School of Wizardry (1990)

Okay, so I started out the new year by reading a Christmas gift… That I gave to my husband! I haven’t read my own gifts yet. But I promise, it really is a great gift for him, even if it was, in part, purchased and wrapped because I also wanted to read it.

So the story behind this selection is:

Once upon a time, there lived a family of avid readers who loved fantasy books. In the middle school library there was housed an obscure series of books and most of the older children in this family all checked them out and read them when it was their turn to patronize that little library.

And now, they’re all grown up. And sometimes at family reunions, this obscure little series of books is mentioned (usually by my husband, kid number four in this family) and some of the other grown-up kids pipe up: “Oh yeah, I remember those books! Those were AWESOME!”

And then, since I’m there, my insides start twitching madly. There’s a series of fantasy kids books that are amazing, and I haven’t read them or even heard of them? This must be remedied!

So yes, I checked my libraries. Alas, no. They’re seriously obscure, so I can’t check them out. 

And then we found books #2, #3 and #6 at a used book sale. Sadly, they’ve been republished, only with much lamer titles and  revoltingly pathetic cover art. It’s a shame we never found #1.

So I finally broke down last year and scoured the web for all six of the original books with the original intriguing titles and original pretty cover art. 

And now I’ve finally read book 1 of the obscure Circle of Magic series by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald: School of Wizardry.

I enjoyed it. It was an easy chapter book, but I found plenty of vivid and beautiful descriptions in the simple words, which is one of the first things I look for in books.

But the ideas also had me thinking and pondering–that’s the other thing I look for in books. 

A common trope found in fantasy is the extraordinarily gifted new adventurer. We have a new adventurer, Randal, and more than anything else in the world, he wants to be a wizard. Now, here’s the interesting thing about Randal: he has an exceptional untapped potential for raw wizarding power, somewhere. But he sucks at magic. Like, flunking kindergarten, sucks at magic. Oh, and he’s completely illiterate. And he’s never even heard of the Latin-equivalent necessary to study old tomes of magical theory. 

And then he works his tail off. And after two years of working at remedial level, he’s still practically flunking.

Does he eventually get any good? Yes. By the end of his third year of school, where the book ends, he still kinda sucks, just not as bad as before.

Randal is persistent, thoughtful and friendly, but hardly successful. By the end, barely successful, but there’s no huge triumph. And yet, there is much to be admired… These are great ideas to expose children to.

Oh, and the ending. Randal is in a terrible, no-win scenario. And he has to act anyway.

Ideas galore.

So, since I hope to count this toward Amy’s Up and Coming Classics Challenge in the children’s fiction category, I need to decide whether it will become a classic or not. 

And sadly, given that it is already so obscure and was only published in 1990, I’ve got to say… No. This will probably never be a classic, despite its merits. Alas, that Twilight will be remembered and this won’t.

But it’s staying on my shelf, and I’ll be reading its sequels before long!

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Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2017

So I have so many books. I bought so many this year. It’s only right that I now read what I’ve acquired…

I’m signing up for the Mt. Vancouver level: read 36 books from off my To Be Read pile.  I suppose there’s always that chance I’ll manage to read over 150, but… given that I’m *moving* this year, I’ll be cautious.

Here’s a 70-ish-book glimpse of what my TBR (to be read) pile is like at the moment:

Classic literature & historical fiction:

  • Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen
  • Pride & Predjudice by Jane Austen
  • Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution by Natalie S. Bober
  • John Adams by David McCullough
  • Those Who Love by Irving Stone
  • The Island of the World by Michael D. O’Brien
  • Fierce Wars & Faithful Loves by Roy Maynard
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  • Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
  • Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • Silas Marner by George Eliot
  • The Good Earth by Pearl Buck
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • Sir Gibbie by George Macdonald
  • Faust by Johann Wolfgang Goethe

Science fiction & fantasy:

  • The Empire series by Isaac Asimov (3 books)
  • The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov (7 books)
  • The Robot series by Isaac Asimov (5 books, plus another I don’t own)
  • The Circle of Magic series by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald (6 books)
  • The Green Ember by S.D. Smith (I also have the prequel, The Black Star of Kingston)
  • Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card
  • Enchantment by Orson Scott Card
  • Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson
  • The Dune series by Frank Herbert (I have the first five)

Nonfiction:

  • Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling series (6 books; I have plans to read 4 of them this year)
  • Norms & Nobility: A Treatise on Education by David V. Hicks
  • The Living Page: Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte Mason by Laurie Bestvater
  • A Touch of the Infinite: Studies in Music Appreciation with Charlotte Mason by Megan Hoyt
  • The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling by John Muir Laws
  • What’s Going On in There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life by Lise Eliot, Ph.D.
  • Movement Matters: Essays on Movement Science, Movement Ecology, and the Nature of Movement by Katy Bowman
  • Whole Body Barefoot: Transitioning Well to Minimal Footwear by Katy Bowman
  • How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease by Michael Greger, M.D.
  • The Age of Revolution (A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, volume 3) by Winston Churchill
  • Euclid’s The Elements, Book 1
  • Adventures with a Microscope by Richard Headstrom
  • Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson

LDS theology & Church history

  • The Doctrine & Covenants
  • Our Heritage: A Brief History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 
  • Revelations in Context: The Stories behind the Sections of the Doctrine and Covenants 
  • Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley

Do cookbooks count?

  • Serbian Cookery
  • The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg MD and Zoë François
  • Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week by Isa Chandra Moscowitz
  • Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moscowitz and Terry Hope Romero
  • The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon

Goodbye, 2016 & Hello, 2017

So this whole blog started because I needed somewhere to reflect upon self-improvement. I suppose it is time to reflect upon the past year’s goals, then!

2016

Well, we did manage to get outside more. My kids played in the backyard for hours and hours most days in the summer and early fall, though I did notice they were less willing to play in the “cold” as the weather cooled down. So… score! 

In order for this to happen, our family had to cut waaaay back on screen time, though. We purposely did not replace the computer ruined by mice, which helped. 

By the end of the year, we only really watched under half an hour each day, with perhaps a movie once a week as a special treat. Many days were completely screen free for the kids! So another success.

Now lest you get suspicious that I’m too good to be true, know that mischief from the littles went way up once we we cut back on the screens.

Jadzia (4) took to dismantling bookshelves and climbing over the backyard fence. Garak (2) took to smashing eggs on the kitchen floor. Both children somehow hauled the the entire contents of the kitchen drawers and cupboards and dirtied it all while playing house out back. Multiple times for each offense, and I could go on.

As for getting more movement and moving away from a sedentary lifestyle, I’ve made very modest gains. As expected, the progress has been slow going, because I was wasted after a hyperemetic pregnancy. 

I have now managed to fit comfortably into my pre-pregnancy jeans again, though, which is a good sign. And I’ve recovered enough from pregnancy that I am strong enough to carry Odo (8 mo, 20+ lbs) in my arms whenever we go out, and I do!

The food situation hasn’t been as spectacular… James is doing all the cooking. All of it. We’re eating two or three healthy, homemade dinners each week, based on how busy he is. We need more progress here, but I must remember that we’re doing much better than we were during pregnancy.

So I’m pleased to report 2016 a success, especially since we managed to increase our number with Odo’s birth.

2017

Now, my plan for next year looks like this:

It looks one a lot, but a lot of it is simply maintaining habits I’ve already made, or have come close to gelling in the past year. So really the big ones will be walking and cooking… And actually studying the scriptures rather than simply reading them. Everything else is a slight change.

In addition, James has elected to start a new math blog, and I will be providing the art for it. He is aiming for a post each week for the next six months, so that should keep my artsy side busy.

Good luck to all in your plans to work wonders! 🙂

Henry VI, Parts 1, 2 & 3 by William Shakespeare

Over Christmas break I’ve been bingeing on Shakespeare plays. I just finished all three parts of Henry VI and… Well, it’s a little disturbing. The reason it’s disturbing is because it’s about the Wars of the Roses, and those were absolutely brutal. 

Cruel acts pervade both sides in this conflict, and I found my tender mother’s heart hurting every time a young boy was killed in revenge for his father’s crimes. (And this happened way too many times!)

So I’m not sure you could say that I enjoyed reading these plays, exactly. Sure, there were some beautiful lines, as there are apt to be in Shakespeare. But the subject matter was heavy enough to hurt.

And in this lies its merit. It’s kind of like watching Hotel Rwanda or Schindler’s List. You are moved by the atrocities. You need to know such things have happened. You have to realize these events aren’t just numbers of dead on a page. They’re real. They’re awful. They’re atrocious.

One of the most moving scenes for me was when the peaceful and gentle Henry VI, sickened by the horrors of the civil war battlefield, stumbles upon a son who has just killed his father in combat, and only recognizes him once he pulls off the dead man’s helmet. And then, Henry also sees a father unmask his son after killing him. Both of the poor, surviving soldiers pour out heartbreaking monologues. 

