Friday, February 17, 2017

In Praise of Fancy Nancy

Am I really about to write a blog post about Fancy Nancy? The day after writing about Shakespeare and Plutarch? Well, yes!

My daughter trotted home from the library one day with a couple of Fancy Nancy books.  If you aren't familiar with them, they're picture books about a little girl named Nancy Clancy who loves everything fancy.  She is growing up in a family that is, as she says, "plain."  

The first time I glanced at one of the books, I immediately set my mind against it.  First of all, there are sneaky definitions of words--Nancy will use a "fancy" word and then say "that's a fancy word for ______ in a parenthetical."  I thought that was annoying.  Second, I thought the books were probably just "twaddle"--the phrase used ubiquitously in homeschooling circles to describe books that are not very meaty or substantial.  

But we brought the book home and I read it to Annie.  And I fell in love with it! 

First, Nancy herself is pretty endearing.  She's unique.  She loves what she loves.  She loves fancy, girly things and her little ensembles are adorable. 

Second, and most importantly, I LOVE Nancy's parents.  Although they are "plain" (Nancy notes that they don't even get sprinkles on their ice cream!), her parents are fabulous.  They honor Nancy's individuality. When she becomes interested in art, they take her to an art museum, let her have a backyard Jackson Pollock-style painting party, and help Nancy and her friends put on an "exhibit" (hanging their pictures on a clothesline).  When Nancy decides her family needs to be fancier, her adorable parents let her give them "fancy lessons," and then they all go out to their favorite pizza joint for dinner--dressed to the nines, like movie stars. When Nancy decides she wants to get a "fancy" dog and not a plainer one, they let her dog-sit the neighbor's papillon--which causes Nancy to realize that a tiny dog like that really isn't right for her family (even though it's fancy). I fell completely in love with the way her parents respond to Nancy.   

Because, you know, not all parents would respond to her that way.  Nancy could instead hear these things:

Artists don't make money.  
Jackson Pollock was weird.  He didn't create real art. (I actually am open to debating that topic because I'm really not a modernist, but that's another discussion for another day. The question is: what's real art, right?)
No, you can't make a mess in the backyard with paint.
Because I said so.
You cannot get a small dog and that's that. 
No, we aren't going to go out to dinner dressed like this.
I don't have time to set up the paints for you.
No, we don't want lessons in how to be fancy.  Go do your homework.
No, you can't wear a tiara to the grocery store.

And so on.

Now, I'm not saying that children should have carte blanche on what to do or wear or where to go all the time, but Nancy doesn't run the show in the books.  She just has all sorts of ideas and inspirations, and her typically parents go with it! (In the dog book, they didn't get the dog she wanted; her parents were correct that it was the wrong breed--but they were open to letting her learn *why* it was the wrong breed.)

I enjoy seeing the differences between Nancy and her parents and seeing how they respond to her in each story.  It's refreshing and sweet.  So if you have a little girl who is kind of fancy (I sure do)--you might like Fancy Nancy, too!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Leontes, Horatius, and Ecclesiastes

Today at our co-op I taught Shakespeare, as usual, and then taught my first class of Plutarch.  When co-op was over I came home and had a cup of tea and some eggs.  You know, to stop my brain from hurting.

I loved it, though.  All the unintentional connections!  My high schoolers and I talked about King Leontes and what triggered his murderous rage (jealousy).  We talked about what made Horatius take over dedication of the temple of Jupiter, which was supposed to be done by Publicola (envy). We talked about the temple--which was built, and destroyed, and re-built, and re-destroyed, and re-re-built, and re-re-destroyed.  I told the class it reminds me of the author of Ecclesiastes, saying all toil is meaningless. Which then leads us, of course, to the questions:

what really matters? what should we build, if not temples that can be destroyed? or is building destructible temples a worthy investment of time and money and energy?
if it's not, what IS a worthy investment of time and money and energy?
what should we worship? what do we worship in our culture?  
do you ever experience the "flip of a switch" from rational being into a jealous or angry person?

My classes are only half an hour long, so we didn't reach conclusions.  We just generated the questions.  And those questions are the invitations to further thought. 

For them, and for me. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Winter Lemonade

This afternoon my father drove away in his truck to his mountain house (about 1.5 hours away) where he'll stay for a couple of nights before heading back to Charleston (about 5 hours away from his mountain house).  I KNOW he's so glad to be heading home, to be independent, and to be healing well!  I'm glad for him.  We had a wonderful 12 days together.  In spite of all the medical hubbub, he and I genuinely enjoyed our time together.  We did not exchange a single cross word the entire time we were together (except for one night when he kicked me out of the hospital room because he was so worried that I would be going back to the hotel too late....he made me call him as soon as I was safely in the room!  Once a protective father, always a protective father! Even then, there were no cross words.  He just ordered me to go, and I did.)

I heard stories I'd heard before, and new stories as well.  Stories of him hitchhiking all over the South in the 1960s and 1970s, and all of the adventures he had. Stories of his first white Christmas. Little tidbits of his life. So fascinating. 

Anyhow, I'm exhausted--but I'm staying up too late just enjoying the fact that our little family is "just us" again.  Plus, I am trying to wrap my head around Valentine's Day--all I have is that I'll make heart-shaped pancakes in the morning! (Tuesdays are a very busy day for us--we're gone all afternoon for lessons.)  Back before the surgical storm hit, I did purchase some special Valentine candy at Target, so I'll leave those out for my children tomorrow.  This evening I began the process of "post-guest-tidying" which is mostly stripping beds, reclaiming little corners of the house, and washing towels, but it will take a few days to get the house back to normal.   

