Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Family Hike

Obligatory Baby in the Ergo photo
Hiking with five children, ages 12, 8, 6, 3 and 10 months, is a daunting process.  However, my husband and I decided to make it a family priority, so we persevere. As with most things, we are getting better at it with practice.

We eat like hobbits on Sundays, eating a light first breakfast, attending the 8 am Mass, then coming home and cooking either sourdough pancakes or waffles.  This last Sunday Matt and I had planned a hike after our second breakfast.  The sky was dull and grey, and there was intermittent drizzle that sometimes threatened to turn into actual rain.  We looked at each other, wondering if we were really up to hiking with the kids in the rain.  I declared that I didn't want our family to be fair weather hikers and my intrepid husband agreed, donning his rain hat and jacket to go put our cheaper-than-upgrading-to-a-Suburban hitch mounted platform on the back of the Tahoe.

Ah, finally there and ready to go!

  Challenges ensued - a bolt had vibrated off our ancient hand-me-down jogging stroller, necessitating a scrounge for something that would suffice as a quick fix, the three year old's rain boots wouldn't fit with his warm socks and we discovered that somehow he only has sandals, church shoes and rain boots that fit right now, the six year old was determined to wear shorts no matter what - but despite the temporary setbacks, water bottles were filled, jackets were found, appropriate shoes were placed on feet and everyone eventually piled out to the car.

Isn't this the greatest drainage pipe you've ever seen?  I'm looking forward to hiking here when there's some runoff.

We decided to try a local canal trail so Matt could push Justin (3) in the jog stroller rather than carry him in the backpack.  I had Hannah (10 mo) in the Ergo, and since the trail was reasonably flat, we brought Nathan's (6) bike.  He loves his bike, and is a much happier person on hikes with the bike than on foot.  This also allows us to keep a faster pace, something that makes the older kids and parents happier too.
The brand new suspension bridge over Deer Creek.  It is nice and bouncy with some great views.

We had some rain on our way to the trail, and a little drizzle now and then as we hiked, but overall we did quite well, proving the Swedish proverb that there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.  We only walked a little over two miles, but we decided that was sufficient for the day.  Justin and Nathan were starting to venture near the edge of whiny-ness, and it seemed best to turn around while spirits were still high.  And little by little, hike by hike, a family culture of being outdoors and hiking together is born and grows.

A tributary to Deer Creek, with some beautiful sculpted rocks and just a little bit of water.  Everyone wants to go back once the water starts flowing again in this area.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Nature Notes: Spotted Owls and Black Raspberries

Last month we were privileged to see a spotted owl twice.  First Nathan (6), then Gregory (8), spotted the owl's movement out the window around dusk and we were able to watch the owl as he perched in a tree right next to our house.

On June 16th, we unfortunately found a decapitated owl chick on the ground near a large cedar.  In comparing it to photos online, we felt fairly confident that it was a spotted owl chick.  It was about 8" long (err, sans head) and had been dead awhile.  We speculated a great deal about what might have happened, and wondered mightily where the nest might be.  We also wondered if there might be another chick.

Last week, we were visited by this guy!  Nathan noticed him and and we were able to watch him fly to several different perching spots around our house and listen to him call out.  He was about 12" tall, and seemed about 2/3 the size of the adults we had seen last month.  He seemed quite interested in watching us, cocking his head and observing us quite closely. The owl chick's wings were fully feathered, but he was still covered with down on his body and head.  We probably got to watch him for about 30 minutes, before it became too dark to see him anymore.  We heard the same call for several nights after that, but have not heard it the last couple of nights.

We also have been picking black raspberries off our property in the last few days.  Last year we found a small section of berries that didn't look quite like blackberries, and were ripe several weeks before the blackberries should be ripe.  We did a little research, and found that they were black raspberries.  I had never heard of such a thing, but we thought they were quite tasty.

We watched for them eagerly this year, and as they started to ripen we realized they had spread and were all over the hill where we originally found them!  Last year we were only able to pick a tantalizing handful or so, but this year we've been able to pick enough to bring a cup or more back home.  Granted, it still isn't a huge amount by any means - we won't be making jam from them anytime soon! - but it was enough to snack on, add to our pancakes yesterday and have some in our oatmeal.

