Skip to content

Amazing View from Dorm Courtyard

August 30, 2011

P1000015, originally uploaded by Chez VH.

Another beautiful shot from Thomas Aquinas College


Fountain at Thomas Aquinas College

August 29, 2011

P1000017, originally uploaded by Chez VH.

Ria sent us a few photos now that she has a camera. Isn’t this lovely?

Do You Do Temperaments?

August 21, 2011

I’ve been hearing about the temperaments for awhile – you know, sanguine, choleric, phlegmatic and melancholic – but never really paid any attention to them until recently. I know I had a book on my shelf once about it that I didn’t get around to reading and just passed it along after awhile. A number of my family and friends would talk about them and I couldn’t get straight which word meant which thing.

But a few weeks ago, the topic kept coming up in the randomest places, enough that I started to have a guess of which temperaments I had. During this random streak, I was at a friend’s house and she had a copy of The Temperament God Gave Me sitting out from the library. I picked it up and quickly read an overview of one of the temperaments I thought I was – melancholic. Wow. There was an awful lot of “me” on that page, including: “They are skeptical about what may appear to be simplistic labels and categories – such as the four temperaments.” (Ha!) – But really a lot more too, including the need to fight to achieve self-confidence and “Ironically, however, although small details can stump them, melancholics can often handle the truly big crises with grace and aplomb.”

I went home and ordered the book right away. I haven’t finished it, but have found it quite helpful overall. For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, the temperaments refer to the part of your personality which is innate rather than learned. I had a sense that some aspects of my personality that were frustrating to me had pros and cons, but this really helped me sort some of them out and stop battling my own nature unnecessarily and try to work with what I have.

Upon further reading, I discovered that the other temperament I had suspected belonged to me – phelegmatic – was actually the dominant one. The section in the book entitled “Discovering Your Secondary Temperament”, which describes temperament combinations, including potential pitfalls, was particularly helpful. This paragraph particularly rings true (and I’ve been working on doing many of these things, especially in recent years):

This temperament combination can face at times a greater challenge to your confidence than other temperaments (especially the choleric or sanguine). For this reason, when you are facing a major challenge or have been given a multifaceted and demanding project, it will be absolutely critical for you to maintain your level of energy and motivation – not to mention your prayer life – to complete the project. You will want to anticipate the way your moods can get you off track and take concrete steps to maintain accountability in order to remain focused and energized throughout the task. Motivational tapes, exercise, a healthy diet, spiritual guidance, and a strong sacramental life will be critical.

I haven’t come close to finishing the book yet, but have found it quite helpful so far. The book is written by a licensed marriage and family therapist.


7 Quick Takes

August 19, 2011

I thought I’d use the Quick Takes Friday to catch up on a few things now that I’m trying (again) to get back to blogging.



I mentioned in the previous post that we held a performance of Shakespeare’s As You Like It (or rather selections from…) in our backyard a few weeks ago. It was directed by my daughter and some friends. I think it went really well and we sure enjoyed the performance. Here is the first video:

You can find the rest of the videos here. Unfortunately the quality isn’t great as we just had a little Flip Video and we missed a significant chunk in the middle. You can view pictures from the play here.


I was so excited to hear that our friend, Matthew Alderman, is having some artwork published in one of the editions of the New Roman Missal. Congratulations! (hat-tip Robert Gotcher)


I haven’t yet put my notes together on the blog from my culture talk at the homeschool conference in Napa. I am working on an article on gratitude that’s kind of grown out of the talk for a future issue of mater et magistra magazine. I’m excited about the article and hope to sit down and spend some time on it.


We got together with some friends at a nearby lake last weekend (and has the weather ever been beautiful lately – what a change!!!). I was pretty impressed with what the kids built on the shoreline (and many of them were just little tots):

Killer Sand Creation


I really enjoyed this animation of a talk by Sir Ken Robinson. I’ve been hearing about this educational speaker for a long time (including from my brother Dan) but had somehow neglected to actually listen to any of his talks until this week. Here’s the video:

This was a great time to watch this video as I’m trying to get my head into gear for the new school year and I continue to wrestle with conventional wisdom vs. what actually seems to work with my kids. The video also brought to mind a few related items:

a. Lots of bits and pieces from the book Nurtureshock by Po Bronson and Angela Merriman, b. The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph #1937 (we all have unique gifts and we’re supposed to share them with each other – not turn out the same as each other!) and c. the article “Listening to Experts Inhibits Decision Making in the Brain” from the Eide Neurolearning Blog.


