Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Wanna Fit In With My Friends (You Know Who You Are!)

I have some really close friends (and a husband!) who are "thinkers". When we get together we (well, mostly they) talk about ideas and books and movies all in a philosophical, theological, and analytical way. They all bring different views to the table because of education, life experience, and spiritual back ground. Everyone is constantly grabbing books off our shelves and thumbing through until they find the passage they are referring to so that we can hear it "straight from the horse's mouth". I am impressed with their knowledge and passion on most issues.

I came across a great quote the other day and it really made me think (I am capable of being a "thinker" myself sometimes).

"Nobody can decide for himself whether he is going to be a human being. The only question open to him is whether he will be an ignorant undeveloped one or one who has sought to reach the highest point he is capable of attaining." Robert Hutchins

I do not want to be and "ignorant undeveloped" human. I want to know things. I want to experience things. I want to feel things. Being the "book-made
" family we are, I have decided to seek these things through books and authors I know my husband and friends admire. Here's a list of books I am going to read, and in some cases reread, to "reach the highest point" I am able to attain.

Louisa M. Alcott
Little Women

Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice
Sense and Sensibility

Mansfield Park
Northanger Abbey

Robert & Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Biographies about their life together

John Bunyan

Pilgrim's Progress

The Canterbury Tales

GK Chesterton
The Father Brown stories
The Club of Queer Trades

Stephen Crane
The Red Badge of Courage

The 3 Muskateers

Trans. David Ferry
The Epic of Gilgamesh

William Goldman
The Princess Bride

Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Scarlett Letter

The Odyssey

The Iliad

Aldos Huxley
Brave New World

Andrew Lang
The Fairy Books

CS Lewis

Pilgrim's Regress
Space Trilogy (reading the first one now!)
Chronicles of Narnia
Surprised by Joy
A Grief Observed
The Great Divorce
The Screwtape Letters
Mere Christianity

George MacDonald
The Princess & the Goblin
The Princess & Curdie
At The Back of the North Wind
His short Fairy Stories

Paradise Lost

George Orwell

Cornelius Ryan
The Longest Day

Harriet Beecher Stowe
Uncle Tom's Cabin

The Idylls of the King (read aloud by Collin)

The Hobbit

On Fairy Stories

Sheldon VanAucken
A Severe Mercy (my FAVORITE book)

Misc. (not sure on the translations yet)
The Lais of Marie de France
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight


I know this is a really long list, and I will probably make changes and additions to it. Hopefully after I have read a few of these, I will be able to participate in the "life-changing" discussions my friends have in my living room. It's kind of like Sheldon and Davy VanAucken when they were living in Oxford. If only I were in Oxford...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Holiday Break To Do List

During this Thanksgiving break Collin will experience something he has not experienced for months...six days off in a row! :0) His break between semesters is even longer...Dec. 14 (depends on when his last final is) to mid January! We just found out he won't be able to work most of that time as well, which we are trying to look at as a blessing since there is nothing we can do about it. It will just make things really tight. So, he has some time on his hands...finally. He has some things he has to do...

1. Graduate school research
2. Complete and send graduate school applications
3. Writing
4. me with the following list. (I'll say "pretty please")

Here is the list of things I hope to get done by the middle of January (organized by room)

Living Room
1. Hang up storm door...DONE
2. Organize books
3. Print off pictures of trip, frame, and hang

Kitchen/Utility Room
1. Organize so it is more functional

Boy's Bedroom
1. Scour and purge (again!)
2. Figure out a "plan" for their clothes when they take them off. They are unable to hang them up by themselves, yet they are not dirty so they don't' belong in the basket.
3. Hang up hooks for their coats...DONE
4. Organize & purge videos...DONE
5. Organize closet-remove white dresser and add shelves...(dresser removed!)
6. Hang up curtain
7. Organize by size the clothes that are in storage so it's easier to switch seasonally.

