Monday, December 29, 2008

The Year(s) in Review (Part II)

This is a continuation of my collection of unfinished thoughts and tales from 2008:

* * *

It seems to me that the mathematically inclined always casually ask their math-questions aloud to everyone around them: "How many tablespoons in a pint?"; "How many sandwiches can we make with these 18 loaves of bread when each loaf has 23 pieces?"; "Is 437 a prime number?"

I have never been very good at math-on-the-spot, and it always seems that this is one skill that I am always quizzed about in public. No one ever asks me to diagram a sentence at coffee hour, or spell novemdigitate at dinner. But the math whiz will always do his or her cogitations aloud expecting me to jump in and help out. If I don't have a pencil and paper in front of me, I don't bother any more.

(answers: 32; 207; and no)
* * *

Last Wednesday I spent the day at Nell’s house working with her and Sarah to make blue altar and analogia coverings for Annunciation, which we celebrated Monday.

We measured and cut, and sometimes embarrassed ourselves with our poor math and geometry skills. We had two sewing machines and one ironing board. It was a good combination. My job was to iron the seams so the fabric could be easily sewn. Sarah and Nell did all the sewing.

It occurred to me how these blue coverings are an example of the vitality of the Church. Currently we use obviously homemade analogia coverings, inherited from the ladies in DC, NY, NJ, and maybe other places. They might be a little oily or burnt in places, but they are still very nice. These coverings were obviously in place for many years: for many services and amongst many of the Faithful.

Maybe our church will someday be one of those that can pass along our blue coverings to a mission church somewhere yet untouched by Orthodox Christianity, where the priest and matushka there are just as excited as we were to open a box of old and oily, but nonetheless beautiful analogia-covers.

* * *

I don't like big cities.

I don't like them for the obvious reasons, like traffic, crime and noise. But what I hate most of all is that they make my brain hurt.

Signs, billboards, flashing lights, flashing signs, flashing billboards--are everywhere. I can't drive a half-block in Atlanta without my peripheral vision being bombarded with 25%-off-one-time-only-blow-out-zero-credit-special-adult-toy-dancing-Coca Cola-girls-drive-away-today-ron-paul-limited-time-only-reason-for-the-season-holiday-special-sauce-lettuce-cheese-mountain-getaway signs saturating my brain as effortlessly as a South Carolina 5-minute thunderstorm.

Sometimes I wonder whether children and illiterate people are fortunate, in that this information doesn't litter their brain the way it does mine or that of the other literate folks. Now that the girls are all reading, I feel like a certain part of their innocence has been lost: "Mom, it's Two-for-Tuesday at Sonic!" or "Five on Friday!" or "Mom, you and Papa should go there--it's where 'the Adults shop!'"

* * *

I wonder if there is a diagnosable degeneration that takes place in the mind that is similar to macular degeneration in the eyes. Macular degeneration is the gradual loss of one's central vision while the peripheral vision remains unaffected and clear. Sometimes I think I have a perfectly normal memory or sense of organization while I am thinking about how I ought to think about what I have to do, but when I sit down with pen in hand or in front of my task-list on my computer, my mind becomes frighteningly dark.

It could be that my thinking about thinking instead of just thinking about the tasks themselves is what's causing the problem. Maybe I have a finite number of synapses available to me in each day and this redundancy is using them all up. Sometimes in these "peripheral" moments I will plan how a table with special color-coding is the answer to all of my difficulties. Other times I conceive of intricately designed spreadsheets with repeating formulas and delight in how this will solve my problems with planning each week's assignments.

I wonder if this is diagnosable...

But then, tonight I hear Fr Mark discussing Irenaeus' Against Heresies with Rose in her History class. "'s the Void. If you say there is nothing there then there must be something there or you wouldn't be able to say there was nothing there. Do you see?"

And Rose says, "yes."

Then he says professorially, "I think we will end there."

And then I wonder if it is not really me but just too much danged philosophy in my house.

Or not.

Or too much.

* * *

Donkey Donkey Donkey Wooo!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Year(s) in Review (Part I)

Here are a few stories and reflections that never made it to this blog:

* * *

Over the past few months it has been enjoyable listening to LMark's language become more intelligible. With all of my children, these seemingly insignificant words or phrases have remained in my memory, while other, arguably more important ones, have been lost forever.

For instance, all of the children have had different words for a napkin. Rose would call a napkin a
napink; for Ella it was packin; for Margaret it was kipkin; Max, gumgink; and for Little Mark, who was too keen to be fooled by this experiment of mine would say words that sounded like, glumgik, pluckin, gunglick, and so on. All the same, it has been a fun experiment.

We used to play a game with Max that mocked is pronunciation of the word,
yellow. I would say, "Max, say yummy." Yummy." "Say Yucky." "Yucky." "Say Unicorn." "Unicorn." "Max, say Yellow."


