Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Friends at the Art Fair

Here I am with famed author Nancy Brown, along with some of my kids, a couple of Linda B's kids, and Nancy's kids at the art fair a couple of weeks ago. It was such a fun day!

The Kid's Library Thing

I stayed up far too late last night working on the Kid's Library Thing. It is far from finished, but I hope that when it's done it'll be a helpful resource to other Catholic homeschoolers, especially newbies. My plan is to have all of the books tagged and reviewed, plus I still have about 500 books to enter. Might be a while! And definitely not today -- we're off to the fair.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Catholic Mom: Ideas for Preschool Science and Math

My monthly column at Catholic Mom is up. In fact, it's probably been up for a while and I just missed it. It's been a crazy summer!
Some homeschoolers prefer a structured curriculum for preschool and kindergarten. Me? I prefer to hold off on formal academics until first grade.

The County Fair

It's officially fair week. We spent our weekend turning in fair projects. Craft, cooking, and food preservation projects were all entered and we already have some results. Lots of blue ribbons, a red ribbon or two, and Best of Shows for Teen Daughter One's salsa and for Teen Daughter Two's bread. Teen Son wasn't able to turn in his writing projects (due two weeks ago) because of our computer problems. He was cool with it though -- it gave someone else a chance to win the Judge's Choice Award for a change this year.

Things will be a little more easy going this year as we don't have sheep to show, but it's still set to be a busy week. We have 4-H volunteer jobs, shooting sports awards, rides to ride, and fair food to consume.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Talking Harry

If you've finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, then head over to John Granger's website for some great conversation!
BTW -- Has anyone read Granger's book Unlocking Harry Potter? I put in a request to my library to purchase it, but haven't heard back from them yet.

Friday, July 27, 2007

It's a Contest!

Lisa from http://www.catholicmom.com/ writes:

I wanted to ask your assistance in spreading the word about a contest I'm running this month at CatholicMom.com. Broadway Books, publisher of The Book of Jane, has generously donated several copies of the book for me to use as giveaways. To enter, readers just need to drop me an email with "The Book of Jane Contest" in the subject line. While not written by Catholic authors, this book is squeaky clean, lots of fun and has a great message. If I get a good response to this giveaway, I hope that I will be able to offer other contests like this in the future! Please help me by spreading the word on your blogs and sites. Readers can learn more about the book and read my interview with the authors at http://www.catholicmom.com/br_dayton.htm

I haven't heard of this book, but I'll take Lisa's word for it that it's good. Anyone else read it yet?

He's Home!

My brother-in-law Tom is home from the Persian Gulf, much to the relief of my sister and their children and the rest of us! Now, they just have to move their lives from California to Chicago, where the Navy has decided to send him for graduate studies. I'm so glad they'll be closer to us and we'll actually get to visit now and then. Thanks for prayers offered up!

Afternoon Tea With J. K. Rowling

I promised to refrain from discussing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for a week or two, but I'd just like to say something about the author. She must be an incredibly interesting woman. I would love an afternoon to visit with her, just chatting like girlfriends around the kitchen table. Forget polite topics such as the state of the weather, I'd want to talk about religion and politics. It would be, I'm sure, a most enjoyable afternoon.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I'm Baaack

Whew, I finally finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Now I can get on the Internet and read the newspaper again. I know it sounds silly, but I didn't want any sniff of a spoiler before I finished reading. So, in case you're still reading it or planning to in the near future, I'll refrain from commenting on it for a week or two.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Art Shows and Famous Photographers/Authors

I got to hang out all day today at the Ann Arbor Art Show with a gang of teenagers. It is a great show taking up blocks upon city block filled with artists of all kinds. And, yes, it was pretty kid friendly.

The best part was that we spent the day with famed author Nancy Brown and her award-winning photographer husband Mike Brown. Mike had a booth at the fair and he easily had some of the coolest stuff there. His 3-D photography is really neat.

If you like to purchase gorgeous art for your home or office, check out Mike's website. If you would like to share some beautiful photographs with the kids, check out Mike's blog.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

God Bless the Computer Guy

Max the computer guy returned my PC to me today. He managed to save my hard drive and I'm so grateful. Thank you Max and thank you St. Isidore!

It's nice to be on my own computer again and not having to run to the library or wait for Rob to get home with his laptop. Now I just need to catch up on email!

