Wednesday, December 17, 2014

{From My Commonplace}

"It did not seem to promise well for getting into the sky, but Diamond had learned to look through the look of things.  The voice must have meant that he was to go down this stair; and down this stair Diamond went, without waiting to think more about it."

from George MacDonald's At the Back of the North Wind

Monday, December 15, 2014

{This and That}

This past Saturday was St. Lucy's feast, which we usually celebrate with a special teatime and some sweets--like this photo from last year...

...and from the year before...

I wish I had a lovely picture to share this time around, but St. Lucy's day fell on an Eat-Free-at-Ikea Saturday, so that's where we spent our morning.

But then I was thinking: St. Lucy's Day is, after all, a Swedish tradition.  And they sell cinnamon rolls.  I'm thinking our Ikea outing was actually liturgically appropriate!

Okay, so that might be a stretch.  But I did pick up some new frames for a special school-related project I hope to share here soon.  And we fed our entire family of nine for free, so there's that!

Father Peter 1943 Catholic Extension Cutouts Booklet


I came across these darling Father Peter Cut-Outs (thanks to Auntie Leila at LMLD) and immediately printed out a set for my boys for Christmas.  My oldest son just started serving Mass a few months ago, and my sweet 4yo is counting down the days until he can join him on the altar, so I know they will flip over these.


I really enjoyed Kim's thoughts on Pressing Matters.  I think we could make the same case for each of the choices we make regarding the use of our time.  I think we who educate in the liberal arts and we who home-make know all too well that just because some people "don't have time" for a task doesn't mean that task isn't worth doing.  If you're anything like me, you spend much of your day doing things other people don't have time for. ;)


You may have heard about the crazy weather we had last week here in California.  In our area, the forecast looked much worse than the weather actually was, luckily--it was dark and rainy for a couple days, but that's about it.

I have to say, though, that we encountered a literary mirror on Thursday when we sat down to read this week's section from Kingsley's Heroes:
"Then the heroes rowed away to the eastward, to reach Hellas, their beloved land; but a storm came down upon them, and swept them far away toward the south. And they rowed till they were spent with struggling, through the darkness and the blinding rain, but where they were they could not tell, and they gave up all hope of life."
As I read the words, I kid you not, the sky darkened and the rain came pouring down.

Then an hour later, we sat down to draw and listen to another chapter from Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter.  We're in that middle stretch of the book when every time the train is about to come through, another storm rolls in and their hope for coal or food is set back a few more days until the tracks can be re-cleared.

Just before Christmas, Pa tells them that neighbor Gilbert has gone to Preston to get the mail.  They're all cheery at the prospect of letters and at the newly-cleared skies, but then Pa comes in from loading hay to eat:
"At noon, while they sat at the table, the light darkened and the wind began to howl.  'Here she comes!'  Pa said.  "I hope Gilbert made it safe to Preston."
Cherry Jones' tone throughout this book has been pitch perfect, and the way she reads this last line is no exception.  We all just deflated as we listened.  Pa and Ma, defeated at the prospect of another storm, yet trying to remain optimistic because--well, what other option is there?  And they know their girls are watching, of course.

This week's stormy weather was about as close as my kids have come and will come to a blizzard any time soon, and the juxtaposition has been sobering.


The Golden Nights are one of my favorite liturgical observances of the Church year--and they begin this week!  I have already linked to Jenn's O Antiphon Companion, but I'll share again in case you missed it.  I'm excited to pull it out again for this year's devotions.  


Happy Monday, friends!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Keeping Sacred Time with Christina Rossetti :: Gaudete Sunday

This year I have been sharing Christina Rossetti's liturgical poetry with my children, and I'd like to share some of our favorite selections with you too.  You can read more of this series here, and more of Rossetti's poetry for Advent and Christmas here.  Wishing you a blessed Advent!

BEHOLD, the Bridegroom cometh: go ye out
With lighted lamps and garlands round about
To meet Him in a rapture with a shout.

It may be at the midnight, black as pitch,
Earth shall cast up her poor, cast up her rich.

It may be at the crowing of the cock
Earth shall upheave her depth, uproot her rock.

For lo, the Bridegroom fetcheth home the Bride:
His Hands are Hands she knows, she knows His Side.

Like pure Rebekah at the appointed place,
Veiled, she unveils her face to meet His Face.

Like great Queen Esther in her triumphing,
She triumphs in the Presence of her King.

His Eyes are as a Dove's, and she's Dove-eyed;
He knows His lovely mirror, sister, Bride.

He speaks with Dove-voice of exceeding love,
And she with love-voice of an answering Dove.

Behold, the Bridegroom cometh: go we out
With lamps ablaze and garlands round about
To meet Him in a rapture with a shout.

