Tuesday, January 31, 2006

more scanner fun

My mother has come in for enough embarrassment lately on this blog, so now I'm going after my grandmother. Here she is with her sister, and then in her graduation photo. (Right, Grammie? What year was that picture taken?) The picture of her as a child must have been taken before her grandmother died. She says that in the pictures taken before her grandmother died, her stockings are clean and her hair curled in ringlets. After her grandmother died, she appears in photos with torn, dirty stockings and uncombed hair. My grandmother shared a bedroom with this grandmother. Wasn't it your mother's mother, Gram?

Sunday, January 29, 2006


This afternoon J and Marcus laid down for a nap. Marcus was drifting off to sleep and said softly, "I'm dreaming. I'm dreaming of worshipping God."

"How are you worshipping God?" asked J.

"I'm being a good boy," said Marcus.

I've been reading Stories From the Old Testament with Marcus. There are about 45 short chapters, and we read all of it in a week. Marcus has enjoyed this immensely, and it's so interesting to see what he picks up on. He is fascinated by the idols. Whenever we read about the wicked people worshipping idols, he has to go back to this one picture of an idol at the beginning of the book. We've taken the opportunity to talk briefly with him about what idols we may be worshipping now, and we mentioned the Gamecube. Though he may only play a limited amount of time on Fridays and Saturdays, the Gamecube dominates Marcus' thoughts. He is obsessed with it. We talked about how if we played Gamecube all morning on Sunday and didn't go to church, it would be much like worshipping a false god. For an excellent discourse on this subject see The False Gods We Worship by President Spencer W. Kimball.

bon voyage, Carla!

What would you think about moving your family to Tanzania? I think it sounds like the opportunity of a lifetime. I met Carla and her children through Minnesota Virtual Academy. Carla is very intelligent; in fact it's hard for me to keep up with her. My brain doesn't work that fast.

Her family is leaving Tuesday for Tanzania, where her husband has accepted a job as the principal of a school for AIDS orphans. The organization that built the school is Peace House Foundation. If you'd like to see what it's like for an American family to live in Tanzania, you can check out Carla's blog. I'm so excited she's keeping a blog! (Way to go, Carla!)

Please remember this brave family in your prayers.

sheep and the goats

Today in church one of the speakers had the topic of "service," and she read the parable of the sheep and the goats. My children really like this one. I think the only way to really know if someone is converted to Christ is to see how they treat other people. That's what this parable means to me.

31 ¶ When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Here she is... Miss America!

I'm having fun with this scanner. Here are a couple of my mom's high school graduation pictures.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

nearly 12 years ago...

When I saw Athena take her walk down memory lane I decided I had to take the same stroll. We got a new scanner today, so here are some pictures from my wedding. I was nineteen. My roommate's fiance's mother made my dress, and it was very inexpensive. We were married in the Salt Lake temple, which took forty years to complete. Temple square is a lovely, serene place with remarkable gardens. After our wedding we had a meal together at the Joseph Smith building across the street. I love the pic of J and I after the wedding with the temple view through the window. We were married in April and had our reception in Maine in June.

reception in Maine

The only bad thing about our reception in Maine is that we didn't get good photos. Here are a few. I only have one pic of myself from the reception and I don't like it! My colors were green and purple. Remember this was the mid 90's, people. My mom did an incredible job transforming the cultural hall at our church. It was a lot of work for her! It can't be appreciated in the pictures, but in real life it felt like you were walking into an evening garden party, with all of the light on the trees. The trio that played sounded beautiful. I wish we had pictures of the tables and food. My mom did the food herself, so of course it was phenomenal. However, she wishes she'd had it catered because she didn't get to mingle much.

Friday, January 27, 2006

night out

Nana treated us to the kids' favorite restaurant the night before she left...

the kids' favorite restaurant

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Education III

The Newsweek issue, The Trouble with Boys, prompted this third post in my Education series. J recently read a different article about boys failing in school, which mentioned the book Raising Cain, recently made into a PBS documentary.

Boys are doing noticeably worse in school than they were ten years ago. Their test scores have dropped behind girls' scores, they are more likely to be diagnosed with learning disabilities, they are less likely to graduate from college. There are several possible reasons for this, including an overcorrection in the 90's that created a more girl-friendly educational atmosphere in schools, and less accessible role models for boys.

