Terrible Tuesday: Life is like the encroaching wilderness

If civilization isn’t constantly on the offensive, nature will overwhelm us. Likewise, if we aren’t constantly on the offensive against life, it will eat into your schedule.

In other words, I had some time free up yesterday, but somehow that time disappeared under the tentacles of life.

Like sands through the hour glass links!

I’m just parking this right here, for my girls, for future reference.

Avoid the five most common mistakes when cooking pasta.

Philosophy can be confusing. Donuts are yummy. Philosophy explained via donuts, fun and understandable!


In some parts of the country, it’s autumn. In Texas, it’s still pushing 90 degrees, which is decidedly un-autumn. But eventually (mid-November?) the leaves will change here, too. And this is the science explaining the changes.

High powered attorney marries trophy spouse. 

Humans of New York is one of my favorite Facebook pages. They’ve been posting pictures from Mexico for the past few days, and it’s fascinating. I hope they travel more. The picture below was actually posted in the comments of this picture of a family with the following caption:“We weren’t expecting it. We were expecting him to be a little chubby, or have big ears, or be a little funny looking, but we weren’t expecting him to have Down syndrome. They had been telling us that all the tests were normal. We were devastated at first, but we decided to take the bull by the horns. And it actually brought us closer together. We’d been growing a little apart before he was born, but he gave us a common goal to focus on. We spent two months at the hospital together when he got pneumonia. And he’s turned out to be a blessing. There’s no evil in him. He’s either happy, or sad, or mad, but he never conceals and always expresses just how he feels.”

Humans of NY

“If he sees that someone is sad, he’ll touch them.”


Picking up on cultural context

A came across this fascinating video about The Globe Theater’s attempts to perform some of Shakespeare’s plays in the original dialects. (Just a head’s up if you have little ones about: There are some bawdy jokes that are discussed–evident in the original that have been lost as dialects change.)

Recently, I listened to the Teaching Company’s Great Course on The Iliad. One of the things that Prof. Elizabeth Vandiver pointed out was some of the things that don’t translate–things that don’t change the heart of the story, but added layers and increased the beauty of the story for the original reader.  And it’s true not just of language, but of culture, too. There are nuances and allusions that the original audience picked up on that we only get after considerable education about that culture–and some things that everyone misses because they are lost to time.

Even the experience itself was different, changing the art. For example, the original theater goers saw Shakespeare’s work performed in the middle of the afternoon. That meant that the actors could look directly at the audience, which gave the monologues a completely feel. Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” is markedly different spoken into the aether versus addressed to an audience. In fact, one could argue that the “mono” in the term “monologue” doesn’t even apply, as the audience becomes part of the actor’s performance.

Even when we know the original context–that plays and epic poems were seen and heard, not read, we tend to stick with our methodology: reading Greek plays and poems silently. (Personal preference: no poem should be read silently. It defeats the whole purpose of poetry.)

Of course, that’s obvious to us when we’re looking at literature or art from hundreds (or thousands) of years ago. It’s less obvious when we’re looking at art from the recent past or even from cultures that don’t seem like different cultures. But even seemingly slight differences in understanding or worldview can impact how we experience art. I need to do a better job of asking what the author or artist is trying to say, what assumptions he makes because of his experience and culture, and how that might help me better understand his art.

How do you bridge the cultural gap when it comes to art and literature?

(I grabbed the Shakespeare video from the site 22 Words, which is always a source of fun, interesting, and thought-provoking posts.)



Ode to a toilet, installed in a young boys’ bathroom


O toilet which has taken position

On the front lines, where the battle between

Civilization and utter ruin

Is held. Breathe deep your last gasp of fresh air.

Stand against the horde of those whom aim badly.

In days to come, remember the stainless,

Smooth porcelain, without mark or blemish.

We will tend to you with bleach and Lysol,

Reminiscing on days before the storm.

How to survive a really good idea

*This post contains affiliated links.

I want to say at the outset that this post is not just for homeschoolers. I’m a homeschooling mom who is writing about a homeschooling mom that has a podcast. But this is in no way, shape, or form does this pertain only to homeschoolers. What I’m saying pertains to parents with kids living at home, be they wee tiny infants or college grads hanging out in the basement. In fact, it might benefit those families the most. (Maybe. Just a thought.)

Anyway, the inspiration for this post comes from a wonderful podcast called The Read-Aloud Revival. It’s a podcast about creating a culture of reading aloud for your family. You might think that you might feasibly find enough material for one or two shows about reading aloud, but certainly not an entire podcast centered on that concept. Oh how very wrong you’d be, you poor wrong person. The host Sarah Mackenzie interviews authors, teachers, and other moms to provide all kinds of information reading aloud. She covers everything from what types of books to read, how to read aloud (in a two-part interview with one of our favorite narrators and story tellers, Jim Weiss), how to talk about the books you’ve read, and more.

