castle news

. . . because I am writing to you from my own computer.  Rejoice with me.  SuperHusband and the SuperFatherInLaw conspired to equip me with a shiny new Asus laptop all of my own.  (Literally shiny — and: blue.  My favorite color.)

So I suppose I’ll be having to do extra writing, what with my new appliance and all.  I had been angling for a ping-pong/dining table for the front patio/driveway.  I had been peering ahead to the day when my harvest gold sunbeam stand mixer would finally whip its last batch of real whip cream, and thinking perhaps I ought to put in for a replacement this Christmas.   Visions of obligatory ping-pong or baking, depending on which one Santa delivered.

Instead, this.  Totally a surprise.  And with a proper numerical key pad to boot.  Must . . . resist . . . attachment . . . to . . . things . . . of . . . this . . . woooorld . . .

Happy rest of Advent!


Must go bring in children to feed and send to bed.  Then I’m back to work on my book review of Mary, Mother of the Son, 3-Volume Set.  Which you should buy.

–> So if we are lucky, the SuperHusband and hunting partner have actually shot a deer (bowhunting), and they will thus be out late tonight tracking and cleaning and whatever else it is you do after such events, and I will finish the review tonight while he is out.  If the deer are lucky, SuperHusband will be home sooner, I shall leave the computer and have dinner of a non-venison kind with him, and we shall have the review some other day.

Quite a lot of ordinary normal life going on here.  Hence the internet silence, and no book review either.

Have been reading In Soft Garments by Ronald Knox, an ancient copy mined from the treasure trove of my parish library.   Sturdy apologetics in Knox’s readable, witty style.  If you like Chesterton and Lewis, you’ll like Knox.   Even though the book is strongly catholic, there are chapters of definite interest to non-catholic christian apologists.  Don’t know where you find a current, in-print, version of the book though.   (For all I know, it’s widely available.  I just don’t know.)

In school news: So far so good.  In all we have a decent rhythm going, though between regular visits from our friendly neighborhood GI virus (a different child every time! Always at 4 AM!), and your hostess’s naturally lacksadaisical personality, let’s just say that we’re doing admirably under the circumstances.

CCD got off to a great start last week.  Big thank you to 6th grade public-school Spanish teacher Chris Craft (google him, I don’t have a link this week) whose helpful tips made a huge difference in getting the classroom running smoothly right off the bat.  You should book Chris next time you need good basics-of-sound-teaching-for-any-age conference for your collection of educators.  [He’s the Chris Craft who teaches at Crossroads Middle School in South Carolina, if that helps you with your googling.]

And I like my excel-created timeline enough I’m thinking of printing out another one for my hallway at home.  We have a time line made out of a neutral, geometric-patterned wallpaper border, but I never seem to use it.  Tragic, for children whose mother is a social-studies major.

[Our textbook covers several saints or bible heros every chapter, so I wanted a timeline so the kids could see where everyone fits in the scheme of things.  I also put up some maps so they can see where the saints lived.  So far we’ve got St. Augustine of Hippo up there.  And some question about how to pronounce his name.]


That’s the news for now.  What else?

-I’m an SCA flunkie — haven’t been to fighter practice in weeks, have already missed 50% of the two events I had planned to attend this fall — but the garden looks okay.

–> SuperHusband said he was thinking of getting me a net book for my birthday.  I voted for a guilt-free trip to the nursery.   And my first round of plant-buying happened when their was a rose sale — whoohoo.  (You do know that roses are edible, right? So I can justify buying extra, on that count.)

– And other notes: Not much camping so far this fall — see ‘overwhelmed mother’ — ailment holds steady, and the cat with the deathwish finally got too close to harm’s way.  We did not adopt a pit bull, and our tadpole has feet!  Just in time for winter!  Quick, must install waterfeature in back yard before this thing starts hopping in my kitchen . . .

See you around, hope your vocation is a lively as mine, in a good sort of way.  My apologies for typos, gotta run.

So I kinda put off picking another book to review for the Catholic Company, on account of having taking six million years to get my Angels review up.  Procrastination pays.  Went to check the available-books list early last week, and there was the 3-Book Set of Mark Shea’s Mary , Mother of the Son.

Clicked hopefully, not quite believing this could be real.  Books arrived just minutes before I headed out for Labor Day weekend.  Happy Birthday to me!

Sailed through the first two books while out camping, and skimmed the third.  Verdict: Excellent.  Highly recommended.  (Which you didn’t need to hear from me– I *knew* they were good because A: I’m a Mark Shea dittohead and B: The books have been getting very favorable reviews by people much smarter than myself.)

Official book review coming soon.

Meanwhile, I’ll say that if you have a blog and like reading top-quality, newly-released catholic books, the Catholic Company’s reviewer program is very well run.  It does, of course, mean that you can’t get autographed copies like you could if you purchased directly from the author, but then again, you can afford to buy a *second* autographed set after you’ve confirmed how awesome the books actually are.  Since you know you’ll need to have a set of spares for loan anyway.


