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!