The most interesting paragraph in the story for me was the following:

Across the nation, educators are reviving an old idea: separate the girls from
the boys—and at Roncalli Middle School, in Pueblo, Colo., administrators say,
it's helping kids of both genders. This past fall, with the blessing of parents,
school guidance counselor Mike Horton assigned a random group of 50 sixth
graders to single-sex classes in core subjects. ... Although it's too soon to
declare victory, there are some positive signs: the shyest boys are
participating more. This fall, the all-girl class did best in math, English and
science, followed by the all-boy class and then coed classes.
When I was a teenager no one could have convinced me it was a good idea to separate the sexes for school. The idea of an all-girls school seemed horribly boring. I had so many good friends at school who were boys, and I couldn't imagine the "cattiness" of an all-girl atmosphere. I liked the different perspective the boys brought to class discussion.

Then, at age 16, I went to Ecuador as an exchange student. I was only there three months, but during that time I attended a Catholic girls' school. I loved it. I immediately saw many advantages. The girls were not catty because there were no boys around to compete for. We went to school make-up free with simple hair styles. We had uniforms, so no worry about what to wear to school that morning. The girls were fairly focused on their studies. Yes, there was plenty of talk at break about what boys we could hunt up after school, or the party on Friday. However, one had the feeling that school was for learning rather than for making an appearance, as so often seemed the case at my co-ed high school in Maine.

I really believe that segregating the sexes for school is ideal. I wish that my children could attend all-boys and all-girls schools. I haven't yet found any all-girls schools that fit my ideal, but my dream school for Marcus is Roxbury Latin. I don't know any one who's gone there. All I know is what I read on the internet. I was first impressed by the schools commitment to the classics. I would like very much to visit the school. Here is what they say about being a boys' school:
Fifteen years ago we would have used our commitment to smallness as the
major rationale for being a boys' school, i.e., if we became a coed school we'd
have either to double our student body (losing our smallness and diminishing the
endowment's profound effect on the School's diversity), or halve the number of
boys (rendering significant athletic competition within our present league
impossible for boys or girls). Research over the past quarter century, however,
has confirmed our own growing awareness that a boys' school has many advantages.
We are a boys' school by conviction. It is the nature of the adolescent male to
act in stereotypical male roles when adolescent females are present. Boys in a
boys' school are freer to develop the full spectrum of their personality-to be
nurturing, gentle, and sensitive with one another. We note these qualities
particularly in the relationship between our older and younger boys. In
play-readings in class, boys unabashedly take on female roles. We also sense a
relaxedness-a secure calm, a collected focus, even, midst all the noise, a quiet
that springs from being a boys' school. One huge dimension of competition-not to
mention distraction-is removed. We believe that more energy, therefore, goes
into student-faculty and student-student relationships. We also believe that,
with the diversity of gender removed during the school day, other
diversities-ethnic, social, and economic diversity and diversity of interests
and talent-are more fully explored.

that Newsweek article

In a previous post I commented on an article I had read comparing U.S. and Singapore schools. J found the article if you are interested.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

bye, Nana

We said goodbye to my mother (AKA Nana) this morning who is on her way back to New Mexico. My parents live in New Mexico for a few months in the winter, but their home is Maine.

I'm afraid this wasn't a very exciting visit for Nana. She spent much of her time here helping look after sick children while I was sick. She washed, dried, and folded loads and loads of laundry. She did my dishes and swept my floors. She made it possible for me to lie in bed all day Sunday and read Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell (being sick is good for something). Nearly every night she was here the kids camped out on the floor of the guest bedroom so they could listen to her bedtime stories.

We already miss you, Nana, and we love you!!!

(Just so you know, my mother is a beautiful lady. These pictures do not do her justice.)
(Just so you know, my mother did not make me write that. Not only is she beautiful, she is modest.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

spinach cranberry salad

I've been making this salad a lot this winter because it's so easy and the dried cranberries seem winterish. J's brother had it when they came for Christmas and he says it's his favorite salad now. Here is the recipe: baby spinach, fine-shredded swiss cheese, bacon pieces, dried cranberries, sliced red onion. Dressing: 1/2 cup oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1/3 cup sugar, 2 tsp. poppyseeds. I rarely measure things which is why it's hard for me to write up recipes. I just throw it all together--badda boom. When everyone is feeling better around here (yes, we're still sick and I'll spare you the details) I'm going to make tamales again and write down everything I do so I can post a proper recipe.

cavatelli for Christmas

My cool Italian neighbor gave me homemade cavatelli and her famous meatballs and sauce for Christmas. I quickly stuck it in the freezer to pull out when I didn't have a house full. I wanted as much for myself as possible! Last night it made a delicious dinner...

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Lidia's baptism

Our second daughter was baptized today, her 8th birthday. When I got up this morning I wondered if we shouldn't postpone it. I was sick, Bella was sick, and Lidia seemed to be the worst. No one slept well. Lidia coughed all night. She coughed all morning. We told her we could do it another day, but she really wanted to go through with it. J said it should be her choice. It was a nice service. I'm very glad Nana was here to help, because there is no way I could have pulled it off by myself feeling as I do. I think Lidia was happy that she decided to go ahead and do it today even though she coughed through the entire service. As soon as we got home from the church J took her to urget care. She may have bronchitis.

