Thursday, April 28, 2011


Nothing makes one feel quite as helpless as witnessing the powers of nature at their worst.

I've lived all my life in the American South. To the uninitiated, this means I've spent a lot of time huddled in basements during spring, the tornado season. You'd think I'd have a healthy respect for those particular storms, and, theoretically, I do. But I've flown for cover at the weatherman's command to "seek shelter" so often that I've grown a bit cavalier.

This is not to say I've never been close to one. They've zipped around my environs, destroying houses, snapping trees like toothpicks, and harming people -- ruining lives -- my entire life. But you know what they say about familiarity breeding contempt.

Until last night.

Himself, the girls, I, and my parents who were visiting huddled around the TV anxiously watching the Weather Channel last night. Footage of the massive tornado that slammed Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and was on its way to Birmingham made me hold my breath and clasp my hands. I wondered, Did the pillar of cloud that the Hebrews followed on their exodus from Egypt look anything like this?

4-27-11 Tornado Tuscaloosa, Al from Crimson Tide Productions on Vimeo.

I hope you noticed some things: the debris swirling around the outside of the vortex; the size of the tornado compared to the buildings on the left side of the screen; the strange, whirling sound of the winds; and the heavy, panicked breathing of whoever shot the footage from his/her car. If you didn't, watch it again. It's that powerful. And there are more out there to watch, too; I've viewed several. They make me feel slightly nauseated.

The thing was on the ground for hours, and, instead of losing strength as typically happens, it gained strength as it moved northeast from Birmingham and out of Alabama, leaving more than 100 people dead -- and the death count continues to rise -- into Georgia, where it nearly demolished the town of Ringgold. More people died there. Then it was on to Tennessee.

Another tornado/storm system farther south in Alabama also crossed the Georgia line. It came across Georgia south of Atlanta. Thus this major metropolitan area was largely spared immense damage.

At our house, we suffered only thunder, lightning, winds, and some rain. The girls and my mom slept in the basement anyway. I myself slept upstairs, but lightly, one ear tuned for the tornado sirens. The Weather Channel may do its best to track the path of tornadoes, but last I checked, they are not under our domain and tend to go where they please.

The death toll for the more than 100 tornadoes that spanned five southern states on Thursday is now more than 200. They are saying this may be an historic tornado season. "Historic" does not always mean something good.

It's impossible for me to be nonchalant any longer. I don't think I'll ever be able to rid my mind of those images.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

First Sighting! Northern Flicker

This morning, Miss Priss called to me from our second-story hall window (she was inside, of course), "Come look at this weird bird. It looks like a woodpecker, but it has a hummingbird beak."

Bird-in-question was in our front yard, eating bugs off the ground. It looked similar to a red-bellied woodpecker, which we see fairly often in our back yard. But the body was darker and speckled, and it featured a handsome black semi-circle on its throat (properly called a "necklace," I soon learned).

Photo courtesy Wikipedia

I ran downstairs and snatched our handy and much-loved Stokes Beginner's Guide to Birds: Eastern Region. With its clever color-grouping arrangement, I quickly found our bird: a northern flicker. We'd never before seen one.

Then we hit the 'Net. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds website is fantastic. We read about northern flickers, listened to recordings of their different calls and drums, and watched a short video. And that was our introduction to the northern flicker.

Maybe we'll see one again!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up: Two Weeks of Reading Like Mad

Last week, I missed writing our wrap-up because we were off to a Girl Scout Camporee! And I ask you, what camping trip with girls is complete without tornado sirens blaring in the wee hours and huddling in the cement-floored bathroom while said tornado blew through 1.5 miles away? None. But Saturday and Sunday were beautiful. What memories we'll have, right?

Educationally speaking, we've been tearing it up. Since much has been going on, I'll simply list some highlights:

We've been reading. Our AO readings continue (Poor Richard, This Country of Ours, Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution, and George Washington's World), and we've thrown in others for added interest, most notably Ben and Me for Tiny Girl, which she zipped through and really enjoyed, and Calico Captive for Miss Priss. For the first time Miss Priss has chosen to read her assigned literature over her independent selections. High praise, indeed. I wrote a review of Calico Captive here, in which I also suggest other captivity narrative resources.

