Wednesday, December 27, 2006

2007 book group titles

Here are the books we are reading in our Relief Society book group this coming year:

January: Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
February: Mother Teresa by Kathryn Spink (authorized biography)
March: The Awakening by Kate Chopin
April: The Road From Corrain by Jill Kerr Conway
May: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
June: Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza
July: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
August: Travel book--not yet selected.
September: Austenland by Shannon Hale
October: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
November: Not yet decided. Potential categories: Fantasy, historical fiction, mormon studies
December: Meet to decide 2008 list of books

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

fear not

is my New Year's resolution, if you want to call it that. It's my motto for the year. As in, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." I do not need to fear, because He lived. He atoned for my sins; I only need to follow Him. He wants me to live in faith, not fear.

He wants me to not be afraid to show people who I am. He wants me to be more honest and open. He wants me to open my mouth and open my arms. I think my heart is already open, it has only been inaccessible because of fear. I fear to offend. I fear to form new friendships because someone might (horror of horrors) expect something of me.

A few days ago I gave the baker at our neighborhood grocery store a huge, disarming smile. O.k., because I have resolved to be honest, I must admit that I did it because I wanted him to make me some sugar cookies for Marcus' class party right that minute even though I should have ordered them the day before. He smiled back at me, and sure enough, agreed to make the cookies. He also gave me a tremendous smile that shone from his heart when I went to pick them up. So much so that I felt guilty for smiling at him in the first place because I was trying to get something out of him. It made me think about what a solemn visage I usually present to the public. Why am I so closed, so serious? I should be rejoicing like the Three Kings of Lidia's picture. I mean, you don't need to wear a gold tie and bell bottoms to celebrate. I want carry a little piece of celebration inside me that I can smile out at people for no other reason than that He lived.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

rejoice!


I always seek this picture, framed and hanging year-round in our home, when I'm having a blue day. Lidia did this when she was a month shy of five. In case you don't recognize them, these are the three kings with Mary and Baby Jesus. Mary is very pretty in pink but takes a place backstage to watch the three kings swing and groove, decked out in their fabulous gold ties. Baby Jesus remains fairly serene in his yellow bassinet, but we know He also must be enjoying the show.

merry christmas!


Thursday, December 21, 2006

reading

I have not posted on my reading for awhile, and though I have much to do I want to jot down a few quick notes. Sometimes I keep putting it off and then I forget.

For audiobooks we listened to James Herriot's For Every Living Thing. Georgie and I especially liked it. This is from the For All Creatures Great and Small series about the country vets in Yorkshire, England. (One little caution: some parts are quite liberally sprinkled with "hell," "damn," and "bloody." We didn't really mind but I thought I'd better mention it.) Christopher Timothy, the actor who portrayed Herriot in the BBC series, narrates. He does a wonderful job. The kids really liked his variety of British accents.

We also listened to The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright and are now on The Four Story Mistake. These are about a family of four children in New York city during WWII. Very entertaining.

I started The Awakening by Kate Chopin, a book we're reading for our Relief Society book group. It's interesting. I guess I'd like to finish it before I comment more.

I read A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott. I'll tell you right away it's nothing like Little Women! This is not the type of book (cliffhanging gothicky romance) I usually read, so my expectations were fairly low. I really enjoyed it. I couldn't put it down. I think I'm learning to accept books (like people) for what they are, and not put too many demands on them. I find I enjoy them more that way.

I'm also reading Never Too Late by John Holt. Some of you may have read his more famous books, How Children Fail and How Children Learn. I have read one of these but can't for the life of me remember which! Here's what it says on the back cover of Never Too Late, "At the age of forty, with no particular musical background, he took up the cello. His touching and hilarious accout of his passionate second career demolished the myth that one must start an instrument (or sport, or a language) in early childhood, and will inspire any reader who dreams of taking up a new skill." Here is what I find with Holt. Calling him "passionate" is grave understatement. Also, he has amazing insights into learning, self-discovery, and motivation. Also, you sometimes have to wade through a lot of, what to call it? Something. You have to wade through a lot of something to get to those gems of insight. There are entire chapters that I've skipped.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

russian teacakes


1 Cup butter,
1/2 cup powdered sugar,
1 teaspoon vanila,
2 1/2 cups flour,
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts,
1/4 teasp. salt.
Oven at 400. Mix everything together make 1 inch balls and place them on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake about 10 minutes. While they are still warm roll in powder sugar.

Auntie posted the above recipe for Russian teacakes, also called Mexican wedding cakes, in the comments on this post. I make these every year because they are the only cookies, besides oatmeal raisin walnut, that J really likes. I also like to add them to our treat plates to cut the sugar a little.

I am tired. I am on heavy doses of Airborne to combat whatever bug it is trying to bring me down. I am annoyed that several of my packages haven't arrived--things I need to mail off somewhere else before Christmas. I don't have my Christmas letter finished yet. I might possibly have finished my shopping but have a nagging feeling that I'm forgetting something, someone. Haven't made tamales yet.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

heavenly baking


yesterday's conversation as we baked:


Lidia: Mom, I like eating so much. I know that in heaven we won't have to eat, but can we?


Me: Oh, I imagine so.


Bernie (to Lidia): Do you think we'll get to bake cookies, too?


Lidia: Yes, probably cookies and bars.


Bernie: I want to make the bars with Jesus.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

baking


I've been doing Christmas baking yesterday and today. I used almost all new recipes this year, hoping to hit on some winners. From allrecipes.com, I've made Berry Almond Bars, Ultimate Double Chocolate Cookies, and Chocolate Caramel Brownies. All good recipes, but all a little on the sweet side for my taste. Believe it or not, it seems I am actually losing my sweet tooth. Does this mean I'm a real grown-up? I don't really crave cookies anymore, or anything sweet for that matter. I mean, sometimes I do think I would like cookies, but then I just eat a couple and I don't want any more.

I just finished making the peanut butter kiss cookies above. I only like them warm with the chocolate all melty. I used to make a bunch of these and put away loads of them myself. I just ate three (they are not big cookies) and then wished I hadn't eaten the third. Who knew? Whoever would have guessed that Calandria could lose her sweet tooth?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

lidia!


I love this picture. I found it while looking through photos of the girls taken by their cousin when they went down to Mexico last April.
This is so Lidia.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

new look and title

You might have noticed my new colors and title. The colors I plan to change on a seasonal basis. The title I changed because always on my stats I notice that my blog gets hits from lots of Spanish-speaking countries. I feel badly that those people are probably checking out my blog because they think it's in Spanish (because of the former title "el nido de calandria") and then they are disappointed, poor things. I chose the title "dwelling in possibility" from one of my favorite Emily Dickinson poems. At first I wasn't sure about it, but it's growing on me. I think it expresses a lot about me, both good and bad.

relief society christmas party

It just made me smile to think about some of you wondering why I feel the need to talk on this blog about the Relief Society enrichment meetings I attend. I think part of it is to make a record of the things I like so that if I ever get the dreaded calling of Enrichment leader, I will be able to look back on these posts for ideas. Some of you are nodding your heads because you know exactly what I'm talking about. :-)

Michelle, our highly capable Enrichment leader, and her helpers pulled off another great event. It was a dinner and short program at the home of our Relief Society president. The dinner was very tasty. I helped make the chicken, but I feel stupid even saying the word "helped," because it was the easiest recipe ever. I think Michelle said it was her sister's recipe. I plunked a bunch of chicken breasts in my over-sized crockpot. I don't know, probably 15 or so. I combined French dressing (maybe about 1 bottle?), 2 onion soup packets, and 2 cans of whole cranberry sauce. I let it cook on low for 8 hrs. When I saw the chicken start to look dark and smell slightly burnt I worried. I thought I'd overdone it. However, it tasted really good. It was served with rice pilaf, salad, and rolls. They also used my favorite punch recipe which is not really punch. It's white grape/pear juice concentrate mixed with carbonized water. It looked really pretty with fresh cranberries floating in it.

