Friday, June 27, 2008

MLA Grading Is Finished ... What Next?

On May 22, I received 12 MLA research papers to grade from my Intermediate Writing Class on topics varying from Louis Armstrong's influence on American Jazz music, Astrobiology, and the existence of dragons to the origin and need for toilet paper, Cesar Chavez's revolutionary ideas, and the original intent of the US Constitution. Unfortunately, one student (a graduating senior) didn't turn in a final project (and thus failed this semester) and three other students failed; two papers received A's.

After grading papers until 4:15 AM, I turned all but the astrobiology back on the last Class Day, June 12, and on the same day received six more papers from my Advanced Writing Class. (Two students didn't turn in papers, one failing the class and one receiving a C- rather than the strong A she had earned over the course of the year). These papers covered the topics of the Wii gaming system, global warming, the physical effects of forgiveness, aliens as demons, the effects of obesity, and Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism.

Well, after helping to plan, shop for, and then assisting at our art council's "Taste of Art" summer art classes consisting of woodworking, acrylics, and crafts this Monday through Thursday (will post on the MECAC site in a few days), I haven't had much time for grading. So it was today, the final deadline for Heritage Christian School grades, that at last I e-mailed the grades to the parents and to the school and also snail-mailed the papers back to my students.

Whew! So all of the work associated with Class Day is completed for the school year -- a fact for which I am intensely thankful. It's been a long haul this year, with reluctant students, failing grades given to homeschooled students for the first time in my years of teaching at Heritage, several non-supportive parents as well as the first time I've tackled teaching BOTH high school writing classes. In the past, I've taught one or the other class, not both, but with so many students wanting to take high school writing, I didn't have much choice. It's been a very tough year at Class Day which was made bearable and even pleasant at times by encouraging and thankful notes and gifts from a few of my most motivated students, including handmade earrings, a gift certificate to my favorite tea shop, and a lovely candle.

Although the deadline for my own children's grades for Heritage also was today, I simply have not had time to pull together the scattered forces of my mind to start totaling up math, Latin, and vocabulary quizzes and tests, not to mention E's high school courses for her transcripts. I'm planning to tackle the stacks of ungraded papers on the school table Monday and mail in grades by the end of the day, Lord willing. My plan was to be done with all homeschooling endeavors by July 1, so I hope to just squeeeeeeeeze in the remaining work on the final day of June.

Yes, I still have textbooks to order for next year's schooling, but I have a pretty good idea of what I need to purchase for each child, and with the exception of E's high school texts (especially Spectrum Chemistry), it shouldn't be too expensive. E will need ABeka's American History, SMARR's American Lit, and Spectrum Chemistry. I have purchased her Bible curriculum already (Jason Boyett's Pocket Guide to the Bible); she already has her Saxon Algebra II book as she already started it this year, and she's finished with foreign languages after two years of Latin.

T will be starting Saxon Algebra 1/2, so I only need to purchase tests for him (and remember to copy them so I can reuse them for the younger boys when they reach 8th grade). The other two boys only need the consumable student texts for ABeka Math for grades 3 and 6. We'll be buying the rest of the Sonlight 7 books we don't have from the old one-year SL 6, which will include literature, readers, history, and religion for all three boys. (B will need his own level of readers, but will participate in the remainder of the SL 7 books; his readers will be from the old SL 2 books I have on the shelf.) We are planning to study astronomy for science which I purchased at the homeschool convention in May. I need to find the boys a good keyboarding program (Mavis just isn't cutting it), plus I need grammar books for J and T. I'll also be putting J and T through my own Beginning Writing Course on the Thursdays we're not at Class Day. I'm still debating between Latina Christiana II or Traditional Logic, both from Memoria Press; I may teach the logic but review vocabulary from Latina Christiana I on a weekly basis; we'll see. So it's not too much to purchase this year and minimal planning still to do; I should be able to make all purchases on a single day if finances allow or just an hour here or there if we need to spread out the purchases.

I am seriously hoping to spend most of July researching and writing a chapter of my book. I need to buckle down and tackle one of the planned chapters, researching and writing as I go. I hope to have a serious piece of writing at least in complete rough draft form by July 31.

I'm just so glad to be finished with all of the grading for Class Day courses for this school year. Yay! (Imagine me jumping for joy, please.) And now it's off to read more of Blue Like Jazz and get the grades done for our own students. But a huge burden is gone now -- two burdens, actually, if we count the art classes plus the writing courses, both of which have been hanging over my head and have required significant output of time, energy, and brainpower. I'm DONE!!!!!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Update on California Homeschooling Case

From the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), dated today (6/25/08):

On Monday, June 23, 2008, HSLDA founder Mike Farris argued in defense of homeschooling in the California Court of Appeal in the now-infamous Rachel L. case. In February, this same court had ruled that homeschooling is illegal in California. The court later vacated its own decision in response to a request for rehearing filed by attorney for the father, Gary Kreep of the United States Justice Foundation, with substantial assistance by Farris and other attorneys at HSLDA. Farris argued as a friend of the court on behalf of HSLDA's 15,000 member families in California, as well as Focus on the Family, and Private and Home Educators of California.

Farris was joined in his defense of homeschooling by lawyers representing the Attorney General and Governor of California, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, California’s three largest homeschooling groups (California Homeschool Network, Homeschool Association of California and Christian Home Educators of California), Pacific Justice Institute on behalf of Sunland Christian School, and Alliance Defense Fund lawyer Jeff Shafer, on behalf of the family.

“The weight of legal and scholarly authority presented to this court in defense of homeschooling is unprecedented,” said Farris, who has argued dozens of similar cases since founding HSLDA 25 years ago.

In addition to those who presented oral argument, friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the right of parents to homeschool were submitted by Pacific Legal Foundation, National Legal Foundation, Sutherland Institute, Liberty Counsel on behalf of 13 members of Congress, Gifted Homeschoolers Forum, et al, Seventh Day Adventist Church State Council, Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence (prepared by noted law professors David Llewellyn, John Eastman, and Erwin Chemerinsky), American Center for Law and Justice and The Western Center for Law and Policy.

Farris is guardedly optimistic that the three-judge panel will not repeat its earlier error, but he covets your prayers. “The homeschooling movement has been successful not because of the work of lawyers but because the Lord has blessed it,” noted Farris. “We must always remember Proverbs 21:1—‘The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever he wishes.’ ”

A decision is expected within a few weeks.


J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

Our prayer is that homeschooling remains unchanged in the state of California. Although we occasionally have a "bone to pick" with our homeschooling Independent Study Program (ISP), we value their oversight and commitment to academic excellence. The vast majority of homeschooling families we know do extraordinary work in educating their children. There are always a few families who don't do a good job, just as there are some public school teachers who are rather useless (I had quite a few of them, including every mathematics teacher I had from 7th grade onward).

Our ISP mandates annual standardized testing, quarterly progress reports that cover grades in academics and conduct as well as number of chapters/pages covered in each subject. We submit an Annual Course of Study for each student which the school looks over to make sure that the basics are being covered, plus we also meet with the principal or registrar to go over high school requirements and college admissions. The Class Day courses that are available for nursery through Honors English are optional; some families attend one Class Day (twice monthly) and some attend two (weekly classes). Heritage Christian School also provides access to tons of field trips and academic contests in art, poetry, essays, science, spelling and geography bees, etc. There's way more available than one family could possible do, so we look on all of the "extras" as a smorgasbord: we take what we like and leave the rest behind.

