Monday, December 27, 2010

Out and About

We enjoyed a wonderful Christmas with my extended family at my parents' house and a nice snowfall, too, much to the girls' delight!  And now we are onto other adventures.  I'm going to take a short break from blogging this week to simply be.  And in the new year, I'll report on what we did.

Also, I'm planning a few additions and alterations in our homeschool.  I'm still cogitating.  But stay tuned for updates!

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

And God Bless Us, Every One

Christmas Eve.  A clear, cold day.  Hot tea in a lovely cup, with just a hint of sugar.  Ginger crinkles, meltingly warm from the oven.  Lovely music playing in the house.  The promise of church later this afternoon and children singing.  The anticipation of an after-church Christmas Eve get-together with friends, an annual tradition.  An almost full moon and a sparkling of stars thrown across the night sky.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. . . For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.   Isaiah 9:2, 6
Glory to God in the Highest!

God's blessings to you and your family this holiest of days.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What I'm Listening to Right Now...

Christmas Treat Boxes for Neighbors and Marvelous Mocha Fudge Recipe

No one who knows me will ever confuse me with a Martha Stewart masochist, but I took the plunge and made treat boxes for some neighbors and friends this year.  Six of them.  But still.  Here's what they look like:

And here's what's in them, clockwise from the top left: German chocolate/chocolate chip cookies, marvelous mocha fudge, ginger chewies, cranberry bark, forgotten cookies, and saltine toffee.

Since I've been kvetching about the "marvelous" mocha fudge on Facebook, and then I recanted, since it really is marvelous, I thought I should at least post the recipe.  So here 'tis:

Marvelous Mocha Fudge
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup evaporated milk
3 T. instant coffee granules
2 T. butter
1/4 t. salt
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. cinnamon
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine first five ingredients in a heavy saucepan and bring to a full rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Boil and stir for 3 to 4 minutes (I chose 3 minutes); remove from heat.  Stir in marshmallows until completely melted.  Let mixture cool for a couple of minutes, then stir in chocolate chips, cinnamon, and vanilla.  Mixture will be stiff and dry-looking.  Press into an 8 x 8 pan lined with aluminum foil.  Refrigerate until firm, about 2 to 3 hours.  Lift fudge from pan and cut into pieces.

This is a drier, old-fashioned fudge recipe.  It has a creamy "mouthfeel" (I'm stealing that term from wine snobs) and a rich, delicious taste.  Everyone whose had some gives it a big thumbs-up -- even Himself, who doesn't really care for chocolate.  High praise, indeed!

Forgotten Cookies

This morning, I continued my Christmas treat-making with saltine toffee, cranberry bark, and forgotten cookies.  A variety of what is known as meringues in fancier circles, forgotten cookies are easy and ambrosial.  Below is a quote regarding meringues from

Meringue Cookies are airy, sweet and crisp that seem to almost melt in your mouth. I love how the outsides of the meringues are nice and crisp, yet the insides remain wonderfully soft and puffy, almost like mini-Pavlovas. While I often eat these just as they are, they also make a very nice plated dessert that you can top with whipped cream, ice cream, sorbet, and/or fresh fruit.
Or you can eat them as I do: cramming them into my mouth in large quantities while striving to maintain my natural ladylike manners. Ahem.

So called because they are left for several hours in a preheated -- and then turned OFF -- oven, forgotten cookies differ from meringues in that they include chocolate chips and sometimes chopped nuts. There are different versions of the same basic recipe: some recipes (like mine) include other flavorings, like vanilla, while others do not. Some add a touch of salt, and some use less sugar. I've even seen one recipe for forgotten cookies that adds shredded coconut. And I've wondered about using other flavorings besides vanilla, such as peppermint or almond.

I'd post a photo of mine, but they're in the oven right now, and if I open the door, they'll be ruined. So click here to see a lot of photos.

Forgotten Cookies
2 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips (I sometimes use mini chips)
1 cup chopped pecans, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry.  Add sugar gradually, beating after each addition.  Add remaining ingredients and stir to mix.  Drop by teaspoon onto parchment paper-covered cookie sheets.  Place in oven.  Turn oven OFF and let sit in oven overnight or for several hours.  Do not open oven door.  Makes about 3 dozen or so.  Store in airtight containers.

I use semi-sweet chocolate chips and omit the nuts, as my family does not love nuts in baked goods.  For a Christmas theme, you could tint the mixture red or green before baking, if you'd like.  And they make a great addition to a cookie platter since they are a perfect counterpoint to dough cookies.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Delights

Isn't Christmas lovely?  We are taking time this week to enjoy some of its special enticements.  At our house, I'm the one who enjoys treat-making; the girls prefer Christmas crafts.  It's become tradition for them to paint two or three Christmas pieces, which we date with Sharpie on the back.

This morning, they painted village houses and ornaments, purchased at Michaels, while Christmas music played on the stereo.

Yesterday, I baked German chocolate/chocolate chip cookies, ginger crinkles, and sesame parmesan thins.  The latter was a first for me, and about one third of them crumbled as I removed them from the cookie sheet after baking.  They were still tasty!  On Sunday, I made another batch of mocha fudge; this time, I mixed the marshmallows in first, stirred til they melted completely, and let the mixture cool a few minutes before adding the chocolate chips.  Alas, the result was the same as last week.  My conclusion: this is just a dry, crumbly, yet delectable fudge.

Today, I'm planning to make cranberry bark and saltine toffee.  Himself asked this morning as I described my plans for the day, "What are you going to do with all this stuff?"  I opted not to point out the obvious (eat it), and answered instead, "I'm giving it to neighbors."  Which I am.  Six cute cookie boxes, three tins, and several decorted treat bags await to be filled with all sorts of goodies.  After the girls and I nibble a few, that is.  You should know that Himself is not a sweets lover, so it's up to the girls and me to make up the difference.

Well, somebody's got to do it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up: Deck Them Halls

Our last week of structured school before we take our Christmas/New Year's break!  This week we hit the high points: Bible, copywork, math, French, piano, grammar, spelling, and, of course, our independent reading.  We even took some time to study the digestive system.  Click here to discover some of the online resources we were delighted to find.  But we were busy with other activities, too!
Monday was Jasper's first birthday, and we celebrated big. 
Wednesday was my dad's 70th birthday, and he and my mother came to visit.  We all went to church that evening for the fellowship meal and (drumroll!) the children's Christmas musical.  Tiny Girl sung one of the solos (in French) and Miss Priss served as one of four narrators.  The drive home was tricky, though.  Our area has had unseasonably cold weather this week, and the rain quickly made icy, treacherous roads.  It took us almost an hour to get home from church, and we had to turn around once to find an alternate route.  Thankfully, we made it home safely!  I was at the wheel, as Himself met us at church on his way from work, and I have no interest in duplicating that experience any time soon.
We've been decking our halls in the last two weeks, a bit at a time.  I thought I'd display some of my old favorites in ornamentation:

This candy cane came from my parents' first Christmas tree way back in 1965.

