-K the next year.  I believed you.  I didn't sign you up, because I knew there was no making you and what for?  Halfway through the year I broached the topic again.  You said, "OK."  And you went, and liked it.  It's refreshing trait, this self-awareness.

4. Your teacher's always tell me that you are an asset to their class...they couldn't ask for a better leader.  I have to admit the first time I heard this I was surprised...you are the third in line here...and I've often seen your quiet personality overpowered by your two older siblings.  But no, I was assured, a leader and a great example to all.  I am so proud of you.  I know you are kind and so smart and have really good friends.

5. When I ask you what you want to be you say an artist or an architect.  I believe you.  Your immense Lego-building skill is second to none.  In your free time you write and draw and read and go outside and explore nature.  I picture you one day with an enormous garden. 

I love you.  We ALL do.  Thank you so much for being who you are.
Happy 11th Birthday Mattie!


A Good Catholic School Story

I went to Catholic grade school.  It was incredibly awesome. Surprised?  I've heard so many despicable stories lately about the Catholic church, I thought I'd tell a good one.

I had not ONE bad experience at my grade school.  That might be an exaggeration...once I wet my pants in first grade...so incredibly embarrassing.  It involved paper mache Easter bunnies (that warm water!) and 8th grade helpers (those terrifying older kids!)  I was too shy to ask to go.  Another involves a kidnapping film shown to all of us in first grade. (Yes, first grade wasn't so easy for me.) Another involves tripping over an AV cart and landing on my nose...4th grade.

Every Notre Dame sister I had (and I had all nuns) was a great teacher and so dedicated to doing her best.   I learned about a loving God...there was no hell and damnation and fire and brimstone that I remember.  We learned a lot about the Saints...and some of it scared me...those aren't easy stories to tell...they could have made it slightly more age appropriate but the good stuf far outweighed the blood and gore.  Compared to what kid's see and hear on TV today it's nothing. 

Yes, we learned of sins...but not in some awful way like being stained with sin from birth, or that we were wretched souls awaiting judgment...but we did learn what sin was, and what it meant to be good and our Ten Commandments and how to be kind people.  That was stressed more than ever...little ways to love our neighbor and to be kind to others no matter what.  To appreciate what we had because so many people had less than us. 

I learned perfection in handwriting...and perfection in neatness and organization and to read, read, read and write, write, write.  Reports like crazy.  Science and social studies, and math.  Religion and art and music...big time, music.  Spelling...oh, boy, spelling.  With all of that, we fit in two recesses.  And a nice long lunch and morning snack.  Imagine that...we must be losing hours over the decades?

The school was located on gorgeous acres and acres of woods, and fields and orchards.  It was connected right to the Mother House.  We had to walk through a tunnel (this is from a child's point of view...it felt like a tunnel but was really a large basement hallway) to get to church.  We went to weekly Mass.  We knew better to misbehave.  I can hardly remember anyone ever getting in trouble.  Really, we had high expectation put upon us and they were clear and we met them.  If you talked you got a look and you shut up quick.  Just a look is all it took.  We were always walking in straight, quiet lines.  We were not allowed to gawk at the nuns in the Mother House...we did though...it was like some giant mystery over there and we peeked every chance we got.  We saw the nuns working in the laundry room, or the nurse nuns pushing wheelchairs. Exciting stuff, I guess?

We had amazing Christmas concerts.  Beautiful.  We prepared for weeks.  I remember making hundreds and hundreds of beautiful glittery snowflakes and the auditorium was just transformed.  We sung our heart out...whether you wanted to or not, you sang and gave it your all. 

May Crowning...when we had a special ceremony, Mass and the crowning of Mary was one of my favorite traditions.  We all had to gather as many flowers as we could from our gardens at home, and when you put the whole school's together it was incredible.  Someone was chosen to make the crown and to crown Mary and we had to dress up.  And I mean dress up.  There was no dress down days in our school...once or twice there was dress-up days and it was just as exciting.  (For me at least....I'm sure the boys didn't  feel this way.)

