Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A typical school day

Julia recommended that I do a blog post on what our typical school day looks like.  Finally, I decided to do this yesterday -- even though it ended up being anything but typical!

8:00 -- Usually when I get up in the mornings and come into the living room, I find Julia reading. Yesterday, she was starting Starship Troopers. She's heard her dad and brothers talk about this book for so many years, she finally asked if she could read it. She's still in her jammies at this point, and so am I.
Before 8:30, I remind Julia to have breakfast.  This is usually toast or yogurt.  She gets it herself.
School starts promptly at 8:30.  Seriously.  I'm not one of those moms who dilly-dallies around for 3 hours in the morning, trying to organize myself, and later asking where the time's gone.  Granted, I now only have 1 child to homeschool full-time, but it was this way when I did 4.  Julia starts with her Bible and Westminster Shorter Catechism memory work.  Each week she memorizes one catechism Q/A, and about 3-4 verses. She recites each Friday morning, and gets a grade for each one. She likes to do memorization in the living room, on the floor. Adam obligingly built a fire.
9:00 -- Spelling and Grammar. She does one page of "Easy Grammar" each day, and gets a grade each Friday on those 5 pages, missing one point off of 100 for each error. She's using a 7th grade Christian Liberty spelling book, which is nicely challenging.  She has a spelling test each Friday on 20 words.  Yesterday she asked what "trajectory" meant.
10:00 -- Math.  Right now, until she's caught up in her book, Julia is doing math twice daily, with Adam.  He is quite a task-master, much better than I.  That's because math really matters to him. He grades her homework every day, and she gets a daily grade.  Yesterday she turned in an assignment on which she would have gotten a 96, if he'd only counted off for incorrect math work.  But she also failed to label her answers correctly.  She got a 64.  She's becoming much more careful and diligent.  Adam is all about accuracy.
11:00 -- (or sometimes a little early)  Anna and I study British literature.  Often I can tell Julia is listening in, because she can hardly help herself.  She loves literature. This is supposed to be her reading hour, and she does plenty of reading.  Yesterday she finished reading a history book, William the Conqueror. Anyway, Anna and I are covering Milton's Paradise Lost, Books 1 and 9. Anna turned in a lengthy study sheet on Book 1 for a grade. And because Julia finished her book, today she began writing a 1-page summary of the book.  She does this on each book she reads. As you see, Anna and I like to sit on the couch as we study our literature.
Yesterday, we ended up having company for lunch.  (It was SO much fun to see Carolyn, her baby girl Tessa, and their foreign exchange student, Hong.  We loved having them for lunch, and Adam made something yummy.)  So, that cut our morning work short just a tad.  But after lunch and a little visiting with company, Julia returned to her second hour of math work.  She usually does this at 1:00, back at the dining room table.  We do have a "school table," but it's finally become more of a "junk table," and I'm mighty tired of that!  Today, we are clearing it off, and admitting to ourselves that we don't actually ever do school work there.  If Julia works at the dining room table, that ensures that she will clear her stuff away and tidy up on a DAILY basis.  Novel idea, I know ....

2:00 -- Julia works on either history or science.  Yesterday, Anna and I took off to the grocery store, so Adam supervised her work. Her history text is basically the Usborne History Encyclopedia.  She outlines each page.  We're only using the Medieval section of the book.  She has many other books on historical subjects that she completes also.  Recently she read David Macaulay's Cathedral and completed a 3-page study sheet on it. I grade her outlines.  I do not give her history tests, because she loves the material and retains it on her own. She needs little supervision after lunch.

The science textbook is a 7th grade Abeka.  She completes the questions and takes chapter tests, both for grades. She alternates between science and history each day, and we should have plenty of time to finish both curricula by the end of the year.

She's always done by 3:00, usually by 2:30.  She'll keep plowing through during the day, so she can be outside to play with Sandy.

So, that's our typical school day.  Not too rigorous on me, although I do need to catch up on my grading every now and then. The girls are willing learners. Anna has said that she wishes she could have gotten the education that Julia is getting now -- a Classical education, administered one-on-one at home, with lots of motivation, lots of interest, lots of fun. And no ugly middle school girls to bully her.  Sigh.  Well, we weren't perfect, but at least I can say we learned from the mistakes we did make, and we're trying to do a better job this time around!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Simeon of Jerusalem

For how many decades was the Spirit
Upon me? How long I waited for Him,
For the saving relief of God’s people!
How bowed with grief was our Jerusalem!