So we pray that homeschooling will remain unchanged in California as a "private school option" and that we can keep on teaching our kids at home with excellence. And I need to start ordering our new textbooks for the fall, don't I? High school chemistry, here we come!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Don't Be Afraid of Dirt

For the past several years, we've been following the philosophy of health found in Dr. Jordan Rubin's The Maker's Diet. Our osteopath, Dr. Donald Adema, recommended having our entire family follow this program about three years ago, and although it was very difficult in the beginning phases, we've been fairly faithful over the years, the occasional "splurge" notwithstanding.

The Maker's Diet returns to the rules God gave to Israel, rules that were not just arbitrary guidelines but which Dr. Rubin shows leads to good health. So we cut gluten, pork, shellfish, and refined sugars from our diets and started eating Ezekiel breads, lots of fresh fruits and veggies, and eat as organic as is practical. We drink only water and organic tea, with organic lemonade as a "treat." It was quite amazing to see the kids' eczema vanish as we ate this way, and T's asthma has practically disappeared. But Dr. Rubin's ideas go much further than what we are to eat and drink.

Dr. Rubin also stipulated that use of antibiotic soaps, etc., were harmful to the immune systems, especially to those of children who need exposure to different microbial sources in order to build a strong immune system. He discourages "excessive showering" (as in daily) as showering removes so much of our bodies' natural oils that we need to boost our immune systems. He says that weekly showers are all that most children need, with soap-free sponge baths in between if they get dirty. He also discourages swimming in chlorinated pools and use of scented products like body washes.

He encourages mild exercise -- walking rather than jogging. And he also advocates gardening without gloves. Getting our hands deeply into the soil is an elemental human activity, he states, and it also helps our immune systems to grow stronger. We are meant to be people of the earth and to have contact with the soil, on a daily basis, if possible. I was quite glad to discover this portion of his program as I love digging my hands into the dirt while gardening; I use gloves only as a last resort even if it means having to soak my hands to remove all the dirt from underneath my fingernails.

Dr. Rubin once again advocates a lifestyle close to the soil in today's daily e-mail:

Parents do everything they can to keep their kids from getting dirty, but in reality, our environment is much too clean! Immune cells that are not exposed to naturally occurring soil microbes tend to overreact when they finally come in contact with them. Too many adults and children have been denied this much-needed exposure. The immune systems of children and adults are overreactive because they are no longer being properly "educated" on the biological playground of life.

To make matters worse, we oversterilize everything with disinfectant dishwashing, hand soaps, and shower gels; disinfectant body lotions and skin bars; and "deodorant soaps" loaded with antibiotic disinfectants such as triclosan. And we sterilize our soil using pesticides and herbicides that destroy beneficial and harmful microbes alike. These substances harm the immune systems of all living things, including the very plants we try to "improve" with our technological advancements.

Our immune systems need regular exposure to naturally occurring soil organisms for long-term health! If I child isn't exposed to soil organisms early in life, his or her immune system may seriously overreact when exposed to completely benign intruders later in life. Loosing touch with our planet has had an unfortunate consequence: It has contributed to the development of allergies, autoimmune diseases, and certain types of asthma in children and adults alike.

So now I don't feel guilty about letting the boys dig holes in the side yard as they recreate World War I's "No Man's Land." And they can take a quick sponge bath before bed most nights; showers are for Saturday evenings before Sunday church. And playing in the dirt, whether it's the boys and their battlements or myself puttering about in my garden, is one of the healthiest activities we can do. I always knew gardening was good for my soul; now I know it's good for my health as well.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

2008 Heritage Christian School Graduation

(Myself and Amanda, one of my writing students this year and also a longtime acquaintance from church)

One of the very best things about Heritage Christian School, with whom we submit our paperwork for homeschooling in California, is the senior high graduation. The very first graduation I attended back in 1996 (the spring before we started homeschooling with Heritage), I was so impressed by the twelve senior high graduates who each gave a two-to-five minute speech, thanking their parents, siblings, extended family, friends, and God. They were so well-spoken and earnest, these graduates, brimming with self-confidence, looking forward to their future of college education and serving God with their life's work.

Yesterday at 3:45 PM, I slid into the very last pew of College Avenue Baptist Church, our new graduation venue, feeling rather wilted after running errands in 100+ degree heat. And then I watched eighty-some students file in to "Pomp and Circumstance," proud in their deep blue gowns and caps with mortar boards. Eight of the graduates were in my writing classes this year and three of them are also part of our church, Lake Murray Community Church. I applauded as Hannah, Nathanael, Ryan, Michelle, Kris, Elise, Emily, Erin, Megan, and Amanda came forward to accept their diplomas and have a photo taken with our principal, Mary York. I very much enjoyed hearing several of them speak -- with eighty-some graduates, the graduation speech is now optional and has been shortened to 90 seconds.

After the graduation, I caught up with Johanna, as she has tutored several of the graduating students as well, and I also chatted with some of the parents and two writing teachers from a different Class Day site. (We commiserated over the "bad" year we had all experienced with our writing classes this year, so now at least we don't feel so alone in our frustration.) Heritage dropped the pot luck dinner idea this year and instead had Pat & Oscars cater dinner, and several juniors served cake afterwards and kept the water jugs full of refreshing ice. In the large fellowship hall, photos of the graduates were playing on two huge screens, including pictures of the senior formal, grad night, Class Day, baby photos, etc. It was a lovely evening despite the horrid heat, but the thought that kept coming to mind the entire day was that my own eldest will be here in just two years, a graduate ready to take on the world. Our educational experiences at home will be at an end, and she'll be ready to be her own person, to do what God directs her to do. And I felt, more fully than ever, to make these last two years really COUNT.

Congratulations, Heritage Christian School Class of 2008!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Logos Discussion Group

This month our Logos reading and discussion group at Lake Murray Community Church is on our last book of the year, Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz. Yes, our twelfth book and the end of our first year draws near, and I really couldn't be happier with the group we have. Well, I wouldn't mind having a few other people involved (and you know who you are!) but I also don't want to overwhelm the Belseys who have been so gracious in opening their home and serving absolutely scrumptious lunches to us all. So overall, I'm quite happy.

Discussing literature, whether it is distinctly Christian in content like Blue Like Jazz, Traveling Mercies, or The Screwtape Letters or just contains jumping off points to analyze the effects of sin (Picture of Dorian Gray), the power of persuasion (Persuasion, of course), the depths of hypocrisy (Shakespeare's Measure for Measure), the beauty of Creation (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek), strength of character (Jane Eyre), or the sin of prejudice (Cry, the Beloved Country and Their Eyes Were Watching God), sharpens us as believers.

We learn to see the world through someone else's eyes -- which can only help us draw others to Christ. We learn to value truly excellent writing -- which can only help us to improve our own. We learn to discuss our ideas and listen to other viewpoints -- which can only help us as we learn to give-and-take with non-Christians or Christians of different traditions. We learn of other cultures, other ways of thought, other times and places -- which can only help us relate to people of all ages, races, and creeds and thus presents us with potential opportunities for sharing the Gospel of Christ. We learn compassion, critical thinking, the heft and power of words. Discussing literature, while truly a pleasure in and of itself, also prepares us in our own Christian witness to better love and understand others and therefore be able to present the love of Christ more compassionately and more powerfully.

