Monday, December 17, 2012

Old Applejoy's Ghost

Frank Stockton is one of my favorite storytellers and this is one of my favorite of his stories. It is a Christmas story set some where in America -- where isn't specified but given the description of a colonial Christmas, I've always pictured it happening in Virginia. Enjoy!

Illustrations by Ben Wohlberg

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Bach's Cantata 140: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme

Also known as "Sleepers Awake," this cantata was composed in 1731 for the 27th Sunday after Trinity, which was on my birthday that year making this my new favorite piece of music. :-)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Fun Stuff

[This is an edited repost of my last entry. I've tried all the HTML I know to turn off the autoplay on the Flash video I posted and it's not working. If you have any ideas, please pass them along. In the meantime, I've stuck that sill Elf Yourself video at the end of the post after a break so it won't turn itself on whenever anyone loads this page!]

Pretty fun

Make-a-Flake snowflake maker.

Musical fun

Silly Fun

Elf Yourself!

Click below for my video:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thinking about Advent

I was just looking over my old posts on Advent and came across a link to an article I read years ago when we were first learning about Church seasons: The Christian Season of Advent: Anticipation and Hope. In it he explains what Advent is, describes the Advent wreath and the significance of the candles, and lists lots of hymns appropriate to the season.

That article is part of his series on the Church year, Seasons of the Church Year, which is a great resource. Check it out.

Friday, October 19, 2012


It’s October and that means I’m thinking about Alfred the Great whose feast day is on the 26th.  We’re enjoying our tradition of reading Chesterton’s The Ballad of the White Horse, my favorite long poetic work, which is about Alfred – the only English king to be called “the Great” – and his struggle to stop the Danish invaders. This is not a retelling of historical events in verse, but an epic poem of the legendary Alfred, portraying the eternal conflict between Christian faith and pagan nihilism.

It is layer upon layer of truth and beauty, and greatness. I think this is our fifth time to read it, and every time I find a new gem, which is one reason it’s so important to be deeply familiar with a few great works.

The passage that stands out the most to me this time is from Book II: The Gathering of the Chiefs. In Book I, Alfred had a vision of Mary in which he asked whether he would succeed in driving out the pagan invaders. She refused to answer him, saying only that it would get worse and he must be brave. In Book II, Alfred has been to Eldred, a chief who is of Saxon descent, and Mark, of Roman blood. He now comes to Colan, who is Welsh and Irish, representing the pre-Roman Britons. I’ve shared before the passage where Colan is introduced to us. Here is Alfred’s encounter with him:

Lifting the great green ivy
    And the great spear lowering,
One said, “I am Alfred of Wessex,
    And I am a conquered king.”

And the man of the cave made answer,
    And his eyes were stars of scorn,
“And better kings were conquered
    Or ever your sires were born.

“What goddess was your mother,
    What fay your breed begot,
That you should not die with Uther
    And Arthur and Lancelot?

“But when you win you brag and blow,
    And when you lose you rail,
Army of eastland yokels
    Not strong enough to fail.”

“I bring not boast or railing,”
    Spake Alfred not in ire,
“I bring of Our Lady a lesson set,
This—that the sky grows darker yet
    And the sea rises higher.”

Then Colan of the Sacred Tree
    Tossed his black mane on high,
And cried, as rigidly he rose,
“And if the sea and sky be foes,
    We will tame the sea and sky.”
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Look at that again:

“But when you win you brag and blow,
    And when you lose you rail,
Army of eastland yokels
    Not strong enough to fail.”
After we finished reading Book Two, I went back and read that passage over again to my children. It is said that if you want to know what something is, one thing you should do is learn what it is not. Alfred does not respond in anger, but humbly accepts the rebuke and proves proves his greatness by stating that he’s planning on continuing the fight, even if it ultimately ends in defeat.

If you read yesterday’s post, you’ll know that I need these lessons myself as much as, if not more than, my children.

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The Ballad of the White Horse is available online for free at and for Kindle, but I highly recommend the hardback by Ignatius Press, especially if you’re going to be reading it over and over again, which of course you should. This copy is elegantly laid out, uses a simple and beautiful font, and is generously illustrated with woodcuts by Robert Austin. The introduction gives a brief historical note on the events in the poem as well as some discussion of the poem itself, and contains a photograph of the actual white horse, which is cut into the turf on the side of a hill and filled with chalk – it’s nearly 400 feet long and its age is unknown. When the Romans asked the Britons about it, they said that when their people first arrived it was already there, and the people who were there before them did not know who had made it. This copy of the book also has a lot of end notes with helpful and interesting tidbits, but there are no notes in the text itself, so you’re not distracted by them while reading.

Also helpful is Benjamin Merkle's biography, The White Horse King (also available for Kindle).

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Previous entries on Alfred the Great:

Alfred the Great post from the 26th of October, 2005; history, prayers, and lots of cool links; don’t miss it!