To add to our poetry and composer studies, we read Emily Dickinson: American Poet, by Carol Greene, and short biographies of Frederic Chopin. Tiny Girl read Frederic Chopin, by Mike Venezia, and Miss Priss read Frederic Chopin, by Jacqueline Dineen.

In our studies of the human body, we moved on to muscles. First we read the muscles section in Uncover the Human Body; then we watched a fun video from KidsHealth.

Tiny Girl has wrapped up spelling for the year, and Miss Priss is about to cross that particular finish line as well. We've only a few more lessons in our Scott Foresman grammar and our Mind Benders A4 book. We completed the Daily Life pocket and began the Work pocket from our History Pockets book.

For more fun, encouragement, and ideas, visit Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers to read more Wrap-Ups. And thanks for taking time to read my breezy offering this week!

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 22, 2011


What language shall I borrow
to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever,
and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
outlive my love to Thee.
    -- attr. Bernard of Clairvaux,

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

FREE Shakespeare Copywork

Today's free resource from is a PDF ebook, Quotations from Shakespeare's Plays for Copywork, Recitation and Discussion. Living Books Curriculum provided the ebook, which is usually priced at $10 and includes more than 30 pages of quotations, articles by Charlotte Mason regarding recitation and copywork, and several lined pages. The quotations, selected by Edith Nesbit, author of Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare, are arranged by topic.

To click or not to click, that is the question....

(Sorry. I couldn't help myself.)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up(s): Playing Catch-Up

 I've missed writing Wrap-Ups for two weeks prior to this week, for various reasons, most of which involve life at break-neck speed and upsets. I've blogged about some of those already, and you can read the posts if you'd like.

Last week, the hubbub was about getting ready for Tiny Girl's next horse show. The weather was not good, so we had to practice ride when we could. This meant fitting school in between show preparations.

On Friday, she spent a good deal of time cleaning her tack. We'd discovered the night before that her show shirt no longer fit, necessitating a trip to the store Friday morning to find a blue shirt. Nothing like last minute things to do that you hadn't planned to do!

Saturday morning, we were up super early and at the equestrian park before 7 AM, Chick-fil-a chicken biscuits and coffee in hand. Tiny Girl could only manage a chocolate shake, which I made at home before we left.

It was a big weekend for us. Tiny Girl and Tappy the pony showed both days, and we added divisions as we went along because they did so well.

Cantering along

 Over crossrails

 Jasper had a great time both days. You wouldn't know it by looking at him, though.
He's always SO serious for photos.

One of the divisions we added included a crossrails course, as opposed to just four in a square shape. Tiny was really excited about this.

On Sunday, we added a prehunter over fences division, which featured vertical jumps courses (as opposed to crossrails). I did not get any photos of this, and I don't remember why! Probably because I was anxiously watching my child.

The ribbons she and Tappy earned

We've had a lovely spring break this week: playing with friends, meeting friends for lunch, enjoying a few craft projects, reading, and the like. I feel refreshed and ready to start our homestretch toward summer. I'm also getting excited about planning for next year. We'll need to play catch-up this summer a bit to stay on track, but that's okay. We always enjoy reading good books.

That's a snapshot of our last couple of weeks. I hope things are good at your house!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Belated Birthday Musings

We celebrated my (ahem) birthday a couple of weeks ago. On Friday night, Himself took me and Miss Priss out for dinner (Tiny Girl attended another birthday sleepover) and bought me a lovely cake. Another day, friends threw me a little tea party with homemade lemon scones. I received several books, including One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp, and The Unbearable Lightness of Scones, by Alexander McCall Smith, and FOUR Amazon gift cards. I've used about half the value on Kindle downloads. Yay! We also went out to eat with my folks and my sister and brother-in-law.

By Sunday evening, Himself asked me, "Are we done celebrating your birthday now?"

My absolute favorite gift came from my daughters: a handmade certificate, which read:

This certificate is for Mama
for an Amozon (sic) Gift Card
for $20 $25
and you don't have to pay!

First, I love it that I was deemed worthy of another five bucks. Second, I am supremely happy that I don't have to pay.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Knocked Off Balance

The phone rang before breakfast. Nothing unusual. It was one of my best friends, who often calls in the morning before our homeschooling days fully swing into action. When I answered, she immediately asked:

"Have you checked your email yet?"

