Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Sacrifice of Another

Lately, I have been thinking of the effects of grace in my life, and my thoughts keep taking me to a book I read as a child, the title and author of which I cannot remember.

In the story (set in the 1950s or 1960s, I think), a very poor widow and her children come to live as caretakers on an old, ruined Victorian estate in England. The children are fascinated by the mansion, which was partly burned in the 1800s, killing some Victorian children. By a strange incidence of time travel (they explain it as time being a wheel with rungs, and where a rung meets the wheel, travel in time is possible), they begin to interact with the Victorian children and discover that their deaths were caused by the neglect of their guardian, the family solicitor.

Anyway, the part I keep recalling is when the rest of the ruin catches fire, trapping the "nowadays" children. The weird time travel thing is still going on, and the Victorian solicitor comes in time to walk the children through the burning house and out of the fire. The kids are instructed to hold his hand and not to let go or look at him, no matter what.

As the girl is ushered by the old solicitor through the extremely hot and flaming rooms, she does not feel warm at all. Instead, a coolness pervades her body and she turns to the old man, amazed, to comment that she can't feel the heat at all. She is shocked to see his face a contortion of agony, as he grits his teeth and says fiercely, "Look ahead!"

He is taking the punishing heat of the flames in her stead. She cannot feel a thing. The incredible torment of fire is to her but a cool and gracious breeze.

This is what I think of when I think of the Lord's dying grace. By its complete and utter graciousness, we cannot understand the suffering He went through. He doesn't even want us to. But our thoughts of His suffering ought to motivate us to obey. The keeping of His dying love in the forefront of our minds is a way to be not weary in well doing, because there are dire and necessary punishments we have been saved from, by the tremendous sacrifice of Another. And this Person, who is so gracious and kind, is preparing a place for us, the ones who are the cause of His suffering. Amazing.

(All analogy falls apart eventually. In the book the solicitor is a sinner trying to put his old wrongs to rights in order to be granted rest. Regardless, the portion of the story that describes his actions during the second fire calls to my mind the sacrifice of Christ in a very powerful way.)

If anyone else has read the book or knows the name/author, will you put it in the comments? I'd like to find the book for my kids. It just goes to show that all truth is God's truth, even if you find it in a pseudo-Victorian time travel and ghost story. Especially there, I guess.

Of Dragons, A Lion and The Utter East

Reepicheep is my hero.

And the saving of Eustace reminds me of this song:

I love my Saviour, God
Because He first loved me
Because He shed His precious blood
To set my spirit free.

'Twas love my bosom felt,
And made me wipe mine eyes,
When low before His throne I knelt
To pour my feeble cries.

Touched by His dying love,
I melted into grief;
Swift on the wings of love He moved
And brought me sweet relief.

With my whole heart I love
The God who loved and bled,
Who left the shining realms above
And suffered in my stead.

Who can forbear to love
A God so good and kind?
Sure He is worthy to be loved
By me and all mankind.

--Author Unknown

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Chore Charts

(Edited several times to add analysis of why these chore charts have worked since August. Every time I hit 'publish' I thought of something else. It wouldn't be my post if I didn't analyze it to death. lol.)

With all of our activities on hold for Christmas, I have been working on organizing our schedule the last couple of days. In the process of figuring out what is working and what is not, I realized we have hit on a very nice way to divvy up kid chores at our house. At least, it has been working for us since August (!) with no hard feelings. (Hard feelings seem to be what we have to work hardest to avoid when divvying up kid chores at our house. That's another topic altogether.)

I am not sure why these charts clicked at this time, but I think it is partly because two of my three are old enough to do a lot of these chores independently. Another reason might be that we are a do-things-together kind of family, and our kids feel lonely working alone. (Once again, another topic altogether.) With the exception of the bathroom (too crowded), all of us ladies are doing chores in the same area at the same time, and those of us with more experience can offer advice or pick up the slack for the less experienced ones.

We did have to initiate a consequence for those not working diligently, which is that the person must sit by themselves in the room and not talk or help until all the chore is finished. Then she has to do some chores all by herself with me while her sisters get to go off and play or do whatever it is they need to do. (This doesn't sound like such a tragic consequence unless you are a very friendly little girl who can't stand to be left out. None of our daughters like to be left out of group activities, even chores. Very extroverted they are.)

Another reason these charts works is that we can jump in wherever we are in the week. These are daily chores, but sometimes we go two or three days without doing some of them. If that is the case, whenever we come up for air (lol) and realize there are chores that need to be done, we just look at what day it is and those are the chores each child does. No turning of wheels or "I did that last time!" or anything like that. If it is Monday, the Monday assignments stand, no arguments allowed.

We have three daughters, ages 12, 9 and 6, and they share one bathroom. I also needed their help with kitchen and laundry duties. So I modified some suggestions from Large Family Logistics and made four charts, which hang on our refrigerator. (Cornflower, who is a brand new reader, also made picture charts for her chores.) The children each have one job per day, per chart, and they only have to do the same job on each chart twice per week. I tried several different ways of organizing the charts, but organizing according to child and then day of the week seemed the least confusing for all of us. The charts look similar to this:

Kitchen Duties
(Before meals)

Monday: Empty dishwasher and help fix meals
Tuesday: Set table and get drinks
Wednesday: Put out napkins and silverware
Thursday: Empty dishwasher and help fix meals
Friday: Set table and get drinks
Saturday: Put out napkins and silverware

Monday: Set table and get drinks
Tuesday: Put out napkins and silverware
Wednesday: Empty dishwasher and help fix meals
Thursday: Set table and get drinks
Friday: Put out napkins and silverware
Saturday: Empty dishwasher and help fix meals

Monday: Put out napkins and silverware
Tuesday: Empty dishwasher and help fix meals
Wednesday: Set table and get drinks
Thursday: Put out napkins and silverware
Friday: Empty dishwasher and help fix meals
Saturday: Set table and get drinks

Kitchen Duties
(After Meals)

Monday: Put leftovers away, wipe table and chairs
Tuesday: Clear table (except leftovers) and take out trash
Wednesday: Put things in dishwasher, dry clean dishes and wipe counters and stovetop
Thursday: Put leftovers away, wipe table and chairs
Friday: Clear table (except leftovers) and take out trash
Saturday: Put things in dishwasher, dry clean dishes and wipe counters and stovetop.

Monday: Clear table (except leftovers) and take out trash
Tuesday: Put things in dishwasher, dry clean dishes and wipe counters and stovetop
Wednesday: Put leftovers away, wipe table and chairs
Thursday: Clear table (except leftovers) and take out trash
Friday: Put things in dishwasher, dry clean dishes and wipe counters and stovetop
Saturday: Put leftovers away, wipe table and chairs

Monday: Put things in dishwasher, dry clean dishes and wipe counters and stovetop
Tuesday: Put leftovers away, wipe table and chairs
Wednesday: Clear table (except leftovers) and take out trash
Thursday: Put things in dishwasher, dry clean dishes and wipe counters and stovetop
Friday: Put leftovers away, wipe table and chairs
Saturday: Clear table (except leftovers) and take out trash

Bathroom duties

Monday: Wipe toilet outside and in
Tuesday: Tidy floor and sweep
Wednesday: Clean off counter and wipe; wipe sink
Thursday: Wipe toilet outside and in
Friday: Tidy floor and sweep
Saturday: Clean off counter and wipe; wipe sink

Monday: Tidy floor and sweep
Tuesday: Clean off counter and wipe; wipe sink
Wednesday: Wipe toilet outside and in
Thursday: Tidy floor and sweep
Friday: Clean off counter and wipe; wipe sink
Saturday: Wipe toilet outside and in

Monday: Clean off counter and wipe; wipe sink
Tuesday: Wipe toilet outside and in
Wednesday: Tidy floor and sweep
Thursday: Clean off counter and wipe; wipe sink
Friday: Wipe toilet outside and in
Saturday: Tidy floor and sweep

Daily Laundry Duties

(Everyone folds after cleaning up from lunch and everyone puts away their own clothes. I get a head start on folding before lunch if no one needs my help with schoolwork--Ha!)

Monday: Put away bath towels, dish towels and hot pads
Tuesday: Put away sheets, blankets and sort and put away socks
Wednesday: Help Mom sort clothes and reboot washer/dryer
Thursday: Put away bath towels, dish towels and hot pads
Friday: Put away sheets, blankets and sort and put away socks
Saturday: Help Mom sort clothes and reboot washer/dryer

Monday: Help Mom sort clothes and reboot washer/dryer
Tuesday: Put away bath towels, dish towels and hot pads
Wednesday: Put away sheets, blankets and sort and put away socks
Thursday: Help Mom sort clothes and reboot washer/dryer
Friday: Put away bath towels, dish towels and hot pads
Saturday: Put away sheets, blankets and sort and put away socks

Monday: Put away sheets, blankets and sort and put away socks
Tuesday: Help Mom sort clothes and reboot washer/dryer
Wednesday: Put away bath towels, dish towels and hot pads
Thursday: Put away sheets, blankets and sort and put away socks
Friday: Help Mom sort clothes and reboot washer/dryer
Saturday: Put away bath towels, dish towels and hot pads

Friday, December 22, 2006

Holiday Happenings

Well, Star Night was a big success. I was gratified to hear six-year-old Cornflower announce, in a tone of perfect contentment, "Everything is wonderful!" That was five minutes out of the driveway. After seeing the first spectacular light show, she yawned and said, "It's after 9:30. I want to go home and get into my bed. I'm going to be cranky tomorrow, you know."