Three selections from Poetry Month 2008:
The Way of the Cross (Mary’s answer to Alfred, when he asked whether he would prevail over the enemy)
The Great Gaels of Ireland (where Colan is introduced)
The King’s Laughter (from the episode of the old woman and burnt cakes)

All my posts where he’s mentioned are filed under the Alfred the Great label

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I'm an Amazon Affiliate.  If you click through the links to The Ballad of the White Horse and buy it, I'll earn a little bit for advertising on my blog.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

First post since Blogger forced me into the new layout

I'm trying to write about my beloved Ballad of the White Horse and let me just say how much I hate this new interface.  I can't find anything.  The HTML editor doesn't behave like it used to -- I really dislike using the "Compose" mode.  Blogger is despicable, I loathe Google, I hate most of the world right now, and I wish people who make arbitrary and capricious changes would go to the devil.

There.  Indulging in a little railing makes me feel better.  You'll laugh when see which passage I'm writing on.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mid-Term Break

Six weeks of school = time for a break!

Yesterday I slept late then went to visit a friend and her new baby. Today I’m taking my son shopping for baseball pants. This week I also need to make some phone calls, get caught up on housework and book-keeping, and think about the next six weeks. And there’s the post I’ve promised to write for Ideas Have Consequences. Plus I’m reading two books on mathematical thinking and have signed up for a free online class on the same topic.

Mozart is our composer this term, so I need to remember to play something each day. I don’t like background music, so Listening to Music is always an event for me. Also, we have half a chapter of Stories of the Old Dominion left over from last week that I need to read to the kids, plus we should catch up on our timeline books.

The garden needs end-of-season care. I hope to go down to the river for a walk – we haven’t been there since the spring. It’s a half-hour drive a longish walk just to get there – from the parking lot you have to walk through about a quarter of mile of woods down a steep and winding path – but it’s so beautiful and quiet and we nearly always find fossils.

Also, I’ve had Drawing for Children for more than a decade but have never used it because it seemed so overwhelming. But a couple of weeks ago I was looking at it again and suddenly it occurred to me that I don’t have to do a drawing lesson every day or even every week. Just once a month would be more than they’ve ever had, so I’m hoping to get to that this week using lessons from Donna Young (recommended by Brandy), but, um, my week “off” is starting to look pretty busy.

And so naturally instead of doing any of that I’m sitting here typing a blog post and experimenting with a different color scheme for the blog. And I just spilled coffee on my white shirt. :-p

Friday, August 24, 2012

Background thoughts on "The Last Metaphysical Right"

I told Brandy in the comments to her post on chapter 7 that this chapter of Ideas Have Consequences is my favorite and I'd try really hard to write about it, even though I've haven't posted anything since the first week. But first I've reposted my 2007 book club comments on the chapter from my old blog, which can be read here.

In the post I mention my daughter's illness -- she had appendicitis and was in the hospital for a week, but thankfully didn't have to have the appendix removed. She recovered and is fine now. Didn't want to leave anyone hanging there. :-D

Thursday, August 23, 2012

You can listen to me on Blogtalkradio tomorrow night

Scott Terry is hosting a round table discussion on making the transition from a suburban to a rural and agrarian life and has invited me and two other women to participate. You can hear the live broadcast, Transitioning to Rural Life, on Friday the 24th of August at 9:00 pm, Eastern time, or you can download the talk later and listen whenever it's convenient.

Whether you listen or not, y'all pray for me, okay?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

School planning -- fitting the pieces together

We’re starting back to school next week and I’m shuffling our daily schedule a bit to make time for my two youngest students’ work in the morning when I have more energy. I spent the morning really confused but I think I’ve solved it, so I’m sharing it in hopes it’ll help someone else out.

I’m trying to keep in mind Charlotte Mason’s suggestion to mix up the lessons, so that I don’t have two or three similar kinds of work scheduled back-to-back. For instance, handwriting and math worksheets both require fine motor work, so they should be separated by something very different, such as reading.

Further complicating matters, I’m also trying to follow Ruth Beechick’s advice not to combine concrete and abstract thinking in one math lesson. So I have math flashcards (memory, drill, abstract), a lesson from Arithmetic for Young Children (oral, narrative, concrete), and a math worksheet (fine motor, drill, abstract) to plan for, but I don’t want them to happen one after another.

I need to have both the students with me because we do some things together (math and phonics flashcards, handwriting) but I need to have them each alternate between independent work (reading, math sheets) and lessons with me (math, reading).

Finally I decided to use the technique that makes Managers of Their Homes so helpful – make slips of paper for each activity, a different color for each person.

My son is blue, my daughter is pink (aren’t I original?), and the two of them together are white. After shuffling pieces around for a couple of minutes I figured it out.

Here’s what I came up with. I’ll keep this page in my notebook until I get the routine down well enough not to need a cheat sheet.

