Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Who can say it better than St. John the golden -mouthed!

I behold a new and wondrous mystery! My ears resound to the Shepherd's song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn.
The Angels sing!
The Archangels blend their voices in harmony!
The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise!
The Seraphim exalt His glory!
All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven. He who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.
Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices; and in place of the sun, enfolds within itself on every side the Sun of Justice.
And ask not how: for where God wills, the order of nature yields. For He willed, he had the power, He descended, He redeemed; all things move in obedience to God.
This day He Who Is, is Born; and He Who Is becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His. Nor yet by any loss of divinity became He man, nor through increase became he God from man; but being the Word He became flesh, His nature, because of impassibility, remaining unchanged.
And so the kings have come, and they have seen the heavenly King that has come upon the earth, not bringing with Him Angels, nor Archangels, nor Thrones, nor Dominations, nor Powers, nor Principalities, but, treading a new and solitary path, He has come forth from a spotless womb.
Yet He has not forsaken His angels, nor left them deprived of His care, nor because of His Incarnation has he departed from the Godhead.
And behold, Kings have come, that they might adore the heavenly King of glory;
Soldiers, that they might serve the Leader of the Hosts of Heaven;
Women, that they might adore Him Who was born of a woman so that He might change the pains of child-birth into joy;
Virgins, to the Son of the Virgin, beholding with joy, that He Who is the Giver of milk, Who has decreed that the fountains of the breast pour forth in ready streams, receives from a Virgin Mother the food of infancy;
Infants, that they may adore Him Who became a little child, so that out of the mouth of infants and sucklings, He might perfect praise;
Children, to the Child Who raised up martyrs through the rage of Herod;
Men, to Him Who became man, that He might heal the miseries of His servants;
Shepherds, to the Good Shepherd Who has laid down His life for His sheep;
Priests, to Him Who has become a High Priest according to the order of Melchisedech;
Servants, to Him Who took upon Himself the form of a servant that He might bless our servitude with the reward of freedom;Fishermen, to Him Who from amongst fishermen chose catchers of men;
Publicans, to Him Who from amongst them named a chosen Evangelist;
Sinful women, to Him Who exposed His feet to the tears of the repentant;
And that I may embrace them all together, all sinners have come, that they may look upon the Lamb of God Who taketh away the sins of the world.
Since therefore all rejoice, I too desire to rejoice. I too wish to share the choral dance, to celebrate the festival. But I take my part, not plucking the harp, not shaking the Thyrsian staff, not with the music of pipes, nor holding a torch, but holding in my arms the cradle of Christ. For this is all my hope, this my life, this my salvation, this my pipe, my harp. And bearing it I come, and having from its power received the gift of speech, I too, with the angels, sing: Glory to God in the Highest;and with the shepherds: and on earth peace to men of good will.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Review: Living Memory by Andrew Campbell

I received my copy of Living Memory yesterday, and after much perusing last night I wanted to share my thoughts. A brief disclaimer, I am an LCC groupie - so is would take a lot for Plaid Dad to write anything I hated - but that aside, I will give my honest opinions about the book :). It is a very large and comprehensive volume, with the goal of providing a full selection of memory work for the classical student. There is a brief introductory section with a defense of memorization, a summary of common memory techniques (including a brief mention of the ancient technique of loci), advice on how to structure memory time and an explanation of how to create your own memory binder. The volume is then broken down into subject areas. Those areas include Latin, Greek, Arithmetic, Grammar, Literature, Religion, Geography, World History, US History and the Natural Sciences. Within each subject area are contained memory selections organized by difficulty, proceeding from the simplest to the most difficult selections. For example, within the Latin section one will find latin numbers, proverbs, poetry, prayers, hymns, and finally excerpts from Ceasar, Cicero and Ovid.

The biggest advantage to owning this book is that it is all there. It is a one stop book for referencing memory work throughout homeschooling. Anything that reduces the time I spend online looking for a poem or speech is a positive for me. Another great benefit is the broad range of selections. I particularly appreciate Dr. Campbell's inclusion of prayers from the Orthodox Church alongside prayers of the Catholic and Protestant faiths. The grammar section is nicely done, with an original catechism which when memorized takes the student through a very thorough understanding of grammar. Finally, as evidenced by the generous selection of well chosen poems, the quality of the selections is very high. There is no fluff or twaddle in this volume, only the best of the best.

