Thursday, December 31, 2009

Screaming on Dave Ramsey

Around three or four years ago, we discovered Dave Ramsey. We attended Financial Peace University, a class which contains very good advice on managing expenses and getting out of debt. We agreed with the ideas, but it was difficult changing our habits on our own. So, two years later, we hired a personal financial counselor for six months. He helped us tremendously by evaluating our personal financial situation, showing us our "stinking thinking" in some areas, and challenging us to shift our paradigms where acquiring payments is concerned. (I can still hear that guy in my head, which is a good thing.) At that point, we rededicated ourselves to paying off credit card debt, which had gotten to $17,000. Throw in our car note, and the total at the time was $21,000 actually it was more like $25,000 with the car note-- little math error there. Read my previous personal finance posts here.

Anyhoo, all that background to say-- we are still working toward freedom from financial debt. We listen to Dave's show whenever it is on and we are in the van, and just love hearing people tell their stories and scream, "We're debt free!" with their families. We want to be one of those families next December. (Even the kids. When we hear a family scream, one of the girls will say, "That's gonna be us some day," or "When do you think we'll get to do that, Mom?")

Our total amount of credit card debt stands at $10,820, around $900 less than it was in August. With the car note (which is scheduled to be paid in full within seven months) our total to pay off by December is $13,420.

$3,685 of that is with the wicked company that refused to lower its usurious rate of 29.99% last August. Needless to say, this is the account on which we pay extra. It is my goal to have it completely cleaned up and closed by the end of February, and I think we can do it with a tax refund and Mr. Honey's bonus. This account costs us around $100 in finance charges every month. (Contrast that with $11 per month interest on the car note and $60 per month on the other credit card account-- the account that carries the bulk of our debt!)

Once we get that monster out of the way, the snowball ought to speed down the hill, yippee! As long as we stay focused. As long as *I* stay focused. Summer and fall are our most expensive seasons of the year, so we must be very gazelle-intense this winter and spring if we are to meet this goal.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. We have not been gazelle-intense like Dave says to be. We have let trips and gift purchases and lovely books get in the way. Murphy has hit us with theft and health issues and car repairs. But if we keep plugging away at it, we will have this debt gone by the end of the year. We will be *that family* screaming, "We're debt free!" on Dave Ramsey next December.

Prayers would be wonderful. If you feel so led, will you pray that I will be disciplined in the little things, that Mr. Honey be kept from temptation regarding occasional large purchases, that the kids will be patient with our frequent "no" to their financial requests, that I will be able to say "no" cheerfully, that the van's engine and transmission will stay healthy, that the house and appliances will remain in good shape, that ill health will not interfere, that Mr. Honey's job will continue stable, and that, whatever happens, we will keep our focus on the Lord.

Mr. Honey's sales position has remained remarkably stable during this time of economic crisis, which is a blessing from the Lord. He has given Mr. Honey determination and stamina to work harder and harder in order to be one of the salesmen that keeps his job, and He continues to provide sales.

We gotta do this. It is hard, and it takes so long, but in a way I am glad it is taking a long time-- I do not ever want to go back to a debt lifestyle, and all these struggles are changing us into people who want to avoid that bondage more than we want stuff. At least, I pray it is so. I see the little ways I sabotage our efforts, and find one more thing to work on. All these 'one more things' add up to a different way of thinking that I hope we will maintain for the rest of our lives, giving us more ability to be a blessing to others.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Eat From The Pantry Challenge -or- Healthy Eating

When the kids were younger-- say, from before the time Aravis was born until around five or six years ago-- we were healthy eaters. By healthy eaters I mean we didn't eat much in the way of convenience food or fast food, cooked almost everything from scratch, consumed little in the way of sweets, and ate veggies with almost every meal. We were barely scraping by, so I purchased the least expensive, conventionally grown foods, including bologna, cheap milk, chicken leg quarters in bulk, etc., but other than that, we had a healthy diet. I even ground my own wheat berries for homemade bread for awhile there.

For some reason, when we moved into our current home, our eating habits began to deteriorate, which is another post altogether. Mr. Honey and I began drinking coffee, which we only like sweetened. My grain mill broke. I began purchasing more convenience foods and lowered the guard on sugar intake for myself and the children. (I still watch it, but I used to only allow sweets maybe once or twice per week-- now, for some reason, it has slipped into once or twice per day.)

In the last week, Mr. Honey and I and the kids have come together in our desire to eat better (which is also another post), and want to change our poor eating habits. We are almost out of sugar, and do not plan to stock up. Coffee, I think, is going away, due to our desire to enjoy it with sugar. We are going to eat more whole grains and less "white" foods.

And we want to start purchasing more organics as the budget allows. We experience lethargy and forgetfulness on a regular basis at our house, as well as mood swings. (In a home where four out of five people are female, who is surprised? But still.) Also, Mr. Honey and I are both unhappy with our weight. A lot of this has to do with sugar consumption, but I wonder what would happen if we ate foods grown without pesticides and other contaminants?

So, so, so--

There is a group of bloggers doing an Eat From The Pantry Challenge in the month of January, and I thought we could join in. (Mama Squirrel is joining in, too, which makes me feel more comfy about joining in online-- I 'know' someone else who is participating!)

We have decided to use up our food stores in the month of January and restock with organics. We got Omaha Steaks from a family member for Christmas (!) and have a lot of beef right now, as well as some ham and three pounds of chicken. (I do not think we will eat all of this meat in one month! I am only listing it to show that we won't have to purchase meat.) We also have quite a bit of grain-- white and wheat flour, semolina, cornmeal, oats, millet, brown rice, a bag of pasta, two packages of flour tortillas and one loaf of bread.

