Saturday, August 31, 2013


After a busy morning at the market with friends, this afternoon I'm at home alone with two napping doggies, in a quiet room with hot tea, a mulled cider candle,
A little wandering around Pinterest,
one of many pins on my "Autumn Only" board
And crocheting a fallish infinity scarf,
And what care I if the temperature outdoors is 88ยบ today, or if the mosquitoes still nibble aggravatingly, or if I can't wear sweaters yet?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Life with Beau

Night before last, Adam and I went for a drive by the water. We took the dogs. I asked Adam to drive so I could get a picture from atop Smith Creek Bridge, the high, arched bridge in town. Unfortunately sunset's orange glow was not present that night.
Sandy sat in Adam's lap, and Beau sat in mine. He liked putting his face and paws out the window. I held on to him!
He was one happy dog.
Sailboat on the still water:
Behind the breakwater:
Last night Adam and I went for a walk with the dogs in an attempt to wear out Beau a bit more, so he'll sleep later in the morning. (It worked, btw.) And in spite of the heat and humidity I did discover some autumn leaves lying around. Nice to see. One of these days the heat will break permanently.
Then I'll put my shorts and t-shirts away, and autumn will have arrived!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dinner on the New Grill

Remember I said Adam would grill for supper tonight? On this new-to-us baby?
He opted for a small sirloin and some veg -- onions and peppers. The grill grating is nice and tight so the veggies don't fall through.
He mixed the veggies in a little oil.
The pups watched daddy through the back door.
And then Beau looked up at me. Oh my, the cuteness!
We had a bunch of corn tortillas so Adam made homemade chips. The flavor is so much better than any other ones.
And he made guacamole too ... the yummiest! Scrumdilicious!
Beau has discovered the joys of making himself a little taller by standing on my stool.
Adam read about our new grill and discovered it's more of an oven than an actual grill. In other words, it's hard to get things to really burn well on it. The veggies -- he added tomatoes.
The sirloin, cut in strips for fajitas.
My plate, minus the spinach, which I forgot at first.
Adam's fajita. Isn't it pretty? I think we'll enjoy this new machine :)


Adam left to go visiting around town this morning and stopped by the hardware store. There he chatted with a man hauling lots of left-over yard sale items in the back of his truck. Among the items was this, a gas grill for boating:
We've been looking and looking for one of these, cheap and used, without any luck. The fellow told Adam to take it away. For free! (Here's the very same grill, for sale on Amazon for $279.) It was really messy and dirty, but it's made of good stainless steel, which cleans up so well. Adam started scrubbing away on the grill. It looks beautiful now.
He's dashed to the grocery to get some chicken for tonight. It's been years (since Statesville) since we grilled anything. Yummy! It's a perfect tabletop size for us, and if we do decide to take a longer boat trip and cook, it will go along with us.
We're grateful for such a nice blessing for us today.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Caving in to a Homeschool Digression

Yesterday was a decent, diligent homeschooling day.

Today we started out with science, and about 9:30 I made the horrid mistake of reading Susan Branch's blog post. I say horrid, not because Susan is horrid, but because her blog is spelled "t-e-m-p-t-a-t-i-o-n." I clicked on her "musica" for the day, and the sound of loons and lilting music filled the house. Soon Julia snuggled up near me on the couch, listening.

"Ahhh!" she said. "It sounds like fall. We should paint today." (Autumn has this effect on us both.)

And we did. How appropriate that Susan Branch, a wonderful watercolor illustrator, prompted this digression!
Julia hunted in a small poetry book I have, for Robert Frost's poem, "October," which we've read many times. But she came across this poem and chose it instead, to include in her painting. We all love trees.
 I loved the final stanza of the poem Susan Branch began her blog post with, so I used it.
 I am unhappy with that border. Oh well. It seems to be missing something and I may approach it with my brush once more.
The text for Julia's poem is this:

Pale amber sunlight falls across
The reddening October trees,
That hardly sway before a breeze
As softly as summer: summer's loss
Seems little, dear! on days like these.

Beyond the pearled horizons lie
Winter and night; awaiting these
We garner this poor hour of ease,
Until love turn from us and die
Beneath the drear November trees.

Those are the first and last stanzas of a poem by Ernest Dawson. Not particularly happy, I think, but she loved it and chose it. We noted the use of the verb "garner," and looked it up to be sure we knew its  exact meaning . I guess you could call this a roundabout literature lesson. I didn't think of it as such; we were just painting and having fun. We did, however, avoid Book 3 of the Odyssey today, I'm sorry to say. It's a trade-off. My regimented self (who has been dominant all my life) says, "No! You must shove through and never miss a day!" I've learned, though, that it's very good to ignore Little Miss Regimental sometimes and cave into an educational digression. There is never a danger of doing this too often because Little Miss Regimental won't allow it, and Julia is often disappointed. 