Drawbacks: Those who are looking for a book divided into grade levels telling you exactly when to assign these pieces will be disappointed. However, if you are following Latin Centered Curriculum, he offers many suggestions in there for when to memorize certain pieces. If you are not planning to study any Greek or Latin, a large portion of this book will be useless. Also, the Religion section makes up a generous portion of the book. This is under the assumption that anyone following the classical model will be studying the Christian religion as a part of that, whether they are Christian or not. For those who do not wish to expose their children to christian hymns, prayers and scripture, there will be a good portion of this book that will be unusable.

It is designed to be a "workbook", or practical guide, not a theory book. If you are looking to really understand the how and why - you will want to do further reading and research. If you are looking to this book to convince you of the value of learning these things, you will be disappointed. If you are looking for a pick up and go anthology of high quality memory work, then this book is perfect.

If you are interested in looking deeper into the theory and philosophy behind this book the following reading is suggested:

article on memorization
Memorize the Faith

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Just wanted to share a link with everyone - if you are reading the Lion the Witch and The Wardrobe - don't forget to order your Turkish Delight to enjoy with each reading. I do not recommend the rose flavored, unless you like eating perfume, but we found the lemon and strawberry flavors to be "delightful!"

Friday, December 12, 2008

Anniversary Celebration

I promised pictures from the big November event, so here they are! This November my parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. For the past year my sister and I have been planning a grand surprise party to honor them. My parents were not married in the Orthodox Church, and many converts choose to have their marriage blessed by the church. My parents had mentioned doing this, but my mom said it was too much to try to plan. We talked with my dad, and decided to surprise mom with not just a party, but a marriage blessing.

Dad went all out, renting a tux, and one of my closest childhood friends loaned his Ferrari for the ride to the church.

Here are my two girls, along with their little niece, my sister's little girl. I made the girl's dresses from silk dupioni, and they all thought they were princesses! They got to go down the aisle and throw rose petals (though my niece preferred the "dump the basket upside down method" of distributing petals :)

A marriage blessing in the church is not very different from the wedding service, so my mom walked down the aisle just like a new bride.

The highlight of the Orthodox marriage - the crowning - the "newlyweds" are given crowns to symbolize their victory in marriage, and their martyrdom to each other. The crowns are joined by a ribbon and are kept as a special reminder of the commitment of marriage. When one of the couple dies, the ribbon is cut and the person is buried with his crown.

Here is one of the tables - we printed up menus, sewed table overlays, used 120 votive candles, and a 50 cup bag of freeze dried rose petals, not to mention 200 fresh roses, 30 white dendrobium orchids and a dozen white hydrangea. Everything was done in black, red (my mom's favorite color) and white - even the guests all came dressed in coordinating colors.

Here is one of the taller table arrangements (they were set on 3 foot high candle stands on the tables). Thank you to Lisa and Brian - I could have never done all the arrangements by myself!

I created a replica of my parents wedding cake - and we displayed my mom's bridal portrait.

My Dad's longest friend (see, I almost typed oldest, but I figured he might not appreciate how that sounded :) Mike and Dianne both were in my parent's wedding - my dad and Mike have been friends (and neighbors) since they were 5!

A peek at the kitchen - I had so many wonderful people helping put the food together. My sister and I cooked for 3 days straight, then had a crew help us pull it all together that afternoon. Here are the lobster tacos in progress.

We decorated the central buffet table with magnolia leaves, roses and rose petals - and framed photos from their wedding.

The photos were done by Dn. Michael Hyatt, who did a spectacular job. It was such a beautiful evening, and it was so wonderful to be able to do something so very special for my parents. May God grant them Many Years!!

Winter Fun?

Dashing through the snow,
On a one man broken sled
over the hills I go
crashing into trees!
I woke up with stitches in my head
Can someone help me please?

Composed spontaneously by the crocodile hunter as he stumbled in the door with tears running down his face and blood dripping from the gash in his forehead. We are still evaluating the stitches part of it - hopefully that is just drama on his part. See, homeschoolers are always learning - even an injury is inspiration for poetry (though we may need to work on his rhyme a bit!)

UPDATE: four stitches - and a great battle scar for the Christmas card pictures!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Family Tradition

"..she noticed that there was something crunching under her feet. 'I wonder is that more moth-balls?' she thought, stooping down to feel it with her hands. But instead of feeling the hard, smooth wood of the floor of the wardrobe, she felt something soft and powdery and extremely cold. 'This is very queer,' she said, and went on a step or two further....Something cold and soft was falling on her. A moment later she found that she was standing in the middle of a wood at night-time with snow under her feet and snowflakes falling through the air."