My sisters and I loved the dancing Santas when we were children!

 I made this ball in the fourth grade and it has miraculously survived several moves.

We have two of these nativity ornaments.  Hand-carved in Israel, they were gifts from the girls' baptisms a few Christmas Eves ago.

And here's our tree in all its glory.
We don't have a decorator tree.  Nor do we have what I've heard someone call a "junk tree": one with all the handmade ornaments that dare not sully the other, lovelier tree.  No, our one Christmas tree proudly displays fancy, store-bought ornaments alongside a myriad of handmade, child-made ornaments.  Those are treasures to me.

Posted by PicasaMiss Priss received a Christmas Tree in a Box for her birthday last month.  She loved putting it together.

My first treat-making session was a disaster.  The Marvelous Mocha Fudge was not.  I followed the directions perfectly, but when I added the chocolate chips, marshmallows, vanilla, and cinnamon to the hot, cooked milk, sugar, butter, and instant coffee crystals mixture, the chocolate seized; the result was a fudge that's hard and a bit grainy.  The flavor is wonderful, though!  My dear friend, Jennifer, at Half-Baked Homeschool assured me that traditional fudge is crumbly and a bit dry.  Since she is a trained chef, I felt better.  But I still can't give it as gifts.    I guess I'll have to eat it myself!  I think I'll try again and add the chocolate chips last, after the mixture has cooled a bit.  If you have any ideas, please share!

Blessings from our home to yours for a wonderful, peaceful, blessed Christmastime.  Veni, veni, Emmanuel!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What Goes In. . . Links for Studying the Digestive System

A gloomy day here in the American South.  We had icy streets last night, making it slick going as we drove home from the children's Christmas musical at church.  Today is above freezing, but rainy.  A perfect day for a hot cup of Darjeeling, which now sits by my mousepad.

As I mentioned in my last Weekly Wrap-Up, we are studying the digestive system in science.  I found some neat online resources that have jazzed up our educational pursuits in this arena.  I thought I'd share them with you.

This Google page, Images for Digestive System for Kids, features a ton of images, available online.  I liked several because they were easy to study and others because they featured digestive organs in different colors to stand out.  Also, if you click on an image, you can see on which website it resides, giving you a host of research options.

One of the images I selected linked to a neat article for kids that explains the digestive process in a fun, but not silly, way.  "The Real Deal on the Digestive System" even offers a nifty diagram with mouse roll-over information and easy pronunciation guides (esophagus can be tricky if you've never heard it before!)

I also found a few games that the girls enjoyed.  The Canadian Museum of Nature website features a "Build a Digestive System" drag-and-drop game, both for a human body and a bison.  (!)  My girls played both, and it was an interesting comparison activity.  After the game is over, the website jumps into a computer-generated video that follows an alimentary bolus (basically, a small portion of food) through the digestive system.  We loved this.  Tiny Girl said, "It's like a roller coaster!" features an All Systems Go drag-and-drop game that we liked, as well.

This website, neoK12, had lots of great online activities, videos, and games.  We particularly enjoyed the Digestive Organs Quiz #1.  We also found some interesting videos, like this one, which is about 4.5 minutes long:

Health: Digestive System 101
More educational games & videos on Digestive System at  

It went into a tad more detail than we have been learning, but there's nothing wrong with that!

A quick Google search for "digestive system games" and "digestive system for kids" yielded WAY more results than one family needs; but that's a good thing.  These interactive games and videos greatly enhanced our understanding of the digestive system and underscored the material we'd already covered in our two books, Uncover the Human Body and An Illustrative Adventure in Human Anatomy.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Happy Birthday, Little Guy!

It's Jasper's first birthday today, and are we ever excited! We've celebrated throughout the day. His "Grandma Leslie," (breeder and first mom) sent him a package containing two new toys and a neat book, The Watching: A Corgi Puppy's Christmas Surprise, which has wonderful artwork. He also got some delicious treats from a fancy bakery for canines, as well as a small birthday cake. What can I say? We love the little guy!

Here he is soon after we brought him home.  Look at that face!

On the boat in Maine.

The birthday boy with one of his new toys!
Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 10, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up: A Touch of Christmas. . .

 . . .always livens things up, don't you think?

This week, we decorated our Christmas tree, made our lists and checked them twice, put up our outside lights (we go for the tacky look), watched Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown, made and froze some cookie dough, and read The Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry, which brought me to tears, seriously impeding my read-aloud voice.  We also went to the barn twice, had our last piano lessons for a few weeks, went to tumbling, attended choir practice, and visited both the orthodontist and the dentist.  Oh, and we managed to find time for our lessons.

In history, we studied Louis XIV, the Sun King, who was responsible for the Palace of Versailles.  Both girls read and enjoyed Cecile: Gates of Gold, a title in the Girls of Many Lands series, which takes place at the Sun King's court.  We also spent time perusing the Versailles website, oohing and ahhing over the photos, and trying to imagine actually living in a place like that.

The digestive system was our focus in science this week.  We used the books Uncover the Human Body and An Illustrated Adventure in Human Anatomy (actually a much more fun and interesting book than it sounds) in our discoveries.  I'd forgotten some of this stuff, so it was fun to re-learn it.

We completed the Mind Benders A2 book in logic, and attacked plural and possessive nouns in grammar.  In our Plutarch studies, Caesar has just declared himself dictator of Rome, but only for 11 days.  In our Keys for Kids devotion and Bible study, we discussed how we often take the Scriptures for granted, believing in Jesus even though we can't see Him, and the sin of disobedience.  In spelling, both girls have almost wrapped up their individual levels.  Copywork, math, and French are going along as they should.

However, all is not rosy.  Every week, I schedule Latin for Miss Priss and me, and every week it gets shoved aside.  Also, we've fallen behind in our timeline book.    I know I need to address these slights, but I'm not sure what to do to get back in the groove.  Something to think about over our break.

I'm planning a light week next week and adding in some more Christmas activities.  Then we'll take two weeks off, although we'll still take time to read.

How was your week?  To read more Wrap-Ups, pop over the Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Happy Advent!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

1 Corinthians 13: The Christmas Version

A friend of mine sent this out to remind us of the important things in this season of crazy busy-ness.  I hope it speaks to you as it did to me.

1 Corinthians 13: The Christmas Version

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love, I am just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love, I am just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.

Love is kind, though harried and tired.

Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way.

Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.

Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust, but giving the gift of love will endure.

-- by Rita Buckner Smith

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

In the Dark of the Morning

"Mama, I had a bad dream!"

Early morning.  Still dark out.  The king-sized bed with warm flannel sheets is a cozy, safe sanctuary.  Within moments, she is sound asleep, curled up by my side.  I breathe in her sweet, sleepy scent.

