Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Please help a family in need!

Jessica is asking for help to cover the financial burden of a family who just lost their sweet little girl, Julianna.

Jessica writes:
On Sunday, July 13th, our friends lost their toddler, Julianna Snodgrass (the fourth of their five children), in a tragic accidental drowning while visiting family in California. In addition to our prayers, the family is in need of our financial help and support. Julianna was air lifted to the hospital during the attempts to resuscitate so the medical bills will be extraordinary. With the funeral expenses on top of those and all of the grief too, this family will be suffering tremendously. If you can help in any way, no matter how small, it would be greatly appreciated. Together we can at least help lighten the financial burden on their family as they grieve this tremendous loss.

{Just popping in to help spread the word.}

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Taking a break...

Totally random picture...

{Please note: I'm not feeling sorry for myself or depressed or fishing for compliments. Just addressing a reality of my online life right now and how I am going to try to deal with it. If you have any other suggestions, I'd be happy to listen! Comments are closed below, but you can always reach me via email by clicking the pretty envelope button in the corner.}

I first turned to the internet and blogging to help break me out of a pattern of seeing the negative everywhere I looked. I was so focused on the ugly, I needed to shake it off and force myself to focus on the beautiful. Nowadays, I know I need a break from the internet when I start seeing the negative everywhere again. Hmmmm… maybe I'm one of FB's lab rats. Although, most of the negative I'm seeing isn't coming from FB as much as it's coming from the blog community that I used to know and love. The promoting, the back-scratching, the business disguised as blessing, the marketing, the selling, the cliques.

Recent online conversations have lost me friends. I'm pretty guarded about who I agree to friend on FB and IG… I have to feel like I really know someone. So, not having public accounts, it's pretty obvious when I get "unfriended". Anyway, I'm sure that sort of thing wouldn't bother most people. I myself am tempted to just write it off as immaturity. But it still stings when you thought you knew someone. And you thought someone knew you. And liked you for who you were, warts and all. 

You see, I'm not the kind of person to see one argument or disagreement as a reason for ending a friendship (although too many arguments and disagreements might be justification for letting a friendship end naturally). In fact, I usually go out of my way to try to learn more about people I don't understand… like read their autobiographies and ebooks. Some of my best friends are people that I have had some intense disagreements with because we took the time to work through our differences of opinion instead of just clicking "unfollow". But this time, I'm thinking that maybe this needs to be the catalyst for something that has been brewing for a good long while. Not quitting, just stepping back.

Melissa Wiley was hosting a discussion about social media vs. blog communication, pros and cons of both. That conversation has inspired Lissa to take a new look at her blog and ask what people would like to see more of from her. For me, it's kind of done the opposite. Maybe it's time for less. But that conversation alone is an interesting read (especially the combox) if you are the kind of person who likes learning about other people's perspective.

That is the one good thing I still love about the internet. The things I've learned… did you know that some people find NFP really burdensome and that their obedience is a huge effort? I didn't until I'd heard it talked about on the internet. Did you know that some single people in the Church get really annoyed at all the "oh NFP is so hard, why can't the Church supports us better" or "I'm so fertile I'm neck deep in babies" kind of posts. I never thought of that before reading some comments on a post just this morning that addressed all of the above. So, maybe that's what I need to focus on. Just reading and learning. I have no set plan here. No time of sabbatical in mind. I'm just giving myself permission to take a break. 

Happy Independence Day... especially to those who have fought for our freedom and continue to do so!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Final thoughts...

You know, it wasn't that long ago that I remember being a young mom and being worried and troubled over what to teach my kids, how to help them learn best, which was the right formula to follow (Charlotte Mason, unschooling, boxed curricula, Montessori, etc…) and worried that I was royally screwing it up every hour of every day. And having (mostly) gotten through that, I can see that it's a natural response to want to save anyone and everyone we can from that kind of burden. We want to shout out, "Over here! I can save you a lot of heart ache, just follow me."

Isn't that what we mom's want to do? Save people/our kids/everyone from pain, from struggle, from hitting every single bump in the road. But we have to realize that just like our anxiety, our struggle, our sufferings were all growing pains on the way to the peace and understanding that comes with maturity, we have to let other mom's travel the journey they are on. We can try to warn them off with a little helpful advice, but ultimately, we have to let them go their way. A child learns to walk step by step, one foot in front of the other but they also learn balance in the wobbling and determination in picking themselves back up when they fall. Those are all necessary lessons too. We have to let them learn.

