Saturday, February 25, 2006

Goose at large!

My mother just phoned. She had been watching the local news on TV and rang to warn us that there is aggressive goose at large on the nearby canal towpath attacking women and children. We reassured her that it was cold outside, warm inside, and we were going nowhere, goose or no goose. That would be nature study too up close and personal for my liking!

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Lord's Prayer

For those with a linguistic turn of mind, take a look at the Lord's Prayer in 1325 languages. To link in with my literary tour, here it is in Cornish:

Pader an Arleth
Agon Taze nye, eze en Neve,
Benegas bo tha Hanow.
Tha Gwlaskath gwrenz doaz;
Tha Voth bo gwreze,
En Noer pecarra en Neve.
Ro tha nye an journama gon bara pub death,
Ha gave tha nye gon pehasow
Pecarra tel era nye gava angye
Neb eze peha war agon bidn.
Ha na raze gon lewa en antall,
Buz gweeth nye thurt droeg.
Rag an Gwlaskath Che a beaw,
Han Nearth, han Worrians,
Rag nevra venitha.
Andelna ra bo, Amen.
In case you were wondering, the last of the old Cornish speakers died in 1891, but since then enthusiasts have worked hard to revive the language. As they put it: "Cornish never died, it just wasn't very well." Want to take a crack at reading it out loud? Here is a pronunciation guide. Good luck!

Plans for Lent

Star will be making her First Confession next month and her First Communion in May. I'm mortified that I simply haven't done as much to prepare her as I would have liked (blame pregnancy brain and lack of energy). With that in mind I wanted to focus in Lent not just on preparing for Easter, but on something that would deepen our appreciation and understanding of the Mass. The answer? We are going to work on Easter Vigil notebooks using these plans generously shared by the author on the 4 Real message board last year. Other than that I'm going to keep it very simple -if I aim to do too much, nothing will happen - but I'm very tempted to add in this lovely idea for a Lenten Crown shared on Karen Edmisten's blog. Apart from that we will all choose a Lenten sacrifice. I'm going to pick up on another of Karen's ideas and give up complaining. More easily said than done, I suspect. Star is planning to forego sweets and chocolate, and Angel is still considering the matter.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Action and inaction

I'm finally hitting the right balance between action and inaction. I went for a swim on Sunday and again today, and have booked myself in for an aqua aerobics class on Thursday. I'm also getting into the habit of going to bed for an hour after lunch, either to read or sleep, while Angel and Star do some reading and then play quietly. It has taken twenty three weeks, but I'm beginning to feel I might be getting some energy back :).

Friday, February 17, 2006

Star's thoughts on bedtime ...

Rather hopefully, when told it was bedtime ... "It's illegal to have to go to bed."

Goodnight Angel - techie style!

Angel is an unabashed techie. She likes gadgets. She likes computers. Fortunately she also likes boundaries. Once parameters are set she will not step beyond them, and is very responsible over computer limits. As a result, over the last month or so we have been letting her use our old laptop in her room for a short time after she goes to bed. I tend to use the computer in the evenings, so we have fallen into the habit of chatting to each other online for a while. Winks and smileys go a long way. Tonight we established that she now felt better {{large nodding blue smiley}} after a {{glum face}} sort of day. I told her how much I love her, even when she is {{red, angry face}}, but how I like it much better when she is {{big grin}}. She exploded kisses over my computer screen. I sent hugs and kisses back, though I haven't mastered the exploding version. It may be a bizarre way to say goodnight, but we enjoy it. (And she did sneak down for an extra real-life goodnight hug on the pretext of bringing a plate downstairs!)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

St. Gilbert of Sempringham

Thanks to I realised today is the feast of St. Gilbert of Sempringham, one of the most endearing of English medieval saints and founder of the only specifically English religious order. A humane and humble man, he founded monasteries for men, women and both, hostels for the poor, the sick and the widowed, and provided education for both boys and girls (far ahead of his time!). He was canonised less than twenty years after his death at the age of one hundred and five. You can read more about him on this site from the Friends of Chicksands Priory. This is rather more reliable than the seriously muddled MyCatholic version which claims St. Gilbert was imprisoned by Henry VIII. Given that Gilbert died in 1189, over three hundred years before Henry VIII became king, I think not!

