Monday, November 29, 2010

News from the Schoolroom

Velvet has finished her math book, Saxon 5/4!  Actually she has 2 more lessons and one Investigation to go, but this was my only free evening this week, so we went out to Barnes & Noble and picked up a 6th-grade math workbook for her to use, as Lightning McQueen is currently using the Saxon 6/5 book.  I've tried having two kids share a book and it doesn't work at all.

Birdman got a 100% on his first Algebra 1 test, and got a promotion to Cadet Senior Airman in Civil Air Patrol.

Everyone is brushing up on their Christmas carols in preparation for Friday's caroling on the courthouse square.

We've begun working in earnest on the 4H project books as well, since the new books should be in at the next meetings and then both Lightning McQueen and Velvet will be working from two books - Velvet has horses and cats, and Lightning McQueen is working on chickens and dogs.

Sometime over the next couple of weeks we'll start gathering information on Italy, our next country for Culture Club.

All three of them are now keeping up with their reading lists on their own; Velvet is turning out to be the readingest kid!

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I bought a turkey last year, and then was given one by a friend.  I cooked one and left the other in the freezer.  I cooked that turkey today.  It is absolutely hands down the juiciest, most delicious turkey I have ever cooked.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Giving Thanks

If I were not so lazy, I would spend from now until Thanksgiving Day composing and editing a blog post about all the things for which I am thankful.  It would be beautifully written, full of tender verbal images of sweet, rosy-faced children behaving perfectly in every possible situation.  I'd be sure to include at least a paragraph about how fulfilling I find life as a single parent and how much opportunity there is for character-building in the fact that I have not received a single penny in child support in over three years.

And then I would remember that this is a blog, and it's about me, and I'd delete all the above and write the following:

I'm thankful for this blog, even though I have to self-censor quite a bit.  It's an outlet I wouldn't otherwise have, so I'm very grateful to be able to click over here and blather on without caring whether anyone reads, comments or cares about what I write.

I'm thankful for my children, even though they drive me batty almost every day.

I'm thankful for Facebook.  I can keep up with all kinds of things there that would involve me wasting my time reading tons of websites otherwise.  It's just about my one-stop shop for information about lots of things.

I'm thankful for my work, and that I am blessed enough to have a job that doesn't feel like a job.

I'm thankful to be able to homeschool my kids.  The more I learn about what goes on in the public (and parochial) schools here the more I am grateful for the freedom to let my children learn at home.

I'm thankful for my online friends, some of whom I've never met IRL.  They are an endless source of support and blessing to me.

I'm thankful for my faith, and for prayer.  Even though I don't always get the answer I think I want, I know that God knows what I need.

I'm thankful for being a single parent.  It allows me to practice patience and forbearance on a daily basis.  (To be perfectly honest, sometimes being a single parent is a huge pain in the tochis, and I nearly succumb to the stupid and pointless wish for someone to be a dad to these kids so I won't have to do it any more and could concentrate on being a mom.  Then I remember that I'd have to go back to "parenting by committee" and the feeling passes).

Oh, and I'm also thankful for hand-knitted socks, the ability to knit, my garden, our hens, the dog, a working radio in the car to which I can sing along, the ability to preserve my garden produce, and lots of other stuff.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Some thoughts about the TSA

You know, for all the liberals would have us believe that most Americans are really in favor of guys wearing their pants down around their hips (how DO they keep them from falling down, anyway), college chickies wearing skirts so short they wouldn't even make a decent tote bag if you were to sew the bottom shut and add a handle, cleavage popping out everywhere, the glories of whatever kind of sexual activity you happen to feel like having, the reason all those folks look so........violated..........when they are photographed or filmed undergoing either one of those disgusting 'grope sessions' the TSA likes to call an 'enhanced pat-down' OR their stint in the X-ray machine where the gawkers behind the screen can see every detail under your clothing, is because they DO feel violated.

This new policy is an egregious offense not only against the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution, but the natural law as well.  No one should be subjected to such indignity, in full view of the general public - ESPECIALLY if certain classes and categories of persons (read:  burqa'd Muslimas) are either permitted a free pass or are allowed to search themselves.

This is the ultimate objectification of people.

I've even tried to have one side of my admittedly feeble brain play 'devil's advocate' and allow that perhaps the Powers That Be have some concrete knowledge of some specific threat that is being deterred by smirking rent-a-cops in blue disposable gloves, petting the nether regions of nuns, amputees with prosthetic limbs, cancer survivors with ostomy bags, and little boys.  Nope, I can't see how this is justified.  Not at all. People are having to go into therapy after undergoing these searches.

