Thursday, November 24, 2016

Dear Thanksgiving Moms

When you're shopping for Thanksgiving and see a lady with powdered potatoes and gravy packets, please don't roll your eyes and think she's doesn't know how to cook. She may be very tired from getting up in the wee hours to attach IV tubing to her kid's central line, waiting an hour while it runs, and flushing the line with saline and heparin. Then beginning again seven hours later. Then seven hours later.

When you see a lady with canned cranberry sauce and packaged rolls, please don't assume she doesn't appreciate real food. Her mind may be gripped with worry over her child's lack of appetite and digestion problems, charting every bite and potty visit. Or lack thereof.

When you see a lady with bakery pies and a tub of pumpkin ice cream, please don't imagine she doesn't know that homemade is cheaper. She may be putting it all on a credit card to have something for her family that doesn't require the time and attention she simply does not have.

She loves her family. She wants a decent Thanksgiving. She's worried and tired, though; and sometimes modern grocery conveniences and credit cards are precious. It's the best she can do this year.

Love, Allison

Monday, November 21, 2016

Swing dancing at the state fair

Rees and his partner are on the far right.

Recorded by my 9 year old.

Lots of fun!

Stopping by Hallways on a Messy Afternoon

An actual picture from Sunday morning

Whose shoes these are I think I know.
Their minds are lost in childhood though;
They will not hear me calling names
Or care that I pick up and go.

My little dogs must think it queer
To see me stand and wipe a tear
Between the door and dirty hall
This messy season of the year.

They frown and give their heads a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the din
That happy children playing make.

This house is cluttered, small and sweet
But I have promises to keep ~
And miles to love before I sleep
And miles to love before I sleep.

(My apologies and affection to Robert Frost!)
Love, Allison

Monday, August 22, 2016

It's Been a While

It's been over three months since my last post. What in the world?

John is now home from basic training and loved it. Ken and Clare had a wonderful graduation weekend with him, visiting the San Antonio zoo, screaming through a haunted house, and strolling along the River Walk. John misses being there and can't wait to return to Texas for tech school in mid-October. He's a great airman, telling me that he's been complimented several times on his excellent military bearing during drill weekends. Of course he is.

I've had some weird health issues and wrote about it for my latest Catholic Sistas post.

And Clare's Panea dog died last Wednesday. We knew it was coming and asked John to carry her downstairs and onto the porch. She breathed her last in the sunshine, with her girl's hands resting on her head and side. Ken came home early and while we waited for him, everyone colored pictures, wrote notes, collected treasures, and painted rocks for her grave. Clare chose a small clearing in the spruce trees. We call it "Panea's Cove" now. She was such a perfect dog, we will be looking for an older dog again. She was eleven.

We're all anxiously awaiting six boxes to arrive in the mail, this year's School Stuff. Addie, Joseph, Luke, and Ian will begin working through material from Memoria Press (Halleluia for a state that reimburses for educational expenses!), and going off on any rabbit trails they like

Clare and our contact teacher have patched together her first year of high school, from Memoria Press, Saxon Math, and classes in drawing and theater from ND Center for Distance Education. I'm certainly excited, but I loved schoolwork and grades; not sure about this free-spirited girl. We'll do our best.

We had a great family camping trip north to Byers Lake. The bit of rain we had wasn't much of a problem, as Clare and Ian had their copies of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and happily holed up in the tents to read. The fishing stunk but the hiking was super.

Caribou and bear hunting season is upon us and Ken will be heading out most weekends for the next month or so. I love our bear-hunt mountain and will pencil myself in to tag along on a Normal Knee weekend! Really hoping for meat to carry us through the winter.

Addie (four years old) will complete the Optimize drug study next month and I can't help but think she had the antibiotic and not placebo, for she has had no extra illnesses this past year. Her doctor will have to decide to prescribe the actual drug or let it go and see what happens. She continues to cheerfully grow along the 30th percentile weight for height. Sweet petite!

Rees is awesome. He'll be ending out his summer internship with Fish and Game with five college credits and money in the bank before moving back to part time work and full time college classes.

