31 August, 2008

Holiday weekend pt. 2

Things we did or observed while waiting for our oldest to arrive after his ten-hour drive from his "home" in Omaha

The sparrows really do wait in line for each other and take turns.

Blue jay families

Silly Nim decided to munch on the tree leaves during our picture taking

He has filled out nicely since we rescued him.

Little brother is waiting patiently for Big brother to arrive. We only get to see big bro. just about every six weeks since he moved out on his own.

Jonathan's visit was short, but good and profitable. His sister bought a car from one of his coworkers, so he drove it down to her. It worked out great, since his car was finally repaired this week after breaking down on him when he was here the last week of June/first few days of July.

He also got to visit his old friend from Jr. High, a wonderful gal with whom he is now very smitten. She is in the previous post in a photo I took of them on Friday last.

While Dread Pirate Sparsebeard is away in New Mexico fetching Green Chiles with his buddies, we have been very busy here at home.

I have a couple of small projects to do before he returns: I bought a new bedroom door for the boys' room, and it needs a coat of paint. Then, I want to paint their bathroom door and trim.

The other project is to cook up the last of the pears into pear jam. I have about five batches left to peel and chop. This will make about ten more quarts of pear jam or sauce.

There are still a few pears left on the tree, but I am letting a friend come and pick those.

End of summer is here, and we are squeezing everything out of it that we can!

How about you?


29 August, 2008

Ky's "New" Car and other weekend photos pt. 1

J bringing Ky's car to her, from Omaha

off to work in her very own car.

Ash and J

Jonathan had to return to Omaha early Sunday a.m., but his visit was important. Our oldest two are growing up! J will be 20 at the end of the year.

Someone else is enjoying my pears! More photos to come!

28 August, 2008

"Beyond Narration, Then What?"

I promised you all that I would post some exciting notes from my last Charlotte Mason bookclub meeting. The reason it is exciting is because these are important details that have been overlooked or oversimplified too often over the decades, among too many folks who have talked or written about a CM education. That's sad, because then other hs moms miss out, perhaps thinking that CM is only for younger children in the early years, or that CM is too "child led" or even worse, they categorize CM as "Christian Unschooling," which couldn't be further from truth. I received questions based on some of these myths two or three times in the last week alone, and from people unrelated to my book club.

So, from Volume 3 Chapter 16, I share important notes ~

This volume focuses on children in what we call the "middle grades" around age 12. In her preface, Charlotte says that this volume contains suggestions for a curriculum for children under 12, but in the appendices, she includes samples from lessons and exams from ages 8 to age 16.5.

Did you notice what Charlotte said to do after a careful, one-time reading and narration of a book of high literary quality?

"But this is only one way to use books: others are to:

1) enumerate the statements
2) to analyse a chapter
3) to divide it into paragraphs under proper headings
4) to tabulate and classify series
5) to trace cause to consequence and consequence to cause
6) to discern character and perceive how character and circumstance interact
7) to get lessons of life and conduct

the living knowledge which makes for science, out of books

...all this is possible for school boys and girls, and until they have begun to use books for themselves in such ways, they can hardly be said to have begun their education."

Wow! That is rich and important!

This next bit, I do in my Spanish classes, and would do well to do it more consistently for my own children and HEO material, even though they become more independent in the older years:

Vol 3 pg 180-81

"The teacher's part is, in the first place, to see what is to be done, to look over the of the day in advance and see what mental discipline, as well as what vital knowledge, this and that lesson afford; and then to set such questions and such tasks as shall give full scope to his pupils' mental activity.

1) Let marginal notes be freely made, as neatly and beautifully as may be, for books should be handled with reverence.

2) Let numbers, letters, underlining be used to help the eye and to save the needless fag (fatigue) of writing abstracts.

3) Let the pupil write for himself half a dozen questions which cover the passage studied; he need not write the answers if he be taught that the mind can know nothing but what it can produce in the form of an answer to a question put by the mind to itself."

And then she closes chapter 16 with her caution regarding these devices or steps to help us learn the material from a good book:

"but let us be careful that our disciplinary devices, and our mechanical devices to secure and tabulate the substance of knowledge, do not come between the children and that which is the soul of the book, the living thought it contains."

One thing at the heart of her philosophy is that children should dig for the ideas from high quality books on their own, and also be encouraged by someone (another passionate author, or a teacher or parent) with passion enough for that knowledge that she gained from the original idea...so that now she shares it with enthusiasm with others. She believed the above thought so strongly, that we shouldn't let any of the tools or specifics on HOW to learn get in the way of WHAT we learn, see?