And then that day – the Spirit guided me
Along the streets, to the holy temple,
“A Rabbi!” I thought. “I’ll find him teaching!
All Jews will follow his example!”

What a shock to find a crying baby,
But I knew –I knew – this was the one.
This scrawny creature, clinging to his mother,
Was, unexpectedly, God’s very Son.

I held him, for a moment, and he settled,
Prophet Isaiah’s words sprang from my lips.
Then Anna came, as if in affirmation.
He held her ancient finger in his grip.

And that was it. They left for Galilee,
And I never saw him on earth again.
I died two weeks later; even my death
Proclaimed him as the Messiah, to men.

November 21, 2010
Copyright by the author

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Those weird little coincidences.

Okay, this is a really random post, but I just have to say something, and I knew you would understand.  The last post I did (about tomatoes, remember?), I made a typo.  Shocking, I know.  When I described my reaction to the glorious tomatoes, I meant to say, "Oh my stars!"  But instead, I typed, "Oh my starts!"

Silly me.

I read it on my Google Reader that way, and went right back and corrected the error.


Then, I was over on Facebook, reading away, and I saw a link to a friend's aunt's blog, a blog I never read at all, but it looked interesting.  It's called "Over the Ord and Back."  The post was about the grandma's old house, and looked sweet and nostalgic, so I thought I'd take a look.  (Nice post, btw.)  The writer was describing how beautiful the place is, and how deep and dark the night sky is there.  She said it this way: "The starts pop."

"The starts"?

And I realized she had made the same mistake as I did :) Isn't that odd?

And isn't it odd that we made the same error on the same day? One that neither of us has probably made before?

And that I found it on a blog I never read? Within 5 minutes of finding my own error?

Okay, okay, you object.  And I'm writing about it because ...?

Well, because these kind of bizarre, seemingly-meaningless coincidences happen to me fairly often.  Often enough that even their frequency becomes a slightly disturbing pattern in itself.

Like Walt Whitman, I could say that perhaps this is the "handkerchief of the Lord," designedly dropped so that I will pick it up, and look at it, and ask "Whose?" and then see Him in it. Is it God?  Aren't all things God?

Ah well.  If you don't find weird little coincidences interesting, that's okay.  At least I connected you to a very nice blog post, well worth reading, over at "Over the Ord."  But -- -- do any of you ever have feather-ruffling coincidences like mine?

Late-November Tomatoes

I make tacos on Sundays for lunch. Today I asked Julia to run downstairs to the basement and check on the tomatoes. I was hoping for one good one. Here's what she returned with:
Oh my stars! Can you believe how great they look?!  In late November?  The ones that look a little pink are the "Mortgage Lifter" variety, and that's their normal color.  I was SO excited.  I cut the 2 darker ones for lunch.
That's just as pretty as any tomato you'd pick in August.  These were all picked when fully green, to avoid their being frozen. And see how nicely they've ripened, wrapped in newspaper and kept in the basement.  I'm DEFINITELY doing this every year.

Job's Wife

Uh! My father chose me such a husband!
I’ve gone down in history as the great nag.
But does anyone consider my lot?
Reduced from wearing gold to wearing rags?

I grew so tired of all his fasts and praying,
And little good it did us on that day
When all our life fell into devastation;
We lost the farms and children anyway.

Is it surprising that I should grow angry,
And tell him to his face just how I felt?
We both knew God had sent the wild Chaldeans,
That He had covered Job’s body in welts.

“Curse this God,” I said. “You’re going to die.”
How wrong I was. Later, God did restore
All we’d lost. And though losing ten children
Broke me, He was kind and gave me ten more.

My three new daughters were stunning beauties,
And the seven boys grew into fine men,
But since I knew Job’s trials weren’t his doing,
I never really trusted God again.

November 20, 2010
copyright by the author

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Very Pleasant Visit

We had such a nice visit at my parents' house for Thanksgiving. Anna and Katie hung out a lot.  On Friday, they got out all of grandmother's loose photos and organized them.  Katie put some into an album. One of these days, we'll get them ALL organized and albumized!
These two -- Peter and Ben -- played an epic game of monopoly for hours downstairs in the basement.  Julia and Nathan also played together, usually outside, and had the scratches and muddy shoes to prove it.
Here's my sweet brother Max and his very dear wife, Anne.  Can you tell he likes her a little?
I don't often put pics of myself on here;  I'm not very photogenic, but I figured I'd better, so you'd really believe I was there :) Adam didn't wet his hair down on Friday and it got tall and stood up on his head.  He calls it "Baptist preacher hair."
I did make my cherry pandowdy, and it turned out just as delicious as a cherry pie, without that soggy bottom. Very yummy.