I was very grateful to spend so much quantity and quality time with my father. It was my privilege to look after him during this time.  I don't think we had spent so much time together like that in many years!  Sometimes life hands you lemons but you do get lemonade.  

And I'm still sleeping in every day!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

February with my Father

A week ago today, my father and I left in the morning to drive to a city in another state for his pre-op appointments, because he was scheduled for spinal surgery on Friday morning.  

It was a poignant experience, because twenty-seven years ago my parents took me for spinal surgery. I was 13 years old.  I had worn a back brace for scoliosis since I was about 5, but the brace wasn't enough to halt the progression of my severe spinal curvature (my spine is a backwards "S").  I had a spinal fusion using bone from my hip, and an instrumentation which placed fiberglass rods on either side of my spine.  I can only imagine the tension my parents felt that morning in October as their child was wheeled off for an 8-hour surgery on her spine. 

(There's a whole backstory there, too, because that was the first time I really felt God's presence and protection in my life, and it was a formative experience for me. But I'll save that for another time.)

So of course it was my privilege to care for my father.  We got up at 4:00 on Friday and had to be at the hospital at 5:45.  By noon he was out of surgery and in recovery, his neurosurgeon had given me a positive report, and I went to go find lunch and make phone calls and send texts.  He was in the hospital until Sunday, but had a slight complication.  So on Monday morning I called the doctor and we were slated to go back on Tuesday morning.  After four (!) hours of sleep Monday night [I just couldn't sleep well] we got up, once again, at 4:00 am.  Fortunately, and hallelujah, the complication appears to have resolved itself.  I was THRILLED!!! to learn that!

The morning we were to leave home, last Thursday, my father's online devotional was, he said, "very timely." It was this one, which is about the author's experience when her 13-year old daughter had spinal surgery for scoliosis.  My father and I smiled at each other.  Another wink from God--I love them. Timely indeed.

So now my sister is here with us for a few days (with a major toothache, poor girl!), my father is still recuperating here for a while, and I'm finally home to stay!  It's wonderful to do things like laundry and washing dishes and teaching school. I'm not getting up early yet--I'm sleeping in until 8:00 this week intentionally--and I'm not back to a "normal" schedule. We're staying flexible as we help my father recover and enjoy some time with him and my sister.  But oh, it's lovely to be home, to see him improving, to spend time together.  (All the time in the hospital and in the car gave us time for a lot of uninterrupted conversation!) And it's a privilege to have the freedom and flexibility to care for my father during this time.  I'm so grateful for all of it.  

Monday, January 30, 2017

Winter Morning

Waking up early is always worth it for me, but especially when, after a couple of hours of darkness, I get something like this.

I love that certain slant of light from the east as the sun splinters the sky over the mountains. Everything is beautiful. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Christmas Hair

I checked a book on hair out of the library recently and was inspired to do some Fancy Hair on Annie for Christmas.  Isn't this beautiful?  

This was right before we left for church on Christmas morning.  Annie's dress has a beaded waistline in front and an organza overlay on the skirt.  The next time I do this little hairstyle, I'll tuck something into that at Easter, perhaps?

Having a little girl is so, so much fun!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Favorite Snacks

My children aren't big snackers most days (they eat very well at meals!) but I do like to offer a mid-morning snack most of the time, and on some occasions we need an afternoon or evening snack also--typically if we have an evening activity like ballet or our scouting group, and our dinner is either unusually early or a little late. I'm trying to come up with a few more snack ideas.  Our requirements are preferably gluten-free (Finn eats some gluten now and I can't even tell you how much easier my life is because of that), whole foods, and reasonably healthy.  Here are the snacks we typically have:

*cheese slices
*nuts (sometimes nuts mixed with rice chex--not really a whole food!)
*popcorn (always with a side of cheese or nuts)
*apple slices with peanut butter
*banana boats--half a banana, sliced lengthwise, spread with a nut butter and topped with a few mini chocolate chips
*Larabars (on grocery shopping days I usually allow a Clif or Luna bar)
*gluten-free pumpkin-chocolate chip muffins
*on occasion, smoothies (w/ peanut butter/banana/almond milk/spinach)
*gluten-free gingerbread (yum, more like dessert) topped with nut butter or yogurt, depending on the child

I'd like to try homemade granola. I don't think Finn will eat it, but Annie would.  Annie likes yogurt; Finn does not.  And I have yet to find a good homemade granola-ish bar recipe that suits Finn.  I know this makes him sound very picky,  He is a little picky, but I roll with it because he eats so well of so many healthy foods (fish, chicken, broccoli, oatmeal, eggs). I think his issues are texture-related. In any case, I don't make a big deal out of it because in all honesty I think I'm fairly particular myself. (I never thought this until I visited a friend and she was amazed at my eating habits. Ha!)

So I'm casting about for some new snack ideas to freshen up the list.  Fresh fruit is always nice, but this time of year all we can get are bananas, apples, and citrus--everything else is pretty yucky.  And Finn and I don't really eat citrus....wait, did I mention we're the picky ones?

If you have any favorite snack ideas to share, I'm all ears!