Saturday, September 29, 2007

From Gloria in Excelsis Deo

I nicked this post from Katherine and Chris over at Gloria, click the link above to see their most adorable baby! This is food for thought.

Count Your Blessings

If we could reduce the world’s population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all existing human ratios remaining the same, the demographics would look something like this:

• 60 Asians
• 12 Europeans
• 5 US Americans and Canadians
• 8 Latin Americans
• 14 Africans
• 49 would be female
• 51 would be male
• 33 would be Christian
• 67 would be non-Christian (And the overwhelming majority of these 67 would suffer great persecution if they attempted to become Christian)
• 5 would control 32% of the entire world’s wealth
• 80 would live in substandard housing
• 24 would not have any electricity (And of the 76 that do have electricity, most would only use it for light at night.)
• 67 would be unable to read
• 1 (only one) would have a college education
• 50 would be malnourished and 1 dying of starvation
• 33 would be without access to a safe water supply
• 1 near death
• 2 would be near birth
• 7 people would have access to the Internet

If you have never experienced imprisonment, an agony of tortures or a famine, you are happier, than 500 million persons in this world.

If you are able to go to church, without fear of harassment, arrest, torture or death, you are happier, than 3 billion persons living in this world today.

If there is a meal in your refrigerator, if you are dressed and have got shoes, if you have a bed and a roof above your head, you are better off, than 75% of people in this world.

If the father of your child is married to you, provides for you, and your marriage is free of violence, then you are a rarity. If you have a bank account, money in your purse, you belong to 8% of well-provided people in this world.

If you read this text, you are blessed even more, because you are not among those 2 billion people living in the world today which cannot read.

This is the human condition of our world today. If we take a look at the world from this condensed perspective, the need for acceptance and appreciation for the many blessings in our lives becomes much more evident.

Harry Potter, Is it bad for good Catholics?

Image:Harry potter stamps.jpg

Admittedly far behind in my blog reading, I have had some moments to read Catholic Restorationists and came across a post about Harry Potter. The author of the post contends that Potter should be considered carefully by parents because of the fact that evil surrounds the books and their marketing and product tie ins. Despite Rowlings intentions, he maintains that the result of her books is an increased interest in the occult. There were many comments he received on this topic, running the usual gamut of agreements and disagreements. Then there was this comment:

2) If your kids read Harry Potter and decide to become Wiccans? They have got way more serious issues going on than their latest bedtime stories.

I have struggled with many aspects of parenting over the last 15years of practice at it. One of the more difficult for me has been discerning things like literature and movies, toys, etc. Many young parents are heavily influenced by media, mainstream PC thinking etc. I know I was. When my older children were small, I wouldn’t allow guns in their play because I bought into the PC thinking of guns are not toys, they are very dangerous and lead to criminal acts; and because of television and movies, and the playtime with toy guns, most children can load and fire a weapon by the age of five. Well, I’ve come round to realizing that whether or not I allow the gun play, my children will play it anyway. They took everything they could to make guns, from sticks to food. I’ve also come to realize that it is better that I form their perspective on guns (and other weaponry) in a healthy way, not in a criminal way. I have changed my opinion on weapon play after research, thought, and most importantly, guidance from God through the graces afforded the Sacrament of Marriage.

The reason I allowed myself to be influenced by the political-correctness as a young mother is because I feared for the souls of my children. In my attempts to do the right thing, I was swayed into following the mainstream thinking of the time, despite its nagging at me that I was being a bit over the top. The intent was good, there was no harm in the decision to forbid guns, but it didn’t work and I had to re-evaluate my reasons. Political correctness versus Catholicism, or political correctness versus common sense in parenting are constant sources of reflection and evaluation by diligent parents. We want to do what is right, teach our children rightly and safeguard their souls.

I have come to the point in my parenting where I do agree with the above comment. Many authors use the supernatural to entertain. Tolkein, Lewis, Rowling, Patterson, Croggon, and more have all done it. There are underlying good versus evil classic themes in all of these books. Parents have a responsibility to explain and interpret these books if their children are going to read them. But, if all aspects of their formation are in line, then it will be easy for the children to see, with parental guidance, what the hype is about and actually understand it.

I have always held that the Potter books are not appropriate for the very young. Before the age of reason, at the age of reason, even a bit older...I wouldn't endorse, encourage or allow the exposure. Teens, with parental guidance can, in my opinion, read from a different perspective and see the books for what they are, entertainment. A parent should guide them through their questions about the good vs. evil and the magical powers exhibited. I think it is just guidance on reality vs. fantasy. In fact the only books from the aforementioned list that are appropriate for the elementary age, in my opinion and in my household, are the Lewis books, The Chronicles of Narnia. These are read aloud books in the Thorns household.