Georgie played cello

Georgie has only had her cello a few weeks and has had just one lesson, but she really wanted to play "When I Am Baptized" at Lidia's baptism. Up until last night I was wondering if it was such a good idea. She had lots of notes that were not quite right. You have to play exactly in tune or it sounds just awful! However, last night she played it for J and it sounded much better. Today when she played it really sounded beautiful. Well done, Georgie! I'm so glad she stuck with it.

It's...the baptismal cheese log!!!

Hey, siblings of mine, does this look familiar? It is the lovely cheese log, making it's appearance at yet another baptism. When my eldest, Georgie, was baptized, I joked with my mother that we had to have the cheese log as part of refreshments, because my baptism as well as those of my siblings was graced by its presence. (The cheese log was not present at any other family event that we recall.) We had the cheese log at Georgie's baptism and again now at Lidia's. It was a hit! We didn't have many people there and over 1/2 of the cheese log was consumed.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


It was interesting to read Aletha's comment about their school experience in The Netherlands. I recently read something, I think it was in Newsweek, while I was waiting to get my hair cut. I wish for a moment I'd been one of those people who tear articles out. The article was very brief, comparing schools in Singapore and the U.S. It said that while it is true that Singapore students have much higher test scores than U.S. students, that does not mean that their school system is preferable. Singapore students are taught to the test. They cram facts. They spend the majority of their time learning by rote.

One couple was quoted as saying they had had their children in U.S. schools and then moved to Singapore. While their children were praised for asking questions in their U.S. school, they were treated as freaks for it in Singapore. Questions are basically not allowed there. This couple ended up enrolling their children in an American school in Singapore and they are much happier with it.

The article went on to say that American students were perceived as having a much higher creativity level and better leadership skills than their Singapore counterparts.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Henry Adams

Henry Adams was the grandson of John Quincy Adams and the great grandson of John Adams. This is what James Cox in Recovering Literature's Lost Ground says about his autobiography The Education of Henry Adams: Adams' Education is the heroic act of mind and art. ... Adams has not only seen and measured the division between the two cultures [science and art], but has imagined them as poles of attractive force which, converting the inertia of life and history into energy of mind, would transform the self into a unifying consciousness--a third force in a new magnetic field. That is why his book is genuinely true to its title, remaining to this day an education for any twentieth-century reader. Of all American literature, it alone desrves to be required reading for all students, which if far from saying that it should be required for everyone or that it is the "best" American autobiography.

I was assigned to read several chapters of Adams' book. Here is a little of what I wrote about it:

Henry Adam’s tone reminds me of that of Henry James. Adams meanders through his topics as if he were a master gardener walking the paths of an estate garden, commenting astutely on the specimens he encounters there. As he’s described in the introduction, he surely sounds like James: “he traveled and studied abroad … He was rich, worldly, cultivated.” I prided myself on admirably getting through, and even enjoying, chapters 1, 4, and half of 25. After that he lost me.

Adam’s tone is certainly self-ironic in a way that his great-grandfather John Adam’s tone never was. I imagine that in Henry Adam’s self-loathing mind, self-depreciation was his only option. John Adams, son of a yeoman father, could easily afford to be optimistic and even exuberant in tone, but it would have been insufferable in his “princeling” great-grandson. One of the most deadly ironic sentences in the first chapter is this: “To his life as a whole he was a consenting, contracting party and partner from the moment he was born to the moment he died.” Poor Adams. As he says, New England boys were “born too old,” and I can’t help but picture him as one of those unnerving depictions of the baby Jesus from a Renaissance painting, small, naked, and seated on the Virgin’s lap, yet proportioned and featured like a full-grown man.

Adams is rather dismissive of his college experience, especially in the eyes of the modern reader who is inclined to reverence Harvard as a temple of wisdom. He says, “The chief wonder of education is that it does not ruin everybody concerned in it, teachers and taught.” However, he seems to feel that he took away from Harvard an open mind relatively free of prejudice, a mind that was prepared to begin the real learning that would occupy a lifetime. I don’t think he was at all saying there was anything wrong with universities. Rather, I think when you go on to read further he is in favor of this “negative force” that “slowly weakened the violent political bias of childhood.” As far as how he did at Harvard, I think he wonders why he didn’t get better marks. It was obviously an important point to him since he went back to look up his student records when he became a professor at Harvard. He says that however hard he worked, “he never convinced his teachers that his abilities, at their best, warranted placing him on the rank-list, among the first third of his class.” He goes on about how teachers are generally accurate in their appraisal of students’ abilities, but then says this: “when he became a professor in his turn, and made mortifying mistakes in ranking his scholars, he still obstinately insisted that on the whole, we was not far wrong.” This is a good demonstration of why it is important to read for tone in Adams—you can entirely miss his meaning if you miss the tone.

