Tuesday, September 30, 2008
There's a poll over at No Question Left Behind to help the team decide on a patron saint. Problem is that the voting is a dead heat right now and there is no clear winner in sight. Help us decide on a patron and go vote today (check the sidebar). Voting is open until All Saints Day so you have time to tell all your friends, family, and neighbors to vote too. Post it on your blogs, your Facebook, your favorite email list. Don't let the saints down.
Thank you At Home Science for bringing it to my attention.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Saturday, September 27, 2008
"Dear God please bless everyone in the whole entire world. Specially help the bad guys so they turn good. Bless everyone in the whole entire universe and everyone in space and all the spacemen and all the aliens floating in space and living on other planets. And bless Jesus and all the angels floating in heaven and my whole entire family. Amen."
Friday, September 26, 2008
According to the boiler repairman who was at my house today, President Bush suggested the recent bailout plan in order to give the economy the one last push it needs to collapse. Then, when chaos breaks out, rioting in the streets, looting, and the such, Bush will declare military rule, refuse to step down, and place himself in the position of dictator. This is the most interesting conspiracy theory from the boiler man in a while.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
My teen daughters: "Dad, come help us put up the tree stand."
My vegetarian husband: "I'm not helping you kill Bambi."
Teen Daughter One: "We don't want to kill Bambi."
Teen Daughter Two: "No, we want to kill his dad."
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Monday, September 22, 2008
Have you heard of the Homeschool Buyers Co-op. It's really cool. Much like schools pool resources in order to gain discounts on texts, services, and supplies, Homeschool Buyers Co-op pools together homeschoolers from all over the country to increase our purchasing power.
Their current deal on microscopes is a perfect example. If you buy a microscope through the co-op you can get up to a 40% discount. The only criteria is that at least 10 other homeschoolers sign up for the deal. That shouldn't be too hard as the co-op has thousands of members.
Even if you're not in the market for a microscope, check out the Homeschool Buyers Co-op. If you sign up, you'll get a weekly email listing the current deals. I've saved a bundle on curriculum and software thanks to those emails.
If you are in the market for a microscope, here's a webpage to help you discern on the best one for your homeschool: Buyers Guide from Great Scopes. And a brief note from my friend MacBeth Derham:
On the microscope front, remind your readers to check for glass optics. Plastic optics, no matter how inexpensive, are going to give poor results. Also, beware of any scope that offers better than 1000x power. It's physically impossible. While you can get a bigger image, the magnification is empty, providing no more resolution (clarity) than 1000x. The laws of physics matter! Also many of the scopes available today are made in China, unless you are willing to pay big bucks.
I'm not sure if the lenses of the co-op microscopes are glass or plastic. I'm waiting to hear back from the manufacturer.
Addendum: I heard back from Bolden
All of the microscopes have real optical glass lenses and are imported from China.
Premiere and My First Lab™ are owned and distributed by C & A Scientific Co., Inc. 7241 Gabe
Court Manassas, VA 20109-2434 USA
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Interestingly, some are accusing Mrs. Palin of wearing fake glasses to dump her beauty queen image. Geez.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
I'm going to have the teens vote on their patron saint, but I'd like to hear your opinions too. St. Raphael or St. Augustine? Or someone completely different?
If you're anywhere near Omaha, mark your calendar for June 26 and 27, 2009. I'll be visiting the Catholic homeschooling curriculum fair there. I'm really looking forward to it. I'll probably be giving my God's Wildflowers talk and Relax You Can Do It talks. No other details yet, but I'll make sure to keep you up to date as the date gets closer.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Ten years ago, my friend Linda's dad, Tom, passed away. Tom suffered from mental illness most of his adult life. As with any illness, physical or mental, Tom suffered. His wife and children suffered. Yet, as we know as Catholics, goodness can come suffering. His children grew up to be loving, caring, and devoutly faithful individuals. In good part because of his illness and because of their mother's devotion.
Linda's mom was a saint who treated her husband with nothing less than love and respect even though it would've been so easy to complain and seek pity. She stuck with him for decades even though it would have been so easy to pick up and leave. Her life was a testament to selfless marital love and we can all learn from it.
Linda's sister Lisa shares on her blog, Faithfulness, her eulogy from Tom's funeral. Go and read it.
Hat tip: Mark Shea
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
So what are you planning for your celebration of this great holiday? The parades, the parties, the opportunities are endless.
Of course, being homeschoolers, we'll have to plan a thematic unit around the day. We'll go to the library and check out age-appropriate books and movies on the subject. We'll make diorama of pirates making their captive walk the plank. And perhaps lapbooks of thieving pirates and their booty. We can even visit Wikipedia and write a report.