I do think Potter is okay for reading, even by Catholics, under the conditions of parental guidance and discussion. Appropriateness is also determined by maturity of the child, and by the parent knowing their child and understanding what their child can handle. What is acceptable for one at the age of 14 isn’t necessarily acceptable for the other, even at 16, it is all parental judgment based on a relationship with their children.

There is also a potential to lead one astray (into the occult) but those so easily led have other issues, bigger issues than literature to deal with. There is a learning curve with parenting, and there is a learning curve each child has. If either the parents or the children aren’t ready to deal with Potter and its issues, or do not desire to deal with it, that is fine; although the child will have some level of exposure to Potter, and it will be dealt with on some level anyway. This is much like issues of modesty. You teach your children proper behavior, but being in the world, they will have a certain level of exposure to other than what you’ve set forth as the ideal.

I look at things like Potter as teaching opportunities. “What is wrong with what they just did?” “Where is the flaw in the reasoning here?” Those teaching moments are golden, and they equip your child to form and defend a position on many things in life, not just Harry Potter. Without grabbing at those moments, and sometimes cultural literacy provides the best opportunities, our children will end up like the rest, easily influenced and unable to defend a position. Of course there are great masterpieces in literature that do not have the influence of magical characters, but if a book does, it shouldn’t be immediately discounted because of the magic. Teaching your children using the examples of Harry and his cohorts gives your children the cultural literacy they need to be current in the world, and also the ability to analyze the book and see it for what it is. These are important life skills that will go far to safeguard the souls of your children from the dangers of an unformed and easily led mind.

A product of the public school system and liberal thinking almost led me the wrong way numerous times. It took much hard work to learn to analyze and not be led by the mainstream media, politically correct thinking, liberalism (and more), and become a self-assured, confident woman who thinks for herself. This is what I hope to teach my children. Literature, including Potter, is an opportunity to teach logic and analysis. After much consideration on my part I've concluded, if my children wish to read Harry Potter they will be permitted.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Chuck Wagon Mac

We did the most awesome, yet simple, thing today. We took the children on a field trip to meet this wonderful 76 year old man. He calls himself “Chuck wagon Mac” and he was truly a delight to behold. We all enjoyed our visit with him. He had a chuck wagon replica and he was a font of information. Did you know there are 31 uses for a bandana? Did you know that most cowboys did not own a gun? Did you know that the cook was the only one who possessed whisky on the trail (or any alcohol) and that was usually for medicinal purposes. The cook was a dentist, doctor, veterinarian and a cook. And (especially for Izzarina) did you know that they carried GREEN COFFEE BEANS when they were on a cattle drive? They would roast them on an open fire. Why did they do this? Because pre roasted coffee beans would mold and carrying green coffee beans, roasting as needed, ensured a mold free cup of coffee. Interesting. Boy did we have a good time. The kids dressed up in cowboy gear and had a blast.

Guess what the kids did when we got home. They are watching BONANZA, LOL!

Click on the photo we took of his display, it should enlarge so you can read it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Books of Pellinor

The Naming (Pellinor, Book 1) The Riddle: The Second Book of Pellinor (Pellinor Series) The Crow (Pellinor Trilogy)

These books are AWESOME! How's that for an endorsement? I have really been enjoying this teen series. I have, just today, finished The Riddle. The books of Pellinor are a planned quartet, I understand book IV will be called The Singing and as the final installment, it will be published in mid-2008. We have a copy of The Crow although the cover doesn't look at all like what I have pictured above, it is actually done more in the style of the first two.

This series will surely be compared to the Lord of the Rings and I do feel this is a fair comparison as they are both fantasy adventure stories and wage the war of good versus evil. In this series it is the Light versus the Dark. I have also noticed some similarities to Tolkein in that there is a dictionary of pronunciations and special words, there are footnotes and explanations of where the story came from (lost records recently translated) and it makes you wonder if there wasn't really a lost kingdom.

The Naming opens when Maerad, a sixteen year old girl, is discovered and rescued by Cadvan, a Bard (similar to an elf in LOTR). Maerad was a slave, she remembered being captured along with her mother, on the same night her father and baby brother were killed and her town burned. Maerad was just seven years old at the time. Her mother perished in captivity, Maerad was left to fend for herself. Cadvan was hiding in a barn when Maerad was assigned to milk the cows. He was astonished when she could see him as he had worked an invisibility charm so he could rest, unseen by humans. Only other Bards can see through such a charm, so he knew she was one. Maerad was unaware of her powers, and was shocked to learn of them. Cadvan rescued her from captivity and introduced her to the world of Barding. If that were all this would be a very charming story without much to sink your teeth into. This story is not charming. This story is full of twists and turns to keep me up late turning the pages until my eyes droop and the book tumbles to the floor, released in my slumber. Of course the crash wakes me up, and being an insomniac, I get to read a bit more.