And here’s how my weekly plan book looks for Summer 2012. Laura of Lines in Pleasant Places recommended this planner to me several years ago and I've used it ever since then. It's been a huge help.

Notice I don’t use the plan book the way it’s meant to be. I put the days of the week across the top and the subjects down the side. The first section is our Morning Time, which we have in the living room. Everyone who’s at home participates in that, even my “graduated” students. The next section is for my 13-year-old student, most of which she does independently, and the next is for my two youngest. The goal is for all of this to get done before lunch, though my 13yod will probably need to spend time later in the day to finish hers.

We’ll have lunch and outside time, plus a rest time, then come back together for the next section which is mostly Ambleside books. The four youngest and I sit around the school table, while I read the selections for each day, stopping occasionally to let someone narrate. The kids are allowed to color or do anything quiet as long as they’re paying attention to what I’m reading.

The composer entry doesn’t have a scheduled time. We’ll listen to that music at random times throughout the week, such as before Morning Time when we’re waiting for everyone to gather.

That last entry, “Read Aloud,” is what we read for fun, meaning the kids don’t have to narrate. Right now we’re reading some of George MacDonald’s fairy tales (even when we’re not doing school we always have a read-aloud going) and before that we read The Lantern Bearers by Rosemary Sutcliff, and Captain Blood by Raphael Sabatini. We usually have read-aloud in the late afternoon before we have to start evening chores, but given the changes I’ve made, I’ll probably need to do it right after lunch instead. We’ll see.

As we go through the day I make a brief note of what we’ve done. This way, the list in the first column serves as my guide to the school year, but the daily columns show what we’ve actually accomplished, which keeps me “doing the next thing” without having to constantly rewrite lists for each week or month.

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[I noticed two of my links don't show up on Google Reader, so here are text links -- hope they work!
The Three R's
Scholastic Daily Planner]

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I'm an Amazon Affiliate.  If you click through these links and buy something I'll get a bit of money for advertising.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Some initial thoughts on the 2012 CiRCE conference

because I can’t go back to reading Ideas Have Consequences as long as I’m full of this conference – I’m afraid it’ll make my head explode

“The world that God made is best known through harmony.” ~John Hodges

In the first session, “A Contemplation of Creation, Part I,” Andrew Kern talked about creation, metaphor, and analogy. He said that the Law of God, the Torah, should not be thought of as a legal code, but as the wisdom of God. Notice that it begins with the story of his creation, and of his care for his people. Torah teaches us of his creation, his craftsmanship, his artistry. The core principle is harmony, unity in diversity.

All of the creation myths in the world embody the Myth of Violence. Think about the Greek story of Chaos and the Titans and the gods. Think of the modern myth of the Big Bang. Only the Biblical account does not begin in violence – a Triune God, at unity within the Godhead, creating out of his love and peace. The world we live in today is very angry at us because only we have the Myth of Peace. Referencing Elizabeth’s Theokritoff’s book Living in God's Creation he said that we are the bond of unity in creation – we are to unite the disparate aspects of the created order and bring them into unity with God.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

John Hodges gave his lecture, “Music and Metaphor: Towards a Sacramental View of Creation,” right after Andrew Kern, and he swore that they hadn’t been comparing notes. The quote at the top is from his lecture, which was all about harmony.

He said that Christ used metaphors to teach about himself – “I am the vine,” “I am the door” – but the metaphor works the other way too. Since Christ was there first, and since creation reflects the creator, the reason we even have vines in the first place is because they are like God in some way.

Other insights from John Hodges:

Metaphor is taking two disparate things and bringing them into harmony

Art is embodying something that is not able to be perceived except through that medium

Our Triune God is invisible; Trinity cannot be imaged logically

Perception of beauty = the ability to see harmony

Our ability to perceive beauty (and beauty itself) is fallen – we have broken perception; therefore we must help our students hone their ability to see harmony, we must teach them what to listen for in music, what to look for in the arts, show them what it is about a great work that makes it worth loving

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

I was impressed (again) with the importance of having a harmonious household – that our relations with each other should be harmonious is the obvious application, but our relationship with our things and the things’ relationship with each other also should be in harmony. Making the home a harmonious environment is foundational to teaching our children what harmony is, and teaching them to love it.

And of course, the reason I keep harping on this is because I need to hear it myself. OFTEN.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Ideas Have Consequences: Chapter 1, The Unsentimental Sentiment

[I have out of town guests arriving at any moment, so I'm just copying and paste my post for this chapter from last time -- the original can be found here.]

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Forgot to add this:

Join the discussion at Mystie's blog

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Blogging through this book with Cindy and others is not going to be easy. The concepts are so huge that they are hard to summarize and it’s difficult even to pick out quotes since Richard Weaver did not write in sound bites. For this reason, please be patient with me when I quote long passages.