On Monday, our family sang for the feast day of the Assumption at our local parish. Ave Maria in 3 1/2 parts (a little family joke since the tenor part is a little hit and miss still), and  little harmony on several classic Marian hymns (Immaculate Mary and Hail Holy Queen) and also on Holy Is His Name. We love singing as a family and it was nice to get one more chance before Ria left for college.


Before Ria left for college, we had a bit of a movie festival with flicks we wanted her to see. We got through maybe a dozen of them, including Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Premonition, Regarding Henry, A Good Woman, and The Mission. They were some really good, though serious, flicks, and we enjoyed working our way through them with her.

She’s Off!

August 18, 2011

I haven’t posted here in an awfully long time. It’s been a busy summer (homeschool conference, mission trip, trying to get the house painted, etc. etc.), but mostly we’ve been focused on getting Ria off to Thomas Aquinas College. She has arrived safely and gets to start moving in and getting oriented today.

She flew out by herself. I would have loved to have driven her out or flown out with her, but it seemed neither necessary, nor reasonable, since we have family right nearby who were able to transport her about, we’re completely familiar with the college (John and I are both alums), and we all drove out there in April and had a nice visit.

We all (John and I and the younger five kids) had a great time with all the conspiracies of preparation. I think these projects were quite therapeutic for us!  These mostly fell into three categories:

1. Ria had a notebook out at her graduation party last year for people to sign. There was a lot of room left and she came up with the idea a few weeks ago of having all of her friends write notes for her that she could read on the airplane on her way out. Well, the rest of us really ran with this and had a blast getting as many people as possible to sign it (or share a favorite quote, draw a picture, or whatever). At one event at our parish where the notebook wasn’t available, Gus and Terri got a bunch of people from this summer’s mission trip to write little notes on post it notes, which not only added to the substance of the book, but made a fun and colorful display as well. We also put together a few fun collaborative “features” in the book. The one that worked out the best (and came out to ten pages!) was a conglomeration of “Things We Say”, which included things like silly words our family made up for things (like “squeezy cheese” for grated cheddar cheese), funny Freudian slips among family and friends (like “Miller Lite Stadium”) and favorite and oft-quoted movie tidbits (like “in the best sense” from Sense and Sensibility).

2. We helped pull off a surprise goodbye party that a number of her friends put together at a friend’s house the night before she left. Our job was to get her to the party location without suspecting. Our ruse was that we were all going to meet Daddy for dinner in a town where some dear family friends live. One of the party planners was with us and part of the scheme was that we picked her up for a visit to Old World Wisconsin and that she was going to dinner with us (which was plausible under the circumstances). Pulling it off required some clever and impromptu acting from everyone involved and they played their parts beautifully – including Frank who pulled off an “I have to go to the bathroom” moment (which was true) at just the right time (which was part of the ruse) in order to get a freezer chest with the cake snuck into the back of the van. Such fun!

3. Since Ria was flying out, we shipped most of her stuff to the college. It didn’t seem like unreasonable stuff getting packed, but it was amazing how much stuff it turned out to be in the end (just heard from her – she’s mostly unpacked now and it really isn’t too much stuff, LOL). Just the bedding is so bulky, but she had won a nice comforter in a raffle a few months ago at our parish (that also came with a Target gift card – woohoo!) and we didn’t want her to have to deal with buying EVERYTHING once she got out there. We shipped a couple of large boxes (mostly the bedding), plus two small book boxes (media rate is still a great deal!) and the rest were in those wonderful USPS flat rate Priority Mail boxes that cost $15 to send (including the price of the box). The clerks at the post office love to tell you how much they would have cost without the flat rate box – one of ours would have come out at $37!