Poor Henry is overwhelmed and distraught; these scenes are before him because of decisions he’s made as king. What a horrifying situation! He suffers as he ponders his responsibility for the lives lost in the conflict.

Woe above woe, grief more than common grief. / O that my death would stay these ruthful deeds, / O pity, pity, gentle heaven pity.

Henry VI, Part 3, II, v, 94-96

Sometimes when I hear about people protesting about our new president-elect, I wonder… Do we really appreciate what it means to have a bloodless transfer of power? It’s kind of a big deal, in a good way. It’s amazing.

So all in all, I prescribe more Shakespeare for the masses. Also, more British history.

Up and Coming Classics Challenge 2017

So Amy is doing this and I think I’m game. I’m not going to settle down exactly on what I’ll read this time, but I’ll write down some ideas here. 
General non-fiction:

  • What’s Going on in There?: How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life by Lise Eliot (2000)
  • The Living Page: Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte Mason by Laurie Bestvater (2013) 
  • A Touch of the Infinite: Studies in Music Appreciation with Charlotte Mason by Megan Elizabeth Hoyt (2016)
  • The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling by John Muir Laws (2016)
  • Some more Katy Bowman?  

History/biography:

  • Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution by Natalie S. Bober (1995)
  • John Adams by David McCullough (2001)
  • Those Who Love by Irving Stone (1965)
  • The Women of Genesis series by Orson Scott Card

Children’s fiction:

  • Brandon Sanderson is supposed to release The Aztlanian this year
  • Terry Pratchett has some Discworld books for younger readers (the Tiffany Aching books)
  • The Circle of Magic series by Debra Doyle, not Tamora Pierce (The Dilts family apparently loved these relatively unknown books in their childhoods, and I want to know if they’re really that good…  If I can find copies, that is.)

General fiction:

  • The Work and the Glory series by Gerald N. Lund (1990-1998): LDS historical fiction
  • Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer is supposed to release in 2017!
  • I plan to read Isaac Asimov’s Empire, Foundation and Robot series. The later books in the series are recent enough to count! 
  • Maybe the Dune series by Frank Herbert.
  • I still have more books to read in the Enderverse by Orson Scott Card
  • Enchantment by Orson Scott Card

Back to the Classics Challenge 2017

This will be my first year participating in this, but I’m excited. Here are my ideas for this year! Wish me luck! 

  1. A 19th century classic: Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott (1820). Dawn Duran told me I need to read this, stat. Plus, I haven’t read any of the Waverley novels, and I know they were Charlotte Mason’s favorite.
  2. A 20th century classic: The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis (1945). I like everything I’ve read by Lewis, but I haven’t read this one yet. Plus, there will be a forum discussion. 
  3. A classic by a woman author: Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852). I got my copy of this something like 15 years ago. I, uh, still haven’t read it. Another discussion book.  
  4. A classic in translation: Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1830). I know nothing, but we’re discussing it on the forum. 
  5. A classic published before 1800: Book I of Edmund Spencer’s The Faerie Queene (1590). I’m pretty excited. Everything I’ve heard about this says reading it will be a happy experience! Yet another discussion, too! 
  6. A romance classic: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (1811). I just finished Northanger Abbey with some friends and we’re thinking of this one next. 
  7. A Gothic or horror classic: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1844). I need to carve out the time to just read this one, dang it. It keeps moving between my to read pile and my current reads pile. I just need to start over. 
  8. A classic with a number in the title: Richard III by William Shakespeare (1592). I’m planning to read all three parts of Henry VI beforehand, and then lead a discussion on Richard III. I also watched a version with Benedict Cumberbatch and it was amazing. So I’ve got to read it. 
  9. A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title: Moby Dick by Herman Melville (1851). Another forum discussion.
  10. A classic set in a place you’d like to visit: Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald (1879). This is set in Scotland! And it’s a forum discussion. 
  11. An award-winning classic: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (1931). Another book discussion. What can I say, I’m a addict.
  12. A Russian classic: The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1880). I found a copy and some friends recommended it. 

Putting the Blog on Hold

Well, two things have happened in the last little bit.

First, mice climbed through the fans at the back of our computer and into the electronic interior while it was powered down… and peed on the graphics card. So when my husband turned the machine back on, the graphics card promptly short-circuited. Anyway, we now have a few bits of computer but not an operable one. We aren’t planning to replace it until at least fall 2017, given all our lofty goals of less screen time and more movement and outdoor time. If you see me on the Internet, chances are I’m dinking away on my phone, or possibly on my husband’s laptop.