O.k., enough about the food. The program was excellent. I liked it that it was short. How many of you have been to a Relief Society party where the program dragged on and on and what you actually wanted to do was chat and get a second helping of dessert? This program left you wanting more because it was very high quality but not too long. First there was a beautiful instrumental version of "What Child is This?" with two violins and two flutes. (When I heard my friend S. start to play violin I resisted the urge to feel jealous of her masterful playing and contemptuous of my lousy playing. I can play "What Child is This," but I do a version that makes my children dive under any available furniture and cover their ears. I reminded myself that S. has been playing twenty-five years or so longer than I have plus played professionally in an orchestra, so how fair would it be for me to sound like her? I need to be patient. Not one of my strengths.) We sang all together "Far, Far Away on Judea's Plain." The next musical number was "Beautiful Savior" sung by a trio. I don't know why I have to cry every time I hear that song. It was lovely. I don't know who picked the songs but those are three of my very favorites. The last song we sang all together was "Joy to the World." Between the musical numbers several women had been invited to share some of their thoughts about the Savior. I liked it that they spoke simply and from the heart instead of trying to come up with a fancy speech. It was powerful and I think we all felt the Spirit.

I felt uplifted and strengthened after this party. Maybe that's another reason I wanted to post about it here. I always feel this way after I've had the opportunity to spend time with my fellow Relief Society sisters. I've been on the Enrichment board before and I know what a headache it is to plan and carry out one of these functions, but I hope that those who do this know what a blessing it is to us. I have lots of treasured friends who are members of other faiths and I am just as grateful for their influences in my life. I think what makes Relief Society special is that we are all so, so different in almost every possible way, and yet we have the common bond of our belief in the Savior and desire to follow Him.

hansel and gretel

Saturday afternoon we took Georgie and Lidia to see "Hansel and Gretel" with the Minnesota Orchestra. It's an opera by Engelbert Humperdink. Last year J and I saw it and felt guilty the whole time for not having brought the girls. We wanted to check it out ourselves before bringing them. It was absolutely enchanting, and I think they did even better this year, the second time around. Two sisters play the soprano and mezzosoprano parts of Gretel and Hansel, and they are wonderful. Thanks to our generous french horn-playing friend who can sometimes get free tickets, we had first row seats, which made it especially exciting. One of my favorite parts is the dream sequence when these huge puppet-like angels from the Heart of the Beast Theatre come out and do a graceful dance as they watch over Hansel and Gretel sleeping in the forest at night. That is mesmerizing. The music is very tender and sweet. My other favorite part is the end when the Minnesota Boychoir sings. Georgie said she liked the ending best. Lidia liked the witch (of course).

I cannot recommend this opera enough! We went to the afternoon performance, so there were lots of children, some very young, maybe too young in fact. Some were crying. I'm thinking of taking Bernie and Marcus next year.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

gingerbread




This is the first time we do a gingerbread anything from scratch. In the past we've used kits. We had a lot of fun making this train, though it was a little more labor intensive than I expected. I recommend making the gingerbread the day before. It seemed like I was in the kitchen all day with this thing! We did it last Wednesday when my parents were still here, so my mother helped a lot. (Thanks, Mum!) Mum and Lidia made the engine. I thought Lidia did a great job on the bow for the wreath. She has such natural artistic ability, much like her Nana.

Yesterday we went to see the Minnesota Orchestra's Hansel and Gretel (more on that later) and they had four different gingerbread houses in the lobby made by professional bakeries. We got to look at them all and then vote on the best one. My favorite was the castle. It was hard to choose a best because they were all so beautiful, intricate, and imaginative. I got some great ideas for next year.

Here are the recipes, directions, and templates for our gingerbread train at FamilyFun.com.



Thursday, December 07, 2006

sunstripe



This little guy (girl?) is Nana and Grampy's Christmas gift to Marcus this year. A leopard gecko. When Mum warned me they were going to do this, I admit I thought to myself, "That sounds like a big headache!" And as we gathered the materials for the little bugger, I thought, "This is a big headache! I don't know if I'm responsible enough for a pet like this, say nothing about my kids!" But he (we'll call him that because Marcus wants it to be a boy) is not much trouble at all now that he's all set up. And it's so fun watching him come out at night to eat his crickets!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

bedtime stories


My parents leave tomorrow morning. We are so sad to see them go! (Especially me! Who will do my laundry and wash my dishes now? Who will make me clam chowder?)


My children's all time favorite activity with Nana is cuddling up with her before bed for stories. I just snapped this picture of them. Mum used to tell them stories of me when I was a little girl, but then they demanded more and more new stories over the years, so now she's had to branch out to tell stories of my siblings, her siblings, and our pets.


I really miss my family, and it's wonderful to have my parents here. The only thing that comforts me about them leaving is that I will see them again in April when they're on their return trip from New Mexico, where they spend winters, to Maine.


Tonight we went out to dinner to celebrate my final final taken on Tuesday. And may I never set eyes on one again!


People keep asking me what I'm going to do now that I'm graduating. They ask if I plan to get a job or continue with school. I tell them I'm going to sit on my duff and eat bon bons.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

merry christmas


Here is the photo you won't see of us on our Christmas cards this year because J says it's terrible. Well, all the others were terribler. He wants to put us through the torture again this afternoon.

Friday, December 01, 2006

5 things most people don't know about me

1. When I was in high school I thought it would be wonderful to name my children virtue names like "Patience" and "Honor."

2. I am taking violin lessons.

3. I am currently obsessed with the Basque people.

4. I have seasonal depression.

5. I was a colicky baby and temper tantrum-prone child. (Yes, I know you in my family know this, but you are not "most people," are you?)

Here are Amity's five. If interested, consider yourself tagged.

body worlds

I've been awake since four so I thought I might as well get up and post on my neglected blog. Have you ever got into the habit of waking up at 4 am? My two youngest children, who are not newborns and therefore have no good excuse, think they need to take turns waking us up almost every morning at 4 am. Bernie tries to get into our bed in order to kick us, smack us, and snore loudly in our faces for the rest of the morning. If it's not her, it's Marcus doing his "morning dance," a viscious stomping and hopping to the children's bathroom which is next-door to our room, accompanied by a tremendous *BANG* of the toilet seat which reverberates through the house and possibly wakes the neighbors.

I sometimes get back to sleep again but often not, especially this time of year when 'tis the season to have one million and five things to do. My to-do list hijacked my would-be sleepy brain this morning and revved it up into wide-awake mode.

My parents arrived Monday and we are enjoying their visit very much. Last night we went to the Body Worlds exhibit at the Minnesota Science Museum. It was amazing and unsettling. I could have stayed for hours but we didn't, because it was very crowded and two of our children were not very enthusiastic participants. (Lidia, with a wrinkled nose: "Why do they have to show people's private parts?") It's an exhibit of real human bodies, plastinated. According to the website, "plastination, invented by German anatomist Dr. Gunther von Hagens in 1977, is a process whereby all bodily fluids and soluble fats are replaced with reactive plastics that harden after curing with light, heat or gas. All tissue structures are retained."

It was both riveting and disturbing. Sometimes I felt removed enough to focus on this amazing and unique look at what's inside us. But then it would suddenly occur to me that this was someone's neighbor, or brother, or husband. Some of the plastinates are posed very whimsically and I wondered a little at the appropriateness. Or, maybe that isn't exactly what I mean. Some of the plastinates made me uncomfortable.

