Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Our version of New Year's Eve is a quiet one. Tonight we'll have two guests (we typically range from zero to one more family).
The itinerary:
  • Work--a new puzzle (1,000 pieces).
  • Eat--veggies and dip (somebody might!), taquitos, CPK pizza, spanikopita, mozzarella sticks, chex mix, muddy buddies, Christmas cookies.
  • Bake--Williamsburg soft gingerbread cookies. Len makes either these or soft pretzels every year.
  • Drink--a toast with sparkling grape juice (NOT cider).
  • Play--Bananagrams.
  • Watch--the ball drop at midnight.
May your new year be blessed and bright.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Holy Family

Yesterday was the Feast of the Holy Family. The second reading, from St. Paul's letter to the Colossians, grabbed my attention. We homeschoolers had memorized this passage last year, which explains how God wants us to live in community, as our own holy family. We keep some laminated copies near the prayer table and still read Paul's words together now and then.

Here is part of the passage (Col 3:12-17). We still have a long way to go before reaching this about you?

"Brothers and sisters: Put on, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful."

Monday, December 22, 2008

DC in December

On December 12, our art co-op went to the National Gallery of Art to see works by some of the modern artists we studied this semester.

Some of us went in early (In for a penny, in for a pound--make the drive and parking worth it!) and started with a visit to the United States Botanic Garden. (I always say "botanicAL", but it is "botanic". Now we know.)

Right now the USBGarden is decorated for Christmas, with trees, trains, miniature DC landmarks, etc. There's a room filled with different varieties of poinsettias.Here's Becca in front of the big tree. My mom sent that plain red dress for Lauren long ago, and I cross-stitched the design on it. I remember frantically sewing in the last moments before Christmas, but it's hard to believe I ever had the time to do it all! Anyway... The orchid room was full of gorgeous blooms. Here's just one tiny plant:Joe grabbed the camera and raced around taking pictures. Here are two sides of the same leaf:The jungle:The several stories high skylight/greenhouse roof:After lunch we had our art tour. We divided into older and younger groups, and followed our docents, who were skilled at getting the children to observe and think about the works.

I was hoping to see some specific pieces that unfortunately weren't on the day's list. But as we were racing through the tunnel between the buildings, we came upon a familiar sculpture!The cool thing was that, from a distance, I said, "Wow, that looks like a Henry Moore!" And it was!

I've been to the gallery many times before and SEEN that sculpture, but never RECOGNIZED it until that day. For me, that is one of the great things about this co-op--I'm learning along with my children. (They have their "aha!" moments, too.)

When the day was over, guess what we saw on our way back to the car?Yes, another one we could guess from a distance. How different it looks from varying angles!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

How to Make Your Big Sister Cry

  1. Read about her favorite Christmas.
  2. Find out she doesn't have the COMPLETE memory collection.
  3. Send her the final piece. (Cue tears as the first notes play...)
Thank you!!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Prayer is Always in Season

When we need to keep a prayer request in our minds throughout the day, I light a candle. Seeing the flame is our reminder to pray.
This past week a family from school suddenly lost a five year old, and my cousin endured a serious surgery. My aunt had a mild heart attack the week before that. I wish I had posted sooner to ask others to pray with us. We went to A's funeral Monday. My cousin's recovery has been slower and more difficult than expected, but he should be home within a few days.

Please help us pray for healing in both situations. Thank you!

Christmas Carols

I found this Christmas carol meme over at MacBeth's.

Christmas Carols:

1. Love 'em, hate 'em, tolerate 'em, or...? Love them!
2. Policy: none before Christmas, none before Thanksgiving, or...? None before Thanksgiving.
3. Favorite? Favorites, if you've got more than one?Wow--lots of favorites. The Andy Williams Merry Christmas cd takes me waaaaay back. The first "jing-a-ling, jing-jing-a-ling" perks me right up. Luckily my children have been brainwashed indoctrinated into the tradition.

I really like Advent and chant-type songs: O Come, O Come Emmanuel; Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence; Of the Father's Love Begotten; People Look East; What Child is This? Also Joy to the World; The Holly and the Ivy (beautiful verses); O Holy Night. Newer songs like Breath of Heaven and Mary Did You Know? Weston Priory songs. And more I can't think of right now. I love Christmas music!
4. Least favorite? Drives you batty/hate it/turn it off if it comes on the radio? Santa Baby, Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer
5. Caroling door to door in neighborhood? Ever done it/would do it? Wouldn't even consider it? Caroled some as a kid, and fortunately have a friend who hosts a caroling party every year. We'll be going on Friday!
6. Funniest kids' rendition, if any? Hmmm...
7. Most inappropriate carol ever heard in a church setting (Catholic or otherwise)? Hmmm... Guess I've been lucky (or forgetful).
8. The one foreign language carol I know (or know best) is...? Probably one verse of Silent Night in the original German.
9. Carol that perplexes you the most? Remember the adage, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all?" That's what I don't get about some secular "Christmas" songs (see #4 and their ilk)--WHY?

Too much "styling" always perplexes me, as well. A singer may want to add his or her touch to a familiar carol, but the ones that stray too far from familiar tune or tempo or instrumentation make me wonder, "Why?"
10. Carol your whole family will sing? Away in a Manger, if we start on the right note.

