Saturday, July 30, 2011

Quote: The Hawk and the Dove

Penelope Wilcock in The Hawk and the Dove (the first book in The Hawk and the Dove Trilogy):
Gently she straightened Peregrine's fingers under the downy head. The baby looked up at him, and gurgled and smiled--the little, confiding noises of baby conversation, the endearing, dimpled, toothless smile of innocent happiness...
'Thus was Jesus,' he whispered, 'and thus all the little ones whom Herod butchered. Oh, God protect you in this world, dear one. God keep you safe from harm.'
Melissa watched the tiny, pink hand grip round Peregrine's scarred, twisted fingers, and sadness welled up in her for sorrow to come, for the inevitable harshness and pain.
'You can't ask that, Father, and you know it, of all people,' she said gently. 'But let him travel through life with his hand gripping Jesus' scarred hand as tight as it now grips yours, and the storms will not vanquish him.'

Friday, July 29, 2011

Homeschool Review: Faith and Life 1, Our Heavenly Father

Faith and Life Series 1: Our Heavenly Father from Ignatius Press, Revised

Last year, for first grade, we used Our Heavenly Father for our catechism. Mater Amabilis recommends it for Level 1B. They suggest reading and narrating one chapter a week. You certainly could. The chapters are quite short, usually five or six paragraphs. Even early in the year, First Son could read the text himself. We would often share it, taking turns reading paragraphs.

Honestly, though, we did not really narrate the catechism. While the text is thorough, clear and theologically sound, sometimes it was a little dry on its own. Luckily, I had purchased a teacher's manual. While not strictly necessary for the catechism course, I found the teacher's manual indispensable. It contained great explanations, suggested questions for incorporating the beautiful artwork shown in each chapter, and additional activities, books or movies that could be used in each lesson. I learned so much myself from the teacher's manual that it was more than worth the cost. (I have the old version, revised but not updated. I think the updated one would be even better.)

First Son enjoyed the student activity book as well. I was pleased to see that many of the activities were quite open-ended such as "Draw a picture of yourself kneeling before Jesus in the Eucharist." By the end of the year we had stopped using the activity pages only because First Daughter would so often be disappointed there were no pages for her.

For second grade, we'll be continuing with the Faith and Life series. I have the revised editions of the student book, the activity book and the teachers manual which I received free from moms who were done with them. (Love the home school group!) We'll have to make a few adjustments later in the year to incorporate the new Mass translations, but Ignatius Press has kindly provided a detailed list of the changes they've made for their third edition, due out any day now. We'll be supplementing this with CHC's second grade lesson plans which I purchased for the sacramental preparation supplement.

As if that weren't enough, First Son, First Daughter and Second Daughter will be enrolled in our parish's new Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program. If all goes as planned, this fall I will be beginning the training program to become a teacher for our atrium.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Book Review: Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and WarMayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick

My brother-in-law (Kansas Dad's brother) is a PhD student in American history, focusing on the period up to the American Revolution. I recently asked for some book recommendations as I wanted to learn more about the eras we'll be studying next year. He recommended this book and I second it.

Everyone knows the familiar tale of the Pilgrims searching for religious freedom, but few of us follow their tale much farther than the first Thanksgiving (such as it was). Mr. Philbrick begins his tale years before the Mayflower sailed and provides detailed backgrounds on nearly all of the passengers. Beyond their goal of religious freedom, the book explores the personalities of the individuals and families, how they worked together and how they struggled.

Most interestingly, Mr. Philbrick goes beyond the first year or two to describe the culture and towns that grew up in the generations after the Mayflower landed. He explores the relationships between the transplanted Europeans and the Native Americans as well as the relationships with Europe. My own knowledge of history pretty much skipped from the first Thanksgiving to the Revolutionary Warm, but obviously much happened, including King Philip's War. As the author states, "this culminating event--King Philip's War--brought into disturbing focus the issues of race, violence, religious identity, and economic opportunity that came to define America's inexorable push west." This war shaped New England for generations to come and perhaps even into modern times.