Note to self: Pay a visit to Chicksands Priory! I can claim a slightly proprietary interest in Chicksands - it was founded in the twelfth century by Payne de Beauchamp, baron of Bedford and his wife Rose, and I wrote an entry for the New Dictionary of National Biography on the Beachamps of Bedford. I hadn't realised that the ruins (grrr!!! that monastic terrorist Henry VIII again!) are now open to the public, and it is only around twenty miles away from us.

Book Review: The Tale of Hill Top Farm

Thanks to recommendations on the 4 Real Learning message board I took The Tale of Hill Top Farm by Susan Wittig Albert with me last weekend as light reading. This is the first book in a new mystery series blending fact with fiction. The heroine is real life Edwardian children's author and illustrator Beatrix Potter, and the setting the village of Sawrey in the Lake District where she spent her later years. The author populates the village with fictional characters and involves the newly arrived Miss Potter in solving various village mysteries and intrigues. As an added touch, she includes Beatrix Potter's pets (one hedgehog - Mrs Tiggywinkle - two rabbits and a mouse) and various village animals in the plot. Blending reality and fiction in this way is difficult to do; combining talking animals with a human mystery story is even harder. Susan Wittig Albert succeeds on both counts. The book is gentle, humorous and a thoroughly enjoyable light read. She captures Beatrix Potter beautifully (I'm no expert, but she is certainly recognisable from a biography I read a while ago), both Sawrey village and her invented characters come alive, and the animals are suitably Potter-esque. The mystery aspect of the book was a little on the thin side, but that didn't detract from my enjoyment. The second book in the series, The Tale of Holly How, is already available, and a third, The Tale of Cuckoo Brown Wood, is due for publication in the summer. As the books aren't available through our library system I will have to wait patiently for the paperback edition of Holly How to be published. I'm looking forward to it.

Quote: "I never eat anything I've been introduced to" (Tabitha Twitchit to Tom Thumb)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Charlotte Maria Shaw Mason: RIP

I can't believe I did that! (Part 3)

A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with Angel about reading in the bath and the risk of dropping a book in the water. I reassured her that it was quite hard to do, and in over three decades as an inveterate reader-in-the-bath I only remembered dropping a book once - as long as she avoided library books or anything particularly precious, I was quite happy for her to take the risk. After our adventures in Ambleside I retired to a nice warm bath to soak my bruised knees and enjoy The Tale of Hill Top Farm. Yes. You've guessed it. I had a cack-handed moment and The Tale of Hill Top Farm landed in the water. I'm glad to report it dried well, with only a slight crinkling of some pages to show for its misadventure.

I can't believe I did that! (Part 2)

On Saturday we decided to visit Ambleside and Lake Windermere. We arrived in Ambleside after a scenic drive around Ullswater and across the fells - Tevye was a little alarmed when I directed him down a narrow road signed 'Ambleside via "The Struggle" ', but to his relief we we were travelling in the right direction and got the cruise downhill, not the struggle uphill. Unlike the last time I visited I had remembered my camera, so I strolled up the drive of Scale How, Charlotte Mason's old House of Education (now known as St.Martin's College) to take a picture. With my mind on finding a good spot for photography I forgot to keep an eye on my feet, tripped and fell headlong, nearly giving Tevye heart failure. Fortunately there was no real damage done apart from bruised and scraped knees. Unfortunately when pregnant I have a tendency to faint if I hurt myself, so after reassuring Tevye that everything was OK I proceeded to flake out. I did the exact same thing when I was expecting Star, in MacDonalds of all places - at least this time I managed to choose more memorable surroundings. I spent the rest of our time in Ambleside clinging tightly to Tevye's arm and keeping a very close eye on my feet. On the bright side, at least my trousers were undamaged - I could have ended up spending the rest of the weekend stuck with clothes with shredded knees - and I did manage to take the photo. So here it is ... Scale How.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Appleby Manor Hotel

We love this place! We discovered it when Angel was tiny and we saw it recommended as a family-friendly hotel. Over the ten years since then we have been back both with and without the girls as an occasional treat. It is a long drive in British terms (250 miles), but worth the time on the road. Midway between the Lake District (think Beatrix Potter, Swallows and Amazons and Charlotte Mason) and the Yorkshire Dales (James Herriot country), the location is superb. The house itself was built in the late nineteenth century by John Heelis, a wealthy solicitor (lawyer). I am privately convinced he must have been a relative of Beatrix Potter's solicitor husband, Willie Heelis. I haven't been able to confirm this - but how many families of solicitors called Heelis could there be? It is a classic English country house, with wood panelled walls, log fires and a general sense of comfort and solidity. The food is superb - if anything it gets better every time we visit - and the hotel has managed to combine a luxurious feel with friendly service and a genuinely warm welcome to children. There are games in the lounge, a swing and a playhouse in the garden, and ice cream cones as an alternative to desserts more appealing to adult tastebuds. It is also the one place I know where Tevye slows down visibly within minutes of arriving!