At our last meeting, I took down a list of potential books for our next reading list. It was very different than last summer when Kitty and I brainstormed a list with prayer and much thought. Although that experience was fun, I really like hearing the recommendation of others and perhaps read some books I haven't been exposed to myself. We have a lovely group of people attending the meetings, some who enjoy the art of the persuasive argument and revel in analyzing character and theme, some who would rather sit back and absorb and mull over the ideas presented by the work itself and by the discussion. I am so thankful that the discussion sometimes goes very deep and sometimes becomes quite spirited and that we feel free to disagree with each other while valuing each others' ideas.

So here's a list of the books our group mentioned. I'll be praying over this list over the next ten days or so as I pick up my just-arrived copy of Blue Like Jazz (gotta love!) to reread before our meeting on June 29th. I also check the county library system to assure that the books we read and discuss are readily available for those who can't afford to buy them. If you have any feedback on the books listed, please feel free to leave a comment.

Possible Books for Discussion:
Gaudy Night -- Dorothy Sayers
Piercing the Darkness -- Frank Peretti
Life of Pi -- Marten
All's Well That Ends Well -- Shakespeare (playing at the Old Globe this summer)
Cry of the Peacock
The Lovely Bones
Keys of the Kingdom -- A.J. Cronin
Mayor of Casterbridge -- Thomas Hardy
something by C.S. Lewis -- A Grief Observed, Surprised by Joy, Problem of Pain
Heaven -- Randy Alcorn
Beowulf -- Seamus Heany translation (also on CD and a movie is also available)
The Long Walk
North and South -- Elizabeth Gaskell
Cost of Discipleship -- Bonhoeffer
Dracula -- Bram Stoker or Frankenstein -- Mary Shelley
Uncle Tom's Cabin -- Harriet Beecher Stowe
Death Comes to the Archbishop -- Willa Cather
Joan of Arc -- Mark Twain
To Kill a Mockingbird -- Harper Lee
12 Angry Men (novel, not the play)
The poetry of Judith Deem Dupree and Kathryn (Kitty) Belsey -- it would be fun to have the poets come to discuss their work, and since Kitty is already our hostess....

I like to see a balance among Christian books, newer fiction, and classics, and if the books have movies as do To Kill a Mockingbird, 12 Angry Men, North and South, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Kiterunner, and Beowulf, plus the various incarnations of Dracula and Frankenstein (Would Young Frankenstein qualify???), then I give those works a bit more weight as our group does enjoy watching movies. I hope that we'll attend another Shakespeare production at the Old Globe this year as last year's trip to see Measure for Measure was so fun! I also pray about what we can focus our discussion on with each book -- some theme or character from which we can learn something about faith and Christianity. I have yet to add my book or two to the list, but I'm thinking I'll recommend:
The Cloister Walk -- Kathleen Norris
Imitation of Christ -- Thomas a' Kempis

So I'll be researching the library holdings, considering themes to discuss, and praying over the recommendations of the group. We'll see which twelve works God will lead us to read and discuss for the second year of Logos.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The New Indy....

[NOTE: Minor spoilers as to characters in the film but only minimal plot giveaway.]

Last Thursday I took the kids to see Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. Overall, we really liked it, although at times it moved a bit too fast for me to keep up with every detail; it's definitely one of those films that require multiple viewings in order to sort out all of the little stuff. And seeing it on the "big screen" is a MUST. I simply can't imagine only seeing Indy 4 on a television only. No way.

The kids are bigger Indiana Jones fans than I am. I first saw Raiders of the Lost Ark in the theatre for my 16th birthday with my then-boyfriend, and the film terrorized me. We had not grown up seeing a great number of movies, and the most violence I had been exposed to up to that point was Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars (later rechristened A New Hope). So the snakes, the bloody bodies, the decapitation, and the melting faces made a huge impact on me -- or at least the glimpses I saw between my fingers impressed me greatly. I have watched it several times since and have enjoyed it far more, although I still close my eyes during the melting scene at the close of the film.

I saw the second and third movies once only when they first came out but not since and remember little about them beyond there being a little kid in the second and Sean Connery in the third. Although T received the boxed set for his birthday in March, I haven't watched the two sequels for many years and didn't care for them greatly since them anyway. (The third was definitely better than the second, thanks in large part to Sean Connery rather than anything George Lucas tried to pull out of his hat.) Therefore, I was not expecting to really like Indy 4 too much. We were celebrating J's birthday, and he wanted to see it (and go to the zoo the following day) in lieu of a birthday party, so off we went to a matinee after our final Class Day.

Well, the film was surprisingly good. Yes, many have complained that the film is just too unrealistic, and they are right. But who expects realism from an Indiana Jones flick? The film kept me guessing, although alien involvement was obvious from the very first ten minutes. The script was better than anything Lucas has written recently (like Star Wars I, II, and III, just to name a few), and the actors carried the kitschy lines well. Karen Allen's character was fun to see again, even if the years haven't been nearly as kind to her as they have been to Harrison Ford. Jim Broadbent was great as the dean of the college (he'll make such a great Slughorn as well when Harry Potter 6 comes out in November), but Cate Blanchett stole the show even more than Harrison himself and the good-looking young man playing Indy's son put together. Her stock-bad-guy role was played just like the Saturday serials which form the basis for the Indy movies -- with the lightest touch of humor and great facial expressions. The violence wasn't as gory as the first film, but the ants got a little gross and provided me the opportunity to watch from behind my outspread fingers.

I recommend seeing Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull actually **IN** the movie theatres, preferably with a large bucket of popcorn (light on the butter) and a small box of Junior Mints. (M&M's will do in a pinch.) The Saturday serial is resurrected in the 4th Indiana Jones flick, and it's well-worth the price of admission (matinee prices, anyway) just to see this bad boy on the big screen.

(Imagine the Indiana Jones theme music playing as you finish this post....)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ecstatic Art

M.C. Escher, "Hand With Reflecting Sphere"

I'm quoting this from the September 2007 issue of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity:

There is nothing that stifles genius like the concepts of originality or creativity as they are usually understood, for as soon as one lifts his[/her] hand intentionally to create something unique, he[/she] falls into -- and the oxymoron is deliberate here -- a new convention. Visit the dreary halls of the art department in the typical modern university. (After seeing them myself, I must ask, where does the artist go who is in love with nature, indeed, who is in love with the form of any thing?)

If our understanding of God is true, then man [and woman] cannot create; he[/she] can only procreate, and only in the sphere of procreation can genius express itself as such -- as something that listens before it speaks and repeats what it hears. The kind of creation that follows is an ecstatic addition of the self that arises unbidden from the depths of the created personality.

The artist can only make something new when he[/she] acts as though there is nothing new under the sun, and when, with the gift he[/she] finds within him, rejoices in what already is. This is why the greatest art never surpasses the making of children, which is its essence, and why the artist who begins his[/her] work in the attempt to overcome "convention" will generate nothing but monstrosities.

-- S.M. Hutchens, page 5

This is an intriguing idea, yet an ancient one. The Biblical motif found in Ecclesiastes -- "there is nothing new under the sun" -- can help the artist to rise above frustration and limitation to the discovery of the utmost freedom possible for the artistic eye and mind. There is indeed "nothing new under the sun;" but art is the expression of something familiar, via the written word or visual image, that transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary. Art helps us to see what is right under our proverbial noses with new revelation, fresh insight, surprising accuracy. It reveals Truth in all things -- brings to us unique thoughts regarding what has always been within our realm of experience and always will be. That's the gift of art.

First Day of Vacation!