The bad news is that my laptop needs a new motherboard and so it'll probably not be revived. It's pretty ancient and they don't make parts for it anymore. Maybe I can find a cheap motherboard on eBay, but I'm not counting on it. That's the computer the kids use for schoolwork so I have a couple of months to save up for another one.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Google Status

I like to check my stat counter every so often (you can check too if you want -- it's in the sidebar all the way down). It's so interesting to me to see how people came to find my blog. Also interesting is what they Google in order to find me. For example, if you Google "muzzleloading blog" I'm number 15 on the list . . .

Adoremus books coupon code, 4
Catholic homeschool mother's planner, 10
maureen whittman blog, 1 (even when you spell my name wrong, you can find me)
homeschool science olympiad, 5
the mystery of Harry Potter, 4
mini meatloafs, 3
catholic homeschooling blog, 13
catholic homeschool literature, 27
homeschool shooting sports, 2
maureen, 26
Holly Pierlot, 5
life of fred stan schmidt, 1

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Spaghetti Sauce Surprise

Sometime ago I read a recipe in one of the Moosewood cookbooks for what I think was called Mystery Marinara Sauce. You blend up some garden veggies and mix them into your regular spaghetti sauce.

This last weekend I had planned on spaghetti for dinner, but wanted to soup it up a bit. Usually, that would mean cooking up some Italian sausage, but Rob is still on the vegetarian kick so that wasn't an option. I remembered the Moosewood recipe and decided to wing it. I found a red pepper, yellow squash, and brocolli in the fridge. I sauteed them in olive oil, threw them in the blender (my Vita-Mix) with some Ragu, heated it up, and we had a delicious, yet healthy, spaghetti dish. I imagine you could do this with any leftover veggies. Give it a try.

Oh, one more thing. Mystery Marinara sounds too much like Mystery Meat to me, so I renamed it Spaghetti Sauce Surprise. I never did let onto the kids that I blended vegetables into the sauce and they were none the wiser!

Driving Teens

Yesterday was my first day driving with Teen Daughter One. I just want to say that Erma Bombeck was right. You shouldn't go through menopause and teaching a teen to drive at the same time.

Monday, July 16, 2007

It's Almost a Real Book!

It's here, it's here! The galley of For the Love of Literature came in the mail today! It was waiting for me when I got home from the kids' 4-H rifle and .22 competitions this evening.

In case you're not well versed in the publishing biz, a galley is basically the completed book unbound (it comes as loose leaf paper). It is my opportunity to make any last minute corrections. No major changes, just glaring spelling errors and the like.

This means that it'll be off to the printer very soon. Oh gosh, twelve years of work almost complete -- I'm so excited!

Praying for the Families of Our Soldiers

I have two prayer requests for you.

First, one of our local homeschooled grads was married last year. It was one of the most beautiful weddings I've ever attended. Shortly thereafter her new husband was deployed to Iraq. They are expecting their first child in early September. He is scheduled for a 2-week leave at the end of August and then will return to Iraq until February. Please pray for this young family -- that all will go well with the baby's birth, that she is born while Daddy is home, and that he comes home safe and sound.

This prayer request is from my friend Linda S.

Please pray for my niece Jennifer whose soldier husband, Alan, was killed in Iraq last night when he stepped on mine. He leaves behind Jennifer, a young mother, and two beautiful daughters Rose (4) and Lilith (3 months).

God our Father, Your power brings us to birth, Your providence guides our lives, and by Your command we return to dust. Lord, those who die still live in Your presence, their lives change but do not end. I pray in hope for Alan, my family, relatives and friends, and for all the dead known to You alone. In company with Christ, Who died and now lives, may they rejoice in Your kingdom, where all our tears are wiped away. Unite us together again in one family, to sing Your praise forever and ever.

Addendum: A third prayer request for our soldiers and their families. My brother-in-law Tom is still in the Persian Gulf and his return home has been delayed. Prayers for him, my sister Chrissy, and their two kids Tommy and Deanna are also appreciated. Thanks!

Which Early Church Father Are You?

Wow, I can't even imagine trying to read the Bible in the original languages, but if that's what Mike says, then it must be true. So, which Early Church Father are you?

You’re Origen!

You do nothing by half-measures. If you’re going to read the Bible, you want to read it in the original languages. If you’re going to teach, you’re going to reach as many souls as possible, through a proliferation of lectures and books. If you’re a guy and you’re going to fight for purity … well, you’d better hide the kitchen shears.

Find out which Church Father you are at The Way of the Fathers!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Our Feminine Side

I once asked Rob, many, many years ago, "What exactly made you fall in love with me?" He answered, without a moment's hesitation, "Your femininity."