A little while later, Himself and I arise to begin our day.  And still she sleeps.  Through the showers and other daily routines, through our getting dressed, our morning conversations, and some housekeeping tasks, she sleeps on, oblivious to the goings-on around her.

How many more mornings, I wonder, are left before she no longer needs to crawl into bed with Mama and Daddy after a bad dream?

Oh, precious child.  What a blessing it is to be your mama.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

More Christmas Treat Ideas

Well, so much for my choosing only a couple of treats to make and share this year.  I keep getting emails and visiting websites and blogs featuring all sorts of tempting recipes for the Christmas season.  Take the two here, for example, from the Kraft website:

One Bowl Cranberry Bark seems really easy and delicious, two of my requirements if I'm to keep my sanity.  Since the recipe calls for dried cranberries, you could use the orange- or cherry-infused Craisins for a variety of flavors.

Buckeye Bars sound fabulous!  A dear friend of mine and her family make hundreds of Buckeyes to hand out to their friends each Christmas; I have to say, those of us fortunate enough to land a bag of these particular delights look forward to it every year!  But all that rolling and dipping. . .  pure tedium.  These bars, however, promise all the lusciousness of buckeyes with less work.  What's not to love?

Happy treat-making and eating (of course!)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Celebration of a Beautiful Live, Well Lived

We got home from Tennessee last night.  It was a good trip, despite and also due to, in part, the circumstances: the celebration of my sweet Mam-ma's beautiful life.  We cried, of course, but we also told funny stories (my Mam-ma was a hoot!) and shared memories.  Some of the stories were familiar to me, but others were new and delightful in their novelty.
She died on November 29, and her 92nd birthday would have been tomorrow, December 3.  For the last few years she languished in a nursing home, caught up in various illnesses that held both her mind and body hostage, not knowing who we were but always glad to see us (when she was awake, that is -- she slept much of the time the last two years).  But that is all over, and she knows every one of us again.

She was the sweetest person I have ever know, and I mean that sincerely.  I never saw her angry, and I never heard her say anything harsh or critical about anyone or anything.  Her smile was almost a permanent expression.  And she had the best sense of humor!  The most she ever said to us kids when we misbehaved was, "Now, Ellen," (fill in the name with that of whoever was acting ugly) to remind us that we knew better.  Infinitely patient, she treated each of her loved ones the same -- a gigantic feat -- and, as a consequence, we all felt special and beloved.  Moreover, she didn't limit her giving to her family; she reached out to friends, neighbors, and the community at large in a way most of us aspire to do, but don't.  She was a true servant, an embodiment of God's grace, mercy, and love, and we know we were blessed to have been part of her family.  If only I could be more like her!

A friend sent me this poem in prose, so to speak, saying that it gave her comfort after her mother passed away.  I felt the same and wanted to share it with you:

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.

She is an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch her until at length she is only a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky meet and mingle with each other. Then someone at my side exclaims, "There, she's gone!"

Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all. She is just as large in hull and mast and spar as she was when she left my side, and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of her destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment when someone at my side says, "She's gone," there are other eyes watching for her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, "There, she comes!"

And that is dying.

-- Henry Van Dyke, circa 1925
So  on Tuesday and Wednesday of this past week, we who are still here praised God for Edna Shadden Davis and rejoiced at the joyful reunion we knew had taken place when she arrived home.  Now she will be watching for each of us in the years to come.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Time to Mourn

My Mama called this morning with the sad news that my paternal grandmother, whom we all called Mam-ma (it's an east Tennessee thing), passed away last night.  My immediate reaction was, "Oh no!" and tears, which alarmed the girls greatly.  But the truth is that blessings abound.

She'd lived in a nursing home for several years, beset with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, and she slept most of the time.  She'd been a widow for 41 years, and all but one of her siblings predeceased her.  Imagine the reunion!  Finally, her passing seemed peaceful; there were no signs of distress. 

She had been absent from my life for years due to her illnesses, and it was a slow disappearance.  Incremental losses are harder to mourn.  Still, I am a bit surprised by how bereft I feel today.  I am sad at losing my sweet Mam-ma, a loss of several years now, but one I'm grieving today.  And I'm sad at the passage of time -- people, places, and times we enjoyed now gone.  She was my last living grandparent, which underscores my sense of time flying by, never to be recovered.

Now we're waiting for the details of the arrangements and beginning to make plans for an unexpected trip to Tennessee.  The formal traditions of saying good-bye will sweep us along: the visitation, where we'll see friends and relatives I haven't seen in years; the funeral service itself, which I hope includes my Mam-ma's favorite hymns; and the burial in an old cemetery I haven't visited since I was an adolescent.  Oh, and let's not forget the food.  In the American South, if a family member dies, prepare to be swamped with really good food.

I expect a phone call later on, telling us where we need to be and when.  But until then, I'm going to fetch a letter I keep in my jewelry box, a letter my mother gave me last year when she found it in some other papers.  It's addressed to my mother and dated March 27, 1968, two days after I was born.  In it, Mam-ma writes:
You just don't know how much I wish I could come see you and that little baby today.  Since I can't, I'm sending you this little note to let you know we are thinking about you.  Isn't it a good feeling to hold your little baby in your arms?  I just can't hardly wait to see her. . . .  Give that little girl a big kiss for me.
Even though she's been "gone" for almost a decade, she was always there, if that makes any sense.  But now that she's really gone, the loss seems fresh, as if the intervening years between her full, active life and her death had never happened.  I didn't lose my grandmother years ago; I lost her today.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

It's That Time of Year Again!

When mediocre cooks like me begin to dream about all the delicacies with which they'll grace their friends and neighbors this Christmas season, you know it must be time to bake!  However, if you were with me last year, you also know that this is a particular challenge for me.  Feel free to hop into the Time Machine and re-visit last year's debacle here and here, if you so desire.  I did and laughed my head off.

This year, I decided to get a jump on things, so I made a batch of dough to freeze, which we'll bake closer to Christmas.  I chose a childhood favorite of mine.  We called them gingersnaps, but I have since learned that gingersnaps are thin and crispy, while the cookies from my youth are thick, soft, and chewy.  They are so easy to whip up, and, I'm thrilled to report, the dough tastes exactly the same as I remember.  The girls and I each ate about three cookies' worth of dough, so I'll need to make another batch to freeze.

I'm also planning to make the saltine toffee and Tuscan shortbread I made last year.  If you'd like the recipes and photos, pop over here.  And I'll make what we always called forgotten cookies, which now seem to be better known by the fancier name of meringues.  However, forgotten cookies feature chocolate chips, and meringues pale in comparison, since they offer no such delights.

Last year, my English friend, Jackie (whom I quoted in my Drawbacks to Globalization post yesterday), asked, "Why don't you just make a Christmas cake and call it a Christmas?"  Because that's not what we do in the States, Jackie, where we have Martha Stewart and hundreds of other chef-cum-lifestyle gurus to make us all feel guilty and inadequate.

