We’ve been in New Jersey visiting with my mom since Thursday, and today is our last day. Tomorrow, we go home! I love my mom, and I love my sister who also lives here, but I miss my family. I’m anxious to get back to them. My life is crazy, but it’s crazy good.

Fallish Things


We’ve been having a busy month. First, this replica Lewis and Clark expedition boat showed up at our riverfront. The real Lewis and Clark traveled with one keelboat and two pirogues, but they only brought one pirogue on this trip. Back in 2003-2006, they used these boats to reenact the whole journey, which is both pretty cool, but also, “Do you people not have lives?” They called this their Eastern Discovery Tour, and they visited several museums, but also lots of small river towns like ours. Pretty neat, huh?


The fellow up the hill at the encampment had a rope making device that Lewis and Clark might have had. Maybe. But theirs would probably have needed to be bigger, since their ropes were made out of elk hide. Anyway, kids love to make ropes and he loves kids, so he picked up a rope-making device and gives demonstrations, over and over and over again, to as many children as want to make ropes. We heard the same spiel with minor variations three times in fifteen minutes while waiting our turn, and he never appeared to weary of it. God bless that man.


I just think the wood on this boat is so beautiful.


While we were at the park, we remembered to collect some osage oranges. Rumor has it that they are insect repellent, and especially useful against spiders. We brought them home and tossed them in all of our dark, spidery corners, since this also happens to be the Large Spiders Coming Indoors time of year. For the sake of science, I also put some where spiders were actively dwelling in order to gauge their effectiveness. The spiders in question did not seem at all offended by the fruits; in fact, the one I watched most carefully seemed to be more relaxed, actually enjoying the mild, citrusy scent. Later that weekend, when I cleaned the living room, I also noted several large spiders apparently taking refuge from my vacuum behind an orange. The verdict? They are not spider repellent at all. I suspect that, generally, the appearance of the fruit coincides with colder weather and the natural spider life cycle, and they usually are dead or hibernating by now. I think it’s not a cause-and-effect, just a coincidence. But it was fun to find out.


Also, may I just say how nice it is to have a big family? You always have people to pick up and go see historical ships with you, or to help you glean from nature’s bounty, or to carry the baby when your arms get tired. And they always do it so cheerfully.

This week, we went to an unphotographed circus, which was fun, and we also went to the pumpkin farm.


They have a really nice playground here for the children, but there were some crazy kids on this day, and our children don’t care for boorish playmates. They tend to look at them like they are alien creatures and pull off to the side to watch disapprovingly. They have goats and ponies to pet, though, too, and that was fun, except I noticed some boorish adults hanging around the pens, presumably the parents of the ill-behaved children (the Nuts and Trees theory), and I didn’t much care for my little ones to get bored with the animals and take note of their surroundings, so we didn’t stay long.


We did get pumpkins, though! This farm does not actually grow many of their own. The small ones are grown on site, but the jack-o-lantern sized ones are imported and artfully strewn about the field. Usually. Last year, they left the boxes out there, too.


The other night, I remembered that there was a chestnut tree at church, and it was probably time for the nut drop. I was right! We spent a happy half-hour after Mass in the bright Autumn morning, harvesting this undeserved bounty from amidst the gravestones in the parish cemetery.


When I dumped them all out at home, we had most of paper grocery sack full. That’s too many for us, so I packaged some up for my mom and sister. My mom and sister live in New Jersey.


A couple of weeks ago, I woke with a weight on my heart, and as I went through the morning prayers, I became more and more certain that there was only one option. At breakfast, I said, “I think I need to go see my mom.”

Davey has lived with me for a long time, and he just nodded and said, “I think you should. Go!”

So we’re going, those of us with no obligations outside the family, which means me and five children. If you think of me in the coming days, say a little prayer for us for a peaceful and pleasant journey? Many, many thanks in advance.

Meg’s Courses, 11th Grade, 2016-2017

History and Literature: Roman Roads Media “Greeks” (Literature and history)
A full year French Revolution history and literature unit of my own design

Latin: Henle II (Memoria Press)
Greek: First Form (Memoria Press)

Math: Precalculus (Teaching Textbooks)

Religion: History of the Church (Didache)

Science: Exploring Creation with Marine Biology

Literature is included in both history courses, English grammar is covered in Latin, and writing assignments are regularly scheduled in both the history courses and the religion course, so we don’t have a separate English class.