She managed to stick it out like the rest of us, however, and we saw some pretty fun houses, including three that were synchronized to music on a low frequency radio station. My thanks to the ladies on our local moms' list for cluing me in to the best places to go!

Today we went to an art museum and saw a private collection that is currently on display, of paintings spanning the Renaissance through Post-Impressionism. Mariel's favorite was this portrait by Goya. (Look at her eyes.) Triss' favorite was the beautiful yet somewhat dire "Roses of Heliogabalus" by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. (The painting on the link is much pinker than the real life painting.) Cornflower most appreciated "Le Printemps" by Tissot, because it has three girls in it and she gets to be the one leaning against the tree since she's youngest. Mr. Honey found a Renoir that reminded him of one of his sisters when she was a little girl. (Mariel says she has sad eyes.) I really liked a still life of a vase of peach tree blossoms that was painted by an artist who lived just barely on the cusp of the beginning of impressionism, yet painted traditionally. I retained all that information but not the artist's name, unfortunately, so I will instead link to this William Waterhouse that was my second favorite.

The next three days will be full of family gatherings, and I don't know if I will post anything, so~

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Tonight's the Night!

It's Star Night.

Sssh.. Don't tell the children.

I'm taking a chance putting it on the blog, but the kids aren't allowed on the computer without permission and supervision, and I had to tell somebody.

I just noticed I have never blogged about Star Night, which is a Glaring Omission, so here is an excerpt of a post I wrote for a moms' list that tells what it is.

Every year, dh and I secretly plan an evening to take the kids to look at lights. We call it Star Night, and I make sure to have some special cookies and hot chocolate in travel mugs to take with us. On Star Night the kids go to bed as usual, not knowing that Tonight Is The Night. Around thirty minutes after lights out, we rush their rooms and hustle them out in their pajamas and robes, plop them in the van, cover them with blankets and hand them their goodies. Then we pile in, put some Christmas music on the CD player, and head out to look at the lights. The kids love it because they know it's coming, but they don't know when!

Thanks to the aforementioned moms' list, we have maps and directions this year. I am oh-so-organized. And since we are on vacation and can sleep in tomorrow morning, we can go Farther Afield in our search for lights.

We got the children new slippers so their feet will be cuddly under their blankets in the van.

I got Pepperidge Farms special party cookies. 'Cause it's a party. Now all I have to do is surreptitiously set aside the Christmas music, put the kids to bed early, and boil water for cocoa.

Hee hee! I love Christmas.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Fi--ve Gol--den Ri-i-i-ngs!!

I just heard the funniest rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas. I giggled all the way home from the grocery store. It was the Muppets. Each Muppet got his own 'day.'

(If we ever decide to sing the Twelve Days of Christmas like the Muppets, I want to be Miss Piggy, 'kay? Because I'd like to revel in the resonance...)

Really. Find this tune somewhere. I have asked Mr. Honey to find it on his online music site. It is so cute. They even let Beaker have a turn.

(Mama Squirrel has found a site that describes A Muppet Family Christmas. I don't think I've ever seen this special.)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Better Part

Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar;
Seek the great Desire of nations;
Ye have seen his natal star:
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

--excerpt from "Angels from the Realms of Glory" by James Montgomery

Friday, December 15, 2006

Music On Christmas Morning

This is lovely, and so true:

Music I love--but never strain
Could kindle raptures so divine,
So grief assuage, so conquer pain,
And rouse this pensive heart of mine­
As that we hear on Christmas morn,
Upon the wintry breezes borne.

Though Darkness still her empire keep,
And hours must pass, ere morning break;
From troubled dreams, or slumbers deep,
That music kindly bids us wake:
It calls us, with an angel's voice,
To wake, and worship, and rejoice;

To greet with joy the glorious morn,
Which angels welcomed long ago,
When our redeeming Lord was born,
To bring the light of Heaven below;
The Powers of Darkness to dispel,
And rescue Earth from Death and Hell.

While listening to that sacred strain,
My raptured spirit soars on high;
I seem to hear those songs again
Resounding through the open sky,
That kindled such divine delight,
In those who watched their flocks by night.

With them, I celebrate His birth­
Glory to God, in highest Heaven,
Good-will to men, and peace on Earth,
To us a Saviour-king is given;
Our God is come to claim His own,
And Satan's power is overthrown!
A sinless God, for sinful men,
Descends to suffer and to bleed;
Hell must renounce its empire then;
The price is paid, the world is freed,
And Satan's self must now confess,
That Christ has earned a Right to bless:

Now holy Peace may smile from heaven,
And heavenly Truth from earth shall spring:
The captive's galling bonds are riven,
For our Redeemer is our king;
And He that gave his blood for men
Will lead us home to God again.

--Anne Bronte

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Christmas Break

Oh, Fraction, where is thy sting?

Oh, Ratio, where is thy victory?

The sting of math is swallowed up in Christmas Vacation!

Thanks be to God, who giveth us this victory in our Lord, Jesus Christ!

(This is what happens when you cross devotional readings of the text of Handel's Messiah with math-- The First Order of the Day After Devotions.)

Of Love and Bagpipes

I am wearing my grey sweats in celebration of the fact that we have nowhere to go today. And my green "I am, I can, I ought, I will!" Ambleside Online t-shirt. For inspiration.

Actually, we have to go to the strings shop and get a new shoulder rest for Mariel's violin, but that is just up the road. Hopefully there will be no high-society types in the store when we get there. All those high society types that frequent strings shops. I guess there is a good possibility we might see someone from the Symphony, but surely Whomever It Is will not bother to notice the mother of three in grey sweats asking for a new shoulder rest.

Going to this shop is an Event, although not the kind that requires formal clothing. Where else can you see string instruments in various states of creation hanging from the rafters, and lines of bows as orderly as tall, thin soldiers descending from the ceiling? The children are partial to the large bass standing in one corner and the little homemade dollhouse sitting on the counter which once won a ribbon at a state fair.

Mr. Honey would like to learn the bagpipes. He is convinced that he is one of the few people in the world who truly appreciates the sound of bagpipe music. I reminded him that his children dearly love the Scottish bagpipes CD he purchased several years ago.

I enjoy bagpipes as well. However, constantly listening to the one bagpipes CD that we own has dampened my enthusiasm considerably. I have been known to hide that CD.

My big plans for the day include tacking "and I love you" to the end of everything I say to my family. I'm not sure if this will cheapen the phrase or fill the kids and Mr. Honey with knowledge of my love for them. It is an experiment. I think perhaps the effectiveness of the words depends a lot on nonverbal communication.

We also plan to do lessons and write Christmas cards (finally) and make gifts and bake cookies and do laundry. Why do I think we are not going to get everything on the list accomplished?

Lately, I have been placing my focus more on doing things together and less on getting things done. That's probably why the cards aren't even started yet. So if you get your Christmas card late, receive it with the understanding that I was focused on bolstering family relationships as I (we) wrote them.

Isn't that the crux of raising a family? How to do the necessaries while simultaneously manifesting love for one another. May the Lord bless us all to achieve this balance.

(Yes, I know this is a stream of consciousness post, and that I am not Original. I guess Cindy is the one who started the little Stream of Consciousness Wave that has rippled through a portion of the blogosphere this week. I enjoyed her post. I don't know why not being original is bothering me all of a sudden; I haven't been bothered by not having original ideas before. But there it is. Awakened into my consciousness, the accusation surfacing like a bad high school dream. Yes, I'm copying. My consolation is that I am only copying format and not content. I hope. You know how sometimes you think you are having an original thought and later you realize you read it somewhere? May we all be saved from such an occurrence. But really, I wonder how it is possible to have an original thought at this late date in history. Surely it's all been thought of before.)

Update: We got the shoulder rest and Mariel promised the luthier that she would practice two hours per day in exchange for a lollipop. Hmm. I did not tack on "and I love you" to the end of all my sentences today, but maybe a quarter of my communications with the kids, when it felt appropriate. And no baking or writing of Christmas cards occurred. But we still have the evening. And we have listened to no bagpipes whatsoever.

'Nuther Update: It was the kind of evening that comes once in a blue moon. The kids actually enjoyed my chicken/black bean/onion soup. (They didn't know there were onions in it.) They hopped up from the table and began clearing and washing dishes as soon as they were finished eating. (They knew cookie-baking was about to begin.) They set the table up for cookies and pleasantly rolled and cut and sprinkled as Mr. Honey read to them from The Horse and His Boy. I made brownies in the kitchen. Mr. Honey completed two chapters and began searching for old Genesis songs online. The kids finished making cookies and drifted into the living room to play a board game. No one fought. (!) Then Mr. Honey found a special song he wanted me to hear. It was Oh, Come All Ye Faithful. On bagpipes. Lots of laughter at my expense! The children and Mr. Honey danced a jig. I groaned and pretended to cover my ears. Then he relented and played some ethereal Celtic music.... I could live several days on the blessing of this evening.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Snowflakes and Originality

I apologize for not posting for several days. Life is happening all over the place, which is a good thing; and I am not feeling terribly original, but more like a copy. Or rather, my original thoughts are not allowing themselves to morph into material appropriate for public consumption, so all I can come up with are things I am sure have been said before.

