29 December 2014

Artsy Christmasy stuff

Claudia insisted we make paper snowflakes, and we put up no resistance. We got some pretty cool results, experimenting especially with the outer edges.

The game in the middle of the table is really fun!

Tessie was trying to make a 3D snowflake she learned at school--the sort-of-successful result is atop the tree.

26 December 2014


We are having a lovely Christmas!
On Christmas Eve Tessie and I cantored for the first time for the 6 pm Mass. Then Mom, Isabel, Gus, and Thomas joined us and we sang in the choir for caroling and 9 pm Mass. Afterwards we got pictures in front of the Church's huge tree.
A lady from Church made my dress--isn't she talented??

Then we came back to a light meal (mostly made up of cookies and pies) and there was a lot of toasting going on. Mom and Dad went to bed and everyone else boisterously cleaned the kitchen while singing Christmas songs at the top of our lungs. Some people stayed up to watch a movie, but I went to bed.

Next morning we all got up early so we could do breakfast and presents before Gus and Emily left for Kansas City to have dinner with Emily's family. It was tons of fun as usual, with some pretty cool gifts! I won't go into details, but you can see the whole story here. We saw Gus and Emily off and played some games, and just hung out. Then one of Dad's colleagues came over for Christmas dinner, by which time we were all more than a little tired (and I was getting sick). But we still had fun, and later we finished the movie that everyone else had fallen asleep watching the night before. 

Today we are planning some art, shopping, visiting with friends, and relaxing. Patrick also left for Lincoln, NE to see his friends there. So here we go with the rest of Christmastide! (Which I would like to remind everyone lasts until February 2.)

Merry Christmas! 

23 December 2014

Stuff that's been going on

 Busy busy busy! Making cookies, buying last-minute Christmas gifts, singing, laughing, hugging, wrapping, drinking tea, sleeping, reading...
And yet, it doesn't quite feel like Christmas yet.
Just two more days.
Speaking of which, I have to practice organ and the music for tomorrow!

Us at brunch on Sunday. 

With Brenna and Aunt Sue

We've had some weird weather going on. 

The two surprises: Grandma and Claudia

12 December 2014

Happy feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!

What a lovely story. My favorite part is that she speaks to St. Juan Diego in his native dialect.
I read somewhere that Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of unborn babies. She's also the patroness of the Americas. So, pretty fitting feast. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

10 December 2014

December 9, 2014

Erik Charles Nielsen 
September 2, 1994 - December 9, 2014
  requiescat in pace.

"The day which we fear as our last is but the birthday of eternity."

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
for my hope is from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my deliverance and my honor,
my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.
(Psalms 62:5-7)

"No soul can weep that has not still some capacity for joy."
-Robert Hugh Benson

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.

07 December 2014


I've been thinking about trust lately. It's funny that we don't trust God as much as we should. I mean, we trust that the sun will rise every morning, right? God makes that happen. If He ever didn't will the sun to rise, it wouldn't. So if we trust God to keep the universe going, why don't we trust Him with our lives, a rather small matter in comparison?

04 December 2014

The King's Singers

On Tuesday various family members, friends and I went to a concert of The King's Singers at the performing arts center on campus. They were singing Christmas music and it was heavenly. Their program was very religious, with lots of old traditional hymns and some Latin chants. Highlights included Gabriel's Message, Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (Lo, how a Rose e'er blooming), Hodie Christus Natus Est, and There Is a Flower. Their voices are amazing (can't stress that enough)! There was not one dull moment in the concert--everyone felt their love for singing and enthusiasm to be performing. Actually, we were the first stop on their American tour, so we got all the energy! Afterwards they came out into the lobby, and though we didn't have time to meet all of them, we got a picture with the bass:
And since Tessie wasn't in the car that had to leave she was able to go around and get autographs of all six of them, and was nice enough to HAVE THEM SIGN STUFF FOR ME too! (I knew she was my favorite little sister!) I didn't even ask her to! Anyway so yeah that was pretty awesome. 

When I got home I went onto their website and warned Mom that I might add an album of theirs to my Christmas list. They have a zillion albums in all sorts of genres. 
The King's Singers are So. Cool. Look them up on YouTube! I'll put one video here for a starting place:
(And this wasn't even the best one! There is a limited selection of their music on YouTube. Try Pandora or something if you want more.)
That was one concert I'll never forget. I hope to see them again some day. 

01 December 2014

The 100th post, in which I win Settlers of Catan for the first time

Um, yep. I had never won before. That's what happens if you only play a game when Patrick is around.

