Monday, April 16, 2012


I've been hit and miss with blogging for awhile, but always want to get back to it. I've realized over time that writing really helps me clarify my thoughts and thus gain more confidence in what I'm doing and how I want to go about doing it.

While reading Elizabeth Foss's lovely blog post this morning, it occurred to me that I could take the concept of these formula-based blog post things and make them more my own. I also don't expect to keep the sub-titles consistent.

So here is a little of what I'm up to at the moment (without falling into the mistake of trying to catch up on everything since I last wrote):

I'm basking in...

The gorgeous spring beauty right in our own backyard. All of our blossoming trees (pear, apple, dogwood?, etc) are in full spring splendor right now. It's a little strange because they are blooming so early - I think it's 3-4 weeks early than usual. Sadly they will all be past-peak when Ria comes home from college next month.

I'm feeling grateful for...

The beauty of yesterday's little Divine Mercy Service at our parish. Though our church is very simple in appearance, we have a huge, beautiful crucifix that dominates the sanctuary. So yesterday, with the abundance of Easter flowers in front of the altar, the Divine Mercy picture on a stand in front, the monstrance on top of the altar and that lovely crucifix, I couldn't imagine any more beauty for this setting. I have a confession to make. I usually find the sung version of the Divine Mercy Chaplet a bit tedious, but yesterday, with all of that beauty, I was perfectly content to be there for the entire thing.

Who knew?

That my children would enjoy tree trimming! No, we didn't do anything up high, but they almost single-handedly (especially the 8 and 12 year olds) cleared out all of the dead branches near the base of our two big pine trees - and completely relished the task. They were rewarded with a trip to Culvers (yum!) and the great thing is that, unlike weeds, these will not grow back any time soon. ;)

We've been watching...

On Saturday, John and I watched The Devil Wears Prada with Gus and Terri (ages 16 and 14). Such a good movie and they really *got* it.

Yesterday we watched the old Titanic movie A Night to Remember (you can watch it on YouTube for free in 13 parts - Gus knows how to set up a playlist so that each piece is automatically loaded). For some reason I thought we had already passed the 100th anniversary (my mind had April 12th as the day, presumably getting mixed up because the year ended in "12") - so we were amazed to discover that we were actually watching it on the hundredth anniversary. There was something particularly solemn about doing so - partly, I suppose, because *remembering* is such an important thing for us as people. I was concerned that it would be too disturbing for the youngest set (who are 8 and 10 now by the way), and there was quite a bit of screaming (!), but they were fine with it (snuggled up on either side of me), especially since I let them watch something laugh-out-loud afterwards so they wouldn't go to sleep with the tragedy so present on their minds. The kids very ably recognized things that were done wrong and should be changed (like leaving the radio on in other ships 24/7). I was able to give them a little background on the hearings that went on in the aftermath of the sinking. It was particularly interesting to discuss with them the importance of staying calm in a difficult situation and even tangential things like how the brave musicians helped out because music has such a powerful effect on us.

I'm reading...

I'm finally reading Suzie Andres' collection of essays on Catholic unschooling (A Little Way of Homeschooling). It's been sitting on my shelf for a year, but I've learned (even though I'm not always good at the follow-through) that I need to be patient with myself in what I read. Now seems like just the right time for this book. It's funny too because I had real "unschooling moment" with my littlest ones yesterday. Kate and Frank (ages 10 and 8) were talking about sonic booms. As far as I could tell, no one in the family had deliberately talked to them about sonic booms or even necessarily had a conversation with them about the topic. They've just picked it up here and there as side points in books and movies.

We've also recently returned to the wonderful world of periodicals. For a long time we didn't get a newspaper or many magazines because we just weren't using them very well. A few months ago I decided it was time for a change. I had been neglecting the political arena with my kids (having gotten rather burnt out on politics myself) and decided it was time for another subscription to The Wall Street Journal (I am particularly fond of Peggy Noonan and James Taranto). I really find the WSJ to be the best source of non-sensationalized news. And with the student subscription price, you get a 75% discount (I was able to sign Gus up as a homeschooled teen). I also ordered subscriptions for National Geographic, Scientific American, Scientific American Mind and Catholic Digest. Interesting stuff, even if some of them do require a skeptical eye at times (what doesn't?). We found this special issue of National Geographic to be particularly interesting and helpful: National Geographic 100 Scientific Discoveries that Changed the World.

Besides ordering these things, I set up an area in our living room especially for casual reading of this sort.

I've been thinking about...

Pope Benedict on his birthday today.

The nature of stories, why we read books, how they affect us and even how our attitude towards a book affects what we get out of it. I do think that books can be thought of, in a way, as living things. For one thing, every time a book is read, it is a unique experience. For example, I recently read a non-religious book on the nature of conflict and relationships between people. I found it dovetailed nicely with a lot of my religious beliefs and it impacted me in a particular way because of this. I can even read the same book multiple times and have completely different experiences. I even like to think in terms of approaching a book in a charitable way. If I let myself be open to taking away from a book what is useful to me and not get too caught up in things I don't agree with (or that perhaps just rub me the wrong way), I find the process to be much more constructive. If, on the other hand, I start out with a bad attitude toward a book, it can very much twist the experience.

I'm asking for prayers for...

My nephew Nick who suffers from spina bifida and has been very sick (in and out of the hospital) lately.

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