Second, I had a baby! He is seems to be somewhat high need, so I’m not getting a ton done besides an insane amount of nursing and holding the baby.

All this means blogging has suddenly become less of a priority in my life. Sorry. Do I even have any regular readers to apologize to, at this point? Ha.

In the meantime I am reading lots of books, memorizing hymns*, and of course, working toward those goals mentioned in earlier posts.

I also came up with pseudonyms for the kids for me to use on the Internet: Jadzia, Garak and Odo. Bonus points if you know where I got those from.

I will likely update sometimes, just not regularly. I may bring some of my thoughts from the 20 Principles discussion (on the AO forum) here.

Thanks!

Jenna

*I’ve been using both the AO Hymn Rotation and suzukimom’s LDS hymn rotation. Some months that means I do two hymns, but that’s not a big deal because I’m a hymn lover and am usually familiar enough with the LDS hymn that I practically have it memorized already.

Introduction to Charlotte Mason: “I Am, I Can, I Ought, I Will”

image

Look! I drew a thing. (Is handlettering drawing or writing? Both?) It’s Charlotte Mason’s motto, or at least one of the more concise paraphrases I’ve seen of it. She taught this to the students in her schools.

Here is what she wrote on the subject on page 330 of her first volume:

‘I am, I ought, I can, I will’—these are the steps of that ladder of St. Augustine, whereby we
“rise on stepping stones
Of our dead selves to higher things.”

‘I am’—we have the power of knowing ourselves.

‘I ought’—we have within us a moral judge, to whom we feel ourselves subject, and who points out and requires of us our duty.

‘I can’—we are conscious of power to do that which we perceive we ought to do.

‘I will’—we determine to exercise that power with a volition which is in itself a step in the execution of that which we will.

Here is a beautiful and perfect chain, and the wonder is that, so exquisitely constituted as he is for right-doing, error should be even possible to man. But of the sorrowful mysteries of sin and temptation it is not my place to speak here; you will see that it is because of the possibilities of ruin and loss which lie about every human life that I am pressing upon parents the duty of saving their children by the means put into their hands. Perhaps it is not too much to say, that ninety-nine out of a hundred lost lives lie at the door of parents who took no pains to deliver them from sloth, from sensual appetites, from willfulness, no pains to fortify them with the habits of a good life.

This motto has sunk deep into my heart. I suspect it has done so because each of its four parts were already there, and it rather concisely expresses what I think it is most important for me to pass onto each of my children, if I can.

I am… a child of God.

This. THIS! Nothing convinces me that a child has worth more than this phrase. All human beings are God’s children, and He loves them accordingly. He wants them all back.

The first thing I want my children to leave my home with is a knowledge of God’s love… for them, individually. I want them to have felt it. And I want them realize that God feels that way about everyone.

I am humbled to know that my children were first God’s children long before they were ever mine. He has entrusted them to my care… to lead them, guide them, walk beside them, help them find the way… to teach them all that they must do to live with God again someday.

I can… do all things in Christ who strengthens me.

One of Satan’s most successful tactics is to convince us that nothing we do matters, or at the very least, that we can’t do anything worth doing.

The third thing I want my children to leave my home knowing is how to use Christ’s Atonement, and not only for repentance. I want them to know how to access Christ’s grace.

In the LDS church, we tend to talk about grace as the “enabling power of the Atonement”. Grace enables us to do, and then to become the people we want to be, the sort of people worthy of Christ’s name.

One of my favorite Book of Mormon prophets is Nephi. His big thing is: “If God had commanded me to do all things, I could do them,” (1 Nephi 17:50) “for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7). Nephi is downright gung-ho about this idea, and I love it.

I ought… to do my duty to God and others.

I never realized that the word ‘ought’ is related to ‘owe’. And what do we owe God, our Father? Well, everything.

The second thing I want my children to know before they leave my home is that when they are in the service of their fellow beings, they are only in the service of their God (Mosiah 2:17). And this service, to God and others, is what he asks from us in return for all that we owe him.

I hope they will remember how much God loves them, and feel obligated to show Him their mutual love through service.

Here is what King Benjamin told his people in Mosiah 2:21-24.

I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.

And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.

And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.

And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?

I want my children to see this ‘why’ for service in the Lord’s Kingdom. It’s so important, because it’s the Christlike service that teaches us how to love others!

I will… choose the right.

I love that Charlotte sees these as rungs on a ladder, and it’s really true: these ideas move us farther along the path back to God.