That is so important!! We will relate to information, ideas and remember things that resonate deeply in our souls more deeply than those random, and maybe even impressive facts that we memorize.

Comments, thoughts? What do you all do? Are you surprised by this revelation, that CM cared about writing, taking notes, and composition? She basically is saying, "make an outline" without spelling it out in those words, but also, analyze, compare, contrast, organize, check out the character and conduct, cause and effect, etc.

Nowadays, we have "post-it-note" tags and all, so we don't have to do as much marking in the margins, but I still do. I number points and highlight important things to share. Even for my book club. You should see my CM volumes all marked up...only the paperback ones. Any hardback volumes are left intact and unmarked. I mark up my Spanish Bible, too.

Textbook and classical folks really don't have an advantage over CM. But that may simply be my own personal observation, understanding, and opinion.


27 August, 2008

Sweet Bun ;-)

Just look at that face...

The problem I have with modern marketing

Perception changes reality. If marketers ~ even Christian marketers ~ can change our perception of things, then they might have us hooked. I'm not talking about true needs, here, just perceived needs. I am so sick of deceptive marketing, but really with marketing in general. I know that the workmen and women are worthy of their wages, but truly, do we need so many workmen in one area? The writers that I love to read (or have time to read) have resources through their blogs or they are simply friends with whom I converse. That is more like it was in my Mother's and Grandmothers' day. Maybe folks weren't always right, but then neither are they always right now, even if they have written books and articles! Remember, facts, theories, technology, and opinions keep changing.

I have to be careful not to throw out the good things with the hype, so I have to pray for wisdom (always). I'm also tired of the latest greatest "Prayer Bear" or "Journal" other marketing scheme. Who, pray tell, will be the best-selling Christian author next decade, 'cause (if I were a betting woman) I'd bet that it won't be the same as this decade's author. So that author better get his share while the getting is good! That is the story of marketing! I apologize if I seem a little zealous. It's not inherently evil to be a best-selling author, or have a similar "high-profile" job...talk-show host, "Life Coach," actor, singer, what-have-you.

Now I have to admit that thanks to marketing and demand, classic "Oldie-but-goodies" have come back around or always been available. Thanks to demand, homeschool materials are much more readily available, but to me there are TOO MANY out there now, competing for our God-given AND hard-earned dollar. We have to be so much more shrewd and careful, and guard our time and dollars. It is such a struggle sometimes. I choose to shut most of it out and off, because the fruit of the struggle is not good fruit.

But something to consider in a future post is the "timelessness" of a classic...be it a book, author, work of art, music, etc. Think classic and save money. LOL.

If hubby and I have a need, then we research it a bit and try to spend our time and money wisely. We have not always done so. We've made some bad or expensive choices over the years, but we try to stay the course even when we fail. We have found treasures for pennies on the dollar much more often than not.

Perception changes reality.

1) The perceived "need" for newer, bigger, faster, brighter...better?

2) The perceived illusion that what you already have is not good enough, even if it is not broken or torn.

3) The illusion...YES sometimes it is indeed an illusion...that we need to be more "up-to-date" (relevant?) to keep up and compete with others (happens in homes, homeschooling circles, and churches, yikes!). If we stay on that merry-g0-round, what we have will only be good enough for a week, a month, or a year. In fact, with more and more which we have to choose from, it seems to speed up the merry-go-round faster and faster. We may find that we are hanging on for dear life to keep up, or that we eventually get "flung off" from the centrifugal force anyway! So what have we gained? What have we harmed in the process?

On the other hand, sticking with something ONLY because "that's the way it has always been done" is not the right motivation or the best mode of operation. That is the opposite extreme. I am really talking about the need for balance, here. But even thinking that through, simplicity is not found in the middle at all! So maybe balance is not necessarily in the middle. Of greater import is the richness, depth, and weight that living a simpler life can offer.

Are we not smart enough to just keep it simple?

Meditate on that for a minute.

There are too many voices, e-mails, styles, opinions, and etcetera, to count!! My head aches over them and how much time they can steal from us. Most of these things are subjective things. WE do not really need them at all to live well and even succeed. It is up to each of us to be led toward how much we can or should handle.

What do we really need to survive? We learned it in grade school...say it with me:

~ Water
~ Food
~ Shelter (okay, I'm including clothing, here-shelters our bodies, keeps us warm)

What does our soul need to survive and thrive?

~ Jesus - aka Living Water
~ God's word - food for the soul
~ Shelter - home and (church) community

Pretty simple. Why do we complicate it, so? Why do we fall prey to the extremes that marketing has to offer?