Chapter I: The Unsentimental Sentiment

The man of self-control is he who can consistently perform the feat of abstraction. He is therefore trained to see things under the aspect of eternity, because form is the enduring part. Thus we invariably find in the man of true culture a deep respect for forms. He approaches even those he does not understand with awareness that a deep thought lies in an old observance. Such respect distinguishes him from the barbarian, on the one hand, and the degenerate, on the other. The truth can be expressed in another way by saying that the man of culture has a sense of style. Style requires measure, whether in space or time, for measure imparts structure, and it is structure which is essential to intellectual apprenhension. (p. 23)

When I first started this blog, my header said something like “…taking dominion by beautifying one tiny little corner of the world.” By saying that, I was trying to express the idea that everything we do as Christian women to beautify the sphere the Lord has put us into is a very real and a very valuable way of fulfilling mankind’s creation mandate, of rejoicing in being created in his image, and of glorifying the Lord. But after reading the book mentioned in the previous post, I changed it to the much superior words of fellow Arkansan John Gould Fletcher: “…to make our lives an art…”

This, I think, is at least partly what Mr. Weaver is pointing to in this chapter, and this is something I need to remind myself of on a regular basis. I tend to have lofty ideals but then translating those ideals into practice is very hard for me, and for other women I know. Here are some ideas that might inspire those who need foundational help in this area.

• Be sure that your day has a reasonably predictable rhythm to it. If you have no idea where to begin, start with meals and bedtimes - decide when you should have supper, and that will let you know when you need to start preparing it, when the little ones need naps, when to serve lunch and whether the little ones need a snack between lunch and supper, and so forth. From there you can decide when to schedule regular chores, like laundry, when to have storytime…

Do have nap time every afternoon, even if all your children have outgrown the need for a nap. Everyone in the family still needs a space of quiet, alone time when they’re free to daydream or play with their favorite things without having to share. Moms who are homeschooling (unless they are extremely extroverted and get charged up by being around small people all day long - of which, I am most decidedly not one) especially need this regular time every day, if they are going to make it for the long haul.

• Set the table, with real dishes, for every meal, using paper plates only on rare occasion. Unless you’re in absolute survival mode and can’t possibly face having plates to wash after meals, I’d recommend this for all meals. Having a pretty table to sit down to makes the meal so much more pleasant - and you don’t have to have all matching stuff. I have four different sets of flatware, half of it picked up at thrift stores, that we use at each meal. For a long time I had two different sets of stoneware, but they were both white, so it looked fine on the table.

• A trick I learned from a “More Hours in my Day” seminar with Emilie Barnes is to ring a bell a few minutes before a meal to give everyone time to finish up what they’re doing and wash their hands. At supper I ring ours twenty to thirty minutes before the meal because Mike and a couple of the older kids are usually still out doing barn chores. This gives them plenty of time to finish what they’re doing and time to change clothes if needed. In the meantime, the rest of us come to the living room and sit down and read or play quietly or talk. It’s amazing how civilizing this time is. The family gathers in one place, I make a last-minute check on things and then tell them they can come to the table. (This is, of coure, the ideal - it doesn’t happen every day, especially if Mike had to work late at the office.)

• Model using a pleasant tone of voice and encourage your children to do the same. Shouting is for outside - don’t yell for your kids unless there’s an emergency. Get up and go find them or send a messenger. We have a rule in our family that we aren’t supposed to speak to someone unless we can see their eyes. This reminds us to get close enough to speak in a moderate tone of voice, and it helps us notice whether the person is already speaking to someone else so that we don’t interrupt. Teach your children to say “Yes, Ma’am,” and “Yes, Sir,” or whatever is the appropriately respectful response in your family or region.

• Get dressed first thing in the morning. Fix your hair, and if you wear makeup or jewelry, put it on before you go to the kitchen to start breakfast. Don’t laugh! I know that sounds really basic, but I grew up with the habit of not getting dressed right away unless we were going somewhere (which, of course, was every day but most Saturdays) and I’d actually been a wife and mother for two or three years before I realized that this was my job and I ought to get dressed for my family even though I wasn’t going out that morning. :-p Expect the older kids to dress themselves before breakfast, including having their teeth brushed and hair neat. I am not going to require you to put on shoes every day the way some homemaking advisors do - I’m a Southerner, and like Henny-penny, “I go barefoot, barefoot, barefoot!” :-D

• Make eye contact, smile, and greet one another with a hug first thing each morning. As Laura said in These Happy Golden Years, saying “Good morning” really does make it a good morning!

• Listen to a wide range of good music throughout the week. We’re focusing our attention this term on Antonine Dvořák’s music, so sometimes we’ll listen to his piano solos or Slavonic dances while preparing meals. I prefer listening to his symphonies and string quartets when I have time to sit down and pay attention. His Mass in D major is simply beautiful (ignore the review at Amazon - the guy’s a snob; apparantly he didn’t like it because it’s a live recording of an actual church choir in church, rather than professionals in a studio, but that’s exactly the version I wanted).

