Thursday, May 29, 2008

Last Day of School

Hooray for the Last Day! We have been sprinting toward the finish line here at St. Thomas More Homeschool. Our "principal" requires the math book to be completed in order to graduate--so today it is official. Winger and Polar Bear are now 5th graders and they took the Texas Achievement Test for 4th grade and finished at EXACTLY the same moment (identical twins do that sometimes). Meggar moves up to 11th grade, as soon as she writes a few more papers to mail into Kolbe Academy. Dorito became an 8th grader and mailed in the ABeka DVDs. Graduation gifts included iTunes gift cards for everyone.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tea Party Idea

We have lots of tea parties so I am always on the look-out for tea cups and other such accoutrements. This votive candle idea is a perfect way to utilize those extra saucers that match my china pattern! They will add the perfect touch to my table decor for an afternoon tea or a candlelight dessert.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bike Ride

Gr. Judy and Gr. Gerald suggested a bike ride for the Memorial Day holiday. We rode along Frederick Avenue and stopped to feed the swans and goldfish. Then we cooled off in the pool. Great exercise!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Scout Fundraiser

Dorito was "in charge" of the Scout's fundraiser this weekend at Lowe's. He recruited the Captain to man the grill, with tasty success. Several of our friends ate at the lunch counter, helping us reach our goal of $1,000 in profit over the 2-days. That's a lot of $1 hamburgers and hotdogs!

Rosary Rally at Kaufman Stadium

On this feast of Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ was honored during a Rosary Rally at Royals Stadium in Kansas City. Bishop Finn and Archbishop Naumann knelt before the Blessed Sacrament during Adoration with 25,000 area Catholics. Gr. Judy, Meggar, and Wife were in the audience for the rosary. Homeschooled seminarian Ben Kneib assisted as an accolyte on the field.

Rosary "beads" were read aloud in 40 different languages. It was great to see our friends Pat Baker, John O'Dongo, and Mrs. Bartulica in their native dress. We also saw many friends among the priests (Fr. Totton) and religious (School Sisters of Christ the King and Benedictines of Mary).

The Knights of Columbus lined the entrance and exit to the Rosary Rally in impression fashion!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

First Dive!

The pool is officially open today! We had enough sun yesterday to combine with the heater and get the water up to 79' F. The twins dove in first -- of course. Dorito waited until it was 80' F in the water, and Meggar caught some rays poolside.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Saint Joan of Arc and Missouri's author

On this day, May 23, 1430 -- Saint Joan of Arc was captured by the Burgundians and subsequently sold to the English to be tried as a heretic and burned at the stake. All throughout her persecutions and from an early age, she had spiritual support from her "voices": St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Margaret of Antioch and St. Michael the Archangel. I admire these virtuous women because they showed great fortitude and humility.
I also admire the book "Joan of Arc" by Mark Twain. Reading his introduction, Twain reveals how he chose the process of writing through an 82-year-old fictitious narrator. (Brilliant!) He admitted to six wrong starts, and each time Mrs. Clemens responded with the same deadly criticism of silence. He spent 12 years researching medieval history and said he did not care if the book sold or not.
"Joan is the lone example that history afford of an actual, real embodiment of all the virtues demonstrated by Huck and Jim and of all that he felt to be noble in man. Joan is the ideal toward which mankind strives. Twain had to tell her story because she was the sole concrete argument against his pessimistic, deterministic philosophy." (Robert Wiggins, Univ. of Washington Press, pg. 112) Glad to see how the saints can set a good example for all time -- even in Missouri.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Update on Carrick's ICU stay

Carrick was put back on the ventilator late this afternoon with a possible lung infection. We must stay close to Jesus!

