Friday, April 27, 2007

Poem - Sonnet C by William Shakespeare

Blogger tells me that this is my 100th post, so I thought it apropos to share The Bard's 100th sonnet at this time. (Yes, I am that tired and that drained of creativity.)

Sonnet C
by William Shakespeare

WHERE art thou, Muse, that thou forget'st so long
To speak of that which gives thee all thy might?
Spend'st thou thy fury on some worthless song,
Darkening thy power to lend base subjects light?
Return, forgetful Muse, and straight redeem
In gentle numbers time so idly spent;
Sing to the ear that doth thy lays esteem
And gives thy pen both skill and argument.
Rise, resty Muse, my love's sweet face survey,
If Time have any wrinkle graven there;
If any, be a satire to decay,
Give my love fame faster than Time wastes life;
So thou prevent'st his scythe and crooked knife.

P.S. Happy belated birthday, Mr. Shakespeare. (His birthday is considered April 16, 1564. He was baptized on April 26th of the same year.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Poem - Man In Space by Billy Collins

Alright, this is a totally random selection, but I find it funny and am in a rather random mood, so, you must understand, I really have no choice. (Apparently, I am in a run on sentence, comma kind of mood as well.)

You can view a video of the poem here. I highly recommend it.

Man In Space
by Billy Collins

All you have to do is listen to the way a man
sometimes talks to his wife at a table of people
and notice how intent he is on making his point
even though her lower lip is beginning to quiver,

and you will know why the women in science
fiction movies who inhabit a planet of their own
are not pictured making a salad or reading a magazine
when the men from earth arrive in their rocket,

why they are always standing in a semicircle
with their arms folded, their bare legs set apart,
their breasts protected by hard metal disks.

Monday, April 23, 2007

What is a poem?

I have never before read through the Anne of Green Gables series of books. How I missed these, I'll never know, but as I was packing the books (more on this another time) I had this overwhelming desire to read them. I came across this passage today in Anne of Avonlea where Anne and her girlfriends are discussing what poetry is. It seemed too appropriate to pass-up:

"Look, do you see that poem?"[Anne] said suddenly, pointing.

"Where?" Jane and Diana stared, as if expecting to see Runic rhymes on the birch trees.

"There... down in the brook... that old green, mossy log with the water flowing over it in those smooth ripples that look as if they'd been combed, and that single shaft of sunshine falling right athwart it, far down into the pool. Oh, it's the most beautiful poem ever saw."

"I should rather call it a picture, " said Jane. "A poem is lines and verses."

"Oh dear me, no." Anne shook her head with its fluffy wild cherry coronal positively. "The lines and verses are only the outward garments of the poem and are no more really it than your ruffles and flounces are you, Jane. The real poem is the soul within them... and that beautiful bit is the soul of an unwritten poem. It is not every day one sees a soul... even of a poem."

- from Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery

Interesting Fact: Ms. Montgomery received high praise for her books, and particularly for her title character, from none-other than Mark Twain (one of thousands of adults who read and fell in love with the books initially written for children as a series in a Sunday School magazine). Twain wrote to Ms. Montgomery that she had created "the dearest, and most lovable child in fiction since the immortal Alice."

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Thinkers Anonymous

It started out innocently enough. I began to think at parties now and then - to loosen up, I guess. Inevitably, though, one thought led to another, and soon I was more than just a social thinker.

Gradually, I began to think alone - "to relax," I told myself - though deep inside I knew it wasn't true.

Thinking became more and more important to me. After a while, I was thinking all the time. I began thinking at work too. I knew that thinking and employment don't mix, but I couldn't help myself. I began to avoid friends at lunchtime. I would sneak off and read Kafka and Thoreau. I would return to the office noticeably confused and asking things like "what is it, exactly, we are doing here??"

Things weren't going so great at home either. One evening I turned off the TV and asked my wife about the meaning of life. Needless to say, she spent that night at her mother's.

I soon had a reputation as a heavy thinker. One day the boss called me into his office. "I like you," he said "and it hurts me to say this, but your thinking has become a real problem. If you don't stop thinking on the job, I'll have to let you go."

This gave me a lot to think about.

I came home early after my conversation with the boss. "Honey," I confessed "I have been thinking."

"I know you have been thinking," she said "and I want a divorce!"

"But honey, surely it's not that serious."

"It is serious" she said, her low lip aquiver. "You think as much as a college professor, and college professors don't make any money! If you don't stop thinking we are sure to wind up in the poor-house!"

"That's a faulty syllogism," I said impatiently. She began to cry. I'd had enough. "I'm going to the library!" I snarled as I stomped out of the house. I headed straight for the library with my appetite whetted for some Nietzsche. I almost hit a pedestrian as I franticly roared into the parking lot. I ran up to the glass doors, but to my horror, they didn't open. I sank to the ground, cursing the uncaring glass entrance, and whimpering for Zarathustra. Just then a poster caught my eye. It read: "Friend, is heavy thinking ruining your life?"

You probably recognize that line. It comes from the standard Thinkers Anonymous poster.

Which is why I am what I am today - a recovering thinker. I never miss a TA meeting. At each meeting we watch a non-educational video; last week it was a Vin Diesel film. Then we share experiences about how we avoided thinking since the last meeting. I still have my job. And things are a lot better at home. Life just seems easier, somehow, ever since I quit thinking.

(Frodo received this as an email. I do not know who to credit for it, but whoever you are, "Well done!")

Poem - From cocoon forth a butterfly by Emily Dickinson

It is finally warm enough to linger outside. Therefore, I thought a poem that brings to mind nature, beauty, life and idleness was in order. Of course, it is Emily Dickinson, so an air of sadness is a given... a somber reflection of beauty.

From cocoon forth a butterfly
by Emily Dickinson

From cocoon forth a butterfly
As a lady from her door
Emerged - a summer afternoon -
Repairing everywhere,

Without design, that I could trace,
Except to stray abroad
On miscellaneous enterprise
The clovers understood.

