31 January, 2007

Our high school Senior

Last Friday, we had a special day of honor for all the Seniors (including our son) of our homeschool co-op's graduating class of '07.

We started out by giving the students award ribbons to wear around their necks all day. The moms got a coordinating "Senior Mom" ribbon, which I may want to wear every week! (grin) Each student got a button from their parents with their most predominant character quality on it, and each parent got to say a little something about that in the ceremony. Throughout the day, all the seniors got more buttons with character qualities and corresponding "charges" to "go forth" in each class, all day long.

At lunch, we had the Seniors participate in messy games in the gym! That was a hoot.

After classes let out, The "Amazing Race" that many of the Senior moms had worked on began in earnest. The students broke into three teams, with Senior Dads doing the driving and navigating. The students had to decode the riddles and clues, tell the Dads which way to go, and locate, work, purchase, and/or photograph each step of the way. They had to do things such as pose with sculptures in one of the suburbs where we had them drive, go to Target and buy a certain deck of cards, go over to another business and cut, sew and stuff pillows for a ministry project, head over to yet another suburb to ask trivia questions of the local firemen and swab down the whole bay area of the fire station, head over to Starbucks and dig in a bucket for a penny with each team member's birth year on it, just to name a few things. All the while they had to be writing a song with specific words to be included in the song, to be judged after our dinner party at the end of the evening.

It was a full, invigorating and even tiring day. BUT it was extremely rewarding, and a nice way to honor our kids and their families.

The ages of my kids hit me in a different way while helping plan some of these activities last week: I realized that Hubster and I will have a graduating senior every other year (including this one) for the next six years! Yikes!!


27 January, 2007

Crashing an English Teacher's conference

We had some crazy fun today... fun for us anyway ;-). Photo with the Poet Laureate TBP later.
Technically, we crashed a convention...as Hubster's paperwork and registration never went through! He had verbal agreements over the phone of our being able to attend the Billy Collins luncheon today.

The ladies at the luncheon ticket table were...well, one of them was very gracious and sold us tickets and said we could do our registration later. It was fun just walking in with no "official" nametag. We had great seats.

Collins was so easy to listen to and just as I thought he would be. Read this interview to get a better idea of what I mean. He read a lot of his poems to us and had many wise things to say about the teaching and writing of poetry. He took questions, and I'll have to write about those later. Many of them were just plain simpleton questions. I wonder what he was expecting and if he was disappointed?

There were but four of his books left for purchase after his session. We had plenty of time to chat with him in the book-signing line; I spoke with him twice, since dh was the last one in line.

More later, as we're off to see family before a nephew heads of to Air Force basic Training early next week.


25 January, 2007

Go See Miss Potter

Miss Potter, based on slices from the life of Beatrix Potter, is in limited release right now, so you may have to search around to find a theater that is showing it. The Hubster and I had to travel deep into the city to see it, but that was fun. I like visiting the city. Hubs had already seen it, because the school were he has worked for 17 years rented out the movie theater to show it to their high schoolers and teachers. Wasn't that nice of them?

The cinematography is wonderful, both indoor scenes and out. The scenery is lovely, lovely, lovely. Especially the shots in the Lake District and of some of the cottages and gardens. Renee Zelwiger and Ewan MacGregor do a stunning job of acting. The costumes and make-up are very well-done. One gets lost in the biography right away. You will recognize some of they players. One of the oldest Warne brothers in the Warne Publishing Co. is none other than Mr. Collins from the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. Another male supporting actor, who plays a realtor and old friend of Beatrix's from childhood, is one of my favorite actors from the late BBC show Monarch of the Glen. (Boy, I miss that show)

I *really* enjoyed this movie. I cannot wait to take my dd and some of her friends to see it. We do not get to see movies like this make it to the big screen because they are so very clean and innocent. How refreshing to see honest moral codes and values in a movie today. I know it's a period piece, but most of us know that not all period pieces are clean, nor are "old-fashioned times" in history clean and innocent. Man has always struggled with good and evil, his own sin-nature and having to make [sometimes tough] choices to live within the mores of society, but also within what was once a much more common moral and ethical code.