Answer to Our Prayers

Baby Carrick Stopford has been taken off ECMO and the breathing tube! He is progressing very slowly and hardly strong enough to move. But he called out for his "Mamma" and "Bottle." Thanks for continuing to pray for him (see my May 12) Father Kapaun, pray for us!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Benefits of Incense

On "The Deeps of Time" blog is this scientific article confirming the benefits of incense
What great news for Wife, who battled depression after the twins were born!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Coloring Pages for Free

I have to recommend as a free resource for coloring pages! Neatly arranged by subject, these outlines are *perfect* to accompany read-alouds in science, history, literature, and religion. Seems like my darling children are happier if their hands have something to do during read-aloud time (at our house, it is after lunch while still sitting at the table). Plus we cut them out and do copy-work on the reverse! Reminds me of the nuns in my elementary school who never wasted paper.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Jane Austen is a Winner

The Regency World Awards were announced on May 15, and the best new film was "Becoming Jane" (also best actor and best actress). Meggar and I were exceedingly pleased with this film and would like to see it a second time to pick up on all the details. Anne Hathaway was superb as young Jane! We plan to try the "Best New Fiction" book once school is out for the summer. Last, I can heartily recommend the "Best Website" which helped me procure some excellent Christmas gifts last year. To see all the winners, go to

Cousin Elijah Here

It's been a full year-- so you can imagine how much we enjoyed today's visit from 5-year-old cousin Elijah. He's younger than my twins, so they "take care" of him with all the wisdom of 10-year-old big brothers. He's talkative, which captivates Dorito. He's forthright, which makes Meggar stifle her laugh behind her hand. Example: We told him there were strawberries for dessert and he licked his lips and said he would love to have some with a little chocolate to dip them in. He ate a TON of strawberries! We showed him the baby robins in our tree. We let him sweep the pool (but it's too cold to swim). And we consoled Captain's sister, who worries too much. What a fun day for all of us! Note: First picnic lunch in the back yard this spring!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Friends at the Prom

Looks like the girls had as much fun dressing up as they did seeing each other's hairdo's and dresses! Meggar had a great time at the 2008 Homeschool Spring Banquet. The theme was "Phantom of the Opera" and it included dinner, speaker, and comedy troupe.

Really Red Strawberries

Captain came home this afternoon from a trip to California with 6 flats of strawberries! These are amazing -- red right through the middle. And juicy! Great with homemade shortcake. (see May 15 Wife is pleased to share them with friends and stick a few in the freezer for future bedtime snacks.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Pretty in Pink

My princess is going to the Prom!
(a.k.a. Spring Homeschool Banquet)

The nails are professionally done with a pink stripe and pink sparkle...
The dress was tailored by Wife using 4-H sewing skills...
The hairdo was created by great friend from work...

Friday, May 16, 2008

Car Shopping

Got Wheels?! Meggar has some work to do cleaning up this Ford Explorer Sport before she turns 16 in July. She's already added plush dice to the rearview mirror and an "Apple" sticker on the back window. How cool is that?

"National Treasure" movie

Our whole family enjoyed this sequel at the $1 movie theater! Not as historically educational as the first one, the "Book of Secrets" involves more story lines about the characters when we would have liked more about the landmarks themselves. Of course, it helps that our family has visited Mount Vernon, the White House, and Mount Rushmore. And we LIKE all the characters -- especially the smart side-kick Riley. "Nobody talks like that anymore..."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lilac Bush

Near our front walk, I am enjoying the scent from my lilac bush. This is the first year it has actually bloomed (having planted it three years ago on the day we moved in). Thanks, Julia!

Strawberry Shortcake

The month of May means that nearly every day we have Great-Grandma Cecelia Schmidling's strawberry shortcake. She was a Kansas farm wife who raised 5 children through 62 years of marriage with Leo. She was known for making everything from scratch, and for always singing in the kitchen (like her namesake).
2 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. soda
3 t. baking powder
5 T shortening
1 c. buttermilk
1 egg
Mix dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add shortening with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Add buttermilk and egg, stir just until moistened. Pat into greased 9-inch pie pan or drop large mounds on greased cookie sheet to make individual short cakes. Bake at 350' F for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Polar Bear made a batch yesterday, and eats it with whipped cream in a bowl full of milk.

Vote for Homeschool Artist

Hannah Newsom has entered the Doodle 4 Google competition, to come up with a new themed design using the Google logo. The contest was to answer the statement "What if..." Hannah answered with "What if everything I drew came to life." Her doodle was chosen by the panel of expert judges as one of the 40 best entries in the country from a pool of thousands of submissions. All the Regional Winners are now open to public votes. Please help support Hannah, since she is home schooled we need to "be her school" and vote for her!

