Now that the official gift-giving season is over, here is a recap of a few of my favorites…

We managed to pull of a huge 80th birthday surprise party for Grandma. Over 100 people showed up from all over Texas, Colorado, and Louisiana. My grandma is completely beloved by everyone who knows her. She’s the oldest daughter of 9 brothers and sisters – so it goes without saying that we have a huge family. Members from each of the families of her siblings were there, except the ones from Mississippi. They would have been there too, but their whole group just took a big trip to see some of our Colorado relatives around Thanksgiving. Anyway they were there in spirit. I could write volumes of pages about my grandma and what she means to me. She’s my best friend. I can’t event imagine what my life would be without her. I felt so lucky and blessed to be a part of planning this wonderful surprise for her. Image

Most of the gifts we gave for Christmas this year were hand-made. David is amazing. He built my niece a horse stable. She loved it, and we all had a blast giving it to her.


Since we started homeschool with Corbin, he’s been doing a lot more tinkering. Mostly with remote controlled helicopters and cars. David built him this amazing workbench and we stocked it with everything he might need. He actually helped move the workbench from the wood shop into the garage. This was the moment when he realized that the cabinet he helped install, was actually a workbench for him!


It’s always tough to figure out what to get for David’s mom and dad. They don’t really have a lot of interests or hobbies. My brother-in-law had a stroke of genius when he thought of getting him this vehicle for their bay house. I love this picture because they seem to be having fun! They are truly amazing people, they deserve just a little whimsy. Image

I really loved this Christmas. We had a lot of family time with all of the boys home!


Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement. C. S. Lewis

I started this day looking through old prayer journals from this time last year. So many things have changed. I’m comforted to say that most of them have been positive changes. As this year comes to a close, I intend to dissect the items I spelled out as goals last year to see what I need to work on in 2014. 

One of those areas where I continually drop the ball is by not turning to God when the kids are boneheads. My behavior today really highlighted this shortcoming. This afternoon we went out to eat as a family. We had a great time, but there was a damper on the mood because Cole couldn’t join us. His blood sugar was really high overnight; instead of getting up and getting it under control, he laid in bed all morning and it just got worse and worse. By the time I realized what was going on, he was fully sick. Cole is eighteen, he and Kyle have had diabetes since they were two. I was (am) so irritated at him, and I chewed him out pretty good. I realize that my anger comes from pride and faithlessness. Maybe I should say fear and faithlessness. I’m just so worried about him. I have to stop counting it as a personal failure every time they go through this. (He’s doing better now, but he is still severely dehydrated. We will probably be sitting in the ER at some point tonight.)

Jesus Calling had these two bible versus this morning. I think I need to memorize them.

Psalm 46:1-3

1 God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging

Psalm 89:15

Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, LORD. 


CHOO CHOO!!!!!!!!

Our grand train adventure is officially ON LIKE DONKEY KONG! We booked our passage from Houston to Los Angeles last night. Here’s a rough itinerary thus far.

Feb 22th depart Houston 6:55pm – We are traveling in an Amtrak Roomette for this leg of the trip since we will be on the train for 2 nights. It’s really cool because our meals will be provided. All we have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride! From a homeschool perspective, there will be a ton of opportunities to learn about history. Amtrak provides some cool resources so we will always know something about the places we are passing through. I’ve read that the passenger train we will be traveling on stops periodically to allow cargo trains to pass. We can probably work some lessons in about industry and how products are moved around the country.

Feb 24th arrive Los Angeles 5:35am – Since we are arriving early in the morning, we are going to do a whirlwind trip around Los Angeles all day via their public transportation system. You can buy an all-day pass for $5 that will evidently take you wherever you want to go. On this night, we are staying in a hotel close to Hollywood. We will be using our Holiday Inn points from earlier trips, so our hotel room will only cost $70!

Feb 25th depart Los Angeles 10am to Sacramento 11:59pm – I’m still not sure about this part of the trip. We may fit an extra day in here to visit San Francisco depending on David’s ability to get an early enough flight on Wednesday.

**David arrives** Like I said before, this date may change depending on the availability of flights for David, and his work schedule. Feb 26nd Sacramento dep 7:45am to Merced arrives 10:31am – 11am Catch the San Joaquin to Merced. There, board a luxury motorcoach at 11am for a scenic ride through Mariposa and El Portal, and then directly into Yosemite National Park arriving at 1:20pm. Sleep in heated tents take the 10am 2 hour Yosemite tour and depart Yosemite at 1:25.

Feb 27rd 4:56am arrive in Dunsmuir, CA (DUN) to camp at Mt. Shasta

Feb 28th depart Dunsmuir, CA (DUN) 4:56am to arrive Seattle 8:38pm

Feb 28 – fly to Alaska for the Iditarod!

March 3rd – fly home

I’m so excited about this trip! I feel like Corbin is the perfect age right now to really make some great memories. He’s big enough to physically handle it, but he hasn’t quite hit that butt-head teenager phase where he’s too cool for everything either.

