House of Literature Bookmobile

This is the place I share book (movie) selections and reviews I have found worth mentioning. I'll also share gleanings of family life, faith, home education, and ongoing writing projects. Book selections will include children's books, books on home education, Catholic books, classics, series, raising children, and books that are made for reading under a shady oak tree with lemonade, in a bubble bath with a latte', or next to a snuggly fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa. Happy Reading!

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Only a Cajun...

...could appreciate this one. I think.

It's Mardi Gras beads, ya'll. I promise.
Thanks for the laugh, Amy.

I'll have to remember this place if I'm ever in Chicago:
Heaven on Seven

Book Update!

It is Finished!

Thanks for all the prayers!
I hope you have a Happy New Year and fresh start.
I know I will. : )

Party safely.

Musical Fun!

Christmas Starr (age 4) learned about musical instruments and different musical tunes while playing with this site this morning:

Christmas Cards

Click on the penguin to try the different instruments and style.Also, Jumbo the Elephant plays his bagpipes at the castle. Just get him there safely.

Get Ready!

Coming in January 2006:
A Catholic Homeschool Companion by Maureen Wittmann/ Rachel Mackson

Enjoy the 'Table of Contents' and get ready to be inspired and revived in 2006.

Because I Love Fairy Tales

New Fairy Tale Blog!

I hope you'll join me there and leave comments from time to time.

Friday, December 30, 2005

An Alternative to American Girl

Okay, I know American Girl is shaping up it's act, so this is a little late in the suggestion box, but I thought it worth mentioning.

DQ had Christmas monies to spend so, after a showing of Narnia, we went to Stuffing Zoo at the mall which is the Lake Area equivalent of
Build a Bear, the closest site which is in Katy, Tx.

The girls had such fun picking out their zoo animal, having the eyes properly inserted, having it's litle body filled at the stuffing machine, giving it an imaginary bath in the tub, selecting its clothing, then going through the tough decision of naming their new 'child', and filling out a certified birth certificate on the computer.

Certificate Data (This cuddly friend is very special because I brought it to Life. I promise to always give my best friend a Great Big Hug and a Happy New Home)

Name: Snowflake
Filled with: a sweet heart and snowflakes as white as cottony clouds
Eye Color: Blue
Belongs to: Drama Queen

Then there was the extra ritual of making a wish and placing a tiny guardian angel pin inside the zoo friend's cotton stuffed body.

Was it worth taking little girls to the mall to build a zoo animal? Oh, my, yes! It was totally awesome. The smiles, the delighted giggles, the frilly clothes, the block-sized shoe ware, the bouncing bows, and the wink of a clerk's eye at me as she placed the eyeballs in place and my little girl exhaled, "Ohhh, thank you, Mommy, for bringing us here today. Thank you!"

This is what teddy bears, dreams, and sweet memories are made of.

2006 Already?!

I just realized that I don't have any wall calendars for the New Year.

How did that happen!

I do have my planner ready though.

Just a Link to Check Out

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Lead Feet & Speeding Teens

My oldest daughter's godmother told me that she bought her dear husband and oldest son (who's the same age as my oldest son) a radar detector for Christmas. She said they both have a lead foot.

I laughed at her.

My newly turned adult-son got a speeding ticket today.

She who snickers at others gets the last laugh, that's as sure as death and taxes. The laughs on me.

Hey! It's Rachael Ray!

My friend Maureen posted recently about cook diva Rachael Ray's Mini-Meatloafs.

My family loves Rachael Ray, though I haven't attempted to cook any of her recipes. We just enjoy watching her cook on her show.

She was on Jay Leno last night. She corrected Jay Leno by informing him she is not a chef. She is a cook.

Somehow, that made me like her all the more.

Faith and Family Magazine

Faith and Family Magazine offers a free trial issue!
No risk! No obligation!

Click here to request a free issue online.
The magazine is excellent.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Our friend Barbara passed away at about 3 PM today.

Thank you for the prayers. I originally posted about 11:30 AM today and I feel that any prayers offered up for her and her family were very valuable as another friend said she passed on as though she was merely going to sleep.

May God Bless and keep her family.

My friend Barbara

In the mist of trying to meet a deadline, I was brought out of my cyperspace world back to reality via the blessings of cyperspace. My friend Barbara Brown is in the final stages of her battle with cancer. Some of you will remember her from the various Catholic, homeschooling eloops we are on.

Please join me in laying aside our "work" and praying for Barbara. Pray that her soul is peaceful and her faith (and that of her family) remains strong. The power found in the printed words of her husband is a testimony to all of us.

What Did He Mean by That?

"You can tell a lot about a fellow's character by his way of eating jellybeans." ~ Ronald Reagan

Jelly Bean Math

Jelly Bean Prayer (you might want to save this for Easter)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Princess Tales

I know I said blogging would be scarce but what is one to do when she finds a fun book buy and must share it? Besides, I'm done with work for the day and headed to bed in a minute.

Tonight my dear hubby took me out to eat and to Books-a-Million. Yes, he loves me. He also knew that Books-A-Million has a large post-Christmas sale going on. I also had to endure walking through Lowe's and Home Depot with him...admiring tools and jigsaw blades and other various carpentry "stuff" that registers with me about as much as the computer quiz did (does).

