Friday, August 28, 2009

Passion and Distance and Time and Family. And Love.

It's 10:38pm and everyone else is down for the count, and I really should put the pizza away and go to sleep, but I let myself read blogs tonight and really enjoyed it, and now I want to blog some more myself.

I've been staying away from reading news during the week because I find I am less passionate about the personal things that matter to me when I read too much news and commentary, and I don't want to lose that passion just so I can say I know the horrid state of the world.

I've only been reading emails and yahoo group digests, and that after lunch. And allowing myself to skim Facebook once per day. (Okay, twice. But I know these people in real life and like finding out if my cousin's new job is going well or if the son of my friend from high school enjoyed his first day at school. I'm really bad at face-to-face small talk, and even worse at chatting on the phone, and I think FB is helping with that. But I'm not here to blog about FB.)

Now I've gotten distracted by my own tangents and forgot what I wanted to blog about.


***



I'm going to a family reunion in less than a week, all by myself. Many of the cousins I grew up with will be there. We seem to see each other every few years. I'd like to get together more, but I live way in Texas and they live mostly in California. (I'm the one that moved, but I have to admit I like living in Texas, even though I miss my family. I think my family should move to Texas, I really do. Trust me, it grows on you.)

I wonder what we will talk about. I hope everyone brings lots of memories to tell. I'm running out of good stories for my kids. Every once in awhile on the way home from Wednesday-night church, the kids will beg for childhood stories, and I have told pretty much all I can remember.


***



And now it is 11:10 and really time to put the pizza away and go to sleep. Time waits for no one.

Don't you ever wonder at that? The relentlessness of time. It just keeps coming-- it gets later and later, no matter your intentions-- no matter how worthy the pursuit, time waits for no one. Wild. I've contemplated it with a timer and it is the same. Unyielding. Whether Internetish dilly-dallying or rushing to see a sick friend-- nothing can delay the juggernaut of time. It rolls over everyone.

11:16. See?

Reminds me of a Wendell Berry quote I saw on a blog once. I have never read a Wendell Berry book, but I dearly hope to one day. I liked this quote without even seeing it in context. It seems to capture the supernal quality of love:


Love, sooner or later, forces us out of time. It does not accept that limit. Of all that we feel and do, all the virtues and all the sins, love alone crowds us at last over the edge of the world. For love is always more than a little strange here. We do not make it. If it did not happen to us, we could not imagine it... It is in the world, but is not altogether of it. It is of eternity. It takes us there when it most holds us here.



11:26. Enough. I must get to bed. We are finite beings, we fallen creatures. Time limits us, our physical bodies limit us, our lack of riches limits us. We live within strict limits, whether we accept it or not.

Except, perhaps, in love? And what does that mean, exactly?

High Hopes

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Nesting

We're goin' in. Startin' school tomorrow. And in celebration of the fact that we visted San Antonio not once, not twice, but three times in the last five months, the kids and I decorated the schoolroom fiesta-style.

Sort of a happy-normal-day treatment for back-to-school. :O)))

Aravis says it looks fiestive.

I wish I could post a picture, but we are having issues with our rechargeable batteries and our charger. I'm charging different batteries now, so perhaps I'll post a picture tomorrow evening.

Here are two pretty senoritas who decided to join the party:



And a close-up of the tissue paper flowers:



And here is Mi Tierra in San Antonio. We ate supper there on one of our visits. They really know how to fiesta!



To further the fiesta, Goggy and Grammy brought over frozen chocolate chip waffles and blueberry pancakes. (Just what we need the first day back to a disciplined routine-- a bunch of simple carbs for breakfast! Our taste buds love them, but our brains grow sluggish on such food. I have bacon, so perhaps we will be fine.)

We're having build-your-own-burrito-night for dinner. I meant to have guacamole too, but could not find satisfactory avocadoes. :( Perhaps some will turn up tomorrow.

