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.

Friday, November 03, 2006


The Headmistress has two posts on dolls, which mainly focus on whether a store-bought doll is a want or a need. It has brought to mind all the ways my girls have played with dolls.

At the age of four, Triss was given homemade paper dolls by some older homeschooled girls as a birthday present. Very sweet. The dolls were self-portraits, and as Triss loved these girls very much, she loved their paper doll counterparts as well. (Fa and Beatrice, do you remember that? She still has those dolls in a box somewhere!) Triss was not a doll-y girl, and I had always been puzzled that she did not play with her one baby doll, a gift given to her at the age of one. But now her creativity was sparked, and she began hauling large sheets of construction paper out of the art drawer. She made almost lifesize "closet dolls." These were dolls made out of a sheet of construction paper for a head, another for the body, and construction paper strips for arms and legs. She taped them to the inside of her closet and disappeared for hours, having long conversations with those dolls. For months. Even after she had moved on from those dolls, about two years later, she got very upset with me for taking them down as I prepared to move our third daughter (a newborn at the time) into the room with Triss and Mariel.

Also around this time, Mariel and Triss were given very large rag dolls bought at Eckerd. These inexpensive dolls are similar to giant Raggedy Ann's or Hollie Hobbies, but not as distinctive. They are drug store rag dolls and that is what they look like. But those two girls just love Molly and Amanda and wouldn't trade them for the world. They still use them as "extras" in their little plays, friends when they have tea, pillows for watching movies, and someone to cuddle when they are lonely.

Mariel has always been a doll girl. She loves her babies and her stuffies (still), and it doesn't matter where they came from. She has a heart for the forlorn. (This makes it very difficult to get rid of anything, lol!) She also admires her big sister, and entered into Triss' paper doll play with great enthusiasm.

Because it wasn't limited to the large closet dolls. Oh no. Soon Triss was making dolls out of anything. Notebook paper dolls were carefully torn out at church; she found the twist ties for the trash bags and twisted them into little red and green dolls; she carefully drew and cut out dolls from drawing paper; and made little teeny dollies out of gum wrappers.

Seeing her love of paper dolls, and naively assuming that she would appreciate some "real" paper dolls (looking back I wonder what could be more real than a dollie a girl makes herself?) I purchased some beautifully done Dover paper dolls, and spent hours painstakingly cutting them out, refusing to let the girls help because they might "cut wrong." I put these paper dolls in a box and offered them to the children. They enjoyed them some, but those fancy paper dolls would have to wait for Cornflower to get old enough to play with; Triss and Mariel loved their homemade dolls more.

Then they discovered Polly Pockets. Polly Pockets are wonderful dolls because they are small enough to go in a pocket (obviously), they have underwear that never comes off (yay!), and they are inexpensive. The girls had also begun clamoring for Barbies, and had been given some, but I was tired of finding the Barbies in various stages of undress all over the house. I know they're just dolls, but it seemed wrong, somehow. So I pushed the Polly Pockets, even going so far as to buy Pollies to replace Barbies if the girls would give them up.

The girls still love their Pollies. They are handy for playing with in the car, and we are in the car a lot. They do not differentiate from the Happy Meal Pollies and the storebought Pollies either, but happily play with either or both, pleased to have more people in their collection.

Cornflower joined her sisters in doll-playing by the time the girls were two, five and seven, and quite surpassed Triss and Cornflower, who are more into dolls as big people or older kids, in baby-playing. She adored her doll-babies (still does), and discovered the beautiful paper dolls around the age of four. By then I had realized that toys can't be enjoyed if they are too precious to be damaged in creative play (not that I allow the children to be destructive with their playthings, but keeping toys out of the hands of children because they might be accidentally ripped is going a little far), and I stood back and let Mariel and Cornflower play. My grandmother visited around this time, and showed the girls how she had made paper dolls during the Great Depression, by cutting models out of catalogs. She had a whole box of these paper dolls, and made up all sorts of games for them, which she described to my girls as they worked together to fit out a shoebox with people, purses and other accessories. This was priceless.

It also inspired the girls to cut out any catalogs they could find. American Girl and Vision Forum catalogs are especially useful for making paper dolls.

Triss had saved up half the money for an American Girl doll at the age of nine, and Mr. Honey and I paid the other half, as we had agreed to do previously. A couple of years later, we found a beautiful Italian-made doll at a thrift store for five dollars, and that doll shares pride of place with Triss' American Girl doll. Cornflower and Mariel each received a special baby from a wonderful little doll store last Christmas, and they have Our Generation dolls from Target that they play with. Cornflower also has an old doll from the fifties, not in the best of shape, that she fell in love with at a thrift store and bought, and this dollie sits next to her beautiful doll-store baby. Mariel and Cornflower would like American Girl dolls, but each is still deciding whether they like them enough to save half the money toward one. They got a dollhouse with doll family last year (including grandparent dolls), which Cornflower has set up in her room. She plays in there when I am doing school with her sister, and has set up a little nursery for her doll-babies as well: Triss' old doll crib, a little plastic doll high chair, and a doll stroller that she uses to push her babies all over the house and backyard. She is constantly bemoaning the lack of pretty baby doll clothes in this house, and reminds me when I enter her room to "be quiet, because my baby is sleeping."

