Sunday, May 31, 2015

Luke Turns 11 ~ Amusement Park Fun

Luke turns 11 @ Mt. Hope Chronicles
We usually have dinner birthday parties at home with extended family and our best friends. This year, however, we had many family members out of town over Luke’s birthday weekend. We thought it was a good opportunity to go on an adventure instead, so we spent almost seven hours with our best friends at OAKS amusement park in Portland. The weather was in the 80s, and it felt like summer! I packed a picnic lunch and birthday dessert. Russ and the boys and friends even managed a roller skating session!
Amusement Park @ Mt. Hope Chronicles
The boys and I had been there once before, so they already knew where to start. Luke likes to spend as much time upside down as possible.
Luke Upside Down @ Mt. Hope Chronicles
The Screamin Eagle is Luke’s most favorite ride. Leif finally manned up and gave it a try. Turns out, he loves it, too. (Me? No, thanks!)
Screamin Eagle @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesLeif on the Screamin Eagle @ Mt. Hope Chronicles
Russ spent some time with Lola in the beginning, but then we switched and I rode a few rides with her (the ones that would make Russ sick) while Russ snapped pictures. Lola’s such a great sport, and she was having a blast.
Roller Coaster Fun @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesRainbow Roller Coaster @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesRoller Coaster Partners @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesSpider @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesHot Air Balloon Ride @ Mt. Hope Chronicles
After a while, I was starting to feel queasy, so Lola went by herself on the little kiddie rides. The boys went non-stop all afternoon (other than lunch). They truly must have stomachs of steel.
Amusement Park Fun @ Mt. Hope Chronicles
Levi’s favorite ride is the one on the right, Disco. I have no idea how he can stand the spinning. Leif’s favorite ride is Eruption.
Eruption @ Mt. Hope Chronicles
After I had gone on the upside down roller coaster a couple more times, Russ talked me into going on the Eruption with Leif. Then I really was done.

We headed home, sweaty, dirty, exhausted, nauseated, and sunburned. [I think I was the only one nauseated and sunburned.]

Birthday party: success.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Friday Five ~ Best Movies

Five Favorite Movies @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

1. A couple friends and I got together last month to watch Anne of Green Gables in honor of the passing of “Gilbert.” I mentioned that I thought Anne of Green Gables (with the sequel) should be in the all-time top-five best movies. Being kindred spirits, my friends agreed. But that of course led us to wonder what other movies might be on the short list.

2. I suggested Pride and Prejudice. No arguments.

3. And The Princess Bride. No contest.

4. My friend Jessye said that The Man from Snowy River should be in the top five. I agreed, only if we could include the sequel, which I adore even more. [Then I had to re-watch both of them. swoon]

5. We were undecided on number five, but a conversation on my Facebook page settled it. We needed a musical. A few were in the running (notably Fiddler on the Roof and My Fair Lady), but in the end there could be only one—The Sound of Music.

What movies are in your top five?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Delightful Dialectic Discussions ~ Movie Edition

Dialectic Discussions Movie Edition @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

[I am having technical difficulties with my blog. My handsome tech guy says that the application I was using to write blog posts, Windows Live Writer, no longer "talks" to Blogger due to issues between Google and Microsoft, and I have terrible luck composing posts through Blogger. It might be days or weeks before the issue is fixed (if it gets fixed at all), so I'll have to limp along. We'll see if the formatting is messed up in this post. It has been years since I have published posts directly through Blogger. Please bear with me!]

For years now I have loved both movie versions of Pride and Prejudice. It is partly because I was already familiar with the story that I had not read the book. For the most part, I enjoy the suspense of a narrative, and knowing the ending takes away much of the fun for me! It was ridiculous that I hadn’t read Pride and Prejudice, however, so I added it to my to-read list this year and finished it on Monday.

Both movie versions (with Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen) follow the story line so closely and retain so much of the original dialogue, that I felt as if I had already read the original novel! And reading put me in the mood for watching, so last night I had to watch the Colin Firth version, which I hadn’t watched in quite some time.

The boys begged to watch it with me. Yes, my boys. And so, of course, I let them, even though it was past a reasonable hour.

As we watched the first “episode” together, I thought I should pause the movie and explain just how difficult it was in that culture to have five daughters and no sons, and how important it was to mothers and fathers to see daughters married well. Luke, my fire-eating almost-eleven-years-old son, piped up. Like in Fiddler on the Roof!

Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes. YES!

These kids, they are paying attention. They are making connections. Even when it isn’t a planned school lesson. Go figure.

And so, we wondered together…

How are the movies similar? How are they different?
Where and when are the movies set?

Both stories are about a family of five daughters. The mother and father are consumed with the desire to see them married well in a culture that requires women to be married for their own security. The conflict of the story centers around the struggles of marriage culture and traditions. Three girls are married by the end of the story. One of the girls marries against her cultural and religious norms and is somewhat ostracized from the family.

One is a movie based on a period novel. The other is a movie version of a musical based on older tales.

One story is set in England and the other is set in a Jewish village in Russia.

The characters in Pride and Prejudice were native English, but the characters in Fiddler on the Roof were considered foreigners (so there was an additional culture conflict).

Pride and Prejudice ends happily and Fiddler on the Roof ends sadly.

The boys thought that Fiddler on the Roof occurred maybe about 100 years before Pride and Prejudice until Levi pointed out that Tevye’s family was poorer than the Bennet family, so the setting might be “deceivingly primitive.” And didn’t one of the daughters in Fiddler travel by train? That would have to be mid 1800s or later. Both were set in the time of horses and carts and carriages—before cars were common.

