". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Clue Me In, Please

Does it not seem a contradiction that the same politicians who deny the reality of "trickle-down" economics are the ones calling for a Wall Street bailout because they say a failure to do so will have adverse effects on Main Street?

Am I missing something here?

Sorting Things Out, Preschool Style

Our four-year-old hears a lot of political talk. And like all four-year-olds, he tends to see things in very black and white terms. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing--I want my children to know that there is objective truth and that there is also such a thing as good and such a thing as evil. But it can get a little tricky when Evan starts wanting to know who the "good guys" and "bad guys" are. It's one thing to say that Osama bin laden is a "bad guy." But when Evan starts calling John McCain and the Republicans "good guys" and Barack Obama and the Democrats "bad guys" because he knows we support the former in the the presidential election, I get uncomfortable. I have family members and friends who are fine, good people who support Mr. Obama. So I have been trying to explain to Evan that to do so is not "bad" but that it is in my opinion "wrong"--that I just think Obama and the Democrats are wrong and that's why I don't support them.

So here are a few things that have come out of my four-year-old's mouth over the last few days as a result of him processing the idea that Barack Obama is "wrong":

(While washing his hands) - "Mommy, Barack Obama thinks that hot is cold."

(While waiting for his brother at a chess tournament) - "Mommy, Barack Obama thinks you can talk out loud in the chess room."

You know, I think he may be starting to understand.

Up, Up, and Away

Tomorrow morning, along with my family, I will be boarding a plane bound for San Juan. In San Juan, we will switch to a smaller plane that will take us to the island of Grenada, where we will be vacationing for the next 2-plus weeks. I do plan to do a little vacation blogging, so don't be a stranger! But since for the next few days I will be turning my attention to packing, traveling, unpacking, and acclimating, I have scheduled a couple of interim posts that I think you will find highly edifying.

Your prayers for safe travel are appreciated. See you in a few days!

P.S. McCain won the debate.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Food for Thought

Some excellent questions posed by Rush Limbaugh on today's show:

If the economic bailout plan put forth by President Bush and the Democrats is as great as they say it is, why don't they just go ahead and pass it? They have the votes to do so. They could save the economy, save the nation, and be the heroes in all of this. Why, then, do they need the Republicans? Could it be the plan has some problems and they don't want to take the fall if it fails? Could it be the Republican misgivings about the plan have some basis in fact?

Also, if John McCain's presence and contribution at the big financial meeting yesterday was so insignificant, how is it then his fault (as the Democrats are claiming today) that everything broke down? How can he simultaneously be a non-factor in the process as well as the cause of its failure? Hmmmm?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wear and Tear

A few days ago I noticed some new artwork on the dining room table. And I literally mean on the table. Apparently a certain 4-year-old who lives in my house got a little wild with the markers. (Or maybe it was his big sister--she's been known to wield a marker or two herself.)

Then yesterday on that same table I discovered several well-attached stickers. Their decorative placement belied their unintentionality.

Anyway, as every parent knows, property damage in a house with a preschooler is not news. But I couldn't help taking note of my non-reaction to these most recent defacings. The marker is still there; I haven't even bothered to try to wash it off. The sticker was met with a yawn and a mental note to return to it later in the day (a little fingernail work did the trick).

There was a day that I bemoaned every little new piece of damage to house and home. But lately, I find that I just don't care much anymore. Reflecting on why, I think there are several factors in play. First, I would like to think that with age I am becoming wiser and more mature. After all, it's just stuff. In the grand scheme of life and death, what's the big deal?

Second, as I look at the items suffering abuse, I have to admit that their age and condition also contributes to my apathy. The dining room table in question is on its last legs (there's a pun for you, Elephant's Child!). The upholstery is peeling away and the chair backs are collapsing from the seats. What's a green mark or two?

I am hoping a new dining room table is in my future. On the other hand, a new dining room table means a renewed concern for protecting it, and I'm not sure I have the energy or passion to do so anymore. So maybe that dining room table is best postponed until we're through the most property-threatening years. (No, scratch that. If I get a new table, I will find the energy.)

You know what I find myself looking forward to lately? That day in the future that I will be able to be as blase about the newest wrinkles on my face as I am about the latest dings to my aging furniture. Do you think that day will ever come?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Finally, Our Own

Earlier this summer Concordia Publishing House released the Sing the Faith Songbook and CD, which contains Martin Luther's entire Small Catechism set to music. As probably most of my readers know, our family has awaited the publication of this historic resource with special anticipation, not only as a Lutheran family who will make practical use of it but also as the composer's family who were privileged to witness the creative act in progress. When I finally laid eyes on these items at the national LCMS worship conference this summer, it was a moment to remember. But it was not until yesterday that I was able to claim ownership of my own copies of the songbook and CD.