Adams has his own thoughts on tone. My favorite passage from The Education of Henry Adams is where he describes the sensual extremes of his New England childhood. “The intense blue of the sea … the cumuli in a June afternoon sky … the strong reds and greens and purples of colored prints and children’s pictures-books, as the American colors then ran; these were ideals. The opposites, or antipathies, were the cold grays of November evenings, and the thick, muddy thaws of Boston winter … After a January blizzard, the boy who could look with pleasure into the violent snow-glare of the cold white sunshine, with its intense light and shade, scarcely knew what was meant by tone. He could reach it only by education.” Adams’ tone is anything but glaring or stark. It is rich, multi-layered, and sometimes ambiguous.

Monday, January 16, 2006

if you are remotely interested...

Here are some passages from my homework to the following prompt: Write for about an hour, as it in your journal or in a letter, what you already know about the first half of the twentieth century. What is the source of what you know?

In a box in her closet in her house in central Maine, my grandmother has two long coils of auburn hair, each measuring over one foot in length. They date from the late 20’s, when her mother and her mother’s sister bobbed their hair. A good deal of what I know of family life in the early 20th century comes from my grandmother’s stories of her childhood during the depression and her mother’s and father’s lives. As I understand it, many families were comfortable and happy in their self-sufficiency, even during the depression. They kept chickens and cows and a big garden. They always had enough to eat, and preparing food to be cooked (tending garden, harvesting, canning, tending animals, butchering, plucking chickens) took up most of their time. Cooking was the easy part. The work was incessant. However, it didn’t always fall solely to the mother, as they lived in bigger family groups, often with grandparents, great-grandparents, and unmarried aunts or uncles living with a nuclear family of mother, father and children all under one roof. Everyone helped with the work...

I’ve seen some historic mansions that date from this time period. The Glensheen Historic Estate (1908) in Duluth, MN was on the program America’s Castles. I just had a tour of the James J. Hill House (1891) in St. Paul. The tours provided fascinating insight into the lives of the ultra-rich at that time. I was somewhat disappointed in Hill House. I wish I’d seen it before Glensheen Estate. It struck me that the Hills had very little originality or personality in their décor. It was heavy and stifling. The original furnishings were not there, but there were plenty of pictures that showed lots of expensive stuff meant to impress. It seemed boring and even a bit depressing. The Congdons of Glensheen, on the other hand, were people of interesting and original aesthetic sense. They had traveled the world and it showed in their décor. It was interesting in both houses to learn how the work was done by the servants, and to see all the gadgets they called “modern.”

My favorite films come from this time period. I am a big fan of screwball comedy. Some favorites are “The Awful Truth,” “Bringing up Baby,” “It Happened One Night,” and “The More the Merrier.” Why do they not make such stylish, clever, hilarious films anymore? It is impossible to feel bad while watching one of these movies. I know that these films were made during the depression when Americans needed a good dose of glamour and zaniness to make them forget the awful destruction of their hopes by the war. The Capra movies made at this time, such as “You Can’t Take it With You,” “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town,” are also very telling of the ideals people were striving to hold on to in post-war cynicism. Gordon B. Hinckley calls the years between the wars a very cynical time, full of self-doubt and questioning for the nation.

And then I had to comment, after reading some information in the anthology about the early 20th century, about "how the information in these pages and what I already knew complemented each other":

After reading “The Age of Realism” and “Twentieth Century Literature” my first impression is that I was looking back on the early nineteenth century and comparing it with present time, when what I should have been doing, to get a better sense of that time of incredible change, was to compare the early-nineteenth century with the previous century. The changes in demographics, lifestyle, art, science, and invention were indeed dramatic in those years.

For example, in the book Cheaper by the Dozen, Lillian Gilbreth takes her 8 children on a train ride from New Jersey to California. The misery of that trip made me laugh. I identified with it. I have my own stories of long, international flights with young children as well as Minnesota to Mexico car trips. However, what I could not have related so well to would have been the covered-wagon ride Lillian Gilbreth’s mother would have had to make if she would have attempted something similar in her time.

