Thursday, October 13, 2016

2016 Grand Adventure, Days 19-20: Olympic National Park

You can find links to any other 2016 Grand Adventure posts at the "home page."

Day 19: A dear friend of mine who lives in Seattle drove out to meet us at Seaquest State Park. We had hoped to see Mount St. Helen's in the morning, but it was cloudy. We didn't have much time and decided against driving farther into the monument knowing the weather would probably remain overcast. The children enjoyed the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center so much, though, that we ended up staying longer than planned.

We learned how kind the rangers are there. First Son left his nature notebook at the visitor center, the one with all the stamps and drawings from the first 19 days of our trip. He was despondent when we realized it was missing a few hours later. We searched the van for a few days and then, just hoping, we called the visitor center. Not only had they found it and held onto it for us, but they mailed it without charge to our home in Kansas! It was waiting for us when we returned. A big thanks to the rangers of Washington!

Somehow I managed to not take a single picture at the visitor center! We were all too busy learning about volcanoes, I guess.

At the last minute, we decided to alter our plans and stay at another Washington State Park rather than on the coast of Olympic National Park. We really needed to do some laundry and the coastal campground were very far from a laundromat. We ended up at Bogachiel State Park and it was perfect! Not only did we find a nice large site in a quiet park, but it had two covered picnic tables so we stayed out of the mist while cooking and eating.

Total driving for day 19 - 206 miles.

Day 20: My unbelievably awesome friend drove me and First Daughter into the laundromat in town on Sunday morning to start all our laundry before Mass. Kansas Dad picked us up there to go to church while my friend (did I mention she was awesome) moved our laundry to the dryers. (She's not Catholic.) We forgot it was Pentecost Sunday and, unfortunately, the pastor was speaking to his parish about a big change in their future so the Mass was very long. By the time we made it back to the laundromat, the laundry was dry and folded (again, awesome friend!).

After a hearty breakfast, we visited a real live rain forest: Hoh Rain Forest. Ironically, given all the rain we endured in the desert, it didn't even mist on us in the rain forest. I thought Redwoods was otherworldly, but the rain forest was even more so.

We missed banana slugs at Redwoods, but saw plenty of them and other slimy oozing creatures in the rain forest.

This black one looks a little like a squid.

Then, we drove down to the shore to show the kids tide pools. We ended up at Ruby Beach, another part of Olympic National Park. My friend is an engineer by training, but has volunteered with an aquarium for many years as a beach naturalist so she introduced our Kansas children to the wonders of shore-life with all the knowledge and excitement we could imagine.

I love the coast of the Pacific Northwest. I hope we make it back there someday.

Our guide pointed out creatures everywhere. The dead jellyfish on the beach intrigued the children as much as the living creatures in the pools. My favorite was the sea star.

After a long day of nature, my friend drove back north to take the ferry to Seattle and we drove into town to buy a new pair of water shoes for First Daughter. The cheap pair we'd brought were cutting her poor feet to shreds. (For those paying attention, that's two pairs of shoes we bought for her while on the trip.) Then back to camp for a good night's sleep before our foray into another country!

Total driving for day 20 - 103 miles

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Perfect for the Young Artist: The Drawing Lesson

by Mark Crilley

My children love graphic novels. Last year, First Son and First Daughter both concentrated on drawing in their art lessons. First Son, loves drawing comics more than any other non-screen related activity, and is continuing his drawing focus this year. A graphic novel designed to teach drawing seemed a natural fit for our family.

Mr. Crilley has created a story showing David working with a mentor to learn drawing over the course of a few weeks. Each meeting is a lesson about a different aspect of drawing. My own artistic knowledge is nearly all based on high school freshman art class, so it's hard for me to judge how reliable the information is. After sketching a bit this summer in my nature notebook, however, I can say much of this information would have been useful and immediately applicable. If I ever learned about reflected light, I'd long forgotten it, but now I'll remember to notice it in the future.

The lessons address: drawing what you see, shading, beginning with a loose sketch, understanding light and shadow, using negative space, checking proportions, simplifying things, creating a composition, and bringing it all together. Each chapter ends with a suggested drawing assignment, many of which could be completed more than once with different subjects.