I would have liked to return without children and do the audio guide, but the exhibit ends Sunday. It has been the most highly-attended science exhibit in the history of Minnesota.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

12 dogs of christmas


I got this last year for my kids and it's one of their favorites. It was filmed in Bethel and Portland, Maine. It's pretty good. It's hard to go wrong with that many dogs.
I also really like the new Lassie. They did a wonderful job on this remake. I cried buckets the last fifteen minutes of it. We were in the theater and it was embarrassing! I don't know what it is with me and animal books/movies. I cried and cried at the end of the audiobook The Incredible Journey. I was driving and I nearly had to pull over. I cried when I read aloud Ginger Pye to the kids. I guess I'm just a sucker for dogs.

Friday, November 24, 2006

friends and babies

Karen, if you are not finding that babies frequent your family gatherings, you may consider adopting some Mormon friends. Babies will ever abound. Warning: Mormons of the western variety may be prone to eating large quantities of jello in all forms.

I am abundantly blessed, but yesterday I found myself feeling thankful for good friends.

We shared our Thanksgiving meal with the A family, some friends we've known for about ten years. They were a young couple without kids when we met, and now they have five gorgeous little blondes. Three girls and two boys. Their youngest is that adorable five-month-old peanut in the photo. I was taking lots of pictures of him, so of course we got some teasing about it being our turn to have a fifth.

Then in the evening the G family came. We've also known them at least ten years, and like the As, they have five children. In fact, they are also all blondes--and platinum blondes at that! They have a wee little newborn boy who was born on Halloween. I got to hold him for awhile, and it was a good baby fix. :-)

For more baby fix, check out Montse at Beehive Academy. They are homeschooling alfalfa farmers in Nevada. She is the beautiful mother of seven! (And I think she is younger than I am.) She had six girls and then a few weeks ago gave birth to, lo and behold, a little man!

I found myself thinking now and then of my blogger friends and family, and I darted upstairs for a few minutes to shares those photos. You mean more to me than you know. Thank you for dropping by. Thank you for chatting. Thank you for your interest in my dull life!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

happy thanksgiving




happy thanksgiving




from marcus

Marcus loves to recite this little poem to us, and it sounds so cute in Spanish! Here it is, more or less, in English:

It is not just a turkey,
as you can plainly see.
I did it with my hand,
a little part of me.
I give it to you with love
and with it wish to say
Have a beautiful, glorious,
happy Thansgiving Day!

Monday, November 20, 2006

sr. sudoku take two


J was not impressed with the photo I posted of him playing with his sudoku game. He said, "My head looks enormous and my body looks tiny." I thought he was crazy until I looked at the photo again. He was right! Weird perspective strikes again! I laughed so hard when I realized that his head did look really big and his body really small, that my knees buckled and I had to sit down. J said drily, "You're going to give yourself wrinkles."
I'll have to get another, better shot of him playing his favorite game.
Yesterday a little old lady at church told me that she liked to look at my husband because his eyes never stopped sparkling. "They always, always have that little sparkle," she said.
I told J and he said, "Yeah, I seem to be popular with old ladies. Maybe you'll like me when you're old."

Sunday, November 19, 2006

roby lakatos

Last night J and I went to a Roby Lakatos concert. I am still trying to recover. I dreamt all night of gypsy violin. I stumbled through teaching my gospel doctrine lesson today as I tried to push Lakatos and his incredible ensemble out of my mind.

It was a Minnesota Orchestra Pops concert. Lakatos and his ensemble, including a 2nd violin, double bass, pianist, and cimbalom player, play an interesting fusion of gypsy music, classical, and jazz. It was phenomenal. It was vigorous and powerful, tender and sweet. We were only three rows back, directly in front of them. We could smell their cologne they were so close. We could tell Lakatos' 2nd violin, Lászlo Bóni, had a bad cold we were so close. I felt exhausted after the concert from trying to absorb everthing. The flying hands, the sound. I wanted to watch everyone at the same time. I wanted to dance or cry or both!

Here at the bottom of the page you can hear a couple recordings of Lakatos. There is no way I can say what my favorite piece was. I was sure that "Fiddler on the Roof Suite" would be my favorite, but all of them were outstanding. The only complaint I have about the concert is that it was too short.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

more limberlost

I really hope it doesn't bother Bookworm that I do this, but she just made this comment on my post about A Girl of the Limberlost, and I didn't want anyone to miss it. Several of us have read this book and maybe others, too would like to discuss it more:

Sorry you didn't like it! I never felt Elnora was perfect mostly because of her fixation on clothes and what others thought of her. I guess I really sympathize with her because of her tough childhood. Anyway, GSP doesn't always make her men out to be idiots. Freckles is about a man. So is Keeper of the Bees, and The Harvester, and in some of them it is the woman who is slow on the uptake. :-) Also, I don't necessarily think Philip is stupid for having thougth he loved Edith. She really represents "society" and "worldliness" and the affair is a commentary on how many people raised in "society" take some time to realize the "real" when they see it. I just got the movie recently and am partway through it. It is low-budget and doesn't stick to the storyline, which is why I don't like it. I like the book and can't see messing with the story. And I guess the rapid character changes don't seem weird to me, since that's what my family and history have been like. Once something we were missing was really brought home to us, change came rapidly. So I guess it seems realistic to me because I've lived it. :-)

I'm so glad that you commented, Bookworm. I was hoping you would! Maybe I'm not subtle enough to get Porter. Maybe I'm missing her tone. I'm not always good at reading for tone. I thought that she was putting forth Elnora's fixation on clothes and others' opinions as good qualities, and I felt a little confused by that. To me it seemed like the author was saying there was no chance that she ever would have made friends or become popular if she hadn't found stylish clothes, like she was entitled to it or something. The mother is painted as an ogre because she wouldn't cut down trees and put oil wells on her property so that Elnora could afford expensive clothing, and I'm like, "What?!" because it seemed to contrast with an important theme of the book, the conservation of wild places.

I see what you are saying about Porter's portrayal of people raised in a worldy way having a hard time seeing things as they are. That helps.

As far as what I said about the dramatic character changes, maybe they would not have bothered me as as much (after all, they made for interesting reading) if it weren't for the highly fantastic circumstances of Elnora's birth, her father's death, and mother's consequent hatred toward Elnora. When that finally came to light, it annoyed me to the extent that I was then prejudiced toward the rest of the book, and sensitive about any other possible melodrama. :-)

Also, I don't think I can say I disliked this book. There is too much in it that I like. And I do want to read other titles by this author.

i am not anorexic

It seems that some people (hello, Father) were a little alarmed at the audrey photos I put up on flikr and think I could stand some fattening up. Let me assure you, it is just the angle of the photo. In the third photo the perspective is weird, so it makes my eyes and nose look huge and my body look tiny. My body is not tiny. What I weigh right now is what I weighed when I was 6 months pregnant with my fourth child. The measurement of my thigh is probably the same as what Audrey Hepburn's waist size was. Yup. This girl is well-padded. She eats her almonds and avocados and Triscuits with cheddar.