Say "no" to the not-so-merry, merry-go-round!

I encourage us all to take a step or two toward living more simply. It will save money, draw us nearer to our God, our Saviour, our family, and friends, provide us with a little more time to enjoy the beauty God created around us, help us to afford being creative and hospitable to others, and return some peace to our lives.

With His Love and freely given,


A caveat: please understand that I am not saying that buying new, cool things is bad or sinful, in and of themselves. For example the Hubster, Dread-Pirate Sparsebeard, just snatched up a steal-of-a-deal on and end-of-summer clearance on a grill. We have never owned our own propane grill. In 23+ years of marriage, we have gone without or used a small charcoal grill.
Grilling out saves us money in the summer, because our home is all-electric.

24 August, 2008


I have a song swirling in my head, and it is because the seasons of my life are changing again. I am wistful, but content. It is just the brief transition time that leaves me a little sad.

It is not the whole song that I'm thinking of, mind you, because it can come across as "See ya, I'm outa here, there's no time left for you..." That is not my intention.

The song is "No Time" by the Guess Who, Canadian Rock band from the 60's, early 70's, one genre of songs from my childhood, thanks to my oldest brother!

No, I'm thinking more of just this line:

"Seasons change and so did I, you need not wonder why."

It is just a season but it is sad to have to say that you've got to go a different direction for a time, because it generally means that you have to say "goodbye" or "see you when we come back, or when the Lord wills," or what-have-you.

"There's no time (right now) left for you" old friends. Yes, that is hard, because it also means that they are in a different place and my loss (or my children's loss) of time with them for a season will be felt with some aches and pains.

Transitions, seasons, for true needs or for philosophical reasons, it doesn't matter, it is still not easy.

I'm also finding the older I grow, and as our children each reach the edge before flying from the nest, the more I cannot beat around the bush or waste time. I have to pray for wisdom, evaluate events for "good, better, and best," count the cost (sometimes we just don't have a car to go to YET ANOTHER event), listen to the Holy Spirit, let things go, then simply trust the Lord to lead, and trust that the right decisions were and will be made.

I just want to be honest and real. Hubby reminds me that that is a very difficult thing to do in our world. We are fish-out-of-water, or at the very least, fish going upstream most times. I'm okay with that. We are supposed to be different. I can hold my breath and trust God to provide all that we need. I don't want a free ride, I just pray that others understand that we are making the best decisions we can for our family and our (God-given) resources. That is all.

And that starts with being real with myself. What can I actually accomplish in a tiny space of a week. What do I really need to accomplish what God has given me to do. I don't need accolades of men. I don't need rewards. I don't need a constant electronic connection or a cell phone to do that, I don't need cable to do that. Thank The Lord!

Those things may be nice, but they aren't necessary.

We all juggle, and we all have to decide prayerfully what the Lord really wants us to do with our time and the gifts and the responsibilities that he has given us. So, I'm praying for wisdom.

We must not be idle, that is a truth. We must encourage. We must spur one another on toward love and good deeds. And we must trust.

Times of transition
also remind me of the sentimental poem "Bits and Pieces" which I'll close with today.

Bless-ed new schoolyear, all,


Bits and Pieces

Bits and pieces, bits and pieces.
People. People important to you,
People unimportant to you cross your life,
touch it with love and move on.

There are people who leave you
and you breathe a sigh of relief
and wonder why you ever came into contact with them.

There are people who leave you,
and you breathe a sigh of remorse
and wonder why they had to go and leave such a gaping hole.

Children leave parents, friends leave friends.
Acquaintances move on.
People change homes.
People grow apart.

Enemies hate and move on.
Friends love and move on.
You think of the many people
who have moved in and out of your hazy memory.

You look at those present and wonder.

I believe in god's master plan in lives.
He moves people in and out of each other's lives,
and each leaves his mark on the other.

You find you are made up of bits and pieces
of all who have ever touched your life.
You are more because of them,
and would be less if they had not touched you.

Pray that you accept the bits and pieces in humility and wonder,
and never question and never regret.
bits and pieces,
bits and pieces.


22 August, 2008

The Care and Feeding of Minds and Bunnies

pet care 101 - will soon be building a "super-hutch" for the bunny with his big brother

Summer is slowly wrapping up for us, but the transition from summer to fall is going to be a bit easier on us this particular season, for the three kiddos still at home.

We are involved in only minimal classes outside of home this year, and those are closer to home than our co-op was. We felt the need to simplify for our daughter's last year, and she didn't want the hub-bub of "fluffy extras" for a big graduation. She is already taking college courses through dual enrollment this year, and continues to work at a job that she loves.