I did find a nice site for snowflake pictures. Reminds me of Snowflake Bentley. Or was it Snowshoe Bentley? Anyway, these pictures were taken with a photo-microscope. So cool. We have one of the pictures set as desktop wallpaper.

We have paper snowflakes on our dining room window. Every time we come up with a piece of paper printed on only one side that we do not need anymore, one of us cuts it into a snowflake and tapes it to the window. At night we leave the blinds open so it looks like huge white snowflakes are falling outside in the night. They are all so different.

We are in a contest to see who can find the next piece of blank-on-one-side white paper, because whosoever finds it gets to make it into a snowflake.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Where The Red Fern Grows

I have always been told that if I read _Where the Red Fern Grows_ I would cry at the end. Therefore, I was never motivated to read it. But it is on the Ambleside Online booklist for Year 6, so that finally compelled me to take it in hand, and I finished the book a few nights ago.

I would describe it as a novel about love. It is a book that defines and encourages connection with others because of love and not because of necessity, convenience or selfish fulfillment. There are beautiful examples of sacrifice, hard work and patience, all for the sake of others, out of love, with no demand of reciprocity. It is not a book of today's attitudes and self-centered lifestyles.

The best part is that love is reciprocated, that the characters who give with no thought of receiving actually receive in great abundance-- "a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over."

The relationships the characters have with each other are striking because love is shown despite lack of understanding. This is especially true in Billy's relationships with his mother and sisters. His mother does not understand him, and expresses her confusion and dismay-- but oh, she loves him very much, and shows it. He is the same toward her-- he feels confined by her concern for him, but he loves and honors her despite it. He thinks not much can be expected of girls, yet he still has time for his sisters, as they do for him. Nowadays we are conditioned to expect understanding before we believe someone truly loves us, but understanding is not a prerequisite for love, nor is it a prerequisite for continuing to love, or for continuing to express that love.

Billy's gently deprecating humor and subtle bragging lent an air of authenticity to the book. I have known Oklahoma boys like him. The unfolding of his simple faith in God was inspiring. His prayers, though few, were an important aspect of the story. He went from being an energetic, needy yet diligent boy to a well-spoken, confident and brave young man.

Mr. Honey is pleased to know I have read a hunting book. The hunting sections were enlightening to me, as I have never felt the desire or need to hunt. (Kroger is just around the corner, and perhaps being a woman has something to do with it as well.) Billy had a hunger for hunting, and as the story progressed I saw him in my mind's eye, becoming stronger, quieter and more manly with each new coon hide he brought in. He made a good deal of money with those hides, and turned all of it over to his father, who was struggling to provide for his family in the Ozarks of northeastern Oklahoma.

I thought the ending was beautiful, although so sad, because of the depth of love the dogs had for each other and for Billy. And in the final outcome of the story, Billy's family did exhibit a deep, heart-felt understanding. The whole book inspired me to love my family more-- to be more faithful in the little things, and not so quick to condemn misunderstandings as a lack of love.

Children of the New Forest Ch. 2

Narration by Mariel.

(Note: In the previous chapter we learned that the Levellers were planning to burn down the mansion of Arnwood, as the children's father had been a Malignant and the Levellers suspected that Charles I was hiding there. --M.A.)

Nine people lived in the mansion of Arnwood. Three maids: Agatha, the housemaid, the cook and Martha, and then one male servant, Benjamin. Then there was the old lady, Miss Judith Villiers, who was a distant relative of the children. Oh, the children. You must know who the children are. There were four of them, two girls and two boys: the eldest boy, Edward, and then Humphrey, and then Alice and Edith. I need not give you their ages, but know that Edward was the oldest and Edith was the youngest. Jacob was an old man who acted like a servant and a bodyguard for the children, since none of the maids and Benjamin had time for them. Jacob didn’t live with them, he lived in the forest, and acted like a gardener.

Miss Judith Villiers always sat in a high backed chair with her feet on stools all day, and didn’t care for the children, even though she was supposed to be their guardian. She had them sent to her once a day for a short time and then they went away.

Edward was very mad when he heard that his mansion was going to be burnt down because since his father had died, the mansion belonged to him, and he wanted to stay with his aunt, who was demanding to stay. Nothing could be done to change her mind. Agatha had stayed at the door and heard the conversation that the mansion was going to be burned down that night. She ran down and told the cook and Martha, and said, “I’m not staying here to be burned to death. Benjamin,” who was in the kitchen with them, “saddle the horse and go to Lymington, said Agatha.

“Wait for me,” said Martha. “I’m not staying here to be burned to death either. I’ll be only a second getting my things together.”

Just as Jacob came down, the cook was saying, “Well, I’m not going to stay here to be burned to death, either.” And he had finally persuaded Miss Judith to let the children come to his cottage, because they would not be safe there at the mansion. He told Edward about it, and he was very vexed, but Jacob didn’t tell the girls and Humphrey, because they were too young to understand what was about to happen. When Jacob told them that they were going to spend the night in his cottage, they were delighted at the idea, and Edward went up and packed all of his sisters’ and Humphrey’s and his things. Then the time for the journey to the cottage began. Jacob didn’t go with him because he was still trying to persuade Miss Judith to come with him to his cottage, and she still said no, she would not be moved. “I will not be moved from my seat!” she said. “Now leave!” And then Agatha, who had successfully persuaded Miss Villiers to receive Jacob and Jacob in return had promised to carry the cook’s and Agatha’s things to Gossip Allwood, because Martha had gone with Benjamin to Lymington. When they got to Gossip Allwood’s, the troopers were there. They started joking around with the women, and especially Agatha because she was very pretty. Then Jacob suddenly recognized one. Southwold! Southwold recognized him, and came over to him and started asking him questions, and Jacob said, “I know you’re going to burn Arnwood tonight.”

Southwold said, “Yes. Who is there?”

Jacob said, “The children and the maids,” and he was about to say, “And Miss Judith Villiers,” but he knew that she would be saved if he didn’t tell Southwold that he knew where she was, and so he lowered his voice and said, “If you meet an old lady, put her on the back of your horse and carry her to Lymington,” and Southwold squeezed his hand in agreement.

And then on the way home from Gossip Allwood, he saw Arnwood was being surrounded, and then something rushed past him. It was Southwold on his horse! And Miss Judith Villiers, tied on behind, kicking and screaming as much as she could! She must have been a comical sight.

And then he saw everyone getting torches and then a pillar of smoke rose up, and then the flames came, and the place was burned. Soon he reached the house. He knocked and then his dog, Smokey, growled at him until Smokey realized who he was. When the door was opened, Edward greeted him and said, “The girls are fast asleep, and Humphrey has been nodding his head all this past half hour.” Then Jacob motioned to Edward to come outside. They came outside and Edward saw his house burning, and revenge was planted deep in his heart. He was scared also, because his aunt was in there. “My aunt!” he faltered.

“…is safe,” finished Jacob.

True Artists

A quote by John Erickson, creator of the Hank The Cowdog series (which are thoroughly enjoyed at our house):

People need good stories just as they need home-cooked meals, clean water, spiritual peace, and love. A good story is part of that process. It affirms divine order in the universe and justice in human affairs and makes people better than they were before they read it. If artists are more gifted than ordinary mortals (we keep hearing that they are), they should find order and harmony in human experience. That's what Bach and Handel did. Artists should nourish the spirit, not poison it.

I couldn't agree more.

He was interviewed recently by World Magazine. Read the whole article.

(Hat tip: Suitable for Mixed Company. Thanks a lot!)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Many Happy Returns of the Day...

Happy Birthday, Mr. Honey! I wish you brownies and Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Pepsi and all the things I never buy at the grocery store until December 7th rolls around. May you always enjoy the simple pleasures in life.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Mom-Mom's Microwave Fudge

2 pounds powdered sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 sticks butter
1/2 cup milk
1 tbspn vanilla
1 1/2 cups chopped nuts, peppermint candy, etc. (optional)

1. Thoroughly blend sugar and cocoa in a large microwaveable bowl.
2. Add butter and milk to mixture. Do not stir.
3. Place bowl in microwave. Heat 3 minutes on Roast or 80% power (until butter is soft and melting.)
4. Add vanilla and nuts. Stir vigorously until well blended.
5. Pour in a greased 2 quart dish. Chill 1 hour to harden.
6. Cut into small squares.

Makes 60 one inch pieces (enough to satisfy any chocolate craving).

(Mom-Mom is Mr. Honey's grandmother.)

Monday, December 04, 2006

If You Give Your Mom Some Bubble Bath

I wrote this last year on our previous blog, and it was well-received, so I thought I would share it again this Christmas. It is inspired by true events. Truth is stranger than fiction, right?

