Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Saturday Review

The New Global Student: Skip the SAT, Save Thousands on Tuition, and Get a Truly International Education, by Maya Frost, was the book of the week for me. Frost outlines a plan for those who are uninterested, tired, bored or uninspired by the typical high school rat-race of AP exams, SAT prep and stress and traditional (read expensive) college tuition costs. Her plan relies on international travel, making use of Rotary International's excellent Ambassador program, intentionally discovering international opportunities and maximizing one's intellectual and social equity to get college and advanced degrees (without coughing up one's retirement fund to do so) and get educated in the proper (rather in popular) manner. This is an out-of-the-box way to think of college ed and beyond, but given the rising cost of higher ed it's about time to start thinking outside the box.
Written in the same spirit as Grace Llewellyn's Teenage Liberation Handbook, it follows the John Holt philosophy of self directed education. Llewellyn's book recounts several students who created learning environments for themselves that were non-traditional, challenging and adventuresome and Frost uses her own kids as examples of doing the same thing. Hats off to the Frosts, their kids have college degrees at a fraction of the normal cost, are quite young by traditional standards and are doing interesting and unique work while traveling internationally. One could do worse.
Frost's point that the world changing and becoming more global is dead center and her thesis of creating "global students" bears looking at closely. Middle class, average kids, who speak English and write poorly won't cut it in the global job market that awaits them (check out 2 million minutes )
Good reading if you have a kids stressed about their 5th AP exam, or don't have 1000's to cough up for college, or have a kid who is interested in something extraordinary. And I do have to vouch for what she's saying. Our oldest dd is conversant in a couple of languages, has traveled extensively and has gotten around the world independently for several years. She had more than one excellent institution of higher ed willing to give her lots of money to join their ranks despite skewed ACT scores and a lopsided high school transcript.

In other reading, Catching Fire (the 2nd in the Hunger Games trilogy) made it here yesterday. The second book continues with strong characters, a well-thought out and intriguing plot and a classic Good vs. Big Brother evil that leaves you eager to find out the resolution. I've heard the 3rd book isn't due out till August and that will be a long wait indeed. Very good series.

The Book of Genesis. After a year's study in our weekly Bible Study we have finished Genesis. I've done several studies on the Book of Beginnings but I have to say this was the best. Somehow, going chapter by chapter gives such a personal and intimate look at the lives and historicity of the book. Personality traits that are easy to miss become very clear and the legacies passed down from generation to generation become vibrantly apparent. My big take-away is just how important legacies are, that eternal promises go beyond us, and can possibly take us centuries or millennium out from where we currently stand. I love Genesis. So much drama, humanity and God's amazing redemption. If you haven't read it lately, I encourage you to check it out!

Friday, February 26, 2010

WR: Reading Thru Winter

After enjoying The Best of Times with Cub I requested Math for All Seasons and The Grapes of Math for Flower. She was determined to solved all of the math riddles just like Cub had done. These are great little books that reinforce addition and re-grouping. Life of Fred is a thumbs up winner here. Horizons 1 is about to be done and I'm really leaning towards Singapore Math for the notsolittles but will probably just get a workbook from Sam's till spring. Thinking Skills Imagery (for grades 1-3) rocks. Mazes, visual riddles, patterns. Good stuff.

Feche-boy finished The Odyssey. We have a couple of questions to go over together in the study guide and he'll start the Iliad on Monday. He's still making his way through Ghengis Khan and the Making of the Modern World and has The Mongol Queens waiting in the wings. Cub is reading The Samurai's Tale this week. Flower continues to read through VP's early readers. They are delightful. Nice phonetically graded books, beautiful full color illustrations.

Found the CD and workbook to IEW's Language Acquisition Through Poetry Memorization amidst some boxes and got back on track. There are many good reasons to memorize poetry including the development of more complex language and memory skills. Pudewa, who is a Suzuki Trained Violin instructor organizes the program in much the same way that Suzuki would; constant repetition, simple to complex. The poems allow kids to enter The Great Conversation from a different angle and teaches them rhythm and rhyme. Pudewa says it all better in the intro to the program, which you can purchase from IEW:

This weeks read for me was The New Global Student: Skip the SAT, Save Thousands on Tuition, and Get a Truly Global Education, Maya Frost. It was written in the same vein as Grace Llewellyn's Teenage Liberation Handbook and did have some interesting ideas about higher ed for kids. A worthwhile and quick read. By far the most valuable part of the book, from my pov, were the resources listed in the Notes section. Richard Florida's The Rise of the Creative Class and Tim Ferris' The Four Hour Work Week are now on my request list at the library.