What I have noticed in all the doll-play at our house is that anything can be a doll. The girls have used wood mulch from the playground, old socks (which also make good dresses for dolls, by the way), anything paper, even spoons. The plastic ones are especially good, because you can paint or marker faces onto them.

In the last year, they have branched out into clothespin dolls, sock dolls (sewn with needle and thread and so more sophisticated), and wire-made dolls-- a fancier twist on Triss' twist-tie fascination. The girls' older friends made them some old-fashioned clothespin dolls this past winter, and gave Triss a fairy doll making kit for her birthday, causing little fairy children to appear on books, in bowls, and hanging from light fixtures; and clothespin people to pop up in every corner of the house. If you use modern clothespins to make your dolls, you can also use them for keeping blanket-curtains up in your fort or theater, lol!

This week, they were given lots of old calendars from the same sweet friends, who continue to inspire them to greater heights of creativity and imagination. Their friends used to cut pictures out of the calendars to make cards for others, but my girls are cutting out.... dollies. :o)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Da Vinci-- Reposted

Sometimes I hit the "publish" button before I have thought through my motivations.

Two nights ago I posted a narration exchange between Mariel and myself, and then deleted it after realizing I was just venting frustration, which is not something I really like to do on my blog. So I deleted the post, but someone noticed and asked where it went. ::blush::

I wonder if I was being revisionist in deleting it, but my initial thought is that it is not revisionist when the deletion occurs as a result of the realization that one's motivations are not of the sort one wishes to act on where one's blog is concerned. But it is revising, nonetheless, so I suppose technically it is revisionist history. Oh well. I still stand by the deletion.

However, there are lessons to be learned in the exchange, so I will now repost it, in a slightly different format, as a lesson to myself and others on what not to do in a reading and narration. I have come to the conclusion that the question I asked was rather above the ability of the child-- too vague, as Krakovianka said. Another part of the problem with that narration exchange was that it was an exchange rather than one question posed by the teacher, and a monologue delivered by the student, however short. I kept pestering her with questions after she was not able to answer the initial one, thereby frustrating the child and myself simultaneously.

My responses and additional questions are in the brackets. The reason I pestered her so much was because I wanted her to go beyond da Vinci's desultory habits and get to the genius of his mind. She never went there. I'm glad she understood this large flaw in da Vinci's character, but I was hoping she would be able to understand that he achieved much, in spite of it. (Think of how much he might have achieved with more discipline!)

[Describe Leonardo da Vinci’s personality. What kind of person was he?]

He was careless and very forgetful. He never finished anything.


Well, sometimes he finished things.

[How did he become respected and famous if he was like that?]

He painted the Mona Lisa, and that is a very famous painting, because she was very pretty. The real one is still in a French museum. He wasn’t always careless and forgetful. Sometimes he would remember to do things. One time he made a sketch of a lady, who thought he was going to do her painting, but he never did her painting. Her name was Isabella d’Este. Her husband secretly threw away the sketch because he hated it.

[Could you tell me more about his personality? Some more positive aspects? Tell me about his talent.]

Well, he had a talent for painting and inventing things, and dissecting bodies. Those are his talents.

[He doesn’t sound like a very pleasant person.]

Hey, he didn’t dissect live bodies, he dissected dead ones!

(I finally asked her what she would think of da Vinci if she had met him. She went on to tell an imaginary story of what she thought would happen if she met Leonardo da Vinci. They visit about various and sundry everyday things, he paints her portrait and they share lunch together.)

And here is her narration on the next exam question. I think she did well, although she does get one or two things wrong:

[What are some ideas, inventions and artworks that Leonardo da Vinci came up with?]

He came up with the idea of inventing huge wings, and then falling into the sea probably. He also came up with the idea of army warships that would be able to float on a river, a sea or an ocean even. It would have a round top with holes in it that the men could shoot things or throw things out of, and the enemy had to be a really good shot if they could shoot in a hole. His famous painting, the Mona Lisa, is still in France today. Once it was bombed, but some security guards were able to save it before it was bombed. And then once, a man threw rocks at the window where it was, shattered the glass, and the painting, and got arrested. He drew many sketches of the human body, and that helped doctors figure out what was wrong with their patients. Once, he helped a king by digging a large river under an enemy kingdom, but it was never finished because the war was long over by the time they were done with just a quarter of it.