Category Archives: Love this Music

Secret Worlds

Could it be a sign of perimenopause that just seeing that Studio
Ghibli logo in the opening credits of a movie makes me tear up?

Or is it just a symptom of the period of parenting we’re in, our girls
still childlike but obviously older, older, OLDER every day?

Not too old (never too old?) to look forward with great excitement to
The Secret World of Arrietty, another Ghibli film with a brave and
resourceful female protagonist, beautiful attention to visual detail,
and a gentle spirit from beginning to end.

There are so many things I love about earlier Ghibli films that are
present in Arrietty, which I will try not to spoil here. I love the
magical realism, the way the natural world is realized with such
loving precision that the magical elements—the little people, the cat
bus, the bath house of the spirits, the creaking house of Howl—seem
real too.

I love that there are girls at the center, that every Ghibli movie I
can think of passes the Bechdel test. I love the friendships that
don’t quite rise to the level of romance but are still true love.

I really love looking over at my girls in the dark theatre and seeing
them already looking back at me with big grins, silently communicating
“Isn’t this awesome?”

When I saw a scene in which a character moved in and out of a shaft of light, a number of times, it was like hearing a musician enjoying the opportunity to play a particularly beautiful passage, adding grace notes to the repeated sections, and I could feel my older daughter, next to me, watching.

She is nearing 13, already taller than some of my adult
friends, and she sits in the movie seat with her animal hat, her
Taylor Swift t-shirt, her Ugg boots, every inch a young teen. She had just told me the day before that she wanted to learn how to create light effects in video games, so I know she was watching that shaft of light doing something in that artist brain that is nearly inaccessible to me.

I wanted to go home and redecorate the attic just like this.

While she was at a sleepover later in the week, our younger daughter demanded to watch Totoro again, and soon afterwards we watched Spirited Away. We’ve always said she’s just like Mei, and she has embraced that image for herself.

In those movies too, the world is a magical place but nothing is more magical than clear water, tall trees, or a fresh ear of corn. No world is more beautiful than the natural world, but, Miyazaki seems to say, it takes a child’s eyes to see it.



Filed under Love This, Love this Music, Music and Art


I was tying up some work in my office, listening to iTunes. I am a little bored with my music lately, so I’ve let the “Genius” function create playlists around random songs. This one is based on “Higher Ground,” the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ cover of a (superior) Stevie Wonder song. It was pleasantly random and surprising, but when we got to the Barbie remix of “What I Like About You” I had to click over and see the whole thing. I also really like “Come To Jesus” (an alt/folk/country Christian song) right next to “Nemesis” (ultimate teen/goth/dance song from the 90s!).

Ponder the reasoning of the iTunes “Genius,” and don’t think too hard about what this weird mix of songs says about me:

Higher Ground, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mother’s Milk
Where It’s At, Beck, Odelay
Mr. Brownstone, Guns N’ Roses. Appetite For Destruction
Cecilia, Simon & Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water
Cannonball, The Breeders, Last Splash
Good vibrations, Beach boys, pet sounds
In Between Days, The Cure, Staring At The Sea: The Singles 1979-1985
Middle Of The Road, The Pretenders, Learning To Crawl
Save It For Later, The English Beat, What Is Beat?
Carouselambra, Led Zeppelin , In Through The Out Door
Timebomb, Beck, Timebomb
Knock Me Down, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mother’s Milk
Right Here, Right Now, Jesus Jones, Doubt
Come To Jesus, Mindy Smith, One Moment More
Nemesis, Shriekback, Oil & Gold
Start Me Up, The Rolling Stones, Tattoo You
The Tide Is High, Blondie, Best Of Blondie
Girlfriend, Matthew Sweet, Girlfriend
Lust for life, Iggy Pop, Lust for Life
We Got The Beat, The Go-Go’s, Beauty And The Beat
What I Like About You, Barbie & Friends, Barbie Hit Mix
Whip It, Devo, Now It Can Be Told: Devo At the Palace
Boys Don’t Cry, The Cure, Staring At The Sea: The Singles 1979-1985
Peace train, Cat Stevens
Space Oddity, David Bowie, Scary Monsters