[Pride and Prejudice was set in early 1800s. Fiddler on the Roof was set in early 1900s.]
What else is going on at that place and around the world at the time?

Pride and Prejudice happened after the American Revolutionary War and the French Revolution (but before the Civil War). It was set in England during the British Regency.

Fiddler on the Roof was set on the verge of Revolutionary Russia (pre-WWI).

[This discussion could go on and on…]

Are Jewish traditions similar to the English societal rules?

The Jewish tradition for marriages included a matchmaker, and the girls sometimes did not meet their husband until the marriage. In both cultures, girls often married for security rather than love. Both movies showed dancing scenes where there were specific rules for how the people interacted, but women and men were separated in the Jewish dancing.

Have you watched both movies? Have you ever thought of comparing the two? What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Food for Thought

Food for Thought @ Mt. Hope Chronicles 

I’m catching up on more than six weeks worth of interesting links! Feel free to pace yourself!


:: To Live As If I Believed: The Thin Spaces of Children's Literature @ On Being

"Art is created in kairos — an indeterminate time, unbound by the clock, where God is ever present. When art is shared and experienced, that thin place erupts open again for the mind and heart of the believer."

:: Why Fairy Tales Are Dangerous @ The Imaginative Conservative

Dear Mr. Dawkins, you’ve said lately that fairy tales are quite harmful. Your reason for thinking this is simple, and true: you told attendees at the Cheltenham Science Festival, “I think it’s rather pernicious to inculcate into a child a view of the world which includes supernaturalism…"


:: How Memory, Focus and Good Teaching Can Work Together to Help Kids Learn @ Mind/Shift

[I seriously love everything about this article. Go read it!]

"Without memorizing some information, it’s harder for the brain to acquire new knowledge and skills. It takes longer for the brain to process new information, and students are less likely and slower to ask informed and perceptive questions.

“The more you know, the more you can make conclusions, even be creative,” Klemm said. “All of these things have to be done by thinking, and thinking has to be done from what’s in your working memory.”

:: 100 Things For Kids to Memorize @ Ed Snapshots

:: Why the Liberal Arts Belong in Elementary School @ U.S. News and World Report

Willingham described one study in which 11th graders were given a reading test and various other tests of "cultural literacy" – knowledge of artists, entertainers, military leaders, musicians, philosophers and scientists – as well as separate tests of factual knowledge of science, history and literature. "The researchers found robust correlations between scores on the reading tests and the various cultural literacy tests," Willingham wrote. Dozens of other studies have found similar results; for comprehension, knowledge is even more important than overall reading ability or IQ. In short, to be a good general reader, you need broad general knowledge.

:: Why Liberal Arts is Super Dumb @ The Mugdown [wink]

:: Sir Ken Robinson: Creativity Is In Everything, Especially Teaching @ Mind/Shift

"Creativity draws from many powers that we all have by virtue of being human. Creativity is possible in all areas of human life, in science, the arts, mathematics, technology, cuisine, teaching, politics, business, you name it. And like many human capacities, our creative powers can be cultivated and refined. Doing that involves an increasing mastery of skills, knowledge, and ideas."

:: Can Mathew Crawford Deliver Us from Distraction? At The Chronicle of Higher Education

His earlier book, 'Shop Class,' contrasted skill-based, craft-oriented knowledge and the satisfaction it brings with the kind of understanding he acquired studying physics ... or philosophy at Chicago. The certainties of physics might establish an intellectual foundation, and philosophical ambiguities may delight, but not much compares to the roar of a bike.


Parenting and Relationships

:: Is having a loving family an unfair advantage? @ The Philosopher’s Zone [The article that should have been published by The Onion, but wasn’t. The good news, though: ]

'"The evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t—the difference in their life chances—is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t," he says.'

:: Have You Ever Felt Like Being a Mother Has Ruined You? @ Carrots for Michaelmas

Each night’s sleep lost for love of a child, each puddle of vomit to be cleaned up, each nursing session with cracked and bleeding nipples, each bottle scrubbed, each tray washed, each onesie laundered, each diaper changed chips away at our former selves. But what’s underneath is something better and more beautiful. That painful love washed away every facade I clinged to and revealed a truer me. But the process is brutal.  

:: If you want to win your child’s heart, don’t go by the rules @ Sally Clarkson

However, in all relationships, (parenting, friendship, marriage, work), people are designed by God to respond from their heart. If their hearts are attached and served by the people relating to them, and their felt needs are met, people will tend to respond to the one who shows them the most love.

:: Personality Matters: Understanding MBTI Typing @ Simply Convivial [Because I love personality typing!]

:: Did God Make a Mistake or Create a New Melody? @ Sally Clarkson


:: The Illusions of Money, Power, and Fame: Why Fitting in Is Overrated @ Goins, Writer

"And as you move towards to your calling, that special thing you were born to do, you will find yourself accessing all the skills you once thought were weaknesses, those embarrassing quirks and personality traits you used to hate, and you will find a use for them all."

:: What You Learn in Your 40s @ The New York Times

"There are no grown-ups"

"Among my peers there’s a now-or-never mood: We still have time for a second act, but we’d better get moving on it."

"By your 40s, you don’t want to be with the cool people; you want to be with your people."

:: “You have to tell people what you’re interested in.” @ Modern Mrs. Darcy

[I had the amazing experience of being a "middle-man" this past week. An acquaintance and I were chatting for the first time. Through her willingness to be open, a series of unexpected "God" events occurred and we landed her nephew a job in five days!]