• Read some poetry each day to your children. The little ones and I are reading through Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, and with the older ones I’m reading through Ambleside Online’s Year 6 poetry list, chosen because I haven’t read poetry with the older ones since they were little.

My biggest challenge is simply keeping the house tidy. Children need to grow up in an orderly and peaceful environment, and we have too much stuff, defined as “more stuff than I can manage without being consumed by it.” I feel like I’ve been ruthlessly dejunking this year, but evidently I’m going to have to be ruthlesser. ;-) If you’re a mom just starting out, take two bits of advice from me: 1) Don’t accumulate stuff, and 2) Teach your children to pick up after themselves from infancy. Trust me. I’ve learned this the hard way.

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The Hidden Art of Homemaking, by Edith Schaeffer

Sidetracked Home Executives, by Pam Young and Peggy Jones

More Hours in My Day, by Emilie Barnes

Ambleside Online has Charlotte Mason’s books online so you can read them for free - many of her ideas are in the vein of what I’ve been trying to say in this post.

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By the way, if you want to read the book is actually about, go over to Dana’s blog, Hidden Art. She has insight and a wonderful way with words.

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I'm an Amazon Affiliate.  If you click through the links to Amazon and buy something I'll be compensated a tiny bit for advertising on my blog.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Ideas Have Consequences: Introduction

Mystie is hosting this book club, which I'm planning on participating in. I read the book when Cindy hosted the discussion in 2007, but I wasn't able to comment on each chapter. This time around I'm mainly planning on dusting off my old posts (which aren't on this site yet -- I was blogging elsewhere then and that site died, sadly), but hopefully I'll be able to reread the book and have more to say this time.

That said, I hadn't planned on doing the introductory chapter, but the discussion at Mystie's blog spurred me to write a long enough response that I figured I may as well post it here. The subject of technology came up and whether it's good, bad, or neutral.

(For a summary of this chapter, be sure to visit Mystie's blog.)

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I’ve been thinking all week, trying to figure out how to word this and I haven’t come up with anything satisfactory, but here goes anyway.

It seems to me that “things” (specifically technology, since that’s the topic) by their nature encourage certain uses and choices and discourage others, so that they aren’t exactly completely neutral objects. I’m not going so far as to say that they are actors, but I also can’t say that they are completely... neutral or passive in the way they are used.

We conservatives are fond of saying things like “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people,” which is true as far as it goes, but the fact is that guns are designed to blow holes in things from a distance, ideally while keeping the user safe from close contact with the target.

So, a gun, as a weapon is used differently than a sword, for instance, and it requires different skills and different strategies. Same thing as a hunting tool when compared to a hand-made spear. So the kind of person who is trained to use one weapon will turn out to be different than the kind who is trained to use the other.

That’s what I mean by technologies not being neutral.

I find it interesting that in most of these discussions someone eventually gets around to saying, “I’m not saying we should all be Amish,” but that betrays a lack of understanding of how the Amish approach technology. They don’t reject things outright. New technologies are picked up by interested members of the community and used for a while, while everyone else watches what happens. How does the technology actually affect the user? How does it change the way he’s been doing things? How does it affect his family? How does it affect the broader community? After a few years of watching this experimentation, the bishops will meet and begin discussing what they’re learning, and eventually reach a conclusion. This technology has these effects, so in order to protect our relationships with each other it may be used in this way but not in that.

It’s a slow and deliberate method of evaluating change, values the family and the community above individual convenience or profit, and is understood and respected by the community. Seems like a good plan to me.

A few years ago, Rick Saenz mentioned on his blog that prior to the Industrial Revolution, new technology developed really slowly so that the broader culture had time to adapt to the changes brought about by each new thing before the next new thing was developed. I think that was a blessing. The more I read about the Industrial Revolution the more I wonder why it happened. Why was it a revolution and not simply a continuation of the past slow progress? What was different and why had it changed? Even though we’ve benefitted materially in many ways from it, overall I can’t help but think that as human beings, as families, we really are not better off.

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I'm an Amazon Affiliate, which means I'll get a bit of monetary compensation for advertising on my blog if you click through the links and purchase the book.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Right brain or left brain?

Dana posted this quiz and asked her readers to let her know which they are, so I played along -- generally speaking, I love this sort of thing.

I found it a hard test, though. There were a few questions that I could have answered either way, just depending on the circumstances -- the one about whether you prefer to work alone or in a group, for example. For me that depends on the nature of the work. So I answered all the questions and got this result:

Which Side of your Brain Do You Use?
Your Result: Right Side

The right brain however, processes from whole to parts. You see the big picture first, not the details. You are however not good at spelling, math, and science. Problem solves with hunches, looking for patterns. You are good at sports and writing. You have an imagination which is good because when you have imaginatin you tend to be more smart. You prefer working in a group than by yourself. You also like to read fantasy and mystery stories. You can also listen to music or TV while studying. You perfer having fun than work. You also think better when lying down! I am a right sided person many people are right sided so you are normal.

