Monday, May 15, 2017

The Circle: A Book Review

The book The Circle is written by Dave Eggers. Eggers spins a story of a future that is truly not too far off from the world we are currently living in. A future where everyone shares every single aspect of their lives on-line. A future where cameras are every where and privacy is looked upon as something suspect.

This book follows the life of Mae Holland as she lands her dream job at a company called the Circle. This company actively encourages folks to track and share all of their life online. They promote the idea of community and closeness with those you have never met but converse with over the web. Obviously, the parallels to what we are seeing in our world today are many.

Those who chose not to share their every waking moment online quickly find that they are unable to interact with anyone freely or to easily earn a living. As the Circle begins to promote the slogan "Privacy is Theft," those who are uncomfortable with sharing their every thought are looked upon with suspicion. 

This book left me looking at my own online presence in a different light. I will admit I often find myself feeling thankful that the world of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram was not around when I was in high school and college. I find myself feeling tremendous pity for those teens who find things shared about them against their wishes and have found I am less likely to share things about my own children in recent weeks. I've also noticed some push back from those who think that everything should be shared now. Eerily similar to the book. It has made me examine a few things more closely. 

The book does contain several sexual scenes which are more than excessive and unnecessary in detail. For this reason, I caution parents in sharing this book with your teens until after you have read it yourself.

Overall, I found The Circle to be an enjoyable book that definitely gave me a few things to ponder in my own life.

Real Life Math

Forget algebra kids. We have for you today a real life math problem. Or, as my husband corrected me, a Catholic math problem.

You must feed 12 people dinner (it is Mom and Dad's date night and they will eat after the children are in bed). You are serving hot dogs tonight because it is that kind of a night. The hot dogs come 24 to a package. The buns come 16 to a package. The baby will only eat baby food. The youngest toddler won't eat bread yet. The oldest toddler won't eat the buns but will want one to sit on his plate and hold his hot dogs before he devours them. The rest of the eaters are 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 17, and 19. So how many of each package will you need to feed the crew and come out even?

This is the math they need to teach in school because this is the daily struggle, I tell you. You get it wrong and the teenagers will ransack the pantry after the littles are in bed and devour two weeks worth of snacks in one night. Oh, who am I kidding. They will do that even if you get the math right.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

How to Make Dinner. . .Or Something

Read carefully for an easy step by step tutorial on how to take dinner a family other than your own. Be sure to follow along exactly. If not, disaster may strike.

Step 1: Remove the chicken and broccoli casserole freezer meal you made a few weeks ago from the basement freezer the night before and place it in the basement fridge to defrost.

Step 2: The next afternoon, send a child downstairs with instructions to bring up the casserole from the FRIDGE, place it on a baking sheet, remove the cover, and put it in the oven at 300 degrees.

Step 3: A little while later, ask another child to please make 3 cups of rice in the rice cooker.

Step 4: Ask who wants to make brownies to go with dinner. Assign task to the willing 9 yo.

Step 5: Ask another child to please shred cheese and top the casserole with it. Said child notices the smell of brownies when he opens the oven and makes sure to ask if the cheese went in the right location because he realized cheese covered brownies would just not be a good thing. See, he was paying attention.

Step 6: Make a salad to go with dinner. Discover that the 1 yo has eaten almost all of the cherry tomatoes but decide that it will be ok with less than planned.

Step 7; Retrieve applesauce and salad dressing from the basement pantry and head upstairs to start packing the meal for delivery.

Step 8: Discover that the rice did not cook. Upon talking to the child who was assigned to make the rice, discover that they only plugged the rice maker in but never actually turned it on.

Step 9: Discover that the casserole put in the oven was retrieved from the FREEZER and not the FRIDGE and is a chicken parm casserole, not chicken and broccoli. And is now covered in cheddar cheese.

Step 10: Discover that the brownies are still mostly raw because they were placed in a 9 by 9 inch pan but cooked using the time for the 9 by 13 pan.

Step 11: Panic. Just a little. Because life. And it is now time to be out the door to deliver said dinner.

Step 12: Stop by the store and pick up cake and ice cream and pray it makes up for the chaos.