When I look back now at what I wrote about the historic mansions, I think that a big difference in what I perceived as a difference in taste or education between the Hills and Congdons could have been partly attributed to the mere twenty or so years that separate them in age. There were tremendous changes between 1890 and 1910. Maybe the Congdons traveled more because they had more opportunity to do so.

design help

What would you do with this? It's our newly-painted family room which is in the same area as out kitchen--no wall separates them. In case you are wondering, the white thing on the ceiling above our mantel is a pull-down screen for viewing movies on J's projector. Maybe I can get J to take it down, because it does not look good.

Anway, what should I put on the mantel? The shelves of the entertainment center? I tend to like the eastern-looking stuff at Target and Pier One. Would any of that work here? This room does not get a lot of natural light.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Education II

I am daunted by the task of writing down all that I believe education embodies in this one post. It's too much. However, I can jot down a few thoughts at least and post more another day.

As I have thought about the topic of education, it occurred to me how very difficult it is for me to think of education outside of my religion. I was raised Mormon, and in our religion we believe we are commanded to learn. From section 88 of the Doctrine and Covenants, "...seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith." From section 130, "Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come." And what are we to learn of? From section 88,"...of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms."

You might recognize this quote from an anti-Mormon I posted previously: "The Mormons appear to be very eager to acquire education. Men, women, and children lately attended school, and they are now employing [a] Hebrew teacher...and about seventy men in middle life, from twenty to forty years of age, are most eagerly engaged in the study. They pursue their studies alone until twelve o'clock at night, and attend to nothing else...They are by no means, as a class, men of weak minds." (From "One of the Great Lights of the World" by John S. Tanner, Academic Vice President of BYU) With these commandments and this legacy, I was not surprised to hear from a friend that the Mormon religion, of the largest Christian denominations, has the highest percentage of college graduates.

I do not separate secular and spiritual learning. I believe as Brigham Young said, that "every art and science known and studied by the children of men is comprised within the Gospel." Our current prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, urges us to get training in skills that will enable us to find "meaningful employment," but that does not constitute an education. It is the tip of the iceberg.

An education is what makes life meaningful, not just employment. Viktor Frakl said, "Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for (The Unheard Cry for Meaning [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978], p.21). I

I've heard J tell people that everyone has a religion, something they believe in over anything else. People have an inborn need to believe in something that will answer all their questions. They always, always have something, without fail. Many people make a religion of science. For some it is hip hop. A friend told me about her cousin at Berkeley. This young woman's gay professor assigned the class to see an x-rated homosexual play. The young woman said to the professor, "It is not right for you to force me to enter your temple. You have your religion and I'll have mine."

I sometimes feel tempted to make education my religion. If I let it, it would become my little "gospel hobby," a principle that I live to the exclusion of others. I've just read an article by Robert L. Backman that puts education in its proper context. He says, "We must understand the proper objective of education and approach learning with humility, sincerity, spirituality, and a keen desire for truth." He goes on to quote Joseph F. Smith, a former president of our church:

"this knowledge of truth, combined with proper regard for it, and its faithful
observance, constitutes true education. The mere stuffing of the mind with
a knowledge of facts is not education. The mind must not only possess a
knowledge of truth, but the soul must revere it, cherish it, love it as a
priceless gem; and this human life must be guided and shaped by it in order to
fulfill its destiny. The mind should not only be charged with intelligence,
but the soul should be filled with admiration and desire for pure
intelligence which comes of a knowledge of the truth..."

I also like very much what Backman says about educating our will. He says, "An educated mind is one that can focus attention, and focusing attention is an act of will requiring effort. One writer observed that 'attention is an act of will, or work against the inertia of our own minds.'" You can read Backman's excellent article here.

Well, this is a beginning of how I define education. Maybe more would be overkill for one post. Here is one more quote by a church president, if you can handle it: "True education does not consist merely in the acquiring of a few facts of science, history, literature, or art, but in the development of character" (David O. McKay).

Saturday, January 14, 2006

my conversation with a superintendent

Georgie was enrolled in a virtual charter school for two years. That's a school that receives public funds but is given more latitude than a traditional public school in how they make use of those funds. In this school, the children were educated in the home by the parent, using an online curriculum provided by the school, thus the label "virtual." The curriculum was very good in some ways--a great improvement on what my daughter was learning in the public school. She could move at her own level and at her own pace, and she loved it!

We applied to this school through Minnesota's open enrollment. Our district had to approve the transfer. Usually districts approve students' requests to attend another district, but some superintendents are antagonistic toward the virtual academy, and refuse the transfer. The virtual academy called me about six months after we had enrolled to let me know that the superintendent had denied our transfer, but when I questioned them they said it didn't really matter. To tell you the truth, I'm not sure exactly what the implications were. Nothing changed for us. Georgie continued to be enrolled at the school. Anyway, I called the superintendent because I wanted him to explain to me personally why he had denied our transfer.

