Monday, August 18, 2014

A quote from St. Jane Frances de Chantal on her feast day

"If we patiently accept through love all that God allows to happen, then we will begin to taste even here on earth something of the delights the saints experience in heaven. But for this we must serve God willingly and lovingly, seeking to obey the Divine Will rather than to follow our own inclinations and desires. For the perfection of love demands that we desire for ourselves only whatever God wills. Let us implore the good God unceasingly to grant us this grace!"

~~ St. Jane Frances de Chantal

And one from her spiritual director, St. Francis de Sales:

"It is far better to do a few things well than undertake many good works and leave them half-done."

A Review: Momnipotent

Just reviewed Danielle Bean's newest, Momnipotent, over at Amazon. Here's what I said: 

Danielle Bean speaks to the hearts and souls of so many women. We know we're not perfect, and Danielle cheerfully acknowledges that she isn't either. That's what makes her such an appealing messenger. We all have an "I was a mean, scary-face mommy that day" story and when she recounts hers, we can laugh, tear up, nod. Conversely, when she shares the things about motherhood that are stunning and amazing, when she points us toward ideals and ways to strive toward them (with reason, balance, and charity always) we nod again, and are grateful.
"It is not good for man to be alone," God said in Genesis. It's not good for moms to be alone either. In these pages, you'll be reminded that you are not flying solo.

I particularly enjoyed the way she opened each chapter with both a strength and a counterpoint -- the weakness that can result from a rigid pursuit or practice of that strength.

Real, funny, touching and encouraging.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Poetry Friday: What We Need

"What We Need" by David Budbill is too short (copyright issues, you know!) for me to post even a snippet of it without permission, so I'll send you straight over to The Writer's Almanac.

It's what you need today.


Heidi Mordhorst has the Poetry Friday round up at My Juicy Little Universe. 

The Doctor, Vincent, and Me

I'm late (as I am for everything. I need to have a Late to the Party category for the blog) jumping on the Dr. Who bandwagon. Or rather, Tardis-Wagon. Band-Tardis?

I finally started watching. I'm on Season 5, Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith. I really struggled through the first/Eccleston season (okay, I know it's not the first season of all time and relative dimension but you know what I mean) and I only persevered because my daughters assured me that soon all would be well and better than well.


It took me awhile because at first I was just so irritated by cheesy effects and slimy monsters. The Daleks drove me batty and I wasn't having much fun with the Cybermen either. Goo and metal? That's all you've got, Universe?

But somewhere around the intersection of David Tennant and Rose, at the corner of Martha and Donna, something clicked. I stopped saying, "Are you sure this will get better? I mean, yeah, I liked that one about Rose and her father, and 'The Empty Child' haunted and touched, but...." and I began to sheepishly murmur, "I think I kind of completely love this show." Sometimes I'd add, "Except when it's slimy. Can we have more time travel, please?" Then River Song would show up, totally out of time-sync, and I'm all, "That's what I'm talkin' about."

I'm still moving slowly through it, as I watch only when I'm working out. (Clearly, I don't work out enough.) At any rate, yesterday I watched "Vincent and the Doctor." Yes, I knew I was being emotionally manipulated ...

... but I didn't care one bit.

I began to love Vincent Van Gogh  -- when? I can't even remember exactly when it started. I love him the way I love coffee and breathing. He just is, has always been. He was the first artist who spoke to my heart on a level I couldn't articulate. My tattered copy of Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh still lives on a bookshelf, having survived a number of book purges over the years. I have more books about Van Gogh than anyone needs. I didn't see his work in person until I was in my 40s, and I remember the moment vividly. The beauty I had detected in two dimensions -- on posters and in books -- leapt to life, blazing. The strokes, the texture, the color... I couldn't stop the tears. The painting wasn't even a favorite, and it was certainly a sedate one by all standards. Still.

(If you're late to everything, too, and haven't seen the episode, and don't want spoilers, stop reading now....)