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Filed under Love this Music


A smattering of recent events and thoughts

1. Victoria (still age 5, 6 in May) tried her first sleepover last night. Full young for that, I know, but she was directly across the street with a family she has known and loved for a while now, so we thought we’d give it a try. (Sister Violet was also at a sleepover with a friend.) We were reading in bed (I was finishing Coraline) when the phone rang. Eggmaster answered it, but I could hear clearly that little V was ready to come home. The worst of it: “We were watching the Secret Garden, and the mom DIED.” And many sobs. She tried to stick it out, but in the end she was just too sad, and by 11:30 dad went to get her and he fell asleep with her in her own bed. Poor thing. I stayed home from church this morning so I’d be here when she woke up and we could have some extra time together. Dead moms are indeed a scary thought.

2. The day before, little V had the same friend over here to play. The friend goes to a year-round school, so she gets breaks at odd times, like 3 weeks in February. After waiting anxiously all day, Victoria greeted her friend by sitting in a chair reading, then reading her friend the jokes in a joke book. Finally the friend was so antsy I sent them upstairs to play in the girls’ room. They came downstairs again later, and Victoria curled up in a chair to draw. The friend asked to play a game, but Victoria told her, “maybe you could get some pen and paper and draw too,” and went back to work.

3. On a related note, I continue to read The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child. 😉

4. Victoria is pretty much asking for a more organized learning program. She says, “I want more lessons, like [Violet] has.” OK, then. Later, I told her we would be reading Charlotte’s Web together as our first book in our more formal schedule. “Well how am I supposed to learn anything from that?” she asks. Hmmm, I feel long, painful learning curve for mom coming on. Meanwhile she is really enjoying Spanish and is addicted to Magic School Bus, which seems to fit her idea of “educational.” The girl wants *facts.*

5. The grownups here have started watching Martin Chuzzlewit, with Paul Scofield. We are loving it. Having read a fair amount of Dickens, especially his more sprawling works, I really appreciate the televised versions, where the details of setting do not have to take up 12 pages, and you get some visuals to sort out all the characters. The production is pretty funny, but the story itself is just flat out nuts. Eggmaster and I often look at each other in amazement before we burst out laughing at something totally outrageous. Two thumbs up — Netflix it.

6. Violet took the EXPLORE test yesterday for NUMATS, and then I took her out for lunch to celebrate. (Please see links about the test and NUMATS — it is not interesting enough to type out!) We went to a place I used to go to in college, famous for its malts. It was kind of like that deli scene in When Harry Met Sally — the girl was raving mad about her food, thrilled with everything — loudly. Quote: “If a grilled cheese sandwich could take you to heaven, I’d be sitting on a cloud with a harp.” The test was 3 hours long, so I was glad to give her a treat. It is probably going to stand in as our required yearly test for homeschooling. We could also do Woodcock-Johnson, but since she would probably participate in NUMATS anyway, I’d rather just do one test per year.

7. Teaching Textbooks have been a success so far. The “lecture” part isn’t scintillating, but it holds Violet’s interest about as long as it needs to. I have talked to a few families who have used TT Pre-Algebra with younger kids doing advanced math. We all have been skipping some of the early chapters and generally whizzing through the first half, but otherwise like it. (The second half of the book is algebra, negative numbers, roots and exponents, etc.) Despite the need to “telescope,” I am glad we didn’t go straight to the Algebra book. I’m satisfied with our decision to take a year to explore — or just skip math for a few weeks here and there. Violet is returning to regular math more mature and more confident. I also think Teaching Textbooks allows her to do more advanced math in a reasonable amount of time each day. Art of Problem Solving just seemed a little too intense — though we may look at it again in a few years.
One more TT note, for the curious — the problem sets for each lesson build in review. At least half of the questions review earlier topics. This has made it really easy to combine lessons (we do two a day, but I combine the problem sets so she is doing one lesson’s worth of problems). On the positive side, generally there are only one or two review questions per topic, so the review isn’t totally onerous. I think it’s great for a younger student in particular, who can benefit from doing a small amount of computation and putting the decimal in the right place and converting from fraction to percent without actually doing 20 problems on those topics. My student, at least, is not as conscientious as an older student might be, and TT seems to give her the right amount of gentle nudging to get the small things right as well as the big things.