Now that I look at these pictures, I see that my neck looks thin, too. My neck is thin. That's how God made me. I'm afraid that no amount of almonds, avocados, or cheddar is going to change that, nor my bra size, either. :-)

ojo


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

glamour



I was inspired by Athena to do some glamorous self-portraits. Grace Kelly was her inspiration, and I was going for Audrey Hepburn here.
Heaven help me, but this was a lot of work! I was surprised at how scanty my make-up looked in the photos, because I really slathered it on. The hardest part was putting on the fake eyelashes. But oh, how I loved them once they were on! I've always wanted to try on fake lashes. Audrey Hepburn was almost never photographed without them once she was famous. I also put on black liquid liner. I'm not good at it. In a lot of the photos you could tell that I'm not good at it. I thought I had managed a big, thick, black line, but now I see that I would have needed it even thicker to get a real Audrey look. I am tempted to try it again another day. Next time I want to try the camera timer so that I can get shots from further away.
These photos are not the greatest but it's a start.
When I think of glamorous photos, I think of Auntie Lee. When I was about ten or eleven, Auntie had graduated from high school and lived across the street from us in a trailer for a little while. I always walked into Auntie's trailer reverently, practically holding my breath. Not only was she the epitome of glamour, but everything she touched seemed to turn beautiful. She and her friends dressed up and did their make up to look like movie stars and then they took pictures! It was SO cool! Now, that woman was gifted with hair and make up. I had a picture of her in a fur coat standing in front of a Christmas tree. I used to take it to school, show it to my friends, and brag that she was my aunt. I would normally get very satisfying responses, like "No way! She's gorgeous!"
Auntie, whatever happened to those photos?
Check out this short film from Dove's campaign for real beauty.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

pick me ups

The big one groans and beats it to her room
But the little ones giggle,
Dive under table
Covered ears and squeezed shut eyes
As if the very sight of Mum with her
Mean violin
makes the din
more squeaky screech creaky.

For her part (curved pinkie
Bent thumb)
This is how it’s done.
This is how she keeps it in,
Or rather
Together.

Another one is when she puts on
“Get Along
Home Little Cindy”
And she hoes down.
But this time the big one stamps
And the little ones
Because it’s fun
Jump and spin and tramp.

a girl of the limberlost


This is was a LDSMomED selection. I thought I had read it before but it turns out I hadn't.

I finished it about a week ago, and since then have been pondering what it is about this book that made it not quite work for me. After all, I absolutely love many similar books, like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Anne of Green Gables, etc. I did enjoy reading A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter, but I sometimes felt frustrated with it.

The first problem is that there are a couple of characters with the intriguing names of "Freckles" and the "Swamp Angel" that are frequently mentioned in the book as if we should know all about them. But I didn't. Doing a quick internet search turned up Freckles as another book by Porter. Well, that must be where we find out about these characters, but I have not read it! I would have appreciated a little more information about these two. I kept flipping back through the book to see if I'd missed something.

The main difficulty I had with the book is the characterization. The main character, Elnora, is perfect. She is the epitome of graciousness, beauty, and intelligence. As if that were not enough to make us hate her, she becomes a concert violinist a few short years after taking up the instrument. We can see why Ammon falls head over heals in love with her, but do we have to watch? Ammon comes perilously close to being perfect, too. The only thing that saves him from it is that he is a man, and therefore stupid. Wait a second! That wasn't me talking, it was Gene Stratton Porter. One gets the sense that Porter thinks all men (or young men at least) are hormone-driven, drooling idiots when it comes to women. So, save Ammon's infatuation with a spoiled, selfish, capricious, stunningly beautiful girl, he is perfect also.


Most changes of heart take place a little at a time, but I know that there are occasionally these drastic night-to-day transformations in people. In A Girl of the Limberlost, dramatic changes are the rule rather than the exception. One such change in a book adds interest and drama, but more than that makes melodrama.


The end was unsatisfying. Ammon and Elnora are out of the picture for a big chunk at the end, and we are left with the boring Edith Carr. I liked her better when she was nasty.


I did finish it, and certainly there is a great deal to love about the book. The descriptions of nature are fascinating and reverent. It is really brought home in the book how much our souls thirst for the beauty that is found in nature. I had to return the book to the library before I could jot down some good nature appreciation quotes out of it. It made me miss my Maine woods!


I am not a good artist, but I liked how the above sketch turned out back when the girls and I were keeping nature journals a la Charlotte Mason.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

all slander all the time

John Ellis, you are so on the nose with your article on the opinion page in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal!

I don't watch much t.v. so I didn't have to see the negative campaign ads this year. But John Ellis says this: "The net effect of this constant and unrelenting assault on politicians and the political process is voter resignation and ultimately a kind of doomed acceptance. It must be true. They must all be hypocrites, fools, thieves and scoundrels. They're talking about themselves, after all. It's $1 billion of self-portraiture."

Yes, I can feel this net effect. It influences me. I did vote on Tuesday, but I couldn't help but feel a bit of slimeyness as I did so. I felt like washing my hands after handling that ballot. And it should not be this way! There is not reason for it. It is having a terrible effect on our country. Precious few good, qualified people are insane enough to want to run for office, as Ellis notes in the article.

"One would think that the major parties would grasp the concept that they are destroying the very profession they purport to love, and act accordingly. ... But in America, the major parties don't ever think in broad, national terms. They're all tactics and no strategy. They don't advertise themselves at all. Instead, they spend the hundreds of millions of dollars they raise microtargeting supposedly single-issue voters and bombarding them with negative messages about the opposite party's alleged disdain for those concerns."

Yes! Yes! Who else is so fed up with this? Who else hates to admit being a member of either of these parties? I fantasize about walking into the Senate or House of Representatives one fine morning and clapping my hands for everyone's attention. "O.k., everyone. I know we've said some unkind words about each other, but here's what we're going to do right now. We're going to step across that aisle and give hugs."

But you can't completely blame the politicians. Maybe this is total naivete, but I like to think that many of them are good, honest people who want to serve their country. Somehow we have made them think that this is what you need to do to win. Somehow we have let this happen, and we need to take responsibility for what falls to us. It isn't George Bush who is dividing this nation. It's us, because we are letting it happen. We have forgotten what civility is. We are attacking each other and demonizing each other. We are being narrow minded and vindictive. We have thrown thoughtful debate and respect for others' viewpoints out the window.

It's got to stop.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

two causes for celebration

It got up to 74 F today.

And I just finished my last college paper.

Enrichment


Home, Family, and Personal Enrichment night is a meeting held on a quarterly basis for Mormon women. We call it "Enrichment," and the purpose is to strengthen faith in Jesus Christ, learn parenting and homemaking skills, and provide opportunities to socialize.

We had a super fun Enrichment meeting last night. Five of us spoke on traditions from other countries that help strengthen families. I talked about Mexico, and other sisters described traditions from Brazil, China, Holland, and Peru. My Brazilian friend got us off to a rollicking start and set a fun tone for the rest of the evening. I learned how to samba! It was a lot of fun and I can see why those Brazilians enjoy it so much. There can not be a more partying people than the Brazilians.

I talked about the Mexican festival Dia de los Muertos, one of my favorites. On the evening of November 1, (J's birthday) Mexican people head to the cemetaries with food and candles. They party with their deceased. Some people think it's gruesome and creepy, but I think it is admirable that they remember their departed loved ones in this way. In the Mormon faith, we strengthen family ties by doing religious ordinances for the deceased in temples, so it seems perfectly natural to me to have such a celebration. I also talked about making tamales at Christmas time, and the big Christmas Eve celebration. In Mexico and other Latin American countries, Christmas Eve is celebrated in large, extended family groups. They eat tamales, dance, sing, and visit. At midnight they give each and every person in the family a kiss and say Merry Christmas.

The woman who talked about Holland is married to a man who grew up in Holland. She said that in the Netherlands people say that Sinterklaas lives in Spain. Why not? I'd choose Spain over the North Pole any day. This Dutch Santa writes down children's good and bad behavior in a big book. On the 5th of December he sails on a boat to Holland accompanied by Zwarte Pieten, "Black Pete," a helper dressed in Spanish clothes, and a white horse. Dutch children leave hay in their shoes for the horse, and Sinterklaas leaves their shoes filled with candy. (Does that sound right, Auntie Lee?)

I thought it was a particularly fun Enrichment night. I am grateful that I can be part of such a fun-loving, faith-promoting community.

