Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Rainbow (Wordless Wednesday - almost!)

This was one of the most spectacular rainbows I have ever seen. The photos don't do it justice. The sky behind it was very dark, and the colors of the rainbow were very vivid.

These were made while we were visiting my parents' home, and the rainbow reminded me that God always follows through on His promises. Always.

Genesis 9:12-16
12 And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Time Travel!

I mentioned earlier that Zachary and Ryan had a Latin assignment to create a commercial to encourage a trip to ancient Rome.

They've been working hard on it, and will present it today in their online class. They had the option of each working alone and including 15 facts about ancient Rome in their presentation, or working as a team and including 25 facts. They chose the latter.

Part of their grade will come from their classmates, and they will be judged on whether or not the classmates are convinced to time travel to ancient Rome for a visit.

Here they are in their online video debut:

Friday, November 21, 2008

True Greatness - Quotation

John Nelson Darby was an evangelist who lived in the 19th century. He is considered to be the father of Dispensationalism. Whether or not you agree with his theology, I think you'll admit that these words are filled with wisdom:

"Exalt Christ.
Use a sharp knife with thyself. Say little, serve all, pass on.
This is true greatness, to serve unnoticed and work unseen.
Oh, the joy of having nothing and being nothing,
seeing nothing but a Living Christ in Glory,
and being careful for nothing but His interests down here."
We would be wise to take heed.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Writer of the Week

Diane Kruger as Helen of Troy

The Face That Launched a Thousand Ships

retold by Catherine (age 11)

After becoming a prince of Troy, Paris took a trip to Tyre. When he was returning to his homeland, Troy, he went through Greece. The fairest woman in the world, Helen, was in Greece, and Paris had come to retrieve her.

Helen was married to Menelaus, King of Sparta in Greece. When the prince of Troy laid eyes on the Queen of Sparta, he loved her for she was so beautiful. The goddess Aphrodite made Helen love Paris as well. Paris then took Helen back to Troy.

King Menelaus was angry, and sent word demanding his wife back. But the people of Troy refused. They wanted to brag about Helen, the fairest woman in the world, being in their city. King Priam and Hector, his son, knew that Helen and all her belongings should be returned. But the assembly of Troy would not give up Helen for any king.

Now Agamemnon, king of the great city of Mycenae, was deeply troubled at seeing his dearest brother, Menelaus, being flouted by the Trojans, and vowed to Menelaus that Troy would soon be no more. Agamemnon gathered all the kings and princes of Greece, and suggested, “We must unite all of our strength to take Troy! Upon achieving that, we will gain great treasures!” He also asked Odysseus and Achilles to join the war, and so they did.

Agamemnon’s team went to every city that was an ally of Troy, and took each one. After taking all these cities, they sailed for Troy. Year after year want by, and finally nine years had passed; the Greeks and the Trojans were still fighting. A plague had come during those years and killed more Greeks than the Trojans had. So the war went on, and on, and on; neither side had yet taken the other.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Six Flags Over Texas

Our family lived in Arlington, Texas, for a while in the '90's. In fact, 3 of our 4 children were born in Dallas during our Texas years.

We lived in north Arlington, just about a mile or so down the road from the famous theme park, Six Flags Over Texas. I rode the Texas Giant (one of their huge roller coasters) when I was pregnant with my twins. OK, I didn't yet know I was pregnant, but it turned out that I was. I credit Zachary's and Ryan's love of roller coasters to their early exposure. :-)

Have you ever wondered how Six Flags got its name? It turns out that the original of the "Six Flags" theme park franchises was named as it was because there have been six literal flags flown over the state of Texas.

The first European flag to fly over the territory was the Spanish one, from 1519 - 1685, and then again from 1690 - 1821. Several Spanish explorers came to Texas during the early-to-mid 1500's; Alonzo Alvarez de Pineda mapped the coastline in 1519, and he was followed by de Vaca, Coronada, and de Soto. When no cities of gold and great wealth, which had been described by de Vaca to encourage Spanish settlement, were found by later explorers, Spain seemed to lose interest in the Texas territory and instead focused their attention on Florida.

In 1682, a Frenchman named La Salle came down from Canada and explored the area around the mouth of the Mississippi River, eventually moving westward into Texas. The French flag flew over the territory from 1685 - 1690. France's interest in Texas reignited Spain's interest in the land, and Spain's flag flew over the territory again until 1821.

In 1821, Mexico broke away from Spanish rule and the flag of the new Empire of Mexico flew over the territory until the end of the Texas Revolution in 1836. From 1836 - 1845, the flag of the Republic of Texas was flown.