We are forming souls. But in life, body and soul are linked. Only death can separate them. Our children are made in the image and likeness of God and while that means treasuring their precious eternal souls, it also means feeding and caring for their intellect. Because the two are linked. We are made in the image and likeness of God body and soul. We can't forsake one for the other.

And if you want to read an excellent analogy of homeschooling and cooking, go read Melanie's post.

I definitely approach homeschooling like I approach cooking. I like looking at a bunch of recipes to get inspired in the same way I like looking at a variety of curricula. But what actually ends up at the table is a bit of this and a bit of that, what suits my own tastes, my family’s tastes, the ingredients I actually have on hand, my skills as a cook, and how much time I have to cook. Often the final product of my schooling bears about the same resemblance to the curriculum as the dish does to the recipe: you can recognize the various ingredients, mostly.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Teaching From Rest :: A Review

{I received a free copy of Teaching From Rest, from Sarah although she did not specifically ask me to review it.} 

I've been a long time reader of the blog Amongst Lovely Things. I've watched Sarah's family change and grow (exponentially it seems) over these past, what... 5 years?

Sarah has recently compiled her blog series, Teaching from Rest, into a book with an Audio Companion and printable Companion Journal. It's a lovely looking book with a deep message that really does come from the depths of Sarah's heart. And it is a message that I think a lot of moms want to hear and need to hear. Find peace in your homeschool by resting in the knowledge and understanding that you are forming souls with the strength of God's grace to strengthen you. That means letting go of your preconceived notions about what success looks like or what a well-rounded day or even year looks like:

Surrender your idea of what the ideal homeschool day is supposed to look like and take on, with both hands, the day that it is. Rest begins with acceptance, with surrender. Can we accept what He is sending today?

This is an invaluable lesson for homeschooling moms to learn because frankly, most days aren't going to meet our perfect ideal. We are humans dealing with other humans who are all dealing with life. There are illnesses, broken machines, dogs with digestion issues and a myriad of other things ready and willing to get in the way of your perfect day. Sarah's advice is do less, integrate more, don't hold yourself slave bound to a published resource, stay focused on your purpose, major on the majors and then enjoy the beautiful wonder that is your children's childhood.

Through this journey, from steamrolling through the checklists and curriculum to focusing on the relationships she was building with her children, the peace that was so elusive to Sarah previously has been found and that is quite an accomplishment considering the crisis mode of life that she's in right now with a toddler and infant twins. Peace, just like children, comes in varying shapes and sizes and temperaments. It's easy to say "surrender to God your fears and anxieties and try to embrace His plan for your children, your family, your home"... but when people start asking "can you tell me specifically how to do that" you might have to acknowledge that His plan is different for every child, family and home.

Sarah's definition of "rest" comes from Andrew Kern who says, "The most important thing a homeschooling mother can do is to teach from a state of rest." and Sarah's interpretation of that statement is that "we ought to enter into God's rest and then serve Him wholeheartedly- not out of anxiety, but out of love and trust." What a beautiful place to start.

Now, in the practical application, that is going to look different for everyone. For Sarah, it means surrendering and accepting what God has in store for your day, going at a slower pace and trusting God with your children's education. Sarah says to honor the relationship you are building with your children and place that above all else. She counsels against rushing through the schoolwork with a steamroll frame of mind, and even feeling the need to finish a book of curriculum in a school year's time frame. She says on her blog,

 "First I look at what I want to teach my child (for example, grammar) and how much time I can give (1/2 hour, three times a week, for 1/2 a school year)- then I look at my resource and plug in the chapters. This means that it often takes us 2-3 years to get through what other homeschoolers try to cram into one. " 

M&M Math!
While I might disagree with this in practice and with the negative connotation behind the word "cram", I think this approach can work for some subjects, just don't forget the benefit of teaching your child diligence, perseverance and self discipline. Those are admirable and worthy skills that most children aren't inherently born with. Sarah's approach might be a good way to tackle what I consider elective subjects, but not core subjects like math. (For all the reasons Elizabeth Foss already mentioned.)

See, I believe that we have a responsibility to our children to make sure that we aren't the cause of them missing out on the skills they need to successfully launch into the real world. Are we going to do it perfectly? Probably not, but I refuse to let it be for lack of trying.