We watched the 1995 version of Jane Austen's Persuasion starring Amanda Root and Ciarin Hinds. Delightful. One Amazon reviewer states this: The film builds slowly, occasionally leaving you wondering if anything at all is going to happen. When it does, you realize how carefully crafted a film this is, and the final result is grandly rewarding. Even the boys watched, though Cub claims he was playing Lego's the entire time.

Were gifted with a cooler-full of meat this week. We've been gifted with meat before and in the Territories that could mean many things including, but not limited to, field dressed deer (think RED) or pheasant so fresh that the feet make it to the freezer with the rest of the bird. So, we are always a little, how shall I say... grateful, yet curious, when Viking Man comes home bearing gifts. Yesterday you would have heard a chorus of Ohhhhs and Awwws as we discovered a cooler-full of Buffalo Meat, ground, steak and roast. Ohlala. Treat Meat.

Beit Midrash. After studying the Book of Genesis for just over a year we've finished it. Chapter by week, it was an awesome study. Read. Observe. Apply. It always amazes me how rich Bible Study is in a group of involved, committed friends. Great prayer, great observation, great application. More than good. Enriching. Next up: The Exodus.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


15 foot drifts behind the house. You can just see the top of the shed to the left of Hannah, behind the "hill" of snow.
Sledding Garden Hill (the drifts cover our large garden area).


2 cuties! Flower thinks having a big, big bro rocks!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Simple, or Not So Simple, Living

Our family has spent time in the past couple of weeks evaluating where we're at, what we've done, what our calling is, what is the desire of our hearts, how far we can go from where we're at, and if we are at a place where we are stewarding well God's call on our lives. We're at an obvious cross-roads with the acreage and my sister's passing away put the frailty of life, once again, into perspective. Who knows how much time we are each allotted? For us, we want to make the most of it.
Expansionism, Reductionism and Simple Living.
I've been reading a book this week: The Global Student: Skip the SAT, Save 1000's on Tuition and Get a Truly Global Education by Maya Frost (it reminds me of Grace Llewellyn's Teenage Liberation Handbook). An interesting read, it challenges some of the assumptions about what's needed to successfully get into college. I like it, because once again, it's causing me to consider alternatives to the expected; thinking outside the box.

It seems to me we've lived, to some extent, a reductionist life-style on the acreage. Don't get me wrong, I love our property. It is 10 acres, bordered by a river, with a beautiful craftsman style farmhouse. In the spring, summer and fall, you'll find us all outside for hours at a time, gardening, walking, mowing. There are beaver, muskrat, hawks, deer, and all other manner of wildlife, much of which we've seen up close and personal. It is heavenly. However, the Territories being what they are, that lasts for about 6 months. Winter takes over and we hunker down. And kinda stay down until it's over.

We've been into "simple living" for awhile. Which is an oxymoron if you ask my mil or actually do it. Simple living takes a lot of hard work, time, effort, energy and in the end, money. And I'm all for simple living on some levels, like gardening and preserving our home grown food.

But on some level we're realizing that our dreams and callings for the here and now are being consumed by some of the simple. That the "simple" living is causing a reduction in possibilities rather than an expansion of them. And it seems like one conversation has led to another about giftings, callings, heart's desires, hopes for the kids, etc. So, we continue to discuss and pray and wait on God's perfect timing and perfect answers for what's Next.
Next Things.
Have you posed some of these questions to your family? What's been the response? I'd love to hear about it!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

52/52: The Power of Half & The Hunger Game

Change of plans. Picked up The Power of Half by Salwen & Salwen. Basically it's the account of a family that sells their almost 2 million dollar house and gives 1/2 to charity. Obviously the Salwen's have enough money to spare a bit and their decision to give away a chunk of change is interesting enough but the story that I found most intriguing is the family process. It's The Dream Manager irl. The parents really involve their kids in the process, in fact their oldest daughter is instrumental in beginning the whole adventure that prompts the book. The author, a former Wall Street Journal writer and editor is a master story-teller and his writing is fun to read, though honestly it's a little hard to relate to a family of 4 who live an elitist, wealthy life-style, who believes they have sacrificed by moving from their $2million, 6000 square foot home to one in the same neighborhood that is merely 3000 square feet. However, the story of the family moving to a more deliberate way of thinking and living is enthralling. As the author states, "we were underway, beginning to dig into our core value, individually and collectively." Pretty cool. I wonder how many families ever get around to doing that. Reading this book made me really wonder how much we've done that.