Texas became the 28th state admitted to the Union in 1845, but seceded in 1861 during the Civil War. From 1861 - 1865, the Confederate flag flew over the land. Texas rejoined the United States of America in 1865, and has flown that flag ever since.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Davy Crockett

One of our topics in Tapestry of Grace last week was the life of Davy Crockett.

While growing up, I knew Davy Crockett only as a frontiersman, taming the wild with one adventure after another while wearing his trademark coonskin hat. In the '50's (before my time) there was a TV show, starring Fess Parker, which was based on his life. But I never before knew much about his political career.

Crockett was born in Tennessee in 1786. In 1813, when he was 27, he joined the United States army and fought in the Creek War under the command of Andrew Jackson. Later, he became involved in local politics, eventually serving in the Tennessee legislature. In 1827, he was elected to serve the people of Tennessee in the U. S. House of Representatives; he was re-elected to that office in 1829 and 1833. (He was defeated in 1831 by pro-Jackson forces.)

He gained a lot of respect for Andrew Jackson while serving under him in the army, and was a big supporter of his up until the time Jackson became President. Two issues permanently separated him from his friend. In 1828, Crockett sponsored a Land Bill which would allow squatters who homesteaded land the right to buy it at a very low cost. This issue had dominated Crockett's agenda when he was a state legislator. Jackson was opposed to his bill. Then President Jackson enforced the Indian Removal Act of 1830, even after it had been declared unconstitutional by the U. S. Supreme Court. Crockett then became an outspoken critic of Jackson's.

His opposition to Jackson gained him the attention of the Whig party, and they began to consider him for a presidential run in the 1836 election. But then he lost his congressional re-election bid in 1835, the Whig party lost interest, and it seemed his political career was over.

He packed up and headed to the Texas Territory. He thought he might be able to get back into politics there, or at least earn some money as a land agent. He arrived in Texas just as the American settlers there were becoming intent on gaining their independence from Mexico. Crockett quickly joined their cause, and died fighting at the Alamo in March, 1836.

There have been many tall tales told through the years about Crockett and his frontier adventures. And Crockett himself perpetuated his legend with quotes such as the following:

“I am that same David Crockett, fresh from the backwoods, half horse, half alligator, a little touched with the snapping-turtle. I can wade the Mississippi, leap the Ohio, ride upon a streak of lightning, and slip without a scratch down a honey locust. I can whip my weight in wildcats, and, if any gentleman pleases, for a ten-dollar bill he can throw in a panther. I can hug a bear too close for comfort, and eat any man opposed to General Jackson.” ~ A Proud and Isolated Nation

We'll end with The Ballad of Davy Crockett.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Mama's Helper

This is one of my favorite photos of Elizabeth. It was taken by my mother. Elizabeth was about 2 1/2, and was spending a few days with my parents. My mom is always wonderful to let her grandchildren help her with whatever she is doing, and she loves to have them help her in the kitchen.

They saved a piece of the pie for me!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Writer of the Week

Elizabeth is our writer this week. We again used the techniques described in The Well-Trained Mind and in The Complete Writer: Writing With Ease (both books by Susan Wise Bauer): we read the story together, Elizabeth narrated it to me while I wrote down her narration, and then she copied the narration.

The Wolf and His Shadow
retold by Elizabeth (age 7)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Dental Visit

We'd known for a while that Elizabeth would have to have some teeth pulled. Her mouth is very small, and once she began losing baby teeth, there wasn't room for all her teeth to grow back in since her permanent teeth are so much bigger than the baby teeth they are replacing.

Last week was the time we'd scheduled an appointment to have some of her baby teeth pulled. We weren't looking forward to it at all. This is the child who has had uneventful teeth cleanings for only the past 18 months or so. Before that time, she would cry and scream when she first entered the torture chamber (i.e., the room where she lies, complete with headphones, on a comfy, padded bench and watches cartoons on the TV screen directly above her on the ceiling). The first two times we took her (she was 4), the dentist and hygienist were barely able to look in her mouth, much less clean her teeth or get x-rays. But after she turned 5, she would cry and scream for a few minutes, and would then settle in for 20 minutes or so of Dora the Explorer as the hygienist worked on her teeth with strawberry-flavored toothpaste. Once she turned 6, she would go right in, lie down, put the headphones on herself, and settle in for a few minutes of entertainment. We were hopeful that the disastrous office visits were behind us.

Then, as she began to lose baby teeth and her permanent ones began to appear, it became obvious: her mouth was way too small for all of her permanent teeth to come in straight. Our pediatric dentist advised us to visit an orthodontist and get his opinion of the situation. And his advice was the same as the dentist's: some teeth had to come out. Four teeth, in fact. Two on top and two on bottom. Two on the left and two on the right.