I don't know what is with me this weekend-- I have had so much energy. I think it must be knowing that this weekend is my last chance until Thanksgiving to get some big things done. I painted the girls' bedroom yesterday, in addition to adding three meals' worth of beans to the freezer, baking a lasagna for church, writing a blog post, and laying out the kids' memory work and recitation assignments. Today we were at church until around 2:30, and then I moved everything back into place in the girls' room, hung pictures, did a load of laundry, talked on the phone with a homeschool friend who is also beginning school this week, had a visit with my parents, helped the girls make festive flowers and tissue cutouts for the schoolroom, and then decorated that room with the help of Aravis. Mariel and Cornflower did some very cool drawings on the chalkboard-- chili peppers, bullfighters, and lovely ladies with flowers in their hair. I suddenly feel the need to set out my copy of Ferdinand.

It sounds like I'm nesting-- that's it! This must be the homeschool version of nesting. It makes perfect sense to nest just before life takes a busy turn, no matter what that turn may be.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Prayer for the School Year

I am a little intimidated by everything we have planned this school year, and am praying for enough self-discipline to get up on time each day and spend awhile with the Lord before the kids get up, and I'm praying that they will get up on time and not be grumpy, and that when they are grumpy and I am running late we will still show our love for one another and for Christ by repenting and forgiving one another.

And I am praying that the Lord will be loud and frequent in His communicating with me about course corrections, and that He will bless me with a spirit that only wants to please Him (and his deputy, Mr. Honey) in administering our homeschool.

And I am praying for a cheerful spirit that greets each day as a new adventure with the Lord and my family, and that we won't get insular and self-focused, and will be able to see and respond to the needs of others.

And when we fail, I am praying that the Lord will convict and then comfort us, and help us to have strong memories of the failure so we remember not to do that again-- without falling into despair, which is so easy to do when you have failed yet again to do what you believe the Lord wants you to do.

And I am praying that we will fly to the Rock that is higher than us, to that Friend of sinners, and that we will cling to the One who came down from Paradise to be our Kinsman-Redeemer, the God-Man-- and that we will joyfully submit to His moulding of us into instruments for His use and glory.

And I am praying that we don't get so distracted by earthly requirements that we forget the reason we are homeschooling, which is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Rock Hugs

My kids often say I don't cuddle them enough. I usually think that is funny, because they lay all over me almost every morning and evening. While we are cuddling, they will say, "You don't hug me enough."

I often reply, "What do you mean? We're hugging right now!"

Then Mariel, who complains about it most frequently, will try to explain that what we are doing right that minute is just not enough, and her explanation will be inadequate to express what she means.

Tonight I hope I figured it out.

There is a hug that provides a shelter for your loved one-- it is a hug that says, "I will stay right here while you deal with whatever you are dealing with. I will not walk away. Nothing is more important than being with you right now. I may not be able to alleviate your burden, but I will be here while you bear it, and I love you no matter what."

Sometimes you can provide that shelter without even hugging, by a touch or a look. But hugs are the best.

It makes me think of the Lord inviting us to run and hide in Him when we are beseiged. The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the LORD, [who is worthy] to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. (Psalm 18:1-3)

We are not the Lord and cannot provide His level of comfort, but we are given to one another to help build each other up. "Two are better than one."

Samwise Gamgee understood this when, as they climbed Mount Doom, he told Frodo, "I may not be able to carry the Ring, but I can carry you!"

(I'm paraphrasing. It's late, and I am not going to look up the exact quote.)

I love to fly to the Rock that is higher than I, to rest in the rifted Rock. His merciful love strengthens me. And we can be a little reflection of the Lord's strength and love to each other, if we pay attention to the struggles and burdens of our loved ones and stop to provide that shelter along the way. A 'rock hug' is a reminder of One who truly can and does protect and shelter us through our trials.

Lord, let me never forget it.

Aravis' AO Year 9 Term 1

*Aravis is the daughter formerly known as Triss, lol.

Bible/Worldview

The Gospel of John (group study)
Trial and Triumph (group study)
Expository Theology by Joseph Holder (series of articles)
The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis

Citizenship

Ourselves by Charlotte Mason
An Essay on Man by Alexander Pope
Life of Romulus by Plutarch (group reading)

Math/Logic

Videotext Algebra
Introductory Logic by James B. Nance and Douglas Wilson

English

Jensen’s Format Writing
Studied Dictation (using Bacon's Essays)
How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler
Our Mother Tongue by Nancy Wilson (grammar)
Simond's History of American Literature
Commonplace book
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
The Taming of the Shrew by Mr. William Shakespeare (group reading)
Poetry of Alexander Pope
Days with Sir Roger de Coverly and Battle of the Books by Richard Steele