Filed under Curriculum, Family Fun, Gifted Ed, Gifted Heart and Soul, Learning Styles, Love This, Love this Music, Schoolday Doings, Why Homeschool?

Greetings from November

We are all still here, busy and tired, but still plugging along. Some random notes:

Time Warp:
An old friend from grad school days came to visit for a long weekend. As I told her on the way to the airport, it was a double time warp. The time blew by, with morning turning to noon turning to 1:30 in the morning while we did little but talk across the table and entertain very excited children. And suddenly eight years — maybe nearly 18 years — had never passed, and we were instantly chatting the way we did back then. Like when I called to cry that the boy I was pining for would never return my affection (yes, that boy is my husband) or gossip about who was sleeping with whom in the English department. There were times that I felt a little like the me of many years ago — enthused about ideas, writing, music; reasonably articulate; kind of funny. Made me realize that I should 1) spend more time around people who aren’t living virtually the same life I am, and 2) do better at keeping in touch with people who knew me when “Catholic homeschooling mom” was nothing recognizable as me.

Culture Week
Violet has been busy with her play, which has been going well, though I look forward to this Sunday, the last show. She was unable to attend the Brian Wilson concert we went to, but luckily our visiting friend could take her seat. Musicians like that are amazing to me — of course they are working hard, but as they are working hard the music flows through them, as if they were just the messenger. We attended a “Bach to the Future” program today, where some of the composers claimed the same thing. If I wanted proof of God, this could be it: this music in the air that some are both blessed and cursed to hear in its fullness and bring to the rest of us. Sorry if that is horribly cliched. I remember seeing Ray Charles in concert, maybe when I was pregnant with Violet, and he just seemed like a radio tuned to God’s station. It was amazing to watch.
We also attended a production of The Lion the Witch and The Wardrobe, which was wonderful. I had hoped to find some of the lyrics on the internet and provide them here–and I had been dreading the songs before the show. The song “Come to the Table” was so beautifully Eucharistic I nearly cried. Our children’s theater here does things with stagecraft that never fail to amaze and impress me, and the holiday productions in particular are as wonderful to me as they are to the children. In this show they had Susan and Lucy flying on Aslan’s back, using two flowing blue banners, held at each end by stagehands in black, as the sky, and then a stream. It was really inspired and well done. And Aslan — well, he was a little like the Lion King, but mostly he was both regal and warrior-like. Victoria was terrified in parts, especially in parts involving Maugrim, but she wanted so much to see the whole thing, so she did.

General Ups and Down
Reading the post-election internet has not been a consistently happy thing for me, especially as a Catholic. I don’t care to get into details, but I have been hurt and angry many times, and I have decided that some blogs are better taken out of my reader. Not to punish the writer, but to protect myself from getting all het up over some yahoo commenter. The Communion of Saints is an idea that means a lot to me, so I take it very personally when a stranger effectively boots me out of it. It has been a cause of serious soul-searching.
I’m excited that I may get a chance to be a witness for the senate recount here. The national media is covering this story so poorly, so I want a first-hand look at the proceedings. I am signed up for a fairly late date, after Thanksgiving, so I can’t be sure I’ll get a chance, but I look forward to it.
I am getting healthier. My pneumonia and/or bronchitis is gone, though I did recently catch a cold from Victoria. The thing I am still dealing with is the asthmatic response to all the respiratory trauma. I do wheeze from time to time, still, but the tightness in my chest is gone, and I look forward to returning to my gym, hopefully next week.

We have 2 piano recitals, 4 play performances, and 2 dinners with friends coming up in the next 4 days, in addition to a run of visitors from this Friday til Tuesday 11 days later, and my yearly Thanksgiving extravaganza, so I can’t say I’ll be posting again soon, but try not to give up on me!