At the conference this summer, quantities were limited and the publisher wanted to make as many as possible available to paying customers. So we were told that our promised complimentary copies would be in the mail. The one copy my husband did receive was for the purpose of being able to play the songs for workshop presentations, and when he visited his mother several weeks after the conference he gave that one to her. And although I personally bought several copies of the CD and songbook, they were for friends who later reimbursed me. Knowing we would eventually receive free copies, I just could not bring myself to pay for one, especially since my husband has already made all the money from this project that he will ever make (he receives no royalties). So I waited, and waited, while meanwhile the Lutheran church and school where my husband is Cantor ordered and received copies for all the school classrooms as well as for the church's self-serve bookstore.

Then I got an idea! I would go to that bookstore, take a copy and leave an "IOU" promising to replace it when our own copy came. But there was just one problem: the bookstore was already sold out.

At long last, though, my wait is over. Yesterday a box arrived with FOUR copies each of the CD and songbook. Thank you, CPH! The songbook has taken up residence on our piano and the CD on our stereo system. The other three copies of each will be stored away for our children until that day--far in the future, of course!--when they no longer live with us and desire this resource for their own home.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Science Class

Overheard this evening as Genius Child #1 was helping Genius Child #2 review for her science test tomorrow:

Question: "What did Louis Pasteur do?"

Answer: "He pasteurized things!"

I think she at least deserves a few points for resourcefulness, don't you?

Counting Down

One week from today my family and I will climb on a plane and head south. Way south. I'm talking equatorial.

We're going to Grenada. For my husband and me it will be our second time (here's the first). But this will be a first for our kids, in several ways. Not only will it be their first time to see Grenada, but it will be their first time to leave the country. It will be my two youngest children's first time to fly. And it will be the first time we have taken this sort of trip as a family. Usually our vacations consist of driving across the country to visit family. My children have never been to Disneyland or Disneyworld or the Caribbean or even the Grand Canyon or Mount Rushmore or a hotel waterpark resort. This trip may well be the one-and-only time we do something like this together before they start doing things like graduating from high school and getting married.

So the countdown begins, as we try to get all our ducks in a row for departure. And I am excited, truly I am. It's going to be wonderful, a once-in-a-lifetime memory factory. There's just one little problem. To get to Grenada, one has to fly. And I am seriously aerophobic. (Aviophobic? Aviataphobic? Pteromechanophobic? Take your pick.)

I haven't always been this way. I think it hit when I was pregnant with my first child. I was doing some piano accompanying for the school choir in the high school where I was teaching English, and I went along on a trip to attend a choir festival in Colorado. The return flight was terribly turbulent, and I was frightened. I have never looked at flying the same way since, and my fear has gotten progressively worse. The last time I flew was when we went to Grenada in 2002, and I think my poor husband may still have indentations in his arms and hands from my constant clasping of them.

So all of you seasoned flyers out there, can you help? Can you remind me of all those statistics about how flying is the safest way to travel and about how I'm much more likely to injure myself at home or die in a car accident than in a plane? I really don't want to spend all of next Tuesday in a panic. And I hate the thought of passing my irrational fear on to my children who haven't flown.

And if you think about it next Tuesday, could you pray?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Just Asking

Can you imagine the indignant outcry among the liberal elite if this joke or this one had been directed at the Democratic ticket? (Warning: the second link contains a quotation that includes foul language.)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Whose Fault?

President Bush tried 5 years ago to do something about the financial disaster this country is currently facing. Guess who blocked him? And guess who will now turn around and with the help of the mainstream media blame him for supposedly getting us into this mess?

Here's a post by The Anchoress (who also provided the link above) that includes a lengthy comment by John McCain on this issue. It's worth reading.

Moonbat Rules

Here's a blog I think you should try. It's a multi-contributor site for Republicans in the Pacific Northwest. You will find all sorts of cutting edge political chatter there, but if you look at nothing else, be sure to check out the sidebar feature entitled "Moonbat Rules." (You can figure out for yourself what a "moonbat" is.) Here is an excerpt:

Rule 1.0 - If you don't agree with our unfair stereotype of conservatism, you will be guilty of conforming to our unfair stereotype of conservatism.