Every family gets to make their own rules for the Pantry Challenge, so here are ours:

1. Purchase only organic dairy, produce and grains in the month of January
2. Limit the grains purchased to one bag of pasta and five loaves of bread (Mr. Honey does not have access to a heating element for his lunch and eats sandwiches much of the time)
3. Purchase a wide mouth thermos for Mr. Honey so he can carry soups and chili and other good things in his lunch
4. Go to the grocery store four times total in the month
5. Use the money we save to restock with organics at the end of the month

I have never purchased much in the way of organics because it is expensive, and we have been debtors for most of our married life. But this website says organics are only 20% more expensive than conventionally grown foods, so we should have room for the increase in cost simply by eliminating junk and filler foods. My measuring stick for purchasing organics will be that the item is no more than 20% more expensive than its conventional counterpart. I really think things like milk, eggs and meat will fall outside this limit, but I know purchasing those items organic is highly recommended. What do you think? Do you purchase organics, and if so, what are your guidelines for deciding on organic or conventional?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Trampoline Pictures

It is snowing for the second time in a week, which is pretty rare for North Texas. I was out in it earlier, but now we are all inside waiting for Mr. Honey to get home from work. Cornflower is making cookies, Mariel is playing a computer game and Aravis is working on her science fair project. They are singing intermittently, mostly their own words to musical theater tunes, complete with girl-belting-voices.

I have boiled eggs and started some veggie soup and a pot of pinto beans for lunches/dinners for this week. Cold weather makes me want to simmer things on the stove. ;o) I should be updating the checkbook, but I have Put It Off for the time being.

So-- what I *really* wanted to post about was the trampoline the kids got for Christmas. Here are some photos of Mr. Honey and the kids setting it up!

(You may notice a distinct lack of Mariel in these pictures. She was visiting her Grammy that day.)

On Christmas morning, the tramp was still in its box, owing to the ice and snow that fell on Christmas Eve. Santa left a note on the white board.

A couple of days later, Mr. Honey and Cornflower braved the mud and freezing temperatures to set it up.

Aravis joined in after a bit.

And then-- they danced! They have christened it The Globe Theater.

And today, it is graced with a dusting of snow.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Wintry Mix

I am sitting at the local Starbucks accessing the Internet for the first time since Wednesday (we tried the library first, but they are closed for Christmas). Our phone and DSL went out that afternoon, and probably will not be restored until next week. This has been a blessing in my opinion-- Wednesday night we sat in the living room and read aloud to one another while putting together a puzzle and wrapping Christmas gifts. We haven't done that in an age!

We read _The Best Christmas Pageant Ever_ in its entirety. That story illustrates the blessing that can come from embracing what we perceive as problems (rather than attempting to engineer or manipulate them away), and learning the lessons that God has for us.

Our family has experienced some little issues in the past month-- the day before Thanksgiving our checking account was robbed by someone who stole my check card number and used it to set up a Paypal account. Around half of our Christmas gift money was taken, as well as Mr. Honey's gas money for the pay period. We survived the few days before being reimbursed by using two checks that I had intended to deposit a couple of days before the theft (thankfully, I had left them at home on the day I went to town), and seriously curtailed our Christmas shopping, although we did manage to purchase the two big ticket items we had been saving for-- a flat screen TV* and a 14-foot trampoline-- as well as do our charitable giving (which I don't like to post about, as, to my mind, that kind of thing should be done in private). The theft upset the automatic payments we make to the Toll Authority as well, and we are still straightening that out. (The tolltags are necessary for Mr. Honey's job, which requires a lot of windshield time.)

*(Just a note on the flat-screen, which is a big extravagance, I know: we have been saving for this TV since mid-summer, and it is a combination anniversary-birthday-Christmas gift for both Mr. Honey and I. We paid cash for it.)

A few days after being reimbursed for the checking account breach, our van's brake pads went out (which, according to our mechanic, was the fault of our previous mechanic, who installed the brake pads without applying the requisite grease that keeps the pads in working order), so most of the reimbursement went toward vehicle repair. We could have spent an additional $400 and had the heating/air conditioning fan repaired, but since the heat still works (although it doesn't blow into the interior of the vehicle unless we are driving at least 40 mph), we decided to forgo that repair. Our vehicle has got over 130,000 miles on it, and we are still making payments. We will be finished paying it off by this summer, and plan to drive this van into the ground.

On Christmas Eve, a beautiful snowstorm swept through our area. We had planned for Mr. Honey and Goggy to set up the trampoline while Grammy and I took the girls on a pleasure excursion to a local mall. We ladies did get to go to the mall and heard the most incredible electric string quartet! But the men were prevented in their manly-man tool escapade by the cold, blustery wind and snowy weather. As of this moment, the tramp sits in its box in our living room, a promise of fitness and fun yet unfulfilled. We have high hopes of installation today or tomorrow. "The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley," you know.

We went to Grammy and Goggy's house Christmas Eve afternoon and evening, and never once thought about the roads. When we left around 8:45 pm, we realized our mistake: wind, snow flurries and black ice awaited us. We drove home averaging 5-10 mph in our determination *not* to be one of the statistics stranded in ditches along the winding country road. We had come in separate vehicles, and I was driving the good ol' van without adequate defrosting capability. I drove with the window open part of the time to increase visibility. It took us over an hour to drive fifteen miles. Thankfully, we had fleece blankets in the van for the kiddoes. It took me a couple of hours, once we got home, to recover from the adrenaline of driving on ice. I didn't get into bed until almost 1 AM. I watched one of the Bourne movies with Mr. Honey, and it exactly fit my mood. ;o)

Christmas Day was spent relaxing and watching movies, the girls alternately sledding down icy north-facing driveways and roller skating on south-facing sidewalks. Still no Internet, which increased our family level of interpersonal communication. Perhaps we should institute a regular family sabbatical from the Internet.