I will be teaching a Spanish I and a Spanish II class on Wednesdays.

Daughter will be studying:

History (college)
Spanish II
HEO classics not yet finished in previous years (mostly from year 11)...calling it possibly "World Literature"
Mathematics - still tbd (college)
Economics (college) in the spring
Composition (college) in the spring

15 yo son:

HEO level 8, simply because we didn't have time to do it well while we were in a co-op over the last three years.
Spanish I

13 yo son:
HEO level 7
Conversational Spanish - more interactive for his learning style
General or Physical Science
ChalkDust Basic Math and DVD's

There's our brief sketch. I'll be back later to share some of my excitement over "Notes from Volume 3" that my book club has uncovered for ourselves this month.

As my friend Sheila, from "A Season of Harvest" shared in my comments section the other day:

"...A toast to the new school year:

To the Atmosphere and Discipline and Lifestyle of Learning!"

Here, here!



17 August, 2008

Photos from Gina's Wedding

At long last! I am rested up and life has moved forward after our trip to Tulsa to sing at niece, Gina's (and her new hubby, Pat's) wedding. Not all of my readers and friends have a facebook, where I have already posted many of these, so I will also share them here, and tell you all just a little about the day. I'll post a few family or reception photos later.

This is the prettiest place I've ever sung. I have sung at cathedrals in Germany and other venues in The Netherlands and even Italy, but they (especially Germany) are dark and not colorful as this cathedral in Tulsa is.

We were originally to sing from this balcony, across the railing, but you may be able to pick out the scaffolding (in between all the pipes from the pipe organ) in our way. We sang from "stage left" (altar left) instead. We sat behind the groomsmen during the ceremony. It was a fantastic view of the service.

The view from where we sang, down the portico to the foyer where we rehearsed. (Dd Ky on the left)

Mom and my brother, Steve. (the brother with whom I sang "The Prayer")

Dad (he's so handsome, as my sister pointed out) co-officiated the Catholic/Protestant ceremony with the parish priest. WHAT a special treat it was; a benchmark event in our family history. He did so well. He got a little misty eyed, then got a little bit cheeky, which broke the tension. It was, as he told everyone, "a celebration, after all!" I really wish I had tried to get some photos during the ceremony, but when we ended up having to sit up front and very visible, I decided to cause as little distraction as possible. Plus our mother told us to "Behave," hehehe.

The acoustics in the cathedral lent themselves to a natural pause for the speakers, readers, and singers alike. It was truly awe-some.

This small foyer was our warm-up and practice room. Even it had lovely acoustics.

Bryce, the bride's brother, and our ds. Jordan. Ds Andrew (a little out of focus) is on Jordan's left.

Gina and Teran
Fine architecture and colors

The pews where my brothers, two sisters-in-law, several nieces and nephews all sang and a Capella arrangement of "Sunrise, Sunset" together. We sang in an arc just to the right of the pews. My brother and I's duo was at the music stand. After the wedding rehearsal the night before the wedding, about five of us tested out the acoustics and echo by singing three verses of "Fairest, Lord Jesus," also a Capella. The music bishop did not trust that we could sing, so that was our time for some of the reluctant ones to see/hear for themselves. We grew up doing this, it is what God gave us to do, it comes naturally, and it is a very deep part of who we are (who HE made us to be...his artisans and singers).

I cannot tell you how much it blessed*honor* to be there for Gina, to give our best (or to put it Biblically, to give out of our abundance), and to fulfill her special request on her most special day.

These are just a few of the multiple stained-glass windows in the building. What lovely artisanship. This one is "Doubting Thomas." There is so much shading and detail compared to other stained glass art in churches/cathedrals that I have seen. Simply lovely.

I took this one for my boys and for my Ambleside mom friends. It is The Dragon and St. George. They are often highlighted in many cathedrals in Europe; in Fresco, Mosaic, and glass...and it was fun to see them commemorated here!

The wedding at Cana: turning the water to wine.

This is something to remember for a very long time, just as I remember dancing around the living room and singing to a tiny, two-month old Gina in my arms way back in the early 80's between college terms.


Auntie Javamom,
blessed with dozens of nieces/nephews and a host of great nieces/nephews

16 August, 2008

Pear harvest time again! aka * Pear Jam 2008 *

pear harvest 2008 with updated photos of ~ ~

"Pear Jam 2008" ;-)

I've been making pear jam and "butter" today, and I love the way the scent of the pear juice fills the air. It doesn't take much; I haven't even begun cooking them on the stovetop, yet...just peeling them, and getting them all ready for the cookpot.

