Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Book Meme

I've been tagged by Lee at My 5 Wolf Cubs to participate in a book Meme.*

Here are the rules:

Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
Open the book to page 123.
Find the fifth sentence.
Post the next 3 sentences.
Tag 5 people!

The book closest to me right now is Daughter of Destiny, the autobiography of Benazir Bhutto. Here are the 3 sentences:
"I am having more difficulty with (that philosophical principal) as the empty hours of
detention drag on. I think even when I don't want to, but as the days
slowly pass, I am not sure whether I exist at all. To truly exist, a
person must effect something, act and cause a reaction."
I'll make a post on this book when I finish it, but it will probably be quite some time. I started reading it just a couple of nights ago, and I am moving very slowly, mainly due to sentences like the ones above where I have to stop, reread, and think. Then reread and think again.

Here's who I'm tagging:

Lorna at Socks and Books
Joanna at Thus Far Has The Lord Helped Us
Kelli at New Mercies Every Day
Jean at Shades of White

Let me know if you play!

*Until just a few weeks ago, I had never heard the term meme. So I looked it up in my trusty online dictionary ( because I couldn't find it in my hardback one. Here's the definition: a cultural item that is transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes. Ahhh, I see the blogging world is perpetuating a whole new set of terms for everyday life.

Proverbs 21:23

King James version:

"Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles."

New International Reader's Version:

"Anyone who is careful about what he says keeps himself out of trouble."

The Message says it this way:

"Watch your words and hold your tongue; you'll save yourself a lot of grief."

Lord, please help me shut my mouth.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Chunky Salsa

Do you realize that the 2008 Super Bowl will be played one week from today?

If you'll mix up a batch of this salsa for your football-watching friends and family, I promise you'll get rave reviews and requests for your recipe.

Chunky Salsa

1 15.25-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15.25-ounce can whole kernel corn, drained
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (or 3 - 4 medium fresh tomatoes, diced)
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped (or 1 bunch green onions, chopped)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons cumin

Mix all of the above. If you use canned tomatoes, this recipe should keep in your refrigerator for 7 - 10 days; if you use fresh tomatoes, it should keep 2 - 3 days.

Try different variations: add cilantro; add chopped jalapenos; peel and chop an avocado and add it just before serving; etc.

As with many recipes, this one is better after the flavors blend together so make it a few hours early.

Not only is this salsa tasty, it is good for you. Happy snacking!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Weekly Reporter 1/25

We've been back to school for 3 weeks since the holidays, and we've had 4-day school weeks for all 3 of those due to (1) visiting family, (2) Zachary's and Ryan's 13th birthday, and (3) MLK holiday for which Joe was home from work. We should get 5 full days next week.

We had a pretty good week this week.

Zachary and Ryan completed 4 lessons in NEM 1 and finished the textbook lessons for Chapter 7. They normally go straight to the associated workbook exercises when they complete a chapter (and it always takes them at least 3 days to complete the workbook for a chapter), but we're going to do it a little differently this time. They have a test (outside of our homeschool) coming up in a couple of weeks, and I want to get them exposed to Chapters 8 and 9 before then. So, we'll plow on through the textbook lessons for those two chapters during the next couple of weeks, then go back and do all the workbook items plus the big review in the textbook at the end of Chapter 7 after they complete their testing. They also worked on Diogenes and completed some exercises in Henle.

Catherine continued working on multiplying fractions in math. She moved along in List 5 of Megawords 1 (she typically does 1 page per day), and she finished through exercise 1.8 in Latin Prep 1. She is really enjoying Latin! I like the way Latin Prep gets them translating both ways (Latin to English; English to Latin) so quickly, and it seems to be giving her confidence that she can really learn Latin. :-) Her Homer notebook is now ready to begin Week 1 of A.

Elizabeth is almost finished with the second 1st grade reader of the Pathway Reader books (there are three for first grade). Her reading is becoming more and more fluent! She worked in her copywork book, and I dictated several sentences to her this week (using mostly her spelling words). She did some math work on shapes and length. I decided to order First Language Lessons for her, and that should come in next week.

We've started our 3rd week of TOG but will finish it up this next week. Here are some of the books that have been enjoyed during our first couple of weeks:


William Bradford: Pilgrim Boy

(The above link is to an edition of the book different than the one pictured.)