I found the discussion about how others perceived their radical approach to wealth fascinating- they didn't initially receive the approval and accolades that they assumed they would and as a result, just stopped telling people about thier little project (until they really went public). We've had a taste of that along the way as we've lived out choices that seem very much to go against the grain of what's normal. "It had become clear that the audacity of this project was offputting to people, who took it as a challenge to their own lives or values. It made them uncomfortable and in turn made them perceive us as an oddity." We've sure experienced that with homeschooling. It always amazes me the explanations, excuses, and guilt that people share with me when they discover our choice to homeschool. Rarely do I ever bring it up (that stopped about a decade and a half ago) due to just the sort of responses that the Salwen's experienced.

The other stand-out, and this actually left me a bit puzzled was, in this families pursuit of finding a program to invest their money in, they actively sought out situations that were grass-roots and women led. Their belief that change needed to be instigated and sustained by women actually shocked me because of their assumption that that's the correct solution to social ills. It's not that I disagree that gender differences (which in areas of extreme need can translate in to life and death) need righted, it's the lack of acknowledment about the importance of men that I found disturbing.

And, as much as I disapprove of J.K. Rowling's I appreciated (most of) what she had to say about personal responsibility that this family tries to live out:
The education you have earned and received gives you unique status and unique
responsibilities...That is your privilege and your burden. If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped transform for the better.
Again, a bit too much like est, and from where I sit theologically, God plans and purposed prevail despite our own imaginings. I resonated with the deliberate way in which the Salwen's intently purposed to create a family legacy and heritage that extends beyond themselves. Good stuff.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Another existential look at a world gone mad. I read a review last week that intrigued me, stating that it was "creepy." Actually I found The Road to be much creepier. Great character development and a story line that borrows from reality shows, and The Most Dangerous Game, with elements of a tragic Shakespearean love-story.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tear Down 2 Build Up #2

2nd week of house re-build. The house has been gutted down and we are now waiting on the cleaning company to soda blast the innards (just like sand blasting, but with baking soda). It will remove the remaining traces of smoke smell. Next we'll seal the frame so that if there's residual smoke lingering it won't be noticeable.
Climbing the walls where the basement stairs used to be.

The new sill.

Feche-boy looking up into what used to be the kitchen, from the basement.

The living room, stripped down to it's undergarments.

Another shot of the living room.

From the dining room, looking across the kitchen and into the basement. Our very own house cut-away.

From the dining room- you can see into the living room on the left and across the kitchen on the right. We are going to leave the wall open between the dining room and kitchen so it will really be an open floor plan.

Looking from the front door across to the dining room.
Once the blasting and sealing are done they'll put in new insulation and windows. Most of the window framing is already stripped and finished and windows are ordered. We still have design decisions to make regarding the 2nd floor and kitchen. Our contractor is not wasting any time and, despite the 15' drifts outside they are cookin' on the inside.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

