by Melanie Bettinelli on June 17, 2013
Still. It’s an amazing, beautiful little world and she loves inhabiting it. And I don’t mind at all.
2. The Bat-Poet by Randall Jarrell, illustrated by Maurice Sendak
This book is a gem. The story of a bat who falls in love with the daylight and, listening to the mockingbird’s songs, become a poet and tells his poems to a chipmunk and other animals.
When I finished this she went right out to the driveway and started drawing bats and mockingbirds and chipmunks with sidewalk chalk. Sophie and Ben both enjoyed the book too. And I adore it. So beautiful
3. Little House
I’m finding I don’t really remember this book much at all, though I’m sure I’ve read it before. And how delightful it is. All the bits about Almanzo courting Laura are well over Bella’s head. But she loves the details, the richness of the world Laura creates.
When we were at the library this week Bella rediscovered this picture book version of an episode from Little House in the Big Woods. Oh she was in heaven. I’m not terribly fond of the picture book myself. And having just re-read Little House in the Big Woods to Sophie, I was irrationally annoyed that they changed Ma’s green delaine dress to a green ruffled dress. (I just looked up delaine and—of course!—it is from the French de laine of wool.) I understand why they changed it, I do, but it reinforced that one thing I love about the originals is that Laura uses the proper words and doesn’t worry about whether young readers will understand them. Recently one of my sister’s friends remarked how our girls talk like characters out of books. They do and I love it. They have such rich vocabularies and it makes me happy to hear them use rare words, even if sometimes they don’t quite know what they mean. I love to hear them playing with language and tasting new words on their tongues.
4. Ancient Greece
This week I decided it was high time we delved more deeply into the Ancient Greeks. We’ve finished all the Greek chapters in The Story of the World and I want to do more. So I went to the history section of the library and gathered a pile of books on Ancient Greece. And suddenly Bella is discovering a new passion and making new connections and oh I just love this part. (I love that her primary interest in history is that it gives her new material for her games. Someday we’re going to have to read The Egypt Game, but not now. Not yet.)
Greek Town (Metropolis) by John Malam a beautiful illustrated book that takes you on a guided tour through a sort of idealized Greek town that has elements from various Greek cities. The Time-Traveler’s Guide section at the back did give me pause when it suggested that the time traveling reader would want to make a sacrifice to the household gods when visiting with a Greek family: “If you are invited to a meal you should accept, as to refuse would cause offense to the host, who likes to dine with company. At the meal show respect for the god of the house by offering a small gift of wine or food at the altar.” I amended it a bit to say that guests in Ancient Greece would have been expected to behave that way, but of course as Christians we couldn’t make sacrifice to pagan gods as that would be a violation of the first commandment. A little opportunity to reinforce the catechism. Although I do understand the purpose of phrasing things in the second person and framing it as a time traveling guide, meant to help draw the child into the foreign space of the ancient world, I did wonder at the editorial decision to phrase the book in precisely that way when the awkwardness could have been avoided by a slight rephrasing.
Ancient Greece (DK Eyewitness Books)-I’m not really a fan of the Eyewitness style with all the little blocks of text scattered all over the page next to the various pictures. It feels busy to me and I hate that there isn’t a necessary order to read the page in. But Bella loves these books and learns so much from them that I have come to appreciate them for her sake. One thing that stood out especially in the Greece volume: it seems to me a bit confusing that they use modern art alongside ancient art when discussing literature such as The Odyssey or The Iliad, though the art used was very good. I thought it was a bit confusing.
The Ancient Greeks by Pat Taylor. A nice overview. Good map, a mix of brightly colored illustrations and photographs of artifacts and sites. I like to have one or two of this kind of general overview books for any focused study we do because we can read them in one sitting—and thus will probably read them several times—and they help to reinforce the main ideas.
5. The Children’s Homer: The Adventures of Odysseus and The Tale of Troy by Padraic Colum
This is one of those books I’ve seen on a dozen different homeschooling book lists and blogs and so I dutifully found a copy on BookMooch and put it on the shelf without actually reading it for myself. So I’m discovering it along with Bella. And what a delight! This volume compresses The Iliad and The Odyssey into one story, The Iliad told as flashbacks while Telemachus is visiting Menelaus and Helen in Sparta. The language is rich and Colum preserves some, though not all, of the Homeric similes. It really captures the flavor of Homer without being quite so overwhelming. In short, a perfect book for Bella. Yesterday we read two chapters that recounted battle scenes before the walls of Troy, Aias and Achilles and Agamemnon and Nestor and Hector…. spears and chariots and ships and fire. Oh Bella kept shivering and I was afraid it might be a bit too much for her, but when we got to the end her eyes were shining as she exclaimed to me how she could just see everything in her imagination.