Obviously I was fully primed for this episode to touch me and it did, hitting all the right chords -- exploring what is inexplicable about art and beauty, cocking its head to see how an artist experiences the world, eliciting sighs at the picture of lying in a field, holding hands with your best friend and Vincent, looking up at a starry sky, considering how we are connected.

Perhaps the most significant detail for me was the episode's monster. Sometimes, with Dr. Who, I think, do we have to have a monster? Can't we just time-travel today?

But ... an invisible monster that only Van Gogh could see? As a depression metaphor, it was a brilliant little detail that touched me as Van Gogh touches me: quietly, and with tears. It was the only kind of monster that would or should work with a Vincent episode, and it was the monster that, despite their attempts to cheer and assure him, The Doctor and Amy couldn't fully vanquish either.

I think I kind of completely love this show.

I have to go work out now.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

In Which I Am Once Again the Cook

photo thanks to freeimages

Atticus has gone back to school which means I am forced to head back to the kitchen.

Can you say, "Sad Woman"?*

Atticus is more the Chef variety of cook than I am. I am quite often the Get something on the table at the end of the day -- something which I hope approximates a meal variety of cook. And the dirty as few dishes as possible kind of cook. I do like to bake, but you can't have cookies or Lucia bread every night.

My first day back in the kitchen looked something like this:

"What can I make for dinner tonight?
Hmmm, lemme look in the freezer.
Oh! Atticus's leftover grilled chicken.
And, oooh! A couple pieces of his fried chicken.
Chicken salad, here we come.
Ah, look! His red sauce. I can make pasta soon!"

Yeah, we are living off his spoils this week, but soon I'll have to get serious and pull out some pots and pans.


*Of course I'm sad for other reasons, too, like missing my husband. It's not just the cooking and the never-having-to-think-about-what's-for-dinner. But today, I have chosen to kvetch about cooking, okay? So we'll leave the mushy part of missing-him out of it.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Poetry Friday: "I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on in the world between the covers of books...."

This week really got away from me. I meant to blog all week, but we've been cleaning and decluttering and getting ready for a new school year. I bought a new bookcase, moved a bookcase to the basement, and we came up with a bunch of bags of books to haul away.

Not a poetry book among them. I guess I'm hanging on to all of the poetry. (And too many other books, too, apparently, because we still don't have enough shelf space.)

But I forgive and re-forgive myself for my book habits, because ... well, as Dylan Thomas said:

I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on in the world between the covers of books, such sandstorms and ice blasts of words, such slashing of humbug, and humbug, too, such staggering peace, such enormous laughter, such and so many blinding bright lights breaking across the just-awaking wits and splashing all over the pages in a million bits and pieces all of which were words, words, words, and each of which was alive forever in its own delight and glory and oddity and light.


The Poetry Friday round up is at Mary Lee's A Year of Reading

Monday, August 04, 2014

And Then There's Math

I watched this TED talk awhile back, and then a friend of mine recently reminded me of it and I watched it again. I love this guy because he sums up my philosophy about how to approach math in our homeschool.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Poetry Friday: In Which Stanley Kunitz Blows Me Away

an excerpt from
The Layers 
by Stanley Kunitz

Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?

You must read the whole poem here, at

Read more about Kunitz here or here. And here is a Paris Review interview with him from 1977.


The Poetry Friday round up is at Reflections on the Teche.

"...he had secretly dreamed of a freedom without limits...."

"He sees only injustice. And this betrays the fact that he too had secretly dreamed of a freedom without limits, that his obedience has made him inwardly bitter, and that he has no awareness of the grace of being at home, of the true freedom that he enjoys as a son." 

-- Pope Benedict XVI, in Jesus of Nazareth, 
on the point of view of the older brother, 
in the parable of the prodigal son

Talking about conversion today on Morning Air at Relevant Radio -- 7 a.m. central time. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ideas for Ramona's Book Club?

