Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The communion of the saints

[First posted on this date in 2003.  We're still friends with all these dear people.]

It is such a blessing to meet people for the first time and to feel so close to them right away, like they are close friends or family members you haven't seen in a long time.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from a young woman in Oklahoma, who happened across my blog and noticed that we live in the same town where her father lives. Since he does not go to church, she asked me if she could come with us the next time she visited her dad, so of course I said, "Yes."

This Sunday morning, Kelly and three of her friends (Kelly M, Lisa, and Robert, brother of Kelly M) came to the base chapel with us. We all ate lunch at the fellowship hall after the service, then they came home with us and we spent the rest of the afternoon talking and getting to know each other, and what a delight it was!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Fresh paint

This is the color we're using for our new laundry room. It's kind of a robin's egg blue, and you can see how it changes color a bit depending on the light.  I love colors that do that -- more blue in some lights, more green in others.

When you read advice on choosing paint, you're usually told that the color will be much more intense on the wall than it is on the little paint card, so you should decide on which shade you like, then use the one that's one step lighter than that.

It doesn't work that way for me. I guess I'm afraid of getting too intense a color, so I naturally pick something that's lighter than what I'd really want. And then I put it on and I'm always disappointed with it.

But this time I ignored the advice and bought the color I liked best.

And this time the color is perfect.

Monday, September 1, 2014

What I've been doing instead of reading math

* Going to the Y and hurting myself on the treadmill.

* Going to the Y and hurting myself in the pool.

* Lying around regretting my life choices.

* Reading light, fluffy fiction -- Dandelion Cottage, free for Kindle, recommended by the Deputy Headmistress.

* Reading light, not-so-fluffy fiction -- The 101 Dalmatians, which was my favorite book in the 5th grade.  Bill Peet did a wonderful job translating the book to screen for Disney, but if you've only seen the movie you've got to read the book, too.  It's delightful and poignant.

* Playing an insane number of rounds of Net Game -- I can't tell you how soothing it is to line up all those pieces properly and see the whole thing light up with power.  It's like a drug.

My high score just before leaving town in July, which I have not been able to top since. 
This is driving me crazy.

* Also Mahjong, but it's not nearly as satisfying as Net.  Too much chance involved.

* Eating avocados, my number one comfort food.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~ Interruption ~*~ ~*~ ~*~

A moment of silence for this poor dead hummingbird my son just brought me.

So tiny and beautiful

The real thing is much smaller than this picture.  It's not even three inches long from the tip of its beak to the end of its tail and its wings are only a little larger than a dragonfly's.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Now, where was I?  Oh, yes. What I've been doing instead of reading math.

* Blogging stuff like this.

* Overseeing the final stages of our long-anticipated new laundry room.  I think we started this project four years ago now.

* Reading about right brain / left brain differences.

* Trying to read the backlog of Peter Leithart articles in my feed.  He must be an angelic being -- it seems that he has no need for sleep or food.  Just reading and comprehending what he writes about would be a full-time job for me.

* Instigating a heated discussion on Facebook, which didn't do anyone any good.

* Lying around regretting my life choices.

Wait.  Did I say that one already?

* More Net game.

* Coffee.  Lots of coffee.

* And chocolate.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wednesdays with Words: Beauty for Truth's Sake 2

From Chapter 2: Educating the Poetic Imagination

For the Platonic and Aristotelian tradition, music was not just one of the subjects to be studied for a master’s degree. In a certain broader sense the choral art was the foundation of the educational process. As we read in Plato’s Laws, “the whole choral art is also in our view the whole of education; and of this art, rhythms and harmonies form the part which has to do with the voice.” Music in this wider sense included song, poetry, story, and dance (“gymnastic”).