This trip was originally planned as research for a fantasy novel Corbin and I are writing about a mom and her homeschooled son who take a grand train adventure. (Sound familiar?) Along the way, they meet up with some magical hobos. Shenanigans ensue. I doubt we will meet any magical hobos on our trip, but it will be a lot of fun to write as we travel and learn.

So this is Christmas!

It’s Christmas morning. Almost 7am. When I was a little girl, I was always the first one up. I’d get out of bed at 3 or 4 in the morning and then make as much “accidental” noise as humanly possible until the rest of my family would finally relent and join me. I remember those long hours spent in the dark in front of the Christmas tree, overflowing with anticipation to discover what my gifts would be. For whatever reason, I STILL wake up before everyone else and have to sit here and wait for them to get up. I don’t understand their lack of passion and excitement. 

My kids do have one thing I never had when I was a kid – the knowledge of the reason for this glorious day. Here’s a quote from today’s reading from The Greatest Gift that I really like because it reminds me of those mornings of waiting for presents.

“This day, this night–This is the time of awed silence.

Now a thousand trees dance with light.

Now, a thousand thousand gifts carry love.

Now, at the foot of every tree, we are all recipients of grace.

Christ, who called all things into being, gives you sun and moon and stars, the earth under you and the sky over you, and this ocean of air for every breath that fills every lung of every living thing -to you, to you, to you! We live in an ocean of grace. Gifts are our air.”

Now I wait for Him. I receive His grace. In so many ways, those innocent early little girl longings taught me how to realize that I’ve already received the greatest gift.


Heart Eater

I memorized this poem in high school. I think about it from time to time. I sometimes wish I could remember the whole thing.

Alice Walker – Never offer your heart to someone who eats hearts

Never offer your heart to someone who eats hearts

Never offer your heart

to someone who eats hearts

who finds heartmeat


but not rare

who sucks the juices

drop by drop

and bloody-chinned


like a God.

Never offer your heart

to a heart gravy lover.

Your stewed, overseasoned

heart consumed

he will sop up your grief

with bread

and send it shuttling

from side to side

in his mouth

like bubblegum.

If you find yourself

in love

with a person

who eats hearts

these things

you must do:

Freeze your heart


Let him – next time

he examines your chest –

find your heart cold

flinty and unappetizing.

Refrain from kissing

lest he in revenge

dampen the spark

in your soul.


sail away to Africa

where holy women

await you on the shore –

long having practiced the art

of replacing hearts

with God

and Song.

Homeschool Update

We are 6 weeks into Corbin’s homeschool career. I thought it might be helpful to recap the progress we have had so far.

I think having the twins home from school for their holiday break has really revealed a lot of changes in Corbin’s personality. He used to be pouty, and moody all the time. Now the twins say that he seems more expressive, engaged, and overall he seems happier. It’s true that the typical brotherly annoyances exist, but things are much better.

Academically, his self-confidence seems to be growing rapidly. Where there was reticence before to answer questions out loud, he is proud to answer now. His writing has really improved. I think the skills were always there, but when he first started writing it was pretty lousy. I don’t think he realized at first that we would actually be reading his blogs and essays. David bought him his own domain, and I helped him set up a gallery to display his photography. Since we gave him his own domain, he has really launched. He’s willingly writing at least 150 word blogs every day!

I think I’ll just list each subject so I can record what he has completed already during these 6 weeks. I find it astonishing that he has already done so much even despite Thanksgiving holidays, and all of the other holiday season things we have been running around for.

Grammar – Corbin has been working on a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) called GrammarBytes. It’s really good and totally free! He took a pre-test so we could see where he needed to focus, and then you simply go through the powerpoints/videos etc. and do the exercises. They are funny and engaging. It’s a great program.

Math – So far Corbin has been just doing Khan Academy for a few hours a week. We are starting the math curriculum in the new year so he has to do it in writing, otherwise I would just stick to Khan because I think he is learning a lot. One of Corbin’s challenges in math though is slowing down and working things out on paper. This will be mandatory when he advances to higher maths. He’s way too prone to doing math in head. It’s such a blessing that he has this capability, but he really has to be made to slow down and practice working equations out.

Computer Programming – Last week was the national Hour of Code which was intended to encourage kids to learn to code. Corbin participated in activities every day, and even had the opportunity to be one of only 11 kids who took a formal class at the Apple Store in our mall. This week he has still been playing around with coding in some form or other every day.

Physical Fitness – We need to get more structured in this area. A few times we have gone out Geocaching, and we have gone out walking the dog around the neighborhood. Corbin has been riding his bike and running nearly every day. We need to get better so he can burn off more energy.

History – We haven’t started his actual history curriculum, but we have been informally learning quite a bit of history. We watched so many history documentaries covering the middle ages, the history of America, the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl… We’ve watched one just about every day. We aren’t a big ‘TV family’ so it’s been a treat for him to be allowed to watch a lot of this stuff.

Science – We’ve been watching a lot of the PBS Nova programs showing engineers and meteorologists solving problems. He’s really enjoying them. We’ve watched older programs about tornado technology and then watched the newer versions ten years later. It was amazing to see how much technology has advanced in that short time! We’ve watched a few about jet fighter development, and a few other shows along that same thread. We also took a field trip to the Blue Bell creamery in Brenham where he learned about production, pasteurization, and homogenization.