For today (Monday, that is) being the first day of our summer vacation, I was certainly busy. I rose earlier than I usually do during vacation so I could have time to work on a project or two of my own.

It was a lovely day ... but hot. The thermometer hovered around 100 degrees from 11:00 AM - 4:00 PM. I spent my morning prayer and Bible reading on the front porch, then watered the flower beds before sorting and starting the laundry. At least half an hour was taken by cleaning out the front flower bed as the snapdragons just started blooming but the bed was littered with stiff browned oak leaves. My email box was cleaned out, the bills paid, thank you notes and birthday cards written and sent, and six chapters of Numbers read as I fell sadly behind in my Bible Book Club readings last month. I also took care of some MECAC business by updating the blog and answering the phone very often to pre-register children for the "Taste of Art" summer program that our art council is holding next week. I helped E do dishes as she has cut her finger quite badly after Keith sharpened the knives this weekend. BIG difference (especially while cutting tomatoes).

The phone seemed to never stop ringing today. I gained two new tutoring students for the fall. I learned that our cable could be out for an hour or two today or tomorrow. I had a long chat with my dear friend from middle school -- we were both in Mr. Stan's English and History classes in eighth grade; I had called last week to alert her to the date and time of his memorial, but she and her family were out of town -- and had traveled north to San Francisco rather than southward to San Diego. A talk with Sheri caught us up on the items we needed to check with each other before purchasing materials for next year [GROAN! I'm so NOT in the mood to think about materials for next year when I still have this year's work to grade and submit ASAP). I found out that my chiropractor's wife is back in the hospital (but forgot to send an e-mail to Lake Murray -- something to do tomorrow -- or today as I'm composing this piece of writing after 3:00 AM) and needs prayer. I can't remember a few of the other calls, but as we're used to one or perhaps two calls a day, eight was a departure from the norm, and none were "junk" calls. Wow.

I started grading one research paper but became distracted when dinner was laid on the table -- stuffed peppers! Well-worth the distraction. So I'll have to get grading big-time tomorrow as the grades for the graduating seniors are due post-haste. I also have to add up the final grades for the Class Day class and grade their MLA research papers ASAP.

But today was a really great day. I could putter about, caring for my kids, my house, my garden. I could spend a loooooong time on morning devotions with no one to interrupt me (not too often, anyway). And I also prayed the Noon Office, the Vespers Office, and the Night Office throughout the day. And so went the first day of summer vacation ... and may all days be this productive and this relaxing.

Fathers' Day and Anniversary

Sunday was rather a double-celebration. Not only was it Fathers' Day, but it also marked my and Keith's 23rd wedding anniversary (which we'll be celebrating a bit later).

The Collect for Fathers' Day, from the service at Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity, quoted from the weekly Beadle's Report:
O Lord our God, creator of heaven and earth, through your Son Jesus Christ you have revealed yourself as a heavenly Father to all of your children: Bless, we pray, all earthly fathers. Strengthen them to nurture, protect, and guide the children entrusted to their care. Instill within them the virtues of love and patience. Make them slow to anger and quick to forgive. And through the ministrations of your Holy Spirit, may all fathers be strong and steadfast examples of faithfulness, responsibility, and loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

We headed "down the hill" to Lake Murray Community Church as usual, but the difference was in the service: our elders are trying a "summer schedule" of a Saturday evening service (contemporary music with praise band) and only one service on Sunday mornings (blend of traditional and contemporary music). The Sunday service was only slightly more crowded than second service usually is, but the Sunday School class was quite large. Rather than continue with a book of the Bible, the elders have arranged for different men to teach on different topics during "Equipping Time." I miss the more intimate experience of sharing prayer requests in our usual Sunday School, but with this being the only class offered, that's the way it's gotta be.

Afetr church we drove home, changed, gave the garden a quick sprinkling down since we had heat in the mid-90's, and then I drove the kids up the mountain to my parents' cabin.

It was a lovely day on Mount Laguna, albeit quite warm in the high 80's. My brother and his kids were there along with our parents, and we enjoyed the gorgeous weather, grilled burgers and hot dogs with baked beans, potato salad, and fruit with Keith's special blueberry cheesecake to finish off the meal. Keith came up just before dinner as he wanted to spend some time in the afternoon working on the stained glass window. The kids ran around, playing with squirtguns and chasing lizards. We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day.

You can see a few more photos from the cabin at my 365 photo blog. We drove back down the mountain to our little valley at its base before the sun set, and we opened all the windows to let in the cooler breezes and enjoyed a beautiful summer evening.

A delicious sense of freedom always comes over us when summer vacation begins. Two whole months before we start back into the 11th year of the wild and woolly adventure we call homeschooling. But for now ... AAAH! Freedom.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Last Day of School....

To celebrate J's birthday and our last school day, we took a trip to the justly-famous San Diego Zoo. First of all, we met up with Keith's sister who drives the tour buses; unfortunately, she was dealing with the smaller buses this day and was not giving tours.

The zoo was very crowded, resulting partly from the vast number of summer camp groups of kids and also partly from the huge new construction of what used to be Horn and Hoof Mesa but will be transformed over the next year into a "bioclimatic zone" for the elephants and other animals who live together peaceably in the same area of the world. But with such a large area of the zoo closed off, the remainder of the park felt much more crowded than usual, and the boys found that negotiating my wheelchair through so many people and groups of kids to be difficult at best and downright frustrating at worst. First, we toured the Children's Zoo as it holds our kids' two favorite exhibits: meerkats and river otters. Afterwards, we continued to stay at the top part of the zoo so that the boys didn't have to push me up too many hills (the zoo is basically on the side of a hill) with the exception of taking a bus tour, compliments of Karen even though she wasn't driving. The bus tour covers 70% of the zoo in 40 minutes, so it's a good way to see a great deal in a very small amount of time.

Taking photos from the bus was challenging because even when I stood up to take photos of the different exhibits and animals, the walking patrons' heads were right on level with the animals I was trying to photograph. Several of mt best photos were ruined by people's head sticking up right in the middle of the photograph. Plus, the opportunity to take photos is very limited; although the bus stopped from time to time while the driver informed us about the animals, quite often we were trying to photograph animals while the bus was moving and with little time to think before shooting.

We enjoyed a picnic lunch in a shady area after the bus tour, and after a tour of the reptile house, soft serve ice cream cones were in order. J also got to choose his stuffed animal: each birthday the kids get to choose a small stuffed animal ($10 or less) as part of their birthday celebration, so J found a chipmunk he really liked -- and named him "Chip," of course.

We left the zoo rather earlier than usual because of the crowds and then drove by our old home in the North Park/Golden Hill area. For the ten years we lived there, the 1914 Craftsman home was white with a dark green porch. Before we sold it, we painted it pale grey with burgundy and white trim and a charcoal-grey porch and roof. Then those people sold the house five years later, and the newest owners painted it bright lime green trimmed with lemon yellow, white, and a brick red-orange. At first we didn't like the rather flamboyant combo, but it's grown on us and we rather like it now. The new ownders also pulled down the new two-car garage we built (a rarity in an old area of town with single-car garages) and have now taken up the entire back yard with another house for their family. I hated the idea of losing the entire back yard as the house used to be the only one on the block without a second home in back, but they did a lovely job on it and the landscaping. The kids give a mixed review on the changes, but I think it looks rather cool. They have obviously had some professional help with landscaping, something I always wanted to do but wasn't able to swing financially.