Instead of sitting down and asking how much time you are willing to give to your child on any given subject, ask yourself how much time is a reasonable amount of study time to be expected taking into consideration how much reasonable forward progress you can expect. And then maybe, ask yourself where you are giving of yourself too much outside of your family, or heck, just pursuing your own desires and passions too much. Because as much as we can be honest about the fact that homeschool moms know how to work hard, we also have to acknowledge that self-discipline can be a struggle for us too. We, especially us creative types, know how to indulge our pleasures and interests and we sure know how to justify it too. I'm not saying that mama doesn't need a break now and then, but maybe mama does need to ask herself how much personal indulgence is enough?

We need our children to see us choosing to pray first, then do our work and then go play if we want them to someday be adults who choose to have a healthy prayer-work-life balance as well. We are forming their souls for Heaven but first, they have to survive this world. That means holding down jobs, paying bills, meeting deadlines, working hard, playing too, dating people, and managing all different kinds of relationships on a daily basis.

Sarah goes on to say that, "I’m teaching to mastery, we only move on when we know that we know that we know the material. I’m not teaching according to the book’s timetable..." Now, I admit, I'm not that familiar with Benjamin Bloom's educational philosophy of mastery learning or it's various previous and post iterations, but a little bit of looking into it tells me that it was a response to the typical institutional school philosophy that everyone moves on at the same time without any consideration for children who might need more time to grasp the concept. Frankly, this doesn't happen in my homeschool when it comes to skills that need to be learned.

A very young Professor in his "study carol".
He loves secluding himself so that he can focus
 better even today. 
Reasons of faith aside, the main reason I choose to homeschool my children is so that I can tailor their education to them, to suit their interests and maximize the effectiveness of their learning styles for ease and enjoyment. But maybe there are homeschoolers out there just desperately trying to cover as much ground as possible and raise Little Einsteins.

While there are certainly some subjects that can be quantified as mastered based on skill sets learned, off the top of my head I can only think of math, grammar, handwriting and phonics and most of those are usually mastered in the early elementary years. I can see skills that could be considered mastered within the study of science, but science itself is a subject like history and literature, not a skill. Skill levels can be measured for sure and Sarah did clarify that her idea of mastery is in reference to skills only so that makes more sense to me. The problem I have with the formal idea of mastery learning within a homeschool is that it depends upon multiple layers of assessments that just aren't practical for every concept and sound like a lot of extra busywork for mom and student. It also seems like there will be a lot of repetition for a child who has trouble mastering a skill which could lead to the idea that "schoolwork is boring". For some children, complete mastery comes later with maturity and understanding.

I also don't expect my children to master to a 100% level every skill or concept they are introduced to. Learning is a lifelong project. Mastery in the early grades of things like reading, multiplication, spelling... sure! But there are still grammar rules that I am learning or rather, trying to remember, and historical connections I am making for myself. We learn new things about history all the time.

Sarah agrees with Dr. Perrin who espouses the opinion that "true breadth is achieved through depth. Our children get a broad education when they go deep into a few carefully selected subjects, not when they dabble in ten." I agree that no child needs to be pursuing to a full degree ten different subjects at one time, but I don't agree that diving deep into subjects is the best kind of education for young children. It depends on the child and the age. I prefer to give my young children a survey of different subjects and then narrow down the ones they want to dive deeper into. For example... choosing Astronomy for my space and weather minded oldest son but choosing to study Botany with two little girls who loved flowers was a no brainer. We chose to go deeper into the subjects that they were passionate about after they had already enjoyed a shallow survey of the other physical sciences. So, cut down on the number of areas that you focus on unless it's something that you or your child has a passion for.

And that's where I have some concerns about Sarah's practical applications (and I am not the only one if you read the combox). Perhaps it is just my perspective as a mom of older children. Her message is a beautiful one but I shy away from anything that tells other moms "how to do it"… and yet, it's what young mom's want, isn't it? Just tell me how to do it so I don't get it wrong!!! One mom might interpret Sarah's directives to mean that there is no need for her stress over that art appreciation curriculum sitting dusty on her shelf and she will breathe a sigh of relief. But for the mom who loves art history and can't wait to share it with her children, where is the encouragement she needs not to give up on that opportunity? Maybe suggest she put it off until she's out of survival mode (because you will get out of survival mode, I promise Young Mom!) Maybe ask her to ask herself if there is an easier way to help her children to explore this subject she loves. Maybe give her options that she hasn't considered on her own.