("If You Give A Mouse A Cookie" and other "If You Give A.." books are written by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond.)

If you give your mom some bubble bath, chances are she'll want a candle to go with it.

So you'll open the hutch and search for the pink scented candle you gave her last year.

While you are digging through the hutch, she will notice the table runner she meant to iron for Christmas.

She'll send you to set up the ironing board, while she pulls out the table runner and gets the iron.

On her way through the bathroom to get the iron, she'll remember she wanted to clean that bathroom this morning.

She'll ask you to run for the spray cleaner and paper towels.

When she begins taking things off the counter, she will see a bottle of nail polish, and recall the promise she made to your little sister to give her a manicure.

You will run and get your sisters, and all have a girly time getting pretty.

While everyone's nails are drying, your mom will glance up at the ceiling fan and realize it is covered with dust.

She'll ask you to go get an old pillowcase and the tall stepping stool.

She will clean all the ceiling fans in the house.

When she is finished, she will head to the laundry room, intending to wash the pillowcase.

On her way she'll realize she needs a break.

She'll detour through the kitchen to make coffee.

She'll need you and your sisters to sit with her and drink hot chocolate and giggle.

When everyone's finished, she'll remember a quote she wants to post on the blog.

She'll ask you to dig through your books to locate it.

You'll bring her the quote from your schoolbook.

When she sees the book, she'll remember how much she enjoyed that one when she was a girl, and will pour herself another cup of coffee and regale you with her fond memories.

It'll move her to tears.

She'll ask for some tissue to dry her eyes.

While waiting for the tissue, she'll begin to shiver (the thermostat is set on low).

Shivering will remind her that she likes being warm and cozy.

Warm and cozy will remind her of a fire...

A fire will remind her of a candle...

And she'll send you to the hutch to dig out her pink scented candle.

And chances are if she asks for the candle...

She'll want her bubble bath to go with it!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

We Love Him...

Because He first loved us.

I love my Savior, God,
Because He first loved me,
Because He shed His precious blood
To set my spirit free.

'Twas love my bosom felt,
And made me wipe mine eyes,
When low before His throne I knelt
To pour my feeble cries.

Touched by His dying love,
I melted into grief;
Swift on the wings of love He moved
And brought me sweet relief.

With my whole heart I love
The God that loved and bled,
Who left the shining realms above
And suffered in my stead.

Who can forbear to love
A God so good and kind?
Sure He is worthy to be loved
By me and all mankind.

--Author Unknown

Friday, December 01, 2006

Mama Squirrel Has Made A Game

Do go and play it so the suspense can be ended. She has listed some quotes and we must name the books. They are awfully tricky.

Animal Farm

(My first review for From The Stacks)

I have finished reading _Animal Farm_. I usually don't read prefaces or forewords ahead of the actual book unless they are written by the author, but I did this time. The person who wrote the foreword wondered what qualifies a story as a fairy tale and whether _Animal Farm_ really met the criteria. It did not meet my criteria of a fairy tale, at least not a satisfying one. There was no glittering good to contrast the deep evil and win out in the end. To me it seemed more like an animal fable, except that the moral was not easily found. (Do all animal fables have morals to them? I am thinking of Aesop but there may be some that do not.) Certainly Orwell had a message he wanted to convey, and according to the foreword the message was that the Russians did it wrong, the "it" in question being communism. So, I went into the story with this person's opinion in my head, and I'm not sure how much it colored my reading experience, but here is what I got out of the book:

Napoleon the pig was evil; Boxer was good and ignorant and blindly trusting; Benjamin and Clover seemed more aware of what was going on than any of the animals, and I wondered why they did not try to escape. Orwell's narration was spooky and effective, reading as if he were one of the masses, unaware of the truth or unwilling to speak anything but the "official" line. He snuck in the lies and made the reader have to be as attentive as the overworked animals should have been. I actually had to go back and reread the original Seven Commandments when the pigs started to rewrite them.

But the animals were not noble, no they were not. I saw nothing to emulate. I saw a poor, pitiful society at the mercy of greed and corruption and lust for power. I saw "citizens" who were entirely too trusting, and entirely too passive. I saw that the best among them lowered their heads and worked harder and repeated mantras to avoid figuring things out. I saw that the most keen of the "good guys" made no attempt to explain what was happening to the others, but simply shook his head at their ignorance with an attitude of "this too shall pass". I saw a society of animals who embraced certain principles, and then stood lamely by, not one of them willing to be a voice in the wilderness, as their leaders reverted to the same kind of tyranny they had been under before, with one difference: the earlier arrangement, however cruel, had not been tainted by lies.

A very interesting book. I did see Stalin and Trotsky in the book. I wonder, was the old pig, Major, intended to represent Lenin? I don't know enough about Russian history to be sure. And what was up with the scores of animals who came forward confessing to sabotage and other traitorous activity, then being slain by Napoleon while everyone looked on? What led the animals to continue confessing and allowing themselves to be killed? Did they think it was virtuous? Were they instructed to confess and promised amnesty? I can't help but think that part of the book corresponds to some event in history. I couldn't make it fit with everything else.

Now I can add _Animal Farm_ to my list of not-very-enriching-but-necessary books I have read.

Updated to add a quote I kept feeling on the edge of my consciousness, and of course it came to me after I got up from the computer: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." (Attributed to Edmund Burke)


"I love you," Cornflower said, snuggling her face into my tummy as we met in the kitchen for a quick cuddle.

"I love you, too," I said.

She inhaled deeply, nose still in my shirt. "I love the way you smell. That's why I love you."

I guess I'm having good-Mommy-smell today.

The Pianoforte

A Narration by Mariel

If you compare your home to a home back when there were no electric lights and ladies in Italy still wore long, fancy dresses, you would find that back then, inventors made things possible-- things like instruments for the home, and the inventor that made the piano was called Bartolomeo Cristofori. He is the inventor that today I am going to tell you about. When he was a young man, Italy was split up into many small states that were ruled by princes. The prince of Florence (that was where he was) needed someone to care for his instruments, and so Cristofori took the job. He made the harpsichord and after awhile, besides harpsichords, there were dulcimers at the prince’s palace. A dulcimer is like a guitar that you play on your lap. There are strings on it, and you hit the strings with little tiny hammers, and it makes sounds. The harpsichord cannot be played fast and loud, but the dulcimer may be played loud and fast. Cristofori thought that those instruments should be combined together but he didn’t know how. But in the end it all came out perfectly and he made the piano. But the people of Italy didn’t like it! And so his lovely inventions were hidden away so no one could find them. He was probably very sad, because he had worked very hard on those pianos. But he was not discouraged. And so later people started to bring out the pianos and play on them, but Cristofori was dead already, so he didn’t get to live to see the wonderful way his instrument had turned out.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


Snowflakes are dancing.
They run down out of heaven.
Coming home from somewhere down the long tired road
They flake us sometimes
The way they do the grass,
And the stretch of the world.
The grass-blades are crowned with snowflakes.
They make me think of daisies
With white frills around their necks
With golden faces and green gowns;
Poor little daisies,
Tip-toe and shivering
In the cold!

--Sara Teasdale

Masterly Inactivity

A few weeks ago my kids discovered that the digital clock in our van is five minutes slow. Now, if I were a normal mom I probably would have fixed the clock, which adjusts quite easily with a pen. But every time I remember the clock is slow, I am in such a hurry to get somewhere that I don't want to look for a pen. So it has stayed like that awhile.

A few weeks ago we were driving somewhere and I heard this exchange:

"Are you a bookkeeper?"


"Are you a storekeeper?"


"Are you a timekeeper?"


"Then tell me, what time is it?"


"Well, tell me what time it is in Japan?"

"11:33 pm."

"Whoa, that's late."

The clock said 9:28. The two older girls have invented a little math game. In order to win, you have to add five minutes to the time on the clock, and then when the person asks what time it is in another part of the world, you have to know enough about time zones to add or subtract hours.

And in the last few days, I have heard 6yo Cornflower sitting in the back seat murmuring things like, "It is now 10:17," when the clock say 10:12.

All that larnin' jest trickles down, don' it, young'uns? And without even a chicken.

Overheard at Our House

Me: Girls, look at the doppler radar.

Triss: It's close! Is the white stuff snow?

Me: It's snow. And the pink is wintry mix, with ice and rain.

Mariel: It's gonna snow an inch! Cornflower do you know what an inch is? It's about like this...

Triss: It's about the length of your thumb.

Me: It's 31 degrees, but it feels like 21. So stay inside today. It is cold.

Mariel: Oh, cool! Can I put my foot out the door?

Me, with a wicked smile: No... It'll freeze off!

Mariel, grinning: Can't I put my foot out the door?

Me, laughing: No, it's too cold.

Triss: But we want to see how cold it is.

Me: I told you how cold it is.

Triss: I know. But that's in thermometer temperature. I want to know in feeling temperature.

After they went to get dressed, I heard this coming from Mariel's room.

Mariel, singing: Oh, yay! Oh, yay! It's gonna snow! Oh, ya-a-a-y! It's gonna snow! The cold front's coming from New York... and when it gets here it's gonna snow! No-el, No-el, No-el, No-el! Born is the King of Israel!... Mom, may I go outside and see how cold it is? I'm nice and warmly dressed.