However, this year I'm sticking with the tried and true, and I'm starting earlier.  So things should go much more smoothly.  Right?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Drawback to Globalization

The Internet.  Ain't it a wonderful thing?

If it weren't for online access, I would never have met my friend, Zoe, or my friend, Jackie, both of whom live on another continent across an ocean.  I wouldn't have connected with some fascinating women who blog around the world.  And what a tool for research!  Honestly, what did we do before the Internet when we needed to "look something up"?

And yet, my very dear friend, Jackie, hit upon an important point in a comment she made on my Thanksgiving blog post, "Keeping Thanksgiving Day."  I don't think she'll mind if I quote her, given that you have only to pop to the Comments page and read it yourself:

. . . it makes me cross to see English friends *doing* Thanksgiving!!! These festivals are for a reason, and Thanksgiving is SO important in US history, it almost undermines it for people all over to take it up.

Especially when our own Harvest Festival (which is when we give thanks for God's provision in our lives) goes all but ignored, and Guy Fawkes, or Bonfire Night, is totally dissociated from its roots - the celebration of the undoing of a catholic plot to undermine the reformation.

We should all acknowledge other people's festivals and celebrations, but losing our own in the process is not a good thing.
Well said.  The Internet has made the world a smaller place, and that's a good thing.  But here's a drawback: in the process of drawing us together, there's the risk of our cultures becoming homogeneous.  A professor of mine in graduate school called it "the Los Angelesization of the world."  He had a point.

Himself and I love to travel.  (We don't do it as much as we once did because it's much more expensive and inconvenient that it was a few years ago.  But that's beside the point here.)  One of the best things about travel is that we can experience life as it's lived elsewhere.  But it's not as fun when there's a Starbucks on every corner.

Now, I love the benefits and experiences the Internet has opened up for all of us.  And I love reaching out to people around the world.  But I also hope that we recognize and affirm our cultural differences and various celebrations, the things that made us who we are in the first place.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Keeping Thanksgiving Day

Happy Thanksgiving!

My family and I are about to hit the road to my cousin's house, where my extended family on my mother's side gather together for our annual potluck feast.  Since my mom is the ninth of ten children, there's quite a crowd of us.  We have a good time together.

And the food!  My mother's oldest sister, who is in her eighties, makes the dressing every year, and it is the most scrumptious dressing you could ever put in your mouth.  (As Southerners, we are not "stuffing" people.)  Another aunt makes the yeast rolls, which are meltingly delicious.  And there are side dishes and desserts galore.

It's my favorite day of the year.

So imagine my surprise yesterday when I turned on the radio to my favorite Christian radio station and heard Christmas music.  On the day before Thanksgiving.  And not just a song or two, either.  I was moved to send them a protest email. :-)

It bothers me greatly that our culture glosses over Thanksgiving and jumps right to Christmas.  Shopping centers around here are already bedecked in the Christmas glories.  And the Christmas tree lots are full of trees (which will be crisp as tinder by Christmas Day).  Even some houses are sporting lights, wreaths, and Christmas trees.  Several stores are boasting that they'll be open Thanksgiving Day for your shopping convenience.  (Although I saw a Belk commercial saying something along the lines of: "If you feel moved to shop on Thanksgiving Day, visit our website!"  Yay, Belk!)


Don't get me wrong; Christmas is "the most wonderful time of the year," and we love its myriad joys.  But as for me and my house, we don't let Christmas eclipse the particular importance of Thanksgiving, in which we gather with loved ones and are thankful together for the blessings of our Lord.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What's On Your Nightstand?

Tricia at Hodgepodgemom asked this question on her blog, and I think it's a good one.  In the interest of slightly full disclosure, here's my answer:

A lamp I inherited from my grandmother when she died, almost 10 years ago; two notebook journals, in which I write letters to my daughters (I did better with this when they were younger!); a small basket with pens, ear plugs, and some homeopathic sleep aids in reach when I need them; the charger cord for my phone; my reading glasses and case; a volume of Jesse Stuart short stories, which I've not begun to read; a small painted wooden box Miss Priss made for me a few years ago; a dark gray, heart-shaped rock, which was a gift from a very dear friend; and, lastly, a thin film of dust, because I'm not the best housekeeper.  Here's a photo.  The journals are missing because I'd been writing in them elsewhere that day.

So what's on your nightstand (or bedside table)?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up: A Day Late

I'm late posting our wrap-up, which is in keeping with this week.  Tiny Girl was sick two days and is still congested.  We were also frenetically busy with meetings, appointments, and other atypical errands, which always make for a not-so-stellar school week.

But we have had some highlights, and I'm always glad to share.

First off, Miss Priss turned eleven this past Tuesday.  I have to take deep breaths every time I think about how fast the time is passing.  She opted for a spa birthday party at home, and we used the American Girl book Spa Fun to help us plan.  There were peppermint foot soaks and foot massages; oatmeal and honey facial masks; hand treatments and manicures; the yoga sun salutation stretch; "spa" food and watermelon water; and a make-your-own lavender bath salts craft.  My parents came to spend the night with us, so my Mama was on hand to help with the aesthetic ministrations, thank goodness!  Everyone had a great time.  This is a wonderful party theme idea for girls of this age group and even teenagers.

She received a Borders gift card, so we made a trip there on Tuesday so she could pick out some books.  This is how she spent a lot of her time this week.

 Note the carnations in her hair.  She did that herself, with flowers from her birthday bouquet.

We have a heavily wooded backyard, with oaks, maples, a hickory or two, and a few birch trees, along with several I can't identify.  On Wednesday, Miss Priss found this leaf in the backyard.  It's from a small tree in amongst other different trees, most likely thanks to the birds, and I have no idea what species it is.

Himself and Miss Priss cleaned out our raised bed and planted pansies for the winter.

The scholarly highlight of the week was in natural science.  A friend loaned us an external hard drive on which were twelve episodes of the BBC's Planet Earth Diaries, and we watched, on the desktop computer, the first episode, "Pole to Pole."  All I can say is Wow.  The photography is magnificent, especially some of the time-lapse sequences.  There was a scene that upset both girls, in which a wolf catches a young caribou, but they were able to get past it and were, for the most part, enthralled with the entire production. 

Of particular delight were the mother polar bear and her two cubs; the queer and vibrant tropical birds of paradise, especially the mating dance of one male to an audience of one unimpressed female; and a mother and cub Siberian Amur leopards, two of the forty remaining on the planet.  At the end of the episode, there is a behind-the-scenes look at how some of the footage was shot, which focuses on a segment depicting African wild dogs hunting impala.  For more info on the entire series, hop over to this Wikipedia article.

I hosted my book club on Thursday evening.  We had a wonderful time eating, sipping, and discussing Muriel barbery's excellent book, The Elegance of the Hedgehog.  Here's my blog post about the evening, plus a recipe for the utterly scrumptious pumpkin crisp I made for dessert.