Her pretty parasol was seen
Contracting in a field
Where men made hay, then struggling hard
With an opposing cloud,

Where parties, phantom as herself,
To Nowhere seemed to go
In purposeless circumference,
As 't were a tropic show.

And notwithstanding bee that worked,
And flower that zealous blew,
This audience of idleness
Disdained them, from the sky,

Till sundown crept, a steady tide,
And men that made they hay,
And afternoon, and butterfly,
Extinguished in its sea.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Deja Vu A La Stephen King

I can't sleep. Every time I close my eyes, I hear it over and over again...

"Mom, blood!"

"Mom, blood!"

My eyes shoot open, and I have to stop myself from tip-toeing in to check on Quarto for the umpteenth time. My heart races. I have been reading like crazy to keep my mind occupied. Eventually I'll fall asleep, but it is usually very late and filled with tossing and turning once I finally do. I am hoping that sharing it here will help me purge my fear and allow me some restful sleep (I am writing this at almost 1am).

Last Sunday afternoon, we had friends from church over for lunch. I assumed that when they called to relate some car trouble around the time that we were expecting them that this was the "disaster" that would impede our getting together. This has become a joke between our families. Honestly, every time we try to get together, something happens... all the kids get sick at once, freak ice storms whip-up overnight, emergencies with extended family pop-up. We were joking about what could possibly happen this time. Their car trouble fortunately wasn't serious and someone else from church was already there giving them a hand, so it looked like we would survive the day with only a delay, no disaster. What's the saying? Don't count your chickens before they hatch? Yup. That would be the one.

I take advantage of the family's delayed arrival to whip-up some corn bread to go with our Dzik (cold beef salad) and Salmon Quiche. They arrive just as it is coming out of the oven. The kids run off to play while the grown-ups talk and figure out what our various picky eaters will eat. I start to take out paper plates so I can begin making some PB&Js for the picky eaters when that series of sounds that now haunts me first shatters the air:

"Mom, blood!"

The adults all go running. I am the last to arrive because I first start heading to the playroom. That is where all the kids were playing, last I knew. I should have been at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the bedrooms. Fourteen, steep wooden steps with an empty bookshelf and hard, wooden landing at the bottom... a bookshelf and landing now covered in blood (or so it seemed... there was a lot of blood). My three-year old, Quarto, is trying to get up and is adamantly announcing, "AC pushed me!" There is blood pouring down his head. It looks like it is coming out of his ear. All I can think of is a scene early in Pet Sematary... the bicycle accident on campus. It was the first Stephen King book I ever read and his description of that image of the cyclist's cracked skull with blood and brain tissue dripping over the curb has stuck in my head since. (Oddly, it was that wonderful description that created such a vivid image in my mind that endeared me to King's writing.) I am now re-seeing that image, but now it is my toddler's head, my toddler's blood.

Somehow, I hold it together long enough to grab a towel from the bathroom and get Quarto's insurance card out of my wallet and hand them to Frodo. Frodo wraps Quarto's head in the towel, sticks the card in his pocket, and flies to the car. After returning to ask our guests to move their car, he speeds off to the ER. I call ahead to let them know they are coming then call the church to let them know we will not be there to teach our class of 2 and 3-year-olds that evening. (Strange what we think to do, isn't it?) I then collapse on the floor and sob. I'm sure I was only there for a few minutes, but it seemed like ages.

My friend, Sunshine (really, that's her name), walks me over to the sofa. It is at this point that she realizes she has no idea where her baby is. Her husband, Rye, says, "I gave him to the tall one." Sunshine and I burst-out laughing. Rye has never been to our house before and has only spoken to Frodo and I at church in small bursts. Sunshine and I are the connection here, so he has never met my children. He apparently needed to hand-off the baby so he could clean the steps and knew that Sunshine and I were not up to the task just then, so he gave the baby to the next most responsible looking person in the the house, Primo. He didn't even bother to ask her name. *grin*

I decided that I had better check on my other kids, so I went into the playroom. There, Primo had put on a movie for everyone (The Emperor's New Groove, a very up-beat choice). She had Terzo under one arm and Secondo under the other. EMC2 had her baby brother on her lap. They all looked like they were in shock but no one was completely falling apart. I, on the other hand, felt myself ready to loose it again, so I went back to the living room to isolate myself with the adults and try to decide what to do next.

Rye was still cleaning blood off the stairs. (I found out later that Primo had cleaned up the blood that had dripped on the kitchen floor because it "freaked her out" and was "too stressful to look at"... where was I?) He had AC sitting on the floor next to him, and they were talking about what happened. "But he was chasing me," AC protested. "I don't care if he was chasing you, you don't push people, especially on the stairs," Rye reprimanded him. I was finally beginning to comprehend what had happened. It seems the boys were on their way up to the kids' room to play. Quarto was "running" (which generally takes the form of rapid crawling) up the stairs after AC and AC got upset with Quarto for being so close, so when they got to the upstairs landing, AC turned and pushed Quarto. I found out from Secondo later (she had apparently seen the whole thing but was too shocked to share what she had seen until we came home from the hospital) that AC was on the landing and Quarto had his hands on the landing but his feet were a couple steps down. AC turned around and pushed Quarto and Quarto spun and began sliding down the steps on his bum. About half-way down, he had tried to stand up and ended up doing two cartwheels down the rest of the steps. He hit his forehead once on the way down then hit his head on the bookshelf at the bottom (the haunting "Thump!").

After watching Rye clean Quarto's blood from the stairs for awhile, I began to panic again. My mind was reeling. "That's a lot of blood." "Where was it coming from?" "I wonder what is going on at the hospital." Apparently, I said this last one aloud because Sunshine said very authoritatively, "I'm going to take you to the hospital. Rye can watch the kids."