Ugh. How in the world could this child lie still while the dentist numbed her gums in four places, then ripped out four teeth by the roots?? It didn't seem likely to happen.

How should Joe and I, as responsible parents, respond? How could we guide our daughter through this procedure without it causing her to be scarred for life? After much thought and discussion, we hit upon what seemed to be the perfect solution: she needed medication. I called the dentist's office, and asked about our options. And our dentist, who has been present at each of Elizabeth's dental visits, readily agreed that she was a prime candidate for conscious sedation. He wrote a couple of prescriptions which we had filled before the big day.

We also went about preparing Elizabeth in another way. We bribed her. We promised that after her teeth were pulled, she could have all the ice cream she wanted. We would also buy her tacos from Taco Bell for lunch, or whenever she felt up to eating them that day. She wouldn't have to do any school work, and she would get an extra hour of game time. As she pointed out, she was getting four nice treats: one for each of the teeth she was having pulled. The day before our dental visit, she told me she was looking forward to the next day because of all the fun things she would get to do. (A definite answer to prayer!)

This is Elizabeth a few days before her dental visit to have her teeth pulled.

On the morning of the procedure Joe, Elizabeth, and I arrived at the dental office an hour early. (You didn't think I was going to do this by myself, did you??) An office nurse administered the medication to her, and we were sent back to the waiting room. At the appointed hour, we were called back to the torture chamber. By this time, Elizabeth was a little groggy, but insisted on walking back to the room herself. She settled in on the bench and got her headphones.

The nurse immediately outfitted Elizabeth with the mask which would deliver the (strawberry-scented) nitrous oxide. She prepared four swabs with topical numbing medication, and inserted them into Elizabeth's mouth, one each on the gum areas immediately below or above the four teeth to be pulled.

Here she is in the dentist's office, completely accessorized with protective eyewear, headphones, and a nitrous oxide mask.

After 15 minutes, the dentist came in to inject anesthesia into the gum areas. I was sitting on the bench, with Elizabeth's legs across my lap. The child never even twitched as he injected tubes of medication into her gums. Her eyes were open during part of this time, and she responded to the nurse and dentist when they asked her if she was doing OK. (She would later tell me that she didn't even know that she had received shots in her mouth.)

After allowing 15 or 20 minutes for the anesthesia to take full effect, the dentist came back in and began to pull her teeth. Again, she never twitched. While he was pulling the four teeth, he mentioned that two of her front bottom teeth were loose, and that he could go ahead and take those out if it was OK with us. So Elizabeth ended up getting six teeth pulled that day. (For the price of four!)

Here are the six teeth that were pulled. Who knew that canines had such long roots?

We received instructions on how she might be nauseous for the first hour or two after we got home, and that she couldn't drink any carbonated beverages or use a straw for the first 48 hours in order to prevent the blood clots from dislodging from her gums.

Joe carried her to the van while I paid.

We had laid in a supply of ice cream in preparation for her return home, and she immediately asked for a couple of scoops once we had her settled in on the couch. Then she asked for a couple more scoops. She had gone to the dentist that morning without any food or drink, and she was hungry! After four bowls of ice cream, she told me she was starving, and asked me to go to Taco Bell and get her a couple of soft tacos. She immediately devoured those, and within 15 minutes of eating them, was on the floor wrestling with Catherine. We declared her completely over the effects of her morning.

Here's Elizabeth's beautiful smile after having the teeth pulled.

We are very thankful that everything went smoothly, and that the medication worked just as it should have. Elizabeth will go through this same procedure again in a few more years after most of her permanent teeth have come in. We're hoping that will go just as nicely as this time did.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Latin Comics

Zachary and Ryan are taking a high school Latin 1 online class this year. A recent assignment required them to read a story in Latin, and then create a 6-panel comic strip which depicted the story.

Since they are familiar with a free, online version of GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), they used it to create their comic strips.

Click on the following to be able to read the small print.

Here is Zachary's:

And here is Ryan's:

They really are enjoying their class, and are looking forward to working on an upcoming assignment which will require them to pretend to be travel agents and create an advertisement to encourage visits to ancient Rome. That should be interesting. :-)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Writer(s) of the Week

In 1722, when Benjamin Franklin was 16 years old, he wrote a series of humorous letters which were published in The New England Courant, a newspaper owned by his brother, James.

These letters weren't sign with his own name; instead, he utilized the pen name of Silence Dogood. Mrs. Dogood passed herself off as a middle-aged widow, and wrote about various aspects of life in colonial America.