Monday, July 7, 2014

What We're Reading: June Edition

I'm still plugging away at my reading plan and enjoying it as well as finding it fruitful.  I am starting to look ahead at the upcoming school year and wondering how I should work in reading the kids' books.  Do I add some of those to my reading plan?  Do I block out additional time to read their books and maintain my own plan?  If so, where does that time come from?  In the spring I did a combination of both, adding books I thought looked particularly interesting to my reading plan, and making some time here and there to quickly read through other books.  It wasn't entirely satisfactory, but perhaps this is the best I can do.

My Current Reads
Bible:  Colossians - I think I've slowed down a bit on my Bible reading, although I'm still reading every day.  I tend to read half the book rather than the whole one in one sitting.  I've found the best time slot for this is immediately after I get up.  First I pray Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, then I read from my current book of the Bible.  It is about a 20 minute practice, and that way if Hannah wakes up when I wake up, it keeps me from falling back asleep with her as I nurse her.  I'm trying to establish a habit of reading from the Gospels before going to bed, but I'm not doing very well in this.

Fiction:  Still reading Waverley.  But I'm about 3/4 of the way through!

Poetry:  The New Morning: Poems by Alfred Noyes.  This poet came to my attention when Emma and I were talking about The Highwayman and I looked up more information about it.  I particularly enjoyed his WWI poems, and some of this sea poems.  I'm in the miscellaneous section of poems at the moment and finding them somewhat a mixed bag. (perhaps that's appropriate?)

Spiritual Reading:  I finished reading The Autobiography of St. Ignatius of Loyola (Which seems to be written by someone else, based on what St. Ignatius told him at different times.  Doesn't that make it a biography rather than an autobiography?  Anyway...) from which, frankly, I expected more.  Perhaps it wasn't a particularly good translation?  The language seemed rather simple and rough in placed.  I've moved onto The Little Oratory, by David Clayton and Leila Lawler.  I haven't gotten very far in yet, but I've been looking forward to reading the book ever since I heard about it.

General Non-Fiction:  I finished Sarah Mackenzie's Teaching from Rest and thought it was an excellent book on homeschooling.  There were so many good reminders in it about what we're really doing in raising our children, and why.  I also liked that it is fairly method neutral.  There's so much there for Christian homeschoolers of any stripe.  And the audio companion was fantastic - the Andrew Kern talk alone was well worth the cost!

On Jessica's recommendation, I picked up Outliers from the library.  I'm really enjoying it.  I have such a weak spot for sociology/psychology sorts of books.  I find it fascinating to probe the interesting things people do, and how people make decisions and how different factors influence people's lives and decision making.  I'm reminded of a quote I read in Charlotte Mason's Vol. 3 last night:
‘Open, Sesame.’—I think we should have a great educational revolution once we ceased to regard ourselves as assortments of so-called faculties, and realised ourselves as persons whose great business it is to get in touch with other persons of all sorts and condition; of all countries and climes, of all times, past and present. History would become entrancing, literature a magic mirror for the discovery of other minds, the study of sociology a duty and a delight.
Mason, Charlotte (2011-05-15). Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series Volume 3 - School Education (Kindle Locations 2620-2623).  . Kindle Edition. 
 Self-Education:  I finished Abolition of Man (hooray!) and I've started Beauty in the Word.  There's so much there that dovetails with the CM volume I'm reading right now, that I sometimes have trouble remembering which book I read it in.

Chesterton:  I finished Manalive, and decided to take a little break from Chesterton.  He has such a distinctive writing style and I feel like I was getting oversaturated and a little numb to it.  I think I'll appreciate him more if I alternate his books with something else.  I have a couple of science books I've borrowed, started, but not finished and I'm going to read those in this spot too.  To that end, I picked Darwin's Black Box back up.