I went upstairs and grabbed some cash from my nightstand. Then I went to the kids' room and grabbed a backpack, a couple of Quarto's "towels" (cloth diapers that he snuggles when he sleeps), his stuffed dog and a couple books. I felt panic rising again because I couldn't find his favorite truck book. He needed that truck book. I finally realized that any book would be better than none, so I grabbed his favorite Baby Einstein book and flew downstairs. I grabbed my wallet and coat and the next thing I remember is that we were about half-way to the hospital. Sunshine said, "Get my cell phone out of my bag and take it with you."

Suddenly, we were at the desk in the ER, and I tell the receptionist that I am looking for Quarto. I realize that I am watching her face very closely. I am looking for that tell-tale shift from cheery welcome to sympathetic gaze. I am waiting for her to tell me to wait one second, that she'd be right back. I am waiting for the doctor to arrive and say, "Are you Mrs. Frodo?" I am waiting to feel my knees buckle as I hear a woman (who I will later realize was me) scream in utter helplessness. This does not occur. The receptionist remains perky and says, "Sure, he's right over here. Follow me." I am dizzy with relief.

Sunshine and I follow the receptionist into the inner sanctum of the ER. Quarto is lying on his bed looking a little sleepy, but awake and not crying. He smiles at me when I come in. Frodo is a little surprised to see me and becomes a bit flustered because he is trying to answer the questions of the nurse taking Quarto's history while updating me at the same time. Once the nurse leaves, we all settle in while Frodo updates us as to how they've been doing. Apparently, Quarto stopped crying about two minutes into the ride to the hospital... coinciding with the passing of a big truck. This began Quarto's typical non-stop chatter about anything and everything he could see out the windows all the way to the hospital. Frodo reassured me that Quarto seemed his normal self and that the hospital staff didn't seem overly concerned about him.

Once updated, Sunshine went out to the lobby to give us some time alone and to call Rye and let him know that Quarto seemed to be alright. (I think they were more concerned than we were on some level and felt very guilty that AC could have seriously hurt Quarto. I am sure that seeing Quarto alive and well was as much of a relief to Sunshine as to me.) Quarto was very happy that I brought his favorite "towel" to snuggle. It was quickly apparent that we would be at the hospital a while (we were still waiting 20 minutes later for some Tylenol), so I went out and told Sunshine that she could go back to the house and give Rye a hand. She told me to keep her phone in case I needed it and to keep them updated. I was so relieved to not have to worry about the other kids.

Once I was back in the room with Frodo and Quarto, a nurse practitioner came by and gave Quarto his Tylenol and had Quarto stand up and walk and made sure he had no pain in his neck and extremities. He seemed fine if you looked at him from his right. A normal, happy, slightly-tired toddler. You only knew something was wrong with him when you went around to his left side with all the matted blood. Right out of a Stephen King novel. The nurse practitioner (who was very pregnant... I was worried she would go into labor any minute) checked Quarto's head. Frodo was looking over my shoulder and said, "Ugh. It looks like a mouth." Not a pretty image. The nurse practitioner cringed. She recommended neck x-rays and a CAT scan (given how far he had fallen) and also had a nurse come and apply a topical pain reliever... both to relieve Quarto's pain as well as to make sure the area was numb when we came back from the tests so she could inject him with more anesthetic and put in the stitches. We were told that if his CAT scan showed a skull fracture (she was pretty sure the neck x-ray would come back clear, but was taking it to be safe) that we would have to be transferred to a different hospital where he could be monitored. The nurse practitioner seemed a little taken-aback when, in trying to make sure we were giving informed consent, we asked if the CAT scan was necessary (she had seemed a little hesitant at first recommending it, so we weren't sure if it was really necessary). She said that if it was her child who had fallen so far on such a hard surface, she may not have the CAT scan but that she would observe him very closely. She said that we could do the same, but she was recommending it because then we would know whether or not there was a fracture and we wouldn't have any nagging questions. We asked what could be done if the CAT scan revealed a fractured skull. "Nothing," she admitted, but then reiterated that he would have to be transferred so he could be put under observation. "The presence of a fracture could mean that there are underlying problems that we can't see yet." I called Sunshine to let her know that Quarto would need x-rays and a CAT scan and that we could be awhile, and she said to call us as soon as we knew the results. If Quarto did have to be transferred, they were going to find a way to get all the kids back to their house to spend the night.

Frodo asked if I was hungry. (Remember, this all happened just as we were getting ready to eat lunch, so we hadn't eaten since breakfast... a light, easy, pre-church breakfast almost 5 hours before.) Consequently, Frodo went foraging while I grabbed a book and snuggled with Quarto on his bed. We saw no sign of a nurse while Frodo was gone. The ER was jammed with patients (there were patients on gurneys in the hall awaiting rooms), so we weren't entirely surprised. Frodo dove into his snack... sneaking a few small pieces of Pop Tart to Quarto. My hunger had vanished since Quarto picked a snuggling position that had my nose directly over the nauseating, old-blood smell on his head.

Finally, an orderly came to take Quarto for his tests, and I got a nice ride on the gurney since they thought my staying with Quarto would help keep him calm. He loved the ride down the halls... especially the "bumps" that the orderly would warn us were coming. He desperately wanted to go on the elevator, but the elevator quickly paled in the excitement of the "tunnel", aka the CAT scan machine. He loved pretending that he was a train going through a tunnel, and he remained perfectly still when told. We then waited in the hall (I was back on the gurney with Quarto while Frodo was the designated coat and backpack holder), and Quarto examined every nook and cranny. He was fascinated by the sprinklers.

"What's those?"
"Sprinklers. They put fires out if there was a fire."
"They make fire?!"
"No they put it out by putting water on it."
"No. The fire trucks put the fire out."
"Yes, the fire trucks put the fire out, but the sprinklers are like little fire trucks."
"They put the fire out? Like fire trucks puts fire out?"
"Oh." (Pensive pause.) "What's that?" (Finding something else to spark his curiosity.)