Left Side
Which Side of your Brain Do You Use?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Then I answered it again, changing those iffy ones, and got this result:

Which Side of your Brain Do You Use?
Your Result: Left Side

The left side of the brain processes information in a linear manner. It processes from part to whole. It takes pieces, lines them up, and arranges them in a logical order; then it draws conclusions. You look at the details not the big picture. You use logic not imagination. The left brained person is a list maker. You would enjoy making master schedules and and daily planning. Learning things in sequence is easy for you. You are probability a good speller. Left-brained people memorize vocabulary words or math formulas better. You also use logic. When you read and listen, you look for the pieces so that you can draw logical conclusions. The left side of the brain deals with things the way they are-with reality. When left brain students are affected by the environment, they usually adjust to it. Left brain people want to know the rules and follow them. So basicly you are smart! Congratulations!

Right Side
Which Side of your Brain Do You Use?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Neither one of them really describes me.

I am a whole-to-parts, big picture person (Right brain), but I'm good at spelling and I love science and was good at it in school (Left brain). I'm sure that the only reason I did so badly at math is because of the way it was taught -- thousands of details and formulae and operations, and no big picture at all, and I love math games and playing with numbers (Right brain).

I love drawing up master schedules and making plans (Left brain) but I loathe working with details (Right brain). I always loved vocabulary word lists and I'm horrible with figures of speech (Left brain), but I love fantasy stories, fairy tales, and mysteries (Right brain).

I absolutely cannot listen to music or watch TV while studying or reading, or doing anything at all for that matter (except maybe fold towels) (Left brain), but now that they mention it, I do think better while lying down and that's my preferred position for reading (Right brain).

Do I prefer fun to work? Hm. I don't think so, but I think some work really is fun, and I do prefer the work when there's some fun involved -- "fun" for me being having an interesting conversation while working -- but it seems like everyone is like that; it just depends on how you define fun. On the other hand, I can have fun (read books with my children, have interesting conversations, listen to beautiful music, watch movies) in the face of lots of neglected work without it bothering me too much (Right brain-ish).

Do I want to "know the rules and follow them"? Lots of times, yes, especially when it's an area where there's received wisdom and I see no reason to waste time re-inventing the wheel. I read the instructions, and I hate instructions that are only pictures (Left-brain).

Problem-solving is a joke. Early on I learned that only Stupid, Irrational, Bleeding-heart Liberals follow their hunches and Smart Sensible People use logic, so that's the method I use, but because I'm so bad at details I always overlook important data and come to wrong conclusions. I see things in terms of patterns and more often than not my hunches are correct, so I'm trying to learn to pay more attention to them. For some reason my head and my heart are not on speaking terms with one another.

My favorite line from Henry V is "I and my bosom must debate awhile."

So, how about you? Are you Left-brain, Right-brain, or somewhere in the middle?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Celtic monastery in Brittany

My friend Eleanor took these pictures recently and they're too beautiful not to pass on.

The early Celtic Christian monks were famous for their evangelism, and apparently thought nothing of taking Christianity to the "uttermost parts of the Earth". This abbey is a good example of a Celtic Christian monastic community that did just that. A group of them must have gotten into a boat, and crossed from Cornwall to Brittany, and proceeded to find the most remote spot they could get to. They did this so well that it wasn't even easy for us to find.

This abbey was first founded by a monk in the fifth century. From very rough and modest beginnings, it grew over the next 400 years to have a nice, classic Romanesque abbey church, which was (oh good grief, not again) destroyed by the Norsemen. Those would be my ancestors, argh. After the Norsemen had had their fun, the monks rebuilt. In about another 400 years the place was again demolished, this time by the Normans. Bad Normans! Same folks, really, as the Norse. One stone higher, responded the monks and built yet another establishment which lasted about another 500 years, and was them abandoned. Today it is owned by the Benedictines, who have not restored it to use, but are conserving it and have established a museum collecting its artifacts and history.

Be sure to visit Eleanor's blog to see all the pictures and read her comments on them.

Thanks so much for sharing, Eleanor!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Fun astronomy project

This was so fun and instructive I can't believe I didn't blog about it when we first did it.

We started using Exploring Creation with Astronomy a couple of years ago. One of the first projects is to make a model of the solar system using balloons -- tiny ones for Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and Pluto, and larger ones for the rest. We were supposed to hang them from the ceiling in the school room in the proper order, and I thought that since we were doing a scale model we might as well hang them according to their relative distances. Our school room is one part of a large L-shaped area that has the dining room in one arm and the kitchen in the other, but I figured that if that area wasn't big enough we'd just hang them out into the living room, too.