History:  I finished a book The Shadow of His Wings, which was a fantastic story from a German seminarian who was drafted into the German Army, served some time in the SS, and ends up being ordained while he is imprisoned in a British POW camp.  It is a fantastic and incredible read.  I enjoyed regaling the family with stories from it during dinner.  Next I picked up from the Emma's pile, True Stories of World War II, which had some great short stories in it, showing a variety of viewpoints into the war - everything from female pilots in the Soviet Union, snipers in Stalingrad, the Manhattan Project, D-Day, to English spies in France.  A great little collection of stories to give a feel for the vast of swath of different experiences in the war.  I haven't figured out what to read next in this category.  I'm thinking I should probably start in on some of the kids' school stuff, but haven't picked up anything yet.

Charlotte Mason:  I'm still moving along in Vol. 3.  I love coming across quotes I've seen in blog posts in their native habitat, so to speak.  The context enriches them and makes me appreciate her writings all the more.

Emma (Age 12) Current Reads
Emma picked up a few Dr. Dolittle books and the Betsy-Tacy books at the library in the middle of the month and has been working her way through them.  I also let her read The Shadow of His Wings, which we enjoyed discussing.  There's so many amazing stories in his life!

Gregory (Age 8) Current Reads
Gregory has been reading the Dr. Dolittle books as soon as Emma is finished with them.  He also read They Flew to Glory, a non-fiction book about WWI and the Americans who flew for the French before the US was involved in the war.  He's also been reading the  Sister Philomena series by Dianne Ahern.
Nathan (Age 6) and Justin (Age 2) Current Reads
I've been trying to introduce the boys to some of the books on the bookshelves that they haven't heard for awhile (or at all), thinking that perhaps they might find some new favorites.  I am getting a little tired of reading the snowman books over and over, can you tell?  I really want to try some of the folksong books Celeste has been blogging about, but I haven't gotten any of them together yet.  Maybe this week?

Saturday, May 31, 2014

What We're Reading: End of May Edition

I am even more enamored with my reading plan now than I was at the beginning of the month.  I'm in week twelve and I love how reading in this fashion slows me down, helps me to make more connections between the books I read, helps me to remember what I read better, and helps me to think more deeply about my reading.  I highly recommend it to anyone who reads for reasons other than passing the time or momentary amusement.

My Current Reads

Bible:  1 Thessalonians - I'm on the 18th time through and still enjoying how the Bible seeps into me through this focused re-reading.

Fiction:  Waverly - I'm at a strange part of this book where the story of Waverly has broken off, and there is a series of short partial stories about unconnected characters at different points in time.  I'm quite perplexed, and I don't see these chapters in the Gutenberg version of the book.  It started just after Chapter VI in the second part in the Amazon version of the book.  I skipped way ahead and found that the book does return to the Waverly narrative, but I can't figure out why these fragments are included in the book I'm reading!

Poetry:  First Fig and Other Fruits - I have a great affection for Edna St. Vincent Millay's poetry.  I'm not entirely sure I can describe why.  I should probably be moving on to reading some of the poetry we'll read next school year, but I think I'll let myself finish this volume first.

Spiritual Reading:  Learning the Virtues by Fr. Romano Guardini - I'm almost done with this one, and while I think it has bore fruit, I wouldn't particularly recommend it.  I certainly wouldn't consider it and essential read for the spiritual life.  I did enjoy how his chapter on recollection felt like it belonged in Laurie Bestvater's The Living Page.  I love connections like that!

General Non-fiction:  I finished The Willpower Instinct and I've moved to Teaching from Rest.  The Willpower Instinct was worth reading and it is a book that I wish I could recommend to other people.  I haven't, namely for two reasons.  I really don't like how she frames much of her research and how she develops her narrative through the book.  However, the research is fascinating and her willpower challenges are helpful and useful.  My other problem is:  how do you recommend a book about willpower to someone without sounding a little mean?  I can't just go up to someone and say, "oh, I've noticed you seem a little deficient in willpower, and some of these studies and examples reminded me of you, so I really think you would benefit from this book."