In the x-ray room, I never even had to get off the gurney. The tech was wonderful, and covered me with a shield and moved the camera around the room to accommodate whatever position was most comfortable for Quarto while making sure she got a clear picture. While we were being wheeled back down to the ER, she stopped us to give Quarto some glow-in-the-dark x-ray stickers... which he enjoyed looking at after getting over his disappointment that she had stopped us just before we were about to go over a coveted bump.

I finally felt like eating when we returned to the ER, so Frodo dug-out the bag of pretzels he had foraged for me... again, Quarto was given a few covert "hush" bites. Frodo and I enjoyed our impromptu date as much as we could, and Quarto enjoyed having us all to himself. The novelty of the hospital began to wear off as Quarto's pain relievers began to kick-in, and he started asking to go home. We told him that we had to wait for the doctor to come back. He really wanted to watch TV, but we convinced him to look at a book instead.

When the nurse practitioner came back, she said that both the X-rays and the CAT scan had come back normal but told us that she would give us a sheet with signs to look for over the next couple days that might indicate a hidden trauma. All she needed to do was clean him, stitch him up, and get him some antibiotics and we could go home. The last time Quarto got stitches (remember last fall's freak coloring accident?), the doctor wrapped him up like a mummy in a blanket while an orderly held his head still. This time, the nurse practitioner just asked Quarto to lie on his belly and covered him with a blanket and covered his head with a sterile drape. An orderly lightly held Quarto's head still, and I rubbed Quarto's hand under the blanket. Frodo kept up normal conversation so the mood remained light. As the nurse began injecting the anesthetic, Quarto giggled! "I know it hurts," she said. "I think he's laughing," the orderly commented. "It tickles," Quarto confirmed. Under the drape, Quarto's hand began wiggling. I felt his fist and realized that he had found the syringe cap and was rubbing it with his thumb. The nurse practitioner cleaned the wound then began stitching. About half-way through, she commented on how good Quarto was being. "He's asleep," the orderly half-laughed. The nurse practitioner lifted the drape a little and sure enough, Quarto was sound asleep... still rubbing the syringe cap. The orderly released his light grip on Quarto's head and left to get another suture kit. All-in-all, Quarto received 7 stitches.

We let Quarto sleep until another orderly came in to get his weight. Because Quarto was still so sleepy, Frodo picked him up and the orderly had to take Frodo's weight with and without Quarto then use the difference to find Quarto's weight. Good thing Frodo was there to help the orderly with his math or Quarto would have ended up with a concentration of antibiotic twice as strong as necessary for his body weight! When the orderly left, I called Sunshine to let her know we would be leaving for home in about 20 minutes (I should have said 40... I was so happy to bring Quarto home, I forgot about the bureaucracy involved in checking-out). Frodo went to get the car.

After Quarto received his first dose of antibiotic (which he insisted tasted like lemonade, but both the nurse and I thought smelled distinctly like raspberries), the nurse went to get copies of Quarto's x-ray and CAT scan results (after I reminded her that we needed them), the nurse reviewed the danger signs that would necessitate us bringing Quarto back to the ER, and we waited for the billing nurse to finish her 20 minute conversation so I could take one minute to pay our co-pay, we were finally off. Quarto pointed out every truck and light and building on the way home.

As soon as we walked in the door at home, AC apologized to Quarto, Quarto apologized to AC (in a 3-year-old's mind, if someone apologizes to you, then you must apologize right back), and they ran off to play with toy trains together. AC didn't want to leave when it was time for him to go home, and Quarto was very sad to see him go.
(The whole time we were at the hospital, Quarto was so afraid AC would have left before he could get home to play trains with him.)

It was nothing but God's Grace that kept Quarto's fall from resulting in a concussion, skull fracture, broken neck, or death. There is no other explanation.

Well, that's the saga. I hope this purging helps me get more restful sleep. Thanks for being my Penseive. Now I am going to check on Quarto and try to go to sleep.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Poem - The Duel by Primo

After finishing her schoolwork this morning, Primo disappeared from the kitchen table and came back a few minutes later with a pencil and an index card in hand and promptly sat down and began to write. Given her passion for doodling and drawing, I just assumed that she was working on some new artistic endeavor, so I went back to Secondo and her grammar lesson. When we finished a few minutes later, I looked back at Primo. She had a look of pure, focused concentration on her face. "What are you working on?" I asked. "A poem," she replied distractedly. Her tone conveyed her desire to be left alone at her task.

As Secondo and I dove into a math lesson a little while later, Primo finally said, "Done! Want to read it?" As she handed over the card she said, "I don't know how good it is. I've never really written a poem unless you made me." I read it... a little difficult since she wrote it as a paragraph instead of in the familiar form of a poem. Granted, I am a little biased, but I think it's pretty good. She is going to type it up in a more conventional form then submit it to our local homeschool group's student newsletter for publication.

Don't you love when the seed of passion for beautiful art, history, writing, etc. you planted begins to bloom in your kids?

The Duel
by Primo

The weeds that were cruel
And the plants that were cool
Had a big duel;
They fought and fought and fought.

The plants were delighted,
And the weeds disappointed.
They never fought again.

COH - Week 68

Monday, April 16, 2007

Poem - The Wind by Robert Lewis Stevenson

A nor'easter continues to blow across the Northeastern United States. I love the sound of wind storms... like shouting one minute and whispering the next. I love the uncertainty of whether or not the lights will go out. I like hearing cracking branches (once I'm sure they aren't going to fall onto and harm anyone or anything) and blowing leaves. I am amazed that something so powerful can be invisible. There is a thrill being surrounded by a small sample of God's power and sovereignty. I am reminded how small and vulnerable I am but also that I am a part of a bigger, fascinating creation.

The Wind
by Robert Lewis Stevenson

I SAW you toss the kites on high
And blow the birds about the sky;
And all around I heard you pass,
Like ladies' skirts across the grass-
O wind, a-blowing all day long,
O wind, that sings so loud a song!