Yesterday afternoon we went to Sioux Falls for a senior violin recital (which was lovely). We also dropped off Isabel at the house of her ride back to college. It was too bad she couldn't see the recital with us.
When we got back to the house, we sat down to a game of Catan while Mom made soup. We decided to do a timelapse video and here's the result. 

Settlers of Catan Timelapse 1 from Patrick Braga-Henebry on Vimeo.

27 November 2014

Happy Birthday, Tessie!

Today is the 14th birthday of my favorite little sister, Tessie! It's hard to believe she's fourteen...
Tessie and I have always been really close since we are only about 18 months apart. We have had so much fun together over the years. We argue pretty frequently, as would be expected, but we always find it hard to stay mad at each other. Sometimes we are glaring at each other and just burst out laughing. Tessie is pretty much the complete opposite of me, so we get along really well. She pushes me into things I don't want to do, and I hold her back when she's getting too crazy.
Isn't she gorgeous?
Tessie and I have so many inside jokes and share so many looks. We love being weird together and laughing hysterically. I don't know what I would do without her! Happy birthday, dearie!
PS Happy Thanksgiving!

This was a long time ago...

Tessie and Patrick being crazy.

And all of us being crazy in Morocco!

24 November 2014

Poetry, and other things

In a couple weeks I'm going to participate in our homeschool group's Poetry Out Loud contest. You memorize two of the poems found in their anthology and recite them in front of a representative of the organization. Then she decides who did the best and whoever wins goes on to the state competition. Last year I got second.
The first poem I'm doing is by Seamus Heaney, who actually translated the version of Beowulf I read for literature this year. It's called "Blackberry-Picking."

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.

We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.
Isn't it sweet? I love the imagery in it.

My other poem is "Surprised By Joy" by William Wordsworth. (You may recognize this as the title of a book by C. S. Lewis--he took it from this poem.)

Surprised by joy—impatient as the Wind
I turned to share the transport—Oh! with whom
But Thee, long buried in the silent Tomb,
That spot which no vicissitude can find?
Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind—
But how could I forget thee?—Through what power,
Even for the least division of an hour,
Have I been so beguiled as to be blind
To my most grievous loss!—That thought’s return
Was the worst pang that sorrow ever bore,
Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn,
Knowing my heart’s best treasure was no more;
That neither present time, nor years unborn
Could to my sight that heavenly face restore.

It's got a very different tone. I like how he manages to get his sorrow across in a way that is melancholy but not desperate.
Now for the other things. 
We had an awesome Christ the King Sunday with great music. I'm so excited for Advent! I'm already singing "Creator of the Stars of Night" in my head. Advent is such a lovely time. It's so cozy and anticipatory yet solemn.
Also, after a brief two-day respite from the snow, it's started up again. It was literally snowing the ENTIRE week last week. But then a lot of it melted over the weekend. We had temperatures of a scorching 36°! T-shirt weather, for sure.
My writing class and I are Skyping weekly during our very long break between semesters. Our teacher purposefully made our break long so we could have more time to write! Isn't she nice? Oh, and while I'm talking about her, check out this news story on her son: http://www.ibtimes.com/blind-13-year-old-might-be-able-go-college-dance-thanks-google-glass-1726424 Pretty cool, eh?
Well, I think that's it for now. I've been knitting and crocheting a lot and soon I'll make a post about the projects I've done.
A bientot!

23 November 2014

the Shapeshifter and the Shadow

As I'm catching up blogging about story archetypes, writing class actually ended for the semester, so I have no new ones coming in. Two weeks ago was the Shapeshifter and the Shadow-- arguably two of the most important archetypes in a story.
Shapeshifter--even the name is disconcerting. The Shapeshifter in a story is the person who cannot be trusted, though the Hero may only find that out when it's too late. Often the Shapeshifter poses as an Ally (which I'll talk about another time) but turns out to be on the side of the villain, or at least against the Hero. Shapeshifters are easy to identify: Mr. Wickham in Pride and Prejudice, Professor Snape in Harry Potter, Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre, etc.
The main thing about Shapeshifters is they can't be relied upon. They are unpredictable and volatile, maybe even treacherous. The Hero is perplexed by the Shapeshifter because he is not always who he claims to be. The Hero is filled with questions about his character that the Shapeshifter is content to leave unanswered. It adds a tone of mystery or unsteadiness to the story. 
The Shadow is the main villain of the story. The Hero's number one antagonist, the one who will stop at nothing to defeat the Hero. It has been said that a story is only as good as its villain. That is because the whole mythic structure of a tale hinges upon the Hero's struggle with and vanquishment of the Shadow. Shadows represent everything negative, dark, morally questionable, or evil. Where the Hero is fighting for the good, the Shadow is fighting for the bad. 
Often the Shadow has a backstory which explains why he it the way he is. No one is born evil. Maybe he is motivated by want of revenge, hatred, prejudice, skewed morals, fear, or a traumatic past. Whatever the motivation, the Shadow has for some reason turned against the Hero and all he stands for. He has, in effect, "turned to the dark side." 
The Hero must overcome even the most powerful evil force or the most unpredictable event in order to complete his journey.