I let them go outside. So there they are, in the rain and the cold. Discovering ice and how wet fenceposts get when it has been raining all night. Don't ask me why wet fenceposts are interesting. I have no idea. Maybe it has something to do with the drought. Hot chocolate forthcoming.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Look What I Found

This morning, we were playing and singing through my old Norman Rockwell Christmas book, which has my favorite piano-and-voice arrangements of Christmas carols and songs, and I discovered, tucked into the front dustjacket, a set of music manuscript papers on which I had composed a Christmas song when I was in college. How cool is that?

Mr. Honey encouraged me to play through it, and I must say, it was not very good, and the lyrics needed even more help than the composition and chord progressions. But the penmanship was beautiful-- it was in ink, not pencil, so I must have copied it carefully onto these sheets after composing it on some other paper. (There was no date, and I have a very vague recollection of composing it, so I exhort young creative people to please sign and date whatever you make, just in case you happen upon it one morning fifteen to twenty years and three kids later, when your fuzzy brain has locked up memories it deems less essential to current life.)

The yellow rose is from our dentist, who gives us flowers, in addition to stickers, toys and toothbrushes, when we visit. We got four roses on Monday because the four of us ladies went to have our teeth cleaned. The yellow one is Mariel's and it is the most beautiful.

The weather has taken a drastic turn in the last few hours, going from 78 degrees at 3:30 pm to 38 degrees by 9:00. It is thundering and lightening and pouring down rain, and it is supposed to get colder and colder, with no letup in the precipitation, until tomorrow afternoon when we might-- I said might, girls-- get an inch of snow accumulation. The kids are beside themselves with excitement.

Word of the Week

"Every alehouse resounded with the brawls of contending politicians, and as mine host's politics were of that liberal description which quarreled with no good customer, his hebdomadal visitants were often divided in their opinion as irreconcilably as if he had feasted the Common Council." _Rob Roy_ by Sir Walter Scott, ch. 4.

I have never seen this word on a vocabulary list in my life. I had no clue. I skimmed past it when I read the chapter, but Triss puzzled over it and asked for a definition. Do you know what it means?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


This is the fourth morning that has been disrupted by the necessity of calling two tax offices, a water district, and the mortgage company, in order to find out the whereabouts of a check for taxes that was supposed to have been sent by the mortgage company a year ago.


I really dislike phone voice mail systems. Especially when they require you to say your account number multiple times in the same phone call and "please press nine" or "please press five" more than once.

The check is finally in the tax office it is not supposed to be in, but was mailed to. I am currently attempting to ascertain whether the mortgage company stopped payment on it. I have a direct line to the mortgage company customer service person who helped me last week, but every time I dial it, I get placed on hold and then redirected to the generic voice mail system that asks me to please press a number and please say my account number multiple times.

I dislike bureaucracy. And why can't we just talk to real people on the phone and not use these mail systems? And if we have to use the systems, why do they try to make the automated voice on the system sound like a real person, with "ums" and "all rights" and other things you know a computer wouldn't say?

Right now I am on hold to the (wrong) tax office to ask them to just go ahead and put the check in the box with the other checks they are forwarding on to the right tax office and let the (right) tax office figure out if the payment has been stopped or not.

There were over 8,000 households who didn't pay this water tax correctly last year (it was a new tax which even the mortgage companies apparently didn't understand), and all of us received foreclosure notices the day before Veteran's Day. There were so many of us that contacted the law office the day we received these that their voice mail system could not hold the messages, and so for an entire weekend most of us went about wondering whether foreclosure proceedings had actually started.

The reason the tax wasn't paid properly is because they farmed out the accounts receivable for this tax to a second tax office, but everyone (or their mortgage companies) sent their checks to the first tax office, which sent the checks back saying the tax had already been paid. The tax that had already been paid was the property tax and not the water tax. So everyone went for several months thinking their taxes had been paid. Then we all received notices that the tax had not been paid, at which point I got back on the phone with my mortgage company and found out all of this mess. I had them issue a check to the other tax office, which used to be the right one, but as of October (just as all of us poor deluded taxpayers were catching a clue) it became the wrong one, so the check (which arrived yesterday) must be either cancelled or forwarded to the tax office which used to be the wrong one but is now the right. (Getting a headache yet? I am.)

Then the week after I had the check mailed to the (now-wrong) tax office, the lovely pink foreclosure notices were received by 8,000 households, ourselves included, and all of us attempted to contact the lawyers and the tax office in any way we could. I finally got ahold of someone in the tax office the next week and asked them to please walk down the hall to the tax lawyers office and ask them to answer their phones. Which the nice lady did, God bless her. And I found out that these notices are merely computer generated form letters and no proceedings had been started, nor would they be started because there were over 8,000 of us who had been confused and frustrated by this prolonged and chaotic attempt to collect money from homeowners.

What was the name of that court where the cases are never resolved in _A Tale of Two Cities_? Was it Chancery? This whole thing reminds me of Chancery. I may have kids in college before this tax is paid properly. I need a secretary to handle this kind of stuff.

Monday, November 27, 2006


You Are 50% Left Brained, 50% Right Brained
The left side of your brain controls verbal ability, attention to detail, and reasoning.Left brained people are good at communication and persuading others.If you're left brained, you are likely good at math and logic.Your left brain prefers dogs, reading, and quiet.
The right side of your brain is all about creativity and flexibility.Daring and intuitive, right brained people see the world in their unique way.If you're right brained, you likely have a talent for creative writing and art.Your right brain prefers day dreaming, philosophy, and sports.
Are You Right or Left Brained?

Okay. I do not get HTML. For some reason the results of this quiz are not showing up in "publish" but are showing up in the html code. So for the record, this quiz says that I am 50% right brained and 50% left brained. Split down the middle. That must be why I am so indecisive sometimes. :O)

(If you look 'way up at the top, there are little teeny tiny letters which I suspect are the missing sentence. Don't ask me how to make them big, because I do not know.)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Dolls and Pies

The Five Pies of the Thanksgiving Feast. Left to right: Apple, Lemon, Pumpkin, Pecan and Chocolate. I had to put Cool Whip on top of the lemon pie because I broke my mixer earlier this year kneading sourdough bread and did not have the patience to hand-whip meringue. (Christmas gift idea, hint, hint.) As of tonight, there were less than two pies left.

These are some of the dollies the girls and I made for the cousins out of socks. As you can tell, some did not have faces for this picture. We made two more after these, and added eyes and smiles to all of them. Granddad was very troubled that the poor babies had no noses, and I finally told him these dollies' noses are so little and cute that you can't see them.


Have you ever been so full of days' happenings that you don't know which thing to write about? That's the kind of Thanksgiving weekend we have been having.

Today the girls and I went to play with some cousins we have only visited with a couple of times before. The kids played and played and played. They were mermaid-fairies; a family in a fort with popcorn; a band of squirrels; a king, a queen, a winner, a mother and a bus driver (this was their game of Mother, May I? and I cannot describe to you how it came about as I witnessed only the middle of it); dog trainers and dogs; horse trainers and horses; and finally, little girls again. They fussed and played and laughed and argued and made up, and came inside and watched a movie when it got cold and dark outside.

I sat and visited with the grownups and watched the kids go by. What a day.

Next time we have to make sure the other kid-cousins come. Fun like this is too good to miss.

Friday, November 24, 2006

I Wonder

It would perhaps be more dignified to wait until December 1st, or at least the end of the Thanksgiving weekend to post a Christmas carol. But the stereo burst forth with glorious Christmas choral cheer this morning, and maybe the thoughtful nature of my favorite carol is acceptable at any time of year. My favorite verse is in bold~ Oh, the incredible humility and sacrifice of the One who loves sinners, of whom I am chief! Welcome to Christmas, and may you be blessed this season.

I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus, the Savior, did come for to die
For poor or'nery people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

When Mary birthed Jesus, 'twas in a cow's stall,
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all.
But high from God's heaven a star's light did fall,
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing:
A star in the sky, or a bird on the wing;
Or all of God's angels in Heaven to sing,
He surely could have had it, 'cause He was the King!

I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus, the Savior, did come for to die
For poor, or'nery people like you and like I:
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

--Appalachian, collected by J.J. Niles

Thursday, November 23, 2006

For The Lord Is Good

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands;
Serve the Lord with gladness:
Come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the Lord, he is God;
It is he that hath made us and not we ourselves;
We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving,
And into his courts with praise:
Be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the Lord is good.
His mercy is everlasting.
And his truth endureth to all generations.

--Psalm 100

Me, too!

What she said.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Messiah At Last!

I have meant since last Christmas to purchase this CD of Handel's Messiah, which comes strongly recommended by the folks at The Beehive, whose musical tastes I greatly respect. And after eleven months, I finally got A Round Tuit. It was the fast approach of Christmas that provided the extra kick I needed to actually seek it out. However, The Queen says that Handel's Messiah is not merely for Christmas, but is to be listened to all year round, and who am I to argue with royalty? She provided a wonderful little history of the oratorio last year, along with CD and libretto recommendations.