These characters are compelling. I read LOTR but have not been a big fan of fantasy, ever. In this story of Pellinor, I find myself enjoying the adventure, the surprises, and the battles. The descriptions are sufficient and enthralling without dragging on for pages. There is a little element of romance hidden in the undercurrent of the story, I don’t know where that will lead. This is a ‘coming of age’ book in that Maerad is growing into a woman. Maerad is also the powerful figure in the book, meaning much rests on her shoulders. Comparing her to LOTR characters, I would say she is the most powerful and liken her to Gandalf the White, except that she does not appear to be all good. She has much power like Galadriel and Saruman. She is untrained in her powers and therefore is very dangerous, yet she is the heroine in the book and is fighting for the Light (rather obviously the good) against the Dark (the forces of evil). But within her is much innocence like Frodo or Sam. Also like Frodo, the survival of the kingdom rests on her.

A criticism I have in the writing of the book is there is some predictability in Maerad’s reactions. She is often afraid of ridiculous things and fearless in the face of grave danger. It is a bit tiresome to have her continuously doe eyed and wide mouthed at the awesomeness and grandeur of the kingdom. It was amusing and expected at first, considering she was a slave since she was seven and sheltered from life outside of the encampment, but this innocence at times seems a little forced and has tried my patience due to overuse. In the overall scheme, it is a small complaint.

There are a couple of references I haven't liked in the books, such as when Cadvan states in The Riddle “It is not true that suffering is good for the soul. Too much, and even the strongest will break.” This is true, that even the strongest can break under overwhelming suffering, but I like to see fearlessness in the suffering characters. Once again, this is a minor issue. Also, I’m not sure why the author continues to mention every menses that Maerad experiences. I am assuming there is a point to this, as there was a point when it was the menarche. It may very well be to mark the passage of time as I’ve been able to keep track of the months this way, but wouldn’t it be nicer to mark time in some other manner? Perhaps I’m a bit overly sensitive, I prefer things to be left to the realm of the unmentioned, especially in teen literature.

Overall, however, I would have to say that at this point in my reading, finished with the second book of four, I am very impressed. The women are strong, and in positions of power. This being incongruous with motherhood is handled quite neatly by the fact that Bards live a very long life. The fertility of a Bard is relatively short compared with their life expectancy, so they are able to raise a family and then go on to long lives of powerful careers. It is an interesting twist to the usual role of women in an epic fantasy. I am the polar opposite of a feminist, but I have enjoyed the strong feminine roles in this story.

This is a series for your Christmas gift giving lists. I would recommend it for girls ages 14 and up. I would hesitate to give it to a teen boy without clearance of his mother due to my sense of modesty about the vivid descriptions of Maerad’s learning how to deal with her menarche. It certainly isn’t a central theme in the book, but it is a recurring one.

There are plenty of moments where you will cry, rejoice, and have a knot in the pit of your stomach. I would not say that Alison Croggon is in the same league with Tolkein at all, but she has created a gripping tale, replete with unforgettable characters that tug at your heart strings, a vivacious mixture of good and evil, and most aren’t clearly one or the other. I was especially impressed with the sacrifice exhibited by many of the main characters. They truly sacrifice themselves for the good of all. Through their mistakes they retain a humanity that makes you love them. When they plough on despite those mistakes and face down tremendous challenges they make you cheer. When the characters sacrifice themselves, their freedoms, or their desires for the greater good, they make you cry. What more could you want from a series? I can’t wait to read the next two.

There is Hope

I have been on the internet for almost half an hour, conversing with Izzarina over at Flosculi and posting on my own blog, without interruption in service. *\0/* That is me cheering with my little pom poms. Maybe Lily is back on line...I guess I shouldn't get my hopes up too high, it has been quite a while since we've had decent service. I suppose it is the price one pays for the quiet solitude of rural country living. At least I get DSL, some much larger areas do not get that. Hey, they had to give us something as we don't even get television service where we live. Now, that is a good thing.

While we haven't had internet service we discovered that our library has a very nice stash of videos and DVDs to borrow. Our library has been undergoing renovations so we haven't been there much. We also have an obscene amount of books in our possession. There is a story to that but not for today's time slot. What have we watched this week? Bourne Identity, Oklahoma, A discovery video about Wild Cats (made my 4 yo cry when the lion killed the zebra) and tonight we are tuning in to see Alessandra Ferri dance in Romeo and Juliet, with the Royal Ballet.

This video was selected by WeShow

I cannot wait to see it.

That is the update from the Thorns residence for now. I'm pushing my luck staying on line this long, but there is hope for better service.