The text for my poem:

There is something in October
Sets the gypsy blood astir;
We must rise and follow her,
When from every hill of flame
She calls and calls
Each vagabond by name.

And that lovely stanza is the end of a poem by Bliss Carman. He (yes, a man!) lived in the late 1800s/early 1900s, and his first name was William, but like a true artist I suppose he chose to go by Bliss.

For me, caving into schooling digressions is much safer when homeschooling. When I taught high school English in the classroom, Little Miss Regimental always reigned, and hundreds of students learned a lot. When they pleaded, "Mrs. Christiansen, can we please go outside today for English class?" I faithfully, always said "No." Without exception. I knew my students and I knew at least three in each class (and often more) could not be trusted outside to stay focused on the material. Everyone's learning experience would be compromised for the sake of "fun." I wasn't paid to provide fun. I was paid to educate.

But I can trust Julia, and she knows this and knows this trust, if not offended, will yield occasional opportunities to miss Homer and enjoy watercolors. The digression becomes enriching. In homeschooling, this spontaneous enrichment is more likely to occur, if the child is willing. In a class of 25 students, you're very likely to have several unwilling children, and that's all it takes to rob everyone of enrichment. 

I do not enjoy Little Miss Regimental, and I'm happily throwing her under the bus more often these days. When grandchildren arrive, here's hoping she will be gone altogether!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Day of Homeschooling

7:00 - I get up when Adam brings Beau to say good morning. I feed the puppy, have devotions, get breakfast and generally wake up my non-morning-person self.
8:05 - We wake up Julia and tell her to get going.
8:25 - I tell Julia to get some breakfast because school starts in 5 minutes.
8:30 - School starts with us reading Job 1. I review briefly why we're reading the book of Job in conjunction with our study of ancient history, and place Job in the timeline of Biblical books.
We discuss various aspects of the reading as we go along. I read half the chapter aloud, and she reads the second half aloud. We each have a copy of the text.
8:45 - We start biology. I show her her reading for the day, 4 pages from the textbook. I show her which terms she must learn (memorize) and what she should write in her science notes. After she's done reading and writing I give her a brief oral quiz on the day's material and quiz her also on yesterday's terms to reinforce retention for the end-of-chapter quiz later.
Julia reads Ancient Egypt
9:30 - 5 minute break for Julia to play outside with Beau.
9:40 - I holler outside that her break is over. We start literature. I give her an oral quiz on characters from Homer's Odyssey. No grade, just assessing how she's doing. I focus on names that she had difficulty remembering yesterday. Then we read Book 2 of the Odyssey, alternating sections to read aloud. As we read, I break occasionally to review characters' traits, plot connections, history, background, and break to look online at photos of amphora and tie in to the Sunday school lesson from Exodus about fragrant oils. As we read we hold Beau and pass him back and forth until he's too wiggly, and Julia puts him in his kennel. He naps. I'm happy that our reading of the Odyssey is progressing as I wanted, one book per day. At this rate, we'll finish both of Homer's epics in the first 50 days of school. This is only possible because both texts are already familiar to Julia; she studied them in 5th grade, last time we did ancient literature. This is the beauty of the Classical Ed. system.
10:35 -- short break
10:40 - We begin math with Khan Academy online. Julia dislikes Math, so we try to keep it light, fun. She works some problems converting mixed numbers and improper fractions. Her Khan page is set for her skill level. Mine, however, is actually Adam's Khan home page, so I find myself working algebra problems at a difficult level. I haven't studied math since high school. The goal here is for Julia and me to learn together, and thus decrease her stress level. The Khan teachers/website, plus Adam (when we need him) are our back-up and support. I'm having trouble navigating their website. Anyway, Julia and I mastered a practice session on ordered pairs and graphing them and understanding how they work with simple equations with x and y. You math people can tell immediately that I'm not one. I sometimes ask Adam questions like, "When you multiply two negative numbers, what happens?" or "Which one is the x axis and which one is the y axis?" Because I really don't remember those things. However, she ends our math session upbeat and not crying or angry, so this is success.
11:40 - Math is over. Julia takes a break with Beau and has lunch. This relieves her math-stressed brain. Adam has a big salad. Julia and I eat yummy maple sausages from the market, plus baby quiche from a friend. I have tomato slices too. Julia plays with the dogs while the food cooks. I light our "mulled cider" autumn candle. That, with the maple sausage smell, is very nice in the house. I crochet.
Julia studies with a friend.
12:40 - Julia begins her history reading. She starts by reading 2 pages in her Timetables of History, highlighting all entries about ancient Egypt. She notes also the mentions of Israel and Moses in the historical record. She moves on to 8 pages of reading in her Ancient Egypt book, her main text on this subject. Then she reads about ancient civilizations in her Usborne History Encyclopedia. She loved viewing a NOVA website yesterday that had excellent 3-D virtual tours of sites from ancient Egypt -- one from atop a pyramid. She'll view more of that today. It's somewhat interactive. In a classroom of 25 kids, it's unlikely Julia would get much chance to play with the video, choose virtual tours, explore down tunnels. If each child in a class gets a chance to do it for even 5 minutes, it takes over two hours! In homeschooling, she can participate and interact with such sites to her heart's content.
1:45 - She spent a good bit of time touring Egypt. At one point I heard her say softly, "I'm so happy." She loves the zoom-in option to see close-ups of Egyptian art on the walls of the temples, and the hieroglyphics. I encourage her to do her own versions of Egyptian art also. At last she says it's time for vocabulary.
1:50 - Julia's studying Vocabulary from Classical Roots, so although she's not doing a foreign language this year, I'm tricking her into reviewing many Latin words in this workbook. She finishes learning vocabulary in chapter 1 today.
2:05 - School's over. Vocabulary was easy. I quiz her briefly on the words. Tomorrow she does exercises, which will reinforce the words and meanings. Julia plays with dogs after school :)