Literature – We need to work in this area. He is usually a pretty consistent reader, but he hasn’t finished a book during these weeks. He has checked a few out from the library, but they didn’t hold his interest. We have listened to 4 audiobooks while traveling around running errands etc. One that we listened to was The Pigman by Paul Zindel. It’s one of the books he would have read if he had stayed in his school. I was skeptical of it, but he absolutely loved it. He wrote an essay about it, and has done several worksheets I found online to help him remember details and dissect some of the themes. He’s been reading the book that will be a part of his curriculum when the new year starts called The Dragon and the Raven. It’s a pretty tough read, I’ve been reading it too and I’ve even been challenged by it. I’m anxious to get into the formal curriculum because the history and literature course work in conjunction with one another. I think he’s really going to enjoy it.

Study Skills Course – The Ron Paul Academy Academics Basics Course intended to help kids prepare for high school has been really neat. We are on lesson #27 out of 42. I want him to finish this by the end of the year so he will be better prepared for his formal curriculum. We have both really learned a lot from the course.

He has also started learning calligraphy.


And took some stuff apart to see how it worked.


He attended a veterans day celebration, and a car dealership to take pictures.


He went camping a few times, and went on a church trip to San Antonio.


And hiked through the forest to find a some Geocaches.


And there was lots of coding, coding, coding…



Heading toward Christmas, my friend Heidi and I have been doing this daily Advent devotional by Ann Voskamp called The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas. Here’s a quote I really liked from today’s reading:

“Author J.R.R. Tolkein called this moment when the light of deliverance throws back the darkness the “eucatastrophe” -the moment when evil is dashed and righteousness suddenly, spectacularly rises. 

“The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history.” writes Tolkein. The birth of the King is the light in your story, in history, that slashes back the smothering dark. The birth of Christ is, for the band of survivors, the saved hushed there in the manger of Bethlehem, the moment of eucatastrophe, of joy -that “catch of the great, a beat and lifting of the heart.” In that eucatastrophe instant, under a Bethlehem start when humanity witnesses the King-God inhale earth air into His lungs, you can feel it: “joy beyond the walls of the world.”” – Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift

I am struggling with Advent. In re-reading some of my earlier posts from Lent earlier this year, I realize that I haven’t been focussed on this season from the perspective of joyousness. I don’t know why I’m having trouble. Don’t get me wrong, happiness abounds, I’m just having trouble focussing. 

There’s just so much going on. Wikipedia says this about the Eucatastrophe:

Eucatastrophe is a term coined by J. R. R. Tolkien which refers to the sudden turn of events at the end of a story which ensures that the protagonist does not meet some terrible, impending, and very plausible doom.”

The “very plausible doom” part is pretty scary as I sit here contemplating my very un-serious first-world problems. 

So I need to redirect my attentions away from all of the Grandma surprise party preparing, Christmas present-stressing, gift basket and popcorn making, cable installation warranting, TSA recertification, woodworking project finishing, spring seedling starting, homeschooling, college-wasting kids, skin-cancer dying… if even for just an hour a day to really remember what I’m about. I can’t get through any of my dramas without God. 

Eyes on the prize sister.


The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.

Shelley’s Sonnet: Ozymandias

“What does Shelley mean by the heart that fedHeart is a synecdochic figure. We can say that someone has heart and we universally interpret that as meaning that the person is compassionate. We use phrases like heartfelt or tender-hearted. If a meal or person is robust, we call them hearty. Amidst so much desolation, it’s hard for me to read Shelley’s line as a reference to Ozymandias’s heart. But anyway, nearly all analyses gloss over this line and I suspect it’s because most don’t what to risk interpreting it. I like Nield’s interpretation and I would take it a step further. Shelley’s line is incredibly compressed (elliptical) if only due to the demands of the form. It’s the only mention of something palpably alive and human in the entirety of the sonnet. It is the heart – the synechdocic figure of the human soul, compassion, and capacity to empathize – that is at the heart of the sonnet and that is alive within the sculptor.

  • Note: The word mock has, in its older sense, the meaning of mimic [Shakespeare Lexicon p. 732]. This meaning survives in modern times in the more neutral “mock up”. A “mock up” doesn’t carry the sense of derision or contempt associated withmock. So… Ozymandias’ passions survive in the artist’s “mock up”. (This isn’t to say that Shelley wasn’t aware of the words double meaning.) More importantly, the wordfed or feed also had the meaning: “to entertain or indulge” [Shakespeare Lexicon, p. 409]. So, in this sense, the artist’s heart was “entertaining” and indulging Ozymandias’ cruel passions – entertain in the sense of tolerate. [My thanks to Ralph for encouraging me to more closely examine this line – see our comments below and Ralph’s alternate interpretation of this line.]

In this sense, the heart is what fed the hand – the hand that mocked and gave life to lifelessness through compassion and morality – through art. It is because of the human heart that anything at all survived and continues to survive. And perhaps Shelley means to instruct us that art is the highest and most durable manifestation of the human heart.