Filed under Family Fun, I'm Catholic Why?, Love this Music, Oh Mother, Our Domestic Church

What Happened?

For the last few days I have not been able to log in to Word Press! So annoying!

Nothing much to say here: I’ve been to 3 doctors in the last 3 weeks, each of whom says something different: sinusitis, bronchitis, pneumonia. If I’m not better next week, maybe I can be diagnosed with a touch of the rheumatiz. My poor husband, who suffers from my exaggerated and ever-broadening mistrust of doctors, is very frustrated that I keep seeing physicians who confirm all my worst stereotypes.

Overheard while lying on the sofa:

Victoria (while listening to the Zep): “If we don’t keep rockin’, we’ll die!”

Later we made a “Victoria” Rocks! playlist together on iTunes. Here’s how the 5-and-under-set rolls in our house:

Middle of the Road, Pretenders
We Got the Beat, Go-Gos
Egg Man, Beastie Boys
Vertigo, U2
Girlfriend, Matthew Sweet
Star 69, REM
Higher Ground, Red Hot Chili Peppers
Lust for Life, Iggy Pop
Hey Ya, Outkast + Barbie and Friends (Violet would die before admitting that she purchased this herself a couple of years ago)
Cherry Cherry, Neil Diamond
Cannonball, Breeders
Heroes and Villains, Brian Wilson
What I Like About You, Romantics
Fool in the Rain, Led Zeppelin

Violet (while playing with Ello characters she made): “Reality is not good for us. It smooshes us deeper into the ground, as technology takes control.”

(This was rendered in this Russian-French accent that reminded me a little of Natasha [of Natasha and Boris], like “Wheeality eez not gud forh us. Eet smusheez us deepearh eentoo zee gwhound . . .”)

I think God locked me out of Word Press so that I would not print my diatribe about being a “real” American and a “real” Catholic. Well done, God! 😉


Filed under Love this Music, Music and Art, Oh Mother, Schoolday Doings

More from Sen Lin Hu

welcome to sen lin hu

A few more photos and a little more follow up.

To answer Cher Mere’s question from the comments, yes it is a Concordia camp. I can tell that Violet made a big jump in speaking and listening ability after 2 weeks. I am excited for her, and also excited because I think I may have sweet talked an old friend (and zhongguo tong) into talking to her on the phone periodically to help her keep her conversational abilities going. (Plus then I have yet another family member helping me keep in touch with my friend.)

An interesting thing about the camp experience was that Violet was very aware that at 9 she was a little kid. The one-week camps had a lot of younger kids, 7 and 8, but even though this session of the 2-week camp was ages 8-12, Violet was pretty clearly one of the younger ones. She noted to me that even some of the 10-year-olds seemed to try to act very “teenager-y.” She’ll never do soccer at Sen Lin Hu again — the big kids would never pass to her! But she did make friends with some older kids, too.

closing program singing

Last night I was helping her dry off after a shower, and I commented that 9 was a great age, because you are getting big, but you’re still little. She asserted that she’s still little, and won’t be half-big, half-little until next year, until she’s 10. Knowing that Violet has always thought of herself as pretty big, I was a little surprised at her comment, but not that much. Going away to camp was a positive experience — I don’t think that she felt scared or bad. She just got to see up close that she’s not like the big girls yet, and she’s good with that. But she is still pleased that a boy asked her to dance on the last night!

They dance to Chinese pop music, such as this hit, which I think is either called “Kan guo lai” (“look over here”?) or Dui mian de nu hai:

kan guo lai

But by far the camp favorite is Superstar (the video is from the original performer):


This is just a tiny bit of the campers who were at the session.


It’s scary to think about having 2 Concordia campers someday — maybe we’ll win the lottery before then.

sen lin hu


Filed under From Violet, Love this Music, Love this Resource, Socialization

A few favorites

Eggmaster’s attempt to get us a sitter and out for a movie (Harold and Kumar . . . *blush*) didn’t work out, so instead I am lazing around on the internets while he reads to Violet who is up way too late. (We had an *incident* involving many tears and much consternation, so though it is late we need some calming parent time.)