Washing in the Jordan

How do we clean the sinful mental practices we hide in our brains? You know ... the nasty private habits we don't show anyone:  lust, greed, bitterness, resentment, judgmentalism. There's a long list of thought-sins we practice faithfully. Since they're our little dirty secrets, nobody holds us accountable. Eventually they become entrenched. How do you rid your mind of such things?

Naaman had a nasty physical disease, leprosy. He asked God's prophet how to get it off his body. He didn't like the answer, the cure. "Go wash in the Jordan River," said the man of God. Ugh! The Jordan is disgusting, Naaman thinks. Ha! He doesn't want his skin (his diseased, filthy, leprous skin) next to that murky water. Can't I bathe in a different, cleaner river? he asks. No, there's only one solution: the Jordan.

There's one solution to our diseased minds as well. Adam reminded us of this a couple of weeks ago at church -- the only solution he's ever found for scrubbing the mind clean of filthy, sinful thought-habits. You ready?

Memorizing Scripture.


Do we have to?? Isn't there an easier solution?

I'm no good at memorizing anymore. My brain is old. Not too old for filthy thought-habits, but much too old to memorize. About ten years ago I memorized Psalm 27, my favorite at the time. That went well. Then a bit later I launched into Isaiah 40. Oh my! I got about half-way through and languished. I haven't memorized anything new since then.

How does one pick a passage to memorize? How long should it be? Which passage is the right one?

After Adam's sermon I asked myself this question: which sinful thought-habit do I really need to get rid of? I knew immediately, of course. My worst mental habit is anxiety, worry, fretting about money and such things. I know I'm not supposed to do it, but I succumb. It shows a lack of trust in God. It shows I haven't learned from His previous provision for me.

And ... what Bible passage might help with such a mental state? I chose Matt. 7:25.
The heading above that verse says it all:
And realizing that I'm a very visual learner, I assisted myself with a piece of paper on which I re-wrote the verse in separated phrase segments, noting parallel structure that would help me memorize, and circling tag words to prompt my brain.
That helped a lot. Lastly, I decided to memorize just one verse. Just this one, first. After mastering this one, if I wanted to add the next and expand it to a passage, I could. I'm never again going to over-challenge myself with a whole chapter only to feel defeated and sad when I couldn't keep it all in my brain. The piece of paper above has a sticky-note back, so it stays on this page in my Bible.
During the day, when I remember, I try to recite the verse to myself, visualizing the paper, the structure, the sense of it. I'm amazed at the meaning I'd overlooked before. When I'm anxious about food, drink, or clothing, I'm actually worshiping those things. I can't worship them and simultaneously worship God. I must choose. This memorizing is a constant reminder to my brain: Choose! Whom do you worship and love?
I nailed verse 25, and now I'm moving on to verse 26. Scrubbing away at that brain. Washing in the Jordan.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Unfinished (Yarn) Business

It's confession time. Yesterday I began a yarn project, an infinity scarf. The pattern looked so pretty and easy, and it was free! And I already had plenty of good yarn. So ... why not? (The pattern is at Lacy Crochet, here.)
I'm using a lovely yarn from Simply Soft. The color is Ocean. My camera is clearly unsure about capturing this color accurately! (And since this is our first day of school, most photos are taken atop my planning book.)
But the day before that, I also started a new scarf. Because ... a friend gave me this fun yarn, and I knew it would look great on those massive knitting needles.
It's called "Bling Bling." The color is Spotlight Sage.
This is a fun yarn, but a little hard to manage on the needles.
This pretty girl is at a standstill and has been for most of the summer. I love it, but I'm simply distracted by so many other summer goings-on, and other yarn projects. Can you tell?