Step 13: Arrive with dinner and hear the kids say "But we already ate dinner." Laugh at the craziness of it all and say "Well, this can always go into the freezer for another day. And there's some ice cream so just make sure that doesn't get left out." Because ice cream makes everything better. Or something.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Paschal Candle Thoughts

So I just finished making our Paschal Candle for 2017. Yes, I made it. No, I made no attempts to collect the kidlets around me and make it a meaningful family project or anything. Just nope. And as I set it down on the mantel in our bedroom, I noticed our 2016 Paschal Candle. Still sitting there. Unlit. Covered in dust. Because life. The real kind of life with 10 people down with the flu. At the same time. While Dad is out of town for a month. The kind of life where you laugh at the idea of dusting. Where you just changed 3 diapers in 5 minutes. Just life.

Yes, I am now a certifiable Catholic Mommy Blogging failure. And I'm totally ok with that. I no longer have any illusions of focusing on all the awesome feast days and liturgical awesomeness. Because I'm too busy. Because I'm no longer thinking I have anything new or different to share with folks. Seriously, it has all been done before from the at home altar to the crocheted roses for family prayer time (love them) to the rosaries made out of cupcakes (because sugar).

I've listened to Moms with far fewer kids go on about how there is never a reason for a kid to ever misbehave in Mass or make noise. And gone home to laugh. I've listened to a priest say if you can't keep your child silent in church, you and your spouse must attend separate Masses. And wanted to explain how life just is not that simple (not for single parents, not for parents where one spouse is out of town, not for folks with a deployed spouse, not for lots of folks). And perhaps gone home to cry and yell and shake my head in frustration.And felt the urge to point out to said priest that so many studies show that when Dad does not attend Mass with the family, the kids lose their faith. So, um, there is that and the empty churches now but sure, we'll make sure no child ever makes a peep, ever. I've taught several kids with sensory issues to sit through and eventually enjoy the very experience of Mass which was at one point absolutely painful for them. Listened to the two year old announce loudly "Jesus Coming?" while pointing at all the statues and looking at me like I am a crazy lady for suggesting such a thing when He was clearly already there.

So I guess we are now focusing on hit and miss liturgical parenting. Yes, that is a thing. Because I just made it one. :) We still have our rules. No children's liturgy or cry rooms because we are just do not work that way. Ever it seems. No Santa or Easter Bunny. No Christmas parties during Advent. No egg hunts during Lent. Hit a few feast days every year but don't stress over which ones. Mass is a non-negotiable unless you are ill. We don't focus on attending our home parish but rather on attending together as a family. Because I have done too many years of Mass without my husband to do it now on purpose. No thank you. We don't do the toys in church thing but we do buy donuts most of the time if everyone behaves. The kids know the word tabernacle and what it means and how to find it. The boys serve funeral Masses, even for those they don't know because there is no greater gift to give than your time. We don't participate in most parish fund raisers because we frankly cannot afford to. I swear you have to have an extra income just to participate in these things which strikes me as terribly elitist to be honest. We don't send the kids to religious ed because it is wishy washy as long as you are a good person everything is ok junk.And at $145 for 3 kids, I laugh when they say the cost for classes only covers the cost of materials used. Who are they kidding. And sacraments are an extra fee on top of it. No one has time for that.

So, hm, what am I saying? I'm still learning and growing. Sticking much more fiercely to the things that truly matter and letting go of the extras. Because no one has time for that. Least of all me.


OH, RIGHT. If you want to make that Paschal Candle for your home, here's the print out. Seriously an easy project. All you need is a $1 tall votive candle from the grocery store, a bit of glue, and a print out. Even your 5 year old could do it, it you want to share with them. Or one tired burned out Mom. Either way.

Children, Rain, and Life

So the middle kids are on spring break. Not the older ones, of course. Schedules aligning like that would just be too awesome for words. The younger ones are supposed to be catching up on work since we all got so, so, so horridly sick the month Alan was gone. No, I am not willing to force the kids to plow through school work amidst the flu and a stomach bug and attempts to get people to just drink something, anything, please. And babies and chest x-rays and you know, he just might have asthma the doc says. Of course, the doc hasn't seen his face turn red from the coughing and gagging because the little dude is happy as a clam when he's not puking on you from coughing too much. :)

So spring break. Somewhere in the back of my mind I had plans to take the kids somewhere this week. But then reality hit. Reality that says you don't have a car ever lady. So instead I told the kids "Turn the tv off and go outside." Or something of the like. But then it started raining. And somewhere in my mind I'm thinking hm, maybe they shouldn't be outside because it is raining. Then I thought but it is not thundering and they aren't in the house so let them be. Except they decided rain wasn't enough. Apparently you must stick your head under the broken gutters and take a shower outside, in your clothes. Ah well. That is what towels are for, right? Except for the one boy who found the movie on the Eucharist and begged to be able to go watch that one and who am I to say no to such a request.