Getting back to the good stuff. Audio collections were only $5.00 at Books-A-Million. I picked up The Princess Tales by Gail Carson Levine (author of Ella Enchanted) and narrated by Lili Taylor. I'm on a fairy tale kick...still...and hope these audios are worth the excitment.

Mary Ellen Made Me Take It

Okay, I'm slightly embarrassed.
I tend my own website and do my own blog but I still only scored:

My computer geek score is greater than 19% of all people in the world! How do you compare? Click here to find out!

In other words, it reads:

"What does this mean? You are tech support's worst nightmare, you have no clue..."

I really did think I had some clue. After all, I design my own website and do my own blog. But this test was Tough! I must admit I didn't understand 81% of it.

Some things just don't change. Neither did I understand any more in that Computer Science class I was made to take 20 years ago in college.

Can't Miss This

My friend Alice shared this news concerning the AmericanGirl boycott:
American Girl Tries to Restore Image

In time for this good news is some more up-lifting news:
New American Girl (Jess) is home-schooled

Let's hope they portray this homeschooled girl in a good light.

The Long and Short of It

This week will bear slim pickin's on the blogspot...unless one of my children does something outstanding, cleaver, or just doggone silly that needs to be written about least I forget it ten years from now.
The reason is 2006 promises a multitude of things that I hope will bear much fruit on the creative side of life. I've listed them in order of priority:
1) This week (Dec. 31, to be exact) I have a book due at the editors. It is a literature book for Catholic parents. Under contract, I had a year to write it and it is written, but I'm still tweaking and grinding and editing and still not completely satisfied. By week's end I will just give up and hope that the editor can do something with it. I leave it in God's hands.
2) I have in my hands a contract from Hillside Education for the Catholic Mosaic study. This is basically a Living the Liturgical Year Through Literature type study. The publisher promises to have the cover image sent to me shortly. I look forward to sharing it with you. We're hoping to have it finished end of January and published in spring (I'm hoping). I leave it in God's hands.
3) Plans are to finish The Lacemaker's Shop (a devotional book centered around the mother of St. Therese of Lisieux, her home, and lacemaking shop) this year and have it published. I have had many publishers interested but no contract commitments. One has asked me to check back with them in spring '06. If it is complete, I might. Again, I leave it in God's hands.
4) I'd also like to ask prayers for this publishing intention. The long and short of it is I wrote a picture book about Rose Wilder Lane (daughter of famed children's author Laura Ingalls Wilder) and sent it to Pelican Publishing in New Orleans. I waited. They were interested and asked if I could rewrite it into a middle grade reader. So I wrote the first two chapters, rewrote the outline, and submitted a marketing ploy, which they requested, and sent it to them. And I waited. I was notified that I was to deal with one specific editor and that my manuscript was being reviewed by the board. Again I waited. Then Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. I anxiously waited for word, and found out that the Pelican building had been spared massive damage. Then Hurricane Rita hit and we were evacuated for a month. The next month was full of getting back to living. I finally received word from the editor at Pelican which read in short:
"Dear Cay: I'm glad you are well. We are recovering and making little progress in acquisitions. We have been deferring decisions, especially with children's material. Right now your sample is 7th inline for evaluation, and we are doing no evaluations at the moment. I have no idea when we can resume. Possibly at the start of 2006."
And so I continue to wait...and hope...and trust...and leave it in God's hands.
Maureen Wittmann did recently share good news with me. Sophia Institute Press will be coming out with her book The Catholic Homeschool Companion to which I am a contributing author. That book will come out in early 2006 so we joyfully await its release.

Ad maiorem Dei gloriam (AMDG): To the greater glory of God

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Christ Child Prepare Us

Christmas Without Santa ~ The Christ Child Still Comes

A friend of mine sent me this last week with the brief message:

"This is a beautiful story. I've read it three times now, and it brings a tear to my eye each time."

There was one family visitor in our house yesterday who blatantly pronounced, "I hate Christmas." Of course, taken in context, she said it in the mist of a conversation over gift-shopping, prices, and commercialism. I believe most people hate the commercialism; but that is not the same as hating Christmas. And words need to be watched when said within a room where there are little pitchers with big ears.

I made a pact with myself years ago when my oldest son was only three months old and celebrating his first Christmas. I heard a lady in the store tell her young daughter, "I hate Christmas."

I made an oath never to utter those words and always to make joyous the Christmas season. So I decorate. I shop. I wrap. I bake. I read Christmas stories. I give the Nativity top priority in the living area. I have family and friends over at my house. And I remind myself that it is all done for love of family, to better help them herald in the birth of Christ.

Of my own preparation, I see many things lacking. A candle remains unlit on the Advent wreath. The Christ child was not placed in the manger before we all trooped off to bed (so it was reverently done by one of the children on Christmas morning). My girls wore nice dresses to Midnight Mass but they were not new as we never got to make the annual dress shopping trip. There are books unfinished, plans not completed.

Reading this article, I realize what was lacking in my plans. All these plans are materalistic planning. They are the candy, not the cake. They are the things that the secular world is doing. This article reminds me that to focus on the Christkind remains the central focus.

In the scream of secular holiday preparation, we don't listen closely enough to the whisper of the Christkind. It's there. We know it's there; we hear it. But the scream of the world overtakes us. We bury ourselves in Christmas wrappings and decorations and forget that the main thing is the main thing.

