The Allure of Magazines: A dozen quality reads March 18, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christina M @ 10:14 pm

Today I got a reminder that it’s time to resubscribe to Allure Magazine, along with the current issue. The only problem with that is that I am not a subscriber. In fact, this is the first time that particular magazine has ever crossed my threshold. Now, I don’t know much about t he magazine, so I’m in no position to put it down too harshly, but … how can I say it? It’s a beauty magazine, and I don’t really buy beauty magazines. Unless you’re talking about how to make a garden beautiful. Then you’ve got my attention. If I were going to subscribe to a new magazine, I can think of a dozen that I’d rather get.

  1. Envoy
  2. Carmelite Digest
  3. Reader’s Digest (Or even better, the French Edition)
  4. Sunset
  5. Popular Science
  6. Better Homes and Gardens
  7. FamilyFun
  8. Prevention
  9. National Geographic
  10. Analog Science Fiction & Fact (which would, of course, be handed straight over to my Charming and Patient Husband)
  11. The Tightwad Gazette
  12. Magnificat

Nothing against beauty magazines, but they just aren’t my thing. And why they thought I’d “renew” a magazine I never subscribed to in the first place is beyond me. A nice meander through the world of National Geographic sounds so very much more interesting.


Might I suggest a New Years resolution? December 31, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christina M @ 12:12 pm

If you do nothing else for yourself, make a commitment to work toward getting out of debt. If you don’t know how to do it on your own, I highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s help. We’re just getting started with The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness, and for the first time in years, we have a degree of financial hope. I can’t tell you the value of peace of mind, but even better is knowing that it isn’t misplaced. We’ve already made progress, and we only just started. I highly recommend it.


Phonics Resources November 24, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christina M @ 11:36 am

As some of you know, we are teaching our four year old to read. Now, he’s a very bright child, but he is also hyperactive, and sometimes has a hard time sitting still long enough to really learn. He also has an extremely literal language style, so sometimes we need to approach a subject from several perspectives to get its fullness across. After a lot of searching and experimenting, I’d like to share a few things that have really worked out well.

It’s a website loaded with games and music, and Hypertot loves it. It is his favorite thing to do. I mean that literally. They sing songs that teach short and long vowels. They lead children through the process of sounding out letters in stories phonetically. They organize by particular phonetic rules, so it can be done in logical groupings or in the order of your own phonics program. And it’s free. I can’t recommend Starfall enough.

Bob Books
This is a series of books that spend more time teaching by doing than instructing rules. Each book focuses on just a few letter sounds, and the books progress toward increasingly difficult phonetic concepts. The beauty of these books is that they give even the earliest reader the opportunity to read a real book, with just a few words on each page. And they do this not by having a limited vocabulary reader and memorizing words, but by using phonics progressively. The only downside is that the set comes in very small books.

Victory Drill Book
This book is not a phonics book, but can work well with a phonics program. It focuses on increasing fluency and speed, by having children read lists of phonetically related words without any other context. It might sound pointless, having lists of words without any story, pictures, or context; but actually the lack of context is the beauty of this program. It forces a child to read the words, not guess them. It also begins to teach them the concept of onsets and rimes (the beginning sounds and end chunks of like words), by presenting similar words together in a list. This is not a stand-alone program, but it can be very useful for building fluency, or for supplementing another program or collection of materials.

Reading Pathways
This I chose because it meets a very specific need for us. Hypertot was having a hard time making the transition from reading individual phonetic sounds to reading words. He would read every word as a collection of sounds, and by the time he had the word sounded out he couldn’t remember what he’d already read. Reading Pathways actually works a child through the transition from sounding out letters to reading words phonetically. It brings a child to reading “whole words” without a whole language approach but rather a phonics approach. I have never seen any other product like it, but I can tell you that Hypertot showed a stunning and immediate improvement in his comprehension from the moment we began using this book.


Book Facts Meme November 23, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christina M @ 6:24 pm

The woman known to My Charming and Patient Husband and myself as Aunt Betsy, and to most of the Blogosphere as Ms. Kitty tagged us both with this one. As usual, nobody but nobody is faster to jump on a book subject than Joel … I think he may be considering legally adding “Bookworm” as a second middle name.

So here’s the lagging wife with hers, under the directions to list seven random or weird book facts about myself.