Before 1886

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Return to the Argonauts

Howard Davie illustration for The Heroes by Charles Kingsley depicting Tiphys the cunning helmsman stood silent, clenching his teeth, till he saw a heron come flying mast-high toward the rocks, and hover awhile before them, as if looking for a passage through. Then he cried, 'Hera has sent us a pilot; let us follow the cunning bird.

Last year, we read Hawthorne's Greek myths, A Wonder Book and Tanglewood Tales.  Although they are scheduled as Year 2 free reads, I decided to stretch the two books over the course of the school year, a bit per week, so that we could savor them.  And savor them we did.

This year, Kingsley's Heroes is scheduled for Year 3, and in that book, we have been revisiting some of the myths we first encountered in Hawthorne's volumes.  Our reading for this week has us at the climax of the Argonauts' dangerous voyage.

I was struck last year by a particular moment in Jason's journey--the setting sail of the Argo.  Hawthorne's telling was so vivid and poetic.  I was surprised to find myself similarly struck with Kingsley's version.  You would think that the story would get dull when heard twice, but far from it: one can appreciate the craftsmanship of the writer all the more hearing them side by side.  The tales remain fresh and exciting in the adept hands of each author.

From Hawthorne's Tanglewood Tales:
Immediately the fifty heroes got on board, and seizing their oars, held them perpendicularly in the air, while Orpheus (who liked such a task far better than rowing) swept his fingers across the harp.  At the first ringing note of the music, they felt the vessel stir.  Orpheus thrummed away briskly, and the galley slid at once into the sea, dipping her prow so deeply that the figure-head drank the wave with its marvellous lips, and rose again as buoyant as a swan.  The rowers plied their fifty oars; the white foam boiled up before the prow; the water gurgled and bubbled in their wake; while Orpheus continued to play so lively a strain of music, that the vessel seemed to dance over the billows by way of keeping time to it.  Thus triumphantly did the Argo sail out of the amidst the huzzas and good wishes of everybody except the wicked old Pelias, who stood on the promontory, scowling at her, and wishing that he could blow out of his lungs the tempest of wrath that was in his heart, and so sink the galley with all on board.
From Kingsley's Heroes:
And at last the ship was finished, and they tried to launch her down the beach; but she was too heavy for them to move her, and her keel sank deep into the sand.  Then all the heroes looked at each other blushing; but Jason spoke, and said, ‘Let us ask the magic bough; perhaps it can help us in our need.’
Then a voice came from the bough, and Jason heard the words it said, and bade Orpheus play upon the harp, while the heroes waited round, holding the pine-trunk rollers, to help her toward the sea.Then Orpheus took his harp, and began his magic song—‘How sweet it is to ride upon the surges, and to leap from wave to wave, while the wind sings cheerful in the cordage, and the oars flash fast among the foam!  How sweet it is to roam across the ocean, and see new towns and wondrous lands, and to come home laden with treasure, and to win undying fame!’
And the good ship Argo heard him, and longed to be away and out at sea; till she stirred in every timber, and heaved from stem to stern, and leapt up from the sand upon the rollers, and plunged onward like a gallant horse; and the heroes fed her path with pine-trunks, till she rushed into the whispering sea.
Then they stored her well with food and water, and pulled the ladder up on board, and settled themselves each man to his oar, and kept time to Orpheus’ harp; and away across the bay they rowed southward, while the people lined the cliffs; and the women wept, while the men shouted, at the starting of that gallant crew.
This is why I love educating my children using Charlotte Mason's "living books," full of real ideas and literary language.  The poetry of the writing, even in these elementary years, feeds my mind just as much as it feeds theirs.  I am not the teacher here, in these moments--I am a fellow student, sitting at the feet of literary masters, learning and loving alongside my children.

Monday, December 8, 2014

{This and That}

Today is the feast of the Immaculate Conception, our patronal feast here in the United States!  I created a prayer card of the Litany to the Blessed Virgin Mary, also called the Litany of Loreto.  Feel free to print and use in your homes!


Some favorite e-reading from the past couple weeks --

Is comparison the thief of your joy?  There are many people who do many things much better than I do or could--and I'm fine with that.  Because I know I'm doing the best that I can with what I have.  I can't say it any better than bearing does--do go and read.

And another good one: Let's Give Our Kids a Sense of the Sacred.  THIS is why we go to the Traditional Latin Mass.


We also celebrated St. Nicholas' feast day over the weekend.  We always do the traditional oranges, candy canes, and chocolate coins...and a book for each child, of course!  (I'll share a peek of the gifted books soon--I need to pry them from my kids' hands first!)

And St. Lucy's Day is coming up this Saturday!  We celebrate with tea and a treat, and a few books, including Hannah's Christmas.  We don't own our own copy, so we listen to this free audio-reading by the author, Melissa Wiley (a fellow Catholic homeschooler and long-time children's writer).