I hope you had a great week!  For more wrap-ups, check out Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.  And blessings for a happy Thanksgiving to you.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

It's Book Club Night! Fab Recipe Follows

And I hosted.  We have one of those seemingly rare book clubs who actually gather once a month to talk about the book.  We also eat good food and have a glass of wine, but the books are our raison d'etre.

Tonight discussed The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery, which I read and enjoyed over the summer.  In fact, I reviewed it here on my blog.  Everyone who'd read the book (we had one or two who came for food and conversation only but plan to actually finish the book) really liked it.

I served an autumnal menu: chicken tortilla soup, creamy corn muffins, and pumpkin crisp for dessert.  We drank some of both red and white wines.  Everyone enjoyed the food, and the pumpkin crisp was an especial delight.  The recipe was in high demand.  This is good news, since I'm in the habit of serving to guests recipes I've never tried before.  Yes, it's a tad risky, and I've had a few flops (which one would think would cure me of this particular failing, but no).  Happily, tonight was a night of successes.

I wanted to take a photo prior to serving; but the fact that we ate 2/3 of the dish attests to its deliciousness. (If that's a word.) 

The soup was delectable as well.  I'd post the recipe, but I started with one and then made a change here and a change there. . . . 

The creamy corn muffins were fabulous! But they are NOT a low-fat food.  And that's why they are good.

Here's the recipe for the to-die-for Pumpkin Crisp (and thanks to Shelley for sharing the recipe!)

1 (15 oz) can pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 package (box) butter-flavored cake mix
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup butter, melted

Stir together first five ingredients. Pour into lightly greased/sprayed 9x13 baking dish.  Sprinkle cake mix evenly over pumpkin mixture; then sprinkle with pecans.  Drizzle butter evenly over pecans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 60-65 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes before serving.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  serve with nutmeg-sprinkled whipped cream, if desired.

Note: I omitted the whipped cream because I thought it would be gilding the lily.  My friends concurred.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

20 Questions

My friend Jeanne at A Peaceful Day posted a fun 20 Questions list on her blog.  I thought I'd join in.  Why don't you?  Let me know if you choose to play!
  1. Sweet or Savoury?
  2. Dresses or Jeans?
  3. House or Apartment?
  4. Shop Online or Offline?
  5. DVDs or Downloads?
  6. Cocktails or Juice?
  7. Chocolate or Strawberry?
  8. Laptop or PC?
  9. Magazines or Newspapers?
  10. Facebook or Twitter?
  11. CDs or MP3s?
  12. Kids or Pets?
  13. Macaron or Cupcakes?
  14. Walk or Run?
  15. Breakfast in Bed or Breakfast Out?
  16. Market or Supermarket?
  17. Sourdough or Grainy?
  18. Heels or Flats?
  19. Late nights or Not?
  20. Coffee or Tea?

Sweet or Savoury?  Savory most of the time.  Although dark chocolate calls my name on a regular basis.  So does Nutella, which I eat out of the jar with a spoon.

Dresses or Jeans?  Jeans and sometimes even sweat pants around the house.

House or Apartment?  House.  I'm no longer the minimalist I once was, so I need the room to store my stuff.

Shop Online or Offline?  Mostly online.  I'm not much of a shopper.

DVDs or Downloads?  DVDs.

Cocktails or Juice?  Cocktails.  If I drink juice, I have to really water it down. 

Chocolate or Strawberry?  Chocolate, hands down.  Strawberry reminds me of that super-sweet srawberry Quik milk mix I had once as a child.  I'm getting a cavity just thinking about it. 

Laptop or PC?  PC.  I have a laptop, but I mostly use it on trips.

Magazines or Newspapers?  Neither very much.  But I prefer magazines.

Facebook or Twitter?  Facebook.  I don't have time for Twitter.

CDs or MP3s?  Most recently, mp3s.

Kids or Pets?  Both!  They both add joy to our lives.

Macaron or Cupcakes?  I'm a cupcake girl.

Walk or Run?  Walk.  I only run in emergencies. 

Breakfast in Bed or Breakfast Out?  Breakfast out.  I hate trying to juggle everything without spilling it on the sheets.

Market or Supermarket?  Where I live, it's a supermarket lifestyle.  I love farmers' markets in the summer.

Sourdough or Grainy?  I enjoy both, but if I have to choose I'll go for the grainy.

Heels or Flats?  Flats most of the time.  Or bare/sock feet (depending on the season).

Late nights or Not?  Once in a while I can do a late night.  But I do my best work in the late mornings.

Coffee or Tea?  Both.  But I drink more tea than I do coffee.  Tea is a staple; coffee is a special treat.

Monday, November 15, 2010

How I Solved My Kindle Envy

I would like to have a Kindle.  And that's putting it mildly.  Everyone I know who has one LOVES it.

But it's not in the cards right now.  We're closely watching our spending, and, unfortunately, nifty technological gadgets aren't in the budget.

So imagine my joy and glee when I saw, on Amazon's website, that they have a free Kindle app for Droid phones.  Yes.  Free.

I immediately got the app and immediately after that, I downloaded The Scarlet Letter, Madame Bovary, and The Princess and the Goblin (at Tiny Girl's request), all for free.

Since I don't have a Kindle, I can't do a point-by-point comparison, but here's my verdict thus far: the Kindle app for Droid phones is really nifty. 

  • It has a lot of features, such as viewing options, which include different background/text selections (I prefer sepia background and black text), text size, and screen brightness.
  • You can bookmark pages of special interest, which looks like a top page corner has been folded down, by touching the top right corner of the screen or by clicking your Menu button and selecting Bookmark.
  • You can highlight text that you find interesting or important.
  • You can add notes of your own.  For example, in The Scarlet Letter, I both highlighted and created a note for one of Roger Chillingworth's comments to Hester because I think it is a foreshadowing of later events.
  • You can search within the book for words or phrases.
  • If you come upon a word whose definition escapes you (for me, it was contumaciously), you can touch the word and up pops a menu. Touch "Define with," and you're in the dark no longer.
  • With this same technique, you can can also access Wikipedia.

I'm sure there are more features that I'll figure out later, but the above is what I've used so far.  Amazon offers a great Help page for the Kindle Droid app that's full of how-to's.

Just in case you don't have a Droid phone, Amazon also offers free Kindle apps in other formats: iPhone (duh!), Mac, Windows PC, BlackBerry, iPad, and Windows Phone 7.  And their Whispersync technology allows you to read a book via more than one device by saving and synchronizing the last page you read and all your bookmarks, notes, and highlights.  I only have one "device" since I don't plan to sit in front of my computer and read, but it's still a great feature.  And it will be super convenient if I ever do get a real Kindle.

But for now I'm really pleased.  And who knows?  It may be fine for the long haul.  After all, it's hard to beat FREE.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up: Richly Blessed

This past summer, I posted on Facebook about how busy I was with all the things on my schedule for that week; and a friend (whose schedule makes mine look like a walk in the park) commented, "How richly blessed you are to be able to be involved with so many wonderful opportunities!"