The only negative I can think of about this podcast is that your checkbook will really feel it. Because although the podcast is free, she links to books and other resources cry out to be purchased. So listen, but visit the show notes only after your steel yourself against temptation.

Actually, there is another negative, although it’s not inherent in the podcast. Rather it’s a burden I think a lot of parents might assume for themselves: With our overly busy lives, it seems impossible to to fit reading aloud into our already packed schedules. And frankly, at the end of the day we’re too tired to think straight, much less develop two dozen distinct character voices and remember how they all sounded from page to page. Reading aloud sounds good in theory, but 2 hours of homework, ferrying to various practices, lessons, and other obligations doesn’t allow time for anything so slow-paced as sitting on a couch, surrounded by attentive little ones (Ha!), reading Charlotte’s Web or what have you.


Let’s just admit it: We feel judged by this lady and her unnaturally calm child. Most toddlers would have ripped at least one page in half and be eating the it.


Parents, I, April Thompson, with all the authority invested by my own dang self, give you permission to adopt the spirit of the law on this one. I give you permission trade off reading duties between mom and dad, thereby making sure there is absolutely no continuity in character voices. I give you permission to not even try to do character voices. I give you permission to read a chapter of your favorite childhood book once a week and take four months to finish it.  (I’d tell you how long it’s taking us to read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, but I’m a little embarrassed.) I give you permission to delegate read-aloud duties to your oldest kid. (Although from time to time, read aloud or listen to an audio book with that kid. I’m going to read The Giver to my girls. Or maybe listen to the audio book.)

That, I think is the key for parents who are already stretched past their limits, but want to create a read-aloud culture in their family. Parents, I give you permission to outsource this good idea to the audio books. Think of it as hiring a bard.

As a homeschool mom, I read aloud a lot to my younger kids as part of their lessons. But lesson reading isn’t the same as read aloud reading, and frankly, at the end of the day I don’t wanna read aloud anymore. My husband reads to the boys at night, but the one big thing we do is listen to a ton of of audio books. Since we listen while we drive all over the northern part of Texas, we can go through two or three books a week, depending on the length. We are probably the number one checker-outer of Hank the Cowdog audio books from our local library. We’ve listened to the Chronicles of Narnia a dozen times. We’re listening to a great new series The Heroes Guide to Saving Your Kingdom/Storming the Castle/Being an Outlaw that has us all laughing out loud and has inspired my daughter to choose another Halloween costume no one will get.  On our two road trips this summer, we listened to more than a dozen audiobooks.

And here’s a secret that no one mentions: listening to audio books for kids is so much more fun than listening to audio books for adults. David Tennant is our family’s favorite narrator. He performs the How to Train Your Dragon series and the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang series, and it’s far more entertaining and enjoyable to listen to those than most entertainment geared to adults.

Plus, you’re building a bond with your kids based on shared stories. And what could be better than that?

So get the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher or just download it. Listen while your doing whatever you have to do (I personally listen to podcasts while exercising and cleaning. It makes the tedious chores go faster.) You’ll get a lot of great ideas on what to read and how to read, as well as encouragement to adopt a read-aloud culture for your family. Then hit your local library, LibriVox, or Audible, and start building a read-aloud culture in your family.

Fine Arts Friday: Train up a child the way she should go

And when she’s a teenager, you’re taking her to Piano Guys concerts instead of One Direction*.

Happy belated birthday, sweet girl!

And for the record, the Piano Guys put on an amazing show.  Check out their latest video. Batman! (Do stay around for the outtakes.)


*I realize all my intentional exposure to One Direction is actually from the Piano Guys. It’s probably I’ve heard their music piped in stores and on television. Nothing against them, I just don’t seek out pop music.


I was right in the middle of a post when I remembered something I had to do. So that’s in the draft folder and this is what you get today. Because I. Will. Not. Break. The. Chain!  I love that (almost) everyone grins when they realize what’s happened.


Anyone who has kids knows they have a tendency to fixate on certain things. And I don’t know if it’s all boys or just my boys, but they can fixate much more intensely and persistently than my daughters ever did. (They also are distracted at the drop of the hat. That’s the parenting paradox for you!)

Case in point: Satchmo (the seven year old) interrupted our grammar lesson yesterday to ask which video game he should choose: the computer game or the DS game. They aren’t allowed electronics during the week, so he was asking for Friday afternoon, at the earliest. I guess having a plan more than three days out is important. I also heard him ask his sister the same question, so maybe he’s just soliciting information. He’s also fixated on his future move to Africa, so any subject of conversation or education must also be examined as how it pertains to Africa. It makes things interesting.