What about the child who has a passion for a subject that doesn't fit into the lesson plans that Sarah thinks should be tracked? Encourage his mom to stretch herself a little bit. Let go of an ideal, but still try to engage his natural interest and curiosity. Maybe encourage her to give him the skills to learn about the subject on his own. Maybe mom needs to stop thinking of herself as "The Teacher" and needs to start being the guide, the counselor, the director, the facilitator.

If you teach your young children the skills they need to explore a subject on their own in the middle grades (with a little of mom's guidance) and give them a proper understanding of diligence, perseverance and self-discipline balanced with freedom and creativity, they will embrace their education as their own and hold themselves responsible for accomplishing it to the best of their ability in the high school years. That's what my experience has been so far.

I don't want to limit my children's choices for the future by not doing enough now but I think I'm realistic in my expectations and so do my children (right kids? :). My first and primary focus was to teach them to read well, to read independently and most importantly to enjoy reading. Foreign language is not a subject we require until high school. Music study is piano lessons once a week for as long as the child is enjoying them. Art appreciation comes in the form of pictures and prints on the dry bar at home or trips to a museum. I do insist that my children work hard enough to be considered on or close to "grade level" in their math skills because those are vital to their options for college in the future (provided none of them has any kind of learning disorder which they don't… learning disabilities are a whole different ball game). My kids have been pushing themselves to "catch up" to that grade level target regarding math, not because we let them take 2-3 years to finish one math book, but because the program we were using was sorely lacking in academic standards. They know first hand how much hard work it takes to catch up and are thankful that we made the switch before it was too late. Vocabulary is a part of literature. Literature is a part of life. Poetry… meh. I admit it's not important to me but when Rain desperately wanted to explore it, we did it. I found a resource for her to use. She ran with it and made it her own. Writing is communication, not a formula, and vital to every day life but I don't push it in the early grades when handwriting is still a skill that is being learned. This is what has worked for us.

So, I think there is a balance to be found between checking things off a list just to get them done and taking a too leisurely stroll through just the things I want my kids to know. I don't feel like I am steamrolling over them or damaging my relationship with them in the process because they understand why they are working so hard, how it will pay off in the end and because we make sure to take breaks when we need them… that's why we school year round. They know that I am here to help them but they also want this education for themselves. That is something that maybe is unique to some children. My kids want to learn and we listen to them tell us what they want to learn. We give them all the resources we can to learn whatever they want to learn whether it's latin or poetry or knitting but also the encouragement to persevere through the subjects that don't intrigue them but do fulfill certain requirements. Most importantly, we focus on teaching them how to learn. Teach a child how to learn and there won't be anything they can't learn if they put their heart and mind to it.

Friday, June 20, 2014

7QT::Ospreys, butterflies, and soccer… oh my!

Being hosted by Team Whitaker this week while Jen enjoys her vacation from the internet. She's probably at a spa or something with cucumbers on her eyelids soaking in meditative mud...
I was met bright and early this morning with the news that the baby Ospreys had hatched! Bigboy has been keeping an eye on this osprey cam, having become thoroughly acquainted with ospreys at our last book club meeting. Cupcake has decided that the mama birdie's name is Rachel. She hasn't told us what the baby birds are called yet. 

Are you a soccer fan? Not really? Well, Kendra's take on it will delight you. (Pssstttt….If you are a soccer fan and you don't laugh, then lighten up.) I could have written this exact post… except it wouldn't have been nearly as funny and I'm sure I would have offended someone since that seems to be how I'm rolling these days. Working on changing that, bear with me, m'kay?

Kendra made my husband laugh out loud and he's usually the guy making us laugh out loud so that is a huge compliment! He's going to share it with the soccer fans at work today.

Those same soccer fans were really excited about the Mexico vs. Brazil game. Sean's boss is from Brazil but his partner in crime in work was rooting for Mexico. The morning after the big game, Sean brought in a box of donuts with this taped on top:

Yeah… I made it for him. If you recognize that quote, we can be best friends.

I know that FB has all of these games and app like things that you can get addicted to and I don't even know what else because that's just not my thing. But you know what I am addicted to on FB… those blasted quizzes that show up in random spurts. I can't not click one… Which President Would You Be? Which Sound of Music Character Are You? What Your Favorite Color Says About You!

I like to see how accurate the answers are to the way I think I understand myself or the way I think other people understand me. Am I the only one who over thinks these things though? This morning, it was "What Your Favorite High School Book Says About You" and I seriously spent quite a few minutes trying to figure out if it wanted me to choose the book that I actually read in high school that was my favorite or pick my favorite book from the whole list of high school level books. (caution… it's a BuzzFeed site… the quiz seems to be fine but there are other words and pictures that might not be)  I went with the first option first…
This is the cover I remember...