Monday, November 06, 2006

i knew a woman




I think every woman who loves this poem by Theodore Roethke would like a man to feel this way about her:

I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;
Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:
The shapes a bright container can contain!
Of her choice virtues only gods should speak,
Or English poets who grew up on Greek
(I'd have them sing in chorus, cheek to cheek.)

How well her wishes went! She stroked my chin,
She taught me Turn, and Counter-turn, and stand;
She taught me Touch, that undulant white skin:
I nibbled meekly from her proffered hand;
She was the sickle; I, poor I, the rake,
Coming behind her for her pretty sake
(But what prodigious mowing did we make.)

Love likes a gander, and adores a goose:
Her full lips pursed, the errant note to seize;
She played it quick, she played it light and loose;
My eyes, they dazzled at her flowing knees;
Her several parts could keep a pure repose,
Or one hip quiver with a mobile nose
(She moved in circles, and those circles moved.)
Let seed be grass, and grass turn into hay:
I'm martyr to a motion not my own;
What's freedom for? To know eternity.
I swear she cast a shadow white as stone.
But who would count eternity in days?
These old bones live to learn her wanton ways:
(I measure time by how a body sways.)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

adios comment moderation

I turned it off. It seems that several of you have tried to post comments that haven't reached me, and you've been left wondering if I didn't publish your comments because I didn't like what you had to say. No! Never! I published every comment that appeared, honest.

Comment moderation wasn't working out and now it's gone.

If that jerk comes back and makes another obscene comment, I know you'll all go after him for me. In a very civil, dignified manner of course.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

election season etiquette

is the title of an excellent piece from the Taste page in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. I have been thinking a lot about this lately.

"What passes for political discussion these days is often sharp and nasty. People come to dinner parties not with debating points but with baseball bats. Bush is an idiot; Clinton is a liar--end of conversation. Unless, that is, someone dares to disagree, in which case he is a liar or idiot too. College reunions, family gatherings, even worship services--almost every occasion has become a danger zone."

Sound familiar? I don't think this election is nearly as bad as the presidential election of two years ago, but maybe that's because I have been avoiding the people and situations where I might be exposed to such. I am still amazed when I think of some of the bitter words hurled at me by some fellow Mormon moms on a homeschooling e-list two years ago when I stated that I didn't appreciate the rampant Kerry-bashing they were indulging in. I received several nasty emails, one even anonymous in ALL CAPS. Yikes. I was also present at a homeschooling co-op group a few days after Bush defeated Kerry when one woman insulted in very creative ways the people who had voted for Bush. I know I was the only one there who had voted for Bush and it's possible that she didn't know that since I hadn't advertised it or anything. However, she might have had an inkling. These were situations that effected me personally and were deeply unsettling. I don't think it's because I'm thin-skinned. I don't think it was the personal attack that bothered me as much as the hatred and complete lack of reason behind it. I was also unsettled by bitter exchanges I witnessed that did not involve me personally. What I found so unsettling was the apparent glee these people felt in hating others. I did not expect fellow Christians and mothers of young children to feel justified in their hatred, and to even wallow in it shamelessly.

"Ms. Martin notes that only good old-fashioned manners--e.g., no personal attacks, no obscenity--can make discussions of controversial topics possible. But Stephen Miller, author of 'Conversation: A History of a Declining Art,' is not sure that civility, once abandoned, can be restored. He told us that many Americans have retreated into 'anger communities,' including partisan 'Web sites that provide grist for their mill.'"

I think these "anger communities" are scary. I think that when the next presidential election starts in full swing, someone needs to start some sort of campaign for election season etiquette. We can join the movement and wear buttons of a certain color indicating that we are "safe," meaning that we will not engage in personal attacks or use obscene language when discussing our political views.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

missing comments?

It's come to my attention that at least one person has been making comments on my blog that don't get to me, and are therefore not published. Has that been happening to anyone else? If so, you may be under the incorrect impression that I have been choosing not to publish your comments. I have published every comment that comes to me.

I know this comment moderation thing is a pain in the neck. Hang in there. I'm going to keep it on for another week or so.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

felicidades, amor




Doesn't he look a lot like Marcus in these?
It's my Captain J. Wentworth's birthday today (remember those Jane Austen quizzes? Can't find them right now to do a link). Anyway, of all the Austen heroes J is supposedly most like Captain Wentworth of Persuasion. J read that book recently and really liked it. And yes, he admitted to identifying with the hero.
He is my lover hero and my well-made man.

But the expression of a well-made man appears not only in his face;

It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the joints of his hips and wrists;

It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist and knees—dress does not hide him;

The strong, sweet, supple quality he has, strikes through the cotton and flannel;

To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem, perhaps more;

You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck and shoulder-side.
-Walt Whitman

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

spooks


I can't remember if I posted this or not. Several weeks ago someone asked Bernie what she was going to be for Halloween. "A witch," she replied. And then, "I would like to fly around on Halloween night but my mom won't let me use the broom." We all laughed of course, but Bernie was dead serious. She narrowed her eyes and said, "I don't think that's very funny."
The kids designed those jack-o-lanterns themselves. It's very cold here tonight. Bernie got tired after an hour of trudging around all bundled up. Georgie, Lidia, Marcus, and the neighbor girl all lasted another hour and brought home loads of candy. We only got a few little trick-o-treaters tonight, but lots of middle schoolers and up. I'm fine with that as long as they're wearing costumes.
More Halloween photos here.

Monday, October 30, 2006

this is no angel

Sometimes I honestly don't know how I'm going to get through the day with this child. She's wearing a witch's hat, which is very apropos this morning.

Thank heavens she has older siblings, so I can say things like, "Is Georgie sitting on the table? Is Lidia sitting on the table? Is Marcus sitting on the table? No. Then Bernie doesn't need to sit on the table." I find myself saying such so frequently it's almost a refrain. I probably bore her with it and I know I bore myself.

Where is Mary Poppins when you need her?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

atonement

While preparing to teach gospel doctrine class I ran across this statement by Elder Merrill J. Bateman:

For many years I thought of the Savior’s experience in the garden and on the cross as places where a large mass of sin was heaped upon Him. Through the words of Alma, Abinadi, Isaiah, and other prophets, however, my view has changed. Instead of an impersonal mass of sin, there was a long line of people, as Jesus felt “our infirmities” “(bore) our griefs, … carried our sorrows … (and) was bruised for our iniquities” ... He learned about your weaknesses and mine. He experienced your pains and sufferings. He experienced mine. I testify that He knows us. He understands the way in which we deal with temptations. He knows our weaknesses. But more than that, more than just knowing us, He knows how to help us if we come to Him in faith

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

comment moderation


Sorry I had to turn on comment moderation, everyone. Some jerk (no one I know) made a weird comment on my blog a couple days ago.

does this girl look happy?





Both my poor mother and J have heard me complain ad nauseum about the tortuous linguistics class I'm taking right now. And I've kvetched loads about how I despise independent study. Frankly, I have felt very discouraged about finishing college for the past couple months. I know it is completely ridiculous, because after these two classes I only had one left to go. One measly class.