It was delightful tonight then to read the book about Greece and to find there the Mask of Agamemnon and the story of Schliemann and vases depicting the various scenes from the stories. I can’t wait to take Bella back to the Greek rooms in the MFA to see her discover her friends from the stories in the red and black pictures on the vases that last visit were just pretty artifacts.
I know Padraic Colum first of all from my Irish Studies days because of his involvement with the Irish Literary Revival. I’m not sure what I’ve read except maybe some lyric poems, but his name was definitely familiar. I do think that his work as a poet and playwright has informed this work. It has such a depth and a richness that aren’t often to be found in children’s books. I’m looking forward to discovering his book of Irish hero tales: The King of Ireland’s Son. I guess we’ll read that next year.
6. Jim Weiss is another of those names you’ll stumble over again and again in certain homeschooling circles. I was curious so I looked him up in the library’s catalogue and found a copy of his Egyptian Treasures: Mummies and Myths. We listened to it in the car and of course Bella, my resident Egyptophile was hooked. Sophie and Ben loved it too.
Then one day last week I was feeling quite at my wits end and so I bought Greek Myths and played it for the kids while I cooked dinner. Never have my four children made it through the witching hour with so little fuss. Again it wasn’t just Bella, Ben and Sophie were also entranced. When it was over Ben announced to me that it was his favorite.
7. Sea Shanties
This was a surprise. One day I wanted something different in the car so I selected Dom’s Age of Sail playlist. It has Roast Beef of Old England, an album of sea shanties I bought for him a few years ago, as well as the soundtrack to Master & Commander and Musical Evenings with the Captain, an album inspired by Patrick O’Brien’s Aubrey and Maturin books. It makes for a rather schizophrenic play list as the three albums have very different styles, but it’s kind of nice to listen to nonetheless. And the kids like all three kinds of music. Bella says the soundtrack songs sound like they tell a story and should go with a play. She likes the classical pieces because they are pretty—Ben exclaimed over one of them one day as he got out of the car, “I like that one. It’s very beautiful!” And the sea shanties are just plain fun. Bella and Sophie were singing sea shanties in the bath tub the other night, oh that makes me so happy.
by Melanie Bettinelli on June 12, 2013
My sister-in-law belongs to a great Catholic homeshooling group which is very active on the North Shore. Unfortunately most of the events are just too far away for us to attend. I pay my yearly dues because they aren’t that much and because they give me access to the group’s members-only website. On Monday a member posted to the group that she planned to take a field trip to the Higgins Armory Museum for their homeschool Wednesday. Dom and I have been talking about visiting the Higgins for forever and realized we’d have to do it soon when we saw the announcement that they are closing at the end of the year and transferring their collection to the Worcester Art Museum. So I decided to jump in on the field trip day. It seemed especially apropos since Bella and I are currently reading Padraic Colum’s The Children’s Homer, and just yesterday read about the armor of Achilles and the death of Hector. Swords and spears and armor have been captivating our imaginations. I knew the boys would love it and Sophie would enjoy it too.
The day got off to a rocky start, but I think it was one of the best field trips we’ve yet taken. First, Ben woke me up at 4:30 or so this morning. Screaming. I went to resettle him and as soon as I walked into his room, got a whiff of what probably disturbed his sleep. Anthony had a dirty diaper. He’s had some digestive issues recently, most likely the result of his general boycott of all fruits and vegetables. I had to turn on a light to change him and then play hunt the diaper cream. All the while Ben was yelling at me to turn out the lights but wouldn’t let me shut the door because he hates to be in his room alone. Dom had to go and sit with him until he fell back to sleep. By the time Anthony’s diaper was changed his eyes had adjusted to the light and he wouldn’t go back to his bed because it was too dark. So I had to settle him on the chair in the living room. And by the time that was done Lucy was awake of course and wanting to eat. And by the time I got her settled my brain was all awhirl. Somehow it had decided that it was the perfect time to compose a new About Me page. After about half an hour of that I decided to just sit up and write the words down, hoping that if I did so I might be able to get back to sleep. By the time I was done my brain was still going crazy. I started Morning Prayer, Dom’s alarm went off, he hit snooze, then Anthony came in to ask for breakfast. Dom got up to help him and Anthony popped into Dom’s place in the bed. Little trickster. So Dom got up and Anthony lay there for some time. Then Anthony got up and left and I finally fell asleep for half an hour.
So I got up, made breakfast, made sandwiches and packed a lunch, herded five children into shoes and socks, braided two girls’ hair, fed the baby…. and then couldn’t find my water bottle, realized the car needed gas, the toll tag was in Dom’s car at his office…. We got to the museum almost an hour after I’d planned to arrive and we missed the start of the talk we wanted to go to by 25 minutes. But though the talk would have been really great for Bella to hear, we still had a great day at the museum.