To Kill A Mockingbird
You have a strong moral compass and don’t blindly follow what everyone else is doing, no matter how easy it may be to do so, or how tempting. You have an intuition that tells you what is right and wrong and while you make mistakes like everyone else, you also learn from them and generally make wise decisions.
I hope that is as accurate as I'd like it to be. I read this book in high school and loved it. Not even my annoying freshman English teacher who insisted on reading to us in obnoxious character voices could ruin it. (She tried though… oh how she tried!)

Second option (probably because it is a favorite of mine and I kid you not, we were just talking about it with the kids the other night)…
Ohmygoodness, my copy is so old I couldn't find a picture of it online and had to take this one… sigh.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
You didn’t particularly stand out in high school, but that never meant that you were boring. On the contrary, you were really bright and quirky, and the people who did get to know you will always remember you for going against the grain and now, you totally do stand out and capture the attention of everyone around you, as you rightfully should.
Hmmmm… the first part is mostly true and as for the last part… well, negative attention still counts as attention, I guess.

Random dinner picture… Oven Baked Fajitas! So yummy. I used this recipe only instead of drizzling it and mixing the chicken and onion and peppers and spice mixture all together, I brushed the spice mixture on the chicken and scattered the onions and peppers on top.

We found a monarch in our backyard, but sadly, we think it was injured or sick because it stayed in the same general area for a whole day before it was gone. It was sad, but such a nice opportunity to get to see one up close. We took some videos of it and some pictures. We even tried to feed it some watermelon which it definitely seemed to like… it just wasn't enough to make it all better.

Sunshine…she's still my Butterfly Girl!

Cupcake at the Abbey
She waltzes on her way to Mass
And whistles on the stair
And underneath her wimple
She has curlers in her hair
I even heard her singing in the abbey

So, now that Cupcake is totally potty trained… (squeeee... she even uses a big potty, not just her potty chair) we are working on making Mass time a little more focused for her. It's just so hard when there are babies to pet and itsy-bitsy spiders to look for and water fountains to test (a job she takes quite seriously, maybe the Abbey would hire her on). This picture was taken before Mass the other weekend in one of the parlor rooms where we hang out when she's feeling particularly chatty. We had been preferring to stay close to the bathrooms, but now that she's a old pro… I think we just might be able to sit with the whole family again! Whoo hoo! If I can just get her to understand what "whisper" means. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

WWRW: The kids speak...

I'm turning this week over to the kids. I'm hoping to get back to some reading and reviewing later but since they just went to the library and brought back a haul, here is some of what they are reading right now {with Amazon affiliate links, but you probably already knew that}...

The Professor :: The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game Core Book 
by Steven S. Long

The Professor: For those that are interested in learning to play roleplaying games, but are hesitant to take up Dungeons and Dragons, this is a great book to look into. Not quite as unusual as the world of D&D, this book combines a fun roleplaying experience with the familiarity of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic works. The rules, unlike D&D's rigid system, are simple, easy to understand, and very beginner-friendly, although careful reading is essential, or else your game experience may take an unusual turn (Hobbits effortlessly walloping Troll after Troll, for example). The unique layout of the character-generating rules alone assures a more relaxed gameplay experience, a chance to focus on character development, and allows for players to rapidly become more attached to their character than any Dungeons and Dragons characters, many of whom are reduced to mere pages of complicated statistics. The main problem with this book is that it has been out of print for quite a while now, and has become somewhat hard to find: also, grammatical errors and misspellings are all too common within the various chapters. Overall, this is a great roleplaying resource for beginners and longtime role-players alike, and definitely worth exploring.

Sunshine :: The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse

Sunshine: The Music of Dolphins tells the story of a young girl who has been raised by dolphins since before she can remember. When rescued by a group of scientists, she is frightened and unsure what to think. Eventually, 'Mila' learns how humans behave and she starts to act the same way. She is given a recorder and learns to play music with it. At first, she loves the human world and, even though she misses her dolphin family, she is thrilled to discover what she can do as an intelligent and curious young girl. However, as the story progresses, she is confused by some of the things that people do and are expected to do. She is puzzled when told to hit the punching bag with a smiling man drawn onto it. She is upset when locked in her room. And most of all, she is frightened and longs to return to the sea with her dolphins. Her only comfort is in expressing herself with music and singing, because it makes the most sense to her. To her everything is music and expressed with songs spoken and unspoken. To Mila, everything in life is part of one, harmonious song and she is confused and saddened when something seems out of tune.