Rule 2.0 - All Republicans are guilty of something and it is usually mass murder.

Rule 2.1 - If Republicans have not been found guilty of something just give us time and pay for the investigation. We will find something.

Rule 6.0 - Bush did it. Unless it is good.

Rule 9.0 - It is OK to hate. Just so long as you hate conservative Republicans.

Rule 9.1 - Remember all Republicans are Nazis so it is OK to hate them and if anyone backs you into a corner you can always yell "NAZI!" and that will usually fix things.


Last weekend we had the opportunity as a family to hear the a cappella Christian men's group GLAD in concert. A local congregation had brought them in to celebrate the dedication of a new facility, and admission was free to the public. We like free! And we have listened to GLAD for many years. So we loaded up the whole family and off we went.

If you're not familiar with GLAD, here's their website. The group formed in the seventies and has enjoyed moderate succcess over the years. They did not originally intend to be an exclusively a cappella ensemble, but when several a cappella tracks on their early recordings were met with exceptional enthusiasm, they decided to record a purely a cappella CD. It was their biggest success to date, so they stuck with the formula. In the last few years they have scaled back their concertizing to only about one performance per month.

The concert we saw was excellent. I was actually surprised there weren't more people in attendance. The sanctuary was full, but not packed, and we had seats close to the front. The only drawback was that the front pew was filled with what I assume was the church's youth group (the pew had been reserved prior to the concert), and I was dismayed and distracted by the behavior of these young people. They were right underneath the performers, yet for much of the concert they were talking to one another, texting messages and playing with one another like preschoolers in church. I couldn't believe that it didn't occur to them how rude their behaviour was.

I also didn't care for the couple of times in the concert that the group invited the audience to join in on a CCM (contemporary Christian music) song. We don't listen to a lot of CCM music in our house, although I do have a few artists I enjoy (such as GLAD!). But I am very much out of the CCM loop, especially these days. So while the audience (most of whom were members of the church hosting the concert) joined in vigorously, my husband, children and I just kind of looked at each other and shrugged. Now, if they had invited us to sing along on "A Mighty Fortress . . . ."

One thing I did like was that Ed Nalle, the leader of the group who is also a pastor of a church in Virginia, did not treat the concert like a worship service. He did share a few personal stories about either himself or people he knew, and there was plenty of quoting of scripture, but he didn't sermonize. That is as it should be. I have a pastor, and I have a church, and all I wanted to hear from GLAD was music. I appreciated that's all they saw fit to offer.

In case you have never heard GLAD, here's a video. I am not sure when it was made, but it has been around a while. The guys I saw in concert last week look a little older than the ones in this clip.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Will They Never Relent?

Yet another attack on Governor Palin . . .

The Old, Evil Foe

For some time now I have been praying Luther's Evening Prayer with my youngest at bedtime. Although I have been encouraging him to join in, I have never yet had him speak the whole thing with me. But today as he was playing "church" (one of his favorite activities--he pulls out all the Bibles and hymnals he can find and "reads" and sings from them; processes his swords, which look like crosses if you hold them the right way; and dispenses communion from his plastic dishes) I heard him speak the entire prayer, with one alteration.

Here's the prayer as it is found in my Lutheran Service Book:

"I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray that You would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen."

Here's how Evan said the last line:

"Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foam have no power over me. Amen."

Hmmm . . . I wonder if the creator of The Blob was Lutheran?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Real Life - Part 2

A snippet of today's lunchtime conversation:

(Speaker 1) - "So when are we going to pick up the family room?"

(Speaker 2) - "Charles Schulz had a dog that could eat a fork. It was in Ripley's Believe It Or Not."

I am not making this up. And I wouldn't miss these moments for the world.

Real Life

As many of my readers well know, sometimes as a homeschooler it is hard not to compare yourself to all those photos in the curriculum catalogs of perfectly groomed parents and children sitting at organized learning centers with books and papers neatly stacked and a clean and tidy house visible in the background.

Of course, when we fall into the comparison trap we invariably come up short. Real life--especially real homeschooling life, where people are actually living and working in the home ALL DAY LONG--is just not like that. So this is for my homeschooling readers (and anyone else who wants to get a peek into our homeschooling day). Compare away! And feel good about yourselves!

(Note: I'm sure Trevor would like me to let you know that the mess is not his. Truth be told, I think it's mostly mine and the 4-year-old's!)

Monday, September 15, 2008

I'm Too Old For This

Or maybe I just have a bad attitude.