[Hey, and if anyone has had success making the Tiber River review program work, please let me know how.   They sent me an e-mail asking me to sign up, so I did, because how can you refuse more book-reviewing fun, even if you do have a history of being an unpredictably-paced reader??  But in my efforts so far, I have only managed to get mighty confused.  Haven’t, of course, employed any adult problem-solving skills such as, say, e-mailing the guy in charge of the program.  But you could save me that display of maturity by telling me what the scoop is. Thanks!]

PS, weather was great camping this weekend, and it was kinda nice to skip out on school for a few days.  It sure pays to start homeschooling before Labor Day, so that you get that first vacation weekend right off the bat.  Otherwise it could be weeks and weeks before you get some good excuse to cut class.

And let me add: Putting six growing people in a 26′ Airstream for long weekend is an excellent way to make your previously-cramped house seem just enormous.  I mean, wow, there is *so much* space here!  We have, you know, bedrooms and stuff.  I love it.

Madly in Love: With Ronald Knox.  Just re-read The Theology of Martyrdom.  Man I love this guy.   If you are a Chesterton and Lewis fan, he’s the next step after.  The dry humor, the precision, the willingness to talk touchy subjects.  Love it.  (Note for non-catholic friends: Definitely a catholic writer.  Which is not to say you won’t love him, but his business is teaching and defending the *catholic* faith, just so ya know.)

Gonna go scour the parish library and maybe my local catholic bookstore to see what else I can find.   (Already have The Hidden Stream.)  And speaking of which, if you are, by any chance, the person who is holding my copy of If Your Mind Wanders at Mass by Thomas Howard, now would be the time to speak up.   I can’t find it, so I assume it’s out on loan to somebody.

Crazy Person Ideas: Some very kind, perhaps slightly sneaky, people persuaded me to sew my own fencing tunic.  And, the real madness: I decided to do it.  Let us clarify: I am nobody’s seamstress.  I have successfully sewn 1 toddler tunic (single layer!) and a handful of dishcloths into rectangular pouches.   Made up the pattern for the muslin mock-up yesterday, and I’m supposed to finish cutting fabric today, but there’s too much craziness in the house, I don’t see it happening this afternoon.

But I will do it.  Because I own the fabric.  And because it’s the only way to get what I actually want.  Which is not to say that I *will* get what I want, only that I will try.

And finally, Catechetical Madness:  Trying to explain the principals of Double Effect and Means-Don’t-Justify-Ends to a 4th grader.  In broad strokes, yes, sure.  But honestly, I’m not sure most of us adults really have a knack for the fine line where the one ends and the other begins.  But, as with the tunic, the only way to hope to get it done, is to try it.

Started the new school year yesterday.   So far so good.

Mr. Boy & I are starting up a massive Latin review, as we realized we hadn’t quite mastered our lessons from last year.  Fun — I mean that.  Also this year we’re doing a year-long unit on just warfare, waging peace, legitimate self-defense, and conflict resolution.  Combination of thelogy and history.  (Literature tie-in: Lord of the Rings and the Narnia series.)  Way cool, I’m super excited and both of us are already enjoying it.

Happy to report that a year of Spelling Power, the boy’s first year of formal spelling study, has pushed him up two grade levels on the placement testing from this time last year.  Turns out that study and practice can be good for you ; – ).

Aria is doing a heavy push on reading skills as she enters second grade — she’s a definite beginner reader still.  At her request we’re also starting ASL this year, which I took a couple classes on when I was younger, but still have much much much to learn.  All kids are doing that, and so far so good.  All children are also in for intense penmanship training — they have nature and nuture both working against them in that department, and it’s evident we need to take radical action to counteract the forces of illegibility.

Discovered the Bun is definitely a right-hander (had my doubts).  She is thrilled to be K, and begs to do her princess math book every day.    Startling to have a kindergartener again, and see both how much a little one has to learn, and see that fresh enthusiasm for school.  Delightful.

Andabel of course was indignant that any suggest she *isn’t* in school.  So she sits at the table and pitches fits when I won’t give her magic markers.  I don’t care if they are “washable”, you’re only 3, you get washable crayons, darling.

And all this is pretty much got me consumed.  Skipped fighter practice tonight (SCA – fencing!) even though I really really want to get back to learning (have been away due to the summer vocation and vacation combination), because I just have sooo much to do before tomorrow morning.  Like sit around and breathe, lol.  And get children to bed.  And then actual work, too.

So that’s the news for this week.

Did so many fantabulous fun field trip things I can’t remember them all.  Red Rocks, Great Basin, Excalibur, shootin’ .22’s in the desert, Mt. Charleston, Baker Archeological Site . . . oh, and there was a wedding in there somewhere, too.  And Aria went to Girl Scout Camp.

Gotta get my report cards done for the end of this school year.  Did my basic planning f0r the coming year.  Mr. Boy’s going to be working a unit around Just War and related topics (religion, history, literature), Aria’s going to be doing the full press on reading skills.  For all children, need to improve penmanship, and breathe a little life into the math program.

Trying to decide whether the Bun should do Primer or Alpha for Math-U-See . . . starting K, but have noticed lately that she seems to know more math already than I had realized.  That little unschooled wonder.

I forsee the vocation continuing to swirl about, filling in those little spaces of reading and writing time that I always think I have, but apparently do not anymore.

So much to do.  Always so much to do.  Good problem.

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