WR: Math Mastery & More

This week was still a little off due to illness but we did manage to get back on track for part of it.
Math is still cooking. Cub is doing long division with remainders -almost with ease. I found a cool little book at the library called The Best of Times and it tells all of the shortcuts for multiplying by rhyme. Cub and I spent a couple of hours reading and solving problems together and he has a much better grasp of how to whip out a multiplication problem. I highly recommend this for kids moving from skip-counting to multiplication. Flower's doing double digit addition, time-telling, measurement, etc. and is days away from finishing Horizons 1B. She is loving the Critical Thinking Skills Imagery book. I used to get a Thinking Skills book each year for the older girls but somehow forgot about them. They are still terrific and I plan to add them to the list of stuff to get for the notsolittles. Feche-boy started Life of Fred and is enjoying the humor. The plan is that at least 1/2 of it will be review and he'll just breeze right through.
English Flower's almost done with WWE 1 and Cub continues to work his way through IEW's First Fun theme book. He doesn't consider it much fun but he is getting the hang of it. FB is working through IEW's Ancient History theme book and is doing some fine writing. IEW's Advanced Spelling & Writing is on the agenda most days as well.
History continues with Bible, FMOG and D'Aulaires Greek Myths. KB is doing much of the
reading aloud and they are all enjoying it. Yesterday she and Feche boy did crazy voices for the Joesph story. Fitting in drama as we go...FB is almost done with the Odyssey book and MP study guide. 2 chapters left; slow and deep this year. He's reading a chapter a week of Constitutional Law by Ferris as well and for fun continued reading Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World. He is in awe of the Great Khan. Cub finished 100 Most Important Books in Church History as well as Augustus Ceasar's World.
Science- Cub and Flower did a couple of experiments with KB out of the L.I.F.E. Biology book and loved it. FB finished Chapter 3 in Apologia's Biology, complete with lab work, study guides and Vocab Memorization. I rediscovered "Biology" by Joan DiStasio and had him do several worksheets to reinforce concepts.
Apologetics got down to business this week with more weighty reading assignments. Not sure all of the assigned books but Lewis figures heavily in to the plan as does Chuck Colson.
Drama, Art & Music were fun as usual. The younger kids are really enjoying Calvert's Melody Lane and we spent a portion of the day working on beat. We also started a small workbook on sight reading. At the end of our TDA day we sang Donum Nobis Pacem before intercessory prayer. A couple of the older kids knew it and the little kids joined it. Very sweet. Art for the younger kids continues with days of creation. Their artwork is beautiful. Drama is lots of games, tongue twisters, ad libbing and puppets for the youngers. They love drama and art!

I thought, too, I'd add in what KB is doing this spring for her "Gap Year." Last fall she was floundering a bit about where to go, what to do and when. Over Christmas vacation she and Feche Boy went to a youth ministry conference and, while it didn't add or subtract anything along the lines of fundamentals, she really connected with a group of other young adults. Since then she's been more clear about now, even though the what next is still a bit fuzzy. She's strongly considering some vocational training again, in one area of art or another and reading, reading, reading (to find out what, check out her blog She's hosted another Girls2Gether and the party games were all based on The Dream Manager (which I reviewed here: Even though it was pretty serious the response from the girls was terrific so she's thinking about doing that more regularly again. She's also doing much of the read-alouds here, as well as substantial areas of housework, doing lots of babysitting and looking forward to seeing "home" re-established.

Thursday morning our house contractor stopped by so school work halted for awhile and we shoved math and English off the table to make way for blue prints. We've had some creative thoughts about re-configuring the 2nd floor and are now looking at cost vs. usability vs. re-sale vs. etc. We also talked kitchen cabinets (his son is a cabinet maker) and I think we've landed on cherry for the cupboards. We'll stick with the set in doors, craftsman style and, though I know white is the rage they are hard to keep looking clean. We USE our kitchen - 3 meals a day and lots of preserving from mid-summer through fall. Cool additions are a laundry shoot off the kitchen and 2nd floor, and moving a closet in a bedroom that was an odd and definite "L" shape. If you have any fun, cool, interesting ideas for house make-overs, please don't hesitate to share with me!
O.k. so that was the school week with a little to come 2morrow, though Flower went to bed exhausted and feeling not so well again. Still processing The Matrix and want to watch it again with the older kids and haven't even started my book for 52/52.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

52 in 52/ Bk 8: The Post American World

For those who see America as a failure and a place to be ashamed of, a challenge. Read The Post American World.
For those who see America as the be-all and end-all of society, culture or religion, a challenge. Read The Post American World.
For anyone who wants to know more about America, it's place in history, it's past and future, a challenge. Read The Post American World.For those who want to understand the politics, culture and the religion(s) of the emerging world, you'll want to read The Post American World, too.

Just to be clear, I loved this book. It's a meaty tome and took me 3 weeks to read- unusual for me. But it demands attention and brain power.The author, Fareed Zakaria, is the editor of Newsweek International and has an uncanny ability to analyze difficult data and situations and make them understandable. The book is really an analysis of who America is and what she's contributed to the world, her current standing and how she'll do in the future. Statistically, America is a world power on every front, to be sure. And since the end of the cold war, America has singularly held that position. But times, they are a changin.' Zakaria doesn't predict the demise of the West, but "the rise of the rest." More major players are emerging and as a result, the pie pieces will be distributed differently.

Chapters are devoted to both "The Challenger," China, and "The Alley," India and how we relate to and will be changed by what they are bringing to the global table. Both of these chapters were terrific overviews of the culture, history and religions of these countries and how they differ from America.