I saw the different things you did,
But always you yourself you hid.
I felt you push, I heard you call,
I could not see yourself at all-
O wind, a-blowing all day long,
O wind, that sings so loud a song.

O you that are so strong and cold,
O blower, are you young or old?
Are you a beast of field or tree,
Or just a stronger child than me?
O wind, a-blowing all day long,
O wind, that sings so loud a song.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Poem - Spellbound by Emily Bronte

We are expecting "the type of storm that comes around once every 20 years" around here tomorrow. It has been likened to a "land-locked hurricane". It has already started raining here, and it is supposed to rain into tomorrow... then become snow. At least a few inches. And not pretty, fluffy, Currier and Ives kind of snow. Heavy, rib-cracking, heart-attack-inducing kind of snow. Oh yeah, and ice. And strong winds. Aka: God's tree pruning service.

Many around here are doing "panic shopping" - bread, milk, eggs, toilet paper. We did a little shopping, too - shredded beef, fresh cilantro, lime juice. (We're serving Mexican, cold-beef salad for company tomorrow.) Frodo and I like these types of storms. We don't necessarily enjoy the yard clean-up that is inevitable afterward or having to calm the fears of children convinced that "the end is near" and we should all flee to the basement with the emergency radio. What we do enjoy is the time where everyone is forced to stay home, the excuse to sit around and play games or watch movie-after-movie with our kids, to experience life without electricity and be forced to go to bed when the sun goes down. This is why I chose this poem by Emily Bronte. It captures the feeling of submitting ones own will to the tyrannical demands of the storm.

by Emily Bronte

The night is darkening around me,
The wild winds coldly blow;
But a tyrant spell has bound me,
And I cannot, cannot go.

The giant trees are bending
Their bare boughs weighed with snow.
And the storm is fast descending,
And yet I cannot go.

Clouds beyond clouds above me,
Wastes beyond wastes below;
But nothing drear can move me;
I will not, cannot go.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Poem - Remember by Christina Georgina Rossetti

Primo loves animals. Her first pet (not including our family dog), a hamster named Little Mikey (after the stuffed monster in Monster's Inc.), died after he figured out how to open his cage and let himself out. He subsequently drowned in the sump pump... it looked oddly like a rodent mob hit. The second hamster, appropriately named Little Mikey II, figured out how to disconnect his water bottle from his cage in the middle of the night. Primo didn't discover it until the next morning. He was already dead from dehydration. Primo received Jasmine from Secondo after Secondo realized that the responsibility of taking care of Jasmine was too much for her. Primo took excellent care of her and loved her dearly. Yesterday, the rabbit, Jasmine, passed away. Three days ago, she was fine. By yesterday afternoon, she was dead. Primo spent most of the short time the rabbit was sick in the rain next to the hutch comforting Jasmine, rubbing her belly, and trying to get her to take water and a special food through a syringe. Jasmine received amazing care, but it was just her time to go. Primo is devastated that she's gone.

by Christiana Georgina Rossetti

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Did Someone Repeal the First Amendment and Not Tell Me?

People's Exhibit A:

"Freedom of speech means the freedom to speak without fear of punishment or supression by the state. It does not mean freedom to speak without having to deal with the consequences of saying something stupid."

Amen to Doug over at The Liberty Papers! You can read the rest of his post on the Imus debacle here.

People's Exhibit B:

"Don't you check into the politics of the people you work with?"

This was asked by a Public Broadcasting System (PBS) executive of documentary film producer, Martyn Burke, after telling him that his film, Islam vs. Islamists (a film which looks at how fundamentalist Islam is stifling the voice of moderate, American Islam), would not be included in the PBS series America at a Crossroads which airs this month. The film was originally commissioned by PBS for the series at the cost of $675,000. According to a story on AZCentral, Burke alleges, "
I was ordered to fire my two partners (who brought me into this project) on political grounds." PBS was apparently concerned that the film would be biased because two neo-conservatives were part of the film's production team.

Ironically, as reported by The Washington Times, the series was created and given grant money (i.e. tax dollars) in the amount of $20 million while Kenneth Tomlinson was president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). Mr. Tomlinson was forced to resign a year later after being accused of using a "political test" in the staffing of his upper-level administration and in selecting some program contents.

Poem - Tomes by Billy Collins

I like genealogy. I don't just like knowing where I came from, who my ancestors are, or what the oldest point in time that I can link myself to is so that I can taste a bit of immortality, of always having been... although those things are fascinating and awesome. I like the stories of the past. Like when during World War II, when meat was rationed, and my grandfather was off target shooting in a field near his base, and a farmer came up to him and gifted him two steaks as a token of his gratitude for my grandfather's service, and my grandmother, who had little experience cooking meat in their short marriage, promptly cooked them to the consistency of shoe leather. Or in my husband's family, when his grandmother, a single mother to his father, would make herself mustard sandwiches for lunch so that she could taste the mustard and feel full. It is stories like these that are the history. People are not names and dates. They are relationships and experiences. I hope to collect all of these stories together so that my children and grandchildren will know a little about the people who proceeded them and prayed for them... their living heritage.

Very few of us will see our families' mentioned in history books, but they are there. Without them, there would be no history.

by Billy Collins

There is a section in my library for death
and another for Irish history,
a few shelves for the poetry of China and Japan,
and in the center a row of imperturbable reference books,
the ones you can turn to anytime,
when the night is going wrong
or when the day is full of empty promise.

I have nothing against
the thin monograph, the odd query,
a note on the identity of Chekhov's dentist,
but what I prefer on days like these
is to get up from the couch,
pull down The History of the World,
and hold in my hands a book
containing nearly everything
and weighing no more than a sack of potatoes,
eleven pounds, I discovered one day when I placed it
on the black, iron scale
my mother used to keep in her kitchen,
the device on which she would place
a certain amount of flour,
a certain amount of fish.