Our conversation was extremely polite. There was lots of "yes, I understand what you're saying," "I respect your opinion," "I'm glad we're having this conversation" type of stuff. I'll leave that mush out, but here is what was said more or less:

Me: I would like to know why you denied our request for transfer.

Super: I denied your request to that specific charter school. If you had applied for any other district I would not have denied it.

Me: What is it you don't like about the virtual academy?

Super: I believe that children there receive an inferior education. It's just not the same as attending a school with other students and teachers. To me it is not a valid option.

Me: You think my child is receiving an inferior education?

Super: Yes, I do. I think your child would be better off in a traditional school.

Me: My daughter's standardized test scores have shot up after only six months of being enrolled in this school. She has fallen in love with learning. She loves our school time and wishes we could do more. We go on tons of field trips. Socially, I feel she has really improved. She seems to have greater self esteem. She plays with neighborhood children almost every day and also has classes with other children who are homeschooled or are in the virtual academy. As her mother, I am very pleased with our choice. Do you still think she is receiving an inferior education?

Super: Yes.

stupid in America

Montse posted yesterday on a show that aired last night on 20/20, John Stossel's Stupid in America: How We Cheat Our Kids. I saw the last 1/2 hr of the show. I am not a fan of John Stossel's wide-eyed tone but he made some good, if rather obvious, points. American students in the public school system perform well below other industrialized nations. School choice and a voucher system would help create competition which would improve schools. Teacher unions are outspokenly against vouchers, school choice, and charter schools.

Here in Minnesota we have open enrollment, which means you can enroll your child in any public school that has room. We open-enrolled our daughters into a neighboring district this year so they could attend a Spanish immersion school. We will most likely use open enrollment again as our children finish Spanish immersion. After 6th grade they will likely attend a charter school which uses a classical curriculum. As Stossel and several people he interviews say, open enrollment benefits everyone. Even people who choose to stay in their resident district are happier because they have a choice. The local districts are competitive against each other, always striving to one-up each other in program offerings, better teaching methods, etc., and the students benefit.

quiet Saturday

My Captain Wentworth (hehe) has taken the savages to the Children's Museum so that I can get some work done on my new BYU Independent Study class, American Lit from 1900-1950. I call them savages because that's what they've been this week. I am considering letting them grow up this way. It would be much easier on me to completely ignore their upbringing, and they seem to take so well to it.

I enjoy reading and writing (I am an English major) but not for class. And especially not through independent study where you have to do much more work. It is horrible for the perfectionist in me who can't bear to turn anything in until it is just so. I have three classes left, and I still sometimes feel that I will never finish.

Thank heavens for J, who is ever supportive. I think if it were not for him I would not have enough stamina to finish college, at least not at this busy time in my life.

I will have to limit my blogging. I've been having fun with it lately, knowing that my class would soon begin and I wouldn't have as much time. I need to turn in one lesson per week to finish by the end of May.

Friday, January 13, 2006

J is...

Captain Wentworth! No surprise there. That's who I thought he'd be.

Here are his results:
Captain Wentworth 87%
Mr. Darcy 67%
Edward Ferrars 53%
Willoughby 33%

Jane Austen heroes quiz

O.k., now get your husband (or some guy) to take this one.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Jane Austen quiz

Hey, readers! Take this quiz to find out which Jane Austen heroine you are. Let me know in the commments section. If you are not of the womanly persuasion, ask your wife to take it. Or go ahead and take it yourself! That would be interesting. (Thanks to Athena for alerting our Mom's Ed list to this fun quiz!)


painted kitchen before and after

painted kitchen

In the pictures, it's hard to get an idea of how dark my kitchen/family room area was before we painted. It' so much brighter now. Also, you can't see in the pictures that in many places the former varnish was worn and didn't look good.

the horror

Don't see it. You will regret it. I am posting this just so that you will not waste two precious hours of your life seeing this awful movie. I think it may be the most heinous adaptation of a book to a movie I have ever seen. I'm at a loss to come up with a worse one. Is Madeleine L'Engle still alive? If so, I hope to heaven she never saw this.

To be fair, it is a made-for t.v. movie. Maybe that was the whole problem. Such a wonderful book as A Wrinkle in Time deserves the large screen. Someone should have told these people, if you can't do it right, don't do it!

The acting was terrible. It's like the actors were given a choice between silly or wooden, and half picked one, half picked the other. The special effects were bad, bad, bad. I hope that the people who wrote the script never read the book, because if they did they will be held accountable for it in the next life.