This is so sad.

(Note:  no links.  I didn't forget them, I chose not to add links, because I could link every single phrase.)

Price Check

This begins what hopefully will be a semi-regular feature here at the Collective.  I go shopping, then I come back here and post prices of stuff I bought.  You get the vicarious thrill of seeing how I spend my hard-earned money, what sort of things we eat, and how much stuff costs here in my neck of the woods.

If you see anything on the list that is priced way different, either higher or lower, than what it costs where you are, feel free to comment and let me know.

So, here we go.  This week I shopped at Giant Eagle, a Pittsburgh-based grocery chain where I have a discount card that gets me in-store specials and 10 cents per gallon off the price of gasoline at their gas station for every $50 I spend.  

Pasta sauce, store brand,  $1.50
Canned carrots, store generic brand, $0.59
French fried onions, store brand, large size can, $3.00
Grated 100% Parmesan cheese, store brand, $3.00
Vermicelli, 1# box, store brand, $1.00
Pepsodent toothpaste, $0.99
Campbell's Cream of Onion soup, $1.67
Salted butter quarters, 1#, store generic,  $2.69
Alberto VO5 hair conditioner, $0.79
Yellow onions, 3# bag, $2.50
Mrs. T's Pierogies, 2# bag, $4.39
Fresh yams, 2.08#, $1.04
Fresh cranberries, 1# bag, $1.99
Boneless skinless chicken breasts, IQF, store brand, 3# bag, $6.99
Milk, 2%, gallon plastic jug, store brand (no hormones/antibiotics certified), $2.68
Sugar, store generic, 4# bag, $2.19
Frozen peas, 1# bag, store generic, $1.09
Pecan pie, Marie Callender, frozen ready-to-bake, $5.99

Gasoline, regular unleaded, gallon, $2.989

All the prices I listed above are with any in-store discount gained by using my card, except for the gas price.  I had 70 cents saved up in discounts so I actually paid $2.289 a gallon. That's not an exhaustive list of what I bought, either; just a representative sample, trying to list something from each department.

Prayers Still Needed

Please continue to pray for a special personal intention.  Thanks!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Assorted Things

First, if you read this please say a prayer for me, for a special intention.  I can't say what it is right now, but perhaps someday.  Hopefully sooner rather than later.

Last Friday we went with the other local Catholic homeschoolers to see the Vatican Splendors exhibit at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh.  I would love to share pictures with you, but sadly they did not permit photography inside the exhibit space.  It was very interesting, and we all enjoyed it very much.  One of the most fascinating things was a small gallery that was fixed up to be like it would have been when Michelangelo was painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  Ladders and board scaffolding, lanterns, buckets of faux plaster, paintbrushes, and on the ceiling a partially-completed mockup of the ceiling, with outline drawings of parts of the paintings.
Also, there was a gallery with vestments and liturgical vessels used by various Popes.  Pope Pius IX' chalice and paten were breathtakingly beautiful - not that the others weren't, but his was my favorite.  One one side of the chalice cup was engraved a Christ Pantocrator, and the other side had the symbolic pelican piercing her own breast to feed her young.
At the end of the exhibit there was a bit of 'extra' - a gallery with items from various parishes in and around Pittsburgh, showing the history of Catholicism in SW Pennsylvania.  There was a beautiful enamel-and-jeweled chalice from my Archeparchy, as well as several reliquaries from St. Anthony's Chapel which we have visited a couple of times (it houses the largest collection of relics outside the Vatican).

Session #3 on Cantor School is this Saturday; I need to get my tote bag packed up with necessary things.

Lightning McQueen has decided that he would like to "go Eastern" with his hair - many Eastern Christian seminarians, deacons and priests have long hair that they wear in a ponytail, and he wants to grow out his hair.  So we're going to try it.  Hey, it's HAIR.  If he gets tired of it and it's long enough, he can donate it! (Mine should be long enough to donate by the time the Great Fast begins, by the way).

Birdman is off this evening at his first Spiffy Event - this year's Pro-Life Rose Dinner.  In a tie. And a real dress shirt.  And a cashmere sweater.

We had this month's Culture Club today, and our country was Kenya. Velvet and Lightning McQueen did a PowerPoint with various facts about Kenya - flag, location, animals, food, etc.  I made Kuchumbari, a salad with tomato, onion, cilantro, carrots and lime juice.  It was delicious!  There were two other families there, and we had lamb stew, a vegetarian bean and rice stew, chappatis, ugali (Kenyan equivalent of polenta, only much stiffer) and three flavors of chai tea.  We'll skip December and start up again in January with Italy.