One of the aspects I like most about our current art curriculum is the introduction of art history in each chapter. This book lacks that kind of connection, but the lessons themselves seem solid and I think they are presented in a way that makes the reader feel invited to experiment with paper and pencil (and eraser).

Becky, David's art mentor, also provides valuable advice outside of the strictly artistic. For example, the very first time they meet, she says:
You don't get better at things by pretending that you never make mistakes.
Later, she says:
Art isn't a contest, David. I'm trying to teach you the pleasure of drawing well.
Trust me. When it comes to art, you will never know everything. I've been at this for years. Every day I learn something new.
I've been withholding this book from my children because I was afraid it would disappear before I had finished writing about it. They've seen it, though, and are anxious for their chance. I think it would make an excellent gift for a young artist, especially a boy interested in comics or graphic novels. (Is there a boy who isn't?)

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review. The opinions above are my own. The links in this post are not affiliate links.

Friday, September 9, 2016

July and August 2016 Book Reports

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen - link to my post. (Kindle edition)

The Bee-Friendly Garden by Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn - link to my post. (book review for Blogging for Books)

The 101 Damatians by Dodie Smith is a delightful story; I'm sorry I never read it as a child myself. This will either be a family read-aloud for us or First Daughter will read it during her independent reading. I'm dismayed the Amazon link says it's "abridged" as the book I read from the library has the same cover, though it doesn't say it's abridged anywhere. I may invest in the Audible book, just to see if there's a noticeable difference. (library copy)

Hilary McKay's Lulu series - link to my post. (library copies)

Julian, Secret Agent by Ann Cameron is an early reader, and one in a series. Julian and his best friend start a detective agency with his little brother and learn it's best not to jump to conclusions. His father takes their escapades in stride and allows them the freedom to explore and investigate in a way that's probably impossible in today's world, but commendable. This will be an option for Second Daughter in her reading aloud to me. (library copy)

A Traveller in Rome by H. V. Morton - link to my post. (borrowed copy)

Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little by Peggy Gifford is a humorous easy chapter book about a girl who avoids reading her assigned book the entire summer and the events that transpire the last afternoon. It's not clear to me that Moxy learns or changes much in the short book, though she does eventually read Stuart Little. It's odd that there's a much younger boy (she's 9 and he's 6) who has a "crush" on her, follows her around and does whatever she says, a boy she considers her "boyfriend." For those who are concerned about such things, she does live with her mom and stepfather, though it doesn't say anything about divorce. My girls want to read this book, because they've seen it around the house, and I will let them, but I wouldn't offer it during the school year and I won't mention it's the first in a series. (library book)

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children's Book edited by Anita Silvey is a series of brief essays, some only a few sentences, of a successful person from a variety of careers, though there are lots of writers and illustrators, sharing a childhood memory of a book that impacted their lives. A variety of books are features, not all of them even written for children. Many of the stories reinforce Charlotte Mason's insistence on a broad feast of excellent books, as people draw different strengths and ideas from different books at different times. Each essay includes a full page excerpt, often with illustrations, from the featured book as well as a brief introduction to the book or series (in teeny tiny print) from the editor. One of my favorite stories told how Dr. Seuss had given up publishing his first children's book and was on his way home to burn it when he met a college acquaintance who just happened to be newly assigned to the children's book arm of his publishing house. Book lists appear at the end, but there are others I like more. (library book)

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene - link to my post. (owned copy)

Black Fox of Lorne by Marguerite de Angeli - link to my post. (PDF copy from publisher, complimentary copy of the book when published)

At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald is the story of a young boy named Diamond who is befriended by the North Wind. He learns to trust in her even when he knows she sometimes causes what seems to be evil. In our favorite chapter, Diamond observes (and understands) two horses conversing in horse language. The reader in our audio version sounded a bit like a grandmother which was a bit confusing to me when the narrator became a part of the story and was obviously male. The children didn't seem to mind, though, perhaps because they've listened to their mother read just about anything aloud to them. (audio book from Audible)

