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.