The possible "pro-feminist" theme is not overdone at all. The "I will never marry" lines that get shared among the two main female characters are just a coping mechanism or a ruse. When you get right down to it, everyone wants to be loved. How lonely it would be never to be loved by anyone, or to have friends and family with whom to share and grow in love.

I was not offended at all by Beatrix standing up for herself in making a choice of man for marriage, mainly because she was in her mid-thirties (37 to be exact, though the movie portrays her as being 32) at the time and she had her own means of taking care of herself and not being a burden to her parents. Other points could be argued. Her mother was very pretentious; always wanted to stay on top of the social ladder, whatever the cost to her family, it seems. Someone needed to confront dear mum about that sin. LOL.

For more reviews, click here and here.


Spanish Verb Conjugations

For those of you who don't have a Spanish Verb conjugation book, like 501 Spanish Verbs by Christoper Kendis, Ph.D., you can check out this free site.

My Spanish I class is studying gerunds or present participles. In English, these are what students call "-ing verbs" In Spanish, -ar verbs will change to -ando endings and -er verbs change to -iendo endings. I think our BJU curriculum has thrown a lot of practice verbs at our class, especially the stem-changing verbs (o--->ue and e--->ie). It is keeping them on their toes, and forcing us all to pay close attention to our spelling!

Sra. Javamom

Billy Collins is comin' to town!

Oh, My! The Hubster (a High school English and American Lit. teacher) and I (a home school and co-op languages teacher) get to go to a teachers' conference this weekend where Billy Collins will be speaking. I am beside myself! Hubster (aka Dread pirate Sparsebeard) is so good to me...taking me to cultural events and all.

I will type up the two Collins poems that first turned my head. I have shared the first one here before, and yes, it *is* worth repeating. Not only because of my love for classical music, but also because most of us can relate to the issue an annoying, barking dog in the neighborhood.

My usual remedy is to put a thick pillow over my head to drown out the noise, then bury myself deeper under the layers of quilts. It *almost* works.

Without further ado ~

Another reason why I don't keep a gun in the house

by Billy Collins

The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
He is barking the same high, rhythmic bark
that he barks every time they leave the house.
They must switch him on on their way out.

The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
I close all the windows in the house
and put on a Beethoven symphony full blast
but I can still hear him muffled under the music,
barking, barking, barking,

and now I can see him sitting in the orchestra,
his head raised confidently as if Beethoven
had included a part for barking dog.

When the record finally ends he is still barking,
sitting there in the oboe section barking,
his eyes fixed on the conductor who is
entreating him with his baton

while the other musicians listen in respectful
silence to the famous barking dog solo,
that endless coda that first established
Beethoven as an innovative genius.

The Lanyard

The Lanyard
– Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the pale blue walls of this room,
bouncing from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one more suddenly into the past –
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had a made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sickroom,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift — not the archaic truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hands,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

(from The Trouble with Poetry, Random House, 2005, pp. 45-46)

22 January, 2007


Brahms is sublime (The composer, not Braum's, the ice cream shop, LOL...my brain went there, even though they are not spelled the same).
More specifically, his Symphony No. 3 in F major...
Lots of highlights on the bassoon (what I played in my best years of high school and college) and oboe sections, and the contra bassoon has the whole stage to himself a time or two! Wow!

And Les Préludes, Symphonic Poem No. 3 by Franz Liszt is majestic and divine! Click on the title to hear a sample. Although, I just noticed that the sample is from one of the quieter sections. Maybe I'll dig around later to find a better sample!

I didn't want the weekend to end!

21 January, 2007

We got to see and hear...

Jean-Yves Thibaudet....The Pianist who recorded the music for the newest Pride and Prejudice movie. He is fantastic! I'll share more about it later! We're off to go catch the movie, "Miss Potter" which is about part of the life of Beatrix Potter. I'll include one more review of the movie here.

My own review forthcoming...!