Or, maybe we'll just read Treasure Island and watch Peter Pan. Well that and practice talking like pirates.
Shiver me timbers!
Monday, September 15, 2008
A week later a package arrived from Terri, with my pajamas. Also included was the following letter:
Dear Ms. Wittmann,
We are pleased to inform you that your book has been chosen as the winner of the first annual Pajama Prize!
This highly coveted award is given to the author of a helpful Catholic homeschooling book. Why Pajama Prize? Because you are helping women to homeschool, you are allowing them (and their children) to remain in their pajamas as long as they so choose!
Please accept this pair of (freshly laundered) pajamas as your prize.
Congratulations on winning this highly coveted award.
Pajama Prize Award Committee
Terri says that as the first recipient I can pass on the Pajama Prize. All you have to do to be eligible is be an author of a helpful homeschooling book, spend the night at my house, and leave behind your pajamas. So easy -- enter today!
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Saturday, September 13, 2008
It was worth wait for chores to be finished. The kids loved them! They are so beautiful and the craftsmanship of the sewing is very good. If my friends didn't already know that I am a domestic nightmare, it would be fun to pass the costumes off as my own creations. Instead, I'll let everyone know that they can get them too from Our Coats of Many Colors. These are costumes that can be passed on from child to child and then grandchildren.
Friday, September 12, 2008
One thing that you need to check out is her monthly theme plans. They are very cool and will give you loads of ideas for putting a little umpf, and joy, into your homeschool. What Dawn has done is come up with lists (and you know how much I love lists!) for each month of the year. She gives you ideas for books, food, nature studies, crafts, Faith, and so much more that are related to that month. It's not too late to check out a few ideas for September.
Gosh, just put By Sun and Candlelight onto your Google Reader so you remember to give it a read each day.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
They've only lived in Texas a very short time but have fortunately made friends who are helping them prepare. The state is evacuating just 20 miles south of Peg's home. Peg, her husband, and the kids will be riding it out. They're saying they could be without electricity and water for 21 days!
Please remember all those affected by the hurricanes in prayer. Thank you.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Note, the videos need to be provided by the artists themselves and not amateur recordings from an audience member's Flip.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Finally! Announcing the call for poetry submissions for the premier issue of Signs and Wonders: The Young Catholics' Poetry Journal.
As a teacher, a Catholic, and a poet, I have decided to launch a small poetry journal for Catholic students. The idea is to give young people of different ages a chance to read the work of other young people who share their same values and a chance to have their own work published.
The poetry will be selected for publication according to age categories to provide for differences in experience and ability. Tentative groups will be: 5-6, 7-8, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14, and 15-16. Some work will be selected from each group, as the submissions allow.
As Gerard Manley Hopkins expressed it, "The world is charged with the grandeur of God." That idea captures the spirit behind the poetry journal and is reflected in the journal's name. Our talented young writers should be looking for the many ways-large and small-that the world around us gives glimpses of grace.
The journal will be published monthly with an annual subscription rate of $25 (payable by check).
The subscription costs are meant to cover a portion of the costs for production, mailing, etc. Any additional donations offered are more than welcome in order to help develop and grow the journal (free copies to selected authors, adding a website, bringing in guest editors, sponsored workshops, and so on). Please note: the editor is working for free; so the donations aren't for him.
1st Submission Deadline:
In order to be eligible for the first issue, poems must be received by Friday, September 26.
-- Poetry should be free verse form (not rhymed, not formally metered, etc.).
-- There is a limit of up to 20 lines per poem, and you may submit up to three poems.
-- The author's name and age should be included on each page.
-- Use regular mail and include a self-addressed, stamped envelope to receive a reply.
-- Logically enough, the poems should fit in with the spirit of the journal mentioned above.
-- The author will retain copyrights to his/her work, while Signs & Wonders will have first publication rights as well as use of the poems for promotion / advertisement of the journal (and possible posting to the journal's future website).
I look forward to seeing our children's best work! In the meantime, please feel free to ask if there are any questions.
Erik Richardson, Editor
Signs and Wonders
Sunday, September 07, 2008
My sister-in-law Sue with Princess Rose.
I think my father-in-law may have been having too much fun whipping the tubers around corners.
Rob and I got on the tube too, worried Super Boy would be afraid. How wrong could we be! He kept giving Grandpa the signal to up the speed!
Yes, I know I'm crazy but it was so fun. I laughed the whole time!
A beautiful way to end a beautiful day!