Open flat on my lap
under a halo of lamplight,
a book like this always has a way
of soothing the nerves,
quieting the riotous surf of information
that foams around my waist
even though it never mentions
the silent labors of the poor,
the daydreams of grocers and tailors,
or the faces of men and women alone in single rooms-

even though it never mentions my mother,
now that I think of her again,
who only last year rolled off the edge of the earth
in her electric bed,
in her smooth pink nightgown
the bones of her fingers interlocked,
her sunken eyes staring upward
beyond all knowledge,
beyond the tiny figures of history,
some in uniform, some not,
marching onto the pages of this incredibly heavy book.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Fly on the Wall

Last night we were sitting in the truck in the church parking lot waiting for Cub Scouts to start... I misread the clock, rushed everyone to get ready, helped Terzo prepare his "endangered species" report in 5 minutes, rushed everyone through supper, and got to the church 45 minutes early, sigh. I had all four munchkins with me because Frodo had to coach a baseball game (story for another day). The kids asked to be let-loose in the truck while we waited and proceeded to find ways to amuse themselves while I pretended that I meant to get to the church that early and updated my calendar, and read through the Usborne Illustrated Dictionary of Biology and What Are Food Chains and Webs? (the boys were making food chain posters at the meeting), and cleaned the truck, and...

At some point the kids became involved in some kind of game and their volume began creeping to ear-bleeding levels, so I told them that they needed to settle down. Quarto, always last to "settle" yelled, "A pie, Dummo!" Now, we've been having problems with Quarto and name calling, so whipped around and asked him to repeat himself. "I said, 'A pie, Dummo!'" he repeated, with both hands held up above his head. I told him that I didn't know where he learned that word (Dummo?) but that it wasn't polite even in joking and told him not to say it anymore. "Okay, Mom," he complied.

After I turned around, the kids resumed their game, and Quarto began pleading, "Me too! Do me! A pie, Dummo!" I broke out laughing and turned around to instruct the older kids that if they are going to teach their younger brother to play a game, they need to teach him to pronounce the accompanying words correctly. Primo said, "Quarto, it's like this: 'Up high. Down low. Too slow!'"

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

COH - Week 67 - The Poetry of Homeschooling

Photo Credit: Justin Smith @ World of Juice

So fine a show was never seen
At the great circus on the green;
For every kind of beast and man
Is marching in that caravan.
- from Young Night Tho
ught by Robert Louis Stevenson

It cannot be a coincidence that it is National Poetry Month and I’m hosting the Carnival of Homeschooling this month. I mean a homeschooler can never resist the chance to turn something into a learning opportunity. So, prepare a nice cup of tea, find a comfy spot, call the kids to come read over your shoulder, and let’s away to the Carnival!

Photo Credit: from

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less t
raveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

- from The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Mother Crone (Mother Crone’s Homeschool) reminds us that just because we aren’t bringing home a fiscal paycheck doesn’t mean we haven’t chosen a rewarding career by choosing to homeschool, so please stop trying to find the homeschooling mom a career.

When looking for some practical advice while planning for the next school year, Kristina (at home, on fire) checked out the government school guidelines and ended up with a “good laugh instead of a good path”.

Each homeschool family chooses homeschooling for a different reason. Jeanne (At A Hen’s Pace) reminds us to look back and remember why we chose this path. Meanwhile, others, like Phil (A Family Runs Through It) only have to look back to yesterday to find a newly discovered benefit to homeschooling. Rusty (New Covenant) homeschools not only because of the superb academic education that his children will receive but also because of the cultural literacy that will be gained.

MFS (Mental Multivitamin) isn’t phased by “how woefully under prepared Suzy Homeschool's kids are, how inarticulate Peggy Publicschool's kids are” because she isn’t homeschooling those kids… she’s homeschooling her own. Those are the only three students she’s worried about.

Photo Credit: BBC News

Questions, directions warnings and advice,
Flowed in upon me, from all sides; fresh day
Of pride and pleasure! To myself I seemed
A man of business and expense, and went
From shop to shop about my own affairs,
To Tutor or to Tailor, as befell,
From street to street with loose and careless mind.

- from Residence at Cambridge by William Wordsworth

Whenever a celebrity declares that they are joining the homeschooling ranks, homeschoolers converge to analyze whether or not this is the person they want as the new homeschooling poster-boy. John and Elizabeth Edwards are no exception.
Susan (Corn and Oil) shares her thoughts on the Edwards’ announcement, and Spunky, guest-blogging at Home Where They Belong, wonders whether what the Edwards are planning for their children’s educations can actually be categorized as homeschooling (among other questions).

Photo Credit: Smoke Wade @

STILL sits the school-house by the road,
A ragged beggar sunning;
Around it still the sumachs grow,
And blackberry vines are running.

- from In School-Days by John Greenleaf Whittier

The Palm Tree Pundit shares photos of her new Sugar Shack School. Be careful. After looking, you’re going to want one, too.

Our children may not darken the doorstep of the local government school, but Alasandra wants to make loud and clear why homeschoolers should care about public schools.

Many homeschoolers are opting for the virtual schoolroom, but Barbara Frank warns us that signing our kids up for e-school will probably mean signing away our educational freedom.

Our home is our schoolhouse, and an organized space makes for better learning. Elena (My Domestic Church) has some guidance on creating binders to help us manage our homes and, thus, our schools.

Jill glances Through The Windowpane with her children to remind herself (by learning from her children) to appreciate the little gifts God sends us.

Periodically, we venture out from our schoolhouses/ homes and then our children, like Lizzie’s (A Dusty Frame), give away our secret identities.

We may see how all things are,
Seas and cities, near and far,
And the flying fairies’ looks,
In the pictyure story books.

-from Picture-books in winter by Robert Louis Stevenson

As our children approach school age, we begin researching our different curriculum choices. The Old Schoolhouse Magazine has developed a new column to help make that easier... and they want your help.

Henry (Why Homeschool) reminds us to not pressure our kids in teaching them to read early if we want them to be voracious readers as they grow older... and he's got the overflowing library bag to prove it.