We started Crossbows and Crucifixes a few weeks ago, and my kids are riveted.  If you are looking for a supplement written from the perspective of the Catholics in Elizabethan England for Year 3, this book would fit in very nicely.  (Thanks again for the recommendation, Amber.)


Are you looking for some giftable crafts for your kids to make these next couple weeks?  We're working on two this year.  (Family and IRL friends, avert your eyes if you want to keep it a surprise!)

Fold a Fir Tree would be perfect for those of your doing paper sloyd this term for handwork--or those that aren't!  They were just easy enough that my two 8yos could make them with very little help from me.  I walked them through the process once, and then they went through it a few more times on their own, only needing me to make the snips for the branches (it requires cutting through many layers of construction paper).

And on the docket for this week: these pine cone owls for their friends.  Definitely more craft than handicraft (if you know what I mean), but they are cute, aren't they?


So now it's your turn: do tell me about your Christmas crafting plans!  I can't share any more of ours here just yet (wouldn't want to give away all our surprises!) but I can't wait to show you after gifts have been given.  What are you sewing/folding/felting/drawing/painting/whittling/hand-making?  I'd love to know.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Keeping Sacred Time with Christina Rossetti :: Second Sunday of Advent

This year I have been sharing Christina Rossetti's liturgical poetry with my children, and I'd like to share some of our favorite selections with you too.  You can read more of this series here, and more of Rossetti's poetry for Advent and Christmas here.  Wishing you a blessed Advent!

This Advent moon shines cold and clear,
These Advent nights are long;
Our lamps have burned year after year
And still their flame is strong.
'Watchman, what of the night?' we cry,
Heart-sick with hope deferred:
'No speaking signs are in the sky,'
Is still the watchman's word.

The Porter watches at the gate,
The servants watch within;
The watch is long betimes and late,
The prize is slow to win.
'Watchman, what of the night?' But still
His answer sounds the same:
'No daybreak tops the utmost hill,
Nor pale our lamps of flame.'

One to another hear them speak
The patient virgins wise:
'Surely He is not far to seek' –
'All night we watch and rise.'
'The days are evil looking back,
The coming days are dim;
Yet count we not His promise slack,
But watch and wait for Him.'

One with another, soul with soul,
They kindle fire from fire:
'Friends watch us who have touched the goal.'
'They urge us, come up higher.'
'With them shall rest our waysore feet,
With them is built our home,
With Christ.' – 'They sweet, but He most sweet,
Sweeter than honeycomb.'

There no more parting, no more pain,
The distant ones brought near,
The lost so long are found again,
Long lost but longer dear:
Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard,
Nor heart conceived that rest,
With them our good things long deferred,
With Jesus Christ our Best.

We weep because the night is long,
We laugh for day shall rise,
We sing a slow contented song
And knock at Paradise.
Weeping we hold Him fast Who wept
For us, we hold Him fast;
And will not let Him go except
He bless us first or last.

Weeping we hold Him fast to-night;
We will not let Him go
Till daybreak smite our wearied sight
And summer smite the snow:
Then figs shall bud, and dove with dove
Shall coo the livelong day;
Then He shall say, 'Arise, My love,
My fair one, come away.'

2 May 1858

Friday, December 5, 2014

Nature Study Outing :: Metamorphosis at the Pond

Well, it has been pouring for a week here in "sunny California," so we've been staying dry indoors.  But I'm finally getting a chance to share an outing we went on a couple weeks ago...

We spent another tree-climbing, water-skimming, kingfisher-watching, leaf-collecting morning at the pond.  

The kids loved mucking about in the puddles and looking for treasures.

And Gianna spotted a new wild animal.

Oh wait, I think we've seen that one before. :)

But really, this latest nature study outing ended up having an unexpected but intriguing focus: mosquitos!

 The kids and their friends ended up catching quite a few tiny creatures that we quickly identified as mosquito larvae.  Once we found out what they were, the "wrigglers," as they are often called, came home with us in a jar to observe over the next few days.

When we got home, we counted five larvae and two pupae, or "tumblers."  We also apparently had some eggs in there as well, because soon another larva--tiny this time--appeared.  The larvae are very distinct looking.  Their resting position is upside down, where their breathing tube hovers along the water's surface and their long body hangs below.  The pupae also rest along the surface, with a large "head" and curled body below.  Eventually, the skin splits open and the winged mosquito emerges.  He rests on the discarded skin for a while to dry his wings, and then he's off!  

We have been able to watch several go through the full metamorphosis.  Unfortunately, we weren't able to catch any of them in the act of changing forms.  We were able to watch the butterflies in their final molt; it would have been interesting to see the same for the mosquitoes.

Either way, our tiny discovery (literally) yielded big excitement and interest around our home!