Old House

New Addition

So then we drove on to Keith's office and went computer-shopping with my BraveWriter funds. My laptop is coming up to its seventh birthday and it definitely reaching the end of its life. We're debating the Mac vs. PC issue first, and then will decide which way to go. We were out so late at BestBuy and WalMart that we stopped by Taco Bell for a quick dinner on the way home.

So this was our last day of school -- 178 days of home education since last August. A break is well in order, and we take it joyfully!

Friday, June 13, 2008

J's Birthday

Yesterday was J's 11th birthday. I wrote in his card, "It's not every day that a young man turns eleven." -- Hagrid in Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone.

He started off his birthday with gluten-free blueberry pancakes and honey, and he opened his presents between batches. He enjoyed a General Grievous' Star Fighter (Lego), a Clone-Trooper Squadron (also Lego), a small Indiana Jones action figure set, and a bag of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. I don't want to know their plans for the vomit-flavored one, which, according to the kids, is *extremely* realistic.

Yesterday was also our last Class Day with Heritage Christian. I has one class meeting to give oral presentations on their MLA papers, so I wasn't able to go down to the "carnival" and help with the games as E did, or watch the boys play them. But the boys came back with paper lunch bags filled with candy and small toys, and J sported an armload of rubber bracelets of every color imaginable. Lunch was a pot luck affair, which the kids all loved.

After Class Day finished (somewhat of a downer for me with more papers to grade and giving out three failing grades on the MLA papers to my Intermediate Class -- definitely a first!), we drove to the mall to see the new Indiana Jones flick. What a great movie! Totally unbelievable in places, yes -- just like all the other filmns in the Indiana saga -- but great fun and loads of surprises. It was nearly as good as the first and third and rather better than the second. The flesh-eating ants were rather gross, though....

We came home to a quiet dinner of pizza and finished off with banana splits. J sang along with us as we serenaded him with the usual "Happy Birthday," pointing his thumbs in and singing "to me" instead of "to you," as you can see from the above photo. He spent the evening playing with his new Lego sets.

Today we're off to the zoo to finish celebrating his birthday and our final day of school for the year. Photos will be forthcoming....

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Saint Barnabas the Apostle

Today is the Feast Day of St. Barnabas, of whom we read about in the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament. Here is today's "Saint a Day" e-mail from

Barnabas, a Jew of Cyprus, comes as close as anyone outside the Twelve to being a full-fledged apostle. He was closely associated with St. Paul (he introduced Paul to Peter and the other apostles) and served as a kind of mediator between the former persecutor and the still suspicious Jewish Christians.

When a Christian community developed at Antioch, Barnabas was sent as the official representative of the Church of Jerusalem to incorporate them into the fold. He and Paul instructed in Antioch for a year, after which they took relief contributions to Jerusalem.

Later, Paul and Barnabas, now clearly seen as charismatic leaders, were sent by Antioch officials to preach to the Gentiles. Enormous success crowned their efforts. After a miracle at Lystra, the people wanted to offer sacrifice to them as gods—Barnabas being Zeus, and Paul, Hermes—but the two said, “We are of the same nature as you, human beings. We proclaim to you good news that you should turn from these idols to the living God” (see Acts 14:8-18).

But all was not peaceful. They were expelled from one town, they had to go to Jerusalem to clear up the ever-recurring controversy about circumcision and even the best of friends can have differences. When Paul wanted to revisit the places they had evangelized, Barnabas wanted to take along John Mark, his cousin, author of the Gospel, but Paul insisted that, since Mark had deserted them once, he was not fit to take along now. The disagreement that followed was so sharp that Barnabas and Paul separated, Barnabas taking Mark to Cyprus, Paul taking Silas to Syria. Later, they were reconciled—Paul, Barnabas and Mark.

When Paul stood up to Peter for not eating with Gentiles for fear of his Jewish friends, we learn that “even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy” (see Galatians 2:1-13).
The Collect[ive Prayer] for the celebration of Saint Barnabas the Apostle from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:
O Lord God Almighty, who didst endue thy holy Apostle Barnabas with singular gifts of the Hooly Ghost; Leave us not, we beseech thee, destitute of thy manifold gifts, nor yet of grace to use them alway[s] to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The readings for this day are from the 11th chapter Acts of the Apostles from the 22nd verse to the end of the chapter; here's a portion of the reading:
... and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people were added unto the Lord....

The Gospel for this day is written in the 15th chapter of the Gospel According to Saint John, the 12th to the 16th verses:
This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you....

Barnabas is an excellent man of God to emulate -- and emulating men and women who love and serve God well is something Paul instructs us to do:
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. (Philippians 3:17, ESV)

For the reason cited above in Philippians 3:17, the examples of the saints should be of the utmost importance to us. We are to "keep our eyes" on those men and women who lived this difficult Christian life for God's glory, and for that reason, the stories of the saints, both Scriptural saints that the Anglican church recognizes as well as the saints of the past 2000 years, are of great value to us as we navigate this "pilgrim pathway." The examples of the saints encourage us, teach us, even convict us, and by knowing the stories of lives lived for God, we have before us godly examples to follow. Yes, sometimes the saint stories I read each day rather run together in my memory, but each morning as I read about another Christian who lived (and sometimes died) for Christ, I have before me one more example of a fellow pilgrim who gave all for Christ. And I can't help feeling a little more encouraged in my own faith journey each morning as I thank God for their lives. The saints allowed God to work through their strengths and weaknesses in many different ways, and knowing their stories affirms more fully that He has been, is, and will be working through me as well as I continue loving and serving Him and His people.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Last Week of School

Here we are, closing in on the last days of our tenth year of home education. It's been a good year, and we've accomplished quite a bit. The only one with work not completed after this week is E who is a few weeks behind in World History. She should be able to do multiple lessons next week and catch up easily; she also has her last English essay due - on Tolstoy's short stories -- by Friday. But otherwise, we'll all be done on Wednesday with our regular "bookish days."

Thursday is our last co-op Class Day, and I have my College Prep class' research papers to return (which means I'm going to be grading like a madwoman for the next three days) and my Honors class' research papers to collect, and the latter class also is giving five-minute oral presentations on the topic they've researched. Traditionally, the last Class Day means a performance time in the extended homeroom period in which some of the classes demonstrate what they've learned (self-defense, choir, etc.). Then a fair is run in the parking lot with games for the little kids run by the big kids and parents. At noon a potluck lunch is served and then everyone chats for a while before leaving for home. We used to have a used curriculum sale in the parking lot, but this year the co-op leaders decided to put both Class Days' sale on the same day last Thursday, and I was in creative arts meetings all the day long in our town and couldn't get down to San Diego.

Thursday is also J's 11th birthday, so after a breakfast of his favorite gluten-free pancakes and follwing our Class Day activities, we'll be going to see the new Indiana Jones film. We'll come home to pizza (not gluten-free), presents, and banana splits for dessert. I think he'll have a fun day.

The celebration of J's birthday doesn't end on his actual day as we're planning to go to the San Diego Zoo to celebrate both his birthday and the last day of school. We'll pack a fun picnic lunch and perhaps buy some ice cream in the afternoon. It will be a wonderfully fun and educational way to polish off the school year. The only academic thing the kids must do is recite their memory verse (Proverbs 3:1-12) for the month, and then they're done.