So here's the deal. This year I signed back on as a piano accompanist for a community children's chorus that I used to play for until my youngest was born five years ago. The organization is a large one, with five different choirs for which singers have to audition and to which they are assigned based on age and skill level. Both my older two children have sung for this group in the past, and until the demands on my time grew to the point that I needed to cut something out, I enjoyed the work. So now I'm back, looking forward to the opportunity to make greater use of my musical training while earning a little extra money at the same time.

So what's the problem? It seems the organization has become even more bureaucratic than I remember it. When I was on staff before, I don't recall there ever being any sort of formal performance review (although certainly if someone wasn't meeting expectations it would have been addressed). But now all musical staff are subject to a yearly evaluation. It's not that I object to that--in fact, I think it's a good thing--but as part of the evaluation process, I am required to submit in writing three professional goals for the year, against which I assume I will be measured at the end of the year. I am at a loss for what is expected here. My goals as an accompanist are to learn my music and play it well, show up on time for rehearsals and assist the conductor in whatever way I can, and not fall down while walking on stage for a performance. But somehow I don't think that's what they are looking for here. To me, those things sound like the behaviors required to keep my job, not goals to strive for. So what, musically, can I work toward that is above and beyond my required duties? Well, there are things, I'm sure. I have my piano students play scales, but the dirty truth is that I don't play them much myself. And I'm sure I would be a better pianist if I did. So maybe I could make a goal of reincorporating scales into my normal practice routine. There's just one problem with that: I DON'T HAVE A NORMAL PRACTICE ROUTINE! AND I DON'T HAVE TIME FOR SCALES! I can easily see myself at the end of the year, sitting down with the artistic director for my performance review only to have her mark a big fat F in my personnel file for failing to achieve this or any of the other lofty-sounding goals I might dream up.

I am just not at a time in my life when I have much desire or wherewithal to expand my personal and professional horizons. My priorities right now are to keep my family clothed and fed, to keep the house relatively inhabitable, to manage the paper flow, to teach my kids their lessons and take care of my mother, to tend to my own spiritual, physical and mental health, to read an occasional book, and to find some time to relax and enjoy the people I love. Rarely do I feel as though I'm excelling at any of these goals; the thought of adding anything else into the mix right now sets me a) laughing, b) weeping, c) panicking, or d) all of the above.

So can you help me out here? Can you think of some goals that sound good but that I can do in my sleep? Do you think they would buy it if I said I was going to spend the year learning my C-major scale and memorizing "The Spinning Song" and listening to some keyboard music on my new mp3 player while exercising at the club?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Last Chance For Life

If you are a pro-life person who is considering or has already decided upon voting for either Barack Obama or a third party candidate, I ask--no, from the bottom of my heart, I beg--that you read this column by Pat Buchanan. And then, if you haven't already, watch the video on life posted here several days ago, and prayerfully consider casting your vote for the one candidate who may have it within his power to change this country's culture of death and save millions of lives for generations to come. If and when we succeed in overturning Roe v. Wade we can turn our attention to other issues and vote our consciences on them. But until that time, nothing matters more than doing everything within our power to protect the unborn. Please--cast your vote for life, and make that vote count.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sarah, Charlie, and the Bush Doctrine

Shame on Charlie Gibson, not for asking tough questions of Governor Palin--those are appropriate for someone seeking the office of Vice-President of the United States--but for his condescending, "smarter-than-thou" attitude as he looked out over the rims of his eyeglasses and down his nose, talking to and treating the Governor as if she were some naive and silly schoolgirl who should be honored to be sitting in his class at an elite academy. I haven't watched Charlie Gibson in a long time, but my memory of him on Good Morning, America is much better than what I witnessed on 20/20 Friday night. There was neither a sense of respect for Mrs. Palin nor any sort of attempt at a balanced interview but instead a series of efforts to "out" the Governor for the nitwit Gibson apparently thinks she is. Not surprisingly, the consensus seems to be that Mrs. Palin held her own against Gotcha Gibson quite well and that in fact he was the one who came off looking uninformed, not her. The question that has received the most attention is the one in which Gibson asked the Governor if she agrees with the Bush Doctrine. The MSM (mainstream media) are making much of her hesitation and seeking of clarification before answering the question. But Charles Krauthammer, the first person to use the phrase "Bush Doctrine," points out here that it has gone through at least four different definitions and that the one Gibson ended up providing was not even the most common current usage. The Wikipedia article on the Bush Doctrine defines the term as encompassing various of Bush's foreign policy principles and cites one book that discusses six--not one--Bush doctrines. So maybe it's Charlie Gibson and not Sarah Palin who needs to hit the books a little more before attempting to discuss foreign policy.