I am so sad to only be discovering this wonderful place just as it is closing. Wow what a treasure.
What began as one man’s passion for metalcraft and tales of chivalry has today become the only dedicated museum of armor in the western hemisphere, housing one of the few significant collections of knightly armor outside of Europe. The founder, John Woodman Higgins, a prominent Worcester industrialist during the early 1900s, spent a lifetime building his collection. In 1929 he began construction of a five-story building to house it, and in 1931 the John Woodman Higgins Armory opened its doors to the public.
The art-deco building, which the museum still occupies today, was one of the first all steel and glass curtain-wall structures built in America; it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Inside the museum’s Great Hall, high ceilings and gothic arches are reminiscent of a medieval castle and offer a powerful setting for the museum’s collection.
The collection, some 4000 pieces in all, includes major examples of arms and armor from medieval and Renaissance Europe, Ancient Greece and Rome, Africa, the Middle East, India, and Japan. On display are two dozen full suits of armor for battle, jousting, and courtly ceremony, in addition to swords, staff weapons, firearms, and artwork from the age of knightly armor. The American Association of Museums in its most recent reaccreditation report described the museum as “a place of national significance ... with superb collections.”
Not only do they have a wonderful collection. They also have great programming and a really fun interactive kids’ room with all sorts of hands on activities. And for $5 apiece the kids got to make their own shields. We did catch most of the story time. (Though Ben was very scared at the dragon—he’s very afraid of dragons right now—and ended up on my lap in tears while I couldn’t leave because they girls were on the other side of the room and enthralled but Sophie was about as far away from me as she could bear to be without bursting into tears herself.
Oh my goodness we all had such a great time. We were there until almost 3 and could have stayed for hours more. No one wanted to leave, not even Anthony was too tired. This is a museum first for us. Usually by 1 he is kicking Ben and getting very grumpy. I think I managed our visit very well. We started off on the third and fourth floors, looking at the collection. Then we had lunch and then we went to the second floor for the interactive stuff and making shields. That meant Anthony and Ben were running around and touch stuff instead of sitting still int he stroller when they hit that grumpy can’t get along stage. I left the girls playing with some of the other homeschoolers thanks to a friend who they know who agreed to watch them while I took Ben off to make a shield. It was great getting to focus just on Ben for a while. Meanwhile Anthony trailed along behind us and tried to hand me supplies and played with the glue and the pencils and paper. I didn’t get him a shield, which might have been a mistake. He felt a bit left out, but then I didn’t really have time to have made one for him.
The shields were a major success. Ben was very happy with a minimalist design: a gold crown and a silver axe on a green charge. Bella and Sophie both opted for mermaids. Bella created her own little design without the aid of a template, she said it wasn’t a crown, but couldn’t tell me what it was. Sophie had a heart and crown too. I loved that each stencil had an explanation of the significance of the symbol and there was also a chart on the wall explaining the meaning of each color. Bella was very taken with the meaning of her black arrow: black for constancy and an arrow for military preparedness. I told her it meant she was constantly ready to fight to protect those she loved. She really fastened on that, I could see her eyes gleaming.
Ben really, really wanted a sword like some of the other boys had. I’d already bought them books at the gift shop, so I told him it might have to wait for his birthday. I know what he’s getting: armor and a sword and a knight figurine like the ones he was playing with in the gift shop.
When we got home the three big kids lifted their shields and ran around in the yard in general melee. I had to promise to make them cardboard swords to tide them over till they can get other ones. I also promised Anthony I’d make him a shield. So tomorrow’s activity has already been decided.
I took all five kids to a museum all by myself and we had an awesome time. Maybe I really can do this after all.
by Melanie Bettinelli on June 02, 2013
1. Two years ago my parents brought some iris bulbs from their garden, offspring of bulbs I had planted when I was a teen, and I planted them in this little bed I created. Along the edge I also put in some lupine seeds. Most of them didn’t sprout and the one that did sprout didn’t bloom at all that year. Nor did it bloom last year. But this year… Wow!
A true Miss Rumphius moment. They are glorious! So many flowers. And so tall—almost up to Sophie’s shoulder. I need to plant more lupines.
2. Dom took this picture of me with all the kids. I’m pretty happy with it. Sure, Ben is pouting and Sophie is diving out of the shot, but that’s life.
3. I can’t remember if I already shared these or not. A lady at the library told us where there was a swan’s nest with eggs about to hatch. So we went to take a look. The nest was right there on the other side of the chain link fence, both swans were taking turns sitting on the nest.