Anyway, here I sit at the Starbucks, ice on the ground in shady spots, and family waiting around for me to return to real life. I will return to them, and I pray that the Lord will continue to guide our mixture of joy and sorrow, and that we will have the wisdom to distinguish between the two, while accepting both.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Contemplating and Cleaning and Baking


*the number of posts on this blog (933!)
*separation from and connection with others-- what "protective" covering do we attempt to shield ourselves with? is it effective? must we be protected or does this keep us from loving others?
*observations and questions from the nine-year-old-- "Mom, if people were just nice, no one would shoot anyone else... Mom, what's the Nobel Peace Prize?... Mom, what does 'equivalent' mean?... Mom, what is 'abrupt'?... Mom, if God wanted us to be good, why didn't He keep Adam and Eve from sinning?... Mom, I can't make this star [drawing] shine..."


*master bedroom and bath
*the dust from the rest of the living room


*lemon meringue pie
*banana pudding

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cleaning and Baking and Contemplating


*the corners of the bedrooms
*the dust off the living room tables


*O Henry bars
*peanut butter cookies


*dishes and constancy
*socks and gratitude

Monday, December 21, 2009

Star in the East

Aravis selected this in church yesterday. The words are just gorgeous. Our song leader encouraged us to sing the whole thing, saying, "We don't have to be in a hurry." Exactly. Let's settle in and soak up the meaning of Christ coming to Earth.

Hail the blest morn, see the great Mediator,
Down from the regions of glory descend!
Shepherds, go worship the Babe in the manger,
Lo, for His guard the bright angels attend.

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning!
Dawn on our darkness and lend us Thine aid;
Star in the East, the horizons adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer was laid.

Cold on His cradle the dewdrops are shining;
Low lies His bed with the beasts of the stall;
Angels adore Him, in slumbers reclining,
Wise men and shepherds before Him will fall.

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning!
Dawn on our darkness and lend us Thine aid;
Star in the East, the horizons adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer was laid.

Say, shall we yield Him, in costly devotion,
Odors of Eden, and off'rings divine,
Gems from the mountain and pearls from the ocean,
Myrrh from the forest, and gold from the mine?

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning!
Dawn on our darkness and lend us Thine aid;
Star in the East, the horizons adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer was laid.

Vainly we offer each earthly oblation,
Vainly with gold we His favor secure;
Richer by far is the heart's adoration,
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning!
Dawn on our darkness and lend us Thine aid;
Star in the East, the horizons adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer was laid.

Low at His feet we in humble prostration
Lose all our trouble and sorrow and strife;
There we receive His divine consolation,
Flowing afresh from the fountain of life.

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning!
Dawn on our darkness and lend us Thine aid;
Star in the East, the horizons adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer was laid.

He is our Friend in the midst of temptation,
Faithful supporter Whose love cannot fail,
Rock of our refuge, and Hope of salvation,
Light to direct us thru death's gloomy vale.

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning!
Dawn on our darkness and lend us Thine aid;
Star in the East, the horizons adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer was laid.

Star of the morning, thy brightness, declining,
Shortly must fade when the sun doth arise;
Beaming, refulgent, His glory eternal
Shines on the children of love in the skies.

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning!
Dawn on our darkness and lend us Thine aid;
Star in the East, the horizons adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer was laid.

Reginald Heber (1783-1826)

Christmas Countdown

*made orange-clove pomanders

*watched The Nutcracker (1985 Baryshnikov on DVD)

*worked at the local Giving Tree

*visited the land of "always winter and never Christmas" (attended a theater production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe)

*baked cookies (and helped little children decorate them)

*watched little girls exclaim with delight as they opened gifts of beautiful dollies

*sang Star in the East, Away in the Manger, the 12 Days of Christmas, O Holy Night, selections from Handel's Messiah...

*performed in two recitals (one at a nursing home)

*heard sermons on the Magi; the shepherds; and Christ, priest after the order of Melchizedek

*shipped gifts to faraway nieces, nephew

*attended Christmas parties (Cornflower got to go with her BFF to a reenactment of Bethlehem/the life of the Lord, which is exactly what I would have picked for all of us, had I had a little more control over the schedule)

*watched my children skate with abandon down (small) hills

What is missing from this list? Well, a lot. But the kids would say, "Where is Star Night?" They are getting quite anxious. Bwahaha.

We are visiting Santa tomorrow. ;o)

Also, we haven't yet read the nativity account in Luke. We have been reading from Philippians and Genesis lately, and were really on a roll, so I let that continue until Christmas break. (And it felt appropriate to do so-- learning of origins and joy seems so very Christmas, doesn't it?)

Now it's Christmas break! And we plan to cosy up on the couch with our book of beautiful King James scripture and lovely illustrations by Joseph Brickey. I'd also like to find a free online recording of the Nine Lessons and Carols, or else sing and read through them ourselves, in the next day or so. We have never done this. For those of us who aren't liturgical, I understand the Lessons are straight scripture readings of messianic prophecy and the nativity of Jesus.

For the rest of the week, we plan to bake and clean and clean and bake and write stories and sing and go for walks and roast things... and laugh... I get to attend the CM book club party tonight, and here is the quote I decided on:

Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory… (I Tim. 3:16)

"And what a barren and dry land should we dwell in if our spirits were narrowed to the limits of that which we can comprehend!"

Charlotte Mason, Vol. 4, Book II, p. 201

I love that. Talk about "always winter and never Christmas!" That is our kids' lives when we do not invite them to the feast of ideas, but leave them to gnaw on bits of dry, pedantic crusts of bread. Invite your kids to the feast of ideas, regardless of ability, IQ, 'giftedness', and let them eat! As my Dad said yesterday, "A man will never starve with a feast before him."

Thoreau said, "Most men live lives of quiet desperation." I say, perhaps many men haven't read the right books, been exposed to the right ideas.

As for Star Night, kiddoes-- when you least expect it... expect it! :D

Friday, December 18, 2009

In my mind tonight, I hear Aunt Essie singing this:

When overwhelmed with doubts and fears,
Great God, do Thou my spirit cheer;
Let not my eyes with tears be fed,
But to the Rock of Ages led.