Sarah MacKenzie's Teaching from Rest is fantastic, as is the first of the four audio talks.  I'm looking forward to listening to them all and finishing the book, but I'm also trying not to gorge.  One of the things I also appreciate about it is that it is a book that any Christian homeschooler can read and learn and grow from, no matter what her homeschool looks like.  It isn't just for classical homeschoolers or Charlotte Mason homeschoolers or homeschoolers of any other stripe.  If you believe in God and you homeschool, this book is for you and I think you will benefit from it.

Self-education:  Abolition of Man

Chesterton:  I finished Trees of Pride (I particularly liked the twist at the end) and now I'm reading Manalive.

History:  The Shadow of His Wings - I abandoned Killing Jesus; the writing was just too horrible to continue.  I switched over to The Shadow of His Wings, a book Jen Fulwiler recommended on her blog awhile back.  It is absolutely fascinating, and full of amazing anecdotes.  It is the story of a German seminarian who is drafted into the German army in WWII, and how he remains firm in his faith and leads others to faith despite being in the SS and surrounded by Nazis.

Charlotte Mason:  Volume 3, School Education - I'm enjoying all the connections between the first part of this book and Abolition of Man.  Mason and Lewis are seeing many of the same problems, and for the same reasons.  As I read both of these I feel like I'm sitting in on a discussion about authority  between two great minds.

Other Reading:  I also read Jennifer Fulwiler's Something Other Than God.  I really enjoyed this book.  As an atheist convert myself, it was a great reminder of both how I got to be a faithful Catholic, and how glad I am to be here.  It was also very well written, and not your typical blog to book deal sort of book at all.  I'm glad I snuck a little time in on Saturday nights when I had finished my other reading to go ahead and read it.

Emma's (Age 12) Current Reads
Emma is currently reading A Tale of Two Cities and loving it.  It makes my heart glad to see her pick up Dickens on her own and enjoy it.  She's also been working through the Letzenstein Series from Bethlehem Books.  A few of her re-reads include Laddie:  A True Blue Story and The Brothers Lionheart ("Mom, I just love this book!")  In her school reading she recently finished The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom and is now reading Animal Farm (along with a number of other books, of course)

Gregory's (Age 8) Current Reads
Gregory recently finished The Telmaj, a sci-fi book written by a homeschooling mother. She's a good writer and a good storyteller and Emma and I have read and enjoyed it too.  He's currently reading the second book, A Smijj of Adventure.  Emma has read that one too, but I haven't gotten to it yet.

Nathan (Age 5) and Justin (Age 2)
Justin is still enamored with Snowmen at Work and Snowmen at Night.  I read one or both of these books almost daily.  Another favorite is Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?  The other day he came up to me clutching it and said, "Mommy, me love this book!"  Nathan's really enjoying a couple of our family read-alouds, The Winged Watchman and Enemy Brothers.  I'm reading him picture books too, but not as many as Justin.  Nathan has a tendency to ask me to read to him when everyone else is engaged in something and no one wants to play with him, and I'm either in the midsts of something I can't abruptly drop, or about to start making dinner.  Nathan has become my dinner making buddy as of late though, and is getting quite helpful in the kitchen.

I could, and probably should, make these posts shorter...  but not only do I love to read, I love to think and reflect on what we're reading too.  And I know I'll enjoy looking back on this post a lot more if I'm long winded.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Weekends with Chesterton: Facts and Materialism (oh, and a few bears too)

I hate to post two Weekends with Chestertons in a row, but in trying to prioritize my written narrations for my reading, commonplace journalling, my preparation for my children's education, posting pictures on our family blog, and, well, sleep, I find time to sit and write for this space in very short supply.

So, with that excuse, I offer this quote:
All his life up to that moment he had been most honestly certain that materialism was a fact. But he was unlike the writers in the magazines precisely in this-- that he preferred a fact even to materialism. ~The Ball and the Cross
I remember reaching this point myself as I journeyed towards Christianity and considered the miracles I was reading about, both the Biblical ones and the more recent ones.  Why was I more willing to believe, "oh, the doctors made a mistake" or "oh, they can't possibly be telling the truth" than that perhaps something truly extraordinary had taken place?