Honestly, this story is not my favorite. It is written from her point of view, as if she's writing in a journal and written in first person present tense, which is not my preferred style of narrative. It is also written very simply. I have a feeling the author wrote the book that way on purpose, to show you how simple Mila's speech is at first. As the story goes on, she becomes really depressed with all she is expected to do and her longing for the sea. She stops eating, she becomes ill, and she doesn't make any progress at all until she receives what she is promised.

On the whole, an interesting read, but one I could do without. I found it not very realistic, but it could be an intriguing pool-side read for someone who's looking for that.

Rain :: Stout Hearts and Whizzing Biscuits by Daniel McInerny

Rain: This is the story of a family who moves away to the country to build a mansion with the money the father received from a big promotion at work. They purchase their plot of land from two rather suspicious businessmen and then find out that the land is believed to be part of the grounds of a secret country of Trojan descendants called Patria. The citizens of Patria can only prove this fact with their treaty…which has been missing for over 200 years. The main character, Oliver, joins with the Prince and Princess of Patria to try to find the treaty in order to prevent the looming war between Oliver's father and the country of Patria. 

So, what did you like about it?
I liked the idea of branching off from the story of the Greeks and Trojans. I like his characters... the rascally Farnsworth & the absent-minded King who is more interested in writing poetry instead of running the country. There is some slight romance but it's entirely between a young knight and Oliver's Aunt. (It's very chaste and innocent romance.) It's a fun read that's probably geared towards the 10-12 year old crowd. It's definitely enjoyable and the sequel, Stoop of Mastadon Meadow, is just as good too. 

Anything you didn't like?
Admittedly, Oliver's parents are kind of annoying. His father is rather puffed-up and very proud of his position which makes him act superior to the Patrians. He's not very willing to trust them either… that could be because he thinks they are crazy. His mother is kind of like Mrs. Bennet… silly, rather irritating and a little careless.

BigBoy :: The Legend of Luke by Brian Jaques

Bigboy has been plowing through books and audiobooks since he signed up for the library's summer reading program. This is his review of The Legend of Luke. He's talking. I'm typing.

Bigboy: It's a really good story full of sailing and questing with a smidgen of tragedy. (Yes, he really did use the word smidgen.) I would heartily recommend the Redwall series. Is that good?

Me: Yes, that's good. Which is your favorite Redwall book?

I'd say Mossflower.


Because there are a bunch of adventures, a sea battle and one very funny character. 

Who is that?

He's called Gonff. He's a mouse thief and a ballad writer who sometimes has some very funny lines. 

Is he a thief who is a mouse or does he steal mice?

He's a thief who is a mouse. The Redwall series has no humans, only animals.

Anything else you want to say about The Legend of Luke?

Nope. Not really. I would just like to recommend the whole series.

Check out other summer reads with pregnant elephants waiting to pop over at HousewifeSpice!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Summer Shakespeare Chat :: Macbeth :: Link-up!

What did you think of this version? Did you love it? Did you hate it? Did you catch the Gordon Ramsey line? Hah! That made me laugh out loud so hard I had to go back and watch it again.

Be sure to sign up for follow emails in everyone's combox so we can keep the discussion going no matter where it bounces to. Each chat will be open for two weeks if you can't get to viewing right away.

I've already told you I don't mind a little experimentation with Shakespeare. I am not a purist. His words are beautiful and his wit excellent and for those reasons, I prefer to hear his poetical language as he wrote it, but I'm willing to make an exception for an adaptation if it is a thrilling exploration of his themes and it tries to stay true to the tone. See, if you take away his language and his themes, all that's left is plot and that's just not enough to anchor the work to the Bard in my book. Shakespeare was forward thinking enough in his writing to not be phased by a little diversion in production. Just think about the strong female characters he wrote at a time when women weren't even allowed to play them on stage! But to rid his plays of their language and their themes… it is most tolerable and not to be endured.