A friend of mine has done a great book club for the last few years, but we're all feeling at a bit of a crossroads. The mix of kids is tricky at this particular juncture -- this year we will have boys and girls ranging in age from six to twelve. It's hard to bridge all those gaps (not to mention tastes.)


I think we're overthinking it, and we just need a jolt. Brainstorming, anyone?

Monday, July 28, 2014

What If They WANT to Do Worksheets?

Tamara asked:

... did you ever have a child who *wanted* to do things like pre-reading worksheets? And if so, did you just let that be while it lasted? 

That's a great question, and the answer is, "Yes. Ramona has loved herself some very worksheet-y worksheets."

Ramona loves a lot of curriculum, actually, although the more obligatory it becomes, the less attractive it is to her, and she has yet to fall in love with the math curriculum that I require of her. But she likes the accountability and neatness of filling in blanks, matching answers, and choosing one of multiple choices. She likes lists (so do I) and checking things off as she accomplished tasks (so do I.) So, curriculum appeals to the desire for order and structure.

This post -- School-y Ramona -- is from the year Ramona was seven years old. The main point was that my homeschooling goal has been to follow my girls' lead and pinpoint how they learn best. If Ramona wanted to do State of the Day, we were going to do State of the Day (while still mixing in lots of real life and hands on learning, read-alouds, and so on.)

I'm reminded of a comment on a past post in which Elizabeth said this:

On a sadder note, I am envious of your party planning and graduation parties. My son has just finished his final high school work -- we have home schooled since the beginning. He has taken 8 classes at the community college & has been accepted to GA Tech (his 1st and only choice) but the child doesn't want a graduation party. He wants no celebration -- nothing. i'm just left hanging here. I did get one of those corny yard signs that all the other kids from the local public & private schools get, announcing congratulations, etc. He won't have anything to do with a party. but I feel like celebrating -- I've spent the last 18 years of my life nurturing and educating this kid. It seems wrong not to celebrate.

My response was this:

...what's funny about our opposite situations is that I always pictured myself being more like your son -- I thought that the beauty of homeschooling was that we didn't have to do the requisite milestones/celebrations in the same way the rest of the world does, because we've always done things on our own timeline. But, my girls wanted more, so that's what they got. And, your son doesn't want a party, so that's what he's getting. We're both still tailoring things to their likes and needs. :) 

However, it does sound like your son should perhaps take your likes and needs into account, and take YOU out for a celebration dinner!

That little exchange sums up what I love about homeschooling: an individualized, tailored, responsive way of life that is centered on relationships and real goals for the real world.

And sometimes that means worksheets, for as long as they serve their purpose. (Hope this helps, Tamara!)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Poetry Friday: Because I Love Both Wendell Berry and Anyone (Specifically His Daughter) Who Can Honestly Say, "It Was My Pleasure to Attend the Slow Meat Symposium."

And because history, culture, and tradition are small and personal. 

(With thanks to Arthur Powers,* who, on a Catholic writers' list, posted a link to Mary Berry's "Problem Solvers" at The Berry Center.)

An excerpt from Wendell Berry's "The Record":

And my young friend says: “Have him speak this
into a recorder. It is precious, It should be saved.”
I know the panic of that wish to save
the vital knowledge of the old times, handed down,
for it is rising off the earth, fraying away
in the wind and the coming day.
As the machines come and the people go
the old names rise, chattering, and depart.

But knowledge of my own going into old time
tells me no. Because it must be saved,
do not tell it to a machine to save it.

Read the whole poem here, at The Berry Center.


The Poetry Friday round up is at Poetry For Children.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Teaching From Rest: A Quick Review That Basically Tells You to Go Read It

Image: Amongst Lovely Things
Sarah Mackenzie's new book, Teaching From Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakable Peace is a truly lovely book.

I just finished reading it, and ... wow. Sarah discusses and advocates so much of what I have long believed about homeschooling, relationships, schedules, curriculum, how children learn, what God calls us to, and the vital importance of always placing our relationships --  with God and our children -- at the forefront of everything we do.