Over break Georgie read this book, a gift from Nana, in two days. She obviously loved it. She went on to read A Wind in the Door in another two days and has almost finished now A Swiftly Tilting Planet.

normal-headed dog

There was a comment insinuating that my dog has an unusually large head. I admit that his head does look somewhat out of proportion in that picture. I took a couple more today from a different angle so you can see that he is normal headed. He really hated me taking his picture. As you can see, he hid under the table to get away from me.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Education 1

What is education? What does it mean to me to be an educated person? What kind of education do I want for my children? Why are our schools so inadequate? How can we fix them?

If you know me at all, you know that I spend a lot of time thinking about the above questions. It seems that every day a conversation or article I read gets me going again, thinking about this subject. I need to put my thoughts down somewhere, and I thought this would be as good a place as any. I will probably post several times on this subject, thus the title "Education 1."

Recently we were invited to the mission president's home. The mission president and his wife are members of our ward, and the mission home is on the same property as our meetinghouse. This couple is from Tennessee (I think) and have been here less than 6 months. They invited us and four other couples so they could get to know some people in the ward. We felt very honored to be a part of this group and we had a wonderful time. The other couples are people I admire very, very much. J and I were the youngsters. We chatted for a while as a group and then separated eventually into two groups, the men and the women, of course. I really enjoyed our conversation in the women's group, but I'll save it for another post.

J later told me that the men talked for a little while about outsourcing and how it is changing their various fields. One of the men, successful in his career and very service-oriented, will soon have the opportunity to go to India to oversee the company's operations there. He says that the $30/hr job in the United States is disappearing. He says that in the U. S., soon the only jobs available will be the two extremes of those requiring no education and those requiring the best and most extensive education. He mentioned that he felt concern for a couple of the young men in our ward who have poor reading skills, and wondered what the future held for them in their employment. What, if anything, will be available for them to support a family? he wondered. J worries that the gap between the rich and poor will only become larger and larger.

Just days before this I had read some letters to the editor about an article I missed, but J read it. It seems that some people in some city in California, I forget which, are all riled up because their school district is becoming too difficult and competitive. Evidently, according to the article, white families are leaving the district to find schools where their children can have an easier time being top in their class and thus have better chances at being accepted to good colleges. According to the article, the problem is the Asians. There are many now in the district and they have demanded a more rigorous curriculum, especially in the maths and sciences. (Darn them! How dare they improve that district?!) Anyway, from what J told me and what I read in the letters to the editor, it seems that some of the white people (or whatever I should call them--anglos?) think the Asian children, besides creating an aggresive academic environment, spend an unhealthy amount of time studying when they should be more "well-rounded" by participating in sports and other activities. They came down hard on Asian parents who they labeled as "pushy" and "competitive."

I found this very interesting because to me it illustrates one of the incorrect attitudes we need to confront if we want to improve our schools: we can't have everything. We can't have the best grades and play three sports during the school year. As much as we'd like to pack our admissions forms with extra-curriculars, they're not going to mean squat if we're not taking challenging classes and scoring well on tests. Even though I believe the American people have some unique strengths of leadership, vision, and risk-taking not shared by our studious competitors of other nations, we need to learn something. We have to learn enough to be credible. In the past when we had less competition we could rest on the laurels of our better-educated, smarter-working forebears and go surfing after school. (I mean water surfing. On waves, not the web.)

Children are being pushed into organized sports at an increasingly younger age and are spending an ever increasing amount of their time in organized sports activites. According to an article J read, children are spending more and more time on school work, but do not appear to be learning more. In fact they know less than past generations! (That article was sent out by our school district. Hmm.)

O.k., now I've spelled out a few of my concerns. In the next education post I'll discuss what it means to me to be well-educated.

smater den de man in every way

That's right! De woman is...smar-ter. I'm sorry, but it's got to be said. A woman would not become a thuggish dictator, and there are not many who would support one.

I am so sad that I read this. One of my favorite Christmas songs (and Christmas music is my favorite kind) is "The Gifts They Gave." Now when I hear it I'll have to think to myself, "This guy is an idiot." Maybe I can convince myself to think instead, "Poor, misguided fool."

Friday, January 06, 2006

Eight is Not Enough

...Or so says the Wall Street Journal's Taste Commentary article today. I thought the article was right on target about what large families are (well-adjusted, well-behaved) and what they are not ("Cheaper By the Dozen 2" and "Yours, Mine, & Ours").

I admire large families. They are ideal!

someone has been to the groomer

a favorite teacher

Lidia is at her old school today. This is her last day of vacation, but her old school started again Tuesday. On Tuesday she went to visit Mrs. Kinch, her beloved first grade teacher, in Mrs. Kinch's first grade classroom. She spent the whole day and loved it. Lidia adores Mrs. Kinch. She was so anxious to go back she's there again today. I don't know how Mrs. Kinch does it, but she's everyone's favorite. Several different moms have told me that second grade is just not as good for their children after having Mrs. Kinch for first grade--it pales in comparison. Mrs. Kinch really enjoyed Lidia's sense of humor. This picture was taken last spring at the musical.