It's found in the Nativity Scene of every Catholic, Christian house in this great world. The preparation should be more so on the practice of virtue. Who would Christ want us to be? What virtues did Joseph exhibit? What virtues did Mary teach us by example? What virtues did we focus on this Advent? What virtues do we focus on this new year?

Thus, comes the true rejoicing! Now! Don't worry about any books unread or any plans not completed. We have till Epiphany to celebrate the birth of Christ and to herald the good news. Focus on virtues. Focus on Christkind. Focus on what is true and real.

Christmas is not over. It has only begun.

A Priceless Bit of Literary Connection

Uncle Tom's Cabin has been put on the auction block.

Another piece.

Who has read this classic? or watched the movie starring Shirley Temple?

A Child's Theory

Drama Queen (age 8) this morning says, "Mommy, can we throw away all my school books and let me use my new Pixter for school the rest of my life?"

Uh, no, honey.

Uncle Vince and Uncle Gerald and Daddy, sitting around the table with coffee, laugh hysterically.

D.Q. continues looking at me expectantly.
She's serious about this.

Daddy tells her, "No, D.Q. That's not going to happen. Books are important."

And Uncle Vince, the brother who always gave me a hard time about having my nose in a book, backs him up. "Books are very important." He's serious too.

That's Life

It's life when...

...late Christmas night, you discover that Santa, in his old age, forgot to place one much wanted Christmas gift under the tree.

...the day after Christmas, while replenishing the sugar bowl, you discover the red plastic forks and spoons---bought especially for the Christmas festivities---behind the sugar canister in the cabinet.

Of course, that's just another way the Christmas holiday extends into it's rightful timeframe from here to Epiphany.

Literary Perspective

Wonderful literary perspective!

The Conversion of the Grinch

Thank you, Alicia, for alerting us to this article.

Friday, December 23, 2005

~ Merry Christmas ~

The Gibson family wishes all their family and friends a very blessed and merry Christmas.

May the peace of Christ fill your hearts and your home.
~ Rejoice ~

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Enjoy the Moment

Here's to 18-yr-old sons, 4-yr-old daughters, and cold wintery nights. Everyone else is out of the house and it's just us.

Junior fixed us some of the "new stuff"---Folger's Cinnamon Swirl Coffee---and Starr fixed a Barbie plate with Shortbread Cookies. Her favorite song in the world happens to be the Shortnin' Bread song.

The coffee is excellent and there's nothing better than shortbread cookies on a Barbie plate.

Montessori & Unschooling

Do these two fit in the same sentence?

Read Willa's blog about this. I'm planning to delve into this a bit more as I've just written a chapter on Montessori in my literature book that is due to the editor by month's end.

In my book, I've attempted to explain why I think Maria Montessori's hands-on method is so friendly to Charlotte Mason's literature-based method. The two go hand-in-hand, I think.

The ideal is sitting down with a good book. The reality is having to put the book down and live life. In my ideal world, I would live inside some of the books I read. They are wonderful, colorful worlds. The reality is having to put them aside and face the crayons and posters scattered on my kitchen floor, the pre-Christmas toys scattered in the living room, the unmade beds in the bedrooms, and the stack of dirty laundry in the laundry room. But, if I combine Mason and Montessori, I have greater visions of these books and my life meeting somewhere in the middle.

I get up and become Ma Ingalls. I pick up clutter and clean rooms and make beds and wash laundry. I become Marilla Cuthbert. I am efficiency itself and give words of wisdom and discipline to the children around me. I am Pippi---short of tossing eggs onto my head---making pancakes and joyfully mopping the kitchen floor. I am Tasha Tudor, planning and creating crafty ideas within my household.

Unschooling combines these two methods nicely. Without the "relaxed", unschooling approach, our home education would dissolve into a lifeless mutany of workbooks and grades. There would be no life, no joy, no colorful worlds. These methods together remind me that my life is as good, as colorful, as wonderful as the books I read.

An Unschooling Moment

My 8-yr-old did these flags on the computer yesterday. She started with different country flags then asked for an atlas of the United States. She had the atlas on her lap and was doing them state by state.

These are the first 12. They look so much better up close (click on the picture above to get a better image). She paid so much attention to the fine detail in each flag.

She had just finished #25 when the second half of them was accidently deleted. I do hope she recovers and can complete them after the holidays.

Christmas at the Little Blue House

I'd like to direct all Catholic readers to this new Christmas book published by Little Flowers Family Apostolates.

In it you will meet Mama and Papa and all their children who live in the Little Blue House on Magnolia Street that was first written about in Colleen Drippe's first book The Little Blue House.

These books portray a very humble, poor, traditional, large Catholic family. The little blue house is almost an island in an otherwise large, scary world. The books manage to show how the family keeps their faith strong "despite the onslaught of the pagan culture around them."

In this new book, Mama is expecting a new baby and the family is busy preparing for Christmas at the Little Blue House. There is a lovely chapter about St. Lucy.