10 November 2014


Today it snowed. According to weather.com, it is 21° but feels like 5°. And it's supposed to be in the 20s all week. Then you remember it's November 10th, and you're like, whaaa?? 
Though I shouldn't be complaining. Normally it would have snowed several times by now. That's South Dakota for you. That's our version of "Fall." Still another month of this stuff until it is technically winter. And we still haven't turned on the heat. Yeah. 65° in the house most of the day. (Brr!) At least Advent starts soon! And we made tea and scones this afternoon. I'm trying to rationalize myself into not minding the weather. Ah, well, c'est la vie. Happy...pseudo-fall!

The lovely view from my bedroom window. Just lovely.

06 November 2014

The Herald

I'm behind in posting about my writing class. I got thrown off because we didn't have class last week.
Two weeks ago we learned about the Herald.
Everyone can recognize the Herald in a story. He is the one who gets the story rolling. The inciting incident, you might say. The Herald introduces change and issues a challenge to the Hero.
Before the arrival of the Herald, the Hero has been in the ordinary world, just living his life. Nothing special. But the Herald acts as a force that makes the Hero rise to the occasion, not content with normal life any longer. The Hero is thrown out of the usual state of things into the unknown, the changing and the challenging.
The Herald, as with any archetype, does not have to be a person. Maybe the Hero gets a letter from his father he thought was dead. Maybe the Hero comes home from a trip to a hometown devastated by a hurricane. Anything that proclaims the Call to Adventure is the Herald.
The Herald motivates the Hero to change. Maybe the Hero doesn't want to change, doesn't think he needs to. The Herald shows him how urgent a necessity the change is.
The Herald can be positive, negative, or neutral. An uncle bringing good news of an inheritance he suddenly received. A direct challenge from the antagonist or his minion. Simply a news report about something that impacts the Hero.
The Herald presses upon the Hero an indelible dissatisfaction with the way things are, and he will only be content again when the problems are solved. It gets the story going as the Hero embarks on his journey.

01 November 2014


Last night my parents and I went to the Kanes' house for hanging out while lots of littles went trick-or-treating. (Tessie was trick-or-treating with her service group in Brookings.) We did plenty of sitting around, laughing, and eating candy.
Our large group of costume-ized kids! Can you name what everyone is?

It was a ton of fun to see people I hadn't seen in months! And of course we listened to Pride and Prejudice on the way back. I was glad we went.

29 October 2014


Over the course of the month, I've done many things.
-Gone on fall walks on the nice days (of which there have been a joyous abundance).

-Learned to cable knit, which is easier than it looks, and started knitting a scarf for myself out of gray wool.

- Learned to make bread. Yum yum! My mom taught me on Friday because I was craving homemade bread.

-And of course, did lots and lots and lots and lots of school. I have midterms this week.

24 October 2014

French Midterm

This week was our French midterm. Instead of having an exam, we had to write a 3-5-paragraph composition en francais. It was actually rather fun! Here's what I wrote:

Les Voyageurs Visitent

J'habite en une île abandonnée avec mon frère. Nous sommes venus ici il y a huit ans. Nous voudrons aller ici après les mortes de nos parents. Je n'ai pas vue les autres personnes du tout sauf mon frère depuis trois années. Personne jamais vient ici. Mais un jour, mon frère courut à moi, disant qu'un bateau etait arrivé sur le rivage. Trois hommes ont debarqués et ils ont venus à nous. Ils dirent que leur bateau avait fait couler et ils avaient ramés ici rapidement. Ils eurent besoin de reparer le bateau.
J'offris cuisiner un repas pour leur. Passepartout, un valet, m'aide et le gentleman, Phileas Fogg, dit sure s'aventure : le tour du monde en quatre-vingt jours. Elle sembla impossible à moi, mais je n'ai pas parlée rien. M. Fogg avait fait un pari avec ses amis, et il etait parti à Londres le même soir. Mon frère a ri ; l'affaire etait ridicule ! Je crois que Passepartout etait d'accord. L'autre homme, un marin, dit du bateau et son fuite. Après ceci, je et mon frère disons sur nous-mêmes et notre vie. Nous sommes Americains, alors nous disons sur Amérique.
Après avoir mangeants le repas, mon frère montra leur l'île. Le valet Passepartout a été très fasciné, mais son maître, Phileas Fogg, a été assez impatient. (« Le calendrier ! » Il dit souvent.) Le marin etait ennuyé, je crois. Les hommes ne surent pas du tout sur la vie en une île. Nous leur montrâmes comme cueillir les fruits à les arbres.

