Thursday, January 28, 2016

Monday, January 25, 2016

Book Discussion gives Mom a Full Heart

That post title is quite the headline. And since the essay is not written yet, perhaps you may wonder if the cart is before the horse by posting like this. Perhaps. But if the richness is displayed in the essay, surely it can be found in the thinking processes that produced the essay. So while my mind is still reeling from the mining expedition we just completed, (a metaphor brazenly stolen from the Circe Institute's writing course) let me just share some thoughts on the process thus far.

When I read a book, in particular a well known classic, I always feel a bit intimidated both during-and-after my reading that I will miss or have missed the universal ideas behind the story. This happened again when I read The Phantom of the Opera one evening last week after my oldest, Seth picked it out, read it and wanted to talk about it all in the span of about two hours. Alrighty then.

 I read it and was, for lack of a more dignified literary term, weirded out by the story. I had no idea what the point of such a strange tale was about. None.

The following Monday morning came around and Seth suggested we use this novel as the next essay in our Lost Tools of Writing (LTOW) course. Gulp. Well, sure, I admired his enthusiasm.

So we started off with a story chart which is what we have done for many of our books and then we launched ourselves into some should questions.  We also have done this many times before. That is when my brain really started to think. We generated some excellent should questions and then I let Seth pick the one he wanted to make as the Issue of the essay. He happened to pick one that I had written, which I thought was pretty darn good.

The next time we pulled out our papers, we started coming up with reasons from the story that we thought could either answer the 'should' question in the affirmative or the negative. And some things we thought, didn't go in either, so they just went in their own column. (All of this is taught in the LTOW course.) And we were both pleased with the kinds of ideas and content we generated about the story.
But it was the next step of using the Five Common Topics which I believe have their root in Aristotle that gave us so much more material to think about. You are asking questions of Comparison, Definition, Circumstance, Relation and Testimony. If you are wondering what those Common Topics look like when you are asking questions, this link will give you some ideas of how to ask those questions. That may look overwhelming, but  the LTOW breaks it into very manageable parts with video instruction by Andrew Kern and others to walk you through these steps.

The amount of thinking we have now done about this story is amazing. We even discussed how this story is like a very well known fairy tale that we had all read together in the fall, Beauty and the Beast.  That was a very good moment.

Essay writing is not all mountain-top experiences (enter today's work on Parallelism as Exhibit A), but we discussed how this process gives us a greater admiration for the authors of the books we enjoy when we see how much work is involved in crafting good writing.

This type of thinking is equally demanding, yet equally satisfying.  I hope our finished essays show both in full measure.

Friday, January 15, 2016


So we returned home from our Christmas travels to a bit of snow on the ground and these last two weeks have just added to the amount, but only a little bit at a time. Enough crystals to make everything white, enough cold to start some ice formations on the river and enough mounds to make snow forts and sledding hills. Almost everyday, Kate puts on all her snow gear herself and takes herself outside for a few laps. But she doesn't like the cold and due to her poor circulation, her hands and feet get cold very quick. So we put her in front of the heater and she finds a doll quilt made by her Nannie to become her own thawing spot.
Laura and Seth are more robust and determined to face the cold and ice to play, shovel, and sled just by themselves or with playmates. I have so many wonderful memories of winter play, it is hard to believe that I have turned into such an indoor hermit. But I did manage to take some time this week while the girls were napping and Seth doing his own lesson work to go for a nice long walk. I walked to the edge of the woods and started down the path only to hear incessantly knocking sounds from a tall tree just ahead of me off the path. I only managed a couple of photos of what I think is the female Pileated Woodpecker which I think must be fairly common in our area. My husband's former co-worker had problems with them around his home. Her mate was with her, but he flew off to another part of the woods and she did too, but I caught up with her again only a few more feet down the path. She posed one more time for me and then took off, her huge wings carrying her deeper into the woods. The amount of bark that they have removed from some of the trees is incredible. I don't know how those trees will cope. I also noticed different animal tracks in the snow which I would like to try and identify, especially those close to the river.
On my walk back, I played with the shadows a bit, creating giant steps and silly poses fully aware that someone might be watching me. Obviously I didn't let that stop me.
Yesterday we looked out while it was snowing and saw our little neighbor boy pushing his little green sand shovel through the holes in the fence to remove some of the snow. His rosy red cheeks and almost blond-white hair were so cute in contrast to the flakes of snow tumbling down around him. He didn't see us watching him and I took the photos without opening our back door so he was undisturbed in his play.
Laura is already asking if the river ice is ready to skate on, so I think she is a more eager skater than Seth who prefers walking around on it with his boots.  I took a bit of a drive after stopping by the library and I saw one boy skating on a rink in his spacious front yard while one of his parents skated around with a shovel removing the fresh snow. Bright floodlight from their garage gave them plenty of light to play and see by. I felt so glad for him, skating around on this home rink.
Winter gets a bad rap, but not being bitten by mosquitoes is a definite bonus. And when you consider the beauty in the formation of ice crystals, there is so much to admire. And we haven't even talked about the gorgeous soft pastel sunrises and sunsets you see this time of year. It's all wintery goodness.