1. Change the lightbulb
2. Organize closet

Master Bath
1. Decorate

Master Bedroom
1. Organize craft closet
2. Organize book shelf

1. File and purge important documents
2. Buy a fire proof lock box
3. Get items ready for consignment sale
4. Set up dinner with Father Ray and Beth...(sometime in December)
5. Organize digital pictures on the computer

1. Put the red Cherokee up for sale
2. Look into exhaust leak in white Cherokee
3. Top of fluids...(Cherokee DONE, still need to do Wrangler)

Wow! Looks like I/we will be keeping busy. That doesn't include the holiday stuff we are going to do either! I/we am/are going to have to find a good balance and figure out what is priority or I'll/we'll get burned out.

'Tis the season!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!


We are celebrating Thanksgiving today just the four of us. It's days like these that really make living so far away from family hard...and those times when you are struggling to find a babysitter! Nonetheless, we are having a great day. Collin and the boys had a battle,
we made a couple pies (chocolate!),

we've done a lot of reading,

I plan on doing a few crafts with the boys, and later we'll play games for awhile. We chose not to cook the traditional meal. Instead we are having one of our family's favorite...waffles, hash browns, eggs, bacon, and oj.

We have a lot to be thankful for. Here is a short list...

Thane-his playmobile guys, his big brother (that warms my heart!), his big brother sharing his toys, our home, his games, chocolate pie(!), and playing with friends.

Magnus-God (hallelujah!), his brother, his dad, his mom, food (which also includes chocolate pie!), the turkey wishbone (?), his castles, and candy (which he is still eating from Halloween).

Brittney-my Husband (his understanding, patience, love, gentleness, leadership, and character), Magnus (his inquisitiveness, gentleness, thoughtfulness, and laughter), Thane (his energy, softness, manner of speaking, and smile), my family and friends, good health for all of us this year (only one trip to the ER for Thane!), God's provisions (a great apartment, food in our bellies, clothes on our backs, bills paid, ect.), I am able to stay home and educate my kids, autumn colors, chocolate pie (!), the printing press (love those books!), song birds, our backpacking trip in Europe (and my parents for watching the boys!), and cars that have not needed any major repairs.

Collin-family, health, he comes home safe everyday, and our church.

I hope you all were able to celebrate the way you wanted. Here is to another year full of blessings!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Question of the Day...

So, we're riding in the car yesterday and out of nowhere Thane (4yo) asks, "Mom, why do mommies have babies and not daddies?" Thankfully the reply of "Well, that's the way God made us." satisfied his curiosity...for now.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Show and Tell (part 2)

I wanted to share some more amazing pictures from our trip this past summer. As I mentioned in the previous post, we spent some time with friends in their hometown of Cherbourg, France. While we were there, we rented a car and went back to an incredible place we really didn't get to experience last time. Mont St. Michel is the most insanely cool, spiritual, awe inspiring place. In the 8th century, archangel Michael commissioned an abbey to be built on it. This rocky mass was a medieval stronghold due to the fact that when the tide came in, it became an island. Anyhow, it is overrun with tour buses during the day but then clears out to maybe 100 people throughout the night. This time around we decided to get there around dinner time and then stay the night. We had the place to ourselves. It was awesome! Get comfy because a lot of pictures are to follow.

Here is Mont St. Michel as you drive up to it...

Here are some pictures we took as we walked around...

We took the last tour of the abbey that night. It was amazing to be there without the crowds and without much light. Actually, it was a little eerie.

And some pictures...

We enjoyed our time there. We explored every nook and cranny. It is definitely worth a visit if you plan on being in Normandy, France. Just be sure to go in the evening to avoid the buses!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Weekly Report

We are finally back on track from a month of hit or miss homeschooling. October was a crazy month, and from what I read on other blogs, it seemed that way for several people. Granted, we are learning ALL the time and not just from books. We encountered wonderful learning opportunities and took full advantage of them. We listened to Mary Pope Osborne's Odyssey series on c.d. (twice) as we drove 13 hours to Iowa. We hung out with Poppy, Nana and other family members for almost 3 weeks. The boys watched several military shows with Poppy and Animal Planet with GG (great Grandma)...they were in heaven because they do not get much screen time at home. Nana created many works of art with the boys. The list goes on. We were able to do some book work, but the experiences they had with family were just as important. Especially since we don't get to see them that often.

