Finished it

May 31, 2005 Categories: Books , Reviews | Comments Off  

I finished Ireland: A Novel by Frank Delaney this evening. You must read this book. I don’t know what to say to express how much this book moved me. Maybe it’s because I’m Irish. My maiden name is Shannon. Since I was a girl, it has been a dream to visit the River Shannon, named for my great-great-greats. Now I am even more determined to make it happen.

In each chapter, there was at least one phrase, or image, or sentence, or paragraph that resonated so deeply that I thought, “I have to share this with someone!” There is just too much in this book! I keep looking through the passages I marked to share and it’s just overwhelming. I’ll leave it to you to read for yourself.

The story begins with a Seanchai — a traveling storyteller — arriving at a house one night. The boy who lives in the house becomes enthralled with the man’s stories and that night starts him on a life-long quest to find and learn from the storyteller. Interspersed through the main storyline of this boy’s life are stories of Irish history and folklore. The Storyteller’s “voice” is so convincing that you believe yourself sitting beside a hearth, smelling his pipe smoke, and listening to his words.

This is Mr. Delaney’s first novel. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

Tonight, I start The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Also waiting in my library bag, which serves as my to-read stack, is The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

It’s off to bed for me now.

Daffodils and Diesels

Categories: Homeschooling | 2 Comments  

I’m not very good in school. This is my second year in the seventh grade, and I’m bigger than most of the other kids. They like me all right, even though I don’t say much in class, and that sort of makes up for what goes on in school.

I don’t know why the teachers don’t like me. They never have. It seems like they don’t think you know anything unless you can name the book it came out of. I read a lot at home — things like Popular Mechanics and Sports Illustrated and the Sears catalog — but I don’t just sit down and read them through like they make us do in school. I use them when I want to find something out, like a batting average or when Mom buys something second-hand and wants to know if she’s getting a good price.

In school, though, we’ve got to learn whatever is in the book and I just can’t memorize the stuff. Last year I stayed after school every night for two weeks trying to learn the names of the presidents. Some of them were easy, like Washington and Jefferson and Lincoln, but there must have been thirty altogether and I never did get them straight. I’m not too sorry, though, because the kids who learned the presidents had to turn right around and learn all the vice-presidents. I am taking the seventh grade over, but our teacher this year isn’t interested in the names of the presidents. She has us trying to learn the names of all the great American inventors.

I guess I just can’t remember names in history. Anyway, I’ve been trying to learn about trucks because my uncle owns three and he says I can drive one when I’m sixteen. I know the horsepower and gear rations of twenty-six American trucks, and want to operate a diesel. Those diesels are really something. I started to tell my teacher about them in science class last week when the pump we were using to make a vacuum in a bell jar got hot, but she said she didn’t see what a diesel engine had to do with our experiment on air pressure, so I just shut up. The kids seemed interested, though. I took four of them around to my uncle’s garage after school and we watched his mechanic tear down a big diesel engine. He really knows his stuff.

I’m not very good in geography, either. They call it economic geography this year. We’ve been studying imports and exports of Turkey all week, but I couldn’t tell you what they are. Maybe the reason is that I missed school for a couple of days when my uncle took me downstate to pick up some livestock. He told me where we were headed and I had to figure out the best way to get there and back. He just drove and turned where I told him. It was over 500 miles round-trip and I’m figuring now what his oil cost and the wear and tear on the truck — he calls it depreciation — so we’ll know how much we made.

When we got back I wrote up all the bills and sent letters to the farmers about what their pigs and cattle brought at the stockyard. My aunt said I made only three mistakes in 17 letters, all commas. I wish I could write school themes that way. The last one I had to write was on, “What a daffodil thinks of Spring,” and I just couldn’t get going.

I don’t do very well in arithmetic, either. Seems I just can’t keep my mind on the problems. We had one the other day like this: If a 57-foot telephone pole falls across a cement highway so that 17 3/4 feet extend from one side and 14 16/17 feet extend from the other, how wide is the highway? That seemed to me like an awfully silly way to get the width of a highway. I didn’t even try to answer it because it didn’t say whether the pole had fallen straight across or not.

Even in shop class I don’t get very good grades. All of us kids made a broom holder and a bookend this semester and mine were sloppy. I just couldn’t get interested. Mom doesn’t use a broom any more with her new vacuum cleaner, and all of our books are in a bookcase with glass doors in the family room. Anyway, I wanted to make an end gate for my uncle’s trailer, but the shop teacher said that meant using metal and wood both, and I’d have to learn how to work with wood first. I didn’t see why, but I kept quiet and made a tie rack even though my dad doesn’t wear ties. I made the tail gate after school in my uncle’s garage, and he said I saved him twenty dollars.

Government class is hard for me, too. I’ve been staying after school trying to learn the Articles of Confederation for almost a week, because the teacher said we couldn’t be good citizens unless we did. I really tried because I want to be a good citizen. I did hate to stay after school, though, because a bunch of us guys from the Southend have been cleaning up the old lot across from Taylor’s Machine Shop to make a playground out of it for the little kids from the Methodist home. I made the jungle gym out of old pipe, and the guys put me in charge of things. We raised enough money collecting scrap this month to build a wire fence clear around the lot.

Dad says I can quit school when I’m sixteen. I’m sort of anxious to because there are a lot of things I want to learn to do, and, as my uncle says, I’m not getting any younger.

Anonymous

Appendix Seven from Homeschooling for Excellence by David and Micki Colfax

Ireland

May 30, 2005 Categories: Books , Commonplace Book | Comments Off  

Wonderfully, it was the boy who saw him first. He glanced out of his bedroom window, then looked again and harder — and dared to hope. No, it was not a trick of the light; a tall figure in a ragged black coat and a ruined old hat was walking down the darkening hillside; and he was heading toward the house.

The stranger’s face was chalk-white with exhaustion, and he stumbled on the rough ground, his hands held out before him like a sleepwalker’s. He looked like a scarecrow deserting his post. High grasses soaked his cracked boots and drenched his coat hems. A mist like silver veil floated above the ground, broke at his knees, and reassembled itself in his wake. In this twilight fog, mysterious shapes appeared and dematerialized, so that the pale walker was never sure he had seen merely the branches of trees or the arms of mythic dancers come to greet him. Closer in, the dark shadows of the tree trunks twisted into harsh and threatening faces.

Across the field he saw the yellow glow of lamplight in the window of a house, and he raised his eyes to the sky in some kind of thanks. With no fog on high, the early stars glinted like grains of salt. He became aware of cattle nearby, not yet taken indoors in this mild winter. Many lay curled on the grass where they chewed the cud. As he passed, one or two lurched to their feet in alarm and lumbered off.

And in the house ahead, the boy, nine years old and blond as hay, raced downstairs, calling wildly to his father.

The stranger’s bones hurt, and his lungs ached almost beyond endurance. Hunger intensified his troubles; he’d eaten one meal in three days. The calm light in the window ahead pulled him forward in hope. If he held their attention, he might get bed and board for a week — and maybe more. In the days of the High King at Tara, a storyteller stayed seven days and seven nights. Did they know that? Nobody knew anything anymore.

With luck, though, the child in this house would help. Children want stories, and the parents might stretch their hospitality, fired by the delight in the boy’s eyes. Unlike last night’s billet; high up on a hill farm, he had slept in a loft above the cows, where the east wind got at his bones. The ignorant people there, who had no use for stories, gave him no food and closed their fireside to him. It happened more and more.

But this house would surely prove better; and it was, after all, Halloween, the great time of the year for telling stories, the time of All Souls’, when the dead had permission go rise from their graves and prowl the land.

And a few pages on:

At a noise from outside, the Storyteller swung his head hopefully. The door heaved open; a man and woman ambled in with two daughters, aged about twelve and eight. One was blond and one red-haired, and they wore flowered pinafores. The younger girl was directed to join the boy on the high bench by the fire, where she sat watching the Storyteller with wonderland eyes.

A coal fell forward on the hearth. The Storyteller sucked vigorously on his pipe, and it made a little dottle of noise. Next moment, the audience increased again — another couple strolled in from across the lane with their young daughter.

Word had obviously spread. Perhaps someone among the farms had earlier seen the tall stranger’s descent through the misty fields and guessed who or what he was. So he would have an audience tonight. Whether he would have one tomorrow night — or a venue — would depend on him.

“What would you like in your whiskey?” asked the host.

One neighbor said, “More,” and they all laughed.

After some minutes of talk and smiles, everyone settled down. No electricity in the houses in those days; an oil lamp in the window and another with a glass sconce on the wall laid gilded shadows into the room. The firelight played on the Storyteller’s long face. He jiggled his pipe, eased back in his chair, spread his shoulders, and began.

From Ireland: A Novel by Frank Delaney

Starting a new book

May 28, 2005 Categories: Books , Commonplace Book | 3 Comments  

One of the negatives of having had such a busy week is that I did not have time to finish Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. Since there is a HUGE waiting list for it at the library, I couldn’t renew it and had to take it back. I was about 1/3 of the way through, and now I am back at the bottom of the hold list! Aaaaaargh! It is so good — I was running to and fro so much this week that I had very little time to read.

I picked up the book that is due next at the library and started it: Ireland: A Novel by Frank Delaney. This is how it starts:

Wonderfully, it was the boy who saw him first. He glanced out of his bedroom window, then looked again and harder — and dared to hope. No, it was not a trick of the light; a tall figure in a ragged black coat and a ruined old hat was walking down the darkening hillside; and he was heading toward the house.

The stranger’s face was chalk-white with exhaustion, and he stumbled on the rough ground, his hands held out before him like a sleepwalker’s. He looked like a scarecrow deserting his post. High grasses soaked his cracked boots and drenched his coat hems. A mist like silver veil floated above the ground, broke at his knees, and reassembled itself in his wake. In this twilight fog, mysterious shapes appeared and dematerialized, so that the pale walker was never sure he had seen merely the branches of trees or the arms of mythic dancers come to greet him. Closer in, the dark shadows of the tree trunks twisted into harsh and threatening faces.

Across the field he saw the yellow glow of lamplight in the window of a house, and he raised his eyes to the sky in some kind of thanks. With no fog on high, the early stars glinted like grains of salt. He became aware of cattle nearby, not yet taken indoors in this mild winter. Many lay curled on the grass where they chewed the cud. As he passed, one or two lurched to their feet in alarm and lumbered off.

And in the house ahead, the boy, nine years old and blond as hay, raced downstairs, calling wildly to his father.

The stranger’s bones hurt, and his lungs ached almost beyond endurance. Hunger intensified his troubles; he’d eaten one meal in three days. The calm light in the window ahead pulled him forward in hope. If he held their attention, he might get bed and board for a week — and maybe more. In the days of the High King at Tara, a storyteller stayed seven days and seven nights. Did they know that? Nobody knew anything anymore.

With luck, though, the child in this house would help. Children want stories, and the parents might stretch their hospitality, fired by the delight in the boy’s eyes. Unlike last night’s billet; high up on a hill farm, he had slept in a loft above the cows, where the east wind got at his bones. The ignorant people there, who had no use for stories, gave him no food and closed their fireside to him. It happened more and more.

But this house would surely prove better; and it was, after all, Halloween, the great time of the year for telling stories, the time of All Souls’, when the dead had permission go rise from their graves and prowl the land.

And a few pages on:

At a noise from outside, the Storyteller swung his head hopefully. The door heaved open; a man and woman ambled in with two daughters, aged about twelve and eight. One was blond and one red-haired, and they wore flowered pinafores. The younger girl was directed to join the boy on the high bench by the fire, where she sat watching the Storyteller with wonderland eyes.

A coal fell forward on the hearth. The Storyteller sucked vigorously on his pipe, and it made a little dottle of noise. Next moment, the audience increased again — another couple strolled in from across the lane with their young daughter.

Word had obviously spread. Perhaps someone among the farms had earlier seen the tall stranger’s descent through the misty fields and guessed who or what he was. So he would have an audience tonight. Whether he would have one tomorrow night — or a venue — would depend on him.

“What would you like in your whiskey?” asked the host.

One neighbor said, “More,” and they all laughed.

After some minutes of talk and smiles, everyone settled down. No electricity in the houses in those days; an oil lamp in the window and another with a glass sconce on the wall laid gilded shadows into the room. The firelight played on the Storyteller’s long face. He jiggled his pipe, eased back in his chair, spread his shoulders, and began.

How can I resist a story that starts like this? I’m going to enjoy this book.

Book babble…

May 27, 2005 Categories: Books , Commonplace Book , Homeschooling | 3 Comments  

A while ago on Atypical Life, Andrea listed her favorite homeschooling books. Among those was Homeschooling for Excellence by David and Micki Colfax. I can see why it was on her list! Here is one of my favorite points:

Real-life hands-on experience may be all well and good, but shouldn’t the child be encouraged to learn to read and write as early as possible? Isn’t this at least as important as visiting a museum or planting a garden? Perhaps not. The notion that children are given a leg-up on life if they learn to read when very young was for many years one of the key assumptions underlying perhaps the most universally-approved of the federal poverty programs, Head Start, and is reflected in much of children’s educational television broadcasting. But in fact, there is no evidence that the acquisition of reading skills at an early age is directly related to later intellectual attainment. Rather, the evidence is that reading “head-starts” tend to fade as other social and psychological factors come into play as children mature. Indeed, there is evidence that elementary schoolteachers’ preoccupation with teaching reading and writing to five- and six-year-olds may do more harm than good, as many children simply are not “reading ready” at this age.

Parents would do better, it appears, not to concern themselves with the acquisition of reading skills, but to endeavor to provide their children with an appreciation for reading. The child who is exposed to books at an early age, who sees his or her parents reading, who is read to, and who is encouraged to spend time with picture books, will all but but certainly become a reader in due course. How and when this occurs will vary from child to child and from family to family. Some children, sometimes to the distress of their parents, will be happy to be read to and to look at picture books well past the point at which they would “normally” be reading.

This is something I have been talking to my friend Heidi about recently. Her son Daniel turned six in November. She has been “doing school” with him since he was four and now he doesn’t want to read. He loves math — finished his kindergarten math program with no problem. She’s frustrated because he’s only reading short vowel consonant-vowel-consonant words. After many, many conversations on the topic, I think she’s finally relaxing a little bit. It doesn’t help that her parents and her in-laws are not exactly thrilled with the idea that their grandchildren are being homeschooled. I’ve been encouraging her to take some time off from phonics/reading for a while. If he’s resisting it and hating it, nothing is being accomplished by forcing him to sit there until he reads through the next assignment. So far, my two oldest have learned to read. For Natalie, it clicked very quickly. For Noah, it took much longer. I have a feeling when I start kindergarten with Jonathan in the fall, it will take even longer. He’s a much more hands-on, mechanical learner and hasn’t been interested in even learning his letters until very recently. But I don’t believe anything can be gained by forcing him to sit and learn. He either won’t learn or will see reading and learning as a chore to be tolerated, or worse, hated.

This book is definitely worth reading, even if you’ve already been homeschooling a while. I plan on posting an essay from Appendix 7 of this book that shows how much a middle school-aged boy is learning in spite of his teachers at the public school. Should be up later today or tomorrow.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Can we all say “ouch”?

May 26, 2005 Categories: This and That | 4 Comments  

$800. Yep, that’s right, eight hundred smackeroos. Smackeroos that we do not have, I might add. Kevin called yesterday and the first words out of his mouth were, “Are you sitting down?” In ten years of marriage I cannot remember him ever saying that to me, so I knew it was going to be bad. See, something called a fuel injector went bad. As if that wasn’t enough, the nasty thing caused the van’s computer to crash. I didn’t even know my van had a computer — think of all those long stoplights I could’ve been surfing blogs!! Not only did it crash the computer, but it sent gas into a place only oil’s supposed to be.

Since we have no savings to speak of, we were in full-blown panic mode. Thank God — literally — Kevin’s boss offered a draw on his salary that we can pay back $100 a month between now and January. Now, an extra $100 a month isn’t going to be easy. So we were faced with taking that debt on, or having one vehicle until we could save it ourselves. The idea of being stranded at home with four children all summer long sent me into a panic attack. After he talked me down, Kevin said he thought we should take his boss’s offer. So I should be getting my van back this evening. And boy, it better run like a dream!

I guess I should be grateful. We’ve had this van, a 1995 Ford Windstar, for four years now and never had to do a lick of work on it. Other than oil changes and the like. I also see God’s hand in the timing. If the van had broken down two days later, Kevin’s boss would’ve been gone on a four week trip to Africa, and there would’ve been no one in the office to approve the draw. I have to admit, I wonder why He didn’t just keep that unruly fuel injector in line. But I can see His provision.

On top of all this, I think I’ve developed strep throat. I’ve had much pain when swallowing for three days now, and it’s not getting any better, so off to the doctor I go to be gagged with that swab thingy. If it is strep, I’m praying for quick-acting antibiotics since I’m supposed to sing on Sunday! I cancelled practice tonight, so we’ll be starting at the ungodly hour of 7 a.m. Sunday morning to practice and get sound set up. Can’t be avoided, though, I definitely can’t sing right now!

Today was also a day of sadness and joy. Sadness because my grandmother’s husband of the last 7 years died and went home at around 9 this morning. Joy because my dear friends Brandon and Brandi welcomed a new blessing from God named Jordan Elaine at 11:30 this morning. As my husband said, “One leaves the world, another enters it.” Bittersweet.

Change of plans…

May 25, 2005 Categories: All About Me , Rants , This and That | 2 Comments  

Well, I’m not out grocery shopping. I’m not out doing anything because I’m stranded. My van is in the shop. Kevin was able to change the spark plugs last night, but that didn’t fix the problem, so we’re waiting for that dreaded phone call informing us how many of our children we have to stop feeding in order to afford to fix my van. It’s times like this I really hate the fact that my husband works out of town. He commutes 35 minutes each way, so I can’t really take him to work and pick him up. Well, I could, but I’d have to have the kids and myself dressed, fed, and ready to go out the door at 7:15. I’m barely conscious at that time.

It’s times like this I also hate money. Or, more specifically, our lack of it. I love being at home with the kids and homeschooling them. I hate the fact that we barely scrape by financially. My husbands income is not huge, by any means, and we live paycheck to paycheck. I know that it’s teaching us to trust, but it’s hard not to worry. If today’s repairs turn out to be very expensive, we’ll have to borrow the money from my parents, which I hate doing. But I can’t imagine being stranded with no transportation and four kids all summer long.

Kevin has started his own business on the side, with the goal that in a couple years he will be able to work it full time and quit his job. It would save us so much money on gas! At his job, he designs and manages their web store, does programming and tech support, and designs their brochures and mailings. We invested in some equipment this year, and his business involves all those things, as well as converting people’s home videos to DVD and doing DVD slideshows and scanning photos into digital. It’s taken off quite well, but then he is so busy he gets stressed out. And so far, the extra money has had to go for things we’ve been waiting to get or expenses, such as vehicle licensing, that come up and there’s no savings for. And I’m trying not to worry too much about where the money is coming from for curriculum this year. God has provided in unexpected ways each year, so I know I shouldn’t be anxious. I’m trying to trust. It’s hard.

Anyway, since I’m home today (unexpectedly), I found the time to blog and I thought I’d answer the fun meme I found on Quiet Life. Hope everyone’s week is going better than mine!

Alphabet Meme about Me, me, me.

A is for Age – 32
B is for Booze – a glass of white wine on the rare occasion Kevin and I get to go out alone
C is for Career – wife and stay-at-home, homeschooling mom
D is for Dad’s name – Rod
E is for Essential items to bring to a party – Homemade guacamole, Yellow Corn Santitas, Pepsi
F is for Favorite song at the moment – Here With Me by Mercy Me
H is for Hometown – Sedro Woolley, Washington
I is for Instrument you play – piano
J is for Jam or Jelly you like – raspberry, peach
K is for Kids – Four — one daughter, three sons
L is for Living arrangement – Too small single-family home with too large mortgage
M is for Mom’s name – Teresa
N is for Names of best friends – Terry, Heidi, and my three sisters: Andrea, Debra, and Marni
O is for overnight hospital stays – Four births — two by cesarean, gall bladder surgery, sleeping by Noah’s bed when he was 16 months old and hospitalized overnight for croup
P is for Phobias – calling businesses like banks, insurance companies, auto mechanics — not really a fear, but I hate doing it and try to get my husband to do it for me
Q is for Quote you like – Lord, please keep Your arm around my shoulder and Your hand over my mouth!
R is for Relationship that lasted longest – Other than my mom and dad and sisters, I have a friend named Toby that I still e-mail a few times a year and we’ve known each other since 4th grade
S is for Siblings – three sisters
U is for Unique trait – I have a very distinctive laugh — my husband says he never gets tired of hearing it!
V is for Vegetable you love – Corn on the cob out of the garden with lots of butter and salt
W is for Worst trait – procrastinator
X – is for XRays you’ve had – teeth and lungs
Y is for Yummy food you make – chicken enchiladas and very easy homemade spaghetti sauce
Z is for Zodiac sign – I’m a Scorpio, but I think it’s bunk

Busy, busy, busy..

May 24, 2005 Categories: This and That | 2 Comments  

I keep hearing the song Busy from Philadelphia Chickens running through my head. (Best kids’ CD ever, by the way! I like it as much as they do.) My week is kind of crazy. Today was our last ladies’ Bible study until September and we had a potluck brunch. I am leaving for an appointment in 15 minutes. When I get back I need to finish giving Natalie her standardized test that the wonderful state of Washington requires I give to her to prove I’m actually teaching her something! Tomorrow I have to go grocery shopping and possibly take my van in for a tune-up if Kevin isn’t able to get to the back three spark plugs when he attempts it tonight. Thursday morning is our monthly Homeschool Co-op meeting. A dear friend who is a full-time missionary to Japan home on furlough is coming to talk to the kids about Japanese culture. This week is my turn to lead worship on Sunday, so Thursday night is worship practice. Friday I will have to do all the housework I’ve neglected the rest of the week. Sunday will be long — we have two services, so I’ll be there from 7:00 am for sound check until the 2nd service is over at 12:00. I will be glad when we switch to our summer, one-service schedule! All this to say, I might not be blogging much in the next few days. I’ll probably still snatch a few minutes to read others, but not to post on mine. Everything should be back to the normal level of chaos on Monday.

Gotta run,
Carrie

Google is a funny thing…

May 22, 2005 Categories: This and That | 2 Comments  

Every since I posted this, I’ve had several people visit my blog by searching for “middle age hotties”. I can’t help thinking they’re being very disappointed!

College

May 20, 2005 Categories: Homeschooling | 4 Comments  

I’ve always felt like a pariah when talking to my friends about college and their intent on sending their kids there and ensuring that their kids don’t have to pay for it themselves. My husband and I are not of the belief that college is a must, and we tell our kids that, too. (I’m sure there was a collective gasp out in the blogosphere as I was typing that last sentence!) College is a tool, but it is not necessary for everyone. For instance, if Noah decides he wants to be a veterinarian and does not waver from that until he is 18, then, yes, he would need to go to college. And since this is a lifetime goal, it will be worth him working for. And he will appreciate it so much more if he is financially responsible it. I’ve never understood parents’ desire to make sure their kids don’t have to work while they are in college. In doing this, they are prolonging their kids’ adolescence and delaying their entry into adulthood.

I went to college and there encountered too many of this kind of student: “Oh, I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I’ll just pick this major for now, I can always switch (three or four or five times) if I change my mind. In the meantime, I’ll party as much as possible, leave my family’s faith behind, and experiment sexually. Isn’t that what college is really all about?” I know that all college students don’t fall into that category. And I aim to make sure my kids don’t. There are so many other ways to gain an education — and this is a life-long process! I hope my children find a career/job/vocation that they enjoy, get the necessary training, and realize that this career/job/vocation is not all there is to life. I hope they will always love to learn and know how to learn!

Today as I was reading my ever-expanding blogroll — I came across this on Mental Multivitamin:

Mental multivitamin: Paying for college: A rant of modest proportions:

We are ‘trained’ to see college as the next logical step for bright kids — like our kids: educated classically with heaps of individual tutoring and time to learn and grow. But the truth is, many of our teens are already better educated than freshmen in our “good” state schools. They (our teens) are better read, more capable, and almost in a class of their own when it comes to writing, thinking, and drawing parallels between the disciplines of history, literature, philosophy, and science.

A big-tag college education may not be their ticket.

And that’s okay.

Click on over and read the rest of the post — it’s brilliant.