All 3 little ones are asleep in various places around the house where they fell. Kolbe might have fallen into my arms but he's the baby so he gets spoiled. And I would love to just fall into bed myself and nap but I must go in a bit and pick up the husband from work. Because I did need the car this morning for an appointment. And someone must leave the house and earn the money. So now someone must bring Dad back home.

Tonight we shall head out to celebrate DD2's birthday. We discussed how Holy Thursday really isn't the best time to be out partying. Yes, she was born on Holy Thursday but she is now old enough to understand that maybe the tail end of Holy Week is not the time for celebrating a birthday if it can wait or come earlier. Time to return to Holy Week being a time of something different. A time set apart. So tonight dinner is on Grandma and Grandpa and the biggest question is will the birthday girl be allowed to order off the adult menu. I'm thinking yes.

So not much amazing or wonderful going on except life. Life is decidedly wonderful. And crazy and stressful and strange.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Playing With Plays - A Review

I received free copies of four of the books in this series in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

I've been meaning to get this review put together for about a year now. Yes, I do sometimes get that far behind on, well, everything. And in the last 18 or so months we've had two kids with broken arms,  1 child who needed several months of physical therapy, one kid diagnosed with an anaphylactic allergy, two different children who each had 2 surgeries, 2 new babies added to the family meaning 2 c-sections,  one baby spending 3 weeks in the NICU, one baby spending time in the PICU, me being so anemic that I required a blood transfusion, and a deployment thrown in there for good measure. So, um, yes, I have put a few things on the way back burner and just let them simmer away in my mind somewhere until I was able to deal with them. Like this wonderful review.

Playing With Plays is a series of books that takes higher end literature and breaks it down into child friendly language. Each book contains three different versions of the plays, each meant for a different number of actors. As a performance, the plays are designed to be relatively short (15 minutes or less) but creativity is encouraged on the part of the actors.

One major deterrent for many young children and participating in plays is the fear of forgetting lines or not being able to memorize a long script. This problem is alleviated with Playing With Plays. Some of the words within the script are bolded. These words are particularly important to maintaining the character of the original work and are meant to be said as written. The rest of the words are meant to be a guide. Say them as written or get creative and ad-lib. These are the ones my kids had the most fun with during their performance.

At our Homeschool Expo last year, a group of kids performed one of acts from Hamlet. No one got any of their lines exactly right and there were a few times when younger siblings wandered into the play unexpectedly but everyone enjoyed themselves. More importantly, the kids involved understood the gist of the play. Our performers that afternoon ranged in age from 6 to 16. Everyone was able to find a part they could both understand and perform easily.

These books are very affordable at under $10 each. Group discounts are available directly from the publisher if needed. If you are neither charging for the performance nor the classes to learn the play, you are able to use the materials for free and make photo copies of scripts if needed. If you are charging for the classes, you must purchase a book for each student. If you charge for the performance, there is a royalty fee required but it is a very reasonable one.

These books are perfect to use in a homeschool to introduce your younger children to Shakespeare, Dickens, and other classic literature in a very relaxed, fun way.

My only complaint is that there is too much negative, demeaning language thrown into the plays in an attempt to make them relevant to modern kids. I realize that Shakespeare himself wrote quite a few insults in his plays but the modern take on them was a bit beyond the original meanings for a children's version in my opinion.

Overall, these books earn a 4 out of 5 in my book. If the language was a bit less modern, I'd like them even better.




Friday, March 31, 2017

Lenten Craziness

It has been an interesting Lent so far. The weather has been all sorts of wonky. Snow and wind followed by lots of rain and mud everywhere. We are still waiting on the insurance adjuster to fit us into her schedule so we can get an estimate on damage costs.  For some reason she is having a hard time remembering which city we live near and keeps scheduling us on days she is not actually in our area.