The last chapters were devoted to America and her future purpose. Zakaria states that America is culturally and socially rich but politically weak; weakened by special interest groups and bi-partisanship. The challenge for America in the future is complex but rests critically on America's willingness to think outside of itself in an increasingly global world, as well as give up it's dedication to "fear and loathing."

America has become a nation consumed by anxiety, worried about terrorists and
rogue nations, Muslims, and Mexicans, foreign companies and free trade,
immigrants and international organizations. The strongest nation in the history
of the world now sees itself as besieged by forces beyond its control...too many
Americans have been taken in by a rhetoric of fear.
(And a personal imho moment, I think the church could take to heart the above quote as well!)
A challenging and excellent book. One that I've added to my already over-worked and over-read high schoolers list of "must reads." It should be on your list, too! And if you do read it, drop me a line and lmk what you thought!

Monday, February 15, 2010


What I'm thinking: About the child who was beaten to death by parents and her 2 siblings that are hospitalized- in the name of "discipline." About Frank Shaffer's book Crazy for God and the review by Os Guinness. About Matrix.
What I'm reading: The Post American World by Fareed Zakaria. It is history and prophecy and econ and world gov and world religions are wrapped into one little (hahahaha) book. Review to follow.
What I'm listening to: Rich Mullins from the kitchen and Prince Caspian from downstairs and KB next to me on the couch.
What I'm watching: The Matrix. Sci-Fi meets Apologetics. Awesome stuff.
What we're learning: IEW, Odyssey, Math, WWE, art etc. All the usual stuff. Along with patience and obedience and waiting on the Lord. Usual and difficult, rolled into one.
What's cooking: Chicken Noodle Soup- home made, along with a good loaf of Rye.
What I'm buying: Books. Lampshades. Dog food. EmergenC, Vitamins, tea.
What I'm wearing: Sweats & a polo shirt. Day 9 of being sick. Ugh.
What I'm thankful for: My family- immediate and extended.
What I'm creating: The Grammar of Worship.
What I'm praying: Answers. Purpose.
What I'm planning: Thursdays' biology lab
What I'm looking forward to: Being well.
A picture to share: From KB's Girls2Gether that she hosted on Friday for Valentine's Day.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Surprised by Loss

Why is it that grief sneaks up and grabs me when I least expect it? Twice in the past couple of weeks I've bumped into folks who've offered condolences about my sister's death and I feel...hurt. Hurt like a bruise that is deep and purple. Wounded. Part of me, lost. My family missing an element. Surprised by choked throat and tears that I struggle to keep back. I try to be valiant and answer the pre-requisite questions as I struggle to be "just fine" when I'd sorely love to allow myself the luxury of reduction and become a big bawl baby.

Someone wrote recently that middle-age is a time of loss. Funerals replace baby showers and children leave home. Necessary losses, for sure, but not always welcome. We watch and listen and advise our oldest daughter and her beau as they consider a life-long relationship and all that entails and reflect on the choices that we made when we were her age. If we could only have seen ten years ahead and the challenges that we would have faced. Would we have chosen differently? Would we have been more cautious, more daring, more, less, different than we were?

Each cross road demands a decision. Forward, left, right or backwards and then deal. Consequences will come from both our action and inaction. I consider where to go from here. Having a sibling, 12 months my senior, just not get out of bed one morning, puts my own numbered days into perspective. Dreaming and value. Time becomes a commodity and the wrestling match between dreams and what I have in my hand become almost tangible. And frankly, I feel tired. Less creative. Less like explaining. Less like being open and working hard. Cause I feel hammered. And I wish that I didn't. Wish that I had the energy people surprisingly see in me. Wish that the frustration between high hopes and reality was less dramatic and obvious. Dross burned off, literally and figuratively, and I'm hoping this means that God's purpose is becoming more refined in my life. Some days, though, I'm still smelling smoke and feeling the pain of the burn; living sacrifice. It sounds too dramatic but sums up how I feel, not all days, and often when I least expect it. Surprised by loss.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

How Do You Feel?