I lived for a few years in Boston and visited Plimoth Plantation (which I highly recommend). I loved reading this book that placed the area into additional context for me. I wish very much I could travel there for another visit!

There was a little discussion at Afterthoughts recently on reading history books written for adults aloud to the family. I think much of this book could be fascinating for a family, but King Philip's War was brutal with atrocities committed by both sides. Much in the second half of the book would need to be adapted for young listeners. I think middle-schoolers might be alright, though always pre-read. I was thinking of my oldest at seven or eight and knew I didn't want to share many of the events with him or younger sisters.

By the way, Nathaniel Philbrick also wrote In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex which I enjoyed as well.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Second Son Is One!

Second Son enjoying his birthday cake, a banana cake made by his godmother and decorated in orange and blue in honor of his grandparents.

I can hardly believe it. Second Son is one. One year old. His birthday was last weekend and I'm still mulling it over in my mind. Readers of this blog know there were days when "He will grow up." was my mantra. Or perhaps something like "Please, God, get us to one!" (Those who don't know the story can read more in my previous post.)

Trying to grab the camera instead of staying still for a picture.
And now we are here and it is simply delightful. It's hard to imagine a better time than right now, with my four lovely children and the business of summer -- play groups, summer theater, swimming lessons...and unbearable heat. (Thank God for air conditioning!)

Second Son is crawling and cruising. He's beginning to learn he can let go of furniture and hold two things in his chubby hands. Soon he'll figure out his feet can keep moving, too, though he needs to practice the art of balancing a bit more.

He can, though, climb up onto the futon. He thinks it's even more fun to climb up onto the toddler bed. During a recent linen change, I caught him climbing through and over all the slats that hold up the mattress.

He loves swimming and the water. He doesn't like it when there are too many other people around or if it's too close to nap time, though, so he hasn't had as much fun this summer as he might have otherwise. Hopefully next year we'll make it to the pool more often and he will still enjoy it.

He doesn't say any words, but jabbers a lot, and signs only a little. He'll screech to get our attention and then stare at what he wants (generally something someone else is eating -- he thinks it must be yummy if we're eating it) or he'll sign all done. He shakes his hands and his head like a crazy baby. He also "signs" hot by blowing.

He insists on a sippy cup of water at every meal (and between meals when he can get it). He'll take a drink or two then throw it on the floor, to the delight of his brother and sisters. They encourage him. He's still nursing, but only four to six times a day. I'm contemplating weaning him because he bites a little.

He eats just about anything except mashed potatoes and pepperoni. He especially loves green beans and goldfish crackers. His recent meal adventures included sloppy joes and samosas. (Oh, they were delightful!) He has only four teeth but manages to mash most things with his gums.

He loves his brother and sisters. They can make him laugh like no one else. They can also make him cry, but they don't do that too often. I love his laugh. Everyone loves his laugh. There's something about a baby's laugh that makes grown people do very silly things, just to hear it again.

When he sees something he likes or we do something he wants, he'll clap his hands and cheer for us. ("Ahhhhhhhhhh.")

You can read more of Second Son on his eleven month post. It sums up twelve months quite nicely as well.

Second Son napping in his godfather's arms during his birthday party.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Book Review: The Giver

The GiverThe Giver by Lois Lowry

The protagonist, Jonas, introduces us to his community as he approaches his twelfth December, when he will be given his Assignment, his career path. All his life, he and his Groupmates have been taught to strive to conform. The Sameness encompasses all they do. As readers, we sense something wrong in the community, though they suffer no fear, anger or hunger.

After receiving his assignment as Receiver of Memories, though, Jonas begins to receive from the Giver the memories of life before the community. He feels great pain and suffering, but also learns of love and joy. As he becomes estranged from his friends and family, he questions more and more the wisdom of the Elders and the community.