:: For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of World War II @ Smithsonian

:: Spineless: Susan Middleton’s Mesmerizing Photographs of Marine Invertebrates @ Brain Pickings

:: 20+ Photos of Geometrical Plants @ Bored Panda

:: Free Adult Coloring Pages @ The Mad House

:: What I learned from watching every TED-Ed Lesson @ TED Blog

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Peace and Rest: In Loving Memory of My Grandpa

Peace and Rest @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

My dear grandpa passed away this afternoon. He just celebrated his 90th birthday a month ago. Cancer and then pneumonia had wrecked their havoc, and he couldn’t fight them any longer. I am treasuring the memories from our time with him this past Thanksgiving.

Grandpa, you are so dearly loved. Thank you for the past forty years of being my number one fan club. For your love. For your prayers. For your kindness. For your adventurous spirit. For your example of life filled with a sense of curiosity and wonder. For your unfailing interest in your great-grandchildren. For your life of service—for our country in WWII and for God on the mission field and at home in the States for the duration of your life. How fitting that you should pass on to heaven on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.

You and Grandma will be in our hearts for always.

Grandma and Grandpa's 66th 

On this occasion, I would love to share again the letter that my grandpa wrote back in October, 2011. I think you can get a sense of his spirit here.

Toward the end of a full life with a lot of wonderful, exciting and fulfilling activities, now at the age of 86 the Lord has programmed for me a “Double Whammy” health situation which has been somewhat overwhelming. Increasingly, however, He has graciously given indication in small as well as large ways how involved His gracious hand has been in it all.

The “Double Whammy” came in the form of two very serious health problems which I would never have expected: Late in 2010 and into the early part of 2011 severe fatigue and “just not feeling well” sent me to our family doctor and a series of examinations and blood tests. More tests resulted in a referral to a highly regarded oncologist practicing here locally. Within two visits he diagnosed me with having “Splenic Marginal Zone Lymphoma”, a form of cancer. With this, a mutation occurs in the marginal zone or outer compartment of the affected B-cells of the white blood cells. It is slow growing and very rare. So in February, 2011 I began having a series of infusions of Rituxan each week, one per week for 4 weeks. This was whammy number one. After two months I noted my spleen was enlarging again. It resulted after the fifth infusion in my completely passing out in the doctors office and ending up with a couple days in the hospital (May11).

Later in June while in the hospital again my cardiologist said ,”now that we have you in the hospital we’re going to check out the heart murmur we’ve been hearing“. This led to Whammy Number Two. On June 16 I was undergoing open heart surgery to replace my aortic valve with a bovine (calf’s heart valve) as well as one bypass. So now I’m recovering from open heart, the ultimate operation, where they take you apart and put you back together, leaving an eight inch long “railroad” incision on the chest and another one on the inside of the right thigh from where they took the artery.

There was the two month recovery period during which, as predicted by the medical people, I hit one the lowest periods in my life. It drove me to God’s Word! As can be expected the Word was a constant encouragement. You require 60 % of your energy just to recover from open heart surgery. I’d often fall asleep with my Bible in my lap. What a comfort it was to cast myself on the Lord as he would lead me to special passages of great encouragement and blessing. One of those verses was Ps. 27: 14, “Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord! (NKJV) I printed it out, memorized it, recited it and always found comfort as I rededicated my life in faith believing. I can tell you, I got a lot of praying done as I’d go around the world praying through my prayer list.

As this healing process was going on, however, whammy number one, the lymphoma, was reasserting itself in the form of my extremely enlarged spleen. That was where my system was storing the damaged white blood cells. So, it was back to my oncologist and another series of chemo infusions. That reduced the size of my spleen decidedly but also hindered the process of my bone marrow to produce the various blood’s normal components (white, red, platelets, etc.). This necessitated a two week serious of daily shots to help the bone marrow do its work. At the next doctor’s appointment he said: “your spleen is greatly reduced, we have accomplished what we set out to do. Spend the next two weeks working at building up your strength and then we’ll do a blood test and see where we go from there”.

One of the marked things during this entire “Double Whammy” process has been how the Lord has, even during the deepest valleys, constantly reminded me of His Faithfulness. Always through the wonderful Scripture verses that remind us of our assurance as believers of eternal life through the death and resurrection of our Lord. As well as the security of the believer and the loving sovereignty of God. As I grew up, all the profound Biblical concepts were regular topics of discussion around the dinner table. They were the “givens” of growing up in a pastors home during the depression and then entering WW II and fighting across Europe in Patton’s 3rd Army. (Scriptures like: John 3:16; John 1: 1 - 5; Rom. 8:28 -39; Eph. 1: 3 - 14; Ps.1; Ps. 23, etc.)

These truths were not just what we talked about, they were put into practice on a daily basis and then I saw them work out in little events and on the world scale as I went along in life. We won’t know the full picture until we’re with our Lord in eternity but He graciously gives us glimpses of how He is working and arranging things even in advance. The Lord brought a few of these events to mind even at the lowest points in my recovery:

I’ll never forget the disappointment our family felt when at the height of the depression (I was 9 years old) a key supporter had to back out after a financial setback and we were not able to go to the Congo in Africa as missionaries. But over the succeeding years medical people confirmed that our mother’s health would not have stood up to the rigors of that land. The Lord used the depression even before we knew it to lead in our lives.

