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Archive for the ‘7 Quick Takes’ Category

— 1 —

If you didn’t notice, the other day I mentioned that our new book will be coming out in August:

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Adventures in Assisi is unlike any other St. Francis-book-for-children out there.   I’ll talk more about it as the release date approaches, but know for now that it was inspired by the trips both Ann Engelhart and I have made to Assisi and a desire to bring St. Francis to children in a way that goes a little deeper than peace-animals-creche – as wonderful as all that can be.

 

— 2 —

Homeschooling has slowly revived.   Math has happened, lots of religion, conversations about the trip, music, science museum class, art class, To Kill a Mockingbird, reviewing some of our Shakespeare, gearing up for next week…Holy Week..think we’ll start Hamlet, too….

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Reteaching what he learned in science center class.

— 3 —

Good exercise podcasts, thanks to In Our Time, my favorite.  I’ve listened to:

  • 1848 revolutions - very good.
  • The Concordat of Worms - puts present Church/State conflicts in perspective
  • Robinson Crusoe - I have never read it, but had read something years ago about how contemporary editions generally edit down the religious content.  This program gave Dafoe and the book a thorough, honest treatment and attention to his religious motivations.
  • The history of radio.  I love learning about the history of technology/industry/products/science.  I find the cumulative, aggregate effect of human understanding mesmerizing.
  • Kama Sutra - in general, one of the reasons I love In Our Time is because I find it refreshingly free of any kind of cant – ideological or academic.  In most contemporary contexts, any historical discussion these days are almost always framed in terms of some overriding contemporary concern.   This discussion on the Kama Sutra (a work which is about more than sex, mind you) actually didn’t deviate from that excellent track record, but found myself unsatisfied (so to speak) in the listening because kept saying to myself…but…isn’t this an elitist kind of work about elitist concerns? What did this have to do with the lives of most people in India who weren’t  the aristocratic men who were its audience? 

— 4 —

I have started that little blog on our Mexican trip.  Here it is so far…not much, but hopefully I’ll have it all done by next week some time.  

— 5 —

Binge-rewatching season 6 of Mad Men.  It’s certainly enjoyable television, but that 70% that is really good is violently hauled down by the 30% that is either pointless or evidence that there is currently no one in Matthew Weiner’s circle whose job is it to read scripts or sit next to him in the edit bay and say, “Um…no.  I mean…no one cares about Betty Goes To The Village and everyone will fast forward through it on the rewatch. Promise. “

— 6 —

Currently reading Gringos by Charles Portis.  It’s set in Merida, where I just was, so I’m finding it really entertaining. 

— 7 —

Reminder:  First Communion/Confirmation/RCIA/Mother’s Day books?  I’ve got some choices….

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The new zipline at the Birmingham Zoo has just opened and was free to members this week…it was a good value for free, but sorry to say, it wouldn’t be worth the normal 20-25 bucks….

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— 1 —

We’re back.  We’re very glad to be back, too – it was an excellent trip, but you know, it’s always nice to get home, sleep in your own bed, walk around in your own house, drink recklessly from the tap, flush toilet paper without fear of destroying the plumbing of an entire region,  and shop without awkwardness at your own Publix.

Spoiled!

— 2 —

I have two deadlines over the next four days, but after that, I think I’m going to pull together a separate mini-blog about the trip.  It was that good, and it’s that close and it’s that relatively inexpensive (I couldn’t have done Florida theme parks for a week for what I did Mexico for ten days. If I wanted to do Florida theme parks, that is. Which I don’t. Sorry, not sorry.) I want to have a website out there with all the details on our trip that might just serve the purpose of encouraging folks – individuals, friends, couples and families – to go to Mexico.  Plenty of you do, and I met and saw plenty of Americans every where we traveled, but I just want to do my part to encourage more.

And we’re not done, either.  It won’t happen in the next few weeks or even months, but this trip did not exactly satiate the Maya-Mad One, so I see Palenque and related sites in our future, definitely.  And Costa Rica or bust, Colleen !!!

(We flew in and out of Cancun and spent very little time there, but I’ll say that it held no interest for me.  I found the run of huge resorts on the coast between Tulum and Cancun so weird. Be brave. Go beyond the all-inclusive and cruise ship excursion!)

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Excellent Gran Museo de Mundo Maya in Merida – rich exhibits and quite a bit of interactivity.

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— 3 —

Because it’s interesting, fun and safe. Safe, people.  I – a single woman with two children – drove all around the Yucatan, walked in cities at night, and never felt anything but perfectly safe and comfortable (Except when I was about to run out of gas, that is.) There are parts of Mexico I wouldn’t venture into alone, certainly.   Border areas, other places known for conflict. There are parts of the US I wouldn’t wander about alone, either.  But the Yucatan isn’t one of them, and it’s very accessible to the US, and very educational and culturally rich.