Having said that, I expect that someone as new on the national scene as Mrs. Palin is does have a lot to learn. And as well as I think she did in the interview, I would agree that she is not as conversant on some subjects as others. But I have no doubt that she has the intellect to master all the subjects that as Vice-President she will need to command, and I am sure that the McCain campaign is working with her night and day to bring her up to speed. What is more important to me than a perfect command of the facts is to be able to vote for someone--whatever the office--who understands America's greatness and has its best interests at heart, who is of good character, who is smart and principled, and who shares my beliefs and core values. And I believe the Governor--and her running mate--is all those things. What she needs to learn, she is learning, and she will continue to do so. (I do hope, along with Kathryn Jean Lopez at The Corner, that as the McCain handlers work with Palin they don't create a more controlled, careful and plastic Sarah. A big part of her appeal is her honesty, frankness and yes, spunk . . . sorry, Melody!)

In case you didn't get to see the interview, here's a full transcript. By the way, it has come out that ABC did some interesting editing to the interview. Mark Levin has details.

Two More Reasons I'm Glad We Homeschool

Because I don't think students should get paid to learn.

Because I think the authority in a school should rest with the teacher, not with the student.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Homeschool Literature

We had our second meeting of homeschool literature class today. Last year we studied a variety of works from different genres--short stories, poetry, novels, and plays--giving attention to the literary characteristics of each. This year we are doing a whirlwind survey of world literature. Check with me at the end of the year to see how far we got.

Here from left to right are Chris, Trevor, Shiloh (Teacher's Pet), Evan (Teacher's Helper), Caitlin, Stephanie, and Nicole. Talk about a dream class. Any teacher in the world would be thrilled to have these intelligent, pleasant faces looking back from his or her classroom.

Here's another shot with the teacher (yours truly) taking Evan's place (and by the way, Evan took this one--not bad for a 4-year-old, huh?)

I think we're going to have another great year.

For My Roman Catholic Readers . . .

. . . and anyone else who cares about the sanctity of life. I hope you will take a few minutes to watch this.

HT: Rebellious Pastor's Wife

How Dare They?

I am speechless. Then again, I guess I'm not, since I'm finding the words to write this. But after coming across this report from the U. S. House of Representatives I am, to say the least, stunned. So that you don't have to click over (unless you really want to), here are the basic facts:

The title of the report is "Wasted Lessons of 9/11: How the Bush Administration Has Ignored the Law and Squandered Its Opportunities to Make Our Country Safer."

It was prepared and published by the Majority (Democrat) Staffs of the House Committees on Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs.

The report reviews the formation of the 9/11 Commission and the enacting of many of the Commission's recommendations in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 and goes on to quote the Commission's lead authors a year later: " . . . are we safe? We are safer--no terrorist attacks have occurred inside the U.S. since 9/11--but we are not as safe as we need to be . . . .[T]here is so much more to be done . . . ."

The report then summarizes the "Implementing the 9/11 Recommendations Act of 2007" signed into law by President Bush in August 2007 and goes on to report on progress made to date on specific measures called for in the report. It is on this point that the writers of the report take President Bush to task--in their opinion, he has not made sufficient progress on the various measures to be implemented. Yet considering that it has been barely a year since the Act was passed and that the deadlines for implementation fall mostly after Bush will have left office, it seems a bit premature to pronounce him as "ignoring" the law and "squandering" his chance to make America safer. In fact, it seems more than premature; it strikes me as disrespectful, inflammatory, and downright dangerous.

I respectfully suggest that the authors of this obviously politically motivated and timed report review the history of the past 7 years and remind themselves that during that time we have had no more terrorist attacks on American soil and that also during that time close to two dozen terrorist plots have been thwarted. This is "squandered opportunity?" This is failure? They must have a different definition of "safe" than I do.

For a summary of the terrorist attacks on Americans that DIDN'T HAPPEN in the last seven years, click here. If you're like me, after reading you will give thanks to God that President Bush was the man in the White House on September 11, 2001.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Sobering Words from the New York Times

On November 4, Remember 9/11 - by Jeffrey Goldberg

An excerpt:

The next president must do one thing, and one thing only, if he is to be judged a success: He must prevent Al Qaeda, or a Qaeda imitator, from gaining control of a nuclear device and detonating it in America. Everything else — Fannie Mae, health care reform, energy independence, the budget shortfall in Wasilla, Alaska — is commentary. The nuclear destruction of Lower Manhattan, or downtown Washington, would cause the deaths of thousands, or hundreds of thousands; a catastrophic depression; the reversal of globalization; a permanent climate of fear in the West; and the comprehensive repudiation of America’s culture of civil liberties.