My parents have gorgeous sunsets on a daily basis, where they are. We were sitting down to supper on Friday when someone noted the sunset, so I dashed up, grabbed the camera, and got this quick shot.  The light is wonderful, but I love the look of the trees here -- jagged, thin, dark and cold. They look like skinny witches, on a trek to a cave somewhere.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Where there are food and fellowship ...

We started out our Thanksgiving Day at church, with our dear friends there. We always have a Thanksgiving Breakfast for everyone -- and SO many people come out for this!  I'm amazed at the ladies who can pry themselves away from their kitchens on Thanksgiving morning to go to church.
One couple in our church had lots of grandkids to visit for the day,  and here they are, all eating together at the table.
Our precious friends, Barb and Ron, just found out they will be grandparents, for the first time!  They were beaming!
As we drove for a visit to my parents, the skies turned from dark and foreboding, to blue and cloudy:
My mother has a wonderful turkey recipe.  She gets the grocery meat department to debone the turkey, removing the breasts from the bone.  They she rolls it up with this in the middle: rosemary, paprika, olive oil and garlic, ground up here in her cuisanart. The aroma is downright distracting, and the turkey stays moist -- and it cooks so much faster.
The turkey, before serving. Each piece has a bit of those wonderful flavors, on its edge.
While we prepared supper, the men and children worked outside, cutting down unwanted saplings that were blocking my parents' stunning Blue Ridge Mountain view. Later this pile of brush will be burnt.
My plate:  clockwise -- turkey, Anne's garden beans, stuffing with gravy, Anne's homemade raspberry preserves (for my roll, not pictured), mashed potatoes with gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole in the middle.  We had my pies later in the evening.
More pictures later, and this time I promise I'll post photos of family members :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Baking Day

Balaam, son of Beor

I had such limited choices, really.
Balak compelled me, and God said to go.
Sure, I wanted to oblige Moab’s king.
Was it so wrong to make it appear so?

I am also a child of Abraham.
We stayed in his land. Who are these long-lost
Egyptians, claiming some knowledge of Him?
I’m Midian’s prophet, whom He loves most.

Words from my donkey’s mouth didn’t shock me;
But the words He put in my own? They did.
These dirty sons of Jacob are blessed?
That I should say such words! Oh, God forbid!

But I said them. He forced me -- to fortell
My own people’s destruction. What was more,
He made me place among Jacob’s lineage,
That seed of Eve that we’d been waiting for.

My final word on the subject is this:
To be a prophet is to be a lout.
Backed into corners and compelled to speak
Words that burn the tongue as they spill out.

November 20, 2010
copyright by the author

"Where are those instructions?"

On Monday, I took the girls to church to help decorate for the Advent season. Each church has its own traditions.  Our church puts up garlands of greenery, red bows, an advent wreath and candles, and a 12 foot tree with Chrismon ornaments. (Although many Chrismon ornaments are ancient Christian symbols, like the dove or the fish, the concept of Chrismon decorations was only begun in the 1950s.)

Anyway, a group of us gathered, and began to tackle the 12 foot tree. Doug, in the hat, adjusts the base. It was readjusted at least twice. Don looks on.
The tree is made of 5 sections.  "E" is on the bottom.  "A" is on the top.  The men mistakenly put "D" in the base first.  That was the first time I heard Alison (below) say softly, "Where are those instructions?"
So, finally we found the A-E labels on each section, realized the correct order, and painfully got "E" on the bottom! Phew! Now Ron looks on. It definitely became a "man thing."
The lights are already attached to the sections, so as you put in each new section, you have to find all the electrical connections (there seemed to be a kazillion).  The men are all bustling around, reaching into the tree, saying things like, "I need a female end!"  "This one is labeled orange!" and such. Meanwhile, the woman are all bustling around the tree like little church mice, "fluffing."  Fluffing involves straightening each little branch, since they've all be squashed up for 11 months in a box.
The women, "fluffing."
Ahhhh.  At last, Ron is willing to find those instructions! I forget what mishap this event was meant to correct.  At one point I do know that we'd mis-loaded the various sections and the women were all willing to leave out "B" and just slap the crown on the tree anyway. Not those men!  They would conquer the beast!  They got their way :)
Alison is pre-fluffing the top of the tree. I'm actually glad we didn't omit one section;  it would have looked weird.
Toward the end, Don quietly went to work on garlands and bows.
Ron stretches for the top! It's really hard to get it straight. He eventually had to stand on the next-to-last rung.
Ahh.  At last, the finished tree.  Poor Doug got stuck with the task of putting decorations on the top.  You all know how picky women can be about decorations -- especially the few women who hold the honor of decorating the church! We were constantly telling him, "No, a little to the right!"  "Turn it toward me!" "Just a little lower!  No higher!"  Poor Doug!
We couldn't stay till the end.  We had grocery shopping to do.  I also stopped by the mall for a few Christmas presents, which really put the girls "in the mood" and then we dashed into Sonic for their 1/2 price afternoon beverages -- a special treat for us. Then on to WalMart, back home to cook supper, and then off to Bible Study for the evening.  What a fun, full day!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