Anyhow, we had a full week of lessons and feel real good about getting back into the swing of things. I was hoping to have pics posted, but that isn't going to happen this week. Here is the breakdown of what we did...

Monday-Errand and preparation day...Usually we attend a hs story time at the library but we were unsure if they were having it due to Veteran's Day being observed (turns out they were), so we got together with some friends at the park for a few hours. Kids had a great time playing. Oh, we also had our first letterboxing adventure. What a blast! We are so hooked and are going to continue doing it as a family. Collin has been put in charge of designing our family's stamp. If you do not know what letterboxing is, check out these websites and

Tuesday-Had some trouble motivating Magnus to "do" school today. He said he is bored because it is too easy for him. I have been doing a lot of reading and researching about "giftedness" and strongly feel he and Thane both "fit" totally different ways though. And not just because they are "smart" but because of other reasons as well. So, I called the Administrator (Collin) and we are going to come up with ways to challenge him and make it more interesting. Collin is a good resource because he, too, is gifted but totally fell through the cracks in public school. Anyhow, I'm sure I'll be posting more about it in the future. Back on topic..Read about Ancient Africa in SOTW and "painted" our hands and feet with geometric patterns like they did for celebrations. Magnus worked on his spelling and is having a bit of trouble with words ending in "ck". He wants to leave the "c" out. He is also working on common and proper nouns in First Language Lessons. We changed math programs and the one we are using now is totally different from the one we were using. We are having to "learn" the "basics" all over again, but with their system. Magnus is a little bored with it so we are pushing on through to the more challenging lessons. Thane even sat in on the lesson and is picking it up. We went to Biology club in the afternoon and learned about animal tracks. The moms were all very unhappy with the lady who was leading it. She is not very encouraging or patient when dealing with our kids. We are anxiously awaiting the return of our beloved Mr. Kyle in a few weeks.

Wednesday-um, can't remember. Boys had AWANA and Thane earned another patch! Collin and I went to our kickboxing class. We're not talking punching and kicking're talking contact! I have pink boxing gloves! PINK!

Thursday-We had to get caught up on science so we read the entire unit on birds. We are going to set up a bird "habitat" area out our windows so we can observe them. The boys are going to make bird houses out of milk jugs and feeders out of pine cones and peanut butter. We continued working on math and with the abacus. Also worked on spelling and nouns. In the afternoon we had our first book club meeting. See previous post for info.

Friday-I am sick, but still had a full day...dedication! We stayed in our pajamas all day and burned candles and listened to classical music. It was wonderful! We are going to have many school days like this. Learned about Ancient African stories in history and did some coloring pages and maps. The boys love maps (just like their mom and grandma!). Worked on spelling and grammar some more. Thane has been working on phonics and writing his ABC's. He was something else today. I don't think his mouth shut once. Talking and singing and "telling stories from his head" all day!

I know I am missing some stuff and next time will hopefully be a bit more interesting. I'll try to add more stories and things. Anyhow, thanks for reading!

Happy Homeschooling!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Book Club...

Today was the first meeting of our book club. There are 5 families (8 kids) involved. We really want the kids to take ownership of this but we (the moms) will be around to guide the discussion if needed. The kids came up with some rules...we later called it our "compact".
1. Use only encouraging words
2. Raise you hand if you'd like to talk
3. Listen to others while they are talking
4. Group Leader is responsible for making sure the rules are being followed
5. Secretary keeps track of the time
A new group leader and secretary will be chosen at the beginning of each meeting.

Here is what we are doing now...
We decided since it's November, we would read and discuss The Magic Tree House #27 Thanksgiving on Thursday. During the week, the mom's are to read and discuss the research guide "Pilgrims" to give the kids a better understanding of the history of Thanksgiving. I'm sure most of us will also be adding other books and activities. We are homeschool moms after all :0) They are to read 4 chapters on their own and come prepared to discuss the characters, plot, ect. We made journals for them to record and narrate the story as well. At the meetings we will also read a chapter together, encouraging them to read aloud. At the end of the book we are planning a "feast" of our own. The kids are going to pick a name out of a hat and make a place mat for that person. There is also talk of a dramatization of the book. That could be interesting.
Anyhow, we are all real excited about this...I think the moms especially. Nothing like knowing you're going to get some adult conversation each week, even if it is about your kids and homeschooling :0)

What Kind of a Christmas Ornament are You!

I took the quiz and here's what I am...

You Are an Angel

A truly giving soul, you understand the spirit of Christmas.
What Christmas Ornament Are You?

Here is my question: Is it telling me I understand the spirit of Christmas because I am a giving soul? That isn't necessarily the "spirit" of Christmas. As Christians, that should be our "spirit" all year 'round. Christmas is about Jesus; plain and simple.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

Okay, this week there are words. Only because I wanted to give credit where credit is due. I saw this "section" on someone else's blog and really liked the idea so I am doing it too. Here is the first...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Travel Through the Back Door

When we travel, we use Rick Steve's philosophy of "traveling through the back doors". For those of you who do not know Rick Steve's, he writes the most informed guidebooks and has the greatest travel shows on PBS. Check him out at Since it is likely we will be moving next summer due to grad school, we have decided to explore our own area and adopted that philosophy to TN. You never know what is going to happen or what you may see. Here is what we did this past weekend...

We decided to head south with a full tank of gas and $10 in our pocket. The first stop was Starbuck's, of course, but then we were off. We exited I24 at Monteagle/Sewanee. Collin hikes the Firey Gizzard in that area, but I had never been. We stopped at a little art gallery on our way to Sewanee. The lady at the counter took to our boys right away. They were in awe over some hand blown glass that glowed in the dark. After experimenting with it awhile, she gave them each an ornament for the tree made out of it. I am happy to report they are still intact. On the road again...we drove past a sign that said St. Andrew's School. Being the curious folk we are, we stopped. It was an Episcopal Boarding School for 6-12 grade. The church bells were ringing so we got out to investigate. Turns out there were about 12 people standing in line to ring the bells. We were asked if we wanted to join in. What do you think we did? Yep, here are the pictures...

Turns out, we were participants in an 85 year old tradition held at the school. During WW1 a group of ladies gathered up a bunch of money to buy and send chocolate to the troops. Well by the time they had enough money, the war ended. They didn't know what to do with the money. They had heard of a new church being built that was in need of bells. They decided to donate the money on the condition that every Armistice Day they would ring the bells for 11 minutes at 11:11am in honor of the troops. How great is that! After the bells had been rung, we ate chocolate!

The church was beautiful. While we were in there, a senior at th
e school who plays the organ happened to be in there. He played the pipe organ for us. Nothing warms my heart for worship like a pipe organ does...except maybe chant. He asked Collin if he wanted to play, so what do you think happened next? (my husband is not shy!)

We traveled down the road a bit and came to The University of the South. Holy Cow! This place is gorgeous! Reminded me a bit of Oxford, only newer. It is "owned" by 12 or 13 Episcopal dioceses in different states. Here are some pics of the buildings...

We had lunch in a park and let the boys play...

Here is All Saints Chapel....

Isn't it beautiful! It made me long for our church's old building. Granted, I don't need beauty and icons to worship, but to me, it adds something.

Anyhow, the day was serendipitous. I wonder where our next "adventure" will lead us...

Saturday, November 10, 2007 make me smile :0)

Yesterday morning, Thane came out of his room and greeted me with, "Happy States Fair Day!" It was finally the day all of our hard work was being displayed for all to see. Last night our homeschool group had their annual "States Fair". The kids choose a state to research and create a display with information about that state. Although the typical facts of "what is the state bird, tree, song, ect." are good to display, we are also looking for interesting facts such as "this was the first state to have electric street lights, or this state produces the most popcorn of any state, or this state holds the largest bar-b-que cook off in the nation". You are also asked to design a 3-D model of something that represents your state. We saw a lego creation of the Space Needle, a hot air balloon made of pipe cleaners, and several salt maps. Oh, and bring a sample of food that represents your state...salsa (New Mexico), apple chips (Washington), tropical fruit (Virgin Islands), ect.