Along Came Galileo

Courage and Conviction: Chronicles of the Reformation Church (History Lives series)

The Awakening of Europe (Yesterday's Classics)

Science - we haven't started it back since the holidays. Ahem.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sweet Bean Salad

I obtained this recipe from a friend and it is delicious and easy! I recently served it with a roast pork meal, and it was a great side dish. It is actually better the second day so plan to make it a day ahead. Serve it at room temperature or slightly warm.

1 can of white beans
1 can of kidney beans
1 can of French cut green beans

Drain all of the above and put in a large serving dish with one small onion, chopped, and 1 can of vegetarian baked beans (16 oz.) UNDRAINED.

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
4 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried mustard

Heat the above 5 ingredients until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over beans/onion mixture and stir to combine. Chill.

For lunch today, this Southern girl had a bowl of slightly warmed beans with leftover cornbread crumbled into them. Yum.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Monday, January 21, 2008

Mrs. Pollifax

My family has recently discovered the Mrs. Pollifax books.

Mrs. Pollifax is a widowed senior citizen who one day decides that she wants to join the CIA. (I seem to have a CIA theme going in 2008; first it was Charlie Wilson's War, now it is Mrs. Pollifax.) She makes an appointment to meet with a CIA official, and while she is in their building she is mistakenly given an assignment.

I've read a couple of the books and they are great fun! Even my teenaged boys are enjoying them.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


For the third consecutive year, Zachary and Ryan participated in FIRST LEGO League.

FIRST was founded in 1989 to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology, and is an organization whose founder has this vision:

"To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes."

Nathan J. and Zachary watch as their robot starts across the table on the way to its first mission.

In 2007, FIRST sponsored 5 different types of competitions:

FIRST Robotics Competition for high-school students

FIRST Tech Challenge for high-school students

FIRST LEGO League for 9 to 14 year-olds

Junior FIRST LEGO League for 6 to 9 year-olds

FIRST Place for ages 6 to adult

FIRST LEGO League (FLL) is an international competition, and in 2007 included over 10,000 teams from 38 countries.

Ryan and Matthew prepare their robot and accessories for their round of competition.

Each September, FLL issues the Challenge. The Challenge has a different theme each year and consists of two parts: (1) accomplishing specific Missions with your robot at a competition (the robot must be designed, built, and programmed beforehand; missions must be performed in 2 1/2 minutes at the competition); and (2) identifying a real-life problem (based on that year's theme), proposing a solution(s) for the problem, and presenting that solution to your community (and doing a presentation on the entire project for the judges at the Competition).

2007's theme was Power Puzzle: Energy Resources - Meeting the Global Demand. For the real-life problem, our team (the 2 Watt Bots :-)) chose to perform an energy audit on a local fire station to assist them in finding alternate energy sources. They presented their findings to a city official, and were even featured on a spot on our local TV station.

High-fives all around after a great score!

Our state tournament is in December each year, so the team had only 3 months to finish all the work required to participate.

The guys in the yellow shirts are judges. Right after this picture was made, several other judges came over to watch as our team competed in this round. I happened to overhear them talking very favorably about our robot's design and performance. Hmmmm.

Great job, team!!

The 2 Watt Bots won the 1st place trophy for Robot Design. They received nominations as finalists in four other categories: Programming, Universal Design, Research Quality, and the prestigious Champion's Award. They also finished in 3rd place in the Robotic Competition.

They are eagerly awaiting the release of the 2008 Challenge!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Weekly Reporter 1/11

We were back in our studies this week, after having a three-week break for Christmas and the New Year.

It is almost like beginning the school year again. For this semester, we're adding several new elements.

We've been awaiting the publication of the 3rd unit of Redesigned Year 2 of Tapestry of Grace, and it arrived in mid-December. We had a great first week with it. My dialectic-level students participated in a discussion with me yesterday where we utilized the Thinking and Accountability questions in the materials. I was impressed how much they had learned in their readings this week. I *adore* this curriculum!

Three of my students moved to the next level in ClassicalWriting: two into Diogenes: Maxim, and one into Homer.

My 7th graders and I are continuing on in Latin: 1st Year (Henle Latin) while my 5th grader is beginning Galore Park Latin Prep.

We've also been talking a lot about the upcoming presidential election, and have watched bits and pieces of the debates over the last few weeks.