The community is this book is disturbing in many ways. The lessons Jonas learns during his training as the Receiver and, later, when he draws on all the courage and strength he has, are thought-provoking. While raising many of the same issues as Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, The Giver is accessible for younger people. I would not recommend this book for very young children and will probably never read it aloud. I think, though, it could be a powerful book for the children to read when they are older, perhaps middle school age. It could prompt discussions of the absence of religion in the community in the book, importance of family, the meaning of life, the purpose of work, the balance between individuality and community, and the reasons we sacrifice for the benefit of others.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Second Daughter Is Three

Second Daughter's birthday has been a topic of conversation for at least a month. Her babies have all been celebrating birthdays. She's very excited. We began her actual birthday with, as always, a pancake bigger than her head.

She requested an Elmo party. She likes Elmo well enough, but I would not have guessed she'd want such a theme. I think it's because she went to another three year old's birthday party a few months ago with an Elmo theme and became enamored of the experience. She will have an Elmo cake, courtesy of Second Son's godmother who graciously and excitedly offered when I jokingly asked if she would. (She's also making something for Second Son who will be celebrating his first birthday at the same party.) We're not carrying the theme too far, though, as we've opted for a baby pool and sprinkler party amidst the horrifying heat.

Boots is her favorite companion. He's a stuffed Curious George she renamed and often dresses in baby girl clothes. Boots likes to swing, ride in the wagon, sit in the toy high chair and generally enjoys whatever Second Daughter enjoys. Most of her other stuffed animals and baby dolls (of which she has an abundance) are named "Lollipop." (We read Amanda Pig and Her Best Friend Lollipop together.)

She loves her Little People. Every day, we find them lined up on the piano, surrounding a little table, seated in cars for a road trip and chattering to each other. (Second Son has discovered the great joy of attacking her Little People. Ah, to be a baby brother!)

Everything is made into a family. At meals, she will sneak to the silverware drawer and pull out enough to make a mommy, a daddy and a baby.

Her pronunciation is astounding and yet not quite perfect. She still says "told" instead of "cold," "nack" instead of "snack," "wim" for "swim," "biper" for "diaper," and can't pronounce her big brother's name. She has also developed some interesting phrases like "That's spicy to me." (Which has nothing to do with how spicy a food is.)

I love to watch her dance. I could watch her dance all day long. It warms my heart, brings tears to my eyes, and reminds me to thank God for my wonderful life. Really and truly. I have a video of her dancing that my old computer absolutely could not upload. One of these days I'll transfer it to my laptop and get it up so you can all see how wonderfully she dances.

Pudding pop on her birthday

Oh, but she's terrible at Mass. That girl cannot behave. She has recently potty-trained (hooray!) and insists she needs to go to the bathroom at least four times during Mass. It's difficult to refuse since we're not anxious for an accident in the pew, but she usually only gets one or two passes.

She loves stories and books of all kinds. She still makes piles of them and looks through them, each page, one at a time, piling them up on the other side. Luckily the piles aren't quite as dangerously tall as they used to be.

She loves listening to Cat Chat. When she has the chance to pick a video, she likes to choose different things (unlike her brother who only watched VeggieTales at her age). She alternates between Dora, Diego, WordWorld, VeggieTales, LeapFrog, and really anything her glance happens to fall upon. She will happily pretend play Mario Brothers with her big brother and sister.

Second Daughter has a tremendous imagination. I love to watch her play. We're excited and thrilled to be starting a fourth year with her in our midst.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Just Because

I scanned a baby picture for a game at work and thought I'd share it here, just because it's already scanned.