Almost the entire crew has been sick for the past two weeks or so. (And did I mention a 4 week business trip was scheduled for someone during this time? Because I am so lucky.) It started with a stomach bug. A vicious one at that. And in case you were wondering, a stomach bug making the rounds in a large family causes serious laundry issues. During which time the washing machine decided to start not working exactly right. We thought a couple of the older kids were no longer contagious. They'd been healthy for over 24 hrs and were the first to catch it. So some of us went to Stations and then the kids went to a retreat that weekend. And almost everyone they had contact with got sick. Because we like to share.  I do believe we were generous and passed this bug along to several homeschool families and the entire youth group. And people say that homeschooled kids won't learn to socialize and share with others. I say they excel at it. Seriously.   But if you are reading this and your kids/family got sick I am so sorry.

At the same time a respiratory bug hit several of us as well. The two of us who are most susceptible to respiratory issues have been rather sick for the past week. Several of the other kids are mostly sleeping it off and staying quarantined in their rooms. Except when they aren't. Then again, when you share your bedroom with 2 or 3 other people, I'm not sure staying in your room is an effective quarantine anyway.

The kids have been sick enough that they likely would have missed most of school this week. Especially the ones who have been hit with both bugs. One kid just might have thrown up in the middle of class and another one fell asleep while logged in, watching class. But with the online school, I'm finding there is nothing to really do to get much leeway from the teachers. Which is incredibly frustrating to me. You can fill out a form but on days there are no live classes, it won't do much for you. Given that most assignments are due on non class days, this causes issues. And the teachers are not responding to my emails anyway. One of the negatives of the current school.

So the last few days we've been eating lots of soup. Have I mentioned that I love soup for feeding a crowd? Pretty much always easy to stretch, easy on the budget, and it keeps everyone happy. At least around here. Homemade alphabet soup was on the menu yesterday.  Alphabet soup and kindergarten aged kids is always fun. Ellie might have spent more time finding letters in her soup than eating.

Anyway, here's a super easy, kid friendly, kid cookable recipe. Serves a crowd (or a large sized family).

2 28 oz cans of tomato sauce
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
2 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes
1 lb of beef of some sort (I've used stew meat, leftover pot roast, a cut labeled as sandwich steaks)
diced onions
assorted frozen vegetables (as much as you like but I wouldn't use less than 3 cups for our crew)
3 28 oz cans of water plus beef bullion or use the equivalent in broth (broth is best but some days call for a short cut)
1 cup or so of alphabet pasta

Cut up the meat small. That way a little goes a long way. Stir everything together other than the pasta and let it cook until the meat is cooked. Then add in the pasta and let it cook a bit. The little suckers soak up a ton of liquid and double or triple in size as they cook so you may find you need to add extra water after they cook. Obviously, this is a super tweakable recipe. Use what you have. This week we threw in carrots, peas, green beans, and corn. If you are feeling up to it, serve it with rolls or muffins or bread. I handed the kids a package of crackers last night because everyone was sick. Short cuts are a wonderful thing to embrace some days.

I have to admit that I am not sure if most of my kids have ever actually had the canned version of this stuff but I've gotten no complaints on the real version.

What are your favorite sick family tricks to keep Mom sane?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

And a Storm Blew Through

For all of the fans of the weather channel, here is the latest update. Because I have to admit that it baffles me when people call and tell you what they saw on the weather channel and then insist that you must be dealing with certain issues because they heard it on tv. Never mind what you are seeing outside your own window or anything. . . I always find it slightly annoying and slightly humorous.

So we were hit with a pretty decent wind storm. And we are doing well. The yard is a mess. A few branches came down and possibly two trees in the back.  There has been damage to the roof and some siding is gone. Part of the barn was damaged but since we plan to take that down soon, I figured that was just helping us get started. Probably the biggest issue is damage to the van. The wind got a hold of the driver's door when Alan opened it and the hinge was damaged. So now the door does not close quite right and the van dings at you and tells you to put it back into park. Alan and the older two also had to go help get a car out of a ditch. Someone who was somewhat less than thankful but I suppose that is a lesson in itself.  Two days without power and it is time to restock some of the emergency supplies. I'm actually rather thankful for a short term test run to let us know what we are lacking and not properly prepared for at the moment. Big one I suppose is to figure out why the generator is broken and get it fixed.

I showed up at the pediatrician's office this morning with my cell phone and breast pump and chargers for both. Then I sat in the office after Kolbe's appointment and charged them. Kolbe is growing just fine and is a very happy baby. Currently the kid has bronchiolitis and is wheezing but is fine.

So there is all the news that is fit to print or something of the like. :)