Finalement, le jour prochain, une êquipe vinrent à l'île avec un bateau pour les voyageurs. Ils offrirent nous emmener aussi, mais nous avons declinés. Nous aimons notre île petite. Nous avons parlés « au revoir » à les voyageurs et fîmes un signe de la main pendant qu'ils sont partis. La visite des voyageurs etait amusante. 

18 October 2014

Quiz Bowls

Once again it's quiz bowl season! "What is a quiz bowl?" you may be wondering. Wonder no more.
A quiz bowl is a general knowledge tournament in which teams of four students compete by answering questions covering all sorts of topics. The teams are made up of people from a particular school (or, in our case, homeschool group). Each team has 20 seconds to collaborate and come up with an answer for their question. If they get it right they receive a point, otherwise the other team has a chance to answer the question. It may sound boring and academic, but really it's loads of fun.
We had the first high school quiz bowl of the year on Tuesday. My team got seventh place, another of our teams got third, and the third team got tenth. Our coach always makes sure to organize the teams so we work well together and each person has a different strong point in knowledge. There was one question about the 17th amendment this time that I knew because Thomas had told me about the day before, just in casual conversation! There are all sorts of random topics in quiz bowls, which makes it more interesting than if it were just math, science, grammar, and history.

That's about all I have to say about it  right now...we don't have another quiz bowl until November.

14 October 2014

The Threshold Guardian

This week in writing we are studying the Threshold Guardian.
Picture this. The Hero, with the Mentor's help, finally decided to go on the Journey. He's preparing to leave, brimming with excitement. Then someone steps in and says, "You can't do this." That someone is the Threshold Guardian.

The Threshold Guardian represents the obstacles standing in the way of the Hero achieving his goal. It can be a person (maybe a clingy girlfriend saying "don't leave me!"), an external force (bad weather, prejudice, etc.), or an internal force (doubt, fear, apathy, etc.). 
The Threshold Guardian's purpose in the story, or dramatic function, is to test the Hero, to see if he's really got what it takes to embark on the Journey. Because they test and don't antagonize, Threshold Guardians are meant to be overcome. They only block the Hero temporarily. 
The Hero has several options for overcoming the Threshold Guardian. He can face it head on, get by it sneakily, bribe it, or even make it an ally. The Hero learns from his confrontation with the Threshold Guardian-- he gains confidence, motivation, determination, and maybe some knowledge of his enemy. 
The Threshold Guardian is the first, but definitely not last, obstacle the Hero will have to face on his Journey.

13 October 2014

Rose Ensemble

On Saturday night Dad and I went to a concert at the Cathedral, part of the Sacred Arts Series. The group performing was the Rose Ensemble, a band of singers/instrumentalists who do all sorts of genres from St. Paul, MN. They came here three years ago and sang medieval music in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, which was breathtaking. This time their program was titled "The Sacred Roots of Bluegrass," and they sang early American folk tunes, Shaker hymns and gospel songs. It was a lot of fun, especially since there were several songs people knew and the singers had us join in.

It was lovely to have them back. They are really good singers and blend so well. You can tell they rehearse together a lot. And they sounded amazing in the wonderful acoustics our Cathedral provides.

12 October 2014


Fall has officially set in in this part of the world. The trees are turning (though many are still green) and it's getting cold. I have yet to make pumpkin muffins, but that will happen soon. We have made lots of afternoon tea already. I'm drinking chai right now. Also, we got out the coats and boots (though we have yet to need the latter, thankfully).
Yesterday Mom and I decided to go to McCrory Gardens (click here for details) for a fall-y walk, and she took photos of the seasonal color with her iPhone.
What a gorgeous color. God has good taste.

A section of this tree was a bit ahead of the rest.

We just had to stop by the little cottage,

Mom got some fairytale-like lighting.

Only a few flowers were still hanging on bravely.

There was a large patch of these plants, and from far away they looked like a cloud.

They were very soft.

I love the contrast of this tree against the clear blue sky.