Monday, March 31, 2014

Preparing for Noah

No, not that one; but I love this Father Noah, too.

Ken and I are going to see Noah in a few days. We've read (Actually, I read out loud; Ken listened.) so many reviews taking both sides by Catholics we respect that we want to see it ourselves. I do not want to take notes during the show; I want to sit back and let it wash over me, then write.

Here is SDG's positive review at the Register.

Here is Scott Landy's positive review at Catholic Online.

Here is a fascinating piece by a rabbi and expert in Jewish myth.

Here is Rep. Rebecca Hamilton's negative review.

Here is Brad Miner's negative review at The Catholic Thing.

So there. And I've read even more. Now I'm no professional anything, just a regular wife, mother, Catholic-lover, Bible-reader, and movie-watcher. I'll be looking for sin, judgment, love, mercy, family, confusion, pain, hope, earth, water, and rainbows of promise. I'll add my regular lady review in a few days.

(Ken never wants to go to the theater so the girlfriend in me is excited!)
Love, Allison

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Fine Answer

Theme Thursday at Clan Donaldson has called for the word ANSWER.

I have decided that to answer aggressive, argumentative children with, "Because I said so" is perfectly fine. Calm, explained (I wrote "expletive" first and realized that wasn't right...) reasoning is not necessary for every blessed directive around here. There's a time and a place for explaining; after all, I reject the Pearl's and the Ezzo's forced scenarios that promote fear and uncertainty. Life is full of opportunities for teaching both trust and obedience organically.  I'm the parent. Obey your mother. I do promise it's for a good reason but I'm not reading the rule book eleventy billion times a day. It's my house and I run it according to my principles. You children have to learn how to be fairly decent people, maximizing your talents and softening your troubles and all that good earth-child stuff. You also just have to obey sometimes. Your parents, yes. Also your teachers, policemen, bosses, GOD, etc.

What a weight off my "I'm not doing it like our grandparent" shoulders. They were right. Sometimes a mommy can say, "Because I said so," and it's a fine answer.

For a wonderful devotional post on answergo read this. at the Clan. It'll bless you!

Have a great weekend, you guys. Because I said so!
Love, Allison

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Old Dog, a poem by Clare

Old Dog

They will sit patiently by you,
Clare, 12. Page copied and pasted
from her blog.

Content to do nothing but nap,
They know you love them, and their funny quirks too,
Even when they cause a mishap.

Oh old dog, so good, so wise,
What secrets you hold, beyond those brown eyes?
I'll never know, I'll never know,

But how I love you so.

When you were a puppy,
So wild and free,
I'll never forget how patient you made me.
And when you ruined my afternoon tea!
Oh, puppy, a patient one you've made me.

And when it comes time for you to go,
I'll kiss you and say,

Oh old dog, so good, so wise,
You are, you are, my earthly prize.
I will always, always, always love you.
My old dog, so tried and true,
You can rest now, and peace be with you.

~Clare Howell

My Panea, almost at the
deadline for her breed's
lifespan (Rottweiler).


Monday, March 10, 2014

Lent ~ the Last Great Race

These early March days find us, along with many Alaskans, daily checking standings for the mushers running the 1100-mile Iditarod Sled Dog Race, the “last great race.” My dog-loving twelve year old daughter checks multiple times a day and moves colored pins for her four favorites along a map (She’s a hard-core fan.). Since it is also Lent, I see Lent everywhere and the Iditarod is no exception.

Initially called the Great Race of Mercy (Hello, Lent), the race commemorates the 1925 diphtheria serum run to Nome by way of the Iditarod trail, a mining transport route through the now-ghost-town of the same name. Those mushers were smart and strong, risking their lives and the lives of their working dogs to get that medicine to stricken Nome. The Iditarod is still a dangerous run, “Not safe,” according to musher Dee Dee Jonrowe. “Challenging conditions are true every year. It’s the Iditarod Trail. The race must go on,” says Iditarod Trail Committee Executive Director Stan Hooley.* As is Lent. Each year has its own spiritual dangers and challenges. We have our Hell’s Gates and Dalzell Gorges. We may be lonely. We also have our rest stops available in Friday evening soup and stations. Extra reconciliation services are our health checks. And the race will go on for us, too, ending with the Easter celebration year after year until the Great Banquet in the Father’s House.

