29 September, 2006

3 year olds are interesting people

This morning I was sitting in my bedroom, talking to Ian. Alex walked in from my bathroom, carrying an old toothbrush.

"Mama, look what I found!"

"Yes, that's yucky."

Alex looks at it, "No, it's not."

"Yes, sweetie, it's old and yucky and I don't use it anymore."

"Oh." He climbs into my lap.

"What's your favorite color?" I ask. We had been talking about colors and numbers as I got him dressed.


"What color are your eyes?"


"Come here and let me see them, they might be turning green." My and Ian's eyes both turned green between three and four.

"No they're not!"

I look in his eyes, "I don't know, they might be."

"Your eyes are gonna turn RED!"

"Why, am I evil?" Evil is his new favorite word. Nothing is bad right now, it's all "evil."

"Not yet."

"Am I going to turn evil later?"

"NOOOOO! Here, let me brush your nose!" He whips out the toothbrush and begins scrubbing my upper lip. Then he starts on my arm. "Take off your glasses, I wanna brush your eyebrows, they have hair on them!"

3 year olds are interesting people. :)

27 September, 2006

Stewed Apples

This morning I made stewed apples for breakfast. Oooh, oooh, was it yummy. This is a very versatile dish. You can eat it alone, like we did, or do any number of things:

  • mix into hot cereal
  • serve over ice cream
  • spoon into precooked pie or tart crusts
  • serve over shortbread, shortcake, or bread pudding
  • mix with saurkraut and cook a pork roast in it (which is super good, tangy, tart, and sweet)
  • serve with cream or whipped cream (hot or cold)
  • you could probably also mix it into bread for stuffing or dressing, but I've not tried it yet.
Here is the recipe:

8-12 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2 cup water
1/2-1 cup brown sugar, sucanat, turbinado, etc. (honey may be used, but gives a different taste use no more than 1/2 cup, unless you like it really sweet)
1/2-1 cup raisins
1/2-1 cup walnuts
1 TBSP Cinnamon

You simply chuck it all together into a pot and cook it until the apples are slightly mushy and the liquid is thickened. If necessary you can add a pinch of cornstarch, arrowroot powder, etc to thicken, but don't use much. You could also put it into a crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or overnight.

I used Jonathans in mine; they are especially tart, so if you use a sweeter apple you may find you can use less sugar (or none at all). If you like it a little tart, but don't have any tart apples on hand, you can add 1 TBSP apple cider vinegar. Also, if you use sucanat you may find you have to add more water, as it is dryer than other sugars.

This will make 1-2 quarts of stewed apples, so you can freeze it to use later.

A tip for keeping the apples from browning-submerge them in a bowl of cold water. They will float to the top, but if you give them a dunking every time you add apples, they will stay fresh.

25 September, 2006

Apple Picking (or the lost art of creating)

Yesterday Mary and I went apple picking. We picked 1/2 bushel that I am getting ready to turn into jelly and apple butter. I was shocked by the number of people who paid for 1/2 peck bags for each person in their family and then only filled each half way.

I can remember going apple picking with my mother. It was a big day that we looked forward to all September. We'd go to the orchard and pick 2 bushels. It would take us most of a Saturday. Then over the next week I would help mom create all the wonderful pies, dumplings, apple butter, apple sauce and so on. It felt so good to know that the food going to my table was mine. I had seen those apples go from tree to finished product. I had pride in our food, because I had worked so hard on it. It reminds me of a commercial I used to see on Nick at Nite. "It's Shake and Bake and I helped!"

That's something I want to pass on to my children, their connection to the things in our life. I want them to be intimately involved in the process of creating. I want them to have that pride of a job well done. I want them to understand the work that goes into making something, and the spiritual nourishment that is derived from the creative process.

Mary and I were talking about how man is created in God's image the other day. One of the ways we are like God is in our capacity for reason. We are more than the sum of our chemical processes. But, another and equally important aspect of the Divine in our nature is the desire to create. To look at something we have made and say, "It is good."