Click Grades 7-9, and then vote for Region 7 -- Hannah's Drawing is amazing!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Free Shipping on Unit Study Book

Teacher Appreciation! Enjoy FREE SHIPPING from Evan-Moor during the month of May. Use code TEACH08 at checkout.

I do not lapbook but LOVES these "history pockets" with cut-outs and reproducibles for all ages to combine as a unit study. So fun and easy for the homeschool teacher, including:
"Ocean Habitats" (shown in photo)
"Life in Plymouth Colony"
"Native Americans"
"Ancient Greece"
"Ancient Egypt"

Beg, borrow, or steal -- but get your hands on these for your crew!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"Persuasion" on PBS

I was persuaded to like the new PBS version of "Persuasion" upon my second viewing tonight with the Jane Austen Book Club. The hero and heroine are sublime, and the first three-quarters of the movie are excellent! (Could have been a better casting of Lady Russell and Mrs. Smith, but sister Mary is QUITE hilarious.) There's an excess of running -- without bonnets, my dears -- in the final three scenes! Overall, Anne is a dutiful girl, who keeps her sense of humor and perspective through many trials. Another fine message that modern daughters would do well to imitate.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Pray for Baby Carrick Stopford

My friend Susan needs prayers for her 18-month old son. She is invoking the intercession of Father Emil Kapaun (1916-1951) whose name is honored at her Catholic high school in Wichita and is currently a candidate for sainthood. Lord, hear our prayer.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

French Restaurant on Mother's Day

Captain treated his Wife to the Jusus Drugstore, a tiny restaurant in the small town of Smithville with a French chef who is big on local ingredients. The whole experience was pure seredipidy - from the laughter with Hector and Sharon to the 5-course meal to the drive home without children. I was tempted to lick my plate or at least steal some of the vanilla-bean-pepper to take home... instead we promised to make a return visit!

Mother's Day on Pentecost Sunday

A strong and driving wind is blowing today - so similar to the Gospel reading about the Holy Spirit. Happy Mother's Day to all my "Mommy" friends, some of the most virtuous and wise women I know!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Fiddling for Forest City

In honor of Mother's Day, the "Fiddlers Three" played at the Forest City Hall Bldg. After an elegant tea party, the Mothers and Daughters were treated to 4 classical and 4 fiddle tunes. One grandmother was celebrating her 101st birthday, another was 95! Dorito told about his 87-year-old violin, Polar Bear liked the tarts, Winger had trouble with his tuxedo buttons, and Meggar "survived" because of her Starbucks coffee. We also played on May 6 for the St. James Altar Society.

Chess Tournament

Polar Bear won 2nd place! and Winger took 5th place! in the Grades 4-6 division of the Robidoux Chess Tournament today. Their team won 2nd place overall, and the coach was a bit disappointed because not all the players could attend.

Dorito placed 13th in the junior high division. Chess is their "brain candy," and it was a fun treat this weekend. Best of all, they bought a new chess timer like Mr. Bird's to use at home!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Vocation Day

The seminarians from our parish assisted the nuns in presenting talks about their vocations today. My boys dressed nice for their day at "real" school. :-)

College Chit-Chat

Meggar met up with Alicia today at Benedictine College! Over lunch, they discussed college classes and plans. Alicia spent two years at Ave Maria University, and says she misses that campus and its positive spiritual atmosphere. She is a great mentor for my dd. Later, we shopped in downtown Atchison - finding treasures for our home and wardrobes. Tracy has a good eye for style, and kept up with the pace of our annual "afternoon out."

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Baby Cousin Arrives

Ethan Faurot arrived today in Scott City, Kansas. He's so cute, Julie! (I had a dream about babies last night...) What a blessing all children are.

Golfing with Our Priest

Speaking of priests today, the boys took Father to the driving range to help him prepare for Saturday's benefit golf tournament in our parish. Dorito even let Father borrow his "Big Bertha" driver - with great success!