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University of the Yucatan in Merida

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— 4 —

There are, indeed, as you hear, frequent police checkpoints on the roads – mostly at the borders of states and in and out of towns.  I probably encountered fifteen of them.  I always met the law’s eye with a direct look, a smile and a nod,  was glanced at and waved through.

(I also always stuck slavishly to the speed limit. Never, ever went over.)

They were also doing selective breathalyzer tests on the road out of Progreso (beach town) last Saturday but, oddly enough, I was not targeted.

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A soccer team doing some training on the beach in Progreso

— 5 —

I stayed in some great places.   Specific shout-outs to the Pickled Onion B & B and the Cascadas de Merida B & B.  Both were excellent, and the latter, in particular, is a model for a small hotel/Bed and Breakfast.  As an introvert, I may not seem like the natural constituency for the relatively close quarters of a B & B, but honestly, when I am traveling to an unfamiliar place where I don’t speak the language, I value the intimacy of a B & B – I need the assistance and advice that the owner can give, and I also appreciate the opportunity to bounce my observations of the day’s touring off of another adult over a glass of wine.

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By the way….if you’re a watcher of House Hunters International, you’ve heard of Merida.  It’s where I first heard of it and became aware of the amazing way in which those relatively plain facades  can conceal surprising interior spaces.

(Other stays were, in order, and for one night each: Mayaland Bungalows, the Plaza Colonial in Campeche, and the last night, the Marriott Airport Courtyard in Cancun. On points!)

— 6 —

Speaking of pickled onions…I didn’t know they were one of the National Condiments of the Yucatan.  I loved them – I’ll be making them myself soon!

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No pickled onions, but, you know…food.

— 7 —

Oh, and speaking of food – everyone stayed healthy throughout the trip.   We were super careful about the water, of course.  Bottled, purified water the whole way, including during teeth-brushing.  We ate plenty of just normal low-end restaurant, street and market food, and did just fine.

Some of the best food of the trip?  Here.  In Progreso. Three big plates – 1 fish and 2 chicken - small plate appetizers set out the way they do (ceviche, pumpkin seed spread, octopus, pico de gallo and something else, along with fried tortillas), four soft drinks, all for 190 pesos, which is about 14 bucks, and crazy.

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Now to those deadlines…..

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— 1 —

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Had a great most-of-the-week in Chicagoland.  First part pleasure, second part business, which was not unpleasant.  The only negative? You guessed it -

COLD.

The high Sunday was 22.  We got to our hotel – a Residence Inn just north of the river on Dearborn – around 4, stretched our legs and relaxed, finished watching Florida win the SEC title (big surprise) and then…well…the sun was still shining.  So why not?  Out we went.  And honestly, it wasn’t too bad. (This post’s photos are from that day.)

— 2 —

We have been to Chicago many times, before, of course, but the last was, I realized, almost six years ago.  It was the summer before we moved to Birmingham, and I took the little boys and my daughter over for one last fling.

really like Chicago.  I love the architecture and the layout of the city.  I don’t love the cold weather, though.  Oh, I remember the one Christmas we went over there to see all the pretty Big City Christmas Decorations. Brutal.

Living in Florida (as I once did)  means living among Snowbirds, many of whom have left their nice old, solid, vintage homes, and their lives behind up north, in order to live in one of the thousands of manufactured housing units or “villas” that range over the Florida landscape.  I remember thinking, “How could you do that?  How could you leave everything and everyone behind for Florida, which has its charms, but also has horrible traffic, and, if you’re in the interior, oppressive heat and not much of interest to look at besides pink-and-aqua trimmed strip malls?”

Well, after our first winter in Fort Wayne, I said, to Mike, “Yeah, I get it now.  I get how you could live in this for 60 years and then, when you retire and have the chance, leave it all behind without a second thought. I absolutely get it.”  No more window-scraping or sidewalk-shoveling, and never again another depressing early March where everything’s either muddy or still frozen and they’re STILL predicting snow next week…..

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(Really.  I got home this afternoon, immediately set the coat aside for the dry cleaner’s.  Tossed the  worn-out boots in the “donate” pile.  JOYFULLY.)

— 3 —

Since it was, indeed, so cold, this was a museum trip.  The Field and the Art Institute on Monday, and then the Museum of Science and Industry on Tuesday.  The fantastic thing was that because of our science center membership, we didn’t have to pay admission to either the Field or MSI.  How much did we save?  Maybe close to $120?  Yup.  Plus, the Art Institute doesn’t charge admission for children, so score there, too – three major museums for a total of $23 for the three of us. Sweet.