Science

Apologia Biology (outside class)
Science fair project
The Naturally Healthy Woman by Shonda Parker
The Microbe Hunters by Paul de Kruif(two chapters only)
Ethics of the Dust by John Ruskin

Life Skills

Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson

History, Geography, Government

Oxford Book of American History by Samuel Eliot Morison
American Historical Documents edited by Harold C. Syrett
History Speaks...Executive Branch of the Government Legislative Branch of the Government by Julia Hargrove
The English Constitution by Walter Bagehot
Following the Equator by Mark Twain
Geography workbook (map work) from Instructional Fair
Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington by Richard Brookhiser
Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
World Magazine (current events)
Are you Liberal, Conservative or Confused? by Richard Maybury

Fine Arts

Drama (outside activity)
Voice lessons
The Singer's Companion by Brent Monahan
Hymnsinging
The Story of Painting by H.W. Janson(one section only)
Art of Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520)
Music of Edward Elgar and Ralph Vaughan Williams (20th Century)

Foreign Language

Spanish II (outside class)

Cornflower's AO Year 3 Term 1

Bible

The Gospel of John (group study)
Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula (group study)
Boy, Have I Got Problems! by Kay Arthur, Janna Arndt
(kids' inductive study on the book of James)

Math

Scott Foresman Exploring Mathematics 3

English

Getty Dubay Italics Workbook D
Copywork
Spelling Wisdom I (studied dictation)
American Tall Tales by Adrien Stoutenberg
Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb
(2 chapters only)
The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
The Heroes by Charles Kingsley
Poetry of William Blake
English from the Roots Up

Science and Nature

All About Famous Inventors and Their Inventions by Fletcher Pratt
Science Lab in a Supermarket by Robert Friedhoffer
Science fair project

History/Geography

This Country of Ours by H.E. Marshall
An Island Story by H.E. Marshall
Child's History of the World by V.M. Hillyer
Da Vinci by Emily Hahn
Marco Polo: Voyager to the Orient by Carol Greene
Geography workbook (mapwork) from Instructional Fair

Fine Arts

Piano lessons
Violin lessons
Hymnsinging
Art of Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520)
Music of Edward Elgar and Ralph Vaughan Williams (20th Century)

P.E.

Ice skating once per week (not any instruction, just exercise)

(I'll mention here that most of these are books that will continue most of the year, and/or have been read slowly for the last two years. And as with Mariel's list, please Google the titles for more info.)

Duly Noted

Triss would like to inform everyone that her blog name is no longer Triss. She will be known as Aravis until further notice.

Mariel's AO Year 6 Term 1

Bible

Gospel of John (group study)
Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula (group study)
Raising Maidens of Virtue by Stacy McDonald

Math

Scott Foresman Exploring Mathematics 6

English

Narration assignments based on The Writer's Jungle (Bravewriter)
Spelling Wisdom II (Studied dictation)
Copywork
Winston Basic/Advanced Grammar
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Taming of the Shrew by Mr. William Shakespeare (group reading)
Poetry of Robert Frost
Age of Fable by Thomas Bulfinch
English from the Roots Up

Science and Nature

The Sciences by Edward Holden
Albert Einstein and the Theory of Relativity by Robert Cwiklik
Science fair project (due in January)
School of the Woods by William Long

History/Geography/Civics

Story of the World Volume 4 by Susan Wise Bauer
The Story of David Livingstone by Vautier Golding
Geography workbook (mapwork) from Instructional Fair
The Life of Romulus by Plutarch (group reading)
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Fine Arts

Drama (outside activity)
Violin lessons/orchestra
Piano lessons
Hymnsinging
Art of Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520)
Music of Edward Elgar and Ralph Vaughan Williams (20th Century)

P.E.

Ice skating once per week (not any instruction, just exercise)

(Please Google these titles if you are interested in exploring them further; I didn't have time to add hyperlinks.)

Christmas in August

Today the kids and I took DART rail into Dallas and saw the Christmas Carol Train. It's in Dallas today and tomorrow, and then heads to the Midwest, and, finally, up and down the East Coast.