But of course, I'm so not done after Friday. I have to submit my own four kids' grades and progress in all subjects by June 27 (two weeks after the last day of school), plus grade the incoming MLA research papers, 7-10 pages each, for my Honors students and also compute their final course grades for the year. The last week in June is also our art council's "Taste of Art" summer program, so I will be at the Community Clubhouse helping the leaders each afternoon with crowd control and artistic help (at which I am quite poor!). My sister and her family are arriving from Montana that week as well for a couple-week stay, so life is not going to completely calm down until around the beginning of July. And knowing how life usually goes, probably not then either.

I hope to devote July to writing my book and gardening. My plan right now is to spend half an hour each morning after breakfast and morning prayer in the garden, and then read/take notes until lunch. After lunch I plan to write for two hours (1-3 PM) and then spend the rest of the day with the kids, watching movies or playing board games, etc. We'll have one day a week devoted to a pool day with Lake Murray families (I hope!), and we'll go to the beach every other week, if not more. So I hope to have 3-4 days per week at home to be working and relaxing. It looks like a nice balance to me, anyway. I plan to do all my school ordering and basic planning before the end of June so I can have July *free from school*. It's also possible that on pool days I may help out at the church office in the morning as our secretary is on extended leave due to severe back pain as she waits for surgery.

So we're in the home stretch of another year of home schooling. Yes, it's hard. Yes, it's time-consuming. Yes, it's a full-time job. But I really love the lifestyle and family time, as well as the academics. I will miss teaching Latin next year, though, as E has fulfilled her high school language requirement and the boys are electing to study Traditional Logic rather than a second year of Latina Christiana. I'll post more on our school plans for next year after this week is over and grading is under control. I also have the Heritage Christian graduation to look forward to on June 20th as two students so far have invited me to see them graduate at College Avenue Baptist (blue robes and "Pomp and Circumstance" included), and I have a good number of graduating seniors in my Class Day courses.

So if I'm a bit scarce around here in the coming few days or weeks, you'll know why: Finishing our school year and grading research papers according to the MLA format... oh joy [sarcasm fully intended].

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Post-Evangelical Youth Ministry

I really like reading the Internet Monk's (AKA Michael Spencer) observations regarding the modern church. This week he was asked to describe a typical post-evangelical youth group, and here's his intriguing response:

So while I cannot describe a post-evangelical youth ministry, I can suggest some aspects to what a post-evangelical Christian community might determine in regard to its missional ministry to its own young people.

1. It would be very open to the “Family centered” model that puts youth ministry firmly in the ministry of parents, and would utilize “youth ministers” only as a supplement and facilitation of that model.

2. It would never separate young people from the multi-generational nature of the church, but would instill in them an appreciation for the Christian tradition, and the compromises and gifts of the multi-generational model.

3. Age segregated Bible study would most likely be de-emphasized, if not eliminated as much as possible.

4. Mentoring and “AA” type community would be the focus of community life, with a conscious effort to work against the consumerist impulses of evangelical youth culture.

5. One important emphasis would be participation in broader community ministries and worship opportunities that would emphasize being part of the larger body of Christ, including all traditions.

6. Relationships and ministries with the church among the poor and the persecuted would replace the creation of envy of megachurch facilities and a menu of specialized large events.

7. A conscious effort to define discipleship in terms of teachable processes will bring about an investment of time and relationships in learning specific disciplines from particular people, and then passing those discipleship processes on to other young people.

8. The heart of post-evangelical youth ministry would be the church’s own growth process into a community discovering the church as the movement Jesus started, imitating the best models of the past and connecting to other traditions.

9. This does not mean the elimination of “youth ministry,” but it does mean that any specific ministry will find its definition and direction from the overall character of the community to which it belongs. Whatever activities, actions or processes occur, they will be evaluated by the whole community and not by separate standards derived from “youth ministry” as a self-defining parachurch movement.

Obviously there is lot more to be said, but this does get at some of my current thoughts. A very good question. Thanks for asking.

I really appreciate his thoughts here. I've always wondered a bit about segregating the different ages in our evangelical church. I understand having the younger kids (babies, toddlers, preschoolers) in separate classes, yet I also very much enjoy having the entire family together for worship. There's no rule that says we can't keep our entire family together, but our former pastor disliked fussing children so much that he actually broke out of his sermons at times to ask mothers to remove their children. Our current pastor is much more mellow, but having the entire family together is not done often, and we've simply followed everyone else's lead and put our children in their little classes while we go off to "worship." In the past year or more, the children in grades 1 to 5 come upstairs to worship (our sanctuary is above our fellowship hall) but they leave before the pastor's sermon and never stay for Communion. They also all sit at the very front of the church under the watchful eye of an adult leader or two, not with their families. Again, we could tell B to come back and sit with us for singing and prayer, but it's not the norm.

On the other hand, the Catholic and Anglican mode (and also other liturgical churches, I'm sure) is to keep all of the children, even the littles, sitting with their families during the entire church service. They get to sing, hear the sermon (which is usually 15-20 minutes verses the 30-45 minutes at Lake Murray, typical of most evangelical churches), and can also take part in Communion by receiving a blessing rather than having Communion until they've prepared for such. Babies and toddlers are carried up from by parents as the congregation lines up for Communion, and all take part. No, it's not quite as relaxing as leaving them in a nursery or preschool class, but it's certainly much more unifying to have the whole family together during the entire service.

In our family, J, entering sixth grade in the fall, has been moved up to the junior high class and thereby joins us for the entire worship service second hour. T doesn't care for the worship service so he serves during the second church hour after attending his Sunday School class first hour; he really enjoys helping the Kindergarten class each Sunday, and the teachers have come to depend upon his assistance.

Back to Michael's comments: I'd really like to see a shift away from segregated classes and more of a push toward family services, along with some of the other suggestions/visions he has for Sunday School in the future. We'll have to see, won't we????

Saturday, June 7, 2008

We Need Each Other... A Quote to Ponder This Lord's Day

W.H. Auden (an Anglican) said that "Protestantism is correct in affirming that the we are of society" is false unless each individual "can say I am." At the same time, what he called Catholicism is also correct that anyone who cannot "join with others in saying we does not know the meaning of I." "In conjugating the present tense of the verb to be," he said, "Catholicism concentrates on the plural, Protestantism on the singular."

Here, as in so many other ways, we need a protestant catholicism, a catholic protestantism.

-- Quoted by and commented upon by Peter J. Leithart in the September 2007 issue of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, page 5.

So do you think Auden, an Anglican, and Leithart, a Catholic, are correct? What are your thoughts on this quote and Leithart's response?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Big Band with a Big Heart

This article appeared eighteen months ago in the San Diego Union-Tribune, and I post it tonight in honor of Mr. Millard Stanforth, who passed away a week ago (see post below).


An unusual friendship that started more than 65 years ago in San Diego schools lives on in the big-band beat of the Brass, Key & Wind Band. With a stroke of his conductor's wand, Jim Baker launched the group's 184th concert yesterday morning during a holiday carnival in Balboa Park. Passersby tapped their toes and clapped their hands – but none could have guessed that Baker and the six remaining original band members started to pal around in the Class of 1944 at Hoover High School. Some have known each other since the early 1930s.

“We have been fast friends for . . . many decades,” Baker said. “Not many people can match us.” Along with a recently deceased member of the “gang of seven,” the boys entered the Navy together after graduation and scattered across the globe. They kept track of each other through letters. When they all returned home, they celebrated by exploring Yosemite National Park. In 1946, they enrolled en masse at San Diego State College, only to find that life was pulling them in different directions again. A few transferred to other schools, and they all eventually got busy with careers and families. Their instruments – one of their pastimes as children – were shelved.