  • I prefer biographies to most other kinds of writing. That doesn’t mean I don’t like others, but I just have a rather morbid fascination with bios. I used to think it was because I felt guilty reading fiction, but I’m beginning to realize that it just seems so much more interesting knowing that what I’m reading is true… or at least perceived as true by the author. Autobiographies are especially fun, because you can psychoanalyze the author as you read, and nobody really cares if you’re accurate about it or not.
  • Most books that I’ve actually finished started out on the back of the toilet. Once I’m about halfway through, I take it out of the bathroom to rush through the rest.
  • I’ve read Jane Eyre nine times. The first time, when I was in fifth grade, I got into the habit of lying at the foot of my bed after lights out so I could read by the light from the hallway. When I reached the end, I cried — not because it was sad, but because it was finished.
  • I share a birthday with Charles Dickens and Laura Ingalls Wilder, a fact that has always pleased me, since they are two of my favorites. (I also share with Saint Thomas More, but I haven’t read any of his writing yet.)
  • I collect composition books. I really can’t say exactly why, but I just love them. When I buy or open a new one, it feels like pure possibility. I love the ones with unique covers, and I enjoy decorating the regular marbled ones.
  • I love used books, because knowing that a book has been previously enjoyed seems like an “added value.”
  • My favorite Bible translation is RSV, partly because it is beautiful, and partly because it is recognized by both Catholics and Protestants. I also rarely admit to liking the NAB, which Joel refers to as “Nice And Bland.” But it’s easy to read and find things in, and sometimes easy is good.

And the final instruction is 7 tags:
Christine at Ramblings of a Catholic Soccer Mom
Laura at Catholic Teacher Musings
Cassie at A Blessed Life
Deanna at Deanna’s Corner
Barb at SFO Mom
Sharon at The Bird’s Nest
Stacey at Housewife in Flip Flops


Simple Woman Daybook August 15, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christina M @ 4:30 pm
For August 15, 2008

I’ve seen these several places, and decided to look into it. Here‘s where it began, and I rather like the idea. Please feel free, readers, to join in.

Outside My Window…
A riot of pumpkin plants. I didn’t actually plant them, but they grew from compost; now we have most of our front lawn covered with pumpkin plant and pumpkins. The biggest is the size of a small watermelon already. I can’t wait to see what our front yard will look like by October!

I am thinking…
about family members not here. I miss our oldest, and I am praying that she has a lot of joy and hope in her life.

I am thankful for…
That my mom and sister were able to come for Peter’s baptism this weekend. Even if it was only, really, for a day. One day is better than no days.

From the kitchen…
Today my Charming and Patient Husband is cooking… taco salad. My latest kitchen feat was chicken and dumplings. I just learned to make them this month, and they’ve been a big hit.

I am wearing…
blue athletic/stretch shorts and a short sleeved shirt with a busy brown and green flower design. No shoes, hair tied back. Still too hot.

I am creating…
Laundry soap. Ok, not the most creative thing in the world, but it makes me feel empowered to be able to make something practical and useful for myself at a savings. Plus, it has little pink flecks and smells like lemons.

I am going…
to the fair tomorrow. It’s the last day, and we weren’t able to go last year. There is something about a small town county fair that makes you feel so connected to the community. And every year I swear to myself that next year I’ll make Grandpa’s Boterkoek for the ethnic foods category.

I am reading…
From Housewife to Heretic by Sonia Johnson. It’s about a Mormon woman who was excommunicated for feminist activities in the 70’s. She’s a very good writer, and although I disagree with much of what she says, the presents herself so well that I am coming at least to understand better the “other side” of views that I disagree with.

I am hoping…
to get the house clean. Maybe it’s more of a wish than a hope. Maybe it’s science fiction. I’m not sure. But I would love, love, love, not to have to worry about what Peter might pick up and put in his mouth.

I am hearing…
My first semi-silence for most of the day. The kids moved my daughter’s stereo into the family room to listen to MP3s through real speakers. Loudly. Mostly it’s video game remixes, from Mario and Zelda games, at the moment. But I’m in my room and can’t hear much beyond muted voices through the wall, and the computer fan.

Around the house…
there’s a sense of lethargy that seems to accompany hot summer days. Our air conditioning has its limits, and with this many people in one house it does get rather humid. So the activity gradually slows down, until morning brings cool breezes through windows.

