Thursday, April 30, 2009

Awesome Anniversary Trip - Part 1

So starting at the very beginning of our trip, here are our back packs the night before we left:
Yes, that is absolutely all the luggage we took for a one week trip. I can hear your jaws dropping from here. Want to know what I took?

1. 2 short sleeved, collared shirts (I wore a t-shirt)
2. 1 khaki skirt (I wore my favorite denim skirt)
3. 1 dress
4. 2 quarter length sleeves shirts (one white, which I wore and one black)
5. 2 pairs of tights (one brown, one black), 3 pairs of socks
6. 3 camisole tops and enough underthings (I'll leave that to your imagination)
7. 1 long sleeved shirt
8. 1 long sweater (which I wore)
9. 1 pair pajama pants & matching shirt
10. 2 pairs of shoes (one of which I wore, obviously)
11. 1 quart size ziploc bag with TSA compliant tolietries (less than 3 oz. each)
12. 2 paperbacks, 1 notebook, 1 ink pen, 1 word puzzle book
13. One rail pass, one Oyster card, £250, Passport & other important stuff
14. 3 granola bars
15. MP3 player with: Atonement soundtrack, The Lord of the Rings Musical, Patsy Cline's Heartaches album, an audio book that didn't work and a bunch of my favorite songs

And here I am, newly arrived in London, carrying all that stuff:

Getting to London turned out to be a bit more complicated than we expected. Our flight out of our hometown was delayed by Air Traffic Control in Newark so many times we missed our connecting flight. We learned several valuable lessons during this experience:

1. Always be sure your cell phone is fully charged. We ended up buying a new cell phone at the airport because Prince Charming hadn't thought we would need ours (it doesn't work internationally). Turns out, when you miss your flight, a cell phone is incredibly important for trying to get on the next flight.

2. Never fly into Newark, NJ. That particular airport is an absolute zoo. Pilots actually hate flying there. I cannot do justice to our pilot's tone when, as we circled the city again, he said over the PA, "This is just part of flying into Newark".

3. Pay the doggone extra money and fly direct. Seriously. You'll thank me later.

Despite a very harrowing hour, when Prince Charming and I stood in different lines at different ends of the terminal and actually begged to be put on the next (overbooked, of course) flight, we did make it on the next flight. (The next one after that wasn't until Wednesday morning and this was Monday night. A whole day wasted and spent in New Jersey? No thanks!)

So that flight finally left a little after 10 P.M EST. It was absolutely full. Because we had been on standby, we ended up sitting at opposite ends of the plane. And I ended up with an aisle seat near the back, while Prince Charming had an unfortunate middle seat nearer the front of the plane.

We flew overnight, ate two airline meals, watched a few in-flight movies and TV shows (the selection is excellent these days), listened to music, clutched the seat during frequent turbulence, and tried to get some sleep.

We landed in London 10 AM local time (5 A.M to us). Then we waited to catch a train:
We took a train to a tube station, took the tube to the stop nearest our hotel (more on that later), unpacked our backpacks (took about 3 minutes), ate lunch at a London chain restaurant (I recommend the caramel pudding) and went out site-seeing. First we went here:

Where you can see things like this:

Yep, that's the Rosetta Stone. The real Rosetta stone.

And we'd only been in town a few hours...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Home Again

We have returned. (Obviously)

Jet lag is funny, if not fun. Prince Charming says that I sat up in bed last night and said, "Where are we?!"

I don't believe him. I think he had an elaborate dream. But either way, it's funny.

I'll post pictures and stories beginning tomorrow. Prince Charming and I took nearly 500 pictures. We showed them to the girls today and I began to understand why people's eyes used to gaze over when their friends brought out their vacation slides. A bit of editing is in order, in other words.

And, just in case you were wondering, no, we do not have the swine flu.

Just thought I'd clear that up.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday Spiritual Songs

Dear Lord and Father of Mankind
Text: John Greenleaf Whittier, 1807-1892
Music: Frederick C. Maker, 1844-1927

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways;
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.