"How do you feel?" is an oft quoted line around here, said as computeresque as we an make it (from The Search for Spock) and this week it was met with moans and groans. Everyone in the house suffered from a strange virus with symptoms that included but were not limited to fever, intestinal issues, headaches, tooth aches, and croupy coughy crud, despite downing quart-loads of EmerganC and Barley Green. I like to think that we all would have felt much worse if not for our efforts at health.
The upside of sleeping away the majority of the week is that I've, once again, succeeded in wresting myself away from the clutches of caffeine addiction. Of course, today, someone handed me a free 1/2 pound sample of freshly roasted gourmet coffee. Sigh. But, today, I did not sucumb to so much as one cup of the stuff. One day at a time, baby.
We have started meeting with the contractor once a week to talk over plans and modifications to the house. One of the ideas was to open up the wall between the kitchen and dining room- the entire first floor is open with the exception of the kitchen, which is a doored-off 1/4 of the first floor. So, while most of the living is taking place in the rest of the house, whoever is on kitchen duty is sequestered away in this corner. I saw a beautiful picture of a craftsman style bookshelf built- in, cupboard height and that is my new evil plan for the kitchen.
I've been teaching IEW's Ancient History based theme book. It's fun. Hopefully my students think so. I love IEW. I'm also teaching Apologia's Biology. This is truly not my bailiwick, however, I might just actually read the book this year. Pretty radical, eh?
School was at a minimum this week: Math for everybody, lots of books and read-alouds, too much time on the X-box, playing on the computer and watching videos. Everybody spent hours a day sleeping so it was almost pointless to begin. We did keep the laundry caught up so I'm counting this week a win.
Mrs. Z, our vunderbah art teacher is doing a "Days of Creation" series with the littles and today they used black foam board, gel pens, stencils and stickers to create the night sky. They were so beautiful! Flower got into it and made constellations all over her night sky (she lives with her dad, the science nerd) such as "The Ferris Wheel" and "Candyland Lane"!
KB is hosting a Girls Get2Gether tomorrow for Valentine's Day. Black tea, lemonade, party games and finger sandwiches. She read "The Dream Manager" last week and came up with some creative and fun games based on the book. The boys don't mind the girlyness of it all, cause it usually involves some kind of delicious food for them, along with several members of the fairer sex in the vicinity. If you are 15 and appreciate members of the fairer sex, it's not a bad position to find oneself in.

For more quick takes, head on over to Conversion Diaries. But before you go I have just one question for you, "How do you feel?"

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

WW: Field of (Barbie) Dreams

My Man Jack

We've lived in the house of health horror this week, with several people, including me, down with various symptoms, so it's been a very low-key couple of days. I'm still working my way through "The Post American World" and finished the chapter on The Challenger (China). Very thought provoking, especially as Miss.R's beau just spent 3 years in China. The book is fascinating, but work, and my head has hurt too much lately to work too hard. "Jack's Life, A Memoir of C.S.Lewis" by his step-son, Douglas Gresham has been in the house all week, Viking Man had already finished it and I figured it was my turn. Because of him, I'm just as big a fan of Lewis as he is, along with all of our off-spring.
Gresham narrates the Family Radio Theater production of Narnia and if you are familiar with it, as we are, you can almost hear his rich, melodious voice coming off the page. His writing style is very similar to Lewis' and hauntingly beautiful and wonderfully descriptive. I've loved Lewis for the past quarter century and his writings are among my very, very, very favorite. He has broadened my understanding of the world in so many ways and in my mind I consider him an older, wiser, brother in the Lord. This book was sweet in that it was written by someone who considers him a mentor, just like me, and was willing to ask hard questions, but not criticize too broadly. I appreciated that.
Gresham describes his mother in terms that a son who loved her and lost her early would and describes the friendship, civil marriage, and then love story that evolved between Joy and Jack with wonder and reverence.
Till We Have Faces is my all time favorite book and Gresham attributes the writing to a collaboration between Joy and Jack and one Jack considers his best work. I like it all the better now.
I actually cried at the death of Joy, and again at Jack. Too many days with a blinding headache and nausea and maybe too many losses myself this year. Gresham weaves his own faith and trust in the One True Living God throughout the story in a way that is true, and never preachy. It's clear he loved and was devoted to Jack and his tribute to his step-dad does him proud. An excellent, beautiful book.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Tear Down 2 Build Up

We signed a contract with a builder last week who has done several historical remodels and worked on million dollar homes. Walking through our house with him was a joy; he valued the craftsmanship as much we do and has the skill, expertise and knowledge to make our house better than ever. He and his crew wasted no time in getting to work! This week they tore out floors, removed mechanical stuff in the basement and started re-building the sill.
Burned floors removed. This included the entire kitchen, the hall leading to the basement and part of the living room. This shot is looking from the living room, into the basement. The chimney used to set against the south facing kitchen wall.