So, that said, I really did feel like this version stayed true to the themes and overall tone of Macbeth. How do I know, you ask… I'm going with my gut on this one. Macbeth makes me uncomfortable. When it's done right, it makes my skin crawl and my stomach turn a little bit. Not because it's creepy or ghostly or because of the murders, but because Macbeth himself seems like such a normal guy who goes so horribly wrong. I mean, Richard III… you know he's a bad guy! Right from the start, right from the moment that he breaks the fourth wall and tells you exactly what his dastardly plan is, you know this is one evil dude. But Macbeth… he's doesn't telegraph his villainy because there isn't any to begin with. The idea of whether or not his fate is one of his own creation or completely against his free will is one of my favorite themes in Macbeth and it is definitely there in this production and for me, that's the real creepiness. So, yeah… I felt uncomfortable watching this show. I had to stop it a couple of times and walk away before I could come back to it. I wanted to watch it again but so far I haven't been able to get up the nerve. So, I call that a good production. (I'm weird. I know.)

Also, I don't care for blood and gore and I was so pleased that this modern version respected Shakespeare's choice to have Duncan's murder take place offstage instead of turning it into a Wes Craven horror flick (which was my first concern when I heard "Macbeth" and "modernized" in the same sentence). I thought that choice made the blood imagery later in the show even stronger and more meaningful. In fact, I liked most of the choices they made in this version. I've not had any experience in a a Michelin three star restaurant kitchen, but I've seen enough other kitchen shows to know that it's supposed to be a very pressurized atmosphere. I liked that they chose to make the banquet scene a breakfast meeting because it kept the tone of the original but placed it completely in a more accessible and realistic venue. There would be no banquet for the kitchen staff in a restaurant. And the idea of the voice message and video text as a way to have Banquo show up before his ghost actually did was quite clever.

James McAvoy is so likable in his performance as Joe Macbeth that it really contributed to the discomfort I felt watching him go so horribly wrong. And Keeley Hawes as his wife, Ella, is inspired. I do not like my Lady Macbeth acting like some kind of bully drunk with power just like Cari doesn't like her Beatrice shrewish. Yes, she can be manipulative but I don't like it when she's portrayed as bloodthirsty. If she was truly a cutthroat villain, I don't think we would have seen her deteriorate so much in the end. So, I thought Hawes' interpretation was a good one and it complemented McAvoy's Macbeth well. There is real chemistry between them and they play the characters very closely connected to each other. I have a gripe with the story about the child they lost though. It seemed to come out of left field. I know the original scene they took that idea from and it's not a scene of motherly affection.
 What beast was ’t, then,
That made you break this enterprise to me?
When you durst do it, then you were a man;
And to be more than what you were, you would
Be so much more the man. Nor time nor place
Did then adhere, and yet you would make both.
They have made themselves, and that their fitness now
Does unmake you. I have given suck, and know
How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me.
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums
And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you
Have done to this. (Act 1, Scene 7)
So, I'm wondering what their reasoning was in turning this into the story that they did? Any thoughts? Certainly, they wanted to show her cracking up and the constant washing of her hands did that well. What do you think? Did they just seize on this little detail and use it to flesh out her character in a modern setting or was there some deeper meaning that I'm just missing?

The bin men as the witches was an awesome choice! Quirky and odd and kind of mystical but definitely in the background, never stealing away the attention. The opening scene at the dump was such a vivid image and a perfect one in contrast to the sterility and institutional feel of the kitchen that came later.

There is more that I want to say, but I'll need to watch it again and I just can't psych myself up to do that yet. But I can't wait to read what you all thought! Who's gonna play?

UPDATED to add… I just had a really awesome conversation with my big kids in which we discussed another theme of Macbeth that doesn't really make it into version. The whole notion that Kings ruled by Divine Providence; so for Macbeth to kill Duncan is messing with God's Will and perhaps what sends him so far off the deep end. In other words, it's not specifically the act of murder that drives someones mad. Killing a tyrant is OK, in fact, it sets things back to right as we see in Macbeth and also Richard III. The one thing I didn't like was the twinkle in the eye of Malcom at the end of this version. It made me think they were hinting that he had planned it all. Or maybe, that he had had his own encounter with the bin witches. I've never gotten that impression from the play that Malcolm was an opportunist. Rather the opposite. That when he was thrust into this role, his first reaction was to flee. That through the support of Kind Edward and others that he was given the confidence and strength he needed to rule. What did you think of that little scene? Did you get the same feeling?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Please pray...

For dear, sweet Jessica and her whole family as they grieve the loss of their little one.

For the FSSP priests in Phoenix, their families and their order.

And for my brother who will be remembering his anniversary tomorrow, the first one since his wife, Kari, passed away.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Become a backer today!