I just discovered a delightful blog, written by an amazing mother of eleven children. I 'know' Izzarina from elsewhere and I'm just tickled that she has a blog and I can keep up with her a bit better now. Do stop in and read her blog and tell her I sent you :-). She has a very cool feature on her blog, where you can type your smiley (like I did above) and it morphs into an actual smiley. Isn't that awesome? As a preview, here's a picture I nicked from her blog, of cookies her dd made for her. She has gotten me thinking about some fun topics. Since my internet is intermittent it seems these days I hope I can manage a post or two in the near future.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip cookies

Don't those cookies look awesome? The picture is from her post called, "Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies are Evil" LOL. Go read her blog, she is very witty and entertaining, though she will deny it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Neglectful Blogger

I've been a neglectful blogger lately! I've managed to accomplish most of that ever growing project I started too close to the start of the school year. There is still one obstacle to overcome. But I can close the door on that project and get to it as time permits...did I actually say that, hahaha. That is funny, time, what is that anyway? I hear there is actually such a thing as free time. I have my doubts about it! ;-)

We are into our second week of homeschooling with more students than ever...those kids keep growing, getting older, and adding themselves into my list of students. It is a very good thing, but it has turned me into a neglectful blogger. After this period of settling in to the routine is passed I should have a bit of my life back.

My eldest has produced a final prototype of her needle cases, and now we will begin production next week I think. I will post one of our first 'products' and I will keep you informed about her progress. This week she is making doll clothes for a seller who asked her to. She designed her own LOTR style doll outfit, very cute. That is the picture above. The rope we will use will not be dd's own necklace as in this photo, but rather a gold cord. This is her own design. If we have time this week we intend to do some golden embroidery on there as well, perhaps around the sleeves and the neckline. The sleeves will be a slightly different construction than is pictured, but the idea will be the same. So, what do you think of the doll outfit? Not bad for a novice teen sewer.

I have a post I am planning to nick (with permission) from a fellow blogger's post. I will get to that later, I want to give you all something to read when you stop in! I also have a post milling around my mind that I just haven't had time to write. Go check out some of my favorite blogs, they are always a fun read. Thanks for dropping by!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A Favorite Drawing

As I've been saying, I've been really busy cleaning, reorganizing, purging and filing...well haven't quite gotten to the filing yet, that is still to come. When I cleaned out my desk I came across a memory, carefully preserved from Mother's Day. My dear Maria, 5yo, made this for me this past year, and it will rank among my all time favorite things from my children. I don't usually post about my children, but this one was irresistible. If you cannot read it, hopefully you can click and it will enlarge, it says, "Happee Muters Day" Too cute!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Something Fun

I took typing in high school at my mother's prompting. I enjoyed the class. I've always been grateful ever since to have taken it because the computer age has really required a great knowledge of the key board to work efficiently at anything computer related, say blogging.

Today it occurred to me that I have no idea how fast I type, though my children are all amazed at my flashing fingers. I figured I must type at least 60wpm. I took a typing test on line today, and lo and behold, I was right! I type at 64wpm, either zero or only one mistake each time I tried. Lest you think you will memorize the passage, they change it every time to re-test!

Oh, and being a book fiend, I just loved the fact that the typing test uses passages from great books! All of mine were from English literature. Since the site is from the UK that is no surprise. No Austen on my tests, but that would have been cheating. I have definitely memorized bits of Austen, not out of an attempt to remember but rather out of a love of Austen!

Just for fun, give it a go!


Sunday, September 2, 2007

Nice Matters Award

I have been honored by A Thorn in the Pew with an award:
YAY! It is gratifying that people think I'm nice. I'm not sure I'm always nice, you'd have to ask my husband about that ;-), but I do try!

In return, I'd like to bestow this award on the following bloggers, in no particular order:
Beth- Who is a beautiful person and a very talented seamstress!
MaryT-Who has a great online shop, is fun to read, and is a very nice person!
Mary - Who has this awesome blog!
Katherine-Who has the most adorable baby in the world! Check out her blog for a baby fix!
Petrus-Who has awesome taste in literature! And she is very funny!
Jamie and Claudio-They like sandwiches! They are a funny read.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

More Viruses

Another computer virus detected! My computer and I were both cleaning today, as there is yet another virus. I fell victim to the scam about someone sending me a Hallmark card. Don't fall for that one. When I opened the card it wouldn't work, so I did it again! DUH! I was busy didn't think of it again, but then my computer started slowing down. This is when I decided to manually run a virus scan. Upon trying to start it I realized my virus protection had expired...oops! VOILA, during that expiration period I got a virus. Well, that thing just won't leave my computer. Or, it has compromised my system and I keep getting viruses. Either way, my computer found yet another one today! SIGH!

Moral of this story, don't let your virus protection expire, and DO NOT open e-cards that you cannot 100% identify as e-cards. Follow the link above to get the scoop from Hallmark on how to tell the real ones from the fakes. In retrospect, I really ought to have smelled the rat, my personal radar wasn't working that day I guess. It happens when you are pulled in multiple directions from home, husband and children. It can happen to anyone.