We haven’t been back to see if the eggs have hatched. The thing is, it’s in the opposite direction from the library, the grocery store, the farmer’s market, everything. So it’s not easy to remember to just swing by. But I do want to see the cygnets.
4. Anthony took his lunch outside. How lovely it is that we can do this now! And how sweet is it that he is so independent?
5. I took Lucia outside to look at the irises and she started grabbing at the leaves in the crabapple tree. When I went to take her picture, she turned to look at the camera and oh it was the sweetest picture.
Sometimes she just looks like a little doll.
6. After the farmer’s market we picked up some pizza and subs and took them to the park for a picnic. It was hot, but the kids ran around and picked up acorns and had a grand time.
7. Last night we had our Saturday night farmer’s market bounty feast. Dom grilled some sausages and chicken and peppers and onions while I made some asparagus, turnip greens, and chard. While I was snapping a picture of my plate I noticed a little hand reaching out to grab at my plate. Lucia, who was sitting on my lap, snagged a piece of the turnip greens and even got it into her mouth. I don’t think she was very happy with the taste.
by Melanie Bettinelli on May 22, 2013
John Singer Sargent [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons”
Isabella Stewart Gardner by John Singer Sargent
Today we took a field trip to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Dom got a Living Social deal and we figured it was about time for our art loving Bella to visit the museum founded by her namesake.
Isabella Stewart was a New York heiress who married a Bostonian. They traveled extensively and she developed a taste for art, especially Renaissance Venetian art. When she inherited her father’s fortune she became a collector and after her husband died she built a gorgeous Italian style pallazzo on the Fenway to house her eclectic collection. The museum is rather a challenge for curators as Isabella’s will specified that the permanent collection cannot be substantially changed. The museum can neither add to or remove from the collection nor can they so much as move the objects and paintings around. In the Dutch room the empty frames of two stolen Rembrandts hang on the wall, stolen in 1990 in one of the most famous art heists in history.
I just love this museum. I love that it has so much personality, you can feel the presence of the woman whose vision it was. All the pieces, great and small that she collected. Here a bunch of vestments, there a collection of little glass bottles. Here a table set with golden cups and fine china, there a glass case full of lace. Chinese and Egyptian pieces, Greek and Roman, Medieval and Renaissance and Impressionist pieces jostle together with reliquaries, sketches, and furniture. There is a room full of tapestries with a gigantic fireplace, the intricately carved mantle is from France. A portrait of Mary Tudor, a self portrait of Rembrandt, a beautiful sedan chair, choir stalls, sarcophagi….
My favorite part of the museum is the central courtyard atrium. A fountain plays, orchids and hydrangeas bloom around a mosaic floor with a central medallion of Medusa’s head, the whole surrounded by beautiful cloisters filled with statues and objects d’arts. The glass roof is four stories above you and you feel like you are outside. I kept thinking: that’s is what I need in my house, a space where the kids can run and play in all weather but feel they are outside. Yes, I really wish I could live in the museum. I could get used to waking up in a room where I could look out on that courtyard full of flowers and green. It really is a little slice of heaven.
I wish I had photographs, but no cameras are allowed in the museum and no cell phone activity either. You’ll just have to click through and explore the museum’s site, which does let you browse their collections both by rooms and by genres and has a nice Explore feature as well.
Bella, Sophie, and Ben all loved it. Though as usual when going with children, we can’t stay very long. We arrived not long after the museum opened at 11, wandered over the first floor until 12. Then went out to have a picnic in the park across the street while watching the geese, squirrels, sparrows, and passing art students. The children amused themselves throwing sandwich crumbs and cheerios to the sparrows. At bedtime Bella told me that was her favorite part of the day. But she loved the art too. I know we will be back to this special place many times. (And as an Isabella she will get in free for life, though that doesn’t matter now as all children under 18 are free in accordance with the museum’s mission to teach art appreciation.)
After lunch we spent another hour or so wandering the second and third floors. Our exploration of the third floor was rather rushed since it was well past Anthony’s nap time and even Bella, Ben, and Sophie were fading. One rule of visiting museums with little people is to remember that you can’t see everything. You have to plan to give them enough to whet their appetites, trusting that some day you will return to drink more deeply. But it would take many days even for enthusiastic adults to begin to scratch the surface of this remarkable museum.
I did let each of the big kids get a print at the museum gift card since our Living Social deal included fifty dollars to spend there. Sophie got a beautiful picture of chrysanthemums, Bella got a portrait by John Singer Sargent of a woman holding a wine glass, Ben got a Spanish St Michael. I figure letting them each have a piece of art which is theirs is a great way of helping them to make connections, to feel that the art is theirs and the museum is theirs. Now I just need to go get some frames…. We also have some prints they got at Christmas and some I found on great sale last year. Once they are all framed the kids’ rooms are going to be little art galleries. How fun is that?