My favorite part was getting to view all the Dickens manuscripts and other source documents on loan from the Dickens Museum. We saw pages from Dickens' original manuscript for "A Christmas Carol", letters he wrote, manuscripts and copies of his notes on his visit to America, and scripts from play versions of "A Christmas Carol", one of his quill pens, and an inkstand.

Triss' favorite part was learning about motion-capture animation-- oh, wait, I think it is called mocap by those in the know. ;o) And "when it includes face, fingers and captures subtle expressions, it is often referred to as 'performance capture.'" (Wikipedia) There were videos of the actors working in white rooms, wearing jumpsuits with sensors all over-- they even had tiny sensors all over their faces! Looked like purple chicken pox. Triss commented on how much physical acting goes into making a mocap animation. I think it would be especially challenging to stay in character in a white room with all those sensors on you.

We also saw computer animation of the actors moving, looking like dot-to-dots-- Triss said the dots were points of capture, or animation points, she wasn't sure-- and then the same video with muscle and skin added (it looked like they wore leotards), and we think there was a video of the animated characters with full costumes wrapped around the animation points and fleshed-out bodies, but we only caught a glimpse of it.

I had no idea it was so complicated. The kids told me I ought to watch the special features with them after we watch an animated DVD, so I can be more 'in the know'. Triss is just fascinated by computer animation.

After walking through the special effects car, we were invited to use computers to have the kids' pictures taken and their faces 'morphed' into characters from the movie.

We walked outside and were greeted by Christmas carollers in full Dickensian dress. (Bet they were hot.) Mariel and Cornflower were enchanted by snow swirling in the TX August heat, until they realized it was soap foam. It floated just like snow, too.

And we watched 3D previews of the movie in an inflatable movie theater. That was a novelty. I've read about inflatable buildings in the last year, and was curious to see one in person.

The preview included Scrooge's visit with Marley's ghost at the beginning of the story, and that was a bit scary, especially in 3D. For the most part, the characters in this movie aren't as 'prettied up' as regular Disney characters. It was not a pleasure to look Marley's ghost full in the face in 3D.

The kids and I read Oliver Twist together this past year, and I read A Tale of Two Cities and Hard Times last year as well. Triss is due to read A Tale of Two Cities this year. So, given our current Dickens interest, and the new movie coming out, we decided to read "A Christmas Carol" either before or after Thanksgiving. It bothers me to read it before the Christmas season, but the movie comes out November 6th-- one more strategic move in the insidious plot to prolong the Christmas shopping season, sigh. Then we want to go as a family to see the movie at the IMAX theater. The movie will be shown in regular theaters too, but the IMAX version will be 3D.

***


I'm so thankful that the ladies on our local homeschool yahoo group work together to keep everyone posted about opportunities in the community-- I hadn't even heard about the Christmas Carol train until last week.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Old Testament Survey

The girls and I finished our first group read-through of the Old Testament this summer-- after only six years of reading. (We were studying Psalms, Proverbs, the Gospels and some character-type studies during Bible time in addition to OT study in those six years, lol.) We used the Greenleaf Guide to Old Testament History, and greatly appreciated the helps and questions provided in that guide.

We will be dealing with John and Romans this fall, but in January we will delve into the Old Testament once again-- starting at Genesis and ending at Malachi.

(Sort of off-topic, but I just realized that if it takes us six years to make it through the second time, Mariel will have begun the first OT study in kindergarten and ended the second OT study as a senior in high school.)

I had thought that we would just read through it this time, using the historical and geographical comments in my Life Application Study Bible, but I wasn't very excited about that prospect. I wanted to read-through again, but I wanted a new guide. I have questions that haven't been answered, and I feel like such a dullard trying to make sense of the OT sometimes. Then I was looking for another book and I found that someone has written a survey of the Old Testament, giving the broad picture.

Oh yes, I am very excited about this. I have been about the broad picture of history for the last year and a half. The the book is Understanding Your Bible by Elder Michael Gowens, and I already hold it in my hot little hand. I'm going to use it to help me in my personal read-through of the OT, and then in January I will use it as a guide in our group Bible study. (I have a personal goal of reading all the way through the Bible this year, and in the OT I have only made it to Judges. I am in Luke in the NT. I'm going to have to do a lot of reading to get through the entire Bible by December.)