Ruby Lu, Brave and True by Lenore Look is a early reader chapter book, one of a series about a young Chinese American girl who loves performing magic tricks, adores her brother, and has a delightful family. It's cute and sweet and one I'd be happy for my young readers to enjoy. (library book)

Under the Lilacs by Louisa May Alcott - I started to read this aloud to the kids from my Kindle when we were stranded outside Sequoia National Park. They were drawn in right away by the dog in the first chapter. We finished the book on Librivox. The girls (8 and 9) loved this book the most. First Son, I think, anticipated the ending and found it a little too "girlish" for his taste (though he loved Little Men last year). I found the Librivox reader a little perplexing in her pacing, but the children didn't seem to notice anything odd about it. I hadn't read this one myself before. It was fairly moralistic and the ending was predictable (but I still loved that predictable ending). (free Kindle book, free Librivox recording)

For the Children's Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay and Towards A Philosophy of Education (Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series) by Charlotte Mason were read with my Start Here book club. We spent nearly 18 months reading through the study and I neglected to take extensive notes on the books. For the Children's Sake is an excellent introduction to Charlotte Mason and her principles. I recommend it for people who are new to Charlotte Mason, especially if her original volumes are intimidating. (purchased copy of For the Children's Sake at some long unknown time and place, purchased used copy of Towards a Philosophy of Education)

Humility of Heart by Fr. Cajetan Mary da Bergamo - link to my post. (purchased used on Amazon)

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens - link to my post. (read for free on the Kindle, but I have an old used copy for First Son to read purchased at a library book sale)

Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin - link to my post. (library copy)

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany and Jack Thorne - There was really no way to avoid reading this book, which is really the script of a play. It was weird to read a Harry Potter play. The plot and character development are limited in a script; so much of that happens on stage. Many of the characters seemed like they were there just for show (especially Ron). Kansas Dad had trouble imagining Harry having so much difficulty relating to his son, but I personally think that could be managed. Really, though, I'd prefer to see this play performed. Maybe one day we will. (purchased copy, with a generous gift card from my godparents)

The Captain's Dog: My Journey with the Lewis and Clark Tribe by Roland Smith is recommended by RC History for volume 2. First Daughter read it independently and I read it just ahead of her. It seemed to do a good job of describing the trials and hardships of the journey without being too explicit for younger readers. The dog's point of view is also a benefit for more reluctant readers. It does present spirit animals (of a Native American tribe) as real and instrumental in the story, if that concerns anyone. We were fine with that as a literary technique. I linked above to the RC History website (an affiliate link), but the book is also available from Amazon (another affiliate link). (library copy)

Father Elijah: An Apocalypse by Michael D. O'Brien - In this fictional apocalypse, a Jewish convert priest does spiritual battle with an Anti-Christ who has risen to great political power in Europe. What does evil look like in the present world? How are we deceived by evil masquerading as doing good? How do we cultivate faith when the world seems so terrible? There is only minimal resolution in the book and I read recently there is a new book in the series. (parish library copy)

Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded by Simon Winchester - link to my post. (library copy)

Books in Progress (and date started)

The italic print: Links to Amazon are affiliate links. As an affiliate with Amazon, I receive a small commission if you follow one of my links, add something to your cart, and complete the purchase (in that order). I like to use the little I earn on the blog to purchase birthday and Christmas gifts (usually books). Thanks!

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks - another affiliate link.

Any links to RC History and PaperBackSwap are affiliate links.

Other links (like those to Bethlehem Books) are not affiliate links.

These reports are my honest opinions.

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Joy of Morals

I'm reading through Aesop's Fables with Second Son. This is my fourth time through the book but I'm am still amazed at how much the children enjoy it. It's probably his favorite school book. (His favorite lesson is math when he gets to play games; the Empire totally destroyed my ill-guided Rebel force in Star Wars Risk last week.)

I always cover up the moral written in the book and ask what he thinks the moral is. Last week, he responded promptly with:
Don't listen to your breakfast!
Wise advise.