But no. But no! It turns out that I will GRADUATE this [EDIT: expletive deleted] DECEMBER! I talked with a BYU advisor today and she informed me that I do not have one more class to take. After I finish these two, baby, I'm done! Done!
Whooooooooooop! Whooooooooooooop! Whoop! Whoop!

a triumph


Speaking of turning weaknesses into strengths, Lidia has triumphed. Last year she very frequently came in dead last in her gym class races. She felt badly about it. She said to me once, "I don't know why, Mum. I run as fast as I possibly can! Other kids don't seem to be trying that hard, and they even beat me!"
Last week in gym class they did scooter races. You know those little platforms with four wheels? You sit on the platform, hold onto the handles, and power the scooter with your feet. Or you can be on your belly. Lidia announced as we walked out of school to the car, "Mom! We did scooter races and I came in first, then second, then third, then second again out of all twenty-seven kids! Can you believe it?!" I almost couldn't.
I think we can attribute Lidia's increased strength to Irish dance. When she first started dance, she was exhausted during class. Sometimes she would just lay down, right in the middle of class! She had a terrible time during skills class, which lasts an hour and fifteen minutes (normal class is an hour). I reminded her of that after last Saturday's skills class, and she laughed. Now her legs are very strong. She doesn't get to practice every day, but when she does she will sometimes put in an hour. The other day I went out on some errand that took over an hour. I left her doing a slip jig, and when I came back she met me at the door, soaking in sweat and face bright red. "I've been practicing all this time," she said proudly.
Felicidades nina de los pies rapidos!

Monday, October 23, 2006

gift envy--you've been tagged!

I really liked what Auntie Lee said in her last comment about enabling our children to find what makes them unique. I take this to mean helping our children discover and celebrate their gifts.

Not all gifts are necessarily natural aptitudes. There are many inspiring examples of people who have turned their weaknesses into strengths. Every Mormon primary child learns of Heber J. Grant, a prophet of our church. In his youth, "sissy" was said about his baseball throwing, "lightening struck an ink bottle" was said of his handwriting, and "I would like to be at least forty miles away while you do it" was said of his singing. Eventually he played on a championship baseball team, won a territorial award for his handwriting, and as an adult learned to sing solos.

I invite all of the "fellow bloggers" on my list to answer the following questions on your blogs(Auntie Lee, Ave, Mum, and others who comment but don't have a blog, answer in a comment please):

1. What is a talent you seem to have been born with that you have discovered, grown, and celebrated?

I have a natural ability to learn languages, especially the sounds of other languages. For a Spanish linguistics class in college I took an oral exam that tested my ability to speak Spanish sounds, or "sound native" in other words. The prof said, after I'd read my paragraph, that he could not tell I wasn't a native Spanish speaker.

I would like to do more with this. I am dying to learn French and some other languages.

2. What is the gift you think you don't have, that you most envy in others?

I am envious of people who have a natural, spontaneous, fun-loving personality. I have two friends like that. Everyone feels loved and at ease around them. They are the kind that have beautiful smiles, frequent laughter, and big hugs for everyone. They both also happen to be tall and slender, but I don't hold that against them as much as their happy-go-lucky personalities, darn them.

3. What is a talent that did not originally come easily to you, that nonetheless you've developed through practice and hard work?

I mentioned in a previous post that I am not great at social interaction. However, I feel that I have made some improvement in the past fifteen years of trying and trying. I've come to realize that it's silly for me to try to be bubbly or easy-going. It's just not who I am. But I can take risks. I can introduce myself to someone I don't know at church and ask questions that are interesting but not invasive. You might laugh, but that's a big deal for me! It's taken some doing.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

homework II

The second part of Orson Scott Card's homework article appeared today. I am laughing because the the first reason given that those "who admit that homework is probably academically worthless in the elementary grades and not very helpful in high school still think kids should have it" is "It gets parents involved in kids' education." Athena mentioned this as a reason she likes her children to get homework. I understand Card's point that those who are unlikely to be involved in their child's schooling would be unlikely to be helping them with homework anyway. However, there are probably many parents like Athena who enjoy sitting down with their children to do homework, or at least appreciate it as a means of knowing what their children are learning and how well. Athena had posted on her dislike of how much influence American parents have in schools, and I'm laughing again because Card's article promotes just such activism. To tell you the truth, I'm not sure what I think about parents having lots of power to make change in schools. Athena brings up some valid points. My thought is, either you agree with the changes made and everything's good or you don't and it makes you hopping mad.

I had to smile this morning too at a homework situation at our breakfast table. That's where a lot of last-minute homework gets done, especially for Marcus. I got his homework, a little math page, out of his backpack and told him to eat his breakfast first and then he could do his homework. He said, "No! No!" But get this: He was complaining because he had to eat breakfast before he could do that measly worksheet! He was excited about it. Actually, it wasn't too bad. There were just five greater than, less than, or equal to problems and then he had to make up one of his own. For some reason he thought it was hilarious and he was giggling the whole time he was doing it. I have ceased to try to understand that boy's sense of humor regarding math. He just thinks it's so funny.

I was going to post today on what I considered acceptable homework assignments. However, I love Card's suggestions so I'll list those instead.

It's the biology project where you collect the leaves of forty different
species of tree or bush in your neighborhood and identify them by scientific
name and leaf type. That's not an empty project — it means something, you
learn something, it can't be done in school, and it can be done by high school
students without any help from parents.

It's the major paper for English class where you read three different
novels that tell the story of King Arthur — let's say T.H. White's, Mary
Stewart's, and Jack Whyte's — and compare the authors' different approaches to
the same tale.

It's the poetry project where you are assigned to write twenty poems
using at least five different established forms, at least two poems in each
form.

It's the history project in which you create a map of a major
expedition by Cook or Columbus or Darwin or Magellan, marking all the stopping
points and discoveries.

For drama class, it's a series of monologues; for music class, a
recital; for art class, a portfolio.
These are projects that would take hours
— but because the child would be involved in choosing the topic, and would be
showing progress to the teacher each step of the way, it would be a true
educational experience.

Parental help would be almost meaningless — the child would have to do
all the important work alone.

And one of these in each school semester from seventh grade on — not
one per subject, just one, period — would be memorable, exciting, productive,
useful.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

profile


Monday, October 16, 2006

rapunzel's revenge


In my excited rambling last night I forgot to mention another of Shannon's books that comes out next year. It's a graphic novel co-written with her husband, entitled Rapunzel's Revenge. It's being illustrated now. The illustrator is Nathan Hale from Provo, Utah, no relation to Shannon or Dean. Shannon has decided that rather than constantly answer the "are you related" question about Nathan with a "no," she is going to say that both Dean and Nathan are her polygamous husbands.


I think that is absolutely hilarious and I hope she says it. At least once.

Seriously, it seems that Shannon gets a lot of oddball comments about Mormons when people find out that she is one.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

be jealous! be very jealous!




Yesterday Lidia and I went to the Twin Cities Book Festival to hear Shannon Hale speak. Shannon is the author of Goose Girl, Princess Academy, Enna Burning, and River Secrets. We love her books! In this post I wrote about Princess Academy. I'm also a big fan of her web site, squeetus, where she has lots of great advice for would-be writers.


One thing I love about Shannon's books is the element of humor. She writes some really funny scenes. I expected her, therefore, to have a good sense of humor in person and she certainly does. We had some good laughs during her presentation, but it was also quite inspiring. Shannon was not exactly an overnight success. Once her first book, Goose Girl, was finally published, it was widely acclaimed. However, she unrolled this long collection of rejection letters all the way to the back of the room. (That's what she's holding in the bottom photo.) She had some short stories that were rejected many times, and Goose Girl was rejected nine times. It was a good lesson in perseverence! I'm really glad she did persevere because I think the world of Young Adult fiction is a better place for having her books in it.


It turns out that Shannon Hale and I have a mutual friend! These pictures were taken today at her home. We read Princess Academy a few months ago in a mother/daughter book group organized through church. This friend who knows Shannon invited her over and we all got to hang out with her for a while! Shannon is down-to-earth and unpretentious, much like her character Miri from Princess Academy.


