Tag Archives: books

December 6, 2010

Only two months since the last entry…

Homeschooling Journal

Lucy’s BD party was Sunday (the 5th), so cleaning, baking, pizza making, and socializing all occured.

Lots of dress-up, including one “queen” being chased by one “tiger”.

The manger scenes are out, and were in constant use for a couple of days.  Lucy remarked several times that she “can’t wait for baby Jesus to come”, as the whole thing is a little empty without Him.

Trip to the zoo with Dad for Lucy’s actual birthday.

Trip to the library today for story time (Christmas themed).  Lucy made a beautiful paper stocking with sequins on it, and demonstrated her superior cutting and gluing skills.  Samantha demonstrated her tearing and glue-spreading skills.

New books from the trip include, Josephine Wants to Dance; Did Dinosaurs Eat Pizza?; Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening; The Legend of the Candy Cane; Art and Max; Watch Out, Little Wombat; and Arbor Day Square.

We returned Brother Juniper; Martha Doesn’t Share; Jamberry; Cinderella; and whatever else I’m forgetting.

Advent project today was to paint ceramic ornaments.  Lucy did a snowman and Samantha an angel.  They are quite colorful.  Craig called Lucy “Picasso”, but she was very meticulous about making sure all the edges were perfectly covered.  She’s coming into her own with the art things now, I think, and really enjoys painting, stamping, cutting and gluing, and the like.

On Waiting

“The main barrier standing between ourselves and a local-food culture is not price, but attitude.  The most difficult requirements are patience and a pinch of restraint–virtues that are hardly the property of the wealthy.  These virtues seem to find precious little shelter, in fact, in any modern quarter of this nation founded by Puritans.  Furthermore, we apply them selectively:  browbeating our teenagers with the message that they should wait for sex, for example.  Only if the wait to experience intercourse under the ideal circumstances (the story goes), will they know its true value.  ‘Blah blah blah,‘ hears the teenager: words issuing from a mouth that can’t even wait for the right time to eat tomatoes, but instead consumes tasteless ones all winter to satisfy a craving for everything now.  We’re raising our children on the definition of promiscuity if we feed them a casual, indiscriminate mingling of foods from every season plucked from the supermarket, ignoring how our sustenance is cheapened by whole sale desires.”

-Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Thanks for the book, Fr. R.B.!

I think she has a point, don’t you?  What do we wait for anymore?  Not information, there’s the internet.  Not food, there are microwaves.  Not TV shows, even: we have DVR.  Not letters, a phone call is quicker.  Not babies, their ‘delivery’ is scheduled for our convenience or our doctor’s.  There does seem to be a pattern.

It wasn’t a VW bus, was it?

“There was a time when good academic qualifications guaranteed a job, but not any more.  One reason is academic inflation.  In the next 30 years, more people worldwide will be gaining academic qualifications than since the beginning of history.  But as more people get them, their currency value is falling sharply.  A university degree used to be an open sesame to a professional position.  The minimum requirement for some jobs is now a Master’s degree, even a PhD.  What next?  But there is a second problem.  Many companies are facing a crisis in graduate recruitment.  It’s not that there aren’t enough graduates to go around; there are more and more.  But too many don’t have what business urgently needs:  they can’t communicate well, they can’t work in teams and they can’t think creatively.  But why should they?  University degrees aren’t designed to make people creative.  They are designed to do other things and often do them well.  But complaining that graduates aren’t creative is like saying, “I bought a bus and it sank”.

-Ken Robinson, Out of our Minds: Learning to be Creative

16-year-olds are people too?

“There is a natural and accepted view that one of the main purposes of education is to prepare young people directly for a place in the labour market.  Obviously, general education should do this.  But there are two complications.  First, thinking of education as a preparation for something that happens later can overlook the fact that the first 16 or 18 years of a person’s life are not a rehearsal.  Young people are living their lives now.  What they become and what they do later depends on the attitudes and abilities they develop as they are growing up.  Linear assumptions about supply and demand can and do cut off many potentially valuable and formative experiences on the grounds of utility.”

-Ken Robinson, Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative.  (emphasis mine)

Merton on Suffering

Merton is speaking of seeing his father in a hospital bed, unable to speak and disfigured by a brain tumor.  He is 14 or 15 years old, and has no faith or relationship with God to speak of.