Many proliferation experts I have spoken to judge the chance of such a detonation to be as high as 50 percent in the next 10 years. I am an optimist, so I put the chance at 10 percent to 20 percent. . . .

I recommend reading the article in full. I don't think Goldberg has either an Obama or a McCain axe to grind. He has his doubts about both of them. But I think his assessment of what should be THE issue of this election is right on. And I personally think John McCain is much more likely to prevent the unthinkable than Barack Obama.

Reading Goldberg's opening sentence, I also couldn't help thinking about our current president. George W. Bush has succeeded in doing that one thing Goldberg says the next president must do--namely, keeping us safe since 9/11. Yet it seems he does not get much credit for that these days, and I think that is a national embarrassment. I hope in time history will remember to thank the 43rd president for his oversight of our security during these dark and dangerous days.

Rally Day

Sunday was Rally Day at my church. (For those who may not know, Rally Day is the first day of the Sunday School year, when new classes begin and children are "promoted" to their new "grade.") In conjunction with Rally Day, we also had a Volunteer Fair and a church & school picnic. It was a great day, and I just happened to take a few pictures.

Here's Evan with some of his friends. All three of them were in his preschool class last year, but this year Evan has moved to the afternoon class while they have remained in the morning one, so Rally Day was his first time to see them in a while. It was a joyous reunion, as you can see.

Here's a shot of the Volunteer Fair, held in our gym. Various groups had tables with information, treats, and sign-up sheets for their activity. Anyone who signed up to serve was given a piece to a large puzzle hanging on one of the walls of the gym. The message was that our church family is like a huge puzzle which needs everyone taking part to complete the picture.

The music table:

The St. Andrew Society (acolyte) table:

The Brothers of John the Steadfast table, manned by old Johnny himself!

The puzzle in progress:

It was a beautiful day for a picnic.

In addition to the picnic, there were outdoor activities for the whole family. Here's Caitlin helping out at the face-painting table.

Sandbox play (Evan in red):

The weekend started with a prayer service on Saturday morning, followed by an "E-fast" in which members were encouraged to unplug from all their electronic devices for the day and spend time with family while plugging into God's word. The E-fast continued through to Sunday morning. I have to say that in some ways I think the E-fast is a much more focusing experience than a food fast would be. I only eat three times a day, but I check email, talk on the phone, surf the net, listen to the radio, and watch television off and on all day long! And unlike the unplugged vacation my family experienced this summer at a remote Nebraska camp, during the E-fast all my toys were still within my reach, staring me in the face, calling out to be used! It is amazing how dependent our society has become on them and how much time they have the capacity to suck out of our daily lives. I caught myself several times during the day heading for the computer, TV or radio by force of habit before remembering the fast and stopping myself. (For more detailed information on our E-fast along with suggestions for how a congregation might carry out its own E-fast, click here.)

Our congregation has gone through some struggles over the past 5-10 years. Satan has been hard at work, trying to divide and conquer. But I think this Rally Day was an encouraging sign of how far we have come and how much we have grown as a church family. And I think it's going to be a great year for growing even more in the Word and under the Cross, as we strengthen our vertical relationship with Him as well as our horizontal relationships with each other.

Monday, September 8, 2008

I Knew I Liked This Woman

Not only is she conservative, pro-life, and a mother, but also like me, she has a deep and profound relationship with both caffeine and chocolate, she doesn't care much for cats, and some of her closest friends are liberals.

And we're even the same age (although she has me beat by 6 months).

Read more here.

Barack Obama Refers to His "Muslim Faith"

Here's the video; make of it what you will. If nothing else, I think a gaffe of this magnitude bespeaks a candidate who is at least a little rattled by the current political environment.

Friday, September 5, 2008

First Half-Week of School

I know, I know--I said I was going to slow down on blogging. But in truth I have. You'll notice the last few days worth of posts are of the fast-track non-thinking variety--journaling, photos, excerpts, and links. I do have some more reflective drafts on the back burner, but they will have to wait a bit longer to come to a boil.