Review of "The Nun's Story"

I'm glad that I previewed the Audrey Hepburn movie "The Nun's Story" from 1958. Although unrated, it was classified as "PG" by our library. I would probably let my high school aged children view this one -- because there is no bad language and only mild violence. In the end, however, **spoiler ** = she leaves the convent! I would want to know this beforehand, and so would other Catholic mothers.

The movie is based on Kathryn C. Hulme's book about the experiences of her friend, who was a nurse and an ex-nun in Belgium. "Sister Luke" is portrayed quite respectfully during her novitiate and up to making her final vows with the Carmelites. For its day, this was probably an intimate view of the clergy and convent that many had never seen before. Sister Luke finds her faith tested and struggles with obedience in quite normal ways. She is very smart and full of good intentions. The elder nuns are very supportive and gently loving towards her. But working in the Congo hospital with Dr. Fortunati, she wrestles with her growing esteem for the good doctor. Their interactions are portrayed more like a secular flirtation/attraction, although the author claims this was a fictatious addition by the Hollywood writers. There are also personal conflicts for Sister Luke because of World War II and her Belgian patriotism. In the end, she chooses to leave the convent. Unfortunately, the movie does not address her difficulties after she is free of the convent. The Catholic Bishops web site is kind to this movie, but I doubt it serves much usefulness amongst those discerning a vocation.

Note: Audrey Hepburn actually met Marie-Louise Habets (the former nun) while preparing for the role, and Habets later helped nurse Hepburn back to health following her near-fatal horse-riding accident on the set of the 1960 film "The Unforgiven." Hepburn earned her third Academy Award nomination for "The Nun's Story."

New priests in USA - including a Twin!

This month, our parish will see two seminarians ordained to the deaconate! I read with interest on Zenit about "The Class of 2008: Survey of Ordinands to the Priesthood" performed by the Georgetown University. Their annual survey shows one of the 401 is a twin!! "Brandon Jones, 37, of the Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina, has an identical twin brother, Chandler, who is an Anglican minister. Both were raised as Southern Baptists." Two are from Notre Dame: Kevin Bauman, 47, is a former vice chairman of the Romance Language Department at the University of Notre Dame. David Link, 72, is a former dean of the University of Notre Dame Law School and a widow."
Other interesting tidbits: The response rate from 335 ordinands included 242 for the diocesan priesthood and 77 for the religious priesthood. Another 16 ordinands did not specify whether they were being ordained to diocesan or religious priesthood. Most ordinands have been Catholic since birth, and half of them attended a Catholic elementary school. They are somewhat more likely than other U.S. Catholic adults to have attended a Catholic high school ,and they are much more likely to have attended a Catholic college. The youngest ordinand is 25 and the oldest is 76. Five ordinands are being ordained to the priesthood at age 65 or older.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Books We Love

These are the two books that Polar Bear loves best!
"The Remarkable Mr. Franklin" is a Hallmark pop-up book with incredible images in short, readable form. "The Remarkable Benjamin Franklin" is by the renowned Missouri author/illustrator Cheryl Harness (who used to work for Hallmark incidentally). She autographed our books at the Children's Literature Festival in Warrensburg this spring! And Harness explained how quickly she completes the watercolors for each of her history books. They are FULL of details and anecdotes - very wonderful for upper elementary students.

Winger chose "Bronco Charlie and the Pony Express" for his biography to read. It's an easy reader about the youngest (and oldest) rider hired by the Pony Express in 1861 in our town of Saint Joseph, Missouri.

Dorito chose "Henry Ford: Automotive Pioneer" by Montgomery (1969) for his biography report. Great chapter book, and boys seem to enjoy biographies better than other reading assignments.

Wife chose the Fandex series (great for tidbits and photos) on "First Ladies."