We have always only listened to a full orchestra version, so I am anxious to hear Emma Kirkby and the rest of the group of ancient music artists give their rendering of the way The Messiah might have been performed during Handel's time. She has such a beautiful, pure voice.

(Your Majesty, I am trying to get out of the mindset of Messiah-at-Christmas-alone, but it requires the changing of habits set when I was young and impressionable. It's just that we began practicing in September and performed it at Christmas for so many years. You have challenged my preconceived notions and early prejudices...)

Happy Cooking Day!

That is how Triss greeted Mariel this morning.

Today we have gotten up early to start some pies, and then I will run the girls over to their Goggy's house to clean under his supervision (this is their new biweekly job~ they are getting good at mopping!), while I come back and finish the pies and make gnocchi. Then I will get the girls and come home to finish making surprises for all the little cousins that will be at my parents' house tomorrow. (We just had the idea yesterday and ran out to the store and purchased supplies, worked all yesterday afternoon and evening, and have half of them done. A little Thanksgiving Spontaneity. Or a Holiday SHE Shouldn't if you read Flylady. But we are having fun. Pictures forthcoming. After The Day.*) Mariel has a violin lesson this afternoon too, and then we'll mosey over to my parents' house to greet the early arrivals and enjoy Mom's Mexican Soup.

We are going to my parents' house for Thanksgiving, too. I haven't even vacuumed this week. I am merely keeping up with laundry and dishes. (The kids did mop my floors yesterday. We got a new mop and they wanted to take it for a spin.)

Here is The List Of Pies (Mr. Honey is very pleased. I plied him with a sweet potato pie he can eat any time he wants, so perhaps he'll leave the Thanksgiving Pies alone): Pumpkin, pecan, french silk, lemon meringue, and apple.

And our recipe for gnocchi.

And in case anyone enjoys reading source documents about Thanksgiving:

President Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation

George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation

Some Thanksgiving Sites

*These, er.. things are so cute. We are really trying to resist putting pictures of them on the blog until after Thanksgiving. We can't wait till we're finished. As Triss says, we have been practicing our baby talk exclaiming over these darling little characters as they form in our hands. They aren't hard to make, either.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Survey of the Equuschick

A little while back, the Equuschick published her Very Own Survey. I meant to participate, but got very busy all of a sudden (how does that happen?) I have a little time now, and want to give her survey a try. It looks like a very good one, but I'm afraid my answers got long.

(Here are Mama Squirrel's, Firefly's and Thicket Dweller's responses. Later note: I am having trouble linking to Firefly, and am not sure if it is I or the website, so if you can't get the link to work, I apologize, but I do not know how to fix it.)

*A- Favourite Animals: I am not much of an animal person, but I have recently fallen in love with a bunny.

*B- Favourite Bad Habit: (You know, that one that you like too much to even try to break. You like being addicted.) That would have to be the Internet, and especially blogging. Sad, but true.

*C- Favourite Cookie: Semi-sweet chocolate chip oatmeal

*D- Favourite Drink: That's a hard one. It used to be coffee, but I'm coming out of that now. Perhaps high quality hot chocolate.

*E-Favourite Egg Style: In an omelette with cheese, mushrooms, ham, bacon, sausage, fresh vegetables and sour cream. It's the Omni Omelette from Le Peep. Yum. We need to go there soon. (I have a tendency toward low blood sugar. There is enough protein in this omelette to keep me going all day.)

*F- Five Favourite Fiction Books: (Having been driven nearly insane with surveys that limited your selection of favourite books to Exactly One of Any Kind, The Equuschick is broadening the topic. Still difficult, but not quite as miserable.) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Little Women, Little Men, Jane Eyre, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Adam Bede, Emma...

*G-Favourite Gadget: I'm not really gadget-y, but Mr. Honey has a tablet PC with digital recording capabilities, and that excites me. I don't want to use it, mind you, I just want him to be our sound man while we play and sing for the recorder.

*H- Favourite Hymn: Canaan's Land ("Oh, for a breeze of heavenly love...")

*I- Favourite Ice Cream- Double Chocolate Malted Crunch from Thrifty Drug in California. This is a childhood favorite, and I have only gotten to have it once since we moved away.

*J- Favourite Jam: Apricot (the all-fruit kind, like Polaner's)

*K-Favourite Kid's Books: The Frances books, Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel, Miss Suzy, My Blue Boat, A Hole Is To Dig, Katy and the Big Snow, Mike Mulligan,

*L-Favourite Love Song- We Are In Love, as sung by Harry Connick, Jr. "I know you so well, I can tell by the sound of your voice if you're really in love with me, and you are. Yes, you are." What a classy sentiment.

*M-Favourite Memories: Standing in the dark in the middle of the street with my cousins, all of us holding sparklers on Fourth of July. Sitting on the counter as a small child, in the kitchen at the church with my cousins, clean and fresh and given a treat while the rest of the Singing School was in the other room continuing evening assembly. Singing and singing... and singing, as we sat around between services at church meetings growing up. Singing really strong alto like Grandmommy. Singing "Lord, Lead Me ON" very loudly (the alto, of course). Getting to sing high tenor just like my beautiful cousin. Jumping off the high dive for the first time. Riding my bike uphill to school-- and soaring downhill with the wind in my face after a disappointing day. Getting a part in the high school musical and finally feeling like I might have a "place" at school. Finding out I got into the university with a scholarship. Women's Chorus at Long Beach, and learning to breathe, relax my face, and appreciate the miracle of a banana (the ultimate convenience food, my teacher would say-- even comes in its own biodegradeable packaging). Lessons with Shigemi, learning to hold myself like a singer (erg. I need to relearn that. My core is now so weak.) That incredible master class when I was helped to hold my neck straight and sing with pure freedom, and the months afterward which I spent trying to recapture that position on my own because I couldn't afford private sessions with the master teacher (I can't even remember the name of that elusive technique anymore), and going to the beach with music friends after practicing all evening, and enjoying a bonfire. My basement room in San Francisco, and the night Mr. Honey attempted to ask me out without actually committing to asking me out. Walking down the aisle toward Mr. Honey and not being able to get that silly grin off my face. Our honeymoon trek across half the U.S. Outfitting our first tiny apartment with purchases from Wal-mart across the street. Purchasing our first home. Bringing our first child home from the hospital. Having surrogate grandparents next door to cuddle the baby and encourage the new mama. Moving from Tennessee the day after Christmas (Christmas with mountains of boxes, a nervous little dog, a one year old, and a tiny Christmas tree). That feeling that no other baby could ever have been as precious and beautiful as our own new little baby, and the irresistable urge to sit and stare by the hour, to make a connection with those eyes. The Christmas Santa brought a lot of red balloons to fill up the living room (the girls were newborn, three and six) Triss' second birthday in the "Hundred Acre Woods" (a friend and I stayed up half the night finishing the Pooh Bear birthday cake). The Sunday morning we realized that little Triss could read. Daily visits to the duck pond and sometimes to the marshy grasses near the lake the winter I was expecting Cornflower, and Triss was five and Mariel was two. Doing dishes, vacuuming, dusting, making supper-- all with a baby Mariel in her sling. The cuddly Mariel content to stroke my arm in church. A single quiet hour each day when Triss was three and Mariel was a baby and I kept four little toddler boys, and the fun and whimsical projects we did at the little table. Beautiful little girls in blue and white sitting in daffodils. The first time the girls saw the ocean in San Francisco. The first time the girls saw the Atlantic Ocean. The day we purchased our bookcases from Ikea and realized we had no way to get them home. The two weeks of going to bed with contractions, sure that I was ready to have the baby and awakening with no contractions to continue daily life and wonder when-- the night we dropped Triss off at the grandparents and had Mariel in less than three hours. Watching our current house as it was built. The realization that we had found a church where we fit. The birthday that Mr. Honey took me to a fancy restaurant and his friend the head chef kept bringing out plates and plates and plates and wrote my name on the dessert. The afternoon we intended to clean house and ended up having a baby three weeks early instead (Cornflower). The Sunday morning when the "bow wore the baby" (she was so tiny that the glitzy cream-and-gold baby headband and bow overtook her cute little face) and she rested in a basket under the Christmas tree. The smell of our babies~ I could just sit and drink in that sweet baby smell. I miss that a lot. Cozy evenings when Mr. Honey read aloud from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Explaining the difference between hair conditioner and air conditioners to Cornflower. Daily fellowship with friends of the heart who happened to move in across the street from us (and then moved away after three years). The look on that sweet girl's face when we kept digging up sweet potato after sweet potato. Walking onto the ship this past February with Mr. Honey, and then seeing all that water, and nothing but water, as we sailed to Mexico... this is a tough question. How do you pick just one or two?

*N-Favourite Nonfiction Books: Hmm. The Bible. Strong's Concordance. The Saving Dinner Cookbook. The Oxford English Dictionary. I guess.

*O-Favourite Operatic Song: "Batti, Batti" from Mozart's Don Giovanni, or "V'Adoro pupille" from Handel's Giulio Cesare. I think I prefer the Handel to the Mozart.