This semester

I already mentioned what my semester looks like this winter. Here is what our four dc are doing.

18 y o Son is a senior with Senioritis. He is working about 20 hours a week at Starbucks. He plays guitar and leads youth worship every Sunday evening. He plays acoustic guitar part time for adult worship team.

He has his three-hour Worldviews (Year 3) class on Wednesdays. This class encompasses History, Literature, Speech and Debate, theology, church history, English composition and grammar...basically everything except science, math, and foreign language. At our Friday co-op, he is taking "What's in Your Wallet?" which is a practical economics class for the Sr. High. Then he is taking "ballroom Dance" (prom is in a few months, and we have the wedding of a friend to attend, as well!), Precept Bible Study, Movie class, where they discuss the worldview of various movies. That's it. He's finishing Algebra at home with the help of his Dad and another tutor-friend.

Dd, age 15.5, is taking Geometry, Dance, a home ec type class, Billiards and archery. She also has a three-hour Worldviews class on Wednesdays, but she is in her first year, but as I said, this class covers all subjects (and then some) except math, science, and foreign language.

Ds, age 13.5 is in my Word Feud (Greek and Latin roots) class, "What's For Dinner" cooking class, Colored Pencils class, Archery, and Narnia lit. class. He is completing Chalkdust Math at home, as well as history and geography.

Youngest ds Androcles, age 11.5, is in "Italian Cooking" class, Chronicles of Narnia Lit. class, Performance Ensemble, "Whose Line is it, Anyway" improv class, and "Hands on Imagination"
He is doing Saxon Math and some history and other lit. books here at home. I'm also doing some poetry and copywork with him and his 13 yo brother, and occasional Artist/Composer Study.

Since we have a part time home business, the younger two boys get an education in business, as well! They are weekly helpers, so are getting a small share in the form of teamwork and in wages! I also infuse some conversational Spanish into our days.

16 January, 2007


Currently Listening to: Eric Whitacre The Complete A Cappella Works
with the Brigham Young University Singers, Ronald Staheli, Conductor

We are without water this morning, b/c of freezing temps. I am hoping the frozen line is somewhere out in the neighborhood, or at the main well in the area, and not in our house!!! (Update later in the day...it was somewhere else in the neighborhood!) Our youngest, not quite 12, fell on the ice this morning while taking out the trash cans with his older brother, who laughed at him instead of being compassionate and helpful (so *typisch* of him!). He was scraped up pretty good around his hip, and his hand looked as if it was starting to swell. I thought he'd sprained his wrist and/or his thumb, but after about ten or twenty minutes of lying on the couch with an ice pack, he was feeling better, and his hand or wrist didn't swell up. I put band-aides on a couple of his scrapes, and he is quietly playing Legos and avoiding school books :-). I am so thankful, because I have no car this morning since our 18 yo son had to use my van to get to work. His car (our oollllllddd van) has serious transmission problems that he can't afford to get fixed, but he is saving his money and looking at options for another used car.

We got a lot of rain from the arctic front, which was sorely needed from two years of drought. The temps in the upper atmosphere were around 60 degrees, so even though we hovered around 31-33 all day Saturday and most of Sunday, we only had ice accumulation on trees and some power lines by Sunday afternoon, and only in parts of our metro areas. Our lake levels are up significantly, though most of them are still low. Our yard, on the other hand, is almost totally flooded. We thought on Friday that we might get flooded in the house, as the water level rose up the foundation, because our black clay soil is beyond saturated. There is no good place or drainage for our water to runoff, sadly. The original neighborhood builders did not do a good job when some of the original homes were built here in the 80's. I guess they had fewer building restrictions, then.

Sunday night and Monday, our temps sunk below freezing, so conditions changed. Even with sanding crews out and about, the roads had a thin layer of ice on them in some places, making the tall, raised highways, bridges, and under the overpasses dangerous. Thankfully, we were still able to go to a field trip and a date night into the city this past weekend. But by Sunday night youth services were canceled.