The leaves are already yellowing and falling and it smells wonderful outside. Autumn is upon us!

Happy days to all;
Love, Allison

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

My John

 18th birthday, almost a year ago.
I folded a few of John's T shirts early this morning -- Joe Cool, Colonel Sanders, and Iron Man. He won't be needing them for two months because he left in the middle of the night for Lackland Air Force Base in Texas for basic training. I cried while folding of course. I'll add them to Rees' pile and hope he puts them away nicely for his brother. Both of the big boys and Ken don't really like it when I fold their clothes. Don't do that, Mom; we can. Don't do that, Honey; they should. And I know; I know. But folding clothes in the very early morning with a cup of (now) decaf is an odd pleasure of mine. It gets something tangible done while I'm able to think about whatever my mind wants. The only interruptions are from my own brain's thoughts flitting here and there and I like it.

About 18 months, always with Rees

This morning I thought about John. About how cute he was and how handsome he is. About how ready he is for this tough adventure and good plan. About how old and strong he looked last night saying goodbye to his little brothers and sisters and about how I noticed a flicker of nervousness while he explained to Ken about how the airport in San Antonio has an Air Force desk because there are so many recruits passing through and he'll just need to get to that desk and they'll put him on a bus.

When I hugged him goodbye, I told him that I wasn't worried about his "making it" ~ he's been itching to go since February ~ but that I would miss him terribly. We gave him a replica of a WW1 Rosary, the kind handed out to Catholics by the US government back then (Imagine that!), and the Combat Prayer Book, a tiny book, easily slipped into one of the many arm pockets. But not during boot camp, he tells me. That's OK. Someday he'll want it and he'll have it.

About 12; shot a grouse.
It's bearable because he'll be back in mid-July (Until they send him away again for Tech school, but I won't think about that yet.). Ken warns me that he will be changed when he returns. Just typing that sentence makes me drip tears on my keyboard. It's good, though. I'm happy for him. He needs to do something that is Just John. He has always been with Rees, making what breaks he could. Doesn't like hiking; doesn't like country music; doesn't like to read. I imagine they will miss each other terribly, anyway.

 He tells me to wait two weeks, then call a number on a paper he gave me (Good Lord, I'm awful about keeping track of papers.) and they will tell me where to send letters. He also tells me that he may not get to read them or write back if he gets in trouble. Lovely. So I will busy myself with writing to him and helping Clare pick out a Million Degrees Hot Texas wardrobe, for she and Ken will fly to San Antonio for his graduation. She's never been out of Alaska; never even been on an airplane. It's a trip of a lifetime and I will love picking out clothes with her!

So my John is gone. But he's all right. And I suppose I am.
St. Michael, the archangel, pray for him please.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Clare's Take on Dorian Grey

(Every once in a while, I copy and paste something from Clare's locked blog. I'm especially proud of her notice of the lack of conversation between Dorian and his grandfather during his formative years.)

Dorian Grey

Mum said I post too many H.P. things, so she suggested I publish this essay I wrote about Dorian Grey.

I have just finished The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde for literature, and throughout the whole book, one thing seemed to strike me as a recurring theme: Dorian Grey's absurdly weak will
coupled with his insatiable curiosity—and why that's a dangerous combination. Every time he makes a plan to do something good, he allows himself to be talked out of it.

The story starts out with Dorian Grey as a rich young man, ready to go out into the world and be a philanthropist. At the art studio of his friend Basil Halward, he meets Lord Henry, a middle aged
man with a very immoral view of the world, telling Dorian things like, 'Conscience is just a polite word  for cowardice. No civilized man regrets a pleasure.' Dorian was raised by his reclusive grandfather and never had anyone to talk to deeply about such issues. Therefore, Lord Henry was the first person he had ever met who explored the three-dimensional meanings of religion and art, and the curious young Dorian snapped up his ideas greedily.