When it is time to begin to teach our children to read, Malissa (Malissa's Merry-Go-Round) has a great list of phonics resources for us to choose from.

Just because our children are learning to read on their own doesn't mean we should stop reading aloud to them. Laurie (Trivium Pursuit) shares one of her family's favorite read-alouds.

Picture Credit: Study: At a Reading Desk by Lord Frederick Leighton

Old books to read!
Ay, bring those nodes of wit,
The brazen-clasped, the vellum writ,
Time-honored tomes!
The same my sire scanned before,
The same my grandsire thumbed o’er,
The same his sire form college bore,

The well-earned meed

Of Oxford’s domes

- from A Winter Wish by Robert Hinckley Messinger

Many of us know in our minds that if we require our children to do narrations of what they read and hear, it will help them retain information and become better writers and thinkers. However, actually carrying through can be very daunting. The Deputy Headmistress of The Common Room provides us with some practical tips to help lessen our burden.

Jenny (Little Acorns Treehouse) guides parents of advanced readers in how to choose age-appropriate books without sacrificing difficulty.

Home is Where You Start From's Jenny gives us a review of the book that inspired the movie Duma.

Picture Credit: from Cal Poly Pomona

They have taught you to see
Only a mean arithmetic on the face of things,
A cunning algebra in the faces of men,
And God like geometry
Completing his circles, and working cleverly.

- from A Spiritual Woman by D.H. Lawrence

Denise (Let's Play Math!) shows us some real life math in her post Proportions II.

Making doll's clothes is a way that Tara (Waldorf Our Way) reinforces geometry concepts for her daughters.

Picture Credit: Hans Namuth @ University of Arizona

Who wants - (hush! hush!)
A box of paint?
‘T will give a blush
Yet leave no taint:
This rose with natural rouge is fill’d,
From its own dewy leaves distill’d.

- from Songs from “Sylvia; Or, the May Queen.” III. Nehon’s Song by George Darley

Sometimes we hit a subject or topic that we don't feel we are showing our children the proper passion for. Barb (The Heart of Harmony) used to ask herself, "Is that art?" when viewing Jackson Pollack's work, but is now learning a new appreciation through teaching.

Picture Credit: from Science World

SCIENCE long watched the realms of space,
A planet’s devious path to trace:
Convinced of heaven’s harmonious law,
“A World Beyond” Leverrier saw.

- from A World Beyond by Nathaniel Ingersoll Bowditch

When it comes to science, sometimes it's best to abandon the textbooks, reminds Summer Minor, and just go outside and get dirty. And if you love using primary sources whenever possible, like me, then you'll admit that nature is the ultimate primary resource when it comes to science.

When you come back inside from star-gazing, Patti (All Info About Homeschooling) has some great resources for upper elementary and middle school students to learn about the planets.

Picture Credit: Underwood & Underwood; from The Library of Congress

My parents thought that I would be
As great as Edison or greater:
For as a boy I made balloons
And wondrous kites and toys with clocks

And little engines with tracks to run on
And telephones of cans and thread.

- from Walter Simmons by Edgar Lee Masters

We all know that each of our children is an exceptional student... and person. That doesn't change when we have a child with special educational needs. Elishiva (Ragamuffin Studies) reflects on a series of stories aired by ABC about Asberger's Syndrome and compares them to her own experience educating her AS son.

Gary & Kathy (HomeschoolBuzz) share a video of their exceptional team of homeschoolers... an all-homeschool team for the F.I.R.S.T. Lego League Robotics competition.

Wise parents, like Rachel (Inklings), know that our children's exceptionality depends a lot on how we raise them - which often requires our saying "no".

Picture Credit: from Yale Library

I SAID when they handed me my diploma,
I said to myself I will be good
And wise and brave and helpful to others;

- from Dr. Siegfried Iseman by Edgar Lee Masters

As the end of the school year approaches, many of us turn our thoughts toward graduation. But Judy (Consent of the Governed) wonders about the homeschooler's need/ desire for a diploma.

For those teens headed off to college, the Modern Sage offers an Expert Q & A of FREE web-based resources for college-bound teens.

But what if your child takes a look at all her options and thinks that college may not be for her? Celeste (Life Without School) is having to come to terms with just that possibility for her own daughter.

When homeschooling her own children, Sherry (Redbud's Lane) thought that college was a long way off and wondering if all of her effort was worth it. As her children excel at college, she's can honestly say it was.

Thank you for visiting this week's carnival. And thank you to everyone who submitted the wonderful posts. Next week's carnival will be back home at Why Homeschool. If you would like to contribute, all the information you need can be found here.

For more information on National Poetry Month and how to incorporate poetry into your curriculum, click here.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Poem - Rain by Shel Shilverstein

I have loved Shel Silverstein's poetry since I was a kid. I think that between my sister and I, we had every book he had written. I had the pleasure of watching my kids fall in love with Shel Silverstein's writing a few weeks ago when we borrowed the audio book of Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook from our library. This new book was compiled from writings found among the work he left behind after his death in 1999. It takes a little getting used to hearing it since the poems are written as a series of spoonerisms (I can't imagine having to read them), but once we got used to it, we all just howled. If you would like to play around with Shel Silverstein's poetry, head on over to his website. There are animated poems and fun games to play. Oh. You're kids might like it, too.

I selected this poem because it just seems to fit the aimlessness of my day today. I can't seem to stay focused. I must have a leak in my brain that let the rain in.

by Shel Silverstein

I opened my eyes
And looked up at the rain,
And it dripped in my head
And flowed into my brain,
And all that I hear as I lie in my bed
Is the shishity-slosh of the rain in my head.

I step very softly,
I walk very slow,
I can't do a handstand--
I might overflow,
So pardon the wild crazy thing I just said--
I'm just not the same since there's rain in my head.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Thinking Bloggers Award

Wow! I am honored to have been awarded a Thinking Bloggers Award by no apology. What an unexpected surprise. Thank you.

