Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What I Read in 2015

Ellie, from The Bleeding Pelican, decided to post her "books in review" for 2015.  I loved her list and I thought I would do the same.  I'd love to see what you read in 2015, too.  I'm always on the look out for new reads!

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen, was difficult for me.  It is written in such an odd style.  He takes modern distractions we should limit or eliminate in our children's lives and encourages that imagination killer, meanwhile describing how damaging that pastime or distraction is to experiencing a rich and imaginative childhood.  It's almost Screwtape like.  Basically one is supposed to understand the opposite of what is actually suggested.  Too confusing for me and I didn't actually end up finishing it.

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis was a re-read, but still so valuable!  I read it this time in preparation for guiding our high school co-op class as they read it this coming spring.

Nature Anatomy and Farm Anatomy by Julia Rothman are fantastically fun reference guides for "The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World".  We used them a ton in our nature study this past summer and fall.  They are very simple and filled with lovely details and illustrations on everything from minerals to mushrooms.  My kids devoured their contents with relish.

Sir Gawain and the Green Night translated by Simon Armitage.  This was another must read for my high school literature class.  I'd never read it before and I could not believe how much I enjoyed it.  This was my first honest to goodness foray into Middle English literature.  Canterbury Tales is up next.

Strangers and Sojourners by Michael D. O'Brien was another re-read.  I could re-visit his novels over and over again.  Have you seen he as another new one in the Father Elijah series?  Elijah in Jerusalem will be my next new read coming up in 2016.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty was surprise favorite for me.  I usually do not go for modern novels and especially this type of storyline (infidelity, divorce, etc.).  I'd have hated it, if it hadn't wrapped up in the way that it did.  It was a truly engaging story, and I managed to overlook the occasional profanity, this time.

Passing by Nella Larsen was a very quick, enjoyable read and opened my eyes to another side of living as an African American in early 20th Century America.

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James is a sequel to Pride and Prejudice.  I actually watched the BBC special presentation before reading the book and I thoroughly enjoyed both, although James did not quite capture Austen's grand wit.

Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte was another quick and delightful read.  Agnes is the prototypical English governess brought into a wealthy home to care for spoiled children. Too much fun, right? The story is based on some of Anne's own experiences as a governess.

My Family for the War by Anne C. Voorhoeve was a selection my girls were assigned for their summer book club.  They both talked of it non-stop during their reading and I thought I needed to see what the fuss was about.  Set during WWII, My Family follows the travels of Franziska Mangold as she leaves Germany for England on the last kindertransport for Jewish children.  It is a wonderfully told story, uplifting and heartrending at the same time.  No wonder my girls enjoyed it.

Bonhoeffer by Erik Metaxas was my summer book and it took me all summer to get through it.  It's a wonderful biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer detailing his upbringing, theological training, philosophical point of view all leading up to his involvement in the plot to assassinate Hitler as one of the Valkyrie conspirators.

7 Men and the Secret of their Greatness by Erik Metaxas was probably my favorite book all year. It consists of seven short biographies of the seven men, who were in Metaxas' opinion, great--George Washington, William Wilberforce, Jackie Robinson, Saint John Paul the Great,  Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Charles Colson.  Metaxas did a formidable job highlighting the Christian virtues and qualities that made each of his choices truly inspiring men.  He just released another book called 7 Women and the Secret of their Greatness.  That is on my list to read in 2016 for certain.

Catholic Matters by Richard John Neuhaus was my lenten read.  It was a great choice and spoke volumes to me as I attempted to pray my way through lent.  Death on a Friday Afternoon will likely be my choice for lent 2016.

I'm sure there were a few other odds and ends not recalled.  I've got a pretty good list going for 2016 already, once I've finished The Count of Monte Cristo (another high school lit assignment and I'm loving it!).  On my short list: Mere Christianity, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, MacBeth, War and Peace, Death on a Friday Afternoon, Elijah in Jerusalem, and 7 Women and the Secret of their Greatness.

I'd love to see your list--both what you read this last year and what you plan to read this coming year. You can leave it in the comments, or blog about it.  Let me know if you do!

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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Why We Did Not Send a Christmas Photo Card This Year

I have a house full of uncooperative children when it comes to taking a "nice" photo.  These are my beautiful daughters on before Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.  I snapped continually at least 20 photos and this is what I got when I uploaded them to my computer.  This is why I have a photo library full of inanimate objects, instead of photos of our children. Stinkers, one and all.

The little boys are somewhat more cooperative, but not much. Sigh.

Merry Christmas, from our family to yours!

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Friday, December 18, 2015

The Eulogy

The following is the working draft from my brother, Walter's, eulogy for our grandmother.  The actual spoken version was so much more than is written here, but how do you condense and put into words 105 years of an extraordinary life? We all felt he did a marvelous job.