I wish you could smell them!

golden pear jam

pear butter with cinnamon

Want some? What are you harvesting or making this weekend?


15 August, 2008

A silly wish fulfilled

It is a silly wish, really...in the grand scheme of the world's problems. However, I can't repair the world, only God can. I can care, pray, support, and even help with Missions/humanitarian efforts.

That aside, one of my simplest wishes this year was that multitudes of cardinals would make their home on our half-acre. Yesterday, I noticed that it is beginning to happen! Generations are having their families move in here, and I couldn't be more pleased.

There were twelve cardinals (many of them young) at the deck and tree in the evening, all at once. I could only fit six of them in the close-up frame at one time, though, and they were moving and shifting positions quickly.

Ah, contentment!

Thank you, Lord, for granting our small, simple wishes.

13 August, 2008

Completed Book

I am behind in posting these, it just took a while to get well-rested from our trip; the working wedding weekend.

Now that these two big events are behind me, I can focus on getting ready for the new fall term and home schooling, which starts soon. I'll also be teaching about 12 students (three classes) in Spanish I and II on Wednesdays.

I've already begun organizing the house in a sort of "spring clearning" but more timely..."end-of-summer" cleaning.

Happy Wednesday, all!

07 August, 2008

newest fledglings!

I have missed writing for my blog, but have been so very busy. The next best thing for me to do is post a few photos. I don't think they will drive a lot of traffic to my little coffeehouse on the web, but at least my regular visitors (several who drop by but only comment to me through private e-mails ;) can enjoy sites from our backyard. They are a joy to share with you.

I'll also post updated photos of the blessing book that lacks only the title label at this point. It is nearly ready to be picked up, now.

New Fledglings:

This little guy is so loud! I heard him squaking in the back cottonwoods just the night before he showed himself for the first time at the feeders yesterday.

And here's his nice parent, still taking care of him for up to the first month after flying on his own for the first time.

He's just so cute.
And so is this little bright guy :-) It was very windy on this day, with the remnants of tropical storm Edouard blowing up southern winds from the Gulf Coast. He could hardly brace himself. It was quite comical.

He is one of about three new cardinal fledglings we see with their parents at the feeders every day now.



04 August, 2008

Wedding songs

Songs we're rehearsing for a wedding of a niece (who lives in another state) this weekend.

My brother and I are singing, "The Prayer" and much of the family (my brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews) are all singing "Sunrise, Sunset" with us as a chorus.

We all spend some time singing when we have family Christmases or Thanksgiving holidays together. The last time we sang in public was for our Mamaw's funeral, which was a celebration of her life. She liked to listen to recordings of us singing some of her favorite old songs and hymns in the comfort of her living room, so it was only natural to sing for her "home-going celebration." The only way we got through that was by singing at the back of the church, so we wouldn't have to look at family face-to-face; they could mourn and think their thoughts in private. Their necessary tears would not distract what we needed to do in that moment to comfort them, to remember Mamaw without busting up ourselves.

Now we are blessed to sing together again, but at a wedding this time. Normally this would not be a difficult thing, but this was accomplished under some stressful planning, conversations, and meetings for the bride, groom, and their families, because it is a Catholic/Protestant wedding.

My Dad will be officiating part of the ceremony, we will be singing, and I pray that the Lord be glorified in all that we do and say this weekend...I am looking forward to it, the drive notwithstanding! It will be wonderful to see the extended family again, and all our cute great- nieces and nephews.

If you think of us, keep us in your prayers!


02 August, 2008

all sewn up

This was a week of multiple deadlines: one was a big writing project and the other was helping to bring the new Spanish I teacher up to speed, complete with sample lesson plans, syllabus, assignment sheets, game ideas, etc. I also needed to make more progress on a bookbinding job that I am currently working on. Thankfully, I was able to meet all my deadlines...and my goals are all sewn up, so to speak. My latest book project is all sewn up, as well!

By mid-week, this book will be finished and ready to be picked up.

Tomorrow: singing and small percussion for two services.

On Friday, I'm singing with my brother in a wedding, so we'll also be rehearsing our song several more times. We are singing "The Prayer" originally sung by Celine Dion and Josh Groban, (Andrea Bocelli has recorded it with Celine D, as well, and can't forget to mention the Charlotte Church and Josh Groban version).

How is your summer wrapping up? After next weekend, I'll have a lot of organizing to do for the new schoolyear, but I'll not sweat it until later...

Have a good week, all,