One of my favorite things…
Raindrops on roses, … oops. I mean, quality musicals. I do love The Sound of Music. Also, Brigadoon, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I’m sure I’m leaving out a few.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week:
I haven’t done much planning for next week, but with the summer running out I really think we should try to make it to the pool at least one more time. Or maybe I could get the nerve to go there alone and swim some laps. I’m sure the week will include trying to tackle the mountain of laundry waiting to be put away, and I should get in some lesson planning, with school coming back so soon.


A Reason for Reading February 25, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christina M @ 11:18 am

Ok, I have a confession to make: I haven’t been blogging much lately. I’m averaging 6 hours of sleep a night for the past six weeks, and spending most of the rest of my time holding a baby, nursing, directing housework and schoolwork (or attempting to do so), and trying to catch up on the many tasks I couldn’t do during the end of pregnancy and recovery. But mostly it’s the lack of sleep. Anyway, my apologies and gratitude to anyone who is still checking here for new posts.

Today I come to you with another confession: I’ve been keeping a dream of mine secret for some time, because I worried that it would look pompous, and also that it would never come true. But I think it’s time to share, and let you offer some of your wisdom to help me along. What I’ve wanted for years is to get a Masters Degree in Theology, and if the opportunity ever becomes available, a Licentiate in Sacred Theology. I know that the two are years off, but maybe it is God keeping them at arms’ distance because I am not prepared. Maybe, just maybe, if I make myself ready He will provide the opportunity. So I am going to try to prepare for these studies, and I am asking you for input. What do you think would be the best way to prepare, long term, for those goals?

I’ll be honest. I don’t know if these desires will ever come to pass. But I do know that studying the faith is always a good thing, so even if I never get to the “goal,” the journey will be worth the effort.


Book Meme August 20, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christina M @ 6:53 pm

Joel tagged whoever, so I took it.

What are you reading right now?
Don’t Know Much about History, Schindler’s List, The Well-Trained Mind. Just finished Madeleine Takes Command today.

Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that?
My Charming and Patient Husband would like me to read Peter Beagle’s A Fine and Private Place.

What magazines do you have in your bathroom right now?
Definitely Sunset, and maybe American Baby and Reader’s Digest.

What’s the worst thing you were ever forced to read?
Does Moby Dick count, if I merely fooled my teacher into thinking I read it? Heinlein’s Job was pretty abysmal, though I wasn’t actually forced. And any required book written by the instructor has, throughout my education, been guaranteed to stink like a skunk with brie breath.

What’s the one book you always recommend to just about everyone?
Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis, hands down.

Admit it, the librarians at your library know you on a first name basis, don’t they?
Not quite yet, but mostly because I’ve discovered online ordering.

Is there a book you absolutely love, but for some reason, people never think it sounds interesting, or maybe they read it and don’t like it at all?
The Anne of Green Gables series. Those who love ’em really love ’em; but everyone else kind of blinks like “ok, it’s not a bad book, but what’s all the excitement about?”

Do you read books while you eat? Occasionally; but at dinner I hope we’re having a family meal, and at lunch I kind of prefer a half hour sitcom.
While you bathe? on the rare occasions when I get a chance to take a bath, yes.
While you watch movies or TV? nah
While you listen to music? It depends on the type of music. Some music is foreground, some is background. Really, the question should be whether I listen to music while I read.
While you’re on the computer? If I’m doing research or something. I’ve been known to look things up in the Catechism or the Code of Canon Law while interacting online.
While you’re having sex? Ew.
While you’re driving? No.

When you were little, did other children tease you about your reading habits?
Yeah. Those same reading habits won me a few fights against bullies, too, though. I don’t care if you’re a boy and she’s a girl; if she has a 20 lb book bag, your chances of winning are significantly reduced.

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down?
The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.

I’m not going to tag anyone either. If you take it up on your own, let me know inthe comments.


Dear Old Golden Rule Days August 9, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christina M @ 8:55 am

Well, that time is upon us again, mid-August: back to school sales, curriculum planning, trying to get kids back into the habit of sleeping at night and waking up during the day. And with it comes my latest Short Stack recommendation: The Well-Trained Mind, by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer.