— 4 —

As jaded as I am about “science” museums…yes, MSI impressed me.  I thought the “Science Storms” wings was really fantastic.  What really set it apart from others – even the Exploratorium in San Francisco – was the fact that the hands-on exhibits almost all necessitated more than one step of engagement.   You couldn’t, in other words, just run about slamming buttons.  For anything to happened, you are required to make predictions and form hypotheses.  Very good.

And the U-505?  Amazing.  I don’t remember seeing it on our previous visit.  Perhaps we thought you had to pay to even see the exterior – you don’t, of course – that’s only for the interior tour.  The vessel is enormous  – the largest sub I’ve ever seen – and the story of the engagement, capture and retrieval of the sub is fascinating and extremely well told.

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So, the cynic gives Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry a big thumbs-up.

— 5 —

When we purchased our ticket to the Art Institute, the sweet man behind the counter eyed the boys and said, “The Arms and Armour exhibit is in gallery 236…”

So of course, we went in search of it.

Well…let’s just say that two boys who have been through the insane collection of the same at Les Invalides were sort of….puzzled at the..what…3 suits of armor at the Art Institute?

Oh well, that wasn’t their main interest, anyway.  Michael, who has been taking art classes, found one of the several versions of the  Van Gogh he spent three weeks copying…a big thrill for him…

(Sadly for me…Nighthawks is on loan….)

(12-year old had to photograph this.)

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And…food?  Well, I introduced the boys to Potbelly, and they LOVED it.   The first night, we hit Eataly – I had no idea there was an Eataly in Chicago (I went to the NYC Eataly last summer with Ann) – and that was fun.  Pizza that was surprisingly no more expensive than “artisanal” pizza here in the ‘Ham, and good gelato.  Thanks, Mario!

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— 6 —

We were riding the Red Line somewhere…perhaps down to the Field. Yes, that was it.  On Monday morning. I kept up a constant, lively stream of conversation with the boys so they wouldn’t overhear the young man at the door loudly talking to his companion, a young man who wished his friend, “Save me some p—sy!” as he got off at his stop.

But then everyone shifted around, and there were seats, so we sat down, the three of us in a row.

At this same stop, an older man pushed through the door, lurched down the aisle and stood near us for a while.  He sported a hat that had “JUDGMENT DAY” appliqued in felt around it, and a vest with another word – I don’t remember what.  He carried some signs which I couldn’t read because he held the printed sides together.  He was shabby, and the couple of teeth he still had were gold.

He repeated himself endlessly. Perhaps, if you ride the Red Line, you know him.  I’m guessing he’s a familiar sight.

You all think you’re so important. But you’re spending money on nothing. You’re throwing your money away.  You’re no better than anyone else.  Every family is a royal family.  But you just throw everything away and someday you’ll have to answer for it. You spend your money on nothing. 

The boys squeezed in tight against me, but then they always do.  I never made eye contact with the fellow, until it was our turn to disembark.  I walked past him, our eyes met, I smiled,  and he said, “Your family is a ROYAL family!”

As per usual in that kind of situation, all the boys had to offer as we walked away was a nervous, “That was weird.”  Remembering the most important things I learned from Mike, and remembering my determination to pass it all on, somehow, I shrugged.  Something (or someone) pushed me to keep talking, striding down Michigan Avenue.  “Not really.  That man might have problems, but he wasn’t dangerous.  And everything he said was true.  We do spend money on nothing.  We will have to answer for it.  And God does love us.  Every second, through every person, we can hear God reaching out to us, if we listen.”

— 7 —

And then today.

In O’Hare, in the security line, the TSA agent, for some reason, started talking about the tradition of the St. Joseph’s Table that she’d just enjoyed the previous night – as had we (in a different place, of course!).  She went on and on and on, enthusiastically and joyfully, in front of this group of about twenty….

#evangelizationeverywhere

Oh…..okay…not much In Our Time this week, since trudging through Chicago and its museums was my exercise.  But in case you want to understand the War of 1812…this episode will do the trick for you!

Also….. books? For sale?  If you order on Friday, I can get them off for you, but then no more orders can go out until April 4…

Wait, what?

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Where we’ve been. Not where we’re going

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— 1 —

Another day, another quarry….

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(And probably another today, if the weather holds….)

That was last Sunday.  The 12-year old went on a hike with friends down at Oak Mountain State Park, so the 9-year old and I headed to his Happy Place, Ruffner Mountain.  He loves it, and his brother gets bored with it, so it was good to have a chance to hang out there.

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It’s a great spot, and 15 minutes from my house.