One of the great things about boxing up her stuff for her (she had a busy last few weeks with, among other things, a Shakespeare play in our backyard) was that we got to sneak all kinds of goodies in for her. Chocolate, cocoa, tea, a small set of Prismacolors, a deck of Five Crowns and Terri’s little Woody action figure (if you’ve seen Toy Story 3, you’ll understand the significance and fun of this!) and some other goodies were squirreled away in the nooks and crannies. Again, being in on the surprises was really great for the kids.


This is, naturally, a difficult transition for us. We are thrilled and excited to death for her and I think I’m basically at peace with potential worries about her safety or how well she’ll do and with the distance and length of time she’ll be gone. I’ve also been overwhelmed in the last few weeks with gratitude for who she is and how God has blessed us through her,  but I must admit that it’s a challenge to accept that things will never be quite the same again and that that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Commencement Address Notes

July 19, 2011


I just got back from a lovely trip to Napa and the San Francisco Bay Area in order to speak at the homeschool conference sponsored by Kolbe Academy and Ignatius Press. During the trip, I also gave the commencement address for Kolbe Academy’s homeschool graduation. I think it went quite well. Having a short-length talk with a subject of my choosing meant, among other things, that there was plenty of time to mouth my way through it (as well as tweaking it) on the morning of the talk. These are my slightly cryptic and incomplete notes from the talk, which I didn’t follow exactly…


To be a homeschooler is to be a little different.

In fact, being a homeschooler is a little like being a San Francisco Giants fan in Milwaukee…

[Here I told the story of our family going to the Brewers-Giants game in Milwaukee – which was pretty much what I wrote about in my blog post here: Baseball! – with an emphasis on how conspicuous we felt wearing all of orange and carrying all of our signs through a sea of blue-clad Brewers’ fans, the instant camaraderie with other Giants’ fans (esp. in light of the exciting Grand Slam by Crawford) and the curiosity of those  who politely asked why were Giants’ fans.]

It’s good to get used to being a little different. As Christians we are certainly called to be a little different from mainstream society.
We need to be capable of being different when we need to, but also friendly and polite to those who are curious to know more.

St. Peter … be ready to give a “reason for the hope that is in us”.

Those who ask questions, who are curious about us are probably searching too.
God puts them in front of us for a reason and we want to be prepared to plant seeds for him.
Expect very small seeds and not to know how it turns out…

Today… Three things that involve being different.
Commonly neglected or significantly misunderstood by many (including faithful Catholics)
I know because I have struggled myself with even understanding them. I hope what I have learned
will be helpful to you.

These three things are love, gratitude and humility


Greatest commandment according to Jesus (love God, love your neighbor)
Church teaching confirms this in every age:

“The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love.” (CCC#25 – quoting Catechism of the Council of Trent)

It comes first both because of the nature of God (God is love) and the needs of mankind (everyone is ready to be treated with love, even if they’re not ready for something deeper or more complex – like philosophical proofs for the existence of God)

How do we love? We do our best to manifest God’s love others:

1. try to look at them as God looks at them – hate the sin, love the sinner!
2. make Christ present in the world through our words and actions – be witnesses to the love of God!

Love authenticates our beliefs in the eyes of others – which makes it a powerful weapon against relativism. Certainly more powerful than argument. (e.g. Mother Teresa)


Look for the good in people and in the world and thank God for it.

1. All good things come from God. We owe it to God to recognize His gifts and be thankful.

2. His plan includes us all working together for the good. We’re not all starting from square one.

3. Good things we find are starting points for building bridges and relating to others.

4. We are happier and more content and more hopeful when we appreciate what is good.

Gratitude gives us perspective – we have to work at keeping our perspective!
Studying things like history helps a lot! Prayer & sacraments are a big piece too.

One story from my life that gave me a lot of perspective (man at church story)

It’s easy to be a critic, especially in today’s world. It’s important to recognize evil, but if we’re nothing but critics, if we lack appreciation for what is good, we have a grave danger of becoming Pharisees, the ones Jesus had the harshest words for.