When storms of sin and sorrow beat,
Lead me to this divine retreat:
Thy perfect righteousness and blood,
My Rock, my Fortress and my God.

When guilt lies heavy on my soul,
And waves of fierce temptation roll,
I'll to the Rock for shelter flee,
And take my refuge, Lord, in Thee.

When called the vale of death to tread,
Then to this Rock may I be led;
Nor fear to cross the gloomy sea,
Since Thou hast tasted death for me.

-- Thomas Ken (1637-1711)

A Thought

The believing we do something when
we do nothing is the first illusion of tobacco.

--Ralph Waldo Emerson

(What else could we apply this to?)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

CM Bookmark Quotes

Our local book club's Christmas party is fast approaching! We draw names and exchange CM bookmarks every year, and I just began my search for a quote to put on my bookmark. Someone suggested that I pull from Miss Mason's thoughts on religion and the Lord. Here are the ones I think might work, although some are rather long. Which do you like best? (Find the CM Volumes online here.)

"Religion has two aspects, the attitude of the will towards God which we understand by Christianity, and that perception of God which comes from a gradual slow-growing comprehension of the divine dealings with men." Vol. 6 p. 160

"A mother knows how to speak of God as she would of an absent father with all the evidences of his care and love about her and his children." Vol. 6 p. 159

"On the whole we shall perhaps do well to allow the Scripture reading itself to point the moral." Vol. 6 p. 166

"'Our Father' This divine name reminds us that authority is lodged in the Author of our being, and is tender, pitiful, preventive, strong to care for and wise to govern; as we see it feebly shown forth even in the best of human fathers." Vol. 3 p. 137

"We are tempted to look upon Christianity as a 'scheme of salvation' designed and carried out for our benefit; whereas the very essence of Christianity is passionate devotion to an altogether adorable Person." Vol. 3 p. 145

"Once we recognise that all thoughts that breathe and words that burn are of their nature spiritual, and appeal to the Spiritual within us––that, in fact, all intercourse of thought and feeling belongs to the realm of ideas, spiritually conveyed, the great mysteries of our religion cease to be hedged off from our common experiences." Vol. 2 p. 131

UPdated to add one more:

"And what a barren and dry land should we dwell in if our spirits were narrowed to the limits of that which we can comprehend!" Vol. 4 p. 201

Handel's Messiah Helps

I mentioned here that we have been singing portions of Handel's Messiah on school mornings for the past two weeks or so. The kids and I read this fascinating article the other morning, about how Handel's Messiah is uplifting right down to the physics of sound, the "glorifying of the tonal center". It literally resonates within us, the arrangement of notes centering us and lifting up our physical being to worship. Physically. As in, physics. This is so cool. I wish I knew more about physics so I could rejoice in Handel's Messiah even more.

The girls do not have Messiah songbooks, so I have been printing off individual portions of the piece here. They store them in their binders. Be prepared with lots of paper and ink-- the choruses of the Messiah tend to be over seven pages apiece. It would be cheaper to purchase the songbook if you wanted all the music, or wanted multiple movements all at once. You can purchase used scores pretty cheaply on Amazon, but I want the girls' books to be the Van Camp version, which is $30. This information will go into my planning for the next school year. :D

Also, a friend linked to this site where you can listen to individual parts (soprano, alto, tenor, bass). We haven't used this website, but I thought I would pass it along anyway.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Kudos to the Advisory (once again!)

Aravis, who is studying Year 9, is reading The English Constitution by Richard Bagehot, along with Common Sense by Thomas Paine. It is exceptionally illuminating to be reading one of the great source documents of the United States side by side with a classic description of the government the colonists were fleeing.

Every year I renew my sense of gratitude toward the AO Advisory for the thought and insight with which they selected resources. Thank you so much, ladies. I never would have found most of this stuff.

Christmas Memory: Santa

When I was one or two years old, my parents tell me that Santa appeared at a family gathering with toys for my cousin and me.

This often happens to children in December, so perhaps it is not the most unique 'memory'-- in quotes because, quite honestly, I do not actually remember it!

None of the adults in the house knew it was going to happen, and no one knew who the man was. He rang the doorbell, presented two toddlers with a truck and a doll, said, "Merry Christmas!" and... away he flew like the down of a thistle.


Now, it may be that one of my aunts or uncles really did set up that magical visit and simply kept mum, but it happened almost forty years ago. The way my family loves a good joke, someone would have given way by now.

When my parents and grandparents tell the story, they always say, "Whoever he was, he knew those babies were in the house, and he had presents just for them."

This, to me, is the spirit of Christmas. I am talking about the spirit that fills us when we realize that the Lord redeemed us-- that he came down to Earth, sacrificed His glory, surrendered His position, became in fashion as a man. To save us. We, who sin, who cannot keep the Law, who are the undone debtors in the debtors' prison, with no friends and no way even to earn our way out. We, who are in need of a Saviour.

When a person realizes that this is his position, and that Jesus has paid all and we are free,that the Year of Jubilee has truly come! we cannot but run through the streets extending that love to our fellows.

This is Christmas. Give! for you have been given much. Imitate your kinsman-Redeemer. Emulate your adoptive Father. Suffer, sacrifice, surrender to the giving.

What an amazing family tree we have been grafted into! We are children of the King.

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick, but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

This is Christmas. I do not begrudge Santa*. He is a symbol of the beautiful, grateful spirit of a newly realized child of God.

It is lovely to have a time of year in which people are reminded to renew this gratitude and love. It spurs us to go forth into the new year with compassion and joy.

*It is really more to the point to question what we do with the symbol of Santa. We have an obligation to give with wisdom and compassion, not grudgingly and as we purpose in our hearts, but with wisdom. Are we doing that?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pie in the Sky

oh dear
i fear
that i
can't fly
but if
you sniff
you soar
for more
more what?
a glut
the sky
is pie
and i
know why
of fuzz
that flies
and cries
and sighs
and dies
and then
the jinn
comes through
the slough
and takes
and bakes
the pie.