— 2 —

School?   Yes, it happened this week, although there was nothing that notable about it, as I recall.   the 12-year old is just about done with his Pre-Algebra book.  He’s on the counting chapter, and is surprising me both by his aptitude for it and his interest.  Once he finishes it, we’ll probably do a lot of review using material from other Pre-Algebra books, as well as doing Alcumus from the AOPS website and reading in and around other mathy things, like this.

9-year old, in 3D of Beast Academy , is working on estimation.

— 3 —

Books being read include Narnia books, Redwall and The Seven Wonders series (2 published so far.) and, aloud, still Young Fu.   The 12-year old will start To Kill a Mockingbird for his literature/writing study next week.

One science class – on the digestive system – for the 9-year old.  The 12-year old did some science/history by reading this entire issue of Calliope, which is about Marie Curie, and then reporting on it.  Which led to various rabbit holes related to Poland, radiation and the Nobel Prize.

Unfortunately, we are missing Pi Day celebrations tomorrow, because we have something else planned elsewhere…bummer, sort of.  Although what we’re doing (two different things) will be good, too….

— 4 —

Copywork has been mostly copying sections of The Lorica, otherwise known as St. Patrick’s Breastplate.  I just handed them copies, we talked about it, and then they could choose whatever parts of it they wanted to copy for the past few days.

We have continued working through The Mass Explained, and we’re just getting to the Liturgy of the Word.

Random rabbit holes related to vocabulary, both English and Latin, have been pursued.

We knocked off passage 9 in How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare.

What is love? ’tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What’s to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies no plenty;
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.

We’ll go see Taming of the Shrew next weekend at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.

— 5 —

Aside from that, we’re doing mostly Roadschool Prep of one sort or another…

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Hmmmmm……

— 6 —

Listened to the usual slew of excellent In Our Time podcasts.

Simone Weil – a good, fair introduction. 

The Ontological Argument - beginning with Anselm, naturally, but taking through to the present day and other philosophers’ use of it.  Interesting because, once again, it was treated objectively and not dismissed out of hand. (If it were, where would the program be?)

The Borgias – honest, balanced.

Decline and Fall – an entire program on Waugh’s novel.  It was really excellent, and prompted me to re-read the book.  Long overdue.

So, if you listen to any of these programs, I’d suggest the last – it went into a single subject with a great deal of depth, explored by people who appreciate Waugh, and who have slightly different perspectives (one scholar seeing it as rather Catholic, even though it’s pre-conversion, and another saying it was anything but, for example.)

This week’s episode was on the Trinity – phew.  I won’t get to that until Saturday, I expect.

— 7 —

This week, I read Sorrow Builds a Bridge.  I picked this old Image paperback in a Mobile bookstore.  (And I sure didn’t spend $27.00 on it!)  It’s the story of Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, or Mother Alphonse, foundress of the Hawthorne Dominicans, whose apostolate is to the cancer-afflicted poor.  When I started reading it, I thought, “Wait. Is this a novel?”  The writing is creative – perhaps is creative non-fiction? – creating little scenes and conversations that I doubt were ever recorded (although she does clearly weave letters and journal entries into some scenes).  But no, it’s not fiction – it’s a biography, and although the style is a little looser than I’d normally want from a biography, I shrugged and read through it, and I’m glad I did.  I think I should just be constantly reading a life of a saint, all the time.

A couple of random tidbits

  • Rose and George’s only child, Francis (who died as a toddler), was baptized in a Catholic church before his parents were even seriously considering converting.  As Burton relates it, Rose decided she wanted him baptized, and her time living in Rome as a child had convinced her that the Catholic approach to the sacrament was the most meaningful.  So the parents took the child to the nearest Catholic parish and he was baptized.   Worth pondering when we debate current sacramental practices, for history is always more complicated than we expect.
  • Rose – Mother Alphonse – composed a regular newsletter for benefactors of her apostolate.  It was called Christ’s Poor.   Wouldn’t that make a worthy volume for contemporary reading?  A selection of her writings are available in this, but a book of that title focused on those newsletters would be of interest, as well, I’d think. 

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— 1 —

Very busy week, and a rough one, basketball-games-outcome-wise, so last night, I decided we’d book it and be gone today.

After all, as I say to myself all the time, “We’re not homeschooling so that we can stay home.”

— 2 —

So I went down my list.  We’ve done a couple of things, a couple more are planned, and the weather just has not been cooperative regarding the outdoor activities.  I thought, Tuskegee, but then I looked at the website and saw that the Carver museum has been closed for renovation and won’t be reopening until early April.  So we’ll save that.  Montgomery was at the top of the list, but in the end, I couldn’t resonate enough with getting up early enough to make it happen.