The greatest truth about my Grandma is that she chose to focus her life around the cares and needs of others instead of being absorbed with herself.  Her final wishes reveal how she wished to deflect attention from herself.  “Don’t print my age or my picture in the paper.”  She was 105 and a beautiful woman so why wouldn’t we expose the rest of the world to who she was?  Simply put she was more interested in inviting others into her heart and home than being the center of attention.  Grandma didn’t even like having her picture taken.  Whoever was behind the camera would tell her to smile and she would not say a word but instead gave a look of “Just take the picture dear”.   If you tried to get her thoughts on how you could help her or gift ideas for her she would simply reply…”Don’t make a fuss”.

Even though she was uncomfortable with the camera or parties given in her honor she was more than comfortable with sharing her time and care with others.  All you had to do was visit her house to see how gracious of woman she was.  In the middle of her living room there was a card table that felt like was the center of the universe.  At that table many games of cribbage, pinochle and Yahtzee were played and even more meals were shared.  I had my first taste of whiskey provided by my Uncle Otto at that table.  No matter who you were…if you made it through the front door you were welcome at her table.  If there was a larger occasion with more people she had a table that extended with extra leaves while every piece of furniture that remotely resembled a chair was employed to seat her guests.  There was always room for one more even if it meant she gave up her seat.  If you sat next to Grandma during a meal you were either the most lucky or unlucky person in that room, depending on your perspective.  If there was an empty spot on your plate she made sure there was food to replace it.  It felt as if it was more important to her that you were stuffed than for her to have more than a couple of bites of food.

Grandma loved family.  My earliest memories were going over to her house every Sunday where we would feast on waffles, bacon, and potato salad.  It was not uncommon for a group of adults to be gathered around her table playing cards.  We would also tag along with her to visit Aunt Lil at “the farm” in Post Falls.  On one of our trips my cousins, Mark and Chris, and I decided we were bored with picking cherries and climbed over the rock wall to get up close to Aunt Lil’s bull and play matador.   It was one of the few times we saw her upset with us and we faced the severe punishment of having our ears pinched.   What made the family excursions so memorable was the feeling that she always wanted you to be there with her…even if you were misbehaving.  Over time grandchildren began to provide her with great grandchildren and there was no doubt she loved her role as GG.  Any picture of her with a smile on her face she is holding a child on her lap or in her arms.  A term she coined “the rodeo” was when all the great grandkids came over to her house to enjoy a time of sitting on her lap and eating food at her table.  No matter how loud things got with the addition of kids Grandma was in her element.

Being Norwegian was a big part of the family experience with her.  We had a yearly tradition of making Lefse at her house during the holidays.  When we arrived everything was ready to go.  Tons of dough was rolled, a spadoo was the central utensil used and plenty of egg nog and hushka was consumed.  All the while the phrase, "Uff da!" was proclaimed regularly.  The more eggnog consumed the more often, "Uff da!" was shouted.  The only tradition that was more special to my Grandma was having everyone over on Christmas Eve.  We would share a traditional Norwegian Christmas Eve dinner of ham and dumplings, her sweet pickles with green dye along with chocolate cream and cream cheese pies.   There was a Christmas tree always in the same spot (without blinking lights on it) with presents for everyone underneath.  In the corner was a table full of lit candles…except for that one Christmas candle that was too pretty to be used and there was the distinctive smell that we will forever associate love, family, and Grandma with.   The one moment each year that revealed her heart the most was the prayer right before we ate the meal.  It was the only time you saw Grandma emotional.  The prayer was always quick but when she prayed you could hear the deep level of thankfulness she had for what she had and more important who she had in her life.

Being outdoors was another important part of her life.  When the weather was nice she was always out tending to her beautiful flowers or abundance of vegetables in her garden.  She daily went for walks in her neighborhood and even mowed her own lawn when she was in her 90s…ignoring my dad’s scolding every now and then.  She loved to take us grandkids to Duncan Gardens, the Rose and Lilac Gardens and once had to fish me out of the wishing pond at the Japanese Gardens…yes another ear pinching.  What made Grandma so much fun was she had a sense of adventure and loved to bring anyone along who wanted to join her.

A few years back on Facebook there was a post my sisters and I were commenting on in regards to the best thing in life.  Lisa Maxwell had the best response when she said the best thing in life was “being a Maxwell”.   The one thing I believe that made Grandma the most special was that she made everyone feel as if they were part of the family…everyone was a Maxwell to her.  My dad told me a story of when he and Wayne were young and they asked Grandma if they could build an ice rink in the back yard.  She said no.  What she didn’t know was they had already built the rink and a few of their friends were outside skating on it when the question was asked.  Instead of shooing the neighbor kids away she made them all food and invited them in.  That is what being a Maxwell was all about to her.  When I went to see her for the final time at the Regency Center with my Dad and Angela, a worker who was getting off her shift stopped by and with tears in her eyes she told us that losing Grandma was going to be one of the most difficult losses for their staff.   This was because Grandma went out of her way to care for whoever was around her.  Even this church experienced her generosity for over 70 years, whether if it was volunteering to bake cookies or give of her time in other ways.