Happy Three Kings Day!


A warm welcome to those of you who, having learned of my blog in our Christmas letter (sent out earlier this week), are visiting for the first time. Feel free to make comments!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Gambrels of the Sky

I dwell in Possibility--
A fairer House than Prose--
More numerous of Windows--
Superior--for Doors--

Of Chambers as the Cedars--
Impregnable of Eye--
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky--

Of Visitors--the fairest--
For Occupation--This--
The spreading wide my narrow
Hands To gather Paradise--

Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The House by the Side of the Road

THERE are hermit souls that live withdrawn
In the place of their self-content;
There are souls like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls that blaze the paths
Where highways never ran-
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Let me live in a house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by-
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner's seat
Nor hurl the cynic's ban-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I see from my house by the side of the road
By the side of the highway of life,
The men who press with the ardor of hope,
The men who are faint with the strife,
But I turn not away from their smiles and tears,
Both parts of an infinite plan-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I know there are brook-gladdened meadows ahead,
And mountains of wearisome height;
That the road passes on through the long afternoon
And stretches away to the night.
And still I rejoice when the travelers rejoice
And weep with the strangers that moan,
Nor live in my house by the side of the road
Like a man who dwells alone.

Let me live in my house by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by-
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish - so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner's seat,
Or hurl the cynic's ban?
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Sam Walter Foss

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

to Grammie Iris and Grampy Jim

The gifts were a big hit! Thank you so much. And the chocolates are divine. My thighs, however, do not thank you.


We picked up Georgie's cello today. After four years of violin, she is switching to cello. I probably should have let her switch earlier, but maybe not. I think she plays violin well enough now that in the future she could easily pick it up again if she wanted to. She loves to play fiddle tunes as well as hymns. But G never liked the high notes on the violin--they made her wince. She also refused to play near the bridge like she was taught because the sound "vibrated her ear" as she said.

She's been practicing about an hour and can already play a few songs with a pretty good sound. She will easily learn the bass cleff notes because she has a good mind for things like that.

The rental of this cello is about $40 per month. I told Georgie she'll have to get a job to help pay for it. Good thing she's turning 11, I told her, because babysitting jobs will be coming along.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Spirit Mountain

We finally joined the crowd this New Year's Eve. For the past 15 years or so a group of families from church has gone skiing together up at Spirit Mountain in Duluth, enjoying each other's company as well as great group rates on lift passes and hotel. We are not skiers, so we never went. This year we decided to take the plunge, thinking it might be fun for J's parents and brother who were visiting.

The weather was great lovely. 28 degrees Farenheit with new snow to slow down the novices and cushion hard landings on wipe outs. J and his brother had lessons and even with their constant falls had a good time. Lots of people told me how they admired them for hanging in there. J is determined to learn. I had a few ski lessons about 15 years ago, but that was the extent of my experience. I was surprised and delighted to find that I could ski! I thought I would have forgotten. After an intial bumpy start, I soon found myself swishing. I even went on an intermediate trail. (O.k., I did wipe out on that one.)

Marcus, Lydia, and Georgie also had lessons. Marcus's two-hour lesson exhausted him. That night the last thing he said before going to sleep was, "Tonight I'm going to dream that I'm a really good skier." Lydia was managing the bunny slope expertly by the end of the day. The one that totally amazed me was Georgie. By the end of the day she was skiing with me. She would zip down the slope effortlessly and wait for me at the bottom! That girl is a natural.

After a day of skiing we arrived completely exhausted at the hotel. We'd had to get up before six that morning to avoid the traffic. The adults thought it was bed time, but the kids got a second wind. The pictures below of the kids leaping from bed to bed and playing in the pool were taken after a day of skiing. At 9:00 pm we roasted marshmallows at a bonfire outside the hotel and then had ice cream inside with all our friends. It was close to 11:00 pm when we hit the hay.

We woke up in the morning to a beautiful view of the waves of Lake Superior crashing against the rocks. Breakfast was delicious (and complimentary) Belgian waffles. No wonder Marcus exclaimed, "We should live here!" We left to return home at about 11:00 am after more swimming.

I'm sad that I didn't get any pictures of us skiing. Yes, I did think of it but was loathe to leave the slopes to trudge all the way up to the lodge for my camera and then have to take it back again. Next year we will definitely return and stay for at least two nights.

hotel in Duluth