The memory during WW II of how my being color-blind caused me to be rejected by the air force which I wanted so much to be in. And then realizing afterward how the Lord used that physical limitation to place me in just the place He had for me.

Even events which affected many other people, like when the troopship, Queen Mary, had an accident which delayed by two months our entire 80th Infantry Division from reaching England and thus our unit was delayed from entering combat by two months. There was still a lot of combat ahead but not with the intensity that took so many lives just after D-Day when our Division was originally scheduled to have landed on the Beaches of Normandy.

In the little town of Ettelbruck, Luxemburg, during the Battle of the Bulge, I was assigned to guard bridges that we were to blow up with the TNT which was in place if the Germans were to counter attack. So, when the order came to bring in the large anti-tank mine field which we had put out earlier, I was not available to take part in that work. As I was following orders, guarding the bridge, we heard a terrible explosion. A German artillery shell hit one of the mines as it was being worked on and caused a chain reaction detonating dozens of the mines and killing nine of our men and wounding several others. It was not just “chance”, but the Lord’s hand that had me carrying out my duty guarding a bridge instead of clearing the mine field where I could have been killed or severely wounded. The Lord took me through nine months of combat without a scratch.

And so, it was a “Double Whammy” with many deep valleys but I can testify that the Lord is bringing me through as I daily lean on His Word and allow Him to bring to mind all the times He has proven Himself faithful over the years of my life.

A recent kind of last minute example of how He goes ahead and prepares the way, knowing the end from the beginning, was the end of last year TEAM, our mission, had to stop all our health insurance coverage. This was a huge concern as we made new arrangements with the help of TEAM having no idea the Double Whammy was on the way. But, our Lord knew and planned our way, Double Whammy and all. Because unbeknown to us He had led us to an even better Medi-gap Insurance program than we had before which has covered all our massive medical expenses. So, even with the Double Whammy the Lord has shown us in this little way that He was in it with us before it even began.

Talking about being with me all the way, I can’t adequately express my gratitude to the Lord for teaming me up 64 years ago with my wonderful wife, Helen, who has been with me through thick and thin. He has used her to be such an encouragement every step of the way through this Double Whammy experience. Thank you Helen!

The two week period referred to above, ended yesterday. After a full blood test and doctor’s examination he said continue working at building up your strength with walking and eating well, I’ll see you in five weeks. So, the Lord is showing His gracious hand as we wait on Him and look to Him for courage on a daily basis.

It is with a thankful heart that I am reminded of God’s faithfulness even through this Double Whammy. His WORD as well as so many experiences from life have sustained me all the way.

I just wanted to express my gratitude to the Lord which led to writing an account of these experiences which is my testimony of how the Lord is bringing me through this Double Whammy orchestrated by HIM.

With gratitude to the Lord, Paul J. (Jim) Pietsch

Mother’s Day in the Garden [two weeks late]

Mother's Day in the Garden @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

My family gathered in my mom’s garden two weeks ago to celebrate Mother’s Day. [I’d rather post these pictures late than never!] Holly brought ice cream and delicious rhubarb and blackberry syrups. The cousins played. And there was some baby-lovin’ going on. Sweden was ten days old.

Baby Toes @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesBaby Love @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesPlaying with Cousins @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesTeeter Totter @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesDrake and Lola @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesSweden and Rilla @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Wings & Waves

Wings and Waves Waterpark @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

After our overnight aviation and space museum field trip we drove next door to the Evergreen Wings and Waves Waterpark for six hours of water fun with our best friends. See the 747 on top of the building? The waterslides launch from inside the aircraft. (And, yes, it was raining on our second day. I was thankful for the gorgeous natural light inside the warm waterpark.)

Evergreen Wings & Waves @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

My best friend, Char, has a back injury, so she was unable to participate (sadly, water slides are her most favorite thing in the whole world). Instead, the two of us sat in white Adirondack chairs by the wave pool (not pictured) and talked the whole time. It was heavenly to have three boys who were capable of enjoying the park for six hours without constant parental supervision!! I could get used to that.

Waterpark @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

The park has four huge slides, a wave pool, a swimming pool/whirlpool/spa area, and a splash area (below) with at least three smaller slides. The picture above is the view from the café.

Wings & Waves Waterpark @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

It was everything I could do to drag the boys out of the water park. I have no idea how they were still standing after such a short night’s sleep and that many hours climbing the stairs and swimming. I took a short nap in the Adirondack chair before driving home. The boys didn’t fall asleep for the hour and a half drive home, and they didn’t go to sleep until after 9pm. What stamina.

I’d call that a successful field trip and a spectacular way to celebrate the end of our official school year!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Night Flights

Aviation Museum Field Trip @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Yes, it’s been quiet here at Mt. Hope lately.

What I’ve been doing instead of blogging: sleeping, reading light romance novels, watching season 1 of When Calls the Heart (be still, my teenage heart) on Netflix, attending the CC parent practicum and Essentials (English grammar and writing) tutor training for three full days (the kids were all in learning camps), and heading out on an overnight field trip with the boys to Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum and Waterpark!

[If you missed me, you might want to click on the “Follow on Facebook” button on my sidebar. Even when I’m not posting on the blog, I am often posting links and pictures and updates on my Facebook page!]

We attended a Night Flights event with some of our charter school friends at Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. We returned home this evening and I’m exhausted, but excited to share some pictures with you!

Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum Field Trip @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

The drive up to Evergreen is one of my favorite scenic routes. The weather was gorgeous yesterday afternoon when we set out. We passed miles and miles and miles of vineyards (and more vineyards), orchards (especially hazelnuts), rolling hills, trees, fields (wheat, rye grass, lavender, mint, and many other crops), horse farms, plant nurseries, and more gorgeous scenery.