This is the fourth thing I hope my children develop: the conviction to choose the right.

I had a roommate who often quoted her grandfather as saying, “Do the right thing and to hell with the consequences.” (She maintained that watering down his vulgarity would weaken the sentiment here, and perhaps she is right; thus I have left his words intact.)

I want my children to be this valiant, this unwavering, this committed to God. Heck, I’m not sure I’m quite there yet, but I’m getting there.

In conclusion

I’ve been pondering the need for a family motto for a while. Stephen R. Covey recommends something of the sort in 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, but I couldn’t think of one. And then, Sister Neill F. Marriott spoke about her own family motto in general conference not too long ago: “It will all work out.” I still couldn’t think of one that truly felt right for our family, but oh, I wanted one.

Well, Charlotte, I think I owe you yet another thank you.

I am. I ought. I can. I will.

This feels right.

A Deep Winter

Well, I haven’t exactly been working wonders for the past few weeks, unless you count keeping myself, my two children, and my unborn child alive as a wonder. You very fairly might count that, but perhaps, as far as self-improvement goes, I have hit deep winter.

I think that is fine; there are times and seasons in our lives for everything. Sometimes that season is deep winter, and all seems dead. I am forced to admit that my current circumstances allow for a bit of… seeming deadness.

As I am not getting enough calories, I have had to scale back drastically on all accounts. For much of the past months, I’ve at least been able to read and grow my mind despite being sick in bed. In this time I was blessed to find Charlotte Mason and Ambleside Online, and practically devoured everything I read.

Lately, though, I am reminded that even mental effort requires some calorie intake, so as I’ve gotten more pregnant, more nauseous, and less able to eat as the spring heat rolls in, I… really don’t know what I do all day. Time is passing, though, even if my mind seems to be in a timeless fog.

(And I am doing poorly enough that I have even gotten past the boredom stage… My mind is not well-nourished enough to complain about the lack of mental food! Yikes.)

I don’t have the mental fortitude to read much beyond my daily scripture study and time with God; even this is a struggle. My journal has not been updated for weeks. I have had to stop reviewing Serbian flashcards; this activity suddenly became hugely ineffective. I haven’t drawn in weeks. My restorative exercises have proven too much effort, and even doing fascia work with massage therapy balls at times requires too much movement. Many things have fallen by the wayside.

This will likely be the state of things for as long as I am pregnant. (I am 39 weeks pregnant tomorrow, so I think sometime in the next three weeks, I will be delivered from this trial. Hooray!)

However, despite all this, I feel that I should write something worthwhile here (other than an acceptance of this hard time).

We are doing a discussion of Charlotte Mason’s 20 principles on the AO forum, and in fact, I am helping to co-lead it. I have so far kept up by reading on my more lucid days, and I think perhaps I may share some of what I learn here.

(In addition, the forum is sparsely populated by other LDS individuals, and while there are some others, I hesitate at times to bring up LDS doctrine that comes to mind when I read. The forum doesn’t seem quite the right setting for it.

I hope any non-LDS readers here will not mind too much that I will do some of that here; the doctrine is so close to my heart that I need to gush out praises at times. Not surprising, I suppose, as I have already done so in previous posts.)

I hope to find the wherewithal to write my thoughts on Charlotte Mason’s motto soon.

Wish me luck and lucidity! (Or childbirth could work instead. I can dream, can’t I?)

He Is Risen!

Happy Easter Sunday! What better way to celebrate than by beautiful hymns of praise!

Here is my favorite for blasting! My children LOVE singing along with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on this one. I’ll bet Handel would have loved to have seen this.


My next pick is probably most famously known from a Civilization video game: Baba Yetu. BUT did you know this beautiful song is actually the Lord’s Prayer in Swahili? Here’s my current favorite rendition, recently released by Alex Boyé, BYU Men’s Chorus & Philharmonic.


Ooh, I want to listen to this over and over again. In case you do too, here are two other versions of Baba Yetu to keep you occupied: this very similar one by BYU Men’s Chorus minus Alex, and this a capella one by Peter Hollens and Malukah.

Lastly, Nearer, My God, to Thee. This is my all-time favorite hymn, and THIS is my all-time favorite rendition. It’s a capella by BYU Vocal Point and (again!) the BYU Men’s Chorus. (Can you tell I love the Men’s Chorus? I even married one of their ex-basses.)


And because I couldn’t leave it there, how about this version by cellist Steven Sharp Nelson of the Piano Guys?

Have a lovely, wonderful Easter!