(This is a cooperative poem by Aravis and me-- we switched off composing lines. It was fun!)

The HEARD Preservation Campaign

A quick plea for a worthy cause in North Texas:

North Texas Water is suing the HEARD Museum for eminent domain, and, if successful, will disrupt some of the only reclaimed native prairie land in the state, among other things. The folks at the HEARD have been working patiently and diligently for years to reclaim this portion of prairie land, and it is a shame for someone to swoop in with eminent domain and hinder the work.

From the website:

There would be short term and long term damage to the sanctuary including displacing animals that may never return, disrupting native prairie foliage, trees and grasses, contaminating the wetlands, causing a permanent odor, and disturbing the environment for regular maintenance visits and possible emergency situations with the pipeline.

Please take a moment to sign this petition to preserve the good work the HEARD is doing to further nature education and appreciation. Surely the water company can find a less important swath of land in which to install their pipes and maintenance roads.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Memory: Handel's Messiah

At the age of fifteen, I was blessed to learn Handel's Messiah in my high school choir class. Our school choir led the choruses at a community sing-along Messiah every year. I got to sing in that choir for three years, and each September we were greeted with one or another motif of Handel's great work.

As far as Scripture is concerned, some of my most solid memory work ever was done in that high school choir class.

For unto us a child is born,
Unto us a Son is given!
And the government shall be upon His shoulders
And His name shall be called
The Mighty God!
The Everlasting Father!
The Prince of Peace!

I haven't been able to secure much in the way of choral opportunities for my own kids (although we have ample opportunities for a capella hymnsinging-- an embarrassment of riches there, really!) so this year I determined to teach the kids to follow the sheet music as we sang the Messiah with a CD. We worked on "For Unto Us a Child is Born" this week. Last week we did "And the Glory of the Lord". Next week is "Hallelujah Chorus", and the week after Christmas break we will practice, "Surely He Hath Borne Our Griefs and Carried Our Sorrows". It is going very well. If it continues to go well, who knows? We may be singing with the CD into spring!

I relish the opportunity to help the kids deal with some choral technique. This past week, we concentrated on not scooping. It is so tempting to sing, "For unto-WUHS a child is born" instead of being more distinct and centered.

So Mariel helped us out with this sign:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Memory: Aravis' First Christmas

When Aravis was born, we lived in Tennessee, far away from family. She was two months old her first Christmas, and her Grammy and Goggy came to visit us.

We set Aravis up in her baby swing so she could watch us open her presents. The first gift was a little set of foot rattles (sockie things with rattles inside that you put on the baby's feet, you know). We put those on her and went on opening presents.

As we opened things, we showed them to Aravis in her little swing. She loved seeing the pretty colors and kicked her feet every time we opened a new present.

We have video of it around here somewhere. Aren't new parents (and grandparents) silly?

New Eyes

Aravis posted a poem.

The Unity of Macbeth

And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
Win us with honest trifles, to betray ’s
In deepest consequence.

--Banquo, from "The Tragedy of Macbeth", Act I, Scene iii

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Christmas Memory: Ornaments

When I was a kid, my grandparents gave each of us grandkids a new ornament every year. As we grew, the round ornaments on our tree became fewer (we dropped a couple every year) and the novelty ornaments became more plentiful, until mine and my brother's ornaments were the bulk of what we put on the tree.

When I got married, I got to take all my ornaments. My mom purchased new to fill in the gaps.

My grandparents continued the tradition up until the last year or so, and my parents also started giving us ornaments each year. When the kids came, my parents and grandparents began giving them ornaments, too.

We have a lot of Christmas ornaments.

A couple of years ago I splurged on special ornament boxes, one for each of the kids(Mr. Honey and I share one). I marked the kids' ornaments with their special codes (one dot for Aravis, two for Mariel and three for Cornflower) and let them box up their ornaments in their ownty-donty boxes. They will get to take these with them when they leave home, so I am careful to mark ornaments as they receive them.

Christmas Memory: Silent Night

Each Christmas while I was in college at Long Beach State, our choirs got to perform classical and Christmas music in a beautiful old downtown church with a rose window. We sat in the choir loft and both balconies.

At the end of each performance, the lights in the hall dimmed and choristers lit hand-held candles one by one. The peaceful strains of Mannheim Steamroller's Silent Night filled the hall and all waited in hushed expectancy as the flame progressed through the ranks of singers, light spreading through the gloom. Finally, the choirs exited down the aisles and the sanctuary was left in near-darkness.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Christmas Memory: Tinsel

One strand at a time. That is how my mom hung tinsel.

Every year growing up, we had a live tree. After the lights were strung and ornaments added, Mom opened packages of slippery silver icicles and draped a bit across each of our outstretched hands. Then she showed us how to hang it two or three or four at a time.

At first we put it on in clumps. She did not chide us, but came along later and straightened out the tangles.

She always stood a long time at the tree, hanging hers strand by strand, and adjusting ours as she went. Out came the vacuum, gathering up strays. Sometimes she would have to get more the next day after work, and we would have *two* nights of icicle hanging.

She had a gentle way about her, quietly cultivating beauty with bright bits of glitz.

Now Mom uses garlands of colored beads instead of individual strands of tinsel, but she still takes the time to invite loveliness, hanging each ornament and garland with care.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Christmas Memory: The Best One Ever!

Today is Mr. Honey's birthday, and I cannot think of a better bloggy way to celebrate it than to tell the story of how we met.

I was twenty-one and living in San Francisco, employed as a live-in nanny. It was just after Christmas. A friend invited me and another friend to his employer's Christmas party, and I met Mr. Honey for the first time.

Mr. Honey wrote a poem about it. I love that man.

I was, as I suppose I frequently am, oblivious to what was going on around me, and Mr. Honey dropped many, many hints to try and get my phone number. Finally he said, "Well, I work with Steve, so if you ever want to call, you can reach me there."