I hadn't put all this together until I started listening to those half-bag families. They were there not to create, but simply to get in touch with Creation. For them, the $7 a person they were spending was worth it just for that. So many of the children didn't know where apples came from until that day. And one of the moms came up to me and said, "Wow, you must have something special in mind with all those apples." I told her what I was going to do with them and she was amazed.

I couldn't help thinking how few apples I was bringing home than in those by-gone days with Mom.

21 September, 2006

I feel a bit better

I've been slogging through with a nasty cold the last couple of days. Of course, Hubby had it for all of 3 hours (he does that), and the kids were down for a day, but Mama still isn't feeling all that well. I was glued to the couch from about noon Tuesday until this morning. I got up a few times to do stuff, but not much got done.

Mary was helpful, she kept things tidy and helped me get the meals ready (as well as doing some worksheets), so things aren't completely nuts, but I do have quite a bit to catch up on, so I won't be around for a day or two.

Have a good rest of the week!

18 September, 2006

I am in geek heaven.

This has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of this blog, but I just had to point out that I just found Wil Wheaton's blog. As a card carrying geek and a 30-year-old, he had a huge impact on my childhood. I mean, he was like my second official crush (after Kirk Cameron, of course). I never would have watched ST:TNG if he hadn't been on it. I wanted to be on the Enterprise, helping him solve equations and save the universe. And, I can relate to all the ubergeek references he makes. Good times, good times.

I might even have to revive the crush. My current crush is Daniel Jackson from Stargate. My husband is cool with it, since he thinks Col. Carter is amazing. Man are we geeks.

(As an aside, I can still remember the rejoicing in my Christian college dorm when the news was announced that Kirk Cameron had come to Christ.)

17 September, 2006

Remember the Pope's anti-Muslim speech?

Last week, Pope Benedict XVI made a speech in Germany, and quoted a Byzantine emporer who thought Muslims were violent and needed to be opposed (this was at a time when Constantinople was under direct threat of invasion). Now, some Muslims were so outraged that the Pope would characterize Islam as a violent religion that they burned him in effigy and destroyed three churches. Right.

Anyway, turns out that the entire point of the speech has almost nothing to with Islam, and everything to do with Christianity (what a surprise, not). The money quote: "Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats..."

He goes on to detail the history of the de-Hellenization of the Christian faith, and to call for a re-Hellenization. It is a call for a return to reason among Christians, and I agree whole-heartedly. It could even be read (and I, of course, do) as a call for a return to a truly Classical education for Christians.

I encourage all Christians considering the place for the Classics in their curriculum to read this speech in its entirety. Pope Benedict makes an excellent argument in favor of the study of the Greeks.

15 September, 2006

Things that make you go hmmmm....

Last night, as I was driving home from Whole Foods, a Chipotle commercial came on the radio. Now, I love Chipotle. Heck, I don't even mind McDonald's. McDonald's owns somewhere in the neighborhood of 90% of Chipotle stock. I'm sure the amount varies, but it's definately a controlling interest.

So, the Chipotle commercial was going on and on about how they support sustainable agriculture and the small farmer. Sounds great, eh? There's only one problem. McDonald's is one of the biggest corporate backers of NAIS, as they believe it will aid in traceback in the event of meat contamination. Seeing as NAIS is the single biggest threat to the small producer today, I wonder how that squares with "supporting the small farmer."

What's so great about Greek?

After my Latin post below, I got an email asking why we study Greek, and for encouragement in the pursuit. Seeing as I have a bazillion things to do today, it seemed like a good time to write about it. (And Hubby says I have no time management skills. ;-) )

Many of the advantages to the study of Greek are similar to those of studying Latin. I'll repeat the immediate benefits:

The immediate benefits I've seen with Mary are increased focus when working, wider vocabulary understanding, better spelling and reading skills, an increased capacity for memorization, more interest in foreign languages overall, more interest in Ancient History, more order and a better flow to our school day, and less work on my part, since we cover all of our grammar topics via Greek and Latin and we are able to move more slowly, with more depth, and with a better understanding of grammar than I think we would have otherwise.