We met up with our best friends and began the evening on the playground.

Evergreen Museum Playground @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

The kids had some free time in the space building. It was rather nice to have the place to ourselves!

Evergreen Space Museum Field Trip @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Our group was served dinner in the café. We then headed to the IMAX theater to watch ‘Living in the Age of Airplanes.’ After the movie, we walked over to the aviation building.

Evergreen Space Museum @ Mt. Hope Chronicles 

Our guides gave an educational presentation (which was fantastic and entertaining) about the early history and principles of flight.

Evergreen Field Trip @ Mt. Hope Chronicles 

Aviation History @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

The students were able to go inside the Spruce Goose to learn more about it. It is ginormous.

Night Flights @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

The students were also able to go inside the B-17 Flying Fortress (one of only a handful of the WWII bombers left!).

B-17 Flying Fortress @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

After the educational program, we gathered our sleeping bags and settled in. See that blank floor space in the picture below? Yeah, that’s where we all “slept.” Right under the tail end of the Spruce Goose. I did have my best girl friend in the whole world right next to me. It was almost like we were back in high school as we talked late into the night. [grin]

Night Flights Field Trip @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

I think the kids did mostly settle down around midnight. We were awoken by an air raid siren at 6am. Seriously.

Once we had made ourselves more (or less) presentable and gathered up our gear, we walked back over (in the rain) to the space building for breakfast in the café. We cleared the tables after breakfast and used the space to build paper rockets for a rocket launching contest outside.

After rockets, we were given more free time in the space building before the museum opened.

Evergreen @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesSpace @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

When the museum opened, we killed a couple hours in the aviation building again.

Aviation Museum @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

By that time, the kids could hardly contain themselves because they knew what was next on the schedule: the water park. Pictures tomorrow!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Notes and Thoughts from the CiRCE Pacific Northwest Regional Conference

Truth, Goodness, and Beauty

Much of this week has been spent decompressing from the previous few weeks. I’ve slept in, finished off a couple more books, started a few more books, worked on a writing project, and reviewed my notes from the CiRCE conference.

While I’ve been preoccupied, Lola covered herself and some of her toys/bedroom in paint. Luke learned how to breathe fire, eat fire, and light steel wool on fire [not kidding]. Oh, yeah. He baked cookies for me, too.

I’m also having technical difficulties with my blog. I apologize if you’ve had trouble with my blog redirecting. We are trying to solve the problem. And by “we” I mean my overworked husband. He was gone again last week, on a trip with one of his swimmers to a camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado. I’m so thankful to have him home again (as are the kids), but he has been burning the candle at both ends this whole week with work and coaching and consulting. Isn’t he handsome?


Enough about all that. I’m assuming some of you might be more interested in reading my notes from the CiRCE conference last weekend.

Day 1

Andrew Kern—The Radiance of His Glory: Christ as the Truth, the Good, and the Beautiful

I laughed as I reviewed my notes from Andrew Kern’s opening plenary talk/sermon. I wrote almost nothing. Andrew Kern is one of the most non-linear speakers I’ve ever listened to. I’ve found it helpful to just listen and let it soak in rather than try to take notes.

He began with Hebrews 1:1-3.

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

I think that will be our next passage for Bible memory.

The only Andrew Kern quote I wrote is this:

“What is true is true and your soul needs it.”


Sarah Mackenzie—The Art of Schole: Restful Teaching, Restful Learning

This was a breakout session. Sarah had beautiful handouts for us at this talk, so I didn’t need to take as many notes in her session. I was able to relax and just listen. The session talk was based on her book, Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakeable Peace. Sarah is so real and delightful and encouraging. It was a pleasure to get to know her a little better over the two days.

:: Sarah blogs at Amongst Lovely Things. She leads the Read-Aloud Revival (have you listened to the podcast or joined the membership site?). And she models restful learning with the Schole Sisters.


Gregory Wolfe—Beauty: The Cinderella of the Transcendentals

I read Gregory Wolfe’s book Beauty Will Save the World: Recovering the Human in an Ideological Age in anticipation of hearing him speak at the CiRCE conference. I’m glad that I did, but now I want to reread the book in light of his talk. I enjoyed seeing a bit of his (humorous) personality manifest in his live presentation. If you ever get a chance to hear him speak in person, take advantage of the opportunity! I appreciated his linear style and visual presentation. [grin]

Greg shared the following quote, and it sums up his talk beautifully [see what I did there?]. I thought it sounded familiar, and I guessed that I had previously encountered the quote in one of Stratford Caldecott’s books. [I was right; it’s in Beauty for Truth's Sake: On the Re-enchantment of Education.]

“We no longer dare to believe in beauty and we make of it a mere appearance in order the more easily to dispose of it. Our situation today shows that beauty demands for itself at least as much courage and decision as do truth and goodness, and she will not allow herself to be separated and banned from her two sisters without taking them along with herself in an act of mysterious vengeance. We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past -- whether he admits it or not -- can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love.” ― Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics: Seeing the Form


We need a restoration of balance in the transcendentals of truth, goodness, and beauty.

We place emphasis on truth and goodness. Beauty needs to be defended.

Transcendentals: infinitely valuable and ends in themselves. They transcend our reality.

They have qualities of being:

Truth being knowable.
Goodness being lovable.
Beauty being admirable and desirable.