When Pastor Dave asked me to share a scripture that was a reflection of Grandma it took me some time but I finally came to Galatians chapter 5.  The author writes about how God is constantly working in us to remove the selfish things in our lives that can be destructive and through His Holy Spirit replace it with something better.  As I read this passage I would like to ask everyone here to close your eyes and think about how Grandma set an example for each one of us to follow in regards to each element that makes up the fruit of the spirit.

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  There is no law against these things.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.  Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.  Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.”
Thank you Grandma for being a living example of the Apostle Paul’s words!

Grace and Peace be with you all!

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Friday, December 11, 2015

The Fruit of the Spirit

GG passed away the Friday after Thanksgiving.  It wasn't a surprise.  She hadn't been doing well,  and she was 105, for goodness sake.  She lived a long life and was a servant of God in everything she was and did.  I was able to go home for a few days for her service this last week.  It was a sad and wonderful trip.  We are all grieving for ourselves, but we are also relieved for her.  I have great hope, when she faces our Lord, he will say to her, "Well done, good and faithful servant." Please pray for the repose of the soul of my grandmother, Olive Annie Maxwell.  May she rest in peace and eternal happiness.

3 years ago I wrote this post, which still describes my feelings for her today.  She was one of a kind.

I have more to say and photos to post in the coming days.  I want to post my brother's eulogy from her service.  It was perfect.  He drew from Galatians 5:22-23 which described her flawlessly.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law."

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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Kingdom Animalia--Optional Lessons 11-15

As promised, here is the last of the lesson plans I put together in studying Kingdom Animalia. I have included links to all the lesson plans in this final installment. I hope your children enjoy this unit study as much as mine have.

Lesson 9

After exploring kingdom Animalia's main phyla, you might end this unit study using any or all of these final 5 lessons.

Lesson 11: Conservation and Stewardship

Using a dictionary define conservation, stewardship, extinct, and endangered

Read what the Bible and catechism say about stewardship.

The entire creation narrative from Genesis is a great start, with particular attention paid to Genesis 2: 15-20

Psalm 104 and 105 express beautifully the goodness of God's creation and his loving care as well as the covenant made with Abraham and his descendants, bestowing upon them the lands of Canaan.

Matthew 6: 25-34

Isaiah 43:20-21 Colossians 1:16-17 are wonderful verses reminding us God created all and all he created serves Him first

The USSCB website has a wonderful webpage explaining stewardship from a Catholic perspective.

What is conservation?  What does it mean to be a good steward?  Read about endangered species and give examples of some endangered animals.  Why are they endangered? What can we do as good stewards to ensure their survival?

Read about extinct species.  Give examples of an extinct animal and explain how that animal became extinct.  What can we do to prevent other species from becoming extinct?

Objectives: Student will be able to define the terms stewardship, conservation, extinct and endangered.  Student will be able to explain Church teaching regarding good stewardship.  Student will give an example of an endangered animal.  Student will be able to give an example of an extinct animal.

Lesson 12: Animal Habitats

Using a dictionary define the term habitat

List and research the major habitats and give a brief description of each.  Research and list what kinds of animals live in each habitat.

Tropical rainforest
Coral reef
Deciduous forest
Tide pool

Many of the above listed are very similar.  There isn't a single good resource for this lesson, but I found just searching the types of each habitat brought up plenty of useful information for this lesson.

Project:  Older students choose a habitat to research.  Describe the habitat and list types of animals that might live there.  Consider the characteristics of one particular animal suited to this habitat, explain why this animal might thrive there.

Younger students choose a habitat to research and draw picture illustrating major characteristics along with at least one animal suited to that habitat.

Objectives: Student will be able to define the term habitat.  Student will be able to describe different habitats and will be able to give examples of animals that thrive in particular habitats. 

Lesson 13: Life Cycles and Food Chains

Younger students can explore animal life cycles for frogs and butterflies here.

Older students can find information on life cycles here.

Explore food chains using this website.

Project: Older students choose and animal and draw a diagram of its life cycle.  Younger students choose a life cycle diagram to color from this website.

Lesson 14: Animal Behavior

Discover Education has a great lesson plan ready to use for this subject.  Get it here.

Lesson 15: Careers with Animals

Help students list several different possible careers relating to animals and research a few focusing on job description and educational requirements.

Project: Older students research a career field you might be interested in and write a report.  Include any special skills, study, or schooling that might be involved as well as a description of the career.

Younger students: Draw a picture of an animal career you might be interested in. Be sure to include an animal you might work with in your picture.

Objective: Student will be able to identify several different career fields in regard to animals.

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