Last year Magnus did Washington. Collin's side of the family lives there (and we did too before moving here). My side of the family lives in Iowa so we did
that this year.

Magnus and I decided to make our display board the 3D object. We designed it so the objects would be "coming out" at you. Here he is working on the John Deere Tractor tire. John Deere Manufacturing is located in Iowa. My dad has been an engineer there for 35 years. In fact, the next time you see a JD Tractor, look at the dad designed the hood ornament!

We had a lot of fun working on it. Thane even chipped in a bit.

Here is the final product...

We kind of went overboard and had to make ourselves stop. We had 4 of the 5 senses displayed...sight (the 3D board), touch (corn and dirt attached to the board), taste (pork sausages to eat), and hearing (we had the cd from the "Music Man" playing and the stuffed Goldfinch bird sings!). I was thinking about getting some manure for smell, but I didn't think they would appreciate that! (yes, I can say that because I grew up there and it smells...I like the smell though because it does remind me of home. I like Iowa!) My dad even mailed us oak leaves from their neighbor's yard so we could have authentic Iowa state tree leaves...see, overboard!

There is also a "parade of famous people". The kids dress up as someone famous from their state. Magnus was Chief Black Hawk and Thane was Marion Michael Morrison aka John Wayne.

A good time was had by all. I am hoping to continue this project in the upcoming years no matter where we live by introducing it to our new homeschooling groups.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Question of the Day...

Thane was running a fever of 101.7 yesterday (and still is this morning). For those of you who don't know, our anxiety level goes up when he gets sick. We've made several visits to the ER and have had to spend many nights in the hospital with him. To make a long story short, he was 5 weeks premature (yet still weighed 8 pounds!) and has asthma.

So, Magnus comes to me with a very thoughtful look on his face. I knew I was in for it. "Mom, in the Bible, Jesus heals people in an instant just by touching them. Why does it take Him so long to do it now?"

Wow! I didn't know how to answer this one in a way a 6 year old would understand. The more I think about it, I need that question answered for myself. I basically told him that we "don't know the mind of God and can't begin to grasp His ideas. He does things for a reason and we may never find out why." Then I added my #2 answer, "Ask God when you get there."

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Show and Tell

Collin and I were fortunate to spend 3 weeks backpacking in Europe again this summer. This time we went back to France and added Switzerland. Collin was presenting his research on the Lais of Marie de France at the International Courtly Literature Society Conference in Lausanne, Switzerland. We figured since we were already there, we might as well make the most of it. We spent time in Normandy (we have friends who live in Cherbourg), Provence (Arles and Avignon), Paris, Lausanne and the Swiss Alps (Murren and Gimmelwald).

We took around 800 pictures and have not been able to share them with most of our family and friends so I plan on regularly sharing some here with short explanations. Hope you all enjoy!

These are our dear friends in Cherbourg, France. We stayed with them for 5 days. Fortunately for me they speak English very well. Collin, on the other hand, was rattling off French left and right. I was impressed...and so were they. We hope to get back there to see them very soon. Caroline (the pretty one in the middle) is supposed to come visit us in February.

This is Cherbourg.

Denis, Paul, and Collin swimming in La Manche (the English Channel).

Monday, November 5, 2007

What we do during the week...

I'm a planner. I like to plan. I need a plan. My boys function well with a plan. Here is our plan...(I included Collin's schedule into my plan as well)

  • Prepare for the week ahead
  • Chiropractor visit (important to be well adjusted!)
  • Library-Homeschool Story Time (in the adjoining town)
  • Library (in our town)
  • Errands/Grocery Shopping
  • Artistic Pursuits
  • Projects that need to be worked on
  • Chess Club (Magnus) UPDATED...(Both are doing Chess Club now. Thane really caught on fast for a 4 year old!)
  • Collin teaches (Intro. to Latin, Philosophy, World Literature, and History Through Literature) at a Homeschool Tutorial Academy. Then he is off to class.

