Thursday, October 30, 2008

Costumes on the Fly

Just 36 hours prior to the Fall Festival costume party, my dear children decided they would like to attend. You can probably guess the question which followed this decision: "Mom, what can I go as?" I'd given away some of the items in our costume bag and what was left was mostly too small to be of use to any of them. With no possibility of a quick trip to JoAnn's for supplies and not a lot of creative-costume-planning-energy flowing through my brain I simply shrugged my shoulders. Last minute costume panic is not my idea of a good time.

Thankfully, the kids came through, each one coming up with a costume which, I thought, fit their personalities/dispositions and which was easy to put together. This actually turned out to be no-stress fun for all of us. Imagine!

Artist Son, who is presently re-reading Lord of the Rings, decided to go as a Hobbit. The white shirt came from the costume bag, the vest and pants from Mom's closet, and the hooded cape was improvised from a brown fleece blanket I was able to find at the store. Notice the authentic furry Hobbit feet--cut from an old faux fur cap.

Tayta was Jane Austen, or your favorite Jane Austen character. She couldn't decide. We only had to buy some bobby pins and ribbon. Her dress was improvised from Mom's skirt and a thankfully-she-had-one-white blouse. Fresh cut from the garden lavender filled in her basket. She reported that only one of the kids her age had heard of Jane Austen but they had heard of Pride and Prejudice. She filled them in.

I'm sure you can guess who Active Son is impersonating. Only thing I had to by for this costume was a blue swim cap--$4. What a deal.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Problem of Evil

It is the problem of problems, isn't it? Even approaching it in a blog post is probably, for me, complete folly. Huge subject. Infinite God. Pooh-brained me. However, circumstances in the lives of friends and conversations with several others who are struggling to make sense of this deep mystery has caused me to think anew. An author who always helps me think, Peter Kreeft, entered our home again last week, this time in the form of his book Three Philosophies of Life.

The entire chapter, Job: Life as Suffering, is wonderful but here is a short passage which ever so concisely, eloquently, reasonably, and triumphantly helps to clear my fog:

"When Saint Thomas Aquinas stated in the Summa the problem of evil as one of the two objections to the existence of God, he remembered what many philosophers forget: that the solution, God's solution, is concrete, not abstract; dramatic, not schematic; an event in time, not a timeless truth. Saint Thomas stated the problem as follows:

"'God' means infinite goodness. But if one of two contraries is infinite, the other is totally destroyed. Yet evil exists [and is not destroyed]. Therefore God [infinite goodness] does not exist."

And he answered it as follows:

"As Augustine says, Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil."

(my insert) "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose.: Romans 8:28 ESV

In other words, life, like Job, is like a fairy tale. To get to live happily ever after, you have to go through the dung heap. Evil is only temporary; good is eternal. Once again, in a word, "wait".

But wait in faith. Jesus told Martha, before he raised her brother Lazarus from the dead, "Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God." Seeing is not believing. but believing is seeing, eventually. Job does not wait patiently, but he waits. Job's faith is not sunny and serene, but it is faith. It is not without doubts. (Indeed , his doubts came from his faith. When faith is full, it is open and can include doubts; when it is weak it cannot tolerate doubts.) But Job remains a hero of faith. He waits in faith, and he sees the glory of God. He is blessed in the very waiting, in the dung, in the agony, and he is doubly blessed in the finding, in the end." (pp. 75, 76)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Black Apple Dolls

I've been a Martha Stewart devotee every since I , as a newly engaged young women, discovered a book jacket-less copy of her classic debut, Entertaining on the sale table of my campus bookstore. Price: One dollar. These were pre-internet days when you could find such books only at high retail in physical rather than virtual bookstores. I was at once overwhelmed and inspired by the possibilities of my future domesticity. Though I didn't know how to cook when I married--unless you count bean burritos and Rice-A-Roni with chicken--Martha tutored me through a successful, albeit exhausting, first Thanksgiving feast complete with homemade pies decorated with pastry cut-outs and a to-die-for dried fruit and nut stuffing soaked in brandy.

Despite Martha's high publicized personal problems and the discovery that her life was not as idyllic as Entertaining lead me to first believe, I've continued to be inspired by Martha's creations. The lady has style in spades. And now that she is Martha Stewart, The Conglomerate, she knows how to find others with a great sense of design style.

While sitting in the Cleveland airport last August I noticed that the TV monitor was broadcasting the Martha Stewart Show. I'd never watched it before (don't watch TV, except in airports) but I settled in, hoping to learn something new. I was not disappointed. Her guest was Emily Martin , currently the best selling artist on the craft site, Etsy. (Six figures was mentioned.) Emily demonstrated how to make her selling-faster-than-she-can-make-them dolls and with the extra bonus of a link to the Martha Stewart website which provided video tutorials and download-able templates for the patterns. Perfect for Tayta (youngest daughter)! thought I.