These are very cozy books. Definitely something you'd want to pick up if you wish to escape the world (sometimes we do...right?). I tend to be a sap when it comes to wholesome, Catholic, large-family stereotypes so these books definitely have a place on my bookshelf. There simply aren't enough books about wholesome, large, Catholic, home educating families out there. One thing the books portray very well is how a large family can make do on one-income and take opportunities to work for their food and still give to those less fortunate. Materialism is not an issue in these books, though it is addressed how the family handles it and how they are content with what God has given them. The illustrations are wonderfully drawn and add a lot to the flavor of the books.

These books are not expensive and they do give children a strong presence of the Catholic faith within one's household. The traditional Catholic practices and celebrations are shown in the books. The author does not ignore the various neighbors and friends that Catholic home educators come into contact with and who question their faith and practices. She addresses all the issues such as Easter time celebrations, Santa Claus, shopping at places where trashy magazines are shown, and many other issues we all face as we strive to lead the good Catholic faith within our homes.

If my memory serves me, I recall the publisher saying something about more "Little Blue House" series being published in the future.

One caveat to mention is that the family only attends the traditional Latin Mass. The references in the first book can easily be edited out, if your family attends the Novus Ordo Mass, as mine does. I have not come across reference to this in the second book Christmas at the Little Blue House. While the books are slightly stricter (and more traditional) than most Catholics are, they still offer good discussion on how to respect other Catholics and why home educators live the way they do.

I believe my children will remember this Catholic family and the little blue house in years to come as something sweet and holy that they should strive to replicate.

There is still time to order, as the Christmas season is not ending; it is only beginning!

I'll Take the Rose

You Are a Rose
You are a total alpha female who tends to be a leader.Your friends depend on you to hold things together and make decisions.Men are drawn to your feminine powers and strength.While you are the center of attention, you are secretly introverted and a bit shy.
What Flower Are You?
This flower quiz is courtesy of my friend at The Bonny Blue House. In my defense, I must say that I'm not a leader and I'm terrible with decisions and... what strength?!?! But I'll take the rose.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Pope's Sense of Spirit

Santa's got some very influential backing now.

My best friend's son just sent me this notice from Zenit:

"VATICAN CITY, DEC. 21, 2005 ( Benedict XVI looked like Father Christmas when he arrived at the general audience, bedecked in a red hat with white trim. The hat was actually a traditional camauro, a fur-trimmed cap that popes used to wear against the cold. Today\'s temperature was around 9 degrees Celsius (48 F). The 15,000 pilgrims present in St. Peter\'s Square applauded enthusiastically on seeing the red-hatted Holy Father arrive in a white jeep. Because of the great number of pilgrims, the audience was not held in the cozy Paul VI Hall but in the open air. Camauros date back to the 12th century. They fell into disuse, until the papacy of John XXIII. After that pontificate it fell into disuse again -- until today, to the surprise of observers. Benedict XVI removed his camauro at the start of the audience."

I went searching for a picture to go with the text.
Finally found some snapshots here: Pope Benedict in Camauro

The Gibson Sense of Humor

At an earlier date, I questioned what Mel Gibson was up to.

My husband's family may not be directly related to Mel but this is definitely a trait of the Gibson-sense-of-humor. this for real? I can't seem to get the trailer to work for me.

Be sure to read this link (it's where I found the picture at left): Apocalypto's Hidden Message

Read what Catholic writer Amy Welborn's son said about it here.

I apologize beforehand if this is fraudulent and I am falling for Internet gimmicks. But I really like Mel and his movies; and my kiddos really like watching for secret, hidden messages in movies. It builds the suspence.

Focusing on the Reason for the Season

I love Fontanini pieces and plan to start collecting them one day when I'm a little richer or have more money to spend.

In the meantime, as the Nativity of Our Lord draws near, we'll be working on this Free Printable Christmas Nativity tomorrow while the annual gingerbread boy cake bakes in the oven. The nativity is no Fontanini, but it'll do. The gingerbread boy, on the other hand, might come close to resembling Picasso once the girls finish decorating him.

If anymore arguments arise between the children, the Scrooge will be put doing this Build a Nativity on the computer. Of course, that might provoke a jealous squabble of its own. So perhaps the best, jolly merrymaker will be rewarded the first hit on this site.

Here's some Nativity Coloring Sheets as well.

Marie Bellet's Gift

Marie Bellet has a gift. Her voice, her music, her inspiration, her words are gifts to all mothers.
A couple Christmases ago, I bought her CD's as gifts for all the godmothers.
She now has a music video to be viewed online. I hope she does more of these.

Ordinary Time by Marie Bellet

Books Read Today

Is the season over yet? Or, rather, has the season begun yet? There is so much hussle and bussle in the weeks before Christmas. Doesn't Advent mean to wait with baited breathe? At any rate, the week after Christmas will be one of adoring the newborn infant with reverence, awe, stillness, and heavenly peace.

Today we had our own rush of morning errands to get to the dental appointments made a few weeks ago. Trouble with making early appointments is that by the time they get here, the plans have changed. One child is visiting in Texas, another child is with cousins to see Narnia, and another child is working. So I had the youngest two with me. The three of us got good reviews and stamps of approval---if you count the four-year-old getting her teeth counted---and the verdict is still out on the other three until January.

After stops at the post office and bank, I noticed the frequent disputes coming from the back seat of the car. The younger two do seem to squabble more than my original sets of boy, girl, boy, girl but everyone says that's to be expected when sisters are born in sequence. Okay, I never had a sister so I take this as hindsight 20/20 and try to keep the peace. But I also noticed that Starr was not her energetic, chipper-self today. She seemed to be the one picking the fights when it's usually the other way around. Too much Christmas and birthday partying, I imagine. But she has developed a slight cold complete with stuffy/runny nose and a bedtime cough. So I've gotten her on medicine early to ward off any serious, lasting effects. And I knew the medicine would do one of two things:

(1) make her hyper
(2) make her cranky and sleepy

Definitely # 2.

So what's a mother to do? A treatful stop at McD's was in order plus a stop at the local library where tapes aplenty were picked up plus some nice books that cry to be enjoyed on the sofa or in bed. Lots of picture art that the child can enjoy feasting her eyes upon after the reading because sometimes they "just want to look at the pictures." Of course.

I wish I had time to give a proper review of these books but, alas, we have yet another Christmas party to go to tonight and I have a covered dish to fix and, yes, more gifts to wrap.

In the Snow by Lindsay Barrett George is a perfect picture book for in-your-bed viewing. The artwork is stunning; as is all of George's other books which you really should check out for nature study. This one will get you all ready for the snowy months of January and February and for the snow unit soon to be placed at House of Literature.

Cobweb Christmas, The Tradition of Tinsel, a German folk story by Shirley Climo, was delightful despite the presence of hairy, creeping, crawling, long-legged spiders. I wasn't sure how my girls would take this one. Just yesterday, a huge, hairy, long-legged spider appeared in the toy bin under one of the living room windows. Drama Queen screeched and hollared and jumped around in distress and fright while Christmas Starr came on the run with her tennie shoe shouting, "Outta my way! I've got him. Move. I'll kill him!" Two totally different personalities. The spiders in Climo's story give the village "auntie" an unsuspecting gift and gives us reason to forgive them of their intrusive visit. It's a delightful book; strange to have spiders playing a role in a Christmas book but it's done so well that even my girls wanted to keep the book and look through it again and again. (They fought over it actually.)

Looking for the cover to share with everyone, I came across this book which we don't have and haven't read but I'm sure it would go well with the reading of Cobweb Christmas. Another one worth reading with these would be Night Tree by Eve Bunting.

The Christmas Cobwebs by Odds Bodkin/Terry Widener tells a story of "a poor shoemaker and his family move from Germany to Chicago with only a box of glittering glass ornaments. But when a tragic fire destroys their new house and shop, the family has to move into an abandoned shack, with cobwebs dangling from the rafters. Soon the shoemaker must sell his family's cherished decorations. But on Christmas morning, they all awaken to a shimmering surprise hanging from their tree. Spun by the Christmas spirit, a wonderful magic weaves throughout this holiday tale." (Publisher's comment)

The last, put certainly not least, is The Small One by Alex Walsh/Jesse Clay. The introduction by Kathie Lee Gifford reads, in part: "I don't know exactly how Small One came into our lives. I just remember my son Cody introducing it to me one night and loving every moment of it...We live in a violent, often selfish world where 'sentimental' is deemed corny and 'spiritual' mean ignorant. We seem to have lost our heart. But Small One reminds us that 'there is no greater love than being willing to lay down one's life for a friend.' What a wonderful message for today's world---and for today's children..." (Kathie Lee Gifford)

I will not say anything about this book other than, please read it to your children this Christmas season. It's an excellent story. The connection at the end is one of sacrifice, love and giving. There is also an animated version as well: Small One on video


I don't remember where on the Internet I saw this picture but I thought it beautiful and worth sharing.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Bella Dancerella

I have to put in a good word for this toy. My 4-yr-old got it as a b-day gift. I was skeptical when I saw it advertized. Afterall, the 8-yr-old got a new Twister game complete with a music CD for her b-day and was so frustrated with the new-fangled toy that she has never used it since.

The Bella Dancerella on the otherhand is simple enough for a 2-yr-old to use but enjoyable enough for a 10-yr-old. My girls are both loving it. Starr got it on Saturday and they have both used it every day for numerous times throughout the day.

It gets them up and moving. They do stretch exercises with Bella on the DVD which takes them into jumping exercises and lots of active dancing. The mat is two-sided and takes the little dancers through a quick study of the basic ballet movements.

It is by no means a thorough workout or dance instruction, but it's fun, gets the kids up and moving, and certainly gets them motivated towards dancing.

So, if your child has expressed an interest in dancing and you'd like to wait another year before signing her up, and seeing if she'll stick with it, do get this gift for Christmas. Your pennies will be well spent.

And, no, I'm not being paid to endorse Bella Dancerella. We just really like it. I give it two thumbs up and a five star rating.

That's Why It's So Good!

"A couple of squares of dark chocolate every day could help stave off heart disease, researchers say today.

Swiss scientists say that just two ounces of good quality chocolate with a high cocoa butter content can help to prevent narrowing and hardening of the arteries."

This in from a report by Celia Hall: Chocolate's dark secret: it's good for your heart

So, what more can I say,
go eat some chocolate this holiday...

And, if you feel the need to do some math this holiday, go to the Hershey Bar Challenge.