We had a beautiful cafeteria and beautiful classrooms.  Because WE kept them that way.  Right before the afternoon prayer, the Sisters would make us straighten our desks, or wash them down with a bucket and a rag.  We had to get down and pick up the tiniest scraps of paper off the floors.  Every single tiny dot of paper.  Wash and scrub.  The janitors had it easy at our school, let me tell you.  WE were expected to do the work, because we made the mess.   A great way to show respect and teach responsibility.  Those nuns were smart.

We were taught the way to do little things and do them right.  For example, we were taught how to eat lunch neatly...spread your napkin, put your milk at the top left hand corner, set your lunch items on top of the napkin, respect other's space, clean up our crumbs and garbage when finished.  Have manners.

When we handed in homework, it better be on clean, neat, unwrinkled, wide-ruled, loose leaf notebook paper, and in pen.  Our names had to be in cursive in the upper right hand corner.  No exceptions.  Of course. 

We had separate playgrounds...the boys and the girls.  It worked out well.  No funny stuff.  The boys played football...and the girls did too, if they wanted, just don't cross over the line to the boy's playground.  They told us it was because the boy's played way too rough and didn't watch where they were going...part of the truth perhaps.  We didn't care...we just had fun.  There was little boy/girl stuff even at the junior high level.  Maybe today it's different, but it was refreshing to not deal with the pressures back then.  If you wore make-up, it was rumored that a Sister would take you in the bathroom and make you wash it off immediately with household cleanser.  No colored nailpolish.  I swear, I have no memory of anyone rebelling.

Outside, the nuns had a cider press.  They would pick apples from the orchards in the fall and sell the gallons of cider.  How cool is that?   I still remember that smell from the corner of the playground of fresh ground apples.

Doesn't it sound like heaven?  It was a little piece, for me at least.  I will always appreciate the sacrifice my parents made to send me, and I'll always appreciate the incredible education the nuns gave me. 


The Beach

In Seaside the light is amazing...if you wake up early or wait till evening.  I took each of the kid's out.  There is always one kid who considers this torture...it was Isaac this year...I did manage to force him into one good photo.  The rest were easy.

We went to the beach every day...walked down our little brick paved street and we were there.

"A huge fish...this big...almost got me!"


Sister-In-Law Julie=Excellent Children's Sun Screen Manager
(Thank God...because I'm the worst.)

And the only all-together photo I got of the kids.

I'm alright with it...we had so much fun, we never stopped long enough to pose.


Yesterday Morning

As soon as the older kids were out the door to the bus, Patrick had his shoes in his hand.  Like a Labrador puppy, he needed to be "ran".  In the morning especially this is true.  All that pent up energy from sleeping a whole night has to go somewhere.  Boys are just like puppies, remember that.  My sister once had a dog that she could run 14 miles with and that still wouldn't put a dent in his energy level.  Ever have a boy like that?  I'm sure the answer is yes, everywhere.

Here's our journey in photos:

My favorite tree in blossom.

My boss.  Isn't he cute?  He tells me where to go all day long.

C'mon MOM!  Just checking on me to see if I'm obeying.

These blossoms smell so good.  No idea what they are.  But really, it's hard to pull your nose away.

One of my favorite houses a block over.  Simple perfection.

He has his Dad's rock climbing obsession, but starting out small for now.

Do you want to live by me?  This sweet house is for sale.  It is so affordable and has FIVE bedrooms, and a beautiful private back yard.  

This house is another favorite.  Look at that side porch!

Our destination.  And we were the only ones there.  Heaven.

His favorite.

He made me sit on this next because he wanted to spin me around.  Two circumferences and I thought I was going to puke.  I couldn't focus.  Not a good way to start the morning.

I am no wimpy swinger. If you are going to swing, there is no point in not going as high as possible. 

Once more on the slide.
Then he was ready to go. 

Saw this sign on the way home and thought: