". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


On Friday I took my daughter to college. On Sunday I left her there.

If you've ever seen the movie Big you'll remember the last scene. In it, the female lead, Susan, takes Josh, the little-boy-turned-big, back home to his real life. As Adult Josh trudges through the autumn leaves towards his house, Susan looks briefly away. When she turns back for a last look, Adult Josh has become Young Josh. He smiles and waves, then turns and runs home, calling for his family.

This weekend I experienced something like that, only in reverse. On Sunday after we went to church I took my daughter back to her dorm. We had to rush our goodbye, as it was already 11:30 and she had a required event to go to at noon. We had gotten some fast food, and she had hurriedly eaten in the car, but I had not eaten yet, so after we hugged goodbye I sat in the car a while longer, trying to stem the tears to the point I could take a few bites of my bean burrito. I watched my daughter half-walk, half-run down the sidewalk toward her dorm, but instead of seeing a college student I saw a kindergartener. Panic quickly ensued. What in the world was I doing, leaving a 5-year-old to fend for herself in college? This was all wrong! But a few minutes later it wasn't a 5-year-old who re-emerged from the dorm. It was a young woman. She briefly stopped to study her map, and I resisted the urge to jump out of the car, run down the sidewalk, and help her figure out where to go. I knew she needed to do this on her own, and more important, I knew she would be able to do this on her own.

This is the last look I had at my daughter on Sunday: my little-girl-turned-big, on her way to the rest of her life.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Homeschool Outlook

Looks like it's time for the annual homeschool planning post. Today I ordered materials for the coming year. Since I only have one student now and we are carrying several of last year's books into this year, the order was not large. Still, I obsessed over it for several weeks. This publisher or that one? That book or the other one? Even after all these years, it is hard to know what's going to work and what's not.

Here, for those who are interested in such things, is a rundown of what we plan to do for fifth grade.

We started Saxon 54 last year. We didn't get as far in it as I would have liked. The goal will be to finish it this year.

Language Arts
We also used Saxon for grammar last year. We still have plenty we can do in that book, too, but for fifth grade I am going to return to a curriculum we tried for the first time a few years ago. It is from Queen Homeschool Supplies and uses an integrated, literature-based Charlotte Mason approach. You can view the book here.

We have some work to do in this area. Evan has learned the basics of cursive but we have not emphasized it heavily. This year we will work on fluency. To do so I found a new product, also from Queen Homeschool, that combines the study of art with practice in handwriting. The books utilize Zaner-Bloser style, which as luck would have it is what we teach in our homeschool. Take a peek here.

We will continue with Story of the World, Volume 4 (The Modern Age) as soon as we finish with Volume 3! (I think we're about 3/4 done.)

This is the area I struggled with most. Evan likes science, and I want him to keep liking it. Last year we did Exploring Creation with Astronomy from the Apologia Elementary series. I love these books for the conversational approach and the beautiful illustrations, and there are at least six more books on various topics, including several branches of zoology, botany, human anatomy, and chemistry/physics. But it seems to me that when we stick too long to one topic Evan tends to get bored. So I have opted to use this A Beka book as our main science text because of the variety of topics that it covers. I have used it before and it is attractive and accessible. Plus, it comes with a useful activity book. It is possible to spend a lot of money ordering supplementary materials from A Beka (such as the lesson plans and the quiz and test booklets), but I have learned that I don't need any of that. The main text has chapter checkups that cover the same thing as the tests. And the lesson plans just lay out a day-by-day plan for getting through the book, something I think I am capable of figuring out on my own. I don't think it will take us a year to get through this book. Once we're finished, I may follow up with several volumes of the Apologia series on the topics Evan seems to enjoy most before we gear up for Jay Wile's secondary science curriculum.

Yes, we're going to do Latin this year. I don't think I've broken the news to Evan yet. We'll use Prima Latina, but here again, I didn't buy the teacher's edition or the pronunciation CD's. Unless they've been updated, those pronunciation CD's leave a bit to be desired. I took a little Latin in college and think I can manage the pronunciation as well as do without the answer book. Why do we teach Latin at this age when we probably won't stick with it through high school? I think it is beneficial for teaching an understanding of the building blocks of language that doesn't automatically come from studying only English. The learning of Latin roots is helpful in vocabulary development. Studying another language now is good preparation for learning one in greater depth later. And besides, it's fun! (Evan doesn't know that yet, but he will.)

Evan will be in Confirmation class at church this year and will receive his First Communion at the Easter Vigil (yay!). In family devotions for the last few years we have been using the Treasury of Daily Prayer. That will probably continue, but I am hoping our home devotions will become a little Evan-friendlier this year. He has often had to sit and listen to the big people talk over his head. It will be nice to tailor the teaching to his level for a change. We will, of course, incorporate the catechism songs. :-)

Reading aloud has always been the core of our home school. Our readalouds bounce between something that fits the period of history we are studying and something chosen for its literary value. Right now we are working our way through the Narnia series. We will probably pick something historical after that. To encourage independent reading (something Evan doesn't automatically do) I am planning to institute a daily silent reading time where both of us will sit and read. I need the discipline, too. I am getting my reading chops back, but I still need to work harder to carve out interruption-free time for it.

Let's see, what am I leaving out? In addition to these main areas of study, Evan will continue with piano lessons as well as sing in two choirs (one at church, the other a community children's chorus). I am also looking for a PE option for him, probably swimming or tennis (or both). Another possibility is Tae Kwon Do, which his sister enjoyed and which I think he would enjoy, too, since he is pretty keen on Power Rangers. Finally, we are working on setting up a regular, weekly time to get together with several other homeschoolers from church. We'll let the kids play while the moms chat. Maybe we'll even do something educational every now and then. :-)

Fifth grade, here we come!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

My 10-Year-Old Life Coach

Yesterday we went to the home of friends who have a swimming pool. It was a wonderful afternoon. At one point, while I was floating around the pool on an inflatable chair, I remarked that it was very comfortable but rather hard to steer. Evan replied, "You're missing the point, Mom. You're just supposed to relax."

Oh, right. That. What would I do without this kid to around to keep me properly centered? :-)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

This One's for the Girls

I invite you to read this.

And then, if you have a fourteen-year-old girl in your life (or a 10, 12, or 40-year-old one, for that matter), share it with her.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Bible Class Today

Today in Bible class we studied Luke 19:28-40, Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Pastor pointed out how this point in Jesus' earthly life is in a literary sense like the turning point in a story where suddenly everything pivots and the final chapter of the narrative starts to play out. Jesus, of course, knew what was to come and in his humanity certainly felt all the overwhelming emotions one might expect. One of the men in the class asked if, since Jesus also knew the ultimate outcome (his resurrection from the dead and redemption of all creation), that knowledge might have made it easier for him to face the events of the week. Pastor responded by pointing out that we as God's people have that same knowledge. We know how the story ends, yet we still struggle every day with the crosses we are called to bear. Knowing the outcome, such that we can keep our eyes firmly fixed upon it, strengthens us in our resolve and in our faith. But it doesn't make the pain and sadness of the present any less real.

Monday, July 28, 2014

It burns, Precious! It burns!


The LCMS triennial worship conference is going on right now and I am not there. For many months I had planned to accompany my husband, who is teaching and playing, but when it came right down to it we could not justify the cost of my attendance. It has been a summer of unusual expenditures, with more to come as we launch our second-born into college. So I decided to be a grown-up and make the mature decision. Of course, having made the mature decision, it now makes utter sense for me to take to my blog to whine about it.  ;-)

I would have liked to have been there for many reasons. Here are a few: Harrison, Kleinig, Vieker, Wilken, Weedon, Stuckwisch, Peters, Hildebrand, Soulek, Curtis, Muth, Blersch, Esget, Kohrs, Starke, Magness . . . . The list could go on. And then there's the worship. Oh, the worship. I know, I know. I get wonderful worship every weekend. I have the best cantor in synod, after all! :-) But my husband does not have the major responsibility for worship this week in Seward. He wrote a new setting of Psalm 85 and will be playing it, but I think that is all he is doing musically, which means for most of the liturgies he will be in the pew. Oh, that I could have been sitting beside him, something I so rarely get to do. :-(

I would have also liked to have been there to attend Phillip's sessions. He is teaching a seminar (3-day course) on "Bridging the Gap" (in worship) as well as a workshop on leading hymns from the piano. I have instructed him that I will be expecting nightly updates on the day's proceedings. He has promised to comply.

The silver lining to this dark cloud is that by staying behind I am maximizing my time with two whose days under this roof are drawing extremely short. (The third has quite a few more years to go.) As for Phillip, I am anticipating another 40-50 years under the same roof with him. :-)

So here I blog, and watch from afar, and live vicariously through my husband (as I am wont to do). Not a bad deal, if you ask me. I guess it doesn't burn so much, after all. :-D

All of you who are there, the best thing you can do for those of us who aren't is to soak it all in. Bask. And then come home and rub off a little of the heaven on the ones you left behind.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

You've Heard of Second Breakfast?

How about Second Birthday?

As shared in Tuesday's post, yesterday was my 50th birthday. Even so, I had expected it to be a quiet day. This is because I thought my husband was out of town. Now, before you start crying foul, please know that I encouraged him to be out of town. For a Lutheran cantor, summer affords more time for worthwhile non-parish activities and projects. This July proved to be pretty busy in that regard for Phillip. First, he was asked to serve as musician for a Doxology gathering, a program with which he has had a long association and strongly believes in but that also contributes a few extra clinks to our family piggy bank. Second, it happens that this summer is the occasion of triennial worship conferences for both the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS). Phillip was asked to teach a seminar at the LCMS event. He has previously presented at the WELS conference and has many friends and professional contacts in WELS, so I encouraged him to attend that one, too, since it was conveniently sandwiched between the Doxology and LCMS gatherings. I thought it would be an opportunity for him to recharge, connect with friends, and promote Liturgy Solutions on the eve of its 10-year-anniversary. He resisted because to do so would cause him to be away for my birthday. I pushed. He resisted. I pushed some more. Finally, he relented.

Only he didn't relent. As it happens, that crazy cantor had other plans.

This past Friday night we had what I thought was my 50th birthday party. It was wonderful. It did not bother me that it was not on my birthday on the calendar. I don't get too caught up in those kinds of details. What mattered to me was having my family all together. We went out to a delicious meal at a nearby German restaurant, then came home to presents and dessert. And what presents and dessert they were! I received some Estée Lauder eye shadow I've been wanting, both the original and the updated Broadway soundtrack recordings of Pippin (which Caitlin and I saw in New York), some new Birkenstock sandals, and . . . wait for it . . . a voucher for a 3-1/2 hour spa treatment. I was blown away!

See? Blown away. (I actually have no idea what I'm doing in this picture.)

So you can see why, in my mind, I had been sufficiently fêted. Who cares whether it was on the 19th or the 23rd? Not I. Yesterday, on my actual birthday, I woke up to hugs from my children, had a leisurely morning at home, and after lunch went out to do some shopping (my mom wanted me to pick out something from her since she can't shop for me). Then I stopped off at Starbucks for some coffee and computer time. It was while I was there that I received a call from my daughter. "Mom, we were just wondering where you were. It looks like there's a storm coming." I scratched my head a little because Caitlin is usually not a worrier and the weather didn't seem that ominous, but I told her I had one more stop to make and would be home directly. When I got home I went to my room to rest a while, having been instructed that I didn't need to worry about supper.

A short time later the door bell rang. I wondered who it could be, since I wasn't expecting any visitors or deliveries. I headed for the front door, which had already been opened by my children, and lo and behold, there was my husband, arms full of flowers, grocery bags, and cards. !!!!!!!!!!

Yes, I cried.

I was promptly informed that I was silly to think he would not be here on the day I actually turned 50. Then I was told to relax and open cards (solicited and collected on Facebook from many friends and family by the aforementioned husband) and enjoy a kir while supper was cooked for me. Supper turned out to be cheese and crackers, shrimp cocktail, Thai coconut salmon with basil on a bed of spinach and rice, green beans almondine, and strawberry-rhubarb pie. After supper, my dear ones around the table took turns sharing fond memories of their wife, mom, and daughter.

Did I mention the crying?

After a supper that was better in every way than Friday's, I looked at a few more of my Facebook birthday messages while the clean-up crew got busy. Then we settled in for a movie (this one--if you haven't watched it, you should).

Here are a few pictures from my Second Birthday.

My bartender

Two of my cooks (the bartender also cooked)

The table almost set (many of my readers will appreciate the microscope in the background ). 

My plate of deliciousness

If you're wondering about the rest of the story, it is that Phillip left Doxology a day early. He got to Oklahoma Tuesday night--Tuesday night! (the little stinker)--and stayed in a hotel. He's not going to Wisconsin (sorry, WELS). He will be here through Sunday, at which point he will head to Nebraska for the LCMS Institute. 

My spa day is scheduled for next week, and will include an aromatherapy wrap with a 15-minute scalp massage, a one-hour hot stone massage, one-hour spa facial, and a spa foot treatment with paraffin. I told Caitlin she needed to come and take pictures for the blog (JUST KIDDING). 

I love words, and I tend to pile them on, but words and pictures are insufficient to capture the emotions of a day that I will never forget. So let me wrap this up with a nice, pithy cliché (hey, clichés are full of time-tested truth):

(and my family is the best)