The downstairs hall. The fire made it's way into the walls, chimney and vents so this wall had been axed by the fireman. Our kitchen sink used to be under the window that you see here.

Basement steps removed and Viking Man climbs down the scaffolding from the back-door to the basement.

Feche-boy standing in the basement looking straight up towards the area between the living room and kitchen.

Another shot from the basement. This is looking up into the kitchen area - the dining room is the room with the boarded up windows. You'll see all of the trim removed. All 23 windows will be replaces but the goal is to retain the historical integrity of the home.

Basement looking up to the back-door. Lots of charred wood that is coming out.

From the basement into the kitchen. We do have high ceilings but not 20' high!

This is from the living room, the awful green tile is the backdoor landing.

Another shot of the missing kitchen floor.

You can see hear where they cut the wooden floor to remove the burned wood. This is from the dining room looking across the kitchen . There used to be a wall here with a built in buffet and built in bookshelves.

Here's a better view of where the built-ins used to be. The large open space to the right of Viking Man was a built in buffet and the open area to the left of him goes into the living room which used to be flanked by built-in bookshelves and columns. Fire and water damage ruined them, so those will be re-built.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

52 Bks/Bk 6: The Dream Manager

I've read many Leadership books in the past and am a forever friend of Covey, but it's been awhile since I've delved into management, other than really pragmatic "how to" stuff, most generally related to academics. I was reading The Post American World when we made another library run and picked up a pile of books we'd ordered. Among them, The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly. Since the aforementioned book is taking me some time to digest I decided to pick up The Dream Manager as a quick diversion.

The book is parable about how one company took a disengaged work force and created an interested, vivacious, dedicated and incredibly profitable company, full-up of people realizing their dreams.
"What really set people apart? People are unique in that they have the ability
too imagine a more abundant future, to hope for that future. This is the
process of proactive many ways we are our dreams. But people
stop dreaming because they get caught up in the hustle and bustle of
surviving. And once we stop dreaming, we start to lead lives of quiet
desperation, and little by little the passion and energy begin to disappear
from our lives."
The book is about how to access our own dreams, how to facilitate others in
the realization of their dreams and how to "become the best me I can be." But it's more than just self-actualization, it's about connection and community in that we need to seek out Dream Managers as well as be Dream Managers. Good stuff.
The slim volume and quick read (I read in a couple of hours) is worth re-reading periodically. It contains many of the same truths that other leadership training materials do, with enough of a twist to make it worth purchasing, giving away as gifts and taking to heart. Understanding principals of leadership doesn't make us anything, it's living out the principals that causes us to grow and transform. I re-realized in reading this that my job as Dream Manager needs to manifest itself more often in our home. With that in mind, KB and I are off to grab a cuppa and, little does she know, to put into practice some of the principals in this slim but well worth reading little book.
I forgot to add: hop on over to Robin's blog and learn about all sorts of lists/challenges/ genres. Her weekly posts rock!

Friday, February 5, 2010

WR: Hit the Books

Last week-end, beginning on Friday, was party central. We went to the American History Day on Friday and were delighted by the re-enactments. Abe Lincoln and the Civil War soldier were especially terrific. Saturday was spent at the Theater Department of another local university for the One Act Play and we ended our thespian fun with a cast party at church and a massive sleep-over party at our house on Saturday. Sunday was Miss. Flower's birthday party with tons of friends, cake, ice-cream, presents, crafts, games and a Barbie movie. Whew.

So Monday we changed it up and hit the books. Math skills continue to improve for Cub and he started some more difficult fraction work and division. Flower began carrying as she added and they are both working on graphs and measurement. Still waiting on Life of Fred for Feche-boy but it should get here soon.
We continued with MP's Intro to Classical Studies, which includes tons of reading out loud. KB and I shared that task and we knocked out several lessons. Flower is just cruisin' through PHP's Writing With Ease and Cub continues to slog through IEW's All Things Fun and Fascinating Theme book. Cub finished August Cesar's World this week and continued to read 100 Most Important Events in Church History, which Feche Boy finished.