Hurricane Homeschool

For anyone who has experienced the evacuation and destruction of their home due to a hurricane and is home educating their children (or were home educating their children) in the mist of it, you might be interested in joining this discussion: Hurricane Homeschool

Narnia Review Worth Reading

I have stopped reading Narnia reviews because so many say the same thing with no original thought to them. But Julie Bogart, author of The Writer's Jungle blogged a very thoughtful review of the new Narnia movie. There is lots of original thought to her review that I hope to see more comments and discussion made at her blog.

Read her review here: Narnia ~ Disturbing Magic

What did he mean?

I'll have to read this article again: Would C.S. Lewis Have Approved but I wonder what he meant by “so much vulgarity with his genius.” referring to Walt Disney?

C.S. Lewis died in 1963 so we would have to inspect Walt Disney's movies before that year.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Polar Express ~ Day 19

Here's a movie that is far better (in my humble opinion) than the book.

The book disappointed me terribly. The movie was pure magic!

We watched it today while snacking on popcorn.

The Polar Express

Here's some fun and game sheets that you can download and print.

And if you'd like to have a keepsake Polar Express Sleigh Bell, click here.

Maureen's Blog

My friend and fellow Catholic writer has joined the blogging craze!
Be sure to check her blog out.

For Those of you with Children who Write

Dappled Things is a new literary magazine dedicated to providing a space for young writers to engage the literary world from a Catholic perspective. The magazine is committed to quality writing that takes advantage of the religious, theological, philosophical, artistic, cultural, and literary heritage of the Catholic Church in order to inform and enrich contemporary literary culture.

Schools Kiss Chalkboards Goodbye

(Columbus, Miss.) AP--- Computer, meet flat-screen TV. Students, meet cool learning. Education, meet technology.

Classrooms at three Columbus schools are throwing out archaic chalkboards and their dusty erasers in favor of interactive "smart boards" (be sure to click on Take the Tour) designed to take learning to a new level.

"The boards work with a projector and laptop connected to the network to allow any Web page, network program or laptop program to be seen by all and allow the teacher and students to manipulate items by touching the screen just like you'd move with a mouse," said Rebecca Taylor, the elementary technology and testing coordinator at Columbus Municipal School District.


Interesting advance...

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Mary, Did You Know?

Mary, Did You Know? written by Mark Lowry/ performed by Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd

Another Connection with False Assumptions

Thanks to Melissa Wiley at Here in the Bonny Glen I was linked to this site:
The Common Room has an excellent post titled Shakespeare and False Assumptions.

This part:
"Many scholars have noted how acurate Shakespeare's medical observations are, for instance. Shakespeare's son in law was a doctor, but he didn't marry into the family until numerous plays were already written."

reminds me of Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage. People who read Crane's book said that he must have served in the Civil War because there was no way one could have written such an outstanding portrayal of the war without having lived it.

Published thirty years after the Civil War ended, The Red Badge of Courage has never been out-of-print. Crane was only 24 years old when he wrote and published the book.

Snow Unit for January

At the beginning of January 2005, the online reading group at House of Literature eloop did a lovely snow unit together. It was a study with my children that I'll remember forever. It was a month well spent and we have very fond memories of the study. All the files, links, ideas, crafts, arts, booklists, etc. were saved in the files section and I can't bear seeing them sit there anylonger and not being shared.

I am in the middle of printing them into a PDF version to put online at House of Literature website.

Stay tuned and check back often. I'll let you know when it's ready and link-able.

The Way to One's Heart... through their stomach...apparently.

My dear husband just cooked up some nice, long slabs of bacon and presented several links to me. The smell alone is irresistable.


How many wavy links can one eat before your heart stops?

New Blog for Chesterton Fans

My friend and fellow Catholic writer Nancy Brown is offering a new blog, The American Chesterton Society Blog, to reawaken our society to Chesterton's writings and wit, and to influence our culture with his wisdom.

Check it out here: Chesterton Blog

Is it Possible?

I spent 3 hours wrapping gifts last night and I'm still not finished! You see, I have this hang-up that Christmas is for the little ones so I continue to buy for all the new nieces and nephews (now great-nieces and great-nephews) spread far and wide. My dear husband's brothers are all older than he and their children are grown and married and having babies.

Of course, I told myself that I was a one-man show without Martha Stewart's well-paid crew of professionals. Behind a locked bedroom door in limited space with wrapping paper and gift tags and tape and scissors and dozens of bags scattered on the floor and bed, I was tempted---occasionally---to bemoan the holiday commercialism. But then, as I envisioned each face as I wrapped their gift, I remembered what it was all about. It's about love and giving, just as God, through His love for us, sent His only son into the world to give up his life for us.

I may not be getting paid for this, but I do find it rewarding. The gift opening and the gift itself won't last, but the children will remember that they were remembered with love.

Personally I don't find gift-giving expensive. I've realized ---just within the past year actually ---that's it's in the packaging that the true gift is found. You can purchase or make the simplest thing but, if packaged prettily, it emits a warm glow that, when presented to someone, cheers the soul and warms the heart. No matter how small the gift, the receiver---even the youngest child---senses that it was offered with love and thoughtfulness.

The package is like a picture book. It seems to say "Open me! See what's inside. A treasure awaits you. I hope you like me."

Friday, December 16, 2005

Christmas Irony

Thanks to Alicia's observance at Studeo, I found out about this amazing rescue and had to share it. My heart was in my throat.