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

[T]he greatest scientists have never ceased to be motivated by the desire to find beauty in their equations, and their breakthroughs are often the result of an intuition, or an imaginative leap.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Poetry and the poetic imagination depend very largely on the interplay of likeness and difference. Simile, metaphor, contrast, analogy, are all used to connect one experience with another.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

A “symbol” is something that, by virtue of its analogous properties, or some other reason, represents something else. It is not just a “sign,” which is made to correspond to something by an arbitrary convention (like a road sign), but has some natural resemblance to what it represents. Traditional cosmologies were ways of reading the cosmos itself as a fabric woven of natural symbols.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Eventually, every created thing can be seen as a manifestation of its own interior essence, and the world is transformed into a radiant book to be read with eyes sensitive to spiritual light.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

To take the examples motioned earlier, a tree is a natural symbol of the way the visible (trunk and branches) comes from the invisible (roots and seed), linking higher and lower realities into one living pattern. As such, it can function either as a symbol of the world as a whole (Yggdrasil, in the Norse myths), or of tradition, or of the Church, or of Man. A star by its piercing and remote beauty represents the “light” of higher realities, or the angels, or the thoughts of God, and so on. In each case, these associations are not arbitrary but precise and natural, even to a large extent predictable and consistent from one culture to another (though capable of many applications and variations). The symbol and the archetype to which it refers are not separate things, for the symbol is simply the manifestation of the archetype in a particular milieu or place of existence. It is “meaning made tangible.”

~*~ ~*~ ~*~~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~


I’m still slowly working my way through my math books and I’m working on the next post in my “Squaring the Circle” series, but it’s super-slow, now that we’ve gone back to having regular Morning Times. In the meantime, here’s a picture of some of the math books I’ve been gathering.

I don’t know why that Atlas of Military History is there – it’s my youngest son’s book.  The coin is a German schilling #1Son found when he was in Guatemala this summer.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wednesdays with Words: The Rector of Justin, by Louis Auchincloss

"There is no real distinction between the pulpit and the classroom. I tried to put God into every book and sport in Justin. That was my ideal, to spread a sense of his presence so that it would not be confined to prayers and sacred studies and to spread it in such a way as to make the school joyful." He shook his head ruefully. "Oh, if I could have done that, Brian, Justin would have been the model for all preparatory schools!"

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

His principle reason, however, for giving so much care and devotion to the chapel service was that he regarded it as the keystone of his educational plan. God might indeed be everywhere, but he was particularly in chapel when masters and boys worshiped together.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

"And none of us is a Christian until he has accepted the parable of the laborer in the vineyard. Until he is willing to share the kingdom of God equally with those who have toiled but a fraction of his working day. Until he has recognized that it would not be the kingdom of God if there were any differences in it."

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

When I left, I asked him if I could make a habit of driving down to see him every Saturday afternoon, and he consented . . . . And then in a burst of gratitude and because I had been overwrought by his news [of his impending death], I subjected him to one of my silly fits of conscience. Oh, the egotism of the neurotic!

"Unless you think I'm only coming to collect your last words!" I exclaimed. "Perhaps I am. Perhaps, God help me, I am!"

"Coming to see me is a good deed, Brian," Dr. Prescott replied gently. "It gives me great pleasure, therefore it is good. You worry too much about motives. Suppose your motive is selfish. Very well. But now suppose yourself an inquisitor of the Middle Ages who would burn my living body to save my soul. The motive might be good. But what about poor me at the stake! Do you imagine the good Lord will reward the inquisitor more than you? Of course not. Some of the intrinsic goodness of a good deed must seep into the motive, and some of the bad of a bad deed. Keep doing good deeds long enough, and you'll probably turn out a good man. In spite of yourself!"

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

We like heroes in shirtsleeves, or, in other words, we don't like heroes. But things were not always that way, and today is not forever.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

But I must stop rambling. I must cease my everlasting speculations. If I am ever to write anything, even if I give it my whole lifetime, I must still make a beginning. I must still make a mark on the acres of white paper that seem to unroll before me like arctic snows.