When Magic Finds You

We don't have a better word than magic for those nebulous, ethereal moments in life, unexpected, when all seems beautiful, when peace settles over the heart, when nature is friendly, when one feels close to heaven. But that's not really it. Part of the magical quality is its inability to be described.

For school today, Julia and I went for a "nature walk" after lunch. I went to look for pine cones, and she for leaves. I forgot the camera, of course. We went to a different park, or rather not a park, but a walking trail in town. I knew it was there, but I'd never visited it. "Walking Trail" sounds so serious, with huffing runners who don't say hello and little mile markers to tell you how athletic you are. Ick.

Not so this trail. I've not seen such a little place of wonder in a long time. Something about the placement of the trees, the picking up of the wind, the deep grey-blue sky, the coming rain, the absence of any other souls. We heard dogs bark and someone raking leaves in a neighborhood. The level path wound through scattered woods, with a small creek beside. We found an expansive field, perfect for flying a kite or throwing a boomerang, or playing a game of neighborhood football. No one was there. Julia and Sandy ran until they were out of breath.

I'm glad I have a child who doesn't grumble about being alone, who is happy with just a dog, a tree to climb, a field to fly in. We will certainly go there again, and take Adam and Anna along. And a camera. Julia wants to take a picnic. But I wonder whether it will have the same effect; will the magic have dissipated like blown leaves, or a dark sky?

Anyway, that was school today. Perhaps that's one more benefit of homeschooling -- that finding magic can be part of the curriculum.

Rahab of Jericho

Oh, I know men better than anyone,
All the pleasure-seekers, users in town.
These two were different. I told them that day,
I’d help them to make my city walls fall down.

How I hated Jericho. Prostitutes
Like me, the finest men in town would hire,
But when the time for sacrifice arrived,
Our babies were the ones placed on the fire.

These Jews had a new God who moved oceans,
If the rumors we’d heard flying were truth.
I heard He saved a drowning baby once --
So I hid His two spies up on my roof.

They took the city rather easily.
And let me start my life over again.
And from my tainted womb God brought a boy
Whose blood would flow in the Messiah’s veins.

November 19, 2010
copyright by the author

For your morning online enjoyment:

Here are a few interesting links/sites/videos today:

Here's yet another seemingly-spontaneous rendering of Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus." I like this one better than Macy's Department Store. Note the singers raise their hands in the air, at the end. Do you think that, at some point, a complaint will be made about this expression of religious opinion in song, and companies will stop allowing it?

In that Christmas line, here is an interesting post on what our attitude should be in this Thanksgiving/Christmas Season. If you're a Dave Ramsey fan, you might want to read this, to get a little "softening" of opinion. Our proper response to God's lavish giving to us, is to give lavishly too. I really appreciated some of the comments to this post as well, in which we're reminded not to hoard our own savings, and then expect other people to pay our bills.

And I was amazed and dazzled by the beauty in this video from Yosemite National Park, sent by a friend. It's about "frazil ice" - ever heard of it? So interesting -- a phenomenon that occurs there in March & April. You should watch it!

Lastly, here's a link to a video from the Lausanne Conference, held recently in Cape Town. The video is of a North Korean girl, speaking eloquently and with such moving passion, about her commitment to the people of her homeland. Please don't miss this. She has lost both mother and father, but the Lord is clearly her portion and her inheritance.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Art Day