I have lots of great yarn, sitting yet unused. Both of these ribbon yarns will become light-weight "jewelry" scarves, purely ornamental.
And Julia asked last week if I would make her an autumn scarf/shawl in a nice warm rust color. So I picked up this soft Vanna's Choice. The color is Brick. What pattern will I use? When will I begin? Will it be for this autumn ... or the next? Sigh.
But that's not all; no, no. Here's a nice big shawl that is about half finished in Simply Soft, Deep Country Blue. It's a simple crocheted alternating 5 DC block + 5 DC fan. Easy, lovely, unfinished.
That's an I or J hook, I believe. Very dark blue.
And after I made my mother this shawl last Christmas, I loved it so much that I bought the yarn to make an identical one for me. Didn't get very far before I was lured down yarnish by-ways and led astray.
Not to mention the Very Old Projects that haven't been touched in over a year. Don't look, Joan! This is the scarf I made when you gave me this yarn, because you'd made one (and finished it, of course). Sigh again.
Last but not least, the unfinished sock. I suppose I could wear them like this!! Haha! I do wonder if I'll ever get back to this project. I'm sure that now it is on the rock bottom of the priority list.
Thus, my confession of unfinishedness. Is there a better word for that? ADYD? Attention Deficit Yarn Disorder?

Catching Up

I have a backlog of photos, so without further ado ~~
Philip drove Anna back to college, and then returned to Chattanooga himself, by way of my parents' home.
Philip packed his car to the gills. Anna's car had some repair issues at the last minute, so we'll have to get it to her later. That was a little sad.
I won't expound on all the details, but this was clearly a Philip-To-The-Rescue situation!
On a very happy note, a precious blogging friend (PomPom!) sent me a fabulous package of fun! Complete with monkeys:
And folded in the package was this Very Cool poster of Venice. How did she know that Venice is my favorite European city? That I spent five days there, in my 20s? That my favorite Scoobie-Doo episode is the one set in Venice:  "The Menace in Venice"?  Pom, it is now on my bedroom wall and I enjoy it every day.
Many artistic happies were in this package.
Along with a very creative, cool-idea gift -- a little photo book full of some of her favorite pictures of her favorite things in her home and yard. Great!! I love it!
Last night, after too many evenings without one, I took a bike ride. Cool air and low humidity made for a perfect ride.This photo looks down the Neuse toward its mouth, where it empties into the Pamlico Sound. See the low line of clouds just above the water? See how they begin at a little point on the left? That's the Marines' bombing site, a low peninsula around Rattan Bay. The clouds you see are the smoke drifting west from the bombs they've dropped there.We had a strong wind. I'm glad to know they are practicing.
The water is high right now, very high. This isn't tide that flows in and out each day. (We're too far from the ocean for that tide.) We call this "wind tide." A strong west wind blows the water in, filling the creeks and bays. These boat slips are full to the brim, but not "even over the brim," as Robert Frost would say.
I take that back. Hodges Street, which runs along the town dock, is over-brimming a bit in the setting sun.
I took this photo while standing in the middle of Hodges. The middle of the road humps up slightly, so my feet were mostly dry, but the edge of the street becomes an extension of the Duck Pond when we have wind tide.
Still standing in the middle of Hodges, looking the other way, out to the river. That's a railing and its reflection. The water on this side of the railing is Hodges Street, a puddle. Hodges is only barely a street. It's really Raccoon Creek, and for years the townsfolk dumped their garbage in the middle of it, trying to fill it in so they could have a road there, across the street. I imagine the town was too poor then to afford a bridge. Eventually, the garbage won over the water, and it was paved, and called Hodges Street. That's the story I heard anyway.
We still have roses here.
Oriental has the tamest bunnies. They sit leisurely in our yards, spurning our dogs, nibbling grass. You can walk right past them and they barely wiggle a whisker. This big fellow was right along First Ave. Just as I snapped the picture, he jumped! See him?
He didn't jump far. He moved to the grassy edge. Do you see him?
Happy Monday! We're starting school today!