James Franklin was unaware of the ruse for several months, and was unhappy with his brother when Benjamin revealed the true identity of the widow Dogood.

Zachary and Ryan have been analyzing Silence Dogood No. 6 as part of Diogenes. Part of their assignment for this past week was purely for fun: write a paragraph critiquing a current clothing fashion using the same manner as that used by Silence Dogood in her No. 6 letter.

Letters to the Editor

Dear Madam,

In this letter I shall reveal my opinion of a particular Pride of Apparel. I have noticed recently that teenagers commonly wear clothing which is too large for them. This style of clothing is popular, yet I cannot imagine how one would even want to wear such apparel. Their shirts go to their knees; their pants they wear low. It is surprising how anyone manages to walk dressed so awkwardly, and not trip at every attempt. It is very immodest the way they wear their boxers so high yet their pants so low. I do not think I will be able to persuade them to remove this fashion altogether by this letter, but I would at least ask them to wear clothing a bit more fitting.

Anonymous (Zachary)

Dear Madam,

In this letter I shall disclose my thoughts on a most useless apparel that has come to fashion. Namely, those articles of clothing that are bought already with holes and scratches in them. It amazes me to see others purchasing such apparel when they are only purchasing worn out clothing for the price of new. This kind of apparel is worthless, and it makes those who wear it look very odd with such large holes in their new clothing. They are wasting their money on clothes that are already close to being worn out, instead of purchasing clothes that would last them longer. In closing, I would at least desire them to lessen the size of the tears and holes.


Bob Dogood (Ryan)

I highly recommend taking time to read some of Dogood's letters. They are highly entertaining.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Battle of New Orleans

Andrew Jackson's life and presidency were our topics in Tapestry of Grace this week.

As I was reading through the teacher's notes, I was reminded of an old song that I know from my childhood called The Battle of New Orleans. That battle made Jackson a famous war hero, and he is referenced a couple of times in the lyrics: first as Colonel Jackson, and then later as Old Hickory, a nickname earned due to his tough manner. I remember loving the song as a child since it referenced the Mississippi River; we lived in a town on the Mississippi for a while when I was young, and for some reason I was fascinated by that river.

A day or two after remembering the song, I was on youtube and ran across a couple of videos of it.

This first video reenacts the battle using Legos. We have enjoyed the animation displayed, and Zachary and Ryan have inundated me with facts on how much time and effort went into filming the action, frame by frame.

NOTE: Why the makers of the videos use a monkey, an elephant, and a dragon in the film is beyond me. I have lived in the South and been around the Mississippi River all my life, and I can assure you that I've never seen any of those in the wild around here.

This next video is one of Johnny Horton singing the song. He made it popular in 1959 and, according to this film, won an award for Best Video. Did they even have video awards back then? I guess they did.

The history of the song and the songwriter, Jimmy Driftwood, are quite interesting. Driftwood was born and raised not far from where I grew up, and not far from where most of my family still lives.

It has been a nice trip down memory lane!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day!

Can you believe it is finally here?

Geography Matters has uploaded a blank map of the U. S. with the number of electoral votes indicated for each state. We'll each have one of these handy as we gather around the TV tonight to watch the election returns come in. I'm printing out the most recent polling data this morning; it will be interesting to see how accurate the polls have been when all the votes are counted.

On Sunday, the NYTimes published a graphic that shows the electoral college count and, based on each state's population, how much your vote *counts*.

Why are the votes of the citizens of some states weighted more than the citizens of others? For example, one electoral vote from Wyoming represents 135,000 voters, but one vote from New York represents 429,000 voters.

It is because the electoral votes of each state equals the number of representatives from that state (which are based on the state's population), plus the number of senators from that state (each state gets two no matter what the population).

Wyoming has a small population (a little over 400,000 eligible voters), but they get 3 electoral votes when you add in their two senators.

New York has a much larger population with 29 representatives, so the addition of 2 senators doesn't cause each of their electoral votes to be representative of a much smaller number of people as it does in Wyoming.

I ran some quick calculations on a few states to see what their population per vote would be without the two extra electoral votes coming from the senators, and the population per vote turned out to be between 400,000 and 530,000 in each of those cases. So the addition of those two senators makes a big difference in some states. If you want your individual vote to count more when you're voting for a president, move to a state with a smaller population. :-)

It seems that each election year, there is talk of doing away with the Electoral College and relying on the popular vote to elect a new president. I am fond of our Founding Fathers; they seem to have been very wise men. I hope that we don't ever amend our Constitution to reflect a new method of electing our president.

ETA: Here's a 2004 great article I just ran across that does a wonderful job of describing the Electoral College process.