It reminded me of the time First Son surprised me while reading the same book.

This book is seriously one of the best investments I ever made.

Friday, September 2, 2016

The History of the World through a Volcano: Krakatoa

About five years ago, Kansas Dad and I saw something about Krakatoa in a documentary we were watching, so I added this book to my reading list. So of course, it was finally time to read it.
In the aftermath of Krakatoa's eruption, 165 villages were devastated, 36,417 people died, and uncountable thousands were injured--and almost all of them, villages and inhabitants, were victims not of the eruption directly but of the immense sea-waves that were propelled outward from the volcano by that last night of detonations.
In this book, Winchester weaves together a story of geology, plate tectonics, biology, Dutch colonialism, Javanese culture, Islamic militarists, art history, and, of course, Krakatoa.

The detonations were heard (and recorded in official reports) 2,968 miles away, on Rodriguez Island.
And the 2,968-mile span that separates Krakatoa and Rodriguez remains to this day the most prodigious distance recorded between the place where unamplified and electrically unenhanced natural sound was heard and the place where that sound originated.
It is not a book entirely friendly to Christianity, but the small slights were not too bothersome.

I had considered sharing this book with First Son, as a reward at the end of two years of geology. There is an excellent introduction to plate tectonics and description of the forces that account for the violent volcanoes found in the Indonesian islands.
Suddenly a Hadean nightmare is created miles beneath the subducted continental crust: Immense volumes of boiling, gaseous, white-hot magma, alive with bubbles, energy, and restless muscle, seethe in vaults and chambers of unimaginable size and temperature. The Promethean material searches ceaselessly for some weakened spot in the crust above it. Every so often it finds one, a crack, crevice, or fault, and then forces its way up into a holding chamber. Before long the accumulating pressure of the uprushing material becomes too great, and the temperature too high, and the proportion of dissolved gas becomes too large, and it explodes out into the open air in a vicious cannonade of destruction.
Later he explains specifically what happens when continental plates collide with oceanic plates. The oceanic crust, being heavily, is pushed under the continental crust, taking with it just the right amount of water. This water allows the rocks of the mantle to melt at a lower temperature, and decreases the density at the same time which opens a path for that partly melted rock to escape, which then melts even more rocks.
 Then, with the dissolved carbon dioxide and water vapor suddenly turning back into gas and frothing out of solution, the whole mass rushes up and out as a torrent of phenomenal explosivity into the unsuspecting open air: as a gigantic and classical subduction-zone volcano.
Over the last several years, I've read a number of descriptions of subduction-zone volcanoes with First Son and First Daughter. This book described them in a manner both more exciting and more clearly than anything I've read before. Unfortunately, it's surrounded by chapters and chapters of other topics which, while I found them interesting, First Son may not entirely enjoy.

After describing all the effects of 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, the author asks why such things happen. He answers with a description of earth's perfect placement in the universe for the development and support of life.
And then there are the volcanoes--just the right number, of just the right size, for our own good. The deep heat reservoir inside the earth is not so hot, for instance, as to cause ceaseless and unbearable volcanic activity on the surface. The amount of heat and thermal decay within the earth happens to be just perfect for allowing convection currents to form and to turn over and over in the earth's mantle, and for the solid continents that lie above them to slide about according to the complicated and beautiful mechanisms of plate tectonics.
I also rather wish the author had provided endnotes or footnotes, rather than a general bibliography. There were a few times I would have liked a bit more clarification or to look at another source for a fact, but they weren't identified that way.

If you want to learn about the eruption of Krakatoa, you can probably find more succinct descriptions in other books. If you want to delve deeply into the world of 1883, including extensive history of its development, in addition to a complete history of Krakatoa's emergence as a volcano eons before, this book is the one for you.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Work and Marriage: Dispossessed

The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin

In this science fiction novel, a man from an anarchist society leaves his world to pursue his own scientific research and to attempt to persuade his people to reconnect with the worlds outside their own.
He looked up, and as he stepped off the ramp onto the level ground he stumbled and nearly fell. He thought of death, in that gap between the beginning of a step and its completion, and at the end of the step he stood on a new earth.
I have read a few books by Le Guin, and every time I find myself wondering what I'm supposed to take away from them. While reading this one, I often considered rewards and punishments, and the purpose of Work. Why do people do hard work? This book suggests a few answers: because it is pleasant to change our work sometimes (in the anarchist society, the more dangerous and unpleasant jobs are rotated between people ); for the challenge in doing something difficult; to show off; to earn the respect of others in our community.