“What could I make of so much suffering?  There was no way for me, or for anyone else in the family, to get anything out of it.  It was a raw wound for which there was no adequate relief.  You had to take it, like an animal.  We were in the condition of most of the world, the condition of men withiout faith in the presence of war, disease, pain, starvation, suffering, plague, bombardment, death.  You just had to take it, like a dumb animal.  Try to avoid it, if you could.  But you must eventually reach the point where you can’t avoid it any more.  Take it.  Try to stupefy yourself, if you like, so that it won’t hurt so much.  But you will always have to take some of it.  And it will all devour you in the end.

Indeed, the truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to  your fear of being hurt.  The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers most: and his suffering comes to him from things so little and so trivial that one can say that it is no longer objective at all.  It is his own existence, his own being, that is at once the subject and the source of his pain, and his very existence and consciousness is his greatest torture.  This is another of the great perversions by which the devil uses our philosophies to turn our whole nature inside out, and eviscerate all our capacities for good, turning them against ourselves.”

Seven Story Mountain

Which was a little helpful thinking about my Dad suffering, and my Mom now in grief, and one of Craig’s uncles who has been sick and in pain for years now.  And relating to childbirth, as well.  But with faith and by joining suffering to Christ on the cross, it is not so dire.

Man’s Power over Nature?

“Let us consider three typical examples:  the aeroplane, the wireless, and the contraceptive.  In a civilized community, in peace-time, anyone who can pay for them may use these things.  But it cannot strictly be said that when he does so he is exercising his own proper or individual power over Nature.  If I pay you to carry me, I am not therefore myself a strong man.  Any or all of the three things I have mentioned can be witheld from some men by other men–by those who sell, or those who allow the sale, or those who own the sources of producion, or those who make the goods.  What we call Man’s power is, in reality, a power possessed by some men which they may, or may not, allow other men to profit by.  Again, as regards the powers manifested in the aeroplane or the wireless, Man is as much the patient or subject as the possessor, since he is the target both for bombs and for propaganda.  And as regards contraceptives, there is a paradoxical, negative sense in which all possible future generations are the patients or subjects of a power wielded by those alread alive.  By contraception simply, they are denied existence; by contraception used as a means of selective breeding, they are, without their concurring voice, made to be what one generation, for its own reasons, may choose to prefer.  From this point of view, what we call Man’s power over Nature turns out to be a power exercied by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument.”

-C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

It’s been a while…

So I apologize for that.  Life is crazy, even though “busy” might not be the most appropriate term.  Here’s the update,  and I promise that I’m going to make an honest attempt to get back on the blogging wagon.

I’m frantically trying to finish two sewing projects, plus the mending of diapers, except that we managed to leave all our cloth diapers, except the ones the girls were wearing when we left, at home.  And this week has taught me, in case I needed reminding, that I hate disposable diapers.  There is a whole post in itself there.  This is why I feel busy, despite spending most of my days at home on the couch.  (Ok, not most, but as much as I can manage.)

We’re visiting my parents this week, and Craig flew out of DFW to a teaching conference in Chicago on Tuesday, so the girls and I have taken over my parents’ house.  This has been a fun week, except that hanging over our heads is the fact that my dad appears to have lymphoma.  They’re getting the final diagnosis and setting up a treatment plan tomorrow, so many, many prayers will be needed in the coming months.  My dad doesn’t like a lot of attention, so the outpouring of good wishes he has gotten just from his friends and family has been a little overwhelming for him, but he’s hanging in there so far.

My mom’s knees, which were replaced one month ago tomorrow, are doing really well, so thank you for all the prayers in that area.  She is walking with a cane out of the house and without a cane at home.   My brother, on the other hand, is going to have surgery to clean up a couple of disks in his spine which are pushing on his nerves and causing pain in his leg.  Then he has to lose a good bit of weight so it doesn’t happen again.  Anybody with tricks to get someone very reluctant to start a serious (manageable) weight loss program, I’d love to hear them.

The girls are being themselves.  Lucy is everywhere at once, and bombarding Grandma and Uncle John with requests to “play play-doh”.  We went to the mall to ride the carousel yesterday, and that was fun.  She still refuses (usually) to use the potty, but she goes of her own accord to the bathroom to poop in her diaper.  I think it’s a step in the right direction.  Samantha’s scoot is getting faster (I tried to post a video, but it was too big and I don’t know how to fix that), so we’re having to watch her more closely than ever.  She scoots on her left shin and right foot, which is funny but very effective for her purposes.  She has had her four top front teeth come in all at once, and the last one is almost through after two weeks or so of suffering.  Her teether of choice is still whatever scrap of paper or book is within reach.