In simple trust like theirs who heard,
Beside the Syrian sea,
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word,
Rise up and follow Thee.

O Sabbath rest by Galilee,
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee
The silence of eternity,
Interpreted by love!

With that deep hush subduing all
Our words and works that drown
The tender whisper of Thy call,
As noiseless let Thy blessing fall
As fell Thy manna down.

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.

A video of the alternate tune by Repton:

Monday, April 20, 2009

Cheerio and Tally-ho!

Someone once said, "O to be in England, Now that April's there..."

(OK, it was Robert Browning. Read the poem here)

Prince Charming and I have taken those words to heart and are off to England today. Pictures, stories, harrowing escapes, delightful escapades, etc. to occur and be blogged about soon.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday Spiritual Songs

It Is Well With My Soul
Words by Horatio Spafford
Music by P.P. Bliss

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul,
it is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control,
that Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
and hath shed his own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
even so, it is well with my soul.

History of the song.

Crystal Lewis singing the classic hymn:

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Karen's Rules of Civility...

Upon Meeting Other Bloggers for the First Time:

1. Play it cool. (If you can). Also be aware that not every one is a Hugger. If you are a Hugger, approach with caution. Non-Huggers like a leetle bit of personal space. Watch out for closetalking tendencies as well.

2. Do not express strong negative opinions on people, places, things, or ideas. (Oh, wait, that's the definition of a noun, what do you know?!) You think your strongly expressed emotion is perfectly valid but hey, guess what? Not everyone shares your opinion. Political views are particularly treacherous but are by no means the only controversy you may stir up. If all we bloggers agreed 100% then all but one of our blogs are unnecessary. We don't always agree, even if we have several points in common. And that place you're insulting may be our favorite place on Earth. Or maybe our husbands or best friends work there. The point is, you don't know. I'm just sayin'.

When attending a large convention, you may want to be aware that some of the people you meet live nearby. They want you to enjoy your stay. They do not want to hear their city (beloved or otherwise) put down. They may have their own concerns about how it looks, how accessible it is, what type of amenities are available, etc. but rest assured they will feel defensive to hear anyone else talk about the city's (or the venue's) deficiencies. Everyone comes from somewhere. Now is not the time for jokes about the South (or any other region), cities vs. country living, or Red State / Blue State.

3. Do not say, "I've never heard of you." Chances are, we've never heard of you either. We know we are not celebrities and that our fifteen minutes of fame haven't come up yet. We're just happy little bloggers. For the same reason, try not to talk about how sad you were when you dropped from 1,000 to 950 readers. We don't particularly want to hear it. We may have just celebrated getting 10 of our closest friends and relations to follow our blog and actually comment sometimes.

If you haven't followed the above guidelines, we aren't going to want to share the love and link to you. We may not even visit your blog. You probably don't need us to anyway, but it does seem like this type of thing can be easily and happily avoided.

There. As Lulu says, "I've counted to ten and said my piece." Which is pretty much what I do (except for the counting to 10 part) every day on this blog, come to think of it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I'm Not Really Here...

But I'm not there, either. So, yes, I am neither here nor there. It had to happen sometime.

Anyway, my regular blogging has been interrupted. I forgot (gasp!) to put up my "Thursday Thought" from my commonplace book because of all the Baby Shower Craziness yesterday.

And today my mom and I completely blew off all our regular responsibilities and pressing engagements to run down to the Midwest Homeschool Convention for the day. She paid the entry fee, I paid for parking and Afternoon Life Sustenance and general pick-us-up (a.k.a Grande Starbucks). Seems fair to me.

The vendor hall is huge. HUGE. I felt like I was whipping out my debit card every five minutes. Which is not exactly accurate, but I certainly could have been. Actually, I did pretty well, and even bought a few things for the girls for Christmas. And yes, I will be able to find their gifts in December. That's just how organized I am. Don't hate me.