They are equal. A trinity.

In our modern culture there is a scandal of pleasure. Beauty is thought of negatively as either seductive or anesthetizing.

But pure beauty has no agenda. It is disinterested.

Beauty creates desire, a certain restlessness that moves us forward.

“The beautiful is essentially delightful. This is why, of its very nature and precisely as beautiful, it stirs desire and produces love, whereas the true as such only illumines… It is for its beauty that Wisdom is loved. And it is for itself that every beauty is first loved, even if afterwards the too weak flesh is caught in the trap. Love in its turn produces ecstasy, that is to say, it puts the lover outside of himself; ecstasy, of which the soul experiences a diminished form when it is seized by the beauty of the work of art, and the fullness when it is absorbed, like the dew, by the beauty of God.” ~Jacques Maritain (read more here)

The faculty by which we perceive or apprehend truth is reason.
The faculty by which we perceive or apprehend goodness is faith or holiness.
The faculty by which we perceive or apprehend beauty is imagination.

Beauty can be defined as “that which being seen, pleases.”

Beauty penetrates reality and perceives the world intuitively. It is an apprehension of form and pattern that penetrates and reveals reality.

It has elements of both surprise and inevitability. We first have a jolt of amazement, but it leads to “yes, of course.”

Art fails when it merely tells us what we already know in the ways that we already know it.

Beauty strikes with a sense of newness. Beauty is not merely prettiness. It is not only harmony, proportion, and symmetry.

Beauty lives in tension between ideal and real. It is prophetic. It is a challenge to complacency.

Beauty brings us to the threshold of mystery with opaque but shining truth. We understand in part—with a certain tenuousness.

Truth without beauty is propaganda. It is moralism (rather than mystery). It is fleshless abstraction.

Only beauty can incarnate truth. Real beauty asks us to think for ourselves. It brings us back to the ordinary and invites us to cherish it.

Beauty makes us care about the world and want to protect it, defend it. It gives us a sense of empathy, helps us to see through the eyes of the other. It infuses goodness with mercy.

Beauty sets us on the path, so that we are dynamically striving for goodness.

Goodness without beauty is moralism (a “better than thou” mindset).

But we must put the same constraints on beauty if we are striving for balance.

Beauty without truth is a lie and a mask, empty and hollow.

Beauty without goodness is frigid, lifeless virtuosity. It is form without meaning.

Interested in reading more?

:: The Wound of Beauty by Gregory Wolfe @ Image Journal [This article is generally the same content as his talk, so it is a more fluid and complete version of my notes above.]

:: Read more about Image Journal here.

“Understandably, religion and art also need each other. When we lack the kind of stimulus which only the imagination can provide, we make it more difficult to live the life of faith. And art, when it sees no creation to celebrate, and no soul in need of nurturing, loses its respect for truth.”

:: Check out Gregory Wolfe’s book here: Beauty Will Save the World: Recovering the Human in an Ideological Age. [I just finished it a week or two ago and highly recommend it!]


Day 2

Tim McIntosh—Becoming Whole: An Education That Knits Together Heart and Head

Tim has a strong presence, personality, and humor as a speaker. He tells great stories.


We learn with both our head and our heart. Our head processes text, objective fact, and logic. Our heart asks, “What does it mean? How does it feel?” It applies and understands.

We are constantly creating internal models of the world. These internal models often involve our perception of our value in the world. We experience negative emotions when reality does not line up with the internal model we’ve created. [Our homeschooling schedule, for instance?] We experience positive emotions when our internal models are accurate.

Learning is model building, world discerning. Curiosity bridges the gap between our present model and our future model.

You can’t have curiosity without a willingness to explore something unknown. This is a risk. It takes courage.

The thing we care most deeply about is the hardest thing to say. More risk.

A teacher must have presence in a classroom. Be passionate. See your students. Create an environment of respect and safety for students.

Don’t shut a student down during times of emotion. Ask ‘the tender question.’

“Why are you so angry?” is a statement that interprets the situation for a student. Instead, observe details and invite the student to interpret. “Bobby, your voice has gotten loud and you pounded your fist on the table. What’s going on for you?”

[During the Q&A, someone asked what age this technique is appropriate for. Andrew Kern observed that younger children are very honest but not always perceptive. Older students are more perceptive but it is much more difficult for them to be honest. Starting to ask this question early trains the student to ask it of himself when he is faced with emotions as he gets older.]

:: My notes on this talk are fearfully inadequate. I highly recommend reading the article Fear and Education by Tim McIntosh @ Gutenberg College.


Sarah Mackenzie—Beauty in the Chaotic, Ordinary Homeschool

This was another breakout session. Again, Sarah shared beautiful handouts for the talk. She shared many ways in which we can find and embrace beauty in our ordinary, chaotic homeschool.

One of the highlights of the whole weekend for me was when she invited us to stand together with our hands raised and sing the Doxology. The experience was exquisitely beautiful. I plan to add this to the liturgy of our homeschooling days!

I also loved all the quotes she shared, but this one by C.S. Lewis (from The Weight of Glory) was my favorite and summed up so much of the conference:

“The books or music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing.

These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers.

For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”


David Hicks—Quo Vadis: An Amplification

David Hicks has a brilliant mind (even if he claims an average intellect). I’m still working my way slowly through his book Norms and Nobility: A Treatise on Education. I have to stop and re-read several times, and I still don’t understand everything. A couple of us were (laughingly) wondering if we were at the right conference since we needed to pull out a dictionary for his breakout session title, “A Colloquy on the Previous Plenary Session,” as well as for the instructions in the conference program [under “10 Ways to Optimize Your Conference Experience” we were instructed to “be profligate in the exchange of contact information”].