We all thought it was funny. Max didn't have a clue. Now LMark is our new victim (video coming soon).

LMark also had an odd phrase he used, which we were never able to translate. He would use it as both a verb or a noun, depending on the circumstances, and often in a threatening or insulting manner:
You a yucky bompom!! He never behaved as if he expected us to understand what he was saying--except for the first two words.

Margaret, at his age, came up with a fun little phrase we would often join in and say with her:
Donkey, donkey, donkey whooo!

Try it.

I defy you to find it unenjoyable to say.

This is the end of the first part of my reflections.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Golden Rule

For about a year I have been struggling with teaching the children how to live Christ's words, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," or "with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again," or "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors."

While most children (nay, every son of Adam and daughter of Eve) struggle with this daily, I think my difficulty lies in the apparently insufficient explanation I have given of this pretty huge part of the Christian message.

Granted this is not a lesson one should teach in the heat of battle, so I try to talk about this daily in quiet conversation -- call it a "training session."

Among other things we talk about the parable of the wicked servant who blessed the rich man when he had his debt forgiven, but wouldn't forgive the tiniest debt of another man. "Don't you see how that guy is wrong?"


"Dontcha see how the wicked servant should have behaved? How should he have behaved y'all?"

And on and on till I get a sense they have finally understood and are willing to ascend to the behavior required of a person trying to live in civilized society--not least obtain the Kingdom of Heaven.

Pretty simple stuff one would think.

Not so.

Not so.

Just when I believe my words have warmed their cold, little, selfish hearts I hear a scream from across the house: "You did it to me!! Now I get to do it to you!" Max, who thinks he's pretty hot stuff because he is an altar boy, sometimes invokes the Lord: "Ella! I can hit you now because you just hit me!
That's what Jesus said!!!" Sometimes he'll make stuff up like, "Jesus says that you gotta give me that because ..."

But today was the crowning glory of all of my muddled theological training of the children. Like I said, I try not to teach when the children are in the heat of battle, but today was different. I heard a yell from the den and LMark bolted into the living room where I was. Max calmly stormed past me, righteously hollering how the Lord says he has a right to hit Little Mark back because he hit him with a block or a car or something.

I stopped him, "Whoa there! Jesus doesn't say you are supposed to hit him back, Max."

Max panted a little, just to be dramatic.

"Actually, Max, Jesus says you are supposed to 'turn the other cheek.'"

--And before he muttered anything disrespectful, I interrupted him, "It means that you're not supposed to get even with Little Mark when he hurts you. If someone hurts you, you shouldn't try to hurt him back. If Little Mark slaps one side of your face, you are supposed to turn your face and let him slap the other side."

While I can't sufficiently describe the baffled silence that ensued, I can easily say that Max, with a single word, crystallized not only the plaintive wail of fallen Humanity, but also the injured cry of both the universally offended and the perpetually disrespected, when he said,


I don't think he learned anything from this incident because neither Rose nor I could stop snickering--nor quoting him, "What??!!" which sent us into giggles for five minutes or more while he stood by looking injured.

I suppose I deserve what I get.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Classics and Twaddle

Last week I began reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. This book, like Brothers Karamozov, has dogged me all my adult life with my not having read it. In my youth these books were painted as either too much for my weak intellect to handle (B.K.) or a bourgeois, capitalistic diatribe (A.S.). As it turns out they were correct about Karamozov, which is why it took me almost a year to complete (this time around--I have tried it many times before). As for Atlas Shrugged I am finding it one of the easiest and most enjoyable books I have read in years.

I recently read
Twilight, the first in the popular series by Stephanie Meyer, which I liked a little bit. The story is about a 17 year-old girl who falls in love with a vampire who, with his three siblings, goes to her high school. The first part of the book is entirely teen-romance rated PG--which I don't at all consider a bad thing. But I had a difficult time seeing how, apart from the vampire-issue, the plot distinguished itself from anything else that goes on in modern teen romances loaded with teens who pity their father, baby their mother, and consider themselves intellectually superior to everyone except the cute guy (the vampire) in Biology class. I hear from a friend of mine that the whole series is, so far, unobjectionable so I don't mind introducing a little twaddle into Rose's pretty hefty reading list.

As far as
Atlas Shrugged goes I have gotten to page 177 in a book, the font of which is about four points smaller than this and has 1,069 pages total. I'm proud I have gotten this far without assistance, but I decided I needed reading glasses to progress any further. However, if I had spent a couple dollars more I could have bought an edition with larger print and might not have had to spend the extra money on the means to read it. But they are super-cute and stylish, Rose tells me.

*Update: After page 177 Atlas Shrugged ceases to be a PG book--cringe.