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Fiddler's Three at Altar Society

"The Fiddler's Three" entertained at the Mother-Daughter Banquet at our parish tonight. The boys wore tuxedoes and changed "Buffalo Gals" to "St. James Gals" which made everyone smile. Winger discovered that he loves Chicken Cordon Bleu, Dorito discussed golf with the priest, and Polar Bear brought Grandma some more punch. Such gentlemen!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Star Scout

Advancements are an exciting part of the Scout Court of Honor Banquet. Dorito has earned his "Star" rank and gives his Mother her pin tonight. He's the first in his patrol to get this far. The troop also honored an Eagle Scout tonight, with an impressive ceremony to watch!
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P.E. Field Day

Water balloons, scooters, blindfolds, old tires, and lots of fun at the Field Day... There were 12 big kids (since we gave Lane and Zach a ride) who got a bit of a sunburn!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Piano Recital

Winger played "Aardvark Boogie" and "The Dragon Hunt" from Faber Book 2B.
Dorito loves "Humoresque" by Faber and "Minuet in G" by Bach (which he also knows on the violin). He was a little nervous because he had to play very first of all 17 students.
Polar Bear played "Snake Charmer" and "Dance of the Irish" and now graduates to Faber Book 3A.
Meggar played sweetly the "Sonata in D Minor" by Cimarosa and nailed "L'Orage" (The Storm!) - by Burgmuller. She has definitely exceeded her mother's abilities, but Grandma Elizabeth recalls Great-Grandma Olga playing "The Storm," and she was an excellent pianist. So was our Maternal Great-Grandma Freda, who played the piano and organ especially during family gatherings.

The Pope has referred to the "spiritual value of musical art -- called in a particular way to instill hope in the human spirit wounded by the earthly experience. ...There is a kinship between music and hope, between song and eternal life, and for this reason, the Christian tradition represents the souls of the blessed in a choir."
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Saturday, May 3, 2008

School Carnival

The boys spent so many tickets that they won 7 bottles of soda! Yikes!! They also dunked Father Totton at the Dunk Tank, did several cake walks - winning twice, and ate pizza from the Concession Stand. Annual fun time!

Playing Guesstures with Grandma

Similar to Charades, this game is another favorite at our house. It makes the kids read fast, think of a plan to act out their 4 words, and I am not going to tell them that it's educational. Grandma was laughing out loud.

Waiting in the Wings

Dorito is waiting for his violin recital, and I liked his relaxed pose. Our teacher, Mr. Brock, has been a wonderful mentor for all three boys. He's promoting Meggar to be an accompanist for other Suzuki students next term. The Suzuki Parents Assoc. President gifted him and each teacher with a box of chocolates, reminiscent of Mr. Suzuki's habit to reward a good lesson with first pick from the candy box.
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Violin Recitals

"Musette" by Bach was well polished by Polar Bear. He drew the short stick and originally wanted to play "Hunter's Chorus." But he rose to the challenge like he always does.
"Hunter's Chorus" by C.M. von Weber is fun to play and Winger did it perfectly. He likes to sway to the beat.

This summer, the twins will both work toward their Book 1 graduation. (yea!)
Dorito excels with his full-size violin, especially on "Gavotte" by Becker. This violin was purchased in 1921 by Gr.-Gr. Grandfather and has been handed down through the musicians in the family. What a great sound! Meggar accompanied all three recital songs ;-) for her brothers.
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Apple Blossom Parade

Dorito roller-bladed with the Griffon hockey team in this year's Apple Blossom Parade. He ran out of candy to toss about half-way through! The twins watched on the sidelines with Noah and caught more than enough candy! Annual fun time.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Biography Tea Party

Here's our first annual Biography Tea Party, with excellent results. The tea cups were fancy, the food was delicious, and the reports were detailed. I admired Henry Ford with his bowtie and pocket watch, Benjamin Franklin with his key and quill pen, and Bronco Charley Miller with his bugle and knife.

We sat with Abe Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, Teddy Roosevelt, Douglas MacArthur, and Mrs. Grace Coolidge (yours truly).

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Symphonic Youth Orchestra

The Orchestra concert was Outstanding! Mr. Brock chose six popular works and everyone rose to the challenge. Meggar's favorite was accompanying Mozart's "Nocturne and Caprice." Dorito lost one of his sheets, but told us he had memorized most of his music during the 12 weeks of rehearsal. What a blessing! Both grandmas came with us, and the twins are eager for their turn next year! As usual, it was preceded by a potluck supper and giggling with "Chamber Music."