Important thoughts for the Age of Wikipedia.

It is not always realized, yet it is nevertheless true, that a good deal of knowledge is required before you can use a reference book well. (…) Thus a reference book is an antidote to ignorance in only a limited way. It cannot cure total ignorance. It cannot do your thinking for you.


How to Read a Book, by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren.


Tea With a Former Professor

Tea With a Former Professor

I am beginning my study of the Early Middle Ages (History 210) with Professor Paul Freedman, via Open Yale Courses. Only four of the required books have arrived thus far, so I’m going to start by listening to all of the lectures before returning to the beginning. This is certainly a “luxury” lacking when I was an undergraduate at Yale: even had I recorded the lectures somehow, I wouldn’t have found the time to listen to all of my lectures again. That being said, this experience pales in comparison to the real deal. Not only did I take a seminar with Professor Freedman (significantly smaller class size with more intimate discussions), but the subject of that seminar touched upon those things – food, spices, and trade – that made him positively light up with glee. (This is not to disparage his lectures here, because the very nature of this course is a more broad-strokes overview of an historical period.)

NGM Day 1 / 365

Oh, I didn’t mention in my last post about how I wanted to join the “photo a day” club? How silly of me!

Master Nikolay attempted to squeak loudly, but coordinating his lungs to “blow” is still somewhat challenging. He’d better get it by the time his birthday comes around … there’ll be three candles to blow out in front of assembled family and friends!

Squeak Loudly


I am a little embarrassed to admit this, but in middle school, I played the clarinet in the school band. I also played the saxophone and the flute, but the clarinet earned me the most grief. Slightly less embarrassing is admitting that I played the clarinet in a German school orchestra. At least in an orchestra, the viola is the most hated instrument, and anyways the music is far more noble. Mozart wrote for clarinets, so they can’t be all bad!

But back to middle school: my band teacher at the Nicholas A. Ferri Middle School in Johnston, Rhode Island, was a man by the name of Daniel Coyne. I remember a few things about his teaching, including his bushy eyebrows. Long before Leonard Bernstein, he conducted us with his eyebrows. I recall how he instructed us to sit up as if suspended by a string from the ceiling, something which has come in handy throughout my life. And most often of all, I think of his maxim to “squeak loudly.” Let us put aside that the squeak is a sound coming from the clarinet when it is played incorrectly: the advice was given to all members of the band. When we were uncertain of how to proceed, we ought not play quietly and hope no one heard. He advised us to play boldly, so that he could catch the mistake before a concert, and correct it. “If you’re going to squeak, squeak loudly.”

I am going to translate his advice to another field of life: that of the New Year’s Eve Resolution. In my 30 years, my attitude towards resolutions has run the gamut: I’ve made one, intending wholeheartedly to keep it, then failed; I’ve made many, and failed as many; I’ve made none, knowing that I was bound to fail and declaring the whole thing a sham. In recent years, I tended towards the latter attitude, thinking that if I declared no goals, then I would not be caught in failing to attain them. There is of course an awful feeling to such failure. Just as each week I am ashamed as, again, I confess in church the same sins: lack of diligence in my Bible studies and prayer, improper attitudes towards my husband, our children, the home, and all the accompanying sins, I find myself each year setting the same goals, and ashamed that none of them were met in the previous year.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the lack of goals is more hurtful to me than failing to achieve them, so here, without further ado, is my attempt at a list of New Year’s Resolutions, or personal life goals, for the year 2011 and beyond. I hereby declare my right to amend and edit said list whenever I so feel the desire.


* Find a good Bible study plan and stick to it, reading and praying each day. (Daily readings of the book of Proverbs after breakfast do not count towards this goal, as this is a family activity.)
* Someday do a simultaneous Bible study with my Mami, so we can discuss it when we’re done, despite the fact that we live across the country from one another.

* Find a good fitness plan and stick to it, including simple things such as taking the boys for walks and going to the zoo, despite the fact that it is much further away from our home since the move.
* Lose the remaining 20 (!) pounds of baby weight, approximately by the time of Alexander’s first birthday and/or my next birthday. This was not even an issue after my first pregnancy, but has proven much more difficult this time around. On the bright side, I’ve had fewer problems nursing, but still this is something I would like to tackle.
* Learn Russian
* Lose the fear of traveling aquired when I received my celiac diagnosis
* Maintain “older” friendships while nourishing the newer ones.
* Be more consistent in phone calls / letters to family members, especially my grandparents in Germany.


* Lose the ‘tude with my husband: this means no sarcasm, no rolled eyes, no nasty tone. I have become a master of the fine art of submitting without true submission: doing something, but only after stating my disinclination towards it, or questioning whether it REALLY needs to be done, etc, and I need to work on that.
* Keep a reading journal of read-alouds with the boys, ideally on a daily basis.
* Be more patient and forgiving of the boys.
* Be more consistent in my discipline, and gentle in the execution thereof. Allowing things to fester until I become “screaming mom” is not a desirable disciplinary method to me, or to them.
* Organize more frequent family outings, such as trips to the zoo, the Children’s Museum, or picnics in the park. We have so much fun when we do these, especially if Daddy is there, but I put off organizing them.
* In general, manage time better so that I can spend time being with the men in my life – my husband and my sons.
* Find ways to begin to introduce the boys to German. Ask Greg to do the same with Russian.