Oh and Lucia? How did she make out, you ask. She slept the whole time in the sling. Didn’t even wake up for lunch.
You can also read more about the museum and the famous theft at the museum’s Wikipedia page.
by Melanie Bettinelli on May 18, 2013
For her seventh birthday breakfast Dom made chocolate chip pancakes and bacon.
On the way to the farmer’s market Bella exclaimed “Everything looks different today.” Indeed everything does. I can’t believe it’s been seven years since my little wide-eyed wondering child entered the world. Everyone who visited us in the hospital commented on how alert she was. So alert and eager to take everything in. And she’s still the same, wide-eyed, eager girl, exploring the world. In the last year she’s come out of her shyness and is now quite eager to talk to anyone and everyone. But she’s definitely an introvert. She likes to retreat to her room, shut the door, seek quiet to recharge when she gets overwhelmed, much to poor Sophie’s dismay.
Last week Dom went on a walk with her and came home marveling: “I see an unkempt lawn full of dandelions,” he says, “But she exclaims how happy the people who live there must be to have so many beautiful flowers. I see a house that needs attention, she exclaims how beautiful the color blue is. I see a seedy empty lot, she sees a wonderland.” She pays attention to rocks and sticks and flowers and bushes. She has a favorite house on the block, the one with the beautiful garden, a bit unkempt and overgrown but full of flowers. She tells him the names of plants.
Bella picks radishes while Sophie watches. We were all enchanted by the red, red, redness of them.
She got seven dollars from Grandma Virgina and determined to spend them at the farmer’s market. She saw some vegetables she wanted to buy last week. When we got there she asked for some bagels and rolls at the bakery booth. Then she went for the radishes, a big pile of glowing red globes. She also eyed the baby bok choy: “That looks delicious! I want to try it.” And, “Yummy kale!” she exclaimed. Her money was spent on the radishes and a watermelon ice.
Those little dots on the left are me and the kids.
After the market treasures were safely stowed, we walked down to the beach. We discovered a jellyfish, some crabs, beautiful rocks and mussel shells, clams and bricks. A couple of tide pools were an invitation to wonder and Bella crouched to poke and prod while I tried to dissuade the boys from throwing stones into the pool and muddying the water.
Lunch was mac-n-cheese at Chili’s at her request, a nostalgic reprise of her first birthday. This time there was a lot more noise and jostling with four other kids at the table.
When we got home she launched into a complicated game with Ben and Sophie. So lovely to see the three of them playing together so nicely.
Dinner was steaks on the grill. With asparagus and sauteed radish greens and a salad—farmer’s market bounty. Turns out Bella just wanted to cut the radishes and serve them to us. She didn’t really like eating them. Oh well.
I made a lemon cake from scratch with a rather runny cream cheese frosting. Too much lemon juice in it, I think. But Bella liked it.
She told me right before it was time to open her presents that she likes books best of all. Good. I got her some.
She loved the wrapping paper. It was the filler paper from a box of something, maybe from King Arthur Flour or maybe Penzey’s. She was very excited that I’d drawn her a little picture on each package.
Sophie has a hard time when other people get presents. She wants all the shiny things. Bella was sweet and let her hold the new queen whenever Bella had to do something else. Sophie was mollified. I was very proud of Bella’s generous heart.
It’s hard to believe my little baby girl has grown into this great tall lanky girl, all arms and legs and gap teeth.
This morning I was so proud to hear her say that something was not this nor that. “Nor. She said nor.” Yes, my little girl talks like a character from a book much of the time. She’s hovering right on that threshold of reading. She can spell her own name: I S A B E L L A. She can write it too.
Bella was upset after a frustrating reading lesson and drew this frowny figure. She then made it into a scary witch surrounded by spiders, a ghost, bats, a wolf, a bear. She was delighting in scaring Sophie with ever grimmer figures in a Halloween motif.
I am so very, very blessed to have this amazing little girl in my life.
Updated. Just for fun:
by Melanie Bettinelli on April 28, 2013
The Island-below-the-Star written and illustrated by
Bella loved this delightful Polynesian tale of five brothers who journey across the Pacific in search of adventure and an island they are sure must be out there. Navigating by the stars, the clouds, the currents, the wind, and the birds they find their way from the Marquesas Islands to Hawaii.
The pictures are lovely watercolors, very engaging.
Complete Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem.