No, I hadn't.

She named another close, mutual friend. "Her dad died last night."

And everything changed.

Birth, death, emergencies. These are the things for which we don't schedule or pencil into our calendars. Even "planned" C-sections happen when they happen; it's really difficult to custom-order life passages. So when something unexpected bursts in on the scene, we're at once surprised, knocked off balance, discombobulated. And if that something is a loss, we're also shocked. Grieved.

Four of us got together via phone communication and discussed the best ways to help. Our dear friend and her family had a long drive ahead of them, decisions to make, responsibilities (of which they have many) to hand off or complete before their departure, and a lot on their minds. So we got snacks for the car trip and a gas card to help with travel expenses. We made several meals: muffins and fruit salad for breakfasts; soups; chicken salad, ham salad, and homemade bread for lunches; and several casseroles for immediate suppers or to freeze for later.

And we prayed.

I did my best to orchestrate something of a school day for my girls while in a cooking frenzy, with only minor success. But I was also aware of the life experience this episode provided for my children. Things happen in this world that surprise us with turmoil and throw our plans into disarray. They not only upset our schedule, they change our perspective about what's most important at that moment. And we respond, not with annoyance, but with grace.

Our schedules and our plans necessarily take on the role of lesser things as we gather around the one who's suffering.

We pray, and we help. We help, and we pray.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Springtime Sabbath

Spring is my favorite season. The girls prefer summer, which I enjoy as well; but as for pure loveliness, it's spring for me.

We are taking a break from lessons this week, and, since it is spring break for our county, we have no outside activities scheduled. We've all been needing a break, and my hope is that this week fills us with a sense of renewal, perhaps even revival. The latter may be more for me than the children, frankly.

So we talked about some plans for the week, and here is what we decided: a trip to a pottery painting studio; playing with friends; a trip to the bookstore and lunch out with some friends we haven't seen in a long time; just generally relaxing and enjoying ourselves.

For myself, I envision lounging in the hammock with a book and a glass of homemade lemonade. Perhaps Jasper will curl up beside me and snooze.

Here are the books I'm planning to read:
  • Tyler's Row, by Miss Read
  • I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith
  • The Full Cupboard of Life, by Alexander McCall Smith
I also want to get back to blogging more regularly. I hinted in my last post about life interruptions -- which are really just parts of life themselves -- that have been the focus of my thoughts and energy lately, and I've been percolating ideas about those things in particular and how they occupied me. I've been wondering if I learned anything that I could shape into any sort of would-be wisdom to share. Probably not, but that won't stop me from sharing anyway.

Here is what I have planned not to do this break week:
  • Lesson planning
  • Worry about lessons or lesson planning
  • Worry about anything
Here is what I've actually done thus far:
  • Taken the girls to the library for a one-hour yoga retreat for Girl Scout Juniors, which was instructed by a Cadette troop as part of the Silver Award (I perused the library's shelves for reading materials and actually checked out some books for school. So I've already broken one of resolutions for the week. Alas.)
  • Cleaned my bathroom
  • Taken care of some laundry
  • Attempted to assuage the feelings of one daughter whose friends are not available to play (while her sister biked away to spend the afternoon with a friend)
Hmmm. Do you sense a pattern, or is it just me? Many's the time when I have some free moments, an afternoon perhaps, that I fill with busy-ness: housekeeping that needs doing, chores I really must tackle, meal planning, sink scrubbing, et cetera. I sense a pattern developing, and I'm determined to stop it in its tracks.

I feel a deep need for quiet calm. I feel the need for sabbath.

The sun in shining, a breeze is blowing, and a hammock is calling my name.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Why I've Been So Quiet Lately

Remember a few posts ago when I exulted that I had embraced my new, busy lifestyle?


That's all fine, except for when it interrupts the life I think I'm supposed to be living, and then I get irritated.

These last few weeks I've lived at break-neck speed for various reasons, all of which have something to do with the adage, "Life is what happens when you're busy making plans." Or something like that.

I've composed many a blog post in my head, but I've had precious little computer time. I hope to be back in the next day or so, and I'll talk a bit about what's been going on and what's been on my mind. Such as it is.

In the meantime, blessings to you and yours!