So…COLUMBIANA!  SYLACAUGA!

You’re jealous. 

— 3 —

It was a decent, 5-hour triangle of a field trip in which we could brush against George Washington, ice cream, and marble.

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— 4 –

First down to Columbiana (about 40 minutes south) to the Karl C. Harrison Museum of George Washington. 

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It’s an extension of the public library, and quite a well-done, informative and intriguing museum.  The collection is primarily derived from two descendants, one from Alabama, the other from Kentucky:

Founded in 1982 by Karl C. Harrison, a Columbiana banker and philanthropist, the Karl C. Harrison Museum of George Washington has become an important forum for learning about America’s first First Family. Through the foresighted efforts and encouragement of Martha Washington’s granddaughter Eliza Parke Custis, family heirlooms have been lovingly passed down through generations. In the early 1980′s, Shelby County resident Charlotte Smith-Weaver, a sixth generation granddaughter of Martha, decided to share her legacy with the public, providing the basis of the museum.

The Karl C. Harrison Museum of George Washington collection focuses on art and artifacts from the colonial period through 1865. The collection contains paintings, letters, furniture, porcelain, glassware, silver, jewelry, busts and more. Martha Washington’s prayer book printed in New York in 1783, an original 1787 Samuel Vaughn sketch of Mt. Vernon grounds, writing instruments and tools from George Washington’ s survey case and an original tintype depicting Robert E. Lee in his uniform for the last time are just a few collection highlights.

The docent led us around the exhibits and was full of really interesting stories.

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Here’s a link to the photo gallery. 

It’s a little bit off the beaten path – say, if you’re driving down I-65 or 280 it’s about 30 minutes from either highway.  But if you have time  to meander (or if you live in the area) it is most definitely worth a visit.  No charge (a stipulation of the benefactor).  Lovely, unique place.

The docent told me that the Shelby County Museum was also good, but we had to save that for another time because we had a 1:00 appointment….

— 5 —

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I know.  A Friday during Lent.  You’re going to do an ice cream tour?  Yeah, probably bad.  But no one gave up sweets for Lent, and their “free” sample ended up being lunch, so….

Blue Bell was started in Texas, and has two other plants.  There is a small charge for the tour (which is why “free” is in quotation marks), and to be honest, you can enter the area where the shop and ice cream parlor are and see down to the main production floor without paying a dime, and there wasn’t a whole lot more to the tour – they took you back to look down on the room where the milk is pasteurized (big tanks and pipes…) and explained a bit about the process, but really…if you want to be cheap you wouldn’t have to pay.  But then you’d end up buying ice cream anyway, so you might as well…

I do like factory tours (we’ve done Golden Flake here, and the boys have done others in their past school lives).  I had written earlier that area auto manufacturers don’t allow children under 12 on their tours.  A correspondent wrote me to correct that – the Hyundai plant in Montgomery does allow children.  Unfortunately, their tours are booked up through early summer at this point….

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— 6 —

Then to the quarry.

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You may have heard of “Sylacauga Marble.”  It’s rather well-known.  Here’s the story of it, if you would like to know more.  We will be returning in April for Marble Festival events - included, I hope, a guided quarry tour – but this was good for today – an overlook of a now closed quarry, blue-green water shimmering under (finally) bright sunshine, everything slightly dusted, as if with snow.

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— 7 —

Quick reviews of what marble is, of metamorphic stone and so on.  Then, as per usual, climbing…..

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…which actually has a bit of a Lenten aura about it….

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— 1 —

Lent, Lent, Lent.  Boring reminder of Lent resources here – a couple are even free!

Plus don’t forget to check out books I have for sale…not too soon to be thinking about Sacramental Season 2014…and I will be out of town a lot from mid-March through mid-May, so…just sayin’.

— 2 —

A rather chaotic week, school, wise.   There was so much extra stuff going on, it was a challenge to buckle down and focus, even with the little that we do.  But there was Art!

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We did a couple of exercises on one-point perspective.  You can find them here and here.

— 3 —

The 9-year old finished this, which he’s been working on in his art class.  (A copy of this) It took three sessions – one of drawing and two of painting.  The teacher helped him draw the bed, and I’m sure advised him on his color mixing (that’s what she’s there for after all!), but other than that, it’s all his.  I like it, but I’m more astonished that he had the patience to sit for an hour at a time carefully mixing colors and painting…..

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— 4 —

One of the extras was a special science center class on dissection.  The 9-year old’s conflicted with basketball practice, so I let him choose which he would attend and since his class would be dissecting a flower and an owl pellet – both of which he has done before – he voted for basketball.  The 12-year old did an earthworm and a frog, and as per our tradition, taught us about it the next day.