That's me! If anyone takes the time to compare it to my children, I think you'll find they all look a lot like Kansas Dad.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Quote: Happy Little Family

Rebecca Caudill in Happy Little Family:
For a moment Bonnie was puzzled. She wondered what made a journey. She was soaped and scrubbed. She was polished, and brushed, and buttoned into her Sunday dress. She had her new red toboggan cap on her head. She was going to a place where she had never been in her life. And when she got there, she was going to finish being little. Surely, all those things added together made a journey, she thought.
"School is a journey, isn't it Father?" she asked.
"Indeed it is," said Father. "School is the most splendid journey a child can take."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Query 36

What color would you call coffee stain? That's the color I want the next time we buy carpet.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Seven Quick Takes Vol. 2

1. The Cosby Show is one of the best shows. Kansas Dad and I have been enjoying it much more than we remember when we were children. Not only is it much funnier now that we're parents, but I can appreciate how much of the writing created a show perfect for the entire family to watch together and discuss. We're up to the third season. It's available to stream on Netflix.

2. Can anyone tell me the chigger's place in the ecosystem? I'm having trouble imagining them doing any good whatsoever. I'm starting to think they're a result of the Fall.

3. I have been exercising consistently every day for over seven weeks and am just starting to think I sees some results. Sadly, I have sprained or strained a muscle in my abdomen and now have to take a few days off. I'm afraid it's going to destroy all my momentum. It also ruined part of my plans for today as I was going to take the kids to a museum, but I'm not anxious to be walking around that much. (It hurts to stand straight or lay down straight -- much better to be sitting or curled.) I'm very thankful for my doctor's office's walk-in clinic that let me visit a PA who assured me it wasn't appendicitis. (We didn't really think it was, but it's nice to hear it from someone "official.")

4. Yesterday I was in the middle of mixing a batch of muffins using a new recipe when I opened the refrigerator and discovered we had NO eggs. For a few seconds, I wondered what I would do. Then I remembered, we have chickens! I sent First Son out to collect one for me, but he couldn't find them. So the girls and I trooped out as well (while Second Son napped) and I dug five out from under a hen who was resting in the nesting box. We went in to finish the muffins. It was a good country moment.

5. Speaking of muffins, I have made three batches this week and a number of loaves of bread. We've been busy with all the great summer offerings in our local community and with our friends. My house is reasonably clean and (as I mentioned above) I've been exercising regularly for the first time in years. All of that is good and yet I still find myself thinking in the evenings of all I (and we) haven't been doing during the day. I feel like I'm always asking myself if I have my priorities in order. Am I accomplishing what I should be each day? Should I be doing more? Or something differently? Perhaps my list of things I'd like to do is too ambitious? I have grand plans to finish our alphabet (Alphabet Art) and do some experiments (Creepy Crawlies and the Scientific Method). I want to pre-read all our read-aloud and reading lesson books for next year. I want to read some grown-up books about next year's topics as well to prepare myself. I want to finish my liturgical year binder. I'd like to be cross-stitching, working on Second Son's baby album, organizing pictures from the last year (none of which are in albums). And so on. Logically, I think I'm in a good place for a wife and mother of four young ones, but it's hard to convince my emotions of that. There are just so many good things to do each day and my time is no longer entirely my own. (It hasn't been for many years, but since I was pregnant with Second Son I struggled so much just to get the bare minimum done I haven't had time to think about how my time is not my own.)

6. My "new" laptop is up and running again. It's about three years old, I think, but that's two or three years younger than the desktop I was using. I'm still getting used to it and still haven't pulled pictures from the camera, but it's nice to have my own computer again. It's surprisingly hard to go back to a Mac after (dare I admit it?) more than a decade away but Kansas Dad keeps telling me I won't regret it. Another task on the to-do list: figure out how to get the desktop out into the living room where First Son and First Daughter can use it but Second Daughter and Second Son cannot destroy it. And figure out if we need a parental protection program. They won't be searching for anything but still...

7. Our summer reading program ended yesterday with a pizza party and a run through the librarian's sprinklers. The three older ones all received prizes (for showing up yesterday): a book each. I love our summer reading program! You should all have one as wonderful. I'm glad it's over, though, and we have Mondays and Thursdays to ourselves...for a week before swimming lessons start. I think our summer is turning out to be as busy or busier than our school year. Just without the lesson planning.