I’m going to try to rise to the challenges set by Patience and list some Good 10s. I don’t think I can do a Top 10, as my memory is so poor, but I will try my best.

10 Good Songs

1. As, by Stevie Wonder. Just everything you ever wanted in a song and more. If my life had a soundtrack this song would roll during a wonderful celebration near the end — not my funeral, but some happy time when my family and friends are all together and I am still alive with my wits about me.

2. Heart with No Companion, by Leonard Cohen. I heard this first in the Ron Sexsmith version, so that’s the one I love. Oh, it just fits me so perfectly sometimes. Perfect for all people who have come through a traumatic depression. “And I greet you from the other side of sorrow and despair / with a love so vast and shattered it will reach you everywhere.”

3. Cherry Cherry, by Neil Diamond. A total pop gem, if that doesn’t sound too Rolling Stone. Love it. Love Neil.

4. I’ll Be Your Mirror, Velvet Underground with Nico. “When you think that night has seen your mind, that deep inside you’re twisted and unkind, let me stand to show that you are blind. Please put down your hands, cause I see you.” Love it. I have been both people in this song. I just want to quote the whole thing for you. Maybe I will:

Ill be your mirror
Reflect who you are, in case you dont know
I’ll be the wind, the rain and the sunset
The light on your door to show that youre home

When you think the night has seen your mind
That inside youre twisted and unkind
Let me stand to show that you are blind
Please put down your hands
cause I see you

I find it hard to believe you dont know
The beauty that you are
But if you dont let me be your eyes
A hand in your darkness, so you wont be afraid

When you think the night has seen your mind
That inside youre twisted and unkind
Let me stand to show that you are blind
Please put down your hands
cause I see you

Ill be your mirror

5. September, Earth Wind and Fire. This song has lots of special personal meaning to me, but mainly now it reminds me of my best friend who goes by the online name of Rex Parker, when he made awesome mix tapes for dancing at the “after party” for my wedding. Yes, we had a wedding, a reception, and then later a party.

6. Sexy M.F./My Name is Prince. I think these can count as one, right? Love me some Prince. Prince lives in my town, you know? He may be weird, but musically he is the sh**.

7. Hey Ladies, The Beastie Boys. This is from the Paul’s Boutique album, one of the best albums ever, and the last vinyl I purchased before going to CDs full time.

8. Suspicious Minds, Elvis Presley. I have a history with Elvis that is just . . . waaayyy too long for me to get into now. But one thing I like about this song is that it reminds me of my dad. Though not as much as . . .

9. Won’t Get Fooled Again, The Who. Almost put Pinball Wizard here, but who can resist the awesome Daltry scream in this song?

10. Oh, so hard to choose just one more, OK, here’s a weird one. Nightshift, by the Commodores. A tribute song to Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson. A very personal favorite. Rolling Stone sez:

There are few things in pop more sure-fire than extolling the virtues of the dead, and it would be foolish to deny the extent to which that helps “Nightshift,” this album’s standout cut. But there’s more to it than mere necrophilia, for as much as the song plays on the references to Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson, it’s the easy confidence of the near-ethereal groove that ultimately sells it. If ever there was an accurate aural depiction of eternal rest, this is it.

10 Good Singers

1. Stevie Wonder
2. Marvin Gaye
3. Paul Simon
4. Prince
5. Al Green
6. Elvis Presley
7. Elvis Costello
8. Chrissie Hynde
9. Ron Sexmith
10. Mick Jagger

10 Good Books (9 novels and one nonfiction)

1. Bel Canto, Ann Patchett
2. 100 Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
3. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
4. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke
5. Stiff, Mary Roach
6. The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde
7. Don Quixote, Cervantes
8. Tristram Shandy, Laurence Sterne
9. Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
10. The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway

I tried to spread the love around a bit — my apologies to my many book-friends not on the list. Memory is a capricious thing.


Filed under Love This, Love this Book, Love this Music, Music and Art, Oh Mother