I've only skimmed a few pages and already I am fascinated. A quote:

I believe that the Bible is a book of one story, not a kind of encyclopedia giving a little information about a variety of subjects which may or may not be connected to each other. Even though the Bible is comprised of two testaments, sixty-six books, and one thousand one hundred eighty-nine chapters; and although it was penned by at least forty human authors on three continents in three languages over a period of about fourteen hundred years; and even though it contains a wide variety of literary genres and forms, yet the Bible is one book simply because a common theme binds it all together.


Oh yes, very excited. I'm going to go read my book now.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Written by Triss

Triss is letting me post this episode from one of her stories. She said to ask if you want to know what any of the elvish names mean (she's a little obsessed with languages right now). She also let me read a pretty creation story (for a parallel universe of some kind) that she wrote a couple of months ago, and I am hoping she will let me post that soon, or else will post it on her own blog.

Here is her elf-episode:

Backstory: Lilac and Liran are twin pixies who are with the quest to bring an enchanted stone back to its creators. They are not in the council with the rest of the Questers right now because they weren't interested (they're about 11 or 11.5 whereas the other questers are at least 14) and so they're playing with the elfchildren who live in Rayfall Valley, which is where the Questers have gotten to.

~~~~~~

Lilac and Liran were having a splendid time. They had been invited into a special game some of the elfchildren were playing. Lynlas was wearing a long black cloak and a black hood over his face. “I’m Ossanta Darkwing, a dragon of Noran, and I’ve invaded Rayfall!” he explained to them. “You’ve got to give me to the count of ten, and I’ll run and hide somewhere. Then some of you will stay and be at the castle, or in the tree-city, and some of you will come and be the dragonhunters. You can choose which group you want to be in.”

Liran chose to be a dragonhunter, and was given a long wooden sword and a sturdy small shield. Lilac decided to stay in the tree-city, having mastered the swinging bridges and ropes, and to her surprise was given a smaller sword. “Ladies that stay at home might need to protect themselves or their homes,” said Alosse, another elfmaiden who had chosen to stay in the tree-city. “That’s why we need swords as much as the dragonhunters.”

Eralyr gathered them into a ring, and the children began counting, with their eyes closed so that Lynlas would have a fair chance. Lynlas was gone when all eyes opened again.

“I choose Lilac for my Lady,” cried Eralyr, who had taken a shine to the pixie-girl.

“What?” asked Lilac, surprised.

“I choose you for my Lady. That means if I kill the dragon, I’m doing it in your honor. Will you be my Lady? Please,” he added, politely. Lilac, blushing, nodded.

Liran shrugged, rather uninterested in this custom. “I choose Joyelin for my Lady,” he said. The pretty elfmaiden handed him a filmy scarf. He looked at Eralyr. “What’s the scarf for?”

“That’s her favor,” Eralyr explained. “It means she accepts you. You tie it to your helmet, or your sword-hilt.” Liran knotted the fabric to the hilt of his sword.

Lilac handed Eralyr her lavender hair-ribbon.

“That’s the best favor I have. I hope it’ll tie right,” she said, a little anxiously.

Eralyr gallantly tied the ribbon to the top of his small helmet. “It’s a splended favor, Lady Lilac,” he said. “Let’s go hunt a dragon!”

All the elf-boys rushed off, together with a few of the more warlike maidens. Most of the girls had chosen to remain in the tree-city. “How do we know where Lyn – where Ossanta Darkwing went?” Liran asked.

“We don’t,” answered Kayalan, the elfmaid running next to him. “But we wouldn’t know where a real dragon was if it came to Rayfall. Eralyr’s our captain, so we follow where he leads.”

Liran concentrated on following Eralyr. It took concentration, as the elf-boy darted through the trees with the speed of a deer. The pixie soon found himself near the back of the group. He couldn’t run as fast as an elf. Soon Eralyr halted.

“We need to split up,” he said. “Kayalan, you take some of them and scan the north end of the valley. I’ll take some and scan the south.”

Lilac spotted Arisar, a blond elf about her own age, sitting up in one of the great trees. “What are you doing, Arisar?” she called. The elfmaid beckoned her up to the branch.

“I’m the guard of the tree-city,” she explained. “I watch for if the dragon attacks us, or if the dragonhunters are returning. Do you want to help?”

Lilac nodded. Suddenly Arisar stiffened. “Look over there!” she said, her voice low and excited. Lilac looked, and saw a dark figure in the trees close to the little play-city underneath the trees. Nobody had seen him yet but the two guards.