I meant to get this collection for Bella for Christmas but my order was cancelled too late to get it in time. So Sophie got it for her birthday and Bella since appropriated it. It’s not that Sophie doesn’t appreciate it, just that Bella adores it. Well, fortunately Sophie is a generous little soul and doesn’t seem to mind in the least. I haven’t read all the stories yet, but I do find them charming. One very minor quibble: just as with Redwall there are little snippets of pseudo-religion that kind of drive me nuts: a wedding and a baptism with language that loosely evokes the Christian sacraments but with no God, just some nature worship kind of language. Definitely not enough to discard the books, but I did mention to Dom in Bella’s hearing that I don’t know why they made that choice. It just bothers me.
I don’t think there are words to express the depth to which Bella adores the Little House books. She really dives into them, spending hours poring over the illustrations. She also loves, loves, loves the three albums of music from the books. I’m constantly amazed at the extent of her recall. Although I’ve only read each book once, she will unerringly remember in which scene of which book each song appeared. She can recount scenes from every book in great detail and often greets Dom at the door with a long narration about some incident or other in a Little House book, it may or may not be from the most recent chapter we’ve read. It might not even be from the current book.
When we got to Farmer Boy she wasn’t at all interested. She just wanted to read about Mary and Laura. But then when we came to the first of the Almanzo chapters in The Long Winter, I pointed out that she’d appreciate them more if she’d read his story. So we began to read Farmer Boy concurrently with The Long Winter. It was sometimes a bit disconcerting to jump back and forth between Almanzo as a boy and as a young man, and Dom asked if she wouldn’t get confused. But she never did. Bella and I regularly read chapters from half a dozen or more different books that we’ve got going concurrently and she never gets them confused. (Right now we are reading Little Town on the Prairie, Audrey of the Outback, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Acts of the Apostles for Children, The Gospel according to St Mark, Five Little Peppers, The Little Prince, The Story of the World Volume 1, and a biography of St Pio of Pietrelcina.) Sophie and Ben loved Farmer Boy too and often plopped down to listen in on chapters.
Bella’s plan is that when we finish the Mary and Laura books we will move on to the other Little House spin offs. I’m thinking the Charlotte books will fit nicely with beginning American history in the coming school year.
In the comments Enbrethiliel reminded me that I meant to include the links to the albums of Little House music. These are the three we have. I think Pa’s Fiddle Band may have more, though I’m not sure if their other albums are merely in the spirit of or are limited to the songs that are actually in the books. Clearly more research is necessary. Maddeningly, the songs on these albums are not arranged according to how the songs appear in the books. It offends my OCD, but I’m trying to deal with it. I posted the links in the comments, but I’ll put them here too:
Yes these are Amazon Affiliate links and yes we get a little bit of credit when you click through and buy. I promise we use the pennies we glean to defray the costs of the children’s education and our own book habits.
by Melanie Bettinelli on April 26, 2013
This is what Adoration looks like. A dozen children, four moms, one grandmother, and an excellent priest who believes that children, yes even the youngest children, can get to know Jesus in this wonderful way. I think the oldest child here is 8. The youngest is Lucia, at 3 months, but the next youngest is a little lad who is only one month older.
We began with O Salutaris Hostia. The moms sang off of printed sheets, most of the kids just listened. But they were hearing it, soaking it in. Then Father gave a nice little talk to the kids, talking about Jesus, inviting them to listen to Him and to bring Him their thoughts and concerns. A short period of quiet and then the children talked about Jesus, explained what they had prayed about, if they wanted to. I had to take Lucy to the back to nurse her as she got quite fussy at this point.
Then a brief prayer, the prayer the little children were taught by an angel at Fatima:
My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love You.
Then the children prayed their petitions. There was a little boy who wanted to pray for soldiers and people killed in war, and people in hospitals. Sophie had a bunch. She wanted to pray for all the people who made up their own gods instead of worshiping Jesus. She also wanted to pray for people who couldn’t walk or use their feet and were in wheelchairs and in the hospital. And for people who had died who didn’t know Jesus. She’s never spoken up before, but today she was little miss chatty. Though she hasn’t yet learned not to interrupt.
I’d like to note that mine were the only children running around all the other children stayed nicely put on the rug. Anthony and Ben did actually kneel down once or twice, but mostly they were jumping off that bottom step, kicking the pews, and being boys.
Bella and Sophie both did the thing where they lay down on the floor and kick their feet. But then they both did a passable job of kneeling at the end. And at the very end both stood in line sweetly for a special benediction.
Adoration ended with praying the Divine Praises and singing the Tantum Ergo. There was another song in the middle that I can’t remember. Finally as Father carried the Host back to the tabernacle, we sang Holy God We Praise Thy Name. Sophie’s favorite. I love that the format has room for the beautiful Latin hymns, the sense of the sacred and profound mystery ad ritual, as well as the personal and intimate. No, these kids aren’t quite ready to make a quiet Holy Hour, but they get it. They know they have spent a special time with Jesus. It wasn’t watered down for them but it was made accessible to them.