Monday, August 18, 2014

How Firm a Foundation

Sunday in church we sang one of my all-time favorite hymns. It's a lot of fun to sing it this time of year when I'm optimistic, but I'm posting it here as a reminder for later on, when life is dreary and I wish I could quit -- and for y'all, in care you're in that place now and need the encouragement.

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you that for refuge to Jesus have fled?

"Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

"When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

"When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

"The soul that to Jesus hath fled for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no, never, no, never forsake."

~ K. in John Rippon's Selection of Hymns, 1787, alt.
1940 Episcopal Hymnal version

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Tip: For a laughter-filled home, raise one of your children to be a comic artist

Things like this will happen:

Recently we’ve had a handyman about the house and I keep on stumbling across him in various states of un(der)dress, or in my work-at-home-clothes (today’s theme was hobo/cat lady)

or while making strange faces and/or noises

and it’s just a little hard to keep my cool and act natural when suddenly confronted with a strange man in a space where I did not expect to find one. But I do my best!


Friday, August 15, 2014

Easing back into school -- the rest of the week, or "Not Nearly as Pretty as Day One"

Things went so well on Monday that I overdid it and went to bed too exhausted to sleep well and didn't wake up Tuesday morning until almost 9:30, so I spent the morning grouchy and annoyed, and by the time I'd eaten and gotten some work done and had time to call everyone to Morning Time I had to go into my room for an attitude adjustment first.

We start the school day off with prayers, so, well . . . .  The good news for my kids is that we don't start the school day when Mama is feeling grumpy.

So then it was time for lunch.

Finally around one o'clock I rang the bell for Morning Time, and since it wasn't morning any more we turned to the page for noontime prayers in our prayer book (I know I've mentioned before how much I love using the Book of Common Prayer; let me just say it again -- I love the prayer book!).  The verses were especially meaningful to me after my cranky morning.

At Noon

From Psalm 113
Give praise, you servants of the LORD; *
   praise the Name of the LORD.
Let the Name of the LORD be blessed, *
   from this time forth for evermore.
From the rising of the sun to its going down *
   let the Name of the LORD be praised.
The LORD is high above all nations, *
   and his glory above the heavens.

A Reading
O God, you will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are fixed on you; for in returning and rest we shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be our strength.
Isaiah 26:3; 30:15

Prayers may be offered for ourselves and others.

The Lord’s Prayer

The Collect

Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles, “Peace I give to you; my own peace I leave with you:” Regard not our sins, but the faith of your Church, and give to us the peace and unity of that heavenly City, where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, now and for ever. Amen.

After that was Poetry (I've decided to read through Ambleside Online's list of poems for Year 6).  I read Sir Philip Sidney's "His Lady's Cruelty," which is the one that starts, "With how sad steps, O moon, thou climb'st the skies," and that sparked a lot of discussion on whether the poet was justified in ascribing his own feelings to an inanimate object.  For the record, my position is that it's correct, when done properly.  If the poet had been saying, "With how sad steps, O lightening bugs, thou light'st the night," or some such, then either he's trying to be funny, or it's just bad poetry, and I'm not talking about botching the sonnet's meter.

Then we reviewed the grammar terms we'd covered earlier in the spring.  I'm using an ancient copy of Kittredge and Arnold's The Mother Tongue, Book II, recommended by Cindy, and it's perfect for my needs, but some clever ladies have published an adaptation for modern students, which is also recommended by Cindy, so you might want to check that out.

Next we read our chapter of The Wanderings of Odysseus, listened to narrations, discussed stuff, and sent everyone outside to play.  End of Day 2.

I think that took two hours.  Because we talk too much.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Wednesday we had an unexpected scheduling conflict that meant we couldn't do lessons in the morning, and in the afternoon the three oldest girls had an engagement and the two younger boys had outside work, so we couldn't do school then.  That left me and my youngest alone in the house for most of the afternoon so we played card games together.  In between rounds we quizzed each other on tricks for counting the score rapidly in our heads.