As a mom who has graduated two daughters from our homeschool (with one yet to go -- Ramona just turned 12! I have only six years left with her!) I can say with confidence that living the kind of homeschooling -- the kind of resting in God -- that Sarah discusses has paid off enormously in our home.

I have always asked myself two questions over the years of our homeschooling:

Am I putting God first here, by trusting Him with every moment?
Am I giving my children what they really need in this moment?

Teaching from a place of rest has been a beautiful and rewarding experience for me and (I hope I can speak for them, too) my children. I treasure the relationship I have with my daughters, who are now 20, 18, and 12 years old. I have never tried to be their friend at the expense of being their parent, but I can honestly say that by deliberately cultivating our relationship over the years, we have become amazing friends, and our girls have received (we hope) a great education on the way.

Teaching from Rest is an encouraging, humble, honest, and gentle book.

It is a gem. I hope you find rest in it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

I admit it: I would read Rainbow Rowell's grocery list.

(Actually, I'd read the grocery list and every other kind of list {To Do ... Book Ideas ... Top Five Ways to Get Benedict Cumberbatch to Nebraska} of all my favorite writers because what inquiring mind doesn't want to know what her favorite wordsmiths eat for breakfast and what they plan to do on Tuesday and how they will plot to get Sherlock to town? I realize I'm making an enormous assumption --  that all my favorite writers are list makers -- and I could be wrong. But I digress.)

So. I've been looking forward to Landline ever since ... well, I have no idea. Ever since I heard the words, "Rainbow Rowell is writing a new book and it's going to be called Landline." Because I adored Attachments, Eleanor and Park broke my heart in about eleven different ways (eleven different good ways) and I was rooting for Cath in Fangirl from the moment I heard the name of the book.

Landline did not disappoint. I will admit to having a little more trouble entering into it than I had with Rowell's past books. I'm not sure if that was due to the premise (a struggling marriage ... I just started out sad), the potential gimmick (a magic phone? Or is something else going on?) or the reader on the audio book. (The reader is a very good reader -- I am just a picky listener. My inner theater major comes out, and I huff and say {to myself ... I didn't bother Atticus or startle the jumpy lady sitting next to me in seat 25D} things like, "No! You're doing that line all wrong!") I was listening to the book while flying, then switching to the hard cover when nausea didn't threaten. (Said queasiness had nothing to do with the book or the audiobook reader, I feel compelled to say. Stupid genes. Stupid inner ear issues.) I was much happier, and entered more fully into the book, when I read rather than listened. Rowell's voice was alive on the page in a way it wasn't  -- for me, anyway -- on the audio book.

Anyway...back to the story itself. I am so averse to spoilers (I'm looking at you, Dad. I still haven't seen the third season of Homeland, so you have to stop talking about it) that I don't want to say anything more specific about the book. You can read a summary here.

What I will say is this:

1. The premise is a great one, a worthwhile one, and not a sad one. The "struggling marriage" isn't so much struggling as it is trying to figure out what marriage is and how we keep making it work in new ways, again and again, over time. (And out of time. But I'll get to the magic part in a minute.) I loved the very real illustration of the ways in which we fall in love with people who can be crazy-making (Georgie and Neal have their unique ways of driving each other crazy) but are still crazy in love.

2. The potential gimmick. Time travel? Magic? I had doubts about how that would be resolved, but I was won over. I loved the way this all came together. It worked. It works. It will work. All tenses covered.

3. I still own one of these, so, yeah:

4. Loved the nod (she's done this in past books) to a Nebraska town via a character name. McCool Junction, anyone? (We were actually driving past McCool Junction while I was listening to this book -- we visited my sister in Oklahoma before we took off for Austin.) That was McCool. 

5. The Easter egg! So fun.

Next up from my TBR pile? Michelangelo's grocery list.