I don't like the top photo. How come one of you hasn't pointed out to me that when I stand that way in photos it adds about ten pounds? Really, I think a true friend would have mentioned it. Also, I don't know who got my camera lens dirty, but that person better sleep with a weapon. Well, Shannon looks great in that one, even at seven months pregnant. In the bottom photo our friend and Lidia are enjoying a book Shannon wrote in fifth grade. She read it yesterday at the book festival and it's hilarious! I wish I'd had Shannon unroll her rejection collection so I could take a picture, but of course I didn't think of it at the time. Those good ideas always come a few hours too late. I also wish I'd taken more than one book for her to sign. I only took Princess Academy. The others I'd got from the library but I should have bought them anyway and took them for her to sign! Oh well.


I was very happy that Lidia had a chance to meet Shannon and hear her story about becoming a writer. Lidia has announced that she would like to be a writer. I tell her she already is a writer. Good heavens, she's written and illustrated several series. She just hasn't published yet, but that will come.


Shannon talked for a while about a passion of hers. It's something she feels compelled to talk about when she can. She believes that many children lose their love of reading in high school because they are forced to read dull books and it turns them off to reading. She doesn't believe that classics should be erased from high school lit classes, but she would like to see more of a variety of books taught. Children shouldn't get the impression that only old, tragic book are worth reading. If they don't like those old, tragic books, they will not want to continue reading as adults. When Shannon goes into schools she asks who likes to read, and about half the hands go up. Then she asks who doesn't like to read, and the other half of the hands go up. She thinks that if these children were encouraged to read different kinds of books, they may enjoy it more.

Of course Shannon expresses her own views much better than I do, so go here to read it straight from the horse's mouth. Or the pig's mouth, in her case. ('pig' is her nickname) She posts several times on this topic. On that first link scroll down to July 26, "the older the better?" and then July 31, "two cases studies." Then go here and scroll down to "the slippery upward slope" and then "Laurie's take."


Shannon also talked about Austenland, her first adult fiction book, which comes out in May. I am really excited about this one. It's about a young woman who is obsessed with Jane Austen books, and specifically Mr. Darcy as portrayed by Colin Firth. Hmm. I can't identify with that. No, no, not at all. Doesn't ring a bell here.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

homework: the worst job in the world

is an article by Orson Scott Card in Meridian Magazine. Those of you who've read it, what did you think?

It's quite a rant. What Card describes in the first few paragraphs as being the "worst job in the world" is not necessarily homework, but school in general. I'm not sure I'm with him on every detail, but I find the article interesting because I've been thinking a lot about this lately.

I agree with Card that homework for elementary children is ridiculous. It is supposed to teach them "good study habits." Someone needs to explain to me how completeing a stupid little worksheet is imbuing my child with these habits. Another reason for sending it home is to provide "extra practice." For the child who already understands the concept, why does he need extra practice? For the child who doesn't understand, why doesn't the teacher contact his parents separately and work out a plan for success?

The mom of some twins in my son's first grade class told me that she and some other parents were concerned because their teacher never sent work to be completed at home. They voiced their concerns, and the teacher started sending homework. Why would you be concerned that your first grader is not bringing home homework? Shouldn't we be concerned, rather, if he does?

When my children get home from a long day at school, I want them to play together. Often a neighbor girl comes over and they all go down to the basement and have a grand old time. They engage in imaginary play, which is so valuable. I wouldn't take it away from them for all the world, say nothing about cutting it short to get some homework done. My children practice instruments and they do chores. Lidia practices Irish dance. Marcus plays soccer. We eat dinner together and try to have civilized conversation while we do so (perhaps a losing battle but we fight the fight). My children read for pleasure. They goof around. All of the above is so much higher on my priority list than homework. So, you know what? Sometimes it gets done and sometimes it doesn't.

From Card, about parents who make their children do homework right after school:

And their parents don't let them have those precious late afternoon hours to run
around and be free. Why? So they can get into a better
college? What good will it do them to get into a better college if they
hated their entire childhood?
So they go to a local college instead of an Ivy
League school because of that four percent difference — but they have a
childhood. An adolescence. What do you think will make more of a
difference in their lives? What will make them happier human beings?
That's the goal, isn't it? Not the job that makes the most money, but the
life that has the most happiness — right?
About this "four percent difference" he mentions. I don't understand exactly what he means there. According to Card, homework only makes a "four percent difference at most." A difference in what? Card does not explain.

Anyway, what strikes me about this is the mention of academic goals vs. happiness. Recently my neighbor said something about saving to pay for college and then, "that is, if they go to college. I don't care if they go or not. That will be up to them. I want them to be happy, and if that includes college, then great, but if not, that is fine too." At first this seemed to me a shocking thing to say. Not go to college? How could she wish that upon her children? Now I'm starting to wonder if maybe she isn't on to something. College is not for everyone. There are many career paths that don't require a four-year degree.

Many of us in the Latter-Day Saint community feel pressure to prepare our children to attend Brigham Young University. I know I do. That's where both J and I went to school and where we met. BYU has become very difficult to get in to. For some children, it may be easier to get in to an Ivy League school than BYU, depending on certain factors. You basically have no hope of getting in if you don't graduate from seminary, which requires four years of daily, early-morning classes for most LDS children in the United States. Many LDS parents, especially professionals, push their children to take difficult courses that will look good on their BYU application. I understand this. To tell you the truth, I don't care so much if my children attend BYU or not. However, I want them to have the option. I figure some measure of happiness comes from having many choices available. However, at what cost are some of us procuring these options? Card's article made me think.

Another article that takes a different, though not exactly opposite, view was in the Wall Street Journal last Friday. Naomi Shaefer Riley often writes on education for the Journal, and her article is The Education Grind
Test Question: Why is high school the new college? I have more to say about this but will do so in a future post.

Friday, October 13, 2006

developing a forgiving nature II

More from a talk I gave in church a few weeks ago:

A few years ago I received a calling that was very challenging for me. Now that I look back, I can see that my performance in that calling showed some inexperience and occasional tactlessness. I was asked by the bishop to make some big changes in the auxiliary I was to serve in. There were some of my friends in the ward who, though it’s very possible they didn’t like what I was doing or could at least have seen a better way of doing it, were constantly positive and supportive. I knew that I could count on them to not speak ill of me behind my back or murmur about my clumsy efforts. Probably any of them could have done a much better job in that calling than I did, yet they had the patience to overlook my shortcomings and nurture my strengths. Their support gave me the feeling of security I needed to persevere, learn from my mistakes, and grow. After that experience, I resolved to always be supportive of my fellow ward members in their callings. I decided that I didn’t even want to think murmurous thoughts. (Not that I have arrived at perfection in this area.) Sometimes it is very tempting, but then I remind myself that I want to be a particular kind of sister: a nurturing and uplifting one.

I know that every single one of us has had or will have the opportunity to be deeply hurt or offended at least once by someone at church, at home, or in our community. When that does happen, we could decide to nurse and cultivate that grievance as if it were an exotic, delicate, hothouse flower. Or, we could recognize it for the rank weed that it is and pull it out by the roots.

Family life provides daily and sometimes hourly opportunities for us to work on our forgiving natures. In a play I saw recently, a young married couple is the toast of England. They are rich, elegant, and politically powerful. They see no faults in each other. We envy this couple, but we also pity them. We pity them because we know that such a love cannot last. It is idealized love. Soon enough a blackmailer comes forward with damaging evidence showing that before he was married the husband had committed an unscrupulous act. The husband dreads the moment when his wife will find out about his past sin. They have this exchange before she finds out:

LADY CHILTERN
I don't think you realise sufficiently, Robert, that
you have brought into the political life of our time a nobler atmosphere, a
finer attitude towards life, a freer air of purer aims and higher ideals - I
know it, and for that I love you, Robert.

SIR ROBERT CHILTERN
Oh, love me always, Gertrude, love me always!
LADY CHILTERN
I will love you always, because you will always be worthy of love. We
needs must love the highest when we see it!