It’s probably been at least six months since the last time we went. This time I was able to see a profound difference in Ben who was especially sweet today. In the past couple of weeks he’s seemed to have turned a corner and has got over whatever it was that he had against religion and has started sometimes kneeling in church and praying along at dinner and bedtime prayers and even making the sign of the cross sometimes and who was heard to say he wanted to go to Mass to see Jesus. At the end of Adoration he declared: I like to come and see Jesus. And he was very excited about the holy card of St Teresa that he received and the pretty flowers and loved making a cross.
We got there half an hour early, I was planning to let them run off some steam at the playground behind the church but the school kids were there and there were just too many of them. My timid children preferred to go right into the church. Where they proceeded to run up and down the aisles while I nursed Lucia. They said hi to their favorite saints and admired the stained glass.
After Adoration we did a little craft, making pipe cleaner crosses. Perfect fun. Then once the school kids had cleared off the playground, we did go out and run around. And had a picnic lunch on the fly, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, strawberries, apples, raisins, cheese. Gabriel pushed Bella on the tire swing.
Then when we got home, a mystery. A picture of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta was leaning against the front step. No note or anything. Um. Ok.
And just for fun, Lucia in her car seat, happy as can be:
When Dom took Bella for a walk this morning he said it was delightful to see the world through her eyes. He saw a yard full of weeds, she said, those people are so lucky to have so many flowers. He saw a dilapidated house, she saw that it was painted a beautiful shade of blue. He saw ratty old silk flowers tossed by the wind, she saw a treasure to bring home to her sister and brothers.
by Melanie Bettinelli on April 11, 2013
Anthony hit the jackpot this week with fun read alouds at the library. I generally let him pull two books off the shelf to check out. Sometimes they go back in the bag and stay there after a first reading. But these are so fun to read I grabbed them for his naptime today.
The first is a fun tale from Zaire. (Which I guess isn’t Zaire anymore but is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.) It’s a fun little story about a civet cat named Bowane who is going to collect his bride in the village of Tondo, but along the way is too accommodating to the friends he asks to be his attendants and thus misses the girl. She gets tired of waiting for him (they wait years and years for a log to rot so Ulu the tortoise can get across it.) and marries a different cat. The scorn with which she chases Bowane away is delicious.
The story reads like an oral tale written down with all the repetition and funny animal sounds. It’s a book that has all four of my big kids giggling as I read—and sometimes Lucia catches the mood and giggles too.
What’s really fun about it is that each of the animals make a sound:
And so they went on—
Bowane walking, ika-o ika-o, ika-o;
Embenga flapping, bwa-wa, bwa-wa, bwa-wa;
Nguma slithering, swe-o, swe-o, swe-o;
And Ulu waddling, ta-ka, ta-ka, ta-ka, ta-ka—
The four of them traveling to Tondo.
(Don’t worry, there’s a pronunciation guide for all the Lonkundo words.)
It’s such a charming little tale with gorgeous pictures that really capture the personalities of the animals and it has a clever moral too. I’d definitely consider adding it to our library.
Anthony’s second pick is an illustration of a song that Bella used to be quite obsessed with. I first heard it back in my Irish pub haunting days in college when Celine and Marianne introduced me to Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers:
All God’s critters got a place in the choir
Some sing low, some sing higher
Some sing out loud on the telephone wire
And some just clap their hands, or paws
Or anything they got.
Listen to the bass, it’s the one on the bottom
Where the bullfrog croaks and the hippopotamus
Moans and groans with a big to-do
The old cow just goes MOOOOO
Bella used to watch the Makem and Clancy video on You Tube over and over again. I think Dom even figured out how to download it and put it on an endless loop on my laptop. I didn’t realize what book Anthony had got till we got it home. It wouldn’t have caught my eye, being a bit too garish, but it’s just the thing that a two year old boy would grab. This book has such fun illustrations, big, bold, bright animals all hamming it up on a stage. It’s definitely a big hit with my whole crew. Now Bella and Sophie and Ben are wandering about the house singing along. And of course we’ve been watching the video again too:
by Melanie Bettinelli on April 08, 2013
This morning at breakfast Bella was busy coloring a picture of the annunciation that I’d printed off for her yesterday. When she’d finished coloring she decided she wanted to add some text. So she found her Bible story book and began to copy out the words from the story: “God sent the angel Gabriel to a little town called Nazareth…” She back to copying them out at dinner tonight (after taking off most of the day for playing) and still at it after Dom had tucked her into bed when I went in to say goodnight.