I started reading it at the beginning of the summer, and I’m still not finished; not because it isn’t holding me, but because there is so much in it to absorb, it must be taken in doses. Even just 2/3 finished, though, I cannot praise it highly enough. This book about classical homeschooling and afterschooling is a surprise and a help.

It is a surprise, because it shook to my foundations my concept of what classical education is. When I’d seen classical education recommended in articles, book catalogs, and email groups, it always sounded like a bunch of people had gotten together and decided not to teach anything except ancient Rome. Maybe some ancient Greece. So they would buy a fully packaged curriculum that taught ancient civilizations for twelve years in a row, and think that because they were homeschooling, their children were getting superior and individualized educations.

Where The Well-Trained Mind is concerned, I could not have been more wrong. Finally, someone has explained the point of classical education, and not just the first year’s content. Classical education, explains this mother and daughter writing team, teaches children within a method that takes into account their developmental levels. In addition, it covers history and literature more or less together, and systematically, chronologically. The good classical education should do an entire survey of history three times, in three cycles, and ancient civilization is only the first of four stages in each cycle. And it is not limited to Rome and Greece, but also covers other ancient civilizations: China, India, South America, Persia, and so on.

Those who think classical education means teaching nothing but classics just aren’t understanding the point. They are missing all the wonderful educational theory and thorough historical perspective. Perhaps they, like I had, got the idea that they could understand what the theory meant without doing any real study on the subject.

If you homeschool, and especially if you long to offer a better curriculum than a pre-packaged box of workbooks can provide, you might want to read this book. Start by glancing at the sections that pertain to your children’s ages, and at the sections that cover the subjects that attract you. Then turn back and read from the beginning. Even if you don’t have grammar-stage children, you will find the explanations and ideas about the learning stages invaluable.

If you afterschool, or are interested in learning more about it, you can still get a lot out of this book, enough to turn an adequate school-only education into a superb habit of lifelong learning.


Short Stack July 25, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christina M @ 1:16 pm

Let’s face it: I’m not very good about keeping up with changing the sidebar. The book list looks stagnant. So, for that matter, does my posting history lately. Time, I guess, to correct both items at once, and post about the books instead of listing them in a sidebar.

The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Trapp
I finished this a while ago, and it was one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read. Maria Trapp and her husband Georg had so much faith, a life literally built on and around faith, a fact that doesn’t come true nearly strongly enough in The Sound of Music. The story presented in the movie is pretty true to the characters, though many factual details were completely changed (such as the names of the children!). The movie plot, however, only tells the very beginning of the story of this family’s life together. In the book I had the pleasure of seeing how Maria taught folk culture to an elite family, and how they anxiously awaited the opportunity to become American citizens. Most of all, I had the privilege of seeing incredible faith in action. Maria had a sharp sense of humor, making it a fun and thoroughly enjoyable story, as well. I highly recommend it.

Currently on the Short Stack: The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Bauer.


The Library and the Bookstack June 1, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — Christina M @ 6:04 am

I know bloggers: both the readers and the writers tend to be book people. “Other” people have a bookshelf, maybe a bookcase. Book people run out of wall space for their bookcases. They have a basket of books and magazines on the back of the toilet, and a short stack of books lying on the end table. The bigger stack on the nightstand needs sorting, because too many books have been begun and not yet finished.

There’s the library, that delightful gallery and marketplace you browse through as you drink your coffee in the morning. You gaze at title upon title and muse about when you will read this and why you should read that. It’s the eleven year old’s candy store. You look and look, but you really only have the ability to choose one or maybe two at a time.

Then there’s the stack.

The stack is the nitty gritty, the true love for the book lover. The stack is what you actually begin to read, maybe sink yourself into with passion or muck yourself through with duty. The stack is the stuff that, after hours of gazing at a bookstore or your own bookcases, you actually chose to pick up. When you had to narrow your selection, the stack was what you couldn’t resist.

The stack says something about you. It says what you enjoy, or what you value. Sometimes it says where you place your sense of duty. Even the size of the stack makes a statement about you: are you realistic, or a dreamer? Do you finish what you start?

Around the blogosphere, you see a lot of “What I’m Reading” sidebars. I’m finally going to jump on the train… as soon as Blogger fixes the problem that is making it impossible to make changes to the template. I’d love to know what you’re reading, too.