This caught me completely off guard. I thought maybe he would say, "Your intellect," as we used to have the most wonderful, deep discussions back before 7 babies sucked all of my working brain cells out through their breast milk. I wouldn't have been surprised if he had said, "Your culinary skills," as I'm a pretty good cook if I do say so myself and the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, right? But, "femininity"?

I never thought of myself as being terribly feminine. I was a tomboy growing up. I'd rather play sports than play dolls, I loved camping and fishing with my dad, and I could beat up the biggest boy on my street (his nickname, btw, was Chubso). In high school and college, most of my friends were boys. Sure, I always had one or two close girlfriends, but I was most comfortable hanging out with the guys. As a grown woman, I'd rather spend an extra 15 minutes reading a book than putting on makeup or fixing my hair and I've never quite caught on to the domestic arts of sewing, housekeeping, etc.

However, as I watch my two teen daughters grow into women, I'm beginning to understand Rob's statement. Teen Daughter One is a tomboy in her mother's footsteps. She's never had to beat up the neighborhood bully, but she can whip any boy in ice hockey or shooting sports. She could never be described as a girly girl and yet she is beautiful beyond words. She is sweet and tender when dealing with little children, she is a person of service who is always looking out for the needs of others, and she always greets you with a smile. Her maternal instincts run strong and that is what makes her feminine.

Now, Teen Daughter Two is a girly girl. She can let out an ear-piercing squeal at the sight of any creepy crawly thing and she never met a bottle of nail polish that she didn't absolutely adore. Yet her femininity comes not from that, but from her warmth, her gentleness with children and animals, her smile that can light up a room, and her desire to make the world a more beautiful, welcoming place. It's not a curling iron or lipstick that makes one feminine.

Yes, I'm finally getting what Rob meant by saying he fell in love with my femininity.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Terms of Endearment and Teenage Boys

Rob says that I should stop referring to Teen Son as "Sweetie." He says it's not masculine enough and no teenage boy should have to endure such verbal abuse. I asked Teen Son and he said he doesn't mind if I call him Sweetie. However, Rob continues to insist that I should find a term of endearment that is more manly (grunt, grunt). I wonder if "Dirt Bag" would work.

HP, NCB, and Personal Attacks

It was only a matter of time before the personal attacks began on Nancy Brown. This column does not attack Nancy's book, The Mystery of Harry Potter, on it's merits. It attacks Nancy, calling her self-serving and non-Christian.

I have two things to say in response. One, I'm the one who encouraged Nancy to write this book in the first place. I know for a fact that her motivation was not money. (Let's get real here -- this is Catholic publishing, no one gets rich in the real world of Catholic publishing.) Nancy wrote this book because she had something important to say, something she wanted to share with the world, and by golly that's just what she does -- write.

Secondly, I've known Nancy a number of years. She's been to my home, I've been to hers. Our families have broken bread together and we've attended Holy Mass together. Nancy walks the walk. She doesn't just sit around talking about all things Catholic -- she lives it. I know her to be a woman of great faith, dedicated to Our Lord, His Church, and His Mother. I can only hope and pray that I too can someday be as holy as Nancy.

If you hate the Harry Potter books, I'm cool with that. If you hate Nancy's book, I am cool with that too. I have no problem with discussing these books and their merits or lack thereof. Bring it on. I love a great discussion. But we must, as Christians keep it charitable. There is no room, in my opinion, for personal attacks whether they be on J. K. Rowling or Nancy Carpentier Brown. Yes, we can judge their work and their fruits but are we to publicly judge the state of their souls?

Friday, July 13, 2007

I'm the Mom of THE National Champion

We just got the phone call. Teen Son won first place overall in muzzleloading at nationals!!!!

As I mentioned before, there was a scoring glitch and we didn't know his overall standing when we left South Dakota. We were thinking maybe 4th or 5th. Wow, are we celebrating here!!!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Pray and Breathe

The one thing I got out of the South Dakota trip was the power of prayer. At our first meeting with the teens and parents, when we first put together the team and laid out what we needed to do in terms of practice and fundraising, we all talked about the importance of prayer.

We also talked about the importance of breathing. When I told the kids we had $9,000 to raise, you can bet a few of them stopped breathing for a minute! It's the same with competition - you need to remember to control your breathing. Our motto soon became, "Pray and Breathe."

Every email, every meeting, ended with "Pray and Breathe!"

Several moms committed to praying for the team. Each week they gave praise for all the blessings we were witnessing in the area of pulling this team together for a national competition. They also offered up petitions for the team's needs.