education dressed in Modernism

"I think one of the interesting aspects of Modernism came to focus in the death of God school as it surfaces, oh, around 1970. One of the points that Altizer, who was a leader in the school, made is one that is not often appreciated, but it is basic to Modernism, basic to Liberalism, basic to every aspect of this cultural force. The death of God school did not say that there is no God or that God is dead. Their point was that God is dead to us. Whoever he may be and whatever he may think, we don’t care. He is irrelevant to our lives and our interests. And this has been the very important aspect of Modernism as a whole. It was never that we have proven that there is no God or we believe there is no God. Some na├»ve Atheists have held that. But Modernism has not been Atheistic. It has been indifferent to the question outwardly, at least, because it has been so man centered, it does not care whether God exists or not. He is irrelevant for us, because everything is going to be in our hands."

~R.J. Rushdoony,  from the transcript of The Culture of Modernism, a discussion with Otto Scott

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Book list for the rest of December

I posted some of the books that I read in December when I grouped them in with my late October/November list. Here are the rest of the books I read, the stragglers.

The Twelve Days of Christmas by Alison Jay
I always like to find one new Christmas book to look forward to reading during the Advent season. This year, this one was a delightful find. The couple on the front cover is featured throughout the book as the song/poem progresses through its familiar lines. The artwork captures much joy, delight and romantic love. A fresh rendering of an old favorite.

The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson, illustrated by Garth Williams
We started to read this aloud last year during Advent but didn't make it very far. So this December, we started over and managed to finish it the first week of January. We enjoyed seeing the change in Armand, the old tramp as he interacted and cared for the Calcet children and family. A short, but sweet book to read aloud together.

Waiting on the Word by Malcolm Guite
A treat for myself that I bought in November to read through the Advent and Christmas season. I follow Malcolm Guite on Facebook so I knew the quality of poetry he writes. What I did not expect, although I should have, was the quality of the poem commentary he provides in this book which contains both his own original poems and other poets. So much rich theological and literary content, it was a perfect blend. I will be reading this again and again as well as getting his other books for other times of the year.

And finally, this special photo book that Shane assembled for me as a Christmas gift. He hand-picked every photo and arranged them to his liking. I'm sure it must have taken him many late nights since he worked in secret. It came out so nice. I have loved looking through it many times already.

Things I'd like to do in 2016

I wrote this list up more than two weeks ago during a spontaneous and lighthearted moment. Nothing more has come to mind since, so I thought it was time to post.