I'm hoping this will finally be the semester where we use our art supplies and study music appreciation on a regular basis. We'll see how it goes!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Charlie Wilson's War

I've spent parts of the last few days reading Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of How the Wildest Man in Congress and a Rogue CIA Agent Changed the History of Our Times. (Disclaimer: Amazon affiliate link. And they've "updated" the name of the book. The hardcover copy I read is titled Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History. I definitely prefer the second title.)

From the book jacket:

Charlie Wilson's War is the untold story of a whiskey-swilling,
skirt-chasing, scandal-prone congressman from Texas, and how he conspired with a
rogue CIA operative to launch the biggest and most successful covert operation
in U. S. history.

It reads like a spy novel, but it's a true story. It tells how the U. S., with great help from Pakistan and other countries, assisted the Afghan mujahideen in their fight against the Red Army after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in late 1979.

The book had been in my house about a month and I was getting ready to send it back to the library; then Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. I decided to hang onto it and plow through the 535 pages. I'm glad I did. It is an amazing tale.

From pages 401-402:

[Charlie Wilson's] office, meanwhile, was coming to resemble a zany
Hollywood stage set as an unlikely procession of exotic figures began appearing
with greater and greater frequency: bearded mujahideen commanders, Pakistani
generals, Mossad agents from Israel, Saudi princes, Egyptian arms merchants and
field marshals, CIA station chiefs, division chiefs, intelligence analysts,
Russian experts, demolition experts, Pentagon weapons designers. The talk
was always about war - about killing Russians in a campaign thousands of miles
away, a conflict that few in America seem[ed] to know or care about . . . The
incongruity of it all struck each and every one of the visitors as they . . .
were greeted by the beaming cowboy congressman, who acted as if he alone spoke
for America when it came to Afghanistan.

My husband and I went to see the movie when I was about 3/4 of the way through the book. I was questioning the casting of Tom Hanks as Charlie Wilson until I saw the movie. The story was told with a lighter touch than that used in most war movies. (The film is nominated in the Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical category by the Golden Globes; how many war movies would fit that description??) Hanks, Phillip Seymour Hoffman (as Gust), and Julia Roberts (as Joanne Herring) are all nominated in their respective acting categories, as well.

Charlie Wilson developed an almost father-son relationship with Zia ul-Haq, Pakistan's president and military ruler during this time period. Zia was the leader who had executed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto's father, in early 1979. One of the meant-to-be-funny parts of the movie (but it is really sad when you think about it, considering that Charlie has no remorse) is when Zia tells Charlie that he has learned that Charlie is a man with many moral shortcomings. Charlie later remarks to one of his assistants that you know you're in the bottom of the barrel when a dictator who killed his predecessor points out your character flaws.

I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in learning more about the background of the current war on terror. The movie is only entertainment after you've read the book; you won't learn anything new. Be warned: there is plenty of unwholesome language, sexual content, drinking, and drug use in the book and movie, along with female/male nudity in the movie. The movie definitely earns its R rating.


Imagine my surprise when I went to church the day after I posted about Charlie Wilson's War, and Charlie Wilson's photo appeared on the screen during the sermon. The speaker was preaching on Proverbs chapters 1 - 3, and used Charlie as a modern-day representative of "the fool" spoken about in those chapters. How true that is. Charlie wanted nothing to do with the wisdom and discipline of the Lord.

Did the Lord use Charlie (even though Charlie wanted nothing to do with the Lord) to assist the mujahideen in their war against the Soviets? Was it His perfect will for the U. S. to arm those fighters and help them defeat the Red Army? Or did He only allow it to happen? In the book (and in real life), Joanne Herring (a Christian) is convinced that the Lord wants Charlie to aid the mujahideen, and the mujahideen are fighting the war for their god (Allah).

Of course we'll never know the answers to these questions unless the Lord decides to enlighten us. But I think they are interesting thoughts to ponder, especially in light of our current situation where some of those very arms and fighters (or descendants of those fighters) now have the U. S. and our allies in their sites.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Project 2008 - January Goals

Kelli in TN has originated the 2008 Project Challenge. To participate, choose a Project for each month and post your goal towards the beginning of the month. At month's end, give an update as to how you did for that month.


  1. Finish organizing all homeschooling items (including catalogs, files, miscellaneous printed items, etc.).

  2. Declutter for at least 15 minutes per day (as per Flylady).

Good luck on your projects!!

Thursday, January 3, 2008