I needed that reminder.  This week was the same, except I had a cold and lost my voice for a couple of days, which was my carte blanche to whine.  If you want to read my lament, here it is.  But everything turned out fine.  I just went to bed early every night, and the house is sort of a mess.  C'est la vie!

A minor but interesting highlight: we had a first-time visitor to our bird feeder today, a common grackle.  I tried to get a photo, but it kept hopping higher into a tree.  So this one will have to do.  I was fairly certain it was a grackle, with its eye-catching iridescence and yellow eyes.  A quick look at my Stokes guide confirmed my guess.  I hope it visits again!

Academically speaking, we are still a bit behind in some of our readings, science, and Latin.  Since it doesn't look as if life is going to slow down for us any time soon, I'm going to have to grab the bull by the horns to keep us on track each day:  I'm instituting the use of a timer.  Typically, I've allowed each child to work at her own pace until she finished an assignment before moving on to the next subject.  There's only so many hours in a day, however, and we've ended up falling short of time.  With the timer, the children will be allowed so many minutes per subject.  What they don't finish can be completed after lesson hours (a.k.a., homework) and with little input from me, as I'll be busy with household management duties then.

There were also some victories.  Tiny Girl finished Heidi, and Miss Priss finished Almost Home.  We finished watching Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower, which I highly recommend.  You can read my full review here.  We made a few entries into our timeline book, an activity in which I tend to procrastinate.  We participated in Sketch Tuesday.  Both did well with math and grammar this week.  We finished up Mind Benders book A1 and moved into A2, and the girls have asked to increase the number of puzzles for each day.  They are both doing really well with their piano pieces for the Christmas recital.

In our extracurricular activities, we are richly blessed indeed.  Tiny Girl had a good riding lesson on Monday and is excited about working more on jumping courses.  Miss Priss enjoyed her second tumbling class on Tuesday even more than the first, and she is really buoyed up by her success therein.  We also had piano lessons and an ortho appointment on Tuesday.  Our church's children's activities on Wednesday nights continue to be a highlight.  Both girls have special parts in the upcoming children's Christmas musical: Miss Priss is one of three narrators, with speaking parts throughout, and Tiny Girl is a soloist (in French!) and part of an ensemble.  So we practiced those this week as well.  Thursday, our Girl Scout troop met, and we worked on our Hunger 101 project.  And today, they had Timothy Ministry classes, and we are going to the barn later.  Tomorrow is Miss Priss's eleventh birthday party with a spa theme here at home.  I am serving in the capacity of chief aesthetician.  We still have quite a bit to do to prepare for that.  Good times!

Hop on over to Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers to read more wrap-ups.  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Review: Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower

Recently we watched Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower, as part of our history studies.  A History channel production featuring actors from the Royal Shakespeare Company and filmed on location at Plimoth Plantation, England, Belgium, Maryland, and Virginia, this excellent film (two hours and 23 minutes in length) does a remarkable job of bringing to life the story of the Pilgrims, from their beginnings in Scrooby to their new home in an inhospitable and foreign land.

As I watched the program in three segments with my children, I experienced a growing sense of amazement in two general areas: 1.) How little I actually knew about the Pilgrims and their story; and 2.) How almost shocking it was to me that they actually made it to America and founded a successful colony, given the number and gravity of the hardships and hurdles they faced.  At one point, one of the men says to William Bradford (and this is my 21st-century paraphrase), "If any of us even survive, much less do what we set out to do, it will be only by the grace of God."

And yet they did.

This is not the smiley-faced story I learned in school, wherein a group of like-minded folks hopped aboard a pleasure ship for a quick trip across the Atlantic and immediately made friends with the natives.  Now that I'm an adult, I suppose that somewhere in my mind I reckoned it wouldn't have been quite that easy, if I thought about it much at all.  Our recent studies, however, pricked my conscience about my ignorance; and this film fully opened my eyes to what was a harsh and difficult reality.

The Pilgrims did not leave England simply because their noses were out of joint about religion.  Their separatist position and the fact that they worshiped outside the Church of England rendered their worship illegal.  And their petitions to King James fell on deaf ears.  Frankly, the fact that the king declared he would "harry" Puritans out of England, but then made it extremely difficult for them to leave the country legally-- witness the Scrooby group's first disastrous attempt to sneak away to Holland -- does not show him in the most flattering, or even reasonable, light.  Moreover, his firm belief in the Divine Right of Kings gave him no reason to condescend to compromise with his subjects.  Nonconformists such as the Separatists -- those who wanted to separate from the Church of England -- held that the Scriptures were the final authority, not the monarch.  James and the English Separatists were in essence polar opposites with no hope of concession on either side.

This is but one example of the complex situations this group of Separatists, the Pilgrims, faced.  Desperate Crossing does a wonderful job of detailing the Pilgrims' hardships and setbacks, gathering all the threads of the "untold story" and weaving them into a compelling tapestry.  I was left in a sense of awe at their courage, tenacity, and faith in God.

There was, of course, a hiccup or two in our viewing experience.  Tiny Girl did not enjoy the talking heads who pop up occasionally to give their explanatory comments. They "interrupt the movie," says she.  And I have to admit that some commentators are better than others.  That's to be expected.  But on the whole, we enjoyed it tremendously, with myself being the most affected.  Highly recommended.

Addendum: It has come to my attention (after more research) that this DVD has been called "revisionist history" by a few people.  However, providing another group's perspective on events is most decidedly not revisionist.  The Pilgrims' long and powerful journey to America's shores is part of the Mayflower legacy.  But other people already lived here, and this is their story, too.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

When My Plans Go Awry. . .

This week, like so many of our past weeks, is extremely busy.  We have a Scout troop meeting on Thursday, Miss Priss's new tumbling class, church programs on Wednesday night in which I am supposed to teach the fourth- and fifth-grade girls Bible class, piano lessons, an orthodontist appointment, a vet appointment, riding lessons and practice rides, Timothy Ministry classes, and Miss Priss's eleventh birthday party at home on Saturday afternoon, for which I have done nothing.  Oh, and our lessons, in which we are already behind.  Add to that, I am supposed to contact someone about a possible freelance editing project that fell into my lap.

So of course I am sick.  I've been battling congestion since Saturday:  still sniffly, the whole post nasal drip delight, clogged ears, throat a bit sore, etc.  And now I have lost my voice.


I know God has a sense of humor (and a far better plan than mine), but I have to wonder sometimes about the His-timing-is-always-perfect thing.  Attempting to live within His timing can be difficult.  I mean, next week would have been better, Lord.

In cases like these, I look for the grace that I know will be there.  Here's one thing: I don't feel bad, like I should be bed-ridden.  That's a blessing!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Back from Women's Retreat: Refreshed and Renewed!