* Keep a better pantry. Our new pantry space is much smaller, and requires far better management.
* Be more at peace with informal hosting, so that we can open our home more frequently.
* Make, and maintain a cleaning schedule. In general, the house looks great when people are coming over. Perhaps more frequent hospitality ties into this? When we had covenant group at our home twice a month, I was so more on top of cleaning, even in the midst of the turmoil of early pregnancy.
* Do a monthly “keep, toss, sell” pile, then drop off things at their new homes / the Goodwill, and sell what needs to be sold on Craigslist or eBay.
* Meal plan, and plan out shopping trips accordingly. We now live about 20 minutes from my favorite grocery stores, rather than 8 – 10, which does make a difference when one must make use of precious time between the warring nap schedules of two wee men.
* Plan and execute a yard sale with the in-laws for January. Be consistent about giving away things that do not sell, rather than returning them to the garage.
* Organize recipes. Sell unused cookbooks. Write down recipes as I create new concoctions, so that they may be re-created.


* Keep a reading journal. Read and complete at least two books per month, and not neglecting fiction/fun reading. Home school and Cookbooks do not a balanced reading diet make.
* Finally create and print a wedding album.
* Indulge my creative and DIY streak in the boys’ birthday parties. I know full well that they couldn’t care less, and am capable of admitting that this is more for me than for them – but then, in the end, perhaps when they are older, they’ll appreciate it. So long as I do this after hours and don’t shoosh them away with “Go play, I’m busy planning your perfect party,” it’s all good. 😉
* Build at least one cool Ana White DIY woodworking project. Do this while maintaining the house.
* Write every day. Be it blog entry, journal entry, a personal  letter, or work on the two novels and multiple short stories I’ve had floating about in my head since, um, college.
* Find a musical outlet: perhaps a choir? And continue singing. Coincidentally, persuade Greg to take up the guitar again.
* Finally learn how to make use of the embroidery features of my awesome sewing machine.
* Make or knit stockings for the family for next Christmas.
* Make some sort of advent calendar, and possibly fabric garland.
* Make more birthday/anniversary/baby/just because gifts. COMPLETE THEM, and hand them over.
* Make this the year of crafting very cheaply, if not free. Finally make use of the giant stock pile of fabric and other supplies.
* Organize a ladies’ mother’s day brunch / tea at Emmanuel, including finding speakers to propose to the elders.

In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each New Year find you a better man.”

Not At All Wordless Thursday

I have a hundred blog entries that I’ve written in my head, none of which ever made it to the screen. I’m sure many of us are like that. I’ll bet you even walk through life composing Facebook status updates, arranging and re-arranging them in your mind as you debate where wit becomes sarcasm, and just how much the internet really needs to know about your current physical state.

I’m not a very consistent internet presence because I go back and forth on how much and in what manner I really want to reveal myself and my family. I’ve taken to Facebook, but not without some pangs of conscience. I tweet mostly because it is required for giveaways of the fluffy variety. (“Fluff,” for you non-initiates, is a term used to describe cloth diapers, in reference to the bulky bottoms they produce.) Incidentally, my husband, being the good sport that he is, put the baby in a cloth diaper the other day, which would be wonderful were it not for the fact that we are moving next Wednesday and I’ve already washed and begun to pack all the other cloth diapers. So now I’m putting off washing said diaper until I figure out what else I can launder with it according to the rather specific protocols I have in place for fluffy wash.  All of which is, of course, leading me to this: we are moving. I should perhaps have begun this entry with that, but there you have it. My mind is discombobulated, and I have a tendency to digression even in the best of times. I am surrounded by boxes, most of which bear the markings of previous moves. I can barely move in our main living spaces, and it seems as though there is a very real possibility that even if every friend we have gives us every box they have, there still won’t be enough. This is one of the few times in life that I catch myself seriously considering a life without books. I mean, a single iPad/Kindle/Nook could hold far more than the 30 or so boxes of books we own, and slip nicely into my diaper bag when we head out. Come to think of it, perhaps if they made an Inspector Gadget cooking device that performed every function performed by my three drawers of kitchen utensils, that would be fantastic. Or clothing that changed thickness and texture with the seasons and altered its style and color to suit the occasion. Maybe baby spit resistant clothing? That alone would reduce my wardrobe by half.

I want to write so many things, but the insanity surrounding me impedes my thoughts. My husband, who is by nature far neater than I am, is right to note that our habits, including cleanliness, affect the state of our soul…. and mine, just now, is cluttered. The home we moved into and remodeled when we married, then sold two and a half years ago, is up for sale again. It almost makes me want to go back, for simplicity’s sake… but we’ve moved on since then, and are moving to an entirely different part of the valley. We will be living so very close to our family, which is fantastic … but I am saddened by the loss of something so very unique and beautiful.