I can't believe I did that! (Part 1)

We are back from a wonderful, relaxing long weekend away at our all-time favourite hotel ... a weekend interspersed with a number of "I can't believe I did that!" moments on my part. The first one was sartorial. I have reached that stage of pregnancy when none of my normal sized skirts or trousers fit. I'm also trying to keep the number of maternity clothes I have to buy to a budget-saving minimum. As a result my entire lower-half wardrobe is currently two pairs of trousers: a plain, chocolate brown everyday pair bought very cheaply in a sale; and a black jersey pair. I was particularly pleased with this black jersey pair as they are very comfortable, can be worn for everyday, but can also be dressed up with shoes and a nice top to be suitable for times when I need something smarter to wear. I was feeling quite smug that I had something I could wear for dinner in our nice hotel without having either to bust my clothes budget or undergo a last minute "I've nothing to wear!" trauma. When we arrived I was tired, so Tevye unpacked our suitcase. The time came to change for dinner ... "where did you put my black trousers?" said I ... "what black trousers?" he replied. Yes. That's right. I'd left them at home. I had to spend the entire four days in my one, everyday pair of brown trousers - dinner and all. That will teach me to be smug!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Teasing Tevye

In the hospital waiting room yesterday was a table with a pile of magazines for patients to read. In amongst the pregnancy and baby magazines was one copy of Saga, a magazine specifically for over-50s. Tevye's face when I waved it under his nose and commented "Look! They must have known we were coming!" was a picture. To his credit, he did think it was very funny. And I was being a little mean - he will be 49 next month, so isn't quite in the Saga age bracket yet.

Little Cherub

Little Cherub at 21 weeks :). Not the best scan picture ever, but at least you can see there is a baby there. And according to the sonographer everything is in the right place and looking as it should. The only downside is that Little Cherub is ... well ... little! Chugging along at the bottom of the growth charts, though not at this stage alarmingly so. I am to go back for another scan at 28 weeks to check whether he or she is growing at the right rate. That also means we get another chance to find out if the baby is a He-Cherub or a She-Cherub (is that a theological impossibility?), as he / she was very modest and determinedly keeping his / her legs shut and knees up. I warned Little Cherub that if "he" was a boy he had better let us know, or "he" would end up with an very girly, mauve nursery - the baby will be having Star's old room, redecorated when she was in her purple phase. Even that threat had no effect. Maybe "he" is a "she" and likes the idea of mauve? Not that he or she will be sleeping in there for a while, so there would be time to redecorate later, but it is the principle of the thing! There is something special about preparing a space ready for a new little person.

Tevye and I had a long talk about what we can do to ensure that Little Cherub gets the best possible chance to grow into a nice big Chubby Cherub, and decided the time had come to accept that at 45 and struggling with an asthmatic cough and breathlessness my body simply isn't coping with pregnancy the way it did in my 30s and needs more rest. That perhaps the way to deal with exhaustion isn't simple to battle on doggedly, but to accept that my body is giving me a message I should be listening to! I'm now under instructions to spend an hour or two after lunch lying down in my room in peace and quiet, either reading or sleeping. Angel and Star are under instructions to ensure that I get the peace and quiet, on pain of some unspecified fate worse than death. He is also planning to send me over to my mother for occasional weekends of complete rest and relaxation while he holds the fort here with the girls. She only lives 30 minutes away, so it is a practicable option. And tomorrow we leave for a long weekend in our all time favourite hotel, which should get the new rest and relax regime off to a good start.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Book Review: Beads and Prayers

For my spiritual reading for January I skimmed through my shelves for an unread book and picked out Beads and Prayers: The Rosary in History and Devotion by John D.Miller. This book is a mixture of the history of the rosary with a wide range of other information about the rosary and related devotions. Topics covered include the history of the various prayers, Marian apparitions and the rosary, symbolism, indulgences associated with the rosary, papal documents and variations on the standard "Dominican" rosary. Appendices add information on other Marian prayers and devotions, including the Angelus. Unfortunately the book was written before the publication of Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae in 2002, which leaves it feeling slightly unfinished (which is very unfair, as the author was not to know this!). It is a well researched, thorough book and definitely a worthwhile read. Here are a few snippets to whet your appetite:

* The connection of the rosary with the great St.Dominic is nothing more than legend, though it was promoted by another Dominic - the fifteenth century St.Dominic of Prussia - and so came to be associated with the Dominicans.