When the day finally arrived to get in the van and drive to South Dakota, we stopped in the driveway and prayed for God's blessing. This routine was repeated every morning before taking off in the van. We also remembered to stop and give thanks each evening for the day's blessings.

Since I could not be on the range with the kids and had to stay in the viewing area, my job was to pray. I made sure they had plenty of water, food, etc., but my main job was to pray. The first day of competition was bullseyes at 50 yards. I sat in the viewing area with my hoodie pulled tight around my face and a blanket on my lap (it was quite chilly that morning at 8 am) praying silently to myself. I must of looked a bit of a spectacle as I caught Teen Daughter giggling at me from the line.

That day, 3 of the 4 muzzleloaders shot their personal best. If you're going to do your personal best, do it in competition not in practice! The fourth shooter had an equipment malfunction, but once things got working again, he was shooting 9s and 10s! That evening, the muzzleloading team placed 5th and Teen Son won the silver medal.

The next day was a different story. There was a rule change made in May that we were not aware of. The state was notified by the national organization. But, for some reason, it was not passed on to the team coaches.

What happened was that the silhouettes the teens were shooting were made for pistol, not muzzleloading. If they were shot at full powder, they would fold in half and be ruined. The idea it to just knock them off the stand. So, we were instructed to use half of the usual black powder. If we had known this in advance, we would have brought a second set of guns. Our guns were not made for so little powder. Plus they had to be completely resighted. You see, by using half the black powder the ball moves slower and therefore drops farther as it moves toward the target.

(A little muzzleloading lesson here. You basically make your own bullet. You pack in the gun powder, then a patch of cloth, and then the metal ball. It's all very Civil War.)

Anyhoo, things got off to a bad start. Add to that, it was Teen Son's day to have an equipment malfunction. It was fixed fairly quickly, but it threw him off a bit. Also, I could not do my job as prayer warrior that day as I was enlisted as a scorekeeper.

We had counted on silhouettes being "our event." It was the day we were to shine, especially Teen Daughter. But in the end, the team didn't place in the top ten. Teen Son did manage a 9th place ribbon that night. The way cool thing was that the team didn't let it get them down. Some of us parents let it bum us out, but the kids remained upbeat with the promise that "tomorrow is another day."

Well, tomorrow is another day. I got back to my job as prayer warrior, sitting on my stadium chair amidst the foot high grass. (Later learning that rattle snakes had been spotted there the day before!) Let me stop and say here that praying nonstop for 2 or 3 hours is tiring. I was more worn out than the teens!

Not discouraged in the least form the previous day's disappoinment, the team shot fantastic. This day was bottles and critters at 25 yards. No, they didn't shoot actual glass bottles or real critters. First they shoot targets with pictures of bottles and then targets with pictures of small animals. This is harder than it sounds. With bottles, you need to shoot completely within the narrow neck continously in order to gain a medal-contending score. Shoot in the body of the bottle you only get 5 points instead of 10. If your shot is not completely within the bottle, you only get partial points. The critters are small and difficult to see - these guns do not have scopes.

At the end of shooting, the competitors are given the opportunity to review their targets and the scores given. Teen Son had a protest - he was scored a miss for what should've been scored as a partial hit. This resulted in a 7 point gain. He also discovered an adding error. This error gave him 10 too many points. Without a second thought, he took went to the judge and pointed out that he needed to deduct 10 points from his score.

One of the things we all had prayed for was that we would give glory to God in competition. To me, Teen Son's action here was an answer to that prayer.

That night at the awards banquet, the team received the bronze medal. You should have seen the thrill on their faces - they truly shined. They were even more thrilled to see Teen Son, their teamate, their friend and brother, win the gold medal.

It was really something watching Teen Son that week. Teen Daughter was a beauty to watch too, but there was something about Teen Son's focus that blew me away. He was so completely focused on the task at hand that there was no distracting him. One morning, as we prepared to leave our bed and breakfast, I went to tell him it was time to go. I saw him sitting out on the deck with his lips moving. I thought to myself, "Who is he talking to? Is he talking to himself?" Then I realized he had a rosary in his hand. I also spied him praying his rosary as we drove the long drove each morning to the range. I think that prayerful approach helped with that focus.

Pray and breathe!

I've Been Outed

Horrors! Nancy Brown exposes me as a Harry lover on national radio. My reputation will go down the drain, my friends will no longer speak to me, people will hold up crosses at me as I walk down the street.

Oh, wait a minute. I've already outed myself. Never mind.