Friday, September 05, 2008
If you've been anywhere near a teenage girl in the past year, you've probably heard about Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. This vampire romance novel is all the rage among high school, and even middle school, girls. It's so popular in fact that it'll be coming to a big screen near you November 21st.
As a teen leader and a mom, I decided to check out this novel for myself. When my older daughters expressed a desire to read it, I was assured by their friends that it was a clean book -- no swearing or sex. I have to say that I do appreciate teen literature that is free of vulgarities. You have to actually be a decent writer and have some talent these days to get published in the young adult market without filling your pages with anti-Christian rhetoric, bizarre sex, and rampant drug use. (I think Stephenie Meyer is Mormon -- I'm not sure.)
However, a book can be free of sex, drugs, and bad language, and still be a waste of time, even a detriment to your person.
Overall, I did not like the book. I wanted to like the book. I tried to like the book. But in the end I can't endorse it. (I'm sorry Kaleb.) It was a page turner. I had no trouble finishing it in three days. Oh, that doesn't mean that I didn't have quibbles as I read. I had quite a few. I felt bogged down in the beginning by endless description and I found myself editing as I went along. I have to admit the editing thing is a bad habit I have with less than perfectly written novels. So, it's not too much of an insult to Twilight. Only the best authors get a pass from my mental editing such as C. S., J. R. R., J. K. And bad editing is not entirely the fault of the author. Publishing houses do hire people known as, yes it's true, editors.
Anyway, I felt compelled to get to the end. I really wanted to know how Stephenie Meyer would wrap the whole thing up. Surely, there would be a great resolution to the whole thing, my soul would be lifted, I would find redemption in the main characters, and we would all go off into the sunset blissfully happy that, though the world isn't perfect, we can always find some good in it.
I was disappointed. The ending seemed nothing more to me than a setup to the next book in the series.
The basic plot is this: Bella, 17, gets sent to live with her dad in dreary Forks, WA from sunny Phoenix, AZ. She hates it. She hates the weather, the people, the small town atmosphere, the school, and so on. The one thing she loves is a dazzling, amazingly beautiful boy, Edward, in her science class who turns out to be a 100-year-old vampire. The interesting thing is that he belongs to a coven of vampires who only eat wild animals (the vampire version of a vegetarian I suppose). Oh, they're still tempted to feed on humans but they know that it's wrong.
This is the one part that I found the author using the opportunity to teach a moral lesson. Now, don't get me wrong -- I hate preachy books. However, a good author (Lewis, Tolkien, Rowling) can teach through the story -- how the characters act when presented with a dilemma.
Here is an excerpt from Twilight:
He hesitated before answering. "That's a good question, and you are not the first one to ask it. The others -- the majority of our kind who are quite content with our lot -- they, too, wonder how we live. But you see, just because we've been . . . dealt a certain hand . . . it doesn't mean that we can't choose to rise above -- to conquer the boundaries of a destiny that none of us wanted. To try to retain whatever essential humanity we can."
This made me think of those who deal with same-sex attraction yet live chaste lives, as the Church calls them to do. It's hard, really hard, but you do it. Any teen reading the above paragraph can think of times they were tempted in some way -- to cheat on a test, to gossip about a friend, to go too far with a boyfriend -- and yet they rose above the temptation and did what was right. Even if everyone else is doing it, you still resist. This is a good thing.
To Edward's benefit, he does try to stay away from Bella at first. He commits himself to protecting her and tries not to get too close to her. He partly fails, he can't bring himself to stay away from her and gives her every opportunity to move beyond curiosity to obsession. He puts her in mortal danger (from the bad guy vampires) by merely allowing her to hang out with him and his coven.
There are other plot lines that get in the way of teaching the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. For example, Bella has known this boy for such a very short time yet she is ready to give up her life for him. Oh no, not give up her life in an unselfish kind of way. Not to save his life or anything heroic. She begs him to make her a vampire too so that they can live throughout eternity together as boyfriend and girlfriend, never growing old but staying 17 forever. Forget that whole giving up your eternal soul thing. Forget that you'll be tempted to feed on humans and spend your unending life fighting the temptation to kill. Forget that should she lose control for even a second she will become a murderer in the most gruesome manner, possibly someone she loves. We know this because Edward, who loves her deeply, is continuously tempted to have Bella for lunch.
Please, would you or anyone you know fall for a guy who is just dying to fill you with venom and then suck your blood from your lifeless body? I don't care how cute he is, I would have to give him a pass. Really, what kind of message is that for teen girls -- if he's a hottie then go for it no matter the consequences? Bella declares her love for Edward, but it really is nothing more than lust. He wants her to stay human, but she tempts him endlessly to make her a vampire.