My Boy


He’s fifteen. He’s already man-sized, and he’s got a lot of growing left to do. He’s strong. He says, “Can I carry that for you?” I say, “It’s heavy…” He says, “Nothing is heavy for me.”

He loves his little siblings, and he’s a good friend to his older sisters. He spends hours watching his fish swim. He spends many more hours building things out of Legos. He’s really good at it. He likes Amtgard, and I remember that, when he was a wee thing and we’d sword fight with wooden spoons in the kitchen, he never backed down. He still never backs down.

He always enjoys the meals I make for him. He’s less picky than his father, so lots of times, I cook for his pleasure instead. A girl likes to be appreciated. :-)

He’s really smart, and very well read, especially about wars, weapons and armor, castles, and medieval Japan. He’s handsome and chivalrous, too.

And I’m honored that I get to be his mother, to play my small part in helping him become what he is meant to be. What a gift he is.

Apple Picking


We haven’t been to an orchard since 2003.

Most of my poor children can not remember ever going apple picking.


I had an excuse when we lived in Georgia; apples don’t really grow there, so we really couldn’t go. But we’ve been here for eight years. The orchard isn’t far away at all. And we still hadn’t gone. The reason? Oh, I don’t know. Too many have-to-dos crowding out the want-to-dos, but I am becoming increasingly aware of the fleetingness of this life we live together. It isn’t going to last. These children are growing, and they’re going to fly before I’m ready for it, and I don’t want to have put off miniature golf or hayrides to the pumpkin patch. Or apple picking.


This farm was a little more efficient that others we’ve been to in the long ago past. We were in and out of the orchard in something like 20 minutes, and they charged an extra fee to visit their playground area, so we went elsewhere to eat our lunch.


We picnicked on the lawn of a pretty little church, Our Lady of the Annunciation, and then went inside to say hello to Jesus.

After that, a bathroom break at a favorite antique store, and now we’re home again. Next up: apple pie! Of course. :-)

How Silly of Me

A blue September morn.

A blue September morn.

Yesterday, I got word at the last minute that there was a free event that afternoon at the art museum. “I wish we weren’t doing chickens, today,” I mentioned to Delaney early in the morning. “Otherwise, I’d totally be there.”

She looked at me with raised eyebrows. “You know you can do both, right? You’ll be done with the chickens by lunchtime, and then you can go to the museum.”

Well. That’s a rather shocking suggestion, don’t you think? Two major events in one day?

We did finish the chickens by lunch, and so I bravely buckled up the stressed out babies and drove them into Louisville. And I’m glad I did. It was fun! Well, mostly. At a couple of the art stations, the staff deliberately ignored us, and that was pretty obnoxious.

We hopped on an elevator to go downstairs to the art lab. We admired the pinkness of the elevator, and we chatted about what we were going to do down there, and about how lovely the day was, and how angry the performing poet we’d just seen outside. I was starting to think that the elevator ride was taking an unusually long time, but before I had fully formed the thought, Penelope asked, “Um, should I push one of these buttons?”

“I thought this was taking a while!” Brenna said, as we all burst into laughter.

I’m just going to chalk that one up to exhaustion. Mr. Henry has suddenly decided to wake four or five times a night, and since he’s been sleeping straight through since he was born, this is an unusual development. I don’t have the stamina I used to, and I can seldom get him and Evie both napping at the same time, so we’ll just have to ride this one out! I’m sure I’m in good company, though. Here’s to all the mamas up in the middle of the night to feed and change the babies!

It wasn’t THAT windy…

We were minding our own business, eating a lunch of tuna salad sandwiches and enjoying the breeze on our almost finished patio. Suddenly, we heard a noise, like a cracking or a falling.
“I hope that wasn’t the beehive,” said I.
“More likely it was the tent,” said he.
“You’re both wrong,” said Meg, returning from a scouting mission. “It’s a tree.”


“At first, I thought it was a bush,” she said. “But I didn’t remember having a bush there.”