I just got home from an overnight church women's retreat, which was held at an area resort.  It was a wonderful day and a half of study, prayer, worship, and girlfriend gab in our jammies in front of the fireplace (I was staying in a four-bedroom cottage with six other women).  And then there was the chocolate.

The retreat was called "The Perfect Getaway," and, as the name implies, we grappled with the concept of perfection in our culture.  Just a flip through a few women's magazines and we are assaulted with articles on how we can attain perfection in every area of our lives:  How to Have It All.  You, too, can be the perfect wife, mother, friend, hostess, career woman, etc. by following these five easy steps.  Or, if you're too hung up on perfection, here's how to let go of all that.  Before you know it, you're caught in a pursuit of nothing but dissatisfaction at the very least, not to mention guilt or heartache when you fail..

Our study focused on the book of Philippians.  In our discussion time, we talked about God's plan versus the world's pressure, and we came away with a better understanding of God's idea of perfection.  I feel better equipped to recognize and reject the pressure to be "perfect" by the world's definition.

God's plans are always better.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up: No Cutesy Title This Week

 So another not-normal week.    When will they end, I ask you?  I was sick on Wednesday, and we were very busy with activities and such the other days.

We managed to get the basics done, which is good.  French, spelling, copywork, and piano (Christmas music abounds around here) are clicking right along.  In grammar, Tiny Girl continued with complex and compound sentences, while Miss Priss studied sentence fragments and run-on sentences.  Logic went by the wayside, since the Mind Benders book went MIA.  (We've searched everywhere!  I ended up ordering a new one.)  But Miss Priss continued in her Building Thinking Skills book, another title from the Critical Thinking Company.

For literature, the girls are really enjoying Heidi, but Tiny Girl is getting antsy with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.  She's ready for the horseman to arrive on the scene!  Tiny Girl also began Lassie Come-HomeTying in with our history, the girls read The Starving Time, book 2 of Patricia Hermes's trilogy about Jamestown, and have begun Almost Home, by Wendy Lawton, which is based on the Mayflower's Mary Chilton and part of the Daughters of the Faith series.  I also located a nifty website, If You Came on the Mayflower in 1620, which looks intriguing; we will explore it next week.  We also read our selection from Age of Fable, a text of which I am now doubtful as a good selection for our family.  (If you'd like to read the post I wrote about it, and the ensuing discussion, click here.)

We've been searching for an activity for Miss Priss, other than the Irish dance classes she takes at Timothy Ministry, but have been unsuccessful.  While Tiny Girl has Tappy, Miss Priss does not have a similar passion, and has grappled with several possibilities for quite some time.  Unable to latch onto anything, she had been feeling sad and sidelined.  But good news!  We found a tumbling class of mixed ages, and she took a trial class on Tuesday evening.  She was nervous, but she loved it!  And she's a natural!  By the end of the trial class, she was doing a back handspring on the trampoline.  We are all thankful.

On Thursday, Miss Priss made her famous stew for supper, and it was wonderful.  The weather this week was chilly and damp, so we really needed something like stew and biscuits last night.

The chef at work

The mixture before we added the beef stock

Hope your week was grand!  To read more wrap-ups, visit Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Frustrated with Age of Fable

As you may know, the girls and I are working though a (tweaked) Ambleside Year 4, and I've already ditched Madam How and Lady Why.  (You can read my reasons for doing so here.)  Now I'm having serious reservations about Bulfinch's The Age of Fable, which features stories of Greek and Roman mythology.

Don't get me wrong.  I believe that a knowledge of classical myths is both useful as important.  As Bulfinch points out, literature is replete with classical allusions.  In fact, I enjoy how Bulfinch points out these allusions in other works.  If you don't know the backstory, it's hard to appreciate the reference.

And yet.

Last week, we read the story of Apollo and Daphne, victims of Cupid's ire, he for love and she against it.  In case you aren't familiar with the myth, the besotted Apollo chases the unwilling Daphne until she is exhausted and begs her father to save her.  And he does, sort of.  He turns her into a laurel tree, which becomes Apollo's emblem.

I was a bit put off by this.  Apollo is a stalker, and Daphne essentially loses her life.  All for "love."

Then yesterday, we learned about Pyramus and Thisbe, another pair of star-crossed lovers whose parents do not approve of their love.  The couple secretly whisper to one another through a crack in the wall that divides their homes and then plan to meet (secretly as well) one night.  I won't go into all the gory details, but they end up killing themselves, thanks to a misunderstanding.

So here we have two rebellious and disobedient teenagers full of angst who end up dead.  Again, all for "love."

Hmmm.  What do we do with that?  "See what happens when you disobey your parents?  You end up with a sword through your heart" seems a bit rash to me.

My children are nine and ten years old.  These sort of themes are, in my opinion, far too mature for them.  I didn't read this sort of thing until I was in high school, and I think perhaps that's a much better age.

So I'll be on the lookout for a more suitable (for my family, at least) mythology source.  I'll let you know what I discover!

It's Carnival Time!

The Classical Homeschooling Blog Carnival, that is.  A big thanks to Ritsumei, who included my article on logic study in the October issue.  Here's a link to the latest Classical Homeschooling Blog Carnival.  And happy birthday to the same!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Grand Day at the Show

Yesterday was gloriously beautiful, a wonderful day for a horse show, Tiny Girl's first big show.  If you read my Weekly Wrap-Up for this past week, you know that we spent much of Friday getting ready for the show.

Saturday morning, we rose early; Tiny Girl was extremely nervous, and we prayed, which always helps.  Then we dressed Tiny Girl in her show garb (it's a complicated get-up and takes a bit of time), all freshly ironed by Himself the night before.  Tiny seemed in good spirits despite being quite nervous, but she only managed to eat half a bowl of cereal.  After a breakfast of sorts, we headed to the equestrian park in time to see a lovely pink sunrise.  It was chilly out, but as the sun rose and shone brightly, the day warmed up into the pleasant sixties.

And what a day it was.  All in all, Tiny Girl competed in two divisions of three classes each.  The first division comprised three flat classes (no jumps): hunter walk/trot/canter one at a time, equitation walk/trot/canter one at a time, and a "pleasure" walk/trot/canter one at a time.  In this division, Tiny won two first place ribbons and one second place, clinching the champion ribbon for that division.  A little later, she competed in a junior crossrails division, the first time she'd ever jumped in a show.  In this division, there were also three classes: one time around the ring jumping four crossrails, two times around the ring (for a total of eight jumps), and then an under saddle class, which was walk, trot, and canter as a group.  She won two thirds and a fifth place.  We were all happy!

Here are some photos of the flat classes.  In the first two, she's being judged at the walk.

In the next two, she's being judged at the trot.

 Waiting for the judge's decision

 Up and over the crossrails

 Giving Tappy some well-deserved love. What a good pony!

 A happy girl and her ribbons

One pooped pooch!