So I went online to look up the information I needed. The site I found said that I should use an 8-inch ball for the sun, the head of a pin for Mercury, peppercorns for Venus and Earth, another pinhead for Mars, a pecan for Jupiter, a hazelnut for Saturn, coffee beans for Uranus and Neptune, and another pinhead for Pluto (or something smaller -- like a dot on an index card).

Now, in the scale model, one inch equals 100,000 MILES, so one yard equals 3.6 million miles. Turns out I couldn't possibly do it in my house. We gathered our supplies (I had taped all the "planets" onto index cards and labelled each) and went outside. I put our cabbage-sun on a cement block at one end of the driveway, and walked ten paces. That's where Mercury goes. Nine more paces, Venus; seven more, Earth -- 93 million miles from the sun. We have quite a large yard (about an acre) -- our driveway is about 130 yards long. We had to make three trips down the driveway and around our yard to get to Pluto. I had NO IDEA how big the solar system was.

We did it on a Saturday when everyone was home and we all had a blast.

Here's the site where I found this project: The Thousand-Yard Model: or Earth as a Peppercorn. This page, which I found while searching for the one I originally used, has all the same info plus a lot more.

This post inspired by this picture, seen at Facebook today:

Originally shared by

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Blogger is making some changes

and they're making it impossible for me. I don't know what the problem is, but they're not recognizing my username or password when I try to migrate my blog. I've had this blog since 2003, long before Google bought Blogger, so this is a legacy blog, as they call it.

I'm looking at other options, but if I can't resolve this, my blog at this address will die at the end of May. If nothing else, I'll just use Wordpress. I've already imported everything over there just to be sure I don't lose it, but this is still my blog home for now.

Friday, April 13, 2012


Our bantam hen, Chocolate Chip, hatched a brood this week. She had ten eggs, but one didn't hatch and one died shortly afterward -- its fluff didn't even have time to dry. We discovered them on Wednesday (CC was very well hidden) and they looked like they were a day old. Thursday was their first day out of the nest, and these videos were filmed today. Enjoy!

The teeny chirps are chicks' noises. The hen squawks a little in this one, but you can hear her clucking in the next (bok, bok).

This one was taken just a few minutes after the first one. The chicks look like they're just standing around, but they're mostly napping. In this one you can hear our guinea hen in the background starting around 40 seconds. #1 Son was recording it on his cell phone and wanted to get a closer shot of the chicks with their eyes closed, which displeased Chocolate Chip.

The mama is less than eight inches tall, and the babies are under two inches. Adorable.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

An Experiment in Audioblogging: Shakespeare's Sonnet 30

So I got this wild idea that instead of continually telling y'all you should read poetry aloud, I'd just read it to you. I haven't figured out how to get a plain audio file onto Blogger yet, so I made the sound file, then added some images using Window's Live Movie Maker, and posted it on YouTube. It's a little under three minutes long, of which about a third is the actual poem and the rest is me yammering.

The first image, in honor of National Poetry Month, is "Poetry" by Alphonse Mucha, part of his series on the Arts.

Eldest Daughter says I should have written a script or at least a cue sheet, because my discussion is so unpolished -- but that was part of the point of doing it this way. I'm not a professional. I love poety, but I don't really know what to say about it beyond "It was nice and I liked it," which is about as sophisticated as my second-grade book reports were. I'm just a regular mom, and hey, if I can do it, you can too!

Many thanks to Dr Taylor and my classmates, Anne, Julie, and Daniel, for their insights and encouragement.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Table talk at my house

Me: Well, I think we should be in The Guinness Book of World Records for holding the STRANGEST EVER conversation around an Easter Dinner table.

Elaienar: Oh, no, it's not strange at all. Easter is about the death and resurrection of Christ, and zombies are people walking around after they're dead.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

As my first offering for this year's poetry month, I give you The Paschal Sermon of Saint John Chrysostom (c. 347-407), which I read this morning for the first time. The version I came across was written in prose form (four paragraphs) but on my second reading I noticed the poetic structure and have taken the liberty of dividing it into verses. It's no wonder this Archbishop of Constantinople was called Chrysostomos -- Golden Mouthed.

Whosoever is a devout lover of God,
    let him enjoy this beautiful bright Festival.
And whosoever is a grateful servant,
    let him rejoice and enter into the joy of his Lord.
And if any be weary with fasting,
    let him now receive his recompense.

If any have toiled from the first hour,
    let him receive his due reward.
If any have come after the third hour,
    let him with gratitude join in the Feast.
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
    let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any have delayed to the ninth hour,
    let him not hesitate, but let him come too.
And he that hath arrived only at the eleventh hour,
    let him not be afraid by reason of his delay;
for the Lord is gracious
    and receiveth the last even as the first.

He giveth rest to him that cometh at the eleventh hour
    as well as to him that toiled from the first.
Yea, to this one he giveth,
    and upon that one he bestoweth.
He accepteth works
    as he greeteth the endeavour.
The deed he honoureth
    and the intention he comendeth.