“Half of the tree came down.”
“And you can see the heartwood!” Penelope added.
“It’s rotten,” I said. “No wonder it fell.”
“There was a crack,” Jon added sagely, “and the water has been slowly seeping in.”


We’re all in shock, as you can see, but grateful that no one was playing nearby.
And that the chickens in their crate were on the other side.


It was a Bradford pear, enormous, and well known for instability.
In a place like ours, which receives so much interesting weather, it’s a wonder it has stood this long.
Its neighbor was once struck by lightening.


It barely missed squashing this tomato. It’s our first one.
@brandibruner and her Mittleider Method have nothing on us.

Henry’s Baptism

First, I have to tell you that Henry LOVES his bath.  It’s a big love – a big, splashy love.  He stretches out in that water, head cradled in my hand, and he kicks, and he flails, and he sometimes looks quite earnest, and other times overjoyed.  But he’s happy – always happy – in the tub.  Which is why I never skip or skimp on his bath even if it’s been a long day.  He just loves it that much.

So, naturally, when Father poured the water over his head, slowly, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Henry laughed.

I was thinking about that last night as I washed him up from his sweaty, spit-uppy day.  And so, as I shampooed his sweet little head, I smiled at him and said, “I bathe you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”  And he laughed!  “Oh, yes,” I went on, “you are baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” He laughed again!  He wasn’t even paying attention to the water now, just the words.  “And Father claimed you for Christ,” I said.  “Isn’t that amazing?  You belong to Jesus!” And he laughed!

Then his tubmate piped up, “I belong to Jesus, too.”

“Yes, you do,” I said, ” and so do I.  We all three belong to Jesus.  We’re all brothers and sisters in Christ!”  And he laughed!

I like to think there might be a priestly vocation in his future.

But even if there isn’t, he really enjoyed his Baptism day.

Parents and Godparents and our good priest with four-month-old, newly Christened Henry.

Parents and Godparents and our good priest with four-month-old, newly Christened Henry. Photo credit goes to Megan.

I think it is a most beautiful to have Confirmed brothers and sisters willing to take on the responsibility of Godparenthood for their little siblings.

I think it is a most beautiful thing to have Confirmed brothers and sisters willing to take on the responsibility of Godparenthood for their little siblings.  Delaney and Jonathan stepped up for Henry.

The French Revolution: A Book List for High School (or Adults)

My vision of our high school curriculum is a kind of smorgasbord of half year studies that my scholars can choose from according to their interests and tastes.  It’ll take me almost forever to pull such a thing together, but eventually, someone will have the benefit of lots of options, and I will have the benefit of not so much work.  Theoretically.

I do not personally know very much about the French Revolution at all, but it was a pivotal event, not just for the people of France, but for the entire Western world.  These are the books I’ve chosen, with some options.  Note: I’m an extremely good Book Chooser, regardless of my knowledge of the subject, in case you doubt my selections.  Meg will be my Course Tester this year, and we’ll tweak it a bit when we’re done, because there will be more books than we’ll have time for, and it’s possible that one may not add enough to the fight to stay on the list for the next student.  We will update as we go!

Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution by Simon Schama seems to be the one book on the French Revolution that all others aspire to outdo. I’d originally suggested a different and shorter title, but when it arrived, I realized it did not compare with Citizens for readability. So, even though it is nearly 900 pages long, this is my preferred text for complete coverage of the Revolution.

The Terror: The Merciless War For Freedom In Revolutionary France by David Andress also covers the whole of the Revolution, but with the focus on the Year of Terror.


Optional: Lafayette by Harlow Giles Unger. Lafayette was a hero of our American Revolution, after which he returned home to his native France to play an active role in the Revolution there, too. He was welcomed as a hero, but before long, he, too, was targeted by the Public Safety Committee.


The Twelve Who Ruled: The Year of Terror in the French Revolution by R. R. Palmer is a classic biography of the twelve men of the Public Safety Committee that orchestrated the Terror, including Robespierre.


Optional, but highly recommended: Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution by Ruth Scurr is a more in-depth biography of the most famous architect of the Reign of Terror, and perhaps a bit more sympathetic than history often chooses to be. It’s very important to me that my children see the humanity behind historical events. We are all flawed, and it’s easy to villianize someone after the fact, but very difficult to know what you would do if you were in his or her shoes.