Here are Tayta's first two dolls--one is now resting on a bookshelf in Oldest Daughter's dorm room in Ohio. She loved making them and did nearly all the stitching by hand. I helped only with the final machine seam. Tayta has plans for many more dolls which include ideas of how to embellish them with scarfs, little purses, and hats. Thanks, Emily for sharing your great idea!

(Not sure why most of my hyperlinks remain in black; all bold, italicized words and phrases should be active links.)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Happy Birthday to a Master Gardener

In my later teen years and into my early twenties, I think my mom may have worried that she hadn't successfully imparted some important domestic skills to me~I couldn't really cook anything and I didn't show any interest in puttering in the garden. If she did worry, she needn't have: the love of a good man kindled interest in all things domestic and the latent lessons of creating a beautiful home and garden which I passively learned growing up as my mother's daughter sprung to life.

This summer the entire family enjoyed the fruit (and flower) of my mom's love of gardening, enjoying barbecues in the back yard, sitting on the front deck in the evening, and eating yummy salads made from the bounty of her tidy kitchen garden.

This oh-so-neat vegetable garden brought the neighborhood association out for a visit as the sub-division covenant specified that no vegetable gardens could be grown in the front yard. Well, this garden was kind of, sort of in the side yard and it had nasturtiums, zinnias, marigolds...

...and some exquisitely beautiful squash blossoms growing in it, so in the end, the neighborhood association let it remain.

Mom has somehow convinced her hydrangeas that they are really growing in Portland, Oregon and not Boise, Idaho.

Living is not must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower

~Hans Christen Andersen

Happy Birthday Mom! Hope the weather is nice enough for you to enjoy tottering in your garden at least a little bit.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Liberal Learning

One of the things I love most about home educating my children are the many opportunities it affords me to learn, learn, learn. Yesterday I half joked with Artist Son that when I graduate my last child that I am going to throw a 'graduation' party for...myself! For, truly, I have learned so much through the process of educating my children and have received the gift of a liberal education~an education which somehow eluded me through my school and college years. And it has been more than once that the thought of formally returning to higher education has flitted across my mind. How, what, and where would I want to study? Wouldn't it be wonderful to study in a formal Great Books program? Daydreams, all, for the the time being and maybe forever, but fun daydreams all the same.

So when I saw the book below, Racing Odysseus, in an Oberlin bookstore, the subtitle caught my eye:

"A college president becomes a freshman again."

Hey, this guy really did it! He went back to college! And not just any college--he entered St. John's, the iconic Great Books college in Annapolis, Maryland. And, he was clever enough to write a book about his experience.

Racing Odysseus

I am thankful that he did. This was my 'fun' read on in the car and on the plane back to Jordan last month.

I've heard a couple people suggest that Baby Boomers (of which I am at the tail-end) want to live vicariously through their own children's college experiences, remembering their own college years as the best times of their lives. Perhaps. I do remember my college days with great fondness, yea even as some of the best years of my life, but mostly for the experiences I enjoyed, the relationships I made, the personal growing I did. Unfortunately, and likely due in part to my own immaturity and lack of foresight, I do not remember my academic experiences to be very stimulating or life-forming. Pragmatic and perfunctory are adjectives which come to mind. Academics, though only a part of the college experience, is the part I think I would like a second chance at.

When Roger Martin, the author of Racing Odysseus, entered St. John's College, he was a 61 year old who had recently survived a cancer death sentence. On sabbatical from his position of college president at Randolph-Macon college, Martin attends St. Johns for one semester so that he can write a book from a student's perspective. I thoroughly enjoyed his affable and humble "confessions of a freshman" through which he thoughtfully and entertainingly wove stories of how, through a taste of a Great Books/liberal arts education, he came to to a better understanding of what it means to be human. His book makes an compelling argument for a liberal arts education, and not without touching upon some of the areas in which it has been criticized, i.e. not preparing a student for a specialized occupation. I would recommend this book to anyone who believes it is never too late to continue learning and who in fact would embrace the chance to continue their education later in life.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Lessons Learned

In addition to all the mind-expanding lessons Oldest Daughter is learning in her first semester of college, she is learning some very practical life lessons. Here are a few she has learned this week:

1. If you don't wash your coffee mug you may end up growing a biology lab-worthy culture in it.

2. There's no such thing as free merchandise as offered on the internet (a modern day version of the 'no such thing as a free lunch' lesson).

3. Don't be so overeager to wear your new fashionista rain-boots that you depend on the internet weather forecast of thundershowers...and then end up wearing your oh-so noticeable boots all over campus on a precipitation-free day.

Thanks for the chuckles, Oldest Daughter : )