And look who came back!

We scared them away when they tried to get into the garden again.  After all, we don't want them to think they own the place!  It is amazing to watch them wander around though.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Weekends with Chesterton: Decadent Weakness

The father believed in civilization, in the storied tower we have erected to affront nature; that is, the father believed in Man. The daughter believed in God; and was even stronger. They neither of them believed in themselves; for that is a decadent weakness.           ~The Ball and the Cross

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

What We're Reading: Beginning of May Edition

I enjoy reading other people's posts about what is being read in their families, and I thought I'd try to do this once a month or so as well.

About two months ago, I decided to start a reading plan of sorts for myself.  I was tired of having a long list of books I was trying to read, and I was frustrated when I realized that while I am always reading good and worthwhile books, I wasn't always getting to books I really felt I should read.

I decided to resolve the following:

  • Create a list of categories of books, and to either read the book through or decide definitively not to finish a book before moving onto another book in that category
  • Read twice from each category each week
  • In each session, to read in each category for at least 10 minutes, but no more than 30
  • To review and update my commonplace book twice a week
  • To write notes about my reading in several categories 
  • To participate in Weekends with Chesterton (which I'm obviously not doing well on as of late!)

So far this has gone well for me.  I have a note in Evernote to track my reading each week and I'm enjoying continuing to make progress through a variety of books.  I'm thinking about the books more as I'm not gulping them down over a short period of time, and my commonplace is filling with interesting and thought provoking quotes.  It has also encouraged me to stick with a book if I get to a point where I feel the book is dragging, rather than consigning it to the "oh, I'll get back to it later" pile where it seldom gets picked up again.

So, with that explanation out of the way, here's my current list of categories and what I'm reading in each.

Bible:  2 Timothy - I'm following this plan, which encourages the reader to read through each book twenty times before moving to the next.  I doubt Charlotte Mason would approve but I'm finding it an interesting discipline as I feel like it is allowing me to get a good feel for the themes and rhythms of each book I'm reading.
Fiction:  Waverley, by Sir Walter Scott
Poetry:  I recently finished Goblin Market, The Prince's Progress and Other Poems by Christina Rossetti and now I'm reading First Fig and Other Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Spiritual Reading:  Learning the Virtues by Romano Guardini
General Non-fiction:  The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal Ph.D. - The research is fascinating, the willpower challenges are useful and helpful, but the way the book is written is occasionally obnoxious.
Self-education:  The Abolition of Man, by C.S. Lewis - This category is for all those books I see referenced and quoted, but haven't actually read.
Chesterton:  I finished The Ball and The Cross last week, and I'm going to start The Trees of Pride next.  I like reading obscure Chesterton.
History:  I recently finished A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II by Adam Makos and Larry Alexander (a great WWII story largely about a German fighter pilot) and now I'm reading Killing Jesus, which was lent to me.  The tone of the book leaves a lot to be desired, and I think the book is poorly edited.  Every time I read it I find myself annoyed, which probably means I should stop.
Charlotte Mason:  The Living Page - The book discussion for this book was cancelled by request of the author, so I won't be posting on it anymore.  It is an excellent book, however, and it has helped me grow in my understanding of Mason's methods and of my role in my children's education.

Emma (age 12):
April was largely a re-reading month for Emma.  She re-read several of the later Anne books, the Mitchells series, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  Right now she's reading The Secret Garden.

Gregory (age 8):
Gregory has been enjoying the Tales of the RAF series about a boy who lives near an airfield in England during WWII.  He recently finished On the Edge of the Fjord and he's currently reading The Story of D-Day by Bruce Bliven.

Nathan (age 5) and Justin (age 2):
My two non-independent readers are bringing me a motley collection of books from around the house.  Nathan doesn't tend to find favorites that we read over and over, but Justin is currently enamored with several books.  Right now I'm frequently reading The Best Place to Read, several Eric Carle books, and Snowmen books (Snowmen at Work, Snowmen at Night).  He also has a soft spot for Otis, and I haven't had the heart to put away An Otis Christmas because he's so attached to it.