Monday, July 09, 2007

St. Isidore Pray for Us!

Well, the laptop died while in SD and now the PC is dead. It won't even turn on. Sigh. I'm in the library computer lab for the moment, but got to get home to take 4 kids to the doctor. Yep, 4! Three with pink eye and one with an allergic reaction to an antibiotic (for impetigo). Oh, did I mention they all have killer sunburns? It's always interesting at the Wittmann house!

So, please offer up a prayer for sick kids and the sick computer. Hopefully, I'll be online again sometime in the near future.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Black Hawk Eagles Lodge

If you ever find yourself in need of a place to stay in South Dakota, you absolutely have got to check out the Black Hawk Eagle's Lodge. This is the bed and breakfast we stayed at during nationals. The owners have done a lovely job making it a relaxing and homey place for their visitors. It's nestled away in the Black Hills with lots of opportunities for outdoor activities. Plus, it's not horribly far from Rapid City, Mount Rushmore, and other tourist attractions.

Friday, July 06, 2007

It's a Sale!

I have lots of stuff left over from conferences and would like to make some space in my house. If you're interested in any of the following items, I can take Paypal (including credit cards) to mwittlans at aol dot com. Or you can mail a check. Just drop me an email HERE for the address.

The Catholic Homeschool Companion by Maureen Wittmann and Rachel Mackson - The ultimate homeschooling book!
$20 (This is a 20% savings!), plus $3 s/h

Catholic Homeschooling 101 with Steve Wood and Maureen Wittmann - This is an audio CD of an interview I did with Steve. Perfect gift for the new or wannabe homeschooler, or to give to a unapproving spouse or parent.
$8 (Another 20% savings!), plus $2 s/h

Renaissance Puzzle Book and Unit Study by Maureen Wittmann - This is a booklet based on my children's history co-op. Includes reading lists and fun puzzles to help you create an enjoyable learning experience.
$7, plus $1 s/h

Middle Ages Puzzle Book and Unit Study by Maureen Wittmann - The Middle Ages version of the above.
$7, plus $1 s/h

If you want anything autographed, please let me know who to address it to. (Don't want to sign it to you if it's a gift to your brother-in-law!)

I'm sorry, but I can only take U.S. orders. With the new postal regulations it costs a fortune to mail outside the U.S. ($18 to ship The Companion to Canada!)

Order all four and I'll throw in shipping and handling for free! My husband is tired of tripping over boxes in our bedroom, so please order today!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Spending the Fourth in the Pond

We spent 4th of July with our friends the B's. Chuck rigged up this cool pulley thingy babobber that the kids could ride across the pond and then drop down in the middle. It was a blast!

As you can see here, Teen Daughter One, as usual, pushed the limits and rode the bar across upside down. Actually, she wanted to go across completely upside down without the help of her hands, but her fuddy duddy mom said no way!

At the end of the day, we went to watch the city fireworks from the front yard of friends. Thanks to all our hosts for a lovely, laid back day!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Out of Control Paparazzi

Everywhere the teens went, they were followed by a paparazzi of chaperones and coaches. After all, we couldn't let the week go by without documenting their every single move.

We were asked, more than once, by perfect strangers, "Who are those kids and why do so many people want to take their picture?"

We were tempted to answer, "Oh they're the stars of a new reality TV show, Life with Teen Gunners" or "They're a new rock sensation, The Shooters." But, instead, we just told the truth, "They're some special kids and we just can't get enough of them!"

BTW -- Mount Rushmore was way cool!!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Smoking Gun

Heard quite often by the muzzleloaders this past week:

If it don't smoke it's a joke!

The 4-H Spirit

One interesting thing about attending a national championship is learning how other teams train for their sport, as well as how the teams are chosen.

Some states, I learned, have qualifying matches. In order to make the state team you go to the qualifier and compete for a place. The top four shooters in each discipline make the team.

In Michigan, we do things differently. If you want a place on the state team, you fill out an application. Your scores from previous competitions are to be listed, but you also write an essay, answer a few questions about yourself, and include letters of recommendations.

I like the way we do it here. Yes, skill is important, but there is so much more to choosing someone to represent our state. 4-H is about forming the whole person - not winning for the sake of winning.

This was evident to me on Thursday when Teen Son found an adding error in his score. He went to the judge and let him know that he was given ten too many points. Now that's the 4-H spirit!

Teen Son assumed the lost points also lost him any chance at first place. Imagine his excitement when he still won the gold medal that evening! He was also given special recognition at the awards ceremony for his honesty.