I've put away the current personal pair of socks to do a commissioned pair for an online friend who doesn't knit, for her to give to a special family member.  I'm halfway down the foot of the first sock in the commissioned pair, and got to the gusset stitches on my socks (sock #2) before I put them aside to do the commission.

My senators are pathetic excuses for elected representatives.  And considering one of them was just sworn in earlier this week, that's really sad.  No problem though; they weren't elected for life.  Bwahahahaha.

Thanks for praying for my intention.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Trying Something New

Part of praying the Hours, or really any Prayer Rule, is the Psalter.  In the Roman Catholic Liturgy of the Hours, you pray most of the Psalter over a four-week cycle.  In the Eastern Churches, the Psalter is divided into twenty sections or parts, called Kathisma, and you pray the entire thing once a week. (Twice weekly during the Great Fast).

This is my first Philip's Fast as an official Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic, so I am trying to incorporate some Eastern practices into this period of preparation for the Nativity of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ.  Silvia, who blogs here, is doing a Kathisma Psalter prayer group in which participants each pray one Kathisma each day for the period of the Philip's Fast, praying the Psalter twice through in that time.  You are assigned a beginning Kathisma and then you just pray them in order every day - this means that every day the entire Psalter is prayed, and because the names are on the post I linked, we are all praying for each other.  I think that's beautiful!

As for the rest of what I'm doing for the Fast, I am of course adhering to the St. Martin's Fast guidelines of the Confraternity of Penitents and will try to be vegan on Wednesdays and Fridays (too much vegan makes me cranky, I have to have a bit of cheese or some cream in my coffee). This, plus the rotating Psalter prayers, the Hours and my other intercessory prayers, should make for a (hopefully) fruitful Philip's Fast.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Where Have All the Paper Boys Gone?

I recently began following Lenore Skenazy's blog, Free Range Kids.  Reading the posts has made me much more aware of, shall we say, "less-than-free-range" opinions coming out in casual conversation.  Just a couple of days ago I was reminiscing with someone about the way things used to be, and the convo turned to paper boys:

ME:  Remember paper boys?  I was a paper boy [actually I was a paper girl, but I digress].  Why don't they let kids deliver newspapers any more - oh yeah, something BAAAAAD might happen.

OTHER PERSON:  Yes, the paper companies are probably worried about kids being molested or kidnapped, or something even worse, so they were smart to switch to adults and make the routes only easily done in a vehicle. That way they don't have to worry about parents suing them.

ME:  You know, now that I think about it, I would say it is actually safer for kids to deliver papers now than in was when I was a paper carrier.  Now the customers can pay online, by mail or phone, and the carrier does not need to have any personal contact with the customer at all.  When I carried papers, I had to collect the money every two weeks from my customers, most of whom I dealt with in person.  Also, papers don't have to be delivered as early in the morning now; I delivered evening papers but my Sunday route had to be done before 7 am and now the deadline on Sundays is 9 am.

OP:  You're probably right about the things you mentioned, but you've not considered the pervs who lie in wait for kids out unsupervised.

ME:  And just how many stories have been in the news about kids carrying newspapers who have been assaulted, kidnapped, molested, killed, etc.?

OP:  {crickets}

ME:  exactly.

A Home Economics (or Lack Thereof) Lesson

Lightning McQueen has a 4H meeting this evening and this is our month to do snack.  I needed something for 45 (!) kids that wouldn't put me in the poorhouse - most families bring granola bars or a veggie tray and juice boxes, but after I checked the prices I decided to do apple juice in a jug (2 gallons) and homemade oatmeal cookies.  Lightning and I made a double batch of cookies yesterday, and he and the other two were told in no uncertain terms that there was to be no cookie thievery, because we still needed to bake another double batch of cookies to have enough (we had to do them over 2 days because Crockpot and Drumstick only lay one egg each per day and I'd sold all but 2 eggs on Saturday afternoon).

This afternoon I was finishing up a project and I could hear Lightning in the kitchen cracking eggs, so I came downstairs after a few minutes - ready to really lay on the compliments for taking the initiative to bake the rest of the cookies on his own.

Imagine my, um, astonishment to find HALF the already-baked cookies EATEN, and a good amount of the cookie dough of the as-yet-unbaked batch gone as well.