Light dawned on Marble Head, lol.

I did not call guys, so I gave him *my* phone number.

He called three days later, which was the day before New Year's Eve, and asked me out for New Year's. I told him I was busy. (I didn't want him to think I was desperate.)

He said good-bye and hung up really fast.

I had to break my rule about not calling guys and call my friend Steve at work to get Mr. Honey's phone number and call him back! I did have plans, but it was for a party with friends, and wouldn't he like to come too?

He said yes, he would, and, in fact, that party with friends was the party to which he was inviting me.

He was awfully cute, even under all that long, curly hair, and was a gentleman who held open doors and walked on the street-side.

A day or two later he invited me to go to Disney's Beauty and the Beast at the movie theater (first-run). When Belle is attacked by wolves and Beast saves her but is dreadfully wounded, and that tiny little ingenue lifts that great hulking beast onto the horse to take him home, Mr. Honey and I turned to each other and said, "No way she could do that!" And we knew we were meant for each other.

We were married eight months later.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Christmas Tree

Yesterday we cut down our own Christmas tree.

That one is just a baby!

We had a time convincing the kids that we needed a tree around the same height as Daddy. This one is too tall.

Douglas firs in the shadow of pines.

We found it! The greenest tree in all the green wood.

Mr. Honey tagging our tree.
Cornflower cannot believe Daddy let *her* hold the saw!

It was very chilly! The water in the ditches had iced over.

We hitched a hayride back to the store.

The fir tree in its new home.

Aravis the Christmas pirate.

Cornflower thinks Aravis is silly.

Mariel plays Mrs. Claus in her glory days.

Cornflower thinks *this* is silly too, lol.

Mariel is unperturbed while Aravis is oblivious.

I pestered the kids until they took a picture of me. My hand is just hanging out doing its own thing. ;o)

We aren't finished decorating the tree yet. I'll post a picture when it is done.

(Photo credit goes partially to Aravis-- she took several of the outside shots, as well as one or two inside. Great job, sweetie!)

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Christmas Memory: An Astounding Present

My dad loves Christmas. Well, both Mom and Dad do, but Dad really loves it. He is good at picking things out for people and loves giving gifts. Well, Mom too. But she doesn't get as giddy as Dad.

I grew up with these beautiful, giving people, and have received so many thoughtful, perfect gifts, you'd think I'd be used to it. But three years ago Mr. Honey and I were blown away by their generous Christmas gift.

We were weary that year. I was struggling with burnout, having homeschooled for seven years, and the middle/high school years loomed rather ominously. Mr. Honey had been passed over at work and was working many extra hours in an effort to move up the ladder.

Dad and Mom saw all this, made a Christmas plan, and executed it. Then Dad began to tease us about our gift. This is a large part of why he likes giving gifts-- he loves anticipating the reaction of his loved ones, and a little good-natured ribbing ahead of time is fun, too.

We took some teasing, made a few guesses that "didn't even come close," according to Dad, and awaited Christmas. Finally, we were able to open our gift. It was a six-day Caribbean cruise.

Seriously. We were overwhelmed and delighted. Dad's mission was accomplished.

Friday, December 04, 2009


"In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not."

The apostles were troubled. They did not understand. Their Master was going away, to a place they could not yet follow, and this did not fit their ideas.

"You believe in God, believe also in me."

Jesus told them to believe in Him, trust Him.

"I go to prepare a place for you."

They had reason to believe in Him. They had seen. They loved, and were beloved. But they were prevented from understanding by the darkness of their own preconceived notions.

"Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how canst we know the way?"

They were troubled, they were afraid. Their Messiah was not behaving in the way they had expected. Though peace stood before them, they had not peace. Though good will worked for their good, they had not comfort.

"I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you."

He loved them so.

"Peace I leave with you, my peace give I unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

They were troubled, they were afraid. He understood.

"Because I have said these things to you, sorrow hath filled your heart... I have yet many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now."

Oh, the ache of a heart that wisely loves and is resisted!

Confusion came, and shame, and mockery. Betrayal. But then, in spite of all the efforts of men to obtain their destructive ideas of peace-- to kill off the disruptive influence and keep the power position-- the world was turned upside down. They were accepted in the beloved. They had a near kinsman, they were redeemed. And yet, still astonished, still disbelieving, still requiring proof. And still he loved them, because they were his.

"Follow me."


(Scripture taken from the Gospel of John.)

Christmas Memory: Moving

When Aravis was fifteen months old, we moved from Tennessee to Texas the week of Christmas. Our decorations were stacks of boxes and a little artificial tree that my mom brought for us. It was the same height as Aravis, who wore a cozy yellow footed sleeper on Christmas Eve. I sat among the boxes and rocked her as we read "'Twas the Night Before Christmas".

The day after Christmas, we drove off and left Mr. Honey to finish another couple of weeks of work before he followed us.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Christmas Memory: Red Balloons

The year that Aravis was six and Mariel was three and Cornflower was brand-new, the present scene at our house was looking pretty sparse. One of us had the bright idea to fill the living room with red balloons on Christmas morning. It only took a couple dozen balloons and (a lot) of mommy-and-daddy-wind to set it up on Christmas Eve. When the girls woke up the next morning, they thought that was the best fun ever! (Except for Cornflower, who apparently thought the best fun ever was being held in Grammy's arms while everyone played. And Grammy seemed to think holding Cornflower was the best fun ever!)

They were pretty cute.

(Some of my friends on Facebook have suggested that we write Christmas memories for our status updates this month. I thought I would use my blog for this, and link to FB, since I get longwinded sometimes.)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


As day dawned, we were surprised to find it was snowing!

"Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!"

Aravis tried, unsuccessfully, to look at snow through the magnascope. We did not have any black cloth in the freezer in case it snowed, and her snow crystals melted within seconds of being installed under the magnascope. If you look closely, you can see that the snow crystals in her *hair* haven't melted, though!

Yesterday's rose is today's rosecicle.