I was thrilled (and somewhat amazed) that I could process the words in his plenary talk title. “Quo Vadis” is a Latin phrase that essentially means “Where are you going?” [I know this in part because I once read a book titled Quo Vadis, which my very intelligent grandmother said that all young people should read.] I now know, from learning the form of persuasive essays this past year, that an amplification basically states who cares and why?

But I still wondered what he was going to say about where to go from here and why we should care.

It turns out, David Hicks can lead two breakout sessions and give a plenary talk without preparing any formal notes. He is able simply to use all the copiousness going on in his head and to synthesize all the talks and information and ideas presented and swirling about in order to lucidly connect all the dots for us in a linear, efficient, radiant speech. (Do you think I’m using hyperbole?)

The man exudes grace and clarity. He also is hilarious in an understated sort of way. I loved that he said he thought Andrew Kern was eccentric. And I loved that he made faces (laughing, rolling eyes, shaking his head) at things Andrew Kern said during the Q&A panel (particularly when Andrew Kern kept saying that all one needs to know about education is on pages 72 and 73 of Norms and Nobility—I don’t think I have anything underlined on those pages, probably because I didn’t understand anything enough to underline it). I love that he finished his talk by saying that he hoped we disagreed with something he said because the disagreements are where things get interesting. I also think that only David Hicks could get away with saying something about our “parents getting horny.” Twice.

A few specific notes:

Truth, goodness and beauty are called the transcendentals because they transcend a naturalistic, materialistic world.

Our modern culture says that truth is relative, goodness is situational, and beauty is subjective.

These modern qualities of being negate the terms. They are gutted of meaning, become non-existent.

The transcendentals are derivative. They must trace back to something outside our material world. A Son.

Christ is the incarnation of the transcendentals, the transcendentals embodied in a person. They are not ideas, laws, or art. They are embodied in a complex person who is in a profound relationship of love. It is a subordinate father-son relationship, and yet Christ is given all glory and power. He is heir of all things.

Christ expresses truth not in precepts but in parables. He expresses goodness not in laws but in love. He expresses beauty not in majesty but in humility, holiness, obedience.

[Thanks, Tonya, for filling the hole in my notes!!]

(These were bizarre ideas in the classical world.)

[Hicks shared more about truth, goodness, and beauty in the ancient pagan world, but I am not proficient enough to turn my notes into something clear enough to understand!]

[He also shared some beautiful thoughts on the story of the prodigal son, and the grace and absolute freedom the story embodies.]

What kind of story are you telling your children? Is it big enough for them to fit their world in it? Can new experiences fit into the story?


Q & A Panel

The conference ended with a Q&A panel. David Hicks, Andrew Kern, Sarah Mackenzie, and Tim McIntosh answered questions. I don’t have many notes. It was mostly fun to see them joking around and having fun together.

Kern’s answers were always “Homer” or “Pages 72 and 73 of Norms and Nobility.” Specifically, one of his answers (in reference to a visual during Gregory Wolfe’s presentation) was, “You can have Thomas Kinkade. Or you can have Homer.”


“We spend our time polishing the chariot and neglecting the horses [moral imagination].” ~Andrew Kern


I think that about wraps it up!

Sunday, May 10, 2015


CiRCE PNW Regional Conference @ Mt. Hope Chronicles 

A friend asked if I was exhausted at the end of the conference on Saturday. I reflected a moment and then decided. No. Not exhausted.

Nourished. Refreshed. Peaceful.

Two days with my friends Jessye and Pam. Two days of excellent, enriching (and hilarious) conversation. Two days of inspiration.

Two days without cooking, cleaning, or parenting. Two days without responsibilities other than driving. Two days without looking at a messy house or a to-do list. A decent night’s sleep in the hotel (after hardly sleeping at home the night before).

The drive was uneventful (even with President Obama in Portland, we did not hit heavy traffic on 205). The weather was beautiful (unlike our drive to Medford last year in torrential rain or our last drive to Washington in a snow storm). Our schedule had plenty of breathing-room both days. We found our hotel and the beautiful venue easily. No mishaps or stresses.

And now I’ve had a chance to meet Sarah Mackenzie in person (she’s even more delightful in real life, if that’s possible). I had a chance to meet and chat briefly with Adam Andrews and his wife Missy, which was an unexpected treat (Adam Andrews has been on my hope-to-meet list!). 

I met a few blog readers (hi, new friends!!).

I listened to Andrew Kern, Sarah Mackenzie (twice), Greg Wolfe, Tim McIntosh, and David Hicks speak. So much grace and humor, intelligence and insight. All talks met and exceeded my expectations.

By the time I arrived home late Saturday evening, I was refreshed and ready to see my kids and spend Mother’s Day snuggling with them!

[Russ was with one of his swimmers at a camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado. He left insanely early on Thursday and will return later this afternoon. My niece Ilex was so kind to watch the kids overnight while I was gone.]

I had packed my big camera, but didn’t even take it in to the conference. Can you believe that?! I snapped a picture of the Q&A panel at the end of the second day and my friend Jessye took a picture of me with Sarah and Adam, but my phone doesn’t take high quality pictures (obviously). I shamelessly snagged the picture Sarah posted of us together. Maybe the blurry picture is a more accurate depiction of how I looked by Saturday afternoon. Ha! I’m very disappointed that I didn’t get a picture of Jessye, Pam, and myself together.