We started school on Wednesday. But we started in first gear--limiting ourselves to just a few subjects--and pretty much stayed there all three days. Next week we'll ease into second, third, and God willing, even fourth gear. We need to have a good month because on September 30 we are leaving for two-and-a-half weeks in Grenada, and the books are not going with us (at least, not many of them).

I am optimistic about the coming year. Several of the things that made last year so difficult are behind us. And I think I have come up with a very workable schedule, one that includes time for exercise for the whole family (something we sorely need). I am always interested in seeing how other homeschoolers structure their days, so I thought I would offer a little peek into my daily plan for the coming year:

6:00-7:30 Wake up, pray, read Bible, do morning chores (My new school year's resolution is to not get sucked into the computer first thing, but to save that for later in the day so that I can get off to a more reflective beginning each morning.)

7:30-8:30 French, history or grammar, depending on the day (We do subjects requiring direct instruction early, before the youngest of us has awakened.)

8:30-9:30 Exercise (My husband and I will be alternating taking our two older children to the community recreation center during this time while the other stays home with the 4-year-old; maybe on occasion we'll leave the older kids behind so we can exercise together!)

9:30-10:00 Devotion and catechism (Dad leads M/T/Th/F, with me covering Wednesday due to his needing to be at day school chapel.)

10:00-12:00 Shower, do more household chores/laundry and supervise school, helping as needed but not directly instructing

12:00-12:30 Lunch

12:30 Take Caitlin and Evan to day school, Evan for preschool and Caitlin for art and music

1:00-3:15 This is my golden time. Mondays through Thursdays I will be home alone with Trevor, who is self-directed and independent, so this is my opportunity to do things that require concentration and an absence of interruptions: piano practicing, lesson planning and grading, reading, writing, emailing, phone calling, blogging, and yes, napping. :-)

3:15-4:00 Pick up Caitlin and Evan at school.

4:00-6:00 Piano teaching or children's choir accompanying, depending on the day

6:00-7:00 Supper (except on Tuesday, when it will have to be earlier to accommodate Confirmation at 6:30-8:00)

7:00-9:00 Adult church choir on Thursday--otherwise, I hope this time of day will involve some relaxation, but since housework is never done (to paraphrase a friend), I expect many evenings will have their share of tasks to complete.

9:00-10:00 Put Evan to bed. Seems like a long time block, but while I care for him all day long, I don't typically play with him much during the day. So in addition to the usual--putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, etc.--we spend time reading, playing together on his bedroom floor, and saying prayers.

10:00-11:00 Get ready for bed, spend time with husband, read, and unwind before sleeping.

Tuesdays and Fridays vary a little from this schedule, as I don't do any piano teaching or accompanying on those days. Friday is literature class in the morning, so exercising moves to the afternoon. And Tuesday is my husband's day off, so that is the day we are most likely to throw this schedule out the window and do something totally different.

As I look this plan over my reaction is that I can do this. Last year I routinely woke up at 5:00 or 5:30; this year I'm planning on sleeping until 6:00! And overall, the schedule seems quite reasonable and manageable. So why in the past, as the year has progressed, have I sometimes felt so completely overwhelmed? Well, in addition to the obvious culprits (hormones and aging), there are all the other things that come up from day to day, demanding my attention, that are not accounted for here. Things like shopping and doctor appointments and caring for my mother and driving to chess tournaments and playing for choir concerts and Solo & Ensemble competitions and editing for Liturgy Solutions and Brothers of John the Steadfast and then of course, there's tax season and Christmas . . . .

I'm not complaining. I am immensely blessed to be able to stay home and teach my children and to have a husband that supports me in doing so. And I am thankful for a life that is so full that I am kept busy tending to it. But I'm hoping and praying that this year will indeed be a little easier than last and that come February the optimistic, energetic can-do spirit before you will not have given way to a panicked, teary, and exhausted shell of a human being that is simply struggling to make it through the day.


Blogger has a new feature called Following. I'm still familiarizing myself with it, but it seems to be another way of keeping updated on the blogs one likes to read. When it comes to following blogs, I still do it the old-fashioned way, manually clicking on them in my sidebar rather than subscribing to them or managing them with a blog reader. But now I'm thinking that the Follow feature may serve the same purpose, allowing me to enter blogs that I follow into my Blogger account so that I am alerted of new posts on those blogs in my Blogger Dashboard.

A fun feature of the Follow feature is the ability to show one's Followers in the sidebar (I don't know if I like the capital there--looks kind of creepy and cultish, doesn't it?). A glance at my sidebar will reveal that currently I have one official follower! (Thanks for reading, honey.)