Now, Greek is a little different than Latin. While it is logical, it is not as precise. Latin is the language of the largest bureaucracy the world has ever known (excepting, perhaps, the IRS), the Roman empire, and, more specifically, its military. The Romans are known for their feats of engineering (all roads lead to Rome), but the beauty in their society is largely borrowed from the Greeks. Where the Romans are efficient, the Greeks are elegant. Where the Romans are precise, the Greeks are nuanced. Roman rhetoric is more about persuading the listener to agreement, while Greek rhetoric is more about exploring the nature of reality. (Compare Caesar and Herodotus, for example.)

The Greeks balance the Romans. If we confine our studies to Latin and the Roman world, we come away with a stodgy, rigid notion of the nature of things. If we confine our studies to Greek and the Aegean world, we come away with a fluid, abstract notion of the nature of things. But, if we study both together, we get a more balanced, and consequently more realistic, approach.

This is as true in writing as it is in formation of worldview. Latin teaches economy of words, logic of thought, and precision of language. Greek teaches elegance of expression, fluidity in writing, nuanced use of wording, and variety in language.

Also, I find it useful to study both languages, because it is a cheap and easy review. We hit the noun cases from two angles, applying both in English. We can translate words from Greek, to Latin, to English. We can look at the similarities and the differences, and we get a better idea of how English and the other modern languages formed. We can move from memorization of grammar to an intimate understanding of language as a concept with few bumps.

Just as with Latin, the study of Greek is necessary if we wish to truly understand the ancient world. One needs to be able to read Euclid, Herodotus, Plato, et al. as they intended, in the original language if one wishes to truly understand the interconnectedness between metaphysics and the mundane sciences that a true Classical education presupposes. Pythagoras isn't just geometry and arithmetic, he's philosophy.

Another reason the study of Greek is important is because it is the language through which the Bible comes to us. Even for the non-Christian this is a concern. Hebrew copies of the Scriptures simply were not available throughout much of the Middle Ages, right up to the early modern period. Even the Apostles themselves largely studied Scripture in the Greek (the Septuagint). You will see slight difference in how verses are rendered in the Old Testament and how they are quoted in the New Testament in modern Bibles. This is because the OT verse was likely translated from the Hebrew, while the NT version comes to us through the Greek or Aramaic that is drawing on the Septuagint.

Finally, it is useful to remember that Greek is the language that the Romans applied their Trivium to. Roman school children did not learn Latin at school, they learned Greek. They cut their mental teeth on Aesop. When the concept of the trivium and quadrivium were born, Greek was the language they were born from and for.

Well, today is a big day. Normally I'd be heading out tomorrow morning to sell things at the farmer's market. But, as this weekend is the town festival, there won't be many people there (the market is in the next town over). So, I'm having a porch sale instead. It will give me an opportunity to sell not just my craft and baking stuff, but also books and militaria that we normally take to flea markets in the early spring.

Today we have to clean up the last of the feathers, get the lingering tomatoes out of the garden, and get ready for the sale. It will be a busy day. We haven't gotten much school done the last few days, as Mary has been sick. But, we got a lot of good stuff done while we at the lake, so I don't feel to guilty about it.

We went to East Harbor State Park, Marblehead Lighthouse, Magee Marsh (saw two blue herons while there), Johnson's Island (which was a Confederate POW camp and has a cemetary), and saw the German and Italian POW huts while at Camp Perry. Quite a full weekend. I called it the Great Lakes/POW weekend. A few thoughts. First, staying in a base hotel with children is infinitely preferable to staying off post. On post you can let them outside to play without worrying about kidnappings, being struck by a car, etc. And, there is actually a place to play. If you go to the Camp Perry website, the picture of the motel on the front page is where we stayed. Nice big yard with picnic tables and grills. Second, five year olds can be taught to walk quietly in the forest, unless the path is gravel. Then they simply cannot help but drag their feet. Finally, seaweed, in person, looks nothing like I thought it did.

14 September, 2006

Remind me again why God made boys?

Q: What do you get when you mix a pillow full of feathers, two bottles of poster paint, and 3 minutes?

A: The boys' room and a mess that takes four hours to get to a semblance of clean.

They are still up in their room now, finishing. Mary and I cleaned the carpet and got up the majority of the feathers. We left a pile for the boys to clean up. Whether or not they actually do so before their dad gets home we have yet to see. But, all the toys and books are out of the room, and I told them no snacks until it's done.

I would not want to be them if it isn't done by the time Hubby gets home. I called him at work, so he can have the rest of the day to mentally prepare. Thank God they didn't get any paint on their new walls. The carpet is going to be coming out soon anyway, so the paint stains aren't as huge a deal as they would be otherwise, but their carpet has an interesting criss-cross green and orange pattern on it now.

How did I keep from harming them? I left the room, prayed for a few minutes, then did some yoga sun salutations until I felt calm enough to deal with it. Then, and only then, did I attempt to deal with it. Now, I just need to keep repeating the mantra, "They are only little for a short time. They are only little for a short time."

13 September, 2006

Five Years Ago

Five years ago...
...Hubby's bags sat packed next to the door, waiting for a call.
...Mary made lego models of the Pentagon, and "saved all the people."
...We huddled on our couch, thankful to be alive and together.

Five years ago...
...We looked up, startled, when the rare plane would fly overhead.
...We looked for terrorists everywhere.
...We looked after the Muslims in our midst, wary of reprisals.

Five years ago...
...We cheered with the President.
...We mourned with the survivors.
...We prayed with the angels.

Five years ago we were scared.
Five years ago we were sad.
Yet, five years ago, we were strong.

01 September, 2006

Out to Lunch, will return in 12 days

You may notice a few changes around the blog. Well, I've been meaning to redecorate for a while, and blogger just came out with a new beta, so I figured now was as good a time as any. I will be offline until a week from Wednesday. We are painting the boy's room with a nautical theme over the weekend, then we start school and I will need to put all my energy toward getting on track, then Hubby has Annual Training (for the state guard), and we are joining him for a few days on an extended field trip to Lake Erie.

Have a lovely holiday and week!

30 Days of Nothing

Today is the first day of 30 Days of Nothing. We will not be participating, but it is a wonderful idea and I wanted to put it forward for general "consumption."

What's so great about Latin?

I recently had a friend ask me via e-mail what I thought the benefits of Latin have been for us.

Do you feel it's been really worthwhile? What advantages do you perceive your children to have because of the instruction in Latin they've received?

Here is my answer:

The immediate benefits I've seen with Mary are increased focus when working, wider vocabulary understanding, better spelling and reading skills, an increased capacity for memorization, more interest in foreign languages overall, more interest in Ancient History, more order and a better flow to our school day, and less work on my part, since we cover all of our grammar topics via Greek and Latin and we are able to move more slowly, with more depth, and with a better understanding of grammar than I think we would have otherwise. Grammar takes a huge chunk of our day, but we hit spelling, English grammar, two other languages, and some history, science, and geography in a little more than an hour, with about 30 minutes instruction on my part and the rest independent. If we were only doing Latin, the whole thing would take somewhere about 30-45 minutes, depending on the day.

The other benefits of Latin that we haven't seen yet, since Mary is only 9, include easier study of Romance languages (Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese), inflected languages (Ancient, Biblical, and Modern Greek, German, Russian, most other Indo-European languages), the ability to read early Church and pagan documents in their original language and/or to discern the quality of a translation, more logical thought and a better understanding of formal, material, and symbolic logic, and more concise, precise writing in English. Also, since most highschool Latin work includes working with Caesar, Cicero, and Virgil, the student will automatically be introduced to ancient history, philosophy, and literature without the need for a separate course.