Amazing Rescue
The mother threw her 1-month old baby out of a burning building while praying that someone would catch him below. A man caught the baby and the mother was rescued shortly afterwards by firefighters.

I can't help but think of the irony of this mother and child come Christmas morning. The greatest gift this mother will have is her babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying safely in her arms.

Christmas is not about the gifts underneath our tree. It's about the gifts around our tree---given to us by God. This is what Christmas is all about.

How Stuff Works?

Have you ever wondered how:

* Batteries work?
* Paintball guns work?
* PMS works?
* Poison Ivy works?
* Sunglasses work?
* Frequent Flier Miles work?

This site How Stuff Works will answer these questions and more concerning "stuff" related to people, travel, holidays, computer, science, auto health, entertainment, money, home, and electronics.

Would You Go?

My son wants nothing more than to see the remake of King Kong.

The last remake I saw was perhaps back in junior high school. Jessica Lange played the blonde beauty.

After reading this review, I'm unsure. Would you take your pre-teen to see it?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Redeeming Myself

I spent way too much time goofing off on the computer this morning. By 1:00 PM I was embarrassed to find myself still in my pajamas. Or perhaps I was embarrassed to find that it was already 1:00 P.M. Anyhoo...

Yes, you read that right. And I have no excuse whatsoever, except laziness and twaddliness.

I didn't look as good as this lovely lady, but it's a nice picture; much nicer than the image of me in my pajamas at the computer.

When I finally got a spurt of energy, I decided that schoolwork needed to be finished today so we could begin the Christmas vacation break tomorrow. I still have shopping to finish, gifts to wrap, and a b-day party to pull off.

Perhaps that's the reason I had the lazies this morning. Too much left to finish tends to overwhelm a person, and I'm not good under stress. Basically, I shut down.

So I sprinted the kiddos to crack the books, went over the material with them, and went to shower and dress. But this daily habit takes me past the younger girls' room which I have been dutifully telling myself (and everyone else) that I was going to clean before this weekend. It's Thursday and I hadn't touched it yet. I dreaded it.

The older three children don't have "toys" anymore. It's older stuff, more condensed stuff, and much more expensive stuff. So the little ones' room is the one room that needs to be dejunked every 3 months or so.

I decided that cleaning this room was the best way to redeem myself for my lack of accomplishment this morning.

It had to be done. Had to! Christmas Starr is having a party this Saturday and Christmas is coming. Make haste! Make way...

So I rolled up my pajamas sleeves and began.

I filled a wastebasket and a lawn bag full of broken, ripped, faded, trashy toys and threw away two very old, very faded sleeping bags that belonged to the two older children. Miss Drama Queen and Christmas Starr are getting new ones under the tree.

I also filled a lawn bag with nice, unbroken, un-ripped, unfaded, wonderful toys that were either outgrown or unused. We're stopping at Care/Help this afternoon to drop off the goods, along with some clothes I had Middle Child clear out from his closet earlier this week.

Do I feel redeemed, after wasting half the day in pajamas at the computer? Ya bettcha! I'm still trying to get Miss Drama Queen to finish some school work and waiting on Middle Child to hand in two reports (one on Pearl Harbor---that he began a week ago---and one on what he has learned about the history of the Middle Ages). But I think we'll be done by tonight.

And, yes, I am now showered and dressed like all decent people.
Aren't you proud of me?


Miss Drama Queen was reading (and taking) a standard test prep this morning. It was on the famous musician Chopin.

"One day at school the teacher was having a very hard time keeping the pupils quiet. He tried every way and was worn out when this boy went to the piano and began to play, telling a story about robbers. When he reached the part where they went to sleep in the forest, he played softly, ah, how softly! After a while the room became very, very quiet. Suddenly the music ceased. The teacher, who had been listening, charmed, glanced up. All the noisy, restless boys were asleep---yes, every one of them---lulled to sleep by the boy, Frederic Chopin, telling a story at the keys."

Miss Drama Queen looked up at me and asked, "Was he that boring?"

I told her to decide for herself. We are now listening to The Story of Chopin courtesy of VOX Music Masters.

Update: She got all the 'programmed' answers correct, but I think she missed the overall message of the story. That's one of those times you can't just read about the masters; you must listen to them and discern what moves your soul on a personal level.

Christmas Folk

The children and I read Christmas Folk by Natalia Belting/illustrated by famed artist Barbara Cooney.

Written in old-fashion rhyme, it has a quaint appeal that takes you through "The hallow days of Yule..."

At the back of the book it reads "...artist Barbara Cooney gives a rich, detailed interpretation to these otherwise little-known Yuletide customs."

My friend Jenn shared this link for ideas from former feast day ideas of St. Thomas .

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Penderwicks & Golden Goose

My friend Melissa Wiley
posted on this book yesterday and today. I recognized it immediately because I had just spotted The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall the day before at Books-A-Million.

I was VERY tempted. It was an exciting "find" and was put back on the shelf with regrets. Having a handful of Christmas gifts on hand that had to take precedence over personal wants, I couldn't be self-indulgent right then and there.


Last night Iwas on my way to a meeting and found myself passing in front of my library. I couldn't help myself.

I'm two chapters into the book. So far, so good! I'm patiently waiting for Lissa's review of the book and, in the meantime, enjoying her list of Fiction Featured Families and how she feeds her book habit.

