October 2009


Idyllic fall weather today.  Gave the 4th-grader a light checklist for school, with more reading than writing, and explicit instructions that he might find himself a quiet seat outside, rather than being stuck indoors on such a lovely day.  Girls made leaf-beds under one of the maples, and hosted a granola-bar picnic.

Also discovered the kids’ Spanish DVD I brought home from the library isn’t that great for beginner readers: the format depends on being able to read the English subtitles while the Spanish is spoken, but it moves to quickly for a 2nd-grader who is still a slow sounder-outer.  DVD in question is Spanish for Kids: The Fun and Easy Way to Learn Spanish*, issued by Language Tree.  Will return it and fetch a copy of Hola, Los Amigos, which is the one I wanted anyway but it wasn’t there when I went out with SB the other morning.  I’ve liked the French counterpart to that one (Bonjour Les Amis) — campy, as the genre almost always is, but accessible to young children, and strong on teaching good pronunciation.  I’ll tell you how Hola goes, once we get it in hand.

So what sparked the sudden interest in Spanish?  A scheduling problem. This past Sunday, Aria had a couple of conflicts (all good, Sunday-appropriate activities), such that her strong preference was to attend the 2pm Mass.  Which is in Spanish.  Like most 2nd-graders, she knows almost no Spanish.  (Hola, Adios, and that about sums it up.)  But no skin off my back — my Spanish is lousy, but I can follow the Mass with the help of a missal, the music is fun, and anyway I’d already been to an English Mass earlier in the day, so I’d gotten my dose of comprehensible edification.

So we went.  And she fell in love.  Her belovedly-glamorous CCD teacher was there, the girls from her class got to do the offering — not just bring up the gifts, but actually take the collection! — and then there was Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Just the statue that travels from home to home each week, but I mentioned to her afterwards the music & dancing (and eating!) at that festival, and she wanted so much to be one of those girls who gets to put on the spectacularly colorful and flouncy costumes and *perform*, or maybe one of the kids who gets to be in the passion play that day . . . . and in order to do all that, you must learn Spanish.

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In other news: It turns out I did not lose Volume III of Mary, Mother of the Son!  SuperHusband inadvertantly took it, instead of Volume I, with him on a business trip.  So now it is back in my hands, and I am taking advantage of gorgeous weather and deep laziness to plow through the remaining pages.   Excellent reading.  I will tell you more when I write up the official review, but I hold with my ‘buy’ recommendation.

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* FYI: Learning a foreign language is neither fast, nor, when you get into the depths of it, overly-fun.  Learning a few basics — yes, that part is fast and fun.  The idea of learning a language is absolutely delightful. The excitement of the initial quick progress, the joy of suddenly being able to make sense of what was previously incomprehensible? Very fun. And it takes very little skill in order to bumble one’s way through a foreign country as a tourist — a few key phrases and you’re in good shape — so all that is tons of fun.

(Indeed, the ability to speak the language poorly is quite helpful — quickly gets the native to slow down and say only very basic things.  Or even offer to speak some other language that you might know better.)

But the long, frustrating slog to fluency can drive one to tears. The many months if not years of being able to understand some but not all, say quite a bit but never quite be able to say what you want to say, when you want to say it . . . that gets old.  And then there’s the pure *work* of it, having to push the brain that wants to rest.  Not that I suppose you’d sell many books or DVD’s with an honest, “Spanish: The Long, Slow, Painful, but Ultimately Useful Way” for a title.  But I do rather prefer it when a publisher at least discretely leaves the topic alone, rather than building false hope.

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You may recall the agony we went through in early September, when a certain three-year-old learned that, yet again, she would not be attending dance class.  The weekly drama as older sisters rode off in the carpool was so heartbreaking that I actually considered enrolling the child.

Fortunately, I am married to the SuperHusband.  Who brilliantly proposed: Why not give her chocolate milk?

After a month’s trial, we can confirm the SuperHusband’s brilliance.  Promised a cup of chocolate milk every week *just as soon as the big kids leave for class*, our preschooler has lost all interest in studying ballet.  No more tears, no more pleading, just a cheerful “bye kids” and then, “look, I’m in my seat, ready for my chocolate milk.”

Hurray.  Suits me.

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Quiet weekend here, by the way.  I firmly resolve to direct my goofing-off towards actually reading all the words in the volume 3 of Mary, Mother of the Son, so that I can report back with a review soon.  (Though you already know the answer: order it.)

I was just joking with that title.  Things are most definitely *not* settled down since my last post.   Just re-read, things are about the same — GI virus and all.  Aah.  Finished In Soft Garments, excellent.  Started on Characters of the Reformation by Hillaire Belloc.  Chosen not because I was interested in the topic, but because I was interested to read something, anything, by Belloc, and that was what my parish library had stocked.  Interesting reading — I would recommend it.

Still need to make myself go back and finish book III of Mary, Mother of the Son. I’ll be honest, a lot of times I’m not in the mood to read other people’s reflections on the mysteries of the Rosary.  I don’t know why — inspiration fatigue, I guess.   But I know I’ll be glad when I do it, and ’tis the season.

Meanwhile, wanted to post a link to the Catholic Writer’s Conference.  Registration is now open.  Highly recommended: Helpful and Free.  Doesn’t get much better than that.  If you like to write, this is your friend.