Obama on Bill O'Reilly

Barack Obama finally sat down with Bill O'Reilly. The first segment of the interview was aired last night. (Am I the only who can't help noticing the timing?) I didn't get to watch the interview, but a full transcript is available here. Here is an excerpt on the topic of Iraq. The emphasis is mine.

MR. O'REILLY: I think you were desperately wrong on the surge. And I think you should admit it to the nation that now we have defeated the terrorists in Iraq. And the al Qaeda came there after we invaded, as you know. Okay, we've defeated them. If we didn't, they would have used it as a staging ground.

We've also inhibited Iran from controlling the southern part of Iraq by the surge which you did not support. So why won't you say, I was right in the beginning, I was wrong about that?

SEN. OBAMA: You know, if you've listened to what I've said, and I'll repeat it right here on this show, I think that there's no doubt that the violence in down. I believe that that is a testimony to the troops that were sent and General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. I think that the surge has succeeded in ways that nobody anticipated, by the way, including President Bush and the other supporters. . . .

MR. O'REILLY: If it were up to you, there wouldn't have been a surge.

SEN. OBAMA: No, no, no, no. Hold on.

MR. O'REILLY: You and Joe Biden -- no surge.

SEN. OBAMA: No. Hold on a second, Bill. If you look at the debate that was taking place, we had gone through five years of mismanagement of this war that I thought was disastrous. And the president wanted to double-down and continue on open-ended policy that did not create the kinds of pressure in the Iraqis to take responsibility and reconcile --

MR. O'REILLY: It worked. Come on.

SEN. OBAMA: Bill, what I've said is -- I've already said it succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.

MR. O'REILLY: Right! So why can't you just say, I was right in the beginning, and I was wrong about the surge?

SEN. OBAMA: Because there is an underlying problem with what we've done. We have reduced the violence --


SEN. OBAMA: -- but the Iraqis still haven't taken a responsibility. And we still don't have the kind of political reconciliation. We are still spending, Bill, 10 (billion dollars) to $12 billion a month.

MR. O'REILLY: And I hope if you're president, you can get them to kick in and pay us back.

So, the fact that our military was able to go in and do what it was given to do surprises Mr. Obama? I bet the man who survived five years in a Vietnamese prison wasn't surprised.

So much for the candidate of "hope."


Favorite lines from last night's speech:

"I'm grateful to the President for leading us in those dark days following the worst attack on American soil in our history, and keeping us safe from another attack many thought was inevitable . . . ."

"Education is the civil rights issue of this century."

"I've been an imperfect servant of my country for many years. But I have been her servant first, last and always. And I've never lived a day, in good times or bad, that I didn't thank God for the privilege."

"Long ago, something unusual happened to me that taught me the most valuable lesson of my life. I was blessed by misfortune. "

"I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else's. I loved it not just for the many comforts of life here. I loved it for its decency; for its faith in the wisdom, justice and goodness of its people. I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again. I wasn't my own man anymore. I was my country's."

"I'm not running for president because I think I'm blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save our country in its hour of need. My country saved me. My country saved me, and I cannot forget it. And I will fight for her for as long as I draw breath, so help me God."

You can read the entire speech here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Apples, Apples, Everywhere . . .

First Day of Preschool

Recommended Reading

August was a good month for blogging. I had 38 posts!--maybe my most prolific month yet. But now school is starting, and between that and the growing list of things needing my attention, I am going to have to slow down on the blogging, at least a little. And I don't like it--I have so much I want to say right now! But there is not time, so today I commend to you an excellent post at Fine Tuning. It is on the topic of children and singing, so if you care about either of those things you won't be sorry for clicking over.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Chess Mom

As it has for some years now, Labor Day weekend in our family means not the last hurrah of the summer but the first major tournament of the new chess season. So for the third day in a row I will be driving the chess Expert in my house up the road to the Illinois Open (so far he has three wins and one loss--the loss to one of the top seeds in the tournament). I don't mind it--I have been catching up on my reading and doing some planning for the new school year. But I have to admit I am also a bit stressed out right now by all the other tasks that are not getting done this weekend and that will be even harder to tackle later this week as the schedule reverts to "normal." I'm trying to remind myself to keep breathing.

If you would like to get a taste of how I have spent my weekend, click on the video below. It was taken not at the Illinois Open but at the U. S. Open in Dallas earlier this month. If you fast forward to about the 2-minute mark in the tape, you can see a few minutes of Trevor. And yes, he won this particular round. :-)

HT: Susan Polgar