We may need to drop out, or “scratch,” in order to get our dogs or ourselves (or both) tended back to health for next year’s run. This is OK. If we desire betterment and do not allow bitterness to creep in, we will learn what we should and become closer to Jesus His way. “Let it be unto me according to what you have said,” said our Blessed Mother. Two years ago, my baby was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in the beginning of Lent. That year, fasting for me took the form of mentally wrangling fear and anger to the ground and lifting my eyes to Jesus to embrace love and redemptive suffering. It was exhausting. I fired the computer back up and made needed connections. On the Yukon River deciding things for racers, says musher Martin Buser, “The Yukon always is a decider if it’s punchy or slow.”* Indeed. Sometimes Lent is decided for us, whether punchy or slow.

Physically running the Iditarod and spiritually running Lent begins with preparation. Take stock, figure goals, decide risks, and gather materials. While there is a general pattern in Lent (pray, fast, give) and a general pattern in mushing (food, gear, map), everyone’s plan is their own (Musher Jeff King is known for his inventions like boxed sled seating and heated handlebars!). Then jump in and participate. Just do it and see what happens! There are physicians and public servants at checkpoints on the way (priests and angels) and those watching on the periphery for culture and entertainment may be inspired to get in the race themselves. God be praised.

The last great race truly is a great race of mercy. May we find opportunities every day to enrich Lent with mercy accepted and given. May we actively look for burning bushes, even in Iditarod stories. Go mushers! Go us!

*March 7, 2014 Frontiersman and Anchorage Daily News headlines

(This was also posted at Catholic Sistas today.)

Thursday, March 6, 2014


Theme Thursday at Clan Donaldson ~  DIRT!

No problem.

Ken and Rees took Luke and Joseph camping this past weekend and after locating an acceptable spot, the first order of business was to dig a pit for the fire "all the way to DIRT."

Joseph working on his edge of the fire pit.

Ken talking to the little boys about (Actually, I don't know; I wasn't there)  ~  probably fire safety or  bears or something.


This time, the big excitement wasn't bear scat but coyote howls. I thought coyotes were desert creatures and didn't know we had them up here. That's OK, though; as long as we don't have snakes...

They came home filthy and deliriously happy. A great trip.
Love, Allison

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Reason is Blue Bloods

It's 12:30am, which technically speaking is Monday. But I'm still up, so practically speaking, my Sunday is not yet over. I have a really good reason for late blogging, though. See, Ken, Rees, Luke, and Joseph went out hiking/camping; and John rented the beginning disk of Blue Bloods (our local Blockbuster is alive and kicking). And, um, we stayed up until now to watch all four episodes. Because we loved it.

So that's it. Seven posts in seven days is complete.

Next up ~ Lent. In some ways, better than Advent.
Happy sort-of-Monday!
Love, Allison

Sunday, March 2, 2014

High Recipes

 I am constantly on the lookout for high-cal, high-fat, high-protein, high-nutrition recipes. I've posted quite a few food ideas here under the label "Weekend Recipes." Here are three recent gems.

From Ann Romney's delightful cookbook/memoir, I discovered a sweet sauce that nothing shall supersede  I plan to put this on pancakes and every single coffee cake forever and ever. Amen.

1 C sugar
1 stick butter
1/2 C heavy cream
1/2 t vanilla

 Warm it all up and pour it on!


In my quest to sneak coconut oil into as many places as possible, some venues have bombed like milkshakes (once it came into contact with ice cream it hardened into little oil balls, which was not nice) but this one has been the bomb: mix some with dulche de leche and spread it on stuff or dip fruit into it. I mix 2:1, dulche to coconut oil.

We eat salmon twice a week, once grilled, baked, or fried; and once in a leftover dish. My favorite Alaska Magazine cookbook recommends making potato pancakes and adding leftover cooked, flaked salmon (or canned if you don't catch and cook your own) to the mix. I fry them in butter of course. The high part is the egg sauce (sauce again).

2 hard-boiled, finely chopped eggs
2 T  butter
1 T flour
1 C milk (I use half and half)
Seasonings to taste (We like salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and parsley)

Melt the butter. Gradually stir in the flour and stir for a minute or two. Add milk all at once and continue stirring to a medium thickness. Add in seasonings and eggs. Pour over salmon cakes. Actually, I quadruple the recipe because there's a lot of us and because the kids like the cakes to swim in it.