Now, it is my turn to bestow the award on five other bloggers who make me question, wonder, awaken, rage, act, cheer... in short, think.

1. Dura Mater - The name means "tough mother". Yup. That pretty much sums it up.

2. Consent of the Governed - "Featuring information you need to know before you consent..." Do I really need to elaborate? No. I didn't think so.

3. The Liberty Papers - "I know not what others may choose but, as for me, give me liberty or give me death." The spirit of Patrick Henry is alive and well. Stop on over for an inoculation of Liberty and plain-ol' common sense. (Pun intended, of course.)

4. Stepping Heavenward - Home of my "cyber twin". I come here for a daily serving of theology, homeschool resource recommendations, encouragement, or a hearty laugh. It's a regular brain buffet.

5. Aduladi' & Co. - My daily reminder that there is no "same old, same old" when the Lord of Hosts permeates all.

Carnival Of Homeschooling Submissions Due

I am hosting this week's Carnival of Homeschooling right here on Tuesday. Submit your homeschooling posts for inclusion in the CoH by following the instructions found here.

Have a Blessed Easter!

Poem - The Day of Rusurrection by St. John of Damascus

The Day of Resurrection
by St. John of Damascus

'Tis the day of resurrection,-
Earth, tell it out abroad,-
The passover of gladness,
The passover of God.
From death to life eternal,
From this world to the sky,
Our Christ has brought us over,
With hymns of victory.

Our hearts be pure form evil,
That we may see aright
The Lord in rays eternal
Of resurrection-light,
And, listening to his accents,
May hear, so calm and plain,
His own "All hail!" and, hearing,
May raise the victor-strain.

Now let the heavens be joyful,
Let earth her song begin,
Let the round world keep triumph
And all that is therein,
Invisible and visible,
Their notes let all things blend;
For Christ the Lord hath risen,
Our joy that hath no end.

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Poem - Psalm 22

David subtitled this Psalm "A Cry of Anguish and a Song of Praise". Is it any wonder that the Son of God used these words at the time of His anguish? These words that the Holy Spirit placed into the heart of David hundreds of years before. Should we not utter them as we reflect on the mercy we were shown in that pain as we praise the One who allows us the honor of singing His praises from our unclean lips?

Psalm 22

1My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.
2O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer;
And by night, but I have no rest.
3Yet You are holy,
O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
4In You our fathers trusted;
They trusted and You delivered them.
5To You they cried out and were delivered;
In You they trusted and were not disappointed.
6But I am a worm and not a man,
A reproach of men and despised by the people.
7All who see me sneer at me;
They separate with the lip, they wag the head, saying,
8"Commit yourself to the LORD; let Him deliver him;
Let Him rescue him, because He delights in him."
9Yet You are He who brought me forth from the womb;
You made me trust when upon my mother's breasts.
10Upon You I was cast from birth;
You have been my God from my mother's womb.
11Be not far from me, for trouble is near;
For there is none to help.
12Many bulls have surrounded me;
Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me.
13They open wide their mouth at me,
As a ravening and a roaring lion.
14I am poured out like water,
And all my bones are out of joint;
My heart is like wax;
It is melted within me.
15My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
And my tongue cleaves to my jaws;
And You lay me in the dust of death.
16For dogs have surrounded me;
A band of evildoers has encompassed me;
They pierced my hands and my feet.
17I can count all my bones.
They look, they stare at me;
18They divide my garments among them,
And for my clothing they cast lots.
19But You, O LORD, be not far off;
O You my help, hasten to my assistance.
20Deliver my soul from the sword,
My only life from the power of the dog.
21Save me from the lion's mouth;
From the horns of the wild oxen You answer me.
22I will tell of Your name to my brethren;
In the midst of the assembly I will praise You.
23You who fear the LORD, praise Him;
All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him,
And stand in awe of Him, all you descendants of Israel.
24For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted;
Nor has He hidden His face from him;
But when he cried to Him for help, He heard.
25From You comes my praise in the great assembly;
I shall pay my vows before those who fear Him.
26The afflicted will eat and be satisfied;
Those who seek Him will praise the LORD
Let your heart live forever!
27All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD,
And all the families of the nations will worship before You.
28For the kingdom is the LORD'S
And He rules over the nations.
29All the prosperous of the earth will eat and worship,
All those who go down to the dust will bow before Him,
Even he who cannot keep his soul alive.
30Posterity will serve Him;
It will be told of the Lord to the coming generation.
31They will come and will declare His righteousness
To a people who will be born, that He has performed it.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Poem - Death Be Not Proud by John Donne

This is one of my favorite poems (Frodo, make note: I want this read at my funeral and carved on my tombstone), and I struggled with when to post it. I didn't want to post it right off the bat since I wanted to sprinkle truly brilliant poems throughout the month and not post them all up front. (Plus, I didn't want to scare everyone off with a poem about death on the first day.) Then I thought that I would then save it for Good Friday. I would post it earlier under only one circumstance and that circumstance has come to pass, so I am posting it today... a day earlier than I hoped.

If you visit Angel's blog, Aduladi & Co., you know that her grandmother had been sick with cancer for some time and that her health had deteriorated quite a bit over the last couple of weeks. Angel was able to spend this past weekend with her grandmother, and her grandmother's wish to go home was granted on Tuesday. Angel called me this morning to let me know that her grandmother's prayer to pass from this world at home in her own bed and in her sleep had been answered. But do not despair. Rejoice! She now no longer holds dual citizenship in this world and the new. She has become a permanent resident in her Father's house!

Death Be Not Proud
by John Donne

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better than thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

*Please keep Angel and her family in your prayers. She has termed today her "day of death" because before learning of her grandmother's passing from death to life, she had scheduled to have their 15 year old cat put to sleep this afternoon. They have decided to keep the appoinment, so this and the coming days will prove very stressful for them all. Praise God that in a few short days we will celebrate Resurrection Sunday! In that, there is joy.