Cornflower brought in her pea seedlings.

The temp is currently around 33 degrees, so the best accumulation is on the tops of cars and houses. The kids took advantage of that for a brief snowball fight.

I am inside blogging rather than outside playing because it is *cold* this morning! And I am a wimp. ;o) The girls came inside with very wet mittens and drank tea for a few minutes, but are now back out, appreciating the snow as hard as they can until it disappears. :D

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Mama Squirrel has posted a poem that is just excellent. Still feeling guilty about my bloggy outburst the other day, I can see my own craven whininess, and I now plan to take the prince as my model, and use what I find to reach as high as I can. I am too much like Eeyore and Toad (Arnold Lobel's, not Kenneth Grahame's), and ought to exert myself rather than pout.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

In Which I Explain the Lack of Blog Posts

I haven't been writing much lately, and part of it is that I am not a professional writer or a student who must write regularly. No one is making me write.

(I probably *should* write regularly. I could use the practice. Which brings up a neat little conundrum. When folks say they wish people who can't write would stop littering the world with twaddle, how in the world do they intend to provide for people who could perhaps achieve twaddle-free status with practice? Most people are not simply born able to produce scintillating prose or lucid poetry. Perhaps when folks say they wish people who can't write would stop littering the world with their twaddle, what they really mean is they wish people who can't write would stop having their twaddle published, or perhaps that the publishers would be a little more discerning, or something. like. that. Hmph. UPDATE: Having slept, I realize what a rant this is. Obviously, people who say that-- and I have been known to say it myself-- mean books published for impressionable young minds, not blog posts by moms. I'm too sensitive. Not that we blogger moms should acquiesce to lower standards. Not by any means. But still. So I feel better this morning. And I apologize for exposing my faithful readers to my angst and frustration. I really should sleep in between writing and posting.)

I do keep having ideas on what to write, and when I try to follow them I realize it's going to be a long trip-- so I can either pursue that idea, or pursue the kids' school day, or pursue household duties, or pursue the reading of yet another book I should have read in my teens and twenties. I really enjoy that last, by the way. In fact, I attribute the long-and-winding-idea-road to the reading of books that keep shaking my paradigms. My mental furniture must be rearranged yet again, and I must absorb (or reject) and unpack before I can explain.

So, no posts lately. That's why.

In other exciting news:

* We finished the first term of the school year and had exams last week. They went well. I'm not sure if I will be sharing any results this time (see above). I'm super excited about the next term, and pray the girls will have at least half my level of enthusiasm by the end of Thanksgiving break. All three of them are in great AO/HEO years. (All of them are great, right? But the girls are doing Years 3, 6 and 9 this year. So amazing to have Renaissance/Reformation side-by-side with the American Revolution and the ancient Greeks and Romans. For those who don't know, each girl has her own history thread. They aren't doing all three at once! But I keep all three in my head as much as I can, and it is interesting to notice ideas in one era that bore fruit in another.)

* We are currently painting the great room, which consists of kitchen, dining and living room, and two short hallways. We are using a beautiful color called Cliveden Leather. Mariel says it makes our home look Italian. I am very sore. I hope to finish painting tomorrow, but putting everything back in place will take awhile. I love, love, love the color. This is the room we spend the most time in, and I am thrilled to reclaim it for a little beauty. The kids have helped a lot with removing switchplates and window hardware and with painting, and I am counting it all as handicrafts. :D You should see all the stacks of books under our dining table and in the bedroom.

And finally, please have a happy Thanksgiving! There are many things for us to be thankful for, not the least of which is a God who exists and has shown us the way of love and excellence and purpose, so let us go forth with joy!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sketch Tuesday: Sunsets

Harmony Art Mom is still on vacation, so we are posting our sketches here again. The focus is sunsets.

Aravis used oil pastels to make a scene from a favorite spot in West Texas.

Mariel used oils to paint a beach sunset in Maine on the Fourth of July.

Cornflower used watercolors for a painting of a bay.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Now, *That* is a Great Beginning!

The kettle began it! Don't tell me what Mrs. Peerybingle said. I know better. Mrs. Peery- bingle may leave it on record to the end of time that she couldn't say which of them began it; but, I say the kettle did. I ought to know, I hope! The kettle began it, full five minutes by the little waxy- faced Dutch clock in the corner, before the Cricket uttered a chirp.

As if the clock hadn't finished striking, and the convulsive little Haymaker at the top of it, jerking away right and left with a scythe in front of a Moorish Palace, hadn't mowed down half an acre of imaginary grass before the Cricket joined in at all!

Why, I am not naturally positive. Every one knows that. I wouldn't set my own opinion against the opinion of Mrs. Peerybingle, unless I were quite sure, on any account whatever. Nothing should in- duce me. But, this is a question of fact. And the fact is, that the kettle began it, at least five minutes before the Cricket gave any sign of being in exist- ence. Contradict me, and I'll say ten.

So begins _Cricket on the Hearth_ by Charles Dickens. Don't you want to read the rest now?

Sketch Tuesday: Famous Landmarks

Harmony Art Mom is taking the month of November off, but she gave us a Sketch Tuesday assignment for each week. This week's assignment was to sketch a famous landmark.

Aravis drew the Alamo:

Cornflower drew the Acropolis:

I can't locate Mariel's, but if I find it I will post it.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Open Road London (1927)

The girls and I saw the haunts of some book-friends in this terrific old movie of London. h/t to The Anchoress!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Ode to Tea

Steaming comfort, wafting cheer,
Cozy for unhappy hands,
Fair reminder of repose,
Token of exotic lands:

Morning Thunder motivates,
Fortifies, infusing tact,
Raspberry Gardens beautifies
Constant, stern, quotidian fact;

Cinnamon Apple, Bengal Spice,
Peppermint and Lemon Zing,
Blueberry and Country Peach--
A cup of tea is a wondrous thing.