*P-Favourite Piece of Music at the moment: Mozart's Sonata in C, k.330

*Q-Favourite Quiet Spot: I just realized I don't have a favorite quiet spot. Perhaps I should make one.

*R-Favourite Reading when you're sick: Emma or Jane Eyre.

*S-Favourite Song that you want played at your funeral: (Obligatory weird question, sorry. It isn't a real survey if it doesn't have at least one very strange question.) I will leave that choice to those who need comforting, as I will not be worried about anything at that point.

*T-Favourite Task: Fixing the girls' hair after they have had baths. Mmm, the scent of their hair, newly washed, being blow-dried or brushed into a ponytail or twisted into braids.

*U- Favourite Ugly Animal: (Can you think of a better question for u?) What were those little animals that were known to frequent Mother Bhaer's home in the book Little Men? Brops! Those are my favorite ugly animals, although perhaps Unusual would be a better description. When their skins are removed, they can be quite charming~

"The Brop is a winged quadruped, with a human face of a youthful and merry aspect. When it walks the earth it grunts, when it soars it gives a shrill hoot, occasionally it goes erect, and talks good English. Its body is usually covered with a substance much resembling a shawl, sometimes red, sometimes blue, often plaid, and, strange to say, they frequently change skins with one another. On their heads they have a horn very like a stiff brown paper lamp-lighter. Wings of the same substance flap upon their shoulders when they fly; this is never very far from the ground, as they usually fall with violence if they attempt any lofty flights. They browse over the earth, but can sit up and eat like the squirrel. Their favorite nourishment is the seed-cake; apples also are freely taken, and sometimes raw carrots are nibbled when food is scarce. They live in dens, where they have a sort of nest, much like a clothes-basket, in which the little Brops play till their wings are grown. These singular animals quarrel at times, and it is on these occasions that they burst into human speech, call each other names, cry, scold, and sometimes tear off horns and skin, declaring fiercely that they "won't play." The few privileged persons who have studied them are inclined to think them a remarkable mixture of the monkey, the sphinx, the roc, and the queer creatures seen by the famous Peter Wilkins." --Little Men by Louisa May Alcott

*V-Favourite Vintage Book: I'm just a beginner at vintage book collecting, so I will name the favorite we already own~ a maroon book called "Shakespeare Complete" with an interesting binding and tissue thin pages, which includes all of Shakespeare's plays and sonnets, the occasional picture, a biography, an index of characters, and an essay on the Shakespeare and Bacon Controversy by Sir Henry Irving. All in a reasonably sized book which I found at an old book store in Nashville, Tennessee around eleven years ago and gave to Mr. Honey for Christmas. Copywright 1927. We use this as one of our Shakespeare books when we read his plays. The print is very small, so I usually use this one and Triss, who is nearsighted, takes another volume that does not have every play, but has larger print.

*W-Favourite Writing of C.S Lewis: The Screwtape Letters were very enlightening. The Chronicles of Narnia were a great joy and comfort to me in childhood. I am just beginning to explore Til We Have Faces. And I have almost come to the conclusion that I dislike his rendering of heaven and hell in The Great Divorce, symbolic or not, although metaphors from that book continue to come to mind in daily life. I guess I'm still chewing on it.

*X-Favourite Word That Starts with X, Because The Equuschick Couldn't think of Any But xylophone: xylem

*Y-Favorite Yellow Wildflower (I'm borrowing Firefly's "Y" question): Daffodils. They do grow wild, oh yes they do. At a park near us. In the spring. Profusely.

*Z-Favourite Zoo: I'm not a connossieur of zoos, so I will say my favorite is the one we hold a family pass to~ The Dallas Zoo. They do have a fun Nature Exchange center that we like. The kids can bring in a nature item and they get points for telling the staff about it~ the more accurate detail, the more points. They then turn in their nature thing, and use the points to "purchase" some other nature item from the center. Fun!

Monday, November 20, 2006

From The Stacks I

Right now I am reading Rob Roy almost exclusively for the From The Stacks Challenge. I finished Chapter 16 last night before bed. Enter dark, mysterious priest with unexplained hold on beautiful, enigmatic heroine. The plot thickens, as they say.

We are supposed to post reviews of the books as we read them, but since most of mine are school books for Triss, I don't know how much reviewing I want to do. And I can already tell that attempting to finish five books in a couple of months is somewhat ambitious at this stage in my life. But it's fun to try!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Thanksgiving Funny

"Sixteen-armed men?!"

So exclaimed Cornflower as we listened to a tale of the Pilgrims settling in the New World.

(I hastened to explain the meaning of the word armed, lest she be haunted by visions of Pilgrims with arms more numerous than octopi.)

Great is the Lord Our God

Great is the Lord our God
And let His praise be great!
He makes His churches His abode,
His most delightful seat.

In Zion, God is known
A refuge in distress,
How bright has His salvation shown
Through all her palaces!

When kings against her joined,
And saw the Lord was there,
In wild confusion of the mind
They fled with hasty fear.

Oft have our fathers told,
Our eyes have often seen,
How well our God secures the fold
Where His own sheep have been.

In ev'ry new distress
We'll to His house repair,
We'll call to mind His wondrous grace,
And seek deliv'rance there.

--M.C.H. Davis

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Thanksgiving Bunny

Because we felt quirky. At least we got the pumpkin right. :o)

A Few Things of Importance

We just got back from a visit to my great-aunt, who lives at the foot of Rich Mountain. She is 93 years old, and still lives by herself and gets out every day. She has several health issues, but her spirit and determination keep her moving every morning.

It was only the third or fourth time my kids have been around my aunt, and the first time we have stayed at her house. My grandparents went with us.

Here is a list of things I noticed that make her life pleasant:

~A clear path

~A sense of humor

~A little privacy and ownership

~Appropriate, patient, loving care

~Smiles and hugs

~Someone asking, "How are you today?" and listening to the answer


~Family ties

This aunt of mine has written her life's story, and has friends helping to edit and copy it. I dearly hope to receive a copy. She is a charming lady, and a witty storyteller. She writes poems too, and will recite them from memory if you ask her to. I'm so glad the girls got to visit with her this week.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Reading Challenge

Krakovianka, Tim's Mom, Firefly and Mama Squirrel have all signed up for this reading challenge. I think I will join them. It will provide impetus for me to work my way through some of Triss' Year 6 books I have never read-- and also a philosophy book that I do not intend to hand to Triss, but to use for my own understanding of a subject I have never delved into. Here is my list:

Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott (Triss is currently reading this for school and has not been enthusiastic about it... yet? I am on Chapter 11.)

Introducing Philosophy by Dave Robinson and Judy Groves (aforementioned philosophy book. It's a little like a comic book, or an Usborne book in black and white. I have gotten to page 89-- Nietzsche. 89 pages and another century to go)

Animal Farm by George Orwell (Never read it.)

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (Also never read it.)

Jungle Pilot by Russell T. Hitt (Bought it last year, wasn't able to get to it.)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Veteran's Story

Around sixty years ago, a young man joined the army to do his part in World War II. He was not yet married, but had a sweetheart. He entered basic training in the states, a private. She stayed at home and prayed and worked.

He did well in basic, but near the end of his training, in his last exercise, in fact, he made a mistake. In a minefield full of real and fake mines, he misstepped right onto one. He realized his error just before his foot went down, and thought, "Well, I have a fifty-fifty chance."

The mistake was costly. He came home minus one leg, having never seen action in Europe or the Pacific. He brought home no medals, but a prosthesis.

He got married. Quietly and matter-of-factly he worked, went to church, and with his wife raised three sons and a daughter. He worked with his hands, disdaining to pay anyone for work he could do himself. He never complained when the phantom pains colored his days and nights with discomfort. He entertained his kids and their friends with taking his leg off, and later, his grandkids and great-grands.

This man is my Granddad. His quiet dignity and wisdom are a support to many. He is in town now, and we are so thankful. Granddad and Grandmommy have had a rough year or so, and we are glad they can travel again.

Mariel is especially glad because Cornflower has never seen GG Dad take his leg off. It is rather shocking the first time you see it. So now Mariel gets to watch Cornflower be surprised.

I remember the first time I saw Granddad with his leg off. It was a little surreal, a leg with shoe and sock sitting by itself away from its body; but seeing Granddad's calm, patient face undisturbed and even a little amused, I knew it must be okay.

It is good to have faces like that in your family.

God bless you Granddad. And thanks.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Sundry Thoughts

The DHM has been regaling us with descriptions of the whimsical and loving lunches she sometimes fixes for her honey, the HM. Mr. Honey and I enjoyed reading them. They remind me of the lunch descriptions in _Bread and Jam for Frances_. Mr. Honey works from his van all day, and so has cold lunches. When he can get me out of bed to fix them. I am sorry to say that I no longer cheerfully jump out of bed before the sun each new morning, but hit the snooze until he quietly says, "I could sure use some sandwiches this morning." And he does not receive dried pineapple stars or heart shaped salsa, but considers himself blessed if I shun the boring bologna and lunch meat for chicken, tuna or egg salad with relish. On whole wheat sandwich bread. He even eats the crusts.