Right now we're reading The Golden Goose by Dick King-Smith(courtesy of the local library). Nothing to do with Christmas but it promises to have the same feel as E.B.White's Charlotte's Web.

Today's Art Lesson

For art we read The Shape Game by Anthony Browne.

It's an enjoyable book and a sure bet to capturing your child's imagination. My children stayed on the sofa after the sharing to look over the pictures and enjoy their own "Shape Game."

Jest 'Fore Christmas

Jest 'Fore Christmas
by Eugene Field

I read this poem to my children every year at Christmas time; just as my mother did with me.

This is a fun poem, 'specially fer boys. Helps 'em to mind their P's and Q's and remember not to:

"chawnk green apples..."
"sick" the dog on the cat...
"laff an' holler" at the grocery man...

It also helps them to respectfully regard Gran'ma's dreams that one day
"when I git to be a man,
I'll be a missionarer like her oldest brother, Dan,
As was et up by the cannibals that live in Ceylon's Isle,..."

So that:

"...thinkin' of the things yer'd like to see upon that tree,
Jest 'fore Christmas be as good as yer kin be!"

We also read some out of At Christmastime while baking brownies for our CCD parties today.

Love It!

Sunday, the girls and I went Christmas shopping with Oma. We hit the mall to see the decorations and let the little girls play in the playarea.

Oma and I spotted this Advent Wreath at Hallmark while looking for gifts for the godmothers.

I want it SO badly! What a great family keepsake. The votive candles can be replaced each year.

Naturally I'd discover it on the third Sunday of Advent instead of the first.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Holy Mary

Chelsea's (age 8) artwork of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Skipping to Day 12

We read The Lady of Guadalupe by Tomie dePaola today and recited the prayer. The kids are now sketching the image ala dePaola-style.

"Our Lady of Guadalupe, mystical rose, intercede for the Church, protect the Holy Father, help all who invoke you in their necessities. Since you are the ever Virgin Mary and Mother of the true God, obtain for us from your most holy Son the grace of a firm faith and sure hope amid the bitterness of life, as well as an ardent love and the precious gift of final perseverance. Amen."

This past Friday, Dec. 9th (Feast Day of Juan Diego), we were also able to view the CCC video Juan Diego: Messenger of Guadalupe at our co-op Christmas party.

Day 5

On day 5 of December we did some baking...of course.

These sweets were made just for the 7 of us, no one else. And they were gone by dusk.

Santa Comes to Little House

We'll be reading this chapter from Little House on the Prairie and picking up the colorful-edition illustrated by Renee Graef (one of my favorites) at our library this week.

I'm probably more excited than the girls.

Santa Comes to Little House

Friday, December 09, 2005

Christmas Contests!

An announcement from Illuminated Ink.

Two new Christmas Contests are now available for your children's drawing and writing pleasure!

"We have decided to give our artist a break this month and instead, let your children inspire us with their interpretation of our theme, 'It’s 12:01 on Christmas morn. Jesus Christ is born! He opens His eyes so bright, and much to His delight, what does He see???' These contests are open to children ages 5-18 and will be judged in THREE separate age brackets."

Two winners will be selected in each age bracket.Each winner will receive a great Surprise Package of Illuminated Ink products and have his or her entry posted in our Winner's Gallery.

All entries must be RECEIVED by Monday, January 2nd, 2006 in order to be eligible for judging.

For more information on our Christmas DRAWING Contest.

For more information on our Christmas WRITING Contest.

We look forward to receiving your children's submissions!Advent Blessings!
~Frances ButekIlluminated Ink

On the Fourth Day of Christmas...

I've gotten behind in sharing what we're doing each day for December in preparation of Christmas but I don't want to overload my readers (there are readers out there, huh???). Perhaps I'm just writing to myself. That'd be a sad case of nostalgia, huh???

Anyhoo, I find so much to post about that our daily happenings get put into a perpetual draft state.

So to continue our Advent preparation:

On the Fourth Day of December we..........................
.........................................put up the tree!!!

And, of course, you always need a man to untangle the lights and ornaments!

We like to enjoy our tree through December until Epiphany, but I don't allow it up until the first weekend of December.

Hope you enjoy the pics.

Poetry Reading

My dear children are in the living room listening to Oprah recite a piece of poetry on Peace with Maya Angelou.

Does that count as poetry for the day?

I was rather shocked to peek around the corner and see all my darlings sitting entranced, hypnotised, awe-struck.

One could say they looked like wet noodles with warped minds, but I prefer the more poetic version.

Speaking of poetry, we were at the library today for co-op and Little Flowers. I happened upon this book of Christmas poems:
At Christmastime by Valerie Worth/Antonio Frasconi.

Also got Christmas Folk by Natalia Belting / illustrated by Barbara Cooney (same artist of Miss Rumphius and others).

Why We Love Dickens

What can I say. I love Dickens. I love A Christmas Carol. And I love this picture via Julie Bogart's blog. : )

We've discussed Dickens recently. Here's an article on why we love Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Bravewriter Julie Bogart addresses the classic as well: A Muppet Christmas Carol.

To All My Friends!

~Merry Christmas ~

This link was so beautiful, I wanted to share it. It's how I feel when I get online to chat with each one of you!
Watch it individually then gather your dear children around you and share it with them.
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