“Is that Ossanta Darkwing?” Lilac breathed. The game had become almost real to her, in the company of the imaginative elves. Her home seemed truly under attack from a terrible black dragon. Arisar snatched up a small silver horn from her side and winded it as loudly as she could.

The call rang out over the valley, high and clear. Down beneath them in the tree-city, the girls looked up from their occupations and laid their hands on their weapons. Across the river, Eralyr spun about.

“That’s the horn of the tree-city!” he cried. “The dragon’s attacking!”

Arisar gave Lilac her hand and the two girls jumped down from the tree. Ossanta leapt from the branch where he had been crouching. He roared. The girls screamed.

Ossanta leapt over the line of pebbles which marked the boundary of the tree-city.

Arisar grabbed Lilac’s shoulder.

“Lilac, get all the girls together and lead them to safety!” she shouted. “Get them to the most protected place you can find and stay there! Wait for the dragonhunters!”

Lilac found herself, for the first time in her life, in a position of leadership.

She had no idea what to do.

“Retreat!” she cried, her voice shrill. “Follow me!”

The girls ran after Lilac, who ran to the safest place she could think of – the huge hollow tree that housed the armory. The elf-girls sat down on the floor, and Lilac pulled the heavy door shut.

“Good job,” said Joyelin, panting a little. “Have you ever played this game before?”

“Never,” Lilac replied.

Kayalan, being the closest, had led her force to the tree-city as soon as possible.

Arisar was battling Ossanta. Kayalan drew her sword. “Charge! Fight for Rayfall!” she cried, racing to the dragon. The elves, and Liran, followed her.

Liran was excited. This was better than the games at home. He drew his own sword and ran to the black shape, who spun around to face the oncoming warriors. The dragon roared. Liran stabbed at him with the wooden sword.

“Ow!” Lynlas poked his head out of the hood. “Be careful, you silly.”

“Sorry,” Liran apologized. “I got to thinking you were really a dragon.”

Lynlas dropped the hood back over his face. “I am a dragon!” he said, with a hiss. “And I am not alone!” He raised his cloak wide like wings.

On this cue, seven of the elf-boys leapt out of the trees. They all wore black cloaks too, but more close-fitting, as though they were the seven Shadowriders.

Liran recognized two of the boys before they ran to the fray, wielding black-painted swords. Eralyr’s force was still making it across the river, and Kayalan’s small army was about to be overwhelmed by the Shadows’ furious onslaught, when…

A bell rang out, somewhere across the valley. IarĂ«n, a redheaded elf, sat up from underneath one of the Shadowriders. “Lunchtime!” he cried. The battle was swiftly abandoned.

But the bell wasn’t only for lunch. It was also to summon the older elves back to the treecastle. More people, with news, had arrived.

Everything That Comes to Mind Post

I am currently avoiding the dinner dishes. I really should have the kids do them, but they are watching Mansfield Park.

Right before we said grace at dinner, Mariel asked if we would all squish her. We sometimes put one person in the middle of the circle of family and then do a group hug. The person in the middle gets squished.

So we did. It wasn't enough, so she got bear hugs from each of us afterward, and then Cornflower needed a little squishing.

***


I have been reading the Mitford books this summer. I read the first and second ones this past spring, and then gave all the moms in my life the first Mitford book for Mother's Day. My mom got so hooked that she purchased the next several in the series, and is now lending them to me as she finishes reading them. Hee hee.

***


I am laying out the work for the first term of school. Mr. Honey and I went through the first term's books and curriculums last night and decided which things have priority and which can fall off if necessary to keep the girls and I sane. I appreciated that so much. It will be good to have a "time and schoolwork budget" to refer to when difficult decisions have to be made.

***


Cornflower made us lunch this afternoon. She made a lovely sign and hung it on the counter. It said:

The Buzzing Bee
Feastraunt

Menu

Mac'n Cheese
and more


Feastraunt, I love it. Her older sister asked if that was a misspelling, but Cornflower said no, it was a FEASTraunt, not a restaurant.

There were ice pops for dessert.

***


I am still reading Seeking the Face of God and am a little over halfway through it. I keep rereading chapters so it is slow going. I have been astounded by the truth contained in this book. For instance:

"We do not keep ourselves virtuous by our own power, but by the counterbalance of two opposing vices, just as we stay upright between two contrary winds. Take one of these vices away and we fall into the other."

That was Blaise Pascal. It seems we have nothing to do then, but to despair of ever being good, right? But the ancient Christians recommend that we run and bury our faces in the robes of our Father when confronted with temptation, begging the Lord to help us, and refuse to give in to temptation:

"...Let us use temptation to remind us to think of Him, our soul's true delight."

I have often wondered why I feel more Stoic than Christian when trying to be good. I think it must be because I attempt to use my own strength to keep myself from sinning rather than running to the Rock when tempted.

***


I also just finished previewing The Problem of Pain. Triss and I are going to read it together this first term. I thought it was pretty interesting-- I certainly found some ideas I hadn't considered before, like Lewis' idea of what powers man's nature might have included before the Fall. I'm still not sure I can go where he went on that one. But it is interesting to ponder, and does emphasize the immensity of what was lost.

Someone else who has read the book said that Lewis had a whiny tone. I think it must be difficult to write a book entitled The Problem of Pain without coming across as whiny, at least at times.

***


Cornflower and I are finishing up Robin Hood by Howard Pyle. Today we read about Robin's attempt to trick Midge the Miller, and how it backfired on him. Triss was doing dishes and listening while we read, and after we were done, she said, "Those people in Robin Hood are such... boys."

It would be unusual to find a girl who, after hearing a ruckus in the woods, would say, 'Sounds like some heads are being cracked in another part of the forest! What fun-- let's go watch!'" They fight fellow travelers (who are more than willing to give them a run for their money), then laugh, share their victuals and invite them to be part of the band. And the travellers consent! That is such a boy way to act. I used to wonder what was the value of reading Robin Hood, but I think we must need it at least in part to remind ourselves what boyhood used to look like, and, hopefully, still does in some circles.

Robin and his men sang some merry songs in today's chapter, and Cornflower read one aloud, the ballad of Sir Keith, which is very gallant. I would love to hear it set to music. Cornflower, who is just learning to read poetry aloud, recited it with heavy emphasis on rhythm. I think she was making sure it scanned properly.

***


I keep thinking about this World Magazine article Triss told me about, regarding how to think about millions, billions and trillions: a million seconds ago was twelve days ago; a billion seconds ago was thirty years ago; and a trillion seconds ago was 30,000 B.C.-- over 32,000 years ago. Each new little word increases the number of whatever-it-is exponentially.

***


Well, I need to kiss the girls good-night, do my dishes and read my Mitford book. Have a great evening, or day, or whatever it is in your part of the world.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

One Year Financial Update

I dealt with the nicest credit card customer service person yesterday. She was so helpful that I almost asked if she was a Dave Ramsey disciple who had gone to work at the credit card company in order to help folks reduce their servitude to the banks. She lowered our interest rate, which had been at 19.99% since a year ago (due to a bill last August that we had paid pro rata while beginning to turn our financial ship around) and also helped me transfer a good portion of our other credit card debt to this company with a blessed 1.99% interest rate-- and I do mean blessed, because that other credit card company has been charging us 29.99% and when I talked to them on the phone about reducing their usurous rate* they basically said, "tough luck" and "you made your bed, now lie in it" and other things of an unmerciful and ungracious nature. The accomodating customer service rep also gave us a $30 credit on our account to avoid the possibility that the balance transfer might send us above our credit limit.

All of this adds up to a savings of $155 per month on finance charges for at least the next eight months.

That awful rate on the second credit card bill was eating our lunch, I'll tell you. We hadn't made much progress on our debt for months, despite sending around $700 or more combined every month to those two companies. We were paying $300 per month in finance charges, combined. It was terribly discouraging.

Also, for the sake of honesty I want to mention that we went to paying the minimums for the summer, which has always been the most expensive time of year for us, what with visiting family and friends and preparing for the new school year. This is not what Dave recommends, but I just don't know how to not go see my family every year, especially my 84yo grandparents. But we did not go further into debt to do it. So I guess we aren't living with quite as much gazelle-like intensity as we should, but like I said earlier, I just can't say "no seeing far away friends and family" if there is some way we can visit. (And yes, it is all me. Mr. Honey is much better at being disciplined where travel expenses are concerned.) And we would both rather not have homeschooling be a casualty of our financial stupidity, although the idea of giving it up has been discussed. (And discarded. But it has been discussed. We know that homeschooling puts an additional financial burden on us.) But we are back to putting everything** not necessary for basic living onto the credit cards, and I have a hope that we will have it all paid off in one year (oh, please, let us pay it off in one year).