In the card game we were playing, 2s are wild and are worth 20 points each. Face cards are 10 each and the rest are their face value.  I asked her, "If you have three cards that total ten points and one is a four, what are the other two?" At first she said she couldn't do that (this one is shy about answering new problems aloud), but when I asked her to take four away from ten, then figure out how to make the leftover number out of two cards [remember, since 2s are 20 each, there was only one way to do it -- two 3s], she answered correctly.  Then she made up a question for me.  The questions got more complicated as we went on.

I'm learning how to do this kind of thing by reading the Let's Play Math and Talking Math with Your Kids blogs.  You should check them out if this something you need help with too.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Thursday was prettier.  We started roughly on time -- generally I shoot for ringing the prayer bell at 9:00, and I think we were within half an hour of that.

First we did a spot of pseudo-Swedish Drill because after seeing the video that Brandy linked to a few days ago I'm thinking about including it, or some variation thereof.  I have serious issues with some of the postures in the only handbook I've spent much time looking at, but I think a few minutes of the kind of mindful movement talked about in the video would be good for all of us.

Next we sang a hymn.  Normally we would have had prayers before anything, but one of the children was cranky and I wanted to give the child some space to cheer up a bit before we started.  Now that I write this out it makes me wonder if that's really the right way of going about it -- am I inadvertently teaching my children some sort of works-righteousness?  Hm.

Our Scripture reading for the day was from Luke 23 about the veil in the Temple tearing when Jesus was crucified.  I don't usually have a sermonette during Prayers, but this time I decided to ask them what they knew about the arrangement of the Temple and the role of the veil.  One of my children was really excited when she figured out the significance of the veil's being torn -- that now all of God's people can come into his presence, not just the high priest, and not just on one day of the year.  So that two minute digression was well worth breaking my usual habit.

Another poem, another interesting discussion.

A brief section from The Mother Tongue, which sparked yet another discussion that ranged from nouns to languages to Charlemagne and I don't remember what all.

The next chapter of Odysseus, narration, and more discussion.

New memory verse begun -- Psalm 103.  I started by having everyone read the first five verses aloud with me, then they closed their Bibles and I read the first verse, phrase by phrase, with them repeating after me.  Then I read the whole verse, all but the very last word, which they supplied. Then I read it again, leaving off the last two words, then the last three, and so on.  After about five words were done this way, I asked them whether they could say the whole verse from memory yet, and most of them could.

Outside time.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Today, Friday, the boys had a lot of outside work to take care of in the morning so we didn't start till eleven.

Rex, gnawing on Sunchokes during our morning walk

Gratuitous Cute Kid and Animal shot,
also taken during our morning walk

Did a bit of pseudo-Swedish drill while waiting for everyone to assemble.

Said Morning Prayers, including reading the rest of Luke 23, and Psalm 106 (Psalms are read responsively by the half-verse).

Sang hymn.

Read poem for the day, Donne's "Death be not proud."  Lovely discussion.

Grammar lesson with lots of input from the children, including my special needs one, which is encouraging.

Another chapter of Odysseus -- The Archery Contest -- with interesting discussion from my 15 year old, who took Angelina's excellent Great Books I class last year.  Chapter concluded to a loud chorus of, "NOOOOO!" from the children, because I wouldn't read the next chapter.

It was noon and I was hungry, so we finished.

Rats.  Just realized we forgot to do memory work.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Overall, I'm satisfied with the week and looking forward to several weeks in a row of uninterrupted studies.

How are things going for you?  Have you started back to school yet?

Thursday, August 14, 2014


While we were traveling last month I read Tom Sawyer to the kids, and started Huckleberry Finn.  I'd forgotten how funny Tom Sawyer is and was glad that the kids spent most of that book laughing aloud.  Huckleberry Finn's quite a character.  He can make up the most fabulous, detailed story to explain who he is and what he's doing in order to fool whoever needs fooling at the moment.  We stopped several times just to marvel at his ingenuity.  Not that I'd consider that sort of thing a virtue, exactly.