Sarah, Adam, and Heidi @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

I will try to distill a few things I learned and share them this week.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A Handful of Non-Fiction Picture Books

Non-Fiction Picture Books @ Mt. Hope Chronicles


:: Geography from A to Z: A Picture Glossary

Maps and Globes is one of my most favorite picture books to introduce kids to basic geography (What are maps? What do maps tell us? How is the earth measured? What are the marking on maps?), and now I have a favorite picture book for the features of the earth! In alphabetical order, Geography from A to Z: A Picture Glossary defines more than sixty geographical features and weaves in another 60+ definitions and synonyms. For example, the definition of oasis is given within the definition of desert; the definitions of knob and knoll are included in the definition of hill. The added terms are in bold, so they are easy to spot.

Challenge A students are instructed to define these terms and create their own picture glossary. This is one of the projects that Levi fell behind on, and I wish we had this book at the beginning of the year. My other kids will enjoy reading and learning the terms before they hit Challenge.

:: If: A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers

We recently enjoyed a couple picture books about small things, Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes and What's Smaller Than a Pygmy Shrew? so it was fun to go in the opposite direction and think about something big. If… is a book full of visual representations to help kids (and adults) understand mind-boggling big numbers, from our galaxy to a timeline of inventions to water and continents to energy to population. This book makes a variety numbers come to life! [Yes, there are also two pages of the evolutionary history of earth.]

:: The Perfect Wizard: Hans Christian Andersen

My boys love fairy tales and we have several beautiful picture books of fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen. I try to find biographical picture books of authors whenever possible, and this picture book by Jane Yolen is lovely. The pictures are soft and muted. I also love The Young Hans Christian Andersen, the story of his childhood (with darling illustrations) by Karen Hesse.

:: Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring

We have borrowed this one from the library before, but it was time to revisit. My boys love Appalachian Spring (because they love the original Shaker hymn, Simple Gifts), so this story is a favorite. The illustrations are wonderful! Even more exciting is that the original ballet can be viewed on YouTube!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Reading Round-Up ~ April

Book Challenge April Update @ Mt. Hope Chronicles


I’ve continued a decent reading streak for the past month. I finished off eight books (yes, two of them were junk food books during a rough week) and started another three while making some progress on a few others. And, of course, I added a few more to the list!

I will try to write up some reviews this month, but my schedule doesn’t really let up until June when I’ll have more time to write. I’d pick some favorites, but I’ve read such a range of styles and topics that it’s difficult to compare the books!

What I haven’t yet read this year is a quality adult fiction book that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed.

I enjoyed my junk food books, but they are not quality. I’ve read several books that were fascinating or astounding or enlightening, but I wouldn’t say that I enjoyed them due to the difficult or intellectually challenging subject matter. I thoroughly enjoyed one quality book, but it was a children’s book. Although it wasn’t a fun book, The Chosen probably comes the closest. The narrative kept my interest and it was a fascinating window into a world so different from mine. It wasn’t cheerful, but it wasn’t brutal.

Did you read any enjoyable quality fiction this past month?

Here is my updated list.

The 2015 Book List Challenge

[*Added to original list]


Lila: A Novel


The Sunday Philosophy Club

A Girl of The Limberlost (ChocLit Guild)

The Brothers K

The Road


The Once and Future King

The Chosen

Beloved [in progress]

The Book Thief

*Whose Body?

Clouds of Witness


Lord of the Flies

The Great Gatsby

Invisible Man

The Return of the Native

The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel

The Grapes of Wrath


A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

The Signature of All Things [in progress]

*Godric: A Novel

Merry Hall

*Go Set a Watchman: A Novel

*Gone with the Wind (ChocLit Guild)


Pride and Prejudice (ChocLit Guild)

Gulliver's Travels (An abridged re-telling)

Moby Dick

Paradise Lost (ChocLit Guild)

The Brothers Karamazov

The Lord of the Rings

Frankenstein [in progress]

No Name (Or something else by Wilkie Collins. ChocLit Guild)

Hamlet (CC Moms Book Club) [deep reading in progress]


The Iliad

The Odyssey

Children’s and YA Novels

The Door in the Wall (CC Challenge A)

A Gathering of Days (CC Challenge A)

Crispin: The Cross of Lead (CC Challenge A)

Where the Red Fern Grows (CC Challenge B)

Junk Food

*Highland Fling 

*Paradise Fields



Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (ChocLit Guild)

The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris (ChocLit Guild)

The Hiding Place (CC Challenge B)

A Short History of Nearly Everything

Faith, Culture, and Education

The Pursuit of God (ChocLit Guild) [in progress]

Beauty Will Save the World: Recovering the Human in an Ideological Age (CiRCE Conference)

Norms and Nobility: A Treatise on Education (CiRCE Conference) [in progress]

Leisure: The Basis of Culture

The Soul of Science (CC Parent Practicum)

Wisdom & Wonder: Common Grace in Science & Art (CC Parent Practicum)

Honey for a Teen's Heart

Invitation to the Classics: A Guide to Books You've Always Wanted to Read

*Just Walk Across the Room (ChocLit Guild)


*The Bronze Bow (CC Challenge A)

*The Question (CC Moms Book Club) [deep reading in progress]

*A Tale of Two Cities (reading aloud) [in progress]

*The Catcher in the Rye  

*Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll [audio book/read aloud in progress]

*Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie (read aloud)

*Heidi by Johanna Spyri