Friday, February 29, 2008

Life's Little Joys: Friday Edition

Okay, I know I updated my blog in anticipation of Spring a little early. Oh, I know we're not out of the woods yet, but I can't help it! We had such a beautiful day today. It was absolutely gorgeous. Even though we're only half way through Lent, it feels like forever already and well today was a gift giving me the strength for the journey. It was a tiny glimpse of the good things to come. We didn't even need jackets today! I know there is much more snow in our future, but I got another tiny taste of Spring and I'm going to cherish the joy of sunshine! Father in Heaven we thank thee!

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Oscars

I used to host an annual Oscar party which I affectionately called Oscarfest. It was truly something I used to look forward to every year. I haven't had a party in a few years. I just don't have the same enthusiasm for the Academy Awards that I once had. I've been trying to figure this out. I know that in this stage of my life I don't see as many movies any more and it really takes a lot to wow me. Anyway, I watched the 80th Academy Awards last night and I wondered where all the excitenment has gone. Is it perhaps that I would never see a movie titled There Will Be Blood? Is it that out of everything nominated I've seen a cartoon about a rat than can cook and Enchanted which happens to be half animated as well. Well, I actually did see Atonement, but man, what a downer. Although I liked it, I didn't see myself rooting for it to win the Oscar.

I held my first Oscar party in 1998. It was a great year for movies. At least, there was a lot of excitement about the Academy Awards that year. Most of the nominees had general appeal. Titanic was huge (no pun intended). Matt Damon and Ben Affleck had garnered a lot of attention for the their little screenplay that could. Cuba Gooding, Jr made the phrase, "Show me the money!" part of our lexicon and well his accceptance speech for his supporting role in Jerry Maguire electrified the crowd.

Anyway, that year, my dear friends Steph and Krissy surprised me by making themed desserts representing all five of the best film nominees. Let's see there was jello in the shape of ships for Titanic and a sheet cake with a mathematical equation written in icing for Good Will Hunting, lemon bars somehow made into the likeness of Kim Basinger for L. A. Confidential, stick figure men sugar cookies for The Full Monty and I lament that I cannot remember what they came up with for As Good as it Gets, but you get the picture (again, no pun intended). The movies were fun and most of us had seen the films nominated. We had a great time. We continued the tradition for years even when we all didn't live in the same state anymore. A couple of years ago, Stephanie and I were in Boston visiting Krissy and we had a good time creating desserts for that year's Oscars. Somehow, they managed to design Neverland Island out of a pan full of brownies and some blue and green frosting. They made cookies in the shapes of planes to represent The Aviator. They are geniuses when it comes to themed desserts!

Well, This year, the Oscars just snuck up on me. First of all, we don't have TV. Since our antenna broke during that last snowstorm last May, we've been without TV. I don't really miss it (okay, I really miss The Office) although we are finally catching up on Season 3 of Lost on DVD, but that's another story. When the nominations came out, I barely even looked at the list. I wasn't excited at all. This year, I briefly thought about the best picture nominees and thought not only would I probably not see a movie titled There Will Be Blood, but what kind of dessert do you make for that? I don't know (although I know that Steph and Kris would have come up with something imaginative involving red icing). I have no desire to see No Country For Old Men which just happened to win the top honor of Best Picture this year. The point is something has been missing from the Oscars for a long time. Maybe there has been something missing from the movies and I have to say that the 80th Academy Awards were a total snoozefest instead of Oscarfest. Hopefully, this year will be better because I really do like movies, just not lately.

By the way, here are the best picture winners from the last 10 years. How many have you seen?

1997 - Titanic
1998 - Shakespeare in Love
1999 - American Beauty
2000 - Gladiator
2001 - A Beautiful Mind
2002 - Chicago
2003 - The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (That was a good year!)
2004 - Million Dollar Baby
2005 - Crash
2006 - The Departed
2007 - No Country For Old Men

Friday, February 22, 2008

Life's Little Joys: Friday Edition

It's finished! I finished my first knitting project! I know. I know. It looks rough and primitive and so unperfect, but I am happy to have finished this little play blanket for my friend Jen's new baby boy. I am getting more confident with my knitting and I'm looking forward to tackling something more challenging.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Glimpse of Spring

Although we're expecting some snow this evening and it will return our landscape to it's Wintery white, I saw my first glimpse of Spring today. It's coming!! There was just something different about today, something hopeful and joyful. It's no wonder that Lent begins in Winter and ends in the Spring with Christ rising from the dead.

Anyway, we're enjoying our current read-aloud, Linnets and Valerians by Elizabeth Goudge. It's really too bad that most of her books are out of print. I've got a handful of her adult novels and I'm looking forward to savoring each one. Now, I'm enjoying the adventures of the Linnet children living with their Uncle Ambrose. Uncle Ambrose professes to dislike children, but we know that the opposite is true. As a home educator, I'm intrigued by Uncle Ambrose's declaration that the children must be educated! There's a beautiful narrative of their first day as Uncle Ambrose proclaims that, "Education is a mosaic of beauty." I haven't stopped thinking about that phrase. I like it!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday. Wow, it's really early this year. I still have a few Christmas items to put away. Luke and I didn't even finish reading A Christmas Carol until the middle of January. Now, the Dickens novel sits on my nightstand awaiting me to put it in the Christmas books box. We finally found that missing ornament behind some cookbooks. Take a wild guess who could have done that. It drove me crazy that the cute little carved wooden squirrel ornament that Sammy had received for St. Nicholas day had vanished. So, it seems that there are still some Christmas items that need my attention.