Since Julia hasn't had a single day off school all semester, this week I thought we'd shake things up a little.
So, today was "Art Day."  For Julia, that means PAINTING.
For Anna, every day is Art Day, if it means doing hand work.  She's working on a baby quilt. She and her 2 cousins completed the squares, and now she's putting it together.  Here are two of the squares.
They're so cute -- maybe I should post them all!
Julia begins painting this morning.  She's using the travel watercolor set that Adam's mom gave her -- she adores it, and the little brush is her favorite. She's using the homemade paper, which I think is a bit more challenging to paint on.  She decided to do an Egyptian scene, since last year's study of Egypt was her favorite thing thus far, in homeschooling. Except maybe Latin.
And here's my painting area.  She wanted company. I find painting to be just about the most relaxing thing I ever do, seriously. I do it about twice a year, when Julia wants to.
Is this picture the painter's equivalent to writer's block?
I decided on something easy -- the pitcher Philip gave me for my birthday.
This is supposed to be the rose bush in my backyard, with yellowing leaves.
The Egyptian scene. Queen is taller that her son, the prince, who needs a stool.  A lion also, and a servant fanning.
Julia also did daisies on a windowsill, and a little one of Sandy, stealing some cake from a table.  She's rather good at drawing Sandy. She does it a lot.
A forest scene:
And a large harvest moon, with a girl dancing in a field:

On Being Sick

We are not a sick family. Since leaving the classroom and mostly staying home, Adam and I and the children stay healthy. I get a cold -- maybe -- once a year.

But I returned from West Virginia with a sore throat, and I'm just now finally getting over it. It left me with heavy mucus strangling my vocal cords. At first I couldn't speak well, and then it robbed me of my singing voice. I lost three weeks of rehearsals with the Community Chorus for Christmas.

Anna had the same thing, although not quite so bad.

Then Julia came down with it. She and Anna added a headache to the list of symptoms.

And then, on Saturday Adam got sick. Adam never gets sick. I can honestly say, in 21 years of marriage, I've only known him to throw up twice: once after he made a bad batch of not-correctly-cooked beef jerky, and a second time after eating at Ryan's Steak House. Both times it was clearly food poisoning.

Well, he didn't throw up this time, but had a splitting, thumping headache. And he was so achy that his skin tingled and he didn't want me to touch him. When Adam doesn't want me to touch him, he must be deathly ill.

Still, he preached yesterday and did a good job.

This morning, at about 5:15, Peter opened my bedroom door and declared, "Mom, my stomach is killing me!" He said he didn't need the ER, but he was doubled over. Hmm. My foggy brain tried to concentrate on what I might possibly have in the house for stomach ills. I went digging in the closet and saw an old bottle of Pepto Bismol.

(I adored the taste of Pepto Bismol as a child. Did you?)

It had expired in 2008.

But I shook it well, opened it, and it smelled exactly as Pepto Bismol should. I thought, "How much harm can it do? His stomach already hurts...."

So I gave him a dose. In about 4 minutes, he was feeling better. Yay!

I sent him back to bed, with the bottle of Pepto Bismol. I thought he might -- just might -- need another dose before morning.

When I talked to him at 7:30, he was feeling fine, and planning to go to school. I asked about the bottle. Had he used any more?

Uh, yeah. He had. He showed me the bottle. I think he likes the taste too. He'd nearly polished off the rest of the bottle -- I'd say almost a cup of Pepto Bismol altogether.

All I could do was laugh. Now I can legitimately get a new bottle at WalMart today.

And before he went off to school, Peter told me I was the best mom EVER.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Jael, Wife of Heber

My husband moved us away to this place,
A lonely tent with a single oak tree.
Away from our people; Israelites
All around us, and not a friend for me.

Then the wars began, and he left me here.
He even made a pact before he went,
And told me to side with the Canaanites.
I went crazy, hiding inside the tent.

Sisera, Canaan’s leader, fled on foot --
He pleaded for a place to hide, a bed,
A drop of water. What a coward!
And so I drove the tent peg through his head.

They tell me God planned for me to do it,
That I fulfilled Deborah’s prophecy.
What hogwash. All I know is that at last
Heber leaves all decisions up to me.

November 18, 2010
Copyright by the author

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Family Fun

Also known as, "Leaf-Raking Saturday." Peter declared this to be the day. He's getting after those leaves. We have a very narrow, very deep lot, so the goal is to get those leaves down to the curb -- a long way!
Julia used the push broom on the driveway.
Sandy's contribution was to bark at all the brooms and let them know who was boss.
Even Anna -- Anna!! -- came out to help.  Of course, that was after I ordered her OFF the computer! This long stretch you see is only a part of the front yard.  We won't even think about the back yard yet.
Sandy was, as we say, "All Uppity Dog!"
The Rakers. Note Julia, hiding.
When the leaves were at the curb, Julia wanted to throw Sandy in them. Sandy is no dummy, and wouldn't let Julia catch her.  But as soon as Julia dove, head-first, into the leaves, Sandy was right there in the pile with her!
Oh, to be young again! Do you remember doing that?