We are the creature. God is the creator. We are not God!

This means two things especially:

It’s not all up to us to change the world!

The gifts we have are gifts from God. We can’t take credit for them nor deny that we have them. We have a responsibility to develop and share them. Nothing wrong with confidence. Beware of arrogance!

“I distribute the virtues quite diversely; I do not give all of them to each person, but some to one, some to others… I shall give principally charity to one; justice to another; humility to this one, a living faith to that one… And so I have given many gifts and graces, both spiritual and temporal, with such diversity that I have not given everything to one single person, so that you may be constrained to practice charity towards one another… I have willed that one should need another and that all should be my ministers in distributing the graces and gifts they have received from me.” (CCC#1937 – Dialogue of Jesus to St. Catherine of Siena)

Acknowledge our weaknesses and limitations
Be open to learn and open to correction.

Evil is tricky – it knows how to get at ME in particular.

What are our danger areas? We tend to be most aware of the evils that really bother us.
Those usually not the ones that are most dangerous for us.

Humility leads to trust in God.

[eeek – I think I’m missing a line or two of notes here – can’t remember what goes here!]

“To have Christian hope means to know about evil and yet to go to meet the future with confidence. The core of faith rests upon accepting being loved by God, and therefore to believe is to say Yes, not only to him, but to creation, to creatures, above all, to men, to try to see the image of God in each person and thereby to become a lover. That’s not easy, but the basic Yes, the conviction that God has created men, that he stands behind them, that they aren’t simply negative, gives love a reference point that enables it to ground hope on the basis of faith.” (Cardinal Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth)

[I can’t remember exactly how I concluded here either, except for a little about how Mary is the ultimate example of saying yes to God.]

UPDATE: I just remembered another piece. I think I might have skipped the above quote, but I know that I did wrap up with recommending a simple prayer one of the nuns taught me in grade school: “Lord, Tell Me What You Want Me to Do With My Life and I Will Do It.”



July 9, 2011

Just had to add my voice to the other voices explaining what’s up and what’s the point.

I dropped Facebook about six months ago because of frustrations with privacy issues (and the arrogance of the people running Facebook regarding them) and trying to communicate with my 500+ friends all at once. It just drove me nuts. I also felt like it was a time-sucker without a particularly worthy purpose (partly because my hands seemed tied in many potential areas of communication because they didn’t necessarily seem appropriate to my whole network of friends). It seems so designed for hype and making people stay on more.

I’ve been on Google+ for almost a week and I really like it. I’m sure it has some of the Facebook potential for addictiveness (and I’m sure there’s more to come), but to me it has a classier and more honest feel. It’s not only great as far as simple privacy goes, but allows for communication to and from your own carefully selected “circles”. Circles are double-sided. You can use circles to read only posts from selected people (and you can jump between your circles very easily) or share your posts only with certain circles. Beautiful! This really opens up the communication potential with a much broader group of people and allows for elegant interaction in one account between varying realms of interest (including friends, family, fellow-hobbyists and all sorts of other things).

It has the potential to be a more elegant combo of both Facebook and Twitter (aside from the required shortness of Twitter, which can, at times, be more “elegant”) because of those circles. You can post public content for anyone to see or share with anyone you choose. By the way, you can choose either groups of people “circles” or individual people to add to the list of those who can see a particular post. There’s also a way for those you share it with to see how limited the post is. There is some trust involved that the people you share private stuff with won’t pass it along (though there is also an option for disabling a particular post).

What I’m liking in the end, aside from the user-selected privacy options is that it provides a friendly and safe forum for collaborating on things with people you don’t know very well, but that have common interests with you. I’ve already experienced this today when asking for help finding a quote I needed for a project I’m working on. I can imagine a number of my projects that would be aided in this way.

And so basically it offers Facebook’s connectedness and Twitter’s information-sharing strength with a broader collaborative angle that I haven’t really seen elsewhere.

Oh yes, and one more big bonus on the privacy issue (again it comes in two parts): the names of your circles and who belongs to which circles are known only by you. Very smart.