The final response of the protagonist was the most compelling.
But really, it is the question of ends and means. After all, work is done for the work's sake. It is the lasing pleasure of life.
In the Odonian (anarchist) society, work therefore became more than just a job or some task to be accomplished and ended.
For her as for him, there was no end. There was process: process was all. You could go in a promising direction or you could go wrong, but you did not set out with the expectation of ever stopping anywhere. All responsibilities, all commitments thus understood took on substance and duration.
Against the norms of their society, the protagonist and his partner established a "long-bond," essentially a marriage.
So his mutual commitment with Takver, their relationship, had remained thoroughly alive during their four years' separation. They had both suffered from it, and suffered a good deal, but it had not occurred to either of them to escape the suffering by denying the commitment.
Given our current society, it was refreshing to read about why someone would establish a marriage in a society that did not value it.
For after all, he thought now, lying in the warmth of Takver's sleep, it was joy they were both after--the completeness of being. If you evade suffering you also evade the chance of joy. Pleasure you may get, or pleasures, but you will not be fulfilled. You will not know what it is to come home.
The marriage enriches their lives, provides a base for everything else they do. Of course, he leaves her to return to their ancestral planet, but perhaps her love and commitment is partly what makes it possible for him to journey into an alien society.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Dickens and Darkness: Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

After reading Bleak House last year and loving it so much, I decided I should read a book by Dickens every year. This year, Oliver Twist was on First Son's reading list for seventh grade, so it seemed the perfect choice for my Dickens for the year.

Oliver Twist is the familiar tale of an orphan abused by the church organization meant to care and protect him and threatened by the vermin (the human kind) of London's criminals. Beginning with sarcastic descriptions of the arrogant and small-minded behavior of the church authorities caring for orphans (and the widows and the poor), it quickly devolves into frighteningly dangerous situations. As a mother, I think I was more disturbed by these scenes than First Son will be when he reads them.
The night was bitter cold. The snow lay on the ground, frozen into a hard thick crust, so that only the heaps that had drifted into byways and corners were affected by the sharp wind that howled abroad: which, as if expending increased fury on such prey as it found, caught it savagely up in clouds, and, whirling it into a thousand misty eddies, scattered it in air. Bleak, dark, and piercing cold, it was a night for the well-housed and fed to draw round the bright fire and thank God they were at home; and for the homeless, starving wretch to lay him down and die. Many hunger-worn outcasts close their eyes in our bare streets, at such times, who, let their crimes have been what they may, can hardly open them in a more bitter world.
I had considered an audio version of this book for our Grand Adventure, but I'm glad we didn't listen to it aloud with the whole family; I found it a little grim for the little ones including domestic violence, a terrible murder, a hanging, references to adultery, and a dog that "dashed out his brains". First Son should be able to handle it.
"I have seen enough, too, to know that it is not always the youngest and best who are spared to those that love them; but this should give us comfort in our sorrow; for Heaven is just; and such things teach us, impressively, that there is a brighter world than this; and that the passage to it is speedy. God's will be done! I love her; and He knows how well!"
One of the criminals brutally murders his lover (clearly not his wife, though subtly described so the nonobservant young teenage boy may not realize it). The murder is described, but in a way to condemn the action rather than glorify it (as some modern novels and media seem to do). After the murder, the dread only grows:
Of all bad deeds that, under cover of the darkness, had been committed within wide London's bounds since night hung over it, that was the worst. Of all the horrors that rose with an ill scent upon the morning air, that was the foulest and most cruel.
The sun--the bright sun, that brings back, not light alone, but new life, and hope, and freshness to man--burst upon the crowded city in clear and radiant glory. Through costly-coloured glass and paper-mended window, through cathedral dome and rotten crevice, it shed its equal ray. It lighted up the room where the murdered woman lay. It did. He tried to shut it out, but it would stream in. If the sight had been a ghastly one in the dull morning, what was it, now, in all that brilliant light!
The murderer suffers for his crime.