I don't get why she's so hot for him to start with either. He's stone cold. I would think that any emotion over his dazzling beauty would die at the touch of his marble like fingers. But then he does have the super strength, super speed, and mind-reading thing going for him. Conveniently (this is never explained), Bella's mind is the only one he can't read.
The inability to read Bella's mind does make her attractive to Edward. Also, she smells really, really good. Actually, I think it's the smell of her blood that gets Edward all hot under the collar. Surely, she must be the girl for him.
Another thing that bothered me was the use of first person narrative. We hear the story through Bella, yet we don't really know her reasoning. Why is it she's so drawn to Edward? Yes, girls throughout history have been strongly attracted to bad boys, but this bad boy is a vampire! I want to hear Bella's inner voice tell me why Edward's ice cold hands don't creep her out, why she's not afraid of his desire to suck the life out of her, why she is willing to turn her back on her mom and dad to become a vampire herself. What are Bella's lifelong dreams, aspirations, hopes? I have no idea. Instead, we only get a step-by-step narrative of what is going on around her. Much like a "What I did on my summer vacation" report.
If you're looking for pulp fiction with a little romance, a little horror, and little redeeming value, then this may be the book for you. Parents note that you shouldn't hand this over to your 13-year old. Read it first if your older teens are begging you to read it so that you can express to them why it may not be in their best interest. At the very least discuss the moral implications over dessert at the coffee house.
With all that said, I should add that I don't have a thing against horror novels per se. In fact, Dracula by Bram Stoker is a favorite of mine. If you haven't read, give it a try. You'll be struck by the underlying Catholic themes. The teens in my high school reading group chose it last year as one of their selections and they picked up on the Catholic imagery too. For example, Dracula (evil) cannot enter your home unless you invite him in. Of course, he needs to trick you into the invitation. Like sin, he is disguised in a welcoming, attractive package and you only recognize him for what he truly is after it's too late. But you can fight him back with strong determination.
Actually, I didn't read Dracula but listened to it on audio. One word of advice, don't listen to the last chapters as you're driving far out in the country around midnight with a full moon above. Believe it or not, that's what I did. I was terribly lost, unable to find the home of a fellow 4-H leader to pick up my kids with Dracula playing in my cassette deck. It was too scary!
Dracula ends with good triumphing over evil. Twilight ends (major spoiler ahead) with Bella relentlessly begging to be made into a vampire and Edward going for her neck. Because the edition I read included the first chapter of the next book in the series, I know that Edward doesn't actually make her into a vampiress. That's it. That's the end. It's anti-climatic at it's worst.
So, what's my overall opinion on Twilight. It's an okay book. Not great literature. A compelling story? Yes. Good for the soul? I have serious doubts. At this point I'm not sure if I'll read the sequels. I have hope that they will contain the redemptive ending I so desire, but if they don't I'll feel even more regret at having started this process.
Addendum: Regina's Twilight review
and a review from Cozy as Spring.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
"I feel sorry for her kids. Their mom talking about them in front of the whole country."
"They have it worse than us."
"Yeah, our mom only talks about us at homeschooling conferences."
I talk about them on the Internet too, but I didn't bring that up.
BTW, the speech was excellent. I would've liked to heard something on the right to life from conception to natural death, but other than that she was right on.
I just got to share this one little tidbit from the speech. Palin's little girl spit shining the baby's hair. Too cute.
If you missed the speech, here's the whole thing:
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
A mummy on Halloween can be Lazarus on All Saints Day.
Boys love gruesome stuff and the martyrs can't be more loved. St. Lawrence being grilled, St. Sebastian with arrows sticking out of his chest, the countless beheaded martyrs and so on. All convert well from Halloween to All Saints Day.
Little boys enjoy being a carpenter one day and St. Joseph the next.
Little girls glow at being both Indian girl and Blessed Kateri.
Soldiers become St. George the Dragon Slayer.
A queen one day is St Margaret of Scotland the next.
Angels become, well, angels.
The list goes on.
What are your favorites?
Of course, you don't have to convert the costumes. Just let them be saints for both days and then they can be little missionaires too as they go door to door asking for treats!
I'll make sure to post pictures and a review (my frends all give them rave reviews) when the costumes get here. In the meantime, if you are sewing-impaired as I am and would like a break from putting together your own saints costumes every year, go check out Our Coats of Many Colors. Now is the time to order for All Saints Day as they run out quickly. Besides, you need to give the mailman time to get them to you.
Oh, make sure to check back at the website now and then as they have Lord of the Rings costumes (great for Halloween!) coming as well as costumes for biblical plays.
UPDATE: The costumes arrived!