That changed in 1994, when Baker and Millard Stanforth were asked to play the Hoover fight song for their 50th reunion. They did – but “not very well,” recalled Stanforth, peering at the band's scrapbook through dark glasses. Within a few years, one of men suggested they get together and toot on their horns for fun. It was ragged at first, and they seemed to laugh more than they made music. “We all loved to play, so it was just sort of a natural thing,” said trumpeter Truman Jensen.

The rest of the original band is Gene Edelbrock on the trombone, Bob Stanford on the baritone and Don Jackson on the C-melody saxophone. Bill Tanner, who died in 2005, played clarinet. His wife still attends concerts. Eventually, the friends found their sound and started belting out 1930s and '40s favorites such as “In the Mood,” “Sentimental Journey” and “It Had to Be You.” Today, they play at nursing homes, private birthday parties and churches across San Diego County in hopes of enlivening the older crowd with a repertoire of some 200 tunes. The band doesn't charge, but it does take donations to cover expenses, including the recording of a third CD in February 2008.

“It seems like society has been so good to us,” Jensen said. “We are trying to pay back a little bit if we can.” Despite the friends' upbeat mood, time is starting to take a toll. Each of them turned 80 this year. Stanforth gave up the trumpet when he no longer could perform as well as he wanted. Today, he's the band manager. “I can't not (attend),” he said. “I am too close to them.”

In Honor of Mr. Stan

This afternoon Keith and I walked over to the post office together -- a habit we've started when he gets off work so we can chat a bit and I have someone with me while walking in case I start to get dizzy while walking. The mailbox held a scant two items, our homeschool ISP's monthly newsletter and a card addressed to me. The return address was "Millard Stanforth," the name of my beloved eighth grade English and History teacher whom I've kept up with over the years. About a year ago we met for lunch along with the kids at Souplantation. During that lunch, Mr. Stan informed us that he had been diagnosed with ALS, "Lou Gehrig's Disease."

Since then we've e-mailed back and forth and exchanged Christmas cards as usual. He sent me an update on his condition in September, and as I e-mailed him after that, I did not receive a response, although he did write me before that to say he was reading this blog regularly.

The handwriting today was not the familiar slanting hand I've known for almost thirty years, the handwriting I knew so well after a year of being in his classes for two hours a day and then aiding in his classes for the three years I daily walked across the park from the Granite Hills High School to Montgomery Middle School and back. For three years, I kept his gradebooks, gave spelling tests, graded worksheets and tests, and demonstrated to each class that it is indeed possible to memorize the 40 prepositions that he required all the eighth graders to repeat in thirty seconds (although I could do it in about five seconds). As I worked at his desk, head bent over the stacks of papers, I heard again the wonderful stories of American History that Mr. Stan made come alive. I heard again the explanations of sentence patterns, prepositional phrases, and all things grammatical which I have never forgotten. After all, who could forget after hearing them once in eighth grade and then again in ninth, tenth, and eleventh?

In the post office today, I slit the envelope and opened the card to read the words I have been dreading: Mr. Stan passed away last Friday, May 30. His wife couldn't find my e-mail address so sent the note as my mailing address was all she could locate. After walking home, I called and left a message for Mrs. Stan to call me back and then cried on Keith's shoulder. When Mrs. Stan returned my call an hour later, she told me when and where a gathering celebrating his life will be held, and I will certainly be there.

Mr. Stan taught me, my brother, and my sister each in eighth grade, and he became a family friend. And of all of the strangest coincidences, his best childhood friend grew up in the 1914 Craftsman home we restored in the Golden Hill area of San Diego where Mr. Stan spent a great deal of time as a young man. Before we moved out of the house in 2001 after a decade of painstaking work (and the birth of four children), Mr. Stan came by with his friend to tell us about how the house had looked in the 1930's and 1940's.

What I remember most about this most beloved of my teachers: Mr. Stan attending my wedding and my Master's graduation from USD. His encouraging, "Way to be, Sue!" My forging his signature on report cards (with his permission, of course). And receiving a 100% on my research paper on the Battle of Gettysburg, then finding it in his file drawer years later, kept with only a few other student papers.

And then there was Mr. Stan's "pet peeve": "a lot" is ALWAYS two words! That's one I will never forget.

Monarch of the Glen

Last year the women of the Lamp Post recommended a BBC show that E and I have become quite addicted to -- Monarch of the Glen. Set in an ancient Scottish castle, the modern son, who had been living in London, must return to the old family castle in Glenbogle, Scotland and try to keep the old place from falling to bits, literally, figuratively, and financially. His aging parents haven't the faintest clue of the severity of their situation nor of the burden of responsibility Archie must now assume as "Laird" of Glenbogle. He now has an ancient castle to attend to, two dotty parents -- the father, played by Richard Brier, is hilarious, three staff members to oversee, a great expanse of land to tend, and tenants to care for, including a rather cheeky teacher of the elementary school, Katrina, whose idea of even having a "laird" is repulsive. But Katrina and Archie seem to be falling for each other, despite their Beatrice-and-Benedick exchanges and arguments and also despite Justine, Archie's London girlfriend and fellow restaurant owner.

The staff are wonderfully brilliant -- Lexie, the cook and housekeeper, is Glenbogle-born-and-bred and has the attitude to prove it; Golly is the old ranger who cares for the animals and the land, and Duncan, who has a huge crush on Lexie who has a crush on Archie, helps Golly care for the extensive acres belonging to the Laird. Add to the mix the two women (or is it three?) in Archie's life, plus his eccentric mother and far more eccentric father, plus a highly-competitive neighbor named Kilwilly, plus a tumble-down castle badly in the red, and we have the makings of an intriguing, warm, sometimes sad, mostly funny, wry, and definitely Scottish television program.

E and I made our way through the first series (season) via Netflix, and this week we're starting Series 2; seven series were made all together. And we plan on watching every. single. one.

On this second season DVD, an advertisement for another BBC series called Ballykissangel piqued our curiosity, and I found that our county library has all six series. It looks as though it takes place in a small Irish town and centers around eccentric townspeople and a young priest. I ordered the first series and will report back when we've watched it.

So there you go -- I've recommended a couple of long BBC series to while away the hot summer days when sitting in a cool living room sipping iced tea is the only way to deal with soaring temperatures each afternoon, right?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The "Now" List

While reading blogs this morning on Google Reader (this reader is sheer genius when it comes to keeping up with blogs -- I adore it!), I came across this list on Jason Boyett's blog and have taken him up on his invitation to make a meme out of it. So feel free to do the same and take this to your own blog as well.

What I am listening to right now:
Billie Holiday on my laptop's iTunes.

What computer I am using right now:
A Toshiba laptop that's six years old and has little memory left...

What I am eating right now:

What I am drinking right now:
A large mug of Irish Breakfast tea imported from Britain -- Taylors of Harrogate, to be precise, which I buy at a little shop run by older British ladies. They have two clocks on the wall: one set to San Diego time and one to London time. They carry all kinds of wonderful British delicacies like treacle tarts, clotted cream, Cadbury's milk chocolate, a beautiful selection of Taylors teas, and their back room is stacked with expensive china teapots and cups, tea trays and cosies, etc. It's one of my favorite stores in the world: All Things Bright and British in La Mesa, California.

What I have just finished doing:
Teaching my three boys about Shakespeare. I read aloud the picture book The Bard of Avon and we thumbed through Usborne's World of Shakespeare.