I must confess the highlights of my day both occurred within the first hour and a half I was there:

1. I was privileged to hear the incomparable Susan Wise Bauer (read her blog here) speaking on the importance of educating ourselves. While I have already implemented many of the things she spoke about (probably because I myself am a homeschool graduate), the encouragement that I was on the right track was valuable. And, if I'm being honest, she is the person I want to be when I grow up. Or at least reasonably similar. If I've accomplished a third of what she's accomplished by the time I'm her age, I will be well satisfied. The worst thing was I hadn't brought my copy of one of her books for her to sign. And I was too sheepish to go up and speak to her without it. Plus I didn't want to sound like a pathetic groupie. She's just another human being, homeschool mom, and well-read person, right? That's what I told myself. But then I kicked myself the rest of the day for not speaking to her.

2. I got to introduce myself to the inimitable Spunky. I didn't actually get to hear her entire seminar but I slipped in for the end and spoke to her briefly. She comes by her blog moniker honestly, in case you were wondering. I wish I would have had more time to pick her brain discuss blogging, politics, homeschooling, and pretty much everything else with her. But, again, trying not to act like a groupie, pathetic or otherwise.

I'm already scheming making plans to attend next year. Maybe I can volunteer my proof reading services. There were several grammatical errors on the schedule that irked me every single time I consulted it. Schedules of education programs ought to be grammatically inoffensive. That's all I'll say about that.

Other than that, it was a great day.

Oh, and did I mention that I'm flying to London (England, not Kentucky), Monday?

Yes, my life is pretty much awesome. But then, I already knew that.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A News Update

1. The much prayed for baby (also known as Donna's grand-baby), is...well, just go to her blog and read it!

2. Today is Darling Nephew Baby Shower Day. And my project is almost finished. I'm pleased with how it has turned out. Prince Charming and I have worked hard and I hope Princess likes the results. Can't be more specific.

3. Today is also important because it is my Aunt C's birthday. Happy Birthday! (And I'll see you tonight)

4. Trip plans continue apace. The missionary to Scotland Prince Charming contacted a long time ago has finally written back. So we'll get to visit that church during our travels.

5. My Mom and I are going to spend one day at the Midwest Homeschooling Convention. Neither of us thought we'd be able to go but it turns out we can both spare one day. We'll get to meet some blog friends and hear some great seminars.

Now, I have to squeeze in school with Polly before I run off on Darling Nephew Baby Shower business. Should be an exciting couple of days, to say the least. And then we have our Big Anniversary Trip. When did my life get so busy?

Probably while I was busy blogging. (Oh, the irony...)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

According to Polly

This morning I called from my room into the kitchen to check on Sweet Pea (whom I heard crying):

"What's wrong Sweet Pea?"

Her conscientious older sister Polly called back:

"Nothing, Mom. She's just alligator crying."

I laughed. We both laughed. We got Sweet Pea to stop "alligator crying".

In case you haven't interpreted it yet, Polly meant Crocodile Tears.

And yes, Sweet Pea is an expert in crocodile tears. Alligator crying. Whatever.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

By The Numbers

Number of Books read last week: 6
Number of Words written for my book: 3,000-ish

Days until our Long Anticipated 10th Anniversary Trip: 6
Days we'll be gone: 8
Countries we will see, not including this one: 3
Things left to do before the trip: 54,327

Days until the Big Baby Shower for my Darling Nephew: 2
Small Things left to do before the shower: 17,203
Big Projects To Finish before the shower: 2

Times I left the house from Tuesday -Saturday last week: 1
Times I'll be leaving the house this week: At least once a day

Times we've eaten ham this week: 3
Times Polly has complained about eating ham: 2
Loads of laundry washed and dried yesterday: 6
Loads of laundry folded yesterday: 1
Times I ran a full dishwasher yesterday: 2
New recipes I tried yesterday: 2
Unexpected supper company: 1

Things I Ought to Be Doing Instead of Blogging: Too numerous to mention

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sunday Spiritual Songs - My Redeemer Lives

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my shall behold, and not another. Job 19:25-27
Resurrection Sunday isn't just in the New Testament - Job looked forward in time, I look back in time but our conclusion is the same:

My Redeemer Lives!