There is a life-size portrait of Dorian Grey at his english manor, and as the young man slowly sinks into an evil life (encouraged by the ever-present Lord Henry), he suddenly notices that, while his
body stays young and his visage pure, the painting grows old and become a mirror of his wretched
soul. He is horrified by this realization and resolves to change and marry Sybil Vance, the girl he loves. But right after he privately pledges this to himself, Lord Henry shows up. He tells Dorian that Sybil is dead and that marriage is 'just a habit, and a bad one at that.' Without giving Henry's words any thought, Dorian agrees with him and keeps following his way of life, like a little puppy that can't fend for itself without its master. This a good example of his weak will.

This happens over and over again, until Dorian is known all over London as a bad, immoral man. The last straw is when, for heinous reasons, he murders the only good person who ever really loved him. After that he becomes completely unhinged, and any scrap of goodness left in him is obliterated. He blackmails a chemist to help him destroy the body, he lies about regular matters that don't even call for lying, and he continues to visit the corrupting Lord Henry. In the end, he stabs the portrait in an attempt to destroy the last bit of evidence of the murder. But in doing so, he ends up killing himself because he and the painting are one.

Dorian Grey's story loosely reminded me of Pinocchio's. The little wooden boy also had a weak
will and kept letting Honest John and other questionable characters lead him astray. And although he doesn't actually appear in the story (he is just discussed), I think that Dorian's grandfather also played a big part in his grandson's corruption, as I briefly touched upon earlier. Maybe if he had spent more time with Dorian when he was younger and taught him the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, etc., he may have been able to put his foot down and tune out Lord Henry's blasphemy.

This is a famous depiction of The Portrait from a museum

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Kids' Expo Cuteness

Our homeschool charter school had a student expo last week. Students could display any project they wanted.

Six year old Joseph collected some of his favorite artwork, named them all, and glued them to a board ~

 Nine year old Luke is obsessed with the Titanic, so he gathered up pictures he'd drawn, put together a few paragraphs, made a small diorama, and built the famous ship out of old-fashioned legos (no kit) ~

Eleven year old Ian is currently into the Civil War (or the War for Southern Independence, as he informs me is more accurate). He wrote biographies, made a diorama of Little Round Top and baked real hard-tack~

Fourteen year old Clare is a bona fide Potter-head and has drawn some fan-art. I insisted on an essay and she popped one out in half an hour ~

Here's her essay, as a clue to how our homeschooling looks in the dreary grayness here. Just add their mathematics, and they're good.


Lately I have invented a fun game for my younger siblings. I teach them and then test their knowledge on five different subjects. It's called Hogwarts. Yup, I set up our living room to look like the legendary school and I teach Addie, Joseph, Luke, and Ian what the kids in the books learn. I am the teacher: Professor Lyra Burke, pureblood head of Slytherin house.

The five subjects are all from the Harry Potter books and I teach them all. There's Defence [She has adopted British spelling.] Against the Dark Arts, where I teach the kids all about the evil Wizarding things and how to defeat them. Herbology is the study of magical plants such as Mimbulus Mimbletonia, Bubotubers, and Mandrakes. Almost everyone likes Care of Magical Creatures, and I'm sure you can guess what I teach in this class! Potions, however, is hard of most of the students because they have to memorize the ingredients, the way to make it, and how to use it. For the fifth class I choose either Quidditch or Astronomy, as an extra.

I have sorted each of my siblings into separate houses. Eleven year old Ian is a proud Gryffindor who is very good at taking notes during class. Nine year old Luke and four year Addie are studious Ravenclaws who often achieve high marks during exams. Last but not least, six year old Joseph is a happy-go-lucky Hufflepuff who goofs around a lot but like Herbology. They're all good students for the most part.

But they are naughty sometimes. I have a notebook where I keep records of the classes, and also a tally of points. The students' achievements will earn their house points. Any rule-breaking or not listening to the teacher and their house will lose points. When exams (which are going on now) are over, I will figure out which house has the most points and I will give its members a prize. The looming threat of defeat helps the students work harder to gain points and sit still in my classes.

Right now we are in the middle of exams, and Gryffindor is in the lead with 80 points. However, it is closely followed by Ravenclaw, which is boasting an impressive 72 points. Poor Hufflepuff, however, is still trailing a the bottom with 25 points. Still, it's a fun game and everybody involved loves it.

(Especially this mother!)

Hurry up, Spring!