Yesterday I got word early in the day that my mother went to the ER for chest and back pains. Mind you, they live in a rural town in Oklahoma, where the ice storm has taken a big toll. So they crawled to the nearest hospital, one small town over from theirs. From this rural hospital, she was sent via ambulance (which also crawled through the icy roads) on to Tulsa. Oh, the ache of waiting for news all day! Most of you know that task of patience, that expectancy inside while you must go on with your plans for the day.

The hospital said that mom's blood enzymes were good. She seems to be one of the few women who have some warning of pre-heart attack symptoms. My brother said most of her pain was in her shoulder blade and back. Her stress test today will be a drug-induced stress test, b/c she can't do the treadmill with her injured ankle that she busted in four places just about a year and a half ago. The doctor is thinking that they should be able to control her condition with with medication, which is what I was praying for!!

It's cold here, but we are getting used to it, and we know that it is much worse in so many other places.

Thinking of you all!!


11 January, 2007

Back to classes!

We're all in an uproar (a good one!) here at the Booksncoffeehaus, preparing for our first co-op day of the winter semester. We are gathering our bookbags and teacher bags and supplies for various classes. I am printing out Syllabi and lesson plans, and making copies of the next Spanish test and copies of word games.

I've been given a break from Jr. High Spanish, as the Jr. highers needed to take two semesters of Science. However, I get to take on two new classes in its place.

Word Feud:
This class is mostly freshmen. We'll learn Greek and Latin word roots and play word rummy, roots bingo, then work up to family feud, and roots jeopardy and "who wants to be a winner." I'm also going to teach them tidbits of quotes that reflect either put-downs or insults given in a gentlemanly or gentlewomanly fashion and work up to funny-worded put-downs. Think Shakespeare and Jane Austen, even Will Rogers and Mark Twain. Here is a nice site I found to help build my own Word Bingo game boards. We'll use smarties or skittles for markers.

Book Club class:
We'll be reading Laddie by Gene Stratton Porter the first five weeks and The Chosen by Chaim Potok the second five weeks.

I'll still have High School Spanish 1 (second semester continuation)

I'll be helping in Performance choir for 4th-6th graders (should be fun!)

And I'll have second hour grading period.

I'll post the kids' schedules for this semester next.

I hope my readers are having a smooth January transition out of the holidays and back to their regularly scheduled lives :-)


02 January, 2007

And the new year begins!

On New Year's Eve, we spent much of the day with some of our friends from church at their home, six families together in all. Just about every three months, the men and the boys get together for "Age of Empires" battles. We're talking a computer for every player; multiple hours, multiple games. We gals spend the time visiting, we watch a movie or two, and play "pass the babies." We had three babies to share this year! I made the customary espresso and cappuccino for those who wanted them.

After all the babies went home (before midnight) and our older kids went off to their lock-in or over to another family's home for their own New Year's party, we played "Pit." It was a vintage version of the game, too. Do any of you remember it or still play? Everyone trades one, two, three or four cards to get a full house of "wheat" or "corn" or "rye" etc. You only want the "bull" card if you have a handful of the same card and are about to win. You don't ever want the "bear" card. Twice I had both in my hand when someone went out. That meant -50 pts. for each of those cards. Somehow, I still won the game and was the first one to (almost) get to 500. They called it finished at 490. In between each hand, we all took a turn reading aloud to each other from the Gullah Nyew Testament. That was rich fun!

Here is an example: from 1 Thes. 5: 16-22

"Rejaice all de time. Neba stop da pray. Ain mek no nebamind wa happen, oona mus tell God tankya fa ebryting. Cause dat how God wahn oona fa lib, oona wa done come fa be one een Jedus Christ. Mus dohn stop de Holy Sperit fom do e wok eenside oona. Wen people da taak wod wa God pit een dey haat, oona mus dohn hole em cheap. Mus listen ta um. Mus look at ebryting good fashion fa mek sho weza e fom God fa true. Den ef e good, oona mus hole fast ta um. Mus stay way fom ebry kind ob ebil."

...and that is how we spent our New Year's Eve and early New Year's Day. How about you?