Lady Chiltern eventually learns of her husband’s sinful act, and she is of course shocked and horrified. She believes she can no longer love him. However, she soon realizes, much to her surprise, that she is also capable of sin, and is therefore also in need of forgiveness. In a marriage there must be forgiveness, or there will not be love. Sometimes one spouse has to do a lot more forgiving than the other. In fact, maybe this is usually the case! It is not fair when one spouse has to forgive more than another, but the Lord has something much better for his children than the Plan of Fairness. He has the Plan of Happiness.

with brown-eyed great-grandchildren


I've been looking this morning for that picture of Grammie, but I couldn't find it. However, it's probably one you all have. It's a studio photo of Grammie and Grampy Jim. Come to think of it, it was taken over 15 yrs ago because Grammie gave it to me with a little album to put family photos in to take to Ecuador. I'm so annoyed that I can't find it.

Here is one of her with Marcus and Georgie. My grandmother has lovely brown eyes. When I was a child she always complained that she didn't have any brown-eyed grandchildren. Where is my brown-eyed grandchild? she'd always ask after yet another blue-eyed babe arrived. My eyes turned green and so did my cousin Seth's, but aside from that I think everyone had blue eyes. (Are Paris' eyes hazel like yours, Auntie? Megan has blue, right?) Grammie finally got a brown-eyed grandchild when Moses was born 11 yrs ago.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Grammie


Somewhere I have a very nice more recent photo of my maternal grandmother, "Gram," who lives in Maine. It was taken about 12 years ago. However, it's in my mass of photos and this one was handy. I've posted it before. It was taken at the time of her high school graduation.
This morning I had a dream about Gram. I dreamt that we were at my parents' farmhouse in Maine. I looked out the front window, and Gram was with my children and some other great-grandchildren on the lawn. She was smiling down at a little toddler and walking slowly (rather painfully, it appeared) among the playing chidlren. My grandmother loves children and they love her. That's the impression I had from the scene.
I then turned and saw my grandmother again, this time inside the house. She was telling my mother that she was going to town to get some groceries for her because some people were coming over for dinner ("suppah" of course, in Maine) on short notice and my mother wasn't prepared. My grandmother was asking my mother what she needed and they were planning the meal.
Then I went into what was my old bedroom and saw my grandmother there, sitting up in my bed, reading a book to Bernie. They looked very happy.
Then I woke up. All morning I have been thinking of my grandmother and missing her.

reading


Seems it's been a long time since I posted about our reading. Last week we finished The Witch of Blackbird Pond on audiobook. (We listen to a lot of books in the car when I take the girls to and from school.) I had forgotten how much I love that book. I read it the first time in fifth grade. I got it from a Scholastic book order, probably accompanied by a horse poster. Weren't Scholastic book orders the very, very best thing about elementary school? Anyway, The Witch of Blackbird Pond is my favorite Elizabeth George Speare book, but I also love the others: Calico Captive, Bronze Bow, and Sign of the Beaver. Except for Bronze Bow, all of her books take place in New England.

At first Georgie and Lidia were not thrilled about The Witch. It does have a bit of a slow start. But soon they were really in to it, asking all kinds of questions. They were surprised by the attitudes of Kit's Uncle Matthew, the Puritan. They were puzzled by why he didn't let Kit wear her fancy clothes. This generated a discussion about Puritans and their beliefs. The girls' interest in Puritans was peaked when I told them about their Puritan ancestors. We looked up information about the Puritans on the internet, and also researched the Society of Friends. We even talked about how influencial early members of our faith, like Brigham Young, were of Puritan stock, and how this influenced their beliefs and attitudes.


The book we are listening to now is The Case of the Missing Marquess: An Enola Holmes Mystery by Nancy Springer. You may remember that I read The Beekeeper's Apprentice this past summer, which is about Sherlock Holmes' meeting a fifteen-year old girl and taking her on as his 'partner in crime,' so to speak. Well, in this one Enola is Sherlock's kid sister. We have listened to two other Nancy Springer books, Rowan Hood and Outlaw Princess of Sherwood. It seems that Springer really has a thing about inventing family members of famous fictious Brits. I see that she's written some Arthurian stuff too. We like her books somewhat. We do not like them nearly as much as others, but since we go through them so quickly, sometimes I need to grab something at the library and that's what's available. It's not always easy to find an audiobook that will appeal to both Lidia and Georgie. I have put a few on reserve at the library, including Stuart Little by E.B. White. Any other suggestions? Last year we heard the entire Chronicles of Narnia.


As far as what the girls are reading on their own, Lidia just finished El Leon, La Bruja, y el Ropero (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in Spanish) and Georgie has started reading the Redwall series by Brian Jacques again. I'm reading True North by Jill Kerr Conway. It is a continuation of her memoirs. This summer I read the first, The Road From Coorain.

new profile pic

When I first started my own blog in January '05, I started reading other blogs. I noticed that many people used partial images of their faces for profile pics. Just the eyes, just the lips, etc. For some reason I found those pictures disturbing. The images themselves reminded me of, well... dismembered body parts. Also, I wondered what these bloggers had to hide?

Now, almost two years later, I find myself choosing a profile pic showing just my eyes. Why? I don't know. For some reason I feel less comfortable now having my whole head pop up on the screen every time I make a comment on someone's blog. I'd prefer that just my dismembered eyes appear. (Happy Halloween, btw.)

Monday, October 09, 2006

bleak house

Oh my gosh, have you seen it? It aired on Masterpiece Theatre last winter but we don't get PBS even if we stand right beside the antenna. So I've been getting the discs from Netflix.


We've seen episodes one to four. The third disc will arrive Wednesday and then we'll finish it. I can't wait! It's really well done. The actors are excellent, and it is so suspenseful. J likes it too.


peace

Everything's fine now with blogger in beta. It turned out to be a problem with our firewall. So, all the bad things I said I take back. If you do switch to blogger in beta (you will receive an invitation to do so--everyone will have to switch eventually) and start having problems, check your firewall. Of course, just about anyone reading this is probably more computer-savvy than yours truly so I don't know why I'm handing out advice.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

fall party

Still unable to upload photos on blogger. We went to a fall party today for church. I've uploaded some photos from the party on my flikr account, and you can check them out there if you like.

Friends, I would not switch to blogger beta until they force you to.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

answers

O.k., nestle, here it is:

What do you like most about where you live?

There is not one thing that stands out as the very best about living here. That would not be in the bland midwestern tradition. There are, however, many things that I have come to appreciate about life in the Twin Cities. It is green and there are abundant acres of parkland. The Cities are clean. I love the Spanish immersion schools my children go to. I love it that there are so many cultural offerings. On Tuesday J and I saw "Lost In Yonkers" at the Guthrie. It was sensational!

What's one of your all time favorite music albums and why?

Well, actually it's Sleigh Ride! Classical Christmas Favorites. Always around this time of year I get excited about listening to it again. I love the three versions of Sleigh Ride on that CD. Another one I listen to over and over is Holiday Sounds of Manhattan Strings. More generally, I have a passion for some classical, Rennaissance dance, and folk music, especially fiddle.

Did you have a passion for something as a kid that you still have now?

Reading. Even when tempted by other passions like riding horses and hiking, it was always tough for me to put away my book. I actually limited my extra-curricular activites in my last two years of high school so I could have more time to read. And still I can never get enough.

What do you like most about having a blog?

Geez, that's a hard one. Again, it's tough to pick one single thing I like best. I can't decide if it's keeping in touch with friends and family or being able to express myself writing about the things I love. As I have been going through my past posts to label them, it has filled me with joy to read what I've written about my children and family, and to read the supportive and loving comments, too.