Please consider supporting these amazing people who are trying their hardest to make smarter shows for little ones to enjoy even though the television execs told them nobody wants that. Who doesn't want intelligent fun shows for their little ones with songs that don't make you want to stab your ears? Cupcake loves the first three episodes. I sure hope there will be more.
You can watch the first three episodes in their entirety on YouTube right now!

Our Little Oratory

The Little Oratory

After my review of Leila and David's book, I started talking to Sean about our family's prayer life, our space, our habits. We talked about the fact that most nights, when we gather for prayers before bed, we all flop in the room most would call the "den" of our house but we call the "playroom". That very fact really kind of boggled my mind when I stopped to examine it. It's a great example of what crazy creatures of habit we are! The playroom is the room that has the least amount of seating (one couch w/ a moveable ottoman and one chair) and is usually (thanks to the resident toddler) in the greatest state of chaos at the end of the day.  But since it was the room that used to be the most comfortable when my oldest children were smaller, it became our habit.

So naturally, first, because I'm a glutton for punishment, I tried to find a way to create a little oratory space there. One corner that isn't much used could house some corner shelves. The fireplace with mantle could also be redecorated. Believe me, after seeing Auntie Leila's lovely pictures, I was tempted. I even found myself thinking… I have that same Madonna and Child! But we've tried the liturgical mantle thing before and it just didn't work for us.  I've been much happier with a decoration scheme that doesn't change much. I was feeling like I was trying to force it and I know myself well enough to know that if I have to force something, it's just not going to last long term.

So, I turned my eye back to the dry bar space that I mentioned before seeing all of it's difficulties and still not being content but trying to be open to inspiration. Through the completely purposeless doors to the right that for some reason divide the dry bar area from the rest of the living/dining/school room, I caught the sight of this…
and this…
and then this...
and as I started to turn more, this…

Suddenly,  I started seeing everything in this room that already made it a little oratory.
Yes, I know it says "bless this garden" but it was a confirmation gift to Rain from her grandparents and she loved it so much she couldn't bear to put it outside in our Texas heat and frequently inclement weather.  

One of Crouton's favorite places to sit is either under this sweet St. Francis or to sit in a chair that directly faces it. :)
One shelf on this bookcase is just for our bibles. Some are keepsakes and some are used for study. My in-laws sent that electric candle as a gift for our anniversary this year  and the kids are fascinated with it. (Might be because it has a remote control.) We have relic cards on top from some Salesian saints and two statues from my grandparents.
This little beauty was a gift from one of Sean's sisters who is now a Sister Servant of the Eternal Word.

A print of my favorite Caravaggio that I brought back from Italy and had framed when I was in college. 
I also noted how much more seating was in this part of the house; a full couch, a loveseat, a recliner, a padded storage bench and a full dining table with 8 chairs. And I started wondering… WHY DON"T WE DO OUR PRAYERS IN HERE? Seriously! It was such a simple, lightbulb moment for me. I'm kind of a little embarrassed to admit it here, but... hello humility! 

This part of our house was already set up (almost) perfectly for the purposes of a little oratory. There are so many beautiful pieces of art to help focus the mind and heart… things that we already love or else we wouldn't have them hanging around. They have been there all along but sometimes the eye just glazes over them. So, we talked to the children and have been working on bringing those things to the forefront of our mind's eye instead leaving them jumbled up in the background. We also talked with them about the Liturgy of the Hours. It's something that I think Sean and I have decided to explore ourselves before we bring it to them. They each have some prayers that are special to them that they would like to commit to memory. We've got all of the basics down, of course, but now it's time to commit to memory those words that speak to their hearts.

So, my one little change to the room was to remove the chalkboard that had been on this wall and move it to a lower level for Cupcake to use. I added this lightweight, decorative shelf that has enough room for a small little vase, a candle and some pictures that I printed out and glued onto card stock. There is a crucifix waiting to be hung above it as well and I'd like to find some candle wall sconces but those can wait for right now. Maybe some day we will add more permanent pictures or icons to the wall. I don't want it to feel too cluttered. My intention is to use these unframed, card stock pictures as a little bit of art appreciation tied into liturgical celebrations. I've already got some ready to go for the Feast of the Assumption and had some (that we've already put away) for Pentecost. I thought about adding in saints too, but I don't want to overburden myself with changing them out. So, major feasts and celebrations only for right now or anything that I think is beautiful that I want to share with the kids. 

For all my fellow visual people out there… Link up with Leila or just take a peek into other people's homes here! (You can't do that IRL without being arrested but anything goes here on the WWW!)