So much for global warming, all I can say is this southern gal can't remember the last time we had a good snow before Christmas ! It inspired me to do something I have been planning to do for weeks, and just have not gotten around to. Growing up, one of the sweetest memories I have is of my father reading to us. And of all the books he read, there is no doubt, the Chronicles of Narnia were my favorite. Whether it is just my mind playing tricks or not, it always seems that we started reading them in the winter. My father read the whole series at least four times to us as we grew up, starting when I was about 3 or 4, then re-reading them as each of us reached that age. I started that tradition when my first child turned 3, and we spent the year reading the whole series through. My third child is 4 now, and I have been promising to start reading them once again. Well, the snow started falling hard and fast this afternoon, and after a treacherous drive home in the dark with huge snowflakes swirling at my windshield (and a constant stream of Lord Have Mercies under my breath) we snuggled up next to the wood burning stove in the kitchen, and I once again was blessed with the joy of introducing another child to the wonderous land of Narnia. There is something truly magical about the first real snow of the year (around here just having a first snow of the year is magical!), but having a first snow before Christmas, and marking it by stepping through the wardrobe with Lucy, well, there is not much that can top that! Other than perhaps playing in the snow at 9:00 pm when good little children should be tucked into bed, which is what my kids are getting ready to do as I type. Now, the only thing that could make this night more perfect is if there is enough fresh top snow to make snow cream!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

St. Barbara's Day Bonfire

This post is a bit late - I was hoping for a few good photos to include - but they are all smoke filled and blurry! This is the first time I have done one of these, but my old parish used to have a lovely St. Barbara's Day celebration, so this year I decided to make it happen here! Next year I will be better prepared, but things turned out okay. We had a huge bonfire - St. Barbara is often commemorated with a bonfire since when she was martyred at the hands of her father, he was struck down by lightning. We had boiled wheat, a traditional Orthodox food often used to commemorate the departed, and I served vegetarian chili, spiced tea, and s'mores. We read the story of St. Barbara, and the kids had a blast running around playing with sparklers. Since the eve of her feast day fell on Wednesday this year, we started early in the afternoon, and headed to Vespers at 7:00. It was so meaningful to celebrate together, then go to church and get to hear all the hymns and readings about her (though I am not sure our priest appreciated the smoke smell that clung to all of our clothing!). We ran out of time to plant wheat - but next year we will do that!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Lost and Found

Over and over I read about how we should keep our children's crosses on them always, when they sleep, when they play, when they bathe. Well, that doesn't work with my four year old. All I can say is - right now, I owe a lot of bread to St. Phanourios! The queen first lost her baptismal cross six or eight months ago. I said prayers to St. Phanourios, and we searched the house, but as she is in the habit of removing it at random, I gave up hope of ever finding it. Then, two months ago, I was looking for something in my purse, turned it upside down, and out dropped her cross. Now, I promise you, I searched that purse many times in the preceding months, and never found it. I was so thankful, but honestly, I forgot to bake bread. Then, just 3 weeks after finding it, suddenly it was gone again. This time, I knew she had taken it off at home, and had an approximate time frame, so I had hope of finding it, and sure enough after a prayer to St. Phanourios and a good search through her room, we found it in the floor in a corner - she had taken it off after church and just dropped it on the floor. After that close call, the cross went into my jewelry drawer and I did not let her wear it for a few weeks. I also forgot to make bread. Last week she asked to wear it, and promised not to take it off herself. I relented, and she successfully wore it all week. On Friday after Thanksgiving our niece was here playing, and the girls went outside, played in the creek, jumped in piles of leaves and played dress up all day. The queen came in at one point to have me help her with her bike helmet, and there was the cross staring at me from around her neck. That little voice we rarely listen to and really should told me to take it off, but I was busy and did not want to bother with putting it away, so I left it around her neck. Sure enough, 2 hours later she came running to me - Mom, my cross is gone! I promise I didn't take it off, it fell off! Sure enough, the chain and loop were still around her neck - but no cross. Believe me, I will listen to the little voice next time! I was so upset, I made everyone stop and help search for the cross. The ground they covered that day was immense, and I just knew the cross was sitting at the bottom of a pile of fall leaves. I cried over it, and whispered a half-hearted prayer to St. Phanourios. Then, on Sunday the little princess came home from church and asked me did I know there was a saint to pray to when you lost something? I laughed and said I did. Her Sunday School teacher had lost something the previous week, and shared her experience of prayers to St. Phanourios. The little princess asked me if I had prayed to the saint, I said yes, many times! At that moment, I said another little prayer. Monday morning, while cleaning the little princess' bedroom, I was trying to close her closet doors (they are bi-fold and run on a track that does not always work well). The doors kept sticking, and I kept forcing. Finally, I leaned down to see if there was something caught in the track - there at the bottom of the track was the cross! So, thank you to St. Phanourios, for guiding me each time to the cross. Now I am off to bake bread!