Bulldozer is even more extreme in his fixation. When he gets an idea or desire in his noggin, it is almost painful from him to stop pursuing it. Whereas Satchmo can set aside his question and return to the matter at hand with a little encouragement, Bulldozer has a really hard time stepping away from his obsession. Recently, he’s decided he really, really wants a video camera. We have an old one that MTG told him he could use, but I couldn’t find it. When I finally found it, I couldn’t find the charger. Then MTG found the charger, but I couldn’t remember how to work the thing. During all of this, meltdowns galore. Some of those were even Bulldozers! (Okay, about 50/50: His “I must video all the things!” meltdown and my “This is totally screwing up my schedule!” meltdowns.) The good thing is that I’m able to use his fixation to my advantage. When your work is finished, you may experiment with the video camera. But when things go wrong? Holy guacamole, is it unfun.

But as much as kids can get fixated on things, adults can go even further. Our fixations keep us up at night, ruin relationships and sabotage careers. I’ve noticed that I’ve been fixating on things a lot lately, particularly on things that are wrong, or even just not perfect. Like my aforesaid schedule getting royally messed up. And the various nicks and bruises my house has that I really want fixed or replaced. I have a lovely, comfortable home, but all I can see is my broken stove top and garage door or #$@% hall bathroom. I fixate things that haven’t happened and may never happen–potential outcomes of current situation and potential outcomes of potential situations. I fixate on things long past. I fixate on what ought to be and what never can be. And holy guacamole, is it unfun.

I wonder if it’s not the human condition to fixate on things–good or bad. There’s so much going on that we can’t possibly pay attention to it all, so we pick something to focus on. The problem comes when we focus on things to the exclusion of everything else or fix on things that gnaw at our minds and our souls. Ironically, the verse that has been my “go to” verse for the past several years has an antidote for my unhealthy fixation: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” You (I) just have to fixate on the right things.

My problem is I tend to wait until I’m drowning in my preoccupations before I’ll look up to fix my eyes on God. Much better is Brother Lawrence’s counsel to remain in the presence of God at all times. Instead of living fixated on the troubles and trials of life, stay in the presence of God and deal with the circumstances as they come. But don’t live in the presence of your problems–past, present, or future. And yes, this is one of those “preaching to myself” things that I’m not anywhere close to having down. But it’s still good advice.

What do you fixate on?  How do you refocus your attention on better things?


Terrible Tuesday: My question of the day

I often hear the suggestion/command to “get out of your comfort zone,” by which is meant introverted/quieter folks need to be loud, boisterous, and overly chatty with perfect strangers. But I never hear extroverted people to “get out of their comfort” zone. I never hear people who crave the presence of others to spend time alone and quiet. I never hear the life of the party told to shut the heck up for a hot minute.

Just a thought.

“But you don’t look sick” a different way of looking at the burdens those who are chronically ill carry.

Looking for a Christmas gift for the bicyclist in your life? Trotify!

The creators of the Visual Latin program that we love and the online Latin program that my daughter is doing (and loves), Word Up! Learning vocabulary from Greek and Latin roots. The first section is on sale now for only a $1 a lesson, or 9.99 for the set (So .999 per lesson.) You can download two free lessons if you want to check them out. (I don’t know how long the sale lasts, so grab ‘em while their hot! Or cheap!)

Speaking of introverts, read any good books when you should have been interacting with people lately?

introvert turtle

An interesting look at being poor. (Some language, but an important article to read, especially for those of us who don’t face these challenges.) The Deputy Headmistress has written often on being poor. But one difference between her and most others in poverty is her knowledge and resourcefulness. I don’t mean that as an insult to poor people, but if you read her blog,  (and I highly recommend you read her blog) I think you’d find her more resourceful (and knowledgeable) than the vast majority of people–whatever their income level. Anyway, there’s a lot of burdens and obstacles of poverty that most people not in that situation don’t even consider, like the fact that cooking attracts roaches.

That was really long for a Terrible Tuesday link.

This really upset Jack when he heard it. I think he was howling in solidarity: “Stay strong, brother! Stay in the water! What are they gonna do? Leave you? Come in after you? Nah!”

(This) Life is fleeting

What I think when I watch that video (click the link for the verse set to music.):

“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.” I Peter 1:24 (ESV)

Texas travel hazards

Texans do not have to worry about ill-kept rest areas. Like our highways, we pride ourselves on well-maintained rest stops. However, no amount of scrubbing can rid us of one danger.

watch for snakes

Look before you sit!

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