My Redeemer Lives
copyright John Willison

For I know my redeemer lives
And in the end He will stand on the earth
For I know my redeemer lives
And in the end He will reign on the earth

Though my flesh it be destroyed
Yet with my eyes I will see God

For I know my redeemer lives
And I will stand with Him on that day
For I know my redeemer lives
And I will stand with Him on that day

Oh my heart it yearns within me
For the day when Jesus returns
Oh my heart it yearns within me
For the day when Jesus shall reign

Though my flesh it be destroyed
Yet with my eyes I will see God

For I know that my redeemer lives
And I will stand with Him on that day
For I know that my redeemer lives
And I will stand with Him on that day

And, just because it is Easter:

Saturday, April 11, 2009

In Which I Attempt to Explain My Absence

I don't know if you've noticed (hint, hint) but this is only my sixth post of April. Usually I post nearly every day.

Obviously, that isn't happening this month.

At this rate we'll never get to my long anticipated giveaway. (You are anticipating it, right? I am. If only to get these things out of my bedroom where I must continually rescue them from Sweet Pea's curiosity.)

I just haven't been feeling very "bloggy" lately. Yeah, I just made that word up. My life doesn't feel bloggable (yet another made up word). Or I'm self-censoring because it would be better to not say what's on my mind. (Which is the prompt question on Facebook these days. "What's on your mind?"Like I could just spell it all out in three lines - all 73,461 things I'm thinking about all the time.)

On the other hand, whatever this mood I'm in is, it's been great for working on my story. Prince Charming is worried that my characters may be suffering horrible hardships or even death due to the vindictive way I've been typing this week. (I prefer to think of my typing style as emphatic.)

Never fear. Only the ones that are supposed to die will, and I'm not to that part anyway. Yet. (Insert evil-maniacal laughter here. Or not.)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

From The Commonplace Book

Writing is not a profession, it is an activity. It is something you do with your hands, like knitting. - Fay Weldon
I love this quote. Other than a little sewing every once in awhile, I'm not much of a handicrafts kind of person. I do not knit, crochet, embroider, cross-stitch, or so on.

But I do write. I write on slips of paper. I write on the backs of receipts. I write on the church bulletin (Hey, I'm being candid here. Don't judge me too harshly.) I write lists of names for potential characters. I write scraps of dialogue.

I blog and I write these things not because I need anyone to read them (although that is a nice bonus) but because I must. At the same time, there's nothing special about it. I'm not a better or worse person because I write. It's just what I do. Like knitting.

And a bonus quote from the same page of my commonplace book:
A story is a letter the author writes to himself, to tell himself things that he would be unable to discover otherwise. - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
I'm not sure about this one, yet. Ask me after my first novel is printed.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

It Will Not Do

A few days ago I posted a picture of my April to-be read stack (so far). Well, I have been sadly disappointed by some things in that stack and I must vent warn you. I have posted the picture again, this time with some alterations: You see that lovely blue book with the oh so innocuous looking cover? Yes, the one I have circled in red and drawn a clumsily pointing red arrow. That one.

That book, you may be able to see, bills itself as "A Modern Love Story, Pride and Prejudice Style". Which is as bald faced a lie as I have seen in print recently. This book is nothing more than a two-bit romance novel that references the immortal Austen characters and plot occasionally.

I have no doubt that the author was unable to sell her work without leeching off the divine Miss Austen. It's that bad, folks.

The tension of the original? Replaced with casual s**.
The strong writing of the original? Replaced with sloppy POV and dull characters.
The class differences of the original? Replaced with evil (of course) Republicans and noble (naturally) Democrats who believe in "science" and saving the world. The Republicans (again, naturally) do not believe in science. And they don't fund scientific research because they are (and I quote) "too busy funding their little wars", when they're not busy trying to blackmail innocent people. (Query: if one is truly innocent, how can one be blackmailed?)

I read most, skimmed the rest and wanted to tear out my hair the entire time. I can only imagine what Jane Austen would think if she were unfortunate enough to be alive when this dreck was written.