*Bake more apple pie pastry. Blueberry, peach and cherry too.
*Drink more wine. A couple of glasses (not bottles) a week more. White or red.
*Finish books on my shelf. Order more.
*Keep crafting.
*Keep only the things we like best. Actually I do this already. Donate, donate, donate.
*Buy more vinyl for our 'new-to-us' turntable. First two albums were used Karajan and a collection of Big Band/Swing/Jazz. My husband bought a Black Keys album brand new. They included a cd version. Classy.
*Date my husband more. I did marry him after all, I must like him.
*Leave more comments on blogs and social media.

p.s. Peaches were frozen from last summer. Pie crust is from Mennonite Girls Can Cook, a lovely book given to me by my dear friend Vanessa. I tweaked the recipe this time by adding a bunch of cinnamon to the dough, just because.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

handmade Christmas

I included a few photos of crafty looking items in my previous December posts, but I didn't show everything properly, so that I could keep most of it under wraps. Finally today, everything has been put in its intended place so I took some photos to share.

Some of the projects were ideas seen on Pinterest, but the Swallows and Amazons bunting was for better or for worse, my own idea. I wanted to make something for my twelve year old son, Seth to mark our enjoyment of reading the Swallows and Amazons series aloud together, which he could take with him wherever he roams. Bunting seemed like a good choice, so I found templates for both mascots that came close to what is seen in the books. The handwritten flag was added at the last minute and I would have stitched it if I had both more time and talent for stitching lettering. I can always stitch over my handwritten letters if it starts to fade. The nautical rope fabric was a Providential find at the fabric store in the city and matches the navy of his curtains. Navy is classic, so I thought it would travel well.  I did fusible interfacing in between the bunting flags to give them some extra body, although this looks quite rumpled from the time it spent piled on his bottom bunk. Oh well, it can always be ironed again anytime.

This felt chain garland was one of the Pinterest ideas I saw, I think originally intended for car travel activities. I only used sticky-backed velcro and need to go back and sew some stitches on each piece because the velcro pull is so strong it comes off the felt more easily than I prefer. I thought it might be a nice decoration in addition to being something to play around with. For now, it's on Laura's bed, adding a bit of color to her white bed frame. I used my higher quality 100% wool felt from my stash, because of the colors and I thought it would last longer than the cheaper acrylic craft felt.

Last Christmas, I made this little Slumber Party box for Laura, trying my hand at making sleeping bags for any little creatures that might need one. This year, Seth and I found a different tutorial and he made several more for her.

These felt bandages seen on Pinterest were put together on Christmas Eve day by the kids and I to give to my niece, their cousin. We made more for our stuffies and dolls. Here Nursing Nina is getting a hurt paw looked after while her kittens drink their milk.

This gingerbread man was originally going to be a felt playset to make and rearrange, but when I showed my felt cut-outs to Laura, she wistfully asked if I could make it be a stuffie instead. Of course a hungry, clever fox was added to the mix.

If you search for playscape mat on Pinterest or any search engine, you will find many amazing handmade versions. Mine is a work in progress, but good enough to play with and enjoy for now. I mixed different types of wool in the felted areas and used mostly cotton fabrics machine-sewed into the other portions, the soft gray fleece being the base of the playmat. It came out alright considering near the end, I was sewing it right in front of Laura although I kept it as inconspicuous as possible. I knew she was getting the Shleich portable barn from my parents and the girls' little IKEA school table was a good size for me to aim for. It rolls up easily for storage or transporting and the felted parts can be easily poked back if they start to send out wispy ends. There are so many possibilities when making these type of playmats and playscapes. I have a few more ideas I would love to make, but for now, I'm enjoying watching her play with this one.

*I have been writing and organizing this post since this afternoon in between giving both girls baths at two different times, doing the laundry, making and cleaning up dinner and several other things. So please excuse any badly formed sentences or typos, I have proofread it multiple times but I'm sure there are still many issues. Most of my posting occurs in similar circumstances, but today seemed especially hectic. I'm sure most of you know what I'm talking about.