Jen has more 7 Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Book Review: Bambi

Bambi: A Life in the Woods by Felix Salten, translated by Whittaker Chambers (Apparently there are other translations that are not as well done.)

For those unaware, this book is little like the movie you may remember. The writing is lyrical and engaging as we follow Bambi from his birth to his maturity. Salten does not shirk from showing life and death in the forest, including the struggles to find enough food in the winter.

Though death is depicted regularly in the book, the presence of humans (always referenced in capital letters - He and Him) is always depicted with overwhelming fear. He always causes senseless killing of the deer and other animals. In one instance, he also foolishly shelters a weak deer and then releases him back into the forest without a fear of humans. Not surprisingly, the deer is quickly shot and killed by another hunter.

My children are young, but we do not shy away from books depicting death merely for that reason, especially books depicting death in nature. After much thought, I have decided Bambi is not yet appropriate for them. In one scene near the end, a dead poacher is described in distressing detail:

He was lying with His pale, naked face turned upward, His hat a little to one side on the snow. Bambi, who did not know anything about hats, thought His horrible head was split in two. The poacher's shirt, open at the neck, was pierced where a wound gaped like a small red mouth. Blood was oozing out slowly. Blood was drying on His hair and around His nose. A big pool of it lay on the snow which was melting from the warmth.
The scene continues in a way I found even more problematic:
"Do you see, Bambi," the old stag went on, "do you see how He's lying there dead, like one of us? Listen, Bambi. He isn't all-powerful as they say. Everything that lives and grows doesn't come from Him. He isn't above us. He's just the same as we are. He has the same fears, the same needs, and suffers in the same way. He can be killed like us, and then He lies helpless on the ground like all the rest of us, as you see Him now."
Do you see how this passage is troublesome for young audiences? While we do want to encourage our children to protect the world our Lord created and to govern the resources with good stewardship, humans are not the same as animals. We were created in the image of God. Though we can be killed and we do die, those who follow Christ have the promise of everlasting life. Animals do not.*

We believe there are some instances where hunters provide the population control large natural predators can no longer provide. Even if we were against hunting, however, I believe some of the messages of this book are inappropriate for children not yet able to discern what the author is presenting and how we may disagree with him. The message, you see, is just subtle enough a child might internalize it without realizing it.

The book is beautifully-written and deserves to be read and enjoyed, just by older children. I noticed Ambleside recommends Bambi as a choice for independent reading in fourth grade. I don't have a fourth grader so I'm not sure of the maturity level at that age, so we'll have to see. I will be certain to speak with First Son (and later children) about the book as they read it.

* Editor's note regarding animals in heaven: Kansas Dad, with his great knowledge of theology, maintains that we will have all we need to be happy in heaven. Though animals do not go to heaven because they do not have souls, if our happiness depends on the presence of an animal, say a beloved pet who has died, the animal will be in heaven. That being said, it seems to me the presence of the Lord himself is likely to be enough for our happiness.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Quote: The Princess and Curdie

George MacDonald in The Princess and Curdie:
"I see now that I have been doing wrong the whole day, and such a many days besides! Indeed, I don't know when I ever did right, and yet it seems as if I had done right some time and had forgotten how. When I killed your bird I did not know I was doing wrong, just because I was always doing wrong, and the wrong had soaked all through me."
"I was doing the wrong of never wanting or trying to be better. And now I see that I have been letting things go as they would for a long time. Whatever came into my head I did, and whatever didn't come into my head I didn't do. I never sent anything away, and never looked out for anything to come."

Friday, July 1, 2011

June Book Reports

Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield

Johnny Tremain by Ester Forbes is the story of a young apprentice in Boston as the revolutionary thoughts are brewing. Johnny is intimately involved in the plots and participates in the Boston Tea Party. The setting describes many historical figures and events vividly but the fictional characters are engaging in themselves. I was contemplating it for our study of the Revolutionary War in second grade, but I think it would better suit older children. I'll make a note of it for the next time we study it.