I imagine punitive damages involving massive amounts of cash would be involved.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sunday Spiritual Songs

How Deep the Father's Love For Us
Music & Lyrics by Stuart Townsend

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which marr the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Friday, April 3, 2009

Books of 2009 - March

1. The Kalahari Typing School for Men. Series fiction by Alexander McCall Smith. Another book in the Ladies' #1 Detective Agency series. Delightful, as they have all been, so far.

2. The Home School Manual. Non-fiction. Compiled and Edited by Theodore Wade, Jr. Sort of an encyclopedia. Much of the information is dated now. Several of the articles were helpful and inspiring others were...not.

3. The Read Aloud Handbook. Non-fiction by Jim Trelease. I like to re-read this every few years to remind myself of what I am trying to do and why. This read through inspired me to begin reading books specifically to Sweet Pea. I felt she was getting lost in the shuffle as I read to the older girls. We've seen near immediate improvement in her vocabulary. And yes, her favorites are still The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Very Busy Spider.

4. The Undercover Revolution: How Fiction Changed Britain. Non-fiction by Iain Murray. Given to me by Pastor Dad, with whom I have already discussed my opinion. An interesting premise but I do not belief Mr. Murray backs up his assertions with actual evidence. This is a very short book, more of a thesis. One problem with blaming the three authors that Mr. Murray discusses is: where did they get their notions? They must have come from somewhere. The only way I know how to judge authors is by their written work. Not what they might or might not have been thinking.

5. The Full Cupboard of Life. Series fiction by Alexander McCall Smith. Yes, you guessed it, another book in the same series as #1.

6. Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk. Non-fiction by David Elkind. Though this book is slightly dated, I highly recommend it for every parent. Very sobering, very thorough.

7. History's Greatest Lies. Non-fiction by William Weir. I think I would have titled this book, "A Few Historical Mis-Perceptions". Not quite as catchy of a title, I know, but more accurate.

8. The City of Ember. Fiction by Jeanne duPrau. Prince Charming and I watched a movie by this title from the library and then started reading the young adult series of books. Interesting, not groundbreaking. Later books become increasingly political and preachy. I don't recommend them for youngsters.

9. In The Company of Cheerful Ladies. Series fiction by Alexander McCall Smith. What can I say? These books take me a day or so to read and there are so many of them.

10. A Poem a Day. Edited by Karen McCosker and Nicholas Albery. There are 366 poems in this book designed to be read, yes, one a day. I read them in a few weeks. OK, I skipped a few I didn't like but it reminded me of some of my favorites and introduced me to a few new potential favorites.

11. The Christian Home School. Non-fiction by Gregg Harris. I read this book because Mr. Harris is the father of Alex and Brett Harris, who wrote Do Hard Things. I figured Mr. and Mrs. Harris must have done something right in order to parent Josh Harris (I Kissed Dating Goodbye) and Alex & Brett. Frankly, I prefer the younger generation of Harris writers.

12. The Ark. Fiction by Margot Benary-Isbert. A charming look at the life of a German family following World War 2. Handles issues sensitively but unflinchingly. Written for the young adult crowd back in the '50s.

13. Organic Housekeeping. Non-fiction by Ellen Sandbeck. I was afraid this book was going to be a tree hugging manifesto, but it wasn't. Lots of good advice that intersects with frugality and simplicity. I just ignored the parts that implied I alone could either a) destroy the planet or b) save the planet. And, as a bonus, I felt mildly vindicated in my reluctance to slosh chemicals around all over my house. Now I can say I'm just being "Green".

Fiction for March: 5
Nonfiction for March: 7
Poetry: 1

And, as a preview, here's my April Stack of Things To Be Read:
Heavy on the fiction, light on the non-fiction. Also: just plain heavy!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

From The Commonplace Book

This is the faith in which we would bring up our children, this strong, passionate sense of the dear nearness of our God; firm in this conviction, the controversies of the day will interest but not exercise us, for we are on the other side of all doubt once we know Him in whom we have believed. - Charlotte Mason
and a bonus:
Our lives will be complete only when we express the full intent of the Master. - Charles R. Hembree
Agree? Disagree? Got something from you own commonplace book? Let me know in the comments.