Oliver Twist does contain what might be one of the best chapter titles I've ever read (chapter 36):
Is a very short one, and may appear of no great importance in its place, but it should be read notwithstanding, as a sequel to the last, and a key to one that will follow when its time arrives
It's not my favorite Dickens. I'm glad I read it and I think it will serve well as First Son's first Dickens. The mystery and griminess will appeal to a boy of twelve or thirteen, and it introduces well the plight of the poor, one which continues today as much as it did in the time of Dickens.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Continual Struggle Against the Sin of Pride: Humility of Heart

by Fr. Cajetan Mary da Bergamo
translated by Herbert Cardinal Vaughan 
O God, Who resistest the proud and givest Thy grace to the humble, grant us the grace of true humility, of which Thine only begotten Son showed forth in Himself an example to the faithful, that we may never, puffed up by pride, incur Thine anger, but that, submissive to Thy Will, we may receive the gifts of Thy grace.
A few years ago, I began to feel I should more proactively seek the virtue of humility. I had encountered situations in which I recognized my pride was fostering discontent and disgruntlement in myself.

I talked to a few trusted friends and one of them shared a book our parish priest was currently reading focused on humility, Humility of Heart. I ordered it before Lent in 2015 thinking I'd read through it during Lent as my spiritual focus on humility. This is not the kind of book I could read quickly, especially as I failed to read it every day as had been my original intention.

Humility is a difficult virtue to understand. By its very nature, the moment a person believes herself humble, she is not. In our modern times, we tend to reject notions of our unworthiness, even before God, so humility is a virtue often cast aside or acknowledged only in words.

I have slowly read this book. It's broken up into short sections, excellently presented for a section or two of reading each day.

Am I more humble? I don't know. Maybe. I do know that I'm more likely to recognize my pride than before and to, sometimes at least, remind myself that everything good in my life and in my abilities, comes from God, a gift freely given but that ultimately still belongs to Him.
But must not all these gifts be regarded as so many benefits proceeding from God, for which we must render an account if we do not use them to resist temptation and conform to the ordination of God? We are debtors to God for every benefit that we receive and are bound to employ these gifts and to trade with them for the glory of God, like merchants to whom capital is entrusted. When we consider how many benefits, both of body and soul, we have received from Him, we are compelled to admit that there are so many debts which we have contracted toward Him--and why should we glory in our debts? 
Part 1 is the longest section of the book, focused on why humility is the primary virtue, the one from which all others flow and without which, we are doomed. The author is quite emphatic that the slightest bit of humility will bar the penitent from heaven. It seems like he qualifies this a bit here and there by saying we really need to just work toward humility and acknowledge our failures, but the tone was especially jarring for a modern reader. I'm not entirely sure he was wrong, but I'm not entirely sure he was right, either.
Let us therefore examine ourselves daily on this point: let us accuse ourselves of it in our Confessions, and acknowledging our pride in this manner will be an excellent incentive to become humble.
The author encourages frequent confession and explicit confession of sins against humility.
There are but few who accuse themselves of it [pride], but those who really wish to amend their lives should make it a special subject of their examen and Confession, in order to learn to hate it and repent of it and to make firm resolutions of amendment in the future.
There are a few helpful suggestions in Part 1, like frequent confession. There was also a mention of distractions during prayer I found particularly helpful.
There are some who are troubled because their prayers are full of distractions. This proceeds from pride, which is presumptuous enough to be astonished at the weakness and impotency of the mind. When you perceive that your thoughts are wandering, make an act of humility, and exclaim: "O my God, what an abject creature I am in not being able to fix my thoughts on Thee, even for a few moments." Renew this act of humility as often as these distractions occur, and if it is written of charity that it "covereth a multitude of sins," (1 Peter 4:8), it is also true of humility and contributes greatly to our perfection.
It reminded me of what St. Therese says of her tendency to fall asleep during her prayers: that the One who loves so much is still pleased with the desires of a little child who falls asleep at her tasks. I like this attitude, to apologize and refocus rather than berating ourselves for our distracted prayers.