But then this week while reading The Wanderings of Odysseus we came to the part where he wakes up on his own island, but doesn't know where he is, or who the young man is who tells him he's on Ithaca.  It's Athena in disguise, but Odysseus, true to form, makes up the most fabulous detailed story about being a Cretan who was running for his life with his treasure and had sought help from the Phoenecians, and on and on.

At that point I put down the book and said, "I never thought of Huck Finn being like Odysseus before!"

To which one of my children (and you know they're all a lot smarter than I am) replied gently, "Well, it is a story about a guy on a raft having adventures away from home."

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Speaking of Odysseus, that book is so annoying.  When I was reading today's chapter, the one with the dog and the old nurse, I could hardly read two paragraphs together without all the waterworks in my head springing a leak.  It was ridiculous.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

During our Morning Time on Tuesday afternoon *ahem* I inadvertently let slip that at least 90% of the time I squelch the impulse to burst into song at random times during the day, and I got fussed at.  For not singing random songs like we live in a musical or something.

They wouldn't accept my excuses that even if I could sing in a way that made the song recognizable to the hearers, they still wouldn't know what I was singing because the songs were mostly show tunes and the pop music of my parents' generation, with a smattering of 70s pop and TV jingles thrown in.

Kids like to hear their moms sing.  Even when it's far from perfect.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Be sure to read the comments to my last two posts if you're interested in some practical bits of information on incorporating music lessons for little ones into your day on a tight budget and math story books.

Also, in case you missed the update to my last post, Dawn will be hosting Wednesdays with Words from now on. :-)

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Last month my mom introduced me to the wonders of cherry juice for easing joint pain.  Let me tell you, after taking this elixir for a week and then forgetting to for a couple of days I've become a convert.  It is amazing the difference it makes in the way I feel.

You add two tablespoons to water and drink it once a day. I just add it to maybe 4 ounces of tap water and drink it that way, but it's awfully tart and you might need to dilute it more and ice it the way it is in the picture, if you decide to try it.  It's kind of expensive -- $30 for a quart -- but the quart will last you a month, and surely it's better than taking pain killers on a regular basis.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

The weather here has been absolutely gorgeous this summer.  Usually by this time I'm exhausted from the heat and sorely tempted to curse my Scots-Irish ancestors who came to Virginia instead of Nova Scotia, but we've had several cool nights this month and the days not nearly as hot as usual, so it's been really pleasant.  Now, if we could just ditch Daylight Saving Time so that the sun would come up in the morning instead of staying up till bedtime it would be perfect.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Here's something Eldest Daughter drew yesterday, commenting, "I need to work on Maria, so instead I drew this girl with horns and a mullet."

I can't imagine where she gets her randomness from.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wednesays with Words: Beauty for Truth's Sake

[I wrote this up and scheduled it for the next Wednesday before Cindy announced that she's leaving the blogging world.  I'm keeping the title because, well . .  y'all know why.]

From Chapter 1:  The Tradition of the Four Ways

"The process of education requires us to become open, receptive, curious, and humble in the face of what we do not know."

"[P]hilosophy is a preparation for dying; or rather, for dying well."

"An integrated curriculum must teach subjects, and it must teach the right subjects, but it should do so by incorporating each subject, even mathematics and the hard sciences, within the history of ideas, which is the history of our culture."

"Beauty is the radiance of the true and the good, and it is what attracts us to both."

"[Beauty] is, we should add, difference or otherness held in a unity that does not destroy uniqueness. As Hart explains, if the Trinity were instead a Duality, God would not be love but narcissism, and beauty would lose its radiance. It is the Holy Spirit, the fact that true love is always turned away from itself, pouring itself out for others, that makes it open and radiant, and creates room in the Trinity for the creation itself, as well as for all the suffering and all the sacrifice that creation involves. The Trinity is the home of the Logos and the shape of love. These are the high secrets of our Western tradition, and together they offer the key to its renewal."


Dawn at Ladydusk is continuing Cindy's WWW link-up.  Yay, Dawn!  Check her blog for more quotes.