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I do think that we’ll tackle a cow’s eye at home at some point. I may have written about this before, but it’s an experience I remember very clearly from 5th grade – the inky vitreous humor and the lens that surprised us by being, well, a lens, whole, coherent and clear.

— 5 —

Back in the podcast business this week.  I finally got a new mp3 player and once again, I’ve cunningly associated exercise with listening to BBC Radio 4 podcasts in my subconscious, thereby making exercise something I actually look forward to.  Since my last burst of energy a couple of years ago, they have put all of the fantastic In Our Time online, available for downloading.  This should take me through a few years.  This week, I listened to:

Social Darwinism  (Very balanced, did not exculpate Darwin himself, as is often done)

Battle of Tours  (Rather mythbusting, and a subject I would like to explore a little further, as the scholars on the program unanimously declared the Battle of Tours to be No Big Deal  - any presumed impact being something created by later historians, beginning with Gibbon. Their argument was that the incursion was essentially a booty-seeking action – that this was how the Muslims supported their holdings in Europe at that point, before they had developed a system of taxation and so on. That it  - there was no greater imperial, territory-aggrandizing purpose. They say. But as I pondered this later I thought – well, what they didn’t really consider was the question of what would have happened if, indeed, the Muslims had won the Battle of Tours – are they saying that they would have simply looted and returned across the Pyrenees to Iberia?  Hard to believe.)

The Medici

The Heart

Carbon

Negative Numbers

The newest episode, aired today, was on The Eye.   I’ll listen to that tomorrow. If you enjoy the programs, subscribe to Melvin Bragg’s newsletter which is always informative and amusing as well. 

— 6 —

I also like The Food Programme, Making History and several others.  One of my favorite BBC radio programs, The Early Music Show, isn’t available to listen to as a podcast, only on demand, I suppose because of rights issues.

Speaking of The Food Programme, I was telling the boys that from one of the shows I’d listened to, I’d learned how differently the British pronounce “yogurt” – it’s more, “yaw-gurt.”  My 9-year old didn’t say anything and then looked at me.  “You listened to a whole show about how “yogurt” is pronounced?”

Er, well, not exactly.  Not really.  But to his ears, probably about as exciting.

(Edited to add – this blog post points out, via a Catherine Tate sketch, that pronouncing it with a long “o” is a part of British pronunciation – if you’re posh, apparently.

I was first introduced to Aga Saga woman by my daughter, who said “She reminds me of you!”

Hmmm…….

— 7 —

We finally watched the Nova special on the dome of the Florence Duomo – I highly recommend it.  Quite interesting discussion of solving the mystery of how this enormous edifice – the largest brick and mortar dome  in the world – was conceived and designed by Brunelleschi, a goldsmith.   Among various experts, the program features Fr. Timothy Verdon, the American priest and art historian who is a Canon of the Cathedral. 

If you can get your hands on the February issue of National Geographic, it features an article on the dome, as well as a nice foldout poster.

Many dome-related rabbit holes were pursued as a result.

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— 1 —

"amy welborn"

Casa Maria Convent.

We attend Mass there – not as often as I would like, but every six weeks or so. More often in the near future, as the boys are going to be trained to serve there.   The apostolate is retreats, which means that your odds of hearing a substantive homily at Sunday Mass are pretty high.  Plus, there is the music, which is mostly chant and polyphany, with some hymns thrown in, and it’s simple, not overbearing or self-aggrandizing.

— 2 —

Engineering Day at McWane was chaotic (many schools in attendance – which is the point!) but illuminating.  Various engineering disciplines had table and demonstrations scattered throughout the museum, so the boys got a good taste of the variety, from materials engineering to nuclear to electrical and more.

— 3 —

House of Cardis really ridiculously awful.  I’ve watched through episode five of this season, I think, and I’m done.  It’s not just the pro-life terrorist angle, which is stupid but expected, and not just the amorality of the characters, but it’s the amorality of the characters in an amoral framework. Do you know what happens when you watch amoral sociopaths operate in a narrative framework with no moral tension?

— 4 —

My turn to be boring.  Reminding you that Lent is coming, and here’s some pertinent stuff:

  • Reconciled to Goda daily devotional from Creative Communications for the parish.  You can buy it individually, in bulk for the parish our your group, or get a digital version.

Also, if you missed my post on the fantastic app, The Mass Explained, go here. 

— 5 —

We’re presently on a road trip and listened to this part of the way down.  It’s “silly,” as the 9-year old says, but entertaining enough.