For the most part, though, Part 1 was more theoretical than practical. Part 2 ushers in the Practical Examen on the Virtue of Humility, which begins immediately with a plan. The reader is urged to make the examen at least once a day, to choose a focus of one or two habits for each day, to clearly confess faults against humility in confession, and to return to this part often.

The remaining parts provide examens (which the internet assures me is the plural of examen) on humility toward God, toward our neighbor, toward oneself, and a final section on moral doctrine. Here I found many passages of practical advice in the form of questions focused on actions or thoughts I could identify in myself and therefore address.
Do you esteem yourself above others for any gift of nature, education or grace? That is true pride, and you must subdue this by humility, holding yourself inferior to others, as in fact you may be before God.
In the part on humility towards our neighbor, I found exactly how to respond when I sense I am being corrected, which has the benefit of being effective whether the correction is warranted.
The humble man, when he is reproved, receives the correction in good part and thanks him who has had the kindness and goodness to give it. He does not judge or speak evil of anyone, because he believes that everyone is better than he is, and because he knows he is capable of doing worse things still. 
Even if the comment is unsolicited, unfair, or outrageously incorrect, I can thank the giver and move on. There are other, probably worse, things that could truly be said, even if this particular comment is incorrect.
The proud man dwells more willingly on the little good he does, on the little devotion he feels, than on the thought of the evil he has committed and which he does daily. He puts behind him the multitude of his sins, so that he need not be ashamed and humble himself; and he reflects often upon certain of his minute exercises of Christian piety, so as to indulge his self-complacency.
Part 6, on moral doctrine, has an illuminating section on the "terrible danger" of the vice or pride (section 139 for those interested in looking it up). In it, the author outlines seven reasons why pride is so dangerous to our soul, all of which I found accurate in describing my own situation in life. The second one reads:
Because the other vices are to be feared only when we are disposed to evil; but pride, says St. Augustine, insinuates itself even when we are trying to do good.
A sentence or two later, the third is listed:
Because after having fought against and overcome the other vices, we may justly rejoice; but as soon as we begin to rejoice that we have triumphed over pride, it triumphs over us and becomes victorious over us in that very act for which we are praising ourselves for conquering it.
I believe re-reading this particular section will fortify my continuing battle against pride and in fostering humility.

A word of caution: If you know you have a tendency to scrupulosity, don't read this book or only read it under the care of a spiritual director. It discusses scrupulosity and certainly doesn't intend to play on those fears, but I believe it could nonetheless.

And, a confession: As I copied some of the quotes from this book into my commonplace book, I definitely gazed proudly at what I believed was beautiful handwriting.

So now it's time to start all over again on that humility thing.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Second Son's Birthday Post: Six Years Old

Last month, Second Son, my baby, turned six years old. He wanted a Star Wars birthday party, so we planned a Jedi Academy for him and a few of his friends. They tore through those tasks in about fifteen minutes! But check out the cake!

This picture of Second Son with his godmother and the amazing BB8 cake she made is one of my new favorites.

I love the look of awe on his face when we lit the candles.

This boy loves his chicken enchiladas. He requested them for his birthday and his baptismal anniversary. He also asked for Kansas Dad's chocolate peanut butter cake for his baptismal anniversary dessert.

His other favorite foods are angel food cake, sherbert, Mountain Dew (a controlled substance in this household), a host of other sugary drinks, and snacks. He tends to skip breakfast, then start begging for snacks around 10:30 am and basically graze the rest of the day. It's hard to believe how much he eats because he's so skinny. (Hard to believe, too, he was my biggest baby at an ounce over ten pounds.) We keep telling him to eat more, but he spends so much time bouncing around (literally on his trampoline), that there's no time for the calories to build up in his system.