As proud and happy as we were of Tiny Girl's ribbons, we made sure she knew that we would have been happy with all sixth places.  We were even more proud of how she just got out there and did her best despite her fears.  Now that's success.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up: Not the New Normal

Last week, I told Himself that I felt like we (I) needed a break.  We did not take a week-long fall break like both public and private schools around here, nor did we have a week of half days for conferences, also like the public schools.  So I'd planned for this week to be a light one.

Also, Tiny Girl is gearing up for her first "big" horse show tomorrow.  So we've been occupied with activities such as this:

And this:

Not to mention getting everything all ready to go.  Horse shows require a lot of stuff.  Riding, period, requires a lot of stuff, never mind the shows.

So this week in our studies, we concentrated on hitting a few high points and watching a movie.  Don't worry; it's educational!  We continued Bible, piano, logic, and copywork as usual.  In math, we did some multiplication and division.  We only got to spelling and grammar twice this week.  For history, the girls read Squanto: Friend of the Pilgrims, by Clyde Robert Bulla, a book I read when I was in elementary school.  We also continued Heidi.

For history, we watched most of Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower, which I ordered from Netflix.  This was recommended by another homeschooling family, and we have enjoyed it tremendously.  (Aside: Tiny Girl does not enjoy the talking heads who pop up occasionally to give their explanatory comments.  They "interrupt the movie," says she.)  A History channel production featuring actors from the Royal Shakespeare Company and filmed on location at Plimoth Plantation, England, Belgium, Maryland, and Virginia, this excellent film (two hours and 23 minutes in length) does a remarkable job of bringing to life the story of the Pilgrims, from their beginnings in Scrooby to their new home in an inhospitable and foreign land.  Look for a more in-depth review next week, when things settle down (HA!) around here.

We also spotted this hawk in our backyard.  This is not a great photo, since its head is turned away, but it was the best shot I got from my breakfast room window.

We are not sure exactly what species it is.  The wings are too dark and barred to be a red-winged hawk, and it's too large to be a red-shouldered hawk, two varieties we've seen in our yard on several occasions.  Miss Priss researched online, viewing a large number of photos, and we still were unable to make a firm identification.

I am exhausted and getting ready to hit the hay.  Our day will start bright and early tomorrow!  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Freaking Out About Reading

My friend, Silvia, has written a wonderful post on children's reading skills or lack thereof on her blog Homeschooling in a Biligual Home and why we shouldn't worry so much about the latter.  I remember a dear friend of mine lamenting over her son's labored efforts at reading when he was in the first grade.

"He's not reading yet," said she.

"He will," I asserted, in what I hoped was a soothing voice.

"He just doesn't seem to get it."

"He'll get it." (heartily)

"So you think I'm worrying too much about this?"


He's now a reading fiend.

When Miss Priss was in first grade in public school, I tutored (in reading) two other first graders at her school who were not "reading at grade level." But what does that mean, anyway? Reading is not age specific; one child may get it at five and another not read fluently until s/he is nine. And even though I was happy to work with these children -- volunteered for the program, in fact -- I figured they were merely later bloomers to reading. Notice I did not say "late," which implies a concerning delay, but simply "later."

But parents tend to freak out about reading, which is understandable since it's a pretty important skill.  And schools don't tend to make allowances for children who come to reading later than others, unless it's to label them as slow or "below grade level."  Even if tutoring programs are available, such as the one for which I volunteered, the oh-so-helpful grading system still penalizes these children.  No parent likes to see that on a progress report.

And homeschooling parents are under the gun, too.  If our children are "slow" to read, then what does that say about us as teachers, never mind our children's lack of reading prowess?  And there go our dreams of Harvard up in smoke.

Miss Priss took to reading like a fish to water.  Not so, Tiny Girl.  In first grade, she was a reluctant reader.  She loved my reading to her, but not reading on her own, which was too much work.  However, in second grade, she took off; and now, in fourth grade, she reads fluently, more than many of her friends, in fact.  She was "Exhibit A," right in my own home.

But I didn't take a completely hands-off approach, either.  I read daily to both my children and still do.  I severely limited media exposure.  I searched out fun and interesting "easy" readers, limiting any twaddle (My Little Pony, anyone?).  I read a lot in their presence.  We talked about books.  We listened to audio books when we folded laundry or while we were in the car.  I wanted my children to know that books and reading are important to our family.

I try to live that out every day.  It's easy for me; I'm an impassioned reader, and I strive to kindle that flame in my children.  So far, so good.

I've got to run now.  I have my book club in a little while!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up: Our New Addition

This week fit right in as part of our new normal.  But I am pleased to say we handled it with aplomb, which means we juggled a few assignments around to accommodate the schedule.  I don't know if this happens at your house, but sometimes things just pop up around here, and we have to go with the flow.  Thankfully, we managed to do just that with no derailments.  So far.

On Monday, we had our normal day of lessons and then spent almost three hours at the new barn so Tiny Girl could try two saddles we had out on loan from a local tack exchange.  Here is the winner, which was, of course, the more expensive of the two.  But it was also the higher quality, so I consider it a new addition to the family.

Next Saturday is Tiny Girl's second "big" show, so she and her trainer are working hard to get her and Tappy ready.  She's going up to the short stirrups level (division? group? I dunno what it's correctly called.), which will involve some jumps, and Tiny is nervous.  So am I, but I never let on!  Consequently, we're spending a good deal of time at the barn.

On the school side of things, we are in a groove with our studies.  Bible, copywork, piano, French, spelling, Latin, poetry, geography, and math are clicking along.  The new Mind Benders book, A1, ups the ante in our logic study, and the girls have worked together on the first few puzzles until they get more comfortable.  And in science, we continued with our study of bones.  The girls can name most of the major bones of the human skeleton, but a few names, like scapula and tibia, often elude them.  I've been falling down in the fine arts arena; we've not yet studied a composer or an artist this term!

In our readings, we learned about Apollo and Daphne in Bulfinch's Age of Fable; we finished Marsha Sewall's James Towne and we marveled that the colony managed to avoid utter failure; the girls continued Heidi, which they are both reading on their own, two to three chapters per week; we discussed the heights of Caesar's ambition after reading more from Plutarch's Lives for Boys and Girls; we learned about early Canadian exploration, specifically Samuel Champlain's Quebec and Henry Hudson's Hudson Bay, in SOTW; we left Jim Hawkins in Bristol with his share of the hard-won treasure when we finished Treasure Island (a book we all enjoyed very much!); and we began Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which both girls think is slow to get going thus far.

I thought you might enjoy seeing Jasper.  Hasn't he grown?  He's now 10 months old, and he is a smiley, happy little man.  He loves to chase squirrels and chipmunks, and he shadows the girls everywhere they go.  However, I think he's suspicious of the camera.  Whenever I try to "pose" him or simply bring out the camera, period, he presents a serious countenance.  Perhaps he prefers a more mature look to his portraits.

How was your week?  For more fun reading and encouragement, pop over to Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers and read more Wrap-Ups.