— 6 —

Speaking of reading, we finished Call of the Wild, which I really enjoyed (had never read it before), and have moved to this. 

youngfu

The “David” in the inscription is my late father. I had never read this before – or if I had, I’ve forgotten it.  I have to say that for a book written in the bad old days of purported cultural insensitivity and paternalism…it’s very culturally sensitive and non-paternalistic.

The first day, we only got a few pages in since rabbit holes were immediately encountered: Chinese geography and foot-binding.

Speaking of China, you do read Jen Ambrose, don’t you?

— 7 —

Yes, a little-bitty road trip, squeezed in between basketball games and other obligations.  Perhaps you’ll see a bit of it on Instagram on Friday….

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— 1 —

Such excitement at 9 am Thursday morning!

"amy welborn"

— 2 —

….but then it was noon.

"amy welborn"

Oh.

— 3 —

Don’t worry.  The poor oppressed homeschooled boys (aka “Do we get a snow day?”) had plenty of time to enjoy it.

"amy welborn"

— 4 —

Of course, soup and potato rolls must be made.

"amy welborn"

— 5 —

This is one of those weeks that’s been a bit of a blur, school wise.  Maybe it was the owl pellets that took it out of me.  I don’t know.  I mean, things happened and there was learning, I guess, but I’m sort of fuzzy about the content at the moment.  Well, I can say that Joseph finished this mini course on the atom – it was very good and led to many, many rabbit holes. 

(I’ll repeat that some of our favorite element-related rabbit holes are the videos from the University of Nottingham.)

— 6 —

Aside from the pellets, a couple of small demonstrations were attempted.  Oh, we have crystals growing all over the house, and they’re coming along nicely.  But we also took a few minutes to perform this demonstration from what is probably going to be one of my new favorite rabbit holes science websites – the Happy Scientist.  This one was great and worked perfectly, and concerned one of my favorite topics to tediously drone on about discuss: that air is not “nothing.”  In fact, it’s the opposite, which leads to reflections on what can be seen and what can’t be seen, and the riot that is reality that is going on all around us, whether we notice it or not.

(I can’t seem to embed the videos from that site – no matter. Head over that watch a few.  I really like his approach.)

Call of the Wild is almost finished.  We finally watched The Gold Rush this evening.  I had never seen it, and found it delightful and fascinating – and, like a true classic, rather contemporary in feel, even though it was silent and 90 years old.  The DVD had two version – the original, with piano accompaniment, and a 1942 version that had been released in theater with Chaplin narrating – we had the latter in for two minutes, and I found it unwatchable.

More about the making of the film here – of particular interest to me was the recreation of the  trek up the Chilkoot Pass:

For two weeks the unit shot on location at Truckee in the snow country of the Sierra Nevada. Here Chaplin faithfully recreated the historic image of the prospectors struggling up the Chilkoot Pass. Six hundred extras, many drawn from the vagrants and derelicts of Sacramento, were brought by train, to clamber up the 2300-feet pass dug through the mountain snow.

There should have been a science center class for the 12 year old this week, but it was cancelled because of the weather, darn it.  Those are always good.  At least the 9-year old’s art class finally met again after a three-week break (the weather always seemed to go to hell – or people thought it was going to – on Thursdays).  I think next week, in addition to other things, we’re going to watch the Nova program on the Florence duomo  - I recorded it – and this month’s National Geographic has a very conveniently timed article on the same.

Oh, there was some art started.  This project.  They’ll finish tomorrow.

"amy welborn"

— 7 —

Busy weekend. Two basketball games; piano festival performance, Pinewood Derby. Mass. Gators-Kentucky basketball.

Reminders:

Books for sale here.

And a free download of a youth stations of the cross here. 

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— 1 —

Reminder: Lent is coming.  Some resources here. 

— 2 —

Slow week.  All I have to offer is some random teaching tools of the week and some videos.

Dogs Teaching Chemistry

— 3 —

 Tom Lehrer’s “Elements Song”

And for Potterheads? Daniel Radcliffe singing it - he says it’s one of his party tricks.  Joseph said, “He’s casting a new spell!”

— 4 —

Today’s copywork:

"amy welborn"

— 5 —

My 9 year old ended up eating dinner at a neighbor’s tonight.  He came back and I asked him what he had. He waved his hands around and said, “Vegetable – some vegetable dish. I can’t remember what it’s called.  Salanya?”

What?

“You make it sometimes. Salanya.”

I swear, I have never made Salanya in my life.  I asked him – what did it look like? Did he eat it with a fork or a spoon? Did it have pasta in it? Was it on a plate or in a bowl? By that time he was so distracted by something else, he couldn’t be bothered, so I gave up.  I went out for a bit, came back, and he greeted me:

“I remembered what it is.”

(Have you guessed?) 

“Lasagna!”

Of course….