Silas Marner by George Eliot is the story of Silas Marner, a weaver wronged by his fiance and best friend who loses faith in God and humanity. He wanders to a new land and discovers hoarding money gives him a security he lacks. The book, of course, is the story of his redemption, when a young girl with golden hair wanders into his hut shortly after his gold is stolen. I hadn't read this book since I was in high school and it's much better than I remembered.
And all as we've got to do is trusten, Master Marner--to do the right thing as fur as we know, and to trusten. For if us as knows so little can see a bit o' good and rights, we may be sure as there's a good and a rights bigger nor what we can know--I feel it i' my own inside as it must be so.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving is clever and fun. I hadn't read it, though I can't think why since it's a short tale. I'm delighted to find the Kindle is encouraging me to read many of the classics I have always wanted to read.

The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting is another children's classic I had never read. It's a pretty fun and exciting book, but was anyone else disturbed at the part where the poor black prince in Africa wants to be white and they kind of trick him by painting his face with a weird concoction of chemicals? I'm not sure I'll avoid reading it with the kids just because of that, but I have to admit I'm not sure how I feel about it.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. Hmm, how many classic children's books can I read for the first time in a month? This is another one I missed when growing up. (I really read all the time, really and truly.) This one is very enjoyable, but I think its puns and cleverness is better suited to an independent reader with a bit more grammar and spelling knowledge. I think I'll set it aside and let First Son read it on his own later, perhaps in third or fourth grade.

The Princess and the Goblin by George McDonald. This is one classic children's novel I did read, but I'd forgotten most of it. I enjoyed it thoroughly and think we'll probably listen to it together this summer or next year. It's available for free for the Kindle.

Bound for Oregon by Jean Van Leeuwen tells the story of nine-year-old Mary Ellen Todd, who travels the Oregon Trail with her family. I was considering reading this aloud to the children next year as we study westward migration, but I'm not quite sure. I'm not too concerned about all the people who die; such things happened on the Oregon Trial and I'm hopeful my children will not fear death. No...what concerns me is the story of the other father in their group who, in the midst of hallucinations, attempts to stab his children with a knife. It's one thing if parents die (as this father did), but to physically attack his own children...I'm not sure I want my children thinking of such things, especially the girls. I do think it would be a better choice than On to Oregon! for us, but at the moment I think we'll wait until the next time we study the Oregon Trail to read one of these books.

Marriage: Small Steps, Big Rewards by Dr. Ray Guarendi (a review for The Catholic Company)

Plants on the Trail with Lewis and Clark (Lewis & Clark Expedition) by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent is recommended on Serendipity's Along the American History Trail for Lewis and Clark. Though I intend to use many of Serendipity's book recommendations for our American History next year (because This Country of Ours did not work for us at all last year), I don't plan to incorporate everything like nature study, science, and music. We're going to read American History. However, this book is surprisingly good and has the distinct advantage of mentioning and picturing many wildflowers and plants that continue to grow here in Kansas, some in our own front meadow. So I'm considering...I'm thinking of flipping through it a bit with them here and there and then bringing it out again in the spring and summer to identify some of the plants in person. (I think we'll finish Lewis and Clark before the spring flowers really appear.)

My reading list this month is heavy on the children's books as I'm trying to read my way through a bunch of them in preparation for next year. Kansas Dad has been encouraging me to read some more challenging material as well so I've also been reading through Towards A Philosophy of Education which I actually bought for the Kindle. It wasn't very expensive and doesn't hurt my hand to hold it open like my copy (which is not the one in the link).

On a related note, we listened to Justin Morgan Had a Horse by Marguerite Henry this month. If I had remembered more of it, I would have saved it for next year's American history. It's set in Vermont (mostly) in the 1790s and continues past the War of 1812. Ah well, we enjoyed it now.