What I will do immediately after posting this:D
Read aloud to the boys from The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood, chapters 21 and 22.

What I am reading now:
North by Northanger, a paperback mystery with Elizabeth and Darcy after their marriage; I bought it yesterday for a dime at our library.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for about the eighth time -- just to relax with in the spa and before bed at night.
Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande -- lent to me by Kitty.

Last email/text I received:
From Judith about the cancellation of her trip downtown to see her photographs on display at the County Administration Building. I want to go before the photos are removed so will try to get down there before the 11th.

Last email/text I sent:
To Laura R. regarding the crib mattress she wants to borrow from us.

Last blog entry I read:
Jason Boyett's blog from which I took this meme. Before that, Internet Monk's blog.

What I did last night:
After typing up the Minutes from our last art council meeting in preparation for our next meeting on Thursday, E and I watched an episode from the first season of ER and a rerun of Bones on TNT. I also wrote a long blog entry on liturgy based on a comment I received from an Anglican priest/chaplain in New Zealand.

What I'm doing tonight:
Resting after teaching my own four kids and tutoring three writing students this afternoon. Watching the Top Chef finale and So You Think You Can Dance. Will do my vespers prayers by candlelight on the front porch.

What I just looked at right now:
The stained glass window of a sailing ship hanging in our front window.


(Duccio's "The Last Supper" -- not from the site mentioned below)

"Liturgy" is one of my favorite words. Some others are "contemplative," "sacrament," "holy," and "mystic." But "liturgy" has long been a word that brings with it a host of positive feelings. "Liturgy" means "work of the people"; it implies a common work done together in reverent worship of Christ our Lord.

In a comment to this blog I ran across a great site on liturgy run by an Anglican priest in New Zealand. On his site he has a great You-Tube video of Thomas Keating, perhaps the world's greatest living authority on the meditative prayer method called "Centering Prayer" in which Keating gives explanation and direction on this way of contemplative prayer. I really appreciate the way Keating stresses the fact that pray is "all about relationship" with Christ -- it doesn't matter if the method isn't done exactly right as much as we reach out to God from our hearts, showing Him our love and desire to become closer to Him. If you'd like to read the blog entry and check out the short video, click here.

I haven't had a chance to check out the entire site on liturgy (although I definitely will in coming days). I really liked the Virtual Chapel which is chock full of great prayer and Scripture resources for enjoying God's presence. Links to an explanation of Lectio Divina (including a Lectionary -- a list of daily Scripture readings), Worship Resources, and the Church Year are also on the Home Page, as well as an explanation of the difference between religion and spirituality -- a very useful distinction to make. If you would like to take a look at this great site, you can click here: Liturgy Home Page.

Here's a short excerpt from the Home Page:
The stance here is contemplative (loving God) and missional (loving others) – often called “emergent”. There is a focus on the Eucharist (Mass, Holy Communion) as the jewel in the crown. And also a highlighting of the Liturgy of the Hours (Daily Prayer- using the Bible as prayer) as the crown in which the jewel of the Eucharist is set. Hence, in the spirituality of this site, there is a balance of Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, Lectio Divina (individual prayerful hearing what the Spirit is saying in the scriptures), and silent contemplative prayer. There is a balance of solitude and community. A balance of liturgy as service of God, and our call to service of others.

I plan to make use of this site as I work on my book over the summer. It looks like a really great resource for what I desire to address regarding the value of liturgy to an evangelical audience.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Stained Glass Update

Keith has finally closed in the top half of the window -- not all of the pieces are soldered in, but the pieces are there. He estimates that he is approaching three-quarters of area covered and nearly two-thirds of pieces in place.

He is hoping to have the window done in eight weeks or so; many small pieces are involved in finishing the hollyhocks and roses in the bottom half. Keith is hoping to use some glass fusing for the flowers -- the roses in particular -- and especially for the painted details on the little house. He is also hoping to etch in some birds flying across the sunset -- he'll see how it goes.

The formal unveiling will be in August. We'll set it up in our front window to take some photos before we truck it over to Dr. Adema's for the installation and formal unveiling.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Second Sunday after Trinity

According to the Church calendar, we're now in what is called "Ordinary Time." The liturgical color for this looooooong season is green, for our faith should be ever growing and maturing during this time of year. Ordinary Time starts after Trinity Sunday, the Sunday following Pentecost/Whitsunday, and for which Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity is named for, and lasts until the first Sunday in Advent, at the end of November or beginning of December. The Sundays throughout Ordinary Time are counted as Fifth Sunday after Trinity, Twelfth Sunday after Trinity, usually ending at the 24th Sunday after Trinity or the Sunday Next before Advent.

From on the origin of Trinity Sunday:
The greatest dogma of the Christian faith is the mystery of the Holy Trinity. (Mystery, in this connection, means a supernatural fact revealed by God which in itself transcends the natural power of human reasoning.) During the first thousand years of Christianity there was no special feast celebrated in honor of this mystery, but, as Pope Alexander II (1073) declared, every day of the liturgical year was devoted to the honor and adoration of the Sacred Trinity.

However, to counteract the Arian heresy, which denied the fullness of divinity to the Son, a special Mass text in honor of the Holy Trinity was introduced and incorporated in the Roman liturgical books. This Mass was not assigned for a definite day but could be used on certain Sundays according to the private devotion of each priest. (Such Mass texts which are not prescribed but open to choice on certain days are now known as "votive Masses.") From the ninth century on, various bishops of the Frankish kingdoms promoted in their own dioceses a special feast of the Holy Trinity, usually on the Sunday after Pentecost....

The Feast of the Holy Trinity now belongs among the great annual festivals of Christianity. Although it is not observed with additional liturgical services outside the Mass, its celebration quickly took root in the hearts and minds of the faithful, and in all countries of Europe popular traditions are closely associated with this feast.

The Collect for today, the Second Sunday after Trinity, from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:
O Lord, who nver failest to help and govern those whom thou dost bring up in thy steadfast fear and love; Keep us, we beseech thee, under the protection of thy good providence, and make us to have a perpetual fear and love of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Epistle for today starts at the 3rd chapter of the First Epistle of St. John, starting at the 13th verse to the end of the chapter. The Gospel reading is from the 14th chapter of the Gospel According to St. Luke, starting at the 16th verse and ending after the 24th verse (the Parable of the Great Supper).

A blessed Lord's Day to you all!

Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

Last night our daughter, E, acted in her first play, an adaptation of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, along with a dozen other homeschooled students. She absolutely enjoyed the experience, and it was fun to see her acting with the kids of our friends. Keith has known Norm Daniels since college, and it was fun when Norms turned around and said, "I understand that my son is in love with your daughter!" He also commented that his other son plays a drunk all too well that it was "scary." The children of the Pine Valley Community Church's pastor were also in the play, as well as one of the students I tutor from Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity. And Blessed Trinity stepped up and contributed the $300 that the director, Dianne Holly of UCSB, UCSD, and the Old Globe, had paid for out of her pocket. Blessed Trinity also is contributing a webpage on their site for photos as well. And Blessed Trinity was well-represented in the audience with Father Acker, Alice, Greg and his wife, plus the Beadle and Dru (Jack's parents).

You may read my review of the play and see more photos on our creative arts site: Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council.

E had a great time and is looking forward to the next production the Players will work on, either over the summer of in the fall. I think she's been bitten by the same acting bug that her cousins in Phoenic have; they've been very involved with plays for the past few years, and they are homeschooled as well. Must run in the family....


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