— 6 —

Sticking with the video theme. Check out the monthly report of the St. Bryce Foundation.

 

Colleen’s blog.

St. Bryce Foundation website.

— 7 —

And this? Getting started in my town? Pretty awesome. 

 

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For some reason, here it is midnight, and I have a loaf of some kind of chocolate bread thing in the oven, and some bread dough rising on the counter.

What?

Well, the chocolate bread thing is from a high-end mix that was a Christmas gift. I had completely forgotten about it until I was digging in the the cupboards looking for peanut butter (no luck, and darn if I neglected to get some tonight on my milk run to the grocery store), so I decided to make it.  And the bread dough is just the artisan bread in five minutes  that’s supposed to provide enough dough for a week’s worth of loaves.  Hahaha.

— 2 —

It’s cold, but you know what? It’s winter.  A headline to the effect of “no letup in winter weather” crossed my screen earlier.  All I could think was that: It’s winter. January. This is not. News. 

We do have disappointment in these parts, however, that there’s been no serious snow yet.   We still have a couple of weeks. The first year we were here, there was considerable (an inch or two) snow on, I think the first weekend of February. So they might get their satisfaction yet.

— 3 —

Some bloggers have already mentioned it, but it bears repeating: Go check out the work of Daniel Mitsui.  He is a terrifically talented and (I believe) important artist whose family has experienced great difficulties this year. We own his wonderful St. Michael print, one of many he has done in a classical Japanese style.  For more on the situation and how to purchase any one of his wonderful pieces, go here.

"amy welborn"

St. Michael in situ.

His blog, The Lion and the Cardinal has understandably not been updated much of late, but if you have never visited, do. It’s a treasure trove of fascinating information about all manner of Catholic art and culture.

— 4 —

A rather busy week.  A visit to the Civil Rights Institute, a tour of an interesting medical facility, one science center class, one zoo class, four basketball practices, a scout meeting.

One of the things the boys do is to teach the rest of us whatever they learned at their special class.  Here’s someone preparing his lesson on molecules and polymers.

"amy welborn"

This was supposed to be a session exploring color theory, but this was really all that happened.

"amy welborn"

— 5 —

I randomly pulled up a short Frost poem for reading, discussion and copywork today. This one.

After they read it, I asked them what it was about.  Their immediate response was: “The bird shook snow on him and so it ruined his day.”

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Um no…let’s try that again.

— 6 —

For religion, we tend to go mostly with what the liturgical year is teaching us through the feasts and seasons and daily Mass readings and Liturgy of the Hours.  The First Readings of Daily Mass have been 1 Samuel of late, which makes me glad because 1 Samuel is probably my favorite Old Testament book. I have always thought that anyone who is really convinced that this stuff is just all fabricated should take a gander at 1 Samuel. A nation that would make up stories of its foundational monarchy that featured madness, jealousy, religious infidelity, deep moral flaws and ambiguities…would not have done a very good job.

— 7 —

It’s the feast of St. Francis de Sales.  

I say that devotion must be practised in different ways by the nobleman and by the working man, by the servant and by the prince, by the widow, by the unmarried girl and by the married woman. But even this distinction is not sufficient; for the practice of devotion must be adapted to the strength, to the occupation and to the duties of each one in particular.
  Tell me, please, my Philothea, whether it is proper for a bishop to want to lead a solitary life like a Carthusian; or for married people to be no more concerned than a Capuchin about increasing their income; or for a working man to spend his whole day in church like a religious; or on the other hand for a religious to be constantly exposed like a bishop to all the events and circumstances that bear on the needs of our neighbour. Is not this sort of devotion ridiculous, unorganised and intolerable? Yet this absurd error occurs very frequently, but in no way does true devotion, my Philothea, destroy anything at all. On the contrary, it perfects and fulfils all things. In fact if it ever works against, or is inimical to, anyone’s legitimate station and calling, then it is very definitely false devotion….
  Therefore, in whatever situations we happen to be, we can and we must aspire to the life of perfection.
(There are many other sources for public domain versions as well – very easy to find.)

The life of St Francis de Sales was a relatively short life but was lived with great intensity. The figure of this Saint radiates an impression of rare fullness, demonstrated in the serenity of his intellectual research, but also in the riches of his affection and the “sweetness” of his teachings, which had an important influence on the Christian conscience.

He embodied the different meanings of the word “humanity” which this term can assume today, as it could in the past: culture and courtesy, freedom and tenderness, nobility and solidarity. His appearance reflected something of the majesty of the landscape in which he lived and preserved its simplicity and naturalness. Moreover the words of the past and the images he used resonate unexpectedly in the ears of men and women today, as a native and familiar language.

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