Here's hoping our CFers put on lots of weight!

Love, Allison

(Post #6, back on track just in time for the final day tomorrow)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Seven Quick Takes ~ Homeschool Edition

Somerset High School, Somerset, MA

1) We don't homeschool because we hate public schools. Ken and I both had an excellent education in New England's public schools (We graduated in 1985 and 1987). That's my school above; isn't it pretty? I still remember things from classes and teachers because they were good. I can still sing music from Cats and O Magnum Mysterium. I can break into a polka as Aunt Eller or British snark as Lady Algernon. I remember my 10th grade poetry project and the teacher who saved my iambic pentameter by informing me that I could use sans instead of without. I still remember extracting the spinal cord from the fetal pig and measuring gunshot vectors (separate classes of course). I especially remember Mendel's pea plant genetics, despite the genetic counselor's surprise that we were happy to have more babies (She was sure that I couldn't possibly understand what autosomal recessive meant...).

2) We homeschool because it's fun and because we can and because we like what we get. It's fun to do projects together; it's fun to do 'most anything together. We can do it because we live simply. Our needs are pretty modest and the few times I've made lists of What I would do if I didn't homeschool, the alternative paled. We like dealing with behavior problems the way we see fit, without a sniff of political correctness; we like switching books and programs the way we see fit, according to our children's strengths and weaknesses; we like the way the kids are growing up (mostly!).

3) We have a great philosophy, kind of a Charlotte Mason/John Holt/Rudolph Steiner/Laura Berquist plan (ha!). Did you know there was such a thing? It's a Howell special. What it actually means is that I like all of them; I find points of worth in all of them; I switch things around all the time. I love the classical model, but I love the unschooling model. A few years we bought boxed curricula because I didn't want to make any decisions. They were good years, too.

4) We do math, outside play, and a rest alone every day. We use Teaching Textbooks, Oak Meadow, Singapore, Life of Fred, Kahn Academy online, and enough manipulatives to ruin midnight bathroom runs for years. When a kid is particularly obstinate, I don't mind if they spend their morning math time helping a younger sibling or playing with tangrams. As long as they're thinking mathematically for a while, I don't care from which source. Outside play is because we live in Alaska. A rest, each one in a separate spot, is for my sanity and theirs. Everyone needs time with their own thoughts and it must be ordered in a large family.

5) Books, books, books. In the summer, planning begins for the following fall. I let the younger kids (high school ages are different) choose 2 topics they are dying to learn about, which I add to a few that Ken and I choose. These become the theme for everyone for a month. Here's what this year looks like. Clare (12) chose Ice Age and botany; Ian (9) chose flight and Alaska; Luke (7) chose Africa and space; Ken and I chose ancient Rome and maps. We are currently finishing up a month on the Ice Age. March will begin Alaska (and the Iditarod will move them nicely into maps). We get tons of books at all levels to dump on one of the downstairs bookshelves. After mathtime, the kids gravitate to "the shelf." Social studies and science flow directly from the books. 

6) An example: Space. We get books, everything from Usborne informational to lift-the-flap books to baby board books to biographies of Robert Fulton and Neil Armstrong. They do writing assignments and art projects and science off the books (copy work, book reports, paragraphs, drawing, models with balls, star-gazing, etc.). Sometimes I figure out all sorts of connected ideas (usually if I can't sleep and begin drinking coffee at 4am) but when I'm not feeling like Mary Poppins, it's fine for them to simply read and come up with their own thing.
From the shelf, children, from the shelf.

7) I love grammar. I took Latin for 3 years at the high school pictured above. I love picking apart a sentence into every single part of speech. I love working on just the right turn of phrase. But I don't want to be the cause of some of the children hiding in the woods to be raised by the nice mother moose who eats our goats' hay. So I have CHC's grammar books. They are simple, sweet, and cover what they need to. I pull them out about once a week, usually when I have a sit-down with one kid at a time. We have a warm drink, go through a few pages of grammar, then I help them with whatever else they want (See point #2 above. I likey!).

(So that's a Howell Homeschool up to 9th grade. Highscholers map out four years of classes and credits because so far, the big boys have desired continued classes and scholarships.)

Post #5 (On the 6th day, yeah, I know. I'm getting there!)