  • Right Start Math Level B (Magnus)
  • First Language Lessons (Magnus)
  • Spelling Workout Level A (Magnus)
  • Veritas Press First Favorites (Magnus)
  • Handwriting and Various Worksheets (Thane)
  • Story of the World vol 1 (Both)
  • Play date at the Park
  • Biology Club
  • Collin works at the library in the a.m. then goes to class

  • Right Start Math Level B (Magnus)
  • First Language Lessons (Magnus)
  • Spelling Workout Level A (Magnus)
  • Veritas Press First Favorites (Magnus)
  • Handwriting and Various Worksheets (Thane)
  • Story of the World vol 1 (Both)
  • Collin works at the library in the a.m. then goes to class

  • First Language Lessons (Magnus)
  • Spelling Workout Level A (Magnus)
  • Veritas Press First Favorites (Magnus)
  • Handwriting and Various Worksheets (Thane)
  • Story of the World vol 1 (Both)
  • Christian Kids Explore Biology (Both)
  • Book Club (Both) UPDATED
  • Collin works at the library in the a.m. then goes to class

  • Right Start Math Level B (Magnus)
  • First Language Lessons (Magnus)
  • Spelling Workout Level A (Magnus)
  • Handwriting and Various Worksheets (Thane)
  • Christian Kids Explore Biology (Both)
  • Collin works at the library in the a.m.

  • Make up anything we didn't get done


  • Observe the Sabbath

Throughout the week we are reading ALL the time. Magnus always has his nose in a book. Thane has been asking me to teach him to read so I have been thinking about doing that. We also go on various field trips with our homeschool group. Collin is also studying most of the time. He does make time to hang out with me and the boys as well. So there you have it.

Question of the Day...

As he was eating lunch this weekend, Magnus turns to me and asks, "Mom, (dramatic pause) is tax collector just another name for robber?"

Ouch! My tongue is bleeding!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Another day. Another grad school thing.

Well, he is off again. It's early in the morning and Collin is on his way to take the GRE subject exam for English. He'll have 4 hours to answer 250 questions about English. He's a bit nervous since it will cover all time periods. He is a Medievalist so there are gaps in his knowledge regarding the modern stuff. He'll do fine though. He always does.

Not all grad schools require this test. WARNING...proud wife comments ahead!!....Many are satisfied with the usual GRE scores (which he scored a 1420 on!!!!!), transcripts (a BA in English and a BA in French), letters of recommendation, statement of purpose, and academic achievements (he has 3 original research projects that he has presented at international conferences under his belt!). A couple of the schools he knows he is applying to require the scores for this test as well. So, he is off again.

Here are the schools we are looking at right now...
1. University of California at Davis.
2. Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo, MI)
3. St. Louis University

He will be pursuing a doctorate in "early medieval languages and literatures." He has decided against pursuing a PhD in French.

That's where things stand now. There will be updates when things start happening.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Question of the Day...

Magnus keeps me on my toes. He is frequently asking questions and wanting real answers. He doesn't settle for the simple replies of "Just because" or "Maybe you should ask God when you get to heaven". Today's question was..."Mom, (dramatic pause) do we have to go through the galaxy to get to heaven?" Clearly my simple answers would not work. I said, (with the shoulder shrug) "I don't know, buddy. Guess we'll know when we get there."

Made me think about our journey to heaven though. Not through the galaxy, but through this life. He and I talked about that and it seemed to satisfy his curiosity a bit...until the next question.

Just Do It!

I've had this blog registered for a couple months now. I've messed around with the design a bit and even wrote my first entry, but failed to post it. I wasn't sure what I wanted my first post to say. It's similar to meeting someone for the first time. I want to make sure I make a good impression. Are the colors I chose pleasing to the eye? What pictures should I add? Does this font make me look fat? Then it hit me. Literally. Magnus' navy blue and silver Nike tennis shoe came flying through the air and whacked me on the arm. "Just Do It"...the slogan rang through my head. Kudos to the advertising team who came up with that one. There, I did it.