Composed by me for The Beehive's Poetry Ceilidh I

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Tea in a Saucepan

Today was Cornflower's birthday (see previous post, I'm too lazy to link tonight) and she woke up with a fever, cough and headache. Poor Cornflower. She slept most of the morning.

The rest of us did schoolwork in the morning and scrubbed acrylic paint off the sidewalk in the afternoon. Don't ask.

It doesn't sound like it would be a Keeping Day, does it? But it was.

After dinner tonight, Cornflower and I read the first three chapters of Half-Magic by Edward Eager. As my voice got tired, I realized that I wanted a sweet something. My brilliant mind putting two and two together, I remembered that we had pre-shaped cookie dough in the freezer. Bake and eat!

I suggested we adjourn to the kitchen. Cornflower's sisters quickly figured out what we were about, and before you could say Jack Robinson, the teacups were out and the water in the kettle.

Mariel got the OED and beguiled us into a game of Dictionary.

Cornflower sat down to the piano with her faithful pink frog, and announced that Kermit wanted to perform for us. He accomplished this by propping himself against Cornflower's lap, playing Into the West (from LOTR), Turkey in the Straw and Ode to Joy, and then, for a finale, sat on the couch and played one song by telepathy. (Please pay no attention to the slightly feverish child at the piano.)

While the cookies baked, I steeped the tea in a saucepan. I was not inclined to get out the china teapot (hand-wash only, and I had already reclaimed two sinkloads of dirty dishes) but my dishwasher-safe pitchers were out of commission-- one, made of glass, was cold from being in the fridge, while my plastic pitcher was not yet recovered from being used in the chalk-and-acrylic-paint art/experiment of the day before.

(In case you are wondering, steel wool and water will eventually remove glow-in-the-dark acrylic paint from concrete.)

We ate chocolatey chocolate cookies and drank peppermint tea (ladled out of the saucepan with my crockpot ladle) and tried to stump one another with words such as obreptitious and opsimathy and palliate. We laughed because Aravis is obreptitious and I am a kind of opsimath. And if we had been in charge of word meanings, we would have decided that palliating was the art of painting horses.

Today was a gem. We had illness and tears and leftover mess and a math lesson that took way too long-- and yet, today was Grand. It goes in the vault as a Keeping Day.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009






Happy 9th birthday, My Cornflower! Love you, sweetie.

Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not;
neither decline from the words of my mouth.
Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee:
love her, and she shall keep thee.
Proverbs 4:5-6

Monday, November 02, 2009

Novel Philosophy

What we do not perceive is, that philosophy as found written in books of philosophy to-day has become more or less academic; she no longer "cries at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors, Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of men."

She has become an affair of the Schools. Men meet with her there, not to their souls' profit so much as for the joy of intellectual gymnastic.

But philosophy keeps to herself still two or three resorts from which we may hear her voice, 'Unto you, O men, I call.' The poets entertain her; through them she still calls to men; but her message is often implicit, and only the attentive ear may hear. Those who do hearken at the coming in of this door get oracles of price, luminous words for the interpretation of their days.

In the novel, however, she is explicit, takes up every one of the functions which we have seen Plutarch assign her; unfolds ourselves to us as poor things, most likely, and flashes a search-light upon our innocent little ways, our much-to-be-condoned moods. Also, as philosophy is for our instruction in life, and as our chief business is the bringing up of the generation to follow, the great novelists offer us a key to the vexed problem of education.

from "Young Crossjay" by Charlotte Mason (Volume 5)


"If much hangs and turns upon the choice of the work we are to do and the field where we are to do it, it must not be forgotten how much also depends on the time when it is undertaken, the way in which it is performed, and the associates in the labour. In all these matters the true workman will wait for the Master's beck, glance, or signal before a step is taken."

from George Mueller of Bristol by A.T. Pierson

Saturday, October 31, 2009


I'm sorry about the quality of the pictures. I was fighting with the camera-- it just wouldn't behave.




Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Complaint by William Wordsworth

There is a change––and I am poor;
Your love hath been, nor long ago,
A fountain at my fond heart's door,
Whose only business was to flow;
And flow it did; not taking heed
Of its own bounty, or my need.

What happy moments did I count!
Blest was I then, all bliss above!
Now, for this consecrated fount
Of murmuring, sparkling, living love,
What have I––shall I dare to tell?
A comfortless and hidden well.

A well of love––it may be deep;
I trust it is––and never dry;
What matter? if the waters sleep
In silence and obscurity.
Such change, and at the very door
Of my fond heart, hath made me poor.

Friday, October 23, 2009

And Yet Shew I Unto You a More Excellent Way

Though I speak
With the tongues of men and of angels,
And have not charity,
I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy,
And understand all mysteries, and all knowledge,
And have not charity,
I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor,
And though I give my body to be burned,
And have not charity,
It profiteth me nothing.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind;

Charity envieth not;

Charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly,
Seeketh not her own,
Is not easily provoked,
Thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity,
But rejoiceth in the truth;

Beareth all things,
Believeth all things,
Hopeth all things,
Endureth all things.

Charity never faileth:

But whether there be prophecies, they shall fail;
Whether there be tongues, they shall cease;
Whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

For we know in part, and we prophecy in part.

But when that which is perfect is come,
Then that which is in part shall be done away.

When I was a child,
I spake as a child,
I understood as a child,
I thought as a child:
But when I became a man,
I put away childish things.

For now we see through a glass darkly;
But then face to face:

Now I know in part; but then shall I know
Even as I am known.

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three;
But the greatest of these is Charity.

I Corinthians 13

Monday, October 19, 2009

Happiness by A.A. Milne

If you have ever seen a toddler in his very first pair of cowboy boots/winter boots/galoshes, you have witnessed the spirit of this sweet little "pome":

John had
Great Big
Boots on;
John had a
Great Big
John had a
Great Big
Mackintosh --
And that
(Said John)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Candle Apple

Aravis cored an apple and put a tealight in. Isn't it nice?