His favorite saints are St. Micheal the Archangel, St. George, St. Moses, and St. Francis. He asks them to pray for us every night during our litany of saints and evening prayer.

He loves water. When we went on our Grand Adventure, he spent every minute he could right at the water's edge (if we were near water). He would claim he was trying to stay dry, but this was a hopeless endeavor day after day.

Second Son says his favorite parts of the trip were visiting the aquarium in Vancouver and the science museum in Denver, but I really think it was the ocean.

He mastered rudimentary reading on our trip. We did a lot of phonics and a few early reading lessons last year in school, but he started sounding out longer words and really reading books on the big trip. All those hours in the van, I guess. His first book? Calvin and Hobbes. Yep.


He lost the two bottom teeth earlier this summer. So far, the top two teeth still aren't coming in, but the bottom ones are. We keep promising him a big celebratory dinner when those top teeth come in and suggesting things like apples (which he can never bit properly) but all he wants is sherbet. (Those top two were crushed in a pool accident when he fell on his face just before his second birthday, so it's been more than four years since the boy had top teeth.)

He's starting kindergarten this year. We didn't start him properly last year because of his late birthday, though it's nice that he's already reading. He loves all of his lessons, but especially reading, dot-to-dot books (which he does for some math, just because he likes them), and Aesop's Fables. (This book has been a favorite year after year. I've been reading from it for four years straight and plan two more with him.)

first day of school
He loves to play games. He'd play games all day long. When no one can play with him, he sets everything up and plays against Mr. Nobody. In the past, Mr. Nobody always lost, but Second Son tells me he recently won three games of chess in a row. "He had good moves." (Second Daughter taught him to play chess; I'm not really sure he even knows the proper rules.) He received Star Wars Risk for his birthday, so it's a new favorite, but Munchkin is still at the top of his list. (Standard warning: Munchkin is not for all households.)

His favorite books are Asterix comic books and Jedi Academy 2. We'll pretend he's also reading from the extensive and lovely library I have built over the past dozen years (spending a good bit of Kansas Dad's earnings).

He takes showers now, which are faster than a bath (and the only reason he allows them). He still needs some help making sure he gets all the bubbles rinsed away. He would wear flip-flops everywhere if I let him, and prefers to go barefoot rather than wear any other kind of shoe.

His bedtime routine is similar to last year: three stuffed animals have to whisper dreams in someone's ear (usually Kansas Dad, who is best at deciphering their hilarious misadventures). Last year, it was just Mousy Mouse (a kangaroo rat purchased at Great Sand Dunes), Fluffy (a puppy that was First Son's years ago), and Teddy (a teddy bear that was a gift after Second Daughter's birth). Now he's added Cody (a stuffed coyote purchased with his own money at the Grand Canyon), Doritos (a finger puppet chipmunk purchased with his own money at Rocky Mountain National Park), and Yellow Belly (a yellow-bellied marmot he received for his birthday; he had wanted to buy one on the big trip but he'd run out of money).

Second Son announced on his birthday that, now he was six, he was old enough to start taekwondo with the big kids. I'm not sure where he heard six was the magic number, but we let him give it a try and so far he seems to be doing very well. He saws taekwondo days are his favorite days, though he hates waiting all day for the class.

This little guy is getting to be quite the joy for us. He's grudgingly taking on more chores, controlling his temper better (now that he knows he can't go to taekwondo if he hits anyone), and reading everthing. I can't wait to see what the future holds for him!

Happy birthday, Second Son!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

First Day of School Pictures

The 2016-2017 school year has begun! We're two weeks in and so far, no one has died. There haven't even been that many tears!
Goofy kindergartner, Second Son
Sweet second grader, Second Daughter
I forgot to take pictures of the older two without the cards showing their names.  I do have pictures of all four of them together.

First Son (7th grade), First Daughter (4th grade), Second Daughter (2nd grade), Second Son (kind.)
Believe it or not, that was the "serious" picture.

And this is the tamest of the silly ones. Second Daughter is playing the drums on Second Son's head. Yes, that is an old bike tire around his neck. We live on the wild side here on the Range.