Now all three of them are in the kitchen making a double batch of shortbread to make up for the cookies they ate (had to be shortbread because I can't think of another kind of cookie that doesn't require eggs that we also have all the ingredients for).  Sigh.

Someday I will laugh about this, just like I may be able to eventually laugh about the time I stayed up past midnight the night before a homeschooler's meeting to bake cookies for 25 kids and when I got up the next morning over half of them were gone.

My children are very sanctifying at times.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart........

I sincerely hope that no one ever says that I am a joyless person.  I wouldn't mind very much being called ugly, or vain, or opinionated, or weird, because I think of myself as those things quite often.  But to be called joyless? That would really hurt.

Go see what Father Dwight has to say about that.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Veteran's Day!

Today was our annual Veteran's Day visit to the WV National Cemetery in Grafton.  The photo above is a memorial plaque outside the office and gravesite locator kiosk at the entrance to the cemetery.

Some views of the graves of those who served our country.
 The above is the gravestone of the husband of one of my mother's friends.

 Above and below are photos of the oldest grave in the cemetery, a soldier who fought in the Spanish-American War.  This grave was relocated from the original National Cemetery in Grafton (which we have yet to visit; perhaps next year) which is closed to new interments.
One day I'd like to go to Arlington and witness the wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns there, but until then this is a very fitting substitute.

If you served our country, in any capacity, during war or peacetime, please accept my heartfelt thanks and know that you are in my prayers today.  If you are the family member or loved one of one who served, thank you also.  If you didn't serve, please thank someone who did!

This evening we'll be attending the Veteran's Day parade, in which Birdman will be marching as a member of a color guard.  I'll take pictures and post them in a future entry.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pardon my Rant, Please.

I went downtown this morning to pick up some work from a boutique for which I do "overflow" tailoring, and when I came back home the pictures below are what greeted me at the entrance to my neighborhood.  Our neighborhood, while not as historically 'pretty' as some others in my town, is a really nice place to live, relatively quiet (unless you live on the hill below me; then you have to deal with college students' loud raucous parties at intervals throughout each semester) and has some nice old - as in over 100 years old - homes.  I know about the 100+-year-old homes because I live in one of them.
Anyway, about a year and a half ago our neighborhood association decided to commission two signs at the most-used entrances to our part of town, this sign is the larger of the two and is two blocks from my house.  the other sign is very similar but is about 1/3 the size.  The original sign was designed by Jamie Lester, who used to live about 3 blocks from me and who designed the scene found on the West Virginia state quarter.  The sign was installed, a nice flower bed was designed and planted, and we Woodburnites were quite happy with it until about a month after it went in, it was stolen.  Someone dismounted it from the brackets that hold it to the posts and just carried the whole thing away.  If you look at the pictures you can see that this would not exactly be a 5-minute job; it was held in place by a whole bunch of lag bolts and the posts are 4x4 lumber.  No trace of it was ever found, so the NA had a replacement made and installed around the beginning of last summer.  Now this.  I am just disgusted that someone thought this was a fun thing to do.  It's one thing for college students (yes, I think this was a college 'prank') to throw plastic cups around in the street after a wild party, to hold mud wrestling bouts in a kiddie pool in their back yard, to carouse until ungodly hours when their neighbors (including yours truly) are trying to sleep - those are things that the Litter Control Officers and Police Department are quite capable of doing something to deter.  But this is unconscionable.  I hope by some miracle of the internet, the perpetrators' parents happen upon this post, realize THIS is what their kids were vaguely bragging about, and haul their sorry butts to the police station to turn them in. 
Oh, and you can see in the bottom photo that they stole the street signs from the pole at the intersection (and pushed the pole over too), as well as signs from SEVEN other intersections within 3 blocks of my house.  Yeah, real mature.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Things to Think About

My high school graduating class was the last to get all the way through primary and secondary education without any influence from the federal government via the Department of Education.

What do bishops and cardinals talk about when they are not being bishops and cardinals?  I occasionally have a mental image of a few bishops around a kitchen table in some episcopal rectory somewhere, playing Monopoly; a couple of cardinals in a hotel room after some sort of synodal session, arguing over who is going to go fill the ice bucket and yelling at the tv over a game of football.

My yard looks naked without any endorsement signs.  I am forcing myself to wait to publish a congratulatory post until the election results here are certified.  It's very difficult, but I could always use more patience.

I am very thankful that I only have one more Tuesday night of Reader's Class (I got another 'that was beautiful' at last night's class).  Being a Church Reader is a lot more than 'pick up the book and do the reading.'

You meet the nicest people in the unlikeliest places sometimes.