In addition, FB read a couple of chapters from Ferris' "Constitutional Law" book again this week. He is quite aware of the conservative slant that Ferris takes and commented that it was depressing but agrees that judges are moving away from a constitutional perspective. He continues to do the study guide for the Odyssey and is almost caught up to where he had been reading. And he started the 2nd list for IEW's Adv. Spelling and Vocab- Greece & Rome. Did I already say 2 thumbs up on that? It's great.

This week, too, we finally had met again for TDA (after getting cancelled due to weather several times). Today we had art and drama for both younger and older kids. The younger then had a music lesson, gym time and devotional (we've started Christiana- follow up to Little Pilgrim's Progress). The older kids started IEW's Ancient History theme based book, Apologetics with Dr. Viking Man, and delved into Biology using Apologia. We spent a lot of time today memorizing terms, and learning the classification system. Another book needs replaced in a hurry.

I also finally got Feche Boy signed up for Classical Liberal Arts Academy for Latin but I just can't figure out how to access the class. Hmph. That will happen tomorrow. He finished Brave New World this week, too and declared it "dark."
The X-Box that our friends sent us for Xmas continue to be a source of good motivation and a reason for the younger kids to yell at each other. Flower played a hunting game for about 4 minutes this week and about jumped out of a window when she was "attacked" by a bear. I've relegated her to playing the Lego game, silly goose!
Memory work re-entered our lives in the form of VP Bible Cards, Biology and Latin Phrases. A fun and productive week. How was yours?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

52 Bks/Bk 5: Because They Hate

Because They Hate by Brigitte Gabrielle is the author's recount of the Lebanese war and her subsequent belief that the world needs to arm themselves against Muslims bent on Jihad. One of the Amazon reviewers states that the book is "by turns poignant, important, and extreme," and with my limited knowledge I would have to agree. I learned a lot about events and people I remember hearing about on the radio during high school, found myself looking closely at the map, and gained a greater understanding of religious sects in the Middle East. The author, however, paints an almost unbelievably idealistic picture at times of both her early childhood and life in Israel, and this detracts from her overall message.

She does, however, speak to the secularism in our culture and the trend for the outspoken liberal U.S. elected official and Hollywood star Du Jour to speak loudly and derisively of America. According to Gabriel, this is just the sort of rhetoric that radical Jihadist love. They don't hate Americans because they are free, they hate Americans because they are secular. In fact, there is a radical portion of Islam that hates anyone who is an infidel, be they Christian, Jew or Hindi. Gabriel points out many parallels between her homeland and America and has a clear and unabashed apologetic for how to respond to the threat of Islamic terrorism.

The information that I found most disturbing in this book was the illiteracy and birth rates among Muslims, the overall lack of creativity when comparing Arabian countries to others (patents applied for, books translated) in juxtaposition to the millions of dollars poured into American universities by wealthy Muslims (to create Muslim study departments).

Reading this book caused me to feel gratitude for the wealth I've enjoyed as an American- physical comforts, certainly. But also the freedom, as woman especially, to pursue education, to have respect and mutuality in marriage and in society. This book follows the world-view theme I seem to be on this year, and a peek into a world I'm glad I'm not a part of .

WW: January Magic

January works it's magic and our 2 youngest celebrate the aging process! Happy 10th Birthday, Cub!
Happy 7th Birthday, Flower!
Aren't these 2 of the most gorgeous kids you've ever seen?

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Importance of Being Earnest

Hours of rehearsal, fittings and directives. Finally, the big day arrives. We get to the local university Theater and head downstairs for costumes and make-up.... Applying mascara...this won't hurt a bit....
Hamming it up, waiting for our turn at a practice run through.Miss. Prism, ready to tutor.
And finally, introducing, "The Importance of Being Earnest" (adapted from Oscar Wilde)

Earnest proposes to Gwendolyn.

Algy proposes to Cecily.

Gwendolyn and Cecily bicker - over men, no less.
Out of order, but I think you'll have to agree with me that Cecily is excessively pretty!!
You are beautiful, Shelby!!

2 E's on stage. This is the only shot I have of Cub. He did GREAT as "Lane" the man-servant!

Lady Bracknill, telling someone off, all very properly, of course.
Jack & Algernon

Best Actor & Actresses reveling in a job well-done. Jack (Feche-boy) and Lady Braknill (Miss. Megan) won awards from our play. Everyone did a fantastic job!!

4 Plays competing and 1 in a class by themselves. They won a "superior" rating and are headed off to represent homeschoolers in the State competition. Break a leg!