For the record, we are down to $11,700 on credit card debt, from $17,000 one year ago.

Also, here is an example of that awful thinking that gets me into trouble: A couple of days ago I was at the Kroger and saw a nice seven-piece patio set for $187.99, which included a large rectangular wrought-iron and glass table, four cushioned wrought-iron seats, an umbrella and umbrella stand. This is a great deal in our area for a patio set, and I have wanted one for at least five years. (We have a table that we got for free, but no seating.) I immediately decided I was going to push for buying that table with Mr. Honey, rationalizing that it was such an killer deal and we had the money... in our emergency fund... As I began to talk through the idea, the Lord thankfully revealed to me that a killer deal on a patio set is not an emergency. Shucks. I didn't even notice that until I started trying to convince another person that this was a good idea.

What a sinner I am. This is the kind of thinking that keeps us under the power of the credit card companies, even if we don't go into debt to make purchases. If we are in debt, we need to forego a lot of things and focus on paying off the debt as soon as possible.

So I guess you could say that financial decisions continue to be a struggle for me. Prayers for wisdom and resistance to temptation are appreciated.

This may be too much honesty for some people, and if it is, I apologize. But light dispels darkness, and I want to call my financial sin what it is. I want folks to know that regular people that others think are upstanding quietly wrestle with sin like this. (Only, obviously, I am not being quiet about it. And perhaps there aren't many people that think we are upstanding, but it seems like people think that.)

*The rate on this other account was a result of the same pro rata decision last August, as well as our occasional failure to pay on time despite good intentions, because the payment due date was too close to Mr. Honey's payday and if I didn't get the payment in the mail the absolute moment his check hit our account, it would be one day overdue. I know, I should have called and had them change the due date the first month it happened, but I kept forgetting, and I really despise talking to those people on the phone. How expensive was my carelessness and repulsion!

**I just realized that this sounds like we are charging things on the credit card, but what I mean is that we are putting all *money* not necessary for daily living on the credit card debt. That was a little confusing.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Summer Fun with Photos

(Click on photos to enlarge)

These are by Mariel:





These are mine:



Matter and Energy: A Creative Narration

We were going through some old papers today and found this narration from when Triss was twelve years old (6th grade). I think it is a nice example of creativity where narration is concerned. Her assignment was to write a news article on her science reading.

For years, scientists have thought that burning a material added phlogiston to it. Phlogiston is a type of matter which has negative weight, which means that when it is added to a matter, the material got lighter. A Frenchman named Lavoisier found that phlogiston didn't exist. He wrote The Narration News this letter when he found out how it worked.

Dear Narration News,

I have just discovered that phlogiston is nonexistent! When you grind a rock, you can grind it as fine as you like and the wind can carry it away, but it is still a rock. It has merely changed its form from rock to rock dust. When you burn paper it changes its form to ashes. But those ashes are still paper!

Thank you,
L.L. Lavoisier


Next time someone is grinding a rock, you, my dear reader, will know what to say when some toddler tugs your shirt and asks, "Where did the rock go?"

Dear Reporter: Thank you for telling me about this. I always wondered why matter seems to get smaller. But I have one short question: Why are a lot of inventors and scientists French?


She had a few problems with grammar and tense, but I still think her narration was pretty neat!

Monday, August 03, 2009

And the Days Go By

I'm revamping my teacher's binder for the new school year, and I just realized I do not need to keep the Alphabet Island character cards in there anymore. All of the girls are past working on phonics with Innocent "I", Tired "T" and Hopeful "H".

Bittersweet.

:hums: "Sunrise, sunset..."

Such big girls I have. Such persons they are. Oy.