Although I knew that Lent would be starting early this year, It still snuck up on me and I found myself unprepared. A few days ago, I started thinking about what I would be giving up this year. As we began the new year, we went on what we call super-saver mode and I promised my hubby that I would not buy any books during the month of January while we made some financial goals. That was tough. So, I thought I would continue on that path for Lent, but this time I would stay away from Amazon and other booksites altogether. I use Amazon extensively to research new books, new topics, new hobbies, etc. Right now, my current obsession is knitting and I've been looking at many knitting books. I will have to stay away from real bookstores as well! So, I thought a little harder and thought I might extend this book fast to include knitting supplies and beautiful yarns. I am a beginner anyway. How can I possibly use up that much yarn in 40 days?? After thinking this through last night, I made one last little purchase (it wasn't all for me!). After thinking about this, I saw this post in a couple of different places and it made me think...a lot. I started pondering how relevant this is to my thoughts on de-cluttering and not adding anything more for a while. I felt that this post came at the right time. I've felt overwhelmed lately, but somehow I kept adding more things (to read, to think about, to do, to study, etc). I want and need to de-clutter my brain as well as my home. Lent is the perfect time for that. It's a time to cast out all the bad and keep only what is good and beautiful. I read these following words over and over trying to absorb them so I could apply them to my life. I want to profit by this Lenten season and in these words I believe I've found the key!

"Almost all of my successes in life have come because I do less than other people not more. I realized this the other day. I am not one of those whirling women impressing the luncheon guests. If I have less of a garden and less of a house and less curricula, fewer hobbies, fewer errands, smaller expectations I accomplish more. "

I figured that during these forty days of Lent, I could slow down, turn inward and have well, way more room for God because I've cleaned out and de-cluttered the space. Isn't it ironic that by slowing down and simplifying, I might just accomplish more? So, as I enter Lent, I find myself happier that I will be taking a break from so many of the wonderful things out there, but truly making room for the King of kings in my heart. Those wonderful things will still be there to be discovered, but now is a time for reflection and prayer.

By the way, this is the one book I chose for daily prayer and meditation during Lent.

Have a blessed Lent!

Friday, February 1, 2008

It may seem hidden, but the joy is still there

It's no secret that January was one rough month. As the new year began, it quickly became clear that we had lost that wonderful rhythm we had before Advent. It was a rocky endeavor getting the school work back on track. Actually, we're still not on track. Luke and I both have had difficulty concentrating on the tasks at hand. I don't blame him. There have just been too many overwhelming distractions. It didn't help that we felt cooped up most of the bitter cold January. Then we found out we lost our baby and I realized that while I remained joyful and hopeful, I found myself really down, more down than I expected to feel. I guess it shouldn't have surprised me, but I haven't felt like this in so long that this has almost felt like an entirely new experience. While I took my September miscarriage in stride, this one has been quite the opposite experience for me and my husband. After a couple of weeks of headaches (probably related to hormones), we went out today and the sun was shining and it wasn't that cold and I felt alive and happy to be outside.

All this time I've been thinking and thinking about how to rejuvenate our little homeschool. I felt hopeful today for the first time since the new year began and even though that was only four weeks ago, it feels more like four months. I don't have any new plans. I kept thinking over and over to myself that what I teach is as important as how I teach. Did I read that in a Charlotte Mason book? I'm sure I did, but I can't really remember, but somehow I think the key is in that statement. I know Luke could sense that I just wasn't as into our learning this month and it was reflected in his attitude. How can he be excited about learning when I wasn't that excited myself? How could he go on when I felt so distracted and far away? So, no, I don't have any new plans or ideas because I think that would just overwhelm us more. I don't think that's the answer. Instead, I think the answer is simplicity. I won't add any more to my curriculum this year even though I'm inspired every day by all you homeschooling moms out there, but I will re-emphasize art and more read aloud time. Luke really likes it when I'm there learning alongside him everyday. He needs my presence more than anything else. I want to see both of my boys happy and healthy and joyful in learning at home and that's the bottom line. Somehow, I made it harder on myself than I needed to. Anyway, I'm excited about what lies ahead for us in February.

I think about joy each day and when I do that, it's awesome how the bad in life can somehow get pushed aside for all the good things that I may have ignored. There are always more good things than I expected to find.

Here are some good things this week:
1. I'm getting faster at knitting. I can now watch a movie and knit at the same time. I don't have to watch my fingers so much. Knitting has taught me perserverance. What a great gift. I can even purl pretty quickly!

2. I'm enjoying listening to The Swiss Family Robinson on car rides with Luke and Sammy. This is a book that I did not read as a child and it's so fun to discover a great adventure book along with my son.

3. I promised my husband that I would not purchase any new books on Amazon for the month of January and well January is over and I just bought three new books! (I may have to give up Amazon again for Lent!) There's always joy in new books!!

4. Like Meredith, I checked out several beautiful books on knitting from the library this week! I love learning and I love learning about this craft. There are so many exciting projects and I hope I can have the patience to attain new skills so that I can knit things other than squares for afghans!

5. Today is the Feast of St. Brigid and I adopted her as a patron a couple of years ago. I have to admit that as I get older, I find comfort in the lives of the saints. They inspire me in the many ways they devoted themselves to Christ. St Brigid inspires me as I live out my vocation to give my children a truly inspired life of learning. I know as the patron of scholars, she will help us in our joyful pursuit of learning. By the way, I got this book about a year ago. I think this may be a good time to start reading this one. I'll add it to the nightstand stack.

Happy Friday.