Let all then enter into the joy of our Lord.

Ye first and last receiving alike your reward;
    ye rich and poor, rejoice together.
Ye sober and ye slothful,
    celebrate the day.
Ye that have kept the fast and ye that have not,
    rejoice today for the Table is richly laden.

Fare ye royally on it.
The calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry.
Partake ye all of the cup of faith.
Enjoy ye all the riches of his goodness.

Let no one grieve at his poverty;
    for the universal Kingdom hath been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he hath fallen again and again,
    for forgiveness hath risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death,
    for the Death of our Saviour hath set us free.

He hath destroyed it by enduring it.
He spoiled Hades when he descended thereto.
He vexed it even as it tasted of his flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he cried,
‘Thou, O Hades, hast been vexed by encountering Him below.’

It is vexed, for it is even done away with!
It is vexed, for it is made a mockery!
It is vexed, for it is destroyed!
It is vexed, for it is annihilated!
It is vexed, for it is now made captive!

It took a body, and lo! it discovered God.
It took earth, and behold! it encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.

O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is risen, and thou art annihilated!
Christ is risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is risen, and the Angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is risen, and the tomb is emptied of the dead;
for Christ, having risen from the dead,
    is become the firstfruits of those that have fallen asleep!

To him be glory and power forever and ever.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Synchronicity of Dormice

This afternoon on the way home from church, we were talking about a list of 100 foods you have to eat before you die I'd seen online. "Is squid on it?" Elaienar asked. Well, of course. You can't have a weird food list without squid can you? Actually, thinking over it, it's not so much a weird food list as a regional food list. There were several Southern classics that aren't a bit weird -- fried catfish, fried green tomatoes, Moon Pies. Okay, that last one is wierd, but only because the recipe has deteriorated in the last half century. My daddy gave them up back in the 70s and I'm pretty sure that S'mores were invented to replace them.

After I mentioned that squirrel was on the list (I haven't eaten it, but some of my children have, in addition to possum, which wasn't on the list, and frog legs, which were), #1 Son shared with us his latest tidbit of bizarre information: The ancient Romans ate stuffed dormice. None of us had ever heard that before and of course we all thought it was pretty funny.

Then, after lunch while reading The Count of Monte Cristo, I came across this passage from chapter 61:
", sir, do you think dormice eat [strawberries]?"

"Indeed, I should think not," replied Monte Cristo; "dormice are bad neighbors for us who do not eat them preserved, as the Romans did."

"What? Did the Romans eat them?" said the gardener—"ate dormice?"

"I have read so in Petronius," said the count.

Isn't it fun when things coincide like that?

I found of blog full of bizarre history that tells more about Romans and dormice:
Despite sumptuary laws forbidding the practice – dormice were an indulgence – they were fattened in gardens and kept in winter in a glirarium (a large ceramic jar) to prevent them hibernating (and becoming thin…). They were then cooked, stuffed with pine kernels, garum, and ground-up dormouse meat and pepper and were by all accounts delicious.

You can read the whole post here. I think I'll be spending some time browsing this blog -- any place that calls itself a bizarre history blog is definitely worth looking into.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Kind Maker of the world

This is the hymn we’re learning now. It’s in a minor key, which is of course perfect for a Lenten hymn, but the Amen resolves in a major key. The trick to making his hymn sound right is not to sing it too slowly.

Kind maker of the world, O hear
The fervent prayers with many a tear
Poured forth by all the penitent
Who keep this holy fast of Lent!

Each heart is manifest to thee;
Thou knowest our infirmity;
Now we repent, and seek thy face;
Grant unto us thy pard’ning grace.

Spare us, O Lord, who now confess
Our sins and all our wickedness,
And, for the glory of thy Name,
Our weaken’d souls to health reclaim.

Give us the self-control that springs
From abstinence in outward things;
That from each stain and spot of sin,
Our souls may keep the fast within.

Grant, O thou blessèd Trinity;
Grant, O unchanging Unity;
That this our fast of forty days
May work our profit and thy praise! Amen.

Words: St. Gregory the Great, 540-604; Hymnal Version, 1940
Tune: JESU DULCIS MEMORIA, pub. Aldernach, 1608

I’ve tried unsuccessfully to find a version of it on YouTube sung by a choir, but here’s an organ version of it, so you can imagine how it would sound sung in four-part harmony. [The video calls the melody “A la Venue de Noel.” I don’t know why the difference. I also think it’s bad grammar — seems like it should be du Noel. :-p ]

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Okay, I admit that I posted this just so I’d have something dated February 29 — this is the third Leap Year I’ve been blogging, and somehow I’ve never posted on Leap Day before. But still, it’s a lovely hymn, and one that’s not nearly well-enough known. :-D