Mary, Did You Know? is a song I didn't hear until I was a homeschooling parent. I distinctly remember receiving the Rescue cd as an extra in a big order from Rainbow Resources one year. Here's someone else's version for you to enjoy.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Man Walks Down the Street in That Hat, People Know He's Not Afraid of Anything

--Immortal words spoken to macho Jayne Cobb as he models the hideous hat his ma has made for him. Jayne's a character on a tv show (Firefly) that filmed just 14 episodes 6 years ago, but when David asked me to knit the hat, I was able to find multiple patterns online. Never underestimate the fans!

The problem with multiple patterns was actually the variety, especially when it came to figuring out how many stitches to start with. I made four gauge swatches, then an educated guess, hoping to produce a hat that actually fit. Once past that stumbling block, the actual knitting was pretty easy. A side benefit of the long Thanksgiving drive home was that I was able to finish everything, including my first ever pom-pom. What do you think?It definitely takes a special guy to wear such a--ahem--unique hat.

Mini review: we experienced Firefly on dvd. It's a sort of Western, set in a sci fi future, but driven more by story than technology. Len and I enjoyed that it is intelligent, complex, and funny, with interesting characters, but I can't give an unconditional thumbs up. There is violence, sometimes extreme or gratuitous, and some episodes had too much, shall we say, sensuality. We censored ourselves a bit, and David more. It's maybe surprising we watched it all, considering we haven't allowed ourselves to see the latest James Bond movie.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

They Stepped Up to the Plate

Yesterday I wasn't feeling well. It was nothing dramatic, but I spent several hours in a daze on the couch.

The children at home were wonderful. They quietly went about their schoolwork, coming to me for bits of help now and then. They made tea for all of us. And all morning, THERE WAS NO BICKERING!

Bickering, button-pushing, and criticizing seem to be part (sometimes a big part) of most of our days at home. It's immensely draining (Do you referee, do you ignore it, do you have to hear it AGAIN?), and I am really grateful at how smoothly life passed by yesterday.

Maybe I'll school from the couch more often. ;-)

Metro Traffic

Okay, don't complain to me about your traffic unless you live near Los Angeles. Our DC metro area is #2 on the hideous list. Today's evidence:

It took 68 minutes to get David to his school's play rehearsal this morning--11.8 miles away. (Yes, he was late.) No accidents, no emergencies, just "volume". The journey home? 24 minutes. Ack!

Whining over--resume normal programming. :-)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas Memories

Click on the link, and when the music starts playing, minimize the screen. That should bring you back here to read while you listen.

One of my favorite Christmas memories is of the first time our family (I was in high school or college) spent the week at Weston Priory in Vermont. We stayed in a renovated barn heated by a wood furnace. The monks cut down a giant tree for us, which we covered with paper snowflakes. Most of the family went skiing nearby while I played in the deep snow with my little sister who could walk on top of the ice crust. We walked through the woods to attend 5:00 a.m. prayer in the darkness with the monks. They sang then, and during the Christmas Eve mass which was followed by a breakfast brunch. Was it midnight mass? My mom must remember many more details than I do. It was a peaceful, active, reflective, religious, family Christmas.

I finally bought myself a "monk cd" as we call it, and am savoring their songs of Advent and Christmas.

Do you remember your favorite Christmas?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Christmas Fruit

Happy Feast of St. Nicholas!

Pomegranates are an early winter treat that my family enjoys (not me--too seedy). While an association with St. Nicholas is a bit of a stretch, they do grow in Turkey. (Remember, he's from Myra in the land that is now Turkey?)

If you've never tried this exotic (for me, anyway--I didn't see one before I was married) fruit, now may be the time. I've put up a preparation tutorial over at Come to the Table.

Friday, December 5, 2008

In Memory

Hyatt Nolan died peacefully Thursday evening, December 4. Please pray for her soul and the family and friends who will miss her.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Our Little Bit of Advent

We're halfway through the first week of Advent, and have begun digging out and setting up our decorations. Maybe I'd be more on the ball if we hadn't been driving home from NY on the first Sunday (8 1/2 hours just from Long Island!). Then again, maybe not...

So here is the front door banner. A friend gave me the felt pieces a few years ago, and I put everything together. The flames are pinned on one by one as time goes by. We'll put up a Christmas wreath when Christmas gets here. I think a pine wreath with four bows (3 purple and one rose) would also be a nice Advent remembrance.Our Advent wreath is usually decorated with evergreen pieces from our Christmas tree. Since we don't have that yet, I put the candles on a cake stand for now. These are those big, glass novena candles, so they make quite a display already.I bought a beautiful, gigantic Advent calendar this year. Some other families have noticed that some days are more political than religious, so we'll tweak those few. I've actually got several to fix, as I bought nine more to give to our godchildren next year!The homeschoolers are still trying to say a rosary decade with meditations during the week, so this is what the prayer table looks like right now.I thought the Advent calendar would be "enough", but the children did want to use our Jesse tree again. We made the shrinky-dink ornaments last year, and I've seen several poring over them in the basket, finding their favorites and remembering which ones they colored. It will be nice to go over the scriptures and symbols again.

Now to spend some time preparing our hearts for Christ. Happy Advent to you!