Merton has been left in the back seat of the car this week, and I have yet to go dig him out.  I’m not quite half way through the “Reader”, but I have every intention of finishing it.  I have gotten distracted by A Tale of Two Cities, which I am enjoying much more than I had expected.

What else?  I’m sure I’m forgetting lots of important things…but I guess that’s a good start.  We have a busy rest of the summer (for real) with Craig’s last week of summer camp, a visit from Fr. R.B., a wedding in Georgia, and then a road trip to visit friends.  Then Craig starts school, and I am *officially* a stay-at-home mom and homemaker.  (Not just a teacher on summer vacation.)  At that point I’m hoping to start researching the homeschooling stuff in earnest, so hopefully some of that will spill over onto here.

I leave you with the quote of the week from Lucy:

Lucy: I want [something she shouldn’t have – I don’t remember what]
Grandpa: I want a new car.
Lucy: [in all earnestness] Well, you can share Grandma’s car.

This approach never works for Craig, either.  But he doesn’t usually get such witty comebacks.  And now that they are both awake and I can only distract one of them with breakfast, adieu.

Strawberries

This post made my day.  Craig’s dad is growing strawberries, and we have been the beneficiaries of his bounty for the last month or so.  We are exploring new and exciting ways to use them all, but Lucy still likes to eat them plain, preferably daily or twice daily.  Craig’s dad has beautiful, neat, raised, mulched rows for his plants, but neglected strawberries for ground cover, now there’s an idea!  The book list at the end of the post is great, too.  I’m going to have to head to the library for a copy of Jamberry.  That was one of my favorites growing up.

Peter Maurin

So I just finished The Long Loneliness which is a kind of autobiography Dorthy Day wrote back in the fifties.  I highly recommend it, first of all.  The first section about her early life is fascinating, the section about the birth of her daughter is moving (and should be required reading for mothers), and her depiction of Peter Maurin, who practically drove her to start the Catholic Worker movement, left me wondering why he hasn’t been canonized yet.  There will be much, much more on The Long Loneliness as I re-read it in the coming months, but we started looking again at Maurin’s Easy Essays, and here is one for a taste.  I suspect a similar feeling of unconnectedness to my experience in the world is what has caused me to drift away from my interest in formalized theology.  (No offence intended, studiers of formalized theology, it’s just that I have found God more easily in my garden than in Aquinas lately.)

BLOWING THE DYNAMITE

Writing about the Catholic Church, 
a radical writer says: 
“Rome will have to do more 
than to play a waiting game; 
she will have to use 
some of the dynamite 
inherent in her message.” 
To blow the dynamite 
of a message 
is the only way 
to make the message dynamic. 
If the Catholic Church 
is not today 
the dominant social dynamic force, 
it is because Catholic scholars 
have failed to blow the dynamite 
of the Church. 
Catholic scholars 
have taken the dynamite 
of the Church, 
have wrapped it up 
in nice phraseology, 
placed it in an hermetic container 
and sat on the lid. 
It is about time 
to blow the lid off 
so the Catholic Church 
may again become 
the dominant social dynamic force.

Dinner

“The focus of our days is the dinner table, whether, as often happens in the winter nowadays, it is just Hugh and me or I am cooking for a dozen or more.  When the children were in school I didn’t care what time we ate dinner as long as we ate it together.  If Hugh were going to be late, then we would all eat late.  If he had to be at the theatre early, we would eat early.  This was the time community (except for the very small babies) gathered together, when I saw most clearly illustrated the beautiful principle of unity in diversity:  we were one, but we were certainly diverse, a living example of the fact that like and equal are not the same thing.”

-Madeleine L’Engle, Glimpses of Grace (emphasis added)

I don’t have much time to write lately because of a swamp of school work, but I found this worth sharing.  This is sort of the ideal I hold up of my family in ten or fifteen years – gathered around dinner, discussing sports, theology, nature, literature, and whatever interests my children will quite literally “bring to the table” of which I now have no concept.  It is a daunting goal, but the beauty of this “unity in diversity” makes me want to strive towards it. 

More on this as relates to communal living beyond the family later, perhaps.


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