* The use of Paternoster and Ave beads for counting prayers was common throughout the middle ages, but not in the form of the modern rosary.

* The Hail Mary didn't take the form we know today until the end of the fifteenth century. Until then the Ave was just the first half of the modern prayer.

* The first official papal approval of the rosary came from Pope Leo X in 1520.

* In the late nineteenth century Pope Leo XIII wrote twelve encyclicals and five apostolic letters on the rosary.

* There are many different forms of rosary, such as the Brigettine Rosary with 63 Hail Marys and the Franciscan Corona with 72.

New Year Resolutions: January Progress Report

Slightly belatedly, here is my progress report for January. From now on, I'm planning to post an update at the end of each month.

Faith: Doing well on the whole. I have got into a regular habit of saying evening prayer, and after a bad start I'm getting there with morning prayer. It isn't happening every single day as mornings are still unpredictable, but I have hopes that I'll get there.

Family: I need to go back to the drawing board on this one. The plan for individual read alouds and time with each girl didn't work out. I had intended to do this in the afternoon, but ended up letting it slip because I was tired. I have given up and gone back to reading a fiction book aloud during our morning school time. Angel gets more one-on-one time than Star, largely because she goes to bed later. I have to find a way of fitting one-on-one time with Star into our day - either by slotting it into our routine, or simply by being more tuned in to opportunities to spend time doing things with her. Right now she needs that, and isn't getting it. Tevye and I didn't manage a night out in January, but our long weekend away in February will more than compensate.

Fitness: A complete bust due to coughing, puffing and generally being under the weather. I'm still full of good intentions, and beginning to feel as though I can face exercise again, even if I don't manage anything more than gentle swimming, so I have hopes for February.

Formation: Success! I managed to fit in both the science book and the spiritual reading - a book about the Rosary (review coming up).

Fun: Sort of managed this one, though I cheated a little. I'm counting my whole day of scrapbooking as the equivalent of one hour a week. Next month will be tougher as I can't make it to my friend's crop.

Overall score? I'd say about 5 out of 10. Better than nothing, but still plenty of room for improvement. Just imagine how badly I would have done if I hadn't been using this blog to keep myself accountable.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Book Review: Jungle Islands

I enjoy reading travel books and it always disappoints me that there are so few written for children to go along with the geographical world tour we are making. We just finished reading Jungle Islands: My South Sea Adventure by Maria Coffey, which describes a trip the author and her husband made to explore the Solomon Islands by kayak. Lots of great pictures - real holiday photos, not the posed shots that illustrate the standard "this is how children live in such-and-such country" books - and text that brings the islands to life. Each chapter starts with a map showing that stage of their journey. We all enjoyed this one, though I think I have a slight preference for the first book we read in this series: 52 Days by Camel, My Sahara Adventure by Lawrence Raskin. If only there were more books of this type. We are off to Australia next, for which I have only managed to get a few "This is Australia" style books from the library and a short biography of Captain Cook.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Word Cloud

Here in the Bonny Glen got there first, The Family Centered Life followed on behind, and I just couldn't resist joining in ... so here is my Word Cloud.

Finally found a fiction book!

We have been in the doldrums with fiction lately. We normally have at least one fiction read aloud going (sometimes one for each girl), but have had a bad run of books that just didn't take off. Finally we have found one that has both girls begging me to read it ... White Boots by Noel Streatfeild, an old childhood favourite of mine. (This was published in the US as Skating Shoes. I hate it when books have different titles on either side of the Atlantic!)

Two completely unrelated facts about Noel Streatfeild:
* Her name really is spelt that way (not Streatfield)
* As well as children's fiction she also wrote history books for children, including a book in the Landmark series about Queen Victoria, a biography of Tutenkhamun, and a long out of print gem, The Fearless Treasure: a Story of England from Then to Now.