The point, of course, is not whether your husband or my husband has the more lovey lunch. It is whether you are thinking to do the little lovey things to show your honey that you love him. Mr. Honey assures me that I do that. I think I still fall short, but tonight I found out that I am his favorite local barista.

Hmm. Guess I'd better stock up on some holiday blends and whipped cream. The real stuff, of course.


I studied 20th Century History in high school. So why did it take me until now to realize that so much of what is confusing about the latter 20th century becomes easier to understand when one reads about the end of World War I and the Treaty of Versailles? Even the events of today become a little clearer. Ah, history. A noble study. A wise man once told me that the only thing you can say about history is that it is interesting. I respectfully add that there is one other thing: it is good for a little more clarity on why all these people, leaders and otherwise, feel justified in acting the way they do. The Bible is even better for this, but (the rest of) history provides clues as well.


"We didn't get to see the lawyer today, Daddy. They were closed." So said Mariel and Triss this evening as they played legos comfortably on the floor. These lawyers sent us a letter threatening foreclosure for repeated errors made by our mortgage company in trying to pay last year's tax bills. Two tax bills, which must be sent to two different addresses in two different cities, a complication that has proven too involved for the payment process of the mortgage company. I have been on the phone with the mortgage company several times in the past year trying to get this situation resolved. When I received the alarming notice from the tax lawyers (I guess that's what you call'em) this afternoon, I tried calling and got voicemail. Which was full. And advised me to call back later. So, not wanting the grass to grow under my feet with this awful pink piece of paper in my hand, I piled the kids in the car and drove to town to talk face to face. Of course, they were closed for Veteran's Day. No information about this on the voicemail.


Go read Melissa's adventure with the dogs. Highly diverting. And we are glad everyone is safe.


Tiger Tails: We have been playing this the past couple of days. You need a sock for each player and a nice place to chase each other. We use our front yard. Each person tucks an end of her sock into her waistband and finds a place to stand. The leader counts, "1-2-3-go!" and on the word "go" the players attempt to take each other's socks without having their own socks taken. If a person's sock gets taken she can still try to take others' socks. The last person left with sock in place is the winner. It doesn't sound like much of a game, but I get an aerobic workout from it. Triss recommends that you avoid areas where people might trip over obstacles or fall in holes and hurt themselves. This is experience talking. Cornflower advises you not to be disappointed if you lose because everyone loses sometimes, and sometimes little people do win. Mariel suggests that if you want to make it more exciting, allow your pet bunny to roam the grass and require everyone to keep an eye on her during the game so she doesn't go out of the yard. Today the girls attempted to corner and overwhelm me with their superior numbers, but I used my wits and was able to take each of their tails singlehandedly without losing mine. He he he. We found this game in Homeschool Family Fitness.

We watched "The Princess Bride" tonight. That is such a good movie. The bad guys are just so evil and cowardly, and the good guys are so brave. And witty. And laid back. And resourceful. I think Inigo and Fezzik are my favorite characters, though they are on the wrong side in the beginning. But my favorite line tonight was when Inigo said, "Who are you?" and Westley said, "No one of consequence." Inigo insists, "I must know," and Westley smiles and doesn't miss a beat: "Get used to disappointment." (Of course, my all-time favorite line in The Princess Bride is "You keep using that word..." But I have all-time favorites and this-time favorites. I think that's allowed.)
Spunky is spreading the word about a new record-breaking effort that involves Charlotte's Web. It sounds fun.

Hold On

I've lost it
Diluted with a sense of
My own importance
Meaning, life
Goes drifting away
Why didn't I stay?
Stay in the cleft
Safe in the rock
I've strayed
Just soldier on
Loving, holding
Onto promises
Promises I know
Are true
Though I cannot feel
They are now
Truth is not relative.
Feelings are deceitful.
Hold on

Thursday, November 09, 2006


"Oh, magic hour when a child first knows it can read printed words!

"For quite a while, Francie had been spelling out letters, sounding them, and then putting the sounds together to mean a word. But one day, she looked at a page, and the word "mouse" had instantaneous meaning. She looked at the word, and the picture of a gray mouse scampered through her mind. She looked further, and when she saw "horse" she heard him pawing the ground and saw the sun glint on his glossy coat. The word "running" hit her suddenly and she breathed hard as if running herself. The barrier between the individual sound of each letter and the whole meaning of the word was removed and the printed word meant a thing at one quick glance. She read a few pages rapidly and almost became ill with excitement. She wanted to shout it out. She could read! She could read!" (excerpted from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith)

Cornflower is learning how to read, and it is just as Betty Smith describes it. Enchanting! But she is my last little girl to learn. When she gains fluency, I will have to volunteer as a reading tutor at a school or something. I do enjoy it. The light in a child's eyes when she realizes she is making sense of the printed word is just joyous.

Today I taught her what a question mark is and how to read a question aloud, scaling up at the end. She really got into it, and had to stand in the "speechifying spot" (in front of the bookcases) and present her McGuffey primer lesson as a dramatic interpretation. What fun!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Devouring Ideas

Mariel accidentally read (inhaled) Bard of Avon by Diane Stanley a couple of weeks ago, forgetting that we were planning to savor it slowly over the next few months.

I will now order Good Queen Bess. And hide it.

I am contemplating friendly little post-its on the inside title pages of future schoolbooks:

Do Not Read This Book If You Are Mariel or Cornflower or Triss. Reserved For Future School Use. Find something else. I still love you. Yes, we will go to the library soon. Happy reading.

Effective Reading Tip, or Note to Self

Our nature focus will be trees and ferns this term. I'm kind of excited about it because I finally got the Comstock book to make a little more sense. I found a lovely section called "How to Use This Book" (p. 23-- why it isn't p. 1 I really don't know), which informed me that the story and leading thought presented before each lesson are not to be read to the student, but are for the teacher's enrichment, in order for her (me) to have a better idea of the direction to lead discussion. Oh. And the questions are meant more as guidelines and not to be followed stringently. And the teacher and students ought to believe their own eyes before they believe the book, and the author will be deeply gratified if mistakes are found in the text because it will mean that a spirit of observation and investigation was preserved in the teaching of the lessons. So. See what happens when you (I) decide to actually study the table of contents.

(Now. Please don't judge too harshly. I tend to get ahead of myself when I look down and notice that I have upwards of twenty books at my feet, and suddenly realize that they are all books in which I need to be conversant as soon as possible.)


"The older I grow, the more I realize how dependent I am on God's grace. Without a steady flow of His grace into my life every day, I am sure I would degenerate into some kind of tyrant-mother, barking orders at my children with a zero-tolerance standard of behavior. Life is simply too demanding to do it all without God's grace-- washing, cleaning, cooking, schooling, training, taking, fixing, talking, ad infinitum. If I am to be the mother God wants me to be for my children, I cannot do it without God's grace."

-- Sally Clarkson, _Seasons of a Mother's Heart_
Behold, the Throne of Grace!
The promise calls me near
There Jesus shows a smiling face
And waits to answer prayer
That rich atoning blood,
Which sprinkled 'round I see,
Provides for those that come to God
An all-prevailing plea.
Beyond thy utmost wants
His love and pow'r can bless;
To praying souls He ever grants
More than they can express.
Thine image, Lord, bestow,
Thy presence and Thy love;
I ask to serve Thee here below
And reign with Thee above.
Teach me to live by faith,
Conform my will to Thine;
Let me victorious be in death,
And then in glory shine.
--John Newton, 1725-1807

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day

This post is actually about the night before Election Day. Last night we were privileged to attend a rally for Governor Perry of Texas, along with approximately 1500 other homeschoolers, and what I heard was around 18,000 people total. The President and First Lady of the United States flew in for an appearance, and President Bush gave a speech. It was loud, crowded and exciting!

'Make room for the press. Coming through!' 'Gold ticket holders, this way!' '(See that man, girls? Secret service.)' Mounted police, Mom!' ('I hope we make it in.') 'Will they let us keep our waters?' 'What do you mean, no books allowed inside?' 'Can we go out, Mom, while the music is going? It's so loud!' ('We want a sign!' 'Oh, good! Ours says We Love Laura!') 'Look, it's the president-- look, it's Mrs. Bush!' 'She looked up here, Mom!' 'Can I hold the sign?' 'I can't see! I can't see!' ('We have to go down there and shake his hand!' 'Honey, they won't let us get close to the President. We have to stay up here.') 'Sorry, sir. No one can go out of the arena until the President has left.'

We sat Behind The Podium. We got to see the President and Mrs. Bush.

On the way home, Triss said, "I feel happy and excited, and very, very small."

Me, too. What a big world we live in.


And a hymn for Election Night:
Many things about tomorrow
I don't seem to understand
But I know Who holds tomorrow
And I know Who holds my hand.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Happy Birthday, Cornflower!

Six years ago (could it be that long?), our youngest blessing was given to us.

Mariel was glad to have someone small to cuddle...

Triss kept her entertained...

And she entered into all of our amusements~ in her own unique way.

She has a style all her own!

Although sometimes she feels the shoes she must fill are awfully big...

It's tiring being the youngest,

But with a smile and some pixie dust, she carries it off.

Happy Birthday, Cornflower!

We love you very much, sweetheart.