Once again I was struck at how she finds her own little ways to observe the liturgical events that mean something to her. And also how unschoolers are right, children who are allowed to follow their passions will learn well beyond any curriculum we could set them. If I’d tried to assign copywork, even something a fraction of the length, she’d have melted into a sobbing puddle. But when it was her own idea, she went at it with a will. Catechesis and art and handwriting all accomplished as well as a great satisfaction. She even pointed out to me that she’d done the floor in black and white squares just like Vermeer in his painting of the lace maker.
Something New, Something Other: An Annunciation Diptych Joanne McPortland’s reflection on similarities between artistic depictions of the annunciation and of Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the risen Christ.
There is the certain similarity of positions, although in the Annunciation it is Mary of Nazareth who turns away while the angel my kneel before her, and in the Noli me tangere Mary of Magdala falls to her knees while the Risen Christ turns slightly away. There is the tradition that both encounters occur in a garden—the walled garden (or closed room, with a garden visible beyond) of Mary’s virginity, the burial garden in which the Magdalene mistakes Jesus for a gardener—with its echoes of the reversal of the Expulsion from Paradise. Both begin with a greeting that overcomes fear, and both conclude with immediate evangelical action: Mary of Nazareth hastes to the hill country to be with her kinswoman, Elizabeth; Mary of Magdala speeds to her brothers with the good news.
There are other resonances that act like open and close parentheses. Mary of Nazareth wonders how she can be with child without ever having known the embrace of the flesh; the Risen Christ refuses Mary of Magdala’s fleshy embrace. (Neither is meant as a rejection of the embodied love by which God blesses marriages and families, but a signal that Something New, Something Other is happening here.) A filled womb, an empty tomb. The first time we hear of Mary of Nazareth in the scriptural story of Jesus; the last time we hear of Mary of Magdala.
by Melanie Bettinelli on February 28, 2013
1. “Mama, Mama! Look! Mama! Mama! Window. Window.”
Anthony pretends the chair back is a window.
2. “I aim to misbehave”
Lucia got this t-shirt from Grandma Pat, a diehard Browncoat.
3. Self portrait by Bella.
She also took one of Anthony:
They just can’t seem to remember that the rule is “Don’t Touch Mama’s Phone. Ever.”
4. In related news: Yesterday Anthony broke the new lamp in the living room. The glass shade shattered all over the living room carpet. Fortunately it missed Lucia in the swing. The one we just bought from Ikea two weeks ago. That kid is a force of nature.
5. This morning Bella was telling me about a game that she and Sophie play called “The Wiseman’s Ghost” which she says will help Sophie to learn the Gospel. I’m not sure what exactly it entails except tha tSophie pretends to be Jesus and Bella tells her what to say. When asked if there’s a ghost in it, Bella says no. “It’s a little funny,” she says. And something about how “ghost” sounded better than “crucified.” I’m still not sure where the wise man comes in.
She has a remarkable gift for coming up with great titles. I still fondly recall the story she told me about The Singer of Popcorn Park.
6. Today my three big kids all went outside to stomp in the puddles. Barefoot. It was 41 degrees out and there was snow on the ground. But I didn’t stop them because they were OUTSIDE.
7. When she saw me taking pictures, Sophie asked me to take a video of her.
She explains that they are pretending to be Egyptians. The mud is from the flooding Nile.
“I’m playing in the mud. And so. So. So. So. So. Everybody else is getting their feet dirty. Hee hee hee hee hee. And so… there still… the snow hasn’t melted I know that. They’re still walking in the snow. There’s still bits of grass in the snow. Even… In fact, in fact, in fact… [singing] (to Ben) Mom’s taking a video of us. All right? So you have to make noise. [Ben screams] Muddy, you’re all muddy, you’re all muddy… We’re being Egyptians. We’re playing Egyptian outside. The mud on our feet is the mud from the Nile.” [more screaming]
And then there was this:
I can’t decide if her extemporaneous poem here is more hip hop or beatnik. “Mud feet, mud feet, mud, mud I have mud feet. Truly it is true. I am not lying. Boo. Boo. Boo. Boo. Boo. Goo. Goo. Goo. I am not lying. Which I’m really saying that. What. No I just don’t want to sing. I’ll talk. All right. All right. Mitmittyatkasight. All right. Shhh. Baby’s sleeping. Shh. Someone else is sleeping. Someone. Someone. He is a king. Shh. Someone is sleeping. Shh. Someone is… Quiet. Shh. Guess who it is. Shh. Guess right now. I do not bow. Vow, vow, vow. Bow, bow, bow… I do not bow. Bow. Bow. I do not bow. Bow. Bow…. I do not bow. Bow. Bow. Bow. .... Are you still taking a video?”
8. I was going over their catechism with the girls when Anthony wandered in. I asked him, “Anthony, who made you?” Not expecting an answer really. But he did reply, “Jesus.” Well then.
For more quick takes visit Conversion Diary