Optional, but highly recommended: The Lost King of France by Deborah Cadbury looks like a very Anastasia type of tale, but might be more sympathetic to the plight of the monarchy than the others. I really like to present my students with as many points of view as possible. I like to think it helps to train them in the virtues of compassion and right judgement. Nothing is ever black and white.

Song at the Scaffold by Gertrude Von Le Fort is a fictionalized account of the sixteen Carmelite nuns executed during the Terror. It is the only specifically Catholic book I can find on the Revolution, but it’s a moving tale.  Because the Revolution was also so violently anti-Church, I think it’s an important aspect, and I wish there was more available material.

Optional: Marie Antoinette by Kathryn Lasky is a children’s novel from the Royal Diaries series, but not everything has to be hard, does it?



The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte and The Reign of Napoleon Bonaparte, both by Robert Asprey. These two could be optional, but Napoleon was definitely a product of the Revolution, if perhaps not its most desired outcome. Plus, he’s pretty cool and hard to fit in anywhere if we don’t get to him here. :-) I really enjoyed Waterloo by Bernard Cornwall, too.

Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke was written before the worst of the Revolution and is not enthusiastic.The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine is a response to Burke’s piece, and a defense of the Revolution.  I intend for these two to be read last and for the student’s final essay to be a response to either or both Burke and Paine.

Other essays could include portraits of key players, Catholic responses to the actions of major figures or to the Revolution in general. We haven’t actually been through this course yet, so I’ll update with ideas that present themselves as we talk our way through this unit.

I wanted to include a literature component, which would likely round this out into a full year, two credit course. I have a few texts selected that would work great, but the literature of the period was so depraved that I don’t think anybody should read it, certainly not an impressionable young person. If you are what you read, and these were the most popular novels of the period, it’s no wonder the Revolution devolved as it did. Relevant or not, however, I can’t subject my children to that. The other option is to use the few decent texts available or to cover literature about the Revolution. I’d go with the second option, I think.  I don’t have a book list prepared for this section yet, so if you’re interested, check this post again in a few days!

Henry, Four Months Old

8x10 feet bw 8x10 henry hand bw henry face

I just adore this child.  Especially those legs!  Those arms!  He is so chunky, so sturdy, and he has the most gorgeous skin.  Most of us are pretty fair, but Rosie and Henry have this gorgeous Mediterranean skin, smooth and deep, and did I mention gorgeous?  He’s round about 20 lbs already. (!) He’s very much wanting to taste our meals, so I share anything that’s tastable, like mashed potatoes and ice cream.  He usually sleeps pretty well, but he’s so big that I wake him up between 2 and 3AM to feed him, just to keep my milk supply up for him.  Lately, though, he’s been waking two or three times per night, and sleeping a lot during the day.  I suspect another growth spurt is imminent. (!) He has a most lovely personality, much milder than Miss Evie, which is good, because two Evies in a row would be crazy!  One Evie is more than enough for anybody.  But if you can follow an Evie up with a Henry, you’re doing okay.

A couple of weeks ago, I had both of these babies lined up on the floor for tandem diaper changes.  (Evie’s taking a potty break.)  “Look at me!” I said to Davey. “I’m 44 years old!  What were we thinking?”  But here’s the reality.  These people – these children, this man – are my road to Heaven.  They are the ones who inspire me to be more than I am.  They open me up to a bigger and more meaningful life than I would ever have found on my own.

So, twenty years into my motherhood, I still change lots of diapers.  I still cut food into tiny pieces or mush it in a blender.  I still wake multiple times in the middle of the night to check on small people.  I still think of outings in terms of stroller-friendliness.  I’m still limited, bound by the needs of children who depend on me for their most basic needs.

And twenty years into my motherhood, I still need to learn over and over again about sacrificial love.  I still need to learn to die to self, to not mind another diaper change, to work cheerfully with only one free arm, to patiently rise from my bed to nurse by the light of a digital clock, to listen to another story, to toilet train another child, to commit to educating just one more.  It’s hard, and in some ways, it’s getting harder.

But then, those sweet faces smile at me, pudgy arms wrap themselves around my neck, and I melt into a puddle of contentment.

What the heck.  Sleep is for sissies anyway.